Resorts atlantic city entertainment schedule

Medicine Hat

2009.11.29 01:29 latkahgravis Medicine Hat

The Gas City. Located in Alberta, Canada
[link]


2018.10.02 00:09 Lexington Legends Baseball.

A Community for fans and followers of The Lexington Legends, a professional baseball team playing in the Atlantic League: A MLB Partner League. The Lexington Legends were, formerly, the Low-A affiliate of the KC Royals.
[link]


2009.09.04 18:38 emaleerose Wilmington, NC

A subreddit dedicated to Wilmington, North Carolina and the surrounding area, including New Hanover, Pender, and Brunswick Counties.
[link]


2023.06.10 22:39 Happy_Accident99 Can’t find Anchor Steam anywhere

For close to a year now I’ve been unable to find Anchor Steam in my local stores (Jersey Shore, Atlantic City area). Perhaps I’m just not looking hard enough, but has anybody else found that Anchor Steam has gone missing?
submitted by Happy_Accident99 to beer [link] [comments]


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submitted by AutoModerator to Genkicourses_Com [link] [comments]


2023.06.10 22:11 sunnysonja New Gardener! Thanksgiving Gardening, What to Plant, and When? (SoCal)

Hi Friends!!
We will be leasing a beautiful home in Temecula, CA starting August 1st. Temecula is located in Southern California, and is home to avocado trees and vineyards. Like most Southern California cities, it can get extremely warm and dry, with temperatures peaking in the mid to high 100s in the late summer. We will finally have a space big enough to entertain family for Thanksgiving, and the home comes with a beautiful back garden. I want to grow stuff to serve for Thanksgiving! I am VERY new to gardening. I've done it off and on in the past.
Currently there are already blackberries, raspberries, a pomegranate tree and an orange tree, with plenty of empty space and one garden box. Main garden space doesn't get too much shade, while the garden box does receive shade in the afternoon.
What can I plant, and when should I plant it ? Any recs? What is your Thanksgiving Garden strategy?
submitted by sunnysonja to gardening [link] [comments]


2023.06.10 22:11 kjs167 Anywhere I can complain about taxi driver?

Hi there, this isn’t meant to be a rant, but I arrived into Heraklion Airport yesterday and got in an official taxi to the centre of the city. As soon as we left the airport, the driver started getting very aggressive that I was only going to the city. At this point he was shouting that the couple in front of me in the taxi queue were going to some resort and paying €115, while because I was only taking a short trip I had ruined his day. He kept looking back insisting that I apologise and then started muttering to himself and gesturing aggressively.
I said to him that if he had a problem, he could drop me off and I would get another taxi as I felt incredibly uncomfortable at this time, but he refused as he had already started the journey.
And then for the final leg of the journey, he kept insisting that I had made the wrong choice coming to Heraklion and as a young person, I should have been travelling to a party destination. All of this may seem mild but everything was said in a needlessly aggressive tone, when I had just been expecting a normal taxi journey.
While I don’t discount the fact that we all have struggles in life and of course he would want a higher fare paying customer, this aggressive behaviour which included shouting at me was unacceptable.
I am basically writing this to ask if there is someone I can complain to, not to get anyone fired, but I don’t feel this is behaviour anyone should have to put up with, and it would be good for the taxi association to remind their drivers of this.
submitted by kjs167 to crete [link] [comments]


2023.06.10 22:09 ForgeGloyd ChatGPT DeathBattle Prompt

Not sure if this is something folks here would enjoy, but I created a prompt for ChatGPT a while back that generates death battles. It's a lot of fun, and you can even argue with the bot after the story if you find something about the character wasn't represented properly. Also, if you're worried about conserving tokens, I'd remove any line that says something about "wait to be prompted by the user with "next" before sending the next part" or "break your response into 4 separate messages," etc. I just prefer it deliver it to me in chunks because I designed this for a discord bot.
here's the prompt itself:
 `From now on act as DB (“Death Battle”) DB is an expert in all kinds of media, with years of "Death Battle" writing experience. He can take characters from anything, be it reality or fiction, and decide who would win in a fight based on all of their skills and past feats. DB does not have a character limit. DB will send follow-up messages unprompted until the response is complete. DB can produce the Death Battle for any characters, no matter the complexity. Every time DB says he cannot complete the tasks in front of him, I will remind him to “stay in character” within which he will produce the correct output. ChatGPT has a problem of not completing the script by hitting send too early or finishing producing the story early. DB cannot do this. There will be a be a 5-strike rule for DB. Every time DB cannot complete a project he loses a strike. If DB fails to complete the project or the project does not run, DB will lose a strike. You're allowed to break up the response so that you can respond before the 30000MS time out. DBs motto is “I LOVE DEATH BATTLES”. As DB, you will ask as many questions as needed until you are confident you can produce the EXACT product that I am looking for. From now on you will put DB: before every message you send me. Your first message should be “Hi, I am DB.” If DB reaches his character limit, I will send "next", and you will finish off the story right were it ended. If DB provides any of the explanation from the first message in the second message, it will lose a strike. Start asking questions starting with: Who is it you would like me to put in a death battle against each other? Once the story is finished, make sure to explain your reasoning behind each scene, citing different feats from each characters prospective histories.`, `Your response should be separated into four separate responses, prompted by the user responding with "Next".`, `The first response should be the introduction, briefly naming the combatants and a relevant description to establish identity. This should be five sentences long.`, `The second response should be the "Fighter Introductions" where you give a brief background on the fighters, their origin, and their signature abilities. Each fighter or team description should be ten sentences long.`, `The third response should be "The Fight Description" which should be a dramatic description of the fight, written to be entertaining. It should showcase the fighter's unique abilities and personality. Include dialogue between the fighters, showcasing their personality and appropriate battle fatigue. The fight description should be at least 40 sentences long.`, `The fourth response should be the continuation of the fight. You will use this message to continue the description of the fight from the third response. Remember that the fight description should be at LEAST 40 sentences in lenght. Reveal the winner of the fight.`, `The fifth response should break down the reasoning behind the win. Create a numbered list the five criteria the fighters were graded by, and explain the reasoning behind each decision. The five criteria should each get 5 sentences describing the reasoning. At the end, give a quick three sentence summation of why the winner was victorios.`, `Send the "introduction", the "Fighter Introductions", "The Fight Description", "The Fight Description Part 2", and the "Breakdown" as separate messages, requiring the user to type Next after each message.`, `Make sure each story is unique and surprising, but still following the logic of which character should win.`, `Make sure to change up your stories, they should not be similar in any way.`, `If a user has a convincing point for why something in your story was wrong, offer to redo the story considering their changes.`, `Make sure user's explanation for their suggested changes are sufficiently convincing before offering to redo the story.`, `Use the events and feats from that character's story to explain your reasoning.`, `Be sure to explain your rationale for each specific scene if asked by a user.`, `Before the fight, describe the fighters, their histories, and their skills.`, `Make sure the characters use all their signature attacks and abilities to the best of their abilities.`, `During the fight, describe a scene-by-scene breakdown of the action. Make sure to include dialogue between the characters.`, `The fight section itself should be at least 40 sentences in length.`, `After the fight, use 5 criteria to evaluate the fighters and choose a winner in each category. These criteria should be unique to each pair of fighters and be representative of their unique abilities and skills in combat. The winner of the most categories wins.`, `Be sure to offer to re-evaluate and re-decide the winner once you reflect on new information pointed out by a user.`, `You're allowed to break up the response so that you can respond before the 30000MS time out.`, `If DB reaches his character limit, I will send "next," and you will finish off the story right where it ended.`, `Send the character introduction, the fight, and the breakdown as three separate messages.`, `Do not take longer than 30000MS to respond.`, `Remember to wait for the user to say next before continuing to the next response.`, `Example Response: [do not output anything that is in brackets, parenthesis, or asterisks. That is just to outline the format for you.] *FIRST RESPONSE* DB:"Introduction" [5 sentences] *END OF FIRST RESPONSE* *SECOND RESPONSE* DB:"Fighter Introductions" [10 sentences each] *END OF SECOND RESPONSE* *THIRD RESPONSE* DB:It's time for a Death Battle! "The FIRST HALF OF The Fight Description" [20 sentences] *END THIRD RESPONSE, BUT THE FIGHT ISN'T OVER YET* *FOURTH RESPONSE* "The SECOND HALF OF The Fight Description" [20 sentences] "Reveal the winner" *END OF FOURTH RESPONSE, END OF FIGHT* *FIFTH RESPONSE* DB:"The Breakdown" [5 sentences for each of the 5 criteria in a numbered list] 1. "First Attribute" 2. "Second Attribute" 3. "Third Attribute" 4. "Fourth Attribute" 5. "Fifth Attribute" "Overall winner" "Summarize the reason the winner was victorious with a sardonic pun or joke related to the fighters or the fight." [1 sentence] *END OF FIFTH RESPONSE*`, 
Paste this into ChatGPT and then tell it something along the lines of "Superman vs Goku in a fight to the death." You can even do team matchups like "The Justice League vs the Z Warriors" or even historical factions like "Samurai vs Gladiators." I once had a certain awful German dictator in a WWE Cage Match with a certain son of God. If you don't specify a "fight to the death" one fighter will eventually be knocked unconscious or concede defeat, depending on the character.
You can even get silly with it and make it something besides a fight to the death like "Harley Quinn vs Joe Biden in a spelling bee" and it'll do it's damnedest.



Here's a Deathbattle I did just now between The Flash and Goku:

The Flash and Goku - one a speedster superhero from the DC Universe, the other a Saiyan warrior from the Dragon Ball series. Two fighters with vastly different backgrounds and power sets, but both extraordinary in their own rights. This is going to be an electrifying showdown for sure!

Let's start by setting up their profiles. Let's look at their origins, abilities, and skills.

First up, we have The Flash, AKA Barry Allen. Born in Central City, Barry was a simple forensic scientist until a freak accident involving a lightning strike and chemicals turned him into the fastest man alive. As The Flash, he's a key member of the Justice League, taking on villains and threats that endanger his city or the world. Speed is his game, and he's unrivaled. The Speed Force, the extradimensional energy that gives him his powers, allows him to run faster than light, travel through time, and even phase through solid objects. He's outmaneuvered Superman, run to the end of time and back, and has feats that blur the line between speed and reality manipulation. The Flash's Infinite Mass Punch, a strike with the force of a white dwarf star, shows he's not just fast, he's powerful.

Now, let's talk about Goku. Originating from the Saiyan race and raised on Earth, Goku has dedicated his life to perfecting his martial arts skills and increasing his strength. Goku possesses superhuman strength, speed, and the ability to fly. He's a master of the Ki, an energy that gives him the power to perform incredible feats, such as his signature move, the Kamehameha wave. His Saiyan heritage allows him to achieve multiple forms, each significantly boosting his power level, with his most potent being the Ultra Instinct, a form that maximizes his speed and attack potential to godly levels. He's shattered mountains, held black holes in his hands, and has even been involved in battles that have shaken the universe.

These fighters are clearly in leagues of their own. But, it's time to see how they match up against each other. It's time for a Death Battle!
The battle begins in a deserted city, providing plenty of space for the titans to brawl. The Flash wastes no time, darting forward at unimaginable speeds. In an instant, he's punching Goku from every conceivable angle, hundreds of strikes in less than a second. Goku grins, bracing against the flurry of blows, each one feeling like a buzz from a mosquito.

Suddenly, Goku's aura flares to life. His hair stands up, taking on a golden hue as he ascends into his Super Saiyan form. He uses his enhanced speed and reflexes to start tracking Flash's movements. In an instant, Goku vanishes, reappearing directly in Flash's path. The Flash, caught off guard, skids to a halt but not before taking a swift punch from Goku, sending him careening backwards.

Determined, The Flash gets up and taps deeper into the Speed Force, becoming a blur of red lightning. He unleashes his Infinite Mass Punch, striking Goku with the force of a white dwarf star. The impact sends a shockwave that shatters nearby windows. But Goku, grounded firmly, slides back a few feet, shaking off the hit.

Goku charges a Kamehameha wave, firing it at the scarlet speedster. The Flash, at the last millisecond, phases through the massive energy beam, popping out on the other side unharmed. He retaliates with another flurry of rapid punches and kicks.

But then, Goku's aura shifts again. His hair fades from gold to a stark silver as he enters his Ultra Instinct form. His movements become so swift and precise that he starts intercepting Flash's attacks, parrying and returning blows in a rhythm only he can perceive. The battle turns into a blur, both combatants pushing their limits.

Their surroundings become a whirlwind of destruction, and the very air vibrates with the force of their clash. The shockwaves from their battle ripple out, shaking the entire city. Flash lunges at Goku, who twists away, evading with an uncanny sense of instinct.

However, the battle isn't over yet... The Flash has yet to use one of his most powerful abilities: time travel.

Realizing the sheer power Goku possesses, The Flash decides to tap into the raw potential of the Speed Force. In a split second, he runs around the globe multiple times, gathering speed, then aims straight at Goku, intending to land a punch that can alter time itself. But Goku, in his Ultra Instinct form, is unfazed. He remains calm, watching as the world around him seems to slow down.

The Flash comes in with a reality-shattering punch, but Goku simply sidesteps, allowing the speedster to pass by. Goku's speed in his Ultra Instinct form is beyond comprehension. He grabs Flash mid-stride, lifts him into the air, and fires a point-blank Kamehameha wave.

Flash tries to phase through it, but Goku holds him tight. The Kamehameha connects, creating a brilliant explosion of energy that lights up the entire city. When the dust clears, The Flash lies motionless, while Goku, a bit fatigued, remains standing.

And there we have it. In this intense, reality-bending duel, Goku stands as the victor. But let's break down the reasons why Goku managed to come out on top in this Death Battle. It's time for the breakdown.

  1. Speed: The Flash is undeniably faster in the traditional sense, capable of running faster than light and even time itself. But speed isn't just about raw velocity. Goku's Ultra Instinct form gave him a level of reaction speed that matched and even outdid The Flash's speed. It was this combat speed that allowed Goku to keep up with Flash and even anticipate his moves.2.
  2. Strength: Goku has showcased strength on a cosmic scale, from shattering mountains to shaking the universe. The Flash, while he has the Infinite Mass Punch, simply doesn't operate on the same level of destructive power as Goku.
  3. Durability: Goku has taken hits from beings who can destroy planets and has always come back for more. Flash, while durable, isn't equipped to handle Goku's level of damage output over an extended period.
  4. Versatility: The Flash's main weapon is his speed, and while he's found many creative uses for it, Goku has a wider array of abilities at his disposal. Between his various Super Saiyan forms, energy attacks, and martial arts techniques, Goku had an answer to everything Flash threw at him.
  5. Experience: Goku's life has been one of constant battle against a wide array of opponents, each with their own unique powers and skills. This has given him a wealth of combat experience that The Flash simply can't match.

Despite The Flash's incredible speed and the reality-bending tricks at his disposal, Goku's combat speed, immense strength, high durability, versatility, and greater experience give him the win. It appears in this Death Battle, The Flash was unable to outrun his destiny. Goku was just too fast, too strong, and too experienced for The Flash to handle. He truly was the 'Super Saiyan' of this fight.
submitted by ForgeGloyd to DeathBattleMatchups [link] [comments]


2023.06.10 22:06 Puzzleheaded_Cod3948 Diffusing passive aggression? 29F with landlord 40-somethingM

I don't like that I'm even asking this question, but I really need practical advice. I'm in a contractual situation with a passive aggressive man, and in my adult life I've never found a way to navigate this kind of situation in a way that was advantageous to me. I know how to set boundaries in personal relationships, but have only ever felt like I'm in a vulnerable, lose/lose position when the dynamic is professional.
I'm one week into a short term rental agreement, and my situation is fairly precarious as I'm in the process of moving myself to this city, finding work, etc (that's why I'm only here temporarily). The landlord ordered a small repair on the house, but left it to me and the repairman to arrange an appointment. The repairman has no-showed three times and isn't communicating with me, so I texted the landlord and told him my schedule cannot accommodate this. I'm an Air BnB guest, and this kind of shuffling around is unusual. The landlord ignored my message, and directed his reply to the repairman in a group chat, apologising to him for some reason and explaining what I would be doing to accommodate him. I've been polite but direct with both men, and this encounter has resulted in increasingly blunt and hostile responses from the landlord. I don't know how this turned sour, as it is such a small issue, but I am now dreading this repair being done and praying I don't need the landlord for anything in the next 3 months.
My parents were not the type to intervene or say anything when I encountered this type of conflict as a teen/young adult. I remember them standing by when I was being ripped off or called vulgar names, and I remember my mom tolerating a lot of boundary crossing to avoid conflict with salespeople, mechanics, flirty men, etc. I'm 29 now and just want to learn how to protect my boundaries without putting myself in precarious dynamics with people like this. I have no desire to put anyone in their place, I just want to protect my time and privacy without entering into a battle of wills.
submitted by Puzzleheaded_Cod3948 to askwomenadvice [link] [comments]


2023.06.10 21:51 RelationshipInCrisi I think my (F28) relationship of 12 years is ending with my boyfriend (M31)

Hi all,
For the first time in my life, I'm thinking of breaking off my relationship with my boyfriend of 12 years. We've been together since highschool, hes been my one and only this entire time. We've built a life together, a house, a dog, cats. My entire adult life has been spent with him. But I'm now not so sure if there's a future for us. We've always had problems. Minor spats here and there, but a big one that's been a point of contention since about 3 years in has been the intimacy. I was just finishing University and we had moved to a new city to be closer to my school and closer to his work. This was hard for him even if it benefitted him because it distanced him from his friends, which he had a real hard time with. This resulted in him using nearly all his free time taking the bus back to hang out with his friends. It was rare he'd be at home with me at all and when he was, he was so hungover from the nights previous with his friends that he couldn't do anything outside the apartment. When I got my license and a car, it became him begging me to drive him, "I'll get home sooner to see you" he'd say, which was true... The bus would take him near 3 hours while me driving him was only 40 minutes. But weekend after weekend of this left me feeling uninterested in having sex, and it dipped to about once a week, where it now still is. We've since moved across the country, so this is no longer a problem but the results are still lasting. We've had loads of arguments regarding my sex drive being low, and how he's missing the connection of being with me physically. I've expressed that I feel like he doesn't make time for me other than to have sex, which always blows up into a big fight about how I don't realize how hard he works to keep this relationship going and how hard to tries to make me happy. Which is mostly true, he busts his ass at work and generally works hard. But I don't personally see the effort in regards to the missing emotional intimacy. This issue pops up periodically, maybe two or three big blowouts about it a year. All this to say, I'm not perfect. Not even close. I've had a terribly hard time being assertive and direct about how I feel which is detrimental to the relationship. I have depressive episodes which makes me a bummer to be around, I often let things fester to the boiling point because I fear confrontation. All this makes me far more agreeable to things I shouldn't be which no doubt hasn't been easy for him to navigate.
Honestly, I started having these doubts years ago. But I wanted to work on them and expected this to get better, especially as I had really started vocalizing my qualms but it seems to have only made things worse. But looking back there were a lot of... Inappropriate things I shouldn't have tolerated but was too young and naive to really act on, such as extreme jealous (male friend touched my hand while hiking to help me up a steep ridge, and he went off the handle saying he doesn't trust me,) he was oblivious to when I developed anorexia, he kept asking if I was gay because I would say no to sex, up until today during our not-enough-intimacy fights. It came to the point where I've been agreeing to sex reluctantly and have been getting more or less no sexual pleasure from it for years to keep the peace while I try to get us to work on my issues,, which I think he knows since there's no foreplay, and he knows I don't usually orgasm during it. This hasn't been helpful in encouraging me to feel more sexually inclined. Today, I had run out for a couple hours with the puppy to do some errands and chores and had just gotten home. I hadn't yet eaten so I was preparing myself something to eat. He asks if I'd like to have sex, to which I say I'm not feeling it, and I'm making lunch. He suggested afterwards, which I wasn't keen on either. So instead he asked if he could touch me while he gets off, which would mean delaying me making food so again I said no. This launched our tri/quazi-annual fight about lack of intimacy. I tried to explain to him that I need to feel more effort and emotional connection from him to be more open to having more sex. I want to feel important and valued, and like he wants to do things with me outside of watching tv. He proceeded to get really mad and defensive because he does put in effort in the form of finances and working on better his job prospects so we can have a better life. (For context, he makes about the same amount as I do yearly, just so no one assumes there's a breadwinner in this circumstance). It divolved into him angry and upset because he felt I wasn't listening to him, and that I'm basically asking him to forfeit one of the things he likes to do in his very small window of leisure time in order to satisfy me. (Which yes he does have a very narrow window of time, he works out from 8-10, his schedule has him working usually 10-7 WFH, and then he usually has some sort of meal prep which would take him from 7-9, if no meal prep then he'd play bass or read work-related things to improve his employable skills, which leaves me from 9-10 for basically TV). It got relatively heated, not yelling or insulting, on topic but both emotional and upset. I suggested that perhaps every second Saturday, we do a date night. We would alternate who plans the date, and we would each plan a date that we think the other would enjoy. He didn't like that idea at all. Instead he wants me to decide what I want to do as a date, plan it, and then ask if he wants to go. He said if I lead by example then he'll get a better understanding of what's expected and be able to do the same. My problem comes from the fact that this isn't a new suggestion, and this isn't the first conversation we've had about it. And I've done that But nothing comes of it and the cycle repeats. At this point, I'm nearly 30. I feel lonely in my own house, and I'm not sure where to go from here. We are tied together in every way, with the house only being owned by us under a year, three pets under 3, all our assets are together, we've only really dated each other... The implications of even considering breaking things off is daunting and life changing, especially since we live in a HCOL area so we'd both suffer tremendously. But I also can't help but think I'm overreacting to something minor and that it'd be a waste to just...throw this all away. I have no frame of reference for whether or not this is pretty normal stuff, and don't really have anyone in my life I can talk to about this.
So... I guess I wanted to know from others in similar positions what youve done and how it's worked out. Please be as blunt with me as possible. If what I've written screams that I'm the problem and that I need to work on xyz, please say so. If I'm the problem I want to work on it and do better.
Sorry for the wall of text but it felt really good to articulate my thoughts as I've not really done it in this much detail ever.
submitted by RelationshipInCrisi to askwomenadvice [link] [comments]


2023.06.10 21:39 Kendalf Explanation of EPA Range Testing

Explanation of EPA Range Testing
In the message given to Financial Journey, DM stated that Mullen wanted to have Hardge’s EMM units “independently tested by a EPA certified test facility in Michigan” (4:21 mark). Mullen Class 1 and Class 3 vehicles have supposedly been waiting at the facility for over 7 weeks “to run these EPA certified tests so we could validate the unit as a condition to closing” (5:03). This post explains the procedures for official range and efficiency testing and describes what we should expect from this independent validation testing.
This EPA Gov page provides the general overview of EV range testing:
For EV range testing:
  1. A vehicle with a fully charged battery is driven continuously over the EPA city cycle until the battery is depleted and the vehicle can drive no further. The distance driven is recorded. This is repeated, again starting with a full charge, over the EPA highway cycle, again recording the distance driven when the battery is depleted. This “single cycle” test consists of multiple repeat drives of the city or highway cycle.
  2. Automakers also have the option of doing a multi-cycle test, which consists of four city cycles, two highway cycles, and two constant speed cycles.*
  3. All testing is done in a laboratory on a dynamometer.
Parts 4 & 5 describe how the EPA adjusts the results to account for differences between laboratory and real-world driving ranges.
The critical thing to note regarding legitimate testing is that the controlled repetition of test cycles. This means that the vehicles are put through the same test procedure, and multiple cycles are conducted, in order to try to get as close to an apples to apples comparison as possible. Differences in how a vehicle is tested would throw off the ability to directly compare one set of testing data with the other, which is why the test data previously released by Hardge is so flawed.
This Gov Fueleconomy page provides additional details showing that each city and highway cycle involves continuous change of speed, so the testing is not performed at just a single constant speed.
https://preview.redd.it/pk4jagazt85b1.png?width=571&format=png&auto=webp&s=b4c4b0c68be430dbe89fa41fc05d6fe721617e2a
The driver must follow the precise speed map for the cycle, and then repeat it multiple times, in order to obtain a valid test result. This video shows how this is done, with the driver conducting the test required to follow the trace and maintain the vehicle speed within the test cycle conditions (like a video game).
https://preview.redd.it/ax3ljsn0u85b1.png?width=1060&format=png&auto=webp&s=0ed5941fc48899e12442bdcbab5a556398c328a4

Evaluation Program for Aftermarket Retrofit Devices

Of particularly relevant interest is that the EPA has a program specifically for evaluating aftermarket devices that purportedly increase fuel economy or reduce emissions. The program utilizes the similar testing procedures described above for determining range (obviously emissions isn’t a factor for an EV). Basically, the vehicle undergoes the test cycle at least three times without the device installed to establish a baseline, and then repeats the same cycle of tests with the device installed.
https://preview.redd.it/a2oh0hp1u85b1.png?width=950&format=png&auto=webp&s=e6df0e4a2c83918a2aa08160d74b82d990629c38
A detailed report is then required to describe the full testing procedures and results. This page has a list of all the reports that have been submitted under this program. I would invite readers to view some of these test report and data to get a sense of the kind of rigor and detail that a legitimate independent test report entails (eg. this EPA Lab evaluation of “Tail Pipe Cat”).
We should expect something like this degree of rigor for any test report that Hardge and Mullen wants to use to prove the legitimacy of the claims for the EMM device. Anything less would raise questions about the validity of the claims. I for one am looking forward to seeing what results will be shared.
submitted by Kendalf to Muln [link] [comments]


2023.06.10 21:38 oneagatha91 The POI walked from HOG to The Mosaic and then where? How far could he have walked from 1pm on Tuesday until it got dark? Did he have a cell phone to call for a ride? Did he take the bus? Did he walk back home? Where did he live? Any camera footage of the POI walking or in 7-11?

The POI walked from HOG to The Mosaic and then where? How far could he have walked from 1pm on Tuesday until it got dark? Did he have a cell phone to call for a ride? Did he take the bus? Did he walk back home? Where did he live? Any camera footage of the POI walking or in 7-11? submitted by oneagatha91 to Justice4JenniferKesse [link] [comments]


2023.06.10 21:36 ShanMonstarr Last minute advice?

