ysabetwordsmith: Damask smiling over their shoulder (polychrome)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This poem is spillover from the October 6, 2015 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [livejournal.com profile] technoshaman and [livejournal.com profile] janetmiles. It also fills the "hex" square in my 10-1-15 card for the Halloween / Samhain Bingo fest, and the "possession / mind control" square in my 6-16-15 card for the [community profile] hc_bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by [livejournal.com profile] technoshaman and [livejournal.com profile] ng_moonmoth. It belongs to the series Polychrome Heroics, and tells part of the background about how Easy City came to be.

Warning: This poem contains some intense topics. Highlight to read the warnings, some of which are spoilers. It features evil hexes, a bokor, mind control, vulgar language, sexual assault, street fighting, use of superpowers to hurt people, temporary cardiac arrest, voluntary possession, and other challenges. If these are sensitive issues for you, please consider your tastes and headspace before reading onward.


"Between the Visible and Invisible"


Flambeaux was out on the gallery
of Lagniappe's family home when
Mudslinger came to ask for help.

"Sorry I'm late for the meeting,"
Mudslinger said, "but that Wanga
is raising Cain in Slidell again, and
I don't know any hexbreakers.
Half the time I cain't even find
the saleau before he gone."

"You're not alone anymore,"
Lagniappe reminded him.

"Lache pas la patate,"
Stormtreader said quietly.
"Flambeaux has Fire Powers,
and fire can purify things.
Rougarou can track people.
I'll ask them to help."

It was still chancy between
Mudslinger and Stormtreader,
because their powers might be ready
etre en amour, but their heads
weren't so sure yet.

Flambeaux looked over at
Rougarou. "What do now?"

"Mais, go to Slidell and hunt up
that Wanga, I guess," said Rougarou.

So Flambeaux put on his face
and a nice dress, while Rougarou
changed into wolf form. On a leash
he could pass for a dog, sort of, and
they often went patrolling that way.

They did not find Wanga, but they found
a boy he had possessed. Near as anyone
could tell, Wanga had hexed Pierre for
not bringing the paper early enough.

Now Pierre said and did crude things,
as if someone else controlled his mind,
for he'd always been the soul of manners
before Wanga put the mojo on him.

Flambeaux was no telepath
to mend anyone's mind, nor
a proper hexbreaker, but
Stormtreader was right about
the cleansing power of fire.

So Flambeaux put Pierre
inside a circle of torches and
lit them all with his ability.

By the time they burned out,
so had whatever Wanga
did to possess Pierre.

Mudslinger was grateful
that at least they managed
to break the curse.

Flambeaux and Rougarou
went back to hunting for Wanga,
all up and down the banquette,
but Rougarou caught only hints
of where he might be.

"It's coming up on Mardi Gras,"
Rougarou grumbled. "If we don't
find him by then, it will be even harder
in all the crowd, and there's no telling
what trouble he might get up to then."

"But everyone will be wearing costumes,
for the holidays, and so no one will notice
if you go half-wolf," Flambeaux pointed out.
"That would make it much easier for you
to think and smell at the same time."

Already the streets were festooned
with ribbons and streamers. The krewes
worked overtime to finish their floats.

When Mardi Gras came, Rougarou
changed into wolfman form and
took his fiddle out to play.

Flambeaux enjoyed watching
all the other torchbearers and
crossdressers walking around,
and he made some new friends.

Between Rougarou's tracking
and the tips they got from
concerned citizens, they
were closing in on Wanga.

The festival flowed around them
as they continued to observe.

They saw a family dressed as clowns,
a skull-and-bones gang in ragged clothes,
and several Zulu dancers in grass skirts.

"Now what's this I hear about you
undoing all my hard work?"
said a silky voice.

Flambeaux whirled to find Wanga
staring right at him, and the power
in that gaze made him dizzy.

"Chien qui fé caca dans chimin li blié,
mais ça qui tiré pas blié,"
Flambeaux said.
"Someone has to clean up after you."

"Reckon I'll find something else
to keep you busy," Wanga said.
He turned to the nearest girl and
said, "Show me your tits, chaud."

"Va lamèd!" she snapped,
slapping him across the face.
"Get lost before I call a cop."

Wanga touched his cheek.
"Why don't you go dance
in the parade?" he said.

And she walked right into traffic.

Rougarou dove after her,
barely managing to roll them
out of the way before a truck
crushed them both.

Flambeaux set Wanga's shoes
on fire, hoping to distract him.

That worked for a minute,
until he found a rain barrel
to put out the flames.

Then Wanga started flinging hexes
all over the street while people
screamed and ran.

