Author Topic: Keeping It Low-key  (Read 1689 times)

Kristen Rowe

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Keeping It Low-key
« on: December 04, 2018, 12:55:52 PM »
Canton, SD, was a small town on the outskirts of Sioux Falls - an odd place for a Norse god to have stopped on his journey, but not a bad place to make contact, in Kristen's opinion. She'd scouted the few bars and places of entertainment, and decided on Noid's Gaming Parlor as a place that would entice a being who enjoyed chance and chaos. She charmed her way into ownership of one of the pool tables early in the evening, and there she stayed, taking on all comers. After all, what hunter doesn't know how to hustle pool?

There wasn't anything special about Canton, SD. It was just another small mid-western town without much to do on a Saturday night but hang out at the local watering hole, which in this case was Noid's. It was enough to bore even a demigod with its predictability, but this particular demigod wasn't there for the booze or the women or even the games of chance. He was there because he'd sensed someone was tracking him, and that someone was here. The big question was which illusion to wear tonight. He didn't want to draw too much unwanted attention, but he was too cocky to wear an illusion that would just blend in with the crowd. In the end, he chose one of his favorites - a tall blond man with ice blue eyes and a build that said "Don't mess with me." He looked like something of a cross between a biker, a bodybuilder, and a Viking, and though it wasn't his true form, he wore it with ease.

"Oh, come on!"

The complaint came from a young man by the pool table, throwing up his hands because his attractive opponent had just potted every ball on the table in front of him.

Kris straightened up, leaning on her cue, and grinned at him. "You're the one who said a woman couldn't do it," she pointed out. "Pay up."

She kissed his cheek as he grumbled, taking the little wad of notes from her now blushing vanquished opponent. Her eyes skimmed the bar, not even hesitating as they passed over the apparent Viking who was ever so slightly blurred around the edges, thanks to her pin. Loki.

"Anyone else?"

The big blond man came to a halt at the bar, drawing a few admiring gazes from a few female patrons and envious ones from the males. He ordered himself a beer, and took a lean on the bar, as he quietly surveyed the small crowd, which looked fairly typical for a Saturday night. The woman at the pool table drew his attention. There was something different about her, but for now, he was content to simply observe.

"Yeah, I'll play you," a hoarse voice said, belonging to an older man with shoulders like a minotaur. "All or nothin'?"

Kris considered him for a moment, and nodded. Loki was a trickster, he liked games; she had to take a risk or two to keep his attention. "Sure, all or nothing," she agreed. "I'm so nice, I'll let you break, too."

The big man casually sipped his beer, while he watched the crowd, his gaze lingering on the woman at the pool table and her challenger. For a moment, he almost forgot himself and straightened his own broad shoulders, as if sizing himself up against the older man.

"Does anyone care to wager?" he inquired, just as casually, in a baritone voice with a slight indecipherable accent.

"Depends who you're bettin' on, sweetcheeks," a bawdy female voice declared from behind the bar. "She's been rolling all comers since six."

Over at the pool table, Kris watched as her opponent broke, studying his form. This one might be a challenge. Possibly.

The big man flashed the woman behind the bar a smile, his ice blue eyes sparkling in amusement. "My money's on the girl," he said, dropping a Ben Franklin on the counter, which might or might not be real.

"Well, you know, that's just a real pretty smile you got there," the woman responded cheerfully, opening the till to lay another Franklin on top of his. "I'll take that bet. George, you better win that damned game!"

George scowled at her, turning back to concentrate on his shot.

"How about we raise the stakes?" the blond man queried. "If she doesn't win, everyone in the room gets free drinks on me, and I play the winner," he challenged further, just for the hell of it.

"Oh, and if she does win, free round on the house and you play her, huh?" The woman behind the bar was grinning again; it didn't look like she was going to back off on that one. "You're on, honey. What's your name?"

"That sounds fair," he agreed, pausing a moment to come up with a name. People didn't always ask him that. "You can call me Erik," he said, which sounded convincingly common enough to him, while still having Viking origins. It wasn't his real name, nor was he claiming it as his own, but it was good enough for his purposes. He very pointedly didn't ask for hers.

"Well, Erik, my name's Martha, and you're still payin' for your drinks until that game's over." She chuckled warmly. "Strangest way to get a woman's attention I seen this week, but whatever floats your boat, darlin'."

"Oh, it's not your attention I'm looking for, sweetcheeks. It's hers," he clarified with a nod of his head toward Kristen. He said no more, waiting for the woman to offer any information she liked, while he set another bill on the counter - this time bearing the face of Alexander Hamilton. He tapped a finger against the bill, as if to make his point.

"Oh, really?" Martha looked positively delighted with this information, swiping the Hamilton out from under his hand to ring up his change. "Gotta work fast then, honey - she's just passin' through." From the pool table came the sound of George swearing, drawing the eye just in time to see Kris bend to take a shot.

