Circe sat on the opposite end of the same side as a guy named Rick who handled her online matters. He was currently looking through the e-mail account he set up for her monster hunting, ghost busting, and potion brewing business while she sat still and focused on bottling her power up as tight as she could. She could stop the electromagnetic pulse effect for brief periods of time and weaken it for longer, but it took concentration. She listened as well as she could while focusing so intently on clamping down on her power.
“Spam, spam, date request...and another one, and... you mind if I just block this guy?”
“Go right ahead.”
“Hey, this might be something. Dear Miss – well, you know your name, I am writing to, blah blah blah, I tried to resist believing the cause to be supernatural, blah blah blah, now at wits end. Please meet me to discuss removing the curse or haunting or whatever the matter is afflicting my studio - she gives some times and asks you to show up at the earliest one that's good for you. Thank you for your time and I hope for a swift reply, Scarlet Maine Morris.”
“Oh yay. I so need money,” Circe perked up and leaned over to look at the e-mail, causing Rick to automatically recoil away from her and move his mini computer as far away from Circe as he could hold it.
“WHOAH! I can go in there and print it out for you, remember what happened last time you looked at my screen?”
“Of course I do, the exact same thing that happens to every screen I get too close too. Anyway, if you want me to have money to pay you, go print that e-mail out.”
Rick gave her a sarcastic “Yes ma'am” and practically ran inside.
There turned out to be a meeting time soon enough for them to make it there and Circe decided to head over right away. She sat in the back seat to minimize damage to the car's engine and electronic parts and also to pretend she was being chauffeured about. The address was in a well to do but not extravagantly rich part of town, which prompted Circe to be hopeful, just a bit, for good payment on this one. They found the place they were looking for without too much trouble and rang the doorbell. There wasn't an answer, so Rick tried it again and it sounded weaker and kind of weird. He pushed it again and there was no door chime, he glared at Circe and she gave a carefree shrug. They waited a while longer and Circe knocked on the door.
Circe was about to consider leaving or having Rick call once she got far enough away but she made out a woman's voice hollering. It was indistinct at first but it grew louder for a while then there was a series of crashes from somewhere inside. Silence for a moment and then the voice resumed, soon clarifying to a clear cry of “Coming! Please wait!” and variations on that theme.
The door unlocked with some clear fumbling with the locks and then flew open, revealing a wet woman with a bathrobe that was struggling to cover her torso and not quite pulling it off, “Sorry, I'm so sorry. I was in the shower... how can I help you?”
Circe raised an eyebrow as the woman pulled the robe more over her breasts and struggled to tie the sash better, “I'm Circe, are you Scarlet Morris?”
“Yes! You're the...preternatural consultant, right?” Scarlet tried to readjust the towel on her head with one hand as she used the other to hold her robe shut.
Circe leaned on the door frame with one hand and played with her hair with the other, “I'm a mage. Sorceress if you like.”
“I, uh...oh! I'm sorry again, would you like to come in?” Scarlet stepped back away from the door, “I was getting ready, but would you like tea or coffee or anything?”
Circe had a weird feeling that Scarlet really didn't want to divert the time for preparing a drink, like she was somehow receiving a powerful suggestion to decline. Circe wasn't sure where the feeling came from but she could tell it was external and a rebellious streak in her pushed her to defy it. She accepted a coffee and Scarlet offered them a seat while and left for the kitchen.
“Our new client is absurdly hot. I mean you're gorgeous and all Circe, but she is...WOW.”
“What was that?” they barely heard Scarlet ask from the kitchen.
“I was just saying...” Rick looked horrified all of a sudden and stopped himself abruptly by clamping his hands down over his mouth for a moment before changing his answer, “NOTHING! Nothing you have to worry about!”
“What's she got that I don't got?” Circe asked in a 'put you on the spot' tone of voice.
“Uh, huge boobs?”
“Bah, my boobs are huge. Hers are a fucking comedy act. Anyway, she's my client and I saw her first, so you're out of luck.”
“Well, how about I assist you on this case and we'll just see which way she swings?”
“Pig,” she snorted quietly and looked over to see Scarlet returning with a tray and some tea, moving very slowly, “Do you want help?”
“Sorry, but I'm...clumsy...I fall over a lot. Generally forwards,” she gave a little laugh and pointed her chin down at her torso, “Actually I fell over just now when I was coming to answer the door...”
“I heard that, are you ok?”
“I'm...used to it,” Scarlet answered with a little smile, “anyway, we shouldn't talk about me, we should take about why I want to hire you, don't you think?”
“Yes, you're right” Circe answered before thinking about it, but immediately after she did she felt like she'd gotten a really strong suggestion to help Scarlet speed things along.
“I became co-owner of this building a couple years ago, it's kind of a club, there's a bar and game room. Restaurant and a stage... I used to perform rarely, but the last couple months have seen some people move on and I've been performing more regularly. That's about when...things started to happen.”
“Would you mind clarifying 'things' for me?”
Accidents, things breaking, people were hurt. Two went to the hospital and one was seriously injured enough to spend some time recovering. They started small and seemed to be growing worse and worse.