One particularly vicious stroke
dropped Rougarou in his tracks.

Flambeaux threw fireballs
at Wanga to keep him away
from the fallen superhero.

Then the skull-and-bones gang
waded into the fight, wrestling
Wanga onto the ground.

Flambeaux scrambled to help Rougarou.

The wolfman lay crumpled by the street.
Flambeaux shook him and called his name,
but Rougarou did not respond.

Two of the skull-and-bones gang
were tying up the supervillain,
while the third walked toward
Flambeaux and Rougarou.

Dressed as the Baron, he wore
a black top hat painted with white veve,
although one lens had popped out of
his dark sunglasses during the fight.
His skull-topped staff clicked against
the pavement as he approached.

"Sa ena?" asked the Baron.

"I can't find a pulse,"
Flambeaux told him,
voice tight with worry.

"Mebbe Ah can help,"
said the Baron. He patted
Flambeaux on the shoulder.
"Move, move."

Flambeaux moved.

The Baron leaned down
to push on Rougarou's chest
and breathe into his furry mouth.

The black costume which had seemed
ratty before now swallowed up the light,
and the white bones almost glowed.

It was like watching flames in daylight,
caught between the visible and invisible,
the way the Baron looked now.

"Git back in yo' body, boy,
ya got wuk ta do!" he muttered.

Rougarou coughed and groaned,
finally beginning to stir.

"Merci Bon Dieu," Flambeaux said
as he helped his friend sit up.

The Baron just chuckled.
"Dat bokor, he some trouble.
We got him tied up good fo' now,
but by'n'by ya gone need mojo,"
he said, beckoning to his gang.

The man wearing an animal skull
and ropes of Mardi Gras throws
carefully removed a string of
purple beads which he draped
over Rougarou's head.

The woman with a wig of bagasse
handed Flambeaux an Elks doubloon
with the motto "Charity, Justice, Fidelity."
His fingers skidded over the slick metal
and he smelled Fiery Wall of Protection oil.

"Ta keep ya safe," the Baron said.

"Thanks," Rougarou mumbled.

"Would you like to come back with us?"
Flambeaux said. "We know others in
Slidell and hereabouts who stand up
to people like Wanga. We don't have
a hexbreaker, though, and we can
always use more healers."

The Baron shook his head.
"Mah li'l black horse got
his own herd ta mind."

"Well then, Joyeux Mardi Gras,"
said Flambeaux.

"Laissez les bons temps rouler!"
the Baron replied with a wave of his staff.
Then he gathered his skull-and-bones gang,
their scruffy costumes soon disappearing
into the throng of onlookers.

Flambeaux helped Rougarou
lean against a wall for safekeeping.

Then Flambeaux straightened his wig
and went to make sure that the girl
whom Rougarou had saved was
really okay, which she was.

Next he checked on Wanga,
grateful for the protective gris-gris.

Barely conscious, the man
was bound with twine, tiny charms
tied all along the strands.

The world had shifted back
from the invisible to the visible,
as ordinary as it ever was.

Even the supervillain seemed like
no more than a dirty old man
trussed up in the gutter.

Flambeaux rubbed his fingers
over the protective doubloon
as he listened to the wail of
police sirens approaching.

Soon Flambeaux could hand Wanga
to the cops and take Rougarou home.

They'd put Wanga in jail and make sure
he couldn't reach any tools of his trade.
Oh sure, the supervillain would escape
anyhow sooner or later -- as they
almost always did -- but at least
this would get him off the streets
of Slidell for a good while.

"Bien fait," said Rougarou
as they watched the police
load Wanga into their car.

"Well done indeed," Flambeaux said,
patting him very gently on the back.
"I'm all partied out; let's go home."

* * *

Notes:

Flambeaux (Landry Maupassant)
-- He is Cajun, a friend of Stormtreader, living in New Orleans. He is a crossdresser, pansexual, and nonmonogamous. His mood changes often, blowing hot and cold, often for no clear reason. He collects Mardi Gras throws.
Origin: As a boy, he was always fascinated by the torchbearers who walked before floats during Mardi Gras. One of them, an old man, passed the torch to him and with that blessing came the superpowers.
Uniform: Sometimes he wears a Mardi Gras torchbearer costume, other times more practical firefighting gear.
Qualities: Master (+6) Firefighter, Good (+2) Friends in the Krewe, Good (+2) Sexy!
Poor (-2) Labile Mood
Powers: Master (+6) Fire Powers
Motivation: To keep New Orleans from burning down.

