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The world saw rapid change after the first atomic bombs fell. At the end of World War II, a threshold that once kept the magical energies away from the mundane world shattered. In what was known as the Mythic Dawn, the magical and mundane met and merged together to form a new world. The magical energy that now pervaded the planet was known as mana and civilizations all around the world used it to reprogram reality, for better and for worse. After some time adjusting in the 1950s, many new sentient creatures from beyond the threshold became part of the world's societies. Monsters, powerful entities and existential threats emerged throughout the Cold War, but were all quickly dealt with by the various forces that were now well equipped to handle such threats. Once the Cold War was over and the Soviet Union had fallen in 1991, Earth entered a new period of peace and rejuvination, standing tall after the threats it had faced.

While many places have experienced a more turbulent history since the Mythic Dawn, many more have had a quiet and gradual change. The old city of Springfield, located in the midwestern United States, started off as a remote settlement for the vampire lord Lucan Morval. Having built his castle and magical ability there, with the help of his thralls in 1843 he first created a settlement for himself. Here he intended to rule in peace; not suffer from the hands of humanity from the East. Whilst building his castle and farm on the eastern side of the Silver Lake, he discovered that the area was where magical energy leaked from beyond the threshold, leading to some strange creatures calling the surrounding area their home. In time, his settlement slowly became a refuge for supernatural creatures and runaway slaves, who built the town on the western side of the Silver Lake called Springfield. Springfield became a large hub during the American Civil War and after the Civil War ended, the settlement became part of the United States. The whole area surrounding Springfield and Morval Castle were designated as Fairview County. Thanks to legends of the supernatural creatures that lived there, very few people came to settle in Fairview County, and the land was long forgotten by history.

It wasn't until the Mythic Dawn that things started to change. With the magical realm now pouring into the mundane realm, Fairview County saw a large population of various monsters and dangerous creatures moving into the area, especially from a new dimensional rift (also known as a gate in the US) located in the northwest. This population of dangerous creatures threatened Fairview County. With the national and state authorities dealing with other problems, Morval decided to expose the location of Springfield in order to help urbanize it and thus drive away hostile creature populations. Springfield was slowly populated and while the city was forgotten again in the chaos that happened after the Mythic Dawn, Morval's rivals from another vampire house learned of his location. Morval was killed in his sleep in 1951, his farm and castle left abandoned once his thralls were freed and scattered. His farm and castle has since been condemned.

In 1952, Fairview County came under new administration. The county was modernized and it was better ingratiated into the state after years of isolation from the United States. While it was still a forgotten city that popped up on the map every now and then, the new administration headed by Cyprian Udina saw to it that the county remained a safe haven for both the mystical and the mundane. Even during the turbulent history that had happened, Springfield remained the same quiet town that all of its denizens enjoyed. Springfield expanded and villages cropped up as more people settled in over time. The monsters still proved to be a threat, and since the Fairview County Sheriff's Department and the Springfield Police Department had enough trouble dealing with those that came into the populated areas, the Foxhound Militia was founded to help deal with such threats. As a result, new businesses and facilities began popping up around the county once the areas were cleared and declared safe by the county commission.

Fairview County remained quiet until the 1990s, where the end of the Cold War brought the magical realm closer to the public. People started moving in, including the up and coming businessman Vincent Morales. As soon as he founded the company of Artemis LLC in Springfield, development within the county quickly began. While some businesses folded and people moved out, more moved in thanks to the new businesses and growing economy that came into the county. Fairview County had its heyday in the 1990s, with new locations and businesses creating a small booming economy. However, at the turn of the new millenium, things became quiet again. It was at this point where the incumbent county commissioner, Cyprian Udina, realized his dream of a safe, diverse county that thousands can proudly call their home.

However, the stories of Fairview County don't end here. Many more creatures have yet to call this wonderful county their home. The small beautiful and lightly industrialized city of Springfield rests at Silver Lake, with a happy population taking it day by day. The wealthy suburb of Madison Heights sits within the small mountains to the northwest, tightly knit and tightly secured. The Township of Bristol, east of Springfield and north of Silver Lake, continues its magical harvest for every season. The modern River Rock Villa sits within the center of Silver Lake, with the lights of Springfield to the west and the dark condemned Morval Castle to the east. Kitsch Lumber Yard continues to operate and produce mana-infused wood near State Highway 20, where few pass through the county to more interesting places. While many places remain abandoned, the dimensional rift far to the northeast remains monitored, as every now and then creatures from beyond enter on rare occasion. Many stories have been told in and about this county, yet many still have yet to be heard. This is one of many tales of the incredible folk of Fairview County.

This is the Song of Springfield.
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Springfield, United States
March 19, 201X


The sun has set. The sky has gone dark, and the stars are beginning to fade in. The lights of the small city woke up as the town began to sleep, lights reflected in the massive lake nearby. Magical banners lit up on some of the larger buildings, many of the signs for the open businesses animated with logos, advertising that they were open this late at night. Most of these places were ManaGas stations, though many others were the restaurants and fast food joints that were open long. Self-lit billboards that dotted the area showed animated advertisements, almost as if playing a live commercial without sound. Lines in the road glowed gently in the dark, stoplights supplemented by color-coded illusory barriers that helped direct and control traffic. Traffic was light, with sedans, pickup trucks and minivans out in the streets in moderate numbers. One of the few city buses made its way through the streets downtown, making stops at several of the shopping centers to pick up some passengers. The ManaMart, one of two of the city's only superstores, was already moderately packed with customers, people going in and out buying what they need before heading home. Taking off from the top of a government building was a large silver dragon, pushing off from the roof and throwing himself into the air, gliding through the night sky. While many have already went home from work to celebrate their evenings at the dinner table, people went to other places on this regular Thursday evening.

Most folk went to the local restaurants that were open on evenings only, particularly the ones that had open eating pavilions by the lake. After a short winter, the weather started to warm up again, and people were now starting to get back into the habit of eating outside. Many of the eating pavilions had spaces that went into the lake so sentient freshwater creatures could come eat at these places as well. Others simply went to some of the managas stations to pick up some snacks before heading to the city's only movie theatre, catching the latest A-list action movie that just released last week. Some of the other folks went out to the outskirts of Springfield, going over to the lake to fish with friends or going to the drive-in theatre to catch a movie with a friend or loved one. Orcs and humans often came together to watch late-night football at some of the sports bars, other groups going to the downtown arcade to have a little fun there. However, there was one place that was all of the buzz at night, a particular destination that always had a waiting line.

