Logs:Last Train To Nowhere - Morpheus Waltz
Last Train To Nowhere - Morpheus Waltz
|Characters:||Muse, Seth as ST.|
|Summary:||In a dreamscape, Muse confronts the murky memories of her past and finds them to be more real than she thought.|
|Disclaimers:||Violence and killing, hanging/nooses, language, horror.|
Soundtrack To A Nightmare: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mIrt5MkGpy0
The world is dark and swaying drunkenly, as if you were standing on the deck of a boat on stormy seas again. But there is nothing beneath your dangling feet: only your throat feels taut, constricting you like a snake draped around your windpipe. As your vision swims and returns, you realize that you are not surrounded by darkness: there is something over your head. Scratchy sackcloth irritates the bruises on your face, picks at the tangle of your hair with sticky sharp fingers. Your hands are bound behind your back, and you can feel the wind against your bare toes. You seem to be mostly dressed, as you hang by the neck. Your consciousness swims in and out, and something stirs within your chest, familiar to the dreamer but also entirely foreign at the same time, something… hungry. Very, very hungry.
That hunger turns your hearing to a pinpoint intensity as you hear something move outside of the sack cloth. The hoof-beats of approaching horses are easy to identify, for your newfound senses, fresh and yet all too familiar. You can make out the words, even through the muffling of the sack-cloth. "Cut them down and see if there's still anything valuable on them, before the vultures take them! Anyone who finds the map gets an extra share of the loot!" A rough-voiced man calls out. A few answering grunts and the sounds of men dismounting follow.
Something hot like wildfire pumps through your veins, and you feel the bruises and cuts on your face and body begin to close up on their own. First they're irritating, painful, dozens of pins and needles all over, enough to drive you mad? and then they're gone. You can hear the beating of approaching hearts through the sack-cloth over your head, a strange sensation that sends a thrill of excitement coursing through your veins. You feel your fangs elongate against your inner lip, for the first time. They feel especially sharp, almost throbbing with your Beast. Someone has planted the seed of a monster in your chest, and for the first time, it has come to bloom.
Sharp and predatory, your instincts come back to you, assessing the situation of your body. You're mostly dressed besides the bare feet, though the familiar weight of your knives is gone. Mostly gone. It looks like they missed the one you keep in your left riding glove. You can feel its comforting shape pressing against your skin as your flex your left wrist. The bindings on your hands are tight, but not /that/ tight. You have wiggle room. The beating hearts are approaching, pounding a drum beat of greed. You count four of them. None of them are approaching you… yet. You can hear the creak of other ropes swinging… your companions, or at least, the people who accompanied you down the long road to Death. Seems your ticket has been revoked, this time. You've been here before, something familiar and nostalgic informs you like incisive deja vu, but also… this is the first time. It has the faint, whispering echo of a dream, despite feeling so very real. Something in your blood, something lurking in deep waters, instinctively rises towards the surface in response to this sensation.
Muse gets 4 successes on a Larceny roll to palm her knife free, unnoticed.
Well this is.. unusual.
Not the venture into an unfamiliar dreamscape - that's practically a given whenever Muse attempts to find some rest. But the unsettling sensation of belonging within it, somehow. Is it a dream or a memory? And hers or.. someone else's? So many questions. And ordinarily, the Alucinor would wield control of proceedings with all the fine skill of an artist with a brush. The world of nightmares is her domain, after all. It generally bends to her whim. Why, then, does she feel so? From the bruises, to the irritation of the sackcloth, to the burning quickfire of thirst in her dead veins.
Heartbeats approach and her Beast, an as yet unfamiliar entity, surges to the fore. It's likely her present-day reflex that keeps her from surrendering to it; her mind already seeking a remedy to the problems set before her. Focus on that. Don't give in. Something tells the slender Belle it would be in her best interests, for now, to play possum. There's talk of being cut down, yes? And.. it doesn't take a genius to establish the predicament her dream-figment has found herself in. This is the quiet after a long drop and a short stop, the silence in the wake of a gallows jig. But why? No. Nevermind that.
Slowly flexing her gloved hand about the comforting presence of the small blade hidden within, she reaches with the opposite to pluck the garment free, easing it off with teasing pulls of her fingertips and willing her soon-to-be opportunist assailants not to pay her any more mind than the other corpses nearby. Cupping the knife within her palm and the heel of her hand, she sets to work on the rope still twined about her wrists, eyes narrowing beneath the cover of her hood.
"Which ones are the bank robbers, Gruff?" A reedy man's voice asks somewhere off to your left. Gruff's answer is about how you'd expect, deep and annoyed. "Pipe down and get to work. You're not getting out of this by talking a lot this time, Hector." A third man's voice, just a bit slurred with drink, is closer and to your right. "I heard they all had really nice leather boots, spurs that shined like stars an' all. Seems the vultures already flew off with those'uns. Cut down the ones with bare feet first, they probably have got the stuff."
