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|| sleight of hand ||

By scylla

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scyllaTess Novakova   1y ago

Every morning, Tess embarks on a scouting mission around the edge of the cabin's acreage. She developed this routine to get familiar with the land and all things that inhabit it. In the beginning, it seemed as if she was discovering something new and transformative on every trek. Nowadays, it serves more as a moment of peace away from her bickering animals and the disheveled state of the cabin's interior. Today's patrol comes to an end without anything new to note, nudging Tess every so slightly towards feeling settled in this place.
All of this is a tremendous upgrade from the cramped and drab apartment she used to inhabit, but it has not been without its growing pains. Food is hard to come by in the middle of nowhere. What doesn't come from the garden or the chickens must be stocked up from the grocery store that's a two-hour drive away. Shopping in bulk is a skill she hasn't yet mastered, so breakfast is once again a hefty vegetable omelet accompanied by a substantial cup of herbal tea.
She eyes one of the shelves in the living area while her meal comes together, once again considering the optimal way to organize all of her dried roots. Her first instinct was alphabetically, but that proved to be a functional disaster. Organizing them by color also hasn't done the trick. So after her plate is tossed into the sink, she begins to group them by their general properties. Some work best for healing and others for ritual, but she isn't clear on what's best for summoning or conjuring. Nor does she have a good grasp on how one goes about summoning or conjuring either. Since there's no one to ask, she goes off of her gut instinct and shrugs it off. [i It's not like there's anyone here to judge her choices anyhow.]

All of that exhausting organization takes her all of twenty minutes, leaving her plenty of time to work on fashioning her cloak. She's heard that wearing such things while she crafts might improve her results. She's also heard she ought to dress for the job she wants. If that means deciphering a pattern and sewing together an absurd amount of white velvet fabric, so be it.
Her rhythm is interrupted by the dog incessantly barking. Since they moved here, Chai, a Shiz Tzu, has come out of her shell tremendously. In the city, any new situation turned her pet into thirteen pounds of pure anxiety. Just the other day, Tess caught the dog taunting animals at the border. The dog has turned into a bit of a bully, aware that these animals can't cross into the property without Tess' permission. This personality change has also made Chai bold enough to antagonize Marlo, her reclusive and unreasonably large cat. Thinking she once again has to serve as their mediator, Tess follows the sounds of Chai's barking.
Just as she's about to scold her pets, Tess catches sight of what appears to be another human. Within the property limits. She steps back into the trees, hoping they haven't yet caught sight of her. This is a situation she hasn't prepared for or ever anticipated. The book Anya left her doesn't mention anything about this. In fact, it says non-magical people can't find this place. But this one doesn't have any air of magic about them.
Fearing this might be some kind of obnoxious wizard, Tess does her best to collect herself and takes a deep breath. As if that will slow her fluttering heart. "Who's there?" she asks in the deepest voice she can muster, cautiously stepping out of the foliage and into the open air.
kshahidxjack   1y ago

[i [font courier [center [b “Jack Everett, twenty-eight, 210 pounds, six foot two; two counts of burglary, one count assault. Prisoner 2521 – transferring to Heimlich County Facility.”]]]]
[font times At least, that’s where I was supposed to be heading, though as always I managed to find my way out of trouble. While I sat in the back of the van, making its way from the local jail to the upstate prison, I spent time shaving the ends of a cheap pair of scissors into a tool to which I could manage to undo the bolts of the handcuffs that shackled me. Greasy strands of dirty blonde hair fell in front of my face, making it even more difficult for me to keep focus on what I was doing without sending the pointed edge straight into my palm. I could feel the sweat starting drip along the side of my face, only temporarily stopped by my mustache before salty drops landed on my lips. It had been four hours and I knew that by the end of this seven hour ride, I would be in more trouble if I couldn’t get these bastards off me in time.

I had always been in and out of the system, a bit of a man with a terrible habit of getting into trouble. My mother used to think that I had something to do with the crowd I surrounded myself with, the lowest of the lows who crowded in grimy alleyways gambling, split between buildings where bodies were crammed wall to wall, liquor flowed freely in a glass from one hand to another, and you couldn’t tell if someone has having sex or fist fighting, in some cases one followed the other. The women were loose, the men were crass and through it all, I found nothing but excitement in fast cash. That said, I had found myself in a bit of trouble I couldn’t necessarily get out of, but I had heard the stories of Masset and I had no intentions of spending the next twenty years in a three by three cell.

