Tessa having finally met her brother accepts his request for her to join him on a walk, thinking she will be able to show him the wonders of New Orleans and convince him to stay a few days. Asthey reach the French Quarter, people there are making preparations for Mardi Gras.
Such a clash of cultures this street, music performers, street artists, rich tourists, vacationing lovers and the spattering of locals making their way through the throngs to havens amid the street. Showcases of Vandun absorb corners drawing glances and gasps from on-lookers. The face paint, the smoke, the snakes, the glimpses of flesh as startling as the glimpses of the Senora controlling the entire scene. Further down the street, a man paints sprawling curls and tendrils of vines and flowers across visitors faces and necks, earning giggles from on-lookers and admiration from his patrons. Horses and carriages wind their way through the French Quarter, honeymooners dance dizzily out of discos and into the streets their lushed voices carrying the last strains of song into the din of noise. Beyond this chaos however, lies a smaller road, closed off by an intricate iron gate, and leading back to an old estate, the view of which is mostly blocked by hedges and trailing wysteria over the iron fence that surrounds it.
Martin follows Tessa down onto the street. "Interesting."
Tessa nods, moving towards the ornate iron gate at the base of the road. "It can be. It draws people from all over."
"Would you miss it, were you to leave?" He asks after a moment.
Tessa's head cants to the side, then she shakes it. "Mardi Gras is an experience once. Fun, perhaps, a few times. But I have lived here for three decades now. There are other places for me to see."
"You have lived here all your life then?"
Tessa nods, pausing at the gate to press a series of buttons that lets the heavy piece of iron slide back. "I spent four years away at college, but I never really left here."
As the gate slides open, Martin steps out. "Then you have no ties, nothing to keep you here, no one to miss you?"
Tessa stills, her brow wrinkling. "I have no ties left. There are those who may miss me but none who would begrudge me the gift of travel." she smiles faintly, looking aside. "My mother would have wanted me to find my family."
Martin sets off at a stroll along the sidewalk. "What you want and what you get, however.." he says, not quite smiling.
Tessa hastens her pace to match yours. "Do I have other family?" she flushes faintly, following the query quickly. "Not that a brother isn't wonderful, but I always wanted a big family."
He's a while answering that. Then, "Yes. There are others. Our father was the youngest of several brothers."
Tessa pauses, a smile spreading quickly. "So I have cousins? And aunts and uncles? With Christmas dinners? And birthdays parties and christenings and weddings and all the things that families do." The last seems to be said more to herself, reminiscent of a child's wishes.
Martin glances sidelong at Tessa with a quirked brow. "...perhaps," he answers slowly. "This way," he says then when they reach the corner, and he turns away from the street.
Tessa keeps up, pausing at the corner to look about. "Did you want to see the lower side of the French Quarter?"
"I thought we might go this way," he says in reply. "Tell me about this part of your city."
She smiles, chatting softly. "This is the older part of the city we're heading towards, far more run-down. It could be beautiful again but the cost..." she shakes her head. "And now it has become home to the Vandun and no realtor of New Orleans would dare foreclose upon it. Instead it harbors it's own deadly beauty. Loose, and rotting boards are not all one needs to shy away from here."
As they walk, a cool wind gusts along the street, carrying the scent of wisteria and old wood upon it. "You are familiar with this area?" Martin asks, considering his surroundings with something close to interest.
Tessa flushes slightly. "Well... sort of. As children we used to dare each other to walk through here."
Ahead, the pavement shimmers with an odd, twinkling light. The streets seem quiet, deserted, around here. "And did you?" he asks, looking to Tessa.
Tessa nods, laughing. "I did. And upon a dare I even strode up to the Senora's house and offered her flowers." she shakes her head, still amused. "Children do foolish things."
From a sidestreet comes the faint clop-clopping of a horse, accompanied by the creak of the trap it pulls, heading away.
"They're not the only ones," Martin murmurs.
Tessa laughs again. "Too true." she says as she wraps her cloak tighter about her. "As it was, the Senora was very kind."
Martin says nothing for a time, except to suggest taking a particular turning now and again.
Tessa just follows along. Making mention of a few houses, then quieting.
