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Precarious Fool
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#1
Old 06-03-2016, 01:32 PM

Lord Upton would be considered eccentric by most stands, perhaps clinically insane by others. The idle life of a lord, the wealth of several generations behind him, left him to pursue just about anything he wished with little getting in the way. His father had been an Earl, his nephew now held the title with the passing of his elder brother several years ago. Alone he chose to rusticate, and that led to his interest in... collecting. The large estate, situated several days ride from the main families holding, a castle of enormous proportions, was all but filled to the brim with artifacts, treasures, and anything else one could possibly find interesting and collect.

In his advanced age he was unable to gather most of the thing himself, so he stuck with paying others to do it for him. That wasn't enough though, to have the interesting items, he needed the stories behind them. It was with this in mind he put into plan his latest endeavor, finding someone to do a bit of "research". A few people so far had showed up at his door, but none of them proved to be what he needed. Many were men desperate for coin, with families to go home to, which wouldn't do, as he needed adventurers. Someone to get him information, or items, at just about any cost.

With this in mind, Lord Upton paced the his study, waiting for the recent applicants to show up. He looked to the silver rose on his desk, curiosity driving him crazy. It seemed far too intricate, too lifelike, to have been made by any crafter, the petals creased, torn. It wasn't perfect by any means, as if just any rose, plucked from a garden, had been turned to silver. The story that seemed to follow it was that a witch, jealous of a beautiful woman that stole the heart of the man she loved, turns it to silver and pierced her heart with it. Could that be true? He didn't know, but he was interested to find out...

---

The carriage swayed far too much, Mellie found herself ready to lose the contents of her stomach. She was used to walking, or riding a mule, not riding in one of these wooden contraptions along bumpy roads. Perhaps she should have just stayed with the troupe. Yet she knew why she couldn't, Alan had set his eyes on her and would not be deterred until he had her. That was why she had stole away in the middle of the night and had been trying to make it on her own for nearly two months now. Playing on the street for a few coins or loaf of bread wasn't the most glamorous thing, but it beat sleeping with a knife under her pillow. Not that she had a pillow anymore...

She looked over the crumpled paper in her hand once more, she didn't know exactly what it said, considering she had never learned to read, but she hoped it was the key to a better life. It was by chance she had been given the piece of parchment, she had wandered into a strange shop one night while trying to avoid some rather brutish looking fellows on the street. While waiting for them to pass, she browsed through old and strange goods. The shopkeeper had tried to sell her some nonsense about some gold coins, supposedly pirates treasure, but she explained she knew it to be the work of gypsies instead. It was there she talked with the old shopkeeper for hours, about her life growing up with the gypsies, the traveling, the abuse, and her time with the troupe, singing and playing for any willing to pay. Before she left he explained the paper to her, a regular customer of his looking for some knowledgeable people to help him out.

So here she was, stuffed into the mail cart, on her way to this eccentric lords house. She would do most anything if it meant being paid, and from what she heard, this lord was quite wealthy. Would she be what he was looking for? She knew all the old stories and faerie tales, had been all over the country side as a child, and had few fears of the unknown. The sun had set by the time the carriage rocked to a stop and she was left on the side of the dirt road. The strange looks from those heading home for the day reminded her that she was sure to stand out. Despite her time with the troupe she hadn't left behind her gypsy heritage. Her copper hair hung free, down to her waist, braids threaded with beads and ribbons scattered within. Her skin was pale and freckled, her eyes bright green, giving away her Irish heritage without a single word from her. She had sharp features, with a small, upturned nose, her cheeks more gaunt than they should be, but with the lack of funds and meals, it was to be expected. The loose, linen shirt, a pale purple in colour, hung off one shoulder, a silver chain cinching it around the waist. Her skirts were of the same material, layered and dyed linen that swished with each step. Another belt, this one boasting two small knives and a leather pouch, hung low on her hips.

She avoided the bells and jewelry like most of them wore, preferring to be as plain as possible and not attract attention. In her hand was a battered leather satchel which contained everything she owned. The bag rustled and out popped a furry, grey head. "I'll find us something to eat soon, Bear." She whispered to the creature as it climbed from its hiding spot and settled itself on her shoulder. The small ferret was mostly dark grey, with rings of white and black. The tail, dipped in white, wrapped itself around her neck as she walked. She had nearly no coin left, perhaps the lord would serve refreshments and she could save what little she had.

