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View character profile for: Gus
View character profile for: Antonio Vargas
View character profile for: Freddy Falcone
View character profile for: Isobel Vaughan
View character profile for: Carson Phillips
View character profile for: Miles Daniels
View character profile for: Nodia McRoss ( aka needy)
View character profile for: Allison Newport
View character profile for: Simon
View character profile for: Hunter Sawyer
View character profile for: The Kakabel
View character profile for: Dirty Dan Jones
View character profile for: Jackson Sawyer
View character profile for: Jen Hitchcock-Clement
View character profile for: Kelli Lee
View character profile for: Daniel Baechtel
View character profile for: Mayor Don Baker
View character profile for: Marcinoma
Tripping The Rift
Nodia continued to keep the knight at bay long enough for Freddy to plunge the dagger into the behemoth's back. There was an ear-piercing, metallic, shriek as the knight twisted in agony and fell to its knees.
"And that's why you don't mess with The Jackalopes!" Freddy said before spitting at the knight.
Gus smiled at Nodia and nodded. "You did good, Needy. We're proud of you. I think you can let go now."
Freddy turned to the hole. "So what's comin' up from there? Anyone got anything to fight it off?"
The knight was still writhing as the bright "blood" seeped out of the sucking wound from the dagger. Yet it had not fallen. It continued to shriek and contort as the armor it was comprised of buckled and twisted. Everyone stared at it, waiting for it to finally go down. Yet it didn't.
It twisted torso around with a sickening metal crunch and leered at the group before it started to crawl towards the nearest Jackalope, which happened to be Freddy.
"Guys... it's still comin'!" Freddy said as he backed away from it.
Then there was a flash of green, a loud roar like thunder, and then another, and another. The knight had new holes punched into it, and soon the armor fell away to ash, revealing a horrifying black skeleton which too began to degrade into ash. The metallic shrieking stopped and when the knight fell away the group saw Allison and Jackson standing at the edge of the precipice they had disappeared into. Allison brandished her seemingly empty sidearm, yet the power of the orb seemed to gift her with endless godkiller ammo.
Her eyes were cephalopoidal again, and filled with new determination. She looked to her friends and smiled. "Miss us?"
"Hell yeah!" Freddy whooped. "Score another win for the freaky Sighted!"
Gus looked to Carson and Nodia to make sure they were good before going over to Allison. "Care to explain where you went?"
"Long story." Allison said. "Suffice it to say, I met the matriarch of the Baker clan. She had The Sight. Long ago. And used it to find and build this mandala, and that knight thing was her son, tasked with protecting the heart of it all. And she..." She shuddered. "She became... something else... I don't know what but she's been changed by the rift that fuels this place. She knew we'd come, and she was the one who sent Vargas to give you the orb. It's something she made to put an end to this once and for all." She held out the orb to Gus. "We need to finish this, Gus. Together."
Somehow, Gus understood everything she had just said and accepted the orb. He felt the light of the orb fill him like it had done for Allison down in that dark pit, and now both were more than they once were. He could see it, as she could see. The two of them turned to the heart stone and slowly went over to it.
"Guys... I think we're about to see some freaky-deeky shit." Freddy cautioned.
The group watched as Gus and Allison reached the heart stone and placed their hands on it. The deep beating which echoed throughout the chamber quickened in pace. Their eyes turned again, and the skin of their hands peeled back to reveal a slick black oil which started out looking like hands but soon changed to thin tendrils which wormed their way into the heart stone. The beating increased to a point where it felt like the beating would shake the chamber to pieces.
And then it suddenly stopped.
The stone's glow faded and with it the mandala ceased to function.
“Dan,” Jen laughed, “you’re gonna hurt yourself!” She couldn’t believe she was having fun with Dirty Dan. She couldn’t believe she felt safe and secure with all that was going on outside. Everyone seemed to be enjoying it as if it were a tourist attraction. Each year, they’d have to have a ghost night to celebrate.
She gently massaged Simon’s leg on her lap and looked into his eyes. He had a kind face.
Simon smiled at Jen. It felt good. The wound was a bit tender still but something about her touch made it feel less painful the more she worked it. Eventually he let out a satisfied groan and laid his head back. "Thank you, that's really really really really nice." He snickered at himself, more due to the effects of the drugs and booze, and nodded to Jen.
Then something happened that, even in his stupor, he felt distinctly. It was like a major weight had been lifted out of the air. Despite the sense of relaxation everyone had been feeling, Simon still felt the sense of imminent doom behind the door of the bar. Yet now that feeling was gone. He looked to Daniel's ghost to see if he had anything to do with it.
Yet it was clear that, somehow, the ghost invasion was over.
Gus and Allison pulled away from the now dead heart of the mandala. Their features returned to normal and they stared at each other in a mix of shock and pleasant surprise.
The pain of an entire race had just been purged. The Kakabel's residual energy which had been circling through the mandala like a feedback loop was now able to recede into the rift and beyond where even The Sight couldn't see.
Vargas looked around and his form began to fade. "You guys did it." He looked to everyone and smiled. "All the souls twisted by the broken mandala can finally ascend. And the rift is no longer bound." He looked to Gus. "This is where we part ways, again, for a while."
Gus smiled at his friend and nodded. "Hopefully it doesn't take me nearly dying for you to show up again."
Vargas chuckled and faded away.
The Jackalopes now stood in the silent chamber, and looked at one another.
"Anyone know the way out?" Freddy asked.
As if in response the entire chamber seemed to shift like some sort of optical illusion and suddenly the group found themselves back inside the office of Mayor Baker. The man looked bleak, yet he smiled at them nonetheless.
