Story Arc One
Darius—a fallen angel
Sho—mercenary and heir to Dark Lordship
Xen—a dark wizard and undisputed badass
Aine—a thief and acrobat
Simon—the God of Accidental Nudity
Zebulon Tan—a runic sorcerer and university professor
Sora Vale—Zebulon’s assistant and apprentice
Darius and Ptolemy are sitting at an upscale outdoor café on a busy street in the city. They are not exactly uncomfortable, but there seems to be a general feeling of distaste between them. This is not necessarily how they feel; it is more likely they feel as if this is how they are supposed to feel in each other’s company, as they are supposed to be mortal enemies. They are slightly uneasy, as it is possible someone will see them speaking to each other, which could lead to severe consequences, not that anyone really pays either of them any attention most of the time.
An angel swoops down from the heavens and plucks a man right off the street. Darius and Ptolemy watch, Ptolemy with indifference and Darius with a frown.
Darius: That is the third one this week. What is your side playing at? I liked that guy.
Ptolemy: Just think of it as a job well done. Have you been listening to a word I’ve been saying?
Darius: Yeah. Yes. Sure. World thrown out of balance and all that, the usual.
Ptolemy: No, not the usual! We are facing the potential unmaking of the world as we know it.
Darius: rolls eyes. Your kind is always so dramatic. Honestly, you’d think we don’t have people to take care of things like this.
Ptolemy: We do. And this time it’s us.
Darius: Distracted. Beg pardon?
Ptolemy: Darius, for once, pay attention. That absolute fool Zebulon Tan has discovered a way to re-open the gateway to Hao.
Darius: Tan? Never heard of him.
Ptolemy: That’s because he’s been one of ours!
Darius: What’s he doing opening gates to Hao, then?
Ptolemy: He’s misguided. He thinks the Haosul Cel can help him.
Darius: Well, who’s guiding him? Not my side, I can tell you that.
Ptolemy: Not all catastrophes are brought on by your side. Sometimes perfectly good people with perfectly good intentions are more dangerous than any of yours. There’s nothing more terrifying than a well-intentioned human utterly convinced he’s right.
Darius: No argument there, but what has any of this got to do with me? Aren’t the Haosul Cel exactly the sort my kind wants coming through?
Ptolemy: No! There is a reason they don’t let that sort into our world. They are creatures of pure chaos. If they’re allowed to run amok they will turn this world into a wasteland. It will be the end of everything. Of us, of you, of all the rest of it. No more street cafes or garden parties or fancy dress or fine wine. Darius looks appalled. No more mucking about on terra firma pretending to be a normal human. No more physical bodies. If we did survive, which we probably would not, we would be nothing more than shapeless bits of ether and dreams and disassociated thoughts.
Darius: Looks uneasy but generally unaffected. This sort of thing just doesn’t happen, Ptolemy. There are safeguards against it. The higher-ups just won’t allow it.
Ptolemy: Don’t be a fool. This sort of thing is happening all the time. The world is constantly on the verge of utter devastation.
Darius: Well, I’ve never heard about it.
Ptolemy: That’s because we always stop it before it gets to that!
Darius: I didn’t think that was your job; doesn’t your side usually just deal with the aftermath?
Ptolemy: Usually. Occasionally our higher-ups feel its necessary to involve ourselves before a seemingly innocuous event destroys the entire world.
Darius: Well, do it then.
Ptolemy: Seems to be grinding his teeth. Obviously, if I could, I would. My side can’t do anything about it.
Darius: Why not?
Ptolemy: Because Tan hasn’t done anything wrong! You know the rules; his intentions are pure. It’s outside our jurisdiction.
Darius: Still unconvinced and trying to get out of the helping. Didn’t they close the gate to Hao centuries ago? I didn’t think anyone could open a gate. I thought the seal was unbreakable.
Ptolemy: It was supposed to be, but you know what it’s like. All those gods of ambiguity and narrow escapes; nothing ever stays trapped forever.
Darius: Scoffs. But how did he find out about them? I mean, it isn’t as if anyone is going about advertising the Haosul Cel are a peaceful, fun-loving bunch and let them out for a nice time. The higher-ups took measures to conceal them from the humans! Not to mention, isn’t opening a gate to Hao extremely difficult?
Ptolemy: Sure, of course it is. But it’s not impossible. You just need the combination.
Darius: But how did the human find it? It’s not exactly written in any manuscripts or—Waves a napkin in Ptolemy’s face—on a cocktail napkin.
