Three On A Match
⁂ Third on a match. Meaning: bad luck.


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Mid-Summer

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Where Witches Play
Upper Fens 


Early Evening
Spiritum
#1
Markus Eldridge Offline
Arcanist Human
Circlebreaker
With a sign, Markus glanced at the entrance to the shop once more and contemplated whether or not he was making the right decision. Spiritum, from what he could gather, was a 'new-age' shop, not that there was much information to find. Once again, Markus was baffled by how disconnected things in the supernatural world seemed. Everything traveled by word of mouth rather than information that could be found elsewhere. He was starting to understand why Mac and Byte were interested in developing 'supernatural' apps of various means to connect others.

It had taken Markus most of the day to find the correct shop, and he knew most establishments would be closing soon, but he planned to be here briefly. Though he had seen a phone number, he decided not to call it. In the end, Maps led him to a location, and from what he could see, the sign matched. Markus had first come across the name in one of his sister's journals, mentioned only once he at first mistook it for a material code name of some kind. His conversation with Max caused him to take another look at the things he knew, to dig deeper, to 'do something', which led to the find. Now that he found it, there was only one thing to do.

Entering the shop, he would immediately smell the mixture of incense, candles, and more on display. It wasn't unpleasant, but he might have been put off had he not suspected it. It has been a long time since he entered a new-age shop—probably ten years or so, back in his 'Wicca exploration' days in high school. The thought caused him to smile as he remembered simpler times and took in his surroundings, hoping to find someone who worked at the establishment.
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#2
Serafina Duarte Offline
Arcanist Human
Conjurer
look

The front door opened with a soft bell chime and Serafina looked up from where she sat behind the glass-fronted counter at the shop’s far end. She gazed towards the door and the windowed storefront; her eyes seemed to focus somewhere in the mid-distance. With a serene smile, she called out over the meditative soundscape playing from a Bluetooth speaker. “Feel free to look around. Let me know if you have any questions.”
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#3
Markus Eldridge Offline
Arcanist Human
Circlebreaker
Hearing the voice from the far end of the shop, Markus looked across the way and saw the glass counter and the woman sitting behind it. The voice sounded familiar; when he looked up and saw who was speaking, he raised an eyebrow in surprise, not that anyone would notice.

Walking over, Markus glanced around a bit but made a beeline towards her. “Thank you,” Markus started as he got closer. “I actually do have a few questions, Serafina... correct?” the redhead asked hesitantly before introducing himself. “You might not recognize me; it's Markus. Markus Eldridge.”
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#4
Serafina Duarte Offline
Arcanist Human
Conjurer
Serafina heard his approach, and these were not the footsteps of someone browsing. Purposeful and demanding of her attention, she sat up a little straighter and waited. His voice wasn't instantly familiar, and his knowing her name caused her to hesitate. But Serafina Duarte was on the lease and he could have been a referral, so she didn’t let paranoia get the better of her.

Markus introduced himself and she pursed her lips, brows furrowing at the name. It took her a second to place him, but there was a smile for him once she did. “Oh! You’re Mac’s friend. We met at his party.” She said, more reminding herself of the association than anything. “How is he, by the way? I haven’t been able to contact him.”
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#5
Markus Eldridge Offline
Arcanist Human
Circlebreaker
Markus saw her smile and returned it, listening as she spoke up. Though he wasn't sure if he could call him and Mac friends, she wasn't the first to think that, and Markus didn't see any reason to correct her.

“Yeah, I'm sure he had a lot of good things to say about you and the others,” Markus replied. Even outside of the party, Mac had always talked about Arcanists getting together and how they could do more powerful magic. Despite Markus being so new to the craft, Mac had invited him to his wizard party.

“I don't actually know... I haven't talked to him since the Byte Bash myself.” Markus was thoughtful; usually, they only reached out to one another when there was an update or if they needed something. “I guess it didn't pan out how he was hoping. That, and I had some of my own things to deal with.”
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#6
Serafina Duarte Offline
Arcanist Human
Conjurer
I'm sure he had a lot of good things to say about you and the others… Serafina drew a quiet breath, surprised at just how negative that sounded. Byte Bash hadn't gone well by any means, but... perhaps there was a very simple reason she hadn't gotten any word from Mac since the party. Markus hadn’t heard from him either, and well, she could only assume what that meant.

“Right.” She said, melancholy blunting the word. Serafina smiled all the same, but it lacked some of the luster from a moment before. Not knowing what else to say and eager to change the subject, she said, “how can I help?”
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#7
Markus Eldridge Offline
Arcanist Human
Circlebreaker
Markus watched and could hear as her tone changed and things got awkward. Markus hadn't meant to cause offense; he was just still sore about the way Mac had used his sister as a call to arms without consulting him. But that wasn't Serafina's fault; he meant what he said. Mac seemed to have a lot of faith in her abilities, and if nothing else, Markus trusted Mac to know when someone was good.

