Everyone knows what stealing consists of, appropriating physical property is
done by any mediocre criminal these days, yet few are capable of the ruthlessness
needed to carry it out to the ultimate of its uses.
The heavy beaded curtain rolled back and closed behind him, taking with them all notion of the outside world and shutting the visitor inside a brightly lit chamber. He usually wouldn’t be caught wandering this side of the island, —he did have some standards. The sight alone was already an insult to his senses; not to mention the horrid noise coming from the street as you stepped into the abandoned alley— but he had pressing business which needed his attention. The entrance to his destination was enclosed inside a narrow space between the walls, the magic surrounding it prevented noisy civilians to notice it unless you already knew where to find it.
He took unimpressed steps inside, his tailored shoes thudded on the polished flooring. The room was a minimalistic space, surprisingly fashionable and stylistic, completely at odds with its outside environment. The white walls stretched unblemished towards the end of the room and appeared to not end, even the corners were hidden from sight in the empty space. The guest whirled around in boredom, carelessly sitting on one of the sole pieces of furniture in the entire building. He settled on the modern chair before a glass table at the centre. Another chair was placed opposite him, completely vacant.
He was ready to become criminally offended at being stood up, already calling for Sebastian, —whom he had left guarding the entrance— just when the man he had gone there to see emerged out from the brightness as if materialising out of thin air. The light clung to his dove grey suit and blended him in with the background. His movements were slow, completely confident, yet there was something strangely distorted about the shadow following him that caught the criminal’s eye, but the illusion was gone as soon as he looked at it directly.
The man sat, as he slouched impatiently on his seat, not having the desire to loose his time circling around present, past and future with a master of foretelling. Said man smiled, and he could detect how such emotion didn’t reach his eyes. If anything, he could respect the mirrored disdain this creature portrayed towards sentiment, if not his uncreative execution. The man slowly drew out a deck of black slate cards from his pocket and offered them over the table. A silent question was made to the other, requesting his permission to begin, and once Jim granted it, the smiled faded and he brought down his right hand over the deck.
The change was instant.
In just a moment the room went from blindingly bright into complete shadows, only for the darkness to be vanished again shortly after by the vibrant colours alighting the space, every surface ignited as if magic had permeated its essence and left behind a venomous glow that jumped towards its observer, as the surroundings showed their true nature. The tiled floor had been replaced with wood covered with various mismatching rugs. The numerous bookshelves that had appeared around them were stacked with an array of colourful tomes and old curses written in parchment paper; what little Moriarty could see of the walls —where the different lights parted and showed the main structure— was covered in bright ancient symbols that he didn’t care enough to recognise.
“Choose a card.” The man said, bending his body forwards in invitation. He was not what one would expect, mismatching completely with the new surroundings and very far from the dirty gypsy or charlatan often found on the streets. He was dressed impeccably, spell-blonde hair and beard neatly trimmed and his dead eyes fronted by a pair of fine spectacles that spoke more of dull business than fortune telling. Often times famed of being the source of their owner’s psychic nature. Despite that, he was still the best and most dangerous clairvoyant in the kingdom.
Jim, nonetheless, was not exactly interested. “I thought this was for business.” He commented. The light show was somewhat fascinating, yes, and the intrigue of possible profit was a tantalising one; however he wasn’t particularly keen on wasting his evening away there, even if sometimes dull sacrifices had to be made in order to engulf the resulting fun. Particularly with criminals like Charles Augustus Magnussen.
“This is business.” The other said, waving a hand to the deck once more, which now showed an intricate design in golden and green on its undrawn pile.
“Fine.” Jim relented, more out of boredom than actual curiosity. “But seriously,” He said; his pale, spidery hand uninterestedly pulling back the three closest cards and lining them over the table between them. “You need to find a better hobby.” For a moment silence reigned over the both of them as the other’s eyes inspected the results. “So why have I been summoned into this… charming parlour?” He asked.
Magnussen ignored the question, choosing instead to focus all his attention on the information before him. Everyone knew this is how he gathered all he needed for his infamous blackmails, and still made the mistake of asking —and paying— for a reading; not that Jim was worried the man was stupid enough to try that with him though, there was only one person in the whole kingdom more dangerous than him, and that was only because she had been born with something he couldn’t posses, just like her three-cycle-old purple haired unruly runt.
