The curious case of Arturo Nihm, pt 2
"You kids, these days..."

Arturo Nihm, guest currator, collector and recluse in the broad city of Denver (or it's outskirts) flicks the door with his fingers. It swings open a slight amount more and they are admitted just like that. No fanfare or suggestive interaction with William's decrees or Margot's fluttering nod of enthusiasm (Arturo was not familiar with her anxiety issues). The shotgun remains on his shoulder, toted like some ancient civil war veteran, while he saunters gingerly back across the marbled floors and into the manor.

The interior of the main hall is as it suggested: stark walls with a painting set at regular intervals as the hallway continues. A solid fifty feet of extended marble floors, seamless if the eye were to search the veins of silver that crackle and creep through the white. How such a thing is possible, is best left to masons and imaginations.

The hall has no adjoining doors and entry points, save for the large black wood double doors on it's opposite side. There are no other furnishings or suggestion of accessories in this large open space. Just the paintings of abstract colour slashes on the walls, a series of the same artist if the themes and motives within are to be believed. Arturo marches past them all without a backward glance, stepping up to the double doors and pulling one open to venture inside.

"I'm not one to disappoint people. Not easily, anyway. It's one of the reasons I moved out here. I'm left alone, they don't get disappointed. Win, win scenario." He has that old, gruff sort of rasp to his voice that bounces and dances about with his words, as if he is used to having conversations with himself and is perfectly content with such efforts.

The doors lead into a rather large and frankly, obtusely opposing room beyond the oddly neutral hallway they had walked through: A study.

A cherrywood desk dominates the room, which stretches for nearly as long as the front hall, only perpendicular. The walls are littered with various articles and pieces and colourful accessories from all walks and cultures, feathers, beads, necklaces, aging parchments and shelves of tomes and books sitting on cupboards and shelves and pressed into crates in the corner. There is an old Victrola sitting on an archaic iron wrought stand that looks like the skeleton of a beetle or scarab, while a rather sturdy record collection (mostly jazz and early blues judging by the top most visible records) sit in neat piles around it.

Several couches of immaculate leather, shaped into the sorts of things you'd find in victorian houses or boudoirs, or at least owned by people who use words like Boudoir, hug the walls, filled up with a number of other accessories: a Globe, made of gleaming black and inlaid with gold embroidery to outline the various countries and continents. A strangely gruesome mask, that hangs off the corner of one of the couches arms, somewhat precarious and haphazard in it's placement. What looks like a ritual dagger, stuffed between the cushions, the handle a gleaming ivory bone, curved into a grip and ending in a small, blunted point.

The furthest part of the room, the last ten feet before another door, closed and made of, what looks like, modern steel with a simple handle, is dominated by a pair of cushioned chairs, facing one another. A large ornately carved wooden table sits between them, sporting an in-built chessboard of perfectly tiled marvelousness. The figures are setup in a game already underway, though who the opponent is, is anyone's guess. Oddly, each piece looks the exact same as each of the others, with only the slightest of height differences indicating the possibility of some from others. Simple wood, crudely carved and somewhat out of place of the rest of the Archaic Wonder that is Arturo Nihm's study.

You'd think that some movie title Pixar would aim to put out later in the year.

Arturo climbs over several boxes, around a small stack of books he has to steady with one hand when it begins to teeter and sway and finally climbs into one of The. Most. Comfortable. Looking. Chairs. Like someone folded so many different layers of foam and leather together, as to construct a device from which no human ass would ever want to vacate. He eases into it with a sigh of pleasure, a large tome of some sort with aging yellow paper infront of him. Leaning back, the shotgun settled on the desk beside the book, he inspects the pair of them.

"Admittedly? I don't get many guests. Especially young ones and the young ones I do get, tend to be demanding little shits who think they know best, despite all the mistakes I remember them making when they were dick high and growlie. So why don't you tell me what you want exactly and I'll decide for myself what sort of nonsense you want to know about."
An old man-ism preceded Arturo Nihm's stepping back from the doorway, which technically made it something of an invitation inside. Margot cast a momentary glance up toward Will, wherein eyes met and Margot's own heavy eyebrows were raised up with mild surprise. She was impressed with how well this was working out, certainly, but there was that ever-present gleam of uncertainty and distrust beneath the surface of the look. Many line had been written in many books about things being too easy before going terribly wrong.

