4803/As Silent As The Grave

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As Silent As The Grave
Date of Scene: 20 January 2021
Location: Millbrook Houses, Bronx
Synopsis: Demons dance, dark gods cavort, and the bone road awaits the mages going two by two, hurrah, hurrah...
Cast of Characters: Meggan Puceanu, John Constantine, Julio Richter

Meggan Puceanu has posed:
Roundabout a day ago, word percolated through the supernatural community. Carried by a lizard-whisperer. Murmured by a voudoun. Beaten on the drums of a Haitian dancer, the santeria practitioners, all carried from an epicenter and a man named Cruz. Missing folks, vanishing one by one by one. Little fish, wiped off the grid. Help needed, and a favour promised. Maybe it'll net something.

New York's got pockets of misery and squalor despite Damage Control and the mayor's best efforts to clean the streets. Gentrification doesn't come much to Mott Haven. Other hoods in the Bronx promise better curb appeal than a sorry residential neighbourhood convulsed by bouts of infamous gang warfare, rough even by the city's standards. Millbrook Houses is the worst of a bad lot, two super-projects that started falling apart the day they opened. Its sordid past bleeds into residents moving in pairs, taking direct routes. Lots of metal-covered windows and barred doors offer no protection, but it doesn't matter since the sagging, bombed out storefronts belong to Beirut, Sarajevo, Mogadishu. Not the US.

The violent gangs -- Jackson Avenue Gunnaz and MGB -- that choked Millbrook by the throat, shaking down whomever they liked, lost their stranglehold two years back at most. Still resonates in the tagging, the empty businesses, the jacked cars and chopshops being about the only commerce around. It's almost night, almost the hour when someone takes cover. Would stay that way except around the community center, a defiant light in the winter gloom. Its walls are painted in bright murals. Here is the centerpiece of rebuilding, favoured by immigrants and illegals, where a meal or a safe spot to spit rhymes or dance can be found. It even has a basketball hoop that's not been vandalized.

Something else has, in this sorry place. The main caretaker of the Millbrook Community Center's a man with a criminal record and the ink as long as any MGB member. Cruz. Just Cruz, no fancy other name. Currently he sits on a bench, curling weights with a reflexive, restless energy. Curl, drop, count. Curl, drop, count. Every one of those tattoos is a register of his sins. Their red lines, wounded by symbolism, are a map of redemption. A collision of Mesoamerican ideals and Catholic faith.

Wait. Curl. Flex. Curl. Flex.

John Constantine has posed:
Jobs are jobs, and Constantine doesn't exactly have the luxury of limitless wealth. Or even free housing, anymore. Keeping up a motel in the city for a month at a time isn't cheap even near the docks. Add in the cost of his drinking habit and cab fare, and it's a bit spendy for the magus.

John checks his little black notebook for the address once his cab drops him near the tenements. Once a monument to good intentions, Millbrook's now more of a roadmap to hell. A lot of pain and suffering there, the bone-weary exhaustion of addicts and struggling reformed convicts just trying to make their way through the day without getting caught up in gang violence.

Constantine puts on his best 'don't fuck with me' face and walks across the plaza. Hands in pockets, coat flapping behind him. His body language expresses purpose and determination, and also a willingness to throw down with anyone who pegs the Brit as an easy mark.

It doesn't take him long to come across the man hefting weights. John looks him over, then clears his throat. The point of his chin lifts in greeting.

"Cruz, I presume?"

Julio Richter has posed:
Although it's been nearly a year since he was a homeless street kid trying to survive in neighborhoods like this one, Julio Richter still makes occasional trips into the city to hit record stores, attend punk shows, or even say hi to the few people who helped him out during that tough time.

By chance, he decided to make such a pilgrimage earlier tonight, and from the second he stepped out of the mystical gator-maw that teleported him into the Bronx, he hasn't been able to shake the feeling that something is 'off' in this area. He has asked around a little bit over the past few hours, and what he was able to discover pointed him in this direction.

So it is that he makes his way toward the community center less than a minute after Constantine arrives, though decidedly less obtrusively. Unlike the lanky Brit, Julio looks like he belongs here; he /did/ belong here, as much as he belonged anywhere, for a while. His clothes may be nicer, and his frame may have filled out now that he's working out and getting proper meals, but Julio can still blend in. So that's what he does; he hangs back outside the circle of light, tapping away at his phone and pretending to ignore the conversation between the other two men for the time being.

Meggan Puceanu has posed:
The community centre offers the barest excuse for hospitality to its guests. Doors and walls, electric light, working toilets. That's about it for the moment, unless someone wants to raid the fridge for day-old refried beans, corn tortillas, and staples of highland Mexican cuisine. There's an emptiness to the place subtly projected through the corridors, the glowing eyes staring out onto a rough, brutal street. Around the block, someone's stripping the radio from a car, windows twinkling in a cascade of broken glass that no one even blinks twice at.

Cruz isn't a big man. The tattoos he wears give reason to turn away, war paint of a sort. Violence shaped that wiry body, though, and canny streetwise senses mean holding his ground like a man with naught to lose. He watches those come and go. Few, fewer. The thirty pounder, dinged up metal handweight dips. Holds. He watches John enter, assessing him with red-rimmed black eyes. A nod will do.

The shadows don't hold many secrets, not that there's many. Anyone coming here has a purpose or a need. Up to him to suss out what. "You want a bowl and sit or I just get you a Dos Equis now?" The air is wet where he walks.

To a mystic's sight, it's another story. Clouds practically swirl around the community center, sheltering it.

John Constantine has posed:
Constantine surveys the area and the darkness is reflected in his browline. There's something brewing, a malevolence creeping out to create the swirling miasma that obscures vision and oppresses the soul.

Cruz gets a speculative look. Most people with a touch of talent would avoid such a place like the plague, consciously or not. The fact he sits hefting weights with little concern gives him a rise in John's estimation.

"Pass. Work first, get wasted later. Tell me about your problem." The magus doesn't seem to have noticed Jericho yet. Cigarettes and a lighter are dug from a pocket, the motions swift and efficient from unending repetitions. Constantine gets the cigarette going, snaps the lighter shut, and stows it in his pocket. All Cruz gets is a waiting, expectant look and twin plumes of smoke jetting from Constantine's nostrils.

Julio Richter has posed:
Julio's mystical senses aren't a second sight, but more akin to hearing: he picks up vibes from the Earth when he taps into its power. While he doesn't see any mystical miasma, he does take a moment to sip at this place's mystical energy field, and it's a little bit like touching a charged terminal. His fine hairs stand up and his eyes and shoulders flicker for a moment with a green, quaking glow.

"It's warded," he says quietly, in Spanish. He stuffs his phone back into his pocket and takes a few tentative steps toward Cruz and Constantine. Neither of them are talking about anything mystical yet, but the former knows what's what around here and the latter is clearly here for some purpose.

"Is something wrong here?" he asks Cruz as he approaches, again sticking to his native language. He intentionally leaves the question open to interpretation: he might be asking about mysticism, he might be asking about Constantine.

Meggan Puceanu has posed:
"Suit yourself." Cruz stiffly nods and sets aside the weight, letting it rest against the foot of the bench. "Bottle's in the kitchen when you want it." Words carry with a hint of a rumble to them, possibly the product of a starburst scar bisected by a livid black and red tattoo worked up the side of his neck. A grey hoodie swallows up most of the marks, a tale buried under a bland dust jacket. Julio can't claim not to be wrapped up in an extended invitation, though he has freedom to dodge the courtesy. His question earns a short nod. <<Yes>>, he says in Spanish, nodding.