Overhead, the clouds take on a yellowish hue, covering the sky, and the distincetive smell of horseshit in the streets fades, replaced by the cold tang of ozone and water. On either side, the grand houses fall away into dark, boarded up derelicts. Ahead, the street opens up. Somehow, they're approaching the river.
Tessa pauses in her steps, frowning slightly. "A storm?" she queries, shaking her head slightly.
Martin doesn't answer, glancing once around him, then heading out across the deserted road. There's a wide promenade there, running the length of the river, with Victorian-style lamp-posts that've seen better days.
Beyond is a wide dark river that may be the Mississippi, or may be not. It's growing dark, but where Algiers should be there are no lights, just a darkening silhouette of distant buildings.
Tessa's frown deepens. "I don't think I've ever come this far in the city." Her eyes narrow slightly and her lips purse.
"It's not quite your city," Martin answers after a while, as he looks out across the river.
Tessa's eyes widen suddenly. "What do you mean it's not my city? We can't have walked that far." and she lowers her gaze to the face of her watch, flicking it with a finger and then lifting it to her ear.
"We didn't," he says, setting off to where an old monument of marble and bronze stands. A weird yellow light settles on the scene like the glow from a neon twilight.
Tessa stills, setting her feet firmly upon the ground and crossing her arms. "This isn't New Orleans. Where are we?"
"Isn't it?" Martin says over his shoulders as he reaches the monument. "As you yourself observed, we did not come all that far from your house."
Tessa's voice is softer, with a disgruntled tone. "I've lived in New Orelans for thirty years. I've spent all of it in that house. We couldn't have gotten to the river walking the way we did. The Mississippi is the other direction. I'm not lost." she says, shaking her head. "This isn't New Orleans."
"So where are we?" Martin asks.
She frowns. "That's what I asked you."
A flock of bats flutter by in the gloom over the river, their shrill cries almost audible in the stillness.
He shrugs, restates his question. "Where do you think we are?"
Her smile is faint "Second star to the right and straight on 'till morning?"
Martin pauses a moment to consider this, a corner of his mouth pinching into a faint smile. "Something like that."
Tessa nods once, then looks skyward. "So..." she kicks at the ground with her shoe, stirring up dirt. "What now?"
Martin leans against the monument, arms folded, his gaze drifting back towards Tessa. Part of his long coat falls aside to reveal a sabre that probably wasn't there when they left the house. "I have an obligation to fulfill," he says. "If you wish it, I will bring you to our father's house."
Tessa's mouth closes, and she catches her bottom lip between her teeth a moment before speaking. "Okay."
Martin raises an eyebrow. "I do not think you entirely understand," he says. "You know no other life but this one. All these things you expect and depend on, you will not have them." "And ours," he adds. "Is not a kind family."
Tessa's brow crinkles. "All my life I had only my mother. Then I had nothing. Suddenly I had a father and then again I had nothing." She looks away pulling the cloak tighter about her shoulders. Her voice is muddled some after a few deep breaths. "Then you arrive. A brother. -My- brother. A gift I never dreamed of receiving. You tell me I have family elsewhere. And you." She turns again, frowning still. "And you think I will choose to go back to nothing again?"
"Nothing? No." He says. "You have a successful... enterprise here." He stumbles briefly over an unfamiliar word, or concept, continues. "You are well cared for, respected, and safe. You have nothing to be afraid of, no one to fear. If I return and say nothing of your existence, you will remain safe. How is this nothing?"
Tessa lets her head fall back and she laughs. "A successful enterprise."
she shakes her head. "I inherited more money than a god could spend. I
teach all day, every day because it keeps me from remembering that I'm
alone." Her eyes fix on yours and she takes a few steps towards you. "I
have only the memories of child watching another family and wishing it
could be hers. My caretakers do what they do for money, not for love of
me. If you leave tonight and I never see you again, you say I will be
Her eyes narrow further. "I say I will be alone. Again. And always."
The wind picks at Martin's hair, and he pushes the stray strands back behind an ear. "What you're looking for, you won't find it with us," he says levelly. "Our family is neither kind nor gentle. Not like what you see on your television. We do not forgive failure, nor will we tolerate foolishness. It will not be easy for you."
