[Prelude] Et tu Riley?

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Gwathdraug
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[Prelude] Et tu Riley?

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“Come down, behold no more.
O, coward that I am, to live so long,
To see my best friend ta'en before my face!”

Riley concentrated on the deep, strong tempo of her Father's voice as he recited his lines. Relieved that she didn't have to talk for this part of the play at least the eleven year old girl maneuvered her illusion of Pindarus forward. Taking the sword, which was also an illusion, from her Father she made the phantom actor stab downward, and to the crowd the weapon appeared to go all the way through killing 'Cassius'. The spectators all let out a collective gasp as blood seemed to pool around her father and his masked killer. The gasp lowered and rose again as her father's hands paled to a ghastly yellow-white and the veins began to stick out. Taking his role to its climax her father convulsed only once, but very violently, rising up on the blade of the sword and falling back with an even more grievous wound. When he thrashed he half unseated his mask, so the audience could see his mouth. 'Cassius' spoke his final lines by choking them out, his once powerful and charismatic voice reduced to a whimpering whisper, and blood flowed freely over his lips.

When 'Cassius' slumped to the ground for the last time Riley calmly pulled upon the reserves of mana stored in the suit of armour standing before her. Once she had that power grasped firmly under control the phantom of Pindarus knelt next to the corpse of his dead master, pulling the sword out of Cassius the servant carefully placed it on his chest and folded his hands over the hilt. It was now time for her lines, and Pindarus looked to the ceiling, as if he was speaking directly to the heavens.

“So, I am free; yet would not so have been,” Riley almost stopped at the first line, the voice that was resonating throughout the stage was not hers. It was deep, sorrowful, and invoked an emotion in the audience that no eleven year old, girl or boy could ever achieve. But, as always, she overcame her surprise, and having barely missed a beat continued her lines.

“Durst I have done my will. O Cassius,
Far from this country Pindarus shall run,
Where never Roman shall take note of him.”

Instead of the curtains falling to prepare for the next scene, Riley concentrated once again, and the frozen figures of Pindarus and Cassius were enveloped by a light mist that slowly thickened until it was almost as dark as a storm cloud and impossible to see through.

As the mist solidified Pindarus wisped away and her father picked himself up, pulled off his mask and went back stage. As Joseph Alstad walked past his daughter he smiled at her, knowing she would be sitting on her knees in front of his magical focus, a look of utter concentration on her face. Instead of ruffling her short hair as he wanted to he just gave sent a thumbs up in her direction and smacked his fist into his palm, signifying that the audience was completely ensorcelled by their performance.

Now that Cassius was dead, the play was completely up to Riley now.



The praise Joseph Alstad had been unable to give his daughter while she had been controlling a whole cast of illusionary actors came out later that night as they ate dinner in the small dining room/kitchen of their home and theatre.

“My dear girl you did wonderful!” If Joseph was able to he would have leaped up out of his chair and paced about as he spouted his review of the play. But, the Kitchen was not his domain, Riley kept her school books there and her animal figures and no matter how careful the girl was, when you were dealing with an eleven year old things tended to never stay in the same place long. “There was gasping, I could swear I heard some of the gentler ladies tearing up at times, and when you needed them there were GALES of laughter!”

Riley smiled always happy to receive good news after a play, no matter how much she practice she always tensed up whenever they performed. Speaking of performing, a little bit of worry entered the little girl's voice as she spoke up. “Dad... are you sure you can keep doing so many plays so often? I mean... with your sight... things aren't getting difficult are they?”

Joseph looked in his daughter's direction as best he could and his smile didn't leave his face but much of the wild enthusiasm from earlier did. His voice went from excited and grandiose to gentle and humble in a single moment. “Is that worrying you again?” Joseph reached out his hand and his daughter met it and Riley's father squeezed her hand reassuringly. “Our play's are always planned out that it's no problem. As I always say a properly planned set is so exact -”

Riley smiled a bit at hearing the first part of the familiar mantra and quickly finished it for her dad. “- that any one could navigate it with their eyes closed, so a blind actor is at no disadvantage at all.”

“That'a girl.” Joseph said fondly, then letting go of his daughter's hand he leaned back. “Now, I might be blind but I can still sense that something has been chewing around your mind for over a week now, so with our last major play done for the season, I think it is time you let the cat out of the bag, eh?”

At this Riley look down and wet her lips nervously. “Dad...” Unsure if she should really go one she waited until he father nodded to continue. “I... I want to go somewhere different. I want to... to see” At the use of that word the little girl winced, but her father continued to listen passively. “- to see things that are different from my familiar little world.” Looking over sheepishly at her books, the geography text in particular, Riley realized she had committed herself now and decided to try and finish her request strongly. “I want to go to Japan, it's an island just like our Newfoundland so it's probably just as safe, but it seems like it would be interested, and well just different from home.”

