December 18, 2009

Getting to know Ori

Nadi called Nick on the way and told him to meet us at the shop. He arrived at the same time as we did. He and Alexi looked at each other, and there was a tense moment before Alexi said, "Wanna get a beer?" Nick shrugged. "Sure." They left, and Nadi went with them.

We all stood in the empty shop and tried to let the tension fade. It wasn't easy with a stranger there, even if he had just saved our asses. He stood there looking decidedly uncomfortable.

I crossed my arms across my chest and leaned against the door frame. The look I was giving the stranger was not friendly. "So who the fuck sent you?"

"Look, I was told to come to Chicago because someone needed my help.. I found you guys.. I helped, okay?"

I pushed myself off the frame and stalked towards him. "So who the hell sent you?" Suspicious, who, me?

Gio intercepted me and offered the guy his hand, standing between us. "Thanks for the help. Giovanni Santori." The guy shook his hand. "Grigori Ironfeather, call me Ori. Came over from Las Vegas."

"Ironfeather?" Nobody asked.

"Yeah, I'm half Russian."

"Pack?" Gio inquired.

"Don't have one right now, but I've been hanging around with the Whispers lately.. the Bone Shadow pack.."

I frowned at Gio, but relaxed slightly. I had been worried he might be Pure. But I was still suspicious..regardless.

About that time the dark sedan pulled up. Sansome and Davareaux got out and entered the shop. I gave Davaraux a small smile. "I thought I recognized that cannon shot. It's good to see you Davareaux. What are you doing back in town, besides saving our asses?"
He nodded to me, the rifle that had been the origin of the 'shooting star' we'd seen slung over one shoulder. "You too... and I never left." he turned to look at Ori. "I need to talk to you." And he turned and walked out of the room.

"Hah! um..okay." Ori said nervously, and followed Davareaux outside.

Sansome looked at Giovanni expectantly..but not angrily. I stayed quiet. I wasn't about to give him any reason to GET pissed if I could help it.

"What the hell is going on? Why were you in the meat packing district?" Again, he didn't seem angry at all, though maybe a little suspicious..but I might have been projecting.
Gio pulled up a chair and sat. "Investigating murders... we found out that for the last decade there has been one family killed in that district every ten years."
Sansome waved his hand impatiently. "We know that, that's why we did the land grab. There was something going on, but we couldn't figure out what. Pain of Animals has been there a very long time.. but it didn't start getting notably powerful until recently. We starting buying up the land and forcing people out in an attempt to contain it."
"So you knew about the sacrifice?" Gio asked.

That caught him off guard. His eyes narrowed and his posture became more stiff. "What are you talking about?"
"In each of the homes we found the words, 'This is the sacrifice' in your weird language.. always carved into the wood in unobtrusive places were it wouldn't be noticed. Attic, hall closet, under the counter.. this year is the first time that there hasn't been a family killed. We think that's why Pain of Animals is giving us trouble." Giovanni explained.

Sansome was silent for a moment, letting it sink in. Nobody spoke up after a few seconds. "Who could make a bargain like that with a spirit?"
Sansome shook his head. "Any Uratha could.. but we wouldn't. The price is too high. We're supposed to keep the spirits in line so they don't go rampaging around killing people.. not giving them people to kill."
Gio frowned. "Well what happened to the pack that was in charge of the district before the family started to move in?"
"We don't know. They disappeared a few years ago. No one knows what happened to them."

I wanted to ask him questions, but if I did it would give away that we heard his tape. I didn't want him to know any of us had been in the family vault. Especially not me. Nadi walked back into the shop. I filled her in quickly while Gio and Sansome talked.

Sansome looked over all of us. "We need to call a hunt. In three days."
Nadi raised an eyebrow. "Can we help?"
"Or you could back down and go hide under a rock." Sansome said, words tinged with scorn.
I scowled at him before I could stop myself. "We went out there in the first place didn't we?" I said, anger coloring my words.
"We want to help. We just weren't sure if we would be of any use to you. We don't know how to hurt spirits." Nadi said, almost at the same time. Gio, Nobody and Becca all murmured in agreement.

Sansome looked between Nadi and me as if judging our sincerity, gave a curt nod and started for the door. "I'll get back to you on that. Breakfast tomorrow."

