While it was only briefly discussed, Jenna eventually reached out to Maura through Glimmr. After some back and forth they arranged to meet at the park a couple weeks later. By then the Beacon twins hoped the heat on them would have died down a bit more. And to a degree it did. Janet however was running late it seemed. Curiously another girl
came by and took a seat where they discussed. She was quite obviously a magical girl. Impossibly long white hair, icey blue eyes, and silver plates of armor. The girl sat patiently and was carrying with her a small wooden box.
Concidering her current standing in Penrose; Not to mention who decided to stay for awhile, Maura took the liberty of crafting a better disguise
for when she wasn't near those she trusted. She traversed to the nearest shadow in the park and looked around for any sign of Jenna, instead seeing the white-haired girl waiting near their meeting spot. Maura did have a theory in mind, but she didn't want to prod like that. "Waiting for someone too?"
So she sat down by Kayli with a polite smile.
Looking up from the object in her lap, she turned her attention to the girl. Blinking a couple times she returned a friendly smile. "I am. I was beginning to worry I'd scared you off."
She remained relaxed and seated.
Looking around, Maura glanced between Kayli and the box. "I take it you know the twins, why I'm here? I kinda owe Jenna for helping us out."
she asked. For a moment, one could see her eyes return to their scarlet color. But she wouldn't let her guard down, not yet.
The girl nodded. "I know them well. One of them would have been here to meet you, Recent circumstances have made that impossible. I am their replacement, for lack of a better term. That might not be the most settling thing to hear, but unlike the twins I don't have the burden of a patron like Beacon looming over me. I've essentially taken over the tasks they have been unable to do."
Moving the box forward a bit she lifted the lid to reveal Eliza's Soul Jar. "This is one of the things left to me. Cindy Ford had posession of it as I understand. I don't believe it is mine to keep so I wanted to return it to its rightful owner."
The box was placed beside her on the bench.
Maura nodded. "It's understandable. Things aren't exactly safe here, but I plan on changing that soon enough."
Her eyebrows rose when Kayli revealed what was in the box. She gently moved the box to her lap. "Thank you. Send Cindy my regards when you can. Now for my end of the bargain."
Maura, carrying the box, walked up to a nearby shadow. Casting a hand out, she used her new magic to open a portal to the Cradle. "I can't let Beacon or Mint know the extent of this place. Whatever you see is between us and the twins, is that okay?"
she looked back to Kayli.
Rising and stepping closer Kayli nodded. "The twins only cared about Justine. Anything else is none of their concern."
The Cradle Mother smiled. "Very well."
she walked through the portal, making sure Kayli was following.
Like before, it first appeared as if there was nothing but darkness. The gravity was low, and the air felt crisp. "It's a bit dark in here, hope you don't mind."
If Kayli had a way to see through the dark, it'd seem Maura took some time to organize the multitude of things within the Cradle. It didn't look like she was finished though. She had even made a small mausoleum area for the bodies Veronica collected.
Having ditched her mundane disguise, Maura lead the girl to one of the more intricately designed coffins; made of ivory and golden trim. "Justine should be in here."
She said, pushing the coffin open.
Producing a small amout of light from her hand, Kayli was able to follow along. Out of respect to Maura's wishes though it was only bright enough for her to see a short distance. Presented Justine, the girl knelt down a bit to have a closer look. The girl seemed frozen in time. "The potion worked wonders it seems. Hm. Might there be a way we could communicate with her? I am curious to the effects of the purification on her."
Might be asking a bit much. This place seemed to be particularly good at holding things for a reason. "From what I can tell, the magic of this place keeps stiffs like Visceral from undergoing reincarnation. Perhaps the soul is still intact as well, albeit a bit broken."
Maura theorized, kneeling down next to the past vampire's body and placing a hand on her head. "Maybe I can try to communicate with her spirit, if it's sill conscious."
the necromancer focused on creating a small Mental Link between the three, and using spirit magic to try and reach out to Justine. "Spirit, can you hear me?" ”...Why...”
