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Behind Closed Curtains



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Fri Jul 01, 2022 3:30 pm
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SilverNight says...



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If you’ve seen one of the Harbinger’s Society’s performances, you’d be lucky to realize that not all is as it seems. If you’re part of the company, their hidden side is no secret to you at all. The traveling troupe, which is a tightly knit community of actors, acrobats and other performers, has astounded audiences for years with their flamboyant and mysterious shows wherever they stop. Little do the people of Skadran, a nation ruled by a corrupt and absolute monarchy, know that this troupe has other reasons for being on the move.

The Harbinger’s Society is a drastically different troupe than expected, behind the deceptions and delusions they create by tricking their audience and surrounding them in mysteries. Backstage, the company has a secret agenda: spread the spark of rebellion through subtle messaging in their shows among those who come to see them, plan heists and missions against the government wherever they go, and never stay long enough to be caught. Their skills are not only for their career as theater and carnival performers, but for how they carry out their schemes. Agility, sleight of hand, trickery, and disguise help make the troupe a successful and talented crew.

Every actor, magician, knife thrower, juggler and tightrope walker of the company has to present a false self to the crowd to hide their true purpose. But after the last caper went dangerously close to failing, suspicions about the troupe’s involvement are rising as the Harbinger’s Society prepares for their next performance in the city of Ciosia. Will their mask fall, or will they remain behind the veil long enough to accomplish their next mission?

Hazel Calaeno ~ SilverNight
Sonith Noaem ~ winterwolf0100
Amets Valharice and Thana Krismenor ~ AceassinOfTheMoon
Zylphia and Tavish Fraser ~ WeepingWisteria
Iliya Makrone ~ Spearmint
Threnody ~ Omni
Scillianna Sylvianna ~ HarryHardy
Silver is a chemical element with the symbol Ag (from the Latin argentum, "shiny" or "white") and atomic number 47.


okay but does this mean I have a melting point of 1763.2 °F



silver (she/her)
  





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Mon Jul 04, 2022 11:31 pm
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SilverNight says...



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The audience tended to get a little chatty before Hazel took the stage. The act before him had been one of their troupe's many improv shows, and their props had to be cleared out so that there was space for his own, which gave the viewers time to eagerly discuss what they'd seen earlier. Hazel watched from the wings as the stagehands moved everything into place, listening to the sounds of jumbled conversations. His job was to give them something new to talk about.

As soon as the last stagehand disappeared backstage, Hazel strode out with raised hands to take the center of the stage. With a flick of his wrist, he flung out a comet of purple flame, letting it shoot over the audience's heads. The chatter quickly subsided into gasps and excited whispers, as fingers pointed up at the trail of light. He let it change into a vibrant magenta, then a yellow that was so bright it was almost white, as he let it dance around the theater. He made sure to let it rise a few times so that the people in the balcony could see it too. Finally, he called it back to him, lowering his arms slowly so that they were still in front of him but now to his sides.

There were a million little last-minute checks he had to make before he could do anything. Was everything needed on stage? Did he have everything on him properly hidden? Were his assistants Viktor and Lydia behind him? Sometimes Hazel thought he must need eyes in the back of his head to make sure of everything.

"Welcome, dear witnesses," he said with a large grin, and cheers went up. Hazel waited several seconds for them to die down before continuing. "How has attending some of humanity's most talented performers tonight been for you?"

The cheers went up again, with a few people clapping as well.

"Wonderful, wonderful." Hazel paused, still smiling, and he could see them hanging on his every word. "Say, how would one of you like to be part of it?"

The crowd's excitement nearly boiled over as hands shot up. Hazel examined the audience, giving it some thought and letting it build up before he pointed.

"Seventh row, five seats to the right of center!" he called out. A man in his early twenties stood up, as the people around him congratulated him on his selection. He made his way up to the stage with a mixture of awkwardness and enthusiasm. Hazel held a gloved hand out for him to shake. "And what is your name, most honorable volunteer?"

"My name's Aymer."

Hazel's grin got wider. "Everyone, welcome Aymer to the stage! He's going to be most instrumental for this performance."

As shouts of encouragement rose up, Viktor pulled out a chair to place it right behind him and Lydia held out a coil of rope to show the audience.

"So, Aymer, what do you know about ropes and knots?" Hazel asked casually as he took a seat.

"I'm a sailor," Aymer said, with a little laughter. "I think that's an informative answer."

He'd struck gold. Hazel's expression was full of glee as he held his arm out to indicate the volunteer. "Looks like we have an expert on knots!" he exclaimed. "Let's see if I know them better."

Lydia smiled as she showed Aymer the rope, letting him grab it and verify it was sturdy and strong. He nodded to the audience to let them know it wasn’t easily breakable.

"Here's what we're going to do," Hazel said, leaning back and crossing his legs. "My assistants Viktor and Lydia are going to tie my hands up, as tight as they can. And then I'll be stuck in this chair for the rest of the performance until some kind soul thinks to cut me loose." There was laughter from the audience. "Just kidding. We'll see if I can get free, and then we'll do it again, raising the stakes a little further each time."

Hazel placed his hands on top of each other, lifting them up so Viktor could wrap the rope around them. Lydia pulled it tight and made a knot.

"Well, Aymer the sailor, how does this look for a knot?" He lifted his bound hands up.

Aymer stepped forward to yank at the rope and the knot, finding that nothing was loose and the knot was a real one. "It's a very good knot," he confirmed. "I'm concerned for your circulation."

"Are you making this hard for me, Lydia?" Hazel raised an eyebrow. "Trying to get back at me for something by making my work sloppy in front of an audience?"

Lydia patted him affectionately on the shoulder. "You ate the good breakfast pastries this morning and you know it."

"Ooh, breakfast! It's personal." The audience lost it. It was true that he'd eaten the jam-filled ones earlier that day, but the knot was no tighter or looser than any other performance. Lydia was doing things exactly as usual.

Viktor indicated for Aymer to step back so the audience wouldn't miss the trick. "Whenever you're ready, Hazel," he said, his usually stoic expression breaking into a small smirk.

Hazel grinned, raising his tied hands up to give them a better view— and he got out in one quick second, his hands moving so quickly it looked like he'd shook them off. Whistles and claps came from the crowd.

"So, that was pretty straightforward," he said, handing the rope back to Viktor, "and probably not especially impressive." He looked to Aymer, who was already looking impressed. "Which is why we're going to do it again, but I won't be allowed to look at my hands."

Some thrilled murmurs spread throughout the audience as Viktor did the knot again. Hazel knew most magicians would stop there— they relied too much on their innate magic, and either didn't master the technique enough to do harder forms, or were in a hurry to move on to the tricks that used it. His act was standing out from the others already.

Lydia held up a blanket, then draped it over his tied hands once Aymer had checked it again. There was no deception here: Hazel truly couldn't see through it.

"This really isn't bad," he said off-handedly. "And I have a comfortable blanket now. Maybe I should just stay here for a bit."

As they laughed, Hazel lifted his hands in one smooth movement from underneath the blanket. The rope was already dangling from his fingertips.

"On the other hand, as Aymer said, it really would not be good for my circulation."

The cheers almost deafened him as he made a show of passing the rope back to Viktor. He had to hold up both hands and wait, smiling, for silence to return so he could speak again.

"I'm glad you enjoy that so far," he said, with a mischievous look. "But we've got a harder way of doing it."

He caught people leaning forward in their seats. So far, this was going excellently.

Lydia opened her hands to reveal a small mason jar that contained something glowing lime green. The smell of sulfur filled the air when she opened it, and Hazel heard a few gasps of recognition. "I'm sure you've all heard of Pixie's Fire," she said, her voice serious and low. "It spreads faster than any other flame, and is also far more dangerous."

"Viktor here has a bucket of water, so he'll put it out once I'm free," Hazel said. "If I can get free in time."

Viktor was trying to stifle a thin smile as he tied Hazel's hands a third time, now leaving a strand of the rope to dangle down like a fuse. "You better." There wasn't any worry in his voice.

Aymer, looking somewhat afraid, gave them all a shaky nod as he checked the rope again. The Pixie's Fire looked somewhat like Hazel's Spectrum, if he made it green, but the audience would know they weren't the same thing. It it was, the entire theater would've burned down when he'd gotten their attention.

Lydia held the open jar of Pixie's Fire just an inch below the end of the rope. Hazel didn't even hear whispers in the audience now. Only pure, apprehensive and thrilled silence as they all held their breath.

Then, she raised it to the rope so it would catch.

Hazel was standing on his chair and had thrown the untied rope in the bucket of water before the terrifyingly fast flame had spread up even a third of the way to his hands. If the cheers and applause had been loud for the second time, they filled the theater now, with the viewers getting to their feet, clapping and stomping their feet. He was grinning so hard it hurt.

"I'd love to try that again," he shouted over the noise. "But that rope is wet and considerably shorter now. We had better move on to cards."

Lydia put the Pixie's Fire away again and helped Viktor pull over a table and an extra chair for Aymer. Hazel sat down again and motioned for him to do the same.

"Are you familiar with the King?" he asked casually.

The sailor frowned a little. "The playing card?"

"Ah, Our King, actually." Aymer shook his head, and Hazel hummed as he took out a deck of cards. "I've had the honor of performing for him and Our Prince. In fact, we appreciate his patronage so deeply here that I have an deck full of nothing but kings!"

Hazel should have a second act for lying.

He passed it over to Aymer, who nodded to the audience to confirm that all the cards were identical in type, and then took it back.

"Allow me to explain how this will work," Hazel said with a smile as he set the cards face down in a pile in front of him. "It's almost a game of sorts. I'm going to pass these cards to you, one by one, and I'm going to try to replace them with different ones as I hand them over. I'll be choosing when I do that or when I simply hand you them. You won't be allowed to turn them over when you get them, but you are allowed to call me out on it if you notice I'm swapping." He turned towards the audience. "You all in the front seats too, keep me honest!" The crowd shouted in approval. "When all the cards are on your side, pass them back to me and we'll keep going until you've called it twice. Sounds good?"

Aymer nodded, looking more confident. "Got it. If I see something, I say something."

"Exactly." Hazel picked up the card on top. "Let's begin."

The audience was already attentive when they started with the first few cards, but as it kept going and Aymer didn't call it, he felt their eyes tracking him much more closely. His face remained calm and relaxed, while the volunteer was getting progressively more confused as his deck got larger and Hazel's smaller. He had to be wondering when Hazel would start replacing them.

When his pile was gone and Aymer pushed all the cards back across the table, Hazel clicked his tongue. "I take it you didn't see anything?"

Aymer shook his head, looking worried. "I didn't see you swap any."

"Maybe we'll stop here then." Hazel shot the audience a mischievous look. "Aymer, you can flip over the cards now and say how many are replaced. Don't worry, you know what they look like, so you'll be able to tell."

Aymer took his pile and skimmed through it. His eyes quickly went wide, and he set the deck down, looking back up at Hazel, who just nodded. The sailor showed each card to the audience, then set it down face up. The silence was almost absolute as the audience watched, slowly putting it all together.

"How many were replaced?" Hazel asked, when he was done.

"All of them," Aymer said, stunned. "All of them."

He held up one of them, letting the audience get a good look. All of the cards were kings, but there was a blatant difference between them and the original set. Each of the cards had a dark burn mark, like a match had been pressed to it, right over the king's face.

The crowd cheered again, and although it was just as enthusiatic and amazed as when he'd escaped the Pixie's Fire, Hazel noticed it had a different quality to it this time. They were cheering for an insult to their monarchs, whether they knew it or not— though he could hear some certainly did know it. At least they were cheering anyway. There weren't hidden guards bursting out of nowhere to seize him, so it was a win-win.

"Thank you, Aymer," he said with a flourish, getting up from his seat. Viktor pulled the table back while Lydia moved the chairs away. "Now, next—"

"Hazel," a voice snapped. He turned around to see Sylvar, one of the company's gun sharpshooters, step out of the wings. "You need to wrap up your act. It's gone overtime."

"Overtime?" Hazel mused, tilting his head to the side. "Hmm. I still have a couple things planned, though, so I can't just leave. Besides, these people like me, don't they?" He gestured to the audience, which whistled and shouted in agreement.

"Get off the stage, Hazel," Sylvar growled. "We're all waiting for you."

Hazel spread his hands. "Come on, Sylvar. You've already had your fun today, so why don't you let me finish?"

"I'm serious. Pack up and move."

"Or?" Hazel waved his fingers dismissively.

The sharpshooter took his gun out swiftly, loading one bullet. The audience shouted— more in surprise than fear, but it was close. Aymer stumbled back a few steps with a yelp and went to hide behind Viktor.

"I thought you'd gotten over your anger issues?" Hazel brushed dust off his cloak and pinched the bridge of his nose. "Guess not."

"Don't make me shoot, Hazel." Sylvar raised the gun to be level with his face.

Hazel looked to Lydia and motioned slightly. She pushed a pane of glass that was sitting on wheels between the two of them and got out of the way. "I guess you'll have to, since this is my act."

He watched Sylvar clench his jaw and tighten his hands around the gun. Suddenly the glass barrier between them burst into shards with the impact of a single bullet. Broken pieces scattered on the stage floor, and cracks spread away from the hole, creating a spider's web of breakage.

Hazel collapsed.

He laid on the floor and waited a few moments, listening to the panicked shouts of the audience and the sound of a crowd in chaos, before he raised an arm.

"Wait!" Viktor shouted to the viewers, his voice somehow carrying over all the rest.

Hazel got on his knees, then his feet, adding a little bit of a stagger to it. He reached into one of his pockets, pulled out a handkerchief, and spat something into it, then lifted it up like it was a war trophy so the audience could see.

It was a bullet.

The people in the crowd were losing their minds, raising their fists in the same way he was. Sylvar widened his eyes and backed offstage. Hazel grinned at him. The audience had been so invested in the drama and apparent threat to his life that they hadn't even noticed the bullet catch trick being set up in the background. And they said magicians weren't an acting role.

Hazel tucked the bullet back in the same pocket he'd pulled it out of, when he'd brushed his coat, reached for his face after Sylvar had pulled out his gun, and had a chance to place it inside his cheek. "You don't mess with magicians!" he shouted to the audience with a grin, bowing with a flourish along with Lydia and Viktor, which made them cheer even louder. He stood there for a minute, arms raised above him, head tilted towards the ceiling. His Spectrum flashed around the room, this time as a brillant blue fireball. He could've stayed for forever— or at least until someone came along and delivered a real message that he needed to move.

Hazel turned back to Aymer, putting a hand on his shoulder. "Thanks for your help," he said, no longer using his announcement voice. "Here, you should take this for your troubles." He flicked something out of his coat's sleeve and into his palm, then set it in the sailor's hand. It was a small lighter.

Aymer stared down at it, then back up at him, clearly thinking about the king's burned face again. "But—"

Hazel smiled, a bit less playfully than the other times before. "Just remember," he said, as Aymer made his way off the stage and back to his seat, glancing over his shoulder in confusion. Raising his voice again, he waved a hand at the viewers. "Thank you!"

Hazel left their applause behind as he walked offstage with his attendants again. Sylvar was waiting in the wings. They both smiled and shook hands.

"Nice job," Hazel said approvingly. "Thank you for that, using a wax one and not actually shooting me."

Sylvar winked. "It's just good you always go after me for these. I hate looking like a jerk to them before I've performed."

Hazel laughed, nodding, then stepped away with a wave as he headed further backstage. Eventually he found a spot more secluded from all the other performers, and sat down on a wooden crate that was probably full of costumes. He flexed his fingers through the white gloves, stretching them out, before he took the loose cards out from a hidden pocket by his wrist. These ones would be the set he'd burn next time he performed, and he already had another exactly identical unburned set for that as the starter deck too. Even those would burn another time. It would happen over and over again.

Hazel hoped someone had noticed what he'd been trying to say. He hoped they would listen.

3049 words
Silver is a chemical element with the symbol Ag (from the Latin argentum, "shiny" or "white") and atomic number 47.


okay but does this mean I have a melting point of 1763.2 °F



silver (she/her)
  





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Fri Jul 08, 2022 1:14 am
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WeepingWisteria says...



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Zylphia was always calmest right before a performance.

The stage lights hit the equipment just right to make it sparkle, and the crowd hummed with enough excitement to power a city. The aerial performances were always popular, especially in the Harbinger Society, where everything was guaranteed to be incredible.

Tavish grinned, fixing his ponytail for the umpteenth time. "How are the silks looking, Shaylee?"

Shaylee stepped off her ladder. "Nice and sturdy. They're perfect for you, Zyl."

Zylphia smiled, signing a simple thank you, before readjusting her costume.

"Gosh, I wish I could do the silks like you. It's so amazing to watch." Tavish had too much muscle to do any good on the silks. He could climb them no problem, but he looked more like a fish caught in a net than a dancer. His strength made up for that on the high wire, but that didn't stop Tavish from raving.

What can I say? Zylphia shot him a conspiratorial grin. I'm just better than you.

"You're awful!" Tavish shoved her while she cackled.

Okay, okay. The curtain's going to open. See you on the other side.

He rolled his eyes. "See you on the other side." He went backstage, throwing one last salute behind him. The curtains rose, exposing Zylphia to the audience. Shaylee stepped forward. "Welcome everyone to the next performance of our wonderful show."

The crowd erupted in cheers, filling Zylphia with sudden electric energy. Gods, she loved the thrill of performing.

"Now the Harbinger Society proudly presents the Antigravity Twins, Zylphia and Tavish!"

If the crowd was loud before, they were ear-shattering now. It took all of Zylphia's might not to cover their ears and approach the two silks hanging from the ceiling.

"First up is Zylphia on the aerial silks!"

The orchestra started playing, masking most of the noise from the audience. Zylphia approached the end of the silks and pulled herself up, gently wrapping her legs around the silk, letting the music loosen her limbs and carry them.

To dance the silks was poetry. To weave herself throw them was music. The audience murmured as they effortlessly swung to the top, only the silk around Zylphia's ankle preventing her from falling as she wrapped it around her waist. And the audience gasped as she fell, the silk swirling around her as she spun back down in the centre.

Threnody was also a silk dancer, but not in the same way as Zylphia. Threnody was a storyteller, a dreamer.

And Zylphia was an angel, soaring above the audience with wings of silk, her only tale being the pure beauty of flight. They could live in the silk's embrace, falling and flying and thriving.

But they had another performance to prepare for, and Tavish deserved his time in the spotlight.

She ended her performance as she always did: falling. The silk spiralled around her like planets in orbit. The audience applauded as Zylphia stepped down, her face flushed and arms pleasantly burning. Then, they bowed, internally cringing as the crowd screamed.

Shaylee emerged from backstage, wearing her signature grin. "How was Zylphia tonight, folks?"

"Encore! Encore! Encore!"

Zylphia chuckled, shaking her head.

"I'm sorry, folks, but that's the end of Zylphia's solo performance! You'll see her again in the antigravity twins group performance!"

Zylphia grinned, waving one last time at the audience before walking off stage.

Tavish sat where he always did, his leg shaking in anticipation. "Zylphia! How'd it go?"

She smiled. The people loved me. Good look impressing them now.

"You'd be lost without me."

Zylphia shrugged. You can't prove that.

"Who would be your catcher?"

Your show is starting.

Tavish narrowed his eyes. "Yeah, I thought so. You need me."

Zylphia narrowed her eyes back, the two staring each other down. Tavish broke first, bursting into little giggles. Zylphia chuckled and shoved him. Do your trick before the crowd riots.

"I'm going; I'm going." Tavish ruffled Zylphia's hair and stepped onto the stage.

Image

Tavish always seemed to soak up the crowd's energy, his very bones vibrating with excitement and glee. His sibling was graceful, a work of art. Tavish was a performer. He took risks that border on absurd and lived for it.

