Marion stepped out of the American Airlines center into a brisk October evening. The Circus was in town and no matter the location – downtown Dallas or eastern Europe, these were always her kind of people. A gypsy with a checkered past, Marion was always on the look-out for fellow wandering souls. She’d share stories from the road, swap tidbits of information and keep a sharp eye out for anyone with Talent.
Marion enjoyed helping these lost souls, especially those with the arcane gifts. Teaching what she knew of the Art was something of a hobby of hers. Nothing formal – mostly tidbits cobbled together from her own life on the road, but she found many of the talents she ran into knew very little about what they were actually capable of doing.
Her thoughts were interrupted by the sharp crack of gunfire out in the street. Rushing to the edge of the courtyard, Marion set eyes on a scene which could have played out in one of the three rings she had just left behind. Mid street stood a massive bear (Bastion) swiping furiously at a pair of jaguars that danced nimbly around his massive form.
In front of the bear was a destroyed Hummer – front grill and bumper scattered around the street like confetti. To his right, a man in a duster with a six-shooter was firing off a shot as two more jaguars leapt toward him with blinding speed. A “pop” and a muzzle flare drew her attention further down the street where a shadowy figure was firing a shot toward the pitched battle.
Marion looked around wildly. There was magic at work here, that much she was certain about. Her suspicions only further confirmed when across the street a dainty female figure stepped out and took on the form of a larger jaguar. Actually, no. There was no shape shifting involved but a carefully crafted glamer.
Obviously, these groups needed some lessons in subtlety while employing their craft. As she glanced to the far side of the square, she could see the WFAA studio windows with camera crew and reporters gathering in earnest. Whatever was going on here, it would do no good for it to make the news. Drawing in the moisture from the air around her, Marion dragged it all through sheer force of will to the studio windows. In an instant, the whole of the glass was opaque with condensation.
There was a quick shout from the street and Marion rushed to the corner of the square in time to see Skire get pounced on by a fast moving jaguar. They both toppled over a low wall and into the adjacent parking structure. Another shot rang out from down the street and the second jaguar which was debating leaping into the fray in the parking garage turned and rushed after the shadowy figure farthest away from the group. Meanwhile, the other two continued buzzing round the enormous bear like angry bees. Their strategy appeared to be working – the bear was wearing down, however several swipes of his massive paws had connected with the nimble cats and their agile dance was turning into a stumbling shuffle.
Blood sprayed over the lower wall of the parking garage and Marion heard an all too human scream. At that instant, Anita, still disguised as a jaguar, came bounding over the Hummer, hurling a mouthful of rocks into the bloody fray. With a menacing growl, a blood soaked jaguar bounded out of the parking garage toward her. A swipe of it’s paw opened a large gash and she stumbled backward.
Marion looked on in confusion, still unsure what exactly was going on. Spells raced through her head. Ferocious winds to blast them apart until she could sort things out. Perhaps a shield to slow the damage these talents were doing to each other. Another crack of gunfire down the street and she watched as a Spirit evocation shield sputtered out from around Mustang. The jaguar in front of him writhed in pain on the asphalt, it’s already wounded arm now twitching uselessly.
The jaguars were too blood thirsty, the talents too desperate. It wasn’t uncommon for the untrained to get in over their heads in the supernatural world. Once you manifest a power, for some of the critters of the Nevernever it’s a gloves off sort of situation. Marion chose her side and dashed into the battle.
Marion turned to assist Anita who was starting to flee. The jaguar was only partly thrown of by Anita’s illusion and was prime to carve her up into little morsels. The bear was slowing down, bleeding from a multitude of small cuts, but he was still putting up a hell of a fight.
Pulling in energy, Marion prepared to react but her focus failed her. She stared wide-eyed as the fabric of reality started to bend and twist in the intersection ahead of her. With a toothy smirk, the illusory jaguar bounded forward toward the contorting air that now crackled with an electric fringe casting a dancing white hot light across the street. Suddenly, Anita was enveloped and without pause, her attacker pursued even as the portal closed off behind it.
