A maze of sewers, traps, blind labyrinths, darkness, and dangerous beings protects a secret path from the sewer entry in the alleyway behind the Duck and Dagger to the entrance of the A massive stone city lays beneath the sewer system. Designed to look like a wheel, each of the four pie shaped districts points to the hub, where things are indeed centered. Carved above each gate is the phrase, "Abundans Cautela Non Nocet," (abundant caution does no harm) which is the motto of the city. The lighting of the cavern is provided by large, blue, bioluminescent mushrooms.
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by: Orion
April 18th, 9:48pm

Privacy was difficult to come by in the City of Shadows. Ironically, there weren't many shadows to hide in. The Labyrinth, however, boasted many little tucked away rooms. Some of those rooms were used for conspirators to meet. Many a goblin could be seen going into and out of the maze, but all refused to speak about their activities. Even a few Nosferatu and vampires went to these meetings, but they too were tight lipped.

Aventus was no stranger to secrets. What he was piecing together from observations was unsettling even though he had no basis for his suspicions. They were just that: suspicions. Still, the observable truth was there: something was going on.

The Nosferatu sat on a mushroom, watching the entrance to the maze, waiting for enlightenment to the situation.
Being back within the City of Shadows was... dark. It was odd how one got so used to almost never seeing the sun, living here. The Nosferatu never minded, of course, and the goblins didn't much care, either, but there were a few humans who became greatly troubled by it, over time. Franco hadn't really been one of those people before -- he'd had quite enough to keep him happy, and his own personal sun to live with in his wife -- but he was quickly discovering, not half an hour after arriving back, that he had become one of the sun-missers. His sun was gone, in any case... buried beneath the ground, much like he now felt that he was, being here. Too many memories, really... far too many.

Still, there were friends here, weren't there? If he could just find Jake, he could find out what people had been up to. If he could find Cedric, they could have a drink together, talk about something other than the loss of Franco's sun, or the even more bewildering arrival of a moon into his life. If Cedric was here he could stop thinking in tortured metaphors, damn it. But neither old friend was anywhere to be found, which led him down toward the water, toward the entrance to the Labyrinth. Perhaps they had simply gone out...? Maybe he could find someone to ask...

Spotting an individual perched on top of one of the giant glowing mushrooms, Franco diverted his course, heading that way instead out of curiosity. After a few moments he realized he vaguely knew the man: a historian of the Nosferatu, someone he seemed to remember meeting once or twice. Aventus. And his partner, what was his name...? Coriolanus? Yes, he remembered him now, even if vaguely: the blond man felt that he could ask this one as to the whereabouts of the elusive pair.

"I say, old chap," he hailed the Nosferatu once he got close enough, "I believe we've met before, Aventus Starsong, isn't it? Franco Shackleford. I was wondering... well..." How did one broach this subject? And... with a slightly more concerning question in mind... "... first of all, if you don't mind my asking... what are you doing up there?"
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by: Orion
Loneliness was becoming a new companion. Not many of the others cared about his research and they all assured him that revenge would be meted out for Cori's death. Aventus didn't really want revenge. he wanted understanding. A little revenge, sure, it was honorable after all, but he wanted to know why the human Teague would break a law by entering a territory not his own and then kill someone who was rightly trying to defend their home.

It wasn't that Aventus didn't know. Teague had been scared, had been defensive, was trying to reclaim the children of the human leader....he understood the basic facts. What motivated the man to that level of loyalty? What drove him to invade rather than ask? What gave him the ability to throw the knife when many humans were too squeamish to even kill their own prey animals?

The Nosferatu sighed heavily. Cori would have debated with him, trying to provide counter arguments to his thoughts and theories. That he died protecting one of his feeders was noble...he'd taken the woman Zhiana as a trainee to have her become a leech. They'd only recently started going through the histories and the cultural training necessary for vampires. Much of it she knew; Cori had been feeding from her and keeping her illness at bay for years. With her transition halted, it would be up to someone else to adopt herr and continue her training. Aventus himself was considering it once his mourning was completed.

"I say, old chap..."

