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One More Chance

Earth

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a part of One More Chance, by Jane Storm.

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Jane Storm holds sovereignty over Earth, giving them the ability to make limited changes.

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Earth

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Earth is a part of One More Chance.

14 Characters Here

Vasile (Basil) [3] The Divine Messenger
Annabelle Penclave [2] The underdog of pharmaceutical and bio-chemistry.
Julien Augustus [1] Lord of Magnolia Manor
Adelia Chevalier [0] "The flowers have bloomed..."
Helmut Jaegar [0] "Which, if not victory, is yet revenge."
Maximilian Uliara [0] An illusionist looking to enjoy a noble party
Duncan MacCraigh [0] Scotsman. Soldier. Smartass.
Valian De Leon [0] a very odd person with a weird humor
Genevieve Mayfair [0] Lady of Magnolia Manor

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So the man wasn’t ordained yet, Alayna thought. She thought he might have been too young to be a priest. Still the man had a ‘feeling’ about him that made him more spiritual than any crooked bishop or other ‘religious’ person she knew. Alayna’s religious views were someone ambivalent. On one end, she was just like any other Christian that went to church when she should and did believe in a high power. On the other hand, she met plenty of people who claimed to be ‘religious’ and were some of the biggest hypocrites she had ever met. This group also included a few religious figures. She also wondered if a God did exist because she remembered praying and praying for freedom and happiness and felt she never had her prayers answered. So just like people in general, she lost her faith in God for helping her. Alayna now believed if one wanted something done, that person had to do it all by itself.

Alayna watched the interplay between Lord Byron and religious man. She wanted to smirk when Vasille put the nobleman in his place. She could only agree with the man. It seemed he lived by his words, which Alayna admitted was admirable. As Alayna ate, she saw Lord Mayfair looking her at times and recognized that look. Her eyes harden until it looked like her eyes were made of stone. If Lord Mayfair had any ideas concerning her, he had another thing coming. And when he smiled at her, she thought it was like a wolf smiling, something not to be trusted.

She instinctively stuck up her nose and replied, “It depends on how you define ‘blessing’ Lord Mayfair. I for one believe it’s something only the honorable can attain for they are able to treasure it above all else instead of looking for greener pastures.”

In reality, Alayna did see herself blessed, but not in the way Lord Mayfair perceived. She considered herself lucky to have the means to help others. She turned back to Vasille and her eyes softened a bit before speaking to him.

“Mr. Vasille, my name is Alayna Renoldi. I am in the process of having an orphanage built and I would like it blessed when the building is done. Would you be so kind as to bless it when it’s done?” she asked pleasantly.

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Jared gasped under her lips and kissed her back with the same fire. His jaw and bottom lip hurt like hell, but he didn’t complain. After all, how often does one get an unexpected kiss from a lady?

“There. Now it’s not all that bad, now is it?” Emma said letting him go and looked at his beautiful face covered in bruises.

Jared could only look at her and smile. She was so beautiful and so full of life, it seemed like nothing could bring her down. It didn’t matter to him if her kiss was just a whim of a noblewoman, although her panic from the night before proved him wrong. Maybe she cared more about him than he knew.

“How..did you know?” he finally asked with effort. With each word came a shot of pain.
Emma smiled revealing her pearly white teeth and tucked her curls behind the ears.

“Of course.” He replied. “I almost forgo..” her finger closed his lips.
“Save your words for what I really don’t know. What happened? The servants think you’re a thief.”

“Lord Byron.” Jared took a deep breath of air. “I was taking my bags down the stairs when he came to me. I only said I’m following the mistress’ orders and he started to punch me. All I can remember are his fists coming down on my face and stomach, and then I hit the floor. I honestly don’t know what I’ve done wrong.”
He closed his eyes for a moment trying to concentrate on the pain.

“I lost your ring when I fell. I’m sorry.”

Emma began to put the puzzle pieces together. “I think you’re accused of stealing the ring from the Mayfairs.Don’t you find it strange that he found my ring after he beat you for stealing it? It doesn’t make any sense…punishing someone before the actual crime takes place. So there must be another reason behind it.”

She couldn’t understand what triggered Byron’s rage no matter how hard she tried to using both reason and intuition.

“That…or he’s a clairvoyant like Madam Fuchsia.” Jared joked and the words took him a great deal of effort. She didn’t smile.

“I have to talk with Genevieve.” Emma looked at him and her eyes flickered.
“Did he say anything else?”

“I’m afraid not.” He tried to move but the pain was too much to handle. Margret knocked on the door and after getting approval to enter,she told Emma that breakfast was served in the garden. Nathaniel was right behind her hopping around like any child does when he finds something interesting.

“The doctor says I take care o’ you, mister Jared!” he said excited. “Can ya show me your scars?”
“Boy, were are your manners?” the maid scolded him. “Greet Lady Chambers first.”

“Good mornin’ ma’am.” He said quickly and rushed over to the bed, pulling the covers to take a better look at Jared’s torso in hopes of finding a scar or two.

Emma stood up, but not without taking a quick glance herself.
“I’m going to see Genevieve in the garden. I’ll be back as soon as I can.” She gestured Margret to lead the way and stepped out of the room.

Jared followed her with his eyes and smiled. He never felt so happy in his life and if a good tussle brought him her attention, he wouldn’t mind getting beat up a couple more times just for that.

“Eww, gross!” Nathaniel shouted looking one of his older wounds. “When did ya get that?”

“That’s another story, Nathan.” The man said closing his eyes and dozing off into a well deserved sleep.

*

“I would be honored to speak with you about various literatures over tea some time.” Clarice said and Genevieve approved her words with a nod. She wasn’t keen on befriending one of her husband’s future trophies, but the woman did seem like she was more than good looks and voracious desires.

The priest introduced himself as a missionary and upon hearing that he’s an herbalist that tends to the sick, Genevieve’s thoughts went to Jared and hope made its way into her mind again. She was taken aback by her husband’s lack of politeness towards the young missionary and she was even more surprised by the other’s quick and stern reply. Lady Mayfair never met anyone that put off Lord Byron like that before.

She was quite amazed that the man didn’t boast with his achievement and she took a better look at him. While young of age and straight in his posture, Vasile had something of an older man’s allure to him. If it was because of his serious black clothes or the white strands in his hair, Genevieve couldn’t tell, yet his words carried wisdom and power, the kind of power one doesn’t need to show off in order to know that it’s there.


“ With all due respect, my lord, I agree that you are blessed by God. You have a wonderful soul by your side and that is the only treasure one has for eternity if you cherish it wisely.”

The words made her blush. “If only Byron would realize their meaning”. She thought and looked at him with curiosity. Instead of looking back at her, the lord turned over to Alayna and started one of his improper word games. However, Alayna had a sharp tongue and replied with sarcasm, for which Genevieve was grateful.

I am in the process of having an orphanage built and I would like it blessed when the building is done. Would you be so kind as to bless it when it’s done?” the woman asked the priest ignoring Byron.
So she wasn’t as stone hearted as everyone thought. The other guests were waiting for the man’s reply and the silence was interrupted by Emma’s arrival. She was looking rather normal which was really out of the ordinary for her. Her simple ivory dress was wrapped nicely around her slender body and the fabric looked like the waves of the sea when she moved.

“Good morning everyone” she said with a cheerful voice. I believe the sun is about to end its visit at Magnolia.“ she continued with a cryptic tone and took a chair next to Genevieve, right in front of the illusionist.
“Oh look, we have pancakes!” she said ignoring the fact that a new guest was already sitting at the table.

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Vasile looked up when the Lord addressed a silver haired woman. It seemed like the two weren’t exactly on good terms with one another. The lady spoke to him in a kinder voice.
“Mr. Vasille, my name is Alayna Renoldi. I am in the process of having an orphanage built and I would like it blessed when the building is done. Would you be so kind as to bless it when it’s done?”

Her words were honest and the tone in her voice made him feel comfortable, less cautious around the guests from a higher class. Before he could answer, another guest arrived at the table.
“I believe the sun is about to end its visit at Magnolia.“ she said and when he looked up at the sky, there was not a cloud on it, just a blue vastness and a lot of light. He wanted to know what she meant when she said that, but she just changed the subject to pancakes, ignoring him and the others completely. Vasile knew that often God’s messages came through the mouth of others and he thought that maybe he should stick around for a while. He chose to answer the lady’s question first.

“I’m delighted to make your acquaintance, Miss Alayna and I’m glad you decided to build such a useful institution. Your request honors me and I’m more than happy to be of service. At the time of its opening I might be away from England, but I’ll leave you the address of my monastery. That way I’ll know when to come back.” He smiled with kindness and bowed his head as a sign of respect.
He took out a leathered notebook from his bag and pulled out a single paper. It was of yellowish color, the kind of paper that was made in the monasteries by the old methods. He started to write the address with charcoal and a name.

