Facing Evil 11-06

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“Mr–” I stopped, making a show of frowning slightly at him. “Err, sorry, I’m not sure what honorific I’m supposed to to use for someone that’s on the Crossroads Committee. Is there a special title or…”

The man’s eyes watched me carefully, which gave me an easy excuse to meet his gaze without looking away. He looked like one of those old heavyweight prize fighters, a big, beefy guy who had put on just a little more weight than he’d had in his youth (whenever that had been, considering he was old enough to have witnessed the Black Death). His nose had been broken so often it was permanently crooked.

“Counselor, Miss Chambers,” he finally answered after the silence had carried on for a few seconds. “When referring to a member of the Committee, we use the title of Counselor. After all,” the man added with a very slight smile. “What is the purpose of the leaders of Crossroads if not to counsel?”

I really didn’t think he’d appreciate a truthful answer to that from my point of view. “Counselor Ruthers. I knew this was pretty bad, but I didn’t realize it was bad enough to bring someone like you.”

“You know who I am.” He said the words as if they were some kind of challenge. “I’m surprised.”

Shrugging, I glanced toward Peterson, who was busy pretending we didn’t exist. “Well, you know. Your picture is up all over the school, Counselor. I’d be pretty bad at my track if I didn’t recognize you.”

“That is fair,” he conceded before gesturing to the nearby door. “Why don’t we step into the commissary while you explain what exactly happened. It should be private enough for our purposes.”

Thinking fast, I let my head bob. “Oh, sure thing. One sec.” Pivoting, I faced the door that I’d just come out of. Peterson was standing close enough to stop it from opening. But I didn’t need to open it. Instead, I just took a step that way and shoved my head right through it while focusing on that wood merging power. Sure enough, my head popped through to the lounge where the other three still were. Keeping my voice loud enough for the two outside to hear exactly what I was saying, I called, “Hey guys, when Koren gets here, could you just tell her I’m over in the cafeteria with Counselor Ruthers?”

I saw the widening eyes just before pulling my head back, turning to face the two men with a bright smile. “Sorry, but you know, she did kind of save my life tonight. I’d kinda like to thank her for that.”

If Ruthers was annoyed, he hid his reaction well. The man just smiled. “Of course. I’d like to commend her for her actions as well, in that case.” Turning then, he began to walk to the other doors, clearly expecting me to follow. Peterson stayed where he was, simply folding his arms while watching me.

Since there was no better option, I trailed after the man who was basically the face of everything my mother had been fighting a war to oppose. Briefly, I wondered if putting his back to me while he walked away was supposed to be some kind of statement about how little of a threat I actually was.

In the cafeteria, Ruthers stepped to the nearest table. His big, meaty hand slid a chair back with a scraping noise before he gestured for me to take a seat. “Would you like anything, Miss Chambers?”

Shrugging while sitting down, I lifted the mug of hot chocolate in demonstration. “I’m good, thanks.”

For a moment, the man just stood behind me. I couldn’t see him, and it felt like he was waiting to see if I’d twist my head around to check what he was doing. I resisted the urge, not wanting to give the man that kind of power. Instead, I just took a sip of the drink. “I have a confession to make, Counselor.”

That got him to walk around to take a seat as well, his eyebrows raised curiously. “A confession, Miss Chambers?” As casual as his tone was, I could see the intensity in his gaze as he stared through me.

Meeting his stare while using the shapeshifting ability to keep my expression as neutral as possible, I nodded. “Yes. I sort of know who you are because of something else too. Not just your picture.”

His chin raised a little, and I saw the way his lip twitched a bit into the barest hint of a smile. “What would that be, Miss Chambers? I assure you, any confession you’d like to make right now would-”

“We’re doing a project,” I interrupted rather than let him go on. When he stopped talking and blinked at me, I continued. “Koren and I, actually. Oh, and Vanessa and Rudolph too. Professor Dare put us in groups and assigned projects to report on some big event in history and to show the difference between what Bystanders know about it and what Heretics know. We chose to do ours on the Black Death.”

