Hyraaq Tobit

The Blood Star
Who is Hyraaq Tobit?

“Who, or what, is Hyraaq Tobit? Who or what is Delphia? How, if at all, do these repeated names correspond to the strange red star that recently appeared in the sky? We will try to answer these questions and more next, on Newsroom: The Blood Star.” A male voice announced this with vigor and canned fear lacing his voice as families all across the United States and much of the civilized world gathered around their televisions in anticipation.

The program opens with a well-dressed man, a man of science and importance, sitting across a table from celebrity newsman Jack Elder. Elder was a long trusted source of honest news in many American homes. Over the last two weeks or so, the world had fallen under the spell, or perhaps curse, of what was called the blood star. From the moment it appeared in the sky on a rather uneventful August afternoon, the world had begun to go mad.

Jack Elder turns to the camera without introducing this guest, and starts talking to John and Jane Q. Public. According to network executives, tonight’s show was slated to be the highest rated news program in the station’s history.

“Good evening, America. I am Jack Elder, and you’re watching Newsroom. Tonight we are going to try and get to the source of what has been on every man, woman and child’s mind, this phenomenon known as the Blood Star. As most of us know, two weeks ago, August 17th, the Blood Star first appeared in broad daylight across the entire continent of North America. Most of us, myself included, ignored it at first. Then it was revealed that this same red glowing object was appearing across the entire world. No one had any idea what was going on, and honestly and to my truest knowledge, no one really knows what it is now. My guest tonight is Dr. Brian Teag from NASA, who has led the investigation from the moment the star appeared. We will also be speaking to several members of the President’s Staff and Security Advisors from the White House who have been trying to contain the surge in violence that seems to have risen along with the star itself. We also have several other high profile guests who will address the mysterious name that continues to tag along with many of these acts of violence, this Hyraaq Tobit and Delphia. Who are they, what are they, the people want to know. Now, Dr. Teag, what can you tell us about the Blood Star as of right now?”

“Well, Jack,” Teag replies, “we know that it’s some sort of celestial body. We’ve observed it from Hubble and have turned all other resources on finding out exactly what sort of star it may be, and where it actually came from. All of our current data, as insane as this sounds, suggests that it simply appeared out of nowhere on August 17th. The area of space that it resides was mapped as vacant before the star’s appearance.”

“But tell me, doctor, isn’t that the nature of stars? They have to start out somewhere, right?”

“Yes, but if a new star were to have appeared, we’d have been aware of it long before it would have become visible by the naked eye.”

“Indeed, and from what I’ve been told, there are quite a few other behaviors that set this star apart from any others in the night sky, is that true?”

“Yes, Jack. It’s visible around the clock, in both hemispheres. That alone shouldn’t be possible. Even Sirius, our brightest star, cannot be observed by the naked eye all day on both sides of the globe. The red hue of the star is also strange. While many stars don’t subscribe to the traditional white sparkle we’re all used to, the color shouldn’t be so consistent. The star is clearly not dwarfing, so that doesn’t explain the color. If the red were caused by chemical compositions, it should alter a bit. Using Sirius as the example once more, it is often known to flicker different colors. This is caused by its light coming through Earth’s atmosphere and creating the optical illusion. Blood Star, or Alpha Eso, as we have technically classified it, doesn’t behave in that manner. One of the greatest mysteries, though, is that it gives off an energy pattern that we cannot yet identify.”

“Can you elaborate on that, doctor?”

“Yes. See, stars give off tons of radiation and have a massive gravitational force. We can learn much of a star’s nature simply by studying those factors. With Alpha Eso, while we can tell that it is giving off large amounts of energy, the energy doesn’t follow the same wave patterns as previously observed radiation or gravitational forces. To be honest, we believe that once we identify that energy source, we can unravel much of what this star actually is. We believe it may be a new form of energy altogether. This could explain a lot about the star, such as where it came from and why it can be seen 24 hours a day anywhere on Earth. Until then, we can’t even start to guess at the age or true origins of the star.”

Elder nods. “Doctor Teag, what are your thoughts on the surge in violence and crimes that we’ve seen since the star appeared?”

“Truth be told, I’ve been far more interested in finding the source of the star than studying the criminal aspects that it may be causing in people around the world. However, if you ask me to make a guess or venture an opinion, I would say it’s a result of panic. People are afraid of what they don’t understand, and with fear often comes violent tendencies. But, that is just my opinion.”

“And this name, this Hyraaq Tobit. It’s showing up in lots of places, always associated with violent acts and often accredited to being connected to the star. Any idea what that is?”

“None at all Jack,” Teag replies.

“Okay, folks, we’re going to turn our attention to Professor Marcus Gordon, Director of Historical Studies at Harvard, along with Arch-Bishop Dwight Townsend of the Catholic Diocese to discuss exactly who and what Hyraaq Tobit and Delphia might actually be, and how they may or may not relate to the Blood Star, when we return from this short commercial break. Don’t go anywhere!”

Elsewhere across the world, people were dealing with the Blood Star in their own fashion. In the 8th District Police Station in New Orleans, a Detective by the name of Calvin Drexler was helping with the influx of suspects being taken into custody.

“Should he be under this kind of stress?” a uniformed officer quietly asks the watch commander, Francis Lombardi.

“Drex is fine. He took his time off, he grieved the loss of his daughter and he came back when he was ready,” Lombardi responds. They were speaking of the Queen Justine political murders that ravaged the city last year. Drexler had lost his teenage daughter Marissa in what most believed to be a revenge murder. The main suspect in the crimes had sought Drexler out, confessed a bizarre story of creating a killer cartoon character, and while he was busy telling his tale, someone, still unidentified, had gotten into Drexler’s home and murdered his daughter. It was quite a mess.

Drexler himself was walking about the large holding room within the station. Men and women, usually drunk out-of-towners, typically occupied the rows of steel chairs that were bolted to the floor. Since this damned star appeared though, police stations across most large cities had been working overtime to deal with the surge in violence that came with the star’s arrival. New Orleans had not been immune to this problem. Drexler, though, actually felt better dealing with the chaos. Marissa had been the only thing on his mind since that bastard Craig Morgan had stumbled in and told the tale of his little ultra liberal activist group and the killer they believe they’d spawned. In the end, Marissa, who Drexler found out far too late drew up the image of Queen Justine herself, had paid with her life. Drex had been crushed. For the longest time he believed he was done with police work. He took several months off and just cried and mourned. It was actually his wife, Simone, who’d suggested one day that he try going back to work, even if just for desk duty. He argued that it was too soon, but eventually he himself grew tired of sitting about his home feeling miserable. He took his wife’s advice, and was now glad he did. All of this nonsense with this star had finally taken his mind off of his daughter. He felt that healing was within real reach for the first time.

Then the bum began to speak.

Drexler hadn’t been paying any attention of the vagrant that was handcuffed to a nearby steel chair. The vagrant, a frequent flyer of the NOPD that most of the cops referred to as “Chewy” due to his lack of teeth, was in for his weekly public intoxication arrest. Chewy had never been a problem really, just a local drunk that picked bad spots to urinate, typically someone’s front door, or even the occasional shoes of a tourist. Chewy sometimes spit at people as well. This would prompt a call to the authorities. Sometimes the cops wouldn’t even arrest him, if he were willing to move along on his own. Depending on the amount and quality of liquor that was powering Chewy on any given night, his reactions to the NOPD’s request for compliance ranged from polite understanding to out right vulgar displays of insolence. Drexler assumed that tonight had been an insolent night, and Chewy found himself in his usual spot, sleeping off a lifetime of bad choices. Therefore Drexler wasn’t really paying much mind when the homeless man began to chant a phrase over and over, raising the volume of his voice a bit each time. Chewy was known for his gibberish as much as his bad breath, so it wasn’t until the man was nearly screaming that Drexler and the other officers in the room took notice.

“Tobit gives me eyes to see…. Tobit gives me eyes to see…. Tobit gives me eyes to see….”

“What’s he rambling about now?” asked a young officer named Marshall.

“Nothing, he does that all the time, don’t pay him any mind,” Drexler replied.

“No, I think he's saying Tobit. That’s the word all the wackos keep shouting out right before they gut someone, isn’t it?”

Drexler and Marshall walked towards Chewy, who was still repeating his chant, growing in tone and volume each time.

“Tobit gives me eyes to see… Tobit gives me eyes to see… Tobit gives me eyes to see!”

“What the fuck are you going on about?” Marshall asks the bum, leaning in towards him.

“Tobit gives me eyes to see!” Chewy screams back into Marshall’s face.

“Hey, you calm your drunk ass down!” the young cop shouts, his anger showing. It was at that moment that Drexler noticed the object in the vagrant’s free hand, the one not chained to the chair.

“Hey, look out!” Drexler shouted, but it was too little too late.

Chewy shouted once more, the loudest bellow yet, “TOBIT GIVES ME EYES TO SEE!” With this, he stood from the chair and drove the switchblade into Marshall’s throat. The young cop spit blood and grasped at his throat.

“Medic, medic in here now!” Drexler screamed, and moved in to catch Marshall before he fell to the floor. However, as he stepped forward, his eyes watched in shock and horror as the homeless man continued to stand up, de-gloving the flesh from his right hand as he forced it from the handcuffs. Chewy turned his eyes onto Drexler, still repeating, “Tobit gives me eyes to see!”

He raised the blade and lunged. There was a single report as Drexler’s service pistol fired once, taking the homeless man in the chest. Chewy staggered back, clutching his bleeding chest, before falling back into the chair he’d been previously chained to. The switchblade fell to the floor with a loud clink. Drexler quickly kicked it away.

The homeless man died uttering one last time that Tobit gave him eyes to see. Medical staff rushed in, Calvin Drexler stepped back. He knew he’d have statements to write now. Perhaps Simone’s advice about coming back hadn’t been so good after all. Lombardi walked over, perhaps to offer words of comfort. Drexler handed him his pistol, as would be protocol anyway, and walked back towards the station’s break room. He needed to sit down now. In the break room the television was turned to Newsroom, as were most televisions across the country at this time. Drex wasn’t really paying much attention though as the host Jack Elder introduced his next guest.

“Gentlemen, thank you for joining me tonight on Newsroom. We’ve already talked with NASA’s lead scientist about this Blood Star, and now we turn to you to hopefully shed some light on the violence and strange words that continue to be accredited to it. Of course I am speaking about Hyraaq Tobit and Delphia. Let’s start with you, Professor Gordon. Hyraaq Tobit, Delphia… what do they mean and why are they now so abundantly going hand-in-hand with violent crimes?”

