#1627

[ The video opens on a room so dark nothing can be seen outside the harsh glow of the computer screen. Sitting in that glow, Daren seems another part of the darkness in the black shirt which covers him to the neck and wrists. Set against that darkness, his skin glows ghostly white. He stares absently off to the side as if he has not noticed the webcam records him. ]

DAREN:

I know what you’re doing. (speaking softly, as if to himself) I told you not to, and yet you persist. You are truly a foolish man.

(sighs and turns to face the screen, looking directly into the camera)

I know you’re here. I can feel you, somewhere in this city. I wonder what you do to pass the time? Do you wander these foreign streets in the hopes of sighting me in the crowd, or finding me in some back alley? Or do you lose yourself in drink and danger, hoping I’ll come to collect you before one of your nightly paramours goes too far?

(lifts his right hand into view, dropping his eyes to watch the little silver blade he weaves between his fingers)

I won’t come, you know. Not tonight, not tomorrow night, or any other night after those. I am not coming. You can’t seem to grasp that concept, which is a pity. You know me. You know I don’t change my mind once I have decided. And this is decided. I am not coming

(turns his eyes back to the camera, lips thinned in the barest scowl)

So instead, you came to me. That wasn’t the agreement. That’s not how this works. Perhaps I wasn’t clear enough on our parting? But your scars should serve as a reminder if your memory fails. (thoughtfully, eyes on the blade again) Not that you can forget me, can you? I’m not an unkind man, though, so I’ll give you one more warning.

(snaps the blade shut and leans toward the camera)

Go home, Tanim. I am not yours to pursue. I left you alive once; I will not again. It would be best to remember that. After all, I keep my promises – even if you do not.

[ Daren rises to his feet and one white hand moves to shut off the webcam. The video ends. ]

#1626

[ The video opens on a smiling Mage seated in a computer chair, her feet propped up on the desk in front of her, fingers steepled beneath her chin. She sits too close to the computer screen for much of the dark room behind her to be glimpsed, but the shadowed items resemble the expected; weapons, armor, occult objects, and monsters that may or may not really be there. ]

MAGE:

Hello, friends. (wiggling fingers at the screen in greeting) You are, I expect, surprised to see me here. It’s true I usually favor more…indirect… means of communication, but this seems best for the task at hand. You see, (frowning) I believe there have been some misconceptions as to my motives in our past interactions, though I of course (placing hand on heart) take all the blame for the confusion.

(lowers legs and leans closer to the screen)

It’s not that we aren’t friends, or that I don’t like you. I do, really. You’re good people, even if you do have awful taste in music. It’s just… (gesturing vaguely at the computer screen) all this? It’s not tenable. I mean, Peter Pan, really? Is that really the fairy tale you want to emulate? The one with the gang of emotionally-stunted anarchist children lead by a predator who brainwashes kids into leaving their loving families to go die for the sake of his personal vendetta?

(mouths “wow” with clear skepticism, then sighs abruptly and gives the screen a sympathetic look)

Look, I get it. I had family problems too. Mother out of the picture, father who just didn’t understand me… it’s practically a cliche. But do you see me whining about how I never got a real childhood and was thrown out into the cold, harsh wilderness to fend for myself? No, (jabbing her finger at the screen) because I’m not a pussy. I didn’t wallow in misfortune, I used it to my advantage! I struck out on my own and made something of myself. A pretty impressive something, too (pointing with both hands to her body appreciatively). So don’t think I don’t understand. I’ve been there, too. I’m not doing this because I hate you. I’m doing this because, well…

(shrugs and throws up her hands as if helpless)

Your little fantasy world has to be destroyed. It’s nothing personal, that’s just the way things are. (waves hand at the computer screen, shaking her head) This world full of fairy dust and fireworks and free hugs and shit, it can’t be allowed to remain. (pointing offscreen) There’s a real world out there that you have to face one day, one full of concrete and pain and growing up–

(smiles widely)

–and I’ve been chosen to show you that world. To plunge you kicking and screaming into it, if I have to. But no hard feelings, right? After all, every story has to have a villain. Aren’t you lucky I’m yours?

[ Mage winks and leans forward to switch off the webcam. The video ends. ]