Sylvie sat on the bank of the pond, trailing her feet in the water, enjoying the warm sunshine, and snatching a few moments of quiet happiness. Her father was absorbed in his supposed "magic", and hadn't made comment when she slipped out of doors. "At least he's sober," she thought to herself, "more so than last night, anyway." His harsh words came floating back to her, carried on the sour breeze of the past. I won't have you believing in fairy tales and wasting your time dreaming about them when there's work to be done. She shivered, blinking back tears. Why couldn't he see what a good world it was? Why wouldn't he acknowledge that the Creator of such a world had to be good as well? Sylvie put the thoughts from her head. She had asked God to help her father; either He would, or He wouldn't. If He didn't, she trusted that whatever He had in mind would be better.

Tilting her face upward, the young girl absorbed the golden sun gratefully. "Thank you for it, God," she whispered. "It" being the sun, and the sky; the soft breeze that played across her face, and the cool water at her feet; the tall, beautiful trees that surrounded her, and the little birds with their happy songs. A song of her own welled up inside Sylvie, and spilled out in her clear, sweet voice. For a short, happy while, she blended her music with that of the wind and the birds, the soft, sweet melody rising and falling, carrying her spirit with it.

Then her father's voice raked across her ears, interrupting the beautiful cadence.

"Sylvie? Sylvie! Where are you, girl? Get in here, now! We have an honored guest!" Sylvie's song died in her throat, and she felt an equal measure of curiosity and apprehension swirl inside her. Never before had they had guests, honored or otherwise, come to their small cottage. Her father held people in disdain and wouldn't receive visitors unless they were someone of importance. For him to have described the uninvited person as "an honored guest", surely it had to be someone no less than a government official, separated from his entourage while on the road.

Rising to her feet, she crossed the yard to the small house and entered. Her father was standing right inside the door, scowling darkly at her. "Of all the days that you needed to be here and weren't-" he muttered in her ear as she passed by him. Wincing, Sylvie drew back against the plain wall, waiting for her father to introduce the man who was sitting in a chair across from her, studying her intently.

She thought at first that he was remarkably handsome. His dark hair brushed his strong shoulders and framed a fine-featured face. His nose was nice and straight, he had well defined cheekbones, and his chin was firm and strong. But the longer Sylvie looked at him, the less pleasing his appearance became; his skin was darkly tanned, but rough looking; his hands were thin and long-fingered, with unattractively pointed nails. The middle finger of his right hand kept twitching for no reason. His mouth, thin-lipped and chapped, was fixed in what might have been a smile, but somehow it didn't become him. But what chilled Sylvie to to her bones and caused her breath to catch in her throat, what made her skin crawl with horror, was the man's eyes. Deep set and black as night, they were cold, cruel, malignant to any and all living things. He was staring at Sylvie with something very close to greed and suppressed delight, and the young maiden was terrified. Swallowing hard, she dropped her eyes to the floor as her father stepped forwards.

"Sylvie, I want you to meet the world's best magician and a good friend of mine, Lou..." He paused and looked at the stranger inquiringly.

"Just Lou," the man replied, trying on another smile that didn't reach his cold eyes. "I am my own master - what use have I of two names?" Sylvie's father laughed.

"Lou, this is my daughter, Sylvie." Lou rose and bowed over Sylvie's hand.

"Delighted," he said, looking up at her. The young girl caught her breath as he locked eyes with her; she hated him being so close to her, holding her hand, looking at her. Her skin prickled again.

"How do you do, sir," she said in a low, respectful voice, ever mindful of her father's beady eye fixed upon her.

"Much better since you asked," Lou replied. His finger twitched again, setting Sylvie's teeth on edge. He was still staring into her eyes, and she suddenly became aware of that fact that he hadn't blinked at all since she came in. She felt captured by him, as if she were staring into the eyes of a cobra. Helpless, enveloped in cold and evil...

Then she was released from his gaze as he lowered his head, touching his lips to her hand in a respectful gesture.

Instantly, a white-hot pain flashed up from the spot, all the way up her arm to her shoulder. Sylvie gasped; she couldn't help it. The stranger relinquished his hold on her quite suddenly, straightening up and regarding her in deep, silent anger. She drew back instinctively, watching him fearfully.

Unaware of what had just transpired, her father gave her a push. "Don't just stand there girl, go get us some coffee! Lou is going to teach me some magic, and I don't want you around to learn it too."

Without another look at her father or the visitor, Sylvie retreated to the kitchen.


So...yeah, this section was a little 'off' somehow, but I couldn't figure out how to fix it. I hope y'all enjoy it anyway, and if you did please review! :D