She could hear Justine's faint voice. ”...Leave me...be...”
Hearing that, Kayli hesitated. "...Forgive me. I wanted to know how you were. But we will leave you to rest if you would like."
How exactly death and reincarnation worked with magical girls she still didn't really understand. And it was probably better that way. She, and probably Maura with her Spirit magic, could tell though that Justine was somewhere inbetween. Dead of course because she'd been killed, but also on the edge of returning likely from the magical infusion the purification brought. ”What is there...to know?”
Justine responded, sounding weary. ”I have taken numerous lives...Brought misery to many more...Let me suffer in this torment...”
So the spirit persists. Maura wondered if there were more lost within the Cradle. "...Eliza had hoped you changed, even I wondered if you did. Amanda didn't know about your past misdeeds, so I can't speak for her. But after everything, after nearly corrupting Eliza, it took death to make you realize you were in the wrong?"
Maura furrowed her brows. "I don't want to insinuate that it's best you remain here, your old thralls are still out there somewhere. And without your patron's influence, maybe you can help free them too. Maybe one day I'll let you go, if you turn out more valuable alive than dead."
Her voice seemed to have turned somber.
This wasn't her place to impose, but she did want to know. "If you had the chance to atone, would you take up that opportunity?"
It was a clear question. The point was to be sure and get a straight answer that she could glean if it was true or not.”Hah...What a foolish...question...”
Tears flowed down her cheeks.”There is no redemption...Not for a devil like me...”
She turned away.”But if God was so foolish...as to pardon my sins...I would gladly do whatever it takes...to be free of this pain in my heart...”
Maura thought for a moment on what to do. "...Would you be willing to work for me then, instead?"
It seemed too bold of her to ask such a thing. But if the Cradle members were willing to take Elvira in, why not? Maura could keep a better eye on Justine that way, and if they wanted otherwise, the Cradle Mother was still a Lesser Force. She could employ the girl to work with her alone. Besides, Maura didn't trust Beacon with her, and the Mint or another Horror could attempt to make grabs at the poor girl too. Or worse, Father could try and take Justine back, making their efforts for naught.
Justine slowly turned back, and sighed. ”You would act as God? To wash away my past of crimson? To grant mercy to one...Who shan't ever receive it?”
The Cradle Mother chuckled at the comparison. "You neglect to realize who I am, who I'm meant to be. I am the Ferryman of Hades, the Fourth Horseman, the Lady of the River Styx. I am the Witch of Death; the 'Grim Reaper', and I am no god."
she sighed as well. "But even I've grown weary of that namesake. After all, I'd come to realize not every soul deserves to die so...abruptly, for a lack of a better term. The concept of redemption can be argued about, but in the end, aren't you all human?"
she smiled. "If you truely desire to atone, allow Death to give you this chance."
A contract appeared in her free hand.
Justine joining the Cradle wasn't quite what Kayli had in mind. Though to be fair, Justine joining anybody wasn't really either. She knew very little of what they did or how they operated. Maura at least seemed to be more open to collaborating though. A proper contract could potentially keep her out of others clutches though. Not like she could do much about it right now. The purification had clearly done its job in changing the former vampire girl's course. Confident in the twins work she would let things play out.
For a while, Justine was silent, her eyes nearly closed as they peered beyond a veil of half-life. Then she spoke."...Do you still hate me, Janet? Is the reason you're here...For me to ask forgiveness for what I've done to you?"
Considering Justine recognized Jenna in the other dimension, it shouldn't have been a surprise that she saw her origins now. The temptation to glance at Maura to see her reaction was strong, but at this stage it wouldn't change much. "My purpose is redemption. Whatever Janet's hate for you may have been I wish to offer compassion. Your purification was for that end."
Justine closed her eyes, and then slowly nodded. "I am sincerely sorry."