“This is the name of my grandfather” he said and handed Alayna the piece of paper.
“God’s love is one for all beings and he blesses everyone without exception. Yet, the interesting thing is that He gives blessings according to everyone’s virtues. In Heaven and on Earth is the same. So when someone receives a certain blessing, he will know exactly how much he’s entitled to it and will take the exact amount he deserves from it.”
He shivered a bit embarrassed.
“I’m sorry, it seems I got a little taken away. It’s not my place to talk as much without being asked on the matter.”
“ Miss Alayna,” he continued after a moment “I’m not a bigot and I try to speak as little as possible, mostly when I feel the need to clear something up. If you have anything you want to talk about, regarding any other matter including the matters of the soul I am at your disposal.” He said seriously, but his voice was warm and friendly. It was a bit strange for him that with just a few words he managed to earn another’s attention and also to feel that the tension in the air loosened with his presence.

Byron just had to comment on the Ice Queen’s reply and he used the missionary’s words as a backup.
“God gives what He pleases to whom He pleases and is man’s duty to treasure His gifts. Who am I to turn away from the riches that He gives and risk being ungrateful? If I receive a golden grape in my vineyard and He decides – in all his mercy- to put a silver apple tree in my orchard the next day why shouldn’t I enjoy all the fruits?”
He turned toward Genevieve with a smug look on his face, challenging her to say something in return. He placed his bets on her guilty conscience, aiming for a proof of her unfaithfulness with the butler.

“There’s one thing to be grateful for His gifts and another to take pride in having them.” The young priest replied with a half smile. “Who is to say that the other fruits aren’t meant for another and it might be one’s duty to make sure they take the right path to their rightful owner?” he said without being aware of the purpose for which they were all gathered by the Mayfairs. He could sense Emma’s gaze upon him like a breath on his neck, but he didn’t move his eyes from the lord.

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#, as written by lumikb
Adelia was silently listening to their conversation and was watching every move of the priest.The way he talked made him sound older than his actual age , she liked his way of thinking , it was righteous and in a way fair.Lord Byron on the other hand had let his bad side show more than enough for one day , he was so similar with Lord Helmut that she could swear they could be brother.

“Mr. Vasille, my name is Alayna Renoldi. I am in the process of having an orphanage built and I would like it blessed when the building is done. Would you be so kind as to bless it when it’s done?”

Her words were honest and the tone in her voice made him feel comfortable, less cautious around the guests from a higher class. Before he could answer, another guest arrived at the table.
“I believe the sun is about to end its visit at Magnolia.“ she said and when he looked up at the sky, there was not a cloud on it, just a blue vastness and a lot of light. He wanted to know what she meant when she said that, but she just changed the subject to pancakes, ignoring him and the others completely. Vasile knew that often God’s messages came through the mouth of others and he thought that maybe he should stick around for a while. He chose to answer the lady’s question first.


She looked at Alayna with admiration , she wondered if she could help her project in any way but she took the decision to talk about that later.The conflict between the Mayfair couple was making her feel very uncomfortable .Will her married life be the same?

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It was a good sign that Clarice wanted to get his attention but that would be impossible really, he just wont give any for now.Her little playing around as tempting as it was, wasn't going to work on him and anyway even if she would give Maximillian a try it would give him a real reason to be done with the man.

So he looked after the priest and Lord Byron , he thought the man deserved getting such a rasp answer from Alayna since he should know better than try his luck like that too soon with a woman like the ice queen.After all if the Lord Byron was as smart as he was , not to mention the age diffrence , Helmut acctually had better expectations.So he chose just to smile as making fun silently of what happened.

“Mr. Vasille, my name is Alayna Renoldi. I am in the process of having an orphanage built and I would like it blessed when the building is done. Would you be so kind as to bless it when it’s done?”

Tipical for a woman , no matter how they were in bed or with men in general they all had a soft spot for charity and of course they all got along with priests.But this guy wasn't your ordinary priest , no he wasn't , being that young and probably fighting against sin all the time.Why every tipe of sin is gathered at this moment , at this table... awaiting to get hold of this untainted soul.

Helmut would have liked to see this man who looked at himself as all knowing in the ways of God how he fell into the dirt of reality.The tremble that took over his heart when he saw Vasile's face had now turned into disgust for the teachings he was giving freelly to those that spoke with him.

When the woman Emma entered the scene , Helmut didn't have too much of an impression but the conversation between her and the new guest was let's say intriguing.

Byron just had to comment on the Ice Queen’s reply and he used the missionary’s words as a backup.
“God gives what He pleases to whom He pleases and is man’s duty to treasure His gifts. Who am I to turn away from the riches that He gives and risk being ungrateful? If I receive a golden grape in my vineyard and He decides – in all his mercy- to put a silver apple tree in my orchard the next day why shouldn’t I enjoy all the fruits?”
He turned toward Genevieve with a smug look on his face, challenging her to say something in return. He placed his bets on her guilty conscience, aiming for a proof of her unfaithfulness with the butler.

“There’s one thing to be grateful for His gifts and another to take pride in having them.” The young priest replied with a half smile. “Who is to say that the other fruits aren’t meant for another and it might be one’s duty to make sure they take the right path to their rightful owner?” he said without being aware of the purpose for which they were all gathered by the Mayfairs. He could sense Emma’s gaze upon him like a breath on his neck, but he didn’t move his eyes from the lord.


"With so many fruits of God around dear priest it is really hard to keep your duty for anything." Helmut reacted "Sharing is a virtue after all." he smiled dearly towards Vasile."Is it that for a young man like yourself to keep to God's lectures , I wonder? I myself could never ..." he took a sip from his tea.

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((This will be my last post til I get back. Ya'll have fun and I'll see you soon.))

Alayna nodded to the religious man and graciously accepted the piece of paper. The man did talk quite a bit, but she found herself not bothered by it. She probably didn't mind him because he put Lord Byron in his place time after time. The next thing the lord said Alayna found off. Just what was he implying? She saw him look at Lady Mayfair when he finished talking. Obviously the statement was for her. It might be tied to what happened last night. Alayna had a feeling it did. She really was becoming disgusted with the lord's behavior, but was good at hiding it.

She was about to reply when Margaret showed up and seemed to be rushing towards the table. She looked worried about something too and Alayna wondered what was wrong. She expected her to go to Lady Mayfair or even Lord Mayfair; instead, the maid went to her.

"Is something wrong Margaret?" Alayna asked her.

"Begging your pardon ma'am, but this note just arrived at it's for you. It's urgent." the maid said.

Puzzled, Alayna opened the note and it read,

Lady Renoldi,
I am sorry to tell you this, but last night there was a fire in the manor on the west wing area. Luckily no one was there so no one was hurt. I've sent a letter to the local law enforcement and hope to have someone arrive soon. I hate to ask this of you but would you be so kind as to return home for now until we figure out what has happened?

Your faithful servant,

Carruthers.


Carruthers was Alayna's butler. After reading the note, Alayna did her best to keep her composure.

She looked at Lady Mayfair and replied, "My lady, I am sorry but I must return home. There's been an emergency and it needs my attention. I shall return when all things are settled. Thank you for your hospitality."

With that, she left the table and nearly rushed back inside to ger some of her things together. She was allowed to use a carriage and with luck she get home in less than 3 hours. She packed light and within thirty minutes was dressed in travel clothes before getting into a carriage and traveling home, praying things would be okay.

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“Moonflower” her voice cut through the silence like a silver knife, “known as Datura Inoxia, meaning ‘dreaming of love’. Primrose, Primula Vulgaris, ‘I can’t live without you’, or, better yet, ‘eternal love’.” She stopped to take a deep breath and then continued with the enlisting of flowers and their meanings.

Duncan remained silent as the woman spoke, eyes staring into nothing as he mulled over her words.

“The small flower you observed, the common Violet, means ‘faithful love’. And then there are the roses, the worst offenders.” the words came as a bitter reminder of how every woman got easily swayed and romantic when presented with just one of these already common plants. Thing that sickened her even more because every man opted for a single red rose in order to express their ‘feelings’. She continued, detaching herself from her experiences. “Red represent love, white say ‘I am worthy of you’ and yellow symbolize the concept of ‘forgive and forget’. And all of these are found in Lady Mayfair’s garden, in full bloom. Of course this all isn’t proof enough that she is deeply and irrevocably in love with her husband. But it helps the prognostic.”

Tiredly rubbing the back of his neck, the Captain took a long drag of his cigar and let out the smoke thereof in a weary breath as the Scientist finished her explanation. Mind you, he still couldn't quite comprehend how a woman like Genevieve could feel so much love and devotion for a man like Byron who, from what he'd seen and heard that night, wasn't someone he'd immediately judge worthy of such affections; though that may have just been his critical lack of experience in dealing with the fairer sex making itself readily apparent.

He snuck a glance at the woman on the other end of the bench at that last thought, eyes quickly flicking away as she turned to him herself and almost caught him staring, the night's shadows obscuring yet another unusual outbreak of heat on his face. The Scotsman wasn't quite sure what to think of the brunette, even less so about the cartwheels his stomach seemed intent on performing in her presense.

