Spiderwebs clung stickily in his hair.
Sewer water swamped under his feet, smelling nauseating.
Dark shadows looming around every corner.
Nothing could stop the young boy from running as fast as he could.
He didn't falter or look back to see if he was being followed. It would only slow him down.
The raspy sound of his breath and his aching feet told him he had been running for a long time already,
though he didn't know for how long.
And for how long did he still have to run?
Was there even a way out of this dark and deserted sewer?
He could only try.
One thing he knew for sure: There was no turning back.
He would rather die here then return to that room.
A room with no windows. With dusky pink lights. There were stuffed animals, like a doll's room.
That tooth-achingly sweet smell. The pressing, suffocating air.
An equally sweet but threatening voice that still send shivers down his spine. Childish laughters.
It rung in his ears, so he tried to deafen it out by the sound of his ragged breathing, the freezing clatter of this teeth and the splashing of his feet.
Until finally, he saw light in the distance.
The light of hope. A sharp contrast to the darkness that surrounded his path until this point.
And for the first time for as long as the boy can remember, he saw the blue sky.
It stretched out above him in a cool shade, with streaks of orange and red in the late afternoon. And to the south, a pale twin moon.
The boy fell on his back, exhausted. This was as far as he could go for now.
But he was free...
Absently, he felt that the ring he had clutched on for all this time was still in his hand.
A large jewel was adorned with silver craftsmanship. It felt cold and smooth.
Back then, the boy did not know yet:
Every time he would close his eyes on that blue sky, he would not be truly free.
Not until the city of Salem would perish.
An alternative ending of the 19th century.
Year 175 of the federation of Witchcraft and Lore
Salem inner city
It was to be the biggest celebration in 9 years.
Many have looked forward to this moment for months, and on the 21st of June, it was finally time.
Surely, more then halve the town had been invited. And more joined from outside.
Salem is a port city, so the harbor was brimming with business for the celebration.
An excited spring in people's step, chattering voices, running children.
The already beautiful city was evidently glowing with anticipation.
Salem was one of it's kind. With a complex water system, breaking the residential area's into several parts, all connecting to the center, where a majestic white castle stood proudly. A midst the other buildings, it was the only that was pure silky white and the walls seemed to sparkle in the sunlight.
Many scholars dreamed of visiting the grand library within it's walls. And there was no lady who didn't long to be swept away by a gentleman in the large ballroom.
For the celebration, the houses were decorated with colored lights, shaped like flowers or butterflies.
And though it was June, enchanted snow lightly fell on the city that was not cold to the touch and disappeared when reaching the ground, spreading a pleasant scent of apples, tulips and vanilla.
The buildings were colorful and round, with bright patterns and ornaments, as if each was competing to the other in being part of an even prettier fairy tale. Red-yellow checkers or green-blue stripes on the rooftops. And Golden or azure lining down every curve.
At the end of every street, there was either a statue, a fountain or a plaza, decorated with mosaic and well kept gardens.
Both by foot, cart or boats across the canals, every vicinity was in easy reach. Nothing as fast as brooms, of course.
This was the metropolis of it's time. The Magic city. The center of trade, culture and progress.
Though with something so marvelous, it is bound to have a dark side.
When it's said that halve the town is invited for the party, it really only means halve of what lays within the high walls, blocking the wealthy part off from the suburbs.
Outside these walls lived the humans. And inside the utopia, witches.
But for a high culture, they would learn to live in peace.
As the superior race, witches empowered themselves and led society to wealthy times.
The city of Salem would be one of it's kind in glamour.
If it were not for that accident from 10 years ago...
Only few who witnessed lived to tell the tale. It was like a single day war.
The south-eastern part of town still carried deep scars from all the destruction the fires had caused.
All that is known of that day is that the entirety of the witch council, including the Queen, had been annihilated.
Those were dark days for the witching world.
It was only thanks to the new queen, the granddaughter of the former, that life could go on so smoothly.
Even though this queen is only 26 years of age, she is the pride of her race and the most talented witch of the century.
She is strong, gentle and very wise.
Queen Alice was the savior of Salem.
And today was a celebration in honor of that queen's younger sister. princess Evangeline.
At the age of 17, every witch is to receive a jewel, depending on their clan.
This was no ordinary heirloom.
Fore as you may know, witches mean doing 'magic'.
