The Weekly Weird World, Part V (Layout)

Erin: Cat's Cradle was a rather small, old fashioned store - the word "quaint" came readily to mind upon approaching it. The building looked like it could have been left over from Dickens' day. It had a hand carved wooden sign, with an appealing black cat by the name, even if some quirk of the chisel had given it a very mischievous look. An old style lamppost lamp was also set on the store front, though it was lit by an electric bulb. Even this place was not quite so old fashioned as to use oil for fuel.

Erin: It had large, glass windows, and what was in the windows were toys. Mostly toys, anyway. On occasion there was the odd clay pot, or tailored outfit, or bit of furniture. It was a bit eclectic, to be honest. Wooden nutcrackers would sit next to detailed models of an X-Wing or a plastic dragon.

It was very late at night, and so the lights were out, and the street mostly empty.

The Storyteller: Sergei was there, waiting outside the shop. He had dressed casually, in jeans and a brown leather jacket. His expression, on the whole, was nervous, and he checked his watch frequently. He had misgivings about this outing.

Caelan: Caelan glanced up and down the street with crossed arms over her knit sweater, looking for all the world like a lost and demure young woman. This was anything but the truth, of course, and she walked toward the shop with vague purpose. "Hey," she said to Sergei as she approached. Somehow she never knew what to call him in public. Granted it wasn't very public, but it was outside and without Erin.

The Storyteller: "Evening." Sergei said, offering up a gentle smile in Caelan's direction.

Erin: A corvette prowled down the street, pulling up along the street and parking. It was near impossible to miss. It did not do this in a terribly flashy manner, but it was the middle of the night, and it just was not a subtle car.

Erin stepped out. She was wearing a dress, and a blue coat against the evening chill. She looked just a little trepidatious.

"Ah, good evening," she greeted both the figures, adjusting the brown satchel at her side.

The Storyteller: Stepping out of the Corvette after Erin was a man sufficiently handsome to make Caelan wonder if she was back among the Fair Folk. He was tall, broad-shouldered and muscular, with combed back brown hair and dark eyes. He dressed in jeans and a polo shirt, and wore an expensive looking sports jacket. He favored Caelan with a predatory-looking smile.

Caelan: Cae blinked and glanced at Sergei--was he expecting that?

"Evening, Erin," she replied with a raised brows. "Um, nice cab, there?" She noticed the dress too, but figured Erin wouldn't take the compliment.

Erin: Erin didn't reply to the comment on the car, given that it wasn't hers.

"Are you doing well, Mis Brennan?" She seemed to be watching Caelan for something.

"How are you, Seryozha?" she asked, walking over to the pair of them. She offered the rabbity man a jelly bean.

The Storyteller: Sergei took it and ate it. He was used to Erin trying to feed him at all hours of the day or night. "I'm fine." He offered her a somewhat lopsided smile. "Ready to go shopping."

The Storyteller: The handsome man made an exaggerated show of clapping. "Wonderful."

Caelan: "Errrr," Caelan squinted a little at the man, then tried a very unpleasant smile, the kind that didn't touch the eyes with a 10-foot pole. "Great. And you are?" ((Aura reading, hang on))

The Storyteller: "One of Erin's employees." The handsome man said, completely and utterly ignoring Caelan's scary-smile. He grinned wolfishly at her. "And who are you my lovely lady?"

Caelan: "A colleague of Erin's," she said flatly.

Erin: Erin waved a finger at the handsome man in slight admonition. She watched Caelan for a few moments longer, then seemed satisfied about something.

"Ah... this is Sasha," Erin introduced, with a gesture. "Sacha, Miss Caelan Brennan."

The Storyteller: "Charmed." The very handsome man said with an even broader grin. He offered Caelan a half-bow.

The Storyteller: Sergei said something in Russian, and the Sasha smiled at him a little apologetically. Sergei continued, back in English now. "Shall we pick up the last member of our group?"

The Storyteller: "...We may want to take my van." Looking at Sasha's corvette, it seemed doubtful that all four would fit into the car.

Caelan: Cae shrugged and kept her flat face.

Erin: Erin also added something in Russian, with a quirked eyebrow. She smiled at Sergei and Caelan. "You can sit with me in the back," she murmured. "Shall we go?"

The Storyteller:

The Storyteller: It was a long roadtrip in Sergei's van to the group's ultimate destination. The Hawksworth Preparatory Academy was a rather expensive and quite exclusive all-girl's boarding school in Essex, the county neighboring London to the northeast.

