Seaside Sacrifice

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Location  • Grid:Seaside

Date  • 2020-06-07

Summary  • Two Guardians do a friend of a friend of a friend a favor to go talk to a powerful Apostate gone Rampant, but what they discover is far from what was expected.


The drive from Portland to Seaside is a mostly straight, steady west-northwest along HWY 26. It should only be about ninety minutes, but three accidents along the way turn that into a grueling two-hundred. Even a touch of Fate, in hindsight, only helps for a minute or two. Stronger applications of Awakened magic applied to traffic can have the same unforeseen and dangerous effects as manipulating the weather.

By the time they are pulling up to the very humble residence at the address given, they are offered a beautiful afternoon view of the Pacific Ocean and the not so beautiful view of a worried friend--the one that reached out to Portland's Consilium in the first place--that's now stalking back and forth in front of the beach house with a thoroughly worried thumbnail being chewed between their teeth.

Sam quickly approaches the vehicle and does the 'welcome but let me slow you down getting out because I wanna talk to you' thing; going to the driver's window and knocking on it. Sam is about 5'6", a little pudgy, androgynous to the point where most are likely very careful or confused about pronouns, and sporting some four-inch spacers in each earlobe. "Oh my God thank God you're here! I'm not even religious and I'm sounding like my grandmother." Their voice has the signature roughness of puberty, but Sam is in their twenties, marking this more as an effect of transition hormones. "Look, I've been trying to get in that door all day. He's in there. He's doing something big, and he won't even talk to me without-" Sam lowers their voice to silence and emphatically lips, "-magic." They shake their head and lift shaking hands as if asking for guidance from above. "I'm going to get out of here, 'cause I'm just triggering him, but please help Master Rayner. This isn't him." Despite that declaration of exit, Sam doesn't leave just yet.

The drive from Portland to Seaside is a mostly straight, steady west-northwest drive along HWY 26. It is an unending nightmare of karaoke. Of the 90's and 00's pop-era style. With Nine.

Thankfully, there is the bliss of as they actually get closer, he takes a moment to park, take a minute, and then start driving again - this time with Overtime at the drivers seat. Figuratively and literally. The music isn't turned off, but it's lowered to a more polite listening volume.

Overtime is all polite smiles and handshakes, nodding and understanding. "We see this all the time. Don't worry. It's just something that happens." It's probably untrue, but there's the way he just shakes your hand like he's hoping that it's true that, gosh darn, might just win you over. Or not. As soon as the handshakes are over and Sam's given them the info, the smile turns into a neutral tone. A small nod. "It would be a very good idea for you to leave. They might think that you've turned against them. For your own safety." (For you to get out of our road), "And please, don't try to peek in with anything. I know it's tempting - but as you said, you don't want to trigger him further." (Don't snoop where you don't belong.)

He looks over towards Gin, with a bop of his head. "You have any questions for Sam here before we go knock and introduce ourselves?"

Gin is very much a professional when she's on the job. It is, however, much more difficult to carry on with 9 at the proverbial wheel. Her anxiety is through the roof, her expression one of someone that has entirely checked out as the music plays on, and the 'sing'ing along comes right along with it. She's not sure what karmic missteps have brought her to this place, but here she is. She still has her respro mask on, giving her even more of the 'here to sanitize your life' appeal that she usually carries with her demeanor and practice. She has been silent. Absolutely, ragingly ... silent. When the car is parked the first time, her head slowly turns toward 9, icy eyes narrowing in his direction as though she could kill him with a look. In fact, the idea of it is spank bank material as far as she's concerned. "This isn't the pla...ce..." She begins, only to be rudely interrupted by Overtime taking the wheel. "... Splendid." She mutters into the mask. Once they actually arrive where they're headed, she will step out of the vehicle the same as he does, straightening her clothing, patting out any wrinkles that managed to form whilst she was stuffed in there. Her attentions level on Sam, she listens to everything that's said, but seems content to let Overtime speak. "Nothing. Please remain calm, and get yourself somewhere safe." Looks like she's good to go.

