Interlude 37A – Mennin Tombs

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A pair of stunningly polished, gleaming black shoes stopped smartly directly at the edge of a puddle that was half-water and half-mud. The shoes were attached an equally well-dressed man in neatly pressed dark slacks, a red silk shirt, and black tie. A black suit-jacket completed the perfectly coordinated, yet utterly safe (and in many ways, boring) ensemble. The man within the clothes stood just under six feet in height, and could have been anywhere between forty and sixty in normal human age, his hair dark and well-groomed, his face vaguely lined.

“Mr. Tombs.” The gravelly voice that emerged from the man himself sounded in equal parts exasperated and sympathetic. It was the voice of a man who very much cared about the subject of his ire, yet was also at a loss of what to do with them. “What is the first rule of the Auberge?”

The subject of his attention, who lay face-down in that muddy puddle, groaned a little in response before slowly lifting his head. Turning, he spit out a rather extensive amount of dirty liquid in one thin line, like a drinking fountain. The water narrowly missed his admonisher’s perfect shoes, before the prone man ran a hand up through long, dirty-blond hair that fell to his shoulders.

In many ways, Mennin Tombs would have been considered a quite handsome figure. He stood just an inch or so taller than the man who stood before him, and looked quite a bit younger, appearing to be barely into his twenties. His skin was fair, his shape on the thin side, yet not drastically so. His nose was perhaps a bit small for his face while his mouth was just barely too large, leaving his face looking very slightly oddly proportioned. He looked like a stunningly handsome preset within a video game whose player had tinkered somewhat with the face, throwing it off in ways that were sometimes too subtle to truly describe, yet were subconsciously noticeable.  

“Uh, sorry, Deacon,” Mennin mumbled before slapping a hand against the side of his head. “Water in my ears. What’d you–hold on.”

Grabbing his earlobe, the young man yanked down. The ear stretched to three times its normal size, before a truly impressive amount of water fell from it as he tilted his head, filling the puddle up to about twice what it had been. Releasing the lobe made the ear pop back to what it had been.

“Hah! Told you I had water in my ear. Now I can hear you.”

Letting out a long, low sigh, Deacon repeated himself. “The first rule of the Auberge, Mr. Tombs.”

“Don’t talk about the Aube–no wait, that’s something else.” Squinting, Mennin snapped his fingers. “Don’t let anyone find the Auberge who isn’t a registered guest.”

“And the second rule?” Deacon prompted.

That one, Mennin answered instantly. “Don’t get any of the guests killed.”

“Mmmhmm.” Deacon paused then, before taking one step back, safely away from the puddle before nodding past them. “And do you see how your actions tonight may have… strained both of those rules?”

Turning that way for the first time, Mennin looked to where six figures were at the opposite end of the alley that they were all hidden within. Three of those bodies lay on the ground in various states of decapitation and dismemberment. The fourth and fifth sat on summoned wooden chairs, while the sixth, a man in a spotless white coat with a truly impressive looking sword in his hand, quietly calmed the sitting pair down and assured them that they were safe.

“They wanted to see the Red Sox game,” Mennin explained with a helpless shrug. “Isn’t one of the rules, ‘keep the guests happy?’ I’m pretty sure that’s a rule.”

“Yes,” Deacon confirmed. “And there is a reason that it comes after not getting them killed, or leading threats back to the current entrance. Mr. Tombs, the Auberge has existed under various names since before the times of the biblical New Testament, and yet we have never suffered an invasion, nor have we lost one single guest while they are under our protection, so long as they followed our rules. Residence within the Auberge is expensive precisely because our reputation precedes us. We can afford to be selective in our clientele. We provide protection and security beyond what any other Earth-based location is capable of. If you find that any of our guests wish outside entertainment, your job is to take it through the proper channels. Our people, your coworkers, will ensure that the path is safe from both Nocen and the more zealous Heretics.”

“Yeah, I know.” Sighing, Mennin offered a weak shrug. “I just thought if I impressed Mr. and Mrs. Ulfin with a fun night out, they’d put in a good word for me and Mom wouldn’t think I was such a screw-up. But now I guess she’s gonna know I’m an even bigger screw-up than she thought.”

There was a brief pause then, before Deacon shook his head. “I see no purpose in bothering your mother with every minute detail of her establishment, Mr. Tombs. The Ulfins are safe, and Francis enjoyed the work-out. He may even have acquired interesting gifts from the Heretics who followed you back here.”

Blinking up at that, Mennin found a smile. “So I didn’t fuck everything up?”

“Let’s consider it a learning experience,” Deacon offered, before clearing his throat as he stepped around and past both the man and the puddle he had fallen into during the fighting, when Francis had swooped in to kill the other three Heretics. “Mr. Ulfin, Mrs. Ulfin,” he started in a perfectly polished voice. “Come, I’m afraid that while our security is top of the line, as you see in the form of Mr. Gale here, even we must put discretion over valor when Heretics are involved. With three of their number dead, there will be more sent along to investigate.”

The two guests let themselves be escorted by Deacon and Francis past where Mennin had finally made his way to his feet, Mr. Ulfin offering a sympathetic nod to him (though the man’s wife turned up her nose and sniffed with annoyance at his appearance).

