5435/The Bronx's Burning

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The Bronx's Burning
Date of Scene: 04 March 2021
Location: Bronx
Synopsis: The seal has broken and Constantine realizes Hell has come for the Bronx.
Cast of Characters: Meggan Puceanu, John Constantine

Meggan Puceanu has posed:
The afternoon dredges the last light of the sky, tinged a miserable grey. No one in Mill Brook Houses welcomes outsiders; cold eyes and unfriendly silhouettes hang in the windows of those ugly brick tenements standing like books on a forgotten desk. A place where squalor and violence reign except for the community centre, held down by Tlaloc's fortified web. This is not a place even John Constantine is likely to call home.

Some vicious magic plays out, the howling stormwinds of a winter tempest raging high in the air but not anywhere close to the clouds. It lies far closer to earth, contained icy gales coming undone from the strangest weather phenomenon imaginable. The wind riding a merry-go-round in constant cyclonic circles it can't escape, like a deranged igloo, lies in the sky.

ight be enough for a man's footsteps to bring him here.

Worse, though, is the earth overturned and the sick tinge of the void running through it. The magic of destruction far, far stronger than the other instances he's tasted, bleeding along the street like an infection in the vein.

John Constantine has posed:
It's an ugly area. Bad enough that even the normals, the non-magical, avoid it if they can. People scurry to and from their cars and apartments; they shelter behind thresholds and huddle around their televisions, modernized fire driving back the shadows crawling around them.

It's the oldest of human instincts, that awareness spanning the preternatural and the supernatural.

Constantine's as aware of it as anyone else. Moreso. And there's comfort in that knowledge, being able to codify the darkness and see what is lurking in the night. It doesn't make him any more immune to it, or make the nightmares any less a threat, but it does give him a little foothold of sanity against a crumbling ediface of self-doubt.

And sometimes that's enough.

Behind a dumpster he's patched a ritual together. A circle, a sacrifice; a gift of food and wine, a drop of blood, an invitation to parlay with the magus as he seeks out some spirit lurking nearby who is willing to parlay with him. A little dangerous to do an open invitation such as his, but with the storm encroaching, there are few truly benign spirits lurking in the aether.

Meggan Puceanu has posed:
The Bronx has its host of problems. More than most, all said and done. Something else lurks among the squalor and institutional prejudices. Everyday affairs wearing down the residents to tough survivors wouldn't stand out to a magus. Not like this. Mystical awareness sandpapered by constant seesawing strokes only adds to the growing foreboding.

Residents in the Mill Brook projects are survivors, hardened and scarred by neglect. Even they sense it, a herd seeking shelter. Two young men loitering near the battered fire doors curl their lips, practically coming to blows out of nothing. A teenager carries a toddler and drags along a kid to a beaten-up Chevy, swearing up a storm, fumbling the keys. Bitter words mingle with the doors creaking to a violent beat and windows moaning to the entrapped winds fraying from their circular maelstrom dance. Whatever holds them together is failing and fast.

John's summons takes longer than it should, simply for a lack of regular spirits. Those haunting these corners are thin and hungry, bleak spectre. One full of maws pockmarking its gaunt frame slides behind the dumpster, teeth thin and gnashing. Thrashing, twitching, it's eager to be away. Desperate for it. <<What do you want?>>

John Constantine has posed:
"Information." This isn't a polite entreaty and the sort of spirits who would respond are not likely to appreciate etiquette anyway. Constantine inhales air over the cigarette between his lips and blows smoke from his nostrils.

"The god taking over this block is no pushover. He's edged out all the fae and the loa. The spectres and shades aren't far behind. You won't be able to live here long with the scraps he doles out."

This provokes a snarling reaction, which John endures with nothing more than a blink of the eyes. The binding is solid and there is no threat to him simply from the ire of a shadow thing.

"I want know what spirits are here. I don't need their Names, just their aspect and origins. Which ones are sneaking past him and which ones came here with T-- with the bastard."

John digs in his jacket pocket and comes up with a ziploc baggie with three misshapen blobs of raw meat in it. Still bloody. One is tossed atop a steel drum nearby and lands with a wet smack.

"Rabbit hearts. Freshly harvested. First one's a down payment. The other two if you agree to my terms and fulfill my request for information completely. Deal?"

Meggan Puceanu has posed:
A creature of hunger is drawn by blood and stirred by the bare organs, thick and meaty. It can smell the iron, fear, sickly thick that bends it toward the offering.