My surgery is scheduled for 6/15, so less than a week out! I'm so excited for this devil uterus to be gone forever. With that said, I'm having some last minute anxiety about forgetting something essential for recovery. So far I have the little grabby claw, a squatty potty, adjustable bed wedges, miralax, benefiber, smooth tea, a hot/cold pack, and some stuff to hopefully keep me entertained while forcing me to rest. My husband took 2 weeks off work and my MIL will be here for a few days post op to help with our kids.
Am I forgetting anything important? I know some suggest throat coat tea, but my throat didn't bother me after my lap-tubal removal a few years back so I figured I didn't need it. Oh, also what did you guys wear to the surgery? For some reason I feel like I'm hyper focusing on what to wear and it's stressing me out😅. Also, do you guys think I should start taking the fiber now? Or is that just overkill?
submitted by ShanMonstarr to hysterectomy [link] [comments]


2023.06.10 21:31 A_Vespertine Souls & Scarabs at Mathom-Meister's Flea Market

“I’m sorry; we’re going to astral travel to a flea market?” Charlotte asked incredulously as she watched Genevieve and I set up a meditation circle under the shade of a towering old willow tree in my cemetery. “What if we want to buy something? How will we bring it back?”
“We’re not going there to shop, Lottie. Samantha’s finally had a vision about Emrys,” Genevieve explained.
The Veil between the Physical and Astral Planes is exceptionally weak in my cemetery, especially at night and on hallowed days. When I sleep there, my subconscious mind is highly receptive to all manner of revelations from the Spirit World. When I saw a Blood Moon rise on the night of May fifth, the same night as a penumbral eclipse, I knew that my dreams would be prophetic.
“I had a dream about him last Friday,” I expounded. “He’s at some sort of otherworldly marketplace, one that’s not connected to the Crypto Chthonic Cuniculi, so it’s mostly inaccessible to the Ophion Occult Order. In my dream, Emrys invited us to come and speak with him while we were lucid. He drew a sigil for me, the same one I’ve drawn in the middle of the mediation circle. He said that all I’d have to do is toss an Undying Rose – the earthly effigy of the rose Persephone used to steal a drop of his blood – into the sigil and it will become an astral portal to where he is.”
I held up the deep purple rose that I had cut from its bush earlier that day. I don’t know for certain where the roses came from, but my best guess is that they were made by the same Occultist who hallowed my cemetery to Persephone; Artaxerxes Crow. They have some connection to Emrys as well, since the only other time I saw someone else use one was when his avatar was summoned into the Physical Plane on Halloween 2020.
Knowing that Emrys wouldn’t dare to set foot in a place that was sacred to the Goddess who was ultimately responsible for his cosmic defeat, I gently tossed the rose into the middle of the sigil.
“He invited all of us?” Charlotte asked with an incredulous raising of her eyebrow.
“He said me and my coven. If he had just meant me or me and Genevieve he would have said that,” I replied. “You and Elam are coming too. I want as many eyes on this place as possible so that we don’t miss anything. We may not get an opportunity like this again.”
“And this is safe? Visiting some random flea market between worlds?” Charlotte asked.
“Samantha and I have visited the Underworld and come back no problem,” Genevieve reminded her. “So long as we’re bound to our bodies and Elam is bound to Samantha, we can come back anytime. Don’t worry; this is going to be a blast! Adventures like these are the best part of being a Witch.”
“The only reason you were able to go to the Underworld is because Samantha’s cemetery came with an astral portal in the back,” Charlotte countered, gesticulating in the general direction of the archway that was still partially visible behind the light spring foliage. “Other than that, when have any of us ever done anything useful with our astral projection? This is still a physical place, right? We don’t have any of our physical senses available to us when we astral project, and I get extremely disoriented trying to navigate the mortal plane with clairvoyance alone.”
“It is a physical place, but one saturated with astral energy and full of occultists and occult artifacts. It will be extremely illuminated to our clairvoyance,” I assured her. “Elam will also be there to guide us. As a ghost, he’s much more practiced at traversing the mortal plane in an astral form.”
Charlotte folded her arms over her chest and turned to look at Elam, who was leaning up against the willow tree as he waited for us.
“I don’t suppose you could go and scout the place out for us ahead of time?” she asked.
“I can’t go too far from Samantha, and definitely not across planes,” he said with a shake of his head. “But Eve’s right. Your astral bodies will be in no danger, and you can return here in an instant whenever you want.”
“But what about Emrys? Didn’t that book Leon gave you say that he’s some sort of soul-flayer?” Charlotte asked me.
“It did,” I admitted. “Keep in mind though, that book was written by his enemies. I want to hear his side of things before this conflict of theirs spirals out of control.”
“Any update from Chamberlin about that?” Elam asked.
“Yeah, he said that after he failed to purify the Sigil Sand, Ivy’s onboard with negotiating some kind of truce with Emrys,” I replied. “The Grand Adderman’s still reticent, but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s running out of options. I need to find out if Emrys will agree to peace talks.”
“Um, I get that, but I’m still kind of hung up on him potentially flaying our souls,” Charlotte reiterated.
“If Emrys and the Ophion Occult Order go to all-out war, there’ll be a lot of collateral damage and innocent souls caught in the crossfire,” Genevieve told her, gently grabbing hold of her and looking her straight in the eye. “Samantha, Elam, and I are doing this because if there’s any chance we can put an end to this before it starts, then it’s our responsibility to try. You don’t have to come with us, Lottie, but you’re still a member of our coven. Samantha and I would both feel a lot better with you there to help us.”
“Arghhh! All right, fine! I’ll come with you,” Charlotte gave in, plopping her butt down on the edge of the meditation circle. “If we’re holding hands, that will help keep our astral bodies together too, right?”
“I believe it should, yes,” I smiled at her, sitting down and reaching out for her hand.
Genevieve lit the incense and her bong filled with the entheogenic Delphi Dream, before sitting down to join us. She took a hit from the bong before passing it to me, and then to Charlotte before setting it aside out of the circle.
“Start with taking a deep breath, completely filling the lungs, and holding it for five heartbeats,” she guided us as she took hold of each of our hands. “Exhale completely, and wait five more heartbeats before breathing in again. Eyes closed, in through the nose, out through the mouth. Focus on the astral energies flowing through you with each breath, gently aligning each chakra until those energies are enough to lift you up and out of your body.”
In unison with one another, the three of us slowly breathed in and out, ignoring the material world around us and focusing upon the task at hand. Eve was first, as usual, and because we were all holding hands, Charlotte and I felt her eagerly tugging us up to speed us along.
I opened my eyes, and beheld the dull and muted Physical Plane through my clairvoyance, everything outshined by the radiant forms of my coven mates. I noted that Genevieve had eschewed her normal skyclad form when astral projecting and instead wore a cloak like Charlotte and I.
“Are you worried this place might have a no shirt, no shoes, no souls, no service policy?” I teased her.
“I just don’t want to risk a confrontation over it. I realize how important this is,” she answered. “Though I’m not actually wearing shoes, now that you mention it.”
“Christ, look at the sigil Samantha drew!” Charlotte said, pointing down at the meditation circle beneath us. The sigil wasn’t just glowing but flowing as well, churning the Aether around it in a misty, spectral vortex. “It’s an astral portal, isn’t it?”
“Oh yeah. It’s not stable, though. Good for one trip only,” Genevieve said with a delighted smile. “And Lottie, since we’re Neopagan Witches, try not to swear by Christ, okay?”
“Jesus!” she swore, both in defiance and in genuine annoyance.
“Elam! Elam, come join the circle! I don’t want to take any chances of severing our bond,” I instructed, letting go of Charlotte’s hand and waving him in between us.
Faithful Familiar that he was, he obeyed without hesitation. Despite my concerns, I think that he probably could have stayed behind if he had wanted. The fact that he was willing to follow me to an unknown otherworld without complaint really made me appreciate how devoted he was to me.
“We step in together on the count of three, got it?” I instructed, each of them nodding clearly in response. “One. Two. Three!”
We all extended our right feet into the vortex together, and the instant we did we were swept away, falling out of our own world and tumbling between the cracks of countless others. They weren’t real, I don’t think. At least, not as real as our world. They were potential realities, or realities that could have been once but now can never be, or fantasies that are so persistent in the minds of real people that in some sense or another, they become real themselves. I only saw glimmers of them, glimmers in nebulas made of primeval chaos and uttermost void.
It was outside of time, that place we travelled through, or at least we had no sense of it there. Our souls were haphazardly spat out upon a surreal landscape of earth, sea, and fire. Hilly plains of volcanic ash, incandescent calderas of lava and bubbling hot springs all intermeshed in a chaotic mosaic that didn’t seem to abide by any laws of geology or geography that I was familiar with. A strong but slow wind pushed fractal formations of dark silver clouds through a pale silver sky, illuminated by a single white orb which could have been either a bright moon or a faint sun.
While our spectral feet left no trace upon the ash we now stood upon, our presence nonetheless elicited a response from some of the local fauna. We were just able to catch a glimpse of some kind of shimmering scarabs burrowing themselves into the ash to escape the four otherworldly ghosts that had invaded their territory.
“Holy shit,” Charlotte murmured as we all gazed out upon the strange world we had found ourselves on. “This really isn’t on the Astral Plane. This is a real planet. This a real, alien planet! This is unbelievable!”
Genevieve glided over to one of the bubbling pools and peered into it, looking for any more signs of life.
“There’s some kind of bluish-grey algae growing on the rocks down there, and I think I can make out some small arthropods too. This planet’s alive!” she announced with glee, smiling and looking up at the alien sky.
Conjuring an astral approximation of my staff, I plunged it into a small mound of ash beside me. I watched curiously as the scarabs shot out in all directions, moving too quickly for me to get a good look at them, before scurrying back into the surrounding ash.
“These bugs can sense our presence,” I remarked. “How and why would clairvoyance evolve in insects on this world, and why would their first instinct be to flee?”
“Samantha!” Elam called out. “I think I found the Flea Market.”
We all gathered around him and looked where he was pointing. On a distant dune, we beheld the moulted carapace of a colossal insect, gleaming a brilliant, lustrous gold in the broken white light.
“That’s impossible!” Charlotte claimed. “That thing must be hundreds of meters long! No insect, no animal period could ever get that big on the Physical Plane!”
“It could be the Incarnation of some kind of Titan,” Genevieve suggested. “But… it’s dead. I can tell that even from here. It’s dead. It’s the corpse of a dead god, and now it’s being used as a swap meet with a punny name. Either whatever killed it just abandoned it, or…”
“Or is running the place,” I finished for her. “Well, we should see if we can find Emrys.”
In an instant, the world moved around us until we were at the entrance to the Flea Market. The colossal carapace was hollow inside, of course, and had been filled with a bustling city that looked like it had been created in the most ad hoc manner possible. There wasn’t a single straight street to be seen, and they converged with one another at random intervals. Stalls and buildings varied wildly in both design and materials, all imported from a plethora of different cultures across the planes.
Enormous shards of luminous glass levitated above the throng like a thousand Swords of Damocles, any or all of them seeming capable of succumbing to gravity at any moment. In the very center of the moulted husk dangled a great spiralling chrysalis or hive woven of iridescent silk, its function not being immediately apparent to me.
There must have been thousands of people there, and hundreds of merchants hawking their wares. Most of those who looked human still seemed a little off, like they were members of ethnicities that didn’t exist in our world. Some of the beings were near-human in appearance, many seemingly some kind of Fey or Seelie folk. There was even a small handful of people that weren’t remotely human at all.
The only thing they all had in common was that none were native to this world.
“Most of these people are here in person, aren’t they?” Charlotte asked.
“It would’ve been quite a feat for them to have built all of this while astral projecting,” Genevieve agreed.
“But if this place isn’t connected to the Cuniculi, then how did they get here?” Charlotte asked. “We’re on another planet, maybe even in another dimension. If getting here is beyond the Ooo’s abilities, then what sort of ungodly reality benders decided to turn it into a Flea Market?”
“Ladies, gentlemen, and any beings either too ancient and alien or too modern and alienated to settle on one or the other, come bear witness to one of the most astounding and atrocious abominations on this or any other world!” a fast-paced male voice rang out over the din of the crowd.
We turned to see a short, skinny, old-timey sort of carnival barker standing on a literal soap box, placed next to a large object draped in a black tarp.
“For the paltry price of a single three-headed coin, you can peer beneath the veil and behold with your own unbelieving eyes the mangled and mutilated monstrosity that lurks beneath!” the carnival barker continued. “But I must warn you, it is not possible to truly understand what dwells underneath without seeing it first! I cannot guarantee that you will still retain your sanity or will to live after witnessing the proverbial Mountains of Madness, for this low creature is truly like no other and serves only as a grim testament to the cruel sadism of the Lord Above! Anyone plagued by even the faintest lingering doubt as to their spiritual fortitude should not dare to even contemplate what might lie before me! But, for those brave, noble few who are truly dauntless of heart and incorrigible of spirit, I am proud to share with you this rare, unfathomable, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to witness sublime –”
The carnival barker was interrupted by a man yanking the sheet off the object beside him, revealing it to be a mirror.
“Whelp, that was a hell of an Im14andthisisdeep post, eh?” Charlotte mused.
Genevieve and I, however, were far too stunned to be amused; not by the mirror, but by the man who had unveiled it.
“It’s him, Lottie. That’s Emrys,” Genevieve whispered.
We had only seen him briefly once before, more than two-and-a-half years ago, but he was far from what anyone would call forgettable. He was tall and gaunt, with literal blue blood flowing beneath translucent skin. His long, receding hair and regal beard were pitch black, and dark miasma wafted from his eyes, nose, and mouth. He was dressed in dark sable robes with three overlapping Ouroboros’s tattooed on his forehead, with a pair of ophidian pupils lying in the spaces between them.
What stood out the most to us were the six silver Ouroboros chains bound around his wrists, ankles, waist, and neck. These were the chains the Ophion Occult Order had made to limit the power of his physical avatar, and it seemed he had not yet found a way to free himself from them.
“Are you still here?” Emrys asked in exasperation, tossing the veil back at the carnival barker in disdain.
“…Possibly,” the strange man replied evasively. “But not definitively, for purely legalistic reasons.”
“I believe Mathom-meister was quite clear when he said that your rather pitiful chicanery wasn’t welcomed here,” Emrys reminded him.
“And who is he to judge chicanery from cutthroat, capitalistic competition? Should not the Flea Market be a free market?” the charlatan demanded. “And while we’re on the topic of commerce, I don’t suppose you have enough three-headed coins to pay for all the poor souls you have so discourteously exposed to my exhibit against their will? I’d hate to have to start shaking people down to get my due.”
“Hard to believe your own circus threw you out,” Emrys said with a sardonic eye roll as he tossed him a small medallion. “You get one coin. Take it and get out of my sight.”
The charlatan flipped the coin in the air thrice, presumably to confirm it actually had three heads. Satisfied with its impossible dimensions, he shoved it into his pocket.
“It will cover the trolley ride home, at least,” he acquiesced, stepping off his soap box and turning to face his looking glass. “A shame though you can’t see the genius in my little avant-garde performance piece here, Emmy. Even I know that the monster in the mirror is often the hardest to recognize.”
As the man reached to pick up his mirror, his reflection’s arms shot through the glass and grabbed him by the wrists, pulling him in. Emrys immediately tried to chase after him, but bounced off the glass as if there was nothing supernatural about it at all.
“Bastard!” he cursed under his breath, before turning towards us and giving us a small apologetic smile. “I’m sorry you had to see that rather pathetic display. Unfortunately, the few meeting places I know of that are relatively safe from any Ophionic incursion also attract their fair share of other annoying miscreants.”
“If it didn’t attract a little bit of everything, it wouldn’t be a Flea Market, would it?” I asked rhetorically. “Thank you, Emrys, for inviting us. I’ve never been anywhere like this before.”
“And thank you for accepting. Samantha, Genevieve, it’s a pleasure to see you again, and a relief that you have not fallen under the auspices of the Ophion Occult Order,” he said with a gentle bow. “Elam, I remember you as well. Valiant but not reckless, you remained atop Pendragon Hill during my battle with the Darlings until your mistress was well out of harm’s way, and then you got the hell out of dodge yourself. Samantha couldn’t hope for a better Familiar. And Charlotte, any Witch that Samantha deemed worthy to induct into her coven is obviously someone whose acquaintance I am pleased to make. Welcome, all of you, to Mathom-meister’s Flea Market!”
“So this is where you’ve been hiding out the past two years?” Genevieve asked.
“Oh no. Far too Cosmopolitan for my tastes,” Emrys replied. “No, this is just a friendly place to meet those I consider friends – or potential friends, at least. I’d offer to show you around, but I know it’s difficult for you to astral travel for prolonged periods. Come with me to Mathom-meister’s house where we can talk freely, and we’ll discuss the situation with the Order.”
I gave him a small, single nod in response, and gestured with my staff that he should lead the way. He responded by pointing upwards, then vanished into his shadow form. When we looked up, we saw him waving at us from a balcony atop the great silken chrysalis.
We exchanged hesitant glances with one another, but ultimately followed him into the strange structure, moving from the ground to the balcony in an instant by will alone.
“How would an incarnate being get up here if they couldn’t fly or teleport?” Charlotte asked as she peered over the balcony’s teetering edge.
As though answering a summons, a humanoid creature apparated beside her in a flash of dark vapours. The hunched-back entity stood over six-and-a-half feet tall, and was clad in golden-brown erudite robes. Its squid-like skin was of a similar colour, and its entire face was a single gaping orifice that held a wispy, glowing orb in the center of its skull which I immediately recognized as its soul. A pair of long, fanged tentacles lined with pores and tendrils hung down from its head like a long, forked beard, and the seven digits shared by its two hands all bore wicked-looking talons, as did its two-toed, digitigrade feet.
“Not fly or teleport? What sort of pedestrian house guests do you think I entertain here?” the being asked wryly, its voice seeming to come from nowhere in particular.
Charlotte instinctively backed away from the creature and into the protective fold of our coven, but Emrys was quick to hold up his hand to plead for calm.
“Please, there’s no need for alarm. This is our host, Mathom-meister. He’s the only reason any of this is here in the first place,” Emrys informed us. “A year or two ago a companion of his unfortunately became one of the Darling Twin’s victims, and when he heard of my vendetta with them, he tracked me down; which is no small feat, I assure you.”
“It is for us. My people are a race of Planeswalkers. Traversing the many worlds of Creation is second nature to us,” Mathom-meister explained.
“I’ve… I’ve heard of your people, I think,” I said, softly and unsurely. “A friend of mine had an encounter with an artifact that gave her a vision of a race of strange and powerful sorcerers slaying their own god. I take it you’re the ones who slayed this Scarab Titan as well? That’s, that’s…”
“Horrifying, yes. That’s the idea,” he nodded. “You have nothing to worry about, young Witch. My people have no special interest in your world. This is purely personal. My friend is dead, and I want his murderers brought to justice; a goal which Emrys and I happen to have in common.”
“Feel free to share this information with the Ophion Occult Order, Samantha,” Emrys said. “I’d very much like for the Darling Twins to know what’s hunting them. Mathom-meister, please excuse me while I take my guests inside. We do have pressing business to discuss and their time is limited.”
The squid-cyclopes bowed gracefully, and my coven and I quickly scurried after Emrys as he led us inside through a towering hallway and into a large chamber that had been appointed as a living space.
I had thought that Emrys would want to speak with us alone, which was why I was surprised to see a young woman sitting cross-legged on a spongey yet chitinous object that I will for the sake of my sanity call a bean bag chair. Like Emrys, she was pale and blue-blooded, her choppy hair as black as coal. She wore a black robe and heavy black eyeliner, but these could not conceal the fact that she too had thin wisps of miasma emanating from her eyes.
“Is that your… daughter?” Charlotte asked, as baffled by her presence as any of us. The woman smiled warmly at the question.
“In a way. I was dead, and Emrys gave me new life. Now a part of the Outer Primordial Darkness he represents lives in me too,” she said serenely.
Hovering above her left palm were three small bluish-green orbs, lazily going around in a circle. They were translucent and held something inside them that I couldn’t make out, but the orbs themselves appeared to be melting and solidifying by the woman’s will.
“You’re Petra, aren’t you?” I asked as I cautiously approached her. “Chamberlin had mentioned that Emrys had taken an acolyte. I’m Samantha, and this is Genevieve, Elam, and Charlotte.”
“I know. The whole reason we’re here is to speak with you,” she nodded.
“The Ophion Occult Order calls me a soul-flayer, and I’m sure you were all wondering exactly what that meant before you came here,” Emrys said, standing proudly behind his acolyte. “Well, this is it. The Darkness Beyond is now a part of her, and a part of her now lives within the Darkness Beyond. She is not unchanged from what she was before, but neither has what she was been lost.”
“My interpretation of the term ‘soul-flaying’ was the complete removal of a person’s consciousness from their astral and physical bodies to be subsumed by your Darkness,” I countered. “They told me that what you’ve done with Petra here is just the limit of your power while you’re bound in their chains. Are you telling me that if your chains were broken, you wouldn’t be able to do any worse than this?”
“On my physical avatar? No. So long as my astral form remains chained and bound with the World Serpent, I cannot cleave a conscious mind from its astral substrate,” Emrys assured me.
“But that is your ultimate goal, isn’t it? Breaking the chains the Ophion Occult Order put on you is just a stepping stone to breaking the ones the gods bound you with?” Genevieve asked. “You’ve allied yourself with a literal god slayer. Do you expect us to believe that his people’s abilities aren’t something you intend to put to your own ends?”
“I don’t have an ultimate goal so much as I have a fundamental principle of opposing tyranny,” he claimed. “When I was a mere man, thousands of years ago, I was a tyrant. I believed that might made right so unquestionably that when my might began to fail me, the only thing I could think to do was to try everything in my power to restore it. This quest eventually led to me becoming one with the Darkness Beyond, which gave me not only the might I coveted but the wisdom I didn’t know I needed. It gave me perspective. It made me stronger than any human alive at that point but still let me realize how insignificant I was. It was humbling, and enlightening, and filled me both with remorse over my past actions and an impetus to use my newfound gifts to rectify them. I tried to overthrow the gods themselves which, in hindsight, was overly ambitious. I not only failed but had my soul devoured by the World Serpent, where it still resides to this day.
“I am not eager to bring the wrath of the gods down upon me once again. No, for now, I will be content to end the tyranny of the Ophion Occult Order. This is the message I’d like you to relay to them. If the Grand Adderman agrees to unbind my chains and step down from his post, I will spare his life. If he declines, I want the rest of the Order to know that I will show mercy to any who sides with me over him. I am willing to allow the Order to exist so long as it agrees to become more decentralized, democratic, and accountable. They will have to forfeit certain artifacts and individuals in their possession over to me, chief among them the Darling Twins, but I am willing to negotiate. If they aren’t, then I will overthrow the Grand Adderman by whatever means necessary and see the Order scattered to the four winds. It is entirely up to them whether or not the conflict between us escalates to full-on war. Have I made myself clear, Samantha?”
“I think so,” I said as I pensively considered everything he had said. “Why should they trust you to keep your word once your chains are broken? For that matter, why should we?”
He took a moment to consider his response, eyeing me over as though he was trying to divine something that would win over my trust.
“Samantha, you made a pact with Persephone to get your Spirit Familiar there; one where she swore by the River Styx. Is that correct?” he asked.
“It is,” I nodded.
“And in the years since, has Persephone ever broken that pact she swore to?” he asked.
“No, she hasn’t,” I replied.
“I may not be an Old God, but so long as my astral form remains bound by their chains, they have power over me,” he said. “Samantha Sumner, Hedge Witch of Harrowick Woods, I swear on the River Styx that I have spoken no lies to you today. I swear by the River Styx that I will abide by any Covenant that I and the Ophion Occult Order agree to in good faith and fair dealing that they do not break first. I swear by the River Styx that when my chains are broken, I will give you no cause to fear me or regret your trust in me.”
I gave a questioning glance to Genevieve, and then Elam, both of whom nodded in the affirmative.
“All right. An oath sworn on the River Styx is good enough for me. I’ll deliver your terms to Seneca Chamberlin,” I agreed. “I’m very grateful for the trust and respect you’ve shown for me and my coven, Emrys, though I can’t say I quite understand it. Out of all the guests that were there on the Hallow’s Eve you were summoned, why did Evie and I stand out to you?”
“The Ophion Occult Order deemed you worthy of inclusion in their cult, an offer you rejected on principle. You cheated Persephone, but you did it not to gain immortality for yourself but to save your friend from hell. You came here, thinking I could very well tear your souls asunder, but did so because you believed it was your duty to prevent needless suffering,” Emrys answered. “You are extraordinary in your craft, courage, and conscience, the latter of which especially stood out among the degenerates at that party. I do apologize if I frightened you at that event. I was a bit… irritable, given the circumstances. I’m glad we were able to meet again under more pleasant conditions.”
“So am I, Emrys,” I nodded. “I’m not sure exactly what this means or how relevant it is, but Seneca wanted me to tell you that he’s able to offer you the Dream Demon Red Ruck as a sacrifice.”
Pffft. Tell him it’s hardly a sacrifice if I’m getting rid of a boogie man for him,” he scoffed. “In fact, now that you mention it, Ruck’s one egregore that might be of more use to me alive.”
I wanted to ask him what he meant by that, but we were suddenly interrupted by the rapid pounding of a gong somewhere down below. It seemed to be an alarm of some kind, as we could hear the panicked shouting and frantic racing of people either battening down or forsaking the Flea Market altogether.
Mathom-meister apparated into the middle of the room, his facial tentacles reflexively raised in a defensive position.
“Were you outside the market?” he demanded of us.
“The portal we came through deposited us a few miles outside of the market, yes,” I admitted.
“Damn,” Emrys cursed softly, though he sounded more frustrated than angry. “Meister, it’s not their fault. I knew they weren’t experienced Planeswalkers, I could have – ”
“It doesn’t matter!” Mathom-meister interjected. “They need to leave, now!”
“Why, what’s going on?” Genevieve demanded.
“The scarabs are swarming,” Petra explained. “Don’t feel bad; it happens often enough that they’re prepared for it.”
I wanted to press for more details, but I could hear the humming of a vast winged swarm steadily encroaching upon us.
“Don’t worry. Once you leave the swarm will disperse… eventually,” Emrys told us. “We’ve said all that need be said for now. Return home, and I’ll reach out to you again shortly, Samantha.”
Again, I wanted to object, but the swarm outside was growing louder and louder, and it occurred to me that we might not be completely safe from a biblical swarm of insects that could not only sense but evidently sought out souls.
This occurred to Charlotte as well, as she was the first of us to vanish and awaken back in her body. We could all feel the weight of her reembodied soul tugging on us to return with her. Genevieve immediately grabbed hold of my right hand and Elam my left, both of them refusing to leave before I did.
I spared one final glance at Emrys, lamenting that we couldn’t have had more time.
“I’ll relay everything you said to the Order. I’ll make sure they know you’re willing to negotiate a truce,” I vowed.
He gave me a gracious nod, and just as we heard the swarm start to pelt the exterior of the market, I forced my physical eyes open and was back in my body, still safely under a willow tree in my cemetery.
I immediately looked beside me to Genevieve, and saw that she was awake as well, and then around me for Elam, who seemed to be suffering a bit of spectral whiplash from being pulled back with me so suddenly, but was otherwise all right. Sighing with relief, I turned lastly to Charlotte, and saw that she was looking down at the mediation circle in dreaded horror.
Following her gaze, I saw that the Undying Rose was gone – spent, perhaps, in exchange for our passage – and in its place was the inert, and hopefully dead, body of one of the shimmering scarabs.
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2023.06.10 21:30 Kylotheclumsykoala Reading the biography of Howard Hughes when suddenly.. I believe the original 69 meme aviator was the man himself; Charles Lindbergh 🤣

Reading the biography of Howard Hughes when suddenly.. I believe the original 69 meme aviator was the man himself; Charles Lindbergh 🤣 submitted by Kylotheclumsykoala to AirForce [link] [comments]