“I've considered closing us down, but so far almost everyone is committed to us staying open. I don't think that resolve will hold for much longer though, not if things keep getting worse. I don't want someone's death to be what shuts us down. I'm at my wit's end, do you think it's a haunting or something? I didn't believe...”
Circe was sure that Scarlet was projecting some kind of compulsion then, she felt nearly like she had to answer Scarlet immediately as soon as the question was asked.
“I don't think a haunting is that likely, you didn't mention anyone dying, just leaving.”
“I'm thinking it's more likely a curse or just sabotage.”
“Why would someone want to do that?”
“Maybe there was someone who thought they'd have a chance at getting more say in how things were run, or a rival act that thought they'd get their chance. Won't really know until I talk to everyone there and get it sorted out.”
“Do you have the time now...well, not now, but once I'm done getting ready, time to come down?”
There it was again, a really strong push to the answer Scarlet probably wanted, but now that Circe was aware of it she could take it in stride pretty well.
“I take it you're heading there, once you're done?”
“Yeah, uh, the usual act got sick and I'm having to fill in. Oh I'm going to be late... I'm sorry, but...”
“Hold a minute?”
“What is it?”
“You know, most people ask me to prove I can do magic, and I get the impression you're in a bit of a hurry. I think I can help you with something.”
“Well, I didn't see much point in doubting you, I'm already desperate enough to be going this route. What is it you want to do?”
“If you don't mind, take your hair out of the towel and turn your back to me for a bit, line of sight helps some.”
Scarlet looked at her a little funny but she did as she was asked and let an enormous mane of shining black hair tumble down her back. Circe stuck her hands out in front of her and started working magic. She called the nearby water to her and a stream of droplets rose from Scarlet's hair like a reverse rainfall and condensed into a ball in between Circe's hands. It only took a couple seconds for her to pull the water away and form a floating ball with it.
“Check out your hair.”
“Why...oh...oh wow, that's much faster than the hair dryer... that's a great trick to have,” Scarlet smiled at her, “I guess I have to believe you.”
Circe willed the water into a strange little shape and turned it into a chunk of ice and caught it in her hand, “Should I put this in a sink or anything?”
“You saw me head to the kitchen go ahead and put it in the one there. If you'll excuse me...”
“I could come along, help with the rest of you,” Circe said with a smirk and levitated a few droplets off of Scarlet's partially exposed torso, “if you like.”
Clearly that was too far, Scarlet blushed so hard her whole face and neck turned red and a lighter, more pink coloration extended down her chest a fair ways, “You stay right here! I won't be long!”
Scarlet turned around in a whirl of radiant black hair and stormed upstairs, Circe felt like she'd been hit with a restraining order made of concrete in a psychic way which was a really weird feeling.
“Rick, do you think you could get up if you wanted?”
“I...no, moving is going to be really hard...wait, there we go... what was that?” Rick stood up but looked uneasy, “...maybe I was wrong, maybe it would be more comfortable to stay here.”
“She's got some kind of mojo, that's for sure,” Circe concentrated a little and forced her foot forward, the first step was hard but the second easier and by the third she was free of that influence, “I'm just not sure what it is exactly...”
Circe waited a polite amount of time to let another woman get dressed and then went upstairs and knocked softly on the door, “are you ready?”
“Just about, go ahead and come in.”
Circe opened the door and found Scarlet wearing a little red mini dress that left most of her long legs exposed and opened a large look into her impressive cleavage, “Wow you are killing that thing.”
“Huh?” Scarlet looked at her dress and body every which way she could.
“I just mean you wear it really well. You look amazing.”
“Oh, oh right. Thank you very much. I guess I was just a little confused because when I say I'm killing
an outfit, I mean my... body's starting to tear it apart.”
Circe nodded, “I have that problem sometimes, but you must have it so much worse. How's your back anyways?”
“Often in agony, but I can't imagine that's what you came up here for,” Scarlet answered as she started to put a trench coat on over her little red dress.
“Well, I'm curious about that trick you do.”
“What trick is that?”
“That thing where everyone's compelled to do what you say. I'm a mage, Scarlet, we have a much stronger defense against that kind of thing than most people and still it's easier to oblige you than push through the effect.”
“I have no idea what you're talking about,” Scarlet pulled her long hair out from under the coat and let it fall behind her, “though...you're not the first person to accuse me of something like that... but most of the time they just say that they find it hard to disappoint me or something like that.”
“Don't try to lie to me, I can feel you have power even when you're not sending anything out.”
“Why would I lie? I'm not sure we're getting off on the right foot here, I fear this may be a mistake...”
“No, no, I'll take your case. I apologize for accusing you, but you really don't notice that people tend to do whatever you ask them?”
“I...huh, I always thought people were just accommodating. I think I've just been lucky in my friends and close acquaintances.”
Wow, if the power Circe had felt so far was what Scarlet was throwing out completely unconsciously... that was a kind of worrying thought. Well, actually, it occurred to Circe, that if she was part Fae or something, then Scarlet's power was an innate part of her and it wouldn't matter nearly as much whether she was doing it deliberately or subconsciously. Circe decided she'd make it a side mission to figure out what the source of Scarlet's power was.
“Alright, I'll trust you about it Scarlet. Would you care to tell me about who works in your building on the way, and maybe give me more details about your situation?”
