Week 244: Marilith

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Micali Alsara

New Member
Apr 8, 2019
6
0
1
Lucrus
Latens
113✦
Exa
⏆4,293
Bounty
⏈0
Dahlitium
0⌯
Bigatium
0⍨
Auritium
0⍫
Vitatium
0⌭
Caelitium
0⌬
?; Marilith
(6855)


Everyone in position?” The voice had the familiarity of Talrigori.

Ready.” Cidisti, next to her.
“Ready.” Micali herself.
Yeah.” Valgora, as dissatisfied with her role in the mission as ever, just a ways ahead of Cidisti and Micali as they all entered the expansive building.
Mhm!” Corruma, in all her enthusiasm, already on the other end of the warehouse, her target likely in sight.
“...Reaaaaadyyyyy...now.” Olivor, elsewhere in the large building, was likely just barely on mark with his target.
Ready.” Pallorus was the last voice to sound out; he had entered into the warehouse proper just moments before they all sounded off.

Okay then, get to it.” It was time to go.

The small diamond shaped gemstone in her ear was one of complex design. Expensive too, not that Olivor nor his magic item supplier would let her forget it. Enchantments allowed it to communicate with ones of its own like within a range of roughly three hundred feet. Revolutionary for these types of jobs, really. She wondered how it took until the current year of 496 PT for criminals to realize that long-distance communication between agents was a good idea. However, if they were as expensive as Olivor said, she could see the reason for rarity.

Her gown was a green that strove for black. It was a simple thing, stopped just above her heels - which were truly the risk of the operation. Makeup was on her face, subtle enhancements to her eyes and cheekbones that made her feel brand new. To say the least, she was comfortable acknowledging just how great she looked underneath her mask, even if just to herself. Her arm which had entwined with Cidisti’s was simply an act of cover; a laicar couple - or a laicar-passing couple, though they would be the only ones to know it - was less likely to attract attention than two single laicar, especially at such a social event. Forty feet ahead, Valgora passed the bouncer with a twisted grin and a look back to meet Micali’s, the blue orbs beneath her rabbit mask glowed as the lights dimmed on the path to the main room of the building.

Obitus’ Ironworks was a massive warehouse and the base of operations of Silas Obitus, a wealthy businessman-turned-socialite despite his spurii heritage. The workshop portion of the warehouse was the largest section, and it had been repurposed for the night; Silas and Leona Obitus were hosting a masquerade vernissage.

Micali’s mask was perched atop the ridge of her nose. It was one of a plain black make, styled after some sort of bird she didn’t know. Next to her, Cidisti wore a mask like a wolf, also black.

The steps they took forward were simple, if occupied. The code to the safe was said to be hidden somewhere in the art gallery, most likely on a member of the Obitus family. While Cidisti and her would occupy the parents, hopefully glean the code off one of them, Corruma would attempt the younger daughter, and Olivor the elder. Pallorus was to take out one guard who blocked entrance to the third floor, Valgora would take care of the other, much to her dismay. Stealth was a necessity; her particular talents wouldn’t assist with a mission of this nature.

Talrigori had the most important responsibilities. Using her magic and affinity for stealth, she’d ascend to the third floor once both guards were dealt with, assume a disguise as a servant, and proceed to the master bedroom. Once the code was retrieved, they’d communicate through their ear-pieces and she’d open the safe in the bedroom, retrieve the ring, and exit without a trace. The amount they had to pay off that servant for the information was ludicrous, but if this mission succeeded, it would be well worth it. Friends in high places often trumped immediate gains, and the Insidiis had no issue with funds.

The identification they carried were forged entirely, an invitation that their client had so graciously allowed them to copy with false names that an inside agent had put on the list that the bouncer held in front of them on a sleek black clipboard. The couple handed over their invitations - folded thrice over as though they had at one point traveled by envelope - and the bouncer checked with a pen across the paper a couple times. “Enjoy yourselves, Mr. and Mrs...Caritas.” They both nodded before they resumed up the stairs of the lobby.

“That went smoothly.”
“Don’t get cocky. We’ve only just started.”
“I know. Don’t be an ass.”
“Don’t make it difficult, wifey.”

