crowd at moulin rouge

The Place Blanche was filled with people all seemingly staring at the Moulin Rouge. From the back of the crowd it was hard to see exactly what was catching their attention, beyond the lights starting to seduce in the pall of dusk. But there were audible gasps and fingers pointing in the direction of the windmill.

“What’s happening?” said Morag to the group.

A young man staggered past, visibly drunk and even more visibly perturbed by a talking dog. He looked in horror at the bottle of absinthe he was drinking and hurled it to the ground before running away. Emile winced at the sight of it.

“It’s a bit hard to make out,” said Sir John, clutching his wife. “Something on the windmill maybe?”

“Oh for ‘eavens sake!” said Sabine and started pushing through the crowd. Her apologies were quickly followed by her blows to the ribs or backs of the onlookers. People turned and made exclamations as she pushed her way to the front but she seemed oblivious to her impact.

“Not very ladylike,” said Miss Henderson to Marie, before casually standing on the foot of a drunken man leering towards her. He howled in pain and fell backwards. Emile made a moue of approval.

“Ho ho, so you brought the maid,” said the fat bearded man at the café, sitting in the same spot as before and once more with a crowd around him.

Sir John glanced over and muttered something.

“Ignore him,” said Emile, under his breath.

“It’s annoying,” said Sir John, equally low voiced, “and ungentlemanly. In London he would be horsewhipped.”

“My friend,” said Emile kindly, “you are not in Kensington now.”

Sir John made a noise.

“Which one is your maid,” said the man. “The amazon?”

Miss Henderson rolled her eyes.

“Or is that your wife?” said the man.

Monsieur!” hissed Marie and swivelled round to confront the man.

Then…

…everything stopped….

…nobody moved….

…time halted…

…and sounds faded to silence.

“Is that you?” said Morag, walking up to Marie and looking at everyone now still as statues.

“No!” said Marie, confused.

“It’s just no-one else is moving.” said Morag.

The bearded man let out a big earthy laugh.

“Well, nearly no-one!” he said.

“You!” said Marie. “You’re the elemental.”

The man nodded forward, his demeanour seeming to change from brusque bon vivant to gentle man-mountain.

“Enchanted,” he said, “quite literally. And what may I ask are a witch and a… I’m sorry m’dear. What are you?”

“I’m an alchemist,” said Morag. A frown crossed the man’s enormous forehead.

“We’re looking for the weapon,” said Marie.

“The weapon?” said the man.

“The four parts,” said Marie. “The weapon in four parts.”

“You mean the key,” said the man. “The key in four parts.”

“The key?” said Morag.

“Yes, the key,” said the man, looking a little uncertain. “I guard one part and administer a test for it.”

“Yes, that,” said Marie. “What is the test?”

The man looked at the windmill on the Moulin Rouge.

“The test is simple, one must stay on top of the sails of the windmill for 3 full turns. A garçon over there is trying to do it as we speak,” said the elemental.

Marie tried to squint.

“I don’t see, what garçon,” said Marie.

“The one that came with the English men, the fat pompous one and the thin one that rubs his hands,” said the elemental. “They came yesterday, spoke to me, and I explained the task. Today they came back with an acrobat, I think. They started a little a while ago and he has made two turns now.”

The elemental turned to look at Marie and Morag, but they were gone, pushing through the stationary crowd and towards the Moulin Rouge and its windmill.

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