Ptolemy: Looks extremely uncomfortable. Actually, it is.
Ptolemy: Well, not a cocktail napkin as such. More of a…scrap bit of paper.
Darius: Gritting his teeth. Well, how did he find it?
Ptolemy looks grim. Hands Darius a business card. Frame of the card, and we see it reads:
He Who Finds Things Long Forgotten
6 Silverbranch Square
Darius: With a dry expression. He forgot to mention the bit about “best left lost.”
Ptolemy: Yes, that little omission hadn’t escaped my notice, but I suspect it would be slightly bad for business. Are you going to do something about this or not?
Darius: Looks uncomfortable. But my side probably commissioned it. It sounds like exactly the sort of thing they’d want to happen.
Ptolemy: But you don’t. Think of all the things you’ll miss.
Darius: looks unhappy. You don’t know the sorts of things my kind does to traitors.
Ptolemy: Probably very similar things to what mine does.
Darius: It’s this damnable duty. I mean, we exist to do a specific job. You go a little off the beaten path, maybe do a kind deed or help an old lady across the street and you’re sent off to burn in the fiery pits of hell for the rest of eternity. It’s so arbitrary. There’s no middle ground. You’re either crusading for the triumph of evil over good or you’re being introduced to hitherto undiscovered heights of misery and torment that just go on and on and so much for second chances, I tell you—
Ptolemy: Can we focus, please?
Darius: I am focusing! I’m focusing on exactly how bad of an idea getting involved in this is.
Ptolemy: Can you, for once, think of something other than yourself?
Darius: It is intrinsically contrary to my nature to do so.
Ptolemy: All right, then, are you prepared to give all of this up? Even if we do manage to survive somehow, there are no cappuccinos in the ethereal planes, no theatres, no upscale nightclubs, no silk suits, no sensual massages.
Darius: Sighs. Yes, all right. I’ll see what I can do. No promises.
Ptolemy: No women…
Darius: All right, all right. I know someone, but if my side hears about this, I’m finished.
Ptolemy: I can take care of your side; stop worrying. I can give you some time where no one is watching. Use it wisely.
Darius: Sighs again. Right. Well. If that’s it, then. He snaps his fingers and, with a small pop, disappears.
Imogen, dressed in a long, flowing gown and a heavy, black cloak, is in a graveyard. We see her stand before a grave that reads:
Taken too soon, My Beloved
In Death may we be united again
A cruel, amused smile crosses Imogen’s beautiful face. She raises her arms and speaks an incantation in a foreign, ancient language. She lowers her hands and waits. The grave rumbles slightly, for several moments, and she stands motionless. The earth is broken by a small, pale hand, and a young, pretty woman rises slowly from the grave. She is recently dead, we can see, and only slightly decayed. Her eyes are hollow, and she seems to have no spirit at all. She is merely a re-animated corpse. She still wears the pretty, white dress in which she was buried, but it is now dirt-stained, and she stands perfectly still, like a puppet without strings, waiting to be animated. Imogen looks pleased, and she raises her hands again, calling out another incantation to the heavens. We see a spirit, similar in appearance to the dead girl before us, yet younger and more alive, transparent and ethereal and extremely sad. Imogen waits, and she watches as the spirit is forced back into the dead girl’s body. The dead girl’s eyes are suddenly alive, the body snapping to attention as if awakened from sleep. Her eyes are like that of a small, trapped animal, and that is almost exactly what she is. She cannot move, though she seems as if she wants nothing more than to run. Imogen smiles.
Imogen: Now. In death shall you be reunited. And much sooner than he anticipated, I expect.
A young, lanky, awkward-looking man in a black and white striped blazer and baggy, bright yellow pants stands outside the entrance to a seedy-looking bar. The old, wooden sign reads The Dirty Damastes in faded letters. It looks nothing like the sort of place you would expect to find any sort of gods, except maybe those who like to hang around criminals and other dodgy characters. The young man looks extremely dubious, and he does not approach any closer.
A woman approaches the Dirty Damastes. She is tall and very beautiful, perhaps ten years older in appearance than the young man. She pauses beside him, her long cloak billowing behind her.
Unrequited Love: First time?
The young man is startled, and he turns a surprised face towards the woman. He knows her for what she is instantly, though he is unable, at first, to recognise her power.
Poorly Executed Magic Tricks: Oh, uh, yes, actually. It is.
