Six

A Meeting in Chaos



Esmerelda stood at the outskirts of Midnight Hollow and sighed. Her time in Bridgeport hadn’t felt like enough, but it would have to hold her over. She had to take advantage of the lead she had on the bastards chasing her.



Besides, her time in Bridgeport absolutely cleared her out of cash. Melanie decided to stay a few extra days upon realizing her decision to leave Eric and Esmerelda was forced to pull a few strings so Melanie wouldn’t realize exactly how strapped for cash Esmerelda was.



While she had been successful at that, Melanie still dropped a wad of dollars in her hands before running off in the airport - a gift from Casper with specific directions to give it and run as fast as humanly possible so Esmerelda could not reject it.
Because she would have, of course.



Yet the money had been wrapped around something else - a phone. A throw-away phone with a single number programmed into it.
She knew the phone number by heart now, but seeing it again still made her eyes sting with the thought behind it all. She couldn’t even remember the last time she had dialed the number it had been so long.



It ached most of the time. She stopped dialing the number because she couldn’t stand to remember everything that had been taken from her by her being forced to run like she had.
She had nothing to her name, save for her suitcase and her violin, but even during hard times she’d had to pawn it once or twice.



Thankfully she always managed to scrape up enough cash to get it back. She couldn’t bear to be parted from it. It was the one thing that was truly hers in this gods-forsaken world. Calypso never let her have anything else. Anything she would gain would be taken from her.
Family, friends, items, trinkets, phones, money… everything.
There was no such thing as ‘home’ for her and it was exhausting.



Esmerelda was just exhausted. She hated admitting that she was tired of running. She hated seeing her friends and the life she couldn’t have. She could pretend like she was happy being constantly on the move, but it was miserable. It was truly miserable.
Yet to anyone who asked she had an automatic answer: ‘it sucks moving around, but I get to see so many places!’



As if being tortured and chased around the world over and over again was simply a vacation that would eventually be over.
It never ends.
It was so hard to be happy about the things she did have when she was so bitter about the things she didn’t.
She tucked the phone away, ignoring the weight it placed on her once again. She couldn’t just call him. It would be too difficult. It would only hurt them both. She would have to lie to him again and she couldn’t bear it.



Either that or she would tell him too much and then she would feel guilty for relying on him as much as she did. She couldn’t do that to him. She had already done that enough.
She looked down to her belongings with a slight purse of her lips. She would need to gather up some funds and quickly unless she planned to sleep outside tonight.



She looked upwards at the gloomy sky and frowned. It wouldn’t be terrible if it rained, she supposed. She had slept under worse conditions.
Why couldn’t things just get easier for once?


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Quinn reclined back in a chair as he propped his feet up on the table. It was a meeting and he hated meetings. Madhouse meetings were better than office meetings, he supposed. At least someone had a chance of catching fire at these meetings.



The Madhouse meetings were always small - just his master, the High Priestess, and the master’s sons. Majnun was never known for maintaining a large following. While other gods boasted hundreds of followers, Majnun had six: his four sons, his High Priestess, and Quinn, of course.



Majnun had a fourth son; the boy was a downright prick. Quinn smirked to himself; the boy had learned from the best. Either way, he wasn't in for the meeting today... getting him to any meetings was difficult. The lucky prick got away with everything - as if Quinn could ever get so lucky.



At least he could catch up on some sleep at the meetings, perhaps? He tipped his head back and took in a deep breath when the back of his head was struck with a book.
Unmoved, he opened his eyes to glare at the winged nuisance.



Mania Keeper was his master’s High Priestess and in Quinn’s opinion she was bat-shit insane.
He reserved that phrase specifically for her and used it for no one else. Anyone who’s willing to go through the Priesthood ritual for four times the original amount required was absolutely out of their mind in his book.



He had massive respect for her, but she was still bat-shit insane.
Perhaps that’s why he had massive respect for her? He didn’t usually linger on the thought too long. The woman was an unstoppable force and the death glare she was giving him was a solid warning: no napping today, it seems. He groaned and rolled his head forward. “Can we cut to the chase here? I need a nap and I’m not getting it here, clearly.”



