Henri had arrived a few hours early, and prepared for what he intended to do for the night, and a few hours later his audience slowly started to arrive. He’d been telling the truth of course, from his point of view, as the perception of explosions engulfed everyone. To Henri it was the simplest thing in the world, and had proven once and for all he wasn’t working with any of their enemies If he was working with their enemies then he could have seen to it that those wouldn’t have been manifested blasts, they would have been real and waiting for the group to be here at 7. By showing them the reality that he could have done that, but hadn’t, he’d shown them that he didn’t mean them harm because otherwise this would have been the perfect opportunity.
At least it made perfect sense to him, the lesson appeared to have gone over their heads Henri thought as he chuckled.
The information about ‘shields of faith’ to him had been a waste of time and words to Henri for the most part, seeing as how they had already been told that it was light that kept back the darkness time after time, and they’d all heard the story of Pandora’s box enough, but he did enjoy telling them how disappointed he was in them. For people who wanted to get rid of him they hadn’t put in nearly enough effort. There had been scientific methods of ectoplasmic containment, the stones they’d acquired, and dozens of other methods that they could have tried harder to utilize…but they’d also overlooked the fact that he had bound himself to the city and would have obeyed a direct order from their Emperor, which he might have done out of respect anyways. After all he now considered himself the musketeer of Babbage…in his own mind.
Once again he was disappointed by doctor Sonnerstein. Apparently the doctor was just as absent minded as he had been when he neglected to tell the barkeep about the stipulations of his prayer, so he explained everything for them. It was going rather well, but the question that caught his attention the most was one by the now Misses Lionheart
“Why would the city want you, when there are better saviors about?”
Did she not think that the city hadn’t called on it’s defenders, and that she wasn’t trying to grab out to them to hold them? She must not have noticed when people had suddenly started to come back to Babbage in the past few months…but the reason it clung to him was because in life he had unintentionally bound his soul to her during La Priere. It wasn’t that he was the best defender, he had just inadvertently (and then later chose to) give her something to cling to in her hour of need. A someone who was actively able to help from the start, if only in a small way.
But as the rift had taught him recently, his choice was almost preordained even if it had been the choice he would have made under that circumstance anyways. For a man who had prided himself on doing everything by choice, learning that those choices had still been anticipated seemed a joke at his expense. He couldn’t help but laugh at himself for days after that, and he’d barely been aware of what was going on around him during that.
He finished his advice, and then offered them the choices he’d prepared ahead of time. The now married Sinclaire could share his burden or they could destroy him. He had promised an honest chance to get rid of him, and this time it was true, but to him it was a second chance at the test he had previously given. Would they choose Babbage, or would they choose themselves again?
He had been amused at how quickly Misses Lionheart had chosen not to share in his burden and how quick her friends had been to dismiss it immediately. By no means was the task an easy one and it was dangerous, but it was proof to Henri that as much as they may profess their love for this city and how strong their faith was that it was in truth a weak thing that was not surviving the leap of faith he had put before them.
Then again he hadn’t made this leap easy for them, especially since he had led so many of their friends to their doom. The discussion had turned to his destruction, which he would have gladly walked to out of choice simply because in a way it amused him that the one choice he could make to thwart his purpose was to allow himself to be destroyed…but it seemed wrong. As with that automaton, which he had originally tried to keep away from that crack he had suddenly just felt that there was something he needed to do. He made the offer to the entire group, and as he did he immediately turned to Queer Hermit though he also offered to the doctor. In a way it had just felt right…and unlike the others she was willing to take the leap of faith he’d put before her.
He set forth his terms, saying that he would never again manifest, which meant he’d never again appear in the physical realm, and that he would still continue his duties, helping this city. Both of these things would be for forever he promised.
Once he had her agreement, that was all that was needed, he entered her and allowed Babbage to make it’s own hold on Miss Hermit easier by reaching through him, though she’d have to affirm it herself properly later, Babbage had now taken a grip on the woman.
Though he had expected them to be selfish once again, he kept to his agreement and vanished from the physical realm. He didn’t need to manifest to continue his duties, but he had been going to begin a new mission that night anyways if they couldn’t even bring themselves to destroy him, one where he hoped to be more effective. Spirits didn’t always become ghosts and manifest in the physical realm to go talk to someone after all…the dead were more likely to visit people’s dreams to say their final words.
The dream world was a hectic mess, and no matter what dream he entered he would hear in the background the voice trying to reach out to their minds and force them to face the truth of their existence being meaningless. Henri added his own voice to every dream he visited now, telling them that they didn’t have to matter. He agreed with the voice, telling them they didn’t matter, but added that they didn’t have to matter to enjoy their lives. Parties were meaningless, as was fun itself, but had that ever stopped them from throwing one anyways?
His efforts did not go unnoticed for long, and he gave his enemies a merry chase for several days, hearing promises of eternal sufferings and non-existence, until finally inside of a drunkards dream he stopped running and faced the one who had finally caught up with him.
“You have always been a fool, Metier! Coming to this realm will be the last mistake you will ever make!”
Henri chuckled in response as he looked at the horse shrouded in faerie fire up and down, it was not nearly as impressive as it had been the night he’d visited his dreams while he was alive…something he had only remembered after dying. After a few moments of silence he nodded to the professor, “I’m bound to make much worse mistakes than this professor. After all, I’ve got an eternity to make them.”
