We are all curmudgeons-to-be
Our pursuits future dotage
Fodder for youngster’s jokes
As has happened to everyone
Since we first stood upright

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The box had the address of the old archdiocese office on it, the one that the archives had moved away from in 1987 after the former bishop had bought a nicer building across town. Delicately wrapped inside the box was a ceramic nun doll, midcentury most likely, cushioned with straw and with a folded note upon her tiny habit.

“I trapped a demon in this doll decades ago but my time grows nigh. Please exorcise it for me, for when I die, the ties that bind it will be broken.”

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Nevra, our witch and also our queen
Her abode holds never before seen
A powerful magic protects and keeps whole
For none may enter who have human souls
And yet a contradiction here we must stand
The doors you must open with only human hands
If the worthy can puzzle this conundrum away
They’re welcome to come in and welcome to stay
But woe be to any who fails at this test
For Nevra will send them to eternal rest

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Name:Syd
Age: ??
Occupation: Spy

The Margrave’s agents are all people from alternate versions of Deerton that hope for a better, perfect, version of the town once all competing and imperfect Deertons have been erased from every dimension. That part’s easy enough, but what’s not quite so easy is what the being known as Syd wanted, or what they used to be. Whatever the answer to that, when Syd joined the Margrave, they left behind any concept of a fixed physical form, allowing them to appear as a being of virtually any shape or size (within reason, of course). This has made them an excellent spy and infiltrator for the Margrave, though Syd has an extremely hard time keeping their nature in check even when impersonating another being.

Syd is a great lover of practical jokes, chaos, and confusion, and is often unable to keep from partaking in them even when it doesn’t really fit their disguise. The Margrave doesn’t seem to be bothered by this, perhaps because the chaos her underling causes is all in the service of unraveling. Syd requires a visual representation of a being or object to take on its shape; they are not creative enough to come up with their own original designs. In addition to their physical form, Syd left behind all notions of gender as well; they are whatever they want or need to be in the given moment.

Trivia: If no visual reference is available, or if Syd is forced to abandon their current form, they may be forced to manifest as an amorphous blob or spots of pure energy. They find this extremely embarrassing, often fleeing despite themselves.

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The Margrave, Malika Anax
Age: ??
Occupation: The Destroyer, The Eraser, The Scourge, The End

Across a multiplicity of timelines, there are whispers of the Margrave, mainly borne by those who have been able to escape her wholesale erasure. The truth is worse than any of them imagine, for the Margrave seeks to erase every version of the city of Deerton from existence. It takes some time, of course, to unravel the threads of fate and reality that bind each iteration of the town together. So the Margrave methodically works her way across the multiverse, taking up residence quietly in an outlying mansion or other abandoned abode and diligently working to disassemble the town one piece at a time. It is not so much destroyed as it is erased, never having existed at all.

Naturally, such work softens and loosens the bounds of reality, and some strange effects and warpings are possible as the threads are broken down. The Margrave is an expert at using these bits of strangeness as weapons and misdirection, though her preference is to work in secrecy. There are often people who become aware of the town’s looming destruction; the Margrave generally attempts to recruit those who demonstrate ability to her cause. Once every version of Deerton across the multiverse has been erased, it can be recreated, perfect and whole, in whatever state which is desired–or so she says. The lost souls that have joined her on her quest all want to see something they have lost or never had in the new and perfect Deerton.

But who is the Margrave, what secrets does her past hold, and who was Malika Anax before her version of Deerton became the very fist to be swept away into nothingness…?

Trivia: The Margrave is fond of speaking as if she is reading what is happening from a book, but this is just an amusing affectation, and she will drop it when she must. Normal, direct speech is usually a sign that she is in a dark mood, beware!

“The Margrave gently reminded the intruder that they have no idea of what they speak, and no power to back up their adorably ignorant threats.”

“If I must undo the last of this miserable town’s existence with my bare hands, than so be it.”

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I’m a devotee of Japanese comics. A fan, a fanatic, a mangaphile, call me what you will. Not a collector, though. I don’t collect the books. I read them, enjoy them, and them slip them into the donation boxes of libraries and thrift stores for others to enjoy.

Why? I suppose it got me through tough times. No matter how bad things got, I could relate to the heroes of manga, struggling with daily life even as they piloted giant robots or summoned demons to battle. Manga definitely helped to steel me for my own battles to come.

Every time I finish a manga, I commit it to memory. There’s no point in reading it again. And every time I finish a particularly enjoyable volume, I leave a picture in between the pages when I pass it on. The pictures are usually of husks that I have banished demons from, laying where they fell.

I am sure that there are others out there, like me, who can see the demons walking amongst us. I hope the pictures of their broken and bloodied forms gives these other warriors the strength that many of the manga stories gave me.

When I have quietly hunted down and slain enough of the demons to complete the Star Pattern, I will need their help. Until then, let those tails and the proof of my good, if bloody, work sustain them.

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What little heat the day had was fading away fast, chasing the light as it headed west. The chill cut through the thin sweater, working its way through the knit gaps as a hundred tiny daggers of ice. Remembering an old movie, they’d torn out their pocket linings to wear as makeshift gloves, only to find that they offered little warmth once the sweat had soaked in. The unlined pockets funneled arctic air in as well, and soon the only part of their body they could feel was their tongue.

Hypothermia stalked in the distance, with a chilling death lurking behind it as a grim shadow.

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