Mennin followed, and the group made their way to an innocuous-looking red door in the middle of the alley. Deacon raised a hand, knocking twice, then once, then three times in rapid succession. At the end of it, a small window-slit appeared in the middle of the previously blank door, and a pair of dark, scowling eyes peeked out. Mennin and the others stood perfectly still as the eyes scanned them (in more than one way, several of which tickled) before there was the sound of half a dozen locks being undone.

Finally, the door was pushed open, revealing a truly lavish looking hotel lobby. It would have put any of those in the human world to shame, with its lavish fountains, gold marbled floor, and hanging chandeliers.

Once they were through the door, it closed behind them. And from the point of view of any on the Earth-side, the door simply vanished, leaving behind a blank brick wall attached to an unremarkable office supply store.

“Mennin!” As Francis led the two shaken guests to the bar for a drink to calm their nerves, a pointy-eared, green-skinned female goblin in a maid’s uniform bounded across the lobby holding a stack of towels. “Nine-thirteen asked for more towels. Can you take them up? They always yell at me for being too slow. Plus, that’s right next to nine-twelve.”

“Oh, uh, sure, Elky.” Mennin started to reach out for the towels, only for Deacon to stop him with a cleared throat.

“Mr. Tombs,” Deacon spoke simply when the man looked to him, “a towel is generally used for drying oneself. Which becomes exponentially more difficult when that towel is already wet.” He nodded to the floor, where Mennin was still dripping from the puddle.

“Oh, shit!” Blurting that out, Mennin whipped a handkerchief from his pocket. “Hold on, I can do this. It was… uhh… bluebeo.”

Nothing happened, as he waved the cloth at the puddle impotently.

“Ablee?” He tried again. “Abledable? Ablingle? Blue Beetle? Blue One? Beetle Bailey? Bluckblahbleen? Ableeze?  Ablaze?”

Gently, Deacon plucked the cloth from his hand, tossing it to the floor with a firm, “Abluo.”

Instantly, as the magicked cloth touched the water, it sucked all of it up, including what was soaked into Mennin’s clothes, leaving him clean and dry before the cloth itself disintegrated and vanished.

“I would’ve gotten that one eventually,” Mennin claimed, before taking the towels from Elky.

He hurried to the elevator, riding it up to the ninth floor. Whistling under his breath, the man stode toward the door with nine-thirteen engraved in the side of it. On the way, he did his level best not to look at room nine-twelve. Though without even glancing that way, he knew what he would see if he did: a door very different from the others. One made of metal rather than wood, with no numbers engraved on it. The metal looked like steel, but was actually much stronger. Strong enough, in fact, that should the entire hotel be destroyed as the rest of the Auberge was burned to the ground, room nine-twelve would still be intact, untouched, floating in the air in whatever tiny pocket dimension the Auberge called home.

No one living seemed to know why this particular room out of all others had been so thoroughly upgraded. Aside from, perhaps, the interesting fact that its position put it in the exact center of the building, with eight floors below it and eight floors above it. It was quite literally in the center of one of the most private and protected buildings on the planet.

The spells that were on it which ensured no one could ever enter, or use any magic or power to see inside, were the most powerful of their kind that anyone Mennin knew had ever seen. The most anyone else seemed to know was that it had been that way for at least five hundred years. Whoever had been the last to rent that room had paid for permanent residence, and had spent Gods only knew how much time and energy ensuring that it would never be accessed.

Beyond that, all Mennin knew, all anyone knew, was that no one ever opened that door. No one entered that room, and no one left that room. Ever.  

Reaching the next room over, the man raised a hand to knock twice before stepping back. He did his best to pull his clothes into something resembling presentable with one hand before clearing his throat as the door opened. “Your, uh, towels, sir.”

Grunting, the big (human-looking) man took them from his hands and stepped back while jerking a thumb over his shoulder. “She wants to talk to you.”

“Err, she?” Blinking uncertainly, Mennin waited until it was clear that the big guy wasn’t going to offer any further insight. With a shrug, he slowly stepped over the threshold of the room and moved inside.

The place, like all suites in the Auberge, wasn’t like some cheap, normal Bystander motel room. Each was practically the size of a palace inside, with a dozen rooms of fairly enormous size. This particular door opened into the foyer, where a second man much smaller than the first, with an obviously mechanical arm and leg stood beside a dark-haired woman whose cold expression sent a shiver down Mennin’s spine.

“Um,” he started once more, “sorry it took awhile to bring your–”

“Quiet,” the woman interrupted. After speaking that single word, she slowly moved closer. A frown touched her face. “You are the child of this facility’s current owner, are you not?”

That was a strange question, and it took Mennin a moment to answer. “Uh, yeah? I mean, technically. But Mom doesn’t really… you know, involve me in the nitty gritty of the family business very much. I’m not much more than busboy. And a handyman sometimes, so if you have problems with your pipes or–”

“Quiet,” the woman repeated that single word that made his mouth snap shut almost against his will. She watched him for another moment before speaking again. “He may be a fool, but he has access to everything we need, and won’t be suspected. He will do.”

