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Thankfully Charlene did not have to wait very long for an answer, but Ms. Elizabeth was insistent that she drop the formalities. Charlene decided she’d save Mr. Isaksson’s first suggestion for another time, a story to mock him with in good humor. She grinned to herself as she rolled the sausages in the skillet, ensuring they browned on all sides, when she heard Elizabeth’s categorization. Mutually beneficial… most certainly.
[+green “Very beneficial from I heard,”] Charlene teased with a slight waggle of her brow as the woman giggled and continued.
It made sense, she was a jeweler. Mr. Isaksson had mentioned needing a set of rings, and had come to the raven-haired beauty who was now so kindly making breakfast. When Elizabeth’s voice dropped and they locked eyes, even Charlene could feel her cheeks flush slightly. Mr. Isaksson’s cautionary words echoed in her head. Not keen on doing the tango with the woman, Charlene lowered her gaze back to the food, and Elizabeth did the same. At least there was no awkward silence that followed, and Charlene got an answer. It wasn’t the content of her words, but the tone and Charlene was watching Elizabeth like a hawk. The woman seemed regretful, if not wistful for more from the man, and that alone told Charlene more than what Elizabeth could say out loud. Elizabeth admired him, no doubts there, and she was willing to over look whatever shortcomings he had to continue their lucrative dealings. Though Charlene had a feeling it wasn’t all business for Elizabeth, for her it might be a touch personal.
Charlene watched as Elizabeth suddenly smiled, brushing off whatever memory had temporarily taken over her, and instructing Charlene to make their plates and take them to the table, where the pancakes would be joining them shortly. She did as instructed, and carried both plates over, setting them down and took the liberty of grabbing the French-press as well. It seemed Mr. Isaksson would not be joining then, and whatever apprehensions Charlene had about being alone with Ms. Elizabeth were long gone. Ms. Elizabeth was a breath of fresh air, and Charlene was delighted to have found another woman she could communicate easily with. She only hoped she might have the chance to sit down with her again and enjoy each other’s company.
With the table set, Charlene took her seat, and now that she was facing the food, Charlene was reminded of how hungry she was. She never did get to eat last night, and an imaginary eclair just didn’t cut it. Charlene wasn’t sure if she had any more questions, but she knew enough for now. She could trust Mr. Isaksson to at least get her started in the right direction. Now she had to figure out how she was going to tell him why she’d been so insistent he take her under his wing.
[+green “I won’t pester you with more questions, Elizabeth. You’ve given me all I wanted to know… for now,”] she grinned watching the woman bring over the pancakes. [+green “So unless you’ve got some hilarious and embarrassing stories to tell about the man, let’s sit down and eat. He did not feed me last night, and a hungry Charlene is an angry one. I don’t blame him for getting out of Dodge this morning,”] she joked. The moment Elizabeth was seated across from her Charlene lifted her fork and helped herself to two hot cakes and a generous helping of syrup. For a moment the women were silent as they began their meal. When Charlene finally reached a point her stomach was no longer twisting and groaning for sustenance, she set her fork down and reached for her cup of black coffee. The first drop of the dark bitter brew touched her soul, Charlene sighed affectionately. [+green “Everything is so delicious, thank you for this. I haven’t had a meal this good in a while. Not since I was in New York. Have you ever been State-side? If not, you should at least go see New York City, it’s huge, but if the coast is more your fancy, Charleston in South Carolina is stunning.”] While this was Charlene’s first time overseas, it was clear she had seen a great deal of The United States, and was more than willing to share her stories.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Elizabeth had started off unsure if letting Sebastian abandon his [i ‘friend’] to her care was a sound decision. Yet immediately she found Charlene to be quite affable in nature with her insistence that she be allowed to help with preparations for their breakfast. It was rather sweet and in stark contrast to Sebastian. That man was always too busy with his thoughts and his problems to just sit and talk or enjoy life. Even in the fleeting moments she could tether him in place he would feign interest and put up a charade until such a time as he could escape to his books or investigative work. He was a terribly difficult man but in Elizabeth’s life he served a very generous purpose, and she would not begrudge his nature and his negatives for that immense positive.
Back to his current guest, another bonus of having her here was to have such a naturally beautiful woman about her. She had turned away from the stove to ask her to brew some coffee yet was left in silence with mouth slightly agape as the woman pre-guessed her request. That and she could now admire her trim figure in her form fitting pants. Yes, this was most definitely a positive of being left to care for the girl.
