“I have to go. John’s about to show up,” Janie said.
“I thought you wanted me to watch?” Bella smirked.
“Well I didn’t know the mirror was going to be on a patio behind a bar. I’ll have to get through it without you.” She seemed uncomfortable. It was hard to make out her face behind her veil, but Bella could hear the tension in her voice.
“What’s wrong?” the witch asked, leaning toward the mirror.
Janie sighed. “I was going to see if I could get Tonya to help me again but its her night off. She’s out somewhere. It’s fine, I’ll figure it out.”
“I’ll help,” Bella shrugged.
“What about the mirror?” Janie asked. “I thought we were keeping it a secret?”
“Tell him it’s a window into the next alcove,” Bella shrugged. “We can angle the mirror so that it only shows the wall here behind me.”
Janie was skeptical. “What about the noise? It’s not exactly quiet over there. The music and all the people laughing-” Bella cut her off.
“Sound just like the background at Mary’s?” the witch laughed. “Seriously, if this guy is paying attention to the background noise, you don’t have his attention well enough.”
“Someone want tae clue me in tae what’s goin’ on?” Captain Vex asked.
“Janie has a client. She wanted me to watch her session. Now I’m thinking I might be part of it.” Bella explained.
“Oh, fun,” Belita leaned in, giving Janie a lecherous grin.
“You two are impossible,” Janie huffed. “Aren’t you out in public? You had me aimed t the street earlier, isn’t it… right there?”
“Ye haven’t gotten a good look at this festival. It’s lewd as anythin’,” Belita grinned.
“There’s people running around wearing nothing but bodypaint. A group of people came by earlier with puppets on sticks. What the puppets were doing would have scandalized you,” Bella grinned.
“I just don’t know if I like the idea of any of this being watched by the public,” Janie said.
“There’s rain curtains,” Belita said as she got up to untie the gauzy curtains and pull them closed. They had little grommets on the corners that let them attach to nails on the railing.
“I can’t believe you want to do this,” Janie huffed.
Bella laughed. “Sounds like the easiest job I’ve ever had.”
“We,” Captain Vex said. “We want tae do this.”
“What? You too?” Janie shook her head. “Why?”
“Ye’re not the only one who gets a thrill outtae being watched, lass,” Captain Vex grinned.
Janie rolled her eyes. “Fine. Here’s what I want then. You two pretend you can’t see us or hear us.”
“Oh, very interesting,” Bella smiled slyly.
“If it gets out of hand I’m blowing out the candles,” Janie warned.
“I’m going tae need another drink!” Captain Vex said, getting up from her chair and collecting her cup, and Bella’s.
“You know you don’t have to do this at all, right? You can still tell him to shove off,” Bella liked pushing Janie’s boundaries, but she wanted to make sure she wasn’t going too far.
“I know. Thank you. I think having an audience will help keep me in character,” Janie said, her bright red lips curling upward behind her veil.
Janie hung a cloth over the mirror and took a few moments to set up the room to her liking. Walking out into the Lounge at Mary’s felt like she was stepping into another world. She’d been watching through the mirror for long enough that the bar in Barcola felt like where she’d been, not here in Prince’s Cove.
Caine caught her eye. He nodded to the end of the bar where John sat speaking with Ruby the bartender. She gave him a nod of thanks and took a deep breath. Posture was the most important part of Sister Evangelina. She straightened, walking high and proud. As long as she felt like she was as tall as she could be it was easy to hold onto Evangelina’s aloof arrogance. She glided up behind John and cleared her throat.
John turned and nearly spilled his drink. “Sister, I-”
“Come with me,” she ordered. She did not wait to see if he obeyed. She turned away and walked back to Bella’s alcove on gliding steps.
When John crossed the threshold she closed the curtain with a snap. “Take off your shirt,” she ordered. He did, then dropped it on the floor.
“What are we, heathens? There is a coat hook on the wall. Use it,” Evangelina glared. John picked up his shirt and hung it, feeling a bit anxious but still excited.
Sister Evangelina pointed to a chair near the wall. It was sturdy and wooden with an upholstered cushion and a narrow back support across the top. Behind it was a strange oval window. “Sit.”
