At the Edge of All Things

Hair Curlers and Skyboxes

Hair Curlers and Skyboxes

It is a Saturday afternoon in early August. The Consilium meeting begins at sundown, which is in two hours or so. The five of you are at the Sanctum, getting ready.

Blackjack comes out of the basement carrying a large object wrapped in black velvet. “Nodens can you summon the other cabal members please?”

The spirit appears and bows once. Each of you, whatever you’re doing, it finds you and delivers BJ’s invitation. What ARE people doing, btw?

Goldman’s reading some documents from her new sleeper job. She arrived today ready for the Consilium and is passing time chatting with the others and doing work while they’re busy.

Aurelia is doing some mimicry exercises with Sabrina, upstairs in the meditation room.

Two hours till showtime? Eli is standing in her still mostly-empty room in the Sanctum, staring at two dresses and frowning.

Sinon is adjusting his cufflinks and looking over a chapter in a lost memoir he has obtained that details some dead mage’s awakening.

(Blackjack) Setting the object on the table and unwrapping the velvet to expose the wooden box, its simple perfection screaming master craftsmanship. Standing in his Tuxedo, shoes shined to a level that would get a grudging nod of approval from an SAMI inspector.

Eli comes wandering downstairs barefoot in a black slip. “You rang?”

Sinon arrives downstairs, moves over to the bar and leans back.

(Blackjack) “Yes, I have a surprise for all of you.” Relaxed to a degree. The kind of feigned relaxation to hide nervousness.

Goldman nods as Blackjack enters from the basement. She raises an eyebrow at his clothes, but says nothing.

Aurelia is close behind with Sabrina. Aurie is in her usual meditation comfort clothes and Sabrina is in an oversized bathrobe Aurelia liberated from a nice hotel.

(Elithora) “Surprises are good. What is it?”

Goldman stands and joins the others.

Aurelia stands behind her usual big comfy chair. “A good surprise I hope.”

(Blackjack) “Thank you all for coming. As a cabal we are often drawn into each other’s interests. And in the case of Sinon and myself, those interests can often be aggressively dangerous. So I have been preparing this for a while.” Turning to Goldman. “I started this project before you joined us. But given time, you will be included.” Pressing down on the gold inlay of the Searcher’s sigil as the box clicks and opens, revealing the four smaller boxes and the empty space.
Taking out the boxes carefully and offering them to each of you in kind. They open the same way and contain and Orichalcum ring with the Searcher’s sigil on them.

Sinon looks his over and then over at the others’, “Bespoke?” he muses. “Thank you.”

Aurelia smiles “Wow these are really nice, BJ! When did you…”

Goldman smiles. “Of course, I understand.”

Eli opens her box and makes a small noise of surprise.

Aurelia looks at hers curiously then puts hers on, surprised to find it pre-sized.

(Blackjack) “Eli and Aur, these rings have certain defensive magics in them. One offers resistance to kinetic attacks, one makes it harder for someone to get a clear view of you, they have invisibility. And because sometimes a good offense is the best defense, you will find they have Celestial Fire as a spell. They are self charging. Just tap them on a large object and they will draw mana from it. And you can draw mana from the rings.”

Eli raises her eyebrows while slowly rotating the ring between her fingers. She replies simply: “Wow.”

“Nice,” murmurs Goldman appreciatively.

(Blackjack) “Sinon, your spells are a bit more utilitarian in nature. Night vision, accessing electronic data, invisibility and invisbility to machines. Also a bit of extra kick to any physical blows.”

(Aurelia) “Invisibility? We aren’t going to have greedy midgets chasing us for them are we?”

Blackjack smiles at Aur. “I should think not. As to how long I have been working on them, it has been a little while. And there is one thing common to all of the rings. They were forged from the same piece of gold. They all have sympathy with each other.” Slipping his ring on, a subtle shift in his stance as it’s like part of him that was missing has been connected again.

(Blackjack) Looking to Goldman. “Forge will be expecting you. You will need to arrange the creation of the rings. In three weeks I will be ready to craft yours.”

(Goldman) “I’m honored.”

Eli slips her ring on and admires it. “We had no idea! How splendid.”

Aurelia looks up at BJ. “How um… how mutable are the imbued… uh… god I have no idea how to say this intelligently. Can the spells be changed at all? I figure you weren’t able to imbue a mental shield and you and Elithora could probably do with having one readily available. And Goldman, of course.”

