An Offer He Can't Refuse (Michael's Training)

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Post by ITakeBribes on Thu Jun 20, 2013 2:40 pm

As the plane lands, Michael looks to the two men sitting beside him. Despite his best efforts, they have managed to keep his magic at bay since they left Thailand. The passengers are all given the go ahead to exit the plane. The men in the finely pressed suits lead Michael off the plane and into the waiting area. Sitting at the front is an Italian man, wearing a very expensive suit, a Cuban hanging from his lips. He's an older man, and appears to be in his late 60's, his hair white but full, no sign of beard or blemishes. The man stands at the sight of Michael and a smile smears across his face. 

"Here he is, Mr. Giaveno." Says one of the two men. 

The older man lays the cigar down, and holds his arms out for an embrace. "Come, Micheal, it is good to see you!" His words are spit out quick, in a thick Italian accent, his voice is low but genuinely pleasant. "We have much to discuss."


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Post by Michael Giaveno on Fri Jun 21, 2013 3:54 pm

There was an awkward silence in the back of the old black sedan carrying Michael and his newly discovered mentor from the airport to the country estate functioning as the family office.

"My name is Dante Giaveno, your great great uncle and the patriarch of the Giaveno family." That was the line that sparked the sudden silence; it's not that Michael was surprised, but then it wasn't quite what he expected to hear either.

"But, I thought I was left in charge of the East Coast branch," Michael cautiously replied, unsure what to make of his sudden demotion.

"Michael," Dante answered in the same low, pleasant voice, "in your short time at the head of this family, you've managed to drive away business, all but destroy our relationship with the Russians, and get yourself and a team of very good men shot to pieces." He took a brief pause, "Did I forget anything?"

"The earthquakes sir," answered a decidedly East-European man,one of the two who had accompanied Michael on his flight, now seated behind the sedan's steering wheel.

"Ah, thank you Koralev," Michael's mentor replied with a nod and a smile before returning to his conversation with the young mage, "Not only are you responsible for the earthquakes, you still have yet to do anything about them."

"But, how did you..." stuttered a shocked Michael.

"I've been watching you for quite some time," Dante responded with a sly smile, "I even know about Jenifer."


"Don't misunderstand, Michael," the White haired man cut him off, "The world is better for her passing, but you failed to think of the consequences. It's the same with the Russians and what happened in Thailand."

Michael sighed deeply and took a few brief moments to let it all sink in, "I understand, but what's this deal with the Russians you keep mentioning?"

"He doesn't know?" a surprised Dante asked of Koralev and the man sitting to his right.

"It would seem that way," Koralev answered with a thick accent.

"Hmm, he has been gone a while, perhaps you should handle this part Koralev."

"Gladly sir." he replied before addressing Michael, glancing at him though the rear view mirror, "Despite your position, I have been instructed to address you as an equal, Michael." His eyes were cold and grey like steel, a long scar ran down the side of his face starting next to his right eye. These were the eyes of a soldier, of a man who has seen, and in all likelihood done, truly unspeakable things.

"I understand," Michael replied, beginning to understand his situation.

"Your recent humanitarian gestures have cut into the Russian mob's ability to do business on the East Coast. By barring human cargo at any of our ports, you've thrown a kink, if you'll excuse the expression, into their prostitution rings."

"Owning a person is no business for a man," Michael interjected.

"I agree," added Dante, "But your father didn't see it that way and naturally neither do the Russians."

"They consider it a betrayal," Koralev chimed in, resuming his explanation, "They feel the same about your banning drug sales near schools."

"We should sell to people who understand what they're buying," responded Michael.

"Of course, of course," answered Dante without missing a beat, "but of course ideals and reality rarely mix."

"The Russians see this as the start of us moving to hold exclusive sales rights in our territory. Of course your plan to cover our losses was equally well received. They feel that your raised tariffs on black market imports are part of a plan to push them out of business."

"In short," remarked the wiry Italian man sitting in the front passenger seat, looking back at Michael and lowering his sunglasses, "They're pissed."

"I'm afraid so," remarked Dante, "If you want to keep these changes of yours, if you want to strengthen the family, it may mean war."

"I understand," Michael replied, rolling a set of prayer beads he picked up in Thailand around between his fingers, his head down.

"No, you don't," responded the aging Mafioso in a low, serious, almost angry, tone, "What you do has consequences, every choice, every action, and no new religion can change that. No matter what you believe, it can not change what may be required of you. Now, do you understand?"

Michael looked up and to his left, so as to look his uncle in the eyes, he was surprised; he didn't see anger like he expected, instead he saw concern. "Yes, I understand," Michael said calmly. Time would tell if those words were a lie.

"Good," responded Dante in a surprisingly jovial, but still characteristically low, tone, "So long as you understand that, you are ready to be my pupil." With that he gave Michael a hard pat on the back and let out a hearty laugh. "Koralev, Anthony, I think we're ready to go home." Michael had not noticed until now, but the car had been driving around the same neighborhood, more or less going in circles, for the last several minutes. At Dante's command, Koralev pulled the car into a secluded alleyway and the young Italian, Anthony as his name turned out to be, took off his sunglasses and briefly turned around to give a very confused Michael a very devious grin before letting out a sharp laugh, spinning back around and slapping both of his hands down on the dashboard.

In the blink of an eye the car and all of it's passengers disappeared and reappeared just outside what would appear to be a reconstructed and heavily modified, in that it was fitted with at least one satellite dish and several electrical generators, plantation house. The house, or mansion rather, and all the property around it was completely surrounded by dense mangrove swamp save for a single strip of dirt road cutting through to, one would hope, civilization. It was a trick Michael had seen Esther perform a few times but it never seemed to get old.

"Welcome home," exclaimed Dante, lighting a second Cuban cigar and handing it to Michael.

"No thanks, I don't smoke," He replied.

"You do today."

Michael Giaveno

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Post by Michael Giaveno on Mon Jun 24, 2013 3:01 pm

Some time had passed since Michael met his mentor, "the return of the prodigal son" as Dante often called it, and he had begun to become accustomed to life in the secluded manor. The three story, white-washed southern mansion with a set of wooden columns at it's front in the neoclassical style laid in stark contrast to the small, single story, brick constructs flanking it on either side; equally out of place were the two, military style, green tents set up in the front lawn on either side of the solitary dirt road leading to and from the manor. Each of them was fortified with a wall of sand bags and contained radio equipment, charts, maps, spotlights, and two armed guards. All in all the property was home to around twenty people, including Michael and his uncle; all of them, the upper echelon of the Giaveno syndicate - I say syndicate as, at this point, in its most literal sense, Michael and Dante constituted the only two known remaining members of the Giaveno family - and most if not all of them in some way supernaturally endowed.

There was a meditation room set up for Michael next to his sleeping quarters on the second floor, this was were he did most of his studying, were he wore the orange robes he was given in Thailand and explored the craft he awoke to in Charleston. It was an average sized yet spacious room and consisted of four walls, a hardwood floor, two mats, a stand for Michael's robes, an incense burner, a small eastern-style table, and stands for candles. This sparse yet tranquil, windowless room, was were Michael would be alerted to his first test as a mage and the beginning of his test as a man.

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Post by Michael Giaveno on Mon Jun 24, 2013 5:30 pm

Anthony, the same Anthony from the car, a young, and perhaps too energetic, Italian space mage who's mischievous, at times childish, nature Michael had grown accustomed to, flung open the sliding door to Michael's meditation room, snapping him out of a deep trance and causing the shadows swirling and dancing on the floor around him to jet back to their normal positions. "Tony, is doing this fun for you?" Michael calmly asked, no longer having to turn around to determine the cause of his sudden distraction. "A little," replied the wavy haired miscreant, "Boss told me to get you." The "boss" Anthony was referring to was, of coarse, Michael's mentor Dante, who had himself instructed Michael to spend the day in meditation while he and Koralev met with a representative of the Russian mob to explain the family's new positions; a set of positions that had come to be called Michael's reforms among a few members of the family, earning him the dubious nickname Michael Marx amongst his detractors, Michael found this more amusing than one would expect and in fact began using Karl as an alias, Karl Matheson.

As expected, neither the Russians nor their representatives took too kindly to "Michael's Reforms" and neither Koralev's translation nor Dante's explanation could salvage the relationship. In short the meeting went poorly, "Michael's reforms" would stand and, in addition, the family would begin to funnel money into relief efforts along the East Coast, but all this would come at the cost of any future dealings with the Russian mob. This outcome, Dante anticipated and Koralev expected, but it was what happened during the meeting that would take both of them, and the family at large, by surprise.

As Dante and his right hand man were sitting in the back room of a phony law office, discussing where and where not one could sell weed, ecstasy, and other such things with a pair of increasingly irate yet stomach-turningly smug mobsters, five men in a warehouse in Charleston had been murdered and the warehouse itself burned to the ground. These five men had been members of the Giaveno family, the warehouse under Giaveno control, and the culprit unidentified.

"Jesus!" exclaimed Anthony upon hearing the news in a small meeting room off to the front of the house; this outburst earned him a stern glare from Dante Giaveno, "son of the blessed virgin Mary, who sits on the right hand of God the Father almighty, may he watch over the souls of our departed brothers, amen."

"Amen. That's better," Dante replied, having bowed his head for Anthony's hastily improvised prayer, "My apprentice may have chosen a new faith but I remain a devout Catholic."

"His dad never cared," Tony mumbled, believing he would not be heard.

"Without any hostility towards young Michael, his father was a disgrace," Dante answered curtly.

"Sounds about right," Michael replied, Anthony nodded his head in agreement.
"Now that that is over with, may we get to the business at hand?" asked Koralev, closing the door to the room as each of the four other people in it took a seat around a long, rosewood table at its center before he himself sat down just to the right of Dante.

"Yes, yes, of coarse," Dante replied in a low but calm voice, "Koralev, would you mind explaining our situation to them?"

"Certainly sir," he replied with his usual thick accent, "Swardinni, Cortez, Foote, Surrete, and Scalese. All of them were sleepers save for Surrete and all of them died from a single shot to the head, save Surrete. He was shot twelve times, once in each major joint before his throat was slit ear to ear; he was a good man, he deserved better. After this, the warehouse was burned. It was a distribution center and at the time of the attack held no cargo, whoever is behind this did so solely to send a message."

"Any clue as to who did it?" asked Anthony.

"No, we suspect the Russians but so far we have no proof," responded Dante.

"Surrete was a mind mage and a powerful one at that, the others were all skilled marksmen, whoever is behind this is incredibly skilled, smart, well trained, cruel, and ruthless to a fault," Koralev continued 

"Is that admiration I detect?" interjected Sandra, a young woman sitting to Michael's right, opposite Anthony.

"I can't help but to recognize a part of myself in this killer," responded Koralev, "At any rate if he is half who I fear him to be, this is only the beginning."

"Which is why Sandra will be accompanying you, Michael," Dante responded in between puffs from the cigar he lit during Koralev's explanation, "She's another student of mine, a death mage, and a good shot, I trust she should be enough to keep you out of trouble."

"Wha... wait, where am I going?" asked Michael, confused.

