Master Key (for [personal profile] raggedy_doll)

May. 22nd, 2013 09:28 am
hypnotic_patter: (Suited for Suits)
[personal profile] hypnotic_patter
Given the nature of his business Ragdoll had a habit of going off the radar for days or weeks at a time. Billy was generally all right with it. Plenty of people had long-distance relationships where their first conversation in a month involved giddy Skype calls from remote South American dictatorships that had recently had a major administration shift.

Still, he kept tabs in the best way he could. When his Google Alerts notified him that "Peter Merkel Jr." had made the news again he abandoned his half-finished sonic gun and ran to see what his dancing doll had done to make the world more interesting. The scene of a smoking building half-submerged in the river made him smile. Meister popped open a soda and stretched out to watch the news report.

The costume worn by one combatant was identified as that of Peter Merkel Jr., better known as Ragdoll, while the identity of his attackers was unclear. Their brutal battle spanned several city blocks, ending at a fuel station used for local barges. It's unclear exactly how the fire started but the blaze quickly led to a massive explosion that demolished several nearby buildings. Witnesses report that Merkel's injuries during the battle were quite severe, indicating he most likely died in the explosion. The only bodies identified so far were those of local dock workers, and two others were burned beyond recognition. So far no one knows the motives behind--

Some part of him had always assumed Ragdoll was invincible. Rubbery, able to bounce back from any catastrophe with a smile and a bizarre quip. In some ways he had seemed more force of nature than mortal human. Billy left increasingly desperate messages on Peter's voice mail, but after a few days of silence denial seemed impossible. He huddled in his dressing room trying to write some appropriate requiem in Peter's honor. Nothing he could create seemed grand enough to encompass the beautiful kaleidoscope chaos that was Ragdoll. He spent hours staring at the ceiling with the RENT soundtrack playing in the background, devoid of inspiration or the will to create.

At the end of the week a knock on the back door roused him from restless drowsing. He leapt from his bed and ran to the door, still in t-shirt and boxers, hoping against hope that--

Who the heck were these dorks?

A group of one man and two women were gathered in his back alley. Their clothes were loose white muslin with embroidered red coats. All of them wore elaborate jewelry and golden bangles around their wrists, as well as beads threaded into their long braids. "Music Meister." The group bowed low to him, as if he were some pope of weird people. "It is an honor, a privilege, to finally be in your presence."

"Eh?" He brushed his hair out of his eyes. "Who exactly are you?"

"We are the Acolytes of the Celestial Echo." Possibly they could sense how close he was to ordering them to pile themselves in the nearby dumpster, so the explanation was extremely rushed. "We believe that the universe was created by a single song, and that this song was then taught by the gods to the first humans. All songs thereafter are humanity's feeble attempts to recreate that which they once knew, buried deep within our ancestral memory. No living person can repeat it, for time has withered our voices."

"I see. You're crazy people." When he found who gave them his address he was going to beat them with a stick. Billy frowned. "I'm really not in the mood for creepy cults right now."

Again the low bows, their jewelry clinking. "We are sorry for your loss. We know how it must pain you."

"You know nothing about it." He had the door slammed in their faces before the implications of their words fully sunk in. The door opened a crack. "...what do you know about it?" Few people knew he was connected to Peter, let alone dating him. It wasn't their business.

"We have been following you for some time. You have a voice like no other, something precious beyond measure, and we believe it may accomplish what no other voice can. You alone, Music Meister, could bring the first song back into the world."

"So basically you're saying you're my stalkers." He leaned on the door, arms folded. This was not garbage he needed to be dealing with before coffee and a shower. "I appreciate the sentiment, I just don't care. There won't be any performances for a while, and you should understand why."

"Fully." The lead man reached into the ragged bag hanging at his side and produced a familiar mask. It had obviously been cleaned, but traces of dried blood and dirt lingered where the false hair met the pale face. Billy gaped.

"Why do you..."

"It was pulled from the rubble by the police. We recovered it by--"

"Give it to me!" Here hung those lips that I have kissed I know not how oft. Where be your gibes now? Your gambols? Your songs? Your flashes of merriment, that were wont to set the table on a roar?
Billy snatched it out of the acolyte's thin fingers, hugging it tightly to his chest. His fingers ran fondly through the red mass of yarn. To Billy the mask was Peter's face as much as the scarred flesh beneath it.

