Deathly Deals

June 15, 2018:

Dani makes a deal with Death.


NPCs: Azazel, Angel of Death (emitted by Coulson)


Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

Evening has settled and the sun has set. Darkness now blankets the city and along with it rain has come.

Shadow and water.

The storm is a steady sort of thing, with the occasional rumble of thunder and flash of lightning; grumbly, but not worrisome.

For SHIELD things have been both slow and fast. Some parts slow with the daily grind, whereas other parts have gone extremely fast. Some might describe it as spiraling. For Dani she's firmly in the camp of spiraling. After the tangle with the would-be portal openers in the defunct base the Cheyenne woman knows answers are needed.

Sooner rather than later.

And because of that, Dani has decided to escalate her own part within this fast-paced play. She's housed within an apartment in New York City that she keeps; it's a small thing, with very little furniture and very little personal presence. Just enough for one person and furnished with only the few things one might need for a crash pad.

However instead of sleeping this particular night Danielle Moonstar has set up a very small sacred space - white sage burned to purify the air and items within - before she settled into a loose stance. Now her eyes are closed, her hands tucked near to her heart, and she's focused on what makes her both Cheyenne and Valkyrie. Concentrated on that small spark of power housed within her body and when found, she speaks.

Her words, which hold an edge of power, are a soft sing-song of sound -

Go home
Go home
Take word on wing
Take word on wing
To those I seek
To those I seek!"

And with that last line Dani opens her closed hands, as if releasing a bird, and a small tendril of her own personal and spiritual power releases like a trapped bird. It arrows out and away from her, spiraling high into the realm, searching for a similarly winged being - Azazel.

Within that slash of power is a call, a summoning, for the higher being from the Cheyenne woman.

Summoning is always a dangerous affair, especially when one summons reapers.

Or the reaper. Azazel's status isn't entirely clear, nor has he really stopped to make it clear, other than his known lore-status as the Angel of Death. Then again he's just as often portrayed as a demon, depending on which religion one asks. Death and its servants are ever-enigmatic and ever-mutable. The power reaches out, through astral realms and dimensions unknown, whispering into underworlds and overworlds in all of their myriad versions. Wind whips up inside the small apartment, shifting the lingering sage-smoke out and away from its bowl. Up and down the avenue, streetlights flicker, flare, and die in showers of sparks that send some people shrieking or swearing in surprise.

Inside, the lights also flicker and flash, though the purified space prevents them from dying quite so dramatically as their outdoor counterparts.

Gathering light blazes, then inverts into shadow.

And then he's just there. His presence is felt and recognized even though there are differences in his expression. Silver wings stretch out large enough to touch either side of her apartment walls, and hair that was golden last time flares and flows in silver-white around his face and down his back in a long braid that trails down his front. He looks almost effiminate, though not female, with his features more delicate than before. He wears a tattered suit in a grey so faded that it looks like a photograph losing definition. And a black tie with a silver scythe on it that looks both brand-new and exceedingly tongue-in-cheek.

"Your job makes you dance and court me every day, Danielle Moonstar, and some days I chase you so closely you've surely started to smell my admittedly excellent cologne," he says dryly. "You'd think you'd want some distance from me in your off hours."

Summoning is always dangerous…

But respect and a pre-existing relationship with the entity so summoned does help.

Summoning the reaper is kind of like summoning Satan - who does that? Really, /who/ does that.

Apparently Dani does!

But, in all reality, Dani understands the risk she's taking. It's what had her burn the sage and attempt the calling here in this apartment, where there's less of a risk to students, or SHIELD-mates.

That wind that picks up within the apartment immediately causes Dani's eyes to narrow to slits. The wind is strong enough that it tugs at her hair, loosening small strands, while the majority of it stays trapped in its tight leather-wrapped braid. While Dani can't quite see outside (she's not facing the window) the vague sound of lights popping in the distance turns the woman's expression to grim tight lines. Either she's definitely summoned Azazel, or something far worse.

She hopes it's Azazel.

Thankfully, that question is answered as the lights blaze then darken and finally the winged form of the Angel appears. The differences are silently noted somewhere in Dani's hindbrain, but for now with her senses verifying just who's standing before her, that tension within her expression lessens a hair.

Because again - Azazel is here and not something more demonic - Satan.

Either way, Dani is silent for a moment as she takes in the impressive wingspan of the Angel, as well as his suit and mien. That dry wit of his calls forth a sliver of a similar tone from Dani, though respect and wariness mutes much of that wry note of amusement within her voice. "What can I say?" She states, "I just love to dance."

And then with a bit more seriousness, the Cheyenne says, "Than you for answering my call. To be honest, I wasn't sure if that would actually work or not."