Unrequited Love: She smiles a small, patronising smile. It’s always a little overwhelming the first time. Why don’t you join me?
Tricks: Blushes scarlet and shuffles his feet awkwardly. Thanks. He digs in his pockets, pulling out a deck of brightly coloured playing cards, riffling them nervously. Would you like to see a card trick?
Unrequited Love: No.
She pushes open the door to the Dirty Damastes and enters, Tricks on her heels. As she walks inside, the eyes of every man in the room turn to her. She ignores them, walking towards a table in the back with her head held high. The men in the bar clutch at their chests, as if their hearts are causing them pain. She does not seem to notice this. Tricks looks around nervously, shrinking back as the same eyes turn to him with hatred and jealousy.
Unrequited Love pauses at a table, at which two men and one woman are sitting, nursing drinks. They all look at Tricks with raised eyebrows.
Minor Inconveniences: Who’s your friend, Love?
Tricks: Glancing at Unrequited. Love?
Unrequited Love: Tosses her head. Of the Unrequited variety.
Severe Errors in Judgment: Leaning forward eagerly. She seems to be glowing with energy. It is more likely she is glowing from the effects of over-consumption of alcohol. Are you new?
Animal Attacks: What are you called?
Tricks: Oh, uh, I—well, I’m not called anything. Not yet. I am new, you see. He watches Love slide into the seat next to Minor Inconveniences, a look of disappointment on his face. She is ignoring him utterly. Tricks sits beside Severe Errors in Judgment.
Minor Inconveniences: Well, what do you do? He seems unaffected by Love’s presence beside him.
Tricks: Uh, magic tricks. Well, not very well, actually. You could say I do Poorly Executed Magic Tricks. He blushes again.
Animal Attacks: What, like card tricks and optical illusions and such?
Tricks: Um, yes. I can pull a coin out of your ear. Except I’d probably muck it up somehow and kerchiefs would come out your…erm. Well, I pulled a rabbit out of a hat once.
Love: That sounds nice.
Tricks: It was dead.
Severe Errors: Phil. We’ll call you Phil. You look like a Phil.
Animal Attacks: He doesn’t either. Don’t listen to her. You can’t trust her judgment.
Severe Errors: Well, that’s true. But it’s not my fault. I didn’t choose to be Severe Errors in Judgment.
Love: No, but you would have.
Severe Errors: sighs. Yeah, probably so.
Tricks has opened his mouth to speak, but two men are approaching the table. One is short and plump and balding; he is Covetousness. The other is tall and beanpole thin; he is Direct Correlations.
Love: with a resigned look. Oh, no. It’s them.
The men reach the table, both smiling happily, and Love beams hugely at them, though it is obvious it is a fake smile.
Direct Correlations: Hey, guys!
Others: Un-enthusiastic. Hi.
Covetousness: Can we have a seat? I really want a seat.
A small sigh passes through the entire group, but Severe Errors grins widely and gestures at the table.
Severe Errors: Sure, yeah, ‘course you can!
The others glare angrily at her as the two new arrivals sit.
As soon as they do, a series of strange events occurs:
A man is hugging a woman around the waist, dragging on the floor and clinging on as she angrily attempts to shove him off and walk away. He looks to be shouting ‘Please!’
A man at the bar knocks over a drink, spilling it across a pile of papers in front of him.
A drunken man is following hand-in-hand a woman who is quite obviously a man out of the bar. The woman has a uni-brow and visible moustache.
A small, badger-like creature flies at a man’s face. He stumbles backwards.
Attacked man: Aaagh! Animal attack!
From off panel: Where did that come from?
Animal Attacks looks unconvincingly innocent.
A man is standing before a group of pretty women, attempting to perform a card trick. He fumbles, and the cards fly out of his hands in every direction.
The gods seem not to notice this, and they are still talking as if nothing has happened. Tricks, however, is watching with a look of concern.
Direct Correlations: So, you’re new, are you?
Tricks: Turning back to the conversation. Oh. Yes.
Covetousness: What’s your thing? Can I see your cards? I really like your cards.
Love: Don’t give him anything.
Tricks: He is confused, so he looks at Direct Correlations. I do magic tricks.
Covetousness: Can we see one? I want to see one.
Tricks: Uh, maybe later. He blushes again. So, what’s it like being—um—well, being a god?
Minor Inconveniences: You get used to it. He reaches for his drink and it spills all over Tricks’ pants. Tricks jumps up, mopping at the spot spreading across his lap. Oh, sorry about that, my friend. I can’t exactly help it.
