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Who you know and where you go. [BACKDATED LOG]
Who: Mabb and Schmendrick.
What: A chance encounter and conversation.
When: Waaay back, not long [perhaps a few hours] after this log.
Where: The Sleeping Woods.

Another day, another body. She'd left the redcap hanging from a branch, a dry, hollowed husk of what it used to be, and it's cap, stiff with dry blood, pinned to the bark next to it. It had taken almost a full day for the little monster's cap to completely dry - he'd been a busy chap recently - but Mabb had enjoyed the time watching him struggle to free himself and curse her every way he could think of. It hadn't saved him, of course, and it hadn't enraged her into giving him a quick death either. No, she was still far too content from her rest and being reunited with her love to be bothered by much at the moment. Even the whispers had given her peace lately.

Even the weather, seasonably warm though blessedly overcast, couldn't keep a little smile from her face or little hum of song that drifted from her like a faint echo as she strolled through the darker parts of the Sleeping Woods.

Tracking the trail of magic through the Forest was far from a simple task, but it was almost a peaceful one. Schmendrick loved magic. At one time, he might have boasted that he craved magic more than anything else in the world. He might have even wished it was all he cared for. But wherever it ranked on his great loves, it was high upon the list.

Likewise, the magic loved him. It flowed through his senses, and Schmendrick calmly, patiently, even tenderly separated one stream from another until he found the source - a thread of power that burned a blackened red trail through his mind's eye. This was what he followed, slowly and carefully, until the bitter scent of death met his nostrils.

He frowned at the scene, shutting his eyes against the gore and turning away. Death for these kin was rarely easy, but more rarely was it this cruel. Schmendrick noted the spot to himself, to report to Titania, before turning to follow the stream of magic. It seemed thicker here. Far more fresh than it had been. Schmendrick whispered a spell of protection, a simple thing to ward off evil intent from harming him. He'd promised the Queen he would be careful, after all.

Unaware that she was being tracked, Mabb continued on her way. Birdsong quieted, though was not completely silenced in her passing, and her humming slipped into another tune, a simple farmer's harvest song from centuries ago. She wandered aimlessly through the thick underbrush, brambles and briars moving seemingly of their own doing to make way for her. This was an unfriendly part of the woods, full of dark shadows and the more dangerous beasts that plagued unwary travelers. Of in the distance, over her humming, Mabb heard an odd snicker-snack and a shriek of terror. Curiosity had her stopping, wondering what that might have been, but the sound was moving away from her now and she had no real interest in following. She started to continue on, but caught sight of her hands. How silly of her. She'd forgotten to was the blood from them and now they were caked a dark reddish-brown. That just wouldn't do.

Finding a stream wasn't very difficult and she knelt by the shore, washing her hands in it's cool waters as she and her whispers took up a more jaunty chorus. "Her beautiful eyes were a terrible curse...three days in his grave, she ran off with his purse..."

It wasn't long before Schmendrick realized he was being followed. Some beast, a creature of these unfriendly woods, had taken up his trail in the hopes of a morsel of meat. He kept moving, not letting the creature know he was aware of its presence, until it drew almost near enough for Schmendrick to feel the hot breath upon his neck. Then the magician turned, snapping his fingers and saying a word. Purple light poured from his hands, latching onto the beast, and the creature shrieked in terror, scurrying back into the forest, clawing at his own skin in an effort to remove the light.

Schmendrick winced. He hadn't expected a cry like that. He waited, silent and unmoving, until he heard a soft voice gently singing. There was water nearby, he could hear the rush of it upon the stones.

Carefully, Schmendrick began to creep closer.

Mabb probably would have remained unaware of Schmendrick's presence had the whispers not suddenly fallen silent. Her own singing stopped a moment later, a small frown furrowing her brow. What...? And then she felt it, an unfamiliar pulse of magic not as strong as her own, but formidable indeed. Her gaze scanned the brush, but she saw nothing. Eyes narrowing, Mabb sat back from the stream as the vegetation began to tremble and writhe. It wasn't meant to harm whoever was watching - not yet, anyway - but rather to flush them from their hiding spot. "Show yourself." It was nothing short of a demand.

