Footfalls echoed lightly from high arches and close walls. The Magician's keep was, as always, extremely quiet. Those footfalls being the only noise punctuating a short trek down a particularly long hallway. The master's hallway. It had never been given a true title, but this particular moniker seemed to arise from time to time. Different from the others only in the most basic sense, this hallway's import was its usual traversal. There were no grand secrets hidden in the shadows that danced along along it; though one could argue that the door at the end of that hallway held more than one or two, at least once a proper knock had been given.
As usual, there was a chair at the midway point. It had never been moved, nor would it be. Often, Elegance had questioned its purpose. More than once aloud. Only once had the Magician's keeper been given a proper response. She hadn't understood, at the time. Now it brought a smile to her face, considering the bizarre simplicity of it, as she stepped lightly around it. There was much that seemed simple, once the answer was given. Truly, though, I had heard that answer before. Was it Rain or Constance that had it right? In a way, that didn't matter. Elegance knew that. It was her own thoughts on the subject that should be at the forefront.
Either way, she was right. It's simply there, a test fo- she stopped before one of the few mirrors in the keep, put there at her request, lifting her sparkling lantern to a countenance wracked with long hours, Oh my. That won't do. Lightly, her fingers left the lantern to hover at her side. All at once her face and figure shifted, Elegance adopting a more personally pleasing form. Just like that, it goes away! Dark circles beneath her eyes now spoke of careful application, loose locks shortened and stylized, mouth widened and lips adjusted. She stared for a long moment, bringing a finger to her eyes to test the tenacity of quick changes.
"Ow." Her new frown was positively provocative, the tears in her eyes lending a certain vulnerability to the expression. "Perfect!" Immediately Elegance covered her mouth. Her echo, however, seemed to spread joy through the master's hallway. Neutrality worked its way onto the 'naturally' morose beauty she had claimed. A curse escaped her, silently; turning to take the lantern back in her grip with a sigh. She left her reflection behind, satisfied, still careful to walk lightly.
After all, the master is not one pleased to be woken prematurely, both hands now were wrapped around the lantern, holding it aloft and ahead, Elegance's countenance cast fully in the blue it unevenly shed, Though is anyone in this castle really happy about being awake at this odd hour? I cannot imagine so. However, they had guests to attend. Instructions to follow. Jobs to perform. Elegance had always been the best at this. Which is why she had been chosen. Not by the Magician, who was often too busy to look after himself; but by the shadowy one she had molded several of her appearances after. Elegance had taken each order with graceful patience, making sure to be eloquent when protest was required. As requested.
Slowly the hallway narrowed, the walls framing the door precisely and the ceiling dipping low. Thankfully the door was larger than Elegance by half. Really, it's bigger than most of us. There were perhaps two she could think of, on the keep's staff, that would have trouble approaching the door alone. Still, so far as she was aware, she was the only one who made this trip regularly. Elegance placed the lantern at her feet and knocked on the door. Sixteen knocks, two claps, a stomp and a satisfied sigh to herself. Silence followed. She shifted back and forth, listening, counting down the seconds. Finally, a grunt and the sound of latches thrown. Then, sliding.
The door didn't open, but she felt eyes on her from the other side. "Master?" It was never really a question. Elegance had come to understand, quickly, how things worked in Magician's keep. Silence, expected, followed the question. An invitation to continue. "Your guests are nearly here," she folded her hands, looking slightly upward, "it's time for you to greet them." Elegance gave her best smile to the door. A groan, disbelief and petulant reluctance. Fourteen, fifteen...
He appeared before her with a decompression that made her lantern tilt and sputter. Madness twitched somewhere deep within her, the reason she held her hands as she did. Their grip tightened, not so much as to be obvious; or so she liked to think. Then it subsided. He wore a broad rimmed hat, pointed and much too large to be reasonable. Under that, Elegeance knew, was a face still lined with sleep and unkempt stubble; tired and downcast, his lone eye would be on her feet. The other covered with his most regal patch. "Purple and gold always are a nice combination, but don't you think it would be better to wear your normal one?" He tilted his head, intent on proving her wrong; though Elegance had predicted this. She smiled broadly, giving him her most enthusiastic gesture of approval; a thumbs up.