“Well, the name Tobit can be traced to Judeo-Christian roots. It appears as a chapter in the Bible, though it’s a rather grim tale itself.”

“How so?” asks Elder.

“Tobit was an Israelite who was, according to scripture anyway, blinded by bird droppings. God heals him though because he was a righteous man, so goes the story anyway. Really, the chapter of Tobit deals more with his son, Tobias, than Tobit himself.”

“And you, Arch-Bishop, what say you of the biblical Tobit?”

“I think the professor summed up the story fairly well. Tobit was chosen by God to be healed, by the Archangel Raphael, to be exact, due to his pious nature. There is mention of the demon of lust in that particular story, Asmodeus by name, but all in all, while no book of the Holy Bible is any lesser or greater than another, the Book of Tobit is a rather minor piece of scripture.”

“And the name Hyraaq, is that at all associated with the biblical Tobit?” Elder inquires.

“Not at all,” both men answer together.

“So, what, in your opinion, is Hyraaq Tobit?”

Gordon answers first. “The only other time I’ve ever heard anything remotely similar mentioned in any historical context was during the reading of the Triassic Journal last year. During the story of Epor and his dealing with the Primes as they were called, there is mention that when the Primes were raiding his city, they continued to chant some sort of name. The translation on that name wasn’t perfect as I remember, though, but I do remember them saying, ‘High-Rock Two-Bit.’

“I believe we have a clip of that,” Elder states, and suddenly America’s news viewing audience is witnessing Clair Nobles giving the press conference on the findings of the Triassic Journal. She can clearly be heard, during the story, quoting the translated text, and it certainly does sound as though she is saying Hyraaq Tobit.

“It is worth noting that the true origins of the Triassic Journal were never really revealed. We know it is a very old book, we know that this collection of scientists were able to translate it, but what it speaks of, a race of humans existing before the dinosaur, I’ve never believed that.”

“And you, Arch-Bishop, your thoughts on the Triassic Journal and how it may apply here?”

“I have to agree with the Professor here. As a Catholic, I believe that God created all life. However, even if I were a strict atheist, I doubt I could ever believe that some race of human existed before dinosaurs.”

“It is quite a story. Now, let’s discuss Delphia, its meaning and how it could apply here.”

“The word Delphia is likely of Greek origin, relating to the city of Delphi. It could also be a name, or even some sort of strange abbreviation for the city of Philadelphia. In Greek mythology, one of Apollo’s oracles lived in Delphi. When we’re trying to apply this to some sort of religious or mystical meaning though, we sort of end of chasing our tails,” Gordon asserted.

“And what about the team of scientists that were assembled to study the Journal. My sources tell me that one of them, a Dr. Walter Hart, died of a heart attack shortly after the book was translated. Furthermore, we’re told that the other three scientists, Dr. Clair Nobles, Dr. Janice Batiste and Dr. Christopher Allens have not been seen since shortly before the Blood Star appeared. Any thoughts on this, gentlemen?”

“That is true, Jack. We did some digging, and after speaking to several members of their respective universities, it would appear that the three remaining researchers took on the task of studying the Triassic Journal after the collaboration was complete. They continued to rent the office space in New York out of their own pockets and were allegedly doing further study into the matter. Then one day, not very long ago, all three of them just stopped coming in. According to a Dr. Redbay at Dartmouth College, Clair Nobles had been lead on that project. She was checking in with Redbay fairly routinely, and then just stopped.”

“And no clue where they might be now, Professor Gordon?”

“None at all. It is worth noting that in the Epor story, the main focal point was about a red stain in the sky, what he called in the writing, the bleeding sky. Piece together the name Hyraaq Tobit appearing in that same story, add in the scientists that have vanished and you almost have to wonder if there isn’t some larger conspiracy afoot. But as I said before, when we really try to dig into this mystical folklore and religious icons, you wind up really just chasing your tail.”

“Chasing our tales indeed,” Jack Elder stated firmly. “Well folks, stay with us, because up next we’ll be talking to Homeland Security Deputy Director Leslie Freemont about these violent activities that have been going on since the Blood Star appeared. We’ll get her take on what’s happening and what you can do to keep your family safe! Stay tuned!”

In Greenwich, Connecticut, Cynthia Lawrence, formerly Cynthia Tierney, pauses Newsroom.

“What gives, Cindy? I want to see what the Homeland Security people have to say,” her husband, Brian Lawrence states in response to her pausing the program.

“We’ll finish it, Brian, but, I have to tell you, this has me really worried. This Tobit stuff.”

“Baby, you don’t think it’s connected to The Foundation, to Haller’s cult or Un, do you?”

“No, not at all, that’s over. No, it’s just, I’ve heard of Tobit before, a long time ago this way, before the incident with the Foundation.”

Brian, who as a teenager had actually helped in rescuing Cynthia from the clutches of Father Haller and his insane demon Un, turned all of his attention to his wife. They married after college and had a son together whom they’d named after Brian’s departed brother Joe. They’d done this to honor the man who’d, even in death, helped save them both.

“Wait, why haven’t you ever told me about this?” Brian demands, more out of concern than anger.

“Well, for one thing, it was such a small and insignificant event in my life, especially compared to what we went through with Haller. It was really just two people that showed up at my front door one day when my parents were at work. This was about two months before Haller’s people contacted my folks, pretending to be a college looking for applicants. It was strange though, and, like I said, I only recently started making the connection between what they told me, and what’s happening on the news right now.”

“What happened, who approached you?”

Cindy, last surviving daughter of a warrior king, sighed. She stood from the couch and went to quickly make sure their son was still sleeping. She was always afraid that he might have inherited some of her… sensitive abilities when it came to things of a mystical nature, and she didn’t want to open him up to anything that might be evil. After all, she and her husband had experienced enough evil to last a lifetime before they were old enough to buy beer. Joe Junior had only recently been born, was still an infant in fact, but just the same, Cindy knew that Tier blood brought all sorts of strange and dangerous gifts. If she were going to tell this story, she wanted it to only be heard by Brian.

“It was just a normal afternoon in Rhode Island, which is to say, boring as hell. I was home alone, just flipping the channels and hoping to find something interesting to watch, when suddenly there was a knock at my front door. Now, this was back when we were kids, Brian. You know, back when people weren’t afraid every time they heard a knock at the door. Plus, like I said, this was Rhode Island; worst case scenario was a salesman or a Jehovah’s Witness or something. Best case, could be a friend of mine come by. So, I wasn’t exactly crawling in my skin when I opened up the door.”

“Who was it?”

“A man and a woman, I remember that much. The man was short and chubby, but really nicely dressed. The woman that was with him, I can’t remember much about her, except that she was really pretty. She had this really short haircut, but on her it looked good. I was always a little jealous of other women that could pull off super short hair. Her name was… something with a ‘T,’ like Tammy of Tabby, like I said, it was forever ago, and only recently did it suddenly seem important to me.”

“Should I go and make toast?” Brian suddenly asked, and Cindy gave him a sharp pinch on the arm in response. This was his little phrase he’d use when he felt that his wife was dragging a story out.

“Let me tell it, Brian,” Cindy scolds, and her husband nods for her to go on. “The guy is all charm, but not like, movie star George Clooney charm. No, this guy had a really weird way of talking, like one of those southern gentlemen, or maybe like Foghorn Leghorn, but more reserved. He called me ‘Miss Tierney’ all properly, never using my first name. I later came to realize that I’d never introduced myself to him. Strange that he knew me. Anyway, he tells me that I’m special, that I have some gifts. By then I already knew I had those weird psychic abilities; I’d used them on and off throughout a lot of my life. But he had a unique way of dancing around that, so, I stayed on this weird fence of not knowing if he somehow knew about my abilities or if he was referring to my grades in school or something. He tells me that he’s been watching my progress, and that was when I started getting a little nervous. He was all smiles and charm, but I felt something was sinister about him. He wanted me to call him Mr. Pinky; I remember that part clearly, which was weird as hell to me too. That’s when he told me that his boss, Hyraaq Tobit, could really use someone with my particular set of blessings.”

“What did you tell him?” Brian interrupts.

“I told him no thanks, and that’s when the woman spoke, Tammy or Tabby or whatever. She wasn’t nearly as pleasant as her companion. I remember she kept calling me ‘girlie’ and had this really snarky tone. She said a girl like me could perhaps become a sister. I was getting really nasty vibes from both of them. There was something, vile about them, that’s the best way I can explain it. So, after I keep trying to be polite and firm at the same time, trying to tell them to get the hell off my porch, the guy Pinky, he gets really nasty. He tells me that some really bad men are also after me. He tells me that they won’t be so kind as to offer me a place within their family, not like he and Tabby or Tammy are willing to do. He tells me that if I don’t go with them to Delphia, that I’m as good as dead.”

“Delphia? Like, this word they keep using on the news?” her husband asks.

“Yes. He made it sound like a place, but somewhere only he could bring me. Once again I got a really bad vibe. I guess my gifts were really coming in handy. I told him no thanks again and started to close the door. That’s when he grabbed the door and held it open, refusing to let me close it. He went into this whole speech about how if I refuse his offer, he’ll leave and never return. But that I’d come to regret it, that when the really bad folks, who I guess were Haller’s men, had their hands on me, that Pinky and Tammy or Tabby would be no where around to help me. Then he let go of the door and told me that it was my choice to close it or open it to my future.”

“What happened then?”

“I slammed the door in both of their faces. Pinky and his creepy friend with the short haircut and intense eyes. God, Brian, her eyes could cut through diamonds. I called my dad at work, who called the cops and came right home. The cops said they searched the area for any people matching their descriptions, but found no one. I was scared for a few days, but my senses were telling me that they were gone. Like, not just gone from Rhode Island, but gone from America, hell, maybe gone from this world. A few months later I wound up in Haller’s church, and, well, you know the rest. I never really gave the weird little man much thought again until this Blood Star business started. When people started talking about Hyraaq Tobit and Delphia, I sort of put two and two together. I get a feeling, like, this is all connected.”

“And you’ve never seen either of them again?”

“No, I just, I just wonder sometimes, especially now with all this insanity, what exactly Delphia and Tobit were, and who those people that showed up at my door really were all about.”

Brian pulls his wife into his arms and holds her tight. “It’s going to be okay, baby. That was a long time ago; you’ve got nothing to worry about now.”

“Brian, it’s not me I’m worried about,” she replies, and resumes the Newsroom program before her husband can push the issue any further.

