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Arcane Snowman

A Meeting in New Guises

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July 27 2009

Damien was closing the shop, it was after all late, although he had visited the Latern Hill parks as Dalkaresh a week prior, he felt it was a good idea to do it as Damien this time around, in case Fleur showed up again, last time he'd given her such a fright, and even after she came over that, she had obviously been perplexed by his verses. For some reason, that compulsion never overcame him in this meager disguise, as odd as that may seem. Grabbing a coat and a walking stick, he made his way towards the park once again.

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It quickly became obvious that Fleur had already visited many of the parks near to him, thanks to their burgeoning flower populations and wildly healthy trees. Turning his steps further afield eventually brought him to the boundaries of her previous expedition, and a park she hadn't fixed up yet. It was a pleasant night, so it was no great burden to wait a little while and see what happened.

His instincts had been quite good, as it turned out. After about half an hour, he heard a muffled sound, like a stick cracking, and looked around to see Fleur appearing from around the back of a large old oak tree. She noticed him right away too, though she obviously didn't recognize him. Nothing about his appearance seemed to set off her alarm bells, though. An older gentleman with a cane in a nice section of town, even late in the evening, didn't appear immediately threatening. She gave him a polite smile and looked around, looking as though she were making up her mind whether to wait him out or move on to another park.

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â€ÂOh, don't mind and old man...†says Damien, walking towards one of the park benches, â€Â...I'm just here to enjoy some fresh air, and a bit of greenery†steadying himself with the cane, he edges carefully into the seat, it was a nice sideline bench, enabling him to see all of the park with ease, now whether Fleur was going to show this old man her magic was something completely different, but Damien hoped that she wouldn't disappoint, after a couple of minutes of waiting, he began to wonder, performance anxiety most likely, maybe a little incentive would get her going. â€ÂWell? What are you standing there and gawking for...†says Damien with a mix of joviality, sarcasm and expectancy, using his cane as a pointing stick at the "empty" park â€Â... get to itâ€Â

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For lack of any better ideas, Stesha had been doing some jogging warm-up exercises, stretching her muscles as though preparing for a little run around the park while she waited for the old man to leave. She jolted at being addressed in such a manner. "What?" she asked, looking over sharply at the man. He didn't look familiar, which wasn't very surprising. But he sure seemed to expect something from her. Surely he hadn't just guessed... "What do you expect me to do?"

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â€ÂOh I'm sure you know what I'm talking about!†replied Damien, eyeing her, although he was tempted, he refrained from calling her Fleur, mainly because perplexing the young woman had already proven to be a bad idea, and a complete stranger knowing her secret was probably more than enough to have her stupefied. â€ÂDo whatever it is you do to...†he searched for an applicable word, and after a few seconds found one which he found satisfactory â€Â... to brighten up the place!â€Â

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"Who are you?" Stesha demanded, taking a few steps forward and trying to get a better look at him. "What do you know about me?" He looked like an inoffensive old man still, but looks could often be deceiving, especially in a place like Freedom City. If her identity was slipping, or if people were starting to look for her at night, she had serious problems.

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â€ÂDamien Silver is the name.†with a sound of creaking bones he gets up from the bench and starts walking towards Fleur â€ÂI am the proprietor of Silver’s Rare Books and Antiquities.†when he reaches her, he stops and extends a gnarled hand â€ÂSuffice it to say, I have witnessed your extraordinary skills, so I can safely say that green fingers is a term well applied to you, if not a bit more literally than figuratively. Since I felt like star gazing tonight, I thought that perhaps I could instigate a bit of simple discourse this time around, so I simply followed the trail of park greenery to this place.†he speaks steadily, without hesitation and with a light smile on his lips; he really was hoping she wouldn’t go anywhere.

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Stesha stared at him for a minute, her mind ticking over as she tried to correlate what he'd said with what she knew and had experienced here. She'd had another befuddling conversation not far from here and quite recently, after all. "Do you know Dalkaresh?" she finally guessed. The two looked nothing alike, but something about the attitude rang a bell.

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Damien burst out laughing, how enjoyable this young one was, he had most certainly given her intellect less credit than he should have, true of so few humans these days, after a good thirty seconds of roaring laughter, he whipes a tear from his eye and steadies his composure, â€Âbetter than I'd like.†replies he, hoping that he'd be there when she realized the truth of the statement, if not today, then later.

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Stesha didn't quite know what to think about having the spooky being spreading her name around, but at least it meant that she didn't have an identity leak, or someone stalking her, exactly. She smiled a little because he seemed so very amused, then opened her bag. "Well, I guess if you've waited all this time for a show, there's no harm in performing." She built a flowerpot next to the bench and filled it with seeds, letting them pop up and grow leafy while they both watched. "I think I've heard of your bookstore," she said conversationally. "It's supposed to be one of the oldest in the area, isn't it?"

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â€ÂWonderful.†croaks Damien as he makes his way back to the bench, wholeheartedly enjoying what he is going to witness, when she asks the question about the bookstore, he smiles again, â€ÂYes, it’s been in the Silver line ever since it was built, 200 years ago.†he hesitates a little, considering whether he would get answers, but, hoping he would, he continued â€ÂAnd what about you, it seems you care a great deal about plants, a good, if not rare thing these days.â€Â

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"I went to school for it," Stesha told him, half-concentrating on the planter she was creating. It spiraled up from the ground and settled meekly into its new shape, ready for flowers. "But I picked up the talent after that." She tossed in another handful of seeds and watched them sprout. "Two hundred years is a very good run for any store, especially with a book market like Freedom City must have. You must have some really unique things there." It was half a question. "Why are you out here tonight?"