“The other way. Straddle it. Face the wall,” Sister Evangelina demanded as though she were speaking to a fool. John stood up and turned around. His brows furrowed as he got a good look at the enchanted mirror for the first time. To him it looked like a strange window. He could see a woman with rich, dark curls lounging against the wooden wall sipping her drink.
“Sit on your hands,” Evangelina ordered. John did as he was told, adjusting a bit for comfort. Sister Evangelina paced in front of him. His eyes flicked from the window to her stern, veiled face as she blocked his view. She raised one heeled foot and planted it on the chair seat a finger-width from his groin. His eyes went wider. “You may not move. You may not touch me, or yourself. You will keep your eyes forward at all times. If you do not wish to follow these rules you may leave whenever you wish. Do you understand?”
John nodded. Sister Evangelina paced around behind him again letting him focus on the strange window and the pretty dark haired woman on the other side.
“What’s this? Isn’t that the fortune teller? I thought she was gone?” John said.
“She clearly is not,” Sister Evangelina said haughtily. “She is right next door. This window was installed by her to keep a watchful eye on her apprentice. It is ensorcelled with witchcraft so that it cannot be seen from the other side. She does not know we are here.”
Bella toyed with the hem of her blouse and idly adjusted her breasts to they were more comfortable and more prominent. She stared off into the distance, watching something John couldn’t see. His eyes went a bit wider. He swallowed. “Should we be watching this?”
“No,” Sister Evangelina said simply. “Do you wish to stop watching?”
John made no move to leave. “What is she doing?”
“Waiting for her lover,” Evangelina explained. Her hands came to rest on the back of the chair, her fingers just barely brushing John’s shoulders. The slight contact felt warmer than it should have. For some reason he was hyper aware of her touch.
A curvaceous blond stepped into view, putting a cup down in front of the fortune teller and leaning over. Their lips met. John’s pulse quickened. “Thanks for keepin’ my chair warm, gorgeous,” the blond drawled. She sounded like a seafarer from the northern islands. The brunette smiled and stood up, stepping to the side to let the blond sit down. As soon as she was settled she abruptly reached out, grabbed the fortune teller around the waist, and pulled. With a startled squeak the brunette plunked down into the blond woman’s lap. They kissed again.
“An honorable man would leave now,” Sister Evangelina said firmly. “This is not for your eyes.”
“I… I know,” John said. He sounded a bit short of breath.
“Why are you still here?” Sister Evangelina asked.
“They’re just so…” his voice trailed off.
“If they knew you were watching they would not be happy,” Sister Evangelina warned. One of the women on the other side of the window snorted and laughed, whispering something into her lover’s ear. They both laughed again.
“Why did you show me then?” John asked. The blond began undoing the buttons on the brunette’s vest with one hand as the brunette kissed the blond’s neck.
“To remind you that you are weak. That you deserve to be punished,” Sister Evangelina replied coldly. “The door is three paces away. You may leave.”
“I don’t want to,” John said hesitantly.
A slap rang out and a fraction of an instant later his back stung. His head snapped around to reveal Sister Evangelina holding a riding crop. She brought it to his face and pushed, turning his head around again. “Eyes front,” she said firmly.
“Why did you hit me?” John asked. The fortune teller’s vest hung open and the blond was gently squeezing her lover’s huge breasts through her peasant blouse.
“Because you deserve to be punished. You know what you are doing is wrong, yet you choose to do it anyway.” Sister Evangelina explained. She sounded terse, but sympathetic. “There must be a price for such immorality.”
The blond’s fingers pinched gently. The brunette gasped and bit her lip.
“If you choose to stay, you are choosing to accept the consequences,” Sister Evangelina said. John took a deep breath and nodded.
The blond hooked a finger in the fortune teller’s blouse and pulled down slowly. Inch by inch olive-toned cleavage came into view.
“You should look away, John,” Sister Evangelina whispered. She was close, her breath tickled his ear. John did not look away. The fortune teller’s massive breasts popped free of the blouse all at once and the riding crop cracked down on John’s back. He winced, but groaned a little in frustration, trying to adjust himself on the chair without letting his hands free from where he sat on them.
The blond’s hungry mouth latched onto one of the fortune teller’s rosey nipples making her mewl and whimper. She took a shuddering breath. So did John.