"To Charleston, to identify the killer," answered Koralev, sliding Michael a manila envelope filled with photos of possible suspects, "you're a death mage, so long as some of the bodies are still left it shouldn't be too difficult."

"Consider it your first test," Dante said cheerfully, making it clear he had made up his mind on the matter.

"Come on, it'll be fun," said Sandra shooting Michael a quick grin.

"I don't really have a choice do I?" Michael asked.

"Nope," responded a smiling Anthony, "Given the distance, I've already been okayed to zap you two in, I'll take a car back and leave you two to do all the death mage stuff once we get there."

"The bodies should be at the MUSC morgue, it's a little crowded but mostly untouched by the earthquake," chimed in Koralev before sliding Michael and Sandra a pair of false ids, "You are Charlie Surrete's son, John, and you are his newlywed wife Michonne."

"Michonne? Is this a black thing?" Sandra asked jokingly.

"No, if it were a black thing you'd be Shawniqua. I figured Michonne would be a compliment," Koralev responded in a joking tone, unusual for what was normaly a very serious man.

"You guessed right, I love it," responded a smiling Sandra, "so when do we leave?"

"Just as soon as Michael changes into some normal-people cloths," answered Anthony, referencing Michael's orange robes, which had all the subtlety of, well, orange robes. Having been pulled out of a meditation session rather abruptly he didn't exactly have time to change. A few minutes passed and Michael returned, now clad in a pair of black jeans, a black t shirt, and a dark jacket to cover it all, his knives sitting in custom compartments within the jacket. No longer the proverbial sore thumb of the room, he was prepared, or as prepared as he was ever going to be, to start his first mission.

"Ready?" Anthony asked, standing between Michael and Sandra, offering each of them a hand.

"Ready," they responded in unison, though in vastly different tones, before grasping his hands and disappearing from the room. The three of them reappeared behind what was essentially a public restroom, which had been a bed in breakfast before the earthquake, adjacent to a public parking lot. The lot was empty save for one car, a rather familiar looking black sedan. Before climbing inside said sedan, Anthony handed Michael a long, silver, beretta pistol, "Just in case," he said.

"No thanks, I don't really like guns," Michael responded, trying to give back the loaded pistol. Anthony simply smiled and pushed it into Michael's hands before climbing into the car, "Yeah but who knows, they just might like you."

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Post by Michael Giaveno on Mon Jun 24, 2013 8:27 pm

A pair of tight dark jeans leading up to a tight black t shirt underneath an oversized brown winter coat with white fur around its collar and sleeves - this of coarse hid a beretta 92 custom grip pistol tucked discreetly into a shoulder holster - inside these clothes was a young woman no older than 20, with light brown skin, long wavy brown hair, and hazel eyes accented by a narrow nose. She stood a few inches shorter than Michael but seemingly with much more confidence. "You just gonna keep staring at it or what?" Sandra said curtly.

"Huh, oh right, the gun," Michael answered, hastily tucking it into the back of his waistband and letting his jacket drape over it.

"So, 'John', you've never handled a gun before, have you?" She teased, pulling out her own.

"Well once, but I'm not sure that applies," Michael answered, seemingly a little intimidated by his new partner's experience.

"Hmpf, well if all goes well you shouldn't have to this time either," Sandra answered confidently.

"And if it doesn't?" Michael asked.

A sick smile came across Sandra's face as, in one fluid motion, she swung her gun up, steadied, and stared down the sights at a tin can sitting on the other side of the parking lot, "Point and click," she answered in a distant tone, "bang."

"Point and click. Right," Michael said to himself before he and Sandra both tucked their pistols away and began walking through the still ruined streets towards the hospital, "So, 'Michonne' how'd you get into all this?"

"Well, this little homeless, mixed brat tried to pick an old man's pocket, she gets away with his wallet but he grabs her by the arm, he's got big tough looking guys all around him and this girl thinks to herself, 'this is it, I'm done' but then the old guy looks at her real close and he says, 'Anybody with the guts to steal from me either deserves dinner or a bullet,'" She made an uncharacteristically serious face, "'and I don't feel like shooting anybody today.' Not only did he buy me dinner, he let me keep the wallet and offered to take me home with him, I awakened about a month later and have been trying to pay him back ever since."

"Wow, I'm not sure what to say to that," Michael answered truthfully.

"Egh, it's the same for most of us," She shrugged, "I mean Koralev used to be KGB, a real psychic spy but then the Soviet Union fell apart and new Russia wanted nothing to do with him. Your uncle was there to pick up the pieces. Anthony used to rob banks in Italy, all that unchecked teleporting, especially around sleepers... the universe has checks and balances for guys like that; you can't just tell the laws of physics to sit down and shut up 24/7 without something bad happening."

"Yeah, I think I've seen something like that," Michael/John said, pausing to remember an incident with Esther, actually pretty much every incident with Esther, "Yeah, yeah, yeah, did he grow a snake tongue?"

"No, just horse legs... and spawning a creature from the abyss." At that Michael's facial expressions took on a rather concerned appearance. "What's wrong, you look like you've seen a ghost... well you probably have but you get what I mean."

"Nothing, so my uncle helped him out with that right?" Michael asked.

"Yeah, yeah, all of that's ancient history," Sandra answered, "Now let me ask you something."

"Okay," Michael replied.

"What'd you have to do around here to be the teacher's pet?" she asked, half teasing.

"Well, let me think," Michael said, making an exaggerated motion like a character in a silent movie, "Well, you can start by screwing up spectacularly, kicking off the apocalypse, getting shot, and hmmm I guess being related to him helps."

"Well, let's see, did the first one, been shot a few times, still working on the other two though," she said jokingly, "you know you're not as stuck up as I thought you'd be."

"Well, I'm glad to disappoint," Michael laughed, "hey we're almost here."

"Wow, didn't this place used to be a lot more, you know, nice-looking?" Sandra said, staring out at what was left of the MUSC campus, littered with medical tents and impromptu blood donation centers.

"Yeah, an earthquake can do that," Michael replied quietly, "Let's go find Surrete, do our 'death mage stuff' and get out of here."

"Sounds like a plan, honey," Sandra said, wrapping her right arm around Michael's left.

"Honey?" he asked, surprised.

"We're supposed to be married, remember. I may even have to kiss you," She said quietly in a flirty voice.

"Not that that would be all that horrible," Michael responded, "but aren't we here to identify my dead father?"

"Hmm, kinky but I can manage," she fired back with a wink and a smile.

"You're sick," Michael answered, half flirting and half exceedingly uncomfortable.

"You love it," Sandra said, looking up at him

"Yeah, maybe, but we need to be convincing," Michael reminded her, returning his thoughts to the mission.

"Right," she answered, removing herself from his arm and holding his hand instead, "Still not sure about that kiss though." After that the two of them, posing as John and Michonne Surrete began to ask around as to where they could go to identify the body of John (Michael's) deceased father. Upon finally finding the morgue, he had to convince the single guard on duty - yes the morgue was guarded, natural disasters tend to bring out the worst kind of people - that in order for he and his wife to finally have some sense of closure, they just had to see the body; they should have won Oscars, both of them. After a brief sob story about a canceled honeymoon, the guard, really more of a filing clerk if we're all being honest, let them through and led them to the partially charred remains of Charlie Surrete. Afterwards, the guard left them alone in the overcrowded morgue of a disaster stricken city.

"Okay, so, so how do I do this?" Michael stuttered, looking at the body before him. It wasn't the first corpse he had seen but whatever dispatched this man, the precision with which each shot was placed, the depth and viciousness of the final cut, the burns couldn't hide the killer's handiwork, this was the work of a man without remorse, someone that gave up his sole long ago and Michael felt it, it sent a chill up his spine. Sandra felt it too, but she was better at not showing it.

"Just relax, close your eyes, and take a deep breath, focus on this man's body and ask what put him here," she coached him through it in a calm tone, "It's just like meditation, you're doing fine, just try to relax."

"Okay," Michael said, placing his hands on either side of the body's head. He tried his best to clear his mind save for one thought, the image of this man's charred face, what put him here? This question resounded in Michael's head until it's scope canceled out all other thought, as this happened even the question faded and a light appeared in Michael's mind. He followed the light, or rather allowed it to come, he did not struggle, he did not resist, he accepted this image as a part of his consciousness, he let it in and it grew to reveal to him this man's killer, he felt a heavy weight when he saw the image, as though it were cursed, the man who killed Surrete had killed many more and it showed in his face. Tall, fit, standing with perfect posture, he had the same military haircut as Koralev, the same grey soldier's eyes. First Michael saw him fire his gun, then unsheathe his combat knife to finish the poor man off, he hesitated, it was as though he were savoring the moment before the final cut, then, the image disappeared, Michael opened his eyes and was bombarded with the light of the living world.

"So, anything?" Sandra asked.

"Yeah, yeah," Michael said, catching his breath, "hand me that folder." She did and Michael thumbed through the pictures inside until he came across the man he witnessed, Sergei Tokarev, that was the name of the man Michael saw. Just to be safe, and as a part of his test, Sandra performed the same magic to corroborate Michael's find. He was right and the two of them quickly headed out of the morgue to return with this new information. A black sedan was waiting out front, Anthony was driving, he had been ordered not to teleport, overusing non-subtle magic has some quite nasty consequences.

Upon returning home, they gave the news to Dante, who in turn complimented Michael on passing his first test and Sandra on returning him safely. He in turn told Koralev who did not need to speak to express what his usually unreadable face showed, his worst fears had been confirmed. "His true name is not Tokarev, I do not know his true name but he is the devil, that I can tell you."

"I'm guessing you two have met," Michael replied.

"Yes, we were in the same program together, we served in Afghanistan together, he is a mind mage like me, and a true sadist, I've seen him do unspeakable things, all for his own enjoyment. He volunteered to be an interrogator, when he was done, what came out, if it was still alive, was never human. Last I heard of him, he had disappeared into the Russian underworld. If they are sending him after us, there can be no peace, no deals, only war."

"I understand," Dante said in a low and somber voice, "prepare an announcement and fire off a salute to the men we've lost, repeat their names. Let everyone here know what we are facing, tell them to prepare the branches, that war is coming, and that the guns we fire today not only herald the passing of our brothers but resonate with the sound that will avenge them. The Giaveno family will not kneel, not without a fight. Tell them that, Koralev." Then he turned to face his nephew, "Your test has only begun."

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Post by Michael Giaveno on Sun Jul 21, 2013 3:54 pm

In the following weeks the war between the Giaveno family and the Russian mob only intensified, with a heavy death toll on both sides. Under Dante's direct orders the Giaveno family was to attempt to keep the civilian population out of the fight as best they could, however, as is the case with all wars, some civilian casualties could not be helped. Dante's rivals seemed far less burdened by such sentimentality and began using it to their advantage, setting up offices and headquarters in densely packed residential neighborhoods, slipping Giaveno soldiers false information leading to the deaths of several innocent men and women. In light of this, Dante became increasingly cautious as his enemies grew emboldened. As profits fell and risk rose, loyalty, something once taken for granted under Dante's leadership, began to become an issue amongst the family's associates and business partners.

