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Cabaret & Candy (TONIGHT ONLY!)
#1
Yesenia mingled the tables, her tray flashing like a disc perched upon elegant, expert fingers. Feathers trailed in her wake, tickling noses along the way. A smack to her thigh and she turned, smile big, a wink freshly flickering from sinful-lashes. She placed a Slippery Nipple upon a table on a spin and caught the eye of the lights-master before hurrying back to her post. The lights would go down in a moment and skyscraper heels were dangerous platforms in the dark. 

A flamboyant and mischievous compere commanded the stage, brilliant spotlight illuminating his form. Yesenia smacked her lips at a passing patron, stealing the empty stems like an expert thief. The band, Top Shelf chiseled at their brass, and all eyes swiveled forward. Giant feathered fans, burlesque dancers, acrobatics, vertiginous high heels.. the flash of exotic glamour gripped Yesenia by the soul. She was a lifer and always would be. Hopefully the CCD didn't shut them down after tonight! 

She paused long enough to listen to the initial denunciations of their first act. Hoots and hollers whistled forth when he spoke.



The room throbbed with excitement. A titilating atmosphere clung to velvet walls like smoke. The clink of glass, the aroma of perfume, the jowl of laughter. The thrumming of a stringed-ensemble. Back stage Jaxen quivered with giddy merriment. Ten minutes to lights lowered. The show infused his blood like vodka, metaphorically of course, the real thing rested on the vanity before him. He put the glass to his lips for one last toast. Careful not to smudge the palette of freshly paint around his lips. The smile that beamed at himself in the mirror was one of pure adulterous mischief. 

From the dressing room, Jaxen twisted on the stool when the music began to play. Laughter erupted. He could almost mouth along with those opening lines. He hopped lightly to his feet, hand laid to his heart, falsely blue eyes peering far upon a distant horizon. But he dared not break the spell of character wrapping him like a blanket. Tonight was likely his only chance on stage, at least so clad. The show was doomed by tomorrow, but for the moment at least, the flame burned brightly. 

He went to stage right, waiting his cue. An optics screen bloomed to life. The Kremlin projected holographic. So close.. His heart pound greedily in the final moments of Desmond’s Du Marc’s closing statements: “And now, stand with me as we welcome his magnificence, the illustrious, fearless, glorious, soulless, Ass-candy!”  

The curl of Jaxen’s smile faded into utter seriousness as he stalked onto the stage. Ass-candy was a serious, serious man. 

Lights burned his retinas as howls of laughter erupted. Ancient power swirled like water draining from a toilet. 

Giant ass-molds juggled in impossible combinations as he limbered out center-stage. Each one was glittered with colorful sparkles. His mouth mimed the chomping on the nearest, only for it to chase away. Frustrated, ass-candy howled in frustration and they all caught flame, twisted and floated away like spent lanterns. 

Then he froze. “OH?” 

He spun upon realizing the audience’s presence. Palm splayed delicately across his chest. His accent was a softened Russian. Brilliant blue eyes gleamed embarrassment. The dark swath of hair styled in an oh so neatly comb-over. “I did not know you were there!” The exclaim and harrumph continued. It was absolutely obvious who was portrayed. 

A poised turn of the body positioned the lean line of his form, and Jaxen flicked the tip of that very-pointy silver band wrapping his temple like twin penises. The ancient power wrapped him with illusion so expert, the audience only saw the facade for the absurdity that Ass-candy could not possibly be there in the flesh. But he didn't make it perfect. When the show was over, it was Jaxen Marveet who would be the star. Not Nikolai Fucking Brandon. What use was satire if the crowd didn't know who to thank for the entertainment? 

“Allow me to put on something more comfortable!” 

Twinkling toes leaped across the stage. A heavy desk. Twin flags. The hop of a traceur and he stood tall upon the desk, hand to his eyes peering into the crowd. “Where are my hounds? Bring me my hounds!” 

A young man wrapped in the bonds of an S&M chainmail brought out a teacup poodle. The audience roared with laughter as the apparent arms of Nikolai Brandon cupped the vicious little beast in his elbow. Satisfied, he placed the itty bitty pup on the desk otherwise distracted by treats, while he studied the literal ass-candy that sauntered to the background. 

