Thursday, December 27, 2012

Chapter Two: Identified Flying Objects

Israel Elysium

  The wind howled in the buildings nearby, but I barely heard it over the sound of the fat raindrops splattering on the cement. I felt it, though, and stuffed my hands into my pockets to keep the wind from whipping the coat off my back. I was shouldering my way along the edge of the buildings, where every now and then there was a awning or some-such jutting out and keeping the rain off for a few seconds before I walked past and was hit by the storm again.

  My green eyes flicked from side to side, searching for anything out of place, although I suspected I wouldn't be able to see it so easily anyway, which was why I'd decided to take the longer route around the block widdershins, instead of clockwise. I would get more soaked this way, if that was possible, but I assumed whoever had called me would logically think I'd taken the shorter route to avoid staying in the deluge longer than necessary. If there was nothing else to my advantage just then, perhaps this was.

  The sky rumbled and clashed with some particularly angry thunder, and I turned the corner, my eyes flickering up with the sound, because it sounded too close to have missed. I'm not entirely sure what I did when I saw it, I might have shouted, I'm sure my eyes widened, and I probably jumped into the nearest alleyway, seeing as I'm still alive at the moment.

  A monster ship- as in oceans, waves, water, seafaring- was flying through the sky, soaring as if it belonged up there, except something was wrong. It was glowing red, on fire, I realized somewhere in my dumbfounded mind, that the lightening must have struck it, and it was making a crash landing. The song in my head roared as the ship sailed nearer and lower going faster than it ought to have been.

Their brands were still on fire and their hooves were made of steel
Their horns were black and shiny and their hot breath he could feel
A bolt of fear went through him as they thundered through the sky
For he saw the Riders coming hard and he heard their mournful cry

  I didn't know how to explain it when I saw it, although I understand now, as the ship flew by, it was suddenly in slow motion, as if it was drifting under water, and I read the name in spidery script etched onto the side of the beautiful craft- The Albatross.

  And then it struck land, tearing up the cement and skidding down the road, crashing into the sides of buildings and groaning until it shuddered to a halt, leaning precariously to one side. I stared. I willed my body to move, but I was frozen. Then I remembered where we were, and I looked right and left, hoping against hope that no mortal had seen what I had just witnessed. Amazingly, the road was still empty, but I knew it wouldn't last long, the crash had been too loud to be missed. Someone sooner or later would appear and ask what a giant boat was doing in the middle of the road. I whipped my head back and caught only one glimpse of a man, with the fires burning behind him as he stood on the edge of his craft, his eyes as dark as the sky.

  Then he leaped back into his ship, and seconds later, the whole thing disappeared right in front of my eyes, leaving only a stray piece of wood burning on the ground.


Jericho Matteus

  I knew I shouldn't have flown on a night like this, but when a strange man with a silk voice finds my island, tells me to come here, and disappears without a trace, what was I going to do? Besides, the Albatross and I had flown through storms this bad before and survived. I thought I could do it.

  I climbed into the rigging, my hair blowing into my eyes, and snatched at a rope as it whipped in the air like a snake in a jungle catching its prey. I missed and tried again, grabbing it determinedly and tying it into a knot it wouldn't so easily escape. Lightening streaked through the sky, and I shouted, clinging desperately to my lifeline as the Albatross groaned and heaved through the air as fires sprung up in the masts. I cursed, falling dangerously far to the deck below and cringing, grabbing my leg as pain shot up it. But I wasn't to be put off, and I staggered to the helm and grabbed the wheel, hanging onto it with all my strength.

  I knew I wouldn't survive the landing like this. I had to slow down. Desperately, I spun the wheel until I was facing the street- the softest landing I would be able to get- and closed my eyes, finding the magic inside me churning. I grabbed it and forced it to my will, slouching against the wheel which was the only thing holding me up, and I impeded time, just enough to trip it up and falter for a few seconds, long enough for a rough landing.

  The Albatross reluctantly skidded to a stop, and I moaned along with my ship. After a moment, I realized she was fully visible, and I limped to the edge to find out of I could get away without being seen by mortals. At first glance I thought I had succeeded, but then I saw him, a man with a brown jacket and brown hair  blowing in the wind, staring at me with surprisingly bright green eyes.

  Well, he had already seen a flying ship. I figured a disappearing ship that had been flying wouldn't be much worse, and jumping down, I climbed into the hull and deep into the heart of the ship where steam was eddying about. There, I stared for a moment at the beautiful giant cloaking sphere, the runes and symbols on its side glowing in the dimness, and grabbing the lever next to it, I yanked down and cast my ship into invisibility. The rain was putting out the fire on the sail, but I still had figure out how to get the Albatross out of here..., I would need new sails.

  There was also the problem of how to go about arresting that man I saw. He would have to have his memory wiped... or maybe just give him a good whack or two on the head until he realized it was all just dream, and there couldn't have possibly actually been a flying ship... I withdrew my staff from its sheath under my arm and extended it to its full six feet. I grinned, and I just knew it was that famous shark-grin I was famous for.


