This was a particularly involved post of mine for a PbP run by the inestimable TinuvielLightblade, AKA Corker, AKA Serafina Morales (on this forum). Unfortunately the game petered out (due in no small part to my own flakiness), and came to an untimely ending. The "Avalon Grocer" mentioned later on was played by LTKessler, of Bosun Skolpa fame. I've been re-reading the archives of this game (as I tend to occasionally do, given my out of control narcissism) and very much enjoying it. If you'd like to read more, go to Corker's page at http://allthatglitters65030.yuku.com/ and look at the 7th Sea Charouse forum.
Claude's cloak billowed as he walked through the increasingly unkempt streets, but this time without any effort. He was a common sight through this street, so none of the pickpockets thought to try him. Everyone here knew he was penniless, despite the fine clothing. And all of the lurkers knew that Claude could put up a fight if anyone was thinking to kill him for the clothes themselves. Claude had proven himself here, and so was able to pass unmolested.
He passed by housing that became more miserable the farther he went out into the slums of Charouse. The smells from the gutters clung to his clothes, and he sighed. The decision that he would have to have them laundered tonight rather than having dinner didn't make his grumbling stomach quiet down, but it wouldn't due to arrive at the ball with filthy clothing, and he hadn't had the presence of mind to beg for an advance due to his hasty exit.
He stopped at one of the most dilapidated looking houses on the street, La Maison de Boue, only 3 pistoles a year, and worth every bit. Upon his entrance, the thin, weasel-like madame was instantly upon him, complaining about noises and guests and last month's rent being late, so this one had better not be.
Claude tiredly ascended the stairs, shutting the door in the madame's face, and pulling off his cloak wearily. Phillipe turned in his chair at the window, and looked at Claude for a moment.
"What's the bad news, sir?"
Claude sighed and leaned against the wall.
"I got the job..."
"Well that's good news, isn't it? You'll be able to pay..."
"...but not the main stage job, Phillipe. Only a silly side show act."
Phillipe mulled this over for a bit.
"But, you'll still be paid for the show..."
"That's not the point, Phillipe! The point is that I lost to some fool Avalon. The point is that here, in Charouse, I am to play second fiddle to a weed of a man who's as entertaining as a bag of onions! It's an insult, Phillipe!"
Claude threw his bag carelessly on the floor and moved over to the only other bit of furniture in the room, a sleeping mat, and sat down.
"I knew I shouldn't have done the escape trick! There are better places for it than Montaigne!"
Claude began removing his boots.
"What else was I supposed to do? The fool asked for acts themed on freedom! As though there were escape acts that couldn't be done by their thrice damned sorcery!"
Claude jumped up again and began pacing the creaking wooden floor.
"I know what that fool was thinking...it was painted all over his silly face. 'Any portier could do this.' They never pay attention to the damned hands, except to look at them for stains. How do they expect 'any portier' to open a hole with his hands manacled and wrapped thoroughly in chains!? I spent years learning how to pick a lock like that, and any over-fed noble thinks he can do better. Not to mention walking into the room seconds later with no bloodstains! Not to mention I can bloody well walk without keeling over with the portal sickness! The Nobility should be falling all over themselves begging me how I could be such an accomplished portier that I suffer none of its weaknesses, and have no recognizable family, but the fat idiots all sit back simpering and thinking 'I could do that', and ignoring the fact that, no, they could not, thank you very much. Not if they didn't know the secret."
Claude sat back down and fumed for a moment. Phillipe said nothing, doing the escape trick today had been his idea, after all.
"And then some ridiculous Avalon walks in looking like a grocer, snaps at everyone, and talks about magic like a salesman peddling cookware. How on Terra is his act better than mine?"
Phillipe continued to remain silent, knowing better than to answer his master's rhetorical question.
"I'll tell you how, Phillipe. It was his ridiculous Avalon magic. Why is he here in Montaigne? Because in Avalon Finch-y's tricks are just as commonplace as mine are here. Why does he dress like a brown undertaker? Because Avalons have no sense of style. This is nothing but a difference in audience, and M. Finch-y will have to go back to Avalon sometime, but not before I do a little trick in the Finch-y style, and do it with the showmanship it likely deserves. Does he think he's the only one who can peddle this ridiculous Avalon magic? Well I'll show him. Maybe not tomorrow, but before he leaves Charouse! And then when he crawls back to Avalon in defeat, I'll follow him there, and show them all my 'strange Montaigne stuff' and it will work for me there just as his worked here, and he will know that I am the better magician, here or in Avalon!"
Claude was rubbing his hands together, and pacing even faster. Finally, he stopped and began to undress.
"Take this to have it laundered, Phillipe, and don't let anyone in tonight, I need to think..."
Phillipe stood, and took the proffered clothes as Claude began to pull on his ordinary clothing.
"And what should I say if M. Bertrand's men come by?"
Claude finished pulling his shirt over his head, and gave Phillipe a hunted look.
"Tell them...I'll have M. Bertrand's money next week..."