Tessa nods and sighs, crossing her arms. "Why did you come here Martin? Was it for me? Or for you?" Her head lowers, and her finger make a fist and then release it. "I thought, when you first came it was to bring me home. Now I don't know what to think."
"I'm giving you a chance," which is more than anyone else in the family will do for you." He goes on. "There will be no electric lights, no radio, no automobiles, no telephone. Can you comprehend a life without such things?"
She pulls back slightly, startled. "Where the hell do you all live?"
Martin looks around him. "Second star to the right, and straight on 'til morning," he repeats her words without the slightest trace of irony.
Tessa nods once. "Where are your tights?"
She smiles. "Your tights flyboy. If we're off to never-neverland you need tights. And I need a pesky bug to sprinkle dust on me."
Martin considers Tessa over the top of his dark glasses. "Never-neverland," a smile quirks a corner of his mouth. "An interesting name for it, though perhaps not entirely apt." Then, "Take a look around you, Tessa. Tell me where your home lies. And do you believe that mine lies anywhere near it?"
"Home is where the heart is. My home resides upon the dance floor, for it is only there that I find myself. Location is immaterial. It is the dance that matters."
Martin just shakes his head. After an amused silence, he asks "Have you ever held a blade, Tessa? Have you killed?"
Tessa just stares at the sword at your side. "No." she says simply.
Martin nods once, as though he'd been expecting that. Quietly, he says, "Our father was the least of his brothers, Tessa. And he had few friends among them. I've earned my place there *despite* being his bastard. If you come back with me," he pauses, then, "I don't know how well I can protect you."
Tessa's eyes soften. "You would protect me?" she whispers softly.
Martin regards Tessa with little expression. "You are my sister," he answers simply.
Tessa smiles faintly again, and walks towards you. "And you are my brother."
Martin shakes his head again. "There is no place for sentimentality, Tessa."
She smiles kindly. "Then let me express it here and leave it behind."
"As you wish," he shrugs. His shoulders seem to sag a little, and he does not look up.
Tessa stretches, up on tiptoe and gently brushes her lips against your cheek, before lowering and taking a step back. "Thank you." she says softly. "I wanted a brother all through childhood. I wanted someone to hug me when I came home. It means a lot to finally have one."
Martin snorts softly, skeptically. When he lifts his his gaze, there's a worn, tired smile on his features. "Didn't anyone ever tell you, 'be careful what you wish for'?" He raises an open hand to her, inviting.
Tessa smiles, almost shyly, as color suffuses her cheeks. "I was careful. I wished for an older brother. One I could talk to. And one who would someday come and rescue me from dragons." She smiles again, biting her lip. "I was young." she extends her hand to yours.
Martin hehs, and clasping her hand, tugs her forward into a tentative, almost shy, embrace. "Dragons, huh," he chuckles. "I'll have to see what I can arrange."
Tessa sighs softly as she nearly buries her face against your chest. "I want to go with you Martin. I know I'd regret it if I didn't." Her shoulders shake slightly, as she chuckles. "And if you ask nicely I'll let you tell me that 'you told me so' like any protective brother would."
Martin sighs, exasperated and resigned. "Wish in one hand..." he mutters, shrugs, and holds his sister close. "Have it your way," he says very softly.
Tessa squeezes you tighter. "Thank you. I think it's what father would have wanted."
Martin makes a non-committal noise, as he starts to unwrap Tessa's arms from around him. "Mm. Can you ride?"
"Ride?" she says, catching her lip with her teeth again. "Like a horse?"
"..Yes?" Martin replies uncertainly.
She swallows. "I have." Her lips quirk. "Once."
"Once," he repeats. "Ah, well."
Tessa straightens. "I'll learn." Tessa nods her head firmly.
"No doubt," he says as he pushes himself away from the monument. "Shall we go then?"
Tessa inhales deeply, then nods. "Yes." she lets her gaze flick around. "Is it very far?"
"As far as the bird flies," he says, setting off along the promenade.
Tessa hrms. "Are we driving? I have a car." Tessa pauses then, her eyes darkening. "Though I wouldn't know how to find it now."
