Author Topic: of lions and mice  (Read 536 times)

of clover and thistle

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of lions and mice
« on: December 05, 2020, 07:39:15 PM »
My name is Claire Gabriel Artois, I am fifteen years old, and today is day one thousand and forty three of my imprisonment.

Strokes of mid-morning sun cuts lines of light into the dim gloom of my bedroom. Shadows recede back behind heavy velvet curtains draped before my windows like shy children hide behind their mother's skirt. Warmth radiates from the plentiful blankets that is my bed, making it difficult to disentangle myself from them. Eventually bedding relents their affections and I reluctantly pull myself away from my covers. The naked air is cold in comparison, though it does help me shake the sleep from my limbs. As I swing my legs off the side of my bed my toes do not touch the floor. It makes me realize for a moment how very small I am-- or perhaps the room is simply much too big.

Velvet upholstery cushions the stool in front of my vanity. Brass detailing of grape vines and their fruit hold up a polished silver mirror that holds another room just like mine within it. Fluffy pomfs of make up brushes sit as neglected as a bouquet of flowers from an unnoticed lover decorate a corner of the desk. The collection was a gift from my father for my twelfth birthday. He laughed very fondly when he gave it to me, it was the sort of laugh you can hear so vividly you might forget they aren't there with you. As I comb through the memory I can remember the richness of his voice and the gravel in his throat, but not what he said. When I look into my reflection and see only me and my room lined with books, and I remember my father is miles away.

I'm not expecting any visitors, but I like to get ready for the day anyway. Being imprisoned isn't an excuse to be a raggamuffin after all. I strangle my hair above clusters of knots and work my brush through the mess; my mother is better at this sort of thing. She always plays with my hair and fashions it in pillowy buns or complicated crowns made of braids, but she hasn't done that in a while. I wonder if she's doing my sister's hair now. Does she think about me when she does? When I chance a look at my reflection, I see her eyes, intense and heavy in a gaze that bore depressions into their sockets. A sense of smallness lurks into my chest.

I feel unclean so excuse myself from Madame Vanity. My room is spacious as I mentioned (not because I am small) and lined with shelves of all my company. Good morning, I bid my books, and in my head I imagine they would say hello back.
 Of books there were plenty, my good friends Sir Gwyendolin, Lady Ortega-Arizcado, and of course monsieur detective Alanik Ray were among my regulars, though lately I confess a fondness to the mysteries of Cade Spade and his hard boiled investigations. These were more of a young woman's books, I was growing much too old for stories about knights and princesses. The enchantress was always the villain anyway, using her fey magic to bid people do her bidding and be by her side, and the knights would always kill her. It was a fine story, but I was tired to hear it. However, I still was fond of the idea of having an arming sword of my own to make me feel strong.

Something lovely, I thought, a long silver blade with a handle fashioned to look like curling oak leaves, and a velvet handle. The sword's conception was entertaining enough as I filled my bath. It helped me forget about my handmaid Roslyn, and how she used to fill my bath for me. She'd always put flower petals in, even if it was the dead of winter, she always had flowers. I miss the way she pronounced her 'r' sounds, and the funny way of her face when she bit a sour grape. The thunderous sound of water crashing into the porcelain tub drowned away the memory soon enough. The water closet was smaller than my bedroom and buttoned up the hot breath of bathwater like a sauna. Though the lingering perfumes made for an unpleasant musky smell that could've been fixed if there weren't bars on the windows.

As I drift in the warmth of the water I think about the week ahead. My Governess would come tomorrow, and I had to make sure my room was tidy. We would be covering posture and and motion, with instruction on mathematics and penmanship. I hate all of these subjects as much as I hate my Governess, but even so I find myself impatient for her arrival. Sometimes she brings letters from the main house, or new company for my shelves, which almost makes up for the long division.