As they approached the plateau of the stairway she quelled her comeback. His plain black tux blended well with her look, the lights that cascaded down into the room shone onto the fabrics, and while they glowed in a pleasant way, they were no more noticeable than any other number of fluorescent extravagants.

Valgora approached them as they entered. She had a dark crimson hooded gown on, which contrasted her pale green skin - nearly grey, truly - and her short white hair that was hidden behind her mask and the hood of her dress. “So. Corruma and Pal are in position. I’m gonna go meet him, and we’ll handle the guards. Silas and Leona are over there,” the velen said as she made a vague gesture with her hand toward a marble pillar just yonder. “Don’t fuck up.” With that, she left them, the red cape billowing with her movement.

“Always so pleasant.” Micali sighed, then turned to the man she was stuck with.

Cidisti didn’t react to that. He held a finger to his ear. “Olivor, Corruma. Micali and I are in position, approach your targets, get the code.”

With how loud the band played, and the chatter all over the foyer, it was nearly impossible to have heard his hushed tones to the crystal. The two exchanged one last look, then approached the small crowd that surrounded the Obitus couple.

“...when I said, ‘that’s not a flower, you ape!’” A chorus of rehearsed laughter. A small gap in the circle opened up when one person left, and Micali seized the opportunity, forced room for both herself and her husband.

“Ah, new guests! Welcome to the show.” Silas Obitus was a businessman through and through. His ashen skin has begun to show signs of age, and his styled black hair matched his black eyes. Not the best combination for a spurii who sought to ascend his social standings, but clearly it had all worked out for him. He was the largest manufacturer of refined metals in Hiemis. Every word he spoke seemed to sell something. “I can’t say I recognize you, masks considered.”

Micali extended her free arm. “Marilith Caritas. My husband and I attended your lunar banquet just this past Ortus. The cakes were splendid.”

Silas took her hand and gingerly kissed the back of her palm. Even with his wife right there, his act of welcoming lingered long enough to turn into one of uncomfortable affection. After the few moments of agony passed, she threw that arm across Cidisti’s chest, a display of loyalty to her faux spouse, as well as a plea for help.

“Yes, Carlisle Caritas. We lacked the good fortune to meet the two of you at the time, but I must say that it was the best banquet I’ve attended. The servants were proper, and the food even moreso.”

Micali swore this came too easily to him.

The lady Obitus then spoke. “Yes, we make well sure to discipline the help, as they represent us, and you know how the press can get. One servant jumps from the third floor balcony and suddenly you’re a bad person.” Her husband supported her weight as she stumbled into him slightly.

Leona Obitus was a mild-mannered woman in the public eye, but the rumors of her ruthlessness behind closed doors seemed less and less unbelievable as she went on. Her volume was a helpful indication that she had drank far too much. Micali sent a silent thank you to whatever power allowed the mission to be this easy.

It was only a moment before Silas jumped into another story - likely one that everyone had heard before - and Micali tuned out. She thanked the overhead lighting and her mask for the cover it allowed while she sized up Leona. The woman swayed ever-so-slightly as she stood, blonde hair up in a strange bun-like contraption of strands and jewels. No pockets in her outfit, though she carried a clutch in one hand, just as blindingly pink as her dress. A trophy wife, if reports were to be believed. She was the daughter of some business owner that Silas had cozied up to in his social climb. A laicar, though their children did resemble their father more heavily.

The sniper noticed the circle of people let out another chorus of laughter, which she was happy to fake her way into, a hand to cover her mouth as she giggled through grit teeth. Vis, this was painful. Her mind wandered to the artwork of the night. A prominent anonymous painter in Lucrus was featured, the main allure of the masquerade aside from the chance to laugh it up with Lucrus’s influential.

The painter was one of much talk among high circles of nobility, though Micali couldn’t quite understand why. They put some paint on a blank sheet and made money while people prescribed too much meaning onto a few swipes of color.

It felt like an eternity of fake laughter and empty thoughts before she heard a small voice in her ear, “guards are out. Well, mine is. Valgora’s got the other one...occupied. Good luck, stay safe.” Pallorus’s calm tone helped brace her for her next move.