These Artifacts are infused with immense powers. The jewel eats the seeping energy that is released when using magic, and they grand power in return.
It is due to this that witches of today are so powerful. The jewels have become their life source. They are one, the witch and the artifact.
When in possession of a powerful artifact, one could do great things. Be it sound or terrible.
And great things were expected of Evangeline.
As the youngest of the 'Grimalkin' or Cat clan and the Queen's sister, she was destined for greatness.
Evangeline had no magical talent what so ever.
The young lady tapped her feet impatiently on the tiles.
She pondered to figure if she was restless due to excitement for being among so many people,
or from discomfort to such a stuffy party.
There was a hint of anxiety too. All these people came for her.
She'd best not screw up. Though Evangeline usually took things as they went. She thought of herself as quite practical.
A person's strength lies in their ability to adapt.
It was very rare that she was among this many people, though. This was a different level entirely to the formal parties she had grown so costume to.
Due to her 'little inconvenient secret', she was home tutored and her parents or governesses had only rarely left her unattended. Just to make sure no one found out she couldn't do magic.
Well, it figures. Next to her marvelous sister, who knew some damn high level stuff by the time she was 10, Evangeline was an embarrassment.
It didn't mean Evangeline was without skill, of course. She had focused all her attention on etiquette, dance, theory of magic, potions, alchemy, etcetera, etcetera.
But nothing that could really be called 'magic'.
Evangeline stroked the creases out of her golden dress and checked if her bangs and 2 side braids were in place to hide her rather bushy brows and larger ears.
She was nothing like her graceful sister, really.
Evangeline was both childish and boisterous, with cheek to spare. She was venturous and loved mischief.
The young princess was often told off by her teachers and elders to behave. But Evangeline knew she could get away with a lot.
She was lovable and cute. And very affectionate and social. There were few people she met who didn't get along with her.
But she was still a tiny shameless gremlin, through and through.
Though she and queen Alice are clearly sisters from their wavy platinum blonde hair and fine posture, queen Alice was much more refined.
Where Evangeline was wild, Alice was a silent and mature beauty with an air of authority over her.
Evangeline admired her older sister very much. She had always attempted to play with her or win her affection by sliding sweets over.
Alice had barely any time in her full schedule, though.
Hardly room to have a good time with her little sister.
But somehow, Evangeline had the feeling like things could look for the better after today.
If she received her artifact, it would mean she is recognized as a full grown witch!
Doesn't that maybe mean they found some clues of magic in her after all?
If all goes well, she should have the opportunity to ask Alice about it.
As not only the queen, but also the head of the Cat clan, she was to bestow the artifact upon Evangeline. That could be a good moment to ask.
Maybe even have a fun chit chat with her.
As a real witch, surely they'd have more to talk about now.
Evangeline needed a moment, giggling in her palm, looking around cheekily if no one had noticed her giddiness and lack of poise.
Not that she'd recognize anyone though. She'd probably even miss her uncle, who was a man hard to overlook, somewhere across the room.
She was surrounded by men and women wearing masks. Colorful masks, creepy ones, masks with long noses or droopy eyes and fake lashes.
It had been Alice's idea to make it a masked ball. The only one not wearing a mask was Evangeline, as the guest of honor.
And Alice herself, cus she's the queen. Queens are too cool for that.
To Evangeline, it felt a little bit like the ballroom was just a little world for the two of them.
It made her feel special.
But also a bit.... secluded?
As the guests were waiting for the queen to arrive, it seemed that not everyone was appreciating the idea of a masked ball, though.
“It happened only last week,” She heard a chubby middle aged witch whisper to a tall and boney man.
“in the Mouse family, one of their artifacts was stolen!” She hissed her words outraged, but also a tad excited.
“It wasn't the head of the family, right?” the male witch replied. He sounded like one of those spineless types.
Another witch with a peacock mask mixed herself into the conversation. “No it wasn't miss Scourise. But I've heard they are sure it's that notorious thief!”
“Right, right!” The chubby one replied. “The one who's been stealing artifacts from all around Salem! So scary!”
“Scary, indeed.” the man seemed a lot less gleeful on the matter. “That's why I'm saying, a masked ball in these times is calling for trouble! Who knows who could mix among the crowds?”
“Ow, don't be ridiculous.” answered the witch with peacock mask. “the Queen's here, how tight do you think security is?”