“Alright, do you want to ride in my car? We can talk the whole way that way.”
Circe nodded and turned around to leave and noticed Scarlet's reflection in the mirror. She was a beautiful woman, no doubt, but her reflection lost something, “Hold on a moment, please.”
Circe turned to look at Scarlet and then back to the mirror and then did it a couple more times, “Now that's interesting...you have a glamour too.”
“I...” Scarlet frowned and shook her head, “I don't understand what you're talking about.”
“I look at you face to face and I see the most impossibly, fantastically gorgeous woman I've ever laid eyes on,”
“Uh, thank you...?” Scarlet fidgeted a little and blushed.
“However, in the mirror... you basically just look like a supermodel. Lovely, but not unnaturally so. Has anyone else ever told you anything like that?”
“Uh... you know, actually a couple times, more often people tell me I look better in person than in any photographs though. The mirror thing is not nearly as often as suggesting that I have some kind of influence over people though.”
“I was about to guess that you had Siren blood in you, but...Sirens don't glamour... maybe some kind of nymph?”
“We, really should get moving. We can keep talking on the way,” Scarlet walked by her and headed down the stairs.
'You know, glamour or not, I really would hit that like the fist of an angry god...' Circe shook her head, 'mind on the job girl!'
Scarlet had a nice, but not super top-end car and Circe said a little personal prayer for its GPS system and the like before getting in. Scarlet told them about who all worked in the building and on the stage shows and Circe was rather surprised by just how many people were employed at the place. Circe also insisted on coming up with a cover so they weren't introducing her as an investigator and tipping off anyone who might be throwing hexes around.
“How about...you're a new back up singer?”
Circe shook her head, “I can't carry a tune in a bucket.”
“It's true. She's been booed out of karaoke before,” Rick testified.
“I think we have about all the stage hand help we need, how are you with applying make up?”
“So-so. Do you do anything with back up dancers?”
She knew she'd never remember all the names Scarlet ran by her from a description and probably not after one meeting. The place was definitely on the nice end, but conformed to Scarlet's preference or economic station in not being the ritziest place around, which suited Circe well enough, it had a large outside court and fairly big parking area.
“This is it, huh? Nice place,” Circe forced down the desire to say something like 'hope I don't have to trash it in an epic magic duel.'
“We have a lowered ticket price a couple times a month so it's more affordable for most people, if you ever want to come in after this is over I can give you a schedule.”
“Oh so you just assume I'm poor huh?”
“Not poor exactly, but...”
“Hah, you're right, don't sweat it. I need money. It's just good motivation to get your problem solved as quickly as possible.”
Circe was introduced to everyone that was on shift and shown where the worst accidents had happened. Stage lights had fallen and shattered, severely cutting one of the workers and landing him in the hospital. The other big accident was electrical in a dressing room. Circe tried her best to decide who seemed suspicious and who didn't, but everyone was putting out the same nervous mood. She had told Scarlet that she didn't think it was a haunting but she looked around for the signs of it just to make sure. Her last magic teacher had liked to say that it wasn't a good idea to assume people knew what was wrong, but it wasn't smart to completely discount their thoughts because one assumed they knew better either. He didn't mentor her for long, not even a full two years and yet she kind of missed the old man sometimes, she hadn't seen or heard from him ever since he'd been mauled by a werewolf. She didn't know what happened to him after that, was he alive? Dead? Cursed? Why didn't anyone ever tell her what happened to him?
Circe discounted the idea of a haunting and started feeling around for obvious uses of magic. If there was someone hexing the place, it wasn't with enough power to leave lingering trails for long. For the heck of it she made a little board like she'd seen on TV shows back when she could watch TV with any kind of regularity and listed names and jobs and drew lines connecting them. Everyone gave her a time frame that matched with Scarlet's version of events so she made her the center of the board and went from there.
'Of course, with that power of hers... she might not be able to just walk up to someone and tell them to jump off a cliff, but used maliciously on a group of people for long enough...she could have them all believing the same concocted story, or hell...that red was blue and white was black, really.'
Scarlet seemed genuinely well-meaning to Circe, but she had to admit she might be a little blinded by some attraction to the woman. Still, she was pretty sure she wasn't so enamored as to be all that influenced and she just couldn't see a reason for her to call in Circe if she was the guilty party.
After a few hours of work Circe introducing herself and snooping around as much as she could she had a partial suspect list going.
Marrissa was a singer that had hoped to get more spotlight time that had her hopes mostly dashed and her limelight completely stolen by Scarlet's addition to the roster. It made her a definite suspect in Circe's eyes, but wasn't that a little too easy? Same went for a back up singer called Alice that might have gotten a chance to move to the forefront until Scarlet started doing shows.
Tom was the co-owner of the building, it he'd had more money at the time he might have ended up the sole owner but he ended up having to share ownership with Scarlet to keep it open. It wasn't impossible that he was aiming a curse at her to try to become the sole owner...
Stage workers, make up artists, maintenance crews, hell even cooks, waiters, and a bunch of other positions. They didn't have such obvious motives to her, but it was hard to thin that crowd down.
“How's it going Circe?”