Finally noticing the silence that filled the gazebo, Duncan chanced another look at Annabelle, only to reflexively reach out and catch her by the shoulders before she could hit her head off the bench as she fell over onto her side, clearly asleep.

"Nae a moment's rest with ye people, is there?" The man chuckled quietly and ruefully as his heart slowly started to calm down... Only to almost stop entirely as gravity saw fit at that moment to compel the woman's sleeping head to fall towards him, leaving nary an inch or two of space between them as he'd had to lean over to catch her.

Everything froze. His mind, his body, the world around him... everything just stopped. All the man could think, fathom or even comprehend semi-intelligently was the feel of something gently blowing across his lips.

"...Oh." Was all he managed to vocalize upon realizing that it was her breath... and that it felt very much the opposite of bad.

Suddenly, the Scotsman's conscious mind caught up to the rest of him and he suddenly remembered how to breathe and think rationally again, gently laying the Englishwoman down on the bench as his hand hurriedly dived into his pocket to find a replacement for the cigar that fell out of his mouth when he caught her.

'What the bloody damned hell was that?!' The Captain's normally disciplined mind screamed into his subconscious as he worriedly rubbed his temples.

-------

At last the morning came, bathing the garden in a warm glow as birds began their morning songs. Duncan remained where he had been all night, head resting in his palm as the sleeping form next to him began to stir, before suddenly jumping up in surprise.

The Scotsman took the moment to force his humour, the old defense-mechanism he used to hide his thoughts and feelings, back to life as the woman frantically looked around trying to ascertain just where she was.

“Captain MacCraigh, were you awake all night long?” Anna asked him, having apparently gathered her bearings

"I wisnae gonna leave ye out here by yerself, Miss Penclave" He replied, forcing the previous night's events as far from his mind as he possibly could "'Sides, I told ye I dinnae sleep much anyway, r'member?"

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(Goddamn triple post? honestly?)

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(Ach, double-post.)

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I don't know why this got doube posted, must be something with the server.

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While the mistress hoped for a peaceful morning to compensate for the night’s agitated events, fate decided to give her and her honourable guests the chance to reveal their true natures in what turned out to be a dynamic conversation. Byron was of course the initiator instigating others on the way, yet the priest proved himself a no less worthy opponent.
Genevieve caught her husband’s inquisitive look and chose to respond with another, narrowing her eyes. If it’s war he wants, then war is what he’ll get. The thought empowered her. He will never see her cry in front or because of him ever again.

She was happy to see Emma again and her out of place greeting didn’t surprise lady Genevieve who was accustomed to her strange ways.

“Who is to say that the other fruits aren’t meant for another and it might be one’s duty to make sure they take the right path to their rightful owner?” , Vasile said.
Now that was a sentence that intrigued Genevieve. Was the priest really here by coincidence or did some higher authority sent him to Magnolia Manor to find out why there were so many strangers gathered in one place?
Many had a bone to pick with one of the richest couples in England and many more had enough reasons to slit Byron’s throat if the chance did arise, of course.

"With so many fruits of God around dear priest it is really hard to keep your duty for anything." Helmut reacted "Sharing is a virtue after all."
“That loathsome man.” Genevieve snapped. “Can’t he keep his mouth shut for once?”

Margret made a curtsey in front of Alayna and offered her a note. The woman’s facial expression turned from surprise to shock and then to impatience. She stood up and apologized, saying that she was called back home for an emergency and her urgent tone of voice proved her words to be true.

“Margret shall accompany you and help you pack” Genevieve said. “Please return as soon as everything is settled and whatever happens, please remember that you are always welcomed here at Magnolia Manor.” She embraced her and let her go to her room almost running. Genevieve wanted to escort her to the carriage, but she couldn’t leave her other guests. She was also sad to see her go like this. For one thing, she was fond of the cold beautiful woman and also she couldn’t help but think of the Captain.
“If indeed he is her soul mate.”
Genevieve never expected for things to turn out this way. Her own marriage was at stake and some of the guests including her husband used her celebration only as a pretext to play around with the opposite gender. “And this was supposed to be a celebration for true love. Not this kind of love!” she thought in anger and her cheeks went in flames.

Everything ticked her off. Byron, Helmut, Alayna’s sudden leave. Her eyes went over to Vasile and she caught him looking straight at her like her father used to do when he wanted to scold her. Then she relaxed. The green depths of his eyes were calming and soothing and she no longer felt that she was at the table, but somewhere far far away, in a land of perfection. She was lying on the grass and the sun warmed her skin as she was closing her eyes. Then she felt a drop of rain on her cheek, followed by another. She came back to reality just as it started pouring. The guests were taken by surprise by the sudden rain that was too cold and too quick for that time of the year. The tables got messy as drops of pudding and wine from the glasses started to bounce on the table cloth and on the guests’ attires. Everyone was bustling and standing up ready to leave the garden, except for Emma. She was standing perfectly still on her chair, with a piece of pancake stuck to her fork and her eyes fixed on the priest. From there she looked over to the illusionist and then back again to Vasile. The clairvoyant made a connection.

“Quickly, to the house!” Genevieve shouted already soaked and ran to the door. Just as she was about to open it, the door went back with a bang. At the same moment all the windows went down. She tried to open the door again, but it was locked.

“Nathaniel!” There was no answer. “Lenard, go through the east wing and open the door for us please.” She demanded and after a couple of minutes, while the rain poured and poured from the heave grey clouds, the servant came back running.
“The doors are locked there as well and no one answered my call, your ladyship!”

“Glenn, go the west wing. There must be Bertha on the ground floor, knock on the window if you have to.”

The other servant came back with the same answer and with a new information, that the windows were locked as well.

“Even my own house gives me trouble today” Lady Genevieve thought and after a moment she addressed the guests.
“I know another way in, please follow me and whatever you do..stick together” She went along the narrow path that surrounded the manor and came to a halt on the back of the manor in front of the wall. She gently pushed one of the bricks and found a rusted door knob. She pushed it and opened the door that just a few moments ago was part of the wall. Genevieve asked the others to follow and entered the darkened hallway that passed through the cellars.

"Lenard, go gather the other guests and show them the way, this is easy to miss." she said and the man told the other servants to accompany the guests to the hidden door. Glenn came across the gazebo where he saw two of the guests and called on to them.

"Please follow me!" he shouted waving his long arms.

On the other side of the garden, as you pass through the tall grass and the field of freesia, just on the other side of the pond laid a small orchard. And in that orchard two plants started to grow too fast to call it "natural."

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In the fraction of a second before the Captain answered her, she managed to sit up straight and take a standing position that made it easier for her to see his face from a frontal view.

"I wisnae gonna leave ye out here by yerself, Miss Penclave" He replied, forcing the previous night's events as far from his mind as he possibly could "'Sides, I told ye I dinnae sleep much anyway, r'member?"

‘Miss Penclave ?!’ she accentuated the verbal reverence in her mind, raising an irritated eyebrow that pressed at its tip against the space between it and its twin. ‘I thought I made it clear for the courtesies to be dropped, but oh well…’ she let her eyebrow take its initial position.

“No, I guess you wouldn’t have left even if I were awake.” She motioned back towards the bench and sat half a meter away from the Captain. “Though I deeply appreciate that you stood by my side and regret that I put you in such a situation, I would have been alright on my own.” With the risk of sounding ungrateful she acted brave, dismissing ever needing protection from anyone.

“And I do remember…” it sounded odd that she’d say that, as if they knew each other for years. Her mind drifted off to a dark-green pill wrapped in a golden foil and placed in one of her pocket watch’s compartments. “…And I might have something that’ll help you, as a thank you for your kindness.” The cheerful tone returned to her voice.

A sudden downpour began, which made her aware that the Sun hid behind a big black cloud.

“Oh, it’s raining…” she uttered, eyes gazing at the falling raindrops.

Shortly afterwards, she saw the servant flailing his arms and urging them to follow him. Walking out into the rain and heading towards the butler, it took Anna a few moments to realize that walking as they were, with their heads uncovered and thin summer clothes, they would get soaked. Luckily for her, her overcoat was protection enough from the rain.

‘That’s it! We can use it as a cover until we get inside.’ She took a moment to stop and unbutton it, then catching up with the Captain and the butler. She threw one side over the Captain’s head, while holding on to the other and shouting towards Glenn, who was a few steps away.

“Please get under the coat, its pouring like no tomorrow and you’ll catch a cold walking around like this.”

“No worries, ma’am, I’m pretty resilient and the entrance is not far.”

At that moment she threw a scrutinizing look towards the Captain, warning him not to refuse her gesture, she wasn’t put in a good situation by the rain, either. She was forced to walk around in her nightgown (http://i454.photobucket.com/albums/qq27 ... htgown.jpg), revealing the skin of her neck and area just above her breasts, what was worst, in the company of men!

That desperate voice started screaming in her mind again, warning her of the sin her skin was, sending impulses that made her want to cover the exposed skin or peel it right off her bones. It said the same about her hair, reason for which she kept it always tied. And what confused and scared her more was that it was her voice. ‘Keep your hair tied and your body’s skin covered until…’ there was this condition, but, as much as she tried figuring it out, she never could finish the warning.

