A Magical Roleplaying Experience 

"These are dark times, there is no denying..."
Scrimgeour said it first, but we're feeling it in the real world and we know you are too!

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Stories taking place in mainland Europe and Russia west of the Ural Mountains. Some countries include France, Norway, Bulgaria, and Poland.
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 #35954  by Zi Shang An
 
Location: Outskirts of Montcentaure, a magical town in Creuse • Date: Thursday, 15 January 2004

The owl bearing the letter of assignment came just after crack of dawn. The insistent rat-tat-tat of his taloned claw against her bedroom window stirred her from sleep. Bleary-eyed, she had risen from the soft, warm nest of her bed to unlatch the window and let him into her home, where the avian immediately held out a leg without so much as leaving the sill. After she'd retrieved his bounty, he flocked over to perch atop the coat rack in the corner with all the familiarity of a longtime friend and none of the self-awareness of a guest.

The resident pursed her lips, trying to feign some degree of disapproval through her amusement. He was becoming expectatious now; the next time, he might demand a slumber party with her Abraxan. She retrieved her wand from her bedside and charmed the sheets to make themselves as she tiptoed out of her room.

A few minutes later, she came tiptoeing back with a shallow bowl of treats she had bought at an owl emporium on her last visit to Paris. She set the bowl on the hardwood floor in the middle of the room before tiptoeing out again, drawing the door to a near-close behind her.

The sky was bright by the time she came out of her shower in the guest bathroom. Zi Shang decided to put her nightdress back on—she had nowhere to be and it always felt a luxury in its own to wander about her home in sleepwear. She unsealed the envelope and read the letter whilst brushing her teeth over the kitchen sink. It had snowed intermittently throughout the evening before and the world through her windows gleamed white for miles, but this would be summer in comparison to where she would spend the next few weeks in.

East Siberian Russia in January. She expected the assignment, as soon as she heard news being passed around the Society's headquarters. This was the more exciting part of her job, in relative to days and nights in the deepest caverns of Alexandria Museum, poring over fossilised scrolls, stones, barks, and just about anything a fellow kindred spirit of her kind can conceivably mark their minds' processes upon.

In truth, the content was not always as mystic and enigmatic as one may imagine. The least so ones were always her favourite.

The magiphilologist hummed an old tune from her childhood as she charmed rice to boil and gathered ingredients in a mortar to brew some thunder tea. In her own head, she began compiling the list of tasks she would have to see to before leaving to Munku Sardyk. She would have to hire the caretaker in town again to look after Wàng Chén. Knocking at her front door startled her such that she nearly dropped the jar of pickled radishes she made last month. Briefly, she considered going to the door as she was, but her sense of modesty ultimately won out and she pulled on a woollen cardigan hanging next to the door before drawing it open.

Bare-faced and bare-footed, the woman stilled at her own threshold.

"Albie," Zi Shang said quietly, more recognition than greeting.
 #36314  by Albie Rees
 
His apparition caused a few snowflakes to rise and dance graciously before they fell back to their bed. Snow gift-wrapped the beautiful landscape and his footsteps left a trail of harmonized disruptions.

The bruise on his cheek had long healed, but the one on his ego had festered. He had not been beaten nor did he feel like he had lost, but Francis had caused a disruption that Albie had not quite been able to confine.

Zi Shang had not left with Francis nor had he expected her to leave with him. He had in fact asked her to leave. What he had not expected had been the chasm, the incident had caused between them. Other than the cheques he sent her way, they had not interacted since then.

Today he was bringing her a different cheque. One he felt he needed to deliver in person.

It had not been long enough for him to blame memory for his surprise, but she did not look as he remembered her. He felt as though he was meeting a different version of her and he decided that was appropriate given that he was about to show him a different version of himself as well. "Bonjour," he enunciated confidently.

His hand smoothed his cloak just above the inner pocket in which he had put the cheque. "Wonderful landscape, but it is a tad cold," he shared looking over her shoulder, envious of the warmth.
 #36427  by Zi Shang An
 
The longing look over her shoulder did not go unnoticed. She should let him in from the frigid outdoors, and she would already have if this were anyone else paying her a visit, but the homeowner had the strangest, vague notion of what it might have been like to invite a wolf in sheepskin into one's home.

