The Truth Hides in the Shadows

The Hanging Gardens, Theatre d'Santorus
Lush foliage in the form of exotic plants and rare herbs surmounts most of the steppe-like wooden structures placed in geometric fashion about the highest point of the main building. Palms of wavering leafy fronds and strange twisted ferns stretch over tessellated stone flooring, forming a multitude of intricate shadowy designs on the ground. Open spaces sheltered by large pergola structures with white painted wooden lattices are placed in symmetry throughout the Gardens, the place serving both as a gathering place for people to mingle and hold events, an open air theatre, and as well as an arboretum. Wooden stairs are erected next to the plant-filled steppes, allowing access to delicate teetering balconies located on higher ground, where one could sit on light wood benches and look outwards across the glittery urban landscapes. The sound of moving water is prominent throughout, in the forms of tiny waterfalls and streams rushing down minute canals etched between the steppes to pool into rectangular stone fountains of pale blue at the foot. Further into the foliage, a large metal arch is assembled amidst the palms, upon which two swings, constructed of smooth wooden planks and iron bands, hang in laconic, child-like appeal.

The troupe was performing in front of a small, rather intimate, crowd this night in one of the dining rooms. The main theatre had been temporarily closed for the public in order to prepare the set for an upcoming play. It took all of Sander's patience and the promise to take her out (without Dominique) dancing to convince Salome to even step foot on the stage for she was not used to perform for such a small gathering.

The child vampire of course lost herself in the musical piece, completely forgetting for whom or how many she was singing. Once the music faded away though and she exited her self-induced reverie, she was rudely reminded of it. The last thing she wanted to do now was idle chit chat with these people, not only wasn't she good at it…she didn't even try. She left such things to smooth talker Sander and flirt Dominique.

She excused herself with a headache and rushed to find solitude, anywhere but her room or any room for that matter. Too long has she stayed within the walls of the theatre, she yearned for the touch of night wind against her skin.

She had overheard one of the servants about a garden atop the theatre and was on her way to find it now. After ascending a few stair cases, Salome di Montalia stepped into the garden. The sky was clear, with stars glittering on the horizon and the moon greeting her with her pale light. To onlookers she must have looked like ghost in her floor-length gown of cream organza.

The high neckline is clasped together by an old fashioned brooch and the hint of her pale skin gleams through the long sleeves of diaphanous white. While unpinning her long auburn hair, she strides over to a group of palms after having discovered a swing set nestled in-between. A child-like smile smoothes out her pouting features as she sits upon the swing, her hands holding the rope tight with her gloved hands and pushing herself up into the air.

It perhaps did not occur to the little auburn-haired girl that the rooftop garden was not all peace and solitude for her only. The slim-cut shadow of a man, his back bent over a book opened on his lap as he has seated himself on one of the middle steppes of the grandiose structure of waterfalls and faux forest, moves the very singular moment he hears the creak of the iron chains fastened to one of the two swings hidden among the fronds below.

He is not automatically enlightened to whom it is, and not wishing expand that little ability to push away the shadows surrounding the truth; the man raises from his seat on the steppes and stretches a little, eyes tinted a burnt metallic green focusing barely upon the city’s gleaming horizon — of fires and lights.

Somewhere this high up would not be a place Rasha would come or frequent. So it is most likely not to be her. But whom? He let his arms fall in a relaxed move against his hips, thinking and wondering who /indeed/ would come up here. The attendants, young as some are, would be too busy to escape here for relief; and they are reportedly banned from these gardens — this place being one granted by Etienne for the use of the kindred circle only.

Christian grows curious; and curiosity is not a trait that came in the package that is his blood. Perhaps curiosity is not such a good situation to be in — he thinks to himself; and decides that he would be /cautious/ instead, suffice enough to find out who is the one upon the swings.

His eyes swivel to the script he's writing, and with a practiced hand, drags off one page of the parchment pad and lets the paper; story unwritten drop from the steppes he is upon, the creamy slip floating right downwards to the source of the creaking swing, aided by shadows deeply unseen to fall into the right place.

With hearing far more acute than that of any mortal being, Salome suddenly puts down her booted feet to stop the swing from moving. Above the sounds of the waterfall, there had been another sound…that of tearing paper, she was sure.

It was the sound she had to listen to for god knows how long when Sander was writing one of his sonatas. To prove her point, a white sheet of paper comes to rest just beside her on the ground. With caution, she reaches for it but no words are written upon the parchment. Salome gathers her skirt and carefully rises to her feet and turns toward the foliage she came through. Her eyes switch to a vision that allowed her to further penetrate the darkness surrounding her as the moon was now embraced by a few cotton clouds.

Ducking and pushing away stray branches, she returns to the entrance of the garden. There, on the steps of the large white structure she had seen earlier, sat a man. Has he been here before and she was too deep in thought to acknowledge his presence? It was too late for her to go back without speaking up now for he must have realized his company.

"I wasn't aware somebody else was up here," she says in a matter of fact voice. Plucking a stray leaf out of her hair she approaches, sitting down a few steps below Christian.

