Saturday, October 8, 2011

Insert Eloquent Society Lady Here

A loud series of clanging noises reverberated through the billions of stacked bookshelves that littered the Library Arcanium's corridors and reading rooms. The Anti-Cliche and Mary-Sue Elimination Society members who were present in the briefing room grinned as the voice of their ever loud Operations Leader echoed throughout the halls.

"Bring out you flames!"


Tash was striding into the large briefing room that the Society held meetings in, with a small red wagon in tow (the very same wagon Aster often stole to cart her beloved manga volumes around). She held her staff in one hand, and what looked like a cattle bell in the other, and between each of her yells, she clanged the end of her staff hard against the bell.

"Bring out your flames!"


Several Society agents scurried out of their seats, carrying pieces of what looked like flaming parchment with them, which they hastily threw into the wagon, clearly glad to be rid of them. The pile of flames was not that big, however they burnt brightly in the dimly lit corridor, and were apparently hot enough to scorch some of the member's fingers.

"Bring out your flames!"

"That's all of them!" Miriku announced, prodding some of the flaming parchment back with her staff where it had been making a bid for freedom.

"What exactly do you do with those Tash?" Michael asked curiously. He and Claire were sharing one of the large leather executive chairs, and he had not noticed that his girlfriend was twirling a pink ribbon between her fingers with a thoughtful expression on her face.

"I put them in my Filing Cabinet of No Return," Tash informed them, throwing the bell into her bag and shouldering her staff.

"After the briefing is over," Harriet informed her sternly. Tash saluted her.

"Yes ma'am!"

She plonked herself in the seat on the leader's left, with Miriku squeezing in around the table between Michael and Jess.

"Okay," Harriet took a deep breath. "The team rotas," a fist full of papers appeared in the leader's face, and she took them from her grinning blonde subordinate, without a word. "Will be outside my office Everyone please check them. We have one mission so far for today unless any spring up suddenly. Jess -"

The leader turned toward the agent, who was currently trying to wrestle her large purple handbag back under the table – it appeared to be putting up a very good fight. Jess looked up at Harriet's address, and the leader tried to ignore the sinister hissing that was coming from the handbag.

"Any luck with your little houseguest?"

Jess pulled a face. "I wouldn't call Leonard a 'houseguest'. And it was going well until this morning when he managed to grab the book I was reading him and eat it..."

The other agents gave her looks that were mixed between pity and awe. Jess had taken it upon herself to train the demented conjoined twin that had hitchhiked his way in her bag from the X-Files fandom, so far with limited success. She was determined however to rehabilitate him with a steady stream of chick lit and Nightwish played on a continuous loop.

"Well there's no rush," Tash assured her. "But you may want to leave him when we go on our next mission." She fixed her with a look. "We've tracked Alina to the Luxe fandom, and he'll attract way too much attention there."

"The Luxe fandom?" Adrian butted in, all too familiar with that name – his girlfriend's face was routinely hidden behind those books when he wanted attention and a bit of loving. "Aren't those the books with the really frilly dresses on the front covers?"

"The books with all the ruffles," Tash nodded. "Yup that's them."

"What good is she going to find there?" Miriku asked. "That book is just scandal filled chick lit. It's not like there are any cool powers for her to get her hands on in the fandom."

"Maybe not," Tash said, springing to the defence of one of her favourite books. "But we still need to get her out of there. Particularly since the fourth book is due out in a few months."

She pulled out one of her sheets of paper and scanned it. "There's a party to be held at Leland Bouchard's home to celebrate his return from his trip to Europe. I've already written our party onto the guest list with a Plot Device..."

She turned to Jess, who could already see the question on the leader's lips. "Jess I was hoping you'd come with me."

"Sure," Jess nodded. "If she's attending parties and winning over the men, you can't go alone."

"Good," Tash nodded. "If its a big party, the more people we have the better."

She turned to Harriet, who immediately put her hands up in defence.

