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Generated: Nov 27, 2020 6:44 PM
Post last updated: Oct 22, 2020 10:06 PM
Strange attractors
Fairy!Ellie in Beacon Hills
Permalink Mark Unread

Down in the forest, there is a tree. 

What's left of one, anyway. 

The Nemeton calls another supernatural creature to its town. 

The blood that drips onto it forms a circle. 

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Ellie feels the summon's tug, and decides to answer. Not much going on today anyway.

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There is a man carrying a body towards the tree trunk she stands on.

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She looks down at the bloody circle.

"How macabre. And sloppy. What are the bodies for?"

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He keeps walking towards her, stopping when he reaches the trunk. 

He places the body in his arms at the base. 

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"Hello? Summoner?"

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Nah.

He stares at her a bit, as if expecting her to move from the trunk of her own accord.

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Well, she certainly could, with bindings this- nonexistent, really? Huh. But that might be seen as a hostile action.

"Do you have a task for me or not?"

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Looks like his only response is to self-immolate. 

That sure is a man on fire. 

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She doesn't especially want to go back just yet. She removes the air from his immediate vicinity long enough to snuff the flames.

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He seems lightly charred and stares vacantly.

The corpses remain at her feet and his, blood soaking into the roots and the bark. 

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"Are you at all capable of speech?"

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Oh, look, he's lighting himself on fire again. 

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Whoosh away goes the air.

"Would you stop that."

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He lifts the body and tries putting it onto the pile of of corpses. 

His eyes flash orange.

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Fine. Whatever. Summoner doesn't want to talk, she doesn't have to stick around here. She takes off into the air, rising above the trees to get an idea of what the surrounding area looks like.

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There's a town, if she ventures further than the forest.

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Oh good, maybe she can find someone there to explain whatever theatrical production is occurring at the tree stump. It's still dark, so she skims across the treetops most of the way there, descending to ground level after the trees run out.

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As she approaches the edge of the woods, she flies over a burnt husk of a house, overgrown with vines.

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Perhaps the former home of Mysterious Repetitively Self-Immolating Man? Worth stopping to look at.

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Nothing too interesting, really. Some deep gouges across the walls from claws being raked across them, and not much intact furniture.

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Perhaps not, then. She doesn't recall him having any claws. Onwards.

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Townwards, then. 

Hospital, school, police station...

Residential areas, bowling alley, movie rentals...

There's nothing particularly interesting about this town, either.

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Movie rentals? What? Those were gone before she was even born.

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She can also see the school from here.

Seems like there's some sort of commotion. 

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Where there's people, there's a possibility of an explanation. To the school.

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There's some sort of scuffle, moving from the parking lot to inside the building.

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The attacker has fanged mouths, opening and closing across his body, within what seems to otherwise be normal human skin.

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Macabre seems to be some sort of theme tonight. Ellie is of the opinion that Many-Mouths should stop chasing the other boy. As a fairy, she is well-equipped to make this opinion reality.

Come back and float in the air over here, Mouths.

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He floats.

"Let me at him! That psycho killed my dad!"

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Accused Dad-Killer, you come back too.

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He had actually stopped running after she picked up Many-Mouths, and has mostly been gawking. 

"He's a criminal, he blames my dad for his dad's injury, please don't hurt me."

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"And what does that have to do with all the," she waves a hand vaguely, "mouths?"

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"I have no idea why all the mouths! Are you some kind of, what, fairy?"

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"What gave it away, the telekinesis?"

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"What. No, the- you're actually a fairy godmother?"

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Many-Mouths doesn't seem pleased with this turn of events.

He starts trying to thrash in place. 

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Well, he can thrash if he wants to. He's not going to get anywhere with it.

"I'm not anyone's godmother, so far as I know."

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"Is telekinesis a fairy thing?"

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"No...no, I can still do it!"

Many-Mouths begins to shriek, apparently horrified by something behind her. 

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"Some might say it is the fairy thing," she says, turning to see what has Mouthy so scared.

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They move from point to point suddenly, jarringly.

The air around them blurs and shifts. 

They walk towards her and her captives. 

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No, they will in fact stop walking right there.

"And who are you supposed to be?"

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Will they stop?

They flicker, as though a signal is wavering. 

One jumps past her.

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There are three two mysterious figures watching her.

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"Why isn't anyone answering my questions today."

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"I'll tell you whatever you want as soon as we get away from those things!"

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Was she very attached to both of her hostages?

She only has one, now.

The figures take their leave.

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"Thanks for rescuing me with mysterious telekinetic powers. Uh, what did you do with him?"

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"Nothing. He shouldn't have been able to go anywhere."

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"Could someone else have moved it." 

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"I ought to have noticed any such attempt."

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"Have you been bitten or scratched by any big animals recently?" 

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"No. The only fauna I have seen thus far are you, the one with the mouths, and a man who kept lighting himself on fire, out in the woods."

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"Sorry, go back to the guy in the woods? What?"

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"I was summoned on the stump of a tree. There was a man there piling bodies atop it. When I asked him what his purpose for summoning me was, he burst into flames."

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"What do you mean, summoned? Was there a druid? Is this the stump I think it is, because then I need to make some calls."

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"Summoned the same way any daeva is summoned. Druid? What year is this?"

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"2012, what year should it be and what are daeva?"

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"Closer to 2112. I haven't been keeping close track. This doesn't make any sense. Even if I was somehow summoned back in time, Revelation was in the early 2000s. '05, I think. Certainly before 2012. You should know what daeva are."

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"Let's assume you don't mean Revelations, Book of. How did Revelation reveal daeva and again, what are they?"

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"Someone anonymously uploaded a book on summoning and sample circles to the Internet. A daeva is a member of one of three 'species': demons, angels, and fairies. Indestructible magic people, each with a different type. Demons create things, angels transmute things, fairies move things."

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"And this should be common knowledge, by 2012? Do you have, uh, other 'species'? Any others?"

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"Of sapients? Just humans and daeva. Daeva are complicated, in that most simply pop forth fully grown one, in either Heaven, Hell, or Fairyland as appropriate, but some are former summoners who have died. So I'm not sure to what extent they actually count as separate species. Even the ones who came ex nihilo look like normal humans."

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"So you don't have, say, werewolves, or banshees, or anyone else that's not human or daeva."

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"Implying that you do, I take it."

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"We definitely don't have any daeva, but for sapient species we're pretty crowded."

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"Hmm. In that case," she stops holding him, "you should probably alert whoever you were going to about happenings at the stump."

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"We don't really have a system. No one knows about this stuff."

He dusts himself off. 

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"You know. And you know others who know. Why don't you introduce us?"

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"Sure. If I tell you where to go, can we fly? Actually, no, I should take my Jeep. Maybe later."

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"I could fly your Jeep."

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"So what's the limit on the moving things thing? And do we both get in, and also, you know people here don't expect flying Jeeps?"

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"The limit is how well I can keep track of what I am moving. I could move persons and Jeep separately or together. Are we likely to be seen at this time of night?"

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"Probably? There are monsters that come out at night and most of them can definitely see a flying Jeep."

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"Then I'll not fly your Jeep."

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"Yeah, some other time. You can get inside, since flying would be kind of suspicious, but you're smaller than a Jeep, so it might be safe. Your call, but I vote driving."

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"You haven't said where we're gong yet," she points out. "Driving is acceptable to me."

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"We're going to visit a friend of mine. He'll figure out what to do." 

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Stiles drives a bit more recklessly than he probably should, but they get there intact. 

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Ellie is indestructible. She would have gotten there intact even if he had not.

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Hopefully she can forgive him for not knowing all of her exotic properties. 

He parks on the street outside a small, suburban home.

"Alright. I texted everyone before we took off, so hopefully they're all here. We need to come up with a plan." 

He walks up to the door. 

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Before he can knock, the door opens.

"Come inside, they're all waiting in the living room. Hey. Sorry for the inconvenience. We're not really sure how we summoned you so far from home, but hopefully we can figure out what happened and set things straight. I'm Scott." 

