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Mr Murk

 

April 15th, 2018, 

 

Silvermans Books 9.57pm

 

The Sun was down, and it was nearly closing time. 

 

Mr. Murk needed the sun to be down. And he would prefer it to be nearly closing time. Less people around. 

 

Wrapped in the Murk, he entered as a stiff gentleman of advanced years, in a tween jacket and thick glasses. He was blind, but he didn't need eyes to see in a book store. He could feel the sumptous wit of the ink around him, he could feel the souls of those in their, and all he had to do was avoid chairs. 

 

He went up to the counter, smiling pleasantly. The immortal soul of Grimalkin was there, and he could feel its taste, and taste its feel. 

 

"Good evening. I hope I do not intrude at this lateness of hour?" he asked, softly, voice dusty with age, with a mild American accent that spoke of New York and Europhillia. 

 

He had come on a mission that required his gentle touch. Grimalkin was an immortal, and should be offered the duties and benefits of the Codus Immortus!

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It was late on a Monday, Tax Day to be specific; not a lot of book sales, but the coffee side of the business had kept them jumping all day. Lots of late filers on their laptops slurping lattes as they e-flied, then slowly closed the lids of their computers and sighed in relief, then took a big bite out of a well-earned muffin. After about 8pm, customers tended to thin out on weeknights, and today was much the same; Lynn Epstein, the owner of Silberman's, had already done of half of the day's bookkeeping, and was getting ready to shoo folks out.

 

But then she paused, and turned to the unusual customer, head cocked slightly to one side. Her eyes flicked over to the clock on the wall, then she frowned slightly and shook her head. "Uh, no, it's fine; we're still open for a few minutes. How can I help you, sir?" This man had an interesting vibe to him, not at all hostile, but definitely unique. The changeling had a feeling his inquiry would be an interesting one.

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Mr Murk

 

Mr Murk gave a look around. Or at least appeared to. He was, after all, blind!

 

"I was rather hoping to speak to the owner of the shop" he said, gently. 

 

"Ah...the real owner of the shop" he added, even more gently. 

 

He took off his glasses to reveal milky white, quite blind, eyes. And yet, he looked directly at Grimalkin. Of course, he could make his eyes look like anyones, as he was quite wrapped in the dusty dimension of the Murk, but he had found the effect of blind eyes watching someone rather helpful at times. Disconcertingly helpful. 

 

It was a signal that all was not humrdrum and routine. He had no clear idea of what Fae senses Grimalking had, although by his guess, she must have picked up some uncanny attributes. She might already know he was not what he appeared. 

 

His modus operandi for this situations was progressive revealing the truth. But whilst the progress might be slow, his initiation usually wasn't. To start with the mutual understanding that neither he nor the prospect were of regular flavours need not be delayed. 

 

"Is that you?" he asked. 

 

 

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Posted (edited)

Ah; this was goung to be one of those conversations. "I am Lynn Epstein, owner and proprieter of Silberman's Books, and inheritor of my family's legacy." As she said these last words, she drew herself to her full height and looked downright regal, even at five foot three inches. "If you have issues that do not pertain specifically to books that you wish to discuss, it might be best if we speak in my office after business hours. Can I offer you a cup of tea while you wait?" She gestured towards a wire rack holding an array of tea blends in colorful boxes; one might think it was thoughtless to make such a gesture in front of a blind person, but it perhaps hinted that she suspected her customer possessed a unique set of senses.

Edited by Heritage

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Mr Murk

 

Mr Murk looked around. In a manner of speaking. 

 

"Mmmmh. Patience is a virtue, I am told. No rush. Tea would be nice" he commented warmly. 

 

"Ill just peruse the books whilst you finish up here?" he asked. 

 

He held his cane stiffly and went to one of the bookshelves, quietly reading the ink. 

 

Not the book, the ink. 