"Sorry Tash, I have a date tonight-"

"I know," Tash nodded, smiling. "I wasn't going to ask. I was just going to see if you had any suggestions for a replacement?"

Harriet scanned the table, her eyes lingering on each of the girls, and mentally checking with Tash's rota for the week to see who was free. A devious grin suddenly worked its way onto her face, which sent chills down everyone's spines.

"I think Miri should go," Harriet declared, and everyone's heads swung round to look at the small red haired agent, who suddenly shrank in her seat.

"But I don't know anything about the fandom!" Miriku protested.

"Its not that hard," Tash assured her. "Its just 1900 in upper class New York. Just behave like you're rolling in money." She ran a finger down her checklist. "And it doesn't clash with any of your duties, so I think its a good idea!"


"You really should get out of the Library," Michael told his sister, who shot him a look that indicated he was not helping.

"I really-"

"You haven't been on a mission in ages either Miri," Claire reminded her. "Not since we had to drag Michael out of Avatar."

Her boyfriend looked sheepish, but Claire was too busy clapping her hands suddenly, a wide grin on her face.

"And you'll look so cute in a dress!"

"Then its settled!" Tash said happily, pencilling in Miriku's name on her sheet. "I'll print out the briefs for all three of us, and then we can get ready immediately!"

"Wait!" Miriku wailed. "What dresses?"

Tash, Jess and Claire smirked, and Miriku gulped as the three descended on the American girl and frog-marched her towards the door.


"Y'know... I kinda feel sorry for Miriku," Michael admitted, three hours later.

It was clear from the noise emitting from behind the closed doors that something major was going on. The four girls had vanished immediately after the meeting, and from within, the random sounds of yelping, pained groans and humming machinery could be clearly heard.

"D'you think Claire is enjoying herself?" Marcus asked idly, flicking through a book with no real goal other than to distract himself. Adrian was observing the door quietly, though he started every time he heard someone give a cry.

"Yes," Michael answered immediately. "Immensely."

He rubbed his scalp where he had been forced to tug out a large pink bow from his hair not a few hours ago. There was a loud screech from the room, and all the boys turned their heads in alarm.

"What is going on in there?" Adrian demanded.

"Claire said something about corsets," Michael remembered, and on cue, all the boys pulled identical faces, and thanked every God above that they were male and didn't have to suffer so.

There was a bang from one of the doors behind them, and the strangest sight emerged. It appeared to be a large, moving amount of dark purple satin, ruffling out to an impressive span across the floor. It took the three young men, all of thirty seconds to realise that Jess was somewhere within the impressive amounts of material, and as she backed out of the door, it became clear that the cloud of purple was in fact a dress.

The ruffles of the skirt ended at her waist, and the bodice was simple, leaving all the attention to her arms, where the material gathered in more ruffles, leaving most of her collar on display. Jess had her arms folded and appeared to be lecturing someone in her room.

"You stay in the cage and you will behave while I am out!... don't look at me that way Leonard, you are not coming with me! I left sugar almonds for you – you will be fine!"

And with that she slammed the door, rubbing her face with her right hand. In her left she carried her handbag, and a pair of black silk gloves. On closer inspection, she was also wearing her aramanth flower necklace, and her hair was impeccably straightened.

"Leonard isn't taking well to being away from his habitat?" Marcus asked. Jess shook her head, her hair brushing her shoulders as she did.

"He's worried I won't bring it back," she admitted, shaking her bag, which rattled ominously.

"You look good," Adrian said, nodding at Jess's dress. The disgruntled brunette sighed.

"I wanted a tighter corset," she said. "But Tash said any more cleavage and we'd never be allowed in to the party."

Sure enough, the corset did a good job of emphasising Jess's highly impressive bust. But even the three male agents knew that in 1900 there was a fine line between fashionable and slutty, and Jess was already treading firmly on it.

