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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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After she had introduced herself, Anna thought for a few short seconds that everything would go as planned: she would present herself and the people present there would nod in respect and then go about their business, as all guests at noble parties did. Instead she found herself to be looked at more than she had wanted. Her eyes flicked about the room in order to avoid meeting other people’s eyes. She hadn’t been the centre of attention before, and she didn’t want to, it was more comfortable sitting in the shadows and being noticed by as few people as possible.

When Maximilian Uliara presented himself to her, she nodded towards him slightly, in greeting. It was great that he was there, she had never seen an illusionist play his tricks before. And tough being rational to the point she would ruin everyone’s good time, she thought it would be quite fun seeing him in action.

She took her eyes off him only to see the young noble lady facing her. Her character seemed as sweet as her perfume and that made Anna remember how her sister was when they were little. A feeling of genuine affection made her show the young lady her true smile, the one only friends had the opportunity of seeing. But the appreciation Miss Chevalier expressed puzzled her. ‘What book?’ she thought to herself. ‘Could it be the essay, on diverse fields of science, I wrote with Ivanov? The one with which he had always teased me to have published as a book, to make more young people interested in sciences? That has to be it….

Before she could exchange any words with the young lady, Anna was assaulted by Lord Jaegar’s….. “politeness”. The moment his lips touched the skin on her hand, she felt something, like a small black spider crawling up her back and a feeling of uneasiness took over her. The rationality which characterized her whole being was telling her to step back and keep her distance from this man.

“Ah, but Lord Helmut, you must resist it, because my eccentric behavior is nothing to be fascinated by, in comparison to the beauty of the ladies present here. And please excuse me, but it would be very impolite not to answer Miss Chevalier, who has kindly showered me with praise” she said as she gently put her hand on Adelia’s back and slowly prepared to go to another side of the room so she could talk with the young lady and watch the rest of the show.

But Lord Jaegar didn’t pay any attention to her words, he was too captivated by the temptress in the room. She looked at her a bit; she certainly was beautiful from head to toe, everything about her seeming perfect, no wonder men were instantly smitten by her. As she wanted to move a bit further from the place where she was sitting, she heard the rifleman speak.

"Sorry, mate, but I'm afraid I'll 'ave ta excuse meself." he said, tiredly rubbing at the bridge of his nose "I've had a long bloody trip, and I'm in great need of a long bloody nap."

Even though he said he was tired, Anna couldn’t see any physical weariness, but then again when your mind is tired you feel like your whole body has lost all its stamina. He moved in her direction, making his way to the door, but stopped to present himself.

"I'm Captain MacCraigh of the King's Royal Rifle Corps., but the lot of ye can just call me 'Duncan'; I'm nae on duty and none of ye are in the Army." His head turned slightly towards John, who was technically his superior officer (if the Navy dared give the Army orders) "With nae offense to ye sailin' men, o'course."

‘Duncan MacCraigh…’ her mind echoed. Another name was finally added to the multitude of faces in the room. She took the opportunity to study his left cheek this time. The scars were nothing but surprising: a semi-circular pattern around his eye and five long scars that looked like they came from a five-digited animal.

At that moment the feeling of guilt returned, climbing from her chest into her mouth and it tasted like blood, though there was no blood in her mouth. She felt as if in a second she might lose her meal. She covered her mouth with her palm and turned to face the table with drinks. And as he said “good night”, she grabbed a glass and threw half of it down her throat, being unable to return the salute.
All this time Adelia looked with a worried expression at her. The moment she realized this, Anna turned her head to face the young lady and answering her before she could pose the question.

“I’m fine….I guess it’s just the fatigue from the trip.” she said, showing a strained smile, one hand on the table and the glass of champagne in the other.

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The mental crisis the naval captain was undergoing had left him as the Mayfairs bid them a good night, begging leave to see to the farewells of the other guests. It did answer a question that been bothering him, he just couldn't see a noble house entertaining such a large party for an entire fortnight. But that only caused another question to pop into John's head, why had they been selected out of all the guests. He had understood the whole soul mate connection explanatory words offered up by both Lady Mayfair and Maximilian. But why them in particular, of all the supposed separated soul mates out there why did they find themselves gathered up by the net the Mayfairs had cast. What exactly linked them to both the Mayfairs and each other. If John had believed in the concept of past lives the captain didn't consider it in his thoughts. He had seen plenty of the so called mystical in his days serving in the navy. Everything from the voodoo of the Caribbean to the supposed truths of the Tarot deck,even the mysteries of chi practiced in the Oriental regions. As far as he was concerned it was all rubbish, tricks to amuse the uneducated.

Still he couldn't deny the feelings in his own head, hard as he tried. John had never been one to succumb to madness before this and still believed himself sane, abet on the edge of it. And so lost as he was in the analyzing of his own thoughts he scarcely noticed the arrival of a rather straight to the point woman called Annabelle Penclave. About the only thing he noticed about her was that the woman's hair was held together by ornate chopsticks in the fashion of high born Chinese women.


Then again John would be lying if he said he noticed her at all. His thoughts were more on trying to organize his chaotic thinking processes. He did however notice the gaze of the woman from earlier, she of the ace of spades. Spades, the swords of a soldier...Well he supposed he was that, he knew more then most what a sword was for. Indeed his Victoria's Cross had been given to him by the actions his sword had done in his hands. He was still new to the navy, a mere midshipman fresh from the Academy. Although he had been given command of a squad of royal marines. They had been hunting a pirate who was proving quite the nuisance to England's shipping magnets. At last through they had cornered the wily pirate in a lonely stretch of water off the coast of Jamaica. His ship proved no matched for the HMS Glover and her crew. The Captain however desired to capture her,as the Navy still handed out prize money for ships captured back then. So instead of blasting the pirate to kingdom come with their superior armament they had pulled alongside her. Peppering her deck with fire from the royal marines rifles the captain ordered boarders over. John leading his squad did just that.

But the battle short as it were was bloody. And the then midshipman found himself face to face with the pirate captain himself. A wild looking man armed with a rusty calvary saber and a weathered revolver. The revolver proved to be past it's best days and did not fire a single shot. John working on primal instinct failed to draw his own pistol as he should and instead charged the man his plain cutlass, his dress one still back at his home, held before him. A fast and furious duel ensued, but the pirate was old, wise but slow in movement. So in the sixth blow John's cutlass drew a second mouth in the throat of his enemy. It won him a reprimand from his captain, and a Victoria Cross from the Admiralty Board. And that dead pirate haunted his dreams for nearly two weeks after. But that was to be expected, it was always your first kill that haunted you as a soldier. Saint or Devil, it didn't matter what your first kill had been. One would always dream of them afterwards for a period.

John then thought with a sigh how he hadn't felt that sort of despair ever since, each kill after that had been easier. Each kill required less primal instinct. Cold logic replaced it and soon he could kill with no more guilt then a wolf felt when it brought down a deer .

Shaking such dark thoughts from his mind he gazed at the ace of spades. She was likely half his age, a woman in every sense of the word, still young compared to him. Then again most of the people here were. Even the grizzled rifleman was likely younger then him, it was hard to tell with some Scots. Their Celtic blood and history lent them a sense of age all their own.

The selfsame Scot made his excuse, claiming a exhausting trip. The others for their part seemed to focus on the next trick. With the ace of diamonds volunteering when the illusionist requested one. But the ace of spades was the center of his gaze and thoughts. Then realizing the improperness of it he turned his eyes away. After all staring was rude irregardless of gender. And who was he to stare, a low born son of a whore who likely would have been homeless had fate played out just slightly different. He didn't know his father, never meet his mother, and was a poor officer who barely scrapped by.

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Everyone was settling down from the effects of his trick, but Maximilian could still see that part of it was lingering in each of them. However, he didn’t really carte any more has his real show was far more fun.

“Sleep well, Captain.” He said to Duncan as he left. He didn’t mind that the man wasn’t as tired as he was letting on. Despite how hard he was to read, the effect that Miss Anna had on him was apparent and he would need some rest.

“You fill the roll perfectly, madam.” He said as he took Clarice by the hand and led her to the end of the room. He laid her onto the board he’d set up and stood on the other side of her from the others. “Once again, ladies and gentlemen, I’d like to assure you that I am a professional and that this is perfectly safe.” He said to everybody as he prepared himself for the trick. “Now, madam, I need you to close your eyes, take a deep breath, and stay perfectly still.” He waved his hands over her a few times and began walking around her. Again, he couldn’t resist admiring her appearance, despite the fact that she was definitely not his type. After circling her twice, while humming some mantra he made up to impress drunks in the past, he held up his hands and spoke. “I command you to rise.” Then he put his hands under the board and gently lifted it up, as though neither it nor she had any weight to them. She remained there as he lowered his hand and made a gesture at the two chairs that had been supporting her before. They slid sideways, as though pushed by an invisible hand, and the board underneath her slowly floated to the ground and slid to the side. He waved his hands around her to show the lack of wires, then put his hands underneath her and she rose even higher, six feet from the ground. Then he put his hand near her head and she began turning in the air, her head coming towards him and her feet towards the crowd. “Stay still a little longer.” He whispered in her ear as she started to rise into a standing position. When she was completely vertical again, she was lowered to the ground. Throughout the course of the entire trick, he avoided eye contact with anyone, their feeling radiating so that a normal person could have probably felt them. Only when he finished did he look at them for their reactions.