 

He was blind, but he could feel the ink, the words, the letters, the caligraphy, even the flourish of the soul as thought poured into word. It was rather delightful, really. For the most part. There were of course some books that could drive a man to madness, such as those detailing the Unspeakable one and his nameless cults that were without name (and with good reason). 

 

"I could spend hours in here" he murmured, although with a voice pitched just load enough for Grimalkin to hear. "Or days. Years even. Why, I could spend centuries in here...."

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A wry grin touched Lynn's lips as her eyes rolled, not with genuine annoyance so much much as...what would you call it? Her 'on the nose' sense? She filled a small porcelain teapot with leaves and hot water, then set it on a tray with cream and sugar, a teacup, spoon and linen napkin close at hand, and put it on one of the tables to steep.

 

At 10pm finally came, she shooed her staff out the door, explaining that she'd finish the close herself. Once the door was locked, she fixed herself a chai latte and closed out the registers. Carrying the cash box towards the office, she left the door open, a show off good faith.

 

"Bring your tea along, sir, so that we can talk."

 

The small room was full of old things and stories, and the love of a child towards a lost grandparent. There were objects from Earth's past and other world's, a heady brew to those that could sense it. Lynn locked the cash box into a clearly magical safe, then turned to her guest as she raised her mug to her lips.

 

"So, weary traveller, let us speak of magic and time."

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Mr Murk

 

"Magic and Time, yes"

 

Mr Murk could smell the brew but not see it. He fumbled around a little for the cup but eventually found it. 

 

His can clattered as he swung it gently. 

 

"You must forgive me, madam. I have been blind since birth"

 

He sat down in the small room of old things, satistied they were alone. The Murk, that grey dimension of sepia tones, fell from his body like fluttering black leaves. 

 

Now he was as Mr. Murk truly was. Dressed in an old suit, with an old bowler hat. His eyes milky white and opaque. His features pale. And clearly not human. Homo Neathanderalis!

 

"Which was, as you can see, a very long time ago...."

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Posted (edited)

Lynn winced slightly as the gentleman fumbled with his teacup. "I sensed you had exceptional senses, but foolishly assumed they compensated for your loss of sight; my apologies." 

 

When Murk revealed his true form, the shopkeeper let out a slow, tuneless whistle as she leaned back in her leather chair. "Oh my; me and my mere one hundred plus years are definitely still in the kiddie pool. You may be the first person I've met who's older than Scarab." She leaned forward intently. "Have you experinced all those years, or did you 'sleep' through parts of it?" Then she gestured down at herself. "This form is as real as any other I adopt, but it requires the least amount of thought to maintain, so you can think of it as my 'true' form. Well-" And then her hair flowed upwards, twisting itself into an updo that revealed her pointed ears.

 

 "I am of the Fae Courts, but I'm guessing you knew that; Winter, to be precise, though I bear no love for them."

Edited by Heritage

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Mr Murk

 

Mr. Murk's face crinkled into a smile. "Yes, the Fae. They used to perfuse this world with song and dance. But times change" he said, a trace of sadness in his voice. 

 

"I myself was fond of them, for the most part. Although there was something sickly about the wildest of their realms" he said, lost in memory. "And I foresaw...well, thats another matter. It had something to do with mushrooms"

 

"As for me, I have lived and been awake for most of those years, although not all. And many moments, countless moments, have been lost to memory. Yes, I have changed too. It is quite the different world to the one I was born in. Less brutal, for the most part..."

 

He swam back to the moment he was in, rather than the ocean of the past. 

 

"I am immortal. As, I believe, are you. Tell me, what thought have you to the ramifications of immortality?"

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Lynn let out a long breath as she pushed back a bit into her seat. "That is a good question; probably not enough, at this point. Though I'm back here on Prime, I've lived most of my life off world, on a parallel Earth, where I left three generations of offspring behind. They are my legacy back there. As to here..." She let her eyes wander about the office. "I suppose this shop is the start of my legacy, that I will live to see evolve. Beyond that, I'm looking to start a foundation in my grandfather's name, but I guess that's really still small potatoes."