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"Right, and I'm Stiles and I'm leaving."

He heads to the living room.

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"Hello Scott. Only one person can summon a daeva, so there would be no 'we' to the matter. And you would have had to be present at the actual circle, so unless you can turn invisible, I highly doubt it was your fault."

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"Okay. Who was present that you could see? Do you need anything to eat, drink? Do you need a place to stay? Stiles wasn't super clear on what you could do besides move things."

He leads her further inside, making an abortive gesture to take her coat. 

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She's not wearing a coat.

"White male, about so tall, short dark hair. Vacant expression. Kept bursting into flames. Technically I need neither eat, drink, nor sleep, and only partake of those activities recreationally."

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"Well, we have food and drink if you want it. I...don't know that much about people who burst into flame, but we have an idea of what it could be. Follow me." 

He leads her to the living room instead, to join the others. 

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"So this is the mover fairy person? Hi, I'm Malia." 

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"You've met Stiles. This is Liam, Mason, and Kira."

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"Hi. You're from another world, which is cool. I'm Liam." 

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"So cool. Fairies, werewolves, kitsune...what else are you guys hiding?"

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"Fairies are new, actually," she corrects.

"Nice to meet you. I'm Kira, that's Mason. Sorry about all the names, you can probably forget most of them for now, anyway." 

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"More importantly, what are you planning on doing? Moving things sounds broad, the way Stiles put it, and you're saying someone summoned you here with a circle? As far as we know, no one here knows about summoning- and we know a lot about the supernatural."

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All teens. No supervision? The one girl, Lydia, seems competent enough, at least.

"Yes. This seems to be an alternate history to the one I know. I suspect parallel universes or some such. My primary objective must be to determine how and why I was summoned here, and by whom. Until and unless I know that, I cannot be sure of the duration of my stay here. Secondarily," she smiles, "I want to learn about the local magic."

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"Most of the magic here isn't stuff we can use, it's just...what we are. The stuff that humans do is different, and none of us- except Stiles, and I guess Mason- can use that. And, uh, about the summoning, our main guess right now is it's one of these new supernatural creature hybrids that keep popping up." 

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"The chimeras. Pretty dangerous, and we don't know who's making them yet, or why." 

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"Besides killing people, they're good at that. We met one today, the guy you pulled off me."

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"It could be some other supernatural thing, though. There's a lot of us out there, and we mostly don't know about each other, except for when we have regular meetups." 

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"But you think they are being made?"

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"They're like hybrids, of different things. We think there are some kind of scientists experimenting on how to make new creatures from the ones that are already around."

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"Do you have a regular memory? Drawing skills? Otherwise, you could try sketching the guy you saw, in case any of us recognize him. It's not a huge town."

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"Interesting. The one I met seemed to have some sort of personal grudge against Stiles. Is that sort of thing common?"

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"I knew him. It's not- when we say made, we don't mean like, grown in a test tube. They capture humans and change them. He got the mouths thing- I think part wendigo, they usually get lots of teeth- and whatever made him so fast." 

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"Is there any pattern to who gets taken?"

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"Not that we can tell, but we didn't know any of the victims too well- ignoring the part-wendigo."

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"Tracy- one of the victims- she started sleepwalking, I guess. They were doing something to her head before they turned her."

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"Lucas, too, his boyfriend said he started acting weird, right before they must have gotten him." 

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"That's a potential warning sign, then. Any other commonalities? Classes, extracurriculars, favorite loitering spot?"

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"They got the gay one at the gay club, the criminal in the transport van, and the girl while she was asleep?"

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"Diverse. They are adaptable. Worrisome, but not helpful. Would they need a permanent location to do these hybridizations? A base?"

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"It makes sense that they would, but we've never seen them in action."

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"Curious. And not a problem I can solve from here. Which of you would like to see the location of the summoning circle?"

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"Scott and Lydia need to see it, they'll probably know more about the magical part of it. Stiles knows the town pretty well, and it wouldn't hurt to have a human there too, in case there's something that needs one." 

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Someone comes downstairs.

"Scott? Is everything alright?" 

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"It's about the chimeras. This woman found something, and she's- she has a lot to tell us about. We can do this somewhere else, sorry, I thought we could be quiet enough." 

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"Are you okay with her knowing about you?"

He whispers, clearly trying to be subtle. 

"Scott won't say anything unless you say it's okay to tell, since no one here knows about fairy summoning." 

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"The noise didn't wake me up, moms just know when their kids need them. Should I make coffee?" 

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"Mom, you have an early shift, you should get as much sleep as you can." 

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She ignores him, and starts a pot of coffee. 

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"Thank you, but we were just about to leave."

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"If you're sure. Nice meeting you, anyway."

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"Everyone else into my car, Stiles and her into his?"

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"Acceptable."

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As discussed, they travel.

"So, what do people normally summon you for? Furniture? Car crashes? Space station repair?"

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"Furniture, yes. Car crashes, no. You'd want an angel for that. Similar for station repairs, though I have placed a few."

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"Should we summon an angel?"

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"Not now, and not without thought. Further summons may not even work, this is unprecedented."

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"Why do fairies work for people, anyway? Like, does summoning give the person control over you, should we be worried your summoner will show up and make you start killing people?"

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"No. Constraints on a summonee's behavior are strictly negative and must be designated in the original circle before it is completed. I am, so far as I can tell, entirely unbound."

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"Oh. Can you resist being summoned? Do you get anything out of it?" 

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"Responding to a summons is a voluntary choice. Typically, the summoner will negotiate a deal with the daeva, a certain task to be performed in exchange for payment of one sort or another. Usually physical goods, Earth money is of little use in Fairyland."

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"So should we pay you something? Since you can't find your summoner?"

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"That will not be necessary."

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Stiles has plenty of questions, but he sits on those, and they arrive soon enough. 

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The others are already waiting, at the edge of the woods. 

"Can you lead us to where you appeared?"

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"Yes. It will be fastest if I move us as a group."

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After a moment's pause, they agree that should work fine. 

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They're faced with a familiar stump. 

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"How recently was he here? Do you have seconds, minutes? Do you speak English or is this some fairy thing?" 

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"It has been perhaps an hour. I speak English."

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Scott sniffs the air, apparently searching for something in particular. 

He approaches the bodies, too, smelling them. 

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Lydia seems distracted. 

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"That's...a few more dead bodies than I remember you mentioning."

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"I did say piles."

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"Oh god...Tracy..."

Hey look at that, he's kneeling by the corpse pile. 

He's probably going to be useless for a few minutes. 

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"Found his scent. Do you want to come along?"

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"Yes. Which way?"

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He points. 

"Are you going to fly? How fast can you go?"

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"Faster than you can run." She lifts off a short way into the air. "Go. I will follow."

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He goes. 

They run, the forest fading fast as they head into town. 

They pass many nearly identical houses, until they come to their destination: a group of townhomes, also nearly identical. 

"He's inside. He might not even know what he did."

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"Shall I bring him out, or are we going in?"

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"What sounds less aggressive? We could try knocking. If he makes a break for it, then we escalate." 

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She gestures to the door. "After you, then."

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...knock?

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Nothing. 

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Somewhat louder knock. 

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After a brief pause, there comes the sound of footsteps, and then a disheveled man answers the door, rubbing his eyes tiredly. 

"Hello?"

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"Parrish? Um, this is a psychic thing, we need to come in."

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"Now? Okay, uh, is Lydia coming? The Sheriff? Should I get my coat?"

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"No, we should get inside."

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He steps aside.

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They go inside. 

The door closes. 

"My friend here can move things with her mind. Mind showing him?" 

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Everything in the entryway gently rises six inches up, then softly sets back down.

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He blinks.

"Okay, that's pretty impressive. Lydia can't do that, right?"

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"No, she can't. I'm sorry, can you- can you tell us what happened today? Just walk us through what you did." 