(Blackjack) “I can add more spells later. But it is going to be a few weeks. Right now the rings are drawing power from me and while I can keep up with it until they finish, I can not tolerate drawing much more.”

(Aurelia) “I see.”

(Elithora) “Beej, is that safe?”

Blackjack shrugs his shoulders. “Assuming I can avoid casting too many spells, yes. So please do not annoy anything bulletproof.” Smiling at her.

Sinon dons his ring, hiding his uncertain feelings regarding carrying around a sympathetic tie. “Always good advice.”

Eli opens her mouth, snaps it shut, nods once, and gives Blackjack a big hug. “Thanks again.”

Sinon extends his hand to shake Blackjack’s once the hug ends. “Yes, thank you.”

Hugs Eli back. “You are welcome.” Shaking Sinon’s hand.

Aurelia nods. “Thanks a lot BJ, really. These are an incredible present.” She timidly goes forward to hug him too

Hugs Aur back as well. “They may be needed at someone point.”

Blackjack then walks over to Goldman. “I apologize, I am certain the intent was not to exclude you. I can take you to meet Forge when we’re ready to have yours made.”

Blackjack nods to Goldman. “It was not to exclude you. I did not want you thinking this is behind you back. I have already told Forge to expect you and I will put similar spells when it is completed.”

(Aurelia) “I can help too.”

Goldman chuckles and smiles. “Guys, I’m still thrilled just to have been asked to join. I’m not upset that you weren’t able to rework such a massive project at the last second to include me.”

Blackjack has stopped fidgeting with his ring finger now that the ring is in place. “There is one more thing. I was asked to become a Sentinel.”

(Goldman) “Oh, good. Seems like it would suit you. Have you decided?”

(Blackjack) “Yes, I will be accepting the position.”

Eli nods thoughtfully at Blackjack.

(Aurelia) “Well so long as you don’t start tattling on us that’s cool.”

(Blackjack) “No, I will not plan on tattling.” Smiles at Aur, shaking his head.

Half an hour later!

Eli knocks on Aurie’s door.

(Aurelia) “Who is it?”

Eli replies, “It’s me.”

(Aurelia) “Oh, come in!”

Eli pads in, carrying two dresses. “Hey! I need your input. Should I …”
She catches herself, facing away from Sabrina without thinking. She rotates slightly, holding up the pair to both women. “I … wanted to know which you guys preferred. I want to make an impression tonight, but: Dramatic, or /dramatic/?”

Aurelia is sitting at a vanity in her underwear, Sabrina is behind her in the bathrobe still, fixing Aurie’s hair. They look over “Wait, which one is /dramatic/?”

Eli hangs the more traditional little black dress up and holds a more striking number in front of herself. It’s floor-length, black as a Seer’s heart, and layered with a textured sheer layer with a branch-like pattern worked in.

Dramatic black one shoulder empire beaded pleated a line wedding guest prom dress 1 thumb

Aurelia looks back at Sabrina. “Well, I think you should say which you prefer, Sabrina.”
Sabrina looks a bit blankly at each dress, then points at the dress in front of Eli. “I like that one.”

Eli nods and smiles to Sabrina and turns the more dramatic number to Aurie. “That’s a vote for. Should I just go for it?”
(Aurelia) “I think you should! Want help getting ready?”

Eli nods in assent, runs back to her room, and returns with a black makeup case and her little wooden perfume box.

(Aurelia) Aurelia bites her lip and looks sidelong at Sarina. “Sabrina is getting quite good at doing hair.”

Sabrina nods wordlessly.

(Elithora) “Is sh…” She turns to Sabrina, “Are you? Remembering, maybe?”

Sabrina looks to Aurelia, who is smiling, then nods enthusiastically. “Yes, I’m remembering some things! Like my body knows what to do.”
-

Blackjack fixes a drink for himself, taking the comfy chair in the library.

Goldman follows BJ to the library, making a drink for herself.

Sinon pours himself a glass of wine and then sits across from the Arrow.

Blackjack seems more focused then he has of late. Less distracted. Is enjoying his whiskey, seemingly lost in thought.
-

Eli clicks Aurie’s door shut and lifts off her slip to dab herself with an emerald green bottle the size of her pinky. The smell of leaves sprouting, drying, and bursting into fire slowly permeates the air around her.
She steps over and delicately dabs a few drops onto Sabrina’s wrists and neck before offering Aurelia her perfume box.

