Price In Triplicate, Chapter 35- Domenic

I stopped my truck in the shady corner of a fallow crop field; hopefully it wouldn’t draw much attention. I certainly never expected that I’d be committing what could be considered a violation of international law in less than two months.

I looked over at Chloe. She was rubbing her hands over her damaged leg, leaving creases in armor I made for her. I wasn’t feeling too great, myself. “Don’t suppose you have any more of those pills?”

“A couple, but we’ll need to make them last.” She struggled to maintain her composure. Am I going to be like that when I start coming down? “And they have diminishing returns.”

God damn it. “You’re in worse shape, go ahead and take one, and the last if you have to. I’ll go without until we get to a healer.” I knew she wouldn’t go for me doing something just to help her, without a pragmatic excuse. In that way at least, she was the exact opposite of my sister. “I can use my metal as a cast if I have to, but we need you mobile to fly us around.”

“I guess you’re right.” Her voice carried some blend of relief and regret, but it was enough that she put one of the remaining pills in her mouth. Her body language changed immediately.

“Let’s get in and out as fast as possible.” I gingerly made my way out of the truck; now that the drug was wearing off I could tell how bady I was damaged. The fact that I wasn’t in a hospital right now proved I was a damn moron. It was through willpower alone that I kept from screaming.

Chloe was waiting for me by the time I closed my truck door. “You’re sure you’re okay?”

I took a breath, solidifying my metal around specific points. “I’m ready when you are.”

Chloe took her position with my handlebars, and we were falling the wrong direction yet again. I distracted myself from my fear of heights with my fear of the Greenwitch, and what approaching her meant for us. The story I knew started a few years before the Civil War and ended with her owning a piece of land that was, technically, no longer a part of the United States.

‘Granny’ Greenwitch’s exact origins are unknown, but speculation by historians assumed her to be a slave who gained powers. She imagined herself a Voodoo priestess, and claimed a chunk of swamp near the Virginia border, where she set up a farm and took in criminals and runaway slaves. She was a ‘safe spot’ for refugees, where law enforcement would not follow, but those who crossed her were sacrificed to her dark gods. Then, like now, the Greenwitch was a refuge for the desperate.

It was during the Civil War that she became too troublesome to ignore. She allowed the Union to run a supply route through her land, so the Confederates tried to shut her down. Five hundred soldiers went in, and to this day no one knows what happened to them. Not long after, most of Virgina and North Carolina’s crops were struck with a blight that didn’t end until after the war.

To make a long, weird story short, when the Appomattox treaty was signed, neither Union nor Confederacy had legal claim of Granny Greenwitch’s property. Promises were made where she ended the blight and her land was recognized as hers and hers alone until her death. They just miscalculated the already elderly woman’s expectant lifespan by a century or two.

Future generations covered the ‘mistake’ by declaring her chunk of not-America a protected wetland, and pretended the Greenwitch had nothing to do with it. A nice fiction, but one that didn’t quite hold up with the fences, warning signs, and rumor of armed guards. Still, every so often some fool would be desperate and stupid enough to rush in where the United States feared to tread, and today the fool was us. If the guard rumor was true, they were kind enough to not shoot us out of the sky.

It didn’t take long for us to spot a patch of unusual swamp. Glowing plants formed some kind of sigil that looked vaguely like one some sort of tribal patterns blended with a crop circle. I assumed it had some meaning, but much like Stormbringer’s arcane weirdness, it held little value to me. Chloe drifted down, landing us near the edge of the circle.

“So… what do we do now?” Chloe set down next to me, standing on her good leg.

I clenched my jaw, waiting for the pain of the landing to subside. Not only was I injured and coming down from that drug, but my muscles had begun to tighten up. I took a couple slow breaths, turning my head to buy time before speaking. “Not sure. Legend has it the Greenwitch always knows if anyone’s in her domain, so I think it’s up to her to decide-”

“You shouldn’t believe everything you hear, thrice-blessed.” I turned as fast as I could, which was quite slow, to the raspy voice behind us. “But this one just so happens to be true.” She was done speaking by the time I got a look at her. ‘Greenwitch’, it seemed, was literal.

I couldn’t identify her race, as aside from the drab brown hides she wore, every part of her was green. Her skin was a green as dark as my own brown; her ratty, matted hair a faded lime, and like my silver eyes, hers were a single solid emerald color.

