1964-12-27 - Project Gemini: Yule Book Flood
Summary: Every year, Icelandic people exchange books on Christmas Eve and read by firelight until bedtime. Now New York has its turn at the Explorers Club. Enter the YULE BOOK FLOOD where you and other lucky readers face literary dangers brought on by evil magical forces. A cursed book brings wicked effects down on a happy celebration. Death by a thousand papercuts! It's all hellfire and bookwyrms, baby. There will be no silent night, just unholy fright. Naught is calm in this blight.
Related: If there are no related logs, put 'None', — please don't leave blank!
Theme Song: None
venus constantine lamont tigra wanda 


2000 hours. Explorers Club. 26 December.

In true Icelandic fashion, the Christmas exchange of books happens the evening before Christmas and not after. But Americans convulsed by the traditions of setting out cookies and boozing up after wrapping presents do not open themselves much to additional foreign customs. Hence, a Boxing Day exchange. Along with mugs of glogg and crispy cookies, the Explorers Club opens its doors under streams of little Icelandic flags and socks scribed with quotes from famous writers. Several tidy banquet tables laden in every kind of offering form the equivalent of quilt squares, divided by subjects and title. Adventures and travel feature heavily, biographies another quadrant, and stitched sections containing the oddest bric-a-brac. Want one of the twenty-seven copies of Winterland: The Deceased Describe the Afterlife? It's there. How about And Then Came Heinrich, an enchanting tale of a farmer boy running around Tibet collecting sand for a monk's mandala?

The groups on hand represent a diverse array from the Harlem Writers Club to NYU and Columbia's literature departments, the Qi Fang Lo Community Society up to the questionable New Thule Press, all sporting fuzzy hats and Norwegian sweaters.

The goal is simple, explained easily by the aides on hand. Find a book, take what you like, and go read for the night. A great big crackling fireplace in the corner certainly welcomes someone interested in curling up in a chair or on a sofa.

What's not to love about a chance to read books? Especially surrounded by more books, and the smells therefrom, plus the tapestry of scents and sights the old building provides. In feline form, but with loose pants and boots and a baggy sweater on, Tigra has grabbed a book at random, trusting to serendipity to find something interesting to read, and is curled up sideways in a chair near the fire, as boneless as only a cat can manage.

Poor Lindon is at home with one of those awful migraines. So Lamont's there to find something truly distracting. They've already exchanged presents for Christmas, but more never hurts. As usual, when he's out as a mere mortal rather than a dark avenger, he affects not black, but plain gray, and burgundy rather than scarlet. Well-cut suit, good overcoat, and a silk scarf….browsing the tables. He's got a handful of books, including something in bright red and black with Cyrillic on the cover.

The offer to read brings in all sorts, including a fairly colorful young woman, wearing what looks like a nicely padded old army coat covered in multicolored patches, recreate a sort of mural effect around and to the back, that resembles a stylized sun and moon. Underneath, she wears a cableknit sweater and jeans worn down so thin they're pretty skin tight at this point, with little patches here and there, also multicolored…comfortable, and warm. A long bright blue scarf is unwound from around her neck as she steps in, then wadded up and tucked into one of the large pockets of her coat, as she pauses to stomp the excess snow off her more stylish boots, with just a bit of heel, then tugs off the knit cap on her head to shake out long, if somewhat mussed, red curls.

After a moment to orient herself, the colorfully garbed woman makes her way over to start looking over the books. She's almost immediately drawn to the book about Heinrich…he sounds like a groovy dude! She snags it, then wanders over to plop down in a chair near to Tigra to pop it open, absently crossing her legs as she does.

Constantine actually had a short shopping list. John, in true John fashion worked mostly through the entire holidy trying his damndest to stave off participating in itin any obvious manner and was still, in fact, 'on the job'. That he would run into Kent here was not unexpected though it did raise an eyebrow. John still had that rumpled look about him that suggests he'd spent the night in that suit withthe trench coat as a pillow and hopped right back to what he was working on in the haze of 2 day old cigarette smoke. It wasn't a glorious life, but it got shit done.