"You heard my call? My people are vanishing one by one. They aren't the kind who disappear," he says after thinking. There's a rhythmic fluidity once he gets to speaking, confiding in the pair.

He leaves the bench, going through the small communal room to fetch a book. It's not much of one, but painstakingly laid out with details. Small photos. Digital ones printed out, glued in place along with bits and pieces. Other bric-a-brac is pinned in place, less like a scrapbook and more like the ancient, long-lost codices of the Aztecs, Maya, Mexica. Bright glaring colours leap from the page. "This," he says quietly, "is the community. Anyone who wants puts their name and story here. We got bus tickets, shoestrings, baby bracelets, prayer medallions." The heavy thing he lays down with reverence on a battle-scarred foosball table that doubles for a throbbing heart of young, passionate kids and their elders. "They hide from the government, no official place, you get me? So when one goes, it's easy to miss. Now, Leena, she's gone. Her baby's six months, she never picks up him. I looked all the usual places. All the bad ones. Nothing. Something takes them, something I can't see through."

John Constantine has posed:
"I get you," John murmurs. He's examining the book carefully, paging through it and committing the photos to memory. The magus glances up when Julio chimes in, giving the kid a flickering head to toe assessment and dismissing him just as readily.

"Not just warded. Corrupted," he points out. John shuts the book and turns to face Cruz. "This is bad blood," he says, with an air of finality. "Something's taking your people. I can smell it. The stones stink. Going after migrants without papers, that suggests intelligence. Going after young mothers, that's inhumane. You're dealing with either a very fucked up ah k'in who's gone touched in the head, or something old and hungry's on the prowl. Thoughts?"

Julio Richter has posed:
He wouldn't be here if he wanted to refuse an invitation, so Julio follows Cruz toward the community center. His boots slide across the pavement, picking up traces of energy from the ground that wick up into his consciousness in ways that he would never have noticed a year ago. His hands are deep in the front pocket of his hoodie, but his eyes are lively, his head tilting this way and that, as though he's listening intently for something -- and judging by his perturbed expression, he's not hearing it.

Once they're inside the community center, he looks directly at Constantine with a frown. "Out there's corrupted, like everything is starved or drained." he says, tilting his head back toward the door they just passed through. "In here there's a friend. I don't know if it can do anything about what's happening, but it sure as hell knows about it, and it's pissed off."

Meggan Puceanu has posed:
"Something is. I can't risk going out. Tried, wasn't finding nothing." Cruz folds his arms over his chest, his eye on the book more than Julio or Constantine. Its gravity is heavy as stone instead of basic pages, cheap Walgreens prints. Metal rattles around inside. A look of vague disgust curls thin lips, shapes words he'd rather not say. "Leena worked at a factory a mile away. They hire illegals under the table and avoid immigration's attention," he says slowly. "I called the factory. Her supervisor knows she isn't coming in, don't know why. Her room was up there." A jerk of his chin points to the blighted, much-reviled projects that simmer with quivering miseries and dying, backlogged dreams.

"The others disappeared one by one. No real pattern except they came here. Usually weren't at work, ESL class. Didn't pay rent." He ticks off the facts with a brimming, rumbling anger that shakes out of him. "Something small hitting them would alert someone. These kids, they got across Chihuahua or Oaxaca. They made it here, hell and high water. Wouldn't be no small thing that took them. But no one remembers. They were asleep. They don't see nothing. They say it's winter, people leave, yeah?"

John Constantine has posed:
"Motive, means, opportunity." The remarks aren't quite directed at the other two men, but Constantine utters them aloud anyway. "They didn't have money, they don't have influence, they didn't get robbed and rolled in a ditch. Motive is the vics themselves," he recounts.

"Means. There's black magic here. Someone is trying hard to push back on it but the air stinks. The kid here picked up on it." He takes a few heaves on his cigarette, exhales smoke lazily in front of him. "So we're looking for something or someone that took these people, in public, without a fight or a fuss. Hypnotized them or snatched them, that's either someone very smart or something very strong and fast. There are a few critters that could fit the bill, but they're pretty rare." John's eyes shift to assess the walls; hands pat his pockets, rooting around to ensure certain useful items are where he left them.

"Opportunity is the last question. We need to know when people were taken, and from where. Snatched in a parking lot is a lot different than from behind locked doors. Got any useful information there, mate?"

Julio Richter has posed:
"The spirit of this place is strong, but everything outside is sucked dry," Julio says, speculatively. Like John, he's trying to work through the puzzle with his words as tools. "Whatever is out there isn't strong enough to get past this place's protection, but the people who disappeared all came here. Maybe... maybe they took a little bit of this place's power with them, to strengthen them, when they left. Then, whatever is out there took them to get at that power."

He shivers, just a bit, and draws a hand out of his jacket pocket. It's wreathed by a garland of glowing green leaves, and that same light sketches out stylized leopard spots that emanate from it and descend into the ground. It's a simple druidic spell; a sort of fertility blessing for the soil. He normally uses it to help plants grow and flower; here, he's directing it at the spirit of the place, like an offering or a helping hand.

"The kid's name is Julio," he tells Constantine. "We should bait whatever is out there into attacking us."

Meggan Puceanu has posed:
Cruz stays still, arms folded. A shake of his head follows Julio's statement. "Not getting in. I can give them that much. Anything more would deplete what we have." He doesn't like saying it, running his tongue over his teeth. If they are done with the book, he picks it up and restores it to a place of unspoken prominence where it originally sat. "Sitting here offends me. Padre Marco counsels patience, so here I am patient. He must think not picking up the phone is a good lesson. You no have to be."

That ponderous surge of the currents within the cloud-bound ward rises and falls, never still. Even if the surface seems placid, the impression is utterly a lie. A tilting, brooding anger bleeds out drip by drip.

The building's in good shape, as a rundown part of town goes. Nothing sticks out as off, other than colour. Smiling artwork. "No telling the rest. They were sleeping. They never come back home, like Rin, Sanchez, Catina, Leena. Go out for smokes, the bar, work. Leena's job wants to know where she is, her roommates want to know. The babysitter. Between the factory and the ninth floor, she is gone. I'd start with the factory. They know she was in, on the line."

John Constantine has posed:
There's a community corkboard up on the wall. A little map of the neighborhood, some attractions and sights that once upon a time the city hoped would bring in tourism and civic appeal. It's a little cartoony and not to scale, but the landmarks are what John is looking for.

He tears the map down, walks past Julio and looks at the kid. "I should bait it. You're going to get yourself killed taking on something outside your ken. Go home and tend the flowers," he bids him.

The map's set down on the table, and a marker slapped in the center of it. "Walking routes," John bids Cruz. "Here to the factory, to church, wherever people got nabbed. We can narrow down where the ambushes happened. Predators don't like to carry prey too far into the jungle."

Julio Richter has posed:
As Julio's spell contacts the Earth, there's a burst of color from the leaf-like traceries around his arm and the ghost of a pleasant smell, like fresh corn, surges through the room. Julio seems staggered for a second, then lets out an incongruously giddy laugh. "Guau, OK, yeah," he says. "He liked that. Big guy, too. People snatcher would have to be all kinds of stupid to mess with him."