I paused when I felt the van coming to a slow, scooting closer to the back compartment separating me from the officers. At one point in time there used to be a window, always open in case you happened to have a question worth asking. After three officers were strangled, they soon learned their lesson. With reinforced steel, it was difficult to catch what the mumblings were about. Though, when the car came to a full sight and the engine finally stopped, I was able to catch a few words: food, not too long, best catfish. My stomach clenched at the thought, I hadn’t eaten since breakfast and I didn’t necessarily consider what was on my tray as edible.

With fervor my hands began to scratch the edge against the metal bench I sat on even more, finally out of anxiety I figured it was good enough.. As long as I could get my feet unhooked, I would be fine.
“Come on you sonofabitch,” I grumbled, my fingers trembling as I lifted and turned the amateur screwdriver in the small screw that connected the chain to the ground. A loud sigh of satisfaction came out as I watched the small screw drop to the floor. After some time I managed to get the other one undone, eagerly kicking my legs to shake the now loosened cuffs off. I couldn’t help but grin, but I knew that was as far as I could get. With how tight my arms were cuffed, I’d need help or something much stronger to cut straight through the chains.

Free, I came to a hunched standing position, the top of my head shy away from touching the roof of the van. I fiddled with the lock of the back door, disappointed to find that it locked from the outside. Gripping the tool in my hand I wedged it in far enough, just to weaken the latch and create enough of an edge between it and the door itself. I laid back then, my foot slamming against the door violently. I could only hope there wasn’t anyone else outside to witness what I suspected was a rattling black police van.

I could feel it giving out: one, two, THREE.

I squinted against the bright light of the early morning, quickly hopping out of the van and looking around. There was only two other vehicles currently in the parking lot but it seemed, we were just a little short of the town. I didn’t know where I was going, but id dint want to waste time figuring it out. Crossing the street, I made my way up clumsily over the dirt hill, speedily running through the tall trees, my hands still bound and in front of me. I could feel the joy as freedom reached its arms out, almost inviting me in, but I wasn’t in the clear yet.

Eventually exhaustion overtook me after what felt like hours, I trudged still, hoping maybe I would across a campsite of some sorts. That’s when I heard barking and quickly followed the sound. My grey eyes darted around, at first seeing nothing, but as I inched closer I saw before me slight iridescent flickering. I stayed only momentarily entranced though, quickly turning to look over my shoulder at the voice that called out: low, but not deep enough to be a man and still I knew to be cautious. Dare I stay quiet or should I speak? It was a risk, and yet in a slightly raspy tone I responded.
“I don’t mean any harm.” I couldn’t help but find humor in the situation. While I had managed to keep my original clothing during transfer: a thick forest green parka, over a grey long sleeve paired with dark black pants and brown boots that had seen better days; I knew that my commanding height and the fact I was in chains certainly suggested I was in no means not a threat.

At least, that’s where I was supposed to be heading, though as always I managed to find my way out of trouble. While I sat in the back of the van, making its way from the local jail to the upstate prison, I spent time shaving the ends of a cheap pair of scissors into a tool to which I could manage to undo the bolts of the handcuffs that shackled me. Greasy strands of dirty blonde hair fell in front of my face, making it even more difficult for me to keep focus on what I was doing without sending the pointed edge straight into my palm. I could feel the sweat starting drip along the side of my face, only temporarily stopped by my mustache before salty drops landed on my lips. It had been four hours and I knew that by the end of this seven hour ride, I would be in more trouble if I couldn’t get these bastards off me in time.

I had always been in and out of the system, a bit of a man with a terrible habit of getting into trouble. My mother used to think that I had something to do with the crowd I surrounded myself with, the lowest of the lows who crowded in grimy alleyways gambling, split between buildings where bodies were crammed wall to wall, liquor flowed freely in a glass from one hand to another, and you couldn’t tell if someone has having sex or fist fighting, in some cases one followed the other. The women were loose, the men were crass and through it all, I found nothing but excitement in fast cash. That said, I had found myself in a bit of trouble I couldn’t necessarily get out of, but I had heard the stories of Masset and I had no intentions of spending the next twenty years in a three by three cell.

I paused when I felt the van coming to a slow, scooting closer to the back compartment separating me from the officers. At one point in time there used to be a window, always open in case you happened to have a question worth asking. After three officers were strangled, they soon learned their lesson. With reinforced steel, it was difficult to catch what the mumblings were about. Though, when the car came to a full sight and the engine finally stopped, I was able to catch a few words: food, not too long, best catfish. My stomach clenched at the thought, I hadn’t eaten since breakfast and I didn’t necessarily consider what was on my tray as edible.

