The Devil You Never Knew



Scene Title The Devil You Never Knew
Synopsis After her kidnapping, Nathalie LeRoux finds herself a fly within the spider's web.
Date January 12, 2020

Wake up.

Location Unknown

Sucking in a sharp breath, Nathalie LeRoux’s world moves from jarring darkness to seething pain. A pin-prickling numbness extends down her extremities, which with a tugging jerk of her limbs she finds horrifyingly restrained. The room she finds herself in is made of concrete with a metal drain in the floor. Nathalie rests on her knees, arms over her head, bound in rusted metal restraints with crumbling leather padding. A chain goes from one restraint, up to an eyelet hook in the ceiling, then down through to the other restraint. Her legs are free.

The wall ahead of Nathalie is water-stained concrete, streaks of rust extending down from where bolts are fixed into the concrete at even intervals, likely part of steel reinforcement. Everything here smells old and slightly wet, moisture dribbles down the chains and across Nathalie’s bare wrists. Blearily looking over her shoulder, Nathalie can see a rusted metal door sitting crooked in its concrete frame. A narrow slat in the door serves as a viewpoint to the outside, which is lit by an old incandescent lightbulb, judging from the dim light coming through the slat to illuminate the room.

Nat’s head is a buzz with a cottony feeling, the prickling in her extremities doesn’t go away. There’s a sensation she’s experiencing, like sinus pressure, but deeper in her skull. It mingles with the heady, cloying feeling of having been drugged. It takes her a moment to realize it’s the effects of chemical negation.

Her stomach churns, a wave of nausea coming on suddenly and leaving just as quickly. The world tilts, pivots, and spins in a way that makes that nauseous feeling come right back. Then it’s gone again and the world has stopped tilting.

Nathalie's eyes open slowly. She's felt out her situation by the time she sees it. The damp. The chains. Anger comes only once the nausea goes into a lull. She pulls on the chain, leaning her weight against where it connects to the ceiling. Testing. She twists her wrists in their restraints, biting into skin as she tries to worm her way free.

That's when she notices— The negation. It's been a while, but it's a hard feeling to forget. Even if she would very much rather. Her movements still while she attempts to breathe through the panic. It'll wear off. It's not forever. She's capable, even without it. Simple mantras that she hopes are true. Her eyes fix on the rusted door and she moves for it next, hoping she can reach it to throw her shoulder against. Or at least kick it.

Extending to the full length of the chain and trying to reach the door with her foot as a test, Nathalie finds these lengths wanting. She’s short by a foot, eight inches if she really strains her wrists and shoulders. That test complete, she relaxes her muscles and settles back down onto her knees.

“I don’t think you’ll be getting out like that,” comes from just out of her peripheral vision to her right. She knows the voice.


“Frankly, I’m not certain you’ll be getting out of this at all.” Kazimir Volken is a shadow that has haunted the legacy of Nathalie’s abilities for as long as she can remember. The blue-eyed old man walking into her peripheral vision is exactly that shadow, down to the wolf-headed cane with a small notch in its brow. Kazimir walks with the stiff gait of someone his age, coming to stand nearby to Nathalie, casting furtive glances around her new confines.

“But I suppose we’ve defied the odds before. Gotten out of worse,” Kazimir adds, optimistically. “Haven’t we?”

Any voice at this moment would be bad, but that one brings a shudder to Nathalie's breathing, as if it were suddenly much colder. Like there's a ghost around. "You could work on your pep talks," she says, jaw tight and teeth clenched together. "I'm negated, how are you here?"

An explanation comes to mind; it makes her straighten up and look at him with a more critical eye. She doesn't reach out to test the theory, though, because part of her really doesn't want to know. Her hands grip the chain again as she eyes the eyelet in the ceiling. She starts to twist the lengths of the chain together, trying to create enough pressure to snap her free of that contact point.

