A Sin for Salvation
And thus Dionysius unleashes his formidable charm and determination on yet another individual.--Maer
Wednesday, May 20th, 1868
Dionysus climbed into the carriage, and checked the collection of calling cards. He gave the driver the address to Rebecca Spencer's house, and settled back, resting his eyes after the ordeal of conversing with Josephine.
At Rebecca's house, he slid from the carriage, and wearily made his way to the door, knocking soundly on the hard wood of the door.
She opened the door to him, her chin coming up slightly though a smile graced her features. "M'sier Neecy. So kind of you to stop in so quickly. Do come in."
"Thank you, madame. I was in the area, and felt it imperative to consult with you," the hobbit said briskly as he breezed into the Spencer home, and laid his gloves and hat on the side table. "Can we perhaps have a private place to discuss sensitive matters?"
"Certainly," Rebecca replied. She gestured. "The library should suit, yes? Would you like some tea? Or something stronger, perhaps?"
"Tea would be delightful; early yet, yes, non?" With a purpose, Dionysus strode into the library, and propped an elbow on an overstuffed chair, waiting for Rebecca to take a seat.
"You show much promise, insight and gift. There are tricks of the trade of which you seem unaware, and which I can know share with you," he said. "I mean no disrespect, but when one first practices the arts, one can be prone to error."
Rebecca pulled the rope to ask the housekeeper to bring tea, and then she swept her skirts aside to settle in one of the chairs. Her hands clasp in her lap as she listens. "I am not... unaware that my skills are unrefined, M'sier Neecy. That is why I had hoped to speak with you a bit more... privately. I was uncertain whether to speak of ... lessons, tutoring perhaps... or if it would offend you." She is referring obliquely and politely to the fact that one who gives lessons or tutors is paid.
Dionysus waved his hand in easy dismissal. "We are compatriots, not tutor and student. I am longer of the tooth with things of dark magery, but certainly, with your Eldren bent, and careful method, we are equals," he said.
"The thing which really drags at my attention is of two sides," he said. He pulled a crown from his pocket, as a demonstration. "Heads, you are not familiar with being the mage in a group of the mundane." Flipping the coin nonchalantly, his face darkened. "Tails, and a long one... your lack of experience with the dark allowed you to be unduly drawn."
Her chin firmed and Rebecca chose not to speak until the housekeeper -- who had just begun to enter the room with tea -- set the tray out and left again, closing the door behind her. Automatically Rebecca reached out to pour; she is, after all, hostess. "I am not familiar with using the skills that I have for more than basic magic, M'sier," she agreed.
"But I am not entirely certain that 'god' has the same meaning to me as to most if not all of the rest of you. I have spent much of my life learning about the Egyptian gods. And there were certainly gods far older. Were they evil? That I am not clear on. And I dislike making the assumption that just because Ezekiel Drake's personal correspondence with the one that we generally refer to as God has said 'oh, that's evil, destroy it' that it is necessarily the correct thing to do. Visions are, in fact, open to interpretation, are they not? And of everything that I saw when I touched the manuscript, I got little inkling of evil from those who wrote it; their intent was clearly to hold BACK the elder gods, which they apparently did for quite some time." She handed him the teacup.
Dionysus took the cup in both hands, and sipped noisily. He set the cup down, and returned to his lecture. "Oh, certainement, certainement. Ezekiel is a boy peeking through fingers at the shadows cast by gods. The BOOK is not evil, but it contains, and constrains.
"Your magic has a taste to it... dry, and old. The spell you cast in the sewers... was ancient, and wet, very wet. We must study the book, certainly. One lesson I learned early from my master was this. The dark draws the light, and the light the dark. When you wish for the best of reasons, such as the book's author to deal with the dark, you get shadows.
"My master took greatly to drink to drown the dark which pulled at him. To destroy evil you must know it, but it makes a hole... it must be filled."
Sipping again, he returned the cup to the table. "Ezekiel does not understand, of course. He is a boy who thinks he treats others as equals by showing pique. The lure of evil is the creation of this.... hole, shall we say; and offering false short cuts to new enjoyable ways it might be... filled, as it were."
