Connor and Eileen were still a tad tied up, away from the scene. No matter how hard they tried, they couldn’t escape from their bondage at all. Those vines and branches were like Iron…and that stuffed animal weighed more than Sloth did.
“Let us out, we never did anything to you,” Connor said.
“Yes you did,” Alana’s voice said from nearby, “If I let you go, you’d be going right back to Topham and telling us about what happened, “And he’d send an entire army of you guys right here to arrest us all and take us to the island with everyone else.”
“What Island?” Connor asked.
“It’s in the South Pacific. What, do you not get trusted enough to go there? You’d be surprised what you’ll find there…you already use Incarnations willy-nilly. You sure Topham’s the right person to be answering to?”
“You don’t know Topham like I do!” Eileen snapped, “That man saved my life – Connor’s life too. He gave us a home. He trained us to use our magic powers.”
“The same guy who harbors exorcists who send demons to kill innocent parents?”
“What?” Connor asked.
“Ask about Sharlow sometime…ask about how he turned is back on that ‘Rogue Cabal’. He indirectly killed my parents you know. Did Topham offer me a home? Nope. And I’m probably young enough to be your daughter.”
“How old are you?!” Eileen asked, stunned.
“I’m going to be sixteen soon.”
Eileen sighed a little – she herself was nineteen. And Connor was only twenty-one, even though he looked fourteen when he shaved. But still, what was she saying?
Finally, the owner of the voice stepped into view…at least, what they could see of her. She most definitely couldn’t have been any older than seventeen tops. Although they couldn’t see her face entirely, she had it covered by a masquerade mask.
“Why not go ask him yourselves if he’s such a father to you?” Alana said.
“How do I know you’re really telling us the truth?” Connor asked, “You’re a member of that Rogue Cabal I bet! Just let us go and we won’t do anything to you that hurts!”
“You’re calling us a rogue cabal? Let me guess, Topham said we’re all evil. Yet who’s the one using Incarnations out to stop us?”
“Sloth is the only incarnation who’s out here!”
“Try asking about the person in the iron mask, or the flaming skeleton. Or the Goo man.”
Connor suddenly got an idea.
“If you know the Incarnations so much, why don’t you say them to summon them?”
“Name them,” Alana said.
“They’re not in the world, why’re you dodging their names? Like Sorrow.”
Alana’s eyes widened.
“AH-AH-AH! Don’t say that!” She shouted.
“Sorrow! Sorrow! Sorrow! Sorrow!” Connor said.
Suddenly, the twisted visage of Sorrow appeared right next to Alana. Eileen and Connors’ eyes then widened, for neither of them had seen any Incarnation other than Sloth, whom they told was safe since he was too lazy to fight anyone.
Sorrow floated two feet above the air and looked around, before settling her dead eyes on Alana.
“Aha, you must be the controller who escaped the island.”
Alana turned tail and ran away, leaving Sorrow to look over at Connor and Eileen, giving up on her chase. After all, controllers were weak enough that Sorrow could take care of them herself.
“So, you must have been the ones Sloth was helping. No wonder he’s been banished, you weren’t helping him.”
Eileen and Connor were still speechless at the sight. A combination of the bindings and the sight of an Incarnation who wasn’t Sloth. They never expected to actually see them…
“You two must be some of Topham’s protégés,” Sorrow said, “Allow me, I can get rid of these things for you.”
Sorrow floated over to Connor and begun to rip the vines, mumbling something about ‘nature spirits’. She tried to move the plush panda off of Eileen’s chest only for it to be much heavier than she thought.
“…never mind, I’ll have to take you back to the twentieth house…to London,” Sorrow said as she grabbed Connor and Eileen’s hands, both of them visibly (and audibly) startling on her icy gaze.
Not two minutes after she teleported the two out, leaving only Journey’s stuffed Panda behind did Alana return with the other three.
“They were right here…what happened to sor-her?”