A high-pitched laugh follows from Hector. "Oh, here, I found one!" he shouts victoriously... it's not you, though. Your ears can hear a knife sawing at thick hangman's rope a few meters to your left. For a few minutes, there's only silence and the creaking of rope and wooden framework as the hanged bodies sway in the evening wind. It's intermittently broken up by grunts of exertion or greedy, labored breathing.
And then someone's arrived at you, and you feel the rope around your neck jerk with a shudder that rolls through your entire body like a wave on the ocean. The sawing is next to your left ear and so loud... but it doesn't take long, as irritating as it is. And then you're free, falling down with gravity, to collapse on the ground in a lifeless heap... or something else.
Abruptly, as you hear a thump on the ground of another corpse falling to the earth, you feel something instinctual and feral, a cold and shuddering wind across your teeth. Another Beast waking up, somewhere in the darkness to your left.
Muse deals 4 lethal to the robber with a called shot to the neck, before vanishing with Obfuscate 3 - Cloak of Night.
Landing with an entire lack of grace - how better to maintain the facade of being lifeless? - Muse is careful to keep her hands in place at the small of her back, as if they remained bound. Not that it's likely to matter.. the reek of liquor on one man's breath she notes is revolting. The waifish woman remains perfectly still where she lands, waiting for someone to approach.. and puzzling, somewhere in the back of her mind, at the identity of the other Beast she can sense nearby. Friend or foe? Frankly, she'd rather free herself of the current circumstances and have the option between fight and flight. So. Let's concentrate on that.
For such a drifting, whimsical creature in waking unlife, she's surprisingly pragmatic.
Eventually, someone looms over her and it takes all her restraint not to curl her upper lip in disgust at the stale, wafting aroma of their breath. Just a little closer.. there. Lightning swift, she whips her blade around and aims it at the side of her assailant's neck without hesitation, burying it deep and snatching it back in the blink of an eye. Was she ever there at all? Certainly, by the time the man's distress becomes apparent to his companions, there's not a trace of the barefoot woman...
It's early evening under a wide-open, starry sky. You're in a small cluster of rolling hills dotted with trees, healthy and full of green leaves, somewhere in a stretch of flatlands. A wind gusts over the tall grass, causing it to sway... but not on the hills, not around you. The brush is much less dense, here. The fourth man, Spanish-looking and dressed like a cattle rancher in whites and dark blues, sits atop one of the horses with a long rifle in his lap and a wide-brimmed hat on his head. The other three, Hector, Gruff, and the drunken fellow whose neck Muse just split open, are scrambling in confusion. Gruff is dark-haired and has a thick beard and over-alls over dirty clothes, Hector is tall and thin with a face only a mother could love, and Liquor Breath... well there's too much blood on his face to really assess him beyond 'dirtied up and scruffy.'
Liquor Breath manages a stifled shout and falls backwards as you slice into his throat, staining the evening wind with the scent of fresh blood. Hector and Gruff both look over, and Hector's voice is mocking. "Drink too much again, Billy?" There is only a low groan of pain from Billy, and Hector laughs. "You fucking sod, you know better than-" "Stuff it, Hector!" Gruff has picked up something's wrong, though, and jogs over to the fallen man who is clutching a hand to his bleeding throat. "What the...?"
Muse isn't the only one who reacts to the intrusion and the scent of fresh blood, though. Hector and Gruff are busy with Billy, who's too busy trying to staunch the bleeding on his throat to talk much. Muse's hearing, though, does hear him mumble, "Where did she go...? Urrgh." So then, who's the source of the rustle of movement that she can hear? ... another one of the hooded, hanged corpses is slowly crawling forward, across the short grass, towards the smell of Billy's blood. From it, Muse can sense that Beast she noticed earlier.
Muse uses Nightmare 1 - Dread Presence, and gets 4 successes on an Intimidation roll to spook the horses. Gruff and Hector are selectively targeted and get 1 success trying to resist.
Having rid herself of that pestilent hood and taken in her surroundings, wreathed safely in shadow and darkness, the 'new' Mekhet draws further power into 'herself', in the face of this decidedly too realistic dreamscape. An unsettling ripple of dread creeps across the ground as would a rolling mist, seeping toward the trio of men nearby slowly yet surely; going unobserved until it surrounds them entirely with oppressive weight. That hackle-raising sensation of something being very, very wrong. Muse exudes that with focused outrage.. and yet a certain level of calm. Aware of the other kindred crawling doggedly in the direction of that fresh blood - mmm... - she levels her attention upon the other two; Gruff and Hector. And the horses a short distance beyond, who already are shifting their feet nervously, ears flattening back against their manes.