And, if the crowd's screams had any indication, they did too.

"Now presenting, Tavish!"

Tavish waved, swishing his skirt and ponytail. "Hello, everyone! How's the night of your life going?"

The audience cheered, and Tavish grinned. "Good, good! How was my twin?" He put a hand beside his lips. "If she was bad, you could tell me," he stage-whispered, adding a wink.

The crowd laughed. "No? Well-" Tavish made a show of rolling his eyes. "-I guess I have to impress you myself."

He started climbing the ladder leading the high wire. "I must say, I was hoping she'd-" He tipped backwards, his head swinging so quickly he almost slammed into the ladder. Gasps filled the theatre until he slowed down enough to see. He hung upside down, his knees preventing him from falling to the floor. "-slip up."

A couple of people laughed, but they mostly sighed in relief. Tavish effortlessly righted himself and made it to the platform. "But don't worry, I have my talents." He grabbed his balancing pole. "This high wire is 25 feet in the air and 60 feet across. As you can see, I'm not attached to any ropes, and there's no net below me. And I'm going to cross from one platform to the next in thirty seconds. Can everyone in the audience help? I need everyone, and I mean everyone, to count down from thirty. Can you do that?"

The crowd shouted their approval. "Great! Let's begin." Tavish took a deep breath. "Three, two, one. Go!"

Tavish stepped onto the wire, white-hot electricity shooting up his spine. It wobbled, as it always did, but Tavish's feet knew precisely how to respond.

The audience dutifully followed his instructions. "Twenty-five! Twenty-four!"

Tavish continued, making sure to start slow. Out of the corner of his eyes, he could see members of the crowd lean forward in their seats.

"Twenty-three! Twenty-two!"

He kept taking his sweet time. If he made it halfway before the thirteen-second mark, the crowd would lose their suspense.

"Twenty-one! Twenty!"

Seven seconds to make it to the centre. Tavish smiled at the audience.

"Nineteen, eighteen."

He tilted to the left, taking the balance pole with him. His left foot left the bar, suspended over the void. He could hear most of the audience stutter with the count, but just enough kept it going not to mess up his time.

"Fifteen, fourteen."

He made it to the centre, now squarely focused on the end.

"He's not going to make it!"

With that, he grinned, a new zeal in his step. He picked up his speed, reaching the last quarter by the time the counters shouted, "ten!"

"Five! Four!"

Tavish was only a few steps away from the end.

"Three! Two!"

He fell forward, his hands grabbing the base of the platform.

"One!"

He flipped, his feet landing gracefully on the middle of the platform. He raised his arm in victory. The crowd went wild, their shouts echoing across the theatre and filling Tavish's entire being.

"Impressive, huh?"

The audience shouted their affirmation.

Tavish laughed, setting his balancing pole down. "Well, I have something better for you." He approached the high wire again and stretched, arms extended. "Are you ready?"

Without waiting for a response, he leaned down and grabbed the wire with his hands. He kicked his legs into the air, resting in a comfortable handstand. "Oh, wait! Can't forget this." He leaned his legs back down and grabbed the pole with his feet, hoisting it back into the air. "Now we can go!"

The crowd gasped as he started to cross the wire on his hands., the balancing pole balanced on the soles of his feet. This time, he didn't control his speed. If he hesitated too much, he'd be too sore to catch Zylphia during their group performance.

Besides, he didn't need to build up the suspense when he was walking on his hands on a high wire. All he needed to do was inch forward; his palms flat against the wire.

Soon enough, he walked onto the other platform, arms burning slightly. Finally, he righted himself, bowing to the audience.

The audience cheered. "Thank you! Thank you! Do you think you can handle one more?"

'Yes!"

Tavish grinned. "Okay, okay. But this is the last one."

The crowd protested. "Don't worry! Zylphia and I both have something planned for you." He walked backwards onto the high wire. "If you think we're good apart, just wait for us together." He took another step back, relishing the sounds of the crowd realizing what he was doing.

A few critics said that ending his performance by walking backwards was a bad idea. Walking on his hands was more entertaining. But those who said that didn't know what they were talking about.

Tavish ended his act with the most challenging performance. While walking on his hands was undoubtedly difficult, he could still look forward and focus on his endpoint. Walking backwards, he couldn't do that, which put his centre of gravity at risk.

The audience could tell when he struggled. That made acts exciting, not the flashes or glamour, but the fear of failure. That's why Tavish always started his performance by promising failure would hurt. The audience could put two and two together; they saw when the stakes were high.

Besides, walking backwards is how he opens the door to his famous exit.

He continued walking backwards, his legs shaking more than they had the entire night. Walking backwards made them feel slightly ill, but that wouldn't stop them.

They stepped onto the platform, finally feeling stable again. "Wait, I made it?" He made a show of looking behind him. "Huh. I never know when I'm going to make it across."

The crowd laughed. "Alright. Unfortunately, that means my performance is over."

Okay, time for his famous exit. He took one step forward. "Fortunately-" He launched into action, back-flipping off the platform, grabbing the rope embedded in the short fence, and swinging to the floor like a character out of an action-adventure movie. "-our performance will start shortly!" The crowd screamed, turning into a sea of clapping hands and pure anticipation. "I'll see you in just a few minutes. Hang tight, everyone." He tugged the rope with a wink and skipped off stage.

Zylphia sat on a chair, legs crossed and eyes closed. They opened them when Tavish walked up, a slight smile dancing on their lips. How did it go?

Tavish grinned, sitting on the floor beside them. "It went well! Everyone's excited about our group performance."

Did you go too far with the handstand?

Tavish shook his head. "Nope! I was careful."

Good because I will break your arm if you drop me.

"You say that every time!"

I mean it every time.

Tavish pouted. "You know I won't drop you."

Zylphia shrugged. Do I?

Tavish shoved her. "Shut up!" She only laughed, slapping his hands away." We're going to perform soon, and you're treating me like this! How?"

Because you try to make the crowd say I was bad every time you perform!

"That's irrelevant."

"Hey, you two!" Shaylee popped her head in. "You're going on in five."

They grinned at each other, ready to dazzle the crowd one more time.

Image

In three and a half minutes, Zylphia and Tavish were on stage again. The curtain was closed, but that did nothing to block the sounds of the crowd. Zylphia stretched, touching their palms to the floor. Zylphia and Tavish always started their group performance, the Flying Trapeze, on the platforms. Tavish sat on the edge of his platform, legs kicking in the air. Are you ready, Zyl?

Zylphia nodded. The people are ready. They're always impatient.

I can't blame them. I can barely wait. Everyone had a distinct signing style, and Zylphia made it a game to memorize them. Tavish signed quickly like the signs were bubbling to the surface of his skin. If he got excited, he would mix up the words, especially with finger-spelling. She smiled, pulling her knee to be level with her shoulder.

Shaylee clapped her hands from where she was setting up the net and held up one finger. One minute warning. Zylphia put their leg down. Let's take them home, Tavish.

The crowd clapped politely as the curtains rose. Zylphia leaned against the short fence and waved to the audience. Tavish, always the dramatic one, sat on the fence, blowing kisses to the audience. Zylphia rolled her eyes.

"We are back, everyone! Are you ready for our grand finale?" He flung his arms open, grinning at Zylphia.

She matched his energy, eyes sparkling in the light of the theatre. The audience cheered.

"You've seen Zylphia dance the silks. You've seen me challenge the wire. Now behold as we both rebel against gravity itself!" Tavish swung himself onto the catcher's bar, holding on to it with his knees.

The orchestra started playing, masking the murmuring of the crowd. Zylphia jumped, catching the flyer bar with her hands. They looped an ankle around the bar as they swung back and forth. As Tavish and Zylphia met in the middle, Zylphia let go of the bar, and Tavish grabbed her hands. It was a simple gazelle, a grabbing of the hands. But it was best to ease the audience into their world of feats.

Tavish swung back to where he had grabbed her initially, and she twisted in the air, catching the flyer's bar and landing gracefully on the platform.

The crowd clapped. Zylphia jumped again, grabbing the flyer's bar in the usual grip. But now, instead of waiting for her and Tavish to match, she waited until Tavish barely started swinging forward and then released. She flipped twice in the air, the world melting into blurry colours and muffled sounds until Tavish grabbed her wrists. They smiled at him before twisting back, grabbing the flyer's bar, and swinging back up to the platform.

Zylphia shook her head, the show's colours bleeding into her veins. All at once, they felt alive. She was no longer an angel, just a man challenging the world by existing. She jumped again, grabbing the bar once again. The same motion, the same action, the same challenge to God and the natural laws of her Earth.

The audience muttered to each other, taking wild guesses at how exactly they were going to top a double somersault, though very few called it by name. And despite their doubt, there was a way.

The double twisting double. Full in, full out.

Zylphia released the bar when Tavish started his ascent. She flipped once, ignoring the members that whispered their disappointment.

That was until she twisted in the air like a top, spiralling around herself in midair. Then, just when the audience gasped, she flipped again. And with one final flourish, she twisted again until Tavish caught her wrists. The audience screamed in delight, claps and stomps thundering around the theatre.

And just like that, it was over. Zylphia twisted back to the flyer's bar for the last time and landed on the platform. Tavish did his stable sitting suicide dismount, where he sat on the bar and leaned back, somersaulting once before landing on his back in the net.

The audience clapped as Zylphia climbed the ladder from her side and Tavish crawled out of the net.

"Thank you, everyone, and enjoy the rest of the show!"

The curtains fell as the two of them made their way off stage. Tavish groaned. "My arms are going to be so sore tomorrow."

Don't be the catcher after you do a handstand.

"And disappoint my loving fans? I could never!"

Zylphia rolled their eyes, playfully elbowing Tavish in the side. You wish you had loving fans.

"Why would I need to wish when I already have them. Didn't you hear everyone shouting my name?"

They were saying my name too, idiot.

"I never said they weren't! Now you're just twisting things." Tavish pouted as Zylphia just laughed.

You know I'm just messing with you.

Tavish's smile softened. "Yeah. Yeah, I know."

Zylphia and Tavish sat beside Hazel at the completed acts table, waiting for the show to end.

After all, it's when the curtains fall for the last time that they put on their proper performance.

2,779 Words
She/They/Fae

Just call me Wisteria.

You can find my projects here!

Used to be AlmostImmortal

I'm here, I'm queer, and I'm here for you if you need to talk. <3
  





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Fri Jul 08, 2022 3:55 am
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Spearmint says...



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"You got this, Seth! You and Syrei are going to be fabulous onstage." Iliya walked around backstage, encouraging her fellow actors as they prepared for the next skit. There was an excited energy in the air as everyone finished the last touches on their costumes and props.

Liya adjusted her crown of flowers and exchanged a smile with Pietro, who'd be playing her partner in the play. "You ready?"

"Always." He grinned and offered her a seat next to him, where they could watch the play through a crack in the curtains before their cue.

Soon enough, the lights dimmed and the audience hushed in anticipation. Liya watched eagerly as Seth and Syrei walked onstage with exaggerated steps.

Seth was dressed in robes of gold and silver, as well a hat with a two-foot-long feather that looked to be decorated with jewels. The feather bobbed ridiculously as he turned to Syrei, who was dressed more practically in a shirt and trousers. "Well now, Maverick, it appears that my business is thriving, nay, absolutely flourishing! All due to my genius in business, of course." He stroked a non-existant mustache vainly.

Syrei (as Maverick) nodded exaggeratedly and said, "I congratulate you and your genius, Osman." Then they turned to the audience and stage-whispered, "I say he's actually a fool and a scammer. He can barely tell right from left, yet he managed to sell elixirs of life to some poor saps and convince them that the elixirs would work in fifty years! Delayed effects, he said." Maverick shook their head disapprovingly at the audience, who laughed.

Osman continued as if nothing had happened. "You know, Maverick, I think it's time I set my sights on higher ventures." He adjusted the feather in his hat thoughtfully. "What do you think of... King Osman? Has a nice ring to it, eh?"

Maverick bowed obsequiously towards the merchant. "If you say so, Osman."

"Hm... no. Nuh-uh-uh, it's King Osman to you now, got it?"

"Alright, King Osman. And how do you plan to go about becoming king?"

"Eh, I'll just do what I always do to nobles and royalty. Throw some money at them and they'll do anything you want." Osman twirled his imaginary mustache again, then started dancing around the stage. "I can already imagine it... a crown and a throne, a palace to call home... Mountains of gold, a cup of wine to hold, and no one would be so bold as to ever call me old!" He gestured around the stage as if pointing out said throne and gold to the audience. "And of course, I would have oodles of power, as well cold noodles, and never have to face those dreaded potatoes."

Maverick interruped Osman's soliloquy with a side note to the audience. "Rumor has it that Osman-- scuze me, the supposed King Osman-- choked on a chunk of potato once. People say his face turned purple, and just for a second, he regretted all the sneaky deals and sales he'd made." Maverick shrugged exaggeratedly. "The regret sounds like a load of baloney to me, but there can be no denying that Osman despises potatoes."

Osman continued his dance around the stage, with Maverick occasionally making snide remarks about him to the audience. The actors also improvised some slapstick comedy, and Syrei pantomimed choking on the excessively opulent feather a few times. They had the audience in stitches by the end of their scene, and the applause was deafening as the actors exited the stage, though they promised they'd be back shortly.

Iliya flashed a smile at Seth and Syrei as they arrived backstage. The actors took a few swigs of water while the stagehands pushed some furniture on stage to provide a background for the next scene. And a couple minutes later, Seth and Syrei ran back onstage as promised, to the great excitement of the audience.

Osman jumped right into the scene, bribing a few nobles with gold coins that he pulled out from his costume's pockets and threw into the air. One actor pretended that his head had been injured by the gold and staggered backwards, cursing Osman the merchant, then collapsed on the ground. But Osman simply stared, put his hands up in a not-my-fault gesture, and motioned for Maverick and the other nobles to follow him to the other side of the stage, where a throne room had been set up. The audience snickered as the noble who'd gotten hit by the gold coin suddenly came back to life, furtively looked around, and started gathering up all the gold and stuffing it in his pockets and hat.

Meanwhile, the actor Magnus had been sitting on the throne, playing the role of King Ryannis. He looked at a scroll and nodded thoughtfully, making loud hmming sounds. It took Osman a few tries to get his attention.

"Ryannis!" Osman took off his hat and pointed it at the man on the throne, who dropped his scroll and leaned backwards, away from the feather. "You are no longer king."

"Hrumm. Hum hm. And who do you presume yourself to be?"

"The new king, of course." Osman plucked the crown off of Ryannis's head, then placed it on his own. He tried to fit his feathered hat on top of it, struggled for a few seconds, then gave up and tossed the hat away. It landed perfectly on Maverick's face, and Maverick took full advantage of the opportunity and made a show of choking on the feather. They finally pulled the hat off their face, shook it angrily, and stomped on it.

The other nobles looked on with raised eyebrows, but were distracted when Osman called out, "Take this man to the dungeons!" One of them started to protest, but Osman pulled out another handful of gold and brandished it in a half-bribing, half-threatening way. The noble shut up and helped the others pull Ryannis offstage.

With that taken care of, Osman ascended to the throne and reclined on it. He snapped his fingers. "Maverick, come here and write up some new decrees."

Maverick scrambled to Osman's side and pretended to look around frantically for a paper and quill. Finding none, they instead wrote in the air enthusiastically.

Osman adopted a haughty tone and said, "I decree that, henceforth, every citizen of this kingdom shall pay me six tenths, no, nine tenths of their earnings." He paused to snicker villainously, then continued, "And no one, anywhere, may eat potatoes! Not now, not ever. I do not want to see a single spud or tater for the rest of my life."

Maverick paused their air-writing and spoke to the audience in a knowing tone. "It's the choking incident again." There were quite a few snickers.

Osman continued with a list of increasingly ridiculous decrees, all of which Maverick made a show of writing in the air. In fact, Osman was still talking when the lights dimmed and the stagehands wheeled the throne off-stage.


"We're on," Iliya whispered. She and Pietro waited a few moments as the stagehands helped set up the next scene, and then they strolled onstage.

"Father is going to be so pleased with the weather tonight!" Iliya walked lightly and added a lilt into her voice. Her dress rustled elegantly as she moved across the stage.

Pietro nodded and said gracefully, "Our wedding is going to be perfect, Isabella, as befits a daughter of the king!"

Isabella smiled and was about to respond when the couple noticed a hubbub near the other side of the stage. "Valero... what do you suppose all that is about?"

They walked over to the actors gathered there, who were dressed as peasants. They were discussing something in low voices, with frowns on their faces.

"What's going on here? Is something troubling you all?"

A woman with a basket over her arm looked at the two and brightened. "Oh, it's the king's daughter and her soon-to-be husband!"

"Perhaps they can help." A farmer readjusted his grip on a pig that he was carrying. "The problem is, a merchant has taken over the palace and declared himself king."

"Osman, I think his name is. Anyways, he's been making these--" the woman gestured helplessly-- "ridiculous decrees! I say, how are we supposed to survive without potatoes?"

Valero frowned. "You say Osman has done all this? I knew a merchant by the name of Osman once... A slimy, foul character he was." He turned towards Iliya. "Isabella, I think it best we return to the palace immediately."

Isabella nodded and, after comforting some of the peasants, the couple hastened off-stage, though their footsteps were graceful as usual.

After a brief break, Iliya and Pietro returned to the stage, which was now decorated to appear as the throne room again. Two servants were at the end of the stage that was closest to them, and upon catching sight of the couple, they rushed over and started speaking over each other.

"Have you heard--"

"Osman is--"

"--must get rid of--"

"--such a good-for-nothing, avaricious lizard!"

"--put your father in the dungeon!"

"Hold on," Isabella exclaimed. "He put my father in the dungeon?"

Both servants nodded emphatically. "He's also done awful things like redecorating the throne room a garish shade of green, and making all those absurd decrees, and oh, the worst part is the food! He refuses to let anyone but himself eat cake, and he forbade the cook from making anything with potatoes, or tomatoes, or anything that ends in 'oes'!" They burst out sobbing, and Isabella and Valero exchanged concerned glances.

They looked beyond the servants at where Osman was reclining on the throne, which was, indeed, a blinding shade of green. He was surrounded by a few servants and guards.

"Osman!" Valero called out. "Stop this madness immediately!"

"Who's going to make me?" Osman smirked. Then he yelled, "More cake!" A servant timidly reached up and handed him a platter of vanilla cream cake. Osman stuffed a piece into his mouth and kept talking with his mouth full. "Admi ih, yrou cont do arythin abou me!"

Isabella wrinkled her brow in disgust. "Release my father and give up the throne, and he may show you mercy."

Osman scoffed and tossed a piece of cake at Isabella and Valero, who danced out of the way just in time. "Nonsense. I earned this position fair and square."

Maverick popped out from behind the throne and called out, "He really didn't."

"Hey, you're supposed to be on my side!" Osman tossed a scoop of frosting at Maverick.

Maverick put their hands up innocently and retreated behind the throne again. Isabella and Valero turned their attention back to Osman, who was now fanning himself with a large bunch of peacock feathers. Unfortunately, wisps of the feathers kept tickling his face, but he tried to maintain a somewhat dignified posture amidst his sneezing. One of the servants said "Bless you" each time, until a guard elbowed him to shut him up. Then the guard returned to sneakily inhaling a slice of cake.

Valero spend one more moment looking at the merchant, then shrugged and said to Isabella, "This fool isn't worth our time."

Isabella nodded. "It looks like he's hired a few guards, though. But perhaps they won't pose much of a problem, as they all seem to be stuffing their faces with cake..."

Osman suddenly bolted upright. "They're doing what?" He glared at the guards, who looked up guiltily. "No cake, I say! Not for you, mister, or you, miss, or any one of you!" He swatted the cake out of the guards' hands with his fan of feathers. Then he turned his glare to Isabella and Valero. "You've disturbed my peace enough, and it's going to be naptime for me soon. So scram, get out of here!"

