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An Unexpected Blade, and The Circle of Fire (DARK AETHER)

Jimmy crept silently across the roof of the Opera House in the deepening dark of early evening, scanning the skies against the sunset for signs of approaching aerocraft.  He was trying to stay on the move, and didn’t want to be spotted from the air any more than from the street.  The less was known of his whereabouts, the better.

He reached the ledge and leaned over, looking out over The Gut.  The ever-present layer of smoke and fog was less than it had been the past few days, and he found he could see for several blocks. 

Strangely, there was no one on the street, nor the usual glow from shop windows that afforded extra lighting along with the few dim streetlights found in the neighborhood. It was far too early for all the shops to be closed.

Something howled off in the distance, but whether merely a bored dog or something more malevolent, he could not tell.

Suddenly, he heard a soft sound, like a sack of feed being set down carefully.  He looked to the
source farther down the block, and saw a dark, amorphous shape, just a shadow, really, running and bounding from rooftop to rooftop while hardly making a sound.  Jimmy noted that the shadow was getting closer to him.  In fact, it was heading straight for him, and very quickly. Though it was now full dark, there was no time for him to escape to the next rooftop without being seen, so he crouched in another nearby shadow and pulled his pistol.

The leaping shadow took a final flight, landing softly and very close.  It crouched for a moment, then stood and walked purposefully right toward him.  As it approached, Jimmy could see in silhouette the unmistakable outline of a Malkuth Knight.  He walked right up to Jimmy, who thought he was invisible, and spoke.

“Master Jimmy.  Might I have a word?”  It was Sebastian, to whom he’d spoken before.

Jimmy sighed in relief and stuck the pistol back in his pants.  “ello, sir.  Of course.”

The Knight dropped to a crouch and whispered “I am looking for your young friend Myrtil.  There is something important I need to do.  Could you please tell me where I can find her?”

Jimmy shrugged.  “Oy’ve not seen Myrtil for several dyes, sir. Oy’ve been hoidin’ out meself, an’ ‘ope she’s doin’ th’ same.  Though Oy am worried, sir.”

“So you know not where she might be found?”

“No sir, Oy’m afraid not.  We all koinda got separated when all this started.”

The Knight paused for a moment, staring into his folded hands, then muttered to himself “It may still work.”

He stood to his full height.  “Master Jimmy, may I have your assistance?”

Jimmy stood also.  “Ifn Oy could get ta th’ pigeons an’ send a message, Oy moight get an’ ans … moy assistance?”

“There is no time, it has to be done tonight, on this night,” said The Knight as he shook his head.

“Alroight then, sir.  Of course.  Wot can Oy do?”

“Follow me, we must get to the Imperial Theater.”

At that he leapt right from his standing position, sailed across the space between the buildings to the roof on the other side of the street, and landed without a sound. He turned to look back at Jimmy.

“Whoa,” said Jimmy, who ran to the crossing board and gingerly worked his way to the other side. 

The Knight ran and leapt to the next rooftop, then watched as Jimmy ran and carefully crossed the next board between the rooftops.  They continued in this way over the criss-cross paths winding above the town unitl finally, they reached The Imperial.

Jimmy leaned over, huffing and puffing and trying to catch his breath.  “Cor, sir, you can really move!”  The Knight, who wasn’t puffing in the least, chuckled slightly, then entered the theater.

“Come, Master Jimmy.  There is no time to lose.”

Jimmy stood up, taking a last deep breath and entered the theater, following the Knight down the stairs to the stage.  The Malkuth dropped his pack, then knelt and began rummaging through it. 

“Take these, Master Jimmy,” and handed Jimmy several white candles, and a box of matches.  Then he pulled out a large piece of chalk.

“I will draw a circle, Master Jimmy.  You must light the candles and place them in equal intervals ’round the circle.  Drop some wax on the floor first so that they will not tip.”

Jimmy started lighting candles as the Knight began to draw a large circle on the floor, muttering under his breath a strange chant in a language Jimmy could not understand.

There’s that howling again, thought Jimmy.  Closer now.

As he placed the candles around the circle as instructed, the Knight drew strange glyphs and
symbols within the circle.

He suddenly glanced up from his work.  “Do you know that you are a keystone to this town, Master Jimmy?”

“Errr … no sir.  Wot’s a keystone?”

“Sha meshet tar … kyeh satas doom tar kyeh as … You have seen bridges that span an arch?  …
kyeh mas sahtet sah ehlah.”

“Oh … yes sir, Oy’ve seen bridges loike thet.”

The Malkuth nodded.  “At the top, there is a stone without which the whole bridge would collapse.”

