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Backslide and New Associates

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1 Backslide and New Associates on Mon Nov 28, 2016 12:06 am

I've been on the phone for over an hour with my assistant - an appealing, slippery young woman who is remarkably talented at making everyone around her think she isn't listening to a damn word that's being said. She's quite useful for gathering information, but perpetually frustrating when trying to give her instructions. Without fail, though, she quotes back every detail of my instruction word for word, her tone never straying a hair's breadth near anything that sounds remotely interested.

When I hang up the phone, my mind is only put at ease by the knowledge that she has never once failed me. But still, I find myself anxious as I wonder when and if she will fetch Ljuba and bring her in as I've instructed. I don't have long to linger on the concern, however, as my attention is quickly pulled to the mountain of other tasks that need sorting.

No rest for the wicked, or so they say...

****

*Lavellan*

Deep, black lines streak up my forearm, gradually fading the further up they get as I sink long fingers into the silver cauldron. The potent poison does nothing to me aside from a tingling numbness that sinks in with the dark streaks attacking the blood vessels in my arm. It's a powerful and cathartic feeling as I squeeze the bundle of shredded roots at the bottom of the cauldron, their milky substance mixing with the potion in a beautiful and mesmerizing cloud of white that spreads out inside the inky blackness of the deadly liquid.

This is the final touch, and my favorite part of the brewing process. The cloud of white has an almost malignant way about it, the way that it devours the black water, completely obliterating any evidence that it had ever existed. And when I remove the roots, the dark streaks in my arm also fading to white, the contents of the shining, silver cauldron settles almost instantly - the potion becoming clear as an icy glass of water.

Smiling crookedly, I stare at the potion with a pleased nod until the phone rings, pulling me from my admiration. Grabbing it with my dry hand, I bring it to my ear and prop it on my shoulder as I grab a rag to dry my hands.

"Lavellan," I greet, a hint of confusion crossing my features as the voice of Anthea responds. I listen, now bored, as I dismiss the possibility of Richard having something interesting for me to do. And indeed, Anthea's request is the pinnacle of boring.

"You want me to chauffeur a beggar witch to Richard's?" I clarify to make sure I've understood her correctly, my words coming out slowly as I try to articulate to make my accent more understandable over the phone. "Forgive me if I'm being disrespectful, but is that not your job?"

"He wants you to do it," she responds simply, dismissively. I sigh, knowing full well that he had made no such request. He never asks anyone else to communicate his orders to me. Our relationship is far more discrete and direct than that; it has to be, given its nature... and the fact that most of his people are too frightened of me to give me any kind of order anyway.

I wouldn't settle for anything less than our current arrangement, either. Richard is not my superior, and he has always known better than to ever treat me as anything short of his equal. As such, he would never ask me to provide a cabby service to some new recruit.

No, Anthea is more likely just looking for someone else to take the job so she can see her girlfriend.

"Very well," I respond, dropping my towel on the workbench so I can pick up a quill and a scrap of parchment to take down the address. "Tell me where I need to go," I say as I dip the quill into the inkwell and begin scratching out the information.

***

My assumption as to why Anthea did not want to take the job is immediately replaced with a new one as I get out of my car, my hand settling on the edge of the door for a moment as I look around. The neighborhood is almost as bad as mine, the building aged and blighted with poverty - and that's saying nothing of the rest of the street. Anthea simply did not want to be here. What little I know of the woman, I do know that much about her: she is a snob, through and through.

Closing the door sharply, I brush off my jacket and adjust the front as I make my way up to the entrance. It's not difficult to find the apartment Anthea had indicated, and I immediately find myself mildly interested in meeting this woman as I sense the vaguest ghost of magic coming from behind her door. Shells of something that was once impressive linger here...

I don't bother knocking - at least not in the traditional sense - as I raise my hand to the door, my fingers pressing against it gently. Curious to test the woman's potential, I let my magic radiate against the door, its intensity growing gradually to see how long it takes her to sense the more traditional witches' knock.