 

The changeling's thumbnail grew into a sharp talon, which she began to use to pick at the leather of her armchair. "I'm now in the unenviable position of being older than my parents and siblings, and knowing that I will watch them age and I die, while I remain unchanged. I mean, I may allow myself to physically age a little for appearance's sake; I did that for Bill and the kids back home. But it's not the same as real aging."

 

Lynn stopped and looked up at Murk, her eyes bright with tears. "How did you do it? Watch them deteriorate and slowly crumble before your eyes?"

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Mr Murk

 

Mr Murk said listening, both kind and attentive. He loved people's stories. 

 

And many of them were sad. Like, in some ways, his own. 

 

Blind his eyes, yet the tears still fell. 

 

"I do it by weeping" he said, quietly, softly, his face so still, yet his eyes doing the expression. "Of course, I do not see the physical decay of bodies. Perhaps I am blessed to miss that. But I sense the failings of mortals as they come to an end all the same..."

 

He let the moment linger. 

 

"But there are other ramifications too, beyond that of our peculiar suffering. If an immortal is to live for ever, then it is only a matter of when, not if, he acts in reprehensible fashion. Equally, it is only a matter of when, not if, a reprehensible character acts heroically. Thus, can we consign an immortal to death under any circumstance? The loss of infinite years, and the assurity of redemption at some point...."

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This was the first time Lynn frowned at one of Murk's statements; she looked at him intently for several seconds before she spoke, and when she did, it was clear she was choosing her words carefully.

 

"Are you suggesting that immortals be held to a different standard, just because they're immortal? Because here's the thing: I am not in favor of the death penalty, but I'm also not in favor of someone getting off on a death penalty, just because they're immortal."

 

She leaned forward and waved her hands, and two small figures appeared on her desk, cartoonish glamour renditions of criminals in black and white, but while one looked sinister and had a scar on his face, the other haf pointed teeth, a widow's peak and a cape.

 

"Okay, now that I've done this, I've realized it's pointless because you're blind, but it helps me organize my thoughts, so whatever."

 

She waved her hands to indicate both figures. 

 

"Two men are both accused of the same heinous crime; let's say...killing a whole family. Killed them, tortured them, chopped up the bodies, boom."

 

The changeling waved her hands again, and both figures were now in jail cells with unhappy faces.

 

 

"They are both tried in the same court in the same jurisdiction, by the same judge. He gives them both the same sentance: death."

 

And here she leaned over for emphasis; clearly, despite the goofy-looking figurines, she was taking this very seriously.

 

"Now, if were saying for the purposes of this example that the only difference between the two of them is one's immortal and the other mortal, you feel that the immortal should not get the death penalty, just because he's immortal? Do I have that correct?"

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GM

 

Mr. Murk nodded. 

 

"I appreciate your point, and your question. Unfortunately, I have no answer" he explained. "I, too, would not have anyone killed. The question is, however, would I spend my energy saving the mortal or the immortal, if I was to expend any energy at all?"

 

"And therein lies the difficulty, does it not? The truth of the matter, so unapalatable, is that I would save more life by saving the latter rather than the former. It is a distasteful truth, but why that should not shied away from. Would you rather save a babe or an old man? Tell me, honestly, that if you could not save both, and could save either, whom would you save, and why?"

 

"There is no right answer, but it is right to give answer..."

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Posted (edited)

Lynn pursed her lips and leaned back in her chair, then stared at the blind man for several seconds as she drummed her nails on the arm rests. "Hmmmmm. Hmmmm." She looked around the room, her eyes falling on various objects as she puzzled over this dilemma. Finally she dismissed the figures with a wave of her hand, then locked her fingers in her lap.