All sorts of interesting books await the plundering, offered in kind. All of them feature a uniform feature, regardless of age or condition, though the 'worst' of the donations are clearly overstock or gently used, nothing that would be turned down by a library in lieu of a missing volume. The books feature a pretty plate embossed in a black woodcarving style, vaguely reminiscent of Albrecht Durer. A lovely tree climbs one side, arching over to an image of the moon perched above a hillside. "Jolabokaflod 1964" is written in decided Gothic script, tucked down near the side.

The friendly aides in their sweaters or coats make the most of the warm weather, though nearly all the tables are tucked in the voluminous main hall. See, isn't it pretty?

"You be sure to enjoy that," says a short, rotund brunette lady to Lamont, having found himself a bit unlike the rest of the novels scattered around. "Always nice to see a young man looking at other languages." Never mind Lamont is not a young man. She's older, therefore he might as well be eight in knee-high white socks.

And Then Came Heinrich is one of many, and surprise, there's a second story under the dust cover, a two part epic. Venus has a neat little image printed for each second, a vision of a young man holding a walking stick and prayer bowl for the first; the second part has a fancy pants mandala that probably has something to do with the first half. The cheerful little fellow selling it is undoubtedly this side of 8000 years old, give or take, beaming at anyone. He wears a plain khaki suit and offers, "Merry Christmas" in a heavily accented voice to anyone and all.

As for Tigra, the tiger reading a book rather than being the topic of a book or, worse, the rug is not worth commenting on. No one bothers her much, though she gets looks. Her particular volume has a plain cover, typewritten heavy interiors, and it feels ponderous. But there are a few diagrams, great elaborate things that speak of the early twentieth century at latest. A few Turkish notes are written here and there.

At a familiar scent, Tigra glances up to see Lamont, and offers a quick flick of her eyebrows in greeting, but nothing more, not sure if he wants to be seen being known by an Avenger. The woman in patched coat gets a look over, and small grin before she returns to a book that might could stop a bullet. It's got a solidity to it that helped draw her to it, and when she turns each page, it's with a sense of deliberation that borders on ritual. She hunkers down a little bit, letting the smell of the book help mute the smell of stale cigarette smoke.

He's publically known as one of those contributing to the Avengers Initiative….contributing via checkbook, rather than two smoking .45s. Lamont nods politely at Tigra in return, after not an iota of surprise at her appearance. "Indeed, ma'am," he returns to the lady. Young man, indeed. Looks forty five, going on seventy. He finds himself a chair and settles, comfortably, overcoat tucked behind him as a pillow.

Venus glances over and returns Tigra's smile as she pops the book open, looking curious as she realizes it's a two part book. "Ooh…bitchin'…" she murmurs to herself, start to turn the pages and focusing on the story at large. "I've never read this one…" Which for someone her age, is saying something. She glances over to Tigra. "…wow, what's that one about?" she says curiously, noting the thickness. "That looks like you could use it for a step stool…" Her eyes flick over to John as he wanders past in his rumpled coat, her lips pursing in thought.

Constantine didn't look like much, perhaps, but his eyes were sharp above the dark circles. He was searching with two coins between his fingers that might look like fifty cents to anyone else with his fingers pinched around them. In truth it was a medal of a Saint and a piece of silver carved with etchings on it that he used for detection rites. They rubbed together faintly until they changed pitch. He paused, and then pocketed the coins as if just deciding what to buy. Rough fingers stained with ink picked up a volume by an Indian author, Vinay Ashtikar. Dark blue eyes squint as he lifted the book cracking the cover. It was the address to lamont that pulled on eyebrow up. Hysterical.

The book Tigra holds smells of the flowers at the bottom of a well, the stone fretwork within, and a thousand nights sheltering under an oak roof. Clean and complex, beholden to antiquity or more than a few weeks in a shut-up library, probably in someone's manor or country estate. Then again, it could be a steamer trunk. Lamont's has a texture more akin to slippery ease and bright, bold prints on thin paper a bit more acid than alkaline. It has a satisfying crack when the spine opens, and industrial strength glue to keep pages from falling to his hands. For Venus, the paper is thinner and the print within tactile, recessed to the punch of a press. The ink feathers around the edges, curiously. Con just happens to find something full of dense text and pictures, traceries around the edges imprinted with faded gold.

