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Heritage

There's Always Room For One More

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Silberman's Books, at the corner of Pratt and Frederick. Saturday, January 7th, 2017 10:30 am.

 

With the panic and mayhem of another holiday season behind them, the crew at the West End's most popular used bookstore could finally breathe a collective sigh of relief. January was typically a month of austerity in the US, especially in the retail sector, which made it a good month to take stock and look back on the year that was, and begin serious planning for the year ahead. The decision to open earlier on weekdays and Saturdays, as well as offering breakfast sandwiches, meant major staffing adjustments and a lot more work for the openers. Despite the passing of the holiday rush, the store still need to hire a few more people.

 

So far, the first Saturday morning was a success as the neighborhood discovered the new adjusted hours and menu items, but the store was just a little strained under the increased customer load. A number of Merges were on-site, though of course only one was currently behind the register; the others were either doing dishes or checking stock in back. Gretch was doing her best to 'play well with others' on bar while Lynn worked the floor, using her amazing social skills to good effect. As usual, the two lovers were going back and forth via mental communication, and as often was the case, it was playful and fairly snarky.

 

I want you to list five things you like about Merge.

 

Really? We're having this conversation?

 

Five things.

 

Fine.

 

...I'm waiting...

 

She...always smells nice.

 

Wow. Really, that's your opener?

 

She does...cool stuff with her powers sometimes. Cute outfits and stuff...

Edited by Heritage

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In the little coffee shop Nicki worked at her laptop keeping an eye on the markets and making sure that her investments were still going well. She was fiercely intelligent but with everything hadn’t had a chance to finish her studies, maybe if this worked out she could look at completing her education. Since coming back to Freedom City the distance she could go from Merge seemed to be slowly increasing.

 

I’m sure they’re doing that thing again, there talking about me again.

 

Nicki didn’t often regret much, but it niggled her that her shared link meant that Merge knew her theory that Lynn and Gretchen share a link.

 

It’s very unlikely you know. Beside what are you doing right now?

 

Well obviously that different, we’re not gossiping we're speculating.

 

If you tried to get one with Gretchen then there wouldn’t be a trouble.

 

I’m always very friendly to Gretchen I can’t help it if she rude.

 

Talk about trying to lie to yourself, just try to be a little more pleasant.

 

With a mental pft Merge went back to work serving any of the stores customers, through to the outside world no one would have ever know they’d been mentally talking.

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"I'm gonna be late. And I hate this tie. Do I have to wear this? WHY do people wear these things?"

 

Marcus stood for what felt like forever in his Parkhurst room, staring at himself in the mirror. He wasn't sure if he was sypposed to wear a suit or something, so he opted for a nice pair of slacks and a collared shirt. Tucking the shirt in still felt pretentious to him. He didn't like it. At all.

"You'll be fine. You look fine." The ghostly voice of the hotel maid echoed behind him. By now, he was so used to their presence that he didn't react with fear or shock. He sighed and shrugged, not entirely sure he believed her.

 

"You should go, however. Or you really will be late. Good luck!"

 

Getting a job seemed about the most normal thing Marcus could think of doing. UNISON didn't need him all the time, and he honestly wasn't sure he could live that life for prolonged periods of time. Working in a bookstore seemed normal. Safe.

 

He arrived 20 minutes earlier than his interview was scheduled--he checked his watch twice tobe sure. Almost immediately he could tellsomething was off. Certainl nog in a bad way, but... unusual. Chalking it up to nerves, he took a deep breath and strode into the building.He kept an eye out for current employees, not entirely sure how he'd kill 20 minutes if he absolutely had to...

 

 

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Once inside, Marcus could smell a few things right off the bat: delicious fresh roasted coffee, turkey bacon, old books...and magic. The whole store seemed to be suffused with it, but not the overwhelming sulferous stink of dark magic, but a more subtle fragrence, more like...pine needles, morning dew and fox fur. Nothing told him to flee, but certainly he was acutely aware of his surroundings.

 

As for the store itself, it looked like most other used bookstores, though the presence of several posters featuring classic stage magicians now seemed to make sense; there was a long combination front counter/espresso bar and a few tables, where customers sipped thier lattes and read the paper or a book or worked on their tablets or laptops. Nothing too surprsing there.