“Laminya!” Mania hissed at him through her teeth and she spun on her heel to walk towards the opposite side of the table. She was Nymphen, like he was, only she actually knew the language. Quinn knew some phrases here and there from when he was a kid, but it never made sense for him to pick up the language.



He didn’t need to know the language to know she was calling him an idiot. It was her most used term for the Keeper boys and himself.
He had been skeptical of her at first, but she could keep the master’s sons in line better than anyone he had ever seen before.



She also had no trouble telling their master off, and strangely enough, the master never said anything back. Quinn was never allowed the ability to sass the master so freely. He was always met with a book to the head. Was it the tits? He wondered about it idly as he watched Mania talk excessively about the reports that he wasn’t listening to. Perhaps if he grew a pair then he wouldn’t get hit with books? He stared at himself for a moment before his master’s voice jolted him from his thoughts.



“Nope.” There was a dark laughter from him as he sat up in his chair and answered Quinn’s thoughts.
Mania put her hand on her hip and glared at Quinn then.
Quinn turned and gave his master a cheeky stare. “Shh, hey master… you’re supposed to be listening to Mania. She’s speaking. That’s rude-”



He couldn’t finish saying ‘rude’ before a book collided with the back of his head.
“Yes, yes! I’m paying attention now! Why is this so important? You’ve never cared if I’ve slept through any other meeting.” Quinn finally scowled.
Mania put her hands down on the table and rolled her eyes. “It’s not just a meeting, Quinn. There’s a war incoming.”



“Well, shit! Why didn’t you say so?” Quinn sat up in his seat, putting his legs down from the table then so he could lean forward with interest. “Who are we going to war with?”
Mania shook her head. “Not us. It’s Calypso. Kefka caught wind of impending confrontations on his last information run.”
Quinn’s eyes darted down to Kefka who was staring at the table idly before shrugging his shoulders.



Deliro sat next to him and snickered, leaning over and snapping his fingers, igniting Kefka’s jacket on fire. Quinn smirked - he knew it was just a matter of time before someone caught fire.



Kefka stared at the fire and then at his brother before running his finger through the spreading flames a few times and then covering them with his palm to put them out.



He sat stiffly for a moment before he lightly punched Deliro in a movement too fast to see, yet Deliro recoiled dramatically. Thus began a shoving match between the two of them as they laughed.



Quinn snickered and Mania groaned impatiently. “Laminwa! STOP!”
The master had taken to reclining back in his seat and closed his eyes, clearly relaxed enough to take a nap in the middle of the chaos.



It was chaos and it was home. Quinn reclined back in his seat as well and looked at Mania levelly as the boys continued shoving each other back and forth with laughter. Mania looked as though she were about to burst when Quinn clenched his fist beneath the table and Deliro and Kefka were yanked apart, strings coming from the ceiling to hold them that way.



It was hardly necessary, but Quinn loved getting to do it in any circumstance - necessary or not. It had been too long since he’d been able to flex his magical abilities. “Now it’s a party!” He laughed.
Sheogorath, Majnun’s oldest child, sat next to him and smirked as he watched his younger brothers giggling and getting yanked on by the strings Quinn held.






His chaos strings were his favorite spell to rely on. There was something poetic about turning his enemies into puppets after his servitude. The first time he had ever used his chaos strings was by accident during the slave rebellion under Adessa. Well, not really an accident, but he had hardly known what he was doing then. He, the puppet, had turned the tables on the masters. Now he was the puppeteer, and he took great pride in his untouchable abilities.



“Please continue, sell.” The master spoke without opening his eyes.
“You really need to teach me how to nap and participate in meetings at the same time, Master.” Quinn commented before his head was brought down and smacked against the table with the force of his master’s magic.



Quinn couldn’t even be angry; it hadn’t hurt. Instead he laughed in the silence that followed and that was followed up by laughter from everyone else.
Mania had moved and sat on top of one of the chairs, one foot propped on the table and the other on the seat of the chair. “Calypso and Ambar are about to enter a second war over the Sirens.” She said as her laughter calmed.



