Like a Bad Joke [CLOSED]

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Like a Bad Joke [CLOSED]

Post by Lovecraft » Mon May 25, 2020 3:58 am


Louisiana


Those who knew Howie wouldn't be surprised to find that he was sleeping when the first knock came. It woke him up, abruptly, but it took several minutes for him to orient himself to the cabin, to make sure he knew where he was, what he had been doing, and where Atlanta had gotten off to. The last question was clearly the easiest to answer, as she'd made a habit of curling her body on his chest whenever he slept like this. He ran a hand over her back to let her know he was awake, and then glanced around, noting that everything was in place. He hadn't gotten out and actually traveled in a few weeks. He was still recuperating from his last seemingly innocuous errand run, one that'd drained him pretty damn quickly and led to three days of doing nothing but eating and sleeping. He yawned just remembering that one.

He'd recovered, obviously, and he was back to work here. Locals tended to bring people to him when they couldn't afford or honestly just didn't want a doctor, and those he didn't scare off with a gruff exterior got help as soon as he cleared his mind. It didn't take much for one person, but a steady stream wasn't exactly good for his energy levels. After a day with more than five visitors, he tended to go off into the woods, camp for the night where he was pretty sure nobody would find him, and go back home when he was sure he'd recovered. That was just how life was for him.

Apparently, though, he'd fallen asleep normally and just slept heavily through most of the day. Judging by the daylight filtering in through the trees and into the cabin window, it was early afternoon by now. He'd lost the whole morning, but as he rolled off the bed with a muffled thump he was glad he felt well-rested. He'd be able to get the stuff outside over with quickly and then make some breakfast. Canned hash and eggs sounded like pretty good options, he decided, sliding his leather coat on over his sleeping clothes as a means of loosely disguising himself as someone who woke up at decent hours. Atlanta clambered onto his shoulder as he started undoing the latch, and opened up, expecting to see someone with symptoms of a cold or with a broken arm.

The man outside didn't look like someone in need of a healer, however. Howie glanced him up and down, examining the coat, face, cigarette. They were about the same height, same complexion, similar builds, and in a small stretch of curious energy, Howie found he was face to face with a fellow mage. The very idea of that creased his brow. He didn't like it when other mages came by. They were usually either selling something, looking for help on a big quest, or just looking for trouble, even - and especially - when they were the ones bringing trouble in the first place.

"Can I help you?" he asked the stranger, keeping his voice low and eyes narrowed. Atlanta's tail rested on the shoulder opposite its perch, and twitched in response to his nervous energy.

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Re: Like a Bad Joke [CLOSED]

Post by Drake » Mon May 25, 2020 4:46 am

This was atypical. In all his life meeting other magic users by either choosing to study alongside them, as it was with Bran Sunderson, or merely by complete accident, this was perhaps the first time he came to one's door without bearing some absurd scheme or ulterior motive behind his presence. Just a cigarette typically rolled on the leftmost corner of his mouth and that usual unkempt nonchalant atmosphere his presence seemed to ooze. By the noise inside and how abrupt it was after quite a few knocks, and also how long it took, Drake had to admit this was a quite familiar feeling of giving up your consciousness for the cozy feeling of one's home.

Really, coziness was all he had had these last few months. After going through, perhaps, the longest five seconds of his life between a proposal and the best answer he ever received in his life, there really wasn't much that could get on his nerves anymore. He compromised for the first time in, well, forever, and now Hope's problems were his too, and how she kept mentioning her family as some sort of distant fever dream, well, let's just settle on saying Drake had some 'personal business' to attend behind her back. Really, pulling strings for information with his contacts? Not that difficult, especially given someone who apparently healed people for a living, therefore not really attempting to not be found. Hope thought he was out inviting some random friend, Charity was probably inside his mind somewhere gnawing on some imaginary food, and Howie? Well, he was on his pajamas, staring at a hobo wannabe with some hidden charm that made other people want to slam their first on his face.