“She must have taken Connor and Eileen back…either way, we must get out of here. Mister? Can you turn into a feral lion? Just because we have a truck.”
“I don’t see why Journey can’t ride in the back with one of her plushies,” Alana said.
“Hey!” Journey responded.
Keyes had been taken to the island where Topham’s base was. Unlike Eileen and Connor, he had been closer to Topham’s inner circle than they were, much like Sharlow. He still had bandages wrapped around his chest where Peter had scratched him with his claws. However, contrary to what you would expect to do, Keyes was too busy rubbing over his wounds through the bandages.
“Why must it sting so much,” Keyes groaned, stroking his chest where the scratches were, “Chest…chest…chest…chest…cheeeessstt…”
The more he stroked his freshly bandaged wounds, the more blood soaked through the gauze and padding, as one of his scratches opened back up. He thankfully wasn’t alone in their recovery room, since Sharlow had been with him. Sharlow looked over at Keyes, poking his stinging wounds and just rolled his eyes.
“Keyes, the more you stroke those, the slower they’re going to heal,” Sharlow simply stated.
“I know that!” Keyes snapped.
Sharlow simply rolled his eyes again, “We should put Apathy in you again…I liked you better that way.”
Topham wasn’t present at the island, though. A cabal as powerful as the Twentieth House had a lot more bases around the world, namely in the northern hemisphere where most of the world’s wealth and political power resided. Currently, he was inside his office inside the UK building, the oldest of such bases, as well as one of the most public.
In front of him sat Connor and Eileen. When he had last spoken to them, they had been in the house in Vermont, and had been sent out to Northern Colorado in Flyover Country to speak to the public. Topham had quite a shock when he received a phone call from Eileen saying that they were taken into the British house and had to speak to him about their assignment, with Keyes guarding them.
He had heard the full news of what happened from Keyes describing that they had spotted a were-lion, but had failed to capture or recruit him. But, he had not had a chance to hear from Eileen and Connor, who were not entirely on the same page as Topham on certain matters.
“So explain exactly what happened,” He told the two.
“We met some people from a rogue cabal, who went to assist the were-lion,” Eileen said.
“Which we failed to capture.” Connor said, looking down.
“I’m not going to kill you for failing,” Topham said, “What kind of cabal would this be if we killed our own numbers if they failed?”
Eileen then spoke up next.
“Well. We had to summon Sloth because we would lose any confrontations with a were-lion, but I think he’s been lost if…she was right.” She obviously referred to Sorrow, wanting to be careful saying her name.
“Yep, I sensed that…it’s a shame, Sloth and Sorrow were the only Incarnations we had under our control and hadn’t needed to banish,” Topham added.
“The other issue I wished to point out,” Connor said, “Why did you tell us that Sloth was the only Incarnation that we had under our control? If we had known that sooner…”
“I did not want you to unintentionally summon her,” Topham added.
“But even then,” Eileen said, “I had told them that people try to summon incarnations, and we happen to have two under our control. You told me that Sloth was an emergency because he trusted us.”
“And it was, you were good for that,” Topham said, “I commend both of you for knowing when you had to summon Sloth. If it weren’t for Sloth, you would have been killed by that were-lion and those other cabals.”
“But they didn’t even hurt us. A nature spirit who was summoned only trapped Connor, and I was pinned down with a stuffed animal. We were held right there, vulnerable, but we weren’t finished off. They had someone who was almost our age, and claimed that Sharlow indirectly killed her parents. Sharlow would never do that, he can’t hurt anyone except in self-defense.”
Topham sighed a bit.
“Did we mention something bad?”
“No, not at all…it seems I may have to speak with Sharlow about something. He used to be in a rogue Cabal before joining us and undermining them. They had already attempted to summon an Incarnation only for the ceremony to go wrong, causing many deaths. That’s the thing with some dark rituals; sometimes they try and claim a price through equivalent exchange.”
“Who did they try to summon?” Connor asked.