 

Three women were currently working in the store, two behind the counter and one on the floor; all three were fairly short but also rather attractive, sometimes shockingly so. The pale girl behind the bar wore hipster glasses, a lot of 'ear art' and a rather disdainful expression; her flannel shirt and ironic, pop cultural tee suggested a college student, possibly from FreeSA. At the very least she seemed to be good at her job, and that line moved swiftly. The one behind the register, however, seemed to be having a bit more trouble; maybe she was new to retail? She was a colorfully-dressed, curvy girl with pink and blonde hair, and there seemed to be an unspoken tension between her and Art School Girl. And lastly there was a young woman walking the floor, very pretty, almost distractingly so, with curly, shoulder length hair and an elfin face with huge brown eyes. All three wore matching brown Silberman's Books aprons, and they all looked pretty busy.

 

Gretchen was the first to notice Marcus come in, and an she arched an eyebrow beforing sending a message Lynn's way.

 

Big Guy!

 

What?

 

Big Guy! Nice shirt and slacks, looks like he needs something. Kind of lost. Big Guy!

 

Okay, jeez, I'll see what he wants!

 

Shaking her head slightly, the store owner moved to intercept the new arrival, her warm smile a thing to behold. "Hi, welcome to Silberman's Books! Can I help you find anything?"

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Normally the scent of magic would have immediately put him on edge. It was something of a learned response; years of the smell of arcane energy being a prelude to something life-threatening had made Marcus somewhat jittery. Still, he didn't feel quite so threatened when he walked into the bookstore. Part of him expected it; one thing he'd earned was that magic was hiding in plain sight everywhere. The smell of food probably helped. Absently, he realized he hadn't eaten in his haste to be early, and now he was regretting it.

 

When Lynn approached, he straightened up a little. "Yes ma'am. I'm here for an interview? I might be kind of early though..." Marcus had to concentrate to avoid fidgeting nervously as he often did when he felt uncertain. Confidence, Marcus. It's fine. We're fine. It's a job interview! You've dealt with worse. He took a deep breath. "Name's Marcus. Marcus Irons." He extended his right hand and smiled politely.

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The pretty brunette frowned slightly, then looked over her shoulder at the clock above the bar. "Um...okay, wow, you're super-early, but that's cool!" She offered the young man a firm handshake."Nice to meet you, Marcus; I'm Lynn Epstein, owner of Silberman's Books! Can I you something to drink? Water or coffee?" She gestured towards the bar as she began to head in the direction of a door that said 'Main Office. Employees Only'

 

Now that she was closer, Marcus could smell the scent of magic on her as well, and pretty powerful at that! Lynn took this opportunity to send a quick message to Gretch.

 

Hey, guess what? 'Big Guy' is my eleven o'clock!

 

He is super early.

 

Yep! Could be a good sign, y'know; 'eager self-starters' are all the rage right now.

 

Or he thought the interview was for ten and he is super late.

 

Hah!

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Merge wasn’t one to be jealous of any new starter, in fact she was pretty happy for anyone to get the same opportunities that she had. But she was also intensely interested in anyone new that blundered into the bookshop, partly it was survival instinct, party it was sheer noisiness.


So whilst Lynn and Gretchen rolled out the welcome wagon “Nicki” got as close as she could, whilst pretending to actual be doing some work, to try and get a good look at the new guy and see if she could overhear anything that they were saying.

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"Water's fine, thanks." He nodded, tanking another cursory glance around the place. Part of him was trying not to indulge his 'sniff out the magic' habit, but he couldn't help but be curious as to where it was coming from. It wasn't at all overpowering; it was faint and subtle--more like an interesting fragrance than an in-your-face scent bombarding him. It was an interesting change, and he had a faint suspicion that one of the sources might have been a person. That much was confirmed when Lynn moved closer. As he followed her to the main office, he was reminded of other mages he'd med--Equinox and Edge immediately came to mind, not to mention the Keepers who had put him back together. 

 

Still, magic wasn't exactly something he could just bring up as a topic of conversation. A job interview didn't seem like the place, after all, and he couldn't imagine someone asking him about it in seriousness. Whether he got the job or not, he would definitely have to start visiting the place more often. 

 

The fact that he was being watched wasn't lost on him. At one point, he turned and looked directly at Nicki, giving a faint nod of acknowledgement and a smile before turning his attention back to Lynn. "This is a really nice store... I can't believe I've never been in here before."