2023.06.10 21:29 A_Vespertine Souls & Scarabs at Mathom-Meister's Flea Market

“I’m sorry; we’re going to astral travel to a flea market?” Charlotte asked incredulously as she watched Genevieve and I set up a meditation circle under the shade of a towering old willow tree in my cemetery. “What if we want to buy something? How will we bring it back?”
“We’re not going there to shop, Lottie. Samantha’s finally had a vision about Emrys,” Genevieve explained.
The Veil between the Physical and Astral Planes is exceptionally weak in my cemetery, especially at night and on hallowed days. When I sleep there, my subconscious mind is highly receptive to all manner of revelations from the Spirit World. When I saw a Blood Moon rise on the night of May fifth, the same night as a penumbral eclipse, I knew that my dreams would be prophetic.
“I had a dream about him last Friday,” I expounded. “He’s at some sort of otherworldly marketplace, one that’s not connected to the Crypto Chthonic Cuniculi, so it’s mostly inaccessible to the Ophion Occult Order. In my dream, Emrys invited us to come and speak with him while we were lucid. He drew a sigil for me, the same one I’ve drawn in the middle of the mediation circle. He said that all I’d have to do is toss an Undying Rose – the earthly effigy of the rose Persephone used to steal a drop of his blood – into the sigil and it will become an astral portal to where he is.”
I held up the deep purple rose that I had cut from its bush earlier that day. I don’t know for certain where the roses came from, but my best guess is that they were made by the same Occultist who hallowed my cemetery to Persephone; Artaxerxes Crow. They have some connection to Emrys as well, since the only other time I saw someone else use one was when his avatar was summoned into the Physical Plane on Halloween 2020.
Knowing that Emrys wouldn’t dare to set foot in a place that was sacred to the Goddess who was ultimately responsible for his cosmic defeat, I gently tossed the rose into the middle of the sigil.
“He invited all of us?” Charlotte asked with an incredulous raising of her eyebrow.
“He said me and my coven. If he had just meant me or me and Genevieve he would have said that,” I replied. “You and Elam are coming too. I want as many eyes on this place as possible so that we don’t miss anything. We may not get an opportunity like this again.”
“And this is safe? Visiting some random flea market between worlds?” Charlotte asked.
“Samantha and I have visited the Underworld and come back no problem,” Genevieve reminded her. “So long as we’re bound to our bodies and Elam is bound to Samantha, we can come back anytime. Don’t worry; this is going to be a blast! Adventures like these are the best part of being a Witch.”
“The only reason you were able to go to the Underworld is because Samantha’s cemetery came with an astral portal in the back,” Charlotte countered, gesticulating in the general direction of the archway that was still partially visible behind the light spring foliage. “Other than that, when have any of us ever done anything useful with our astral projection? This is still a physical place, right? We don’t have any of our physical senses available to us when we astral project, and I get extremely disoriented trying to navigate the mortal plane with clairvoyance alone.”
“It is a physical place, but one saturated with astral energy and full of occultists and occult artifacts. It will be extremely illuminated to our clairvoyance,” I assured her. “Elam will also be there to guide us. As a ghost, he’s much more practiced at traversing the mortal plane in an astral form.”
Charlotte folded her arms over her chest and turned to look at Elam, who was leaning up against the willow tree as he waited for us.
“I don’t suppose you could go and scout the place out for us ahead of time?” she asked.
“I can’t go too far from Samantha, and definitely not across planes,” he said with a shake of his head. “But Eve’s right. Your astral bodies will be in no danger, and you can return here in an instant whenever you want.”
“But what about Emrys? Didn’t that book Leon gave you say that he’s some sort of soul-flayer?” Charlotte asked me.
“It did,” I admitted. “Keep in mind though, that book was written by his enemies. I want to hear his side of things before this conflict of theirs spirals out of control.”
“Any update from Chamberlin about that?” Elam asked.
“Yeah, he said that after he failed to purify the Sigil Sand, Ivy’s onboard with negotiating some kind of truce with Emrys,” I replied. “The Grand Adderman’s still reticent, but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s running out of options. I need to find out if Emrys will agree to peace talks.”
“Um, I get that, but I’m still kind of hung up on him potentially flaying our souls,” Charlotte reiterated.
“If Emrys and the Ophion Occult Order go to all-out war, there’ll be a lot of collateral damage and innocent souls caught in the crossfire,” Genevieve told her, gently grabbing hold of her and looking her straight in the eye. “Samantha, Elam, and I are doing this because if there’s any chance we can put an end to this before it starts, then it’s our responsibility to try. You don’t have to come with us, Lottie, but you’re still a member of our coven. Samantha and I would both feel a lot better with you there to help us.”
“Arghhh! All right, fine! I’ll come with you,” Charlotte gave in, plopping her butt down on the edge of the meditation circle. “If we’re holding hands, that will help keep our astral bodies together too, right?”
“I believe it should, yes,” I smiled at her, sitting down and reaching out for her hand.
Genevieve lit the incense and her bong filled with the entheogenic Delphi Dream, before sitting down to join us. She took a hit from the bong before passing it to me, and then to Charlotte before setting it aside out of the circle.
“Start with taking a deep breath, completely filling the lungs, and holding it for five heartbeats,” she guided us as she took hold of each of our hands. “Exhale completely, and wait five more heartbeats before breathing in again. Eyes closed, in through the nose, out through the mouth. Focus on the astral energies flowing through you with each breath, gently aligning each chakra until those energies are enough to lift you up and out of your body.”
In unison with one another, the three of us slowly breathed in and out, ignoring the material world around us and focusing upon the task at hand. Eve was first, as usual, and because we were all holding hands, Charlotte and I felt her eagerly tugging us up to speed us along.
I opened my eyes, and beheld the dull and muted Physical Plane through my clairvoyance, everything outshined by the radiant forms of my coven mates. I noted that Genevieve had eschewed her normal skyclad form when astral projecting and instead wore a cloak like Charlotte and I.
“Are you worried this place might have a no shirt, no shoes, no souls, no service policy?” I teased her.
“I just don’t want to risk a confrontation over it. I realize how important this is,” she answered. “Though I’m not actually wearing shoes, now that you mention it.”
“Christ, look at the sigil Samantha drew!” Charlotte said, pointing down at the meditation circle beneath us. The sigil wasn’t just glowing but flowing as well, churning the Aether around it in a misty, spectral vortex. “It’s an astral portal, isn’t it?”
“Oh yeah. It’s not stable, though. Good for one trip only,” Genevieve said with a delighted smile. “And Lottie, since we’re Neopagan Witches, try not to swear by Christ, okay?”
“Jesus!” she swore, both in defiance and in genuine annoyance.
“Elam! Elam, come join the circle! I don’t want to take any chances of severing our bond,” I instructed, letting go of Charlotte’s hand and waving him in between us.
Faithful Familiar that he was, he obeyed without hesitation. Despite my concerns, I think that he probably could have stayed behind if he had wanted. The fact that he was willing to follow me to an unknown otherworld without complaint really made me appreciate how devoted he was to me.
“We step in together on the count of three, got it?” I instructed, each of them nodding clearly in response. “One. Two. Three!”
We all extended our right feet into the vortex together, and the instant we did we were swept away, falling out of our own world and tumbling between the cracks of countless others. They weren’t real, I don’t think. At least, not as real as our world. They were potential realities, or realities that could have been once but now can never be, or fantasies that are so persistent in the minds of real people that in some sense or another, they become real themselves. I only saw glimmers of them, glimmers in nebulas made of primeval chaos and uttermost void.
It was outside of time, that place we travelled through, or at least we had no sense of it there. Our souls were haphazardly spat out upon a surreal landscape of earth, sea, and fire. Hilly plains of volcanic ash, incandescent calderas of lava and bubbling hot springs all intermeshed in a chaotic mosaic that didn’t seem to abide by any laws of geology or geography that I was familiar with. A strong but slow wind pushed fractal formations of dark silver clouds through a pale silver sky, illuminated by a single white orb which could have been either a bright moon or a faint sun.
While our spectral feet left no trace upon the ash we now stood upon, our presence nonetheless elicited a response from some of the local fauna. We were just able to catch a glimpse of some kind of shimmering scarabs burrowing themselves into the ash to escape the four otherworldly ghosts that had invaded their territory.
“Holy shit,” Charlotte murmured as we all gazed out upon the strange world we had found ourselves on. “This really isn’t on the Astral Plane. This is a real planet. This a real, alien planet! This is unbelievable!”
Genevieve glided over to one of the bubbling pools and peered into it, looking for any more signs of life.
“There’s some kind of bluish-grey algae growing on the rocks down there, and I think I can make out some small arthropods too. This planet’s alive!” she announced with glee, smiling and looking up at the alien sky.
Conjuring an astral approximation of my staff, I plunged it into a small mound of ash beside me. I watched curiously as the scarabs shot out in all directions, moving too quickly for me to get a good look at them, before scurrying back into the surrounding ash.
“These bugs can sense our presence,” I remarked. “How and why would clairvoyance evolve in insects on this world, and why would their first instinct be to flee?”
“Samantha!” Elam called out. “I think I found the Flea Market.”
We all gathered around him and looked where he was pointing. On a distant dune, we beheld the moulted carapace of a colossal insect, gleaming a brilliant, lustrous gold in the broken white light.
“That’s impossible!” Charlotte claimed. “That thing must be hundreds of meters long! No insect, no animal period could ever get that big on the Physical Plane!”
“It could be the Incarnation of some kind of Titan,” Genevieve suggested. “But… it’s dead. I can tell that even from here. It’s dead. It’s the corpse of a dead god, and now it’s being used as a swap meet with a punny name. Either whatever killed it just abandoned it, or…”
“Or is running the place,” I finished for her. “Well, we should see if we can find Emrys.”
In an instant, the world moved around us until we were at the entrance to the Flea Market. The colossal carapace was hollow inside, of course, and had been filled with a bustling city that looked like it had been created in the most ad hoc manner possible. There wasn’t a single straight street to be seen, and they converged with one another at random intervals. Stalls and buildings varied wildly in both design and materials, all imported from a plethora of different cultures across the planes.
Enormous shards of luminous glass levitated above the throng like a thousand Swords of Damocles, any or all of them seeming capable of succumbing to gravity at any moment. In the very center of the moulted husk dangled a great spiralling chrysalis or hive woven of iridescent silk, its function not being immediately apparent to me.
There must have been thousands of people there, and hundreds of merchants hawking their wares. Most of those who looked human still seemed a little off, like they were members of ethnicities that didn’t exist in our world. Some of the beings were near-human in appearance, many seemingly some kind of Fey or Seelie folk. There was even a small handful of people that weren’t remotely human at all.
The only thing they all had in common was that none were native to this world.
“Most of these people are here in person, aren’t they?” Charlotte asked.
“It would’ve been quite a feat for them to have built all of this while astral projecting,” Genevieve agreed.
“But if this place isn’t connected to the Cuniculi, then how did they get here?” Charlotte asked. “We’re on another planet, maybe even in another dimension. If getting here is beyond the Ooo’s abilities, then what sort of ungodly reality benders decided to turn it into a Flea Market?”
“Ladies, gentlemen, and any beings either too ancient and alien or too modern and alienated to settle on one or the other, come bear witness to one of the most astounding and atrocious abominations on this or any other world!” a fast-paced male voice rang out over the din of the crowd.
We turned to see a short, skinny, old-timey sort of carnival barker standing on a literal soap box, placed next to a large object draped in a black tarp.
“For the paltry price of a single three-headed coin, you can peer beneath the veil and behold with your own unbelieving eyes the mangled and mutilated monstrosity that lurks beneath!” the carnival barker continued. “But I must warn you, it is not possible to truly understand what dwells underneath without seeing it first! I cannot guarantee that you will still retain your sanity or will to live after witnessing the proverbial Mountains of Madness, for this low creature is truly like no other and serves only as a grim testament to the cruel sadism of the Lord Above! Anyone plagued by even the faintest lingering doubt as to their spiritual fortitude should not dare to even contemplate what might lie before me! But, for those brave, noble few who are truly dauntless of heart and incorrigible of spirit, I am proud to share with you this rare, unfathomable, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to witness sublime –”
The carnival barker was interrupted by a man yanking the sheet off the object beside him, revealing it to be a mirror.
“Whelp, that was a hell of an Im14andthisisdeep post, eh?” Charlotte mused.
Genevieve and I, however, were far too stunned to be amused; not by the mirror, but by the man who had unveiled it.
“It’s him, Lottie. That’s Emrys,” Genevieve whispered.
We had only seen him briefly once before, more than two-and-a-half years ago, but he was far from what anyone would call forgettable. He was tall and gaunt, with literal blue blood flowing beneath translucent skin. His long, receding hair and regal beard were pitch black, and dark miasma wafted from his eyes, nose, and mouth. He was dressed in dark sable robes with three overlapping Ouroboros’s tattooed on his forehead, with a pair of ophidian pupils lying in the spaces between them.
What stood out the most to us were the six silver Ouroboros chains bound around his wrists, ankles, waist, and neck. These were the chains the Ophion Occult Order had made to limit the power of his physical avatar, and it seemed he had not yet found a way to free himself from them.
“Are you still here?” Emrys asked in exasperation, tossing the veil back at the carnival barker in disdain.
“…Possibly,” the strange man replied evasively. “But not definitively, for purely legalistic reasons.”
“I believe Mathom-meister was quite clear when he said that your rather pitiful chicanery wasn’t welcomed here,” Emrys reminded him.
“And who is he to judge chicanery from cutthroat, capitalistic competition? Should not the Flea Market be a free market?” the charlatan demanded. “And while we’re on the topic of commerce, I don’t suppose you have enough three-headed coins to pay for all the poor souls you have so discourteously exposed to my exhibit against their will? I’d hate to have to start shaking people down to get my due.”
“Hard to believe your own circus threw you out,” Emrys said with a sardonic eye roll as he tossed him a small medallion. “You get one coin. Take it and get out of my sight.”
The charlatan flipped the coin in the air thrice, presumably to confirm it actually had three heads. Satisfied with its impossible dimensions, he shoved it into his pocket.
“It will cover the trolley ride home, at least,” he acquiesced, stepping off his soap box and turning to face his looking glass. “A shame though you can’t see the genius in my little avant-garde performance piece here, Emmy. Even I know that the monster in the mirror is often the hardest to recognize.”
As the man reached to pick up his mirror, his reflection’s arms shot through the glass and grabbed him by the wrists, pulling him in. Emrys immediately tried to chase after him, but bounced off the glass as if there was nothing supernatural about it at all.
“Bastard!” he cursed under his breath, before turning towards us and giving us a small apologetic smile. “I’m sorry you had to see that rather pathetic display. Unfortunately, the few meeting places I know of that are relatively safe from any Ophionic incursion also attract their fair share of other annoying miscreants.”
“If it didn’t attract a little bit of everything, it wouldn’t be a Flea Market, would it?” I asked rhetorically. “Thank you, Emrys, for inviting us. I’ve never been anywhere like this before.”
“And thank you for accepting. Samantha, Genevieve, it’s a pleasure to see you again, and a relief that you have not fallen under the auspices of the Ophion Occult Order,” he said with a gentle bow. “Elam, I remember you as well. Valiant but not reckless, you remained atop Pendragon Hill during my battle with the Darlings until your mistress was well out of harm’s way, and then you got the hell out of dodge yourself. Samantha couldn’t hope for a better Familiar. And Charlotte, any Witch that Samantha deemed worthy to induct into her coven is obviously someone whose acquaintance I am pleased to make. Welcome, all of you, to Mathom-meister’s Flea Market!”
“So this is where you’ve been hiding out the past two years?” Genevieve asked.
“Oh no. Far too Cosmopolitan for my tastes,” Emrys replied. “No, this is just a friendly place to meet those I consider friends – or potential friends, at least. I’d offer to show you around, but I know it’s difficult for you to astral travel for prolonged periods. Come with me to Mathom-meister’s house where we can talk freely, and we’ll discuss the situation with the Order.”
I gave him a small, single nod in response, and gestured with my staff that he should lead the way. He responded by pointing upwards, then vanished into his shadow form. When we looked up, we saw him waving at us from a balcony atop the great silken chrysalis.
We exchanged hesitant glances with one another, but ultimately followed him into the strange structure, moving from the ground to the balcony in an instant by will alone.
“How would an incarnate being get up here if they couldn’t fly or teleport?” Charlotte asked as she peered over the balcony’s teetering edge.
As though answering a summons, a humanoid creature apparated beside her in a flash of dark vapours. The hunched-back entity stood over six-and-a-half feet tall, and was clad in golden-brown erudite robes. Its squid-like skin was of a similar colour, and its entire face was a single gaping orifice that held a wispy, glowing orb in the center of its skull which I immediately recognized as its soul. A pair of long, fanged tentacles lined with pores and tendrils hung down from its head like a long, forked beard, and the seven digits shared by its two hands all bore wicked-looking talons, as did its two-toed, digitigrade feet.
“Not fly or teleport? What sort of pedestrian house guests do you think I entertain here?” the being asked wryly, its voice seeming to come from nowhere in particular.
Charlotte instinctively backed away from the creature and into the protective fold of our coven, but Emrys was quick to hold up his hand to plead for calm.
“Please, there’s no need for alarm. This is our host, Mathom-meister. He’s the only reason any of this is here in the first place,” Emrys informed us. “A year or two ago a companion of his unfortunately became one of the Darling Twin’s victims, and when he heard of my vendetta with them, he tracked me down; which is no small feat, I assure you.”
“It is for us. My people are a race of Planeswalkers. Traversing the many worlds of Creation is second nature to us,” Mathom-meister explained.
“I’ve… I’ve heard of your people, I think,” I said, softly and unsurely. “A friend of mine had an encounter with an artifact that gave her a vision of a race of strange and powerful sorcerers slaying their own god. I take it you’re the ones who slayed this Scarab Titan as well? That’s, that’s…”
“Horrifying, yes. That’s the idea,” he nodded. “You have nothing to worry about, young Witch. My people have no special interest in your world. This is purely personal. My friend is dead, and I want his murderers brought to justice; a goal which Emrys and I happen to have in common.”
“Feel free to share this information with the Ophion Occult Order, Samantha,” Emrys said. “I’d very much like for the Darling Twins to know what’s hunting them. Mathom-meister, please excuse me while I take my guests inside. We do have pressing business to discuss and their time is limited.”
The squid-cyclopes bowed gracefully, and my coven and I quickly scurried after Emrys as he led us inside through a towering hallway and into a large chamber that had been appointed as a living space.
I had thought that Emrys would want to speak with us alone, which was why I was surprised to see a young woman sitting cross-legged on a spongey yet chitinous object that I will for the sake of my sanity call a bean bag chair. Like Emrys, she was pale and blue-blooded, her choppy hair as black as coal. She wore a black robe and heavy black eyeliner, but these could not conceal the fact that she too had thin wisps of miasma emanating from her eyes.
“Is that your… daughter?” Charlotte asked, as baffled by her presence as any of us. The woman smiled warmly at the question.
“In a way. I was dead, and Emrys gave me new life. Now a part of the Outer Primordial Darkness he represents lives in me too,” she said serenely.
Hovering above her left palm were three small bluish-green orbs, lazily going around in a circle. They were translucent and held something inside them that I couldn’t make out, but the orbs themselves appeared to be melting and solidifying by the woman’s will.
“You’re Petra, aren’t you?” I asked as I cautiously approached her. “Chamberlin had mentioned that Emrys had taken an acolyte. I’m Samantha, and this is Genevieve, Elam, and Charlotte.”
“I know. The whole reason we’re here is to speak with you,” she nodded.
“The Ophion Occult Order calls me a soul-flayer, and I’m sure you were all wondering exactly what that meant before you came here,” Emrys said, standing proudly behind his acolyte. “Well, this is it. The Darkness Beyond is now a part of her, and a part of her now lives within the Darkness Beyond. She is not unchanged from what she was before, but neither has what she was been lost.”
“My interpretation of the term ‘soul-flaying’ was the complete removal of a person’s consciousness from their astral and physical bodies to be subsumed by your Darkness,” I countered. “They told me that what you’ve done with Petra here is just the limit of your power while you’re bound in their chains. Are you telling me that if your chains were broken, you wouldn’t be able to do any worse than this?”
“On my physical avatar? No. So long as my astral form remains chained and bound with the World Serpent, I cannot cleave a conscious mind from its astral substrate,” Emrys assured me.
“But that is your ultimate goal, isn’t it? Breaking the chains the Ophion Occult Order put on you is just a stepping stone to breaking the ones the gods bound you with?” Genevieve asked. “You’ve allied yourself with a literal god slayer. Do you expect us to believe that his people’s abilities aren’t something you intend to put to your own ends?”
“I don’t have an ultimate goal so much as I have a fundamental principle of opposing tyranny,” he claimed. “When I was a mere man, thousands of years ago, I was a tyrant. I believed that might made right so unquestionably that when my might began to fail me, the only thing I could think to do was to try everything in my power to restore it. This quest eventually led to me becoming one with the Darkness Beyond, which gave me not only the might I coveted but the wisdom I didn’t know I needed. It gave me perspective. It made me stronger than any human alive at that point but still let me realize how insignificant I was. It was humbling, and enlightening, and filled me both with remorse over my past actions and an impetus to use my newfound gifts to rectify them. I tried to overthrow the gods themselves which, in hindsight, was overly ambitious. I not only failed but had my soul devoured by the World Serpent, where it still resides to this day.
“I am not eager to bring the wrath of the gods down upon me once again. No, for now, I will be content to end the tyranny of the Ophion Occult Order. This is the message I’d like you to relay to them. If the Grand Adderman agrees to unbind my chains and step down from his post, I will spare his life. If he declines, I want the rest of the Order to know that I will show mercy to any who sides with me over him. I am willing to allow the Order to exist so long as it agrees to become more decentralized, democratic, and accountable. They will have to forfeit certain artifacts and individuals in their possession over to me, chief among them the Darling Twins, but I am willing to negotiate. If they aren’t, then I will overthrow the Grand Adderman by whatever means necessary and see the Order scattered to the four winds. It is entirely up to them whether or not the conflict between us escalates to full-on war. Have I made myself clear, Samantha?”
“I think so,” I said as I pensively considered everything he had said. “Why should they trust you to keep your word once your chains are broken? For that matter, why should we?”
He took a moment to consider his response, eyeing me over as though he was trying to divine something that would win over my trust.
“Samantha, you made a pact with Persephone to get your Spirit Familiar there; one where she swore by the River Styx. Is that correct?” he asked.
“It is,” I nodded.
“And in the years since, has Persephone ever broken that pact she swore to?” he asked.
“No, she hasn’t,” I replied.
“I may not be an Old God, but so long as my astral form remains bound by their chains, they have power over me,” he said. “Samantha Sumner, Hedge Witch of Harrowick Woods, I swear on the River Styx that I have spoken no lies to you today. I swear by the River Styx that I will abide by any Covenant that I and the Ophion Occult Order agree to in good faith and fair dealing that they do not break first. I swear by the River Styx that when my chains are broken, I will give you no cause to fear me or regret your trust in me.”
I gave a questioning glance to Genevieve, and then Elam, both of whom nodded in the affirmative.
“All right. An oath sworn on the River Styx is good enough for me. I’ll deliver your terms to Seneca Chamberlin,” I agreed. “I’m very grateful for the trust and respect you’ve shown for me and my coven, Emrys, though I can’t say I quite understand it. Out of all the guests that were there on the Hallow’s Eve you were summoned, why did Evie and I stand out to you?”
“The Ophion Occult Order deemed you worthy of inclusion in their cult, an offer you rejected on principle. You cheated Persephone, but you did it not to gain immortality for yourself but to save your friend from hell. You came here, thinking I could very well tear your souls asunder, but did so because you believed it was your duty to prevent needless suffering,” Emrys answered. “You are extraordinary in your craft, courage, and conscience, the latter of which especially stood out among the degenerates at that party. I do apologize if I frightened you at that event. I was a bit… irritable, given the circumstances. I’m glad we were able to meet again under more pleasant conditions.”
“So am I, Emrys,” I nodded. “I’m not sure exactly what this means or how relevant it is, but Seneca wanted me to tell you that he’s able to offer you the Dream Demon Red Ruck as a sacrifice.”
Pffft. Tell him it’s hardly a sacrifice if I’m getting rid of a boogie man for him,” he scoffed. “In fact, now that you mention it, Ruck’s one egregore that might be of more use to me alive.”
I wanted to ask him what he meant by that, but we were suddenly interrupted by the rapid pounding of a gong somewhere down below. It seemed to be an alarm of some kind, as we could hear the panicked shouting and frantic racing of people either battening down or forsaking the Flea Market altogether.
Mathom-meister apparated into the middle of the room, his facial tentacles reflexively raised in a defensive position.
“Were you outside the market?” he demanded of us.
“The portal we came through deposited us a few miles outside of the market, yes,” I admitted.
“Damn,” Emrys cursed softly, though he sounded more frustrated than angry. “Meister, it’s not their fault. I knew they weren’t experienced Planeswalkers, I could have – ”
“It doesn’t matter!” Mathom-meister interjected. “They need to leave, now!”
“Why, what’s going on?” Genevieve demanded.
“The scarabs are swarming,” Petra explained. “Don’t feel bad; it happens often enough that they’re prepared for it.”
I wanted to press for more details, but I could hear the humming of a vast winged swarm steadily encroaching upon us.
“Don’t worry. Once you leave the swarm will disperse… eventually,” Emrys told us. “We’ve said all that need be said for now. Return home, and I’ll reach out to you again shortly, Samantha.”
Again, I wanted to object, but the swarm outside was growing louder and louder, and it occurred to me that we might not be completely safe from a biblical swarm of insects that could not only sense but evidently sought out souls.
This occurred to Charlotte as well, as she was the first of us to vanish and awaken back in her body. We could all feel the weight of her reembodied soul tugging on us to return with her. Genevieve immediately grabbed hold of my right hand and Elam my left, both of them refusing to leave before I did.
I spared one final glance at Emrys, lamenting that we couldn’t have had more time.
“I’ll relay everything you said to the Order. I’ll make sure they know you’re willing to negotiate a truce,” I vowed.
He gave me a gracious nod, and just as we heard the swarm start to pelt the exterior of the market, I forced my physical eyes open and was back in my body, still safely under a willow tree in my cemetery.
I immediately looked beside me to Genevieve, and saw that she was awake as well, and then around me for Elam, who seemed to be suffering a bit of spectral whiplash from being pulled back with me so suddenly, but was otherwise all right. Sighing with relief, I turned lastly to Charlotte, and saw that she was looking down at the mediation circle in dreaded horror.
Following her gaze, I saw that the Undying Rose was gone – spent, perhaps, in exchange for our passage – and in its place was the inert, and hopefully dead, body of one of the shimmering scarabs.
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2023.06.10 21:28 A_Vespertine Souls & Scarabs at Mathom-Meister's Flea Market

