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Welcome to Charming, the year is now 1892. It’s time to join us and immerse yourself in scandal and drama interlaced with magic both light and dark.

Where will you fall?

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“Got the morbs” was Victorian slang for a temporary melancholia — Dante
In a panic sort of reaction, she shut the door but neglected to make sure she was on the other side of it.
the thrill of the chase moves in mysterious ways

Handsome Stranger
March 8th, 1892 — Very Late — The Black Lake

So far Mr. Someone had not batted an eye at any of Dot's little hints that she tended to break rules here and there, but she had still decided not to tell him about the sleeping powder she'd slipped into her father's evening tea today. It wasn't exactly poisoning, she told herself; it was medicinal. She'd done her research very carefully to ensure the dose was exactly correct, so that he would sleep soundly but not wake too late the next morning, and so that if there was some sort of emergency that meant he needed to be roused he would still be able to come to. The powder was just her extra bit of insurance as she planned to sneak out and back in while he was snugly tucked away in his bed; even if she tripped over the bucket the maid used to collect fireplace ashes on her way in through the back door tonight, he wouldn't stir. She hadn't taken the trouble to drug anyone else in her household, but she didn't think she needed to bother. Her siblings could be either bribed or blackmailed, if push came to shove.

She was wearing a grey dress with a dark cloak (the better to blend in with the night), but neither had expansion charms cast on the pockets, so she'd had to been judicious with what she decided to bring with her. She wasn't sure what the likelihood was of them actually finding a creature lurking in the depths, but if they did stumble upon one, hopefully either it was friendly or Mr. Someone was prepared to defend them: nothing she had brought with her was even in the same family as a weapon. The things she had decided to bring all had ostensible creature-detecting purposes, but had also been strategically chosen to encourage a certain kind of mood. Dot may have been young, but she was not innocent of the ways of the world; she knew that by agreeing to meet a man alone after dark she had been implicitly agreeing to — a very particular kind of adventure, to put it one way. She didn't know exactly how things would go tonight, or what this Someone would be like, but she wanted to be prepared for any eventuality.

Dot arrived (early, she thought, but without a pocket-watch she couldn't be sure how much time had elapsed since she left her Bartonburg home). There were benches dotting the lakeside, but she couldn't bring herself to sit; it felt too vulnerable and exposed to have her back to the Park, where she might not see someone (or Someone) coming. She always liked to be the person with the most information, if she could; she couldn't put herself in a position to be sneaked up on. After a few moments she caught sight of a figure in the moonlight, headed in her direction. She squinted to make him out: no hat, a scarf that might have been blue. This was the man she was meeting tonight. Suddenly this all felt very real. She had known from the moment she placed the advertisement that it was ill-advised, but had always downplayed the possible consequences. Now she was here, about to meet a man alone, and she had given this gentleman — a perfect stranger — ultimate control over what became of her tonight.

The wave of anxiety was only momentary, however. He drew closer and she continued peering, and she realized he wasn't a perfect stranger after all. The surprise of this drowned out the rush of feeling from a moment ago. It was so strange that she actually laughed. "But you're the fellow with the clock," she announced, when he was close enough to hear. "You're not a stranger at all."
@Savino Zabini @Elias Grimstone
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   Elias Grimstone

Beautiful set by Kit!
For all Savino’s lightheartedness about it in their letters, this did have the potential to be a grand mistake. He had suggested the activity and the place, but who knew? Perhaps he had just been given the privilege of picking a time and place for his own mugging.

On the other hand, they had been writing letters for weeks, so that would certainly be some dedication to the prank or the scheme if it was one. And his habitual glances in the crystal-ball and at the cards hadn’t suggested any marked tragedy from the coming encounter, at least as far as he could read. Not that he had any particular concerns of survival for himself – being otherwise sure of his end, he never did – but he didn’t want to be responsible for any disasters here, either, so there was still a stranger’s wellbeing to take into account.

If she was real and really coming tonight, at any rate. If he trusted her letters, he should expect no less, with the way she had been signing off as adventurous, and had, so casually, suggested stealing out alone after hours (it was all very daring and mysterious and wildly rash, and he couldn’t even begin to fathom whom she might be); but, as Savino traipsed through the darkened park, he was still almost certain he would wind up milling around in the night, feeling decidedly stupid for showing up.

But he was wrong, already: a figure was taking shape before him, silhouetted in the moonlight. He had the blue scarf on, as he’d said. He had no way of distinguishing her in turn... save for the simple fact that the park was, inevitably, entirely deserted of lone women at this hour. Nothing for it, then. Savino swallowed his doubts and approached.

