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Prelude TMN2

Prelude TMN2

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Published by Dalek Dan
the prelude for my novel attempt
the prelude for my novel attempt

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Published by: Dalek Dan on Jul 08, 2011
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07/08/2011

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Prelude – The Magician’s Notebook The magician stared into the mirror.This resting on an antique oak desk against the far wall in a dressing room clutteredwith gizmos, gadgets and party tricks – complete with streamers and slowly deflating balloons. Piles of paper and props filled out any remaining space making manoeuvringwithin a feat worthy of a world class stage magician, or a real wizard if there were anyleft. The desk where he sat was lit by two bronze lamps, swinging lazily overhead, tinyflickers of flame dancing across his shadowed features. A series of small mirrorsreflected this meagre light where he required it, casting dark shadows at odd angleseverywhere else, to spectacular effect. It was an invention he was quite proud of, not theleast for minimising the weakly cost of lamp oil, and he quite liked the atmosphere he'dcreated – rather like that of a warlock's sanctum.At this particular moment in time, the room and he were alike; Normally immaculateand well kept with straight combed hair, he maintained a clean-shaven, almost elfin facethat stretched over high cheekbones and ended in a sharply pointed chin. Dark eyes wereframed by darker brows, of medium thickness that left to their natural shape hinted at hisKutari heritage even if his skin, which was only lightly tanned did not. The imagelooking back was wholly different.Dishevelled curly black hair, clung to his head in matted clumps, stuck there by beadsof sweat. A level of perspiration, unusual for one whose livelihood demanded calm; Anyone of the magician’s more popular tricks could be his last, and very often nearly were.Black smudges under his eyes and deep lines of worry and regret aged him bydecades and denoted a dangerous lack of sleep. And weeks of remaining indoors at alltimes, never venturing out even for the direst of emergencies had left his skin with sickly pallor. None of this concerned him overly much, what did bother him were his eyes – they were old, too old. They weren't his.Still in his twenties and very much in the prime of his life, Zachaias the Amazing performed dozens of shows a year, dazzling audiences of all ages throughout the knownworld. It was admittedly a hectic, often frantic lifestyle and he was often worn out at theend of the season, but the popular performer couldn't remember the last time he'd felt
 
quite so fatigued. Certainly he'd never let himself go before, not like this, stroking hischin, and feeling the coarse hair that lent him the appearance of fierce desert nomad, heattempted half a smile and shook his head. “Perhaps I’ll shave,” he mused, as if that alonewould undo the damage of three sleepless weeks.A knock on the door stirred him but he ignored it, deducing correctly that it was hisnew manager, here to assail him with insincere encouragement, and a too cold or too hotcup of tea (he preferred coffee), or to bore him with the day's figures. A moment or twolater another knock followed, then another, finally he combed his fingers through his hair  – a futile gesture, and called out, “The door is open.”The new manager, a rather rotund man of around fifty with a shiny bald pate and bulldogface opened the door and peered within.
 No bag of flour in my face this time...so far....
“Yes Ralf?”After a moment's hesitation Ralf stumbled over to him with a steaming cup of tea.The portly man considered the young star, and pondered for the briefest time what the previous manager might have done to have warranted the sack. Whatever his misconduct,he thought sadly it couldn't compare to what he was planning, unless of course he'd beenworking for the same crowd. Inevitably this notion conjured up an image of failure andit's stiff penalty, he shuddered. Pushing dark thoughts to the recesses of his mind he said,“Good job today, the routine's coming on nicely.”“What does that have to do with the cup in your hand?” the magician asked drylywithout looking.“Well it's just I thought you could murder a good cup of tea.”
 Did he just flinch.
“Imean, you look well...awful. Trouble sleeping? I could make you a camomile.”Waiting around to see if the performer might reply, the older man hung around amoment more absently tousling a balloon. After several minutes without a word he placed the cup and saucer in front of the showman and left, closing the door behind him.The lad was a wreck, which meant one of several things. One, he suspected what wasreally going on in which case his own life was in very real danger. Two, he was merely pushing himself too hard. Well that couldn't be true, the magician seemed to have lost hisspark and detested practice. Which left three, women. Putting it down to trouble with the
 
'birds,' and seeing this as his last chance to fulfil the contract, Ralf made up his mind upto return after dark when he was out at the local, drowning his misery.A presence stirred, a mist he inhaled without thought, it was something that everyonewho'd been inducted just had to live with. Nothing was free. “We can retrieve it to night.”he projected. “He suspects nothing.” This projection, more to himself, felt hollow and notfor the first time that day he struggled with the icy tendrils of doubt.
This is your last chance, you know what will happen should you fail. 
The thought was not his own.It was not trouble with women. Girls came and went in Zachaias' tumultuous life, feedingoff his fame while his star was still rising and after two marriages, no woman had causedhim any real pain for long. It was the all too real bird sitting atop the mirror which themanager had either ignored or failed to notice that had brought bitter tears to his eyes.The unusually large pigeon or whatever it was, for it defied description, resembling and behaving like no seed eating or predatory bird he'd ever seen, just sat there looking at himwith soul shredding owl-like eyes. Just as it had done the night he had come in to possession of the book.Opening a drawer in his desk he pulled out one of several notebooks, once thick andvoluminous, now slight, raggedy and somewhat short on pages. He had only recentlyacquired this volume, and it had been an endless source of trouble, including three or more attempts on his life. If they were real or imagined he couldn't tell, the pace at whichhe had lost control of his life had been too brutal. In last few weeks, he'd changed venuestwice, sacked the man who'd managed him for years, possibly for no reason and he wascertain that his grip on sanity was beginning to slip. Despite this he was not willing togive up possession of the notebook just yet and certainly not to just anyone. He was, herealised obsessed with its mystery.His desk here, and several shelves at his home were littered with other books, scrolls, parchments and excerpts, even newspaper clippings. Ever since he could afford to be, themagician had been an avid collector of knowledge, an insatiable curiosity the very thingthat kept him going, and he'd acquired tomes of all kinds throughout his career. Theseranged from factual to fictitious, historical to prophetic, archaic and even a few arcane

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