“Hey Rick, I'm at a wall honestly. I have three pretty good suspects, but I think I've made the assumption that Scarlet is the target. If someone else is the target or they just want the place to get shut down...I have no clue.”
“Did you try that handshake thing?”
“Eh, people get defensive if you get too pushy so I've been working on that. Anyway all that does is tell me that someone has some talent, it doesn't tell me if they're doing anything and sometimes minor talents or even just normal people can use spells out of a book.”
“Still it would narrow it down to who's most likely able to pull it off, right?”
“There's a point there. You know, I actually kind of hope that my whole suspect pool turns out to be the guilty parties.”
“Why on earth would you want three suspects?”
“It's just not going to be a fight otherwise,” Circe said with a grin.
“Aren't you like five times stronger than the average mage your age?”
“... close enough. Anyway, mages actually get a bit of a power boost when working together in symbolically important numbers. Three is common, seven is a stronger boost but naturally it's harder to get that many mages working together, and thirteen is of course even harder and mostly used for dark stuff anyway.”
Circe went ahead and watched Scarlet deliver a performance, her skimpy red dress sparkled under the stage light in a way that made her think just a little bit of Jessica Rabbit, not that she'd seen that movie or anything that wasn't in a drive in any time recently... Scarlet's performance was hard to call anything but perfect regardless of the song's tone or style. She was gifted at it, and Circe was sure supernaturally so. If she wasn't part or whole Siren, then...maybe Udine Circe wondered, though that brought up a question of variant. It seemed unlikely to Circe, Scarlet didn't look like a strong swimmer to her. Though after a moment's thought she realized she might be looking at it from the wrong angle – Scarlet arguably had some pretty potent flotation devices on her chest there.
Circe went back to looking around and trying to casually fit in touching anyone she could, though she did have the issue that any magic talent touching her was generally going to be pretty alarmed unless they were heavyweight themselves. She was almost clear of the backstage when she noticed the lights flicker and felt a surge of magical power. Something was about to happen and she frantically reached out with her magical senses trying to figure out where it was or what it was aiming at. She had a strong sense that she should return to the stage and ran out as quickly as she could.
She got there just in time as the lights went out and a ton of the strong overhead stage lights exploded in a shower of glass. Willing her barrier shield into existence she stretched it out much further than normal, focusing on upwards. The shards of glass bounced off but then she had to deal with the issue of levitating glass. Fortunately the lights were gone enough that no one could really see what was going on right now. Circe shifted her barrier to let the glass fall along it and to an unoccupied part of the stage.
The emergency lights came on and Circe saw someone run from the audience area out a back door. Circe ran to the front of the stage and hopped down. She ran along the front for a a moment before she heard Scarlet asking her what was happening. Then Scarlet fell off the stage and landed on her, cutting her pursuit short. Circe tried to push herself up and found her head coming up in between Scarlet's over-sized breasts.
“Not now woman, context for crying out loud!”
“Uh, what? Sorry, I'm sorry,” Scarlet tried to get off of Circe but she slipped or something and Circe was hit with the tall woman's weight again.
“How have you never gotten a reduction? Damn woman these things are heavy!”
“I know, believe me, but sorry, I'm so sorry about this!”
“Stop apologizing and just get off me!” Circe got further up this time, but Scarlet was a ways taller than her and her weight was hardly nothing.
By the time they got themselves untangled and standing up Circe knew the fleeing figure was long gone, but she ran to the door anyway. There was no sign of whoever was running away now, they were well away. Circe turned back and looked for any signs of magic having been cast in the audience seating, but there wasn't anything. Well, at least it was evidence that there was more than one person working together.
The rest of the day passed without incident and Circe spent a lot of it helping clean up the shattered glass anyway. She swore she searched the place from top to bottom but she couldn't find any signs of ritual hexing or the like. She took a break for a while as it turned to evening and actually sat in the audience as Scarlet performed another song under a solitary spotlight leaving the instrument players in the dark. Circe thought back to Sirens again, it wasn't hard to imagine someone being so desperate to find the source of that voice that they ended up killing themselves in the process. Still, there was a slightly seductive angle to her appeal that didn't quite fit with what she knew of them...
Circe stayed late, past most of the workers and looked the place over again. She really had no idea what to think, investigating things wasn't her strong suit. Not when it came to human practitioners abusing the art anyway. She was getting pretty good at identifying the monster or whatever responsible when it was a creature, but the human side sleuthing was lacking to date. She was outside walking along various buildings in the area having grown tired of searching inside. She thought about an internet comic that Rick had printed out for her once where the protagonist decided to try and do what Batman would do and found some random thugs in a warehouse to beat up. So, to transfer to her situation... what would Harry Dresden do? She looked at a dark alley she was walking by and thought to herself, 'Harry Dresden would go down this back alley and get attacked by some big, ugly, nigh-magic proof monster.'
Circe stared down the alley for a few seconds before telling herself, 'we'll call that Plan B...'
“Circe! Circe! Where are you?” Scarlet's voice called out to her and Circe went looking for her, when she found Scarlet, Circe was immediately impressed with how well the woman's voice carried. Give her a megaphone and she could address half the city...
“Hey, I'm here. What's up?”
