July 29, 2017 at 5:33 am #1579
Caroline held her hand for Alfie to sniff without reservation, then patted him on the head when he was done, apparently completely fine with the beast. She followed, accepting Alyce’s arm, to the dining room. She didn’t seem concerned when Alyce talked about knowing more than the good stuff. After all, what bad stuff was there to know? Outside of stuff pretty much any teenager – or young college student – all around the world did, she hadn’t done anything she was really ashamed of or wanted to hide.
She seemed a bit surprised when Michel helped her sit, but handled herself well enough. When prompted, she seemed a bit reluctant to talk so soon, but complied ”There’s an easy answer to that question, and that would be that I’m here, when ‘someone else’ isn’t. Just that makes me a pretty compelling option.” She shrugged, taking a bite of her plate, before continuing ”So I suppose your question is more along the lines of ‘why should I bring you at all?‘. But that’s not a really hard question to answer either, at least assuming that clinic business isn’t the main point of your expedition. First, because I have experience with the jungles of Central America. Maybe not enough to be recruited as a guide or anything, but certainly enough to not be a weight there. Second, because I know how to deal with pretty much any para-critter we could find there. Maybe not all of them, but few would be able to surprise me I think. Third, because in the last year I became something of an expert concerning ancient civilisations of the American continent. Depending on what you want, it may not be of a huge help, but it can’t hurt. Fourth, obviously I’m fluent in French and English, but also in Spanish. Both the ‘normal’ version of it and the Aztlan one.” She paused then, thinking about what she could add, then concluded ”Fifth and finally, I’m a Mage and I know some useful spells as far as explorations are concerned.”July 29, 2017 at 10:16 am #1583
Jacques actually splutters a bit as he eats and Alyce gives him an amused look before turning back to you. ”Well, that is a piece of the good stuff that Jacques did not tell me about. Alright, so would you be interested in going back there as my assistant? I can be a taskmaster and some might tell you that I can be unreasonable. I will expect you to keep me on schedule and let me know if I am about to miss an important meeting. I do not expect you to fill the roll of maid or personal servant, though. I have been doing this a very long time and I think you will find that I can pretty much take care of myself, despite being blind. I also do not expect a yes girl person. I like to get advice and will frequently ask your opinion and will be disappointed if all you do is tell me what you think I want to hear. I am headed out to the airport immediately after the meal so are you ready to go?”
It must be your imagination, but did part of that hydra on her face just move a slight bit?July 29, 2017 at 11:48 am #1584
Caroline frowned for a moment, looking at the Hydra. She shook herself focusing elsewhere as she answered ”I’m not going on the other side of the world just to be an assistant.” She paused slightly, to give more weight to her words, before she resumed ”Had you expected me to be a maid or anything like that, I’d just have left right this instant. My goal for going there is to make headway on my research. At this point, anything else is a side dish.” She wiped her lips and drank a mouthful of her glass ”Maybe the side dish is interesting in and on itself, but since I do not know anything about your goals there, I can hardly judge. I’m not saying I wouldn’t be able to do those things you want. It’s not like keeping a schedule up to date is a taxing task after all. But I will be a researcher first, and anything else will come second.”
