Completed Lurch and Level

Speak no ill of the dead

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A city floating in the center of a lake, Ravok is a place of dark beauty, romance and culture. Behind it all though is the presence of Rhysol, God of Evil and Betrayal. The city is controlled by The Black Sun, a religious organization devoted to Rhysol. [Lore]

Lurch and Level

Postby Caspian on March 1st, 2020, 12:53 am

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    15 Winter 519
“You want me to do what, now?” Caspian asks, crossing one leg over the other at a jaunty angle, fingers tapping a curious melody against the bar.
Perched in clear discomfort on the adjacent barstool, Telemius Powell, accountant and 32 years of age, straightens his glasses and continues to cradle his tankard of ale, the largely unsipped contents of which threaten to spill under his close ministrations. “I – humbly request, that through the facilities and services as assumed of your professional sector, and as according to the delineations supplied by your sister, that you attend the funeral of my late great-uncle Padrius Powell, and in the course of your surveillance determine the approximately precise location of the chest of mizas and Powell family heirlooms that he has left behind.”

At once, Caspian bursts out laughing, doubling over to clutch his knees. When his laughter subsides, he dares swig from his tankard – only to succumb to cackling uproariously, and subsequently choke on his drink.

“Sorry, I actually – “ Caspian sighs, stifles another fit. Grins widely at the other bar patrons who are now looking over, their expressions ranging from befuddlement to communal mirth. “I most certainly heard you the first time. I just wanted to be sure.”

Telemius regards him dubiously, but doesn’t seem offended – which is a sad thing to consider, maybe, that he’s quite used to people laughing openly at him.

“So, just to make sure we’re on the same page – One, my sister acknowledged that she is, in fact, my sister. For the most part she pretends otherwise, I think out of sheer embarrassment. Two, your uncle Paddy left treasure, actual buried treasure? Please tell me there’s a riddle and a rhyme involved? And three – oh gods, I don’t really have a third. But you said you want me skulking about at a funeral? And who am I meant to play at said funeral, exactly? Supposing someone asks how I knew the dearly departed?”

“I hadn’t thought of that,” Telemius admits.

“How close is your family, then? How affable was the old gent? I could be craven cousin Paxton, Paxton Powell. Or someone else entirely – yes, I think that’s safer. Did he have any habits?”

“Habits?” Telemius frowns.

“Did he – I don’t know, have an enthusiasm for anything in particular? His cravats, his shoe polish, the wines in his cellar?”

“He could get very particular about his poppers.”

Caspian stares – then bursts out laughing once more, this time enough to make Telemius flush and the bartender wearily sigh.

“If you aren’t interested – “ Telemius begins.

“On the contrary. Let’s have it, then, the when and where’s?”

Telemius tells him. And casts a wary eye of his suit, which today has materialized magically as a wall of fringe, all the way from his lapels down to hems of his flared slacks, in a gradient of lavender to deep aubergine. “If it’s not too much to ask – “ Telemius starts. “ – but could you please wear black?”

Caspian claps him on the back, waves the bartender over to refill his glass. “You’ve made my day, darling. Consider it done.”

Whatever anxieties Telemius had been accumulating seem to lyse from him now, and in sheer relief he takes up his tankard with both hands, polishing off its contents in time for the bartender to ask if he’d also like another round.
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Lurch and Level

Postby Caspian on April 17th, 2020, 12:35 am

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    18 Winter 519
Caspian’s favorite time of the day is - well, it depends on the season, but on average it’s something like half past five bells in the afternoon, with the sun on comfortably measured descent into the dark waters of Ravok’s lake; the previous night’s hangover and high quelling themselves enough for him to have forgotten their trials, and gear up for another round; and plenty of the city awake and leisurely milling about for his steady supply of amusement.

In stark contrast, his least favorite time of day is some twelve bells prior, which seems to be Taalviel’s ideal hour for rousing. The event would be less offensive if it didn’t carry so strongly the smack of her intentionally trying to needle him precisely where she knows it would hurt most - not only is it the hour where he’s least likely to bear any empathy for anyone except himself and how dearly he feels for the comforts of his bed, but on his best nights he would have just thrown himself into said bed, only an hour or two prior, with the remnants of his eyeliner streaked down his cheekbones and the raucousness of the last tavern he’d dropped into yet ringing in his ears. Balmy exhaustion is the deepest, most satisfying sleep he knows - and naturally, once he enjoys something, Taalviel quite readily sets out to wreck it.

