A Pact Between Demon and Spirit

September 30, 2018:

Jim Craddock comes to meet the new Queen of NEw York City.


NPCs: None.



Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

New York City is beset by thousands of demons.

A lot of them.

Big ones, small ones, some cute, some ugly, but all ready to fight and pillage in the name of their Mistress.

And what name might their mistress go by? The Darkchilde.

The majority of the demons whisper her name, often in fearful tones, but all evoke it much like one does when naming their chosen God in a prayer.

With reverence.

The Demoness they call Queen can be found within the East Side. Specifically Stark Tower. It's her Citadel now and it's easy to see that it's the focal point for the majority of the demonic movement. The Citadel itself looks mostly like Stark Tower, only now there sits a large serpent coiled protectively around it. A closer look reveals that serpent being a very large winged dragon. It guards the keep for its Mistress and rarely leaves, but there are openings to be found.

Especially for the non-corporeal.

Cracks and creases and moments where the guard leaves its tower for a person to slip inside.

And once inside another world awaits; literally. Flagstones line the floor, arched ceilings stretch high upward, and pillars of stone reach for the sky. All of this leads inexorably towards one focal point a throne room.

The Darkchilde's throne room.

It's where she currently is now, sitting upon an obsidian throne. A faceted crystal floats off to the side, its face running rapidly through different scenes playing out within the city itself.

Hell has come to Earth, and Jim Craddock can't help but find a little amusement at the irony. A little. He has escaped death in its completion, dragged past the grasping talons of the Pit and thrust out into the world of which neither living nor the alternative would accept him.

There has been little enough that could affect him, things outside of the Gypsy Queen's foretelling that has proven a potential threat to his unusual existence. And yet, perhaps foolishly, he had never considered that threat to actually take the form of something that directly affected a soul- not in the way that he had witnessed. The encounter had not been far from his mind when suddenly— and quite literally! — all hell broke loose in New York City.

The spirits of the departed that lingered in plain sight and yet unseen by those they've left behind have been in unrest over things. The information to glean from them hasn't been helpful, and if those lost souls hadn't been truly lost in the time since the skies overhead had twisted into such a sickly hue, then they were doing as well they could to stay away from things that could make a snack of them.

Yet in all this, a name, and not one that needed much sifting through the turmoil. Darkchilde. These demons had a queen.

White shoes set down quietly upon the floor, white cloak settling after him as the Gentleman Ghost simply appears, sliding between layers of reality, of planes and existences like passing through a curtain. His gloved hand tightens upon the cane he holds in its grasp, and even as he steps down the obvious pathway he wonders that he might be making a grave mistake.


Mistakes have definitely been made, but for Jim Craddock it's hard to say if he's currently making one now.

If there were a Magic-8 Ball around it would likely say 'signs point to yes'.

Yes, this might definitely be a mistake.

His appearance within the Citadel sparks off a few different responses; mostly from demons. They're small critters, rolypoly little things, and most look at the ghost with wide lamp-like eyes. Those yellow eyes follow him unblinking and a few muttered words might be picked up from their chatter -

Who that?
Where his head?
Maybe he lost it. Maybe we look for it.
Maybe we eat it if find!

Demons. They really only think of so many things - food and destruction.

Craddock's steps eventually lead him further into the demonic Keep, further away from the real world outside. It leads him right to the Queen of Inferno.

Illyana Rasputin otherwise know as the Darkchilde.

And while his presence isn't announced, there's still a response from the Demoness that sits upon her Obsidian throne.

"You may enter."

An invitation and one that's issued in something of a pleasant voice. The Darkchilde is dressed simply in silver armor and beside her throne is a large axe, dented and scarred.

It's unnerving to hear such speak from the creatures, but even with his features unseen, Craddock doesn't turn his head, monocle remaining facing forward as he strides along with all the air of someone who has every right to be here. It's better than considering oneself an intruder, even when one techinically is.

But one must take initiative, and sometimes fortune favors the bold. Jim Craddock, Gentleman Ghost has little to lose, but it's precious little, all the same.

Halting at the entrance to the throne room, he wrestles once again with uncertainty. It's then that the voice speaks, pleasant, but commanding. More importantly, an invitation. Drawing himself up, the Ghost enters as bidden.

He had no idea what to expect of the one whose name had been so reverently whispered amongst demonic lips. Certainly the young woman upon the throne is an impressive sight with her armor and her worn weapon.