Turning back to the stove she turned the heat down and poured out the pancake mixture into a heated pan, leaving the batter to cook as Charlene shuffled up next to her.[+firebrick “You are such a kind guest Charlene, thank you dear.”] She stated softly and the girl offered a soft smile as she reached across to turn the bacon. The two women stood side by side finishing off their breakfast in silence for a brief minute before the air of tranquillity was broken with questions of interest; all of them about Sebastian it seemed. Smiling lightly, taking up a metallic spatula to push at the pancake and keeping it cooking.[+firebrick “Well first of all I would say to drop the formalities dear. It is Elizabeth and Sebastian. Don’t let him push you around and call him Mr Isaksson, learn to object and argue with him and you’ll find him quite appreciative for it.”] She did not know that the young woman had already argued and pushed back against Sebastian and his mannerisms and ways – especially back in the performance tent.
Taking a small step back, she flicked the heavy pan with her hands together on the handle and the half cooked pancake jumped up, flipping repeatedly before landing perfectly back down on its uncooked side. Reacting as if it was nothing short of a casual action, she stepped back to replace it on the stove.[+firebrick “Now, back to your questions.”] She thought back, folding an arm under her busom and the other cupped her cheek as she looked up with thought.[+firebrick “My relationship to Sebastian, hmm, I would have to categorise it as a… mutually beneficial trade of services.”] It may her giggle lightly, an airy laugh as her hand ran down from her cheek, along her neck to rest at the top of her chest as she looked across to the American guest.[+firebrick “I am a gifted jeweller, making very useful, very precious pieces if given the right ingredients. And in return for my skills, Sebastian provides me with,”] she caught the dark eyes of the smaller woman,[+firebrick “satisfaction.”] Her voice had dropped an octave to a sultry tone and her eyes had narrowed lightly, looking down on the other woman’s lips as if that one word had unleashed her insatiable desires.
If it had been any other time, perhaps with someone who was more adept with the world that Sebastian and herself traversed, perhaps she may have pressed forward with said desires. But she restrained herself, hands slipping off her figure and regretfully she turned back to the stove to slip out the first finished pancake, taking the ladle from the mixture bowl and refilling the pan.
[+firebrick “To go further into Sebastian’s psyche, to try and untangle the threads that make him who he is and how he got there, would take literal decades of endless discussion.”] Not the most helpful of answers to begin.[+firebrick “He is difficult, it is simple fact and I won’t gloss over that. But he is a remarkable man nevertheless. A lot of people are intimidated by him at first, and in truth that is because he wants it that way with most kept at an arm’s length.”] She pushed at the food in the pan once more, keeping her eyes down for now.[+firebrick “He is an extremely private man. I have known him personally for a long while now and even I know so little about him. Though what I do know is not particularly uplifting.”] The tone of her voice drifted away entirely now and she stared down at the pan intently. Some memory or past interaction with Sebastian was playing over in her mind and even such a bubbly being as Elizabeth could be humbled in a way by the bearded gentleman – and that was just from a memory.
Snapping from her indecision and self-reflection her lips pulled up into a gentle smile and she stepped back once more to flip the pancake once more before putting it on the heat to finish off. She nodded for Charlene to place the bacon and sausages and tomatoes and black pudding onto the two plates set out on the counter beside the stove.[+firebrick “Take them over to the table dear, I’ll bring your pancakes momentarily.”] She instructed in her sweet tone of voice, smiling lightly at the other woman as she broke free of that sad moment.[+firebrick “Though do ask any follow up questions you like. I’d hate to think of you leaving here with that man and being full of unanswered questions.”]
Charlene slept soundly and deeply. This was the most comfortable bed she’d slept in, in a long time. The space was warm, the linens smelled of lavender, which helped to sooth her into a deeper more relaxed sleep. Being a usually light sleeper, Charlene had grown heavier to it in the years of her travels, and had learned to tune out other sounds -less they include the opening of a door. So the shouts that came from the house did not disturb her, not even once. She’d heard enough calls of pleasure from her cast mates back in the show, to tune it out. It was not until the door downstairs shut did her eyes finally open.
She was tucked up on her side facing the window, with the covers wrapped around her shoulders and up over her head. All that could be seen was her face peering out into the morning glow that illuminated the bedroom. Bleary eyed, she slowly sat up from the cocoon of warmth she’d created for herself, and shook her mind from the strange dream she’d experienced right before waking up. Unfortunately she couldn’t recall much but the sound of shouting, great peril, and something like a dark veil, or hand that had come over her like a shroud of spider silk, and enclosed her in the darkness.
It let her with the strangest feeling she was being welcomed into some dark fold. Was it a warning to leave now? That Isaksson was more dangerous than she had believed? But he was the one who would help her, of that she was sure. She refused to feel regret, but she did feel apprehensive that whatever was weighing her down would reveal itself. It was the reveal she was worried about, and she had a sick feeling it had something to do with the woman in black, and a symbol she had seen in her dream. Quickly she reached into her bag and drew it on a scrap of paper in her diary.
From downstairs she could hear the melodic voice of a woman singing and humming. She sat for a moment and listened to the house and the woman downstairs when a sly smirk graced her face.