All the same, across the threshold they stepped. Margot led ahead of Will, trailing along after Mr. Nihm's back as he led them through an incredibly impressive gallery of a hallway and into a library that was (in her Opened eyes) more impressive by far. Sure, uninterrupted marble spoke of wealth but here with the smell of old pages and the aesthetic of dark wood, Margot felt as though they'd found the true heart of the estate. Where the real wealth was kept shut away.

She didn't quite have her mouth hanging open, but Margot's owlish eyes were wider still like she was trying to soak up every sight possible, her head turning and gaze roaming over walls and shelves and tables. The mask and chess board held her attention longer than other sights, but it was the knife that she was staring at when Arturo began speaking about young guests and how seldom they were. Her attention snapped back to him and she blinked a few times like she'd been a child caught staring much too long at the cookie jar. She smoothed the front of her blouse and looked around for a sensible place to sit for connversation.

"We, ah...," she started, continuing to do a fine job of presenting herself as the student with no public speaking skills. "Well, we were doing our research on the Mohawk peoples and the curiosity of their ritual killings, and the potential of trade or culture or similar roots to the Central American tribes with similar practice. You've....," she glanced briefly at the mask, gruesome in its detail and very essence, somehow. "...curated exhibits? We were hoping to ask some questions, get some insight maybe....,"

She was trailing. Glancing anxiously toward Will. Plain on her face is the plea for him to step in. He was the talker, wasn't he? Handsome and golden-haired and golden-tongued. She wanted to go back to focusing on the library around them.


margot @ 3:59PM
[Perception 3 + Awareness 2]
Roll: 5 d10 TN6 (2, 7, 7, 8, 9) ( success x 4 )

tithe-ghost @ 3:59PM
Margot raises her eyebrows with surprise, and William shoots her the same surprised expression. Clearly, both of them were expecting to have the doors slammed in their face. He puts his hands at the edges of his vest, gives it a tug to straighten himself out and shoots his companion a look that can only be described as an excited smile. The kind of excited, though, that comes right before you jump out of an airplane. This is exciting, this is an adventure. This is the kind of story that you tell to people provided you don't get a shotgun shell to the chest while you're there. 

They just got through the easy part, you see. It was all going to be increasingly more uphill from there. 

The problem, though, is that Margot expected William to not be utterly enthralled with the place that they were in. His pingpong ball attention span goes from the people with him to the sheer volume of sensory input that he has to deal with. Leather couches. Globes and masks and ritual daggers with bone ivory handles sticking out of the cushions like this is just where these pieces live to a chess set that looks like someone put a little time into it but didn't have the steadiest of hands.

"I'm watching a friend's house for a period indefinite, and we both have the same interest in ritual craft and cultural practices. When he left, he took some of the more interesting pieces of his collection with him, but I've had carte blanche to peruse and enjoy the library. 

"The problem is that I'm running into places where there are holes in the information. I have a theory that there is an underlying principle in ritual practices, but basically going into all of that makes me look like a conspiracy theorist and a crazy person," he says, honest as William is ever capable of being honest, but he gives a shrug and a half-embarrassed smile. Eyes go from the man to the room again, attention falling on the chessboard while he seems to be thinking. It has his attention, or perhaps it's just a place that his eyes tend to fall. 

"So I figured, two birds one stone, right? Grab a friend to help with my shot-in-the-dark attempt at getting into grad school, sate my curiosity, parlay my weird rite-based obsessions into something that might actually get me somewhere. So, we talk to you, because every time I look into a place that piques my interest your name comes up and every time I ask about you in the community of people who collect curiosities and antiquities I hear that you're a big deal. I don't-"

He can't help himself at this point. He really can't. He looks back at the chess board and then at the other man. He stops again and exhales. William gestures to the chess board.

"I'm sorry, how do you play this? Its... there's no king, not enough pawns, it's hard to tell who is who- it looks difficult." Said with the sort of delight that comes from enjoying the difficult. 

"I would like to learn to play this."

William @ 9:46PM
Per+Empathy: Are you on to us, Mr. Nihm?
Roll: 7 d10 TN6 (1, 4, 5, 5, 5, 6, 7) ( success x 2 )
Geist @ 9:49PM
William @ 9:50PM
*fists in air*
Geist @ 9:50PM
Actually gimme ten and I'll drop you a response
William @ 9:52PM
Geist @ 9:54PM
Nihm's interactions seem to stem from foremost assurance that this is not what it appears to be. Whether it's some superpower of old age or a discrepancy in William's story isn't exactly clear, but his attention does seem entirely devoted toward finding out what's honestly going on. The good news is, for all intensive purposes, he doesn't seem pissed off or irritated. Not anymore than he probably is at any other given time.
William @ 10:18PM
wits+enigmas: I totally can tell which piece is which!
Roll: 6 d10 TN6 (1, 1, 5, 7, 7, 9) ( success x 3 )
"You don't play it. You let it play."

