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TheAbsurdist

A Peculiar Proposition (Open)

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Oddfellows Building, Lantern Hill

7:02 PM, August 15th.

 

The room was rented out for a little meeting of practitioners, the invites had gone out, including to one Professor Peculiar.  It was intended as a social gathering of sorts, and people had already shown up as well, mostly with people who were familiar, or at least seen as people who were factors in and around West Freedom.

 

It was put forth by a Stavros, owner of the most amazing tea shop (if he was asked) in the West End, an older man who possessed of the most impressive mustache in the Tri-State area.  He was humming as he was making some tea here.  In additional there was the short, punky looking Shaul, a local artist, and other things, she had a battered and patched denim vest, with a a hoodie pulled over her face a cup of steaming cup of Stavros' special mint tea.  Chatting with Shaul was an older woman, Amanda, who owned an herbal, and wildcraft supplies store.  Unlike the younger woman, Amanda was dressed conservatively, a bit like the liberal soccer mom type.  There was also a young couple, who may, or may not, had a bit of talent, James and Kendra, but they were both Anthropology students at FCU so were interested in this. 

 

This collection was capped off by a 'cowboy singer' off to one side, who was looking passed out with a hat pulled down over his face, and slumped in a chair.  One Johnny Perdition.  The tattooed and hard living member of this loose affiliation.

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Edward Peck entered the room like a man anticipating imminent ambush. He stood at the threshold for a beat, leaning into the room and scanning the occupants. He then smiled and allowed the rest of his body to catch up.

 

In his mind he heard Aero speak, "Honestly, sir, you'd think you'd never braced a room full of practitioners before. Were you expecting a duel arcane?"

 

Edward replied, "One never knows, my friend. You recall the Antwird Collective?"

 

"How could I forget? It took weeks to repair the damage their stingers inflicted on my hem."

 

Edward removed one of his rubber gloves as he approached Stavros, and extended the hand in greeting. "Ah, hello! You must be Stavros? I've heard so much."

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"Ah, yes, Mr. Peck!"  The mustachioed Stavros exclaimed, reaching out and clasping two hands over Edward's hand and shaking it vigorously.  "Good, good!  Please have some tea.  Amanda made some cookies to have with them."  All exuberance and friendliness, the kind of thing someone who had a shop would do.

 

Amanda, last name Mueller, chuckled at this.  Though she was accustomed to Stavros' aggressive friendliness not everyone was.  James and Kendra had been rattled, after all at the first meeting.  Though Edward was older, and probably seemed the type to not be overly bothered by this.  Probably.  "Don't scare the man, Stavros.  Hello Edward, I'm Amanda.

 

Shaul glanced, though said nothing, and adopted a crooked little smile.

 

James got up, and moved over to him, offering a hand out towards Edward as he approached.  Fortunately Stavros released his grip, so the younger man ventured, "Hi, I'm James and-"

"Namaste Edward, I'm Kendra"  The woman sunnily interjected.

 

"-er, yeah.  Hi.  Nice to meet you, sir."  James recovered a bit, from Kendra's enthusiasm, he seemed towards the subdued side.

 

The last person, Johnny, lifted an arm and made a half-hearted wave before a gruff, rough, voice came out, "S*** ya'll... gooble-gobble, gooble-gobble.  We except ya, one of us..."  Sounding wear, and probably hung over.  Or worse.

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Edward nods and smiles at each individual's introduction, shaking hands and exchanging a few pleasantries.

 

"What is your arcane specialty? I'm primarily an evocationist, though I dabble in a variety of practices. I'm writing a paper on sucromancy... sugar magic!"

 

"Have you met my friends, the Borough-folk? Lovely people. Very peaceful. Dreadful thing that happened to their home world, as I'm sure you've heard."

 

"Oh yes, delightful tea. Reminds me of home. Is there some sugar?"

 

"Anything interesting going on in the manasphere? I'm new to this world, as I'm sure you're aware. Still getting my bearings."