Either he had the same kind of power I did (well, he probably had every power I did, only much stronger), or the guy was naturally good at concealing his reactions. He barely blinked, shifting his weight in the chair. “Ah.” His eyes took me in briefly before he nodded. “And what have you found?”

I continued to meet his gaze. “You were there. That… Stranger, he pretended to be an ally. But he wasn’t. He tricked you and the other Heretics, and a lot of people died.” After letting that hang in the air for a second or two, just long enough to make the point, I added with all possible sincerity, “I’m sorry.”

Ruthers’ eyes squinted as he reached into the pocket of his perfectly tailored suit, plucking out an embroidered violet handkerchief before laying it flat on the table with his hand over it. “You’re sorry?”

This part, I didn’t have to fake. As angry and upset as I was with this man, I was completely honest. “Yes, Counselor. Of course. I… when that… boy, Ammon, when he attacked the police station back home, I was trying to save everyone. But I couldn’t. People still died. I tried to help them, and they died anyway. I feel…” Swallowing hard, I glanced away before continuing. “I feel like shit about it. I try not to think about it, but if I’d been faster, if I’d been smarter, if I’d been stronger, maybe those people would still be alive. They’re not, because I wasn’t good enough to save them. I… can’t even imagine how it would feel if I was in your shoes. If I ever made an alliance with a Stranger, and that many people died… I don’t know what I’d do. I don’t know how I’d go on living. It would destroy me every single time I looked in the mirror. So yes, Counselor Ruthers, I am very sorry that happened to you.”

The man was completely motionless and silent for a few seconds. His gaze seemed to stare right through me with an intensity that was disconcerting. Finally, he sat back in the chair, leaving his finger pressed against the handkerchief. I saw the tiniest bit of focus in his eyes before he lifted it off the table. As the cloth came up, it revealed a shot glass sitting there with some kind of amber liquid inside.

He took the shot in a single pull, setting the glass on the table again before speaking carefully. “Tell me what you know about this boy who came here tonight, Miss Chambers. Tell me about this… Ammon.”

“They told you what he said,” I replied as flatly as possible. “What he said both times I’ve seen him.”

His reply was terse. “The report says the boy claims to be your brother. Why do you think he believes something like that?” Even as he asked the question, the man was laying his handkerchief over the glass. His hand pressed down on it, and the cloth went flat against the table as the glass disappeared.

I let my eyes lift from the table to meet his gaze again before answering simply. “Maybe he really is.”

“Excuse me?” Ruthers squinted, lifting the cloth after obviously taking the time to invest more power in it. He didn’t say any actual words. His magic was strong enough that all he needed to renew the spell on his handkerchief was a brief second of invested energy. Then he lifted the cloth to reveal another full shotglass before he downed it as well. “Perhaps you should explain why you think this creature could possibly be related to you, Miss Chambers. After all, the last time I checked, you were not a Stranger.”

I coughed at that, managing a slight smile. “I’m pretty sure I’d be the dumbest Stranger in the world if I came to be a student in this place. There’s overconfidence, and then there’s just plain suicidal stupidity.”

He said nothing, so I went on. “My point is, maybe he’s really my brother because he’s not a Stranger.”

I felt the man’s heavy sigh as much as I heard it. “If you are going to start babbling about half-breed–”

“Maybe he’s a Heretic,” I interrupted him again. I’d been doing that a lot, and it felt good every single time.

Ruthers gave me a look like I’d just sprouted—like I’d suddenly turned into—like I—okay coming up with a suitably absurd event was suddenly a lot harder when you knew about Strangers and magic. He stared at me like I was insane, and possibly a little dangerous. And stupid. “Would you explain that?”

“Well,” I started with a shrug. “I don’t know how much you’ve read about me, but my mother left when I was little. She abandoned us, my dad and me.” It wasn’t hard to make myself sound bitter about that still. I just made myself think about how I had felt before learning the truth. And knowing that the man sitting across from me was a very big reason for why my mother had been in trouble to begin with made it even easier. “She took off with some guy, and you know, dropped off the face of the planet.”