Marion stood staring for an instant, now completely unsure of what she was committing herself to. She’d seen rifts to the Nevernever before and read the lengthy ceremonies to create them but never had she seen one so casually torn open. The energy she felt coursing through the female that opened it was immense – there was no way it was mortal magic.
Shaking her head to clear it, Marion dashed forward toward Bastion, which had just scooped up one of the jaguars in it’s massive arms. As the second jaguar tried to seize advantage of the momentary absence of enormous bear paws swinging through the air, Marion whipped out her blasting rod and called forth a gout of flame. Adrenaline surged through her. Finally committed to an action, the pent up magical energy released itself in the searing blue and white hot flame. Ash and charred bone fell carelessly to the pavement. With a look of appreciation her way, Bastion gave a mighty squeeze and the jaguar, barely visible as it scrambled in his furry grasp, fell limp.
In moments, Mustang was clambering on top of the wrecked Hummvee to escape the limping jaguar which was still relentlessly pursuing him. Seeing his friends dead or gone, it turned to flee on it’s now useless front leg. With ease, the bear ran it down and held it clawing and scratching on the pavement.
The next few moments were a blur as Marion raced to the bleeding form in the parking garage. He was still alive but badly mauled and needed medical attention. From out of nowhere, Mustang appeared driving a hotel shuttle van and they loaded their cargo inside – a bear, the thrashing jaguar, a near lifeless Skire and Mustang at the wheel who appeared none too confident.
Their attempts to drive casually by a responding police cruiser were quickly thwarted. The scene must have been comical and had she not been in the van, Marion might have had a good laugh: The officer driving by, Mustang looking nonchalantly at the road ahead, the van rocked viciously behind him, fur and upholstery flying in the back seats. Safe to assume that was probably enough to tip the officer off.
The chase was short, but seemed to last hours. Mustang insisting he was conducting a high speed chase as they crawled awkwardly through the city streets. Marion did her best to staunch Skire’s wounds. Bastion finally clobbered the jaguar into submission and ripping out the seat belt straps, tied him securely. Marion then tested the limits of her powers – first trying to veil the entire van which proved too difficult to maintain, and next putting the officer asleep at the wheel just long enough for them to make a daring escape.
The captured jaguar turned out to be a Were-form. He was a man, dark skinned, black hair, cropped somewhat awkwardly to frame his face. He cursed them in Spanish, telling them that Tlatoani would come to kill them for meddling. He would rip out their hearts and feed them to the gods. Being full of such useful information, they left him tied to a tree in a park near Oakcliff somewhere by the Trinity, awash in the orange glow of the burning hotel van.
By next morning they had somehow made their way across town. A few failed attempts at stealing a car and a fried cell phone as Mustang tried to answer a call from Anita, eventually they found transportation. Skire’s wounds were severe and only getting worse. Unable to help him, they dropped him off anonymously at the hospital. A quick search beforehand revealed two sets of car keys, Professor Donald’s wallet (empty), and a few neatly rolled joints. His revolver, missing after the pitched battle.
They returned to the hotel to find that Anita had gotten back but seemed a bit reluctant to talk about exactly where she had been. She had spoken to a police officer at the scene and found that the security cameras in the garage had been inoperative since just before Professor Donald’s death. She also found out that the police were still looking into the missing hotel van. It contained suspects wanted for questioning, but apparently no one had been able to give a solid identification or description of those involved. The bear and the jaguars had absorbed everyone’s attention and the only credible witness was…Darryl.
Darryl had called the cops initially to report finding the body. After 5 minutes of questioning they decided he was free to go. They knew something wasn’t quite right about him, but his efforts to convince them he could maybe track down this rouge hotel shuttle van by Communing with Road Kill abruptly ended any further interviews.
Mustang had caught a story on the news as well. The circus was denying allegations of escaped animals even as a jaguar was reportedly spotted in south Dallas, limping it’s way along the banks of the Trinity.
Still wondering what she had gotten herself into, Marion listened with interest as this group detailed plans to further investigate these were-jaguars and this Tlatoani character. Meanwhile, maybe she could teach them a thing or two about judicious use of their powers. Of course, that remains to be seen.