4702/From Flesh to Flesh

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From Flesh to Flesh
Date of Scene: 12 January 2021
Location: Athenaeum -- Boston, MA
Synopsis: An evil book of human skin is rescued from Boston. Except it's not really going to end clean, is it?
Cast of Characters: John Constantine, Meggan Puceanu

John Constantine has posed:
The Boston Athenaeum. It's the sort of library that prompts admiration from even non-readers. For someone who adores books, it's the kind of place where the consumer of literature could just disappear into a comfortable chair forever, surrounded by some of the greatest works of literature ever written.

It's also the sort of place that stores secrets. To wit: wood-paneled iron doors are closed at night. The windowpanes are held in place with like metal. Even the roof is secured, with grates over pipes, drainages, and smokestacks.

A very keen eye repairing such coverlets would notice the tiniest of runes engraved in them. Runes of warding and imprisonment.

Of course there are conventional locks, but these conventional locks rely on human security guards and patterns. Making sure no one sneaks in after hours through, say, the basement access.

Or in the case of Constantine and his accomplice Meggan, by simply taking refuge in a janitor's closet on the cleaner's day off. No one thinks to lock up the bleach and brooms.

John checks his watch. "Should be the last guard rotation this hour," he murmurs to Meg, and gets to his feet. Limbs sore from prolonged sitting in a cramped room are stretched and John cracks the door open. It's fairly dark with all but the low emergency lights providing illumination, and what spills in from the windows bared to the city streets outside.

The library takes on a more sepulchural quality in these wee hours. Spirits bound to certain books, shades that haunt the ink and letters of tomes well over a century old. If books have ghosts, there are certainly spirits here.

And darker things that the library hides.

John steps into the hall, looks left and right, then prompts Meggan to follow his silent course with a tilt of his head.

Meggan Puceanu has posed:
The Boston Athenaeum doesn't look like a standard library, at least as most suburbanites might expect. Even in a janitorial closet, a niche that probably could hold art. Probably should have.

No musty corridors with flickering fluorescent lighting, creaky carts rolling over worn-out linoleum or flattened carpets. Vaulted white ceilings frame sets of bookcases lined with 100,000 rare or old manuscripts, a rainbow of dark leather or richly-dyed cloth bindings contained on deep shelves. She can't see them through the doors, and the deprivation of her early years scolds from just outside arm's reach. Meggan closes her eyes, head tilted a degree. It's as if she might be listening to the dull creak of the HVAC system or floorboards where patrons and librarians would pass. Should pass. Haven't passed for too long. Her arm wraps around herself, hand resting against her waist. Hair still damp from a shower releases that faint trace of shampoo, different from the vellichor and dust and luxurious carpets outside.

A nudge to John's side is thoughtful, maybe reassuring. She requires no reminder of where he is, any more than a needle would fail to spin on a compass rose to point north. Her tongue presses to her palate, and she shifts, something loosening in her spine, shrugged off.

A blink, and then she pushes off the shelf she leaned against for how long. The apparent lassitude of waiting is shaken free, her shoulders rolling, limbs shaken out mildly. Tracking her simply won't be possible where the magician might mildly be, since her feet don't touch the ground. An inch of clearance, that's all. Darker things a library hides in a large, open space, in smaller ones.

A nudge to the left puts her adjacent to him. Books can whisper, or they can scream. They can be voices for ripped out tongues, or be the forced tale over the silent. But rarely, rarely do they emerge as complete beings, criminality and theft wound together. A shuddering wrongness to curl the lips here, emanating from the first floor.

John Constantine has posed:
It would disturb some people to know that the reason they don't see most spectres isn't because they aren't there; it's because they don't know how to look. For Constantine and Meggan, who have that Third Eye, the supernatural becomes a mild irritant. There are few true spirits present, of course, the old haunters exorcised long since. Just as there is power in books, there is magic, and some tomes attract flickering shades that manifest for brief moments and vanish again. Spirits not bound to this world but to the Astral, reaching between the walls of reality with a forlorn touch that's denied them.

Constantine grunts in irritation at ghostly hands in his path and whips his fingers through the air, disturbing dust and dissolving the shade to mere motes.

