Chapter 2: Chance
It was a week before Maz returned to the bar to talk to Nyx. During that week she spent a lot of time searching her memories and her father's records to find out if he'd been involved in anything that could have gotten him killed. Nothing. She also did a background check on Nyx, finding nothing at all. For all intents and purposes he didn't exist, which worried her. That and there was no record anywhere of cardshifters or even anyone whose magic was similar.
As she approached the bar she ran into Nyx and Eras. Literally. As she spun out of the way, Nyx grabbed her arm and pulled her along behind him. "Her too." He told Eras as they continued, not slowing a bit.
"That wasn't part of the bet." Eras complained.
"I said you had to buy dinner. I didn't specify for how many." Nyx replied grinning. Today he was white-blond with green eyes and was wearing that damn top hat again, this time paired with a tuxedo and a weird looking cane. The cane was half black and half red, covered in strange drawings and perched on top was a split black and red heart.
Before Maz could protest going with them, she found herself hauled off and was forced to listen to Nyx's and Erasmus's banter, which was quite bad enough but what was worse was the irritating way Nyx pointed out something he wanted in every store that they passed. Before her nerves frayed to a point where she was going to have a fit, they arrived at their destination. A fancy restaurant-lounge brightly lit in the deepening night, surrounded only by expensive and impeccably clean cars. The fashionable place practically screamed money and connections. Mazarine flushed as she took all this in. She wasn't dressed for this kind of place, wearing just an ordinary suit. She wasn't even sure that she had anything good enough at home, much less on her. Eras and Nyx both fit in, Nyx in his strange finery and Eras was just as elegantly dressed as he'd been the last time she'd met, wearing black pants and a deep blue silk shirt that was opened slightly at the collar.
It took Eras and Nyx a few moments to notice that Maz was no longer with them. Turning as one they stared at her for a long moment before their expressions changed, one to amusement, the other to confusion. Maz wasn't looking at either of them, too intent on fading into the shadows.
Nyx grinned at her. "Get us a table Eras. We'll be there in a few moments."
Maz was again grabbed by Nyx, who towed her into a nearby alley before Eras could say anything.
Nyx pulled his hat off with a flourish, reached inside and Maz watched in amazement as his arm disappeared up to the elbow. He rooted around inside his hat for a while, finally pulling out a bundle of black cloth. Shaking it out revealed the bundle to be a knee-length halter dress, complete with a silver chain belt about the hips. "You can wear this." Nyx said handing the dress to Maz.
Maz stared at him. "Where'd you get this?"
Smiling, Nyx just winked at her, otherwise ignoring her question. "You'd better hurry and get changed quick or Eras'll leave. And I'm hungry!"
"I'm not changing here!" She protested.
Nyx cocked his head to one side. "Why not?"
"For one thing you're watching." Maz snapped, acutely embarrassed.
"Oh. That's no problem. Just give me a sec." Nyx once again reached into the hat, this time pulling out an entire folding screen from it. He set it up carefully for Maz before taking a step back and turning to face the road. "There you go. Now hurry."
Opening and closing her mouth several times in mute protest and unable to vocalize anything, Mazarine finally gave up, went behind the screen and put on the dress. She kept a sharp look-out to make sure Nyx wasn't peeping, not quite trusting him for some reason, but the only things she ever saw was a creepy-looking red-eyed white rabbit which watched her for a few minutes before hopping back around the screen.
Finished, face slightly pink, Maz walked over to Nyx. "I'm, uh done." She said quietly. "What should I do with my clothes?"
Nyx smiled at her again. "I'll take them." He packed up the screen and was shoving her clothes into his hat when he gave her a once over. "That looks good on you." He hummed for a moment and then nodded. "You keep it. It never did fit right anyway."
Maz opened her mouth to ask him what he meant then shut it. She was beginning to believe that the less Nyx said, the less she was likely to be confused by. She was beginning to understand why Eras had said she'd have to meet Nyx to understand him. She followed him into the restaurant, keeping her eyes down, uncomfortable in this expensive place. Nyx seemed to know where Eras was because he lead the way, winding through tables and around people, finally stopping at one of the booths situated near the back.
He slid into a seat beside Eras and after a moment's hesitation, Maz followed suit.
"Here." Eras said handing her a menu. "Nice dress. I think I recognize it. Nyx give it to you?"
Mazarine nodded, flushing slightly. "You don't have to pay for me. I can take care of it."
Eras chuckled. "A bet's a bet. Besides it's no problem. I get discounts since I'm here so often." He leaned closer and whispered in her ear. "Don't worry. You look wonderful. No one's going to think you don't belong."