"Really. What else do you know about her?" he asked, lifting a hand to refuse the change. "Keep the change." The blond man tilted his head just a little to admire the view the female pool player was giving him as she bent over to take her shot. It wasn't often he found himself attracted to a human female, but there was something about this one. It was too bad he was probably going to have to kill her.

"She's foreign, got some kind of accent goin' on there," Martha told him, dropping the change into her tip jar. She kept talking even as she served her regulars. "Good English, good manners. If she's cheatin', no one's called her on it."

"Just passing through, you say? Where's she going?" he asked, though the barmaid might not know that. He had a funny feeling the pool player just might be the one who'd been tracking him. Shame, but this might prove fun for a little while anyway.

"Oh, I don't ask that, honey," Martha told him with a shrug. "Anyone's welcome, so long as they don't cause trouble. She's kept my regulars entertained so far - seems like none of them ever expected to get out done by a woman."

"No, they wouldn't, would they?" he remarked, with just the hint of a smirk that somehow didn't look right on his chiseled, handsome face. "Refill, please. You can keep them coming," he told her, repeating what he'd heard said a hundred times before in a hundred different bars.

Kristen Rowe

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« Reply #1 on: December 04, 2018, 12:56:18 PM »
"She's drinkin' bourbon," Martha added, seemingly innocently, grinning as she refilled his glass and slid it back to him.

The pool table was far enough away that Kris couldn't hear what was being said, but she was very aware of Loki's eyes on her. She'd heard the terms of his wager, as well, but personal pride was on the line - if she lost this game, it wasn't going to be because she was distracted by the attractive face the unknown god was wearing today.

Truth be told, he didn't want her to lose either, though he really had nothing to lose but his pride. Money didn't matter, as that was all part of the illusion. Humans were so gullible really. They never suspected a thing, until it was too late. And no one here was likely to be looking for the face he was currently wearing. "Good to know, but I wouldn't want to distract her now, would I?" he said, with that out of place smirk again.

Martha looked at him oddly for a moment. "Well, 'less George gets lucky, you already won your bet," she pointed out. There were three balls left on the table, and Kris had yet to miss. Her opponent was scowling.

"Sweetheart, I never lose," he replied with a grin, saluting her with his glass before turning back to watch the outcome of the game. He could have worked an illusion to end the game in her favor, but why waste the effort when it wasn't necessary? If nothing else, he was amused.

"I hope she kicks your perky butt, then," Martha chuckled behind him.

As the last ball dropped into a pocket, George groaned, but paid up with a rueful grin, complimenting Kris as she grinned with good grace. She hadn't made anyone mad by winning tonight; that was always a good thing.

"Drinks on the house, Martha," the man calling himself Erik reminded her, as the last ball dropped into a pocket. His voice boomed over the others in the bar, loud enough for the pool player to hear. She was about to get a free drink on the house.

"All right, all right, hold your horses," Martha laughed, waving her hands at the sudden press of people toward the bar.

Kris glanced up at the booming voice, tucking her substantial wad of cash into her pocket. Yes, he was definitely wearing that face. It was a shame, in a way; she would have liked to have seen what Loki really looked liked. But he'd managed to get her a free drink, so why not collect?

Leaving the cue at the table, she headed over to the bar, content to wait her turn. "So I have you to thank for my next drink, hmm?"

"Not really. You won it, fair and square," he replied as she met him at the bar. She was tall for a woman, but he was still nearly half a foot taller. "You do this for a living or just for fun?" he asked in an attempt at idle conversation. He definitely sensed something about her that told him she was the one who he'd been looking for. But why was she tracking him? She wasn't an angel. That much he could tell, though she might be an ally of Gabriel's.

She shrugged one shoulder. "A bit of both," was her answer. "I don't have what you would call a regular salary. And what about you?" Her eyes flickered to the Franklins on the bar beside him. "You seem to have money to throw away."

He mirrored her shrug. "Easy come, easy go. It's just money." Especially when it wasn't real, but those in the bar wouldn't find that out until he was gone. "I hear you have a weakness for bourbon," he said, snapping his fingers for Martha to pour her one.

"Thank you, Martha." Kris smiled at the woman as she took the glass, raising her brow at her new male friend. "Do you often snap your fingers at people as though they are beneath you?" she asked a little acidly. "A pretty face does not make you better than anyone else here, especially someone providing a service."

He felt a brief flush of anger at her scolding, but was quick to control it. "Are you always so quick to scold strangers and make assumptions about them?" he countered. After all, he had won the drinks fair and square, thanks to her.

She smiled faintly. "Oh, I don't think I am making too many false assumptions about you." She eased closer, letting her breath tease against his ear as she murmured for him alone. "Other women might be impressed by a muscle-bound Viking, but you chose the wrong face if you wanted to put me off the scent ... Loki."

One blond brow ticked upwards in surprise, but he didn't back down, even if she did make him nervous. "I was right about you then. So, who are you and what do you want?" he asked, straight-forward enough.

"To find out what it is you want," she said pleasantly enough, drawing back to sip her bourbon. Her smile was more relaxed now. "Were you expecting me to pretend I had not clocked you?"

