Finally got around to responding to a challenge now that Camp is over! The following is a result of Kurt’s challenge from a few days ago, and hopefully follows at least some of what he requested in it rather than me just doing whatever I pleased with the scene. It involves the same characters from another bit I’ve posted here, which is also the story I was working on in July. A little background may be needed this time, however – it’s a steampunk/fantasy combo, and the two central characters here (Marta and Matthias) are both magical. Marta’s gift is similar to a siren (the magical creature from myth, not the bell), which Matthias has a knack for elementals. Right then, onward!
A dim, salmon colored glow scattered across the cobbles as Marta darted down the side street, hooded eyes anxiously searching out the lean figure of her apprentice. The combination of attempting their task when the trio of minions were least likely to expect an attack and choosing such a precise yet delicate time frame to follow through with it was crucial for success. They had a very limited window of opportunity – just before the sailors and dock workers set off to do their expected morning duties, while ensuring that the usual drunkards and scalawags had teetered back to their chosen hovels to sleep off their excessive stupors. It was a precarious situation, she was forced to admit to herself, but Matthias was more than capable to take on the challenge. He’d proven his worth many times over in the last few months they had been working together, leaving her confident in his abilities, if nothing else.
Eventually she spotted him huddled behind a broken down carriage close to the water’s edge, body still as a cat poised for pursuit. Pulling out the pocket watch Neo had gifted to each of them a fortnight before, she flicked a lever on the side, feeling the soft vibration of gears setting to work underneath the metallic surface. She glanced up to observe Matthias reach instantly into his own pocket, sending back his own dull humming reply to indicate that the message had been received. The outline of his head darted about expectantly, attempting to spot her cloaked figure in the near darkness, and eventually met her eyes. They nodded to one another once before Marta lifted a hand to nudge at the air in the expectation that he’d follow her silent directions. He paused to ensure that no stray being walked down the lane before he darted forward, making his way down the street with his back pressed as close against the stony walls of the buildings he followed as possible. She waited a moment before doing the same, watching the horizon and praying for the sun to hold.
How they’d managed to uncover one of Everett, Trent, and Spence’s hideouts, particularly one right down in the heart of the Old Nichol district, still perplexed and slightly worried Marta. The three were either becoming increasingly more careless in taking care of disposing the evidence of their lodgings or their overwhelming cockiness turned them particularly confident that she wouldn’t be able to discover it. Either way, she refrain from complaining; any advantage they had over Unum’s main lackeys was one she’d gratefully accept and put to use. They had no guarantee that it wasn’t all actually a trap, it was true, but based upon her past experiences with the men, she possessed a certain understanding of how they worked. Luring her in went against their typical way of proceeding – they were much more likely to allow her to come to them before acting, choosing to avoid confrontation until absolutely necessary. Certainly this was no different, or at least she hoped.
Matthias waited a few yards opposite the unassuming doorway that led to their haunt, light streaming down from a street lamp above highlighting the contours of his face. His broad jaw was locked, an obvious sign to Marta that he was nervous, but his somewhat awkward stance low to the ground remained steady and determined. The magician lifted her hand once more, pointing towards the plain rucksack thrown over his shoulder and lifting a single light eyebrow. He nodded again in reply, patting gently at the bag. Neo’s most recent creation remained safe and secure, then. Settling against the slight curve in the wall she had spotted on visits to the spot beforehand, she crouched down, chin resting anxiously against her knees. He followed her lead, one leg bend against the jagged ground to keep the bag protected against his body as he threw his bent elbow across his other. Now all that remained was to wait.
Though certainly less fidgety than Neo ever could be, it became obvious fairly quickly that Matthias’ patience was straining. He soon changed his position until he sat cross legged on the dirty stones, heedless of the condition he’d find his once elegant breeches in when he stood. From the motions of his hands, she could tell that he held something small and white, his fingers manipulating the object into various shapes and forms as his lips muttered soundless words. He eventually noticed her rapt attention, a broad grin coming to his lips as he proudly held the article aloft for her inspection. It appeared to be nothing more than a ratty piece of paper, barely held together by almost transparent films of material. Her brows furrowed in confusion, relaying a bewilderment that he caught instantly. He gestured for her to wait with a single lifted index finger before setting to work once more, concentrating on twisting the page about in a complicated set of motions. His expression brightened suddenly as he opened his palms face up to show Marta his creation. Seated comfortably in his grasp was a miniature dragon, head held back to stare stoically up at the sky. Marta’s eyes widened, mouth gaping open as she glanced from the tiny statue to his eyes, taking in the thinly veiled anxiety behind their bright enthusiasm. She recognized that look – the one that belayed his concern over pleasing her, a mixture of reluctant confidence in what he’d accomplished and utter terror as he waited for her opinion. She wished she could properly convey her amazement and pleasure, but words would have to wait. Instead, she graced him with the only possible response she could at the moment, gifting him with one of the first genuine smiles exchanged in their interaction. She barely had the chance to enjoy his own astonished gaping before the door they were supposed to be guarding creaked open.
Instantly Marta’s attention refocused on the gangly figure that strode forward, picking out the short brown hair of August Spence as he loped into the street. She cringed slightly, stealing a look in Matthias’ direction as he rose seamlessly and nearly imperceptibly to his feet. Everett would have been ideal, Trent tolerable, but Spence was a menace. Lifting a finger in a salute similar to the one Matthias had given her not long before, she crept forward, keeping her body latched against the wall. Her companion jerked his head to his right in reply, throwing out his splayed hand with a flick of his wrist that sent a faint cloud of glittering dust out into the open area. The powder faintly caught Spence’s attention, causing him to jolt to a stop and throw his head about frantically. The magicians froze, Marta fighting to keep her breath low, and nearly growled her irritation when Spence spoke.
“I’m being watched, then?” he inquired quietly, spinning on a single heel to narrow his eyes at the fading darkness around him. “Delightful. What do you propose is our next plan of action, hmm?” When neither spoke, his face transformed into an amused smirk and his voice rose to echo across the open lane. “Miss Rhymer, I presume? And if you’re here, your little apprentice is likely to be close at your side. Are you truly so willing to put yourself into peril for your mistress, Mr. Black? Such dedication…it’s a shame you’re on her side.”
Matthias’ gaze rose to meet Marta’s eyes, a frown etched into the lines of his forehead. Unconsciously his hand reached for the bag at his side, his lips twitching in silent question. Marta inched forward slightly, lining herself up until she was squarely in front of Spence, before giving Matthias a single curt nod. Before Spence could react, Matthias ripped the bag open and tossed it forward, pushing the half a dozen nondescript balls inside toward the man with a carefully formed gust of wind. Once in position, Marta took a step forward and let out a shrill cry, activating the catch that would release the various nets hidden within. Spence was able to shout out an impressive set of curses before the clear barrier draped him in silence. She strolled the rest of the distance between them, stopping just on the outside of the shimmering edge to smirk up at the infuriated man. His mouth moved furiously in what was certainly a combination of frustrated demands for release and inappropriate comments on her upbringing and morality, but she merely cricked her hip to the side in an sign of defiant amusement. Matthias came to stand at her side, a soft chuckle coming from him as he crossed his arms over his chest.
“So,” Marta finally stated, turning back toward the open doorway. “Shall we investigate?”
Matthias’ chuckle morphed into a full-blown laugh, his head shaking as he gestured her ahead. “By all means. Let’s see what we can find.” Her only reply was a wide grin as she pulled him inside, the edges of pinkish light just peaking across the water to peer at the man pounding angrily against nothing.