 

... then when there's a lull in conversation...

 

"Would anyone like some candy? I brought enough to share!"

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James was the one who spoke first with that, "Wouldn't that be divination through sugar?"  Asked like an academic, which he was.  Sort of.  Working on his undergrad degree at least, and probably more concerned with the labels of things than was needed.

 

It was Shaul who jumped in immediately, "I like he was making a joke."  Her voice heavily accented, it was clear Spanish was her first language.

 

"Actually..."  Amanda ventured as she looked at him, trying to be a voice of reason, "... we are just aware that you opened your shop, and that you can do things.  Well, and a general sense of you as a person.  Magic and a candy store means we do have to avoid stereotypes."  And she laughed, a dimpled smile showing as she did so.

 

 

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"Well, yes. I am an arcane scientist. On my world, we never developed these clever machines you have here. Computing machines, wagons that power themselves down the road, steel birds that carry you from one side of the world to the other. It's quite astonishing what you've accomplished to make up for your lack of arcane science."

 

Edward grows more comfortable as he begins to sink into a didactic tone, as though speaking to his students in class. He begins to sketch in the air, his finger leaving a trail of light, images of computers, cars, and planes.

 

"Rather, we instead have homonculi, transporter circles, and a multitude of other branches of science... which is called magic in this world." he says, illustrating his points in the air with sketches alongside their Earth analogues.

 

"Interestingly, our histories seem to line up in several instances... we had interdimensional invasions around the same time your world had world wars. Many individuals have similar analogues between our worlds, as well, though it appears that the artists, musicians, and poets of your world were the great scientists of mine, and visa versa. Presley's Theorem of Gyre Inflection was fundamental in establishing our understanding of primitive invocations, while in your world he was a stage performer, best known for a sneer and pelvic thrusts. Geiger laid the early groundwork for dimensional science, which was later made illegal by the United Council due to the wars."

 

Edward pauses a moment, remembering how those laws eventually led to his own exile from his home. As he collects his thoughts, the images in the air fade.

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Nick Cimitiere hadn't exactly been the most social of mages as of late.

 

Not that Freedom City's premiere necromancer had been slacking in his duties. If anything, it sometimes seemed like the night work was his prime opportunity to cut loose. A change in management at the Black Petal Cafe - a joyous retirement, not anything severe - had resulted in an idea in expanding the venue space to serve multiple purposes. Instead of the usual array of paintings for sale in a coffee shop, the Black Petal would in part turn into a dedicated gallery space, complete with showings and everything. 

 

And Eric LaCroix's art history degree would serve a purpose, after many, many years. 

 

Of course, between making drinks, extolling the virtues of local art, having a hand in curating works and artists, and dealing with the restless dead and even-more-restless spellbinders of Freedom, Eric - and Nick - did not have a lot of time for a social life. So when the invitation went out for a gathering of practitioners, he just had to accept. 

 

He arrived with a pink box full of strawberry and cream cupcakes - topped with small sugar skulls, because he just had to be that guy. Those skulls, of course, went well with his sculpted white skull makeup, the black pompadour, and the black rockabilly duds and leather jacket that were his costume of choice. "Sorry if I'm a little late," he said. "The makeup was a bit troublesome tonight."

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Edward looks up from his momentary reverie at Nick's entrance. Though Edward's eyes remain concealed behind the blast goggles, his bushy eyebrows reveal his astonishment as they make a valiant effort to climb up his bald pate. "Oh my, LaCroix..." he whispers, then in a slightly louder whisper, "Or rather, this world's analogue of LaCroix."

 

Edward approaches slowly, removing his rubber glove as Nick sets his box down. "Ah, er... that is... Hello Mister LaCroix. Or Prince LaCroix...". His manner seems flustered, but he extends his pale hand in greeting nonetheless.