"I wasn't expecting you to be so blunt," he replied. "Shall we?" he asked, gesturing toward an empty table that was far enough from the bar that they wouldn't be overheard over the din.

"By all means." She stepped back, flicking a cheeky wink to Martha as the pair of them moved away from the bar. The bartender's laugh was just dirty enough to make Kris snort with laughter in answer.

He found whatever private joke the two women were sharing to be slightly annoying. "Care to share what's so amusing?" he asked, as he followed her to the table, claiming the chair that allowed him to keep his back to the wall.

"Oh, I told her earlier than I was here to get laid, but that I have high standards," Kris told him easily. Her eyes narrowed a little at his choice of seat, one foot hooking her own chair around until she could sit beside him. She didn't like having her back to a room, either.

He arched a brow again at her statement. "Get laid," he echoed, chuckling. "And here I thought you weren't impressed." By the form he was presenting wearing, he meant. He highly doubted that was what she wanted of him, especially when she had no idea what he really looked like.

"Not by that face, no," she clarified. "You're not the only one who knows how to get around illusions." She settled in her seat, her arm brushing his. "So ... will you tell me what your plans are?"

"I will admit, you're pretty enough, but I'm not that easily impressed. You have something that belongs to someone I know. I can sense it. Tell me, did you have to kill him to get it, or did he give it to you willingly?" he asked. If she wanted him to give her answers, she was going to have to give him a few answers first.

She chuckled lightly. "He gave it to me," she told him honestly. "He actually suggested I might need it. I only tracked him down to ask for directions. He seemed rather annoyed that I knew you were alive and he didn't."

"The less he knows, the better," Loki muttered. There was no point in pretending he was someone else anymore now that she knew who he was, but he wasn't ready to reveal his true appearance just yet. "Why are you following me? Who sent you?" he asked further, without answering her questions.

Kristen Rowe

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« Reply #2 on: December 04, 2018, 12:56:38 PM »
"I am tracking you because you surfaced and contacted the King of Hell," she informed him. "He went underground very quickly after that meeting, but shared the information that you were looking for someone who pretended to be you. Artemis asked me to track you down and find out what you were doing. She does not want a war."

He actually rolled his eyes. "Olympians. They're so dramatic. They think everything is about them. They aren't the only ones who were once worshipped as Gods. What makes them think they're any better than us?" he asked, once again, not really answering her questions or explaining his motives.

"I notice you are not answering my questions," Kris pointed out. "I have answered yours, but then I suppose I am not worthy of honesty from a lord of Asgard, being just a mere mortal myself." Her dark eyes flickered teasingly, daring him to agree with her.

"There is no Asgard," Loki said, looking grim. "Asgard was destroyed, and despite my reputation, I had nothing to do with it. Or didn't Artemis tell you that?" he asked, sounding about as grim as he looked.

Kris stared at him, wishing she could see his real face, the real response to what he was saying. "I did not know," she said quietly, darling to touch her fingers to his arm lightly. "I am sorry. Has Ragnarok happened without our knowing it?"

He almost flinched as her fingers grazed his arm, as if that simple touch might hurt him somehow. Was it compassion or pity he heard in her voice, or was she just playing him? "In a manner of speaking, I suppose, but nothing can be done about it now, can it? Of course, I could snap my fingers and pretend this is Asgard, but it wouldn't be real, so what's the point?"

Feeling him tense, she moved her hand away, unwilling to push this man too far. "Have you let yourself mourn, at all?" she asked, and yes, there was compassion in her voice. Pain, too; memories brought up by his grim sharing of a tragedy he couldn't have prevented. "Or are you seeking revenge? Or death?"

"Death?" he echoed, chuckling. "Death would be too easy. Oft have I heard that grief softens the mind, and makes it fearful and degenerate. Think, therefore, on revenge and cease to weep," he said, quoting the Bard regarding revenge.

"So it is revenge," she murmured. "Against who?" A stray glance brought her attention to the fact that Martha was watching their suddenly very serious conversation from the bar with a worried frown.

"Against those who have wronged me, of course," he replied simply enough, without naming names. "Liars and traitors." Of which Gabriel was the first name on his list.

"And what will that achieve?" Kris asked him bluntly. "You intend to kill the new King of Heaven, yes? All that will do is start is a war. Zeus will kill you, or have you killed, and any Norse god remaining will be obligated to retaliate. You'll be threatening humanity with a war between the gods that is ultimately pointless."

"The new King of Heaven is a liar and a cheat. I have more scruples in my thumbnail than he does in his entire being. Whatever debt I owed him has been paid in full. Have you ever stopped to think that he might have planned this all along? Who has benefited most from this latest war? Lucifer and Michael are no more. Raphael is missing and presumed dead. There is no one left but Gabriel. Convenient, no?" Loki pointed out.

"And what will you do, take his place as King of Heaven?" she countered in a heated tone. "Throw away your life for revenge that is meaningless? I can't let you do it. But I would rather not fight you."