The blond lifted one of the brunette’s legs and put it on the table next to them. Then she lifted the other and propped it up on something John couldn’t see. The fortune teller’s legs were spread wide. Her multi-colored dress draped loosely across her thighs. John squirmed more in his chair. The blond ran her hand up the inside of the the fortune teller’s leg. It disappeared under the colorful skirt. A moment later the fortune teller’s back arched. She moaned again. Her hips began rolling as the blond’s hand worked beneath the skirts. She ran her hands into her lover’s hair, pulling the blond ponytail free and taking a double handful of golden locks.
The blond switched nipples again and did something with her hand that made the fortune teller shudder. “Oh good gods, yes,” the fortune teller growled throaty and low. “Keep doing that.”
The sting of the crop rang out on John’s back again. He winced, but kept watching. He’d accepted his punishment and was no longer fighting, nor even speaking as he stared through the strange window. In that moment, Janie came to a decision. She hit him again, harder. He winced but continued to watch the fortune teller build towards orgasm.
“They are beautiful, aren’t they?” Sister Evangelina asked, whispering into John’s ear. His loins quivered at her voice. He was already painfully hard, and just squirming in his seat was enough to build him up. Everything seemed amplified.
“Yes,” he and the brunette said at the same time. She arched her back hard and shuddered again, an orgasm rolling through her. The blond worked her hand harder and faster, grinning with pride as she watched her lover squirm.
John’s hand came out from beneath him and rubbed the front of his crotch. He tried to hold back, but couldn’t. With a shuddering breath his own orgasm came. Sister Evengelina struck him twice more. Rather than ruining the sensation, somehow it made it sharper. John sheepishly tucked his hand beneath his thigh again.
“You failed the test, John. You failed in every possible way,” Sister Evangelina walked over to the mirror and pulled a cover across it. John could see the stern countenance of her beautiful face even through the veil.
“It just got to be too much, they were too…” he trailed off.
“You are a weak-willed man with no ethical foundation, and not even being corrected and punished is enough to right your path,” Sister Evangelina admonished.
John looked confused. “I know. That’s why I came to you. I like how you teach.”
He began to stand up. The riding crop pushed down on his shoulder keeping him in the chair. “I did not tell you that you could move.” He relaxed back into the chair. “Is the lesson what the instructor teaches, or what the student learns?” Sister Evangelina asked sharply.
“I don’t know. Probably what is learned?” John replied.
“Then there is no lesson at all, for you have learned nothing,” Evangelina snapped. “Did you enjoy this session more or less than the last one?”
“More,” John admitted. Semen was soaking through the front of his pants and he was starting to feel uncomfortable. This wasn’t what he thought he was paying for.
“Why?” Evangelina asked.
“Because they were sexy,” John shrugged. “I liked watching.”
“You saw less. My Acolyte Tonya showed you a great deal more,” Evangelina pointed out.
“Yeah, but…” John trailed off.
“You liked that they did not know you were there?” Evangelina asked.
“And that is where you failed this test. Tonya was willing. You had her express permission to watch her,” Evangelina said bitterly. “That was the lesson you refused to learn. You were told expressly that you could leave at any time, reminded that you were intruding on a private moment, and punished for your transgression. Then, on top of it all, you broke one of my own rules. You stopped sitting on your hands.”
“It was all just too good. Too much. I…” John was starting to look upset and angry.
“Leave. Think on tonight and choose differently in the future,” Evangelina said. She sounded sad to him.
He stood up. “This isn’t what I wanted. I’m not paying for this,” he was angry now.
“I have not asked for your money, nor do I want it,” Sister Evangelina said firmly.
John looked like he was about to take a step towards her. She raised one eyebrow in challenging defiance. “I liked you,” he said bitterly.
“Make yourself worthy of me and perhaps one day I will like you as well,” Sister Evangelina replied, unmoved and unmoving. “Now go.”
John left through the curtain in a huff.
Janie waited, counting to ten slowly before finally letting out a long breath of air and relaxing. Her whole carriage changed. Her hands were shaking slightly. That had not gone the way she wanted it to. She turned and pulled the cover back off the mirror. Bella and Belita had made themselves presentable again and were looking at her with concern.
“Caught most o’ that,’ Belita said. “It dinnae sound good.”