There's no turning back now.

Jim Craddock pauses a respectful distance from the Darkchilde before removing his hat as he offers a sweeping bow. "Your majesty," he says, unsure of how to address a demon queen, but deferring to a general title reserved for the nobility. Half noble blood he may carry, but he has always strived to be what his father denied him and his mother.

"Thank ye for allowing me this audience."

Serpentine eyes watch the Ghost's approach. The red gaze of Illyana's piercing with curiosity as she takes in this visitor who's come calling upon her court.

Though court is a very loose word. All that resides within this particular room is Illyana and now Jim Craddock.

His address prompts a smile upon the Demoness' lips and that smile only broadens, revealing sharpened teeth, for his polite thanks.

One supposes she should say 'you're welcome', but for the Darkchilde that phrase doesn't leave her lips. Instead she shifts slightly upon her throne, her gaze locked upon the spirit. "Tell me." She begins, "Why have you called upon the Darkchilde?" Her head cants to the side, "Have you brought me gifts?" That last said in a playfully dangerous sing-song voice. "I do love gifts. Perhaps you are the gift."

For those most observant they'll easily note that her form is no longer fully human. She resembles a Satyr in some respects, with cloven hooves and a spade-tipped tail.

Straightening smoothly from his greeting, Craddock replaces the hat upon his invisible head, regarding the demon queen even as she looks at him.

What does one expect the queen of demons to appear as? The Darkchilde certainly fits the title in appearance, in demeanor. Despite having no need to breathe, the Gentleman Ghost quietly goes through the motion of drawing one as he weighs her words and considers his response. If he hadn't already felt like he were treading across the edge of a blade, then he definitely does now.

"M'apologies, great queen," he says, head bowed with his words, trying not to grow unnerved by those she speaks. "I've lacked the foresight to bring something for ye. But then I'm not sure what ye would have found acceptable, for surely nothing can be kept out of your grasp that which ye desire."

"Curiosity has called m' attention, whispers spoken by those no one o' the living hears. Things that devour both body and soul appear without warning, and hell is revealed in its wake. I come for answers, and I come in concern- ye'll understand, for m' own being. Jim Craddock, Gentleman Ghost, at yer service."

She continues to watch him like some great cobra, swaying back and forth, waiting to strike.

"Mm." She murmurs at his apologies, "Flattery then." She continues with, her pointed teeth flashing again as she smiles, "I suppose I shall accept your gift of words." The 'for now' clearly hanging; an unspoken threat.

His explanation of why he's here pulls a sharp expression to her features. A narrowing of eyes, as she says, "Answers."

"You wish answers." She repeats, "That's a dangerous request to be made." The Demoness says slowly, a tinge of amusement coloring her words. "Such danger."

"But perhaps I shall answer your questions. Yes, let us play this game, but before I answer anything I must first see who exactly I speak with. I must know who you are -"

"- Jim Craddock."

Names hold power and Illyana Rasputina knows exactly how to use that to her advantage. When his name leaves her lips there's a pulse of power. It reaches out into the ether to entangle around Jim's form, to force him to manifest fully to the Darkchilde.

To show his face to her.

There is no hiding in the Darkchilde's domain.

Every word that comes out of the Darkchilde's mouth is treated as a skirmishing battalion testing out his defenses. Yes. This was a bad idea. But he stands by his decision, if only because now he's devoted to it whether he wants it or not.

She speaks his name, and it's like something pulls at him, an extra tug into a plane of existence he never felt completely a part of. The mask of anonymity he's become so used to adapting slips through his grasp, unraveling like threads from a loom.

When he was alive, he might have been considered handsome. Death has left its mark, his face steps away from decay and yet still clinging to how he had appeared before the rope bit into his neck and he swung from the gallows. His hair, long and red is pulled back into a limp ponytail. The expression on his face wavers, a fleeting look of fear, forced into grim acceptance.

Jim Craddock nods at her, the corner of his lips twisting in a lopsided smile he does not feel. "And now ye see why I prefer to hide. It has been centuries since my time on Earth walking in flesh, and not many 'ave seen m' old appearance."

It's like chess.

Only in this game not all of the pieces are visible to Craddock.

Though for Illyana they are.

When he appears fully Illyana looks curiously upon his features. If he expected outrage or disgust he'll find nothing of the sort. Just acceptance.

