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July 9th, 1889 — Forbidden Forest

Bragi felt otherworldly. In fact he felt sort of dead, near enough floating above himself in a thoughtless haze as he watched himself looking at the thing. The thing in the woods.

It was nearly sunset, dour and green. The young Dane had been roaming the fridges of the forest beyond North Bartonburg, inadvertently exploring deeper than he intended, when he'd come across a panicked man stooped over a thing. A thing in the woods. The man, who he vaguely recognised as a neighbour, was clammy and bewildered as he addressed Bragi in a breathless fluster, telling him to wait here while he contacted the Ministry.

So Bragi obediently waited as the neighbour sped off into the undergrowth, and he looked at the thing, shocked, unsettled, and increasingly alone.

There was a thing in the woods.

@Ernest Mulciber
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   Ernest Mulciber
Ernest Mulciber was not generally a man who did house calls or field work. The nature of the work performed in the Department of Mysteries was such that it really shouldn't have any application in the real world, until it had reached the point where it had been unclassified and released to the public — at which point it was no longer their problem, but fell into some other department's regulatory sphere. Most of Ernest's work was academic, or confined to laboratories. Occasionally, however, something arose that required his apartment's attention, and when that happened it was usually rather pressing.

The description of what had been found piqued his interest immediately. It might have an absolutely mundane explanation — but in case it didn't, he certainly didn't want investigators from another department mucking around with it and ruining any chance he had to figure out where it had come from.

He had apparated to the general area of the woods based on the description the townsperson had provided, then used a simple seeking spell to point him in the right direction from there. It was a good thing they'd left one person at the site, or else it would have been much more difficult to find it magically, but as it was he arrived within a few moments. "Brilliant!" he called out as he arrived; the unknown generally put him in a good mood, particularly when he was allowed to investigate it unburdened by people less intelligent than himself surrounding him.

"Has it moved at all?" he asked, rubbing his hands together as he surveyed the scene. "If it hasn't, I think the first course of action should be to poke it with a stick."

Simeon ventured through the forest in his fox-en shape, and paused as the scent of three "somethings." with a slight fading of the fourth tangled in his nostrils. Interesting and unexpected. He shifted into his human form and began his trek, each step long and purposeful in stride. He paused as he appeared before the two strangers, hands clasped neatly in front of him and the smallest of smiles tugging at his lips. "Thank you." His voice held warmth, as was considered polite, but he did not elaborate. Instead he said, "I wouldn't." Having overheard the man say he wanted to poke it with a stick just as he arrived. His gaze ventured to the item they surveyed, it was covered in elaborate push buttons.
"Brilliant!"Thank you" — so spoke two unexpected presences. Bragi had felt them approaching, but his eyes had been too fixed on the thing to pay them much heed. Now that he looked round at them he saw that neither were the neighbour who'd fled the scene. Both were strangers, middle-aged fellows, one sparky and inquisitive, the other cool and watchful. Both were far more authoritative than young Bragi.

"No sir, it hasn't moved." There was a tremor to his androgynous voice.

At mention of poking it, Bragi took an automatic step back. He was not brave enough for that.
"I... don't understand. Has it a skin?" he breathed, narrowing his eyes at the thing. It had parts to it that looked mechanical, like buttons and dead lights, but it also had things he'd never associated with a machine before. One of the wild thoughts that had gone through his head at first inspection was that it was a dead cow, but it most certainly was not.
Ernest hadn't even had a chance to get a good look at the thing before they were joined by a third party. The redhead he had expected, based on the description he'd been given at the Ministry, but this new man was a surprise. Ernest raised an eyebrow at him, wondering if he ought to look familiar. He was certainly acting with an air of confidence, as though he had some sort of authority in this situation, but he didn't work for the Ministry, nor was he anyone from the civilian sector that Ernest thought he ought to be familiar with.

"Won't know 'till we touch it," Ernest said in a rather casual tone in response to the younger man's question, though he kept his eyes on the interloper. "And you are, sir?" he asked, when it became obvious the man had no immediate intention of introducing himself.

A curt nod was given to the young man with flaming red hair before cold blue eyes took in the Ministry official. "Simeon Fox." He stated. He moved over to the item in question and thus stood beside Ernest. "You?" He asked to neither one of them in particular. He crouched down and for closer inspection.