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"No problem. After I got up, did my usual morning routine, I went to work...how much do you need to know about that? I probably shouldn't tell you about any police business." 

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"Don't worry, we're mostly curious about after work, at night."

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"I don't know what you're looking for, it was a pretty normal day. I haven't noticed anything weird since the whole thing with Deputy Haig." 

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"He's mysteriously immune to burning alive," Scott explains for the newcomer's benefit. 

"Can you tell me about later, after the sun went down? What do you remember?"

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"I was doing some research at the table, I kind of dozed off." 

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"You're probably not a danger- in danger, I mean. I just thought we should check up on you. Didn't I?"

He directs that last to the fairy, whose name he hasn't actually been polite enough to ask for yet. 

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"How was it discovered that Deputy Haig was immune to burning alive?"

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"Oh, no, not Haig. That was me. He trapped me in our squad car and lit it on fire. I got out." 

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"Right, and now we know Deputy Parrish is something, but not what. Because if we knew, we would definitely tell him. But we don't." 

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Very subtle, Scott. If that's how he wants to play it, fine.

"I most certainly have no idea."

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"Alright. Is there anything else I can do to help?"

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"No, I think we just need to regroup, compare notes with everyone else. Sorry to bother you."

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"Have a pleasant night."

And then they depart?

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They depart.

"I wasn't sure it was safe to tell him without triggering it. That's not exactly like anything I've seen before, but there are a lot of things that get dangerous when you confront them. It's a control thing." 

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"That was definitely the same man. Do you think the amnesia is real or feigned?"

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"Real. I can't be positive, but Lydia had something like this happen to her when she would...find dead bodies. Which sounds a lot like what he was doing. He can't be a banshee too, they're always women, but I really don't think we're running out of things to secretly be." 

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"There can't be that many creatures that self-immolate at will."

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"I'm pretty sure every mythical creature exists, and the myths are all wrong. He could be a phoenix, or he could be a mermaid. He's definitely not something I've seen. I can look into, but it depends on how dangerous he is like this. What was he doing?"

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"Piling the bodies on the stump. And bursting into flame when I did something that would hinder or prevent him from continuing to do so."

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"We can look into fire-related shapeshifters. In the meantime...were the bodies doing anything? Or were they just...bodies." 

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"Just bodies, so far as I could tell."

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"I don't think he's the one killing them, we already have a lead there. Which means we have time to research this, and plan. What do you want to do?" 

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"I want to learn more about magic."

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"I can take you to Dr. Deaton, he'll tell you what you want to know. Tomorrow, though, he'll be asleep by now. I can get you a bestiary, if that's okay for now." 

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"That will do."

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So he calls the others, and they agree on a place to meet. 

"I'll run there, and you can follow." 

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A brief jog (and flight), and Scott leads her into a small clinic, where his friends are already waiting. 

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One of them has a laptop resting on the front desk. 

"I haven't found anything obviously relevant so far, but there are plenty of creatures connected to fire. Maybe you'll see something I didn't." 

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A laptop. How quaint.

"I will take a look."

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"Find out anything interesting?"

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"It's Parrish. We're saving him."

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"Scott, he's collecting corpses and feeding them to the tree. There's no way this ends well." 

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"Nothing happened yet, he's not the main threat. The ones who are creating the chimeras, kidnapping and killing teenagers, that's who we should be focused on." 

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"Scott, I know you want to fix everything, but if he's doing this and we don't know why, we have to stop it. Stuff always gets out of hand."

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The bestiary contains information on the majority of mythological creatures. Most of the entires helpfully point out which things were confirmed to exist by at least one hunter. Of supernatural creatures. Who have some incentive to exaggerate or even deceive about their trophies. 

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"It would be very easy for me to stop him, if you decide that's what ought to be done."

Does the bestiary have such a thing as an index? Any way to easily sort entries by reference to fire?

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There is an index, but it doesn't help much with 'fire'. The entries are grouped by region of the world.

There are helpful annotations by someone, though, on the table of contents, circling the relevant entries. 

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What entries have been deemed relevant?

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Cherufe, dragon, firebird, hellhound, ifrit, and phoenix have all been identified as possibly relevant!

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Alphabetical order, then. What do these entries have to say for themselves?

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The cherufe is a creature made of lava; none have actually been encountered in North America, according to the helpful annotations. 

Dragons may not actually be able to shapeshift; unlikely to pose as a deputy. 

Firebirds have been seen taking human form, and their tendency to burst into flame is well-attested. No history of moving corpses. 

Ifrit do not typically resist flame, so lighting themselves on fire wouldn't do much good.

Hellhounds are typically wreached in flame to collect the fallen; fits the fairy's observations, but they typically don't stick around.

Phoenixes, like firebirds and hellhounds, can have a flame aura, and are tied with rebirth. The annotation here reads "Kitsune?"

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Where does that cross-reference lead her?

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...nowhere, since the annotations are a later contribution, by someone with access to the file, and the original author evidently didn't consider "Kitsune?" to exist. 

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The others are talking quietly in the examination room. 

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Hmm. Inconveniently unstandardized.

Probably hellhound or phoenix of those options. Rebirth doesn't really seem indicated, so hellhound. What other information is there?

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The hellhound appears as a spectral creature of flame. Shapeshifters that take the shape of a dog (see also: werewolves, werecoyotes) typically attack vulnerable humans. Hellhounds are less violent than the others, but frequently pick off the weakest and sickest members of the population. If one looks at you three times, your death is sure to follow.

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Werewolves and werecoyotes?

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Werewolves! Reasonably common canine variety of shapeshifter, known for their aggression, violent impulses, claws, fangs, and pack structures. Frequently pose as humans, live on the outskirts of human civilization but participate in it to varying degrees. Any human can be turned by a bite, though it can also be fatal, but only from an alpha. 

Werecoyotes are solitary, killing their young and having no packs, but otherwise essentially similar. 

The easiest way to force a werewolf to reveal itself is to produce a high-pitched noise. 

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"It would be nice if there was a source not written by people who spend their lives trying to kill these things. Is there one?"

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"The druids didn't really write anything down, except about their traditions. We can take you to meet Dr. Deaton, a druid friend of the pack."

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Sigh. "What's the point of integrating with a culture that has invented writing if you don't want to use that technology to record your useful information?" This question is not directed at anyone in particular. Nor is it said in a tone of voice that indicates that it is in fact a question.

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Lydia snorts. 

"Druids have a bad habit of going for mysterious and objective and in tune with nature, over actually helpful."

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"Druids pass things down directly, they don't really want this stuff to get out." 

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"Hm. How inconsiderate."

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"No one really does. Hunters, druids, werewolves, kitsune, wendigos...even the regular people who know don't tell."

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"I suppose that must at least raise the possibility that there is a good reason for it."

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"Not really. They just all like killing each other." 

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"I think it's still dangerous to tell people without vetting them. There are a lot of ways it goes wrong." 

He looks at Ellie. 

"It's late, so Dr. Deaton won't be up right now. What do you need, sleeping arrangements?" 

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"A cup of coffee in the morning will work just as well. I want to continue examining this bestiary."

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"Lydia, can you host her for tonight?" 

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"My house might be easier? And we have a spare room." 

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"I do not require much in the way of accommodation."

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"Are you going to sleep floating in the air? Can you use your powers while you're sleeping? Are they good at holding things in place or just moving?" 

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"If you're sure you're okay. Come back here tomorrow when the sun is the highest in the sky." 

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"Can you read a clock? Or count?" 

She points at the wall clock.

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"I need to be paying attention, so I cannot do it while I sleep. Clocks still exist in the future, and I am capable of reading one."

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"Clocks still exist in the future," she repeats, disappointed. 

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"Good. Tomorrow we can all meet up here at 4."

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"I will see you then."

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The high schoolers file out, because it's way past their bedtime. She has the laptop and the night to herself.

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Good. Bestiary, reveal thy- actually, is there an internet connection?

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There is indeed a connection.