He gives Constantine a withering look as he passes, and snorts, "You don't know me. AND you look like you could get knocked on your ass sneezing too hard." He crosses his arms and looks down at the map, clearly of no mind to go anywhere. "I was only gonna let you come along to make the people snatcher overconfident."

Meggan Puceanu has posed:
The coiling greenery that rises up from those flowers wasn't there moments before. Leaves spring into being, a stalk spearing straight and tall. It jolts by inches when observed or not until the leaves are long as a swordblade. Cruz breathes out through his teeth. Foliage sparks on the floor, weaving across the walls and crawling in the murals. "Stop fucking measuring up on my damn turf. Go get it done out there or spill it in a backroom. No need to see it."

He jerks a finger to the door. "You come back, you have your beer. You tell me what is happening." It's all in good humour except for that steady burning intensity of his black eyes. "Leena's boy needs his mother. Bring her back. Condition no matters. She claimed a place here, she always has it."

Meggan Puceanu has posed:
"She don't go to that church, man. She goes here. Factory and the building behind you," Cruz adds, because apparently randomly growing plants accelerated by magical interference do not bother him. "Fastest route? You take St Ann's up to the church. Turn down East 141st." The route goes dead north, dog legs east. "Turn a block up and it's here on East 142nd." A large tow yard sits across from a collection of what must be dingy warehouses, not marked with anything particularly bright or welcome.

Julio Richter has posed:
Still on a slight high from the the outsize effects of his spell, Julio has to stifle a laugh at Cruz's scornful reaction to their competitive jibes. Still, he sobers quickly enough at the reminder of the situation's stakes. He leans over Constantine and traces a finger over the route as the older Latino describes it.

"If it's out there looking for people with traces of this place on them, it'll find us," he says to John. "We won't have to look hard." He shrugs his hoodie on a little tighter and flips the hood up, trying to sheathe himself in as much warmth from the community center as he can before they venture out into the cold, dead night. "Vamonos."

John Constantine has posed:
John grimaces. "You're gonna get yourself killed, kid. Me too, looking out for your dumb ass." John rifles through his pockets for a crumpled packet of cigarettes and a lighter, stokes another to life. "I'm not on the hook if you eat it out there," he warns Julio, cigarette between two fingers. He taps his index finger against the kid's sternum. "That's all the advice you get for now."

Constantine looks the crude map over once more and heads outside the community center, the wind tugging at his coat and tousling curly blonde hair. The magus squints speculatively at the dark energies coalescing around the building; not unconcerned, but far from intimidated by them.

With that he starts walking the route outlined for him. Fingers fiddle with something; a mirror, a lancet, pricking a drop of blood from his thumb and smearing it on the silvered old reflector. John starts mumbling a low and repetitive incantation that spreads the scent of fresh prey far and wide. Deliberately making himself look like a weakened target.

Baiting the predators.

Meggan Puceanu has posed:
Mages go marching two by two,
Hurrah, hurrah,
Mages go marching two by two,
Hurrah, hurrah!
Mages go marching two by two,
The stony one think he's got a clue,
And they all go falling down
With no sound,
To get bound
By the cold.


Millbrook Houses isn't nice, the sort of place someone willingly raises a family and hopes the American Dream works out for them. It really isn't. Things little improve when following the sidewalk up St. Ann's past shuttered businesses behind metal grates and sagging awnings that icicles gather on. Windows collect hoarfrost, dark and unwelcoming, beneath those icy maws. It may only be a few blocks past discount stores, quiet laundromats, a stinking fish market, but through the winter cold, the walk is a punishing one. Beater cars and scowling, unfriendly faces seen now and then headed for graffiti-stricken apartments or high rises suggest the residents are hardened survivors rather than wearied, jaded sorts. They vibrate with violence, turning on an outsider they can sniff out like a bloodhound.

It's not a happy walk, from the community center to a certain, forgettable white factory, one of those brick, sagging places that's been in New York for a century or a decade, still looking identical. Should be twenty minutes walk at most, but it's one with a burning sensation between the shoulder blades, that itchy feeling of being watched by hostile eyes from somewhere unseen.

It keeps getting colder. Makes the head hurt, the blood sluggish. The earth hisses and groans, where pipes below suffer badly.

Julio Richter has posed:
Feeling as warmed as he can by the community center and its guardian spirit, Julio follows in Constantine's wake, drawing additional energies up from beneath the pavement. At first, tremors of light snake across his arms and shoulders, then they lift away into dancing motes of light that orbit him playfully, spells ready for casting, vibrating with potential.

Their flight is a rebellion against the oppressive cold, and Julio little cares if they draw looks from bystanders. Better that any mundane onlookers steer clear, and if they attract supernatural attention, that's the plan, isn't it? True to Cruz's demand that they keep it zipped up, he doesn't answer Constantine's snark with any more than an unimpressed smile.

He just hunches over and follows him through the freezing streets to the factory, feeling along the way for urban caverns below: storm drains, utility tunnels, subway lines. He's more at home in the natural world, but any subterranean space will do for home-field advantage in a pinch. And of course, he's always listening, feet sensitive to the tremors of any heavy-footed approach. When they arrive at their destination unaccosted, he slows and asks Constantine, "So, we just go inside? Ask around? Dust for magical fingerprints?"

John Constantine has posed:
"That's the idea," John responds with a half-hearted mutter. He's looking up at the broken old ediface with a penetrating stare, eyes meandering over it. "See there, aye? The eye, the raindrops?" He points at a sigil carved near one of the doors, almost indistinguishable from the pollution-warped wood. "Mesoamerican gods. I think Aztec. Fits the profile on the perpetrator so far."

Constantine glances over at Julio. "Likely to be a brawl in there when we meet the bastard behind the kidnappings," he advises him. "Hope you've got a bit of fight in you. I'm gonna get 'is attention. Predators hate it when someone rattles the quiet of their dens. Don't hold back if you see an opening. He's smart," Constantine says, and nods at the building. "Smart enough not to come after us on the street. So, we go with plan B," John says.

A palm presses to the door and he utters a low incantation full of sharp-edged syllables. It ends with a booming final word, alien and jagged, and the door explodes inwards off the hinges like a bulldozer just hit it.

"Dinnertime!" John bellows, and walks into the factory like he owns the place.

Meggan Puceanu has posed:
The aptly named "Legacy Manufacturing" occupies most of a city block, flush up against the ironically named Fuel Watchman. Sheet metal siding contains a two-storey warehouse with roll-up doors for vehicles, a smaller one for employees. Rusting corrugated tin sheets and chain link fences guard what looks like an abandoned tow-yard in miniature, beater box cars and trucks huddling next to a long white-brick building. Concertina wire guards nothing worth stealing.

Easy to miss "Oficina" on a sign next to a lonely door beside the fenced-in lot, where Cruz mentioned Leena's worried supervisor works. A contact, anyway, if they seek it. No windows anywhere to speak of.

The loading door dents and buckles, peeled open like an anchovy can as it rolls up. Smashing on the floor, the sound of feet pelting the concrete ground or the catwalks meets echoed screams of fear: female, some younger. Silhouettes clump together in the race to get away from the burst of daylight.