Lagniappe (Leal Doucet) -- She has naturally tan skin, green eyes, and long straight hair of light brown. She is very tall and slim with little definition of bust, waist, or hips. Her heritage is free Creole of color, and she grew up in a rambling Creole house with an extended family. She is the middle of 13 children. She has a younger cousin, Eudolie, who is a Super-Intellect. She speaks Louisiana Creole and English. Leal is genderqueer and pansexual, but generally eschews labels. She never lies, and hates when people lie to her. She is a superhera with Empathy and Power Manipulation (Power Augmentation, Power Collaboration), instrumental in establishing Easy City, originally based in Hammond. She was 17 when the floods came in 1965.
Her followers are two other Creoles of color, the trickster Lapin/ François (Speed) and Spy Boy/Ernesto (Invisibility, Teleportation).
Origin: Her powers arrived with puberty.
Uniform: Variable. Leal switches between masculine and feminine clothing. It's often artsy and flambouyant.
Qualities: Good (+2) Artist, Good (+2) Big Happy Family, Good (+2) Conciliator, Good (+2) Cook, Good (+2) Grace, Good (+2) Lovingkindness
Poor (-2) Dealing with Liars
Powers: Expert (+4) Power Manipulation, Good (+2) Empathy

Mudslinger (Jules LeRoux) -- He has short black hair, brown eyes, and brown skin. His heritage is black Creole, and he grew up in a tiny bayou cottage. He is the oldest of 9 children. He speaks Louisiana Creole and English. He was 19 during the floods of 1965. His wife Adelle died in a flood while pregnant with their first child. Mudslinger is a superhero instrumental in establishing Easy City, originally based in Slidell.
His followers include two other black Creoles, Feufollet (Light Powers, including Body of Light) and Letiche (Swamp Control; alligator skin, webbed digits, claws). He also has the Choctaw Ivorybill (Flight), Métis Esprit (Telepath), and Mexican Curandera (Healer).
Origin: As a little boy, Jules nearly died from a fever. His mother called a treateur, who buried him in mud. When Jules emerged, he had Earth Powers, which he believes to be a gift from God. He never charges money for his earthworking.
Uniform: Work clothes.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Handyman, Good (+2) Faithful, Good (+2) Strength, Good (+2) Taking Charge
Poor (-2) Stubborn
Powers: Master (+6) Earth Powers
Motivation: To serve the land of Louisiana.

Wanga (Alphonse Redhat) -- He has curly black hair, brown eyes, and dark copper skin. His heritage is mixed Native American and a little African. He is a supervillain who hexes people in Slidell. Sometimes he does it for small or imagined slights, other times just for idle amusement. His love of the finer things in life sometimes gets him into more trouble.
Origin: He dabbled in black magic and it stuck.
Uniform: Street clothes, usually a business suit.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Cunning, Good (+2) Businessman, Good (+2) Dancer, Good (+2) Observant
Poor (-2) Hedonistic
Powers: Master (+6) Hexcraft (Spinoff Stunt: Evil Eye)
Limitation: The black magic he practices is dependent upon occult supplies and rituals to get the full effect. In particular, most spells to be cast upon another person require something of theirs, such as a hair, or else they work at a downshift. Without the time and materials for a ritual, Wanga can only use the Evil Eye spinoff stunt at lower power.
Motivation: To get even.

Stormtreader (Emeline Saucier) -- She has pale skin, dark gray eyes, and wavy blonde hair cut just above her shoulders. She is plump and curvy. Her heritage is Cajun, and she grew up in a large house in the French Quarter. She is an only child. Her family provided several interpreters during WWII, and she speaks Cajun French as well as English. Emeline is a superhera instrumental in establishing Easy City, originally based in New Orleans. She was 18 when the floods came in 1965.
Her followers include two other Cajuns, Rougarou (Shapeshifter) and Flambeaux (Fire Powers). She also has the Irish Aisling (Psychic Powers), German the Clockmaker (Super-Gizmology), and Italian Strega (Owl Powers).
Origin: On her sixteenth birthday, Emeline inherited a family heirloom: a French bracelet with a medallion of black pearl, jet, and gold held by three ropes of white pearls. It grants power over the weather.
Uniform: Fashionable women's clothes.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Popular, Good (+2) Determination, Good (+2) History of Louisiana, Good (+2) Stamina
Poor (-2) Stormy Temper
Powers: Master (+6) Weather Control
Motivation: To protect the city of New Orleans.