Back in New Orleans, in a bar called The Whirling Dervish, the bartender turns the juke box down to mute and turns the television up. There are a few groans from the patrons in attendance, but the majority on hand is glued to Newsroom, as Jack Elder continues his investigation into The Blood Star.

“Okay folks, welcome back to Newsroom. We are still here trying to figure out exactly who and what these strange entities are that seem to all connect together here. We know that this Blood Star has appeared in the sky. We know that the words Hyraaq Tobit and Delphia seem to go hand-in-hand with the violence that has followed in the wake of this star, and we now believe that perhaps those answers lie within the pages of the Triassic Journal. Even more chilling is the fact that out of the four research scientists assigned to investigate the Journal, one is dead and three are missing. I turn now to the Deputy Director of Homeland Security, Leslie Freemont. Welcome to Newsroom, Agent Freemont!”

“Thank you, Jack,” the woman replies.

“So, you’ve been at the helm of investigating these violent outbursts that have taken hold over the world in the last two weeks since the star appeared in the sky. Tell us, what is Homeland Security doing to keep Americans safe?”

“Well Jack, right now we believe we’re working against a collaborated effort, perhaps some sort of terrorists' attack being implemented with code words.”

“Codes such as Hyraaq Tobit?”

“Possibly, yes. We think this cell may have formed at the time of the reading of the Triassic Journal. It could be some sort of fundamentalist religious group taking cues from the findings in the book. It could be something more complex, foreign enemies of the country perhaps. We haven’t even ruled out some sort of mass drugging of people.”

“So, you don’t believe that there is any mystical connection to the crimes and the folklore read in the Triassic Journal?”

“Not in the direct sense, Jack, no. I don’t believe this star in the sky is from the same source that, according to the Journal, made a group of cavemen go insane, not at all.”

“So what then, what do you think is causing all the crime and destruction, crime and destruction that started almost the moment that star appeared in the sky?”

“As I said before, we think it’s a collaborated effort. The group, or groups behind these attacks may have been inspired by the story in the Journal, sure, and maybe this star appearing was just the catalyst they needed. As your last guests stated, it is hard to ignore the similar occurrences going on right now. The red star does compare to the bleeding sky and the name Hyraaq Tobit does line up with the term ‘high-rock two-bit’ that was read by the research team. However, I think these similarities are simply bad people taking a piece of fiction and trying to tie it to reality as much as possible. After all, this wouldn’t be the first time we’ve seen people use works of fiction to justify criminal acts.”

“You mentioned terrorism. Does Homeland Security believe that foreign entities are behind this?”

“We haven’t ruled that out, Jack, no.”

“And what about the missing scientists? Where do they fall in your priorities here?”

“Very high; we really want to talk to them. We are also aware that they apparently were conducting their own personal research into the Journal after the official study program was complete. We’d like to know exactly what they may have found out, and why they vanished right before all of this began.”

“And, with respect to your investigation, where do you stand in locating them?”

“Well, I can’t speak much on the matter, as it’s an open investigation, but I can tell you that Clair Nobles purchased a plane ticket from New York to New Orleans shortly before she vanished. Records show that she made her flight and checked into a hotel in New Orleans. She was seen around the hotel for a day or two, and then just didn’t come back.”

“And the other two scientists? Allens and Batiste?”

“They also bought tickets, but it appears they didn’t make it to New Orleans.”

“Where did they wind up then?”

“We’re still looking into that.”

“Okay, let’s talk about their lab in New York. Newsroom has obtained some photographs that we think the American people deserve to see. Let’s get those on the screen.”

Several photos appear on television screens across America. They show the lab in New York, apparently badly vandalized. Broken computers and shredded documents can be seen littering the floors.

Jack Elder’s voice speaks up, but the photos remain. “These are pictures of the lab. Clearly something did some damage there. According to the rental agency that was leasing the lab to the researchers, they found it much like this after the doctors stopped coming in to conduct their studies.”

Leslie Freemont’s voice joins Elder’s, and there is an unmistakable edge of annoyance in her tone.

“Looks like simple vandalism to me Jack.”

“Yes, but watch what the cleaning crew found when they applied black lights to the walls.”

Two new pictures appear, corresponding to the two already on screen. Perhaps across the country an audible gasp could have been heard. The black light revealed ‘Hail Tobit’ and ‘Hail Delphia’ written over the walls.

“Those messages were determined to have been written in blood, Agent Freemont,” Jack Elder stated, as the screen slowly faded from the images of Clair’s former lab and back to the host and his guest.

“Can there be any doubt now that the Triassic Journal and what is happening in the streets of America, and much of the world right now, are connected?”

Leslie Freemont did not respond.

“Alright, folks, we’re going to take a quick break. When we come back, we’ll talk more about the Blood Star and how a team of scientists may have found this dark secret long before it found its way into our streets. Stay tuned!”

As Newsroom cut to its next commercial break, a young man sat at the bar in The Whirling Dervish. The bartender could tell he was antsy, nervous and waiting for something or someone. The patron, Brock Felton by name, was in fact waiting. He’d been instructed through email to wait here for an escort. He had been invited somewhere very cool, and now he began to feel like he’d been set up.

“Still waiting for that friend, eh?” the bartender asked.

“Fucking seems that way, huh? Give me another beer,” Brock replied. However, before the beer could arrive, he felt a gentle tap on his shoulder as a young and attractive goth girl stood behind him.

“I’m Jodie, and you must be Brock,” she stated, rather than asked.

“Yes! You’re from the…” he began, but she made an aggressive shushing gesture.

“Are you ready?” she asked him.

“Baby, I was born ready!” he replied eagerly. He paid his tab and was led away.

They walked through the French Quarter together. As they did, Jodie explained to Brock that this was his first back out point. Brock brushed this off. He was a little drunk and very fired up to find out all about this secret bar that he’d somehow found invitation into.

“Very well, Brock, we’re almost there,” she assured him. He was sweaty, intoxicated and obnoxious. However, Din had marked interest in him and she had received her instructions to bring him down. She honestly just wanted the walk to be over.

As they rounded the corner and walked towards the small house that sat around the 1200 block of Dauphine Street in the Quarter, Jodie was shocked to see a familiar face sitting on the small stoop outside of the home.

“Jackson? What are you doing out here? Who’s watching the bar?”

Jackson was tall and dressed in garb that would suggest an old-timey bar keep- white shirt, black bow tie and a mustache that curled at the ends.

“Who the fuck is this?” Brock demanded.

“Be quiet,” Jodie snapped back at him.

“Jodie, you’re going to have to call this one off tonight. This whole Blood Star business has some of our superiors in a tizzy; they want everything shut down until this sorts itself out.”

“I understand, Jackson,” she replies, and turns to Brock. “Look man, we’re going to have to reschedule this or something; the bar is closed tonight. Sorry.”

She turns from him, dismissing the loud and drunk frat boy as though he simply ceased to exist, when she suddenly feels a strong hand grab her shoulder.

“Look, bitch, you invited me out here, okay? I’ve been sitting down there for two hours waiting on your ass, and now you tell me the whole thing is called off? Fuck that, I want to go to this bar of yours!”

Jackson was upon Brock in less than a second. “PISS OFF, FUCKER!” the bartender screamed in a voice that was far too loud to come from any normal human being. He jabbed his finger into Brock's chest, pushing the young man to the ground with no effort. Jodie took this moment to step behind Jackson. Fear wasn’t a normal emotion for her, but due to some recent activities out in Pearl River, she’d learned to be much more cautious.

“Hey, that’s assault you asshole!” Brock shouted from the ground.

“Would you like to try for battery next?” Jackson asked him.

The drunken Brock seemed to consider this for just a second, but in the end found his brains and decided this wasn’t worth losing any blood over. He climbed uneasily to his feet and began to stagger away, rubbing his chest where he could still feel the force of Jackson’s finger jab.

“I’m going to sue you fuckers for this, you goddamned psycho. You’ll fucking see, I’m going to own your bar by next week!” Brock rounded the corner and moved out of sight, still spewing his litany of legal threats. Once he was gone, Jodie St. Amant, servant of Din, turned to Jackson with real concern in her eyes.

“Jax, what the hell is going on? Why was that guy’s appointment canceled?”

“It’s this Blood Star business. Apparently Hyraaq Tobit’s people are making some sort of big move. None of this went through the Council of Nod though, and some of the folks upstairs are getting a bit nervous.”

Jodie gazed up at the Blood Star, which she recognized from the start of all this as the Red Star, and rubbed her chin in thought.

“I do find it strange that Tobit’s people are doing this right now. What do they really have to gain?”

“That’s what no one knows. Exposure I guess, but why now, that’s what everyone upstairs is wondering. Tobit’s avatar was said to have spoken about revealing the star a couple weeks ago. He didn’t give any solid reasons that I know of though. I mean, technically just showing the star doesn’t break any Council of Nod rules, but still, it’s sort of a balls-out move that no one can figure out a reason for.”

“I don’t think I like it, Jax. That damned Red Star of his is making a lot of people nutty.”

“I think that’s why they want all operations to cease for the time being. They want to see what Tobit is up to and how much damage control it’s going to require to restore balance once this little stunt is over. I guess that means, for the time being at least, we’re on a bit of a vacation.”

Jodie smiled a bit at that. Some time off would do her well. “Hey, thanks for getting rid of that asshole Brock for me. I didn’t like him from the start. Bad choice I think.”

Jackson put his arm around Jodie St. Amant and walked her into the house that would allow entrance to their secret domain. “No worries, kiddo; I have to look out for you after all. Now, let’s discuss where we’d like to go on vacation.”

“Anywhere but Antarctica, that’s for damn sure,” Jodie replies, and they both chuckle at that as they close the door to the small house behind them.

Across the city of New Orleans, in a neighboring suburb called Metairie, a large man sat in his easy chair, a bottle of whiskey in his right hand, watching as Jack Elder, famed newsman and long time voice of the American people, continued with his program. The man, Hector Castro by name, had been inseparable from his bottle of whiskey for almost a year now, since his only son, Sergio Castro, had vanished while sailing his Hector’s yacht around South America. However, since the Blood Star had appeared in the sky, and terms such as Hyraaq Tobit and Delphia had begun to appear on the nightly news and in all the papers, he and his bottle had become even closer friends. His wife had moved into their mother’s home because Hector’s anger had become too much. He raved about the house all day, liquor in hand, screaming about Derrick Reynolds, screaming that the little shit had been telling the truth. Now he sat, drunk and depressed, watching as America’s most trusted voice hammered those truths even deeper into Hector’s beaten and broken mind. Tears rolled down his cheeks with each word, tears that tasted like whiskey and shame.