He exited the shop and got into the car. A few moments later Davareaux reappeared as well, got in the car, and they drove away. Ori re-entered the shop, he was rubbing the back of his neck and had a look on his face like he'd just been given way too much homework he didn't feel like doing.

I frowned at him. "So.. not that we aren't grateful that you saved us.."
"Because we are very grateful" Nadi interjected. There was a subtle sarcastic ring to the words. I continued. "But what are you doing here, who sent you, and how did you know where we were?"

Ori raised his hands as if to ward off an attack. "Look, I was hunting ghosts, and I ran into this guy who looked like the ghost I was hunting, but he wasn't a ghost. He kicked my ass and told me I had to come help you guys."

Gio smirked. "He threatened your family didn't he."
Ori nodded. "Yeah, and since I like my family, I thought I would do what he told me to."
I mirrored Gio's smirk and felt more secure with Ori. If Giuseppe had sent him, it was doubtful he would or could fuck us over. "Smart man."

"So.. you guys know what I am.. who and what are you guys?" He glanced at me. "Besides you, who smells like a vampire."

Gio took over the introductions. "Giovanni Santori.. The guy who attacked you is Giuseppe, and he's my uncle...and I'm human." a bark of sarcastic laughter escaped from me at that.
Ori wrinkled his nose. "You smell like brimstone and sulfur."
Gio shrugged. "Side effect of having demon blood I guess."

Ori opened his mouth to say something, but couldn't seem to come up with a response. So he shut it and just looked perplexed for a moment. He eventually recovered. "Okay.. so you smell like hell.. you smell like a vampire," he pointed at Nadi. "You smell human, so do you," gestering to Becca, "and you," he pointed at Nobody. "Smell like unicorns. and I've never even smelled unicorns before."

Gio continued. "The vampire giving you the stink eye over there is Harper. This is Nobody.."
Ori coughed. "Really? Nobody?"
Nobody grinned at him, it was more than a little sinister. "Yeah, you know.. 'who killed Bill?' 'Nobody!'" he shrugged to convey the confusion.
"Okay.. so..what are you?" Ori asked. Nobody kept grinning at him and made his face shift into Ori's.. which caused the werewolf to jump back a few feet. "Woah! uh..what the fuck?"
"Nobody is a changeling. A mirror skin. he can make himself look like any one he wants to look like." Gio explained.
"Okay, so what is a changeling?" Ori asked, eying Nobody who had yet to change his face back. He just gave Ori that unsettling smile.
"You're worst nightmare." Nobody said.
Gio smirked at faery-boy. "Part fairy, part human."
"Ookay then. Good to know." he turned towards Nadi. "And you are?"
"Human." Nadi muttered in her reserved way.
Gio answered as though she'd never said a word. "She's a death mage."
"Like a wizard..?" Ori asked.
"Something like that." Nadi responded.
"And that's Rebbeca, she works for Harper." Becca waved. Ori's eyes lingered on her a bit longer than the had on everyone else. She ignored it.

I was standing there watching him the entire time. There was something about him that nagged at me. Something familiar...

Holy fuck. He looked like Stepping-Feather.

"So Ori. Whats your dad's name?" He didn't look young enough to be any progeny of Stepping Feather, but I never really could tell how old werewolves were.
"Ian.. why?"
I frowned deeper. "Any siblings?"
He eyed me. "A sister... why?"
Gio blinked at me as he clued in to what I had noticed. I nodded to his unspoken question then looked back to Ori. "You related to anyone named Stepping Feather?"

He seemed relived. "Yeah, actually.. funny story.. I wasn't supposed to say anything, but he told me to come help you guys."
It was my turn to look perplexed. "I thought Giuseppe told you to find us."
He sighed. "Okay, you know those vision quest things? Well I went on one like 2 months ago. I was out in the desert, this relative I hadn't seen since I was a little kid shows up..Stepping Feather. He tells me that I need to go to Chicago, because someone there is going to need my help... it wasn't until that Giuseppe guy got to me that I was sent to you guys. But since you know him, I'm guessing you were who he was talking about."

