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Welcome to Charming, the year is now 1894. 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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Queen Victoria was known for putting jackets and dresses on her pups, causing clothing for dogs to become so popular that fashion houses for just dog clothes started popping up all over Paris. — Fox
It would be easy to assume that Evangeline came to the Lady Morgana only to pick fights. That wasn't true at all. They also had very good biscuits.
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comfortable silence is so overrated
23 January, 1893 — The Ministry Club

Shortly after lunch that day, Ezra had dropped a potion and shattered the vial that contained it because a shadow had startled him, flitting into the space between his head and his hand. He had gotten so much better at separating them from reality, at not reacting to these things that weren't real in a way that mattered to anyone else, but despite all his efforts he'd never been able to stomach the times when they came so close they looked like they might touch him. The shadows hadn't touched him yet — not even in his lowest points. (Or at least, not that he could remember — his memories of the time period after Rosalie had broken their engagement were not — perfectly intact). But the fact that it hadn't happened yet didn't bring him any comfort; it provided fertile ground for his imagination to run wild with what horrors the experience might bring, when it eventually happened.

(This was a sign that he had let things go too far, he recognized. When thinking, fatalism; his sister would have chided him, had she been able to hear what he was thinking.)

He'd been planning on going home after work let out for the day, but given these developments he decided he might as well try and socialize first. Not that the socializing would do him any good, but there was something else that might.

"Fancy a game?" he asked the first likely-looking passerby. Ezra had taken up station at a table and opened up his bag of ceramic tiles etched with obscure alchemy symbols, and had already started separating them out into black and white pieces. He didn't plan to pick up and go home until he'd found someone to play with him. "I can teach you," he offered perfunctorily; most Englishmen did not know how to play, in his experience — unless they had more than a passing acquaintance with Ezra, in which case he would have already forced them to learn.

~~~ but I'm stuck trying not to come off crazy ~~~

Jasper was not often at the Ministry Club though he was a part of it. It was a good place as any to go and unwind. After work, he had headed out of the Ministry's London front to the club across the street. He had not been in the club for very long when someone spoke to him.

He recognized the man as being one of the Unspeakables and from the other having been a housemate a couple years above him. "What game is this?" He asked, partly because it actually looked vaguely familiar - had he played this in childhood? He couldn't remember, not that it really mattered. He did not mind playing and besides, he was curious.

"Ekarut," Ezra replied (probably mispronouncing it, but he had introduced himself to the game after finding it in a pawn shop and no one had been around to tell him differently — and he had been saying it the same way for so long he was hardly going to switch to the correct version now if he was wrong). He waved the bag, which had the name printed on the velvet, though by this point it was so worn down it was almost entirely unreadable. "It's easy to learn." This was a lie, but a necessary one. If Ezra introduced it to people by talking about how none of the symbols or characters it used were in English, or even in any script that someone would have recognized from an Ancient Runes lesson, hardly anyone would be keen to play. If he continued to describe how involved the strategy was, and that it usually took several games before anyone had even a chance of winning the game intentionally, he'd never get anyone to sit down.

"Here, sit down," he said, without leaving much room for Daphnel to refuse. "I'll buy you a drink while we play."

~~~ but I'm stuck trying not to come off crazy ~~~

Huh. It did sound vaguely familiar but not enough for it to conjure an immediate memory. More just tickled something at the back of his brain.

"Is it anything like mahjong?" Jasper asked, that being one of the only other tile games he really had any knowledge of. And only then because one of his grandparents had been obsessed with it and his cousin from Korea spoke of it. As it was, he was now sat and apparently about to learn how to play Ekarut.

"A little," Ezra said with a nod. He had only seen mahjong played a few times, but he'd heard people make the comparison before, so he knew it well enough to know how to explain the key differences. "It's a two player game and we don't trade tiles. I'll get the black ones and you get the white ones," he said, sliding one of the bags of tiles across the table. He always gave his opponents the white tiles, because white went first and therefore had just the tiniest advantage. Most of the people he played with didn't know the game well enough to make any good use of it, but he certainly didn't need the extra perk for himself.

"The aim is to capture mine with yours, by surrounding them once they're laid down. But you can only play a tile next to one it has something in common with," he continued. "See the designs and the colors? So you build out patterns and try to circle my tiles, and I try to do the same to you." There were a few more nuances, but that was enough for them to start playing, and Ezra always found it better to explain mid-game than to front-load it all.

~~~ but I'm stuck trying not to come off crazy ~~~

Jasper listened as the other man explained the game. It sounded simple enough thus far. He nodded as he noted the designs and colors. He could see the similarities with the tile games he did know.

He took a moment to consider his first move before moving a white tile. "Did I do that right?" He asked, wanting to be sure he was playing the game correctly.

While he was waiting for Daphnel to make a move, Ezra mentally went through every possible tile he might play and planned his countermove. It was an unnecessarily tedious task, but the mental strain was what he was after — no sense avoiding it while he waited for his opponent to choose a tile. His strategy was hampered only slightly by the fact that he didn't know the names of any of the symbols; by now he'd come up with his own incomprehensible code-words for each of them.

"Yes, perfect," Ezra said immediately, with a curt nod. He had already anticipated this move, and countered it immediately. "You're up again," he said, before realizing he might have done better to have delayed the move a few seconds at least so as not to be too intimidating. He sucked his lower lip. "So, ah — anything you're looking forward to?" he asked, hoping small talk might make the game feel a bit more bearable to his less experienced opponent.

~~~ but I'm stuck trying not to come off crazy ~~~


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