"King of Heaven?" he echoed, laughing again. "Don't be daft. The angels would never accept me as their sovereign." He turned serious again, eyes narrowed as he continued. "I have no desire to be king of anything. That is not my goal or my purpose," he said.

"Tell me your goal," she urged him. "Please. I cannot go against my goddess, and she has ordered me to stop you if what you intend threatens the peace hard won. If you will not tell me what you intend, then I have to assume that you do threaten the peace, and that ..." She closed her eyes for a moment, looking down at her hands. "And that I am going to die very soon."

"You're a hunter and a mortal," Loki said. "Mortals are fickle beings. One day they worship you, the next they forget you, though none of them has ever worshiped me." He paused a moment to study her, as if he was trying to determine whether she was trying to manipulate him or being truthful. "Tell me what it is that the Huntress proposes instead. I assume she has no love for angels. Even God has abandoned them. What will she give me in exchange for sparing Gabriel's pathetic life?"

"What do you want in exchange for sparing his pathetic life?" Kris didn't really have the authority to negotiate like this, but she could at least find out what he would take as a bribe and pass that on. "And not all mortals are fickle, thank you very much."

He blinked, not really expecting her to agree with his proposal. "I shall have to think on that," he told her, unable to think of anything he might want more than Gabriel's demise at that moment. "For now, I would welcome the company. I believe you owe me a game of pool."

It might not have been the answer she hoped for, but it was at least a delay in his plans. Kris found herself smiling as she nodded, taking up her glass as she rose. "Well then," she said mischievously. "You are on. Ladies first, I think."

"After you," the big man said, with a wave of his hand toward the pool table as he, too, rose to his feet. He wasn't too worried about losing, since he was notorious for cheating, and there were no stakes at risk anyway ... yet.

It didn't take much more than a smile to claim the table once again. Kris eyed her companion as she stacked the balls, considering him for a long moment. "So," she said, lowering her cue to aim, "are there stakes, or are you simply desperate for my winning company?"

Though he might very well be desperate for company, he wasn't about to admit it. "You're the one who lured me here. Maybe you're desperate for company," he said, conversely, as he watched her rack the balls and take aim.

"I did not set a trap or bait," she pointed out in amusement, drawing the cue back. "You are the one who walked in and took an interest in me, as I recall." There was a clack as she hit the cue ball and the rack broke. She frowned; usually she could pot at least one at the break.

He said nothing about the break, but there was the slightest hint of a smirk around his lips. "You are the one who tracked me and lured me here, huntress. Tell me, did my son give you some sad story about missing his father?" he asked, as he stepped up to the table to line up his shot.

She snorted with laughter. "Well, when he finished licking his genitals, he did have quite a lot to say about you," she said, leaning on her cue to watch him. "I did not believe most of it - he really is very loyal to you."

"Is he?" Loki said, not really expecting any proof of that fact. He took his shot, easily sinking two balls in two separate pockets - or at least, that's what it looked like he'd done. He moved around the table to line up his next shot. "What's he doing with himself these days? Hunting and rutting?"

Kristen Rowe

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« Reply #3 on: December 04, 2018, 12:56:59 PM »
She looked suspiciously at the table, noting the outline of what looked like a ball disguised on the green. So he doesn't like even the prospect of losing. Interesting. "Shouldn't you ask him that?" she countered, leaning her hip against the table as she sipped her glass.

It wasn't so much about losing as it was about making mischief or playing a prank. It was part of who he was, after all - Loki the Trickster. He almost didn't know how not to create mischief, of one kind of another. "He's better off without me. Safer," he replied, taking another shot and sinking another ball. He didn't want to make it look to easy, after all, and that one he'd actually pocketed on his own.

"Now why would you think that?" Kris asked, gently running her fingertips over the outline she had seen. What should have been green felt was an ivory ball. She grinned innocently over at Loki, rolling it back and forth as though she didn't know what she was doing.

He narrowed his eyes at her, having to bite his tongue against accusing her of cheating, when he was doing the same thing. For now, he ignored her and lined up his next shot.

"Why do you think?" he asked, as he took his shot, this time missing. He frowned at the table, before stepping back and waving her forward. "Your turn, huntress," he said, since she had not yet introduced herself by name.

"Kristen," she told him, easing from her lean with the same smile that seemed to be provoking him.

He was rather fun to tease, it seemed. She also made a point of sliding past between him and the table to take her shot. Whether it was an attempt at seduction or just pushing her luck, she was enjoying walking the dangerous line. Bending to line up her shot, she frowned for a moment, and gently adjusted her lean.

"I think," she mused, "that you have heard too much wrong information shared about yourself, and have decided to live up to it rather than ignoring it."

"There are lies and there is truth. There is reality and there is illusion. Do you know how many people prefer the illusion over the reality?" he queried, tilting his head once again to admire the view. "But, of course, it's not real."

With a wave of his hand, the pool table disappeared. In fact, the entire bar disappeared, and she found herself standing in an opulent dining room, dressed in a luxurious gown. He, too, looked different - still tall and broad and blond, but wearing a crimson suit trimmed in royal blue.