The loud growl of her stomach broke her out of those confusing thoughts and made her aware of more pressing matters, she was hungry, as hungry as a wolf.

“…I guess I’m hungry…” she said in a low, embarrassed voice, fixing her eyes on the ground to avoid her companions glances.

Shortly enough they arrived at the hidden door. She let the butler and the Captain go in first, taking the time to quickly wrap the coat around herself again, before going down the stairs. Halfway down they caught up with the rest of the guests, servants and the Mayfairs.

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Clarice noticed her attempt at getting Helmut's attention was cut off, as he had noticed but didn't care to look. Two could play that game. Instead she busied herself with pretending to eat. She had become an expert at the event, pretending to eat was second nature. It was about three steps to the process. One, she put a good amount of food in her plate. Two, she moved it around, pulling it away from the corners and cutting it up. Three, she did take a few bites, but only when people were looking.

A few drops of rain trickled down her forehead onto her plate. She turned her icy eyes skyward to the darkening sky. Then everybody was in a frenzy.

Clarice did not understand why everyone was rushing in. Sure it was raining, but why not enjoy it? It was obvious everybody there had a spare change of clothes and it was just a little water. Her blonde hair became doused and the chiffon and lace of her ivory dress clung to her body showing off her siren like curves. She followed as everyone ran to and from, in a desperate attempt to find cover. As they waited for someone to open a door they had to stand in the ran for a minute or so.

There was only thing she could do. Laugh. Clarice's light airy laughter bounced off the raindrops and echoed in the yard. "Isn't it lovely?" A smile spread across her cherry lips.

All to soon they were herded into the basement, each one of them breathing a bit heavier and the warm muggy air encompassing them. "Well, wasn't that jolly fun?" Clarice stopped short, something in the basement was weird, or maybe it was the fact that every door and window besides this one had been locked... she didn't know.. but she took the moment to pull her hair down and ring it out, cool water dripped from her drenched locks.

(sorry for the short post.. it was from my phone and I really did not have anything in particular to reply too..)

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Vasile was surprised just like everyone else by Ms Renoldi’s sudden departure. “May God bless you on your journey back home!” he managed to say just before she left the garden. Lord Byron, on the other hand, was quite displeased with the outcome. Alayna left before he could do anything to soften the woman into a less hostile attitude.

It started pouring. He glanced at Clarice and saw her dress stuck to her curveous body, revealing her shapes. She looked simply delicious.
Genevieve was the first to run to the house and everyone else soon followed her only to discover that the doors were locked, the windows shut and none of the servants from inside answered their call.
“What’s the meaning of this?” he questioned Lenard when he came back without a positive answer. The other servant proved as useless as the first one and when Byron decided to kick the door if otherwise it wouldn’t open, Genevieve already found another entrance into the house. Rather, she used a secret one, of which Byron had no knowledge until that day.

“Interesting” he thought just as he entered the dark corridor and stepped down into the basement. The first one to enter was Genevieve, followed by the others. Vasile kept close to them, bewildered and utterly confused of what was happening.
“Maybe this is some kind of game” he told himself and tried as hard as he could to see in front. The only source of light came from the entrance and as they stepped forward, the darkness seemed to engulf everything.
Genevieve stopped, waiting for the others, maybe afraid to go on into the unknown. The place looked like it hasn’t been entered for over a decade and it took Byron a few moments to get the spider webs out of his hair. He was right behind Clarice and when the group came to a halt he made sure to get as close as possible to her body. Feeling a little venturous, he stretched his arms, embracing her quietly by the waist. He smelled her hair, closing his eyes and ventured as far as to lift his right arm a little further up her waist, just under her ribs.

Another group of people entered shortly after that moment and Byron vaguely recognized the Scotsman which he had hoped to get to know a little better since his arrival and the last female guest that arrived at the party, some lady what’s-her-name. Or maybe she wasn’t a lady, Byron couldn’t tell if she was high-class or not, judging by her looks and manners. Rich noblewoman were often eccentric, he knew it all too well after meeting Emma Chambers for the first time.

“Excuse me, Lady Mayfair, but why are we stopping?” the young missionary asked as water was dripping out of his long clothes and hair.

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The dawn came and it's golden red light the ghosts of thought held no sway in the naval captain's mind. John after his restless night welcomed the reprieve from such assiduous memories or hallucinations as he firmly believed them to be. After all what sane man dreamed of Sparta and angels. He was after all a Englishman and an officer John reminded himself but the vividness of it all remained in some corner of his minded.

Getting up from the lavish bed his room came equipped with John strode to the bathroom looking at himself in the mirror, pleased to see at least his face didn't show his turbulent frame of mind. Then again he had much experience in crafting the mask it wore, after all a navy captains had to be as such. They were terrible things, men to be feared and respected. The blonde Englishman only thanked his lucky stars the ratings of the Royal Navy received better treatment these days. For John did not know if he had in him the will to be the draconian figure past Captains had to be.

Splashing some cold water onto his face the naval captain made his way over to the sparse luggage he had brought with him. And decided what rags to wear, for compared to the other high born guests he would be dressed in rags. Once more that pauper's fear clouded him as he considered the poor image he'd make in his clothes. Briefly he considered wearing his dress uniform once more for even it's out of date cut would be more impressive then his other clothes. But to show up in the same clothes as last night would hardly be a step up.Going through the assortment of carefully packed clothes John decided on the other real semi-formal clothing he had aside from his day uniform which was still at his small manor.


A white button shirt with a short turn over collar that held a loosely done bow tie with a slate grey waistcoat and matching single breasted blazer that had covered buttons. Finishing it off was black trousers and low shoes also black. Running a comb through his hair with one hand he fastened the topmost button of the slate grey jacket. Smoothing the fabric out he decided it would do, at least the suit was brand new and recently had been pressed and cleaned. Though it hardly was the ultra fashionable items worn by the high born.

Now came the difficult part, breakfast with the rich and the young. John wouldn't lie it chafed him to see their youthful age and their wealth. Some part of him despised how they had done nothing and been given everything. Where he had bled for the glory of the Empire for 25 years and had been given barely enough to keep meat on his bones.

Striding from his room the blonde Englishman decided a morning walk was in order, a sort of calming just put the other foot in front of the other. And thus it was John found himself in the midst of the Mayfair's garden, the hum of conversation indicating the breakfast was already on somewhere nearby. He really didn't need that stress on top of the thoughts plaguing him right now so he walked further till he could no longer hear them. Digging out a pack of cigarette's from the coat's pocket he struck a match and lit it. Inhaling the smoke he considered the beauty of the garden, or rather tried to keep his mind off the confusion of last night.

It was as if something inside him had awoken, he felt different. As if the next step might bring about something glorious or bring about his fall. Soul mates, past lives, memories of impossible things. The remembered weight of a red cloak and bronze sword, the snapping sails of a Trireme as it's three banks of oars cut through the water. The stirring of his heart as he beheld the ace of spades.

Throwing away the butt of the cigarette in anger at his as he saw foolishness." What madness is this, memories of Sparta and the antics of a love struck school boy. Visions of an Angel bearing my face." He muttered darkly to himself as he considered the fact perhaps the stress of his life was finally catching up with him.

" There you are Sir, I've been looking all over for you." A male voice holding the tones of youth said behind him.

Turning around he beheld the slight young man whom had showed him the way to his room last night.

" On your time then." John replied as it was evident the poor lad had been dashing to and fro in his search for the naval captain.

" Lady Mayfair desires your presence Sir at your earliest convenience." The slight young man spoke up after catching his breath.

" Lead on then." John replied as the lad finished his report.

So it was with John in tow the slight young man made his way over to the others or more precisely what appeared to be a secret entrance as it blended rather seamlessly into the wall of the Manor. It was also apparent he was somewhat late as no one greeted him as the rain began to fall, lightly at first but with more force as time went on. Taking his leave of the slight young man the naval captain made his way into it. Judging from the steps leading down this entrance lead to the basement. The others were gathered not all that far in, grouped together in some confusion it seemed.

John for his part was more worried about his suit, the rain water did no favors to it. Through he comforted himself with the fact a good cleaning and pressing would solve it. Then realized it would cost more money, something he held in short supply. But such things were for another day and as his curiously got the better of him John noticed there was a newcomer to the group, a man dressed somewhat like a priest who asked the question they were all no doubt asking themselves.

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Adelia took her time at the table to admire the flowers in the garden while everyone else were still talking.It was maybe a bit boring since she wasn't used to spend such a long time at breakfast.The young priest was now at the table and it seemed he would soon be one of the guests of this adventure.He seemed so different from the others , the man had a clear vision on God and life , maybe the only kind that counted.
Of course there were some that made unwanted remarks towards the stranger but that was sure to happen anyway.The departure of Alayna made her feel sad , she would have loved to spend more time with the wonderfull lady.

