In the Host's Private Chambers The lights are on. It has average decor. Steaming slightly and richly perfumed with oils, this wide multi-person Romanesque bath has a tiled lip around it before turning into plush mats and rugs layered on the floor. The water is kept at the perfect temperature to be clean, without scalding hot. The walls are crafted of plaster and tilework, depicting ancient scenes from Greece, Egypt, and Italy. Several racks of soft towels have been left to warm in the dewy sauna of the space, and a few lounges with plush surfaces allow people to linger, should they wish. Subtle servants can be called, nubile men and women in a uniform state of undress, and dismissed just as easily to tend to the varied needs of their guests. It is noon, about 45F(7C) degrees, and the sky is partly covered by dark grey stormclouds. [ ] [ down ] Archer is standing here. Archer has just pulled on her robes after finishing a bath. The large chamber is empty as it often is unless help is needed, and she's in the process of fastening the garment into place. A cool chill washes over Archer as she finishes dressing. It isn't the typical refreshing after-bath breeze, but rather a clammy feeling that comes with high humidity and an abrupt drop in temperature in the room. There is movement out of the corner of her eye, too, but only briefly. It's gone again in a moment, like dissipating steam. The chill runs down her spine, setting off goosebumps, and then settles in the pit of her stomach with a weighty thrum. This only takes a moment. Inside the bath, there is no other movement and sounds seem to go a little faint. Archer turns her head at the movement and her eyes narrow and stick on where it was, but she's too late to see something of any importance outside of the architecture of the place. Her lips purse briefly and shaking her head, she moves towards the second part of the room, the host's private bedroom chamber. Her things are there, mostly moisturizer and a small dressing table. Reaching the desired bottle, she tugs her robe a little tighter around her frame in answer to the clammy lingering feel in the air. There's a subtle twitch in Archer's fingers as she reaches for the bottle, and a certain numbness like that moment just before pins and needles start. But they don't, and the feeling is gone again in a split second, easily disregarded by the unwary. The weight in the pit of her stomach lessons briefly to some small degree, especially when Archer gets around to looking herself in the mirror and actually applying the moisturizer. Sliding the sleeves of her robe upward, Archer begins to spread the moisturizer and she watches herself in the mirror, the twitch disregarded as easily as the movement earlier. Careful attention is given her elbows and wrists before she spreads the remaining lotion between her hands and fingers, absently rubbing at her cuticles. There's a laziness that's a given of idle lifestyle in her movements, unhurried as she finishes her task. Archer thinks; "I should go out today into the world." The tactile smoothness of the robe seems to linger in Archer's fingertips even after she diverts her attention the skin underneath. Once she has finished with treating her cuticles, her left hand briefly-- perhaps unconsciously-- reaches up to touch the medallion about her throat, tracing the edges and texture of the engraving. Archer blinks as if to draw herself out of the trance of watching herself. There's a small halo of steam on the mirror and with her free hand, she reaches out to streak her palm through the haze. Afterward, a fingertip reaches out and begins to draw in the remains, almost childishly as she smiles to herself. She allows her other hand to play on the disk for the duration, her pendant twisted back and forth between her fingers. Archer's other hand seizes in its attempt to draw on the steamed mirror. At the same time, her other hand rips the necklace from her throat violently, the delicate chain snapping easily but leaving a faint red mark in the skin on the back and sides of her neck. A sudden, irrational wave of anger bubbles up from the pit of her stomach, distinct but less than easy to separate into another stream from the natural course of her own emotions. The hand that had been previously drawing curls up into a fist instead, and displaying strength not born of her slender limbs, suddenly smashes into the mirror, shattering it. Archer offers an alarmed squeal of surprise as her pendant is ripped away from her neck and then her teeth grit when the smooth line of the mirror is shattered by her fist. The glass cuts her knuckles and she squeezes her eyes shut, trying to wheel away from the broken surface to avoid padding on further shards, escaping to the main area of the bathing chamber. Fingers dripping with blood and leaving a trail on the tile and marble, she looks around, wide-eyed, for an often lurking servant. Archer removes an engraved silver medallion and slips it into a pocket. The sound of the mirror shattering does bring someone running, footsteps echoing off the hard surfaces of the bath just