RP:Friday Night Frights
Summary: During one of Khitti's concerts, everyone gets a bit of a surprise.
Cenril Theater, Cenril
It was a Friday much like any other. Khitti had headed to the theatre early for a quick warm-up before her concert and Brand was left to deal with things on the ship until it was time for the show. Various songs from the night’s setlist was practiced and at 7:30 on the dot, a lesser known band filed onto the stage. An hour or so would pass, and Khitti would take the stage. Tonight, the songs were sung in her homeland’s language. Pyro of the magical sort aided in the shaping the atmosphere, blending with the harder sound of the strange rock music that came from the electrified instruments. Khitti even used her own shadow-fire as she belted out the words, and though the crowd couldn’t make out the lyrics themselves, the fire served as a way to draw them in--once the initial shock of massive plumes of fire and smoke appearing nearby died away, anyway.
Brand situated himself somewhere near the front of the crowd. Further ahead, the ‘biggest fans’ screamed and vied for a single touch of Khitti’s feet, and to the side a group jostled each other in arrhythmic flow. But Brand stood with a wall of people four strong between himself and the mosh, towering above the four-foot-nothing teenagers in front of him, with nothing to obstruct his view -- or protect him from the flames that shot out into the crowd.
Where the heck was Brand? Khitti wondered this to herself as the words to her songs continued to flow out her mouth, the music taking its hold of the souls of the crowd, fueling their adrenaline and furthering their craziness in the pit. She squinted a bit every now and then, trying to find him, but to no avail. If only she could’ve kept that vampiric eyesight after the cure worked its magic; her own was so subpar now she wondered if she might need glasses at some point. Khitti cast fireballs out towards the crowd, taking care to not direct them so low. Once the fireballs disappeared, it left a heart-shaped puff of smoke in its wake--one of them forming just in front of Brand, though Khitti’d not know it. The crowd screamed louder. Those hearts meant she loved them, right?! Everyone scream to the top of your lungs to let her know! That’s usually how things went, anyway… except for the fact that it wasn’t screams of joy this time, it was screams of terror instead.
The sounds of the drum set had died away, and while Khitti had noticed the lack of that familiar boom that would quake through the stage and help her keep to the tempo of the songs, but she chalked it up to maybe he was tired? He’d pick things back up soon, right? Except, he wouldn’t. Because directly behind Khitti, as she continued to sing, and the rest of the band continued on with their parts, the drummer’s heart was being ripped out of his chest by the ghost of Khitti’s mother as she loomed behind him. The way she did it worked like a strange form of possession: his eyes, nose, and mouth all began to bleed. Despite all this, he didn’t scream--perhaps the matron of the von Schreier clan had planned to get to more of the band before anyone noticed.
Even the truest of fans scrambled to get away from the stage, but not Brand. This was an all too familiar sight, sad to say. The von Schreier matron had been wreaking havoc in his dreams since that day she’d appeared to Khitti, swearing that they’d regret bringing a child into the world despite the curse that lay upon her family line. Still, up until now it had only been words and vitriol, easy enough to ignore if not so easy to sleep through. Now, the crowd pushed away as Brand clambered onto the stage. Three more ghosts joined the first; the other bandmates, though, wouldn’t wait to see if they’d suffer the same fate as the drummer. They were gone, and their instruments with them.
Brand snatched up Khitti by the waist, pulling her upstage to the drummer’s corpse even as the matron tore into the heart and bloodied all the surrounding stage. Seven ghosts now surrounded them. Ten? Twenty. Too many to count surrounded them now, the number growing ever larger, and only the icy shield Brand spawned between them kept them at bay. “Enough! This is no way to get what you want. Surely there’s some way to… work things out?” He was putting on a brave face, but it was the two of them and an unborn child against a horde of ghosts so thick he could not see a way past them -- and he dared not move, lest the shield give up on him. “How are there so many of you for one child, anyway?”