Bitching? Can't say Tigra has ever heard a book called that before, but her lips twitch briefly in amusement. Her tail then twitches ever so slightly at being addressed, when she's trying to read. "She frowns thoughtfully and hefts the book a bit. "About ten pounds, I'd say," she answers Venus. Her nostrils flare as she drinks in its smell. It's a wonderful, almost tacticle experience.

He's not in the least sure what he's found. Russian, and clearly Soviet. An odd thing for such a foe of that regime to have picked up - no heavy political tract, but a story for children, done in tones of bright red and black, stylized illustrations. He's content to read, though, slouching down in his chair lazily, rocking a foot on its heel, lazy.

"Huh. Yeah, that's a spider squisher." Venus says thoughfully, running her fingers over the indentations in the pages as she starts to read. "This one is beautiful…you don't see a lot like this anymore. Old time printing press style books. Major choice example." the redhead notes, letting her fingers run down each page lightly as she turns them. She glances over to the other woman curiously. "…you look like someone I should remember." she decides after a moment, shooting a smile at Lamont as he joins them. "I mean, beyond looking like a bad ass chick in general, I mean."

Constantine flipped the cover and carefully turned the pages. For someone that looked like a wreck he took great care with old books. At the banter the Brit (well Brit #2) arched an eyebrow, "Odd descriptors for a woman of education. What'd you find?" Now he was curious what the rest of the collection entailed. He was, though, walking over to Lamont (Herein noted as Brit #1 by senority of chronology) and held up the volume, 'Determination of the Eternal', "Oy, this sound like anyone we've been running into?"

The taste of the air changes, charged, a reverse in polarities. At least to the mystics. Happy readers ensconsed in chairs or wandering back into the Upper West Side carry off their books, given the instructions to spend the night reading. How many of them will end up falling asleep to the familiar wall of text, hands marking their places? Many.

But here and now. One of the helpful crew off to deliver more books shuts the front door behind himself. The cozy interior is warm, surprisingly cozy for a building so big. Go ahead, read. Easy to find the words soothing, calming, more than a little sleepy. Cue yawns. Cue the tidal drag down on available energy.

Tigra's book is heavy, not just literally, but figuratively. Between that, the fireplace, and the comfy chair, it's getting a bit difficult for Tigra to stay alert and focused. She gives a toothy yawn, then blinks a bit. "Excuse me," she murmurs. "Hm?" she asks Venus. "I look like someone you -should- remember? What do you mean?" Her head tilts in query, and it just happens to tilt towards the chair, and thus against the back of the chair, and it stays there as Tigra half listens for an answer.

He's peering up at Constantine, albeit rather vaguely. "Indeed," Lamont agrees with the magician, lips twisting in displeasure. "Where'd you find it? What's it been saying?" He's got his own book left in his lap, place marked with a finger between pages.

"Well, for one, most chicks aren't decked out in fur or to the nines with an actual tail." Venus says, her eyes twinkling mischieviouly. She blinks a bit at the rush of…well, sleepy warmth, parting her lips to yawn slightly before she covers it. "Gah…yawns are catchin'." she says absently. "So if I saw you somewhere, I should, like, remember you. You dig?"

She peers curiously up to Constantine as he wanders over, then says. "Oh this? I thought it was about that Heinrich dude, but suprise! Two parter." She peers at the books, yawning again. "Um, let's see…second half is…the Life Idol and the Eight Jewels…I guess it's, like, a continuation of the story?"

Constantine was really running on fumes. Camping a graveyard for three nights straight can do that. John dropped to a seat next to the only old friend he really had and tilted his head to the side thoughtfully rubbing a hand over his face. he slouched back, one ankle crossing over knee, and sighed, "From what I'm picking up it's a volume about the internal exploration of finding the Devi, becoming one with Brahma the Creator. Not certain if it's a literal or spiritual exploration of the eternal Soul."

Away slides energy here and there. No dramatic tap, mind you. This is like a cold draft from a window across the house, rather than in the same room. It steals in unwelcome, leaching out the warmth as it were. The same follows from the pool of available activity. One little scrap here, a bit nibbled there. One pinprick may not be noticeable, but magnify by a factor of two hundred people.

Go ahead, spare a little for the holiday spirit. It's all good. Velvet on the senses, a warm blanket around the mind, let it carry off the unfortunates.