 

"Okay, I see where you're going with this; reminds me of that otherwise crappy I, Robot movie with Will Smith." She sighed and looked straight at Murk. "I just...I can't help but see an elitist angle to all of this, like somehow someone who lives forever is inherently better than someone with a normal lifespan. 'Cause there are some pretty s###y people out there with superpowers, including some form of immortality; some of them got their powers by freak accidents, and some got them by doing truly awful things. Are we to reward them for being immortal just because they are immortal? Is the path they used to get there irrelevant?"

Edited by Heritage

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Mr Murk

 

"Complex, is it not?"

 

Mr. Murk did not rush to answer, for the answers were not be rushed. In truth, he had mulled over such philosophies for thousands of years. These concepts were not easy, and not clear. 

 

"But to answer your concern about elitism" he started. "There is no simple answer. What is Elite? and what is Elitism? both concepts deserve considerable attention. However, what I think you are saying are immortals superior to mortals? And to this I answer yes, but in one aspect and one aspect only. They are superior in life expectency. That, and nothing more". 

 

"That affords much to an immortal, although after the years roll on and over, the pleasures and joy of life become muted. The same old patterns, repeating again and again" he sighed. 

 

"I digress. Immortality, so rare, also affords terrible vulnerability. Aside from prejudice, fear, and envy, we can be subjected to Promethean unending torment. I shall not horrify you with the tales of the past, which are quite beyond the pale. However, it has lead to me to one firm belief: that we are few, and need protection"

 

"This is what drives me. To prevent the horrors that can to us befall..."

 

"As for your point about some terrible immortals out there, I would curtail them and contain them with all my method and will. And yet, my principles must apply to all, not some. Do not mistake the pact as blanket protection. No, it is protection against the worst torments of immortality. Not..what was that amusing gane now...not a get out of jail free card"

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Lynn sat there, nose resting on steepled fingers as she pondered Murk's words, slowly nodding to herself, just the smallest of nods up and down.  Her eyes narrowed for a few moments, then she took in a long, slow breath. "Okay. Okay. I see where you're coming from, and it makes sense." She turned slightly and looked off into space, stroking her upper lip with one finger. She said nothing for several seconds.

 

"So I guess...my next question has to do with justice; I understand your argument about the limits of mortal justice, but does that then mean that we, the other immortals, police ourselves? Are we the check that keeps us all in line? And where do the undead fit in all of this?"

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Mr Murk

 

They were good questions, without good answers, although that was not for lack of contemplation. Centuries of contemplation and study. Murks greatest challenge was how to succinctly collapse all that thought into a few words. 

 

"No"

 

Was his best response. 

 

"We are not, we don't police ourselves. We offer sanctuary. We offer a line of defence against promethean torment should the world be uncaring or malign. That is all....well, nearly all. There are contingencies for extreme circumstances, when Immortals must go to war against most terrible threats. But that would require the entire community to act in agreement, and it has not done so to date"

 

The Unspeakable One. Collapse. Vanity. The Red Net. King Cauldron. Uplift....If such things come to pass, and in some way they will, perhaps we will need such terrible will. 

 

"As for the undead. I am not sure. There are many...flavours" he said, chewing his lip. "I am not entirely sure what undead are....but we have let some in. The ones that are more...ah...human. I am not sure a mindless zombie qualifies...."

 

 

 

 

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Lynn's eyes narrowed as she pondered Murk's words for several seconds before she spoke, and she once again chose her words carefully. "So really, it's about mutual protection, at it's most basic level. 'We will protect you from a fate worse than death.' And beyond that, it's pretty much a list of names. 'We know you're immortal, and now you know we're immortal.' There's not much in the way of accountability, beyond the vague promise that if you're really bad, we're going to sit down and have a talk about it so fast your head will spin."

 

The changeling sighed and looked around her office. "I'll be honest with you, it's a little toothless for my taste. It trusts everyone to be civil, whereas in my experience, people who have fewer consequences to worry about feel more and more entitled and detached from society, and their sense of accountability goes pfft!" 

 

Lynn chuckled and shook her head.