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2 Re: Backslide and New Associates on Wed Nov 30, 2016 12:39 am

I'm deep in the throes of a miraculous war, the worn pages of my favorite book just below my fingertips when I feel a strangely familiar presence at the door. Wrong door, surely, I think to myself, trying to get back into my book as the still-lingering presence gnaws at me. A tingle of curiosity pushes me to close my book and look up at the door warily, the book being tucked against the wall at the head of the bed while I shift to the edge of the mattress. 

It's in moments like this that I wish I'd get in the habit of keeping my vox unit on, my plague of voicelessness more irritating than anything as I stand up and grab it from the chair to pull it on hurriedly. The pulse of magic from the door is still considered polite, but it's persistence is what's unsettling me. And the lingering question of why it's at my door

Mask in hand, I fix it to my face quickly before grabbing a knife from the sink-side drawer, making my way to the door. 

"What?" I call through the wood, standing just far enough to miss being hit should it burst open as I hold the knife firmly at my side.

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3 Re: Backslide and New Associates on Wed Nov 30, 2016 1:06 am

"We have a mutual friend who has requested the pleasure of your company," I respond, careful to form each word around my accent as I small smile lifts the corner of my mouth. My knock didn't have time to grow too strong before she acknowledged it - she wasn't quick, by any means - but she was certainly respectable. Enough so that I find my nail trailing down the door softly, a little flare of white magic dispersing across the door as I check it for traps or warding sigils.

I'm a little saddened when the sigils inscribed into the door jam light up, their light wavering and scratchy even under the weight of my tiny little incantation to find them. So heartbreaking to see such potential wasted and withering. Magic deserves better.

"May I enter?" I ask, releasing my spell as I drop my hand to my pocket, waiting patiently as I listen to her moving on the other side of the door.

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4 Re: Backslide and New Associates on Wed Nov 30, 2016 1:10 am

The peculiar accent warrants less concern than does what is said, and I groan slightly as I toss the knife towards the sink and adjust at my awkwardly fitting mask. My hair always manages to stick in the most unsavory ways. 

Tugging the mask off, I step forward to pull the door open, waving absently at the man as I step back to the mirror near the bed to fix it properly.

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5 Re: Backslide and New Associates on Wed Nov 30, 2016 1:19 am

My gaze immediately fixes on her collar and mask as I let myself in slowly, the door latching behind me as I watch her adjusting herself in the mirror. Ah... it makes sense now. Why her magic is so... lacking. Though, I must confess myself impressed with the quality of the tech she's wearing. I had no idea her voice was artificial when I was standing on the other side of the door.

"Witch hunters?" I ask after a moment, my curiosity getting the better of me as I admire the blue-ish eye on the right side of her face.

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6 Re: Backslide and New Associates on Wed Nov 30, 2016 1:29 am

"Not quite," I respond sharply, the mask finally situated as I stand up properly to face him.

"I can assume our mutual acquaintance is Richard, then?" I ask, looking the tall man over for the first time.

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7 Re: Backslide and New Associates on Wed Nov 30, 2016 1:36 am

"You would be correct," I respond, my gaze never straying from her as I look her over. It's always interesting to meet a new witch - particularly in this city... and particularly when they've been indentured into Richard's service. I find myself wondering how she became one of the Deadmen.

"Pallhagian..?" I ask questioningly as I narrow my eyes slightly. She doesn't sound Pallhagian, but her appearance... her mannerisms, markings, dress... it all has a Pallhagian feel to it.

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8 Re: Backslide and New Associates on Wed Nov 30, 2016 1:46 am

My eyes narrow slightly as I nod, my head cocking slightly as his accent lingers. 

"Good eye," I remark, "You're not from the city, either... So, what..? Ichorgue... Perifell? No," I shake my head at my own guess, "Alyrian."