His brows waggled at the audience with shared appreciation. Laughing at his own humor, he started to sit, only to jerk around the last moment and realize the bonded servant was smiling at him, mouthing silent words.  Brandon tried to regain his composure, but every time he started to speak, he’d jerk around again. The servant inched closer every time. Until he was standing right behind Jaxen’s head. He rested upon the brick-wall of the servant's chiseled stomach.

Fingers splayed his scalp and he groaned with reaction. Until the dick-wrapped headband that was the satirical crown was gripped hard and yanked free. Brandon yelped. The pup squealed. And in one smooth motion, he ripped his own jacket from his shoulders, twirled it overhead like a lasso and chucked it at the servant. “LATER!” Whistles called for more. 

Realizing he was quite bare-chested, Brandon admired the pink coins of his own nipples a second before seating himself quite seriously behind the desk. The glint of an ornate silver cross was nestled on a meager bed of chest hair. “AS I WAS SAYING.” The muted Russian accent continued. 

The audience fell silent. Jaxen cleared his throat, stiffened his jaw, and bellowed: “Members of MY Custody, welcome!” a brooding stare gripped hearts.  “I have come to show you the might behind my clothes!” Pecs flexed back and forth, a single brow lifted. Whistles reemerged. “I will uphold my promise to you! To make Moscow the center of earth!”  Hip thrusts met victoriously raised fists.. Until a flash of a light burst from the corner.  Brandon squealed and ducked under the desk.  

The bonded servant padded over, attempting to coax him out. He had to implore the audience’s help. Finally, the little pup was scooped and offered like some kind of security-blanket. Brandon emerged, pup nestled beneath his skin. A shy expression darted.  At that point, Ass-candy regained his bravery, smacked a kiss at the servant, handed off the pup… 

… and dived to one knee, fist at his forehead oh-so-dramatically. 

The music rose. The lights went down. When both came back, Nikolai Brandon was center-stage surrounded by the fullness of the cabaret dancers.   Jaxen howled with delight. Glittering rhinestones, dazzling sequins, and most importantly, feathers. The extravagance dripped like diamonds. The backdrop sparkled like stars. And he was at its center. Orange pants the color of bright marmalade wrapped his thighs like tights. A mesh shirt sparkling with jewels of candy asses decorated his chest. A bright white belt hugged sinfully low on his hips. He grinned devilishly in their delight.

Hundreds of orange, white and purple feathers came alive, slithering and coiling like the bodies that swarmed. He snatched the hand of a partner, spinning the drag queen into a mini-Charleston. She seamlessly complied as Jaxen spun to accept another before twirling penchee himself. Muscles corded. The air brushed cheeks sweating beneath the lights. The ancient power whirled fireballs of rainbow colors around the stage. Long horizontal jumps stretched his thighs hard. Cheers urged him on. He devoured all of it. Never wanting the moment to end. But first, the finale. He stopped. Panting with exertion. The lights baked his skin. The power sizzled around him. The audience held its breath.
"So?" said Loki impatiently.  "This isn't the first time the world has come to an end, and it won't be the last either."
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#2
Beto had no illusions things would move quickly. Bureaucracy was bureaucracy, regardless of nation or state or empire. Every person owned each email and message and task- or didn't when it was something they didn't want to do or be responsible for.

The memory of the fly caught in the honey flashed across his mind. He'd watched fascinated, as it struggled, wings getting sticky and mired, sinking. He was only 11 at the time but he had learned to catch flies fairly easily, his hand quick and yet gentle, not squishing it in the process. Summer in the Bronx could be humid and brutal and there were always plenty to disturb him as he tried to sleep, drawn to the sweet sweat he guessed.

They always fought so hard. Only one had ever made it out in all that time.

(He chuckled slightly to himself even as the usual discomfort from the memory came upon him. The triad concept was now mostly outdated, but it still stayed with him in his work. Questions of bed wetting, fires, or torturing of animals usually flashed an arrow in a single direction. Not that he had been surprised. He knew what he was. Or was capable of, rather. But definitions helped. They placed a box around the impulse, circumscribed it in such a way as to make it small, manageable. Mindfulness was key, the river flowing, thoughts and feelings leaves drifting along, examined, and then the choice to accept or reject.)

In any case Daiyu was still stuck, but Beto wouldn't give up. He had escaped the honey after all.

Beto was on his own, now. He'd left the studio he'd leased and just wandered the streets. The news out of the Kremlin was garbled and he didn't doubt the propaganda experts were working overtime to spin things. He heard rumors, of course, but rumors could be black or white or any shade in between when it came to truth. He preferred facts.

