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[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Glad to see her come around and overcome her paralysis, Isaksson watched as she slowly came into her own. From her flexing hands to the vulgar language she was becoming more alive and aware of herself and in no time she was up on her feet – albeit a little weary and fatigued like himself. Seeing in such a state was better than the comatose manner she had been in on walking back through the door. It had been a pensive few minutes where he thought that he had not acted quickly enough, but that mood was cast off as she stirred.
Accepting her hand he felt how cold her skin was directly, nodding his confirmation that he was okay. He was a little solemn as she patted herself down and he stared at the ground lost to his thoughts. The whole scene and what had occurred was playing on a loop in his mind, flashpoints of details here and there, acutely aware of some facts and yet hazy in others. He knew it was due to a certain force and yet he did not wish to openly speak of his concerns to this young and naive girl. To drag her into something this large scale would be too much. He had to ease the details upon her slowly and over time.
When she spoke again her voice helped clear the miasma of distress from his mind he listened half-heartedly. That was until she mentioned being spoken to by the figure he had tried to steer her clear of. Then his olive eyes were on her. She hesitated,[i [+green 'I don't know if you heard it or not']]. A hand rose up to grasp her upper arm to encourage her to go further and partially to steady her, though he did so gently. Offering a nod of agreement that he wished to know more when those dark eyes lifted to look at him he held a breath as she spoke.
There was a very clear and obvious shift in his mood as his eyes hardened, lips pulled taut in a thin line and his hand left her form. Turning away from her, lost to himself it seemed and his long coat swirling with his movement as he moved about the hallway, he took several minute and slow steps away from her as he composed his thoughts on the matter.
[i Not now. She will not understand.]
[+teal “Yes I know what it is; or rather [i whom] she is. And I have dealt with her before but never stopped her. She can't be stopped.”] His voice was as soft as when he had cradled her to his chest and just as light, a dash of melancholy tickling the ends of his words as he pushed his hands into the outer pockets of his coat. Turning side on to her he looked back, a lone candle in its brazier the only light that allowed them to see one another.[+teal “You'll learn more with time, but know now that I will not allow her to take you.”] The man before her was weary but his voice held firm on that promise. When he looked at the youthful American he seemed remorseful if not resigned to an unspoken truth.
[i Don't weigh her down with the past. Let things be.]
Nodding to his internal monologue he walked over slowly to her. The older man kept his focus upon those dark feminine eyes even as he reached down at her side and came up with her bag drawing it seemingly from the darkness itself. With her attention on him he backed away, tilting his head so that she might follow him back the way they had come. Moving through the hallway and back out into the bakery they passed by the same owner from before wearing the same half-smile as earlier whilst he deposited his new wealth into a pocket on the front of his greasy apron. His earlier ocular trick did not reoccur.
There was no word from the green-eyed magician until they had walked a few blocks onwards. They were both tired now but with night coming on fast and given what he secretly knew of her fantasy attacker, he did not wish to be outside and unguarded. The streets they walked along were emptying of typical day-to-day folk and being replaced by those out to drink, sell their bodies or pilfer others – dead or alive. He had heard how cadavers were still prized by those going into the world of surgical medicine for their practice. A necessary evil some would say. They never bothered him for one reason or another, and keeping Charlene near to him kept even the most vigilant or daring of thieves at bay. On rounding the corner to their destination he spoke at last.
[+teal “We never left the bakery.”] It was quick and concise but it broke the silence they had walked in.
[+teal “Everything you saw, that you touched or smelt or heard, was just your imagination spilling over into a lucid dream of sorts.”] Like a school teacher he spoke slowly, clearly, for her to understand and in a tone like one would speak to a student; she was his after all.[+teal “The sights come from your grandmothers postcards, the sounds from her trying to teach you French, the smells and tastes dreamt up as your mind conjuring up what they would smell and taste like respectively. The chocolates sweeter, the meats more tender, everything rich and perfect. Thus why it was so idyllic; it was your fairytale version of Paris.”] In all it had been what Charlene had thought the city would be like, filled with rich pastries and delicious foods whilst the buildings and landmarks were lit up light shining beacons. The bearded man had been in a little marvel at how detailed so much of it was but he knew the real Paris and did not wish to trample over her idea.
[+teal “But that is also why you couldn't see the faces of the people about you. Your subconscious cannot fathom and assign individual personas to them. A handful or so and maybe you would be okay; but not a crowd like that. When not focused upon the entire charade performs as it should.”] It had all been going quite swimmingly, veiled woman aside, up until he had begun to look at those passing by and the illusion was broken.[+teal “And when you focused on them and saw them for their lack of features, as their true form and a mirage, your conscious mind took control and began to pick away at the seams, to struggle and break free of the illusion.”]
Contemplative as they neared their destination, a Victorian home with a small fenced in garden at the front, he was not exactly looking forward to meeting this particular woman. She was perfectly pleasant and he felt correct in his belief that the two women would be fast friends. But she was always like that with other women. It was men that she had most trouble with and being a long standing acquaintance of hers he only hoped she was in a pleasant mood tonight. As he led them to the large oak doorway the house appeared locked up for the night with no light shining through any of the windows and all curtains fully drawn.
Isaksson could not leave his thoughts on the dream world to end there and whilst staring at the doorway in a lamentable state he finished;[+teal “The human mind is a marvel. You have to fool it constantly or it will see through the trickery. Keep lying to it and in time you will find you will believe a lot of once ludicrous thoughts. Things like that, Paris, can be done with anything in your mind.”] Lifting his hand he wrapped upon the door several times, a dull and hollow knock before taking a step back.
[+teal “With enough training and the right details you can even imagine your childhood home, long lost pets, loved ones you've lost – all in such vivid fashion,”] a shiver ran through him as a dull orange glow began on the other side of the door,[+teal “you don't even wish to leave the dream because the lie is sweeter than the truth.”] His eyes had lost their usual critical hardness and he looked quite bitter and wistful. Thankfully there was no time for Charlene to follow up as several bolts and chains were removed from the door which shuddered in its frame as a long bolt came free and then swung inwards.
By the glow of an oil lantern beside the doorway the figure before them looked out and on seeing Charlene first, frowned quite deeply. She was a long and slender woman. Perhaps near to six feet in height her slight figure was covered by a very thin silk nightgown that ran down to her ankle but accentuated the curves hidden beneath. Her chest, though modest in size, was pronounced and almost uncovered – decency was not exactly a strong suit for this woman and she did not rush to cover herself up, particularly when her rich auburn eyes swept from Charlene to Isaksson and her full lips tugged into a devilish smile.
[+darkred “Ah, Sebastian! What a wonderful surprise to have you on my doorstep. But at this hour of the night it can mean only one thing..”] The mischievous smile only grew as she leaned against the doorway and the curve of her chest and waist became all the more prominent. For his part, Isaksson – or Sebastian as he had been addressed – looked on the ebony haired beauty with a gaze that showed his regret at thinking this was the right person to visit.
[+teal “Elizabeth, I need to ask a favour of you.”] He had tried to sound convincing and not play into her game but the wording was awfully difficult to get out without a double meaning being behind it.
[+darkred “Oh, a favour is it my sweet?”] She giggled a sweet melodic laugh and her short mousy blonde hair rippled with the humour of it all.[+darkred “Let me guess, you conquered this young girl and now she carries your child and you want me to.. help.”] Looking across to Charlene her eyes ran over the girl though in a moment the man had stepped into view before the American.
[+teal “Nothing of the sort; I need two rings made and enchanted.”] His request sounded so innocent compared to what the woman had suggested and she smiled at how protective Sebastian was being now.
[+darkred “Well dependent on the ingredients required and the enchantment you want, I can certainly do so – you know what my fee is dear, I’ll be waiting.”] With that she pulled back from the door, leaving it open to the pairing as she sauntered toward the stairway and in a manner quite sultry and alluring – with plenty of hip sway – she made her way upstairs. He was severely regretting his decision now.
Sebastian watched for only a moment, quite naturally, before stepping inside and taking a hold of the door to close behind Charlene once she had stepped inside.
Pointing had been a bad idea. Even as Mr. Isaksson warned her not to do so the many faces surrounding her suddenly stopped once more and focused on Charlene. Again she felt the displacement from the world taking root. A heavy blanket shrouding her from the world, draped over her keeping her from moving or looking away. She felt heavy and lethargic, the edges of her vision dimming and blurring. She vaguely heard Mr. Isaksson whisper for her to look away, but why did he sound so far away from her? He’d been right next to her. She wanted to look away, but it seemed impossible, her entire body was paralyzed.