[+green “Someone clearly has no complaints...”] she couldn’t wait to rib Mr. Isaksson again. It had been far to fun the first time. It was then she could smell the cooking of bacon and Charlene knew she better get out of bed. Bacon waited for no one, and Charlene was highly motivated by food.
She washed her face and dressed simply in a pair of fitted tan trousers tucked into her boots, and a tucked in plain white button down, under which she wore a padded bodice to keep her own assets in check, but without causing too much accentuation of her own figure. Charlene was a woman who liked to be comfortable and able to move quickly and efficiently. Something dresses and corsets did not allow, in her humble opinion. She even left her hair down in loose tousled waves as she made her way downstairs instead of her usual braid.
Charlene followed the scents and sounds of cooking as well as the growing volume of music coming from her hostess. She found the kitchen area and looked about curiously. There was a small table, a cabinet full of dishes, pots and pans hung from a rack on the ceiling, and the countertops were genuine granite. Charlene was observing the layout of the room, and the lovely view of the street outside when her Hostess noticed her with a wink. Charlene smiled with a muttering of [+green “Good morning, Ma’am.”] When asked if she would set the table, Charlene nodded quickly and jumped into gear. She wondered where Mr. Isaksson was, or perhaps their hostess wished to have breakfast only with Charlene? There didn’t seem like there would be enough room for the three of them, or rather there would be just enough room.
Whatever the reason for Mr Isaksson’s absence, Charlene went about her work diligently and with a soft: [+green “Yes, Ma’am.”]
Miss. Elizabeth was either in a chatty mood, or it was her nature, regardless, she was very kind, and Charlene was certain to be on her best behavior. She showed Charlene a bowl full of pancake batter, and Charlene could feel her mouth salivating. Bacon [i and] pancakes? This woman was heaven sent!
[+green “I couldn’t ask you for more, Miss. Elizabeth. You’ve been kind enough to allow me a room to sleep in, and not only are you providing me with food, you’re making pancakes. You’ve been too kind already, wouldn’t feel right asking for anything else. Only thing to ask is if there’s anything else I can do for you?”] Charlene finished setting the table, with silverware, a small pitcher of syrup, butter, and all the other fixings they would need. Charlene felt it was only right, considering the woman had opened her home to them, and while Charlene was not as inclined as Mr. Isaksson might think to repay her in his method, she could easily do chores around the house to help Ms. Elizabeth and repay her that way - or at the very least, show her gratitude.
she found a French press for coffee, and decided to make herself useful there and prepared a pot of coffee. Silently taking up tasks in the kitchen to alleviate Ms. Elizabeth’s work. Out of the corner of her eye Charlene observed Ms. Elizabeth. She was graceful and lovely, with a voluptuous figure that any woman, including Charlene, could and would be jealous of. Charlene admired the woman’s effortless grace and beauty with a healthy dose of wistful envy. Charlene was inclined to believe she was pretty, but not beautiful, not like Ms. Elizabeth. Charlene was certain the woman had a laundry list of men at her beck and call. No doubt Mr. Isaksson was one such man -and it wasn’t hard to see why. Charlene found herself wanting to get closer to Ms. Elizabeth in the hopes of gaining such an elegant friend with whom she could talk with, and learn from.
With the coffee setting, Charlene reached over to help turn the bacon. It put her in closer proximity with Ms. Elizabeth and she looked over at the woman who still seemed so content with her cooking and post coital bliss, she didn’t mind what Charlene did to help. Charlene wasn’t sure when Mr. Isaksson would return, but she decided to gather information while she could -granted Ms Elizabeth was in a sharing mood.
[+green “Ms Elizabeth? I don’t want to seem intrusive, but what is your relationship with Mr. Isaksson? Woman to woman -I just want to know who I’m getting involved with, and figure out some things about myself mostly.”] Charlene knew she’d opened a can of worms she wasn’t prepared to open with Isaksson, but she felt more at ease with Ms. Elizabeth, perhaps because she too was a woman, and Charlene was more naturally inclined to trust her. Whatever the reason, Charlene set the fork off to the side of the bacon skillet and looked Ms. Elizabeth directly in the eye. [+green “I came to Europe with a traveling show. It was the only way I could afford to get here, but I’ve known for a while now that I needed to come here, and I’ve always wanted to see the world, but....”] she sighed heavily, [+green “I didn’t know what for, until I stumbled across Mr. Isaksson. He has a special power that I’ve only seen once before... and it came from my Grand’mere. I haven’t told him yet,”] she confessed sheepishly. [+green “I was hoping for some advice. He’s so hard to read, and I’m never certain if up is down with him. Is he always like that?”]
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Weary head nodded and he smiled softly as she rose up and chided him one final time,[+teal “I am beginning to expect the gentle ribbing more now so I understand.”] He would not deny her some happiness and joy at the expense of a little ego, though he did feel momentarily muddled when her hand had left his. There was a look back to ensure she still followed though the warm of her hand was missed.