Flashing in blue and purple was an animated sign that read Club Shadowfell, placed high above the main doors that led into the large modern building. Situated downtown in the business district, Club Shadowfell was one of the liveliest spots in all of Springfield, at least during nighttime. The club itself was located in a sweet spot in downtown Springfield, operating at an area where the residential and business areas meet. Operating during a time when most of the offices from the government and other businesses were closed, it was a place where people could go have fun after a long hard day at work. Assuming they can get past the line that is. Guarding the front door was a large orc bouncer that looked rather good in a suit and a pair of sunglasses. Despite it being nighttime, the sunglasses seemed to have no effect on his vision, as he was able to get a very good look at everyone that came up to him. The doors themselves were ornate, with the frames surrounding them decorated in pulsing neon illusory contours. Animated billboards of dancing people took up the wallspace in front of the club, advertising to the busy street outside, with one large parking lot on the left side of the place. Most of the businesses shared the street with Club Shadowfell were closed during that time for a variety of reasons, and because of this, most of this part of town looked nearly dead in comparison.

Welcome back to The Hot Spring at 99.9, your one stop shop for all things 80s! The radio DJ, a woman with an excited voice, spoke over the airwaves. Now that our bills are paid from our generous sponsors, we can get into the news. For the traffic update, the city is in the process of fixing some damage left behind by a large rock worm on South Dixon street. In regards to the monster update, a small horde of gate zombies has been spotted in the woods north of the Bristol Township, though they've been acting relatively benign. I'd suggest to keep your distance. There's also reports of a large ooze that's been causing some trouble near some of the Bristol farms, so be sure to protect your property with the proper repellant. Oozes hate the taste of bug spray so... uhm... go ahead and get a few cans. Some more good news... the US and the UK just announced that they will start pulling troops out of Algeria. According to President Cortez, since they have completed their mission last month in helping the Algerian government capturing the remnants of the hostile demon army, the Gutirv threat is no longer active, and thus all deployed troops will make a staggered withdrawal from Algeria. That's all for the news tonight, this next one goes to our boys and girls still deployed. Coming up is Sharp Dressed Man by ZZ Top. Stay tuned for the rules on our free ManaMart and Amazon Gift Card giveway! The DJ cut off, and the song played.
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The instructions had come as they always did. Vague, direct, blunt and via text message. She was used to it by now. Ratte had been getting the same treatment for years, since her employer had deemed her worthy and no longer needed to train her personally. She wasn't entirely sure that she would be able to pick Fallon de Meurtre out of a police line up anymore; it had been years since he had shown his pale face.

Vincent Morales. Shadowfell. Springfield, Fairview County. SP: AR. Car waiting.


As was customary of a mission provided by Fallon, a Range Rover Evoque had been left with a full tank and instructions about how to get to Springfield. It was parked in a secluded car park and the keys had been delivered to her hotel room first thing that morning. The instructions were inside an envelope alongside an updated road map. Fallon didn't believe in sat navs due to their tendency to be tracked. Because of this, Ratte had learnt and memorized most of the roads in America through her training, so this process was normally simple. Springfield was a new city though; one she had only heard of and she hadn't heard it's name often. Rumours surrounded it; it was a magical hub; only vampires lived there; all of the magical and mysterious happenings that had spread across America since the Cold War had all started there; monsters and supernatural weapons were being build and bred there to start World War 3. Some of the rumours she believed, but most she took as drunken vampires and elves trying to scare the mundane folk.

She had set off at lunchtime; duffel bag packed and maps memorized. When she finally hit the turn-off for Springfield, the sun was setting behind her and spreading firey reds and yellows across the horizon as it went. The wide highway lead straight to the city and it grew up suddenly in front of her; tall silhouetted buildings and shimmering lights dancing more as she got closer. The city itself looked alive and buzzed with the thrum of activity. She felt excited by it. Ratte had been expecting the city to be dull and small, full of woodland creatures and elves like the stories children read suggested, but this was far from it. As a great silver dragon glided through the air over the highway, she laughed and whooped, "Damn! I thought those things were extinct!"

She sped up and made it into the city just as the sky turned inky black around her. She tuned her car radio from static buzz to the local station and caught the end of an over-excited woman updating about the city's news. She raised an eyebrow - rock worms and oozes? This wasn't your average city, that was for sure. She turned up the gritty guitar that played in ZZ Top's Sharp Dressed Man and tapped along with her hand on top of the steering wheel until she saw the flashing neon sign she was looking for: Club Shadowfell.

She parked and stepped out of the car, slamming the door shut with the clash of cymbals in the song still playing in her head. The air was cool and a breeze brushed her dark bangs from her face. She tucked her left hand into the back pocket of her dark pants and made her way around to the front of the club. She eyed the guests lined up and waiting to be let inside as she stepped past them. There were some humans that she could make out, but most were more fantastical than that. She didn't think she'd seen so many different eye colours before. She winked at a particularly attractive faery before stepping up to the orc bouncer and clearing her throat. She looked tiny beside him; him being built of muscle and brawn; and her being lithe and lean but she grounded herself regardless, "Excuse me," she began, her voice clear over the hum of voices and low bass escaping from the club doors, "I'm here to see Mr Vincent Morales... I don't believe he'd like to be kept waiting any longer than he already has."
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The tall orc bouncer watched Ratte as she went past the line towards the door. Some of the patrons got a little fed up at Ratte once she cut in front of them, but they kept their displeasure to themselves. The faery she winked at gave a light blush before giving a soft wave, and by the time Ratte arrived at the doors, the bouncer stood tall. The orc looked Ratte up and down, silently listening before speaking to her in a deep voice. "Name?" Once it was given, he'd check his smartphone real quick before nodding. "I'll notify him of your arrival. You'll find him in the upper room overlooking the club floor from the back, just take the stairs on either side. The staff there will assist you if you need anything." The orc then stepped aside and opened up the ornate steel door, the club music inside now clear as day. "Have a pleasant night, ma'am."