There was also-- yes. My engagement with Monsieur Cade. By now it was only ten bells in the morning, and I had a long day of nothing prepared. Monsieur Cade would make a nice chaperone to my day, at least better than the ghosts of familiar faces. Carefully, I reached aside for my friend; a pleasantly green bound novel with gilded sidings and a happy cover that glint off the strokes of sunlight cutting through the air heavy with vapor. The weight of the book made me feel safe. As the story began I felt the pieces of the bathroom tile fall away...

"It was about eleven o'clock in the morning, one day in October. There was no sun, and there were rain clouds over the distant hills. I was wearing my cream over coat with my crisp white shirt and stockings, black tie and shoes. I was a nice, clean, well-dressed private detective. And I was about to meet four million solars..."


"Be kind."

Clover#5958

of clover and thistle

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Re: of lions and mice
« Reply #1 on: December 07, 2020, 05:44:47 AM »
(5am typos and grammatical errors adjusted)

My name is Claire Gabriel Artois, I am fourteen years old, and today is day five hundred and twenty seven of my imprisonment.

Madame Baudelaire is a witch of a woman. The cradle of hair that cushions the tight gray bun is bigger than her face, and the flesh of her skin is stooped off the bone of her cheeks. Disdain for the world around her wore deep lines into the loosening meat that spilled out from a cravat tied too tight.  She was a widow who had remarried, and remarried, and remarried; none of them brought her any children but her first, and they had passed along side her husband in a fit of illness in 763. I heard someone murmur once that the Madame Bauldelaire was once very beautiful; but in truth she had died long ago with her children, and what remained was a ghost that puppeted her rotting remains. When she was interviewed for the position of my private tutor, she wore a deep green like foul olive oil and spoke softly. Her voice was low but her as purposeful as a fencer's strokes. I remember I felt mystified by her; I was terrified but also in awe of this threatening creature that masqueraded so convincingly as a delicate old woman. She told my father she loved children, especially girls. She had little girls of herself once, oh, it was a long story and she wouldn't want to digress.

Now this woman sits across from me, her spine straight as a post. The nimble branches of her fingers delicately cradle a fine porcelain tea cup and it's saucer nest. On the other-side, my stiffness is being managed. My elbows are fastened loosely to the back of the chair to allow just enough room, for movement of my forearms and hands. Unlike the metaphorical post of the Madame's spine, mine is a literal one that bound my posture and chin up. Even sitting here motionless is exhausting, but that would be too easy.

Before us was our spread of lunch; happy things like triangular sandwhiches cut for little fingers, cheerful fruit of vibrant colors, fragile cookies sitting on ornate multi-tired displays. Thanks to my seat, they were all out of my reach. But not the Madame's. My Governess so gingerly eased a jade colored pastry off one of the displays with her long manicured nails. Ever so slowly, she brought the cookie to her deflated lips. She watched me all the while with dead fish eyes, patiently waiting for me to eat too. I chanced a glance to my empty plate, and then the spread before me.

This is a test, you see. It's not polite to reach across tables, and it's not polite to pile up food onto your dishware like an Ouvrier waif, that's what the Madame says anyway. If I am careful, I can use tongs to select something to eat from the dishes nearest me. These were things like sandwhiches filled with cream and leafy things, and hard cheeses posed next to grapes. The fruit was not out of question if I was particularly careful not to bump into the lit candles placed about strategically, but they were wet and had funny shapes that made it more difficult to transport them. The sweets were a trap, of course. They were well out of my reach even with my tools. In this situation, you would politely ask or imply you wanted something so out of reach, and whoever shared your table if it was small enough or a waiter if it was bigger, would bring it to you. Madame Baudelaire, I would say. The sugared treasure cookies look very lovely. Are they warm? A normal person would say, why, why don't you have one yourself and see? Or something to that effect.

But Madame Bauldelaire would say, They are lovely as they are warm, yes, mon petite madamoiselle. Lovely things are left better undisturbed. Her smile is yellow from cigarettes and as rail thin as she. I watch as my Governess returns the cookie she had collected back to its spot with effortless precision, like it had never been moved in the first place. My eyes sting with frustration that I try to unwind with my detachment.