So easily spooked.
Around them all, a noise has begun to pick up; softly at first but growing in volume until it's a near roar of white noise, as if one were standing in a howling storm.. literally. There's a keening harmony of wails and moans within the indistinguishable cacophony. Which perhaps is given some context a moment later. The fallen bodies and those still hanging? Both alike begin to stir, raising their heads and outstretching their arms toward the group. fingers hooked into grasping claws, ravenously intent upon reaching their assailants.
Muse actually permits herself a malevolent curve of her lips as she animates the 'world' around her to macabre delights. It's wrong to steal, you know.
The only thing louder than Hector's sudden screaming is the piercing cries of the horses as they abruptly startle and flee from this rampaging illusion of madness. The cowboy-dressed Spaniard on top of the horses cries out in alarm, not spotting the illusion himself - Muse's powers selectively exclude him, but he suffers the consequences all the same. In fact, he's even more surprised as his horse carries him off in a sudden flight of fear, dropping his gun and his hat to the ground along the way. He's desperately trying to regain control, but it doesn't avail him much as the four horses all scatter in different directions.
Back on the hill, Hector is screaming, "What the... what the Hell?! The Devil is here!" and Gruff's pulled out a revolver from his side in a remarkable display of self-control. It doesn't avail him much, though, as he fires all six rounds into one of the reaching and moaning corpse-illusions... and the weapon is still clicking as the horrifying illusion continues apace.
Hector's already gotten to his feet and started to run. "Ain't gonna get me today, Satan!" he half-screams, half-yelps, tripping on a tree root and falling onto his face. He doesn't care, though, scrambling up to his feet and continuing to stumble down the hill with a face full of dirt.
Almost alone now, Gruff looks over his shoulder at the fleeing Hector, then down to Billy, before cursing under his breath and breaking out into a run himself.
Billy and the crawling Vampire are both unaware of all of this drama, though both of them obviously startle at the gunshots from Gruff. The Vampire has stopped temporarily, raising his head... and then there are claws on his hands and he's ripping out of the bonds that bind him, tearing off the sack-cloth hood. The man has black hair and tanned skin, looking Native American. A name appears in your head, unbidden. "Hawk." Itza-something, in his native language... faint, more ethereal recollection follows. But deep down, Muse recognizes him from somewhere.
Muse gets 4 successes on a Resolve + Composure roll to recall more about Hawk.
You're riding a horse across open plains. A man's voice, not Hawk's, drifts in your ear with a Southern drawl. "The Apache got kicked outta the plains years back, y'know, by another tribe. The Comanche. Their braves scattered to the wind. That's where we found Hawk. He was out wandering around, hunting animals and men. We needed a hunter."
A shudder and a flash as the world pitches and turns, before congealing again into color and light. Daylight, the gold and purple colors of dusk. It's a distant memory, though, so your Beast only growls instead of fleeing in mortal terror. You stare out over a long and winding river, beautiful against the backdrop of plains and distant mountains. Hawk speaks to you from your left, his English only vaguely accented, a testament to his time among the settlers. "You asked me why I do this." He's brief, voice solemn. "I do this because I'd kill the white men anyway, and this way, white men pay me to do it. The money is for the tribe."
And then Muse is back, in the present moment, or at least the current dream.
Muse takes a moment to assess what she’s wearing and has on her person.
You're in sensible leather riding pants and a leather vest over a floofy blue long-sleeved shirt in a men's style. There's a gunshot wound over your heart crusted with dried blood. You have some pouches on your rather nice leather belt, but they're empty. You vaguely feel like you had possessions in them. However, you /do/ have another knife behind your belt buckle. On the inside of your leather vest, though, there's a small pouch in a hidden inner pocket.
Inside of that pouch are two things. One of them is an old, antique-looking key... except it's made of glass, and there's something murky and red inside of it. Your Beast identifies it as blood. The other object is a small locket, the kind you'd keep paintings in. This one has a tiny thumb-drawn map on it, though, once you work the engraved silver latch and pop it open. It seems to be somewhere near... your acute vision is enough to make out 'Yselta del Sur Pueblo' written in a tiny but elegant hand on the locket. Yours?
Also, you don't have rope burns on your neck. The Vitae would have healed the wounds if you'd been hanged, of course, but you're fairly confident the gunshot is what got you and the hanging was just a formality.
While Muse is busy considering her possessions and their implications, there's some sounds coming from a distance. Crunch, crunch... slurp. Well, that's the end of Billy, as Hawk drinks his life away with the help of razor-sharp fangs. Not even a whimper from the drunkard precedes his demise.