Three days after carousing with Telemius Powell - or had it been carousing at? - Caspian feels he’s only just shut his eyes when Taalviel rolls over and jabs him sharply on the nose.

It had been a bit of blur, and more than a bit alarming - he’d been dreaming, and somehow an entire fictional saga of him wandering through endless woods strewn with tinsel and bulbous cages of winking fireflies, only to be gallantly challenged to a duel by a trouser-less Thancerell, had squeezed itself into the precious moments between allowing sleep to overtake him, and the unholy hour at which Taalviel had decided enough was enough.

In the dream, Thancerell had gutted him. It hadn’t been a nightmare, with the pair of them laughing through the blow, and the caged fireflies had swung upon the tinsel like temple bells on holy mornings. Thancerell had gone so far as to twist the knife where it stuck from Caspian’s solar plexus, and blood had gushed from him like a wine barrel generously tapped, then like jellied berries from a cracked glass jar.

Being struck on the nose at precisely the moment dream-Thancerell had gone in for the killing blow has him jerking back wildly, tangling in his sheets.

“Wh-ah-why?” he grumbles, slapping in her general direction.

“You’re to be with the Powells in two bells,” his sister says flatly, figure and features inscrutable in the gray lighting.

“To be clear, my aggressive actions and tone of voice are not because I mind you sleeping in my bed without warning. I am aggressive because you have no decency about it. Can’t you see I’m bone dead?”

Though he already knows he’s no match for her relentlessness, he casts the sheets over him tightly over his head and turns sharply away, in full suggestion that he’d prefer to be mummified than prolong their interaction.

“I did warn you,” she quips, “when you tried to get in, but you missed and hit the floor.”

Ah. So that’s why his knee’s throbbing.

He mumbles something to the effect of wellthanksforlookingout.

She prods his in the kidneys. “Two bells,” she repeats, like that’s supposed to mean something.

“Right, and you couldn’t let me have one of the two to rest because...?”

“Because it takes you one to get ready, and also because we should get there before everyone else. And scope out?” She throws out the last part incredulously, as if explaining to a toddler that one miza plus two mizas equals a tin of mackerel, a pint of ale and a good fistful of chewing tobacco, if one knows where to look.

“‘We’?” He’s awake now.

Taalviel soundlessly slips out of bed, down and over the footboard. He allows himself a brief moment of optimism, in which he might pretend that she’s had her fill of fun and will leave him be - but something lands on his head, starting to smother with the sheet already wrapped round.

It’s his magical suit, gray and wilted in the dark.

“You said ‘we’?” he repeats when she doesn’t reply, and is instead busily rifling through the closet. “Taalviel -

“What are you afraid of?”

He’s not afraid, he’s just -

He’s getting up now, is what he is.

Luckily for the both of them, he hadn’t really drank very much last night - he’d found a new salon, the poetry-and-punch kind, and the hostess had served something warm and creamy and spiced, and he’d been wholly content to sip and listen. The last reading had ended at a fairly respectable hour, and he might have gone home and had a proper night’s rest - and when was the last time he’d had one of those? - but over the course of the evening he’d been making eyes at a starry gent whose writing seemed to be most potently inspired by the idea of fruit in decay, and one thing had led to another, and then it was very exceptionally late and he’d decided he’d rather endure the irritations after present over the rigmarole of scurrying away in the morning.

So all in all, he’s intact, at least relative to the dilapidated state he might have easily brought on if he hadn’t been so - again, relatively - wholesome. Blearily, he throws on his magical suit, washes his face in the basin, and ignores his sister when she clucks in disapproval at how long it takes him to draw on his eyeliner.

“Now, Padrius Powell had two sisters-“

“Yes, one deceased and one disinterested, which in this case, the pecuniary one, are effectively the same thing. Dear employer Telemius descends from neither branch, but instead from the second of Padrius’ three wives, who was his aunt, and kicked the bucket when she’d accidentally overturned a crate of stinging nettles, and succumbed to a frightful allergic reaction. Of course, the whole thing had been so sudden and unexpected that one openly suspects foul play - I mean, the third wife had moved in so immediately - and the problem there is that she’s both alive and keen about it. And so we’ve to find the treasure for Telemius before she rifles through to it first. What?” Caspian breaks their near-silent padding over the cobblestone streets to kick a pebble into the nearest canal, growing pink with the dawning sun. “I ticked down a whole list of productive items once Telemius got into his third ale. And I met someone last night who knows the family, and was glad to gossip. I gad about with purpose these days, you know.”

