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Rossa dipped his hands in his pockets and gave the thread a hard look. "If I'm meant to fully counter it... come back in five years and I might have an answer. But..." he twisted his lips and twirled a length between his fingers. "I think I could jerry-rig us a reflective ward good enough to give us most of our powers. You'd have to be careful not to break it or take it off, and it would run out after a while, but it's better than nothing."
Silveus met Faustus' eyes with a determined look. "I'm willing to go as far as it takes." He'd already been through the worst they could do. And this time, he'd be taking everyone along with him. It would be much different from last time.
Angeleau? Rossa furrowed his brows. Now that Faustus mentioned it... where was he? "I haven't seen him," he admitted with a shrug. It wasn't as unusual for him to not see one of the brothers for several days, but if no one had...
Rossa frowned. Hopefully their mother and siblings were safe. If they were captured... it meant the enemy had someone capable of taking down a large number of highly competent warlocks. "We might do well to treat this as a stealth endeavor," he put out there. "Whoever has orchestrated this event is likely a very powerful warlock, and may have summoned more than just Kitty and those nasty ghouls. We'd do well not to attract their attention."
Silveus swallowed. Maybe he was getting in over his head. But he didn't want to watch anyone else suffer. If he could stop someone else from feeling the same pain he did--the loss of his husband--he'd do whatever it took.
"How long will it take you to make those wards?" Silveus asked.
"I should be able to whip them up by nightfall, if I go now..."
Logan's familiar strode forward. "You can leave the children with me. I've taken care of a kitten or two in my time." Compared to these silly warlocks, it probably had the most experience with raising children. It had once been an ordinary cat, after all.
[center Bait. Why hadn’t they seriously considered it? Ezra sighed, glancing between each party. So Kitty had marked him. It only made sense that he’d need some insurance here. Especially given that it was Faustus. Perhaps he’d sensed the man’s capacity for magick and had purposefully targeted him knowing he’d be capable of fulfilling the pact.
Gathering up one of the babes, he stroked gently between their ears, tongue clicking at the sad little mewling. “I know...” Ezra missed him, too. “We’ll get him back.” He promised.
Faustus was still considering Silveus’ suggestion. They [i could] use him as bait. After all, they needed a means to get into wherever this anti-magick hellscape anyway. “For that to work, we need a solid plan for once we are there. Magick is heavily suppressed and the entirety of the... realm, we’ll say, is heavily warded against summoning or executing. Rossa, that material you took from that wound. Is it possible to potentially find a way to work around it’s mitigating effects?”
It was actually kind of difficult to concentrate now that the babes were all waking up. He switched tongues, soothing them with words foreign to likely most of the room. “Uhh...” How in the hell did Kitty feed them all at once? Ugh... his Kitty, captive to some bastards who thought it acceptable to go starting chaos.
“Silveus, to what extent are you willing to go? And Rossa, as off topic as it may sound, where in the hell is Angeleau? Have you heard anything? Seen anything? I’ve not sensed him in days. What if it’s possible they have he and Mother as well?”
Bastion shifted uncomfortably. “We’d have an entirely different problem.”
Rossa quickly explained the situation to Ezra and the familiar, letting Faustus take over every so often to explain the bits he hadn't been around for, like fighting his way out of the den or the specifics of Kitty's pact. With every word, it seemed like Ezra's features grew grimmer. Rossa understood. If it was Faustus who'd been whisked away--well. He'd gone far enough for Silveus. He would've run to the end of the world for Faustus.
Actually... did Ezra know they were broken up? Last time they'd met, he'd been newly engaged. Rossa let out a sigh. Oh well. He'd let it come up when it came up.
He flicked his eyes to Silveus, then shook his head. Cat was out of the bag now. All of the cats, really. He'd tried to keep Silveus out of it, but that was impossible now.
"We were planning a soul jar ritual, to preserve Faustus in case this pact fell through, but I think that would be a waste of our time, if he's your Kitty." A waste because Kitty wasn't the kind to double cross like that, and secondly, because Ezra would murder them outright, soul jar or no, if they failed. "We need to figure out a plan, now."
"What kind of ritual could they want a nephilim for?" Bastion wondered. Something nasty, for sure. Anything that required divine blood be spilled was sure to be from the darkest depths of dark magic.