"You could lose a hand down your cleavage, Jess," came Tash's voice from the slowly opening door. She too wore a dress, but hers was a dark shade of red silk, and emphasised her waist and shoulders, drawing attention away from her chest. The skirt was not ruffled, however the bodice material had been gathered into swirl shapes all over it, creating ruffles there instead. Her hair had been coaxed into loose curls and she had a pair of white silk gloves rather like Jess's own. Also like Jess, she too seemed to have been wedged uncomfortably into a corset, making her look too skinny to be healthy.

" Claire succeeded in making you look more like Satan's helper than you usually do," Marcus quipped. Tash tilted her head to the side and gave him a look.

"I am Satan's helper," she told him, causing everyone to stare.

"Where's Miri?" Michael asked, looking at Tash's skirt, as though he expected his little sister to pop out from underneath – which given the volume of fabric, was entirely possible.

"Back here," came Miriku's voice from behind the heavy doors. "And back here is where I'm staying!"

This declaration obviously did not have the desired effect, as there was the sound of a pushing, and Miriku stumbled into the hall way.

She wore a dark blue dress, the skirt of which, was ruffled like Jess's, only the fabric appeared to be silk with a chiffon overlay – making the ruffles look more crinkly rather than the smooth ones on Jess's skirt. The bodice was tight, with white trimming, and the neckline exposed most of her shoulders. Her hair, which normally sat in a frizzy red mass on her head, had been straightened and brushed, and her glasses had been replaced by her contact lenses. She was moving rather awkwardly, especially as everyone's jaws dropped open. For Miri, who normally wore big t-shirts, to see her wearing something this tight was quite a feat...

"You have boobs!" Jess squealed, pointing at the aforementioned body parts. "Two of them!"

Miriku rolled her eyes. "Yeah, it was buy one get one free... honestly Jess! I worry about you sometimes!"

Behind her, Claire was smirking, tape measure over her shoulders, and a slightly worn expression on her face. She had clearly had to fight long and hard to get Miriku into that dress. Michael drifted to her side and hugged her.

"You're gorgeous, talented, smart, funny, and you got my sister in a huge dress. I love you baby," he said, kissing her softly. "Now if only you had a dress too..."

"You guys had better get going," Adrian stated, his eyes drifting over Tash. The leader placed her hands on her hips.

"Adrian, my face is up here," she informed him, causing the Librarian to blush, as his eyes snapped to the right level.

"Okay, are we all armed?" Jess asked, waving her handbag, which rattled again. Both her fellow agents nodded.

"Where are you hiding your weapons anyway?" Michael asked.

"No place you wanna know about, dear brother," Tash assured him, before waving a hand at Jess. "Jess hon, hide your bag."

With a sigh of regret, the large purple handbag was placed under the volumes of purple skirt. Tactfully, no one asked where it had gone, and Jess immediately opened a Plot Hole. Miriku gave Michael a hug.

"Don't make me go," she whimpered. "I have a bad feeling about this..."

"That's the corset," Claire assured her with a smile. Michael chuckled.

"You'll be fine," he said. "Now go kick some Sue butt."

The three broke apart to see Jess disappearing through the Plot Hole, and Tash being hugged by the Librarian.

" were joking when you said you were Satan's helper, right?" Adrian asked, a tone of worry in his voice. Tash allowed herself to smirk.

"Who do you think Harriet really is?"


No matter the occasion, Leland Bouchard's music room was always a fine place for a ball, with its twenty five foot high vaulted ceiling, polished parquet floor and the walls panelled with murals. The north end of the room held an equally impressive row of high, classically proportioned windows, and moonlight gleamed through the glass and onto the party, which had been in full swing for some time now.

It was the ballroom dancing that Alina Albina Sara Renata Sona Jolana Corvin observed tonight – though of course in this fandom, she was not called that. She had adapted her name for the purpose of elegance, and also because her first name was too close to that of a canon character in this fandom. She sighed and fanned herself to alleviate the heat that had worked its way into her cheeks, as New York's wealthiest and most eligible young men eyed her from the other side of the room.