She paused, then shrugged ”I hope you’re now reassured that I won’t be a ‘yes girl’. My suitcase is ready, so I can leave directly to the airport.” She paused again, then looked straight at Alyce ”If I accept what you’re proposing.”July 29, 2017 at 12:01 pm #1585
Alyce looks your way and is silent for few moments. ”I think you will find time for your research. Do you mind talking about it? By the way, do you like cello music?”July 29, 2017 at 2:48 pm #1586
Caroline nodded ”I’m sure we’ll have plenty of time for that. As for cello… I suppose? I’m more of a piano girl myself.” She shrugged, as if she were apologising for the lack of originality ”So outside of the most known pieces, like Dvorak’s concerto, I can’t say I know too much about it.”July 30, 2017 at 2:10 am #1590
Alyce looks at you then nods. ”OK, I just want to make a couple of things clear. I said I do not want a yes girl and I do mean that, but I also do not need or want someone who is not willing to help me in my agenda and accept that I am the boss. This is not going to be a paid holiday for you to sit back and work on your own research to the exclusion of what I need to have done. I will agree to give you time for your project, but you have to agree that you are on the expedition to help out and that means that my project actually does come first. If you tell me something about your research project, perhaps I can help with information and time. Can you live with that?”July 31, 2017 at 11:53 am #1604
[Caroline Chapelle – 19:45, Sunday March 21st, 2077 – Cheveux Rouges, Marseilles] #20
Caroline shrugged ”At the moment I don’t know anything about your agenda, except for this clinic business. On which I’ll be of no help at all. And as far as I know, it’s not a paid whatever. I already introduced the things I was looking for – specifically, para-critters whose origins can be dated back to earlier than the 21st century, as proof that Magic was present in ancient times – do you really need an in depth presentation right now? My focus is my research.” She sat back on her chair, taking some time ”I could agree to help you out, after all if you’re bringing me with you, it’s only fair. As long as it’s nothing fishy. But I will not be the trainee to which someone hands out crumbs whenever she has been a good girl, which is the kind of vibe I’m getting here. I’ll not pretend I’m unique, but I do have skills you won’t find easily, so while I may need you more than the opposite, I won’t agree to everything if I feel I won’t be able to do what I have to because I’d be too busy organising reunions or whatever.”
For a moment, she considered adding that she found the simple fact of asking her to do such menials tasks, that pretty much anyone would be able to accomplish, a bit offensive but…Well… She really needed Alyce more than the opposite. So if all it took was to keep an agenda up to date… She could live with that.July 31, 2017 at 12:58 pm #1612
Alyce drums the fingers of her right hand on the table for a few seconds then seems to take a deep breath as she turns her head to Jacques. ”I was under the impression that she was being paid twenty thousand for this job that I was to reimburse you for if she works out. Is that not true?”
Turning her head back to you, she nods a bit. ”Actually, if you go back to what you said, what you told me was that you have experience in the jungles of Central and South America, that you have extensive knowledge of paranormal creatures and ancient civilizations, and that you can speak both Spanish and Aztlaner Spanish. I do not think that you specifically mentioned what your research project is. But let’s not split hairs as I can probably guess.”
She pauses then takes another deep breath. ”It seems that we are about to get off on the wrong foot here and I would like to take a step back and avoid that, if it is possible, so let me start again. I am putting together an expedition that will travel to Bogota. I will be setting up a clinic there as part of a mission to help people in depressed areas, something I happen to believe in very much. Part of my funding is coming from various hospitals and medical philanthropies. I do have another mission, as well. I am not at complete liberty to reveal all of the particulars and, in fact, do not have all of the particulars I need. However, I can tell you that I fully expect to be travelling into Amazonia looking for some specific archaeological site or sites. I intend to conduct additional research on-site in Bogota. Your knowledge of the jungles, creatures, and peoples we might encounter could be quite useful in that research. Your primary responsibility would be to help organize that second expedition by use of your research and anything that you can dig up while in Bogota. Your secondary responsibility will be to conduct your own research, although I believe that you will find that your project and mine will probably dovetail nicely.”
”As to being the trainee who gets breadcrumbs, I certainly hope that you are not a trainee. I have examined your academic record closely as well as the notes published after the conclusion of the expedition you were part of and you come off as an experienced and capable woman. My comments were not meant to antagonize you and I am sorry if you took them that way. I am looking for a person with knowledge of the area and what we might find to assist me in this endeavor and I believe that you might be able to fill that role. I do need to know, though, whether or not you can accept me as the expedition lead and accept my guidance and instructions. The bottom line is that you would be part of an expedition crew and not working solely on your own stuff. I fully expect that you will have more than sufficient time to work on your project, but if there is anything I have learned in over forty years in this business, it is that drek can happen at any time. Consider this, if you will; even if you only get part of your research completed, the expedition will be a plus for you. You will be paid a good bit of money, pick up valuable experience, and will be working with top professionals, all of which can only make your CV look better. So, are you interested or not?”July 31, 2017 at 8:55 pm #1618
“You worthless piece of drek!” my master screamed. My face still stung from the backhand to my right cheek. The blow had sent my slight, 30kg frame crumpling to the floor of the exam room. I curled up into a ball in case he decided to kick me.