Showing her to her room and giving the typical host introduction - [i [+teal 'heres a bed, there is an oil lamp, there is a fire, there are the windows']] – he had began to walk out to leave her to sleep when she had stalled him at the doorway. Listening to her he was a little surprised by the thanks and the usually affable and courteous gentleman was quite beside himself to respond, especially as she went on. Muttering that it was [i [+teal 'quite alright']] and his [i [+teal 'pleasure to have her company']], her finger pressing into his chest made him look down unexpectedly. She could tease with the best of them it seemed, especially as she turned back into the room to discard her bag and back to him and he had not moved a muscle.
Her mentioning of what was to happen with Ms. Elizabeth flushed his cheeks but he grinned as she closed the door with beautiful goodbye and he stood staring at the door, wondering just who this woman was to go about pushing at his chest, teasing him both with her words and her actions. He let out a breathy laugh and nodded.[+teal “Sleep soundly Madame Dodger. Try not to dream too much of me..”] He said through the door and his retreating footsteps would be what she heard from the hall way outside.
Morning would come quite swiftly for Charlene though it truly depended upon how heavily she slept. If sleep wrapped about her warm figure and nestled her close to its embrace then she would awake with light streaming through a gap in the drawn curtains, leaving her enough light to see by though not blinding her. It would be an uninterrupted sleep with all her belongings as they had been when she put them down and seemingly life having continued around her without incident.
However if she had been a light sleeper, one perhaps prone to waking at loud sounds or noises from within the house, then she may have heard the orgasmic yells and shouts of a feminine voice calling out to skies above in positive delight and approval of.. something. Aside from this shouted approval there were calls for increased quantity of whatever the voice was shouting for. This lone voice would continue for another ten minutes, then twenty, then thirty until abruptly silence fell back over the house and there would be no more sound until morning as two sets of footsteps moved down the stairs beside Charlene's room.
Several minutes would pass before the audible sound of the front door shutting made it to her room and if she were quick enough to the window she would spy a gentleman leaving the premises and making a steady and swift departure.
Upon leaving her room, whether she dressed or not, she would hear the voice of a woman singing to herself from downstairs. Whenever she took the decision to investigate and follow the voice – as she was natural investigative it seemed – she found Ms. Elizabeth in a large kitchen humming and singing to herself as she went about making a breakfast. Sizzling on a gas stove in the corner were slices of thick Danish bacon and plump Lincolnshire sausages whilst she stood at a counter mixing a bowl of creamy batter, tucked in to hip for support as the spoon mixed around vigorously. Looking across as she caught movement in the corner of her eyes she turned and smiled seeing Charlene and she looked positively vibrant and radiant.
[+firebrick “Ah, the young mistress rises from her slumber.”] She winked playfully.[+firebrick “Good, we are almost ready to eat if you would care to set the breakfast table.”] Her hand gestured across to the small wooden table not far away, enough for them to both sit comfortably at and easier to set for their morning meal rather than the large dining table. Although the night before she had looked on Charlene with mild interest, now she seemed utterly happy to have the woman in the same room, dressed more modestly though her skirt was a layer or two short of the established norm for London women, the apron tied off about her tightly and accentuating as her nightgown had done the night before.[+firebrick “Sebastian told me you are American so I thought in honour of my guests I would prepare some fresh pancakes to go with your breakfast,”] she paused to show the bowl of smooth batter within though her whisking began anew and shook about her busom,[+firebrick “though feel free to ask for anything you desire and I will make sure you have it.”] There was a subtle undertone to her offer but it could be as innocent or risqué as Charlene wished.
It seemed Mr. Isaksson was not about to include his new apprentice in whatever it was he was going to do, not that she had to think too hard as to what that might be. It made her wonder more about Ms. Elizabeth and if she was as human as se seemed… much like the baker from before. What sort of creature would require sex? This certainly wasn’t something she would learn from books in a library, but perhaps with time she might figure it out. Solving the puzzle was half the fun, afterall. He challenged her by asking for another time, and Charlene just smirked without comment. He advised against her seeking similar arrangements in the future, but his smiled seemed to belay his true feelings. She believed a small part of him enjoyed his fly by night meetings with Ms. Elizabeth.
He got up then and moved towards her. She watched his movements as he promised her she would learn about the enchantments in the morning, and that by morning she would not only get to speak with Ms. Elizabeth but also enjoy a delicious breakfast. Charlene did love food. He was standing with hand outstretched for her rise and go to bed, and she nodded. Her desire for sleep and to start off with a fresh new day. She reached up and took his hand, and grabbed her bag. Rising she spoke, and followed him from the room.