In response - better and more meaningful to them both than any embrace - Taalviel knocks the next rock into the canal with a merry splash.

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Lurch and Level

Postby Caspian on May 21st, 2020, 4:47 am

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    “I feel like the first one had a bit more - I don’t know, oomph to it?”

    Caspian stares.

    He’s just never heard his sister employ the term oomph before.

    He’s not sure if he likes it.

    “Alright, well -“ He screws up his face, exhales the person he usually is in exchange for another. “I’m Marcus Matterly,” he recites with a toss of his hair, “and old Paddy-Pat played baccarat with my great grandfather on first-weekends. We were invited up to the Powell residence quite often. Oh, you don’t recognize us? Don’t we even vaguely come to mind?” The conceived Marcus Matterly is based loosely on a grime-nosed youth he’d once been accustomed to seeing on a street corner not far from the house where they’d grown up in Sunberth. He sold decent tobacco in slim embossed envelopes and refurbished leather-wound pipes, and sometimes stacks of newspapers. Hawking wares was of no import but Caspian couldn’t help but notice him - there was a peculiar degree of cleanliness beneath all the smog, as if he’d only recently stood below a beaten rug, and a prevailing sense of haughtiness in the pronouncement of his humble goods. He gave off the air of someone trying very much to cling to the remnants of the life he’d had before, and it was all a load of guesswork with Caspian buying a slip of tobacco just the once, but the fact remained that his shirt sleeves were made of taffeta and still had a hint of lustre, and the buckles on his shoes were hewn too heavily to have been meant for any amount of manual labor. It was the hair toss, really - and the boy in Sunberth had been blond beneath his cap, likely blonder - if not for what seemed a recent fall from grace.

    This in mind, he sweeps his hair back and treats his sister to another look for good measure.

    She frowns slightly.

    “No?” Caspian sighs. “Well, we’re almost there, and I’m running out of bits.”

    “Then you should have prepared more,” she replies, as if it’s just as simple as that. “Oh, go back to the other one, then.”

    “You want me to play a Powell? You don’t think it’ll be more suspicious when they point out I’m not on the family tree?”

    “Some people are borrowed. Others are adopted. And yet others find their way in.”

    Is that a dig at him? He’s still not properly awake yet and doesn’t have the fortitude to find out.

    The location for the service is fairly conspicuous, with grandly woven arrangements of Lakeshore lilies and marsh grasses to guide the way. They get there early, as intended, balk and patrol the semi-circle of their premises at the water’s edge.

    No one’s here yet save for the acolytes accompanying the priest likely to be giving the last rites. Taalviel’s eyes move swiftly, committing their faces to memory; Caspian does the same, though he knows she’s naturally more of a mind for it, and they’ll compare notes later. They take a side street away, giving a few blocks’ berth to kill time. No matter the roles they end up playing, it’s doubtful either would be so pivotal that they’d reasonably and conspicuously end up arriving at the funeral first.

    Caspian’s stomach grumbles. Taalviel glares.

    “What? You hassled me out the door. And you know how death gets me going.”

    The iconographic harbinger herself evidently doesn’t find it very amusing. But as with the opening oomph, it seems she’s capable of some variation, keeping her critiques to a bare minimum when he buys a hearty handful of dried stone fruit and ground marsh hash from a yawning young woman behind a street stall.

    “What do you want me to do with your body? You know, when you die?”

    Taalviel blinks at him. Shakes her head when he offers her the fruit.

    “What?” he demands when she continues to silently compute. “You must have thought about it, even once.”

    “Yes. Once,” she replies simply.

    He believes her.

    “I’ll throw you a party,” he goes on. “A real swinger. It’ll be me and Sati and Thancerell, and even Telemius Powell, since you two have hit it off so well.”

    “Are you jealous?”

    They’re turning a corner, headed back towards the funeral by the docks.

    Jealous?” he replies, aghast. “You’re my sister.”

    “Yes, so -“ She turns her dark eyes unflinchingly towards him. “-are you jealous of Telemius Powell?”

    Sometimes he can’t tell whether Taalviel is the way she is because she isn’t human; most of the time he determines in the end that her behavior is too many parts self-aware and volitional, or in other words, she likes being difficult just for the fun of it.