"No, it won't take us there anyway," he chuckles softly. Looking back over his shoulder, he says, "Coming?"
Tessa nods, lifting her skirt so it doesn't catch as she hurries up to you. "Are you going to find us horses?"
"Not exactly," he says, strolling along, hands in pockets. "First, we're going to pick up my horse. If it looks like you can handle him, we'll find you one as well."
Tessa wraps her arms about her middle as she walks. "Where did you leave him?"
Martin considers. "Near a place called Albany, in New York."
Tessa stops in her tracks. "You -walked- from Albany to here?"
"No, we walked from your house to here," Martin corrects. "I flew from New York to Louisiana, and spent a good few days just wandering around." "Interesting place," he remembers to add, out of politeness.
Tessa chuckles softly. "So it is. So how are we getting to Albany?"
"It's not far," he says.
"It's two thousand miles."
"Is it?" he says with a grin, strolling along unhurriedly. "Didn't know that."
There is a pause, then she hurries to closethe distance between you and her hand catches at your arm. "Martin. What are you?"
Martin turns and regards Tessa with a look of mild rebuke. "Your brother." A pause, and the faintest of smiles, "Perhaps you should have thought to ask that question before."
Tessa nods. "I should have, but I don't often encounter brothers who can make the sky change color." she smiles, faintly. "It was a bit of a shock."
Martin glances up at the sky. "Some of the others used to do that when they were children, as a game," he comments. "It's something you'd better get used to."
Tessa is silent for a long moment. "How?" She waits a moment longer. "Can I?"
Martin continues walking. "If you live long enough, maybe."
Tessa nods once. "Alright. Any tips on how to do the latter?"
Once again the sidewalks glitter palely, in the corners of vision, and the yellow light of the lurid clouds shift to a different part of the spectrum. "That depends on you," he says after a while. "It all depends on you."
Tessa nods again. "Then I'll learn."
"Martin." she says softly. "How old are you?"
The setting sun colors the clouds scarlet and orange, throwing a coral glow over the derelict buildings, the abandoned streets. A breeze pushes the cover page of a broadsheet across their path, yellowed and dirtied, with headlines in Spanish.
"Old enough," he answers. "Why do you ask that?"
She shrugs. "Just curiosity really. You don't look very old. Perhaps barely as old as I."
"Don't trust in appearances," he says. "And you are not so very old."
Tessa chuckles softly. "Good man."
Up ahead, the river narrows at a bend, and a bridge spans the gap to the tree-covered land on the other side. The buildings begin to occur further back from the street, and perhaps that's why the evening doesn't seem as dark as it did before.
Martin says nothing more as he heads towards the bridge.
Tessa falls quiet, just watching your back and following you.
As they cross the bridge, the four o'clock sunlight streams yellow and bright, and the coffe-brown river below moves sluggishly along. Ahead, a road continues from the bridge into what appears to be an old park, with centuries-old fig-trees and oaks.
Tessa just watches in half disguised shock. Then she quickens her pace. "Is it magic?"
"It'a kind of magic," Martin admits after a time. "It's our birthright."
"Birthright." she says softly, then falls quiet again.
"Yours is the blood of Random, same as mine," he says, by way of explanantion. "When the time comes to prove yourself, we'll see how much of his daughter you are."
Now and again, the road seems to sparkle, and as they enter the cool shade amongst the trees, the subtle scents of the trees and grass and earth shift to those of a wood different from the one that was entered, and the road gradually fades underfoot into a dirt-track.
Tessa's brow arches slightly, and she smiles. "So you will."
Martin flicks a glance at Tessa, doesn't comment. He starts looking among the trees, searching. Then, "What was he like?"
"What was who like?" she asks softly, stepping carefully in the dirt.
There is a moment of hesitation, of reluctance. "Random," he says.
"Oh." she says, her voice hushed. "He was..." she pauses, as if searching for the perfect comment. "Infuriating. He showed up out of nowhere and pushed himself into my life for a night. Then disappeared. Then he showed up again and repeated the act." She is quiet again for a moment, then drawls softly. "He was an amazing dancer though. He has great presence upon the floor."