It was under these circumstances that Michael's training intensified to match the demands of the world around him. His days were now divided between magical practice, research, meditation, and combat training. The first two were normally conducted under Dante's direct tutelage while Michael meditated in solitude and reluctantly learned the arts of long-range ventilation and close-range dismemberment under both Koralev and Sandra. It was on one such day that his next test and the start of the Giaveno family's counterattack would begin.

"Better, better," Dante remarked, briefly removing a fat Cuban cigar from his lips and rolling it between his fingers as the shadows cast by the many candles of Michael's meditation room swirled about the young death mage standing at its center. As he spoke, the shadows began to retreat ever so slightly before returning to their would-be master.

"Stop," the don gently ordered and Michael obliged, opening his eyes and allowing the shadows to return to their natural positions, "This time with your eyes open."

"But, then how can I control them?" Michael asked.

"You try too hard, Michael, you don't control the shadows, only bend them," Dante responded in a calm voice before blowing a perfectly formed smoke ring into the air above him, "Now try again."

"Ok," Michael whispered, his eyes open, he took a deep breath and pictured the shadows encircling him, climbing up his legs and chest, before obscuring him to the world, wrapped in darkness. In reality the shadows got to his waste before he lost focus and they, once again, retreated like vermin in the sunlight.

"Don't go to the shadows, let them come to you," Dante said, before taking another puff of his ever shrinking cigar, "Now, one more."

This time Michael said nothing, he did not close his eyes, he did not change his breathing, he only imagined the shadows sweeping over him and then let go, allowing them to flood in from the corners of the room and overtake himself and the space around him in darkness. "Well done," Dante said, both amused and impressed by his nephew's success, "You should head downstairs and get something to eat, you'll be having a test this evening."

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Post by Michael Giaveno on Sun Jul 21, 2013 6:27 pm

It was around noon when Michael headed downstairs, dressed in black jeans and a t-shirt. He made his way towards the back of the manor, reaching a large ball room that had been transformed into a sort of up-scale cafeteria after the renovations of the Giaveno command, as the magically endowed residents of the mansion were called. Each meal's preparation was supervised by Jesse Reinhold, a tall and somber man with bright blond hair and green eyes who, in addition to being a five star chef was also by all accounts both a splendid life mage and a sociopathic assassin. The combination of these three features was, of course, terrifying to anyone in the manor who found their way onto his bad side. Fortunately his strange respect for Dante prevented him from poisoning half of the manor and experimenting on the survivors; something that chef Reinhold had fantasized about with alarming frequency.

Picking up a decent sized plate of shrimp and pasta in a white sauce, leftovers from the previous night's dinner, Michael found his way through the rows of long, ornate, mahogany tables toward a waving Sandra and an obviously starved Anthony who could only be bothered to throw his left hand up in a casual "hello" as he stuffed his face with shrimp and noodles. Michael took a seat across from the two and exchanged greetings.

"So, haven't seen you down here in a while," Sandra remarked, referencing the fact that for the past week and a half Michael had taken all of his meals in the library, cut off from the outside world by mountains of research material.

"Yeah, been studying," Michael replied before looking around at the unusually crowded room, "what's with all the new faces?"

"Mmmm!" Anthony vocalized excitedly jolting up in his seat before swallowing the clump of food blocking his words from coming through, "Those, are branch heads and specialists from all over the eastern seaboard."

"Are they all mages?" Michael asked, surprised by the presence of so many higher ups in one place.

"Mostly," Sandra answered, "that guy's a vampire." At this she subtly pointed across the room to a pale, slender fellow who looked to be in his mid to late thirties, dressed in an old fashioned suit with a cape and amulet like the kind you'd find in a cheap costume shop.

"The guy in the bad Dracula get-up?" Michael asked, half laughing, "You're kidding right?"

"Nope, he's the real thing," Anthony chimed in between mouthfuls of food.

"Think about it Michael," Sandra said in a low voice, "Don't you feel anything, you know, 'off' about him?"

"Well, yeah," he answered, "but I figured that was just from so many mages being in one place."

"Nope, that's a death mage thing, you guys can get that way around the undead," Anthony pointed out, again between healthy fork-loads of pasta, "I on the other hand don't feel a thing... except hungry, I feel hungry."

"Yeah, about that. what's up?" Michael responded, having never seen someone be in such a hurry to shovel down so much food.

"Hahaha," Sandra laughed, leaning back in her seat, "he hasn't eaten in three days, part of some 'survival training' Koralev's got him on."

"Survival training?" Michael asked.

"Yeah, way things have been going he's breaking out some of the old KGB stuff. Guess he figured somebody who teleports so much would get stuck in some hard to reach places," at that she turned to Anthony, "You know you're going to throw up, right."

"At this point," he said with a look of placid contentment, having cleared his plate in the time it took his companions to down half of theirs, "I don't care."

"Suite yourself," she said to him before leaning across the table in Michael's direction with a look of excitement, "I hear next he's teaching us how to resist torture, should be fun."

"Oh God," Michael replied, leaning back, visibly uneasy, "...I mean, I guess, if you're into that sort of thing."

"Pfthahaha," Sandra burst into laughter and shot back to her normal position, "Haha... ah, relax, I'm just messing with you. But really, he is gonna torture the shit out of us."

At that Michael went white. "Don't worry, it's nothing that wont grow back," Sandra said grinning, attempted to reassure him in a way that made her utter lack of counseling skills painfully obvious.

"Haha," Michael forced an uneasy laugh before changing the subject, "So how about the vampire in the room?"

"Oh, him, he's a hit man," Sandra replied calmly.

"You may be overstating it," Anthony added.

"Okay, so it's more like he kills people and Dante tries to make sure it's only people that need killing," Sandra clarified in a disturbingly calm and mundane tone.

"I don't know which is worse, that I'm in a room with a vampire assassin or how calm you are about it," Michael commented.

"What, Lugosi? He's harmless. Well, to us anyways," Sandra explained, between sips of the glass of water in front of her, "You see, vampires have this thing called the masquerade. Basically it means they don't reveal themselves to humans, well, he broke the masquerade and he was going to die for it, but then Dante suggested that he be put under his supervision instead and, whalla, the Giaveno family's own personal vampire."

"Okay, that makes about as much sense as the rest of this," Michael responded, seeming to be becoming comfortable with the idea, "But did you just say his name's 'Lugosi'?"

"Yep," Sandra answered.

"As in Bela Lugosi? The guy who played Dracula?" Michael was no longer curious as to what events led to this vampire almost receiving the death penalty from his own people, his cheesy lack of subtlety was more than enough.

"Mhmm, he also goes by Brahm, Mr. Stoker, Orlok. Guy's got a weird sense of humor even by vampire standards," Sandra explained.

"I, I really wish you were joking," Michael responded, not knowing what else to say.

"Yep, one time I even saw him tell a guy 'I wan to suck your vlood'," Sandra said leaning in slightly.

"Pfthahaha," Michael laughed, unable to handle the absurdity of what he had just pictured.

"Yeah, I laughed too," Sandra answered calmly, "right up until he drained the guy." This seemed to stop Michael's laughter dead in its tracks as he was now turning around to get a good look at the killer across the room from him. There was a short silence after that, broken by Anthony getting up to excuse himself.

"I guess I'll head out, have work to do," Anthony said, seeming oddly sluggish compared to his usual self, "hear you two have another mission tonight, good luck." with that he got up, dropped off his dishes and left the room. Sandra finished soon after. "Guess I'll see ya tonight," she said, lightly hitting Michael on the shoulder before leaving him to finish his meal. After she left, Michael looked around the crowded room and felt a dark and bizarre presence behind him, turning around he saw the pale figure of a tackily dressed vampiric killer standing over him.

"Mikey, I do so very much enjoy cleaning up your messes," the undead assassin declared with a devious grin, "Please do make more for me."

"I, I should go," Michael nervously stuttered in a quiet voice, getting his things together and sliding out from the intricately carved table. As he dropped off his plate and headed for the door he heard the vampire shout to him, "Do tell Dante I said hello won't you!" Not responding he closed the door behind him and headed down the hall towards the library.

Michael Giaveno

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Post by Michael Giaveno on Mon Jul 22, 2013 2:09 am

Popular imagining would lead one to believe that an extensive repository of ancient occult knowledge would be a dark and foreboding place, filled to the brim with gothic architecture and bizarre Lovecraftian diagrams of unknowable truths and unfathomable beings, ensuring that only the very strong of will and spirit may visit it and leave with their mind, and soul, intact. In reality, the Giaveno manor's library was actually quite nice. It took up a whole corner of the house and was accessible from every floor, chandeliers hung from the ceiling - at the very least there were three of them, ornate crystal affairs - and renaissance era art decorated the walls. There were spacious desks and padded chairs, sunny windowed alcoves, and bookcases reaching all the way to the vaulted ceiling of the third floor. Its doors, instead of stone or wood carved with some Christo-Gnosto-kabalic-pseudo-imagery were instead made of bulletproof glass accented by a rosewood frame and brass handles.

The massive library was flooded with soft light and it was where Michael spent his afternoon, on the second floor, reading through old dusty tomes on the subjects of death magic, the moros path, and the realm of stygia. He also looked through various books on changelings, goblins, werewolves, and, especially after the day's earlier events, vampires. Seeing as he was going to be sent on a mission, or test as his mentor had taken to calling them, later that night, he was given the afternoon off. Seeing as it would be his first major "test" in several weeks, he understood that it would probably be a fairly important one.

"Hey!" shouted Sandra, snapping Michael out of his concentration and causing him to nearly fall out of his chair, "on in five."

"O-okay," Michael replied, catching himself, Sandra already halfway out of the room, "just let me get my stuff together."

"Yeah, okay, downstairs meeting room," Sandra reminded Michael as she hurried away. After closing his book and calmly placing it back on the shelf, Michael headed over to his quarters and got dressed in what had become something of a combat uniform for him; dark jeans, a black t-shirt, his custom jacket complete with knife pockets, and the new addition of a discreet holster behind his back for the gun Anthony had given him in Charleston. He was still uneasy about carrying a gun, somehow the idea that knives can have a use other than killing, even ones that are designed specifically to be thrown into another human being's chest cavity, was a comfort to him. Guns on the other hand, well you can't cut an apple with a gun, not very well at least. despite that, he still slipped an extra magazine into his left pocket, opposite his utility knife, let his jacket fall to cover the beretta, and headed down stairs.

Sandra, on the other hand, had been comfortable with guns since a disturbingly, tragically, young age and was known for carrying several at all times. A silver beretta with a pearl grip custom fit to Sandra's hand; on the right side of the barrel was the symbol of the Arcanum of death, on the left side the seal of the Giaveno family. The seal in question was a six pointed star set on a shield in the middle of two olive branches with a crown at its top. This engraved gun was personally given to Sandra on her 18th birthday by Dante Giaveno, her surrogate father's way of officially welcoming her into the family.

Of course Sandra carried many other weapons, the nickel-plated beretta being her favorite, she also carried a snub-nosed revolver in the right pocket of her coat, a glock 9mm strapped behind her back in a similar holster to Michael's, and a tactical knife hidden by her ankle. She grabbed her black coat, the mission taking place at night and all and headed down to meet the others.