They reach the end of the hall and John holds a finger aloft to Meggan. 'Security' announces a sign on the wall, and an arrow points towards the desk. His shoes are quite stealthy even on the marble and John slips the corner, peeks. Two guards, one dozing in front of the monitors and the other drinking coffee and reading the paper. Men, relying on systems rather than doing their own labor.

A pinch of silver sand is produced from a tiny velvet bag. John's lips purse and send it soaring on eddies of cool air to settle on the guards. Lips move almost soundlessly through an incantation and the guards roll into a deep, true slumber at the gentle magical touch.

A quick glance over his shoulder; John beckons the Sidhe girl to join him, and sets about disabling the security system in the building. "Should keep them asleep for an hour or two," he tells her. "Half the time they aren't even aware they were asleep. Handy little incantation," he remarks.

Meggan Puceanu has posed:
The ghosts impact less upon the blonde, if only because they physically do not stand out nearly so well. John's Sight might as well be the hyperfocused version, Meggan still gaining refinement over hers not attuned to the familiar ebbs and flows of the Otherworld. Or blinding herself, for that matter. The ephemeral impressions from long-ago patrons trapped to walking these halls in search of that precious scrap of lore not found in life are mostly harmless, stained by the routine of mumbling to themselves or flashing in and out among the wide alcoves.

Regret and obsession stand side by side for the fae. For the magician, it may be considerably more gropey but both have their cobwebs to pass through.

His living shadow floats just beyond arm's reach, looking up and around for cameras, at least. Let him worry about those who review the screens whilst daydreaming about games at Fenway or that Florida holiday they keep promising the missus. Alarm isn't ringing in their heads, so no reason there to clutch John and pull him away. She watches him settle silence of rest on them, brows raised slightly. So much in the world to learn.

"Useful," she agrees. "Doors bound to be locked." A nod at their belts, the keyring of a warden along with the usual advanced key cards. All Boston wept with the loss of art from Isabella Stewart's collection, and those thieves shifted the game for nearly every other institution. Not every layer of security is visible. Not all lies in a ward, either.

She doesn't hesitate to pinch a brochure with a floorplan layout, though the fire exit maps marked by the EXIT! signs offer sufficient indication on where to go for some things.

But not the source of that lamentation, the brooding shadows staining the ground and leaked into the white walls.

John Constantine has posed:
Their destination is not marked on the map. 'Curator's Office' is the final stop on paper. John tries the keycards until one works and the door *clicks* open. Into the room they go. It's appointed in that rich old style of mahogany and red leather, deep earthy tones and scents. One of the few things curiously absent from the room are any actual *books*. It's all files and papers and archival notes and a computer in the corner.

John ignores them all and starts pacing around the room. "Now I've got it on good authority that this building is a bit bigger than the official map suggests," he tells Meggan. "Apparently in the late eighteen-hundreds, they stopped using the sublevel downstairs for storage. Mold, or summat. But it's still there. And I /think/, given Boston real estate prices, that it's unlikely that it's still un-used today. Makes sense the door to a secret chamber would be in the curator's office, aye? And if I were going to store the rare manuscripts on site, I'd keep 'em somewhere the public couldn't get a hand on 'em."

Meggan Puceanu has posed:
Into a room that, by its nature, is locked up. No windows, no decorative filigree vents or a skylight, though for a building that height, a skylight would be useless. Tidy but still stuffed in its fashion, it's a place that screams pomp and staying out. Meggan lingers near the wall, hovering against the doorway.

"Like old cities, half of it's underground," she drawls softly in the Bostonian accent. A dip of her chin agrees with John's assessment. "Some of it this way used to be underwater, I'd guess. Thinking of how close the water runs, just like the Thames estuary. Would be nice if we had a walled-over or subterranean creek, but we can make do." She waves a hand lightly across the open space, but the plaster and panels aren't obvious one way or the other.

There could be some hesitation present while he goes looking for something unseen, the traditional way. But fae are anything but traditional unless they are, and being uncoupled from expectations is old hat to her. "Do you want me to just walk through and take a look?"

A gesture.