The financier was not dangerous—not, at least, in the simplest sense of the word.

It was precisely what made him more so.

Still, she could not in good conscience bar Albie at her front door in this temperature. If things had gone differently months ago, perhaps, but such were the state of things left. "We have seen warmer days this winter," she acquiesced. Masked her ambivalence as well as she could behind a polite smile, Zi Shang moved aside, closing the door on the snow and frost as soon as he stepped in past her. Turning, she wrapped the front of her cardian close as she contemplated her unexpected guest.

"You've came a long way," she said, the observation as much an inquiry in the subtlest manner that only she somehow managed. The hostess felt compelled to add, "Would you like some tea?"
 #36558  by Albie Rees
 
In a futile attempt to shield himself from the whispering winds, he lifted his collar. The tendrils of cold air slithered onto his skin leaving him to shiver as she spoke.

When finally she stepped aside he walked inside but kept his cloak and scarf. "Tea would be appreciated," he accepted, hoping the warm beverage might help him shake off the cold.

"I come with some news," he explained as to why he had traveled so far.
 #37313  by Zi Shang An
 
It was not difficult to predict the subject of those news, or that they were likely to be extraordinary if he took the trouble of coming all this way, albeit whether they were extraordinarily good news or extraordinary terrible news was yet to be ascertained. Nonetheless, the explanation made sense.

Perhaps, it was the only explanation that made sense. Was Zi Shang a touch, slightly, disappointed by it? She did not relish to seek an answer.

"Thunder tea will be ready in two or three minutes. This way."

Leading into her kitchen, where large bow windows invited ample light and afforded a generous view of snow-carpeted valleys that surrounded them, Zi Shang gestured for Albie to help himself to a chair as she resumed her standing position at the head of the table and picked up her pestle again. With it, she carefully ground at the contents in the mortar to turn it into a finer paste.

"It's a specialty of the Hakka Han people from South China. I drank this when I was growing up, and some habits stick more than others," the villagers' daughter explained without looking up from her task, though then she glanced up briefly. "I also have some Western teas if you should prefer them."
 #37369  by Albie Rees
 
"Thunder tea sounds..." Humor that was beyond his age or habits fluttered in his mind, but he easily resisted the distraction. "Good," he agreed.

He sat in one of the chairs she had assigned. "You were born there?" He asked though it felt foreign to let small talk get in the way of business.
 #37394  by Zi Shang An
 
Once satisfied by the consistency of the paste, Zi Shang measured out the individual portions into two pale, shallow bowls made from clay and turned to retrieve the teapot which she had charmed to magically boil some water in.

"Yes," she answered Albie simply as she carefully poured steaming water over the paste in the bowls. Although by no means curt, her tone did not seem to invite further explanation either. Amidst the rise of milky steam, like a hovering mirage, her mind's eye wandered over roiling green hills tiered with stretches of glimmering fields of rice paddies, rings of fortresses with mud-coloured walls capped by salt-and-pepper weathered tiles, and lines and lines of string draped in clothes of tens and hundreds of brothers and sisters in spirit.

Even after all the years that stole past like clouds along the sky, the images were as clear as yesterday.

The Hakka woman levitated one of the bowls to sit before Albie as she brought her own to settle in a chair at the table across from him. Having ensured that she mixed the tea appropriately, the end product was a smooth but almost-opaque liquid in a deeper shade of green than most green teas. She drew in a sip, the corners of her lips involuntarily curling just the slightest as its warmth and earthy flavour pooled within her.
 #37562  by Albie Rees
 
The tea was greener than he had expected, but that did not deter his interest. Like his host, he took his bowl and drew a sip. It tasted as an air cleansing hike felt.

He cleared his throat and straightened his back. "I came this early because I wanted to talk to you before you had a chance to read the papers," he let the aerial feeling of the tea evaporate and grounded himself in his usual world of numbers and finances. "The business venture you endorsed has failed" he shared the bad news dryly.