Arturo's regard of William and Margot remains somewhat taciturn, even boredly irritated when they both go into some depth about the 'studies' they are doing. He fingers the trigger guard to his duck hunt shotgun, laid so carelessly over the script and tome he'd obviously been reading from before their arrival. He is slumped in his chair slightly, breathing through his nose and waiting as the two bounce thoughts and concerns off of him.

That is, until William makes a note of the Chessboard and comments on it. Margot's own eyes had strayed there as well and Arturo's gaze glances off the isolated setup with a quick, animated flutter.

"The Mohawks would catch prisoners during the Colonial times and burn them in sacrifice to appease the varied spirits that they thought suffered under the presence of the European invasion. A means of appeasement matched in similar, if far more expansive relation within the Southern indigenous peoples of what we now know as Mexico. Fairly standard stuff. Rituals are, universally, mere conduits to obtain the attention of otherworldly things. Sacrifice was no less a method and saw wide spread use across all peoples. Vaudan among the Haitian and Caribbean peoples. The Cunning Folk and the provisions of children in service to the Fairies of old. Egypt's proliferating measurement of Sin found in he heart-..."

Nihm's hand rises, pinwheeling through the air as if most of this information were well known. Easily first year uni. sort of hallmarks that he's providing in safe and careful steps.

"Ritual is a form of communication, similar to the handshake prior to a greeting. Contact is made through carefully, layered translations from the self to the unknown, in an effort to garner attentions. What those attentions are for, of course...more often those performing the Rites are either well in the know or...enterprising little upstarts looking to make a name for themselves by interacting with something in the Exact. Wrong. Ways."

Nihm's tone is a rather sharp suggestion, a narrow eyed bit of precision that will immediately summon the pair of youth's attention toward him. He glances between the pair with a careful regard that tells stories of breaking freight trains doing 80 mph with nothing but a glance and a snort. The sort of elderly that knows World Wars, is Familiar with corrupt presidents and is probably three types of terrible to have carved out a chunk of the world up here in the foothills of Denver, all for himself.

"Is that the two of you? Looking to know more about Ritual so you can be stupid about it?"
Rituals, Mr. Nihm explained, were a way of garnering attention. Attention was precisely what he'd gained from Margot when he'd begun to explain the heart and function of Ritual and how it spread across the world. She was staring raptly at him, hanging on his words while she hovered in place standing somewhere within polite distance of the desk that he sat behind, having abandoned the hunt for somewhere to settle and sit. He could tell that she was marking them, but it was difficult to put a tag on exactly what was being marked in particular.

He spoke of the rituals as though they were very real. As though they would put people in touch with actual Otherworldly things, and demanded to know whether they were enterprising little 'upstarts' (though she was convinced that what he really meant to call them was 'shits') seeking to perform Rituals themselves.

The deep interest and focus had done something to peel back the anxiousness that Margot carried up to that point. Her hands weren't smoothing clothes or folding intentionally out of the way and still, but rested steady at her sides. She sounded more grounded and certain in her answer than she had in her explanation of what they wanted to know.

"Anybody planning to be stupid isn't doing much planning at all." She blinked big hazel eyes at him, intent, but rest assured that when she continued from there that gaze would break and roam once more, over the walls and the books and the artifacts and the spaces between them. Exploring, noticing, observing something beyond the physical appearance of clutter and knowledge alone.

"It's not practical application that we're after. It's insight and puzzle pieces and missing threads that'd help connect the dots. The Mohawks tried to appease their gods with sacrifice, by paying them back what was taken by the Europeans with European life itself. But why didn't other peoples across this part of the continent?" She nodded her head next to William, in indication. "So his thesis works, so he isn't accused of harboring crazy conspiracies."

She paused, then added almost to clarify, sounding semi-apologetic (probably for her lack of insightful knowledge on the subject, thanks all-nighter for impacting her studies) and simple, matter-of-fact both at once. "I'm the safety second."
There was a strange moment of validation, a spark, a reminder and an element of that Truth that he sought. Arturo may not be one of those famed archmages hidden away (he may be, William didn't know) but he knew something very fundamental. He knew some things that were true in ways someone who was existing in an unenlightened world might not necessarily be. 