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"Well, we only reopened back in 2014; the store was closed for several years before that. Have a seat, help yourself to some candy."  The candy in question sat in a bowl on top of a very large and probably very old desk, which made the store's owner look positively tiny by comparison when she sat behind it. Her chair was a large, overstuffed high back leather chair on a swivel. Opposite where two lower leather chairs, probably made by the same designer. The rest of the office was lined with bookshelves that nearly went to the ceiling, crammed full of interesting-looking books and several odd knickknacks. Above and behind the desk were two antique firearms, a revolver and a pump-action rifle, mounted in a frame. The desk also held a somewhat old-fashioned desktop computer(did anyone still use those?), a printer and an banker's lamp with a green shade.

 

"Just give me a second to find the resume you emailed over." With deft fingers that seemed to dance across the keyboard (she was technically a hunt-and-pecker, but she made it look like an art form), Lynn called up his resume and quickly reviewed it. "Okay, so not a lot of retail experiencing, but I see some good-" She abruptly stopped as she leaned forward to squint at the screen. "Uh, it says here that you reside at the Parkhurst Hotel; is that true? I, uh, I wasn't aware it was open for paying guests."

 

Meanwhile she sent a mental sending Gretchen's way.

 

-I need you to Google something for me.-

 

-Say it and it shall be done, O Glamorous One.-

 

-The Parkhurst Hotel in Lantern Hill. Anything weird going back, say, fifty years.-

 

-It is decidedly so.-

 

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Oh God.

 

Marcus smiled, masking his nervousness. He realized he made a huge mistake already. Sure, HE knew that Parkhurst wasn't exactly what everyone thought it was, but that knowledge wasn't exactly common. He wasn't the type to lie, though, and he had, in fact, been living there since returning from overseas and starting school. Technically, he'd had a room there since he was 17, but how to explain that...

 

"I have an arrangement with the owners," he said, carefully choosing his words. It wasn't a huge deal as far as he was concerned, and he didn't want to lie. It, admittedly, looked really weird at best, and he could only hope she didn't probe into it too much. The last person he recalled trying to 'visit' ended up with part of their memory erased and chalked the entire thing up to a drunken college adventure among friends. "I don't get my mail there though. I have a P.O. Box at the university for that."

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-Anything?-

 

-According to the all-powerful internetz, which are never, ever wrong, the Parkhurst has been vacant for years. And the records of ownership are a labyrinth of bizarre accidents and disappearances. For instance, in 1964 a woman's head was found in one fo the bridal suites, and they never figured out who it belonged to. Ever.-

 

-So....creme de la weird, eh?-

 

-Yep.-

 

Lynn pursued her lips and nodded a few times...and then she got up from behind the desk, stepped over to the door and locked it. She then returned to her seat, and ran her fingers through her hair while letting out a long sigh. Finally, after looking down at her surface of her desk for a long time, the store owner leveled a glance at her interviewee.

 

"Marcus, I have to ask you a very important question, and I want you to answer with complete and total honesty; I want to assure you that I'm very hard to shock and I can keep a secret, for years if need be." Lynn closed her eyes for a few seconds before continuing. "What can you tell me about magic?"

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If Merge had one flaw, and truth be told she had quite a few, she was always a curious person. Many would call her nosy, including herself on a good day. She'd tried resisting for a little while busying herself with work, and the mutual ability Gretchen had to irk her, but eventually, she caved having to know what was going down. She plonked herself onto the counter opposite Gretchen, deliberately angling herself so she couldn't see the screen she didn't want to antagonize the person she was trying to get information from.

 

"So do you know anything about the new guy? Is he cute?" her voice was at it's most syrupy sweet.

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The question caught him off guard. Marcus coughed heavily, nearly choking a little bit, as he tried to recompose himself. Should he lie? How much does she know? If he'd learned anything, it was that magic was, well, dangerous.

 

Nope. She asked for honesty... she was going to get it. Mostly. He figured the explanation of the Beast Rune and

 

...probably not a lot. I mean... I guess it depends on what kind we're talking about." Marcus raised his right hand casually, channeling his focus into the back of his right palm. The violet symbol for Fulgur, the Lightning Rune appeared on the back of his bare hand, and a thin but visible spark danced between his fingertips.

 

"Most of what I know is self taught, with a little bit of instruction from people I've met along the way. It gets more elaborate in my case but... special circumstances. I guess I should've been a little more careful given the history of that address..." Marcus chuckled, rubbing nervously at the back of his neck. "But at least I'm not some vagrant living in an abandoned building!"

 

Marcus paused as he considered something. "But... if you don't mind my askng... how do YOU know about magic?"