"A dancer?" Martin says. "Yes, I suppose he would be." After a pause, he adds, "As for the rest of it, that sounds a lot like him. I thought he might have- mm, I suppose not."
"He might have what?" Tessa queries, her head canting to the side.
"..changed," Martin mutters. "It was too much to hope for, I guess. Ah," he says then. "Over there."
Tessa's head cocks slightly. "Changed from what?" she shakes her head. "I don't see how I could tell you if he had or not. I knew him for a day at most. And the papers he left me weren't personal."
Martin starts to head off one side of the track, pauses instead. "He left you papers?"
Tessa nods, pausing a moment after you. "A whole stack. Tapes too."
Martin frowns, prompting "..of?"
She shrugs, almost non-commitaly. "This dialect. He called it Thari. There were all kinds of texts in it, and tapes. I figured he wanted me to learn it so I could speak it when I visited him at the Embassy."
Martin relaxes again after a moment. "They told you of nothing else?"
She shrugs. "They mentioned mythos, various songs, some world under the sea. A great stairway on this Mountain. Lots of fairy tale sorts of things."
Martin resumes his path. "Did the stories mention a King? And his quarrelsome sons?"
Tessa nods. "Briefly. Are they a large part of your mythos?"
"Not exactly," Martin says with a smile. Up ahead, a gray stallion looks up from the grass, and whickers happily. "Hi, friend," he greets the horse. To Tessa, he says "Something else you should probably get used to: your father was one of those quarrelsome Princes."
Tessa's eyes widen. "My father is a prince?" She waits a bit then nods. "That explains the manners."
Martin walks up to where the stallion's reins have been loosely knotted around a low branch, and rubs its nose affectionately. "No, he behaved that way because he was a louse. But yes, Random's a Prince."
She frowns. "Why didn't he tell me?"
Martin shrugs, as he fishes an apple out of a pocket and feeds it to the horse. "I said he was a louse, didn't I. Random's about as noble as a rat's hind end. Learn that, and everything else about him starts making sense."
"But... he's our father."
Martin looks up at Tessa. "So..?"
She sighs softly. "My naivete is showing again I suppose. Parenthood doesn't equate canonization as I well know. I will have to get to know him as he is. Not as I wish him to be."
Martin shakes horse-slobber off his hand before wiping it dry on his trousers. "He's a womaniser, murderer, and an unreliable fink. About the only good thing anyone can say of him is no one's caught him cheating at cards, and he's generally considered too spineless to be a real threat to anyone. That's about it."
Tessa frowns slightly. "He's an amazing dancer. Fun to follow, generous, parasympathetic really. He made me laugh, and he managed to make me feel better upon my loneliest day. He may be all those things you say Martin. But he's more."
"Perhaps," Martin unwinds the reins from the branch as the horse chomps noisily on the last of its apple. "But I have also lived with the knowledge of who he is all my life, Tessa. And I know this: he *is* charming to women, when it suits him. Afterwards is a different matter."
"Do you hate him?"
Martin chuckles. "Lir knows I'm not his greatest admirer," he admits. "But, no, I do not hate him. It has grown too late for hating."
"Why?" she asks softly. "What happened between you two?"
"Mm," Martin demurs. "Those are matters between him and I, and I don't think they're likely to be resolved any time soon. So." Bringing the horse forward to Tessa, he says "His name's Farrand, by the way", introducing it to her. "He's usually an agreeable fellow."
Tessa nods, stepping towards the horse, her hand outstretched and cupped. "He's beautiful."
Farrand, a large iron-gray stallion dappled with lighter shades of gray, tosses his mane, clearly enjoying the attention.
Tessa leans forward and pets the horse, gently stroking about the ears and murmuring soft phrases in a foreign dialect. "He is lovely." she says then, turning back to Martin. "Does Farrand mean anything?"
"Iron," Martin answers. "He doesn't rust much, however."
She laughs softly, rubbing Farrand's nose. "Iron, huh. You don't look so very much like iron. Much too sleek."
Farrand makes a deep harrumphing sound at Tessa's comment.
The scene is cut here due to timing reasons, but apparently Farrand forgave Tessa her comment and allowed her to attempt riding. And the pair wandered off.