“I don’t even know myself, but that was in the past. It seems that some of those old cabalists left a daughter out there…so tragic. Both of you may go now.”
“Where’s Keyes, though?” Eileen said, “We accidentally left him in America.”
“He’s healing in a hospital out in Colorado, you don’t need to worry about him. I heard the news myself.”
“Well, we should not take up any more of your time. I understand you need to meet with certain ministers.”
Connor and Eileen stood up and walked out of the room, closing the door beforehand. Topham seemed to gaze into space for a few minutes, making absolute sure that none of them was outside the door, listening in on him. He checked the room, looking around for any little thing that the two could be scrying through.
Both of them had learned their lesson, although Topham felt a little sad that they hadn’t attempted to listen in on him again. Both of them had attempted that so much when they were younger, he almost thought it a game to see what kind of crazy scheme they would hatch up next. But now it seems they had matured, at least enough to not try and fool him. Not someone as experienced as the head of the Twentieth House at least.
Topham opened one of the drawers in his desk and pulled out a small crystal, placing it onto a small object that acted like a stand. He tapped it with a finger and watched the crystal light up, slightly clouding over.
“This is Sharlow,” Sharlow’s voice came through the other line, clearer than any telephone on the market.
“This is Topham,” He said, “Connor and Eileen have reported back from America.”
“I heard from Sorrow that they know about her, at least,” Sharlow responded.
“This is also concerning something different…something that Keyes probably couldn’t have told you.”
“Yes I know that Werelion claws hurt and that their wounds don’t heal soo-“
“I’m talking about where you used to be aligned with…that couple who died as you turned on the cabal?”
“…Who?” Sharlow added.
Topham sighed, “You might know. Those two who attempted to fight off three Incarnations at once. You described that they died in vain before you could take them.”
“Oh, the Millers, what about them? Are their ghosts back?”
“No,” Topham said, “They left a daughter behind. One who wants revenge on all of us. Why did you not tell me about this? You knew her parents. We could have had someone else like Courtney, Anwar, Liane,, Connor, and Eileen. You know I don’t like leaving spirituals out with rogue cabals and quote unquote normal.”
“I did not actually know myself – the fact the two had a daughter themselves is news to me.”
“Something as important as having a daughter is not exactly something you miss the memo on,” Topham said, “She might have even been that person on the island, too.”
“Well, more pressing than me not having known a daughter from fifteen years ago is the fact that we’ve lost Sloth and you can’t resummon him for…how long?”
“Sloth was a pawn, fair and simple,” Topham said, “If there’s any other ‘rogue Incarnation’ we should be worried about, it’s Torment because his host isn’t quite ready yet. However, I do have the feeling that the seed I planted twenty-five years ago should have taken root right about now. You shouldn’t have to wait longer…”
“Good, because Wrath is getting on everyone’s case about it!”
Eileen had rarely been to the British house in her life. She more or less grew up as one of the ‘babies’ of the Twentieth House family, and for the most part, only was here a few times of the year, like for “holidays” as the British members called vacations. Topham had actually taken in children who showed promise at learning magic of some kind. Just like her. That’s what she remembered the most about her assignment giving a lecture to normal people with little to no spiritual awareness.
In all her years of life, Eileen had met a lot of people who had nowhere else to go and became adoptive kids to people in their cabal – or even the cabal themselves. But never once had she ever met people who claimed that the Twentieth House was responsible for their parents’ deaths in the first place.
While uncommon, there were cabals across the world who often took in children, just like her. Ones who showed magic potential, even small amounts of it could have been adopted. They were even nicknamed the “Children”, like how she was called the ‘baby’ of their family for being the youngest.
Eileen wandered around the house, soon finding herself in the kitchen. It looked almost exactly as she remembered it from when she stayed here, though with some new appliances here and there. But there was one detail that surprised her.