“Would the lady Obitus like to accompany me to the facilities? I would dearly love to hear of whoever had the pleasure to design your magnificent gown.” She nearly vomited at how fake it was, but hey, a mission was a mission.

Leona didn’t respond, just followed Micali as she unlinked her arm from Cidisti and instead linked it to the inebriated laicar woman, subtly forceful in her attempts to get the woman to actually move at more than a snail’s pace. Great, a lazy drunk.

The bathroom wasn’t too hard to find, and Micali made sure to swipe a bottle of alcohol from a server’s tray as they passed him before they found their way to their destination Hopefully the lady Obitus would simply oblige with more drinks and pass out. It’d be a simple feat to check her, then.

As they entered the bathroom, there was little time to attempt to get Leona to drink, as she was face first in the toilet before Micali could even speak a word. Luckily, with both arms, head, and attention divided, now seemed a decent time. This woman was a wreck.

The clutch seemed to not hold much of importance at first. Some...protection, some mints, and a small piece of paper folded neatly in the corner, nearly hidden from view. Almost too easy.

She placed the clutch back down within reach of Leona, just as the woman moved her hand to find it. Micali turned away, and unfurled the note. A simply printed number 27 on the small white parchment. Micali left the retching wretch there as she exited the bathroom and entered back into the main room - she doubted that the woman would be back out to the party any time soon. A finger went to her ear as soon as she felt comfortably covered by the other noise in the room. “One of the numbers is 27. I think every one of them has a number, so keep at it.”

No response. Most were busy with their targets, and Talrigori must have been in the middle of her portion of the mission, not yet at the safe. Or she was simply waiting for the other numbers. Instructions were to try the birthdates of all family members, then ages, then the building number as well as the date for the founding of Obitus Ironworks. If she had already made it there, Micali presumed the dates didn’t work.

The laicar decided that to re-approach Silas may be a mistake, as his wife was currently indisposed of and it would draw attention to Micali to return alone. Now she just had to wait and discover if the others had done their jobs right. She took the time to admire some of the artwork, accepted a glass of liquor from a servant as they passed by. This was a nice change of pace, as she was typically the last one to finish the job up, her sights typically fixed on a target until they died, or a performance of lookout until the rest of the Seven Devils were already long gone. Not tonight. Tonight she got to just relax, swirl around the ice in her glass, and pretend to like art.

She stared at one piece for a while, titled ‘Virgil’s Vagabond’, a dark red painting which had a streak of grey that ran vertically in the center, then a dark black that ran alongside it to the right and down toward the end of the canvas. She had heard the name before, but couldn’t remember where. Micali nearly laughed at how ridiculously simple the art was, but then heard a voice come through to her ear. “91.” The voice was out of breath, but she recognized the practiced gruffness in it to be Olivor. He seemed to be quite occupied with the elder sister, not that he had ever made it a secret that to woo was his plan. Poor Corruma.

She moved to find a herd of other nobles, as all admired a painting of plain black, white slashes made periodically across the void, intersecting at intervals of four in oddly evened out spaces. Micali...actually liked this one. ‘Condemned.’ She gave her glass to the next server to walk by, sure that this stroke of fascination with the arts was a sign that she’d had enough for one night. Her aspect of the mission may be done, but they still needed to leave without causing a scene. She could always just get drunk later with the team, a ritual after a successful mission, although she and Pallorus had skipped the last few to practice hand-to-hand combat- a weakness of Micali’s. She allowed her mind to wander as well as her eyes, as she found herself drawn to more of the paintings. Some had brilliant flashes of yellows and greens, while some were simple tans and grays with splotches here and there. A muted pink canvas with twelve green circles spaced evenly throughout caught her eye. The second from the top, second from the left circle was just an outline, with a V painted into it in black. ‘Dissilio’s Flight.’

Why did she suddenly love art so much? A nearby noble let out a chuckle at the works. “Quite plain, though I heard that Io painted the majority of these just within the last few nights.”