There's a moment of satisfaction for the Mekhet as she impassively watches the screaming and fleeing, the illusion she conjured ebbing and fading as the men are lost to sight, abandoning their poor drunken accomplice to his fate. And that fate, it seems, is.. vaguely familiar to her. Lowering her gaze to 'Hawk' as he shreds the cloth of his hood, Muse considers him thoughtfully; a darkening in her expression as she strives to focus her thoughts to something more coherent than a blurred jumble. Yes.. she knows him. She's sure of it. Or.. rather, whoever's recollection this is knew him. Speaking of..
Casting a glance down over 'herself', the brunette grimaces in disdain. Oh good, she's tumbled through a wormhole and into Red Dead Redemption. Still. Those bastards were looking for something, and they narrowed their search down to those not wearing shoes. How many of the bodies here fit that description? Well.. most obviously, she numbers amongst them. A brisk patdown discovers an additional knife. That's good. And a presumably fatal gunshot wound. Charming. But it's the further explorations of her attire that yields the most mysterious results. Studying the bizarre key and the teeny map that rings no bells, she twists her lips in an expression of mild frustration. Well. Needs must...
Stowing the items back in the hidden pouch, and the hidden pocket in turn, she cautiously lowers the protection of Obfuscation, stepping quite literally out of the darkness of early evening and addressing her fellow Kindred in a voice likely not her own. This can only go one of two ways, right? "Hawk.." She can only hope his memory matches her own. "..what the hell happened?" Simple and to the point. Can't argue that.
By the time that Muse has finished her recollections and taking inventory of herself, Hawk has slaked his thirst on the cooling (but not totally exsanguinated) corpse of Billy. Maybe it's the alcohol in the man's blood or just the satisfaction of feeding, but the Apache brave has calmed down and starts climbing to his feet. Deep, unnecessary breaths heave his chest, and instead of answering Muse, he turns to stare at the other bodies... three still swaying on ropes, and one cut down and heaped on the hard, rocky earth. His dark eyes glance at Muse, before he turns to walk towards one of the still-swaying bodies. His claws rip open the man's pant-leg with an incisive slice, revealing a leather holster strapped to his leg. Hawk retrieves a pouch from the corpse, loosening the draw-string and dumping the contents into his palm. A rolled up piece of parchment. "This is the map to our stash. Freddie never let it out of his sight. It must be what they're after, where we hid the gold and silver."
Freddie. Another memory flicker. A Texas twang, very Southern in his speech. Red hair, freckles and scars over a sun tan. Dead now, apparently, as he sways from the rope. Not the leader, but the second in command.
Hawk turns back to face Muse. "They double-crossed us, Stella," he says with apparent anger. "We had the bank job clean. No way that posse should have showed up so quick. Someone sold us out." He looks at the line-up of corpses, beginning to pull the sack-cloth from the heads of the others. "Who isn't here?" he mutters, half to Muse and half to himself.
He's apparently not thinking, yet, of how he's still alive. Maybe it hasn't occurred to Hawk. Maybe the momentum of the situation just hasn't gotten around to that detail yet.
Muse attempts to recall details about Freddie, but fails and voluntarily takes a Dramatic Failure for it.
Freddie, Freddie... a silhouette on horseback against the rising sun. Sunlight gleaming overhead, traveling down a river by boat with the water spreading out before you. Singing and music and dancing by the light of a burning hearth and lanterns, in a tavern somewhere. Smoke and the scent of tobacco. The scent of cordite, of gunfights. The sound of bullets, buzzing like a swarm of bees. The roar of thunder. You're drowning on something, and you spit it up. Red, dripping from your lips and running hot down your chin.
Freddie. "You always were a bitch, Stella," someone says, a rough Northern accent. You can't see them. Freddie's crawling towards you on hands and knees. Bang, a gun fires into his back from extremely close range. He drops to the ground. "You really thought you could just go on living like this, that we wouldn't catch up to you in the end?"
Freddie's dead. It's someone else now. Someone that grabs your hair and yanks you up from your sprawl on the cold earth, as the life bleeds from you. "You didn't want to share the secret that grandmother left you, and now look what happened? I told you I'd take everything from you, if you didn't share with us like a good girl. You should have come home to the family, Stella. I never cared about these... dogs you decided to run with, but you can't escape the family. You should know that by now."
You're struggling against the grip, and you turn over. A man, features indistinct against the looming chiaroscuro of this memory fragment, is in a long, dark coat. He's holding you with a gloved hand, and his other hand is placing a long-muzzled revolver against your chest, right over your heart. "I'll make you come home, now. See you soon, sister," he says, before pulling the trigger.
The wound on your chest has opened up again, somehow, and you're bleeding through your clothes.
