1965-08-04 - Bells but No Wedding
Summary: With Vitale suffering nightmares and wounds that won't heal, Elmo goes to confront the chimerical creature known as Fjorskar.
Related: http://marvel1963mush.wikidot.com/log:1965-08-03-that-boy-will-be-his-own-ruin and http://marvel1963mush.wikidot.com/log:1965-08-03-a-different-kind-of-deal
Theme Song: Faun - Pearl
elmo halgrim 

Elmo has had a long night and a longer day, trying to help Vitale who wakes screaming from nightmares. It has not done wonders for his mood. So he's made some decisions, and some preperations. He gets off the subway at the Village, holding some little device built around a compass. There's wires and solder, wrapped in duct tape and welded to an old paint spatula so Elmo can hold it. Taped to the N of the compass is the sliced-off very tip of a black feather. As he moves, the needle keeps pointing at that feather. No longer North, but something else he's told it to track.

In the heart of the village is Washington Square Park, and as soon as its arches are in sight there can be no doubt that's where the compass is leading Elmo. Almost no one is around; two people talk under their breath on the sidewalk, giving him furtive glances as he goes, a homeless man pushes his shopping cart through the central path that leads by the fountain. There's no other movement.

The beast crouches under the wide sweep of a majestic, untamed smokebush that's claimed the open space between a maple and a linden. The bush's riot of color and form this time of year makes for ideal cover, especially after dark, and were it not for those bright yellow eyes it would be almost impossible to spot the beast until it was much too late. But Elmo, unlike most people, has come to seek it on purpose, and so the faint glow among the branches is easily a tell-tale sign. Anyone else might think it an errantly discarded flashlight.

Elmo shoots back a narrow-eyed, evil glance at the people who eye him. It's a 'don't fuck with me' look, aggressive enough to deter anybody but the most determined harrasser. He hands out these looks all day long on the street. Short, thin, colorful, long-haired—he makes an obvious target for anyone wanting to pick on someone weaker and weirder than they are. Yet just let anybody suggest he change his style and cut his hair. There would be trouble.

He prowls along after his compass, inquisitive and alert as a weasel. He knows what he's looking for, so when he sees that faint yellow glow, with the N of his compass pointing straight at it, he slows down. Doesn't come too near the huge flowering bush. The bush gets a narrow look, too. "It's you," he says, voice pitched low. "Ain't it."

The beast swings its head towards him, evident by the way the yeollow brightens under the branches, and it blows out a sharp breath. The homeless man has exited the park, and the other two scurried away at Elmo's lookstrange man wandering around in the dark with a weird device? no thanksleaving them alone. So it steps partway out of the bush, bringing its head into clear view, and gives a soft snarl. It can smell the trouble on Elmo, smell its own feather on that device, and it's immediately on guard.

Elmo's lip curls even as his entire slight frame goes tense and quivering like a high-tension wire. His scent turns acrid with fear, but he's holding his ground. "I got somethin' for ya." He's carrying a knapsack over one shoulder with weird shapes poking out of it. This he unslings, pulls out something wrapped in cotton batting. Unwrapping it, he reveals it to be a wide band of leather stitched all over with bright bells; some piece of holiday horse tack, meant to make those bells on Bob-tail come to life. He holds it up. His trembling hand causes the bells to all stir and whisper. Then he gives it a good shake. Jingle jingle. So shiny. So musical. "B-But you gotta give me somethin' first." He's come to deal with the devil.

The beast's nose works as it scents the air, scanning for witnesses to this transaction. Smelling none, it comes forward, half out of the bush. It's eyes track the bells, and both ears swing forward to listen to them. It huffs a breath, and studies Elmo, waiting for its end of the bargain. The wine red stone pendant neck gleams in the street lights, dark red and metallic by turns.

Elmo is grinning, both in terror and glee because the thing is listening to him. He's, so far, getting away with this madness. "That guy who healed ya. When you got caught in the bear trap. He's real sick from it. Nightmares. Somethin'…something he took from you made him sick. You gotta stop it. Whatever it is. You gotta leave him alone." Standing there short and fierce, he faces down the living nightmare with a strap of bells and his knees trembling. He stares the monster in the eyes. "He can't get better with you hauntin' him. Make it stop!"

For a long time the beast simply stares at Elmo, eyes unblinking. It grunts, breaking the spell of its focus on him. "Not. My doing," it says in a harsh and low voice formed from its growling and snarling forced into English. "Always take, and give. That is power. He gave. And took. What he took. May be more. Than he can hold." It lets out a long breath like a sigh and gestures, hard and forceful, to one side, flashing its claws. "Even if it could. Be taken back. I cannot." Its lip curls back, showing its teeth, another expression of its irritation with this topic. "Bound against. The words."