Indeed, he had worn his normal eye-patch. Black leather and otherwise unremarkable. His normal hat, as well. His coat was different, though, one she had never seen before. It was quite remarkable. Envy wrapped arms around Elegance's throat. Despair struck her in the stomach. He won, after all. Sixteen seconds, my point. Eye-patch, my point. That jacket... A snap brought her eyes to gloved fingers and somewhat to Magician. There was a soft smile on a scruffy face, the lantern in his other hand. "Game over. Magician wins. Good morning, Elegance." He turned and walked away, leaving her trailing behind him.
It was in the fashion of many of his jackets. Tight sleeves growing wide at the wrists, tails that tapered and twisted. However, the material it was made of, the colors were so unlike what she had seen before. Usually he was a man of dour dress, black and deep blues the signature storm-cloud she had come to know. To see him clad in white and the sky's own blue was disconcerting. Not to mention that it makes the hat look out of place. She wouldn't bring that up, though. Instead Elegance did her best to completely ignore that and continue on with her duties.
"Don't worry about it," his voice was relaxed, his pace leisurely, allowing time for his keeper to remain in the lantern's light, "I've been up for a while. Tonight's an important one. For me, for you, for her, for everyone. How am I supposed to sleep with something like this going on?" That was a fair point. One Elegance wouldn't contest, instead nodding along. Magician had been invested in many things over the last two weeks, one of which had proven to be a problem beyond his capacity. "I've figured out a couple of things, that's for sure. Notice that they're arriving with one of their members missing?" Of course she had. Elegance had been watching closely.
"Yes, Koda Yuhashira succumbed to the weight of his Semblance," she brought a finger to her lips, speaking around it, "Do you think offering them condolences would be appropriate?" Magician shook his head, passing the lantern back to her. They both slid around the chair, in silence, before Elegance continued. "You're probably right." She shifted the moment through several different lenses, finally settling on what she thought would be the right light. "It makes sense. That course of action. However, it also brings her motivations into question." She was adept at viewing the strings, but following them to their conclusion was often fruitless; drenched as each possibility was in possibility.
"This wasn't part of her plan," Magician stated that confidently, stretching with the hallway behind him, "Otherwise I would've been instructed to greet fewer visitors." She could feel his frown deepen as he began walking down the stairs. "Though, technically, the number is the same." Elegance hurried to catch up, but stayed a step behind her master, curiosity on her face. A glance in her direction, then ahead, torches kicking to life above and below; their lights shifting from blue to green to red and stalling there. It was a rosy color, revealing a long table and the various faces gathered at it. Greetings rang out in various tones, some of her counterparts waving or rising to bow at their master's entrance.
I suppose he's right. There's only so far one should be willing to trust, however. The others, that distracting mob of uniformed maids and butlers, seemed overexcited. Uncomposed. She allowed herself an internal leer at them. It was unbecoming of those who served her master's needs to act without restraint. I'll discipline them later. For now, I have to attend to my own assignment. She had made note, already, of which of them had cheered loudest.
"Ah, yes, the boy that's tagging along. Didn't you say you were expecting something of the sort?" She kept her own tones light, letting her distaste for the others show with a glare in their direction. Quickly they returned to their meals, only a few daring to make a face or grumble while she was watching. "It should have been dealt with on the road." Elegance let her lantern go, over the rail. It did not shatter, or even touch the ground. Instead it hovered unevenly, drifting aimlessly until sputtering out of existence. "The Mortals I can understand, but inviting an unknown entity into this keep is pressing your luck."
He stepped off the stairs and adjusted his hat, scratching lazily beneath his ears afterward. "Yeah, that's true. I've been thinking about it. It could turn out poorly. Or," he pointed to Elegance without looking, "it could be exactly what I need, at a time like this." When he resumed walking, she was already beside him and gaining speed. "Think about it. If this tag-along is what I think he is, half of my problem will be solved." Elegance nodded, her back now to him. She was thinking about it, but she didn't get it. Magician continued, Elegance lowering her head slightly. "Really, though, it's going to be difficult." A sigh escaped him. "Even if the Mortals are cooperative and straightforward, it's not like anyone is going to want to see what happens."
"Why is that, master?" Elegance was curious, standing straight-backed by the entrance to the keep. Her hand was already on the door, prying it open for him to pass through. Her face was, again, telling. Magician stopped to consider her, placing his own hand atop hers, stopping the door from opening all the way.
"Because," his eye bored into her, vibrant in its oddity, catching the light and shifting between colors she couldn't quite recognize, "they've killed a man dressed as a beast. Scattered him to the wind. They're learning, but they haven't had time to adjust. What I'm going to suggest will almost undoubtedly irritate them." Slowly his fingers drifted away, leaving Elegance fighting her first impulse. "If I'm going to teach them anything, the first test will be the most important. I need you to be on guard, ok?" She opened the door, fully. A lantern appearing in her free hand. "Let's go."
