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A Fabled Escape: Chapter Eins



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Lord of Chaos

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"Drat, drat, drat, I'm late!"

Atticus Luren was running down the street in the pouring rain. He was wearing a hat and duster over his clothing, with a satchel strapped to his back. The meeting was supposed to have started by now and he was just now about to get to Antiquities. It was a bookstore, but not the everyday kind--no, this bookstore held many more secrets. For instance, it was the home of what most people would refer to as a wizard. This wizard, along with others, were keepers of tales--of fables, fairytales, and otherwise. They kept these tales for a very specific reason.

The stories held evil.

No, not as in "if read it will turn the reader evil", but more like "evil was trapped in the pages to serve as a lesson of what was." For a while now, these evil entities had been escaping, somehow. Atticus was contacted because it involed his kind of work.

See, Atticus was a wizard as well. A "Book-keeper" as they're called. They are able to carry magical tomes which can entrap anything the Book-keeper desires, assuming they're strong enough, or the target is weak enough. Atticus was brought up learning the ancient art from his uncle, a very well known writer and Book-keeper. His parents died when he was young, so it was only his uncle left to bring him up. He was adept at the art, but not that strong, just yet. He was a young man at the age of 21. He had short dark brown hair and bright blue eyes. He stood at an average 5'10, and was lean in build--not so much muscular as scholarly. He was an Academician after all.

Atticus turned the corner, almost slipping in a puddle but catching himself by a lamp post. He bounced back upon the sidewalk and ran several more feet before stopping in front of the bookstore. The upstairs light was on, he could see, but the downstairs was closed.

Well, it was closed to anyone who wasn't invited.

Atticus smiled and walked through the door. No, he never opened it, simply walked through it. As he entered, he took off his hat and duster, hanging them on a post, and grabbed what appeared to be a large, black, leather-bound book with handcrafted pages out of his satchel, before making his way upstairs.

"Atticus. Late as usual!"

Atticus came to the large landing at the top of the stairs. At the far wall was a fireplace, and standing by the fireplace, was none other than a man who went by the name of Hans Christian Anderson. He was an elderly man, but still handsome in a smart way. He smiled slightly at Atticus and shook his head.

"Oh, if only your Uncle could see you now..."

"I know sir, I know. I'm sorry."

"Very well, we've no time to lose. I'd like to introduce you to your companions..."
 

Prophet

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Dear Mr. Little...

It was raining. Dark, cloudy, miserable rain. Water droplets splattered against the ground with menacing splashes, and somewhere in the distance, a single clap of thunder rolled. The streets relatively empty; the lights of the streetlamps casting a faint yellow glow on the shadows of the walkways. Somewhere far away, a steam engine whistled out its tell-tale hiss before chugging along its path. But the street was dark... and its occupants, alone.

...your condition has come to my attention...

Beneath the soft glow of the streetlamp, a single figure emerged from the darkness. Pale white skin gleamed in the artifical light as he carefully tried to hold his umbrella to protect his body from the pouring rain. The water slid down the lapels of his worn suit, the vest a bit too tight and the pants cutting off right above the tip of his faded black shoes. Water slid down the brim of his small hat, his brown bangs plastered to his luminescent forehead as he gasped. His gray eyes flitted from left to right, eying the darkness with nervous suspicion.

...may have power beyond what you think...

The man carefully adjusted his dark umbrella, licking his lips nervously as the pitterpatter of the raindrops grew louder against the black surface. He walked hurriedly, sporadically, making quick spurts of movement through the darkness until he reached another streetlamp. His small frame shivered against the cold, feet making quick tapping noises on the wet pavement as he twitched nervously. He apprehensively pulled a curled lock of wet hair straight before tucking it behind his ear. His white fingers gripped the cold steel of the umbrella as he glanced about the dark streets. Gray eyes peered into gloom, leaping from shadow to shadow as the peered into the night. A bead of sweat slid down the man's already wet skin. Beneath his tight black suit, his heart beat with a quickening thump.

...needs you, Mr. Little... I've set some affairs in order for you. Expect a call from a Mr. Hans Christian Anderson...