"You would make a lovely queen," he said, that smirk curling his lips once again. "What is real and what is illusion? There are some who say life is an illusion, that reality is what awaits us after death."

She straightened, blinking in the sudden surroundings of an illusion she knew was unreal. Turning to face him, Kris gestured to his opulent unreality. "But this is not what I want to see," she told him, her gesture taking in the dining room, the gown ... and his blonde Viking facade. She stepped closer, close enough to be nose to nose with him. "I know this isn't your face," she murmured. "These aren't your eyes, your hands. Some things will never be better than they are in reality." She held his gaze for a long moment, that teasing edge just visible in her eyes. "But you have been hiding for a long time. Perhaps you are hideous." She winked at him, stepping back.

He stood his ground as she came close, not so much as flinching. The illusion remained as it was, and so did his appearance. It wasn't about whether he was hideous or beautiful. "Beauty is in the eye the beholder, or so they say. The same is true for the opposite," he said. "And you are baiting me again." He waved his hand again and they were back in the bar, as if they'd never been gone. "And I believe it is your shot."

She laughed. "I would have taken my shot if you had not decided to play games," she reminded him, turning away to line up the shot again, potting the ball quickly. "I am not a spider and you are not a fly," she added, straightening to circle the table and choose her next shot. "Though I did seek out some advice on how to approach you, I have yet to decide which of those advices to use."

"Dare I ask from whom?" he said. "I have found that it's often better to make decisions for yourself than follow the advice of those who think they know better." It was hard to say whether he was cheating anymore or not, but he didn't seem to have impeded her shot.

"Oh, other fickle mortals," she told him, throwing the word back over her shoulder as she hit the cue ball. She didn't wait to see if it potted - if he wanted it to, it would. Instead, she straightened up, tilting her head as she looked at him. "Well, then ... I will continue with my own decision. What do you want?"

"What does anyone want in life?" he said, tossing the question back at her again. Even gods and demi-gods wanted the same thing as mortals, and immortal or not, no one lives forever.

"It depends on the person." Kris shrugged, glancing down at the table. "Oh, you let me pot that one? Marvelous." She flashed him a cheeky look, and bent to take another shot. "For some people, they want wealth; other people want security."

"What do you want?" he asked, though he had not yet answered her question. It was just a game and without stakes, it hardly mattered who won, but he was curious how she might answer his question.

Her smile faded; she missed her shot. Straightening, she took a mouthful of bourbon before she answered. "Well, I daresay a god would find it very pitiful, but I want love. To love someone and to be loved. But since I cannot have that, I settle for protecting everyone who can."

He studied her quietly a moment, as if trying to determine whether she was being honest with him or not. He could play tricks and manipulate illusions, but he'd never been very good at judging when someone was being honest. "Why not? Because of your loyalty to Artemis?" he asked, unworried whether anyone was eavesdropping.

"Because I am a hunter," she said quietly. "Because I am a witch. Because I have no fixed abode." She met his gaze almost sadly. "There is no stability in my life. How could I possibly expect anyone to be a part of it?"

"We all make our choices in life, huntress. What is done is done, but it is never too late to change," he pointed out, not quite realizing the irony in his statement. "What is it the mortals say? Perhaps you have not met the right man yet. Or woman." He shrugged. "To each his own."

"No, it is never too late to change," she agreed, holding his gaze pointedly for a long moment. "Mistakes do not always have to be made. It's your shot. And I think you owe me one honest answer by now."

"Very well," he said, as he moved back to the table to set up his next shot. "I was not responsible for Baldur's death," he told her, though she had not asked whether or not he had been.

She raised her brow, and took a chance. As he bent forward, she laid her hand on his back, fighting down the skin-crawling sensation of touching something that she could not quite see clearly. "I know," she told him quietly. "We all know who was responsible for that."

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« Reply #4 on: December 04, 2018, 12:57:21 PM »
"Baldur dreamed of his own death. That much of the story is true," he said, not acknowledging or reacting to her touch, whether he felt it or not. "But I did not kill him. Lucifer did that," he told her, though it seemed she knew that already. He took his shot, a couple of balls dropping into pockets.

"Who wrote the story?" she asked curiously, leaning against the table as her hand slid up along his spine. The body under her palm felt less bulky than the one she could see; toned, certainly, but more wiry than muscled. More appropriate to a rogue than a fighter.

"What is it you are doing, woman?" he asked, as he turned in time to catch her wrist in his hand. He did not look angry, so much as curious. There were very few who could see through his illusions, and he assumed she was not doing so of her own accord.

She let him catch her wrist, not even trying to pull away, meeting his gaze as calmly as she could. Hoping he couldn't see the flare of not quite fear that rose at the prospect of pushing him past tolerance and into annoyance. "Seeing you, the only way I can."

"Why is it so important that you see me?" he asked, eyes narrowed. Was it merely curiosity or was it something more? Most women found the form he was wearing alluring, but this woman seemed different.