Sure her face was now a bright crimson, Maz ducked her head, much to the amusement of her two companions. "What're you having Nyx? It had better not be half the menu again."
"I'm having the Hasenpfeffer and that Eastern Merlot we had last time."
"And you Maz?"
"Umm…" The young woman looked at the menu quickly and pointed at random. "I'm having the Kreatopita Argostoli?"
Nyx snickered earning himself a kick from Eras. "Are you sure? That's fairly spicy and you didn't seem to care for those spicy nachos we had last week?" Consulting his own menu for a moment, Eras continued. "How about a nice beef sukiyaki? It's not as hot."
Flushing again, Maz nodded. "That sounds good."
"Do you like wine?"
"Yes." She replied softly, hiding her face again.
"Then you can have that with your dinner." Eras replied smiling reassuringly.
The waiter came and Eras placed the orders for everyone having the sirloin steak himself. Once the waiter was gone, Nyx turned to Eras, eyes dancing. "The seducing game after dinner?"
Eras sat back and thought about it as Maz looked from one to the other. "What's the seducing game?" She asked suspiciously.
"Whoever can seduce the most people in a given place wins." Nyx explained with a wicked grin once more on his face.
Mazarine stared at the pair of them in shock swiftly changing to outraged horror. "You just go around seducing people?" She hissed, only just keeping herself from shouting.
Nyx shrugged. "It's fun. It's normally a tie. Eras is good." Green eyes crinkling he continued. "Then again he should be, being an escort and everything."
"You're an escort?"
The black-haired man nodded. "I take women out on dates, to special occasions, wherever they ask me to. It pays well and it makes them happy. Nothing wrong with it so you don't need to be shocked." Eras finished with a shrug.
Before Maz could continue the discussion, their food arrived and Eras used it as an excuse to stop the uncomfortable conversation. They had only just begun eating when Mazarine noticed that Nyx's hat was shaking.
"Nyx. Why is your hat moving?"
The blond man sighed. "It's just Chance. He's in trouble so I haven't been feeding him. But he just won't stop pestering me." Looking up at the hat, Nyx rolled his eyes and gave a resigned sigh, "Alright, alight. You can have some too." With complete disregard for anyone who might be watching, Nyx picked up a piece of meat and lifted it up to the edge of his hat.
The hat slipped up and Maz watched in shock as the head of a white rabbit poked out, took the meat and retreated back inside. It had red eyes and Mazarine had to wonder if it was the same one that'd been watching her outside.
"Uh Nyx?" Eras said. "Hasenpfeffer is made of rabbit. Chance knows that right?"
"Of course he knows." Nyx said feeding another piece to the creature on his head.
"Wait a second, that means that rabbit is a cannibal!" Maz cried in surprise.
I'm not a cannibal. A strange voice said and when she looked around, Mazarine found the rabbit glaring at her.
"It talks." She whispered, head feeling as if it was going to pop, having experienced shock after shock.
Of course I talk. And my name's Chance not 'it'. The rabbit continued to glare as he ate what Nyx handed him.
"But you're a rabbit, eating rabbit and you talk…?" Maz babbled.
Obviously I'm not a rabbit which means it's not cannibalism. The voice sounded annoyed and as if to prove his point, Chance took a huge meat chunk and chewed it as he stared at her. You're remarkably naïve for someone spending any amount of time with Nyx and Erasmus.
Mazarine could only stare. The rabbit wasn't speaking aloud. At least she was pretty sure he wasn't because no one else had looked at him. He must be speaking inside her head. She'd heard of mages who could do that but never rabbits. "Did you get changed by a spell?"
Nyx choked and Eras had to pound him on the back as he began laughing. Chance glared down at him, somehow managing to stay on Nyx's head. Just because I talk doesn't make me a human."
Eras took pity on Maz. "Chance is from another dimension. The dimension that Nyx's hat leads to. He spends a lot of his time there but he does come here too."
Something finally clicked in Maz's head. "Wait a second. You were peeping on me when I got changed!" She hissed.
Somehow the rabbit smirked. Of course and you loved every minute of it.
Maz turned red not with embarrassment but with fury. "You…"
Nyx stopped whatever she had to say by poking Chance. "Be nice now or no more dinner for you."
Chance snorted and retreated into the hat only to emerge moments later with a cigarette in his mouth.
"Not in here." Eras said warningly. "This is a non smoking restaurant."
The rabbit glared at him and retreated into the hat but didn't re-emerge this time. The two men shrugged and returned to their food as Maz continued to stare at the hat, mind slowly processing everything that had just happened. It was going to take a while.