I nodded slowly. "He's dead you know..he died about a month ago.. saving the city."
"He died to save a pack mate. Sacrificed himself." Gio added.
Ori grimaced. "I thought he might be. He said in the vision he would die in Chicago."
I frowned. "How did he know? The only one who knew about the deal was Theo."
Ori shrugged. "Its just one of those vision things..."
I didn't let my expression show it, but I felt even more at ease with Ori being here than I had before. Giuseppe had sent him, and Stepping Feather had as well. However, he'd opened up about that 'secret' when all we did was guess that he was related. Not exactly a good confidant it didn't seem. I would have to ask Nobody about binding him to keep his mouth shut. Something else occurred to me.

"You said you were hunting a ghost when you ran into Giuseppe.. what ghost? and why?"
Ori shrugged. "I guess I was hunting him and didn't know it? I mean, it looked exactly like him.. He was the ghost right?"
"No, he's a vampire." Gio said.
"The ghost is his. They're two separate entities..." I said.
"Well then maybe the ghost led me to him on purpose? I dunno."
I shook my head slowly. "The ghost hates him. It wants to cause him pain.. it wouldn't help him... why were you hunting it?"
"Wait.. vampires have ghosts?" Ori was confused.
I rolled my eyes. "Some do. Surprise. Focus please."
"Uh..right. Well, the ghost has been responsible for something like 7 murders in Chicago in the last few weeks."

I let fly a color string of curses.
Nadi waited for me to taper off before asking, "Should you tell him about it?"
I shook my head and crossed my arms over my chest again. This wasn't good.. and it didn't make me happy. "Maybe, but if the ghost is here, Giuseppe is probably close by as well, and may already know. That and I can't get a hold of him recently."
"You don't know how to contact him?" Nobody scoffed.

I scowled at him. "Just because he's my sire doesn't mean I know his every move."

Ori's eyes widened and he took a couple steps back from me, hand up as if to ward me off. "Woah woah woah! He's your fucking SIRE?! And you guys were going to tell me this when?"
I looked at him like the complete idiot I felt he was at this moment. "Oh, I'm sorry.. did I not tell you a complete and comprehensive account of my personal life in the 20 minutes that I've known you? How rude of me to keep such things from someone I've known for so very long." Sarcasm coalesced from the words and sloughed off onto the floor..

Gio laughed. "You'll have to get used to that if you're going to be helping us. She's not exactly forthcoming." I gave him the finger. Gio gave Ori a look that said, "see what I mean?"

Ori looked at all of us, hands extended, palms facing up in a gesture of frustrated reluctance. "Look, I don't mean any offense, but I'm not looking for another job.. I've already got one responsibilities I don't want.. I really don't want to take on anymore."

I rolled my eyes at him again. "Get over it.. because according to Stepping Feather and Giuseppe you're stuck with us, and vice versa."

As distrusting as I might be, it would be useful to have him around. We needed a werewolf. We were dealing with too many spirits to not have one around with us.

"Be prepared to have your life threatened on numerous occasions, just by association. We get that a lot." I said. Ori just groaned.

"You staying anywhere?" Gio was talking to Ori, but looking at me.
I grimaced. "Really? You want me to ask Maury to let a fucking werewolf stay in his place?"
Gio gave me a look reminiscent of a parent scolding a whining child.. "We need him around. We can't do shit with spirits remember."
I scowled at him. "I'm fucking aware. But shit Gio.. we're asking a lot of the guy."
"You got a better idea?"
I didn't. Of course.
"Look I can stay somewhere else, really." Ori said.
I tossed my hands up in defeat. "No. Like I said, you may have people gunning for you, and we need to be in the same place for safety and planning purposes. Besides, we may need you around if I end up making more nasty spirits crawl out of laptop monitors."
"Excuse me?"
"We'll explain later." I said with a dismissive wave. I turned and walked towards the basement. "I'll be right back.."

I was pretty nervous walking into Maury's study. I was wondering when we'd push him too far and he'd kick us out.. but, surprisingly, when I made the hesitant request he accepted immediately. He didn't even look up from his journal. I left feeling like he knew something about the situation that I didn't. I hate that feeling. I was also nervous about letting a werewolf come stay with us. Giuseppe may have taken one on, but I didn't feel as confident in my abilities in a direct confrontation with a frenzied killing machine. But I didn't have many other options.

