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The dangerous and haunted artifacts trade can have its ups and downs, but I've realized I prefer the dangerous and haunted book side of the business. There's a certain civility you find there with book people, as opposed to the dangerous and haunted crystal skull business, or the dangerous and haunted doll family business.
That said, the circle of book dealers I know in the industry have been saying times are getting rough. As the "Age of the Dark Twins" generation grows older, their widows are selling off their collections faster than you can say "country ham," and there's an oversupply in the market. And the up-and-coming "InstaJot" generation just isn't interested in collecting modern firsts of new demonic lore, or the general eldritch classics that used to be perennial sellers.
But there's still a pulse in the higher end dangerous and haunted books market. Which is why I'm headed back to Old Habitsform to see what kind of business I can drum up.
It isn't every day you get to witness the rebirth of a species.
"The Traits, Features, Characteristics, Peculiarities, Mannerisms, Qualities, and Attributes of the Hymergian Man-Fungus" isn't just some curious piece of lost esoterica. It describes the life cycle of a biological entity. The Hymergian Man-Fungus once lived under water, millions of years ago. Through time, it emerged on land, and took on various forms, ultimately something vaguely human, yet sweaty and frog-like, with large bulging eyes and a soggy, lugubrious state. Eventually it coalesced into a single individual, and sought out the fossilized remains of an ancient host. It then merged with that tiny, dehydrated remnant of a once great prehistoric sea creature and returned it to life, whereupon it swam to its ancient temple, returning as prophesied by the merfolk.
That would explain why and how @Billy Sabab suckered me into all this. That damn book was bait. And I took the hook.
It also explained why all the tiny, newly reborn Hymergian Man-Fungus creatures swarmed @Billy Sabab's submersible and, overpowering it, hauled it back to the center of the amphitheater and exalted it, rising it above their tiny swarm to the cheers of the crowd. To them, it was @Billy Sabab who made this all possible. He was the hand of god in their return to the sea.
Seemed like a good time for me to be on my way.
I figured the giant coelacanth wouldn't notice a hitcher. It was obviously a fossilized fish with a mission, and when I harpooned my hook beneath its rainbow scales it didn't feel a thing. Then I was just along for the ride.
Luckily my modern copper top diving suit is pressure proof, not to mention sleek and stylish, which allowed me to fully appreciate the wonder and the glory of our descent into Mermaid Imperium. It looked just as it was depicted in the ancient 4CP limited series by @SLYR, with evidence of the Aeotherum Sateqo dynasty still evident in its architectural style. Soaring coral pinnacles encrusted with diamond barnacles; opulent market streets and plazas, laid out with extravagant crafts and rare spices; temples of freshly carved stone and glittering gems.
And in the center of it all, a massive, open amphitheater, filled with row after row of cheering merfolk.
The prehistoric behemoth I was riding on was headed right for it. And at alarming speed.
Still tracking the dreadnaught coelacanth as it speeds for the deep ocean. Destiny City Bay is shallow for miles, so it's easy to track the creature visually as it skims just below the surface. It's easily four times the length of the Egregore, and its armored scales cast rainbows.
I don't plan on getting the return fee on this one, and won't be surprised if they stop payment on the upfront fee. But holy homunculi if this whole thing doesn't feel like a setup. It seemed like a regular gig, but Cloverton was suspiciously near when I got the job alert.
And what about that douche @Billy Sabab? Has he been following me since Old Habitsform? Or before? The Matte Kudasai continues to follow, but at distance and from the northeast. Definitely trailing me and not the fish.
His crew seems like an alright sort, but when he gets too near I'm afraid I'm going to need to disable his ship.
He's got to have answers. But I feel like this fish has answers too.
I was at the cafe in the Unnatural History Museum when things exploded. Luckily it was on the first floor so we had time to run outside with our lattes as the building collapsed, and were safely across the street in time to see the massively previously-extinct Mesozoic-relative creature floundering to life, chomping and crashing and gasping for air as it destroyed the building.
Somebody must have gotten that fossilized fish skeleton wet. Just glad it wasn't me.