Isabella and Valero exchanged a glance, then walked offstage.

After another short pause, during which the scene was set to a marketplace, Iliya and Pietro returned to the stage.

"So, Valero, do you think we ought to recruit some townspeople to aid us in recovering the palace from that impostor?"

"Indeed. I have a feeling they'll be more than willing to offer their help."

Isabella and Valero split up and started talking to various villagers who were in the marketplace. After a few moments, they had gathered a good-sized crowd of people, including the pig farmer from earlier, as well as multiple owners of produce stalls.

The crowd was energized with outrage at Osman's decrees and his utter lack of sensibility. Isabella and Valero had to spend a few moments getting them calm enough to hear what they said. Then Valero called out, "Are you ready to take back our throne?"

There was a resounding "Yes!" from the crowd. They seethed expectantly.

"Then gather whatever tools and weapons you have on you. We strike now!"

The crowd rushed offstage with a loud cry, brandishing vegetables, baskets, and other assorted food from the marketplace. Isabella and Valero rushed after them.


Only a couple seconds later, the crowd entered from the opposite side of the stage. Osman was back on the throne, alternately eating cake and calling out new decrees to Maverick.

"Chaaarge!" Valero called.

The townspeople pelted Osman and the guards with cabbages, fish heads, rotten peaches, and banana peels. One piece of fruit rolled over behind the throne, and Maverick quickly snatched it up. They said, "I've always wanted to do this!" and launched it at Osman's head.

Osman roared in outrage and said, "But I'm the king! You can't do this; I command you all to stop!" An orange beaned him in the nose. "I said stoop!" He waved his arms in front of his head, but his efforts to stop the barrage were fruitless.

The guards had long since surrendered (most of them in relief), and the servants had taken part in the chaos. Isabella called out, "You're the only one left, Osman. No one stands with you. Give up the crown."

"I refuse! I will never! I-- ahh!" Osman paled suddenly. Maverick had pulled out a potato from a pocket of their trousers.

"Well, as much fun as it has been to profit off your sales these past few years, I'm afraid you've gone too far." Maverick smiled wickedly as they brandished the potato at the merchant. 'Meet your doom, Osman."

And with that, Osman surrendered. All anyone could hear as he was carried off to the dungeons was the wailing of, "Not the potatoees!"


When the townspeople came back from the dungeons, they brought King Ryannis with them, who was strumming a lyre happily. "Hum, hum hum huuuuummm.... "

He stopped short when he caught sight of Isabella and Valero. "Ah! My daughter and her fiance! How are you, my dears?"

"Good, now that you're here, Father!" Isabella rushed over to him. "Were the dungeons terrible?"

"Hmm... hrummm.... Not really. I had the chance to brush up on my lyre-playing skills. Hm. Want to hear?" The king resumed strumming and humming.

Isabella smiled in relief and amusement. "Well then, it looks like you can have the throne back, Father." She tried to hand him the crown that they'd taken from Osman.

"Oh. Hmmm. No thank you, dear. You see, during my time in the dungeons, I reconnected with my inner self and found my true passion: playing the lyre!" The king smiled blissfully and strummed a loud chord. "Mmm. So now I've resolved to give up being king and devote myself fully to my music. Yes, sirree! Hm hmmm." He danced around aimlessly but happily with the lyre.

Valero looked at Isabella. "Isabella... then would you like the throne?"

"I would actually like to enjoy some freedom... I was thinking we could travel together around the world once we are wed, but we can't do that if I'm ruling a country."

"Then who..."

Maverick sidled over. "I have a suggestion. Why don't you let the people rule?" They gestured towards the townspeople, servants, and guards who were gathered in the room.

Valero frowned in confusion, but he walked over to the pig farmer and offered the crown to him. "Good sir, would you like to rule?"

"Oh, no, no. I have my pigs to tend to."

The next woman refused as well. "I couldn't deal with all that pressure."

A third person vehemently shook his head. "Well, I heard that kings can't eat potatoes, and I love potatoes, so I'm afraid I can't take the throne!"

Valero was about to respond when Maverick interrupted. "Ah, I didn't mean choosing one person to rule. I meant having everyone collectively rule. A democracy, yes?"

Isabella and Valero exchanged glances. "Well... I suppose we can try it." Isabella dismantled the crown into a frame and a handful of jewels, which the couple gave to various people in the crowd.

Once everyone had gathered expectantly into a circle, Isabella said, "So for our first decree... Shall we start by deciding to get rid of Osman's rules? All in favor, say aye."

The stage trembled with the resounding "Aye!" And so the vote was confirmed, the people cheered, and the actors left the stage.


A short while later, Isabella and Valero appeared again onstage, which was decorated to look like a garden at dusk. They proclaimed themselves newly married, and as the other actors streamed onstage, the orchestra began to play a lively tune. The actors paired up for the first dance. But when the music increased in tempo, they called out for the audience to join them in dancing.

The audience eagerly complied, and people hopped onstage and took part in the merriment. Ryannis performed a solo on his lyre at one point, and at another, Osman ran across stage being chased by a rolling potato. The audience burst into laughter.

Once everyone had had their fill of dancing, the actors joined hands, took a bow, and thanked the audience. Maverick was the last one left on stage. Just before they turned to leave, they turned serious and gazed up at the audience.

"Remember, there is power in every voice. Power to speak up against tyranny, injustice, and cruelty. Do me a favor and keep that in mind." And with that, they doffed an imaginary hat to the audience, and walked off stage.

After the usual after-performance routines and excitement, Iliya found herself sitting where she and Pietro had been earlier, hoping that the audience had gotten their message. The ending of their skit had been different than the usual king-being-reinstated one, but then again, the potatoes and the cake had been different as well. Would the audience understand? Would they remember? Well, she supposed only time would tell.

Iliya stood up and, feeling rather talkative, wandered over to a table where Hazel, Zylphia, and Tavish were sitting. She complimented them on their acts, then settled in to either converse with them or enjoy the rest of the show.

(3157 words)
mint, she/her =D
  





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Fri Jul 22, 2022 3:51 am
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winterwolf0100 says...



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Sonith Noaem stood quietly, arms crossed, dark brown eyes trained on the stage just visible through the curtain. He knew he shouldn't be watching the acts; the audience might catch a glimpse of him through the curtain before his act, and he needed to get prepared and focus. He watched anyway, his lithe, thin body poised against the railing neatly, like he'd been made for that exact position, warm sandy brown skin and black hair shaved close to his scalp. His eyes stayed focused on the figure on stage, her deep brown skin, her close-cut natural curly hair, the two snakes twirling and intertwining around her body and arms as she told loudly the story of the Serpent and the King. Lucia. Sonith swallowed subconsciously as he readjusted his body so the rail dug less into his sides.

"For the king, you see, was lonely," Lucia told, her voice soft yet echoing, every breath hushed as people strained to hear her. One of the snakes, named Adrastus in honor of their almighty king who no doubt slept happily with a sense of schadenfreude every night, slowly wound up Lucia's arm, extending his body high into the air with an arrogance that it seemed only a snake could capture. "And as he had been born from snakes and was a snake himself--"

Sonith loved the subtle metaphor. He doubted anyone in the audience would put it together-- but it gave him energy anyways. "He returned once more to the snakes," Lucia continued. "And in this, one sole witch saw an opportunity. She had seen the king abandon his people, caused the venomous destruction of his own kingdom-- and so she transformed herself into a snake, and she met him on the edge of civilization, the chasm between the land of chaos and the land of the living-- the chasm between humans and snakes. And she approached him slowly, extending herself into the air and twirling into a bow."

The second snake, called Harbi backstage, on Lucia curled up her other extended arm, twisting herself up into a straight line before spinning downward in a bow. Lucia walked slowly, and Sonith could tell she was feeding off the silence, allowing it to grow, as she moved to the bars set up for the act. Just two simple poles extending six feet into the air, with a pole connecting them in-between to resemble ground. Just stretching her arms, Lucia could reach both poles, and both snakes slithered off her arms and around their respective poles, twisting up onto the top pole and moving to each other.

Sonith moved to the side slightly so he could see the pole better. He would've rather been able to watch Lucia's face as she told the story, that slight smile that knew just a bit more than you did, but she turned in a different direction to face another part of the audience, and he couldn't see her anymore.

"And the king, in his foolishness, trusted the snake-- for even with his own deceitful nature, he failed to recognize it in another, because thus is the way of snakes. He cried out, 'My lady, most beautiful! I have returned to where I belong!' And she replied, 'I have seen the destruction you have wrought upon the mortal world-- your mission of chaos succeeded! Come forth, my king, and I'll help you cross the chasm!' For you see, this was the thing of the chasm-- in order to trust, you needed two. It mattered not your species or your form. To cross into the realm of chaos, the trust of another was needed, and without it, no matter how you strained, you could not cross if you tried." Lucia took in a deep breath, and the snakes behind her began to inch towards each other, twirling around the bars in spirals. The audience held their breath.

"'Come!' exclaimed the witch, 'I will extend myself across the void to you. You need only wrap around me and I will pull you across!' And the king, in his arrogance, believed the snake once again, for he could not fathom a snake turning upon another snake, even as he himself had turned upon his own humanity. And the two reached across the chasm, entwining their bodies together, swirling tightly-- until suddenly, the king found it hard to breathe. The witch circled him tighter and tighter, her tail barely wrapped around the edge of the cliff to keep herself steady, and the king cried out, 'Stop! You will suffocate me! Snake cannot turn against snake!'"

Behind Lucia, Harbi and Adrastus intertwined, and suddenly, in an act of dramatic suspense, Adrastus unwrapped his tail from the bar, plummeting towards the floor, held upwards only by Harbi, playing the witch. The audience gasped and cried out, as if instead of a six-foot drop, they were there at the chasm. Lucia raised her voice and arms to regain their attention. "And the witch--" Lucia yelled, "cried out in return, 'You are no human! And I am no snake!' And as the king shouted and pleaded for mercy, a terrible thing happened-- the witch's tail began to slip. 'Pull me up!' The king cried. 'Pull me up and I will pull you up too! If you do not, we will both die!'"

Harbi and Adrastus sunk closer to the floor as Harbi allowed herself to unwind slightly from around the bar. Sonith knew that snakes were completely different anatomically than humans, but he couldn't help but picture himself, dancer body extended, legs wrapped tightly around the tightrope, holding with his hands the king of his nation.

"But the witch was no fool," Lucia said, her voice eerily quiet. The audience hushed to hear what she had to say. "She knew that if she pulled the king up, he would leave her for dead, for that is what real snakes do. She had seen how he had betrayed his kingdom, and finally, in her greatest moment of fear, she summoned up the courage and she snarled in his face, 'Long live the king--'" Lucia paused for dramatic effect. "'--Dom.' And the witch let go of the cliff, and they plummetted into the chasm."

Screams erupted from the audience as Adrastus stretched as far as he could, barely grazing the floor, and Harbi let go. Though in actuality, Adrastus had enough leverage to wrap around her and catch her safely in her fall, they immediately both lay flat on the ground, as if they had actually fallen and died. Sonith watched in awe. Lucia being able to talk to animals lent itself perfectly to a cruelty-free animal act, but this went beyond that. It was pure talent. It was as if she had choreographed snakes like dancers-- and to think she had done it while blind.

Lucia dropped her arms to her sides. "And thus is the tale of the Serpent and the King-- or more accurately, the Serpent and the Witch." The lights shut off, leaving the stage in darkness.

Sonith squinted to make out the distant shadows of Harbi and Adrastus, who both began to glide along the floor on either side of Lucia's feet, letting her know which way to go. As she made her way backstage, Sonith walked towards her, his shyness leaping up inside his chest as he struggled to swallow it back. "You were amazing," he said quietly, "as always."

At the sound of his voice, Lucia smiled and turned towards him. "Thank you," she whispered, "but aren't you up next?"

Sonith stayed quiet for a moment, his eyes drifting towards one of the stagehands, who waved at him to hurry along. He didn't want to go on stage, not now. He wanted to stay quiet and calm, to stay back here and maybe talk to Lucia more, watch the next acts and stay his normal self.

"Son?" Lucia ask-whispered, her hand reaching out and brushing against his arm before she grabbed it. "Aren't you up next?"

He said softly, "Yes, I am."

"Do you have your mask? Your outfit?"

Sonith looked down at the loud colorful skin-tight shirt and tights, holding the plastic black mask in his hand. "Yeah, I have everything," he murmured.

"Your mischief?" She asked quietly, smiling a little. Harbri slowly circled up Lucia's leg to rest comfortably around her neck.

Sonith took in a slow breath. He played Arlecchino, the mischievous and cunning servant who always seemed to gracefully do everything wrong just to cause chaos. He was nimble on his feet, performed tricks like walking across glass, climbing the ladder of swords, laying on the bed of nails, all while trying to steal his master's woman away from him. Sonith wasn't ever scared of any of the acrobatic tricks; he was one of the most well-balanced people he knew, and he'd been doing it practically his entire life. He could roll out of a stumble in his sleep. And it wasn't that he didn't love Arlecchino. You couldn't play a character like that for so long without him becoming engrained within you somehow. He loved the freedom Arlecchino's bravery gave him, however stupid it was. He adored Arlecchino, and found it all too easy to slip into his mindset. But still-- the crowd gave him hesitation, and his mind was caught up on the act that had gone before him-- one he had seen hundreds of times, yet couldn't stop watching. Sonith looked over at the stagehand again, and sighed, knowing he didn't have a choice-- he needed to go.

"My master has taken away my mischief," he said, easing himself into the voice of the character. "I must bring chaos instead."

Lucia gave a small smile and squeezed his arm, before letting go. "Put on a good show. I'll be watching." Harbi raised her head and twisted around Lucia's face, brushing against her cheek, and Lucia pushed her away absent-mindedly. Adrastus twisted up her leg and around her arm before winding his way around her stomach. "Listening," she corrected. "You know what I mean."

Sonith gave a soft, slightly shy smile. "Yes, I do." He lifted the mask to his face and pulled it over his eyes, trying not to brush against or smudge the red eyeshadow on his eyelids. He turned and walked towards the stagehand, melding his body movements into the arrogant yet elegant walk of Arlecchino as he approached the curtain, being held open wide. Shaylee was already on stage, setting the scene for the actors and story to come and getting the audience engaged. The ladder of swords, the bed of nails, and the floor of glass had all been moved on-stage to various places, and Sonith made a mental note to figure out how to include each of them into the loosely improvised scene that was to come.