John Constantine has posed:
John blinks. "You can do that?" He considers Meggan, the wall, the room. "Well I'm gonna need a bit to sneak around and figure out where the bloody secret switch is," he says. "I /know/ there's a secret room around here somewhere, I just don't know /where/," John mutters.

He stands akimbo, then looks at Meggan and uplifts his chin. "Be careful, aye?" he says. "I can feel wards running around here somewhere and there's runework to keep out our types. I don't think I could even summon a door out of here right now. I don't want you t' cross a live wire and end up getting hurt somehow," he tells the lovely blonde. "You sure you want to risk crossing some iron scrollwork buried in the wall?"

Meggan Puceanu has posed:
He has to ask and she has to smile, holding out her hands to him. "Anchor me?"

Such terms have their gravity when dealing with an exorcist. The blonde shakes her head until her hair falls loose and mildly wet, coiling around her hips, a rivulet of sunshine in a dim room. "Iron is an allergy for average fae. My heritage is a bit different than that, or the other half supplements the first and makes it no trouble. I don't like cold iron, it itches how a wool blanket would to you. But takes a bit worse than that to trouble me." That doesn't stop her from shuddering at the concept of being blocked in somehow, the scar on her heel more than likely related to why. Most don't carry Hell's binding on them, much less a broken one, and walk free for the telling. "Reckoning of truth, if there /is/ a ward, will it trigger off intangible but not a ghost? Can you shut it down, flick a lightswitch? You seem more used to things than me."

All the while, her legs are starting to lose any opacity. Lucent, the light passing through, she's more mist than substance through the frosted blue and black of her shirt at the waist. Crawling up to the shoulders, slowly but surely she becomes amorphous, very much still the British girl he knows but just not in purely physical terms.

John Constantine has posed:
"Beats me," John shrugs. "Fifty different spellworking traditions could have laid it down. I can't suss it out unless I see it in person. Just uh..." He tugs his ear with a faint expression of consternation, then runs his fingers through his spiky blonde hair. "If you get stuck, tug twice, I'll see if I can come pull you up," he offers. It's the best he can do, and digs in his pockets repeatedly until he comes up with some golden twine. It's wrapped around her forefinger and then tied to his. "Luck," he bids Meggan, and his eyes flash with a little intimiate affection and worry as the sidhe girl starts to slip into the aether.

Meggan Puceanu has posed:
"Luck." A tip forward and Meggan kisses his brow right over the third eye, a blessing as she might offer. The twine wrapped around her fingertips turns into mist along with her, otherwise moving around as a wispy ethereal spirit stark naked /would/ be fun but a problem.

She still hovers an inch above the ground for the moment. Audible, though rather distant, she murmurs, "I'll poke at the walls, a kind of depth testing." Her form is hazy, much of the light naturally exuded hard into the Astral and other realms -- the beacon that attracts the wrong kind of attention in some place. It makes seeing her easy in the visual spectrum for the moment but she doesn't radiate heat either. Floating up to the wall, she sinks down onto one knee and pokes a finger through the substance of the wall. It's thicker than her, and atoms shove aside for her to work up to the wrist in a second or two. Another prod, and she yanks back. "No tentacles in there. But it's awfully cold and squelchy. If this has a plumbing pipe on the other side, there will be words," she warns.

Give her a second and she vanishes through the wall, golden hair a wavering tail behind her. He's alone and finally left to himself in her wake. Long enough to search how he wants.

Passing through insulation and drywall into the dark, the living spectre doesn't just jump out. She sinks sideways along the wood studs and plaster fill, peeking through for any gaps. For any holes. It takes a while to move along the periphery of the room, peeking in or out, seeing anything adjacent. At one point, she's standing in a potted fig.

The room is disturbingly quiet in his wake. Curators are messy in their way. All the banking boxes, the filing cabinets, have order in that chaos. A few watercolours hang on the walls and the floor itself is just shining boards, a rug for dust collection.

John Constantine has posed:
It's hard finding secret doors from the concealed side. A button under a desk, a statue that has to be twisted. John even checks for torch sconces, but alas-- the solution must be a little more high-tech than he's prepared to commit. Life is, alas, not always a Scooby Doo episode.

Fortunately for Meggan, opening the door from the other side is a matter of pressing a large button on the interior wall. The door slides open to reveal a surprised looking Constantine.