She was keenly aware she was still in Paris, because she could smell the foods. She couldn’t hear anyone speaking, just the wind flapping the fabric of merchant stalls, and the sharp clicking of heels on cobblestone. The maker of the sound and owner of the heels rapidly became the only thing Charlene could focus on and see. The lights of Paris faded away into darkness taking the Parisians with it.
She was a gorgeous woman, lithe and angelic, wearing a gossamer gown of white, and sporting rouge lips the color of blood. They tipped up in a smile as she neared, but Charlene only felt a desire to flee and run. That desire only grew as she watched the woman decay right before her eyes into a gown of black. The transformation, blood, and her laughter left Charlene feeling fearful. The world might have fallen to the wayside, but Charlene knew she was trapped in this darkness with the Harpy witch of a woman for however long alone.
Charlene wanted to breathe, to scream, to try and either run or lash out at the creature that grew closer and closer with its dark wings and cruel laugh. A laugh even Charlene couldn’t press her hands to her ears to avoid. The feeling was awful, and left Charlene feeling exposed to her seeming captor in the darkness as well as violated when her voice entered into Charlene’s mind. She spoke of love, and that she wouldn’t be stopped this time. Charlene felt a single tear fall down her cheek, for that moment had allowed her to feel the creature’s rage. To Charlene it was wholly depressing and terrifying for someone to harbor that much rage and discontent, and she felt it lash out at her and attempt to wrap itself around her as if seeking a vessel. More than ever, Charlene wanted to bolt away like a frightened doe.
Whoever wasn’t going to stop her, Charlene would try, though she didn’t know how she would. The feeling of a great weight on her body was not entirely unfamiliar. The sense of danger and presence of darkness lingering over her was unfamiliar either. The easiest way for Charlene to describe it were the moments between sleep and awake where her mind wanted to go, but her body refused. Breathing was difficult, she couldn’t move her own body no matter how hard she tried, and even now trying to take a deep calming breath was impossible with the dark winged beast smiling at her and reaching ever closer.
Charlene whispered a first and final plea into her mind for the creature to stop -to go away when a blinding white light burst forth from beside her. Finally she could move, and the first thing she did was slap her hands over her eyes before she truly went blind from the light. There was a loud ringing in her ear as if a canon had fired off from beside her. Voices and sounds were still distorted, and her vision blurry, but her entire body was ice cold. She shivered almost uncontrollably, and was thankful for the slow permeation of warmth that came from a set of hands.
She slowly recognized the smells of the bakery, of bread and sweet rolls, and the voice of Mr. Isaksson. The sounds and smells of Paris were long gone and she heard him say, [+teal “Take it easy now, you’re back, you’re safe. It’s all over now.” ] Trusting him, she slowly opened her eyes and looked around to see they were sitting on the kitchen floor of the bakery, and she was of all things in his lap tucked tightly and warmly against him. She took a moment with shivering breath to take in her surroundings and finally looked down at her hands. She flexed and fisted them, please to be in control of her own body once more and took a steady breath to help calm her.
[+green “What the fuck?”] she murmured uncaring of her choice in language and removed herself from Isaksson, determined to stand on her own feet, and she did, hunched over with hands on her knees and reeling from the experience. She looked over to him and frowned, her expression concerned seeing him a bit winded. What a day. [+green “You alright?”] she offered her hand out to him to help him back to his feet, and noticed her bag was no longer in sight. Her shoulders slumped, everything she owned was in that bag and now it was gone. She tapped the sides of her coat feeling the pockets and was glad her wallet and passport were still on her person. That was something at least.
She figured they were back in London, and she wondered why go to Paris if they weren’t going to stay, but there was no going back -at least not now. She had a slew of questions she wanted to ask, but knew he wouldn’t answer them anytime soon and instead wrapped her arms around herself for warmth. She felt a chill to her bones because of the interaction with that ghastly thing and wanted to find a nice warm blanket, but a sense of guilt now nagged her. In her ignorance she’d gotten herself in trouble, and she wondered if they’d still be seeing Mr. Isaksson’s friend.
[+green “Sorry,”] she suddenly said, waiting to follow him where they would go next. [+green “I tried to look away, but I couldn’t. It wouldn’t let me- whatever [i It] is. You ought to know it spoke to me. I don’t know if you heard it or not, but... it said it was coming back and there was nothing to stop it this time. I couldn’t tell if it was talking to me, but... I feel like it was talking about you. You’ve stopped it before, haven’t you? What does it want?”] she asked, an inquisitive look on her features and hoping that he’d actually answer her for once. She even watched his every move, like a hunter stalks its prey, to read what he wouldn’t say out loud.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Isaksson was rather serious as she finally took the bowl of steaming broth from him, the spoon clinking against the porcelain as he the heat now began to seep into her hands. He had placed a cloth under it however so that the warmth was inviting and not painful in any manner. Yet even as he watched her begin to cut at the meat and parcel it out for easier mouthfuls, he was not exactly focused on her. His head turned back to the market and his eyes remained on the move. He was engrossed in this task until she began speaking to him and he looked across to her.
[+green “..nothing around me is truly as it seems..”] He was grateful that she took time to eat, though his olive eyes observed her a little longer before looking around them once more. The crowd was moving again and the silence that had come when the faceless figures had begun staring at her now gave way to the jovial sound of laughter and joy in the air.
[+teal “Just trust me, do not look or focus upon them, they cannot hurt you if you do not give them attention.”] He returned to his previous position of resting his arm along the back of the bench, his voice quiet and a little twitchy as he felt unease in the air.
Although he had not said so, he had seen the woman too. But only at the edge of his vision and thus why he had been staring past her before leaving to retrieve the food; it was the only way he could see her without looking, as doing so would yield no results. Distracting her with the food was a means of keeping her pliant and happy and for the most part it worked. But on swallowing a mouthful or two she spoke up again and his eyes snapped back to her. Immediately he reached out to grasp her hand, pulling it down from pointing into the crowd.[+teal “Do not point, you only make them aware of you.”] He spoke with a touch of anger grating his throat. As if on a switch they once again stopped as she looked out at them, perhaps unable to pull her dark eyes away from their complex yet barren faces.
Now that they were looking at her directly, as she stared back, the connection was made. At first it was just a single woman, out nearer to the river’s edge, her march forward slow and menacing even though her red lips curved ever upward in delight and her long white dress dragged along behind her. The sounds of the people about her had ceased save a far off voice telling her to [i [+teal look away]]. The flapping of the fabric of the market stalls, the rushing water of the river, the skittering leaves across the ground all dulled and muffled as opposed to the sound of the woman’s heels which rebounded so clearly in the still air; click, click, click.
Once she had looked on the woman this third time, though she may wish to look away, to avoid eye contact with the woman in white, to avert her gaze and seek some comfort in the familiarity of the ‘magician’ at her side, she would not be able to. Her body would be frozen and her eyes forced open by another force. She would not be allowed to look away and as the woman advanced forward the lights about Charlene would fall away. The other people that Isaksson had tried to steer her away from looking at now imploded into smoke and the sights all around began to dissipate until it was just the woman before her. Her smile only grew as she came closer though her dress was beginning to yellow and stain, tearing in places as her porcelain like skin began to crack and fracture. Those same red lips now began to bleed, a sickly black blood running down her chin and curving along with her neck, dripping onto the ever decaying dress.
As she passed the last of the shadow crowd the woman, now in a reflective black gown of a new design and trimmed in rich ebony feathers, stopped some ten feet from Charlene. Raising up her hands, fully covered in crimson gloves up to her elbow, they spread out at her side. Accompanying a deep and guttural laughter to the sky as her head fell back she unfurled a set of wings. Large and dark like ink they spread some three meters either side of her figure. Like a negative angel she fluttered out her wings before her gaze came back down, a set of golden iris’ now uncovered from the veil of before – and they looked deeply into the young gunslingers own.
She spoke now. Though her lips did not move from that insane grin, it was instead like the voice came from within Charlene’s mind, and the voice was quite airy and affluent, in complete contrast to her appearance;
[center [+crimson “I am coming my love. And he cannot stop me this time..”]]