The Storyteller: It was the sort of place that had a tall fence, which is where the group now was after Sergei had parked some quarter mile away from the school. Given that this was most distinctly after hours, it probably wasn't a good idea to get caught for trespassing and arrested.

The Storyteller: Sasha threw a cable over and began to climb the fence.

Caelan: Caelan peered through fence before attempting to follow anyone over. "Shopping, yeah," she muttered.

Erin: Erin mumbled something about fences under her breath.
"Ah, if you like, you can wait here, Miss Brennan," she said to Cae. "We shouldn't be too long. We're just picking someone up."

The Storyteller: "Didn't you know?" Sasha said, smiling. "Moth likes very vigorous shopping trips."

The Storyteller: Sergei just sighed, though you noticed that he didn't exactly disagree. He motioned for Erin to go next.

Caelan: "I'll wait, then," the vampire replied. In life, she had very cleary been a 'party pooper' among peers.

Erin: "You are terrible at this!" Erin replied, with slightly amused outrage at Sasha. She gave Caelan a friendly nod and then wrapped her fingers around the rope.

Erin: This time, she managed not to fall on her face.

The Storyteller: *****************************************************************

The Storyteller: About fifteen minutes later, Erin returned. Sergei and Sasha followed after her, exchanging quick bantering in Russian under their breath and generally making a note to stay between Erin and the fourth member of this little group.

The Storyteller: The vampire, for so it was, was a sad-looking girl in her teens. Perhaps fifteen, perhaps seventeen years old, though that mattered precious little to a vampire. Dark-eyed, though with an active, almost feverish gaze, eyes darting about. She had light brown hair that looked like it needed a haircut, and she dressed in jeans and an oversized sweatshirt, perhaps to make herself look older, perhaps to simply ward away the chill that she felt even in death.

The Storyteller: Her febrile gaze locked onto Caelan almost instantly, and she licked her lips gently, though she said nothing for the moment.

The Storyteller:

Caelan: Caelan gave an uncertain wave to the group, and she eyed the newcomer as politely as she could.

Erin: "Ah... Miss Mary Mack," Erin introduced.

The Storyteller: "Hi." Mary said, offering up a small wave. She looked oddly vulnerable in that oversized sweatshirt. "So what are your names?"

Erin: "I am Erin," Erin said. "Those two jokers are Sasha and Seryozha," she said with a gesture and a raised eyebrow. She could understand them back there.

Caelan: "Cae," the other vampire said. She suddenly seemed on edge, her movements more jittery than before.

The Storyteller: "You're like me." Mary said, still focusing her attention on Caelan. She had a quiet voice, almost shy. She glanced at Erin. "Where are we going?"

Erin: "Picadilly Circus," Erin replied, starting back towards the car. Best not to linger under the fence of the school for too long. "It is back in London proper. I hope you like it."

"Are you okay, Miss?" she murmured aside to Caelan as they walked, low enough and far enough that - hopefully - no one else could hear. "We could drop you back off at home, if you've changed your mind."

Caelan: Caelan looked at Erin for a moment, then thought better of revealing her concern. "I'll be fine," she said sotto voce, and attempted a smile. "Where to in Picadilly?" Cae raised her voice.

The Storyteller: Sergei got behind the wheel of the van, and Sasha, after a moment's hesitation, offered Erin the passenger-side seat, should she wish it.

The Storyteller: Mary, for her part, got in the back without a word, sitting down on one of the bench-like seats and looking for a seatbelt.

Erin: Erin went for the front seat and then hesitated, looking to see if Caelan would prefer to have Erin in the back seat with her. Admittedly, Sasha made for a rather impressive barrier between her and the other vampire, but then you had to put up with Sasha.

"I know a lot of the merchants from when I used to work at the Market," she replied to Caelan. "I figured I would just ask around and see what could be done."

Caelan: "What could be done?" Cae muttered, appreciative of having the company in the back seat. She glanced at Mary now and again, and if she was caught, she offered another smile.

The Storyteller: Mary, for her part, was watching Caelan, and making little effort to hide her interest in her fellow vampire. She returned the smile, a shy little smile, positively girlish. She could look very young when she chose.

Erin: "Well. I must see what parts I have, before I build anything," Erin murmured in return, wishing she felt very confident. She gave Sasha an appreciative shrug but shook her head, instead sliding into the seat directly behind the driver. Her long fingers twined around Sergei's shoulders for a bit, though departed once he started the van.

The Storyteller: "How do you two know each other?" Mary asked, looking away from Caelan for a moment to glance at Erin. "Or should I not ask...?"

Caelan: "It's a long story, isn't it?" Cae shrugged with a glance to Erin. "She was working on a film set..."