The first room Ratte would find herself in is an antechamber of sorts that acted as an area where people can hang out at before and after the events of the club. The antechamber had some illusory neon signs, as well as a few warnings for people with epilepsy and hypersensitivity, and PSAs regarding drinking and driving. A few people were already hanging out in the antechamber, a few vampires and elves getting just getting their drink on, laughing at each other and telling stories. Other than the patrons and the security guard near the door, there was nothing else to see here. Once Ratte got through the antechamber, the club revealed itself in its true form.



Loud music assaulted the eardrums of any who entered, aided by the echoing effect that it had in a large room. The cacophony of people attempting to talk over the music added to the melody of the club, and while it smelled relatively nice, the sights more than made up for it. The purple and blue aesthetic took over in full force, bright lights pulsing and flashing all along the walls and ceiling of the club, contrasting the dark paint that colored the whole interior of the building. Closest to the entrance was a bar where many sat and had their drinks, dining tables nearby where others sat to eat. The bar looked rather modern, with transparent tables and counters that had neon contours that lit up gently. Patrons there had their drinks, which were served in various forms, most of them being enchanted beer that seemed to constantly fizz a little. Some drinks appeared to be an opaque red that also fizzed a little, though with the pale people drinking it, it was very clear that such a drink was blood. Other clubgoers who were eating in the dining area appeared to be of the variety seen outside in the line. Small faeries, taller elves, buff orcs, standard humans, pale vampires... though there was a gnome who was enjoying a date with an incubus, both of them enjoying a strange food that liked to squirm around a little on the plate. What separated the bar and dining area from the rest of the club was chest-high wall that was segmented by smooth columns of glowing rushing water. The water fell in a neat column, no drops of it going anywhere. While the wall separated the dining area from the club floor, there was one passage that led straight to it, guarded by a male and female orc wearing suits.

While the dining area was given constant lighting so people can enjoy their food without flashing lights, the actual club floor was a different story. A raised ground surrounded the dance floor, where platforms neatly interspersed along the floor had professional men and women dancing in flashy full-body suits. Many clubgoers populated the dance floor, jumping and bumping along to the techno music that played loudly over the enchanted speakers that surrounded the floor. Some of the clubgoers were dancing on the raised side areas, though it was much more subdued there as most of the patrons there watched, drank and talked to each other. Some of the men and women danced with each other, though fewer people of the same sex did similar as well. There was not much else to see, other than the walls, floor and ceiling in the area showing off illusory visuals that animated themselves to the beat, branding the club and flashing subliminal messages like PARTY and ENJOY, among other things. It was a truly primal environment, a place where people cut loose. There were passageways on either side of the floor that led to more quiet lounges, with patrons walking in and out of freely. At the back of the club floor was a DJ that played all of the music, who appeared to be an elf wearing some flashy clothing in a literal sense. With his hair spiked up, his enchanted clothes changed colors and had animated patterns to them, and every now and then he'd cast some spells to create a light show on the floor. The crowd went a little wild for these kinds of things.

However, as the bouncer outside promised, there was a raised room situated behind the DJ, flanked by two staircases that led up all the way to the back walls of the club. The stairs themselves were guarded, though they led up to two steel doors at the top. The only thing notable about the staircase and the room itself is that they both blended in with the club building, with no windows in sight, just neon contours, and a giant illusory sign on the front of the room that branded Club Shadowfell.
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Ratte gave the bouncer her name and tucked both hands into her back pockets. She watched the orc search for her name then took in the vast building stretching tall above her. It was set deep in the foundations of the street it was sitting in and looked as old as the buildings beside it without appearing unclean or unsightly. The words 'Club Shadowfell' were striking and confident and the flashing neon made her feel excited about the club waiting inside. When she was granted permission, she nodded briefly and stepped through the doors with a quick glance back to the line of strangers waiting to come inside.

She passed straight through the antechamber eyeing the clientele without judgement, just curiosity, and smiled to herself. She was so used to seeing humans surrounding one or maybe two vampires, who normally milked the attention and clearly enjoyed being the mysterious nighttime creatures humans craved. Here it was almost nice to see them in a more natural habitat, being themselves and not needing to show off. They looked like normal young adults here; comfortable in their own skin and excited by the drinks inside them

She pushed the doors open into the main club floor and felt the bass thumping through her body. Ratte had the strong urge to walk out onto the dancefloor and dance and grind with the hoard of people already there. The club itself was huge - possibly the biggest that she had ever been to and already she felt drawn in and alive at the sights and the pulsing music flooding the place. Her head flicked left to right and up and down as she took in the building. One part of her was making plans to come back and visit for pleasure, perhaps with a pretty fairy or two, the other was scouting for a way out and for the make-up of the buildings. It was dark, but reasonably well lit and although there were platforms scattered throughout the dancefloor, the room was well-spaced and meant that anyone looking down on it could see everything happening. She took note of the security - most prominent were the two orcs by the dining area. She had to imagine that there was more, hidden somewhere, but she couldn't see it. What she did see was the flashy elf DJ and the door behind him that she needed to get to.

She stepped forward into the crowd of dancers and weaved her way through them. Lights flashed on the walls and the words 'party', 'dance'urged her to join them. She caught the arm of a beautiful elven woman who was throwing her arms around to dance with her friend and ducked under it, catching her green eyes and flashing a grin as she slowly let go and carried on through to the DJ booth. She made it to the guards at the bottom of the stairs and shouted her name into their ears, before stepping up the staircase and knocking loudly on the door. Given the club name and design, she was expecting either a mafia boss or a vampire to open the door. She had briefly searched Vincent Morales' name before setting off earlier that day and his name was a rather big one. There were very few images of him, more of his company and the buildings that he owned; all very impressive. Whatever artifact he wanted, it was going to be worth a lot of time and money.
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A few of the patrons that were in the club gave Ratte the same regards the would anyone else who entered. The vampires in the antechamber giving a friendly smile to Ratte once she entered, the elf woman smiling seductively at Ratte on the dance floor, a man getting excited once Ratte came by, and the guards at the stairs who stopped her once she came to them. However, once Ratte gave her name to them, they would immediately let her pass, blocking the stairs once again once she walked up the staircase. Once Ratte knocked on the steel door, she'd find it being opened by what appears to be a somewhat scrawny long-haired male vampire guard, wearing an impeccable suit like the others. He gave her a gentle nod, allowing her inside before closing and locking the door behind her.