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Excellent. Now, early twenty-first century, hmm, what was the name of that original wiki? It had Wiki- in the name. Wikipedia? Aha, here we go.

She can spend a fruitful few hours refamiliarizing herself with current events. Not precisely relevant to magical shenanigans, but Ellie is a firm believer in context.

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So many current events! 

There's a lot of hype about some Mayan prophecy and the end of the world, and the royal wedding. 

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As the sun rises, she hears the door open, chiming.

"Hello? Scott said I should expect company?"  

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"Ah, hello. You are Dr. Deaton?"

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"I am. You must be Ellie. It's nice to meet you." 

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"Likewise. I understand you are one of the local druids?"

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"Yes, that's right. You were looking for information?" 

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"On magic and magical creatures in general."

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"I suppose you don't want a lecture on magic unless it turns out you can do it? We can test that first."

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"That would be good, though I would appreciate the lecture in either case."

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"If you can't use magic, you really only need to know what can be done with it, not the theory."

He steps into the back room, and returns with a jar of dark powder. 

"This is the easiest test. If you have the capacity, and if you can achieve the mindset, you can make a circle. I'm going to pour some of this into your hands, and then I'm going to ask you to follow my instructions carefully. The consequences if you fail are hardly disastrous, but the work is delicate."

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Slight smile. "My control is excellent."

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"Cup your hands," he says, as he begins to pour. 

"Keep your mind blank. The only thing that exists besides that powder is my voice." 

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She's meditated before, the principle is familiar. Though irrelevant, of course.

As the man says, only the powder, and the voice.

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"Walk forward, one step at a time. Begin to pour the powder, bit by bit, as you walk in a circle." 

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She steps as instructed, allowing the powder to dribble out in front of her as she goes.

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She pours, and pours, and halfway around, she knows she doesn't have enough to complete the circle.

"The powder will be enough," he insists, voice calm and gentle.

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No space in her mind for doubts. Take the voice at its word.

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Nope. She's still running out, did she think wishful thinking would be enough? 

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"Stop. Open your eyes." 

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She does so.

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There's half a circle of powder on the floor.

"The next test is to see if a circle can contain you."

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"How does that work?"

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"Evidently, our magic sees you as a supernatural creature. Supernaturals keep magic within them, and can't achieve the right mindset for druidry. A werewolf who tries finds his temper flaring, a kitsune's fox spirit becomes restless. If you create a barrier of external magic, they cannot cross."

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"I see."

She looks back at the half-circle and gathers the powder up into a neat little ball with a thought. She floats it over back into the jar.

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"Now, I'll be pouring this in a circle around you. If the finished circle traps you, we should consider you essentially equivalent to local supernaturals. If not, we'll at least have another data point."

He starts to pour, walking a circle around her.

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She waits patiently.

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When the circle is finished:

"Try to step over it."

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Foot?

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That sure is a barrier in her way.

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"Fascinating. You're interacting with the usual rules as if you're native to our world. Try moving something outside of the circle."

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Hm. Inconvenient.

How about that jar? She wants it over there now.

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The jar would never dare to question her judgment. It moves.

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"Try bringing it into the circle. There are those whose powers extend beyond it, but can't operate on or within it."

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Come over here, jar.

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The jar comes most of the way there, and stops when it reaches the circle.

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Then the circle should part so that the jar can get through.

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In a word: no. 

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How rude.

Then she'll just have to fly herself over the circle.

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The circle disallows this.

She crashes rather abruptly into an invisible barrier.

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"Try disrupting the powder with the jar. Pull it just to the edge, and knock it over."

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Jar right up to the (frustrating) barrier. Then, asymmetrical application of force such that it should tip forward-

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Oh no the circle broke she's free.

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Good. She smiles.

The doctor probably would not have appreciated her breaking his floor.

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"Well, that's a bit disappointing. Mountain ash seems to treat you as equivalent to other supernaturals. I suppose that's enough for now. What are your major questions? Do you want a summary of what's out there, town history, or something more targeted?"

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"I've been reading the bestiary. Some context would be nice. Why don't we start with local history, with digressions as appropriate?"

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"Over fifty years ago, Beacon Hills was a haven for supernatural beings. I don't know when the Hale pack first arrived in California, but they came here when the Nemeton finally died, its power to call the supernatural gone. Wendigos, werewolves, and banshees- many people have found themselves drawn to the town without quite knowing why. We had nearly fifty years of relative normalcy, with just the Hale alpha keeping other packs out."

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"The Nemeton?"

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"The tree stump you saw. When druids-local magic users-are active in a place, especially a natural one, they draw magic to that place, and over time, it starts to retain it. When it was active, it attracted many supernatural creatures, who have since had children that don't know why their parents were brought here. In the past year, there have even been new arrivals in the same situation. There was...a ritual, that awakened it." 

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"What sort of ritual?"

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"A druid dabbling in dark magic wanted revenge for an attempt on her life. That's a long story that has little bearing on our situation, but essentially, she planned to use fifteen murders to revive the Nemeton and siphon some of its power. She had twelve when she was killed, but to find her, Scott and Stiles and another committed ritual suicide, bringing the number of ritual 'deaths' to fifteen."

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"I'm fairly sure I met both of them last night. They did not seem dead."

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"No, I suppose they didn't. The suicide was entirely symbolic, though they have each died once since then." 

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"How do you mean?"

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"I suppose Stiles' is a more ambiguous case. He was possessed by a malevolent entity which duplicated him, and one of the bodies died. Scott, on the other hand, died, and came back to life."

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"I see. Did the Hale do anything about other creatures, or just werewolves?"

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"They dealt with the more violent interlopers, yes. We never bothered with those that could control themselves."

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"We?"

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"I was more actively involved in this sort of thing while the Hales were around. Things were more stable."

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"What does the current balance look like?"

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"There's a crisis every few months, and the locals are restless, and, in some cases, hungry. Before this, there were assasins trying to kill all the local supernatural beings for money. Before that, the demon possession. We've been busy."

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"Demon possession?"

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"Stiles was possessed by a nogitsune, a malevolent entity that had been trapped, until the ritual awoke the Nemeton."

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"This place," she days very deliberately, "sounds like a mess."

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"You could say that, yes. What about your world?"

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"Earth or Fairyland?"

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"Either. There must be differences between your Earth and ours."

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"Actually, there are surprisingly few on a large scale. This world is very similar to how my Earth was in this year, despite the difference in magics."

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"Any other concerns I should address?"

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"The capabilities of your magic."

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"Without the most powerful and murderous rituals, most druids wield defensive or subtle magic, not useful for direct attacks. Creatures that have magic within them come in many varieties, and there, it's best to look at myth and bestiaries."

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"How accurate are the myths? Do you have any bestiaries not written by Hunters?"

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"Most bestiaries are written by hunters, because the rest of us don't interact nearly as much with both civilization and the supernatural. The psychology is partly a result of magic, partly a result of culture. Mythology in general is a good starting place. Most myths are based on a specific, real creature, but not all purported traits will be accurate."

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"Are there any hunters locally?"

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"Not lately. Our bestiary belonged to a family of hunters." 

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"Would it be possible to test other spells besides the mountain ash circle? I am indestructible so far as I know, if magic can route around that it would be better to know sooner than later."

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"Almost all of my 'spells' are defensive in nature, so we can see if various things can keep you out, but I'm afraid for more, you'll have to wait a few days while I find someone more suited."

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"Acceptable."

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"Alright. So I'll try to keep you out until I run out of techniques, and then we can meet again in a few days. Let's walk to the door. I'll try a few barriers to keep you out." 

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To the door, and then to the other side.

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He retrieves a few vials and jars, and places them on the ground.

"I'll be testing a few things, most of which should take a few minutes. All told, we'll be here for half an hour. Is that alright?"

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"I don't really have any other pressing demands on my time."

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"Alright."

He begins to pour a thick, caramel liquid from a small vial. Sap or syrup, based on the smell. Probably a mess to clean up, really.