“Granny Greenwitch?” I hesitated for something, anything, more to say. “We need your help.” Damn I’m lame.

“Here to ask about your Third?” She laughed, or at least I think it was a laugh. It may have been a cough instead. “Yes, I can answer all your questions and more, but there must be a price paid. It is the way of the world, the Law of the Loa.”

“Loa?” Chloe asked. “What are Loa? And what’s the price?”

“The Thrice-Blessed is the one who seeks the Greenwitch. It is he who brought you here, and he whose questions matter, as he already knows. The Greenwitch will form a covenant with him, not you.”

Both women looked at me. I decided to answer Chloe first. “Loa are, well, the Voodoo version of angels, or something like that, I’m not an expert.” I took another slow, painful breath. “But in this case, what she’s really talking about is the source of our powers.”

Chloe’s head turned back to the woman. “Oh. I think I get it.”

The elderly woman did her cough-chuckle again. “You think so, Dawn-Child? You think Granny’s lost her marbles, eh?” Green light so dark as to almost be black radiated from her eyes.

We are so fucked. I started shaping my metal. Chloe floated in front of me. It galled me to be the one who needed protecting, but she was in better shape than I was, and she was more powerful to begin with. I could give her a weapon, maybe a shield, and rely on my armor to keep me safe.

“You’re right,” the woman’s voice was both proud and sad. “Granny is an old, old woman. Too old. The Loa can keep the body alive until the world itself dies, but the mind was not meant to last forever. Every turn of the seasons, a bit less of Granny until nothing remains but the Greenwitch.”

“Sorry.” Chloe sounded as horrified as I felt. “I didn’t realize. How long do you have… until?” Chloe left the question there.

“Oh, the year before you were born, I’d say.” Granny’s grin was wide and toothless. “Remind me, Thrice-Blessed, what were we talking about?”

Right, that. I’d been dreading this part, where I ask the Greenwitch for her favor, and she lays down her demand. Legend had it that those who displeased her, or refused to pay her tithe, would envy the dead.

“We need help. There’s a pair of psychotic Imbued, and they’re killing a lot of people. We’re not strong enough.” I stopped to breath; I’d pushed myself too far again. This is pathetic, I can barely breathe, let alone do anything.

“But that is not what you want to ask.” Granny Greenwitch hobbled toward us. “Is it, Thrice-Blessed?”

No, it’s not. I want to know what Chloe’s keeping from me. I want to know what happened when Hunter made contact, and why our powers changed. I want to know if what I felt was real. “It isn’t what I want.” Lying to Imbued was stupid. Lying to the kind of Imbued that other Imbued spoke of in hushed whispers was insane. “But what I want doesn’t matter compared to what the city needs.”

Granny Greenwitch nodded along. “Good answer, Thrice-Blessed. When the time comes, you shall make a fine king.”

What. I mean, it’s a better reaction than I was expecting, but still. What.

Chloe asked the question for me. “What do you mean king? We don’t do kings anymore. And what’s with calling Damascus Thrice-Blessed? You don’t make sense.”

Granny’s hand came up, one bony finger pointed in the air. “Take care, Dawn-Child.” Granny’s voice carried a threatening undertone. “Your Loa does not approve of the secrets you keep. Be glad it is not you who comes bearing gifts for Granny’s wisdom.”

I better take control of this before Chloe manages to piss off the Greenwitch and kills us all. “Right, my questions. The ones I need answered, not necessarily the ones I want answered. I suppose the first thing I must know is what it will cost me.” What weird ritual will she demand? My blood? A year of servitude? Some arbitrary amount of my life force? The stories about Imbued such as her were often self-contradictory.

“A price to be named after you agree, as all Loa demand when granting their gifts to their chosen.”

That’s probably the worst thing she could ask for. It could be any thing, at any time, and I’d anger a being far more powerful than myself if I refused.

“I won’t hurt anyone.” If she wanted me, then I’d deal with it. “I won’t kill anybody in cold blood, and I won’t commit a crime I feel is immoral. And whatever you make me do, I won’t drag anyone else in. It stays between us. Those are my conditions.” No one else would pay for my decision.