    “Chin up,” she says, more towards his actual posture than his emotional well-being. “We’ve watching to do.”

    Beneath the confines of his black suit and even blacker cravat, Caspian rolls his neck, decides how he’s going to roll his r’s. Lets everything irritating him this morning roll off his shoulders.

    Marcus Matterly, he decides in the split second before he accepts a program from an acolyte and shakes a grieving distant cousin’s hand. He’s Marcus Matterly here, and Padrius Powell really had a thing for poppers before he passed.
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    Lurch and Level

    Postby Caspian on May 24th, 2020, 11:06 pm

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      It becomes very obvious he doesn’t know the words to this song.

      The rites have an opening number, to which the priest and his acolytes one-two step all the way down the dock. Had the late Padrius Powell been especially devout? Maybe they should have done their research; more research, it’s not like he did zero. Telemius hadn’t mentioned it during their consultation, as one could professionally refer. Between Rhysol and poppers, the latter appeared to have had old Powell’s heart.

      So he just doesn’t know this song, then. It’s hard to follow and he thinks the tonic note is two-maybe-three half-steps pressed on the second highest string on his violin. The program he’d been handed isn’t very illustrative. Suppose he just doesn’t go to enough funerals to be familiar with the repertoire.

      Across the aisle, Telemius Powell is resolutely not looking at him. Taalviel had disappeared ages ago, to his great irritation, and having grown imminently bored with the absence of any interesting outfits in the congregation - numbering precisely 51. See, he is working - he’d taken to airily calling the four pitches of his instrument’s open strings to mind and contemplating whether any might slot themselves comfortably into what’s now the third song in a row that he isn’t familiar with.

      Caspian’s distracted by a young woman brushing up beside Telemius to whisper something in the most intimate of fashions in his ear. It’s then, with dread dropping in his gut like a rucksack of stones upon cobble, that he realizes said young woman is his missing sister.

      How long has she been by Telemius’ side? Longer than he’ll admit to her later - and surrounded by the more intimate ring of the family too, no doubt? She’d been almost entirely unrecognizable. For one thing, she’s smiling right now, and not that half-baked rictus he’s caught her practicing in his mirror. It’s a small little slip playing at the edges of her mouth, subdued by an appropriate amount of purported grief as the occasion warrants. Whatever she’s just murmured to Telemius was certainly warm, and helpful - possibly even nurturing. He had been so worked up getting to the bottom of the idea of Marcus Matterly that he hadn’t thought to interrogate her on what in the world she’d had in mind for her own involvement.

      And it’s quite-a-bit, dare he say sort-of-much involvement, from the looks of things.

      It’s just -

      Has he ever seen his Kelvic half-sister hold hands with anyone, ever?

      ”Okay, but did you know she’s a bird?” he nearly hisses in Telemius’ ear when he sidles up to them during their mass processional (recessional?) to a nearby home for the reception.

      At a warning look from Taalviel - yes, all murderous intent, now there’s the sister he knows - he hangs back. Bites his tongue. Follows her eyes pointedly glaring at a primly postured woman to their general right.

      The woman’s wearing black, like everyone else, with burgundy ribbon trim at her waist and sleeves. But around her neck -

      Gleaming with opalescent might is a lovely pendant, a brilliantly smooth stone twirling freely within a frame of golden wire.

      A Powell family heirloom, maybe, one of the several he’s meant to locate?

      Taalviel doesn’t care if she upsets him; she must have indicated the woman for that very reason, and not as a means to keep him from pestering Telemius.

      At the reception, Caspian fills a goblet near to the brim from the bowl of punch, strategically places himself at the woman’s side, and tries to remember that wide sweeping of the arm Thancerell tends to throw out when he sheepishly scratches the back of his head.
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      Lurch and Level

      Postby Caspian on June 3rd, 2020, 1:51 am

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        It’s unfortunately lost on everyone how perfectly timed Caspian’s intentional sloshing of his drink had been - right on the second downbeat of the second bar of the second song played by the splinter of the ensemble that had performed during the outdoor rites. Thancerell’s always been straightforward to impersonate - he just takes up so much room, with the hurly-burly pronouncements he has in place of manners. When one spends one’s free time traipsing through brush and briar on the Lakeshore, confinements like furniture and indoor voices and the appropriate radius at which to hold one’s elbows are understandably negligible. So with a Thancerell-esque fling of his own elbow, which he’s witnessed several times in real time, he splatters the edges of the woman’s hemlines with the contents of his goblet. Not enough to cause a scene-stealing scandal, but sufficient to draw her undivided attention.