“Ahhh.” Joseph let out a long sigh. “Well you know I don't travel anymore.” The senior Alstad held up a hand to show that he wasn't finished and that all protests should be held until he was. “But, you are getting to the age where I think a bit of solo traveling is acceptable. I'm sure you'll find some way to make it through once you are there, and I don't think I have to remind you it better be legal and not include any of that illusionary money you liked spending when you were younger.” Joseph chuckled as he heard Riley shift around in her chair, she had always been particularly embarrassed by that little incident even though it had only been one time and she had used it to buy a stuffed animal he had gone back and payed for it legitimately. Also, she had only been six at the time.

“So, yes I rather do think we can send you to Japan. We don't have any shows anytime soon and we've gotten quite a bit of spare money that should be going to pay our casts, I think you deserve to use some of it for your own pleasure.”

Riley, the largest smile she had ever made in her life plastered all over he face, knocked her chair over as she scooted out of it and ran to hug her dad. Joseph made a heavy “oof” sound in jest as his daughter collided into him.

“Thank you dad.” She whispered to Joseph as she squeezed him even tighter.

Joseph for his part finally got to ruffle his daughter's hair like he had wanted to, but as his mind alighted on a new problem he mumbled some incoherent sounds that politely asked for Riley to disengage the hug so they could talk again. “Now, we need to talk tactics real quick.”

“Tactics?” Riley asked, a slightly confused expression on her face.

“Well, my dear, while I consider you ready to travel, quite a few of the officials in the world are known for having a bit of stricter rules than I care for. So, we'll be getting past one main enemy in this little act,” A wide grin spread across Joseph's face. “They like to call themselves Customs.”



Riley tried to avoid people as she walked off the airplanes boarding ramp. The airport they had arrived in had amazed her, it was apparently built on what appeared to be an artificial island in the middle of the city's bay. Japan was already turning out to be the exciting and new experience she had hoped it would be.

But, as a man bumped into her and she felt the complex illusion she had crafted before leaving home – and would have no hope of recreating now that she had left – flex as it convinced the other traveler that he had indeed just jostled a six-foot four man and not a four-foot eight little girl. Breathing out slowly, Riley blanked out her mind and re-concentrated on the illusion, helping it restabilize.

Sighing and catching herself before she wiped the nervous sweat from her forehead, Riley smiled as she approached her favourite part of the plan. Remember what her dad had told her when he was explaining the plan made that smile only wider.

“Now, Riley, we're already giving you an illusion of me to use on our side and for the ride over. But, nothing, and I mean nothing is stopping us from expanding upon that illusion. And let me tell you, this is gonna be a nice benefit, customs is both boring and a long process and that's not what either of us is paying for, eh?” Her father's smile at the time had been infectious and she had laughed. “So, today your going to craft your first real complex illusion, you'll have to use only my mana and lock it up so it sustains itself. Now, what your going to do with it is when you get to Japan we are going to make you into one of the Customs officers, brilliant no?” The rest of the conversation had divulged into the technical aspects of how to create the illusion and how to maintain it, all of them very useful things, but not practical until Riley had a larger reserve of mana of her own.

As she came upon the customs station, Riley stepped into the shadows and took a good look at all the officers. Then the air around her wavered and she knew the spell was working as it was intended to, it was taking aspects from all the different workers and melding them together to create an origin idenity she could use to sneak out.

From her angle her view was a bit difficult, and a second change in height wasn't very convenient, but the thought that she was at least getting closer to the size she should be was somewhat comforting. Lifting the officer's arms she plucked at the vest he wore over his button up. Last, but not least, she imaged a clipboard under her phantom's right arm and stepped out of the shadows.

This time as she walked towards the Customs booth people purposely moved out of her way instead of the other way around. As she got closer and closer to the real officers Riley could of sworn her heart started to get louder and louder. And then, she hit the challenge, except there really was none. One of the officers gave a bored and half-hearted wave to her officer as she walked past everyone and then she was through, in Japan.

Laughing with relief, Riley quickened her pace and found another shady spot with few people to change. Crouching down so no one glancing over and notice a drastic change in size, Riley had the officer begin to tie his shoe. Then, with a single though the illusion was broken and she was the only one taking up the corner.

Laughing again, the little girl made her way to the exits and slipped into the city of Osaka, adventure on her lips and triumph in her belly.
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