A suitcase that was once shiny black leather, now less shiny and smelling vaguely of seaweed. It has stickers from it's various destinations, many of them peeling. It had started out in Italy, visiting Venice and Rome, Florence and Milan, Naples and Bologna, then it had moved on to Tunis and Casablanca, London and Paris, Seville and Barcelona, Geneva and Warsaw, Singapore and Cypress, Athens and Sparta, New York and New Delhi.
Many sorcerers had tried to open this mysterious suitcase, all had failed. It responded to no magic unlocking spells, a Metalmage had been unable to manipulate the pins inside the lock (she said with a worried frown that she was also completely unable to sense their presence), or melt a working key. In a fit of rage, an Elemental had blasted fire at it. This, too, was completely ineffective. So were sigils, blasts of air, shadow, spiritual dances and the lockpicks the sorcerers reverted to when it was clear that magic would get them nowhere.
So the contents of the suitcase remained a mystery. There was speculation, of course, and rumors and gossip, that sort of thing, but no one had any sort of evidence, and most people were quite far from the truth.
"Who are you, and what are you doing here?"
He smirked. "Me? Oh, I'm no one."
The security guard gave him a skeptical look, tapping her baton against her palm. "May I have your identification, Monsieur No One?"
He raised an eyebrow, still smirking. "May I have your number, Mademoiselle Security Guard?"
"You must be new here. Don't talk to me that way." Her hands didn't move from her baton, but he felt as though she'd slapped his face. No, not as though she'd slapped his face. She had slapped his face. Without moving. How did that even work?
He took a step back, holding up his hands. "Hey, hey, there's no need to get all defensive."
"I'm a security guard. I will defend this place."
"What harm could a simple guy like me do?"
Now it was her turn to smirk. "Absolutely none. You talk too much."
He didn't see her baton coming around to the back of his neck.
Officers Maureen Nesbitt and Matthew Squires both had one thing in common. They were mortals who had dipped their toes into magical activity several times and lived to tell the tale. Squires was married to a mage called Lux (though he still thought of her as Sophie), and Nesbitt had been the only member of her family who couldn't shatter a glass with her eyes. They'd worked together for four years, seven months now, doing their part to cover things up, make sure magic and sorcery never appeared on the police reports, and investigate those cases that tied together the worlds of ordinary and extraordinary.
Nesbitt's walkie-talkie buzzed.
"The subject's unconscious. This was even easier than I'd thought it'd be."
"Do you have the suitcase?" Nesbitt's voice was very business-like, lacking the light tone of the person on the other end.
"Yeah. He hadn't gotten there yet, but I was able to liberate it."
"Good. Bring it up to the roof." Nesbitt put a hand over her walkie-talkie and looked at Squires. "Sophie knows what to do with it?"
"And she said we can trust this Adamantha person?"
"Apparently they've worked together before. Sophie said she has an attitude at times, but she means well."
The door opened, and the security guard stepped out onto the roof, baton in one hand, suitcase in the other. She was a bit out of breath. "The stupid thief-dude is so heavy," she complained.
Squires was about to say she wasn't carrying any thief-dude, when he saw the body that was being dragged behind her by an invisible force.
"Is he...?" he started.
"Alive? Yeah. I just gave him a little tap, not enough to give him major head trauma or anything. He'll have bruises from the trip up the stairs, though. Pity." She said that last word like she didn't mean it in the slightest.
"So," Squires said, "Second degree burglary. Shall we take him to the station?"
Nesbitt frowned and turned to Adamantha. "Do your sorcerers have your own justice system?"
"Sort of." The sorceress-slash-security-guard shrugged. "I don't have a lot of confidence in it, though. Besides, he broke into a mortal museum. That's a job for the mortal police force."
"Very well." Squires walked over to the would-be burglar, turned him over and pulled out his handcuffs.
To the mortals around her, she was Sophie Squires, the sort of person who stayed at home and cleaned house while her husband, a police officer, risked his life to keep the city of Haggard safe. She'd find that offensive if it was anywhere near the truth, but as it was, it was convenient. People paid little attention to her, except to compliment her cooking or make polite small talk. Matt knew the truth of course. She kept the details from him, like he kept the details of his cases from her, but he knew about magic and sorcery and he knew she also went by the name Lux Seren. Right now, she was Lux, and she listened.
The wind told her about the suitcase, about how it was back, and about to fall into her path. She'd watched its progress for a long, long time. She'd been prepared to watch a while longer, but it was starting to look like she wouldn't have to.
His head hurt...
He opened his eyes. Cement. He tried to push himself up, but his arms were stuck. He rolled over. There was the sky. What was the sky doing in a museum? It was too big, too powerful to be contained. Just like him.
"You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law."
He remembered now. The security guard. He had a weakness for girls with auburn hair...
This is the awkward moment where he takes back everything he said about how he can't be contained.
Adamantha set the suitcase on Lux's desk.
"Do you have a way to open it?"
Lux tilted her head. "I'm working on that bit."
She looked at the handle, at the four symbols engraved on the lock. Fire, water, air and earth.
This will be a bit like Theatre of Shadows, in the sense that the puzzles you complete will help advance the story, though some of them may be more relevant than others. I do have a number of... twists planned.
Before we begin, I'm going to divide you into teams, one for each of the symbols. Fire, water, air or earth. Comment your top two choices, and anyone you would really like or really not like to be on the same team as. (I won't be publishing the comments for this post. If you have a question, I'll leave a comment quoting and answering it or contact you via email, depending on the nature of the question and if the answer would benefit others as well.)
Anyone who joins late will be added to the smallest team. The point of the team element is that not everyone has to do every challenge, and they can still get points. Um, I'm not sure what else to say here? The challenges will very greatly, and I will be announcing the first one soon.