Io, that was his name. The artist that was on everyone’s lips and minds. She wondered if he was there among them that night. The answer was likely yes, but it wasn’t as though it quite mattered. To anyone else, she was simply a woman who admired the artwork, and the large false diamond on her left ring finger should keep any...suitors at bay.

30.”

There was Corruma, her sweet tones like the scent of berries on the wind and a child you need to protect. She must have finally found a way to get the number from the younger daughter, a girl of only 12, and a lonely 12 if reports were to be believed. Homeschooled and kept from the public for fear of her safety. Not without merit, though. Many rich girls simply never came home after they had wandered to certain parts of Fere Divi, let alone the fact that the girl was a spurii. Tonight though, a young woman had approached and asked her of her interests, and spent the night playing with her. It would’ve been quite easy to get the number. Not that Micali wanted the job - she couldn’t stand children.

It was sooner than she expected that a voice came through again. Micali had migrated to another painting - a white one with hints of purple and lilac that spiraled into the middle. It looked like a flower, but also it seemed to move. Yeah, she definitely had too much to drink.

Tried every combination therein, nothing. I need the last number, Cidisti.”

A few instances passed with no response. “I can’t get him away from the group he’s with.”

Micali sighed the deepest sigh she could muster from her lips. “On my way.” She would need a convincing lie for the absence of Leona, though that shouldn’t be too difficult. The Ironworks building was large and there were many nooks and crannies that the lady Obitus could’ve wandered into.

The sniper rejoined the group as promptly as possible - after a few minutes of a crowded stalk through the party. It was invite only but half the damned city was there. She snagged an arm through her husband’s own. The bird-masked woman saw a small smile arise from beneath Silas’ lion mask.

“Ah, Marilith, correct? I did wonder where you ran off to.” Silas had interrupted another guest who had been in the middle of yet another story that nobody truly cared about.

The outburst from Silas gave her exactly what she needed, now she just needed an excuse for Leona’s absence and she could-

“Would you care to go for a walk, Ms. Caritas?”

Wow. Micali had heard that their marriage was loveless, but still. She felt obligated to correct him to Mrs, but realized that this was probably the best way to go about things. “I thought you’d never ask.” She offered her hand to him, and left Cidisti behind. She just knew he’d be pissed about this later.

I had it under control. You’re putting the whole mission-”

Or now.

She took the crystal out of her ear as nonchalantly as possible, and tucked it into a pocket on her dress - a special request when she had picked one out. “So, Silas, tell me more about yourself.” The hard ground of the building soon gave way to stairs, where a man let them through. Silas was so wrapped up in the conversation - and Micali’s face, apparently - that he didn’t notice it to be Pallorus.

He preened at this, eager to discuss his great accomplishments. “Well, as you know, I’m the only spurii noble in Lucrus - the only one that counts, truly.”

Micali channeled the energy of her fist through the nod of her head to every word he said. While it was true that he had climbed the social ladder despite his race, he sat on the highest rung and kicked aside anyone else who wished to climb, then laughed at the people who couldn’t even see the top.

“It wasn’t an easy climb. I did...unsavory things, here and there. Alas, I made the city my own. And now - my dear I really shouldn’t be telling you this - I’ve gotten the ring of the Lucrus High Council. Do you know what that means?”

These people were so sloppy. She was embarrassed for him. “I think so?” She twirled a strand of hair in her index finger. The pretense of idiocy usually got men to show their hand. But they had reached the top of the stairs and begun down a hallway toward a closed door. Oh. Talrigori was in there. She had to...ugh.

He smiled back at her, the lonely hallway far too cramped for her liking as he made eyes at her. “Yes. Tell me, is that husband of yours half as powerful as I am?” His hand reached for the handle to the master bedroom.

She truly loathed the actions she would have to take next. Micali wrapped her arms around his neck and pressed their lips together. Their masks clunked together awkwardly, but she decided that it was still best to hide her identity as much as possible and keep it on.

“My, aren’t you insatiable.” His hand moved from her waist back to the handle.

She corrected his course, the hand now back to her waist yet again. “Take me here. Now.”