Aventus turned his attention from the gap in the rock to the man approaching. A human...Aventus raised his hand in greeting and considered his reply. Would it be proper to share his suspicions with this one who spent time with Sullivan? Would it be wrong to keep them secret?

"I am watching."

Hazel eyes shifted back over to the gap. Either the enigmatic answer would be enough or the human could ask clarifying questions.
"I am watching."

A simplistic response, but apparently given with some consideration beforehand, which seemed a little odd to Franco. What sort of watching could necessitate such careful speaking? "I noticed a bit of that, yes," he quipped back, expression lightening for a moment before retreating back into something more pensive as before. "I've only just got back... been away a couple of months, you know... so, if you don't mind me asking, watching what, exactly? I'm very much behind the times, I think... I can't even find my friends, truth be told..." He ducked his head slightly, scuffing the ground with his foot, hands tucking into his trouser pockets.
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by: Orion
Aventus shrugged at the many words Franco had to say. H was a talkative man, but Aventus was only chatty when it suited him. Perhaps, in his grief, he should make an effort to reach out more.

"Before he passed, Coriolanus spoke often of a conspiracy. I thought him jesting or paranoid...but since he died, I have noticed it too. Many go into the labyrinth in the day yet do not pass topside...many who later have business dealings. I am trying to understand, and understanding begins with observing."

He patted the mushroom beside him in an invitation to the human to come up and sit with him. Perhaps he needed some time to sit and observe, too. Maybe not necessarily the crack in the wall the way Aventus was doing, but if his friends were missing, there were things to observe there, weren't there?
"Before he passed, Coriolanus spoke often of a conspiracy. I thought him jesting or paranoid...but since he died, I have noticed it too. Many go into the labyrinth in the day yet do not pass topside...many who later have business dealings. I am trying to understand, and understanding begins with observing."

There were many, many things in that answer worthy of comment, but one particularly stuck out to Franco. Probably not the one that should have, but in his own time of mourning, it was the one that was closest to his heart right now. "Coriolanus passed? I'm so dreadfully sorry to hear that..." He scrambled up onto the mushroom when the open place was offered, looking at Aventus. "My condolences... Believe me, I know a little too well what that's like..." Did he ever... his heart felt tight as he looked away again, off toward where Aventus was looking. When he spoke again, his tone was dryer, a little lower. "I'll watch with you, if it's as serious as you're making it sound. I don't like the idea of this place getting torn apart... for a lot of people, it's the only place they have left, as it is..."
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by: Orion
Aventus looked over at the human and saw grief mirrored in the man.

"I have heard that you too, have recently lost a loved one. It is not easy, fighting the desire to follow them. It is in having a larger task that keeps me focused on remaining here."

The Nosferatu returned his attention to the opening in the cave wall, considering what Franco had to say about many making this their home. Some didn't consider the underground their home. It was a temporary refuge, or a place of business. It was a market place or a palace to be overthrown. And those were the rumors...someone was looking to overthrow Sullivan and take over the City. Such was the way of the black market, but it made Aventus feel uncomfortable. There would be civil war if whoever took over didn't have the loyalties of the different factions.
This place was… holy shit… Goddamn incredible! And huge.

“Can’t forget huge. Especially when you’re lost as shit...” Everett muttered to himself. He had been wandering the so-called City of Shadows for quite some time now- maybe two hours or so he realized looking at his watch- but had managed to wander out of the city proper and into the tunnels that presumably lead to other entrances and exits to the cavern system. He wasn’t looking to leave, but rather find his way back to the quarters he and his father were staying in while they were visiting in the Nosferatu quarter of the city. “... which doesn’t seem real fuckin’ likely, now does it, Cooper?” he berated himself under his breath. After all, it wasn’t like there was anyone else down here that was gonna hear him talking to himself, right?