Rougarou (Rachilde Layre) -- He is Cajun, a friend of Stormtreader, living in New Orleans. He is skilled at finding people, even if they don't want to be found, in a variety of terrain. He helps bond together the little cluster of superheroes who follow Stormtreader.
Origin: He used to hunt wolves as vermin and believes that he was cursed to become one of them as punishment.
Uniform: Street clothes, in human form. Rags, in wolfman form. Nothing, in wolf form.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Teamwork, Expert (+4) Wilderness Skills, Good (+2) Loyal, Good (+2) Urban Skills
Poor (-2) Guilty Conscience
Powers: Good (+2) Shapeshifter
Limitation: He only has three forms, human, wolfman, and full wolf. The wolfman form looks like a hairy human with a lupine head and clawed hands. The wolf form is larger than a natural wolf.
Motivation: To make up for past mistakes.

The Baron (Toussaint Navarre) -- He has toffee skin and dark brown eyes. He shaves his head, but his body hair is black. Toussaint works as a bouncer in an Easy City bar. His street performance includes a mix of dancing, acting, singing, and jazz music. A notable challenge is that serving the Barons puts Toussaint in an odd place regarding cape politics, which they refuse to acknowledge. He is black and white, he deals in the breaking and the keeping of rules, he bridges death and life. Sometimes he acts like a supervillain, sometimes like a superhero. He already has his own congregation and thus no interest in joining SPOON.
Origin: His father Auguste died and was the first man buried in a new cemetery, thus becoming the Baron Cimitière there. At the funeral, Auguste appeared to his son and explained that Toussaint was chosen to serve the Barons.
Uniform: On duty, the Baron wears black clothes painted to look like a skeleton, a black top hat with white veve on it, black sunglasses (which may or may not be missing one lense), and carries a staff topped with a skull. When actually possessed, his appearance tends to flicker and sometimes looks "real" instead of like a costume. Off duty, Toussaint wears street clothes but still favors black or other dark colors, sometimes white.
Qualities: Good (+2) Bouncer, Good (+2) Discernment, Good (+2) Endurance, Good (+2) Minions, Good (+2) Street Performer
Poor (-2) Judgmental
He has four junior priests and three junior priestesses who assist him in his work.
Powers: Master (+6) Houngan (Voodoo Priest)
He can be mounted by any of the Barons as needed to solve problems. While Toussaint can invite them to come, he can't compel them, and sometimes they just show up whenever they hell they want to -- like Death itself. Applications of power include healing, resurrection of the just-now-dead, fertility, justice, and all the other stuff the Barons do.
Motivation: To guard the doorways.

* * *

"[Fire] is lightfooted and shamanic, dancing between the visible and invisible, undoing matter one collapsed molecule at a time, wreaking utter destruction with a touch softer than breath. Its poor cousins, wind and water, are one-dimensional rubes by comparison. Wind is all push, push, push. Water is suffocating, but passively so. And even when water gets it together to be a torrent or a tsunami, it is but wet wind. Fire is at once elemental and otherworldly. Fire dances on the grave of all it destroys. Fire is serious voodoo."
-- Author: Michael Perry

Louisiana is home to voodoo, which includes the worship of the loas and the practice of magic.

Lache pas la patate (Losh pa la pa tot) -- Don't let go of the potato or don't give up (a testament to the enduring spirit of the Cajun people).
-- French Phrases

Saleau -- sloppy, dirty old man
-- Cajun Slang

What do now? -- What do you want me to do now?
-- Cajun Slang

Etre en amour -- to be in love
-- Cajun-English Dictionary

Mais --Well (begins many French and English Sentences)
-- Cajun Slang

Mojo can mean a charm, spell, or magic in general; or talent, and over time this has come to include superpowers, of which magic is one type. Hoodoo, conjure, and rootwork are some other names for it in Louisiana. "To put the mojo on" means to hex or curse someone.

Banquette -- sidewalk
-- Cajun-English Dictionary

krewe -- a team of people who make a Mardi Gras float, or host a whole parade.

See the Mardi Gras crossdressers, a family of clowns, and the Zulu float.

Chien qui fé caca dans chimin li blié, mais ça qui tiré pas blié. (Le chien qui fait caca sur le chemin, oublie; mais celui qui l'en ôte, n'oublie pas.)
"The dog that dungs in the road forgets all about it, but the person who has to remove it does not forget."
-- Martinique, "Gombo zhèbes"

Chaud -- dear
-- Cajun-English Dictionary

Va lamèd -- fuck off (Louisiana creole)
-- YouSwear

The Barons or the Ghede are death spirits, including Baron Samedi or Baron Cimitière. They appear in Louisiana, Haitian, and related traditions. The first male buried in a cemetery becomes its Baron, and the first female its Brijit. Their manners range from filthy to debonair. These are among the most powerful of the loa, who rule over life and death; they are not to be trifled with.