Kallista Pendragon

  I was hurrying through the rain, although I was enjoying every second of it, even if the thunder was a bit overwhelming. I was on one side of the street, gaily singing "A Pirate's Life for Me," and keeping my eyes open for a blue moose, which I assumed would be rather large and apparent.

  I'd already turned after two blocks like that nice fellow in the kitchen had told me, and I thought I must surely have gone three and half blocks by now. I stopped in my tracks with the wind and rain whipping my hair, and wondered where I would hide if I was a blue moose. I glanced around, saw an alleyway a few paces ahead that seemed to have potential, and on my left was a park. It wasn't a big one, just green grass and some trees, a swing set and a bench with a man standing beside it staring at me. I did a double take and, after a moment of silent staring, I went to wave, wondering if I knew him from somewhere, when I noticed how still he was, not just still as in standing still, but he was perfectly still, the wind and rain having no affect on him. He was wearing a suit, and I couldn't see much of his face, although I don't think I knew him. My hair blew over my eyes, and I pushed it aside. Then he smiled at me, a sort of I-know-something-you-don't-know smile, and I shivered, not because of the rain.

  Right then, there was a devastating crack of thunder and lightening, and I whipped around, staring at the most beautiful boat I'd ever seen, sailing through the sky on the other side of the neighborhood, glowing red on fire. My mouth fell open in wonder, and when it disappeared from view, I knew it had crashed not far away. And I knew I had to see it. I remembered the man a moment before I broke into a sprint, and I turned back, but he was gone like a ghost into the night. My eyes flicked from side to side, but when they revealed nothing, I turned again and ran..


Nights Raven

  Let me tell you, for someone who wants to get away from it all in sunny Australia and take a nice little break from magic and monsters, a downpour in the night followed by a clash like someone banging a pair of enormous frying pans in the sky and the earth shuddering outside my motel like a crazy avalanche was tumbling down a mountain, wasn't entirely welcome.

  Well, maybe the rain was. But that's beside the point.

  Having been unable to sleep and watching soap operas of Australians with awesome accents whilst eating popcorn, I was taken by surprise by the commotion. I hesitated a moment before I decided whatever was happening outside was likely to be more worthy of my attention than whether Roset would end up with Michael or Christopher or that dope-headed Peter.

  I retrieved my daggers from the side of the bed and peered out the door. I didn't see anything at first glance, but when I slipped out, keeping to the shadows, I realized the road was torn up, and there was a plank of wood burning in the middle of it. I raised an eyebrow, wondering what could have possibly happened, and I saw a man standing across the street near an alleyway, staring into the air above the plank, as if he couldn't believe his eyes.

  He was around twenty-five, twenty-six, looked like he needed a good shave, with dirt brown hair and gold-flecked eyes, which I was surprised I could see from this distance, and he wore more than one coat or jacket, as if he kept and wore whatever he found to keep from losing it. Hm, I thought, must be a poor mortal trying to find some shelter from the rain, which was lessening as I watched, and he'd seen something he shouldn't have.

  I figured it was time for an interrogation.

  Straightening my somewhat-disheveled blond hair- which was futile due to the gusting wind, which hadn't lessened in the least, but you can't blame me for trying- I stepped out of the shadows. He didn't notice me at first. He seemed frozen to the spot, although he seemed to be composing himself slowly., mouth closing, eyes narrowing, mind ticking, I could practically hear it from here. Then I stepped onto the street, intending to navigate my way over the torn road. The man saw me then, his green eyes flickering from where he'd been staring, to me, sizing me up almost.

  I put on my best frightened-teenager-please-help-me look and got two steps before I smacked into something nose-first and fell over like a mime not expecting the invisible wall to actually be a wall.

  "Ahhh," I moaned, touching my nose which thankfully seemed not have started bleeding, and leaned on my elbow, looking up. There was still nothing in front of me, and the man across the street had widened his eyes and moved forward, his hands outstretched in front of him until he'd taken a few steps and began performing another mime act. I would have thought he was insane, but judging by my bruised nose, I began to think otherwise.

  "You ok?" he yelled, having noticed me standing up from the other side of whatever was between us.

"Yeah," and I decided to drop the act and get straight to the point. "Are you mortal?" A normal human would answer this with a quizzical expression and something like, 'Well I should hope so,' but the average man with magic would answer honestly that he was not, as this one did.

"No, and thank heaven's you're not. I wondering how to get rid of you." He cracked a grin, his hands still pressed and touching against what appeared to be thin air. "I'm Israel Elysium. You?"

"Wait, Israel Elysium, as in Elysium Asylum? That Israel Elysium?"

That grimace-grin of his widened, "One and only. I'm constantly being assaulted by fan-girls." Then he knocked on the invisible wall. A hollow, wooden sound greeted him. "And this is getting interesting."