A blinding white light came from Charlene’s left and finally she was freed to move and blink as she so chose. However having gone from such darkness to its opposite her eyes would take time to focus and return to a more normal level. Given a little time to recover and allow her senses to return, she would some feel a soft hand about her shoulder, another cupping her cheek as she rest against a figures chest and the soft fabric of clothing against her. She would hear soft words of encouragement, [i [+teal ‘you’ll be okay’, ‘don’t worry’, ‘it’s over now’]]. The slight smell of bread, of flour and dough would fill her nostrils and soon after, as her eyes finally adjusted, she would know that she was in the back of the bakery that she had entered in London.
[+teal “Take it easy now, you’re back, you’re safe. It’s all over now.”] Isaksson said as he held her to his chest with her seated in his lap, his breathing a little heavy as he rocked her gently to him.
Charlene was pleased to hear he’d find her something to eat, even if he was not hungry. She didn’t know why he wouldn’t be. It was hard not to be with all the aromas of delicious food. To be fair, eating the mush provided by the show for the past several months hadn’t been the most delicious. Her delight for food was interrupted by his strange far away look and voice as he suddenly left. She stood to follow, wondering what had him looking so distantly, but he turned telling her not to move. Where would she go? She was in Paris and while that wasn’t a bad thing, she was now at his mercy to be left here. She frowned and watched him go, seeing him look back for a fleeting moment before he was lost in the crowd.
Sighing she sat back down on the bench shaking her head. She wasn’t going to give up asking questions, and wondered about this friend of his. A woman who was apparently similar in personality to herself. She didn’t know any other women remotely like her and wondered in depth what the woman was like. Someone rather special for a man like Mr. Isaksson to consider ‘friend’. She was bound to be fun to meet.
Charlene decided to just sit back and relax while she waited for Isaksson to return. He didn’t have to go and get her food, but it seemed that despite his propensity to be bossy and rude, he was still a gentleman at heart. She looked back down the long street to the tops of the Arc and grinned to herself. It was a delightful surprise and a part of her was telling her to enjoy it while she could. Mr. Isaksson had only grown more and more cryptic since their first meeting, and it was very possible that moments like this would not be common place. Her gut had never lied to her before, and while she knew that things were not going to be the same, the Golem proved that not only would she face dangerous situations, her new boss, was just as dangerous. She supposed it was a good thing she’d somehow managed to weasel her way onto his good side... she hoped. If she had learned nothing else so far, it was that Mr. Isaksson was an intelligent and cunning individual, and he no doubt had his own reasons for accepting her proposal to take her under his wing.
Charlene could be patient... when she wanted to be, and she sat content to just be in France and watched the people around her, enjoying the moment. The wind carried a breeze full of delicious scents from cheeses to spices and wine. Her moment turned from content to confused as faces and surroundings began to blur, she felt out of time -displaced, and when she blinked away whatever haze was suddenly falling on her, it cleared to no avail. There was one exception to the strange phenomenon happening around her. The same woman from before in her lovely gown and red painted lips seemed just as displaced from the event as she was, but upon further inspection, the woman vanished again
[+green “What the hell?”] she murmured and tried to look around for a source. Instead things snapped back suddenly, including sounds she hadn’t realized had grown muffled, when Isaksson returned with a bowl of food. She looked to him, seeing he could be viewed with complete clarity. [+green “What-“]
[+teal “Don’t look at them, Charlene. Eat your meal and relax.”] She followed most of what he told her, she didn’t look at them, but she couldn’t shake that odd feeling of displacement and tried to press for more answers.
[+green “But they-“]
[+teal “Pay them no heed, here.”] She nodded, not fully understanding but aware that focusing on him had allowed the strange behavior of the world around her was normalizing.
She accepted the food wordlessly, and picked up the spoon to take a bite when she stopped and looked up at him. Was this his handiwork again? Was he trying to reinforce the need to trust in him? Had he put something in the sweet eclair earlier, the way he had attempted to put something in her tea over a week ago? She slowly turned her attention from Isaksson to her food, and spotted the braised chicken surrounded by a rich red wine sauce and plenty of mushrooms and baby potatoes. She finally broke away a bit of the chicken and scooped up a bite for herself, but before taking it she looked back at him with a serious expression.
[+green “Will you please explain to me how the whole world seemed to stop and blur around me? It was as if time stood still, or I was moving very fast... or that, nothing around me is truly as it seems...”] she finally took the bite of her food, as if testing to see if it was real. Much to her delight and that of her stomach it was, and it tasted delicious. Rich savory tones danced on her tongue and she finally sat back against the bench eating it. It was the best meal she’d had in a while. She had a feeling traveling with Mr. Isaksson also meant no more mush for food. [+green “I’m starting to think you’re doing things just to mess with me. Or if it’s that strange woman I’ve seen twice now... She was just over there, and there.”] she pointed to the two places she had seen the mysterious woman now with her fork, and continued to look around, hopeful she could find her again and point her out to Isaksson.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Isaksson found it quite humorous that she turned on him as his brow rose in amazement. He was not overly surprised that she knew so many landmarks about the world but that her dreams stretched further than Paris. From such humble beginnings she had such a bountiful knowledge of the world. This grandmother of hers had given her the basis of desire for this city and knowing her blood was not purely American would make things interesting. Europeans made for much more viable assistants that those of the eastern or western continents. But he kept that to himself and only smiled lightly as she chastised him.[+teal “My humblest apologies dear, but America never struck me as a country that cared for anything but itself. And by that margin your folk do not see much if any desire in learning of the world at large.”] He nodded lightly, a little humble.[+teal “I’ll try not to assume from now on.”]
About them the world continued on in at a steady pace and the market continued with its thriving trade as those who departed were soon replaced by newcomers. Everyone seemed quite merry and the general atmosphere was overwhelmingly light and airy. She pressed him once more with her questions, though on mention of food – and with her stomach offering up its own plea – the smell of roasted chicken and rich seafood from prawns to lobster and unforgettable smell of strong cheeses lingered throughout.
Isaksson smiled again on hearing her stomach.[+teal “I am not hungry, but I will go get you something to eat in a moment. As you were saying, we will meet my friend shortly, there is no rush. Though I think you will like her. She is rather upbeat and happy; rather like you.”] He rolled his eyes theatrically and looked away behind her, though his eyes narrowed a moment as he focused upon something.[+teal “I’ll go get you some food. Don’t wander off Charlene.”] It was spoken in a far off voice, though ended as a warning as he slid from the wooden seat. He began walking toward the market, glancing back the way he had been looking once or twice, though soon was lost amongst the moving mass of the crowd. He had again danced around her question.
As before the sights and the sounds of Paris would come in on Charlene as she sat there. Left alone she would perhaps become more alert to everything as if her senses took on a new level of awareness. The flames of the lanterns would burn brighter and the sounds of the trees rustling would be more crisp, the words of the people about her more pronounced than before. The smells of the market were vivid and yet if she focused on the people about her it was like her vision was blurring.
Faces were less defined, features smoothed and indistinguishable from one person to the next. As would anyone who saw this on trying to clear her vision and readjust by rubbing thoroughly with her fingers she would find it did not improve. Indeed, on looking back the crowd had come to a halt and their faces – or whatever that blank canvas could be called as they had neither discernible eyes nor mouth nor nose – would now face toward her, as if only now noticing her. She may look around her but no matter where she looked these faceless figures would stand motionless, staring back. Except one; in a marble dress, with fingerless gloves and dark lips turning up in a smile.
Isaksson crashed back down onto the bench, drawing the attention of the gunslinger, and in his left hand he offered up a porcelain bowl, heaped with steaming coq au vin inside. When she looked up to meet his eyes he would be staring back, vivid olive iris’ looking at her.[+teal “Don’t look at them Charlene. Eat your meal and relax.”] About them the crowd was beginning to slowly move along the more she focused on the bearded man and the less she focused upon them.[+teal “Pay them no heed, here.”] He offered up the bowl again, a metal spoon dipped within as the dulled aroma wafted up on the vapours.
He didn’t answer her questions, but at the moment Charlene wasn’t too worried about it. She was too preoccupied watching and listening to the people as she took up a seat beside him on a bench tucked between two trees. He seemed to be giving her a moment to take in the sights, or perhaps he was taking a moment of rest. He had fallen from a significant height and had rocks fall upon him. Despite any pain, he might have felt he feigned indifference well, and she was pleased to see he was stronger than he looked… for an Englishman.
Everything was aglow, and she looked up to see a clear night sky with a big bright moon. She began to grin as Mr. Isaksson posed his question. How was she feeling? That was easy, she felt inspired, and in more ways than one. Her mind was officially open to the notion that anything could be possible -even the most fantastic. She had traveled to Paris with the simple swing of a door.