I went back up to the shop. "He's cleared. Lets get down there. I don't like hanging out in the shop with Bright's guys around."
"Where exactly are we going?" Ori looked around expectantly.
I smirked at him. "The sewers."
He stared at me in disbelief. "You guys live in the sewers."
Gio hobbled towards the stairs. "It's cozier than you may think."
Ori grumbled to himself, something about getting his ass into bullshit situations.

When we got down into Maury's place, Ori's attitude changed a bit. He looked around at the hotel-esque living space with wide eyes. "Wow.. you guys weren't kidding."
We showed him his room, identical to each of ours, the lab, then we all moved to the living area.

Gio eased himself onto the couch right about the time Cheshire padded into the room.
Ori pointed at the big cat. "What the fuck is THAT."
Gio glanced up and around, eyes settling on Chesh. "Oh! That's Cheshire. Say hi, Ches."
Ches' tail flicked idly as he sized up the werewolf. You could almost hear him thinking 'I could take him'. "Hello."
"And it talks." Ori sniffed. "Wow...he kinda smells like.."
"I made him..and yeah, that's werewolf hide. But don't worry, it was a Pure." Gio said, smiling.
"Just as long as you don't try to use me for that shit. Impressive though.."

Nobody smirked. "Fuck with us, and we might just."
Ori laughed. "Yeah, I'm scared of a fairy. You know those knives," he pointed to the wickedly sharp blades Nobody wore. "Are about as effective as butter-knives right?"
That comment made me knock off a few more points from his intelligence level. It's not wise to underestimate anyone when you're in our position.
Nobody's smirk turned into a nasty grin. "Fairy nothin'. I'm king of the Booterflies..and I'd just use this." He slid his silver knife from a hidden sheath somewhere on his person. Fuck if I knew where. I can make my weapons damn near invisible, and he could still one-up me on shit like this.

The silver glinted in the dim lighting of the antique lamps. I swear to God, that faery asshole is completely insane. Not even I would've pulled silver on a werewolf unless I was looking for a fight. But who knows.. he was crazy enough to want one.

Ori looked supremely annoyed, but not really intimidated. It was a pretty good act. I was the only one, as far as I know, who could tell he was, if only a touch, startled by the knife. A rapid and very brief flash of orange had tinged his aura when Nobody had revealed it.
"Good to know." Ori jerked his thumb at Nobody and looked at us. "What the fuck is up with this guy?"

I motioned to Nobody. "To be fair, you did insult him. That, and he likes to stab things.. and get us into fights with Pure with no good goddamn reason."
"Hey! we saved Volkas' niece!" Nobody protested.
"Yeah, but you didn't know it was her at the time." I shot back.
"So? I couldn't let her get beaten on." He sounded indignant.
I was just impatient. "Whatever. I need to talk to you in the other room."

We got up and walked out, as we did so I heard Gio say, "Don't mind them, they're shady.." The rest of his words trailed off as I shut the door to my room.
Nobody looked at my expectantly. "Whats up?"
"Can you work your faery voodoo and bind him into a contrac.."
He grinned at me. "Way ahead of you. That guy's got loose lips.. I was already planning on binding him to one so he wouldn't fuck us over."
"Good. I don't like how easily he told us his 'secret' about Stepping Feather."
"Agreed. We don't need that shit. I'll do it tonight."
We spent the next few minutes discussing how exactly it should go. It was less a discussion and more Nobody telling me what he'd say. He had good practice with these things, after all.. and Ori was unsuspecting.

Nadi, Gio and Ori were talking about spirits and drinking beer when we came back out. From what they said, there was s scar in the gauntlet in the meat packing district, which meant, apparently, that the area was corrupt, spirits were malicious, even if they weren't normally in other places. After a few minutes of this discussion, Nadi got up and retrieved the little black book from Gio lab.
She handed it to Ori. "What can you tell me about this?"

He made a disgusted face when he took it from her. Couldn't blame him, the thing was unpleasant. "Just that there's a spirit attached to it... hey, what was that talk about a spirit and a laptop?"
Nadi took the book back and flipped it to the middle while she spoke. "I found a symbol for Mastraac online, Harper hacked the code and the magelin came out of the computer screen and attacked us."
Ori choked on his swig of beer. "That's impossible."
Nadi turned the book around to show him the red symbol scrawled across both pages. Ori set his beer down on the coffee table and suddenly looked very serious. "Yeah, that's Mastraac's symbol..but there's no way that you called the magelin spirit of envy out of the computer. You'd all be dead."