The directions from the driver of the cart were correct, though he did not quite mention it would take nearly an hour of walking in the dark to reach the large estate. Many of the windows were still illuminated, the place almost welcoming her there. Hesitantly she knocked on the door, wondering if they'd turn her away, as most places did when they saw her dress and heard her speak. Hurriedly she tucked Bear into her bag, not wanting them to see the creature. The door creaked loudly as it opened, a prim and proper butler standing in the light, casting a large shadow over her. Word escaped her and she dumbly held up the parchment in front of her. The butler showed no emotion as he waved her inside, she followed him down the hall to a parlor. Never before had she been anywhere so grand, the floors boasted large, ornate rugs, the furniture was beautiful and intricate... All around here seemed a display of wealth she could never hope to obtain.

Left in the room, she walked slowly around, tapestries covered the walls, some new, some old... other things, strange swords and weapons filled other spaces. Everywhere she looked there was something, none of the surfaces, aside from chairs, seemed to be free of clutter. She fingered a small, golden statue, it looked much like a wooden one that she had seen many times growing up with the caravan. One of the patron saints of Ireland, perhaps? Yet this one had small jewels around the base, and was probably worth more money than... well, she wasn't sure she could even imagine that.

It wasn't long before an older man strolled into the room, dressed in the finest clothes she had ever seen, his black waistcoat perfectly pressed, his voice startling her. "Ah, you've arrived. Welcome. Please, feel free to look around or have a seat while we wait on my other guest..." She dropped into a sloppy curtsy, not sure if it was the proper thing to do in the presence of a lord. Before she could reply, several maids bustled in, carts laden with tea and snacks. Her eyes widened and her stomach growled at the prospect of food, and they all looked so delicious as they were laid out on a table. The old lord motioned her to a seat in front of the table where the refreshments were placed. The amount of food would last her weeks, how could this only be for three people? Impatiently she sat, not wanting to seem rude, despite wanting to stuff her face with the treats before her. Finally he filled a small plate with the treats and she did the same, struggling to not overload it. The first bite was heaven and she couldn't control herself afterwards...
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#2
Old 06-13-2016, 01:40 PM

Fane Heathcote took out a little cloth-bound book from the pocket of his coat, deftly removing the paper that stuck out between the pages and unfolding it to peruse it quickly for the umpteenth time. Whoever wrote it wielded their words with skill; it read smoothly and convincingly in spite of being a slightly unusual proposition. However there was that something he couldn't put his finger on, just the overall aura it gave off. Again and again, it gave him a premonitory feeling of jumping down a rabbit hole, and had him think twice.

He put the book back where it came from but still held the paper in his hands. From a deeper pocket he produced a pocket watch, bereft of its chain, and glanced at it, then overturning it to narrow his grey eyes at his tiny, distorted reflection in the gold lacquer. Fancying that his hair was windswept as though that could be gleaned from what he saw, he trailed his fingers through his black hair, just short of his shoulders, palming it to his head. He was tall, with a long, wan face and a shadowy grace. His knuckles hovered near the door. He was tired of researching and writing ancestral histories for aristocrat families. This was something different. And it wouldn't hurt to attend this meeting and see. He didn't have to decide until meeting this Lord Upton for himself.

He knocked. "I'm here to see Lord Upton about his advertisement. I wrote to him of my coming," he said to the staid butler, his hand half offering out the advertisement in question in case it was required. He ushered him in, and Fane felt slightly disappointed as he walked a house like many others he had been to. Whatever aura he'd got from the advertisement, he couldn't see it anywhere here. Perhaps it had been just him feeling words too much again, reading into their texture for something that wasn't there. The butler left to inform the Lord of his coming, and he took the chance to take a closer look at things. His opinion became more favourable when it became obvious the Lord was a collector, and that he had definite taste- one that was different from the usual. These were not chosen based purely on how priceless they were, how famous the maker, or how readily they could be showed off to impress company. There was a very real quest and interest at work here.

The butler returned to show him to a room with a lavish tea laid out and two people already seated. He bowed, but before he could introduce himself the Lord acknowledged him, and bade him sit and partake of the refreshments with them. Fane wasn't really hungry, so didn't look twice at the rich cakes and custard creams, but nibbled on a ginger nut biscuit because the dryness of it encouraged him to sip tea between swallows. He'd never had the best constitution, as a child he'd been called fragile, and he never had much of an appetite. If confronted with food, the quality of the food didn't trigger temptation manifest in his appetite as it did for some.

"Your advertisement had me intrigued, Lord Upton," he said, meeting the Lord's piercing eye. He went on to tell him of his impressions while reading it, even including his vague feelings he couldn't establish basis for. It wasn't that he didn't know how to conduct himself appropriately in the presence of aristocracy- he had come to be engaged by them one after another, which wouldn't have happened unless he were able to be faultless in that respect- but the Lord's demeanour was such that he knew his behaviour didn't matter.