People were screaming, but it wasn’t the good kind. Why was that happening? Did they not like Dhavislaavian? Oh, there’s, Brand. Hi, Br--oh. This again. Everything was happening so quickly it took a few moments for her to register it. Brand was shouting the ghosts, the drummer was flopped over onto the ground, and his formerly beating heart held tight within the spectral hand of Magda von Schreier. The last question seemed to confuse the ghostly leader, as if she too didn’t quite know why there was so many, “It matters not. We will take the blood we’re owed, from her and the child.” Impatiently, one of the ghosts hissed and swiped at Brand’s bubble. Khitti could only stand there in silence for the moment, with furrowed brows and shaking hands that clung to Brand as if he were the one that could put a stop to all of this and no one else. She wondered if her magic would even work on them, and even if it did, could she really hurt her own mother?
One little magic bubble between them and a brutal death. Brand nudged Khitti as if to say, ‘can’t you do something about this?’ He surely couldn’t. Even the shield of water and ice was somewhat of a surprise. He’d not thought to summon it up -- not consciously. The reaction had been automatic as he’d neared the danger, and better not to think too hard about what that might mean in case it was a sort of illusion that disappeared when examined too closely. “You don’t want blood,” called Brand, hoping it to be as true as he made it sound. “You want rest, as any spirit would in the afterlife. Frak, some days I think I’m ready for eternal sleep -now-, and you bet I’d be pissed if I made it there n’ someone disturbed it. But how is hurtin’ us goin’ to help you? You won’t negate the curse like this. You need us to work with you. Is there anything you know from the spirit world that might help us end it?” Brand wrapped an arm around Khitti’s waist and squeezed her there. Maybe some of them would remember what love looked like, and would be persuaded that way. They were still family, whatever else they were. “Our choice is made, but that doesn’t mean we ever wanted you to suffer for it. So if we can help...”
Khitti blinked slowly as Brand nudged her, bring her back to the present. Sadly, she summoned up that shadow-flame of hers, primed and ready to attack. She let Brand speak, and squeeze her, but still didn’t attack them just yet, though the closest spirits did shy away from the bubble. “Peace? You think we were at peace in the Vale?” Magda hissed and squeezed that heart til it burst. “The god of Death commands it, but we will not suffer just for her! We’ve suffered enough because of her! We’ve--” Suddenly her mother quieted, her line of sight fixed on a form behind the redhead and the blonde.
“Your mother… she’s not well,” came the voice of the one behind them. Khitti pried herself out of Brand’s hold enough to turn around and find herself face to face with the ghost of her father. “This curse, it’s forcing us all to madness, and I can even feel myself slipping too, though not quite so quickly as her. Giving Lydia up like that practically broke her, now this curse is finishing the job.” Khitti put her fire out and just threw her hands up, “What am I even -supposed- to do? I didn’t even think this was -going- to happen. I can’t just fight Vakmathras himself to get rid of this curse.” Khitti’s mother growled, but didn’t put up anymore of a fight just yet, as if her husband’s presence was enough to keep her malevolence at bay.
“I’m not sure, Khatja, but you better work quickly,” Max von Schreier urged his daughter before shifting his attention to Brand, “And you. You do everything in your power to keep her safe or I’ll come for you myself.” It was a threat, but if the situation were different somehow, it’d merely seem like the type an overprotective dad might give his daughter’s boyfriend. Sorry, Brand. You got the extreme version of this.
“The frak’s it look like I’m doin’?” Brand muttered under his breath, but now was really not the time to sass the von Schreier head of household. So instead he masked his snark with a cough and held Khitti a little more snugly. “Look, we really don’t have any idea of where to start, other’n killin’ the kid, n’ we’re not gonna do that. And your wife over there is… less than helpful. Is there anything you’ve gleaned from your time in the afterlife or the Shadow Plane the ‘Vale’ or wherever that might help? Like, how are we s’posed to take on a god?”