With fervor my hands began to scratch the edge against the metal bench I sat on even more, finally out of anxiety I figured it was good enough.. As long as I could get my feet unhooked, I would be fine.
“Come on you sonofabitch,” I grumbled, my fingers trembling as I lifted and turned the amateur screwdriver in the small screw that connected the chain to the ground. A loud sigh of satisfaction came out as I watched the small screw drop to the floor. After some time I managed to get the other one undone, eagerly kicking my legs to shake the now loosened cuffs off. I couldn’t help but grin, but I knew that was as far as I could get. With how tight my arms were cuffed, I’d need help or something much stronger to cut straight through the chains.

Free, I came to a hunched standing position, the top of my head shy away from touching the roof of the van. I fiddled with the lock of the back door, disappointed to find that it locked from the outside. Gripping the tool in my hand I wedged it in far enough, just to weaken the latch and create enough of an edge between it and the door itself. I laid back then, my foot slamming against the door violently. I could only hope there wasn’t anyone else outside to witness what I suspected was a rattling black police van.

I could feel it giving out: one, two, THREE.

I squinted against the bright light of the early morning, quickly hopping out of the van and looking around. There was only two other vehicles currently in the parking lot but it seemed, we were just a little short of the town. I didn’t know where I was going, but id dint want to waste time figuring it out. Crossing the street, I made my way up clumsily over the dirt hill, speedily running through the tall trees, my hands still bound and in front of me. I could feel the joy as freedom reached its arms out, almost inviting me in, but I wasn’t in the clear yet.

Eventually exhaustion overtook me after what felt like hours, I trudged still, hoping maybe I would across a campsite of some sorts. That’s when I heard barking and quickly followed the sound. My grey eyes darted around, at first seeing nothing, but as I inched closer I saw before me slight iridescent flickering. I stayed only momentarily entranced though, quickly turning to look over my shoulder at the voice that called out: low, but not deep enough to be a man and still I knew to be cautious. Dare I stay quiet or should I speak? It was a risk, and yet in a slightly raspy tone I responded.
“I don’t mean any harm.” I couldn’t help but find humor in the situation. While I had managed to keep my original clothing during transfer: a thick forest green parka, over a grey long sleeve paired with dark black pants and brown boots that had seen better days; I knew that my commanding height and the fact I was in chains certainly suggested I was in no means not a threat.
scyllaTess Novakova   1y ago

Giving strange men the benefit of the doubt has historically not worked out in my favor. Nonetheless, I'm willing to believe he might simply be lost. There are some hiking trails not too far from here, though they are trails less traveled. It's also possible that his car broke down and he's just looking for some help. All of that assumed innocence evaporates when I catch sight of the gleaming cuffs at his wrists. Last time I checked, it's not recommended to bring such chains with you when you go out to enjoy nature. No wizard would go around sporting those, so I assume he's just a regular person.
"Okay," I acknowledge his statement of no ill intent with a drawn-out nod. Buying myself a bit of time to consider my next move, I scoop up Chai and pull her close to my chest. My heartbeat might be galloping, but her's is close to being run ragged. There's three months of progress out the door, but at least the barking alarm has come to an abrupt stop. Deescalating this situation to the score of her high-pitched squeaking seems impossible.

By the cabin's front door, there's a shotgun concealed behind an umbrella stand. I've never had a reason to investigate it before and it's almost certainly unloaded. Assuming my fingers will fumble loading it and that there's no way to both grab it and keep an eye on this guy, I rule that out as a possibility. My only possible weapon is the small knife I carry in my belt. Physically though, I'm no match for him in a struggle. Even decked out in all of this bulky waxed canvas, I'm sure he can tell he's got a whole foot on me. So any direct violent match-up is out of the question. That leaves Marlo as my last and wholly unreliable defense.
A simple spell of invisibility might work in this situation too. The only one I've ever successfully pulled off, however, is exceedingly long to recite and I don't have a word of it memorized. Everything I've committed to memory falls on the mundane side of things and wouldn't be helpful in this situation. So, I resolve to use my plain old English. "I can give you some food, water, and directions. Then you go and I pretend like I never saw you?" I offer, thinking that might be enough to do the trick. Whatever is happening between him and the law is none of my business, frankly. I'd rather not bring my presence to the attention of what minimal authorities there are around here by reporting this incident anyways.
Perhaps I ought to make up a boyfriend who's on his way back. That might deter him from doing anything too wild. Then again, it might just make him expect a ride out of here if he knows there's a vehicle. I tuck the idea up my sleeve for now but don't bring it up just yet.
"The cabin is this way," I point in its direction but don't start walking just yet. I'd rather follow behind him. Leading him right into my home might be a risky move, but I don't think he'd be able to find this place again. Him getting in at all had to have been a fluke in the systems Anya set up. It's doubtful he'd be lucky enough to replicate that.
kshahidxjack   1y ago