And then it started rainning , cold rain and warm wind was carresing her skin making her feel full of energy while everyone else were running towards the house.Clarice was also enjoying this weather , smart , beautifull and knows how to enjoy herself , this woman had indeed many virtues.They were both wet now but the blonde had the sexy look with her dress revealing her features better.Finally Adelia followed the others to what looked like a secret entrance , they had lots of those back home too but only her father knew how to use them and where.

This place looked like it was never used before , dusty and a little smelly.Now that she was inside she started feeling the chill from the wet clothes she had on , sneezing with all her might.
"Excuse me .." she smiled towards everyone quite embarresed.She looked down on her feet and noticed that her dress was ruined , there were dust and dirst stains all over it.

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He didn't really get the kind of answear he expected from the an young and inexperienced man but he was satisfied anyway.He slowly looked towards Clarice to notice if she was still trying to get his attention.Ow she knew how to play indeed , the blonde was trying the I'm eating now and I don't care strategy on him which quite amused Helmut.She wasn't the first woman to try such tricks , Clarice had indeed many "wonders" but a man like him had women like her in the past .

He took a sip from the glass a wine while the ice queen was leaving .It was good that she would be gone after all that would mean that he could fool around with Adelia and she wouldn't interupt him again like last time.More of the people came to breakfast by now but nobody really intresting to Helmut.

And then it started rainning , chaos took over everyone while Clarice and Adelia seemed to gave fun getting wet and dirty.It was a nice sight really to see two beautifull women playing around like that.Yet why were all of the windows and doors locked?Thats very strange with a mansion full of butlers and maids.Was this some kind a plan for something?It just didn't sound right to him so he cautiously followed them down the trap door.

Another medieval looking room , full of dust , spiders and maybe mice.It was pretty dark here and a moldy smell entered his nostrils making him want to throw up.Helmut took his white handekerchief out and put it under his nose looking around and trying to keep the pace up with the others.What a strange house this people had , this passage was damn old and hadn't been used for too long of time to be safe to pass by in any way.Apart from that it was cold here in comparison with outside , Adelia looked like she already caught a cold and then he searched for Clarice with his eyes like a worried lover.

She looked fine for now , he took of his jacket , he didn't stay in the rain like them so he was quite dry, putting it slowly over her shoulders.Of course Helmut did notice Lord Mayfair there in the back and his gesture , Helmut just ignored that and went in for the attack.His intuition told him he would be more succesfull with the ladies than the Lord Mayfair.

"Excuse me , Lord Mayfair" he greeted the man and grabbed Clarice by the shoulders pulling her after him .
"I know it fun to play in the rain , my lady , but you might get sick.." he smiled at her in a warm way , his tone did sounded lets say playfull but sincere.This woman was bringing something that he never knew before to the surface.

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It was dark, too dark for Genevieve to feel at peace even if the strange corridor they’ve entered was part of her house. At that point the thought of giving up the pathway and returning outside, were the light was, made its way into her mind, but she wanted so badly to find out what happened to the manor. Why wasn’t anybody answering their call? Why everything was shut tight as if the house itself didn’t want them to enter? Yet this pathway was open,unused for generations, dark and full of moisture. Only God knows what else was creeping around and for that reason the Lady of the Manor felt grateful for the darkness around.

She stepped forward with caution, stretching her arms in front not to hit something. Then after a few moments, she felt a current of air brushing against her cheeks. No, there were two ways up in front, both covered in darkness, but she could still see them opening in front of her.

The silence was broken by Annabelle, Duncan and the servant who came in last. John Fisher appeared shortly after, lead by another servant.
“Excuse me, Lady Mayfair, but why are we stopping?” It was Vasile who asked the only question that was probably on everyone’s mind by now.

“It seems we have two ways in front, I don’t …” her words were interrupted by the loud crack of the wall-door closing in behind them. “know which one leads… back into the house.” She continued trying to keep her calm. “Now it’s time to panic” she thought. They were left completely in the darkness, with no way back. Lenard didn’t wait for her orders and started to push the wall back with all his force, but to no avail. The other servants turned back up the stairs and started to help him, pushing and searching for an opening device.

“Please keep your calm” she said to the confused guests, trying hard to follow her own advice. She took a deep breath. “We just need to step forward, please hold hands with one other and watch your step. Lenard and everyone else, stay here until you get that door to open! If you don’t succeed in, let’s say an hour, come after us!”
"Yes, My Lady!" the servants said in one go. They were calm, as they've been always educated to be by the masters.

Genevieve learned about the secret passageway, other hidden doors and masked walls from the “Story of magnolias” , the only bedtime story her father used to tell her when she was a child. He told it over and over again to Genevieve and her brothers so that they would learn the secrets of Magnolia Manor in case they ever need a safe place. “Burglars could come in any moment” he used to say “and wars start like fire in the savannah on a hot day: fast and without a warning.” But he never said anything about this: getting trapped, with no knowledge of opening the entrance from the inside. There were still secrets not even her father used to know, information passed down from generation to generation that somehow got lost on the way. Genevieve was sure she knew this pathway better than any other, but because she never tried it before, everything seemed hostile and dangerous.
“At least I got the first step right” She chose to enter through the opening on the left. Emma, Vasile, Duncan, Anna and John were right behind her, one after the other, being the most eager to find a way out. When the naval captain stepped in, a massive stone wall crashed just seconds behind him, closing the exit.

“For Pete’s sake!” Genevieve couldn’t control her outburst. “Now this is just too much!” she shouted.

The next moment, the passageway lit up instantly. Everyone could see the torches burning on the moss covered walls, the light revealing the whole room. It was a round room, large enough to hold five elephants and a dog in it. The room was wide, but low, Genevieve could see the ivory ceiling just a few feet above her head. There were wooden boxes scattered around all over the place and some had a lot of rope in them and other old things: rusted iron, crow bars and even some construction material.

The others, Clarice, Byron, Helmut, Adelia and Maximilian were on the other side of the stone wall. Rays of light pierced through the cracks, reaching the other group. Genevieve came close and shouted back to her husband:
“Byron, I don’t think there’s any way to move this! Take the others on the second path and we’ll meet you inside the house!” She wasn’t too sure about the last part, but where could the passageways lead if not back in the house? That was the purpose for which they were designed in the first place. At least, that what’s her father used to tell her.
"Maximilian, I believe this is your field of work!" she shouted amused to the illusionist. "We have Emma on our side. Make sure you keep them safe!" Genevieve honestly didn't know why she said that and she regreted her words.
"The purpose is not to frigthen them, you dimwit!" she told herself before feeling the spirit of adventure empowering her to move forward.

“It seems today we’ll be explorers, my dear guests!” she said to the group behind her. “I guess you can start blessing the house from here” she continued, smiling to Vasile. Humor was better than panic, after all.

Genevieve moved forward to the other exit of the room. This one was guarded by an archway, decorated with stone roses and stone leaves, a beautiful relic of the old days, probably when the house was first build. Just on top of it here was an engraving.
“EQUILIBRUM” Genevieve read out loud.

What awaited in front left her speechless. There was no floor after the archway, but a vast chasm in front, a dark abyss. She let out a scream of surprise, a short yelp, making everyone come by her side and see what she saw.
Of course there was a way to cross it, but Genevieve had no words for that. It was a strange contraption that looked like an enormous see saw. It was unbalanced, having the left side in line with the floor on the other side of the abyss, where Genevieve saw another entrance.
The right side of the see saw was somewhere high above Genevieve’s head and was slightly curved. With the right equipment, anyone could have pulled it in line with the floor at their feet. The only problem was how will they keep their balance? It was clearly that all of them couldn’t walk on it in the same time.
“Someone has to stay in the center and help the others get on the other side!” Genevieve said looking at them. “…one by one…” she continued pointing out the obvious. “Any volunteers?”

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Adelia felt her heart beat faster and faster as she heard the door towards the garden close behind them.She was shivering from the cold air inside this dark chamber , sitting near the wall trying to get the water out of her dress and hair.
“Please keep your calm” she said to the confused guests, trying hard to follow her own advice. She took a deep breath. “We just need to step forward, please hold hands with one other and watch your step. Lenard and everyone else, stay here until you get that door to open! If you don’t succeed in, let’s say an hour, come after us!”

The Lady was right , no need to panic after all this was their house so she should know the exit out of this underground trap for sure.Adelia sneezed again while trying to see through the darkness , her eyes weren't helping at all.She did what Genevieve said and reached to grab someone by the hand or arm incase they started moving.Since she couldn't see anything she soon felt long hair on her hand and then soft clothes , it was the Lord Byron to whom she was holding now.It was embarrasing but it had to be done , she really didn't want to get lost.
"Excuse me , my lord." she said blushing while holding tightly to his strong arm , in a way she would have liked to have found the warmth of another in that place.

She chose to enter through the opening on the left. Emma, Vasile, Duncan, Anna and John were right behind her, one after the other, being the most eager to find a way out. When the naval captain stepped in, a massive stone wall crashed just seconds behind him, closing the exit.

“For Pete’s sake!” Genevieve couldn’t control her outburst. “Now this is just too much!” she shouted.

