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mortal engines
June 25th, 1889 — North Bartonburg

Someone had tried to poison him, of that he was convinced — and Arven was resolutely not a conspiracy theorist. He left that to witches who insisted there were ghouls in the Ministry and amortentia in the tap water. He tried to forget about it as he took some fresh air along East Founders Way by the forest’s edge, tucking his hands into the pockets of his longcoat despite the golden sun as it hit high noon above the treeline. Arven had survived the trials and ills of the world, but a drop of something in his firewhisky had landed him at St Mungo’s.

He felt better now, improved under the care of the healers, but he still felt uncharacteristically dour. He felt… mortal.

Just then, Arven was hit by a bleak wave of dizziness and reached swiftly for the shoulder of a passer-by, thoughtlessly grappling for support.
This summer, unlike the eventful last, was giving Carmelina plenty of time to catch up on things she had let fall to the wayside in all the swing of the school year. What had she given thought to this year beside class plans and rune extracts to set and translations to mark? (Not that the castle didn't offer up its own fair share of distractions. Some of them distressingly blonde.)

Once the castle had emptied, she had spent a bit of time hunkered down in her office, hammering out some new work - about last summer's expedition, in fact - but today, the weather was much too joyous, so she had set off on a long-winded stroll down from the castle into Hogsmeade, where she thought she might make it to the bookshop or the Three Broomsticks sometime in the afternoon. She was in no such thing as a hurry, though: walking had always proved fertile ground for thought, and she was not inclined to waste it.

Despite the apt summer weather, the path was still quite sparsely populated this far out, lined as it was by the Forest... not that Carmelina had been paying much attention to the other walkers, not until one of them grasped her abruptly by the shoulder. Carmelina, perhaps unwisely (given the string of vampire murders and suchlike that the papers always seemed to be spouting), felt a flash of surprise rather than outright alarm; so, although she stumbled at the suddenness of it, supposed the gentleman in question might be in trouble, and rather than shrinking away, raised her arms to him hurriedly to steady him. Admittedly, he towered a foot above her, so she wasn't sure how much help she would prove against his collapsing - but she would certainly try! "Are you alright, sir?" She blurted out, though she already had a fair hypothesis of the answer.

Arven felt an uncharacteristic surge of aggravation alongside the wave of dizziness. The healer had warned him the poisoning might present such aftershocks, but like most men Arven felt himself sturdier than the norm. And, to be fair, he normally was. He appreciated this phase of weakness was not his fault, but nor was it compelling. He was keen to get back to normal.

But more importantly — it seemed he’d inadvertently grabbed the shoulder of a passer-by, and upon realising this he let go almost immediately. He head cleared a little, but only a little — so instead he leaned on the stone wall of a nearby house, stooped, uneasy. Arven regarded his startled saviour — a woman with a mane of curls and the brightest brown eyes. ”My most fervent apologies, madam”, he said gruffly instead of answering her concern. ”Thank you for not ducking away, or… you know… flattening”.

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