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Pawn Shop, Athens, Georgia - Seventeen Months Earlier
James dragged the chest of crooked sixpences into the pawn shop, the hazel twigs sprouting from his arms now fused into a gnarled spike, woody warts spreading up his arm from the place the bark had first emerged. Looking over at Car-Face, James noticed that his skin was beginning to rust, and that there was a trail of sewage lying in his wake.
"How long until that slimy Greek t****r finishes with his client?" James asked, his eyes fixed on the incredibly tall shop owner dressed in overalls, his scared face sporting an eye patch over his right eye, although there was an unearthly glow beneath that patch, as he talked to a middle eastern woman dressed in a bronze unitard overlaid with a leather jacket, her feline ears twitching slightly.
"I can move these Mesopotamian Idols Caracal," The shop owner stated, as he took a case from the woman, before handing a pack of playing cards back to her,"that should cover their worth, and as usual upon their collection an additional finders fee will be entered into the provided account."
"I'm sure you can afford more Mr Steropes." Caracal purred as she stroked the barrel of the sniper rifle slung over her shoulder.
" You know the rules Sara, now if you will excuse me I have more customers to attend to." Steropes told the feline thief, before rubbing his missing eye socket as she walked seductively away. "Now let me guess gentlemen you have cursed fae treasure to sell." He stated, as he looked from James to Car-Face and then over to the chest, a grim smile on his wrinkled face. "Now did you steal fairy gold or goblin silver?"
"Does it matter?" Car-Face moaned as clumps of moss began to grow on his chest around the leaking wound. "We just want a fair price for it, and to never see the contents of this wretched box ever again."
"Different coins means different buyers, I have a number of contacts throughout the goblin nations, but none of any note in the Sylvan Hierarchy."
"It's goblin s**t." James moaned as his left ear began to itch, before falling to the floor and transforming into a dormouse, which quickly scuttled away. "Now make this right, take this f*****g horde and remove the curse from us!!"
"I'm afraid it doesn't work like that." Steropes replied, as he scribbled something down on a piece of paper. Even my goblin contacts could not remove your curse, not before gifting the horde back to the one it was stolen for at the risk of their own lives. All I can do for you is offer my own personal advice. If it were me I would return this back to O'Hare before things get worse."
"You said your contacts would be risking their lives to return treasure back to its owner. Wouldn't we be risking ours too?" Car-Face asked, as James pulled his weapon from its holster and levelled it at Steropes.
"More to the point is how he knew we'd stolen this horde from that cursed b*****d O'Hare?" James growled, his finger pressing the trigger, only for the laser pistol to catch alight, the heat causing his wooden warts to crack open and release a swarm of flies that instantly attacked his face and neck, a tiny new wooden wart forming where the flies bit down.
"Because O'Hare is a friend of mine.'' Steropes announced, as Car-Face's back plating sheared off and melted, the liquid metal slithering away under its own power. "He and I were part of the same team back in the nineties, he already called me told me to be on the lookout for his horde. And he wasn't the only one concerned..." He added, as the hunched over form of James's grandfather walked into the shop.
"Grandfather?!" James gasped in surprise.
"I don't know what to do with you." Jeremy sighed, as he rubbed his temple. "Part of me wants to kill you for stealing from my friend, the other part of me is strangely proud."
"Proud of what?" James asked,
"Proud that you're taken an interest in the family business." Jeremy answered. "Assuming you survive this, the pair of us have much to do."
The Funeral Pyre, Under Pudding Lane, London - The Present
The burning gate rippled as James and Fire-Sale walked into the chamber carved from black stone before taking the two vacant seats clustered around a burning flame. As they stared into the flame, their eyes rippled with flame as were the other eight figures sitting there.
"The strengths of mankind have been burnt away," A figure formed of living tar hissed, tiny flames bubling from its mouth as it spoke.
"Charity," A Japanese woman dressed in a crop-top and miniskirt, candy coloured headphones slipped over her cropped red hair.
"Faith," A man in a jumpsuit snorted, the red-ink of his swastika tattoo on his cheek burning with abnormal energy.
"Virtue." A figure made of straw and dressed in rags rumbled, smoke circling off his shoulders.
"Comaradary." James added.
" Will." A woman dressed in a leather leotard, hood and boots, a burning whip round her arms. "As life burns, we prepare for the sacrifical flame. Many will burn so the lady of the flames can walk on this withered heath again. Amen."
"Amen" The others echoed as they stood, the flame splitting off and anointing each of the cultists on the forehead. "It's time, we each have a target, and as they burn those who see the flames will join us in our holy mission." They continued."State your name and target."
"Effigy." The man made of straw hissed. "I have work to finish in Parliament."
"Flash-Over." A man dressed in a fire suit, goggles and a gas mask. "The song will be over at the Opera House in Sydney."
"Foxfire." The Japanese woman announced, her body shifting to reveal a woman wearing a fox mask, kimono a and three fox like tails. "I never liked the tea gardens in Tokyo anyway."
"Furnace ." A man clad in power armour stated, molten metal dripping onto the floor. "I'm going to rip down the Golden Gate."
"Fire-Trap" The man with the swastika on his cheek barked. "Those Jews and Arabs have it to easy, maybe they'll feel different when I burn down the Dome of the Rock"
"Heatstroke." The woman with the whip purred. "I hear Rio is nice this time of year."
"Pyroraptor." A woman dressed in a red leotard and tutu chirped, burning gemstones gleaming on her costume. "Zeus's temple in Athens will burn."
"Pitch." The figure formed of tar stated, it's voice bubbling. "Dubai's streets will be burnt to glass."
"Fire-Sale. The Stock Market will drop when I give New York a new tragedy."
"Salamander." James said with a smile. "I have a burning desire to go back home and see the old man again."