“Alright, folks, we’re almost out of time here tonight. I wish I could have uncovered more, but as you’ve heard from our panel of experts, whatever this conspiracy may be, it is still rooted deep in mystery. Exactly who and what this Hyraaq Tobit may be still evade us. Who or what this Delphia may be does the same. And how it connects to the Blood Star and the rash of violence that is terrifying out nation and world also hides in the shadows. But trust me, folks, we here at Newsroom will not rest until we have for you the answers that you deserve. That is a promise, from me, Jack Elder, to each and every one of you at home. From our offices here in New York City, we bid you goodnight and God Bless!”

Hector turned off his television after the credits rolled. He was now alone in the dark. “He was telling the truth the whole time, the little fucking punta was telling me the truth the whole damned time!” Hector shouted this before taking a large gulp of whiskey and throwing the now empty bottle at the wall of his home, shattering it into pieces.

“My son, are you really there, in that city that Derrick described to many time after time? Did they really do those things to you?” This question was asked to the son who was most certainly not available in Metairie to answer. Should Sergio have been able to reply, he’d have confirmed that yes, Derrick was always telling the truth. All the shit about Valium-induced dreams and hallucinations was nothing more than bullshit thrown out to mask the reality of Delphia and his fate.

“I should have listened. I should have believed him. I’ve known that kid forever. Why didn’t I listen to him?”

Hector had tried feverishly to contact Derrick Reynolds since the moment the Blood Star appeared and the names of Tobit and Delphia became household entities. He recognized them right away. After all, Derrick had explained it to him at least a dozen times or more since he returned from his rescue. However, Derrick was nowhere to be found. His phone went to voicemail and his apartment was vacant. Hector had knocked on Derrick’s door every day since the star showed up in the afternoon sky, and had never received a reply. On one particularly drunken evening, he’d finally stopped caring about the law and simply kicked the door in. What he found inside confirmed his fears. The apartment had that feel, that empty feel that told Hector Castro what he feared the most, that Derrick Reynolds, the only person that had been honest and knew the fate of his son, had left. Where he went was unknown, as well as when and if he’d come back at all. To Hector, this simply punctuated his failure as a father.

He'd had so many chances to believe Derrick, so many shots at working with the kid to perhaps do something to help his son. However, he’d never come close to believing that some cult in Antarctica had kidnapped the boys. He’d never been willing to remotely believe that Sergio could still be alive, waiting for a rescue, waiting perhaps even, for his papa to come and save him.

Hector walked into his kitchen and reached into his cabinet for another bottle of whiskey. However, mid-grasp he saw something else that he kept tucked away in his kitchen cabinets. A pistol. Something he’d purchased for home protection, something that, due to his expensive home, he felt he might need some day. However, the Castro family was wealthy and lived in a gated community. The need for home defense had never come. Yet now, as drunken tears rolled down Hector’s face, as he realized that he’d missed chances to actually perhaps help his beloved Sergio, perhaps the pistol had a purpose after all.

Hector sat down at his kitchen table, the loaded gun in front of him. He dealt out in front of him a series of photos, like playing cards, and began to look them over. Sergio as a baby, Sergio at Disney World when he was a child, Sergio graduating high school and of course, Sergio standing behind the wheel of the Castro family’s yacht.

“Fucking boat, I hate you fucking boat. Where is my son, WHERE IS HE?” The photos did not reply.

Hector wrote a note on the back of a baby photo of Sergio. He addressed it to his wife.

My lovely Eva,

Derrick Reynolds told the truth. I was a fool and would not believe him. Now I sit here, a fool, a broken fool. I will never heal from this my love. I am beyond healing. I leave everything to you. May you find happiness in my death that I could not give you in my life. I go now to join our son, if God will have me.

Farewell my dearest love,

Hector

A single gunshot echoed through the lavish halls of the Castro home, as the curse that is Tobit and Delphia claim yet another.

Life in the Tower
As the credits rolled on Newsroom with Jack Elder, two more avid viewers watched. They did not watch from New Orleans or Connecticut though, or anywhere else that could be found on a traditional map. In fact, the two viewers watched from the very heart of the controversy, one might say. Gregory Leary and Tabitha Shaw sat on a huge overstuffed leather couch in Shaw’s personal chambers, viewing the Jack Elder program on a massive flat screen television. How Tabitha had such modern marvels functioning here in a city where electricity and running water did not exist for most of its residents was still a mystery to Gregory. He’d asked her several times over the last two weeks, and she always replied with a dismissive note of sarcasm, ‘Tabby gets what Tabby wants,’ or ‘Rank has privilege.’ Eventually he stopped asking and simply took a bit of joy in having such home comforts here. He’d not been able to return to London as soon as he’d planned, and recent events ruled that almost impossible now anyway, at least for the time being. Neither he nor Tabitha knew exactly what Pinkerton had ventured off to accomplish when he left Delphia in their hands, but now it seemed apparent, and Gregory was furious, though he did not want to show it.

He’d worked his entire life to mask the existence of Delphia. After all, that was his family legacy. He’d defied his father’s final wishes and brought Trevor into the fold, also in the name of keeping Delphia and Tobit out of the minds of the world’s population. And now, in just a matter of two short weeks, all of his efforts were in vain. Everyone from sea to fucking shining sea on all continents was talking about this mysterious entity that was Hyraaq Tobit. Scientists and government officials were digging into it. He was shocked to see his and Trevor’s little scare tactic back in New York make the national news as well. All that damned effort, dashed by Pinkerton, and for what? What could Thaddeus Pinkerton hope to accomplish by turning the whole world on to Tobit? According to the news it was causing panic, riots and crime. People were going nuts and giving all the thanks to Tobit. Was this always the plan? And if so, why wait so long? If all it took was revealing some damned star in the sky to put the world under Tobit’s spell, why wait at all?

Of course, Gregory, perhaps being optimistic, perhaps being realistic, or maybe both, suspected the news wasn’t that grim. There were billions of people on Earth, so even if Tobit effected just a million or so, the overall losses weren’t that bad, right? If it wasn’t Tobit causing chaos, there was still lots of other evils out there, just like he’d explained to his bullheaded uncle, leader of the failing Unwashed upon his arrival. There would always be terrorists groups like ISIS; there would always be neo-Nazi groups, the KKK, the Westboro Baptist Church, the IRA, the Taliban and so many more. If Tobit terrorized a few, he was really just another small fish in the big pond of evil assholes trying to ruin the world.

No, Gregory Leary was far less concerned about Tobit taking over the world than he was simply enraged that his life long ambitions, all of his work and sacrifice, had essentially led to nothing. He wanted to confront Tabitha Shaw, his newly found lover who both enthralled him and scared the shit out of him at times, but he knew that was a very dangerous game. Since the Sister, Lena Vazquez, returned with Derrick, Clair and Trevor in tow, turning them over to Tabitha like a prize, there had been one major issue; the death of Lacy Suzino.

She had been Tabitha’s favorite. She wouldn’t go into detail, but she always said that she saw something in Lacy that reminded her of better times. Gregory never pushed for details on that statement. He knew Pinkerton had recruited Tabitha at a young age, and that Tabitha herself recruited Lacy at a young age, so perhaps that was their connection in her mind. They’d both grown from girls to women in the care and custody of Hyraaq Tobit, so he could imagine there might be a bond there.

When Lena had come marching into the tower, with Derrick, Trevor and Clair tied up and at gunpoint, Tabitha had been all smiles. She couldn’t wait to tell Pinkerton of this success. Another win for her Sisters, another notch in the belt of Tabitha and one-step closer perhaps to Tab’s dream of moving up that the so-called Council of Tobit. However, it didn’t take long for Tabitha to notice that she was missing an agent. Before Clair and Derrick were even hauled away to the dungeons to join Timothy Van Buren and the other captured rebels, she’d asked where her girl Lacy was. Lena took Tabitha’s hand, and being very cautious, explained that Lacy had not survived the mission. Tabitha’s rage was beyond comprehension, as was Gregory’s fear.

He still believed that he killed Lacy in the hotel room, when he shot her in the stomach. As far as Gregory Leary was aware, that’s when the deed happened. And now Lena was here with his brother, and should she inform Tabitha of that particular little fact, no one would be able to escape her kill zone alive. However, Lena lied. Just like that. She blamed it on the New Orleans Police. She chose her words carefully, making sure not to imply that Lacy had been sloppy or at all at fault in her own death. She said it was simple dumb luck on the part of some beat cop, just some guy in the right place at the right time that witnessed Lacy at work. Lena promised that she’d dealt with the cop, avenged their fallen Sister and forced the man to scream and bleed in more ways than one could describe. Tabitha thanked Lena, appearing to believe every word of it. Gregory, for the life of him, could not figure out why she was lying. Was she trying to help him, or was she trying to spare the others from Tabitha’s wrath? Just more mysteries in an already overflowing sea of them it would appear.

“You’re all going to fucking die,” Tabitha had said flatly to the newly captured group, and promptly marched back towards her chambers. As she walked up the stairs, she called back to Gregory, “Have them put in the dungeon; they live because Mr. Pinkerton will want to see them. You can put your little piss-ass brother in your chambers if you want. Now, I want to be alone. Don’t bother me today, Gregory.”

Gregory and Lena were left staring at each other, no words exchanged. They were both equally shocked at where the other stood. His uncle had stated that one of Tabitha’s Sisters was working for the Unwashed. Since it clearly wasn’t Lacy, that only left the stern faced Colombian woman standing before him. And if she really was working with his uncle, why was she bringing in Trevor, Clair and Derrick in chains with a gun pointed at them? Had she flip-flopped back over to the side of Tobit or was this somehow part of his uncle’s grand scheme? He now knew he would have to make time to speak with her as soon as possible.

Lena was also confused. Not as to who killed Lacy, that much she did not have to ponder, but rather, what the hell a Leary brother was doing walking about free in the Great Tower, apparently taking orders from Tabitha herself. She knew he’d struck a deal with Madison, Trevor had told that that much. She knew he’d likely misused a warping amulet and wound up in Delphia, but in all truth, she could not understand what he was doing here and not in the dungeon, or perhaps dead. Much like Gregory, Lena decided that a sit-down between the two of them would have to take place at the first chance. Luckily, with Tabitha throwing a fit and locking herself in her room, that might be too difficult. Lena whispered something into Trevor’s ear; Trevor nodded and made eye contact with his big brother.