"If you will come with us you may get back the rest of him...and more besides. The song created the world. Bringing one soul back from the dead would be a minor affair by comparison. Come with us and we shall teach you the song that meager mortals cannot sing. You will be worshiped as a new Apollo with we your willing servants, and your dancer shall return to your side."

Billy tongued the gap between his teeth. In his thoughtfulness he did not hear the soft humming by the acolyte in the back or see the way her fingers moved in arcane patterns across the symbol held in his first two fingers. The merest nudge, though even that took a great deal of their power. They appealed to the Songbringer's grief and his pride in unison, and this was only the final push to tip him over the edge of the cliff. The mask of the fallen dancer would bring his lover under their sway.

"Keep talking."

Date: 2013-05-23 05:38 pm (UTC)
raggedy_doll: (oooh dear)
From: [personal profile] raggedy_doll
Musical cultists -- no, cultists with a specific attachment to very old music. Not a surprising revelation, and apparently even less so given Meister's apparent current location.

"It makes sense," Alice said. "Most scientists think the earliest humans were born in Africa. We learned about this a little in school. If they're into really ancient songs, they'd be there."

"William is probably enjoying himself, the scamp." Actually, he probably was not. The sooner they set out, the better.

They had to rely on Black Alice for quite a lot, in the end. Without her, the trip would have taken a very long time, whereas with her magic they stepped out into Ethiopia within a few moments. And as there was a dearth of people who knew how to speak English (or Spanish) within such a rural area, the fact that she could give herself the gift of languages was incredibly important -- especially when they showed around the symbols on the cultists' robes, and several locals recognized them.

They were incredibly strange, and they weren't far away. If they could "borrow" a vehicle, it wouldn't take much time at all to get there.

(In the backseat of the vehicle, Black Alice placed one of her hands on his.

"Hey... Ragdoll... Peter. Um. He'll be okay."

"I know."

"I'm sorry."

"Tut, tut. Think nothing of it, Lori, dear.")

They ditched the vehicle as soon as the building -- almost a temple, really -- came into sight in the distance; it wouldn't do to be spotted. As they got in close, Ragdoll volunteered, "I'll go in myself, shall I?"

No one argued. He was the stealthy one of them. Besides... "We'll stay out of range of his voice," Bane said. "In case there is trouble."

"If anything happens, we'll come in swinging." Knockout seemed to enjoy the prospect.

"You sure you don't want me to come with? I can maybe help you find him...?" Lori worried at her lip, worried at both the prospect of going in and staying out here to let Ragdoll go it alone.

"That won't be necessary."

As Ragdoll prepared to duck inside, Scandal stopped him, calling out quietly. "Mr. Merkel?" When he paused, she continued, "Remember that... there's hope. Even for us."

"...Thank you, Scandal." And then he slipped inside. All he had to do was find William, now. Then those reassurances would prove entirely unneeded.

Date: 2013-05-23 06:45 pm (UTC)
raggedy_doll: (i'm afraid i don't know my hymns)
From: [personal profile] raggedy_doll
Getting up to the temple's walls without being seen was more difficult than actually getting inside, or getting around once inside. Once indoors, the temple had more statues and crevices for sneaking purposes than a Doll could ever need; he moved quietly, heading toward the first set of doors and waiting for them to open so he could slip inside.

Once inside, the sole, familiar voice promised to lead Ragdoll directly to him -- but it was also slightly worrying. The language was unfamiliar, but William did not sound discontent. Of course, he knew that William had come with them of his own free will, but if for some reason he didn't want to leave...

Well, that problem could be solved if they came to it. He waited until the coast was clear, then dropped nimbly to the ground in front of the second set of doors, and pushed them open, slipping inside.

Date: 2013-05-23 07:12 pm (UTC)
raggedy_doll: ((unsure) (unsure) (unsure))
From: [personal profile] raggedy_doll
Oh, that was a terribly bad sign. He was the one who was supposed to be talking to dead (or supposedly dead, in this case) compatriots! William must be in a very unbalanced state indeed -- he should know.

"William?" He poked his head around the corner, trying to find his performer in the rooms. "William, who are you talking to?" There was really no breaking the 'I'm alive, and also right over here' news lightly; Meister would either take it well or he would not.