“I'm just going home. Since you rode here with me I can't exactly leave you stranded.”
“Right. Yeah, it's getting late, isn't it?”
“Very. You know, I've never gotten a cellphone number from you, it'd make getting in touch with you easier while you're investigating.”
“I don't have one. Side effect of my brand of magic is that we don't really get to use fancy electronics.”
“I see. Is that why my car's computer systems are glitching all of a sudden?”
Circe smiled a little nervously as she fidgeted and said, “Sorry about that.”
“It's just some features in a car, a small price to pay for the way you kept anyone from getting hurt today. If you can stop this before anyone dies, I'll happily part with every electronic device I have.”
Circe was cut off in her retort when the wind picked up all of a sudden, enough to throw her off balance and swoosh her skirt around in ways that probably bordered on what larger society would consider indecent. Scarlet wobbled even more than she did and Circe caught her arm to help her remain standing. She felt magic on the wind and was sure whoever was messing with the stage show was behind this, it just felt too much alike. She started to walk as best she could and help Scarlet along when a nearby tree broke with a loud crack and a large branch flew right at them.
Scarlet's startled reaction nearly knocked both of them down, but Circe was a somewhat strong girl and she kept upright. She countered with a spell that funneled wind into a tight area with enough force to stall the branch in mid-air and let it drop to the ground. Well, either Scarlet was the target or they'd figured out she was a mage, and if they didn't know that before they did now. Circe looked around to see if she could see anyone but the wind was already fading so they'd probably left.
Circe and her electronic matters assistant Rick got back into Scarlet's car when they couldn't find signs of anyone casting magic and headed back for Scarlet's to get Rick's car and Scarlet to retire for the night. Rick dozed off here and there and Circe and Scarlet did some talking. Scarlet didn't really want to believe any of Circe's suspect list, but she didn't ant to suspect anyone else herself. Circe decided that Scarlet wasn't going to be of much input on this part of things, so she'd have to be suspicious of people on her own.
“Circe. You asked me why I never got a reduction.”
“I guess I did, but I was just frustrated from....well, you know what happened.”
“I get sick pretty easily, and I have a chronic condition I don't want to discuss in depth right now, so I spend a fair amount of time down sick or in the hospital as it is. I don't want to spend more time in them than I have to, so I carry on with my awkwardly large torso.”
“I guess I get that. I didn't really need an answer though, it was a bit of a heat of the moment thing.”
“I'm also allergic to more antibiotics than I'm not... so the idea of any surgery is very scary to me. Do you think I'm a coward?”
“Scarlet...I'm not sure whether to hug and console you or to slap you around and scream there's no way an adult human being is that fragile...”
Scarlet looked at her in the mirror with a slightly alarmed expression.
“More seriously though, no. You stayed there all day even though someone seems to be trying to kill you.”
“It might not be me that they're trying to hurt. I really couldn't leave everyone there to fend for themselves to look after myself if I'm not the one they're trying to get, right?”
Circe took what might have been a little too much joy in kicking Rick awake when they got to Scarlet's place. She bid her client goodnight and got Rick to drive her back close enough to her house that she could walk back easily. She considered trying to do something regarding her case and knew she probably should, but she was just really tired and went straight to sleep. The next morning she took the bus to Scarlet's, figuring Rick probably had things to do.
Looking around once again Circe found something she wasn't sure why she would have missed before. Someone had set a bunch of channeling lines, invisible to anything but magical senses, all around the building and going off in every direction. That surely had to be preparation for something, but Circe just didn't know what. Eating lunch Circe had a sudden epiphany, set her food to the side, and hit her head against the table.
“AUGH! STUPID! I'm an idiot!”
“Uh...are you ok?” a passerby asked her, looking concerned at her outbreak.
“I have a freaking cheat code to this problem and she's the one who hired me!” Circe leaped up out of her seat and ran off to find Scarlet.
People looked at her for a moment in confusion, but they weren't personally invested and went back to their own lives quickly.
“I don't know about this...”
“Trust me, you have the power. Hell, people are so accommodating to you I'm surprised you didn't think to ask if anyone was causing problems yourself.”
“I didn't think they'd just tell me if they were... I mean, if criminals just confessed as soon as someone asked them, police would have a much easier time of it, right?”
“With whatever power you have, people barely have a choice. If nothing else the person that fights not to answer you when you ask them is a pretty strong suspect!”
“That may be... but, might a person like that get violent when confronted? I'm...well, see for yourself,” Scarlet held out a hand, “try and push me around or control my arm.”
“You're like six feet tall...”
“Good guess at that, spot on really, but try me here.”
Circe went ahead and grabbed Scarlet's arm and was surprised to find it very easy to control and to push Scarlet around. She had her try a more conventional arm wrestling pose and found it confirmed that Scarlet was quite weak.
“Ok, you're not going to be winning any fights on your own. I get that. Don't worry though, I can handle it.”
“Should we...I don't know, call people in by groups or something?”
“I think there are multiple people working together. Probably they're very new to hexes and curses, or else this would have been a lot worse a while ago. Playing with a spell book they found maybe. I think we'd tip them off if we did it by groups, people talk. I think we should just get everyone together all at once.”