"Why is it so important to you that I do not?" she countered, taking a leaf out of his book when it came to eluding an answer. "You know my face, my eyes, my form. You could pick me out of a crowd. How do I know if this form I am talking to is even you? How do I know this is real and not a deception?"

"I do not look like Gabriel, I will tell you that," he said, turning back to line up the next shot. "Gabriel has been wearing that face for eons. He has become rather fond of it, but it is not my face," he told her, contradicting what Gabriel had once claimed. He took the shot, just barely missing the corner pocket with a sigh. Normally, he would have made sure he made the shot, or at least, appeared to have.

"He is an angel," she reminded him. "That face belongs to the human he wears." Her fingertips trailed down his forearm, still mapping him physically if he would let her, before she moved to study the table. "Why do you have so much trouble with the truth?"

He didn't pull away from her touch, amused, perhaps, by her attempt to sort out what he looked like beneath the illusion. "What is the truth? Is your truth my truth? Truth is subjective. It is a matter of perspective," he pointed out, studying her in return as she moved away to study the table.

She looked him dead in the eye. "I have never knowingly told a lie," she informed him. "I may have ommitted detail, but never created a falsehood. The face I wear is my own. I don't hide from the world." Bending, she lined up her shot and took it in one movement.

He said nothing in his own defense, but watched as she took her shot. The game had soured for him, and he no longer cared if he won or lost. "You ask that I not start a war. That is the only reason you are here."

"Yes, it is the reason I am here," she agreed, turning to face him once again. "But it is not the reason I am still here. If I truly wanted just to prevent a war, there are any number of things I could have done to you. And all you have done is deny me an answer to the one question I have asked with honest certainty." She reached out, laying her hand against his chest as she lowered her voice. "What do you want, Loki?"

He paused a moment, as he studied her, not yet saying a word. She might read his answer in the ice blue of his eyes; in the pain and loneliness reflected there. There were so many ways to answer her question, all of them honest, but not entirely true. "There are so many things that I want, I do not know how to answer your question," he replied, as honestly as he could.

"What can I give you, that you want?" she then said, hoping he would give her the same honesty in answering that question that he had used in answering the one before. Artemis must have had a reason for sending her to do this, after all.

He seemed at a loss as to how to answer that question, too, stammering an answer. "I-I do not know," he told her. He considered quietly a moment, the face he was wearing looking troubled. "Do you really wish to know what I look like?" he asked her.

Kris' expression softened at the sound of his unexpected stammer. "I would not ask if I did not wish to see you," she assured him quietly. "But I think that changing your face in the middle of a public bar, when we are already the focus of a good deal of curiosity, might not be the wisest course."

"Are you certain that is where we are?" he asked, that hint of mischief flickering like fire in his ice blue eyes. Could she be certain of anything so long as he was near?

That hint of mischief brought her smile back onto her face. "With you, I am not certain of anything," was her quiet answer. "But I am not afraid to find out."

"Very well," he said, admiring her bravery, as well as her honesty. He turned, nodding toward a dark corner of the bar where a shadowy figure was sitting alone. "Go there, and you will find what you seek," he told her.

Kris half-turned in the direction he indicated, her smile deepening for just a moment as a vague suspicion was confirmed. "Thank you." This was offered, not to the surprisingly solid illusion she had been spending time with, but to the figure sitting in the shadows. She patted the blond Viking's cheek, collecting her glass, and slipped into the shadows herself. "May I join you?"

As she moved forward, her surroundings seemed to shimmer and ripple, changing slightly as the illusion that had surrounded her gave way to reality or reality gave way to illusion. The pool table was still there, but the people seemed to fade away, the tall, blond Viking disappearing altogether, as though he had never been there at all. Within the shadows, there was nothing but a single table with two chairs and a tall, dark-haired man with ice blue eyes facing her.

"Yes, of course. You need not ask," he told her, his voice different from that of the Viking - not quite as deep but with that same indistinct accent.

"Thank you." Dropping into a seat, she crossed one leg over the other, resting her chin on her hand as she studied her companion. "Was anything real?" she asked softly. "Anything about the bar at all?"

"The bar is real enough, but while we are here in the shadows, we cannot be seen or heard. We are here, but we are cloaked in shadow. As far as the mortals are concerned, you excused yourself to visit the privy. They will be none the wiser," the dark-haired man who looked almost like the exact opposite of the Viking explained.

"And should I choose to leave with you, and not your ..." She glanced over to the pool table, though she saw no one there. "Your Captain America look-alike? What will they see, then, I wonder?"

"I'm sorry, who?" the dark-haired man who was presumably Loki asked, looking a little confused. "They will see whatever I want them to see," he replied in answer to her question.

"Your blonde-hair, blue-eyed puppet," she clarified, returning her gaze to him. "What I am asking is, what would you wish them to see in such a case?"