Schmendrick stepped immediately from his hiding spot. Not from fear, but respect. Once clear of the vegetation - how he hated to see it shrivel like that! - he bowed. "My Lady," he said. "Forgive my intrusion."

The feel of her magic at this proximity was intoxicating. Her power was greater than his - how long had it been since he had felt that? - but different. For a few moments he almost felt lost in the sensation of it. Black and red and all the relish they contained. But Schmendrick sharply recalled the scent of blood, a scent that had carried here, albeit faintly, and caught himself.

"No intrusion," Mabb said, tone wary as she rose to her feet fluidly, the grace granted more by magic than physical effort. The pink-stained water that remained on her hands froze and fell to the earth as crystals, leaving her hands dry once more. Head cocked, she regarded this stranger with dark eyes and no small amount of curiosity. "You're mortal, are you not?" she finally asked after a long, unnerving moment of silence. "How is it such a mortal has come by so much power? And what is he doing in this place?" She could have been asking him. She could have been asking the whispers who spoke to her so often. Or she could have been speaking to no one at all.

"I am mortal, my lady. I am called Schmendrick the Magician," he said, by way of explanation. Once he would have added you won't have heard of me, but those days were long gone. His name was known to every kingdom, east, west, north, and south. Still, there were those who hadn't heard of him. More often than not, Schmendrick enjoyed the company of these more than the fame.

"Schmendrick," she said slowly, tasting his name, almost purring it. She smiled, one that had lured many a man to folly, but the warmth in it did not reach her eyes. There in the depths instead was the spark of a sharp mind. "You've only answered one of my questions, magician. It would be rude for you to deny me answers and I do so hate repeating myself." Mabb's voice was poisoned sugar. Sweet, but held the trace of some deadly thing just beneath the surface.

Ah. So she had been addressing him. Schmendrick returned the smile, though his was warmer, and touched with nervousness. Better to let her see that than try to hide it.

"I apologize, my lady. I am a magician, a wizard by trade, which grants me a certain skill in magic. I happened to be passing through the Forest and felt an unfamiliar source of power. I followed it, and it led me here. To you." It was truth, if edited for content. "Sorry for my poor tongue, my lady, but I admit I'm bewitched by both your power and your beauty. I didn't expect to find something so enchanting."

Ah, flattery. No fae was immune to it and Mabb was no exception. The ice melted a little from her smile and she paced closer to the magician. "Understandable, dear Schmendrick. I am most unexpected." The words held a bit of humor, as if she was laughing at a joke on she knew. "Tell me, are you familiar with this wood? You must be if you sensed me. This place reeks with magic and yet you found my trace, found me when...others have not and can not."

Schmendrick furrowed his brow lightly. "I have passed before this way, through the night and through the day. There are Fae that I well know, and ones around which I'd lay low. Magic has never been foreign to me and I could tell the paths of them and thee."

Curse of the bard, perhaps? There were times that Scmendrick's words dropped from his lips in rhyme, often without consulting with him. It was only after the verse was spoken that he was aware of the rhyme scheme.

Not bad, he told himself. I should write that one down....

Mabb laughed, pleased by the impromptu rhyme. "Your talent lies in more than just magic! Very well, said, Schmendrick. Though, I'm curious," she murmur as she stopped beside him, laying a companionable hand on his arm. "Who are these fae that you know so well? Perhaps I know them as well and our mutual acquaintances could make us good friends."

It was a moment before Schmendrick responded, tilting his head to the side and looking as though he were recalling names. In truth, he was, but trying to recall which names would be safe to mention. The king and queen were right out, as well as another acquaintance or two that he knew to be members of the council. But Schmendrick oft preferred the company of commoners, and the fae he named were minor, quiet but kindly disposed beings who dwelled closer to the roads than the rest.

"Onianait, Koe of the Eleven Toes, and Pugsleydale the Trickster, as he likes to call himself." The magician smirked. "He's not much of a trickster - more of an amateur prankster, but he does try his best."

"Hmm," she said thoughtfully, lips pursing slightly. "I don't believe I'm acquainted with any of them. But then, I have been gone quite a long while." Mabb smiled again, coy and charming all at once, pale fingers that were, until recently, stained with blood coming up to stroke Schmendrick's cheek. "I doubt even you have heard of me." The dark fae paused, uncomfortably close. "Or perhaps you have. Tell me, my dear magician. Have you ever heard of one called 'Mabb'?"