“Do you really think that I’m going to allow that, now that I have you here?” The horse yelled at the dead man.
“If you wanted me to die, you missed your chance at the graveyard that night Professor,” Metier told him with a giggle. “I would have allowed you to destroy me then, but that was before I promised Miss Hermit that I would continue my duties helping the city forever.” Henri held up a hand to his chest. “I keep my promises Professor. I won’t allow you to devour me.”
“I don’t care about your duties, promises, vows, ‘purpose’, or even how you think you are helping this city,” Heliotrope responded as his fire flared for a moment, but still very weakly comparative to what Henri had witnessed before, “You are intruding into my territory, you have entered the minds of those that I have claimed and those I have been barred from, and I know that you have also entered the dreams of my wife!” Henri chuckled at the indignation and jealousy in the horses voice.
“I never made any promise that I wouldn’t enter their dreams professor,” Henri pointed out merrily.. “Merely that I wouldn’t manifest.”
“The devil may be in the details,” Heliotrope began angrily, “But beyond even that, I had already warned you that night in Emerson’s graveyard, you hurt Arnold, you hurt my wife. You hurt my wife, you hurt me.” The horse huffed it’s nostrils and fire bellowed from inside. “This is personal, and you have more than proven to me that you are unworthy of existence!”
Henri couldn’t help but laugh at the horses rage, “Do you really think it a good idea to fight me as you are? I’m not your usual prey, and you haven’t been able to feed properly in months, and it shows professor,” Henri turned and gestured at the drunkard whose dreams were filled with hopelessness, “The dark aether has ruined the dreams of your victims, you must have been getting hungrier and hungrier as their hopes, dreams, and joy began to die away without your aide.”
The horse whinnied angrily and Henri turned back to him smiling as Lionheart pointed at him, “All the more reason to devour you! You’re not affected by the aether the same way that they are!”
Henri laughed, it was quite possible that he could well be the last meal that could satiate the horses needs within this city. As he laughed he could feel the eyes watching them now…the audience that had been fighting over him had come to watch and see the half-demon who was about to make his attempt, an attempt he already would have made if he didn’t need them to stand aside first. But in a way they both knew that they would allow the half-demon a chance to claim Henri, as he was the only one with a personal interest in the outcome.
As they waited for them to all come to an agreement Henri could only think back to his first meeting with the horse, when he had first arrived in Babbage and the two had shared wine and had even held a toast together. It had been a wonderful night and if he hadn’t been here to kill his wife when they first met, they could have probably been friends.
“Tonight, one or both of our stories will end in tragedy,” Henri told the horse who was surrounding himself with darkness, “Which in the end is what everyone prefers! Let’s give our audience the show they’ve been waiting for!”
The go ahead was given and Lionheart surged forward in the darkness intent to swallow Henri whole instantly, he’d been holding back until this moment to make sure, but Henri’s will met Lionhearts and soon the two of them were locked into battle. Lionheart was surprised that Henri had not been consumed instantly, but that just set him to work harder.
The drunkard’s dream crumbled about him as he tried to run in vain, as the horses darkness and fire consumed his mind, and Henri’s madness seemed to infect the dream realm around them. The drunkard screamed as his world began to come to an end, and the poor man was overtaken and his sanity was soon broken though neither of the two noticed the harm they had done to the man as they fought and focused their intent on being the survivor.
Helio had started the fight as strong as ever thanks to his rage, hunger, and hate for the man in front of him. He was pulling on all his reserves, but he was getting tired faster than he should have, months of dreams that were unsatisfying and which had only left the hunger more pronounced had weakened him, and Henri had never stopped laughing even from the start. His ties to the city, and perhaps the man himself had been more potent than Helio had ever given him credit for, and the horse was losing to the madness which would infect him if he didn’t do something soon. Heliotrope did the only thing he could do, and then continued to fight on as best he could.
As the buildings of this dreamed Babbage crumbled around them, Henri pressed his advantage and he began to feel the inside of the demons mind which he would crush here, when suddenly the horse exploded with faerie fire and a new found strength. It wasn’t naturally Helio’s fire alone…this had the feel of a Sinclaire behind it.
Henri laughed as the horse surged forward taking away Henri’s advantage, but it was a harder struggle for the self proclaimed fool, the two of them had somehow found a way to work together against him, using her talents to strengthen him. No, there was more than one force behind this….was that Deacon helping him through her now too? This was hardly fair, Henri chuckled to himself as he fought back.
Their wills met again, and Henri laughed as the tide began to turn against him and then there was another rush of strength from Helio granted to him and the fire and darkness began to overwhelm and consumed Henri. How many wills had been set against him Henri wondered and laughed as his manifested dream self was consumed and even as the darkness engulfed him as he was soon devoured by the horse.
The horse neighed and cantered happily with success and renewed vigor after his meal, though he noticed that even now the man had not been exterminated properly. Inside the half demon Henri chuckled in his imprisonment which would slowly consume him but would not destroy him it seemed, since Henri was still bound to New Babbage. His soul was owned and protected by it…but he couldn’t escape Helio and he would remain trapped there unless something let it out.
“In the end, I wanted it more Henri,” Lionheart allowed himself to indulge in maniacal laughter of his own, which he didn’t care if the man joined it with him since he couldn’t hear it. “And even if I can’t digest you, I’m never letting you go!”