Muse takes 3 bashing from the backlash of the hostile memory./Dramatic Failure
When your vision returns to the present moment, Hawk isn't where he was. A quick glance around determines he's on the hill near where the horses had been, the cattleman's rifle slung over his shoulder and the man's wide-brimmed hat now claimed as his own and placed over Hawk's black hair. He's also taken Billy's boots and is currently sitting on a large rock as he puts them on. Noticing your stare, he grunts. "You're back? You drifted out for a minute there."
Some people really do have the strangest dreams.
It's not real. None of it. She knows that. But still.. when some nightmare figment shoots you in the heart, the impulse remains to bring a hand up, to reassure oneself of it's illusory nature. Right? Only.. blinking, lowering her eyes to her fingertips as they touch to her chest and draw away again, Muse wavers slightly at the fresh crimson, perfectly visible to her eyes even in the half-dark. Rubbing at the blood with her thumb, she only belatedly realises she's being addressed; slowly turning her gaze upon Hawk where he's now seated. "..sorry." The apology is absentminded at best, more force of habit than genuine regret. Well, she's just a cameo in someone else's mind, right? She doesn't particularly care about upsetting some probably long-dead locals.
Casting a cursory glance over the other bodies - the ones that actually stay dead, you know - the Mekhet addresses her Apache companion. "Who are we missing.." She has a sneaking suspicion in that regard. Her coat wearing 'brother', perhaps. He certainly didn't seem lacking in motivation. But, having awoken in the midst of a play without her script, she seeks some insight from the other, more rational mind present. For Muse, that's something of a default.
"James isn't here," Hawk responds gruffly, loading a few more bullets into the rifle once he's got his boots on. He curses in a Native tongue, under his breath. "Never thought he'd sell us out this coldly."
James. A new name, and a face. Not the 'brother.' Someone else. Dirty blonde, ponytail, tall and broad-shouldered, scar over his nose and left eye. Starting to get gray hair at the temples... an old man in a young man's profession of brigandry. Dangerous, as a result.
Hawk spits on the ground. "Either he survived and just abandoned us, or he sold us out in the first place so he could run off with the money. Only way we'll know is if we make it to the meeting point and see if the gold's still there."
The vision that dances tauntingly behind her eyes, presumably a memory of this James, isn't one that she can seize upon immediately. So Muse relies upon her companion's apparent distaste for the absentee when it comes to making a judgement on his character. Well, Hawk she knows.. or so she believes. Wait. There's a mental shake as she reminds herself. This person knew Hawk. Stella knew Hawk.
Stella probably also put some stock in the old adage about not being able to choose one's family, poor cow.
"Alright." The map her companion seized did not, she noticed, match the minuscule one kept hidden within her clothing.. so probably best not to mention the blood-key for the time being. That may be another thread entirely.. tug it at the wrong point and the whole tapestry unravels. Besides.. she's admittedly drawn in to the recollection at this point; that natural feline curiosity - and her habit, questionable in morality, of wandering through the psyches of others - demanding she see this through. "Better make tracks then, hadn't we." Who knows how long they'd been left hanging there, after all. Long enough for people to come and thieve valuable footwear. Following his example, Muse also helps herself to a pair of boots from one of the corpses.. and takes a moment or two to rifle through pockets in search of anything useful before they depart.
Looting the looters yields two more knives, some pistol ammunition and Billy's revolver (which Hawk accepts gladly), and loose assorted coinage and jewelry. Mostly silver and copper, one golden necklace that obviously didn't belong to the dead brigand who had it around his throat.
The gang came up to Texas from the Louisiana Territory, Muse learns, to do a job. A big bank robbery, hitting a valuable shipment of gold on its way up from Central America to bankers in New York. James was the one who organized the mission and appointed Freddie as second in command: this isn't the whole gang, just the squad dedicated to the robbery. The rest of them are back in French territory.
James, as Muse recalls, has always been one of the fastest guns in the group. A musician and a dry wit, his cool head in danger and his clever thinking led the gang to victory over lawmen and bounty hunters alike. His reputation is part of the reason that their gang of thieves has had so many new recruits.
Hawk is an agile and adept tracker, and even though they're on foot... maybe with the help of his newfound Vampiric powers, he manages to call up two of the fled horses from the four scavengers that Muse scared off earlier. Once they're on horseback, the journey is much faster, and they have access to the saddlebags from their erstwhile corpse-looters. The kit makes it much easier.
Hawk's figured out what he is: an evil spirit who shuns the daylight. It's not exactly outside the mythology of his people, as he shares it with you, but he's easy to convince to find cover to wait out the daylight hours and resume the journey the next night. You shelter in a cave in some hills in the mostly flat Texan landscape, and Hawk shoots a few rabbits. Their blood isn't especially nourishing, but it's better than nothing.