Schmendrick stilled, uncomfortable at Mabb's proximity, but trying not to show it. He could feel the pulse of her magic now more clearly than ever. Dark, like blood-scented smoke. She was beautiful, there was no doubt about that, but the viciousness of her power was sharper than a thorn.

But, despite all the tales he had heard in his long, long life, he could not recall having heard of her. "No, my lady," he said. "I'm afraid I've not heard that name before."

Her smile faded, melting snow under a hot sun. "Forgotten, then. And so completely..." She turned away from Schmendrick, murmuring to herself again, her voice forlorn. She'd known, of course. If her Oberon couldn't remember her, why should her legend have been remembered among those short-memoried humans? The whispers tried to soothe her, but she refused to hear them, giving her head a vicious shake to silence them. "Be silent! You offer hollow comfort..." She absently rubbed at one scarred wrist, the skin still raw and painful to touch though she'd been free of her iron shackles for centuries now. And just as quickly as she'd drifted into her own head, Mabb snapped out of it, eyes sharp and focused on Schmendrick once more. "You think me mad." Not a question.

Schmendrick was more startled by her blanket statement than the private outburst. He tilted his head slightly, and shook it. "Hardly, my lady. Powerful, yes. Beautiful, without question. But mad? No." He shook his head again. "I have seen madness. I have been named such myself. I do not believe beings of power can survive the long years without knowing the intimacy of madness. But I do not see it in you."

Which was part of what made her such a frightening presence. She did not have the look of madness, but of cold, cruel, and coherent violence.

His voice dropped, perhaps shaking ever so lightly, but he had spoken already and was bound to finish the thought. "If you'll pardon my boldness, Lady Mabb," for that was clearly what she was called, judging by her reaction, "you seem more... lost. To my eyes."

"Lost?" Whatever did he mean? Such a curious human. "Hardly. I know precisely where I am," she declared with a soft smile that quickly turned sharp around the edges. "And I know precisely my purpose here." Mabb returned to Schmendrick's side, uncomfortably close as a single fingertip tracing his jaw. "You would agree that treachery is a high crime, would you not?"

Schmendrick blinked, resisting the urge to step back away from her, but not able to stop the brief flinch at her touch. His eyes widened slightly at her words. "Treachery?" he repeated. "My lady, have you..." He paused, then gathered himself, and looked to her. There was still a touch of fear to him, which was not falsified, but he didn't believe Mabb would try her violence on him. Somehow, he didn't think he was important enough to her purpose.

"I have heard reports of murders in these parts," he said, voice wary. "I saw the signs of one myself, not far from here. Lady, it... the feel of your power was lingering there. Is that part of your purpose?"

Mabb laughed, a lovely, charming frightening sound. "My dear magician, it is my purpose. Vermin, the lot of them. Treacherous and cruel and they had to pay for their crimes against me and my love." Her dark eyes bore into his as she spoke, cold and depth-less even as the trees and brush surrounding the clearing trembled with some invisible force, the less hardy leaves shriveling black and crumbling to dust. "Their blood is my balm."

His blood chilled at her laughter, cooling in the veins and making the magician, the greatest magician to walk the realm since his master, Nikos, the great Schmendrick, tremble. "What crimes are deserving of such death, my lady?" he asked, his voice soft as a whisper.

He wanted to survive this encounter. He needed to survive this encounter, if only to report his findings back to Titania. But the storyteller's curiosity needed to be appeased. His own horror at the violence this woman had been driven to needed an answer. "Surely there must be another way than to deprive them of another day. What lessons can they seek to learn from beyond the graves in which they turn?"

"You dare chastise me, mortal?" Gone was the dark humor from her face, leaving simple, icy anger in her narrowed gaze. "They learn their lesson in their death!" Her hand slid up over his shoulders, leaving a fine film of frost on the cloth in their wake. "Surely you would agree if you knew their crimes," she murmured within a whisper of his lips before she slipped away. When she spoke next, her voice seemed vague, absent. As if someone else were telling her tale.