"I'd like you to try to get in. First try opening the door without your magic, then with it. Then, with the door open, try walking across, try flying yourself across, and then, if that fails, try disrupting the line."

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"All right." Does the door open normally?

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The door does open properly. How nice of the door. Good door.

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But can she cross the threshold?

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Alas, she and the threshold are at an impasse.

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Not unexpected.

Close the door. This time she opens it without touching it.

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The door opens. Such a nice door.

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Yes, the door itself is fine. She doesn't really expect the answer to change from last time, but can she walk in?

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Walking still stops working when she reaches the line. 

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How about it she tries flying over it?

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Who is she kidding, this barrier is never going to- yeah, that does the trick.

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Better than the mountain ash.

"Do you need help cleaning that up?"

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"If you don't mind. I do have cleaning magic, but it's not very cost-effective." 

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Up comes all the caramel stuff.

"Do you want it back in the bottle or does it get used up somehow?"

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"Back in the bottle, thank you. Next we can try the repulsion charm, if you'd like, unless you, ah, expect to become violent if supernaturally repelled."

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"I think I can manage to contain myself."

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So he'll work on that next. 

After a minute she can smell...fumes? The smell of something burning.

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Presumably he knows what he's doing?

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Probably. 

It doesn't look like he's burning anything, just playing with some leaves.

The smell is getting downright offensive, now, but she can probably handle it.

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She can also move all the air containing the smell away from her and pull some in from further away that has been exposed to leaves.

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"Amazing. Could you tell me what you're experiencing right now?"

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"It was a slightly offensive odor. Now it is a pleasant breeze."

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"Just the odor? No mental effects?"

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"Not so far as I can tell."

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"So the ones that erect barriers work until you use magical means to cross them, the one that repels only had purely physical effects, and not as strong as it usually is, either...I suppose I can try to poison you, but the effect isn't actually different from mundane poisons, so it's not a very useful test." 

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"Poison would not work in general, no. This is useful information to have. My thanks."

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"I'm glad to be of service. Is that all for today?"

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"For me, yes. The, ah, group was planning to meet up here later. I presume they have some sort of arrangement with you about that already."

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"This time I'll actually be in the building, yes. I'd rather not interrupt more than you would find useful." 

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She nods.

"Speaking of useful, I don't actually have anything to do between now and when they are done with school."

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"And you're looking for suggestions? I imagine with your powers, there are quite a few things you could do, depending on how prosocial you feel, and I can't help much with those. If you're looking for something more, ah, locally relevant, I can come up with something." 

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"Something more locally relevant. I'm not quite ready to go fully public."

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"There are the remnants of a werewolf pack here. They were mostly living amongst humans peacefully, but the majority were recently murdered. Some of them are interested in forming a sort of private sanctuary. You could help with that, if you were interested."

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"Where might I find them?"

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"I can arrange the meeting. How hard are you to contact?"

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"Not terribly easy. I left my computer at home."

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"If you'd like to wait within reach of Scott and the others, I can get a place and time to you within a day."

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"All right."

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"I suppose that's all for now. Thanks for your help."

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Shouldn't that have been her line? Meh.

Sun's up, flying would be too noticeable. What's there to do that she can get to by walking?

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The bowling alley, a few neighborhoods, and the comic book store are reasonably nearby. 

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...She also has no local currency. So no bowling for her. Perhaps the comic store will let her browse for a while.

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She's welcome to ask. 

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Inside!

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An employee will be with her eventually, it's not a big store.

"Hey. You just browsing, or do you want help finding something?"

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"Just looking, thank you."

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He leaves her to examine the comic books. The available literature is mostly superheroes with unusual powers, a few post-apocalyptic stories, and surrealist exploration of human psychology or two.

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She idly flips through a few of the flashier titles.

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Explosions! Nazis! Zombies! The impending destruction of the universe! Zombies! 

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All pretty standard.

Is there a clock in here?

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Not yet noon. Early morning magic practice means the high schoolers are still busy.

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What to do, what to do...

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She can try the police station, if she wants to enlist the authorities for anything. She can also try looking for strange monsters herself.

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The problem with that idea is she has almost no idea what she is actually looking for.

She'll wander slowly in the general direction of the forest and see if she sees anything.

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No strange monsters appear! 

There's a light breeze, and the forest is brightly lit by the mid-morning sun. Perhaps not a good time to look for monsters.

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Midnight is far more dramatically appropriate.

But if she's alone, she can go flying. As long as she gets high enough fast enough that no one can see her. Which is trivially doable.

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The air is surprisingly clean, for being so near civilization. The dense forest must help.

She can see an old house, burned down ages ago, at the edge of the woods. The residential areas, just over the hill. The school, the station, the warehouses and office buildings. For a small town, it's not actually very small. 

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Maybe she'll find something of interest in that burned house by light of day. She heads that way.

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It remains a house.

Broken furniture, burned furniture, burned and broken furniture. Strange plants, a grave just beyond the front porch, what might be a basement with no obvious means of access.

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She can excavate pretty easily.

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A wall, some chains, and weapons! 

This might not be a torture chamber/dungeon. 

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If looks, acts, and quacks like a torture chamber/dungeon...

Not that she's judging. It doesn't appear to have been used in some time, in any case.

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Not much else to see here.

Unused torture chamber, unmarked grave, and...another unmarked grave.

This might be an excessive number of graves for one property.

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Possibly related to the torture chamber. It would be a taxing hobby.

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Other than that, it's not very exciting.

By now, the sun is...still not in the middle of the sky, but it might be past noon.

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She'll wander back towards town.

She saw a library. That sounds like a good idea.

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"Good afternoon. How may I help you?"

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"Just browsing, thank you."

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So many books! For a public library, anyway.

They don't seem to have a category for real magic, though.

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But it ought to have mythology reference, yes?

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It does.

Separated by region, but not by reality.

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She'll take books containing mentions of phoenixes, hellhounds, werewolves, banshees, and kitsunes. She'll have to read them here, she has no library card and no proof of residence with which to obtain one.

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There isn't much information on banshees, but there's plenty of lore on the rest.

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Anything that stands out as potentially true, given what she already knows?

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Hellhounds come to collect dying souls with fire at their heels? 

Werewolf myths are broad and vague enough that she can probably find something that matches.

Kitsunes produce foxfire when they rub their tails together, which is probably inspired by the will-o'-the-wisp.

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Well, if nothing else, this will at least help some time to pass.

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Eventually, the clock shows the passage of time. She should probably get going. 

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Books to the return cart, herself to the door and thence the doctor's office.

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Most of the others are already there.

She doesn't seem to be able to cross the threshold.

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"Doc, she's here."

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The veterinarian appears, and clears a line of powder in front of the door.

"She can actually cross it herself. It's fascinating how her powers interact with it, actually." 

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"Yes, we spent a rather interesting morning looking at ways in which they do."

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"That sounds fun? So we should all talk about what's going to happen next, right?"

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"Right. Did you end up getting any good information?"

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"There is frustratingly little available. I think hellhound is the likeliest possibility, the flames and the 'escort to the dead' aspect fit. I have no explanation for why he would be stacking corpses on the Nemeton."

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"It's a sacred place of magic. It makes sense he would take them somewhere like that." 

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"The Nemeton does attract magical activity, so if he's not fully in control of himself, he might just be drawn there."

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"If he's not in control of himself, then who is?"

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"His inner hellhound? If those work like werewolves."

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"And werecoyotes, and banshees."

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"Does that analogy suggest any approaches to stopping him?"

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"If that's how it works, he might be able to learn to control it..."

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"...or work around it. Me and Scott can talk to him. Kira and Malia, you work out a strategy in case he's just hostile."

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"Are you willing to help if it comes to a fight?"

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"I have no principled objections."

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"Me and Lydia can try to figure out what's going on with him, and everyone else can focus on planning to handle it if it goes badly, or researching the chimeras."

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"Do you think you'll be able to find the mad science base with fairy powers?"

