(A short piece I wrote, trying to sort out the voice and character for the villain. Possibly not finished, but oh well. Comments appreciated :-) )
Lady Auralyn pressed her hands against the door, feeling its strength. It was ancient and incredibly weighty, probably oak or something similar. Not good.
"I don’t think I can break this down, Martin," she said quietly, stepping back and turning to her partner. She moved carefully to keep her armour from clanking. They had come too far to blow their one chance of catching their prey unaware. Then again… "Would you mind?"
Martin sighed. “Stand back then,” he said, shaking back the cuffs of his grubby robes. “Further back, m’lady” he suggested. Auralyn rolled her eyes and stepped behind Martin, who struck a pose and took a deep breath.
There was a brief feeling of pressure, and then the door burst into splinters with a massive WHOMP. Auralyn stormed through the remains of the doorway, drawing her sword and looking wildly around. As the dust cleared, she saw that the chamber within was vastly different from the dark, disused corridor they had come from. Polished white marble gleamed at her from the floor and walls, reflecting the glow from a number of ornate light boxes. There was a writing desk in one corner, the dark wood standing out against the white walls. In the centre of the room, a raised circular platform of some kind was covered in black runes. Who was this Mister Just, Auralyn wondered, and what the hell was he trying to do here?
Auralyn’s keen eyes took in all of these details in a fraction of a second. Unfortunately, she also noticed that the room was empty. There was nowhere for someone to hide, except… behind that circular platform! She edged around, sword held at the ready. Martin sauntered into the room behind her. Slowly… slowly… But there was nobody behind the platform either.
"Did we miss him, then?" Martin asked. Auralyn whirled around angrily, ready to yell at him for his indifference, but the words turned to a gasp in her mouth. There was another man, leaning against the wall behind Martin! Where had he come from?
The man looked to Auralyn like an unusually stylish clerk. He was wearing a dark waistcoat and trousers with a white shirt. There was a pair of gloves sticking out from one of his trouser pockets. The man was holding what looked like a fragment of the door between thumb and forefinger, and was turning it back and forth as though intensely interested in it.
"Mister Just!" Auralyn shouted, pointing with her sword. “I am Lady Auralyn, First Knight of the Order of Pelandrus. You are coming with us!" Martin turned, and took a step back in surprise.
The man grinned, and held out the fragment of wood. “If the doors of perception were cleaned,” he said, “everything would appear to man as it is: infinite! Quite the direct approach, I have to admit. Very interesting, though!”
Auralyn scowled. Her sword stayed levelled at the man, while Martin had edged out of the way. “You are Mister Just, aren’t you?”
The man flicked away the piece of wood and began slowly walking to the writing desk. “Do you know, I sometimes like to tell people that ‘Mister Just’ is a made-up name. It’s quite the joke, really!” He spread his arms, gesturing at the ceiling. “Because of course they will say ‘Just what?’, and then I get to say ‘just Mister!’, and everyone has a big laugh!” And Mister Just really did laugh at that point, a big laugh, as though he had told the world’s funniest joke instead of a bizarre word play.
"That’s not a very funny joke," Martin said. He had flicked back the cuffs of his robes again, obviously getting just as bad a feeling as Auralyn was about the situation. Mister Just, if that was who this man was, seemed far too calm.
Just laughed again, nodding in agreement. “True! It’s so bad, some people have been known to drop dead not long after hearing it! Terrible, really.” He stopped at the desk and leaned against it, folding his arms in front of him. He fixed Auralyn with a wry grin that made her want to backhand him. She settled for taking a few cautious steps closer, every muscle tensed and ready. “You aren’t going to escape!”
Just cocked his head to one side. “You have a one-track mind, don’t you? That’s the trouble with the world: that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt.”
Martin’s eyes narrowed. “Are you quoting Bertrand Russell at us?”
"Ahah! Well at least one of you harbours a little doubt! Your poor steel-bound companion here is a little too sure of herself."
Auralyn stomped forward until the point of her sword was almost resting on Just’s chest. “ENOUGH! Be warned, bringing you in alive is strictly secondary in our orders. Now kneel, or I will have your head!”