“I don't feel save knowing the head of the Wolf family is out, though.” The wolf family being something like the local police. The chubby witch turned a bit more meek, thinking of this absence.
“What if he's really here? What was that thief called again?”
the peacock witch fixed her ginger locks, getting hot thinking of the idea. “right, right! The Pla--”
At that moment, all sound died out and the eyes were focused on the staircase.
At the top stood a beautiful figure, dressed in a long black evening gown, decorated with magically frozen roses.
Her blonde curls were pinned up, with a few stubbornly peeking out.
She smoothly descended from the marble stairs, walking straight up as all eyes followed her every graceful move.
The red of the magic roses could not compare to the vivid scarlet of her eyes, as if no light could reflect in them.
Accenting the beauty mark under the left side of her rouge lips, she always wore a modest and soft smile on her face.
Though something about her felt very pressuring. And desolated.
She was the only attendant who wore no mask, save for Evangeline:
Queen Alice Grimalkin.
Next to her was a young man, younger then Alice, but older then Evangeline.
Even while wearing a mask, Evangeline knew who he was.
There was always this fairy-tale-like vibe hanging around Amand Jörmungand.
Snow white hair, tall and slender, well dressed, kind eyes, smells nice. All that misses is the white horse.
Though Evangeline knew better.
Amand was a funny man. He was amusing to talk to and they had been friends since she can remember.
By arrangement, he was her fiancee.
Evangeline supposed she could've gotten worse. He's a good catch. And the cat and snake family have always gotten along.
Though lately, he's been hanging around Alice a lot.
The queen had seen great potential in his magic abilities and so he was asked to join the Witch Council, a group of clan heads that govern Salem and it's surroundings.
Within a year, he had become the council's number two.
Which is why he was the one escorting her majesty down the stairs right now.
'They grow up so fast' Evangeline mused and wiped an imaginary tear,
before figuring this was what the evening was all about and she had to move to the small stage in the center of the hall.
No matter how well behaved Evangeline tried to make herself appear, she was in no way a competition for the gracefulness of her sister.
Queen Alice glided over the stage, filled with dignity. Whomever she passed was filled with awe over the scent of her perfume, the soft look of her pale curls, her fine and almost feeble stature, the ever slightest sign of her chest rising as she breathed, as if she didn't seem to breathe at all.
Around her neck hung a jewel, cloudy white of color. It appeared to be either pink or light blue, depending on the angle and light falling on it.
The name of her artifact was Aurora. The stone a white opal.
Alice had gotten her at the age of 14, far before her own coming of age ceremony.
With the stone of her late grandmother's, which was lost in the war, as sole exception: Aurora was the strongest artifact, befitted only of the strongest woman in the current witching world.
None other then Alice could possibly bare such an omnipotent jewel.
The queen was powerful and beautiful. Evangeline as well, was in complete awe of the grand lady who approached her.
The queen was holding a small box with purple velvet coating. Even the way how she held it was solemn and perfectly in the center of her midriff.
Evangeline's artifact was stored in it. The youngster could hardly bare the anticipation of seeing her very own artifact for the first time.
But even that excitement was overruled by standing in the face of the great Witch Queen.
Evangeline could not remember when her sister had last looked at her so straightforward. So direct. It was almost scary.
Evangeline could only feel adoration in this moment. This glorious woman was her queen and her sister.
She wished to follow her forever.
No matter how poised and cool Alice presented herself, there was an ever passionate fire burning in her eyes.
This made her all the more enticing.
But Evangeline could not shake the feeling that this burning sensation from Alice was pointed at a place that her little sister didn't know of. It wasn't directed at Evangeline, at least.
What was on her sister's mind?
From the audience, the impression was slightly different then Evangeline imagined it to be.
To the gathered crowd, there stood not one, but two young women worthy of idolization on the stage.
If Alice was a frozen rose, eternal and pure, Evangeline was a vibrant sunflower. Climbing valiantly towards the sun. Letting nothing hold her back. She was brave, warm and kind. A princess of the people.
The both of them were incomparable in aura of nobility. But in some hearts, Evangeline was favored.
She was yet unaware of the power she held over people's hearts. And though she doubted to ever be as grand as her sister, there were more than many who would love her unconditionally as their princess. And as a person.
But what both young women didn't know, was that in the crowd, there was a single person who looked at this stage with malcontent.
