Julian had chosen to forego the mask; he instead wore all black, with a simple crown of silver leaves in his hair. He left his hair down, and Melissa had said he looked like an elven prince.
Lu, the clockwork jackal, was asleep by the fire. Julian had no idea how Melissa had gotten the thing inside the ball with her, but she had. He kept his gaze on the creature, waiting for Melissa to arrive.
He reached for the glass of water on the table. He kept looking at the envelope, it had indeed been an invitation to a ball. The correct name had been on it as well.
He knew his fears of rejection were irrational. But constantly looking over his shoulder for over twenty odd years of pretending to be someone he was not had given him a feeling of sinking into a void of his own mind...
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The beast was made of clockwork. Its feet made a clicking sound on the cobblestone steps as it approached the man who stood alone beneath a streetlamp, a note clutched in his gloved hand. His blond hair was tied at the nape of his neck in a simple knot, and his eyes kept going to the watch he wore. He tapped his foot, his eyes scanning for a person.
“Oh.” Julian looked from the note to the creature, when he felt it nudge his leg. “I see.” The clockwork dog—he supposed it was meant to look like a dog, though it looked more like a jackal to him—was made of sleek black metal, but Julian could see that its eyes were red. He couldn’t tell if the eyes were precious jewels, or if the beast was lit with an inner fire. He tucked the note into the pocket of his jacket. “You’re her messenger.” He adjusted his top hat, and squared his shoulders. “Lead the way, then.” As they walked through the streets, he thought that this must look like an odd sight, a man walking alone with an omen of doom trotting along at his side.
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“I swear I didn’t do anything wrong.”
Monica backed away from the box on the shelf. What was she to do, take the thing her grandmother had given her and throw it into the sea? Maybe it wasn’t even anything special, maybe it was a shell or something that had gotten worn away creatively by the water. She could ignore the presence she felt from inside of it.
“The heart of a mermaid is a very dangerous place to be,” her grandmother had once said to her—but that had been years ago, when she had been a young girl. Surely a warning like that meant nothing now….
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