After hunting, you're off again, less than half an evening's ride from the meeting point on Hawk's map. Time passes quickly in the vast, open silence of the Texas landscape, and soon you're approaching a small town. It seems to be deserted, under the starry sky: no light, no people, just old buildings creaking in the wind.
The passage of time in dreams is bizarre. Some moments seem to draw out as though one were wading in quicksand, others pass by as mere flashes, snippets of hazy recollections. But by the time the scene coalesces clearly before her, the silhouette of the seemingly empty town up ahead, Muse has at least gathered some sense of who she's portraying in this little production, as well as a genuine appreciation of her stoic companion. The rabbit's blood wasn't particularly palatable, sure, but it allowed her to heal up a little as they rode.
Her senses, attuned to the dark moreso than even her fellow vampire, venture out keenly toward the buildings they approach.. then to the arch that serves as the formal entryway to the main street. "Well.. if James was the traitor, seems he got his comeuppance." she murmurs in an aside toward Hawk, indicating the hanging body with a fractional nod. Slinging a leg over her saddle and dismounting, alighting softly on the dusty ground, she unthinkingly offers a pat to her mount's neck, leaving the animal to graze on whatever foliage it can scrounge up in the vicinity. Only then does she seem to notice the sign, swinging to and fro a little in the idle breeze.
Cue a hushed string of indecipherable expletives.
Forcing herself to look beyond the distinctly ominous, literal sign of her own surname - or so she supposes it to be - the Shadow settles her attention on the figure that Hawk points out, apparently waiting for them outside the old saloon. And her Beast stirs, instinctively raising its head in assessment of the other a short distance away. Call her old-fashioned, but seeing all but one of your supposed group strung up in the space of a single day does make her more cautious than usual...
Muse fails an Occult roll.
"Ah, there you are, sister, right on schedule!" Is he... drunk? Yeah, it sounds like it, a bit. The man pulls off his wide-brimmed hat to reveal an elegant and aristocratic face, magnificent light-brown hair, and clear, hazel eyes. He's getting up from the barrel. "Do you know how many times I've killed you, during this fucking dream?" He's sauntering towards them, taking a drink from the bottle of blood-wine in his hand. Muse can smell it, the blood. A drunkard's blood, drawn to intoxicate. He's not far away now, the man. "Two hundred years of killing you, Stella. Over, and over, and over again. Each time just a little bit different, but you've never given up grandmother's secret, have you? Not even once!"
The bottle of blood is thrown onto the hard, dusty road and smashes to pieces with a loud and discordant noise. The handsome, brown-haired man grins, a hateful expression without any humor. "Even in death, you're still fucking useless, sister." His head tilts, and he looks towards Hawk. His brows furrow downwards. "Oh, but this... this is new?" There is a flicker of confusion, and something seems to occur to him. It tugs on Muse's mind as well, but the man figures it out first.
"Wait." The 'brother' says, insight dawning on him. "Wait, wait, wait." And then he raises up his hand, snaps his fingers, and the world /twists/ around him... and abruptly, they're standing in the busy street of a modern city. Huge skyscrapers tower overhead, and people bustle on all sides. Hawk is gone, and so is the dust, and the body swinging from the rope. But Muse... she's still there. "How is this possible?" The man's hazel eyes blink. "You should be dead! How are you not dead?" The question is genuinely confused, and rhetorical. The 'brother' seems to be talking entirely to himself, like Stella is just a prop someone put there to entertain him. It seems like he hasn't quite figured out that the dream is happening in real time, and not just subject entirely to his whimsy.
Then he snaps his fingers again, and they're standing back in the town. The old wooden buildings creak in the languishing Texas wind. Hawk looks between the two of you, rifle in his hands aimed at the 'brother' but confusion clear on his face. "...where did you go?" Hawk mutters quietly. Muse spends a willpower and gets 2 successes on a Resolve + Composure roll to focus on memories of the ‘brother’.
So it is him again. This so-called sibling, with his obsession over some familial secret. How Stella must have despised him. That's the initial contemplation within Muse's mind, as the figure starts toward them. But then his hat is removed, his features finally visible to her sharp green-gold eyes.
Muse knows what she looks like. Generally speaking, save for the seraphic impression of her austere features, she can pass for unremarkable in the waking world, certainly compared to some of the more glamorous and seductive denizens of the night society. But the similarities between she and the stranger addressing her are undeniable. And she finds herself rooted to the spot as that realisation dawns. Facing down this tangible hatred as it stalks toward her, she clenches her graceful hands to fists down by her sides, a flare of indignance. She's not useless. She's not Stella.
As the man's expression turns to confusion, she keeps her gaze level upon him, not bothering to answer. Not even as the world skews and warps around them, melting to reveal the 'true' backdrop of the modern city. Her train of thought is in disarray. She doesn't catch on as quickly as he does. But after several centuries, sometimes these things take a minute.