The room she entered was even more ornate and modern than the club itself. With absolutely no noise from the club outside, there had to be some sort of magical soundproofing in effect here. The room itself consisted of just couches, endtables, a television on the back end, and nothing but a massive transparent wall on the front end. However, adorning the walls were animated neon contours, looking like a screensaver that was part of the walls themselves. Small crystal chandeliers occupied the cieling, providing the room with enough light. The contours and moodlighting from the chandeliers provided a far more calm atmosphere than the club did. The couches that sat on either side of the room were mostly occupied by a few men and women in suits and dresses, surrounding a large glass table with glasses of wine. Some women in revealing clothing occupied the room as well, most of them looking absolutely gorgeous, though with some red dots on their neck it was quite obvious as to what they were paid for. However, while most of the room was a little occupied by wealthy and decadent flavor, the entire transparent wall on the front end was bare, save for one chair. And sitting on that chair was a man in a suit. The chair faced outward through the one-way wall, and while the reflections of most people in the room can barely be visible on the wall, only his chair was visible. The man here almost appeared as if he were a king of the realm sitting on his throne, overseeing his subjects.

Once Ratte entered, the man in the chair remained seated while the others in the room looked to her. The conversation in the room hushed a little, but the man seemed unfazed. He gently dipped his cigar into the ashtray, before he lifted it once again to take a drag.

"Some of my confidential business has arrived." A slightly baritone voice, with a hint of a South American accent, escaped the suited man. "See yourselves out." The wealthy-looking people who sat in the room promptly left through the other door, leaving only two suited guards, two models, and the suited man on the chair. It was just Ratte and the man's entourage now. After a pregnant pause, the man took a drag from his cigar. "Take a seat anywhere you like, Ms. Mueller. I'm sure you've had a long journey here."

Once Ratte took a seat, or stood, the man spoke once again. "I'm sure that at this point you already know who I am." He put out his cigar. "But, if Fallon didn't fill you in on your client, you may refer to me as Vincent Macario Morales, or any combination of the three that suits you best." He leaned back in his chair slightly. "I must say that I am pleased with your swift and safe arrival. Fallon did speak highly of you, and for a human with no special abilities to call her own, you do have quite a success record. I simply couldn't throw a resume like yours away." He stood up and slowly walked around, showing off his pale face to Ratte. Strong jawline, short hair, red eyes and neat stubble, the vampire had his look complete with his rather nice suit. The gold tie and steel watch seemed to sell the image a bit, contrasting with the black shirt he wore underneath. He looked straight to Ratte as he stepped away from his chair.

"Would you like anything to drink, or would you prefer to get straight to business?"
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Vampire it was, though not the man she was expecting to see. The scrawny creature that ushered her inside didn't feel like one of her usual clients and her heart began to sink before she saw the rest of the room that she was lead into. She felt instantly uncomfortable and on show as the room fell into a hush and she stood before them. Her eyes quickly surveyed the room and she clocked the marks on the necks of the women almost instantly. Vampires were definitely at work here and although she admired the fact that these gorgeous women were here just because of the vampires, it did unnerve her. Not that she let it show. She held herself in a powerful stance - legs apart and one hand on her hip as the current residents left, then she looked to the man who had sent them away.

This had to be him, had to be her guy. He looked powerful and as she had seen, he was definitely in charge. He moved with purpose and yet barely moved at all. Now she knew that she wasn't simply retrieving a family heirloom from the attic. When the man addressed her, she couldn't help but twitch her nose. The man had done his research or Fallon was giving out far too much detail. She took a step closer and decided to stay standing for now. "With due respect, sir, I would prefer it if you called me Ratte. I haven't gone by my birth name since I was in Kindergarten." The hint of an accent bled through her pronunciation of the word 'Kindergarten', with the rest being well practised American-English.

Ratte watched Morales as he circled the room. He was a well-kept and handsome gentleman with strong features. Every vampire she had ever met had been beautiful and he was no exception to this rule. She noted that he didn't have a reflection and it suddenly made sense that his face wasn't anywhere to be found online. She decided to sit when Morales mentioned Fallon. If he was familiar with Fallon and had communicated with him, then he knew the rules of the contract he was under - touch Fallon's men and you lose your deposit. It wasn't a deposit without something valuable on the line, so she felt safe at least whilst she was working for him.

"I'd rather get straight to business. I would take your offer normally, but I haven't checked into my hotel yet, so let's keep this short." She leaned forward and rested her elbows on her knees, fingers woven together between them, "What do you want me to find?"
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As Vincent walked around the room speaking to Ratte, he walked to one of the tables, grabbing a bottle of wine. He listened to her, and once she insisted on being called Ratte, he gave a curt nod. "Apologies, Ratte. Forgot my manners." He said, pouring three glasses of wine. He slid two of them towards the models that stood near him, before he took one for himself. He seemed to have casted a spell on his, waving his fingers over his glass for a brief moment before he took a sip. Once Ratte asked to get straight down to business, he nodded. "Very well."

He cleared his throat. "The artifact that I want you to retrieve is a book." He pulled out his smartphone, and after messing with it for a little, he showed Ratte an artist's rendition of what appeared to be a very old but very ornate book, complete with rusty metal bindings. "It looks something like this." He handed his smartphone over to Ratte so she can get a good look at it. The book itself looked like a large tome, a spellbook of some kind. A very old one at that too. But considering that it was just a drawing to approximate what it looks like, the actual artifact may appear different.

"It is very likely that the artifact is in a very secure place, guarded by both private security and possibly mythical beasts. The artifact must be handled very carefully, and left entirely intact upon its return. Before I go any further, however, you must know the conditions to this job." He took another sip of wine before he paced around the room. "First condition is that the book must never be opened or be tampered with. The artifact can be set to wipe its contents if it is not handled carefully." Another sip. "Second condition, no murders or assaults on the security personnel or other bystanders. Harm brought to innocents only leads to unnecessary scrutiny and conflict, and such a scenario should be avoided entirely." He continued to pace, not even making eye contact with Ratte. "The third condition is that the artifact should be returned to me in no more than two weeks. If you fail the first two conditions, the contract is void, and we will never contact you for your services again. I can make exceptions to events that happen out of your control, but if you're as good as Fallon says you are, hopefully it won't come to that."