Khitti’s dad might not’ve heard Brand’s muttered sass, but Khitti sure did, and she promptly elbowed him in the ribs for it. Max almost looked like he was withholding a smirk of his own now; clearly -something- had been said and Brand got the needed repercussions for it. Khitti really hadn’t changed all that much, Max could see that now--just the person that she picked on. “There has been no afterlife for us...uhh…” He paused, as if trying to recall if he’d heard anyone say Brand’s name at all. “It’s Brand.” Was this normal? Is this how people introduced their significant others to their family members? Their -dead- family members. Was it this awkward?
Khitti coughed awkwardly, as if urging Max to continue. “Right. Yes. Brand. There’s been no afterlife. That whole thing you guys saw in the woods on the Isle of the Damned, -that- was us. Most of us. It wasn’t Lydia and Khitti there obviously, but you get the picture.” He paused momentarily, seemingly pained by the thought of the night he died, “You’re going to have to speak to the one that protects us--if that’s even what you can call it anymore. He took care of us in the beginning, but things in the Shadow Plane, it’s not the way you left it. His tribe, they’re all supposed to take care of us, those of us that haven’t crossed on to heaven or hell, to that eternal darkness like Lydia has. But things have changed since the night we died, since the months after. You’re gonna have to talk to Lazare Facilier, because when you’re one of us, his word is law. And if you don’t listen? You’re in for a world of hurt.”
Whatever hint of embarrassment that’d been present on Khitti’s features melted away the instant Facilier’s name was mentioned. She even went a bit pale and a little weak in the knees. She should’ve known she’d not been done with Amarrah’s father just yet, “He’s… the one that wrote the spell for the cure. He did this…”
Brand threw up his hands. “Of frakkin’ course. Basically the only thing that could be -worse- than negotiatin’ with Vakmathras himself… listen, the guy’s gotta have a weakness or somethin’, right? Would you know anything about that? Or maybe some angle we could come at him from with a negotiation. He’s already pissed at her about Amarrah, even though that wasn’t her fault. I just feel like this is tradin’ one huge unsolvable problem for another, you get me?”
Khitti’s father frowned. He frowned so deeply in fact that it’s clear where Khitti got her worrying from,” I don’t think negotiations are an option at this point. Madness had taken him years ago and it’s only worsened since then as you’ve obviously seen. You’ll likely have to kill him. Maybe you can use his ritual tools in an attempt to speak to Vakmathras. I don’t know. I’m not sure if it works like that. Khatja might be able to, if only because she’s got that same magic as well. It’s a connection at least, albeit a minor one.” Khitti’s mother started growing impatient again, and the rest of the spirits became agitated as well as Max spoke of killing the one that’d been caring for them for years, ”Power is his weakness. He wants as much of it as he can get. The other tribe on the isle, he wants to eradicate them entirely, and I think he’s getting the means to do it, but I’m not sure how. Things are… hidden from us sometimes. They know that we listen because that’s all we can do sometimes.”
Brand let out a weary sigh. “Alright. Something’s better’n nothin’, I guess. Thanks, uh… Mr. von Schreier. We’ll do what we can.” He looked out warily across the nest of angry ghosts. “...Can you, er, take them with you, when you go? We definitely can’t fix this frakkin’ mess if they kill us first.”
‘Mr. von Schreier’, as Brand called him, smirked at the blonde. “What do I look like? A necromancer?” Luckily for Brand and Khitti, however, that when Max dissipated, so too did the rest of them, but not without a scowl from Magda. Suddenly, Khitti felt like she could breath again, and soon used that breath to apologize, “I’m sorry… I just… I froze up.” She side-stepped away from Brand, leaving him behind to survey the damage her mother had done to the drummer.
Brand looked out across the empty venue. Well, not quite empty -- one very determined fan sat in the back rows, clapping and hollering as the ghosts departed. “Whoooo! Yeah! Far out! Red has the -best- illusions! Yeahhhhh!” Brand cocked an eyebrow at the odd fellow and dispersed his icy shield. “Well, at least you know you’ll have -two- people still comin’ to your future shows. Not sure how you’re gonna wrangle more musicians if they hear how the last one died, though. Maybe Onyx is secretly a fantastic drum player?” Despite all that had happened, he was looking at the situation with a sort of wry humor.