A deep rend in the earth wrought from the hateful claws of a dragon most foul, down to where the earth became fire. The only way across was the Narrow Bridge, made entirely of the swords of champions who had fallen to this trial. Sir Gwyndolin looked past the bridge and the wasteland's hills to see the crooked tower of the Enchantress. Somewhere there, in the highest of floors would wait Queen Levine in mourning for the rescue she the believed died in the field.
He could not give up now. The heat of the bridge leaked through his boots, but the knight would not be deterred. But, when a foul wind blew the bridge too far, good Gywndolin fell, clinging to the heat of the bridge with his bare hands. This would be the end of him. As he chanced a final look to the old crooked tower, there, he saw her. Queen Levine in all her radiant beauty, perched on a windowsill on one of the highest floors. She was calling out to him, in a final plea. Her voice sweetened the foul winds, and she said to him...


Madamoiselle, the Madame reminds me of her existence. We have to see to our mathematics at the turn of the hour, you will have be finished your meal by then, she explained patiently. My stomach twists with hunger. I forget my preferences, and begin to imitate the Madame's same effortlessness in graceful manipulation oy my utensils. Eating like this is slow and painstaking. I miss my brother stealing me sweet buns to be passed under the table cloth and into my skirt. Eating was never this hard when we ate under the table. The soft resistance of a mouthful of bread was sweeter when it was freely given. Now I took small bird-sized portions by fork. But this is what it means to be a woman, the Governess said. We are careful, inoffensive, and precise. Present as though we live in a world without unpleasant things, because we must always be pleasant. Hunger is only something the poor feel. To be graceless is to offend the people who starve so you can be fed-- now keep your head back, don't bow into your dishware like a dog to his bowl.

I don't understand what she means by all this. I'm too busy trying to perform surgery on these grapes to pluck one off the bunch without moving too quickly. She's still talking about something I don't care about, so I pop the grape off and --

Zzzzrt.

Electric Jolt is a cantrip from the evocation school of magic. It requires verbal and somatic components. When cast, the spell sends a minor jolt of electric charge to the focused subject. I recite this out loud, very loud, but not too loud, because yelling is impolite. My hand hurts, but I know if I look it will only hurt more. The Madame smiles a yellow smile to me before it is eclipsed by her tea cup. The echoes of distant music drift gently through the room, and out of the corner of my eye I can see the miniature house that looks just like my house framed inside the window panes. The old clock chimes the hour's half finished, and my stomach reminds me of its hunger.

I look past my proctor, and I see Sieur Gywndolin's book waiting for me by my bed. Sometimes I'd like to imagine that Sieur Gywndolin might appear outside my bedroom window upon his fine horse, and we'd meet eyes from our great distance. I'd imagine he'd come in right away, and I would come down just as swiftly to meet him in the foyer. I've been looking everywhere for you, I'd imagine he'd say to me, as he'd take my hand and chastely press his lips to my sore knuckles. We're late for the party, he'd tell me. I would tell him I'm hardly dressed, and I am quite sick, I can't go out. And he would look at me so sincerely, he would put the curve of his hand on my cheek and sweep me around in his arms, and he would say --
« Last Edit: January 05, 2021, 08:21:22 AM by of clover and thistle »
"Be kind."

Clover#5958

of clover and thistle

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Re: of lions and mice
« Reply #2 on: December 11, 2020, 06:26:25 AM »
My name is Claire Gabriel Artois, I am thirteen years old, and today is day two hundred and nineteen of my imprisonment.

Today I have a visitor.