"Blimey, you're handy to have along," he remarks, and moves to meet Meggan. It's a narrow little landing that leads down a twisted iron staircase. John closes the door behind him and starts down the steps. The metal rattles and creaks underfoot as they descend a full twenty feet under the Museum's sublevel.

John pulls a rather prosaic little flashlight from his pocket and turns it on. It flickers this way and that. He sniffs, tastes the air with his tongue. "Dry down here," he observes. "I smell... parchment and preservatives, and some chemicals. Dessicants. Feel that breeze?" He plucks a blonde hair from his head and holds it aloft. It tugs this way and that, invisibly. "Air circulators. Proper storage for books," he remarks. The hair's burned to a fizzling crisp. Magicians know better than to leave hair laying around.

"Ah, there we go." He finds a switch, an old turn-style one, and switches it over. Flourescent lights crackle to life overhead, illuminating row after row of books stored with a great care for their preservation. He starts stalking the rows.

"We're looking for a book from the early 1800s. 'Hib Liber Waltonis', something something."

Meggan Puceanu has posed:
The ephemeral woman standing there floats off the ground, mist enveloping her ankles and concealing her toes. It gives her a platform that curls and sways in tendrils, but none of them are the least bit wet or tangible. Having already found her path through, Meg grins cheeky. "Sometimes," she says from that distant point, "it has its upshots." Trying to vocalize loudly while stuck in an ephemeral form is like shouting at mist. Great for absorbing sound, less for making it.

John leads the way to a point down the stairs, though she circles around him and passes by without treating him like the wall or floor. Purely optional to dip through? No. That would be rude. "You're plenty handy as it is. Careful, there is a hairline crack on the wall up there. Not sure if it would be from water or something else."

The flashlight passes right through her, and she shakes her head when he asks about smell. "Not so obvious. I'd have to be made of air to distinguish exactly what and where. The breeze is clear enough." Her head turns as he holds up his hand, and she floats nearer, going airborne above him to see whether it tries to pass right through her.

The golden trail of her hair reaching almost to the floor? Pay no heed. "They've got it almost sealed like a bank vault up in here. Not much dust this way. Everything looks fairly locked up from above." Lips purse and a hint of a smile fights to get free. "You want me to go ransacking some innocent books and getting up close and personal with a... Very angry thing. That way."

A slender arm thrusts out to the mid-back corner.

John Constantine has posed:
It's the centerpiece of the Museum's collection, the diary of a career criminal named James Walton. Even in the vault it's under its own lock-and-key, a cabinet with a heavy security deadbolt to protect it from someone who somehow penetrated the inner sanctum.

"Right, give us a minute," John tells Meg, and from up his sleeve produces a roll of burglar's tools. Thumb and forefinger draw over his mouth and chin, provoking a rustling of five-o'clock stubble. John sets to work with a rake and tension tool, tools as old as tumble-locks themselves.

"Four... two... four two... four two... three... Four two three... five?" John mutters over and over, counting tumblers as he goes. It takes him about five minutes to get the tumblers to align; there's a catch and a *clink* and the whole assembly starts rotating in place. The doors are pulled open and the ancient scent of preserved human skin slips around them.

"Right. The memoirs of a middling criminal." He moves the book to an examination table and pulls a light over it. From a particularly deep pocket John retrieves a peculiar device, a piece of smoked glass bound in gold wire. He starts turning through the pages, slowly, then faster and faster. Flipping through them. He gets to the end, goes backwards.

Finally a sulpherous curse punctuates him slapping the book shut. "Bugger me!" he swears. "Goddamed lying loa, that's the last time I pay that mankey little twat for information. It's not /here/," John growls, and punches the tabletop.

Meggan Puceanu has posed:
He's a burglar, right and thorough rake, drinker, gambler, exorcist... Titles are starting to rack up.

Fascination has its own powerful gravity. It also begs the question of what might happen if someone comes, so Meggan leans on her stomach and floats over the cabinet like a protective genius loci or household spirit. Her gaze rests out against the doorway, backward rather than his forward. John himself can worry about screaming, shrieking spectres and voices arising from within the case he pops open with some kind of measured force. Someone needs to check his back.