He blushed at that, evidenced by the reddish hue that peeked from underneath his mask. He deepened the kiss, and she allowed it for another...four seconds. She reared her hand back and thrust it forward just as his eyes opened.

She pulled her head back and the flat of her palm connected with his nose rather harshly, the mask above now fallen with the impact. The small crkk that his nose produced was a sound of beauty. He looked at her in horror as he backed up, both hands raised to his now bloodied nostrils. Both of her hands grasped either side of his head - she got a good look at him now, and he was really quite handsome. Too bad he was a creep, and she just super fucked up his nose- which was now beginning to gush with blood. Her hands slammed his head sideways into the wall, and he barely made a sound as he collapsed. She took a second to shake her hand around, now deeply sore from the hit she had initially made.

She scrounged his person, and found a small slip of parchment tucked into his breast pocket. Micali opened the door, and lugged the man’s body inside. He was surprisingly light, though she figured he must not have much muscle when he gets everyone to work for him. The door slowly slid shut behind her and she gazed around the room. It was exactly as the servant had predicted, but Talrigori was nowhere to be found.

A knife appeared at Micali's throat, then dropped. “Well done. Need to be more on your toes, though.”

She sighed at that, one hand gone to clutch the sore one. “Rude. Here,” she took a break from rubbing the soon-to-be bruise to hand Talrigori the slip of paper. The enlil accepted, her light-gray feathers transitioned to a pure white halfway through, and she somehow made the servant outfit work - a pair of slightly loose slacks and a white dress shirt. Micali had hoped for more of a reaction. “Aren’t you gonna ask how I did that?”

The latter unfolded it, nodded slightly to herself, then paced back toward the safe - next to Silas’s side of the master bedroom. Though apparently, the Obitus’s hadn’t slept in the same bed in months. “Pallorus has been training you for the last two months in the basement whenever we go out to drink. I should hope you’ve made any kind of progress.”

Micali rolled her eyes, the quiet enlil just as cheery as ever. And of course Talrigori knew. They hadn’t told anyone but Talrigori somehow knew. A real shocker. The sniper propped the man up against the wall next to the door, sure that the knock to his skull would keep him under long enough for them to get this combination figured out. “How long is it gonna take?”

“Well, there are...18 possibilities, barring a repetition, which I doubt. Make it 17. Keep an eye on him, and tell Cidisti to stop whining.” The spy responded, her fingers dexterous on the combination lock as she listened intently for the click that would signify a correct number. A few books rested atop the safe.

Oh, right. Micali grabbed the crystal from her pocket and placed it back in her ear.

“-kidding me. You’re always so reckless and now you’re going to tank one of the most important-”

“I got it. Talrigori’s trying the new combinations now.”

Wha- you two are together? Where’s Silas?”

“Not important. Just hold the fort,” she said as she instead sought out another member of the Seven Devils. “Pal?”

Yeah?”

“Gonna need you up here. Get Cid or Valgora to cover you.”

Valgora’s still...uh...busy.”

“Then get Cid, just get your ass up here.”

Cidisti just mumbled something incoherent when he was named, ever the drama queen as he must have been actively holding his finger to his ear as he moped.

The minute or two felt like a stretched eternity by the time Pallorus knocked on the door. Micali opened it, and smiled at her friend. “So, I kinda broke Silas’s nose and knocked him out, and we should probably tie him up before he comes to.”

His eyes went wide at the news, but nodded along regardless. “Sure. Use...uhh...the tassels from the bed’s curtains. That should be fine short-term, he seems pretty scrawny.” If he noticed the smear of her lipstick, he didn’t mention it.

A sigh echoed in the room as the two worked in silence. Both turned to Talrigori, as she muttered to herself. “Just our luck - the last combination is the right…” She paused talking, and the world seemed to stop as the pair waited for her to explain why she had taken a break. “Hold on. I’m gonna need more time. It must use a repetition. Someone must have tipped off Silas, it wasn’t supposed to be complicated.”

The other two looked between one another, and Pallorus raised his hands in defense, but allowed Silas’s head to impact the floorboards. “Wasn’ me.”

“Hey, we need him to not die. Be careful.” She smiled regardless. “Put him on the bed.”