Everyone was just fine.


"Can I help you?" It was a less roughened voice than what he expected, to which Ezekiel simply responded with that classic grin of his. "Not really, lad. But I can help you." His hands were deep on his pockets, that trenchcoat of his spotless as always, as amazing as it may seem. "Bloody hell, you have her stare..." He paused, tilting his head a bit to peek inside. "And her sleeping habits." The necromancer extended his hand amicably. "Ezekiel Durham Mandrake III, happy to make your acquaintance. Now, lad, I don't usually do this, but there is someone very important to me - and to you - that really won't stop looking sad when she talks about her family. Right now she probably thinks I am off on some rubbish errand. Yet here I am, knocking on your door." Ezekiel commented, taking a deep puff before letting it out above him. He simply wanted to brighten her day as she did his, give her an opportunity to have what he could not, fix what she thought was broken forever, just as she fixed him.

"I came here because Hope misses you and doesn't know how to say it, Howard. So I decided to tell you meself. Because 'her problems are my problems', or some religious rubbish like that. So..." He took a deep breath, bringing his smokes out his pocket. "Fancy a fag?"
Drake was feeling just fine again today.

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Re: Like a Bad Joke [CLOSED]

Post by Lovecraft » Mon May 25, 2020 8:44 pm

So. Selling something it was, then, at least it seemed to be that way at first. The whole "I can help you" reply was somewhat run of the mill for mages looking for recruits, and Howard made a point of not buying into it. The man's accent didn't make his offer any more enticing. If anything, it was making Howard's tired head hurt trying to rummage through some foreign phrases and words that blended together in odd places.

Something in Howard's chest tightened as the stranger mentioned his name, a culmination of distrust that had been built into this interaction from the start. Mandrake. He knew of that family - most people at the magical end of things did. Eldritch dealers about whom "questionable morals" would be an understatement. His stare only hardened as Ezekiel went on. He guessed at who he was talking about long before he said her name, and he didn't like thinking about how Hope might have gotten mixed up with someone like this. Sure, the blond stranger put on a charming face, and like most Eldritch dealers was probably very convincing at times, but the Hope that Howard remembered was much too smart to fall in with someone like that without some boundaries of her own. He'd expect her family, which at this point only consisted of himself, was one of those boundaries.

Without thinking, Howard began to focus on the flow of life in himself, in Atlanta, and in the man before him. He might not like resorting to violence, but he had no idea about his visitor, and he'd learned it was better to err on the side of caution, especially when he didn't actually have to perform any magic under the circumstances. Still, verbal communication came first. No need to blow the guy up if he really was here just to check on Hope's brother, no matter the ulterior motive behind that.

"Religious rubbish?" he asked, deciding to start there as he leaned on the doorframe and made a point of not taking Mandrake's hand. The way this guy was talking, he'd think he and Hope were married or something. Good thing Hope wasn't the settling down type, or Howie might've been concerned about the details of their relationship, beyond their differences in magical practice. "Are you with the people she's been working with for the last few years? Is she in a cult or something?"

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Re: Like a Bad Joke [CLOSED]

Post by Drake » Sat May 30, 2020 5:56 am

Ah, the classic reaction. Honestly, it was kind of a compliment nowadays, when others twisted their noses at the mere mention of his family's name. It reminded him of the little pride they had to be quite the deranged bunch, and, whilst he couldn't agree with the ways of many of his predecessors, it still felt good knowing others knew to be weary of him. After all, the British bastard had the tendency to find incredible joy in dealing the cards of the game, and having others suspicious of him for doing so? It brought that cocky grin right back to his smug visage.