Erin: Erin's face turned slightly waxen.
"I just... happened to run into a friend of hers on set," she said, staring directly forward and not blinking.

The Storyteller: "That simple." Mary said, crossing her arms and leaning forward. She looked cold, cold and sad.

The Storyteller: ********************************************************************

Erin: They had to park a fair ways off, given the nature of the intersection. Piccadilly Circus was a crowded square, with shops around on all sides. In the middle was a fountain, a trumpeting angel standing atop it, all surrounded by streetlights. Erin fished a penny from her pocket and flipped it into the water.

"Five little cookies in the bakery shop, shining bright with the sugar on top," she recited, tagging the lampposts one by one as she walked in a circle around it. She didn't really have to do this, there were other entrances and the rhyme wasn't needed. But she was a bit starved, and it was easier on her this way.

"Along comes a child with a nickle to pay, buying a cookie to take it away," she finished, walking between the final two lampposts and gesturing the others to follow.

Erin: What should have been on the other side was a street, and a large building covered in advertisements. What was actually there was a gigantic circus. There was no mortal analogue for this place, at least, not one well known. It lacked the nailed down, settled nature of the big circus shows, and yet it was far bigger than any travelling circus could ever hope to be. On the streets creatures of every shape and size were hawking their wares, trying to catch the eye with bottled dreams and impossible nick-knacks.

"Now, be careful not to agree to anything here," Erin said, more for the three newcomers than for Caelan, who'd been here before. "Not unless you're very sure what you're agreeing to. Alright?"

The Storyteller: Sergei looked out across the odd assortment of tents and shops and nodded quietly. Sasha merely crossed his arms and after a moment voice a soft agreement.

The Storyteller: Mary... she looked across the market, shrouded in eternal twilight, and then turned her gaze to Erin with a wry smile. "Maybe."

Caelan: The odd familiarity was actually comforting. Cae straightened. "Where first?" she asked Erin, the de facto leader, ignoring Mary's mischevious comment.

The Storyteller: "Miss Mary Mack / All dressed in black / With silver buttons / All down her back." Mary murmurred, not paying much attention to the rest of you just now. "She asked her mother / For fifty cents / To see the elephant / Jump over the fence."

The Storyteller: "He jumped so high / He reached the sky," The vampire said, raising her face to the sky and breathing in the air. "He never came back / Til the 4th of July."

Erin: "Hmm," Erin replied, looking around for familiar stalls. She didn't seem to mind Mary. If anything it made her fit in. "Mr. Othello might be around... ah." She noted a familiar stall alright... the one she'd used to work at.

"The Maestro is here," she said. She didn't seem certain about how she felt about that. "Well. I don't think anyone knows the Market better than her. Though, uh, if you didn't wish to come speak to her, we could meet at another stall."

Caelan: Caelan paused to let Mary finish (not without a wary and furtive look) and bite her lip. "Maestro...?" It sounded familiar, and vague. "We can go wherever you want, Erin. This trip's for you."

Erin: "Mmm," Erin replied, non-committal. She whispered aside, "I am hoping to find something to help Miss Mary, so that she need not be alone. And need not prey on others. I know one of the children at that school, you see?"

The Storyteller: "She asked her mother / For five cents more," The other vampire was looking around, and picked up a length of copper from the ground. A pipe, part of the endless refuse that littered the edges of Picadilly Circus. "To see the elephants / Jump over the door."

The Storyteller: "They jumped so low / They stubbed their toe," Without any particular effort, Mary Mack bent the end of the copper pipe into a loose parody of a cudgel, smiling softly to herself. "And that was the end / Of the elephant show. Lead on, Erin."

The Storyteller: --------------------------------------------------------------------

The Storyteller: Marie Tempest was the Maestro. Everyone called her that, herself included. She might have been a changeling, though she probably wasn't. She might've been a hobgoblin, though she certainly didn't look like one. She might've been a True Fae, though that didn't bear thinking on.

The Storyteller: She was an average sized woman with olive skin and feverish light brown eyes. Her shortish, brown-red hair looked like it had been struck by lightning several times. She wore hideous plaid vests, brightly colored dress shirts, and plain slacks and dress shoes. All of this was topped off with a fur-trimmed coat that's covered in stitches. She had multiple piercings in her ears, with chains running between a few of them, and rings on every finger. A long, jagged scar ran across her nose and under her eyes, completely bisecting her face, and she smoked an antique Calabash pipe.