"Whatever it is, we do [i not] want it going off. If only we knew where it was..." Rossa said. He twisted his lip. But how to find that place? He'd been able to see Silveus there, but he'd cast the scrying spell on Silveus, not on the place itself, so he didn't really know where it was. He looked at Faustus. Had he noticed any hints as to the place's location?
Silveus glanced around the room, then cleared his throat. "What if we used me for bait?" he suggested.
[center At the sound of a new voice, the anger bled from Ezra’s features. Honestly? It was pretty insulting how much they warmed at the sight of Rossa. “Ah! It’s been too long.”
Faustus rolled his eyes at this, but Ezra didn’t seem to notice in the least. At Rossa’s first query, he purses his lips as of in amusement. It was a moment quickly interrupted before he could explain. Someone not known to him well questioned their familiarity, but he was quite certain he’d known Rossa much longer. At the glance, he nodded subtly, trusting the man to only reveal as much as necessary.
As the conversation shifted back to the question of Kitty’s presence, Ezra’s nervousness seemed to return. “Well... he’s currently missing. Actually, that’s why I’m here. He was just... gone. No note, nothing. Babes all accounted for, but no Kitty. Which leads me to believe he vanished somehow without being physically confronted. Though I appreciate the congrats.” He added, peering down at the kitten nuzzling ears up against Rossa’s palm. At this rate, his siblings would wake.
Faustus, unfortunately, had an idea of what he was saying. Summoned. He must’ve been. But for what? Whisked where—
[i It couldn’t have been.] His startled gaze shifted to Rossa’s, and as if to confirm his suspicion, he uttered a swear that perfectly described this situation. “I made a pact.” The words spilled from his lips so quickly. “Which a daemon, during my travels.”
Ezra straightened. “With Kitty?” It wasn’t really a question. “Where? How?”
Faustus suddenly felt deep guilt gazing down at the kittens. It made far more sense now. It didn’t feel nearly as unreasonable, the pact they’d made. “I think he may have been trapped.”
The familiar’s tail flicked. “Explain from the beginning. You’re making little sense. And do be sure to include every detail.”
“Logan’s familiar. A useful yet annoying development.” Clarified Bastion for Rossa.
Familiars were lesser warlocks in a way. The way you had daemons of rank, they were in a class of their own. He kind of wondered what he might look like in human form. Probably just as irritation-inducing.]
The demon made a gesture at him that looked rude, though Silveus had no idea what it was. [i What?] Why would he do something like that? He hadn't even said anything. Silveus backed up a step, but his brows furrowed. What was this guy doing in the house, anyways? All the warlocks looked angry.
It did put its horns away for him, though. Oddly polite. Confused, Silveus froze and glanced around the room for any kind of cue. No one gave him any hints, though.
"Faustus? The door was open, so I came in. The preparations are ready whenever..." Rossa drew to a halt, stunned to silence at the sight before him. [i I leave these boys for one second...] How had they managed to piss off Ezra? He was usually so composed.
One of the kittens mewled softly. Rossa's heart melted. He moved closer. "Ezra, so cute. Where did you find them?" He hadn't seen Ezra in nearly a century, and the daemon showed up at last with a sling full of kittens? Too sweet.
After a second, he caught a hint of the tension in the air and looked around. [i Oh.] Something very not good was going on.
"You know this guy?" Bastion asked, incredulous.
Rossa frowned at him. "I'm surprised you don't. He's..." he glanced at Ezra, not sure how much to say. "... a member of the daemon's nobility. I've done a lot of scrying for his family over the years. They value quality work." He reached out and gently touched one of the kittens' heads. He couldn't resist the urge. They were just too cute. And so soft!
Speaking of kittens... "Where's that friend of yours? The shifter, what was his name? Kitty?" The two of them were rarely apart for long. It was kind of annoying, really. Polite, well-mannered Ezra would come in and order some work, and maybe ten minutes later, he'd have to go run a mink or a cat or some kind of large rat out of his backroom as the shifter wandered in and decided to muck around and put his dirty paws all over Rossa's valuable, delicate crystals. Still, annoying though he was, it was strange not to see him.