[+green “I feel I’ve fallen down the rabbit hole just like Alice did in that book, and we’re all a little mad here.”] Nothing was strictly up or down anymore, not when you could walk through a door and travel between two different cities hundreds of miles apart. [+green “I feel as though anything is possible. even this world you’ve told me about. I’ll take the dangers if it means having moments like this. This is…”] she sighed still so impressed and in awe, [+green “incredible. Getting here and being able to see Paris… it’s better than I ever dreamed. When I heard the people speaking I thought I was hearing things, but the more I listened the more I realized they were speaking French. We entered a building in London and left it in Paris. I wonder where else such doors could take a person…”] She mused that last part to herself instantly thinking of the other places she might like to visit when Mr. Isaksson asked his next question. He seemed to think Paris was the only place she wanted to go.
She finally looked at him with a grin, the distractions of Paris put on hold for the moment. [+green “If you must know, my grandmother was French.”] she sighed, reminiscing for a short moment before continuing. [+green “The way she described Paris was almost romantic, and she had a postcard with the Palace of Versailles painted on it, and another with the Arc. She tried to teach me French, but unfortunately, I never got the hang of it. I know enough to say ‘hello’ and my name. It’s not just Paris I’ve wanted to see, you know? I’d like to see the Pyramids in Egypt, and the Taj Mahal in India, Oh! And Tibet, I want to see the world’s tallest mountain…”] She mused thoughtfully, at his expression she shrugged at her knowledge about the world. [+green “What? I read…”] She informed him and went back to looking out at the city. From across the way she thought she saw a woman watching them, but when she blinked the woman was gone. She wondered if she had ever seen the woman and if it was worth mentioning to Isaksson.
She decided against it as the smell of food was intoxicating and she was realizing how hungry she was, having not eaten since the morning before the first show. The eclair had been delicious but it wasn’t filling. She thought she might get him to answer her questions and steer him towards finding somewhere to eat. If there was anything more important than seeing the sights, it was eating the local fare. She turned into the bench to face him, her voice dropping just to be on the safe side. [+green “You still haven’t answered any of my questions, though I’m assuming I haven’t asked the right one. I know we are on our way to meet your friend, but what are we really doing here in Paris?”] Her stomach had an idea and it suddenly growled in earnest. Bashfully she placed a hand to her stomach and grinned through her embarrassment. [+green “Whatever reason we’re here for, can we get something to eat while we do it?”] Priorities.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Isaksson finished his light treat rather quickly, sucking at the tips of his fingers and then rubbing his hands together to rid them of any remaining flavouring. The woman seemed in heaven at that moment and he allowed a small smile to grace his lips as she spun about with delight and looked at anything and everything that was possible to see. It was a rather sweet moment to partake in and so he allowed her the necessary time to drink it all in before he nodded and spoke.[+teal “Ah, so you like Paris, hmm? I would never have known.”] He spoke as if he did known, feigning surprise for a few moments before placing a hand to her shoulder to gain her attention and stop her from spinning into nausea.[+teal “We should sit down. Come along.”] And he nodded his head across to several convenient wooden benches nearby.
Leading the way ahead there was a smiling couple who sat before them yet departed just as they arrived and he seated himself with a soft sigh. His body still felt rather stiff from the arena but it was better than being injured to the point of needing medical help. It was not something he enjoyed asking for and the doctors he knew rather delighted in having him come to ask.
Either way, he was not injured, and he nodded for her to take a seat beside him. His arm stretched along the back of the bench but they had sat far enough away that he was in no danger of wrapping it around her shoulders in the romantic manner of yesteryear. Instead he looked out on the small market and the fluctuating crowd within.[+teal “How do you feel Charlene?”] He asked quite abruptly as a small gust of cinnamon and vanilla and the light touch of chocolate and cream combined washed over them from the stalls. He had to admit it was rather picturesque, sat there amongst the sites and smells of Paris, drinking in the sheer brilliance in architecture as well as the culinary delights that tickled her fancy.
He had been quite intrigued by her choice, her response, her reaction on seeing where she was and yet had been acutely aware that she had known where she was long before he had said anything. This was not some postcard dream, a chance look upon a drawing and a wish to one day see such sights. She knew of this city and actively wanted to see it. At least she had some knowledge of the world at large and he was not working with a small-minded Luddite. It helped things immensely.[+teal “I can see you are rather delighted to be here. Tell me though; why Paris? Why have you always wanted to visit here?”] He spoke lightly, curiosity in his voice as his olive eyes looked upon her.
Isaksson was not the only one looking on her however, a figure through the crowd staring directly on the woman with the beautiful haloed face, warm smile and interesting attire. The woman watching was stood in a beautiful marble gown with matching fingerless lace gloves and her dark chestnut hair pulled up into a tight bun at her crown where petals had been woven in. A veil covered her face though dark sultry lips were just about visible, smiling as she watched the woman on the bench. Should the doe eyed American see her and have her vision pulled away by the man beside her however, the woman would be gone on looking back.
Master? He was joking, right? She gave him a look as if to ask, but all she received was a devilish grin and wink. Before she could truly question it, he informed her of his plans to teach her plenty of lessons in due time. His intent to visit a friend was rather vague, which didn’t surprise her, but it did make her wonder what he planned to do with her. She hoped she wasn’t about to be saddled to some nanny of sorts. Wherever they were going apparently it was rather far, or had that been a lie? Not even several streets from the tents did they enter a bakery. Confusing as it was the end of the day, and no good baker would still have bread on his counter.
She should have known, Mr. Isaksson had other reasons for being here. The baker knew Mr. Isaksson and with two shillings on the counter, they passed through. In true American fashion, she smiled his way on passing only to catch his sideways blink. That wiped the pleasant smile from her face and instead, her brows lifted in surprise. Nevertheless, she followed after Mr. Isaksson keeping close as they crossed through the kitchen and through a door to an alleyway. The first thing she noticed was it was dark out. When they had come into the shop, the sun was still up. She frowned looking around and catching odd smells entirely different from before she walked into the bakery. She looked back at the door, wondering where they’d come to, but a snap of his fingers caught her attention and she hurried to the left and followed.
The buildings looked different from the common theme she’d seen in London. The air was certainly cleaner, and it was loud. Up ahead was what looked like a market filled with people. She followed growing more and more curious, but weaving through the crowd she could hear them speak, and it wasn’t English. She recognized the French tongue, and she pushed through the crowd in her growing excitement. Had they truly? Could it be? The crowd thinned after the plaza as a wide street was decorated in pretty lanterns that illuminated the space. She walked, turning in circles to take in the sights and watch the people. Yes, she was positive they were speaking French. She couldn’t believe this… it was too magnificent.
At the end of the street, she stopped cold, was that?… It couldn’t be! She had to squint to make sure, but peeking over the edge of the long wide road was none other than the [i Arc de Triomphe.] She gasped, and her bag slid down her arm and she took down her hat and stared wide-eyed at the wonder. It was beautiful, even from a distance, and she felt like she might cry for the oddest of reasons. Realizing where she was, and that she’d been looking forward to this since the moment she sailed across the Atlantic, she turned to see the Louvre just off in the distance behind her. She couldn’t believe her eyes, and yet she’d never felt more excited!
She was instantly in love with the scents, the sights, and she was so enamored with being in Paris, that she had almost missed Mr. Isaksson’s disappearance until he walked forward and spoke. She blinked, nearly missing what he said until he offered up the little pastry towards her. She slung her bag back up her shoulder and fitted her hat back on her head before reaching out with a ‘Thanks’ and took a bite of her own. Mr. Isaksson seemed to thoroughly enjoy his, and Charlene could see why.
She gave a small moan herself having never tasted anything so rich or so sweet. Sure she’d had chocolate before, but it was a bar she’d gotten for her birthday many years ago. Sweets were just a luxury she’d never been able to afford. Despite its wonderful flavors, it paled in comparison to the sheer fact she had walked out of London and into Paris. For a fleeting moment, she wondered if Mr. Isaksson knew how much she had longed to come here, or if it was a happy coincidence. Nevertheless, she reveled in it and finished her eclair with a satisfied smile.
[+green “That was delicious, thank you! But… how did we- I had no idea this could be possible! I’ve always wanted to come here…”] She looked around at the many lights and smiled fondly at it all, remembering and committing it to memory. [+green “It’s beautiful,”] she summarized, aware of how cliche it sounded, but unable to describe the moment in any other way. She hoped they would be staying at least a little while.