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Chapter One: In the Morning

A/U This story is set in different people's perspectives. Hence, the name of the part is the perspective in which it is set. So pay attention because the name may or may not be mentioned.

Kallista Pendragon

  I grinned, the mischievous smile I reserved for special occasions spilling across my features, and added one last touch.There... utterly perfect. A three teired chocolate and strawberry cake with Hellboy's face in colorful-mostly pink and purple- icing on top, grinning like a maniac with Christmas ornaments in his hair and presents at his neckline. He was definitely going to love his Christmas cake, I just knew it.

  The ground underneath me shook with thunder, and I glanced up, realizing for the first time that it was storming outside. I blinked, wondering where the sun had gone while I was working, and shrugged, carefully hiding the cake so I could go search for Hellboy. I dashed through the hallways, looking up and down and hearing many half cries of "Slow down, Ka-" before I turned another corner or dashed into another room and their cries were cut short.  After several minutes and much quizzical eyeing of the seemingly vacant Elysium Asylum, I collapsed, gasping for breath, onto a stray couch.

   I began thinking while I was taking a break from my sprinting searches for Hellboy, and wished again that I could ship a cake a million miles away to Octaboona in England, but some other residants of Elysium Asylum had strongly discouraged me in the matter, muttering about crushed cake and something about huge quantities of purple food coloring being ilegal, and moaning about the difficulties of last year's legal hassles under other some-such similar circumstances.

  I, of course, had mostly stopped listening, my mind swooped away into all my glorious plans for Christmas with purple and red and green colors swirling through my head. But now, as I lay on the couch, catching my breath, I peered up at the clock over the nearby fireplace and wondered why it was again that I shouldn't ship a cake to Octa. I blinked and read the clock. It was 2:42 in the morning. "Gah!" I sat up, thinking the clock must surely be wrong. I stood and caroused into the next few rooms, finding the clocks and comparig the times until I realized it really was that late despite my doubt. Returning to the first room, I apologized to Mr. Clock for not believing him in the first place, and stood, head tilted to one side, thinking.
  But 2:42 in the morning! Where would Hellboy be at a time like this? Now that it was the next day anyway... I didn't see any reason not to give my cake to him now! Then we could eat cake and party and eat cake... I admit, my eyes sparkled a bit just then. Well, it was the thought of chomping into Hellboy's Christmas bedazzled face, really. It would be a new experience, and when it comes to cake, I'm always up for a new experiences. I just needed to find Hellboy, and in order to achieve that, I needed to find out where he was.

  I knew someone would be awake in the kitchen so I plodded somewhat disconsolately into there and asked the gentleman there where Hellboy was. After I got a momentary blank stare, I reluctantly muttered "Israel" since not everyone seemed to know of his nickname. Finally I got answers! Hellboy was at the Blue Moose, apparently. I grinned and spun to leave, but changed my mind mid-stride and whipped to the man again, asking where to find a blue moose, as I'd never seen one in person before. Strangely, I got another blank stare before the fellow told me to go out the front door, turn right, go two blocks, turn right again, and I would find what I was looking for about three and a half blocks down. I thanked him, bestowing him with one of my few remaining orange-berry-pickle cupcakes, to which he was so happy he was at a loss for words, and raced to grab my jacket, the especially brilliant one with the purple tails, since I was going to meet a blue moose for the first time in my life, and wanted to look snappy.

  Glancing around my room, I stabbed my Japanese hairpicks into my black curls and left. Reaching the front door, I heaved it open, my hair whipping about with the wind, grinned at the storm I was about to plunge into, and disappeared into the night.


Israel Elysium

    I was wearing my lucky jacket when it happened, and with the screaming air in my ears,  I surprisingly didn't see my life flash before my eyes, and instead, thought that I would have to get a new "lucky" jacket. 
  It was a horrible night, the kind you hear ghost stories and horror stories developing with wind and rain and the loudest thunder you've ever heard. I'd had a few drinks, and I wasn't intending on leaving the Blue Moose that night until I had to. Solemn as I was, I was still dry and warm in my reverie, and I wasn't expecting anything to happen which is of course how it took me by surprise.

  "Alonso!" I called from behind the bar, "Pour me another glass." Alonso, the sharp kind of bartender that, despite his size, you could just tell packed a punch if the need arose, finished drying the glass in his hand and slid a beer down the bar. I caught it before it fell off, the golden liquid sloshing once or twice before I took a gulp of the rancid stuff and slammed it back down. I was hunched over it drinking sulkily, as is the best way to drink alcohol, with the stubble on my chin brushing the side of the glass with a soft shh shh every time I lifted and lowered my chin idly between gulps.

  It was late, although I wasn't sure of the time, and quiet except for a few stragglers muttering and occasionally laughing unwelcomely. I looked to my left where a boy with blue hair was showing off cheap magic tricks to his mortal girlfriend. Behind him was a limp little Christmas tree in the failed attempt of appearing festive. I grunted and turned back, listening to the low music in the background and finishing off the beer. I don't know why, but the song playing just then sticks out in my memory- "Ghost Riders in the Sky" by Johnny Cash.