The man hurried as sheets of rain fell from above. His dark shoes beat quickly against the sidewalk, mockingly chasing him as he raced through the darkness. The man mumbled under his breath, his gray eyes as round as quarters as he recited the letter to himself. His teeth chattered, his skin went icy, his body numb as he rushed around the corner.

As he rounded the crossstreet, he blinked suddenly. Gray eyes went white as the image of another figure appeared in his mind. The figure slipped on a puddle, but caught himself by the lamp post and raced onward, running against the rain before the vision faded to black. The man blinked once again and continued onward, his breathing becoming faster as he finally saw the door.

Follow his instructions... he's a good man. He will let you know the extent of the situation...

When the man saw the door, his mind both melted in relief and froze up in fear. He sprinte for the door, water splashing up around him, lapping at his pale ankles as he raced for the doorway. His breathing came in spurts, his umbrella flailing carelessly above him as he shot through the darkness of London like a startled cat. He gripped the doorhandle with a wet palm, jerked it open without a care in the world and slammed it shut behind him with a terrified bang.

It's okay, Charlie. You weren't meant to be locked in that padded cell...

Charlie Little stood in the darkness, water dripping from his hat as he breathed heavier and heavier. His eyes were wide open, staring around the darkness of the bookstore. The shelves seemed daunting, terrifying rows of dark, dusty pages. Shelves of shadows and mysteries. Charlie gulped slightly, refusing to move as his eyes got used to the darkness. All that seemed to light the room was a faint glow coming from what appeared to be a stairwell. Charlie didn't move. His umbrella lie frozen in his hand, unmoving except for the water droplets slipping onto the floor. Charlie's eyes were like open windows to his soul; terrified, suspicious, immobile...

If I'm right about you Mr. Little, you're going to be needed here for the years to come. I've authorized your release. You'll find a small house with all you need at the following address. Afterwards, await to be contacted by Mr. Anderson. I'll come meet you when you get out.

Those gray eyes blinked, and with a trembling hand, Charlie Little placed his dripping hat onto the stand. He removed his outermost jacket and slipped it onto the stand as well, leaving only a dusty black shirt and a vest that was a size or two too small. He tried to push his wet brown locks out of his face, breathing a bit easier as he reached down and pressed a single button on his umbrella. There was a small whirring of gears and the umbrella slid upward, folding into itself and sliding with a small click inside of its handle. Charlie lowered the walking cane to the ground and took a deep breath before quickly walking over to the stairway. As he began to climb the stairs, the light growing brighter as he ascended, the fading words of the letter rang in his mind.

Look forward to meeting you Mr. Little,

sincerely,

Aesop


A faint hit of voices caught his ear, as he came to the large landing at the top of the stairs, two figures immediately caught his gaze. The fireplace roared orange, casting bright light onto everything in its path. The warmth hit Charlie Little like a blanket, and his heart beat slightly slower as he gulped, trying to get sound to come out of his throat. There was a younger man, short dark brown hair, with eyes as blue as the ocean itself. Charlie bit his lip as he tried once again to speak, but the older man seemed to notice him and smiled, walking over as Charlie stood at the landing.

"Welcome friend," he said warmly, his voice rich with age and intelligence. He extended his hand, but Charlie instinctively retreated, shrinking into himself, his eyes narrowing as he stepped back towards the stairwell. His heart leaped in a panic, a sudden rush of adrenaline taking his body before the elderly man simply smiled. His hand remained extended, glowing in the firelight. Warm. Inviting. Charlie remembered the letter.

Trust him...

Aesop had trusted the man... and Charlie knew this to be him somehow. So with a faint quiver, Charlie extended his trembling hand and shook Mr. Anderson's, feeling the warm grip of his skin against his.

"You must be Charlie Little," said Hans Anderson, a smile on his face as he beckoned him towards the fireplace, "Aesop told me all about you, Mr. Little. Says you're quite the remarkable fellow."

"I-I don't know about that," responded Charlie quickly, his breath coming fast as the words came spilling out, "I-I just k-know that he wanted me to see you... I didn't even know him b-before..."