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Shaul lit up, maybe it was the facepaint, or the cupcakes, but the diminutive punk was on her booted feet, and over to pick up one.  "Hello!"  She was cheery enough despite a despondent sort of exterior.   She relieved him of a cupcake, picking off the sugar skull first, and popping it into her mouth, as she made a pleased noise and made her way back.

 

Now, whereas the girl seemed largely oblivious, Stavros and Amanda were, however not so.  They knew Nick by reputation.  Stavros adjusted smoothly and did the same response to Nick as he did to Edward, "Greetings!"  All cheer and mustache, "Would you like tea?"  Of course he did not directly approach, as Edward was already there and shaking hands.

 

Amanda was sputtering a little bit, as she tried to get her metaphorical legs under herself, as she brushed back her hair.

 

Whereas James and Kendra didn't seem so flabbergasted, and introduced themselves in turn, with Johnny still slumped in his chair, waving his hand a little.

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Okaaaaaaaaaaaaay.

 

There was a general rule in magical circles about names. One that might be more tightly enforced than in superhero circles. In superhero circles, a name made you vulnerable. In magical circles, with the right oomph behind it, a name could make you malleable. Controllable. 

 

So Nick was not sure what was happening that this practitioner was coming up to him and just saying his name - his name - out loud. As far as he could tell, it wasn't his true name, as it lacked that harmonic aura like a finger run across a wine glass. And he really wasn't sure where the "Prince" bit had come from. But it was still a hell of a thing.

 

"If I'm a prince," he said, "I'd like someone to show me to my chateau." He extended his hand. "I don't think I've had the pleasure of meeting you. But it sounds like it may not be the other way around..." 

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Edward shook the proffered hand, looking somewhat flustered. He smiled and said, "So sorry... In my world, you're a famous entertainer... legendary, in fact. Very nearly single-handedly popularized rock and roll, I dare say. Quite a good dancer, too."

 

Edward continued to shake the hand as he went on, "All a matter of parallelism, of course. So many of your world's artists and entertainers are great mathematical theoreticians and scientists of one stripe or another where I'm from."

 

In his mind, Aero spoke, "You're still talking. Let go of his hand."

 

Edward looks down at his hands, still pumping up and down, then back to Nick, smiled and said, "I'm going to let go now."

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Nicole knocked on the door and waited.

 

Or perhaps she should have just invited herself in instead of waiting with her hands awkwardly folded over her lap, two grocery bags sitting by her feet. One contained a shopping trip's worth of chocolate bars, candy, and chips; gifts of a polite house guest. However, she had filled the other grocery bag with a respectable amount of chalk, candle sticks, neon glowsticks, copper wires, incense, matches, spark plugs, and other esoteric catalysts useful for her particular style of magic. 

 

Perhaps it was too much, but she would be the first to admit that she had little idea on how these gatherings, her only real experience with the wider magical community having been a disaster. It was another mistake laid on her parents' feet, one she felt the need to rectify, even if the past years have seen her too busy and focused on solitary projects to do so until now. She had received the invitation and was free tonight, having completed her schoolwork after classes, so there was no harm in trying.

 

She fidgeted in the evening dress she was wearing. Sensible and proper; a dark purple that reached her knees with stockings that covered her legs. The door opened and she raised the two grocery bags. "Hello. I've brought... offerings."

Edited by Zeitgeist Blue

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Johnny sat up, muttering something as he did so.  He knocked back his hat to expose his gaunt features, haggard, weathered, tattooed and a week's worth of stubble.  He arched a brow as he looked at them, frowning, while his arms rose up and he crossed over his chest.

 

Shaul stopped and looked at Johnny like he had grown a second head before them, a response that Amanda shared as well, the older woman's brows knitted together, as her hand went over her chest, moving slightly before she grasped at a medallion that was under her shirt.

 

Stavros moved to Nicole, "Hello!  Hello!  Welcome, please excuse... may I?"  He asked, indicating the bags, and waiting for her to allow such, before he took them from her to add to the spread.  "Thank you very much... Miss... I am sorry, I am not familiar with your face, if you will indulge!"  A friendly, grandfatherly smile at the young woman.