Michael, Sandra, Dante, Koralev, Anthony, and Lugosi all met in the same room near the front of the house, grouped around the same rosewood table, except for Lugosi who chose to stand in the corner, as when Michael had been sent on his first "test". "Now that everyone is gathered," Dante said in his low, calm, voice, "I should make known to you the details of this outing."

"This war has not been going well, young men and women are dying under the Giaveno name, and with nothing to show for it; I know this, you know this, we all know this," at this point Dante, surprisingly devoid of his usual cigar took a deep breath and let it out in a great sigh, "If this were not the case, the branch heads would not be gathered here, they would be up and down the east coast running their respective branches. But such business is becoming dangerous and many of the branches have become extinct."

"In light of this," Koralev took over for Dante, "We have become increasingly desperate for any way to safely strike back at the Russian mafia. They continue to send Tokarev to our offices, and he continues to slaughter our men. We are beginning to believe he is masterminding most of the jobs; they have the same signature: brutality, sadism, efficiency. Assassinating Tokarev is, of course, an option but not feasible at this time."

"Your mission tonight," Dante explained, "Is to extract the captain and crew of a ship carrying several tons of heroin before destroying the vessel and her cargo."

"The captain contacted one of our men last week," Koralev added, "He said he had had enough of 'hauling the Russian's garbage across the ocean' as he put it and was looking for a way out. We followed up and he assured us that the crew planed to go along with him. If we pull this off, it will cost them millions in product and be our first meaningful victory."

"And," Dante said, seeming to take an unusual pleasure in his words, "the vessel's captain, a certain Johan Hauser, has promised to give us the Russians' network."

"Sounds like a trap to me," Anthony interrupted.

"Of course it does," answered Dante, relieved that somebody noticed what had been obvious to him since day one, "that is why everyone in this room is to be sent, except for myself, along with two other backup teams of five men each. You will intercept the vessel at sea, in the event of a trap the captain is to be taken alive."

"Conflict is likely," Koralev said before tilting his head towards the vampire in the room's corner, "but there is to be no unnecessary bloodshed, understood?"

"Understood, comrade," Lugosi answered in a mock Russian accent, standing straight up as though he were a soldier being inspected.

"So, when do we head out?" Sandra asked.

"Tonight," Koralev answered, "as soon as we are done here, we are to make for Charleston, where a large yacht equipped with inflatable vessels will carry us to near the ship. From there the three teams will head out for the cargo ship. In the event that it is a trap, the two backup teams will board the vessel from opposite sides and perform a sweep, while I provide sniper support from the yacht. I should be able to get a clean shot through the windows of the bridge and on top of some of the containers but not on the deck itself. The earthquakes have rendered the port authority somewhat ineffective, this means our yacht is in little danger of being discovered. But, even so, we should act quickly."

"Any questions?" Dante asked but the room remained silent. He nodded his head, lit a cigar, and put it to his lips, "Good."

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Post by Michael Giaveno on Mon Jul 22, 2013 7:11 pm

A small, single file, caravan of black cars headed out of the family compound and into the thick, dark, swamp surrounding it. They traveled along the desolate dirt road ahead of them cloaked by a thick canopy of branches, leaves, and vines cutting off all that it encompassed from the outside world. Slivers of moon-light pierced through the veil of vegetation above them and darted off the shimmering black hood of the convoy's lead car.

As was usually the case, Anthony acted as wheelman; having been a bank robber for several years, creative driving had become something of a hobby of his. Koralev rode shotgun, an interesting choice of words considering the double barrel sawed-off concealed under his old KGB officer's jacket. Directly behind Koralev sat Michael, to his left Sandra, and to her left Lugosi, who had at the request of everyone "lost the cape" and put on a much more modern, yet equally pretentious, black suit and tie.

"So, are they all mages?" Michael asked, looking back at the two cars behind him, "the backup teams I mean."

"No," answered Koralev, turning to address Michael, "They are one mage and four sleepers each."

"The sleepers back there might not even know magic exists," Anthony added, "So, you know, don't go balls out with the spell casting around them."

"But then, wouldn't it be better with all mages," Michael asked.

"There's only so many of us Mike," Anthony replied.

"Yeah. Besides, they make up for it with firepower," Sandra added. She was right, of coarse; between those three cars, there was enough magic and weaponry to level a small town. The backup teams following Michael and the others weren't made up of ordinary street soldiers, they were filled instead with members of Dante's personal guard and acted more as a paramilitary organization than your typical gangster outfit.

For most of the ride, Lugosi simply stared out the window, not saying a word. His silence was somehow even more unnerving to Michael who was exceedingly relieved to not be sitting next to the undead killer. As time passed the convoy neared first the nearly ruined city of Charleston, and then one of the city's marinas. Noticing that there seemed to be no large cargo vessels near the port and having a life-long fear of the open ocean Michael asked, "So, just how far out is this ship?"

"She is just outside the mouth of the harbor," Koralev remarked, "It will be a short ride by yacht and then even shorter by inflatable." This did not comfort Michael who was now unconsciously griping his prayer beads. The cars came to a halt in the marina's parking lot and their fifteen passengers got out and headed for the Giaveno family yacht.

As Koralev stepped out of the car he picked up a broad military hat that had been siting on his lap and placed it on his head in a dignified fashion. Now under the artificial lights of the marina, Michael could see the plethora of medals adorning Koralev's jacket including one peculiar insignia he remembered seeing before; a short sword pointed down, over a shield and behind a deployed parachute with a red banner across it and on its sides. Michael recognized this from the boredom and excessive internet access of his childhood as the insignia of Vympel Group, an elite force within the KGB. There's not much written about them besides that they were some of the best soldiers and spies the Soviet Union had to offer; Michael remembered them solely because he thought the insignia looked cool.

All fifteen men and women headed down the pier and onto the Giaveno family's yacht without incident, Koralev took the helm and everyone settled in for the short ride out to the mouth of the harbor. The two, five man backup teams, dressed in all black tactical gear from head to toe, sat across from each other loading and checking their guns, sharpening their knives, and generally preparing for a fight. Sandra did some of this as well, checking and loading each of her guns, as did Lugosi who carried of all things a Dracula md 98 machine pistol. Anthony too, dressed in a thin suit with an overcoat and no tie, checked and prepared his gun, a beretta 92 identical to the one he gave Michael. Michael on the other hand simply sat near the back of the boat, ran through his prayer beads repeating a mantra, and tried to pretend he was on land.

"So, what's with the uniform?" Anthony asked of Koralev, coming up from the cabin.

"Today, trap or not, we will create a victory," he looked down to Anthony and smiled, "I thought I would dress for it."

"Looks goon on ya," Sandra said, brushing past Anthony.

"Are you ready for the feast, my Stygian princess?" Lugosi asked of Sandra, flinging the magazine into his gun with an exaggerated motion.

"I told you not to call me that," she answered coldly.

"Very well my dark empress of moros," he responded with a slight bow and a devilish grin.

"So, you two know each other?" Michael asked, looking up for the first time since the boat set out.

"We worked a few jobs together, that's about it," she answered.

"My dear, if that was work, I'd like to never have another day of rest," the vampire chuckled to himself. Sandra was not amused to say the least.

"Don't worry Mike, you're not the only one who thinks he's a creep," Anthony reassured Michael before turning to face Lugosi, "Besides, if everything works like it's supposed to, there won't be any 'feast'."

"Don't be so pessimistic young Anthony," Lugosi commented.

"We are approaching the package, slowing speed," Koralev said as the ship came into sight. The two elite backup squads filed out of the cabin and onto the deck standing at attention opposite each other, armed with submachine guns, they made preparations to lower the inflatables into the water. A rare look of excitement spread across his face, "Now this is familiar." Koralev shut off the engine, gave the order to lower the anchor, and slung a draganov sniper rifle with several small notches in its wooden stock over his shoulder before making his way towards the bow.

Koralev unfurled a large blanket on the bow of the yacht and set down his hat, upside down, next to it, placing a small lead weight from his pocket in it so it would not blow away in the wind. As he laid down and sighted in his rifle, the inflatable boats were lowered into the water. "Ready?" Anthony asked.

"No such thing," Michael responded, taking a deep breath, before climbing into the boat followed by the rest of his team. The other two teams followed suit, while the boat carrying Michael's team would be well lit, the other two would be pitch black so as not to alert anyone on board the cargo ship. Michael went through his beads one last time before sliding them into his pocket as he approached the vessel.

"I have eyes on the captain," Koralev radioed to all three teams, staring down the formally dressed ship captain on the bridge through the sights of his rifle. Michael and the others were now alongside the ship. A rope ladder was lowered down to them. It should be explained that in the event of an emergency the backup teams would use grappling hooks to scale the side of the ship.

"Wait, eyes on snipers," Koralev radioed, "On top of the containers to your immediate right and left."

"Now may I have my breakfast?" asked an impatient Lugosi over the radio.

"Negative," Koralev responded, "we do not engage until they do. Proceed with caution."

"I will go first," Lugosi declared, climbing onto the rope ladder, "I am... more durable than the rest of you."

"We're sending somebody up!" Michael shouted up to the ship's crew.

"Okay," called a voice from the deck.

"I shouldn't keep my hosts waiting," Lugosi remarked climbing up to the edge of the ship. As soon as he climbed over, one of the five well armed men positioned in a semicircle around the ladder fired a round from his Kalashnikov assault rifle into Lugosi's chest. Despite being a vampire, Lugosi did not take kindly to this and flung himself back over the side of the ship, catching the ladder just before a hail of bullets passed over him.

"Hostile," Anthony radioed in.

"Understood," Koralev radioed, firing two rounds in rapid succession each striking one of the two snipers who fell from their container-crate posts, one into the ocean by Michael's boat, the other onto the deck. Simultaneously, the backup teams launched tear gas followed by grappling hooks onto the ship's deck before climbing up. From the boat Michael head a hail of gunfire answered by two separate volleys of three round bursts. "Clear!" a voice shouted over the radio.

"All right let's go," Sandra declared to her team, climbing onto the ladder, followed by Michael and Anthony.

"Best to not let the main coarse run away," Lugosi announced in a maniacal tone, flinging himself over the railing, unleashing a burst of fire from his machine-pistol into the fleeing crew. As Sandra, Michael, and Anthony reached the deck they were greeted with the gruesome sight of Lugosi, hunched over, draining the life-blood out of a half dead crewman. "Ah! The others went below deck, I believe they have left us the bridge," Lugosi exclaimed, releasing the exsanguinated and perforated corpse before him to drop to the floor.

"Captain is on the move," Koralev announced, "I've lost sight, take him alive."

"On it," Anthony responded, leading the others towards the bridge. They approached the entrance to the interior of the ship, guns in hand, except for Michael who was brandishing a knife. "Moving in," Michael announced over the radio as he, Sandra, and Lugosi moved in to the brightly lit corridor before them while Anthony stayed outside as a lookout.