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The ballroom was still crowded when Lord and Lady Mayfair returned from the cellar and some of the guests were impatient to take their leave. The Chinese circus was performing a traditional dance with all of its members as a farewell and was taking the entire dance floor. The guests came over to say goodbye in pairs and as they shook hands, kissed cheeks and thanked the couple for the invitation with promises of future gatherings, they left the Manor in their expensive coaches. The ballroom looked deserted and plain after everyone left although the not-to-be-taken-lightly amount of servants was cleaning the place with precise movements.

Byron was relieved to see them gone, each and every one of those filthy aristocrats made him want to spill his breakfast, lunch and dinner on the floor. Not because they didn’t accept him – oh, they always welcomed him with arms wide open and pockets even wider after his marriage to Genevieve – but because they did it so frivolously. He could have acted freely and without any inclination towards courtesy or etiquette – no one would blame him. He could have slept with all of their wives and have numerous bastard children – as long he bought higher positions for the husbands no one dared to say an ill word about him. He was their savior and their tyrant. He was their god. Or, at least that is how Byron liked to think about himself and he was not far from the truth. Of course, he had his share of plotting against and usual bumps on the road he paved with pride and not so much dignity, yet his wealth and power have always been frightening to the point of turning into legend (so were his conquests although no one really knew how much was fiction and how much was real.)

On this particular trail of thoughts Lord Mayfair said goodbye to his uninteresting guests. His wife, courteous as ever, had taken the time to thank all of them for their participation and promised to hold another ball as soon as the summer would be over. He puffed at the idea but not in front of her and decided it would be best to taste the drinks from the half cleared table to his heart content, leaving Genevieve to take care of the rest. As he was sipping from his glass of “fortified” wine, bolstered with brandy, Jared entered the ballroom without making a fuss. Apparently he left the cellar just as Maximilian was showing his next trick and approached Genevieve fast paced, bowing in front of her.

Byron couldn’t hear their conversation clearly, only fragments of it had reached his ears. “Rooms…special guests…ready.” Then the Lord could have sworn he’d seen him blink once and smile, Genevieve returning the last gesture without hesitation. This stream of events lead Byron to conjure up a plan based on one idea. He rushed downstairs to the servant’s main room and searched in one of the many cupboards of the manor where the keys were held. He took the spares to Alayna’s, Clarice’s and his wife’s bedrooms and put them in his pocket. The chances of having to use them were scarce as far as he knew, but it was better to come prepared. He closed the small wooden door and went back in the ball room just as Jared was returning to the cellar to wait for the show to end so he could take the guests to their rooms.

“Some will get a good sleep, others will not.” He said to himself amused and nonchalantly took another sip from his glass.

Byron waited until the room was empty again. His wife approached him with a smile, happiness overflowing her somewhat tired face and as she leaned over for a kiss, he stopped her halfway through grabbing her left arm with a tight grip.

“May I accompany you to your room, Mrs. Mayfair?” he asked with a grin and pushed her forward to lead the way. Genevieve looked baffled by his gesture, but did not say a word and walked forward as casual as she could. When they reached her room, Byron was the one who opened the door and literally pushed his wife inside letting go of her hand just before closing the door behind him. The questioning look on her face didn’t surprise him and his stern face didn’t move a muscle.

“What reasonable explanation can you give me for your ill conduct, Mrs. Mayfair?” he asked abruptly not moving his icy narrowed eyes away from Genevieve’s face.

“I believe your little games have been going on for quite some time and enough is enough. As a gentleman who has a duty to perform in society, no, as a husband, I cannot tolerate this any longer.”

As soon as his wife opened her mouth to say something he continued in a harsher tone, frowning at her and not moving from his spot.

“ I’m afraid I’ll dismiss your little butler first thing in the morning.” He stopped for a moment lost in his thoughts.
“Rather, I shall send him to one of my superiors based in Cape Town, he needs a sturdy man like Jared over there.”
He said “sturdy” with mockery enjoying every word he said. Genevieve’s teary eyes made everything clear to him and Byron didn’t wait for the demanded explanations.

“As for you, Mrs. Mayfair” he continued almost spitting the words “I shall leave you to think on your actions and I expect a decent apology in the morning. You have brought this on yourself, Genevieve.”

Byron’s icy tone didn’t warm up until the end. He opened the door not bothering to look back and locked the door behind him after he took the other key from the keyhole. He had the spare in his pocket. Now he was sure no one could have let her out of the room until he would return. As for him, he was free as a bird without anyone to bother him in his plans. By morning, not even Jared – the only one of their servants who dared to tell on him to the mistress would get in his way. His idea was perfect.

The Lord went back to the ballroom and sat on one of the large comfortable armchairs. He would enjoy his drink until the show would be over.

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Least to say, Genevieve was shocked by her husband’s sudden outburst. When the butler came over to announce that the preparations she carefully planned for the guests were set she couldn’t refrain from smiling with gratitude. The truth was that Jared did blink at her and he ventured into this kind of gesture only because he afforded it every time they were alone. Their innocent scheming and jests were never a subject for rumors mainly because no one knew of their close friendly bond. Genevieve never imagined that such a trifle would trigger Byron’s jealousy.
She approached with joy wanting to thank him for his help and support on the Celebration, but how surprised was she when instead of affection he returned her feelings with violence and suspicion. At first Genevieve mistook his question and actions as fervor of his love and lead the way silently as he so eagerly demanded, but when he closed the door behind him she saw flames in his eyes: not the fiery ones which inspired passion, but the cold, icy ones who were meant solely for enemies. Why would he look at her that way?

Then the words he said to her were as cold and harsh as a worn-out steel blade. He couldn’t tolerate her conduct any longer? As a husband?

She was utterly horrified by the mistrust his twisted mind could conjure up and the cruel decisions he made for Jared’s future left her speechless. How dared he suspect and blame her for adultery when he was always so unfaithful to their vows? Genevieve felt anger raising in her fragile frame to the point it would almost explode. Then sadness and disappointment and most of all, fear had taken over her mind. Not fear of Byron’s rage, but the fear of losing him beyond any hope. Instead of letting her anger and resentment overflow, Genevieve let out a stream of tears. His malignant expression said only one thing: hate. She never seen him so spiteful or vindictive to her, nor his words were so full of resent than in that night.

She couldn’t move or speak a word in her own defense and when he left the room she heard a click on the other side of the door. She rushed to open it, moving the round golden door knob with her right hand, her eyes widening in fear as she found out the awful truth: she was locked in her own room. What was there to do? What did she want to do? Genevieve felt her willpower leaving her with each passing moment and she left her body to drop on its knees. Tears rushed once more on her cheeks as proof of her own weakness. Images of the room’s wide windows invaded her mind and she remembered the tall wooden support the gardener had made for her beautiful climbing roses. That would be enough for her to make a getaway without anyone knowing. There was also the option of screaming, but Byron knew very well she wouldn’t cause a scandal in the house, not on this night and not in any of the days to come as long as the guests would be there. He played his card well, but Genevieve had an ace up her sleeve as well. Yet the desire to use it left her completely when her husband’s unforgiving face popped in her head once again. For him to think she was capable of such lowly manners was more than her soul could bear.

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Unaware of the events that took place after his departure, Jared went back to the cellar as smoothly as a tom cat hunting a mouse. None of the guests had seen him leave or come back and after Maximilian brought Clarice back on the floor he clapped twice politely, some of the guests doing the same shortly after. It was a stunning performance and he believed no one would disagree on that.

“It was more than my humble mouth could compliment” he said bowing in front of the illusionist when everyone settled down again “and I believe Sir Uliara has more spectacular things to show you. Nonetheless, it is my Master’s and Mistress’ desire to declare that this first night’s celebration has come to an end and ask of their honored guests to prepare for the morning with a peaceful sleep. Sir Uliara will be in charge of the entertainment for the rest of the nights as he our special guest and he will be celebrating the Solstice together with you.”

The doors opened wide and the other maids and servants entered the room in an orderly fashion.

“You will be guided to your designated rooms, gentlemen on the second floor and ladies on the first. Hope you enjoy your stay here at Magnolia Manor. Good night Messieurs et Mesdames!”

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Clarice was patient for the trick, in fact, it was over before she wanted it to be. Lying so still and being suspended in the air was surely something else, it made her heart race a little bit. One the illusion was over, everyone clapped politely and she gave a ravishing smile to Maximilian. He was strange, not her type to any degree, but that only made her all the more interested in the illusionist. Her thoughts were quickly interrupted by the butler.

“You will be guided to your designated rooms, gentlemen on the second floor and ladies on the first. Hope you enjoy your stay here at Magnolia Manor. Good night Messieurs et Mesdames!” Jared announced, his voice travelling through the crowd. She had not even realized the time of night it was, a small amount of moonlight poured in through the small window in the corner of the room.

For a moment, before exiting, she glanced towards Lord Helmut, giving him a small smile with her cherry lips. With that she turned, exiting the room, and was promptly greeted by a butler. He wore the same colors has Jared but his uniform was much less elaborate.

"Good evening Miss. Phaedra, I am Lenard, here to escort you to your sleeping quarters for the fortnight." He smiled politely, in an attempt not to stare, but made it quite obvious. Clarice was used to it and simply nodded.

"Escort away Lenard." She smiled slightly, he was not very attractive, but could make for a fun toy.

He led her down the halls until they reached a door, it was large and black with a golden knob.

"Here we are madam, we shall awake you in the morn' can I assist you of anything else." Lenard unlocked and pushed the door open.