When the man replied to that, his voice was even gruffer than usual. “It’s hard to lose a family member. Harder when you don’t understand why it happened.” Shifting in his seat, he cleared his throat roughly. “But what, exactly, does that have to do with this ridiculous claim that the boy could be a Heretic?”

“I’m a Heretic,” I pointed out. “So obviously my mother must’ve had the potential too. Isn’t that how it works?” When the man reluctantly and silently nodded, I continued. “So what if my mother didn’t just disappear on her own? What if she was recruited, and never came back. What if she was taken by that other Heretic school, Eden’s Garden? Or some other group. There’s supposed to be other Heretic groups out there too, right? So one of them, maybe. What if they recruited her, and she had a son with some other guy? That son isn’t right in the head, they screw up his training or something because they don’t know what they’re doing, and he ends up killing something with a mind control power. So this crazy, half-trained son goes off on his own and starts trying to track down the sister that his mom mentioned.”

There was no response at first. The man just sat there, brow furrowed as he watched me in silence while he absorbed that. “You believe this little boy was some kind of… broken, half-trained Heretic?”

“It fits, doesn’t it, Counselor?” I pointed out. “I mean, which makes more sense, that or the idea that there’s some Stranger out there who has that kind of power, doesn’t register as a Stranger to anyone, claims he’s my brother, and everything else? It explains his power and the whole brother thing. And if some other group screwed up his training, it might explain why he became so psychotic. Maybe it was a splinter group from Eden’s Garden or something. Whatever it is, being a Heretic makes more sense.”

“And how,” Ruthers finally asked after processing that, “would you explain his entrance here? How did this eight-year-old boy make his way onto the school grounds and compromise the head of security?”

“Maybe he had help,” I pointed out. “Someone did kill Professor Pericles, and those guys from Eden’s Garden did come after us on that hunt. Maybe it’s connected and someone else is using this kid’s particular brand of psycho to throw another problem at the school. Maybe he’s just a pawn.”

Yet again, Ruthers was quiet. He seemed to be thinking intently while staring at me. Once or twice, his mouth opened, but he kept stopping himself. Finally, the man found his voice again. “Miss Chambers-”

Whatever the man had been about to say just then was interrupted as the cafeteria door opened. Rather than Peterson Neal or even Koren, it was Gaia who stepped into the room. “Good evening, Counselor,” the woman greeted him with a polite nod before stepping aside to let someone else come into view.

“Avalon,” I blurted, rising reflexively to my feet. I took a step that way before stopping myself at the thought of the man behind me. Still, I didn’t care all that much. My focus was on my roommate, who stood there with her arms folded tightly over her stomach. But she wasn’t looking at me. Her gaze was focused with laser-like precision on Ruthers. It was like she was trying to stare a hole through him.

“Thank you for keeping Miss Chambers safe and in good company, Counselor.” Gaia’s voice was calm, yet firm. “I think you and I should talk about what happened here tonight and how we’re going to avoid any future incidents. Risa and Ulysses are waiting in my office while some of the other teachers look after the girls back in the dorm. I took the liberty of telling Peterson he could return to his apartment.”

“My conversation with Miss Chambers was just getting interesting,” Ruthers commented flatly.

Gaia’s response was a smile. “I’m sure you’ll have many more opportunities to speak with her. After all, she’ll be around for a long time.” To me, she added with a gesture to the door, “I’m sure you have questions, but Counselor Ruthers and I need to discuss some things first. We’ll talk later, I promise.”

Looking back to the man, I extended a hand toward him, “Thanks for talking to me, Counselor Ruthers. I’m glad Crossroads is taking what happened tonight seriously enough to send someone like you. Whatever the deal with Ammon is, I’m sure we all want to make sure he doesn’t hurt anyone else.”