Quinn groaned with boredom. “Didn’t they sort all that shit out twenty years ago when they tore up half the globe the last time?”
It had been horrific and bloody.



“I’m 25. Nearing 26, unfortunately.”
“Six is such a shit age to be, isn’t it? My mother died when I was six…”
“Fuck.” Quinn breathed, not realizing he had spoken aloud until he saw everyone at the table staring at him quizzically. He coughed and cleared his throat before shrugging.
Mania’s raised eyebrows only turned into minor amusement before she sighed. “Anyways… that’s why we’re on alert about it.”



Quinn had missed something and he struggled to shake Esmerelda from his head long enough to stay focused yet he could still hear her singing in the back of his mind. “I’m sorry, I… uh…”
Mania rolled her eyes. “You weren’t listening. I know.” She sighed. “The Goddess of Fate is parked along Midnight Hollow’s borders right now.”



Ambar. The name soured on his tongue.
Everything was too suspicious with her, and she often tried to push her luck in the worst ways possible. The master never spoke kindly of her.



After her follower's attempted to assault his master's oldest, it was easy to see why.
Quinn would’ve loved to have had a round with her for what she did, but it wasn’t his place. Instead he stood by Sheogorath and they picked up the pieces.
Unfortunately, even after the torture Ambar never seemed to learn her lesson completely.



Quinn certainly wouldn’t mind cracking a few skulls of the followers of Ambar, but personally he had been enjoying the wars between Calypso and her. The women could claw each other’s eyes out and bleed out their own armies to save everyone else the hassle of having to put up with them any longer.
Esmerelda’s face flashed into his mind. He got the sickening gut feeling that she would get caught up in all of this. Any Siren found would be associate with one side or the other, and the results were never pretty.



She wasn’t associated with either of them.
Quinn didn’t know that for sure, but he didn’t have to. He could just tell. She lacked the arrogance that a follower of a god would carry.
It had been a few weeks since his mission as delivery boy to Carule, the God of Love, where Quinn had run into Esmerelda once again. Where followers of Carule had organised that run in.



Those stupid women. Quinn rolled his eyes remembering those ridiculous, meddling followers. He sniffed them out shortly after he had stumbled on Esmerelda singing - something they had set up. He left without a word to Esmerelda just to spite those women.
He hated to say it, but he regretted that decision.



As much as those women annoyed him, it annoyed him more that he passed up the opportunity.
Nightingales were all over his future, right? She felt related.
Or perhaps he just wanted her to be, at least until he could get her into bed. That was usually where his curiosity stopped. He was certain Esmerelda would be no different.



The master had moved and sat straighter in his seat, his eyes remained closed until he let out a long breath. “Kefka, keep your ears on the trail. Deliro, we might have a need to acquire several combustibles in a relatively-”



There was a laughter that came from Deliro as he smacked some potions down onto the table with a grin. His face grew into a large, devious grin as he spoke. “Kaboom.”
Quinn snickered and the master narrowed his eyes slightly, examining the potions. “We’ll need at least two duck’s worth more.”
Deliro’s grin only grew wider and nodded quickly, saluting the master from where he sat.



The master nodded slightly. “Mania, take Sheogorath and look for what we talked about in Moonlight Falls. Quinn - stay back a moment. Now go.” He waved them all off.
Quinn smirked, looking at Sheogorath as he half chuckled. The poor boy, the master had to be doing this on purpose - having him work almost exclusively with the woman he clearly has feelings for.



Sheogorath’s eyes were pinned on Mania who was grinning at him. Kefka and Deliro had shuffled towards the door, laughing back and forth as they shoved each other - likely laughing at Sheogorath, much as Quinn resisted it.
Mania had stepped up onto the table and plopped down on the other side, close to Sheogorath who sat frozen in his seat. She gave him a giggle before gripping his wrist and pulling him upward and towards the door. “Come on, Gondir! This will be fun!”



The door closed and Quinn gave his master a cheeky grin. “So do I get to call you Carule now, oh match-maker?”
His master said nothing, he just smiled with his eyes raised as he continued to stare at the door from which they left. Finally, his gaze grew more distant as it landed on Quinn. “I want you to patrol the border of Midnight Hollow.”