Aurelia looks at the box then looks back at Eli. “Anything you recommend?”

Without hesitation, Eli taps a pale pink bottle with a rounded topper.

Aurelia takes the bottle then unstoppers it and dabs herself.

The scent is muted at first, then explodes all at once with an oversaturation of white flowers piled upon white flowers. The scent is continuously vibrating back and forth between the first organic smells of decaying petals and regressing into the smells of damp soil and blossoms not yet open. It is as dizzyingly forward as an unexpected bouquet from an admirer.
-

“So, Blackjack. Regarding your hobbies. I may have a few items of interest to pass your way soon.” Sinon swirls his wine. “I was going to ask if you might be willing to evaluate one of my employees at some point. I’ll likely be handling most of that myself, but getting a second opinion is valuable.”

(Blackjack) “I do not mind evaluating one. Am I qualified to evaluate their skill set?” Chuckling just a little bit.

Goldman takes a seat and joins the conversation. “Seems like you’ve got a pretty good read on things to me.”

(Sinon) “They won’t be intentionally allowed on anything too trying until I am confident in their skills.” He pauses for moment. “I am more interested in their potential and character.”

(Blackjack) “Let me know how you want to structure it and I will do what I can.” Looking to Goldman. "I am not really trained for Sinon’s kind of work. I understand basic document classification and I got the same standard counter-intelligence training any officer gets. Which is do not talk about operations and pretty girls are honey pots.’ Shrugging his shoulders.

(Goldman) “I was thinking along the character lines too, I guess. That’s what tends to be important in sleeper business, seemed like it would be here too.” She sips her drink and makes a face. “Need to get some better booze in here.”

“There is some Macallan 1824 on the bottom shelf. I hide it to make sure Sabrina doesn’t get into it.”

(Goldman) “Nice. Would you mind?”

Blackjack gestures approval with his hand.

The macallan 1824 limited release 600
--

Aurelia looks at the DRAMATIC dress again. “Alex you are going to have to take me shopping sometime.”
Aurelia blushes deeply.

Eli hesitates for a moment at her own name, foundation brush an inch from her cheek. “I’d like that.” She glances at Lily’s reflection’s gaze but not the girl herself. “We should go soon. I think I might have underestimated the importance of doing normal person stuff lately.”

“I… yeah. Normal person stuff.” Aurelia glances quickly at the door, at her bed, back at Eli. “You um… you still working through things?”

“I just …” Eli turns her gaze back to herself and begins brushing on foundation with smooth, practiced motions. “I’m just not used to actually being close to anyone. That’s, um. That’s usually the moment I’m the furthest away. You know. Usually right then, I don’t look them right in the eyes.”

Aurelia nods, then looks through the mirror into Eli’s eyes. “Well… I’m here, and just… I dunno, take some time. You can always talk to me. I don’t think we should keep things from each other.”

Sabrina smiles and continues fixing up Aurelia’s hair, curlers piling up on her head.

Eli sets her brush down and looks at herself for a moment before surrendering and following Aurelia’s mirror gaze to her real gaze. “I’ve had enough of keeping everything from everyone. But when someone looks at me and not my surface, it puts a chink in my armor.”

Eli opens her mouth but nothing else comes out for a moment. She turns back to her armory and pulls out her particularly smoky eyeshadow and sets it directly in front of herself.

Aurelia cracks a smile “Now that’s just racist, my dear.”

Eli exclaims, “Hey!” and attempts to point her eyeshadow brush at Aurelia in an accusatory fashion, but manages to flick a sprinkle of slate gray powder onto her in so doing.

(Aurelia) “Ack!”

(Elithora) She interrupts her own witty reply with, “Oh,” and touches her fingertips to Aurelia’s collarbone, attempting to get the flick but mostly smearing the gray slightly toward Aurelia’s throat and leaving a streak of her own fingerprints. “Sorry.”

Sabrina turns, no longer smiling with her hands on her hips. “Do not assault Miss Aurelia.”
--

Sinon checks his watch. “Yes, we don’t want to relive the great Domaine Romanée-Conti-on-cheerios incident of 2012.”