Wait. Actually, the kittens' auras... No. It couldn't be. Rossa looked up at Ezra. [i What a surprise.] He had thought it would end with Kitty pining after Ezra eternally, since he hadn't had a chance once in the previous dozen centuries. Who would've guessed? "Congrats," he said softly.
And then he looked at Faustus, at the faint aura attached to the mark on the man's soul, and everything fell into place.
[center Ezra was the one to look confused. “My mate shifts.” He explained, reaching down to brush a hand over one of the young’s heads. The babe reverted to a more human form, wispy locks ruffled from sleep. “It’s just safer to transport them this way.” He explained as he undid the reversion.
“In any case,” he began, crossing the threshold. His lifted his nose, glowing eyes heavy lidded as he leant in to scent first Bastion then Faustus. “[i You.]” He pointed a long finger in his face, the point of his nail catching the light. Yep, definitely poisonous no doubt. “I knew I scented him in this direction.” His nose seldom lied. “I hope you have an explanation that doesn’t result in your death?”
“Are you threatening me? In my own home, no less?” Faustus scowled.
“Only if you’re responsible for his disappearance.” He challenged, eyes scouring the room until they landed upon—“[i “Ugh—a nephilim]?” He narrowed his eyes, disgust bubbling in his chest. Such nasty creatures to cross paths with. Ezra made a sign as if to ward off some form of evil. “I do not envy you.” Which said a lot.
Odd that he would look so fearful. Then again, he was horns out today. Reaching up, he smoothed his hands through his mane so that they disappeared, entirely withdrawn. “Better?” Such a delicate one. He clicked his tongue in disappointment. What happened to them being received as great warriors?
Bastion was still trying to wrap his head around the whole thing. “Baby... kittens. Got it.” Not really, but okay. He guessed everyone had something. Didn’t really trust the familiar, though. He seemed the shady sort.
Faustus sighed. “Good to know you weren’t whoring. I don’t think Logan would have approved.” He offered casually, turning his attention then to their guest. “Exactly why or how did he come about to be lost to you?”
“Stolen, I believe, is the more accurate word.” That familiar chill wafted through the room again. “He would never leave the young unguarded that way.” This much Ezra knew, and it was clear he was doing well to curb his temper, jaw tight with anger.
How dare? Who in their right mind would be so brazen as to target Kitty? He couldn’t wait to exact his revenge, but first he’d have to find him. “Which brings me back to you. Why do I scent him on you? Where have you been?” His tone was suspicious, accusatory.
Faustus’ brows rose. “I’ve not come across any other cats. In fact, my body has been here for some time—“
“Impossible. You scent distinctly of him, there is no way in great hell you didn’t encounter him in some way.” He fixed each of them, including Silveus with a look. “I hate to be aggressive, but I don’t have very much patience. Every second I waste with you is a second lost. So think. [i hard].”
The cat flicked its tail. "As you wish,"it said, but the disdain in its voice made it clear that it didn't believe they could. Logan had been against letting Silveus manifest, so of course his familiar was, too.
It opened its mouth to speak, but before it could, a dark creature rushed into the room. Startled, it stood up on its toes and raised its haunches, a scared yowl escaping from its throat.
His children were kittens, and he was looking for his... mate? So this daemon had... fucked a...cat? It did sound like a very daemonic thing to do, he had to admit. And speaking of cats... Bastion turned and gave the cat on the table a hard look.
The cat glanced at him, then balked. "I'm not that classless!" it protested. Mating with a daemon? No, no, no. Consorting with otherworldly beings was what warlocks did, not what their familiars took part in!
The scent of Kitty came most thickly from Faustus, though he couldn't know it. From this close, it couldn't be more obvious who'd ran into Ezra's mate.
Silveus wandered back into the room, fully dressed, and startled. [i What the hell?] Was that... Were those horns? No way. A demon? Did they really just walk around like this? He backed away, afraid.
[center Bastion was slack-jawed as he absorbed everything that the cat had just laid out for them. “I—so, wait. What exactly do we do? If tainting him was enough, we wouldn’t be in this mess. They can clearly undo that easily. Wouldn’t it be best to let him manifest and in the meantime teach him about his true self?”