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"My 'fairy powers' are telekinesis and indestructibility. I could lift the roof off every building in town and look inside, but somehow I doubt that is a practical option."

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"We need to be proactive. We can't just wait for more people to get kidnapped. You guys stay here and think, me and Lydia are going to talk to Parrish."

And they go. 

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"Okay, so let's start with the obvious. Water against fire? He's a shapeshifter, does he have the same sensitivity to sound that we all do? Stiles, do you remember anything unusual about him?"

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"Besides the time someone tried to burn him alive and he completely ignored the flames? That's all I've got."

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"I did not see any shapeshifing per se, he was always human-shaped. Just occasionally on fire."

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"Most things are shapeshifters. Besides that, there's just banshees."

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"I don't really think werewolves are anything like wendigos."

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"And kitsune aren't much like werecoyotes, but we're all human-shaped until we're not." 

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"There's no scientific body that rules on these issues."

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"Are there druidic ones that might be persuaded to?"

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"Druids haven't organized in centuries. Consensus has settled on 'shapeshifters' for creatures that have a human form and a non-human form."

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"We don't actually know that hellhounds transform, but if the name fits, they might?"

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"They might have kept the name for mythological reasons and not because it's descriptive."

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"None of this matters, we need to figure out how to kill him."

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"I could detach his head from his shoulders, would that suffice?"

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"It might, but you might not be able to get it off. Are you just planning on moving his head and the rest of him apart really hard?"

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"There is no theoretical upper limit to the amount of force I am able to exert telekinetically."

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"Sweet deal." 

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"So we can kill him! If we go that way, I guess. Solved that problem pretty fast. Who wants to break for snacks?"

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"Are we sure that we should kill him even if he's in control of himself? Do we know he's doing something bad?"

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"That's the angle Scott and Lydia are working on, yes?"

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"Yeah. Our job is to plan for the worst. Okay. So you'll try...moving him. Can you think of reasons that wouldn't work?"

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"A mountain ash circle is a barrier I cannot move anything across. No other reasons suggest themselves."

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"Nothing that stopped you back home? That's pretty impressive."

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"It is, but we should still have a backup plan. I can try setting something up with foxfire."

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"What does that do?"

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"Hers does lightning. It's pretty intense."

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"I can probably shut down his brain activity, if he's using it like humans do."

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"Is there a reason he wouldn't be?"

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"Banshees might not. Their brains might be based on sound or music or something."

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"You can't think too hard about it. It's probably the usual neurons and stuff for him, anyway."

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"My knowledge deals mostly with people who run on physics, not magic."

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"The universe might run on music, banshees are weird, moving on. You can probably kill him, if not, Kira can. Anything else?"

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"Wait...did they give us the easy mission?"

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"We're not really ready for anything serious."

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"I'm not ready for planning. I can fight."

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"Well, now we have a plan, so it's all good. Next thing is actually dealing with the chimeras, I guess."

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"Right, since we're back on that. I know you said about the lifting roofs thing, that's obviously too much, but could you do that if we narrow down the search for you?"

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"It would not be good for the buildings. Roofs are generally not designed to be removable."

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"The warehouses probably don't need them, and neither does Eichen House. They've gotta be hiding in one of the two."

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"Eichen House needs a roof."

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"Eichen House needs dismantling, but probably not while we're trying to find the bad guys."

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"Not exactly a subtle approach. You'd need to be prepared to act immediately, once they're found if we do it that way."

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"We shouldn't do anything reckless. Parrish is more of a problem now, anyway." 

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"I like skipping subtle stuff, that's always really complicated and everyone betrays everyone." 

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"Can you use your powers to make barriers, or do you have to pay attention to what you're doing to maintain it?"

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"To produce a continual effect, I must be paying continual attention."

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"You could build a wall around the bodies, are they still by the tree? The bad guys probably want them for something, since they spent all that time making them."

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"I'd need something to make a wall with. I could dig out a pit or construct a cairn."

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"Steep sides, we have to assume they need to walk until we know otherwise. That should work, if we run into them."

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"I can do that."

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"They've been gone a while."

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"Malia, it's barely been twenty minutes, they're fine." 

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"I kind of want to know what's happening. Can we scope it out?"

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"Who's the leader when Scott and Lydia aren't here?"

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"Me, and I say we stay right here, away from the exploding fire man, and figure out how to catch the chimeras."

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"I sort of think Kira's the leader."

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"What? No I'm not. Besides, we have an adult here. Kind of an adult. How old are you?"

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"A hundred and fifty or so."

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"Okay. So, you're an adult. Do you think we should follow them, see if everything is going according to plan?"

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"I think that people who are not indestructible and immortal should stay here, while I go see if the two who went to see the hellhound are okay."

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"See, good plan, I like her. Bye."

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"Okay. We'll hold down the fort."

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Nod, and then she's off. She remembers where Parrish's house is.

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Scott and Lydia are sitting inside, talking amicably with the deputy. 

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Doesn't look like intervention is necessary.

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Apparently not. They step outside.

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"How did it go?"

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"He didn't know anything. Now he knows. It's always better when they know."

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"Most of us learn to control ourselves, so we're hopeful."

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"That is good news."

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"Our focus is going to have to be the chimeras. Who could be making them, I mean, who has the resources?" 

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"Scientists, politicians, generals..."

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"Druids, alphas, banshees." 

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"We could always blame the tree. It's usually the tree."

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"Speculating isn't the same thing as investigating. We should get going."

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"I'd suggest we track them to the source, if not for the way the one from the other night vanished."

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"Whoever is making them doesn't seem to want the corpses. Why would someone experiment like this, what's the point?"

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"We've known a few people who wanted to be like us. Maybe they're trying to change themselves." 

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"And they want to be sure of getting it right?"

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"If they're experimenting on how to combine supernatural abilities with regular humans, then some of the chimeras were probably unstable."

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"Unstable how?"

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"Most supernatural creatures have a divide between their human mind and the creature mind. Except banshees, we just get drawn to dead things for no reason." 

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"It sounds like supernaturals are already chimeras, in a way."

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"In a way. If we came from an experiment, we're the final product. These chimeras aren't. They die." 

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"We think whoever is churning them out is killing them. Destroying the ones that aren't viable." 

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"We need a way to find them. Something more elegant than removing the rooves of relevant buildings and looking inside."

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"I can find things by scent, but we haven't smelled them. Otherwise, Lydia can try predicting where the next body will be."

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"Since when was that reliable? We're better off talking to Valack."

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"Who is Valack?"

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"Maybe a former doctor. Definitely a guy kept locked up in the local supernatural prison."

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"His name was tied to a book we found called "The Dread Doctors", in one of the chimera's rooms. She was having night terrors." 

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"'Dread Doctors'? That's not melodramatic at all."

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"It was billed as fiction. Never very popular, one of many forgettable science fiction novels. Except Valack is the author."

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"Not much more than vague suspicion, but better than anything else we have. And I have time to spare."

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"To Eichen House, then?"

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Nod.

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"We should get back to the others."

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Then they can go that way.

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"How did it go?"

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"We talked to him. It went fine. We were thinking of going to Eichen House. See if we can find out the story behind the book."

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"Unless you've come up with any better ideas?"

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"Most things are better than Eichen House. We can come up with something." 

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"We don't all have to. Me, Scott, Lydia, Liam, and Kira can go."

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"I guess I'm not invited?"

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"You're more vulnerable than the rest of us. I should ask Theo, too."

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"Yeah, what this plan really needs is more of him."

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"What is Theo's deal?"

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"He's an old friend of Scott."

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"He came back to town recently. Rumors about our town have been spreading since last year."

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"Stiles doesn't trust him, because he's not one of the people in this room."

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"What benefit does he bring?"

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"Actually, it could be just Scott, Lydia, and...sorry, what was your name again?"

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"Ellie."

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"Ellie, Scott, and Lydia can handle it alone." 

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"We should take you, then. It's usually good to have a human," he explains for their guest.

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"I'm not technically a human either."