Goldman pours her drink out down the sink and pours herself some whiskey and spring water. Taking a drink, she asks, “What’s the protocol on fixing this place up? Some of it’s really nice – the garden in particular. But some things speak to thrift and not aesthetic, you know?”

(Goldman) “Think anyone would mind if I paid a couple of sleepers to fix things up? I can do it myself if it’s a problem.”

(Blackjack) “It is generally done as someone wants on a whim. But sleepers would be bad. The basement….may be difficult to explain.”

(Sinon) “No sleepers.”

(Blackjack) “Canadians tend to get spooked by guns and I would rather not have to explain to Rook why she is having to cover up the contents of the gun safes down there.”

(Goldman) “I’ll take care of it. I’m going to miss access to a desmesne though."

“Building things with a wave of your hand is habit-forming, I’m afraid.” Goldman smiles and takes another drink.
--

Elithora shoots Sabrina an apologetic look. “It … I didn’t expect it. It’s just makeup. See?” She holds up her brush to Sabrina.

Aurelia fusses with the makeup mixup. “No, Sabrina, it’s fine. Elithora is not assaulting me. It’s… um… different.”

Sabrina eyes the brush critically. “Very well. Miss Aurelia says you get a pass.”

Eli turns back to the mirror, closes one eye, and draws the brush with another practiced motion. “I could do your makeup too if you want, Sabrina.”

Aurelia gives a thumbs up. Sabrina smiles as her expression returns to its normal dopily happy one. “Ok!”

Aurelia looks sidelong at Eli “But I still don’t think it would be appropriate to bring Sabrina to the Consilium meeting. She isn’t a mage and there’s bound to be prejudice…”

(Elithora) “You’re probably right. I think there’s still … rehabilitation to be done.”
--

(Sinon) “No one tell Eli that I’ve secretly been sculpting the garden with Life.” Sinon finishes his wine.

(Blackjack) “Oh she would never forgive you.” Chuckling.

(Blackjack) “Oh, I need to tell Rattenbury that a Hallow is forming in my place.”
-

Eli works her way through her makeup with the focus of an Arrow preparing to breach and clear a barricaded room. She analyzes herself coldly and nods once.

Aurelia regards her with approval “You really are a pro. You mind doing me too?”

(Elithora) Her expression softens as she breaks contact with her own gaze and she smiles brightly. “Tools of the trade. Sure.”

Aurelia smiles brightly. “Also it would be good if you could do my makeup.” then sticks her tongue out and makes a silly face.

Eli smirks crooked at Aurelia and mixes up both of their makeup supplies to find the right mix of colors for her skin. She pushes Aurelia’s seat back slightly and sits on the table facing her. She touches Aurie’s chin and lifts slightly so she is looking up directly at her. “Alright Lily, let’s see what we have here.”

((Aurelia) Heart in throat moment)

Eli goes to work, gently but firmly tilting Aurie’s head back and forth as she brushes, ponders, touches up, and layers.

Aurelia is kind of speechless, her eyes darting about.

After giving Aurelia the treatment more carefully than her own makeup, Elithora leans closer, gripping the seat back behind Aurie. She holds a lip pencil in her hand. She makes a kiss with her own lips and taps the pencil against it. “Like this.”

Aurelia closes her eyes and makes a kissyface.

Eli leans close enough for her breath to be felt and draws a kiss on Aurie’s lips. She hesitates a moment, exhales, and leans back. “There. Pretty as an oil painting.”
--

Sinon checks his watch.

Blackjack sips his whiskey. “The only thing I miss about dating in the military….”

Goldman looks at Blackjack. “Good whiskey? I’m not following.”

(Blackjack) “They got ready faster. Having very few civilian outfits will do that.”

(Goldman) “A certain… efficiency tends to take hold in high finance as well. Everybody packs as much fun as possible into as few hours as possible.”

(Blackjack) “Nodens could you politely check with our two mystogues and make sure they have not gotten lost in a book?”

Sinon chuckles a bit at that before returning his glass to the bar.
--

Aurelia breathes in shallow gasps for a moment, then snaps out. “We should finish getting ready.”

Eli glances down at her iPhone. “Oh hell. You’re right." She slides off the table and wriggles into her dress before offering her back to Aurelia. “Zip me?”

Aurelia stares for a moment before regaining her composure. “Of course.”

Aurelia grabs the deep blue dress she’s wearing tonight. It looks almost too saturated to be real.