“No. Things definitely got out of hand. I… I don’t know what I was thinking,’ Janie said. “I knew I wanted to try to get him to make an ethical choice, but I had no plan for what I would do if he refused. It just didn’t occur to me that a person would do that.”
Bella laughed, the stopped herself. “Sorry. I shouldn't laugh. It’s just… Janie, you’re wonderful, but for all your insights into the truth and people’s motivations, you’re a bit naive about human nature.”
“Ye want tae see the best in everyone,” the Captain nodded, agreeing with Bella but also understanding Janie’s plight a bit better. She nudged her cabin girl. “Unlike this one, who’s suspicious o’ th’ worst right away, an’ waits to see who proves her wrong.”
“Is it that obvious?” Bella said.
“I dinnae have Janie’s insight, but I’ve met plenty o’ sailors tha’ have that same outlook. There’s a few of ‘em on my ship right now,” Captain Vex shrugged. “It don’t make ye bad, just hard tae get close with.”
Bella nodded, but changed the subject back to Janie. “Are you alright?”
“Yes.” Janie said, then changed her mind. “No? I’m not sure yet. Sorry to put you both in that situation. It wasn’t what I thought it was going to be. I think I bit off more than I could chew.”
“Happens tae everyone from time tae time. Best ye can do is chew slow, but keep chewin’.” Belita smiled.
“I don’t know, I think I’ve had my fill of that particular meal for a while. Sister Evangelina is retiring as of now,” Janie said. “I’ll still use her as a disguise, but I won’t be taking any more clients.”
“I know I encouraged you, but I was surprised you wanted to in the first place,” Bella said with a sympathetic smile.
Janie shook her head, still feeling a bit overwhelmed. “I wanted to see if I could. There’s been so many changes lately that I no longer knew where my limits and boundaries were. I suppose now I do.”
“Sister Evangelina seems to specialize in setting and testing boundaries,” Bella teased.
“That’s true,” Janie smiled. “So what now?”
“Well, my cabin girl owes me an orgasm,” Captain Vex said conversationally. “Want to watch?”
Janie’s eyes lit up. She felt like she needed a distraction. This sounded perfect. She nodded with slightly shy enthusiasm.
Captain Vex adjusted in her seat and spread her strong legs, propping one heeled boot on the table. Bella’s delicate fingers undid the laces of Captain Vex’s breeches and slid beneath her beltline. The Captain smiled like a cat with feathers in it’s mouth and gave Janie a slow wink.
Will needed to take care of his bleeding hand, but he didn’t want to lose his companions, so he walked towards the merchant Lace had gone to. She was next in line when he arrived.
“I need to find a doctor.” he said without preamble as she handed her cup to the merchant.
She glanced at him in surprise, and then spied his bloody hand. “Can’t leave you alone for five minutes.”
Will shrugged, holding his hand away from himself so he didn’t drip blood on his clothes. “Nope. Jack’s getting her face painted at the Traveler’s shrine. Can you tell her? I’m going to go ask where I can find someone who can tell me if this needs stitches.”
“Doctor Sam’s place is right over d’er,” the wine merchant said. His grasp of the mainland tongue was heavily accented, but pointing was a universal form of communication. Will followed the man’s gesture to see a large house right in the middle of the street they were on. “May be out, he, but dat’s where I’d be looking,” the wine seller said helpfully.
“Thanks,” Will said. Lace put an extra coin in the man’s hand as she paid him for her drink. Will started making his way through the crowd again. Lace caught up. “So what happened?”
“A kid tried to pick-pocket me. Cut my purse-strings. I slapped his hand and hit his knife. Didn’t lose my purse though,” Will was trying to make light of the situation, but he was annoyed that his night of revelry had turned into bleeding on the street.
“Bad luck,” Lace said, concerned.
“Always,” Will said bitterly.
“I’ll go let Jack know. We’ll probably be there a while. If your doctor isn’t here, come find us,” Lace said. Will nodded and she disappeared into the crowd.
The doctor’s house was the biggest one on the street. It was fairly new construction, built in a mostly Imperial style. It had two front doors at the top of a short flight of stone steps, separated by a wrought iron fence. A painted sign labeled the left door “Patients.” He walked up the stairs and knocked. No one answered. He went back down and around the iron fence to the other door and knocked on that one. No one answered. His curse was still humming in his head making him feel a bit like he was dreaming. Resigned to his bad luck he sighed and turned away just as the door opened.