Still ignorant to the feelings of anyone watching them, Evangeline felt blessed to be in her sister's presence.
“Alice--” She started, wanting to sneak a small tete-a-tete to break the ice. But Alice had already started:
“I thank you all to have gathered here in celebration of the birth of a new Arch Sorceress.
As rituals of old, she shall be bestowed with the blessing of a birthstone from our family. This gem represents her alliance to the Hermes Tresmegistus,” being Alice, “and the recognition as one of our kin.”
Evangeline realized she should've done so from the start, but this was a good moment to hastily sit on her knees in the middle of the magic circle drawn on the stage and fold her hands as if in prayer. Better late then never.
If this ritual was performed by any different family, the family head would sit opposite the new sorcerer or sorceress, outside of the circle, and hand the artifact over as equals.
But Alice was the queen. She would not lower her head for anyone.
She stood in front of Evangeline as she slowly opened the box.
As she revealed the necklace that had been kept in it, the box vanished in smoke, leaving only a golden cord balancing on Alice's delicate fingers. And hanging in the center was a dark stone. The center was a swirl of both fire red and lightning blue. Similar to Alice's artifact, either blue or red were accented, depending how the light fell on it.
A stone such as this was often referred to as a dragon's egg.
As was custom to the Grimalkin family: it was an Opal. In Evangeline's case, a dragon breath opal.
“This is Eden.” Alice continued. “A most beloved stone among our kin.
May he light your path in dark times and brave any fear in your heart, if time must come where you are alone.”
Evangeline had her eyes pinched dutifully, but couldn't help but gulp at Alice's imposing words.
She could feel the other gently tug her long hair away, momentarily exposing one embarrassing too-large ear, before clipping the artifact on it's rightful place.
Suddenly, Evangeline heard an astonished murmur among the crowd. Eve couldn't help but open her eyes and could only just see how Alice perched to the floor before embracing Evangeline.
The younger girl's cheeks flared up in color and the moment was already over before she could even do anything close to answering the passionate hug. She just about had her arms hanging silly in mid-air.
But before Alice let go, Evangeline could hear her whisper: “May you be bestowed with all that my heart has secretly wished for you, all these years.”
Evangeline could just about cry in that moment. Such beautiful words from the person whom she always looked up to.
But as Alice backed off, Evangeline figured Alice was to keep her public appearance and this may have already been too much for her to show. So the younger sister tried her very hardest to not cry and disgrace her older sister and queen any further.
But Evangeline knew she'd lock this moment in her heart forever. Even if it was only barely permitted, Alice spoke these words to her. She had always thought of Evangeline.
Right. Ever since their parents and grandmother had passed away, they had been the only two bearing the prided Grimalkin's name.
Evangeline swore to herself she would do anything in her power to stand by her strong and just sister.
As if in a dream, Evangeline stumbled off the stage and could barely even hear the people around her congratulating her or complimenting her.
She needed some air or she'd faint from pure bliss.
She strut up the marble stairs to an indoor balcony part of the ballroom. It was a whole lot calmer there, and what more, she had agreed to meet up with someone.
Her best friend, Amand was clapping for her encouragingly, knowing well enough what was going through the princess' head.
Evangeline wobbled over to him to lean her head against his chest and release a silent scream as quiet as she could get her voice to go.
”There there.” Amand patted her shoulder to calm her down.
“I'm sorry, Mandy. We can't get married. I'm in love with my sister!” the girl raved.
“Ahahah. Sure, dear. If that's what you want?” He knew this was Evangeline's way of over the top expressions.
She said things like this more often and there was will nor way for him to stop her crazes.
“Did she say anything about me before you came here? You were with her, right?” She interrogated him with twinkles in her eyes.
“I may be her second in command, Eve. But her majesty isn't quite the... talkative type.”
“That's no answer, Amand! What was she like?”
The boy only answered her with a slightly unsettled smile. The one he wore more often when prying was useless.
This man and his stupid poker face. The mask he was wearing didn't help any in it either.
“By the way, are you wearing your glasses underneath that mask?” She asked him, switching topic to get him off guard for a later moment.
“I am as good as blind~” He laughed both heartily and distressed.
Amand had terrible eyesight. About the one and only thing that wasn't perfect about him (safe for his sense of humor).
But glasses were somewhat of a fashion statement these days, so it in fact made him look even better on the long run.
“How many fingers am I raising?” She held up four.