Sam is very worried, very grateful, and very sincere as they say, "I'm just going to go sit on the beach and hope." The smile is small, forced, and sweet. Sam leaves on foot and will eventually settle on a piece of driftwood about seven-hundred feet away; nearly obfuscated by a dirty berm of hybrid sand-dirt that really doesn't qualify as soil, sand, or loam.

The beach house is humble, and giving the four parking spaces in front of it, probably doubles or doubled as a home office. A sign was at one time bolted to the railing of the porch, but now just holes and rusty circles around them remain. Security is minimal; a single camera over the front porch. Locks on the doors. Wood sticks behind the windows to keep them from being pushed open from outside. Nothing extreme.

Looking at the place with Supernal Vision, however, shows it has a complex layer of Life magic. Effects to keep people from getting in uninvited and effects to keep things from escaping unintended. The garden also glows due to being sustained with Life rather than watered.

There's a slow whistle from Overtime as he stares at the small humble beach house, reaching up to scratch at the stubble on his chin for a moment. He then lowers his hand and looks over towards Gin. "It's like a roach motel. Self-sustaining roach motel. They're probably happily living in their little bubble, layering things more and more. Thinking it's making them safer."

He reaches into his pocket, fumbling for a moment before producing a scratched silver dollar. His thumb rubs over it, rocking the coin as he works his thumb into the scratches, and then pushing down. "I think we should go and knock on the door. Instead of any sneaky sneaky. It's more sneaky to walk up and knock. I think that maybe if we prodded at their walls, they'd be upset. You think?"

Gin, behind her mask, is frowning. In fact, her entire expression is terribly somber as she considers what Overtime describes. "If only we were further south." She laments in that posh accent of hers, pale gaze turned to him with an almost pleading quality to them. "... It could have been Hotel California," She muses aloud, wistful. "Check in any time you like ... but you can never leave." She half-sings the words under her breath as her head is turning back toward the building. "As much as I loath hearing these words coming from my mouth," Gin's shoulders lift in apprehension, "I agree."

There porch doesn't make a sound as they walk on it. It should. There are some old nails and screws in there somewhere. It's wood. There should be some sort of eeeaking beneath their feet. However, it is as solid and uncreaky as an oak stump beneath their feet; not giving at all. The door, when a hand reaches to knock on it, opens. This isn't the turning of a knob and then pulling of telekinesis, but rather the door opening for guests. The hallway revealed on the other side is not a hallway at all, but a path through trees so closely together that they form walls on each side. The ceiling is a solid wreathe of green, interconnected vines still living and strong. The feelings in here are extremely Vernal. The light fills the place and they air they breathe are beautifully and naturally Filtered. The instant they accept the silent invitation to enter, just being inside, breathing the air, and hearing the Trickling sounds of the streams further into the "home" are Refreshing. That awful voyage and whatever cramps or kinks still present because of it? Melted away like dry ice.

At the end of that forest hallway is a beach living room. The ceiling is barnacles, the walls are various starfish and other (some even unseen before) echinoderms. The floor is grassy sand warmed as if by sun. A stream runs from the kitchen portal to the right into another hallway (this one of vines and slithering snakes) to the left. Just on the other side of the stream sits a man with a true wizard of a beard. He's between fifty and sixty and, besides for looking like he hasn't had a shave and a haircut for thirty years and seeming emaciated, is remarkably average. What detracts from this further is the fact that he is holding a soul stone in each hand. They match perfectly and are at all times mirrors of each other to every perspective. "You're so very late," the man accuses with a touch of West Coast Surfer giving his accent a beach vibe.

Undone is the first button on Overtime's shirt - because to be honest. Nobody wants to be standing beside someone when they start getting hot and sweaty in a suit, standing in a place that's basically a beach, standing in someone's house. He pauses at the accusation, and he slides his sleeve back a bit to look at the two watches on his wrist. "Potentially." He agrees. "Traffic was unpleasant."

The arm lowers, "I see you've got your hands full there, friend - you were expecting trouble? We're just here to talk." A glance towards Gin, then back towards the man. "If we're expected, you know what we're here to talk to you about?"