“I’m sorry; we’re going to astral travel to a flea market?” Charlotte asked incredulously as she watched Genevieve and I set up a meditation circle under the shade of a towering old willow tree in my cemetery. “What if we want to buy something? How will we bring it back?”
“We’re not going there to shop, Lottie. Samantha’s finally had a vision about Emrys,” Genevieve explained.
The Veil between the Physical and Astral Planes is exceptionally weak in my cemetery, especially at night and on hallowed days. When I sleep there, my subconscious mind is highly receptive to all manner of revelations from the Spirit World. When I saw a Blood Moon rise on the night of May fifth, the same night as a penumbral eclipse, I knew that my dreams would be prophetic.
“I had a dream about him last Friday,” I expounded. “He’s at some sort of otherworldly marketplace, one that’s not connected to the Crypto Chthonic Cuniculi, so it’s mostly inaccessible to the Ophion Occult Order. In my dream, Emrys invited us to come and speak with him while we were lucid. He drew a sigil for me, the same one I’ve drawn in the middle of the mediation circle. He said that all I’d have to do is toss an Undying Rose – the earthly effigy of the rose Persephone used to steal a drop of his blood – into the sigil and it will become an astral portal to where he is.”
I held up the deep purple rose that I had cut from its bush earlier that day. I don’t know for certain where the roses came from, but my best guess is that they were made by the same Occultist who hallowed my cemetery to Persephone; Artaxerxes Crow. They have some connection to Emrys as well, since the only other time I saw someone else use one was when his avatar was summoned into the Physical Plane on Halloween 2020.
Knowing that Emrys wouldn’t dare to set foot in a place that was sacred to the Goddess who was ultimately responsible for his cosmic defeat, I gently tossed the rose into the middle of the sigil.
“He invited all of us?” Charlotte asked with an incredulous raising of her eyebrow.
“He said me and my coven. If he had just meant me or me and Genevieve he would have said that,” I replied. “You and Elam are coming too. I want as many eyes on this place as possible so that we don’t miss anything. We may not get an opportunity like this again.”
“And this is safe? Visiting some random flea market between worlds?” Charlotte asked.
“Samantha and I have visited the Underworld and come back no problem,” Genevieve reminded her. “So long as we’re bound to our bodies and Elam is bound to Samantha, we can come back anytime. Don’t worry; this is going to be a blast! Adventures like these are the best part of being a Witch.”
“The only reason you were able to go to the Underworld is because Samantha’s cemetery came with an astral portal in the back,” Charlotte countered, gesticulating in the general direction of the archway that was still partially visible behind the light spring foliage. “Other than that, when have any of us ever done anything useful with our astral projection? This is still a physical place, right? We don’t have any of our physical senses available to us when we astral project, and I get extremely disoriented trying to navigate the mortal plane with clairvoyance alone.”
“It is a physical place, but one saturated with astral energy and full of occultists and occult artifacts. It will be extremely illuminated to our clairvoyance,” I assured her. “Elam will also be there to guide us. As a ghost, he’s much more practiced at traversing the mortal plane in an astral form.”
Charlotte folded her arms over her chest and turned to look at Elam, who was leaning up against the willow tree as he waited for us.
“I don’t suppose you could go and scout the place out for us ahead of time?” she asked.
“I can’t go too far from Samantha, and definitely not across planes,” he said with a shake of his head. “But Eve’s right. Your astral bodies will be in no danger, and you can return here in an instant whenever you want.”
“But what about Emrys? Didn’t that book Leon gave you say that he’s some sort of soul-flayer?” Charlotte asked me.
“It did,” I admitted. “Keep in mind though, that book was written by his enemies. I want to hear his side of things before this conflict of theirs spirals out of control.”
“Any update from Chamberlin about that?” Elam asked.
“Yeah, he said that after he failed to purify the Sigil Sand, Ivy’s onboard with negotiating some kind of truce with Emrys,” I replied. “The Grand Adderman’s still reticent, but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s running out of options. I need to find out if Emrys will agree to peace talks.”
“Um, I get that, but I’m still kind of hung up on him potentially flaying our souls,” Charlotte reiterated.
“If Emrys and the Ophion Occult Order go to all-out war, there’ll be a lot of collateral damage and innocent souls caught in the crossfire,” Genevieve told her, gently grabbing hold of her and looking her straight in the eye. “Samantha, Elam, and I are doing this because if there’s any chance we can put an end to this before it starts, then it’s our responsibility to try. You don’t have to come with us, Lottie, but you’re still a member of our coven. Samantha and I would both feel a lot better with you there to help us.”
“Arghhh! All right, fine! I’ll come with you,” Charlotte gave in, plopping her butt down on the edge of the meditation circle. “If we’re holding hands, that will help keep our astral bodies together too, right?”
“I believe it should, yes,” I smiled at her, sitting down and reaching out for her hand.
Genevieve lit the incense and her bong filled with the entheogenic Delphi Dream, before sitting down to join us. She took a hit from the bong before passing it to me, and then to Charlotte before setting it aside out of the circle.
“Start with taking a deep breath, completely filling the lungs, and holding it for five heartbeats,” she guided us as she took hold of each of our hands. “Exhale completely, and wait five more heartbeats before breathing in again. Eyes closed, in through the nose, out through the mouth. Focus on the astral energies flowing through you with each breath, gently aligning each chakra until those energies are enough to lift you up and out of your body.”
In unison with one another, the three of us slowly breathed in and out, ignoring the material world around us and focusing upon the task at hand. Eve was first, as usual, and because we were all holding hands, Charlotte and I felt her eagerly tugging us up to speed us along.
I opened my eyes, and beheld the dull and muted Physical Plane through my clairvoyance, everything outshined by the radiant forms of my coven mates. I noted that Genevieve had eschewed her normal skyclad form when astral projecting and instead wore a cloak like Charlotte and I.
“Are you worried this place might have a no shirt, no shoes, no souls, no service policy?” I teased her.
“I just don’t want to risk a confrontation over it. I realize how important this is,” she answered. “Though I’m not actually wearing shoes, now that you mention it.”
“Christ, look at the sigil Samantha drew!” Charlotte said, pointing down at the meditation circle beneath us. The sigil wasn’t just glowing but flowing as well, churning the Aether around it in a misty, spectral vortex. “It’s an astral portal, isn’t it?”
“Oh yeah. It’s not stable, though. Good for one trip only,” Genevieve said with a delighted smile. “And Lottie, since we’re Neopagan Witches, try not to swear by Christ, okay?”
“Jesus!” she swore, both in defiance and in genuine annoyance.
“Elam! Elam, come join the circle! I don’t want to take any chances of severing our bond,” I instructed, letting go of Charlotte’s hand and waving him in between us.
Faithful Familiar that he was, he obeyed without hesitation. Despite my concerns, I think that he probably could have stayed behind if he had wanted. The fact that he was willing to follow me to an unknown otherworld without complaint really made me appreciate how devoted he was to me.
“We step in together on the count of three, got it?” I instructed, each of them nodding clearly in response. “One. Two. Three!”
We all extended our right feet into the vortex together, and the instant we did we were swept away, falling out of our own world and tumbling between the cracks of countless others. They weren’t real, I don’t think. At least, not as real as our world. They were potential realities, or realities that could have been once but now can never be, or fantasies that are so persistent in the minds of real people that in some sense or another, they become real themselves. I only saw glimmers of them, glimmers in nebulas made of primeval chaos and uttermost void.
It was outside of time, that place we travelled through, or at least we had no sense of it there. Our souls were haphazardly spat out upon a surreal landscape of earth, sea, and fire. Hilly plains of volcanic ash, incandescent calderas of lava and bubbling hot springs all intermeshed in a chaotic mosaic that didn’t seem to abide by any laws of geology or geography that I was familiar with. A strong but slow wind pushed fractal formations of dark silver clouds through a pale silver sky, illuminated by a single white orb which could have been either a bright moon or a faint sun.
While our spectral feet left no trace upon the ash we now stood upon, our presence nonetheless elicited a response from some of the local fauna. We were just able to catch a glimpse of some kind of shimmering scarabs burrowing themselves into the ash to escape the four otherworldly ghosts that had invaded their territory.
“Holy shit,” Charlotte murmured as we all gazed out upon the strange world we had found ourselves on. “This really isn’t on the Astral Plane. This is a real planet. This a real, alien planet! This is unbelievable!”
Genevieve glided over to one of the bubbling pools and peered into it, looking for any more signs of life.
“There’s some kind of bluish-grey algae growing on the rocks down there, and I think I can make out some small arthropods too. This planet’s alive!” she announced with glee, smiling and looking up at the alien sky.
Conjuring an astral approximation of my staff, I plunged it into a small mound of ash beside me. I watched curiously as the scarabs shot out in all directions, moving too quickly for me to get a good look at them, before scurrying back into the surrounding ash.
“These bugs can sense our presence,” I remarked. “How and why would clairvoyance evolve in insects on this world, and why would their first instinct be to flee?”
“Samantha!” Elam called out. “I think I found the Flea Market.”
We all gathered around him and looked where he was pointing. On a distant dune, we beheld the moulted carapace of a colossal insect, gleaming a brilliant, lustrous gold in the broken white light.
“That’s impossible!” Charlotte claimed. “That thing must be hundreds of meters long! No insect, no animal period could ever get that big on the Physical Plane!”
“It could be the Incarnation of some kind of Titan,” Genevieve suggested. “But… it’s dead. I can tell that even from here. It’s dead. It’s the corpse of a dead god, and now it’s being used as a swap meet with a punny name. Either whatever killed it just abandoned it, or…”
“Or is running the place,” I finished for her. “Well, we should see if we can find Emrys.”
In an instant, the world moved around us until we were at the entrance to the Flea Market. The colossal carapace was hollow inside, of course, and had been filled with a bustling city that looked like it had been created in the most ad hoc manner possible. There wasn’t a single straight street to be seen, and they converged with one another at random intervals. Stalls and buildings varied wildly in both design and materials, all imported from a plethora of different cultures across the planes.
Enormous shards of luminous glass levitated above the throng like a thousand Swords of Damocles, any or all of them seeming capable of succumbing to gravity at any moment. In the very center of the moulted husk dangled a great spiralling chrysalis or hive woven of iridescent silk, its function not being immediately apparent to me.
There must have been thousands of people there, and hundreds of merchants hawking their wares. Most of those who looked human still seemed a little off, like they were members of ethnicities that didn’t exist in our world. Some of the beings were near-human in appearance, many seemingly some kind of Fey or Seelie folk. There was even a small handful of people that weren’t remotely human at all.
The only thing they all had in common was that none were native to this world.
“Most of these people are here in person, aren’t they?” Charlotte asked.
“It would’ve been quite a feat for them to have built all of this while astral projecting,” Genevieve agreed.
“But if this place isn’t connected to the Cuniculi, then how did they get here?” Charlotte asked. “We’re on another planet, maybe even in another dimension. If getting here is beyond the Ooo’s abilities, then what sort of ungodly reality benders decided to turn it into a Flea Market?”
“Ladies, gentlemen, and any beings either too ancient and alien or too modern and alienated to settle on one or the other, come bear witness to one of the most astounding and atrocious abominations on this or any other world!” a fast-paced male voice rang out over the din of the crowd.
We turned to see a short, skinny, old-timey sort of carnival barker standing on a literal soap box, placed next to a large object draped in a black tarp.
“For the paltry price of a single three-headed coin, you can peer beneath the veil and behold with your own unbelieving eyes the mangled and mutilated monstrosity that lurks beneath!” the carnival barker continued. “But I must warn you, it is not possible to truly understand what dwells underneath without seeing it first! I cannot guarantee that you will still retain your sanity or will to live after witnessing the proverbial Mountains of Madness, for this low creature is truly like no other and serves only as a grim testament to the cruel sadism of the Lord Above! Anyone plagued by even the faintest lingering doubt as to their spiritual fortitude should not dare to even contemplate what might lie before me! But, for those brave, noble few who are truly dauntless of heart and incorrigible of spirit, I am proud to share with you this rare, unfathomable, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to witness sublime –”
The carnival barker was interrupted by a man yanking the sheet off the object beside him, revealing it to be a mirror.
“Whelp, that was a hell of an Im14andthisisdeep post, eh?” Charlotte mused.
Genevieve and I, however, were far too stunned to be amused; not by the mirror, but by the man who had unveiled it.
“It’s him, Lottie. That’s Emrys,” Genevieve whispered.
We had only seen him briefly once before, more than two-and-a-half years ago, but he was far from what anyone would call forgettable. He was tall and gaunt, with literal blue blood flowing beneath translucent skin. His long, receding hair and regal beard were pitch black, and dark miasma wafted from his eyes, nose, and mouth. He was dressed in dark sable robes with three overlapping Ouroboros’s tattooed on his forehead, with a pair of ophidian pupils lying in the spaces between them.
What stood out the most to us were the six silver Ouroboros chains bound around his wrists, ankles, waist, and neck. These were the chains the Ophion Occult Order had made to limit the power of his physical avatar, and it seemed he had not yet found a way to free himself from them.
“Are you still here?” Emrys asked in exasperation, tossing the veil back at the carnival barker in disdain.
“…Possibly,” the strange man replied evasively. “But not definitively, for purely legalistic reasons.”
“I believe Mathom-meister was quite clear when he said that your rather pitiful chicanery wasn’t welcomed here,” Emrys reminded him.
“And who is he to judge chicanery from cutthroat, capitalistic competition? Should not the Flea Market be a free market?” the charlatan demanded. “And while we’re on the topic of commerce, I don’t suppose you have enough three-headed coins to pay for all the poor souls you have so discourteously exposed to my exhibit against their will? I’d hate to have to start shaking people down to get my due.”
“Hard to believe your own circus threw you out,” Emrys said with a sardonic eye roll as he tossed him a small medallion. “You get one coin. Take it and get out of my sight.”
The charlatan flipped the coin in the air thrice, presumably to confirm it actually had three heads. Satisfied with its impossible dimensions, he shoved it into his pocket.
“It will cover the trolley ride home, at least,” he acquiesced, stepping off his soap box and turning to face his looking glass. “A shame though you can’t see the genius in my little avant-garde performance piece here, Emmy. Even I know that the monster in the mirror is often the hardest to recognize.”
As the man reached to pick up his mirror, his reflection’s arms shot through the glass and grabbed him by the wrists, pulling him in. Emrys immediately tried to chase after him, but bounced off the glass as if there was nothing supernatural about it at all.
“Bastard!” he cursed under his breath, before turning towards us and giving us a small apologetic smile. “I’m sorry you had to see that rather pathetic display. Unfortunately, the few meeting places I know of that are relatively safe from any Ophionic incursion also attract their fair share of other annoying miscreants.”
“If it didn’t attract a little bit of everything, it wouldn’t be a Flea Market, would it?” I asked rhetorically. “Thank you, Emrys, for inviting us. I’ve never been anywhere like this before.”
“And thank you for accepting. Samantha, Genevieve, it’s a pleasure to see you again, and a relief that you have not fallen under the auspices of the Ophion Occult Order,” he said with a gentle bow. “Elam, I remember you as well. Valiant but not reckless, you remained atop Pendragon Hill during my battle with the Darlings until your mistress was well out of harm’s way, and then you got the hell out of dodge yourself. Samantha couldn’t hope for a better Familiar. And Charlotte, any Witch that Samantha deemed worthy to induct into her coven is obviously someone whose acquaintance I am pleased to make. Welcome, all of you, to Mathom-meister’s Flea Market!”
“So this is where you’ve been hiding out the past two years?” Genevieve asked.
“Oh no. Far too Cosmopolitan for my tastes,” Emrys replied. “No, this is just a friendly place to meet those I consider friends – or potential friends, at least. I’d offer to show you around, but I know it’s difficult for you to astral travel for prolonged periods. Come with me to Mathom-meister’s house where we can talk freely, and we’ll discuss the situation with the Order.”
I gave him a small, single nod in response, and gestured with my staff that he should lead the way. He responded by pointing upwards, then vanished into his shadow form. When we looked up, we saw him waving at us from a balcony atop the great silken chrysalis.
We exchanged hesitant glances with one another, but ultimately followed him into the strange structure, moving from the ground to the balcony in an instant by will alone.
“How would an incarnate being get up here if they couldn’t fly or teleport?” Charlotte asked as she peered over the balcony’s teetering edge.
As though answering a summons, a humanoid creature apparated beside her in a flash of dark vapours. The hunched-back entity stood over six-and-a-half feet tall, and was clad in golden-brown erudite robes. Its squid-like skin was of a similar colour, and its entire face was a single gaping orifice that held a wispy, glowing orb in the center of its skull which I immediately recognized as its soul. A pair of long, fanged tentacles lined with pores and tendrils hung down from its head like a long, forked beard, and the seven digits shared by its two hands all bore wicked-looking talons, as did its two-toed, digitigrade feet.
“Not fly or teleport? What sort of pedestrian house guests do you think I entertain here?” the being asked wryly, its voice seeming to come from nowhere in particular.
Charlotte instinctively backed away from the creature and into the protective fold of our coven, but Emrys was quick to hold up his hand to plead for calm.
“Please, there’s no need for alarm. This is our host, Mathom-meister. He’s the only reason any of this is here in the first place,” Emrys informed us. “A year or two ago a companion of his unfortunately became one of the Darling Twin’s victims, and when he heard of my vendetta with them, he tracked me down; which is no small feat, I assure you.”
“It is for us. My people are a race of Planeswalkers. Traversing the many worlds of Creation is second nature to us,” Mathom-meister explained.
“I’ve… I’ve heard of your people, I think,” I said, softly and unsurely. “A friend of mine had an encounter with an artifact that gave her a vision of a race of strange and powerful sorcerers slaying their own god. I take it you’re the ones who slayed this Scarab Titan as well? That’s, that’s…”
“Horrifying, yes. That’s the idea,” he nodded. “You have nothing to worry about, young Witch. My people have no special interest in your world. This is purely personal. My friend is dead, and I want his murderers brought to justice; a goal which Emrys and I happen to have in common.”
“Feel free to share this information with the Ophion Occult Order, Samantha,” Emrys said. “I’d very much like for the Darling Twins to know what’s hunting them. Mathom-meister, please excuse me while I take my guests inside. We do have pressing business to discuss and their time is limited.”
The squid-cyclopes bowed gracefully, and my coven and I quickly scurried after Emrys as he led us inside through a towering hallway and into a large chamber that had been appointed as a living space.
I had thought that Emrys would want to speak with us alone, which was why I was surprised to see a young woman sitting cross-legged on a spongey yet chitinous object that I will for the sake of my sanity call a bean bag chair. Like Emrys, she was pale and blue-blooded, her choppy hair as black as coal. She wore a black robe and heavy black eyeliner, but these could not conceal the fact that she too had thin wisps of miasma emanating from her eyes.
“Is that your… daughter?” Charlotte asked, as baffled by her presence as any of us. The woman smiled warmly at the question.
“In a way. I was dead, and Emrys gave me new life. Now a part of the Outer Primordial Darkness he represents lives in me too,” she said serenely.
Hovering above her left palm were three small bluish-green orbs, lazily going around in a circle. They were translucent and held something inside them that I couldn’t make out, but the orbs themselves appeared to be melting and solidifying by the woman’s will.
“You’re Petra, aren’t you?” I asked as I cautiously approached her. “Chamberlin had mentioned that Emrys had taken an acolyte. I’m Samantha, and this is Genevieve, Elam, and Charlotte.”
“I know. The whole reason we’re here is to speak with you,” she nodded.
“The Ophion Occult Order calls me a soul-flayer, and I’m sure you were all wondering exactly what that meant before you came here,” Emrys said, standing proudly behind his acolyte. “Well, this is it. The Darkness Beyond is now a part of her, and a part of her now lives within the Darkness Beyond. She is not unchanged from what she was before, but neither has what she was been lost.”
“My interpretation of the term ‘soul-flaying’ was the complete removal of a person’s consciousness from their astral and physical bodies to be subsumed by your Darkness,” I countered. “They told me that what you’ve done with Petra here is just the limit of your power while you’re bound in their chains. Are you telling me that if your chains were broken, you wouldn’t be able to do any worse than this?”
“On my physical avatar? No. So long as my astral form remains chained and bound with the World Serpent, I cannot cleave a conscious mind from its astral substrate,” Emrys assured me.
“But that is your ultimate goal, isn’t it? Breaking the chains the Ophion Occult Order put on you is just a stepping stone to breaking the ones the gods bound you with?” Genevieve asked. “You’ve allied yourself with a literal god slayer. Do you expect us to believe that his people’s abilities aren’t something you intend to put to your own ends?”
“I don’t have an ultimate goal so much as I have a fundamental principle of opposing tyranny,” he claimed. “When I was a mere man, thousands of years ago, I was a tyrant. I believed that might made right so unquestionably that when my might began to fail me, the only thing I could think to do was to try everything in my power to restore it. This quest eventually led to me becoming one with the Darkness Beyond, which gave me not only the might I coveted but the wisdom I didn’t know I needed. It gave me perspective. It made me stronger than any human alive at that point but still let me realize how insignificant I was. It was humbling, and enlightening, and filled me both with remorse over my past actions and an impetus to use my newfound gifts to rectify them. I tried to overthrow the gods themselves which, in hindsight, was overly ambitious. I not only failed but had my soul devoured by the World Serpent, where it still resides to this day.
“I am not eager to bring the wrath of the gods down upon me once again. No, for now, I will be content to end the tyranny of the Ophion Occult Order. This is the message I’d like you to relay to them. If the Grand Adderman agrees to unbind my chains and step down from his post, I will spare his life. If he declines, I want the rest of the Order to know that I will show mercy to any who sides with me over him. I am willing to allow the Order to exist so long as it agrees to become more decentralized, democratic, and accountable. They will have to forfeit certain artifacts and individuals in their possession over to me, chief among them the Darling Twins, but I am willing to negotiate. If they aren’t, then I will overthrow the Grand Adderman by whatever means necessary and see the Order scattered to the four winds. It is entirely up to them whether or not the conflict between us escalates to full-on war. Have I made myself clear, Samantha?”
“I think so,” I said as I pensively considered everything he had said. “Why should they trust you to keep your word once your chains are broken? For that matter, why should we?”
He took a moment to consider his response, eyeing me over as though he was trying to divine something that would win over my trust.
“Samantha, you made a pact with Persephone to get your Spirit Familiar there; one where she swore by the River Styx. Is that correct?” he asked.
“It is,” I nodded.
“And in the years since, has Persephone ever broken that pact she swore to?” he asked.
“No, she hasn’t,” I replied.
“I may not be an Old God, but so long as my astral form remains bound by their chains, they have power over me,” he said. “Samantha Sumner, Hedge Witch of Harrowick Woods, I swear on the River Styx that I have spoken no lies to you today. I swear by the River Styx that I will abide by any Covenant that I and the Ophion Occult Order agree to in good faith and fair dealing that they do not break first. I swear by the River Styx that when my chains are broken, I will give you no cause to fear me or regret your trust in me.”
I gave a questioning glance to Genevieve, and then Elam, both of whom nodded in the affirmative.
“All right. An oath sworn on the River Styx is good enough for me. I’ll deliver your terms to Seneca Chamberlin,” I agreed. “I’m very grateful for the trust and respect you’ve shown for me and my coven, Emrys, though I can’t say I quite understand it. Out of all the guests that were there on the Hallow’s Eve you were summoned, why did Evie and I stand out to you?”
“The Ophion Occult Order deemed you worthy of inclusion in their cult, an offer you rejected on principle. You cheated Persephone, but you did it not to gain immortality for yourself but to save your friend from hell. You came here, thinking I could very well tear your souls asunder, but did so because you believed it was your duty to prevent needless suffering,” Emrys answered. “You are extraordinary in your craft, courage, and conscience, the latter of which especially stood out among the degenerates at that party. I do apologize if I frightened you at that event. I was a bit… irritable, given the circumstances. I’m glad we were able to meet again under more pleasant conditions.”
“So am I, Emrys,” I nodded. “I’m not sure exactly what this means or how relevant it is, but Seneca wanted me to tell you that he’s able to offer you the Dream Demon Red Ruck as a sacrifice.”
Pffft. Tell him it’s hardly a sacrifice if I’m getting rid of a boogie man for him,” he scoffed. “In fact, now that you mention it, Ruck’s one egregore that might be of more use to me alive.”
I wanted to ask him what he meant by that, but we were suddenly interrupted by the rapid pounding of a gong somewhere down below. It seemed to be an alarm of some kind, as we could hear the panicked shouting and frantic racing of people either battening down or forsaking the Flea Market altogether.
Mathom-meister apparated into the middle of the room, his facial tentacles reflexively raised in a defensive position.
“Were you outside the market?” he demanded of us.
“The portal we came through deposited us a few miles outside of the market, yes,” I admitted.
“Damn,” Emrys cursed softly, though he sounded more frustrated than angry. “Meister, it’s not their fault. I knew they weren’t experienced Planeswalkers, I could have – ”
“It doesn’t matter!” Mathom-meister interjected. “They need to leave, now!”
“Why, what’s going on?” Genevieve demanded.
“The scarabs are swarming,” Petra explained. “Don’t feel bad; it happens often enough that they’re prepared for it.”
I wanted to press for more details, but I could hear the humming of a vast winged swarm steadily encroaching upon us.
“Don’t worry. Once you leave the swarm will disperse… eventually,” Emrys told us. “We’ve said all that need be said for now. Return home, and I’ll reach out to you again shortly, Samantha.”
Again, I wanted to object, but the swarm outside was growing louder and louder, and it occurred to me that we might not be completely safe from a biblical swarm of insects that could not only sense but evidently sought out souls.
This occurred to Charlotte as well, as she was the first of us to vanish and awaken back in her body. We could all feel the weight of her reembodied soul tugging on us to return with her. Genevieve immediately grabbed hold of my right hand and Elam my left, both of them refusing to leave before I did.
I spared one final glance at Emrys, lamenting that we couldn’t have had more time.
“I’ll relay everything you said to the Order. I’ll make sure they know you’re willing to negotiate a truce,” I vowed.
He gave me a gracious nod, and just as we heard the swarm start to pelt the exterior of the market, I forced my physical eyes open and was back in my body, still safely under a willow tree in my cemetery.
I immediately looked beside me to Genevieve, and saw that she was awake as well, and then around me for Elam, who seemed to be suffering a bit of spectral whiplash from being pulled back with me so suddenly, but was otherwise all right. Sighing with relief, I turned lastly to Charlotte, and saw that she was looking down at the mediation circle in dreaded horror.
Following her gaze, I saw that the Undying Rose was gone – spent, perhaps, in exchange for our passage – and in its place was the inert, and hopefully dead, body of one of the shimmering scarabs.
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2023.06.10 21:27 A_Vespertine Souls & Scarabs at Mathom-Meister's Flea Market

