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Policemen were now front and center in direct opposition to the gathered crowd. They had arrived with such great speed, a response time that many in the downtown areas would’ve enjoyed. The vocal chants that the crowd jeered have now deteriorated into isolated insults and shouts and angry noise. Nothing intelligible could be gleamed, other than collected animosity to the rich and privileged versus the poor mob.

It is a feast for controversy. Any of the active political parties in New Haven would have much to say on such an event. Already a reporter had some photos snapped and some words written, characterizing the event with his own biases. It was such attention directly on his own villa home that Thomas feared the most. He had just barely scraped by in his mayoral election, and such a controversy waiting to happen like this protest would be a feast for political opponents.

Montag overheard this anxiety as Thomas can be heard speaking to the Chief of Police, Clancy Robinson, a large man with a larger mustache.

“Put this down swiftly and quickly. No injuries and no blood spilled. I respect the freedom of speech but this is just an unruly mob.” The white haired mayor ordered like the policeman was his lackey. Clancy did not seem to object to this attitude himself.

“Roger that. We’ll have em pushed off. C’mon boys!”

Clancy grabbed a whistle and signaled for some policeman watching the gathering to come and join. They force their way through the crowd, akin to a pack of sharks flowing past a school of fish. One officer smacks into Montag’s shoulder as he sneaks in, nearly knocking him to the ground.

“Watch where you’re going, pal!” He shouted at him, though quickly moved on with his job to do.

The patrol has gathered into a fully armed and prepared force to match Abigail’s crowd. The impoverished are outnumbered 2 to 1, and the policemen have made sure to block the mob from interfering with coming and going guests, or making it inside the villa. They’ve done this by making a rectangular shaped box of men, lined up like a firing squad to prevent passage.

Clancy has taken to a megaphone, tapping the instrument before beginning to speak.

“By order of the New Haven police department, we order you to stand down and remove yourselves from the property! This is the private villa of the mayor himself, so this will be handled with the utmost efficiency from the head of police. Which is me, by the way. That's right, you're dealing with the leader of the police himself, with the full authority of the law behind me! So think about your next moves carefully"

The chief’s booming voice deafened and shook the crowd. This had become too real, with the sight of those stern jawed bobbies and their commander in chief barking behind them gave the appearance of a disciplined army. It was easy for the imagination to jump to images of war and conflict, fighting and death. The weaker willed of the crowd have already stopped their shouts and are beginning to pull back. Abigail can tell this distraction has reached it’s zenith, and would not stand a chance if the police decided to push forward. It was only Thomas’s orders that were staying Clancy’s hand.

The priest was in a difficult position. Should she stay with her flock to the end, risk a fight all in the name of buying Montag time? The words of Mary again flow in her head, warning her of the guarantee of a death tonight, surely such a commotion would lead to this. Was it right to abandon them to join the detective to better help Marie? The priest’s decision here would impact the fate of many people tonight already.

Meanwhile, Eduard had some comparatively easier decisions. He had infiltrated the grounds now, and before him lay a party in remission. Many of the guests were preoccupied with the events unfolding on the grounds, despite Thomas and his staff’s constant assurances that things were under control. The backyard is full of tables, chairs, drinks, waiters, a fountain and even a small vine garden section. A gazebo is in a corner of the yard, and some children play carefree as the adults do their strange business. A direct path to the backyard entrance of the villa is possible, but is closely monitored by staff and security who are on alert due to the disturbances. There is a stone wall at the garden, with a white barrier with green vines grown over and stretched like fingers. It is climbable, and possibly unnoticed if guests nearby are distracted enough. On the side there are two uniformed waiters taking a smoke break, perhaps an idea for bribery or other means is there to get oneself a uniform or another way inside.

The iron gates are brought to a close with a loud clang. The last of the invitees are inside, and for their protection they’ve been walled in. Montag is now trapped in Meropis, like Marie in her upstairs room. Many options lie ahead for him to get his entry inside, with their own risks and rewards.

There's tension in the air, but the party still seemed set to go on. A jazz band began their tune, a nice uplifting beat to hopefully drown out the noise from outside.