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Gretchen let out a long sigh as she looked first at Merge's faux innocent face, and then the vacant register the annoying duplicator had abandoned; at least this time she hadn't walked away from a line.

 

"Yes, he is reasonably attractive, as you yourself would notice if you looked at him for longer than five seconds. But you have the attention span of a gnat, so I know that is a lot to ask."

 

-Can we just let Merge openly duplicate? It's the one useful skill she actually possesses.-

 

-I'll take it under advisement.-

 

-That's all I ask.-

 

Back in the manager's office, Lynn was surprisingly unfazed by Marcus' demonstration of power; she'd long since lost track of all the weird s### that has taken place in this room. She did, however, nod in appreciation.

 

"That's pretty cool; I take it that's only a small taste of your power, because can do that, too, if I scuff my socks on the carpet." Her smile was warm and playful. "But you're quite right to quiz me on my bonafides; the mystical world is a wonderful but dangerous place, and one can never be too careful."

 

The bookseller then turned her palm up, and a small figure of Marcus himself appeared in a swirl of vapor; it was about six inches high and amazingly detailed, wearing a hopeful smile and the same outfit he was wearing for his interview, but holding up a placard sign reading 'I :h: MAGIC'. She placed it in front of him for his inspection.

 

"It's glamour. Go ahead, pick it up; it's as real as real can be." Then she smiled and lifted back her curly hair to reveal one of her lovely pointed ears. "I trust you to know its significance."

Edited by Heritage

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"I... tend to hold back when people ask. My core aptitude isn't something I  I usually just use.... Things tend to get broken that way." At best, his transformations would probably knock furniture over. Seeing Lynn and listening to her now, he had no doubt that she wouldn't so much as bat an eye if he used his usual forms. He could only hope that wouldn't ever be necessary.

 

As he reached to touch the glamour, he couldn't help but feel as f he recognized the smell from somewhere. He couldn't quite place it, but it reminded him of someone... A single eyebrow rose at the pointed ear "So wait, you're not-... er... sorry. That's kind of a rude question, probably. And there's way too much myth and hyperbole when it comes to magic; I can barely tell what's real or what isn't."

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Lynn blinked for a few seconds, then shook her head slighty; she was used to the ears being a dead giveaway. "Oh, no, I'm totally..I'm a faerie. I mean, 'of the Fae realm' might be a more accurate way of putting it. That's the source of my power."

 

She cleared her throat, then drummed her hands on her desk. "Okay, well, from a future employer standpoint, my only concern is, do your powers pose a threat to my store or my staff? Am I safe in assuming you have full control over..." She made a vague hand gesture. "Whatever it is you can do?"

Edited by Heritage

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"A faerie..." He repeated the word. Now he remembered where he'd encountered the scent before. It reminded him of someone he hung around with during his sophomore and junior years at Claremont. All things considered, that didn't surprise him as much as the idea of someone of the Fae Realm owning a bookstore.

 

Then again, he was an unemployed shapeshifter. Perspective.

 

"Oh, I'm not a danger to anyone," he said reassuringly. "The quickest way to summarize it is that I can take on animal forms. Usually with elemental magic. There won't be any rampating or anything like that." Marcus's training in the use of his magic was incomplete, he realized, but hardly in a dangerous way. There were forms he hadn't yet mastered but  he at least knew he wan't going to shift and go wild.

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Merge couldn't help but take a peek with a duplicate, after all, she hadn't been told she couldn't do so when out of sight. It's not like she'd do it in public in front of everyone, despite how tempting it was sometimes, the look from just Nicki alone would be bad enough.

 

"mmm, he's one fine looking man. Little to rugged for my tastes, but not a bad way to spend an afternoon!"

 

She paused for a heartbeat, long enough for Gretchen to realise what she'd said before adding.

 

"Anyways I better get back to the till at least one of us should be doing the work here!"

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Gretchen merely glared at Merge over the top of her glasses, the rest of her face devoid of expression. "Yes. That would be helpful."

 

Inside the manager's office, Lynn looked excited as Marcus described his powers.

 

 "That's so cool! I can do animal forms, too! Here, check this out!"

 

Gray mist swirled around the chair, and when it parted there was a friggin' black panther sitting in the seat! It's heavy paws lay on top of the desk, and it purred deeply for a few seconds before the mist returned, leaving his potential employer beaming in it's place.

 

 "Cool, huh? Want kinds of animals can you do?"

Edited by Heritage

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