He looked at my hand for a moment, then rose to accept it. But just before our hands would’ve touched, I snapped my fingers. “Oh, right. There is one other thing I wanted to say. If I’m right about Ammon, there would have to be a really powerful person or group behind him, wouldn’t there? A Heretic that could hide like from you guys for so long without you knowing, and get Ammon a power that strong?”

The man squinted at me briefly before nodding once. “Yes. If you are correct, that would be true.”

“Before, when you mentioned losing a family member, it sounded like you knew it personally.” I met the man’s stare while pressing on. “If the person that hurt someone you cared about that much, someone that hurt your family, was more powerful than you were, would it matter to you? Even if the person who hurt your family was so powerful that they made you look like a measly little ant in comparison, would you let that stop you from making them pay for what they did to the person you loved?”

“I have not met such a person in a very long time, Miss Chambers,” Ruthers replied softly without looking away from me. “But no, I don’t suppose that I would let something like that stop me.”

“Yeah,” I said quietly. “I guess I won’t either.” Letting that hang for a moment, I added, “Whoever’s behind Ammon, I’m going to figure it out and stop them.”

Pivoting on my heel, I walked away then, my attention focused entirely on my roommate as she nodded to Gaia before stepping out of the room. I was right behind her.

The door closed behind us, leaving Gaia and Ruthers in there alone. I waited just long enough to hear it click shut, then turned toward the other girl.

“Chambers, I–” Avalon started.

That was about as far as I let her get before I lunged at her. She made a strangled noise of surprise, but I didn’t care. I embraced the girl, wrapping my arms around her before holding on as tight as I could. “Valley,” I managed after a few seconds. “You’re okay. You’re all right.” Somehow, I was shivering in spite of myself.

For a few seconds, Avalon just stood there, stiff as a statue. I thought she might push me away, or just stand completely still until I let go like some kind of weird attempt at playing possum. Eventually, however, I felt her hands somewhat awkwardly pat my shoulders, then my back. Finally, she returned the hug.

“Chambers,” she spoke in a somewhat halting voice. “I’m fine. It’s fine. Pull…” She cleared her throat. “Pull yourself together.”

Without letting go, I retorted, “Considering what’s been happening, I’m doing just peachy.” Still, I let go eventually, releasing the girl before stepping back. “Are you…” Hesitating, I searched for the right words to say. “I mean, did he…”

Avalon’s voice was still quiet. “I told you, I’m fine. I’m not made out of glass, Chambers.”

My head bobbed up and down rapidly. “I know. It’s just… it was Ammon. He was here, and… and if he’d… if he tried to—if you were…” Breathing in and out a little shakily, I forced myself to stop.

We just stood there for a moment like that, facing each other. The other girl finally broke the silence by reaching behind herself to the nearby wall. When she turned back, my staff was in her hand as she held it out to me. “You really should hold onto this, Chambers. How are you supposed to protect yourself without it?”

“Yeah, I guess I’ve got a lot to learn,” I replied while taking the staff. “How do you put up with me?”

One of her shoulders raised in a half shrug while she answered dryly. “I am a very patient person.”

Smiling in spite of myself, I took another breath before tucking the staff away. “Sands and Scout?”

“Still asleep,” she informed me. “But Fellows is in there with the others. She looked… well, you should probably talk to her.”

“Right.” Biting my lip, I stepped that way. “Time to talk to Koren then.

“And I thought being alone in a room with Ruthers made me nervous.”

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35 comments

  1. Update, it’s an update! There it is, see? You just read it.

    Hope you guys enjoyed that. And speaking of things to enjoy, we’ve got two different bonus mini-interlude chapters coming soon. The first is a Scout interlude, so we can see what the ever-so quiet half of the twins has been up to lately. And the second will be focused on seeing what happens when Koren contacts her mother after finding out the truth.

    If you’re still enjoying the story, I’d love if you dropped off a quick vote at Top Web Fiction by clicking here. It really does help a lot, and your vote will last for seven days.

    I’ll be moving across the country in a couple weeks. It shouldn’t affect updates here (hopefully, though there might be a bit of lateness involved, depending on how it goes), but I figured you guys should know what’s up.