“Saucy,” Pallorus shot back, and both giggled, only to be shushed by the enlil in the corner. Pallorus looked to Micali, then moved back to the door after they threw the unconscious spurii onto the bed. “I’ll be back at the stairs. Call if you need me again. Seems like Tal’s got a handle on this, just need to make our ways out once she’s done.”

Micali nodded back, and Pallorus exited the room. She turned back to look around. The moon glowed into the room through the tall open archways that lined the side of the room - all of which led to one large balcony. The sight would be breathtaking if her heart would stop its ceaseless excitement. She had just punched a man in the face after a make out session. This was nineteen year old Micali’s dream. Still, four years later and she was sad to admit he had only been her second kiss. There was that one drunken time with Pallorus a couple years back - they both preferred to pretend it never happened.

She was snapped from her thoughts by the sound of a voice nearby and in her ear at the same time. “The combos don't work. We got the wrong numbers. Get back to looking. Don’t argue, no time to explain or defend myself. Find the right numbers.”

Micali’s mouth dropped open. This was bad. Very bad. She tried to think back - she had been thorough in her search of Leona’s clutch - had checked every pocket on Silas despite the uncomfortable...hardness that lingered nearby them. There was no way that Olivor and Corruma had been wrong, either. Micali tried to think for a second, then turned to Talrigori. “Yeah, we got set up. Something’s really not right. Any ideas on where the real numbers could be?”

Talrigori sighed, somewhat defeated. This loss wouldn’t just affect the Seven Devils, it would hit the Insidiis as a whole pretty hard. Not that there was much of a difference when solo operatives were dropping like flies and the Devils were the only consistent agents that the Insidiis had. “Not unless the Dissilio means anything to you.” She held up a small book that had previously rested atop the safe.

Micali knew that word. She knew...that word… “Wait! I...Let me see the other books.”

Talrigori made room, apparently ready to try just about anything at this point. Sure enough, a total of three books were atop the safe, the one that Talrigori held was titled ‘Detective Dissilio’s Great Escape 3; Finale’.

“‘Virgil: Man or Myth?’ ‘The Spurcus in Me?’” Micali shut her eyes tight. She rarely had ‘Aha!’ moments, as that was typically the job of Talrigori and Cidisti, but she was thankful for when they came. “I think I got it. Stay here, wait for me to give you the numbers, should just be a few minutes.”

The door shut tight behind her. Talrigori could handle Silas if he woke up and wiggled out of his bonds. As she turned back to the hallway, she burst into a full sprint, or at least as much of one as she could manage while her feet were imprisoned by a three inch heel. She would need to be fast. The guests would notice her return without Silas. She was halfway down the stairs when a racket behind her caught her attention. Pallorus was at the bottom, and he too looked up.

A laicar man with peppery black curls stepped into view as he adjusted himself in his pants, which only one leg was through. He hopped about as he got the second leg through, and had to pick up the shirt he had dropped in the jumping. Micali turned to Pallorus, as nonplussed as possible, then back to Olivor.

“I know the numbers. Keep the guests busy, buy me some time because they’re all gonna notice that Silas isn’t there.”

“Wait, where’s Silas?” The short laicar looked befuddled, and his practiced deep voice faltered to his actual voice in his confusion. His real voice wasn’t unpleasant, but he forced a deeper one all the same. Whatever. Micali didn’t pretend to understand why he tried so hard.

She had already turned and passed Pallorus by the time Olivor had managed to get his head through the neck of his shirt.

Pallorus turned back to the man as the smaller man adjusted the fox mask on his face, a plain grey. Pallorus simply brought a hand to his forehead. “This is why we don’t fuck the targets.”

The floor moved beneath her quickly. She needed to draw little attention to herself but needed to keep the pace up. The entire Obitus family was more or less missing aside from the youngest daughter. She managed to make her way through a particularly crowded section of the room as she approached ‘Vergil’s Vagabond.’ She tried to interpret the two lines that ran parallel down the canvas, then put a finger to her ear. “First number is 11.” It was a guess, really, as the two marks side by side gave little else to consider.