<<Shit! We're being raided!>>
<<It's the feds! Out the back!>>

<<Gina, put that box down, get outta here. You don't got papers!>>

Packages of all kinds spill into plastic crates near those doors, being labeled and prepped to go, the sort of low-wage, high-volume manual labour that makes business tick and rarely earns a second look. The machines keep plodding along as the debris from workers litters the floor: packaging tape, scanning guns, dollies, boxes. Metal parts spill on the ground, bearings and screws glittering like tears beneath a technological Madonna.

A tired man in a khaki suit flings his hands up. A phone is in his hand, alive. The name badge on the side reads <<Hernando>>. "Ey! EY! We ain't got no warning. You got a bodycam and a badge for all this, disturbing a private business? I got my lawyers at the ACLU on call now!"

Julio Richter has posed:
Julio stops short as Constantine rattles off what he has noticed. He, too, is scanning the age-faded bricks of the factory building, but he's also peering at a layer beyond the sigils John is pointing out. "There's a spirit in there, but it's beaten to hell," he says grimly. "Not as strong as the one at the center, not as protected. Something is killing it. Probably the same thing that killed everything else."

There's something else he's feeling, too. Eyes shut, hood down, he drinks deep from what power he can find in the stones, vicious and hateful as it might be, and hears a sharp note calling out a distinct devil's interval in the cacophony of the streets. He runs to catch up with Constantine, who has moved on ahead, just in time to get rocked back by the shockwave of the mystical explosion.

"¡Hijo de puta!" he snarls, shielding his eyes with one hand and throwing the opposite fist at John's upper arm. "Mutant! Reads vibrations! Feels through walls!" he yells over the ensuing chaos, stabbing a finger at his own chest and glaring at the Englishman. "Next time ASK if there are PEOPLE before you blow shit up!"

Fed up, he points off to the side and snarls what he was going to say in the first place: "Coin of Apollyon! Over there! Get it!" Hissing through his teeth, he jogs toward Hernando, his own hands up in a mirror of the manager's gesture. <<It's not a raid. We're not cops, we're not here to cause you any trouble. We're ... private investigators. We're here to look for Leena.>> He turns to glare at John over his shoulder once more, then returns his attention to the manager. <<The white boy is a trigger happy idiot. He'll pay for your door.>>

Meggan Puceanu has posed:
"Over there" as Julio indicates is... basically the west side of a block-long two-floor warehouse segmented into lots of smaller niches by tall shelves that almost reach the roof. Behind the shelves is a walled off space with restrooms, a makeshift cafeteria, and the office, a complex that sits alongside the packaging assembly is a machining area, where the actual stamping and production of metal fasteners takes place. That's just half, but the indicated half. Needles, half-haystacks?

John Constantine has posed:
When Julio swings at his shoulder, Constatine looks sideways and stares daggers at him. It's almost a literal statement; for his laconic demeanour, the magus seems to have the knack for threatening great personal harm with just a glance.

But it doesn't stop their progress, and in they go. John's nose is already twitching at the presence of the coin. It draws to him, plucking instincts closely attuned to such things as bear the stench of eternal damnation. Julio narrows it down with a pointing finger. The magus leaves Julio to handle the niggling details of smoothing things over with the manager and moves into the lockers. The crude lock is picked in seconds with a pair of tools John keeps up his sleeve.

When Julio arrives, John is folding something up in a silk handkerchief of snow-driven white. "Glad you smoothed things over with the manage. Now I've a notion as to why our girl was kidnapped." The folded handkerchief is tucked into one of his inside pockets. "Either she's doing truck with the demons, or someone slipped this to her. Clever way to get someone killed," he admits. "Hand them something dripping with malevolent energy, and it's like waving a pennant around saying 'dinner's on'."

Meggan Puceanu has posed:
Hernando's looking pretty bothered, a vein in his forehead showing, but he keeps holding his hands high. The camera gets a good view of both men coming in, though the lack of another twenty forces him to look over his shoulder briefly. The camera records while a very clear, quick-spoken legal assistant picks up on the quick Spanish instructions: <<People breaking in, staff's running, get Juanita and Jen working on it>>. He's going to focus on that first, though Julio is free to interrupt.

<<I'm supposed to believe that.>> He shakes his head in disbelief, tense, his heart thundering. <<Bashing doors down is how you announce yourself in your country? What would your grandmother say? You can damn well expect a bill.>> Sweat beads on Hernando's brow, and he scowls into the shadows at John doing whatever hs is. <<Your buddy know how much a 5-year-old calibrated, industrial stamping press able to work with titanium and tungsten costs? Maybe you need to start reassessing your priorities.>>

One of the braver men who hasn't fled down the catwalk is watching, torn between doing something very brave, very stupid, and very nothing between. The supervisor waves his hand, tired. <<Leena isn't here. Mother of God, don't tell me /he/ sent you as the...that boy told me Father Marco would fix it. Are you supposed to be the fix, making my shift run for the hills?>> He scowls at Julio intently.

So, there's John, poking around beyond all the shrink-wrapped boxes and terrifying a woman around twenty hiding between two rows and trying to stay out of sight. She curses and flees around him, trying to squeeze through to the office. The others mostly went out the back, but there's lots of scattered winter coats, boots, gloves. Stealing isn't exactly hard, breaking a combination lock being easy enough to do with a YouTube video. But that thing is cool silver, black with age, burning an absolutely frozen hole in John's handkerchief. Which, all said and done, will be threadbare in a few minutes.

Julio Richter has posed:
Julio struggles to sift through all of the justified questions being demanded of him. <<I don't know who you are asking about,>> he answers honestly. <<I don't know Father Marco or this boy. We were hired to see what we could find about Leena and some others who have disappeared. I am so sorry for the disturbance.>> He presses his hands together as if praying for Hernando's forgiveness. "We will be out of here so fast, te lo juro." He really, really hopes that's true.

Fortunately, with just a smidge of guidance, Constantine is like a bloodhound for the unholy, and already has the coin when Julio rejoins him. "Jesucristo. You owe that guy damages, by the way," he says, annoyance dripping from every syllable. Then he points at the pocket containing the coin. "That's bait," he points out, for the sake of the meme, before adding: "But once we are done with it, I can try to return it to the Earth and purify it."

He spares a glance toward the eyes of Tlaloc, hidden in the shadows, then up at the man lingering and staring from the catwalk. "We should ask questions and strengthen the wards in this place," he suggests, putting his anger aside to focus on their goals for a moment. "This isn't where the evil lives. It's under attack just like everyone else."

John Constantine has posed:
"Yeah, I'll get right on that," John murmurs. "Here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to go question that bloke up there. You stay here, make those wards that you were talking about. Set out coffee for everyone. Have a hug and a sit-down over a cuppa. All right?" John claps Julio's shoulder condescendingly and turns to head up the stairway to the catwalk, taking them in a few quick bounds that are surprisingly spry for the lean-looking magus.

"Ola amigo, bueno noche," Constantine remarks. Hands rest on the rails, shoulders shrugging towards his ears, and he looks directly at the fellow. "I've got a feeling you know something worth hearing. Seeing as how you were staring daggers at me a minute ago. Now, I'm in a bit of a rush, and I'm carrying nuclear waste wrapped in tissue paper," he says, and pats his coat jacket. "So let's say perhaps we dispense with the arguments, I don't threaten to turn you into a toad or something, and you tell me what you know about Leena's disappearance."

