A few hours later and Lucy was fitted in a new gown. The blouse was a teal color with puffy shoulders, a long tail and embroidered with flowers in a black thread. She was fitted with a mid-drift bodice of a dark purple over the blouse. The layered skirt featured gray pleated skirts down the front. She was fitted with a tiny top hat of gray with a purple band around it. Richie supplied her with lace gloves and stockings of black. Lucy was a tiny vision of beauty vibrant, radiant, and completely out of her element. Don’t tell her I said that though.
We thanked Richie for his amazing work and made our way to the door. He walked us out and we said our goodbyes. He exchanged kisses on cheeks with Lucy and settled for a handshake from me. The rain had started again. Lucy opened her umbrella and waited by the door with Richie. I ran around to the back and retrieved Lucy’s Zeus. I hurried and open the door for her and assisted her with getting inside. I tipped my hat at Richie and got into the steam-powered car. Lucy handed me the enchanted watch from the back seat. I clipped the watch onto my suit as I stirred us toward the Midas Quarter.
I felt a chilled sensation against me chest.
“Marcus you are going to have to take off the protection amulet.” Lucy said from behind me.
“With the last couple of days I’ve had, I wish I had of never took it off.”
“Understandable, but that amulet is going to interfere and possibly cancel the effects of the illusion charm.”
“Fine, fine. I’ll take it off,” I sighed deeply and reluctantly removed the amulet. I felt the power of the magic flutter around me. Looking in the rear view mirror the image of someone else stared back at me. Apparently, Lucy had gone through the trouble of changing my race in addition face, skin tone, and hair.
Looking back at me with my amber colored eyes was a half elf. My face appeared to have smooth slightly angular features and my human size ears came to points. My beard was gone and my hair was the same length, but instead of the dark brown it was near blonde to the point of being nearly white. “Your dream lover?” I asked jokingly.
“I can neither confirm or deny this,” she laughed.
The rain drummed down in a steady rhythm, the symphony of the city as the large vehicle sailed down the highway. Before long the high rises gave way to row style homes and small shops. We drove up to the gates of the walled in section of the city known as the Midas Quarter. The guard recognized Lucy instantly and allowed us passage. We drove down Gold Street toward the Silverstein residence. On the way we drove past the Ravens’ Manor. From the street and through the rain the place appeared to be well kept. I looked back in the rear view mirror and saw Lucy absently staring off in that direction.
“When was the last time you visited your manor?”
“I stop by once a year on my parent’s anniversary.” She said distantly without looking my way.
“Anyone living there?” I asked.
“Just the servants. I could not bring myself to stay there after the funeral. With the combination of my father’s wealth, my mother’s wealth from her paintings and my own from my inventions, I am able to pay them to live in and maintain my parent’s home.”
“That is very generous of you.”
“I know it is, most of them had work for my family for generations. There was no way I could just put them out. No matter how I felt about living there.”
“I never asked. Where did you go afterward?”
“Traveled. I purchased a dingy sized airship and saw the world. I was like the wind, Marcus. I went where I wanted and left when I desired. That little ship and I crested the Milio Mountains and coasted the Old Elf Woods. My family and I were not very close as we were each absorbed in our respective talents. Still when they were gone there was a void in my life, a black hole so vast that extracting myself was the only option. It was like I was running from the idea of them being gone, I suppose.”
I saw a single tear roll down Lucy rose colored cheek. “I… I’m sorry, Lucy. I didn’t mean to dredge up painful memories.”
We rode in silence the remainder of the way. The black and silver gates to the Silverstein Mansion stood open with a steady stream of vehicles arriving. I merged Lucy’s regal black Zeus into the line leading to the event. I remember being astounded by the sheer number of people that arrived for what was a monthly affair. It took another twenty minutes to reach the front of the house. A pair of human valets aided us from the car and took the Zeus to a parking space. Looking up at the mansion, one had no choice but to be intimidated.
The last place I had visited of such high class had been the Ravens’ manor. The front of the house featured large bushes trimmed in the shapes of various airships. The mansion was a combination of polished sandstone and brick. I could see rows upon rows of tall windows and the upper level featured balconies that oversaw the yard and the vast cityscape.
With my cane in my right hand, I presented Lucy with the bend elbow of my left. We walked up the twenty or so stairs and were halted at the entrance by a servant. Lucy without saying a word handed the man an envelope. The butler opened the letter and withdrew the official invitation. He half bowed to Lucy and then spoke into a bronze microphone to his left.