  "Alonso," I growled shaking my empty mug in the air, this having meaning enough. He looked at me, I remember, leaning on the counter at arm's-length.

"I'm cutting you off, tonight Hellboy,"- this being a nickname I'd acquired recently after a nasty battle with an an ugly old ogre whose brains I'd blown out.

I growled at the bartender, biting off my rude reply to look into the future and determine the best way to get what I wanted. Two minutes later, Alonso was grumpily polishing a different glass, and I had a another pint in my fist. Something resembling a grimace-meant-to-be-smile etched my face until I slapped the money I owed onto the bar and glared out the grimy door at the lightening streaking by.

  My phone rang. Suddenly, the Mission Impossible theme song was clamoring for notice, and I fumbled in my jackets until I found the thing hidden in a pocket I didn't realize I had. My thumb jammed a random button, and when that didn't silence it, I attacked the little red "hang-up" sign until you could only here insistent beeping and thrust it back into a pocket, swaying slightly and stumbling forward, slightly off-balance. I didn't look back at, what I'm sure, were awed-why-didn't-I-think-of-that-as-my-ringtone expressions. Of course, then the persistent caller rang again, and I glared at the time on my phone- 2:42 A.M.- and answered it this time with a gruff greeting that was probably something like, "Who's calling me at this time of night! Don't you know I'm a serious busi-ness man who's, as the title indicates, busy!?"

A mellow voice I'd never heard before replied unfalteringly, "Israel Elysium I presume?"

"No! I'm his secretary! Who do you think it is?"

"Meet me at the park around the block in five minutes."

"Have you even looked out the window, you idiot? I'm not mee-" but the line was already dead, and I cursed, muting my phone and stuffing it back into one of my pockets. I flipped the collar on the topmost coat out, putting my hand on the door, intending to shove my way through and walk the short distance through the rain back to Elysium Asylum, but I stopped, my hunched shoulders sagging a bit more and gave up. I already knew I couldn't resist the curiosity of a nameless summons in the middle of the night, even if said summoner happened to be an axe murderer/stalker who somehow knew I wouldn't be able to resist. I grunted and pushed the door open, delving into the storm.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

An Account of a Curious Developement: Tigers and Fireworks

    Author's Note:
This story is dedicated with love to my dear friend and sister Kallista Pendragon!!!

From everything we've seen and done together, a story for your birthday, Kal, isn't as spectacular as the fireworks I'd like to fire, but I wrote it with you in mind. I definitely hope you enjoy this story, but more than anything, I just hope you have fun on your birthday. :3

 Happy Birthday!!!

  A lion's roar sounds like particularly loud rush of water, or blaze of fire, or any other powerful earthly element. When you hear it, you know something big is happening, and you know it probably will be terrible, or at least terribly beautiful.   

  When Scarlet Sky Hope heard it, she knew it could go either way. Her crimson hair, bound in an unruly ponytail, fell over her shoulder as she turned her head and glanced back at the strange man with the exceptionally long beard a short distance away. He had opened the door to a roomy lion’s den, and the animal inside was waking up for lunch. The lion stood and stretched like a kitten waking from a particularly long nap, rumbling deep in his throat before lounging lazily over to the hunk of meat the bearded man had thrown inside.

  Scarlet sighed with relief, her emerald eyes turning to the tents. They were huge and striped red and white, pointing to the sky above. The air smelled of popcorn, cotton candy, and sawdust. The circus was beginning to prepare itself for the night's events.

  Strange people walked, lumbered, or traipsed past Scarlet, their gaits varying with his own personal physique. Grinning down at her with a snake tattoo curling over one cheek, a man with impossibly long legs went by, followed by another, a woman with a waist the size of a baseball. Others with long hair and short hair or strange hats and clothes and mysteriously changing shadows walked about, each going to his own job or errand. 

 A bald midget with a goatee almost tottered right by her, but paused and asked her if she needed directions. Scarlet smiled, having always liked little people, and asked where the ringman was.

"Oh! You mean Raphael!" The midget grinned a gap-toothed smile and pointed in the distance, "He's right over there. You'll like him! Everybody does!"

Scarlet's eyes warmed a little, "Thanks so much!" The midget nodded and trotted off, reminding Scarlet of a penguin. 

  She looked in the direction he had pointed and saw several odd people standing in front of a stage and listening to a man with smiling, lavender blue eyes and a handlebar mustache. He raised his fist into the air, yelling something probably heroic, and the crowd cheered, a few of them also punching the air. She watched a moment longer, analyzing the gentleman, and wondering how someone so charming became a ringmaster. 

  It's true that Scarlet always liked circuses,- who didn't?- but she also knew that a lot of shady fellows tended toward the profession. Although, she thought, glancing around once more at the bizarre atmosphere and multitude, I've never seen a circus quite like the Wild Magical Emporium Circus Express before. When she thought about it, it wasn't especially the people or things, but the way it felt. Scarlet closed her eyes, listening, sensing, breathing the stream of magic wafting through the whole place. It was different from places she had perceived before in that it was pure and loved and wholesome. With a smile, she realized it smelled like a Satsuma- tart, pungent, and delicious.