“Yes,” a lilting, feminine voice asked. He turned around and saw a gorgeous woman in white with a skull painted on her face.
“Is the doctor in?” Will asked, still holding his hand off the porch. Blood was freely dripping. “I can pay.”
The woman’s eyes went wide as she saw the blood. “Can help you, I.”
“You’re the doctor?” Will asked. He was surprised. The woman before him was painted like a flower-decorated skeleton wearing white dress clothes. She only had one button keeping her impressive chest from being exposed. He wasn’t sure what he’d expected the doctor to look like, but this definitely wasn’t it.
“My grandfather is the doctor of the house, but a doctor, am I. Go to the other door.” The door in front of him shut. He shook his head and went back down the stairs and up the ones in front of the other door again. This entire night was becoming a bit silly. The patient door opened and the woman in white handed him a cloth. “Try not to drip on anything.” He wrapped his hand and followed her inside. They went through a small parlor that had been converted into a receiving room, and into an examination room.
“Sit there and look away please,” she said pointing to a chair next to the sink. “Need to change my coat.”
Will sat as instructed and turned his head. He was struck with a moment of ethical conflict as he realized that the examination room was full of reflectors and mirrors. There was even a polished steel table. He looked three different directions, and each time he could plainly see the attractive doctor’s back as she shucked off her dress coat. He was about to look at the floor, but did a double take. Rising out of the hem of her breeches were a pair of white serpentine tattoos that snaked up her back, over her shoulders and down her arms. He stared at the gorgeous woman’s slightly distorted image in the reflector, then caught himself as she pulled another coat off a hook on the wall, turning as she did and revealing a full and nicely rounded breast. He looked at the floor quickly and tried to ignore the sudden tightening of his pants.
After another few moments of rustling fabric the Doctor pulled a stool over and sat in front of the sink. She’d replaced her white dress jacket with a longer doctor’s smock. It was still white, but dingier and older, and obviously made for someone much larger than she was. It was closed with three buttons down the front and made her look a bit like a child trying on her father’s clothes. She rolled her sleeves up and then took the cloth away from his wound.
“I am Doctor Kalfou,” the attractive woman said.“What happened?”
“A kid tried to rob me. I kept my purse, but got myself a nice cut for my trouble,” Will answered.
“The street children are notorious thieves here. Most do not notice until they purses are gone,” the Doctor said, keeping up conversation as she lit a candle in front of a reflector and took a look at the wound.
“I should have let him keep it. It didn’t have much in it. Just some spending money. Probably less than your rates,” Will shrugged. The attractive doctor was leaning forward over the sink and from the angle Will could see right down the front of her oversized coat. Her dark breasts were flawless. Full and round and high on her chest. He looked away again. He could feel his curse making the room feel tilted. He couldn’t decide if this was bad luck or good.
“Not a fan of blood, you?” she asked, sounding somewhat amused as he turned away.
“Mmm, no. It makes me feel a bit woozy,” he lied.
“The cut is very clean. Deep too, but I think we can do without stitches if we treat it right. This will not take long.” The doctor replaced the cloth and had him hold the pressure on, then got up and started rifling through drawers and cabinets. Will watched her work. She clearly wasn’t familiar with where things were and she was muttering to herself about it in the Nivalese language. He knew enough to make out the word “papa” and a few curse words. When she was done she came back with a metal tin full of bandages, tools, and a two small earthenware jars.
“Friday!” a booming voice called from somewhere in the house. “Friday, where ya get off to, girl!?”
“I, me,” the doctor sighed, putting the tin of medical supplies into Will’s lap. “Stay put.”
She went to the rear door of the room and shouted into the hall. “In here, Papa! I have a patient!” She came back to the stool and started cleaning away the blood from the wound. When she was done she opened one of the jars and wiped a thick, golden resin that smelled of honey and citrus into the wound. It stung slightly, but the sensation quickly faded. She wiped away the excess and opened the other jar. This one had a dark paste. She dabbed it onto either side of the wound in small dots.