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"Right. What did the tests look like? How did you react to mountain ash?"

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"I can't cross it, but I can set up objects to disrupt it indirectly."

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"We can take Mason in case we need someone who can cross it, then."

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"Cool. I'll get my coat."

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Ellie has no coat to fetch, of course.

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Well, as soon as they're done waiting on him, they head off. 

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"I'm assuming we're driving? In an actual car."

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"Fine by me. Ellie can fly if that's more convenient? But we have to match our slowest pace."

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"Better if we stick together, I think."

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They head off in Lydia's car, and soon come to the gates of a fairly large property on the other side of town.

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"I don't think I realized it was so big." 

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"They need room for all the crazy people. And the monsters. And the crazy monsters," she adds, pointing at herself.

"Ready?"

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"I am. Do we knock?"

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He knocks.

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The man who answers observes them quietly for a minute before stepping aside.

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They step inside.

The receptionist looks up from his book.

"Take off anything metallic, sharp, or easy for the patients to steal." 

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She has no such objects on her person.

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He waits for the others.

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Cell phones are reluctantly given up.

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They end up waiting for Lydia to remove all of her jewelry and her belt, before they can go any further.

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Scott explains why they've come.

"The doctor will be here to walk you down. I don't know why you want to see him, but it's your funeral."

He returns to his book.

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Unlikely to be her funeral, and she can probably do something if it looks likely to become anyone else's.

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The doctor is there shortly.

"Mr. McCall, Ms. Martin. I suppose I should have expected you back. Are you here to see Mr. Hale?"

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"No. We're looking for Dr. Gabriel Valack."

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"Of course. Follow me, and try not to look at the prisoners. Or the patients."

He takes them down a stairwell deeper in the building, and down a long, stark corridor.

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There are a few gasps and cries as they pass, and hands pressing up against the glass, or through the bars.

They can see most of the prisoners, and the prisoners can see them.

Some smile, with teeth too sharp and too numerous to be a human's mouth. Others shriek, and beg to be set free.

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They walk.

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"An interesting assortment."

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"These are our prisoners. The patients are kept on the upper floors." 

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"Separation is a wise policy, I'm sure."

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He brings them to the end of the hall. 

There's a large glass chamber, containing a man sitting quietly, facing away from them. 

"I'll leave you to it, then."

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"What a pleasure, Alpha McCall. I'm glad to see you brought the very best of your pack. The wailing woman, the human, and whoever this is."

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"Uh, hi. I'm Mason."

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"A pleasure. I suppose it's time to cut to the chase."

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"Is it true? Did you write this?"

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She holds up a slim, paperback book.

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"I suppose I'll have to take credit here. Yes, I wrote it."

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"Why? Why go to all this trouble just to send us a message?"

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"Do these 'Dread Doctors' have something to do with the chimeras?"

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"Well done. The Dread Doctors are the ones behind these creatures. They're also trying to get into Eichen House right now. Try not to let them in."

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"They're here? Scott, what do we do?"

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"They can't get in because of the supernatural protections?"

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"They were human, once. Their experiments have changed them too much, by now."

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"What experiments?"

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"They put their bodies through the wringer until they were able to extend their lives. They count as supernatural enough for the telluric currents here to keep them out."

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"We got in just fine."

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"Not all creatures react the same way; be glad you didn't bring your pet kitsune."

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"Do they want to get at the creatures here, or at you?"

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"Oh, they want me to tell them how the book works, I expect. The doctors make those who see them forget; the book helps you remember. If you've seen them, reading it will help."

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"Troublesome. Are the book's effects permanent? Do they stack with repeated readings? What happens to those who have read it if the book is destroyed?"

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"I've never had much chance to test it. Most of the readers hadn't ever seen the Dread Doctors. The effects are probably permanent."

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"Might I see that book a moment?" she asks Lydia.

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She hands her the book, observing curiously.

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She begins to read it.

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The sense of building dread is probably unnatural, given that she's barely gotten through the first few pages.

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"This might not be the best strategy; I wouldn't expect results until you've finished more than half the novel."

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She doesn't look up at him. "It can hardly hurt, can it? If my memories have been tampered with, I would prefer to know sooner. There are two others here if you wish to continue talking."

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"Of course."

He begins to negotiate with Lydia.

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She reads. She's a fast reader, and it's not a very thick book.

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He walks to the front of his cell, dropping a small recorder through the slot.

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Lydia picks it up.

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The story is quiet, tense, and the sense of dread she feels matches the increasingly insecure position of the protagonists as they try to resist the Dread Doctors. 

It's when she's reading about the heroine's harrowing attempts at escape that she remembers- 

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They move from point to point suddenly, jarringly.

The air around them blurs and shifts.

They walk towards her and her captives.

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"...I have seen them. The first night, here, with Stiles and the chimera that was chasing him. They can- teleport?"

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"They exist out of step with our reality. Don't ask me how they pulled that one off, it's harder than the immortality." 

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"Is that going to affect how hard it will be to kill them."

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"I expect it will be a bit of a challenge if they're prepared for you. They do exist in our reality some of the time, which makes them as vulnerable as anything else. If you can get to them without warning them, you'll have won."

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Lydia excuses herself with a mumbled apology, taking the recorder with her. 

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"Is she going to be okay going alone?"

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"She's just stepping outside for a minute to scream, she'll be fine. When you say 'vulnerable', what do you mean?" 

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"A good scream from her ought to do it, a claw to the back of the neck from you, whatever it is this one can do- be creative, they'll appreciate that."

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"Not for very long they won't."

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"An admirable approach."

He reaches for the bandage around his forehead, and begins to remove it.

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Scott watches the other door, waiting for Lydia to return.

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What's underneath the bandages?

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It's. A hole. In his head. Straight through.

She can see the wall, through it. It's red, raw like it's just been opened, but she can see the wall through it.

And if she looks, there's a black, inky darkness just there...

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No she wants the bandages back on right now.

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"That was quite rude, young lady."

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"Maybe we should just leave."

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Lydia steps back in, and returns him his recorder.

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"I am significantly older than you are, and that looked a touch ominous. Forgive me if I am not quite willing to trust that you are completely harmless, especially given your admitted connection to these Dread Doctors."

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"We got what we came for. Let's go."

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"Yes, let's."

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"That was something. I suppose we at least know we have to read the book to remember them."

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"We should prioritize getting everyone to read it at least halfway."

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"I'll run off some copies tomorrow morning."

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"Any of us could have seen them...what did they do, when you saw them?"

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"I was holding Stiles and a chimera that was chasing him. They appeared seemingly out of nowhere, the chimera was frightened of them. He said something about not having failed yet, still being able to succeed. I stopped them in place and asked what their purpose was. One of them blinked past me somehow, and did something that removed the chimera from my perception, and then the others disappeared as well."

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"He said it would let us remember them- hopefully it's permanent."

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"It must be, or he wouldn't be so proud that he wrote it. The real question is why he wanted my scream."

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"I don't think it's good."

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"I don't trust him."

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"She's right, Lydia. Maybe we shouldn't have gone."

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"We didn't know what he would be like, and we got information. Let's just tell the others."

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Which they do.

"When you have your copy, get started right away. I know you have classes, but the sooner we read this, the better."

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"Should one of us start now?"

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"She should probably finish the book all the way through, but I'll need it back to copy it in the morning."

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"I will be able to finish by morning. Where should I meet you?"

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"Back at the clinic, I think. See you then?"

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"I will be there."

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"Let's meet at four, then?"

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"Yes."

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Which gives her the night and day to herself. 

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First order of business is to finish that book.

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The book is gripping, horrifying, dark...

...and perfectly mundane from the minute she picks it back up to the moment she finishes it. 

Not many more memories to recontextualize, it seems.

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Huh. Good enough, then.

Also rules out one of them as her summoner. Not that that would have saved them, but this makes it easier.

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And when the clock strikes four, the clinic awaits.

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"Some of them are still on their way, but you can come on in."