"That is all." Clarice walked into the room, shutting and locking the door behind her. The room was large with a chaise, desk, private bathroom, and huge closet. Mahogany floors spread the length and were covered with exotic rugs. A massive bed sat in the center with a sheer net hanging from the ceiling over it for extra privacy if needed.

Her luggage had already been unpacked and neatly put away. She checked the locked door once again and proceeded to step in front of the floor length mirror and examine herself. The buttons of the dress easily came undone and fell around her ankles. She stepped out of it, hung it up, and grabbed a ivory thin strapped floor length silk night gown and pulled it on over herself.

In the back of her mind she wondered who else had a set of keys to the room. Probably Jared, obviously Lenard, but hopefully Bryon did also. It would be risky, but well worth it. Clarice looked into the mirror once more, and untied her blonde hair from the wrap it had been in and let it fall around her delicately. Her last thought would be to sleep, so instead she decided on staying up a few hours. Then exploring.

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The show was entertaining. Even Alayna had to admit that. She honestly didn’t know how the illusionist did his tricks. She was tempted to walk around to see if anything was lifting the blonde up. It was during this trick however that Alayna had another flashback.

The night sky was lit up with millions of stars. The wind was blowing through the trees. The was a fire burning in a clearing as a young girl gasped at the elderly man in front of her commanded the elements to do his bidding. The fire and the wind danced together. The trees swayed as if they were dancing, and one could hear the crashing sound of the sea nearby. The young girl looked to be about 7 years old and her silvery blonde hair whirled around her. The elderly man was wearing gold and red robes. He looked magnificent to the child’s eyes. When he was done with his task, everything settled down. He turned to his pupil and smiled.

“Wow papa! That was amazing! You are amazing. What did you do?” she asked.
“I was calling to the elements to cast a spell that will change history. It is time for me to do my duty.” The wizard said.
“Oh, does this mean you’re leaving?” the child asked.
“I am afraid so Diedre. You have so much potential. I am sorry I had to go now. But I do leave you in good hands. In fact, he should be here soon.”

That’s when an elderly man with purple and yellow robes appeared on a horse, as well as a young man in green garbs, who was also on a horse.
“Sorry I am late Merlin. Is this my new charge?” the man asked.
“Indeed, this is my granddaughter Diedre. Diedre, this is one of my closest friends, Finley. And that’s his grandson, Donovan.” Merlin introduced.
The girl curtseyed as the other two nodded. She saw the boy and felt something in her chest tighten. Before anything else could happen, everything vanished.


It took every ounce of Alayna’s control to keep her stoic façade. Two daydreams in one night? This was very unnerving, but Alayna would not break. It was then she realized that the show was over and the butler appeared. She was a bit relieved to know she could go to her room. This whole night had been one emotional rollercoaster. That last time she was this emotional was when her father died. As she composed herself one last time, a dark-haired maid came up to her.
“Lady Renoldi, if you will just follow me please.” The young lady smiled pleasantly, not trying to be intimidated.

Alayna simply nodded and started to follow her out of the room. She couldn’t help but glance back at Adelia to see if she was okay. Hoping that she will be, she started to face forward when she caught one last glimpse at the naval captain. It was only brief but she couldn’t help but feel something flutter. Sharply turning her head around, she left the room. She felt more at ease as she was led to her chambers on the first floor.
The maid led her to a door where inside was a small sitting area and an elegant fireplace. The bedroom was lovely with dark woods and colors of midnight blue, silvery blue, and violet. It suited Alayna perfectly. There was a large closet and well sized bathroom for a guest.
“I shall wait you for breakfast in the morning ma’am. Would you like a bath before you settle down for the night?” the maid asked.
“Yes please.” Alayna replied, gracing the maid with a smile.

The maid was caught a bit off guard, but managed to hide it. She helped Alayna get undressed before helping her wash her hair and any other grime she had on.
“What’s your name dear?” Alayna asked.
“Margret, ma’am.”
“Thank you.”
When the bath was done, the maid laid out her sleeping attire and grabbed her used clothes.

“Will that be all ma’am?” Margret asked.
“Yes Margret, thank you. Goodnight.”
“Goodnight ma’am.” The maid said before leaving.
Finally alone, Alayna put on her night gown. ((Here’s the link of what it looks like))
http://pic50.picturetrail.com/VOL487/161273/3881964/370922300.jpg

Feeling weary, she let her guard down only for a split second before remembering that there were a few wolves in this house. She groaned for she had no way of making sure the door was locked. Praying that she won’t have any unwelcomed visitors, she got under the covers and fell asleep almost as soon as her head hit the pillow.

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John watched the reminder of the show with his eyes but not with his mind. That was off in it's own little world were tricks and magic held no sway, irregardless of how well it might actually be carried out. The naval captain simply could not come to any real terms with what was happening in his head. He had suppressed it for the moment, he'd delve deeper into it when not so surrounded by supposed people he was linked with. As such he became the enigmatic officer once more, the man most saw when they looked to him. The man that kept midshipmen guessing and bosons at the ready.

With that decided it seemed the show was over for the night as Jared came to inform them of the sleeping arrangements. He registered it with an affirmative nod though no words. He began to get up and follow the crowd out of the cellar when he noticed the woman of earlier, the ace of spades. It did not help his mental state but nonetheless he could feel something within him stirring, a something that had berating himself once more. For the sake of our savior John your twice her age, stop eying her like some love struck school boy. The naval captain's pragmatism lectured him even as that something else refused to be settled.

Shaking his head the naval captain simply followed the somewhat slim young man who was apparently his guide to the room assigned to him. He hadn't caught the young man's name although vaguely remembered saying something polite in return. The room as promised by Jared was indeed on the second floor and was well appointed, a not surprising notion given the Mayfairs obvious wealth. His luggage such as it where was already waiting for him in his room. Mainly consisting of a few sets of spare clothes and the suitcase his cutlass and uniform would go into.

" A bath has been drawn Captain Fisher if you wish to refresh yourself." The young man said before leaving with a bow. Which gratefully meant he was alone. Closing the room's door he then carefully removed his dress uniform. Folding it neatly it and his cutlass were returned to the suitcase that had been brought along just for them. Then padding on silent feet John made his way to the bath spoken of earlier, thankfully his room had it's own bathroom. His first few years in the navy saw him share a communal bathroom with the other midshipman, though at least his rank had let him have his own room. Small and cramped though it might be given a ship's nature.

Settling down into the hot water John tired without much success to order the chaos of his thoughts. There simply seemed to be no reason or rhyme to them. Half forgotten memories of dreams intermixed with memories of his past. Which oddly were mostly battles. If these dreams of his were what linked him to the others then why the women. None of them likely knew anything about the ways of battle, being after all women. It was the one thing that linked his dreams together despite their locations,was they were always about battles. Battles at sea,battles on land, and that recent waking dream of what was obviously an angel, that had his exact features. Only more refined, more ethereal, a beauty that surpassed the normal concepts of beauty. It was a divine beauty born not of the mud man was said to be created of but the fires of heaven itself.

All and all it was a mystery wrapped in an enigma to the naval captain soaking in a bath tub. He simply could not make heads or tails of what was happening to him. And it as before frightened him although this time it seemed less dangerous to explore these thoughts.

The water grew cold, lost as John was in these thoughts. Upon realizing this he got out of it, draining it as he did. Toweling himself off the naval captain padded back into the bedroom to change into sleeping clothes. Which consisted of little more then a pair of linen breeches, a plain tan in color. Stretching his muscles John caught a glimpse of himself in the dressing mirror. The sight of his reflection made him pause to take stock of himself. His blond hair lay thick and full upon his head with only a few invisible strands the lighter white of his age. His stance upright and proud as the royal marines assigned to the HMS Warrior. But where his body still flourished in timeless youth his eyes did not,unreadable they may have been to the outside observer but the passage of his 43 years was undeniable in their depth.

" Such old eyes for a young man's party." John said quietly to himself as he considered the other guests. All of them were young, barely touched by the sorrows of life and with many years ahead of them.Even the Scotsman despite showing the weariness only a soldier could had his own youthful vitality. But John while young in body was old in mind and soul. He did not know how many years of service he had left in him. How many more times he could sail before the wind, steering a course across the ocean blue. His body was marked with the scars of service and had the hardened look to it the sea spray did to all sailing men.

And despite the exhaustion that plagued him whenever he thought of another 20 years wearing the uniform he got up every morning. And his even more foolish heart had been beating it's foolish fluttering, all because of some stupid card trick. What exactly was the Mayfairs goal in all this, why do this to all of them.

That more then anything worried the naval captain. But deciding such things needed sleep John threw himself upon the rooms bed grateful for the cool feel of it's sheets. Staring up at the bed's canopy he focused on going over the articles of war, an old trick that always helped him sleep. But it seemed sleep only shook her raven tresses and refused to be beckoned to his side.

And so he simply stared at the canopy, lost in the thoughts of dreams,soul mates, and his purpose in all this.