A stately man sits across from me on the veranda outside my jail-house; he had a great weight about himself, found in the broadness of his shoulders and idle strength of hands heavy with callouses. Salt and pepper spills into the dimming brown of his hair, though the small motions of his are as still spry as a young man. I feel safe when I'm with him. Monsieur le Marquis Guy-Jean Artois de Damas is a threatening presence to meeker men, and even though he'd begun to age, his strength crowns him like mane of golden laurels. He doesn't speak much to me, not usually. The air between us is always filled with a silence that wanted to be broken, but neither of us knew how to do so. The Marquis is my father, and he loves me dearly; since my imprisonment, he had come to see me once a month to make sure I was doing well. No one else visited as frequently or for as long. Even though the visits were often filled with drawn out turns of silence like now, I don't mind. It's nice to feel safe.

We sit in silence with a table between us, listening to the gentle rustling of leaves in the breeze. The table makes him feel safe, I think. Like a wall between us. Does he not feel safe with me? I try not to think about it.

Monsieur le Marquis?
I say his name instead of something babyish like 'papa' to prove I'm grown up. The man turned to regard me patiently, as though he was conscious the full weight of his gaze might crush me. I twiddle my thumbs-- this is a bad habit and I need to stop it, just not right now. My chest flutters with apprehension.

Monsieur le Marquis... Do you think I can come home soon? The question felt uncomfortable to say, but I tried to dress it up gently and strained to sound indifferent about it. The Marquis had a stone face, and he would not be bent by the meekness of a child, not even his own. Still, he paused a while before he spoke. It depends, mon petite cur. Your Governess is still observing your condition. He uses a careful tone, as though he handles a strange and fragile thing. It makes me nervous.

I don't like the Governess, I say quietly, afraid the creature that inhabited the old woman's corpse might hear us. Weight gathers into a frown that shows in the deep green of his eyes. What is it you dislike about her? His question came like a soft blanket, I wanted to wrap myself up in the way it made me feel. When I think about the Governess, I feel my throat get tight under my necktie and my palms get sweaty.

I know this is difficult, Claire,
he began when I did not speak. We are asking you to do much, and grow very early. It will be difficult, and frightening. The Marquis de Damas knows more of war and wine and politics than he does about children, and it shows. He paused a while to consider his words like he might a fine glass of wine. We must endure with grace. We do not kneel to hardship, we see that it kneels to us.

I don't quite grasp what he means, but I do feel the strength in his words, how it enriches the sound of his voice. But its hard, I say, and in comparison my voice might belong to a mouse. There is sympathy in my fathers eyes, and I see him shift in his seat, his hands stir as though he wanted to reach out to me-- but there is the table between us, and it is very long. A lot of life is going to be hard, he says to me. But we cannot take short cuts. Short cuts are the tools of weak men.

Our strength is not in our gilt and honey. Doing the right thing is hard; but a strong man must take hardship as though it were a boon. We are lions among mice, Claire. We are strong because we must be. That is what it means to be an Artois.

The Marquis words ring inside my chest like church bells, and I feel my skin rise with bumps. An Artois. Our last name sounds beautiful when he says it. Like a prayer of intent. My chest hurts from bruises, my legs sore from welts. My throat feels tight when I think about the Governess and the Boudoir. I don't feel safe here. I want to go home. I want to feel safe like I do when papa is here. But I want so badly to belong to the Artois name. I want to be strong. I want him to be proud of me. I want to be on the other side of the table.

I want to be a lion.


« Last Edit: January 05, 2021, 08:24:15 AM by of clover and thistle »
"Be kind."

Clover#5958

of clover and thistle

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Re: of lions and mice
« Reply #3 on: February 10, 2021, 06:24:16 PM »
[A Nightmare]


Mistakes can be undone, they can be finessed to something more. But I, no, I have been wrought from error and sin. This disgust is my blood, my legacy. I am glass dust and lace venom. A worm feigning the potential of a caterpillar. My wings will spread, terrible and great, my mouth starved for the taste of silk and crushed velvet. My hands will become claws, my eyes into multi-fractal orbs that steal light, and my mouth will spit shrapnel honeyed with filth. Dripping with refuse, I am birthed from petulance and envy. My kingdom will be as barren as my court, I will keep the words of dead authors as my counsel, the delusions of prosperity as my people. This legacy of mine will be played by sour notes of a cripple's violin, wordless and ugly.