Just to drive the point home, John puts a cigarette between his lips and lights it with fire conjured from his fingertips with a snap of his thumb.

Meggan Puceanu has posed:
Hernando grimaces a lot, holding the phone at a crooked angle. The lawyer's mostly listening, if she is still there at all. <<It's gonna take me days to make up for lost productivity. You know what they are like. Some will not come back and may not even wait for payday.>> The initial flare of fear over, his colour is less florid, but his pate shines with sweat. "I would say we talk about her in the office. No point in that now. Say it, then, you want to know?"

He thumbs the device in his hand, suspicious, looking between them both. A blank stare about strengthening the wards; it doesn't ring a bell. "Leena, what she get herself mixed up in? Neat as a pin, that girl, never any trouble. Who the hell is he?" A thumb jerks Johnward. "You realize the twins are going to sue the living daylights out of him? If Cruz don't skin him alive first."

The man up on the catwalk isn't that old, and he sure isn't build in the linebacker style. Skinny survivor, hard mouth and jaded eyes, the kind who can scrabble their way out of trucks and cross deserts ahead of border hounds. The skinny white guy flapping up on him like a tawny stork gets a curl of the lip. "Que te den por culo." He grips the rail, narrow-eyed, gzing at the cigarette-toting exorcist. "She gone. Jealous of some Mexican flashing money?" Contempt gleams in every crooked tooth bared as to what he thinks of that guy. "What, you going partying too? Don' think that's your scene."

Julio Richter has posed:
As Constantine slaps a hand down on his shoulder, Julio's lips narrow to a pencil-thin line and he turns his head to make eye contact with the woman hiding in the office, very much like like he is on The Office. After the Brit strides away, he stands still for a second and says, "Voy a pinche matarlo," just loud enough for her and Hernando to hear.

Then he takes a sharp breath to clear his head. <<Someone gave her something dangerous,>> he tells the supervisor. <<Something that would make her a target, and she wouldn't even know it.>> After a second, he clarifies: <<An old coin,>> in case that will jog loose a memory. <<I'm trying to figure out who, and why, and if they might have kidnapped or hurt anyone else, too.>>

As for John? <<I... honestly don't know who he is. They hired both of us, so I'm stuck working with him. Can you tell me about the twins? Just so I know who to keep an eye out for?>>

Meggan Puceanu has posed:
Hernando deadpans, "Después de que reciba mi dinero." It's pretty quiet, though the cleared voice on the other side of the phone does not agree with this, and mutters, "Let's stay inside legal boundaries, mmmkay?" Hello ACLU, guardians of justice and making sure there isn't civil disobedience against warlocks, witches, and wonderful people everywhere.

"Eh? Targeted, Leena? For the life of me," he scratches his pate, "I can't understand why. She left El Salvadore for the usual reasons, gangs wanting money. No pay, get beat. But this turf isn't theirs. She kept it real clean, wanted to get legal anyway. It makes no sense she would go, she was one of the best on her shift." He really tries not to look back up to the catwalk, though he really wants to. "Twins own the company, Manuel and Maria Teresa Espinosa. Pretty good, they been real worried 'bout Leena and some of the others who don't show. But not much they can do when people go. Put money into the shelters, Cruz, get word out."

John Constantine has posed:
"My scene would melt your face off," Constantine tells the fellow. "There's also a woman's life on the line and I don't have time to waste. Let me educate you on the scope of your situation."

Fire and horror spawns around the two men. It's suffocating heat, intense smoke. Whipcracks over the dead and the damned, the nightmare horrors of a glimpse into Hell and the eternal reward for malfeasance.

Of course it's visible to no one except the man on the catwalk. Cheaper and easier than a true illusion, a manufactured one that grips the lizard brain tight and squeezes until panic emerges. The man screeches and falls backwards. The vision recedes, leaving John hunkered down in a squat next to the fellow. "That was a freebie, friend," John says. He takes a drag on his cigarette and exhales the smoke into the man's face. "Next taste will cost you. Gonna tell me what you know or do I have to turn the screws until you get compliant?"

Meggan Puceanu has posed:
That hysterical, strangled choke would be a shriek. If shrieks can come from closed throats, ripped from the man on the catwalk. His distress yanks Hernando from conversation, since the warehouse is ominously quiet except for the thump, thump, thump of abandoned packages into overflowing bins. The woman hiding in the office pokes her head out, pale as a ghost -- or close as she can get, shouting, <<Stop! Stop it!>>

The backwards stumble of footsteps becomes a bodily thump, the maybe-pushing-twenty-one worker crashing onto the metal grate. His eyes are shown to the whites, teeth bared in a rictus snarl of a cornered hound. But that, indeed, may be the warning. "Fucking hell Jesus fucking Christ bleed it all you stay the /fuck/ away from me! I don't fucking know shit about whatever fucked up mess you showing--Jesusbloodywept you goddamned creep--some Mexican guy took her to a party--that's it, I don't bang no good girl with a baby. Fuck it all if I fucking know--she not the type to party--maybe she wanted some cock, sure as shit not telling /me/ about getting laid, AM I FUCKING CLEAR?"

Julio Richter has posed:
Ric gives a snort of laughter at Hernando's precondition. "Eso es justo," he replies. "If anyone else has disappeared that we should be looking for, let me know, OK? We want to--" He's cut off by a shriek from upstairs, and his eyes slide shut over a deep, pained breath. "Maldita sea." Without further excusing himself, he backs away and walks up the stairs to the catwalk after Constantine.

As he goes, he traces his fingers over the brick wall of the factory. Someone has already put up protective mystical barriers here, and he studies them, feeling the patterns of power etched into the fire-hardened clay. Rather than craft his own spells from the ground up, he hopes to draft off of the sorcery that went before, reinforcing the existing wards in the stone with his own power, and perhaps learning a bit from their technique. The gods he has had contact with are mostly of a nastier order than Tlaloc, and a bit of diversification never hurt a portfolio anyway.

By the time he reaches the catwalk and heads toward Constantine, traces of his verdant energy are subducting into the factory wall, blocking off the intangible, malevolent, and destructive. "What the shit are you doing?" he demands to know, shoving past the Englishman and not much minding if, in the process, he just shoves him a bit, generally. He stoops between the two, offering to help the stranger back to his feet.

A part of him, fresh off of warding the building itself, considers dropping a wardwall between himself and Constantine for a moment. "Lo siento. He's an asshole." He shuts his eyes, holding back further commentary. Maybe he can salvage a bit of a good cop/bad cop vibe from this. "Tell me about the Mexican guy? This cabrón probably thinks you mean me."

John Constantine has posed:
"It's this thing called 'investigating', you wanker." John's stronger than he looks; he rises swiftly when Julio brushes past him, shoulder bumping through Julio's personal space. "And we don't exactly have time to sit around while you play buddy-buddy with this arsehole," John adds, and points a finger at the fellow he's been harassing. "So if you don't get him to talk, fast, I get to go round two with him."

Unseen again to anyone but the man, Constantine's eyes burn with an inner hellfire that envelops the iris and pupil alike. As if containing his anger, John turns away to focus on his cigarette. It gives the worker a choice; talk to Julio, or face Constantine's methods again.

Meggan Puceanu has posed:
Poor kid on his ass isn't spitting out much coherent, the rat-a-tat-tat of his words fast as a machine gun. "Win---wint-t-er San...san...san....sant-t," the last syllable spat, a .22 after a staccato gasp, forcing it past the gut-heaving wrench that jerks him to the side that leaves him vomiting the contents of dinner into the grating and possibly within that warded space.