Except it seemed there was. As he neared what appeared to be a natural crossroads of several different tunnels Ev heard the mumble of voices in conversation. It only took a few more steps before he recognized one of the voices as that of his uncle, Aventus. ‘Uncle’ in a loose sense, of course, but the older Nosferatu was like a brother to his sire, Max, and Max had become more of a father to Everett than his biological father ever was, hence he considered Aventus his uncle as well. He and his late partner Coriolanus had both been incredibly kind and patient with him while he was newly-turned and trying to come to grips with the horrific new Hunger that plagued all vampires, so it was hardly a stretch for Everett to think of either men as his uncles. The thought of his recently murdered uncle Cori brought tears to the American’s eyes as he followed the sounds of the voices, though he didn’t cry. Oddly enough, as he turned the corner and the owners of the voices became visible in the dim bioluminescence from the mushrooms in the cavern it seemed his deceased Tio Cori was the subject they were discussing, at least briefly.

“Hola, tio!” Everett greeted Aventus with a genuinely warm smile and a little wave. “I’m not interrupting am I?” he added, giving a respectful nod to the man seated next to the Nosferatu.
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by: Orion
Factions, fractions, friction...it all led down the same path of discord and disharmony. Aventus could see a revolution brewing, but it was neither his place nor his job to alert the human leader about the issue. If the man could not see the uprising, then perhaps it was best that he was deposed. The conversation with the human wound down naturally and they lapsed into silence.

Shortly, a familiar voice piqued Aventus' attention. The older Nosferatu turned to his nephew.

"Ah. Everett, no, there is no interruption. I was considering doing some explorations. I am still not sure, however. Perhaps you would be able to help me decide..."

He tilted his head to the crack on the wall of the cave, indicating where he was going to explore.
You know, being chased out of your own space was annoying and, to a point, downright humiliating. But at the same time Alasdair understood why it was done. If Cedric or Jake didn’t send someone to check on him, he had a bad habit of falling down his own rabbit hole of experiments and studies. With no natural lighting outside his window, it was hard to tell how much time was actually passing and he ignored clocks if they weren’t being used as a timer on an experiment. So when Maedric had shown up at his door and demanded to know when the last time he had been out of his room had been the young man just smiled in guilt as he pulled his shoes on.

The City of Shadows had been Alasdair’s home for nearly two years now and he was certain that either it was enchanted to become bigger or the city itself was an optical illusion that appeared smaller until you walked the streets. He was still finding new paths to walk after all this time. Yet for some reason every path dumped him out near the Labyrinth. The wizard had never been inside (there was no reason for him to) but the idea of backrooms for a back alley organization always sparked his curiosity in that dangerous kind of way.

For some reason tonight there was a small congregation of people outside the entrance. Most people who had business in the Labyrinth hurried inside and then hurried away before anyone could really notice them too much. So this was strange. Shoving his hands into his jean pockets, Alasdair walked up calmly looking at the small group. The man sitting on mushroom was easy enough for Alasdair to identify; Aventus was a well-known Nosferatu historian and the young wizard had been interested in meeting him but had simply never gotten the chance. The other man Alasdair didn’t recognize at all but from his coloring he was most likely the same variety of creature as the elder man. He stopped short as not to intrude on their conversation but he waved slightly in greeting.
Explorations? In the labyrinth? Interesting… From what he had been told about the cave system the City was situated in and abutted, the labyrinth was full of traps and dangers to keep unwanted visitors out and protect the city’s citizens, although the SEAL had to admit he was awful curious about what was in there. Everett’s brows furrowed slightly in a concerned frown at his uncle. What could Aventus think was the matter if he felt the need to go explore what was supposed to be the city’s defenses? But with the strange and silent human seated on the mushroom with his uncle, was this really the place to discuss it either? Hmm…

“¿Hay algo mal, tio? Pareces preocupado*,” he addressed the older vampire in Spanish. It wasn’t like Aventus to look so troubled like this, so Everett was more than willing to do what he could to rectify the situation if it would ease the Nosferatu’s mind. “Papá estará en reuniones con las Nightshades por un tiempo, así que me encantaría acompañarle**,” he added with another warm smile.

He paused and turned to look over his shoulder when another human scent announced they had yet more company nearby. The young man waved at Aventus as if they knew each other so Everett offered the handsome fellow a smile and a polite nod in return before asking Aventus, “Friend of yours, tio?”