He paused once he made a full circle around the room, stopping and looking towards Ratte. "I'm well aware of Fallon's contract. Even without it, I never harm others for failure. Rewarding for success is far more effective, and if you were to get the job done while fulfilling these conditions, I will see to it that you are compensated greatly. Should you accept the job, I will pay you a $1,000 in advance for you to use how you see fit. If you get the job done, you will be paid in $75,000 in cash, or equivalent in goods or real estate." He stepped forward and sat on the couch adjacent to Ratte, looking straight into her eyes. "This job can potentially be very difficult, and is very risky. I will not think lesser of you if you decide to turn it down." He leaned back into the couch he sat on. "If you wish, I can give you a day to think about it." He took a sip from his wine glass, before he held his hand out for the return of his smartphone. "Otherwise, if you're ready to begin, I will feed you the rest of the details."

"Any questions?"

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Ratte took the phone and looked at it with keen interest. The book was old and delicate-looking, whilst it also looked powerful. She frowned, taking in the little details of the book so that she might hope to recognise it when she did get it. She looked up to Vincent as he told her the conditions that she had to follow.

Guards she could handle - she had been evading them as much as she could for most of her life and she had a lot of experience in the field. She nodded, listening and again when he spoke of no murder. She could do that easily, it made the whole operation simpler in fact. Ethics weren’t something that she worried about, but at least she’d sleep easy knowing that all she had done was take a book from them. She looked back at the book on the phone again, concealing a small egotistical smirk. It was good to hear that Fallon had been selling her well. She had worked hard to be as good as she was. The fact that the boss recognised it was nice.

She looked at Vincent again when he mentioned the money. She raised an eyebrow and let the smile curl at the edge of her lips again. This was something really worthwhile after all, “Alright.. those conditions are fair, I can take it on. My only worry is this time limit. Do you have any ideas about where this book might be kept? If I am searching for it, that could take weeks of research on my own, especially if it’s out of the country.” She said, handing the phone back to him.

“I may need help finding it if you’re saying it’s well guarded and hidden. A head start would be a great thing for you to tell me.”
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Vincent's smile matched Ratte's once she brought up the concern regarding the time limit. "I wouldn't impose such a short time limit if it were anywhere beyond this county." He casually leaned back after pocketing his phone, putting one leg over the other as he took a long sip from his wine glass. "The artifact is very likely to be located in Morval Castle. The castle itself is the large ancient structure located just across the Silver Lake." He explained. "The County Commission condemned the property decades ago when the original owner passed away. Any surviving members who used to be part of it scattered shortly afterwards. It is safe to say that untold amount of goods were left behind once the castle was condemned, the book included." He took another sip. "We don't know the precise location of the book, however, but we did use divination spells to point us in the right direction. We can say with confidence that the book must indeed be located in Morval Castle. If it isn't there, it is at least somewhere within Fairview County."

"In regards to security, very few have stepped into the castle itself. The County Commission never bothered to safely nullify the castle of any magical traps in fear of damaging magic items, and they are struggling to allocate funds to safely salvage the property. In the meantime, the county didn't want the castle to be looted or vandalized, so they contracted a private security firm to make sure nothing comes in or out. They are well armed and vigilant, I suggest caution." He paused for a moment. "In regards to what you may find inside the castle, that I can't be certain of. There's always a possibility of monsters, traps, and other forms of dangerous security leftover from when Lucan Morval was the proprietor. You're free to take whatever you like, but the book must come to me, unopened."

He gestures to one of his models, who promptly opens up a well-concealed strongbox underneath Vincent's chair. She pulled out a small wad of cash, all $20 bills. The blonde handed it over to Vincent, who took it while maintaining eye contact with Ratte. "If you require any kind of assistance, don't hesitate to call or text this number." He pulled out a business card, pushing it underneath the rubber band that held the bills together. "We can help within reason." He handed the stack over to Ratte. "This should help pay for any necessary expenses for the next two weeks. If the book is not returned to me by then, I am content with taking an explanation instead. I like to think that I'm a reasonable man, so don't be afraid to tell me if something went wrong."
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Leaning forward, Ratte took the money from Vincent and looked over his number briefly. She flicked through the wad of money, before putting it into a pocket on the inside of her jacket. She zipped it shut and leaned back again, “Should be plenty enough, I appreciate it.” She meant it. As much as she earned a lot, she didn’t like spending it. Having that extra cash meant she could avoid spending anything she brought with her at least until there was an emergency.

She considered the name of the castle. She hadn’t seen any tourist signs for it, but she remembered admiring the huge building beside the lake as she had driven in along the highway. It was an impressive building and she suspected that the lack of signs had been due to the fact that it was dangerous. That could mean a lack of maps or direction.

“I am wondering.. if there’s a map available to get there or any sort of blueprints for the castle? It might be good to guess where they would have placed security than go in completely blind. If you know where I might find some I can find them, it’s no trouble.” She watched Vincent as she spoke. He did seem like he could be trusted to be reasonable. It didn’t mean that she would trust him to be though.
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Vincent nodded to Ratte once she thanked him. "It's no issue. If it makes things easier for you, all the better." He said. "I would offer support in terms of manpower, but..." He paused. "...let's just say that the County and I aren't exactly on good terms. It is best if I try to remain as removed from the situation as possible. You may have some luck recruiting locals though." He rubs his chin a little, looking towards the glass table in front of him before looking back to Ratte. "Oh, that reminds me. I'm sure this is standard protocol at this point, but if anyone asks, you're doing this of your own accord. You never came here, and you never spoke to me." He leaned back, taking another sip from his glass of wine. "If you get caught, I will not bail you or any associates out. But if you honor the contract, and my previous statement, I may be able to help you out in other ways." He finished his glass of wine, setting it onto the glass table in front of him. "Even then, please do not let it come to that."

In regards to her question, he gives a soft nod. "They may have the castle blueprints on public record, but they might require some time and some legal forms to access. If you have no luck there, the county commission and GoldShield Private Security may have possession." He said before pulling out a carton of cigarettes. He produced a single cigarette from the carton, and after pressing his lips onto it, he snapped his fingers to produce a single candle-like flame from his fingertip. He used that magical flame to light his cigarette, before the flame went out. After taking a drag, he held the carton out for Ratte, offering a smoke. "They're herbals, nothing cancer-inducing." He simply informed.