Kristen Rowe

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« Reply #5 on: December 04, 2018, 12:57:42 PM »
"It doesn't matter. They don't matter," he replied bluntly. They were just mortals frequenting a saloon, after all. They didn't have anything to do with him and presumably, not her either.

She let this go, studying him for several long moments. No, that had to be his real face. It was more animated, more alive, than the blonde face he had chosen to hide behind; the blue eyes were sharper, more expressive. Damn, she realized, he's just my type.

He realized she was studying him and assumed she didn't much like what she saw. "If you don't like this face, I can wear another," he said, his face suddenly morphing into someone else. "Perhaps you'd like this one better," he said, suddenly wearing George Clooney's face. "Or perhaps this one," he added, this time, his face morphing into a Bradley Cooper lookalike.

Kris blinked, startled by the morphing features in front of her, and laughed, shaking her head. "Not at all," she assured him. "I did not mean to stare, but you are very handsome. The real you."

"Oh?" he said, his face morphing back to the real one, his expression doubtful. "Are you trying to stroke my ego?" he asked further, obviously not taking her at her word.

She laughed again. "If I were trying to do that, I would not be so good at it," she reminded him. "I am not good at lying. It is very obvious when I say something untrue."

"Obvious to who?" he countered. Perhaps it was obvious to those who knew her, but he wasn't sure how he was supposed to tell when she was lying. He didn't have any sort of magic for that.

"To anyone who watches me do it." Kris shook her head. "I have no confidence in my lies." She shrugged. "I suppose it is not something you could imagine. Deception is a way of life for you."

He seemed to consider that a moment. "I suppose it is," he admitted, though he wouldn't have put it that way. "It wasn't always that way, you know," he added, though he said no more about it. Why he'd admitted even that much, he wasn't sure. "So, you've come to ask me to spare Gabriel's life. What are you willing to give me in return?"

She hesitated, straightening her back. "I ... do not know," she admitted. "I think I need to know what it is you want before I can make you an offer. All I have is myself, and I doubt you want me." She laughed, a little embarrassed at having even put words to that thought.

"Are you sure you aren't trying to seduce me?" he asked, not quite trusting her. He wanted to, but he'd been betrayed one too many times to do so easily.

She actually blushed at that, avoiding his eyes in quiet embarrassment. "If I was, it would not be for anyone but myself," she admitted awkwardly, tilting her glass as she looked at the contents, cheeks burning behind the curtain of her hair. "I would not insult you by even entertaining the thought that one woman could ever be enough to replace your desire for vengeance."

"Is it vengeance or is it justice?" he countered. It seemed people were always getting the two confused, perhaps even himself. He was angry, to be sure, and had been for as long as he could remember, but perhaps she was offering him another way.

"I do not know," she mused, her embarrassment fading as she looked up to meet his eyes. "But I do not think it can be justice if it comes from a place of anger. Vengeance can only beget vengeance, a cycle of violence that grows worse with each passing year."

"I am not afraid of Gabriel," he told her, perhaps misunderstanding her a little. He was not afraid of anything - not even those who longed to see him dead. He'd been taking care of himself for a long time, without anyone's help.

"I am not talking about him." Kris held his gaze for a long moment. "I am talking about you. You have sown mischief in your life, but I do not think you have ever committed a murder. Yet that is what you plan to do, isn't it? That is not just taking a life. It will darken your soul."

"Are you trying to save me, huntress?" he asked, brows arched in puzzlement. And if she was, why? "Why should you care about me? Oh, but it's only because of Artemis, isn't it? Because Artemis doesn't want another war. Of course, she doesn't. The Olympians have reclaimed their place on Mount Olympus, and the rest of us have been forgotten."


Kris startled at the sound of the familiar voice, her head snapping up to find a lithe woman with silver eyes and short red hair standing not so very far away. "Artemis."

Loki turned to glance at the goddess, not looking particularly surprised or afraid to see her standing there. "What do you want, Arty?" he asked, as though they were old friends, or at least acquaintances. "Gabriel deserves his comeuppance once and for all, and you know it."

"I know," Artemis assured him, the true Huntress cool and confident as she stepped forward. "He is on a very short leash. Helios is always at his shoulder." She smiled at Kris for a moment before resuming speaking with the Norse god. "But I am not here to discuss Gabriel."

"Then what are you here to discuss?" he asked, careful not to interrupt. Whether they were friends or foes was uncertain, but at least, he seemed to be willing to offer her the respect she desired, if not deserved.

"I am here to give you something that Gabriel's interference prevented you from claiming," Artemis told him. She laid a hand on Kris' shoulder meaningfully. The mortal hunter looked up at her in shock, but Artemis continued, still holding Loki's gaze. "Her family have always been dedicated to the Norse gods, but when her parents were killed, when her siblings were killed, the god she was dedicated to did not claim her for her own protection. Because the archangel in his place did not accept the binding when she was born. I took her binding for safekeeping. You were never forgotten, Loki. You turned your back on your followers."