She arranges the long fabric of her gown perfectly about her legs and looks up at him, her strangely colored eyes curiously gazing at him and then roaming to the writing pad he holds. "I suppose that belongs to you then?" she asks and places the blank page upon the step.

With the departure of the moon into the clouds above, the entire garden submits into a darkness perhaps benefiting the both of them; and that he could clearly see the outline of the little girl below the steppes — her figure silhouetted by the man-made lights behind her, the trickle of glow that emphasized the generous folds of her gown, a sumptuous ensemble definitely befitting that of a theatre artiste.

The pale fellow glances down at the little girl as she places the leaf of paper onto the last step, thrice removed from where he stands, and had lifted her head up to ask if it was his.

"It is mine." He tells her, the voice embarking on a twined notion of curiosity and caution. The parchment pad he had placed on the ground next to his feet flips wildly in a rush of wind that has buffeted itself over the gardens, a wind stained with faint salt.

"Thank you, mademoiselle for retrieving it." The gratitude appears more mocking than sincere — for obviously the paper was dropped to garner her attention than a careless mistake. Christian pauses for a while, his thoughts verging into a few conclusions and manifests themselves in the way his head tilts involuntarily askew.

"I was not aware that another would be enjoying herself here either." He finally says, maybe an echo of the thought that went through Salome's head earlier, sentencing his tone to a rather querous one instead. "Do you like this place, mademoiselle?" He questions now, his visage but marked shadows on his entire frame — perhaps that she could see his outline clearly, and not able to put more than just his height and his voice to what she sees, granted that the moon has stayed safely behind its cover — allowing the two a brevity of anonymity.

"Do I like this place?" she echoes in her melodic child voice. "You will have to be more precise with your questioning, my lord. Are you referring to this garden? The theatre? The city? I have different answers for each of them, rest assured." The mocking thank you is not lost on Salome and so her answer to his question is given in an equally mocking fashion. She could have just assumed he meant the garden, the place they both seemed to have escaped to and given him a straight reply but she didn't like to be made fun of.

Certainly, she appeared to be a child but that didn't give anyone the right to treat her any less! If Dominique had been here instead, his "thank you" would have been much more sincere. Her placid features do not give away her childish thoughts as she regards him.

The tall figure of the man she's conversing with, bends, and then with much fluidness, re-seated himself on the steppes that are thrice removed from where she is; and his head skews once more, tilting lightly to aside as if he is giving the length of her answers deep thought. "Do you like /this/ place then, Mademoiselle? At this time, this moment." He asks now, stretching his neck straight to look upon her.

The cutting lilt in her voice is not lost to Christian and it equally brought a faint smile, albeit hidden by the shadows, on his features. "But your answer, Mademoiselle, it is very thoughtful on many grounds." The man remarks further on her answer, his reply ruminating and considerate — not exactly bothered if it is a comment by a child or an adult alike. And he appears to take her rather seriously, his chin now supported by an upturned palm; the elbow crook resting on one knee and his face arching down pointedly towards hers.

Salome glances at her gloved fingertips resting in her lap while listening to the words spoken. Another quip response is forming in her mind for his answer to her question is just as general as the prior. Where they not in the garden, atop the theatre, in the city…at this time, this moment? Not wanting to drag this little spiel out, she responds "I like it well enough." An answer that quite possibly fit to all three scenarios and would leave it to Christian's assumption which one he chose. Her head slowly inches back upon the features of Christian.

She couldn't quite make out whom she was facing but something told her he was not of the mortal world. She follows suit and changes her position, to maybe catch the off chance to get a glimpse of his face and evade some of the shadows that currently prevented her to do so. "Do _you_ like this place?" she asks with a tiny smile tugging at her lips.

The conversation seems oddly fruitful as he further now considers her question in return to him; the toss and catch way they are speaking to each other quaintly enjoyable. "I like this place at this time as much as you do now, mademoiselle." He tells her too, his tone a notch reflective in reply.

His chin continues to rest on his palm, and the pale fellow smiles of course, the smile being unseen and that is translated into his voice now as he continues to talk to the little girl. "But at other times, mademoiselle. I may not like it as much. And do you think this way too?" He appears to draw in a breath and there is none - a cessation in his words, a halt for thought. "Each moment is so transient to us. And yet, we fight hard and fail to cherish these moments." He appears to have acknowledged her for her immortality; he would have found out even, easily, just like how Salome would have deduced his lineage from her side.

Time. Passing moments. A subject that was not to the liking of Salome for it reminded her that no matter how much time went by, she would remain as she was now. It was easy to reflect upon such thoughts for someone who had been embraced at an older age, for someone who had the chance to experience mortal life to its fullest. She was robbed of that chance and to dwell on such philosophic thoughts was worth a whole lot of nothing.

"Why naturally, I agree. It all depends on the situations one might find him or herself in. Just as you so thoughtfully put it, one might not like the same situation the next night. C'est la vie, oui?" She does not, however, respond to his latter remark. Salome grows tired of not knowing whom she was sitting across and stands to her feet.