A tall, lanky man with dark skin, a gaunt face and broad shoulders came through the door. His outfit looked a lot like the doctor’s, but in black. He wore no shirt beneath his dress jacket, showing off the skeletal makeup painted on his skin. His face and head were cleanly shaved, but his eyebrows were streaked through with grey. He held a cane by the middle in one hand, a top hat sitting on it.
“Friday, ya need ta go,” the tall man said in a thick Nivalese accent. He gave Will a quick glance and then did a double take his grim face going quite a bit grimmer. “No Binding ‘ere, Friday! Not tonight! Told you, I-”
Doctor kalfou shifted, showing the tall man the wound she was dressing. “Does this look like a Binding to you?”
The tall man’s brows knitted. “Who is he?”
The Doctor gave will a glance and shrug. It occurred to him that he never did introduce himself. “Will Sterling,” he said. “I cut my hand.” Doctor Kalfou kept working. She had narrow strips of linen than was carefully dabbing it into the dots of goo. She kept it in place and it held, the dab of goo holding fast. Then she tugged the linen strip across to the next dab and attached it there, pulling the skin tightly closed. “Are you the doctor?” he asked, not sure of what else to say.
“Doctor Sam,” the tall man said introducing himself brusquely. “Ya want ta tell me why you’re Bound up tighter than a Inquisitor’s corset, Mista Will Stirling?”
“What?” Will asked.
“Don’t pretend ya don’ now,” the looming doctor said with a questioning glare. “Ya got a spell on ya! Strong! I can’t even see ya beneath it.”
“What?” the Doctor Kalfou said, sliding back from Will and looking back and forth between him and Doctor Sam.
“Friday, ya got ta go. Now.” His eyes made it clear that he wanted to say more but was being guarded in front of Will.
“As soon as I’m done here, I will. I don’t know where you want me to go though, the ship I found doesn’t leave until tomorrow morning,” Doctor Kalfou said, clearly exasperated.
“Uh, I don’t want to get in the middle of this, but what does all this have to do with my curse?” Will asked.
“You might want ta be makin’ yourself scarce as well Will Sterling,” Doctor Sam said. “The Magistrate be here tonight, and if ya think they just here ta put on skits and dole out charity, you’re a fool.”
“I saw them. They seemed like they were on pretty good behavior,” Will shrugged. Something was nagging at him now that this man was talking about the Magistrate.
“How strong?” Doctor Kalfou asked her grandfather, gesturing ambiently towards Will.
“Strong,” Doctor Sam emphasized. “Don’t know that I’ve ever seen stronger.”
“They’ll think he’s Loa,” Kalfou said grimly. The tall man nodded grimly. “And they’ll come right here,” she continued. The tall man nodded again, more deeply. “Merde,” she cursed. She quickly wrapped Will’s hand.
“What’s a Loa?” Will asked.
“A spirit. Strong magic. Like yours, but from inside.” Doctor Kalfou tapped her chest. Will’s eyes flicked down. She was moving quickly as she finished working on him. Interesting things were bouncing beneath her coat. Will looked up, trying to avoid distraction.
“You have to leave now, Will Sterling,” the tall man said.
“What? Alright. How much do I owe you?” Will asked, standing up.
“Nothing,” the two doctors said simultaneously.
A heavy knock echoed from the patient door.
“Merde!” Doctor Kalfou swore again.
“Go! Stall dem, I will.” the tall man said quietly.
“But what if they see you?” the Doctor asked.
“Friday, this ain’t tha’ first time I tangle wit Magistrate,” the tall man said. “They never catch I before.”
“How about I stall them?” Will asked. “You can both go.”
The pair looked at Will strangely. “You do not know we, why do this, you?” the tall man asked.
“They followed me here, right? They want me, they can have me. I’ve been through this with them before,” Will shrugged. “You helped me. No reason you should be punished for that.”
The pair looked at each other. Another knock pounded. A voice boomed from outside demanding entrance. Doctor Sam nodded. “A debt we owe you, Mista Will Sterling. Go.” He turned back out the way he came without another word.
Doctor Kalfou hesitated a moment, then impulsively leaned over and gave him a kiss on the cheek. “You don’t know why this is important, but it is. Thank you.”