"Well, lad, if that's how you react to my name alone, you better take a seat for this talk." Drake retracted his hand, taking another puff of his cigarette. "If I work with them? Yes and no. Your sister was handpicked to visit my place, and I'm bloody glad she did. Place could use some energy. She aided me with some personal matters and now I work with her. Not her people, specifically her. She's, after all, the sunshine of Plainsville." Ezekiel shrugged, hand going back to his pockets and slipping out a single card. "Now, lad, I don't mean to prepare you or anything, so I shall give you the blunt news. Hope and I are engaged, and I would appreciate it very much if you came, because it means I get to see her bright smile." The butt of the cigarrete falls with a dry thump before a sole squashes it. "And it also means you get to make her smile, and see it for yourself too. Because, take it from a bloody bastard who has been on his own since the 1800's, being alone all the time? Not a good plan."
Drake was feeling just fine again today.

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Re: Like a Bad Joke [CLOSED]

Post by Lovecraft » Sat May 30, 2020 7:56 pm

"Mm-hm."

Howard really didn't like being skeptical of people coming to his door, but he felt an exception could be made for a Mandrake who claimed to be engaged to Hope. Hope "Wanderlust" Phillips. Yeah, right, like Hope would ever settle down somewhere. But...more important than that, even if Hope had chosen to spend the rest of her life with some Eldritch-dealing interplanar warlock whose smile seemed unsatisfyingly punchable, there was something else eating at him.

Hope didn't know what Howard had done since she'd left. Not the good stuff - she'd be happy, he knew, to learn that he was putting the magic in which he'd invested half his life to good use, and to learn that he'd finally settled down himself. But every mage had a secret. Hope of all people would know that. And frankly, Howie didn't want her to ever know his.

He didn't let the tightness in his gut reflect in his voice, however. Even a little bit of the tension in his face faded as he turned over what the visiting warlock had suggested, and his attitude became just a touch more amicable, despite the fact that he didn't move from his place blocking the doorway.

"Look, man, I don't care whether you're getting married or not, in that I know that if Hope ever really, truly wanted to see me, she'd be here herself." He sighed, and picked up his cat, who curled up in his arms while he continued, "We don't talk much, but we've got our reasons for that. I know you're probably trying to think of her, and all that, but the best thing you could do for the Hope I remember is let her know she can come around when she's ready."

The mild case of sadness in his eyes changed as he switched topics.

"Besides, you can let her know I'm not alone all the time. I've got Atlanta here, and a handful of patients from time to time. And people like you, of course, but forgive me for not considering other mages welcome guests. People like us bring trouble."

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Re: Like a Bad Joke [CLOSED]

Post by Drake » Mon Jun 01, 2020 6:04 pm

"That's exactly the problem, lad. She won't come here." Ezekiel shook his head, curling his locks with a finger. "She thinks you hate her guts. No matter how much I tell her she should visit you, she always changes subject, but her eyes still look sad. I believe she wants her family back together but has this wrong idea that you hate her because she pushed you away." Mandrake shrugged, slipping yet another cigarette unto his lips, rock-turned-lighter quickly setting it ablaze. Oddly enough, the scent never seemed to properly stick, despite the well-nigh exaggerated amount of times he had one rolling about his mouth.

"You're right, though, lad. People like us do bring a lot of problems. Hope is stuck with me until death does us apart or something. But you'd be surprised just how much she can handle as opposed to, you know, what we can bring. You may think I'm spewing some bullcrap right now, lad, but I know exactly how you feel. I had my people and my patron as my only company too, sometimes other guests wanting a cup of sugar and some Eldritch expertise in the mix, thought world was better off without another Mandrake around to experiment. Thought it was mighty fine until your sister came along, now I truly want to compromise, because there are people that just make it worth your time. Too bad when I did so, my parents were long gone, and if I had any bloody sibling, they are gone too. So, from a hard-headed recluse to another, try letting others in a little more. You still have time, after all."
Drake was feeling just fine again today.