Two hundred years of killing you..
There's a sudden trembling in Muse's core, that cold wrench of dread in her gut. They found her staked beneath the Thoreau house. You should be dead! Seth and Niko.. they chose to free her. Perhaps she is supposed to be dead. But the tangible surprise, the first glimmer of weakness in her opponent can only stem from a new understanding.. that he's not controlling things. Not this time.
And that means.. perhaps she can.
It takes a moment, but Muse grasps the shards of her memories like fragments of broken glass and pieces them together, though there is a sharp pain upon her mind in the process.
Salvator. That's his name. Abruptly, Muse remembers. They are siblings, though only half-siblings. A huge, old tree with sprawling branches under the evening moonlight. Family dinners in the dining hall, blurry silhouettes, but Salvator dressed in fine coats and cravats, present and attending. Salvator in a blue military uniform of France. Salvator in that same long, black coat years later... hunting down the gang. They weren't betrayed. Salvator and his men.. his hunting dogs, he used to call them, descended on them like an unstoppable army, wiped them out. There was no contest.
Grandmother. A young woman, with straight brown hair and endless blue eyes like a lake, a woman who stayed the same age even as Muse grew up from a young child into a woman herself. All of the adults called her Grandmother. You told her once, that she was the prettiest grandmother of all, when you were young. And she laughed and gave you a glass key that she made you promise to keep with you at all times. So you did.
Salvator is looking for Grandmother's key. That was why he hunted you. You remember now, bits and pieces.
More time has passed as you emerge from your recollection. Hawk is sprawled on the ground, injured and blood-stained. His left arm has been severed from his body and curls lifeless on the ground in a bloody splatter a few meters from you. Salvator is staring at you, military saber in hand (its edge stained with Hawk's blood). His head is canted to the side, and he's patiently waiting. "Welcome back, sister," he purrs, when he notices the fugue retreat from Muse's eyes.
Muse spends 1 vitae and gets 1 success on Dream Bending.
Wincing abruptly, bringing a hand to her temple - and jolting, flinching in the waking world as her entire body tenses even in slumber - Muse grits her teeth against that sharp stab of pain, suddenly wondering if she really wants to know the truth of things... but there's no help for it, now. The shards and splinters of memory press inward upon her mind, and all she can do is arrange them like some macabre jigsaw puzzle. She has a brother? That would be enough to wrap her thoughts around, without the added factors.. that he was hunting her for a reason. That his hatred for her is so ferocious she can practically taste it on the breeze. And, perhaps most urgently? That he's hurt her only friend within this ridiculous, self-indulgent, sadistic little tableau he's been creating, until now, for his own satisfaction.
A quiet sidestep places her between he and Hawk, her fingers flexing slowly as she begins to cajole a spiderweb of power, siphoning it from this illusory landscape and drawing it inward. Perhaps it's time to show him what he's really up against.. and hopefully dissuade him from pursuing her further.
It's a vain hope. But what's the sense in wielding such powers if one cannot use them to their own advantage? And if her staking was anything to do with him.. that notion rouses her Beast, which unfurls with a silent snarl beneath the mask of impenetrable calm she offers the man before her.
Somewhere deep inside, beyond the comforting ire of her predatory instinct, she's terrified. It's bone deep. But damned if she's going to let him see that. "Don't you think it's time you came up with a new fantasy..?" Muse punctuates the soft-spoken suggestion with a slow curve of her lips in a smirk. "..I'm never goin' to tell you. You know that, right?" She buys herself some time. Just a few moments more..
Muse makes a contested Persuasion check to bluff Salvator so she can buy more time. 2 successes to 1, Muse succeeds.
"You think I want to be here?!" Salvator stabs his saber downwards into the ground angrily, letting it sway back and forth once it's stuck in the dirt. Hands thus freed, he gestures effusively, clearly intoxicated. His cheeks flush red, mostly with anger. "You know how our oldest brother gets." He puts on a grim visage, "You have to find the key, Salvator. You'll never be allowed back to the family meetings until you get it." His solemnity collapses into a pyre of anger that burns deep in Salvator's eyes.
"Two hundred years, Stella! That's how long you've been gone for. We all thought you died, nobody's seen or heard from you since then. There were a few sightings of you, sure," he waves a hand irritatedly, and the dream twists. A new bottle of blood-wine appears in his hand, and he uncorks it with a piercing fang before spitting out the cork and taking a swig.
"You went all over. Le Seigneur a pitie, am I supposed to chase you from Chicago to Berlin?" He licks his bloodied lips, staring at Muse with smolders of rage. "And then, decades ago, you just vanished. Poof! Harry fucking Houdini. We all thought you'd died. /I/ thought you died. But elder brother, he still didn't let me off the hook. Oh no, mon petit chere. Still made me keep coming into this dream, searching for anything. He's obsessed. Grandmother's fortune, he calls it. Father told him some story or another about it, I think, one that he's too greedy and jealous to tell the rest of us. They've both gone mad for it."