It was very fitting for the moment.

A curious girl hung over the balcony, observing the standoff outside the villa. Her eyes are bright with intrigue, as she dabbled in her head what the possible outcomes would be. Much more fun to do this than read fictitious books or play board games or propped up mechanical challenges. Here was true conflict as two opposing forces squared off. She could only imagine herself being there, an imposing police officer or an invigorated poor woman, leading a revolution like she’d read in her newspapers.

Her imagination grew wings and flew farther as her body remained in her small enclosed world.

Riku's use of the wave is temporary, and assisted by her staff of power with her own elemental manipulation abilities chiming in. The confident princess's surf is met with the brick wall of Ami's intense black fire. Even at a distance the princess felt her skin begin to burn, her nerves demanded she turn back and run the other way. Her desire for a bold and impressive attack to these strange denizens overran her desire for safety and comfort, and she'd ride this wave to it's conclusion.

It smashed into that wall of fire, dousing it's arcane blaze. Though that was part of Ami's plan, as skin melting fog now filled the air in the fire's wake. Riku's desire to get close had been completely used against her, and the would be exorcist quickly throws her cloak over herself and falls back in retreat to save her skin, literally. Blinded by her makeshift shield, she stumbled away and nearly hit a column in a mad escape to get herself from that boiling cloud.

How the hell am I supposed to approach her!? It's like she has the perfect counter for everything!

As she paused for a breath, she'd notice Kanbaru offering a way out of the fight as she dealt with the snakes. That simply wasn't acceptable to the stubborn noble. She wished for a match to prove herself as capable here, even if she was struggling. She knew if she didn't prove herself capable, she'd be mincemeat by these much more powerful denizens of the Tower.

One on one, squared off with Ami. It all came naturally what to do next. Taking a breath and a short, cocky smile. Riku would face her opponent with a second wind.

"Hey you! Ami is it? You going to hide behind your abilities for this fight? Let's make this a good fight! Blade on blade only, my scythe versus your sword!"

Riku announced her challenge to the berserk with a stage worthy smile. She had a real chance now, a one on one perhaps. Now she had to find a way to survive it.

Part of her really hoped Ami would refuse for the princess's sake.

A Bird in her Cage

After a day of preparation and planning and the two companions Abigail and Montag more familiar with one another, the time had come to begin. The potential energy was now becoming kinetic and dynamic. Montag and Abigail had departed from each other, ready to enter the stage to begin their separate operations.

The villa house was much more of a sight than a single picture could ever hope to capture. It is brightly lit, like a lighthouse of glamour and electrical wonder in the forgotten scenery of the California shoreline. The opulence and insistence of the expensive home dwarfed the humble greenery that surrounded it. Nature and it’s innate joys are swept aside by the wondrous house meant to delightfully exhibit the progress of human science and architecture. It is placed on its perch, overseeing a cliff with the prestige of a castle, far away from the peons in the busy city of New Haven that glimmered in the distance.

Meropis’s location spoke much on its purpose. A secluded lair for it’s master to rule from. The ominous arches of the classical styled pillars and the long and dark railings that stretched on along with the night sky spoke of hidden and ancient power rooted in the designs of that on the surface modern building. There is an odd symmetry here. The powerful and magnificent source electrical lights that radiated from within and outside the building via lamp posts and lanterns, with the shrouded and mysticism of the classical past, harkening back to ancient gods and their divine traditions. One must wonder if this symmetry is at odds or in harmony.

The villa is abundant with life. Many cars are parked in a parking area off to the side of the main entrance, with guests in wait at the main entrance for the security to allow them passage. These guests are much different than the patrons of the bar that Montag and Abigail frequented earlier. They are dressed in fine cotton suits, trimmed and groomed hair and moustaches for men, exotic and flaunting displays of jewelry on the women. They keep their noses high, speak in practiced cadences and always have smart one liners or lovely laughs to punctuate their festivities. The carefully groomed and maintained cream of the crop of the New Haven ruling elite.