She couldn't blame them, for she was a sight to behold – the talk of the town – with her long chestnut brown hair, which was elegantly curled tonight. Her dress was a vibrant shade of gold, and the skirt was ruffle-less, flowing out in a smooth wave of duchess satin behind her, the bodice conforming to her slim waist, a small silvery flower made of the finest silk resting at the point of the v-shaped neckline. Her eyes, once a vibrant blue in the Underworld fandom, had returned to their usual deep, mysterious shade of brown.

Oh yes, she was the most popular subject of the evening, this mysterious newcomer. She was from the best sort of family, polite, well raised, and highly thought of in the short time since she had arrived in town. She generated more surprise than Henry Schoonmaker's sudden decision to go to war not a few months ago, more mystery than society up and comer Carolina Broad, and more ambition than Penelope Schoonmaker (nee Hayes).

Alina smirked – a lot had changed since she had arrived in this fandom not a few months ago. Henry Schoonmaker had returned from war (the author of this particular fanfiction had conveniently left Diana Holland to wonder the army ranks searching for her lover) and immediately fell head over heels for the newcomer, and this time managing to keep his affections secret from the prying eyes of his wife. Penelope suspected attraction, but felt no threat from the newcomer – how could she when she was just as devious, and such a good friend to have around when one wanted the best gossip? Even Carolina felt no animosity towards the mysterious young woman, despite the fact that her love interest Leland Bouchard, had been seeking Alina out to dance with since his return instead of her.

More than that though, Carolina was privy to the Sue's tragic past. She too had been in the service of an upper class lady – the beautiful heiress to the Foxblade family – though not as a maid, more of an assistant. She had escaped when her mistress had fallen from power, and lost everything. Now Alina was free to enjoy life as she wished...and boy was she enjoying it.

"Miss Sinclair?" Alina fanned herself harder as she heard her alias being called nearby. She turned her upper body in the direction of the voice. It was Leland Bouchard, the party host, and as usual he appeared to be in a state of permanent excitement. Alina treated him to a dazzling smile.

"Mister Bouchard," she simpered. "This is a splendid party. I must thank you for inviting me." She dropped her voice to an embarrassed whisper. "And for dancing with me... it was so sweet of you."

Leland blushed slightly. He had not felt this kind of happiness around a woman fact he was having trouble placing the last woman he had had this kind of fun with. He was sure she was the one for him. She was the subject of desire for all the other men. Even Henry Schoonmaker, who was married now, had been caught eyeing her up.

A crowd of young ladies passed behind them, giggling behind their fans, and Leland felt the strangest sensation – the lightest touch on his back, and suddenly, his vision seemed to clear, and his mind felt as though it had been relieved of a bad state of intoxication. He had no idea what he was doing talking to this woman, and he was suddenly overcome by the strongest urge to find Carolina and dance with her – he had missed her so much during his absence.

"Excuse me," he nodded at his guest, before turning and sprinting off to find the girl of his dreams.

A frown crossed Alina's perfect face – something odd was going on, and she didn't like it.

Across the hall, Tash and Jess, arm in arm like two friends should be at this kind of party, sidled through the door to the ladies parlour, settling down on the oyster coloured sofa, next to Miriku. The red head looked mildly tired, and was fanning herself, but she managed to smile as her friends appeared.

"I was looking for you two," she said, affecting a British accent to match their cover story (the three girls were sisters who had met Leland in England, with Tash pretending to be married so that she could be the chaperone). Miriku dropped her voice and whispered as the girls sat down. "I managed to Copyright Penelope."