Circe hadn't actually meant everyone, she figured the janitorial staff and the like weren't very probable suspects because they would just be making more work for themselves with these hexes and spells breaking things, but they arranged every creative and managerial person into a line up on the stage floor.
Circe stood in about the center of the stage and the line up, “Hey people, everyone's well aware that there have been a lot of accidents here recently, right? Well, I'm really here to investigate why and I feel like I know what's going on. At least one of you has gotten a hold of something and is trying to cast a curse on the place.”
She was met with laughter, but she expected that, she turned to Scarlet and said, “Now it's time for your line.”
Scarlet took up the microphone Circe was standing in front of nervously, “If anyone here is responsible. I would like to ask you if you would please raise your hand?”
Circe smirked and Scarlet gasped in shock when someone's hand did indeed fly up, though they caught it with their other hand before it was fully extended. The woman gave the two of them a hateful glare as she stepped back and the crowd looked at her in surprise. It took her a bit to place the name to the face, but Anna was an instrument player...not one of her suspects, which was annoying. Circe was a little disappointed that there was just the one, but she could live with it. She walked forward to grab the girl when something flew in her direction from her right side. It hit her and she nearly stumbled into Scarlet. Seems the accomplice was more prepared for Scarlet's power than Anna was. Circe turned and again this person wasn't one of her suspects. In fact this time she couldn't remember their name.
'Man...I suck at this detective thing.'
Circe was hit with a blast of electricity and stumbled back a step, but it barely hurt her. She was about to retort with more force in kind when Anna threw a fireball. She moved in the way to deflect it from Scarlet. Clearly being caught caused a panic and they weren't concerned with anything looking like an accident any more. The other people in the room responded the generally accepted as sane response to people suddenly throwing fire and lightning at each other and started leaving as quickly as they could.
“Scarlet! Maybe you should encourage them to keep orderly!”
“Yes, you're right. People! Please keep orderly and calm! No running over anybody!”
“You girls care to take this outside?” Circe asked calling fire to both hands, “fighting in a burning building isn't fun. Take it from me.”
Circe made a run for the doors out back since the least people ran that way, but made sure to cast enough magic around to draw their attention. She made her fireballs much cooler than her usual combat blasts and had them explode outwards slightly before hitting either girl, trying to avoid serious burns. She let one get out ahead of her and knocked her out the door with a gust of wind. She made as though she was continuing the attack and her partner followed. She kept up the act for a bit until she was in about the middle of the courtyard out the front. Now she could do some proper stomping without burning something down.
She was just starting to build up the electricity to knock down the two newbies when the earth shook under her and made her lose her balance. She turned around to see a somewhat older man sporting a wand and staff.
“Who the hell are you?”
“I'm Greg, I own the building next door. I was hoping to expand, but it seems these two have bungled things.”
“Dang it! I really suck at this detective thing...” Circe wanted to stomp something, these three should do.
Greg made a quick swish through the air with his wand and raised his staff up high. He brought it down to the ground and a flash of power marked the strike. With the blow he shouted “Transfusio!” and the lights in all the buildings for several blocks around blinked out in short order. With a gesture much of the electrical power he'd pulled from the nearby buildings flowed to his assistants and with the magical boost caused by three mages working together, Circe could sense the increased threat, she willed her chain to loosen and it dropped to the ground, forming a powerful aura of lightning in the shape of a serpent around twelve feet long. She pulled the water flowing through a fountain away to form a circle around herself and made chunks of it solidify into ice, to float along in the current circling her.
Circe spun back and forth between her opponents, keeping the bulk of the water between her and her current attacker and would send a block of ice flying at them at high speed. Anna and the other girl didn't have their barriers very well practiced and sometimes a piece would get through, but Greg was easily in enough control that the projectiles didn't threaten him. It was a risky strategy, but Circe wanted to drag things out a little. It'd be boring to win too quickly. Her chain dashed back and forth trailing electricity, but she wasn't able to focus on it and it was mainly serving as a distraction at this point, though it did sometimes make someone move.
When there was no longer enough water circling her to shield her whole body at once she made it turn into dozens of bladed icicles and hurled them at Greg at high speed and shifted to using her barrier magic. Circe was starting to get just a touch dizzy from trying to keep up with three opponents, but all in all she was kind of having fun so far. Though it did come to her mind that she probably didn't want to say she hoped she didn't trash the place in an epic magic duel was because it wouldn't have been the truth in a way.
“Michelle! Stop please!” Circe turned to look at the mage she hadn't known the name of with some shock and saw Scarlet approaching her with trepidation from behind. The young mage had stopped in the middle of a spell, surprised by Scarlet's appearance and direct plea, “I can't believe this is what you want. Can you really want to hurt me so badly you'd help cause all this? Do you really hate me so?”
The mage, Michelle apparently, struggled with her partial spell for a moment and wavered for a while before managing to concentrate her resolve and bring the spell to life, “Honestly? I really kind of do.”
Michelle had turned her attack away from Circe and aimed it at Scarlet, but the moments it took her to force herself past Scarlet's compulsive voice gave Circe enough time to ready an attack. Distracted, her barrier was weak and the torrent of wind and lightning Circe threw at her cut through it, slammed into her and threw her to the ground convulsing with electrical current. Fortunately Scarlet had aimed her approach cautiously and was able to duck out of the way of the attack spells thrown her way, taking cover behind a thick piece of stone work.