Tonight, though, he was tired. And walks in this alien city had invigorated him. It was a new energy, something that seemed to be missing from the US. Strangely, he found it all very attractive in a way that was frankly a bit disconcerting.

Not enough that he'd avoid it though. He'd come here becuase....well he needed to. There might be answers here. Meaning. Something.

The music of the club thrummed out an insistent heartbeat. Normally, not his scene, though it was easier to observe without the need of small talk. Not unless he felt like yelling, which he didn't. Inane talk was not his interest at normal decibels.

But this place seemed interesting. A cabaret. The screen out front advertising the show, Cabaret and Candy. It promised satire, the face that almost seemed to form behind the words that then drifted away in wisps of smoke recognizable. A small smile appeared on his face and he went it.

The woman at the door was taller than he was and built like a line-backer and smiled with flirtation as he swiped his card. He felt his normal persona take over. He smiled back and winked. He was not formally dressed, a light cream cabled v-neck cashmere sweate, brown wool corduroy pants over soft reddish leather loafers. Nothing too expensive or out of place. Less constricting than the tailored suits and shirts, the ties he wore every day. But still attractive, projecting an air of class and sophistication.

Which of course was only one of many modes of dress here. And yet that was the point of drag, the mockery of gender roles and clothing, the extreme styles a rejection of conformity, of societal expectation. There was a sense of liberation and freedom, though that was not something he himself required. He needed the rules.

Seated, a simple glass of red at his table, he watched the performances. Campy. Raucous. But fun for all that. The fawning announcer, Desmond Du Marc, voice breathy and worshipful- the perfect sycophant- announced the main attraction.

Despite himself, he smiled at the name. Ass-candy. Brilliant. Of course the performer would look like him, but at times, he was almost a dead ringer, then at other times not. The best part, though, was mocking penii of the Argus band. He idly wondered how Brandon would take the compliment. Evidently, they weren't afraid, otherwise they would not have gone at this with such abandon. American media always portrayed the CCD as oppressive and stifling. But he knew better to believe the hounds.

His lord Ass-candy seemed to lap up the humor, shifting back and forth between serious and mockery. The man was talented, happy to be the center of attention.

It was not high theater. It didn't need to be. The message was just as clear, the truth shining through.
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#3
Without a voice, Raffe couldn't work. Carmen assured him fiercely that he would not have to worry about money, though really it didn't number high among his concerns. He almost ruffled her hair when she said it, only refraining because he knew better than to treat her like a doll, though he did grin wide at her concern. He had a roof over his head for now, and given time perhaps the injury would improve. Ever the optimist, he tried not to dwell on it.

Raffe's bar jobs were eclectic to say the least, and even in those places he did not work he generally had friends and acquaintances. He was a social creature, and the sudden absence among his circles was both noticed and noted. A problem he could only avoid for so long. His friends coaxed and cajoled until he relented, whispering of a night not to be missed.

When they told him where his lips curled into a smirk. He tried to tease Carmen into joining him, but she only rolled her eyes and waved him away with the hope that he had a good night.

Hands in pockets, Raffe met his friends at the table. It hurt his chest when they stared at the mangled flesh of his throat, though he had somewhat obliquely warned them what to expect. He supposed that at least when they demanded to know what the fuck had happened, he was quickly excused answering. Barely a rasp escaped when he opened his lips. They plied him with conciliatory drinks instead. He didn't complain.

He loved the spectacle. The glitz and glamour. That cheeky wink of subversiveness. The alcohol burned a little uncomfortably, but the company was good. Lada smacked him playfully on the back of his head when she caught him staring. Glitter trailed his cheek from god knows where. Fingers tousling his blonde curls. The tickle of feathers. The tease of flesh. Male or female, it didn't matter. He grinned, felt the knot in his chest unravel.

Then silence descended with the lights. The show began.

And what a show.

Ah, it hurt to laugh. No wonder the billing was one night only. Amusement twinkled Raffe's gaze, irreverent enough to take it at face value. The sly digs, drawing on speeches everyone in this room had heard with their own ears, carved up into mocking morsels. The caricatures were obvious, particularly the lead. Prosthetics, maybe, though like a mirage the likeness seemed to fade in and out. The light maybe.

