Prologue: Drury Lane, Scene III (Michael)

Ilkin considered this for a moment, pausing only to acknowledge Sophie's greeting with a nod and a simple "Ms. Penrose." He wasn't willing to betray Othello outright, but he did owe Cinder a favor.

"He is a trickster changeling," the Mage finally said, "Typically he is not dangerous -- at least not in the way that a werewolf is dangerous. His pranks may cause harm, but that is usually not his intent. He is often motivated by a drive to do what he feels is best for the local fae, but he's been known to try and, ah, give a lesson to people he feels are too proud. He has his own way about him, but he rarely intends to cause real pain or suffering."

The Acanthus paused again, then continued. "He can be reasoned with, but it will require patience and persistence. Convincing him to accede to one's requests -- or demands -- may require creative thinking, or else a service performed in return. I imagine physical threats will only encourage his antics. He does not think or act on the same wavelength as most people, mortal or supernatural, so it is best to approach it evenly. He is not an unreasonable man."

He knew he shouldn't stick his nose in, but he made a mental note to possibly follow up with this and see what Othello was up to. It probably was harmless, but Ilkin figured it wouldn't hurt to let the Cat know he'd attracted some unwanted attentions.

"Unsurprising." Penrose said imperturbably. She regarded Michael with those grey-blue eyes of hers, dressed in white, her expression fading into one of thoughtful calculation. When she smiled next time, it was a great deal less sweetly. "I can only say that there was a mistake somewhere along the chain of information. I doubt you'd have been a good fit, nor would you have been happy even had you swallowed your distaste. In which case, I can only apologize for wasting your time and mine."


"Ilkin, facts." Cinder said quietly. There was a hint of a growl in the werewolf's voice now, a low-pitched hum that signalled that Cinder's patience was not unlimited. "His home? His enemies? His allies? His powers?"

"Those are facts," Ilkin replied evenly, watching Cinder carefully, "If you intend to have any dealings with this man, what I have told you is of interest to you, and are the only facts I can definitively provide. If that is not enough for you, then perhaps you should reconsider the nature of the information I have given. You are not listening to what I am telling you. These concrete ideas of home, enemies, allies, powers -- they are not the same to faerie as they are to you, or even me. Much of my life since Awakening has involved extensive interaction with Joseph and his ilk. You would do well to pay more attention to my words than dismissing them because they are not what you consider facts."

The Mage took a breath and forced himself to cool. He hadn't quite lost it yet, but Cinder had no idea what she was getting into. Othello wouldn't kill her, but if she actually went after the Cat without understanding the Cat, she'd just get herself humiliated time and time again.

Deep down, Ilkin suspected Cinder was incapable of understanding anyone on that level. Cinder's mind seemed to work based on hard, cold, irrefutable facts. Perhaps it was impossible for her to grasp the need to understand the Cat's psychology, assuming anyone could understand it.

But Ilkin tried. If Cinder fell on her face because she ignored his words, that was no longer Ilkin's problem.

"He has no permanent home, no permanent enemies I know of other than the True Fae and their minions, and I do not know who his steadfast allies are. Of his powers, I only know he is a shapeshifter, and that he can affect other beings' desires -- change them, force people to act on them. Beyond that, I cannot fathom the scope of his abilities."

Ilkin paused, then looked Cinder directly in the eyes. "My obligation to you is now fulfilled," he said calmly.

As Sophie finished, Michael just laughed - not his usual laugh, one filled with amusement and joy and light, but a darker and more bitter laugh, one that said this meeting had cost him far more than just time. "I'm afraid you couldn't possibly apologise enough for all this, Miss Penrose. Not that I'd expect an apology from someone like you," he answered, locking eyes with her. He hadn't intedned to be so confrontational, but she just rubbed him up the wrong way, the way she spoke to him was like a challenge - and the wolf in him couldn't pass up a challenge. That would be a sign of weakness.

"No? How little you know me, Mr. Oliver." Penrose said, tilting her head to one side gently to regard Michael, still smiling that silken smile on her lips. She slipped one hand into the pocket of her jacket, glancing at an ultra-slim cellphone. She disregarded it as beyond her notice just for the moment.

"If you won't accept my apology, then accept my advice." Penrose said, and her tone of voice turned cold, cold and mocking. "You're playing with the big boys now. And not all of them will be as nice as I have been."

Then, as casually as though nothing else had happened, the socialite turned on her heels, dialing a number on her cellphone as she walked away.

"Your obligations fulfilled." Cinder said softly as Ilkin finished, her lips bared into a soundless snarl. This conversation had not gone nearly as well as she had hoped. Still, after a moment, she blew out a breath, mastering herself. "Now leave."

What a bitch she was, Michael thought as Sophie walked away. She hadn't heard the last of him - Michael would have the last laugh. He swore it to himself, not wasting the time or energy to come up with a retort. No, he'd get his own back... somehow. But he put that aside - it was for another time. Glancing over to Cinder, he nodded as she instructed them to leave. Putting a hand on Jack's shoulder, he steered the mage towards the exit, knowing that Emilio would be following his lead.

Jack nodded at Cinder. Any further discussion would be imprudent. At Michael's touch, he turned and nodded to the werewolf, then followed Michael out of the park.


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