    Today’s tags are: Apparently Ruthers Once Killed A Stranger That Was Also An Alcoholic Magician., Avalon Sinclaire, Felicity Chambers, Flick, Gabriel Ruthers, Gaia Sinclaire, Sorry Ruthers – You’re Just Not As Interesting As Busty-Sarcastic-Badass Ninja Roommate.

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  2. Hendy, how do you almost always get the first comment? Like, a minute after posting.

    Ahem. Well that actually went rather well. Flick did a pretty good job at implicating herself as little as possible, and played on Ruther’s own conviction that her mother was continuing the revolution and had a group of followers. Because he already believed that, I don’t think any harm was done.

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  3. Hendy, how do you almost always get the first comment? Like, a minute after posting.

    Ahem. Well that actually went rather well. Flick did a pretty good job at implicating herself as little as possible, and played on Ruther’s own conviction that her mother was continuing the revolution and had a group of followers. Because he already believed that, I don’t think any harm was done.

    Like

    1. Well, for starters, I’m kind of obsessed with this story. I spend every Monday and Friday refreshing the main page dozens of times, which exponentially increases in frequency the closer we get to the deadline. By 6 I’m refreshing once very few minutes.

      I also don’t currently have classes or a job, so I have lots of free time to check. I’ll stop constantly getting the first comment when I start my new job next week, and when September rolls around.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Wow, I’ve got to hand it to Flick. That was some damn smart thinking, completely reasonable and all come up with on the spot.

    And the scene with Avalon was super touching.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. That went well. Could have gone worse. Like I thought, she went on the offensive, thought not in the way I’d imagined. Coming up with a strange, yet somewhat plausible theory that, frankly, Ruthers might actually buy was a stroke of genius, giving her something to babble about without giving too much away until Gaia could intervene. Ruthers didn’t come off as condescending as I was expecting, surprisingly. Without the context of the rest of the story, he might actually come off as reasonable from this chapter.

    Incidentally, the moment where Flick put her head through the door was hilarious. A delightful balance between complying with Ruthers’s wishes and doing what she wants.

    I’m surprised though that, while explaining her “Ammon is a Heretic” theory, she didn’t put forward the suggestion that he’s an old-school type, which would explain his ridiculous powerset at such a young age. I can’t think of any mythical creature that would possess both Healing and Mind-control Voice, but from what we’ve seen of the story so far, it probably exists.

    I don’t get the bit about a drunk magician in the tags by the way.

    Incidentally, is there any rule on what powers a half-Alter would possess? So far we have: Enhanced senses, reflexes and learning capability (Shiori), superlative mnemonic capabilities (Vanessa) and apex human physiology (Tristan). I’m excluding Ammon because there are so many questions about him as it stands. Is this ever going to be addressed in-story?

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    1. Incidentally, is there any rule on what powers a half-Alter would possess? So far we have: Enhanced senses, reflexes and learning capability (Shiori), superlative mnemonic capabilities (Vanessa) and apex human physiology (Tristan). I’m excluding Ammon because there are so many questions about him as it stands. Is this ever going to be addressed in-story?

      It will.

      I don’t get the bit about a drunk magician in the tags by the way.

      His bit with the handkerchief and the glasses was something a magician would do, and he kept doing it just to summon alcohol to drink.

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  6. “After all,” the man added with a very slight smile. “What is the purpose of the leaders of Crossroads if not to counsel?””
    Me: *pssh* Such a neutral sounding word, counsel. I suppose it is better than dictate, anyway.

    “I continued to meet his gaze. “You were there. That… Stranger, he pretended to be an ally. But he wasn’t. He tricked you and the other Heretics, and a lot of people died.” After letting that hang in the air for a second or two, just long enough to make the point, I added with all possible sincerity, “I’m sorry.”

    Ruthers’ eyes squinted as he reached into the pocket of his perfectly tailored suit, plucking out an embroidered violet handkerchief before laying it flat on the table with his hand over it. “You’re sorry?””
    Me: Flick is off to a good enough start, keeping him guessing (maybe). The real question is, is Ruthers buying it and if so, how long can she maintain this?