"There is darkness in all of us, Jim Craddock." She says, a whisper of power thrumming again with his spoken name. A reminder of who holds the power in this situation. "Why hide what you truly are." She rises from her throne and extends a hand outward to the apparition and waits. Expectantly.

"Now, I believe I promised answers." The Demoness' voice has returned to that sing-song cast, amusement playing once more within her gaze.

"Hell has come to Earth and now comes a choice -"

"Shall you be part of this new world or shall you feebly fight against it? The decision is yours, but I would caution you to choose wisely. I am not very forgiving."

Not very forgiving, she says. Craddock chuckles, his throat suddenly feeling dry. He can feel that power with every mention of his name, like the stroke of a finger down his spine.

"The world holds no welcome for the likes of me, m'lady," he replies, his eyes shifting towards her outstretched hand, then back towards her to meet her gaze.

The answer she gives isn't one he'd expected, and not really one he had been without. And yet, a choice, she says. He arches a brow.

"Both ye and I know I've not the strength to stand against it, not against ye." He has no love for the world that had cast him aside and cursed him to such an existence, if even that.

"My decision is as it has always been. To survive."

"Oh come now, Ser Craddock." The Darkchilde states, "That world is no more. Now you are wholly welcomed upon Earth."

And if Illyana Rasputin had even a tenth of her soul those words of his would strike deep. She'd offer a 'nor I' if she did, but all that's left of who she was is gone.

There's only a shell of humanity left and nothing more.

His revelation of what he truly wants, his survival, causes the demoness to drop her hand to her side. "Yes." She responds, "Isn't that what everyone wants right now." Idly she looks away from the spirit, her tone moving to something bored, "Yet you bring me no gifts, beyond flattery, and expect to be saved. Tell me -" And here her red-eyed gaze returns to his form, "Why should I save you? Plead your case as if it your undead life depended upon it."

Because it does.

"You say welcomed, but yet all the more a threat to the immaterial and eternal," Craddock counters, monocle glinting as he tilts his head.

"I speak not only for m'self, but for the other wandering souls, for those who've never strayed far from th' places they've come and where they breathed their last." The listless, those with less freedom than even himself, and yet would he call it freedom? They were all still cursed. What he wanted was life again, but here perhaps, there is another option.

"Heh. I've no reason t' believe that it would be otherwise," he says. He's sure that his undead life has been forfeit ever since he'd dared set foot in the queen's halls.

"Help me, and I'll offer ye the souls that the world overlooks, with nowhere to go and no knowing of what they seek. Their services, their reach." Or as fodder.

Her gaze stays fastened upon the spirit when he speaks. There's a weight to those red-eyes and when Craddock comes to his final offer the being known as Illyana smiles.

A pleased expression.

"I have so many followers already." She begins, her tone quite dry, and while others might simply offer a quick yes, Illyana doesn't. She just strings it along. "All who already offer me so much and come prepared."

With gifts.

"Still." She drawls, "There is such a thing as never looking a gift horse in the mouth." A sly look turns to Craddock once more. "This pact, you too will be included in it, yes? You are a spirit of this world, after all. Just making sure I 'read' all the fine print."

Another smile flashes, revealing pointed teeth in a not-so-pleasant expression from the Queen of Limbo and Earth.

"If so, come then. A partnership is always sealed with a shake of hands."

"Take mine."

And her left hand once again extends outward to Jim Craddock.

A presence moves in the darkness behind Illyana's forbidding throne, just as she reaches out towards Jim Craddock. A figure, which heretofore had been completely immobile in the deep shadows there, suddenly shifts with a whisper of demonforged steel.

A tall figure completely sheathed in black armor leans forward, featureless visor turned to fix on Craddock.

There is a sense that any funny business will not go unpunished.

'Funny business.' Heh. The Gentleman Ghost is not someone who trifles with business such as this, especially given the obvious power and authority that this Queen of Demons had.

Craddock forces himself to continue to meet the fiery eyes of the Darkchilde, inwardly thankful that his dead body has no worry for a nervous sweat. He is not surprised by her game, a game of words that those who know they have the upperhand can freely play without cost.