Anoter yawn, more politely stifled this time by Tigra. "Oh, right," she murmurs a little. "Thought you meant that you felt you should be remembering me from somewhere. As in, you thought you knew me, but couldn't remember where. And since I -do- stand out, I was a little surprised that you couldn't come upwith it. Now it makes sense." She leans more heavily against the back of the chair and closes her eyes, tail going still.

No objection to Constantine next to him. Lamont's hardly demonstrative, but….they are old friends. "May I see?" he asks, but his voice is almost slurred with tiredness. There's a moment as some internal guard dog pricks its ears - if there's anyone sensitive when it comes to having his will contravened, it's the Knight of Darkness, but…..it might just be the room, right?

Right. Just the room. Just the slow dragging drain set off by a thousand lights on the proverbial Christmas tree instead of one bulb. Slithery tendrils that pull on the soul directly siphon off their portions.

Venus mmmms, stiffling another yawn, then blinks and snap points at Tigra. "Got it! You're that Tigera chick!" She frowns, then pauses. "No….Tigre? No, not Latina enough…um…Tigra!" She grins a bit. "Nice to meet you, Miss Tigra.' She offers a hand. "I'm Venus." She mmphs starting to yawn and catching herself as she shakes her head. "Mmph….the hell…sorry, this is, like, a real comfy chair or somethin'." Through an effort of will she pushes herself up so she's sitting more, mostly so she can reach Tigra, her brow furrowing. She didn't sleep THAT badly last night, did she?

Constantine was fighting off… just something. He handed Lamont the book though having all the body language of a tom cat or other stray that invites themselves in that you get the grace and glory to endure for a little while, but hey you have fewer mice that way. Which seemed to be the case all over again. the side of his hand rubbed at the side of his nose. From his pocket of his trench coat he pulled out a smooth triangular shape stone that he surreptitiously looked through. Most would be surprised. John? There was the sigh and the muttered blaspheme under his breath. He wasn't so tired that he couldn't share the situation in all of its Technicolor vulgarity with his mate. "Blast, this place is more spectacular than a french ticker assailing a lorrie full of nuns." That was to say, Magic, mate, magic ev-er-y-where.

Hello burning sensations to the eyes! That's magic, all right, polka dots on a ladybug full of it. No full retinal wall so much as waves and spirals, like standing in the middle of a magic kelp forest and all the happy sandworms have come out to play along with their skinny helix-eel friends.

It's that image that gives Lamont grave pause, that hatchet profile gone momentarily disapproving, as he contemplates it. "John," he says, "Really." But then he's letting his own vision go vague, and clouded. Only to get the same result - he recoils a little and winces. "Dear gods, you aren't joking." They're both looking at nun porn?

And then…her hand is rejected. She'd feel rejected, anyway, if it wasn't for the fact Tigra just passes out like a kitten in a sunbeam. Awwwww! Wait..that wasn't right. People don't just pass out and she's feeling tired. "…oh." she says after a moment. "Well, this is a drag…" She shakes her head, focusing, then inhales pushing herself up to stand, before she starts to sing in a clear, bright voice. Because there's only one thing that can fight back against evil sleep magics….SHOW TUNES!

Well, helloooo Dolly!
This is miss Dolly!
It's so nice to have you back where you belong!
You're lookin' swell, Dolly,
I can tell, Dolly.
You're still glowin', you're still crowin', you're still goin' strong!

TAs the music washes over those nearby, mostly John and Lamont, there's a sudden desire to wake up and focus, as the magic in the music brushes back against the magic that's trying to put them to sleep.=

Sadly, Tigra is lost. Lost to the sunbeam.

Also, Venus is a bit distracted by the apparent admiration of nun porn over there….

|ROLL| Wanda +rolls 1d20 for: 5

|ROLL| Venus +rolls 1d20 for: 15

|ROLL| Constantine +rolls 1d20 for: 16

Constantine was so used to the disapproving look that John just waited it out waiting for- YES THAT. There was a slight nod. "A yup." He looked over and squint to the napping woman. "Christ on a cracker it's begun." He took a deep breath and stood up heeding the music maybe? "C'mon Lamont. It's time to negotiate." Because this meant someone wanted somehting right? If only Strange were here. He was supurlative at negotiating through attrition. Very well, time go get old school UK edition on this place. He walked over to find someone he could ask, "Is the proprietor in?"

