The curious case of Arturo Nihm, pt 2
#31
Arturo is laughing.

And laughing.

And laughing.

William leans in to Margot, uneasy "I'm pretty sure this is the part where we die horribly."

But there was lecturing to be had, and it's been awhile since he's gotten a good lecture. Pays attention and watches the man's face and listens to tone and takes things in. Doesn't fidget, doesn't adjust, doesn't do anything except stand with a kind of stillness that doesn't suit him and-


"She doesn't normally do things like this, I talked her into it," he says, defends even, "she might not know better but I do, and should, but apparently don't. Most people like us- the vast majority of people like us, in fact- don't take these kinds of risks."

Margot is talking, saying something about his sources and William literally sputters. Looks at her with wide eyes like he isn't sure how to handle it and doesn't know how to really recover from that. He could be smooth, certainly, but this is definitely not one of those times.

"We weren't going to steal anything- we were just going to go in, look at your books, transcribe some things, and leave- it was going to be hard but we heard it wasn't impossible. That was my intention. Now, I got the tip from someone who was telling us about some silver dagger and how she'd wanted it, but I figured hey, just make a copy of it and let her deal with the fall out but I hadn't... intended..."

There's this moment where it seems to dawn on him that-

"Crap."
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#32
Arturo performs a quick back and forth between the pair of them, face remaining a mask of impartial interaction while the two kids blurt, blunder and tumble their way through explanations that sound like the crumbling defenses of Constantinople at this point. For his part, he keeps the humour to a minimum, head shaking rather apologetically as Margot offers up information about why they are there and then, really shaking in a threat of hilarity when William explains what they were actually trying to do and ending that note with a well placed

Crap

"Crap is right."

He says with a helpless chuckle, inhaling and exhaling forcefully to keep his mirth in check, a hand rising to scrub at his brow and face for a moment as if to consider just what the hell to do with this entire mess of a moment. Thoughts race across his gaze and his chin just rests in his upturned hand for a few precious moments, trying to decipher exactly what the implications and meanings of this moment could be. Whether he believes their dedication to 'Wizardry and Witchcraft' is one thing, but theft and the admittance to theft? And fencing? And Contacts-

"The name of your source, is first and foremost. That is not negotiable. As much as I am a recluse, you've it right in saying my name is on a few choice areas of a particular industry that could promote more of these-" A muffled laugh coupled with a flailing point at the pair of them "-incursions. I need to ensure that those are minimized as often and as much as possible. Beyond that matter..."

He sighs, easing back into his chair, hands folding over his stomach to tap out some odd little rhythm, lips pursed.

"You two are either the worst burglars in existence, introducing yourself to your mark, or attempting to be clever by spinning the most outrageous of lies and circumstances to try and seem broadly and horribly inept. Enough that I'll take those previously mentioned mercies and lay them on you like any old man would to a pair of dumbass rapscallions-" He puts a bit of old vinegar and swagger into that last word, coupled with a fist rapping gently on the desk and a good laugh.

A laugh that ends with a quick degradation into scrutiny.

"I'm not sure what lies your Contact has been talking to you or whether they just have it in for you, but I don't hold 'Silver Daggers'. Silver doens't hold the shape of a weapon, to brittle and the forging process would be outrageous for something like that, money, time and trial and error-wise. As much as I can appreciate a good joke or sense of humour, being the object of either is not in my comfort zone. So the name, is first..."

"Secondly..."

He breathes loudly out through his nose, eyes trailing toward William.

"You need to learn some manners. You don't bring young ladies into your affairs, illicit or otherwise for any reason, especially where the threat of harm may well be concerned. Let alone talking her into it. Shame." His head bobs at Margot, without leaving William. "Now apologize."

"Thirdly..."

Arturo's glance toward the Chess board in the back levels a sigh, followed by a murmur.

"Whatever you think of my fancy for ancient strategy is entirely your word and perceptions against...well a Recluse, living his life and existence on his own estate by his own measure and in no way shape or form does your account, during a break-in no less, whilst lying, posing as something other than you are and using the good names of several other people not involved in this to further your agenda, provide you any leeway or recognition of what I believe, know or consider. For all intents and purposes, that Chessboard is a carefully constructed illusion I put on to entertain guests and company, rare as they might be." He holds up a hand to forestall any argument. "I'm also an old man with excessive levels of eccentricity so even if it was something, i can plead senility and everyone will believe it to be true."

"Fourth...ly." He seems to question whether that's a word for a moment.