It's a deathly silence from the others, Hernando unable to speak, and the terrified woman clinging to the doorway like it's got the power of saints to avert evil. Her tongue comes unglued as she croaks, "Santos." The word, the name, that the kid couldn't say. Tears shine in her eyes, horror earning a semiconscious reflex to cross herself, and cling more. <<He makes music, he holds parties. They get wild, go late so we never go. We start at 7.>> Breaking rasps collapse, her shoulders sagging, a fraught type of cling to reason if it might help. <<Such a stupid name. They went out on a date. She liked him. Was going to the party, and she don't show no more. Why he hurting him? He talked, I talked, and you're still hurting him...>>

The old crocodile shell given life in green scales shivers, twisting, but it's far too extinguished on its own to do more than shove its snout through the craquelure of ice dimming it to wait for a spring that won't come. Cold, cold, the dullest stirrings underneath spark and fade. Scratches in the supernatural armour are greyed by an icy, pitiless stain. Swept clean, no spirits nearby.

That darkness in the area sinks deeper except where Julio stands. Implacable. Old. Blind.

Julio Richter has posed:
The part of Julio that wanted to literally ward off Constantine seriously considers responding to the shoulder check with a monolith anchor spell and watching him topple, wiry strength or not. It's a measure of how seriously he takes this situation that he doesn't, but the temptation is growing by leaps and bounds.

"Jesucristo," he mutters, eyes flashing green. "Next time, they better send me someone sane to work with. Like the Bat guy." He straightens up. "We're not hurting anyone anymore. We're leaving," he announces, fixing Constantine with a glare that dares him to object. If the Brit makes a move to do so, Julio /will/, in fact, teleport them both out of the factory, in a gator-jaw outlined in brilliant green. He'd much prefer to walk, though.

However they leave, once they have, Julio will announce, "We're dealing with the Aztec god of frost and death. Amora mentioned him. He might be this Winter Saint, or the Winter Saint might have been made holy in his image." He doesn't mention that certain gods have something very similar in mind for him. Might not be a bad time to reveal that, but Constantine isn't exactly someone he feels like sharing with. "Itztlacoliuhqui is his name -- curved obsidian. Got anything useful to offer, or should I deal with it myself and catch you never?"

John Constantine has posed:
Once they're outside, John stops to light another cigarette, flicking the old one into a gutter. "I'd say this is a lot more serious than some godling nicking souls for a nourshing meal," Constantine concludes. He reaches into his pocket and unfolds the napkin containing that coin, exposing it briefly to Julio's senses. Entropy licks the air for a brief moment before the coin's folded into the metaphorical lead blanket once more, and tucked away in his coat's endless pocket space. "I take it you've been running into this wanker Apollyon as well," he tells Julio. "Been a busy boy, our demon bloke has. Starting to see a bigger picture now." Constantine turns to start walking to the next location in mind.

"Your god here, Itzla-something," John remarks. "Pantheon big on human sacrifices. Usually young virgins, but any woman will do in a pinch. Hah, if I had a nickel," John says with a snickering grin. "Anyway. Bloke's offing these young women. One of whom's carrying around a cursed object, tied to a demon lord who thrives on entropy and decay. That sounds like a partnership forged in Hell itself. The only question I can't quite pin down is who is getting what out of it. There's only one soul per person, and it doesn't split down the middle. One of them over the other is ending up with the thing-- and that's the sort of problem that could lead to disaster on a Biblical scale. I don't meddle much with the gods, but hoarding souls is one of the things they apparently get -very- pissy about."

Meggan Puceanu has posed:
There's going to be a bill coming for Constantine, yes there will. The traumatized group left behind the exodus of two mages into the street won't recover soon, and nor will their workforce. A door needs repair, frightened mice lured out from their boltholes. A bitter night waits out there, cold and unwelcoming, shriven of any vestiges of friendliness or warmth.

Not a single damn light beyond the one in the parking lot beside the warehouse shines. Darkness, as dark as a city gets, clothes the pitted street. A dull exhalation of mist creeps along. Black ice slithers over the cracked rubble, the kind of matte finish that makes a turn of the ankle so easy to get. John's breath hangs in the air like a dead cloud of frozen condensation. The air sparkles where Julio exhales, but the take in is searing, the hot kind of icy kick to the lungs. A few of the cars there are rimed in it, coated in the slick sheen of cracked, broken ice.

That leaden containment of the cold seeps into the bones. It nips at the ankles, biting at bare flesh, little snips and clips to bleed them down of warmth slow. So slow.

The perfect place for unseen things to strike. To wait. The dinner-bell was rung, after all.

Julio Richter has posed:
Hands crossed over his chest, Julio takes several deep breaths, both to calm himself down and to bleed off any excess magic he'd be tempted, in his irritation, to unleash on the utterly infuriating man he's been stuck with all evening. Once his anger levels out a bit, though, he has to acknowledge (privately) that at least Constantine is offering some useful knowledge, now. Jaw clenched, both from the weather and the company, Julio nods, but then points out, "They can be split. Maybe not evenly in two, but I've seen souls split into pieces so they can be sold off to smaller players. Whole, the value is too much for anyone but the biggest buyers."

After a second, he adds, "There are a bunch of those coins around. I've been feeling for them around Manhattan. Maybe half a dozen?" He looks upward, glance grazing rooftops in contemplation, before lowering again as he theorizes, "Maybe Obsidian wants sacrifices, and Apollyon just wants to spread the coins of decay. I haven't run into Apollyon directly -- maybe he isn't involved, just his things. The coins, the book. Like you said, they can be used as bait."

He shivers, then extends a hand. "Speaking of which. You want me to try to cleanse that thing?"

John Constantine has posed:
"Hold on." John lifts a hand to Julio and starts looking around the lot. It's gone quiet. Very, deeply quiet. Like a dead stand of trees in midwinter, bare bones buried in snow. Too cold for even the crows to cry to one another.

Constantine casually dips a hand in his pockets. How they lay flat with all that gear in them is probably some magical mystery, but it does seem to contain an endless reserve of equipment. His cigarette's discarded and a fresh one plucked to his lips, this time from an elegant silver cigarette case. "You hear that?" he prompts Julio, in a low mutter. The cigarette flares to life. A strong smell of spices and incense issues from it rather than cheap tar and tobacco; the smoke crackles with mystical potential and curls around Constantine. Inoffensive on its own, but a medium easily shaped by arcane energies. "I've a feeling we're about to get some questions answered."

The magus lets his free hand dangle loose and drops the grip of a crooked yew wand into his hand, blackened by soot and charcoal. It's hidden inside the curve of his wrist, and he slouches his attention around the parking lot in search of the source of the oppressive presence lingering over them.

Meggan Puceanu has posed:
Just like that.

John may regret that comparison. Because the slip-crack of a pipe giving way is too much like a withered bone snapping to some untold pressure.

Because the snow in its weathered grey, tired and cold in patches, resonates the deathless gasps of those fallen to earth. Listen too far, it's there: crackles, a low chant, the unison of voices around rattling, slow gasps. Murmurs in the torpid chill speak a confluence of Romance languages, Spanish most identifiable, in voices too benumbed to ever shout or scream when the flush of false heat crawled over blued lips, icy skin.