“Seems like it was my fault anyway. Just bad luck I guess,” Will gave her a small shrug and picked up his cup. Doctor Kalfou followed her grandfather deeper into the house with a final glance behind her. Then she was gone. Will headed back to the door in the receiving room. The room felt like it was tilted. His curse was pulsing. It gave him an idea. He waited at the door for a moment and finished off his Sorrel wine, a small smile beginning to crawl across his face. Another heavy knock came. He yanked the door open. The man on the other side swung through air where the door was as his next knock missed.
“What?!” Will demanded, deliberately over-emphasizing and listing a bit. There was a Centurion standing there with a surprised, tense look on his face.
An actual, live Centurion. Will thought it was the same one he had seen earlier, but it was hard to tell. They wouldn’t have brought two centurions here, would they? The legendary warrior was actually shorter than Will thought a Centurion would be, but something about the armor, the red cape, and the plumed helm made him seem larger than life. He had a pair of short swords sheathed on one hip, and the stock of some kind of firearm over his shoulder. The gauntlet on his left arm was thicker and heavier than the simple leather glove he wore on his right.
“We’re here looking for-” the Centurion squinted at Will, suddenly seeming a bit confused. “You?”
“Look, I know I sholudn’t’a done it, but I was bleeding all over the damn place,” Will said holding up his bandaged hand. He squinted back blearily. “You don’t look like the watch. You in costume too?”
The eyes behind the golden helm blinked.“What? No, I am Hector, Magistrate Centurion, and I need you to-”
“An honest t’ god fuckin’ Centurion?” Will exclaimed with exaggerated exuberance, swatting the other man in his armored shoulder with his good hand. “Well damn! Good f’r you!” Then he shook his hand. “Ow. Tha’s real armor.”
He stumbled a bit, then caught himself on the railing. The Centurion helped right him. Will overcorrected and leaned on the armored man. “Sir, I-” the Centurion started, then turned away in disgust as the wine on Will’s breath hit him in the face. The Centurion scowled and began to speak again but Will held up a finger, cutting him off.
Will abruptly turned around and carefully closed the door, checking it to make sure it was locked. The Centurion realized too late what he was doing and lunged, but the door was closed.
Will let himself be roughly shouldered to the side into the railing. “What the hell, man?’
“What did you do that for?” the Centurion asked angrily.
“Well I didn’t want t’ leave th’ doctor’s door open! Someone might break in,” Will shrugged. Then he half-walked down the stairs, half-slid down the railing leaving the fuming centurion in the doorway.
“Was there anyone else in there with you?” the Centurion asked.
“Fuck, I hope not,” Will said.
“Why is that?” the Centurion demanded.
“B’cause I broke in!” Will said, then his eyes went wide. “I shuldn’ta said that.”
The Centurion had clearly had enough of Will’s antics. He grabbed him by the arm and hauled him though the exuberant crowd to a pair of Magistrate priestesses who were waiting across the street. One wore the white robes of the Order of the Chalice, the other wore the deep purple of the Order of the Hammer, both trimmed in gold. “Here. He’s not what we expected, but I think this is the one you saw. Bind him. I’m going to look around the house.” Then the warrior was gone.
The stern-faced women in purple untied a golden rope from around her waist. “Turn around.”
“Look, I dinn’t do nothin’ wrong,” Will said, putting his arms up and backing away. “Well, I mean, I guess I did, but it wasn’t bad bad, y’ know?”
“Turn around,” the priestess repeated.
“Do you ladies even have jursidc- jurisic- jurd- Are you even in charge here? How about we call the local Watch?” They tried to hem him in from either side, but he moved into the crowd a bit more. They tried to flank him.
He took off running.
The two priestesses gave chase. They ducked through the crowd, past revelers and elaborate floats and costumes. Will shouted for help and began drawing eyes, but mostly the crowd seemed amused. People pointed and laughed. The priestesses were surprisingly nimble and worked together to cut off easy directions to run. Will was forced to get creative. As he passed the Traveler’s stage and was about to be halted by the density of the crowd, he planted his hand and vaulted up onto it, interrupting the actress telling a story to the crowd. Her eyes went wide as Will rushed by and dropped off the other side.