"You seem to have an avid interest in all things 'Spiritual'-" Arturo makes spooky hand gestures at that "-and are under the impression I have access to some such things alongside this dagger you're speaking of. I can't attest to the value or strength of that information but I can assure you that anything you find in here, isn't worth exploring or examining for the threat it represents you in finding out." His gaze levels on them both, a seriousness creeping through that seems to punch past the vaneer of 'Elderly Recluse' and to the deeper presence below.

"There are things even those with power, were never meant to explore or fathom before their time and even then, they are a responsibility. Not a curio. Not a fascination. Not a desire. A Responsibility. You take anything from this, let it be that..."

And the seriousness vanishes, leaving behind the old man once more.

"Lastly. The pair of you are officially on retainer. I will provide you access to what information I've gathered in my long years, via personal conversation and in return you will do me favours, like bring me groceries, take my Yorkshire terrier for a walk and shout Latin phrases at one another for my amusement occasionally..."
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#33
It was there in the way that William had looked at her. When Margot had finished she'd found his eyes again and discovered them wide and stunned. She made a face in return that was apologetic (still, continuing) and stuck. Too late, what's done is done.

She'd put her faith in Arturo Nihm not breaking away from the character he'd presented himself as being when she revealed her hand and knocked William's down along with it. He rewarded her by not attacking them with words, bullets, or magic. Instead he agreed with William's synopsis, crap was right, surveyed them. Margot didn't quite squirm as the silence pressed down on them. The potential for terrible outcome was worrying as ever, but that faith was kept thus far. The odds of the immediate outcome being fire and brimstone were very low, and statistics called to her from her AP classes in high school.

When Nihm broke the silence to begin his list, Margot's recently found semblence of calm started to erode.

The name of your source...
"She's not our--...," but her voice died away when the man continued.

You need to learn some manners. Apologize.
"No, no it's not like--...," but again, the quiet protest submitted to Nihm's continued speech.

Responsibility!
A small sigh, the start of "N--,", but again....

Finally, he concluded with a declaration that they were on retainer. They could pilfer his information and library stores if they walked his dog and gave him a chuckle every here or there. By now Margot's brow was furrowed and her face was flushed pink (mostly from embarassment, shame, look at the situation that you just created kid). She shook her head so her pinned hair fell forward, and lifted a hand to sweep it back in place.

"We weren't ever going to steal anything," she protested with a strained tone. "He--," she nodded toward Will-- "was really more interested in the books this whole time. He did not drag me into anything. I wanted to come see why someone would send us here. To see what... defenses there were, so I could use that to talk him out of any more trouble."

"I'm not worried about your library, Mister Nihm. It's impressive, but...," she glanced at the shelves appreciatively, and landed with her gaze on that chessboard that wasn't really a chessboard after all. "It feels like it could suck someone in and keep them. I've got no plans to be kept." Finally, her gaze landed back on the self-proclaimed elderly recluse. "By this point I just want you to know about this person who brought us to you, and then go about my way."
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#34
It's the equivalent of being caught trying to steal anything from old people, really. There is a sort of sacredness in space that seems to be unobserved, and a sort of patience from Mr. Nihm that comes with the fact that this probably isn't the first time that someone has tried to foist off with his stuff, but it was probably one of the few times that someone came and introduced themselves.

Without ever giving their names, come to think of it. Yep. That's not suspicious at all, kids. Not even in the slightest.

"Okay." he starts, inhales deep because he needs to address all things at once. Was paying attention and seeming to count along and trying ever-so-hard to keep his ping pong ball attention there and not on the chessboard or the books or the smell of the pipe smoke or the color of the floor or Margot's almost protesting (sorry, Margot.)

Now, there are things that William Holmes has learned over time during his brief stint within the Hermetic Order- the first of which is that you do not mess with men who are old enough to be your grandfather. You just don't. There is a good chance that they are bigger, scarier, more knowledgable, and crazier than you. They've had to put up with people for longer, and it's why they have things like the Red Hat society for little old women who like to go sky diving and say fuck your social conventions, I do what I want- I'm old. That applies to mundane society, and applies doubly so for anyone and anything that is even remotely supernatural.

As such, William kept his mouth shut and paid attention. hands in front of him (the book has since been put away into his messenger bag for safe keeping) and waiting for his turn. He still needed to learn some manners, though. Thus spake Arturo Nihm.

"She told me her name was Inez. We run in circles where legal names might not necessarily be names given, so that's honestly the best that I can do in that regard," he replied.

"And while we didn't technically break in or technically steal anything, we did have the intention to do so later- or the possibility of the intention. Part of coming here was figuring out if that's something we even wanted to try doing-" you're rambling, Will- "-not the point. Point being: we did walk in here lying our asses off with the intention of personal gain. We just talked about communication and respect and that's not coming from a place of respect. I'm pretty sure that Mr. Nihm doesn't burn down orphanages or eat puppies or make sizable donations to places that dump nuclear waste in Latvia."