        The look she gives him is -

        Not entirely what he’d been expecting. He thought she’d be angrier, for one thing, and he’d braced himself against the possibility of a slap.

        What he had not anticipated is her eyes suddenly brimming with tears, as if she’d forgotten why she was here, and he had been the one to break the news.

        Without so much as a word to him, she clutches at her stained skirts and whirls out of the room.

        From the far corner of the room, clearly sewn into the Powells’ inner circle vis-a-vis what now appears to be semi-permanent attachment to Telemius’ arm, Taalviel shoots Caspian a look like lightning (and on the next beat turns to a cousin arguably much too giddy and flounced for the occasion, to exchange a titter and a smile, but he’ll have to sort out that abomination later).

        With no one’s eyes upon him, he slips from the room and out into a heavily carpeted hallway adorned with dark chandeliers. Had he lingered to glare back at his sister, he would have been a beat behind, and missed the swishing of the woman’s skirts into a room four doors down.

        This room is lined with plush, jade green, absorbing the sounds of his footfalls and rendering the woman’s skirts into gentle, cozying brushings. She doesn’t notice him immediately, so all-encompassing are the furnishings, aided by his reverting, out of habit, into a skulking slide meant to avoid detection.

        Soundlessly, he shuts the door behind him, padding forward on careful glide. A haze seems to hang about the room, a soft little storm of cosmetics and years of daily spritzes from gilded bottles of perfume.

        “Oh!” she exclaims upon finally seeing him, one hand flying to cover her mouth and the other to her chest - no, to the gleaming pendant hanging there.

        Very dear to her, the expensive adornment- or is it very new, and meriting an excess of caution at its handling?

        “Sorry, I -“ He holds his hands up in mock surrender, brandishing one of his embroidered, gold-trimmed handkerchiefs. “I was terribly clumsy out at the reception. I only wanted to offer my deepest apologies, and if you can stomach it, what meager assistance I can offer you in rectification.”

        The faint blush that had risen to her cheeks grows more apparent. Now that they’re alone, he realizes she’s younger than previously estimated, that the rigidness of her bearing was not one of severity, but of a fineness of poise and rearing.

        “I’m Marcus. Marcus Matterly,” he goes on, before losing his nerve - which seems, somehow, teetering more closely than it should into possibility here, as if the sumptuousness of his surroundings, of the young woman regarding him with deep sapphire eyes threatening to well over again with tears have over him an intoxicating sway.

        “I do want to apologize,” he continues when she still says nothing. “It was fiendishly boorish of me not to watch where I was going - I promise I’m not drunk, just regrettably clumsy. And not very good in crowds.”

        That last part - he doesn’t have to add it, but he’s seen it done before, the collection of camaraderie through shared shortcoming. It’s meant to put the other party at ease if you bare your neck - and from the way she had not quite mingled nor had chatted and certainly had not gossiped with anyone else at the funeral, he’s wondering if it’s something with which she can identify.

        For several long moments they go on staring at each other in silence. With the door shut, the hangings heavy and the room so thickly dolled, he can’t hear the rest of the reception unless he really strains. Just as he’s about to pipe up again -

        “You do a lot of talking about apologizing, Marcus, but I’ve yet to see the actual thing,” she says accusingly, bitingly, with a succinct crossing of her arms. “I’m Nicolette.”

        “I’m very sorry, Nicollete,” he says, sweeping forward, “for ruining your gown, and then being an ass about it.”

        A smile breaks out on the corners of her lips.

        Almost there, then?

        “It’s a lovely thing - and I hate that I’ve gone and spoiled it -“

        Maybe it’s too much - but he does it anyway. Handkerchief in hand, he gestures emphatically and uselessly at the hem of her gown. Stoops and finds himself kneeling there, blots until the linen is a deep wine red, while the black of her gown, if he hadn’t known it as the culprit, appears not to have suffered in the slightest. The absurdity of what he’s tried to do occurs to him sharply, cutting through the mask of Marcus Matterly - who’s not the brightest thing, and not exactly shameless but not self-aware enough to know when he needn’t have bothered. He laughs softly, there on the soporific floors, and above him she begins to laugh as well, the hems of her dress trembling like spring rushes beneath a zephyr’s ministrations.