The Storyteller: “ERIN!” The Maestro cried, her voice loud and raucous. Her venue was no tent or storefront, but a stage, which she bestrode like a colossus, the brilliant background looking like a demented child’s collage. “You are just in time! I have new puppets! They’ll be dragon-skin and basilisk-hide, just as soon as the basilisk stops being stubborn.”

Caelan: Caelan ...had not expected such a joyous call, but this was the Market, and emotions could be deceiving. She lightly patted Erin on the arm. Good moral support from a blood-sucker.

Erin: Erin approached the side show with a mixture of trepidation and nostalgia, reaching out to touch the tent with a wistful air as she approached. She smiled, but she was immediately on her guard. The Maestro was... manipulative wasn't quite the word, not in the way the former Queen of Spring had been. But she knew how you worked. right down to your core.

"Good evening, Maestro," she greeted with a pleasant smile and a small bob. "New shadow marionettes? I was hoping to ask you about something." She pushed the puppets out of mind in favor of business.

The Storyteller: "Is your question anything to do with puppets, marionettes, or cat-guts?" Marie Tempest asked, sitting down on the edge of the stage and puffing at the antique pipe.

The Storyteller: The other vampire, meanwhile, was looking at the show with an expression of childish wonder, though she swung her makeshift cudgel as though it was a walking stick.

The Storyteller: Sergei and Sasha... hung back. This is because they were smart.

Erin: "Well, did the fix on the colored puppets' elbow joints work out-?" Erin caught herself. "As for the other... for a certain definition?" She scratched her head and figured she'd just keep talking. "Erm. I'm looking for a lifetime's supply of blood, or some other suitable accommodations."

There was one benefit to talking to Marie Tempest, and that was that she did not find things strange, per se. Strange was not a word that really occurred to her.

The Storyteller: "Animal, mineral, or vegetable blood?" Marie said, musingly. "Fish, fowl, mammal? Human or quasi-human or ex-human? DETAILS!"

Caelan: Cae cleared her throat and gestured a little. It should have been obvious, but again it was the Market. She wondered if Mary was catching on.

Erin: "Uh. Human or quasi-human without having to come from a human?" Erin said after a moment's thought. "Or bloodwort, I suppose. Or maybe an immortal something or other..." She began to ponder.

The Storyteller: "There's Bobby Birkett, Long-Shanks Charlie did him a few favors." The Maestro said, swinging her legs and emptying her pipe. "Also the Bottomless Lagoon of Gore, but there's sharks in there... Oswald and Butterbug deal in Bloodwort here, though a lifetime supply is going to be pricy."

Caelan: "Yeah," Cae shrugged. "Well..." and then she trailed off, glancing to Mary. She was trying very hard not to see the aura she'd spied before.

Erin: "Bottomless Lagoon of Gore?" Erin said, quirking her head to the side. "What kind of sharks?" Sharks were sounding preferable at the moment.

The Storyteller: Mary Mack was once again looking at Caelan. It was an odd kind of look, intense, hungry, and very curious all at once. Somewhat like Rakesh's, as a matter of fact. She smiled faintly when Caelan glanced at her, tilting her head to one side and shrugging her shoulders. What?

Caelan: "What's your favorite taste?" Caelan asked abruptly. It seemed to surprise her too, not to mention scare her.

The Storyteller: "The kind of lots of teeth, I think. And wings." The Maestro said.

The Storyteller: "Taste...?" Mary said, smiling for a moment and growing distant. "Families. All a little alike, but not quite the same."

Erin: "Oooh," Erin noted at the sharks. She glanced back at the two vampires, and tried her best not to lose her resolve.

"I don't think I recall Bobby Birkett?" she noted, putting a fingertip to her lip.

Caelan: Caelan nodded slowly, as if this were an acceptable exchange. The answer disturbed her, but she did her best not to show it. "Haven't tried that," she mumbled.

The Storyteller: "The Honorable Robert Birkett!" The Maestro said. "Scion of pirates, slavers, scoundrels and thieves. He runs a farm out in Plymouth. People-farm, they drain blood and put them into these little plastic packets with screw-on tops." The Maestro paused. "I hear it's delicious?"

The Storyteller: "Just a sip." Mary said, smiling faintly. They were bonding! Somewhat. "What about you?"

Erin: "Oooooooh dear," Erin said, biting her lip. "I think I may have gotten some of his merchandise secondhand. No, no, I think not."

"Butterbug and Oswald run the food place, yes?" she recalled, with a faint smile on her lips. "We could certainly stop by there. Say, do you know any vampires around here, Maestro?"

Caelan: Caelan responded well to this. She looked dreamy for a moment. "I've been raised on spiritwalker." Her bashful expression faded when she overheard The Maestro, however.