She opened her eyes, and looked upon Maura. "Very well, I accept your covenant. Even if an endless hell of violence and war follows it, I shall help save others from sharing in my fate. That is all I could ask for."
Maura smiled. "Very well. Come, I shall help you both out of here. We can work out arrangements after, Justine."
She carefully picked up Justine, the ornate coffin sinking down to the floor below, then guided Kayli out of the Cradle. "Although I will be keeping an eye on you at first. Mostly since I'm not sure how the others will react. Just know if you do anything to harm my other agents, there will be repercussions."
Despite the warning, Maura's tone wasn't threatening. "War and violence is inevitable at this rate, but we will continue to fight against it."
Maura's words rang in Kayli's mind. It reminded her of something Penny had mentioned and wanted to discuss with Janet. Most would probably be more skeptical of Justne's intentions. They didn't understand the potion that had been used or what her Light magic told her. "I would like to be a part of this new chapter for you, Justine. Once Janet was purified herself she sought a way to give you and others the same shot at a second chance. While conflict is unavoidable at times, we have an opportunity at offering some alternative." "Hm?"
Maura looked back to Kayli. "Say, you don't have a patron at the moment, do you? Do you wish to join as well?"
she asked. "I won't force you to, if you desire otherwise. We could work together without the need of a contract.""Your offer is appreciated, but I believe my cause is better served if I refrain from aligning with anyone in an official capacity. There is bad blood between factions whether substantial or not. I am not opposed to working together though. If at all possible I would like to be able to serve as a third party to bridge some of the divides. I am well suited to it."
She stopped and looked back to Maura and Justine. "I suspect you have some idea of me, but I don't believe I ever properly introduced myself. I am Kayli Devon, the Keeper of the Keys." "It's completely understandable, trust me."
Maura chuckled, opening an exit out of the Cradle. She stepped aside to let Kayli through first before following. "It'll be a pleasure working with you, Ms. Devon. Especially with your kind of abilities. I am Maura Natalie; current head of the Crimson Cradle, and of course, the Witch of Death."
She'd admit, trusting Kayli like that was risky. Especially with putting off formal introductions till the last minute like that. But from what she could tell, the girl had this peculiar influence that one could let their guard down to. Something like that could prove useful, so Maura understood why she prefered to stay solo.
Justine did not resist as Maura took her from her formerly eternal resting place, resembling a porcelain doll in her pale complexion. She stared at Kayli with unmoving eyes for a while as she spoke with Maura, until she finally spoke:"You have changed, Janet. You're no longer the weak girl that Mariette offered to me. You've grown..."
She curled up in Maura's embrace."...I wonder if I can change, too."
Taking a step over to Justine, Kayli gently placed a hand on the weak girl's head. She spoke with a soft tone. "I've given you everything you need to do so. All you need is to embrace it."
Her words and magic encouraged Justine to accept the light the potion instilled inside her.
The portal closed behind them once they were all outside. "Thank you for meeting with me, Kayli. And for returning Eliza's soul jar to me as well."
Maura nodded, sitting down on the nearest bench with Justine still in her arms; like how a mother would hold her sickly child. "Firstly I should give you a heads up, these are basically blood contracts."
She held up the contract still in her hand then handed it to Justine. "I'm sure alot of us weren't aware of that fact at first. Ronnie must've liked the...'element of surprise' that goes with it, but that's not my style. Maybe if I'm feeling mischevious?"
she chuckled. "Have any questions before you sign?"
Justine nodded slowly. "I do have one question."
She looked up to the sky, and then back to Maura. "...Father may one day come and try to reclaim me. If that were to happen...What will you do?" "Oh, my dear. You talk as if I'm afraid of a little horror."
Maura smiled. "If Father tries to take you away from us, he'll have to get through me first. And I don't go down without a fight. You can be sure on that."
She patted Justine's head.
Though it was nearly imperceptible, a faint hint of a blush appeared on justine's cheeks when Maura showed affection to her. "...Thank you. I have no other questions. I'm ready to make the covenant."