The lively song rippling out from Venus should not work. It ought not to work. Why does it work?
Probably something to do with being a siren at heart, at least. The energy rippling around the room, peeling off its contributions from everyone in the club who picks up a book and leaves, at least weakens in earshot of the woman. Tendrils still pluck where they can, but the disharmonies interrupt the very careful flow. Or maybe they just wake up people, perk them up, and while the drain continues, it at least means they are wide-eyed and startled. Imagine toddlers frantically shaking a rattle or pretending to read their upside book after being shocked out of dozing off. No, Mom, I really /am/ awake! No nap! NO NAP!

He's standing, is the Shadow….and the light is changing around him, as it so often does, when that alter ego comes to the fore. AS if he were lit by a source different than the room's ambient lighting. "With whom, John?" he asks, and there's threat heavy beneath the genteel diction.

Well, that worked! Or at least, Venus feels perky and it looks like the other gentlemen on their feet aren't in danger of going back to sleep. Also that quite a few people are starting to leave as they wake up, which is for the best. Really, Venus has some serious projection for who can hear her. Unless they're, like, stone deaf or realy deep sleepers, of course.

She hops up, tucking her book under and arm as she follows after John and Lamont. "So…I think I can keep you from falling asleep…" she says. "But I'll have to keep singing to keep it going…so how good are with pantomine and sign language?" With that, she pauses to launch into the second chorus of the song, but at a lower volume now, since she mostly just has to focus on the other two.

I feel the room swayin'
While the band's playin'
One of our old favorite songs from way back when
So, take her wrap fellas
Find her an empty lap, fellas
Dolly, never go away again!

Well, that worked! Or at least, Venus feels perky and it looks like the other gentlemen on their feet aren't in danger of going back to sleep. Also that quite a few people are starting to leave as they wake up, which is for the best. Really, Venus has some serious projection for who can hear her. Unless they're, like, stone deaf or realy deep sleepers, of course.

She hops up, tucking her book under and arm as she follows after John and Lamont. "So…I think I can keep you from falling asleep…" she says. "But I'll have to keep singing to keep it going…so how good are with pantomine and sign language?" With that, she pauses to launch into the second chorus of the song, but at a lower volume now, since she mostly just has to focus on the other two.

I feel the room swayin'
While the band's playin'
One of our old favorite songs from way back when
So, take her wrap fellas
Find her an empty lap, fellas
Dolly, never go away again!

Constantine rubbed his face to wake himself up, but also to fix the retnal burns in his vision. THat was overwhelming. "We're in a bloody bookshop… of sorts. It must have a proprietor that wants something clearly. We ought find out what. I eman unless you want to just let it linger around and prey on the feeble of constitution. I didn't think we went back to that." Giving Kent the 'I could walk away from this without looking back but do you really want me doing that look(tm). He was… tryingto understand the nature of the place, but also, really, he just wnated to pay for the damn book. "Fair to middlin, luv. You play lark, we'll make sure you see another day. You know any Zombies by chance?" This was surely not a time for music requests was it?

The Explorers Club is only sixty years old, inheritor to far, far older orientalism clubs in London. Its provenance certainly continues to the present, so it's no mere bookstore. Members include the likes of Sir Edmund Hillary and any Antarctic explorer worth a damn, among many others. Dues paid amount to those pioneers on the front lines of adventure and exploration, probably half of NASA to boot. Their library and bookstore collectively are big. So no, it's not one manager and two helpers.

The savage little spell continues on its way, drinking all the options. The blinking readers go back to their books, for the most part, though odd looks thrown to Venus do not quite understand why she's pulling a Disney princess or Rockette routine. What's next, pompoms? Someone tries to laugh into their sleeve.

"Of course ot," Lamont concedes. He gives Constantine a sour look in return. They argue or don't like an old married couple. "I am decent at basic signing. But you could write?" He produces a little notebook and pen from one pocket, proffers it to her.

The odd woman grins at Lamont, nodding as she takes the notebook and pen. "Thanks!" Apparently, she -does- take requests, also, as she shoots an impish smile at John then switches smoothly to something much more modern as she pads along with them.