Immediately, he addressed the other person at the table. He hadn't got to introduce himself before, so decided the Lord's response could wait; he didn't want to be drawn into a conversation with him when he hadn't paid proper attention to her. "It's a pleasure to make your acquaintance. My name is Heathcote; Fane Heathcote. I'm a scribe by profession." He found her quite as interesting as the Lord. She was obviously a gypsy. There was a clarity about her that was attractive, that he envied. He himself was almost the opposite- his presence was shadowy, indistinct; he was overlooked unless he drew attention to himself in spite of his good looks, for while unconventional, they were withdrawn good looks. Aware that his gaze was growing wistful, he gave a quick smile and helped himself to a treacle tart for the sake of looking away.

Last edited by hanahaki disease; 06-13-2016 at 03:29 PM..

Precarious Fool
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#3
Old 06-13-2016, 03:21 PM

Mellie's mouth had unfortunately been stuffed with food when the other guest entered the room. He was tall and... well, she didn't know how else to describe him. He was nothing like the men she had seen before, he was graceful, not big and brutish, or lithe and near womanly. Was he also here looking for the job? If it was between the two of them she was sure she didn't have a chance, not with how put together and smart he looked, while she was no different than a street urchin. Embarrassed by that fact she tucked her dirtied, muddied boots under her skirts, and curled her fingers in, not wanting them to see the dirt under her finger nails or the rough skin of her hands from years of work. It was obvious she didn't belong.

Working hard to control her impulse, she nibbled at the treats offered, listening to the newcomer speak with the Lord, seeming so much more at home than she ever could. Her thoughts wandered, how many of the small treats had she eaten already? At least five, since she had refilled her plate, a fact she hoped had escaped notice. Shortly after taking another bite, enjoying the sweet lemon cake more than anything she had eaten before, the tall strange turned his attention to her. His voice was cultured and he was well manners, and as much as she'd rather not speak, she had little choice without being horribly rude.

"A pleasure, sir. Name's Mellie." She paused at that, scrunching her face up. Did she have another name? All her life she had simply been Mellie, she couldn't recall a family name. "I uh..." She paused, not sure how to explain what she did. "A musician of sorts." She cringed, the rather heavy Irish accent clear in her voice, so uncultured like the two men present. A small chirp sounded from the leather satchel at her feet and she frowned and nudged the bag, hoping Bear would keep quiet and hadn't been noticed. The poor creature probably smelled the treats and wanted a snack of his own.

With eyes on her she couldn't risk feeding him, but she left a ginger cookie on the side of her plate for him when she would have the chance to sneak one to him. Before she could shrink back into the shadows, Lord Upton turned towards her, a kind smile on his face. "Well, Mellie, why don't you tell us more about yourself?" At her look of fear and panic he continued. "Oh dear, nothing too invasive, just where you live, work, a bit about you is all." His questions were innocent enough, but she wasn't sure how to answer any of them. Not wanting to be rude, she cleared her throat and began, "I uh, I live..." What would be a good lie? "Just a bit south of here." Vague, but it would have to do, hopefully they wouldn't pry more about that. She didn't feel like disclosing the fact that when she left here she'd be sleeping on a bench or under a tree somewhere.

"I was with a traveling troupe, but am now on my own, and that's about it." Mellie could only shrug, not sure what else to say. To his credit, all Lord Upton did was raise an eyebrow and nod. Sensing her reluctance he turned to the other in their party, "Care to share as well, Mr. Heathcote?"

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#4
Old 06-13-2016, 04:43 PM

He soaked in the texture of the few words she answered him with, wallowed in the winsome Irish lilt. However, her manner was so hesitant. She was hunching into herself, obviously not at ease around them. He wondered what Lord Upton could want with a musician; it had to have something to do with him (Fane) as well, else they wouldn't be part of the same meeting with the Lord.

At the Lord's invitation to talk about herself, Fane saw her flustered dismay and glanced away, uncomfortable. He couldn't venture to steer the conversation elsewhere; that would be crossing the line, not that he could immediately think of a change of topic anyway. She gathered herself enough to give a reply, spare but not really succinct. The Lord had the tact to leave it at that, only to ask the same of Fane. Not that Fane minded.