The next moment, the passageway lit up instantly. Everyone could see the torches burning on the moss covered walls, the light revealing the whole room. It was a round room, large enough to hold five elephants and a dog in it. The room was wide, but low, Genevieve could see the ivory ceiling just a few feet above her head. There were wooden boxes scattered around all over the place and some had a lot of rope in them and other old things: rusted iron, crow bars and even some construction material.

The others, Clarice, Byron, Helmut, Adelia and Maximilian were on the other side of the stone wall. Rays of light pierced through the cracks, reaching the other group. Genevieve came close and shouted back to her husband:
“Byron, I don’t think there’s any way to move this! Take the others on the second path and we’ll meet you inside the house!” She wasn’t too sure about the last part, but where could the passageways lead if not back in the house? That was the purpose for which they were designed in the first place. At least, that what’s her father used to tell her.
"Maximilian, I believe this is your field of work!" she shouted amused to the illusionist. "We have Emma on our side. Make sure you keep them safe!" Genevieve honestly didn't know why she said that and she regreted her words.


Adelia grabed harder on his arm as she heard the wall collapse and the words of lady Genevieve.How could this happen?She sneezed again , shivering slightly ...this must be a very bad dream.Adelia looked up at Byron's face hoping to get her faith up that all would be fine , all she could see was black.
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"This is insane." Helmut grumbled while holding on to Clarice's shoulders "I hope that the Lady of the house knows the way out of here , how could all the doors be locked?" he asked out loud with fury.
It was so damn dark he could hardly even see Clarices face and she was right next to him.Apart of them started moving through one of the new entrances after the door behing them closed.He tried looking behind as if there would be some creature there in back by that door smilling and laughing for fooling everyone in its trap.He reached with the other hand trying to grab one more person , it was Maximillians arm.
"Don't worry , I am not enjoying this either.But I am not getting lost in this hell hole." he sneared towards the magician.

A loud sound invaded the room , more dust entered from where the rest had entered and it was a little hard to breath.Something had collapsed , everyone ws still alive but the his group was separeted from them now.
"Ow how wonderfull to rely on a fake like you to keep us safe."he told the illusionist while laughing slowly."This must really be our lucky day!"

He turned to where Byron was , Adelia was holding his arm or so it seemed in the dark."Lead the way Lord Byron , let us escape this place as fast as we can."

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Everything was happening so fast. The room suddenly grew very dark and a strange feeling took a hold of the lovely Clarice by her soul. Something about the room was not right, but the pretty heiress would not let that bring her down. No matter what circumstances faced her she would continue to trudge on. It was a lesson she had learned as a young child, giving up was never an option, neither was fear. Despite the cobwebs and dust that began to stick to her skin, she ignored it and simply dusted it off ever so nonchalantly.

In the next moment she felt someone around her waist, it had to have been Lord Mayfair because no one else was of his stature. At first the touch could have been considered innocent, though he somehow made it possible to pull her body so close to his. The wet fabric of her dress clinging to her skin and the water between them losing it's chill. Even though the room was practically impossible to see out of, she still felt semi strange accepting his gesture with Lady Mayfair only ten feet away. Lord Bryon's move became even more vulgar when he slid on his his hands up her stomach, stopping right below her breast on her rib. Any Lady (excluding Clarice) would have been disgusted by the public display of "affection" but her on the other hand enjoyed it greatly. She could feel his face near her neck and the heat from his breath gliding over her cool skin. It made her stomach jump a small bit, and then it was over.

Lord Helmut had found his way over to Clarice, managed to pull her away from Lord Mayfair without causing a scene, and get his jacket over her all in a matter of thirty seconds. Good thing because the tunnel became lit at that instant. Nobody would be happy with her if they saw her affair with Bryon. She couldn't deny that the jacket was warm, the rain hadn't penetrated it completely yet and it still held the pleasant fragrance of Lord Helmut. Something seemed different about the man, instead of playing hard to get he wasn't playing at all. He kept his hands on her shoulders as the group continued on into the dark tunnel. Him being so close was a whole other feeling in itself. Bryon's touch was lustfully and incomplete, there was nothing behind it, a cheap facade. Helmut's hands on her was caring, something else, though she would never admit it.

Then there was a crash. A huge wall or stone, or something came down separating the group in half. Lady Mayfair shouted something about continuing down on the other fork of the passage. Now she became a small bit afraid, though it did not show on her face. To ease it she took a small step closer to Helmut and wrapped her arm around his.

"This is insane." Helmut grumbled while holding on to Clarice's shoulders "I hope that the Lady of the house knows the way out of here , how could all the doors be locked?" he asked out loud with fury.

True, why all the doors and windows were locked were beyond her, but they were their now and it was all that mattered.

"It could be much worse I suppose. Just think of all the stories that have been told through these corridors. Each one of these cobwebs have words written in them." Her words might have seemed convoluted, but to anyone who looked a small bit into them, they would realize she was trying to calm them. It probably would work on most of them. Not to mention the sound of her cool voice in the dank hall would provide relief. "Lord Mayfair, I am placing my trust in you.. lead the way sir."

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The blonde vamp didn’t object to his bold gestures of affection. Indeed Lord Byron already thought of Clarice as being “his” which was no less than natural for a vain man like himself to consider. He would have wanted to continue his little exploration in the dark, but another man interrupted the fun.
Helmut pulled Clarice next to him, covering her bare shoulders with his coat. Byron had to admit that, while showing up as a flashy and frivolous man, Helmut did have some worthwhile tricks. In all honesty, the lord never considered playing gentleman with a woman like Clarice.

His wife decided to answer the missionary’s question, but she was interrupted by the sudden closure of the exit, leaving them in complete darkness. After a few moments of disguised panic coming from everyone in the room, Genevieve started to move forward on one of the pathways followed by a few others. Byron felt the soft and warm hand of another in his and turned back only to see Adelia holding him tight. She apologized while there was red in her cheeks and the lord had no other reply than a nod of the head. He felt strange. It wasn’t desire that stirred in him, any other woman touching him if only for a short time would have made him focus on her attractiveness or lack of it, depending on the case at hand. Yet Adelia was there, young and innocent, an unpicked flower and he felt nothing of the sort, but soothing peace and - dare he say it? – a little bit afraid. Not afraid of the young girl, that would have been absurd, but afraid of that unusual feeling, of the stillness that came with it and cooled down his wild nature.

There was another bang and now they were separated as if the manor itself wanted to play a bad joke on them. Nobody was laughing. Suddenly light came in through the stone wall, making Byron quite uncomfortable. How come there was light when nobody lit the torches?
"Maximilian, I believe this is your field of work!” Genevieve shouted back after asking Byron to take the other pathway. He agreed wholeheartedly, this was surely something from the occult field, definitely not his domain. Helmut backfired immediately, demanding an answer, the kind of answer no one, not even the lord of the manor could have given at the time. He honestly had no idea that Magnolia Manor held such secrets, but as far as he was concerned, that was not a problem. In fact, he was quite happy with the latest outcome, being separated from Genevieve, having both the reason and the chance to spend some time with his new trophy. Too bad they weren’t alone, but if the manor had more of these interesting pranks, that chance was sure to arrive as well.

“Don’t worry, my darling, we’ll see each other soon enough in the house.” Well, not too soon, he continued soundless. At the same time, another thought crept into his mind, the thought of being separated from her in this crazy place. What’s more, she was with quite a few of the other male guests and every one of them could have been the one Clarice might have chose for his scheme. Had she enough time to talk to the man and convince him? No, there was too little time for that and everyone was at breakfast. The only person she spent some time alone with was Helmut and he was right here, next to them.

“Another perfect chance” he thought “I get to see what makes him tick, maybe even get to help a little in his persuasion. If indeed he is the one.” The lord had yet to find out if Clarice had given any thought to his plan by now. Both the woman in question and Helmut were waiting for him to make the first step. "I am placing my trust in you..” she said. He rather preferred that she would place her her lips on his, but that was another thing which had to wait.
Byron stepped forward covered by the dim light from the other side not waiting for the others to catch up. Of course Adelia was right behind him, still holding his arm and the lord literally dragged her along.
“Now don’t let the spider’s eat you up, little one!” he grinned revealing his sharp tooth. They walked in the darkness for about ten minutes, slowly but surely in the right direction – probably because it was the only direction – when Byron stopped for a brief moment. He could see a very dim spark of light up ahead. He ran forcing the young girl to run with him and soon enough they reached an archway that resembled the first one they came in through. The only difference was that a bunch of rocks filled the entrance and the spark of light he saw before was coming from behind them. He tried to pull one of the rocks out of its place, but the darn thing wouldn’t obey. They were heavy and large, not to mention stuck to one another for who knows how many years since then.