Five minutes of solid work, no alarms going off, and her trailing hair giving off a little light so he can free his hands up from the flashlight. It's not perfect but it'll fly.

The book isn't much when he lifts it. Shabby almost. The front cover is worn, interior faded for the ink written there nearly two hundred years ago has a telling antiquity. Greyish, the suggestion it's deerskin is betrayed on different levels. On the oiliness of it.

On the printed pages, though, the black sets in, bled neat from a press. The pressure on those pages leaves scars to the touch. It doesn't constitute the handwriting lost, but one that a slender device might pick up as stained with the murmurs of a voice that isn't there, with the blood and tears mixed into something worse that forms the ink. A fatty residue, its sympathetic connections wound beyond the building.

John Constantine has posed:
John has to take a few paces to calm himself. Meggan's empathic presence is a soothing one, a cool stream of water that laps against the senses. He walks this way and that, thinking, gears turning with great speed behind his eyes.

"The loa told me that the pages were bound in flesh and blood," John says. He's as much talking to Meggan as himself. "Knew it was in Boston. Had to be the book. 'Bound in flesh'-- this is the biography of George Walton. Serial highwayman in Boston," John explains. "When he died of consumption, they skinned him and used his flesh as binding material. There were two copies made. Both were destroyed by a priest around, uh... 1830, but somehow -this- one ended up in the Aetheneum collection. No one knows how or why. Now this library, this whole building, it's a spiritual energy cage. It keeps dark energies from building up or crossing the threshold."

"That's why it's sat here for so long. It's a safe place for it and the real copy never surfaces. They've a pigskin one they show the crowd."

John examines the lens in his hand, tosses it with a clatter and a frusrtated sigh. "What I'm looking for would be hidden so it couldn't be easily read. The lens should show me the hidden words. But I'm not finding it in any of the pages."

Meggan Puceanu has posed:
Calming words go only so far. So too, the gentle arc of a fingertip traced down the line of his shoulder, the wordless reminder that even a mostly intangible figure is still capable of human emotion, of laying a foundation. He provided the anchorage when she shifted, and so might she offer something of the same. Those too-bright green eyes betraying her inhuman nature remain steady, scrunched in thought while he speaks.

And in fairness, listening to him speak is a pleasure of another kind, interesting for someone with a mind hungry for information deprived for a good long time. The world is full of opportunities; beggar at a feast, who would deny that? Meggan rolls off her stomach, avoiding slipping through the cabinet by accident, though she ends up knee-deep in the floor before ascending up. "Plain sight for the visitors, you mean? Would the loa know a difference between pig or cow or," a shudder, "human if it were not in contact? I don't imagine it's easy to tell without specialised information. Not something I want to know. It's full of anger, though. That thing bleeds red anger." Hard for her to explain but it's just another dimension of being like calling a sky blue, the bed cold, the water wet.

It's habit to push her hair back despite it not actually touching skin. Habit then to wander around in a circle, pacing in thought, guarding the borders of sorts. "This might be a poor suggestion. I'll eat the words if so. But you said destroyed by a priest. Out back is a great old cemetery, and the church to go with it. We saw the spire going past, and that boneyard's old. Old for around here. Had all these headstones with skulls and crossbones. Would a priest take a secret to his grave? I mean, the old church yards were fenced to keep in the dead. Or keep us out? I don't remember that part well, it changes a lot. But I've read my Gaiman and definitely seen enough movies to know the old yards that got sanctified were supposed to be better about it. Put a man in a cassock with a bad book up his skirts, protected by God? I'd guess that to start. Or you put it under a carpark like Richard II."

John Constantine has posed:
John's brows quirk. "Hnnh," he says, thoughtfully. It takes him a few seconds to mull it over. He turns and digs around in a cabinet, comes up with a clamshell case. The sort of thing used to transport high-value items. The book is swaddled in cloth, placed in the case, sealed away with a click of metal levers.

"If there is one thing I have faith in, luv, it's that men of the cloth are habitual liars."