And suddenly recognised her, as she did him; it’s you!, he had almost exclaimed, but she’d stolen the sentiment almost from his mouth. The fellow with the clock; the girl from the auction. Not complete strangers, at any rate. “Well, isn’t that a twist of fate?” Savino said lightly, flooded with relief; the restrained smile he had been wearing in preparation for their meeting broke and broadened into a more genuine grin. A little premature, probably, because he didn’t really know her yet, they had only met once – but he had liked her well enough then, and had liked her in her letters since, and so maybe this wasn’t going to be a disaster, after all.

At least the weight of first impressions was somewhat lessened – the scarf having done its job, he loosened it from about his neck and tucked it away into the satchel he’d brought along with him, with a few supplies for their ‘adventure’. Savino looked her over anew; hopefully his identity hadn’t changed her mind about this little outing of theirs. His smile turned wry. “There’s still time to disapparate, if you like,” he added, only half teasing.

Dot grinned. "I believe I'll give you another minute or so before I decide whether to cut my losses," she teased. (She also had never acquired an apparition license so it wasn't as viable an option as he believed, but she decided not to bring that up on the off chance that things did get a bit dicey later — no sense in advertising that the only option available to her was fleeing by foot). Dot tucked her hands into the pockets of her cloak and leaned back, jutting her lower lip out as she looked him over appraisingly. "I'll have to add this to my catalog of things I know about you and see how it reconciles," she remarked. "You sometimes find yourself locked in greenhouses owned by odd men you don't know, which isn't much of an indicator on its own except that when I asked if you were there committing crimes you didn't exactly answer the question," she pointed out. Of course, there were lots of reasons people didn't answer questions in letters, and the most likely explanation was that he simply hadn't felt the need to answer each of the half-dozen increasingly ridiculous questions she'd penned him one by one.

"A greenhouse seemed an unusual choice of errand for the average bachelor," she continued, "So I did entertain the idea that you were a part-time cat burglar. My other two theories being that you had a career in botany or something like it, or you were an eccentric." This last was a loaded word; she intended it to encompass the type of person who couldn't thrive in the social season because they were always one step out of sync with the people around them; the ones with interests that were unrelatable, and unapologetic about their enthusiasm for things that most people didn't care for. "But now I know that you can also be found at auctions investigating grandfather clocks." That this tipped the scales in favor of his being an eccentric she believed went without saying. That it also did not lessen her opinion of him was clear by the slight smile she offered before continuing.

"I did guess poorly on one of your clues," she admitted. "You said you've traveled the continent very well, and I thought you must have been the sort of wealthy English gentleman who goes on a tour after school. I'll have to go back and reread your letters now. I had the accent all wrong in my head."

Beautiful set by Kit!
Savino supposed he had asked for that, her inspecting him so directly – he kept grinning through it, though. And she was certainly not afraid to be direct: she was very quick, and he wasn’t sure whether this mental catalogue of details she’d gathered and retained was more flattering or worrying, but he thought it matched up with what little he knew of her. She was a collector, after all – apparently of facts as well as artefacts.

He had to laugh at her potential theories as she offered them, interjecting only once or twice. “It’s not the clocks I’m interested in, exactly –” he protested loosely, “and I swear I’m not a criminal –” and here Savino held up his hands in mock-defeat, “but I will not argue with eccentric.”

He was not in the least abashed about that judgement, but there was a tinge of sheepishness at her guess of wealthy English gentleman. He could very easily have mentioned being Italian, or dropped a hint of it – all her talk of Spain, and she had not spared a thought for Italy! – but he had thought better of it at the time because there were only so many eccentric Italians in British society, and he’d yet had no clue who he was writing to.

But now she had enough information to pin him down quite precisely, he supposed. “Still, I think you have guessed more about me than I have about you,” Savino confessed, because in spite of his curiosity about her and all she had written, she was still quite opaque to him. “Are you by any chance a detective?” He mostly meant it as a joke – for her interest in his criminal activities or lack thereof – but there was a rational, deductive bent to the way she spoke, something relentlessly inquisitive in her nature. And he was genuinely intrigued by what she did: he didn’t think she could be a debutante, or at least he did not recognise her from the pool of young ladies he had danced with at last season’s balls. Had she been travelling until now? Or perhaps she was busy working instead: she collected magical inventions, after all, so might well use them for something; and she had evident ambitions to be more than ornamental.