The crowd around him erupted in guffaws and hollering. Vassily's head plunged into his hands, tears leaking down his cheeks. Someone accidentally knocked over a drink, spilling electric pink all across the table. The hysterics spread like wildfire. Raffe massaged his neck a few times, trying to ease the twinges of pain laughter choked from him. Didn't understand the sudden bouts of dread, like anxiety hovered over his shoulder, as the momentum built to frenzy.

He swiped a hand over his brow, swallowing a little uncomfortably. White, orange and purple swarmed the stage. Rainbows soared like nothing he'd ever seen, plunging terror in his heart. He suddenly realised it was racing and glanced at the drink in his hand, wondering if someone had been a bit free with the merriment. But pulled his gaze back to the stage.
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#4
They were still in Moscow. It surprised Adam to be there still, it was the longest they had stayed anywhere as a family. But Bradley thought it was best to stay in town until Troy and Bev's murderer was found. It was a royal cluster fuck if you asked him. But his husband was right.

So for now they'd make their way to the Cabaret. It was a one night only show and it was said to be masterful and humorous. And he and Bradley hadn't gone on a date night in forever. So here they went. Bradley was wearing a well made up suit - completely normal. But Adam wasn't going as Adam, he dressed like Methos. The hair, the eyes, the clothes. He'd auction the set off for the fans. They loved that. Particularly if this was a rock the house as he thought it might be.

The atmosphere was like any other cabaret he'd been to but the show. It started out perfectly normal but the spectical soon became amazing. The lights he'd seen before. But the fire wasn't like any pyrotechnics normal folks could do. It was artistry. So much more than Troy could do. He would need to speak to this man.

Methos was mesmerized by the show. "Spectacular." he whispered to Bradley. His husband rolled his eyes and shook his head. "Not until Troy's murderer is found."
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#5
Aiden had spent two glorious nights with him. Granted it was also plagued with Aiden working with both Nox and Cruz learning what he could. It didn't really bother him but he was enjoying being alone with Aiden. His pup enjoyed time with Nova and he was learning to stay away from the traps too. It was funny watching things happen but now it was time for them time. Nox didn't seem all that interested in their relationship. He pretty much seemed to ignore it. But any flirting he did was with both of them not just them alone.

They were going to a one night only cabaret that was expected to be awesome. Sage had mentioned they were going to Nox but he hadn't seemed interested. Well he hadn't seemed interested in going with them. He was too busy refreshing the traps around Dorian's house. And Cruz was too busy with his dad, wherever that was going. It was gloriously epic. Sage curled his hand in Aiden's as they watched. It felt good to be here with him. Alone out of the house without anyone else. "This is great." He didn't mean only the show, but the company.

They had a table near the front. Being able to hack his way into the system was nice for reservations. They sat down and Sage recognized the satire of the thing. Ascendancy. The speech the day he made the honorific arc in the Red Square.
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#6
The past two nights had been tiresome, oh he had enjoyed meeting Cruz, learning from him and Nox. The pups were carrying on like brothers and Sage had been taking it all in stride. Despite the odd beginnings of their relationship, or whatever it was that they had going on, everything had been unfolding incredibly. For the first time in a long time, Aiden had started to feel like he belonged somewhere. The limelight was great and all, but that world was so shallow; the people he encountered in his professional life were shallow and wouldn’t think twice about backstabbing you. This tribe of misfits he had found… well, they needed each other… and Aiden was starting to feel that he needed them.

                Cooper, Aiden’s limo driver had brought them to this strange one-night-only cabaret. Cooper was actually sitting in the very back, the limo taken by the valet; Aiden glanced over his shoulder and saw his limo driver smiling from ear to ear. The man needed a break from work and home, Aiden could be very needy with his requests at times… This was the least he could do. Aiden signaled for a waiter to come by and ordered two bottles of champagne, one for Cooper to enjoy and then another for Sage and himself to gulp down. He was feeling saucy tonight, after all. They could take a cab back to the mansion if Cooper got too sauced.

                The waiter was back with the bottle in minutes, uncorking it with ease and pouring out two glasses for Aiden and his date. The waiter left the bottle in a bucket stuffed to the brim with ice and was off back into the crowd.

                Aiden grasped one of the fluted glasses and announced, “To us and the glorious beginnings of something fantastic!” He clinked glasses with Sage and took a deep drink of the bubbling amber liquid. A fine vintage, indeed.

                The crowd roared with laughter, heads tossing back drinks, couples kissing passionately around them. Aiden looked around and then back to Sage. He cocked an eyebrow at his date and said, “Quite the Bacchanalia we’ve walked into. Why are they laughing? Did I miss a joke or something? You look fantastic, by the way, babe. Despite the crowd, I am so thankful to have a night alone with you.”