The crowd erupted into applause as Shaylee completed her speech, and Sonith took in a deep breath, before letting it out and flashing a big grin. Arlecchino skipped out onto the stage, cartwheeling forward and doing a forward-flip out of it to land in the middle of the stage. The audience cheered, children giggling with excitement, and behind his mask, Sonith's eyes glinted. He would give them a show. He would give her a show.
And when the day shifts to night,
The wild wolf calls to me,
And I am not afraid.
I fear the darkness far more than I fear his claws


~~~GENDERFLUID, ASEXUAL, OMNIROMANTIC~~~

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Fri Jul 22, 2022 5:24 am
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HarryHardy says...



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Scillianna bounced on the balls of her feet as she stood behind the metal door that was currently blocking the entrance to the stage. It had been sneakily pushed into place not five minutes ago, the signal for her to get ready. She could just about make out Valex, one of the three that played announcer for her, walking up to take his place. She did a couple of quick stretches to damp down the excitement simmering within her doing her best not to make too much noise and give her position away. Maybe she had one too many coffees today, she wasn't usually quite this restless.

"Greetings, I hope all our wonderful guests here have been enjoying the show thus far. It has been an excellent night." There was a pause and a roar from the crowd. Anna smiled. Valex certainly knew how to work up the crowd.

"Now, its about to get better," he said, pausing once again. This time he waited for the chatter among the crowd to die down a bit as the anticipation slowly spread among them people. "for it is time for..." There was yet another dramatic pause as everyone seemed to take a collective breath.

"ANNA THE GIANT," said Valex, honest to goodness screaming as he had to make himself heard over the roar of the crowd. Anna couldn't help the smile on her face at that. Seeing people excited for her performance was a thing she'd never get used to. "We have installed a specially designed metal vault door, strong enough for the king himself. We even have a few statues of His Majesty here to prove it." Anna smirked for an entirely different reason as she heard Valex go on about the very carefully calculated positions they'd set up a few statues of the royal family in and then go on about the special heat treating the door had undergone. It was a lot of jargon. Anyone that knew a bit about metalworking would scoff but it worked on nearly everyone else so Valex had never bothered to look up the proper places to use those terms.

Doing her best to tamp down her grin and set her face into a scowl Anna waited for her cue as Valex began his countdown.

"Anna, when you're ready in, five, four..."

Anna smiled one last time. That was her cue. Doing her best to trip herself so she stumbled into the metal, she surged forward scowl set in place. She closed her eyes for a second as her body met the door. It tore apart like a wet tissue right as Valex announced a "three".

She pretended to regain her balance as she quickly took in the atmosphere of the stage and sound of the crowd to get an indicator for how big it might be. In front of her Valex let out the most telegraphed scream a being could produce as he clutched his heart and pretended to get close to fainting.

She straightened out and presented a scowl to the crowd as Valex pretended to regain control of himself, flashing the tiniest of winks in Anna's direction as she did so.

"It seems our giant is a little eager today," said Valex, "nearly scared me right out of my skin. suppose..." He was cut off as a line of colored flames blow in sequence around Anna. She charged forward through them as the crowd laughed at the "mishap".

"And that is why we should remember to follow our cues and not drink too much mead," said Valex, dramatically as she gave Anna a disapproving look. Anna frowned harder at that, letting out a roar of her own that immediately silenced the crowd's laughter. She looked at Valex, face softening for a fraction of a second as she mouthed a sorry.

Giving the crowd a theatric sneer, she proceeded to then pick up Valex and carefully fling him towards a strategically hidden net to the right of the statues that had been erected. There'd be a little hatch down in there for him to slip off backstage too. Trying not to grimace at the thud of him landing, created by her third assistant Shayna down by the hatch Anna turned to the crowd, flexing her arms for effect as she let out one more roar.

If anyone in the crowd was still laughing or not paying attention, they were now all thoroughly terrified as they took in Anna. She stood there for a second, waiting for her final assistant Fred to come in to do the actual announcing. Poor Valex had drawn the short straw that morning.

Within a few seconds, she heard the footsteps indicating Fred was coming in. She turned, pretending to be snarling angrily at the new presence while her eyes surreptitiously asked if Valex was alright. Fred's very faint nod confirmed it and she went through with her roar of challenge.

"Please Milady, I mean no harm," he began, bowing to the effect of the crowd before he straightened and stood, making a big show of standing a few feet out of reach of Anna.

"I will be announcing for the evening our humble guest since our previous announcer is..." He was interrupted by another growl as a he raised his hands in surrender and fell to his knees. In a shakier voice he continued. "So I am your announcer for the evening and there was no one before me, absolutely not. We will now be starting with our first magnificent feat of strength for the day. The two hundred pound frisbee toss."

The crowd was the one that let out a roar this time as Fred got to his feet and gestured grandly to the massive metal disk set proudly on a table adorned with a red tablecloth. As the spotlight focused on that, Anna pretended to growl loudly and charge at it.

"Anna, no.." said Fred, panic lacing his voice.

Anna threw another growl in that direction as she picked up the metal ring with a large sneer plastered on her face. Just as they'd practiced countless times she slowly backed up, pretending to get used to the weight of the disk, which if she was being honest felt like it might as well have been an actual frisbee. Fred pretended to run into her path to stop her as he lined himself up perfectly with the statues from earlier.

Once he started a spluttered. "Anna you musn't.." Anna gave him a quick wink to know the frisbee was coming and threw her burden. The metal disk sailed over Fred and towards the statues. If the crowd had focused on Anna raising the disk like they were meant to, no one would even notice that Fred had already ducked long before the disk had even been thrown.

Instead as the audience followed the disk with their eyes it chopped the head off the king and queen statues with a satisfying thunk. Being turned away from the audience Anna didn't even try to hide her smirk at seeing those particular heads roll even if they were just paper and cardboard.

There was a dramatic gasp by Fred and the crowd all shrank back, as if they weren't sure to cheer for the feat of strength or be worried about ther monarch's being decapitated. Fred made sure to settle their confusion rather quickly as he proceeded to bend low and proclaim. "All Hail our mighty giant with the strength of twenty men!" Anna added a roar for effect and soon enough the crowd was roaring for her. She knew at least a few of them in there were roaring for the decapitation too. Wiping the rapidly developing smirk on her face in favor of a scowl, she turned to the crowd and did another round of flexing.

Fred scrambled towards another table, still not standing up as the spotlight switched to a pile of iron bars seated on the table.

"Milady, how about you take out your anger on these bars instead of poor ol' Fred?". He proceeded to do some good ol' fashioned groveling as Anna made a show of stomping towards the bars, making sure the stage was shaking with every step.

Once Anna was standing in front of it, Fred made a show of quickly slinking off the to the side. While he entertained the guests for a second with his antics Anna sized up the bars. She had been doing this for so long now but somehow before every performance there was that nervous tick that just had to strike.

She quickly positioned herself in full view of the audience. She let out roar number, she had completely lost count by now. Maybe she should add a few lines to this performance at some point. A few monosyllabic words at least. Growling and roaring also left her throat way too dry and scratchy by the end.

She lifted up the first bar. It was the smallest of the bunch and it might as well have been a toothpick. She didn't even have to pretend like it was barely an effort. One clench of her fist and it snapped like...well like a toothpick as the pieces hit the stage floor with a thump. She hoped Shayna had remembered to add the extra padding down there, holes on the stage floor were bad for the people who came after her.

Nudging aside the broken pieces discreetly with her fit so a pile didn't build up, Anna picked up the second one. This was a lot thicker although it was still not quite enough for her to actually feel its weight. It snapped much the same at the previous one although this time she did have to actually make her hands do something.

Then came the middle bar. This was the point where she couldn't snap them but just had to bend them. The bar was heavy enough that all three of her assistants would have had to work together to bring it here and even she could feel the slightest of strains on her. Once it had been bent until both ends were parallel, she tossed it carelessly to the side, well it would look that way at least. If she'd aimed right, it would be landing on another slightly more padded area of the stage.

The fourth and fifth bars were quick to join it, the bending getting less and less until the last one barely passed the 45 degree angle. She was improving though, she happily noted. She hadn't been able to bend that last one past the 45 before. Doing her best to damp the happy smile at that notion she let out one last row and did a half smirk half grimace combo. This was the part where she was supposed to drop the whole angry thing so she could get into her lists. Controlling her face carefully while doing those was a level of acting she was not capable of at the moment and she had to be able to be a little freer there.

Right on cue, Fred began to work the crowd. As he started describing how heavy the carriage she was about to lif was Anna moved towards the back of the stage so she could get some chalk on her hands to help with her grip. The broken iron door had been taken out by now and the backstage panels were being rolled aside to roll out the carriage she was going to be lifting. There was a whole crew of seven in charge of that and it looked like things were going on schedule and with no visible mishaps.

"And now our giant is going to do the incredibly carriage lift. It takes six fully grown horses to even pull it, but Anna here will lift it to the heavens all by herself," declared Fred as the crowd let out a whole series of ahhs and ooohs. Anna hoped some of those weren't boos. Seven people pulling out a carriage probably clued the people into the fact that six horses were only needed for the carriage to go fast, and two horses could probably pull it slowly.

The carriage crew took their positions on the sides to be there on the off chance that Anna couldn't complete it while Fred continued his overhyping. She kept telling him you should undersell it and overdeliver but he staunchly maintained that overselling it was a requirement in these events. Given he had a decade of experience over Anna she didn't argue, not that it stopped her from bringing it up every so often though.

Once her hands were fully white, she strode out to the stage, grimace smirk combo on full display as she took her place in front of the carriage. The poles that were meant to be attached to the horses were slightly higher on this particular carriage so she could reach it without having to bend down too far and they'd been brought a bit closer together. To an expert in carriages it would be obvious, to the general public, indistinguishable.

Taking a deep breath, Anna put her hands on the two poles and lifted up. This was her favorite part, as much as she loved crumbling large things with no resistance, an actual challenge for her muscles was always a lot more fun. With a grunt she didn't have to fake she slowly got it to shoulder height and as the crowd screamed along with her she raised it well above her head. With her height this meant all four wheels were at least slightly above the ground. She held it there, mentally counting the seconds, unable to stop the slightest hint of a smirk when she went past her previous record and she began to lower it slightly as the roar of the crowd became almost deafening.

She did her best to keep her focus on the carriage. Contrary to popular belief putting it down carefully without creating a gaping void in the stage was by far the hardest part compared to actually lifting the thing up. It went off without a hitch however as she lowered it down to waist height and let it fall the last half foot or so, the rubberized wheels bouncing slightly and keeping it from shattering on impact. She took a small bow as the carriage was slowly pulled away.

Fred was already working the crowd up to what would be last part of her act as he made a big show of going on about how in spirit of the "accidental" destruction of the statues of the king, her display of invulnerability would be done against a squadron of soldiers. It was a little trick Anna had come up with so that the few times she accidentally decapitated some royal figures within her act people left with a sense that it had been "punished" and didn't get too many ideas.

"Watch as these mere mortals attempt and fail to injure..." Anna tuned out the rest of Fred's ramble about how strong the very not metal swords were and focused on the pain that was about to come her way. She might have a bit more resistant to being cut than the normal person but she definitely still felt the pain of getting slapped by a heavy wooden sword.

Right on cue just as the backstage panels were restored four of her carriage pullers marched out with their mock swords painted to look like the real thing and wearing military looking costumes. If anyone looked closely it was like a knock off design of the actual royal military only with colors that were so garish and different to the actual one that most people would never look past them.

As the crowd cheered for Anna, the first of "soldiers" made their way to her and once she'd given the right signal slapped the first sword across one of her arms. As always it shattered like a vase, the man doing a surprised face as he pretended to fall over in shock. The rest of it played out like a well choreographed dance mostly because that was exactly what it was, although their rehearsals did not have shattering swords because their budget would not survive breaking quite that many of their swords.

Once all four of the "soldiers" were on the floor, the first one started to recover, this time pulling out the one and only real sword in the whole act. Anna stepped to the side and let the man proceed to run past her and right into one of the tables. Damping the grimace at her assistant's overenthusiastic roll, she would have to warn him not to oversell that, she proceeded to grab two of the 'soldiers' and marched closer to the pit that she'd dumped Valex into.

As she threw those soldiers, the third one ran at her from the back. The crowd gasped at the unfairness. A few people even gave a warning shout as she pretended to hear at the last minute. At her signal, she proceeded to grab the woman and fling her over her back. Of course her assistant was actually doing most of the work by jumping into her arms and using her as a springboard but no one was ever going to expect that.

Once those three were safely in their net, her fourth assistant took the cue to charge with his real sword. She grabbed it by the handle, the dulled blade doing nothing to her skin as the someone in the crowd screamed. One good kick later there were four soldier in a pit. She was going to have to apologize to Jeremiah. The pad he wore under his costume was very good at absorbing that kick but everytime she felt like she'd hit him just a tiny bit too hard.

Finally she did her final move, turning to the now wildly cheering crowd and bending the sword into a X shape as she promptly tossed it carelessly as well. If the point, which was the only sharpened part of the sword "accidentally" embedded itself in the king's heart she wasn't responsible for that. It would fall off in a few seconds anyway.

As the sword clattered to the floor, Fred did his final bit of announcing.

"Ahh the cowards' charge, reminds me of some other soldier's I know," he proclaimed as he went on about the attack that had happened from the back and finally get to the actual cue for Anna to leave. "And that will be it from our giant. I will take my leave before she decides she hasn't throw enough people for the day." The crowd chuckled as Anna stomped the ground. She gave a quick bow as she soaked in the applause, giving them on final roar and a little more flexing for good measure before she stomped off towards the door that had now been replaced.

As Fred made exaggerated sounds of relief right when she was at the door, she stomped the ground again. This time she was rewarded with the sword embedded in the statue clattering the floor. Satisfied she proceeded to walk right through this door as well separating it like tin foil as Fred complained to a once again laughing crowd about budget cuts.

Anna resisted until she was fully out of sight as she did a little jig of celebration. That had gone really well. Valex and Shayna were waiting for her right as she finished her little dance.

"Amazing job as always Anna," said Valex walking towards her.

"I nearly died laughing when you impaled the king," said Shayna, don't do that to a girl.

Anna smirked as she picked both of them up and engulfed them in one armed hugs. "Couldn't have done it without you two. Where's everyone else, I have to see poor Jeremiah."

"Oh he's fine," said Shayna muffled by her face being full of red hair. "That crew walked off to get a drink before they have to handle the lions for the act after the next one."

"Okay, if you say so," said Anna putting them down. She was then engulfed from behind by a laughing Fred.

"Oh we really stuck into them today Anna, your soldier plan was amazing, I didn't think it'd work so well," said Fred.

"Oh please, you're comments at the end was the only reason it worked," said Anna, pulling him into a quick hug as well.

"How about we declare that we're al amazing and go get something to eat together?" said Valex. "Or Anna here is not going to relent."

"You got that right," said Anna, giving them a challenging look.

"We surrender milady," said Shayna, with a wink as she then ran off. The rest of the crew ran off after her, laughter filling the soundproof walls behind the stage.
Stay Safe
The Prince of Darkness

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Sun Jul 24, 2022 1:03 am
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AceassinOfTheMoon says...



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Thana always wished they could perform closer to the beginning of the show, before anyone else was on stage, so that she could inspect it before their act and know that nothing would change by the time it was their turn to perform. Especially after Anna's performances- she loved the strongwoman to death, but tossing heavy stuff around could easily put slight dents in the floor if she wasn't careful enough, and if Thana and Amets didn't see those imaginary slight dents in time, their entire routine could be thrown off. That wasn't super important to this particular act, but it still made her worry.

In their business, you were perfect or you were dead.

She flipped one of her knives around in her hand, testing the weight and speed at which the weapon spun before landing with a satisfying thunk back in her palm. Each and every one of her knives was exactly the same - same length, same weight, same gold plating, same amount of sapphires set into the hilt - and she knew each and every one was exactly the same, but as she glanced up at her partner, currently doing xyr warmup stretches on the floor, she felt the compulsive urge to check them all again.

Amets looked up at her, then grinned. "Nervous?" xe asked, tightening xyr bun and adjusting some of the hairpins keeping xyr headpiece in place. It was a simple circlet, sleek and dynamic so as not to get in the way of the more exciting - and unorthodox - parts of the act, but still glittery and big enough to catch the attention of the audience. The amethysts set into the silver circlet sparkled in the low backstage light, complementing Amets' lavender hair perfectly. Xe usually kept xyr hair loose and tangled around xyr face; it was odd in a good way to see it neatly slicked up into a bun.

"I'm offended that you'd ask," Thana replied, returning Amets' grin. "I don't get nervous." She slid the knife back into its sheath on her hip and reached down for Amets' hand. "Ready?"

Amets took Thana's hand and let her help xyr to xyr feet. "As I'll ever be."

Thana glanced over her shoulder and nodded to their assistants, standing to the side and waiting for the signal to bring their equipment out on stage. Three of them picked up the sturdy wooden wheel and carried it on stage while the fourth dashed on ahead of them.

"You've seen magic tonight!" she cried as the crowd cheered. "You've seen people take flight! You've been brought to the edge of your seats by masterfully acted plays! You've seen a giant break metal as if it were paper! But - if you can believe it - we still have better than that!"

She paused, and the crowd quieted in anticipation of what she was going to say next.

"We have gods!"

The crowd replied with deafening cheers. Thana and Amets being the reincarnations of the gods of death and dreams, respectively, was the main selling point for their act. Everyone knew the myth - how the god of Dreams had created life, how the god of Death had committed the first murder, how the two had died in each others arms, killed out of rage and grief - and so a pair of knife throwers who claimed to be their reincarnations was particularly interesting to the people. There was an extra element of suspense, a little bit of "why are the knife throwers claiming to be destined to kill each other", a creeping suspicion that maybe something would happen.

No one believed them, of course. You wouldn't find the gods of death and dreams working in a theatre troupe. But the crowd was willing to suspend disbelief for a night if Amets and Thana could put on a good enough show.

"I really wish she wouldn't introduce us as better than everyone else," Amets murmured. Xe squeezed Thana's hand, and Thana received an impression of irritation and remorse from her partner.

"I wish she'd stop introducing us as gods," Thana murmured back. "Even if she doesn't believe it, really, it's still making fun of something sacred."

Amets sighed softly, and the impressions Thana received from xyr changed to resignation and sadness.

"Hey," Thana scolded. "No bad vibes before our performance. It's bad luck." She pulled one of her knives out of the sheath across her chest and offered it to Amets. Her partner took it and touched the handle to xyr heart, then handed it back to Thana, who did the same, then set the knife aside. "No bad vibes," she repeated, and the two of them walked out on stage.

Today, Thana was the knife thrower, so as the crowd went wild, she waved cheerfully at them while the assistants strapped Amets to the wheel. Once the leather straps were tight around Amets' wrists and ankles, two of the assistants quickly scampered off stage while the third - Irina was her name; she'd been with Amets and Thana since the beginning and was the only one they trusted to keep a steady hand as she turned the wheel - took her position behind the wheel and waited.

"Let's start off simple, shall we?" Thana shouted to the crowd, who screamed at her in response. "This is a dangerous art, after all, don't I deserve a warmup?"

She hadn't finished her sentence - and wasn't even looking at Amets - when she threw the first knife, drawing it in a smooth movement that was almost too fast for the crowd to catch. They certainly noticed when the knife sunk into the board right next to Amets' head, though, judging from the collective sharp intake of breath and few screams she heard.

She smiled. "Oh, come on, folks, don't you trust me?" Another knife was gone before the crowd could process it, burying itself next to Amets' arm. "I hope you do, because at some point, I'm going to need a volunteer for this. Amets only lets me throw knives at xyr for so long, after all."

Thana continued to banter with the crowd until she'd emptied half of her sheaths and formed a loose outline of knives around her partner. Amets didn't flinch the entire time, and even added a few of xyr own comments to the crowd, apparently entirely unconcerned with the deadly weapons landing only a hair from xyr body.

"Let's take this up a notch, shall we?" Thana asked the crowd. As the crowd shouted a resounding "yes!", Irina began turning the wheel slowly, turning Amets upside down and back upright at a steady pace. Thana counted slowly under her breath to make sure she had the rhythm down, then smiled and pulled a knife from its sheath. "I'll have to be careful, now," she remarked lazily. After a moment, she added, "Careful about how many knives I use, I mean. I'm always careful when throwing knives at people. But I'll have to drag this out- I don't have many weapons left, and the show's over when I run out."

The crowd booed, and she gave them an exaggerated wince. "Yes, yes, I know," she called. "Such a short act. Don't want to see the gods leave, after all. I'm sorry." As she spoke, she rhythmically tossed knives at Amets, seeming not to even look at her partner as she did so. The audience was too far away to see her eyes carefully dart over to the turning wheel just before she threw each knife, her gaze meeting Amets' to confirm that she wasn't getting too close to xyr with each throw.

Finally, she threw her last knife, listened for the satisfying thunk as it landed beside Amets' shoulder, and turned around dramatically, showing the audience that she had no more knives hidden in the sheaths strapped across her body. The crowd booed again, but it quickly turned to applause and cheering as Thana crossed the stage to unstrap Amets.

As Thana undid the straps around Amets' wrists, Amets gave her an impression of pleasure, satisfaction, and congratulations.

"Careful," Thana whispered. "If you keep saying things like that, I might not unstrap you. You're in the perfect position to make out with, did you know that?"

Amets gave her a disapproving impression, but there was a hint of flirtation in there as well.

"Well, what do you expect me to do when you look like that, sweetheart? You can't tell me you aren't looking at me either."

Now it was definitely just disapproval Thana was receiving. Get on with the show. She laughed softly and finished with the last strap. Amets stepped off the wheel and moved to centre stage to take a bow as Thana began removing her knives from the wheel and replacing them in their sheaths.

"You want more?" she shouted to the audience, and they replied with more resounding affirmations. "Alright then, I'm going to need someone else! Amets' heart can only take so much fear before xe needs a break!"

The audience got really quiet after that, and Thana dramatically put her hands on her hips. "No one? No one is willing to come down here and help me? Come on, you all wanted more!" She scanned the crowd, and pointed at one young man. He looked fairly confident in himself; muscular, but not in a these-are-all-for-show kind of way, handsome, and intelligent. He had his arm around a pretty blonde girl, but they didn't seem overly comfortable with each other. Perhaps this was their first or second date.

"You!" she called. "Yes, you there- would you like to impress your girlfriend there? I promise I'll send you back in one piece!"

The young man sputtered and glanced at his date, and she shoved him to his feet. The crowd went wild as he made his way down to the stage, giving Thana an uncertain glance the entire way.