“Twelve!” He looked so sure of his case, too.
“.......” ugh. He was dropping from word puns to lame dad jokes.
Will the country be okay with this duffus as second in command?
Well, it's not a small feat to be head of the Snake family, a Witch council member, in charge of public affairs, and the queen's most trusted councilperson at the sweet age of 19. He had brains enough when he wanted. (IF he wanted...)
He had a lot more admirable things to back himself up then Evangeline does.
She fought hard to not feel inferior to him.
But she always had a hard time to fathom the huge role he plays in Salem. Or the fact that she was to MARRY him soon.
She had hung around him more in one day then she had seen Alice all together in 17 years lifetime.
To her, he was just Amand.
He was more of a big brother. Or a little brother, either way.
It was definitely not that she didn't love him. Or doubted she'd be happy with him.
But there was something that didn't stir her well about it.
Removing his mask, Amand fished his glasses from his chest pocket and wore them.
“Well then, what's the plan from here on out?”
Evangeline raised her shoulders. “No one still told me anything about 'you know what',” being her lack of magic, “so I guess I'll have to wait until they tell me if they found anything.”
“I wasn't told anything either, but I suppose we'll find out Evan-tual-line.”
Evangeline glanced at him with an extremely dead-tired look. It wasn't even a new one. This man needed to be stopped.
There was the sound of commotion and glass breaking to the ground. Evangeline and Amand leaned over the balustrade and saw queen Alice leaning against a table, holding a hand in front of her mouth, looking pale and troubled.
“Ow dear, it seems her majesty has reached her time limit. I'll be right back.” Amand patted her head shortly and rushed down the stairs to aid Alice.
Evangeline had loved to follow and help the queen, but she'd only get in the way. It was not her place...
Her work asked a lot of Alice. Even Aurora wasn't strong enough of an artifact to temper all the magic potential in her, or so Evangeline was told.
Alice was really something for going so far for her country...
Compared to that, Evangeline's life wasn't all that amazing.
She glanced after Amand as he left off towards her sister. He really was a good guy.
Well, even if she didn't know yet what was expected of here from here on out, Evangeline supposed her live was set out for her: Study etiquette to not fall out of rail, don't let people know too much about you.
Proper and poise, marry a pretty tool your family picked out for you and get lots of children in the hope the talent river of their aunty will pass on to them.
Don't speak up unless spoken to. Don't let people in on what you feel. No running. No going outside.
Let people around you handle the difficult work as you sit up and look pretty.
A live of no turns and coils.
Evangeline took a deep breath.
Now now. It wasn't like her to get all cynical. She never really complained on the matters before.
So why do so now?
She took another breath. And another, as if she was short-winded.
Was it... getting warmer in here?
Doubtless, it was a rather packed room, so the air's bound to get stuffy.
But Evangeline felt uncomfortable.
She felt her palms sweat and a sting in her chest.
Maybe... crowds weren't her thing..
But it wasn't just that. The view started spinning in front of her eyes.
It felt like she was falling. Into an endless depth. Sinking into a suffocating blackness.
Her hands were feverishly trembling, her eyes stung.
She opened her mouth to call out for someone.
But... to whom?
All around her were people wearing masks. She didn't know any of them.
It was in that moment as if they were all faceless. Sneering at her and laughing.
Like specters of malice and demons to haunt her.
Who were they? Why was she here? She had to get out!
For a split second, she thought she saw the scarlet eyes of her sister. But even if so, she was far far away.
Evangeline was alone. In a room filled with masses, she felt as if she was alone on a snowy plain.
Her feet freezing and an eerie wind blowing all the happiness from her body.
No.. She hated this. She hated being powerless! Was there nothing she could do?!
Not now, not ever!?
It has always been like this. She always could only rely on others.
She needed help. Quickly.
But no one could do anything. She didn't know how to reach them.
She felt the jewel glow, burning on her chest. Like a small ball of fire, scorching her skin to the bone.
She felt a wave of unexplained hatred overcome her. As if she could never feel joy again.
She couldn't breathe. Her teeth were clattering in fever.
And for a moment, she felt like she somehow knew exactly what this was:
Suddenly, she could feel a hand softly place on her shoulder.
It felt cool and soothing.
She could feel the person behind her lean closer to her. And in a soft gentle whisper, he spoke to her:
“Dear lady... may I have this dance of yours?”