In fact it hadn't been hard – Miriku was finding walking in these shoes and in such a tight dress terribly difficult, and she had stumbled as she had passed the dark haired wife of Henry Schoonmaker. Penelope had given her such a dark look, but this had quickly been eclipsed by the effects of the Copyright taking over, and Miriku had hastily blurted an apology, before heading to the ladies room. Upon reappearing, Penelope hadn't appeared to notice her, and had gone back to talking with her mother in law, Isabelle.

"And we got Carolina, and Leland on our way in here," Jess assured her. "Alina might be gorgeous, but her flirting attempts could have come off better."

She affected the Sue's high pitched voice. "Such a splendid party Leland. My eyelashes are all a flutter!"

She gave a snort that most of the women in the parlour would have considered unladylike, and she looked surprised when neither Miri nor Tash laughed. Both of their gazes were fixed just over Jess's shoulder, at the door leading to the ballroom.

Alina was crossing the floor quickly, her eyes fixed on the small group of women that included Penelope. Cutting herself smoothly into the circle, she simpered to the rest of the group.

"Excuse me ladies, could I borrow my dear friend Penelope for a moment?"

The ladies looked surprised, but looked perfectly prepared to back away, until Penelope gave a slight shake of her head, sending glossy dark hair bouncing around her throat. She wore a dress of deep magenta which hugged her figure well, and her face, normally so knowing and slightly haughty, now fixed the Sue with a penetrating look.

"I do not know, Miss Sinclair, when I gave you the impression that we were friends enough to steer me away from such an important conversation. Surely if you were really my friend you would know better."
The three Society agents, keeping their heads low so as not to attract attention, exchanged looks of glee, and barely restrained themselves from bursting out laughing, as Alina seemed to inflate, realising that her usual amount of Sueish powers were not working suddenly, and she flounced to the ladies room, utterly humiliated.

"Ballroom?" Tash barely managed to choke out.

"Definitely," Miriku snickered, knowing full well that in the noisy room full of music and dancing high class society, their laughter would go relatively unnoticed.


Half an hour later, Alina had yet to reappear, and all three girls were getting worried.

Tash rubbed a finger along the plain, platinum band which was serving as her wedding ring, for the sake of their cover story, and wondered idly if anyone would ever give her a band like this for real – with meaning attached to it. She blushed heavily as Adrian's face swam into her mind, and she fanned herself hard for worry that she might faint – her corset was certainly not making her sudden light headedness any easier.

"Your face has gone really really red," Miriku observed, swirling a flute of champagne in her left hand, pinches of colour in her own cheeks. She was not drinking, for which Tash was very grateful. She was sure Miriku would be a lightweight, and champagne was about as intoxicating as you could get for your first drink without downing shots of vodka.

Miriku's eyes, barely missing a beat, skimmed over the wedding band on Tash's finger, before returning to her still pink face. She summed up the situation immediately. "You're thinking about Adrian, aren't you?"

Tash blushed further and fanned harder, not caring how silly she looked. She tugged at her corset and wished it was looser.

"Miri-chan, please. I have no desire to faint in public... especially not on a mission."

Miriku gave a knowing smirk. "You've only been together a few months Tashy, and you're already thinking about-"

"I am not!" Tash hissed hotly. "I was just thinking how pretty it was."

"Suuuuure..." Miriku grinned. "I believe you."

"Why do you insist on embarrassing me?" Tash whined, quietly. "Especially when the rest of the Society could be watching this?"

Miriku shrugged. "You forced me into a dress. I think this is well within my right."

Tash sighed and took a glass of champagne from a nearby waiter. She did not intend to drink it (for she was teetotal) but she needed something to do with her hands.

"I'm not thinking anything," she muttered. "Except how stuffy it is in here and I wish we could catch that damn Sue."

"Of course," Miriku muttered, taking another tiny sip of champagne. "But just so you know, I want to be a bridesmaid..."

"Miri!" Tash's cheeks went back to red, as the music ceased and Jess reappeared. She had been dancing with one Percival Coddington, and man who's reputation (to the readers of this fandom at least) was as unpleasant as his face. Normally Jess would have refused him, but it would have seemed strange for the three of them to just stand there and not dance all evening, so she had accepted to take the spotlight off the group – a decision she was now regretting.