  Scarlet drank in one more breath before she opened her eyes, almost wishing she hadn't taken Mr. Frederickson's job. He wanted someone discreet for some reason, and that doesn't usually insinuate good intentions. Letting out a slight breath of exasperation, Scarlet wished her talents at slipping by unnoticed weren't so attractive to thieves and scoundrels. She really needed Mr. Frederickson’s money at the moment, and didn't want to return it with an apology to the chubby-faced man if the job turned out to be corrupt. Well, she determined, I'll get to the bottom of this and see what comes of it. Maybe it's time I got some fresh dirt on my hands. She scowled at the thought. On the other hand, maybe I'll take dear ol' Esther's advice... and if I perish, I perish.

  Glancing back at this Raphael Pendragon with his black hair and suave style, she saw he was finishing his speech, and with one last word and one last cheer, the crowd moved off to their separate posts to further prepare themselves for the night's events. The midget who has spoken to her earlier lingered a moment and mentioned something to Raphael before following the crowd.

  Raphael’s lavender blue eyes fixed on her, knowing she didn’t belong, but he smiled, nodded, and waited for her to come towards him. She began to wish she’d sneaked in with the commotion at night instead of such an outward approach. Even if she was just asking questions, it wasn’t her style to let the suspect know he’s being questioned.

  Plastering a nonchalant, giddy expression on her face, the redhead waltzed over to Mr. Pendragon.
“How do you do?” he asked her when she was close enough. Scarlet grinned, replying that she was excellent.

“Wow!” she said, “This circus is amazing!” she feigned awe and looked around her for the twentieth time, inspecting things like she had only just seen them for the first.

“Why, thank you. I appreciate compliments, especially from such a pretty lass as yourself. I’m Raphael Pendragon, the ringmaster, at your service.” Raphael took Scarlet’s hand in his own and kissed it tenderly. 

This guy is good

“Oh.., Mr. Pendragon!” Scarlet turned her eyes down in shy manner.

“Please, call me Raphael,” the gentleman replied, letting go of Scarlet’s hand after a slightly-longer-than-casual moment. “Now, what may I do for you, Miss… ?”

“Hope. Scarlet Sky Hope.” Scarlet smiled and turned again to view the circus. “And- to be perfectly honest- I was being a bit of a scoundrel and sneaking in to get a preview. When someone asked me if I needed directions, well, I figured I had better say something before I was thrown out. ‘Ringmaster’ was the first thing that came to mind.”

Raphael laughed and nodded, “I see. Well, now I know who’s been sleeping on the clock. Thanks for pointing it out to me! I’ll have to have a word with Jimmy later.” His eyes glistened slightly when she looked at him, and she knew her story hadn’t quite fooled him. “But, anyone as enthusiastic about the Wild Magical Emporium Circus Express as you are, sneaking in and all just to get a look, must be a friend of mine.” His teeth sparkled when he grinned, “Would you like a personal tour, Miss Hope?”

“Oh, I would absolutely love a tour! But only under one condition.” Raphael arched an eyebrow slightly in question, and Scarlet went on, “You must promise that under all circumstances, you will henceforth call me Scarlet.”

Raphael laughed again, “Agreed.”

  He knew something was up; Scarlet could sense it. Despite the casual conversation throughout the tour, touched by her innocent sounding interrogation, she just knew he knew that she wasn’t some silly girl looking for a tour of a circus. She just wondered why he wasn’t doing anything about it.

  But on second thought, Scarlet changed her mind about that. After all, she was waltzing around with him in his own circus, with his own people and lions and tigers and probably bears for good measure. When she realized that, Scarlet felt a bit more like an idiot, and began inconspicuously scouting for a convenient gate or exit to slink out of.

  That’s when they entered the tent with the animals. 

  Snuffles, scratches, hee-haws, growls, and roars were all too apparent along with the smell of inhuman creatures, a sort of musty, earthy, almost comforting smell, unless you happen to be afraid of being eaten, as Scarlet was at that particular moment.

  She muttered something about being allergic- although she wasn’t- and tried pulling back a bit, but Raphael had looped her arm around his, casually restraining her.

“Nonsense,” he said, his eyes sparkling a tad, “you can’t leave the circus…” he paused, glancing at her, the corners of his mouth curling slightly, “without seeing the tigers. I wouldn’t be a proper host that way, now would I?”

  Scarlet laughed nervously, wondering if this would be her end after all. To be honest, she didn’t think Raphael the type to sentence her as a late lunch for one of his pets, or even stealing the emerald necklace as she had come here to investigate. But on the other hand, was she suspicious? Good heavens, yes.