While Mr Cruz rarely got this mad at me, I had enough experience to hope no more serious blows would land. Despite my recent failure, as big as it might be for his reputation and bottom line, I knew my value alive was still far too great to kill me even over this. Someone soon would get to buy a “virgin goddess” in full bloom, one with enough magical potential to have a pretty good chance at yielding awoken babies. I was like a calf bought in youth – just feed me until I can be sold for beef.
But then again, why not kick me. He knows I can heal myself…
“Did you think letting her die would somehow make me let you go? Not a chance in hell, brat. I’ll make you regret whatever scheme you dreamed up!”
Answering rationally would just make it harder – I’d learned that. Other kids could whine about the unfairness of life – they weren’t slaves. I can’t heal a corpse. Why Mr Cruz had told the client that I could heal his wife I have no idea. The bastard had never made sense to me ever since I was sold to him half a year ago, but for some reason he thought with enough “inducement” I could pull off the impossible. Even without my chains, mundane and magical, even back in my temple in the village, I wouldn’t have been able to save her.
Seemingly frustrated at my lack of response, the massive man grabbed my left arm and pulled me up and out of the room. I caught the faces of a few staff as I was dragged bodily out of the clinic into the mid-day Bogota sun – downcast eyes…all effort to pretend they didn’t see what was before their eyes.
No one likes to see slaves get treated like slaves. Maybe it’s fear that this fate could befall them. Maybe some people in this accursed city still have a shred of humanity. I honestly can’t say. I’ll have a lot of time to think about it locked up in the trunk of his black sedan…August 1, 2017 at 1:03 am #1619
Even though Senor Cruz has one of the nicest cars in his neighborhood, that by itself does not allow it to miss all the potholes and ruts in the road and you feel every one as you are bumped around in the sweltering trunk. Not for the first time, you wonder just a bit about not healing yourself, what would it be like to just die and go somewhere nice? What would the harm be? Then that part of you that really holds the reins on sanity tells you that you are here for a purpose. That someone needs you here. Your pain will not be for nothing. always you listen to that voice and not the other, but there are times when the other voice makes a lot of sense.
During the trip from back to Senor Cruz’ highrise, the tire jack breaks loose from its straps and strikes you in the head. As you moan in pain, you reach out and take the jack in your hands to move it away from you and the thought comes to you that maybe you could use the jack on Senor Cruz. He would not expect it and you could overpower him and escape. That is when the laughter comes, laughter and wheezing from the dust kicked up in the trunk. Escape to where? No, you were promised a sign and this jack does not feel like a sign. The vision induced by the ceremony had shown you…………………..something. What had it been? You softly curse when you remember that the visions are purposely vague and can have more than one interpretation. You will know the sign when you see it and it certainly is not this tire jack.
When the car stops, you curl up a bit as you hear footsteps crunch on the gravel and voices. Cruz is telling Manuel to take the car around to the compound and lock you away for the night. If there is anyone worse than Senor Cruz, it would be his right hand bastard, Manuel. There is a shift in the car as Manuel gets in and puts it in gear. Before long you know that you are in the tunnel that connects the large hacienda with the slave pens. You know because the tires leave the gravel for dirt and the dim light coming through the crack in the trunk goes away. The car stops and footsteps approach the trunk, then keys rattle and the trunk opens. A bright flashlight momentarily blinds you. Damn, why are you never quite ready for that? The light shines on where you have your hands still on the jack and Manuel grins. You know he is grinning, because his voice tells you.
“And what have we here, little one? You are going to use that jack on Manuel? On your savior?”
Manuel’s taunts make your sane voice go away for a moment and you move the jack. Just a little as it turns out. His arm is as quick as a snake as he reaches in and pins your fingers to the jack, crushing them with a grip of iron. He laughs at your cry of pain and removes your hand from the jack. His breath is as close to fetid as anything you can imagine as he leans close to you. “I am saving all my wages, little one. When I have enough, Senor Cruz will sell you to me and I will use you. You will give me magic babies and I will sell them and be rich. Senor Cruz has promised me that I will have you.”
He pulls you from the trunk with one arm and throws you to the ground. “Off you go, You know the way.”