Pale eyes flick down toward the soulstones the old man is clutching, a momentarily unmasked expression of concern filtering over her features as she considers the possibilities, and further the probabilities of what this fellow might do if given the chance. Even through her alarm, however, she manages to hold on to herself, to calm the gnawing itch that tells her that this situation could very quickly, and very easily get out of hand. It's like walking into a room to negotiate hostage release, only to discover that they're all suited with collar bombs and no apparent means to disarm them. Surely, there's a killswitch. Surely ... we're all going to die. Her gaze slowly trails over to Overtime, her breath entering and leaving her audibly through that mask of hers. She nods when Overtime makes his statements about being here to speak, but doesn't add much of her own aside from the overly simplistic and hopelessly hopeful: "Do remain calm, please. Let's all be dignified here." Dignified. ... Dignified! That bloody word with that bloody accent ... Probably enough to get her shot here and now.

The man shakes his head to indicate a negative. "Supernals told me you'd be here sun's peak. Thought that meant noon. Maybe they meant hottest part of the day." He utters 'Fuck' without really projecting it. "I had a speech planned, man. A good one, too, but I think I overbudgeted. I'd just recall it all and send it over to you on an eyewave, but I'm trash at Mind. Always have been. Probably shouldn't let anyone in, either." He gives a less emphatic but still pretty zealous double-bob of a nod. "Yeah; no. We just need to make things... so very summarized." With an ease of effort that only Masters of Life could manage in their own Sancta, he lifts his crystal-laden hands and grows roots up from that sand-floor to weave into living lawn chairs below them in all of six seconds.

Gin Joint is correct to fear. The man could start tearing away at their Life Patterns with a thought. Especially here. It's not the den of the lion. It's in the lion's open mouth between two big teeth hoping no one triggers a sneeze.

"Look... lass or whatever they call young women across 'the Pond'-" He gets a little mocking of her accent and it's not even the right one; he sounds more Welsh than anything. "-I'm not calm, but I'm, like, about as fucking collected as I can be given the circumstances." He gestures to them with the soul stones in a way that could make a reasonable person flinch like they were loaded guns. "Sit down. You've been guided here by destiny to help me. You think I'm just losing it, right?" He looks back and forth between them as if to confirm this. "But I'm not. I've spent the last three months here, in private, growing a network of ectoplasmic roots into the Internet and integrating myself into all global research efforts. It's been a bitch, man!" He shakes his head at them. "You wouldn't believe how many bullshit research firms there are out there. It's a whole nother conspiracy.

"Okay, look, listen." He crosses his legs at the ankles in front of his crotch and pulls his butt up onto them as comfortable as a lifelong yogi. "We're going to cure COVID-19. Kinda. We're basically going to guide the entire world consciousness to research breakthrough, vaccinations, you name it. It's gonna be like-" He goes to snap, realizes he's holding a handful of stone, and stops. "It's gonna be practically instant. World in pandemic to the world after in swift, merciless transition. Which is gonna bring down this entire fucking Seer conspiracy."

Overtime does move and sit himself down comfortably - not in any huge rush, because rushing around with a guy with Magic hand grenades is never really a good idea. It's just an efficient hunting for a decent spot, then plopping himself down into it. "I'd believe you. Some of us watch those things online in order to find out someone who's hunting for the truth in amongst all the muck." Truth? Partially. The Guardian's are all about partials.

"But curing COVID-19 through mass guidance, that's a lot of power to be throwing around here. How you going to guide all of it when you're all wired into the internet like that?"

"They call me Gin Joint," Gin provides evenly when he makes mention of what they'd call her across the pond. "Here and abroad." Careful, Gin, we're being pleasant here, aren't we? Then again, to any that actually know the frigid critter known as Gin, this IS her being pleasant. In fact, the way she says it comes off as purely informative. She would arse herself to offer him a smile, but her mask is covering it anyway. And so, there's simply the slightest squint to her eyes. Maybe that'll make them believe she's smiling. Those holy hand grenades he's double fisting, moving around as he does, they're making her more than vaguely nervous. To her credit, she does move to seat herself. She doesn't like it. It's clear she doesn't like it. She even gives Overtime a look that suggests this is not her favourite place right now, and clearly not her favourite time. He could change all that. If he really cared. She just knows, she KNOWS there's gunna be some freaky vines lashing up out of that chair if she tries to get away now. She's seen hentai. She knows what happens here. There's only one word to sum up her thoughts: ... Iie. She heaves a sigh as she settles, listening to him talk about how he's planning to handle this pandemic, her eyes gently sliding shut, and opening after a prolonged blink. "Do you think people today could handle everything being revealed right now? In the middle of all of this?" One of her brows quirks in a sharp arch. "Do you even care?"