“Oookay, yeah, I think this is where I say that you won’t–”

In mid-sentence, Mennin felt a hand on his arm. The shorter man, the one with the mechanical limbs, had moved surprisingly quickly to grab him. He opened his mouth to object while starting to pull his arm back… and then stopped.

The other man was gone, and Mennin froze. Not because the man had disappeared, but because he quite literally could not move. Until he did. His arm lowered, and he straightened up, entirely against his will.

Wha–what?! Hey! Hey! With mounting panic and confusion, the man worked to stop himself, to make himself move and take back control of his own body. What the hell just–did you just Bodysnatchers me, you son of a bitch?!

“I’m in,” his voice announced aloud. “I should get back down there before someone wonders where he is.”

“Yes,” the woman replied, and that time her voice cracked just a little as she stood up. “And while you are at it, do try not to get yourself killed by an ignorant monkey-child, thereby forcing the rest of us to abandon our actual missions to solve your problems while the rest of the Empire scrambles to correct a mistake that endangers not only our place on this world, but our entire civilization.” By the end of her brief diatribe, the woman was shaking a bit, her fist pressed against the table as she glowered at no one in particular.

Mennin didn’t have the slightest clue what they were talking about, but the big guy grimaced. “Told you, just let me have one straight go at the little bitch. I’ll make her pay for it.”

“No.” The woman’s voice was brittle, like slowly cracking glass. “You know Metatron’s orders. Until we know how she did what she did, hands off. Whether it is her mother’s doing or some other force, we are not losing anyone else to this barbaric child. Stay away from her. It’s too much of a risk, given what we have lost already.”

Boy, Mennin inwardly wondered. Whoever had pissed these guys off so much must have been pretty damn powerful.

Too bad she wasn’t here right now.

The woman said something else, but Mennin was too busy struggling in vain against the being that was puppeting his body to listen. Hey! Hey, don’t ignore me, I’m talking to you! Pay attention to–hey! Hey, I know you can hear me. Don’t make break out the Lambchop song. I went a full twenty minutes once and I’m willing to break my own record.

His body was turning by that point, heading back to the door. The big guy who had let him in was holding something in his hand. It took Mennin a second to recognize it as a flyer for the demolition derby that was happening in the same town he’d just taken Mr. and Mrs. Ulfin through. He’d seen a few ads for it while they had been out.

Waving that flyer, the big guy grunted, “You promised.”

“I did,” his own voice replied, as he gave a bow that the real him never would have been able to pull off without looking ridiculous. “You’re quite right, my love. Allow me some time to ensure my cover with the coworkers and family, and then we will have our date. I know you’ve been quite looking forward to seeing Earth entertainment again. And, while it is hardly what I would consider stimulating, I would say that your enjoyment more than makes up for such deficiencies.”

“Yeah,” the big guy replied, “love you too.”

While Mennin was trying to comprehend that, his body moved out into the hall.

Now then, the voice of his puppeter spoke, a few ground rules. First, I will tolerate your attempts at escape. It’s only natural, and I would wonder about your sanity if you did not at least try. But I will tell you now, it is futile. You are not nearly strong enough to even present a challenge. That is not meant as an insult, only simple fact.

Second, should you attempt to distract or annoy me purposefully, particularly at important points or around others, you will regret it. You will be punished, and if you manage to actually convince anyone that something is wrong, one of three things will happen. They will be possessed as well, their memories will be erased, or they will be killed. Do you understand that?

Part of Mennin thought that he should object, or threaten to hold out to the bitter end, promising the man that he would fight him forever. But… well, honestly, he was afraid. Afraid of these clearly powerful people and what they could do to him or the people he cared about.

So, after a brief pause where all those thoughts ran through his mind, he quietly (or at least he felt it was quiet, given there was no sound involved at all) responded, I understand.

There was a sense of satisfaction that he was sure the man who was his slaver allowed him to feel. Good. Now, for the good news. You could have ended up with a much worse person than me taking you, I promise you that. If you behave, do not annoy or distract me, and generally sit quietly, I will allow you moments of entertainment. You will be allowed to retain control of your own body while alone in your room, whenever I do not need you. And, so long as circumstances do not change, our business here should not end in the death of those you care for. Do you understand that?

Yes, Mennin started before blurting, but why are you here? I mean, are you thieves or assassins or…

There was a brief pause before his eyes turned to look at the door into room nine-twelve. There. The woman who purchased that room hid something inside of it. Something which we are here to recover. That is our mission. Cooperate, and we will leave when that mission is over, you will not remember any of this, and you may continue your life.

After another brief hesitation, Mennin asked, I don’t understand. If you want what’s in the room so bad, why don’t you just break the door down and get it?

He felt some minor amusement from his captor then, before the response came. I am afraid that it is much more complicated than that. His body turned then, heading back for the elevator. To enter a blood vault requires a good bit more effort and planning than simply breaking down the door.

Whoa, whoa, what? That’s a blood vault? Mennin was still reeling from everything, but that threw him for yet another loop.

Well, the other man replied, to be specific, it is a backdoor into a blood vault. Same protections as the front door, but less… shall we say, public. But yes.

That doesn’t– Mennin started to say that it didn’t make sense, before stopping himself. You need the oldest blood relative to get through that, the heir.

Yes, well… for reasons that are too involved to get into right now, we are forced to seek alternative measures, came the response.