        Handkerchief dyed red, fingertips and palm steeped in it, he glances up -

        Finds himself held there by her gaze alone.

        “So...” she begins softly, the delicate bowing of her lips drawing out the word as if the most braided and royal of pronouncements, “...how did you say you knew my uncle, Mr. Matterly?”

        “I, ah -“ The beat of the room, the breath itself in his lungs seems to stopper in his chest. Still on his knees, he clears his throat, feels heat rise across his skin. With a flourish, he draws aside his dark suit jacket, revealing a collection of flimsy, gustless sacks pinned there. “Might I interest you in a popper?”

        Her face flushes scarlet.

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        Lurch and Level

        Postby Caspian on June 27th, 2020, 11:29 pm

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          Though it would have been the smart thing to navigate this exchange without dipping into his own supply - how’s that meant to be managed, exactly, when he’s in such close quarters?

          And they get even closer, him and Nicolette, tucked snugly side by side on a chaise lounge by the window meant for one.

          With his left hand he traces down into the dips of her bodice, forgetting for a moment there’s a body in it, so transfixed does he become with the alternation of numbness and hypersensitivity of his fingertips against the fabric. From his right hand, cast at haphazard angle, waves the popper he’d just taken like a limp banner.

          On the floor beside them are one-two - three? No, four more, like strange, spent translucent socks.

          She begins giggling, suddenly. Hiccups that turn uproarious for a split second, abruptly stifled when she remembers that they’re aren’t, in fact, entirely exactly alone, and that a mere dozen feet away are several someone’s in mourning.

          “That feels good,” she says, shivering beneath his hand.

          Right, yes. He’d been interfacing with more than the sartorial. A headache’s starting between his eyes, one that he had staved off with the last few poppers, but each time had returned with a vengeance.

          She’s turning over to face him now, which without their whirling highs might have been a cumbersome decision, but here he sinks and melts to accommodate as needed, as plush as the floors and the draperies.

          “I like you,” she says.

          “I like you too,” he replies, every practiced mode of supplication kicking in, and he watches his roving hand dally higher to stroke her hair. It’s someone else doing it, someone steady and warm and bright; and it’s another someone who wonders, idly, where his sister is now, and if she’s pressed up against Telemius Powell just as he is with Nicolette. “You don’t think anyone’s wondering where we’ve gone off to?” he asks.

          “Let them wonder,” she says with a sigh. “Wondering is free.”

          And that seems a capital idea, bested only by her suggestion that they pop another. As he digs into his suit jacket - and his supply’s running low, he’d only bought enough so he’d have sufficient props on hand, hadn’t expected to actually use them - she says, “I suppose I’m a bit surprised we’ve never met before. We - haven’t, have we?”

          He freezes mid-shuffle - but her gaze has ambled off to the wallpapers, as delightedly distracted as he is when he lets the effects of the poppers take too much hold.

          “No,” he says, before another tick of silence might betray him. “...I’d certainly never forget a face like yours.”

          And that, as she proves with her throwing her arms about him, is apparently the very right thing to say.

          She takes the next popper with gusto.

          Before his own can lull him under, he toys with the pendant around her neck, which Taalviel has pointed out to him after the ceremony, the catalyst for his tailing her in the first place.

          “Lovely bit n’ bob,” he says, keeping his tone light. “Don’t know if I’ve seen anything like it.”

          “I’ve got more,” she says, preening beneath his attentions. “At home, though. ...will you come with?”

          And that, he might have smugly declared to anyone (read: Taalviel) within earshot, is how you get it done.

          He marks the occasion with a Marcus-esque sweep of his hair to the side.

          WC: 577
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          Last edited by Caspian on September 26th, 2020, 4:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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          Caspian
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          Lurch and Level

          Postby Caspian on August 29th, 2020, 9:55 pm

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            The moment Nicolette’s affectionate meanderings peter off into murmurings, then to fluff and silence, and her breathing steadies to a rhythmic rise and fall, Caspian, with his arm yet curled around her side, begins counting. First to thirty - but he gets there sooner than he should, and the moment of breaking from her is a critical one he shouldn’t rush. So he starts again, ignores his heart fluttering ahead in the anticipation that usually accompanies when he’s about to do something he shouldn’t. Maybe it’s just that he can’t believe it’s gone so well and so soon, infiltrating the lead suspect for the Powell’s missing jewels, but it seems at any moment ready to reveal itself as being, after all, too good to be true, and that things might turn on him in an instant.

