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Bright Lights

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101Bright Lights - Page 5 Empty Re: Bright Lights on Thu Jan 26, 2017 7:06 pm

My expression pinches as I twist to face the door absently, offering him whatever privacy he feels he doesn't need as I listen to the din of people outside. With my hands in my pockets, absently toying with the bee I'd swiped, I can feel the swell of emotion at the implications of it being in my pocket. It's real, today is real

Swallowing the urge to cry, I inhale sharply and sway on the spot, willing my mind to go anywhere but to the memory of Marnin's lifeless face.

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102Bright Lights - Page 5 Empty Re: Bright Lights on Thu Jan 26, 2017 7:14 pm

Going to the sink to wash my hands, I frown as I glance back at Ljuba. It's clear she's still shaken up about the incident back in Skycrest. I never understood why the grieving process took so damn long, but it's probably not my place to rush it - not right now at least.

"Come here and help me with this," I say, not really needing her assistance, but holding out a small bowl toward her anyway. Tucked into the bowl is a small bundle of dried herbs. "Crush those into the bottom - make sure they're even, not too fine, not too coarse."

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103Bright Lights - Page 5 Empty Re: Bright Lights on Thu Jan 26, 2017 7:33 pm

Lavellan's chore seems to do just enough to busy my mind as I come to stand beside him, working the pestle just heavily enough to break down the herbs before stopping to inspect their texture. 

"What's this for?" I ask as I go back to grinding, never looking up from the bowl as I even it out.

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104Bright Lights - Page 5 Empty Re: Bright Lights on Thu Jan 26, 2017 7:39 pm

"A gag order," I say as I work on a length of small dolls, all sewn together at their hands. It isn't much for me to put a small stitch in each of their mouths as Ljuba works on the herbs. "There are a lot of loose ends back in Skycrest. People I trusted a little too much, people who got too close. Richard will find them eventually. It's best that their secrets never pass their lips if we hope to get away."

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105Bright Lights - Page 5 Empty Re: Bright Lights on Thu Jan 26, 2017 7:47 pm

Glancing up from the mortar and pestle, I frown slightly as I look at the string of dolls. 

"Will this hurt them..?" I ask, my hand stilling as I glance down absently at the herbs before dipping a finger in to sift through them.

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106Bright Lights - Page 5 Empty Re: Bright Lights on Thu Jan 26, 2017 7:50 pm

"Some of them," I respond as I pull a small knife from my pocket to cut through the threads of two of the dolls. I hesitate for a moment, my hand hovering near my pocket before I sigh and offer them to her. "Some are bad people... others deserve something more merciful."

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107Bright Lights - Page 5 Empty Re: Bright Lights on Thu Jan 26, 2017 7:55 pm

Resting the mortar on the sink, I hold it with one hand before taking the two dolls from him curiously in the other. For a moment, I think I've been ordered to start filling them, but as I look down at the dolls I know otherwise. Their differences are simple but telling, with one doll's eyes sewn shut entirely and the other only one. Frowning, I glance up at Lavellan before squeezing the dolls fondly, tucking them into one of my pockets - pockets that are filling up with mementos to help replace the ones left behind.

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108Bright Lights - Page 5 Empty Re: Bright Lights on Thu Jan 26, 2017 8:10 pm

Nothing more is said of the dolls now tucked safely inside her pocket as I return my attention to the others, quickly sewing the ends back together to form another ring. With the herbs adequately crushed, I light a small piece of tar and drop it in the center of the bowl before holding the dolls above it. One by one they catch, the flames engulfing them in different hues of purples and greens as their imbued spellwork is released. Even in Ljuba's presence, I can't help the twisted little smile as some of them produce tiny little screams to mirror their likeness cries of death.

"And just like that, Skycrest's criminal powers are crippled and left to flounder," I smile contently as I dump the bowl of ash into the sink and turn the water on to wash it down the drain. "Shame, really... I liked Constance."

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109Bright Lights - Page 5 Empty Re: Bright Lights on Thu Jan 26, 2017 8:16 pm

I watch as the ash swirls in the water before being carried down the drain, contempt pooling in my gut as the reality of what he'd just done registers. 

"You think he knew how many people he'd be killing?" I ask roughly, clearing my throat despite the vox's clarity. "How many lives hinged on his?"

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110Bright Lights - Page 5 Empty Re: Bright Lights on Thu Jan 26, 2017 8:28 pm

"Honestly?" I ask with a frown as I glance back at her, a hint of sadness creeping into my expression. "I think part of the issue is that he realized his living couldn't save more, and that ultimately? He was just as powerless as the rest of Skycrest.