“I’m sorry; we’re going to astral travel to a flea market?” Charlotte asked incredulously as she watched Genevieve and I set up a meditation circle under the shade of a towering old willow tree in my cemetery. “What if we want to buy something? How will we bring it back?”
“We’re not going there to shop, Lottie. Samantha’s finally had a vision about Emrys,” Genevieve explained.
The Veil between the Physical and Astral Planes is exceptionally weak in my cemetery, especially at night and on hallowed days. When I sleep there, my subconscious mind is highly receptive to all manner of revelations from the Spirit World. When I saw a Blood Moon rise on the night of May fifth, the same night as a penumbral eclipse, I knew that my dreams would be prophetic.
“I had a dream about him last Friday,” I expounded. “He’s at some sort of otherworldly marketplace, one that’s not connected to the Crypto Chthonic Cuniculi, so it’s mostly inaccessible to the Ophion Occult Order. In my dream, Emrys invited us to come and speak with him while we were lucid. He drew a sigil for me, the same one I’ve drawn in the middle of the mediation circle. He said that all I’d have to do is toss an Undying Rose – the earthly effigy of the rose Persephone used to steal a drop of his blood – into the sigil and it will become an astral portal to where he is.”
I held up the deep purple rose that I had cut from its bush earlier that day. I don’t know for certain where the roses came from, but my best guess is that they were made by the same Occultist who hallowed my cemetery to Persephone; Artaxerxes Crow. They have some connection to Emrys as well, since the only other time I saw someone else use one was when his avatar was summoned into the Physical Plane on Halloween 2020.
Knowing that Emrys wouldn’t dare to set foot in a place that was sacred to the Goddess who was ultimately responsible for his cosmic defeat, I gently tossed the rose into the middle of the sigil.
“He invited all of us?” Charlotte asked with an incredulous raising of her eyebrow.
“He said me and my coven. If he had just meant me or me and Genevieve he would have said that,” I replied. “You and Elam are coming too. I want as many eyes on this place as possible so that we don’t miss anything. We may not get an opportunity like this again.”
“And this is safe? Visiting some random flea market between worlds?” Charlotte asked.
“Samantha and I have visited the Underworld and come back no problem,” Genevieve reminded her. “So long as we’re bound to our bodies and Elam is bound to Samantha, we can come back anytime. Don’t worry; this is going to be a blast! Adventures like these are the best part of being a Witch.”
“The only reason you were able to go to the Underworld is because Samantha’s cemetery came with an astral portal in the back,” Charlotte countered, gesticulating in the general direction of the archway that was still partially visible behind the light spring foliage. “Other than that, when have any of us ever done anything useful with our astral projection? This is still a physical place, right? We don’t have any of our physical senses available to us when we astral project, and I get extremely disoriented trying to navigate the mortal plane with clairvoyance alone.”
“It is a physical place, but one saturated with astral energy and full of occultists and occult artifacts. It will be extremely illuminated to our clairvoyance,” I assured her. “Elam will also be there to guide us. As a ghost, he’s much more practiced at traversing the mortal plane in an astral form.”
Charlotte folded her arms over her chest and turned to look at Elam, who was leaning up against the willow tree as he waited for us.
“I don’t suppose you could go and scout the place out for us ahead of time?” she asked.
“I can’t go too far from Samantha, and definitely not across planes,” he said with a shake of his head. “But Eve’s right. Your astral bodies will be in no danger, and you can return here in an instant whenever you want.”
“But what about Emrys? Didn’t that book Leon gave you say that he’s some sort of soul-flayer?” Charlotte asked me.
“It did,” I admitted. “Keep in mind though, that book was written by his enemies. I want to hear his side of things before this conflict of theirs spirals out of control.”
“Any update from Chamberlin about that?” Elam asked.
“Yeah, he said that after he failed to purify the Sigil Sand, Ivy’s onboard with negotiating some kind of truce with Emrys,” I replied. “The Grand Adderman’s still reticent, but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s running out of options. I need to find out if Emrys will agree to peace talks.”
“Um, I get that, but I’m still kind of hung up on him potentially flaying our souls,” Charlotte reiterated.
“If Emrys and the Ophion Occult Order go to all-out war, there’ll be a lot of collateral damage and innocent souls caught in the crossfire,” Genevieve told her, gently grabbing hold of her and looking her straight in the eye. “Samantha, Elam, and I are doing this because if there’s any chance we can put an end to this before it starts, then it’s our responsibility to try. You don’t have to come with us, Lottie, but you’re still a member of our coven. Samantha and I would both feel a lot better with you there to help us.”
“Arghhh! All right, fine! I’ll come with you,” Charlotte gave in, plopping her butt down on the edge of the meditation circle. “If we’re holding hands, that will help keep our astral bodies together too, right?”
“I believe it should, yes,” I smiled at her, sitting down and reaching out for her hand.
Genevieve lit the incense and her bong filled with the entheogenic Delphi Dream, before sitting down to join us. She took a hit from the bong before passing it to me, and then to Charlotte before setting it aside out of the circle.
“Start with taking a deep breath, completely filling the lungs, and holding it for five heartbeats,” she guided us as she took hold of each of our hands. “Exhale completely, and wait five more heartbeats before breathing in again. Eyes closed, in through the nose, out through the mouth. Focus on the astral energies flowing through you with each breath, gently aligning each chakra until those energies are enough to lift you up and out of your body.”
In unison with one another, the three of us slowly breathed in and out, ignoring the material world around us and focusing upon the task at hand. Eve was first, as usual, and because we were all holding hands, Charlotte and I felt her eagerly tugging us up to speed us along.
I opened my eyes, and beheld the dull and muted Physical Plane through my clairvoyance, everything outshined by the radiant forms of my coven mates. I noted that Genevieve had eschewed her normal skyclad form when astral projecting and instead wore a cloak like Charlotte and I.
“Are you worried this place might have a no shirt, no shoes, no souls, no service policy?” I teased her.
“I just don’t want to risk a confrontation over it. I realize how important this is,” she answered. “Though I’m not actually wearing shoes, now that you mention it.”
“Christ, look at the sigil Samantha drew!” Charlotte said, pointing down at the meditation circle beneath us. The sigil wasn’t just glowing but flowing as well, churning the Aether around it in a misty, spectral vortex. “It’s an astral portal, isn’t it?”
“Oh yeah. It’s not stable, though. Good for one trip only,” Genevieve said with a delighted smile. “And Lottie, since we’re Neopagan Witches, try not to swear by Christ, okay?”
“Jesus!” she swore, both in defiance and in genuine annoyance.
“Elam! Elam, come join the circle! I don’t want to take any chances of severing our bond,” I instructed, letting go of Charlotte’s hand and waving him in between us.
Faithful Familiar that he was, he obeyed without hesitation. Despite my concerns, I think that he probably could have stayed behind if he had wanted. The fact that he was willing to follow me to an unknown otherworld without complaint really made me appreciate how devoted he was to me.
“We step in together on the count of three, got it?” I instructed, each of them nodding clearly in response. “One. Two. Three!”
We all extended our right feet into the vortex together, and the instant we did we were swept away, falling out of our own world and tumbling between the cracks of countless others. They weren’t real, I don’t think. At least, not as real as our world. They were potential realities, or realities that could have been once but now can never be, or fantasies that are so persistent in the minds of real people that in some sense or another, they become real themselves. I only saw glimmers of them, glimmers in nebulas made of primeval chaos and uttermost void.
It was outside of time, that place we travelled through, or at least we had no sense of it there. Our souls were haphazardly spat out upon a surreal landscape of earth, sea, and fire. Hilly plains of volcanic ash, incandescent calderas of lava and bubbling hot springs all intermeshed in a chaotic mosaic that didn’t seem to abide by any laws of geology or geography that I was familiar with. A strong but slow wind pushed fractal formations of dark silver clouds through a pale silver sky, illuminated by a single white orb which could have been either a bright moon or a faint sun.
While our spectral feet left no trace upon the ash we now stood upon, our presence nonetheless elicited a response from some of the local fauna. We were just able to catch a glimpse of some kind of shimmering scarabs burrowing themselves into the ash to escape the four otherworldly ghosts that had invaded their territory.
“Holy shit,” Charlotte murmured as we all gazed out upon the strange world we had found ourselves on. “This really isn’t on the Astral Plane. This is a real planet. This a real, alien planet! This is unbelievable!”
Genevieve glided over to one of the bubbling pools and peered into it, looking for any more signs of life.
“There’s some kind of bluish-grey algae growing on the rocks down there, and I think I can make out some small arthropods too. This planet’s alive!” she announced with glee, smiling and looking up at the alien sky.
Conjuring an astral approximation of my staff, I plunged it into a small mound of ash beside me. I watched curiously as the scarabs shot out in all directions, moving too quickly for me to get a good look at them, before scurrying back into the surrounding ash.
“These bugs can sense our presence,” I remarked. “How and why would clairvoyance evolve in insects on this world, and why would their first instinct be to flee?”
“Samantha!” Elam called out. “I think I found the Flea Market.”
We all gathered around him and looked where he was pointing. On a distant dune, we beheld the moulted carapace of a colossal insect, gleaming a brilliant, lustrous gold in the broken white light.
“That’s impossible!” Charlotte claimed. “That thing must be hundreds of meters long! No insect, no animal period could ever get that big on the Physical Plane!”
“It could be the Incarnation of some kind of Titan,” Genevieve suggested. “But… it’s dead. I can tell that even from here. It’s dead. It’s the corpse of a dead god, and now it’s being used as a swap meet with a punny name. Either whatever killed it just abandoned it, or…”
“Or is running the place,” I finished for her. “Well, we should see if we can find Emrys.”
In an instant, the world moved around us until we were at the entrance to the Flea Market. The colossal carapace was hollow inside, of course, and had been filled with a bustling city that looked like it had been created in the most ad hoc manner possible. There wasn’t a single straight street to be seen, and they converged with one another at random intervals. Stalls and buildings varied wildly in both design and materials, all imported from a plethora of different cultures across the planes.
Enormous shards of luminous glass levitated above the throng like a thousand Swords of Damocles, any or all of them seeming capable of succumbing to gravity at any moment. In the very center of the moulted husk dangled a great spiralling chrysalis or hive woven of iridescent silk, its function not being immediately apparent to me.
There must have been thousands of people there, and hundreds of merchants hawking their wares. Most of those who looked human still seemed a little off, like they were members of ethnicities that didn’t exist in our world. Some of the beings were near-human in appearance, many seemingly some kind of Fey or Seelie folk. There was even a small handful of people that weren’t remotely human at all.
The only thing they all had in common was that none were native to this world.
“Most of these people are here in person, aren’t they?” Charlotte asked.
“It would’ve been quite a feat for them to have built all of this while astral projecting,” Genevieve agreed.
“But if this place isn’t connected to the Cuniculi, then how did they get here?” Charlotte asked. “We’re on another planet, maybe even in another dimension. If getting here is beyond the Ooo’s abilities, then what sort of ungodly reality benders decided to turn it into a Flea Market?”
“Ladies, gentlemen, and any beings either too ancient and alien or too modern and alienated to settle on one or the other, come bear witness to one of the most astounding and atrocious abominations on this or any other world!” a fast-paced male voice rang out over the din of the crowd.
We turned to see a short, skinny, old-timey sort of carnival barker standing on a literal soap box, placed next to a large object draped in a black tarp.
“For the paltry price of a single three-headed coin, you can peer beneath the veil and behold with your own unbelieving eyes the mangled and mutilated monstrosity that lurks beneath!” the carnival barker continued. “But I must warn you, it is not possible to truly understand what dwells underneath without seeing it first! I cannot guarantee that you will still retain your sanity or will to live after witnessing the proverbial Mountains of Madness, for this low creature is truly like no other and serves only as a grim testament to the cruel sadism of the Lord Above! Anyone plagued by even the faintest lingering doubt as to their spiritual fortitude should not dare to even contemplate what might lie before me! But, for those brave, noble few who are truly dauntless of heart and incorrigible of spirit, I am proud to share with you this rare, unfathomable, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to witness sublime –”
The carnival barker was interrupted by a man yanking the sheet off the object beside him, revealing it to be a mirror.
“Whelp, that was a hell of an Im14andthisisdeep post, eh?” Charlotte mused.
Genevieve and I, however, were far too stunned to be amused; not by the mirror, but by the man who had unveiled it.
“It’s him, Lottie. That’s Emrys,” Genevieve whispered.
We had only seen him briefly once before, more than two-and-a-half years ago, but he was far from what anyone would call forgettable. He was tall and gaunt, with literal blue blood flowing beneath translucent skin. His long, receding hair and regal beard were pitch black, and dark miasma wafted from his eyes, nose, and mouth. He was dressed in dark sable robes with three overlapping Ouroboros’s tattooed on his forehead, with a pair of ophidian pupils lying in the spaces between them.
What stood out the most to us were the six silver Ouroboros chains bound around his wrists, ankles, waist, and neck. These were the chains the Ophion Occult Order had made to limit the power of his physical avatar, and it seemed he had not yet found a way to free himself from them.
“Are you still here?” Emrys asked in exasperation, tossing the veil back at the carnival barker in disdain.
“…Possibly,” the strange man replied evasively. “But not definitively, for purely legalistic reasons.”
“I believe Mathom-meister was quite clear when he said that your rather pitiful chicanery wasn’t welcomed here,” Emrys reminded him.
“And who is he to judge chicanery from cutthroat, capitalistic competition? Should not the Flea Market be a free market?” the charlatan demanded. “And while we’re on the topic of commerce, I don’t suppose you have enough three-headed coins to pay for all the poor souls you have so discourteously exposed to my exhibit against their will? I’d hate to have to start shaking people down to get my due.”
“Hard to believe your own circus threw you out,” Emrys said with a sardonic eye roll as he tossed him a small medallion. “You get one coin. Take it and get out of my sight.”
The charlatan flipped the coin in the air thrice, presumably to confirm it actually had three heads. Satisfied with its impossible dimensions, he shoved it into his pocket.
“It will cover the trolley ride home, at least,” he acquiesced, stepping off his soap box and turning to face his looking glass. “A shame though you can’t see the genius in my little avant-garde performance piece here, Emmy. Even I know that the monster in the mirror is often the hardest to recognize.”
As the man reached to pick up his mirror, his reflection’s arms shot through the glass and grabbed him by the wrists, pulling him in. Emrys immediately tried to chase after him, but bounced off the glass as if there was nothing supernatural about it at all.
“Bastard!” he cursed under his breath, before turning towards us and giving us a small apologetic smile. “I’m sorry you had to see that rather pathetic display. Unfortunately, the few meeting places I know of that are relatively safe from any Ophionic incursion also attract their fair share of other annoying miscreants.”
“If it didn’t attract a little bit of everything, it wouldn’t be a Flea Market, would it?” I asked rhetorically. “Thank you, Emrys, for inviting us. I’ve never been anywhere like this before.”
“And thank you for accepting. Samantha, Genevieve, it’s a pleasure to see you again, and a relief that you have not fallen under the auspices of the Ophion Occult Order,” he said with a gentle bow. “Elam, I remember you as well. Valiant but not reckless, you remained atop Pendragon Hill during my battle with the Darlings until your mistress was well out of harm’s way, and then you got the hell out of dodge yourself. Samantha couldn’t hope for a better Familiar. And Charlotte, any Witch that Samantha deemed worthy to induct into her coven is obviously someone whose acquaintance I am pleased to make. Welcome, all of you, to Mathom-meister’s Flea Market!”
“So this is where you’ve been hiding out the past two years?” Genevieve asked.
“Oh no. Far too Cosmopolitan for my tastes,” Emrys replied. “No, this is just a friendly place to meet those I consider friends – or potential friends, at least. I’d offer to show you around, but I know it’s difficult for you to astral travel for prolonged periods. Come with me to Mathom-meister’s house where we can talk freely, and we’ll discuss the situation with the Order.”
I gave him a small, single nod in response, and gestured with my staff that he should lead the way. He responded by pointing upwards, then vanished into his shadow form. When we looked up, we saw him waving at us from a balcony atop the great silken chrysalis.
We exchanged hesitant glances with one another, but ultimately followed him into the strange structure, moving from the ground to the balcony in an instant by will alone.
“How would an incarnate being get up here if they couldn’t fly or teleport?” Charlotte asked as she peered over the balcony’s teetering edge.
As though answering a summons, a humanoid creature apparated beside her in a flash of dark vapours. The hunched-back entity stood over six-and-a-half feet tall, and was clad in golden-brown erudite robes. Its squid-like skin was of a similar colour, and its entire face was a single gaping orifice that held a wispy, glowing orb in the center of its skull which I immediately recognized as its soul. A pair of long, fanged tentacles lined with pores and tendrils hung down from its head like a long, forked beard, and the seven digits shared by its two hands all bore wicked-looking talons, as did its two-toed, digitigrade feet.
“Not fly or teleport? What sort of pedestrian house guests do you think I entertain here?” the being asked wryly, its voice seeming to come from nowhere in particular.
Charlotte instinctively backed away from the creature and into the protective fold of our coven, but Emrys was quick to hold up his hand to plead for calm.
“Please, there’s no need for alarm. This is our host, Mathom-meister. He’s the only reason any of this is here in the first place,” Emrys informed us. “A year or two ago a companion of his unfortunately became one of the Darling Twin’s victims, and when he heard of my vendetta with them, he tracked me down; which is no small feat, I assure you.”
“It is for us. My people are a race of Planeswalkers. Traversing the many worlds of Creation is second nature to us,” Mathom-meister explained.
“I’ve… I’ve heard of your people, I think,” I said, softly and unsurely. “A friend of mine had an encounter with an artifact that gave her a vision of a race of strange and powerful sorcerers slaying their own god. I take it you’re the ones who slayed this Scarab Titan as well? That’s, that’s…”
“Horrifying, yes. That’s the idea,” he nodded. “You have nothing to worry about, young Witch. My people have no special interest in your world. This is purely personal. My friend is dead, and I want his murderers brought to justice; a goal which Emrys and I happen to have in common.”
“Feel free to share this information with the Ophion Occult Order, Samantha,” Emrys said. “I’d very much like for the Darling Twins to know what’s hunting them. Mathom-meister, please excuse me while I take my guests inside. We do have pressing business to discuss and their time is limited.”
The squid-cyclopes bowed gracefully, and my coven and I quickly scurried after Emrys as he led us inside through a towering hallway and into a large chamber that had been appointed as a living space.
I had thought that Emrys would want to speak with us alone, which was why I was surprised to see a young woman sitting cross-legged on a spongey yet chitinous object that I will for the sake of my sanity call a bean bag chair. Like Emrys, she was pale and blue-blooded, her choppy hair as black as coal. She wore a black robe and heavy black eyeliner, but these could not conceal the fact that she too had thin wisps of miasma emanating from her eyes.
“Is that your… daughter?” Charlotte asked, as baffled by her presence as any of us. The woman smiled warmly at the question.
“In a way. I was dead, and Emrys gave me new life. Now a part of the Outer Primordial Darkness he represents lives in me too,” she said serenely.
Hovering above her left palm were three small bluish-green orbs, lazily going around in a circle. They were translucent and held something inside them that I couldn’t make out, but the orbs themselves appeared to be melting and solidifying by the woman’s will.
“You’re Petra, aren’t you?” I asked as I cautiously approached her. “Chamberlin had mentioned that Emrys had taken an acolyte. I’m Samantha, and this is Genevieve, Elam, and Charlotte.”
“I know. The whole reason we’re here is to speak with you,” she nodded.
“The Ophion Occult Order calls me a soul-flayer, and I’m sure you were all wondering exactly what that meant before you came here,” Emrys said, standing proudly behind his acolyte. “Well, this is it. The Darkness Beyond is now a part of her, and a part of her now lives within the Darkness Beyond. She is not unchanged from what she was before, but neither has what she was been lost.”
“My interpretation of the term ‘soul-flaying’ was the complete removal of a person’s consciousness from their astral and physical bodies to be subsumed by your Darkness,” I countered. “They told me that what you’ve done with Petra here is just the limit of your power while you’re bound in their chains. Are you telling me that if your chains were broken, you wouldn’t be able to do any worse than this?”
“On my physical avatar? No. So long as my astral form remains chained and bound with the World Serpent, I cannot cleave a conscious mind from its astral substrate,” Emrys assured me.
“But that is your ultimate goal, isn’t it? Breaking the chains the Ophion Occult Order put on you is just a stepping stone to breaking the ones the gods bound you with?” Genevieve asked. “You’ve allied yourself with a literal god slayer. Do you expect us to believe that his people’s abilities aren’t something you intend to put to your own ends?”
“I don’t have an ultimate goal so much as I have a fundamental principle of opposing tyranny,” he claimed. “When I was a mere man, thousands of years ago, I was a tyrant. I believed that might made right so unquestionably that when my might began to fail me, the only thing I could think to do was to try everything in my power to restore it. This quest eventually led to me becoming one with the Darkness Beyond, which gave me not only the might I coveted but the wisdom I didn’t know I needed. It gave me perspective. It made me stronger than any human alive at that point but still let me realize how insignificant I was. It was humbling, and enlightening, and filled me both with remorse over my past actions and an impetus to use my newfound gifts to rectify them. I tried to overthrow the gods themselves which, in hindsight, was overly ambitious. I not only failed but had my soul devoured by the World Serpent, where it still resides to this day.
“I am not eager to bring the wrath of the gods down upon me once again. No, for now, I will be content to end the tyranny of the Ophion Occult Order. This is the message I’d like you to relay to them. If the Grand Adderman agrees to unbind my chains and step down from his post, I will spare his life. If he declines, I want the rest of the Order to know that I will show mercy to any who sides with me over him. I am willing to allow the Order to exist so long as it agrees to become more decentralized, democratic, and accountable. They will have to forfeit certain artifacts and individuals in their possession over to me, chief among them the Darling Twins, but I am willing to negotiate. If they aren’t, then I will overthrow the Grand Adderman by whatever means necessary and see the Order scattered to the four winds. It is entirely up to them whether or not the conflict between us escalates to full-on war. Have I made myself clear, Samantha?”
“I think so,” I said as I pensively considered everything he had said. “Why should they trust you to keep your word once your chains are broken? For that matter, why should we?”
He took a moment to consider his response, eyeing me over as though he was trying to divine something that would win over my trust.
“Samantha, you made a pact with Persephone to get your Spirit Familiar there; one where she swore by the River Styx. Is that correct?” he asked.
“It is,” I nodded.
“And in the years since, has Persephone ever broken that pact she swore to?” he asked.
“No, she hasn’t,” I replied.
“I may not be an Old God, but so long as my astral form remains bound by their chains, they have power over me,” he said. “Samantha Sumner, Hedge Witch of Harrowick Woods, I swear on the River Styx that I have spoken no lies to you today. I swear by the River Styx that I will abide by any Covenant that I and the Ophion Occult Order agree to in good faith and fair dealing that they do not break first. I swear by the River Styx that when my chains are broken, I will give you no cause to fear me or regret your trust in me.”
I gave a questioning glance to Genevieve, and then Elam, both of whom nodded in the affirmative.
“All right. An oath sworn on the River Styx is good enough for me. I’ll deliver your terms to Seneca Chamberlin,” I agreed. “I’m very grateful for the trust and respect you’ve shown for me and my coven, Emrys, though I can’t say I quite understand it. Out of all the guests that were there on the Hallow’s Eve you were summoned, why did Evie and I stand out to you?”
“The Ophion Occult Order deemed you worthy of inclusion in their cult, an offer you rejected on principle. You cheated Persephone, but you did it not to gain immortality for yourself but to save your friend from hell. You came here, thinking I could very well tear your souls asunder, but did so because you believed it was your duty to prevent needless suffering,” Emrys answered. “You are extraordinary in your craft, courage, and conscience, the latter of which especially stood out among the degenerates at that party. I do apologize if I frightened you at that event. I was a bit… irritable, given the circumstances. I’m glad we were able to meet again under more pleasant conditions.”
“So am I, Emrys,” I nodded. “I’m not sure exactly what this means or how relevant it is, but Seneca wanted me to tell you that he’s able to offer you the Dream Demon Red Ruck as a sacrifice.”
Pffft. Tell him it’s hardly a sacrifice if I’m getting rid of a boogie man for him,” he scoffed. “In fact, now that you mention it, Ruck’s one egregore that might be of more use to me alive.”
I wanted to ask him what he meant by that, but we were suddenly interrupted by the rapid pounding of a gong somewhere down below. It seemed to be an alarm of some kind, as we could hear the panicked shouting and frantic racing of people either battening down or forsaking the Flea Market altogether.
Mathom-meister apparated into the middle of the room, his facial tentacles reflexively raised in a defensive position.
“Were you outside the market?” he demanded of us.
“The portal we came through deposited us a few miles outside of the market, yes,” I admitted.
“Damn,” Emrys cursed softly, though he sounded more frustrated than angry. “Meister, it’s not their fault. I knew they weren’t experienced Planeswalkers, I could have – ”
“It doesn’t matter!” Mathom-meister interjected. “They need to leave, now!”
“Why, what’s going on?” Genevieve demanded.
“The scarabs are swarming,” Petra explained. “Don’t feel bad; it happens often enough that they’re prepared for it.”
I wanted to press for more details, but I could hear the humming of a vast winged swarm steadily encroaching upon us.
“Don’t worry. Once you leave the swarm will disperse… eventually,” Emrys told us. “We’ve said all that need be said for now. Return home, and I’ll reach out to you again shortly, Samantha.”
Again, I wanted to object, but the swarm outside was growing louder and louder, and it occurred to me that we might not be completely safe from a biblical swarm of insects that could not only sense but evidently sought out souls.
This occurred to Charlotte as well, as she was the first of us to vanish and awaken back in her body. We could all feel the weight of her reembodied soul tugging on us to return with her. Genevieve immediately grabbed hold of my right hand and Elam my left, both of them refusing to leave before I did.
I spared one final glance at Emrys, lamenting that we couldn’t have had more time.
“I’ll relay everything you said to the Order. I’ll make sure they know you’re willing to negotiate a truce,” I vowed.
He gave me a gracious nod, and just as we heard the swarm start to pelt the exterior of the market, I forced my physical eyes open and was back in my body, still safely under a willow tree in my cemetery.
I immediately looked beside me to Genevieve, and saw that she was awake as well, and then around me for Elam, who seemed to be suffering a bit of spectral whiplash from being pulled back with me so suddenly, but was otherwise all right. Sighing with relief, I turned lastly to Charlotte, and saw that she was looking down at the mediation circle in dreaded horror.
Following her gaze, I saw that the Undying Rose was gone – spent, perhaps, in exchange for our passage – and in its place was the inert, and hopefully dead, body of one of the shimmering scarabs.
_____________________
By The Vesper's Bell
submitted by A_Vespertine to ChillingApp [link] [comments]