Suddenly remembering why they had come in the first place she turned to look at him curiously and asked, [+green “Is your friend here in Paris? How long will we be here? How will we have time to eat all the food?”] she asked the last question more to herself than to Isaksson. If that eclair was any indication of how good the food would be, she was certain she was in for a treat. [+green “Oh! You have to tell me how we got here so fast. This is amazing!”] she exclaimed excitedly looking back around at the sights fully giddy and excited to continue on their way.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Had he spoken to himself? Had everything he just said been in a foreign tongue? Was he perhaps dead, crushed by the rock-construct and finally deceased, and this was all some afterlife that those religious types had spoke of? Because it damn well seemed that way given her reaction.
At first Isaksson had figured she was becoming repentant to her ideas of joining him. Having seen a man burst into stardust and a golem both appears and crumbles to rubble before her very own eyes, he had thought that would put some sense into her that this was not a decision to be made lightly and that danger could come in many forms. But did she care? By the heretical gods no. She thought he could give her answers to questions she had not asked and that what she had witnessed thus far was only a little danger. Did she have to physically hurt before she would see sense? The look in her eyes, those honey brown eyes, had changed from regret and discomfort on looking at her hat to something akin to expectation and excitement on turning back and looking at him. Before he knew how to respond she had made the decision for them both and was undressing herself of her show garments as she left him stood alone in the arena.
[+teal “Oh no, forget the fact I was almost killed by the damn golem and forget the fact that I just told you how you will all the more likely die for your naivety. I'll just be here waiting for you shall I?”] He spoke quietly to himself in a disgruntled manner and the bearded gentleman let out a deep held breath as he tried to free himself of the frustration being put upon him by the woman. He should have drugged her. Given her the damn medicine to make her forget everything. She could continue with her show in a content manner and not have burdened him with her life.
Stopping for a moment in his mental self-flagellation, he stooped down beside the broken golem. Withdrawing the onyx rod from his jacket he pressed the metal tip to a large piece of stone and like a knife through butter he severed a piece off. He did the same to the obsidian ring, removing a piece to place into his pocket before with a few whispered words he left the dark glass-like rock to crumble into dust. He would not leave it for someone to utilize in the future. And now, with that taken care of, he began to stroll outside to meet the woman where she had stated.
If truth be told he was fascinated by her as much as he was frustrated. He had some plans in mind for her, to test some theories and possibilities. It would do well to know just how much respect and trust he could place in the woman before he did so.
As he stepped out into the waning light of the day, the crowds still scattering away, he tucked the rod into his jacket pocket. The suit was fully repaired now and looking as if it were freshly bought – more figure conforming than was liked in London and this one was a light grey in colour, paired with buffed black boots. A watch hung from his buttoned waistcoat and over all this was his usual dark long coat. He was clean at the very least and only had to wait a minute or two more before the chipper Charlene was at his side.
Looking over to her he nodded with approval to see her in more familiar attire. It was no dazzling outfit of pure Americana, but it was nice nevertheless and he did rather like it.[+teal “Don't call me boss – I prefer Master.”] He winked at her as a little mischievous tickle took his fancy though he soon looked away lest he delve into that smutty and unpleasant side of him that only really came out after several alcoholic drinks.[+teal “As for any lessons I have an abundance of them to give you; though in due time. Firstly, I need to see a friend about.. something.”] Very cryptic.[+teal “But to do so necessitates that I do something about you first.”] Olive eyes returned to her he noted the bag on her back and he was quietly very pleased she had not brought a horse loaded up with bags and cases galore.[+teal “I'm glad you packed lightly – we have a fair old distance to go. Come along.”]
Isaksson took off at a steady pace and lead her away from the colourful high tops of her old life. They did not travel all too far however, a few streets no less, before he stepped into a bakery. Given the lateness in the day and the relative lack of passing traffic the baker had been closing down and turned to advise that they were closing and for the new patrons to return tomorrow for fresh bread. Upon seeing the bearded man however, the older gentleman merely smiled and nodded.[+royalblue “Ah, lovely to see you again Mr Isaksson. All is ready for you sir, as ever.”] They exchanged the briefest of nods to one another, two shillings placed atop the wooden counter as the suited man stepped by and into the back room. He expected for Charlene to follow, and she did, though if she happened to look on the old baker she may note his bright auburn eyes blink – sideways.
Leading her through the kitchen to a back entrance it was as if they had simply taken a shortcut, the door opening up on an alleyway that was much darker than it had been when they entered. Shutting the door behind them he clicked his fingers for her attention, using a finger to coax her to turn left and follow on.
They emerged out the end of the alleyway in a well lit broader street, the lanterns ablaze and the cobble beneath their feet smoother from the heavy footfall that came to these parts. The air was a little sweeter and less of smog and indistinguishable shouts came from far away, echoing down behind them. Leading her toward a large public plaza it was filled with stalls from a weekend market that occurred once a month. The smell of fresh breads, pastries, cheeses, meats and the distinct aroma of wine wafted over them as he weaved a path through the still strong crowd. Earlier in the day it would have offered fresh cuts of meat and more perishable sweets that did not last long in the air.
Intermingled with the confusing rabble and talk about them was the sound of running water, and indeed the river did flow not far away, just the other side of the plaza they stood on. To their right ran a long road, lined with tall trees and lit in a pretty pattern by many street lanterns that swung lightly in a gentle breeze. At the end of the long road and its tall trees and lit lanterns was a tall building – with a whole through the middle. Perhaps with her excellent eyesight – she was young after all – she would notice it was an arch in design and looked large despite the distance. Indeed if she had seen drawings or the rather rare photographs she may notice the sculptures on the pillars or the reliefs sculpted onto the façades and come to the conclusion that it was indeed the Arc de Triomphe. Which meant she was looking down the Champs-Élysées. And the river beside her was not the Thames but the Seine. And behind her, beyond a bearded man who was returning from a stall – when had he left? - was the Louvre Palace. This was Paris.
[+teal “I bash the French for a lot of things, terribly awful in a war for example, but my word do they make delicious pastries. Here, try this.”] On a small paper napkin he offered up to her an éclair with chocolate icing and a rich cream filling. As true to his word, whilst offering her her own, he took a bite of another in his opposite hand and let out a delighted groan.[+teal “C'est manifique.”]
She listened to his monologue about his reasonings and his actions. He had tried to show her what his world and life were like. Constantly always in danger. She had to admit it sounded troubling, but she remained silent for all he had to say. Yes she had sought him out, but even she couldn’t truly answer why she had the desire to know more. Perhaps it had something to do with growing up in the wilds of Wyoming and being so close to the mysterious and supernatural Cheyanne, or maybe it was simply that Charlene had been seeing odd things since childhood. He seemed to be under the impression she was looking for riches with her adventure. She wouldn’t correct him. She wasn’t looking for riches, she was looking for purpose, looking for something to give her life meaning, something to help explain why she always felt so out of place -aside from her obvious preference in clothing. They way Charlene saw it, you can’t money with you when you die... but at least the spirit would be full with experience to tackle whatever would be faced in the afterlife. At his mention of his use of the stone giant, she glared. He was at fault for the creature. She didn’t like that the patrons of the show had been put in danger so he could prove a point. She knew then, this man was dangerous, and she was more hesitant to trust him.
Still... she couldn’t shake the nagging feeling in the back of her mind telling her to go. To not let fear hold her back. Hell, she had been nervous to take the job with the show, until she had convinced herself to go. This had only been a stepping stone to take her where she needed to go. For some reason looking at Isaksson as he stared back at her with a finite expression to make her choice and make it soon, or stop wasting his time, she felt her gut telling her this was the path to take. It wasn’t going to be easy, and she knew she would have to put up with a lot of bullshit, but at the end... maybe she’d find whatever it was she was looking for. Sad when you can’t even figure out what you want in life, or what your purpose is... but Charlene had been certain there was one out there for her, and her life had brought her to this moment.
She walked over and picked up her sparkled hat and grimaced at it. She had hated the costume the moment she laid eyes on it. [+green “You’d be surprised by what I can tolerate, I just don’t like to see my friends have to deal with hate or ignorance. I understand what you’re trying to do, and I can tell I’m not what [i you] would call a prime candidate, but I work really hard, and I’m a fast learner. It probably sounds stupid to you, but my gut is telling me to go with you. That you can lead me to... answers.”] She left it at that and dropped her hat to the dusty ground and looked back at him, fire in her golden brown eyes. She would be going. [+green “ I’ll gather my things, and I’ll meet you outside the grounds. I’m not afraid of a little danger, and anything is better than being paraded around like a show pony,”] she grinned and marched away, stepping on the glittering hat in the process and shedding herself of her glittering vest. Tossing bits of her costume to the ground as she made her way to her dressing room.