"He held himself to such high standards," I sigh as I shake my head and look back at the sink. "Held everyone to such a high standards... for lack of better poetry, he's been circling the drain since the day he stopped fighting. Honestly... I'm surprised this didn't come sooner. His life stopped the day Richard's arrogance put their mother in the hospital. And in some small way... I'm a little sad he didn't do it then. To save himself some heartache."

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111Bright Lights - Page 5 Empty Re: Bright Lights on Thu Jan 26, 2017 8:30 pm

"None of us were good enough for him," I say weakly, swallowing thickly as I step away from the sink to avoid Lavellan seeing my tears.

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112Bright Lights - Page 5 Empty Re: Bright Lights on Thu Jan 26, 2017 8:40 pm

"And we never will be," I say solemnly as I pocket the bowl and step over to put an arm around her stomach, kissing her cheek lightly before I let go and head toward the door. "Come on, we've got a long run ahead of us. There's someone I want you to meet."

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113Bright Lights - Page 5 Empty Re: Bright Lights on Thu Jan 26, 2017 8:48 pm

Before he can get too far ahead of me, I catch his hand and stop him, coming to stand toe to toe with him. Rising up, I still have to catch his neck to make the soft kiss I plant on his lips feasible, dropping back down and resting my head against his chest as I sigh. 

"Thank you," I say simply, rubbing at my face before stepping back to nod towards the door, ready to go.

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114Bright Lights - Page 5 Empty Re: Bright Lights on Thu Jan 26, 2017 9:07 pm

I can't help the faint flush that creeps up my neck at that. Clearing my throat, I nod in acknowledgement and then turn toward the door, content to put the unfortunate matter behind us. Before I unlock the door to step out, I pause to pull my hair up, tying it tightly in a bun before pulling a hat out of my bag.

"Do you need a scarf or anything?" I ask, tossing her one regardless of her answer before opening the door and stepping out into the chill air once more.

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115Bright Lights - Page 5 Empty Re: Bright Lights on Thu Jan 26, 2017 10:27 pm

With the scarf already in my hands, I don't bother answering as I snake it around my neck and adjusting my hood once again. Given we'd left Skycrest with little more than the clothes on our back, I'm regretting not getting properly dressed before chasing after Marnin. Even with the large coat swallowing me whole, the slip underneath is doing little to keep my bottom half warm. 

It's not long after I've stepped out behind him that I'm shivering, try as I might to stop.

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116Bright Lights - Page 5 Empty Re: Bright Lights on Thu Jan 26, 2017 10:42 pm

I become tunnel visioned the moment we step out onto the streets, my shoulders hunched and my head down as I wind through the crowds. It's sheer dumb luck that we've landed in the town we needed in order to find the infamous Face Sculptor - a man of distasteful talent and reputation. And let's say nothing of his own face.

The crowds thin out as we make it to the northern edge of town, the buildings becoming farther apart and less focused on curb appeal to lure in Skycrest's wealthy tourists. Out here, the buildings have the same creepy, foreboding air about them as their occupants who can be seen peeking out of their curtains at the unwelcome visitors walking down their streets.

"Ljuba," I whisper, slowing my pace so I can pull her up beside me, my arm draping around her shoulder in a casual way. "Stay close to me."

It isn't until she's beside me that I notice her shivering, though I can't tell if it's apprehension or cold. More likely the latter, but the concern leaves me quickly as I focus on my own instead. I have very little in the way of ingredients or protection on me at the time, and the only thing I can do to ease my wearisome mind is move faster.

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117Bright Lights - Page 5 Empty Re: Bright Lights on Thu Jan 26, 2017 10:51 pm

Lavellan's long legs leave me walking briskly to keep his pace, but despite the awkward pace, sticking to his side is relatively effortless. It does little to warm me, though, and I continue to shiver with each gust of wind that tears through me, robbing me of what little warmth I'd managed since the last breeze. 

Looking up, I hope more than anything that this isn't the area we're going to be staying for the night, but  I don't want to question Lavellan if it is. There aren't a lot of friendly cities out here for witches, which is why I'd landed in Skycrest in the first place.

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118Bright Lights - Page 5 Empty Re: Bright Lights on Thu Jan 26, 2017 11:06 pm

I spot the house we're looking for hidden in a thicket of overgrown brush, an ominous symbol slashed into a tree near the edge of the property our only indication that we've found the right place. And even then, it takes a moment to pick our way through the maze of brush and tangle weeds to follow the path of stepping stones up to the door. I am not comforted to see the door opening before we've even finished walking up the steps to the porch.