 

Kendra got up, as and moved over towards Nicole and Stavros, to help with setting things out.  James stopped, blinking a little bit, as he looked between Edward and Nick, feeling the tension that cropped up.

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"Nicole." She extended a hand in greeting, her manners kicking in almost immediately. "Pleased to meet you. And how may I call you, sir?"

 

A quick peek around the room quickly put to rest her notion the gravitas occult meetings lent itself. There was no ominous Latin chanting, no hooded robes or pentagram written in goat's blood, but was it too much to ask for an animal sacrifice or two for the freshest ingredients? Even a frog dunked in liquid preservatives would have been nice, but judging by the mass produced food on the table there was an argument for the sacrifice of humanity through their labor.

 

Now was not the time though, and she moved to get some tea, passing by two men. One could have stepped straight out of a low-budget sci-fi film, and the other had this punk rocker sorta vibe. They did not scream 'occult practitioner' but there wasn't exactly a single, dominating stereotype of one anyway.

 

She turned to the older man. "Is there a program for tonight? The invitation did not mention anything and I don't want to assume."

Edited by Zeitgeist Blue

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Edward forced himself to stop staring at Nick and turned his attention to Nicole, answering "A program? I haven't the foggiest. I was simply invited to come and meet the local arcane practitioners... a pot luck meet and greet, I believe."

 

He raised a rubber-gloved finger to the air and said, "... and speaking of which, I really must add my own contribution to the festivities!" He proceeded to the table then, and began withdrawing carefully-wrapped packages from within his jacket and placing them next to the treats others have brought. Each package was a small basket filled with a variety of hand-made candies, each with their own enchantment. Animated chocolate homonculi in the shape of animals, sealed sugary drinks that made your skin change colors, taffy that made your voice change pitch, hard candies that made light shine from your ears, and many more. He kept bringing them out, far more than he could have held in his jacket in the first place, occasionally stopping to count to make sure there would be enough for everyone.

 

"Yes, that should do it."

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"A program is only logical, of course. I can't imagine what we'd be doing for an hour or two given that there isn't any..."

 

Nicole adjusted her glasses as the candy menagerie formed on the table. They clearly weren't normal candy and had more in common with magical curios  than it did the grocery past the corner where she bought her candy. An expenditure of time and resources and most of all energy, but an expenditure there was not denying the quality of. How the practitioner in the lab coat practiced his magic was strange and curious, but not surprising given the breadth of magic's potential.

 

She glanced at the candy maker, gesturing for permission, and picked up a chocolate frog, examining it thoroughly. It looked back at her and opened its mouth as if to croak though no sound came out.

 

"Odd," Nicole murmured, loud enough for the lab coat man to hear. "What, why, and how?"

Edited by Zeitgeist Blue

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Edward beamed at Nicole's obvious appreciation. "Marvelous, aren't they? I can't take credit for them, however. They're the product of the Borough-Folk. Perhaps you've seen them on television? They make the most wonderful confections and treats. That's what originally drew me to their world."

 

He then removed a glove and proffered his hand, saying "Edward, by the way.

 

In his mind, Aero said "Smooth" in a vaguely sarcastic tone.

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"Nicole," she said, shaking the outstretched hand. "I don't watch TV so I can't say I've seen them there."

 

She had registered his words. 'Drew me to their world' he the lab coat said, and she mulled this as she poured two cups of tea from a ready teapot. One of the teacups she offered Edward while she cupped her own between her hands, inhaling the fragrance that steamed up and that seemed to help clear her thoughts. She had read a city announcement on refugees from another world who looked oddly like rabbits. There were multiple explanations, the likeliest being that they came through interstellar or dimensional means. Neither were they mentioned in any article, forum, website, blog, or academic paper she had read before they appeared in Freedom City and so they must have been esoteric, enough that information on them was non-existent. That is, before their rescuer had...