"Revealed? Revealed?" Those soul stones are all over the place as the man Muppet flails about like Kermit being locked out of the apartment by Miss Piggy as she empties his closet into the alley below. "Why would destiny bring me Guardians to reveal things?!" His rhetorical question is followed by him making an extremely bull-like snort through his nostrils at Gin Joint. It's strange coming from a man so emaciated. "My speech was long, but it really would have, like, explained everything. Look. I'm smelling some fear. This isn't a time to be afraid." He shakes his head a lot here. "This is a time to be calm like one of you said and something else kinda like calm like the other one said. So." He lifts up the soul stones like he's showing police officers firearms he possesses. "I'm going to hand each of you a piece of my soul. With that, you'll have great power over me. I'm trusting you not to use it and just listen. Just give me, like... two minutes and we can stop a Seer plot the entire world is ignoring and cure the 'rona."

His average but wild eyes shift from one Guardian's face to the other and back. Thrice. "Okay. I'm trusting you." He sets down the soul stones, and as he does they each sprout eight legs so they are like spiders with gems for torsos. They then skitter straight for the legs of the guests in attempts to climb them, hop in their laps, and de-leg so they may be easily claimed. It's far more terrifying than intended.

A walking soulstone. Overtime watches it before he reaches down and slowly plucks it up. He then reaches down and carefully flicks away the removed spider legs, before he rests both of his palms on the soul stone. "Sometimes things have to get revealed to be made safe. Sometimes they have to be shoved away. I'll tell you what. You're giving me the benefit of the doubt here with the soul stone, so I'll give you the benefit of the doubt. I'll watch you. But if you do anything funny. I'm not going to laugh. I don't mean that as a threat - just as a blanket statement as you're being forward with us."

Of course, even as Overtime speaks he's adjusting the soulstone in his left palm so that his right hand is left free, and he rests it loosely on his right knee while his fingertips tap on the stone.

Well. This is about the most unnerving thing that's happened to Gin in... ... uh... She can't really remember the last time something was this unnerving, actually. She's seen some shit. She's caused some shit. She has, however, never had a piece of her soul grow legs and scuttle up another person, on purpose or otherwise. There's a twisting of her features that even her mask can't hide. Certainly, the bulk of it might be obscured, but the hard clenching twitch of her left eye in blatant, audacious discomfort is pretty obvious to anybody witnessing her reaction. She's not afraid. She's just ... deeply skeeved. There's a sound of revulsion breathed out then as Gin's blessedly gloved hand reaches to pluck up the stone, now legless. The stone, mind. Not Gin. She still has hers. UNLESS! ... No, still there. With the soul stones no longer in the old mage's hands, however, her pucker does lessen its near cramp-inducing clench. It does not, however, spit out the stick that she's got stuffed up there. She resists, she fights, and the struggle is real, but despite all her efforts she simply MUST speak: "... Forthcoming." She corrects Overtime quietly, her head tilting toward him but her eyes not leaving the fellow that's addressing them. "... As my associate has mentioned, you are afforded attentive audience. Now, tell us a bit about the Seer plot and I'll give you those two minutes."