The cook of this particular house was still in the kitchen – Ms. D’isles, someone of Spanish and Latin-American descent, whom Eileen remembered fondly, it was her who cooked for the resident magicians and the children learning under them after all. Surprised she was still here – Ms. D’isles must have been in her 50s by now!
“Ms. D’isles? Is that you?” Eileen asked.
The cook turned around, making eye contact with Eileen. At first, she didn’t recognize her, but then a smile spread across her face.
“Eileen! You…wow, I haven’t seen you in years. You certainly look different. Did you magically dye your hair like that?”
“Yes, a bit,” Eileen said, “I think it looks nice.”
“Well you know what I’ve told you about magic…it’s like a spice. Use it too much and you ruin things with it. I almost never use magic when cooking.”
“Oh boy do I remember well,” Eileen said.
“Where are the others? This house has been surprisingly empty; there haven’t been many children here for the holidays or even living here in quite awhile. There have been nights where I’ve been here entirely by myself.”
“I was hoping they might have told you. There is certainly no shortage of wizards in the Twentieth House. This place was bustling when I was younger. You’d think there would have been more. Why’re they suddenly stopping?”
“Maybe there’s just no time for it, but even then, is everyone truly going over to the other houses? I didn’t think their influence has spread that much.”
Eileen sighed a bit.
“I don’t know either. I met someone who had a bit of a strange claim. That someone in the Twentieth House of all people killed her parents. I know there were some bad eggs out here, like that person in Cyprus, but killing a girls’ parents?”
“Maybe it was an accident,” Ms. D’isles reassured.
“Maybe, but there was also something a bit startling. Have you ever heard about, uhm, the Incarnations?”
Ms. D’isles gasped. It was a good thing she didn’t have anything in her hands, or else she might have dropped it.
“Incarnations? What have you been doing?!”
“I haven’t been trying to actually invoke them or summon them at all!” Eileen backed off defensively, “But, we were actually informed that one had been benign enough to leave in the real world – Sloth, I don’t know if they told you. But out in America, something bizarre happened. Connor happened to summon Sorr-I mean, another one. Why weren’t we told that we happened to have another Incarnation under our control?”
“Don’t say those names, you might summon them,” Ms. D’isles said.
“I know I know, Sloth was killed. The other one was different. If Sloth wasn’t the only Incarnation that’s being controlled by the Twentieth House, then who knows what else they’ve been hiding from us.”
“Well, how do you know you can trust whoever this person was?” Ms. D’isles asked, “She could have been lying to you.”
“Even then, being told that we have an Incarnation under our control right after Connor and I see it? That’s not necessarily a good thing,” Eileen said, “I’m going to find this out for myself. You and Connor are probably the only ones I can trust. I have no idea who else is just lying to me.”
“What do you plan to do?”
“I want to find that cabal and find answers. There’re no rules saying we cannot interact with other cabals.”
“Well I wish you the best of luck,” Ms. D’isles said, “Just be careful.”
“I will,” Eileen said, “I know quite a bit of metal magic.”
With that, Eileen walked off, to find a portal or an airplane back to America. She couldn’t ask any higher ups for a transport without any clearance from Topham.
Peter chuckled as he looked around the living quarters of the Manitou House. If one swore and oath, and made the place their home, they could modify their room however they saw fit. No matter how much it defied the laws of physics.
“This is quite amazing, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a flat quite like this before,” Peter said, staring over a room that was given to him, handpaws crossed across his broad chest
“I would have half expected you to have chosen some kind of savannah,” Journey said from the door, “Until you can get some clothes to hang out in at least.”
Peter then turned around, smiling and flexing his muscles a bit.
“We werelions never were meant to wear clothes, after all. How often do you see beasts wearing clothes?”
Journey covered her eyes, prompting a chuckle from the were-lion.
“You gotta stop doing that,” She said, “I’m not exactly used to seeing naked men at all.”
“Well, get used to it – we fight the way ancient Greeks competed, in the nude!”
“You better,” Alana’s voice came from down the hall, “He’s right.”