Standing, you hobble off down the row of cages, headed to the one that is yours when you have failed Cruz. Fortunately, you have been spending less time here in the past few weeks, but the failure today will mean at least a day or two back here. You keep your eyes mostly straight ahead and so barely see the other slaves in their cages. The ones who are not as lucky as you are. Many of the other slaves are destined for mines or drug factories. The pretty boys and girls will go to brothels, but that is not sinecure for a long life. Disease and beatings are rampant in any of those services and the life of a slave is not a lengthy one. As an awakened girl, you are meant for another task. Right now it is healing Cruz’s friends and their relatives. Cruz charges a lot of money for your healing ability. For now, that keeps you from the brothels, but you know that too many failures will get you sent to one. In the meantime, you are fed and generally treated better than the others. It is not because he likes you better, it is because he intends to see you as a virgin healing goddess. It is hoped that the children you will eventually be forced to bear will also be awakened so that the cycle can be continued.
Some food and water is already in the cage when you are unceremoniously tossed inside.August 1, 2017 at 2:49 pm #1647
[An hour before departure, Sunday March 21, 2077; Alyce’s Room, Marseilles]
Dream stalked in to Alyce’s room with the coiled grace of an apex predator…so different from the diffident almost bumbling academic that he had portrayed himself as a few months ago. Pulling back the concealing hood he revealed a face gaunt with trial, eyes blazing an unnatural green in the AR representation that Alyce saw. His voice was altered too, more mellifluous, but with a hint of threat that set the hairs up on Alyce’s neck. Under the dark cloak he was dressed in sombre business attire, without the trappings of his Druidism that he had displayed before. Clutched before him in a velvet bag that seemed to absorb the light was an object that Alyce knew all too well, the damn mirror that had caused so much grief…
“Is all ready? I am eager to be away before the sun…”
#01August 1, 2017 at 3:25 pm #1653
[Caroline Chapelle – 19:47, Sunday March 21st, 2077 – Cheveux Rouges, Marseilles] #21
”I didn’t tell you? I’m sure I did speak about it here.” Caroline frowned, obviously trying to remember how things went. She glanced at Jacques, and suddenly appeared really embarrassed ”It must have been this morning, my bad. I had so much to do in the last hours that I probably mixed a few things up.”
She grimaced, staying silent for a moment. Finally she shrugged ”Well… I just talked about it a bit. In my last expedition I found hints, pretty compelling, that paracritters had lived a long time ago. One of the things we could deduce from this is that Magic may have been present in ancient time, but disappeared, for one reason or another. My goal this time is to find proofs rather than mere hints.”
She picked a bit at the things in her plate, taking the time to think, before talking again ”Anyway, I have no problem with anything you said.”August 2, 2017 at 12:25 am #1664
[19:47, Sunday March 21st, 2077 – Cheveux Rouges, Marseilles]
Alyce nods. ”It is easy to lose things in the hustle and bustle. I am not a tyrant, Caroline, but I expect people to pull their weight, and that goes for me as well. I will do everything I can to help you. In light of that, do you have a working hypothesis and what sort of proofs are you looking for?”August 2, 2017 at 4:10 am #1667
[An hour before departure, Sunday March 21, 2077; Alyce’s Room, Marseilles]
Dream waved away Alyce’s sympathy, continuing to pace the room with restless energy
“It is done. We knew there would be consequences and a price to pay. Mine is the Bane Shide…”
He grinned at Alyce, aware that her sensors could see as well if not better than his new form, the enlarged incisors glittered in the muted light in the room
“And there are benefits if I can keep the virus in sufficient check” he grew sombre again, his blazing eyes clouding over “I miss Petal, but she is free of me now, something I had been meaning to do but always putting off for a long time. It is a testament to her that she has chosen to remain with us in this quest.”
#02August 2, 2017 at 8:55 am #1675
An hour before departure, Sunday March 21, 2077; Alyce’s Room, Marseilles
Alyce nods. ”Consequences, yes. Am I or my people in danger from you? If not, can you talk to me of what you are going through?”August 2, 2017 at 10:21 am #1678
[Caroline Chapelle – 19:49, Sunday March 21st, 2077 – Cheveux Rouges, Marseilles] #22
Caroline shrugged ”I’m not lazy if that’s your concern.” She thought about that for a second, then added with a small smile ”Well, no more than the next person anyway.” She took a sip of her glass, taking the time to think before she said more ”My working hypothesis is that Magic was present, in some form, in the past, long before the current period. If that is indeed the case, it would put many past events in question. For example, what about the witches hunted by the Inquisition in Europe? What about the Greek pantheon? The seemingly occult knowledge of the Maya or the Egyptians? Were any of those the consequence of the presence of Magic at the time, or even just its memory? What about dragons? It’s pretty remarkable than in one form or another, pretty much every civilisation has tales of dragons, where did it come from? A contamination of some sort, where the belief travelled and mutated from place to place, or something more?”