Granny started sketching something into the dirt on the ground. Another strange geometric pattern, different from the one before. “Granny promises, Thrice-Blessed, that when the time comes to perform your task you will do so of your own will.” Light started to radiate from the drawing in the dirt. Predictably, it was deep green in color. “And more, when the time comes you will be given an opportunity to recant without penalty.”

That is suspiciously generous. “None at all? You swear on these Loa you think so highly of?”

Granny chuckled and shook her head. “Child, the Loa do not care for our oaths. They lay down their Law and it will be obeyed heedless of us creatures chained to flesh and history. Granny gives her promise that there will be no penalty, save that your refusal means the Greenwitch shall no longer aid you.”

“That implies that if I agree, you’ll help whenever I need it?”

She stepped back from the drawing, her face all the more frightening when bottom-lit by the green glow. “All you’ll need do is ask, Thrice-Blessed.” She gestured to the sigil; we both knew I’d made my decision. “To complete the covenant, I require a single drop of your blood.”

I lifted my arm- she’d drawn it just close enough that I could get my hand above it without walking. Compared to every other pain I was feeling, the tiny cut I made to my finger barely registered. A drop of blood hit the ring, and dirty red flame burst out. No heat or sound came from the fire, only a blue-gray smoke. What was left behind was mere dark gray ash.

“The covenant is complete.” Granny’s voice took on an otherworldly tone, like the wind spoke for her. “Ask your questions, Thrice-Blessed.”

“Uh, can we start with what that Thrice-Blessed means?” Chloe asked.

“Yeah, I kinda want to know that answer, myself. It’s not going to cost extra, is it?”

“The covenant with the Greenwitch was a promise to aid you in any way you needed.” Granny stepped forward and began scooping up the ash in her bare hands. I briefly considered crafting her a trowel, but for some reason didn’t. “Your question answer is thus: the Loa came to you thrice, and you rejected them all but the last.”

“You can tell-” I shouted, and regretted it.

“You did what!?” Chloe, too, shouted.

Right, I never told her about that. “Yeah. You remember it, when you had a chance to get powers? I… I had a chance, but said no.”

“The Loa come in times of great weakness, to those most vulnerable.” Granny didn’t look at us while digging in the ash. “Only those of great wisdom and strength turn them down, and fewer still do it twice. It is they who are blessed by the Loa, granted the greatest gifts. Legend has it that Solomon was approached no less than five times before his blessing. But even Greenwitch is too young to know the truth of the story.”

Chloe just stared at me. I shifted a bit, feeling quite awkward. “I only said no once, though. The second time, I didn’t have a choice.”

“Memories are funny things.” Granny had apparently collected what she desired. “Our minds so prone to distraction and forgetfulness. Granny forgets many, many things. So too does a child grieving his dead mother.”

Chloe gasped, her hands going straight over her mouth. “Oh god. I didn’t. Your mom died six years ago?”

“Five and eight months.” I felt myself shaking for reasons not related to fatigue and injury. “Chloe?”

“I… I think my mother killed yours.”

NEXT

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22 thoughts on “Price In Triplicate, Chapter 35- Domenic

  1. A/N- I managed to misspell ‘pills’ as ‘piss’. Glad I caught that one.

    Government: It’s just protected wetlands, that’s all.
    Reporter: What about the soldiers with assault weapons?
    Government: We take protecting the environment seriously.

    And most importantly: I can NOT believe I managed to keep that reveal off the radar for this long! I dropped so hints in so many places, but went out of my way to drop most of the important ones in very event-heavy sections just to disguise it better. Toward the last few chapters, I was terrified that someone would connect the final dots.

    http://topwebfiction.com/vote.php?for=price

    Usual vote request and typo thread note. I’m back up in the ranks, almost to where we can see my pretty new banner art. Assuming you don’t have popup blocker.

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  2. …Well now the green witch was more or less what I was expecting(I say more or less because I was not expecting a Vodoo themed one)and she was great and is a fourth stage, okay then, and her power seems downright terrifying just as I expected from a Mystic type, especially one that ancient. And boy given there were Veve around in her swamp and all I pity those missing Confedrates…And damn she is strong enough that the even the Republicans have not tried to take her Swamp from her.

    I like the things granny rvealed about the power, most notably that those unaging Imbued lose their mind over time if not their body, by the way it must suck for the Witch to be stuck as an eternal senior citizen(yes I put a bit of Political correctness here, filling my quota for the year and all). But the best was her explanation about how people refusing Imbuement the first time are apparently favored by the power if they take it later…This has some interesting implications.