Faustus nodded in agreement. “I would also think that to be the best option. After all, teaching him to defend himself would be far more practical. We can’t shelter him forever. If you have wings, you’re simply not meant—“ Faustus eyed the feather as it floated to the floor. “To be caged.”
He beckoned it forth and tucked it away for later inspection. “Besides, as trying at the circumstances may be, we have an obligation to do what’s right.”
“Given that we’re already involved? I’d say you’re correct.” Bastion sipped at cold tea with a grimace. It was the same expression Logan would often make when he was alive, and for a moment it burned Faustus.
Shifting his gaze away, he attempted to focus on other things. More pressing things. “Now, as for you. How do we know we can trust you? Exactly what was your name?”
The doorbell rang, sending a chime all about the manor. Bastion rose with a heavy sigh, his brow furrowed deeply. “[i What now?]” Always a million things going on in this house. Couldn’t they just catch a break?
He dropped the ward for the door and reached for the handle, but it was flying open to knock him off kilter a moments later. He just barely caught himself on the small accent tableau there.
“What the f-“
A tall, dark-haired soul was standing smack dab in the centre of their doorway, eyes flowing furiously and horns curling from a thick mane of wavy black tresses.
Bastion blinked once, then twice before Faustus came into the picture. “What’s—who is this? And what are...those?”
“I’m looking for my mate.” He stated plainly, all business. There was a ornately woven sling of sorts.
“Are those... are you toting kittens,” Faustus was the one to furrow his brow, but it was out of confusion. “A daemon with-“
Bastion attempted to stifle a snicker. The site of such an imposing figure with such soft little creatures was confusing.
Ezra immediately rolled his eyes. “These are actually my [i children].” His nostrils flared in annoyance, the air chilling all about them. “I suggest you waste no more of my time.” He warned darkly.
Silveus laid there as if asleep, his eyes shut, chest rising and falling gently. The cat tapped his forehead with his paw, then sighed out when he didn't wake. "That's better. It's terribly unhealthy to put a divine soul in a warlock's body. They're such delicate flowers. Don't do well on foreign soil."
Silveus blinked and sat up. He balked at the sight of the cat inches from his face and pedaled backwards. Creaking, his chair tipped backwards. At the last second, he threw his weight forward and caught himself before he and the chair fell back.
The cat turned to face the room. "I came here to tell you other urgent news, but it has to wait. Silveus is very close to manifesting."
"I'm... what?" Silveus asked. What the hell was even going on? He'd been trying to escape seconds ago, but now he was back in the breakfast hall. At the sight of Faustus, he jumped and looked down at his own hands. [i I'm back? When did that happen?]
It nodded at Faustus. "I'm sure you noticed that those wings he grew had vanished, right? It's in his nature to reject unclean things. Dark magic taints him, but he'll heal it before long. And he's just been put through a purification ritual. All that work Logan put in has been completely undone."
"What?" Silveus asked, more confused.
The cat shook its head like this was all very obvious. "Divine things attract evil and darkness. I'm sure you've noticed it happening to Silveus. The more pure his divinity, the more he attracts them. Logan worked very hard to keep Silveus tainted so he could live a normal life. Now that he's purified, two things are going to happen: he's going to attract evil, and he's going to manifest. It was a temporary fix to keep him in Faustus' body, but much more of that and he'd go completely insane. Much like manifesting as a warlock, there's no going back. He'll be forced to live as a divine creature and fight off evil every day, something he is woefully unprepared for, thanks to Logan's stupid soft heart."
"Keep me tainted? He never did anything--"
The cat fixed Silveus with a dead stare. "He was a creature of darkness, darling. What do you think happened when he took you to the bedroom, hmm? That's tainting if I ever heard it."
Silveus blushed deep red.
"In any case, you have two options. One: taint him with dark magic again. I don't care how you do it, but do it soon. Two: allow him to manifest, teach him his powers, and keep him safe the whole time. With your absolutely stellar history of keeping him safe... well. I'm sure you can imagine how many people and creatures would be after him once he manifests, given how many are already after his mortal form. I would recommend that you teach him how to protect himself first, but what do I know?" The cat wound its tail around its paws and sat delicately at the edge of the table, seemingly uninterested in the three men.