  Around the bend was the tigers’ den, a great open area with a fence netting keeping them at bay, Raphael paused and looked in at them. “You know,” Raphael murmured, “we feed them daily…, but it never seems quite enough.”

“… Oh?”

“They’re always hungry for more. I think if I gave them an elephant, in fact, they would still willingly go at any fresh…” he glanced at her, “piece of meat.” Scarlet couldn’t refrain from swallowing the lump in her throat. Then he smiled, “It’s a good thing I don’t feed my guests to the animals,” and led her out of the animal tent.

  “Alright,” he said, “you know you’re going to have to tell me what’s going on here.” Raphael had shown her to his office, comfortable quarters on his train. As soon as they had entered, Scarlet smelled that tangerine aroma again, only stronger, and she loved it. It was the smell of the caring and love and magic this creature, this train, shouldn’t have had. It was as if a thing of metal and mechanics and wood had come alive from its years of living under gentle care and attention, and when it roared to life, Scarlet only knew it must feel like a living, breathing animal galloping into freedom.

  She sighed, "Yes, I suppose I do, don't I?" She glanced into the distance, composing her thoughts. Her emerald eyes glazed over, staring at the rows of books and an elegant painting hanging on the wall behind Raphael of a pirate's ship. There was a woman standing at the prow, her dark hair blowing behind her, and a clever glint in her one good, blue-green eye, the other covered by an eyepatch. Lightening was striking in the distance, a terrible storm was crashing all around her, and for a moment, Scarlet heard the roar of the angry waves, and manly voices yelling over the lashing rain and thunder, trying... trying to keep from sinking... keep from dieing...  and still, the woman was almost smiling, the edges of her lips curling so slightly.

  Scarlet blinked, and she was back in the present with Raphael studying her quizzically. Scarlet shifted in her seat, deciding then to tell the truth instead of the story she had come up with in a worst-case scenario. "There's a man, Raphael, a man called Mr. Frederickson." Raphael tilted his head slightly but made no other sign of recognition. "I don't know his first name," Scarlet went on. "He didn't want to give it. After all, I'm the girl to go to for a discreet recovery. However, he hired me to return his stolen merchandise...." She watched Raphael closely at this, trying to see something that gave away he knew what she was talking about. There, a flicker over his eyes, then nothing. She continued, "It was an emerald studded necklace, incredibly valuable. The perpetrator didn't leave much behind as evidence, but you can imagine my suspicion at the new circus in town."

  Somewhat shame-faced, she glanced to the side, "To be honest, I'm usually considerably better at retrieving things without drawing attention to myself. Get in, find it, disappear without a trace- that's the way it usually goes, but your business... This 'Wild Magical Emporium Circus Express' drew me in somehow... I felt safe. I don't know how to describe it... I don't even know what you did to it, Mr. Pendragon, but I didn't feel the need to come with the shadows or any some such. I just wanted to walk in and...," Scarlet felt silly saying, "have fun..."

  Raphael smiled, "Yes," he stroked the wall of the train next to him, "I built her for that purpose. She's made for fun and life and love." He glanced at Scarlet and stood up to pace back and forth.

"You... you built her?" Scarlet looked again at the beautiful room she was in, polished mahogany and all. The craftsmanship was more the excellent. It was magical and wonderful, and now she knew why everything smelled so sweet.

  "I did. It took me a decade, but it was worth every minute," he smiled at her and continued pacing. Scarlet re-evaluated Raphael Pendragon. The man wore a sharp suit, old-fashioned as it was, and everything about him seemed to effuse youth and vitality. He appeared to be in his twenties or early thirties, but Scarlet realized when it comes to magic, it's hard to see the aging on the body. She looked at his eyes instead. Eyes, Scarlet found, showed far more of a person's true age. Those lavender-blues looked back at her, and she could feel the years and the knowledge and, more than anything, the wisdom emanating from them. Suddenly, she wanted to know so badly how old this man was, but she didn't ask.

  "Scarlet, what do you know of Mr. Frederickson?"

"Very little... I don't ask very many questions when someone hires me. I try to take honest jobs, but my skills aren't usually appreciated by the honest."

Raphael nodded slowly, "No offense, but you know I must ask... You're a thief?"

Scarlet frowned, "No... I'm definitely not a thief." One solitary eyebrow arched, and Raphael didn't have to say anything for Scarlet to realize he was skeptical. "Ok, ok," she said. "I'm not usually a thief. When someone hires me most of the time, I'm a Recovery Agent."

Raphael paused, digesting this, and forming another question, "And that's different from a thief... how?"

Scarlet had a bad urge to scowl, but she fought it, "A Recovery Agent steals something back and returns it to the rightful owner, but even these jobs are rare ones. I have an... umm... alternate job description most of the time." That eyebrow of his twitched again, but he didn't say anything.