    The way the Witch saw that Chloe was hiding information from Domenic and how she says her power disapproves was quite interesting too and quite frankly this makes me think Chloe’s better come clean son about the Pairbond. And since she knows about that I am sure Chloe picked up on Granny calling Cecelia their third.

    The revelation about Domenic’s mother makes sanse and means that his mother was an Imbued, one considered as a “villain” that Starfall killed and it is true there were hints about it, I actually thought about but abandonned the Idea because the motive I had for the killing(IE Bea being the result of Quash Cuckolding Amanda with Domenic’s mother)seemed too cliché(fun as speculation fuel though)of course Starfall having been who she was Dom’s mother being Black is reason enough I guess. So was that the twist forshadowed since chapter one ? I ask because the first chapter was a Cora one with Slayer…Now if the twins’ mother happens to be Domenic’s okay, otherwise I don’t see it.

    Other interesting point, granny cals Domenic thriceblessed but is it only because of his previous refusal or because of the Triplicate too ? If the latter then HE is the core part of it, the one having interactions with the other two and the piece needed to connect them. Now I wonder what price he can chose to pay or not, methinks it’s wether or not he chooses to save Cecelia’s life. Once again the girl might not be dead by the time of DoaH despite the fact that Kitten might be convinced she is.

    dang can’t wait for the next installement, which I guess will be another Domenic chapter(although seeing the Greenwitch and verything said through Chloe’s PoV might prove interesting too).

    Liked by 1 person

  3. To be fair to the Republicans… It’s a swamp, not an oil field.

    People like Domenic who reject an Imbuement are vanishingly rare. Rarer still the ones who get a second (or third) chance.

    The motives are a little more complex for the killing. Starfall and Quash *are* aware of the Mark of Cain. Plus Starfall is a superhero… More about that will be covered next chapter.

    Twist foreshadowed since chapter Two, I suppose. Domenic’s first.

    But establishing that Mark of Cain powers didn’t need to be immediate was important as well (Last book, Alex proved it could be days after… this book, Cora and Cecelia proved it could be seconds before). I needed to make that clear, so this chapter didn’t just blindside the readers. “It can happen right away, it can happen after a bit of time, it can happen before even… so why not several years later?”

    So, yeah, even the first chapter clears part of the way. Not as much as the second chapter, granted, but still important.

    Other stuff… you’ll just have to wait. :p

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  4. Ah people getting multiple chances are rare, my that is interesting I wonder how this might work, yet another layer to the system. Pretty sure that this is something Sympathy cannot see, eh if the Witch and Sympathy met I wonder how that would go.

    Well I am curious to see the reason that lead to Starfall killing Dom’s mother and thus risking a Mark of Cain. Speaking of Marks, Amanda’s still in the air for now…

    Ah I see what you mean with that, the first chapter was to show that the Mark can happen pretty much at any moment and that the power doesn’t give a flying fuck about time. Ah and that reminds of the troll with discussed last time: the one who said that Domenic refusing Imbuement was stupid and that it made you a shitty writer…This chapter proves him even more stupid(did not think it was possible but apparently it was).

    Oh and the Duo still didn’t get any healing, that’s going to become a real issue if they don’t get some soon. Of course Granny might help on that front if she feels so inclined, though I wonder if she would do so for Chloe…Then again she has her role to play even if Granny does not like her much.

    By the By speaking of healing and thus gifters, are there many gifters who get bonuses of some sort when they gift people just like Ferne used to?

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    1. Domenic is kind of giving me some Harry Dresden vibes in this story. Stronger than people assume, protective to a fault, and constantly getting the shit kicked out of him.

      None of which is a bad thing, since I really enjoyed all of the Dresden Files books.

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      1. I keep getting compared to things I’ve never read.

        Either way, Domenic did get a pretty good ability… but the only one who really underestimates him is himself. He stood up to Quash, complete with deadly threats, is a giant steel-spike-death-wall that a shapeshifting Esper had to Surge to get through, and Chloe constantly admires his versatility.

        On the other hand, he is definitely protective to a fault and on the ass end of an ass-kicking fairly often.