Fortunately Jess was standing so close to her friends when the music finished that it did not look like she was behaving badly and abandoning her partner, but the set of her shoulders and the way she walked told Percival in no uncertain terms, that to ask her again, would be pushing his luck.

"Ugh... his hands touched places they had no right to," Jess shivered, and grabbed a glass from another passing waiter. She sipped it as fast as ladylike decorum would allow her in this fandom, and when she was done, Tash handed her un-drunk glass to her friend without even asking. "And his breath was horrible! Leaning that close to a person without brushing their teeth first should be a public offence!"

Tash smiled, and was grateful that the wedding band on her finger prevented most gentlemen in the room from approaching her. Any that did were quickly given a smile and a shake of her head, along with an explanation that she had promised her first dance of the night to her husband when he arrived.

Miriku was not as lucky and had already been led around the room by two gentlemen in the last half an hour. By some grace of the Gods, she had not fallen over the first time, however there were a few near misses, and for the second gentleman, she had left her shoes discreetly with Tash – her dress was so long that no one had noticed. Being without shoes however had done little to change the fact that she had two left feet, and was being suffocated by her corset.

"I could be having sex with a hot musician right now," Jess grumbled, sipping more champagne. Tash sighed.

"Yeah, me too..." she blushed heavily as she realised that what she had said could be taken the wrong way. "I mean having sex, not with a hot musician."

Jess snorted into her empty flute, and Miriku sighed, and handed her glass to Jess.

"Should we go find Alina and blow this party? I'm bored of waiting for her."

"Yeah, let's go home," Tash sighed. "This corset is trying to mould itself to my boobs..."

"You don't have any boobs," Jess reminded her, setting all three champagne flutes on the nearby mantle, as they set off back to the ladies parlour. Most of the ladies were currently in the ballroom and so they breezed through the parlour with little staring, however also with little sighting of Alina.

"Where could she be?" Miriku asked, slipping back into her normal accent as they exited the parlour through the door on the other side of the room. She removed her shoes again for comfort, and sighed at the feel of the plush hall carpet under her toes. "She can't still be in the bathroom, can she?"

"Its possible..." Tash admitted, also removing her shoes and shrinking a couple of inches in doing so. "We should take a-"

She never got any further. All three girls screeched to a halt half way down the corridor, as they caught sight of a very familiar Sue, currently wedged in the cloakroom between a gentleman's winter coat, and a very well dressed, handsome gentleman in the flesh. And not just any well dressed, handsome gentleman...

"Henry Schoonmaker?" Jess gasped, wrenching the door open, causing both parties to look around in alarm. Henry's face immediately turned anxious, but Alina bore her teeth, and her beautiful face suddenly became malicious.


"How dare you?" Jess spluttered. "He's a canon character!"

"More to the point, he's married!" Miriku added.

"Even more to the point, he has a love interest enlisted in the army!" Tash finished, her voice going mildly high pitched.

Alina smirked. "Not now he doesn't – I conveniently made him forget about little fact everyone has forgotten about all the Hollands. Notice how Elizabeth hasn't been around tonight either?"

Tash looked about ready to punch the Sue for causing so much trouble in one of her favourite fandoms, but instead she did something entirely more sensible and slammed a Copyright onto Henry's head. She took a great deal of pleasure in seeing the confused and stunned man recoiled from the Sue, as he suddenly remembered that he loved Diana and that he was supposed to be in the army, as far away from Penelope as he could be, and definitely as far away from this woman as he could be.

"Henry," Jess said, reaching under her skirt to reveal her giant, purple handbag. "The nearest exit is that way. Use it."