Tricks: sighs It’s all right. It’s only a Minor Inconvenience. Are you Clumsiness?
Minor Inconveniences: looking embarrassed. No.
Tricks: Then what?—Oh.
Covetousness: I wish I was Clumsiness. He’s got a great temple. Worshippers day and night. They leave wine offerings all over the floor.
Direct Correlations: Not on purpose.
Animal Attacks: You have a temple. A big one. All ivory pillars and gold trim.
Covetousness: But I want his temple!
Minor Inconveniences: And you have an entire order of nuns to do your bidding.
Covetousness: But they’re not very attractive nuns. Ill-gotten Gains has loads of busty, blonde nuns. I want his nuns.
Tricks is looking around the bar, noticing the patrons.
A man in a black top hat is attempting to pull a bouquet of flowers out of his sleeve and present it to a pretty women at the bar. As he pulls it out, petals fly everywhere and he is left with a bunch of empty stems. The woman rolls her eyes and looks away from him in distaste. Beside her a large, muscular man appears. He is obviously the woman’s boyfriend, as he places an arm around her shoulders, watching the performer with increasing irritation. The magic performer holds up his hand, searching through his pockets. He seems unable to find what he is looking for. He begins pulling kerchiefs from his pocket, although this does not seem to be his intent. He scowls. He drops the kerchiefs to the floor. He looks up to see the boyfriend coming towards him. A look of panic crosses his face. He begins to back away, but the crowd has suddenly thickened, and he is unable to make a hasty escape due to the wall of people blocking his path. To ward off the large, angry-looking boyfriend, he begins tossing his magic trick props at the man: a deck of cards; a rubber chicken; a wand. He whips off his black top hat. From inside hops a rabbit. It flies at the performer’s face with claws and teeth bared. The man screams, flailing as he tries to pry it away from his face. The boyfriend points and laughs.
Tricks returns his attention to the group.
Tricks: Does this sort of thing always happen when we get together?
Love: No. Only when DC’s here. She gestures towards Direct Correlations.
Direct Correlations: Direct Correlations.
Tricks: What, like Cause and Effect?
Direct Correlations: annoyed. No, not like Cause and Effect. There’s a difference. Just because there is a link between two things doesn’t necessarily mean one causes the other, thank you very much, Unrequited Love.
Love: Whatever. It’s all the same to me. It still happens.
Covetousness: Now, Adultery, he has a great temple. He rubs his hands together like a cartoon villain. What I wouldn’t do to get my hands on his temple.
Animal Attacks: turning back to Tricks It’s not bad, being a god. You learn to live with it after a while. You sort of stop noticing what’s happening around you.
Minor Inconveniences: with a frown. You might.
Covetousness: To Animal Attacks Can I have a drink of your wine? I really want to try your wine.
Animal Attacks: You have your own!
Covetousness: But I want yours!
Love: Oh, will you please get Covetousness out of here before I directly correlate my fist to his face?
Direct Correlations: looks highly offended Right. Fine. We’re leaving, then. Sorry for the Minor Inconvenience.
Minor Inconveniences: glaring Oh, very cute. Very witty.
Direct Correlations: We’ll just see what Meekness and Low Self Esteem are doing. They may not be the makes quote motions in the air with his fingers “cool kids” but at least they’re not elitist jerks. He grabs Covetousness by the collar and pulls him to his feet. Covetousness holds his hands out towards the table, making grabbing motions with his fingers.
Covetousness: But I want this table! Direct Correlations drags him off
Love: Disgusted Those two. They always manage to ruin a perfectly nice evening.
Minor Inconveniences: They’re not half as bad as Poorly Timed Evil Monologues, though. That bastard will talk your ear off explaining in excruciating detail all the dastardly ways in which he plans to ruin your night. Never gets around to it, though, does he?
Tricks: It’s who’s handing out these powers, is what I want to know. I mean. God of Poorly Executed Magic Tricks? Honestly, who needs a god for that?
Severe Errors: Even failed magicians need a patron god. It makes them feel as if there’s some divine purpose behind the whole thing.
Animal Attacks: It’s the humans. It’s like they need a patron god to tell them when to change their underpants.
Minor Inconveniences: They have one. The God of Uncomfortably Soiled Underthings. He’s a bastard.