“How are any of us here?” Is Kazimir’s unhelpful answer delivered in monotone. “I’m not the occultist in your crowded spirit. I’m just a tired old ghost who gets invoked more than he’d prefer…” Kazimir paces the floor in front of Nathalie, looking up to the old eyelet in the ceiling as she struggles with the chains. He adjusts his glasses, looking back down to her.

“You might get that out,” Kazimir opines, “after about ten or fifteen minutes. By then you’ll be exhausted, the noise may attract a guard, and you might not be able to defend yourself.” He tentatively reaches up to tap the chain with the metal tip at the end of his cane with a soft and tangible clink sound. “Better to conserve your strength,” he motions to the restraints. “Did Epstein teach you how to pick locks?”

"I've done my best to leave you in peace, haven't I?" Nathalie looks over at him, an eyebrow raised when he taps against her chain. It's that small contact that makes her stop, rather than his words of warning. "If you're a shapeshifter or a telepath messing with me, I feel the need to inform you that I don't need powers to hurt you." Her hands drop back to her sides, letting out a heavy sigh.

Especially at the name he mentions.

How long until he realizes she's missing and not just gone?

"Of course he taught me. But I'm sadly without picks. Or even bobby pins." Which she will never be again, if she gets out of this.

When, she silently reminds herself.

“It’s not you,” Kazimir explains, tersely, circling around Nathalie and inspecting her confinement. “Things have become… tangled. Purgatory, or wherever it is we all reside, isn’t what it used to be. I’m beset by voices I’m unfamiliar with, ghosts from my past taking my name in vain. It’s like the world never moved on, clings to the idea of me, as though they had nothing else.” Kazimir ends his circuit back in front of Nathalie.

“I don’t understand what’s happening, but I think it started with you…” Kazimir opines, resting both his hands atop the snarling wolf’s head cane, “and I have a feeling it will end with you too.” Then, blue eyes alight to the door behind Nathalie.

“Someone’s coming,” is the last thing Kazimir says before disappearing as though fading into the shadows at the back of the room.

"There's another Conduit," Nathalie says, her voice a whisper like she's not sure who else might hear, "Another you." That's what makes the most sense to her, as to what might be causing his troubles. So when he names her as the source, she's left in a shocked silence, staring in his direction.

The more immediate threat gets her moving again, though, untwisting her chain and turning back toward the door. She steps as far back as she can get, standing tense and ready to strike— even if it is futile with her stuck in place. She can't just sit and wait.

Not if opportunity comes.

The sound of footsteps coming down the hall end at the door to Nathalie’s cell. No keys jingle, just a rusty latch lifted with a creaking groan before the door pops open into the damp cell. All Nathalie can see is the silhouette of a tall man against the light from the hall, but craning her neck a little more she can see something that makes her heart skip a beat.

A black cane with a steel wolf's head.

The cane.

“You're so much smaller than I imagined you to be,” the newcomer says in a voice that does not belong to Kazimir Volken. He steps into the room, revealing dark skin against a black suit. His eyes are unnaturally blue and wide, but Nathalie’s focus is brought to the cane as the stranger circles her and presses the wolf’s head under her chin to lift up her head. “That's the way of things, isn't it? No one ever lives up to the legend.”

The wolf head is lowers from Nathalie’s chin and it's wielder offers her a deferential nod. “My name is Baruti Naidu,” he introduces himself confidently, “and you are Nathalie LeRoux, daughter of Sarisa Kershner and Avi Epstein. Bearer of life and death. It is an honor.”


Nathalie tries not to hold her breath at the sight of the cane. The last time she saw it— in real life— it was Hana's. She can't help the sense of outrage she feels at seeing someone else holding it, but she can keep it buried. The reaction he gets from her is just her eyes following him around the room as he approaches her.

She pulls her chin away from that touch, though. She can be stoic, but even she can't sit through a gesture like that one. Not in this situation.