"Nostalion," the greasy man greets me in an oily voice, his browned teeth bared in a broad grin. "It is still Nostalion, is it not? Ah, no matter, it's so good to see you, my old friend! Please, please, come in!"

I can't help but notice the way his gaze moves to Ljuba, my jaw clenching slightly as we accept his invitation and cross into the threshold of his little cottage. Immediately, he begins buzzing around, fixing tea and gathering bits of dubious looking food to offer us as we take a seat in the only two spots in the room that aren't buried under pounds upon pounds of clutter.

"You were expecting us," I point out coolly, his disfigured grin barely faltering as he offers me a shrug.

"Well," he laughs. "You did rather put yourself in front of the train, texting Richard Mercer to tell him his brother was dead and then destroying your phone. He thinks you did it... already offered all the wealth in Skycrest for any information on your whereabouts. And hers, of course."

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119Bright Lights - Page 5 Empty Re: Bright Lights on Thu Jan 26, 2017 11:48 pm

I cut Lavellan a concerned look at the man's remark, pushing the hood off of my head as I unravel the scarf tensely. The fabric catches stubbornly on the upper edges of the collar, and I work to free it with gloved hands as I frown. 

"Didn't know I was worth so much," I say softly, more to myself than to be heard, but my vox betrays my volume. Freeing the scarf, I bunch it in my lap and frown, picking at the pulled threads as I look up between the men. "What of it?"

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120Bright Lights - Page 5 Empty Re: Bright Lights on Thu Jan 26, 2017 11:57 pm

"Well," he repeats that infuriating word again, my whole body tensing as his hands fidget in front of him as he looks between us, his gaze lingering on Ljuba hungrily.

"Don't," I start before he can go on - but go on he does.

"How much is my silence worth, exactly?" he asks with an unpleasant grin. "I'm getting old, you know. Business isn't what it used to be. I can barely keep up on chores. Barely keep a girl..."

"I'm going to pretend this discussion isn't happening," I say sharply as I cut him a withering look, his laughter only grinding on my nerves even worse.

"Of course, of course," he says lightly. "I'm only teasing, of course, you are my oldest friend - I would never betray you."

"Of course," I repeat the word with a note of disdain in my voice before I offer him a tense smile. "That is why I've come to you - I trust you. And I think you might be able to help my friend here."

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121Bright Lights - Page 5 Empty Re: Bright Lights on Fri Jan 27, 2017 12:04 am

The way his lips move over his teeth when he speaks is enough to cinch the fact that he unsettles me, but the way he watches me leaves me feeling anxious. Lavellan's expression of trust catches me slightly off guard, my attention turning back to him as my expression pinches. 

"What?" I ask quickly, frowning as I look between them.

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122Bright Lights - Page 5 Empty Re: Bright Lights on Fri Jan 27, 2017 12:13 am

"Our friend here is known in the underworld as the Face Sculptor," I explain as I look over at Ljuba and nod toward her injured face. "He can fix your cheek and jaw so that you can speak again - without the use of tech. You'll be able to use your magic again. And, more importantly, you'll be less recognizable as the woman Richard met."

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123Bright Lights - Page 5 Empty Re: Bright Lights on Fri Jan 27, 2017 12:24 am

My posture stiffens as I look from Lavellan back at the peculiar man, a hand coming up to rest against the collar Marnin had made as I consider it. 

"You can fix me..?" I say slowly, my heart rate picking up as I look at Lavellan before he can answer, "Will I lose the collar..? Entirely?"

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124Bright Lights - Page 5 Empty Re: Bright Lights on Fri Jan 27, 2017 12:30 am

"You won't need it to speak, no," I respond, pointedly not saying one way or another what she needs to do with the collar. I know what I would prefer, but it's not up to me to make that decision for her. Not yet anyway. I frown as I notice the lurking of our host drifting closer to Ljuba.

"This collar," he says slowly as he puts on a pair of spectacles, his fingers coming up to touch the fine leather as he examines both it as well as the damage on Ljuba's face. "It's what allows you to speak right now?"

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125Bright Lights - Page 5 Empty Re: Bright Lights on Fri Jan 27, 2017 12:37 am

I withdraw from him suspiciously, sinking further into the seat as I look up at him. 

"Yes," I say, "Someone very dear to me made it."

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