Khitti raised a brow of her own and side-eyed the lone fan. Somewhat awkwardly, she lifted a hand and waved at him, to which he promptly fainted. “Well then.” She sighed, thought about things for a moment, then shifted her attention back to Brand, “They can’t kill what’s already dead, so it looks like I need to move on to Vailkrin. I don’t think they’ll let me play here for awhile after this. Vailkrin’s got far better warding against this sort of thing--just like with the Amarrah monster’s horde. Might be some undead bards out there too I can interview and hire. And that’s a no, to Onyx. I’m not exactly wanting the musical equivalent of their cooking skills.” Returning to Brand’s side, she shrugged, “They’re not going to keep me from performing, but I’ve got to be careful in Vailkrin, especially if there’s a damned civil war now. Larewen still considers me a part of her house. I won’t be taking any side though, regardless. This is about the vampires and I’m not one of them--never was.”
Well, ‘never was’ was a matter of semantics, but that wasn’t something Brand wished to argue with a stressed-out, pregnant girlfriend whose ghost mother had just gouged out her drummer’s heart. There were far choicer hills to die on. “Vailkrin. Just for playin’ shows though, yeah? It’s no place to live. Unless you’ve, well, not got a life.” Brand had a few thousand puns stocked up for this very occasion, but he’d spare her -- this time. “Y’know, we should ask Onyx for ideas on this whole takin’ down Facilier thing. They’d be glad to know we actually intend to -do- something about this curse. Plus it seems they’re rather an expert in takin’ down necromancers, from the sound of it. And they’ve faced the guy once, so they have an idea of what he’s capable of...”
Khitti’s brows furrowed at Brand and a frown made itself known soon after, “Of course I’ve no plans to live there, Brand. Are you frakking crazy? But, I do have to go to work with the Necromancer’s Guild again at some point. Larewen still needs to know I’m back. If I do go there, to take care of all of this at once, it won’t be permanent and I’ll be staying at her house with all of the wards and such. I’m gonna have to expand my reach with the shadow-stepping a bit or improve on that emergency portal spell I made--maybe I’ll set individual items for certain buildings or something. I dunno. There’s not a whole lot of people from that city that I trust anymore so I’m not keen on just waltzing around there like I used to.” She thought about his suggestion regarding Onyx and shrugged, “I guess so, though being constantly reminded that I sleep on the same ship as a necromancer slayer isn’t exactly wonderful--especially when they’ve come to dislike me again. Unlucky for me really, because Onyx has the advantage now if they ever wanted to kill me, seeing as how I’m a bit rusty with the undead killing now. Can’t even frakking deal with a few ghosts…”
Khitti sighed and moved to grab her things from behind the curtain backstage, “Come on. I want to go home. And, you get to talk to Onyx about all of this. Thinking about it is bad enough.” She looked towards where the corpse had been left near the drumset, “We need to let someone know about him too. Let them deal with it.”
Brand frowned back at the dead drummer. “Somehow, I think a fresh corpse is a bit above a janitor’s paygrade.” He summoned up a plume of water and lifted the body onto it, where it would rest as if sleeping on a hammock until Brand set him down outside sometime later. Brand might have left him like that, but a moment’s more consideration and his earth magic vacated a trench’s worth of dirt at the theater’s edge, and in rolled the body. “Did you know his name?” Brand asked, standing over the fresh grave. “Maybe we should… I dunno, say some words or something.”