There she changed into her comfortable trousers, a blouse and jacket. She packed the rest of her meager belongings into a carpet bag, and checked her purse with her money. Satisfied she still had plenty, she then collected the last of her ammunition and her weapons. She placed her favorite and only hat on her head, the black brim haloing her face, and her curled hair which hung down back her shoulders. Before she could leave, she was stopped by the frantic face of her boss. Santos was furious, and at a loss for why she had changed clothes and had her bag with her.
[+red “And where the Hell do you think you’re going, woman? We’ve still got shows, if that damn magician hasn’t completely destroyed us!”]
[+green “I quit.”]
Santos blinked at her, stunned with a loss for words. [+red “Quit? You can’t quit-“]
[+green “Actually, I can. No contract,”] she gave him a smirk and shoved her way past him and over towards Troy who still stood waiting with her horse. A knowing look on his face.
[+gold “You leaving, ain’t ya?”] Charlene gave a nod her head to him, a saddened look on her face. She wished she could take him with her, but she had to settle with a friendly hug and kiss to his cheek. She then handed him a legal piece of paper, and Troy opened it only to gasp at her.
[+green “I have to do this. Old girl is yours now, that’s her ownership paperwork, signed over to you. Take care, Troy.”] He nodded, folding the paper up into his pocket and led the horse away, and Charlene left.
She walked from the main show tent, and towards the outer edge where tickets were generally taken, and people reined their horses or parked their buggies. She spotted Isaksson among the thin crowd and made and effort to walk a bit faster. When she made it to his side, she slung her bag up higher on her shoulder giving him an inquisitive look. [+green “Where to boss? What’s next?”] she asked, though she was certain she would not be getting paid, if Isaksson took her, she might as well think of him as her boss from here on out. [+green “Any more mysterious lessons or supernatural training you plan to put me through?”] She asked, her mind more open to the concepts of the unknown after witnessing the stone giant and feeling that power flow through her at the use of Isaksson’s nifty little rod. No matter what, Charlene was now committed and she’d do as Isaksson asked of her, and would learn all she could .
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Isaksson took the kick, no doubt upsetting the man with his comment and though he regretted it he was loath to actually apologise. He was curious as to what [i she] hoped to accomplish by striking him. After all he was not posing any physical threat to her. Were American's just prone to violence? As he pondered that very question, cycling through his rolodex of American acquaintances, she began to speak to him and though he found her a woman of indomitable spirit she could rather dense to the larger picture at times. He did not say this, not did he look up to speak to her. Instead he eyed her retreating friend and mare and only once they had left the arena did speak to her.
[+teal “You said you wanted to join me no? You even accosted that poor constable to get my name from him.”] Yes he had spoken with the man and yes he had been quite intrigued by her quest to learn more about him. She had a fire to her but that was oft to be bad as it was good at times. It had to be channelled and directed or it risked burning out of control or out of life entirely.[+teal “You don't seem to truly understand just what is going on here do you?”] Rolling onto hands and knees he remained that way for a moment, pushing back onto his feet and feeling his body click and crack as he found his way back upright. He was not getting any younger, he had to keep that in mind.
[+teal “When I saw you in the alleyway you were just another star eyed youth seeing something odd and being one of the elusive few who were interested. I thought I would take you to the tea house – ostensibly so I could wipe your memory and you could return to.. this.”] He gestured to the arena around them as he stepped forward and with a groan felt his arm pop painfully. Damn it all to hell, he really was getting old.[+teal “But of course you were looking for adventure, riches beyond your dreams, all those hocus ideas that your kind think are so important and prioritise over everything else.[i 'So long as I can have an adventure by twenty, be rich by twenty-five, I can live the rest of my life in bliss having done all I wanted.'] Well Miss Doger, welcome to the other world and all it has to hold.”] He had turned through his monologue back toward the pile of stone and rubble.
Putting his scuffed boot to a larger rock he rolled it over and away from himself sending a screen of rock to titter down to the floor and settle once more. It was a mess, but not his mess any more so he cared little for it.[+teal “Everything I've done, from the fake poisoning, to the kiss, to – well, this-”] he waved at what was before them,[+teal “was all to show you just what a typical life in my world is really like. People will try to kill you in all manners of ways at all times of the day. They will manipulate you into doing what they want and getting far more than a peck on the lips if you are deceived like you were with me. They will take from you the very normality you thought the world was and you will not be given a moments reprieve because just when you think things are going smoothly,”] again he moved a rock with his boot,[+teal “well, [i et voilà] as the French would say.”] His accent was impeccable.
His hand rose up and brushed through his beard, up his face and through his hair, a spray of dust and small rocks falling loose. Looking back over to her, his olive eyes catching her rich chocolate opposites, he held her gaze for a moment. She did have strikingly beautiful eyes he had to admit.[+teal “So you see Miss Doger this is the very world you want to step into. Dangerous. Back-stabbing. Manipulative. At it's very core morally reprehensible. And if you cannot handle a comment or two about your friend, which I admit was not polite to him and I will apologise accordingly, but if you take umbrage with that then I will not take you with me.”] And with that he was done speaking. His hands slipped into his pants pockets, looking at her like a dishevelled man on the street in his torn suit and coated in dust. Just his face bore that same serious look he had when he had dealt with the man in alleyway. He was deathly serious and his jokes had ceased; at least for now.
Charlene couldn’t believe him. He nestled his head into her lap, getting comfortable and she was too aghast to stop him. At the mention of dear, she could hear Troy murmured it back, questioning it with ire. Charlene couldn’t deal with Troy right now, she had Isaksson’s question to consider. Hadn’t he done that? She had supposed as much, possibly another test, but she thought a bit harder on the memory and to Isaksson’s face when he was ripped up from the ground like a rag doll. He’d been afraid, but his final remark, left her irritated and she would have struck him again for good measure but Troy was there to kick Isaksson in the leg for her.
He took the rod from her next. Sitting up and snatching it right out of her hand the moment she opened her palm upwards. She was offering it back without hesitation. No need to be so hasty in her opinion. She was going to take the moment to explain she didn’t think, upon further reflection, that Isaksson had been behind the fiasco. He posed a new question this time about Troy. What followed was just the sort of thing that irritates any woman: being interrupted by men. She was fine when he suggested Troy was her lover, she could deal with him exposing their kiss to Troy, she wasn’t about to handle the claim of slavery. That war had ended almost twenty years ago.
Her arm lashed out to strike him, and thump him good on his arm, but she stopped and instead stood up. [+green “You aren’t worth it, and I’m starting to think I made a mistake in approaching you, ”] She said sadly, and looking to him as if disappointed. [+green “It’s none of your business who I love or don’t, and its none of your business to know about my friend. You’re rude and condescending, and I don’t want to spend my time with a jerk just to satisfy my hunger for adventure. So you better tell me what you were doing here and why, or you can just leave.”] She frowned at him, saddened that she had to say this, when she was the one who had gone to him wanting to know more about what she’d seen -wanting to know more about the world. She didn’t want his help or company if he was only going to be rude towards her, or testing her abilities and loyalty at every turn. She was looking for a partner not a boss.
Troy stood off to the side, furious that the man would levy such a claim, but even he could sense that Charlene needed to handle this alone. Giving them both an unreadable look he took the reins of Charlene’s horse and led it out of the tent to join the other. Alone, Isaksson should have no problem answering Charlene honestly and with candor. Charlene watched him go, feeling embarrassed by Isaksson’s comments towards them both, but she didn’t show it to Isaksson, only her irritability towards him as she awaited his answer.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat As Isaksson had looked down at the girl and found she had understood his message, he was filled with momentary intrigue and interest. Seeing the power surge from the silver tip of the rod he had several answers to questions he had only thought of and not yet found time to query. If he had had his way he would have been able to set up a more formal and through test and examination. He could have truly seen how far she was ready to go. But this would have to do, for now, the blast from the rod like a contained ball of air that struck the golem square on – it would have been quite embarrassing and pathetic had the gunslinger missed such a target. Like the proverbial side of a barn it was hard to miss than hit. Upon impact the spell had its desired effect and the creature was rendered innate and unmoving; though the magician had not truly thought this far ahead.