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The Lord of the Manor was sitting with his head tilted to one side in the ballroom, waiting patiently for his guests to leave the cellar. He wasn’t actually bored, rather feeling melancholic for no apparent reason. Because he sat too long lost in his thoughts Byron had a blank gaze. The red burgundy that he stirred around in the glass looked like a tiny pool of blood and its ripples reminded Byron of his time spent in the colonies when a man’s life valued less than a dog’s. He remembered how one of the natives, after seeing his shack burned down and his family slaughtered by the group of soldiers Byron was part of, ran past the other Englishmen and with his bare hands tried to break Byron’s neck in a feeble attempt to get his revenge. It wasn’t as if he didn’t deserve it. Without taking part in the slaughter he set the shack on fire and even made jokes on the side regarding the native’s “wealth”. Black hands stretched out to reach him, but the man wasn’t fast enough. With a swift move Byron pulled out his dagger and turning to the left he caught the man’s arms under his elbow with his free arm. He moved the blade from one side to another slitting the man’s throat.
“You’ve messed up my coat, you worm.” Byron let the body fall besides him in the mud. It was his first kill in a series of others and each time he felt the power of deciding a man’s future –or better to say, the end of it - and the pleasure that came with it invading his body and mind.
The general chatter and the sound of steps on the marble floor woke him from his reverie. He saw the guests passing by in the hall through one of the doors without being seen himself.
“Sleep tight my doves, the time draws near…” He emptied his glass and sat it on the low table. He passed by his wife’s bedroom on his way to his room and heard her sobs from behind the door. Byron smirked.

His room had a high ceiling and had its woodwork marbled in shades of pale gray and red. The most astonishing piece from the gothic style furniture was the bed for which the expression “king sized” was probably invented. He emptied his pockets and made a short inventory: the “love token” from Miss Kingsley’s Fine Establishment for Fine Gentlemen and the four keys. His deck of cards was still in the cellar after Maximilian took it from him along with one of his walking sticks which he left behind. He left Genevieve’s key on the table still holding onto the spare and put the other two in the left pocket. He put the spare in the right one and with a quick glance in the mirror he arranged his already perfectly tightened hair.
Byron decided to pay Clarice a visit. Going for her wasn’t as exciting as hunting down the Ice Queen, but for that night an easy prey was more tempting. On the other hand, scaring off Alayna from the first try would have been a mistake and Byron was no amateur. He knew that would take time and effort and he was determined to invest both. What he didn’t expected however was how much he actually would have to put up with before reaching his goal.

The lord went up the stairs and after making sure no else was around he stopped in front of the woman’s room. With a short knock on the door he said loud enough to be heard from the other side, yet as low as he could not to disturb the other guests:
“Miss Phaedra, open the door. There is something I need to talk to you about.”

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Clarice had simply been going about her nightly routine that she had kept since she was a child. She sat on the bed brushing her soft blonde hair using exactly 200 strokes. It was painstaking, but how else could anyone keep such unruly hair so beautiful? With each brush the bristles separated each platinum hair then it fell back down softly onto her silk dress and bare back. 193, 194, 195.... There was an abrupt knock on the door, then she heard Lord Bryon's voice through the thick wood. What would he need to talk to me about? She slid off the bed in front of the mirror, quickly finishing her hair and sweeping it over one shoulder. The pale light of the room glowed on her skin and illuminated her silk gown.

Her heart made a few small jumps as she walked to the door letting her long slender fingers silently unlock the latch. One last breath filled her lungs before pulled the door open. Instead of opening it completely she pulled it to a stop about one fourth of the way, her silk laden body blocking the entrance.

"Good evening my Lord." She bowed her head slightly, "I do feel a conversation this late in the night might be risky to your reputation around the manor, sir." A devious smirk spread over her lips. "Nonetheless, what can I assist you with?" Clarice kept her voice quiet her British accent creeping around her words.

Clarice was not stupid, doing anything to risqué with Lord Bryon tonight would be social suicide. Her bed at home was filled with the same group of men, who worked months at her to get into her room and Bryon would certainly not be getting a free pass. Maybe a soft kiss, but nothing more. She set that into her mind, forbidding herself to lay her hands upon the Lord until at least the twelfth night at the manor. If even at all, he seemed like a better pawn than an actual King.

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As expected, Byron didn’t have to use his key and it didn’t surprise him that Clarice opened the door just moments away from his knock. What surprised him however was seeing the woman dressed in a delicate floor length night gown made of ivory silk. It wasn’t in the least revealing but it was draped nicely on her body highlighting her curves. Least to say, Byron’s eyes fell over her bust before looking her in the eyes. He looked dead serious without even a trace of his real feelings showing on his face. It was the same look he had when he was about to close a good deal or acquire a new property…literally speaking.
Instead of replying to her greetings he opened the door wide and stepped inside forcing her to move back and out of the way. He shut the door behind him and when they were finally in the safety of the room he spoke loud and clear:
“Please don’t make a scene, Ms. Phaedra. I bear no ill intention towards your chastity.” He smiled and looked at her amused knowing very well her opinions on the matter. After letting her a moment to compose herself he continued:
“As for my reputation around the manor or anywhere else, I believe that being in your beauty’s presence can only honor a gentleman and it surely isn’t for my reputation that you should worry about, Miss Phaedra. “

He approached her and taking her hand in his he kissed it swiftly letting it go right afterwards.
“I dared to call on you at this late hour and in this particular place because what I have to say cannot be told in the presence of others. Please do me the honor of not judging me based on the words I am about to say or on the straight manner they will be laid in front of you.” Byron paused for a second and looked at her making sure she understood. Her intelligent eyes only sparkled for a moment and so he continued without haste:
“From the first time I saw you I knew that your are someone and probably the only one who can understand and even agree with my view on the matter I’m about to explain. I must confess that inviting you here on this celebration was initiated by my wife, Mrs. Mayfair, but after hearing about your past actions and manner of living I was the one who insisted on finding your whereabouts and send you the invitation as soon as possible. Please forgive my rudeness.” He bowed his head as an apology.

“I only did so because you and I, Ms. Phaedra, are one of a kind. I know you have felt it to and you know very well this isn’t something I can say based on a cheap card trick. Both our reputations and opinions on life are solid proofs that we did not come here on Earth to kneel in front of social rules or anything else that could keep as away from paying heed to our heart’s own desires. “
Byron hesitated for a moment as he looked over his words once more. He didn’t know why he chose such a strange expression “come here on Earth” but paid no further attention to it and continued his explanation.
“Therefore, I decided to trust you and confess to you the very thing I sought out not to confess to myself many years. I feel trapped in a life that does not fit me no more than a farmer’s clothing would suit my wardrobe. Surely you must know my reputation and I know that no one would give a deeper thought to it unless that someone understands the reasons and motivations behind it. I know that you are that someone Ms Phaedra and I know that you had to deal with the very same thing I am dealing right now. To put it simply, I am not a man that can stay married for too long. I will not trouble you with a cliché and tell you that I am unhappy in my marriage. That is most certainly not the case. Genevieve is a charming woman and a wonderful partner as you might have seen so yourself by now, yet there is something that does not let me enjoy our union as naïve as this sounds. I feel trapped and I can see that with each passing day I’m turning into a monster until one day I might do something horrible to Genevieve, something that can never be undone. As a woman, she cannot divorce me and I cannot divorce her without a good reason and a solid proof behind it. Until today she has not given me any reason for it and it’s most likely that she never will. That is why I need your help. You are the only woman in England both with the charm and the means to help me out. “
Saying this he looked straight into her eyes, enticing her with his deep gaze.

“ You must be thinking of me as a monster already, Ms. Phaedra and you are right to do so. But I am a trapped monster that could only harm the ones who are close to it and by setting me free you favor us all.” His voice sounded melancholic and pleading.
“Will you listen to my plan and accept to take part in it?”

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Bryon practically pushed his way into her room, though with much grace and poise. He took her hand and kissed it, then let it fall back down to her side. She took a step to the side then walked over to the chaise lounger and sat in it's soft velvet covered surface.

"I dared to call on you at this late hour and in this particular place because what I have to say cannot be told in the presence of others. Please do me the honor of not judging me based on the words I am about to say or on the straight manner they will be laid in front of you. From the first time I saw you I knew that your are someone and probably the only one who can understand and even agree with my view on the matter I’m about to explain. I must confess that inviting you here on this celebration was initiated by my wife, Mrs. Mayfair, but after hearing about your past actions and manner of living I was the one who insisted on finding your whereabouts and send you the invitation as soon as possible. Please forgive my rudeness.”

She nodded to him, not taking any offense in the words that her promptly uttered. She let his speech continue on, but got lost at one part, she questioned what exactly he was asking her to do.

"That is why I need your help. You are the only woman in England both with the charm and the means to help me out. You must be thinking of me as a monster already, Ms. Phaedra and you are right to do so. But I am a trapped monster that could only harm the ones who are close to it and by setting me free you favor us all. Will you listen to my plan and accept to take part in it?”

Clarice took her time to process everything he said, weighing the pros and cons, though when she finally spoke her answer was as educated as ever, "to be quite blunt, as you have not spared me such a thing. I am not sure what I would be signing into. As you said we do have similar qualities, none of which I allow to rule my decisions. As for what you have heard of me and my reputation I shall deny any claim you have laid upon it until I further understand what you mean." She had no clue what he was asking her to do.. Be his mistress? Kill his wife like she killed her husband? Be the reason of a divorce? Her mind was full of questions, all of which needed answering.

"So, what if you elaborate on this devious plan you have made in your gentleman-like mind, and ask yourself if you would do the same for me? Before I agree to become one of your pawns, which I will never be Lord Bryon, understand that much, I will never be a toy of your life. As I was saying, before I vow my... services to you, I request a full explanation. If you cannot provide me with such I will have to bid you adieu."