Alternative measures? Mennin hesitated. Like… like what? How the hell are you going to get through a blood vault without the, you know, blood part?  

His body stepped onto the elevator then, his hand reaching out to press the button for the lobby as his captor replied simply, Quite carefully.

Quite carefully, indeed.

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15 comments

  1. First real interlude of the arc ending, and we see what this trio is up to. Though I have a feeling that unless the answer to that question is ‘dying’, there are readers who just would rather not know. 😉

    Still! Hope you guys found this informative and interesting. Come back Monday for the donator-chosen interlude!

    Tags for this chapter are: Abaddon/Ares, Deacon Carterfield, Elky, Francis Gale, Is It Just Me‚ Or Are Radueriel And Abaddon Kind Of Adorable Together?, Kushiel, Mennin Tombs, Oh Great‚ Yet Another Group Of Characters And Setting That I’m Gonna Want To Keep Coming Back To., Radueriel

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  2. (Crossposting from Spacebattles):

    That was a really interesting chapter. It started out really slow, with lots of description of characters we hadn’t seen before, but slow isn’t bad when it’s setup for something more interesting. For a while, it felt like something totally different set in the same universe as the actual story. Which is always a neat thing to get in an interlude. I really enjoyed getting a peek into upper-class Alter society. I wonder what exactly Francis Gale is if he can take down three Heretics and “acquire interesting gifts” from them. I wonder if they meant he’d acquire physical gifts (like gadgets or something, since he probably can’t use their weapons) or if he’s a Bosch or Reaper Heretic himself. Or something else we haven’t yet heard of that can also get new powers by killing.

    If the Auberge has been running since the biblical New Testament, that basically means “forever” on Earth. Since before that, the world was completely different without the Bystander Effect.

    Mennin is great as a somewhat incompetent young man. I wonder what he is. And I liked how he made references to pop culture. Because he does, after all, live on Earth, and probably has a closer-to-Bystander life than a lot of Heretic kids who grow up in the Knowledge.

    And then Mennin saw a man with mechanical limbs, and I started smiling uncontrollably. I really love watching this little trio of villains doing their thing. You know, now that Kushiel is not torturing anybody at the moment.

    It’s really interesting that they don’t know Sariel was involved. I mean, we didn’t think they had any way of knowing, but they didn’t even bring it up as a possibility. Then again, this wasn’t exactly a brainstorming meeting.

    Uh, NO, Mennin, it is a VERY GOOD THING that Felicity and Sariel are not in the same room as Kushiel, Radueriel, AND Abaddon!

    So the Seosten Empire is now treating Flick with a reasonable amount of caution and going more hands-off. That’s a good way for them to back off a bit from being the primary villains while still being active in the story as much as necessary.

    I never thought I’d be shipping Hephaestus/Ares and thinking that their planned date at a demolition derby was really cute, but here we are.

    Radueriel is treating his host pretty much EXACTLY how I hoped he would. He’s not a good guy, but he’s downright nice within the confines of his evil schemes and general lack of care for the rights of others.

    My first thought was that Arthur was in the other room, but that wasn’t the right time period. And then I remembered he was in a cemetery.

    Well, if anyone can get into the blood vault without a blood relative, it would be Radueriel. I hope the good guys finally get around to making a run on the vault before he does. Although Flick and the others will need to talk to J&E first, and the good guys will have to prepare a lot. I would be surprised if the Seosten respond to an attempt to open the vault with much less than the resources Manakel just threw into trying to kill Avalon.

    Nice job faking us out by having that chapter titled “Men in Tombs” have nothing to do with necromancy. Of course, now I’m expecting it to have been a double-bluff. Maybe the Tombs family are some sort of grave-related Alter?

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  3. Radueriel’s treatment is an interesting contrast to the way we’ve seen hosts get treated before. Both in terms of Radueriel being a lot nicer than Charmeine and Manakel, and because Mennin isn’t a Heretic and they’re apparently planning to just let him get on with his life when they’re done instead of faking his death and shipping him off to space.

    Assuming whatever he is doesn’t catch Raddy’s interest, that is.

    Poor guy. I really hope this doesn’t end badly for him. 😦

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  4. Honestly, at this point Avalon should just open the vault. Her old (stated) reasons (that her enemies would disappear and she’d lose her chance at beating them), those reasons, no longer apply. And, in fact, she now knows that the most damage she could do to them would be to open the vault.

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  5. Radueriel feels cut from the same cloth as the Black Knight from Practical Guide to Evil. That isn’t a bad thing and is actually very refreshing for one of your villains to not be the same brand of crazy evil.

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  6. I love the Seosten as characters, but I hate them (excluding the obvious exceptions, of course) as people. Like, every time I see them in this story I say “fuck the Seosten” repeatedly under my breath like a catchphrase while praying for whatever poor innocent person they’ve managed to bodysnatch this time. No matter how many times you read about people completely losing all control over their body, it’s still terrifying AF to think about. I mean this as a complement.

    Also, fuck the Seosten. 🙂

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  7. >Aside from, perhaps, the interesting fact that its position put it in the exact center of the building, with eight floors below it and eight floors above it. It was quite literally in the center of one of the most private and protected buildings on the planet.