    ““It fits, doesn’t it, Counselor?” I pointed out. “I mean, which makes more sense, that or the idea that there’s some Stranger out there who has that kind of power, doesn’t register as a Stranger to anyone, claims he’s my brother, and everything else? It explains his power and the whole brother thing. And if some other group screwed up his training, it might explain why he became so psychotic. Maybe it was a splinter group from Eden’s Garden or something. Whatever it is, being a Heretic makes more sense.””
    Me: Hmm. Interesting mixing of truth and outright BS. I’m surprised the meeting has gone this smoothly so far.

    Interesting update.

    *Looks at tags*
    Apparently Ruthers Once Killed A Stranger That Was Also An Alcoholic Magician.

    Wut.

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    1. Apparently Ruthers Once Killed A Stranger That Was Also An Alcoholic Magician.
      Wut.

      As I said to tearlessnevermore, it was a reference to his bit with using a handkerchief to conjure more shot glasses to drink.

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  7. Pretty fast thinking on Flick’s part. Play off of Ruthers’ suspicions/fears, but in the wrong direction.

    Avalon is surprisingly okay. I mean, she’s clearly putting up a front, but the fact that she’s even able to do so in a semi-convincing manner is a relatively good sign.

    And thank you Avalon, for getting Flick’s staff. It honestly feels weird how long it took for her to get it back (or that she didn’t get it herself).

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    1. And thank you Avalon, for getting Flick’s staff. It honestly feels weird how long it took for her to get it back (or that she didn’t get it herself).

      She had a thought earlier on that she didn’t want to go near the dorm again until she was sure that the girls who had been puppeted into trying to kill her really were cured. Just in case.

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  8. Well. That went better than I thought I thought it would. I was honestly expecting Ruthers to be more… informed. I also thought it would take longer for Gaia to interrupt. I’m both relieved and a tiny disappointing, mostly because I really want to know what Ruthers was about to say here:

    Yet again, Ruthers was quiet. He seemed to be thinking intently while staring at me. Once or twice, his mouth opened, but he kept stopping himself. Finally, the man found his voice again. “Miss Chambers-”

    Whatever the man had been about to say just then was interrupted as the cafeteria door opened. Rather than Peterson Neal or even Koren, it was Gaia who stepped into the room. “Good evening, Counselor,” the woman greeted him with a polite nod before stepping aside to let someone else come into view.

    What was that?!? Did he buy it? Was he going to continue the discussion? Call BS? I need to know!

    Oh well, that moment with Avalon makes up for it. It was adorable.

    Also, I’m surprised Flick handled herself that well, considering how much she sucks at lying to Koren. I’m also kind of concerned about that speech she gave to him about getting back at people who hurt your family. It was a nice speech, on the surface it sounds like she’s talking about whoever “recruited” her mom, but it could also easily refer to Joselyn if she had returned to her activities, and Flicks’s actually thinking about Fossor and probably Ruthers himself. Still, I’m worried that she might have trudged up some bad memories for the man. At the very least, it’s something that he’ll think about and flash back to when he inevitably learns about what she’s actually doing.

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    1. Huh. Now that I think about it some more, assuming Flick actually did convince Ruthers that she’s not involved (or at least has started convincing him), all the speculation I waa having on Spacebattles about Ruthers trying to “help” her may have just been put on the table. She might have just accidently started convincing him that she’s worth “saving,” in his eyes.

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    2. Quick question (I promise I’ll stop replying to myself after this). How fast was the report Ruthers mentions where Ammon claims to be Flick’s brother written and who wrote it? I thought it hasn’t even been an hour since he left.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I read that as “Flick forgot she didn’t mention that the first time, didn’t realize that there probably isn’t already a report about it, and now Ruthers may notice the discrepancy and realize that she was hiding something later on (if he hasn’t already).”

        I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’m looking forward to the next time Ruthers shows up.