<<Agreed for hearts, you will not lead me to my destruction or bind me.>> It has cunning enough for the details hammered out in a bargain, though its seething body ripples and thins out in anticipation.

<<It's not a god. Older power, darker to that.>> The heart on offer it reaches for, not quite scooping it up if John allows it to reach in that direction. <<Too old. None would dare to face that hunger.>> The oppressive weight hanging on the air keeps rippling, throbbing as the winds build and the air hums with the moaning currents.

<<The Rainmaker keeps his protected. Won't let us hunt. Might keep those chosen safe from what's breaking out. Maybe.>>

John Constantine has posed:
"So far you haven't told me anything I don't already know," John points out. The heart remains where it is at; let the spirit seal the compact, and hunger for the raw meat in the meantime.

"Find out. Aspects. Origins. Natures. I want to know who is here scavenging, and who is here at the invite of the Pit," he tells the shade.

A beat passes, wind fitfully tugging at his coattails. "One could make the point that other spirits would be indebted to you, mate. If you passed on to me who is here for the hunt and which of you are just here for the ambience."

Meggan Puceanu has posed:
<<You think a god does this. It doesn't.>> The hunger marches in blood. It doesn't so much devour the heart as pull the colour out of it, dredging out the remaining life-force that dwindles in the fibres and the muscles. The whole organ pulses weakly as though shocked by a cable, though it won't ever sustain some poor lapin in the fields beyond New York.

The deal is done in a pact of flesh and gore, a squeezed out trickle of juices splattering on the ground where it steams almost immediately.

Getting colder, the city teeters into darkness. The last light rimming the western skyline is snuffed out, throwing shredded shadows in a blanket over the stinking alley, the grim streets.

A time to wait then. John will have to give a spirit, even one of hunting and devouring, time to complete its work. It slides through one of the buildings as though the hulking block doesn't exist, just another pit fighter surrounded by the row of big boys.

The ground shudders. Poison in it leached to the bedrock leaves a foul, fresh aftertaste on the Mystic tongue. Decay; rot. A fingerprint of destruction so fresh it's probably still bleeding psychic ink, emanating from the Mill Brook Houses. One, two, three, four: ugly brick buildings harbouring a growing coldness and the symphonic of a winter storm brewed.

His breath cools in the air, hanging like a cloud. Tick, tick.

More violence in the stratosphere is accompanied by a peculiar tearing, a cracking. Flesh ripped. Stone and glass contorted.

John Constantine has posed:
John puts his back to the brick wall. It's a prudent habit to have in general, and limits some of the options for more banal ambushes.

A fight is not the magus' preferred modus operandi. Too straightforward, too expected. Dangerous with the sort of entities that lurk around such an area.

Dangerous with the swirling red ink dancing under his skin, forced back into place with a minor effort of will.

Instead John produces a small jar from his pocket. Sulfur, charcoal, and a bit of blood. The paste is smeared on his forehead and the edge of his thumb draws a sigil on his forehead. That howling dissonance around Constantine melds with the aura that wraps itself around the magus, making him just one more prowling spirit sniffing around the remains left by the monsters. It'll do for the moment.

Meggan Puceanu has posed:
The alley stays curiously quiet. The street, what with its thin traffic, harbours few pedestrians or cars that linger for long. Not with night rolling in and the darkness gathering. Shouts blend into some kind of fight in the near distance, unsavory things said about someone's mama turning into a conversation with punches and kicks for punctuation.

Dangers can be mundane. Dangers just as often take on shapes of skittering spidery fingers clutching the edges of brick, a cool entity blended into the shadows except for the fear-stained mouth, the bloody maws nipping at the aair to taste for blood.

That's the funny thing, in the meantime. There are no spirits. Just the hungry one. Everything else is missing; the already denuded spiritual landscape is a barren spot where nothing hovers by the watering hole. He might just be the only one in that crushing, unsavory silence interrupted by another shearing noise that thrums in the air.

<<Rainmaker's drops. The lesser hates, sprites of the underground. A lightning elemental, leaving. The clutch of pain shrikes are feasting, but weak. Little things, fast. Cannot see the Rainmaker, his stormwalls are not for us. The ice-hawks and chaneque are gone, fled on the winds. There is just one teuzauhtototl, the Rainmaker's owl, and it won't shut up. Tolling its hoots. I should eat it.>>

It stares at him, and if it could smirk with so many mouths then it would.