Ritual, the old man says with the sharpness that comes from knowing, is a form of communication.

William's attention doesn't waver. Goes through the basics discussed and his pingpong ball attention doesn't seem to flitter because this had enough layers to occupy him in whatever fashion it required. All the baubles and bits of sensory input could not compete with the reality and facts presented here. Something about the other man's gaze causes William's stomach muscles to tense, to think back and wonder perhaps if he had been caught in his lie from earlier. Instead, he chooses honesty to respond. 

He pays attention to Margot, adds for a second with a half smile-half-validated-grin, "thank you." Said as though he's had to have this conversation multiple times and has to explain multiple ways that his view works. But not satisfied (not complacent enough to be satisfied [move, move, go forward, reach for more than what you are, be more])

He addresses, then, the rest of the statement. 

"Much of modern Western ritual practice, mundane or spiritual, is based around the idea of dominion and not respect. I believe that this has contributed to the disconnect between ourselves and things larger than ourselves.

"Frankly, sir, it's shit. We've lost too much of ourselves if we can't realize how to communicate and not dictate. So, no sir, neither myself nor my second are here with the intention of being stupid about what we're doing.

"Whether we do something stupid along the way is entirely possible, but this isn't an endeavor born from the desire for glory."

Arturo sounds as if he has a modicum of impressed behind that statement, regarding first William, who the word was offered for, in terms of Western ritual and the disconnect present, then toward Margot with a glimmer of a smile beneath that tumbling goatee. Like a grandfather recognizing the eagerness in a young kid's adventures and the first steps they are taking.

"There is of course, one aspect you're forgetting in that disconnection and that is in 'Who' is meant to be performing Rituals, which is often the main perpetrator of Dominion over respect." Arturo climbs to his feet, hand leaving the shotgun behind, inching around the cluttered desk and moving through the space the two have left between them in their curious natures and on toward the Chessboard sitting isolated from the rest of the cluttered study.

The approach reveals that the room slopes upward and outward from the straight walls of the rest of the Study, bookshelves and artifacts vanishing in a sudden mahogany bowl or oval, that curves as if to contain the chessboard with it's odd figurines and ornately simple furnishing at the centre. The space seems oddly 'full' for having only so small a set of objects within it. Arturo doesn't step into that space. He pauses on the edge, near the couch with the dagger jutting from it and the mask on one arm, hands folded behind his back in scrutiny.

"Much of Western culture fell apart due to the invasion of European mentality and privilege, with it, the advent of possession for the sake of profit and progress. Ritual requires subservience and no profit, except in the superior standing, can be gained. So Ritual turned, as most things did with Colonizing and advanced civilization, toward the inevitable rise of Rites of Power. Designed with the sole intention of bargaining or organizing power for the wielder. You can see this in much of the modern world as well that we live in, from Politics to modern Religion and onward even into social media context. Lynchings, cycles of bigotry and the omni-present and ritualistic fascination with money...which is little more than digital 1s and 0s these days and yet possessing of an adamant sort of- I'm rambling..."

Arturo interrupts himself. A hand rising to cup at his brow for a moment, before turning to glance back at the pair of 'Students'.

"What you're interested in, is frankly, not so much mysterious as lost. The true reasons and definitions for why Rituals first came about, have long since passed into history, no matter how many odd looking masks or sacrificial daggers we drudge up from dig sites." He pauses, eyes traveling to Margot for a moment.

"The Mohawks didn't have a concept of 'gods' by the way. They worshipped Spirits. The 'immortal' presence found in everything. The Anima, Dharma or the 'True Self' of everything. Monotheistic dedication is just another European standard meant to simplify for the sake of control. You can no more appease 'Everything' than you could piss it all off. Comes in portions...."

Arturo turns back to the Chessboard to study the contents for a moment, eyes narrowing a fraction though he doesn't step any close than the ten feet of distance between them and the board. Doesn't violate the space the board seems to hover on.

"Huh. The sisters have been pushing back, it seems." The scrutiny ends abruptly, Arturo shrugging through something like disinterest, before turning to look at the pair of kids.