Up and out they go, and it's child's play to break into the cemetary. People erect those iron fences to delineate the land, saying it's to keep kids away. But everyone knows why cemetaries are always closed up at night, even if it's with but a solitary chain swinging between poles and a sign that tells the living 'keep out'. A barrier for what lies inside.

Through the crumbling statuary, the broken headstones; poor man's markers the size of a small book, grandiose mausoleums dedicated to preserving the remains of the forgotten aristocrats of early Boston. The priest's marker is found closer to the wealthy than the impoverished; a coincidence, or a statement? John sets the book atop the headstone and digs in his endless pockets for chalk, candles, incense, and a knife.

"Hope you don't hold a little necromancy against me," he quips at Meggan. "Let alone shite fast and dirty work."

Sigils and circles, bindings of rote and word; John mutters incantations that empower each rune as it's formed. Candles placed at the five points of a pentagram and lit with his ever-present bic. Since he's got it out, automatic actions start a fresh cigarette between his lips. It's been a whole half hour since his last one, after all.

"Qui hic mortuus est, viviet. Qui hic dormit, excitare. Qui tacent hic enem, loquimur." The Latin comes fluid and low from John's fingers and he punctuates it with a dribble of blood draw from the back of his hand, to whet the appetites of the dead. Not the blood itself, but the spirit that infuses it; a lure or a gift, or both.

John steps back and a wraith crawls out of the ground like so much gathered fog. It turns in place, confused, and when it faces John and Meggan, it holds the facade of a startled priest.

"Father Donovan?" John prompts.

Meggan Puceanu has posed:
With a merry laugh, the ghost wisps around him and follows until they almost cross the threshold of the place. Not that Meggan is truly ghostly, but she pauses by one of those decorative fig plants beside the door. Still they carry a few bits of tinsel from their Christmas decorations, and she reaches out her hands to the leaves. Fingers trace the light edges just enough to accommodate that shift of self from wall-passing ephemera to herself. The immediate shunt drops her onto the floor, heels and all, soles fully in contact for once. A good little shake and shimmy assures all limbs are where they should be, and she sashays off without a care in the world after the mage.

To be so carefree, when holding a horrid book. "You're probably right. They railed against the Romanichal back in the day, and I don't know. Anglican Church is fairly cake-or-death nowadays. They have the loveliest buildings, gorgeous spots like the cathedrals in Durham and Westminster. But that's just show, not really do."

Paths bisect the Old Burying Grounds, just as often known as the Granary Grounds. Important men to Boston's history rest unassaulted, good old Sam Adams among them. Probably a few kegs of ale, then, for the afterlife that he roundly condemned now and then. Others in their Puritanical grief dwell by, Patriots and revolutionaries, standard widows and widowers with their rows of mourned children. A symphony of life, remembered in death. The leering faces, the charmingly carved ghouls and death's heads have a comical quality. Not exactly up to the Victorian standards of weeping angels and sighing maidens, but it has a deathly weight all itself. A place to stand, to breathe, and know mortality is real. Finite weight on two that probably slipped the mortal coil, unaging blood in the veins, a pact of binding.

Quiet, not to interrupt, Meggan doesn't intercede for a ghost or start freaking out if the ground rips open. She hovers back aways, candles burning bright and teasing at her senses. Elemental knows fire, after all, the taste of it, the tease of summer in the act. The rest is his own power, something unfamiliar in the Latin, definitely unnamed in the gestures. When he cuts himself, she winces, but again won't force her way in like a confused, upset child witnessing parents up to no good.

Save that for the man with the beaky nose and the weight of broader shoulders than normal. Bent slightly, and his rheumy squint comes with a hawkish purpose even in confusion. Here is someone who might have railed at the pulpit, bullied around his flock with a raised hand. Probably not the sort who actually went to the pulpit, but visited when called upon to castigate or upbraid uppity people. He staggers forward a step or two, losing that hunch a little. It's the gesture of someone who sits too long poring over items, someone drawing themselves up. Not inconsiderable height for his time, but 150 years and some hasn't helped with the modern crop of humanity. John's got two inches, and Meggan doesn't count standing on tiptoe perpetually. She beams a smile at him, resolute and friendly.