    Hmm, likely Geomantic-related reasons for the position of the room and its defenses.

    >“Yes,” the woman replied, and that time her voice cracked just a little as she stood up. “And while you are at it, do try not to get yourself killed by an ignorant monkey-child, thereby forcing the rest of us to abandon our actual missions to solve your problems while the rest of the Empire scrambles to correct a mistake that endangers not only our place on this world, but our entire civilization.” By the end of her brief diatribe, the woman was shaking a bit, her fist pressed against the table as she glowered at no one in particular.

    I see that Kushiel isn’t taking Manakel’s death well, mostly in his failure to uphold his duties (and making a mess of things) rather than out of any genuine sorrow at his passing. Not unexpected, though I am getting some schadenfeude at her expense out of this segment.

    >You could have ended up with a much worse person than me taking you, I promise you that.

    And he would be completely right about that. Like, say, the deceased Charmeine, or Kushiel (to be even worse about it) for instance. That said, I have an uncomfortable suspicion that while Raduriel may not harbor plans or desires to kill Mennin after his usefulness is done, Kushiel may slay him out of hand as a loose end.

    Good update Cerulean.

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  8. So catching up on a backlog.

    >In many ways, Mennin Tombs would have been considered a quite handsome figure. He stood just an inch or so taller than the man who stood before him, and looked quite a bit younger, appearing to be barely into his twenties. His skin was fair, his shape on the thin side, yet not drastically so. His nose was perhaps a bit small for his face while his mouth was just barely too large, leaving his face looking very slightly oddly proportioned. He looked like a stunningly handsome preset within a video game whose player had tinkered somewhat with the face, throwing it off in ways that were sometimes too subtle to truly describe, yet were subconsciously noticeable.

    Like others have said, this opening is a lot what one would expect with the opening of a series, or story. Think of a lot of go happy slackers in a slice of life anime, and Mennin Tombs would fit right in.

    Even has the visual foreshadowing that something is off with him that some of the really good ones have.

    >“Uh, sorry, Deacon,” Mennin mumbled before slapping a hand against the side of his head. “Water in my ears. What’d you–hold on.”

    >Grabbing his earlobe, the young man yanked down. The ear stretched to three times its normal size, before a truly impressive amount of water fell from it as he tilted his head, filling the puddle up to about twice what it had been. Releasing the lobe made the ear pop back to what it had been.

    >“Hah! Told you I had water in my ear. Now I can hear you.”

    >Letting out a long, low sigh, Deacon repeated himself. “The first rule of the Auberge, Mr. Tombs.”

    No really, this would have been a great opening introductory scene what with the slapstick of the water (and while there’s the obvious joke that Mennin’s skull has no brain I think he literally has no brain between his ears. And no ear drums for that matter) while also combining charecterization that Mennin does not take things seriously, when he probably should and Deacon is the long suffering head of staff. Also establishing where the locality is – Auberge.

    >“Don’t talk about the Aube–no wait, that’s something else.” Squinting, Mennin snapped his fingers. “Don’t let anyone find the Auberge who isn’t a registered guest.”

    >“And the second rule?” Deacon prompted.

    >That one, Mennin answered instantly. “Don’t get any of the guests killed.”

    Also just a good juxtaposition for setting up Mennin as a slacker, but the moment you mention the second rule – he knows it. And he’s not making jokes. A slacker but one with a good heart. He’ll make the jokes with the first one, but he doesn’t really see it as a risk. The second though… that one he gets.

    Also telling that not letting the Auberge be found by unregistered guests actually is more important than not letting guests get killed. If Mennin Tombs was the primary story, rather than a guest star here, that would be a major point of conflict as some point. Do you risk the hotel being discovered or save the guest.

    Finally, the tone of the second rule, you can almost hear the music cue where things turn from slapstick slacker to something much more serious.

    >“Mmmhmm.” Deacon paused then, before taking one step back, safely away from the puddle before nodding past them. “And do you see how your actions tonight may have… strained both of those rules?”

    >Turning that way for the first time, Mennin looked to where six figures were at the opposite end of the alley that they were all hidden within. Three of those bodies lay on the ground in various states of decapitation and dismemberment. The fourth and fifth sat on summoned wooden chairs, while the sixth, a man in a spotless white coat with a truly impressive looking sword in his hand, quietly calmed the sitting pair down and assured them that they were safe.

    >“They wanted to see the Red Sox game,” Mennin explained with a helpless shrug. “Isn’t one of the rules, ‘keep the guests happy?’ I’m pretty sure that’s a rule.”

    Perfectly in time for the reveal of the three dead bodies torn to bits. With two obvious guests on chairs, and the sheer terror of the killer being spotless despite all the blood.

    And then.. Mennin’s response is about where you want to slap him upside the head. He messed up, and he obviously nearly got some people killed.

    >“Yes,” Deacon confirmed. “And there is a reason that it comes after not getting them killed, or leading threats back to the current entrance. Mr. Tombs, the Auberge has existed under various names since before the times of the biblical New Testament, and yet we have never suffered an invasion, nor have we lost one single guest while they are under our protection, so long as they followed our rules.Residence within the Auberge is expensive precisely because our reputation precedes us. We can afford to be selective in our clientele. We provide protection and security beyond what any other Earth-based location is capable of. If you find that any of our guests wish outside entertainment, your job is to take it through the proper channels. Our people, your coworkers, will ensure that the path is safe from both Nocen and the more zealous Heretics.”