In sharp contrast. Abigail’s mob of the disenfranchised from the shelter are dwarfed in the disparity of splendor. It is a sight that would make any staunch progressive’s heart wrest in a rage of the display of inequity. It is well worn on their faces, and the tension is real. The group get many uncomfortable looks from the passersby, and husbands pull their wives away as if they were about to be grabbed by the group. The preacher’s cohorts were less than a dozen in number, dwarfed by the gathered guests but their presence is strongly felt regardless. Security is gathering up by the main entrance, and it’s clear a move to push the homeless off the property will be made soon already.

The hooting, hollering and yelling would start very quickly when one of the homeless would recognize an older gentleman entering the villa. “Hey! I know that bastard! He was the boss of the factory I worked at! He got away scot free while the entire factory was shut down!” The broad shouldered, stubble faced giant of a man launched into a tirade at the man, pointing a finger right at him. The accused quickly pulled a hat over his face to hide his identity, darting through the crowd lest he be put under a court and tried right here and now.

Once the big man made his statement, a series of jeers and cries would join his. “Ay, I went through the exact same! What are they doing here, why aren’t they on the streets like us!” And other phrases like: “Bankruptcy only hurts the poor, not the rich!” The crowd was already getting worked up, and security was quick to act. Firm, angular and aggressive looking guardsmen are marching out across the tarmac. One of them is armed with a baton.

“This is private property!. Remove yourselves from the premises at once!” A policeman shouts down at the crowd, but it only riles them up further. Lines are drawn as the police spread out in an attempt to intimidate the gathering but they stand their ground. Guests are hurried inside, with a very stressed and anxious Thomas Arnault doing his best to insist everything was under control and those hooligans would not be interfering with the night’s planned events…

Montag’s chance is now. Security is in a flux and is completely unprepared for the impromptu protest. Guests are being rushed past the main gate without second thought or even a check on who they are. This chaotic state would be temporary, as Thomas is already ordering his staff to quickly crack down on events.

Abigail too is now facing a crisis of a potential engagement. Her distraction may’ve worked too well, and her accomplices are looking to take out years of frustration and failure out on their perceived oppressors. A violent situation would only make it harder to save Marie’s life. A dark thought crosses her mind. Had she started the series of events that would lead to Marie’s death already?

In the quiet window of Maropis. A lone woman watched over the events with her hands together in front of her. Her gaze is like that of an alert cat. Her posture is prim and contained, and her lips pursed in thought. Marie Arnault is being forced to attend by her father, to keep his appearance as a loving family man. She has spent many years of her life holding her tongue, and she wonders now if today is the day that the dam finally breaks loose and she may find her freedom yet.

It is 6:04pm in the evening. Unbeknownst to the young lady looking out from her cage, she is fated to die in two hours.

Ami's appearance has changed everything. Riku is so caught up in her personal animosity against Kanbaru that she doesn't recognize this is actually a 2v2. The insult more than anything, gets the red wanderer's attention.

"What!? I haven't met your expectations!? Hah! More like you haven't met my expectations!" She feigned a cool comeback, but it was clear the bard's insult got under her skin. She shifted her position to focus on Ami instead, as Kanbaru squared off with the newcomer Annabel. The princess would soon have to learn that things got complicated in the mansion very quickly.

Alright. I'll take a battle stance and assume a defensive position. Keep steady and observe her moves and then poke for weaknesses, should be eas-...whoa she's fast-

Her thoughts are kicked out of her head by a seemingly rocket powered fist of crackling flames. She's slammed hard and gets sent flying, this time her back colliding with a pillar. The blow knocked the wind out of her, and she collapsed into a crumpled heap on the floor. A one hit KO by any stretch of the imagination.

But Riku was stubborn.

With great pain, the hooded maiden staggered back to her feet, clutching her thin scythe closely, using it as a support. The lifeless gem underneath the blade part of the weapon began to shake and glow with strange energy. Riku spoke to herself in a hurried and hushed language, speaking in what sounded like Latin. She raised her weapon up and then would swing it down with her strength, carrying it up from it's downward trajectory so the scythe struck upward into the air.