“Ohhh … loike thet,” said Jimmy.  “Oy read about thet.”

The Knight continued.  “Both you, and your friend Myrtil, are such keystones.”

“Ya mean Babbage would fall apart wit’out us?” asked Jimmy.

“This Town knows you,” said The Knight.  “Without you both and some of the others, this town would mourn.”

Jimmy Branagh grew quiet, not knowing what to say.

“I know what you think, Master Jimmy.  You think that if you stay away from all this, your friends will not be hurt.”

Jimmy nodded.  “Thet’s wot Oy ‘ope, sir.”

The knight rose and removed his cloak, then lay down cross-legged inside the circle.

“Shayet ahyet dahkri soom…. This town is being violated, she is crying for her keystones, but
they have lost their faith.”

The Knight motions for Jimmy to come closer to the circle.  He complies, walking to the edge and being careful not to disturb the candles.

“Now,” said the Knight.  “Remove your shirt.”

Jimmy hesitated for a moment, then shrugged and pulled off his shirt.  By the time he’d gotten it over his head, the Knight had taken a long and very sharp-looking knife from the pack.

His eyes opened wide upon seeing the knife, and Jimmy automatically took a step back from the circle.

The Knight noticed his apprehension.  “No one realizes how long this plan has been growing.  Even since before I was born, something has been lusting over this earth and setting things in motion.”

He softened his expression a bit. “Hiding from it will not save your friends.  We all have our
parts to play in this, Master Jimmy, and it’s time for you to step forward.  Right now.  This is
your time.  Do not be afraid.”

But Oy AM afraid, thought Jimmy.  Oy have ALWHYS been afraid.  Oy’m just good at hoiding it from people an’ barreling ahead into things.

“Oy’m not afraid, sir.  Oy just don’t understand.  Wot can Oy do?”

The Knight’s hand flashed out faster than Jimmy could follow.  It took hold of his arm and pulled him sharply into the circle, twisting his arm so that he fell across the Knights crossed legs splayed out on his back and unable to move because of the Knight’s iron grip.

Jimmy realized he was helpless, held in the Knight’s grip, the Knight who was holding a large and very sharp blade high over his head.

“This is important,” said the Knight.  Jimmy suddenly turned cold, and thought to himself  Jimmy boy, you mye ‘ave just mucked up this toime …

The knife came down, fast, and slid across the boy’s chest with the most delicate of touches, swift and sure.  Jimmy felt no more than a cold tickle.  He raised his head, and saw that the Knight had barely scratched him.  There was no pain, and a few thin rivulets of blood slowly moved across his chest.

Then, as Jimmy eyes opened wider, among the lines of blood on his chest appeared the symbol of the Malkuth.  The Knight was chanting “Kahsesh masutsheh ahyeh tar hah shahdah!” over and over again, and a strange wind seemed to grow within the theater, a rush of wind that grew louder and louder as the very room grew darker.  The candle flames began to rise from the candle wicks and spin together as one, forming an ever brightening circle of fire as above them as the Knight’s chanting grew ever louder, keeping pace with the wind.  Jimmy tried to sit up, but found that he could not move a muscle.

Then Jimmy felt something odd, an awkward feeling as if someone were trying to climb out of him.  The circle of fire was spinning faster and faster, and suddenly the wind and fire and the Knight’s chanting all converged into one, and the fire surrounded Jimmy, enveloping him in a nearly intolerable light before shooting up towards the roof and straight out of the building.

Then all was quiet.  Jimmy collapsed, panting for breath as the Knight returned the blade to the nearby pack.

“It is done, young Master Jimmy,” said the Knight.  “You were brave, as I knew you would be.  You may get up now.”

Jimmy rolled over, and made the long unsteady climb to his feet.  The Knight handed him a small white cloth. “You may use this to wipe the blood away.  The wound is light, and will heal quickly, likely with no scar.”  The Knight packed up the candles, and on standing, used the toes of his boots to scuff up the symbols within the circle so that they could not be recognized.

Jimmy daubed at the wound, which had already closed.  He wiped the remaining blood from his chest, and handed the cloth to the Knight, who placed it carefully within the pack.

The Malkuth stood as Jimmy put his shirt back on.

“Wot was thet, sir?  Wot just ‘appened?” asked Jimmy, as the Knight slung the pack over his
shoulder, and began to walk up the stairs to the front door.

He paused a moment, then turned to face Jimmy.

“You just fulfilled your promise.”

And with that, the Malkuth was gone, leaving Jimmy alone in the theater.

(Prose-ified from an RP transcript)

  

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