The seriousness of his voice halted the protests Quinn would normally have. “Who should I be watching for?”
His master let out an exasperated sigh as he reclined back in his chair. “Anyone.” He opened his eyes wearily. “Ambar especially. Should a single one of her followers sneeze in the direction of my border is the moment that I will end her. Clear?”



Quinn’s brow furrowed and he nodded. “Master… if you want a reason to go to war with Ambar, I can arrange that for you, you know. I can make a pretty convincing war crime.” He wiggled his eyebrows.
Yet his master shook his head slowly. “I want to watch this play out, but…” Quinn could see his eyes darkening as he spoke. “I will not rule that out.”
“Whatever it is… I’ve got your back. Just say the word.” It was a different era than it used to be. When it was just his master and he, Quinn wasn’t limited by the rules of war. If someone angered them, they were a united, unstoppable force.



They still were, but things were different now. The master had children. Things needed to be considered. More pieces were in play than ever before. Quinn would need to learn to adapt better to the changing game. He could play the strategies, just like his master could. He would have to.
“How goes the Nightingale hunt?” His master had changed the subject, and as such his face changed as his voice slid upward in pitch.



Quinn rolled his eyes, happy to put the serious topics behind them. “Utter bullshit and you know it. I already met her. It’s done. I’m not going to run into her again.”
It was a smirk of disbelief that now adorned his master’s features. “Oh? A lady, then?”
Quinn tipped his head, annoyed. “Yes. Done. Never again. You really are worse than Carule, you know.”



“Did you sleep with her and scare her off with your crass behavior like you do with all the other ladies?” His voice rumbled with a light chuckle.
Quinn scowled. “I’ll have you know I didn’t sleep with her.” He said it with pride even though he had been eagerly hoping to rectify that unfortunate situation. “-and she liked my crass behavior, thank you.” He crossed his arms and looked away with attitude.



Yet his master laughed loudly and slapped the table from his glee.
“Oh shut up.” Quinn glared, yet his lips twitched up into a slight smile. “I’m not going to see her again, it was just the night and one random run in at the Temple of Carule. One divination card is not going to change my entire future, old man.”



His master stopped laughing suddenly and his arm swung downward, slapping something onto the table. His hand moved and revealed a preserved divination card.



And the master’s laugh continued to echo in the empty room.


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Esmerelda bowed her violin gently, walking back and forth as she did so. It was hardly an impressive performance, but her heart was hardly in it. Instead her mind lingered on the thought of the phone that seemed to weigh a million pounds in her pocket.



Her muscle memory finished the song and she bit her lip. He was the one who had taught her how to play in the first place.
What time was it in Dragon Valley? She didn’t know. It was probably late - or early. Or a bad time. It was always a bad time in her mind. She always interrupted something.
He never told her that though. He always made time for her, even when she was a little girl.



Thunder rolled in overhead and she slumped further, resigning herself to walking back towards her violin case. It was not worth risking her violin getting wet for this. She sealed it away and slumped on the bench beside her things, chewing on her cheek in thought.



She had made five dollars, which wasn’t even close to enough. Her mind shifted to rationing through the amount as best as she could. All of her supplies were running low and she needed to figure out what was more important. The money could buy her a meal - a hot one.
No, that would be wasteful. She had just had a hot meal three weeks ago when Mellie had stayed with her. Tempting as it was when she felt chilled to the bone from the weather being as it was, it wasn’t a financially wise decision.



The money certainly wouldn’t be enough for lodgings of any variety. The taxes in Midnight Hollow were terrible too. It was supposedly a great place to open up a business, but the sales tax on everything here was simply murder.



Not that anyone here worried about that. Everyone here was wealthy. There were no homeless - and on the rare chance someone became homeless they couldn’t afford to maintain themselves. The people here were too stingy and treated everyone who fell on hard times as below them.
Not to mention, the town itself reeked with some kind of magical energy that made Esmerelda feel fatigued and sick most of the time.