"Don't look so nervous, kid," Thana muttered as she and Amets strapped him into the wheel. "We don't have enough money to pay off your family if you get hurt, so I can assure you I'm not even going to get close to you."

That got a laugh out of him, and she gave him a grin as she stepped back. "Alright! Hold still, I'll try not to take off anything too important!"

Irina began turning the wheel again, and Thana counted under her breath again to get the rhythm in her head before she threw the first knife. The boy squeaked and flinched away as it buried itself underneath his left arm, and the crowd laughed.

"Oh, you think you can do better?" he called, his voice rising several tones higher with nervousness.

"I'm always looking for new targets!" Thana added cheerfully, and the crowd laughed harder.

The rest of that part of the act proceeded smoothly, which Thana was grateful for. She hadn't done it since she was a beginner, but during her first few shows doing this with a volunteer, she'd nicked them as they flinched away harder than she expected. There was always that risk, performing with someone who wasn't trained. She had trained herself to work with people who weren't trained, but they did unexpected things sometimes, unexpected even for someone who knew what to expect from these people.

Once the poor young man was outlined with knives, she held up her empty hands to the crowd. "Can we get a huge round of applause for this young man's bravery!" she shouted, and the crowd obliged. The boy turned a little red as she stepped forward to unstrap him.

"Keep this up, kid, and you might have a future career as a target," she whispered with a smirk. "Here." As he stepped down from the wheel, rubbing his wrists, she slipped him a handful of coins. "For being a good sport."

He looked down at the money, then mouthed thank you before running back up to his date.

Amets had gone off-stage while Thana worked with her volunteer, but as Thana began to remove the knives from the wheel again, Amets and her assistants came back on, bringing in more equipment: a long balance beam and a large wooden backboard. The crowd would assume these were for the next act, but little did they know that Amets and Thana were only getting started.

Thana pulled the last knife from the wooden wheel - keeping it in her hand instead of returning it to its rightful place - and turned around as the wheel was promptly removed from the stage by her assistants, frowning when she saw Amets had climbed onto the balance beam and was now perched comfortably on it with one leg hanging over either side. She made an obvious what-are-you-doing gesture at xyr- too obvious. Anyone with stage training would know that her gesture was too visible to not have been staged. Amets replied with an exaggerated shrug. Thana irritatedly gestured for xyr to get down, and Amets slowly began to dismount.

Now the real fun begins.

Thana watched xyr move at a snail's pace with an increasingly deep frown, and finally flung the knife still in her hand at Amets with a mock-snarl. Amets gracefully flattened xyrself to the beam and the knife flew harmlessly over xyr head and into the backboard. The audience began muttering in confusion, but the mutters quickly turned to cheers as Amets swung xyr legs up and over xyr head, bending xyr back far enough that xe could bring xyr feet all the way down to the balance beam, creating a perfect circle for Thana to throw another knife through, and the crowd realized this was still part of the act.

The acrobatics they did during their performances were simple. They'd leave the more complicated, flashy stuff to the actual acrobats, the ones who didn't have to worry about whether or not they were in the right position to not be stabbed by flying knives.

It looked complicated, though, and that's what mattered. The audience was distracted from how simple the moves really were by the combination of flashy costumes, glittering knives, and the inhuman grace with which they moved. Once they began this part of their performance, it was just a little bit easier to believe they were reincarnated gods.

It was almost hypnotizing, the way Amets moved up on the balance beam. It was like a dance, or like watching water flow; shift to the side, twirl, flip, curve, glide. Xyr costume was skin-tight, colourful and designed to bring attention to all of xyr body as xe performed: long, slender body, elegant legs, perfect curves that made Thana's mind go blank for a moment before she clenched her hand around her knife and took a deep breath.

There would be plenty of time for that once they were done.

The crowd gasped and cheered as Amets danced around Thana's knives, arching xyr back perfectly around a flying blade, falling into the splits just as a knife soared above xyr head, flipping out of the way as a knife glided past xyr thigh. There were no sarcastic comments tossed at the crowd, now; they were both focused on their performance.

This wasn't an act that many people would dare to do. Normal knife throwing was dangerous enough. A moving target on a board was as far as most people would go. It took a special kind of trust and intimate knowledge of your partner to pull off something like this, trusting that you would both be where you needed to, that the knives would be thrown where you thought they'd be and that you'd be out of the way when they got there. The numorous scars on both Thana and Amets' skin testified to the many times they hadn't been out of the way in time.

Still, the exhilaration of doing this right was better than any drug out there. The adrenaline rush of being the one gliding through the knife-filled air as if you were weightless, formless, unable to be touched. The thrill of hitting exactly where you meant to. The rewarding cries of shock and awe from the crowd as you did the impossible.

A single misstep could mean the end, but a single moment of doing things right felt like the world had just fallen at your feet.

Thana looked up and met Amets' gaze, and her partner smiled faintly. Suddenly, there was no crowd, no stage, nothing except the two gods, dancing through the heavens. Amets' magic washed away the mortal realm and brought them both back to the skies, watching Amets twirl from star to star, Thana tossing handfuls of stardust at xyr with a smile, watching the indescribable heavenly powder fall like glitter to the earth below their feet. Power surged through their veins, the power of creation through Amets', the power of nature through Thana's. Time had held no meaning for them, and it held no meaning now, as Thana watched Amets swirl away from her knives, a heavenly beauty that everything revolved around. That Thana's immortal life revolved around.

All too soon, the illusion was gone, though. Amets let it fade as xe performed her second-to-last move, secretly pulling one of the most important hairpins from xyr headpiece as xe did. Once the hairpin was securely tucked up xyr sleeve, xe performed xyr last flip, and xyr circlet fell off. Thana whipped a knife at it, neatly sending a knife through it and catching it against the balance beam. Amets reached down, swept it off the knife and back onto xyr head, and dismounted gracefully from the beam. Xe and Thana swept deep bows, then exited the stage to thunderous applause.
I resonate with my villains more than my heroes and I think that says something about my state of mind

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Omni says...



Image


After the last act of Amet and Thana finished, the crowd was on a high, applauding and shouting. Someone had clearly worked their magic and enthralled the audience.

One of the circus' announcers turned on the speakerphone. "Wow, that last performance really knocked our socks off, huh?!" The crowd cheered in response to that. "Please, give them another round of applause!" The crowd obeyed, roaring to life with their shouts of joy and the thunder of their claps.

After a moment of pause, the announcer breathed out a sigh, letting the excitement wash over them. The audience seemed to realize this and they collectively quietened to listen to what they had to say next.

"Dear audience, the next act is not nearly as explosive as the last one, but I think we all needed a breather after that." The audience agreed with scattered chuckles at that. "Take a breather with us and experience the simple beauty of the next act." The stage lights attached to the metal framework at the top dimmed, and for a brief moment the entire stage and arena was pitch black. Before any lights were turned on, the droning of a didgeridoo echoed through the stage, rumbling the crowd's seats. To the audience, it sounded more like a mix between a growl and a groan, like an omniscient predator waiting in the wings.

Then the drums starting, deep and slow.

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A spotlight shone down onto the stage. A cloaked figure walked into the lit circle. They were a cloaked figure, dressed completely in blue silks.

Threnody unveiled their face. It was a porcelain mask with a face etched into the white gloss. The face was frozen in a position of neutrality, apathy. Threnody began their slow dance. They waved their arms in a slow rhythm, moving them left to right. The silk flowed along their motions, rippling and shimmering against the light. Threnody positioned themself to the audience, their porcelain face staring down the crowd nearest them. They spun in a circle, flashing the silken robes in front of their face. As the silk vanished from their face, their porcelain mask was different. The face was gleeful, frozen in a neverending expression of unadulturated joy. The crowd gasped at the change, suddenly far more invested in the act, partially trying to see the trick.

They spun in circles, waving their silken robes around them in a large circle. Over and over, the blues of the silk broke the white expression of their porcelain mask. The drums increased their speed, and other instrumentals whispered and sang along with the tempo. Unknowingly, the crowd mesmerizingly flowed to the act. They absentmindedly moved along with the music like waves in an ocean of performance. The silk robes around Threnody flowed out, covering the ground around them, growing in all directions.

Then the drums rose to a climax, and ropes of silk dropped from the ceiling. The spotlight vanished, and darkness swept back in for several moments.

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The spotlight flickered back on, focusing on Threnody once again. The audience gasped, seeing how their porcelain mask changed. Instead of a pearly white it was now a deep red with hints of black. Their face was contorted into a nasty grin, one of horror and monstrous glee. Horns adorned the top of the mask and the eyes were pale yellow and encircled with lines of black and brown. Silken tapestries behind Threnody were spotlighted with other lamps, and they flowed to the rhythm of the angry drums. Threnody began another dance, this one fast and angry, as they moved their arms back and forth in sharp, harsh movements. Threnody jabbed, and with each jab the silk on their arms jerked and flowed around them like harsh waves to a tempered storm. The tapestry behind Threnody were angry clouds, and Threnody a joyful marionette that orchestrated the chaos around them. The silken waves groaned and heaved under Threnody's demands and instructions. Spotlights flashed like lightning around them, the drums answering the flashes with booms of thunder.

Then the drums stopped suddenly, and Threnody's masked form glared at the audience, who were enthralled by the performance. The smile on their mask seemed to grow, seemed to crawl off of their mask and inched closer to the audience. Then more flashing of lights or lightning, the difference unknown to the audience at this point. In between each flash was painstakingly long darkness, and the mask answered the darkness with jumpscares as it seemingly crawled forward towards the audience. Threnody's form rose amid the silk around her, and she spun around, circling her arms in a vertical circle around their mask. The storm of silk and sound surrounded them, as they imposed upon the crowd, like a tidal wave of doom and chaos. They grasped their demon mask with their silken gloved hands and raised it above the waves like a ghostly figure before the storm, and as the drums quickened and the wave of silk rose, Threnody stopped her movements and collapsed into the sea of silk, and all sound and light ceased.

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Two spotlights focused onto the ceiling as two golden silken strands tumbled down against a light blue backdrop, mimicking the sky. A third spotlight shone on the spot Threnody had fallen to. She stood up from the pool of silk around her with a new mask adorning her face. This mask was a solemn one, an expression of calmness or indifference, with their eyes closed. At the top of the mask were gold etchings, resembling a crown. As the two silken threads floated down to Threnody, they grabbed onto both of them, wrapping their arms around the silk. The crowd breathed out a sigh of relief seeing that they were okay.

The drums started again, this time a quicker but lighter tempo. Threnody climbed up the silk threads, started slow. They weaved in between the two strands, then heaved themselves to one side and the the two strands began swinging back and forth. Threnody twisted their robed body around the silk threads, dancing in the air to the rhythm and tempo of the drums. Someone whooped from the audience and the drums had an aura of light music with them, like flutes were in the background. Threnody spun around the silken threads, climbing their way into the sky.

The pace of the drums quickened, and the feeling amongst the crowd became one of tension and anxiety, one of unknown origin, like they were waiting for something bad to happen, but they knew not of what it could be. Threnody's gloved hand slipped from one golden strand, and she tumbled down the other strand a few feet. The crowd gasped instinctively, suddenly fearing for their safety. Threnody wrapped themself in the single silken thread they were holding onto, falling even further. Shouts from the crowd and the drums quickening thickened the tension in the air.

Threnody's free hand struggled for the other stand of silk as it flowed just out of reach of them. They surged forward and managed to grab ahold of it. Threnody hung between the two strands awkwardly, then they tumbled, and the mixture of their blue silk and the golden aeriel silken threads tumbled and joined in several knots, covering Threnody in the chaotic mix.

The spotlight flickered off and on, and suddenly Threnody was gone completely. But, in the middle of the knot was their mask, the crowned one from before, but this time it was... different. The golden silken threads were now splashed with colors of red, and the mask had streams of tears falling from the eyes, that were now open and staring into the soul of each of the crowd. The expression on the mask was an unhinged smile, grinning from one end of the mask to the other, unaffected by the tears, and the crown atop the mask glinted in the spotlight.

For a moment, the single spotlight lingered on the mask. The drums fell completely silent, and nothing or nobody moved. Then the stage darkened once more.

A smaller spotlight veered from the mask to the ground, where Threnody walked in from one of the wings, a soft smile on their mask now, as she waved a gloved hand to the crowd, who burst into energetic, albeit confused, applause. Threnody bowed a few times and the announcer bellowed over the crowd announcing the end of the act. Threnody paid them no mind as they walked back offstage, where Hazel was waiting in the wings.

He grinned at Threnody. "Really subtle, there." He held up a hand, and they high fived.
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SilverNight says...



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Outside, it was dark enough that only the lanterns hanging from posts lit the people crossing the plaza. The rain had fallen earlier that evening, washing the cobblestone and brick paving the ground for a half hour before the storm clouds became fog that hovered over the roof of the buildings. Most of the crowd had missed it and been indoors in the theater a few blocks away, watching the performance of one of those traveling theater troupes.

It was the Harbinger's Society, wasn't it? Lord Armant couldn't remember, nor could he read the rain-soaked posters hanging on the lampposts from his window. If it was them, he vaguely remembered attending one of their shows, a year or so ago when they'd been in Ciosia. The sights had been spectacular, but he had loathed the crowd. The company's popularity had drawn many, filling up the nosebleed seats, and he had mourned the death of the days where the theater was for the people who cared for the art, not the ones who thought it was just a thrill and couldn't even afford the good seats.

Lord Armant turned away from the windows that lined the wall and headed down the long hallway that he'd stopped halfway through. His estate took up the whole side of the plaza, and standing there always gave him the impression he was with the people walking there, yet above them all. The hardwood floor that his velvet nightrobe swept over wasn't wet like the trampled stone down there. He deserved better than the path everyone else used.

He was in the mood to admire his collection. Lord Armant prided himself on what he considered his own private museum, filled with treasures he kept adding to. Most of it hadn't cost him a cent. Taxes could be used to go to the arts, couldn't they?

His last acquistition was especially wonderful, and he smiled at just thinking about seeing it. Just a few days ago, he'd purchased a golden figure of a dragon at an auction, with emeralds lining the wings and body like scales. Lord Armant had already boasted about it to several of his noble friends, watching them turn as green as the gemstones with envy. He'd delighted in their jealousy like it was the finest wine. Every time one of them got a new country property or remodeled their extensive garden, he always had to outshine them— just a little, just enough that he was ahead. Just enough that they didn't try to turn the tables on him.

Lord Armant's smile fell when he turned the corner into a parlor and saw one of his servants cleaning a newly-bought mirror.

"I told you to place that in the east sitting room, not the southwest one," he snapped at him. "For the love of the gods, can't you follow directions?"

The servant lowered his head and bowed slightly, not quite deeply enough. "Of course, I'll get right on it, sir. I'm sorry, sir."

The lord huffed. "I should replace all of you. You never seem to know what you're doing." He stormed out of the room, leaving the servant to struggle with removing the heavy mirror.

After the next hallway, the door leading to his vault had a layer of magic security on it to keep others besides him out. The doorknob would shift into the shape of a sphinx and ask a riddle or security question when touched, but he had a pendant that let him right through when he wore it. He'd failed at answering his own questions about when he'd acquired whatever item or how much it had cost, and then failed at the riddles, so he'd changed the enchantment to let the person with the pendant pass.

He'd also changed it so the floor wouldn't start heating up after a few wrong answers. He missed those nice leather shoes every damn day.

The door swung open on its own, letting him see all of his prized items.

Lord Armant never tired of walking among them, of letting his eyes wander over a necklace heavy with diamonds or admiring his crystal clear reflection in the surface of a perfectly polished shield. He could waltz between the displays all night, but this time he gravitated towards one of the stands that had been empty just earlier this week. He wanted— no, needed— to see it.

There it was. His beautiful gold dragon, twinkling under a chandelier, wings spread and talons swiping at the air as if it was about to take flight.

But it better not. He couldn't bear to lose it.

Lord Armant made a few rounds around it, inspecting it carefully. He was always a little paranoid about losing whatever he'd gotten most recently, which was why he had invested in some of the finest magic security. If the sphinx doorknob didn't keep thieves out, the pack of wolves that could detect magic that didn't belong would. And if the wolves didn't work either, the magic barrier that spread over the edges of the vault would keep any object in this collection from going past it.

It was flawless protection. But still, he worried.

Finally satisfied that his dragon was safe here, Lord Armant turned and left the vault, making sure to close the door behind him. It was late now, and his estate was quiet as he walked back through it. The mirror had been moved already, and the wind had blown one of the posters from the plaza into the trees just outside. He could now see that it said The Harbinger's Society: Bringing wonders unlike any other to Ciosia first.

He waited until the wind tore it from the branches again, then headed back to his rooms. Little did he know that tomorrow, he would be seeing wonders of a whole new kind.
Silver is a chemical element with the symbol Ag (from the Latin argentum, "shiny" or "white") and atomic number 47.


okay but does this mean I have a melting point of 1763.2 °F



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AceassinOfTheMoon says...



Image


The moon was covered by thin, wispy clouds, giving the whole sky a mystical aura, as though at any moment, the god of dreams would reach down from the sky and sweep Thana into the stars again.

Unfortunately, the god of dreams was actually sitting on a bench to the side of the plaza in front of the nobleman's house, so Thana would remain solidly on earth.

Her long coat brushed the backs of her calves as she walked purposefully across the dark cobblestones, and she pulled it a little more tightly around herself. She hated this coat -- it didn't fit properly and it was a horrid colour -- but it was a necessary part of her disguise, both to keep people from recognizing her and to carry all the knives she would need for this mission. She did like her knives, and they certainly made her feel better about her coat.

A sudden breeze blew her dark hair across her face, and she irritatedly brushed it aside, exaggerating her movements for her audience: the guards watching boredly over the front gate of Lord Armant's estate. She needed to make them believe she was annoyed, to help sell her act later. The earlier she began her act, the more natural it would seem.

The stage was set, but her co-star had not yet arrived. In typical Hazel fashion, he apparently needed to make a dramatic -- and slightly late -- entrance.

When he came into view from the other side of the square, he didn't look quite himself either. The red of his long coat wasn't his color, the wired glasses on his face looked unfamiliar, and the decorative cane he carried along was stylish, but not quite for him. But he wore the black top hat he usually did to cover the white streaks in his hair, and the graceful saunter in his step was the same. The magician had his eyes on the pocket watch he held in his hand, seemingly not noticing where he was going, or that she was right in his path. He was walking briskly, and as Hazel got closer, she could see a scowl on his face, as if he was annoyed that he was running late for something that was happening barely before the hour of midnight.

She deepened her glare with every step, demanding non-verbally that he get the hell out of her way, and remaining determinedly in his path. Hazel only quickened his pace. At the last second, she took a half-step to the side, so she didn't just slam directly into him and instead just shouldered him as hard as she could without actually causing him pain.

Well, too much pain, anyway.

"Hey!" she spat, staggering backwards as if by walking into him, she'd discovered that he was a much more solid obstacle than she'd expected. Her hold on her coat slipped, and several of her knives -- placed conveniently loosely in their sheaths -- crashed to the ground. "What are you doing?"

Hazel stumbled back a few steps, tilting away from her, and the glasses slipped off his face, smashing noisily on the ground. He let out a cry of dismay and dropped to his knees, collecting a few glass shards in his palm. When he looked back up at her, his expression was indignant. "What am I doing? You broke my glasses!"

She crossed her arms. "If they shattered that easily, they're probably trash anyway! Do you know how much those knives cost?" With a quick shift of position, another couple of knives tumbled to the ground. "They're going to be all chipped and scratched now-- it's going to take me forever to fix them all!"

"Don't blame glass for being glass. You're the one just asking for an accident to happen, carrying that many knives around!" Hazel's voice was shrill, echoing across the plaza. He got back to his feet and threw up his arms in exasperation, the glass in his fist most likely having vanished to one of his many pockets. "And do you know how long it takes to get a pair of glasses? I could be on a waiting list for weeks."

"I don't remember that being my problem, actually," Thana snarked. "Your face looks marginally better without them, anyway-- which isn't saying much, but at least you aren't making me nauseous anymore."

Hazel stiffened, brushing at his face as he pretended to take offense. "Well, one upside to losing my eyesight is that I'm spared having to see your face in all of its horrible detail."

"Your mother didn't seem to think it was that horrible last night."

Across the plaza, she could hear one of the guards whistling sharply. It sounded closer than where they had been stationed before this.

"Well, she happens to be dead, rest her soul, so of course she can only keep company with filthy graveyard rats like you," Hazel said lightly. "At least she's proud of me. I bet your mother must be ashamed she raised you this foul."

"My mother raised me to know the best way to get to a man's heart..." Thana slid yet another knife out of her sleeve and flipped it casually between her fingers. "...through the third and fourth ribs. That's a nice coat, and I hate to ruin it, but you won't need it and it's really not my style, anyway."

A bright green flame flared to life in Hazel's palm as he snapped his fingers. "Oh? Did she tell you how long it takes for a person to burn alive, too? It's a rather long and nasty way to go, in case that wasn't part of her so-called wisdom. But don't worry, I'm generous enough to make you a pyre."

"I'm already smoking hot, you think a bit of fire can hurt me?" Thana gave him a cold smirk. "Besides, you'll be dead long before you can toss that pretty bit of trickery at me."

"Do you really want to make that bet, knife girl? Those are bold words coming from someone very flammable." Hazel flashed a grin at her.

"Alright, you two." The voice was much closer than Thana expected, and it was only her stage training that kept her from flinching. "How about we put the knives and the magic away and talk about this like reasonable adults?"

Thana whipped around, now brandishing her knife at the guard that had approached them. A few other guards stood in the background, whispering to each other. She was sure she saw some money being pulled out for bets.

"Excuse me, we're having a conversation here," she said icily.

"Yeah, what do you think you're doing?" Hazel asked, spreading his fingers wide so the flame expanded. "We're being perfectly damn civil over here."

The guard's eyes flicked down to Thana's knife, then back up to her face. "Drop the knife," he ordered, his hand drifting to his own weapon.

"Who are you, giving me orders?" Thana demanded. The guard didn't reply, and she sighed exaggeratedly before dropping the knife with a clink on top of the pile already at her feet. "Happy?" she said, raising her hands to show him that they were empty. The guard nodded, and he moved his hand away from the sword at his side, taking a step back.

"Guards these days," Thana continued, crouching down and picking up three different knives before the guard could react, carefully avoiding the one she'd just dropped. "Just because you're paid to look tough, you all think it means you can give anyone orders." She began flipping the three between her fingers lazily, her focus briefly switching from the conversation at hand to not slicing her fingers off as she practiced the latest trick the jugglers had taught her. "I dropped the knife. Now leave us alone."

"Excessive weapons and malicious magic are not allowed on these grounds," the guard insisted. He squinted at Hazel's Spectrum flame. "Is that seriously Pixie's Fire?"