Lena looked them all over as she was joined on either side by two of the blue uniformed Delphia cops. “Listen, shits, I’m taking your asses to the dungeon, yeah, the ol’ calabozo. We’re going to have a nice, safe walk there, no funny shit or I’ll have these fine officers here bash your heads in. Mr. Pinky wants you alive, but he didn’t say alive and well. Plus, if you happen to be brain dead, we have magic here that can still make you talk, so just walk, be nice and we all get where we’re going in one piece, comprende pendejos? As for the sissy here, I guess Tabitha said you could bunk with your big brother, who, somehow has a room here. Amazing. I go away for a few days and come back to madness. Now, you two fucks, walk!”

Trevor was unchained by one of the blue uniformed guards and handed over to Gregory. “Sir, by declaration of Mistress Shaw, I turn this prisoner over to you. Good day to you Champion, Hail Tobit, Hail the Champion.”

Trevor was too shocked to speak. The sheer magnitude of simply standing in Delphia itself would have been enough to render him silent, but now it would seem his brother had come here and somehow been appointed to a position of respect and authority. He could have laughed at this, had it not brought him much closer to tears.

Gregory reflected on that day as Newsroom finally ended its credits and Tabitha flipped through the channels until she landed on Bachelor in Paradise, one of all time favorite shows. Gregory found this to be an endearing trait with her. For such a cold-blooded killer as Tabitha was, her taste in television was around the level of bored housewife. Bravo was her favorite network, and she watched all the Real Housewife shows with a studied fervor. Big Brother and Survivor were two other all time favorites of hers as well, and before long Gregory knew more about the dynamics of those reality shows than he ever had really cared to find out. However, they'd kept Tabitha somewhat calm over these last two weeks, and that was all he could hope for. Still though, he could not contain his outrage, and felt that if he were careful in word, he could perhaps vent to this woman who was both his girlfriend and captor.

“Tabs, try and understand how that shit makes me feel. I’ve been honest with you; I’ve told you from day one that I spent my entire life trying to prevent the exact events that are happening right this very second around the world. My entire life, babe, dedicated to keeping the name of Tobit and Delphia out of the mouths of people. I sacrificed it all- friends, life, marriage and family, all to carry on the family legacy. And Pinkerton, just like that, went and pissed it all away.”

Tabitha paused her program, holding the remote high and letting it fall to the floor. This instantly caused Gregory fear. He recognized this little tradition as a sign of frustration with her. She didn’t like to be bothered while her shows were on, that was made clear from almost day one. But with the death of Lacy, it now seemed that anything could set her off. Gregory could only hope that he was safe within her company, that she valued him more alive than dead. Perhaps Pinkerton had long term plans for them to work together; either way, he could do nothing more than hope that those possible plans would be enough to keep him safe.

Tabitha looked at Gregory and held up one hand, snapping her fingers in rhythm with her words. This was yet another sign of her agitation, though a new one for Gregory to witness. “Lover, listen, listen to me really good right now, okay?”

He nodded carefully and she continued. “I like you a lot, Greg, I really do. You’re smart, you're handsome, you’ve got a set of balls on you that requires a damn dump truck to move around, and the sex…. Well, that’s enough to keep you around by itself. But listen, Lacy was like a daughter to me. I know you don’t have kids; you sacrificed all that to stifle knowledge of Tobit and blah blah fucking blah. Hell, I don’t have real kids either, but Lacy was damned close. Sort of like the way your pussy of a little brother is to you, get it? Now, imagine he was killed, and imagine that the ones indirectly responsible for his death, perhaps, were locked up in a dungeon that you could access anytime. Think about how much force of will it might take you to keep from storming down there and tearing them apart. And Greg, killing is easy to me. You did in Madison, big thanks for that by the way, but that was more of a revenge killing for your dad, right? Me, killing isn’t even a hobby; it’s like breathing, you know? I don’t even know what the fuck guilt feels like. So, while you might hesitate on avenging even your brother, for no other reason than the fact that killing isn’t second nature to you, for me, well, I could go into your room right now and slice open Trevor’s neck. Then, I could trot on down to the dungeon and do in Clair and Derrick. Then I could come up here, eat a big dinner and watch The Amazing Race or something and not lose a moment of sleep over it. That’s just how I’m wired, lover. So, right this second in time, Gregory, I am fighting every impulse in my body to stay here on this couch, next to you, instead of going out and doing what all those gory little impulses are just begging me to do. You get that, Greg, do you? And, while I’m doing all that, and being an amazing hot girlfriend for you at the same time, you sit there and want to complain that your little life project failed.

“Well, here’s the deal, so did mine. Lacy was my favorite, like I said. I wanted the sky to be her limit. I always thought, once she got her blood lust under control, that she could very well take my place as leader of the Sisters once I stepped up to the Council. I loved her, Greg, the same way you love that sniveling little vagina you call a brother. And you wanna know the kicker? I don’t quite believe Lena’s story about some random cop taking Lacy out. Sure, it could have happened, absolutely it could have. It’s happened to my girls before, just like it’s happened to Madison’s, or should I say, your Faithful. People out there get lucky from time to time. Hell, that’s one of the reasons the Sisters of Tobit were formed, to take care of the lucky ones that didn’t scare as easy as most. But the whole story, it just seemed too clean, too easy.”

Gregory, sensing a chance to get back into Tabitha’s graces, risked a question. “Well, Tabs, what do you believe happened?”

“I think one of your brother’s friends did it. I think there was a struggle and someone, probably that fucking kid Derrick, got the drop on her. It’s unlikely, Lacy was so damned stellar, but still, accidents happen. I think Lena might be lying to save me, though, which is why I’m allowing it to happen.”

“Save you how?”

“Mr. Pinky wants them alive; he wants to question them, toy with them, fucking who knows. I think Lena knew if I found out one of them killed Lacy, that I would have lost my shit and ended them all right where they stood. I wouldn’t have been able to stop myself. As good as that would have felt, I would have had to answer to Mr. Pinky for that, and I can promise you the price for a mistake of that caliber is high. I doubt he would toss me to the Red Star, but there would have been repercussions. Nasty ones at that, and Lena knew that. She told that lie to keep me from going ape shit right there on the spot, you know, just to give me time to be mad at some made up cop instead of lashing out at the real offenders.”

Gregory feared the day that Tabitha might learn of his encounter with Lacy in the hotel room. He’d since learned her real fate from conversations with Trevor, but still, he could have killed her. He did not want to know how his psychotic little lover would react to learning such facts. Instead, Gregory continued to do his best to soothe Tabitha and win her back from her earlier rage at his comments. He wouldn’t make that mistake again, that much he promised himself.

“Tabs, I do want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for sparing Trevor, from both the dungeons and your blade. He is important to me, he is my family, really all the family I’ve got left. I… I can’t thank you enough, that’s what I want to say. You are an angel in my eyes.”

Tabitha allowed a smile to form briefly on her lips. Gregory knew without having to be told that he was forgiven. He would just have to be more careful from now on. He’d actually wanted to talk to her about being allowed to return to London for a few days in order to keep his business affairs in order, but he now realized that would be a risky request. It would simply have to wait.

“Greg, if you want to thank me, then you need to get your brother on board, okay? I get that this is all very new and scary for him, and his lack of spine is no doubt making it all that much tougher, but still, you got to get him in line. When Mr. Pinky gets back, he’s going to want results. He’s going to want this whole Unwashed thing squashed. We still haven’t gotten Van Buren or the other captured rebels to talk either. They can sure as hell take some pain, I give them that much. Having your brother moping around up there like some emotional fucking high school kid is not going to exactly endear his being here to Mr. Pinky. So, if you really want Trevor to keep breathing, I do suggest you make some time and try to bring him around.”

Gregory at first intended to go and talk to Trevor later that evening, but as Tabitha unmuted the television and Gregory’s ears were assaulted by the harsh voice of some Real Housewife verbally attacking the camera because some friend didn’t attend some party, he decided that there really was no time like the present, and politely excused himself from Tabitha’s chambers.

Trevor Leary paced about what he still could not believe were his brother’s chambers atop what was known as the Great Tower within Delphia. Apparently it housed the important folk around here. Tabitha had a room within the tower, as did a man named James Craven who’d been identified as the city’s Magistrate. What that meant or exactly what his duties might be was a mystery. Another man named Brighton Levy lived on one of the lower floors. He was the Chief Constable, so Trevor had been told, and was in charge of the blue uniformed cops. Over the first few days here, Gregory had told Trevor all about how he’d come to be somewhat in charge of the very city they’d once fought so hard against. He told of his encounter with the ever so charming Pinkerton. He told of his affair with Tabitha, which was still ongoing. He told of how he’d finally gotten to the bottom of their father’s death and had held the bastard Madison accountable for his actions. All of that led to his new, strange and quite exciting status of loft within Delphia. As much as it was inconceivable that his own brother was somehow running Delphia, he knew that if any man out there were capable of such at power grab, it would be Gregory. That much didn’t surprise him.

Over the last two weeks, Gregory spent most of his days splitting time between Trevor and Tabitha. He slept most nights in her chambers, but did occasionally share the Grand Magus’s room with his brother. It was almost like old times in a bizarre way. Trevor and Gregory, lying awake in the dark, fighting sleep and talking. It was during those late night talks that Trevor was finally able to understand all of the what’s and how’s that led to his brother essentially taking Madison’s place.

Trevor had also told Gregory the details of how they’d come to Delphia. It was on his first night in the city. Tabitha was still in a blind rage over the loss of Lacy, so Gregory decided it would be quite prudent to give her the space she needed. Plus, Trevor would need company. It wasn’t going to be easy for him to adjust to this. So, much like old times, Gregory made up the small antique couch in the Grand Magus Quarters, and settled in as he allowed his brother to take his bed. Talking in hushed whispers, not wanting Tabitha or perhaps some other unseen force to hear too much, Trevor began telling Gregory of their final night in New Orleans, before coming through the door that Lena enchanted and walking into Delphia.

Stealing Mail and Applied Mythology
Trevor began the story by telling Gregory the ultimate fate of Lacy Suzino, of Lena revealing that she was working with none other than Brandon Leary, the brother’s long distant uncle and apparent leader of the Unwashed. He told of the little girl Soka, who’d crossed through a dreamscape in order to deliver a pass-phrase to Clair, the very phrase that informed Lena it was finally time to move forward with their operation. Once the prelude was told, Trevor moved into the story of their last night before coming here. Gregory found it to be a nice story, at least up until the end that was, when madness found its way back in. For the most part though, it reminded him of what a good soul his younger brother was, and it caused him to feel resentment towards Tabitha for the constant insults towards Trevor. Gregory listened intently as Trevor told his tale.