"What is the meaning of this? Know you not the business of the church takes precedence? Doubtful that you would consider such an interruption, common men never do." He gulps out a breath, one unnecessary, all ether and miasma. "Greater callings, greater..."

John Constantine has posed:
"Centum mortes animam salvatur," John says, and lifts a hand. On his finger is a ring that burns with brass and red lacquer. The priest's rheumy eyes widen. John lowers the hand and it rests behind his back. The little glamour on his Ovaltine Decoder Ring sputters out in his cupped palm, purpose served. "The Inquisition has need of you, Father," he says, formally. Even his posture's changed, tone confident and balanced.

The priest ducks his head obediently, crosses himself. John mimics the gesture. "I'm here because of a book, a book you claim you destroyed. Hic Liber Waltonis, the book of --"

He's cut off by the Priest's horrified expression. "God preserve me, the book? It has returned?" John points at the book on the headstone and the ghost flickers with even greater alarm, in and out of cohesion.

"It... yes," John says, cautiously. "I think I have a means of destroying it. But I must prove to the Bishop that the book is not a fake. I searched it for sigils or signs of Satan but found nothing except an ill feeling in my stomach."

The priest shakes off his spectral fear, head wagging. "The book... I destroyed it. I swear I did. I sang purifying hymns, consecrated it, buried it under the taberancle. But every ten years it returned, in new hands. I thought I had secured it finally, destroyed it with molten lead and bound the remains in sanctified chains."

"Father-- focus, Father," John says, premptorily. "How can I prove that this book is /the/ corrupt book, and not a forgery?"

The priest struggles, but focuses on the Exorcist. "Two strips of hide were taken from the man. From sternum to spine. His left breast was unmarred, but the right--" The ghost shudders. "but on his right breast was a tattoo, one I'd not seen before or since. It twists the eye and the soul, it tries to darken the glory of God in my heart when I looked upon it. I could but seal it away, bind it out of sight beneath a coverlet containing the praises of our Lord."

"I am grateful, Father. Sleep, return to your rest," he says. "Requiem en terra pax." The ghost bows, crosses himself, and slinks back into the slumber of the dead.

John collects the book, tosses it, and catches it with a disregard for the formality of the moment. It apparently means little for him to have interrogated a priest dead most of two centuries. "I'm sure all the prayers and blessings would have worked well if the markings were actually demonic," John tells Meggan as they walk away. Best not to casually undo the work of the priest /right/ on his grave. "But this is old, old magic. Older than the Church by quite a bit, even. He'd call it pagan except I don't think his mind could wrap around what he's possibly contending with."

A sarcophagus offers a convenient bench; John sets the book atop the marble slab without so much as an apology to Alfred Higgens, the occupant of the ornately carved tomb. John opens the book's cover and with the tip of a sharp boxcutter, cuts away the paper glued over the inside of the cover.

He pauses before it's lifted away and looks to Meggan. "Might want to shield your Sight, luv," he suggests. "This is the sort of thing that keeps blokes like me from sleeping at night."

Once she's made her readiness, John takes a breath and digs out the lens from his pocket. The sticky paper's peeled away from the tanned hide. The tattoo in question is not mere ink on flesh. It's nauseatingly complex, a geometry that is neither Euclidean nor rationale. There is a pattern but it radiates *wrongness*, a defiance of the natural state of things. Malfeasant and hateful-- but a promise of power as well.

When John lifts the lens to the tattoo that hateful miasma swirls upwards from the lens like a flame. The dead scream in their crypts and ravens fly away, shrieking. It lasts for less than a second before John tears his eyes from it and slaps the book shut with one hand. The lens hits the grass with a soft *thud* nearby, and John collapses not far behind it.

Meggan Puceanu has posed:
An old man confronted by one in his prime. A story for the ages, the passing on of information on the forbidden. This late at night, not many people are in the cemetery, but the empath on guard keeps her attention mostly on the conversation and a little on trouble. If anyone scampers by on the path, a nudge to keep them engrossed in their current activity isn't too hard. She doesn't have the true telepathic abilities of some, but contentment or a bit of anxiety to run along are fully within her forte.