Elegance followed her master into the waiting night and down the keep's steps. Other small points of light existed around the unmarked grounds, lanterns of varying color; put there by her effort. She stayed close to Magician, having taken his words to heart. When she was on guard there was little that escaped her. The blue in her lantern surged, shivering and rising to coat her fingers in cobalt flame. Empty, the vessel served no purpose; dissolving and flickering into nothing. Flexing her digits, the flame danced and intensified, Elegance holding her hand forward to spread light over a wide wedge before them.
...Go on! Say something!
Did we stop?
Tabitha Calvicante had been quiet, for a good while. Long had she stared at the strange spire. Even when light had seemingly been bled from Irriss, there was an aura around the place. Not entirely uninviting like it was during the day. The clear sky at it's back, the moon hanging beside it in a half that brought to mind beaches and vodka. Other than a giggle, here and there, at her own absurd thoughts; she found there was nothing to say. So, instead Tabitha had focused on the small problems. Chewing over the same five or six things kept her feet moving and her eyes open.
Her hand on fire? Ya gotta be jokin'. Who the fuck's this?
Now, her mouth was moving. For the first time in what felt like hours. All that came out, first, was a rasp. She cleared her throat and stepped from behind the group to better observe, tilting her head. Indeed, before them were two people. One was a guy in a big hat and some kind of jacket. That, like, some kinda fucked up windbreaker? She couldn't really tell. It was eye-catching in the dark, regardless. The other was a maid with her hand on fire. Something about her was eerily familiar to Tabitha. It's her face. Looks like... A shiver chased the thought away. Nah, the eyes're different. Besides, if she was here we'd know about it. I think? Does that mean he's...?
They stood side by side, in silence. Tabitha wasn't sure she caught it, but for a second the maid's eyes darted to the man; then back to the group. She couldn't see his face very well. Body language didn't reveal much. He seemed relaxed, from what she could tell; hands dangling at his side. It's him, right...? Looking between them she barely noticed that defending herself hadn't crossed her mind. Part of her blamed it immediately on fatigue. Another whispered that she didn't much care about fighting; that Tabitha had accepted this encounter because it had been the only way forward.
Ellard, who she had momentarily forgotten about, was staring hard at the duo. She considered him, for a moment, giving a light nudge. His eyes moved from them to her and back, finally settling at the ground.
The one in the hat shifted, bringing a hand to his mouth; leaning to whisper something to his companion. Her flame sputtered, dimming for a moment. The maid's eyes widened and shock touching lightly on her features. "Oh, of course. My apologies." It was after a rapid whisper, but Tabitha caught that part; before the woman composed herself and her eyes fell on the group. A gloved hand was holding the brim of the hat low, though her periphery might have caught the ghost of a smile. "Welcome to the Magician's domain, Mortals. I'm Elegance, head of staff in the keep."
"We here, for real?" She couldn't help herself. Tabitha wasn't sure she had even spoken the words until she felt eyes on her. A shrug followed, too tired to be given true pause. "I mean, damn. We walked a long way. About time. Ya gonna let us in or what?" Despite how tired she had become, Tabitha smiled. The maid frowned at her, then disregarded her entirely.
"This," she pointed with the hand that wasn't burning blue, "is Magician." He stepped forward, then, offering a slight tilt of his hat in their direction.
"Thanks, Elegance," he sounded normal enough, but that hardly meant anything, "I'll take it from here." Tabitha couldn't help but feel underwhelmed, despite the tension creeping through her. The guy in front of them wasn't making much of an impression. Still, hatred for the one he served was hard to fight down. The maid stepped back, brandishing her hand. "You're finally here. That's good. It's not easy to make it from Lightbridge." He brought a hand up, motioning to the group. "However, a couple of things I need to sort out before you can come in. First, some of you haven't put on your Semblance." He sighed, after saying that.
"The way I see this is simple. You choose to surrender it, or you put it on. Otherwise, I can't help you." Entirely uncertain, Tabitha watched his hand as it lowered. "The second is a matter concerning Silverbrook. That conversation's a little more complicated. I'll let you decide exactly what's going to happen. There are a lot of paths we can take, so take your time. Think of questions, if you need to."
Wait...what? We gettin' this bullshit again? I ain't...fuck, I ain't wanna do this. Y'all up.