“That’s not at all what I meant. Like, we should be getting one of the city guards or something,” Khitti frowned too and watched as he put the body in the ground, “He was new… and I’ve been so scattered brained lately that I kept forgetting his name. I guess it doesn’t matter if we get the guards or not, though. He might not have any family--a lot of bards don’t. They’re wanderers, like we were.” Khitti sighed, “Just a minute.” She wandered around the side of the theater and returned minutes later with a small collection of flowers from the garden that the performers used as a place to relax. The redhead placed them on the grave, that frown of hers still present, “ ‘Denk daran, dass du sterben musst. Aber halte dich nicht so sehr damit auf, dass du nicht lebst’. It means: ‘Remember, that you have to die. But, do not dwell on it so much that you forget to live’ and it’s something that I forgot about for a long time.” Tears started to well up in Khitti’s eyes, and her voiced cracked a bit, “You didn’t deserve to die and I’m sorry that it was in such an awful way. I hope you’re the last person that has to suffer because of me, because I feel it tenfold and I don’t know how to make up for it.”
“No guards,” said Brand, when Khitti brought the matter up. “We’re the first people they’d suspect, at least until one of your showgoers could clear things up. Dependin’ on how much of an asshole the guards wanted to be, that could take a while.” Khitti went for flowers and gave her speech, and Brand stood by and witnessed in restless silence. Maybe the drummer would be one more ghost to add to the pile, he thought. Karma was coming for them. It was coming for Khitti, at least, and might catch up to Brand soon after. But did their misdeeds really warrant a haunting on such a large scale? “May the gods have mercy on you,” said Brand haltingly, “if that’s… something you need, or something.” May the meddling motherfrakkers have mercy on them all.
Khitti reached over and took Brand’s hand, squeezing it somewhat, “...And us too.” Were the gods that actually mattered watching? Was Arkhen, the one that renewed her humanity, watching her right now? Did they see that she didn’t want this? That it wasn’t supposed to happen like that? Sure, she’d made the choice without hesitation, but… she -really- hadn’t thought this child was going to actually exist. She hadn’t thought that Brand would be so on board with keeping it either. Khitti was so concerned by these thoughts that she even voiced it now, “They can see, right? The gods. They can see that I didn’t want this? That this isn’t how things were supposed to go? I know it’s still my fault regardless, but… they know I didn’t mean for him to die? That I don’t want anyone else to die?” She was still crying, but fighting hard to stop. She’d grown tired of always crying--and some of it could just be the pregnancy, but that didn’t matter--and constantly being in a dour mood and such. But, when things like this happen, it was hard not to be sad, even if most of the things she wanted in life were finally going right for her.
Brand drew Khitti into a hug. It would all he could think to do, unfortunately. Because who the frak knew if the gods watching anything or not, if any of them gave a damn or not? He’d concede at last that they existed, but as to whether or not they cared…? Brand couldn’t claim to have an answer to that, and doubted anyone who might proclaim they did. “...And us, too.”
Khitti didn’t like the fact that Brand had no answer for her. But, why would he? Neither of them had had any proof for so long, until her death and rebirth, that the gods even existed. She hated not knowing the answers to these questions though. It was almost maddening, and made those tears flow all the more as he hugged her and she returned the embrace. Khitti didn’t want anyone else to die, but that was out of her control now. Once she got all of those pesky emotions out of her system for now, she wiped at her eyes and nose, and sniffled somewhat, “We should probably go… The guards might end up here anyway soon after that amount of people panicking. I’m going to miss performing here. It was really the only thing that kept me going after I came back, and before you showed up.”
Brand had no argument about leaving. He took inventory of his things and herded Khitti over to his waiting Tikifhlee. “You’ll make Vailkrin work. Frak, you might even spin tonight’s events as a positive there, if you’re so inclined. And if you don’t think it would be disrespectful to your drummer’s death. ‘Violinist Spooks Crowd With Great Ghoulish Illusion Show.’ I can see the headlines now. Article continues: ‘Red’s show turned out to be just too gorram cool for the average Cenrili, so her new home stage will be here in the heart of darkness. Look for her to adopt a cool new skelly drummer at her next performance, Tuesday at 7…’ ”