        Like

  9. *“Maybe he’s a Heretic,” I interrupted him again. I’d been doing that a lot, and it felt every single time.*

    Missing word between ‘felt’ and ‘every’?

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  10. ““Chambers,” she spoke in a somewhat halting voice. “I’m fine. It’s fine. Pull…” She cleared her throat. “Pull yourself together.””

    This is the second time now I’ve seen Avalon talking to herself in pretense of talking to someone else. (The other case being a bit more obvious because Herbie isn’t the best conversationalist.) It’s oddly endearing.

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  11. Well played Felicity, well played. I get the feeling she’s been working on that story for a while now and was just waiting for the chance to use it.

    Apparently Ruthers Once Killed A Stranger That Was Also An Alcoholic Magician

    Silly tags, that wasn’t a Stranger ability, it was clearly a Heritic created magical item, what with the way he had to invest his power into it each time. Though I don't know if it fall under Summoning, Storage or Creation. If it fall under Creation it could either be permanent or temporary, and if the latter of that then we run into the "What happens to cells that are using a substance and that substance disappears from the cells" problem that DK Ami was warned about.
    My guess is probably Storage, since we see that very often, most blatantly with the weapon cases. He’s probably got a couple hundred shot glasses stored in that thing, or maybe just one glass and a lot of “free floating” booze, depending on how it works. I could see see him “refilling” the handkerchief by spreading it on the table, holding one corner down with his finger to keep the magic flowing and them just upending a bottle of ‘the good stuff’ onto.

    Though of course the assumption here is that he was drinking alcohol. All we get is that it was an “amber liquid”, no scent or taste from Flick, so it could be any number of drinks. Some kind of whisky is the most obvious, and that might be what he wants Flick to think he was drinking. Ruthers’ gives off that “chained bull-dog” vibe but for the man to be in the position he’s in he’s got to be very intelligent and wicker sharp on things.

    I’m also going to assume he was using some sort of “truth-telling” power while Flick was talking, from the way he was looking at her and his responses, how he never seemed to doubt her while being a bit surprised at the fact he didn’t doubt her. Everything she said was true, some of it more true than others. About the only out-right “lie” was that she thinks Ammon was is a Heretic instead of a Stranger, and even then it could be true! We know that Half-Alters can be turned into Heretics now (thank you former Genie lady) and we don’t know if Eden’s Fruit ever had that restriction in the first place, and there’s no telling what would happen if some Alter managed to get some Hangman’s Demon blood in them in the “proper” way. And that’s not even getting into the fact that Heretics could be considered a form of Alter, they clearly are not base-line humans any more.
    Also, Flick never outright stated she thought he mother was part of this “other group” willingly, she heavily implied it yes, but never out-right said it. A lot of “truth detection” spells and powers often have trouble picking up on the little stretches.

    This chapter was not really what I was expecting. I expected Ruthers to have more to say, but I didn’t expect him to be a Grade ASS (he’s keeps missing those double-beats and can’t get the SSS) to Flick like we’ve seem him with Gaia. He let her drive the conversation, and while that is a valid interrogation technique I think he got a bit more from the girl than he was expecting.

    Good update, looking forward to the next one.

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    1. I hope you don’t mind, but I edited your post to fix the quote tag so that the whole thing wasn’t used as a quote.

      Well played Felicity, well played. I get the feeling she’s been working on that story for a while now and was just waiting for the chance to use it.

      Indeed.

      My guess is probably Storage, since we see that very often, most blatantly with the weapon cases. He’s probably got a couple hundred shot glasses stored in that thing, or maybe just one glass and a lot of “free floating” booze, depending on how it works. I could see see him “refilling” the handkerchief by spreading it on the table, holding one corner down with his finger to keep the magic flowing and them just upending a bottle of ‘the good stuff’ onto.

      This is pretty much the right idea.