Elmo startles when the beast speaks. All the bells cry out. Whatever he expected, English, no matter how harsh, wasn't it. He swallows hard, staring at those bared teeth. Yet, he believes the creature when it says it can't undo what's been done. He can't even begin to grasp why. Maybe because it has no reason to lie to some squeaky little mortal like him. Maybe because Elmo is like a sorceror from its time, commanding unseen powers. Maybe any damn thing, but he believes it; his inner bullshit detector lies calm. A thousand questions spring to mind, although his sense of how far he can push his luck deep-sixes them. Who bound you? What are you? Why are you here? How can we get rid of your furry ass?… No, he doesn't say any of that. Instead, he licks his dry lips and asks something different. "You got another frequency…another shape?" It's dancing on the edge of how much he thinks he can get away with.

The beast chuffs and shakes itself. "Host." That's not a word it likes to say or an idea it cares to contemplate if the visible tension in its body is any indication. "Contains us. We must fight. To be free." It snarls and ducks its head, clawing at the ground. "Cannot. Survive without it." It digs its talons in, growls in frustration. "Trapped. Until one. Gives way." It starts to growl in a low, consistent manner. The 'Host' is a sore subject.

Host. A word from a hundred science fiction movies and novels. Real science too. Some poor son of a bitch has this thing living in them like a cordyceps fungus. It's not happy either, from the way it starts tearing up the ground. Elmo backs up fast. "T-t-tell me one more thing. If you get hurt like that again. Can you heal?" He's asking because he wants to know if he can tell Vitale he doesn't need to fling himself on the wounded creature, but regrettably, he doesn't realize that it sounds way more like sounding out how he can kill it.

The movements sets the bells to jangling, and the creature's ears flatten and the feathers of its mantle stand up, making it look much more enormous than it actually is. Only when Elmo stops moving does the beast relax. Eyes narrowed, it says, "As all. Things. Heal." It seems to consider what it's said, and adds, "The change may. Lessen some wounds. I cannot. Know." It snorts, smooths the dirt it pulled up. "What he can see. Will fade. When what he took. Fades."

Elmo gets his thumb hooked through the strap of his knapsack, ready to fling it between him and the monster. He's sweating and shaking with adrenaline. But it doesn't come after him, despite the awful sudden size increase and it pinning its ears like an angry cat. He eases his hand off the strap as if it's a gun and he's proving he won't shoot—for the moment. "Okay." Then he tosses the strap of bells to the ground in front of the monster. "Behave yerself. There's big shot wizards around here. You don't want 'em messing with you." A bit of advice, from one convict to another. Then, because he can't stop himself, he blurts, "What's your name?"

As soon as the bells are in range the beast grabs for them, taking the band up and wrapping it around its wrist. It toys with one for a moment, making it ring brightly. "Willworkers." If disgust is something that rough, throaty voice can express than surely that's what Elmo has just heard. Still, it seems to take the warning seriously. He asks for its name, and annoyance returns, making it stand taller. "Names are power." This has all the hallmarks of a warning that Elmo is toeing the line, yet having said that, it looks him up and down, considers the bells. A trade is, after all, a trade. "This shape. You may call. Fjorskar."

Elmo gives a fair trade for that, too. "I'm Sparkplug," he says, giving the monster a name that's both an obfuscation of his identity and a reveal of his true power. A real mystic's name. Except it's a mutant codename, based on technology rather than magic, but aren't they almost the same? Isn't Elmo a wizard of this cold metal age? "Good doin' business with ya, Fjorskar." He pronounces it very carefully, leaning on a hard R instead of slurring it into an 'h'. And he backs off, slowly walking away without turning his back to the beast.

The beast blinks as Elmo gives his name. It makes no attempt to say it, suggesting that its grasp of English is tenuous at best. It watches Elmo go, eyes not once leaving his retreating form; once he's a dozen or so feet away it retreats into the bush, bells ringing softly with its steps. They give another shiver, fall silent. Perhaps it intends to remain here for the night, or until later, when it may opt to move to somewhere else.

Elmo juuuust keeps walking, steady pace, eyes on the giant frothy smokebush. When he finally hits concrete he sags on a bench, gasping, starting to really shake. He gets out a cigarette, lights it although he can barely hold his lighter still, and covers his eyes. That was. Quite a rush. It's several minutes and another cigarette before he can drag himself to his feet and schlep towards the subway.

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