There appeared to be a little damage on the right side with a slightly tarnished fleshy appearance, but overall the "something" in question seemed salvageable. "It must be handled indirectly. Do not touch it or use magic on it directly." He had no desire to see either of the two go to St. Mungos. A hand dipped into his robes and began to rummage.
It then occurred to Bragi that he wasn't sure which of these men was the Ministry official his neighbour had fled to summon. Was it the lean, sprightly fellow who'd appeared first? Or was it the older one, this Mr Simeon Fox? It couldn't be both because they had not arrived together and were clearly not acquainted. In fact, there was a faint atmosphere of them being slightly... at odds.

As he hadn't been addressed or called upon to speak, Bragi held back and said nothing. At first he glanced between the two of them as if he were watching a lawn tennis match, and then he watched Mr Fox crouch down beside the thing. The lad wrapped his arms around himself as if he were cold, unsettled by the mess of organic and mechanic that had somehow found itself "dead" in the middle of a forest.
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   Ophelia Devine
The name meant nothing to Ernest, and he was entirely dissatisfied by the introduction — not a word of why this man was here, or how he supposedly knew so much about this strange object. For a moment Ernest wondered if he ought to have waited for someone else from the Ministry to accompany him — an auror, perhaps, for a little extra muscle. It had never been necessary before, though, and he was used to coworkers just getting in the way more often than not.

Not being one to lose his head or be easily swayed by confidence alone, Ernest drew his wand. He took one step matter of factly in the direction of the redheaded man, putting the two of them on one side of the object and Mr. Fox on the other.

"I'll advise you not to touch it, either," he said coolly. "And take a step back, please, unless you'd like to explain what you know about it, and why."

Mr. Fox was as calm as a cucumber, and paid no mind to the man with the wand. Instead he kept looking for that hanky. Finally he found it and pulled it from his robes. "I'm not." He said simply before laying the cloth neatly out in a nice square next to the object, which he watched with a steady gaze, still not touching it. The dark and foreboding feelings emitting from the item made his stomach churn and a bead of sweat poor down from his temple.

He then reached into his pocket a second time and pulled out a neatly folded piece of parchment and handed it over to the Ministry official. It was a certificate of sale stamped with a permit of trade from the Department of Rare Magical Artifacts that had a drawing of the item and denoted Fox as simply the middle man for procuring it for a Mr. M. S. London. "A copy." He doubted the Ministry official would interfere with perfectly legal free trade.

"Hankies, quickly." He said in an even tone. "Boy." He requested. "Help me slide them under it." He didn't see the point of asking the Ministry official to, what with his wand pointed at his head. "It won't hurt you, just don't touch it." He was calm and level headed, he had to be.
Bragi didn't know what was harder to witness — the twisted mystery tainting the forest floor, or the tension between the two older men growing like churning grey clouds.

He watched the goings on, very much not a part of them, so was startled to be addressed and instructed. Boy. He might've been stung by the curtness, but Mr Fox hadn't asked anyone's name, so Bragi did not take it personally. What he did do, however — and he really couldn't resist — was glance up at the first man, the man who'd said to poke it with a stick. The glance was a request for permission or advice. Perhaps it was his comparative warmth, or perhaps it was something else, but the young Dane instinctively trusted him more than the one instructing him to scoop up a travesty of nature with some handkerchiefs.
"Don't start sliding anything under anything," Ernest said curtly, as he snatched up the paper and unfolded it. He had no intention of letting the man do anything at all until he'd figured out what he was doing here in the first place — and, truth be told, the curtness of his manner won him no favors. Even if he had a very legitimate reason to be here, Ernest was more inclined to send him packing at the moment, even if it was only to go sit around the Ministry and wait for Ernest to bring the item back himself.

The piece of paper was certainly a very good forgery, but a forgery it was. Ernest had to work with departments all over the Ministry (much as he disdained doing so), and he had never heard of the Department of Rare Magical Artifacts. Even so, he might have been inclined to believe that it did exist, since the Ministry was large and overly bureaucratic by nature, were it not for his involvement in the events of the summer of 1888. The magical fog that had begun in Irvingly and crept through England, devouring magic, had been caused by a rare magical artifact, and no one from this supposed department had stepped up to handle it. Even after the problem had been identified, it was investigators and aurors accompanying the thing back to Egypt. Department of Rare Magical Artifacts, indeed.