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9 Re: Backslide and New Associates on Wed Nov 30, 2016 1:58 am

I smirk slightly as I nod my approval before digging a small piece of muslin cloth from one of my pockets. I'm careful not to touch the contents as I unwrap it, exposing one end of a tightly wrapped bundle of rich and fragrant herbs, their colors still bright despite their dried state. Keeping the muslin between my own hand and the smudge stick, I offer it to her with a nod for her to take it.

"Mohou nepřátelé mých nepřátel být můj kamarád," I offer with a small bow, the traditional greeting one that I have not had to use in many, many years. Not since Richard had surprised me with it on our first encounter.

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10 Re: Backslide and New Associates on Wed Nov 30, 2016 2:03 am

My gaze falls to the brilliantly hued smudge stick, my internal alarms going off as I look back up at him warily. I won't offer any response to his greeting - the vox unit would butcher anything I said even if I wanted to. Instead, I raise a hand in polite refusal and bow my head slightly. 

"I don't practice any longer." I say softly, glancing up at him to gauge his reaction. "Not beyond baubles for a street cart."

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11 Re: Backslide and New Associates on Wed Nov 30, 2016 2:11 am

I raise an eyebrow at that before glancing around her room curiously. The size is the first thing that I notice - the best she could afford, if I had to guess. Despite the clutter packed into the small space, I also notice how very hollow it feels. The lingering magic is more like a haunting than a living, breathing presence. I can't help the sad frown that flickers across my lips before I look back at her.

"Add it to your street cart, then," I offer as I reach over to drop the gift onto her alter, still taking care not to contaminate it with my touch. "It fetches some good coin in the right crowd."

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12 Re: Backslide and New Associates on Wed Nov 30, 2016 2:19 am

The first thought that flickers to mind is one of derision and pride, but I swallow it as I offer a weak smile. 

"I don't have anything to offer you, as the custom calls for-" I say as I look around the small apartment before shrugging, "but your gift is appreciated. 

"I don't believe I've caught your name, though?"

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13 Re: Backslide and New Associates on Wed Nov 30, 2016 2:24 am

"Lavellan," I offer, my hand failing to stretch out to offer her my fingertips in the customary touch that is so often employed by witches. Instead, I simply glance at hers, noting the markings there with interest before I return my gaze to her face.

"And you..?" I ask despite already knowing the answer.

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14 Re: Backslide and New Associates on Wed Nov 30, 2016 2:37 am

"My vox can't pronounce it," I smirk slightly, "Nomad tech - albeit amazing, is still lacking.

"Lou works, though." I say more firmly, my weight shifting. My gaze never leaves Lavellan as I shift, my hands tucking behind my back as I notice his gaze roaming towards them. I don't like the curious way he seems to inspect me, or the familiarity in his greeting. Though, whether it's simply a bad taste in my mouth from home or Lavellan himself, I can't pinpoint. 

"So should we go..? I can't imagine Richard enjoys being kept waiting."

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15 Re: Backslide and New Associates on Wed Nov 30, 2016 2:39 am

"Mmm, yes, I suppose," I nod as I step back toward the door, my hand never coming in contact with anything she might touch as I wave a hand to open it with my magic instead. "After you," I offer, gesturing toward the open door.

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16 Re: Backslide and New Associates on Wed Nov 30, 2016 2:58 am

I pull my gaze from him momentarily so I can gather shoes and a proper coat, my attention never leaving him, though. I gather my things quickly, stopping at my altar to adjust some of the items absently before palming a slender obsidian athame. I make no show of hiding it, the blade sticking plainly from my hand as I head for the door. 

"So, did Richard send you to show off, or something?" I ask absently once we're in the hall, "Was I not properly impressed with him on his last visit?"

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17 Re: Backslide and New Associates on Wed Nov 30, 2016 3:11 am

"No, he actually sent his personal assistant," I respond with an amused smirk as I follow her into the hall, not remotely bothered by her arming herself. Still, I gesture ahead, keeping her either at my side or ahead of me, never at my back. "A tedious woman named Anthea who never looks up from her phone. She was busy, though, and passed the job along to me."