Tricks: I mean, what sort of followers does the God of Poorly Executed Magic Tricks get? It’s an endless procession of amputated assistants and people who levitate on the heels of their feet and forget to tuck their thumb when they pretend to pull it off. It’s all so depressing.
Severe Errors: Don’t start having a go at your followers now. They’re the only thing keeping you from fading into non-existence.
Animal Attacks: For once, Severe Errors in Judgment is right. We’re immortal and all that, sure, but that doesn’t mean we can’t snuff it if the humans forget about us.
Love: The followers aren’t so bad, really. As long as you don’t communicate with them in an official capacity.
Tricks: What do you mean?
Severe Errors in Judgment: Don’t tell them who you are. Trust me. I did that once. It did not go well.
Love: Sure, you might get a flashy temple or an order of nuns, but you’d be nothing better than a cult leader. It’s an embarrassment to us all. If people were meant to be aware of us, they would. We wouldn’t go about living normal lives and keeping a low profile.
Minor Inconveniences: It’s plausible deniability. I mean, if people knew gods were running about all over the place they would expect miracles and solutions all the time. We’d never get any rest.
Animal Attacks: Not to mention if you muck anything up. Humans expect infallibility from their gods.
Love: Yeah, the quandary there is who created us. How can an imperfect race expect its creations to be flawless? It’s just illogical if you ask me.
Severe Errors: They want to be able to relate to us, is the problem. No one wants some supreme ruling god up there knowing everything and playing some convoluted game of cosmic Solitaire without anyone to make sure he isn’t really just pulling one big, complicated joke on everyone. It’s inherently contradictory to human autotelism. They need to believe they don’t need us because they are in control of their own destiny.
Animal Attacks: Yeah, but when they realise they are, it all falls apart from there.
Minor Inconveniences: It’s not wanting to take responsibility, I tell you. They want free will and control over their own cosmos, and when they muck it up and everything goes horribly wrong, they want someone else to blame.
Love: And who do they look at? Us. That’s who, and it’s not like you can say ‘Right, well, it’s not my fault I was made this way. Who’s fault is that, hmm?’ So, it’s best just not to let them know we’re here at all. Saves us all a lot of trouble.
Tricks: Right. Well, I expect a lot of my followers would be none to pleased to discover it’s my fault they can’t manage to get the handcuffs unlocked before they drown in a big tank of water.
Animal Attacks: It doesn’t really work that way. I mean, we personify the thing, yeah, but we didn’t create the thing. Quite the contrary. The thing created us, in a manner of speaking.
They are all silent as Tricks considers this. He is overwhelmed by the information he has been given.
Tricks: Are there any gods of pleasant things? It’s just that I’ve noticed we all seem to be sort of…well, sort of crap gods, to be frank.
The others glance at each other. They do not seem to be angered by this remark.
Minor Inconveniences: sighs. Yeah. We are.
Love: They don’t hang around at this bar.
Tricks: Can you be promoted? I mean, can you become the god of something better, if you’re really good at your job? It’s just that I don’t want to have to be bad at something all the time.
Animal Attacks: Can you be really good at being bad?
Severe Errors: ‘Course you can.
Love: Anyway, it doesn’t matter. You’re stuck with it. You don’t get to pick something you like better. You’d better just get used to the idea.
Tricks looks disappointed.
Love: Buck up. There is something we’re all good at.
All: Cheerfully hold up their glasses. Drinking!
They drink. Tricks shows them some tricks. They laugh.
Tricks: I suppose you don’t have to be good to make people happy.
Love: People are happier watching other people fail.
Tricks: You’re so nice. I love you.
Love: I don’t love you back. You’re simply too bad at magic.
Severe Errors: I’ll go out with you.
Tricks: Holds up his glass. To being a crap god!
All: Un-enthusiastically hold up their glasses. Here, here.
Cut to exterior: Daytime on a slightly dodgy-looking street in Hyperion City. It is bustling with working people in shabby clothes. Most of them are decent members of society and look respectable. Others, though, are rather sinister looking, as if they are looking for something unsavoury to do with their day. The sinister folks are not bothering the respectable people, as their business is likely more important than pick-pocketing, and the people in this part of town don’t really have much to steal, anyway.
Darius is standing outside a clean, old-fashioned looking brick building. A small, hand-lettered wooden sign hangs on a hook over the otherwise unmarked door.
Sho Sange and Associates
There are no markings to otherwise indicate the sort of business this is. If you don’t know what sort of business this is, you either don’t need them or you can’t afford them.