Veve are patterns, typically marked out in chalk or white paint, which have mystical significance. They can function as maps, road signs, airport terminals, motherboard chips, telephone numbers, graffiti tags, or other purposes.

Sa ena? -- What’s wrong?
-- Louisiana Creole

Merci Bon Dieu -- Thank God (interjection)
-- "Please, Thank You, and You're Welcome"

Bokor -- sorcerer, specifically someone who uses spirit magic for evil purposes
-- Voodoo Glossary

Gris-gris are mystical charms. Mardi Gras throws are sometimes believed to hold special power. Mardi Gras beads are often purple-yellow-gold.

Bagasse -- the residue of sugarcane after the juice has been pressed out
-- Old New Orleans Glossary

Dubloons are another type of throw. See the Mardi Gras Elk doubloon.

Fiery Wall of Protection is a type of dressing oil used to bless things and break hexes.

Joyeux Mardi Gras! Laissez les bons temps rouler! --
Happy Fat Tuesday! Let the good times roll!
-- "Laissez les Bons Temps Rouler"

Bien fait! -- literally "well done"; used to express schadenfreude when someone is well-deservedly punished
-- French Words and Phrases Used by English Speakers

(no subject)

Date: 2016-12-30 12:29 pm (UTC)
siliconshaman: black cat against the moon (Default)
From: [personal profile] siliconshaman
Now that was an interesting read, and no mistake! I wouldn't be surprised if Bernie was a cousin somehow of Toussaint though... although given how her family tree sprawls, you could probably say the same of half of Louisiana.

Humm... so, this was in '65? [ish] I wonder what those guys are doing now...
Edited Date: 2016-12-30 12:29 pm (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2016-12-30 02:16 pm (UTC)
technoshaman: Tux (Default)
From: [personal profile] technoshaman
HA! I was RIGHT! He *did* mount the Baron his own Self....

I hope with proper mojo Rougarou is not permanently the worse for wear... hopefully he'll get some *rest* now that this [coup de gueule] is bound more ways than one...

(no subject)

Date: 2016-12-30 04:19 pm (UTC)
alatefeline: Painting of a cat asleep on a book. (Default)
From: [personal profile] alatefeline
Very thoughtful after reading this one. I enjoyed it for the plot, the language, and the vivid details. However, my attention snagged on the otherworldly aspects in a way that suggest to me I need to think about how I'm prioritizing my own time and learning. Hm.

Re: Thank you!

Date: 2017-01-02 01:32 am (UTC)
alatefeline: Painting of a cat asleep on a book. (Default)
From: [personal profile] alatefeline
I think I've figured out why. And it isn't the voodoo specifically. It's the concept of making friends with Death.

(Partial context: http://alatefeline.dreamwidth.org/56377.html )

...

2017 is going to be already so fucking weird. There will be some weird kickass awesomeness along the way if I have to jump up and down and spin in circles to achieve it.

Re: Thank you!

Date: 2017-01-02 02:51 am (UTC)
alatefeline: Painting of a cat asleep on a book. (Default)
From: [personal profile] alatefeline
*nods*

Yeah. I think some research is a good start. And some listening.

It might be a good sign that the book character and the song were both long-loved favorites of mine. Or we might have some of the same reference pools. Or both.

Re: Thank you!

Date: 2017-01-02 03:28 am (UTC)
alatefeline: Painting of a cat asleep on a book. (Default)
From: [personal profile] alatefeline
Yeeeeeah. Yeah, that's helping. Thanks.

I accepted that /I/ would die someday a long time ago. But /other people/ especially older relatives who I looked up to and who helped take care of me ... I wasn't ready. I need to /get ready/ so I can /help/.

Thought I'd responded to this earlier...

Date: 2017-01-07 02:47 am (UTC)
johnpalmer: (Default)
From: [personal profile] johnpalmer
One thing about death, personified or not, is that death isn't the enemy. If someone shoots me tomorrow, it's not Death I have a beef with - it's the shooter. I know people who've cursed death because of cancer - cancer is life run amok, and it caused the death - death just took over when the time came.

That doesn't change a whole lot, of course. It's a bit easier to blame death than shooters or cancer. But sometimes it helps direct energy at the right problem. If a loved one is dying, that hurts - but what hurts? The impending loss? The things unsaid? Wanting more time to be with them? Then sometimes, not always, you find there is something you can do about that thing that hurts.

Re: Thought I'd responded to this earlier...

Date: 2017-01-07 05:54 am (UTC)
alatefeline: Painting of a cat asleep on a book. (Default)
From: [personal profile] alatefeline
Whew. That's ... a big something to think over. I'm not sure I'm really processing it yet, but I think I *will be*, and I'm grateful. Thank you.

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