The feral mien of the man and the danger that seems to pour off of him is split into thirds, and the third each of them "Whether their ultimately responsible or just capitalizing on events, the Seers of the Throne have moved their agenda forward by years in the last few weeks. This pandemic? It's fucking fuel for them, man! I stopped being a Pentacle guy--no offense--because I wanted to get away from the conspiracies and shit, and then I watch as no one fucking even attempts to tackle this Corona thing because it's bigger than all of us." He turns his head a little to the right so he's looking at them more out of his left eye. "We--the Awakened Community--could fix this. But we're too divided. We're too selfish. Worst of all, we're too sorted into our little sections of things that we all feel too small to do this. I went to the Council-" -of Seaside. "-in February and told them exactly how this was gonna play out, and they didn't ever even consider it because they 'don't have a Councilor for Apostates.'" He air quotes it now that his hands are free. "Do you know what kinda garbage that is? It's politics. It's bureaucracy. It's passing the buck. I've been doing this shit for sixty-five years. I've seen the same shit come and go like tides, and I'm not trying to make you feel guilty for this, but you should, maybe." He nods at them intensely. He isn't blinking. Has he ever blinked? He doesn't look back and forth now. To each, he is staring only at them. "Maybe we all should. We're letting them win." The nodding becomes a shaking of his head. "But not anymore!" He grins big and broad and claps his hands together twice. "And with those soulstones in hand? We got four hands on the wheel and two hands squeezing their nuts!" He jumps up to his feet with so much energy and alacrity that it might seem like an ambush but he doesn't even cross that little stream between them. He's on his feet now, however, and he seems to be urging them to theirs with those hand motions. "I can smell the doubt, but watch me. Come with me. You can be the Visus Draconis you were meant to be rather than smoking weed and drinking coffee in Portland until your glasses turn thick-rimmed."

"So," Overtime gives his brain a moment to digest. Chew it over. Probably argue with himselves over it. A little bit of mental digestion to figure out exactly how batshit this is.

Batshit level: We can't stop here.

His fingertips tap on the soulstone once. Twice. Then it's like a ticking clock as his brain finds its sync point. "Sixty five years is a long time. What were you when you were a member of the Pentacle?" He asks this just to make conversation as he looks over towards Gin, gives her one of those good old 'fuck it' sort of shrugs. "I'll watch you. You know the job description, so you know everything that goes with it."

He does pick himself up - but he's not spry or full of energy. He's probably full of Twinkies and chips. So while he's full, there's only so much ache-soothing a place can give you before your body goes 'nah, this guy doesn't understand nutrition'.

This is all above Gin's pay grade. She's not even sure she's following. She does a good job of looking like she might be. When 9 gives that shrug, she once again heaves a sigh and gets to her feet. Halfway through her rising, however, is about when that fellow gets all excited. It startles her. Her body goes rigid, her free hand snapping downward for her holstered weapon, but it stops scant seconds after that rote action begins. She doesn't even make it near her hip. To gloss over this, she places her hand just below where her heart should be, "Ooch, pff, th'wee baby jesus," She breathes out, softly. Giving a quick shake of her head as she finishes properly rising, rolling her shoulders back, "Gave me quite a start." She asides to Overtime. She then dutifully follows along, ready to 'observe'.

It's a strange sort of jig the man does in place as he speaks in shrugging tones, "Five years a Ladder, thirty years an Arrow, thirty years a nobody, and that's the thirty I got things done during. Okay." Master Rayner lowers his butt as he jumps his heels up and down while spreading his toes in the sand like a wrestler or linebacker preparing to charge. "You're about to feel those stones tingle. Please don't drop me."

That is all the warning they get before that Vernal energy grows through them all like waking from a dream. The coastal biome around them shifts into an earthy cave shot full of manifested spiritual roots. Their chairs slowly wither back into stone floor, and what was grass is now glowing moss. In that glow, one can see the runes he's moving around; using magic to move his tools to make magic true to Rampant style. As those runes line up, the light up, and as they light up, the three of them are liquefied and absorbed--spiritually--into the root system of the Internet Tree.

There, their spirits--Gin Joint and Overtime both holding soul stones that appear to be the only solid things in this realm--follow the old man's as he blips up the trunk and along branches. It is a personal realm, but they are not alone, for it is one made coefficiented to that of the heterotopic spaces of the Internet. The strange Ephemerals that watch them are alien hybrids of tree and wiring; their eyes like knots in ceramic, resistors sticking out over wooden motherboards, or scanning lasers shining out from cuts in bark.

Do not vomit.

Do not vomit.

Do not vomit because you don't know if you're going to puke in this world or wherever you might be.