[+green “Alright, Mr. Isaksson, I’ll retire for the night, but don’t think I’m gonna stop teasing you about this. Too much fun,”] she mused with a grin, it wasn’t until they reached the staircase that she realized she was still holding his hand. She thought nothing of it, and let go to follow him up the stairs and to a room.
Mr. Isaksson was a gentleman, and she didn’t expect anything less as he opened the door for her and informed her this was where she’d be staying. She glanced into the room, and with brows raised, she surmised it was finer than any Inn she’d been to, but after seeing the downstairs she wasn’t shocked to find it was also filled with beautiful finery. Before he could leave, however, she was overcome with a great desire to inform him of something.
[+green “Mr. Iskasson, seeing as how we’re going to be spending a lot of time together, and after the events of today, it might seem insignificant to you but…I would like to thank you for accepting my offer, and for taking me on.”] She looked at him directly, meaning every word. He didn’t have to agree to take her on, and yet he had. For that Charlene was thankful, and eager to prove herself.
[+green “I promise I’m not just some dumb American looking for fun, but I am looking for something.”] before he could question her further, she played towards flattery, and a truthful boon. She reached across the space between them to poke a finger at his chest, her dark eyes staring him down, a smoldering flame burning behind them with confidence and determination. [+green “You’re the man who’s going to help me find what I’ve been looking for. Answers,”] she withdrew her finger from his chest, and turned to toss her bag towards the bed where it landed with a thump against the mattress. Her words sprang forth once she was assured her bag would land - a final thought on her gratitude, and also letting Mr. Isaksson know she was aware of greater things at work. “I don’t know about you but I don’t exactly believe in coincidence. Oh, and another thing,”] she cracked a smile finally, wicked as it was, and also a ploy to keep the conversation from remaining on her previous comments. The best way to deflect was with humor. [+green “Just… take it easy with Ms. Elizabeth, you did take a fall today with that stone monster,”] she reminded and also cautioned.
With that she grabbed her door, stepping into the room and made a final turn towards Mr. Isaksson before shutting the door and submitting to his earlier request downstairs. [+green “Bonne nuit, Monsieur Isaksson.”] She winked quickly. A smirk played on her lips, as her execution was not terrible, and she closed the door quickly and quietly.
She turned to face the quiet room, made quick work to light a few lamps, and started a warm fire in the fireplace. Then she finally stripped herself of her gun, and placed it with care on the bedside table -just within reach of her pillow. [+green “Never know, no doubt, with Mr. Isaksson about,”] She rhymed to herself, now kicking off her boots and shedding herself of her coat. She couldn’t help but glance around the room, the shadowed corners actually making her nervous she might see the veiled woman again. Good Lord she hoped not. Assured the room was very much real, she stepped out of her pants and into a plain but feminine nightgown. She then unpacked a few items from her bag, the first being a small dreamcatcher. The ring wasn’t much bigger than her hand, and it was decorated with clay beads and small bird feathers. Charlene looked for a place to hang it over the bed, and found a perfect ledge in the sweeping design of the wooden headboard. Next was a brush for her hair which was the last thing she did. She sat under the covers, deep in thought and stroking the brush through her hair until the waves from her braids were shiny and silken.
Her mind turned over the events of the day, and recalled her first two encounters with Sebastian Isaksson. He seemed to be trying to scare her off, claiming to poison her, bringing that Golem to the show, the faux Paris of her mind, and worst of all the veiled woman. I gave Charlene pause, and her brush paused in her hair.
[+green “What was she? What is she to Mr. Isaksson? What is Mr. Iskasson? Better question, does he have that power or is it the rod?”] she asked herself softly yet aloud, but with no answer she was resigned to finally turn down the lamps and got to sleep in the confines of her soft and warm bed.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Thankfully she took his gentle ribbing as just that and did not launch herself across the bespoke table between them to throttle him. Then again, she had a revolver, and would just shoot him rather than enact the labour of getting up to hit him. At the very least it kept her from slumber and he did not want her passing out on these seats. He had done so in the past and whilst comfortable for a time she would wake with a sore back that would last some time.
He smiled along to her response. Perhaps a little too detailed but refreshingly so and he found her view on who she slept with and why to be quite eye opening. She was refined and chaste by comparison to what he thought of her. He had thought her answer would be along the lines of [i ‘too many to count’] but he had to tip his hat to her that she was not so cocky. Although that was not so. She was incredibly cocky and self-assured, something he liked in her personality, though not one to brag of their conquests. An aristocratic cockiness then.
As she drove the conversation back on him, he had to quickly deviate from her hopeful answer.[+teal “Well unfortunately for you she will not join [i us] tonight, sorry to thwart that desire but I do not exactly wish to include my apprentice in what will happen.”] He had seen the look both women had given one another. It was approval, but bordered on something more and he did not consent to that.[+teal “Perhaps another time?”] He couldn’t help but leave such a lewd thought in the air though he quickly continued with only a devilish smile lifting those bearded cheeks.[+teal “As she stated, I have a price to pay for this work and it is a price not paid in coin. She is quite the.. character, shall we say. And though I cannot stop you I would advise you heavily against making a similar arrangement with her. Her price is very steep.”] Again he spoke about but likewise hid the mystery behind the shadows behind the smokescreen. It was all about clever wordplay as he tried to ease her into his world, the faux-Paris trip not something he had done lightly.