Well no one told me about her, the way she lied
Well no one told me about her, how many people cried
But it's too late to say you're sorry
How would I know, why should I care
Please don't bother tryin' to find her
She's not there…

Oddly enough, despite the change in lyrics, the effect remains the same…a sense of being energized, alert, and awake, even focused. As she walks, however, the blue-eyed siren is flicking said cerulean orbs back and forth, looking for anything out of the ordinary. She's not so skilled she can see magic, of course, but she figures that she knows enough about mystic that she might be able to spot where it's coming from.

Constantine gave Lamont that self-satisfied look that one side of the functionally dysfunctional pairing always gets: the side that was getting their way. A hand slapped the back of Lamont's shoulder in support of his eventual agreement. He was about to make sstrides to find the bloke in charge when He paused and turned on toe and heel to look at Venus with a rare but quirky grin, "That, is culture of a different kind. Don't worry, Lamont. We'll find you fun someday you do enjoy." Oh pick on the older man with his love for rock and roll why doesn't he. Still, the journey went onwards to find the HBIC: Head bookkeeper in charge, folks.

Each of the tables has their own leader, of sorts. Pick one of the groups, they can provide assistance, whether the Harlem Writers Club or Explorers Club in general. Without being a member, Constantine will have to swindle or bother someone to get past the first floor. No access to the third without showing proper credentials, yo. And besides, the thicket of happy tendrils wait to siphon off more energy that way, where Venus' voice doesn't quite manage. All the while, they are still being worn down, drained, life chewed out. At least they're awake for it!

HBIC is, alas, not anywhere apparent. Maybe because the thickest collection of books and people also have the thickest collection of those like Tigra, already fallen asleep. Oh dear.

Or ….have in his pocket someone very much dedicated to the hobby of bending minds by force. Though he's without that magic ring he so often resorts to. Lamont heads for the door that must surely lead up….or maybe he has legit membership. "I enjoy all sorts of things, John, you know that," he says, in what must be his creepiest voice.

For now, Venus is letting the two charmers she's with work what magic they have…which may not actually be charming people, but they do seem to have an idea of what they're doing. Meanwhile, she continues to provide background music for the apparent buddy cop/mage movie for the pair.

Well let me tell you 'bout the way she looked
The way she'd act and the color of her hair
Her voice was soft and cool
Her eyes were clear and bright
But she's not there…

Though she does pause to write on her notepad and hold it up: I DON'T THINK ITS DOWN HERE. CAN YOU FOLLOW A TRAIL IF WE GO UPSTAIRS?"

Constantine was a conman of the highest caliber. He wasn't called ConJob unaffectionately by the many. Lamont's creepy tone brough a faint grin to teh Hellblazer's face. "See, now, you got me all nostalgic, mate." Off he went to use the men's room bumping into someone's shoulder and, oh look, lifing their billfold. It took near no effort to replace it, though he kept the membership and with a simple glamour altered the more important details, including the name. he slipped it into his own billfold, and exited the men's room where in nothing fishy happened at all. Ever. Not from teh ConMan. Casually like he belonged everywhere the human tomcat walked right on up with … how the hell did John Constantine have legit papers?

Up the stairs goeth the brave and the bold. Those on the ground floor are prey to a spell peppered in ladybug profusion. Upstairs is actually not much different. The tendrils don't care about floors. They bloom evenly through the same space, at least to mystic eyes. Retinal burnout remains a dangerous risk for their enhanced spells and sensitivity, but the sheer uniformity implies it's very much an active effect with some kind of root in multiple places, not one. No big red button here.

It's a beautiful building, shame to be used in such a fashion. Look at all the books! Books on shelves, books on tables, orderly arrays of books everywhere just like downstairs. Alas, the big stuffed bear in the corner is not glowing with the evil magic and the tendrils seeking lifeforce ignore it because that thing gave up the ghost ages ago. Hungry little spirals of power slide and glisten around, waiting for anyone to come by to help themselves to. Fell magic doesn't alter their stance. Infernal? Great, dinner. Angelic? Great, dessert. Mysterious origins and extraplanar doom? Nomnomnom. They do not care.

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