For a long, torturous moment, Just said nothing. The only sound in the room was Auralyn’s heavy breathing, and the quiet clinking of her armour as her chest rose and fell. Then his gaze dropped to the floor, and his shoulders slumped a little. “Commedia finita est, it seems.” He uncrossed his arms and kneeled on the floor, holding his arms out to each side. “Look: you could almost be knighting me! What shall my title be?”
"Prisoner," Martin answered dryly, as Auralyn unclipped a set of handcuffs from her belt. Just grinned up at Martin and nodded, as though acknowledging his retort. Auralyn sheathed her sword and roughly grabbed Just’s arms, twisting them around behind him to lock the cuffs around his wrist. She pulled Just to his feet by one elbow, a triumphant expression on her face.
To Martin, exactly what happened in the next moment was unclear. He turned to head for the door, and there was a soft pop, like someone uncorking a tiny bottle of champagne. When he turned back, Martin was alone.
Outside, the iron-grey clouds had given way to rain, which was cascading from the roof of the building in a solid stream and turning the ground to mud. The chain link fence enclosing the place was rattling in the wind. Mister Just rolled away from Auralyn as they fell, springing up like a dancer. As she picked herself up and took in her surroundings, Just pulled on his cuffs. They were locked tight. He raised his voice over the rain and rattling fence, “Oh well done! You clipped these on very quickly indeed!”
"Where are we? What did you DO?" Auralyn drew her sword again, advancing on Just with rage in her eyes.
"Do you know," Just said, nimbly side-stepping as she swung at him, "this chapel had a beautiful garden not too long ago? People came by the hundreds to worship. Sadly disused these days, but such is life." He feinted, ducked and weaved. Try as she might, Auralyn could not land a hit on him. Her swings became broader, wilder. The man never seemed to quite be where she expected him to be. And the whole while, he kept his eyes locked on hers through the rain, grinning like a child. As though this was all nothing more than a fun diversion.
After a moment, Auralyn pulled back, trying to organise her thoughts. Just was too fast for her to hit like this, even with his hands behind his back. Auralyn adjusted her grip, and readied a more aggressive stance. Mister Just stood, not trying to run. Grinning.
With a snarl, Auralyn sprung forward, thrusting her sword left and right. As Just dodged back and forth, she closed the distance between them, forcing him back. If she could get just a little closer…
At last the opportunity came: Just dodged to the left, and slid on a patch of mud. Auralyn’s left hand shot out and closed around his throat. “Aha!” she exclaimed, drawing her sword back as Just gurgled in shock, eyes turned upward.
Wind. And cold. And… nothing under her feet but air. Auralyn could see the city sprawled out beneath her: the dark silhouettes of buildings against the bright streetlights. Before she could register what had happened, Auralyn began falling back toward the earth. Mister Just had managed to twist out of her grip. As they fell together, he smiled and said, “Falling for the same trick twice shows a terrible lack of imagination. Think about it.” And then he was gone. Seconds later, so had every living thought in Auralyn.
Mister Just stood in the rain for a moment, looking down at the woman’s body. In some small way, it was a shame. Death was so… final, and dead bodies far less interesting than living ones. Twirling the handcuffs distractedly around one finger, he stroked his neck thoughtfully with his other hand, feeling where her strong grip was surely going to leave a nasty bruise. Still, it would make an amusing anecdote later on!
The knight had said she was of the Order of Pelandrus. She had known approximately who he was, but a little knowledge was a dangerous thing! And there was the magician. A Kineticist, not normally the type to work for the knightly orders. Just wondered how the pair had managed to track him all the way to Arrivalé, and even then to this forgotten chapel in the back streets of Old Avrum. He would need to —
There was a sudden feeling of pressure. At the end of the moment, Mister Just watched the ball of Force rocket through the spot he had just been standing in, visible only by the way it impacted raindrops and smeared them out in a horizontal line. Ah. The Kineticist had arrived. He turned, and the two men faced one another. The magician stood with his hands outstretched in what was undoubtedly some kind of stance in his discipline.
Mister Just smiled.