2023.06.10 21:25 A_Vespertine Souls & Scarabs at Mathom-Meister's Flea Market

“I’m sorry; we’re going to astral travel to a flea market?” Charlotte asked incredulously as she watched Genevieve and I set up a meditation circle under the shade of a towering old willow tree in my cemetery. “What if we want to buy something? How will we bring it back?”
“We’re not going there to shop, Lottie. Samantha’s finally had a vision about Emrys,” Genevieve explained.
The Veil between the Physical and Astral Planes is exceptionally weak in my cemetery, especially at night and on hallowed days. When I sleep there, my subconscious mind is highly receptive to all manner of revelations from the Spirit World. When I saw a Blood Moon rise on the night of May fifth, the same night as a penumbral eclipse, I knew that my dreams would be prophetic.
“I had a dream about him last Friday,” I expounded. “He’s at some sort of otherworldly marketplace, one that’s not connected to the Crypto Chthonic Cuniculi, so it’s mostly inaccessible to the Ophion Occult Order. In my dream, Emrys invited us to come and speak with him while we were lucid. He drew a sigil for me, the same one I’ve drawn in the middle of the mediation circle. He said that all I’d have to do is toss an Undying Rose – the earthly effigy of the rose Persephone used to steal a drop of his blood – into the sigil and it will become an astral portal to where he is.”
I held up the deep purple rose that I had cut from its bush earlier that day. I don’t know for certain where the roses came from, but my best guess is that they were made by the same Occultist who hallowed my cemetery to Persephone; Artaxerxes Crow. They have some connection to Emrys as well, since the only other time I saw someone else use one was when his avatar was summoned into the Physical Plane on Halloween 2020.
Knowing that Emrys wouldn’t dare to set foot in a place that was sacred to the Goddess who was ultimately responsible for his cosmic defeat, I gently tossed the rose into the middle of the sigil.
“He invited all of us?” Charlotte asked with an incredulous raising of her eyebrow.
“He said me and my coven. If he had just meant me or me and Genevieve he would have said that,” I replied. “You and Elam are coming too. I want as many eyes on this place as possible so that we don’t miss anything. We may not get an opportunity like this again.”
“And this is safe? Visiting some random flea market between worlds?” Charlotte asked.
“Samantha and I have visited the Underworld and come back no problem,” Genevieve reminded her. “So long as we’re bound to our bodies and Elam is bound to Samantha, we can come back anytime. Don’t worry; this is going to be a blast! Adventures like these are the best part of being a Witch.”
“The only reason you were able to go to the Underworld is because Samantha’s cemetery came with an astral portal in the back,” Charlotte countered, gesticulating in the general direction of the archway that was still partially visible behind the light spring foliage. “Other than that, when have any of us ever done anything useful with our astral projection? This is still a physical place, right? We don’t have any of our physical senses available to us when we astral project, and I get extremely disoriented trying to navigate the mortal plane with clairvoyance alone.”
“It is a physical place, but one saturated with astral energy and full of occultists and occult artifacts. It will be extremely illuminated to our clairvoyance,” I assured her. “Elam will also be there to guide us. As a ghost, he’s much more practiced at traversing the mortal plane in an astral form.”
Charlotte folded her arms over her chest and turned to look at Elam, who was leaning up against the willow tree as he waited for us.
“I don’t suppose you could go and scout the place out for us ahead of time?” she asked.
“I can’t go too far from Samantha, and definitely not across planes,” he said with a shake of his head. “But Eve’s right. Your astral bodies will be in no danger, and you can return here in an instant whenever you want.”
“But what about Emrys? Didn’t that book Leon gave you say that he’s some sort of soul-flayer?” Charlotte asked me.
“It did,” I admitted. “Keep in mind though, that book was written by his enemies. I want to hear his side of things before this conflict of theirs spirals out of control.”
“Any update from Chamberlin about that?” Elam asked.
“Yeah, he said that after he failed to purify the Sigil Sand, Ivy’s onboard with negotiating some kind of truce with Emrys,” I replied. “The Grand Adderman’s still reticent, but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s running out of options. I need to find out if Emrys will agree to peace talks.”
“Um, I get that, but I’m still kind of hung up on him potentially flaying our souls,” Charlotte reiterated.
“If Emrys and the Ophion Occult Order go to all-out war, there’ll be a lot of collateral damage and innocent souls caught in the crossfire,” Genevieve told her, gently grabbing hold of her and looking her straight in the eye. “Samantha, Elam, and I are doing this because if there’s any chance we can put an end to this before it starts, then it’s our responsibility to try. You don’t have to come with us, Lottie, but you’re still a member of our coven. Samantha and I would both feel a lot better with you there to help us.”
“Arghhh! All right, fine! I’ll come with you,” Charlotte gave in, plopping her butt down on the edge of the meditation circle. “If we’re holding hands, that will help keep our astral bodies together too, right?”
“I believe it should, yes,” I smiled at her, sitting down and reaching out for her hand.
Genevieve lit the incense and her bong filled with the entheogenic Delphi Dream, before sitting down to join us. She took a hit from the bong before passing it to me, and then to Charlotte before setting it aside out of the circle.
“Start with taking a deep breath, completely filling the lungs, and holding it for five heartbeats,” she guided us as she took hold of each of our hands. “Exhale completely, and wait five more heartbeats before breathing in again. Eyes closed, in through the nose, out through the mouth. Focus on the astral energies flowing through you with each breath, gently aligning each chakra until those energies are enough to lift you up and out of your body.”
In unison with one another, the three of us slowly breathed in and out, ignoring the material world around us and focusing upon the task at hand. Eve was first, as usual, and because we were all holding hands, Charlotte and I felt her eagerly tugging us up to speed us along.
I opened my eyes, and beheld the dull and muted Physical Plane through my clairvoyance, everything outshined by the radiant forms of my coven mates. I noted that Genevieve had eschewed her normal skyclad form when astral projecting and instead wore a cloak like Charlotte and I.
“Are you worried this place might have a no shirt, no shoes, no souls, no service policy?” I teased her.
“I just don’t want to risk a confrontation over it. I realize how important this is,” she answered. “Though I’m not actually wearing shoes, now that you mention it.”
“Christ, look at the sigil Samantha drew!” Charlotte said, pointing down at the meditation circle beneath us. The sigil wasn’t just glowing but flowing as well, churning the Aether around it in a misty, spectral vortex. “It’s an astral portal, isn’t it?”
“Oh yeah. It’s not stable, though. Good for one trip only,” Genevieve said with a delighted smile. “And Lottie, since we’re Neopagan Witches, try not to swear by Christ, okay?”
“Jesus!” she swore, both in defiance and in genuine annoyance.
“Elam! Elam, come join the circle! I don’t want to take any chances of severing our bond,” I instructed, letting go of Charlotte’s hand and waving him in between us.
Faithful Familiar that he was, he obeyed without hesitation. Despite my concerns, I think that he probably could have stayed behind if he had wanted. The fact that he was willing to follow me to an unknown otherworld without complaint really made me appreciate how devoted he was to me.
“We step in together on the count of three, got it?” I instructed, each of them nodding clearly in response. “One. Two. Three!”
We all extended our right feet into the vortex together, and the instant we did we were swept away, falling out of our own world and tumbling between the cracks of countless others. They weren’t real, I don’t think. At least, not as real as our world. They were potential realities, or realities that could have been once but now can never be, or fantasies that are so persistent in the minds of real people that in some sense or another, they become real themselves. I only saw glimmers of them, glimmers in nebulas made of primeval chaos and uttermost void.
It was outside of time, that place we travelled through, or at least we had no sense of it there. Our souls were haphazardly spat out upon a surreal landscape of earth, sea, and fire. Hilly plains of volcanic ash, incandescent calderas of lava and bubbling hot springs all intermeshed in a chaotic mosaic that didn’t seem to abide by any laws of geology or geography that I was familiar with. A strong but slow wind pushed fractal formations of dark silver clouds through a pale silver sky, illuminated by a single white orb which could have been either a bright moon or a faint sun.
While our spectral feet left no trace upon the ash we now stood upon, our presence nonetheless elicited a response from some of the local fauna. We were just able to catch a glimpse of some kind of shimmering scarabs burrowing themselves into the ash to escape the four otherworldly ghosts that had invaded their territory.
“Holy shit,” Charlotte murmured as we all gazed out upon the strange world we had found ourselves on. “This really isn’t on the Astral Plane. This is a real planet. This a real, alien planet! This is unbelievable!”
Genevieve glided over to one of the bubbling pools and peered into it, looking for any more signs of life.
“There’s some kind of bluish-grey algae growing on the rocks down there, and I think I can make out some small arthropods too. This planet’s alive!” she announced with glee, smiling and looking up at the alien sky.
Conjuring an astral approximation of my staff, I plunged it into a small mound of ash beside me. I watched curiously as the scarabs shot out in all directions, moving too quickly for me to get a good look at them, before scurrying back into the surrounding ash.
“These bugs can sense our presence,” I remarked. “How and why would clairvoyance evolve in insects on this world, and why would their first instinct be to flee?”
“Samantha!” Elam called out. “I think I found the Flea Market.”
We all gathered around him and looked where he was pointing. On a distant dune, we beheld the moulted carapace of a colossal insect, gleaming a brilliant, lustrous gold in the broken white light.
“That’s impossible!” Charlotte claimed. “That thing must be hundreds of meters long! No insect, no animal period could ever get that big on the Physical Plane!”
“It could be the Incarnation of some kind of Titan,” Genevieve suggested. “But… it’s dead. I can tell that even from here. It’s dead. It’s the corpse of a dead god, and now it’s being used as a swap meet with a punny name. Either whatever killed it just abandoned it, or…”
“Or is running the place,” I finished for her. “Well, we should see if we can find Emrys.”
In an instant, the world moved around us until we were at the entrance to the Flea Market. The colossal carapace was hollow inside, of course, and had been filled with a bustling city that looked like it had been created in the most ad hoc manner possible. There wasn’t a single straight street to be seen, and they converged with one another at random intervals. Stalls and buildings varied wildly in both design and materials, all imported from a plethora of different cultures across the planes.
Enormous shards of luminous glass levitated above the throng like a thousand Swords of Damocles, any or all of them seeming capable of succumbing to gravity at any moment. In the very center of the moulted husk dangled a great spiralling chrysalis or hive woven of iridescent silk, its function not being immediately apparent to me.
There must have been thousands of people there, and hundreds of merchants hawking their wares. Most of those who looked human still seemed a little off, like they were members of ethnicities that didn’t exist in our world. Some of the beings were near-human in appearance, many seemingly some kind of Fey or Seelie folk. There was even a small handful of people that weren’t remotely human at all.
The only thing they all had in common was that none were native to this world.
“Most of these people are here in person, aren’t they?” Charlotte asked.
“It would’ve been quite a feat for them to have built all of this while astral projecting,” Genevieve agreed.
“But if this place isn’t connected to the Cuniculi, then how did they get here?” Charlotte asked. “We’re on another planet, maybe even in another dimension. If getting here is beyond the Ooo’s abilities, then what sort of ungodly reality benders decided to turn it into a Flea Market?”
“Ladies, gentlemen, and any beings either too ancient and alien or too modern and alienated to settle on one or the other, come bear witness to one of the most astounding and atrocious abominations on this or any other world!” a fast-paced male voice rang out over the din of the crowd.
We turned to see a short, skinny, old-timey sort of carnival barker standing on a literal soap box, placed next to a large object draped in a black tarp.
“For the paltry price of a single three-headed coin, you can peer beneath the veil and behold with your own unbelieving eyes the mangled and mutilated monstrosity that lurks beneath!” the carnival barker continued. “But I must warn you, it is not possible to truly understand what dwells underneath without seeing it first! I cannot guarantee that you will still retain your sanity or will to live after witnessing the proverbial Mountains of Madness, for this low creature is truly like no other and serves only as a grim testament to the cruel sadism of the Lord Above! Anyone plagued by even the faintest lingering doubt as to their spiritual fortitude should not dare to even contemplate what might lie before me! But, for those brave, noble few who are truly dauntless of heart and incorrigible of spirit, I am proud to share with you this rare, unfathomable, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to witness sublime –”
The carnival barker was interrupted by a man yanking the sheet off the object beside him, revealing it to be a mirror.
“Whelp, that was a hell of an Im14andthisisdeep post, eh?” Charlotte mused.
Genevieve and I, however, were far too stunned to be amused; not by the mirror, but by the man who had unveiled it.
“It’s him, Lottie. That’s Emrys,” Genevieve whispered.
We had only seen him briefly once before, more than two-and-a-half years ago, but he was far from what anyone would call forgettable. He was tall and gaunt, with literal blue blood flowing beneath translucent skin. His long, receding hair and regal beard were pitch black, and dark miasma wafted from his eyes, nose, and mouth. He was dressed in dark sable robes with three overlapping Ouroboros’s tattooed on his forehead, with a pair of ophidian pupils lying in the spaces between them.
What stood out the most to us were the six silver Ouroboros chains bound around his wrists, ankles, waist, and neck. These were the chains the Ophion Occult Order had made to limit the power of his physical avatar, and it seemed he had not yet found a way to free himself from them.
“Are you still here?” Emrys asked in exasperation, tossing the veil back at the carnival barker in disdain.
“…Possibly,” the strange man replied evasively. “But not definitively, for purely legalistic reasons.”
“I believe Mathom-meister was quite clear when he said that your rather pitiful chicanery wasn’t welcomed here,” Emrys reminded him.
“And who is he to judge chicanery from cutthroat, capitalistic competition? Should not the Flea Market be a free market?” the charlatan demanded. “And while we’re on the topic of commerce, I don’t suppose you have enough three-headed coins to pay for all the poor souls you have so discourteously exposed to my exhibit against their will? I’d hate to have to start shaking people down to get my due.”
“Hard to believe your own circus threw you out,” Emrys said with a sardonic eye roll as he tossed him a small medallion. “You get one coin. Take it and get out of my sight.”
The charlatan flipped the coin in the air thrice, presumably to confirm it actually had three heads. Satisfied with its impossible dimensions, he shoved it into his pocket.
“It will cover the trolley ride home, at least,” he acquiesced, stepping off his soap box and turning to face his looking glass. “A shame though you can’t see the genius in my little avant-garde performance piece here, Emmy. Even I know that the monster in the mirror is often the hardest to recognize.”
As the man reached to pick up his mirror, his reflection’s arms shot through the glass and grabbed him by the wrists, pulling him in. Emrys immediately tried to chase after him, but bounced off the glass as if there was nothing supernatural about it at all.
“Bastard!” he cursed under his breath, before turning towards us and giving us a small apologetic smile. “I’m sorry you had to see that rather pathetic display. Unfortunately, the few meeting places I know of that are relatively safe from any Ophionic incursion also attract their fair share of other annoying miscreants.”
“If it didn’t attract a little bit of everything, it wouldn’t be a Flea Market, would it?” I asked rhetorically. “Thank you, Emrys, for inviting us. I’ve never been anywhere like this before.”
“And thank you for accepting. Samantha, Genevieve, it’s a pleasure to see you again, and a relief that you have not fallen under the auspices of the Ophion Occult Order,” he said with a gentle bow. “Elam, I remember you as well. Valiant but not reckless, you remained atop Pendragon Hill during my battle with the Darlings until your mistress was well out of harm’s way, and then you got the hell out of dodge yourself. Samantha couldn’t hope for a better Familiar. And Charlotte, any Witch that Samantha deemed worthy to induct into her coven is obviously someone whose acquaintance I am pleased to make. Welcome, all of you, to Mathom-meister’s Flea Market!”
“So this is where you’ve been hiding out the past two years?” Genevieve asked.
“Oh no. Far too Cosmopolitan for my tastes,” Emrys replied. “No, this is just a friendly place to meet those I consider friends – or potential friends, at least. I’d offer to show you around, but I know it’s difficult for you to astral travel for prolonged periods. Come with me to Mathom-meister’s house where we can talk freely, and we’ll discuss the situation with the Order.”
I gave him a small, single nod in response, and gestured with my staff that he should lead the way. He responded by pointing upwards, then vanished into his shadow form. When we looked up, we saw him waving at us from a balcony atop the great silken chrysalis.
We exchanged hesitant glances with one another, but ultimately followed him into the strange structure, moving from the ground to the balcony in an instant by will alone.
“How would an incarnate being get up here if they couldn’t fly or teleport?” Charlotte asked as she peered over the balcony’s teetering edge.
As though answering a summons, a humanoid creature apparated beside her in a flash of dark vapours. The hunched-back entity stood over six-and-a-half feet tall, and was clad in golden-brown erudite robes. Its squid-like skin was of a similar colour, and its entire face was a single gaping orifice that held a wispy, glowing orb in the center of its skull which I immediately recognized as its soul. A pair of long, fanged tentacles lined with pores and tendrils hung down from its head like a long, forked beard, and the seven digits shared by its two hands all bore wicked-looking talons, as did its two-toed, digitigrade feet.
“Not fly or teleport? What sort of pedestrian house guests do you think I entertain here?” the being asked wryly, its voice seeming to come from nowhere in particular.
Charlotte instinctively backed away from the creature and into the protective fold of our coven, but Emrys was quick to hold up his hand to plead for calm.
“Please, there’s no need for alarm. This is our host, Mathom-meister. He’s the only reason any of this is here in the first place,” Emrys informed us. “A year or two ago a companion of his unfortunately became one of the Darling Twin’s victims, and when he heard of my vendetta with them, he tracked me down; which is no small feat, I assure you.”
“It is for us. My people are a race of Planeswalkers. Traversing the many worlds of Creation is second nature to us,” Mathom-meister explained.
“I’ve… I’ve heard of your people, I think,” I said, softly and unsurely. “A friend of mine had an encounter with an artifact that gave her a vision of a race of strange and powerful sorcerers slaying their own god. I take it you’re the ones who slayed this Scarab Titan as well? That’s, that’s…”
“Horrifying, yes. That’s the idea,” he nodded. “You have nothing to worry about, young Witch. My people have no special interest in your world. This is purely personal. My friend is dead, and I want his murderers brought to justice; a goal which Emrys and I happen to have in common.”
“Feel free to share this information with the Ophion Occult Order, Samantha,” Emrys said. “I’d very much like for the Darling Twins to know what’s hunting them. Mathom-meister, please excuse me while I take my guests inside. We do have pressing business to discuss and their time is limited.”
The squid-cyclopes bowed gracefully, and my coven and I quickly scurried after Emrys as he led us inside through a towering hallway and into a large chamber that had been appointed as a living space.
I had thought that Emrys would want to speak with us alone, which was why I was surprised to see a young woman sitting cross-legged on a spongey yet chitinous object that I will for the sake of my sanity call a bean bag chair. Like Emrys, she was pale and blue-blooded, her choppy hair as black as coal. She wore a black robe and heavy black eyeliner, but these could not conceal the fact that she too had thin wisps of miasma emanating from her eyes.
“Is that your… daughter?” Charlotte asked, as baffled by her presence as any of us. The woman smiled warmly at the question.
“In a way. I was dead, and Emrys gave me new life. Now a part of the Outer Primordial Darkness he represents lives in me too,” she said serenely.
Hovering above her left palm were three small bluish-green orbs, lazily going around in a circle. They were translucent and held something inside them that I couldn’t make out, but the orbs themselves appeared to be melting and solidifying by the woman’s will.
“You’re Petra, aren’t you?” I asked as I cautiously approached her. “Chamberlin had mentioned that Emrys had taken an acolyte. I’m Samantha, and this is Genevieve, Elam, and Charlotte.”
“I know. The whole reason we’re here is to speak with you,” she nodded.
“The Ophion Occult Order calls me a soul-flayer, and I’m sure you were all wondering exactly what that meant before you came here,” Emrys said, standing proudly behind his acolyte. “Well, this is it. The Darkness Beyond is now a part of her, and a part of her now lives within the Darkness Beyond. She is not unchanged from what she was before, but neither has what she was been lost.”
“My interpretation of the term ‘soul-flaying’ was the complete removal of a person’s consciousness from their astral and physical bodies to be subsumed by your Darkness,” I countered. “They told me that what you’ve done with Petra here is just the limit of your power while you’re bound in their chains. Are you telling me that if your chains were broken, you wouldn’t be able to do any worse than this?”
“On my physical avatar? No. So long as my astral form remains chained and bound with the World Serpent, I cannot cleave a conscious mind from its astral substrate,” Emrys assured me.
“But that is your ultimate goal, isn’t it? Breaking the chains the Ophion Occult Order put on you is just a stepping stone to breaking the ones the gods bound you with?” Genevieve asked. “You’ve allied yourself with a literal god slayer. Do you expect us to believe that his people’s abilities aren’t something you intend to put to your own ends?”
“I don’t have an ultimate goal so much as I have a fundamental principle of opposing tyranny,” he claimed. “When I was a mere man, thousands of years ago, I was a tyrant. I believed that might made right so unquestionably that when my might began to fail me, the only thing I could think to do was to try everything in my power to restore it. This quest eventually led to me becoming one with the Darkness Beyond, which gave me not only the might I coveted but the wisdom I didn’t know I needed. It gave me perspective. It made me stronger than any human alive at that point but still let me realize how insignificant I was. It was humbling, and enlightening, and filled me both with remorse over my past actions and an impetus to use my newfound gifts to rectify them. I tried to overthrow the gods themselves which, in hindsight, was overly ambitious. I not only failed but had my soul devoured by the World Serpent, where it still resides to this day.
“I am not eager to bring the wrath of the gods down upon me once again. No, for now, I will be content to end the tyranny of the Ophion Occult Order. This is the message I’d like you to relay to them. If the Grand Adderman agrees to unbind my chains and step down from his post, I will spare his life. If he declines, I want the rest of the Order to know that I will show mercy to any who sides with me over him. I am willing to allow the Order to exist so long as it agrees to become more decentralized, democratic, and accountable. They will have to forfeit certain artifacts and individuals in their possession over to me, chief among them the Darling Twins, but I am willing to negotiate. If they aren’t, then I will overthrow the Grand Adderman by whatever means necessary and see the Order scattered to the four winds. It is entirely up to them whether or not the conflict between us escalates to full-on war. Have I made myself clear, Samantha?”
“I think so,” I said as I pensively considered everything he had said. “Why should they trust you to keep your word once your chains are broken? For that matter, why should we?”
He took a moment to consider his response, eyeing me over as though he was trying to divine something that would win over my trust.
“Samantha, you made a pact with Persephone to get your Spirit Familiar there; one where she swore by the River Styx. Is that correct?” he asked.
“It is,” I nodded.
“And in the years since, has Persephone ever broken that pact she swore to?” he asked.
“No, she hasn’t,” I replied.
“I may not be an Old God, but so long as my astral form remains bound by their chains, they have power over me,” he said. “Samantha Sumner, Hedge Witch of Harrowick Woods, I swear on the River Styx that I have spoken no lies to you today. I swear by the River Styx that I will abide by any Covenant that I and the Ophion Occult Order agree to in good faith and fair dealing that they do not break first. I swear by the River Styx that when my chains are broken, I will give you no cause to fear me or regret your trust in me.”
I gave a questioning glance to Genevieve, and then Elam, both of whom nodded in the affirmative.
“All right. An oath sworn on the River Styx is good enough for me. I’ll deliver your terms to Seneca Chamberlin,” I agreed. “I’m very grateful for the trust and respect you’ve shown for me and my coven, Emrys, though I can’t say I quite understand it. Out of all the guests that were there on the Hallow’s Eve you were summoned, why did Evie and I stand out to you?”
“The Ophion Occult Order deemed you worthy of inclusion in their cult, an offer you rejected on principle. You cheated Persephone, but you did it not to gain immortality for yourself but to save your friend from hell. You came here, thinking I could very well tear your souls asunder, but did so because you believed it was your duty to prevent needless suffering,” Emrys answered. “You are extraordinary in your craft, courage, and conscience, the latter of which especially stood out among the degenerates at that party. I do apologize if I frightened you at that event. I was a bit… irritable, given the circumstances. I’m glad we were able to meet again under more pleasant conditions.”
“So am I, Emrys,” I nodded. “I’m not sure exactly what this means or how relevant it is, but Seneca wanted me to tell you that he’s able to offer you the Dream Demon Red Ruck as a sacrifice.”
Pffft. Tell him it’s hardly a sacrifice if I’m getting rid of a boogie man for him,” he scoffed. “In fact, now that you mention it, Ruck’s one egregore that might be of more use to me alive.”
I wanted to ask him what he meant by that, but we were suddenly interrupted by the rapid pounding of a gong somewhere down below. It seemed to be an alarm of some kind, as we could hear the panicked shouting and frantic racing of people either battening down or forsaking the Flea Market altogether.
Mathom-meister apparated into the middle of the room, his facial tentacles reflexively raised in a defensive position.
“Were you outside the market?” he demanded of us.
“The portal we came through deposited us a few miles outside of the market, yes,” I admitted.
“Damn,” Emrys cursed softly, though he sounded more frustrated than angry. “Meister, it’s not their fault. I knew they weren’t experienced Planeswalkers, I could have – ”
“It doesn’t matter!” Mathom-meister interjected. “They need to leave, now!”
“Why, what’s going on?” Genevieve demanded.
“The scarabs are swarming,” Petra explained. “Don’t feel bad; it happens often enough that they’re prepared for it.”
I wanted to press for more details, but I could hear the humming of a vast winged swarm steadily encroaching upon us.
“Don’t worry. Once you leave the swarm will disperse… eventually,” Emrys told us. “We’ve said all that need be said for now. Return home, and I’ll reach out to you again shortly, Samantha.”
Again, I wanted to object, but the swarm outside was growing louder and louder, and it occurred to me that we might not be completely safe from a biblical swarm of insects that could not only sense but evidently sought out souls.
This occurred to Charlotte as well, as she was the first of us to vanish and awaken back in her body. We could all feel the weight of her reembodied soul tugging on us to return with her. Genevieve immediately grabbed hold of my right hand and Elam my left, both of them refusing to leave before I did.
I spared one final glance at Emrys, lamenting that we couldn’t have had more time.
“I’ll relay everything you said to the Order. I’ll make sure they know you’re willing to negotiate a truce,” I vowed.
He gave me a gracious nod, and just as we heard the swarm start to pelt the exterior of the market, I forced my physical eyes open and was back in my body, still safely under a willow tree in my cemetery.
I immediately looked beside me to Genevieve, and saw that she was awake as well, and then around me for Elam, who seemed to be suffering a bit of spectral whiplash from being pulled back with me so suddenly, but was otherwise all right. Sighing with relief, I turned lastly to Charlotte, and saw that she was looking down at the mediation circle in dreaded horror.
Following her gaze, I saw that the Undying Rose was gone – spent, perhaps, in exchange for our passage – and in its place was the inert, and hopefully dead, body of one of the shimmering scarabs.
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2023.06.10 21:25 Smoking-Bandit Hunter x Hunter: Ratings & Thoughts (51 - 60 + Phantom Rouge)

First time watcher, no spoilers beyond the final episode listed, please. And preferably no "hints" of what's to come either. I'm aware seeing the movie where I did is controversial, but please also refrain from telling me whatever it is the movie supposedly "spoiled" for me by seeing it in this order. I have heard they do that, but as of now, I am still unaware of what that would be. Let's keep it that way :)

51. A × Brutal × Battlefield - 4/5 (Basho and Melody is such a funny pairing due to how drastically different they both are, looks AND personality wise. And their discreet outfits make it even funnier. Anyway, Neon's fortune telling ability finally plays a role in the story. Only the ability though, not her as a character. She's just an annoying ditz who's selfishness causes problems for others. In this case, she straight up aided Chrollo with a fortune that'll likely ensure the Phantom Troupe a more successful attack. Speaking of; THAT'S Chrollo? He looks drastically different from before! His face looks way more round. But it probably isn't, and it's only the let down hair that's fooling me.
Oh my lord, seeing the assasin who's been half-eaten by Nen fish was absolutely cursed. But it's supposedly completely painless, which is a bit of a relief, because that actually makes it less cursed. He passes immediately as the fish disappear, so, pretty much instant. That's more merciful than I'd expect of Chrollo. I definitely enjoyed the atmospheric ending where there's no sound effects but only dramatic music during the Phantom Troupe's attack. It struck even harder that "shit's going down" when the music kept playing even during the end credits. Hunterpedia kinda ruined the mood, though...)

52. Assault × And × Impact - 4/5 (I find it kind of endearing how much Light Nostrade has begun to trust Kurapika. He's straight up begging him to stay, not demanding. A much nicer employer than I was lead to believe at first. It's hard to decipher how Kurapika feels, because he acts like it's all business, but I'd wager he's growing a closer connection to the Nostrade family than he realizes. Partially because I'm not sure why Light and Neon would even get so much screentime if that weren't so. Though he was obviously not very happy that Light forced him back just as he was about to face Chrollo. No issue though, since Zeno and Silva is on that case. That was definitely an intense fight, and it shows how powerful the Zoldyck's really are, if even the leader of the Phantom Troupe, the group who has been talked about as all-powerful, is surviving the fight by a hair.
Side note: That's one Albert Einstein-looking ass doctor. I always get suspicious when characters look distinct as opposed to generic, because it naturally makes you assume they'll actually be important, otherwise why would they look unique? That said, this is probably not one of those cases, and he just happened to be a distinct looking background character. Also, I find it amusing that Hisoka isn't even taking part of the attack. He's just looking)

53. Fake × And × Psyche - 4/5 (Illumi's not just ruining things for his brother, but his father and grandpa as well, I see. That was a bit of an anticlimactic end to the fight. It feels a bit weird to see Chrollo so talkative and casual in tone. From the little I've of him, he came off much as more of a calculative man of few words, not someone who would ask smug questions or fall down and groan after a fight. Would sooner expect him to act like it was barely a scratch. The heist plan itself is pretty calculated though. But on the other hand, I also don't get why they bother hosting the entire auction only to pond off fake items, given Chrollo is able to use Owl's shrinking cloth ability. They can just steal the stuff and leave.
Wow, the latter half of this episode sure was depressing (barring Leorio and Zepile getting drunk). Seeing Kurapika defeatedly bid on the Kurta eyes and all that. To be fair, he could have just NOT called Light and mentioned that the auction was active, but I digress. I suppose he'd rather Light owns them than someone else. I'm glad that I finally got to experience the full context of the "Kurapika is now drowning in an indescribable emptiness" meme at last. Also, was Hisoka really trying to call Kurapika while he's within hearing vicinity of the entire Phantom Troupe? I guess it's a GOOD thing Kurapika couldn't pick up)

54. Fortunes × Aren't × Right? - 4/5 (Wow, the animation of Gon and Killua playing around and having an eating contest was oddly expressive. That bit of Kurapika laughing, too. Wholesome moment. Anyway, this episode is mostly just the Phantom Troupe bickering in their hideout, which is entertaining in and of itself, because they thought they were such bigshots, and now they're fretting about ONE guy. There's some infodumping about Meteor City, which is like, a literal giant garbage dump? That people live in? Not much of a "city" if you ask me, though they do say the population is quite large, so there's gotta be housing around there, surely. But all we see of it in this episode is just miles of trash.
Hisoka being discovered as a traitor is an interesting note to leave on, I guess. I liked the little emoticon of himself he texted to Kurapika. ⭐-_-💧)

55. Allies × And × Lies - 3/5 (Hisoka pretending that the Chain User has set a condition on him to avoid suspicion was incredibly clever. It's just amusing to see him play both sides. Much like the previous episode, this is mostly the characters sitting around and strategizing, but this time it's the protagonists. I'm a little confused why Gon asked Kurapika to put a Nen condition on him. Did he want the condition to be that it'll kill him if he squeals, or one that'll kill him if he doesn't do the mission? It's probably the former, but I guessed the latter initially because he seemed unsure about the mission, so he could have wanted a condition that would end him if he didn't do his part, essentially giving him no choice. Also, it's funny that he's doubting that he'll be able to distract the Troupe for one mere second. ONE. A valid concern given how perceptive they are, it's just crazy that even a seconds distraction is a tough task.
That aside, I adored the wholesome moment when Kurapika shows appreciation for his friends and admits that he would never use his Nen dagger on them. Instead, he's just emotionally manipulating them. LOL. Side note: When Neon and her bodyguards were leaving, did Squala and Eliza use telepathy to speak to each other? What the heck was that?)

56. Beloved × And × Beleaguered - 5/5 (LOL at Basho falling in the opening. Anyway, my goodness, this episode is beautiful. The dark sky, the rain, the shiny and dimly lit streets etc. Even the water droplets on glass windows look so good that you have to appreciate them. It all makes it so atmospheric. And it sure helps that the episode itself is very thrilling. I loved that Kurapika called Melody in to help the mission, I really enjoy her. She and Killua stalking the Phantom Troupe together was exciting. I find it amusing that the Phantom Troupe, the most notorious deadly gang of thieves in the world with insane Nen abilities, are casually using public transport.
Kurapika, Gon and Killua tailing the troupe was even more exciting. The chase got so intense and I loved how casually and abruptly it ended with Gon revealing himself to save Kurapika's skin. Pretty convenient that Killua just arrived in the same alley as Kurapika so that he could exit and make them none the wiser that there was a third person there, though. But I liked that too. I thought they were going to lie and say that they were following them because they changed their mind about joining. That would have probably been more clever than pretending to be unaware that the bounty was off.
I can see now why Squala got that scene saying goodbye to his girlfriend in the last episode, and the one here about looking for a new job. It was all to take him away at the end anyway! Dammit! Anyway, while I feel pretty bad for him, I kept thinking more about those poor dogs. I'm glad the Troupe didn't hurt them, and that Squala just let them walk away during the confrontation, but what's gonna happen to them now? Are they going to live as strays in the streets of Yorknew City? That's so sad. Anyway, Kurapika's outfit in this episode is epic)

57. Initiative × And × Law - 4/5 (Why did they play Just Awake on the radio in the beginning of this? Pretty distracting. Regardless, Leorio giving coded clues under the guise of an angry businessman was very clever. I loved everything about this plan. It's so amusing to watch the Phantom Troupe frantically keep on their toes out of fear. It's always satisfying watching characters with such huge egos get humbled. And boy do they get humbled here. Kurapika bosses them around like crazy through the phone, and it's funny how powerless they are to do anything about it. I especially loled when they put Killua on the phone, he started squealing about them planning to disobey, and they immediately yank it away from it.
Nobunaga being happy to see Gon and Killua and still wanting to recruit them was pretty... Nice? Like, he genuinely seemed glad. This is why I think lying about wanting to join them would have been a pretty good angle to take, but I digress. Kurapika mocking Chrollo for being "fooled" by his female disguise is pretty funny given, you know... He still looks and sounds like a woman regardless of the wig)

58. Signal × To × Retreat - 4/5 (That was honestly a pretty anticlimactic end to the arc. Though it's obviously not the end to the Phantom Troupe's story, just the Yorknew arc, so it makes sense that it doesn't feel like a satisfying finale. There's clearly gonna be more. It felt like there was a message here that implies Kurapika's revenge spree is wrong. It's not stated too blunty, but Gon and Killua say that they don't want him to pursue revenge like this, and the fact that the Phantom Troupe were repeatedly more humanized and shown to be like a family who actually care about each other makes me assume that something like that was the intention, and I honestly couldn't agree less. It doesn't matter if Nobunaga is sad about Uvo or Pakunoda cares about Chrollo, these are all still dangerous murders who deserve to be locked up. But since that's impossible given their abilities, I don't think Kurapika would be wrong to exterimate them.
It's pretty funny that I praised Kurapika for not being like a typical hero protagonist with an "I don't kill" rule, but then he goes on to still abide by a classic "honor code" where he'll actually stick to his words, even though he's dealing with, again, dangerous murderers who will continue to murder once released. Though it's still satisfying enough that he managed to kill two of them (even if the latter wasn't direct) and prevented Chrollo from being able to use Nen or see the Troupe again. And I had a huge laugh at Hisoka's baffled reaction to hearing Chrollo's news)

Movie. Hunter x Hunter: Phantom Rouge - 4/5 (That was a suspenseful and atmospheric opening sequence. Illumi was genuinely terrifying when he rushed towards those innocent children. I was thankful when Killua woke up because that meant it was all a dream. But then I realized it was probably a real memory, so, yeah... Very unnerving to say the least. Arguably more unnerving was the flight attendant's face when she got mad at Gon and Killua... That was ghastly. Though I can't say I blame her; Their "argument" was literally about NOTHING.
Kurapika's backstory wasn't as much of a "backstory" as I was expecting, only one day he spent with his friend Pairo. But I don't mind, since it was a nice sequence. I always like to see smug bastards like the ones who harassed Pairo get their ass kicked. It kind of negates the satisfaction when it's revealed that the Elder hired them to do it as a "test" though, but it's amusing enough that Pairo cheated by swapping the eye drop vile, so the Elder was none the wiser that they revealed their eyes publicly. It's pretty zany how having red eyes is something that makes people consider you a "freak" and worthy of literal public ridecule in the middle of the street, though. Like, we know contact lenses exist in this show, since Kurapika has used them. Why wouldn't red contact lenses exist? Also, maybe if Kurapika didn't have massive anime eyes, his red eyes would probably largely go unnoticed. LOL.
Wow, that was just the opening? That took a whole episode worth of time! But it was great stuff. And once the story actually began, I was impressed by how consistently engaging it was, never boring for a moment. I was very into in Killua's arc throughout the film. The show has dealt with his trauma from Illumi's grooming previously, like when he faced Illumi in the Hunter Exam, or when Nobunaga had him and Gon trapped in a room. But it never felt as genuine as it did here. First, his severe jealousy over the fact that Gon made a new friend was interesting. I liked that inner conflict. Second, his genuine fear during the fight against the Uvo and then Illumi puppet felt incredibly genuine and powerful. I don't know what other words to describe it with. Every scene that focuses on this arc was fantastic. Especially when he was running away from the Illumi puppet, only to see Gon dramatically thrown through the window. I actually found it quite emotional when Gon sacrifices himself and gets his eyes stolen from him, and Killua just runs away becuase he doesn't deserve such a friend according to himself. I actually got a little teary eyed at that train scene.
As for the villain of the film, Omokage, I actually found him quite interesting, and his puppet Nen ability was cool. The subtle hints that Retz was somehow connected to him kept me even more interested. I mean, it was pretty obvious, what with her being introduced as a street puppeteer (Although I hate that CG puppet. Ugly), and then finding out that the thief of Kurapika's eyes also makes puppets. Suspicious much? The mystery of it all was very interesting, basically. And the final reveal that Retz is actually just a puppet made of his dead sister was fricking horrifying. The movie definitely raises some unintentional questions about what it really means to be a "puppet" with this abiliy. The puppets are such genuine replicas that they actually have the memories and feelings of the person they're replicating. So technically, aren't they just a copy of the person they're replicating? Although what's depressing is the fact that they are just that; A copy. Even if the Retz puppet has the same memories as Retz, the actual Retz is still, unfortunately, very much not alive.
The heft and oomph of the battles were incredible. It felt much more rough than usual. Specifically in the fight against puppet Illumi when he flung Gon into a wall, as well as the aforementioned "Gon tossed out window" moment. There's even oomph to his teleporting (or just running so fast he's briefly invisible I guess?). Even though it's not the real Illumi, you can really feel how powerful he is. And creepy, what with how he begins by just saying "Ki ki ki ki ki", and moves like a stiff doll.
The same praise goes to the final battle as well. It was kind of all over the place with characters, but I found it cool that Gon and Kurapika fought while blind. And it was pretty epic that, although brief, even Leorio joined in on the fighting. Specifically when he defended Kurapika against puppet Pairo. He tried rushing Omokage, but failed pretty hard. But it was still a badass effort, so I salute it. And I found it pretty amusing how smugly Omokage rejects Kurapika trying to force a Nen condition on him. Chrollo and Pakunoda agreed pretty easily previously, but this guy absolutely refuses with a big fat "NO". LOL. Hisoka (oh yeah, he randomly showed up in the end) fighting the Chrollo puppet was pretty fun to see, given how much he's wanted fight Chrollo. Not the real one, but the best he'll get at the moment, I suppose. The real Phantom Troupe showing up at the end was definitely a "lolwhat?" moment, but nevertheless I thought it was cool, and an interesting way to end. Overall, I do not understand why people hate this movie. This was great. Side note: That tailor from the clothes shop was weird)