The spirit appears in Aurelia’s room. “Ladies, Master Blackjack sends inquiries regarding your whereabouts.”

Aurelia turns, “Do you mind? I’m getting dressed in here! Knock at least!”

Eli jumps a little. “It’s okay, Nodens is a gentleman. Tell them we’re down in five min… Wait, Nodens, my love? What are the odds of getting two gins on the rocks up here?”

(Aurelia) “We can get them downstairs in a minute, Eli.”

(Elithora) “I could have one inhaled before we’re halfway down the steps. Oh, I love this blue. But we’d better hurry.”

*Nodens smiles. “I’m sure something can be arranged.”

Eli pauses, frowns apologetically, and lifts one of Sabrina’s hands to squeeze it. “Sweetheart, I owe you a makeover. I promise, okay?”

Sabrina nods. “I’ll try really hard to remember!”

Eli nods, studying Sabrina’s face. “Right. Right.”

(Aurelia) “You should write it down, Sabrina.”
--

Nodens appears a beat later in the lounge, pouring a pair of drinks. “Miss Aurelia and Miss Elithora appear to be reasonably well along in their preparations. Although gin has been called for…” He smiles and disappears again, leaving the two drinks on a tray in the bedroom.

(Blackjack) “Did he just seem way too pleased about that?”

(Goldman) “The butler? Seemed normal to me.”

“You may need to give him a raise.” Sinon notes, wryly.
--

Eli lifts her glass and knocks back her gin in a gulp and a half. She takes Aurie’s hand, drags her wrist across Aurie’s once to blend their perfumes, and vanishes into the darkness of the hallway and stairway.

Aurelia follows down after Sabrina zips her up.
--

The scene shifts to the parking lot of the BC Place stadium downtown! The stadium is officially closed for five days while being converted from football to…other football … and the Consilium has pulled strings to get a private skybox.

Suite club 1

An elevator staffed by a Herald meets the arriving Awakened on ground level, whisking them up to the top, although a few have opted to hoof it up the exterior staircase. Without the stadium lights on, the enormous windows give a nice view of downtown Vancouver as the last rays of sunset fade and the lights begin coming on like fairy dust all over the horizon.

Blackjack is taking the Elevator. Isn’t taking the stairs in a tux. Elithora looks distinctly disinterested in stairs in her heels. Sinon follows the others into the elevator. Goldman and Aurelia take the elevator as well.

Finn, almost unrecognizable in a tux and with his wild dreads pulled back into a knot, nods at the cabal and presses the button to send them up.

Goldman’s silent on the way up. She adjusts her gown using the elevator mirror, and prepares herself to schmooze.

You arrive to a somewhat less formal atmosphere than you’ve encountered previously. There are no Mage-specific decorations this time, no candelabras or plinths – just white-clothed tables groaning under the weight of a lavish spread. The atmosphere seems to be one of rowdy, forced fun in anticipation or dread of the night’s business.
Outside, a few of the younger Awakened seem to be playing ball down on the half-converted field.

As the door dings open, Finn announces loudly: “The Searchers. Elithora, Sinon, Aurelia, Blackjack, and …uh …uh …”
“Guest,” he finishes limply.

Goldman smiles and steps out. (2 success social roll)

A few eyebrows are raised and scattered comments are made. “…least it’s someone who looks like they don’t belong in a zoo for once…” “…think I heard of her, she was supposed to be at Rattenbury’s on…”

Elithora slips in alongside Goldman and takes her by the arm. “Goldman, let’s see if we can’t the more excellent drinks and introduce you to some noteworthy members of our little society.” (3 success social roll)

Montesquieu beams and steps forward. “Her name is Goldman,” he says in a raised voice, “and we’re /very/ glad to have her here.” He winks at Goldman, takes her shoulder and presents her to the crowd.

Montesquieu smiles at Elithora. “That dress is stunning, my dear. And everyone always talks about your scents. If your person does cologne, I’d be gratified to know about it. May I borrow your friend for a moment?”

Elithora curtsies. “Of course, Provost.”

Goldman squeezes Eli’s shoulder and joins Montesquieu. She keeps smiling, but speaks quickly and quietly. “How long before official business begins?”