I jerked my head at Nobody, who lifted up his shirt to show the stitches that held the giant healing wounds closed. "He almost was."
Ori held up his hands to stop more explanations and shook his head, he seemed pretty vehement. "There wouldn't be any 'almost', those things are ridiculously powerful. It was probably one of Mastraac's servants.. but it wasn't Mastraac."

"Okay, so can you tell us anything about the book?" Nadi asked in a low voice. He couldn't. Nadi seemed disappointed.

Conversation devolved from there, eventually Ori looked over at Becca who was watching reruns of pop-up video on VH1. He put on what I figured was his version of a charming smile. It was a pretty good one. "So, what do you do around here?"
She looked up and shrugged. "Uh..I work for Harper.. before that I was in a goth band back in New Orleans, before that I worked in as a mechanic in a garage.. and before that I was a man." She said it without so much as cracking a smile or batting an eyelash, turning back to the TV. I put a hand over my face to hide the grin. I wasn't the only one who did.

Ori looked taken aback. "Alright then."
Nadi made some subtle hand motions.
"Where can I get a good burger around here? I'm starving." Ori asked.
Gio pushed himself to his feet and retrieved his cane. "C'mon, I'll show you."
They stood to go, and Ori walked right out of the soles of his combat boots. He stumbled and caught himself. "What the fuck?!"
Gio leaned down and looked at his boots. "Huh. That's weird."
Ori grumbled about shitty boots and stalked over to the fridge for another beer. Tripping and nearly face planting on his way over there as the shoe laces of his boots get tangled together. "Fuck! What the hell?!" He planted himself in a chair and crossed his arms over his chest. "I'm staying right here."

I stood, still trying to bite back the amused smirk. "I have to make a call, then I'm going to go find Joseph and ask him a few things. Anyone want to join me?"
Nadi slipped the book in her coat pocket and nodded.

I stepped slipped into the computer room and dialed Captain O'Donnell.
"Captain. I need some gear.. do you guys have anything that will let us see spirits? We've been running into them a lot lately. It would be a huge help."
"You got a fax there?"
"Yeah." I gave him the fax number and a few seconds later a requisition form came through. Kinda odd.. but okay.. I filled it out and faxed it back.
He rattled off some coordinates to me. "Be there in 8 hours, 0700 sharp to pick up the package." and he hung up.

I looked at the phone for a moment. That was more brusque than he usually was. I had a bad feeling about this whole thing. I wondered if it was time for these dealings with Project Valkyrie to start going badly for me.

I told Becca where to be tomorrow to get the gear, and that she could take some of the others with her if she wanted, then headed out into the sewers with Nadi. As I was walking out, the self satisfied smile on Nobody and the slightly more nervous expression on Ori told me Nobody had forced him to take the contract while I'd been out.

That fairy bastard was at least good for something besides stabbing. Oh. Excuse me. King of the Booterflies.

What the fuck.


We wandered the tunnels for a good half hour and come up with nothing. We couldn't even find the place with the dirt floor anymore. It was all extremely strange. We had started to head back when we noticed a message scrawled across the wall on the tunnel the way we come in. It read 'Choose another bedtime story.'

I tapped Nadi's coat pocket. "I don't think he likes the book. Ask him about it without having it around maybe?"
She agreed and left to take the book back as I waited. It took her about ten minutes to get there and back.

After about 5 minutes, I started to feel a little weird. My head swam. I squeezed my eyes shut and held my head until it subsided. When it did, I wasn't in the same sewer anymore. The floor was polished wood, and the walls were smooth. I realized I could hear music.. sounded like Chopin. I waited for Nadi to get back, listening to piano music and wondering if she'd even be able to get to me.. wherever I was.

The answer was, oddly, yes. She came back with Becca in tow and when they came into view, they looked about as confused as I was. I pushed myself off the wall and made a gesture down the tunnel. "Shall we?" I said in a low voice.