"In the beginning, there was a definite line between seelie and unseelie, and most were fine with that arrangement. But there were those who sought order to balance the Courts, the Summer and the Winter. A union, they sought, between the two." Mabb lowered herself beside the stream she'd been washing in before. "A marriage, a king and a queen, one seelie and one unseelie. Oberon..." She smiled gently, voice gone soft, loving. "My sweet Oberon, my love, my reason for being, he was the natural choice for king of the unseelie. Powerful, terrible and strange. But he would not even think of marrying another that was not I. And so those treacherous fae schemed. " Her hands curled into fists in the grass, turning the tender blades to shards. "They tricked us, set upon us and I...I was taken away, so very far away. The last thing I saw was my love falling." Her breath hitched. "I woke in an iron room," she said, then flung out her arms to demonstrate, and the marks on her wrists were stark against her pale skin. "Chained like an animal and not knowing why, why, why?" The last was almost a wail, eerie in this gloomy patch of forest, and aching.

"It didn't take me long to stop bothering to dance," she said, breaking the long silence. "I got used to the pain, the smell of my burning feet and flesh. I wept for years, centuries even, cried my eyes dry. Hard to tell the passing of time in an iron tomb. And no one came for me. I was lost and I lost myself..." Mabb's arms dropped to her sides as she fell into another long silence, only broken when she drew in a long shuddering sigh. "But that wasn't the worst. Being chained in iron for a thousand years? Nothing compared to the pain I felt after I broke free, after I regathered my magic to me, after I'd found that all the fae had come to this new place." Her shoulders began to shake, the unsteady tremor of one wracked by sobs though no tears shone in her eyes. She had none left to shed. "They'd made him forget me. My one love and they'd erased me from his mind so he could marry another!"

She suddenly stilled, the anguish on her face wiped blank. "I'd already begun my revenge by then, but now...Now I've even more reason to want them dead, to grind them to dust with unfettered joy. It's the very least they deserve."

Understanding, shock, horror... these each ran across Schmendrick's features before giving way to dawning realization as he understood now. Oberon and Titania. King and Queen of the Fae. Mabb's former love, now locked in marriage with one the council had chosen for him, while his lover was cast in an iron box.

Seeing the marks on her wrists made him think of the unicorn, of the iron bars of Mommy Fortuna's cave, and even now, his hands clenched, hiding the small remaining scars from where those bars had bitten him after a failed spell.

But love. Lost love. No power in the world was so strong. Schmendrick's magic could turn an immortal unicorn into a human girl and back again, but it had been love that had changed the unicorn forever, leaving the ache of regret upon her heart. For for Lir, love for Oberon...

Love for Molly Grue, gone now, these many years, but ever marked upon his own heart. What would that pain be, to see her again and learn that she did not know him?

But no... Schmendrick could not imagine the twisted, tormented agony Mabb had suffered. The centuries of pain and isolation that had driven her to become this violent creature he saw now. He could weep, not only for her heartache, but for the loss of that beautiful woman she may once have been, now lost forever to pain and torture.

"I'm sorry," he said, eyes dropping from her pained features. The sudden still calm was so much worse.

"Save your pity for someone who truly needs it," Mabb said not unkindly as she rose to her feet, swaying slightly before her magic caught her. "But you understand now, don't you magician? Why I have to do what I do?" She smiled. "Not that I feel I should have to explain myself to the likes of you. But understanding should keep you from being foolish in these matters."

He hesitated a moment before answering. "I think I understand," he said at last, "but I'm sure that I don't. You kill for revenge, which is something I won't. I do not pity you, but the woman you were, and, please you or not, I do mourn for her."

Schmendrick bowed, low and elegantly. "By your leave, Lady Mabb, most fair of the fae, I must take my leave and be on my way. The forest is darkening, and in draws the night, and there are things in this wood I'd rather see in the light." He added in his mind the hope that she would return to the path of love, and win her lover back, rather than resume her lethal lessons.

A small smile still curving her lips, Mabb inclined her head. "Be on your way then, Schmendrick, and be careful where you step. Next time you cross my path, I might not be in such a personable mood."

Tags: schmendrick, mabb

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