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[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.
[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.
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