Emma Lee Raines met up with Raphael Castalanta, just to talk, but her motives were unclear. Was she intending to convince him to return to her, reassure them they were friends or was it to see if his family posed a threat to her? Regardless, she did express her devotion to their friendship and assured him not only was she accepting of he and Lilith Marid’s relationship but she assured him that no matter what happened, he would not be impacted by her war on the diabolical Carnamagos. Unfortunately, he could not assure her of the same as there were individuals who wished her harm, specifically, his cousin, Yasmine Castalanta.
Simon Parker and Molly Sterling both took the opportunity to attend church services that Sunday morning, but both did so for vastly differing reasons. Molly, in an attempt to placate her older sister, Melody Sterling, and Simon with a desire to feed off the fears of some of the most conservative and hellfire congregations, both wanted something different. While Simon consumed the fears of the congregants around him, Molly was surrounded by the peace – if not boredom – of the faithful. Even though she took an opportunity to dress the part of an ostentatious icon from the 1960’s, there was someone else in the back of the church who surely tried to outdo her: Mahala Kindt.
While Simon was curiously questioning the conservative Baptist minister, Molly approached Mahala after Mass to see what she was doing. Mahala suggested, rather directly, that Molly come over that evening so that they could begin their studies, as Mahala saw in Molly an apprentice in the arts.
Meanwhile, Lilith Marid had Sunday brunch with her mother, Sabrina Marid and Sabrina’s dear friend and roommate, Sharon Lake. Things went well until Lilith brought up the topic of her family. Directly, Lilith was interested in the lineage of her father, the unknown and never spoken about figure in her life. Whereas it was clear that Sabrina did not wish to discuss the matter, at all, Sharon seemed slightly more open about the idea – once Sabrina had left the room. Sharon revealed that she had some information – though not much – and would tell Lilith soon. But Sabrina must never know of the conversation.
After Sabrina and Sharon left, Emma Lee came over to Lilith’s house to tell her of the conversation she had with Raphael, wanting to be open and up front with her. When Emma Lee suggested that perhaps Raphael should know about Mahala, the Consag, Lilith flat out refused, stating this was a terrible idea as the only leverage Mahala had in this affair was her secrecy. To inform the Castalanta family now, would likely destroy Mahala and create a vacuum.
It was decided, via phone, that there would be some value in the gang getting together. When the idea was proposed that they meet up at the art gallery, owned by Sabrina Marid, the Louver, they all agreed since Lilith was interested in showing those who had not seen it, the Ebony Statue. Lilith knew there was something mystical and mysterious about the statue but wondered if Molly, with her connection to the occult, would have some greater insight.
As the group arrived, they noticed the cafe across the street was host to Giselle Babineaux and Sage Castle. Knowing that Sage was in the service of Mahala, they approached, and it was Emma Lee that discovered that Sage was there to learn as much about Giselle as possible. Naturally, Mahala’s motives were suspect and Sage quietly mentioned to Emma Lee that Mahala was just curious. But since trust was not high with Mahala, a subtle warning was issued to Sage that no harm should come to Giselle lest there be consequences.
After spending time investigating the Ebony Statue, it was Molly who first discovered the ability to unlock the secrets. She, and she alone, found that she could enter the statue, like a portal into a void of black nothingness. Shortly after entering, she made contact with an entity. The entity, as Molly quickly discovered, was named the Bargainer. Molly came to understand that due to her arcane abilities, she had a special ability to communicate with the entity. The entity, the Bargainer, offered her information on the war between the various factions in San Luis Obispo but when she wanted more, the Bargainer made it clear that it would provide to her whatever she wanted in return for the essence of various individuals around town, starting with one of the members of the wolf clan. At this point, Molly knew that she had to break off the conversation and think about it, returning to her friends in the gallery. But Molly at least came away with a better understanding of the delicate relationship between Carnamagos, the Castalanta family and Mahala.
As Molly’s first inclination was to bind the Bargainer to her will, the others suggested this would not be the best plan. After all, the creature was not going anywhere as it was stuck inside the statue. They all had other plans for the time being and decided to go their separate ways for the day, and meet up later that evening at the weekly bonfire party held by Drake Straker and his brother, Matt Straker.
Upon leaving, the ever-studious Simon went to the library, finding as much as he could about The Bargainer. There were conflated and confusing stories that seemed to link back to the Consag, as a local legend, which was not what he wanted. But he found an article from 1999 (before any of them were even born) that showed the Ebony Statue in the background of a photo taken at the Grape Festival from that year.
Meanwhile, Molly pressed her luck by using the arcane arts to see if she could spy on Mahala. Her spell was successful and she was able to see through Mahala’s eyes. She saw Mahala addressing her puppet subjects, suggesting that the plan she had would soon be coming to the apex and that tonight she would begin initiating her own apprentice, Molly. Whereas there seemed to be no threat relevant to Molly, there was certainly a sinister overtone.