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Re: Like a Bad Joke [CLOSED]

Post by Lovecraft » Thu Jun 04, 2020 4:47 am

Howard remained quiet, still, and pensive for a few moments after Mandrake finished saying his piece. It seemed that he'd either tuned him out entirely, or was still deciding whether to just close the door and end this conversation where it was. It didn't really seem like he'd simply been letting what had been said absorb, until he laughed.

It started out softly. It sounded rusty, unfamiliar, but it was still gentle and quiet all the same. He ran a hand through his unkempt hair, pushing it to one side to reveal it was long on one side, and close-shaven on the other. Some of the coldness slipped out of his face and demeanor, and he shook his head when he spoke again.

"That...that's Hope alright. Taking the blame when it's not her fault, making it her job to fix people like us, people with reputations or who've made mistakes. You'd think she'd know that I haven't been avoiding her because of her, it's because-"

He suddenly realized who he was talking to, and made as smooth a transition as he could between what he was going to say and what he actually said. Future brother-in-law or no, that...wasn't something he'd want Mandrake to know. If not because he was a Mandrake, then at least because he wanted to keep Hope out of it for as long as possible.

"- because people like us carry trouble around. We agree on that, at least, and I'm sure she understands that. She seems like she's got enough on her plate in whatever she's doing to take a serving from me, too. Especially since I know she'll try."

Magic-speak hinged on technicalities, and technically, Howard wasn't lying. He simply wasn't being specific. And he really didn't want to get challenged for it, so instead he switched topics to something he felt Mandrake might prefer to speak about.

"When's the wedding?"

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Re: Like a Bad Joke [CLOSED]

Post by Drake » Fri Jun 05, 2020 6:45 pm

Tricking the trickster, huh? Mandrake could tell when the words smelled like bullshit, and he could tell when someone else didn't want his snarky British personality snooping around businesses that weren't his own. Normally, that was a major red flag, since it would indubitably get him involved somehow, since curiosity and the pure chaotic flow of magic weaving his existence were practically all that drove him forth. Still, this was his gift for someone much more important than his silly whims, and so he decided to indulge, after all, what would he gain from pressing the man aside from personal satisfaction?

"Well, lad, problems are pretty much all we bring to the table." Ezekiel chuckled, pulling more smoke into his lungs. "Hope's often busy, so I fancy I'll solve some of her problems without having her worry. If there's one more point we agree on, it's that she tries too hard to solve everything herself. So, if you need any help, you can ask me instead, not the most reliable family, I know, but I have some experience." The necromancer opened a smile. "We're almost family, anyways." Taking the invitation again from out of his pocket, the man offered Howard's invitation again. "Two weeks from now, lad. Invitation opens up a portal to the place if you press the runes, they'll be shining all day during the wedding. I truly expect you to be there, it would mean a lot."
Drake was feeling just fine again today.

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Re: Like a Bad Joke [CLOSED]

Post by Lovecraft » Sat Jun 06, 2020 8:05 pm

"Two weeks, huh. That's not a lot of time to find a tux." Howie smiled back at Mandrake, and shook his head as he took the invitation and opened it. The runes inside he didn't know recognize, but the delicate calligraphy was a hobby Hope had taken up years ago. Somehow, seeing that made this...way more real, and also, somehow, okay. Like a personal reassurance from her without her even being here.

"Well, if Hope seems to see more than a problem with you, I feel like I should trust her judgment. And while I've got too much of a reputation to keep around here - 'gruff loner with good intentions' or something - I'll keep your offer in mind."

He sighed, then, and while his face didn't exactly fall, a look of gentle nostalgia crossed it, only emphasized by his naturally hooded eyes. It seemed like just yesterday that Hope stormed out on him - not in an exaggerated way, either. Their argument, her secrets, and then his secret, all just seemed to have widened the gap. He managed to smile again, though.

"I'll be there. After all, with dad gone, she's going to need someone to walk her down the aisle."

He glanced behind him, into the house, and then decided it was worth asking: "You want to stay for tea or something? I'm about to make breakfast."

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