"Followers?" Loki echoed defensively, feelings of confusion and anger and even loneliness evident in his voice and on his face. "What trick is this? I have no followers, Goddess. I never have. Who would ever follow Loki the Trickster? Loki the Malicious. Loki the Mad. Loki the Evil One. Loki the Forsaken. Loki, whose family abandoned him, and whose adoptive family detested him. Whose own wife and children wanted little to do with him. And for what have I earned such treatment? Because my father laid with my mother? Because I am different from all the rest? Because my bloodline is cursed? Tell me, O Goddess of the Hunt, who would bother to worship me?"

Artemis did not rise to his anger, gently squeezing Kris' shoulder. When Loki was done, she simply smiled. "Her birth name was Kristanna Rothen, and her father dedicated her to you on the day she was born," she repeated calmly. "If you do not believe me, touch her. Feel the binding that belongs to you."

Kristen Rowe

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« Reply #6 on: December 04, 2018, 12:57:58 PM »
Loki narrowed his eyes, not quite trusting the Goddess, though he was secretly hoping she was telling the truth. "Is this some kind of trick?" he asked again, reluctant to do as she asked for fear she might be luring him into a trap.

Artemis sighed, gently removing her hand from Kristen's shoulder. She turned both her palms upward, lowering to one knee before Loki. "Test me," she told him. "I have no reason to lie. I have no love for Gabriel. But through her, I have good reason to want you to live."

He seemed to consider a moment, studying both women carefully. Too many years had passed and too much damage had been done for him to easily overcome his suspicions. He knew he was not perfect and that he had made his share of mistakes, but he did not believe he had earned the enmity to which he had been subjected.

"You are serious," he said, brows arching upwards at the Goddess' offer, almost incredulously.

"Where do you think she learned not to lie?" Artemis pointed out gently.

At the table, Kris suddenly spoke up, her face lined with thought. "This is why the Norse magic came so easily," she said in a soft tone. "Why Fenrir did not attack me."

"You did not know?" he asked, turning to look at Kris with a questioning expression on his face.

"How could I know?" she answered, a little wild around the eyes. "I barely remember my family. I was raised by Artemis and Apollo, I - " A thought occurred to her then, snapping her mouth shut as Artemis nodded.

"Yes, he wasn't very good at protecting you from his own prejudices," the goddess agreed softly, rising to her feet once again. To Loki, she added, "My brother could not understand why I would make alliance with the high priestess of another god."

"High priestess?" Loki echoed, still looking a little baffled, despite the Goddess' explanation. "So, why did you?" he asked, needing an answer to that question, as well, before he was going to start trusting her.

"Because I knew the angels' Apocalypse was coming," Artemis admitted. "And I knew we would be able to take our place. My father has little interest in the world; he would leave it without a guiding hand if he could. But our strength, the strength of the gods, has always been our diversity. The Norse should rise with us, as you did once before."

"Alas, there are so few of us left," Loki said. "And of those who are left, few care what becomes of Loki Laufeyson, save perhaps one, but I have not seen him in many years." He had not said just who that was, but among the Norse Gods, he had only called one of them "friend".

"I care." The words were out before Kristen could stop them, her head ducking as she realized she had interrupted two gods who had a claim on her soul.

Artemis bit down on a smile, bending to leave a kiss on Loki's cheek, hiding her whisper from the mortal woman. "She is yours. Try not to break her."

A dark brow ticked upwards as his gaze flickered to Kristen, more at her words than at the words of the Goddess. It was all so unbelievable, he was still waiting for the trap to snap shut. All he had to do was reach out and touch her to know whether it was true or not. His fingers twitched nervously as he considered, not wanting to admit that he was, indeed, a little afraid.

"Is it true, what she says?" he asked.

Kris was staring at him, torn between shock and awe. She'd had no idea that a birth bond could be taken over by another god, much less that it had happened to her. "I ... don't know," she confessed, pressing her palms flat on the table.

Artemis straightened from her bend, glancing slowly between them as she stepped back from the table. "There is only one way to be certain," she said calmly. "And the only way to protect your own is not to go looking for trouble."

His knee-jerk reaction was, of course, to get defensive, but to his credit, he bit his tongue and only frowned at the two of them, as if he was still debating what to do. There was an old mortal saying: Nothing ventured, nothing gained, but did he have the courage inside him to do what she was asking?

"I will consider your words, Goddess," he told her, making no promises. "I need time to think." And with that, he was gone, and the bar returned to normal, as if nothing had ever been amiss.

Kris sat silent for a long moment, alone at a shadowed table, abandoned by both her gods. Everyone there seemed to have completely forgotten her. Most of her life had been a preparation for a power play by Artemis, it seemed ... if the Huntress was telling the truth. Where was the vaunted love of mankind now? Clearly it could be set aside when ambition came to call. So where did that leave her? Between the goddess who had raised her, and the god her father had intended her for - between a lying teacher, and a forlorn stranger. And she would just have to wait until one or the other made a decision.

She sighed, rising to her feet as she pulled her phone from her pocket, already dialing Ayden's number. Whatever Artemis was up to, the Winchesters should know about this development.