Later, when Molly arrived at Mahala’s house, she began to initiate her into the basic spells of the dark arts, acting as a mentor. However, in one of the more grotesque displays of the order, Mahala kissed Molly, which allowed something crawly and creepy to leave Mahala’s mouth and enter Molly’s, crawling down her throat. This lead to a rather foul exchange between the two but with Mahala telling Molly to simply trust her as it was a symbol of power that had entered her.
Later, the group began to converge on the bonfire party at the Straker house. Emma Lee arrived with her cousin, Quinn Raines and her knew bestie, Dusty Keppler, both girls immediately wanting to set out distributing drugs as party favors. Simon, holding resentment to those who deal in narcotics, immediately began to pressure Quinn to get closer to him. The ploy worked, until Quinn began to accuse Simon of being a ‘narc.’ It was not long after that which revealed Quinn trying to explain ‘Lifesaver Parties’ which were popular at the school she was from, wondering why nobody knew what they were in San Luis Obispo. Of course, it did not take long for Quinn to begin explaining what they were, in gory detail.
At the party, Drake began to question Emma Lee about perhaps trying to get back together and start things where they had left off. Emma Lee was suspicious, leery and flattered but ultimately disinterested, suggesting that maybe Drake would have a better time engaging in Quinn’s ‘Lifesaver Parties.’ Whereas Drake was intrigued, he coyly suggested that he would be satisfied with just one color of the rainbow if it was with Emma Lee. The line, which may have been one of the worst Emma Lee had ever heard, did nothing to convince her. However, he did mention that he was no longer seeing Marisol Garza, the popular and brassy Latina girl as he found out that she was only interested in using him to make Simon jealous, something that he could not actually get his mind around. He swore Emma Lee to never tell Simon (and Emma Lee told Simon the first opportunity she had).
Meanwhile, Simon, dejected and sullen over the way Quinn had treated him, took to drinking more than his fair share of high end bourbon at the party. He began to stare into the darkness and he was shocked and horrified at what he saw. He had a horrific vision of him feeding on Marisol Garza, so savagely that he chipped his teeth on her spine as he gorged on her tender flesh. This, a vision that he never wanted, was broken as he was snapped back to reality, with Marisol in front of him, asking what he was staring at. Simon, unsure how to react based on the vision, tried to pull himself together by engaging Marisol in a passionate embrace.
Whether Molly actually understood what Lilith intended or whether she misunderstood the concept, Molly took from a conversation with Lilith that Molly should use her powers to to do something about Quinn’s blatant promiscuity. Molly, trying out some arcane powers that she felt she had mastered after coming from Mahala’s tutoring sessions, decided to hex Quinn, making her feel illness and revulsion every time she thought of carnal activities. After casting the spell, immediately it reaped dividends as behind the bushes there came a sound of gagging and coughing, followed by vomiting and C-Monster screaming he had been vomited on, which Molly attributed as being an added bonus. Of course, Emma Lee came to her cousin’s rescue and took her upstairs to clean up. Whereas Quinn was unsure of what had happened, she was certainly clear that Molly was responsible as her hex was somewhat sloppy.
Marisol and Simon, alone on the beach behind the Straker house, continued on their walk, holding hands, but when the moonlight struck them, passion took over and the two began making love on the sand, with Simon seeing a most terrible vision – the next time he lost control of himself, he would likely make his target, Marisol, as there was something in his psyche that desired her in so many ways. Despite his increasingly angelic nature, he could never forget that there was something terrible and primordial still deep inside of him.
As Emma Lee was upstairs, tending to her cousin, Molly basked in her success. But it was short lived as she was confronted by Annabell Starr who seemed to have a chip on her shoulder. There was something darker and more sinister about the cheerleader that made Molly step back and take notice. Confronting, almost accusatory, Annabelll was aggressive, suggesting that Carnamagos was watching Molly and her friends. It was then that Molly noticed who was with her, Garret Larson, a lover Emma Lee had felt strongly about until recently, even though the deep feelings never truly faded. When Emma Lee returned from the house and saw Annabell and Garret together, she completely lost her mind, instantly screaming and showing how hurt and livid she was, that Garret was with Annabell, telling Annabell – in no uncertain terms – she would ‘end’ her. Within moments, however, things managed to devolve even further as Annabell and Molly came to serious blows but in the struggle, Emma Lee managed to take a trinket from around Annabell’s neck – a symbol of Carnamagos. Whereas the item burned in the palm of her hand, she kept it close, knowing this could be a way to thwart the deranged god.
But time would soon tell. And time was running out.