[+teal “As for what I wish for her to enchant,”] he moved on the conversation on as he stood up, moving around the table and taking her hands in his,[+teal “that is something you will discover in the morning once she has completed them.”] His hands were a little warm though very soft and he took her fingers in his, quite like one would for a hand-kiss, though instead he pulled at her to lift her up off the couch.[+teal “You will get your chance to speak to her then, perhaps over breakfast. She is often in a euphoric mood come morning and makes a rather delightful devilled eggs and blood sausage.”] It was a particular specialty of hers, ironically.[+teal “But after the day you have had, I would prefer you slept well in a bed, okay?”] Although he gestured for her to rise, he did not pull her up. If she was determined to stay downstairs then so be it.
Charlene was not disappointed in Mr. Isaksson’s response. His air of confidence and his mention of Ms. Elizabeth’s ‘skilled hand’ made Charlene snort in a most unlady like way, which grew into a chuckle by the flush of his cheeks and his quick remedy. She was quite certain Mr. Elizabeth had quite the skilled hand. She nodded at him, only half buying his reasonings… she had seen Mr. Elizabeth, and even Charlene could appreciate a beautiful woman. With her shiny dark hair, piercing eyes, and curving physique, it was no great surprise to hear Mr. Isaksson had been intimate with the woman. They seemed to familiar to have not been.
[+green “Whatever you say, Mr. Isaksson,”] she placated, hands raised in easy surrender. She would tease him no more, at least for now. Relaxing back into the couch, she listened to him denounce his title of ‘Lady-killer’ and she regretted that she had already decided to go easy on him. He was quick though, and his final comment left a smirk on her face.
[+green “No complaints?”] she couldn’t help but goad, grinning back at him from across the little table.
[+teal “And you?”] his question wasn’t a surprise. Charlene wouldn’t have dished it out if she couldn’t take it. She was rather enjoying this side of Mr. Isaksson, or Sebastian, as she had learned. He had quite the perverted tongue on him, and it made for fun if not inappropriate banter. She found that surprising. She didn’t know the British had it in them. He was relaxing back into his own seat now watching her. Perhaps he felt confident in their conversation, perhaps he was genuinely curious. Yet she found his query humorous, and it garnered a small chuckle from her.
[+green “Oh I’m no mere girl, Mr. Isaksson. I’m all woman. I’ve only ever loved one man other than my pa, but I’ve had my share of lovers. Being a traveling performer has its perks. I get to meet people and sometimes I allow for a special night or two if I like them especially well. Unfortunately the only person in the circus I would have cared to sleep with was in fact my friend Troy who you’ve met… but he doesn’t like women… that way.”]
She was unabashedly honest in her reply. She had loved a boy once, but that was when she was much younger, and a story for another time. In truth her share of lovers equalled to about four, but Mr. Isaksson didn’t need the finer details. Besides, it was more fun to keep it vague. To boot, she had put to rest any thoughts that she’d had a lover in the show, and revealed her friend’s preferences. [+green “Speaking of women, when will the lovely Mr. Elizabeth be joining us?”] She asked with a taunting smirk. [+green “I’m very much looking forward to getting to know our hostess. You say she enchants things? What exactly is it that you’re having her make for you?”] Charlene asked, shifting the subject easily from the more playful and trivial, to the relevant and pressing.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Although she claimed not to be a child, Charlene was very much acting the part in Sebastian's view. Pouting, tutting, rolling her eyes, she did not seem far from rolling about the floor or holding her breath. But he allowed this to slide, believing it would only place more annoyance and discomfort on himself which right now he did not need. Though her assertion that she would do the opposite of what he had told her did give him a moments distress before she relaxed.
[+teal “Thank you for listening to me.. for once..”] He circled around the seat he had stood behind and sat down opposite her with the table between them. Studying her tired expression he was glad that she would sleep soon. He was curious why she had no questions about their Parisian adventure, but no doubt that would come with time. He would spoon feed her the relevant information but at times those large dark eyes were too alluring.
Her questioning did continue however and a single brow rose with curiosity that she would aim in such a direction for interrogation. Had Elizabeth not revealed his name then she would not know, having not asked, but here she was querying his relationship with the buxom hostess. That mischievous smirk was much similar to her gaze; mesmerizing.