"Between the ambush, the drugs and the chains I was beginning to think you might be afraid of me. Small, though. Nothing to be afraid of there, obviously." She glances upward, in case the sarcasm wasn't thick enough. Having this stranger with familiar blue eyes and a familiar cane list off her genetic history isn't exactly comfortable— she's used to knowing more than being known— and her shoulders straighten ever so slightly. "I can't say the feeling is reciprocated."

“That may change,” is Baruti’s unsolicited opinion on how honored Nathalie is. But he gives no further context. “You are in chains so you do not escape until we choose to let you go. Right now the most important thing you can do is sit still and wait.” Crouching in front of Nathalie, Baruti rests the cane across the backs of his knees.

“Your friends are already looking for you,” Baruti explains. “They will find you, too, in time. But right now you need to be here — safe — and they need to be there,” he says with a motion to the door as if they were just outside, “making assumptions. Lighting torches. Loading guns.”

Slowly, Baruti stands back up again. “But I thought, while you are my guest, we could speak. It is not so often I am in the presence of divinity. I would much like to hear your thoughts on…” he waves a hand in the air, “whatever troubles you.”

"That doesn't sound particularly important," Nathalie says, swishing her hair back from her face as she spares a glance to the shadow Kazimir disappeared into. Like she might be wishing to see him there with her. "I might be less inclined to attempt an escape if it didn't feel so much like I was a captive."

There is a running list in her head of who is most likely to come looking for her first. She's working on a second list of who is most likely to attempt an actual rescue. The more Baruti talks about it, the less certain she is that she wants any of them to actually do it. There's something worrying about how casually he describes their methods.

"I don't know about divinity. You seem to have me cut off from it all at the moment." As far as things that are troubling her, there's just a beat before she nods toward the cane. "Where'd you get that? Been a while since I've seen it."

Baruti smiles faintly, his brows creasing together as he looks down to consider the cane. “Your late Major, Hana Gitelman,” he says with no absence of pride. “A fortunate coup on my part. She had come to Israel and became entangled in our affairs. I had no desire to harm one of our own kind, but she forced my hand. This,” he turns the cane around and presses the blunt metal tip at the end against the middle of Nathalie’s chest, “is a trophy.”

Baruti lowers the tip of the cane to the floor with a click. “I do have one question for you, and this is a personal curiosity. Can you subsist without food with your ability, when it comes back? Do the locusts and sand lice provide you with nourishment, or can you starve here?” He looks Nathalie up and down, resting both hands atop the head of the cane.

Looking down at the cane when he pushes it against her, Nathalie shakes her head. Firmly. Maybe too firmly. "You didn't kill Hana," she says, because she knows the Major is capable and fearless. It would take a lot to take her down. And Nathalie can't believe it.

She looks back up at him at his question. It's the kind of curiosity she has learned to fear. Usually, it's followed by a test to find out for sure. Her hands tighten into fists while she tries not to follow that thought to its logical conclusion, tries not to remember the last time someone was curious about her abilities.

The last thing she wants is to let him know she's afraid, so she tries to pick her next words carefully.

"You think that's enough to scare me?"

Maybe her next words will be better.

“If I wanted to frighten you, you would be frightened,” is Baruti’s response, made with an earnest laugh and a slow shake of his head. “And I did kill Hana Gitelman. In fact, I killed her in a way that is perhaps more final than death ever could be. I killed the memory of her. You see, everything she ever was… the woman you knew? It is gone. Destroyed. Rewritten and changed forever. Do you not find it strange that she abandoned you? Abandoned Wolfhound?”

Baruti shakes his head. “Hana Gitelman is gone. But here, you, are so much more without her. You are willful, bold, a bright fire that consumes and consumes until there is nothing left. You were a good host, a gracious host. But that time is over now, Nathalie. Unlike Hana Gitelman, I am not going to kill the memory of you. But, when all is said and done…” Baruti shrugs, “as you know, memory is all you will be. Like the rest of the old ghosts that haunt you.”