            It’s ridiculous, though, to badger himself for no good reason other than the indulgence of paranoia. He deserves good things, doesn’t he? Even if born under the unluckiest star, wouldn’t something still go right every now and then? So let this be one of those times - let him, when he rolls away, do so without consequence, and Nicolette’s slumber undisturbed.

            He gets his wish, slinking from under the heavy duvet and out of the confines of her four-poster bed with only the barest of creaks. Though maybe it would have happened even without his practiced finesse - after the six poppers she’d taken with gusto, she’d led him to bed with a bottle of sherry, and hadn’t noticed that he hadn’t reached for it with nearly less than half the frequency.

            Padding across the room - the floorboards noisier than he’d expected, sending him wincing with every telltale step - he spotted the necklace Nicolette had unclasped after imbibing a third of the contents of the bottle, and had rather carelessly tossed onto the nightstand. Impulse has him reaching for it - but it would be a small, paltry, and short-lived victory were he to steal away with it. Firstly, it was just one of several treasures Nicolette and any other familiar accomplices might have stolen; secondly, though sleeping so deeply he might have shattered dinnerware and still not waken her, she’d not been so far gone that she would have forgotten leaving the necklace there, with he the obvious guilty party should it suddenly disappear.

            With one eye surreptitiously watching for the even the slightest movement from the prone Nicolette, he searches through a chest of drawers, glances swiftly through her closet, rifles through her vanity.

            This yields him nothing. There’s a few shiny bits, sure, but they’re all clearly her own, with none of the gaudy, flashy grandeur that had drawn Taalviel’s and then his eye to her the ruby necklace.

            This is possibly a bit more than the bop-and-go he’d assumed it would be, and might take a touch longer to sort out than he’d initially anticipated.

            Something so precious, though - the value itself ascribed perhaps from its being acquired by illicit means - she’d want to keep it close, wouldn’t she? And not necessarily on fully public display, should family seeking their cut of the late Powell estate pass through. Though -

            He glances back at the nightstand.

            It says something, doesn’t it, if she’d been brazen enough to wear it to the funeral.

            Though he’s rattled around a fair bit, she still hasn’t moved. Holding his breath, he tests the handle on the bedroom door. It gives easily, and shutting it softly behind him, he finds himself alone in a dark and narrow hallway, a plush red carpet beneath his feet.

            There are other bedrooms - but there must be other people, and subsequently very likely in them. He counts five more doors on this floor; with Nicolette’s, that’s six, though at this point he’s not able to tell if each has a bathroom in-suite. Assuming the worst, then - so that’s six people maximum he’ll have to contend with, possibly seven if someone’s got a spouse. Because this isn’t her house, is it? At least not quite yet, not in deed. She can’t be very much older than him - or is she? He frowns as he traverses the hallway, chasing the scattered recollection of their day together. His temples feel rather full, like everything from the poppers hadn’t entirely left him on the exhales, and had instead collected inside his skull. This is rather basic, isn’t it? Whether or not she has one or both parents?

            Perhaps he’d overdone it after all; it’s just that she had been so ready and willing to do so much, and to be honest, he’s never really been one for poppers. The high is a fleeting one, but wears one down at a peculiar pace, as it’s doing to him now; and things aren’t exactly foggy so much as fuzzed and he’s got something zappy still going on with his extremities.

            There’s one more door at the end of the hallway, which he hadn’t noticed when he’d begun. It’s slightly ajar, while the others had been tightly shut, a blue light filtering through. With prophetic gesture he sweeps forward - this, surely, must be it; and if not, it surely is at least something. He’s got one hand on the knob when he suddenly senses someone behind him.

            “Lost, Marcus?”

            He turns swiftly, blood running cold.

            Nicolette stands before him in the dark, the hint of a smile on her face illuminated by the blue slash of light.

            “Bit - turned around, I suppose,” he stutters.

            She holds out her hand.

            Ice in his veins, he finds no other option but to take it.

            She leads him back to bed, and he counts in sets of thirty until dawn.

            WC: 960

            LEDGER: 6 poppers x 6 = - 36 GM]
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            Caspian
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