She shook her head, and waved a bit in the air, her glass in hand ”It would lead to a lot of questions, and maybe give some answers. As for the proofs, fossils, or remains, of para-critters, centuries or millennia old, would be an excellent start. In Murray et al., a paper published some twenty years ago, an American team studied the properties, and showed that scientific methods of analysis, like X-rays for example, were somewhat reliable to look at para-critters. I did some tests, to extend that to Carbon 14 and other dating means, to check if it was true there too. It’s difficult to judge, given the innate uncertainty of those methods, but it seems to work just fine. And since we don’t care too much if the result gives one century or another in a given millennia, uncertainty doesn’t matter too much for now.”
She paused, once again to drink a mouthful. As she helped herself to more water, she resumed ”As such, the first step would be to find remains as complete as possible that we would be able to date to long before this century. The more complete the remains, the easier it is to prove that it was a para-critter. Plus, it would hopefully make a DNA analysis possible. By itself, this first step would be more than enough to satisfy me. After that… There would be an analysis of what it means: what do we know of the time the critter was alive? If we assume Magic was present at the time, what does it change?” She grimaced slightly, and shrugged ”Those are very open questions.”August 2, 2017 at 10:52 am #1679
19:49, Sunday March 21st, 2077 – Cheveux Rouges, Marseilles
Alyce watches you as you talk, nodding at various points. When you are finished, she smiles at you. ”That is a very ambitious project, Caroline. I would think it is certainly worthy of consideration for your PHD. I also think that you will find ample opportunity to do research on this area.” She reaches down to stroke the head of her Hell Hound. ”Do you have any interests in living paranormal creatures, such as Alfie here? I do not know if he can give you any ideas, but let me know if you want to look at him more closely.” Alyce takes a few bites of food before continuing. ”Your hypothesis could shake the knowledge of magic up a bit. But is it a leap to have these creatures around for a long time to saying that magic has been here in a more general form?”August 2, 2017 at 11:02 am #1681
[Caroline Chapelle – 19:50, Sunday March 21st, 2077 – Cheveux Rouges, Marseilles] #23
Caroline nodded ”Maybe a bit yes. That being said… The paracritters we know of came out of the woods so to speak only recently, at the same time as the Awakened, UGE, etc. So a leap yes, but not an unreasonable one.”
She glanced at the Hell-Hound ”I’m of course interested by living ones, but…” She shrugged ”It’s not exactly easy to keep one around, or even outside of a zoo.”August 2, 2017 at 11:20 am #1682
19:50, Sunday March 21st, 2077 – Cheveux Rouges, Marseilles
Alyce chuckles. ”No, it is not easy. Lots of licenses and fees. Alfie here is my certified service animal. My seeing eye dog, as it were. Fortunately, I have some friends that were able to help me get the proper papers. He has proven to be a good companion as well as my guide. As to when they started coming out, I agree that many were noticed only recently, but I am a big fan of the theory that the jungles of the world have held secrets for a very long time. I have made a living from unearthing things most people have forgotten or even never knew. I think that we can help each other a great deal.”
Alyce finishes eating and pushes her plate aside. ”Do not let me rush you. Unlike you, I did eat earlier. We will leave when you are ready.”August 2, 2017 at 11:32 am #1683
[An hour before departure, Sunday March 21, 2077; Alyce’s Room, Marseilles]
Dream shrugged uncertainly
“The hunger was bad for a while but with Petal’s help I have managed to retain a measure of control over its base desires. I will not guarantee that I am no danger to you or yours but I give you my word that I will warn you before it becomes a significant threat. This mirror needs to get where it is going and I do not doubt that the Ordo will be far more a threat than I”
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