"So you destroyed the heart stone... The mandala is dead and my power fades with it." His hair started to gray even more as he took a seat at his desk. "I had enough to bring you back, and that was it. I must... take my leave."
"You still have to answer for the crimes you committed." Allison said.
"I am." Baker told her. He held up his hand and showed that his skin was beginning to flake off into ash. "My life was used up a long time ago, the mandala sustained me. Without it, I will be nothing. Even my soul will be reduced to nothing. Where I go, is not beyond. I go to nothing. A death beyond death."
"The price for immortality." Gus deduced.
Baker nodded as his face began to crumble. "Yet I die happy. Knowing my family's folly will not doom this beautiful town. And I am content in knowing it has capable protectors."
"But I have more questions!" Allison argued. "I met Elendira! She was like me and Gus. She had The Sight! She was The First. I need to know more about it, she said things that..."
Baker chuckled. "I never knew she was like you. Yet it explains much. I'm sorry, Sheriff, but those are questions you must find answers to on your own."
And with that Mayor Baker crumbled into ash in front of the group. Allison sighed heavily and looked to Gus.
"So much for that..." She sighed and looked to Jackson now with a coy smile. "My place, or yours?"
The Jackalopes stepped out onto the bright sunlit day to a clear sky and a soothing breeze that felt more calming than any other they had known. As if something in nature had been corrected after eons of being wrong, the town was experiencing a sense of peace unlike anything it had known since its inception.
Gus looked to Carson and Nodia. He wondered what was up with the girl, she showed power that he didn't expect, yet now it radiated off of her clearly to his eyes. He looked to Carson, he smiled and was thankful for her. She had helped pull him back from the brink of death, it seemed she was a master of besting the Grim Reaper, and knew that he was blessed to have her in his life. And he knew then that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her.
He'd been unsure, no that wasn't it, he'd been anxious about admitting it to himself. Even though he had bought the ring ages ago and had been carrying it ever since he hadn't worked up the courage to ask her. This felt as good a time as any. He wasn't sure if she understood the human custom of marriage, but then again it seemed to him like most people didn't get it either. In either case, he was gonna give her a crash course right there on the steps.
He produced the ring and bent the knee and looked up at her and hoped she wasn't going to put a sour end to this victorious day.
Freddy was miffed. The girl he'd been hired by was dead, and had turned out to be an evil witch. So getting paid was off the table. All that work and stress and it had ended with him now in a moderately sized hole. When the group went their separate ways to rest from their ordeal he returned to the Prickly Cactus and was met with a surprising sight as Dirty Dan was singing and an old assassin who had once tried to kill him was getting a leg massage from Jen.
This was clearly not gonna be his night.
Sometime later... In Vegas...
Miles Daniels walked into the Ace of Spades casino, it had once been owned by the Castagnaccis's yet the matriarch of the clan had opted to sell it to another, up and coming, mob crew. Miles had cleaned up significantly, his hair was cut short and he'd lost the face fuzz he'd just opted to not shave since his decline.
He felt like a new man.
He was a new man.
And when he sauntered into the Ace of Spades and hunted down the head of security he gave him a confident glare.
"I'm here to see your boss." Miles said.
"The fuck you think you are?" The Head of Security asked.
"I'm here on behalf of Mr. Castagnacci." Miles said with a grin. "That good enough for you?"
"We both are." Isobel said as she stopped beside Miles. "Tell your boss we need to talk about the new arrangement."
The man spoke into his mic and paused for a moment. Then he nodded. "My boss will see you."
Miles and Isobel were led to an elevator and taken to the top floor where an obese man surrounded by a handful of guards were waiting. The Boss, a man named Leo, regarded them with a chuff.
"You say you work for Mr. Castagnacci. Yet the last I hear there ain't no Mr. Castagnacci anymore. No boys left alive. A dead line. So why the fuck are you here?"
Without even missing beat both Miles and Isobel attacked the nearest guards to them, moving at near impossible speeds. Miles snapped the first guard's neck and then produced a small silvery baton from his jacket pocket and when he brandished it a purple-ish wave rushed out of it and literally melted the next two guards who were drawing their weapons on him. The guards screamed in agony as their flesh and bones were liquified in front of Leo.
Isobel was like an acrobat, flipping and spinning as she wrapped her legs around one guard, snapped his neck, and then turned to the next guard. He fired at her, but the bullets bounced away from her before they even came close to her, an invisible shield which she used as a battering ram to send the guard flying into the nearby wall by simply kicking in his direction.
Leo was now alone, and he was visibly panicked. "What the fuck? Who? What? WHAT ARE YOU???"
And then a third voice spoke. "You can call me Castagnacci."
Leo's jaw dropped when he saw Nate Castagnacci walk into the room. He looked to Miles and Isobel and nodded in approval of their handiwork.
"What the fuck is this? Dead men walking into my place? Melting my fucking men? What in the hell is this?"
"This..." Nate said with a smirk as he went over to the cowering man and gently placed his hand on the man's forehead. "Is the beginning of the end..."
Suddenly, Leo's body went stiff and in an instant his entire form was spagettified as Nate literally sucked his entire body into his hand. Leo wasn't even able to scream before Nate had finished "consuming" him.
It was then that more guards barged into the room and stopped when they saw the carnage the three had wrought. Nate turned to them and smirked.
"You have a new boss." Nate announced. "If you don't agree to my terms my two friends here will dispose of you like the garbage you all are."
The men, frightened by the sight looked to one another and lowered their weapons.
"No problems, Mr. Castagnacci." one of them said.
Nate smiled. "Good... Now... We need to gather our resources and prepare."
"For what... Boss?" The same guard asked.
"We've got a town to burn..." Nate said simply...