"Yes, I know," replied Hans Anderson, his head bowing slightly in respect before turning to Atticus, "God rest his soul." There was a slightly perturbed look in Hans' face, as if something had bothered him, but he dared not speak it. Nonetheless, he smiled quickly after, and beckoned to the fireplace. "Please, sit. Atticus, this is Charlie Little. Recently moved into a small house in the East End. He is... was, Aesop's lad from Stone House."

Charlie moved slowly around the room, keeping his back to the wall as he carefully sat down in a small plush chair, setting his cane against the wall before glancing at Atticus, nodding nervously. Aesop's letter turned in his mind.

Could this place hold the answers?
---------------------------------
OOC: Stone House was an asylum in historic London. For the purposes of this RP, I'll be re imagining it as working, current medical asylum.
 

Ordeith

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From the very moment that Hansel laid eyes on that venerable old man, he was fiercely enamored with him. There really wasn't anything denying it: Hansel was passionately in love with him.

He wanted nothing more than to pepper that venerable balding head with shameless kisses. There wasn't anything that his extensive gratitude would not permit: He felt like tumbling through the tiny bookshop in a hurricane of cartwheels, belting out chorus after chorus of "Grossvater Tanz". He would dance, sing, play the flute (if he knew how to), and perform excerpts from Hamlet. Hansel would even straddle the old wizard's bony waist and offer him his best imitation of an erotic dance, if it would please him. From the moment of his release, Hansel adored the wizard Hans Christian Anderson.

Like any young lover, the young German man was still baffled, confused, and disoriented. He was also still terrified that St. Peter's staff would come crashing down on his head at any moment--but above all, he was sublimely happy. Freedom is like a breath of fresh air, ja? he thought to himself.

He was so glad to be free that he could scarcely pay attention to the long-winded introduction that Herr Anderson had given them earlier--despite all his gratitude.

The only detail that he'd been able to sift out was some business about the Brothers Grimm passing away. Apparently, that event had triggered Hansel's release--but after a rare moment of contemplation, he decided that it would be in poor taste to be grateful to someone for dying. Instead, he focused his thankfulness towards Hans Christian Anderson, who had removed him from absolute bewilderment to his current state of lover's confusion.

Herr Anderson, I'd say you were a godsend--if Herr Christos and I didn't have such a patchy history. It was more than a little painful to recall, but Hansel found it a tad difficult not to, being that he had relived the same tale for ages. St. Peter had gotten surprisingly violent with that walking stick of his--and, according to the story (which Hansel himself had spent a good four minutes pouring over), shattered Gambling Hansel's soul into pieces.

It was at that point, as Anderson had explained to deaf ears, that the Brothers Grimm had been ready to ensnare his sufficiently weakened soul. Frankly, Hansel didn't understand one whit of the entire tale. It was almost as if he was being painted as the story's villain. Preposterous! If anyone is to blame, it's that crusty old saint, who did nothing but gripe and complain! He uncomfortably shifted his weight from foot to foot.

"Hansel."

What did he have against me, anyways?
Herr Christos granted me three favors, so wasn't I free to do what I wanted to with them!?


"Focus, Hansel."

The people--and the demons, for that matter--wanted to have a good time, so who was I to deny it to them?

"Hansel?"

I mean, if I hadn't listened to them, I probably would have been torn to pieces, so I really don't see how--

"Achtung, Hansel!"

Gambling Hansel looked up to find himself facing a somewhat exasperated Hans Christian Anderson, glaring at him from behind rimless glasses. "Ah, why didn't you speak up, Herr Anderson?" he asked, stepping forward from his little corner of the bookshop. "You know that I've the tendency to be deaf in one ear!" Hansel chuckled at his own quip, and gave a brief nod of acknowledgment to the young man standing at the far end of the room. The pale, nervous man went on unnoticed.

Anderson sighed, but couldn't suppress a smirk. "This young man is Herr Hansel, no surname. You may know him better as 'Gambling Hansel'." The wizard gave the satchel-bearing man a significant look that Hansel himself failed to notice.

"I recovered him from the site of Brothers' death--and knowing his history for unintended trouble, I felt it best to have him accompany me along with the others. He'll be a fine ally, no doubt...if you don't mind some child-sitting." Hans Anderson gestured for Hansel to properly greet the guest (whom he had yet to tag with a name).