It wasn't always like this.

I used to wake up before the morning crow. Soft golden light flooded through towering windows, their curtains breathing with breeze. The warm light made the halls glow as if the light came from inside the stone. go back to sleepCinnamon and butter ebb from the maw of the kitchens where a chorus of pots and pans make up a culinary orchestra of breakfast. Spring's sigh stole its way into the estate's corridors, its crisp bite kissing apple cheeks and nose points. The veranda door was always unlocked, its brass knob freely giving to hands too small for the shape. closethedoor. Fresh air would flood through the doorway as it was opened, filling my lungs with the treasure of a new day. Dew pearled on the grass like thousands of precious cool gemstones, and bedazzled the hem of skirts with the emerald paint of grass.

When I was little, my father would throw me on his shoulders so I could see the world from the dizzying height of a king. Yawning expanses of meadows, stretched past the orderly battalions of trellises heavy with grapevines. go to sleepFar away huddles of sheep nursed the grass, their clusters forming clouds in the sea of green. It was beautiful. sleep My father would tell me these pastures are what comes of a King in a garden. but you are no king. This land was his by birth and merit, he had his hands in the mud as much as he did the quill. One day I would have a land of my own. An elysium of souls to my charge, to make hale and whole. We are Artois, my beautiful girl. We are not soldiers or gardeners. We are lions, strong and proud in number. Our radiance is the morning sun with which all might rise to greet. His hands are strong and certain, experienced with diplomacy and war. His accomplishments will never be celebrated, his holdings will never expand, but to his people, to his family, he is the morning sun. He is an Artois. He is my father.

Yet between us there is a table. He sits across from me. snip. Distant like the hung painting of a saint above the threshold. The table keeps my filth from staining the hem of his garments. A fence to keep him separate from the wretched crotch-fruit across from him that masqueraded as his daughter. It wasn't always like this.

Yet when I reach through the plumage of grape leaves hunting for the bunches of pearly fruit hidden in the foliage, I find only the corpse of rotting grapes. I close my eyes. The texture of bone protruding from grape flesh, sticky, and thick with wine. This is my legacy. Promising potential only a cruel prelude to a concerto of ruin all my own making.

You can be salvaged, scraps of delicacy that could be harvested from my wretched form, and stitched together to make an imposter of who I was supposed to be. The filth must only be pruned. I can help you. Stop squirming. STOP SQUIRMING. It hurts, yes it hurts. You are a boil to be lanced and drained, squeezed dry of impurities that poison everything you touch. You need me. You wouldn't have what you have now without me. Your allies. Your marriage. Your accomplishments. Whose lessons were those? mine. MINE.


There is a chair in the middle of the room. Buckles wrapped around the arms and legs like serpents leaving purple bracelets on my flesh. Purple reminds me of of the grapes- its the color of royalty and violence. My Governess is here. Ugly and wonderful. Her lower jaw is missing, fixing what remains of her skull into a permanent toothy grin. Poetry violently rattles in the bars of my skull. "I- I am going to be a storm -a flame-." A pair of scissors are wielded in her boney fingers, to prune my imperfections, to drain me of my filth. My blood pours from my wounds, reeking of sour milk. Red fills the room. Slowly rising like a cursed tide. The restraints are tight, offering no give. There is no escape, no open door. Claustrophobia strangled the air in the room, my blood flooded the floor. The Governess stands above me, tall, oppressive and correct. I can't breathe. My lungs are sticky like half melted wax. No one is coming for me. Not because I am forgotten, not because I am neglected, -- "I need to fight whole armies alone;" but because I am where I belong, condemned to be sundered until I am  loved beautiful.

Floating in the tide were the bodies of people I know. Bound and restrained, their wounds are submerged in my tainted filth. I am poison. Familiar faces frozen in fear. Agony abound, misery aplenty. Get up, one of you. Get up. Let me out. Pull yourself up by the spear in your gut, you by the hooks in your mouth. You have to get up. You have to stand. "I have ten hearts; I have a hundred arms;" No one will help them, drowning in their own bile. It didn't used to be like this. It doesn't have to be like this.  "I feel too strong to war with mortals-"


And then I woke up.
"Be kind."