Journey looked down where Alana was leaned against a wall.
“Well, I’m not used to it yet, I’m new to this.”
“You’ll be desensitized sooner or later,” Alana said, “Just as long as he doesn’t hit on us.”
“You?” Peter stuck his head out the window, “Gross, this isn’t the middle ages. You’re like, how old, fourteen?”
“Fifteen,” Alana said.
“Way too young for my liking,” Peter said, noticing Journey was stepping out of the way, not wanting to be stepped on by a much taller lion.
“However, you’re a bit closer to my age, hon,” Peter said.
“Try it and die,” Journey said, walking further down the hall.
Journey had modified her room to be a bit like a mixture between what one would have expected her dorm room to be, and a Build A Bear workshop. Because her specialty was controlling stuffed animals, she figured why not make more, rather than just relying on the Panda Bear and Leopold to do all her fighting.
The first thing she had to truly learn was how to make a stuffed animal again. She had made Leopold in the past, but he was small. She needed to learn to sew bigger ones, ones who could serve as a backup or provide some kind of different form of offense. She hadn’t tried to control her Armadillo, yet.
Her door was then pushed open, unbeknownst to Journey as she attempted to take out a few straps of fabric. What could she make a plush of…how could that work. And what colours did she want? Making plushies was never as big a challenge as it was now.
Suddenly, Leopold turned his head towards the door, and Journey turned around. Just in time to see Peter in ‘feral form’ walking up to her slowly.
“Oh dear lord,” She said, “What’re you doing in here now? Don’t try anything funny.”
“I actually came to give you a suggestion,” Peter somehow managed to say in a perfectly human sounding voice. Journey stifled a laugh upon hearing a British accent escape from a feral lion’s mouth, “Also, you need a bigger door – I couldn’t walk in.”
“And I know you wanted to flash me. No, don’t try it,” Journey said, “I’m armed in here.”
“Actually,” Peter sat, licking his paws like a cat would, probably for the sake of humour, “I can give you a suggestion on what a plush you could make be. Maybe some kind of flying or hovering plush? Or something else, like a unicorn?”
“What would they do, though?” Journey asked the lion.
“Easy, the flying plush can attack from above. Make like….an eagle or a vulture. As for the unicorn, come on, it can always be something that can charge.”
“Wouldn’t a rhinocerous be more appropriate for that? Or maybe some kind of antelope or a boar?”
“A boar could always work for charging.”
“Good, figured I’d just give you a suggestion. Sides, if you’re making stuff with fabric, why not make me something like an attractive toga?”
“…You were a frat boy, weren’t you?”
“E-E-E-EW, no, why would I hang around those guys who drink themselves into a stupor?”
“…Just wondering,” Journey said.
Alana and Mara were sitting downstairs in the hall, looking over their new wall. Two new faces were added, Journey holding her plush, and Peter in his werelion form, posing as a king of the jungle would.
“Tell me why you spoke with those two cabalists,” Mara said to Alana.
“Maybe if they listened, they could eventually see what was right in front of them. They may have had no qualms about using Sloth, but you should have seen the look on their faces when Emo Bitch came around.”
“Don’t say that word,” Mara responded, “Either way, you are right that they may question their morality upon seeing an Incarnation that they were not told was summoned. If only you had proof that it was summoned by Topham…”
“Obeying people in the Twentieth House, I’d say that’s proof enough.”
“You bring about a fascinating idea of turning some cabalists in the Twentieth House against Topham. Though what could be irrefutable proof that Topham has been summoning Incarnations besides Sloth.”
“I don’t know, that’s the thing,” Alana said.
Meanwhile, on an airplane, someone sneezed. A passenger next to them took out a box labeled, ‘Airborne’. The passenger next to the airborne-holding passenger rolled her eyes…Eileen knew that Airborne stuff was a scam.
This is a little bit of a followup. yes, Eileen will turn good - spoilers.