At that, it felt like Evangeline could breathe as if she had never breathed such clear air before that moment.
The feeling of terror from just seconds ago seemed to melt away like a dream within a dream. Even though it had been so unsettling.
What... had she really been so afraid of?
She couldn't remember.
All she knew now is that this person had asked her a question and she was supposed to answer accordingly.
“Err...” She was still rather baffled as she turned around towards him.
He seemed older then she was and rather tall. All the more so because she was pretty small herself.
His eyes were covered by a mask, like all the visitors had. A simple white mask, with a single tear drawn underneath his left eye.
His hair was ash colored and a bit messy, though he didn't seem near old enough to go gray.
His suit was simple, but stylish. In a deep blue hue. He wore gloves, with a white stoned ring on his right hand.
He was a bit lanky, but carried himself well.
All in all, he looked like a fairly descent person. Rather handsome, even.
Not in the way Amand is, though. In fact, if this man had walked by Evangeline on any earlier account, she wouldn't have registered him.
There was something very transparent about him. But none the less, he gave her a very calm and nostalgic feeling.
The man tilted his head with a thin smile on his lips. Rather, he looked as if he was fighting to smile more than that, over her baffled face.
But he waited patiently for her to reply.
“oh uh. Sure!” She blurred out, falling in a habit of being overly casual.
“I mean- I'd be delighted.” She corrected herself and curtsied, as was expected from a lady of her stance.
The man couldn't help himself to chuckle, but bowed accordingly and took her hand.
The song he had invited her to dance on was already playing for a while, but he didn't seem to mind.
Evangeline had studied dancing for most of her life, so she knew quite soon that his dancing wasn't as stiff and over-rehearsed as she's used to from other male partners.
It was rather casual and pleasant.
He opened his mouth for a seconds, as if to say something, but closed it again.
He did so twice.
In the end he said: “You look very beautiful tonight.”
It seemed the safest and most standard thing to say, but Evangeline got the feeling like he sincerely meant it none the less.
“uh. Yeah, you too. Handsome I mean.” She was being casual again and felt rather stupid.
“No need for formalities. Thank you, dear.”
But she cut to the case:
“Have we met? Or, you know, who are you?”
The stranger smiled again. A cheeky smile.
“It's a secret.”
“That's a real shame.” She replied in similar cheek.
“Isn't that the charm of a masquerade? After tonight, we might never meet again. And you may never know. But that makes the memory all the more enchanting.”
'Enchanting' was an ironic word to use in the witch society, seriously.
It wasn't like she couldn't entirely understand what he was getting at. Meeting a mysterious person and having an amazing night. That's what books are made of.
“That's so unfair, though. I'm not wearing a mask, so there's no mystery on my part. This was none of my idea.”
“Well, that only makes sense... A person like you is not easily forgotten.”
It sounded like your average flirting. But there was something about his wording that made it seem like it had a lot more depth then just that.
Evangeline frowned, not really knowing how to respond.
“You're a weirdo.” Was her retort in the end.
He only laughed.
Before both even realized, the song they were dancing on had already ended.
“Oh...” Evangeline noted and couldn't help but feel a sense of pity.
“Ah....” the stranger replied, lost for words.
Common courtesy dictates that at the end of a dance, you applaud the band, let go of your partner to give others a chance, not ask the same partner twice unless asked back.
All stupid rules that would simply mean backing off.
Evangeline didn't feel like it. Wouldn't it be okay for her to dance with him for a bit more?
…...You know what? She was just going to do it!
Even with the music completely faded, she held on to him and smiled her ever cheekiest smile before dragging him back to dance with her again.
Seeing the baffled expression felt so victorious for her, even if his mask covered most of it.
But he soon beamed at her as well. Evangeline was almost certain he hadn't wanted to let go either.
“Still, it's a rather boring party, isn't it?” he continued as they had both calmed down.
It struck Evangeline as an odd thing to say out of the blue, against the guest of honor no less.
She wasn't one to question bluntness, though. Most of the time, she was guilty as charged.
“Excuse you? You're dancing with the cutest girl in the room!”
He laughed and agreed. “Hm. Totally true~”
“But yeah, I guess it's your average 'look how classy we are' kind of thing.” she giggled.
“Owell, upper class needs to do what upper class does best.” He sight a bit wistful.
Evangeline noted that even though his bluntness and casualness was rather sudden, she found it was quite easy to reply to him in response.