    >“Yeah, I know.” Sighing, Mennin offered a weak shrug. “I just thought if I impressed Mr. and Mrs. Ulfin with a fun night out, they’d put in a good word for me and Mom wouldn’t think I was such a screw-up. But now I guess she’s gonna know I’m an even bigger screw-up than she thought.”

    >There was a brief pause then, before Deacon shook his head. “I see no purpose in bothering your mother with every minute detail of her establishment, Mr. Tombs. The Ulfins are safe, and Francis enjoyed the work-out. He may even have acquired interesting gifts from the Heretics who followed you back here.”

    >Blinking up at that, Mennin found a smile. “So I didn’t fuck everything up?”

    >“Let’s consider it a learning experience,” Deacon offered, before clearing his throat as he stepped around and past both the man and the puddle he had fallen into during the fighting, when Francis had swooped in to kill the other three Heretics. “Mr. Ulfin, Mrs. Ulfin,” he started in a perfectly polished voice. “Come, I’m afraid that while our security is top of the line, as you see in the form of Mr. Gale here, even we must put discretion over valor when Heretics are involved. With three of their number dead, there will be more sent along to investigate.”

    Now this would have been good exposition.

    1. Very in character for Deacon to go into all the details.
    2. New Testament – aka before the Bystander Effect, without explicitly saying so – ie further mystery for the audience.
    3. Never have suffered an invasion… is that actually still true given the three Olympians currently in the Auberge’s walls?
    3a. Another interesting point is that for an audience perspective, well imagine finding out about what Kushiel has done because they managed to trace her back to the Auberge. Industrial rape facility, I know as an audience member I wouldn’t be able to decide if I was rooting for any attackers to kill her, never mind the Auberge’s reputation or for the Auberge to stop the attempts.

    4. Nocen and Heretics name dropped. Heretics given examples via the dead corpses identified later as Heretics and that they are an organization that even the Auberge has to be wary of. You know, the one with a fighter that took out three of them without getting blood on his coat.

    5. Hints as to how Mr. Gale’s powers work. Given ‘gifts’ from the dead.

    Also characterization as to Mennin, a screw up but one trying to please his Mom, while Deacon isn’t a bad guy just concerned you know with keeping everyone alive.

    >Mennin followed, and the group made their way to an innocuous-looking red door in the middle of the alley. Deacon raised a hand, knocking twice, then once, then three times in rapid succession. At the end of it, a small window-slit appeared in the middle of the previously blank door, and a pair of dark, scowling eyes peeked out. Mennin and the others stood perfectly still as the eyes scanned them (in more than one way, several of which tickled) before there was the sound of half a dozen locks being undone.

    >Finally, the door was pushed open, revealing a truly lavish looking hotel lobby. It would have put any of those in the human world to shame, with its lavish fountains, gold marbled floor, and hanging chandeliers.

    >Once they were through the door, it closed behind them. And from the point of view of any on the Earth-side, the door simply vanished, leaving behind a blank brick wall attached to an unremarkable office supply store.

    Also just a great juxtaposition, the grand, makes me think of photos I’ve seen of the Ritz, or how I’d expect it to look like, hotel – leaving not only the outside, but the sounds of the six locks being undone.

    The outside world is set up as dangerous.(And then we find out that the danger has already made it inside)

    >“Mennin!” As Francis led the two shaken guests to the bar for a drink to calm their nerves, a pointy-eared, green-skinned female goblin in a maid’s uniform bounded across the lobby holding a stack of towels. “Nine-thirteen asked for more towels. Can you take them up? They always yell at me for being too slow. Plus, that’s right next to nine-twelve.”

    >“Oh, uh, sure, Elky.” Mennin started to reach out for the towels, only for Deacon to stop him with a cleared throat.

    >“Mr. Tombs,” Deacon spoke simply when the man looked to him, “a towel is generally used for drying oneself. Which becomes exponentially more difficult when that towel is already wet.” He nodded to the floor, where Mennin was still dripping from the puddle.

    You get the sense of how the hotel operates, and again more charecterization as to Mennin. And Deacon, and worldbuilding as to magic, all without explaining it.

    Okay, and can I say how impressed I am that Nine-Thirteen (aka Seosten invasion forces) have already made themselves that much of a nuisance in… a few days at most given that Flick got back before them and I think hasn’t even made it much past 2 days back?

    >He hurried to the elevator, riding it up to the ninth floor. Whistling under his breath, the man stode toward the door with nine-thirteen engraved in the side of it. On the way, he did his level best not to look at room nine-twelve. Though without even glancing that way, he knew what he would see if he did: a door very different from the others. One made of metal rather than wood, with no numbers engraved on it. The metal looked like steel, but was actually much stronger. Strong enough, in fact, that should the entire hotel be destroyed as the rest of the Auberge was burned to the ground, room nine-twelve would still be intact, untouched, floating in the air in whatever tiny pocket dimension the Auberge called home.