"Lets even the odds shall we," Lugosi said loudly before firing a burst into the hallway's ceiling lights and , invigorated by his recent meal, running to the opposite end of the hallway. Drawing on their training Michael and Sandra moved to the corners and subtly manipulated the shadows to hide them. A tall man with an assault rifle swung open one of the doors along the left side of the hallway and aimed in Michael's direction. Sandra took one look at him and in seconds he dropped to his knees, his legs having withered to husks. Lugosi caught him mid fall and dove into the man's neck, firing wildly into the room he came from with his free right hand. "Go! They are mine!" Lugosi screamed, diving into the room, slamming the door behind him. Michael and Sandra made for the stairwell to their right and began climbing until they reached the deserted bridge.

There, they found, besides the obvious absence of a certain captain, a ledger detailing the ship's activities, Michael grabbed it and stuffed it into a coat pocket, sensing that it may be important. "We found something!" radioed in one of the backup team leaders from the bowels of the ship.

"Yes?" asked Koralev.

"The crew sir, they're tied up in a container crate," he answered.

"Then who are we fighting," Koralev asked.

"It would seem the crew were unaware of their cargo sir. The captain arranged for the ambush but knew the crew would not agree so he had them sequestered below deck," responded the mind mage heading the second team, "In all likelihood we've been fighting mercenaries."

"Understood," Koralev relayed, "Any word on where the captain may be?"

"Yes sir," the man responded, "he's probably hiding in his quarters just off of the bridge. With your permission we're going to bring these men back to the boat sir."

"Go ahead," Koralev replied, "Michael, Sandra, you heard him."

"On it," Sandra responded.

The two of them headed for a nearby room they passed on the way into the bridge, Michael opened the door as Sandra, gun drawn stepped in. The two were met with an overweight,  formally dressed - though his shirt and jacket were both open - man in his mid fifties or sixties on the opposite side of the room holding a small black revolver to the side of a little girl's head.

"One step closer and I blow her brains out!" the sweaty captain screamed.

"Dammit," Michael whispered under his breath, knife drawn.

"Any problems?" Koralev asked.

"Nope, everything's good," Sandra replied in a calculated monotone voice, staring down a single bead of sweat on the captain's forehead through the sights of her beretta.

"I get it now," the captain stammered, "I won't die for this!"

"Hauser, right, Johan Hauser?" Michael asked, trying to defuse the situation with what was his attempt at a calm tone, "Nobody's going to hurt you."

"Yeah, right," he answered, "I go with you, I'm dead! Stay hear, I'm dead! I figured it out! I'm not dying for you people!"

"Let the girl go and we can talk all you want," Sandra said, her hands not wavering in the slightest.

"No, no see. It's the Russians," the captain stammered, pressing the gun tighter against the girl's head, "They want you to get me, then I'm yours, you sink the ship, you get the bodies, yeah. This was never going to kill you, no it's me, it's going to kill me."

"If you don't put down the gun, something will," Sandra said in a tone denoting a simple statement of fact rather than a threat.

"What are you talking about?" Michael asked, truly confused.

"They told me you'd all die!" the captain growled, "hahaha, but it's me, they got me, the heat's on and I'm a drunk! The cargo's with me, you come, take me, kill a few no-names, take me, sink the ship. Hahahaha! They ditch the cargo, they ditch me, hahaha... blame you! I figured it out!" By this point Sandra had had enough, she noded her head slightly to Michael, who threw his knife through the air and into the captain's hand causing him to drop the gun, at the same time Sandra rushed forward, knocked the captain back into the chair behind him and pressed her gun against his chest. "Do you speak English?" She asked the little girl who nodded her head in response.

"Good, we won't hurt you," she said in a comforting tone, all while aiming her gun at the captain's heart, "Show him where the others are."

"What others?" Michael asked, not yet fully comprehending the situation as the small child ran over to him and tugged on his jacket, pointing down the stairs.

"Don't you get it?" Sandra asked, her stoic calm now replaced by anger and frustration, pressing her gun harder against the captain's chest with each word, "there's no drugs on this boat Mike. It's people, we've been set up. We get a useless captain in exchange for tying up their loose ends."

"I see," Michael responded, the situation finally making sense to him, "you going to be ok up here?"

"Yeah, I've got this," she said kicking the captain's gun over towards the door.

"Ok, meet up with us later," he said before following the young girl below deck and alerting Koralev to the situation. It was decided the ship's passengers would be given passage on the Giavenos' yachte along with the crew, who were quite shocked to hear of their existence.

"So, you do this for a living, huh?" Sandra asked, a deep rage underlying her voice, "tell people you'll take them to a new life, drop them in the ocean instead, or do you keep the one's you can sell?"

"Yep, right in the ocean... sploosh!" the captain answered, the gun trained on him doing nothing to improve his coherence, "Now it's my turn, right?... Sploosh!"

"Yes... sploosh" Sandra answered, a calm matter-of-fact tone belying her anger, "do you know why?"

"Because... cause... cause I deserve it," he said leaning forward.

"Yes. And you deserve to know who kills you," with those words, Sandra tugged down the left side of her jeans to reveal a blocky, scarred, tattoo of the number 36. At that the drunken, likely high on a veritable cocktail of drugs, captain's face went white, he stared deeply at those numbers before slowly turning his horrified gaze toward the stoic face of the young woman who wore them. "I'm sorry," he mumbled.

"Louder," she said, pressing her gun to the captain's head as shadows began to swirl around her, "say it louder!"

"G-g-god! What are you!" the captain shrieked, "Sorry, I'm sorry! I'm sorry!"

"Sandra, what's taking so long?" Koralev asked over the radio. By this point the crew and passengers were already on the yacht, all they were waiting for were Sandra and the captain.

"Everything's under control," she growled back, the shadows of the room swirling around her like the winds of a hurricane.

"I know that voice, Sandra," Koralev responded, "we still need him alive, it isn't worth it."

"I know," she whispered before pulling the trigger. The captain's body slumped over, lifeless, out of his chair and onto the floor. Sandra took a deep breath and put away her gun. Looking around the room she found a log book detailing the captain's previous dealings with the Russians as well as much of their network. - Captain Hauser was probably keeping it to sell to the highest bidder -  Dante's rivals were smart enough to try to use him, but not smart enough to put a leash on their own drunken bait. Sandra tucked the log book into a pocket of her jacket before heading down to the deck to meet with the others.

They would all head for the yacht and then make for Charleston, the ship's unexpected human cargo each chose his or her own path from there, some choosing to contact the authorities and risk deportation, others having contacts in the United States, made a call and were picked up by friends or relatives, the crew was pumped for information and then released mostly unharmed. The captain's log was handed over to a pleasantly surprised, though somewhat worried, Dante. All in all it had been an insane and hellish night, well except for Lugosi, it was something like a long buffet table for him.

The next day, Michael would get up, eat breakfast, practice his magic with Dante, and go about what had become his normal life as though nothing had happened. Sandra would do the same.

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Post by Michael Giaveno on Wed Jul 24, 2013 2:36 am

A full three weeks had passed since the events of Michael's last "test". Things had been normal, or as normal as they could be around the Giaveno compound. Armed with Captain Hauser's log book, Dante and Koralev began to strike back at the Russian mob's supply chain. Things finally began to turn in the Giaveno family's favor and Koralev, endued with a strange muffled vigor, had begun going on missions in person with the hopes of running into his old comrade Tokarev. These missions mainly consisted of theft and sabotage, turning the Russian mob's filthy counterfeit and drug money into Dante's filthy counterfeit and drug money.

No longer did street level thieves, dealers, and fences under the Giaveno family have to worry about masked men with uzis in unmarked black vans gunning them down. They did, of course, still have to worry about sharply dressed men with 9 millimeters in very marked cars handcuffing them and taking them away but that was another, largely unavoidable, problem altogether. With things finally swinging in the right direction, Dante's instruction took on a much more personal demeanor; Michael responded well, picking up the pace considerably and beginning to finally comprehend some of the stranger concepts attached to the path of Moros. Even his knife fighting lessons with Koralev became enjoyable as the young mage finally began to hold his ground, by which I mean the former KGB Spetsnaz commando had to exert actual effort to mercilessly destroy his pupil. Marksmanship practice with Sandra had become interesting to say the least, usually including a break for dinner before devolving into a ridiculous and one sided shooting contest, which Sandra would occasionally allow Michael to win; each session had come to more closely resemble some sort of bizarre gun themed date than training really.

Despite all of this, Michael and Sandra were still slated for specialized training with Koralev. Training that's main subject would be resisting torture. Training that would be taught by a mind mage who had no doubt tortured people before. It should be pointed out that this training was entirely voluntary. Both Michael and Sandra had agreed to it, though they had vastly different views of their agreements; to Sandra it sounded like some form of exciting new, decidedly masochistic, challenge while Michael saw it more as an ugly necessity if he was going to be prepared to undo the damage he and his friends had wrought upon the world.

Dante saw it as his two favorite pupils, probable heirs, and the closest living things he had to a family lining up to be bruised, beaten, bloodied, drowned, lacerated, electrocuted, exsanguinated, and mentally violated by one of his closest friends; in short he viewed it with a strange mix of confusion and pride but had learned long ago to leave Koralev's methods to Koralev. This is why he called upon the two of them to meet with him in his personal office the day before their training with Koralev was to begin.

"Please, close the door and have a seat," the don offered, gesturing over the surface of his desk.

"Thank you," replied Michael, taking a seat across from his mentor. Sandra closed the door and did the same.

"Michael, Sandra," don Giaveno said lighting a cigar, "when I look at you I see promise, potential, two of the fastest learners I have ever encountered, and my own family." The two mages across from him began to smile.

"Of course," he said, putting down his cigar, "I also see two of the most horrendously flawed people in the world." Sandra and Michael's smiles were quickly replaced by more serious expressions. "Sandra, revenge and anger are not emotions suited to a mage of your talents, you may hide them but until you come to terms with them you have far to go," he tilted his head to face Michael, his arms now folded on the desk in front of him, "Michael, when I found you, you had started an apocalypse, buried yourself in anger, buried that anger in drugs, and tried to wash those mistakes away with a new fait. You need to learn to accept your failings and control yourself. Until then you too have much to learn." Dante lowered his head and let out a deep sigh, talking for that long at a time was somewhat rare for him. Both Michael and Sandra had looks of concern on their faces and Michael was half way into vocalizing something when Dante put his left hand up to stop him.

"No," he said, turning his head up to reveal a smile, "I'm proud. Of the both of you. Should I die, probably in this God forsaken apocalypse Michael and his friends have made, the two of you are to take my place, together. Understand?"

"Yes," they answered in unison.

"But," Michael asked with a look of genuine confusion, "why are you telling us this?"

"Because I know Koralev," Dante remarked with a strange laugh in his voice, "And he may be my friend, but he is also a brutal mestigos warlock. I don't doubt that you will survive, I trust him. And I trust you, but still, I thought it best we have this talk... before..."

"Before we let Koralev rip through our heads like cardboard," Sandra interjected in a strangely cheerful tone, as though to her the prospect of psychic torture was akin to some sort of new game. This disturbed Michael, more so than the actual prospect of being tortured did.

"Yes, yes," Dante laughed in his low voice, "you two should try to get some rest until then, I'll be seeing you in a few days."

"Thanks, see you then," Michael said standing up and heading for the door.