outside, but Archer finds it isn't so easy to walk away from the dressing area. No, whatever just happened there does not want her to leave. She finds her feet fighting her to move and something forcing her to bend and grasp one of the larger shattered pieces of the mirror. "So pretty, you are," whispers a ghostly voice in her ear. "Your hair. Your eyes. They were almost as pretty as mine. Why don't you give them to me?" Her fingers dig into the shard of glass, slicing the inside her hand open, and her hand slowly lifts the jagged edge toward her face. "Miss!" comes a somewhat uncertain voice from the bath. One of the servants. Probably a newer, hapless one, given there's no direct action being taken at the moment despite the threat to Archer's face. As the glass is lifted to Archer's face, Archer begs with a horrified voice, "Please! Please, get one of the ritualists! Please, get the councilman!" She tries to fight the lift of her hand to her face with her other hand, fingers getting slippery with blood in the process. Her desperate call is given to the hapless servant. "Please, I can't stop it! It's a... I don't know, I'm going mad or it's a ghost or something!" "Go for help and you're next," are the next words that come out of Archer's mouth, the tone icy by comparison to her panicked one. The servant, a girl who can't be out of her teenage years, backs away, mouth dropping open. "I know enough of their tricks," Archer's voice continue. "They won't be able to stop me instantly. I only want her. Her eyes..." The servant looks horrified, staring and not reacting immediately. Then she turns to flee the area, perhaps to call for help. Archer's hand draws the jagged piece of glass back in response and sends it flying toward the girl. It slices her arm open, causing her to whimper, but only deters her from leaving briefly. "Hmph," whispers the ghostly voice, no longer coming from Archer's own voicebox. "Unwilling, unwilling. They're always unwilling. But I don't ask so much. I only want to be beautiful." "You can't be beautiful. You have to move on," Archer argues back to the ghost in panicked manner as she keeps her hand clamped around the other. She wets her lips and in a terrified mumble, she begins enacting a few choice words of banishment, though the process is slow and muddy as she's hardly more than just a girl herself. However, her words do seem a little official and memorized. Archer finds her right hand creeping up to strangle her own throat and stop the words from coming. Her left, cut up as it is, reaches for another choice shard of glass. "Oh, you poor girl. You're no expert, are you? Just an amateur," comes the ghostly voice, mocking. "Why should I move on into oblivion when there are such delights left in this world? I can feel you shiver. I can feel your pain. I can feel adrenaline shooting through your body. I can see the edge of your vision going dark...." But, interestingly, this thing possessing her doesn't seem to pay attention to the distant footsteps which must (hopefully) be the maidservant returning with someone who knows what they're doing. "If you kill me," Archer says as she struggles to let words escape past the strangling of her own throat, losing the thread of her ritual even as the footsteps of the servant and one of the Arcanists common to the building approach. She gasps out as she starts to sink to the floor, her eyes and vision narrowing first and then dimming, "You'll just have to find someone else." "I don't want to kill you, girl, I only want to do to you what was done to me. I want to take from you," whispers the voice in her ear. Archer's fingers loosen from her throat once the ritual words stop, though the force has left her slightly bruised and hoarse. The sharp edge of the mirror shard draws against her cheek, lightly, delicately. A thin bead of blood traces its path down. "Secure the area. Make sure those wards are up, whatever is in there won't be able to come and go so easily," the Arcanist's distant voice can be heard saying from the opposite end of the bath. They aren't approaching just yet. "Ow, please, please don't hurt me," Archer begs shamelessly as she blinks her eyes rapidly, cheek sliced and dribbling more of the young woman's blood. As it trails down her face, she turns her eyes now to the servant and the Arcanist, towards where their voices come from. She rises again and tries to step back away from the force. "Then give me something. Your people like a good bargain, don't they?" comes the ghostly voice, dripping with amusement. The scent of mixed oils and herbs being smoked drifts into the room from the distant bath, arousing the ghost's notice. Archer's head whips toward the entrance, observing. "Your face is in my hands, girl. Stop what they're doing and make me a suitable offer." "My people don't take those who come into our bath unannounced lightly and I mean nothing to Mister Hollow," Archer pleads to the ghost as she looks back to the shattered mirror. She desperately tries to loosen her fingers around the shard, to send it dropping to the floor. "I can let you stay. Be me. Be