“You can let go of me now.” He said to Adelia and bent his knees to peek through one of the many spaces between the rocks. His cold blue eyes narrowed upon seeing the source of light on the other side. It was a magnificent stone, diamond shaped, yet not quite a diamond for it shone like a hundred candles put together. At least a hundred candles. The light wasn’t quite powerful enough to illuminate the whole room or hallway, Byron couldn’t see what exactly was behind the stones, but it glittered enough to light up its surroundings. The stone was placed on a simple sculpture and just beneath it was an engraving. “Alliance” was written on it.
“Hm, yes. Quite interesting” he said standing up and looking at his guests. “It seems we’re at a dead end. Someone has to move this rocks if we want to advance.” He looked at Maximilian and Helmut, slightly raising his head in that arrogant way which meant to say “I can’t have my hands in the dirt, now can I?”.

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Vasile wasn’t nervous or scared at all. In fact, he was quite used to the darkness and old catacombs, having visited a lot of them on his journeys. The only difference was that this time he wasn’t alone. The fact that the torches gained light out of nowhere made him stay alert. He felt some vibrations just a second before the strange thing took place, but there was nothing more to it. No ghosts, no angered spirits.
He took a better look at the new arrivals. There were two men and a woman. The men were very different from one another. The blonde one was nicely shaved and trimmed, while the other looked like he’s been in a fight, had a sleepless night and drank his heart out – all in the same time or not exactly in that order. The lady was intriguing, she didn’t look like the others he saw that morning, maybe because of her unusual attire.
He bowed in front of the three just before Genevieve spoke again.
“Someone has to stay in the center and help the others get on the other side!” Genevieve said looking at them. “…one by one…” she continued pointing out the obvious. “Any volunteers?”
He didn’t hesitate to answer. He knew that this was something he could easily do because as a child he often used to climb trees and get on the monastery’s roof without any fear.

“I’ll go!”he shouted. Although the room was bright as day, the air felt cold and heavy around them. He took off his black overcoat and approached Genevieve with caution because she stood near the ridge.
“This will keep you warm” he said covering her trembling body with his coat. She looked at him with a hint of irony in her eyes, maybe thinking that his gesture had no use since the coat was probably as wet and cold as her own clothes, but out of respect she didn’t refuse his gift. To her amazement, the coat was dry and she could clearly see that his hair and other clothes were the same.
The young priest looked up at the right side of the seesaw. The whole thing was made of wood and it looked like he could reach it if he had the proper tools for it. Remembering that there were some crates around the place, he decided to take a look around. Soon enough he found some rope, moldy and damp, but good enough for his plan. He came back near the contraption with the newly improvised lasso and threw it a couple of times so that it would wrap itself around the seesaw. He managed to do it after a couple of times with the help of his usual prayers. He pulled the seesaw downwards, but the thing was still a little higher than the ground.

Vasile was holding the rope tightly and after taking a few steps backwards he reached the archway. He wrapped the other end of the rope around one of the crates and asked one of the men to make sure it was secured enough to hold the seesaw on the right side. He went back and jumped on the seesaw taking as much space as he could to get near the center of it. His foot slipped on the moldy wood while the seesaw lost its balance and the young man found himself on his stomach on one of the sides. A rusty old nail pierced his left side on the way and Vasile clenched his teeth not to scream. The pain was agonizing. He slowly crawled upwards, holding the seesaw tightly, trying to reach the center. That took him five minutes or so, but it felt like eternity. When he finally reached the center, he stood up and rolled up the sleeves of his shirt revealing the strange animal scratches on his left arm.
“Who’s first?” he asked panting as the pain under his ribs grew in intensity.

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“Now don’t let the spider’s eat you up, little one!”
His smile didn't make her feel better , she was even more anxious now but they started moving and she had to gather whatever was left of her self confidence.Normally she would have easilly followed this man pace if it wasn't for her dress .A dim light soon reached her view and the others ,Byron had stopped by now and now she could see Helmut and Clarice togheter and Maximillian.

“You can let go of me now.”

So she did taking one step back to give him space to take a look at the stones and the source of the light.This was indeed a curious chamber ,it felt like some sort adventure from her books back home.It didn't feel as great as they write about it ,yet it was maybe a little fun.
“It seems we’re at a dead end. Someone has to move this rocks if we want to advance.”
"Then we will all help , of course!"Adelia said out of nowhere and she ripped the dress revealing her legs up to her knees , now she could move faster and better."I will try getting the stones I can move out of the way!"she smiled to Byron and started getting some of the smaller pieces out of the way.
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"Lord Mayfair, I am placing my trust in you.. lead the way sir."

Helmut smiled "Yes, indeed Lord Mayfair we are in your hands."and continued walking while holding to Maximillian as before so everyone could be safe.Helmut knows better than anyone the importance of a life since he himself had taken the life of one.He didn't want anyone else on his conscience.He could see that light as well , while Byron was inspecting the rocks in the way Helmut let go of Clarice and the illusionist.

“It seems we’re at a dead end. Someone has to move this rocks if we want to advance.”
Adelias response and actions did left him impressed , he would have never guessed this shy maiden had that kind of spirit in her.What he didn't like was that the Lord Byron was trying to make everyone else do the hard work while he was doing nothing.So Helmut went over to him , putting a hand over his shoulders:
"Now we aren't going to stay and watch a Lady do all the work , are we Lord Mayfair?"while laughing loudly he patted the mans back ....and then slowly headed to start moving some of the stones..."We are men after all not mice!"

Adelia was doing her own thing , she was all dusty with her blue dress shredded , her legs seemed so smooth and well build , somehow atractive,Helmut didn't really know what was diffrent to the young duckling now , it must have been that determination she had to help.He looked back at Clarice to make sure she is alright and then an idea came in mind!

He accidently dropped a rock on his foot (maybe it wasnt exactly on his foot , a little to the right of his foot) and then yelled in pain.He then fell on his bottom :
"OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOW the pain , damn it now of all times!"he accentuated the oooooow in the hope of Clarice coming to nurse him in this journey and of course not having to do any dirty stuff.
"I don't think I can help , I am so sorry..."he grabbed his leg as if in pain and while trying to get up , helped by Adelia he reached after Clarice , holding on to her .He walked a little strange so it would all seem more realistic.

"Don't worry Lord Helmut , there is still me ,Lord Mayfair and Maximillian to clear the way."the accident the man had was strange but it was no time to argue , they had to stay united and escape this hell.

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Clarice smiled as she saw Adelia go to work, so she wasn't as proper as she had once thought. She seconded the notion and looked to her dress. In the dim lighting it was hard to make anything out, but it was obvious the chiffon ends of her dress had been ruined. Unlike Adelia she did not want to tear apart her dress so she instead she used the ribbons that tied around her hips to lift her skirt revealing her lightly tanned silky olive legs (a little above her knee.)

The mistress lived by a few set standards of rules, one being do not hold back. That applied to this situation as well. Just because she was a women did not mean she was incapable of helping. Sure, she might be physically weaker, but where the mean had brawn she had brain. The rocks were piled high and compact, but there were a few points in which breaking through would prove much easier. She stepped onto one large rock and reached up, pulling out a medium sized rock, causing six or seven others to lose their place and go tumbling down and hitting the wall. Clarice had just proven that her method was better, she had done three times the work in one simple move.

"OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOW the pain , damn it now of all times!"he accentuated the oooooow in the hope of Clarice coming to nurse him in this journey and of course not having to do any dirty stuff.
"I don't think I can help , I am so sorry..."


This only proved Helmut's ability to be a baby. Clarice had already had the notion that he would not want to get dirty and do a little work, but this only reaffirmed her suspicions. His yelp echoed through the room, ringing in her ears. By the time she had turned around to acknowledge him he was already limping around reaching out for her help. Tough luck. Somewhere deep down she did feel a small amount of sympathy for him, it pinched at her heart a tad. He had played hard to get before, now it was her turn.

Clarice broke the ability to ignore him and stepped down while brushing the dirt off of her hands. "Lord Helmut, are you alright? Here, sit on this rock." There was a large dark gray stone to his left, at least hip height, "Adelia and I can move the rocks by ourselves." With that she gave Adelia a small wink and turned back to the stones, but before beginning the task again she stepped to Lord Bryon's side, leaving an appropriate distance between them.

"Why, aren't you going to help Lord Mayfair?" She took another step towards him, in the direction of the rocks and whispered ever so slightly so only he could hear, "If a few rocks pose an issue I highly doubt you could handle me." With that she returned to pulling rocks and moving them, her blonde hair falling messily around her.

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Adelia almost started laughing on how Clarice taught Helmut a lesson for once , she felt by now that maybe the blonde has been missjudged by her and the rest.She was pretty nice when you got to know her better , the fact that she was as fast to react like herself to help was one of the reasons why her view on this woman started to change.Yet she was so much more feminine than her , while Adelia had ruined her dress and was as dirty as one could be Clarice had found a way of moving dusty stones and looking stylish.

Adelia sighed for a bit ,she was still smilling at how the blonde "not that big of a harpie" woman was putting all the men in their place.She felt that she owed an apology to this lady for thinking all those things of her ,taking a human for granted like that.Suddenly stopping from clearing the path she turned around to Clarice and grabed her hand.