As the doors opened I could hear his voice reverberating through the building. “Announcing the arrival of Ms. Lucille Ravens and guest Alvin Strong.”
I looked down at Lucy with a small grin on my face. She looked up with her usual blank expression. The aroma hit me before I looked up from Lucy’s face. Arlena’s honey and wildflower perfume struck my nostrils and I could feel my heart rate rising. I felt Lucy jerk my arm roughly, drawing my attention back down to hear. “Marcus!” She whispered, worry in her voice. “You are actually growling. Calm down or you are going to blow this before we even get started.”
“I know, I know.” I said taking slow very deliberate breaths.
“Put on that smile, Marcus. As part of these parties, the host will greet each guest personally upon arrival. That way they can say they spoke to everyone at least once. I’ve always turned down these invitations so they may want to talk a bit. You will have to contain yourself.”
I nodded in response; afraid I might snarl if I spoke aloud. We stepped forward and stood face to face with Augustus Silverstein and his daughter Arlena Silverstein.
“Ms. Lucille Ravens, why you aren’t a vision to be held. I have not seen you in years. How have you been child?” Mr. Silverstein said clasping Lucy tiny hands in his own.
Augustus Silverstein was a distinguished looking man in his mid-fifties. He stood around five and a half feet tall, maybe a little taller. He was one of the few humans at his age that still possessed a full head of hair. He wore a full beard and a high tech monocle. Mr. Silverstein was portly man, but not in a gluttonous kind of way.
“Good to see you, Mr. Silverstein”
“Please, call me Augustus.” He interrupted her.
“Ah, Augustus. I decided I had run from the life in which I was born long enough. When I got your latest invitation I declared I would reenter the world of my parents and what better place to start than in the lovely home of the Silverstein’s.” Lucy curtsied with a small smile.
“Well, welcome back my dear. Arlena come say hello to Lucille.”
The vile woman I had declared vengeance upon, turned from an elderly couple and smiled one the fakest smiles I had ever seen. “Hello Lucille, how great it is to see you,” Arlena said with a curtsy of her own “And if I may ask, who is this very fine Half-elf you have brought with you?”
“ It is a pleasure to see you again as well, this is Alvin Strong.” Lucy told her wave a small hand in my direction. “A friend I made on my travels around the world. We met in the Elf city state Feradale.”
Mr. Silverstein outstretched his hand toward me. I took his hand and shook it generally. I took with some reluctance and force of will Arlena’s hand and kissed the back of it.
“It is a pleasure to meet you both. I would like to thank you for having me in your home.” I said in my best northerner accent.
“It is a delight.” Arlena said. “And you don’t mind me saying; you have some of the most beautiful eyes. I have only ever seen that golden shade once before.”
“Thank you, Lady Silverstein. It is quite common further north you go.” I said continuing the ruse.
“Very well, Very well” Mr. Silverstein said. “Go ahead and enjoy yourselves. The servants will keep the buffet table stocked and the drinks flowing.”
Lucy curtsied and I bowed to the master of the house and to his daughter. We walked into the massive oval shaped lobby area. The marble floor bore the image of what I assumed was the Silverstein family crest, a silver stein or a compass. We walked through one of the four arches into what was formerly known as a common room. Though there was absolutely nothing common about it. There was priceless, or at least extremely pricey art and furniture everywhere the eye could see. Even the wallpaper as I could see was made of silk and had gold thread woven into it. Crystal wine glasses full of hundred-year-old wine were served of silver platters, which I made a point to avoid. The buffet was a full spread of food from all over.
“ They spare not expense on these do they?” I asked.
“What’s the point of all this wealth if you don’t get to flaunt it in the face of your lessors?” Lucy asked back as we walked.
“I will never understand the rich.”
“ And that is why you will never be rich.”
I shrugged a shoulder, “Where do you want to start?”
“Anywhere is fine, I am fairly certain that I will be surrounded by people wanting to pick my brain any second now.”
We made our way through the crowded room, as we did, Lucy would stop and shake hands and kiss cheeks. She moved with the grace of an animal in its natural habitat. It was astonishing to see actually. For as long as I had known Lucy she had been mostly a recluse. Her presence seemed to draw the attention of many of the larger intellects in the room as she had predicted.