I raise an eyebrow as I glance over at her with a crooked smile. "So I'm 'impressive', am I? Or is that the Pahgish for unnerving?"

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18 Re: Backslide and New Associates on Wed Nov 30, 2016 3:19 am

"You?" I respond, cocking an eyebrow up at him as I shake my head. "You are unnerving, honestly, but no, I meant impressed... You know, with Richard, and all of his pull."

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19 Re: Backslide and New Associates on Wed Nov 30, 2016 3:27 am

"Ah," I nod as she clarifies her meaning further. "Apologies, I'm still learning the subtleties of this language."

When we get to the door leading outside, I step ahead of her, turning as though to face her so I can speak as I use my back to push the door open without touching the handle. "Were you impressed, though?" I ask with interest. "Does he need to show off? More than he already is, I should say... sending Anthea to fetch you."

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20 Re: Backslide and New Associates on Wed Nov 30, 2016 3:32 am

"He's just another person in this city to me," I say simply, not yet walking through the door as I look up at Lavellan. "One who I owe a debt to..."

Sighing, I lean closer, speaking more quietly. "Should I be impressed?"

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21 Re: Backslide and New Associates on Wed Nov 30, 2016 3:40 am

"He's a clever manipulator," I respond, shrugging one shoulder thoughtfully as I linger inside the doorway. "And, at times, a vicious and imaginative sadist... if that's the sort of thing that impresses you, then I would say the praise is well earned.

"But perhaps you should come to know him for yourself," I add as I step further out the door, my elbow catching the handle to keep it from closing as I wait for her to follow. "Ignoring all of his ridiculous peacocking, I believe you'll find your own reasons to respect him."

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22 Re: Backslide and New Associates on Wed Nov 30, 2016 3:45 am

"I suppose we'll see, won't we." I sigh, finally making my way out the door as I fall into step beside him again. 

"So are you one of his..." I ask, trailing off as my hand waves in circles out in front of me, "What does he call them...? Deadmen?"

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23 Re: Backslide and New Associates on Wed Nov 30, 2016 3:52 am

"I am a Deadman," I respond a little coolly as I tuck my hands safely back into my pockets. "I work with him, not for him. But he's certainly tried to find ways of claiming ownership over me.

"He's very persistent in his efforts," I warn her as I stop at the car, carefully pulling a pair of gloves from my pocket to put them on without touching the outside of them before I open her door for her. "If you accept his gifts - which I see he's already forced some of them on you - make a point to do something significant for him in her return. It will frustrate him, but you mustn't give him anything to hold over you if you can help it. I'd even try to tip the scales in your favor, if you're able."

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24 Re: Backslide and New Associates on Wed Nov 30, 2016 3:57 am

Lingering at the edge of the car, I look up at Lavellan earnestly, a touch of anxiety pooling in my gut as I force a lopsided smile. 

"I feel like it might be a bit more complicated than that." I say, looking into the car absently as I work the athame in my hand nervously. "But thank you for the advice, nonetheless." I add, sinking into the passenger seat as the door is shut behind me.

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25 Re: Backslide and New Associates on Wed Nov 30, 2016 4:06 am

I'm quiet for a moment as I go around to the other side of the car to climb in. The silence lingers for a few minutes as I turn the car on and get us out onto the road, my hand wandering over to the radio to turn it on so it plays quietly in the background.

"If you've become one of us, a Deadman," I start slowly, my eyes never leaving the road as I think carefully on my words. "Then I feel it's safe to assume that there's a certain... pragmatism in your nature.

"Richard will be good to you," I say with absolute certainty in my voice. "If you're amicable to his wishes - which he rarely asks anything of you that you wouldn't be amicable to. But, if you do find yourself in his debt, and someday those requests start to toe the line... it might not hurt to prepare yourself to do what you must to rectify whatever power he may find over you."

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