    >No one living seemed to know why this particular room out of all others had been so thoroughly upgraded. Aside from, perhaps, the interesting fact that its position put it in the exact center of the building, with eight floors below it and eight floors above it. It was quite literally in the center of one of the most private and protected buildings on the planet.

    >The spells that were on it which ensured no one could ever enter, or use any magic or power to see inside, were the most powerful of their kind that anyone Mennin knew had ever seen. The most anyone else seemed to know was that it had been that way for at least five hundred years. Whoever had been the last to rent that room had paid for permanent residence, and had spent Gods only knew how much time and energy ensuring that it would never be accessed.

    >Beyond that, all Mennin knew, all anyone knew, was that no one ever opened that door. No one entered that room, and no one left that room. Ever.

    Enter voice over and mystery question that could haunt the series for awhile. What is in that vault? Including immediately given events.

    >Reaching the next room over, the man raised a hand to knock twice before stepping back. He did his best to pull his clothes into something resembling presentable with one hand before clearing his throat as the door opened. “Your, uh, towels, sir.”

    >Grunting, the big (human-looking) man took them from his hands and stepped back while jerking a thumb over his shoulder. “She wants to talk to you.”

    >“Err, she?” Blinking uncertainly, Mennin waited until it was clear that the big guy wasn’t going to offer any further insight. With a shrug, he slowly stepped over the threshold of the room and moved inside.

    Now this, I can see either having a sound cue that something was wrong here, especially if this had happened after we’ve seen Mennin interact elsewhere before so that the audience already knows something is wrong from how Abaddon is acting here, or keep it as strange (that the audience wouldn’t know because magic hotel) but only in hindsight to keep the audience surprised with Mennin.

    >The place, like all suites in the Auberge, wasn’t like some cheap, normal Bystander motel room. Each was practically the size of a palace inside, with a dozen rooms of fairly enormous size. This particular door opened into the foyer, where a second man much smaller than the first, with an obviously mechanical arm and leg stood beside a dark-haired woman whose cold expression sent a shiver down Mennin’s spine.

    The audience’s first look inside the rooms, but if there wasn’t a scare chord already there better be when Kushiel comes into view. And the audience may be wanting Mennin to leave right here.

    As a reader who knows Kushiel running and screaming would have been the correct reaction, but unfortunately Mennin does not know that.

    >Um,” he started once more, “sorry it took awhile to bring your–”

    >“Quiet,” the woman interrupted. After speaking that single word, she slowly moved closer. A frown touched her face. “You are the child of this facility’s current owner, are you not?”

    >That was a strange question, and it took Mennin a moment to answer. “Uh, yeah? I mean, technically. But Mom doesn’t really… you know, involve me in the nitty gritty of the family business very much. I’m not much more than busboy. And a handyman sometimes, so if you have problems with your pipes or–”

    >“Quiet,” the woman repeated that single word that made his mouth snap shut almost against his will. She watched him for another moment before speaking again. “He may be a fool, but he has access to everything we need, and won’t be suspected. He will do.”

    >“Oookay, yeah, I think this is where I say that you won’t–”

    Here’s the point where the audience will near certainly be more genre savvy than Mennin, but you can see why he didn’t react well in comparison to others in Heretical Edge, the man is a civilian with the horrifying bad luck to walk into three Seosten that are Olympians. In the middle of his home that do not expect attackers to get in through the front door because they’ve never been invaded. Until apparently yesterday.

    Which again would be an interesting reveal for the audience of the Auberge anime, because yes, they have a problem. Several big ones. And it may count as making Deacon’s never have been invaded comment a bit ironic. And also inspire snide comments that apparently the guest selection is not selective enough. Because head of industrial rape facility.

    (Sorry if I’m harping on it, but Kushiel would be foreshadowed to be horrifyingly bad news now, likely later, and the dichotomy if the audience finds out why people want to kill her while the hotel was trying to not have a guest die on their watch would be divine)

    >In mid-sentence, Mennin felt a hand on his arm. The shorter man, the one with the mechanical limbs, had moved surprisingly quickly to grab him. He opened his mouth to object while starting to pull his arm back… and then stopped.

    >The other man was gone, and Mennin froze. Not because the man had disappeared, but because he quite literally could not move. Until he did. His arm lowered, and he straightened up, entirely against his will.

    >Wha–what?! Hey! Hey! With mounting panic and confusion, the man worked to stop himself, to make himself move and take back control of his own body. What the hell just–did you just Bodysnatchers me, you son of a bitch?!

    >“I’m in,” his voice announced aloud. “I should get back down there before someone wonders where he is.”

    And like that we enter the realm of horror shows. Especially since the audience like Mennin would likely not know that it is possible.

    >“Yes,” the woman replied, and that time her voice cracked just a little as she stood up. “And while you are at it, do try not to get yourself killed by an ignorant monkey-child, thereby forcing the rest of us to abandon our actual missions to solve your problems while the rest of the Empire scrambles to correct a mistake that endangers not only our place on this world, but our entire civilization.” By the end of her brief diatribe, the woman was shaking a bit, her fist pressed against the table as she glowered at no one in particular.

    >Mennin didn’t have the slightest clue what they were talking about, but the big guy grimaced. “Told you, just let me have one straight go at the little bitch. I’ll make her pay for it.”