It was something she couldn’t avoid. Her body had an artifact implanted in it - something done to her at birth. It was magical and unpredictable and miserable.
She never asked for this and the only reason her mother asked for it was because of the insanely high infant mortality rate it caused. Yet Esmerelda was the woman who just couldn’t die. She had taken that as such a positive thing as a child, but now she grew more and more weary.



The artifact would not let her starve. The artifact would not let her die by poison of any variety. The artifact would not let her die period.
Pain? Oh she could feel that in plenty, but she would never be granted peace in death.
Ironically, or perhaps not, the artifact is the sole reason she’s running for her life and wishing for death in the first place.
The world must find her amusing.
She certainly did.



Midnight Hollow always had a toxic amount of magic that floated in the air, but it seemed extraordinarily strong to her.
She wouldn’t be staying here long if she could help it - a week, maybe two at most.
She wanted to be out by the end of the day, honestly, but that wasn’t in the cards.
Not with only five dollars to her name.



Her pride did not keep her from using the money that was wadded up in her shoe that had once adorned the outside of the phone, yet she needed that emergency fund.
With as bad as the weather has been, Essence forbid she catch some sickness. She had broken into her emergency stash and bled it dry to stay with Mellie as long as she had, so as far as she was concerned that $200 wrapped around the phone was her safety net.



She stared up at the sky and knew she would need to break into it, yet she didn’t want to admit that to herself yet.
Five dollars. She could work with this. Instant noodles did eventually become edible enough when left in luke-warm water from a tap. A pack of those with tax could come out to be around three dollars and some change.



That would leave her with a dollar and some change for… everything else? That wouldn’t work. Pads and tampons would come out to be even more than the five dollars she had. Tax was 9.48% in Midnight Hollow, and she prayed they hadn’t raised it any further.
She began to ration it all out in her head when the nearby clock began to chime five times on the hour.



Five in the evening? People would be headed home. She looked down to her violin and pursed her lips. It wasn’t raining yet, she could push the limits. She had to.
She could ignore the phone in her pocket just a little while longer.



Things were going to get better, weren’t they?
She stood up from the bench and moved to grab her violin when she was stopped by a familiar voice.



“Ezzie?”






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Playlist
"Warrior" - Beth Crowley
"Survive the Night" - FNaF [Nightcore]
"Who We Are" - Imagine Dragons
"Breathe" - Fleurie

A/N: Quinn's divination card was done by me. =)

2 comments:

  1. Hehe, I'd recognize that necklace anywhere! That's Quinn spotting her! Maybe he can give poor Ezzie a roof! Poor darling's gone through so much. I wish the world would give her some stability.

    The Keeper family is really entertaining! I love their dynamic and the relationships haha
    Sheogorath seems more the quiet type, but his two brothers are the troublesome types clearly. I'm curious about the fourth brother, but I feel we'll see him eventually heh

    Quinn's power is interesting! A puppeteer! I agree, it's a nice touch of irony. He was enslaved for a long time after all. Both him and Ezzie have had it rough. It's time for them to settle down and be happy with each other.

    Mhm, without ANYONE dying

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    Replies
    1. Hehehehe, Quinn always keeps that necklace and it's a good thing too, otherwise I'd have nothing to signal people with! Ezzie needs some lovin' that's for sure. (clutches Ezzie to my chest) my poor CHILD is suffering DEARLY.
      Not like I'm doing that.
      nope
      not me
      don't look over here
      nu-huh
      (shifty eyes)

      Ha! I knew you'd love the Keeper family; and based off your responses in Willow, there's one of the Keeper Boys I have a strong feeling will end up being your favorite. Well he's mine anyways, for the same reason, but I won't tell. Hehe, god I love this family so, SO much. Give me any moment to expand upon the Keepers and consider my soul sold for it.

      Quinn's power is especially fun, and we're just scraping the surface. He's not let me have a chance to go into the nitty gritty with his gifts. Maybe ONE DAY I can explain it in all it's beauty, but until that day I've got an author's note reserved in the wings in case he blocks me out from being able to do so.

      Mhm I agree, no dying, absolutely not, who said anything about dying. Nope, no dying. No hardships. I'm not doing any of this... dontlookatme.
      Heee

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