People were starting to follow to keep their eyes on the action. The priestesses were getting angry. Will saw the Centurion’s armored head come out of an alley next to the house. As the warrior saw the chase Will caught his eyes for just long enough to see him scowl, and then Will ducked under the legs of a costumed stilt-walker. The performer shouted startled obscenities in Nivalese, but Will was gone. His three pursuers were closing. Will was starting to run out of breath. He hadn’t had to do much sprinting in the last few years, and while he hadn’t had nearly as much wine as he’d been pretending, two cups was still enough to make his stomach unhappy at the sudden exertion.
He didn’t really want to escape anyway. Mostly he just wanted to waste time and draw a crowd. So he made a show of being winded and doubled back into the crowd he’d just passed through. The priestess in purple seemed to come out of nowhere and reach for him, but he saw her in time to duck away between two amused people in evil looking skeleton costumes.
“Stop,” one of the priestesses said, her voice a whisper. Nine people near her suddenly locked up, including Will. A spike of instinctive panic went through him as his body stopped mid stride. His momentum continued though. He fell over hard, skidding to a stop on the ground. Three others fell too, but they hadn’t been running. The rest just stood there, shock in their paralyzed faces. The woman pounced, quickly roping his arms and pulling them back as the magic-induced seizure ended. The priestess in white and the Centurion quickly joined her.
“I didn’t do nothin’!” Will shouted. “Help!”
The crowd was paying attention by now. The noise had dimed quite a bit. Hundreds of faces were turned towards the commotion.
“What did he do?” Someone in the crowd asked the priestesses.
“That is none of your concern,” the Hammer priestess snapped, tying Will tighter.
“You don’t have any authority here,” someone else said.
“This man is not what he seems, he is dangerous,” the Chalice priestess said, trying to control the situation.
“They think I’m a Loa!” Will shouted. He didn’t know what the word meant, but he was betting some of the crowd did.
It was like he’d walked over everyone’s graves. The silence spread. The music nearby died. The crowd’s energy turned.
“Let him go,” someone said with calm hostility.
“You do not understand, he is not human,” the angrier priestess snapped. “He is in disguise! Revelate!”
A tension, like the air before a thunderstorm when the pressure finally dropped, rippled out from her voice. It felt like something inside him gently pushing against his heart. He began to glow. Head to toe, a latticework of golden energy wrapped him, like a net made out of slowly rippling strands of runic script. His eyes went wide as he realized what it was he was seeing. This was his curse. This priestess had made it visible somehow.
“Look!” the Chalice priestess pointed. “He isn’t like…” her words died on her lips as she stared into the crowd. Her expression changed from frustration to horror.
The crowd was glowing too.
It mostly seemed to be the body paint they wore, but a few of them were lit up with a glowing lattice of mystic energy. None were as tightly woven, intricate, or bright as Will’s, but the similarities were unmistakable.
Two things occurred to Will at the same time. One, these were not normal Magistrate priestesses. They were powerful. It made sense if they were traveling with a Centurion and hunting down… whatever Loa were. Two, the crowd didn’t seem surprised by any of this.
“You need to leave,” an older woman wearing glowing paint said firmly.
The pair of priestesses were clearly shocked by what they were seeing. The Chalice priestess held up a silver hoop and spoke. “Ward.” A ring formed around the pair, and around Will. The other pulled the rope that bound his arms. He resisted, but the rope felt like steel. It didn’t give. It didn’t even move. To him it was solid and stationary. The priestess could move the rope easily, but he couldn’t move it at all.
The crowd began to close in, but the pair of priestesses continued pulling him backwards toward the Magistrate stage. The Centurion whispered something under his breath and a field of energy expanded from his heavy left gauntlet. When the field stopped growing it looked like a Magistrate shield, a large rectangle with a curved face, but it was transparent save for it’s simmering edges. The Centurion backed up with the priestesses, keeping Will behind him.
A massive gout of fire suddenly erupted into the air, accompanied with a muffled crack. The crowd started and pulled back from the source of the flames revealing Jack holding her thick three-barreled gun in the air. Lace and Quinn flanked her. Jack leveled her weapon at the Centurion.
“Let him go.”
This story is protected by International Copyright Law, by the author, all rights reserved. If found posted anywhere other than vermect.ru
with this note attached, it has been posted without my permission.
<a href="//vermect.ru/stories/fantasy-scifi/-lost-at-sea-book-2-drifters-chapter-10.aspx"> Lost at Sea, book 2: Drifters, chapter 9 part 2 </a>