There is really no answer Nathalie can give, not to this man. He did something to Hana, but what Nat takes from it is that she's still out there somewhere. That there's still hope.

For Hana, anyway.

If there's any for Nathalie, that remains to be seen. Maybe if she makes some of her own.

Her hands grip onto the ends of the chain, her muscles tense. Her foot strikes out at Baruti's face, aiming to bloody his nose and eyes while she hoists herself up onto his shoulder with her leg wrapped around his throat. She makes liberal use of the leverage the chains provide to help her move faster and hit harder. Twisting, she moves to bring him down to the hard floor, aiming for her weight and the strength in her legs to trap him in a strangle.

Nathalie’s foot gets clean placement too, and she hits so hard she goes right through Baruti’s face and out the backside of his head. It takes her a second to realize there was no resistance to the blow, a beat more for her to see Baruti as a shimmering form of blue energy standing in front of her, a pair of gold eyes burning in that ethereal silhouette.

So fiery,” Baruti lauds, passing through Nathalie like a ghost, leaving vaporous trails of blue-white mist in his wake. It feels like pins and needles when he does that, an electric charge that sends a shudder down Nathalie’s body. But there's something else she can feel. Distant, too distant to be of any use, but she can feel the dull sensation of her ability starting to come back.

The clink of something metal hitting the floor behind her causes Nat to jerk her head to the side. Baruti dropped something, a key. “Longer legs than I thought, put them to good use getting yourself out of this mess. If you're quick enough, you might be able to save Richard’s life.”

Baruti doesn't stick around to continue berating her, but instead moves out into the hallway, leaving her with that inscrutable threat.

"Son of a bitch," Nathalie growls out when her feet hit the ground again and she feels him pass through her. That distant itch of her ability is pushed to the side for the moment, that key takes up far more of her attention. She tries to reach it with a foot, first, scooting it closer to herself. Of course, that doesn't help her actually use it. She can't even get a boot off and try to contort herself in some fashion.

No, there's only one solution. And if Richard really is here and really is in danger, she's going to need more than a key. More than a hint of her ability.

She closes her eyes. And breathes.

I need you.

She knows they're there, even if distantly, those other minds and memories linked to the Conduits. She has to believe they're all connected for a reason.

Bring them back to me. I can save him if you bring them back.

Help me.

While her mind reaches for all those shared souls she carries around with her, she clutches one hand with the other, breathes…

And wrenches her hand enough to dislocate her thumb. It comes with a whimper, but she yanks her hand out of the cuff and works through the pain to stretch out far enough to pick the key up between two fingers. Once she has it, she reaches up to unlock herself, taking only a moment to cradle her hand before she pushes toward the door to her cell.

Help me!

Nathalie’s heart is racing by the time she's out of her cell. The corridor goes in either direction for a long way, rows and rows of empty cells all identical to hers. Either direction could be right, either wrong. But before she makes a choice the sound of shattering glass makes one for her. Bolting in the direction of the noise, Nathalie’s footfalls are hard against the concrete. Every shadow here could be someone, could be something, a threat, a prisoner, a victim.

Help me!

Reaching a four-way junction, Nathalie goes toward where she heard the sound, skidding to a stop when she passes by a cell that is dramatically different to the others. It's full of mirrors. Frameless, gilded, new, old. One has fallen to the floor and shattered, blood everywhere near it. Once she sees the blood there it's hard to miss it everywhere else. She can see a drizzled trail of it leaving the cell, rounding a corner.

Help me!

Nathalie runs ahead, following the drizzled blood trail to another junction of halls. She skids to a stop, looking for the trail, but spies a huge swath of blood streaked across the dirty concrete wall. A stone sinks to the pit of her stomach. Up ahead, she can see something else.

Help me!

Just past the blood streak there is a set of stairs going up, and at the base of it someone is laying on their side in a pool of blood.

Help me!

Beside them, a wolf-headed cane.

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