Rebecca listened with a faint frown between her brows. "So.... the book is containing the evils?" she asked, uncertain she'd followed his conversation properly. "I cannot determine if you're telling me that the spell that was cast was evil... or if it just opened to an evil place in this instance, I'm terribly sorry." She paused. "And it is very tempting to continue to experiment with the rune," she confessed. "It is an enigma, and I do so enjoy working on a puzzle."
With a wicked smile and twitch of his mustache, the hobbit rejoined, "Of course you must know this rune. It is a gift. The BOOK isn't evil. It does LINK to a source of evil. The LINK wished to use you to draw others to itself. Possession of the book is probably the ONLY thing that kept the gate from swallowing us all, and remaining open as a conduit."
Spreading his hands, Dionysus went into full lecture mode. "We must always remember that those with no power in the gift, or with a gift of no science, measurement, or reason, cannot be privy to the workings of a true thaumaturgist's mind. Josephine felt the book safe because she is still born behind the eyes. Ezekiel thinks burning it will free us from what it gives knowledge of.
"Both are asinine and childish fantasies. The book exists to protect from that which called to you. Find a sin, Madame, if you wish to be safe from damnation!"
Rebecca gave him a startled look. "Good heavens!" A blush climbed her features. "So what exactly are you suggesting, then? Because the manuscript is out of our reach. Josephine turned it over to the Crown." There is a moue of annoyance quickly dispelled lest he see it. "The rune must be understood better before I use it again or the results could be disastrous. And I shan't take the chance on putting Katherine or her children at risk," she warned.
"Catherine puts her children at risk," he said, head hanging. "There is something new about the rune? The rune was not consumed in the casting?"
"No," Rebecca replied honestly. "It was not consumed in the casting. I rarely lose runes to the casting of them, actually." Her teeth worried a bit at her lower lip and then she moved to stand, retrieving her reticule from the desk drawer where she'd put it for safekeeping. "It is... unusual. And nothing I have ever seen before." She reached in and brought the stone out to show him.
Dionysus peered closely at the rune; the way it appeared wet, despite being perfectly dry. "Ah, this then is what I tasted." He nodded curtly, and stood full height. "I shall be leaving the employ of Ezekiel and Catherine. This shall free more time for endeavors such as our shared intent to understand this book. I..." he blushed. "You shall think me a complete scoundrel, but could I ask for a friend rate to hire your services to understanding these phenomena? I am not a rich man, but I am comfortable. I shall of course pay a fitting wage for you to share the research with me, and treat you in all ways as full partner."
Rebecca allowed him to examine it as closely as he wished, though she did not relinquish her hold on the rune. And then she looked startled. "Wait, wait...." Things moved much too fast for her there. "You are leaving Catherine's employ? What on earth for? She holds you in the absolute highest regard, M'sieur." And then she seems more flummoxed still when he says he wishes to hire her. "M'sieur Neecy, I am .... quite honestly at a complete loss."
Dionysus smiled. "Her physical safety is assured by Ezekiel, and I shall retain the role of business manager. I require the freedom and time to explore my true calling. Shall we say five pounds per day, with of course bonus based on our discoveries. Think nothing of procuring the book. She will have given it to the colonel. The colonel will give it to me to have it studied." He smiled.
"We must remember that they see if at all through a glass darkly. The scales have fallen from our eyes, but the hand of God himself must cover our mouths, to protect the Ezekiels, Catherines, and Josephines."
"I... I... " Rebecca's hand went to her throat and she cleared her throat. "M'sieur.... there is much about you that I do not understand. But I shall be most grateful of your experience."
With a curt nod, Dionysus drank from the cup, and bowed low. "I shall see you on the morrow then. We shall begin the analysis, and I should have definite information about when we shall access the book. Until then, I wish you farewell." He strode to the library door. "I've not left service yet, I shall see myself out, with your kind permission, Lady Spencer."
"Of course," Rebecca murmured, still somewhat stunned by the turn of events. She was being paid to do research that she is dying to do. How did that happen? She was thoroughly confused.
HOW TO SPEAK FRENCH
certainement = sehr-tahn-mohn = definitely Sound clip