A second. Attentions back to the young woman who is nearly a foot shorter than he is.

"Anyway, I feel like I do owe you an apology. Even if you did come with me to talk me out of things later, it could have gone completely bottom up and now you're dealing with the consequences of me making a questionable judgment call. I didn't tell you everything going in, and I took for granted that you were helping me. I sincerely apologize and I while I would like the opportunity to make it up to you, I am completely understanding if you do not want to give me that opportunity."

But then, there was the issue of being on retainer.

"How long were you thinking of keeping our services? Or maybe even my services, Margot was really the voice of reason here, I don't know if it would really be fair to saddle her with something she didn't even want to do in the first place- maybe we could work something out? I could work whatever time you were thinking for both of us, consecutive sentencing instead of concurrent."
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#35
Arturo listens as both take their turns, Margot's in favour of rebuttle and William in favour of respectful acquiescence. Both have merit and value, if only in how the responses are probably put away for perusal and consideration by the old man in time. It isn't really his best intention or even his worst, or even intentions at all, on display right now. It's just a simple matter of listening. Which he does. With apparent patience and studying. The kids have put on quite the show thus far and there are elements about them that present themselves, both in the lies they told as well as the honesty they seem capable of.

The certainty that clings to Nihm is one born of age. As William knows, such individuals don't amass this level of wealth, isolation (he's on the side of the god damned mountain with his own personal road FFS) and artifact without some semblance of experience and the knowhow to put it to use. That all there's been so far is the demand for an apology and a list of chores that need doing, sort of...says something about where these three are right now.

First though, they need to extract themselves.

"You have to keep in mind what you claim to be, Dear." Spoken at Margot and it is here that they will hear a different Arturo Nihm. A softness, minimally chiding with a sense of comfort that is as much a fatherly pat on the back as it is a frown of digression. "And what that entails. What you hope, want or need isn't as important as the future of what could be expanded on in this moment and, dare I say, other moments such as this."

He chuckles, leaning across the desk to stare up into her youthful face.

"You're going to find yourself making mistakes and potentially paying for them. The need to minimize those mistakes is important, but also in paying the smallest amount necessary to ensure they don't come back to haunt you. For your part, trust is something you should buy and sell as high as you possibly can, because it is a rare thing that you young folk give away far too often, seemingly for nothing short of a gaff or a bit of adventure-" His hand flaps about nebulously, as if to indicate the situation they are in.

"Each of us has means of treading the paths and the worlds and these moments that are difficult in various ways. Sometimes those ways come into conflict with others and repercussions are inevitable. What we do to minimize those repercussions is maintain a sense of distance from all those who can complicate them. That includes any orders, collectives, families, friends, religions, sects, industries and institutions that have hard and fast rules about why you don't do what you two have done today. That's dangerous..." A pause, eyes rolling upward. "For all of us, really, regardless of Identity."

He leans back again.

"Right now, payment for the lie and the situation we have here is measured in some chores and you still get yourselves some of what you were hoping for. You won't get access to my library, there's information in there you're not ready for and certainly won't understand but I can translate and parse down any number of avenues. Think of it as..." He scrubs at his goatee, looking for words. "A series of lectures you'll eventually come to appreciate in your enthusiasm to know more about the worlds."

Worlds. Plural. He's said it several times now. Whether this is an admission to something or an active, voluntary presentation of fact, is...like many things about Nihm...a vague certainty.

"You don't tell anyone. You don't speak my name to anyone. You keep it secret as long as you can and in the meantime, I make preparations to combat whoever may well be attached to you, voluntary or not in a purely defensive manner, as befits any isolationist, who has caught wind of intrusion. Thus ensuring my safety while ensuring your education as well which...I dare say, I have some vested interest in." A smile. Kindly, rubbing out much of the edge these words could have contained.

"Your services, Mr...?" Arturo will pause for William to provide a name. "Will be rendered for as long as it takes for me to shore up my defenses. That requires getting to know you two and what you're capable of-" A bit of scepticism there, healthy and clean and obviously a bit of a dig at their claims of Wizardry and Witchdom "-so I have a broader sense of what to expect should others of your kind present themselves as an issue." A hand held up toward the pair of them, forestalling possible woe or concern.

"I do not want or need to know about your organizations or the degrees to which you adhere to them. Merely a limited understanding of what harm could befall me or my estate should your mistake here today, bring about a threat in the now, near or distant future." A pause, eyes dancing between the two, before a brief moment of gravity, delivered with a sigh through his nostrils arrives.