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â€ÂOh, you have no idea.†chuckles Damien happily, a few hints here and there to keep her on her toes was always good, â€Âbut a school doesn’t teach love, that much I can tell you, and that makes you very special indeed...†he says this sincerely and with great warmth, â€Â… and because of that, I had to see you, and the beauty that you exercise on these grounds.†he broadens his arms to indicate the park.

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"I'm just doing my part for the city," Stesha demurred, though she smiled anyway at the compliment. "I was always lucky enough to have access to a big garden, something that not many people who live in the city have. Maybe seeing how beautiful flowers can make a place will help someone else fall in love too." She scattered a few seeds along the edges of the path, raising a border of hardy violets. "You seem to understand plants, too. Do you garden?"

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â€ÂNonsense, you’re doing quite a lot more than your part, and don’t let anybody tell you differently!†Damien waves his index finger around as he speaks, to accentuate his little speech, which is then punctuated by a coughing fit. Once he finishes coughing up what sounds like half a lounge he continues, â€Âyes, I do have a little garden, one I have tended for quite some time, though not with anything as vibrant as this.â€Â

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Stesha gave him a mildly concerned look at the coughing fit. "Ginger tea with honey is very good for cough, especially dry cough," she suggested helpfully. "And it'll make your throat feel good. If you don't want to take the time to make your own, you can get it in just about any health food store." She ran a line of clematis along the top of the decorative gates at the front of the park, their white blossoms opening like stars and filling the air with fragrance. "What do you grow?"

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â€ÂI’ll keep that in mind,†croaks Damien, rubbing his throat soothingly. â€Âah, I grow a small bush of rhododendron, loveliest flower if ever there was one.†says he with a faint smile. â€ÂDo you have any favorite flowers, or are you simply a lover of all things green?â€Â

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Stesha laughed. "That's like asking a mother to choose between her kids," she joked. "But I guess if I had to pick, I'd say hyacinths. i just love the way they look and the way they smell. Plus, they come up so early every spring, they're one of the first signs that winter's finally over. But then there's lilacs, and lilies of the valley, and stargazer lilies, even though they're so tremendously overdone these days in weddings, and tulips are so cheerful... Maybe I don't really have a favorite after all. Rhododendron are lovely, though. Are you mulching this year? The weather's been so wet, I don't know whether I would, even though they're so shallow rooted." Stesha loved talking about gardening.

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â€ÂLike asking a mother choosing between her kids indeed,†chuckles Damien at Fleur’s plentiful response â€Âwell, I’ve been doing my best to get some around my bush, but these bones aren’t getting any younger, it’s still lively, if not a little old by now.†says he with a smile.

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"You should hire a service," Stesha told him. "It's not really that expensive, especially if your yard is small. They'll come out twice a year and mulch for you, check the soil, even put in an activator if you want them to. I keep telling my mom to do that, especially since she had knee surgery last year, but she just can't stand to give up any little smidgeon of control over her garden. Except to have us all fetch and carry and spread mulch around when the family gets together, but that's different. If you have family in the area, maybe one of them could help you out? I hear grandkids are useful for that sort of thing." While she talked, and talked, she kept busy, touching the trees that dotted the lawn, giving each one a little jolt of energy to perk them up and get them into tip-top shape.

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â€ÂAh, but I’m exactly the same, I’m not going to let some wet behind the ear youngster tamper with my garden, I’d rather go out there, creaking and everything!†says Damien with a quick wink of amusement â€Âand well, I don’t have any grandchildren, but I do have a young man coming to my store, maybe I could set him to work.†continues he with a scheming look in his eyes.

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"Well then, there you go. I'm sure you can bribe or guilt him into hauling some mulch for you. I think pine needles are best for rhododendrons. They smell nice even as they're decomposing, and they aren't as bulky or heavy as woodchips, or blow away like leaf litter. There's a greenhouse down on the South Side called Harrison's Garden Center. Their prices are good, and they'll drop it off for you in a truck. They also do good landscaping work, if you ever want to expand without working your poor young guy too hard." Stesha tossed a few more handfuls of seeds into a bare corner next to the fence, letting them grow into a riotous patch of varied colors. "And I think that should do it, for here."

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Eyes wide and mouth almost agape, Damien surveys Fleur’s achievements â€Âmy, that is marvelous, truly marvelous†exclaims he exhilarated, after which he turns to her again †if you ever need anything in the way of books, come to my store, or send a friend, and I’ll happily provide you with whatever your hearts desire.â€Â

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Stesha smiled at him. "Thanks, I hope the rest of the neighbors appreciate it as much. And I'll make sure to stop by sometime. I have a sister with a birthday coming up, she's trying to be a writer. Maybe I'll find a good book for her. And tell..." She looked at him with the slightest bit of skepticism, and a smile tugging the corner of her mouth. "Tell Dalkaresh when you see him that I said hello."

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Damien smiled then, broad and happily, he had almost expected her to decline, but it was nice that she hadn’t, after all, heroes often didn’t get what they deserved, or so he thought, â€Âbe sure you do, I’m sure I can find something she’ll appreciate†getting up from the bench, he stretches carefully, bones creaking in complaint all the while â€ÂI sure will let him know, although, knowing him, you might get the chance soon enough†she already had, but he wasn’t going to tell her that â€Âand now, I should be heading home, before these old bones freeze solid, so I think I’ll be like a light, and go out†he bows elaborately and with some manner of precision turns on his heel and half-marching, half-striding exits the park grounds â€Âa pleasure to meet you Fleur†yells he over his should, after which he begins to whistle playfully.

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