The gem changed into a bright blue hue that shined across the room in the middle of this swing. It jets out a wave of water, that the princess hops onto to catch for a ride. She fights the bard's fire and speed with her magically summoned aqua based speed. Mimicking Ami's move from earlier, she'd surf her wave with incredible speed to slash right at Ami's chest for a mighty blow, using the speed from her wave to amplify the force for tremendous impact.

"I'm not someone to fall down and give up, you'll find that out very soon!"
There's some quiet for a moment after Mary's departure. Both Montag and Abigail rightfully assuming the woman had left for good and was not coming back. It was such a good sendoff, dramatic and complete.

So it's jarring when the woman suddenly poked her head out between the two of them, as if she had never left and just repositioned herself behind them. They had not even heard her come up, it was so sudden and unpredicted. Mary herself too was probably surprised with the suddenness of her return.

"I'm such a fool! I forgot the most important thing of all! How embarrassing! I had made such a great impression and such a good send off and I have to come back like a fool like I left behind my hat! Ugh!" She is voicing what she perceived the others to be feeling, wanting to go ahead and get it out of the way so she could bring up what she felt was so important to return for.

Without prompt, two pocket watches are placed in either detective's hands. They are a faded gold color and look old. A small chain extends out the back of the device to be held by like a necklace or purse. Opening up the clam shaped instrument revealed it's a cracked pocket watch. Dusty and cracked, they looked like they had been out of use for decades. The arms of the clock both frozen in place, not moving, pointing at the roman numeral lettering that swirled around the hands in a circle. The time it was stuck at is 12:07'o clock in the morning, midnight. Once a moment has passed, the arms begin to tick forward like time had momentarily paused until the watch was opened, it rolls around the clock a few times, before settling accurately on the current present time. These watches must've been heavily modified, and felt strange to hold in one's hand. The feeling was as if something lived inside of it.

"There! That mark on midnight is when Marie is fated to die. It'll only work when you open it, so do keep it closed until tomorrow so you don't confuse the poor thing." Mary also spoke of it as if were alive and had feelings.

"I'm such a fool. Should've been the first thing I opened with. Oh well. Best not to dwell on these things. Now I'll be leaving. Pretend I still left on a good note for me." Mary gave a forced smile, as if to will the encounter to be less awkward through sheer force of emotion.

The diva left and it's easy to imagine once her face was turned that smile morphed into a frustrated scowl, pointed internally at herself. She took great pride in herself, and didn't like appearing a fool. It would probably be best to not try and acknowledge her sudden butting back in.

The clock is ticking. One day until death.

The two team takedown was more than enough to handle the princess, sending her flying again only to be caught by Kanbaru's controlled ice, snatching her out of the air. She is still dazed and confused when those frozen hands clutch around her throat, causing her to choke and groan from the pressure induced pain.

"This isn't a court...of law!" The princess sputtered out, body temperature dropping from the freezing encasement. "You don't have any proof I'm the one who did anything! Just because I'm new here doesn't make me the thief that stole from Victorie! You have to listen to me!" Riku's tone had changed from friendly to indignant. She knew that reason was not working anymore, and she'd have to either make a case for why she should be released or hatch some impromptu escape plan, lest she be held by these crude thugs and subjected to torture. She could not bring herself to imagine again being in Kanbaru's clutches, and was familiar with her preferred torture methods. Her fear was soon to be realized, Kanbaru and Ami had already set their sights on her and try as she might to budge from her quickly created ice prison, her muscles were locked in the chilly encasement.

As dread filled her heart, another actor has come to join the play. Her icy bindings are riddled and torn apart by what appeared to be hail. The frozen water is torn up, loosened and made fragile. Enough for Riku to use the strength she had to break her right arm free of those glacial restraints. She'd soon spark a light of fire with her free hand, muttering a word under her breath to melt the frost on her legs. Using the opportunity this stranger gifted her, she pulled away and got as much distance from Kanbaru and Ami as her little legs could manage. Her scythe extending out, long and sharp and ready for battle as the princess took a combat stance. She felt a great rush of freedom and adrenaline, she had gotten a second chance! Time to not waste it!