"Wouldn't you like to know," said Hazel smoothly, who only had something far less dangerous. "But I beg of you, don't stick around to find out. This is between her and me."

Thana rolled her eyes. "Please. Pixie's Fire? From this waste of air and space? I don't think he's even got magic. It's probably just some optical illusions and trickery." As she spoke, she crouched down again and reached for her knives. The guard's hand immediately went back to his sword, and she sighed deeply again. "I'm cleaning up, sir. I'm going to take my knives and leave. Isn't that what you want- oops!" With a flick of her wrist, a knife went flying, slicing across the man's wrist.

"Gods, are you out of your mind?" Hazel demanded. "Harming guards just doing their job? I won't have it!" He flung his hand in a sweeping gesture, as the green fire shot away and exploded above the heads of the guards standing further back— were those glass shards mixed in? A few loud shrieks split the air as they stumbled onto the cobblestones, struggling to regain their balance.

"Oh dear." Hazel winced. "That was supposed to be you. I fear we're both out of practice."

"Speak for yourself," Thana shot back, sliding neatly away as the guard she'd hit reached for his weapon-- unluckily, it looked like she'd hit his non-dominant hand. She flicked a few more knives at him without even looking. "I never miss-- oh, gods, sir, I'm so sorry, I didn't mean to throw that at you! The handles of knives grow so slippery when you drop them, you know."

"That's one way to say you have sweaty palms," Hazel remarked. "I am so sorry for scaring you like that." A trail of flame, this time bright magenta, snaked along the ground in the direction of the guards before it burst into blinding sparks that made them cover their eyes. He growled in frustration. "I swear, I'm trying to get it to go towards her! It's like this stuff has a mind of its own sometimes. I normally can direct it, but somebody broke my glasses and now I can't see!"

"Oh, shut up about your glasses!" Thana snapped back. "You must've bent my knives, because they're going all over the place!"

While the guards were still blinded by Hazel's sparks, Amets slipped off the park bench and around to their backs, quickly dispatching one of them with a blow to the back of the head from the hilt of a knife. Xe gave Thana an exasperated look over the shoulder of the guard as they fell, and Thana gave xyr a quick smile before dodging another attack from the guard she was currently using as a knife block. He had some good stamina and pain resistance, she had to admit.

Hazel, who was not a fighter by nature, was dancing away from the swings of another guard's sword as he fended them off with more Spectrum fireballs. "As badly as I want to fight you, it's not happening, is it?"

"Our weapons just have minds of their own," Thana sighed. "Which is disappointing, because you'd look so much better with a few knives in your stomach." She threw one last knife, and the guard collapsed. "Oh, dear. Oh gods. I didn't mean to do that, I swear." Without missing a beat, she began aiming for the guards Amets was neatly taking out.

"If you kill them, they're your problem later," Hazel said under his breath, raising his eyebrows at her.

"God of death, remember? I'll just bring them back," she whispered in reply. "Besides, I haven't hit him anywhere that'll kill him."

Still, she reached out under pretense of picking another knife off the ground and brushed her hand past his leg, quickly healing a few of the worst injuries she'd dealt him-- which, conveniently, freed up a few more knives as they popped out of his newly healed skin.

Hazel smiled slightly. "Oh, they're going to be so confused after this."

"And alive to be that way, so I don't see what the problem is. Now shh, one of them might hear us."

The magician placed a finger over his lips, but the smirk remained in place.

In the brief moment she'd been bantering with Hazel, Amets had knocked out the rest of the guards single-handedly and now stood with xyr hands on xyr hips, still giving the two of them an exasperated look as xe patiently waited for them to take out the last guard, the one that was bullying Hazel.

Thana whipped a knife at him, sinking it into the back of his calf, then sauntered over to hit him over the head as his legs gave out beneath him.

"Well, look at that," Hazel said, dusting off his coat. "What a failed duel. We really should just take this as a lesson and go on our own ways since it seems we can't fight each other, no?"

Thana began sliding her knives back into her coat. "The fates are against us tonight, it seems. But make no mistake: I will see you again."

"Sooner than you think." Hazel reached into a hidden pocket and tossed another knife her way. "I might be keeping another of these as collateral to make sure it happens. Please don't stab me later in your haste to get it back."

Thana very nearly broke character to yell at him with real anger behind the words, but she took a deep breath. Amets would help her steal it back if Hazel didn't just give it back anyway.

"Oh, so you're a thief as well as a jerk?" she shouted as he walked away and she caught the knife. "It's probably a good thing your mother's dead-- she doesn't have to see what a worthless piece of garbage you've become!"

"You tell me," he hollered over his shoulder. "The afterlife must be a real wreck if she's willing to hang around with you."

But she caught him giving her a genuine smile just before he passed behind a corner and disappeared from view.
I resonate with my villains more than my heroes and I think that says something about my state of mind

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AceassinOfTheMoon says...



Image


Even through the silence left behind by Thana and Hazel's banter, Amets could hear the slice of knives through flesh as Thana tossed them, the heavy blows Amets had dealt to the guards as xe knocked them out.

Sickening sounds. Heavy sounds. A discordant note in the song of dust particles drifting through night air. A key change in the melody of the guards' hearts.

Amets never liked missions where the plan was to hurt the guards, rather than just distract them and lead them away from somewhere. Xe understood that this time, it was necessary, that they needed to get rid of the guards so they could move on, but xe still didn't like it.

Those were xyr creations. Xe'd breathed life into the first, and they'd spread from there. Every time xe had to hurt one of them, xe felt it. Not as a painful blow, more as just a... ripple, perhaps. As if a stone had been thrown into the endless cosmic pool and the waves reached out to touch Amets, reminding xyr that xe was affected by this all as well.

What was xe doing, again? Oh, right. Making a hasty escape to meet Hazel on the other side of the estate.

Xe sighed softly and retreated back into the shadows around the side of the estate after giving Thana a nod.

The magician was lurking underneath one of the trees on the avenue parallel to the building. He must have discarded the fake cane somewhere along the way, because he had both hands free to boredly toss a miniature blue fireball between them. Hazel didn't look up from it, and his eyes weren't visible under the brim of his hat when his head was at that angle, but Amets could tell he'd seen xyr from the way he smirked and very slightly motioned xyr over.

Xyr expression remained neutral as xe joined him under the tree. Xe would wait until Thana showed up to tell them off for getting too caught up in their banter.

Again.

Xe didn't have to wait long before xyr girlfriend appeared around the corner, sliding the last knife into a sheath on her side.

"Great job, everyone," she said, raising her hand to give Hazel a high-five.

Hazel grinned and raised his hand too. "Wonderful work, wasn't it?"

Thana immediately switched tactics and punched Hazel in the side. "Give. Me. My. Knife. Back. Now."

Hazel stumbled a couple steps back, bumping into the tree behind him with a soft oof. "I was just helping out!" he protested as he reached into a pocket with one hand and pressed on where she'd punched him with the other. "You were already carrying a ton of them." He handed the knife over ceremoniously, then proceeded to wince. "You don't hold back, do you?"

Thana made a show out of polishing the knife with the corner of her shirt. "Don't touch my stuff, and we won't have a problem."

Hazel sighed overdramatically. "Either that or I'm going to have to start wearing metal armor, which might be the least practical thing I could add to my wardrobe, so you win."

Before this could devolve into another sarcastic pseudo-argument, Amets grabbed both xyr companions' hands, forming the strongest impression of irritation xe could manage.

Thana flinched, and Amets received an impression of surprise and a little bit of irritation in response from her. The impression coming from Hazel was also surprised, but slightly guilt-tinged, and even a little uneasy.

"If we take too long on any of these distractions, we won't finish in time for the other two teams to do what they need," Amets whispered. "After what happened last time, we cannot afford mistakes. If you two mess up this entire heist because you forget this is a mission and get lost in insulting each other, no one in the Society will ever let you live it down. If something goes very wrong, we might possibly not let you live at all. Are we clear?"

Hazel smiled thinly through pressed lips. "Got it."

Thana sighed softly. "Come on, Amets, we're still on schedule. Loosen up a bit, okay?"

Amets gave her another impression, this time of dry exhaustion, and shook xyr head slowly. "Please be careful and stay focused."

Before xe released their hands, xe pushed a third and final impression into their thoughts, an impression that could only be described by a single word in a language that hadn't existed since before time. A thin flutter of worry, a deep sense of protection, a tiny drop of the care Amets could remember once having for all of xyr creations, back when xe had an immortal form that could handle the love of a god. The feeling of stars falling from heaven just to bless you, to cover you in stardust and power.

A soft impression of love for xyr companions, a reassurance that xe just wanted everyone to be safe.

"Let's go," xe whispered.

Hazel took a deep breath, visibly relaxed once more, before he held up his hand again. "Let's do that, but we need to redeem that high-five first."

Thana grinned and obliged him. "Calling me a graveyard rat back there was creative. Love it."

Hazel laughed, almost too loudly for this time of night. "I'd heard the waste of air and space before, but you really went after my mother this time. I think you owe a certain ghost an apology and my love."

"What- insinuating that I'd slept with her and saying that she's probably ashamed of what you've become? I don't see how any of that is slander against her."

"Okay, maybe two apologies now."

"Wh- hey, are you saying that she wouldn't want to sleep with me?"

"It's a miracle you have Amets, so probably."

"If I'm good enough for god xyrself, I think I'm good enough for your mother-"

Amets, very lightly, poked them both.

Thana sighed. "Fine." She turned to address the air slightly to Hazel's left. "Jacinthe, I'm very sorry for insinuating that I slept with you, and that I said you think Hazel sucks." She tilted her head, as if listening to a sound neither Amets nor Hazel could hear, then smirked. "She says no, the part about thinking you suck is true, although she appreciates the apology about the sex part."

Hazel shook his head. "Thanks, Mom, miss you too."

"She says you should consider combing your hair once in a while, too," Thana informed him.

He gave her a disbelieving look as he lifted his hat to run a hand through his hair and lift up a white strand. "Now you're just messing with me. I have curls."

"Is that what you call that disaster on your head," Thana mused. "I'm glad you told me, I was about to offer to buy you a brush since you didn't appear to know what that is."

"No, thanks, but you can still buy it for yourself, because you haven't even got the curly hair excuse. Or better, just give me the money for it."

Their arguing reminded Amets of a waterfall. Too loud at times, never ending, but a beautiful exploration of something natural.

Xe'd watched with fascination as the humans invented language. To xyr, who could communicate with everything just by touching things and letting xyr emotions bleed into it, the noises the fragile creatures made were strange and so painfully and perfectly imperfect. Sometimes, the way a human said something changed the meaning, a tilt of the voice or a raise of an eyebrow making a sound into something else, and no one seemed to truly understand the meaning behind every sound. Some noises were deemed 'bad', and Amets had never quite figured out why.

At one point, they'd developed different ways of combining sounds, and suddenly there were more languages, and some humans spoke one and some spoke another, and then no one could talk to each other.

Such an imperfect way of communication.

Xe did enjoy music, though. Singing. It reminded xyr of what moonlight sounded like when it sunk into a still pool of water. The words xe didn't understand blurred together even further with the rise and fall of human voices, some stretching high until it seemed as though they were reaching for the sky with their fragile throats, and other dropping so low Amets was afraid they'd lose their voices to the other side of the world.

Such an imperfect way of communication.

Thana and Hazel's voices blended together like a song when they spoke like this, each exploring language in a way that Amets had never heard before, coming up with so many different combinations of words to try and hurt each other with- except it never quite worked, because both were painfully aware of how much they loved each other.

Love... love wasn't the right word. Love was what the humans called the connection between Thana and Amets. It carried all the wrong meanings between Hazel and Thana. If Amets had to give what xyr friends had a name, it would be you're mine.

Humans never seemed to name things like that, with more than one word, but Amets could only give Hazel and Thana two words. They deserved more than one word.

You're mine.

They belonged to each other in a way that no one else understood. At first glance, they hated each other, but if you looked deeper, you could see that the hate was only a mask for the feelings they knew were there but would never admit out loud. The I-would-die-for-you and the only-I-get-to-say-you're-less-than-perfect and the I-care-for-you-so-I'll-tell-you-how-to-be-perfect feelings.

Amets and Thana had some of that, but it was different. Thana would never pretend to hurt Amets in the way she pretended to hurt Hazel. Amets and Thana fit together like a pair of shoes did, two halves of the same whole, both necessary to make things work. Thana and Hazel fit together like baby kittens, biting and clawing to make each other stronger and to express how much they cared.

Maybe this was the purpose of the imperfect words. They allowed humans to weave in their own meanings. Amets could tell people exactly what xe thought, and an emotion only had so many meanings. Words, though? Words were just the wind carrying dandelion seeds of emotion from one to another.

"Amets?" Thana tapped xyr shoulder. "Uh... we're done arguing, sorry. We can get going now."

"We had to get it out of our systems," Hazel said apologetically. "We're both ready and maybe even done with that for a little bit. Maybe."

Amets blinked, then smiled softly at them. "Right. Where were we planning to set off the second distraction, again?"

"Maybe a little farther away from these trees?" Hazel suggested. "That is, if we go with what I brought along, but we have options here. Thana, you ready to participate in... the ultimate combat for the right to do it?"

Thana, entirely straight-faced, pulled a knife out of her sleeve. "Okay, if you're sure, but I don't see any weapons on you, so this might be a very quick fight."

Hazel rolled his eyes and made a fist. "This way, dumbass."

She slid the knife back into her sleeve. "That makes more sense. I'm still going to win, but at least you have a chance now."

Amets narrowed xyr eyes imperceptibly. Was Hazel suggesting that they fistfight over it? Xe'd have thought that Hazel would know better, considering how easily he'd been knocked back when Thana wasn't even really trying to hurt him.

Hazel smirked. "On the count of three, shoot."

Oh, he meant rock, paper, scissors. That... made more sense.

Amets didn't understand how the game worked. Scissors cut paper, that was right. Rock smashed scissors, which also worked if you tried hard enough. But how did a paper beat a rock? Paper was thin and easily torn, especially if it was a jagged rock. If you put a piece of paper over a rock, wouldn't it just blow away?

Xe watched absently as the two made fists, then tapped them against their other palm three times before suddenly switching to another hand position- unless they decided to be a rock, in which case they wouldn't move. It seemed odd to Amets that part of the game was giving the other person a one-in-three chance of guessing beforehand what you'd do. That felt counter-intuitive.

Hazel and Thana claimed this was an entirely random game, but Amets wasn't so sure about that, either. After watching them do this over more than a few decisions, xe had formed the theory that people only believed this game to be chance because they never watched themselves do it. Everyone had a favourite hand position, and if you knew someone well enough, you could guess what it was. Thana's was scissors. She started with scissors every time. Hazel had not appeared to pick up on this yet, because he never started with rock. Always scissors, just like Thana.

What did that say about them? That they liked sharp objects, perhaps? Or maybe it was the most natural hand position for them to fall into out of the three. A clenched fist couldn't be comfortable to hold for long. White knuckles escaping fragile skin, blue veins too visible against the thin barrier holding them down, dark lines of joints forced into sharp angles with tiny clicks, anger and tension stored in every sinew that begged for release. False anger, false attack.

Released through scissors.

Hazel suddenly whooped and pumped his fist in the air. "Ha! I get to do the fun part!"

"Hey, no, you cheated!" Thana protested.

"I did not!" Hazel said defensively. "How am I even supposed to do that at this game? Read your mind? If I could learn to do that, I wouldn't bother because I'm not sure you even have thoughts for me to read!"

"You changed what you were going to do," Thana accused. "I saw you! And I do too have thoughts, because I'm thinking that you're a little bi-"

Amets touched her shoulder. "He won," xe confirmed, even though xe wasn't entirely sure that was what had actually happened. Xe was willing to lie a little if it meant they'd move on.

Hazel gave Thana a triumphant grin as he pulled something out of a pocket and showed them. "Looks like we're doing things my way," he said, waving them away from the trees and to the open sidewalk.

Thana followed him with a grin. "I'm surprised you agreed to this," she whispered to Amets. "You're awesome and I love you for it."

... hmm? That was a concerning response. What had xe agreed to again? Xe remembered that while they'd been planning, Hazel had said that he had a plan for the second stage of their mission, but he needed to gather some things first, and he didn't want to say anything until he knew it would work. Amets had apprehensively agreed, but promised that xe'd check in with him about it later, because xe knew Hazel and that his plan would probably be something reckless and potentially dangerous.

And then...

And then xe had, hadn't xe? Xe thought xe'd followed up, asked Hazel what he had, but xe didn't remember what it was.

Come to think of it, xe didn't actually remember talking to Hazel about it afterwards. Maybe xe hadn't.

Amets took a better look at the thing Hazel was holding. What... was that? Some sort of oddly shaped pole? What did he intend to do with that? And why was Thana so excited?

"I didn't find out about the color," Hazel casually mentioned to Thana as they positioned the unidentifiable object up against a bench.

"Spectrum it," she suggested immediately. "Why only have one or two colours when you can make it all the colours?"

Hazel's eyes widened. "Oh, that is brilliant." He snapped his fingers to summon an iridescent, prismatic flame to his hand, then directed it to the top of the strange pole. He dug around in his pockets for something else. "Now for the real kind-- where is it? I can't get used to this coat." He eventually found whatever it was he was searching for, and pulled out a small box. Hazel spilled the contents, small and narrow wooden sticks with a red tip, into his hand, then put back all but one. He moved his hand in one rapid, smooth gesture, and the red tip of the stick grazed the box, then started glowing. "There we go!"

"Stop playing with fire and light it already," Thana urged him. "This is going to be so cool."

Light it...? Ah, that's what that was. Hazel had a match. One of those little sticks with something that made it burst into flame when you brushed it against something fast enough. Xe liked fire. It was so soothing to watch, and it was warm, like the stars-

Holy me, Hazel has a match.

Humans and fire did not have the best track record, and with the way Thana was encouraging him, Amets did not have a good feeling about any of this. Xe did not like fire when it was in Hazel's hands, and especially not when he had a mysterious pole that xe knew xe should recognize.

Amets did not like it when Hazel hollered something in response to Thana about how the entire purpose of his magic was to play with fire, and xe most certainly did not like it when he proceeded to set the bottom tip of the object aflame and jumped away, because of course it had to be flammable.

Thana stepped back, pulling Amets with her, and watched impatiently as the flame crawled a little higher up the pole, and then-

"Firework," Amets breathed. "That's the word."

Xe only had a brief moment to really panic about it, though, because as soon as the word came to mind, the world exploded in blinding colour.

Once xyr ears stopped ringing and xe could see again, Amets turned in horror to watch the damage Hazel's firework had wrought. Several of the trees nearby were on fire, most of the windows in the estate wall closest to them were shattered, and deep cracks ran through the wall. Smoldering sparks of colourful light rained from the sky, some burning out before they got close to the ground and a few more adding more flames to the trees.

Thana said something, but it sounded faraway, like she was underwater, and Amets shook xyr head to try and clear it.

"What?" xe asked helplessly.

"That was so cool!" Thana repeated, louder. "Where'd you get this thing, Hazel?"

Hazel was a few feet away, waving his hat around to clear the fumes from the air and coughing. He stared blankly at the broken windows and cracked stone, at a loss for words in one of those rare moments for him. "Some seller that I will not be buying from again, it looks like."

There was complete silence for a few seconds, aside from the snapping and cracking of burning branches behind them.

"The firework was yellow," Hazel said absently, with the tone of someone who knew they were saying something irrelevant, and then he burst into horrified laughter that lasted for almost ten seconds.

Once he'd calmed down, Amets moved to stand in front of him. Xe was almost as tall as he was, and xe could look him dead in the eyes as xe considered whether to slap him or just give him the strongest impression of rage xe could muster.

Hazel heaved a sigh. "I know you want to, so do your worst. I'll explain myself afterwards."

Very gently, xe placed a hand on his chest, right over his heart - xyr impressions were always stronger there, for some reason - and hesitated before impressing utter confusion, terror, and the shock currently making xyr mind swirl on him. Xe held those emotions for a moment, searching xyr memories for one full of anger strong enough to communicate how xe felt.

The first that came to mind was Thana's first betrayal, but Amets had sworn never to share an impression from that one. That one was too much for xyr mortal emotions to handle, and xe could never put another through that.

Rage wasn't quite the right emotion, either. Hazel had no way of knowing what the firework would do, so xe couldn't be mad.

Instead, xe took the memory of the frustration Storms had shared with xyr when their creation would not come to life and pushed that emotion into Hazel, carefully moderating it so his fragile mortal mind could take it. Crushing, consuming, endless frustration and confusion, transmitted directly into Hazel's heart through Amets' hand.

When xe'd finished transmitting it, xe could read the impression coming back from Hazel that he probably wasn't even doing on purpose. First, xe received a brief flash of helpless panic, like a fish caught and thrashing in a net, suffocating and debilitating panic, at losing all control and being at Amets' mercy. It faded into slight relief that xe wasn't taking it out on him as far as xe could have, but the echoes of panic left a mark on the rest of the impression. Pangs of guilt followed, coming one after the other like waves, and finally a heavy regret, strong as the aftertaste of a drink and just as lingering.

Then, everything cleared up as xe felt Hazel forcing himself to return to calm, like he'd thrown a sheet over the turmoil as a facade and tried to smooth it out to perfection. The faint ripples of panic were the only wrinkles left to be found.

Xe hesitated for a moment, then - keeping xyr hand pressed over his heart - wrapped xyr other arm around him. It was a bit awkward, but xe made it work as xe changed the impressions xe gave Hazel to forgiveness layered over the frustration, smoothing the sharp edges of anger out until it was nothing more than a soft touch, reminding him that it was still there, but promising that xe would get past it. Hazel's gratitude and apology tangled together to the point they were inseparable in the impression he sent back as he returned the embrace. Amets could feel him shudder slightly, like an aftershock running its course.

Once they pulled apart, xe could see Hazel's face was remarkably serious and almost impassive, reminding xyr of how he'd smoothed everything underneath over once he'd gotten ahold of himself. Maybe he'd only just realized at that moment that he was being watched, and that xe was just as much of a spectator as his audience.

"So," he said, clearing his throat. "For an explanation. Thana, please back me up that I didn't want to do anything quite this-- dramatic."

"He's dumb, but not this dumb," Thana agreed.

"Thank you, Thana." Hazel took a deep breath. "So, as I remember, the plan for this second distraction was to lure as many guards as we could over to us, but we didn't want them to be suspicious, because then they'd be armed and we wouldn't be able to surprise them. So I figured something attention-catching, but not immediately a bad thing, would just get people over here to investigate it without thinking we were must of a threat. And there's nothing inherently wrong with fireworks, right? It's not illegal to launch them, and no one thinks someone firing them is obviously up to no good. It would look out of place here and now, yes, but that's what would get curious guards here, and then we could pretend to be these young idiots who didn't know any better, then catch them unaware."

Hazel turned to indicate the dark burn marks scarring the stone wall of Lord Armant's estate.

"However, something obviously went wrong with it," he said with false cheerfulness. "It exploded too low or went off course and hit the wall itself, I don't know which. Now it's going to be suspicious, because everyone inside and nearby would have felt that. And we're going to be in trouble for damaging public and private property. And the only reason there aren't guards here already is because they have to be grouping and arming themselves. And I'm probably going to die here because I can't fight to save my life, literally." Hazel held up his hands, small Spectrum sparks flashing at the tips of his fingers as he spread and fluttered them, jazz hands style. "Uh, sorry."

Amets nodded slowly as xe processed that. "Then you need to get out of here. We still have a few minutes, at least, and even if they see you run, Thana and I can distract them."