Trevor and Derrick shared a room in their last couple days in New Orleans. Clair had gone and gotten her own room. Derrick had teased Trevor, but not in a malicious manner. Lena informed the group that she needed to go and properly mourn Lacy. They told her they understood, although Derrick, who’d spent some time as Lacy’s private captive, didn’t think that he could ever come close to feeling anything that remotely resembled pity for her fate. Her death was a good thing for the world as far as Derrick Reynolds was concerned.

They all met in the lobby the next morning. Lena instructed them that today was for getting their personal affairs in order. Clair stated that she had a few calls to make and some emails to send, and promptly went to her room to do so. Derrick and Trevor made quick work in taking care of their personal matters. Derrick informed his superiors at One Shell Square that he had a personal emergency arise out of state, and that it might take up to a week or two to iron it all out. There was some resistance on the part of his boss, but in the end, what was he to do? If Derrick had to go and get affairs, then that is what he had to do, and trying to force him into work would not change that.

Derrick also took the time to pay his landlord the next month’s rent, just in case they were gone a while. Trevor rode with him back over to his apartment so that he could drop off the rent check as well as clean out any perishable items from his refrigerator. They didn’t linger long at Derrick’s place though. This was the site of a murder now, and could have easily been the site of all of their deaths had Clair’s pass-phrase not worked.

“Once this is over, Trev, I don’t think I’ll be able to really live here. I might just break the lease and let my credit score take the hit. I just, I can’t see myself watching a movie on the same couch where we were held at knife point by Lacy. Hell, I don’t even want to sit on the couch where Lena sat her corpse. If there are such things as ghosts, just try and imagine what it would feel like to be haunted by Lacy Suzino for the rest of your life.”

“I agree with you. I’ve been holding on to hope that Gregory is alive and safe, even if he did wind up in Delphia. That guy could talk Satan into going to Sunday Mass if he set his mind to it. Still though, should my brother not have survived, I’ll probably sell our estate in London and just move into a flat or something. That house, my father was murdered there; all the secrets of Tobit and Delphia were hidden there. I know there is no way I could live there alone. Even if Gregory does come out of this safely, I think I’ll still move out. Too much bad stuff there; it’s cancer for the soul.”

“Wait, Trevor, didn’t you tell me that you’re a lawyer?” Derrick asks.

“Yeah, got a practice in London. Gregory had me use a lot of my connections back when we were trying to keep the Trisetta Stone from being dug up from under Whitehall. Why do you ask?”

“Well, you were worried about cancer of the soul, but Trev, if you’re a lawyer, you’ve got nothing to worry about.”

“How do you figure?”

“Cuz brother, you ain’t got no soul!”

Derrick laughed hard at his own joke and lightly slapped Trevor on the back. Trevor found himself laughing a bit in spite of it all though. It was somewhat nice to know that even in this madness, such simple concepts as lawyer jokes remained intact.

On their way back to the hotel Trevor took care of his own personal affairs. His were rather easy as well. As partner in his law firm he didn’t exactly have to ask permission to take time off. He was already on vacation as far as his employers knew anyway, and adding another couple of weeks to it was no big deal. Trevor had to remind Derrick a few times that the general attitude in Europe compared to the United States about taking time from work was quite different. Most companies in England encouraged regular use of time off and vacationing, at least in Trevor’s experience. He actually felt a bit bad for American workers, chained to their desks year around. As far as the house that Trevor and Gregory shared, it was a family estate, long owned by the Leary clan. No need to worry about paying any bills. Plus there were cleaners and other service folk that would ensure that place was as pristine as they’d left it once the Leary brothers returned to London.

“One of these days, Trev, I’m just going to show up out there and become the couch riding slob friend of yours. You know it would be fun.”

“You know, Derrick, I’d actually like that. Believe it or not, I don’t have many friends; especially since my brother revealed the Tobit origins and I started seeing the goat-heads and all. I’ve seen two of them just since we left the hotel.”

“Dude, that sucks. I mean, thank God that didn’t happen to me. I never had any problems after my little escape from Delphia, besides normal nightmares and anxiety at first. The worst was no one believing me. I went to therapy for a while, and had to essentially sit there and be called a liar by the very doctor I was paying to try and fix me. I met this girl there, Lisa. She was nutty as hell and didn’t even have Delphia as an excuse. We dated for a time. You know she had to have her mother call her every night and sing her a lullaby or she couldn’t get to sleep? Yeah, even on the nights that I slept at her house, she had to get that call. I remember one night her cell phone ran out of juice, and she couldn’t call her mom. I mean, I had my phone, but Lisa didn’t actually know her mother’s number, can you believe that? She had it programmed in the phone to call, and without that, she had no way to call. So, here we are, at my place. I have an Android phone, she has an IPhone, so my charger is of no use to her. I was drunk, so there was no way I was driving her back to her apartment to get her charger, and she couldn’t drive stick shift. So, she is totally freaking the fuck out, crying, singing a lullaby to herself, and trying to do it in her mom’s New Jersey accent. I’m just sitting there, drunk and trying my damned hardest not to laugh at her, as mean as that sounds.”

“Well, what did she end up doing?”

“Get this man, she went outside and started knocking on all of my neighbor’s doors. Yeah, it’s around 2AM, and this hysterical girl with smeared make-up is frantically banging on doors. I was 100% sure someone was going to call the cops. Luckily, my neighbor Sue is a real sweetheart. She used to train therapy dogs for military veterans. She has a real soft spot for people in pain. She came out, Lisa told her what was going on, and Sue actually drove her over to Walgreens to buy her a new charger, all so she could call her mom and get her good night song. Sue is a good person; she’s like the anti-Tobit in our world.”

“Sounds like Lisa went through a lot. Was it abuse as a child or something?”

“No, at least not as far as I could tell. She was just way too attached to her mom. I’ve heard that boys are supposed to be more inclined towards mom while girls reach out to dad, but Lisa broke that rule a million times over. She told me that all the way from when she was a baby up until she got her scholarship to the University of New Orleans she’d always had that lullaby. When she moved down here from Jersey she just couldn’t function without it. Other than that, she was a good girlfriend, I guess. Never cheated on me that I know of, didn’t flirt with guys in front of me, and thank God she didn’t have that horrible gaggle of girlfriends like so many others I’ve dated do. It’s like, to date one you have to win them all over. Lisa was cool in that regard, I guess.”

“So, why did you break up with her? Sounds like you had a good relationship, despite her weird nightly routine.”

“I told her about Delphia. I figured, this girl would understand. As crazy as she was, and as understanding as I’d been, I thought for sure she was a safe bet to open up to about all of it. I told her everything, the yacht ride, Delphia, Tobit and my escape back to the Dakota Science Station. I really felt that Lisa was the one that would believe me.”

“I’m guessing she didn’t,” Trevor stated.

“She laughed at me and accused me of trying to prank her or some shit. She then went on to say that if I really did believe all of this and wasn’t just messing with her, that I really needed to spend more time with the therapist.”

“How did you take that? Did you really lay into her, Derrick? Give her a good reality check about hypocrisy?”

“At first I wanted to. I even wanted to make her feel bad, tell her that a girl that needs her mommy to sing her lullabies every night is not in any position to judge. I wanted to tell her that at least I was working through my affliction, that at least I had a chance to heal. Lisa just went to the therapist to please her mother; she even told me that. She admitted that there would never come a time that she could see herself getting to sleep without the song. I was so mad that I almost wanted to remind her that her mother wouldn’t be alive forever, and then what would she do? But Trev, I fought that off. Really it wasn’t even Lisa’s fault. Weird mental problems or not, she was reacting to my story of Delphia like any sane person would. So, instead of making a big scene, I just calmly handed her back the key she’d given me to her apartment, and told her she could just toss out the extra toothbrush I kept there. I didn’t have any other items there that I could remember; maybe some spare socks or something, but not anything worth going back for.”

“And how did she react to this?”

“Poorly. She got really pissed. At first it was apologetic anger almost. Like, ‘I’m sorry, okay, Derrick, I didn’t mean to laugh at your little story.’ But when that didn’t work, she got really angry and showed some nasty colors. Before I’d told her my story that day, she considered me the best boyfriend she’d ever had. We’d even halfway discussed getting matching tattoos or something. One Delphia later though, and I’m a small asshole liar with a small penis and no future. She actually spit in my face, Trev. I guess I was lucky that I got out of that relationship before we got tattoos or moved in together or… God, imagine if I got her pregnant. I mean, she’d be singing a lullaby to the kid while her mom was on the phone singing to her. Fucking too real, man. Glad I moved on. I stopped going to that therapist shortly after that, even though I rescheduled my days so as not to bump into her. That was around the time I sort of got this crazy ‘fuck-it’ attitude. Lisa, man, what a nut, but she had a damned grade-A handy-jay, I’ll tell you that much.”

Derrick and Trevor arrived back that hotel and met up with Clair in the lobby. Clair was ready to go out and see the sights. She wanted to relax and actually have something akin to fun before probably venturing into Delphia to die. She told the others that she’d taken care of her personal business, and when Trevor asked her what she had to take care of, Clair responded in what could only be described as rude annoyance. She stated it was personal business for a reason, though she did so with such false politeness that it created the rudeness that would likely not have existed had she just told him to shut up and mind his own. Trevor blushed and felt pangs rise in his stomach. Derrick saw this and jumped in, knowing that Trev had a bit of a crush on Clair; this embarrassment was almost painful to watch. So, being a good friend, Derrick took one for the team.

“Clair, for real, who’d you have to call, the Council on Nerdy Affairs?”

This worked, and Clair turned her agitation to Derrick, which gave Trevor some much-needed relief. After a moment of awkward silence, Trev stepped in and did an admirable job of smoothing things over and getting some quality face time in front of Clair.

“Listen, guys, let’s not fight. Sorry that I butted into your business, Clair. I was just curious. Derrick meant nothing by his comment; I think he was just trying to pull some heat off of me. You got a real scary face when you get annoyed, Clair.”

Derrick raised his hand and announced, “Yeah, guilty. I just couldn’t stand there while you mean-mugged Trev. But yeah, I’m sorry for being a dick, friends again?”

Clair laughed and also threw in a quick apology to both men. She realized she’d been rude and owned up, thus repairing all.

“So, no Lena?” Derrick asked Clair.

“No, she said she’ll meet us here tonight around 10pm. She’s really taking the Lacy thing hard. She told me that once we got all of our stuff taken care of, that we should head out and try to relax, as it might be our last chance.”