Every one of her words was serious and business like, she did not plan to be a toy pushed around by Lord Byron's fingers when he fell ill of his wife. She stat erect and made eye contact with him once more, not letting her eyes off his until she was done speaking.

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About ten minutes after Alayna fell asleep, the dreams began. They started over a year ago right after Edgar died. This time, Alayna was standing a cold and bleak hallway. It was filled with mirrors side-by-side and all of them were broken. What could this mean? In her dream, Alayna wore a simple grey gown and her feet were bare. She started walking through the hallway.

Outside the dream, Alayna was laying in bed when she got up. Ever since the dreams started, Alayna had sleepwalking problems. At home, she always kept the doors locked to her chambers since she was on the second floor. Here though, Alayna opened the door and walked into the hallway.
During this time, Alayna opened a door in her dream and walked out into a deserted wasteland. It was so barren and the wind was blowing so hard that Alayna had a hard time standing. She felt so lost for some reason. She was still confused on why she was dreaming this. There was a numbness inside of her that also felt sadness.

Unaware that she is sleepwalking, Alayna’s body starts reacting to the dream and tears start to roll down her pale face. After walking down the hallway, she comes into the main foyer and goes down another hall. If anyone saw her, they would have thought they saw a ghost simply because by how she was walking and the expression on her face. Even though she is asleep, her eyes were only halfway shut. Her hair looked translucent in the dark hallway and she looked to be floating as she walked. Gone was the icy woman from the party, only to be replaced by a mysterious figure that was at her most vulnerable and appeared to be not of this world. Eventually she found herself opening another door, which happened to be the music room.

In the dream, Alayna found herself in an enclosed space and felt scared. It was like she couldn’t breathe here. She searched the walls, trying to find a way out, but to no avail. She heard a voice and turned around. Shocked at what she saw, she dropped to her knees, doing the same thing outside the dream. In front of her were three little kids. One was a boy and two were girls. One boy and girl had brown hair and the other girl, who was the smallest, had light blonde hair. Each had a pair of wings behind them. What shocked Alayna the most was that she knew instantly what these three kids represented. She tried reaching out to them but they seem to get farther away from her.
“Don’t go, please. Please . . .” she cried out feeling her heart break all over again.

Alayna cried the same words over and over, in her dream and outside of it. The children represented her biggest failure and heartache, the inability to give birth. This tore her apart as nothing else did. The feeling of happiness she felt carrying life inside of her, only to be taken away. Edgar’s reaction to this made it even worse for he never gave a word of comfort and expected her to recover quickly from the miscarriages. It had only been two weeks after the second miscarriage that he expected her to ‘try again’. She refused him, saying she needed more time to recover. That had been the first time he raped her. What was worse is that she eventually let him. She did become pregnant again shortly, but like the others, she lost it. Two days after that one, Edgar had died. Alayna thought his death was poetic justice and had honestly not grieved for him since any affection she had for him died long ago. Her heart was dead by that time. However, seeing these children brought all the pain and heartbreak back and she found herself shattered all over again. As the children vanished in her dream, Alayna collapsed on the floor and cried her heart out.

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The remainder of the show managed to draw Anna in and put her gears in motion. She constantly searched for logical explanations for what she was seeing and came up with several hypotheses. Though she wouldn’t reveal them or ask the secret behind the trick; no great illusionist would disclose it and there was still the possibility of her being wrong. Despite the previous blow, her stature straightened and she wasn’t clinging to the table anymore. When the representation was over, she whole-heartedly applauded and a clear aura of appreciation took over her. As Jared spoke, a sturdy, middle-aged woman approached to lead Anna to her designated room. As she put herself in motion, she turned to say “good night” to Adelia, showing that rare warm smile once more.

The maid led her to a room on the first floor, which, after a searching glance, seemed identical to the one she inhabited back home, only about four times bigger and much more impressive. It was astonishing, furnished from wall to wall with only the finest money could buy, a bedroom fit for a king, not a guest.

“Lady Mayfair has instructed us to prepare the bath, should you want to take one. Would you like to bathe now, miss?” said the maid, already guessing what the answer might be.

“Yes, I would very much like that, madam….” answered Anna, letting the older woman fill in her name.

“Bertha, miss, you can call me Bertha” she answered and then went on to prepare the bath.

As soon as Bertha finished there and left, Anna went over to the bathtub. She didn’t test the water to see if it suited her, but just got rid quickly of her dress and undergarments, threw them on the bed and got in the water fast, as if she had waited for this moment the whole day. She let her body slide into the hot water, releasing her hair from the bun, letting it slither down her back like thirsty snakes that had just found a spring. Her whole body relaxed muscle by muscle.

She let herself sink completely under the water to make her mind empty of everything this day had confronted her with. For a moment it seemed like it would, but pieces of thoughts made their way back in again. They seeped through the cracks of her relaxed mind, bringing with them images of a man she once knew, so brave and kind….It didn’t last long before they became infected with sorrow and guilt. Guilt, again, that horrible iron taste, came back and she broke out of her thoughts, not realizing that in her despair she opened her mouth while still under water. The water's silky and shapeless nature invaded her mouth, threatening to fill her lungs and drive out the air that kept her alive.

Panicking she pulled herself out of the water, coughing and spitting. Emptying her insides of the liquid, she calmed down and noticed the red stream that was diluting in the water. She had forgotten to take off the bandages on her wrist and the dry blood was now coming out of the linen. Figuring she stayed long enough in the water, she got out, dried herself and bandaged her wrist once more before putting on her linen nightgown. The night breeze coming through the balcony endeared her to take a walk, and, as she didn’t feel too tired, she took her overcoat and went outside.

Making her way through the right side of the house, she arrived in the part of the garden you could see from the ladies’ rooms. Looking up, the moon stood proud in the sky’s wallpaper and it reminded her of an old story…

‘The Moon, the silvery maiden of the night, had finally reached the age of marriage. She danced every night in the Sky’s ballroom, alongside the stars, and though all of them asked for her hand and had promised her the Earth, she refused them all, even the Evening Star, the handsomest of them all. Yet she danced every night happy, not knowing of love’s fires. But, one day, she wanted to visit the ballroom in daylight and there she saw the Sun, the lone prince of the day. The blonde man had been practicing dancing for years and awaited the day in which he could join the rest of the heavenly figures of the sky in the ballroom, at night. Despite being much older than her, the Moon fell in love with the Sun and asked him for a dance. He accepted her offer and for a brief period they got lost into each other’s eyes. But, as fate will have it, they weren’t supposed to see each other before he could partake in the night balls, but once every few years she would visit him in complete secrecy, dancing together and trying to catch the kiss that would seal their love, that being the cause of solar eclipses on Earth…’ she recalled in her mind.

And couldn’t help noticing how the Moon and the Sun resembled the noble lady that was sitting next to Adelia, at the moment she had arrived, and the older-looking naval captain.

‘How ironic life is…’ she remarked ‘I’m reminded of old stories that won’t say anything about me, yet set an odd pairing of two people whose names I don’t even know…’

She was interrupted by the sighs and sobs coming from the open window of one of the rooms on the first floor, not far from hers. Thinking it was Adelia and that she might have been upset by the slime, Lord Helmut, Anna took a pebble and threw it in the window frame, making a noise that could be easily heard from inside the room. To her surprise, the head that appeared in the opening was that of a red haired woman, about her age, thing which let Anna speechless for a moment. Finally, without managing to suppress her amazement at the woman’s pouring tears, she cried out:

“Lady Mayfair, are you alright?”

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" This nonsense is foolish." John muttered to himself as he stared at the silken canopy of his kingly bed. The furnishings in this room likely had cost more then his yearly salary and this was only one room in the many that made up the Mayfairs home, and it was likely the least grand of them all aside from the medieval wine celllar. It made John all the more aware of his greatest fear, dying a pauper. John was loyal to the crown, had served most of his life in the navy and planned to die wearing a uniform. But he always feared the lack of a safety net, many a seaman returned home due to injury. Discharged from the service these brave men were left to fend for themselves, with nary a copper penny for their heroic actions. Most died poor as beggars, in debt and haunted by the nightmare's of a fighting man's life.


John knew of several, a tall giant of a man called Roland was the most prominent in his mind. Roland had been commander of a gun crew when John had served abroad the HMS Glover . The giant was a fine man, steady under fire and able to inspire the men under his command. A battle with a rogue Greek navy ship saw Roland lose a leg and his eyesight. The giant was of course discharged from the Royal Navy with nothing but the clothes on his backs and his mates farewells. And this fine man, this true servant of the Empire had died a drunk in some trashy bar in Madagascar, killed by hoods for the few dollars in his pockets.

This room only made such thoughts worse, something his already fragile mental state could ill afford. The canopy seemed to be falling in, intent on suffocating the naval captain the longer he stared at with sleepless eyes. So much so that the normally stoic captain leaped out bed to and to the furthest corner of the room. Where with bated breath he tried to calm the rapid beating of his heart.

What is happening to me, why does my heart beat in so irrational fear. John berated himself with much slapping of the side of his head, as if in some vain attempt to force this fear out of his skull. It did not work, in fact it only seemed to make things worse.

And so the naval officer decided that a midnight sojourn was in order.Perhaps the calming effect of doing nothing more then walking and enjoying the cool night air might help. So John threw on a loose white shirt, such as the ratings of his ship wore. Simple black shoes with a brass buckle holding them on his feet completed his outfit. He then judged his appearance in the mirror. His tousled blonde hair and plain clothing made the naval captain appear little more then the low born commoner he was. Well that suited him just fine, at least these presuming clothes did not stir up his fear.