“Alright people, this is as good as over!” Circe started to pull the water and ice back towards herself, “No power of three boost anymore, you can't win now.”
She wasn't that surprised to get a couple more bursts of fire and lightning thrown at her, but she absorbed the power on her shield pretty easily. She threw out some fire and lightning against Anna and when she was busy focusing on deflecting it entirely Circe had her chain come back and dive into the water she'd assembled around herself. She had the water collect around it as a watery serpent and slither around to Anna's back while she continued to blast her defenses. The watery mass jumped into her, splattering all around her and turned to ice, locking the woman in place. Circe smirked over the win triumphantly, but suddenly realized she hadn't been needing to keep her barrier up since nothing had been striking it.
“Hey, dude, you give up? That would be... oh, crap.”
The last mage standing against her for the cause of destruction and mayhem had taken advantage of her focusing on defeating the girls and drawn up a summoning circle. She hadn't heard the incantations, but now the circle of runes was glowing with power. Something seemed a little odd though, and she realized what it was when the runes turned black, the local light faded for no clear reason, and something about 9 feet tall and made of over-sized fangs and claws climbed its way up out of the pavement.
“Ah damn it, don't summon something out of Nightmare, that's...”
Whatever the monstrosity was it decided not to listen to whatever its summoner was saying and turned around and chomped down on him mid-sentence.
“...just stupid,” Circe finished in futile fashion as the last mischievous mage was promptly chewed up by the monster.
“Um, I don't suppose there's any chance...”
Circe made a little startled jump when she heard Scarlet's voice coming from much closer than she expected her to be, “Nah, that thing won't listen to you. Not unless you can find its banishment spell somehow. Go ahead and run away, I've got this.”
Circe turned to face the monster and started channeling fire in one hand and lightning in the other and made a slow walk towards the monster. A great plume of each shot up into the sky, lighting the area and blurring her vision just a bit with their luminescence. The monster took its time cleaning up its meal and turned to face her like it really didn't care.
“Do you hope to intimidate me by burning away your power? The young mages of this era are even more foolish than --”
Circe shouted as she raised her hands over her head and cut off the power. Far overhead was a ball of blazing intense heat crackling with a dozen lightning bolts worth of electrical power circling it. Circe pulled her hands down and the massive ball of combined power launched itself down at the monster like a meteor. It slammed the creature into the asphalt even as it melted a crater into the area. Circe flicked a few bits off of her arms, largely unharmed by the heat generated by her own spell. The discharge of electrical power made some interesting shapes as it sparked about.
The monster stood back up, dripping melted material from its hide and shook itself off, “Hmm, I guess you're one with some talent. Not enough though.”
It ran at Circe and swiped an over-sized hand with even more over-sized claws down at her head, but she'd already pulled out her wand and focused a line of heat from the end of it. Blazing white the fire magic was incredible in its head, but focused into a thread-like structure. She had to admit it was basically just her magic lightsaber, but when she slashed upwards and cut the monster's talons from its body she couldn't feel like it was a bad choice of weapon. The other hand lashed out and its claws raked against her barrier and she felt it falter under its dark magic power infused claws, but it held them at bay in the end.
Circe stepped away but she made her smirk as obnoxious as she could manage, “Oh please, I'm still playing.”
The monster roared and slammed the ground with its hands, one to little effect, but the other cut gouges into the parking lot. It fired a beam of black, possibly tinged with dark blue or purple out of its mouth at her and she put all her willpower into her barrier. The blast hit her defenses and tested them, but the beam worked around her and she could see that the things it struck seemed to just dissolve. When the blast lightened up Circe threw a quick fireball at its face and turned to run. She ran to the large, decorative stone that Scarlet had hid behind before and vaulted over it. She spun around as she landed and raised her hands to her earrings and flicked them forward.
The combined kinetic energy of every bounce and jangle that her earrings had undergone for the last several weeks was saved up in her jewelry and when she flicked them forward it was unleashed all at once. The rock was blasted forward into the monster with enough force to break in half as it struck its head. The monster snapped backwards from the force and spun around before collapsing to the ground. Circe could see some sort of nearly black ooze leaking from various parts of its head, but she didn't think she'd really done it massive damage.
“How you like me now?” Circe taunted and even gave the monster a little flippant gesture with her own rear.
The monster took her taunt in a way she didn't anticipate and a tail covered in bladed extensions of the spinal chord, protruding out of its skin ending in a blade-like thagomizer launched at her at high speed. Circe made a surprised yelp as she tried to jump away and barely raised her shield in time to deflect it.
The monster stood up slowly, deep breaths shaking its body – most likely along with rage – and more ooze creeping down its body, “I think I'm going to enjoy eating you feet first, bitch.”
“Do I get any last words?” Circe smiled and put her hands behind her back as she called on lightning to form in them.
“Whatever you can get out before it's all just screams, sure,” it lunged at her with its fang-filled mouth wide open.
Circe threw both hands out in front of her and screamed “THORSBOLT TIMES TWO!”