It was almost refreshing to not keep up appearances after the whole ceremony and all.
Even with Amand, there were certain things she couldn't say. But like this man said, 'we might never meet again anyway', it didn't matter as much to her to just act the way she likes.
Today was perhaps the last time. And it felt special and out of her ordinary boring routine to share such a moment without appearances with a stranger.
It felt a bit like they were partners in crime, talking a code called 'easygoing' only the other could understand. A little party of just the two of them.
“Hey...” He leaned closer to her with a smile. “What would you say if we'd liven matters up for a bit? If it's you and me, I'm sure we could.”
She had no idea what he was planning. But it sounded quite inviting. “sure. Sounds good to me. What do you plan?”
His smile changed into a more apologetic one as he paused for a moment.
“I do have to apologize to you. I had lots of fun....”
“..eh?” Before she knew what was happening, he had turned her around and had his hands clasped tightly on her shoulder.
The first thing Evangeline noticed was the change in his voice as it boomed across the hall:
“Ladies and Gentlemen~ I do sure hope you are enjoying your careless evening of splendor!
Though I do have to note, it really isn't the smartest to leave your guest of honor unattended~”
Slowly and chilled, Evangeline turned her neck to look at the man who seemed so kind just a moment ago.
Her vision drifted to her shoulder and she saw the different gloves he was now wearing.
They had been smooth and white before. But now they were large brown working gloves.
His suit had turned black and rough, covered by an equally black cape.
And as her eyes glided up to his face, she saw a terrifying bird mask, pale like a skull with deep sockets and eerie stitches.
Evangeline silently gasped in horror and awe as she heard people around her exclaim:
“It's the Plague Doctor!!”
Time seemed to have frozen. even if the following moments seemed to last ages, it couldn't have been much more then a few seconds.
If Evangeline was asked on a later moment, she'd deny she was scared.
But cold shivers ran past her spine and she was nailed to the ground.
Was he going to keep her hostage? Or was he going to kill her??
They said he was a thief, right? So--
With a quivering hand, she clasped on to the jewel around her neck and bit her lip.
No. She didn't want to give it to him. She was finally a real witch now. This jewel proved that. It was hers!
But she had no strength in her hands from fright and the thief ow so carefully and gingerly brushed her hand away from the artifact.
"Do excuse me, princess~" He spoke playful and triumphant as he made an attempt to remove the jewel from her neck, but--
It wouldn't budge an inch.
Both the thief and princess stood dumbfound for a moment, looking at both the jewel and each other.
“....you okay, buddy?” Evangeline found her sass back, quite slower then she wanted. But it was back.
“ This isn't quite how I imagined it.” The Plague Doctor noted as he tried to pry the jewel off of Evangeline's dress.
But to no prevail. It was like it was glued tightly on that very spot.
“don't mind me, you're doing a great job here, mister thief.” Evangeline further taunted him as she slowly and sarcastically clapped her hands for him.
The Plague Doctor clicked his tongue as he saw over Evangeline's head that guards were closing in on them rapidly.
“Pardon me.” He wrapped one arm around her waist and hoisted the both of them up a curtain towards the ceiling.
Quite the impressive feat with just one arm, but Evangeline wasn't going to make matters easy for him as she tried to toss around and get lose.
“You sure apologize a lot. If you let me go, I'll consider forgiving you.” No, she wouldn't.
“With all respect. If I let you go now, you'll fall to your death.” He climbed on the beams that supported the roof, but the guards had already started making their way up to their height as well.
“And now you're trapped in a corner. What's your next plan, genius?”
The thief sighed exasperated and put her down, still holding on to not let her escape. Or to not have her slip off the beams, either.
“You're not helping with your nasty side comments, princess. Whoever taught you manners must be crying.”
“Ow sorry! Was I supposed to help?? this hostage thing is new to me, but I'm pretty sure that's not how it works!”
In a swift move, the Plague Doctor pulled her close again as he smashed a roof window with his free arm.
“Very well. Then this will be my last apology to you for tonight.”
“Ow, what now--”
He held a napkin in front of her mouth and Evangeline gasped a breath before she realized the danger.
She always did wonder what chloroform smelled like.
As she lost her conscious, halve registering the cool night sky and the wind blowing through her hair, she took a great effort to mutter a last departing word: “you....jerk...”