The universal planes house a number of worlds that are home to the higher beings and demonic entities aligned to the side of Good or Evil. Within the higher planes you can find the realm of The Elders, the spirits of good souls, and the ever-watchful Powers That Be. The lower planes are home to the demons of old, the souls of the damned, and things much more sinister. Noticeably, the Heavens are heavily traveled by Whitelighters and other Angelic agents. Conversely, the Underworld is the most prominent of the lower planes and is frequented by many demons and other evil beings.
Save the Underworld, the universal planes all have but one nexus, which allows for one point or method of entry. Because of their limited access to the Mother Nexus only minor feats of magic can be performed in these worlds. Only higher beings have enough power to accomplish great magical feats.
Cecile didn't look at all impressed. In fact, she folded her arms and just stood for a moment as the older, more powerful demon spoke. Her eyes trailed off to one of the stalls. She needed a power stealing athame. She had cash, but she was unsure if they'd take cash. She decided just to be bold with the demon.
"Okay, whatever, more little fireflies for your collection. Got it. Can't we use the blood of that prick back in the dungeon to scry for someone else with the powers you want?"
She raised an eyebrow, it seemed like a legitimate plan.
"Oh and I want a power stealing athame. I'll help you in exchange for one of those."
A simple enough request.
"... and I suppose you did get me out of that hideous dungeon. So for now you have my loyalty..."
Her tone was somewhat dismissive, but at this point it just seemed that this was who Cecile was and there was no knocking any extra obedience into her. This is as 'teamwork' as she got and it showed.
Lucius says nothing as Cecile prattles on, giving nonsense suggestions and demands of rewards. The female demon's audacity and inflated sense of self reminds him of Ajax. Demonkind is better off without this current breed of lazy do-nothings. His eyes sweep upward, though he stops himself from giving them a full roll.
"Are you quite finished?" Lucius asks, crossing his arms. The question is made rhetorical as he continues on without awaiting a response. "I said that I need a firestarter. Using that halfbreed's blood isn't going to accomplish that." What were demons passing on to their children in the way of knowledge? He did not think that he would have to explain these semantics.
"As for your reward, what have you done thus far to deserve one? I freed you from your confinement - a boon that you did not earn. The way I see it, you are now at a deficit." Lucius pauses a moment, as he weighs his options. He doesn't have much in the way of allies, true, but would this woman be worth the hassle? Ultimately, he doesn't see the harm in giving her an opportunity. "If you are the one to secure the firestarter's blood, then I can get you what you seek."
He turns his attention to Quentin, considering his negotiations with Cecile to be concluded. "And you? Am I to assume our arrangement continues?"
A transitional TIME JUMP ends the scene. Time has been moved forward approximately one month later to February 13, 2038, resulting in the relocation of the characters.
The two demons and dark fae have formed an uneasy alliance. One that has reared little results. Much time has passed without securing fire-blood from two additional magical humans. To keep the interest of his new allies, Lucius has promised both a potential position within his new Triad.
Quentin, Cecile and Lucius may begin posting within the Living Room of Cecile's Penthouse. The trio have regrouped to form a new plan of action.
Sometimes Ezra can’t help but wonder what the underworld market was like in its prime. Back before the Charmed Ones decimated their numbers. Back when mythic figures ruled – The Source, The Triad, The Council. There was supposedly structure and stability, some kind of dark unity that governed over every shade of demon, warlock and darklighter. Now what’s left? Squabbling factions, each too small-minded to put away their petty differences to get ahead. That’s evil’s problem. That’s why even now, more than twenty years after The Charmed One’s greatest assaults, Evil is unorganised and divided. It’s pathetic.
“Well this is it.” Ezra states dryly. “The Little Shop of Horrors.”
He and Sage stand in the entrance to the marketplace. Ezra remembers how astounded he was the first time he set eyes on it. How captivated he was with the infinite possibilities that can be found around every corner. And then Ez learned – nothing comes easy here. There is always a price. Always a bargain. Sage should be in his element.
(I wonder how much I’d get for you.) Ezra contemplates his companion’s worth. It’s not every day you run into a dragon, especially one in nice compact packaging. (Shame I need you for other things…)
The darklighter’s eyes scan the crowd as he begins his descent deeper into the market. A man on a mission, he doesn’t stop as he searches for a familiar face - The Power Broker from the Astral Plane.