"It sounds as if you know as much as I could tell you about either cultures. Truth be told, I helped to curate much of it but my interest was purely amateurish. I'm not a professor or an archaeologist, just an enthusiast with a lot of money and time on my hands. If you want to know more, I suggest you try down by the research library or wait for What's her name-" A pause, dismissive a moment later of trying to remember who their teacher was "-to finish being busy."
The room seemed to be tipping in toward the peculiar chessboard. It was subtle, hard to tell if it was physical decline or spiritual magnetism, but Margot's posture shifted to adjust to it all the same. She barely noticed herself do it, but maybe someone (something) else might've. The man did a fine job of holding attention, and Margot's was apt and sharp and smart and shaded dark like a raven. She'd come here wanting to size up the place, check for security for break ins and the potential of what was hidden, of what worth that dagger might be. To understand why somebody would approach a young Mage and ask them to go out on a limb for a large sum of cash.

Instead, she found herself very curious about rituals and Rites and how they became corrupt. Found herself leaning naturally in along with the pull of the room, like she were to be a part of the clutter as well.

When his eyes fell suddenly upon her, she straightened up again. Her height wasn't considerable by any means at all, but what little she had she drew to. He explained that there were no such things as Gods and something behind her expression soured. She was offended, certainly. The disagreement was clear on her young face. She'd one day learn to keep it better masked, but the youthful heat of pride and disagreement would need to temper itself first. The letter 'N' was on her tongue, but died before her voice could rise from her throat. She'd cut herself off, pressed her lips together, and continue listening on with no further fuss on the matter (no sulking either, promise).

When he summarized by explaining that he wouldn't know more than their professor, that it sounded like they already knew, she glanced briefly toward William. Hesitated for a moment, but turned to Arturo Nihm once more to address him all the same.

"I haven't found a professor yet who really knows the Other Side of the rituals, though. Academia and the skew of statistics makes that particular insight hard to come across."
Mouth quirks to the side and the look of genuine disappointment crosses his features, doesn't linger for long but heavens if it doesn't sit about his shoulders and on his brows for longer than he would have liked to have welcomed them. But it is discarded and the thought is shelved for later, it would seem- unpleasant realities that William does not choose to hang up on for terribly long.

Huh. The sisters have been pushing back, it seems
"How long have they been playing?"

The thoughts continue on and Margot speaks about the processors she's encountered- be they professors or not. He looked at her and decided to play the older student card, "there are a few out there. DU's not a bastion of ritual study though- even the trip I made out to Harvard on this particular topic turned up mostly empty. You meet someone, you think you're on the same page and then you're smacked with a face full of Eurocentrism." It doesn't sound like he was lying, either. But, then again, William rarely sounds like he's lyinbg when he's actually lying so it's often hard to tell. The statement comes from a young man who sounds like he's, at the very least, informed on what he's talking about.

His attention turns back to Mr. Nihm, "so talking to you has actually been very validating, at the very least."
"No one's sure."

Arturo answers William as if the boy is in on whatever methods or manners are being supported in this chess game before them all. There's no sly wink or even a suggestion of good humour, simply a shrug and a slight roll of the eyes, as if the Old man had long given up on trying to sort out the specifics that William was only just being exposed to.

"Gods..." Arturo seems to return to the topic that has Margot tripping over her internal monologue, threatening divulge some youthful opinion. "A word more devoted to 'excuses' than it ever was to worship. The very idea is terribly human in nature. We want something to pay homage to that directly represents who we are and in turn, give us the chance to reach for that covet worthy spot. It would never occur to most of us that all powerful and impressive beings as Gods are often painted, might appear as multi-fractal entities, or thousand tentacled monstrosities or a radiant light with no communicative option beyond the slightest of dimmings or brightenings..." A tangent now, truly, as Arturo turns from the Chessboard and begins to venture back into the Study proper which, after regarding the board and the strange oval shape of the room bowing out around it, the Study looks positively benign, even 'decorative'.

"Gods are an invention of who we want to be, simplified to a standard we can adhere and adjust to...Either that, or it's some enterprising thing pretending at the imagery we paint in our heads, to make it easier to convince us of their agendas. Our hubris..." Hands behind his back, murmuring under his breath on his way back to the desk and table and the chairs.

"Academia is designed to generalize in the face of What's known, as opposed to 'What's guessed at'. Most will give you the answers that satisfy recognition. That's why any thesis requires backed up evidence and recognition of prior sources. Proof that you're onto something. Slow. Tedious. Pointless, really." Arturo climbs back into his seat, the shotgun still stretched across the desk, that aging visage regarding the kids with careful determination.

"That in mind, who am I to stand in the way of young anarchy?" He offers a quick smirk beneath that goatee. Then-

"What do you want to know?"

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