Montesquieu smiles and guides Goldman by the shoulder toward a small clique of Mages near the side of the room. “Probably an hour or so – more if the Councilors want to finalize some backroom business before coming forward. The less left to chance before the evening begins, the better.”

Eli nods airily to Goldman as they separate and mingles her way through the crowd, subtly favoring certain Mysterium mages with a moment’s extra warmth and respect according to a seemingly-unspoken hierarchy.
--

Sinon enters, smiling at others he sees as he survey’s the room. Appearing much more at ease than at prior meetings, he makes some small-talk as he walks around until he spies the Mysterium provost.

Sinon spies Sterling near the buffet table, noshing on wings. The man’s business-casual shirt has a couple of wing-stains on it.

(Sinon) “Sterling. Just the man I was looking for.” Sinon smiles-it would seem almost predatory to someone watching on TV.

Sterling swallows his last bite hurriedly, makes a face, and downs a glass of punch hurriedly. “Oh, man. Sorry, that went down the wrong way. What’s up, Sinon?”

“I wanted to talk to you about that favor you owe me.” Sinon motions with his head to a somewhat quieter corner. After the mystagogue follows him: “I’ve come into possession of a USB drive, and I would like some files to be added to it… In a way that will make seem like they were placed there by the prior owner a time ago.”

Sterling nods excitedly. “Oh, man. I thought you were going to ask for something, like, embarrassing. That’s super easy! I’ll have it for you in a day or two.”

“I knew I could count on you.” Sinon pats Sterling’s shoulder. “I will, of course, need you to be discreet about this. It is a private matter.”

Sterling nods. “Yeah, no problem, man. I’ll let you know as soon as it’s ready.”
--

Blackjack, you find Janis in her usual position at the center of a huge circle of admirers and onlookers. Give me a Presence plus Socialize check to get her attention.

Janis waves excitedly. “Blackjack! I see you. Come on over. Make room, Han.” The crowd parts a bit to admit you.

Blackjack steps up to her, something about her bringing out his formalness. He reaches into a jacket pocket, taking out an invitation and offering it to her. “A small get together. Nothing formal.”

She takes the invitation and scans it.

It shows: His address, Wednesday and a playing card from a bicycle deck if she wants to arrive by skipping the doorman.

Janis bites her lip for a moment, then nods. “… Interesting. Sure, I’ll try to be there, assuming things aren’t …” She leaves the rest unsaid, but pockets the card.

(Blackjack) “I suspect that no matter how things shake out, it may be worth your time to attend.” Makes a small bow for a moment.

She nods.
--

Goldman waves to those she met at Chemical Wedding, and meets a few interested others.

Montesquieu leans in and speaks softly. “It’s not a question of unwillingness. They simply cannot find common ground, and nobody wishes to yield. It’s a tremendously unfortunate situation but one with potential for the person who can navigate it.” He turns to the group.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Goldman, a member in good standing of our order in Seattle…” – his voice goes quiet – “about which you will hear more tonight…and, I believe, a valuable ally in our quest to hold this city together.”

The other Ladders are introduced to Goldman. A weather-beaten Native woman in a simple woolen dress with silver jewelry inclines her head slightly, though her voice is not unpleasant. “Tia,” she says. “A pleasure to meet you. I hear you’re with the Searchers. They’re a good crowd.”
Next up is a tall, older man with a narrow face in an immaculate Saville Row suit. He bows. "Volcker. You come highly recommended by my partner.” He indicates Montesquieu with a nod of his head.
A bearded man in his early forties offers Goldman his hand. “Cornish,” he says, beaming widely.
Lastly, there is a young Asian woman. “Nisei,” she says. “Hey, has anyone seen Outis? He told me he’d be here.”

Goldman greets them all warmly.

Cornish shakes his head. “I never see hide or fucking hair of that guy.”

(Goldman) She makes small talk for a few minutes, but says nothing of consequence.
--

Aurelia has been making small talk with the library set. They all know about Seattle already.

Huygens looks at Aurelia enviously. “Your cabal has been in on all the most interesting things recently. I am jealous!”

Aurelia shrugs “You were confirming and stacking incoming artifacts for half the week yourself Huygens. If it weren’t for the immigration issues we’d have had you in Seattle with the rest of us. This isn’t about my Cabal, it’s about all of us.”

Huygens smiles shyly. “Thank you, Aurelia. That is very…kind of you to think of the work we have done.”