Date: 2013-05-23 10:02 pm (UTC)
raggedy_doll: (OH MY GOODNESS)
From: [personal profile] raggedy_doll
Ragdoll really wasn't the best judge of these things, but there were certainly a few things that seemed wrong here. Being taken in by a cult certainly wasn't one of the fun ways of going daffy, and it wasn't only Ragdoll's role to be talking to deceased dear ones, but also to have stuffed versions of them in his rooms to talk to -- this just wouldn't do at all. The fact that Meister seemed otherwise unpleasantly addled and unkempt was almost besides the point.

He stepped into the room, craning around, tilting and waving to get Billy's attention. "Hello? William, hello!"

...Having to vie for attention was never something he enjoyed, and he was quickly deciding that he didn't like anyone stealing his position, shtick and limelight, not even himself.

Date: 2013-05-23 10:22 pm (UTC)
raggedy_doll: (Default)
From: [personal profile] raggedy_doll
"Yes, well, something like that!" He watched the other-him move, trying to figure out what it was, exactly. Another bendy person keeping mute? No. "Echo decided you could use a double, for your performance."

Billy was practicing for something, from the sound of things. The fact that there was going to be a performance was easy to guess -- and if William truly thought this 'Echo' had helped bring him back from the dead, surely he wouldn't balk at the idea that Echo had managed a temporary double, somehow.

"Generous, isn't he?" he added. "This performance, it must be quite important..."

Date: 2013-05-23 11:05 pm (UTC)
raggedy_doll: (i'm ever so nice)
From: [personal profile] raggedy_doll
The whatever-it-was must have been created by the cult, for some reason -- but was it really complaining about things? It certainly seemed to have been giving Billy trouble, which was all to the good, really. Why it would be doing that didn't matter very much, at the moment.

He listened to Meister's one-sided enthusiastic rambling... It wasn't difficult to figure out what that fake Doll was "saying," actually. And what the cult must be offering. That should have been enough to put William in this state, though, surely...?

"You know, perhaps I have been somewhat unfair, since they have been so accomadating. If you tell me all about this performance once again, sweet William, I promise I will listen oh-so-nicely this time. You seem all a-twitter over it! Why, I haven't seen you this nervous in months!"

Date: 2013-05-23 11:45 pm (UTC)
raggedy_doll: and your blatantly obvious self-delusion (completely sincerely sort of believe you)
From: [personal profile] raggedy_doll
He had to admit, he hadn't considered world domination before, but all his twisted heart's desires being his did sound tempting. He'd be slightly more inclined to play along with things if he didn't dislike William's "worshippers" so intensely.

The fake kept looking at him, but didn't seem inclined to attack, or to sound the alarm. He'd leave it be for now, and trust that it would be at least slightly cooperative.

"I can't say I dislike the sound of that." Though it was very unlike Meister's usual schemes, which didn't come anywhere near "reshape the entire world in my image and take everything over and be worshipped as a god" territory. He did dislike how drastic a shift it was, or at least the fact that Billy had been manipulated into it. "And I know it will be beautiful, William. With you performing, how could it be otherwise? But are you really certain they are entirely loyal to you?"

Date: 2013-05-24 12:09 am (UTC)
raggedy_doll: and i smell like an atrocity (the charge is set)
From: [personal profile] raggedy_doll
"Perhaps so." That was probably the best Billy was getting out of either of them. 'Not manipulating him'... Even without the double, it was fairly clear that they were manipulating Billy somehow. If nothing else, the assassination attempt and this strange homunculus were proof enough of that.

Peter could only hope that Billy could be made to see that, and they hadn't addled his brain permanently. This fervor over someone else's songs and ideas didn't suit him.

"Hmmm. Refresh my memory one last time, will you? When is this performance, again? I want to be certain I'm prepared."

Date: 2013-05-24 12:54 am (UTC)
raggedy_doll: (well then)
From: [personal profile] raggedy_doll
"Oh, I am sure I will."

Two nights. Well, he certainly wasn't going to wait around that long. Perhaps there was a way to speed things up...

Before he could ask, Billy started to sing again. Quietly, but the effect was instantaneous and notable, even to him. It was a little warmer, a little brighter, the world almost seemed to be wavering in the corners of his eyes, and of course there was the fact that his double froze in place and listened as if spellbound.

It wasn't actually hypnotic. Meister wasn't using that special pitch of his. But there was something about the song that was... not quite appealing. But it made his head itch. On the inside, not the outside.

He realized he was listening with his own head cocked slightly to one side, though not a full ninety degrees. Hmph. "There's no chance of an early dress rehearsal, I suppose?"


hypnotic_patter: (Default)
The Music Meister

June 2013

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