[+teal “If you are insinuating that I have had a relationship born of flesh for services with Ms. Elizabeth, then you are correct. On many occasions too. She has a skilled hand and delicate touch.”] He was rather blunt, unashamed and perhaps a little boastful though he flushed at his poor choice of words.[+teal “The latter part is in reference to her skill with jewellery and enchantments of course.”] Oh he would never hear the end of his faux pas. Usually he would not think of the innuendos and secondary meanings of his words, expecting his company to take them at face value. Charlene was clearly unique in that regard.
[+teal “However I am not a [i lady-killer] as you put it. For.. personal reasons that I should not like to get into, I find sexual encounters.. difficult.”] His hand rose quickly, a finger raised toward her and had he been closer he would have placed it to her lips to stop any interjection of her lewd theories.[+teal “Before you jest; yes it works and no I have never had any complaints.”] He could pre-empt the woman's bawdy thoughts at times.
A very small smile tugged at the corner of his lips however. He was enjoying this light teasing between them and in truth it was a characteristic that he rather enjoyed about Charlene. She was forward, blunt, unabashedly truthful. Looking at her as she rested he could quite imagine she was the proverbial [i man-killer] herself, between aforementioned eyes and smile, full lips and curving figure – points he had thought on several times the past few days.
[+teal “And you?”] He asked as he lifted his foot to cross over his knee, a hand resting at his boot.[+teal “Are you a pure girl? Or was your horse not the only thing being ridden at that circus?”] It was risqué and wicked to ask in such a manner, but of course he was enjoying the gentle ribbing and a genuine look of amusement spread over his face.
Mr. Isaksson confessed to knowing what and who it was, but he would not elaborate for her.
He seemed weighted with some private information he didn’t seem keen to share at the moment, and Charlene not willing to pry into what seemed to be painful wounds was resolved in knowing that Mr. Isaksson, while mysterious, would divulge information as it was appropriate. All he let her know was that the visage of the woman couldn’t be stopped, but he wasn’t going to let her be taken by the villainous woman either. Charlene had to swallow past the lump in her throat, it made her a touch anxious to hear him say that, especially considering the sense of an eminent possession that seemed possible when facing the dark witch.
Mr. Isaksson reached down into a shadow and produced her bag she had thought to be missing, and with wide eyes she reached out to take it and slung it on her back to follow him out of the bakery. They passed the same jolly fellow on the way out, and despite what Charlene had just been through and her serious level of confusion she offered a parting smile his way and hurried out the door. She kept close to Isaksson, trailing behind him, but her mind preoccupied with what she had seen and if it was even real. She didn’t pay any mind to the painted ladies of the night, or their patrons, the drunkards who hurried off to the nearest pub for drinks, or even those who Charlene would never be able to guess what they were up to with their shovels and muddy clothes.
Charlene wasn’t expecting much in the form of conversation, when Mr. Isaksson suddenly informed her that they had never left the bakery. It had startled Charlene, more so the sudden sound of his voice than his statement.
[+green “Huh? Oh... I guess I shouldn’t be surprised to hear that... you and your tricks...”] She crossed her arms over her chest, a minor pout on her face to know she hadn’t truly been in Paris. He explained how all she’d seen was simply a figment of her imagination, pieces of her past and of her limited knowledge working together to create a fantasy for her delight. He even explained why she couldn’t make out the masses of the Parisians that had surrounded her. He told her that her curiosity to see the faces and take in every details was what shattered the illusion... that didn’t explain the veiled woman’s presence, and she had a feeling she wouldn’t learn that for some time to come.
They came up to a lovely home in true Victorian fashion, with a quaint fenced in garden full of lush plant-life that was clearly tended to in a loving manner, and stopped at the front door. Charlene wondered if anyone was home, even as Mr. Isaksson brought a close to their one sided conversation. She watched him rap upon the door, and listened to him wistfully speak of how the dream was sweeter than the truth. To Charlene it sounded like Mr. Isaksson was a bit bitter about something in his past. He looked, dare she say it: Sad. It made her feel a small sense of sympathy for the man. She didn’t need to know the details to see clear as day he had once lost something or someone very dear to him. She didn’t have time to question it, nor did she bother to as the door began to click and snap with a multitude of locks disengaging from the other side.
What greeted them was a scantly clad woman, tall and curvaceous in a manner that had even Charlene blushing at her. The woman was gorgeous, and Charlene watched the woman’s face go from a frown to a smile at the sight of Mr. Isaksson.. or rather, Sebastian as she came to learn. She eluded to the hour and Mr. Isaksson’s needs, which caused Charlene to look over and see an almost comical look of regret on his face, that had Charlene mimicking the woman’s mischievous smile. Charlene was finding a touch of delight in seeing Mr. Isaksson trapped in what was obviously an awkward situation for him.