Azazel sits across from her, cross-legged, folding his wings behind him in companionable fashion. "It's not hard to get Death to stop by. Usually it's getting Death to leave that causes the problem," he says. His lips quirk into a faint smirk.

But once he is comfortably settled, his hands folded comfortably in his lap and his mien about as non-threatening as it is possible for him to convey, he adds, "So. Why did you dial me up on the old spirit-phone?" His eyebrows both lift, his chin dipping down just a little bit in an expression of easygoing curiosity.

If it is not hard to get Death to stop by, it is equally true that most people don't really want him to. He doesn't get a lot of invitations. Suicides notwithstanding. And a suicide isn't exactly an invitation couched in quite this form.

There's a slightly ironic tilt to her head at what he says first.

Truth, it's not hard, but she wasn't feeling the urge to put her own life in mortal danger to get him to pop in. Not when she had the spirit phone, as it were.

Still, when the two are settled and the real question comes out - why did she call him - Dani's expression turns pensive again. "I have a problem." She begins, her gaze shifting off of the Angel for a minute, "The man behind Agent Coulson's death and the crap going on with SHIELD continues to elude us. Which is a feat in itself, with how many various levels of the company - mutant and non - that are looking for him. It escalated with our last mission when we came upon some of his cohorts opening magical portals to the past, or maybe alternate dimensions, I can't quite say for certain - but portals. They were opening portals to elsewhere." With those words her brown-eyed gaze moves back Azazel's features, "We need help. More than what we -" Mortals, "- have access to. I was hoping you would help us figure out who's really behind all of this. A name, it's all we need."

And here Dani's expression turns quite opaque, as she strives to hide the emotions flickering through her.

Worry, anger and fear. Worry for SHIELD, for Phil, anger too, and fear as well for what they'll find next, and what she's doing right now.

Does Azazel know all this? Tough to say, really. He has an outstanding poker face. He watches her as she lays it all out. Finally he sighs.

"You know enough to know I can't give you that information for free. Do you have an offer? Or is this an invitation to name my price?"

Whether her emotions move him or not is equally tough to say. For all his casual demeanor, he radiates everything he is. Ancient. Cosmic. The sense of this is all over the room. Likely, the part of the floor where he sits will carry some spiritual resonance for months to come.

And the rules which bind when he can intervene, and when he can't, are as ancient as he is. Inviolable.

That initial sigh of his causes Dani's flat expression to crack slightly, perhaps hearing a denial in that non-verbal sound, but then when he speaks the expression on her face almost mirrors the vague sag of her shoulders in relief.

Relief that they may have help in all of this. Though with a price. There's always a price. That brings Dani back to reality, as it were, as she straightens and looks back to Azazel with her own brand of a pokerface. "Nothing is ever for free." She agrees grimly, with that tiny spark of dark humor entering her tone againnn.

"I can't offer my soul." She continues with, her words quiet and serious now, "It's bound with another -" Brightwind, "And to others." The Asgardian 'gods and goddesses', "And I have a feeling whatever else I may offer might not cut it."

"We may have to play Russian Roulette and have you name your price - otherwise I can give the typical things. A boon, or favor or my services as a Valkyrie." Her hands lift and spread outward in the gesture of 'otherwise I got nothing else'.

Now she waits to see what he says, or potentially counteroffers.

Azazel actually laughs when she offers her soul. "Dani. Even if you could offer your soul, you have me confused with the Infernal set. I'm just a psychopomp. I'll end up escorting your soul, and Brightwind's, and everyone you're tied to, off to your final destinations eventually. I don't have a lot of use for owning them. And if I did, for the love of every jelly donut, it would be a terrible idea to offer it out anyway. Pro tip— don't even bring that up with the next thing you summon. It'll get a whiff of that and all it will be able to think of is how it can get the souls of you and all you're bound to all wrapped up in a nice box."

But with this little bit of advice given, he pulls out a pair of cigars. They're as weirdly grey as his suit. He offers one out to her, then sticks the other in his mouth and lights it with a touch. The flame is just…colorless. Odd. But it smells like good, pure tobacco, not like the stuff the pharmaceutical companies churn out, and the smoke has that sort of clean quality to it. Not like he's gotta worry about lung cancer in either event, but there it is.

"But, alright. My price. I'll give you the name. Today, even."

He blows out a long smoke ring. Ashes just disappear as they fall from the tip, rather than hitting her floor.