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        1. Dresden Files is a pretty good series, as far as the whole urban fantasy genre goes. Starts off kind of generic, but really hits its stride by book three or four. I’d recommend it if you have any interest in that kind of story.

          Your description of Domenic is kind of what I was thinking when I made that comparison. Other people in the Dresden stories always talk about how when the main character goes all “serious wizard mode” he gets downright terrifying. Plus he has no problem looking at things way above his weight class, and still talking to them like he just doesn’t care.

          I actually had the same thoughts about Zach for just that reason. Dresden is more of a wise-ass, and doesn’t mind telling authority figures to shove it if he doesn’t agree with what they are doing.

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          1. Maybe when I take a vacation from writing. I write a lot, if you hadn’t noticed. Eats up most of my free time.

            And… well… Zach *IS* the ass end of the ass kicking. Really, he’s just an ass in general.

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  5. Sympathy: I just shit myself.
    Sapphire: “Sym? Is something wrong?”
    Sympathy: “I am wearing white. And I just shit myself from fear. YES SOMETHING’S WRONG!”

    On a more serious note. Gifters who gain bonuses off the recipient? Pretty rare. You need a very specific blend of a need to control people *and* a need to have others protect you… and not just get some breed of mind control.

    Gifters that self-target like Loup-Garou are also pretty rare (a need to be protected coupled with a desire to be on the front line- which isn’t common), but significantly more likely.

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    1. Well shit just happens I guess…Then again a white sundress may not be the best of costumes, I know Sympathy is nota combat oriented imbued(though it is my belief than she can be a potent one if she wants/needs to)but still.

      Speaking of costume, this makes me think of something I did not pick up last chapter: the explosion resulting of the power interaction utterly destroyed Chloe’s costume, which was made in what is supposed to be indestructible fabric, so that shows that the power interaction was very potent. granted the explosion itself might be a clue on that, but to destroy her costume so thouroughly shows the kind of power that was concentrated around Chloe at that moment which is way more impressive, n fact I would thatthe explsion is nothing more than a side effect, hell I am sure it only happened because the people involved didn’t know what they were doing.

      Oh, that rare damn that means Ferne, despite also being a vampire type, was rather rare then…I guess every single one of those must be Guru types. Damn one of these with a sizeable cult can be quite the headache especially if he has Imbued in said cult.

      That also makes me sure that we haven’t seen the full extent of what Ferne could do before she got killed(up to when she got murked I saw her as antagonist material for after Kitten got dealt with, hell when Zach thought about a weaker version of Nano’s power being a possible solution to the issue with his mother I was pretty certain Ferne could have done that)

      I guess laws about religions and sects and all must be rather different in Priceverse due to stuff like that.

      Okay then, so selfgifters are retty much soldiers then because what you describe is a mindset that you can find among military units or mercenary groups and even SWAT teams and other law enforcement.

      Which fits given Loup garou’s background as a veteran from the canadian army, and then there is Guardian whose power protects him but can also do the same for others of course he might not really fit as a self gifter.

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        1. Actually I mentioned guardian as he also was a military man and got a power allowing him to protect others as well as himself thus, I think, showing the same kind of mindset that was mentioned for Selfgifters.

          As for him not being a Gifter, while this is technically true as he does not bestow powers to others doesn’t he still get the rating by being able to do his thing to protect others with his warps ? I mean people broadcasting their thoughts and healers(granted some healers do that by giving some kind of power to someonestill that’s not the case for all f them…I think at least) get it.

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          1. Ah. No, Guardian’s mentality is more that he wants to protect others (moreso the need to hurt those that hurt others), so he got that approach.

            His power’s not classed as gifting. It’s classed in the same way as any forcefield creator. He specifically senses attacks against those he’s protecting. Then uses his power to intercept the field. Then shoots the dumbass who made the attack because his power works that way.

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            1. Okay, thanks for the clarification, so the guy is a Turtle whose main aspect is Summoner whose effect is that of a Tank by having his Warps protecting himself and people. Power that must have appeared flawless up until Kitten found and used it’s weakness(well unless others have before).

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            2. Not flawless- he has some problems with blanket AoE attacks. He’d lose to Quash or Crucible- assuming he didn’t just shoot them in the face before they could do their thing (but he’d totally shoot them in the face first- as far as strategies go, it’s been fairly reliable in the past).

              But Kitten’s the first who went “haha, nope”.

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