  "Well, then, I'll tell you a bit more about your client... Mr. Frederickson." Raphael started pacing again as he went on, "he calls himself a 'business man,' but personally, I don't consider the scoundrel more than a murderer and thief. Usually, it's cons he specializes in. Most recently, he bribed a doctor and faked blood reports most efficiently in order to appear to be the closest kin to the shortly deceased Mr. and Mrs. Holt. The reason for this? The two owned little, but for this invaluable emerald necklace. It had been Mrs. Holt's mother's, and Mrs. Holt cherished it for sentimentality. She never even wore it, Scarlet; she only wanted it to remember her mother."

  Raphael paused a moment, and went on, "The Holts didn't have a daughter of their own, but they had a niece they raised when her parents died. They loved her like she was their child.... More than one witness claims to have heard them say they wanted their niece to have the necklace when they passed away, but unfortunately, the two never got around to writing a will, or perhaps it was lost in the fire... Either way, the necklace would have to go to next of kin, which was their niece, to be received when she turned eighteen." Scarlet could hear the venom in his voice when he told the rest of the story, "Right before it was signed over, however, Mr. Frederickson appeared out of the blue with his 'blood reports' claiming him to be a closer relative than their niece, and there was nothing to do but to sign the necklace over to him."

  He finally stopped pacing, with his hands slightly clenching by his sides, "Evangeline, their niece, is well and living with a distant relative..., but if you could have seen her face when she was told the necklace wasn't to be hers..." Raphael's voice didn't waver in the slightest when he said, "Maybe then you would understand why I stole the necklace." He blinked and looked away, "Mr. Frederickson is too good at what he does, and if the law had yet to catch up with him, than I decided I would do what I could."

Raphael sat back down, leaned forward, grinned, and asked, "Miss Scarlet Sky Hope..., may I let you in to some private information?"

  Scarlet blinked, hesitating for a moment and recalling her meeting with Mr. Frederickson. It had been at night, and she could tell when she took a seat by him in the back of his limousine, that this was someone used to getting what he wanted. Scarlet didn't like that. Someone who gets what he wants is one of two people, the clever or the coward. This time, however, Mr. Frederickson was a bit of both.

  His pudgy cheeks were red from the warmth in the car and probably the excessive coughing from the cigar he was smoking. Wrapped around a few of his fingers were rings, mostly big and gaudy ones, and what little hair he had, was perched on top of his head like a little bird unable to escape. Scarlet almost laughed at the sight of him, but she had learned a while ago that it was usually a bad thing to laugh at one's client.

  Thence ensued the short conversation with Mr. Frederickson discussing the terms of the arrangement. Above all, he wanted things quiet. This man didn't want unhealthy attention directed at himself, and that’s why he was hiring Scarlet.

  Scarlet had agreed after a bit of lightning deliberation on her part. She wasn’t particularly fond of Mr. Frederickson, especially with all of his huffing and yelling, and she never liked it when someone had to yell to even get a “how do you do?” across. Overbearing and impolite, Scarlet would generally turn someone like him down right away, but she already had her suspects, she needed the money, and it seemed like relatively easy pickings.
So with a sigh, Scarlet had agreed.

  Currently she was almost regretting that choice. Fine mess it had landed her in, that’s for sure, but on the other hand, Raphael Pendragon seemed like someone she could get along with. Maybe this wasn’t so bad after all… Of course, there was still the problem of figuring out Mr. Frederickson and the advance pay he had given her.

  Still, having heard everything Raphael had told her and comparing everything Mr. Frederickson had, aligning their characters and traits as well, she would much rather be on Raphael’s side. Half grimacing and half smiling, Scarlet leaned forward as well, and said, “You absolutely may divulge secret information to me, Mr. Raphael Pendragon, even though I haven’t the foggiest idea why you would possibly trust me with it.”

  Raphael laughed, “I had a feeling you were more than your intentions, and I seem to have been right! I’m just glad I could persuade you.” He leaned back in his chair, fingers steepling on his knee, and continued, “Tonight, Miss Hope, there will be fireworks.”

Scarlet paused, leaning back also, and wondered at the relevancy of this. “… Fireworks…, Mr. Pendragon?”

“Please, do call me Raff, and yes, indeed.” His eyes sparkled when he said, “Fireworks.”

“If you’ll have me call you Raff, Mr. Pendragon, than you must remember to call me Scar, and I’m afraid I’m still baffled. Are fireworks at a circus so secret?”

“Ahh, I understand your confusion…, Scar,” he grinned, “but maybe it will help if I tell you that yes, there will be fireworks at my circus tonight, but at our good friend Mr. Frederickson’s house, there will be… shall we say, figurative fireworks.”

  It took a moment for a smile to also curl Scarlet’s lips, but when it did, she leaned forward once more and questioned, “You have a plan, then?”

A mysterious nod and an explanation ensued.


  It was late and dark outside. Above, the new moon was even darker than the rest of the sky, and the stars sparkled with life, watching in anticipation. You wouldn’t have seen her, but a girl with vibrant red hair and sparkling green eyes stood before the massive front door of a house that had seen more than one renovation. She slipped an envelope through the mail latch and rang the doorbell, a smile playing at the edges of her mouth as she disappeared into the night.