      This chapter was not really what I was expecting. I expected Ruthers to have more to say, but I didn’t expect him to be a Grade ASS (he’s keeps missing those double-beats and can’t get the SSS) to Flick like we’ve seem him with Gaia. He let her drive the conversation, and while that is a valid interrogation technique I think he got a bit more from the girl than he was expecting.

      I mentioned this on Sufficient Velocity, but one big thing was that he was surprised by how the conversation went. He went in there expecting to openly butt heads with her like he did her mother as a student. He was expecting a mini-Joselyn, not someone who sympathized with what happened during the Black Death.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Thanks, I noticed the broken tag and thought “Cerulean will fix that, because I can’t because WordPress is silly.”

        Yeah, I had a feeling he was expecting her mother. “Be ye father’s sins remembered.” and all that. Must have made his mind skip a track when she went the route she did, probably why he started drinking… .

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  12. Pivoting on my heel, I walks away then, my attention focused entirely on my roommate as she nodded to Gaia before stepping out of the room. I was right behind her.
    Walks->walked?
    Also, there’s something weird going on with the quotes in the last sentence.
    Other than that, I, uh, kind of read this thing from start to finish in 7 hours or so…I couldn’t do anything else. Awesome writing, and story.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Walked, yes, lol. Thank you. No idea how that slipped through.

      Also, there’s something weird going on with the quotes in the last sentence.

      Looks correct to me. It’s still Flick talking just with the ending line separated for emphasis, and when you go to a new paragraph with the same speaker without breaking the dialogue up, you don’t put a closing quotation mark on the previous paragraph.

      Like

  13. Hmm, looks like Flick managed to roll really well here, with how she managed to throw Ruthers off, both by bringing up his own past screw-up as something she uncovered while researching a class assignment, and coming up with some apparently convincing BS to ‘explain’ Ammon & his interest in her as him possibly being her brother, and most likely an unstable, half-trained heretic that got loose & went rogue as the reason for his powers, yet not setting off the Stranger Danger sense. Plus, bringing up the attempt on Avalon’s life by the Garden students that attacked Flick’s team on a field exercise & the murder of Pericles & suggesting that they, along with Ammon are all part of an attempt by a faction at the Garden or some other Heretic group to cause trouble for Crossroads.

    Still, some very nice timing by Gaia to step in right then before Flick could stumble or Ruthers started getting any more skeptical than he already was.

    Though hope Flick’s line about doing whatever it’ll take to get back at someone who hurt someone they care about won’t come back to haunt her, as if/when Ruthers finds out what Flick’s really up to, there’s both the reminder of what happened to his son (IIRC, connected to Joselyn’s rebellion) & the implications for him personally, neither of which is likely to cause a reaction that’d be good for her.

    That was a touching moment with Avalon at the end though. Though she’s clearly not OK, suppose it’s a good sign that she’s as functional as she is after what she went through, & hopefully Flick, Gaia, & the therapists can help her through this. Just hope that Ammon didn’t do anything to Avalon when she was under his spell while waiting for Flick to come in.

    Oh, and next chapter’s going to have an interesting & potentially emotional scene, as Flick goes to talk to Koren about what happened- wonder just how Gaia explained things to her, and from there, what sort of conversation it’ll be.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Still, some very nice timing by Gaia to step in right then before Flick could stumble or Ruthers started getting any more skeptical than he already was.

      That wasn’t an accident, she was waiting for the right moment.

      (IIRC, connected to Joselyn’s rebellion)

      What, exactly, happened with Jonathan hasn’t been explained yet.

      Like

  14. “Sorry Ruthers – You’re Just Not As Interesting As Busty-Sarcastic-Badass Ninja Roommate.”

    Flick has her priorities straight.

    …wait a minute.

    That theory she gave to Ruthers was pretty smart. Go Flick go!

    Liked by 2 people

  15. You know, for what was supposed to be an official inquiry / report / debrief there was very little having the witness actually describe the sequence of events she saw transpire. I mean, sure, recaps are boring for the audience, but you’d think Crossroads would want every detail.

    To think I was concerned the gang didn’t use any of the time Gaia gave them together getting their stories straight.

    Like

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