Striding from his room clad in tan breeches,loose white shirt, and simple buckled black shoes John entered the hallway. Had any saw him now they would have likely thought the Englishman little more then a thief, for why else would such a plainly dressed man be walking such fine halls as the Mayfair's house had. His shoes echoed quietly in the spacious hallways as he made his way down to the foyer. The midnight moon shone in through it's windows,bathing everything in a silver light. Which for some reason stirred that something within John. Once more acting the love struck school boy eh John. The captain's pragmatism lectured him once more.

" Why does this place undo me so. What have I done to have this lunacy visited upon me." John asked the moonlight quietly, not really expecting an answer but receiving one nonetheless. The faint memory of a woman's tears echoed in to the foyer from some adjacent room. That helped snap his mind out of his philosophical and tormented frame of mind, for such things required little more the straight action.

Deducing the crying was coming from down a nearby hallway John strode on quick feet, the crying getting louder with each step. Soon it was apparent one of the richly varnished doors was hiding the source. Opening it with one hand the naval captain stepped in the room, a spacious arrangement dominated by musical instruments. A music room, once more the wealth of the Mayfairs shone in the quality of the instruments. But the figure of a woman was somewhat more eye catching.

Clad in the sleeping gown of her gender she was bathed in the moonlight shining through the windows. Tears traced down her face unashamedly and in great number while her sobbing suffused the room in a atmosphere of sorrow. She was the ace of spades and seemed greatly distressed about something,after all tears of this nature were hardly tears of joy.Striding on firm feet he made his way over to where she lay on the floor,kneeling down John saw that clearly the woman had been sleepwalking, for her eyes held none of the awareness of a waking person. Sleepwalking was something the naval captain was familiar with, the nightmares of men under his command often led to such things.

Taking a gentle hand upon her shoulder John shook her, being careful not to exert undue force. " Your Ladyship you must awake, you'll catch your death sleeping on this cold floor." He intoned in a firm and clear voice trying to reach through whatever nightmare was affecting the woman so.

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In the recesses of Alayna’s mind, she was still dreaming and was once again in another place. This one was a cold and icy terrain. It was like the state of what her heart was. She felt lost and alone and broken. Suddenly, she saw a light, as if the sun finally shown through. With it came a voice.

"Your Ladyship you must awake, you'll catch your death sleeping on this cold floor."

From the outside, Alayna finally woke up and jerk upward, seeing the naval captain in front of her. She looked around and saw that she was not in her bed. Her first immediate thought was embarrassment. Other than her servants, no one else knew about her sleepwalking problem. It was the only reason why she never stayed overnight at any of her relatives’ places anymore. Back at home she usually did end up on the floor of her room is she roused early enough. Her maid and butler had the only spare keys to her chambers and she told them that if they ever woke before her and found her on the floor than to get someone to put her back into the bed. That is what happened in most cases. Now that someone else knew about her sleepwalking problem, she was nervous and mortified. However, she still did not have her wits about her yet and when she remembered the captain’s words, she laughed bitterly.

“I am already dead on the inside sir.” She said, with some sadness in her voice.

She had to admit that she had thought of dying, but honestly did not want to for that was the coward’s way out of living and also many people depended on her. No, she did not want to die. At the same time though, she did not know how to live either. Alayna merely existed now that she locked her heart away.

She once again looked at the captain and replied, “I am sorry you saw me in such a state.”

Indeed, now he would probably think of her as a weakling. Then again, most men did simply because she was a woman. She took pleasure in proving those kinds of men wrong.

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Thankfully his words had seemed to awaken the sleeping ace of spades although the blank gaze of the woman as she stared at him made John question if she was truly awake. Then the wild turning of her head as she assessed the situation put that doubt out of the naval captain's mind. Such was with sleepwalkers when they awoke not in their bed but wherever their waking dreams had taken them. The rosy color of embarrassment also helped to dispel any lingering suspicions. No doubt being a noble and a woman was disconcerting in this sort of personal situation. He was little more then a low born bastard son of a whore, though she in all likelihood did not know that, and she was a lady of the upper class. Where one was expected to act at all times in a dignified manner, something crying on the floor of a music room during a sleepwalking session did not fit into.

But her words were what caught even the normally enigmatic sailor off guard. The bitterness and sadness they contained were colder then the floor she still laid on. John was already uncomfortable with the intimacy of the situation as it were, now this confession of being dead inside was out in the open as well. She had seemed cold the first time the naval captain had seen her, perhaps this explained why. It also didn't help the normally competent man was far removed from his element. Ships,tides,and the navy life were his bread and butter. Women on the other hand escaped every attempt John had made at understanding them, how did one act in these situations. Then something dawned on him, something his pragmatic side out right disagreed with but that something inside him said to go for.

" You feel plenty alive to me milady. Your body despite it's chilling is warm, you definably show all the signs of life." John replied with all the warmth he could muster. And it was true, his hand was still on her shoulder and the warmth of her body was somewhat discomforting for a reason not at all unpleasant.

By Saint Micheal John if she doesn't slap you I'll be surprised. His pragmatic side warned him, trying it's best to dissuade him.


" We all have nightmares your Ladyship and tears are nothing but water. Every living thing needs water." John added pointedly ignoring his pragmatic side." Now how about I help you up and take you back to your room."

By all that is holy you'll be writing love poems and singing them from beneath her balcony next. John's pragmatic said in disgust.

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The Lord was utterly amazed by the woman in front of him. He knew she always had been rather unconventional, but no woman ever dared to speak like that in front of him. They mostly blushed, whine or show other forms of false embarrassment before letting him do as he pleased. Byron laughed wholeheartedly and his voice echoed in the room in a somewhat intimidating laughter.
“So it’s true what they say about you, Ms. Phaedra! I assure you that I am not in need of a pawn. I’m in need of a friend. As for your reputation, I only meant the fact that you are viewed in society as a free spirit and an untamed woman if you allow me to use such an expression. I must confess that I never met anyone with such a sharp tongue before and so I see why there have been so many rumors regarding your spirit. That is another reason for why I chose to trust you. As cunning as you are – and please do not bother do deny your intelligence, I’m not a believer of the theory that women have little brains – I should be the one to take caution in matters of such importance concerning my personal life. Yet, I chose to trust you and I know that this is not a mistake.”

He walked over to one of the armchairs in front of the chaise long and sat on it.

“ I suppose this will make me…less intimidating.” He smiled and continued.
“I’ll be frank, Ms. Phaedra. I never believed the ill rumors about your late husband’s passing. As far as I am concerned the man was far beyond the age when you can hope for a future. I myself started to think about death already and I assure you I can never accept it with open arms although some say she’s a wonderful mistress.“ He gave another smile that would have give shivers down her spine if Clarice was any other woman.

“Thus, I can only hope you will share the same trust I have for you. To put it shortly, I can not escape unless I find a way to break the union between me and Mrs. Mayfair on plausible cause. As unfaithful as I may be you know very well that is not enough reason for her to ask for a divorce. Her love, I am sorry to say, hasn’t diminished since we first met and anything I do seems a trifle in her eyes. There are also society rules that stand in the way, what for a woman means murder for a man is at most a horrible mistake that can be tolerated. Therefore, the only reason for a divorce should be her unfaithfulness. Furthermore, it has to be genuine. This leads me to the favor I ask of you. Genevieve will never betray her vows unless she has a good reason to. As I know her the only good reason she has for doing anything in her life is…as amusing as it may sound…love.”
He smiled like he just told a good joke and wanted to see the reaction of the audience.

“If she were to fall in love with..let’s say..one of the other guests and have her feelings shared in return then it wouldn’t take long until I find out and take action. I need both your mind and unique charm in order to spot out the best person for ..my little scheme. You see, I had enough time to look over our male guests and I believe there are some who would be more than willing to pretend and act out their undying love for the Mistress of the Manor. They will not be left unrewarded of course. I can be quite generous if things take their natural path..my way, that is.” He grinned.

“All I need is for you, Ms. Phaedra, to convince that one person to join us in any way you can. I would have done so myself, but I’m afraid that besides wealth and a higher social position I have nothing more to offer and some might not take it as such. You can be more convincing that I could ever be in this situation and you’re the only one who can find out if my wife has even the faintest interest in somebody else.

Our butler Jared could have easily taken that position, yet he would never betray his mistress even if his heart would have desired it greatly. Even if things were simpler, I cannot have my wife falling in love with a servant. I don’t want to tarnish her reputation or social status; I merely want to get out. If she does fall in love and run away with the fortunate fellow, she’ll keep half of our fortune and live a happy life with a man that can love her, not bring her more grief like I’ve done so many times. “

Byron took a moment to breathe and arrange his thoughts. Looking the woman into the eyes he could see a sign of relief as he laid out his plan. What did she expect of him? Something more outrageous as it seems. The thought gave him more confidence and when he looked deeper he could see something else as well. Maybe interest.

“There is one more thing I must point out. If you do accept to take part in this and carry out your mission with success, I can repay you with more than you ever hoped for. I know wealth isn’t an issue, therefore I will offer you a title that can help you maintain your free life and live in any way that you see fit without anyone having a word to it. Your reputation will always glister above suspicion. I can offer you a new life and what I myself desire most of all, freedom. What says your Ladyship?”

He relaxed his muscles and waited for her answer with the confidence of a lion caught up in the excitement of the hunt.