Throwing her signature attack twice at once was a drain and Circe fell to one knee with the act, barely catching herself, but the demonic monster was hurled nearly a hundred feet until it crashed into the middle of a van with enough force to nearly collapse the vehicle upon itself. Circe wondered just how likely it was to be dead and quickly decided it probably had something left in it so she advanced with some caution. She was starting to feel some fatigue from all her spell slinging, but she wasn't exhausted just yet.
This time the monster screamed with rage but possibly more pain as it picked itself up, dropping teeth and dorsal spiked on the ground as it rose to most of its height. It grabbed the remains of the van and threw it at Circe, followed by another couple of vehicles in the lot. They bounced off of Circe's barrier with little harm done but the monster used them to obscure its approach and actions. It came at her with blackish crackling energy replacing its burned off claws on one hand. She raised her wand and willed her fire cutting spell to extend from it again, managing to get the false blade up in a block as her shield gave way to the savage cutting swipe. She was knocked back but unharmed and it put her in a good spot to roll away from its still physical claws, leaving them to cut out tracks in the parking lot only.
Circe and the demon stopped in surprise at the sound of someone reciting a bit of Latin and gibberish that was still recognizable as a banishing spell. Circe looked past it and saw Scarlet coming out of the building next door with a spell book, filled with little sticky post-it style bookmarks.
“No, I don't think so!” the demon turned and ran at her but it was smashed back into the ground again by an 'ignaize' spell from Circe.
“Hey, eyes on me big guy. I'm the threat here,” Circe frowned and yelled out a suggestion to Scarlet about fixing the pronunciation of a word she'd just said.
The monster snarled as its body started to dissolve and sink into the ground, symbolic of returning to the monstrous realm from where it came and it struggled to advance on the woman with the hypnotic voice. It had no luck though, as Circe would just knock it down again and deflect any of the attacks it aimed at her. Soon it was gone and she and Scarlet stood opposite each other from where it had once been.
“You went looking for his book?”
“I thought it might be a little more useful than just cowering somewhere, though that had a lot of appeal too... I got very lucky in finding it in time, and I'm even luckier that he bookmarked it so thoroughly,” Scarlet turned the book around so Circe could see the notes written on the various bookmarks throughout the book, “I just hope I was at least a little help.”
“You know Scarlet? Not bad at all. I'm impressed by your bravery, honest. It was my job, my fight. You didn't need to intervene,” Circe honestly felt like she didn't need the help, she might have actually been exhausted after blasting the demon away with brute force but she was sure she could do it. Still, she was touched and happy that Scarlet had done everything she reasonably could have to help her. Doing it without really ending up in danger was all the better too.
“Thank you Scarlet, you didn't have to come back the first time, let alone a second time. Still, I hope I can get my full commission.”
“Oh that won't be a problem! Um, I know they were up to a lot of mayhem, but I hope that at least Anna and Michelle are alive...”
“Um...I really probably should check on...which one did I leave trapped in ice again?” Circe rushed off to check on the other mages.
Circe was feeling pretty good when Scarlet paid her. The other two mages were still alive, though they might need some patching up. She didn't make the most cash so it was welcome, the fight was a lot of fun, and she was feeling even more attracted to Scarlet after her deeds.
“Say, Scarlet? Do you have any grandparents with a mysterious past?”
“Or even one of your parents. I'm sure you have a supernatural lineage, but I can't figure out what it is. I think at least someone in the last couple generations was a Fae being of some sort. It happens sometimes, they join with a mortal and have a kid. Since there's always been a stigma against the supernatural they often don't tell their kids. Sometimes it can't be avoided, but...you've seemingly gone your whole life not realizing the power your very voice holds.”
“You know, I really don't know. I'm pretty sure my parents aren't that abnormal, but I never really met any of my grandparents. Not so recently that I can remember them anyway. Maybe I'll look into them and see if I can find something out.”
“Alright. So, Scarlet, now that that's settled...how's your dating life? Are you available? Open to dating girls?”
“I don't date.”
“You don't date girls? Well, that makes me...”
“I don't date.”
“At all...? But you're... no way. Are you saying you're... cake-joke making, purple, white, and gray pride flag...you're...”
“Heh, I'm not so active, but yes. I'm not...into people like that.”
“Why the ridiculously sexy little get up then?”
“Um, it kind of helps sell tickets? Look, I'm not going to object if people approve of my aesthetic appearance, but that doesn't mean I'm doing anything with them. Especially not of the intimate variety.”
“Well that seems a waste,” Circe turned away and sighed.
“A waste how?” Scarlet suddenly sounded more worked up than Circe had heard her yet, “there are enough people! We're safe! I have some good genes, sure, but also some really crappy ones. I don't have to have kids or a romantic relationship for my life to have meaning! You can't say it's a waste that I don't want to do that kind of thing! My body is flawed and weak even if it looks good to people, but it's my body, it doesn't have to be 'used' by someone else!”
“I see I touched a nerve, I'm sorry, I didn't want to offend you. I hope we meet again, and we can be friends at least.”
“I'd like that. As long as there aren't people in danger again,” Scarlet shook her hand with a magnificently happy smile.