"Now I'm actually ready to fight, if you want to push me again like that!" Riku declared, her sights set on the cold fighter.
Hearing through the responses from the two, Mary again felt a sudden need to laugh. She wasn’t sure why, but something was comical and a smile leaked onto her face as a result.

“Oh, took long enough.” Mary was exhausted from waiting for the pair to deliberate between themselves. She abruptly stood up from the stool, stretched out her arms and rolled her shoulders, like she had been still for weeks. She pulled her jacket onto her shoulders, fitting into it.

“Some last details. This is taking place at Thomas’s villa by the sea. A place called Meropis, really tacky. It’s near the Federal Shelter building for the homeless, because the gods enjoy their dark humor. Here’s a picture of the place and the girl. The party is at six o’clock tomorrow.”

Mary slung her purse across her arm next, and seemed about done talking. She glanced at the pair once again, potentially the last time. Instead of her usual impish face, she looked as serious as a statue. She glanced across the room, peering over into other conversations at a distance to examine for eavesdroppers before continuing with a heavy tone.

“Marie is going to die at around midnight. Likely from a wound she received a couple hours earlier. I am not sure when it’s inflicted. What I suggest to you both, is you find and retrieve the girl and get her as far away as the villa as possible. Yourselves included. Take her somewhere safe, and wait the night out.” She passed over a picture, a photograph originally black and white but had been painted over with by an artist.

“It’s the only photograph of the elusive girl. It’s from a incomplete still, her dad made her model for some fashion shoot. Only one photo left from it. I got an artist to paint over it with some careful colors, fill out some details.” Mary explained. “She’s short. Shorter than me. Just turned 18. Shy, likes to read. All I could find.”

The peddler let the two keep the photo. Adding a black and white one of the villa house, the planned location for the fundraising.

“Here’s Meropis. It’s said to be the most splendid house on the west coast, with a beautiful view of the ocean. Honestly, kinda hope it falls into the ocean if anything. I think it’s an eyesore.”

“Alright, I’m done talking. I’ve said too much here, and I think it’s time you both get prepared. Everything is set, just do your job and make sure Marie is not dead by the time the clock strikes midnight tomorrow.” Mary said, her eerie and off putting smile had returned to her face once again.

"Figure out what you're going to do. I don't really care what happens. As long as Marie isn't dead. But don't use that as an excuse to become a criminal. Best of luck, and may whatever road you take be a good one."

The black haired mystery mistress gave a final farewell before departing like a shadow fleeing the light, walking out the bar's exit.

The room was tense. Kanbaru herself was here, a fact that shocked Riku to her core. She was doing her best to keep her composure, and for a moment it really seemed to be working. As long as she could keep things limited to the speaking realm, and prevent things from getting physical the estranged princess would have a chance. After all they had no reason to doubt her so far right?

Very quickly, Riku was proven to be wrong. She was soon being pummeled and thrown in the air by a watery whip that shot her upward, nearly having her back slam against the cobblestone ceiling. Acting on her reflex alone, the princess deflected the torrent of water with a sharp swipe of her scythe to relieve the pressure. Though now she fell onto the ground from her newly elevated height, hitting the floor with a hard slam. A grunt of sharp pain can be heard as she staggered back up onto her feet, a heavy grimace of pain and discomfort on her face.

"Now wait a second!" Again, Riku attempted to buy herself time, wielding her weapon defensively and backing up from the beastial whale. "I'm no thief! I just arrived here! I sincerely wished to offer my services to get some coin!" She spoke in an exasperated panic, her smoothtalking charm had been blasted away with water, which now dripped from her wet and spiky hair.

"I can even assist in finding this thief too! I'm just a mercenary looking for good work!" The princess continued. Though genuinely she hoped her words would work, she is readying something behind her cloaked back, in case Kanbaru moves to fight again.

"I really don't want to fight you again, Kanbaru. I'd never steal from anywhere if I knew you were connected to it." Her gray eyes match her attacker's, a final attempt to talk instead of fight.
Mary lets the two speak their peace, letting them air out all the words that had been summoned by her preposterous proposal while she would sip at her glass every so often.

