Both magic and madness seems to be nearer than ever. Slipping through his fingers and dripping onto the muddied carpet. Like water, he cannot gather enough of it in his hands to use it properly. Too much of the tincture and yet not enough for his purposes. It's left him feeling hazy and easily distracted.
The afternoon shadows grow longer and his trek back through the meandering streets is hampered by his mind's insistence on creating almost shapes in the shadows that draw his eye and yet dissipate before he can focus.
He must be close to his goal. Maybe tomorrow he will add another two drops of the tincture and try the spell once more.
He has only just entered his room and begun searching for a clean sheet of paper to record today's reactions and a reminder of how much tincture he's taken when the door is thrown inward to slam against the wall.
The large figure in the front of the party seems to pause, eyes unused to the dim light, searching the room for something. Strange is quite confused. Surely no Italian would be foolish enough to attempt to attack or rob his person? His reputation here is full of scandal and the locals give him a berth that is wider than might be polite on the rare occasions like today when he ventures out alone.
The man at the door turns his head and finally notices Strange behind his desk. He points a large paw towards Strange and in a deep voice orders the group behind him, "grab 'em boys!"
The voice gives him away. This is no Italian. It's an Englishman.
No, he cannot be taken back to England. Cannot be taken back to prison. He is too close to success to suffer such a setback.
More men enter behind the larger leader. Four or five of them at least. They look odd in the flickering of the candlelight. Their faces not quite making sense. Eyes and noses and such seem to not be in their proper places. He cannot tell if this it is madness or magic or something else altogether distorting his sight, but as they begin to fan out, he begins to feel the first stirrings of panic.
Spells spin round and round in his head and their words tangle on his tongue before he can think to speak them. He picks up a weapon instead, a small knife left over from some early experiment, and they laugh and taunt him. "This is the famous magician? This is the man who terrified the French?"
"like a mouse caught in a trap 'e is."
"Easy pickings is what this is lads," another replies.
They are toying with him, Jonathan realizes. These strange men do not consider him a threat.
He will disappoint them. He does not intend to submit so easily.
A man coming from his left holds his hands out as if coaxing an animal. Are they so confidant in their ability to catch him that they did not even come armed?
He would be insulted if he wasn't relieved. Jonathan holds the small knife close in his palm trying to keep all 5 of the men in sight. The larger man, the leader he supposes is near the door, but has not closed it yet.
If he can but reach the streets he can lose them among the mazes of alleyways .
He makes a run of it, shoving the knife in his hand into the closest man he feels the knife strike flesh and does not stop to see the man fall. He ducks another, their shouting grown more alarmed than amused now, and sees freedom within his reach.
Only a half dozen steps away an object connects with the back of his knees sending him sprawling, half dazed, upon the carpet, the knife flying out of his grasp.
The men's laughter bounces and echoes across the room, interspersed with cursing from the injured one.
He feels patches of warmth beneath his face and hands and wonders for a moment if he was hit by his own blade in the fall. Is his blood seeping out? Maybe it is melting away through the floor and into the canals themselves. What an ingenious way to escape. If only he could follow.
The spots of heat however stick as he attempts to pull himself forward and he recognizes them as wax. A candelabra must have been his downfall them.
He experiences a strange moment of concern for the candles that had been knocked about upon the men's entry. He wonders if they were extinguished. Maybe he can relight them with the candles he's caught glimpses of inside the heads of the people of Venice. Surely only one would suffice to relight his own?
Such a strange though. When there are much more pressing matters at hand to worry over, but he cannot control the direction of his thoughts at present.
A hand near his neck brings his him back to the moment.
Another man, short and broad, is grasping his collar like one might grasp the scruff of a cat. It is then he realizes why their faces look wrong. They are masked. His captor's mask a swirl of red and black, serving to make the man into the image of a demon. The dark beard below the half mask increasing the illusion.
"serves you right Jonesie," the large man, the leader, is saying to the stabbed man. "Told ya not to try nothin' till we get him under control."
"He didn't look all that impressive to be honest." the other replies pulling back his collar to peer at the wound in his shoulder. Jonathan can now see some sort of fur upon the man's mask and something that might be ears or horns.
Jonathan's captor guffaws and begins to pull him along the floor through the melted candles and splinters from his door. Away from freedom.
His mind finally pulls forth a spell. Maybe Stokesey's Vitrification will give him the time needed to escape. Never mind that it hadn't been successfully preformed in almost four centuries. He focuses on the man dragging him and begins to mutter the Latin words.
He does not get far before the man pauses to lean down and inquire, "Wot are you on about now Magician?"
He tries to speak faster without stumbling through the incantation.
This alerts the others, and the leader rushes over calling out, "Stop him you fool! Don't let him enchant you!"
And the brute dragging him pulls him up and slaps him twice across the mouth.
Jonathan feels his lip split with the force of it and the spell is lost. Slipping through his fingers once more the magic dissipates. He can sense it just beyond reach, maybe once they take him outside, to whatever prison they found he can find it and keep hold long enough to try again. Surely the tincture should run out in a few hours time.
"the bag…grab it…hurry now"
their voices overlap together as Jonathan is thrown back to the ground near the chaise lounge. Multiple hands grab at him now holding him down and he feels the cold metal of iron cuffs snap around his wrists.
The magic slips away, as if it never was.