    >“No.” The woman’s voice was brittle, like slowly cracking glass. “You know Metatron’s orders. Until we know how she did what she did, hands off. Whether it is her mother’s doing or some other force, we are not losing anyone else to this barbaric child. Stay away from her. It’s too much of a risk, given what we have lost already.”

    Yeah, they are furious and mourning over the lost of Manakel. I do like this, just because yes, Flick and company dealt what is a damaging blow.

    Meanwhile this is good charecterization. Kushiel while ranting, you almost get the sense that this mad is not just her being mad but she does honestly miss Manakel.

    From the Auberle anime, more worldbuilding with so many quesetions,

    Who is Metatron?
    Who are these guys?
    What is the Empire? – The idea that they are big and bad gets across easily.
    Who is the monkey child?
    Who is the monkey child’s mother?
    Who did they lose?
    What are they after? (This one is somewhat answered with another question by the episode’s end)

    >Boy, Mennin inwardly wondered. Whoever had pissed these guys off so much must have been pretty damn powerful.

    >Too bad she wasn’t here right now.

    Given how much of that was luck and surprise Mennin, no you don’t.

    Also another good reveal for the anime, Mennin isn’t the only one in over his head. Also a surprise given that heroic Heretics would be a surprise, kinda like reformist Seosten.

    >The woman said something else, but Mennin was too busy struggling in vain against the being that was puppeting his body to listen. Hey! Hey, don’t ignore me, I’m talking to you! Pay attention to–hey! Hey, I know you can hear me. Don’t make break out the Lambchop song. I went a full twenty minutes once and I’m willing to break my own record.

    >His body was turning by that point, heading back to the door. The big guy who had let him in was holding something in his hand. It took Mennin a second to recognize it as a flyer for the demolition derby that was happening in the same town he’d just taken Mr. and Mrs. Ulfin through. He’d seen a few ads for it while they had been out.

    >Waving that flyer, the big guy grunted, “You promised.”

    >“I did,” his own voice replied, as he gave a bow that the real him never would have been able to pull off without looking ridiculous. “You’re quite right, my love. Allow me some time to ensure my cover with the coworkers and family, and then we will have our date. I know you’ve been quite looking forward to seeing Earth entertainment again. And, while it is hardly what I would consider stimulating, I would say that your enjoyment more than makes up for such deficiencies.”

    >“Yeah,” the big guy replied, “love you too.”

    >While Mennin was trying to comprehend that, his body moved out into the hall.

    More voice over, but well needed humor both for the theoretical anime, and also for the actual work. Annoy them Mennin, it’ll be the only thing you can do, so do it well!

    And again characterization for both works, and Raduriel and Abaddon are surprisingly sweet.

    >Now then, the voice of his puppeter spoke, a few ground rules. First, I will tolerate your attempts at escape. It’s only natural, and I would wonder about your sanity if you did not at least try. But I will tell you now, it is futile. You are not nearly strong enough to even present a challenge. That is not meant as an insult, only simple fact.

    >Second, should you attempt to distract or annoy me purposefully, particularly at important points or around others, you will regret it. You will be punished, and if you manage to actually convince anyone that something is wrong, one of three things will happen. They will be possessed as well, their memories will be erased, or they will be killed. Do you understand that?

    >Part of Mennin thought that he should object, or threaten to hold out to the bitter end, promising the man that he would fight him forever. But… well, honestly, he was afraid. Afraid of these clearly powerful people and what they could do to him or the people he cared about.

    >So, after a brief pause where all those thoughts ran through his mind, he quietly (or at least he felt it was quiet, given there was no sound involved at all) responded, I understand.

    Major characterization for Radduriel here. He’s not sadistic, but professional and his job does not include respecting Mennin’s agency.

    And you feel sorry for Mennin here. For the anime, the audience probably want Mennin to do so, because they think Mr. Gale would be able to take these guys. He did take on the last three attackers three to one without any damage or blood on him or the guests. Offscreen. Mr. Gale might be able to, but the major point that the Olympians look a lot less impressive than their actual combat record is probably in play. It wouldn’t be easy, but they aren’t just good infiltrators. And Abaddon is a dedicated combatant, also Kushiel means hostage threat.

    >Alternative measures? Mennin hesitated. Like… like what? How the hell are you going to get through a blood vault without the, you know, blood part?

    >His body stepped onto the elevator then, his hand reaching out to press the button for the lobby as his captor replied simply, Quite carefully.

    >Quite carefully, indeed.

    And the whole blood vault section answers one question – what is up with room Nine-Twelve, and opens so many more questions.

    What is in the vaule?
    Why do the body snatchers want it?
    What went wrong with the original plan?
    Who put it in the vault originally?
    What is a blood vault?
    How do they plan on opening it? (since it going boom if it is opened wrong is very much implied)
    Is the body snatchers getting the vault open a good thing or bad thing? (Preliminary signs point to bad)

    Then hit exit song – and probably either moving from Mennin’s perspective to others in the hotel, and create dramatic tension of having trouble under their noses as they go through slice of life mishaps with running a hotel all the while the audience is aware of the threat under their noses ever growing.

    Like

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