"Thanks," Sandra said, nodding, as she got up to follow Michael.

"Good luck," Dante said, waving to the pair as they left his office.

"Thank you," they said in unison before heading out through the door. They would both go their separate ways only to meet up later that evening at the gun range back behind the manor for one last round of target practice.

The gun range, far from being thrown together, was a moderately sized, rectangular, concrete building sunk part way into the ground a ways back from the manor. It was actually quite professional with paper targets, bulletproof walls, ventilation, and the works; it could have easily competed with most commercial or police gun range in the state and come out on top. This is where Michael and Sandra met that night, lit outside by a crescent moon and inside by electricity.

After exchanging greetings, they both put on ear protection and safety glasses, two things that due to circumstances they would likely never have in a real fight but wore here all the same, and lined up to shoot. Sandra went first, emptying the clip of her beretta in a single tight grouping at the target's center, each perfectly timed bullet passing between the seal of the Giaveno family and the Arcanum of death on opposite sides of her gun's barrel. "Try to keep up," she teased, letting Michael know it was his turn. "Just watch," he quietly fired back before raising his gun, aiming down the barrel at the thin paper target's chest and emptying his clip with a quick succession of well timed shots. Michael's grouping was decidedly sloppier than his female counterpart's but all of his bullets hit the target and most hit around where he aimed for; this was a major improvement from the start of his training.

"Niiiice," Sandra said, leaning over Michael's shoulder to take a closer look at his target, "well... not quite as nice as mine, but you're getting there."

"Oh, haha," Michael answered in a sarcastic tone.

"No, really Mike, you're getting a lot better," Sandra responded in a genuine voice before tapping Michael on the shoulder and backing over towards the door, "In fact, I got us something to celebrate with."

"Oh, and what would that be?" Michael asked, taking off his ear and eye protection.

"You'll just have to find out," Sandra answered, setting her ear muffs and glasses on a table by the steps and heading up them and out the door, "come on."

"Alright," Michael answered, following her outside onto the grass where he found Sandra, sitting on the ground, her back resting on the wall of the range, looking up at him, arm outstretched, holding an unopened bottle of beer. Michael took the beer and she patted the ground next to her, inviting him to sit down. He did, putting his back to the range and letting his legs sprawl out in front of him. "Thanks," Michael said, "got a-"

"Yep," Sandra cut him off, handing him a small, metal, bottle opener.

"Thanks," he said again, opening his beer and taking a swallow before tilting his head to face Sandra, "So, you've gotta know I'm not 21, right?"

"Mmmmmm, yep. But we've both done worse," she said taking a gulp, "I mean, you started the apocalypse."

"Me and some friends," Michael answered nonchalantly, "So, what's the worst you've done?"

"Me, I killed a guy," Sandra replied in close to Michael's tone before taking another swallow of beer, "well, a few guys."

"Nobody's perfect," Michael answered, putting bottle to lip.

"They sure as hell weren't," Sandra said to herself, downing the last of her beer, carefully setting the bottle down beside her, and without warning placing her head on Michael's shoulder.

"What," Michael exclaimed, surprised.

"Just go with it," Sandra whispered. Michael did and gently rested his head on hers. The two of them sat there like that and watched the moon and the stars for hours. They were both thinking about tomorrow and what that day would bring but neither of them would mention it, instead they simply rested there, in the euphoria of the moment, until they both, eventually nodded off. They awoke early the next morning and parted ways to go and bathe and get dressed and meet again in another building back behind the manor.

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Post by Michael Giaveno on Thu Jul 25, 2013 12:16 am

The building in which Michael and Sandra's "specialized training" was to take place was in fact two structures, both made of thick concrete and both sunk into the ground a ways in a similar manner to the gun range. They were closer to the manor than the gun range and also differentiated themselves by having thick, steel, doors like the kind you would find on a vault, only smaller. They were, in essence, simple, concrete squares, ventilated and lit of course but in all other manners, completely disconnected from the world around them. They had smooth white interior walls complementing smooth white interior floors and had previously been used for arms storage before such things had been moved into the basement of the manor proper. "I should warn you," Koralev said, facing Michael and Sandra, "No part of the next three days will be pleasant."

"Bring it," Sandra said with overbearing confidence and a smile before waving to Michael and stepping into the room on the right. Before her stood only a chair at the room's center, from the door way, Koralev looked down to her. "I'm afraid the only way to learn to handle isolation is to experience it," he said before shutting off the room's lights from a circuit box on the outside, "I'll see you in 24 hours." As he said this he closed and locked the room's heavy steel door, leaving a surprised Sandra quite literally, in the dark.

"Isolation, huh?" Michael asked, slightly amused by the unexpected turn of events.

"Yes, for her, for now," Koralev replied gesturing for Michael to enter his own room where he saw a stainless steel table lined with a series of instruments ranging from the mundane to the macabre including riot cuffs, small towels, and two gallons of water, "But you, young Michael, I will make confetti with." Michael took a deep breath and entered the room, taking a seat on the steel stool at the room's center. Koralev too entered the room, closing the door behind him. There were two small holes on either side of the stool, Michael soon learned their purpose as his hands were bound to them with riot cuffs. "The purpose of modern torture, Michael," Koralev said, surveying his instruments, "is primarily to extract information." Michael nodded in understanding. "Of course I have other, much more effective, methods. Though they may be equally as cruel. We shall address them later, today we focus on the physical," Koralev said, "Were this the gestapo, you would be flung around the room, kicked, beaten with random objects, and burned in very... unpleasant places... Often, usually, to death. Like all things fascist, very brutal but lacking in imagination." As he said this he swung around and struck Michael across the face with a savage blow from his fist, knocking the young mage over. Koralev walked over to Michael and delivered a quick, hard, kick to the stomach before righting him. "Many French and Italian fighters would simply allow such methods to kill them before betraying their cause," Koralev said returning to the table, "As a mage of death you have the ability to mask your own life, essentially play dead, if you encounter such methods I suggest you utilize this ability."

Michael was in pain but understood that Dante's personal doctor would tend to his wounds, of which there would be many more, after his training concluded. "Ok," he said, making a mental note, "Any more advice?"

"Yes," Koralev replied, waving a thin knife, "the Taliban seems to have a growing fixation on public castration followed by execution... There is no defense against this... Avoid the Taliban, Michael."

"Wasn't really planning on going to Afghanistan anyways," Michael answered.

"Of course," replied Koralev, now heating his knife with a small blow torch until it became white hot, "But religious fanatics tend to operate in similar ways. No purpose, nothing to gain, just... punishment from God. The best you can do around such people, Michael, is to focus on a memory, block out the pain until you see an opportunity to act. When you see such an opportunity, take it." At this Koralev walked over to Michael and drove the thin, white hot blade of his knife through the center of Michael's left hand. The flesh seared and smoke rose from the bloodless wound as Koralev pulled out the blade and began to reheat it.

"I will do the same to your right hand now, Michael. Find a memory and put yourself elsewhere," he said calmly as he walked over to Michael's right side, "Have you found your memory, Michael?"

"Yes," he replied through gritted teeth and sharp breath.

"Go to it, Michael," Koralev said, "are you there?"

"Yes," Michael answered. Koralev drove the hot piece of metal through Michael's hand, his fingers dancing in agony.Michael let out a shrill scream of pain as the blade was slowly withdrawn.

"It will not stop it from hurting, Michael, only help you cope with the pain," as Koralev said this he drove the same blade through the center of his own left hand, leaving it there for four seconds before pulling it out and calmly applying a bandage, "The trick, as Lawrence tells us, is not minding that it hurts." Michael was shocked and impressed, both by Koralev's extreme resilience and, perhaps more so, by the stoic ex-KGB agent in front of him referencing Lawrence of Arabia.

"Now we move on to the Americans," Koralev said with a particular interest befitting a former soviet agent, "Your CIA used to have a very peculiar use for LSD, you know. They would give it to an enemy agent in a controlled setting in increasing doses until he would run around the room like a chicken. Then they'd ask him some questions or try to give him a command, when this failed, they would give him more drugs until eventually he died."

"Sounds like a bad trip," Michael said, attempting to be clever through the small river of blood from where he had bitten off the tip of his tongue.

"Two of my friends in East-Berlin died from this," Koralev answered coldly.

"Sorry," Michael said.

"Don't worry, I'd have done much the same," Koralev answered in a simple, matter of fact tone, "I've personally put at least seven stars on the wall at Langley." As he said this, he unscrewed the lid on the gallon container of water in front of him, "Of course, these days waterboarding seems to be more popular." He knocked Michael onto his back and laid a small, blue towel over his face. "Close your eyes and try to hold your breath, Michael. Focus on some far away memory or idea, try to ignore your natural responses, it will be difficult but it is not impossible." With that Koralev began to empty the gallon jug of water over Michael, this would take a long time as they would stop every few seconds as Michael began to reach his limit. Eventually those seconds grew longer and longer, as Michael began to take control of his body's response to the water.

After this part of the training there would be a short break, followed by a tazing, a beating, and... well, then they moved on to pliers and bamboo shoots... It was not pleasant in any way but as they continued Michael became better and better at managing pain. He was able to maintain some extent of composure and thought process while enduring incredible pain. Normally, this is something it would take a special forces operative years to master, and Michael had far from mastered it, however his previous experiences (including he and his friends having been entered into an otherworldly gladiatorial tournament) combined with his existing mindset to make him a fairly quick study.

Meanwhile, after half a day alone in the silent dark, Sandra began to hallucinate. "Hello again, 36," said the visage of a tall, bespectacled man, clad in a blood spattered lab coat, standing over Sandra. Sandra was curled up in the corner of the room and, with no light source, could not actually see anything. Her subconscious dredged up the man and her brain filled in the details. "No," Sandra said to herself in the dark, "I killed you."

"Did you now, 36?" the image said, putting his hand to the bleeding and demolished left side of his face, "Now why would you do something like that? 36?"

"You know," Sandra replied, spitting her words like venom.

"Because life was unfair? Oh boo-hoo 36, grow up," the vision said each word with unbearable condescension, "I have Captain Hauser here too 36. Do you remember him?"

Johan Hauser; the name resounded off the walls of the room, echoing and burning through Sandra's mind, 36, Johan Hauser, 36, Johan Hauser. She screamed in frustration but it did nothing. Beside the spectacled man with half a face was now Captain Johan Hauser, a neat red hole in the center of his forehead, surrounded by powder burns, hinting at the gaping hole behind it. "Why?" the bloody image of a dead alcoholic asked, "Why?"

"Because..." Sandra stuttered, "Because....."

"Because he was a bad man?" the thin man asked, "Was that it 36?"

"Yes," Sandra answered.

"Because he would have drowned allll those innocent people, just for some pocket money 36?" the figure leaned over Sandra.

"Yes," she repeated.

"Is that all, 36?"


"No!" the figure yelled, "was it because he gave you to us 36? Was that why he had to die?"

"Yes dammit! Yes! Now, shut up! Shut up! That's not my name! that's not my name anymore!" Sandra yelled into the void.

"Oh, then what is your name 36?" the figure asked, folding its arms as five or six men in what looked like police riot gear, each with an exposed bit of flesh ripped out or bashed in appeared around him, "I'm sure we'd all like to know."