[+teal “Elizabeth, I need to ask a favor of you.”] So this mysterious woman was named Elizabeth. Charlene observed her, smiling at herself at the way the woman seemed to have
Mr. Isaksson so worked up. She suggested that Charlene was the cause of the needed favor by being with child. The thought that Charlene could be ‘conquered’ made Charlene snort in humor, which she quickly sobered up with when Mr. Isaksson suddenly side stepped to block her from view of their hostess, it did not wipe the smirk off her face.
They bantered back and forth about what Mr. Isaksson needed, regarding a set of enchanted rings, ingredients and payment. By the way Ms. Elizabeth left them at the foyer, Charlene wondered if the woman was seeking flesh for payment. She leaned out of the side of Mr. Isaksson to watch Ms. Elizabeth sashay her way back inside. She had a grace about her that made her seem to float even if every curve swayed with a natural aura of seduction, that even Charlene was not immune to watching her glide away as Mr. Isaksson did.
When she was instructed to follow she did so quickly, as the air had grown damp and chilly with the threat of rain. Inside the home was richly decorated and seemed to reach back forever, the walls were covered in wallpaper and rich dark wood. Charlene had never been inside a home this nice. Hell, she had grown up in a cabin with only cast iron skillets and animal pelts to decorate the walls. She was studying the design of the wall paper and spying as much artwork as she could when she heard a set of doors open. Turning she followed Mr. Isaksson into a richly decorated parlor with two very long, very soft looking teal sofas. Even though the decor was quite rich, it was also quite eclectic. There was an entire wall full of books, a small bar off to the side of a large fireplace, and a mantle decorated with figurines that seemed to have traveled from around the world. As much as she wanted to snoop through their hostesses things, Charlene resigned herself to sit down on one of the sofa’s and tucked her bag between her feet. She was trying not to dwell too much on the events of the day, and would rather wait until she was alone for the night to do so. It made her all the more thankful as Mr. Isaksson began to speak again, informing her they would be staying the night here, and that while here she was not to leave her room until morning. She found it odd that they would be staying here... did he not have a home of his own?
[+teal “Do we understand one another?”] He asked of her tensely.
Charlene was quiet for a moment as she stared back, almost as if they were each participating in a battle of wits. However, Charlene caved with a roll of her eyes and leaned back in the seat to relax. She was already tired enough that his request would be easy to follow, but... [+green “You know, I’m not a child, but when you tell me not to do something... I’m going to want to do it all the more. Maybe it’s human nature, or it’s just the American in me, but you don’t have to worry, once my head hits that pillow, I’ll be out till morning. So cool yer britches, I’m not going to go wandering off...”] She relaxed her head back, eyes closing as she sank into the velvety softness of the sofa. She could sleep right there it was that comfortable. Besides, she wanted to put Faux Paris, and the veiled woman behind her for the time being.
[+green “So your friend, Ms. Elizabeth... she an old flame?”] Charlene asked suddenly, peeling open one eye and spying Mr. Isaksson with a smirk on her face. It might have been a feeble attempt to ruffle his feathers, but she had a feeling she might get at least a little reaction from him. [+green “She certainly seems to like you,”] Charlene continued to tease. [+green “Who would have thought you were such a lady killer... I certainly didn’t,”] she mused with a playful grin, and closing her eyes once more, relaxed in the sofa, and content to wait for their hostess to return. If Mr. Isaksson was waiting for more questions in regards to their little Trip to pretend Paris, or the veiled woman, he was in for a surprise... Charlene did not bring it up again, and probably wouldn’t for some time, or at least until Mr. Isaksson was finally ready to give answers.
[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 along with the candle she had brought 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 of any man, before he nodded for Charlene to follow him in. Inside was a beautifully decorated home of Georgian architecture. Though narrow the building was deep. Grand rooms with high vaulted ceilings branch off from the corridor that ran beside the staircase before them. Taking Charlene with him he took the candle and guided her to a parlour room on their left, pushing open the two mahogany doors to allow the orange tinge of his light into the room. Two long, teal sofas faced one another with an antique wooden table between them. Long, dark and heavy curtains covered the windows and atop the wooden floors were several Persian rugs - these were most authentic and very expensive too.
Walking in he placed the candle down upon a stand near the doorway, turning to face Charlene. For a few moments he was quiet as he simply observed her. He was often keen to just spectate her and see how she reacted to life about her, but he was also looking for any sign that she still felt any ramifications from their journey into her mind. Seeing no obvious symptoms however satisfied his concern.
[+teal "We will stay here for the night. Elizabeth is a fine and credible if.. unique, host."] A hand brushed along his beard, bringing some order to its wild state.[+teal "Your accommodation will be on the second floor, first door to your left. I will give you only one order to follow whilst you are here; once you enter your room you are not to open that door or leave that room until morning light reaches its threshold. Do we understand one another?"] It was a slightly more terse tone than he was used to using with this formidable girl. But the look in those vivid olive eyes gave away that he only warned her out of apprehension. What had happened in her dreamworld had clearly shaken his resolve.
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.
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