Clover#5958

of clover and thistle

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Re: of lions and mice
« Reply #4 on: February 17, 2021, 02:09:56 AM »
My name is Claire Gabriel Marceaux.

It is dark when I awake. My chest is heavy with grief, guilt, and agony. My clothing- this clothing sticks to me like a second skin, slick to my frame from the blood and sweat. I am less than filth.
Disgusting, my body heaves against restraints in the cold emptiness of the room. I don't remember how long its been. Dark and cold, my company only the darkness and the scent of blood. Am I awake, or dreaming? My mouth is dry for bread or wine, something to wrench me out of the drifting nothing.


Quote from: The Runaway Phial

It was ten bells in the morning on a Thursday afternoon. I was wearing a crisp new cravat and tall riding boots. A perpetual veil of ash spared us the brute heat of the sun, and today, I was going to meet a million solars.

The estates of Choisy are beautiful in the way that antiques are coveted for their age. The architecture is dated, and the rose bushes, well those went out of fashion years ago. They made their money in whaling, off the great big creatures the size of ships that lurked beneath the waters that encircled the port. In the winter, the ribs of whales stab the sky like macabre obelisks as the fishermen harvest piece by piece every scrap of sinew, flesh, blubber and bone that could be wrought out of the ocean beasts. The people are cold and wretched, much like the whale corpses they wrought their livings from. The Marquis had done well to invest in the sea, who knew the secrets that could be found in the meat of such old great things? Shipyards flourished with craftsmen ever busy with their trade, and bellies were full with the fruits of the sea. Chateau Bleu Sang is like Choisy, weathered and all the more beautiful for it. Stained glass made up small port-windows in the tall great doors standing before me, and their wood echoed as I rapped my knuckles against the surface. Inside, bodies stirred with the sluggish motions of someone peeling themselves off the kitchen floor after a hangover.

A pleasant, if rough Invidian man opened the door. He wasn't at all how you would think a butler would look, he was much too strong and cut an imposing figure, and the dark suit he wore was much too fine to have belonged to him in any honest sense. "Hrm. You must be the Detective."

"Yes, that would be me." I flash him my business card, Belrose Investigations written in neat ink. I only had one of them, but I kept it in good condition for moments like this. The thuggish butler squinted at the font. "Belrose," he said my name meaningfully while giving me his appraisal. With a sigh, he opened wide the door to welcome me into the foyer. By no means am I a loud-footed individual, but the sounds of my footsteps echo in the empty hollow of the old estate. "I'll let the Marquis know you've arrived..." the Invidian grumbled as he stalked off down a gloomy corridor.


The story is interrupted when I feel something plunge into my side. My mouth mutters a name like a prayer, like heroes can be summoned by the faint whimper of a damsel in distress a million leagues away. Stop that noise, she tells me. Like this you are useful, you are substance, you are loved --


Quote from: The Runaway Phial
"So this is the infamous Bastard Belrose," a woman's giggle floated down from the second floor balcony. Penelope Choisy was a beautiful woman, a talented singer, carpenter, tactician, philanthropist, diplomat, and more, if you'd stand there and let her peons fluff her ego for the hour. She rounded the curling staircase down with the smug confidence of someone who knew a secret no on else did, though I doubt there was much between her ears at all. "Madame," I bow my head in greeting. The oldest of the Choisy girls laughed, and adjusted her bright silver corset frill. "It's mademoiselle now, Monsieur le Bastard." I had heard a rumor things had gone poorly with her latest marriage to a son of a lesser Baron. Lucky him. "And it's Detective Belrose to you, mademoiselle." She smiled, all sharp white little teeth, and circled me like a shark.