 

"But I do know of them and nothing else," she started, drawing the words out as if she was loathe to say them. She gave him an odd look as if to challenge him to divulge more information. "My cosmological studies have been really lacking lately."

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Edward will animatedly talk about the Borough-Folk, their culture, their close family ties, their love of chocolate and other sugary sweets, and eventually about the warlord who came to their world. "It was... it was bad. I sadly over-estimated my own abilities, and a lot of good people died that I might have otherwise saved. I believe the Borough-Folk of Freedom City may be the last of their race."

 

"I was good of your mayor to offer them sanctuary here. They've become something of a tourist attraction now." Edward shows off his "I Burrowed Into The Borough" button on his jacket. Beneath the text the button displays the Freedom City logo.

 

"The graphic designer wanted to add carrots around the edge of the button... why, I have no idea."

Edited by Tipop

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"Yes... Neither do I," added Nicole drily, imagining the bright orange vegetables framing the button. It was garish enough as it was and adding anymore was just overkill, so whoever shot down that graphic designer deserved a medal and the key to the city in her opinion.

 

"But isn't that a little dehumanizing? Being treated as tourist attractions?" Nicole wheeled herself to the middle of the room as she talked, closer to the other guests. She waved a hand in annoyance as she imitated the too-cheery but somehow robotic voice of a public advertisement. Of course, the Borough-folk may have a completely different attitude from her, but it still reeked of exploitation. Tourist attraction? Merchandise? What was next, a meet and greet?

 

"Look at me for only twenty dollars an hour! Just five hundred of me left!" She rolled her eyes at the absurdity.

Edited by Zeitgeist Blue

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Edward smirked at this, and replied "It's more about their handicrafts and how they've made a home for themselves here. Do the denizens of... ah... China-town consider themselves to be on display? People come to take pictures of their underground architecture and sample their amazing candies. A few Borrough-folk like to pose for photos with human children."

 

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"It is better than being ignored and forgotten, Sri Nicole."

 

A figure in a red and grey suit, their head covered by a black helmet and nearly scraping the ceiling, was standing where none had been moments before.

 

Folding her arms behind herself, the towering figure looked to the three others and bowed slightly "I beg your pardon, I did not want to intrude before knowing a little about the people who would be meeting here. I am Red Moon. I am not a...practitioner, but I have some curiosity on the subject. I hope you would not mind answering a few questions for more skeptical minds?"

 

"I brought some craterglass cakes and star tea bags." she added, unfolding her long arms with an ornate metal box in one hand and the other carrying a small tea pot full to the brim with bags of something coarse and white. The box cycled open to reveal piles of light blue squares veined with white.

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"What--"

 

Nicole whipped her head to face the owner of the new voice, a tall woman covered head to toe in a skin-tight suit. She was floating midair, and Nicole backed her wheelchair up a few feet so as not to strain her neck looking up. Her mouth was slightly agape but she shut it quickly and settled her composure, though not before wrinkling her nose in annoyance.

 

Borough folk and her name, what else did the newest guest know and how long had she been listening in? The invitations went out only for practicing students of the arts only, so how did a skeptic know where to look?  Nicole had a suspicion the answers would have been nothing comfortable for those present in the room. But before the teenager could point out these faux passes, the floating woman produced cake and tea. Odd sounding names but Nicole had heard worse gimmicks.

 

Nicole stretched her hands to take the offered fare. "So how do you hover? And your invisibility?"

Edited by Zeitgeist Blue

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Edward's first impulse was to smile and greet the newcomer, saying something about how curious minds are always welcome... but he stopped himself at Nicole's tone of voice.

 

"Aero... anything I should know about this Red Moon?" he said in his thoughts.

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Ring ring! Ring ring! 

 

One of the telephones in the building was ringing. 

 

When picked up, a strange voice came over the line - a booming bass that sounded vaguely electronic, like an artificial reproduction of a voice that even without said technical help would not have sounded particularly human. 

 

"HELLO! DO YOU TAKE MONSTERS?" 

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