No. We're okay. We're okay. Breathe in. Can you breathe in? Did you take your hit before arriving? No? OK. Just treat this like any other trip.

It seems to take a moment for 9's mental adjustment to make it so that he doesn't flail, mentally or physically. That's okay however - they're going now. His head turns to eyeball one of the Ephemerals. Wait, does he have eyes? No matter. He eyeballs one of them anyway. Oh no. It's a spanning tree protocol.

How horrific.

This was not what she had planned for today. Gin, unlike 9, is not accustomed to ... 'tripping', and thus this entire adventure has become progressively more unnerving. The idea that they could even do this seems ... wrong. Very wrong. Surely something's going to happen by to slap them before long, or something's gunna infect this system like some mad cryptolocking, end-of-the-world virus. And she won't even understand THAT, either. There's something terribly humbling about this experience. Which is why Gin will try to forget it as soon as possible. She says nothing. She simply follows, and watches, and considers the possibilities ... all of which alarm her. It's just been an alarming kinda day.

What happens next is a little bit of Fate, a little bitta Mind, and a whole lotta Life. Accordingly, for those two following, bearing witness, it should be like watching a spell effect through and keyhole. With his soul in hand, however, they are understanding much more than they should. They can see how he is going about and casting something like a contagion, but this contagion is not one of progressing virus, but of progressing steps in finding a vaccine to that virus. It isn't a sprinkle here and a sprinkle there, however. They can feel his fear of that; his greatest fear that only one should end up with this vaccine. That fear is what has these strange beings around them watching them so; his mind corrupting his Road.

He Reaches with his magic. He Reaches and Reaches through this great Internet Tree. He Reaches until he shouldn't possibly be able to Reach and then he Reaches more. His Imago forms as if above them; the sun beating upon the great tree they now live in. It lays naked to their eyes not for them to judge or not judge, but for them to bask in the glory of. He sprinkles his Contagion of Progress so throughly throughout this Imago; his knowledge of virology centuries beyond that of Sleeper scientists. It's a Subtle working, but it is Great. It is Global. It is overly ambitious, and there's no way he'll be able to actualize it into Effect.

It seems they will witness the greatest failure of their generation, but the spell does not crumble. The Imago builds and builds. Master Rayner Reaches and Reaches until it seems the whole of the world--one tiny film of a layer of it, in truth--is in his ambition. He doesn't see that he won't be able to manage. He doesn't see that he can't do this. They must realize by now that he is an Archmage, but even he cannot do something this great.

That is when those soulstones in their hands urge them to help him. They show them they way. That great spring-laden Mana surges all around them as the Ephemerals come forward with their nonsensical (to most) pleas and cries.

You know when you think you have a hang on your general work and then someone comes along and shows you that you're still missing out on a few key skills? This. This is probably one of those times.

Overtime stares down at his soulstone for a moment, turning it over in his palms a few times as he thinks on it. Time keeps ticking away, and he casually brings both of his palms over the soulstone, cradling it like one of those weirdo contact orb things that look like you're barely touching them to move. Breathe in.

Breathe out. The exhale aligns his mind, and latches on to something that is always in the forefront of 9's mind. Time.

Tick. Inhale.

Tock. Exhale.

His soul comes into alignment, and the soulstone casts a momentary light - that fades into obscurity as he allows his Gnosis to begin funneling the Mana that still lingers, so that it's useful.

There is a sort of ... beauty... about this. As things begin to make sense to the previously anxiety-addled mind of the over-strict Gin, the fear that she had of this man, the beliefs she held to her in regards to who and what he might be, well, they begin to change. She 'observes' this more than actually watches it, as it has already gone far beyond seeing. She feels it, those tugs on the web of fate, strand by strand, like a lurking spider testing the strands of its well laid trap. She sees them, gossamer, so fragile, in some ethereal tapestry that connects all things. ... but not here... Or, at the least, not how they should. They're being moved. Altered. By him? By the Weaver? Who's hand is moving who's on the loom of would be and will be? The sense that this could come to catastrophic failure, that Fate should fail when it so clearly urges this chain of events with a sort of desperation that makes her question what could happen if she didn't lend her Gnosis to this affair ... it's enough to make her throw caution to the wind, just this once. She, too, begins to focus. Not on time. Not on the life that swells... On those shimmering, sterling strands, allowing them to wind about her as though she were being cocooned there, comforted by that snug, breathless embrace. She holds tightly to the stone, the pad of her thumb rubbing back and forth over it like she would turn the pages of the great saga this Master has been writing with each flicking movement of that digit. Here, she surrenders the great design.