“What do you see here?” Charles finally asked, as his fixation with the last card reflected on his angular face like the green glow of the candles covering the edges of the table; painting an unnatural imagery on the gloomy space.
“I don’t care what-” The raven haired started, but his dismissal was quickly shot down as he recognised the other would probably give him nothing if he refused to play along, and then his afternoon would truly had been wasted. “A boring dragon sword?” He commented finally, feeling the pointlessness of the situation wrap its arms around him and suffocate him.
Magnussen regarded him closely, his brow was furrowed but his thin lips stretched into a half smile; clearly feeling himself privy to something he had yet to find out. “This card has shown as the future in every single reading I’ve done lately.” He explained.
“And that means?” Jim asked, adjusting his left cufflink. His wavering interest landed on the various voodoo dolls hanging from the ceiling. Their big, round, empty eyes and mouth glowed as if souls had been snared inside them. His attention was so drawn to them that he almost missed the other’s answer.
“War.” Magnussen replied. No other information delivered. Just that. As if it were of no consequence whatsoever.
This time, Jim did turn his face to regard him, his mind already going over every clue and whisper he had heard on the topic as he finally got confirmation of what he long since suspected. Violet had been the one who had found scared citizens attempting to leave the island in secret a few moon-cycles prior, boarding ships and risking a watery grave over what they must have already known was coming, but this was the first reliable —if you could call a dubious fortune teller’s prediction ‘reliable’— affirmation that things were escalating beyond their control, despite them having been preparing for this moment for some time. With the hastened timeline, The Mistress of Evil attempting to pop out a suitable spawn that could ensure their victory seemed a bit pointless now.
“Do we win?” He asked, because what else could he possibly ask that was more important than that? Nothing other was of any consequence but whether they finally succeeded; and how Moriarty could gain an advantage from whichever shape that outcome took. One way or another, King Ben would surely not wait around for long —certainly not the thirteen odd cycles needed for their plan to work— to attack, he was often described as being as hungry for confrontation and blood as any of them were.
“I’m afraid our defeat is imminent.” The other responded, his voice devoid of tone or emotion; nothing that could betray how he felt about the information he was sharing. Perhaps not caring enough either way.
Additionally, Moriarty didn’t care enough not to show his frustration now. “So why this?” He demanded, his lips thinning as he stood from his seat and swatted away the deck from his proximity. “Why does it matter?” The room around them became alive the moment his skin had made contact with the card. As his dark eyes threatened to consume the man who had brought him there without good reason, everything became even brighter, and seemingly more deadly.
“I have a proposal to make.” The other worded out, passively looking up to Jim from his place in the chair as the chaos surrounded them.
The dark haired man’s demeanour abruptly transformed at the statement, as he turned to regard him. He paused and slid his hands across the table util he was perched forwards, wearing a pleased smirk over his features. “Am I going to blush, Charlie?” He asked, voice light and amused, “What are you offering?” The situation finally straying away from dullness in his eyes and into something he could use. He watched the other attentively while Charles waved a hand at him in dismissal, as if the mere question were pointless, Jim noticed the shadow behind him stretch its spidery arm and snuff out the magic flame of a candle to their left, completely independent form the other’s hands steepled in front of his thin face.
“Just name your price.” He answered, ever the business man, even in an environment as ridiculously saturated with voodoo magic such as this. “My friends on the other side will deliver it.” For the first time in all the conversation his tone had life laced into it, even if it didn’t quite reach smugness or disdain. But that fact didn’t mean much to James Moriarty, who had already on his side his only true rival for most magnanimous villain in the history of the kingdoms.
“That bore?” He asked, unimpressed tone once again present at the lost potential of the evening, slouching back down on the chair with a show of rolling his eyes. He knew exactly who that meant. “Sorry,” Jim said, mimicking a sad face as he continued. “I’ve no need for purgatorial souls, or anything else he can give me at the moment.” His dark eyes regarded him as he hoped the other would take the bait.
Magnussen paused, silently pondering something, nodding when he finally placed both hands over the table and raised both eyebrows. The expression looked promising to James as he waited. “What about Violet Holmes’ powers?” He asked and Moriarty’s face stretched into a satisfied smile.