                Aiden winked at Sage and took another drink of the stuff. The show was absolutely insane. Aiden loved what he was seeing. This paled in comparison to the movie-musical of the same name, Cabaret, although Aiden did love Liza Minnelli. Hell, this was better than Moulin Rouge, and Aiden thought that movie was a feast for the eyes! The stages and costumes were amazing, but this... This was visceral, raw, delcious. He had no idea what to expect.

Russian Dolls and Broken Gods, a new Fantasy novel by best-selling author, Aiden Finnegan, out this December! Preorder online and instore today!
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#7
Things were almost back to normal. And when Nox meant normal he didn't mean normal to most people - his normal. The world rotated on. But now along with every other fucking nightmare he had the pull of enormous power through his body torturing him every night. And the sounds of Sage and Aiden in the other room. Nox wished he could make sound stop flowing, instead he wrapped himself up in loud music and ignored everything Sage had said he'd wanted. Didn't fucking matter, he told himself. Nox didn't want a relationship. He sucked at it, he needed to go on with his life.

In the middle of his morning workout Nox received a subtle text from an unexpected person. They hadn't really been chums, but I guess saving each others asses and standing up together kinda made them something of friends. The text was simple with a location.

"I might be making an appearance. You'll know me when you see me"

Nox looked up the location and their website was the featuring a one night only cabaret. Nox wasn't the cabaret type. He wasn't the go out to a party type either. He'd done it a few times and things happened that were coming back in spits and sputters. Jaden had been a one time only thing, but his younger self wasn't afraid to dress the part. And now he was essentially being invited to a cabaret by a guy he'd met in passing in a place he had never expected to be. His father would have tried to kill him.

Irony was that Sage and Aiden had told him and invited him along. Nox had refused their invitation. Said he might stop in though so not to think it was a slight. But they needed alone time and maybe they'd find a hotel or something after. Nox wanted a little sleep.

Nox didn't dress up. He wore a pair of slacks and a button up with a sarcastic t-shirt underneath that said, "Cleverly disguised as an adult" But you couldn't read it with the buttons. He left his hoodie at home and opted for his leather jacket instead. Nox added to his getup the same thing he'd worn the fateful night that his father changed him for what had probably been forever if he hadn't crashed in a plane. The night he'd come home wearing eyeliner and black nail polish and his hair dyed in a bright color because that's what you did at a Methos concert. He remembered his dad shaving his head. He remembered the things he said and the fucking beating he'd gotten afterwards. It had changed him... irrevocably changed him and he hated his father even more for it.

"Good little brother." The praise made Nox feel better. Sage and Aiden were still getting ready. But Nox took the train to the location. He wanted to be alone with his thoughts.

The place was full of glitz and glamour and he didn't look too out of place - more so with his attire than the things he'd added. The things he'd been when his father had killed his spark. Made him change. Nox sat in the back alone in the shadows. Jaxen had said he'd know him when he saw him. But he hadn't seen him yet. The lights dimmed and the show started and Nox's wallet buzzed and he glanced at it and was surprised by yet another man he'd only just met. This one he looked at quickly with a smile. Jay made him nervous, but he liked him probably more than he should.

Three guesses where I'm at. If I die here, don't let them bury my ass in a cornfield. I won't be stuck here for all eternity. In the picture there was nothing but cornfields and Jay looking worn and tired. He could only be back home - fucking United States, but he'd been here only a few days before. I wasn't sure how that had worked since he was a rod... the name made Nox grin at the thought.

He sent a quick response and stuck the wallet back in the inside pocket of his leather jacket.

The main attraction was starting and the power flung wide. Lights that were not seen by most were everywhere. Nox didn't marvel at it like he had with Methos' concert he knew it was the power, knew how to do it. But Ascendancy took the stage and Nox chuckled to himself. The power wrapped around him and Nox laughed. Jaxen... His wallet buzzed again.

The usual. Giant conspiracy. Killers on the loose. Kidnapping. Murder. Revenge. But you think this is bad? I got my Stetson back, baby. Should see me rock the shit out of it. Send you pics later. Nox didn't like that particular returned reply. His reply was quick but now he was a little worried... Why was Jay back in the States.

The reply was quick. He wondered what Jay was doing in a cornfield... If you don't hear from me in a few days, assume the only help I need is finding a burial plot. Catch up later.