We followed the sound of piano music until we found him. Joseph was sitting at a small elegantly carved table drinking tea from elegant cups. There was a piano that played itself (but it wasn't a player piano, it was a normal grand piano) a few feet behind him. The room was strange in that it looked completely normal, like a fancy parlor in an expensive house. Only we were in a sewer, and Joseph was still wearing his decades old straight jacket, with sleeves pushed up till you could see his hands, and bare feet.

He set his tea down as we walked in and gestured to the chairs in front of him. "Please, have some tea."

We sat, though none of us had any tea.
"What can I do for you?" he asked.
"I wanted to ask you some questions, if you don't mind." I said.
He raised a brow at me over his tea cup. "Oh? About what?"
"The malkavia you gave us."
"How do you know you even have it?" He responded.
I schooled my expression to avoid having frustration and annoyance plastered across my features. It just came out as a small frown. "You told us you gave us a blessing of change, our aura's are different.. its not outside the realm of possibilities that its nothing, but I like to be prepared for all circumstances."

Nadi piped in. "Her people think we're crazy."
He tilted his head to one side to regard her curiously. "Do you feel mad?"
My frown became a bit more pronounced. "No, but that's mostly irrelevant."
"A blessing is not something that is a tool to be used. It is a blessing. It does what it does, and you'd be better served not obsessing over it and its possible implications. Obsessing over things will drive you mad." And he said it with a completely straight face and tone, to the point where I had no idea if he was being serious.

He continued. "Others are afraid of what they do not understand. Maxwell fears that he will succumb to the curse that plagues our line, so he is paranoid about those such as myself and anyone who may have had contact with them."
Nadi looked slightly perplexed. "What do you mean, 'Our line?' you're a vampire right?"
I nodded at her. "He's Ventrue, like the Prince."
Joseph nodded as well. "I was once that.. but no longer.. just like I once subsisted on blood..."
My eyes darted back to him at that statement. "Once were Ventrue?"
He looked at me as though I were asking a stupid question, like his statement was perfectly normal. "Yes. What are you?"
"Mehket." I answered.
"And how do you know you are Mehket?"
I remained silent, not quite understanding what he was getting at.
"I was once what you call Ventrue but changed myself. Ventrue doesn't define who I am, just like Mehket doesn't define you. Its a word."
I said nothing. Talking to Joseph was always challenging. He was, undoubtedly, completely insane. It made you wonder which of his statements you could actually take seriously, and which ones you should write off as crazy-babble.

Nadi seemed perplexed as well. "Then how do you survive down here if you don't need blood?"
He shrugged and sipped his tea. "Blood isn't the only thing vampires can feed on. There are rumors that some can eat ghosts."
Nadi's face clouded over. "Doesn't that hurt the ghosts?"
He sipped tea. "Most certainly."
Her voice got slightly quieter. "I don't like that."
Joseph just frowned at her over the rim of his teacup. "Well it's not really any of your business now is it? Have a pleasant evening."

And suddenly he was gone, the wood floor, the piano, the tea, and the table were all gone. We were standing in a sewer tunnel, listening to dripping water, and just faintly, the sound of Choplin could be heard, but it sounded more like an echo coming from inside my head than from anywhere in the tunnels. Becca looked around slowly. "Uh, does anyone else still hear Choplin?"

"Yes." I grumbled curtly and started off back down the tunnel towards base.
Becca followed. "Oh, good."
Nadi walked beside me. "I wasn't done with my questions."
"Neither was I, but apparently he was done answering them." I said in a sour voice.

The guys were all in the lab when we got back. I walked in, planning on grabbing Nobody for training purposes. They were talking and laughing about something. I watched them from the doorway. "So the pissing contest is over?"

Nobody looked up. "How would you know if there was a pissing contest?"
I gestured to Becca and Nadi who walked in behind me. "Because there are 3 penises in the room, one of which is new, which probably means you will all be flexing nuts.. and Becca was obviously trying to escape from something."

What followed that was a wave of gay jokes concerning Becca and Nadi, to which Nadi responded with a slight upward twitch of the mouth, and muttered, "Yeah, but we're the only one's here who are actually getting any. I'm going to go talk to Volkas." And she walked out of the room.


Nobody and I did our training, Gio and Ori stayed in the lab doing god knows what, and Becca planted herself in front of the TV. It was almost surprising that nothing else weird happened for the rest of the night.

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