Hearing August’s thrashing and splashing, Minerva decided to forego modesty and rushed through the bathroom door. She saw August’s hands groping at the side of the enormous, rectangular tub while one of his legs kicked and writhed in the air. Seeing his struggle, Minerva didn’t afford herself a chance to think and loosed a bolt of energy that shattered the side of the tub. Water spilled out in a wide arc, and August tumbled out onto the floor, gasping for breath.
“August! August!” shouted Minerva, trying to get some response.
“I’m okay,” said August breathlessly. Minerva grabbed a thick, plush robe and wrapped it around August’s shoulders, embracing him tightly. August felt safe and secure in her arms.
‘What happened?” she asked, heedless of the seeping water and shattered tub. August stood and pointed to the mirror, where an imp sat on the shoulder of his reflection. Its skin was livid like the underside of a corpse that had been laying about. The small, fish-faced creature had a long prehensile tail that wrapped around August’s neck and body. It grinned malevolently, showing gums lined with human teeth.
“A Hex Imp,” observed Minerva, “What did you do to deserve this?”
“Nothing that I know of. Unless… Oh crap!” August grabbed at his foot after stepping on one of the dull plastic shards from the tub. The imp shifted its bulk, sending August off balance and crashing into Minerva. The pair fell to the floor with a subdued splash. For the briefest moment, August realized that his face was pressed against Minerva’s bosom; he quickly got to his feet, swiftly belting the front of his robe closed before offering Minerva a hand.
“I’m sorry,” said August as he helped Minerva to her feet, “So sorry…” His embarrassment quickly mellowed when he saw the gaping hole in the side of the tub. “What did you do?” asked August accusingly. “Did you use your magic to save me?”
Minerva slowly nodded her head, not making eye contact with August. Long ago, she had made a pledge to August that she would not use magic, and she seemed loathed to admit that she broke her vow.
August’s heart hung heavy as an iron block in his chest. He was overwhelmed with emotions, and could only manage to say “Thank you” before tears streamed down his face. The moment lasted briefly; someone rapped on the door. Minerva rushed to open it, leaving August on the floor.
He could hear the hushed conversation. It was one of the staff at the door.
“Is everything all right?” asked the bellhop with a mild French accent, “Room 315 complained about a loud bang that sounded like a cannon. I was going to bring the cot and said I would see if there was something wrong.” Waves of worry lapped at August’s waist, and he felt like he was sinking fast. He imagined the bellhop’s response when he saw the shattered tub.
“The tub ruptured,” responded Minerva honestly. “I don’t know how it happened. There must have been a lot of stress on it recently.” She sounded like she was telling the truth, and her voice gave no hint that she was skirting around the issue.
“Is everyone safe?” asked the bellhop, his concerned voice seeming forced.
“Luckily no one’s hurt.” said Minerva. “There’s a lot of water, but we’re soaking it up with towels. If you can send a custodian, it would be for the best.”
Even in the City of Lights, there was darkness. Danger prowled in the shadows, oblivious of the romantic climate or tourist appeal of Paris. A woman, draped in a shimmering satin dress and woolen shawl sat on a bench behind Notre Dame. Shadows like snakes writhed towards her, wilting flowers as they passed. As they massed together, they rose in a humanoid shape.
“Quaashie, do you still think I went too far?” asked the seated woman is a language that sounded a little like every language on earth, but nothing like any single one. The shadow slowly became substantial, solidifying into the shape of a dark, muscular man. He had no hair on his sleek, ebon body, and his eyes were darker than the deepest pit.
“They are both very strong. They will come and find you. You will not be able to withstand them with your hexes. All the imps of Hell won’t stem the tide of destruction the witch will work if the warlock is killed. The one you set on his is belligerent, and it won’t follow its instructions for long.” Quaashie took in a deep breath of the air; his entire body grew slightly with the inhalation, then shrank with the exhalation. “You play a dangerous game, Tabitha. Most Gypsies don’t open themselves to danger so overtly. Not over something so petty. What aren’t you telling me?”
“My secrets are just that: secret. I will tell when the time is right, but until then…” Tabitha closed her lips tightly, and Quaashie shook his head. “You will continue watching them and report back to me. Keep yourself hidden,” said Tabitha matronly.
“The witch knows that I was following her. There was a man that spotted me in Montmartre, and since then staying hidden from the witch has been taxing.” Quaashie began to dissolve back into the shadows.
“Who was this man?” demanded Tabitha. Before it faded completely. Quaashie’s face distorted in terror. A magically silenced gun shot from a flintlock pistol answered Tabitha’s question and sent Quaashie to the ground in a heap. Mr. Kane looked at the Gypsy like an undertaker estimating the size coffin he should build. His pistol still glowed with a white, eldritch light; arcane symbols carved along its barrel were all ready fading to blackness.
“I know you can understand me, so don’t play dumb. Who are you working for, and why shouldn’t I put you in a hole?” asked Mr. Kane stolidly. Tabitha stepped backwards and threw her shawl into the air, and before Mr. Kane could fire his pistol, she was gone.