"You're not very tall are you..." "I try to be." "Well..." Her fingers lifted to provide a small perch for her round chin. "You look just like him. The striking resemblance. You must hear that a lot."

The Invidian returns, my unlikely savior from the line of questioning that always follows up this line of conversation.  "Alright, Detective. The Marquis will see you now. Just in the Arborium." Penelope pouts, twirls her hair, and gives me a little wiggle of her fingers as she struts away. Our walk to the Arborium is silent, blessedly so. I prefer the Invidian to the Choisy girl. He opens up the door, letting out a heavy sigh of steam that floods into the hall. The Arborium reeks of humidity and lye, but the Invidian ushers me in anyway.

I never thought I could miss a hearth so much as I do now. The touch of the stone, the warmth of the flames, the ever present scent of burning firewood. It reminds me of Elysium, of chess games and familiar faces. The smell of sedatives and ink. I miss my cat. Outside the darkness I can hear the soft drum of footsteps. I count them as they move, numbers dull the pain.

Quote
"You understand I'll need you to look into this with the utmost discretion and expediency."

The Marquis de Choisy is a severe man. Square of jaw, like he was in his shoulders and hands, he had the countenance that could cow lesser men. Here was someone who had fought Hawks by the battalion with the strength in one arm, now wearily slumped in a rolling chair with a blanket as his mantle. Age had really taken him, as it does all things. Chateau Sang Bleu's Arborium steam baths are a novelty this far south of the northern territories; steam baths are Lamordian fare medical treatments for the ailments of age for those that could afford the oil to mix in with the water to pour over hot coals. The heat suited the old Marquis just fine, just as the aged paint suited the face of his estate. On the other hand, I was uncomfortably aware of my clothing, and how it stuck to my skin. I wasn't about to show weakness in front of my client though, much less one willing to pay as much as the Marquis.

"Of course, Marquis. When did your daughter first go missing?" Business helped take my mind off the heat, and so did the chess opening I was working at on the game board between us. "Mnh.. Last week. Just after the Rose Day festival in Choisy town square." There were a lot of people at that festival, Rose Day always enticed every and anyone, young and old, foreigners and native-born out of their miserable hovels and into the city for debauchery and bad poetry. It wasn't any secret either that the youngest Choisy daughter had received some wretched news that evening that sent her from the festival in a foul mood. "And you have yet to be delivered a ransom note, or runaway manuscript?" "No," replied the Marquis wearily, his knuckles out stretched to a little black cat who braved the sauna's heat. "Nothing of the sort... Aidrianna has always been well behaved. Well, she was a handful in her youth but.. she had well grown out of it. Now, you'll have her back before her debutante ball?" My brow lofted before I could stop myself. For a father who was missing his youngest daughter, his priorities in her return were non-conforming.

"I would not make you a promise like that, but I promise you I will find her. Is there anyone who might wish your family harm?" The statesman's laugh sounded like the tired deflation of a leather sack. "Too many people, Detective, too many to count... I'll have the doorman give you a list of the attendees from the festival for you to begin with."


"Be kind."

Clover#5958

of clover and thistle

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Re: of lions and mice
« Reply #5 on: February 19, 2021, 03:40:56 AM »
My name is Claire Gabriel Marceaux.

My Governess is right, as she has always been right. I have always been inelegant and awkward. I have wrought only ruin for myself and those I have tricked into keeping my company. That I am here is good. Unsightly buds must be cut from the branch so the flowers might grow pleasingly. The mediocrity that was me will fade into obscurity, to be forgotten like a dead mouse in a trap.