“During Mac's... call-to-arms... he mentioned someone by the name of Victoria... my sister.” Markus paused, taking a breath as he felt the pain that always came with talking about her. “She was murdered here in Easthaven, sources say by someone she trusted. I recently discovered that she often visited Spiritum for supplies, and I was hoping to learn more about her time here in the city.” Markus said, his voice tense and sad as he spoke, despite his best efforts to try and keep it neutral.
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#8
Serafina Duarte Offline
Arcanist Human
Conjurer
Serafina frowned, taking it all in. Without visual cues, she had only the timbre of his voice to draw from. Sympathy reigned, for she too had lost a sibling. The circumstances were different, but that didn’t make the loss any less.

“Ah—I’m sorry for your loss.” She whispered, surprised and sobered by the subject. Whatever she thought this conversation would be, this wasn’t it. Serafina was quiet as she gathered her thoughts, quietly eager to help if she could.

“There was a Victoria who came by often, but this would have been—” She scowled thoughtfully. It was a while now, over a year at least, and now she knew why. “I assumed she fell out of practice or moved on.” She all but apologized.
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#9
Markus Eldridge Offline
Arcanist Human
Circlebreaker
Markus noticed how she didn't seem entirely put off by what he said. Surprised, yes, but not aghast. Once more, he was reminded of how dark the supernatural world seemed to be. Malcolm, if nothing else, seemed to have chosen people with experience for his little side project. None of the soccer moms or more casual practitioners Markus had met at the Sewing Circle had been invited after all.

He shrugged at first before remembering that she couldn't see the movement. “Thank you,” he said simply in response to her apologies. They both knew the words were of empathy, and he appreciated it.

Letting out a sound of interest, he listened. “She died quite some time ago; the Exchange is still trying to solve her case, amongst others related to it. ” Markus spoke up, confirming that it would have been a long time since she came in.

“Do you remember, was she... inquisitive, always asking questions? Probably focused on culture and art more than anything else? She worked for Arcana; I know she was often sent to find or collect new items or sell old ones.” He asked, remembering what his sister was like when she shopped. Even without visual clues, her personality would probably confirm her identity.
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#10
Serafina Duarte Offline
Arcanist Human
Conjurer
“Exchange?” She breathed, drawing tense. Apparently, Victoria wasn’t the only victim, and the Exchange wouldn’t involve themselves in some mundane murder. Thinking back to the gathering at Byte Bash, had this been what Mac sought to rally them against? She drew a long breath and exhaled, still wishing things had gone differently. However, there was no use dwelling on such things.

With a thin smile, Serafina pondered the description of his sister, her brow furrowed. Inquisitive was too broad a brush to use for her clientele, but when Markus mentioned Arcana, that cemented the person in her mind. Serafina could hear her voice already. “Y-yes, I remember her. She was always pleasant.” She said, offering some reassuring tidbit.
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#11
Markus Eldridge Offline
Arcanist Human
Circlebreaker
Markus caught his tense breath and noticed the shift in her demeanor as she asked the question. It was interesting to notice how people responded to the Exchange. Just as many people seemed to either fear or mistrust the organization as those who applauded them, he wondered what her actual thoughts of The Exchange were but decided not to ask, at least not yet.

As she confirmed the connection, Markus nodded, a bit sad. She had always been kind, and he was glad that had continued despite the sort of people she seemed to get involved with. When he spoke up, he decided to explain a bit.

“Yeah, the Exchange is looking into her death. She... well, it seems she was involved with something big and dangerous.” Markus said, explaining where the connection was. For now, he was avoiding the details. While the chances of Serafina being involved were meager, especially with her connection to Mac, he couldn't be certain.

“Do you, by any chance, remember what she had come here for, or perhaps if she was looking for anything in particular?” Markus asked. He knew she had been working with necromancy and curses during her last few months. He knew the chances of finding a clue so late into the game were small unless she had invoices she was willing to share. But, if he could figure out more of what she was up to, perhaps he could start to make a connection and even find those who killed her.
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#12
Serafina Duarte Offline
Arcanist Human
Conjurer
Big and dangerous were never words taken lightly when magic or the Exchange were involved. Whatever happened cost Victoria her life. It was a bad situation all around, but Serafina knew blessedly little about any of this.

“Nothing of note. Maybe some rejuvenating tinctures or crystals—some incense, base compounds. Nothing that should have—” She thought to the few dangerous spells she knew by heart to see what clicked into place. “—but it was a long time ago.” She gave voice to her thoughts.