[font times I had no doubt in my mind that this woman was far from willing to simply call the law and yet, I felt it unusual for me to stumble upon her little home which seemed like a random alcove in the forest. I was not going to depend on the possibility that she didn’t have service however, all I could hope was that she would trust my word and considering I was a stranger that could or could not work in my benefit. Hiding the cuffs was near impossible, but she had no clue who I was and my breakout couldn’t have made the news by now. I found my eyes looking around then, she didn’t even have a satellite on her roof. The likelihood of her knowing or finding out about my misdeeds would only be made possible had they come from my mouth directly. So, I had hope that she would think of me as no harm, a kind man who just seemed to get caught up in a bit of trouble. Normally, my charm and rugged good looks would seal the deal, but I dare not risk pushing my luck.

“And the chains, fi you don’t mind,” I asked as I shook them, the jangle now the loudest sound in the forest as the persistent barking had come to an end and it even seemed the birds had quieted, as though awaiting permission to accept me into such space by the young woman.

I had started to move, the sounds of branches cracking beneath my boots, though quickly paused. While I was anxious to get unchained and get the hell out of here, I stopped and some part of me felt as though it weren’t actually by want or desire to. I wasn’t all too familiar with this area tending to stick to my own little city as it was much easier with all the connections I had. This was incredibly different and I hoped would allow the promise of a smoother transition in my escaping from prison. It was the easy part really, getting away. The hardest part was not being found and staying hidden. Had she not lived here, I bet I could’ve survived for at least a week before they thought to scot this area and I would have to leave.

While I wanted to press her to move quickly, I tried to remain patient, forcing myself to contain the sigh of annoyance as the chains around my wrists were beginning to become bothersome. I could feel the slight chafing against my skin, knowing I would be expecting bright red marks once they were freed from the metal. My eyes had finally began to focus on her figure as she came closer, the little Shih Tzu comfortably held under her arm and pressed against her side. While it didn’t bark, its growl seemed aggressive as the space between us began to close.
scyllaTess Novakova   1y ago

"Right, the chains," I nod, as if that was the natural next step to address. He brought it up, but I dare not press him for details about how he came to have these cuffs hugging his wrists. As soon as I set Chai back down, my hands fly up to my hair, searching through my braid for a bobby pin that might come in handy here. My dog has the right idea, I think, bolting back into the house to hide under my bed. I'm not afforded the luxury of escape though, so I take a couple of hesitant steps forward.
"You might need to walk me through this," I warn him. Even on my most graceful days I wouldn't describe my fingers as deft, so some consternation is to be expected. He strikes me as the type who has experience with this though, so perhaps we can avoid some uncomfortable fumbling. Maybe once these are off, he won't be bothered to come inside and we can go our separate ways with varying levels of merriment. Or maybe he'll do any of the number of horrendous things I can imagine a man of his size might be capable of doing. Confronting this possibility was inevitable, so I carry on.

After spending a painfully long time heavily breathing on him while I fiddle with picking the lock, I finally get him free. And he doesn't appear to be trying to murder me just yet. Relieved that no such crisis has kicked up yet, I once again point to the house. "Please excuse the state of things," I toss out with a nervous laugh, mostly just to say something. The plethora of jars filled with all sorts of preserves, dried flowers and herbs, and books bound in leather strewn about might raise an eyebrow or two on a normal day. But today, I suspect he won't really give a damn.
Keeping the corner of my eye latched onto him, I fill a glass of water up to the brim and set it in front of him. Then I set to work on pulling together a couple of sandwiches. Peanut butter and jelly seems easiest, and is at least dense enough to get him through part of the walk he has ahead. I set the sandwich down beside him and pull a pen and loose piece of paper in front of me, fixing up a map for him to follow.
"So, you'll probably want to head northeast of here. There's not a lot of people that way and the mountains aren't too steep. You'll just have to look out for hunters along the way. Eventually you'll hit a little town called Henry with a bus station. That's probably your best way out of here," I start narrating, marking down some landmarks he might pass. "Whatever you do, just don't start heading west. There's a lot more people that way and the prison is out that way too."

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