pretty. Just leave me unhurt." Archer's fight with the shard wins, perhaps out of desperation, but only briefly. There's a struggle in her limbs, and the hand just reaches again to clasp that shard of mirrored glass. Truly, it appears the Arcanist out in the bath cares more about banishing the ghost than about Archer's safety. "Prove it. Send them away," states the ghostly voice. Though perhaps futile, Archer begs out to the Arcanist and the servant both in a high, frightened voice, "Please, go, please? I'll take care of it, I promise. Please, go. Please, don't tell Mister Hollow!" She again is forced to lean forward and grapple with the glass mirror, cutting herself. There might be note that during this, however, her cuts are already healing up pretty nicely, as though she's got something granting her faster healing from her wounds. The Arcanist gives Archer a flat, contemptuous look, cutting open her palm with a ritual knife and squeezing some blood into the bowl in front of her without ceasing the ritual preparations. She begins speaking the incantation. But this small effort from her seems to have mollified the ghost possessing her, however briefly. The shard of glass pauses in its path up to her face. "Good. But they don't look convinced..." whispers the voice in her ear, pleased at first. Once the Arcanist starts her incantations, however, the ghost is less so. A shriek echoes only in Archer's ears. "Get me close.. get me closer!" The ghost seems to be having trouble controlling Archer now. There's weight in her knees attempting to force her forward, though. To force her out into the bath, within closer range of the Arcanist. The blood and the stress has the skinny female faltering as she edges towards the Arcanist. One single step forward sends Archer into the bath and she swallows against the glass against her throat. She insists desperately to the Arcanist, "It's f-fine, I promise. I promise I'll take care of it. The ghost says it'll play nice. It won't hurt me." "Three more steps..." whispers the ghost in Archer's ear, and once she gets close enough, the presence leaves her body. The maidservant abruptly falls into the pool, and there's that hazy stream of in Archer's vision where she can almost see the ghost's features. It's a woman, one maybe in her late twenties or early thirties. Maybe at some point she was a great beauty, but it's hard to tell. Archer gets the impression of a shredded face and torn muscle, rotting eyes and patterns. Patterns probably carved directly into the skin. Then the presence leaps into the Arcanist, who finds herself choking. Archer steps forward and squeezes her already cut palm to allow her blood dribble into the bowl as well, before darting back almost as fast as she'd moved forward. With control over her body, she uses all of it to launch herself across the room and away from the manifestation. Uncontrolled, she tries to start up the incantation where the Arcanist had been cut off, her lips moving rapidly. It's mid-point now and she focuses on the task, her eyes closing. "No. No!" cries the Arcanist, but it's obviously the ghost talking. This particular Arcanist seems rather a bit better schooled in dealing with ghosts than Archer herself, though, and, despite the inability to help Archer with her ritual, seems quite able to fight the ghost enough to throw herself into the bath as well. "You're out of options, ghost," the Arcanist says with a cold smile. The maidservant wades over to help hold her away from disturbing the ritual in progress. Despite all the splashing, the Arcanist continues her taunting. "There are limits to your power. You're getting tired, aren't you? Finish it." The last statement is aimed toward Archer. There is no reply from the ghost, but it does seem she's weakening as the splashing gradually subsides under Archer's words. Archer continues to shout the incantation, her own voice growing as the splashing subsides. She opens up her palm again and then slaps a palm-print on the floor, as she finishes the ritual and bites out to the Arcanist, truly the ghost inhabiting, "Now get the fuck -out- of here." When Archer slaps her hand down on the floor, a wave of power emits from the point. Something seems to burst imperceptibly from the Arcanist in the water, causing a shimmer like the haze of a hot day. And then it's gone, leaving only the shattered mirror behind as a reminder. The Arcanist emerges from the bath, hauling the maidservant by her arm and adjusting her robe. "That was.... acceptable," she tells Archer, lifting her chin and looking the skinny woman over. "Clean this up. Return the components to their proper places," she says, waving a manicured hand at the maidservant. Then, still dripping wet, she simply leaves. Archer stares after the retreating figure of the Arcanist and gathering up her own robes, she sighs and grimaces down at her cut, bloody hand. And then, as ordered, she heads for a small broom closet that's tucked by the bed chamber and aims to sweep up the glass as it's been abandoned around the room, muttering and trying to match the tone, "Acceptable. Pfft."