Musical theater references fall outside of Sage's purview, but he nods on the assumption that it's a simple play on words. Already, his eyes are scanning the stalls, carts, and tents (fewer than he imagined) as well as their attendants. It's not much to look at, but that doesn't mean that there aren't treasures buried in the filth.
"And where will we find this... acquaintance of yours?" He's careful not to imply that there's anything more to Ezra's connection with the power broker they seek. Apparently, the darklighter doesn't care for the term 'friend' to describe anyone that he associates with. That's a needless conflict you only unknowingly walk into once.
Meanwhile, he delves for a spiritual nexus in the area. The dragon knows that three exist within the Underworld - the same as his former home - but suspects that demons will be a bit less conspicuous about building monuments of power nearby. The territory often occupied the Source and upper echelons of the Underworld, the training academy... but where else might they be found?
“He should be here. Somewhere.” (I think) Ezra’s brow creases as he continues to search for Thornton. “I’ve not actually been to his stall - we met in the Astral Plane.” The darklighter’s mind lulls over his former associate as he speaks. Any broker can deliver the kind of ability Sage is after, but Ezra has alternative motives in pursuing Thornton in particular.
(If I can get him to attack the coven, I can pick off the whitelighter and get the book before he even knows what’s happening.)
“The broker can give you what you’re after,” Ezra’s voice grows low. “But don’t let him decipher your true nature.”
Thanks to some research at the DTA, the darklighter now knows the extent and rarity of Sage’s abilities. The dragon is far more valuable than Ez initially gave him credit for. And Ezra doesn’t trust that Thornton won’t turn his sights on Sage, the same way he thirsted after Hilly’s magical immunity.
“I’m not sure if he can read abilities, or only absorb and trade them, but let’s just say that loyalty isn’t something he holds dear - considering he abandoned me during our last pact.” Ezra shares a knowing look with the dragon. At least they share a mutual trust that both are good to their word. “I have no doubt that he’d attempt to steal your remaining abilities if he could.” (And that would just cause unnecessary drama…)
Within the defined limitations of his innate abilities, Sage's intuitive powers are unable to detect the presence of a nearby NEXUS. Perhaps, the dragon is right in his assessment about the fountainhead of great magical power being concealed from obvious detection.
"Hm" is the response Ezra gets from the distracted dragon. He is unable to detect a nexus in the area, but isn't surprised by the results. It would have been a pleasant happenstance and nothing more. He's here for what so many others have sought him out for over the decades - power.
As he previously relayed to Ezra, his preference is to gain power from an inanimate source to avoid any undesired entanglements. The only reason he agreed to accompany the darklighter is so that he might use his intuitive powers to suss out such a relic. Well, one of two reasons. The second being the novelty.
Dressed in drab black clothes and hidden beneath a cloak, the dragon walks alongside Ez and takes in the market scene. Eyes scan the demonic faces of merchants and patrons alike. Many possess the human features of daemons, but the occasional visage of things more twisted is in attendance as well. More importantly, though, Sage eyes the wares being hawked. Every ring, amulet, and dagger is a potential fount of power.
"Needn't worry. Self-preservation is always my highest priority," Sage relays absently. 'I'm still not quite sure why you've brought me along... you said you hadn't acquired the coven's tome, yes?"
"Needn't worry. Self-preservation is always my highest priority,"
(Isn't it everyone's?)
Ezra resists rolling his eyes as Sage speaks. The dragon carries himself with the kind of flawless superiority that is grating. The kind that if Ez was brutally honest with himself, he wishes he had. But in the grand scheme of things, the darklighter is still just a small fish in a big pond. It will take years of experience before he gathers even a fraction of the wisdom the dragon possesses.
'I'm still not quite sure why you've brought me along... you said you hadn't acquired the coven's tome, yes?"
"No." Ez spits bluntly. It's a sore topic - having been so close to victory, and yet still fail. And now the witches have regrouped, and the element of surprise is gone. Still, Ezra takes solace in the knowledge that the Knot of Isis is tucked safely away in his possession. It sits locked in the inside pocket of his jacket, nestled against his cold immortal heart.
"And I'd appreciate if you didn't mention the amulet or its abilities to anyone - " The darklighter continues to search the stalls for Thornton as he walks and talks. He's not sure how Sage will take to his request.
"To avoid a conflict of interest with the broker. Before he abandoned me, he was pursuing the witch's magical immunity." Ez shares a knowing look with his companion. He gathers the dragon will predict his intentions with Thornton.