Silveus was the first to move. "This is ridiculous," he muttered, and stood. "We can talk about this once I'm out of my pajamas." He stomped away, irritated. He was a warlock, then some kind of divine creature, this was all insane. None of it could be true. What, was he supposed to trust a talking cat?
A white feather fell from his hair and drifted lazily to the floor, unnoticed.
[center Faustus couldn’t understand what was happening. Silveus was so volatile. It was difficult to really tell what he was going to decide to do next. Not so long ago he was remarking on how it was clearly unsafe for him to be on his own. Now he was storming off as if he couldn’t stand to be there another minute. What was going on in that mind of his?
He was barely out of his seat when their guest began chiding them both. A nephilim? How could they have missed that? Faustus suddenly felt foolish. “We can’t let him leave.” He stayed with sudden urgency. “It makes sense now, why they would want to sacrifice him. He’s divine if that’s the case-“
Bastion reached a hand into Faustus’ chest and yanked his soul from the man’s body. It was painful, too! Very much akin to having all of your flesh cleaved from your bones at once. He staggered, soul burning with the sudden agony. “Shoo, you. Off to your body. I have to retrieve him.”
Bastion misted away suddenly, in a cloud of black particles that immediately dissipated. He was back in a flash with Silveus’ soul, laying it out over his limp form. Oo... probably should have fixed him up a little better. There was egg on his face.
He reached for a napkin and gently wiped his visage. “Sheesh... giving me a fright.”
They couldn’t lose him again. Not after all of that. Worse, if this cat was correct, that meant that if his soul were somehow summoned, great calamity would befall them all.
“This is... not good.”
Faustus had returned, finally in his right form, but he was clearly still recovering from his recent eviction.
“I hate you sometimes.”
“Well, what did you expect?” Souls were his specialty, after all.
Silveus cocked a brow at that. Was Faustus actually bothered by being in the wrong body? Faustus, who wasn't bothered by anything? He shook his head. Miracles did happen.
And then a cat jumped on the table and started talking.
Logan's... cat? His familiar? [i How did I not know? How much did I not know?] Silveus stood abruptly from the table. Every second he was here, it felt like he learned something new about Logan. But he was supposed to be the closest. The one who knew the most. And instead, he was the fool that everyone kept in the dark.
He stared down at his hands. [i I killed him. His blood is on my hands now.] Before Logan could tell him anything, before he could ask Logan why he'd kept it secret or anything, it was over.
Silveus turned on his heel and walked out of the room. His head pounded in time with his heart. His breath came short. He couldn't stay here. It was all closing in on him. The whole world, pressing down. Logan had even left a cat to look after him, and what had he done? He'd been powerless to help Logan the first time, and the second time, he'd been the one to kill Logan.
He didn't know where he was going. Away. Away from it all. Silveus stumbled and fell into the wall. His hands were wrong. Everything was wrong. His body was so big and bulky. [i No--this isn't my body.] He shuddered. It felt like he was hovering. Not here, not there. Not a part of this world.
Faustus' body dropped to the floor. Silveus drifted free, a pale spirit lifting toward the ceiling. It was fine. He'd follow Logan into the light. Everyone would be happy then.
The cat swished his tail, irritated. "He's very delicate, you know! Why didn't you swap them back immediately? Come on, you. Get out already." It swatted Faustus on the arm. "He should be tethered back home if you get out of the way. You idiots, don't even know the gem that you have. Logan kept him close for a reason. Haven't you ever seen a nephilim before?"
[center Faustus was suspiciously silent during breakfast. He picked at a muffin and occasionally chewed it, but his mind was clearly elsewhere. It was only when Silveus piped up about switching back that he seemed to tune back in. “Yes, when can we commence that?”
Shovelling eggs into his mouth, Bastion paused. “Now? I can take care of that now and resume breakfast after.”
“Please.” Faustus didn’t even sound particularly forceful. In fact, there was very little of... anything there. Bastion cast an odd look between the two, nodding in assent as he sipped at his orange juice. It was so quiet with just the three of them. Well, four of them. Even silently failing to acknowledge their guest earned him an irritated meow.
“All right. Silveus, if you’re in agreement, I’m happy to do it now while this is keeping warm.”
“Better to get this out of the way now.” There was much to be done already, so delaying this any further seemed ludicrous.