He bowed more deeply to the young man, waving his arm in an exaggerated flourish. "Gambling Hansel, at your service, Herr Wizard." Considering the nature of Anderson's associates, he felt it safe to assume that much about the young man.
 

Professor Ven

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A chuckling, dark laughter followed Hansel's admonishment by Anderson, almost akin to the deadly cry of the Jub Jub Bird, as a twisted, contorted face appeared; well, if you counted only a pair of catty eyes and a toothy smile. "Well well, such a band of gymbling chatterers. Gambling Hansel, is it?" The eyes gazed upon each of the others for a moment, lingering most on Anderson, as the rest of the Cheshire Cat's body appeared, all silky sooty grey with tabby black and blue lines here and there - he was resting on thin air, of course - who would be sane enough to sit down quietly? - as he drifted about, circling the room like a feline bird of prey.

"I recall I was having a jittery old time in the woods of Wonderland when you decided to - how is it - rope me in?" the Cheshire Cat's body disappeared, all save his head, which curved downward, flipping around, as though a noose tightened its grip around his neck. "Such a quite dreadful plan, and you're not Alice. Be delighted the Red Queen didn't catch you strolling through her lands, or it'd be snickersnack by the Knave of Hearts - and off with your head, Hans. Ha. Ha. Ha. Hans." The Cat's head rolled about nonsensically, shifting as he mockingly laughed.

Eventually, the Cheshire Cat drifted, almost ghost-like, atop the mantelpiece, appearing to lay there snug and sleepless, watching the others. One could nearly say, behind that terrifying smile, he was planning something mad. Not mad like the Hatter, but more devious, as deadly as the scratch of the Bandersnatch.
 

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The door to the bookstore downstairs opened and closed for a second time with a sharp report, turning a few of the heads in the room above (the Cheshire Cat's disembodied one notwithstanding). Hans, however, stood rooted to his spot; a familiar but unpleasant sensation stole over him at the sound of the door. Unnoticed to his companions, his body stiffened, his back arched lightly, and his soft brown eyes rolled back in their sockets. A soft aria played lightly in his ears, and an electric feeling like a shock passed between his fingertips. The fit passed in the space of a moment, and as his heels settled firmly back onto the thick carpeted floor, he lowered his eyelids and let out a long, imperceptible sigh, like a man releasing a part of his own spirit. When he raised his hazel eyes up again, he saw from behind rimless glasses a singularly curious man standing opposite him at the head of the stairway.

The other's long, gently curved nose reached up to a broad forehead framed by a bushy head of black hair and thick mutton chops reaching halfway down his cheeks. A long, delicate chin lengthened and somewhat soured his expression, while a strange play of the muscles in his cheeks drew his closed mouth into a sort of buffoonish smile. His eyes, the same light brown as Hans', sparkled with intelligence and an almost savage liveliness. His face was strangely ageless, but Hans recognized him as in his mid-forties, the same age he had last seen him some fifty years ago. Hans had been fifteen at the time.

"Do I... know you, young man?" the stranger asked slowly, as though unsure of the appropriateness of the question.

"Ja," Hans responded. "My name is Hans Christian Anderson. And I know you, Herr Hoffmann, though it has been a long time. Longer for you, I think."

Some movement akin to recognition flashed behind the other's eyes, and he stepped further into the room where the fire crackled happily. He left no puddle on the floor behind him.

"And you?" the man asked suddenly, turning to the Cheshire Cat over the mantelpiece with an air of distracted curiosity, "Are you one of mine?"* Without so much as waiting for an answer, however, he strode on towards Hans and extended a well-manicured hand out from under his shabby overcoat. "Yes, Herr Anderson, I do believe I remember you, from another life. And die Gebrüder Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, I understand they have..."

"Yes," Hans interrupted, "they have left this world. Their works are already beginning to dissolve."

The other, Hoffmann, let his hand fall to his side. For the first time, he looked about the room and seemed to take everything in.

"Is this it then?" he asked, a shade of doubt coloring his tone. "Is this all we have from the Brothers' work? I thought there would be more...."