 

"I'm being very Talmudic here; my rabbi would be proud."

 

And then she had a moment of clarity, and she understood the fundamental difference between herself and Murk. "It's about allegiance, isn't it? At it's core. You would choose the immortals first, while I would choose the mortals. And that might be an irreconcilable difference." 

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Mr Murk

 

Mr Murk nodded, solemnly. 

 

"Would I choose Immortals first?" he posed the question to them both. 

 

"I think not. But that is no easy question to answer. Unfortunately, the world is full of questions that are not easy to answer, and yet answer them we must. What then, do you mean by your question?"

 

"This is no secret society to better the advancement of one at the expense of the others. History is littered with groups that have banded together in secret, out of fear of persecution. From the Jews of antiquity to the secretive gay clubs of but a few decades back. It is true that with such grouping their is the risk of preferential treatment. I see no solution to that, for we must all choose how we act"

 

"But as for accountability, I note your concern. Who watches the watchmen? The only defence, as I see it, is the law. In this case, the Codus Immortus"

 

"But you must be quite clear. Members are not here to protect eachother, or at least, are not obliged to in the slightest. They are only required to protect each other from the worst torments that only Immortals could suffer" he said. "This is no Mason's club" he said, distastefully. 

 

"Even if you do not sign, and I would put upon you no pressure to do so, I would still choose to protect you from Promethean torment, even if I would not be obliged to"

 

He paused and studied Grimalkin closely. 

 

"You are concerned, I think, that we are a cabal..."

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Posted (edited)

Lynn nodded and shrugged. "I mean, yeah, at its core, that is my concern. But it sounds like this is the loosest of loose organizations, so...that does address most of my concerns."

 

The changeling leaned back in her chair, hands behind her head, and wordlessly stared up at the ceiling for several seconds, almost a full minute. Clearly, she was deep in thought. At length, she spoke.

 

"Okay. Okay."

 

She leaned back forward, and rested her clasped hands on her desk. "I think there are more compelling reasons to join your loose organization than to not." She shrugged again. "I mean, at the very least, paranoia dictates I should see what you're all up to, am I right?"

Edited by Heritage

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Mr Murk

 

Mr Murk leaned back. "Of course. I welcome the challenge of such scrutiny" he said, voice mellow, eyes milky. 

 

"It is only be such debate that we can avoid falling into corruption. So please, do not hesitate to speak out, to voice concern, to tear down false assumption. Nothing is written in stone..."

 

He paused and added. 

 

"And yet it is written in ink. You are free to leave the Codus Immortus pact whenever you desire, although by doing so your chances of rejoining wane considerably. If an individual joins when it suits and leaves likewise, it is no commitment at all". 

 

"And it is a commitment. Here, I will not lie or soften the truth. A fair commitment, I would say. That you do not kill another immortal, or by inaction kill. That you do not allow an immortal to suffer the promethean torment unique to immortality, and that you take reasonable measure to prevent such tortures. That you treat the Club Immortus as safe haven to all that are therein" he said, reinforcing the three principles. 

 

"And by commiting thusly, such protections are duly afforded you"

 

"If you are in agreement, I would invite you to the Club Immortus here in Freedom City, to sign. And of course, please partake of the fringe benefits. We have an excellent selection of wine from Paris. And you will always be welcome around the globe in any of our club houses..."

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The changeling nodded and rose to her feet,  extending a hand in friendship. "Then we're in agreement. Where's the club location here in Freedom? I can drop by sometime this week."

 

There wasn't much more to say; she didn't trust the organization one hundred percent, but she felt that Murk was at least on the level. And it wouldn't hurt to get some investment advice (or even a phone number or two) from her fellow immortals; it would be nice to make a few more friends in her 'age group'. Plus all those sweet, sweet Club Immortus deals on hotels and car rentals!

 

One way or another, she felt her life was now fundamentally changed. And that wasn't necessarily a bad thing.

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