The Storyteller: "Several! Vincent Moon wrote a few of my shows. The Twelve Terrible Sisters, do you remember that one?" The Maestro sighed reminiscently, then reached over to ruffle Erin's hair. "I loved that show. His daughter stops by sometimes too. And I've met the Dreaming Vampire of York, though she hasn't been to the Market in years."

The Storyteller: "A spiritwalker?" Mary Mack said. She smiled hesitantly at Caelan. "What's that?"

Erin: "Ooh, yes," Erin giggled. "I especially liked that bit in the middle with the half-way forest." She scratched her head. "The Dreaming Vampire of York? Sounds like one of us."

Caelan: "You know, a werewolf," Caelan said lowly. It seemed scandalous to reveal such information to a Kindred. Still, she had half an ear on The Maestro, and it was impossible not to pay attention when her mentor was mentioned.

The Storyteller: "Vinnie writes the most scandalous plays. Though he has about two hundred years of experience." The Maestro looked off into the distance, wiping a tear away.

"Oh for Regency theater to be fashionable once again. I'd give my left ear. But Vinnie I can introduce you too, and the Vampire of York lives somewhere here nowadays, I could find you an introduction. She's an oneiromancer and a prophetess. One foot in the world of the dead, one foot in the Market and the Hedge."

The Storyteller: "A werewolf?" Now this had apparently impressed Mary, to judge from her reaction. Her mouth hung open slightly. "No, really? How did you catch one?"

The Storyteller: "You're not making fun of me are you?" Mary Mack said, casting Caelan a sidelong glance.

Erin: Erin resisted the urge to say "with fluttery eyelashes."

Caelan: "He caught me," she said simply. "Hold on." Cae held up a finger to Mary and then tapped Erin on the shoulder with another. "You know, Erin, I could introduce you, maybe. She might, ummm, find you curious."

Erin: Erin gave a small blink. "Curious in a good way or a bad way?" she asked.

Caelan: Cae gave her friend a hopeless shrug.

Erin: Erin looked at her, and then matched the shrug, turning to look at Mary. "Anywhere that suits your fancy, Miss? I could talk to Butterbug, though he might take my left hand for something like that." She tapped at it a little more cheerfully than the situation warranted.

The Storyteller: The question, it seemed, caught Mary Mack off guard. She looked at Erin weirdly, then at Caelan. "Why are you doing this?"

The Storyteller: A bit off in the distance, Sergei looked as though he was about to pipe up at the prospect of Erin cutting her hand off (bleeding was quite enough), but Sasha grabbed him by the shoulder and pulled him back, hissing rapidly in Russian to him.

Caelan: Caelan hummed. "Erin is nicer than she thinks," she said and put her hands behind her back. She expected a protest.

Erin: Erin blinked and shifted her eyes rapidly back and forth. "Why not, Miss?" she asked, her fingers folding around themselves like a particularly nasty octopus collision, though Mary couldn't see it through the mask. "Have I offended you...?"

The Storyteller: "No, it's just..." All of a sudden, Mary rushed forward and threw her arms around Erin, hugging her closely. "No one's been this kind to me in such a long time."

Caelan: Cae ... smiled. That was all.

The Storyteller: The vampire sniffed and held Erin close, a tear of blood forming at her eye. "It's okay. I'll be fine, honest." She smiled wryly, though since she was still holding Erin, only Caelan could see. "You better keep the hand."

Erin: Erin meant to say something comforting, but she mostly got out "Grnk." Mary was stronger than she looked.

"Well," she croaked out, "prices are negotiable."

Caelan: "Hmm, sure, Erin, better be careful with this one, yeah?"

The Storyteller: After a moment, the vampire let go of Erin, sniffing. "It's alright. I've been living on my own for a very long time. I can survive."

Erin: "I know you can survive, Miss," Erin replied, with a slightly wan smile. "But there's no reason not to see if you can't have more than that."

"I'm sure I could find something else to give," she said, smile morphing into an impish grin. "And even if not, I bet I could get a new hand."

Caelan: "Erin!" Cae sighed.

Erin: "They have these lovely little mechanical things with the gears and joints you can see moving-" Erin continued, oblivious.

The Storyteller: Sergei cleared his throat, rather loudly.

Erin: Erin sniffed. No one here was any fun.

The Storyteller: "I... um... would appreciate that? But no hands." Mary Mack said, looking at Sergei. Then she glanced at Caelan. "And you still owe me a story of how you caught a werewolf."

Caelan: Cae laughed a little shyly, in part because Mary had ignored what she'd clarified. "Yeah, okay."