Touchy. The thought comes as Sage's brow quirks upward, but he says nothing as Ezra relays his failure. Instead, he continues along beside him in silence. A rather boisterous merchant shouts about his weaponery - sharpest in all the Underworld if he's to be believed. In my experience, 'loud' is very rarely synonymous with 'true.'
"And I'd appreciate if you didn't mention the amulet or its abilities to anyone - "
"Of course not." Beat. "Though now that you've snatched the amulet, the coven will know that you're coming for the tome..."
"To avoid a conflict of interest with the broker. Before he abandoned me, he was pursuing the witch's magical immunity."
Sage nods, following the darklighter's train of thought easily. "That's a tactic." Though it still fails to explain why I'm here. He doesn't point this out or pose the question again, allowing it to lie for now. The truth of it will come out sooner or later. In the meantime, Sage keeps an eye out for this power broker - or another opportunity. "Hopefully this power broker doesn't realize that you've already stirred the hornet's nest."
"Of course not."(Good.)"Though now that you've snatched the amulet, the coven will know that you're coming for the tome..."
Ezra's eyes narrow. He doesn't need reminded of his own failure, nor of things he already knows. He had hoped to have acquired the book two days ago, but he was injured and the witches re-grouped quicker than expected. Ez couldn't risk taking on the full group alone. Instead, he retreated to the DTA to regain his strength. Although his time was not wasted, he spent hours in the library researching dragons and the Otherworld and mapping out schemes to disable the coven and claim his prize. It was an illuminating time. But now is time to deliver. (Odio has been patient enough. I can't let her down.)
"I know." Ezra looks to Sage with a devious glint in his eyes. "And that's why I need to divert their focus onto an old friend."
He pauses. A tall suited man is only a short distance away. From behind, it bears a striking resemblance to the power broker. Then the man turns, to reveal a pair of horns and creepy-ass goblin teeth. (Damn, it's not him.) Ezra sighs as he continues his search. (He's got to be here.)
"The nest was already disturbed. The broker attacked the witches before me. I'm hoping they believe it to be him who took the necklace." (The longer they don't know about me the better. I don't think Hilly saw my face.)
If it were me, then I would have removed the book from the home entirely and hidden it elsewhere. Sage looks over and smiles at Ezra as they continue their jaunt. I suppose he will cross that bridge if and when he should arrive at it. He's not overly concerned with their destination as this is the darklighter's mission and he's just along for the ride.
"Sounds like you have it all figured out." The dragon returns his gaze forward. This is probably not the place you want to unintentionally jostle someone. As they snake through the marketplace, Sage decides to pay a bit more attention to the wares that they pass. There is a plethora of magical relics to be had. So much so, that he needs to concentrate to sift through it for any hidden gems.
He tries to hone in on sensing anything that bestows an upper-level offensive or teleportation ability. If he can't blast his way out of trouble, then at least he can escape it. He's not overly familiar with that aspect of the fight-or-flight response, but these are strange times and this body is more fragile than his natural form.
(I do.) A smug smile slithers across Ezra's lips. He's ran over multiple schemes in his mind during the last few days. Attacking the coven head-on. Picking off the witches to leave Hilly isolated. Ransoming the life of a wiccan in exchange for the book. The list goes on.
Finally, Ez settled on manipulating Thornton into helping him. It's the quickest and smartest way to get what he wants - providing an offence and a defence. And to top it all off, Ezra can also fulfil his end of the deal with Sage.
As they continue through the market, the darklighter observes his companion casting a subtle eye over the wares on offer. Ezra knows immediately what the dragon is doing. He's reading the items, the same way he divined the nature of the Knot of Isis. The assassin must admit, the ability of intuition has its charms.
"See anything you like?" Ezra nods. He hopes Sage hasn't. Ez needs the dragon to engage with the broker, to mask his true reasons for seeking Thornton out.
The disdainful thought is triggered when Sage's intuitive sense happens upon a cursed brooch that is best described as a device of torture. He pities any who have fallen prey to its power. It also doesn't suit his needs, so he doesn't linger on it more than is necessary.
(Too weak. Too ineffective. Not practical. Useless. Useless. Useless...)
"Why? You going to buy it for me if I do?" Sage asks with a toothy grin as he continues to intuitively peruse the market's wares. "Tell me more about this demon fellow. What's our angle?"