"Wait, what?" Hazel asked. "Who said I was running anywhere? I'm not, and I'm definitely not going to leave you two here against them."

"We can defend ourselves," Thana pointed out. "Like you said, you can't. We've been in stickier situations before and gotten away fine, Hazel. Don't worry."

Hazel shook his head. "I'm not going anywhere without you. And at the risk of sounding overly sentimental, I'm going to follow you into everything, no matter where you decide to go, even if I don't come out of it." He paused. "Because I will get so insanely jealous in the unlikely event that this will be actually fun and I miss out when you don't."

"You sound really stupid when you're trying to be sweet," Thana informed him. Amets nudged her disapprovingly.

"Alright," xe said. "Then we need a plan, fast. Thana and I will be able to hold out against armed guards who know we're here for a few minutes, but not forever. How do we get out of here without being followed?"

"If only we had a second firework to launch at them." Hazel sighed. "I couldn't carry two in this coat comfortably. Those things can jab you, you know?"

Thana paused, then pulled a firework - a little different from Hazel's, which probably meant it wouldn't be as destructive - out of her own coat, along with a small metal ball.

"Well, I might be able to help," she said casually.

"Thana, you genius," Hazel exclaimed. "No originality whatsoever because you would have done the exact same thing as me if you'd won the rock paper scissors match over who got to use their distraction, but I can forgive the lack of creativity, because it might just save us all."

"Hey, no," she protested. "Not exactly the same. You see this?" She shook the metal ball a little. "This is a smoke bomb, because I planned for our getaway in case talking our way out of things didn't work. So we have options."

"Options?" Hazel asked. "Okay, that's just like before. I vote to do another rock paper scissors with Thana, and I earn the right to launch the second firework at the guards if--"

"I think maybe no more fireworks," Amets said firmly. "We've committed enough property damage for today."

"I thought you'd say that. Worth a shot."

"It really wasn't," xe said with a sigh. "Alright, so we have a smoke bomb. This makes our job a little easier. I don't think we should set it off immediately, but it's a good thing to have in reserve. First, I think we should try and talk our way out of this- go with Hazel's plan of act dumb and like this just got out of hand. Which it did. If that doesn't work, we set it off, and Thana and I can then take them out sneakily. That shouldn't be a problem, even if we can't see just as much as the guards."

"Practicing our act blindfolded occasionally is paying off," Thana agreed.

"Hazel can further add to things by creating coloured fire all over the place," Amets finished. "And then we pray that things work out."

"Do you both pray?" Hazel asked. "Probably not, and I don't either, since I know you both and can make all my petty concerns into your problems very easily. Let's just cross our fingers instead."

"I wouldn't mind if you prayed to me," Thana said casually. "But yeah, Amets and I can't really pray."

"Whatever we're going to do for luck, we should do it now, because the guards are here," Amets said quietly.

"Amets, remember to act dumb," Hazel murmured. "Thana, just be yourself. That'll do."

She gave him a dirty look, but didn't get to say anything before a whole bunch of very armed, very on-edge guards stormed around the corner.

Immediately, Thana, Hazel, and Amets raised their hands non-threateningly.

"Halt!" the one in front barked. "What the hell is going on here?"

Thana roughly nudged Hazel with her elbow. "Go on, explain," she stage-whispered to him. "You got us into this mess. I told you we were too close to a building, but you said it was fine."

Hazel sighed and cleared his throat. "Yeah, I'm the hell that's going on here. We were just trying to have some fun tonight, going around this lovely city and just seeing stuff, when I had the idea of using one of those fun things I keep around for parties, those--" He moved his arms out in a burst, making an explosion sound. The pantomime made many guards glance between themselves in a mixture of judgement and confusion. "Help me out, what are those again?"

Thana heaved a dramatic sigh. "Fireworks, dumbass. You're thinking of fireworks."

"Yes!" Hazel snapped his fingers. "I just know them as the fun sparkly things. Anyway, did we, uh-- did we blow up your house? A little? More importantly, do you take 'my bad' as enough to leave us be?"

The guard in charge didn't even dignify that with a reply. "Grab them!"

"Yeah, I thought not," Hazel sighed quietly, tipping his head back as he shook it.

"How about... no?" Thana suggested, and she threw the smoke bomb at the guards' feet. A grey cloud filled the air until it was impossible to see anyone or anything through the haze.

Amets immediately drew a knife and started forward, relying on the confused sounds of clanking armour and weapons to pinpoint xyr enemies. Xe could hear Thana doing the same, and soon the agonized cry of guards being swiftly knocked out joined the clatter. A comet of vibrant yellow or starbursts of Hazel's favorite purple sometimes flashed across xyr vision, providing just a little light for xyr and misdirecting and further blinding the guards, but xe couldn't actually see the magician in the smoke. Hopefully he'd stepped outside it.

The one problem xe hadn't thought about with the smoke bomb plan was that xe couldn't really see the fallen guards on the ground to avoid them as more guards came at xyr. True, it made things a little harder for xyr enemies as well, but xe found xyrself stumbling more than once and barely recovering xyr balance in time to narrowly avoid the swing of a sword.

The swirling smoke, slowly clearing around xyr, reminded xyr of watching storm clouds gather above the earth, of watching Storms shape clouds with their hands and sending them down to provide life for Amets' world. Streaks of yellow had flashed through those clouds as well, lightning instead of magical fire, charging the air and sending shivers across xyr skin as xe smiled at xyr little sibling's joy. Storms had always taken so much pride in their work, absolutely delighted to help Amets with xyr world and send life-giving water to the creatures that were, essentially, their little siblings.

Little siblings. Such small, fragile things. Skin almost as easily cut as paper, bones as fragile as glass, soft and squishy even in shells of metal with false claws clutched in their slender fingers. Warm and loud until Amets slammed the hilt of a throwing knife into the back of their head.

The smoke had almost cleared entirely and most of the guards were on the ground by now. Amets took out the last one, then looked around to make sure Thana and Hazel hadn't been hurt. Hazel looked fine; he'd backed out of the smoke cloud almost immediately so he wouldn't be in the way.

Neither Thana nor Amets had gotten away without injury, though. It was inevitable, xe supposed, when you couldn't see to defend yourself properly. Nothing that would keep them from continuing on, though.

Amets took a step toward Thana, but made the mistake of not looking at the ground first. Xyr foot slipped awkwardly off an arm inside a metal gauntlet and xe tipped forward. Thana immediately sheathed her knives and moved toward xyr, nimbly avoiding the fallen guards and catching xyr so xe was half-laying in her arms.

"You alright?" she asked. Amets nodded mutely, and Thana smiled. "Good. If you're alright, then I'm legally obligated to let you know that you're in the perfect position for kissing."

Amets blushed slightly, and Thana's grin grew wider as she leaned down to plant a quick kiss on xyr nose.

"I'll give you a proper one later," she promised, helping Amets back to xyr feet. "We need to get moving again."

Hazel clapped, drawing their attention over. "Well, I didn't even need to get that intense and sentimental on you both. Or as Thana called it, stupid. We're all alive for the next thing."

"It's only stupid when you're being sentimental," Thana corrected him. "Amets and I have a free pass for sappiness because we're soulmates. You can't even land a date, so you don't have a pass."

"You're so sweet, Thana. Don't make me come over there and hug you."

"Please don't, your chronic singleness might be infectious."

"Too late." Hazel pulled her into a bear hug, pretending to make a face.

She gasped. "Damn it, now I've got chronic inability-to-talk-to-women! I'm gay, Hazel, what have you done to me?"

"See, when that happens to me, I talk to guys instead. I'm sorry for you but I'm different."

She pushed him away with mock anger. "I won't believe you talk to anyone of any gender or lack thereof until I see it, Mr. I-pull-a-vanishing-act-whenever-anyone-attractive-stands-within-a-hundred-feet-of-me!"

Hazel held his hands up. "Come on, that's why I hang around you."

Amets failed to stifle a laugh as Thana went through several facial expressions as she realized she'd set herself up for that one.

"I'd threaten to end your bloodline, but there's no chance of you ever having one," she shot back, but Amets knew that she knew Hazel had won this round. "Look, maybe we should get going."

Hazel winked. "Oh, sure."

"Yeah, get going to find you a date," Thana finished. "Come on, loser, we've still got one more distraction to pull off." She smiled at Amets. "You can come too, love of my life. Maybe between the two of us, we can help Hazel out."

Hazel's gaze went over to xyr mischievously. "Wouldn't you be sad to not have me as your third wheel anymore?"

"Double dates could be fun," xe teased gently. "But I'd be sad if we didn't get to spend as much time with you. Especially if we didn't get to spend as much time together on missions. Important ones with a deadline. That we should probably really get back to."

"Don't look at me, look at Thana." Hazel waved them both along. "That part can wait. We've got a roof to climb onto, and I would prefer not to use the wall that I blasted to bits, so let's get moving."
I resonate with my villains more than my heroes and I think that says something about my state of mind

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Hazel's heart was racing, and he was pretty sure it had been this whole time.

Where would he even have had the chance for it to slow down? He felt so alive this night, even when he'd briefly considered that he could die, and he didn't want it to stop. He was magic, he was among the gods, and most importantly, he was putting on a hell of a show.

He still had one more to do.

As his crew traveled to the wall opposite the side they'd started on, Hazel examined the surface of it. Although he'd been joking about needing a better wall than one that could have lost all structural integrity, this one really would be easier for the task. In Lord Armant's effort to impress everyone who walked by, he'd made his roof very easy to climb onto, if a burglar knew what they were doing. Stone carvings of brick-like patterns and the occasional artistic feature made easy handholds, and the balconies were easy ledges to stand on. He'd almost hoped for more of a challenge.

Well, a challenge for someone else on his team. He wouldn't be climbing that way.

"So, we have a suitable wall," Hazel said, reaching in a pocket, "and we have a rope." It took him several seconds to pull the coil out, even once he'd found one end of it to start with. He'd used his largest pocket for it, and it just kept going, even when he thought he'd gotten all of it. He could only imagine how endless it looked to the knife-throwers. "An awfully long rope at that."

"Imagine needing a rope to climb this wall," Thana said loftily, examining said wall carefully. "You'd have to be a real loser- oh, wait, I forgot who I was talking to."

"It's okay to need a pep talk for yourself, Thana," Hazel said with sympathy. "Though that isn't much of one. You're hurting your own feelings."

She rolled her eyes at him. "Give me the rope, smartass."

"Do you need a safety net too?" Hazel asked, but he passed it over.

"You just had to uncoil it when you pulled it out, didn't you," she complained, winding it around her arm. "Make my job harder, why don't you." Once the rope was neatly wrapped up, she set off up the wall, scaling it easily and disappearing onto the roof. Hazel couldn't see what she did up there, but eventually she tossed one end of the rope back down at him and gestured for him to come up, indicating that she'd found something secure to tie it to.

Hazel glanced at Amets. "Aren't you going to wish me luck?"

"I'd promise to take good care of your soul if you fall, but that's Thana's domain," xe replied absently. "I'll reincarnate you as something nice, how about that."

"Nice enough for me?" Hazel asked, setting a hand on the rope. "What could that even be?"

Xe tilted xyr head as if xe was seriously considering the question. "A peacock," xe decided. "Colourful and dramatic and beautiful, like a thousand gemstones placed on the backdrop of a galaxy, melted, and dripped onto feathers until they're covered in layers of shimmer. You'd be an extraordinarily pretty peacock."

Hazel smiled, very slightly. "Oh, well now I won't mind falling."

Xe gazed blankly into the distance for a moment, presumably lost in thoughts about peacocks, then blinked and looked at him. "Wait. Don't... don't do that, though. I like you better as Hazel, not a peacock."

He shook his head. "A peacock was going to be so fun. My night's ruined."

He pulled himself up with both hands, getting used to carrying his entire weight before scaling the rope. Hazel might not be able to climb as fast as Thana had, even with the rope, but he was confident in his ability to not fall. He was definitely below average in physical ability in the troupe, but it was still the Harbinger's Society. Everyone there was above average compared to someone outside.

The surface of the rope was less rough on his hands than the one he'd used in his show, so Hazel was over halfway up before his palms got sore at all. However, that wasn't what made him stop. He found himself pausing, almost at the same level as one of the balconies, with the feeling that something was off.

"I forgot about something," he said, loudly enough that both of them could hear.

Amets gave him a quizzical look -- he was a little too far away to see xyr exact expression, but he could read xyr body language well enough -- and above him, Thana sighed loudly enough that for a moment, he was concerned someone inside would hear her.

"Hazel, for the love of me, tell me you didn't rob all those guards blind," she shouted at him.

Hazel winced. "...I may be off balance."

He climbed up a little farther so he could perch on the railing of the balcony and only needed one hand on the rope. With the other, he reached into a coat pocket on his right side that was quite a bit heavier than he'd realized on the ground.

The first item he pulled out was a set of housekeys. Hazel dropped it immediately, letting it fall to the ground with a clink. The next was a wallet-- he didn't even remember snatching that. That he let go of too. Besides another set of keys that also fell, the rest of the items were more assorted. He had a small pocket mirror, a plain white handkerchief, a brass ring, a notebook someone had filled with sketches (Hazel decided not to look through it extensively), half a loaf of bread (who carried that, he wondered), and a closed envelope that had a slight bulge in the shape of earrings, likely meant as a gift.

Hazel was fairly sure neither the mirror or ring would make the fall, but everything else should. Making a mental note to return those later, he let the other four items drop, gave Thana a shrug, and climbed back on the rope.

At least he hadn't only taken things from the guards. Hazel had left something behind too, something in the closed palm of an unconscious guard he'd found in the smoke, something held like a treasure that they wouldn't remember grabbing but would assume they had seized in the heat of the battle. Something small and rounded, such as a wax seal with another noble's stamp that could have been pulled off a letter. Something like evidence and a whole plot behind it.

"You're the worst," Thana informed him as he pulled himself onto the roof. "You are absolutely the worst."

"You don't get to say anything about it if you don't notice it," Hazel responded as he dusted himself off, though he hadn't even gotten dirty.

"I was a bit too busy saving you from lots of people with swords, if you'll recall," she shot back. "I don't have time to watch your sticky fingers every moment of every day."

"I was trying not to die by the hand of said people with swords, so I didn't have the time to watch them either."

"You better not have taken any more of my knives, or I'm going to make you my target next time we perform and then I'm going to miss for the first time in my career."

After the briefest of hesitations-- it only had been two knives, right? Yes, he would have noticed something poking him by now, and he wouldn't continue to mess with her this long-- Hazel held up his left hand, pinching the pale line on the skin between two fingers, the third and the fourth. "Are you sure about the first time?"

"That was Amets, don't blame me!"

"It was not, unless you're blaming xyr for not being around to be your impulse control and sanity that day, which I don't think counts as xyr doing it."

"It was definitely you," Amets agreed, effortlessly pulling xyrself onto the roof. Xyr voice sounded slightly muffled, and with a barely stifled smile, Hazel realized xe'd taken a chunk out of the half-loaf he'd tossed down. "You convinced Hazel that it would be a great idea to practice without our mentors-"

"Okay!" Thana cut xyr off brightly. "Y'know, that was a long time ago, the details get muddled, it could've been either one of us, let's move on!"

Hazel was about to make a comment about how he certainly hadn't forgotten, but right at that moment, the night wind picked up.

He turned around as naturally as he could, facing away from them and out towards the city under the pretense that he was taking in the view of the rooftops, and not trying to hide that the smirk that had been forming had suddenly fallen. Freezing, wind-blown air filled his lungs when he tried to take a deep breath, and he immediately regretted it. Entirely by instinct, he found his performing gloves and pulled them on, continuing to stare into the distance until he didn't feel so cold anymore.

When he turned around again, he was wearing the same winning smile that he gave his audience.

"So!" Hazel clapped his hands together, though the sound wasn't the same now that they were gloved. "We have the world at our feet, and I think that means we can do anything. What will it be? Touring the city? Stealing an officer's horse? Getting married? Going from rags to riches? Getting divorced because getting married was a bad idea?"

"More fireworks?" Thana suggested. "I do have another one!"

Hazel glanced towards Amets. "I would love nothing more, but it's going to have to be one of the other options."

"Hmm. Marriage seems like an interesting option, but I'm not sure how we'd pull that off. You don't happen to have a ring on you, do you?"

"Well..." Hazel tossed the brass ring into the air, catching it neatly before holding it up. "Is secondhand fine?"

"Secondhand?" Thana repeated, sounding incredulous. "Secondhand? You must have nerves of steel to offer a secondhand ring to a god. I know you can do better, Hazel."

"To be fair, it looks like gold if it catches the light right." Hazel shrugged. "But there's certainly been worse weddings."

Before Thana could reply, Amets sighed softly and looked off into the distance, pale gaze even more unfocused than usual. "Hazel, do your thing and summon the wolves. I want to go home."

Hazel nodded, giving xyr the slightest of glances before moving on. "Oh, robbing nobles is definitely a solid option. Let's do that instead."

He snapped his fingers and spun on himself in a fast circle, holding an arm out as he did. A flare of blue light twirled with him, gathering speed into a spiral of vibrant flame until he flung it into the air. Hazel let his Spectrum settle above their heads, turning it into the shape of wispy cirrus clouds just within reach, before he made it float down to the surface of the roof as parallel lines of fire.

"There." Hazel threw a shower of green sparks in Amets' direction. Amets reached out and let the sparks fall onto xyr hand with the ghost of a smile drifting across xyr face, but said nothing.

The three of them waited on the roof for a few minutes in silence. Hazel pulled his coat tighter around himself as he watched the cold flames glimmer and shudder, and he shivered too. The roof of the building was bare and open, without any obstacles to block the wind from reaching them, and he found himself shuffling closer to the magic as if it had the power to warm him. Reaching out a hand, he slowly changed the color of his Spectrum to his favorite purple, a glowing and brilliant shade at the end of the rainbow. It kept him from getting too bored, but it also felt comforting. Purple light was soothing, softer. It had a different way of lighting up the dark and making the suffocating black just another color.

Hazel had almost forgotten they were waiting for something, until Thana shifted positions slightly.

"Shouldn't something be happening by now?" she asked impatiently, flipping one of her knives through her fingers without looking at her hand.

Hazel leaned over the side of the roof. Nothing. Definitely not a pack of angry wolves hunting for them.

"I don't know," he said slowly, staring down for a moment longer before looking back at the two of them. "We-- we learned all we could about this estate as a group. We were told there would be enchanted wolves as security, looking for magic that didn't belong here. We heard that, right?"

Thana nodded. "Enchanted wolves. Very dangerous if they were to be triggered by anyone other than us. Supposed to come after any magic they sense doesn't belong." She came to look over the side of the roof as well. "And yet, I don't see any wolves. Someone confirmed that there were definitely magic wolves here, right? This wasn't just a rumour someone took as absolute truth?"

Hazel glanced up at her face. Even though seriousness came rarely to both of them, he saw his own solemnity reflected in her.

"Every source we had pointed to that," he said. "And yet..."

He glanced back at the streaks of purple flame.

No greedy and paranoid lord would roll back on such a unique security measure when he'd already gone to all the trouble of acquiring it. There was too much for him to lose, and he knew Lord Armant wasn't the losing type. Even so, Hazel had to consider the terrible possibility that they'd been misinformed on the details. It had happened before, with some crucial information being unintentionally or even sometimes maliciously false, and each occurence had gravely endangered the Harbingers on the heist as well as their mission. They needed to lure these wolves to them and get rid of the threat they posed to the other magic-users on their team, or the lives of their friends inside were at terrible risk.

So what could be missing?

Hazel barely noticed the pain from biting his lip too hard. The cold wind was much more of a distraction, and he could barely think with it.

Maybe they'd misinterpreted something about how the enchantment worked. Going into this, he'd been told that the wolf pack was meant to track and hunt down any magic that didn't belong on the grounds. That detail ensured the enchantment wouldn't be falsely triggered by the magic from any of Lord Armant's artifacts or other security measures that were already present, but it was still ridiculously broad and therefore vague. If someone here needed a healing magic-user like Thana in an emergency, would they have to meet them away from the estate? Did mailers regularly get ambushed whenever they came by to add a new magic possession to the collection?

It didn't make sense for the enchantment to either activate or not on a case-by-case basis when it wouldn't be able to detect what the noble wanted and didn't want on his property each time for any specific thing. Magic didn't have that kind of perception. There had to be more to it than that.

The enchantment had to keep the dangerous out, not merely the unfamiliar...

Hazel smiled bitterly at the realization, as he reached over and let his hand brush the fire. Touching his Spectrum always felt like sinking his hands into fresh snow, except there was no feeling of warming up the space around them. There was nothing to melt with body heat, just magic. Beautiful, useless magic.

"Ah," he said softly under his breath to himself, barely loud enough for Amets and Thana to hear. "It's not malicious enough."

Before either of them got to respond, Hazel pulled his hand back, daring to take another deep breath and let the freeze hit the inside of his chest-- before slowly curling his fingers in towards his palm, like the shape of claws.

His purple Spectrum speed-ran the colors of the rainbow, shifting back to the same blue it had been a few minutes before until it was emerald-green an instant later, then yellow. Hazel watched as it turned into the orange of sunsets, darkening, darkening, until it became the deepest blood-red, seeming to absorb more light than it produced and soaking up what little the stars could offer tonight into its flames.

Hazel opened his hand when he couldn't wait any longer, and the color stopped there. With the gloves, it didn't look like he was shaking at all.

By my two best friends, he felt so much colder now.

"Red," Amets mused dreamily. "Sweet things, like roses and strawberries, but violent things, like blood. Emotions are red, like passion and love pulsing through a heart, carried in the bloodstream-"

"Amets, sweetheart," Thana cut xyr off softly. "I need you to stay on earth with me for a little while longer, okay? Let's get this done, and then you can drift off into the clouds all you want."

Amets blinked, and Hazel could see xyr gaze visibly sharpen as xe nodded. "But the colour itself holds no meaning," xe continued, much less dreamily. "Nothing is dangerous because it's red. If purple Spectrum wasn't enough, why would red work any better?"

"I so rarely do Thana's favorite color," Hazel said, completely unsure if he was fumbling or not. "Maybe this will look more threatening than her, because she's not doing good enough."

Thana rolled her eyes at him before returning her attention to the ground below. A few moments passed in silence, then the quietest of sounds made itself known, growing louder every second. A rhythmic thud of paws and the soft howls of large creatures drawing closer.

Thana's eyes widened as she leaned dangerously far over the edge of the roof to look at the approaching pack. "Holy hell, Hazel, what did you do?"

Hazel frowned, walking over to join her again. "Exactly what I said? It's really on you, the god of death, for not being scary enough, so now I had to channel that energy--"

He looked down.

"Oh," he breathed.

The ground directly below their spot on the roof was a writhing mess of gray fur and bared fangs. Growls and snaps filled the air as the wolves, which were far greater in number than any of them had anticipated, swarmed the space and lunged at the wall, hoping to get to their height. Some wolves were even climbing on top of each other, thrashing and fighting, in an attempt to get even a little closer. One had a collar around its neck that seemed to gleam with a dark sparkle, and he could have sworn its eyes were the same color. There had to be around three dozen, all very eager and very, very furious.

Hazel tore his gaze away after a long moment and looked back at his companions, but neither of them was watching him.

"So," he said quietly. "I might be a little too good at my job."

"There's no way we have enough knives," Thana breathed. "We can take out maybe half of them, and then we're in trouble."

Hazel closed his eyes and shuddered. "I can't think," he said weakly.

Thana made an exasperated noise. "Amets, get over here," she ordered. "Apparently Hazel's brain is more broken than usual and I need to borrow yours." Hazel heard Amets obediently walk over, then whistle softly.

"Yeah," Thana agreed. "What do we do about this?"

They were both silent for a moment, then Amets said quietly, "I think I might have an idea."

Hazel opened his eyes, reaching up to adjust his hat and smooth the hair underneath, fingertips lingering on a curl the same color as his gloves before he looked to xyr, standing up taller so he looked ready. Even if he didn't feel like it.

"I'll take any idea right now," he said. "Let's hear it."