  Mr. James was an old man who had been Mr. Frederickson’s butler for far too long, and this night was special. It was his twentieth anniversary working for Mr. Frederickson, and in spite of this, he hadn't gotten so much as a "Good job, keep it up." So he was going to leave without notice and find a job elsewhere, possibly as a cobbler. Still, walking by the door with his suitcase in hand and hat on his head, he couldn’t help but notice the letter that fell through the mail latch on the front door. He paused a moment, considering, especially after the doorbell rang, and, with a sigh, he set down his suitcase, took off his hat, and opened the door.

  Of course there was no one there. Mr. James frowned in annoyance and picked up the letter. It was addressed to Mr. Frederickson with no return address. Shrugging, Mr. James figured he would do this one last deed for Mr. Frederickson, give him one more chance to acknowledge him before he left for good, and took him the letter upstairs.

  Mr. Frederickson was sitting in his dressing gown, paging through a magazine when Mr. James announced the envelope. He was ushered in, and the letter was gotten. Mr. James stood there for a moment mefore Mr. Frederickson noticed him, and demanded he leave him in peace immediately. 
With a simple, "It will be my pleasure, sir," Mr. James left Mr. Frederickson forever.

  Mr. Frederickson, on the other hand, was peeved at receiving a letter and not even knowing who sent it. With a huff and a growl, he tore open the envelope and groped inside until his beady eyes squinted, and he yanked out a small piece of paper with a short inscription on it. The scrap read the following:

Dear Mr. Frederickson,

  I don't suppose you have the foggiest idea whom this is from, do you? Or possibly, if I know you at all, you have a nagging sensation in the back of your mind who it must be sending you a note at this time of night. Your most recent investment gone wrong, perhaps? Maybe the somewhat unprofessional, fiery red-headed seventeen-year-old you hired recently?  Yes, that's it, now you've figured it out, haven't you. It's Scarlet here, and I've come to tell you that your plot has been revealed.  
Ahh, it was a smart little scheme, bribing Doctor Jones to fake your blood reports, but I just today acquired a friend…. The thing is, Mr. Frederickson, he’s a clever man, far cleverer than yourself, and-

  Mr. Frederickson scowled at the sound of the doorbell ringing for a second time that night, but knew that moron butler Jame-something-or-other would open the door. If Mr. James had any brains at all,  he would shoo the unwelcome guests away, demanding they return at a decent hour. Hence, Mr. Frederickson only paused to mutter and scowl at the sound, and returned to the despicable little note that thought itself so witty.

You are in trouble. That's right... it didn't take much convincing when one has a few lions and tigers to back oneself up. You're entirely baffled, aren't you? I do apologize, but fear not. Things will be very clear and very simple, and rather... routine for you shortly.

Ding- dong, Ding-Dong, Ding-dong...

  Mr. Frederickson howled at that deaf James fellow to answer the bloody door, but the sound of the doorbells continued. 

  Groaning at the unprofessionalism of everyone he met, Mr. Frederickson finally heaved himself up, knowing nothing ever got done unless he did it himself, and, storming out of his room, he continued reading the note.

Was that a doorbell? I'm sure it has rung by now. 

He stomped down the stairs, muttering under his breath a whole slew of foul things.
My new friend- the one with the tigers- he had a talk with your Doctor Jones. They came to an agreement, those two. What will you do, I wonder? Will you even have a chance to run? Somehow I doubt it..., but it will be fun to see you squirm. You see,-

He reached the door, and, not looking up, he unlatched it, and swung it open, howling, "What do you want!" as he read the last few words on the the scrap.
That will be the police at your doorstep.

Mr. Frederickson looked up like startled fish into the eyes of blue-clad gentleman with handcuffs ready to click into place.

"Mr. Frederickson? You're under arrest..."


  Scarlet laughed; she couldn't help it. The expression on Mr. Frederickson's face was almost priceless. She and Raphael were nearby, watching the scene at Mr. Frederickson's front door. They already knew there would be a lot of writhing and shouting, but this was even better than either of them would have thought.

Chuckling, Raphael said, "You don't see that every day, do you?" Mr Frederickson actually managed to get away from the cops for a few seconds, and ran madly until he was tackled by half-a-dozen of them and dragged back to one of the cars and stuffed in.

  "No, you surely don't!" Scarlet was grinning from ear to ear as Mr. Frederickson was driven away, and the sound of sirens began to fade. She glanced at her comrade, and said, "Raphael Pendragon... I'd like to thank you. Not just for the fun, but for letting me be a part of it and not turning me in, either. That was brilliant."

"Believe me, the pleasure was all mine." He grinned, taking the procured hand and shaking it warmly. "I had a feeling about you, and I have no doubt we'll meet again someday soon."

"You know what?" Scarlet said, "I'm looking forward to that day." She returned the grin, and both of them turned to watch the fireworks exploding in brilliant colors in the distance.