<<Men broke the Pit open. They paid the tithe to the Ebon Gate. It's free, now.>>

John Constantine has posed:
Constantine eyes the spectre pointedly. The wraith-thing is a scavenger, not a hunter, and not known for being terribly devious (past a point). Hungry, yes, and not above feasting on the unwary or careless.

The other two hearts join the third and he wipes the blood from his fingers on a cloth napkin, and tosses it aside.

"You've earned your kip, spirit," John bids the entity. "Word to the wise: don't linger here longer. The Pit's bleeding this place dry and it'll take you with it."

He scuffs the summoning circle's edge, breaking the seal. The spirit can do as it pleases; bargain done.

John turns and starts heading towards the nearest edge of the invisible miasma. It's a small comfort in the face of the dying neighborhood, but at least he knows this: there's no invasion of hellions and abyssal armies visiting here.

Not yet, at least.

Meggan Puceanu has posed:
<<Mortal. Magus. Dinner for monster under a broken seal.>>

It leaps after the hearts and rips them with its uncanny fingers, the mouths on the palms and clawed tips merging, gulping on the essence. As a shade goes, it's a thin thing but darkening in, SA though a rich soot stain scorched onto a wall. The essence will sustain it a little longer. It vibrates with something like satisfaction and mockery before vanishing into the night.

The first front of war is always the easiest to see in the disruptions cast by a spreading shockwave. Headed out onto the street shows it in fragmented pieces.

A swirl of smoke rises into the dark sky above the blocky apartments. Row on row of cheap flats, squalid and neglected, stand as testament to the same brutalist impulses that felled whole chunks of London, Manchester, and the West Country. Housing estates in Glasgow match here, with a murder rate about as horrifically high. Despair and weariness should be present hard on the heels of these survivors, but the moaning winds and vibrating windows carry something else. Something other, reflected in the dull, shining panes.

John's own image, sooty and black. The cars beyond wreathed in a palpable grey sheen. Acrid embers drift down from above, a ghostly shape silhouetted in fire falling fast on a billowing arc.

It's almost humanoid, until really seen up close, flapping cloth all around trailing far too richly orange and red fire to be normal. When the melting rod that supports the curtains gives way under the intense heat, it makes a giant's javelin thrust towards the ground, towards him. Pure circumstance.

John Constantine has posed:
John pauses for just a moment to watch the destruction of that shadowy reflection in the mirror. A cataclysm in minor, playing out between thin panes of glass.

An oracle? Prediction? A threat, a warning? Some useful advice?

He continues before getting too sucked into the illusory drama. Constantine forces his steps to be measured and confident. Never run from predators; wolves and demons alike have that chase instinct and they love the smell of fear.

John lights another cigarette and by the time he reaches the edge of the archdemon's influence, he's gone through a full two smokes and started a third.

But at least he isn't running away!

Meggan Puceanu has posed:
The soft, pervasive hoot isn't quite audible from the far side of the community centre. It's on the south side of the projects, guarded by Cruz and the strange accretion of Aztec rain god and Catholic faith pervading Mesoamerica. That ward still holds, tasting of rain and green growth, if barely.

The air blooms cold and collectively shudders. The first rising line singes the sky thirteen stories up over one of the blocks, number four. Complex sigils burn up there, impervious to the fleeing winds. Writhing lines bend and flow within a seal far more complex than the eye can follow. Mostly because there's a great hulking building with fifteen flats to a floor in the way, but what spikes emerge out form the brick and metal cladding are only visible to a very rare few.

Not to the man nursing bruised knuckles, having beat the shit out of a naysayer by a cheap bar. Not to the two residents loitering in the entryway to the sorrowful tower shaking to its foundations and much deeper still.

Certainly not the girl rushing across the street, dodging a shitty rust bucket on bald wheels. Like you do here, get straight from A to B, don't linger. She curses, almost tripping over an abandoned fridge door just lying there on the sidewalk in a rime of ice.

But a man bearing the title Hellblazer ought to know fire and brimstone when he sees it. The first shattered windows blow out in liquefied glass, superheated gases boiling through the bulging facade. Windows break and cascade in globs of molten fire, and the dry debris of insulation -- ancient and grey -- couches, papers, all the stuff of a life is almost instantly consumed in something primeval and deadly even to the denizens of the Silver City down to the deepest fathoms of Hell.

The warding crawling over three floors of the building valiantly holds for a few seconds longer, the icy winds of winter already torn apart and the atmosphere popping loudly as the pressure gives.

The seal explodes. Metaphorically it gives out in a wink.

The power drops around the neighbourhood as hellfire cores out a hole in the apartment in the sky.