Her form was still below that of Christian's since he was sitting farther up but she didn't have to tilt her head as much. "While it is somewhat enticing to talk to a stranger without a face, per se…I would very much like to see whom I have the pleasure talking to tonight. I would hate to pass you in the theatre, not being able to exchange a few words in the future." Salome places her hands behind her back and bends forward, again trying to outsmart the shadows.

The clouds part at this rather inappropriate moment even, the slip of moon heaving itself out from the covers — and splaying just sufficient a thin strip of watery light upon the visage of the tall man speaking to the girl; the moon-gleam sectioning themselves on his features, and pale blonde hair. Easily recognizable if she knew.

"You give a thoughtful answer, Mademoiselle — I would have expected you to be more amused by such a question than to give it more assessment." The pale fellow disengages his chin from his palm and stands upwards, now that the shadows are cast aside and he could see her; she could /see/ him as well.

"I am Christian von Karlach." He says now, introducing himself with just his name and his bearing. Nothing else and his green sights fling forward for moment, watching the girl; watching what ever seems to be beyond her in the landscape beyond this garden.

"We are robbed of time, Mademoiselle, it is the truth we all know and dislike, and to be able to speak about such a topic…" He halts again, this pale fellow seems to think more than he credits himself for; and assesses her a while. " as you did, tells me you are rather /brave/."

Oh she was certain she would have given him a more "amused" answer if it wasn't for the subject at hand. But even _if_ they were talking about an entirely different matter, all amusement would have been cast away immediately at the sight she was presented with when the moonlight returned.

Christian von Karlach.

The one man she did not want to cross paths with just now, after luring Matthieu in giving her information regarding him. Lord Etienne's servant stated that he was a dangerous man, enough for Salome to cautious in how she would approach Christian. She most certainly didn’t think it to be this soon or this way for that matter.

Her blue and green eyes slightly grow larger and she involuntarily moves one step further down. "Brave? Me? I do not think that is a virtue bestowed on me," she says with a seemingly nervous chuckle. "I ought to head back; my ward is most likely already looking for me."

The nervousness in the girl's voice does not escape the pale fellow's locus of awareness; and he steps along the side of the steppe he is upon, leisurely going down the smaller steps on the side to the very first steppe where. Salome had laid the piece of parchment he torn off earlier. Betwixt them, there is still a space; a space sufficiently and easily filled if he chose to - but the pale fellow stays his ground, gracing a hand into an arch to pick up the piece of parch.

"Bravery is a not a virtue bestowed." He folds the parch into half quietly, the 'zip' of the pressed paper mayhaps sharp and keen to her ears, his features fanning into another one of those thoughtful stretches. "Monsieur van der Meer had requested of me to work together with him, and yourself." Christian continues, his tone somewhat now a predatory taint to it.

"Now that we have met, and I have seen you, Mademoiselle." The paper he'd folded is folded again once more in her sight, into another smaller square. And he smiles slightly at the auburn haired little one. "I would definitely like that opportunity."

Salome inwardly flinches at the sound of the pressed paper and his approaching form but manages to appear somewhat collected. Her demeanor slightly falters though at the mentioning of her ward's name.

She quickly retraces their conversation in her mind. No, she did not mention her name or her profession. He must have known all along whom she was. Curse you, Sander! It was _all_ his fault for being so naive in offering not only his own talent but apparently that of hers too. Salome musters a, what she hopes to be, polite smile. With slightly shaking hands, she pins her long hair back up and glances downward.

"You are a busy man, Mr. von Karlach and most likely booked for a while. However, in the near future I would like to work with you as well," she says in a polite tone to match her smile. "For now, please do excuse me." Salome dips her head and further moves away from Christian.

"As you wish, Mademoiselle." The pale fellow makes no insistence on their collaboration, merely stating his interest is suffice. The folded paper is slipped into his coat's pocket, the action rather symbolic. Her discomfiture and will to hide it so fiercely makes the pale fellow rather intrigued, his curiosity of this child definitely peaked at that point.

Before she makes her exit, Christian settles his feet down onto the smooth gravel of the garden, away from the steppes, standing at level to Salome. "Would you tell Monsieur van der Meer of this then? I believe…" He appears now even lethargically and mildly amused at the thought of the pretty-faced pianist.

"He will be extremely happy to hear that he has the next move." The pale fellow finishes then what he has to say and draws back, allowing the girl as much space as she wants to run away and bids her farewell; "Bon soir, Mademoiselle di Montalia."

Salome clenches her teeth but forces her chin up still appearing collected as he now stands right in front of her. Again she has to tilt her head up to look at him while listening to his words. "I will tell him, word for word," she says out loud and then thinks to herself "…and then some."

The initial shock of realizing whom she had been chatting with had passed but she continued her display of the “fearful child”. To be underestimated was not a bad thing in this situation and years upon the stage had graced her with quite a few acting skills of herself. Salome was still determined to find out just what this fellow was up to.

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