~~~


A magician was always most themself when they prepared to play a trick on an unsuspecting audience.

Hazel scooped up some of the red magical fire in one hand so he could carry some with him and snap the rest out. With a smile, he went over to the edge of the roof again, looking over the side with a bright grin.

"Hello!" he said cheerfully as he waved his free hand.

The wolves growled and snarled louder when they saw him, clawing at the air and standing on their hind legs.

"Oh, you want a piece of me, don't you?" Hazel said, sitting just by the rope and letting his legs dangle over the side as he tossed the fire from hand to hand. "You're such enthusiastic fans."

More growls followed, and one even made a barking sound that was almost like a dog.

"What's that?" Hazel asked, putting a hand to his ear, then spoke like he was stung. "Oh, it's not really me you're interested in? That hurts. I can't believe it's this you care about more."

The flames danced between his fingers as he held up an open hand, giving them a clear view of his Spectrum. In the swarm, he saw the collared wolf open its jaws, teeth flashing white and eyes gleaming dark as it watched the red light.

"Well, I haven't got time for fake fans who pretend to be interested in me for something else they want more." Hazel flicked the flame to his right. "You're all posers."

The pack almost ran itself over trying to follow the progress of his Spectrum, trampling and pushing to try and catch up to it. The crimson fire shot over in the direction of the far side of the manor, outracing the wolves, but they were determined to go with it.

Not quite directly below him, perched in the shadows of one of the first-floor balconies, Thana readied a knife, the blade catching the moonlight as she flung it at the collared wolf. It sunk deep into its left shoulder and the beast collapsed with a high-pitched howl that sounded uncomfortably like a scream. The rest of the wolves continued running as though their leader were still at the front of the pack instead of bleeding onto the dark stone.

Hazel watched the pack leave its fallen member behind, shaking his head sympathetically. "That's what happens when you get led astray."

He changed his position so that he was turned away and in towards the building, with only the weight from having his knees on the edge and a slight lean fowards keeping him on the roof. Hazel put one hand on the very top of the rope, then two, before he pushed himself off the roof and into the air below.

He was lucky to have gloves thick enough to handle the friction of his slide down the rope, although he wouldn't be surprised to find that the fabric might be worn down later. In the few seconds he had of falling, Hazel had the urge to either shriek in excitement and fear or let out a manic, crazy laugh. If law enforcement found him cackling or screaming past the hour of midnight while sliding down a rope at a dangerous speed and preparing to chase after a wolf, they wouldn't arrest him and put him in jail, they would throw him in a circus. Which would be a shame, because Hazel quite liked the one he had already.

After slowing his fall by grabbing the rope so he wouldn't hit the sidewalk at full speed and get the same injury that he would by jumping, Hazel started running the moment he had both feet on the ground. Thana continued throwing her knives at the wolves closest to him, so if the pack turned on him, they'd have a few obstacles in the form of the bodies of their packmates. Amets did the same from another balcony, but with a distinct lack of speed compared to Thana, as if xe were trying to look like xe was helping while not harming as many wolves as xe could. He covered the distance between him and the collared wolf, kneeling on the cobblestone nearby while trying not to get blood on his pants.

The wolf had its eyes closed, and it had resorted to lying on its side, its chest rising and falling weakly as it labored to breathe with the wound. Hazel watched it with a trace of sadness. He was sure the wolf would live, like the rest of the guards, but something told him it would never run with its pack again.

"We're sorry we had to do this," he said, very quietly. "Hopefully you and your pack will be free after this. And even if you can't run like before, you'll get to go anywhere you want with them, and they will match your pace. They always will."

The pack leader didn't move or resist as Hazel reached for the adjustment on the collar and got it loose enough to pull off, but the moment he had it removed, he saw a wolf turn away from the fight and stare at him. Even at this distance, he could hear the low snarl it made.

"Oh, great, they wouldn't know about my sentiments," Hazel mumbled, stumbling backwards as he shoved the collar in the first pocket he could and broke into a sprint.

A howl sounded behind him, and his dread only increased when he heard a couple more, meaning at a least a few wolves had broken away from the pack to follow.

He had a decent start, didn't he? His run was nowhere nearly as long while they were starting on the other side of the building, and he could definitely be swift in stressful situations like this. He glanced over his shoulder as he neared the rope.

The wolves were bounding after him, with powerful leaps that kept all four paws off the ground, their jaws open wide to reveal knife-sharp teeth. It had been an awful idea to look.

Definitely too close.

Hazel had to jump onto the rope, barely getting the height he needed thanks to his momentum, and pulled himself up so fast he didn't even feel the burn in his arms due to the adrenaline. He'd just barely made it. The wolves lunged at him from the ground directly below the rope, swiping at him with gleaming claws, and he had to move a leg higher to stay out of reach.

"Amets!" he shouted as he reached back in his coat and shuffled another few feet up with the other hand, narrowly avoiding another clawed swing.

Xe flinched at the sudden noise, but quickly turned to look at him, readying xyrself for whatever he did next.

"You're going to need both hands free," he hollered as he found the collar and held it up.

Amets took a moment to throw the knife in xyr hand at one last wolf before holding both of xyr hands up, giving him a nod to indicate xe was ready.

"I only get one shot." Hazel let out a sigh as the rope swayed in the breeze and he had to clench his hand on the rope tighter to stay on. That arm was aching now, and he didn't have long to make this throw, but he practiced the movement of the toss anyway, moving his free arm back and forth to wind up for it.

"If you miss, my next knife is going straight through that rope so you fall to the wolves!" Thana shouted tersely at him.

"I hope our aim is equally good in either case!" Hazel shouted back, before taking a deep breath for luck and throwing the collar into the air with an underhand toss.

The enchanted collar seemed to move in slow-motion, first in a rise, up and across, before gradually sloping into a fall. Hazel watched its path with a thudding heart, both hands now clinging onto the rope for dear life.

Amets leaned over the balcony railing, hands outstretched, and caught the collar neatly. Immediately, xe clutched it to xyr chest and closed xyr eyes, lips moving in quiet words only xe could hear. The god of dreams imagined a tiny change to a magic item, the wolves snapped and frothed and barked for a moment longer, and then suddenly--

Silence.

The creatures stopped, looking at each other and up at the magician clinging to the rope, then sort of just flowed away, drifting around the courtyard in confusion. Some of them trotted to their wounded packmates and nosed them, making soft whimpering noises.

Amets dropped the collar -- no longer sparkling with magic -- and looked out over the scene with wide eyes. Hazel exhaled slowly, raising his head to get a better view. He saw the same wolves that had chased him leave the rope behind to go over to the wolf that had worn the collar and nudge at it, until it raised its head and stumbled weakly to three feet, nursing the wound that made the other limb too painful to stand on.

"Hazel, can you get off the rope for a moment?" Amets asked softly.

He looked over at xyr with a confused glance, but nodded and carefully moved to the same balcony that he'd dropped his stolen items from.

As soon as he was clear of it, xe made xyr way over to the rope and slid down into the pack of confused wolves, moving fast enough that Hazel winced in sympathy of the rope burn xe would have. He would have offered xyr his gloves if he'd known that was the plan.

"Amets!" Thana shouted. "What are you doing?" She scrambled out of her balcony and across the wall to reach the rope, but stopped before actually following Amets down.

Xe ignored her and began walking calmly through the wolves. None of them paid xyr any attention, too wrapped up in being utterly confused by everything.

Amets stopped in front of the lead wolf, slowly dropping to xyr knees so xe was eye-level with the creature. Still moving slowly and oh-so-gently, xe ran xyr hands through the thick fur of the wolf's face, whispering something to it as xe did. The wolf whimpered and closed its eyes.

Thana, up above xyr, huffed. "We don't have time for this," she muttered.

"Wait," Hazel said, holding up a hand. "Whatever xe's doing, this pack deserves it."

Amets worked xyr hands through the wolf's fur until xe made it to the wolf's shoulder, where Thana's knife was still buried. Laying one hand on the wolf's nose, xe gripped the knife with the other and pulled it out in one swift movement, immediately dropping the bloody weapon on the ground and covering the wound with xyr hand. Xe didn't seem to care about the blood that welled up and covered xyr palm. With a few more whispered words, the blood flowing from the wolf's shoulder seemed to slow, and xe removed xyr hand. The wolf solemnly touched its nose to xyrs and xe gave it a light scratch behind the ears before getting to xyr feet and returning to the rope, wiping the wolf's blood off xyr hand onto xyr black pants before climbing up and settling xyrself beside Thana again.

The pack spent a few more moments congregated together, brushing against each other and making sure all were ready to move. Then they picked a direction, wandering into a deserted street that would lead to the edge of the city and the forests beyond. Their pace was much slower than the rush it had been before, but Hazel could see that all could keep up. The injured leader was limping still, but its pack did not leave it or any of the injured others behind, and the wolves kept at their slowest one's pace.

Just like Hazel had promised.

Silence fell after the wolves were gone, all three of them simply standing there and taking a moment to breathe and fully take in what had just happened. Thana reached up to tighten her ponytail. "Well!" she said brightly. "This night has been one disaster after another, hasn't it. Hazel, get rid of your stupid fire stuff and let's get out of here before something else goes wrong."

Hazel blinked, snapping out of his distraction as he leaned out of his balcony towards her and rolled his eyes playfully. "That's not what it's called, you know. If you're going to get it wrong on purpose, at least try harder."

She crossed her arms and gave him an exaggerated sigh. "Oh, I'm sorry. Get rid of your fucking fire stuff and let's get out of here." Amets put a hand on her shoulder, and Thana turned to give her partner a quick smile and kiss, although her smile seemed slightly forced. He had to quell a tinge of worry with the promise to himself that he would be able to check on her later. "You alright, Amets?"

As the two knife-throwers murmured softly to each other, Hazel turned to check on his Spectrum. He'd forgotten all about it, but it was still where he'd directed it to by the corner of the estate, floating in the shape of a fireball. The flames still seemed to draw in all outside light and make everything darker instead, but he knew he was supposed to turn it out, not make it purple again.

Even if it would have helped so much.

Hazel smiled anyway. He smiled and his hands didn't tremble inside his gloves as he snapped and the fire blinked out. He smiled and he didn't need to search his friends' faces when he turned back around to make sure they weren't going to point out anything. He smiled and didn't shiver again when they climbed down and he was once more at the mercy of the wind.

He smiled and certainly didn't look over his shoulder when they walked away with knives gathered and stolen items left behind, back to where the red blaze had been, its color so dark and yet so fiercely burned into his sight whenever he closed his eyes.
Silver is a chemical element with the symbol Ag (from the Latin argentum, "shiny" or "white") and atomic number 47.


okay but does this mean I have a melting point of 1763.2 °F



silver (she/her)
  








Poetry comes alive to me through recitation.
— Natalie Merchant