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The Call of Magic, Book One of The Fool’s Journey,
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June 3, 2020
The man is reading his poem, and he is well versed.
The atmosphere of their inner sanctum is perfect for it, the lamp of the spotlight bright white, cutting through the smoky haze to illuminate him on the stage below. Through the surrounding glass walls, the clamor and chaos of a rave moves and shines. But within that soundless space at the heart of the Carthage Club, stared at from beyond, the poet speaks his truth uninterrupted.
Only a select few have been invited to attend, and, of course, they have the best seats. The second-story balcony is all to themselves.
Just hours before, they crowded around an encrypted laptop, bidding on three attack helicopters with full military complement.
The competition in the auction was fierce - black market deals always are - but they won in the end. The club is a celebration, and the champagne pours freely.
Their leader rests on her throne, an odd beauty, more attractive for her imperfections, her freckles, her not-quite-red hair, and her large nose. Beside her, a flawless blonde sits to the left, as cruel and cunning as she is gorgeous. To the right, a brute of a man lounges, the promise of violence wrote on his scarred knuckles.
They listen on in rapt attention.
The trio that are gathered around that throne are an ancient group, bent in the ways that all gangs are.
Globalization has been a double-edged sword, opening fresh avenues of business, closing many more. They are leaner and all the hungrier for it. They look for an edge, something to take them into the future. And perhaps they have just found it.
A broker, unbeknownst to them before tagging along on the tail end of the auction encryption, offered the sale of a new set of metals. Far harder, lighter than steel, it is the perfect material to stiffen a dying crime industry. And so, they purchase it, as much as they can. It is not enough, though, to seek redemption for her rogue empire in the very technology that is killing them.
She who sits on the throne spares a glance for her most dangerous assets, the man and woman by her side. They have slept with others in the Kingdom for a long time but keep it respectfully private from her. She appreciates their discretion, just as she appreciates their abilities. A smile curls her lips as she considers the words that were whispered in her ear just moments before.
“The other material we’ve just procured? It’s the highest grade we’ve ever seen.”
She had whispered back. “Where did it come from, I wonder? Find out.” When her smile is gone, the reader has finished his poem. He truly was well versed. Her clap is polite, perhaps even enthusiastic.
A shadow cuts across the lights behind her, catching her attention. A modest turn of her head finds her being approached by a man in her use. She listens to his brief words and nods in agreement. They show a gentleman in a fine suit in. His eyebrows are thick and bushy, black wire on an uninspired face. She does not like him, and though she owns him, he is not of the ring, nor privy to her plans.
“My Queen.” He even bows. The dedication to procedure is pleasing.
“King, not Queen.” The words are delivered with a slight titter of her fingertips.
There is a pause, a moment of collection. “I respect your orientation.” He clears his throat and continues. “May I ask, where is Degrau?”
“In the back, paying his debts.” She presses a button gripped loose in one hand. In the absence of the poetry being read, the ghostly whisper of a scream comes floating forward, brief and barely heard over the smattering of applause. The look on his face does not change. She wonders at that and at what has driven him. Ambition or fear?
“One of his artists has gone missing.”
The King watches him through thick lidded eyes and taps a long, sharpened nail on her lip. “Will this impact your take?” He chews his own tongue, wanting to answer yes but not daring to.
“No, my King. I only reported it because I’m unsure where he went. He’s gone dark.”
“Curious.” It is a dismissal. He turns and goes, disappearing out of the balcony and the smoke-filled room. That wicked, curling smile is back.
“There is another artist?”
The King’s right hand answers, a smoky voice from her perfect beauty. “The Chinaman.”
The King acknowledges the comment and then makes her proclamation. “Have the runner paint one last masterpiece when you find him. See if he has anything to say. Perhaps he might buy his own interest. Otherwise reeducate him.”
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