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Emma Chambers laid down her phoenix adorned dress and put on an African kanga instead of the European night gown which she never fancied too much. The colored material was vaporous and soothing to the skin and it covered all of her beautiful forms giving Emma a rectangular shape. This was indeed one of her most eccentric outfits so far. She rarely slept during night time because that was her favorite time and those were the hours in which her powers were at full capacity. Until sunrise her mind would have been filled with strange dreams and visions in the rare occasions when she did manage to sleep so Emma preferred to stay awake and sleep until noon when morning came.

This time however she fell asleep the second her head hit the pillow. She dreamt a man running in the savannah full speed ahead chased by a warrior tribe of savages. His shirt was loose and his once trimmed down pants looked like a pair of rags. The man stopped in front of a puddle and lowered his body at the top of it touching the muddy water with his chipped lips, drinking with haste. He heard war cries and turned around just like a deer raising its head from the pond startled by noise. It was then when Emma saw Jared’s face. She woke up panting and with one quick glimpse at herself in the mirror she rushed down the hallway not bothering to change her clothes. She knew Jared was in danger. She knew that wasn’t a premonition, for she never had the power to see into the future, but she was certain she grasped the intentions of someone in the house regarding the butler. She had no idea who bore such ill will towards the young man and as she ran past the girls’ rooms hoping to find Jared and warn him, her figure looked like a fiery asian demon lost in the darkness of the manor .
“Warn him of what?” she asked herself almost as many times as she had wondered who in the manor or whose belongings she touched that triggered such a late vision.


Genevieve’s sobs came to a stop when she heard a pebble smashing against the arched windows made of stained glass. These were called accent windows and were renowned for their flower patterns, some even calling them the jewelry of Victorian architecture. Genvieve opened them and looked down in the garden only to see one of her guests, the late one, staring in amazement at her.

“Did you expect anyone else?” she said smiling almost bursting into laughter at the thought of Annabelle’s boyish behavior. She chose to answer her question with another in a decent attempt to diverge from the subject, but then an idea popped in her mind.

“I’m afraid I lost my keys somewhere in the room and locked myself in. How silly I am. I’ve been searching for them to no avail and …well, I’m sorry you had to see me in such a state. I’m quite the crybaby, I’m afraid.” She sounded amused with herself and for a moment she was actually happy to see Anabelle standing there. At least now she had a reason to get out of the room.
“Please wait a second, I’ll be right down.” She said and opened the windows wide setting her foot on the wooden support. A delicate high heeled boot showed itself from under the cascade of frills her dress held and with one cautios step after the other Genevieve found herself going down with her back facing the guest. In normal conditions she wouldn’t be caught dead taking such extreme measures in the presence of others, but she knew very well what her guest was like and felt enough confidence to act in that way. That and the fact that she was determined to get her revenge on her husband for such humiliation made her somewhat adventurous.

“I am sorry for not making the proper introductions before, Ms. Penclave.” She said when she reached the ground safely. “I am indeed, believe it or not, the mistress of this house and I managed to lock myself in like a little girl.” Genevieve giggled and took Annabelle’s hands in hers as she had done so with everyone that she liked.
“Thank you for coming to my rescue, Sir Penclave.” She said and made a curtsey.
“Since you decided to take a midnight stroll, which I highly recommend myself from time to time, may I show you around the garden?” The lady took the woman by the hand and walked slowly towards the end of the garden. Beautiful moonflowers in shades of white and with attractive leaves were bloomed everywhere and on the other side of the pathway the two ladies could see evening primroses in a soft-yellow color that gave a delicate lemon scent into the air. The silence was disturbed from time to time by the cricket’s song.

They shortly arrived at one of the gazebos half covered in lush. The structure itself looked like it was made out of lace because of the delicate wire fence that surrounded the area instead of walls. As soon as the moonlight appeared again from under the clouds Genevieve could see a figure standing near the wooden structure.

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Clarice smiled as he threw compliments her way, but surely Bryon knew that would get him absolutely no where in her little black book. In all honesty, he had come to the right person for the job, everyone would expect her to be sneaking around doing underground business, so much that no one would ever expect her as a culprit to the crimes. As he spoke her mind jumped to and from each man she had encountered that night.

Valian would certainly not be the right man for the job. In fact, she highly doubted he could ever find love nor be bribed into the riches Lord Mayfair could offer. Both Sir Fisher and MacCraigh were to noble to themselves to pull of such a task; the thought of one of them trying to seduce Mistress Mayfair was quite comical. Next was Lord Helmut, she pondered over him for quite sometime. A streak of jealousy coursed through her veins when she pictured the ladyship with him. In addition, she simply wanted him to herself. Finally was the illusionist, Maximilian. Lady Mayfair had taken quite a fancy to him and he to her, not to mention the man would be perfect for Clarice to work her ways on. She saw the way he looked at her a few times, and right then and there she had decided. Using one hand she swept a black lock of hair from Bryon's face. It was not a romantic gesture, but could easily be taken as such.

"Lord, for what you ask me to do, I will take a title nor social class rank. I do not need the help of an outsider to keep my reputation untainted, for it will never be as such. You see-" She leaned forward, the silk hem near her bust crept a small ways downward, exactly like she wanted it too, "Those things, money, class, are not what I enjoy." The words almost came off her lips like a purr. Sure, they were discussing a 'business' deal, but no one ever forbid her to have a little fun along the way. Flirting was never considered a crime. "I am sure you rightly know what I prefer."

The woman stood up, leaving Lord Bryon in his chair, and walked over to the mirror, peering at herself as she spoke to him. "As for the man you speak of needing... I have the perfect one in mind, though I am not sure he will simply fall for the plan. Luckily for you... I have certain ways of convincing-" She ran one slender finger along the strap of her dress, "-men to do what I please. In fact it is quite simple."

A devilish look glistened in her eyes. "I could go into detail, but I am afraid I must refrain Sir. Such talk from ladies is highly looked down upon." The stunning woman turned her head, letting her icy wild eyes meet his, "As for this freedom you can speak of- which freedom is important to a woman like I- the only thing I want is the freedom to do what I want, whenever I please."

Everything she had said, in someway or another, could be symbolized to sex, affairs, or both. It was exactly like she wanted it, Lord Bryon weak and Clarice having the upper hand to do things her way. Not his.

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Alayna could slowly feel herself returning back to normal. Still the words that the captain said caught her off guard. She looked up at him and could feel a blush coming on. Her eyes lit up and she found herself giggling. The ice queen was actually laughing. It made her look her actual age. She honestly didn’t know why she was laughing. Man, maybe Alayna was still dreaming for she had not acted this way in years. What had gotten into her? She tried calming down and started to take deep breaths. Finally she managed to stop laughing. Now that she had herself under control, she could think of why she laughed in the first place. The answer came to her almost instantly. It was simply because she did not expect the captain to say anything like that to her. He strikes her as someone who normally did not try to comfort someone because of his stoic demeanor. If she had been told the same thing by him earlier that evening, than she might have thought he was flirting or saying something inappropriate. Now though, she didn’t know if he was trying to comfort her.

“I know I am physically alive sir, but thank you.” She replied.

It was then she finally registered that his hand was on her shoulder, and she looked at it before looking at him again. She suddenly felt vulnerable, and she didn’t really like feeling that way. The room was indeed cold and she was not wearing any slippers or her night shift. It was like her mind finally started working after her feelings were scattered. Still, she had to give the captain credit for not taking advantage of the situation. However, she still felt uneasy being alone with him like this because she remembered the glances they shared. What happened to her icy demeanor? Didn’t she promise herself that she wouldn’t let her feelings ever get the best of her again? Obviously she failed at that. That’s when she heard the captain’s voice again. She almost laughed again about the water comment but managed to contain it this time.

“Thank you sir for your assistance. I would appreciate it if you didn’t tell anyone about this incident. There are enough wolves in this house.” She requested.

Indeed, if it had been Lord Mayfair, or the Frenchman, she might have not been so lucky tonight and if any of them gotten word of what happened tonight, they could easily take advantage of her problem. She just hoped that the captain was honorable enough to do what she asked.

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"Duncan... listen carefully..."

"Isaac, for God's sa-"

"Not a word, Sargeant." The Captain snapped, the multitude of new orifices in his chest apparently doing nothing to cool his usual fiery demeanour. "Just. Bloody. Listen."

His features hardening with a reluctant nod, Duncan made a gesture at one of his Corporals and knelt beside the dying man.

"In my trunk you will find an envelope addressed to a 'Lady Bowervale', put my journal in it and mail it..." Jackson began, his speech broken by a fit of wet coughs "...Everything else in the box is yours, but you must mail that letter as soon as you reach camp, understood?"

Isaac Jackson let out a sigh of relief as his Sargeant nodded, though the pained expression on the lad's face brought him no joy. Disinherited by his parents and having severed all ties with his kin as he took on a new name and joined the Army, Isaac had no real family, having never found the time or the right woman to settle down with to have children of his own and eventually having gotten too old to feasibly seek either. It was strangely un-strange to think of the lowborne Scot who became his best man, his pupil and then his best friend as his only family when compared to the up-turned noses of his brothers and sisters and the outright scorn of his mother and father; in fact, if he and Duncan's positions were reversed and he were knelt beside the young man's dying body, he highly doubted he'd do as good a job at holding his tears in check as the Sargeant before him.