"Sandra," she said with resolve, "My name, is Cassandra!"

"Oh, Cassandra Giaveno, is that it?" the figure laughed, "did we die so you could play pretend, or was it just a temper tantrum?"

"This is who I am," she said facing the illusions, "you got what you deserved."

"Oh did we 'Sandra'?" the figure asked, the other figments around it laughing, "And what about them then? You're not one of them 36, or is it Sandra, did you think Dante was going to change that? No, maybe Michael then?"

"Don't you say that name!" Sandra growled.

"What name, Dante?... Or Michael?" the principle hallucination responded, tilting its largely caved in head.

"Both of them!" Sandra answered, enraged.

"But 36, I'm no ghost, I'm a part of you," the bespectacled corpse answered.

"F-fine!" Sandra answered, pushing herself onto her feet, "Then my name is Sandra and that's what you'll call me!"

"Very well, 'Sandra'," the figure said mockingly, bowing at the waist, "how may we be of service

"You took everything from me," Sandra said, facing the vision.

"No, 'Sandra', you were given to us," it responded, "they never wanted you."

"Fine," Sandra said calmly, "it doesn't matter. When I left, I took your life and all of theirs to do it, and I don't care. I'm glad, I'm glad you're dead and I'd kill you again if I had the chance, all of you."

"Would you 'San-" was the most the mental apparition could get out before Sandra cut it off.

"But I don't need you. I don't care anymore, I'm here and I'm me and you're dead, and if any of you are still alive, then I hope they live a long life and choke on their own spit in a hospital somewhere," she said, letting out almost a light laugh, "I'm done."

"36!" the lead hallucination vocalized in Sandra's mind but was quieted as she regained control, all of the visions around it disappearing.

"36 is dead," Sandra laughed, smiling in the abyssal darkness as the last of her nightmares vanished before her and she was left with the most serene, peaceful, silence of her life. She felt at home in the dark and accepted it, letting in a deep breath as the former chaos of her mind gave way to a beautiful clarity. Soon after, she saw a blinding light as Koralev opened the door. 24 hours had passed and Sandra greeted the next day with a smile.

The physical portion of Sandra's training went much the same as Michael's; Sandra in fact having a surprisingly high tolerance for pain compared to him and not finding it too difficult to maintain composure. Maintaining composure under stress and in the face of torture being the whole purpose of the training, this was quite impressive. As Sandra began this painful odyssey, a bruised and bloodied Michael, bearing two rather itchy cauterized Christ like wounds (which were also inflicted on Sandra to similar effect) began his isolation.

"Hello again, young Mikey," said the vision in a haughty tone. Michael looked up, again there was no light so of course he did not actually see anything but none the less he hallucinated the pale vision of Lugosi hovering over him.

"You're not real," Michael said, more reassuring himself than anything.

"Oh, I am somewhere young master Michael," the tacky yet terrifying figure announced, "but no. Alas, I am a hallucination."

"I always wanted one of those," Michael said, essentially being a smart ass to his own brain, "Fair warning, I always figured I'd find a way to have sex with it."

"Hahaha, my dear, dear virgin Mikey, is that really the best you can do for a threat?" the caped figure retorted, "I am but a projection of your subconscious. I am immune to conversational discomfort."

"So what is this?" Michael asked, "Am I going insane?"

"No, Mikey, and doesn't that puzzle you?" the vision asked, "Why do you see me and not your father or mother, or even that girl from so long ago, Maria?"

"Don't," Michael responded sharply.

"Ah! Now we've hit a nerve!" the vampiric vision announced, "But even that doesn't seem to elicit all that it should from you, young Mikey."

"What're you trying to say," Michael asked impatiently.

"Hahaha, you don't see it do you?" the figure asked, stepping back a few feet, "You've been insane for quite a while."

"What are you talking about?" Michael asked in confusion.

"Don't deny yourself Michael!" the vision exclaimed, "You've felt it."

"I don't know what you're talking about," Michael responded, trying in vein to  clear what he was seeing out of his mind.

"Yes, you do," the figure said stepping closer, "The rush, the adrenaline, euphoria, the elegant pleasure of metal sinking into flesh, and believe me Michael, I should know. The feel of blood on your hands is exhilarating, there's no reason to hide that from me."

"You... No," Michael said desperate to deny his own mind's allegations, "That's not true."

"Oh, But it is, dear, sweet, murderous, Mikey," the vampire retorted, "You started this war, and you helped kill Genesis, and you will end the world."

"No!" Michael shouted.

"But it is the truth, and you can not hide from that, no matter how far your little legs carry you," the figure smiled a diabolic grin, "You can not out run me, I am what you fear because I am what you are." There was silence after that, the figure did not vanish, it merely sat down across from Michael, it's pale face resting in the palm of its left hand. After a few moments Michael began to smile, "Okay," he said, "it's the truth, I enjoy fighting, I enjoy combat, and that terrifies me, I am a death mage who hates death, a pacifist who loves to fight, I'm a hypocrite in every way, but so what."

"Do you think that is enough?" the figure asked.

"Yes," Michael replied strongly, "it will be."

"Oh, Mikey," the figure answered, "Dante, Sandra, the end of the world, so much to live up to and yet you can't even come to terms with yourself."

"It doesn't matter," Michael responded, standing up, "I am me and you are me, and that makes me your master. Everything that I've done, everything that I will do, for better or worse is of my own free will. I'll have to learn to live with it." the hallucinated visage of Lugosi stood up and faced Michael.

"I don't need you anymore," Michael said to the monster in his mind. Lugosi's figure nodded before grabbing hold of Michael's forearm and biting into it, bit by bit dissolving into Michael. As he disappeared a knife replaced him in Michael's hand; it too disappeared. Everything around him in the darkness, every thought, every action, every face, rushed through Michael's head before he was greeted with a great quietness and peace. Soon after, the door opened and Koralev let in the morning sunlight.

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Post by Michael Giaveno on Mon Aug 05, 2013 2:30 pm

Dried blood crusted on his cheeks and eyelashes, Michael awoke, tied to a chair, his blood-matted hair brushing against and tangling with Sandra's, who was herself tied to a chair behind him. Their forced seating arrangements were bound together by a length of rope across both mages' chests. Their hands and feet were bound to the chairs as well to prevent much movement.

"Good, you are not dead," said Koralev, grinning at Michael and Sandra, who had herself been awake for some time now.

"Nope," Michael said spitting out a clump of dried blood from his mouth, "not yet."

"Neither of you have eaten or slept in some time now," Koralev said observing his captive subjects at the center of the white-walled room, "For that I am sorry."

"No problem," Sandra groaned.

"Very well," Koralev responded taking a seat on a metal stool to the side of Michael and Sandra, "This training has one final leg before I will release you to the infirmary. I will now attempt to invade both of your minds and you will resist me."

"Okay," Michael said, looking up at his instructor through his bloodied black hair, "how are we supposed to do that?"

"Simple," the former Soviet commando answered, "try to confuse me, mix up your thoughts to keep me distracted for as long as possible. I won't try hard enough to cause any real damage but you need to know what this feels like."

"Alright," Sandra replied, "when do we start?"

"As soon as you are ready," he answered.

"I'm good," Michael said, leaning his head back slightly, "you?"

"Anytime," Sandra answered.

"Good, then I will begin," Koralev responded, placing his hands on his knees and focusing intently on Michael and Sandra.

Thoughts, memories, it all blurred together. Random strings of gibberish and coherent passages memorized from old dusty textbooks long ago flung around through the two mages minds as their vision began to fade. They each felt a strange and bizarre sensation, an acute depression of the brain, a feeling of dampening yet sharp in every way. It pierced their minds and compressed them, splitting them, dividing them, going over every inch. Thoughts began to blur, consciousness began to fade, the dull pain rung out in the trancelike darkness pulling them each along through what seemed to be a brief eternity. It came in waves crashing along the shorelines of their minds eating away at them in broad and targeted strokes. There was silence, and yet it sounded like a blood curdling scream for which even God would cover his ears.

Visions began to pass before each of them as Koralev worked his way through their thoughts. Michael and Sandra's memories and emotions flashed before each other in no particular order, random and unending. A young girl no older than ten is standing in a dark alley way, holding a couple at gunpoint. The black metal revolver in her hand is so heavy, the tears on her face so warm as she screams out for them to give over their wallets, the man reaches for something. FEAR. DARKNESS. There are two gunshots, ringing, ringing, sobbing, running, running into the night.

A father violently throws a young girl to the floor before his son. "This is what you get!" he screams. He picks her up and beats her to the ground again with his clenched fists. "Stop it!" the son yells, "STOP!" It is to no avail. "Little slut!" the man screams, lashing the girl with the heavy metal clasp of his belt. "STOP!" the son cries again storming at his father with a rage of impotent punches. The father flings him away, the son grabs a letter opener from the desk beside him and rams it into his father's leg, "STOP GODDAMNIT!" The father barely notices and throws the son to the side before striking the bloodied girl with another round of punches, "This is what you get for questioning me in MY house!" "I'll kill you," the son grumbles, tears washing the sight from his eyes.

A young woman in a hotel high rise, loosens the holster holding her weapon to her side, letting it slip and fall to the floor. A young man with thick wavy brown hair and tan skin in a thin suit approaches her, letting his suit jacket fall to the floor. She grabs him by his tie and gently leads him to the bed. NERVOUS. He leans in, kissing her softly as he unbuttons her white blouse and she throws her arms around him. ELATION. She throws him onto the bed and begins to remove his cloths. EXCITEMENT.

A raccoon wearing a small hat pulls up near the shoreline in a bus with a psychedelic paintjob. CONFUSSION. The world around the young man approaching the bus is strange yet normal. EUPHORIA. Everything is slightly out of place and there is a strange taste of burnt marshmallows with a hint of almond.

All sensation fades, as though life were powering down. . . .

... "You may have gone too far" the words are garbled through the darkness..... "I was very careful, sir." ....... "Still, both of them at one time"........ A bright light appeared and vanished, appeared and vanished, blinking in and out of sight until eventually the world opened up in a fuzzy haze. Michael and Sandra awoke, heavily bandaged, laying in beds in the manor's infirmary with Dante, Koralev, Anthony, and in a rather terrifying turn of events, Jesse Reinhold standing over them.

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Post by Michael Giaveno on Mon Aug 05, 2013 3:33 pm

"Relax, I am also a healer," said Rienhold in his usual apathetic monotone, now adding doctor to a resume otherwise spattered with blood, fettuccine, and what happened when he tried to turn blood into fettuccine, "You have been unconscious for approximately 38 hours."

"I am sorry," Koralev said in a humble tone, "I may have gone overboard."

"It's okay," Sandra grumbled looking over at the iv drip in her arm, identical to the one in Michael's.

"In any case, I am glad to see you both alive," Dante spat out his words with a deep sense of relief, devoid of his usual fat Cuban cigar, "we should leave you two to get some rest, we'll talk more when you're feeling better." At this the group began to disperse.

"Yeah, good to have ya' back," Anthony said with an unusual calm in his light Italian accent, lightly patting the edge of Sandra's bed before heading out with the others.