Lucy managed to gather a small group of about fifteen individuals, magus, technomagus, engineers, and C.E.Os from what I could tell. They began talking about the moral implications of using trapped elementals to power the engines in the war class airships. Lucy’s argued that it would be far easier use enchanted stones to provide the flame and enchant the machines to transfer the heat more efficiently. One technomagus argued that the process would take too long and be more expensive.
Lucy retorted that the process would take far shorter time to perform than having a ship drop out of the sky because an enslaved fire elemental decided it’s rather commit suicide and take the whole crew with it.
Many in the circle nodded in agreement. One well dressed gentleman in a light gray suit and crimson vest with a red bow tie asked what would fuel the magic for the enchantment. Lucy implied that the spell would have to be recharged at the same time the ships would replace their helium. Many around the circle seem enthralled in the conversation.
I took this mass focus on Lucy’s genius as my opportunity to slip away. I found an unoccupied corner of the room heavy in shadow. I slipped into the corner and briefly surveyed the room. I found Arlena sitting on a couch facing the opposite direction deep in conversation. I fished out the vial in my pocket that contained Lucy’s invisibility potion. I took a deep breath; potions are generally made from things that should not be boiled in a pot together. To an individual with a hyper sensitive sense of smell, you can taste it before it even hits your tongue. I uncorked the stopper and slammed the potion back like it was a shot of alcohol.
The fluid rushed down my throat and for a moment I felt queasy. The world around me began to shiver like I was shaking from being out in the cold. Colors faded before me until all I saw was a bronze sepia-like shade. I looked down at my hand that held my cane and I could see neither. I felt a pleased smile stretch across my face. I exited the common room, cautious to not bump anyone or anything as I went. I reentered the oval shaped foyer the size of my apartment and made my way for the stairs. Though I was invisible I made an effort to avoid notice. I did not walk too fast, to avoid stirring the air around people. I walked slowly in time with others steps to avoid making ghost sounds.
I ventured up the stairs to the mostly abandoned second floor. The thick sand colored carpets muted the sounds from below. Walking slowly down the hall, I paused and listened by each door as I passed. I sniffed the air using my keen nose to locate which room would be Arlena’s Office. The scent was its strongest just outside the fourth door.
I gripped the knob and gave it a little twist. As expected the door was locked. Wanting to leave as little evidence of my presence as I could. So I withdrew my lock picking set, not being able to see the tools; I had to feel each piece to get the right one for the lock. Once I determined the right tools, I quickly went to work on the lock. After a few second the bolt knocked free and I entered the office of the woman who tried to kill me. I quietly closed the door behind me and locked it.
Directly across from the door was a large very ornate desk sitting in front of a pair of double doors that lead to a balcony. There was a matching pair of sitting chairs in opposite corners of the room with a small end table and lamp. On each wall stood ceiling high bookshelves filled to the brim with books. Scanning over the titles, many were the same book in different languages. The Violet Eclipse as told by the bard Fargal. A good book, not one I thought was good enough to several copies of but good.
The entire room was pristine. There wasn’t a speck of dust anywhere and everything seemed to be deliberately placed where it sat. I walked over to the desk and began sifting through documents and drawers, being cautious to return each item to its original state. After nearly ten minutes of searching, I came up empty-handed. I scanned the room looking for where Arlena may have stashed a hidden safe.
I looked over the many rows of books, they were a vast assortment of fiction and non-fictional pieces, some science journals, and others magical studies. As I surveyed the shelves one book stood out among the rest, almost lost in the masses. You would not have even noticed it if you weren’t looking for something out of the ordinary. It was a small book of fables sitting between two books of Luimere’s history. What made the book odd was that it was a book of dwarven fables. I moved to pull the book from the shelf. I felt resistance as I tipped the top of the book toward me. There was a clicking sound followed by a clang and the grind of metal gears. The smell of oil tickled my nostrils and I took a small step back.
A small section of the shelf, some thirty by thirty inch cube swung open. As it did a safe slid forward on a guided track. I was relieved to see it was not one of the fancy safes rigged up to a power source and it did not give off the tingle of power that magically warded items do. Safecracker I may not be but my ears are keen enough to hear heartbeats if I were so inclined.
I pressed my head to the cool metal door and spun the dial. I moved the dial slowly and listened to the clicks of the bolts. After a few moments the door swung open revealing green folders. I quickly scanned the documents within. The first was an assessment of potential market shifts in various industries. The second prove to be corporate takeover strategy for Silverstein to seize control over Devlin Works. The papers were even marked with the Silverstein family signet.