Earth doesn't need to split to reform. Slabs and dead earth gone black shift. Bits, pieces, prickles coming together in jagged jerks of the ground. That Julio can sense, plates and bits rising: flat as basalt, shining like hardened volcanic glass. Still rising, a ripcord of it, an undulating serpent that pipes and concertina wire and broken cement lifting up with a ghastly tearing sound. Not quite serpent, with those jaguar maws, but some deranged combination between.

And worse.

Julio Richter has posed:
It's possible Julio might have been a little preoccupied with regaining his internal equilibrium, and missed signals of this threat. Not that he'd admit it out loud; instead, he silently draws the energies he so recently released back into himself. Continually drinking from the mystically deadened environment is, however, starting to put a strain on its reserves, so he thanks the fledgling God of New York that John didn't force him to waste energy on teleportation a second ago.

First, he plunges one mystical spark into his own heart, which sprouts a tangled wreath of thorned vines, sharply outlining the stylized crocodile shape of his mystical armor in the space around him. Then, because this seems a threat he can fight physically, he falls back on his mutant powers: no point in subtlety, so a shuddering blaze of more diffuse green light halos him as well. With a double-armed thrust, he sends twin columns of paved stone spearing up at the sewer serpent, attempting to pin it -- or at least hold it at a distance.

Meggan Puceanu has posed:
For a flash in the dark, the emerald maw tilts sharply up above Julio. It holds there, a monster scenting prey with ancient convictions and habits that even the torpid pull of earth magic respects. Inchoate, pitiless slashes bleed down from Julio's eyes, radiating in half crescents, gone practically black. The sinuous scales flex, cracking with power, and the terrible jagged rows of teeth snap shut around him, enveloping him in a peculiarly monstrous shape.

Stone tears upon stone, forcing the undulating ribbon of debris to lash up and twist around like a demented ribbon to avoid being impaled on a column. Sloughing off chunks of asphalt and baked rubber dust creates horrendous noise, a noxious plume flung into the air. It can be hard to breathe as it plunges in a rattling demon dance. The jaguar maws hunger for flesh, it's safe to assume, and something made of solid chunky paving materials, sewer lines, and buried utilities should not be able to strike faster than a viper. But this, it can, it does.

Let it never be forgotten the monster behind relies on other than sight, creeping in while clouds are low and mist so bloody cold. Ice needles up to two inches long come pelting down from the sky, indiscriminately flashing down and around in volleys. Who said the Aztecs were soft and sweet?

John Constantine has posed:
Heat wraps around Constantine, responding to the barest direction of his willpower. Not merely 'warm', no-- a waft of sulphur and brimstone, the scent of burning meat and hair. But all the same the fires of damnation ward the chill away from the Hellblazer and insulate him from that ambient drop in temperature. Not a shield against it; more of an umbrella. But it's enough to make his breath vaporize into steam in front of his face.

Constantine sprints away from Julio the second the mutant engages the crawling wyrm. It almost looks like he's fleeing the fight until he turns and swings that hidden wand at the monster. A streamer of liquid flame arcs out through the air and with a flick of his wrist Constantine drives that lashing point against the side of the wyrm's head when it bites down at Julio.

"Oye! Prick!" Constantine shouts. He nurtures fire in his cupped palm and flings a fist-sized ball of flame at the beast. "Come and get a meal, eh?"

Julio Richter has posed:
"Mierda." It's not just a curse -- it's the drawn-out, fatalistic wail of the inescapably accursed. Julio's defensive stone structure stays in place, but only on its own structural merits. He's long past shifting rocks once the form of Cipactli -- the form he has so foolishly continued to summon as personal protection -- comes alive, twisting out of the mutant's control and biting the hand that feeds.

His vision clouds and fractures, a ghostly tower of skulls imprisoning his consciousness. He plunges into icy, suffocating depths under the blank stares of the legions made holy and dead before him. He thought this could only happen to him in Limbo. It seems the gods are perfectly capable of dragging him to their own Limbo.

He does the only thing he can: that foggy aura, the Power Seismic, channels through him and takes voice in a sickening, lurching tremor, roiling the pavement in all directions around him. His instinct is to tear down the bleeding, staring tower, head by severed head; Constantine might find himself more concerned that the young mutant could tear apart Manhattan block by crosstown block. How this will affect their serpentine attacker is anyone's guess.

Meggan Puceanu has posed:
A thrilled vibrato to the earth doesn't transmit to air. Fire is ignorant and uncaring of the shaking until it breaks a gas main or bares the magma seams for exploitation. Water and air converge in dark miracles as the stinging, vicious rains pelt men and buildings from whirling, chaotic angles that do their unpredictable dances to a tempo almost audible.

It's the rumble of the earth out of control around Julio and the wild, vicious stomp of chunks of ground coming down in fired slag. Hellfire has its advantage in striking back at the corporeal husk, but the wasted frozen death known to other rungs of Hell and the Underworld slithers and lashes out with a double strike. One whiplash rips one of those forgettable beaters and flings it with a tailslap at Constantine. The other singed-whisker maw crashes into the street, hailing wreckage that sparks and eerie bubbles. Jagged black spikes burst up again to turn another patch of sidewalk over for the elemental's insane, frenzied dance. Bones leap and fall in wrecked chunks, the helixes making up the mad serpent thing bending, twisting around a thin strip of corroded silver no longer than a pencil.

Chanting in a tongue old at the dawn of Venice and London swivels, turning back on itself, restricted to a haunted Gregorian melody. It cuts in and out with staccato pops, given no source. A woman sobs in the distance. Nothing at all echoes with barely audible, catchy Flamenca kick-beats sinuously weaving about a ragingly popular Spanish pop song:

Esto es pa' que quede, lo que yo hago dura (Con altura)
Demasia' noches de travesura (Con altura)
Vivo rápido y no tengo cura (Con altura)
Iré joven pa' la sepultura (Con altura)
/Ire joven pa' la sepultura!/

The attack itself is almost a thing of ritual. Ruin and earth, blood and fire, the confluence of Apollyon and Itztlacoliuhqui's respective domains.

John Constantine has posed:
How Constantine evades that car flying at him is near-miraculous. A trip over broken asphalt sends him into a pratfall while the car tumbles through the space he'd just occupied. Debris rains down around him and he's staggered by fist-sized chunks of stone rather than pulverized by shattered concrete slabs.

Silver glistens in John's hands, a thread as fine as fishing lure. It's unrollled, looped, unrolled again. Constantine charges it with his willpower and ties a broken piece of rebar to one end. The other he wraps around his hand. At the first bare patch of Earth, John drives the steel into the ground and sends his willpower flooding into the improvised, inverted lightning rod.

"Oye! Kid! Up for air!" Constantine's willpower thunders through the quaking ground underfoot with all the force of a blaring tornado siren, trying to give Julio a reference point to aim for and swim back to reality.

Hopefully before the wyrm turns its attention back to Constantine.

Julio Richter has posed:
Julio hasn't shaken a city like this in a long time. He didn't know he /could/ shake a city like this on the tectonically sedate East Coast. Has he just gotten stronger since the last cataclysm he caused? Is his mutation feeding off his magic? Are both being driven to the edge by a fell power beyond himself? There will be plenty of time for dread-filled speculation later. For now, he just wants to escape the hellish vision Cipactli has plunged him into.