"So...," Michael said, looking over towards the exceedingly banged up girl in the bed to his left.

"So...," Sandra replied before letting out a light laugh, ended by a sharp pain in her chest, "You look like Hell Mike."

"Yeah, you too," he answered. The majority of their wounds, including the cauterized puncture wounds on their bandaged hands were, thanks to the work of a rather skilled life mage, set to heal up nicely with minimal scaring. In the mean time however, they were both outfitted with extensive bandaging around their chests, arms, and hands, a caste on their right legs, patches for their left eyes, and various sutures dotted across their bodies. Their identical wounds were proof that Koralev had given them both the same, brutal, treatment.

"So," Michael said after a short pause, "You and Tony?"

"You saw that?" Sandra exclaimed, mildly surprised.

"Yep," he replied.

"We were working a job together in Monaco," Sandra said, "He was my first."

"So, what happened?" Michael asked. The knowledge that she had seen some of his most personal memories as well eased the conversation greatly.

"It just didn't work out," She said calmly, "So what's up with you and the Raccoon." Michael burst out laughing at this, halted by a sharp pain in his chest, "So you've met Coon?"

"This," Sandra said, "This needs explaining."

"He's a goblin," Michael replied.

"Oh, okay," Sandra said, visibly eased by this information, "So what's up with all the other weirdness?"

"Never accept free weed from a white girl with dreadlocks," Michael replied.

"Brown acid?" Sandra asked, amused.

"Yep," he replied, smiling. Their conversation went on like this for a while, each of them explaining the more bizarre or entertaining of each other's memories, including a run in with a certain vendor in the goblin market by the name of Tim. They both avoided the darker sides of each other's pasts, knowing that nothing good could come from stirring up old demons laid to rest. Between the two of them it was decided that there was no way they would have begun hallucinating within one day of isolation and that Koralev must have induced  their experiences during the short break he took with each of them. The hallucinations were their own, however it had been a skilled mind mage, not maddening solitude, that brought them on.

Between conversations like these, visits from Dante, Anthony, and Koralev, and check ups from Rienhold, the two battered mages mostly spent their time sleeping, drinking copious amounts of water, and trying to eat. The shared memory of Tim, who took the surreal form of an upside down horseshoe crab, did not help with the last part. Over the course of the next week their wounds would heal and they would meet with Dante, each of them receiving a new mission.

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Post by Michael Giaveno on Thu Aug 08, 2013 3:40 pm

"It's good to see you both doing well," Dante said, embracing Michael and Sandra, a fat cigar hanging from the fingers of his right hand, "Well, doing better than you were anyways. Though their eye patches were gone, as were most of their bandages, the two mages were still adorned with a long series of scars and bruises running the length of their bodies. Dante let go of his pupils and took a seat in the padded armchair behind his desk. Koralev stood to his right and Anthony to his left, both dressed in formal attire. Michael and Sandra took their seats across from the don.

"I'm just glad I didn't wind up with an extra arm or anything," Michael commented, remembering the rumors of Reinhold's propensity for sadistic experimentation.

"Haha," Dante laughed in a low, warm voice, lighting his cigar, "Mr. Reinhold kept mumbling about whether a second heart would really have any benefits or not but I would not allow it." Sandra chuckled at this and Anthony grinned, Koralev had no reaction. "And I believe he wanted to see about rearranging your circulatory system to carry some sort of acid," Dante said to Sandra with a slight chuckle. Sandra's smile disappeared, Michael grinned, Anthony laughed, and Koralev, again, had no real reaction.

"At any rate," Dante said, taking a puff of his cigar, "Michael I have a very important mission for you."

"A little soon, but okay," Michael said, thinking it just a little bit strange that he would be given an assignment so soon after being released from the infirmary, "What do you need me to do?"

"It's very simple Michael," Dante said casually, "You only need to die."

"What?" Michael asked, surprised, "You're joking right."

"Yes and no," Dante said waving his cigar hand in a relaxed manner as he spoke, "Michael, you are a necromancer, this means you can fake your own death better than anyone else on the planet. Sandra would you please demonstrate?"

"Gladly," She replied before closing her eyes, taking in a deep breath, exhaling with great intent and suddenly slumping over in her chair before falling out of it onto the floor with a resounding thud, every part of her body having gone limp.

"See for yourself," Dante said to a somewhat confused and concerned Michael. He rose out of his seat to check Sandra's pulse but was unable to detect the faintest beat of her heart.

"She is not dead," Koralev observed, reading Sandra's aura. After a few short moments the girl took in a deep breath and sprung back to life.

"God that feels weird!" Sandra exclaimed, climbing back into her seat as a still confused Michael sat back down in his. Michael was well aware that this was one of the many unsettling talents common to death mages, however it was his first time seeing it in action.

"Okay," said Michael, still somewhat concerned for his well being, "May I ask why I'm going to commit temporary suicide?"

"Of course," Dante replied, "I am sending you to Venice. From there you are to find your own way to the island of Poveglia. It is where I awoke as a mage and I feel the journey to it is something of a right of passage for death mages in the this family. You are to spend the night on the island, alone. A plane will be waiting at the Venetian airport to pick you up in a three days time."

"Okay," Michael replied, "But aside from symbolism is there any reason I need to look dead?"

"Yes," Dante answered, "There is a surprisingly strong market for American cannabis in Italy, Michael. Thanks to a recent law, marijuana possession in Italy is now treated similarly to that of heroin, this of course allows us to charge extra for import."

"You're flying in a coffin full of weed," Anthony remarked gleefully.

"Precisely," Dante commented, "If our bribes are not enough, the presence of a body sent home for burial should deter searches. Your coffin will be offloaded by our contacts, they will take you to a warehouse, once you are safely out of sight you will wake up and disappear, leaving the coffin as you found it. This way we will kill two birds with one stone."

"You will also need to kill your aura," Koralev commented to Michael.

"I need to do what?" he asked

"Your aura, Michael," Dante explained, "You can will it into not existence, though it will eventually reform, this should aid you in portraying a corpse."

"Okay," Michael said, nodding his head, " I 'die', fly to Italy, wake up, find my own transport to a restricted, abandoned, former plague island, spend the night, find my way off the island, and fly home. That everything?"

"You'll also be brokering the drug deal," Dante said, handing Michael a fake id and passport, "This is the main reason you should not let these men see you climb out of the coffin."

"You know, besides it being creepy," Anthony added.

"Alright," Michael answered, "When do I leave?"

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Post by Michael Giaveno on Thu Aug 08, 2013 8:56 pm

"The plane takes off around 8 o'clock tonight," Dante answered, "so you should probably get packed and ready."

"Alright," Michael said rising from his seat, "I better get going then."

"Good luck," Sandra said. Having made the same journey just last year she was far more aware of what Michael was walking into than he was.

"Thanks," he said heading for the door, "See you when I'm back." With that Michael left the room and went to get dressed in his usual mission attire and pack a couple days worth of clothes and other necessities into a small dark blue backpack.

"Anthony," Dante said, addressing the young man to his left, "take a seat." Anthony nodded and sat down in Michael's recently vacated seat, leaning slightly forward with anticipation.

"While Michael is away, the two of you are to run a very delicate operation for me," Dante said to Sandra and Anthony.

"Sure," Sandra said, "anything."

"That's good to hear," Dante responded, tapping the end of his cigar on a polished black stone ashtray on his desk, "and you Anthony?"

"Of course," he said.

"Good, good," the don responded, setting down his cigar, "there are some gentlemen in Charleston who would like to launder a great deal of money with us. As I hear it, they used the chaos following the earthquakes to rob several banks and rip off a few large companies. They have promised us a good cut of the profits for our effort."

"Nice, so where do we come in?" Anthony asked impatiently. He had been waiting for a big job like this for quite a while now.

"The two of you are to meet with representatives of this group in a hotel in downtown Atlanta," Dante explained, "Just which hotel is yet to be decided, but it should be an impressive establishment and you should be on one of the upper floors."

"Okay. But why Atlanta?" Sandra asked.

"We've decided it best to meet in a third location so neither party feels threatened," Dante explained, "That said, we would still like to be in control of the situation. This is why Lugosi will be accompanying you for security."

"We will tell him what we have told you once the sun is down," Koralev added. It still being early in the afternoon, Lugosi would be in a deep supernatural slumber in his room in the manors' basement. This is, in fact, a location he insisted on; it fitting with his self cultivated gothic monster movie theme.

"The two of you will be brokering our dealings with this group. How you approach them is up to you," Dante said, "You head out tomorrow at dusk, until then you should plan and try to get some rest." The two mages got up from their chairs and headed for the door, "Thank you," they said.

"I know you'll do fine," Dante answered, smiling as the two young Mafioso magicians left his office. After the door closed, Dante waited a few short moments before turning his head to face Koralev. "How is the clean up operation going?" He asked in a low, hushed tone.

"It is progressing as planned," Koralev replied in a similarly quiet voice, "but there do seem to be a few elements proving difficult to find."

"We cannot allow them to get too far Koralev," Dante answered.

"Understood, last I heard a few men in Savannah had eyes on a package," Koralev responded, "We will move on it tonight."

"Good, good," Dante said, "we should put an end to this mess as soon as possible." With that, Koralev nodded in agreement and left the room.

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Post by Michael Giaveno on Sat Aug 10, 2013 1:26 pm

It was around eight o'clock in the evening when Michael arrived at a, mostly deserted, private airstrip somewhere in the American South East. "Hey!" Shouted one of the Giaveno family's dedicated bag handlers, "The golden boy decided to show up!" Michael ignored the shout, having arrived slightly late due to traffic, and instead headed straight for the contraband stuffed coffin that would carry him to his destination. The men on duty loading said coffin were sleepers and, as such, had only a vague understanding of the plan they were carrying out. To them, Michael's mode of transportation, combined with a thirteen hour flight, came off as reckless to the point of self indulgence.

"Not going to fuck up like last time are you?" asked the same man from earlier; a belligerent, fat, balding man in his early forties. "I stopped taking those pills," Michael said, lowering his bag into the coffin, "we should be fine."

"Junky's a junky," replied the criminal cargo handler, "It's when they get all self-righteous, you start to get problems." Michael ignored the man's rebuttal and climbed carefully into his coffin."Take that guy Jim," the same man said, his coworker nodding in placid agreement, "Jim Rostagno. Alcoholic, heroin shooting, piece of shit junky. But he always got the job done just like he was told. Then one day, out of the blue, Jim decides to sober up. All of a sudden he's running his mouth on how your dad was handling things." With those words the story had begun to get Michael's attention but he wasn't going to show it. "You know what your old man does?" the condescending story teller continued, "He takes Jim out back, beats him down, and shoots him in the head. Says, 'A dog should know his place'."

Michael took a brief moment before turning his head toward the man with a great smile, "Last time I checked, my 'old man' was dead and you were loading freight... Tuck me in?" The visibly annoyed man and his mildly amused partner closed the lid on Michael's coffin and carefully hoisted it into the waiting plane. Once there, Michael willed his aura out of existence before exhaling all the breath from his lungs and drifting into the deepest sleep he had ever known.

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