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Again, this was something that she was used to and worked well with. Lying was often a big part of her role and she had grown unfortunately good at it. She nodded as Vincent explained his removal from the situation, “I understand. Hopefully I won’t need any support but maybe someone up in security will need convincing.. I’ll head out there first thing tomorrow and scout out any outreach security.”

Ratte leaned back against the support behind her and chewed her thumb thoughtfully, “Unless I run into problems i’m Not going to tell you anything else though... if I let you know all my secrets you will spot me coming if I work against you one day,” she grinned mischievously, moving the hand she had been chewing behind her head. “And it’s probably best if you don’t know everything i’m doing. Like you said, you want to be removed from the situation.”

She looked at the cigarettes, not recognising the brand and frowning just a tiny bit. She shook her head, hoping that he wouldn’t be offended by her second refusal of the night, “I am embarrassingly bad at smoking - I regard the habit as a waste of money, so I am well out of practise and tend to choke rather than smoke.” She explained lightly. “I think I’ll get going if that’s everything you need to tell me. Early start.” She pushed herself out of her chair and held out a hand, “A pleasure; hopefully we will see each other again soon.”
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Vincent nodded in understanding to Ratte's first statement. In regards to her second statement, he simply gave a soft smile in return. While he wanted to remain in control of everything, Ratte seemed like she had things under control for herself, and wanted to keep it that way. She knew how the game worked. "Smart woman." He said simply, his compliment having at least a hint of sincerity. In regards to the smokes, he gave a light shrug at Ratte's reply. "Fair explanation. No judgement here." He said, closing up and pocketing the carton. Once Ratte stood up and held out her hand, Vincent stood up as well and shook hers firmly. "Likewise, it is a pleasure having you here." His red eyes stared deep into Ratte's, before he parted from her, walking towards his chair.

After taking a seat, he continued watching over the club, seeing it pulse with activity. "Do take care to remember my words carefully, Ratte." He said, taking a drag from his cigarette. "I am a man of my word. I take very good care of investments that return with good results." He leaned back, crossing his legs and bringing his arms down, his executive look in full force contrasted with the whole club in front of him. "Until next time, Ratte."

The scrawny vampire guard walked up to Ratte, prepared to escort her out of the room. Once she followed him, he would see her out through the steel door she came in. By then, she was alone again, at the top of the steps in Club Shadowfell.
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Ratte felt Vincent’s eyes bore into her and it gave her chills down to her core. She met his grip with a firm one of her own, then began to walk from the door. She greeted Vincent’s warning with a firm stare and a sharp nod, before she followed the shrivelled up vampire out to the club floor. The doors opened and the sound hit her like a wave, making her wince and hesitate for a second.

Her eyes took in the strobe lights and she followed a path through the partying club-goers and then let her feet take her through them. It took a lot of effort not to stay there with them, to find the elven woman or the faerie girl from outside to spend the night with one or both of them. She ignored the signs flashing on the walls, telling her to forget herself here for the next few hours and pushed her way back through to the doors and out onto the street. She had a job to do and until she had a good idea about how she would perform her theft, she couldn’t let herself get distracted.

She slipped out of the front door and made her way back to her car. She found it and quickly slipped into the front seat. She checked her phone for any messages from Fallon and the screen came up blank. Not that she had really expected more - Fallon had very high expectations and only had to reinforce them when the job wasn’t done to his standards. So far, she had been meeting them and he never needed to send her any more messages after the initial instructions. She put the phone back into her pocket and started the engine.

Almost instantly a high-pitcher beep flared her senses and she looked over at the dashboard. Engine fault. Brake light fault. it flashed. She growled at it, “Are you kidding me? You’re a new car, what the hell’s wrong with you?” She hit the steering wheel, “Dieses Sheißauto! Ugh.. I hope there’s a garage near my hotel..” she grumbled more as she followed the route to a nearby hotel and stayed in a mood as she checked in. She snatched the card key from the receptionist and made her way up to the room.

She never paid for the luxury suites, no matter how much she got paid. Half of the money went to Fallon as commission anyway and the rest she was saving up. As long as she was comfortable, the extra effort was wasted on her. She closed her room door, dumped her bag and showered first, before settling to research Morval Castle on her laptop as well as the nearest garage for first thing in the morning.
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On Ratte's way out of Club Shadowfell, she was greeted by overly friendly men and women who wanted to party in a variety of meanings, as well as the guards who let her out without much of a fuss. However, once she made her way to the hotel, the bored receptionist looked up to the new guest. The receptionist did what was requested, giving Ratte the simple single-bed economy room treatment before handing her the keycard. The room itself was spartan, all it had under its name was a window, a bed, a dresser, a CRT television and a basic bathroom. An endstand had a landline phone on it, as well as a channel guide for the television and WiFi password.

Once Ratte got to work on researching Morval Castle, she got a few hits. The first hit was from the Springfield Tourism Board, which gave a rundown on the castle itself. The castle itself was owned none other by an old vampire lord named Lucan Morval, who was a public figure of sorts during the American Civil War. He was mostly a footnote, however, as he was given note for creating a society where mystical creatures and runaway slaves were able to live in peace. The castle was constructed 1843, and was built mainly for the purposes of protecting one's family from the dangers of the mundane world. The rest goes on about how the castle was built by magical means, how a confederate troop company during the American Civil War attempted to capture it but failed abysmally, and its quiet life after the civil war. However, Lucan Morval was murdered in 1951, though while there were some suspects, there was not enough evidence to convict anyone. The murder remains unsolved to this day, and since 1952, the building was condemned by the county commission, and is currently under the protection of GoldShield Private Security. The site also mentioned, forwarding an official statement from the county commission, that the castle itself is sealed off mostly due to safety concerns, considering that there's a variety of magical traps and possibly even magical creatures that remain in the castle. In 1983 there was one death from a lightning rune that was triggered by a teenager who attempted to enter the castle as a dare, with 14 more serious injuries since the castle's condemnation in 1952. The living Morval family (Lucan's wife and three kids), who are currently living in New York, commented that there used to be several dangerous monsters held in captivity when they fled the castle, though they aren't sure what kind. Other hits from research only point towards forums that simply spread rumors and misinformation, as well as a few tweets from security guards who were posted at the castle. The tweets mostly mention the creepy atmosphere that the castle had, but any pictures that came from the castle came from outside of it, with one guard mentioning that he was glad he never had to walk into the place. Any other hit was simply just similarly named castles from then on, as well as some tidbits regarding the Morval family.