"I have a few questions for you, Mr. Fox, regarding this permit," he said with a threatening glower, his wand still drawn as he stuffed the paper into the pocket of his robe. "Though perhaps you would be more comfortable answering them from the Ministry holding cells, with an auror present."

Fox took a quiet breathe still remaining calm, but picked up the hanky shoving it back into his pocket and stepped away from the item. His hands were clasped in front of him right where the Ministry official could see them. Time was of the essence, but if the official wished to lolly gag, well so be it. "Ask away." He said, open to questions, his voice still hosting a even quality to it. After all he was simply the middle man in an exchange of items.

The "something"'s buttons began to glow, and that gut wrenching feeling it gave off seemed to increase, skin bristling. "Quickly perhaps?" A legitimate look of concern looked to the item, that couldn't be good, that couldn't be good at all. He took a deep breath but made no motion to pull his own wand or do any kind of tricky business.
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   Ophelia Devine
Bragi was irresistibly reminded of two dogs he’d seen the other day in Bartonburg, their ears tall and tails high, eyes fixed on each other, growling so deeply that they couldn’t even be heard. Their owners had barely managed to drag them away from each other. But there were no owners here, just two free men — growling so deeply that they couldn’t even be heard.

Well, three free men, but Bragi had never felt so much like a spare part in his life.

He took another subtle step back, but this time from the strangers, not the thing. And upon doing so he inadvertently moved a little too close to it. It began to glow, humming with something like electrical energy, and then from its base crawled four horrifying spider-like legs. It lifted itself up on them. Bragi backed away quickly, quickly, quickly as the thing clacked towards him, shaking but mobile on its spindly legs, and with his heart in his throat he drew his wand — but the only incantation that came to mind was help.
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   Ernest Mulciber
Ernest didn't particularly want to question Mr. Fox — what he wanted most was to wish him out of existence, to erase his entire arrival here so that Ernest would have the freedom to investigate the mysterious object with impunity and without intervention. Since Mr. Fox was here, however, and clearly involved in something underhanded (why else bother to forge some official-looking paperwork from the Ministry?), he could hardly just ignore him. And as much as he might relish the challenge of having a strange object dropped into his lap to explore entirely without context, the fact of the matter was that it would be irresponsible of him not to try to find out what Fox knew — particularly if the thing might be dangerous.

Which it appeared it was; it had started pursuing their young foreign friend. "Ho!" Ernest called, taking a step back so as not to inadvertently become the thing's newest target. Fox temporarily forgotten, Ernest cast a containment charm, which had an appearance much like a shield charm — except this one was designed to protect the outside from whatever was caught inside.

Simeon frowned as he watched the item quite literally begin to crawl. Now this was not something he had signed up for, transfigured creatures or sentient items was where the, "almost everything clause" in his contracts came into play. Why? Because they were destructive by nature. "Well now this I didn't sign up for. I don't do beasties, it's all yours." It was a simple and true statement as he would reiterate to his client when the item was not claimed, though he was beginning to understand those warnings about not touching it with magic or with one's own hands.

He took a breath and watched the Ministry official very closely, ever keen on body language he could see the distaste the man had for him and the keen eye that was given towards the item. A moment was all he needed, and a moment was what he got. With a CRACK he vanished, having apparated.
Erm — a shield charm maybe? Perhaps a slowing charm? Flipendo, even?! Bragi probably could’ve defended himself if given a moment, but he was over-thinking things, and let’s face it, just needed to be rescued. Then up sprung a glowing barrier, something like a shield charm. Perhaps Bragi’s first instinct had been correct, then.

He exhaled a sigh of relief, and lowered his wand a little shakily. The thing stopped, restricted by its magical confinement. Bragi stared at it through the barrier; it looked so nightmarish. He wondered when next he’d get a good night’s sleep with this thing lurking in his mind’s eye.

”Wh-where’s the other chap?” Bragi asked suddenly, looking around. He’d been so preoccupied by the thing, he hadn’t noticed the sly man give his words of farewell and vanish into the sunset.

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