"But you'll take on a geas. You see, as it happens, one of my fellow cosmic entities had his own run-in with a summoner recently. He was one of the Infernal set. His name was Marbas. The summoner was powerful enough to slay him and to take his amulet. Then to vanish without a trace. Marbas, as it happens, was a demon of plagues. The scuttlebutt says the summoner sold it, and the buyer may be someone who has a good enough grounding in science and magic to use that thing to make some pretty nasty bioweapons."

He takes another drag on the cigarette. "Not that I mind working the overtime, but my bosses would prefer to see it found and taken out of play. Accept the mission, which honestly kind of sounds like your gig anyway, and I'll tell you who murdered Phillip Coulson. And will answer three more questions besides, because I do try to give fair value for my asks, and I think this is worth a bit more than a single name."

Laughter wasn't exactly what she expected, so Dani sits there a minute as he offers her his advice. There's a grimace from the Cheyenne and a shake of her head. She could refute some of what he says, but she doesn't. Instead she simply says, "Thanks for the advice. I'll keep it in mind." Which is truthful, she will, and with those appropriate words said Dani laser-focuses on the Angel's next words.

The cigar, when it appears, is accepted though she doesn't attempt to light it, or smoke it. Instead she just holds it.

"I understand geas." She states, before she adds after he finishes explaining just what the geas is, "I accept your price." Though later she'll likely rewind this conversation in her hand and begin research into Marbas and their ilk.

And while she was prepared just to ask for that name when Azazel offers to answer three questions the black-haired woman rocks slightly backwards in surprise. That surprise soon shifts to consideration as her mind goes into furious consideration about what three questions she should ask. Eventually she settles upon her questions and the first is spoken.

"The man, who's behind all of this, what's his end game?"

"I should have said three questions I know the answer to," Azazel says ruefully. "I don't know. He's not exactly calling Dial-a-Death to get our take on his planning strategy. I'm not omniscient, I'm afraid. Good question, but I'm the wrong guy to ask it of. There are probably other questions I can answer that will help you, but contrary to popular belief we don't pay attention to everything. Or. I don't. There may be some guardian-angel type who has watched the whole drama play out and has read the man's Hello Kitty journal when he wasn't looking. His name, though, is Benjamin Palmer. He's a former SHIELD Agent. He and Coulson were friends once, even. I'm sure you have way better information about him in his old file from there."

He at least knows who killed Coulson.

Disappointment flickers for a brief second, but then she nods, that rueful tone of Azazel's pulling an answering half-smile from the woman. "Sorry, I just assumed you were all seeing." She agrees, "I'll remember that for next time." And also that Guardian Angels are peeping Toms and Tinas, apparently.

"Hello Kitty." She finally remarks with a soft snort, and then the woman quiets when Azazel continues to speak.

When Coulson's killer is revealed, Dani's expression turns hard like steel. Icy too, as Azazel reveals that Coulson and Benjamin were once friends. "I'm sure we do." She agrees stonily about information and files, and then, "Do you know why he betrayed Agent Coulson?" She asks, silently wondering if this is considered her second question now.

"Honestly, he didn't. Not directly, not specifically, at least as far as I know." Azazel says. This one he does know the answer to.

"When he stabbed him he said he'd hoped to never see Coulson again, and I think he was telling the truth. Probably because he faked his death and betrayed SHIELD, and seeing Coulson again meant he'd have to try to kill the man to save his own skin. I think if Coulson had backed off and had let him take that artifact he'd have let him live. Of course. That's not who Phil Coulson was. I think it's safe to say his plans were at least slightly impacted when Coulson destroyed the thing. 0-8-4 number 444. The files might have more on that too, if nobody's looked already."

"Not directly." She says, her tone rising sharply from a wealth of emotion, mostly the sardonic and angry kind. "Killing your would-be friend sure feels like betrayal to me." She adds, her voice falling to a mutter. "He could have missed if he really wanted to." She ends with, before she shakes her head.

"444, I'll see if I have access to it, if I don't I know a few people who likely do." She's silent for a moment, either committing when he said to memory, or perhaps pondering a third question, second? Who's to say!

"If you were in my place what would you have asked?"

And whether she has a final question alloted or not, there's still something to be said for seeing what another person might have asked.

"Well. You can burn a question or two on things that will help you find him," Azazel says, with a twitch of his lips. "If you'll recall, you asked me before, and I said I couldn't, non-interference, blah blah blah. But now, see. We're covered under the terms of a deal. Totally different scenario, that. He's had encounters with quite a few people you could talk to. Or, if you don't feel like tracking him, and there are reasons that might be hard, well. I could, with the right questions, probably give you what you'd need to summon him."

A pause. "Or you could just ask for the winning power ball numbers. Turns out I do have those. If only because they're about to be drawn by a drunk in Ploughkeepsie who is promptly going to vomit all over the ticket and die in a gutter before he can claim his winnings."