"Lady Clarice , I owe you an apology."she smiled , her face was probably dusty too with dirt marks on her once rose colored cheecks"I admit I judged you at first but I was wrong.You are a really nice lady after all!"

Adelia felt very embarrased , it was worth it anyway, so she immediatly ran back to helping around and this time grabbing Maximillian to help out too.She was happy , it felt like she was with her familly , they all felt to her like they have spent such moments before in some long forgotten time.
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"Lord Helmut, are you alright? Here, sit on this rock."
Now that was just cold ,Helmut was pouting while sitting on the stone admiring the two women.They both looked quite atractive , all dirty ,wet and dusty.But this wasn't the time for romantic dreams and he wasn't going to just sit around cause she said so!
"OOOOOOOWWW, I will help even so ...the pain is just horrible but I will endure for the best of us.Though I might need special treatment while we get back inside the house."Hopefully the blonde would feel like being more cooperative this time , she can't ignore him for ever like that.

He noticed something strange , between the Lord Mayfair and Clarice , of course not anything special and that was the reason why he felt a little suspicious of them.Everyone here except the childish Adelia were the best at the worst.And when there isn't anything special about this kind of people ,then they are up to something.Helmut would have liked to hear what she said to the man , but sadly he was "hurt" and he had to act like that until later.

He got up , with his strange forced walking , and started moving the stones with Clarice but his smile was gone.

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"Lady Clarice , I owe you an apology."she smiled , her face was probably dusty too with dirt marks on her once rose colored cheecks"I admit I judged you at first but I was wrong.You are a really nice lady after all!"

This took Clarice off guard, instead of moving more rocks she turned to the (quite innocent) Adelia and gave her a smile. Finally, someone saw that she was not a man stealing she devil... which she was, but not all of the time. In actuality she did have a heart that did not consist of stone. "Judging is simply human, I am happy you have more divine thinking than some of our posse." Clarice let another toothy smile slip before stepping down from the rock, and pushing the blonde hair from her lightly damp face. She had no issue looking like this in front of men, in fact, she found that most men cared for a woman that could hold her own, they just never uttered the words.

"OOOOOOOWWW, I will help even so ...the pain is just horrible but I will endure for the best of us.Though I might need special treatment while we get back inside the house."Hopefully the blonde would feel like being more cooperative this time , she can't ignore him for ever like that.

Poor Helmut got up and joined the group in an attempt to move the stones, a sour look dancing over his hardened features. To the untrained eye it would be impossible to see through the Lord's fake lameness, but to someone who was used to men hurting themselves for attention, it was ever so simple. For one, he was putting to little pressure on his leg, if it hurt that much he would be screaming in pain to even touch it to the ground. Second, once the vixen shut his pleas down, he got up again. It was a fair trick Clarice knew all the ins and outs of. Though, the fact that he outwardly asked for help was truly a sign of him admitting defeat. "I suppose I can give you special treatment once we are inside and safe." Any man would have a difficult time not falling head over heels for this offer, especially the way she purred it to him. She highly doubted anyone would pick up on the innuendo mostly because she remained hard at work.

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After the door strangely closed, trapping everyone inside, the cellar grew dark, making everything hard to discern. The air in the cellar was certainly hard to breath and an array of stenches travelled through it, but it was within bearable levels. At Lady Mayfair’s instructions, Anna grabbed both of the captains by one hand, forming a human chain with the mistress of the house in front.

In the few steps they took, her mind drifted, comparing the hands of the two men. On one hand, more precisely her right, there was the naval captain’s hand: warm, more wrinkled and age worn, with a gentle grip, like that of an older brother. And then there was that of the man in front of her, Duncan: much warmer, almost burning, with occasional splinter marks and a strong, firm grip. She realized just how lonely both of the men’s hands felt, battle-forged and devoid of another’s touch. Out of the two, her compassion gravitated towards the Rifle captain; his grip felt as if he clung desperately to dear life, a feeling that ran deep within Anna too. She clung to each moment of life like a dying man, and not only hers, but that of every living thing that walked the Earth.

She became cautious and fully aware of the situation at hand when the passageway became sealed, closing after John had entered. She tried to pierce through the darkness, looking forward, but Duncan’s height - about a head and a half, two heads taller than her – prevented her from doing so.

The next moment the corridor lit up, making her let go of her companions’ hands. A fragment of an idea that a would-be poet presented to her, echoed in the reassesses of her mind. ‘Under light’s guard, we all walk the same straight line, but when darkness befalls us we dare reach out, beyond, showing our true selves.’

Letting those words fade again, she moved forward at the same pace with everyone, stopping twice for a few seconds. Once to analyze the writing on the archway, and the second time to discover the contents of the crates. Finally, when the others stopped she could see what was lying ahead. Along with the sudden closing of doors, collapsing of entries and self-lighting torches, the sight of the gargantuan seesaw was just as mocking. It looked as if the house was playing tricks on everyone, but logic dictated that such things were improbable so the human factor couldn’t be excluded. Despite Lady Mayfair’s reactions, she could just as well be an excellent actress.

The plan that Lady Mayfair devised, and that Vasile was already trying to put in motion hurting himself in the process, didn’t fit well with Anna. She took moments to analyze the situation and their possibilities of getting on the other side. When at last she thought it over properly, she coughed once to clear her throat and gain everyone’s attention.

“I believe the plan might prove dangerous and prone to disaster. The problem is the balance, which can’t be easily obtained just by tying a rope and placing a person on the middle of the platform. Allow me to explain why and how we could go about it.”

She took a short breath, maintaining the same state of complete detachment of any feeling of fear or danger.

“The seesaw-like platform is allowed to swing in this manner thanks to its pivot, which is placed at its exact center. If a person were to stay on the middle of the platform they’d become an extension of the pivot, but, unlike it, that person can’t stop or counter the platform’s movements without an incredible amount of force and light speed reflexes. Breaking down the theory further, if Mr. Vasile, who already managed to place himself at the center, were to help the next person to get across, both of them would have to take the same precise steps, not a movement less, coming from opposite directions in order to keep the platform perfectly balanced. Which is virtually impossible. It all boils down to mass, in our case, weight. No matter how light one might consider oneself, ” she looked in the direction of the other two women and continued, “we are our own problems. Therefore, a better way of getting across would be to take more ropes and the iron hooks, used for mountain climbing, back there, anchor the platform tighter on this side and have the men go first, so that the first strain on the rope be put at the beginning, then gradually minimize it. This way, should the rope begin to tear and break while any of the women try to cross the platform, the men could hold it in place long enough.”

On that last word she exhaled heavily in relief to have finished the explanations in one go. All that was left for her was to see if the rest understood and agreed to her method, or had improvements and ideas of their own.

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Byron hoped that he would receive an immediate response from the two gentlemen so carelessly placed in his care. Instead, the young lady Adelia (he made sure to remember her name properly by now) was the first one to take action. The lord watched intently as the girl ripped her dress showing her milky white legs without any hidden intentions and bravely started to move the rocks with her fragile hands. This small, yet interesting event didn’t pass by without leaving some traces behind in Byron’s imagination.

For a brief moment he has pictured the little bird safely tucked in his arms, sleeping peacefully, her lavish eyelashes trembling gently while she dreamt and her cherry lips slowly moving. It was so easy to reach, all he had to do is get closer and…A pat on the back brought him back to reality, shattering his reverie.
Now we aren't going to stay and watch a Lady do all the work , are we Lord Mayfair?

Byron’s lips twitched. The very thought of having someone like Helmut speaking to him as if they were..close (the word itself made him sick) displeased him greatly. What’s more, the man even dared to touch him. Helmut reached for a rock in order to set an example in that smug way of his and intentionally dropped it near his foot, whining like a child just to get the women’s attention. Clarice’s attention, as a matter of fact. How could Byron ever consider him a threat (“rival” was too big of a word in his case) when the man makes use of such cheap tricks?

He turned to give the man a piece of his own mind when Clarice – taking Adelia’s example – lifted her dress securing it tightly with ribbons. Lord Mayfair accurately knew the difference between a woman and a girl. Clarice was no girl. She wasn’t innocent either and Byron doubted the fact that her reasons for pulling such a stunt were the same as Adelia’s, but who was he to complain?
He watched her legs moving as if they were dancing on the stone floor while Clarice gave Adelia a hand, making him step back a little.

"Why, aren't you going to help Lord Mayfair?" she said loud and after a moment whispered to him: "If a few rocks pose an issue I highly doubt you could handle me."
He chose not to answer with words. Instead, he did exactly what he was best at: he faked a sense of responsibility and took the small rocks from Adelia smiling as kind as he was capable of. Then he reached for Clarice’s share and piled all of them together on the ground.

No one gave Helmut the attention he desperately wished for; Maximilian took a big load without saying a word. This made Byron a little suspicious. Maybe the illusionist knew something they didn’t. He looked at the rocks once more and saw that there was a big space between it and the ceiling, wide enough for someone to cross to the other side. The strange stone still gave light on the other side. The only problem was that the pile was still higher than any of them.