"Other than this, very fair offer, we will have to go our separate ways and I will be forced to take a more active level of threat to ensure my safety and means. Which...really, will just get involved all those organizations that neither you, nor I, nor they would appreciate."
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#36
William began with an okay, and the ramble that followed drew Margot's attention. She looked at him with mild suspicion at the particular phrasing of what types of circles through which he knew this Inez. That changed to furrowed (but silent) protest when he said 'they' when it came to real plans to jack the knife. This all shifted to one of uncertain scrutiny overall when William then turned to offer her a formal apology. She cast an uncomfortable glance toward the 'elderly recluse' and back again to Will, who concluded only by pressing on to offer up his place as solo retainer.

"Will..--," was all she managed before she was cut off not by someone continuing their thought this time, but rather by her own sense of good judgment. She chose quiet instead, and turned to regard Arturo Nihm once more when he addressed her directly.

Right off the bat her nose creased, subtle but distinct, with discomfort, a direct response to being addressed as 'Dear'. What followed was listened to raptly all the same. He'd leaned forward to look into her face and her posture wavered-- backward to begin, with the initial urge to retreat along with the discomfort, but ultimately straightening and staying put instead, with a particular Pride born of a shared link and growing familiarity with an Old Goddess who was not accustomed to losing anything.

His attention would shift to include William once more, and the little blood witch's stance eased. She'd glanced anxiously away from the old mage (she presumed, because certainly he was, what else could he be?), toward William, past the other Initiate and to the study doors they'd entered through. Wrang her fingers together enough that the twisting of her wrists felt apparent so she squeezed them tight and still instead.

The conclusion had her biting the inside of her lip and looking highly suspicious. This man had started out with her faith in his character, but the undertones of his bargaining weren't dissimilar from the world he'd cut into the mountain from himself. They put her on edge and made her worried for her freedom. Being boxed into a deal was a worrisome thing, especially now that she knew what weight True Deals could carry.

So, with caution in her voice that she couldn't bleach out no matter how she might try, Margot spoke at last.

"Okay."

Just like how William had begun before.

"Alright. Until this Inez situation is resolved, at least."

And it was next to William that she turned her eyes, frowning in some conflicted manner. "We'll get to redemption another time, okay?"
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#37
Until the Inez situation is resolved. At least.

He seems to nod along, doesn't think the man unreasonable in his requests, considers it a win in its own right, it would seem, if only because he doesn't seem competely bristled and doesn't seem to completely melt on the floor and pretend like this is the worst possible thing that could ever happen to him. There was confirmationa nd denial enough to be interesting.

Plus, William has the good sense to not seem like he's completly enthused about this outcome. Afterall, they didn't get what they'd come for (completely) and he has to drive home with Margot- who he may or may not have screwed over and who may-or-may-not want to talk to him. He casts a glance her way, tries to get a read for how she feels before the fact that he is a twenty-one year old male who is developmentally appropriate sets in and his brain insists that he does not understand things like complicated woman feelings without having to actively focus on them.

"Holmes," he offers, "William Holmes."

He gives the name that matters most to him. That's something, right?

"And I ... uh... look forward to walking your dog and practicing Latin?"
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#38
"Those were jokes, Kid."

Spoken like an southerner, just a faint hint of put on, though the accent isn't great. Arturo cocks a pretend gun and 'fires' a bullet of jest at William before a yawn overtakes him in grandiose fashion; that is to say, he stretches and widens his mouth with obvious and outright abandon, the chair squeaking gently under him in the process.

"Leave your numbers here on my desk. Do not talk to anyone about me, or your meeting here and try to do your best to stay out of trouble, yes?" He glances between the two of them several times, a half smile on his face that looks oddly hopeful, if a bit in denial on this last fact.

"I'm sure you two have some things to discuss amongst yourselves. In the meantime, I'll make the due preparations to fortify as well as begin to put together a list of things you can deal with. We'll start relatively small and work up to the eaves troughs. Those buggers need a good mucking out about now but it'll be a haul."

He pauses, hands on his belly, looking for all the world like that was everything he had to say and they were dismissed. Then-

"As for your education, when next I see you, I want three things from each of you. Not combined. Each." A finger goes up for each item he suddenly lists off:

"Verbal Proof of this 'Other side' you're so invested in."
"Your best answer as to where 'Up' leads to, within said Other side."
"A recipe for how to make a 'Summerland Special'."

Then he nods toward the door leading into the empty hallway that lead to the front door, climbing steadily to his feet to show them the way out.
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