The last shreds of his restraint are holding him back from unleashing instant, explosive destruction over a whole borough, as he did in Guadalajara, but slowly shaking everything to pieces is not going to be much better, and that's what will happen if he can't get under control soon.

What finally snaps him out of blind panic, if only slightly, is that maw slamming into the pavement, so near by that it impinges on the envisioned column of skulls. The driving music of the hellish chorus has confused his vibrational senses, but that impact is so profound as to be unmistakable even through the din. He knows something is there, but can't find his own senses, until a current of mystical will like a custom-built ley line flows under him from Constantine and anchors his perception back in the real world.

Eyes piercing bright, caimain armor splitting open like a flowering plant, Julio rises free on a column of solid Earth. He feeds on the vibes of the monster's ghostly cacophony, its fell energy fueling his violent reprisal as he lashes back with a focused, explosive blast of power, perfectly pitched to tear the nearer maw to pieces.

There's an explosion of elemental energy released, which he catches in the form of a ward. The blockade takes the form of a creature like a squatting toad, dismembered but arranged as if intact, maws at each joint thirsting for the energy released by the titan. More monolithic wards unfold from the first like a puzzle box, turned inward at the serpent. Rictor bares his teeth viciously as he turns his own entrapment back on the creature, then clasps at the vibrational forces around him and focuses them into that enclosed space, a vortex of shearing force and blunt, personal rage.

Meggan Puceanu has posed:
It's almost like dancing down a city somehow serves a greater goal of destruction at the elegant fingertips of the Destroyer, the prince of Hell and master of the Pit. That somehow convincing a powerful mutant to fling himself into a paroxysm of ruin, fed by fear or ecstastic heights, serves a terrible purpose. Cipactli remains a frozen thing of scales and teeth, inert, that magic locked into the armoured form he intended it as. The dancing churn, though, that's all Julio Richter.

But somewhere, in the stomp of broken ground and ululating hiss where icy needles pelt the ground, power churns, reverberating on itself, and teems with arcing pain. Summoning up fire to a seething pitch or willing the leaden clouds to discharge their wrath into the nicely placed stake all serve some slant purpose.

Else, why would the rising, boulder-strewn elemental wrap itself in tight coils? It sinks low when faced with that humming toad-thing, indistinguishably green from the shearing walls of power zigzagged in a dark array on a starless night. Mist creeps and swirls, unwilling to be goaded into revealing more than what stands.

But the serpent snaps, jaguar-snout and curving teeth biting, following that current back, back towards the man who throws fire. One or two heads do, anyway, while the third focuses fully on extending the attenuated length of that spring with a burst to munch. Hinged jaws part to strike, sliding paper-thin fangs into energy whorls, clamping down with the blind, harsh intensity of a spirit unleashed.

The sobbing fades. The music skillfully slips away, and the awful weight of knowledge of the dead and living cannot ever be erased. For in the debris flung up and around are the broken chains, the zipties, the refuse of another life lost to the dark. Curved obsidian shadows lash out, writhing pools that seek flesh to satiate themselves on. Blood for the blind god of winter.

John Constantine has posed:
Constantine screams, throws his hands up. Snap. Gulp. No more magus.

Or rather, there was no magus there to begin with. Snapping teeth clamp down on a golem made of old gravel and hoarfrost, wrapped in a hasty illusion. And at the crunchy chewy center: a bead of Primal Fire, elemental heat wrapped in glass. It explodes inside the wyrm's jaws with raw intensity and no restraint.

Fifteen feet away Constantine grabs onto Julio's wards as they cohese around the creature. Where Julio makes bricks, John weaves webs. Nets that are individually fragile gossamer constructs, but growing like a snowflurry and weighing the monster down with metaphysical weight. It's all delaying tactics, buying time, slowing momentum to aid Julio's Herculean efforts to stop that ancient power cold with brute force and raw willpower alone.

"Hold it for a mo', lad," John bids Julio with a strained voice. "I can banish it but only if you hold it down." Say what one will about John's methods: Constantine works fast, chanting complex words filled with the complex undulations of a near-extinct language. Blood flows from a cut on his palm, a sacrifice of blood for the blood gods of the Aztec, as Constantine wills the serpent back to the domain from whence it came.

Julio Richter has posed:
Weight. Yes, weight. Constantine's suggestion seems very fair to Julio. He reaches and, with a twisting gesture, shatters the improvised structure he initially put up to hold the beast at bay. Slabs of asphalt answer his call to plunge onto the hemmed-in creature like the burden of fate.

In case their weight alone won't be enough, he bends his will on pressing them downward, geokinetic will and inexorable gravity working in concert to crush the beast down, down, down, as Constantine opens his sideways bridge into oblivion. When that gap in reality opens, the crushing force from Julio above and the ground below will send the creature skidding out of the grip of the material plane like open palms pressing on a wet bar of soap.

In other words: you think you can put /me/ in prison? Get fucked.

John Constantine has posed:
The bridge to Tamoanchan is held open by Constantine's will, and then dismissed just as readily. It is the way of the gods and their progeny to return to where they are strong, particularly battered and weakened by the surprising power of the two mortals going at the beast hammer and tongs.

When the last of that hoary chill leaves the air the wound in reality is zipped off and then vanishes in a flittering of energies, returning the world to stability around them.

Constantine sits down heavily in place, his breathing ragged. "Fuck," he comments, and with a weary determination fishes cigarettes and a lighter from his pockets.

"The gods, man," Constantine tells Julio. He pauses to light his cigarette and stoke it with a fluttering hollow of his cheeks. "I think they be crazy."

Meggan Puceanu has posed:
A silver necklace is all that remains, a streak of piano-wire thin metal tumbling to the ground. Plain, in all respects, the only thing remarkable about the weathered, deeply tarnished metal lies in a tiny pendant about the size of a baby's nail. A silver L. It bounces to the ground.

With the weight of a proverbial dumptruck or anvil falling from the sky, mystically.

Julio Richter has posed:
Limbs slack, Rictor drops down from the spire he rose on, the ground itself buckling to cushion his landing in a spiderweb crater. Then he's on all fours, puking up dirt and blood and pale fragments of bone for a disturbingly long time. When he finally rears back to a vertical kneel, he's lit with so much verdant energy, flickering rapidly from sharp-edged sorcery to diffuse mutation, that he looks like he's on fire.

He scrapes the filth from his mouth with the back of one sleeve, leaving a tarry smear on one side of his face, then spits out a heartfelt, profane litany: "Me cago en todo lo que se menea!" Each word sends a small creature, like a rat-sized echo of the pavement beast, capering away from him on legs of asphalt and copper wire, dead rubble animated by his anger for a brief span of time. He stares at them as they go, but then dismisses them from his awareness with a forcible shake of his head.

No such reprieve for the fresh-hewn idol to Cipactli that he intended as armor. He lurches to his feet, arms shaking, and methodically blasts the thing apart, chunk by chunk, from rounded snout to pointed tail. By the time he's done, every erg of power in him is spent, and he slumps back, finally answering Constantine's not unreasonable statement. "Si. This is why I'm not religious."

He is distracted when one of his rubble-beasties drops something on the toe of his shoe, before dissolving into a little pile of inert mass once again: the necklace. After a second, he stoops to retrieve it, looking ill. "I guess we should take this back to Cruz," he intones dismally.