"My native village is Linkeep. The illiterate villagers would pay my father to write their letters for them. He taught me to read and write. By the time I grew up, a little school was made and my father was the schoolmaster. He had not time to write letters. I took over. I saved up. Read all I could. Wrote the stories the villagers passed to their children." He looked intently at Mellie, that she may understand that he started out from a humble beginning, that he didn't think she need feel discomposed around him. He only regarded social heirarchy in his behaviour when someone else's judgement of him hinged on it, someone whose approval was needed. "And then I went to a… finishing school." His nose twitched, indicating he found the memory less than pleasant. "And, well, once I was out in the world, I was able to… get on. I wrote contracts, trade agreements, then family histories, tracing lineages… richer people engaged my talents. I researched, I wrote, and so I continue." He did not want smugness in his tone, and hoped he was able to keep it out. He felt content, not because he was paid more as time went by, but because he was able to make a living with words. It was worthwhile in itself.

Precarious Fool
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#5
Old 06-13-2016, 08:43 PM

While the others were thankfully focused on something else, Mellie bent down and slid the ginger cookie into her leather satchel and slid it under her skirts. Was it stealing? Lord Upton offered her this fare, and it would be just a small bit of food, perhaps if she just didn't eat as much it wouldn't be all that wrong. As she did all that she tried hard to focus on the other mans words, he was so much more cultured and accomplished than she was. Surely she would never be chosen over him.

The look he had cast at her, what did it mean? Perhaps he recognized that she would probably be as illiterate as the children her father taught. Was it scorn for not bettering herself? Or perhaps pity, which seemed even worse. He seemed pleased with himself, with his lot in life, and he should be, he had a job, a means to support himself that wasn't up the whims of people on the street. She offered him a smile when he finished, but didn't know what to offer as a reply. Never before had she had such cultured men to converse with, only the gypsies she grew up with or the troupe she had traveled with, who were much more bawdy and uncultured.

To fill the time and excuse herself from speaking, she nibbled on more of the treats, discreetly trying to eat enough to hold her over while not seeming like a glutton. "About why I brouht you here..." When Lord Upton began to speak she jumped, surprised by the loud tone of his voice. Her plate clattered to the floor and the pastries scattered at her feet. Heat crept up her cheek and she hurried to her knees to clean up her mess. "Leave it, the maids will worry about it later." Lord Upton had leaned forward and put his hand on her shoulder. She could only nod and took her place back on the plush chair, wishing she was anywhere but here, making a fool of herself in this fancy drawing room.

"As I was saying, I brought you here because I'm getting older, too old to be traveling the country anyways, and I've need of information. The flyer you both posses explained a bit, but the simple truth is that I am a collector. I enjoy my collection, not just for the beauty of it, but for the stories behind it, and I pride myself on knowing these stories." He stood and made his way to a nearby table, picking up a small wooden chest, seemingly ordinary in construction. He brought it to the area they sat in and set it on the table, pushing aside a few of the offerings that had been set out.

The lid of the chest creaked when it opened, and on a deep red, velvet lining sat a lone rose made entirely of what looked like silver. It was intricate and imperfect and a complete mystery. "I've recently acquired this, I have reason to believe it is, or shall I say was, a rose that was turned to silver," He dropped his tone and leaned in, as if revealing a secret to them, "by faeries." He seemed quite serious about it, and Rose looked on in awe at it. She had heard many stories about the faeries, spent many years of her girlhood searching for signs of them, trying to make friends with them. Yet none had come forward.

"I need you both to work together and to find out the truth." Lord Upton's words surprised her, he wanted them to do it? What did she knew about any of this? Sure she knew about the faeries, the mystical things in the world, she had heard all the stories and legends growing up, but this was beyond anything else she had done before...

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#6
Old 06-15-2016, 04:25 PM

Fane listened to Lord Upton with his fingers lightly grazing the side of his chin. He had misgivings about this, but there was something else as well stirring within him that couldn't be ignored. He could faintly see why the Lord had hit upon him and forwarded such a flyer through mutual connections. He had experience hunting out forgotten details, piecing together truth (or as close to the truth as he could get) from reminiscences and hearsay, and tracing a pattern others didn't notice. There was a reason he had become practically exclusive to being employed by the oldest families (and the most important, for the worn rock is a nonentity, but the mountain has a name, becomes a landmark.)

He was sure the gypsy girl would have marked abilities as well, or she wouldn't be here. She seemed very unsure of herself, but then at her place in life she was probably cursed with being belittled, thus staying downtrodden, regardless of her abilities. He really couldn't say. He didn't even want to guess at what specifically her abilities were to qualify her for the task the Lord was setting them, for he didn't think he could avoid making stereotyped mistakes. He knew nothing of gypsies and her way of life except what the prejudiced ascribed to them, and he didn't want his judgement to be led by that. At any rate, he was glad for her part in this. He might have turned down the Lord's offer were it not for her. This would be extraordinary, unlike anything he had undertaken ever before, and as such he was afraid. That there would be someone by his side, someone less accustomed to the safe monotony of an ordinary life, helped him make the decision to agree to the Lord's task, along with the intrepid part of him that surfaced like a fish to bait. He didn't know if she'd take the Lord up on his offer as well, of course, but he couldn't imagine a reason for her not to. The Lord would certainly cross her palm with more silver than she could ever have hoped to see.