“And,” Savino added lightly, as the thought occurred to him, “do I get to know your name, or will I keep calling you Miss Adventurous?” This was hardly an ordinary introduction, but if they were not to be strangers tonight and she really didn’t mind bending rules, then he could perhaps stop being ‘Someone’.

Dorothea beamed at his question; being taken for a detective was a compliment in her book. She dug her hand into her pocket in search of one of her cards, but had to check two more before she found one. She always carried them on her, but since she hadn't expected to need one she hadn't bothered to put them in an accessible pocket.

"Not exactly. I'm a consultant. I solve problems for people, which does involve some detecting," she joked. "Since people are usually rubbish at figuring out what their problems are in the first place." She presented him with a small ivory card with neatly typeset letters in the center: DR Twycross. Consultant and her Bartonburg address printed below. (She had just told him where she lived, she realized belatedly, which may have been moving a bit fast... on the other hand, for most young women a gentleman would know their address and their entire family long before they were ever allowed alone with said young woman in the middle of the night, so maybe this was fine. The evening seemed unlikely to devolve into a frantic chase back to her residence. In any case, she couldn't take it back now).

She gave him a second to read the card in the dim light and tucked her hands into the pockets of her cloak. "You can call me Dot," she announced. Since she'd given him her address and was meeting up with him secretly at night, it would be silly to make him call her Miss Twycross, she decided. In for a penny, in for a pound.

Beautiful set by Kit!
“Ah, I see,” he murmured, when she explained her profession. That made sense. “That sounds about right,” Savino agreed with a laugh, about people and their problems, as he took the card from her and examined it. Dr Twycross? That was funny, too. And now he couldn’t help but remember something she had said, back at the auction – something like sometimes bad news is what people want to hear. He hadn’t realised, then, that she had more than likely been speaking from experience. Suddenly he had all sorts of questions about what she did more specifically, like what kind of problems people came to her with, and what sort of methods she used to help them... Presumably if they had sought out her advice, then at least they would be open to taking it? (That would be nice. Trying to help people with their problems without ever being invited to... had its difficulties, to say the least.)

Still, Savino held his tongue, because she had probably not snuck out in the middle of the night just to field endless questions about her work. Instead, he grinned and tucked her card away, slipping it between the pages of his pocket notebook so as not to lose it. Not that he was planning on going to her with any of his own problems, but... “Dot,” he echoed warmly, trying out the unfamiliar name on his tongue. “Savino Zabini. Savino.”

“So,” he added, raising his eyebrows a little, “are you still interested in a little exploring tonight?” It was dark on the lake, but between the moonlight and the orbs of light flitting across the park he could make out, not far behind her, the shapes of a few moored rowboats. He wasn’t sure how much a midnight investigation would really turn up, detective skills or not – but taking a boat out would be simple enough, if she still wanted to. (It still didn’t seem like the most sensible idea on earth, but Savino was choosing not to take that into consideration. Besides, they were already here, weren’t they?)

Zabini — she wouldn't have guessed that. Not that she knew any of the Zabinis personally, but she had seen pictures of Mrs. Camilla Prewett in Witch Weekly after her elopement in the middle of the ill-fated cruise. To put it diplomatically, she failed to see the family resemblance. Maybe they weren't related at all, or maybe only distantly. In any case, she had no reason to suspect that he was lying to her about his name. Maybe later she would see if she could find him in any of the gossip sheets — it would be amusing to verify her early assumption about him from the clock and the business card that he was a seventh son, or something like it. What was the Zabini family business? She wasn't sure she'd ever heard of one, but there were plenty of areas of business where she had no particular expertise, so that wasn't unusual.

"That's what we came out here to do, isn't it?" Her tone was bright, but the smile that accompanied it was a bit timid. That was the pretense for coming out, at least; she hadn't determined yet if he had meant it in earnest or if it had been only pretense for him. He hadn't made any indication that he was going to kiss her, or anything. Dot thought she was wise enough to the ways of the world that she would have noticed if he'd been dropping hints. Still, she couldn't help but be wary of how the night would unfold. Men and women alone at night, and all that, without a soul knowing where they were or what they were up to. Anything could happen.

"Let's go," she said, in a sudden burst of nerves. She brushed past him and half-jogged to the little dock, trying to exude the carefree, lithe aura of a wood sprite. She didn't want him to know that she was nervous.

Beautiful set by Kit!

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