*Is something wrong, tio? You look troubled.
** Dad will be in meetings with the Nightshades for a while yet, so I would love to accompany you.
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by: Orion
The Nosferatu waved a hand idly at the entrance to the labyrinth. He looked unconcerned to the outsiders, but to his nephew, there was a terseness.

"Hay un misterio de trasgos y sombras. I am too curious to let it be...but we shall need a wizard."

Aventus' dark hazel eyes slid to the newcomer. His extended gesture transformed to a flourish of greeting. This was the researcher, was it not? Cedric and Jacob rescued many stray children. This was one such, was it not? Aventus thought so. He was a kindred spirit in the research field, but his studies were more alchemical, the historian thought.

"This one is as much a researcher as I am, sobrino. I've yet to get to know him, however. Salutations," the Nosferatu transferred his attention to the angular young man. "I am Aventus Starsong. This is my nephew Everett Cooper Darkwater, and we would know you if you would be known." A thin smile of Nosferatu smile accompanied the greeting.

There is a mystery of goblins and shadows
An easy smile graced his features at the greeting and he inclined his head appreciatively. ”Alasdair Bennett,” he introduced politely, ”A pleasure to meet you both.” His mahogany eyes flicked from the Nosferatu to the nephew, taking a moment to take the tall man in. Handsome and deadly if the scar on his mouth was anything to go by. Whatever the two had been discussing, or planning if the terseness of their tones was anything to go by, it seemed to be rather important. With their gestures and eyes mostly locked on the Labyrinth it seemed to be the subject of their discussion as well. But again their idling about the entrance had Alasdair confused and more than piqued his curiosity.

Having been greeted, the young man approached slowly now. With a nod towards the wall he turned his gaze back to Aventus. ”You don’t seem to have business and I apologize for eavesdropping but you said you require a wizard?” he questioned carefully. While his specialty laid in transformative magics, Alasdair had not been a slouch with his other studies. Especially what had once been called Defense Against the Dark Arts. His father had insisted he have a firm grasp on those. Depending on what the two older men had planned it may be worth Alasdair time and curiosity to assist them. Or they would tell him to bugger off and he would inform Jake and Cedric about this strange meeting he happened upon.
A mystery? Goblins and shadows? Everett let out a heavy sigh at the poetic but vague answer from his uncle, although he kept further questions to himself for the moment considering the newcomer was coming closer. Well, if they needed a wizard it looked like they had found one at least…

“Pleasure’s all mine, Mister Bennett,” Ev answered the younger man with a smile. He looked the wizard over purely out of habit, assessing the man with a tactical eye. A researcher like Aventus, huh? Ev still didn’t know much at all about the magical world outside of the Nosferatu clans, so the idea of meeting a wizard was still a bit fascinating to the relatively newly turned vampire. Maybe he would have a chance to get to know this Alasdair a little better if he decided to assist Aventus with whatever it was he had in mind. After all, he was real easy on the eyes as well as everything else.

“So, tio… it seems you found your wizard and you know I’ve got your six,” the vampire started, using the military parlance without thinking, “You gonna tell us what you’ve got in mind?”
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by: Orion
Aventus gave a Nosferatu's tight lipped smile of pleasure. He, too, looked over the wizard Bennett. He looked capable and curious. Aventus couldn't help but enjoy the feeling that everything was coming together as the powers wanted. Everett queried what was to come next, so Aventus let his eyes scan over the glowing mushrooms around them as he thought.

"We shall merely take a walk. Mister Bennett will be able to assist us by meeting the challenges of the security systems with his magics. We shall be listening for the goblins and their whispers. I hope it is gambling or some other nonsense and not-"

He stopped himself. It would do no good no speak aloud the evils that he worried about. A coup? A slaying of the humans or werewolves or vampires? Internal war? There were so many things that could throw the delicate balance of the Syndicate off. Nowhere else did so many species come together to thrive and grow together. It was exciting and historic, but terrifying as well because ambition and greed still existed in the hearts of beings.

"-not anything more serious." He finished quietly, putting a period on the subject that he hoped the two younger beings understood.
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