He couldn't take his eyes off the rose. It looked like any rose picked up off the garden walk, then discarded on being noted as not worthy of putting in a vase. The clefts and crumples of its petals, the gentle wilt, the serrated leaf- even if it was art and not magic, he certainly wanted to find out the person behind such exquisite craftsmanship. And if it was magic- his heart skipped a beat at the thought of something that rendered him powerless and helpless, something he could not fully understand- he's be just as curious as to what purpose could be served by turning a rose to silver, other than preserving it in a way.

"I am honoured that you would call upon me to do so, Lord Upton," said Fane, inclining his head. "And I will fulfill, to the best of my ability." A slight hesitation crept into his manner as he admitted, "However I have never embarked on a trail such as this to trace. My previous dealings have always been very commonplace. I hope not to make mistakes. And I hope you will not mind me calling upon you even when I have nothing to report and nothing unearthed- sometimes I may not be able to see the way forward and any guidance would be welcome to illumine the path. Such as now." He stared at the rose, scintillating and sinking into the plush red. "I don't know where to start. Who to talk to, or where to refer."

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#7
Old 06-15-2016, 06:26 PM

Mellie only half listened to the other gentleman's speech, her mind focused on the rose. It almost seemed familiar in a way, something about it was calling out to her and she didn't know how to explain it. She frowned as she leaned over, her finger just barely brushing it, as if begging it to tell her what was so familiar about it. She noticed Lord Upton glance at her curiously, though he seemed caught up in the words directed at him.

The gentleman seemed so confident, a far cry from how she felt. Why was she here, why had that old man at the shop thought she'd be useful? She only knew stories, legends, faerie tales... she had lived with them growing up, as real to her people as the sun in the sky. She could recall each tale quite well, they had been when she held onto as she grew older and the world became a crueler place than she could have even imagined. Beyond that she knew so little, no connections with people, no idea of one town from the next.

"Of course I shall aid you however I can, Mr. Heathcote, as shall the many contacts I posses." Lord Upton paused, looking at the two of them with a small, kind smile. "You may not know where to start, but I think our friend here knows more than she has let on." He had turned to Mellie and she blanched, not enjoying the spotlight being put on her for the moment. She knew nothing! Yet, it all seemed so familiar... Panic struck her as she worked hard to remember where she had seen something so similar before.

"Aes Sídhe..." She muttered under her breath, her native language for the faerie folk coming back to her. How easily she could recall the elder of the caravan whispered stories about them, how to avoid their wrath, to keep the friend rather than foe. She had grown to believe they were as beautiful as they were dangerous, and faeries could be anywhere. A story she had been told as just a wee one, late at night circled around the fire, came to her. "The elder once told us a story, of a human man who had fallen from his horse, injured terribly and left in the woods to perish..." She began her story, the Irish more pronounced than ever as she recalled the way it had been told to her. "He was found by one of the faerie folk, a female, who healed him of his injuries. Afraid of his wrath, for all faeries avoid humans, she posed as a young maiden. When he awoke he was so enchanted by the pretty young woman who saved his life that he whisked her away to his home." She paused, trying to remember how the story went, sad that she didn't posses the same gift for storytelling as the elder had.

"He was so handsome, so kind that the fey didn't see the problem in staying, but she didn't dare reveal herself. Over time she grew to love the human, and their love brought them a child, but she had been too long from home, had struggled too long, her kind unable to sustain themselves in the guise of a human for overly long. The night the babe was to be born she realized she would not survive. Unable to confess to the lie she had committed she instead hid herself in the forest, among a bed of wild daisies and heather. It was there she had the babe. Later, when the man searched for his wife he noticed the sun glinting off something bright in the woods nearby the hut, the small clearing had turned to silver, the daisies frozen in time, and among them lie the infant, birthed to a faerie and a human. The babe was so small it could fit into his palm, a girl child who split her time between her father's people and the creatures of the forest..."

Mellie had allowed herself to get lost in the tale, enjoying going back to a moment before things had gotten to complicated. She frowned when she noticed Lord Upton staring at her, the most curious look on his face. Did he think her insane?

 


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