He waits. His own words and turns are far fewer in allowance, and any misstep would mean his end. Of course, there's nothing stopping Illyana from doing so either way, and he knows this too. So he continues to wait and hear her out as she speaks. If he still had the need to, he would have been holding a breath, and as such is unnecessary for him, the first response once she finishes saying what she will is the dip of his head in the shallowest of nods. The only reason there seems to be no hesitation is because his silence had encompassed it, and already he knew that the moment he put forth his offer, he could not rescind it.

Straightening, Craddock steps forward, standing tall, his eyes but flicking only once towards the darkness embodying armor before the Darkchilde once again has all his attention. He shifts his cane to his right, lifting the now empty gloved hand of his left to the one outstretched.

Behind her throne darkness moves and when it parts the Knight reveals himself.

It brings acknowledgement from the Queen, as she glances over a shoulder at him. A silent 'yes, good', in that movement of Illyana's.

She then returns her attention to Craddock, a knowing smile flitting across her features from it.

There's only one answer for him to make. Only one move. Both of them know it.

And so, when he steps over there's very little surprise to be seen within her gaze. Only glee.

When he offers his hand to hers, Illyana takes it. Her grip is strong, hot, almost blistering with its touch. It only worsens as straightaway her hand tightens upon the Ghost's gloved hand.

"I accept your offer."

Her voice ring across the wide expanse of the room and with those words a spell is released. The magic within the room swells to dizzying proportions and like something serpentine it lashes out with fangs to sink deep within the bound hands of Craddock and the Darkchilde. It winds up his ghostly arm, slipping and slithering, spreading a scorching and burning heat with its touch until his whole body feels on fire.

Then like a candle snuffed out with a soft puff of breath the terrible touch abates and Illyana drops the Ghost's hand.

"Never let it be said, Jim Craddock, that the Darkchilde does not reward those who swear fealty to her. Look upon yourself and rejoice."

A small oval mirror appears before him, to be taken if he so wishes, and should he look upon it he will find his features restored to what they once were. Before death left their permanent seeming mark upon them.

He's dealing with the Queen of a Hell on Earth. Pain had been expected. Funny thing how preparing for the worst never seems quite enough.

Craddock barely manages to bite down a scream as the Darkchilde's power burns in her grasp, stabs deeply through him at those four words, etching into him like a brand.

And when it's over he nearly stumbles as she releases her hold, hunched over as he recovers, barely managing to remain on his feet but refusing to fall to his knees. He'll not show weakness, not now.

His head lifts at Illyana's words, his body slowly straightening, confusing flickering across his features as he then turns and sees the mirror that appears. He takes it in hand, bringing it almost shakily towards him to look.

"-hah..!" It escapes him, but he can't help it as he sees his reflection, and tucking his cane under his arm he reaches up with his other hand now freed, fingers wavering over his face as though afraid that touching it would break the illusion. In experiment he makes it vanish, a check in afterthought as he knows he's yet not amongst the living, but as he once again takes in his reflection he could have been fooled, himself.

Face no longer deathly pale, hair the same vibrant auburn as his mother, pulled back in a ponytail much more flowing than lank as it had been. He finally gives into the temptation, brushing fingertips across his face, tracing down to his neck as he looks for the ugly bruised scar of the hangman's noose, no longer there.

He trembles but doesn't fall. It earns a slight rise of an eyebrow from Illyana, the smallest tick to show her surprise.

Most people fall, but he didn't.

It's only once he reaches for that mirror that she turns her back upon him. She takes her time to settle back within her throne, the comforting presence of her Demonic Knight still behind it.

Once comfortable, the Demoness looks back upon the spirit. She watches as he looks upon himself and sees the physical changes to his features. Almost like he's living, yes, but still not quite alive.

"Now." She says, when there's a moment between his perusal of his features, "You and your army shall be my eyes and ears. Bring me all you hear, all you see, and Craddock -" She intones, his name harsh syllables, "Be mindful. If you break our pact then your spirit will be the first I burn through. The pain you will experience will have you screaming for the afterlife you've been forsaken from."

Jim Craddock lowers the mirror, returning it as he grants the queen of demons his full attention once again. The warning is grim, unsurprising, but ever what he wishes to avoid at all costs. The burning pain he'd experienced only a moment ago is still fresh in his memory, but he can think of no reason why he would break their pact that he would chance a revisitation even worse.

"As you command, my Queen," he says, doffing his hat to once again bow, deeply, as meaningfully as his words. For that is what the Darkchilde now is; his Queen.

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