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"Thank you." She enters.

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"Hey. Did you bring the book?"

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"Right here." She passes it over.

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"You guys can keep yourselves busy doing something useful, right?"

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"Probably not. Come back soon."

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"Right. I'll be back with the copies as soon as I can."

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"So how was your night? Did you, do anything interesting?"

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"Finished the book. Obtained some coffee."

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"I'm not sure we have anything to do until she gets back. We probably could have planned this better."

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"Scott should be here any minute, he's just stopping to pick up Theo."

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"Dr. Deaton was telling me the other day about a separatist pack of werewolves."

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"Saitomi's pack. They've taken a few losses, but they're still around. Why?"

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"Something to do while you all are in school."

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"Does anybody actually know how to find them?"

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"I can talk to Brett."

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"The doctor said he was looking into it."

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"Asking Brett may be more efficient. I wasn't aware we could readily contact one of the betas."

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"Oh yeah, he's kind of around a lot of the time."

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"That's because of his obvious crush on you."

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"If the kids are done having teen romcom plotlines, I think the takeaway is that you can get in touch with them if we convince a teenager to trust you. Sounds easy to me."

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"Are you not the same age as the rest of these?"

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"He's older than me and Mason by a lot, we're freshman. And he's like, the oldest one here. I think he's bitter because we're all better looking."

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"I think he's only a month older than Lydia?"

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"Anyway, moving on, I think that's Scott driving up now thank god."

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Adolescents and their drama.

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"Hey, sorry we were late. Theo had to explain what was going on to his parents."

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"They like to worry. Might do it professionally if it paid well."

He turns to Ellie.

"Hey. Sorry I didn't get a chance to meet you earlier. I'm Theo."

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"Ellie. Fairy. You?"

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"Werewolf."

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"Did you just tell your parents everything?"

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"I wanted to explain the Dread Doctors. It's new, and they like to feel like they know what's going on, even if they don't want the details."

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"What did you tell them?"

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"The bad guys are abducting people, and we're trying to stop it. They don't want to get involved. They're good people, but they know they can't really handle this kind of thing, and they don't try to stop me."

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"Okay. As much fun as just yapping like this is, maybe we can do something useful while we wait?"

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"There's not that much we can do when none of you can see them. I could take the fairy to meet Brett, maybe, since she's already read the book, and I'm no good in a fight anyway, so seeing them won't help much."

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"Reasonable. I have no objection."

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"I don't actually have a ride, if we're going alone. Can you fly me?"

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"Of course. Do you know where we are going?"

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"Kind of, yeah. Do you know where the library is?"

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"Yes."

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They touch down outside the library. It's a squat, brick building in a rather inconvenient place, if one is limited to using roads.

He walks inside, waving the receptionist off politely, and looking around for someone.

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Someone spots him, and makes his way over.

"Surprised to see you here. Am I being rescued from a boring day at work?"

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"Something like that. Brett, Ellie. Ellie, Brett." 

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"Nice to meet you."

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"Hello."

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"Mason..."

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"Just a few minutes? It's kind of a big deal."

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"Yeah. Wait outside. I'll make my excuses."

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"Thanks."

They walk back outside.

"He's probably going to have Saitomi come out to meet you, they won't want to give away their new location." 

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"Cautious of them. Why?"

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"Well. You're not part of their pack. I don't actually know where they are, either."

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"Is the insularity more common than not?"

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"Brett works here, he goes to school with humans. They're not all completely separate. But he doesn't live in a house, the pack is kind of always hiding...depends on how you define it."

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"Hm."

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And there he is.

"So what's the situation?"

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He looks at her.

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"I want to meet your pack."

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"Okay. Why should I let you anywhere near them?" 

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"She's been helping us a lot, with the Dread Doctors."

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"She's human."

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Ellie cocks her head, and Brett rises slowly into the air.

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"Mason-"

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"I wouldn't have brought her here if I didn't trust her!"

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He mumbles something under his breath.

"Okay. Fine. Why do you want to meet them?"

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"I might be able to help you. I have an abundance of free time, and little to fill it with."

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"I wouldn't have brought her here, otherwise."

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"I don't think they'll be happy if I lead you straight to them. Can I bring some of them to a neutral meeting place? Somewhere less public than right outside the library."

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"That is reasonable."

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"McCall's house. Bring the druid."

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"Tomorrow?"

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"If she can wait that long."

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"At your convenience."

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"We'll be there. Oh, and Mason? Try a social call next time."

He heads back inside. 

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"That went well. Okay, we can probably go back now, if you want, or if you had my other projects, I can try to help?"

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"No, that was the main thing."

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So they make their way back.

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The others have begun reading their copies.

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Good.

"Any progress?"

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"It's kind of...creepy? That's all I've got so far."

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"How long did it take you?"

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"About halfway. If it feels oddly creepy, I think that is a good sign. That's how it felt to me before I remembered, and afterwards the feeling was gone."

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"What was it like, remembering seeing them?"

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"Slightly disconcerting."

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They continue to read fairly quietly.

Dr. Deaton works quietly around them, and handles the new patient that arrives fairly quickly.

Scott reads faster than the others; he's at least halfway when he loses his grip on his packet and starts gasping for air.

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"...Scott?"

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"He's found his memories."

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"Okay, but is he also having a panic attack? An asthma attack? Is he going to die?"

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"Hey, it's not her fault, obviously he's remembering what they did to him."

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"If what happened to him was sufficiently stressful, it's possible the memory could trigger some other condition."

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He stands from his seat, moving towards Scott.

"Hey, are you still-"

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"Don't touch him."

He stands. 

"If it's an asthma attack and it doesn't stop, we're in trouble. He hasn't carried an inhaler in a year. Is there magic for this?"

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"I can ease his breathing, but that won't stop the attack. It might give us more time, delay long enough to get him an inhaler, but I'm not sure there is one close enough."

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"Ellie, can you move air into his lungs? Without hurting him?"

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"Tricky. I have no explicit medical training. Where is the nearest inhaler?"

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"There should be one at the nearest doctor's office. I can describe the location, the distance, whatever you need."

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Malia leans down in front of Scott, who is now sitting on the floor, leaning back against the wall.

"Scott, snap out of it. Whatever you're remembering is over, it's not happening now. You're fine. You don't have asthma so stop having a magic asthma attack, it's embarrassing."

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"Distance and direction, and describe the building."

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He does. 

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"Malia, if it's not an asthma attack that's not helping. Scott, listen to me. Just focus on the sound of my voice. Your friend Stiles, here in the clinic- I can't believe you're still working here, by the way. I mean, okay, you like helping the witty-bitty animals, but isn't it annoying cleaning up after them? And what about pediatrics, shouldn't you be volunteering in a hospital, building your rep? Also werewolf stuff, that's kind of a time-consuming hobby. Maybe you should think about switching things up."

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Ellie is out the door and at the doctor's office in less than ten seconds.

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The doctor is there!

And somewhat surprised to see her.

"I-what?"

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"I need an inhaler. Quickly."

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It takes him about thirty seconds to find one.

He looks like he's about to ask a question, but he tosses it to her.

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She plucks it out of the air just after it leaves his hand, and accelerates back with it.

She returns to Deaton's office.

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The situation has not improved.

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He takes the inhaler, and administers it.

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His breathing remains hitched, but he takes the inhaler himself after a minute.

"Thanks," he manages.

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"What did you see?"

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"It was nothing, it was just- it wasn't even them, I didn't see the Dread Doctors. It was from when I was a kid, maybe five. An asthma attack I blocked out, I guess. The neighbor's dog...it wasn't anything." 

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"Are you okay?"

She reaches out.

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"I'm fine. I just don't understand why it wasn't them. If the book is supposed to make us remember them, it shouldn't make me remember everything I've forgotten, what's the point?"

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"Valack said that most of the readers he tested the book on hadn't ever seen the Dread Doctors. Maybe the effect is more general, it just makes you remember any fear-affected event you've forgotten or repressed."