Quote from: The Runaway Phial
The youngest child of Choisy was a young man with an easy smile and friendly demeanor. You could forget he was a nobleman what with his aversion to baths and the abundance of leaf scraps and dirt clinging to his hair and clothes. He was shorter than most of the Choisy men, and liked the glass houses and their plants more than the ballrooms and their intrigues. We stood together in his gardening shack, where he had led me astray after my meeting with the Marquis. His cheery attitude gave way to worry. "Adrianna's been troubled the last few days with bad dreams. She's been under a lot of stress lately." "With what?" I began to ask as I brought the glass of Valcourt Rye to my mouth.  Rain began to pelt the windows of the shed in a perfect rhythmic pitter-patter. The young Choisy man regarded me with apprehension before he continued.. "We've been working on botanical solutions to the Ash Blight. Old pagan magic," he waved his hands quickly to dismiss the importance. Botany, no one practiced botany anymore, not since the ash clouds moved in and choked the life out of the crops. Cities by the water weren't hit as bad, the ocean breeze made conditions a little more tolerable for the people and the agriculture, though most people had given up on planting anything that wasn't mushrooms.

"We have a deadline to produce our findings by the end of the week, to submit to the University." My brow raised. "Not your father?" "No," the youth sighed and ruffled his hair, sending scraps of leaf raining onto his shoulders. "We need equipment and resources, not money. Our father's more interested in my sister's potential suitors. He couldn't give less of a damn about what we're doing here." Now it was my turn to sigh. 'Shack' was a bit of an insult to the sizable workshop of alchemy and science we stood in now. Old bottles of chemicals, reagents lined crammed between manuals that promised to instruct in the ways of the First Sciences all crowded into crooked shelves and mismatched furniture. The whole place reeked of fertilizer and frustrated academics. It was hard to imagine any aristocrat, let alone the missing Choisy girl spending any time in here. "Did anyone else know what you were studying in here?" I busied myself with musing over the unlabeled and strangely shaped bottles occupying the work desks. "Our liaison at the University, Professor Umber she knows Addy pretty well. I'll get you her address. Oh! And the Grounds Keeper, Madame Bee." He crouched over a slip of parchment to start writing-- some sort of sprawling pattern of symbols and formula, geometric patterns that reminded of a certain cosmic truth.

The image sparks words in my mouth, like a tiny flame had erupted on my tongue. I speak the words before I know what I am doing. As my intent began to take form, building up like a static charge, a phantom cane struck my restrained palms. My will slipped through my anxiety, and died in the stale darkness oppressing the room.


Quote from: The Runaway Phial
The University is in better shape than most of the country. Fed by the purses of lazy aristocrats who would purchase their validity on a piece of paper, the scholars and academics of our society took refuge in the shadow cast by the elite's convenience. Professor Umber's office is criminally small, crammed with stacks upon stacks of paperwork organized in some system that would require years of training and a little divination for a stranger to understand. Amongst the sea of bureaucracy, the two of us sat at a desk much too big for the gnome across from me, who seems to have forgotten I'm here. "Professor? I can come back at a better time," I began to reach for my cloak when the absent gnome stirred to life behind her cracked spectacles. "Hm.. Hm? Oh. Yes. Hm... You're still here." She shifts in her seat to look past me. "Why are you still here?"

Because I'm stuck. I can't move my hands, I can't see my fingers, or the nose in front of my face. I am painfully, alarmingly aware of how little I can control my motion, of how dried blood mingled with frayed velvet itches my skin. I am filthy, disgusting, and lost in the dark, going mad with frustration.

Quote from: The Runaway Phial
The gnome's eyes narrow behind her spectacles, and she leans back in her seat, still distracted with whats behind me. Rain pitter-patters rhythmically against the window in a steady march down the glass. Spring's humidity makes breathing a suffocating exercise, and sticks to my clothes, making me unpleasantly aware of the damp suit entombing my skin. Professor Umber slaps a sheet of paper between us, and pulls a flintlock out from her desk.
"Try it again."

Its easier the time. My jaw works through the stiffness I fashion my will into intent manifest.

Magic. It flickers into creation, like a butterfly just emerging from its cocoon. A brilliant polygon of fractal light hovers weakly above me where once there was nothing. Shadows flee to the corners of the room and for first I feel like I can finally breathe. I drink in the thrill of my success, however minor it may be. I have made light.

"Be kind."

Clover#5958