Aside from one mischief-maker glued to his phone, none come. No help is needed. Instead the exchanges of Latin and a ghostly gimlet eye shot to the blonde in trousers (perish the notion) and unacceptably scanty bared sleeves invokes temptation and inquiry, though none are passed from ghost to fae. His horrors are reserved for the seriousness of the book, not fancy trollops tempting men by showing ankles and centimeters of skin.

His disappearance leaves a stench of faint cooked wax and scorched cobwebs when he fades. Until then, the peace of the dead remains a foggy mystery in a cemetery lacking the mist, ravens, and full moon to approach utterly terrible. John's work alone leaves a stamp. "Too late for that," she whispers when he offers that warning, "I've already seen and lived it for an eternity."

The wan lift of her lips is the only time the fire in her has gone out, that intense radiance dwindling for a few foggy breaths until forcibly thrust away. Readiness is the act of wrapping her arms around herself, a moderated hug, and the weight of her golden hair swaying restless like kelp fronds in the California Current, endlessly nourishing. A sticky paper tear, her breath ceases. It hurts to feel, not like magic, but just that contorted expression waiting to burst out like a shadow.

Old memories hinge on things like that. Some not so old. Those memories of less than a year past. Her back tightens when a wail starts, and it almost fells her to her knees at the choral cry, lurching forward and slamming her palms into the earth and the path. Stone craters, the asphalt crumbling away under the left. To the right, a divot deeper than it should. Profanity slips out, the dark edging of the sword meeting the block with a neck in between, spat hard as tacks. Listen to anyone of the old languages of Britain go off, and refine that on a whetstone of sharpened recognizance. She rocks forward, brow to the earth in ancient kowtow, and bobs back up to scramble his way. The lens can wait unless a crow settles too close, wanting its shiny. It ought to know better. Dark shadows reel and twist, the hate curdling, crawling through the tendrils across a poisoned earth. She might get to him before he rises, or not, but either way you always guard the wizard.

Girl's seen enough D&D to know that.

John Constantine has posed:
John's body is wracked with pain that draws him taut as a bowstring. The heels of his palms dig into his eyes as if they've been seared; the heels of his shoes gouge the grass, a poor substitute for the kicking and screaming he'd prefer to do.

Regrettably for his ego, while John might sublimate his agony for the sake of his pride, he cannot actually hide from Meggan how much pain he's in.

The cries of the disturbed dead settle, though they weep and moan softly at the disruption. The crows do not return; it will be days, maybe longer, before the silent sentinels of the graveyard return to their work.

In the curl of Meggan's arms John's pain slowly subsides, ground to dust in the teeth of his indomitable willpower. The watchspring unravels and finally he goes limp.

"I'm still peeved about that bloody Loa for not warning me," John rasps. His voice is coarse with screams gone un-voiced. "But I suppose it steered me right, in the end." John rolls to his side and starts to his feet with a haggard lack of balance. "You orright?"

Meggan Puceanu has posed:
Old stories recount the overlap between the fae and the dead. It's not a separation of states; Hades and Hecate held the place for the Lampedusae nymphs, for example. The alfar of Teutonic myth carried their roles off between the realms, and of course à whole spectrum of kindred spirits who might lay claim to their corner of the Otherworld take the matter seriously enough. Deathly shadows fall among those of the Wild Hunt through the children of Annwn, and while Meggan is about as far from Death's personal retinue as someone can get, she still has a drawn tie through the accursed empathy that seethes all around with the wailing lamentations of the disquieted. Her eyes might be shut but it won't stop the tears from rolling down her face, a kind of mental pain there simply aren't walls to when it grows inside the garden, trying to strangle the externalized pain.

Sometimes all she can do is ride it out, swallowing it like the sin-eaters must, devouring the weight of the world to free up others. The community of two hardly counts as she wraps her arms around John from the side, and pulls him in. He can fight all he likes against it, for that will spring him free, but failing that, she can curl around him or help him up under the guise of being... mostly there.

"Cemeteries have a lot of people. More than the living sometimes. They all just shouted," she murmurs at his ear, scrubbing the back of her hand over her cheeks but it won't stop the silver tracks from shining where they are. "Told you, had a long look at the other side. Bit of a showy fucking reminder, innit?"

A cracked laugh in the face of madness, but that's that for you.