As for any nearby garages, there was a small-time mechanic down the street from the hotel. Called Grant's Garage, the shop has a 4.5 star review on Google and Yelp, with lots of good testimony from many customers. Basic research would indicate that it was a ma-and-pa shop ran by a family of three; Lionel, Susan and Andrea Grant. Most reviews would mention Lionel and Andrea, with Susan making a cameo here and there. There were also other garages in Springfield, but they were a little more distant and a little less liked.






March 20, 201X


The next morning began like any other. With the sun rising above the lake and the castle, Fairview County stirred itself awake. Morning traffic just started to pick up as most of the earliest shift workers headed home, with the morning shift filling in for them to begin the day. The few city buses started their first runs, and those who had a great night at Club Shadowfell were now experiencing their favorite part of it all, the hangover. The silver dragon who took off from the government building the previous night returned from the mountains, shifting into the form of a human to enter the building through the roof access. Most of Springfield's workforce began clocking into their various jobs, including those who ran Grant's Garage. A day has passed, and life goes on.
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Ratte spent the better part of 4 hours scouring the internet’s resources for clues and ideas about how and where to start on her mission. She was confident that getting close was just a matter of slipping the guards, but the castle itself posed a problem. She wondered if there were any places that she could find a magical trinket of sorts to help ward off any unwanted magical creatures or allow her to see traps. It was worth looking around whilst her car was in the garage tomorrow.

She set her laptop down when her eyes blurred too much for her to read anymore and she curled up into the sheets. They were a little scratchier than the ones in her last hotel, but at least they were warm. She dozed off quickly and slept through until the morning.

March 20, 201X


Ratte rose with the sun and streched her arms up and over her head as she watched the city start to rise out of the window. She watched a dragon fly in over the top of the city in awe and bit her lip, grinning. The city felt different; it felt alive with a sort of buzz that she had felt last night being in the presence of so much magic.

She changed into comfortable clothes - jeans and a black leather jacket, played with her hair briefly in the mirror and stuffed the money that Vincent had given her into a pocket at the bottom of her duffel bag. She put her wallet and phone into the pocket of her jeans and set out to her car. Since the car was likely to need at least an hour’s work, she wanted to scout this part of town out and she decided to get breakfast out too. She didn’t want to draw too much attention to herself and hoped to blend in as much as she could. The more she blended, the more she would be forgotten at the end of her mission when someone realised the book was missing.

Ratte jumped into the car and ignored the red flashing light again. She drove up to the garage, listening to the radio again and keeping half an eye on the streets. It was amazing to see so many magical creatures around. It wasn’t that she hadn’t seen them before- magical folk were in every city and town she had ever been in, but the sheer number here in Springfield was something that she hadn’t seen before. It was exciting. She pulled into the garage car park and parked up. She stepped out of the car and walked towards the garage door, looking for someone to talk to.
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Click!

The lights to an old but well organized garage flickered on, revealing a large open workspace. While the garage itself looked a little old and dingy, it was still well maintained and well kept, with workbenches kept clean, tools well organized in different bins on the shelves above. The concrete floor was dirty with the years worth of oil leaks and grease stains, and while the garage itself had room for only three cars, only one space was occupied by a old pickup truck on a raised platform. The flourescent lights flickered on and hummed, and with another Click!, the stylized neon sign hung on the back wall reading Grant's Garage hummed to life. An old African-American man stood proudly, despite his slightly stout figure, looking upon his livelihood with pride. He adjusted his glasses as he looked upon the garage floor, and sighed. Just another day at the office.

Lionel Grant, wearing the grease-stained longsleeve underneath his jean overalls, stepped away from the garage and into his office, where he kept track of business. His overalls sported a toolbelt, as well as a patch spelling out his first name in cursive. Sorting through papers, invoices and statements, he put them all in their seperate binders before putting said binders away in a neatly organized shelf. His office walls, while being made of the same concrete that the garage was made from, was littered with photos and momentos of his friends, family and the vehicles he fixed. It wasn't time to open yet, but the hour was about to come soon. Booting up a dinosaur of his personal computer, he turned to the security camera system, waiting for a particular car to show up in the back lot. By the time the Windows XP splash screen loaded onto his CRT monitor, the car he was all too familiar with parked in the back. He smiled once he got a good look at the Red Devil, a project he's worked on with his granddaughter since he got custody of her. Knowing full well that she's got the keys to the back, he simply went back to work on his computer.

After a few minutes of getting everything sorted out from the day, a familiar voice spoke to Lionel.

"Hey gramps. Anything new today?"

Lionel looked up from the CRT screen, seeing his granddaughter in her work outfit. The black woman dressed herself simply in her filthy work jeans, boots and gloves, complete with the branded Grant's Garage T-shirt, with her first name branded on her chest. The cambion stood lazily in front of Lionel's desk, her hair pulled back in a ponytail making her small horns clearly visible on her forehead. Nothing special today, just another day at the office for her too.

"Nah, the answerin' machine had nothin' when I got here." Lionel said, his speech a little slow, age in his voice. "Would you mind getting everythin' set up for today?"

Andrea nods with a soft smile. "Sure thing." She turns to walk out the office, before stopping. "Oh, uh... nana wants you to bring back some of the records from February, for the tax forms. Not right now, but when we close up."

"Right, right." Lionel nodded, getting the according binder from the bookshelf. "Once you're done, feel free to play around on your uh... phone until someone shows up." Lionel said, doing some more work on the computer.

Andrea nodded before looking into the garage. She saw the pickup truck on the raised platform before turning back to Lionel. "Did the parts for the F-150 arrive yet?"

Lionel shook his head. "FedEx says the delivery won' be for another three days. You shouldn't worry about it anyway." He brushed it off with a nonchalant gesture. "I'll be with you in five minutes. Just let me finish these forms real quick, alright?"

Andrea nodded again. "Alright papa." The cambion went straight to work. Getting the workstation ready, pulling out all of the necessary tools, getting some of the tools powered up and turning on the sign to let the public know that they were open for business, Andrea had that all done in short order. And all she had to do was wait for the work to come in, so she did what she did best, which was to sit down on a folding chair, and play games on phone.