It's…really hard to say if he's being serious about that last bit.

She was serious right up until the mention of Power Ball and the lottery numbers with that game. That actually pulls forth a quick grin from the woman, "Man the decisions I must make tonight." She says, the joke slipping past before she could mentally stop herself from saying it.

"But I think the scales are going to dip towards Agent Coulson and how I can summon his soul back?" She asks, her tone leveling back out to something more serious. "His spirit has definitely been traveling all over the place. Ironically it's been like following a drunk, but with no winning numbers."

"Yes, he's in a bit of a fugue state most of the time. He got a little help, and then quickly spent himself."

Azazel makes a sleight-of-hand motion and says, "This is a seance that will actually work. You'll need something of his with a lot of emotional investment. The car is huge but workable. There are some baseball cards that he gave to a kid in Jersey named Kamala Khan before his death. They might work too, if you can find her, and them."

There are a few obscure ingredients on there; the kind of thing that might require Dani to reach out to the supernatural community at large for them. Rare things: dried wild goldenseal, red tanzinite, olosapo fruit. Easier things: holy water, holy oil, candles, white lotus incense.

"I added a little pronunciation guide there, it's in Enochian," Azazel adds. He looks a little apologetic, adding, "Has a lot to do with what he believed, just like the way you perceive me when you see the death omen. No going too cross-cultural with a Catholic, never ends well."

Yes, that definitely sounds like Coulson.

Not that Dani says that outloud, but the thought is there.

"A seance." She states, tone and face turning a bit deadpan, "I don't know why that surprises me, but it does. It shouldn't, but it still does." And idly, the thought of her friend Illyana pops up. One has to wonder if the demon-turned woman could help Danielle in this, but before she can ponder on that possibility for long, Moonstar re-focuses as Azazel reveals more.

"Thanks." For the pronunciation guide and list, as she looks down to that list, "I may have a friend who can help with some of this too." And as for that somewhat apologetic look Dani allows a small smirk to quirk a corner of her mouth upward, "No worries. I'm used to seeing you shown in different aspects - remind me next time and I'll tell you some of the crazier death omens I've seen. Like the Easter Bunny, why they perceived Death as the Easter Bunny I will never know, but they did."

Her gaze drops to the list one more time, "Thank you for this." She says in all serious now, "I appreciate it and your help, geas or not."

"I wish I could give freebies, but at least I try to match you with work you'd do anyway," Azazel says with a smirk. Death can be a surprisingly nice guy. But he does pull a face at one part of what she said.

He remembers that Easter Bunny day.

It's not even the weirdest, but he remembers it well. Not one of his fondest memories, that.

He pauses and counts on his fingers. "I'm not sure if you asked two questions or three. But. I'll give you this last bit and call it even. Coulson's likely to float off again without some sort of anchor. If you can't get him into his body you'd best find a way to get him enclosed in salt and iron. He's a little…"

He whistles and twirls his finger at his temple. "A telepath helped him stabilize once, and so that might be helpful again, but he is not in control of anywhere he's going. Any time it's been actually useful is either Fate, which is not my department, or luck, or just…the power of love or something, as the guy is something like the Spy Bear Care Bear."

He spins an illusion to demonstrate. A smiling grey Care Bear with an ICER tummy symbol.

He really does have a weird sense of humor.

Still, he rises, and unfolds his wings.

"No mumbo jumbo for setting the geas. You agreed, it's set, bad consequences for not giving it the old college try, though really the global pandemic that might get unleashed seems like consequences enough that I don't need to do all the ooga booga cosmic warnings."

"We're working on his body, but if it's not … ready -" Yes, she'll go with 'ready', "By the time we're ready I'll hold his spirit in place with iron and salt." She says in agreement and when Azazel rises to his feet, so too does Danielle. Gotta be polite with Death, after all. No one wants a grumpy Death.

No one.

The image of the Care Bear with an ICER on its belly earns a small smile from Dani. Later, after this is all over, Dani will likely need a Beer. After all, who can say they chatted with Death and talked of Care Bears? Not too many.

"I made a promise." She says to the Angel, "And I won't break it, geas or no. When I locate this lost Infernal, or their amulet, I'll let you know. I prefer not to have magical biological weapons being sold upon the black market. That would suck."

She extends her hand then, an offer to shake his as she offers a sincere, "Thanks."

He shakes her hand. One might expect it to be cold, but whether out of courtesy or out of a need to buck the stereotypes, it's as warm as any human's.

Then he's simply gone with absolutely zero fanfare, in sharp contrast to how he arrived.

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