“Eager to get that height back, huh?”
“Eager to take care of business is all.” He corrected, taking a long sip of water. “I’m sure Silveus would appreciate having himself back just as much if not more.”
And that was when the cat spoke up “Yes, I agree. It would be best to do that now before things become too complicated. After all, the two of you are vulnerable like this.”
“You could talk the whole time?!” Bastion pointed his fork in accusation.
Seated at the centre of the tableau, the feline flicked his tail. “Sure. Don’t question telepathy but it’s speech at which you balk. Truly, I’ve never...”
Faustus furrowed his brow. “I knew you seemed familiar.”
“Yes, I am, indeed. A familiar, that is.”
“Ha ha.” Faustus sais without humour.
“I was Logan’s. I’m here to look after Silveus, primarily.”
Silveus woke up to a gribbling stomach. He rolled up into a ball and grimaced. Why was he so hungry? He hadn't felt like this since he was a kid. Slowly, he pushed to a sit. Opposite his bed, he caught sight of a shirtless Faustus and shrieked. What was he doing here?
A second later, reality sank in. He rolled his eyes, and the Faustus in the mirror did the same. Right. He was in Faustus' body. That was just a mirror. Hopefully no one had heard his surprise. How embarrassing!
Silveus started to dress, but quickly ran up against the same dilemma as the night before: none of his clothes fit. With a sigh, he grabbed the nightshirt and fumbled with the buttons as he headed down towards breakfast. Whatever. There wouldn't be anyone at breakfast, and it was Faustus he was embarrassing, not himself, so it didn't matter.
Bastion and Faustus were already there; them, and the cat that'd been wandering around. He gave the brothers a cordial nod and settled down to grab some food. It was nice to be able to eat whatever he wanted without any consequences. He grabbed another piece of bacon and chowed down, a happy smile on his face. Ah, for the simple things.
"So when do we swap back?" he asked, as soon as his stomach wasn't quite so angry. He was eager to get this ball rolling. Faustus' body felt so weird.
[center Come morning, Bastion had learned a lot about the movements of his house. It seemed this seemingly random little feline had actually been Logan’s familiar. He had startling knowledge of the house’s workings, but Bastion couldn’t recall him ever having kept a cat, and how had he managed to hide that from his husband?
There were so many unanswered questions here. Not to say he was just going to take the word of some random cat, but he’d made some valid points, you know? Especially where Angeleau was concerned. There was suspicion that he was partially responsible for the events at Rossa's shoppe, but... why? He couldn’t think of a motivation.
Still, he would bring up this information when it was appropriate. For now, time for breakfast. “Come on... Uhh—“ He wasn’t sure what to call this cat. “Let’s meet everyone in the dining room.” He scooped the house’s newest addition and headed down to meet the rest of the family.
Come the morning, Faustus has just about had it not being in his own form. He woke up still feeling mildly sore, but it was far better than the evening before. With a stretch, he washed up for the morning, taking care of the whole face wash and teeth brush business before seeking out Bastion. He hoped Silveus was awake.
The sooner they could trade back, the better. He’d also taken care to let Rossa know he was up before rounding into the dining room to see what was on the table for breakfast.
Tonnes of options, to his delight. Maybe he’d feel a little better with some food in him, but truthfully, nothing would really feel back to normal until he was navigating his own flesh again.
Silveus wandered back to his room. He sank down on the bed. He felt lost. So much had happened that he didn't even know how to feel. Slowly, he undressed and got into Faustus' pajamas. His big, clumsy fingers stuttered over the buttons. Frustrated, he threw the shirt on the ground and climbed into bed without it. Even this. Even his body, the one thing he should know, was wrong. It was a mess.
The crushing feeling returned. He let it press him down in the bed and closed his eyes. He should just sleep. Maybe it would all be better in the morning.
But he couldn't leave. He'd been kidnapped and nearly ritually murdered. It was all a mess. [i Why me? Why now?] It was so unfair. Couldn't he ever catch a break? When he finally thought everything was going right, the whole world had come crashing down around him. It was garbage. Absolutely garbage.
Slowly, sleep came for him. He sighed out and let it come. He was tired. Way too tired for anything else tonight. Best just to sleep and hope it was better come morning.
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