He may have had a brilliant mind but in his rush not to be splattered against the compacted dirt of the ground, Isaksson had forgotten to take into consideration just what to do once the spell had been cast. As such, when the stones lost their cohesiveness he was stopped to the floor in a heap – swiftly followed by quite a number of stones and rocks and debris that had once made up the structure of the monster. Buried alive he had taken to shielding himself as best he could but without the onyx rod now in Charlene’s possession, he was unable to do anything other than pull his arms over his head.
Of course it was the horse who found him first, the mare whinnying at his location until finally some help arrived. He was only under the rubble for a few minutes but the weight atop him had been fairly considerable and as the debris was moved away from him he felt the aches that came from physical assault of this nature. It had been some time since he had been hit in this manner and yet it was never any less painful. Allowing Charlene and her accomplice to help drag him free, being pulled completely free, he remained still for a little time as it was rather comfortable to just lay there and relax. His suit was torn and ripped in places and overall he looked like he had run through a shower of ash and dust, covered in a layer of it as he was. Opening his olive eyes to the woman who was shaking him vigorously he found himself staring up into oaken eyes that for a short amount of time were filled with just relief and delight that he wasn’t actually dead. The smile was magnificent and the corners of his own lips turned up, just at the moment she thumped him several times in his arm in anger.
Happy to remain in her lap and rest more, he lifted his hands to his face and brushed away as much of the dust as he could, a shiver running through him and his hair shook loose of the grey matter. Allowing her to vent and curse him and continually berate him for his idiocy, he stared up at her impassively for a while. She seemingly calmed at length and he nodded.
[+teal “Are you quite done dear? Yes? Marvellous.”] He nestled into her lap, eyes looking across to her dark friend who eyed him quite sceptically. Returning to the worried woman above he took in a deep breath, exhaling slowly.[+teal “Firstly, do you truly believe that [i I] did [i that]? Do you not think I would have a greater control on things if I had been the one to conjure up that? Come now Charlene, I thought you were far more intelligent than that – or was I wrong to assume otherwise?”] The hard thump against his leg from her male accomplice showed his dislike in Isaksson berating his friend. He could have used harsher words but he said nothing more, sitting upright now, legs outstretched before him.[+teal “Okay, now, secondly. Give me that.”] Reaching back from sitting between her legs he snatched up the onyx rod from her none striking hand and gave it a quick look over in inspection before returning it to the chasm in his inner jacket pocket.
With it back in possession he visibly relaxed, like a mother having their child back to their bosom he was complete again. Looking about them in investigation of the arena he found the trio, and the horse of course, was left all by themselves. Everyone had cleared out in a blind panic. It was perhaps for the best in Isaksson’s opinion. Looking to his left he eyes the dark-skinned man sceptically.[+teal “Who is he?”]
[+darkgoldenrod “I am Troy, the one about to put a smacking on your backside for almost getting her killed.”] His anger and fury was evident as he looked down on the bearded man who looked back with a rather blank stare.
[+teal “Is he your lover?”] Ignoring the man completely he directed his question to Charlene, though of course the reply came from the other man.
[+darkgoldenrod “What the hell is wrong with you?”] His face creased in confusion.
[+teal “Ah, apologies, is he your secret lover?”] Turning to look back to the woman for a moment he against afforded her no time to reply before looking to Troy.[+teal “Look the whole kiss thing, it was meant as a trial, to test if she was serious or not. I did not know she had taken a consort.”] The confusion on the standing man’s face only grew at that.
[+darkgoldenrod “Kiss? Consort? What the hell is he on about Charlene, and who the hell is this guy?”] Accusing eyes looked to the woman then, like he had not been told some very key information.
[+teal “Oh! I’ve got it, he’s your slave! Am I right?”] His face had lit up as if he had finally hit upon the right answer though it quickly dimmed seeing the mans’ reaction.[+teal “What? I am entirely against all that nonsense but you Americans are a whole different species at times.”] Brushing at his arms to try and clean himself up some he ignored the duo for a time, content to see to himself.
Charlene stood obediently, though curious about what her masked friend would do next. He quieted the crowd of common folk, he looked to her and before she could stop him he reached for her pistol. Now one of the big rules about gun ownership was to never let your gun fall into another’s hands. As he showcased her firearm, she glared daggers at him, fists held tightly at her sides. Was he trying to make a fool of her?
The answer became an obvious no, as he handed it back to her and turned her towards the inner ring. Ahead of her were several balloons bobbing gently in the air. Some were low to the ground, others high up towards the rafters. She gave him a look. Was this a test? Whatever it was, she could see him roll those green eyes of his behind his mask and mimicked with his hands for her to shoot them. Now it was her turn to roll her eyes. She spun her pistol around her finger before gripping it and squeezing the trigger. The loud crack and bang of the pistol echoed in the tent but the balloon was reduced to a puff of dust. She looked back at him as if to ask ‘is that all you’ve got?’
No… no, it was not.
He wanted her to fire at the other balloons that now bounced about the air. Having no issue with a moving target, she withdrew her second pistol and fired at each of them with quick succession. Each bullet hit its mark, but instead of dust, or glitter, each balloon burst into something else. When the smoke and rebounding sound of gunfire had settled, Charlene looked back to Isaksson to see a look of mild confusion and concern on his face. Hadn’t he done this? This was his magic, wasn’t it? That’s what this was -who he was. A Magician. Parlor tricks and cunning wickedness. She was beginning to wonder if she could or rather, should, trust him at all. That distrust only grew as she watched the elemental baubles begin to align themselves and form into a spinning vortex of power.
Unaware of what was happening, the crowd gasped and cheered with wonderment. Charlene looked on bewildered, and not the least bit trusting. The wheel of elements turned faster and quicker until lightning even began to spark with the pressure. Charlene slowly advanced, watching with worry, and wishing she had her rifle instead of her pistols. Charlene didn’t know what was going to come out of that dark void, but she knew she wasn’t going to like it. It spun faster and faster until a large crack of lightning snapped out at both of them and Charlene had to jump back to avoid being struck. She wanted to reach over and smack the fool for endangering the crowd, herself and her fellow performers, but she never had the chance.
It looked like a giant penny, melted and shiny, and Charlene was more confused than ever. She looked over at Isaksson with a glare, her hat knocked off and now sitting in the sand nearby.
[#008000 “What have you done?”] she demanded to know, but she was cut short from getting an answer as an enormous creature made of stone stepped out of the portal. This was definitely not normal. Behind her, she heard gasps and screams from her fellow showmen, and her horse was neighing anxious to be reunited with its owner and away from this monster.
Charlene wasn’t sure how to take down such a creature, but it had to be real, as it stomped and shook the ground with its every step. She wasn’t sure what Isaksson was up to, but in an effort to keep the monster from turning on the patrons, she raised her guns and fired until she ran out of ammo. There was a deflating click of her pistols when she had spent her last bullet, and she looked up to see its face turning on her. Instead of fear, she showed fierce determination. Her brows pinched together and she anticipated playing bait to allow Isaksson to fix his mistake, or take matters into her own hands. If that was even possible.
Much to her horror, she watched helplessly as Isaksson was not only knocked clear across the arena but hoisted up by the creature. [#008000 “You have got to be kidding me…”] she murmured. The creature looked ready to fling Isaksson about like a dog with a chew toy. People were now afraid, wising up and rushing to the exits to safety. Charlene however, was still trapped in the arena with a captured Isaksson and a stone giant. She braced herself to shout and make a call to draw the giant her way and away from the audience, but before she could whistle a wooden rod plunged into the dirt at her feet. Isaksson had thrown it at her, and read the words: [i ‘Use the rod - Contritum.’]
The rod? She looked around and saw what he was talking about. It laid on the packed dirt floor, shiny and black. It was the same rod he had used against that man earlier in the week during their first encounter. She looked from the rod to the giant and they both seemed to realize what was there, as the giant seemed to roar at her, Charlene sprang and dove towards the ground, just as a giant fist slammed down where she once stood. She managed to grab the rod and rolled away to safety. Now to use it. How was she going to use this? Would it even work? What would happen to Isaksson if it did work? What if she hit him?
Too many ‘what ifs’ filtered through her mind, but there wasn’t time to be indecisive. She raised the rod and shouted what he had told her to. [#008000 “HEY, UGLY! OVER HERE!”] she shouted. The giant turned on her again and came at her, but Charlene held her ground and repeated the word. [#008000 “Contritum!”] The blast was not what she was expecting it to be. The rod had one hell of a kickback, but a charge of power went flying from the rod straight for the stone giant. The vibration and pressure from the force made her fingers tingle as if they were asleep, and she watched as the power overtook the creature and rendered it inert.