The Imago grows. With their assistance it surges. With that sea of Mana gathered here in all these leaves and channeled to it, it stretches outwards and grows upwards as if it will then compress into Singularity and then Burst.

Which is exactly what it is, but not so simply. For when that Imago--in all its greatness and glory--comes together in completion, it focuses down to a single point so fast and so powerfully that they can just feel--both beside them in this Otherplace and within them through the soul stones--Master Rayner pulled into it; his existence sucked into the very Singularity that he created. With him goes the trees, the branches, and the Ephemerals. The roots begin to upturn and pull up, and quickly the two Guests in this reality find themselves being pulled forward by the soul stones that empower them. Before they have to decide whether to give up the stones or not, however, each of them crumble to tiny chunks of organic crystal which is quickly vacuumed off into the great Black Hole of the Imago.

And then it Bursts.

The two Guardians are sitting in a cabin on the beach. There's some sand on the floor as if an avid surfer lives here and is really bad about wiping his feet. There's a big boa in the hallway just chillin' (but not literally) in a sunbeam. There's some soft nature sounds playing on a radio in the kitchen. In front of them, in a kiddie pool filled with remnant steam, is the completely burned-out husk of a skeleton; looking as if it was in a bad car fire many decades ago. Outside, on a distant berm, a young apprentice is wailing loudly into the afternoon light; screaming up at the sun for answers.

Looking down at his hands, Overtime slowly rubs his palms together. He then reaches into his coat and takes out a handkerchief, carefully rubbing his palms before he folds the handkerchief up and slides it back into his pocket. "I think he spent his last thirty years working with us." Is Overtime's thoughts to the level of self-sacrifice that the once-Pentacle Archmage. He picks himself up, looking around for a moment.

Overtime frowns as he notices he has nothing to cover the skeleton. He takes his coat off, shaking it before he steps over to the body, and he takes a knee in the sand. He carefully settles the coat over the mans upper torso to cover his face, tucking it gently so that it's not a haphazard drape - he makes sure the man's arms and hands are covered. He then reaches into his pockets, taking out two un-marred silver dollars. He puts them over where the vague impression of the mans face remains before picking himself up.

He dusts himself off, and then takes a moment to reinforce his Masque with some mental exercises. "When you are ready, We'll drive you back home. The Apprentice should have this home. It's how things should be handed down. Nine will take us out for drinks. We need a drink." With that said, Overtime promptly turns and begins his walk back to the vehicle - avoiding the boa with a slight wide berth.

It was ... true. It was real. All that he said, what seemed like the mad ramblings of a mind lost... Gin is left standing there with her hand out, fingers still curled as though she held that stone that she was charged with. There is a deep, disturbed frown that graces her lips, still hidden by her mask, something that only gets more bothered by Overtime's words. She takes in a deep breath and lets it out in a sigh -- she can't help but feel that it was a failure, even though the most logical parts of her mind recognize that this was what was intended. This was Fate's design. "... Aye." She finally agrees audibly, watching as her counterpart sees to the remains, offering it the respect it deserves. She bows her head shallowly toward the crispy critter before turning and pacing away, heading out toward the screaming apprentice as Overtime goes to get the car ready to go back home. "He was a fascinating man." She would love to do shrooms with him. "Not mad... he simply saw what we could not. He stared into a naked and angry sun," This is probably the most Gin's said to anyone that she wasn't insulting in a very long time. She reaches out a gloved hand to attempt a comforting pat on Sam's shoulder, even hazarding a soft squeeze. "We are thankful he didn't look away." Her hand slips away, and she once more turns to make her way toward the waiting escape, a heaviness about her that she can't quite shake. "Let's go."