Serafina brightened. “But! If you have time, I can check my records. How do you spell Eldridge?”
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#13
Markus Eldridge Offline
Arcanist Human
Circlebreaker
Markus listened as Sera spoke, mentioning the items his sister had purchased, as best she could, at least. He smiled and nodded along, forgetting that she couldn't see either movement as he listened and contemplated. Nothing she said seemed out of place; it was pretty standard, really, for one in their craft.

When she offered to check her records, Markus would brighten. “I would very much appreciate that. She... she mostly practiced Divination and working with the earth... but, she... her writing seemed to indicate that she was recently delving into curses and... perhaps necromancy... if it helps.” He added, giving Sera a bit of context in the hope that it would give direction. Though, he was pretty doubtful.
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#14
Serafina Duarte Offline
Arcanist Human
Conjurer
Divination and earth magic were a cornerstone of their craft. Serafina divined a little herself and felt a growing appreciation for Victoria. It was like they both listened to the same artist and felt a little better about each other because of it. She smiled, wishing she took the time to get to know Victoria when she was alive. They would have probably been friends, if that wasn’t too presumptuous.

Yet she twitched, turning pensive, when he mentioned Necromancy. Her reaction may have just been hesitance, but as a student herself, it surprised her to have another touchpoint with Markus’ dead sister. Now she was sure they would have been friends, or fellow practitioners at the very least. But given the circumstance of Victoria’s death, the coincidence may have been too much for a man grasping for answers. She kept that quiet.

“If she paid with a card, then I should be able to find something.” Serafina said as she centered her fingers on the sale terminal’s keyboard. A robotic chorus of overlapping field names whispered from the small speaker beside the terminal as Serafina tabbed through the interface. She worked quickly, mostly from memory, only pausing to ensure she was in the right place.

A moment later she was groping at the screen, almost upending it as she turned the display so Marcus could read. She steadied it with a self-conscious titter. Several transactions were listed by date with the most recent at the top. Serafina frowned thoughtfully. “Does this help?”
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#15
Markus Eldridge Offline
Arcanist Human
Circlebreaker
Markus raised an eyebrow as the screen was almost upended, and smiled at her willingness to help as he turned his attention to the screen. As expected, Victoria made several transactions before and up to the date he knew she was found.

“It does, thank you so much,” Markus said as he scanned through all of the transactions, not wanting to leave a single thing out. Most, if not all of them were benign, crystals, incense, books, many things ritualists, or even a new age pagan, would find. He noted a few book titles, wanting to look into them later, but otherwise continued reading. The most interesting thing he saw was the last date she purchased something. It was the same date as the entry in her journal. Meaning, she stopped off here after work, and before casting the ritual that that was tampered with. None of the items would have affected the ritual, however, not in the way that killed her.

“That last date, that was... well, it was probably the day she died, or just before it.” He says out loud. He knows it would be too much to ask her to remember how one customer acted in a single day almost two years ago, so he left the question unasked. Instead, he thanks Serafina, “I can't tell you how much I appreciate your aid, seeing these tidbits into her life... help.”
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#16
Serafina Duarte Offline
Arcanist Human
Conjurer
“Oh,” Serafina pouted with the news this transaction was possibly the final day Victoria was alive. She knew it was a silly emotion, for she’d done nothing wrong and had no hand in her death, but guilt beat a tattoo on her heart. She frowned, trying to think if there was something more she could have done. The thought of being the last person to have interacted with Victoria before she was murdered made her uncomfortable.

Being thanked for what little she’d done didn’t seem right either, and she choked back a pained smile. “I wish there was more I could do.” She said earnestly.
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#17
Markus Eldridge Offline
Arcanist Human
Circlebreaker
Markus paused, realizing the shift in mood. He wasn't trying to bring things down, but his reason for being there was quite a difficult conversation, so just took a deep breath.

When she commented however he shook his head, even if she couldn't see it. “No, trust me what you have done has been invaluable to me. There is... so much unknown about what happened to her, and you have helped me piece together more info, as well as understand her world better.” He explains, his voice truly thankful. “That is more important to me than you know.”
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#18
Serafina Duarte Offline
Arcanist Human
Conjurer
Serafina let out a relieved sigh after Markus placated her misplaced worries. She smiled for a job well done but her relief only went so far. She still wished to help, and while she didn’t have any contacts in the Exchange, there was one detective she was on friendly terms with.

“Emily.” Serafina said, putting words to her thought. “That night at the party, did you meet Emily? She’s a detective with Easthaven PD. I know little about how cases such as your sister’s are handled, but she may be able to help.” She said, her tone an interesting mix of hopeful pessimism. It may have been a longshot considering Markus already said the Exchange was looking into her death, but she imagined a murder still made ripples which lapped upon the usual shores.
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