The room was full of machinery and there was a low electrical hum. In the centre of the room was a table with a map on it and standing over it Earnest Pook. He was humming cheerily to himself. Marie walked into the room.
“I was wondering,” said Pook, not looking up, “whether I should have Victoria give me India or Africa. What do you think?”
“I think it’s not a very good disguise to use what you are as a name, pookah,” said Marie.
“And I don’t think it’s a very good idea to walk into a pookah’s house with a stone bug in your hand,” said Pook, still looking at the map. “Although in truth I knew you were special even back in the church.”
“Does Clackprattle even know what you are?” asked Marie, walking closer to the table. Pook chuckled.
“Oh, poor, deluded Arthur, ‘master mesmerist’,” he said, mimicking Clackprattle. “Naturally, he has no idea. There’s no such ability of course, it’s all just magic. My magic. With a little glamour to hide it from prying eyes.”
“And the girl?” said Marie, edging quietly closer.
“She was so useful for a while, so wonderfully gullible,” said Pook, not moving. “I didn’t even need to enchant her. She bought us some wonderful toys. Then she got into her head that the Telharmonium was a bad idea. So, nighty, night … she went to sleep.”
“But then her father stopped the money,” said Marie. “So you made her wake at night to write letters and cheques, to keep the institute going.”
“Yes, clever aren’t I,” said Pook. “I imagine next you’ll ask me which lever to pull to turn this all off. And I’ll tell you of course just to show you how clever I am.”
“Does the Sphere of Lethe even do anything?” asked Marie, close to the table now.
“Oh, now you’re being the clever one!” said Pook. “Mesmer wasn’t an idiot. He knew well enough, like me, to have something gaudy, large and dazzling for the paying customers to focus on. No, I’m afraid the real power lies elsewhere.”
Pook suddenly turned from the table, just as Marie was right behind him.
“But you’d know all about that, wouldn’t you?” he sneered. “About using something else to disguise your powers.”
“So… so you have something magical,” said Marie, flinching. “Pookah’s aren’t as powerful as you normally.”
“No, indeed,” said Pook. “Time was that when a humble old pookah tussled with a witch, that the pookah would lose hands down. But as we saw, when you tried to make that boy talk, it seems we’re evenly matched.”
Marie looked down.
“In fact, one could say we were very similar indeed,” said Pook. “Same powers, same method of disguise. Are you sure you want to stop me? Perhaps you’d rather join me? Just think, Clackprattle and Jennings, what a great puppet show. We could tour the the world.”
“I’m not like you, and he’s not like Clackprattle,” said Marie, still looking down.
“How can you stand it?” said Pook, coming close to her, and resting a hand on her cheek. “How can you stand to be in the shadow of that pompous moron?”
Suddenly Marie grabbed for the jewelled pin on Pook’s cravat and shouted, “ALLER!” Pook flew across the room and crashed into the wall. His face looked shocked as he started to rise. “RESTER!” shouted Marie and he sat still.
Marie stared at the creature, one hand on her hip and breathing hard.
“I know, little creature, that you are made of trickery and chaos. So I forgive you. But don’t you dare compare yourself to me. I do not play games with people’s lives,” she said.
She dropped the cravat pin on the floor.
“And I know exactly how to ‘turn this all off’,” she said and stamped on the pin, smashing it. Pook cried out in horror. Marie said “dormir” and he slumped unconscious. She stood there for a moment, staring at the sleeping creature before turning to walk out the door.
“I am a witch,” she said. “We are always in the shadow.”
As she walked out the door, she clicked her fingers and the door slammed shut behind her.
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