She then made her way toward the dulled pink of ‘Dissilio’s Flight.’ “Second is...12? Wait, what’s V? Isn’t V a thing? Whatever.”

No response.

She leaned into her feet a little too generously then, and the left heel caved in. They were pretty cheap to begin with, and the running around probably didn’t help. She toppled over, but rose again despite the eyes on her.

“Didn’t she leave with…?” A random voice whispered slightly too loudly in the crowd.

She had to ignore the strange voices and press on. A finger went to her ear, her cover practically blown anyway. “What is Spurcus?” She really should read more books. The wait for Talrigori’s response was merely a second or two, though it felt hours long. However, a response did come.

This book is just full of bad poetry.”

Micali’s heart sank. They were so close.

Spurcus is an old religious figure of evil. He’s representative of the darkness of man, typically.” It was Corruma, then, and she had given Micali an inkling of where next to go.

“Any other names or terms associated with him?”

Uhh, the condemned, I think?”

“Thanks Cor! I think I got it.” She held her heels in hand as more people gathered to stare at the strange woman talking to herself while picking at her earwax and running barefoot through the warehouse-turned-art show.

She approached ‘Condemned,’ and saw it in a new light. The lines weren’t just a thoughtless pattern - they were tallies. She held her fingers out to count, dropping both shoes to the floor, the heel tucked away in the broken one. She got to thirty then had to start over. Fuck, why was she so bad at this? She ended on 73. “73, Tal.”

The line was silent for far too long, Micali stood there and hoped to any higher power - sure, maybe even Spurcus himself or whatever - that she had done it. She bounced on her sore arches until Talrigori’s voice came back through.

“Got it. Everyone outside now. We’ve already made a mess of things.”

Micali practically jumped for joy and cheered aloud, though the people around her all mumbled to themselves. Had it not been for the mask, they’d see the red light to her cheeks as she realized that dozens of rich people watched her behave like a maniac. One of them approached her and began to ask her something, but a large figure stepped in front of him.

“Security, ma’am. I’m gonna have to escort you outside.”

She could kiss Pallorus. Not really. Well, maybe? It was complicated. Anyway. “Fine.” And with that, they both made their way toward the exit, calm and collected. She overheard Olivor telling some kind of joke to a crowd met with raucous laughter, but the punchline was frankly vile. Pallorus and her continued on, a shared excitement between the two. They were just outside the door, past the bouncer, and out into the cool spring air when they turned a corner out of sight of the unfashionably late guests and collided.

“You’re a fucking genius, Cal! How did you do that?”

“I guess you could say it’s...an art.”

He shoved her away despite the grin on his face that he tried to force away for comedy’s sake. “No. I couldn’t, nobody could. Don’t make puns when I’m being nice to you, it makes it difficult.” They both laughed at that. Both then moved back to the corner to see who else might emerge. First was Cidisti, his tie now loose around his neck and his face low and tired. They waved him over, and he groaned as he approached.

“You really had to one-up me there, huh?” His sad eyes fell on Micali.

“Well, you were taking too long! I get that you want to play it cool and all that, but you know I just saved our asses.” She crossed her arms with a smirk.

“Ugh. You’re never gonna let this one go, are you?”

“Probably not. Deal with it.”

Pallorus smirked. “Heads up, Sis is here.”

And sure enough, Corruma approached, her blonde waves tied up into twin ponytails that somehow looked fashionable despite the childish expectation one would have for the hairstyle. She had a mask like a horse, as golden as the accents on her outfit; her golden gown was modest, but flowed as with her hair. She was truly a vision. To be fair, they all looked pretty great.

“We did it! Oh my gosh, that was so intense! I feel like I didn’t really do much but I’m glad I was there to help.” She nodded to Micali at that, and the latter smiled.

Corruma was only one year younger than Cidisti, 22 and 21 respectively. They were spurii, but they passed for laicar easily enough. While Corruma’s hair went out into waves, Cidisti kept his cut short and cropped, the same hairstyle since Micali had met him. The velen in them was subtle; you had to look for it. It was the smoothness of their skin, the vague sharpness of their teeth, and the small excess of skin between their fingers - barely even there, really.