Nox watched humor of Jaxen's mockery. It was good, but Nox the emotions were conflicting at the moment. Humor, Horror and worry weren't a well suited pair.

As the speech started another text came in. This one had no caption - just a picture. Jay was still alive. Nox pulled his lips in while he stared at the picture of the stetson he promised. And very little else. It was artistic which wasn't something he expected of Jay, he didn't see his face, but Nox remembered the body well. He couldn't take his eyes off the photo.

Nox sent a reply Um... I wish I was there. Still alive and kicking Smile And then he flashed his own picture, not nearly so artistic, but it showed the difference. Trying something new." Nox stole another glance at the picture of Jay and knew if he didn't pay attention to Jaxen's skit he'd probably get an ear full... Rich and pampered he told himself, when did he fall in with that crowd?
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#8
Jaxen was center stage when a tornado of plumes circled on all sides. In the moment, he couldn’t tell whether it was him or the illusion that drank in the adoration of a crowd begging for more. Such exhilaration!  

… but first, the finale.

The wry grin that flickered was definitely his when he disappeared into the darkness that was stage-right. In the expert way that performances could deceive, the set began to shift. Players swapped when one dipped out of sight, replaced by someone else. The practice that went into this performance was astounding, but only slightly adapted from previous shows to expedite the need. Following the Ball, and the slow trickle of rumors bled from the wound, Jaxen called his contacts immediately. The show would be a raging success, but never so much as tempted before. Derogatory graffiti within the bounds of the Golden Ring was not abided by the government. Fines and worse crushed those attempting to speak against his lordship Ascendancy. It had always been that way. For the most part, Moscovites, and Russians before them, accepted the restraints, almost proud to do so.

But times changed. Gods rose from the moats, rising against the kings harbored safely in their castles. It wouldn’t be long before rivals were revealed. The way things were heading, the world would plunge into darkness in a matter of decades (if not sooner). Why not push it along?

The music shifted then. Hilarity and frivolity faded as something more sinister wafted from below. Like those swamp gods crawling from murky waters to behold fresh air for the first time. Strings, deep and hollow, touched to the bone. Warning of something to come.

The sheer shirt sparkled with all the little glistening ass-candies sewn into the fabric. The spotlight blazed a beam of pure white light upon him. Feet innumerable shuffled in the shadows.

Then, the bleating of a lamb bellowed in the hall. A second spotlight illuminated Desmond Du Marc gripping the rope restraining a pure white lamb.

Ass-candy spread his arms like he welcomed the little creature for a hug, but instead, sickly orange lights cast their hellish lamps upon nine newly positioned figures between them.

Young girls. Dancers chosen specifically for their diminutive size. Each one adorned in the national costume of bygone cultures eradicated from modern times. A kimono upon one. The sparkling sari upon another. The hijab. The ruffled dresses of Andalusian folk dresses of Spain. Shawls and kerchiefs of gothic Slovakia. Each one a different woman. Each one staring at Nikolai Brandon in defiance. But looming behind each girl was an enormous pole draped with flags unfurled. Gray tipped with colors and shapes. The Dominances awaited to cover each like a shroud.

Brandon stalked to the first one. Power sizzled through Jaxen as a great, intangible scythe appeared to slice through the girl. She screamed and crumpled. A spray of red, false, exaggerated red, erupted like a fountain. Brandon snatched the first flag from its pole and draped it from his shoulders.

Then to the second. The scythe swung. He laughed victoriously as the girl in the kimono was no more. More red fountains. Another flag to claim.

One by one, he cut his way through the girls. The stage was a pool of red that drained through slits in the floorboards. The great screen behind them flickered with hellish flames licking closer. By the time the ninth body fell at his feet, the flags formed a cloak that draped from his shoulders like kingly robes. The scythe disappeared as he seemed to kick and roll the human sacrifices toward the center of the stage until they piled up.

He climbed the corpses, then, cloak trailing over ruined faces as he did. Fog billowed from a chair upheld by broken backs that he sat upon.

Jaxen’s heart was pounding in his chest. Nothing – NOTHING like this had been attempted before. Recording devices were likely spreading the tale, if anyone had the wherewithal to retrieve one from their frozen, shocked stupor.

But he relished in the chaos to come. A slap to Brandon that none other was willing to attempt. It wasn’t personal. Truly. Jaxen had little qualm with the man himself to incite such rebellion against his aura.