Aurelia pats him on the hand. “We all did, Huygens. We’re all in this together, right guys?”

He looks downward, smiling. “Ja. Yes. Thank you. Ah, may I say,” gaze still averted, “that is a very much pretty dress you have worn tonight.”

(Aurelia) “Why thank you! Elithora helped me pick it out. Isn’t she the best?”
--

Jude approaches Elithora. “Elithora!”

Eli’s smile is dabbed with honey. “Jude, my persimmon.”

He smiles, then leans in to speak quietly. “Minerva is over the moon and has been all week. The map. I have to confess, I’d given up on all that business long ago.”

(Elithora) “Just a mundane appetizer. The original is so responsive. We glimpsed it so clearly.” Her eyes scan the crowd. “We’ll pluck the real canary from the cats quicker than a whisker’s twitch.”

Jude looks concerned. “I… I’m glad, but please be careful. For your sake, and for Aurelia’s. She has some things she needs to address, but she’s a good child.”
He continues. “I’m also somewhat worried about Minerva. This map seems to have emboldened her. I worry she might make…rash choices in the heat of discovery…”

Eli nods, her voice hardening slightly. “Don’t fret. We’ll get what we need with all due expedience. They’ll never touch the city.” Her eyes slide back to Jude and study him. “Never.”

Jude meets your gaze and nods appraisingly. “That’s new. There’s steel in there. And here I’d been told you were ‘reliable but unambitious, a perfect functionary.’ What’s changed?” His eyes are suddenly piercing.

Elithora matches his gaze. “They only get to almost kill me once. I want this city. Minerva wants this city. You know she was there when they dunked me into the Mysterium, right? So I’ll let up when she tells me. And right now the Mysterium finds this an acceptable level of risk.” (5 success presence roll)

Jude’s eyes widen. “I seem to have been misinformed. You’re going to go places. And now, I have to confess, I’m curious to follow.”

Elithora’s eyes slink back to the bar. “We’ll need sturdy and diligent types once Sanguenay is open. The Mysterium’s triumph is closer than you think, my sweet.” Eli pats his shoulder and melts through the crowd with inky purpose, leaving behind the smoldering scent of a forest fire.

Jude frowns and peers into his drink. He knows what burgeoning obsession looks like.
--

Blackjack wanders away from Janis and seeks out Minerva in the crowd.

You can’t find Minerva anywhere. People are saying the last time they saw her was heading into the back room with a couple of other Councilors.

Blackjack just wanders around then, admiring the view. Noting with a bit of envy that it is slightly better then his place.
-

Goldman makes an excuse and moves as if to continue circling, but returns after a moment and asks to borrow Montesquieu.

As she approaches the group, a young brunette woman with a businesslike manner is talking to Volcker, then looks at you interestedly. “Oh! Hey! Goldman.” She steps forward. “I’m Quant..”

Volcker nods. “Just so. I thought you ladies might enjoy the opportunity to…network. We’re all of us responsible for keeping the Consilium’s books in order.

Goldman clasps Quant’s hand in hers. “Of course, so good to meet you. I guess you’ve heard about my… situation?”

Quant nods. “I have. It’s awful. But…I don’t know how much this helps, but a lot of us are also…transplants. If you need any advice, help with anything, I mean, let me know.” She leans closer. “Some of the natives kind of resent the newcomers. We need to stick together.”
Her accent suggests the northeastern US, with a bit of a burr.

(Goldman) “Hah, I’m being a bit circumspect, I guess. I need a job. Something that pays as well as I’m used to. Things are happening, and I need all the resources I can get.”

Quant looks at you, smiling. “Oh, that’s not a problem! I’ll talk to Volcker. He sorts people out with jobs all the time, but someone with your skill set… it won’t be a problem.”

Goldman sighs. “I can’t tell you how nice it is to hear that. One thing to cross off the list. But I’ve got a few rounds to make… can I call you next week?”
--

A GONG SOUNDS.

Volcker steps forward and clears his throat. “Welcome, friends, brothers, colleagues and comrades. The council is about to begin. Ah, Big Dave, if you’ll help me move this table…” The bulky native moves from the crowd, wearing a turtleneck sweater over dark khaki pants, and pushes a banquet table around to form an ersatz council bench.
Janis hurries up, while from another room, Rattenbury and the others begin to file in.

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MrAnthropy

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