“Truth is a funny thing. No one can have it but we all want it anyways. I am not asking you to raise your hands against anyone, but simply prevent the murder of Marie. My comment earlier was just a warning. That if Marie’s death is averted, then one must take its place. It could be some random partygoer. It could be daddy Arnault instead. It could be one of you. I have no idea! Isn’t that fun?”

Mary laughed, because she knew it was not very fun. Her hands had been washed of it. If only these two had any idea how much of a pain it was to get even this barebones agreement.

“You may choose not to kill, and let the die roll where they may. Or you may choose to, and make your own destiny. I will not choose for you.”
The envoy understood that she was not explaining enough, and doubted her ability to be able to fully explain everything. She herself did not fully understand the reasonings behind the objective either.

“This girl, Marie. Is the daughter of someone very important. That someone isn’t Thomas Arnault, but someone beyond this world. You may not understand it now, but things are changing in this city. Have you two ever heard the myth of Pandora’s Box?” Mary paused a moment, checking either side of herself to see if they were being watched as if what she said had alerted the attention of someone.

“Let’s just say, it’s been opened. This girl here. An innocent girl, just a 17 year old, about to graduate high school...She has been caught up in this mess. All you two need to do is make sure she doesn’t pay the consequences of something she had no part in and there are very powerful people who will reward those who do it.” She gestured to both Montag and Abigail.

Mary at this point, has given up on elaborating more, realizing that her explanations only birth more questions.

“Let’s get even simpler! You will both receive six thousand dollars each upon completion of this assignment. Nothing needs to be explained further now, I take it?” The woman smiled, confident in simple material need being enough of a motivation.
Mary noted with approval the two drifters from different worlds coming together as she instructed. It was fun to play with people's expectations, put them in odd situations. Amusing to see how they struggled to maintain themselves and their integrity under the looking glass. A cheap and easy way to get to know people quickly enough.

"Your accent Abigail. Very curious. You must be from the old world, literally and figuratively." Mary knocked back another shot glass of whiskey. "Good anchor point in this coming chaos. Montag should keep you close by, he seems the type to get caught up in bad storms quite easily." The true meaning of Mary's words and their purpose, only she knew. The weary look on her face and the serious tone she spoke in gave a great weight to those words.

"But let's move on to business. We've been jawing for what feels like weeks and we haven't even spoken on what we've come here for!" Her voice rose suddenly, impatience cracking out of her usual icy composure."

"A daughter of an up and coming politician is hosting a fundraising party. It's her first, and a lot of eyes are on her to be a good little poster child for her very important dad. That dad by the way is Thomas Arnault, the current mayor of New Haven. His daughter, Marie Arnault is the real focus for us here, and will be attending this party. It seems her dad did not pay off his debts to a gang that assisted him during the election. So some collectors are coming to make threats to him and blackmail, the usual mafia stuff. All you need to know is one very very important thing."

Mary finishes her spiel, took another shot of whiskey and a serious look to each person here.

"Marie Arnault is fated to die during this exchange. A stray bullet will hit her heart, unintended. She will die from her injuries in the night. Your job is to prevent that from happening by any means necessary. You will infiltrate the party in a manner of your own choosing and keep Marie alive. Think of yourselves as Miss Arnault's guardian angels."

Mary smiled at the metaphor, pausing a moment before realizing she had forgotten something else important. She quickly picked back up.

"Ah, yes. If you succeed in preventing Marie's impending death. Then someone else will have to die in Marie's place. You can choose who will be, by simply killing them. Or let the Fates decide. Don't be upset at what the Fates will choose, if you choose not to kill."

Mary had a smile on her face. She had just laid out a heavy burden of information that now the group would have to wrestle with, no doubt having dozens of questions erupting in their little heads. Such a perfect beginning for them, to descend on the journey that the Fates had already set for them...

"I'm assuming you both might have a question or two." She chuckled to herself, cupping a hand around her cheek and leaning against it, eagerly awaiting.

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