It wobbled and shook for a moment, and then all cohesion broke apart and the creature tumbled boulders to the ground. Charlene had to jump away, rod still in hand and watched as dust wafted up into the air. She looked wide-eyed to the rod in her hand and murmured [#008000 “I’ve got to get me one of these…”] Isaksson was still trapped by the creature, while around her fellow showmen, and patrons were still running wildly in fear. The only creature not afraid was her horse. The mare was mounted by her good friend Troy who came running to help her.
[#das520 “Charlene! You alright?”] he hollered, dismounting as he reached her. Charlene looked to him and managed to smile.
[#008000 “I’m fine… I don’t think our magician is though.”] She went to get up and rush the debris to help Isaksson, but Troy held her steady, his eyes narrowed in distrust.
[#daa520 “You can’t go over there, what if it comes back? That fool damn near killed us all with his demon.”] he snapped, dark hands holding her steady. Charlene struggled against him until she finally relented and just stared at the debris, the clouds of dust settling around it.
[#008000 “Isaksson?!”] she shouted towards the mess. Dear God she hoped he wasn’t dead. Her horse of all things trotted over to the fallen debris and seemed to have found something…. Isaksson perhaps? The old mare chuffed and stamped at the dirt, and Troy was unable to hold Charlene back any longer. She rushed forward falling to her hands and knees by the rubble and began to lift what smaller rocks she could until she finally found his face and then his arm. [#008000 “Mr. Isaksson?”] she asked again this time reaching out and touching his face to see if he was alright, or simply knocked unconscious. Troy, realizing the man was still there hurried over to help as well. Together they managed to drag Isaksson out from under the rubble. Charlene had grabbed his arms and eventually stumbled back until Isaksson’s head was rested in the folds of her pleated pants. She gave his shoulder a shake trying to wake him up, and when his eyes finally open she gave a great sigh of relief and smile, but that smile was short lived as she finally smacked his arm. [#008000 “You idiot! How could you do that?! How could you bring such a monster and terrorize these people! What is wrong with you?”] she demanded angrily, her voice betraying the careful way she held him in case of any injuries. Regardless…. She sure was mad.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Her pout brought nothing but joy to his eyes and he did not hesitate to continue her momentum once she had been thrust out of the curtains. Taking her hand in his he led her forward, the light on him now growing to cover both of them though the rest of the space was dark. He raised her hand up to the crowd in triumph at coaxing her out. Perhaps they were simply happy to have the show go on and see this spectacle play out. Perhaps in a childish manner they were happy to get their collective way and the woman had been brought out due to their clapping. Likely they applauded for her as her name and fame proceed her and they are ecstatic to have such a marvel finally out before them. The crowd was a loose rabble at best and must be coerced into believing what you wanted. But they amicable and he would not dampen their moods.
The masked figure led the woman to front center back where he had begun his act. Allowing them all to gawp at her and the children cheer wildly at the 'woman with the guns' - they were simple British common folk after all - he played into this for a time until he raised his hands to quieten them all down. Turning to her, now at her side so as not to block the view as much, he raised a finger to her and with his free hand snatched out at her waist. It seemed vaguely sexual at first, his hand darting to her side as his upheld finger drew her attention. His eyes focused on hers, their dull olive colour standing out and vivid behind the plain mask.
Of course this was all a ruse - what of his act hadn't been? Pulling back from her he raised the hand from her waist to reveal one of her pistols, holding it up by the barrel until he placed it between both hands to show to the crowd. He missed Charlene's reaction to his thievery but nevertheless he could imagine it was not a pleased one. And regardless of her reaction he took a moment to exhibit the firearm to those around them before returning to her side and handed the weapon back. Placing an arm around her shoulder, grasping her upper arm firmly, he moved around and turned her to face back into the arena flooring.
Once more the lights turned on and before them had been arranged several colourful balloons at all manners of heights though nothing seemed to be anchoring them in place. Some were as high as twenty feet whilst others were quite low to the ground. Stepping away the light parted and the one source from above illuminated them in two separate circles.
When she looked at him a little bewildered he rolled his eyes and lifted one hand, index and middle finger together, pointing at the balloons as his thumb mimicked the cocking action of her revolver. It was quite clear he wanted her to shoot the targets and quickly she grasped the intent. Cautious at first she aimed for a lower mark and with a bit of flair in drawing her pistol she dispatched of it in a small puff of smoke, the rubber disintegrating into dust on being punctured. The crack of the gun and pop of the balloon brought squeals of frightened delight to the masses, unaccustomed to such sounds. Charlene seemed in her element at that moment and only perhaps the introduction of her horse would have made her any more content. But the masked man was not one to let her sit in her comfort zone and with a click of his fingers the balloons began moving.
Hovering as they were the movement was graceful, rhythmic and majestic and they flew through the air in a manner most captivating. When the woman had looked across to him, looking for a signal to continue as she was becoming more accustomed to the often outlandish acts that took place around Isaksson. No doubt she was not fazed by several sailing balloons compared to a man disintegrating into dust. However this time when she shot the targets their destruction came with elemental effects and by the end they were left with several unique and floating materials; a bubbling ball of lava, a pool of water with the bullet floating in the middle, a swirling funnel of thick black smoke that sparked similar to lightning, and a clump of sod that squelched as the bullet slipped inside like gelatine. This introduction was given heavy applause, not least due to the sharp shooting of Charlene, however Isaksson was watching this with concern. He had not done that. And he had certainly not given further instructions whereby the materials began to float down in unison forming a circle, like a wheel, before beginning to turn like said object. Immediately the masked man was moving, his hand delving into his inner jacket pocket, searching for something that remained elusive.
At the moment he had begun his search the wheel of elements rotation increased exponentially. The water, lava and sod melded together, cooling, heating and drawing up one another until a perfect obsidian ring formed in it's place. The smoke had been pulled to the centre where it filled the inner ring, several wild tendrils of lightning sparking outward and striking the ground about the magician and the markswoman scorching the sand beneath them and forcing the latter to duck out of the way. This continued for several seconds before with a thunderous blast did the circle become complete. The elements were dispelled immediately and left floating before the audience was a ten foot diameter ring of pure obsidian with a seemingly liquid inside the colour of rust. And for a moment, all was silent. Nary a child cried not a person took a breath in wonder, even the magician had remained inanimate in a rare lapse.
It provide quite key though as a large stone fist emerged from the swirling rust liquid, grasping at the frame as it pulled the rest of the figure attached through. To describe the manifestation that stepped through, yes stepped, it had legs, would be to call it a collection of stacked stones in the form of a fifteen foot high humanoid. Yet to the knowledgeable mind of Isaksson, he knew it as a stone golem. An old Jewish fable to some this was oh so real and as it stood up to it's full height, limbs grating and grinding as the tough sedimentary material of it's physique moved, the semblance of a face turned on him.
Isaksson reacted quickest of those who stared dumbfounded at the monstrosity, hand clasped about the same onyx coloured metal rod from days earlier. With a seemingly wild flick of his wrist he sent a bolt of green lightning from the silver tip and it struck the obsidian portal with a dense reverberating thud. The shiny façade cracked where it had been hit and as it began to crumble to the ground, the swirling mass in it's centre twinkled to nothingness. Having dealt with that issue he heard several loud pops to his side, looking across to see the markswoman shooting at the creature to no effect but ricocheted bullets.
Shaking his head as if to chastise her for such a foolish action he turned to confront the golem directly only to be swatted to one side by a lumbering arm, throwing him fifteen feet to land on his side far from Charlene, his onyx rod dropped close to her. He had no time to try and scramble back across, a large fist wrapped tightly about his foot and his body lifted up into the air, leaving him dangling precariously. Staring across to the golem's makeshift face he could sense the anger and hatred in it's actions and he knew he would be mercilessly thrust into the ground if he did not escape very soon. Yet without the rod he could not cast and he would not be able to free himself nor deal with the golem otherwise.
Delving into his pocket as he swayed through the air he retrieved a small wooden pole, about a foot in length – again a marvel to draw forth from such a small pocket. His free hand meanwhile became emblazoned at the fingertips by turquoise flames. The fiery fingers danger across the wooden pole and in a few seconds he had finished, drawing his right arm back and thrusting the pole downward toward the woman. Though it had been a mildly weak throw, the wood had zipped through the air and embedded into the ground before her, words etched into the wood like fresh embers;
[b [center [i 'Use the rod - Contritum.']
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