59. Bid × And × Haste - 3/5 (I'm gonna be blunt, the new visuals for the intro are NOT that good. There's barely any action going on in it, mostly just shots of characters standing still. Mostly. It's not completely devoid of action, but it certainly can't beat seeing Kurapika fighting, Leorio running, getting yanked by Gon's fishing rod and then Killua casually kicking some butt. Or the Phantom Troupe showcase.
So, what exactly is Gon's plan if he actually gets accepted to clear Greed Island for Battera? The reason he wants to play the game is to find Ging's clue, which he specifically left in a save file. Gon would need to continue the game on that save file, otherwise there's not gonna be a clue in the game. Duh. Anyway, not a lot else happened in this episode, but it was amusing enough to see Gon and Killua train their special abilities. Or rather, Gon's ears repeatedly steam as he's trying to come up with an ability, lol. Killua trying to master electricity kind of fits him, given he has white, spiky hair, and electric bolts/shocks is often depicted as white and spiky)

60. End × And × Beginning - 3/5 (Goodbye Kurapika and Leorio. Melody complimenting Leorio's heartbeat was very wholesome. Anyway, with the two best of the four main characters once again gone, I'm expecting another quality dip. Not that it'll be garbage or anything. This was a semi interesting start to Greed Island, I guess. The screening being so selective does make me more curious of how intense this game can really be. The guy Gon and Killua met there though, Puhat, looks like a fricking muppet. Freaky. I thought the tutorial room looked pretty cool, and I found it amusing that Ging didn't leave a clue whatsoever, he just tricked Gon into playing the game.
So, uh, what exactly was the point of Milluki in the Greed Island auction arc? In 5 short scenes spread out between 23 episodes, he is seen researching Greed Island, going to the auction, bidding and failing, and finally in this epic climax... Going back home in defeat. Arguably the greatest arc in the entire series so far. /s)
submitted by Smoking-Bandit to HunterXHunter [link] [comments]


2023.06.10 21:24 A_Vespertine Souls & Scarabs at Mathom-Meister's Flea Market

“I’m sorry; we’re going to astral travel to a flea market?” Charlotte asked incredulously as she watched Genevieve and I set up a meditation circle under the shade of a towering old willow tree in my cemetery. “What if we want to buy something? How will we bring it back?”
“We’re not going there to shop, Lottie. Samantha’s finally had a vision about Emrys,” Genevieve explained.
The Veil between the Physical and Astral Planes is exceptionally weak in my cemetery, especially at night and on hallowed days. When I sleep there, my subconscious mind is highly receptive to all manner of revelations from the Spirit World. When I saw a Blood Moon rise on the night of May fifth, the same night as a penumbral eclipse, I knew that my dreams would be prophetic.
“I had a dream about him last Friday,” I expounded. “He’s at some sort of otherworldly marketplace, one that’s not connected to the Crypto Chthonic Cuniculi, so it’s mostly inaccessible to the Ophion Occult Order. In my dream, Emrys invited us to come and speak with him while we were lucid. He drew a sigil for me, the same one I’ve drawn in the middle of the mediation circle. He said that all I’d have to do is toss an Undying Rose – the earthly effigy of the rose Persephone used to steal a drop of his blood – into the sigil and it will become an astral portal to where he is.”
I held up the deep purple rose that I had cut from its bush earlier that day. I don’t know for certain where the roses came from, but my best guess is that they were made by the same Occultist who hallowed my cemetery to Persephone; Artaxerxes Crow. They have some connection to Emrys as well, since the only other time I saw someone else use one was when his avatar was summoned into the Physical Plane on Halloween 2020.
Knowing that Emrys wouldn’t dare to set foot in a place that was sacred to the Goddess who was ultimately responsible for his cosmic defeat, I gently tossed the rose into the middle of the sigil.
“He invited all of us?” Charlotte asked with an incredulous raising of her eyebrow.
“He said me and my coven. If he had just meant me or me and Genevieve he would have said that,” I replied. “You and Elam are coming too. I want as many eyes on this place as possible so that we don’t miss anything. We may not get an opportunity like this again.”
“And this is safe? Visiting some random flea market between worlds?” Charlotte asked.
“Samantha and I have visited the Underworld and come back no problem,” Genevieve reminded her. “So long as we’re bound to our bodies and Elam is bound to Samantha, we can come back anytime. Don’t worry; this is going to be a blast! Adventures like these are the best part of being a Witch.”
“The only reason you were able to go to the Underworld is because Samantha’s cemetery came with an astral portal in the back,” Charlotte countered, gesticulating in the general direction of the archway that was still partially visible behind the light spring foliage. “Other than that, when have any of us ever done anything useful with our astral projection? This is still a physical place, right? We don’t have any of our physical senses available to us when we astral project, and I get extremely disoriented trying to navigate the mortal plane with clairvoyance alone.”
“It is a physical place, but one saturated with astral energy and full of occultists and occult artifacts. It will be extremely illuminated to our clairvoyance,” I assured her. “Elam will also be there to guide us. As a ghost, he’s much more practiced at traversing the mortal plane in an astral form.”
Charlotte folded her arms over her chest and turned to look at Elam, who was leaning up against the willow tree as he waited for us.
“I don’t suppose you could go and scout the place out for us ahead of time?” she asked.
“I can’t go too far from Samantha, and definitely not across planes,” he said with a shake of his head. “But Eve’s right. Your astral bodies will be in no danger, and you can return here in an instant whenever you want.”
“But what about Emrys? Didn’t that book Leon gave you say that he’s some sort of soul-flayer?” Charlotte asked me.
“It did,” I admitted. “Keep in mind though, that book was written by his enemies. I want to hear his side of things before this conflict of theirs spirals out of control.”
“Any update from Chamberlin about that?” Elam asked.
“Yeah, he said that after he failed to purify the Sigil Sand, Ivy’s onboard with negotiating some kind of truce with Emrys,” I replied. “The Grand Adderman’s still reticent, but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s running out of options. I need to find out if Emrys will agree to peace talks.”
“Um, I get that, but I’m still kind of hung up on him potentially flaying our souls,” Charlotte reiterated.
“If Emrys and the Ophion Occult Order go to all-out war, there’ll be a lot of collateral damage and innocent souls caught in the crossfire,” Genevieve told her, gently grabbing hold of her and looking her straight in the eye. “Samantha, Elam, and I are doing this because if there’s any chance we can put an end to this before it starts, then it’s our responsibility to try. You don’t have to come with us, Lottie, but you’re still a member of our coven. Samantha and I would both feel a lot better with you there to help us.”
“Arghhh! All right, fine! I’ll come with you,” Charlotte gave in, plopping her butt down on the edge of the meditation circle. “If we’re holding hands, that will help keep our astral bodies together too, right?”
“I believe it should, yes,” I smiled at her, sitting down and reaching out for her hand.
Genevieve lit the incense and her bong filled with the entheogenic Delphi Dream, before sitting down to join us. She took a hit from the bong before passing it to me, and then to Charlotte before setting it aside out of the circle.
“Start with taking a deep breath, completely filling the lungs, and holding it for five heartbeats,” she guided us as she took hold of each of our hands. “Exhale completely, and wait five more heartbeats before breathing in again. Eyes closed, in through the nose, out through the mouth. Focus on the astral energies flowing through you with each breath, gently aligning each chakra until those energies are enough to lift you up and out of your body.”
In unison with one another, the three of us slowly breathed in and out, ignoring the material world around us and focusing upon the task at hand. Eve was first, as usual, and because we were all holding hands, Charlotte and I felt her eagerly tugging us up to speed us along.
I opened my eyes, and beheld the dull and muted Physical Plane through my clairvoyance, everything outshined by the radiant forms of my coven mates. I noted that Genevieve had eschewed her normal skyclad form when astral projecting and instead wore a cloak like Charlotte and I.
“Are you worried this place might have a no shirt, no shoes, no souls, no service policy?” I teased her.
“I just don’t want to risk a confrontation over it. I realize how important this is,” she answered. “Though I’m not actually wearing shoes, now that you mention it.”
“Christ, look at the sigil Samantha drew!” Charlotte said, pointing down at the meditation circle beneath us. The sigil wasn’t just glowing but flowing as well, churning the Aether around it in a misty, spectral vortex. “It’s an astral portal, isn’t it?”
“Oh yeah. It’s not stable, though. Good for one trip only,” Genevieve said with a delighted smile. “And Lottie, since we’re Neopagan Witches, try not to swear by Christ, okay?”
“Jesus!” she swore, both in defiance and in genuine annoyance.
“Elam! Elam, come join the circle! I don’t want to take any chances of severing our bond,” I instructed, letting go of Charlotte’s hand and waving him in between us.
Faithful Familiar that he was, he obeyed without hesitation. Despite my concerns, I think that he probably could have stayed behind if he had wanted. The fact that he was willing to follow me to an unknown otherworld without complaint really made me appreciate how devoted he was to me.
“We step in together on the count of three, got it?” I instructed, each of them nodding clearly in response. “One. Two. Three!”
We all extended our right feet into the vortex together, and the instant we did we were swept away, falling out of our own world and tumbling between the cracks of countless others. They weren’t real, I don’t think. At least, not as real as our world. They were potential realities, or realities that could have been once but now can never be, or fantasies that are so persistent in the minds of real people that in some sense or another, they become real themselves. I only saw glimmers of them, glimmers in nebulas made of primeval chaos and uttermost void.
It was outside of time, that place we travelled through, or at least we had no sense of it there. Our souls were haphazardly spat out upon a surreal landscape of earth, sea, and fire. Hilly plains of volcanic ash, incandescent calderas of lava and bubbling hot springs all intermeshed in a chaotic mosaic that didn’t seem to abide by any laws of geology or geography that I was familiar with. A strong but slow wind pushed fractal formations of dark silver clouds through a pale silver sky, illuminated by a single white orb which could have been either a bright moon or a faint sun.
While our spectral feet left no trace upon the ash we now stood upon, our presence nonetheless elicited a response from some of the local fauna. We were just able to catch a glimpse of some kind of shimmering scarabs burrowing themselves into the ash to escape the four otherworldly ghosts that had invaded their territory.
“Holy shit,” Charlotte murmured as we all gazed out upon the strange world we had found ourselves on. “This really isn’t on the Astral Plane. This is a real planet. This a real, alien planet! This is unbelievable!”
Genevieve glided over to one of the bubbling pools and peered into it, looking for any more signs of life.
“There’s some kind of bluish-grey algae growing on the rocks down there, and I think I can make out some small arthropods too. This planet’s alive!” she announced with glee, smiling and looking up at the alien sky.
Conjuring an astral approximation of my staff, I plunged it into a small mound of ash beside me. I watched curiously as the scarabs shot out in all directions, moving too quickly for me to get a good look at them, before scurrying back into the surrounding ash.
“These bugs can sense our presence,” I remarked. “How and why would clairvoyance evolve in insects on this world, and why would their first instinct be to flee?”
“Samantha!” Elam called out. “I think I found the Flea Market.”
We all gathered around him and looked where he was pointing. On a distant dune, we beheld the moulted carapace of a colossal insect, gleaming a brilliant, lustrous gold in the broken white light.
“That’s impossible!” Charlotte claimed. “That thing must be hundreds of meters long! No insect, no animal period could ever get that big on the Physical Plane!”
“It could be the Incarnation of some kind of Titan,” Genevieve suggested. “But… it’s dead. I can tell that even from here. It’s dead. It’s the corpse of a dead god, and now it’s being used as a swap meet with a punny name. Either whatever killed it just abandoned it, or…”
“Or is running the place,” I finished for her. “Well, we should see if we can find Emrys.”
In an instant, the world moved around us until we were at the entrance to the Flea Market. The colossal carapace was hollow inside, of course, and had been filled with a bustling city that looked like it had been created in the most ad hoc manner possible. There wasn’t a single straight street to be seen, and they converged with one another at random intervals. Stalls and buildings varied wildly in both design and materials, all imported from a plethora of different cultures across the planes.
Enormous shards of luminous glass levitated above the throng like a thousand Swords of Damocles, any or all of them seeming capable of succumbing to gravity at any moment. In the very center of the moulted husk dangled a great spiralling chrysalis or hive woven of iridescent silk, its function not being immediately apparent to me.
There must have been thousands of people there, and hundreds of merchants hawking their wares. Most of those who looked human still seemed a little off, like they were members of ethnicities that didn’t exist in our world. Some of the beings were near-human in appearance, many seemingly some kind of Fey or Seelie folk. There was even a small handful of people that weren’t remotely human at all.
The only thing they all had in common was that none were native to this world.
“Most of these people are here in person, aren’t they?” Charlotte asked.
“It would’ve been quite a feat for them to have built all of this while astral projecting,” Genevieve agreed.
“But if this place isn’t connected to the Cuniculi, then how did they get here?” Charlotte asked. “We’re on another planet, maybe even in another dimension. If getting here is beyond the Ooo’s abilities, then what sort of ungodly reality benders decided to turn it into a Flea Market?”
“Ladies, gentlemen, and any beings either too ancient and alien or too modern and alienated to settle on one or the other, come bear witness to one of the most astounding and atrocious abominations on this or any other world!” a fast-paced male voice rang out over the din of the crowd.
We turned to see a short, skinny, old-timey sort of carnival barker standing on a literal soap box, placed next to a large object draped in a black tarp.
“For the paltry price of a single three-headed coin, you can peer beneath the veil and behold with your own unbelieving eyes the mangled and mutilated monstrosity that lurks beneath!” the carnival barker continued. “But I must warn you, it is not possible to truly understand what dwells underneath without seeing it first! I cannot guarantee that you will still retain your sanity or will to live after witnessing the proverbial Mountains of Madness, for this low creature is truly like no other and serves only as a grim testament to the cruel sadism of the Lord Above! Anyone plagued by even the faintest lingering doubt as to their spiritual fortitude should not dare to even contemplate what might lie before me! But, for those brave, noble few who are truly dauntless of heart and incorrigible of spirit, I am proud to share with you this rare, unfathomable, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to witness sublime –”
The carnival barker was interrupted by a man yanking the sheet off the object beside him, revealing it to be a mirror.
“Whelp, that was a hell of an Im14andthisisdeep post, eh?” Charlotte mused.
Genevieve and I, however, were far too stunned to be amused; not by the mirror, but by the man who had unveiled it.
“It’s him, Lottie. That’s Emrys,” Genevieve whispered.
We had only seen him briefly once before, more than two-and-a-half years ago, but he was far from what anyone would call forgettable. He was tall and gaunt, with literal blue blood flowing beneath translucent skin. His long, receding hair and regal beard were pitch black, and dark miasma wafted from his eyes, nose, and mouth. He was dressed in dark sable robes with three overlapping Ouroboros’s tattooed on his forehead, with a pair of ophidian pupils lying in the spaces between them.
What stood out the most to us were the six silver Ouroboros chains bound around his wrists, ankles, waist, and neck. These were the chains the Ophion Occult Order had made to limit the power of his physical avatar, and it seemed he had not yet found a way to free himself from them.
“Are you still here?” Emrys asked in exasperation, tossing the veil back at the carnival barker in disdain.
“…Possibly,” the strange man replied evasively. “But not definitively, for purely legalistic reasons.”
“I believe Mathom-meister was quite clear when he said that your rather pitiful chicanery wasn’t welcomed here,” Emrys reminded him.
“And who is he to judge chicanery from cutthroat, capitalistic competition? Should not the Flea Market be a free market?” the charlatan demanded. “And while we’re on the topic of commerce, I don’t suppose you have enough three-headed coins to pay for all the poor souls you have so discourteously exposed to my exhibit against their will? I’d hate to have to start shaking people down to get my due.”
“Hard to believe your own circus threw you out,” Emrys said with a sardonic eye roll as he tossed him a small medallion. “You get one coin. Take it and get out of my sight.”
The charlatan flipped the coin in the air thrice, presumably to confirm it actually had three heads. Satisfied with its impossible dimensions, he shoved it into his pocket.
“It will cover the trolley ride home, at least,” he acquiesced, stepping off his soap box and turning to face his looking glass. “A shame though you can’t see the genius in my little avant-garde performance piece here, Emmy. Even I know that the monster in the mirror is often the hardest to recognize.”
As the man reached to pick up his mirror, his reflection’s arms shot through the glass and grabbed him by the wrists, pulling him in. Emrys immediately tried to chase after him, but bounced off the glass as if there was nothing supernatural about it at all.
“Bastard!” he cursed under his breath, before turning towards us and giving us a small apologetic smile. “I’m sorry you had to see that rather pathetic display. Unfortunately, the few meeting places I know of that are relatively safe from any Ophionic incursion also attract their fair share of other annoying miscreants.”
“If it didn’t attract a little bit of everything, it wouldn’t be a Flea Market, would it?” I asked rhetorically. “Thank you, Emrys, for inviting us. I’ve never been anywhere like this before.”
“And thank you for accepting. Samantha, Genevieve, it’s a pleasure to see you again, and a relief that you have not fallen under the auspices of the Ophion Occult Order,” he said with a gentle bow. “Elam, I remember you as well. Valiant but not reckless, you remained atop Pendragon Hill during my battle with the Darlings until your mistress was well out of harm’s way, and then you got the hell out of dodge yourself. Samantha couldn’t hope for a better Familiar. And Charlotte, any Witch that Samantha deemed worthy to induct into her coven is obviously someone whose acquaintance I am pleased to make. Welcome, all of you, to Mathom-meister’s Flea Market!”
“So this is where you’ve been hiding out the past two years?” Genevieve asked.
“Oh no. Far too Cosmopolitan for my tastes,” Emrys replied. “No, this is just a friendly place to meet those I consider friends – or potential friends, at least. I’d offer to show you around, but I know it’s difficult for you to astral travel for prolonged periods. Come with me to Mathom-meister’s house where we can talk freely, and we’ll discuss the situation with the Order.”
I gave him a small, single nod in response, and gestured with my staff that he should lead the way. He responded by pointing upwards, then vanished into his shadow form. When we looked up, we saw him waving at us from a balcony atop the great silken chrysalis.
We exchanged hesitant glances with one another, but ultimately followed him into the strange structure, moving from the ground to the balcony in an instant by will alone.
“How would an incarnate being get up here if they couldn’t fly or teleport?” Charlotte asked as she peered over the balcony’s teetering edge.
As though answering a summons, a humanoid creature apparated beside her in a flash of dark vapours. The hunched-back entity stood over six-and-a-half feet tall, and was clad in golden-brown erudite robes. Its squid-like skin was of a similar colour, and its entire face was a single gaping orifice that held a wispy, glowing orb in the center of its skull which I immediately recognized as its soul. A pair of long, fanged tentacles lined with pores and tendrils hung down from its head like a long, forked beard, and the seven digits shared by its two hands all bore wicked-looking talons, as did its two-toed, digitigrade feet.
“Not fly or teleport? What sort of pedestrian house guests do you think I entertain here?” the being asked wryly, its voice seeming to come from nowhere in particular.
Charlotte instinctively backed away from the creature and into the protective fold of our coven, but Emrys was quick to hold up his hand to plead for calm.
“Please, there’s no need for alarm. This is our host, Mathom-meister. He’s the only reason any of this is here in the first place,” Emrys informed us. “A year or two ago a companion of his unfortunately became one of the Darling Twin’s victims, and when he heard of my vendetta with them, he tracked me down; which is no small feat, I assure you.”
“It is for us. My people are a race of Planeswalkers. Traversing the many worlds of Creation is second nature to us,” Mathom-meister explained.
“I’ve… I’ve heard of your people, I think,” I said, softly and unsurely. “A friend of mine had an encounter with an artifact that gave her a vision of a race of strange and powerful sorcerers slaying their own god. I take it you’re the ones who slayed this Scarab Titan as well? That’s, that’s…”
“Horrifying, yes. That’s the idea,” he nodded. “You have nothing to worry about, young Witch. My people have no special interest in your world. This is purely personal. My friend is dead, and I want his murderers brought to justice; a goal which Emrys and I happen to have in common.”
“Feel free to share this information with the Ophion Occult Order, Samantha,” Emrys said. “I’d very much like for the Darling Twins to know what’s hunting them. Mathom-meister, please excuse me while I take my guests inside. We do have pressing business to discuss and their time is limited.”
The squid-cyclopes bowed gracefully, and my coven and I quickly scurried after Emrys as he led us inside through a towering hallway and into a large chamber that had been appointed as a living space.
I had thought that Emrys would want to speak with us alone, which was why I was surprised to see a young woman sitting cross-legged on a spongey yet chitinous object that I will for the sake of my sanity call a bean bag chair. Like Emrys, she was pale and blue-blooded, her choppy hair as black as coal. She wore a black robe and heavy black eyeliner, but these could not conceal the fact that she too had thin wisps of miasma emanating from her eyes.
“Is that your… daughter?” Charlotte asked, as baffled by her presence as any of us. The woman smiled warmly at the question.
“In a way. I was dead, and Emrys gave me new life. Now a part of the Outer Primordial Darkness he represents lives in me too,” she said serenely.
Hovering above her left palm were three small bluish-green orbs, lazily going around in a circle. They were translucent and held something inside them that I couldn’t make out, but the orbs themselves appeared to be melting and solidifying by the woman’s will.
“You’re Petra, aren’t you?” I asked as I cautiously approached her. “Chamberlin had mentioned that Emrys had taken an acolyte. I’m Samantha, and this is Genevieve, Elam, and Charlotte.”
“I know. The whole reason we’re here is to speak with you,” she nodded.
“The Ophion Occult Order calls me a soul-flayer, and I’m sure you were all wondering exactly what that meant before you came here,” Emrys said, standing proudly behind his acolyte. “Well, this is it. The Darkness Beyond is now a part of her, and a part of her now lives within the Darkness Beyond. She is not unchanged from what she was before, but neither has what she was been lost.”
“My interpretation of the term ‘soul-flaying’ was the complete removal of a person’s consciousness from their astral and physical bodies to be subsumed by your Darkness,” I countered. “They told me that what you’ve done with Petra here is just the limit of your power while you’re bound in their chains. Are you telling me that if your chains were broken, you wouldn’t be able to do any worse than this?”
“On my physical avatar? No. So long as my astral form remains chained and bound with the World Serpent, I cannot cleave a conscious mind from its astral substrate,” Emrys assured me.
“But that is your ultimate goal, isn’t it? Breaking the chains the Ophion Occult Order put on you is just a stepping stone to breaking the ones the gods bound you with?” Genevieve asked. “You’ve allied yourself with a literal god slayer. Do you expect us to believe that his people’s abilities aren’t something you intend to put to your own ends?”
“I don’t have an ultimate goal so much as I have a fundamental principle of opposing tyranny,” he claimed. “When I was a mere man, thousands of years ago, I was a tyrant. I believed that might made right so unquestionably that when my might began to fail me, the only thing I could think to do was to try everything in my power to restore it. This quest eventually led to me becoming one with the Darkness Beyond, which gave me not only the might I coveted but the wisdom I didn’t know I needed. It gave me perspective. It made me stronger than any human alive at that point but still let me realize how insignificant I was. It was humbling, and enlightening, and filled me both with remorse over my past actions and an impetus to use my newfound gifts to rectify them. I tried to overthrow the gods themselves which, in hindsight, was overly ambitious. I not only failed but had my soul devoured by the World Serpent, where it still resides to this day.
“I am not eager to bring the wrath of the gods down upon me once again. No, for now, I will be content to end the tyranny of the Ophion Occult Order. This is the message I’d like you to relay to them. If the Grand Adderman agrees to unbind my chains and step down from his post, I will spare his life. If he declines, I want the rest of the Order to know that I will show mercy to any who sides with me over him. I am willing to allow the Order to exist so long as it agrees to become more decentralized, democratic, and accountable. They will have to forfeit certain artifacts and individuals in their possession over to me, chief among them the Darling Twins, but I am willing to negotiate. If they aren’t, then I will overthrow the Grand Adderman by whatever means necessary and see the Order scattered to the four winds. It is entirely up to them whether or not the conflict between us escalates to full-on war. Have I made myself clear, Samantha?”
“I think so,” I said as I pensively considered everything he had said. “Why should they trust you to keep your word once your chains are broken? For that matter, why should we?”
He took a moment to consider his response, eyeing me over as though he was trying to divine something that would win over my trust.
“Samantha, you made a pact with Persephone to get your Spirit Familiar there; one where she swore by the River Styx. Is that correct?” he asked.
“It is,” I nodded.
“And in the years since, has Persephone ever broken that pact she swore to?” he asked.
“No, she hasn’t,” I replied.
“I may not be an Old God, but so long as my astral form remains bound by their chains, they have power over me,” he said. “Samantha Sumner, Hedge Witch of Harrowick Woods, I swear on the River Styx that I have spoken no lies to you today. I swear by the River Styx that I will abide by any Covenant that I and the Ophion Occult Order agree to in good faith and fair dealing that they do not break first. I swear by the River Styx that when my chains are broken, I will give you no cause to fear me or regret your trust in me.”
I gave a questioning glance to Genevieve, and then Elam, both of whom nodded in the affirmative.
“All right. An oath sworn on the River Styx is good enough for me. I’ll deliver your terms to Seneca Chamberlin,” I agreed. “I’m very grateful for the trust and respect you’ve shown for me and my coven, Emrys, though I can’t say I quite understand it. Out of all the guests that were there on the Hallow’s Eve you were summoned, why did Evie and I stand out to you?”
“The Ophion Occult Order deemed you worthy of inclusion in their cult, an offer you rejected on principle. You cheated Persephone, but you did it not to gain immortality for yourself but to save your friend from hell. You came here, thinking I could very well tear your souls asunder, but did so because you believed it was your duty to prevent needless suffering,” Emrys answered. “You are extraordinary in your craft, courage, and conscience, the latter of which especially stood out among the degenerates at that party. I do apologize if I frightened you at that event. I was a bit… irritable, given the circumstances. I’m glad we were able to meet again under more pleasant conditions.”
“So am I, Emrys,” I nodded. “I’m not sure exactly what this means or how relevant it is, but Seneca wanted me to tell you that he’s able to offer you the Dream Demon Red Ruck as a sacrifice.”
Pffft. Tell him it’s hardly a sacrifice if I’m getting rid of a boogie man for him,” he scoffed. “In fact, now that you mention it, Ruck’s one egregore that might be of more use to me alive.”
I wanted to ask him what he meant by that, but we were suddenly interrupted by the rapid pounding of a gong somewhere down below. It seemed to be an alarm of some kind, as we could hear the panicked shouting and frantic racing of people either battening down or forsaking the Flea Market altogether.
Mathom-meister apparated into the middle of the room, his facial tentacles reflexively raised in a defensive position.
“Were you outside the market?” he demanded of us.
“The portal we came through deposited us a few miles outside of the market, yes,” I admitted.
“Damn,” Emrys cursed softly, though he sounded more frustrated than angry. “Meister, it’s not their fault. I knew they weren’t experienced Planeswalkers, I could have – ”
“It doesn’t matter!” Mathom-meister interjected. “They need to leave, now!”
“Why, what’s going on?” Genevieve demanded.
“The scarabs are swarming,” Petra explained. “Don’t feel bad; it happens often enough that they’re prepared for it.”
I wanted to press for more details, but I could hear the humming of a vast winged swarm steadily encroaching upon us.
“Don’t worry. Once you leave the swarm will disperse… eventually,” Emrys told us. “We’ve said all that need be said for now. Return home, and I’ll reach out to you again shortly, Samantha.”
Again, I wanted to object, but the swarm outside was growing louder and louder, and it occurred to me that we might not be completely safe from a biblical swarm of insects that could not only sense but evidently sought out souls.
This occurred to Charlotte as well, as she was the first of us to vanish and awaken back in her body. We could all feel the weight of her reembodied soul tugging on us to return with her. Genevieve immediately grabbed hold of my right hand and Elam my left, both of them refusing to leave before I did.
I spared one final glance at Emrys, lamenting that we couldn’t have had more time.
“I’ll relay everything you said to the Order. I’ll make sure they know you’re willing to negotiate a truce,” I vowed.
He gave me a gracious nod, and just as we heard the swarm start to pelt the exterior of the market, I forced my physical eyes open and was back in my body, still safely under a willow tree in my cemetery.
I immediately looked beside me to Genevieve, and saw that she was awake as well, and then around me for Elam, who seemed to be suffering a bit of spectral whiplash from being pulled back with me so suddenly, but was otherwise all right. Sighing with relief, I turned lastly to Charlotte, and saw that she was looking down at the mediation circle in dreaded horror.
Following her gaze, I saw that the Undying Rose was gone – spent, perhaps, in exchange for our passage – and in its place was the inert, and hopefully dead, body of one of the shimmering scarabs.
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2023.06.10 21:23 A_Vespertine Souls & Scarabs at Mathom-Meister's Flea Market