“Agreed, Clair, and since we have Derrick here, we touristy types have our very own native New Orleanian to play tour guide. So Mr. Guide, take me and our lovely Dr. Nobles out for a good time, please and thank you!”

Derrick had to admit to himself that Trevor seemed to be showing some backbone with Clair. He decided he’d play wingman tonight and try to get some romance going between the two of them. After all, if you’re going to head into a frozen hell and to eaten alive by demon worshipers, and in Derrick’s case, twice, you may as well get laid the night before.

“Okay then, folks, let us be off!” Derrick announced with genuine excitement, and stood in the middle of Clair and Trevor, taking them by the hands and leading them out of the lobby doors and into the French Quarter.

Derrick showed them around the usual tourist spots, and for the first time in a long time, all three members of this little rag-tag group of survivors felt like normal people. They walked around and told stories, some ranging from boring and bland ‘getting to know you stuff’ all the way to some pretty wild antics. Clair surprised them most with some of her college hijinks.

“Okay, tell it again,” Derrick asked, and for the third time in two hours, Clair went into her more wild youthful misadventures.

“Okay,” she said while sipping a daiquiri that Derrick knew would likely have her head spinning if she didn’t slow down, “this was back in the mid-90s when I was a kid growing up in damned Manchester, New Hampshire. So, seeing as how I am not a millennial baby like you, Derrick, we didn’t have all this crap like Tinder and OkCupid and whatever other ‘get me laid’ websites are out there. People back then did those dating profiles, and get read… through the mail.” Clair announced this while laughing. The Hurricane daiquiri, which Clair Nobles was still consuming too fast, was working its magic. The normally prudent, well-mannered woman of science was no giggling like a child telling a funny story.

“Okay, okay, so when was a kid, we grew up in the apartment complex in Manchester. Did I tell you I was from there? Yeah, so yeah, the complex was fun. It was huge so it was like its own city, and me and all my friends would always run around there and sort of get into trouble.”

“Was this back before you became a book worm science nerd?” Derrick asked, laughing as he sipped his own drink.

“Fuck you, and no, I was always a nerd. But, having a 4.0 GPA doesn’t mean I was like this little geeky kid that sat in my room with a textbook all day. I still did kid stuff, right? So, there was this guy that lived in our apartment complex, and his mailbox, those cabinet style ones I guess, you know the kind, well, his was broken and we could just open it.”

“What did you do, put something in his mailbox?” Trevor chimed in.

“No way, we would steal his pornos. Yeah, he would get porno mags mailed to him, and I guess he didn’t care that his mailbox didn’t lock, or shit, maybe he didn’t know we could open it by jiggling it around. Holy crap, I bet that’s why he kept getting the magazines. EUREKA! I just made a discovery!” Clair shouted this and got comical looks from some of the passers by.

“Never mind her, she’s retarded,” Derrick announced loudly.

“Oh, fuck you, my IQ is like 150-ish. You know how rare that is?”

“The story, Clair. Finish the story so Derrick can stop asking to hear it again and again,” Trevor interjected.

“Okay, so one day we went in there to steal his pornos, because we’d sell them to some of the boys in the neighborhood. I think that’s a felony, but whatever. So, we go in there and find this dating service that I guess that guy belonged to. I was a survey thing to try and find him his perfect woman. I guess he was tired of all his girlfriends coming in glossy print. So, we take it back to my apartment and decide to fill it out.”

Derrick was now grinning from ear to ear. Maybe it was the alcohol or maybe it was just the fact that Clair had once been out there pulling pranks, but this part just floored him every time.

“So, we fill it out, me and my friends. And we make it horrible, like we paint this guy out to be as bad as we could. For his job, we put garbage collector. For religion we put devil worship. We made him out to have a foot fetish. We described his ideal date as going to McDonald's, dutch of course, as we made him out to be really broke. I think we even wrote that the perfect first date would be one where his mom could come along. Anyway, we keep everything else, like his name the same, but we use my friend Danielle’s phone number, so if any potential ladies were to call, we might have a chance to actually mess with them too.”

“And this actually worked, unbelievable still,” Derrick added.

“Oh yeah, it worked. When Clair Nobles, excuse me, DOCTOR Clair Nobles sets out to do something, it gets down.” She concluded this statement with another huge swallow of alcohol, looking sad when she realized the cup was empty. “I think I’m going to be needing another one of these,” she announced to Trevor.

Derrick laughed harder and urged her to finish the story, even offering to buy her next Hurricane.

“So, as luck would have it, or, wait, I should call it serendipity, yeah, gotta keep the New England pretention alive, so as serendipity would have it, a couple weeks later the phone rings while we’re all over at Danielle’s apartment. She answers the phone, and this woman who says her name is Charlotte is on the other end. She says that she read the guys dating profile and wanted to meet him. So, lucky us, Danielle had an older brother. We got him on the phone and told him to do a really deep voice, and pretend to be the guy…. Shit I wish I could remember his name. Either way, we set up a date for the next night over at this Chinese restaurant that was close enough to ride out bikes to. So, we went over there and waited, just to see what kind of woman could possibly be interested in this guy. She told Danielle’s brother that she’d be arriving in a big black car, and that’s she’d be wearing a navy blue dress. She told him to be there at 6pm, sharp.”

“And the fucking chick showed up,” Derrick once again added.

“She did. And let me tell you Derrick and Trevor, she was actually pretty attractive. I just remember she was wearing these big thick boots, and keep in mind this is like the middle of summer, and I couldn’t stop laughing because I remembered the foot fetish part of his profile. So, she goes into the restaurant and we wait outside for about 30 minutes. Keep in mind, no cell phones back then. Finally Charlotte comes back out, looking really annoyed. I guess I can understand why, she thought she’d just been stood up. She’s heading to her car and my girlfriends and me just can’t stop laughing and I think that finally caught her attention. I don’t know if she recognized our giggles from the background when she was talking to Danielle’s brother, or maybe she was some sort of devil worshiping, foot domming psychic, but she stopped, turned around and walked over to us. I still remember what she said,

‘Garbage men actually make pretty good money,’ and then she says, ‘And it’s not nice to waste people’s time, girls, especially people who now have one of your phone numbers.’

With that, she left and got in her car. We never messed with that guy’s mailbox again; we were really spooked for the rest of that summer. Every time Danielle’s phone rang, she thought it was that scary-ass lady calling. When nothing happened after a few weeks, we forgot about it, but still, weird ass prank.”

They walked on a bit, telling tall-tale after tall-tale. Clair’s little dating company story had jumpstarted the competition, and the three of them spent the better part of the next hour walking around, taking in sights and trying to 1-Up each other. This would have likely continued until Clair stopped them in front of a used bookstore. She consumed another Hurricane during their walk, and was now full of what was commonly known as older folks as ‘piss and vinegar.’

“Oh God, they might have it here, we have to go in and check!” she announced to both men, and led them by the hands into the store.

“What are you looking for?” Trevor asked, but she ignored him and went straight to the clerk behind the register.

“Sir, do you guys sell non-fiction here?” A rather silly question, but the clerk was good-natured and simply pointed at the large wall with a blue sign above it with ‘Non-Fiction’ printed in black.

“Of course you do, sorry, I’m a little drunk,” she told him in a low voice, as though her intoxication was some great secret just for his ears.

“No worries, darling. Now, is there a particular title you’re looking for?”

“Yes, Applied Mythology by Clair Nobles. Do you have it?”

The man clicked at computer’s keyboard for a moment before looking up with a smile. “In fact, we do. Follow me.”

They were led over to a small shelf marked ‘Science and Related Materials.’ He looked over the rows of books for a moment before his hand darted to a rather thick hardcover and pulled it out, handing it to Clair.

“There you go, ma’am. That one is actually marked down 80%. If you want to buy it I’d be happy to take an additional 5% off. We’re trying to move these boring ones out of here, but the owner won’t just let us throw them out.”

By this point Derrick was laughing well past the point of ever regaining self-control. Trevor was doing his best not to join in, but he was losing that battle quickly. Even if it meant never getting that romantic shot at Clair, he just couldn’t keep it in. He began to laugh in a deep, honest and throaty manner. This of course got Derrick going, who quickly grabbed the book from Clair’s hands.

“Oh my God, man, 85% off, because the boss won’t just let them throw it away. Holy crap, dude, I think I’m going to puke from laughter.”

Clair was giving them both a tight-lipped look of disapproval. “Hey, at least I wrote a book. I had to do that for my PhD. And it’s good; they just don’t know what they’re missing down here!”

Derrick flipped the book over and observed the price. Three dollars was the asking price. He couldn’t resist.

“Sir, oh sir!” he called to the clerk.

“Yes?”

“Is this price with the 80% off, or is the discount applied to the price tag?”

“That’s the price before discount, sir.”

This set both Trevor and Derrick into such erupting laughing fits that they actually had to sit down.

“So that’s… oh God, that’s 45 cents. They only want 45 cents for this book, Clair; 45 cents!”

Trevor took a quick glance of Clair’s face before continuing with the jokes. He really didn’t want to offend her, and not just because he was finding himself attracted to her more and more, but because he cared about her as a friend. However, he saw no signs of anger on her face. She was laughing drunkenly at and trying to grab at the book as Derrick held it about his head.

“Oh man, Trevor, look at this. It’s even got her picture on the back… Look, it’s even got her picture.”

By now all three of them were laughing, shouting and cheering. “And they put the bloody price tag on her forehead!” Trevor added, causing another uproar of laughter from the group.

Finally, the clerk, resigned to play the role of killjoy, spoke up. “Guys, you’re being a bit loud. This is a book store, you know; people are trying to read. Are you going to purchase that book or not?”

Clair, in full drunken insolence, took the book and walked over the clerk. “I… I sir, I wrote this book. I have, sir, I have a PhD in History. So, why is my book only 45 cents?”

The clerk was becoming annoyed and did not appear impressed or phased that he was talking to the author of said poor-selling book. She was holding the picture on the back next to her face, and whispering, “See, it’s me,” over and over again. Derrick was starting to think Clair had the tolerance of a toddler when it came to liquor.

“I’ll buy the book, sir,” Derrick announced, and lay two quarters on the counter.

The clerk thanked them and wished them a nice day in the tone that suggested ‘get out’ far more than ‘pleasant afternoon.’

Dinnertime rolled around and Derrick took them to a moderately pricey place in the Quarter that he knew wouldn’t make a fuss about not having reservations. As they ate, and slowly began to sober up, the conversation went from the crazy antics of the day into more serious territory. Delphia.