I pocketed those documents, believing I would be able to put them to use later. I filed through the remaining pieces of paper and came up empty-handed. There was nothing to be found as far as a possible location of the kid. I huffed in frustration, realizing I’d likely have to confront the source for the answer. I placed everything neatly back where it once sat and slid the thick metal door close. I turned the dial on the safe back to its original position and the section of bookshelf slide back into place with an audible click. I turned toward the door; cane in hand, papers in my pocket when I heard the sound of a key unlocking a door. I started to take cover when I remembered that I was invisible.
The door causally opened to show the lady herself, Arlena Silverstein. She did not bother shutting the door behind her and walked straight to the scrying mirror upon her desk. A fresh dusting of her perfume followed in her wake as she walked by passing within inches of where I stood. I positioned myself just inside the doorframe and listened as she made a summons. After a few chimes a gruff male voice answered.
“Ma’am, what can I do for you? I did not expect a summons till tomorrow.”
“I wanted to check your progress and I needed a bit of fresh air from the party.”
“Well, the doctor is now working. Threatening your nephew was an excellent motivator. He appears to be drawing up schematics of his original process. I suspect he will have duplicated his blueprints by tomorrow.”
“Good, if we can get the Heartcore from him, we can increase our market value ten-fold. Keep him working, I will be venturing to the lab tomorrow afternoon. Prepare for my arrival, my father insists that I personally oversee the doctor’s progress.”
“Yes, Ma’am. Everything will be in order upon you arrival.” The voice said.
She closed her connection and sat there for a moment. She jotted down some notes onto a sheet of paper with the fountain pen on her desk, and then she stood up, blew the ink dry and exited the room. I stepped to the side as she closed and locked the door behind her. She walked back down the hall and for a few minutes I shadowed her.
We went back down the stairs and into the common room where things were getting lively. The band was playing a bouncy tune and many of the guests fell into the step of one of the popular dances of the year. I watched Arlena as she smoothly navigated through her guests with waves, smiles, and small nods and stopped briefly by her father. Without preamble she slipped the piece of paper in his hand then returned to the party. She was graceful as a large predatory feline and just a dangerous.
Color slowly started to bleed its way back into my vision. I made haste and ducked into the nearest bathroom, I was fortunate to find it unoccupied. I stood staring in the mirror as the face of Lucy’s illusion bled its way back into being. I nonchalantly returned to the party and located Lucy. She had not moved from the spot I had left her. Upon my approach I could hear that the conversation had drifted to possible military applications of spell bound weapons. Lucy explained that it was cheaper and more efficient to attune a weapon to a single spell than to create one that could perform several.
That reminded me how much it would cost me in spell components to restock ammunition for my Lucy. I worked my way back into the circle right next to where Lucy was perched. I whispered in her ear what I had found. She nodded to me and after a few moments told her audience that she had to go. They all sighed and pouted; apparently when it came to tech and magic Lucy was a gem to speak to. Several of them handed her their business cards, insisting that she call them for possible business ventures.
We made our way to the exit, where Arlena was waiting for us.
“Leaving so soon?” she asked inquisitively.
“Yes, this is the most time I’ve spent with a large group of people in quite awhile. It’s been a bit of an overload.”
“I see, well Ms. Lucille from the talk of the crowd you have quite the brain for technomancy. My father wanted to make arrangements to meet with you. He was told of your theories on steam engines that are purely machine enhanced by magic over the current standard of them being powered by magic.”
“I would love to have a conversation with him about that. Tell him I will summons him as soon as my schedule clears up. After tonight I have a number of interested parties vying for my attention.”
“Make sure you do. Augustus Silverstein is known for getting what he desires.”
“We bid you farewell, Ms. Arlena.” Lucy said and continued walking out the door.
Arlena grasped my arm as we turned toward the door and I unconsciously tensed at her touch.
“And you Mister Strong, it was a pleasure to meet you. I do say you have the most interesting eyes, such a pretty golden color.”
“Thank You, ma’am.” I said in my best northern accent.
“Come now Alvin, we must get going.” Lucy said pulling my hand.
I bowed to Arlena and followed Lucy through the exit. I saw her distaste from the corner of my eye. The valet brought us the Zeus and held the doors for us. Lucy and I got into the vehicle and made our exit from the lion’s den.