Ten minutes later


Lionel just finished up his forms, and one he closed up the windows, he gave the security cameras one last check before heading into the garage. He blinked. What in the world kind of car is that? He thought to himself once he got a nice look at the brand spankin' new Range Rover. It looked sleek, and rather expensive too. Who drove that kind of car around here? He'd be the first to know if someone got a car like that... must be an out-of-towner, or one of those uppity rich folk from Madison Heights. They don't come around here often these days. Lionel blinked, adjusting his glasses to get a good look at the car, and the woman who drove it. She seemed to be looking for the entrance at a slow pace, definitely someone unfamiliar with the area. May as well give her a warm welcome.

Lionel stepped out from the office into the garage. "Look alive, child. We got ourselves a customer. You ain't gonna believe what they brought here." Lionel called out to Andrea.

Andrea blinked before standing up, putting her phone away. "O-kay..." Her fiery eyes looked towards the closed garage doors, wondering what will be coming through them once Lionel gave her the all-clear.

Lionel stepped from the garage into the checkout room, where a computer and several chairs were placed for people who waited on their vehicles in their first or final stages. The checkout room led to the front door, with the LED OPEN! sign lit up in the adjacent window. Lionel opened the front door and walked out onto the pavement, getting a better look at Ratte and her Range Rover.

"My my. What do we have here?" Lionel gave Ratte a warm smile. "Hello there, ma'am. I'm Lionel Grant of Grant's Garage. How may I be of service on this fine mornin'?"
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The garage didn’t look particularly special. It was a tiny thing tucked into the middle of a long road and it looked so old that could have been built when the town had first popped up. It smelled the way all garages did; greasy and metallic with an irony taste that caught her tongue when she breathed. It was a well-used place and clearly a well-loved little dinosaur that people kept coming back to according to the reviews she’d seen on the internet.

She wandered around to the open garage floor and eyed the rear-end of a pick-up that was inside. It too looked old and dusty, well loved and like an old family car. She glanced back to her shiny new car from Fallon and wondered whether it looked out of place. Perhaps her character should be a rich kid driving daddy’s new car. That sounded like fun, she hadn’t played a spoiled brat in a while.

She heard footsteps and the bright, warm voice of a man and looked to see just that. A bright and warm-looking man made his way over, elderly eyes sparkling behind the aged folds of skin and a friendly smile to match it. She smiled back at him - contagion unavoidable - and slipped her hands into her back pockets. “Good morning, sir. Can you look at my car today? The service light flashed up last night, I don’t know much about cars, so I figured I should ask a professional.” She rubbed the back of her head. It was a lie - she knew a lot about cars and had been around many people that had fixed hers before. She didn’t have the tools for this though, nor the devices to tell her what was making the car so unhappy.

“I drove a long way yesterday, maybe it’s overheated or it’s low on engine oil or something.. I don’t really know, would you be able to take a look today?” She asked again. She had briefly considered letting her German accent bleed through to make her feel more helpless, foreign and clueless, but she decided against it. Her carefully controlled American accent suited her more and she had it down to a fine art. She only slipped up on the occasional v or w, and the odd elongated o. She was proud of her accents, if she did say so herself.
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Lionel listened to the woman, who reeked of outsider, or at least a tourist. Outsiders don't come here often without good reason, so while he was slightly suspicious of her, he still took her at face value. He listened to the issue in regards to the vehicle, and nodded. "I'm not sure if I can help you, miss... but I know someone who can." He gave her a soft smile. "My granddaughter Andrea's pretty good with those... new cars, but mostly those... Japanese or North American cars. I think she may be able to help you with your problem here." Pulling out a remote of sorts, he clicks on it, and opens the garage door to the empty spot. "Go ahead and wheel it in. Andrea will take care of you once you roll in."

Andrea was playing on her phone once the garage door opened. Light poured in as the door raised, and the car, as well as its driver, slowly revealed themselves. Andrea squinted her eyes a little at the morning light, but once the door was fully open, she feasted her eyes upon a Brand New Range Rover. Woah. Andrea was a bit surprised, to say the least.

"Andrea, we have a customer that's here to see you." Lionel called out into the garage. "I'll let you handle it from here. I'm gonna go finish up the forms."

"Okiedoke." Andrea said, the cambion stepping out from the shadows and into the light outside. She got a good look at the Range Rover, and then turned to Ratte. She smiled a little, extending her hand. "Hey, I'm Andrea and I'll be helping you for the day. Uhm... what seemed to be the problem with your car?" She asked, half out of formal curiousity and half out of disbelief that a car that brand new would have issues like that. Andrea didn't necessarily pay attention to Ratte's look, however, as she was currently in 'job mode'.

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Ratte smiled gently at the old man, finding it amusing that he would meet the stereotype of being old and wary of new things so readily. She wondered what kind of cars he normally dealt with and whether Fallon had overstepped his normal boundaries of indiscretion with this one. Nobody had ever been so overwhelmed by the car she drove before.

At the mention of ‘granddaughter’, her musings were pinched and her interest peaked again. She had seen two female names mentioned in the reviews that she had been reading online and hadn't thought that one might be young enough for her to gawk at. She looked around for her, but quickly realised that she must have been inside. She nodded at Lionel as he opened up the garage door for her, “Thank you very much, I appreciate it.” She hopped into the car and slowly drove it into the spot, red lights flashing and squeaking at her again. As she stepped out of the car, she was met by a beautiful woman. Ratte stared at her, not expecting a mechanic to be so beautiful. She was gorgeous - high cheek bones, full lips and lean curves with a glint of something bright in her eyes that was not unlike her grandfather's. Ratte noticing the two horns poking out from the top of her head and the yellow of her eyes and held back the quirk of her eyebrow. She had been sure that the old man was human - this one, Andrea as she introduced herself, most certainly wasn't human. She cleared her throat and took Andrea’s hand, then shook it firmly.

“Ratte,” She pulled her hand away and looked at the car. She tucked her hands into her pockets and briefly checked her appearance in the mirror-like windows, before focusing on the car. “I’m not exactly sure what’s wrong, it’s been flashing at me and asking for a service.. I am willing to bet that it’s something ridiculously simple like a light is out, but I don’t know much about cars.” She said again. She had checked the lights that morning, so she knew it wasn’t that. But it could have been something similar. Either way, she slipped in a line that she knew wasn't smooth, but set out her intentions as she needed it to, "Either that or it just wanted me to come here... must have known there was a beautiful woman waiting for me here."
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