“So, by show of hands, who here really trusts Lena?” Derrick asked. Neither Clair nor Trevor raised their arms from the table. “That’s what I thought,” he continued. “I get that she killed Lacy and reacted to your pass-phrase, but still, this could all be one elaborate trap.”

“Honestly I get a good vibe from Lena, but yeah, that could all be part of the act too. She is leading us straight into Delphia, and once we’re there, we’ll be at her mercy. If she screws us, that’s a wrap,” Clair added in.

“So, this idol, the one from the Epor story, that is what the Unwashed believe anchors Delphia to the world, eh?” Trevor asked.

“According to Lena, yeah. I spent some time chatting with her this morning, before you guys came down. She says the idol is protected by some sort of sustainment energy, like one of those orbs that Epor used to preserve the Triassic Journal. That’s why they can’t just run in there and break the thing themselves. Lena tells me that there is some sort of incantation written in Dawning. She believes it’s an encrypted set of instructions of safely handling the statue. The Unwashed seem to believe that by reverse engineering those instructions, that we can maybe dispel the protections around the idol. That’s their working theory anyway, and they think I’m the one to make it happen.” Clair finished this with a sip of water, clearing her throat a bit.

“Christ, Clair, you’ve got one hell of a duty on your shoulders. I get that we all sort of have a part to play in this, but they really saddled you with the heavy stuff,” stated Derrick. He wasn’t joking around anymore and had taken on a concerned tone that made Clair a bit nervous. She was already worried sick about this little mission of theirs, and seeing their resident class clown suddenly becoming the stuffy teacher’s aid didn’t do much to lighten her mental load.

“Don’t worry, we are all in this together. If Clair is the one to break the spell, Derrick and I will be working overtime to make sure she can get it done. You’re not in this alone, I swear.” Trevor said this with a certain strength that neither Derrick nor Clair had really seen in him yet.

“I want to rescue my best friend, Sergio. I just know he’s got to be alive. I just wonder, since they did that Masking ritual shit on him, can he even leave the city or does his soul belong to Tobit? Of course, there’s Timothy as well. You guys have heard me tell the story a million times, but that guy is the reason why I’m alive right now. I will get both of them out of Delphia.”

“I have to get to Gregory as well. If Lena is right and he’s back in Delphia, who knows what tortures he’s enduring as we speak. I just can’t believe he made a deal with Madison. He really was dedicated to freeing our family from the Leary curse by any means necessary, even making deals with the devil, I suppose.”

“We’re going to do this, guys, I know it; I have a good feeling. We’ve all survived this long. Derrick, you even escaped from them once, so I know you can do it again. Lena told me there is a crate of supplies for us to use that should be waiting for us when we get there. She told me that the police in Delphia only carry clubs, so, maybe if we have better stuff…” Clair trailed off, pondering this.

“Yeah, I guess guns will be the way to do it. I remember the cops there; they look like those old Irish stereotype police from all the old movies. I remember them being really aggressive though, so, don’t expect the Officer Friendly experience.”

Clair looked at her watch and saw that it was nearing 9pm. Lena wanted to see them all in the hotel lobby by 10pm. She informed her companions of the time, the check was paid and the three left out intending to walk down Bourbon Street back to the hotel just to take in a few last sights.

However, Derrick had what he believed to be a better idea.

“We have time to take the long way back. We can take the River Walk back up to Canal Street. It’s pretty over there, and sure beats getting puked on by some stranger on Bourbon.”

“Agreed. I don’t know when I’ll be in New Orleans again after all this is said and done, may as well be a tourist while I can,” Clair stated.

“The river it is,” Trevor chirped in good nature, and the three of them walked away from the crowded nightlife of Bourbon towards the darker and less populated River Walk.

Warnings
Conversation lulled until Clair and Trevor saw the gorgeous view of the Mississippi River at night in New Orleans. There was a full moon in the sky that cast a gorgeous reflection into the water. The Crescent City Connection Bridge spanned the river, connecting New Orleans to the West Bank. The bridge was lit up and shone brightly in the dusky night sky. To the right was the Central Business District with all the skyscrapers lit up for the night. This was a common sight for Derrick, but for Clair and Trevor it was beautiful, and they had to take a moment to enjoy it. Derrick took a few casual steps back, wanting to let Trevor and Clair have some time alone. He was still determined to make a match out of them, and figured if this view couldn’t do it, it likely couldn’t be done. So it came as no surprise that Derrick wasn’t really paying attention to anything in particular while he tried to let his friends have a second alone. Therefore he never saw the small homeless man approach him from his left side.

“You’re going to die,” the man said, and continued to walk along the River Walk.

“What was that?” Derrick called to him, but the man ignored him.

Then there were more; vagrants crawled out from beneath the piers along the river where they frequently slept, and began walking towards Derrick and his friends.

“Guys, check this out,” he called over to Clair and Trevor, who quickly came out of their trance from admiring the cityscape to realize they were being surrounded.

“Tobit sits upon his black throne and watches us all,” another one spoke as he walked past.

“You are marked by the Molder of our Minds. You shall scream upon the Red Star for all of eternity,” said yet another.

Clair was becoming terrified, and the three huddled together. “What are they doing, what do they want?” she asked, her voice laced with panic.

“Hail Tobit, Hail Delphia,” a woman stated, moving along the river.

“You shall be food for our Master of the Void. We shall feast upon you,” another threatened.

That’s when Trevor realized that the vagrants weren’t simply making their threats and moving on, but rather forming a human gauntlet, standing on either side of the concrete walk way.

“There is no escape or freedom from Tobit; there is only freedom through Tobit.” Statement after statement, a litany of terror, and as each homeless person walked by stating their opinion on what fates awaited them at the hands of Tobit, they continued to form that gauntlet.

Derrick spun around and saw that the double row of people had also been forming behind them as well, as if all of the city’s homeless had gathered up to give praise to Tobit tonight.

“We need help over here! Someone call the police!” Derrick shouted. By now he had to shout over the homeless, as even after taking their position in the lines, they would still continue to chant threat after threat. Derrick looked over their shoulders, hoping to see a pedestrian, but he knew this was a rather untraveled part of the French Quarter. It had no bars or clubs; therefore most tourists had no interest in the River Walk. From what he could tell, they were alone out here.

The double line of insanity now stretched at least 50 feet in either direction. Clair had no idea if they were simply meant to walk it, like some demonic version of Soul Train, or if this was where those in Delphia had finally made their move. She realized grimly that this could very well be the end. As if that realization had been heard, the walls of people actually began to take steps forward, closing in on both sides. They’d finally coordinated their verbal threats it seemed, as ‘Hail Tobit’ was repeated over and over again.

“Fuck this, not this way! Follow my lead, Derrick!” Trevor suddenly shouted.

Derrick was able to look and observed as the normally peaceful and unaggressive Trevor Leary stepped forward and drove his fist into the first transient’s face that he could reach. Derrick understood and followed suit, striking the next one and creating a small gap. Both Derrick and Trevor grabbed Clair by both hands and began to run. They made it about 25 feet before they risked a quick glance back. The lines of fanatics were still where they’d been left; they were not chasing them, it appeared.

They turned to run, desperate to get back to their hotel room, desperate to just get back to people, when suddenly the moaning began. The entire line of homeless, perhaps 40 or more in all, began to emit a low, guttural, almost growling noise, coming from deep within their throats.

“It’s just like in Epor’s story,” Clair whispered. “When the scouting party found that the Primes were cannibalistic. They started doing this. I know it’s the same sound! I just know it!”

“No time for this now! We have to get back to safety! Let’s go, NOW!” Derrick commanded, and they made their way quickly back into the heart of the French Quarter, and into the safety of numbers.

The trio arrived safely into the crowded mass of tourists and finally sat down to rest on a stoop.

“What in the hell was that?” Trevor asked.

“It was like when I was fleeing Delphia. All the fanatics lined up to attack,” Derrick replied in gasps, out of breath from running.

“No, I don’t think that was meant as an attack…” Clair corrected, also trying to catch her breath.

“If that wasn’t an attack, then I don’t know what it was!”

“A warning, that’s what I think- just something to scare us,” Clair answered. “Think about it. If they wanted to attack us, grab us, throw us in the river or whatever, they had every chance to right then and there. Yet all they did was stand there. That was a last ditch effort, I think, by whatever is running Delphia, to turn us away.”

“They’re damned determined, aren’t they?” Trevor asked, his voice settling back to its normal tone as his body recovered from the run.

“Yeah, but so are we. Come on, let’s get back to the hotel,” Derrick replied.

The walk back to the hotel was tense. They continued to catch glimpses of people staring at them, and their overtaxed minds, now on full alert, wrestled with whether or not they were just still being stalked.

“Look, there, do you see it?” Derrick suddenly said, voice shaky as they made their way across Canal Street. “On top of that building there, look!”

Clair and Trevor followed Derrick’s finger and indeed saw what he was gesturing to. Standing atop a 4-story building, staring down, were about two dozen goat-masked Faithful.

“What are they up to?” Clair asked.

As if in response to her question, all of them raised their fingers to their lips in the “hush” gesture.

Derrick looked around at the droves of people walking past them, all around them.

“Think anyone else can see them?”

“In my experience, no,” Trevor answered. “One used to appear to my brother almost all of his life, ever since the night our father told him of our family legacy. Once Gregory told me about our connection to Tobit, one started appearing to me as well. I never saw more than one, though, and in all my dealings with it, no one else was ever able to see them.”

“I want to get back inside of the hotel. I don’t feel safe out here,” Clair insisted, and they finished making their way back to the hotel.

Lena was waiting for them as they returned to the hotel. She was sitting in one of the chairs in the lobby.

“Everything okay?” she asked.

“Just a little shaken up. We had a visit from the Delphian welcoming committee out there,” Derrick stated flatly.

“What happened?”

So, they explained to the former Sister of Tobit, a woman they were now forced to trust, exactly what happened with the homeless people and the fanatics on the roof. She listened, nodding here and there, as if all of this were as normal as the sunrise in the morning and the sunset in the evening.

With the previous good cheer drained out of them from their shared encounters with the dark forces of Tobit, sleep was determined as the next step. In the morning, they agreed to all meet at Lena’s room, where she would enchant the doorway, either doorway or bathroom would work just fine, and cross over into Delphia. They’d all expected to be plagued with nightmares on that last night in New Orleans. However, they all awoke and reported a solid night's sleep with no midnight visits from demonic entities. They’d spent the morning silently preparing themselves for what awaited. Once everyone was ready, they met at Lena’s room. She already had the door prepped.

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