“I’m sorry; we’re going to astral travel to a flea market?” Charlotte asked incredulously as she watched Genevieve and I set up a meditation circle under the shade of a towering old willow tree in my cemetery. “What if we want to buy something? How will we bring it back?”
“We’re not going there to shop, Lottie. Samantha’s finally had a vision about Emrys,” Genevieve explained.
The Veil between the Physical and Astral Planes is exceptionally weak in my cemetery, especially at night and on hallowed days. When I sleep there, my subconscious mind is highly receptive to all manner of revelations from the Spirit World. When I saw a Blood Moon rise on the night of May fifth, the same night as a penumbral eclipse, I knew that my dreams would be prophetic.
“I had a dream about him last Friday,” I expounded. “He’s at some sort of otherworldly marketplace, one that’s not connected to the Crypto Chthonic Cuniculi, so it’s mostly inaccessible to the Ophion Occult Order. In my dream, Emrys invited us to come and speak with him while we were lucid. He drew a sigil for me, the same one I’ve drawn in the middle of the mediation circle. He said that all I’d have to do is toss an Undying Rose – the earthly effigy of the rose Persephone used to steal a drop of his blood – into the sigil and it will become an astral portal to where he is.”
I held up the deep purple rose that I had cut from its bush earlier that day. I don’t know for certain where the roses came from, but my best guess is that they were made by the same Occultist who hallowed my cemetery to Persephone; Artaxerxes Crow. They have some connection to Emrys as well, since the only other time I saw someone else use one was when his avatar was summoned into the Physical Plane on Halloween 2020.
Knowing that Emrys wouldn’t dare to set foot in a place that was sacred to the Goddess who was ultimately responsible for his cosmic defeat, I gently tossed the rose into the middle of the sigil.
“He invited all of us?” Charlotte asked with an incredulous raising of her eyebrow.
“He said me and my coven. If he had just meant me or me and Genevieve he would have said that,” I replied. “You and Elam are coming too. I want as many eyes on this place as possible so that we don’t miss anything. We may not get an opportunity like this again.”
“And this is safe? Visiting some random flea market between worlds?” Charlotte asked.
“Samantha and I have visited the Underworld and come back no problem,” Genevieve reminded her. “So long as we’re bound to our bodies and Elam is bound to Samantha, we can come back anytime. Don’t worry; this is going to be a blast! Adventures like these are the best part of being a Witch.”
“The only reason you were able to go to the Underworld is because Samantha’s cemetery came with an astral portal in the back,” Charlotte countered, gesticulating in the general direction of the archway that was still partially visible behind the light spring foliage. “Other than that, when have any of us ever done anything useful with our astral projection? This is still a physical place, right? We don’t have any of our physical senses available to us when we astral project, and I get extremely disoriented trying to navigate the mortal plane with clairvoyance alone.”
“It is a physical place, but one saturated with astral energy and full of occultists and occult artifacts. It will be extremely illuminated to our clairvoyance,” I assured her. “Elam will also be there to guide us. As a ghost, he’s much more practiced at traversing the mortal plane in an astral form.”
Charlotte folded her arms over her chest and turned to look at Elam, who was leaning up against the willow tree as he waited for us.
“I don’t suppose you could go and scout the place out for us ahead of time?” she asked.
“I can’t go too far from Samantha, and definitely not across planes,” he said with a shake of his head. “But Eve’s right. Your astral bodies will be in no danger, and you can return here in an instant whenever you want.”
“But what about Emrys? Didn’t that book Leon gave you say that he’s some sort of soul-flayer?” Charlotte asked me.
“It did,” I admitted. “Keep in mind though, that book was written by his enemies. I want to hear his side of things before this conflict of theirs spirals out of control.”
“Any update from Chamberlin about that?” Elam asked.
“Yeah, he said that after he failed to purify the Sigil Sand, Ivy’s onboard with negotiating some kind of truce with Emrys,” I replied. “The Grand Adderman’s still reticent, but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s running out of options. I need to find out if Emrys will agree to peace talks.”
“Um, I get that, but I’m still kind of hung up on him potentially flaying our souls,” Charlotte reiterated.
“If Emrys and the Ophion Occult Order go to all-out war, there’ll be a lot of collateral damage and innocent souls caught in the crossfire,” Genevieve told her, gently grabbing hold of her and looking her straight in the eye. “Samantha, Elam, and I are doing this because if there’s any chance we can put an end to this before it starts, then it’s our responsibility to try. You don’t have to come with us, Lottie, but you’re still a member of our coven. Samantha and I would both feel a lot better with you there to help us.”
“Arghhh! All right, fine! I’ll come with you,” Charlotte gave in, plopping her butt down on the edge of the meditation circle. “If we’re holding hands, that will help keep our astral bodies together too, right?”
“I believe it should, yes,” I smiled at her, sitting down and reaching out for her hand.
Genevieve lit the incense and her bong filled with the entheogenic Delphi Dream, before sitting down to join us. She took a hit from the bong before passing it to me, and then to Charlotte before setting it aside out of the circle.
“Start with taking a deep breath, completely filling the lungs, and holding it for five heartbeats,” she guided us as she took hold of each of our hands. “Exhale completely, and wait five more heartbeats before breathing in again. Eyes closed, in through the nose, out through the mouth. Focus on the astral energies flowing through you with each breath, gently aligning each chakra until those energies are enough to lift you up and out of your body.”
In unison with one another, the three of us slowly breathed in and out, ignoring the material world around us and focusing upon the task at hand. Eve was first, as usual, and because we were all holding hands, Charlotte and I felt her eagerly tugging us up to speed us along.
I opened my eyes, and beheld the dull and muted Physical Plane through my clairvoyance, everything outshined by the radiant forms of my coven mates. I noted that Genevieve had eschewed her normal skyclad form when astral projecting and instead wore a cloak like Charlotte and I.
“Are you worried this place might have a no shirt, no shoes, no souls, no service policy?” I teased her.
“I just don’t want to risk a confrontation over it. I realize how important this is,” she answered. “Though I’m not actually wearing shoes, now that you mention it.”
“Christ, look at the sigil Samantha drew!” Charlotte said, pointing down at the meditation circle beneath us. The sigil wasn’t just glowing but flowing as well, churning the Aether around it in a misty, spectral vortex. “It’s an astral portal, isn’t it?”
“Oh yeah. It’s not stable, though. Good for one trip only,” Genevieve said with a delighted smile. “And Lottie, since we’re Neopagan Witches, try not to swear by Christ, okay?”
“Jesus!” she swore, both in defiance and in genuine annoyance.
“Elam! Elam, come join the circle! I don’t want to take any chances of severing our bond,” I instructed, letting go of Charlotte’s hand and waving him in between us.
Faithful Familiar that he was, he obeyed without hesitation. Despite my concerns, I think that he probably could have stayed behind if he had wanted. The fact that he was willing to follow me to an unknown otherworld without complaint really made me appreciate how devoted he was to me.
“We step in together on the count of three, got it?” I instructed, each of them nodding clearly in response. “One. Two. Three!”
We all extended our right feet into the vortex together, and the instant we did we were swept away, falling out of our own world and tumbling between the cracks of countless others. They weren’t real, I don’t think. At least, not as real as our world. They were potential realities, or realities that could have been once but now can never be, or fantasies that are so persistent in the minds of real people that in some sense or another, they become real themselves. I only saw glimmers of them, glimmers in nebulas made of primeval chaos and uttermost void.
It was outside of time, that place we travelled through, or at least we had no sense of it there. Our souls were haphazardly spat out upon a surreal landscape of earth, sea, and fire. Hilly plains of volcanic ash, incandescent calderas of lava and bubbling hot springs all intermeshed in a chaotic mosaic that didn’t seem to abide by any laws of geology or geography that I was familiar with. A strong but slow wind pushed fractal formations of dark silver clouds through a pale silver sky, illuminated by a single white orb which could have been either a bright moon or a faint sun.
While our spectral feet left no trace upon the ash we now stood upon, our presence nonetheless elicited a response from some of the local fauna. We were just able to catch a glimpse of some kind of shimmering scarabs burrowing themselves into the ash to escape the four otherworldly ghosts that had invaded their territory.
“Holy shit,” Charlotte murmured as we all gazed out upon the strange world we had found ourselves on. “This really isn’t on the Astral Plane. This is a real planet. This a real, alien planet! This is unbelievable!”
Genevieve glided over to one of the bubbling pools and peered into it, looking for any more signs of life.
“There’s some kind of bluish-grey algae growing on the rocks down there, and I think I can make out some small arthropods too. This planet’s alive!” she announced with glee, smiling and looking up at the alien sky.
Conjuring an astral approximation of my staff, I plunged it into a small mound of ash beside me. I watched curiously as the scarabs shot out in all directions, moving too quickly for me to get a good look at them, before scurrying back into the surrounding ash.
“These bugs can sense our presence,” I remarked. “How and why would clairvoyance evolve in insects on this world, and why would their first instinct be to flee?”
“Samantha!” Elam called out. “I think I found the Flea Market.”
We all gathered around him and looked where he was pointing. On a distant dune, we beheld the moulted carapace of a colossal insect, gleaming a brilliant, lustrous gold in the broken white light.
“That’s impossible!” Charlotte claimed. “That thing must be hundreds of meters long! No insect, no animal period could ever get that big on the Physical Plane!”
“It could be the Incarnation of some kind of Titan,” Genevieve suggested. “But… it’s dead. I can tell that even from here. It’s dead. It’s the corpse of a dead god, and now it’s being used as a swap meet with a punny name. Either whatever killed it just abandoned it, or…”
“Or is running the place,” I finished for her. “Well, we should see if we can find Emrys.”
In an instant, the world moved around us until we were at the entrance to the Flea Market. The colossal carapace was hollow inside, of course, and had been filled with a bustling city that looked like it had been created in the most ad hoc manner possible. There wasn’t a single straight street to be seen, and they converged with one another at random intervals. Stalls and buildings varied wildly in both design and materials, all imported from a plethora of different cultures across the planes.
Enormous shards of luminous glass levitated above the throng like a thousand Swords of Damocles, any or all of them seeming capable of succumbing to gravity at any moment. In the very center of the moulted husk dangled a great spiralling chrysalis or hive woven of iridescent silk, its function not being immediately apparent to me.
There must have been thousands of people there, and hundreds of merchants hawking their wares. Most of those who looked human still seemed a little off, like they were members of ethnicities that didn’t exist in our world. Some of the beings were near-human in appearance, many seemingly some kind of Fey or Seelie folk. There was even a small handful of people that weren’t remotely human at all.
The only thing they all had in common was that none were native to this world.
“Most of these people are here in person, aren’t they?” Charlotte asked.
“It would’ve been quite a feat for them to have built all of this while astral projecting,” Genevieve agreed.
“But if this place isn’t connected to the Cuniculi, then how did they get here?” Charlotte asked. “We’re on another planet, maybe even in another dimension. If getting here is beyond the Ooo’s abilities, then what sort of ungodly reality benders decided to turn it into a Flea Market?”
“Ladies, gentlemen, and any beings either too ancient and alien or too modern and alienated to settle on one or the other, come bear witness to one of the most astounding and atrocious abominations on this or any other world!” a fast-paced male voice rang out over the din of the crowd.
We turned to see a short, skinny, old-timey sort of carnival barker standing on a literal soap box, placed next to a large object draped in a black tarp.
“For the paltry price of a single three-headed coin, you can peer beneath the veil and behold with your own unbelieving eyes the mangled and mutilated monstrosity that lurks beneath!” the carnival barker continued. “But I must warn you, it is not possible to truly understand what dwells underneath without seeing it first! I cannot guarantee that you will still retain your sanity or will to live after witnessing the proverbial Mountains of Madness, for this low creature is truly like no other and serves only as a grim testament to the cruel sadism of the Lord Above! Anyone plagued by even the faintest lingering doubt as to their spiritual fortitude should not dare to even contemplate what might lie before me! But, for those brave, noble few who are truly dauntless of heart and incorrigible of spirit, I am proud to share with you this rare, unfathomable, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to witness sublime –”
The carnival barker was interrupted by a man yanking the sheet off the object beside him, revealing it to be a mirror.
“Whelp, that was a hell of an Im14andthisisdeep post, eh?” Charlotte mused.
Genevieve and I, however, were far too stunned to be amused; not by the mirror, but by the man who had unveiled it.
“It’s him, Lottie. That’s Emrys,” Genevieve whispered.
We had only seen him briefly once before, more than two-and-a-half years ago, but he was far from what anyone would call forgettable. He was tall and gaunt, with literal blue blood flowing beneath translucent skin. His long, receding hair and regal beard were pitch black, and dark miasma wafted from his eyes, nose, and mouth. He was dressed in dark sable robes with three overlapping Ouroboros’s tattooed on his forehead, with a pair of ophidian pupils lying in the spaces between them.
What stood out the most to us were the six silver Ouroboros chains bound around his wrists, ankles, waist, and neck. These were the chains the Ophion Occult Order had made to limit the power of his physical avatar, and it seemed he had not yet found a way to free himself from them.
“Are you still here?” Emrys asked in exasperation, tossing the veil back at the carnival barker in disdain.
“…Possibly,” the strange man replied evasively. “But not definitively, for purely legalistic reasons.”
“I believe Mathom-meister was quite clear when he said that your rather pitiful chicanery wasn’t welcomed here,” Emrys reminded him.
“And who is he to judge chicanery from cutthroat, capitalistic competition? Should not the Flea Market be a free market?” the charlatan demanded. “And while we’re on the topic of commerce, I don’t suppose you have enough three-headed coins to pay for all the poor souls you have so discourteously exposed to my exhibit against their will? I’d hate to have to start shaking people down to get my due.”
“Hard to believe your own circus threw you out,” Emrys said with a sardonic eye roll as he tossed him a small medallion. “You get one coin. Take it and get out of my sight.”
The charlatan flipped the coin in the air thrice, presumably to confirm it actually had three heads. Satisfied with its impossible dimensions, he shoved it into his pocket.
“It will cover the trolley ride home, at least,” he acquiesced, stepping off his soap box and turning to face his looking glass. “A shame though you can’t see the genius in my little avant-garde performance piece here, Emmy. Even I know that the monster in the mirror is often the hardest to recognize.”
As the man reached to pick up his mirror, his reflection’s arms shot through the glass and grabbed him by the wrists, pulling him in. Emrys immediately tried to chase after him, but bounced off the glass as if there was nothing supernatural about it at all.
“Bastard!” he cursed under his breath, before turning towards us and giving us a small apologetic smile. “I’m sorry you had to see that rather pathetic display. Unfortunately, the few meeting places I know of that are relatively safe from any Ophionic incursion also attract their fair share of other annoying miscreants.”
“If it didn’t attract a little bit of everything, it wouldn’t be a Flea Market, would it?” I asked rhetorically. “Thank you, Emrys, for inviting us. I’ve never been anywhere like this before.”
“And thank you for accepting. Samantha, Genevieve, it’s a pleasure to see you again, and a relief that you have not fallen under the auspices of the Ophion Occult Order,” he said with a gentle bow. “Elam, I remember you as well. Valiant but not reckless, you remained atop Pendragon Hill during my battle with the Darlings until your mistress was well out of harm’s way, and then you got the hell out of dodge yourself. Samantha couldn’t hope for a better Familiar. And Charlotte, any Witch that Samantha deemed worthy to induct into her coven is obviously someone whose acquaintance I am pleased to make. Welcome, all of you, to Mathom-meister’s Flea Market!”
“So this is where you’ve been hiding out the past two years?” Genevieve asked.
“Oh no. Far too Cosmopolitan for my tastes,” Emrys replied. “No, this is just a friendly place to meet those I consider friends – or potential friends, at least. I’d offer to show you around, but I know it’s difficult for you to astral travel for prolonged periods. Come with me to Mathom-meister’s house where we can talk freely, and we’ll discuss the situation with the Order.”
I gave him a small, single nod in response, and gestured with my staff that he should lead the way. He responded by pointing upwards, then vanished into his shadow form. When we looked up, we saw him waving at us from a balcony atop the great silken chrysalis.
We exchanged hesitant glances with one another, but ultimately followed him into the strange structure, moving from the ground to the balcony in an instant by will alone.
“How would an incarnate being get up here if they couldn’t fly or teleport?” Charlotte asked as she peered over the balcony’s teetering edge.
As though answering a summons, a humanoid creature apparated beside her in a flash of dark vapours. The hunched-back entity stood over six-and-a-half feet tall, and was clad in golden-brown erudite robes. Its squid-like skin was of a similar colour, and its entire face was a single gaping orifice that held a wispy, glowing orb in the center of its skull which I immediately recognized as its soul. A pair of long, fanged tentacles lined with pores and tendrils hung down from its head like a long, forked beard, and the seven digits shared by its two hands all bore wicked-looking talons, as did its two-toed, digitigrade feet.
“Not fly or teleport? What sort of pedestrian house guests do you think I entertain here?” the being asked wryly, its voice seeming to come from nowhere in particular.
Charlotte instinctively backed away from the creature and into the protective fold of our coven, but Emrys was quick to hold up his hand to plead for calm.
“Please, there’s no need for alarm. This is our host, Mathom-meister. He’s the only reason any of this is here in the first place,” Emrys informed us. “A year or two ago a companion of his unfortunately became one of the Darling Twin’s victims, and when he heard of my vendetta with them, he tracked me down; which is no small feat, I assure you.”
“It is for us. My people are a race of Planeswalkers. Traversing the many worlds of Creation is second nature to us,” Mathom-meister explained.
“I’ve… I’ve heard of your people, I think,” I said, softly and unsurely. “A friend of mine had an encounter with an artifact that gave her a vision of a race of strange and powerful sorcerers slaying their own god. I take it you’re the ones who slayed this Scarab Titan as well? That’s, that’s…”
“Horrifying, yes. That’s the idea,” he nodded. “You have nothing to worry about, young Witch. My people have no special interest in your world. This is purely personal. My friend is dead, and I want his murderers brought to justice; a goal which Emrys and I happen to have in common.”
“Feel free to share this information with the Ophion Occult Order, Samantha,” Emrys said. “I’d very much like for the Darling Twins to know what’s hunting them. Mathom-meister, please excuse me while I take my guests inside. We do have pressing business to discuss and their time is limited.”
The squid-cyclopes bowed gracefully, and my coven and I quickly scurried after Emrys as he led us inside through a towering hallway and into a large chamber that had been appointed as a living space.
I had thought that Emrys would want to speak with us alone, which was why I was surprised to see a young woman sitting cross-legged on a spongey yet chitinous object that I will for the sake of my sanity call a bean bag chair. Like Emrys, she was pale and blue-blooded, her choppy hair as black as coal. She wore a black robe and heavy black eyeliner, but these could not conceal the fact that she too had thin wisps of miasma emanating from her eyes.
“Is that your… daughter?” Charlotte asked, as baffled by her presence as any of us. The woman smiled warmly at the question.
“In a way. I was dead, and Emrys gave me new life. Now a part of the Outer Primordial Darkness he represents lives in me too,” she said serenely.
Hovering above her left palm were three small bluish-green orbs, lazily going around in a circle. They were translucent and held something inside them that I couldn’t make out, but the orbs themselves appeared to be melting and solidifying by the woman’s will.
“You’re Petra, aren’t you?” I asked as I cautiously approached her. “Chamberlin had mentioned that Emrys had taken an acolyte. I’m Samantha, and this is Genevieve, Elam, and Charlotte.”
“I know. The whole reason we’re here is to speak with you,” she nodded.
“The Ophion Occult Order calls me a soul-flayer, and I’m sure you were all wondering exactly what that meant before you came here,” Emrys said, standing proudly behind his acolyte. “Well, this is it. The Darkness Beyond is now a part of her, and a part of her now lives within the Darkness Beyond. She is not unchanged from what she was before, but neither has what she was been lost.”
“My interpretation of the term ‘soul-flaying’ was the complete removal of a person’s consciousness from their astral and physical bodies to be subsumed by your Darkness,” I countered. “They told me that what you’ve done with Petra here is just the limit of your power while you’re bound in their chains. Are you telling me that if your chains were broken, you wouldn’t be able to do any worse than this?”
“On my physical avatar? No. So long as my astral form remains chained and bound with the World Serpent, I cannot cleave a conscious mind from its astral substrate,” Emrys assured me.
“But that is your ultimate goal, isn’t it? Breaking the chains the Ophion Occult Order put on you is just a stepping stone to breaking the ones the gods bound you with?” Genevieve asked. “You’ve allied yourself with a literal god slayer. Do you expect us to believe that his people’s abilities aren’t something you intend to put to your own ends?”
“I don’t have an ultimate goal so much as I have a fundamental principle of opposing tyranny,” he claimed. “When I was a mere man, thousands of years ago, I was a tyrant. I believed that might made right so unquestionably that when my might began to fail me, the only thing I could think to do was to try everything in my power to restore it. This quest eventually led to me becoming one with the Darkness Beyond, which gave me not only the might I coveted but the wisdom I didn’t know I needed. It gave me perspective. It made me stronger than any human alive at that point but still let me realize how insignificant I was. It was humbling, and enlightening, and filled me both with remorse over my past actions and an impetus to use my newfound gifts to rectify them. I tried to overthrow the gods themselves which, in hindsight, was overly ambitious. I not only failed but had my soul devoured by the World Serpent, where it still resides to this day.
“I am not eager to bring the wrath of the gods down upon me once again. No, for now, I will be content to end the tyranny of the Ophion Occult Order. This is the message I’d like you to relay to them. If the Grand Adderman agrees to unbind my chains and step down from his post, I will spare his life. If he declines, I want the rest of the Order to know that I will show mercy to any who sides with me over him. I am willing to allow the Order to exist so long as it agrees to become more decentralized, democratic, and accountable. They will have to forfeit certain artifacts and individuals in their possession over to me, chief among them the Darling Twins, but I am willing to negotiate. If they aren’t, then I will overthrow the Grand Adderman by whatever means necessary and see the Order scattered to the four winds. It is entirely up to them whether or not the conflict between us escalates to full-on war. Have I made myself clear, Samantha?”
“I think so,” I said as I pensively considered everything he had said. “Why should they trust you to keep your word once your chains are broken? For that matter, why should we?”
He took a moment to consider his response, eyeing me over as though he was trying to divine something that would win over my trust.
“Samantha, you made a pact with Persephone to get your Spirit Familiar there; one where she swore by the River Styx. Is that correct?” he asked.
“It is,” I nodded.
“And in the years since, has Persephone ever broken that pact she swore to?” he asked.
“No, she hasn’t,” I replied.
“I may not be an Old God, but so long as my astral form remains bound by their chains, they have power over me,” he said. “Samantha Sumner, Hedge Witch of Harrowick Woods, I swear on the River Styx that I have spoken no lies to you today. I swear by the River Styx that I will abide by any Covenant that I and the Ophion Occult Order agree to in good faith and fair dealing that they do not break first. I swear by the River Styx that when my chains are broken, I will give you no cause to fear me or regret your trust in me.”
I gave a questioning glance to Genevieve, and then Elam, both of whom nodded in the affirmative.
“All right. An oath sworn on the River Styx is good enough for me. I’ll deliver your terms to Seneca Chamberlin,” I agreed. “I’m very grateful for the trust and respect you’ve shown for me and my coven, Emrys, though I can’t say I quite understand it. Out of all the guests that were there on the Hallow’s Eve you were summoned, why did Evie and I stand out to you?”
“The Ophion Occult Order deemed you worthy of inclusion in their cult, an offer you rejected on principle. You cheated Persephone, but you did it not to gain immortality for yourself but to save your friend from hell. You came here, thinking I could very well tear your souls asunder, but did so because you believed it was your duty to prevent needless suffering,” Emrys answered. “You are extraordinary in your craft, courage, and conscience, the latter of which especially stood out among the degenerates at that party. I do apologize if I frightened you at that event. I was a bit… irritable, given the circumstances. I’m glad we were able to meet again under more pleasant conditions.”
“So am I, Emrys,” I nodded. “I’m not sure exactly what this means or how relevant it is, but Seneca wanted me to tell you that he’s able to offer you the Dream Demon Red Ruck as a sacrifice.”
Pffft. Tell him it’s hardly a sacrifice if I’m getting rid of a boogie man for him,” he scoffed. “In fact, now that you mention it, Ruck’s one egregore that might be of more use to me alive.”
I wanted to ask him what he meant by that, but we were suddenly interrupted by the rapid pounding of a gong somewhere down below. It seemed to be an alarm of some kind, as we could hear the panicked shouting and frantic racing of people either battening down or forsaking the Flea Market altogether.
Mathom-meister apparated into the middle of the room, his facial tentacles reflexively raised in a defensive position.
“Were you outside the market?” he demanded of us.
“The portal we came through deposited us a few miles outside of the market, yes,” I admitted.
“Damn,” Emrys cursed softly, though he sounded more frustrated than angry. “Meister, it’s not their fault. I knew they weren’t experienced Planeswalkers, I could have – ”
“It doesn’t matter!” Mathom-meister interjected. “They need to leave, now!”
“Why, what’s going on?” Genevieve demanded.
“The scarabs are swarming,” Petra explained. “Don’t feel bad; it happens often enough that they’re prepared for it.”
I wanted to press for more details, but I could hear the humming of a vast winged swarm steadily encroaching upon us.
“Don’t worry. Once you leave the swarm will disperse… eventually,” Emrys told us. “We’ve said all that need be said for now. Return home, and I’ll reach out to you again shortly, Samantha.”
Again, I wanted to object, but the swarm outside was growing louder and louder, and it occurred to me that we might not be completely safe from a biblical swarm of insects that could not only sense but evidently sought out souls.
This occurred to Charlotte as well, as she was the first of us to vanish and awaken back in her body. We could all feel the weight of her reembodied soul tugging on us to return with her. Genevieve immediately grabbed hold of my right hand and Elam my left, both of them refusing to leave before I did.
I spared one final glance at Emrys, lamenting that we couldn’t have had more time.
“I’ll relay everything you said to the Order. I’ll make sure they know you’re willing to negotiate a truce,” I vowed.
He gave me a gracious nod, and just as we heard the swarm start to pelt the exterior of the market, I forced my physical eyes open and was back in my body, still safely under a willow tree in my cemetery.
I immediately looked beside me to Genevieve, and saw that she was awake as well, and then around me for Elam, who seemed to be suffering a bit of spectral whiplash from being pulled back with me so suddenly, but was otherwise all right. Sighing with relief, I turned lastly to Charlotte, and saw that she was looking down at the mediation circle in dreaded horror.
Following her gaze, I saw that the Undying Rose was gone – spent, perhaps, in exchange for our passage – and in its place was the inert, and hopefully dead, body of one of the shimmering scarabs.
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2023.06.10 21:15 idontdrinkcowjuice How do you make non-medic friends?

I'm sitting here alone on a beautiful day wondering what to do.
All my friends are medics, so they're either at work, in a different city due to training, in Australia, or using their rare days off for errands and/or visiting family.
I'm horribly single too so don't even have a partner to entertain me.
I've tried various hobbies, but shift work really fucks up any possibility of committing to anything involving a team or regular meetings, and sometimes when I have days off I'm just too damn tired to move.
What is this life? Help pls
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2023.06.10 21:09 Moodraa Can I file charges?

If it makes a difference, this is in Baden-Württemberg.
I started a city tour business under selb-ständige arbeit. The local finanzamt told me it´s okay.
I recently had a person who was a no-show for their scheduled time. They didn´t answer any messages or texts. My last message offered them an alternate choice of times to reschedule. I took date-stamped and time-stamped pictures of myself at the start point just in case. The messages are also time-stamped and date-stamped.
Later, the person posted a 1-star review claiming I didn´t show up for the tour, they were there. They also said where they were, which was the wrong start point and all the way on the other side of the city from the correct point. The information for the tour includes a Google Maps with directions to the start point.
I contacted the person asking for the review to be removed and referencing the photos and messages. The person declared the photos and messages fake, and refused all requests.
I offer this tour through a 3rd party website. One person working for the website then deleted my account claiming I wasn´t supposed to contact the person about the review.
I already researched any jurisdictional issues. The crime committed is false statement of fact (Rufmord/Verleumdung). Germany has jurisdiction because the person who made the false review was in Germany (they wrote this also in their replies to me, so it´s solid). The German law also states that if a 3rd party gets involved and furthers the crime then Germany has jurisdiction on that. Since the issue was initially a crime, which was furthered by this 3rd person, then the 3rd person can also be charged with the crime. I do have the full name, picture and work location of the 3rd person. The 3rd person is located in Spain, so within reach.
I want to know if my understanding of this sounds correct to you all? Also, since I have suffered severe financial loss due to this crime, can I sue for that in Germany? The company this 3rd person works for is located in Spain but does business in Germany.
All feedback is greatly appreciated.
submitted by Moodraa to germany [link] [comments]