______________________________________

OOC: I have briefly discussed this character with Lord of Chaos, but have yet to create a template for him. Suffice to say he is E.T.A. Hoffmann, an early German writer in the Romantic movement, and he died sometime before the Brothers Grimm. He did, however, write himself into many of his own stories, and so the figure we see here is both a character of Hoffmann's and something of his own soul left behind as a writer; perhaps this is why he has such an effect on Hans, a fellow writer and story-weaver.

*Hoffmann here is likely confusing the Cheshire Cat with one of his own characters, Tomcat Murr.
 
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Ordeith

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Towards this new arrival, Hansel's spirits couldn't help but be dampened somewhat; the corners of his grin drooped, then eventually fell apart altogether. He had only occupied a tiny sliver of his attention until that last comment, which had struck Hansel a little too directly--whether it had been intentional or not.

"Well, pardon me, Herr...Hoffmann, was it?" he asked, taking a step forward.
As he continued to speak, he scanned over the peculiar man with a critical eye.

"What exactly do you mean to say by that? Now, I'm the last fellow to go sticking my nose in the clouds, but I think that we have a nice little gathering here. We're all capable ladies and gents....and, um, cats." He gestured vaguely to the area behind him, slightly wary of the eerie feline. "Sure, it's a damned shame about the others--but no good comes from dwelling on the past, ja? Besides, we wouldn't be getting any help from folks like Little Miss Head-of-Hair, anyway. What's her name...? Rasputin, or something like that. If I--"

Hansel had no opportunity to finish his little spiel; Hans Christian Anderson promptly clipped him off. "That is quite enough, Hansel," he said. "I'll not have you speak of your compatriots that way. After all, it could just have easily been you in their stead."

Gambling Hansel reluctantly conceded, drooping back into place with a nod of apology to Hoffmann. He found that whenever Herr Anderson opened his mouth, his aura of wizened charm started to fade. The sorcerer cut a much more striking figure when sitting pensively, leafing through some dusty old tome. Don't ruin it for me, Herr Anderson. Really! That Hoffmann struts inside as if he was the king of Prussia! I ruled the entire world, and I never poked fun at other people like that. Hansel passively crossed his arms over his chest, but continued to eyeball the odd newcomer.

"That being said," continued Anderson, "we are fortunate to have salvaged those we could--and that includes you, Hansel. There are several more refugees from the tomes of the Brothers' Grimm, though I've no idea where they are at this moment. Rest assured, though: More aid is to be expected, Herr Hoffmann."

These words stirred some faint recollection in Hansel, who visibly furrowed his eyebrows together in thought, and played with a stray lock of hair. That's right....Wasn't there a little lass in red? Where did Fraulein Red scurry off to? She really was quite a charming girl, if I'm any judge of women. And wasn't there another lassie that Herr Anderson mentioned?

"Say, Herr Anderson," he spoke up again, "what do you think could be keeping them? I confess, I'm not the best with dates and times, but our fellows all seem to be running later than expected...."
 

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"Some of them will have already dissolved," Hoffmann answered towards Anderson, as though it were the latter who had spoken. "After an extended sojourn in Faerie, returning to the conditions of the material world can be... trying." A shudder like a static shock seemed to pass through his own slight frame. "However," he continued, his expression darkening, "the others will be a problem. Chances are they have already taken up their old haunts and are disrupting the fabric of this world. We will have to move quickly to intercept them...."

"Hold a moment, bitte, Herr Hoffmann!" Hans protested, holding his hands up now in turn to halt the other's preparations, "many of those missing are our friends. They are heroic beings, and good, and they can help us contain this threat. Fraulein Red Riding Hood, for example; never did a more virtuous girl exist, in this world or any other!"

Hoffmann waved this aside with an impatient sleeve. "Faerie is different," he answered simply, "it doesn't care for your heroes or virtues. Die Gebrüder Grimm were wrong to moralize their stories as they did. Besides," he asked, half-kindly, half-mockingly, "if these beings were so good to begin with, why did we lock them away in the fairy-stories? No Hans, I can assure you, everyone here"--and here his eye seemed to fall especially upon Hansel, though perhaps everyone present felt a similar sensation of that piercing gaze--"everyone here has their own particular reason for being here. And everyone who isn't here has their own reason as well. Freedom from faerie is hard bought, and not lightly returned."
 
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