It had everything to do with the institution itself. A mockery. Someone had to do it. Someone had to dare to be first. Delightfully, that someone was Jaxen.

Ass-candy waved at Desmond. The male, still wrapped with the costume mocking a tuxedo, the sleeves cut at the biceps, black jewels sewn like sparkling shadows across his back. His hair was shorn to a black carpet close to the scalp. His cheekbones high. Globes of eyes glistening white. Just like the man he imitated. No illusion required.

He led the bleating lamb to the foot of the stairs otherwise strewn with the bodies of Brandon’s conquest. There, Desmond pulled a very real, very sharp knife from his coat and plunged it into the downy fur. Screeching stung their ears.  Music rose to a crescendo but was an ineffective muffle to the horrors observed. Jaxen forced his lip from curling. But this time, the blood was real. The red not faked.

The sacrifice completed, Jaxen folded finally into his seat when everyone on stage bowed their faces to the floor before him.

The hiss of a smile licked his lips as the curtain fell.

Your move, Ascendancy.





When next he appeared, the curtain was a shield from the mess hidden behind. The players in the show were announced but their real names were carefully withheld. They took their bows amid well-earned applause.

But when the part of Ass-Candy was declared, Jaxen sauntered out a solitary figure. He was willing to take the consequences of this show upon his shoulders alone.

He wore the aura of Nikolai Brandon until the very moment his name echoed the theatre.

Jaxen Marveet!

And he basked in the glory while the illusion finally unraveled. Gasps erupted, cheering and whistling for the mastery of magic flooded his skin like a drug. His very real eyes and very real cowl of hair glittered with endless amusement. He spread his arms, dipped a leg backward, and bowed with delightful drama.
"So?" said Loki impatiently.  "This isn't the first time the world has come to an end, and it won't be the last either."
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#9
The stage flurried. As if the tightness in Raffe's chest had been a warning, the frivolity suddenly strummed a note of discord. The music jarred a promise of madness. Ice tickled a finger up his spine; cold to replace the hot sweat at his brow. It was surreal. Uncomfortable. His eyes widened at the macabre shift, thrilled and sickened in the same instant, but utterly unable to look away, even as disgust rose like bile.

The subversiveness was a dangerous thrill. Jaws hung agape, eyes wide to the white as the bodies piled. Drinks forgotten. Tittering conversation stilled to silence when the tension strung to a knife point. The animal's scream was not faked. Raffe wretched, the pain burning, hand clamped tight over his mouth. Nothing came up, but he discovered his face drenched. Clothes stuck like a second skin.

The table around him erupted as the show came to a close, but Raffe's legs felt like water. Everything began to warp like a bad trip as he watched the curtain call. Faces twisted. Grins ghastly. The applause was thunderous even as some people slipped out silent and pale-faced. Raffe's mouth dried out, and he suddenly appreciated that something was very wrong. He reached for the table edge, about to excuse himself to the bathroom. But his eyes rolled up instead. He slipped off his seat in a dead faint.

[[Raffe's friends will help him, unless someone has a burning desire to play hero. Not intended to distract from the, uh, main attraction. Carry on.]]
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#10
Sage grinned at Aiden's apt description of the events unfolding and he was hard pressed not to join the crowd in laughing, except he knew much more about these things, these speeches. And that was what Aiden asked about. He'd been a self admitted hermit for the past few years. He was sorely out of touch with the world politics. To say Sage was current was amazing and the only reason he'd care was because he became friends with someone who'd actually met the Ascendancy, not once but three times now... And Sage wouldn't call that lucky in Nox's case.

Sage flicked to a recording of the speech the Ascendancy - ass candy - gave. He chuckled at the name, the imagery would never leave. Sage laid his wallet on the table between him and Aiden and tapped the screen. "You can watch that later. It's a speech he just gave." Sage smiled at his friend, boyfriend... what didn't matter they were sharing time and space and bodily fluids and Sage was perfectly fine with that.

The stage went dark and the sets all changed and soon the play went from humorous to shocking. Sage sat and stared as the women of foreign countries died. The deafening pierce of the animal's screams might give him nightmares. The blood ran red - redder than the fake stuff before it. The Ascendancy was death incarnate... he had slaughtered many on the wings of unity. The US had hated every moment but yet people still sent their sacrifices to the great leader of the CCD. And now Sage was part of it. How fucked up was that?
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