Boulders of concrete and portions of unnatural specimens rained over us, crushing bystanders. I maneuvered myself away from the fray and saw the giant creature pause and orient itself to the beach. It was a good ten klicks to the sea, but the airship docks were a straight shot. I needed to beat this dinosaur-fish to the water, but the public transport was down for sure.
"Rose???" There was a dusty body in the rubble before me. "Uh... we've met. I'm @Billy Sabab. I think I know what's going on here. Could you give me a hand?"
It was that bozo from Old Habitsform. What was he doing here?
I wrested him up from the dust. "If you have a quick route to the airship docks it would be real handy" I said.
"Yeah my crew has been itching for this. Just a sec," and he pulled a com-pad from his pocket.
Destiny City is all a bit too clean and shiny for my tastes. The Shining Spires are just an architectural gimmick to attract tourists. Some of the best food carts in the universe used to be here before they kicked them out to build the fancy new hotels. Sure, there's still the museums, but they lack the academic integrity they used to have. I'd take Old Habitsform any day of the week.
That said, the city does have all the modern efficiencies. I docked the Egregore at the state-of-the-art aerodrome and took the maglev downtown. The Voracious Mouths of Yesterday exhibit at the Unnatural History Museum opens tomorrow, so me and "The Traits, Features, Characteristics, Peculiarities, Mannerisms, Qualities, and Attributes of the Hymergian Man-Fungus," with fold-out illustrations intact, including one Fossilized Fish Skeleton neatly pressed between the pages, will be checking in at the Fritz-Carolsson tonight.
Grade 7 Artifactual Containment and Control is great against sinister and uncanny forces, but not necessarily waterproof. Or even water resistant. So it was really the worst time to be blindsided by a typhoonette while skimming the waters of Skrizoom, trying to shoot the needle. On a clear day at low tide, clearing the arches is child's play. Plush, it shaves hours off the long way around.
But somewhere between the gale-force winds shattering the windscreen, the torrential downpour that came through it, followed by the sea spray kicked up by the waves, my tea was overturned, nearly drenching the thin, transparent envelope with the fossilized fish skeleton in it.
Maybe I should put it between the pages of a book. Like a pressed flower.
A book like "The Traits, Features, Characteristics, Peculiarities, Mannerisms, Qualities, and Attributes of the Hymergian Man-Fungus," with fold-out illustrations intact.
Destiny City, here we come.
Mr. Sticks runs a clean, professional operation. The Manse du Mask was a brand new office park, and suite 227 was all floor to ceiling windows and hyper-white interiors. After proving my identity with my papers and a series of previously agreed upon hand signals, I was given an envelope.
"This fossilized fish is mighty slim," I said.
The agent humored me with a smile.
"Address and paperwork for the pickup," she said.
I took a bicycle taxi to the other side of town. The warehouse district. There were suitable areas for landing an airship--if you could clear out the ground transport.
I entered into a sister office of the first, all bright white and windows. I presented my credentials, and was escorted through a series of security checkpoints and increasingly thick steel doors, and finally to a high tech ice chest on a lab table.
The agent worked through a suite of biometric tests, opening compartments inside compartments in the box.
Using a pair of tweezers, she lifted a slim, transparent envelope from the innermost drawer, and handed it to me.
"Do not crease or fold. And whatever you do, DON'T GET IT WET!"
Ship's Log: Grabbed some quick pick-up work because we're in the neighborhood. The Egregore carries a Grade 7 Artifactual Containment and Control Rating, which is the only choice for the discerning collector. I run a tight ship, and the added safety is absolutely worth the fee I charge. But can you really put a price on resting easy? Is any fee too high to ensure the safety of a city block, or whatever the potential blast radius of your eldritch time bomb is? Or to prevent the unleashing forces that will consume this universe and shit it out upside down into hell?
I thought not.
Job claimed by Rose Nomenclature 2019-04-06 22:40:00
Fossilized Fish Skeleton needs transport to the Voracious Mouths of Yesterday exhibit at the Unnatural History Museum, Destiny City.
Pickup at the Manse du Mask, suite 227, Cloverton. Half up front, and half upon return.