She sounded so formidable, and Henry was struggling to catch up to the events of the past few months, that he moved without question. Alina however launched herself at him, and clung tightly to his waist. Miriku made to subdue the Sue...but she had forgotten about her ruffle-covered dress and she tripped over the folds of material, and landed heavily on top of Alina.

Jess and Tash froze.

Alina screamed.

Henry's eyes opened wide.

Thundering footsteps approached from the ladies parlour.

"Go!" Jess urged Henry, fishing a Prohibitor out from beneath her skirt (it had been strapped to her thigh all evening along with most of her Society gadgets) and slapping it onto Alina's wrist, as the door behind them burst open.

There was a long silence, in which all three agents feared they had been caught – Prohibited or not, there was no way anyone would believe anything they said, especially with Miri currently straddling Alina as she tried to sit up.

Then the silence broke.

"Aww man, you didn't need us after all."

All three girls turned to see Michael, Claire and Adrian standing in the doorway. The boys both wore top hats and dark dinner suits, though Adrian's shirt was violet to match his eyes, and Michael's was a dark red. Claire wore a dress of lavender, which ruffled at the skirt, and hugged her chest well. Fine layers of silk ruffled over her shoulders and the upper portion of her arms, and a gleaming diamond tiara rested comfortably amongst her dark hair.

"Bloody hell Claire, you look gorgeous!" Tash stated, pulling Miriku upright, as Jess strong-armed the Sue upright, with one hand clapped over her mouth.

Claire giggled. "Well, I couldn't let you three have all the fun." She reached up and straightened Michael's hat out, causing her boyfriend to blush and Tash and Miri to burst into giggles.

Adrian hastily opened a Plot Hole into one of the Library basement cells, and with a small chant of "one, two... three!" Alina was thrown through the Plot Hole and into the cell. The Plot Hole vanished silently behind her, as the three newcomers hung up their coats and hats.

"Thanks for the help guys," Jess smiled, as they wandered back through the ladies parlour. "But we were okay on our own."

"And now we've made you dress up for nothing..." Tash added, eyeing her boyfriend's suit approvingly – it was nice to see him out of trench coats. The Librarian smirked.

"Well... maybe not for nothing." He offered his arm to Tash, who took it hesitantly. "This party isn't over yet... and you did promise your first dance of the night to your significant other."

Tash's cheeks turned red again. "Adrian, I can't dance ballroom!"

"Neither can I," he assured her. "So this'll be fun."

Tash pulled a face of resignation, and adjusted her corset again. "Alright...just promise me you'll help me out of this corset when we get back to the Library..."

Adrian's smirk took on a whole new level, and he dropped his voice so no one else would hear. "Oh I'll help you out of more than just your corset love..."

As they headed off, Jess took another champagne glass, leaned over to Miriku and grinned.

"I bet you ten quid Tash is the first to fall over..."

"I dunno," Michael said, leaning over to join in the conversation, as Claire fiddled with his cufflinks. "I think Adrian will go down first."

"Twenty bucks on Tash," Miriku said firmly.

"Yeah, fifteen quid on Tash," Claire added. Michael groaned.

"That's not fair, now I'm betting against all three of you!"

"Sorry Michael, all girls together," Jess shrugged, swallowing more champagne.

All three of them smirked identically, and Claire straightened his cufflinks again. Miriku burst into another fit of giggles, and Michael sighed heavily.

"Sorry," Claire smiled. "But you look too good..." She grinned widely, taking her boyfriend's hand. "C'mon. Let's see if we can out dance them."


Deep in the fabric between worlds, a beautiful young woman rested. She looked just like any other Mary-Sue, and yet there was something far more intriguing about her – far more ancient than other Mary-Sues.

"So...these are the fabled Society I have heard so much about in my wanderings..."

She gave a smile, so gentle and beautiful that it was hard to sense any malicious intent behind it – but it was there, just beyond most people's view.

"Alina was a good servant... she gave me all I need to know to return to the world..."

She allowed herself an ironic smirk.

"It is... divine providence after all..."

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