A small, weak but warm smile came to his face as he stared at the man before him. The man who had once fought a Bengal tiger armed only with a beyonet to protect a lost child, the man who had infiltrated a tribal camp to rescue the daughter of a Boer farmer, the man who had saved his life and the lives of his men more times than he cared to count.

The man who, under different circumstances, he may have called 'son.'

"...Duncan..." He spoke, his words becoming faint and a light-headed feeling beginning to take him "This... is a bloody silly place to die..."

The Captain's hand weakly grabbed and squeezed the Scotsman's own, a quiet chuckle escaping him as he saw the tears now silently streaming down the young man's face.

"...Don't."

And then he was silent.


--------------------------------------

The memory faded as the clouds parted, the light of the moon radiating across the garden and revealing the figure of Duncan standing and staring into the starry night's sky, his jacket missing, the sleeves of his shirt rolled up and a bottle of something alcoholic in his hand. He had claimed fatigue to get out of the stuffy room with the magician and host of nobility, and could easily justify doing so, what with the long journey from Africa. However, actually going to sleep was another matter entirely for the scarred Scotsman.

Frankly, between the violent dreams that had plagued him since youth and the brutal memories of his own wars, the Captain found it difficult to get a good night's sleep without the aid of alcohol. Condemning him to nights of restless slumber at best, and outright insomnia the rest of the time.

Of course that's not to say he was an alcoholic; In fact, the beverage in his hand was hardly strong enough to truely affect anyone who had ever touched liquor. A going-away present, it was a drink made from cream, a healthy portion of sugar and the local 'marula' fruit, producing a light brown, milky concoction that had a flavour somewhere between chocolate and caramel. And ecstasy, if could be so bold as to remark.

A small smile came to the man's face as he read the words painted onto the bottle's label-

'With all of our love~ the Van Nataals'

A chuckle escaped him as he remembered the Boer couple, who'd been subtly sending him bottles of their product and not so subtly trying to convince him to marry their daughter ever since he'd saved the poor lass from a rather unfortunate incident involving a local tribe. A small part of him actually did mull the idea over in his head from time to time, but was never particularly vocal about it. He'd been a soldier too long; He didn't have it in him to be a quiet farmer in the colonies... That, and he was six years the girl's senior, and though she had grown to be beautiful young woman since (while apparently having not grown out her child-like infatuation of him), he still could only see that scared fifteen-year-old girl he'd rescued six years ago whenever he saw her, which put a particularly unsavoury feeling in his stomach whenever Mr. Van Nataal brought the subject up. Nevermind the talks about children.

Shaking his head of the uncomfortable thought, Duncan heard the sounds of footfalls behind him.

Turning, he spied the approaching forms of two women, though he could not tell their exact identities in the dark.

"G'devenin'" The scarred man greeted with a casual wave of his free hand "'Avin' trouble sleepin' too, eh?"

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Her laughter sounded like the peals of silver bells,light and airy, to John who watched in something approaching concern. The naval captain had thought the woman incapable of such things. Frankly upon his first impression of the woman John would bet much on the fact she did not smile nor laugh. Now she laughed like a girl sneaking glances at the boys who had caught her fancy. The blonde Englishman had to admit though the laughter,as unlikely as it may be, suited the woman. It lit up her whole face, the blush included. And took metaphorical years off the stern and cold face with it's haughty distance. It to him gave a glimpse of what she must have been like before what ever tragedy that laced her earlier words with sadness had taken place.


John despite himself imagined a girl who danced,sang, and loved life. It was poetic nonsense to his pragmatic side and quickly forgotten anyways. The naval captain was still an officer and gentleman not to mention twice the woman's age, it was time to act like it and drop the love struck school boy act. Still he could not deny the fact he found the laughter and it's effect upon an otherwise cold face attractive.

Soon as the laughter had arrived though it was gone, replaced by a more solemn face and tone as she both thanked him for his assistance and requested his silence upon the matter. John smiled in reply, but nodded his head in agreement. There were indeed wolves in this house, the least of which were Lord Mayfair and the pompous Frenchman. John had never cared for the French. They had a far too superior attitude and the blind eye they turned to their own citizens piracy and other crimes infuriated his sense of decency. English sailors fought and died trying to solve what should have been a French problem.

" I give you my promise as officer and gentleman your Ladyship, none shall hear of it from me." The naval captain spoke in reply, his tone carefully courteous and level. The Royal Naval Academy had at the very least taught John how to deal with the nobility and his own sense of honor helped fulfill what was lacking in his manner. She no doubt feared a less honorable man taking advantage of her in this situation.

" Now how about we get out of this cold room before we both catch our deaths. Not to mention attract the attention of the wolves." John added, painfully aware of how the moonlight gleamed off her hair and skin. But 43 years of life had taught him much control, besides he truly did not now what he felt for this woman was for all intents and purposes a stranger to him. True he now bore both her secret and trust but the blonde Englishman did not even know her name, arriving nearly last thus having no opportunity to hear her name. And now seemed an ill time to, she might interpret such a question as an advance, which was the last thing the world weary officer wished to do.

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While the room was dark, Alayna could make out the captain’s face and eyes. It was one of the benefits of having light colored eyes for she could see in the dark slightly better than most. Unfortunately, the side effect was that the sun nearly blinded her. So she watched the man in front of her carefully and patiently waited to see if he would not reveal this incident to anyone. When he did promise, she sighed in relief, but at the same time, didn’t really know she could trust his word. She had hoped that being an officer of the Royal Navy he would be honorable, but she had met a few officers at one time and they were pompous old warts in her opinion. She had her share of military men try to make offers to her before, during, and after her marriage. Before the marriage, her brother would drive away any suitor. During her marriage she simply refused to because unlike Edgar, she honored her marriage vows and would never sink to her husband’s level. After Edgar died she turned down more men than ever before and it was infuriating at times. They must have thought because she was a widow that she be ‘easy’ pickings. Only recently did they finally let up. One icy glare from her sent most of them packing. Only the more persistent, and dangerous, wolves of the ton tried to capture her, but those few times she got them where it hurt. If there was one good thing that came out of her marriage, it was Edgar allowing her to learn how to defend herself. She had to bribe him into doing it though by suggesting what if something bad happened to her and she couldn’t produce him any heirs. Not to mention he would lose the business deal with her brother. So Alayna learned the bow and arrow, plus some self defense skills from a bow street runner her late husband had hired.

When the captain suggested getting out of the room Alayna nodded. Carefully she stood up and made sure she stayed up.
“I shall hold you to your promise sir. Rest assured, hopefully something like this doesn’t happen again for I hate to be an inconvenience. By the way, I don’t believe we’ve been formally introduced. My name is Alayna Renoldi.” She introduced herself.

Alayna figured that since he helped her out, she ought to give him her name at least. While Alayna rarely accepted her, when she did need it, she did not mind it.

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As his audience departed, Maximilian began putting his things. He stayed in the room after they all left to pack up the secrets to his trick. The only one who even knew his secrets was the son of a noble who walked in on him as he prepared for a past show, who didn't even understand how the various little devices worked. When he was done, he called for a servant to help him bring his trunk up to his room. It was her youngest employee, a boy named Nathaniel, who had helped him unload his things when he first arrived.

"Her ladyship has asked us to draw a bath for any guests who would like one." He told him as they walked up the stairs.

"That would be lovely Nathaniel. If you could, have it ready before I get there. There are some things I left in my carriage and I will be up soon."

The two split up as he went to the front door. He walked through the ballroom on the way and saw Lord Byron sitting in a chair lost in thought. What ever he was contemplating seemed interesting, but it was rude to pry so he just left it at that. In his carriage, he opened a drawer near his bed and took out the ocarina his mother gave him. He played a few notes on it before pocketing it, grabbing an unlabeled bottle from under his bed, and heading back inside. Lord Byron was gone from the ballroom and apparently had the same after party ritual as Maximilian of finishing off other peoples drinks. Nathaniel saw him enter and told him that his bath was waiting for him. He hadn't had an actual bath in over a week, so he went straight to his room.

His sigh of relief echoed slightly in his quarters as he slid into the warm water. Not having such luxuries available at all times made him enjoy it all the more. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, the steam making him quite drowsy. A dream, like the one he had the night he received his invitation, quickly consumed him. Again, he witnessed murders of people throughout history, but this time there was something different. Not only did he feel some how connected to the crimes, he heard his voice speak to each murderer in several tongues giving the same orders.

"These are not men you are killing. They have committed a great atrocity, yet have been given a chance for redemption that few others receive. What right do they have to forgiveness when others are denied it?"

He opened his eyes, realizing that his bath had gotten cold. The voice in his dream seemed to be speaking to him, but what he said sounded like nonsense. "It seems I've gotten myself caught up in my own act." He said to himself as he got out of the tub, blaming the dream on his card trick. He threw on a pair of slacks and popped the quark out of the unlabeled bottle. It was a special whiskey a friend of his father brewed, his personal favorite drink despite it not fitting with his preferred lifestyle. He drank it straight from the bottle while the light of the moon flooded his room, the decor of which he just now took in. Everything was either a dark blue or silvery color, with a few pieces that looked like stars here and there. He'd always liked the night sky, so the room was very comfortable to him despite it being his first night there.

After finishing the bottle, he took the ocarina from his pocket and placed it to his lips. Instinctively, he played his mother's lullaby, a tune which some had said was more calming than anything played on another instrument. He had accidentally left his door slightly ajar, and the sound of his song carried into the hallways. He sat on his bed as he played, the song affecting him like it had when he was a child, and he could feel the desire to sleep coming to him.