Olivor was next, and he greeted them all with a small smile.

Cidisti gave him a high five. “Well look at you, player. Good job tonight.”

Micali shared a look with Pallorus, then both looked to Corruma, whose arms were crossed and her face blank. She didn’t meet Olivor’s eyes, her feet suddenly a point of interest to her.

Corruma’s crush was the worst kept secret of the team, but somehow her brother was blind to it. Olivor pushed her buttons over and over, endless flirtations and innuendos, but a lack of follow through. Pallorus and Micali had discussed at length how he needed to commit or stop leading Corruma on. They decided not to get involved; it would just get messier, and it was really up to the youngest of the Seven Devils to decide what she wanted.

The group went a little quiet as they enjoyed the night air. They almost all jumped when they heard a voice. “Where’s Valgora?” Talrigori stood there, her outfit now a black form-fitting gown and a white ram mask. Had she been there this whole time?

“Don’t know,” Pallorus spoke up for the group. “Last I saw, she had led the one guard to the storage closet in the stairway, didn’t come out at all after that.”

Before anyone could comment, a shriek came from the entrance to the large building. They all turned to watch a red-hooded rabbit-masked figure approach. Her mask was the only one to cover her mouth. The sight was quite jarring. The scream had come behind her. A woman made many attempts to put out the flame on her dress as she ran out from the building.

Talrigori simply sighed. “Really?”

Valgora removed her mask, her icy eyes all alight with joy. “What? Can’t I have some fun?”

The group went eerily quiet. Cidisti spoke first to break the awkward stare down between Valgora and the rest of the Seven Devils. “Well, let’s be going. We need to get the ring to Mr. Industria by the end of the night, right?”

He did have his moments. The Seven Devils left Obitus’ Ironworks behind them as they left off into the night with rounds of laughter and merriment. They walked in their usual pods - Micali, Pallorus, Corruma, then Cidisti and Olivor, then Valgora and Talrigori separate and alone, but still close to the rest. Micali made sure to keep as far from Valgora as possible. She didn’t look forward to hearing what happened to one of Silas Obitus’s guards at the night of his vernissage.

More to the point, Viktor Industria would be glad to hear that the mission was a success. The ring of the Lucrus High Council was a thing of beauty; made of ivory and bejeweled with a large blue diamond, lined with miniature black pearls. Aside from an aesthetic wonder, it signified the leader of the council - the essential leader of the entire city of Lucrus. Thanks to obscure rules that Viktor planned to fix once the ring was back in his possession, if they had failed to retrieve it, Silas Obitus would be the new leader of the council. The problem was the propriety of the man. He wanted to make changes that would make life difficult for the Insidiis. Their needs aligned with Viktor Industria’s quite well, so the partnership was beneficial in every way. He had promised to lend some favors, should the Insidiis ever need it - the same vice versa. With the leader of the city on their side, the Insidiis had more control than any other criminal group.

Micali mused on her thoughts as they all walked, the streetlights of the mercantile district eventually more spaced out as they entered Estro Boris. It was probably a couple of hours later when the road narrowed down to an alley; they were close to their headquarters. The alley forced them to go in pairs. Talrigori walked alongside Micali, a hushed tone executed to keep the others occupied in their own conversations. “The combination was your birthday, Micali.”

She was taken aback. Talrigori wouldn’t lie about this, nor make jokes so idly. “You’re sure? I mean, the numbers were 11 and 12. I wasn’t born in Vesper or Umbra.”

“They were 2 and 5. The artist used an old script to work from - something only brushed up historians would know. You were born Somnus 2nd, yes?”

Micali could only respond with a slow nod. She didn’t understand.

Talrigori offered her a look as close to sympathetic as the enlil could probably muster. “I’ll look into this Io character. If he’s targeting us, we need to know who he is. And don’t worry, this stays between you and I.”

The laicar just tried to think of who could have either the motive or the means to do this. It almost felt as though she had been set up to some degree, though only they would know the combination. What was the point? Could it be coincidence?

Her thoughts were interrupted by Cidisti’s voice, raised and rampant. “She did what to Silas!?”
 

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