Salvator grabs the saber out of the ground again, freeing it with a tug of his arm. "How am I supposed to deal with this, huh? Are you a ghost? A figment of my imagination, eh? Or are you back from the dead, here to haunt me like the merciless witch you've always been?"
Muse gets 2 successes on an Intimidation roll against Salvator.
"Spineless." Injecting every ounce of disgust she can muster into the word, Muse narrows her gaze upon Salvator following his explanation. "You're nothing but his fucking whipping boy, even now." The language she spits is not one he'd likely have expected from her.. and there's something else, too. Throughout the course of their brief exchange, power has been growing around the slender brunette, which she wraps about herself as armor. It renders her.. potent. A sudden presence that might be new and frightening in his 'little' half sister as she summons all of her ethereal strength for a sole purpose. To drive him back. To convey just how foolish it would be to continue this chase of centuries. To ingrain in his mind's eye that she's now formidable in her own right.
The dreamscape darkens surrounds them, shadows encroaching upon the space they occupy until there is naught left but Salvator and the creature before him. The creature whose angelic features, even now, warp and twist; her jaw distending to accommodate incredibly long, gleaming fangs, heavy-lidded eyes sprung wide and gleaming opaque crimson. The darkness is impenetrable around them.. and yet it brings with it the sensation of unsettling activity; things that scuttle and bite and slither and sting, clamouring to crawl beneath one's skin and begin feasting upon the tender flesh and nerve endings beneath, taking the time to devour at their leisure, safe in the knowledge that their meal has no hope of escape. Muse herself drifts forward, giving up the pretense of 'walking' as she wrests control of their surroundings. She is the darkness, now. The unseen thing lurking in the shadows. And tendrils of fathomless black weave and dance like smoke around him. When she speaks, her voice is both velvet soft and almost unbearably loud, echoing, screeching, screaming both to his Kindred senses and in his thoughts, all at once. It's nail on a chalkboard and there's simply no retreating from it.
Was that a breath across his throat? A whisper of silken hair at his shoulder? A caress of fingertips at his arm? He can whip and whirl in whichever direction he likes.. she'll simply flood him with darkness. And when his lips part to cry out the all too mortal sensation of drowning will surge, by reflex, to the forefront of his brain as the shadows dive greedily down his gullet, choking and constricting. Sound familiar?
"Stop searching, Salvator. You can't win." Perhaps most nauseating of all, the most 'normal' iteration of that voice is of honeyed, singsong sweetness. The one of the little girl he once knew and has so long despised. There's even a hushed giggle, though it's horrific when mingling with the bestial backdrop of harmonies. "I won't let you win.."
This time, there's definitely a phrase spoken right by his ear. "..I'll kill you all."
It's a bold play. But Muse, in her 'natural' state, is capable of inflicting all manner of mind-fracturing horror. Especially on those as deserving as he... those tendrils begin to pluck at his eyes, his nostrils, his ears, endless blackness still slithering deeper into his throat...
.. and it's at this moment, with a wrenched and entirely unnecessary gasp, that Muse wakes, sitting bolt upright with one pale hand clutched to her throat, wide eyes staring unseeingly.
But somehow, elsewhere, the Dream remains. Salvator staggers back as the shadows dissipate into nothingness like fog under a morning sun. "Whooo," he exhales, "Crazy bitch." He straightens his collar and wipes the blood sweat from his forehead. "All bark, in the end!" He yells into the empty Texas wind. "Hah! I told y-" From behind him, a one-armed silhouette looms, fangs sharp and eyes hungry. Hawk seizes Salvator from behind, burying his fangs in the man's throat. "What! No, let go of me! Aggggh-!" After a long scream into the howling wind, there is only silence and blowing dust.
"You, you..." Salvator chokes on his wine, spitting it out as the abrupt play of shadows and darkness surrounds him. "You think this scares me?" declares the other Alucinor defiantly, puffing up his chest as he steps forward... but some part of him is deeply unsettled. It only becomes more unsettled as the shadows surround him, and he begins swinging the saber in a futile effort to bat them off, to hack them away. "No, get back! Witch! I'll tell Danton! I'll tell Father! Even Adelin won't let you get away with this! You stole it from us! Grandmother's Codex! Do you really think you can just carry that fortune around with you? You're wasting it! Just give it back to us and no one will bother you anymore!" Panic. Fear. Torment. These obviously are inflicted upon Salvator as he's unable to bat off the shadows that cling to him, that try to swallow him up.... and then they're gone. Muse is gone.