Disclaimer: I own nothing. Everything belongs to the Friends on the Other Side. Er, I mean, to Disney.

A/N: well, here's my first PatF fanfiction, and you probably better hope it's the last one. I always had a thing for villains, and this time was no expection. The idea for a fic about how Facilier got himself involved with voodoo stuff has been buzzing in my brain for a while, and this oneshot is the result. Hope you enjoy the read.

It was odd how rich, elegant men seemed to be always worried about something, Émile mused as he watched the man walking quickly down the street with a frown on his face – they were supposed to be a lot happier since they didn't have to struggle or work hard to get food on the table every day, he had often thought.

He had asked his mother's new boyfriend – and after almost a year he was starting to think he could really be the last one – but he had just shrugged and said rich men were weird. "The more they have, the more they want," he had said before resuming his work "I don't really envy them – we're too busy working to get by to worry that much, ain't we?"

Émile knew that Glenn wasn't exactly the sharpest knife in the drawer, but he guessed he knew more about adults than he did, so he had just decided that his answer was plausible enough. He hadn't stopped being envious, but yes, they were weird people, he thought again before he turned his attention to the guy walking down the street: he was just about to walk next to the spot where he was standing, and whatever thoughts he was concerning himself with kept him from even noticing the activity buzzing around him. All the better.

The boy waited a few more moments, then he walked straight to the man. It took only a few instants – a slight bump, a humble apology from the boy, and the two went for separate ways. The man didn't notice how the pocket of his elegant coat felt oddly lighter, and the boy didn't notice how the adult had absentmindedly rubbed his sleeve as if he had just touched something infected and muttered something about how he 'liked them better when they were useful' before he just shook his head and completely forgot about the skinny black kid with impossible hair who had accidentally bumped into him.

Everything normal in a normal day.

"Émile! Hey, Émile!"

"Uh?" the kid immediately stopped counting the money and quickly stuffed it in his pocket before he turned to see who had just called him – you can never be too sure – then he relaxed as he saw a few kids about his age approaching him.

"Hey, guys. How y'all doin'?"

"We want to go down the river to cool down a little. We could catch a few frogs and make them race, too – how 'bout that?" a kid names Ross asked, wiping the sweat off his forehead.

Émile hesitated. For a moment the thought of bathing in the river felt tempting: it was a hot afternoon after all, and he would have probably been home if Glenn hadn't suggested he should get out for a walk because 'adults gotta do what adults gotta do'. He had no idea what that meant, but Glenn had promised him new shoes if he went out, and it had been enough to convince him that yeah, adults gotta do what adults gotta do and kids probably shouldn't be in the picture.

He eventually shrugged and gave them a grin, somehow made more mischievous by the gap between his front teeth. "I've got a better idea – who wants sweets?" he asked, grabbing a handful of money from his pocket and raising his hand "I'm going in the sweets shop near the park with, and I wanna eat candy until I get sick."

As he had expected, everyone's reaction was pretty enthusiastic.



"Hey, where did you get all that money?" one of the kids asked as they began walking down the sidewalk, heading for the sweets shop – he had never seen actual paper bills in years, only coins.

Émile gave him another grin. "That's a secret. C'mon now, I want to be at the park eating candy in the shade before midday."

"Here you go, kid. And these are on the house," the big, burly man said as he let a few more sweets fall in the bag with a wink "looks like you need them – you're so skinny it's a wonder you even have a shadow."

"Heh, everyone says that," Émile said as he walked out, staggering a little under the weight of the biggest bag they had in the store, filled with candy to the brim "thanks!"

"Don't eat them all at once," he heard the guy saying as the door closed behind him, but he barely paid any attention to him busy as he was grinning at the other kids.

"Look what I've got!"

"Wow, that must be a ton of sweets!"

"Are you really going to share with us?"

"Sure, I couldn't eat them all by myself in a year!" Émile pointed out as they began walking towards the park. They rarely went there because that place was for white people with fancy clothes and shiny jewels and not for black kids with patched-up trousers and often no shoes, but when they did they could just feel the thrill of doing something that was forbidden, if now by law at least for general convention – and man, this time they couldn't wait to rest in the shade and eat all those sweets in everyone's face! Émile's mouth watered at the thought.

"Hey, isn't that Jimmy?" Ross suddenly asked, snapping him from his thoughts. He looked at his left to see an older boy who was handing newspapers to the people walking on the sidewalk.

"Yes, it's Mr. Hard Work. Wait just a sec," he said before crossing the street "hey, Jimmy!"

James stopped handing newspapers for a moment and turned to look at him, and his tired expression from waking up at dawn to sell newspapers melted in a smile. "Hi, Émile," he greeted the younger kid as he approached "what's in that bag?"

"Sweets," Émile grinned proudly, holding up the bag with some effort "see?"

"Yes, I see. You've got enough to feed an army," James said with a laugh, turning to sell a newspaper to a guy who was walking down the sidewalk, and it didn't escape Émile how he had licked his lips for a moment. It occurred to him that he probably hadn't even had breakfast – well, neither he had, but he hadn't been working all morning.

"Me and the guys are going to eat them in the park, there's enough for everyone. Care to join?"

James sighed and shook his head. "I'm like to, but I have to finish selling these, and then I've got to start with the afternoon edition. Thanks anyway."

"Aw, c'mon, how bad can a little break be?"

"I can't take breaks, I'm afraid – it would be like stealing the money I'm getting for this job," the other boy explained, both apologetically and oddly proud, then he grinned "you'd understand if you tried to work instead of slacking all day, you little rascal."

"You spoilsport," Émile said, making a face, but he held out the bag again "c'mon, hard worker, grab a few."

"Well, thanks," James smiled at him and reached to take a handful of sweets, faintly wondering where he had gotten the money for so many sweets – then again, was it really worth wondering? Everyone knew what a good pickpocket that kid was. "Have you ever considered working, Émile?" he asked through a mouthful of candy "I know they're looking for a paperboy for the evening edition, and I'm working elsewhere in the evening, so…"

Oh, man, not yet another lecture on how rewarding hard work was. "I ain't one for work, Jimmy," Émile cut him off with a shrug "I like the easy way better."

"The easy way isn't always the right one," James pointed out, smiling a little patronizingly at him.

"Hey, is it right that the guys you're selling that stuff to are this rich because our ancestors worked for them until they spat blood?" his gaze suddenly darkened "look at that stupid La Bouff kid over there, with his nice clothes and shiny toys. He doesn't have to work, and he's got everything because someone else worked their hands to the bones before he was even born," he added bitterly. It had been the hard labour and the blood of his ancestors to make that family and lots others that rich…and still he and lots of other people whose grandparents had lived in slavery had nothing of all that, Émile thought with a frown as he stared to the red-headed kid from distance.

"I don't think thinking that way will make you any good, Émile," James said quietly, a little puzzled – Eli La Bouff was a nice guy, everyone who knew him could tell that: why did Émile seem to dislike him more than anyone else in the world? It wasn't like he ever had anything to do with slavery, nor had his father. "You can't stay with your head stuck in the past, you can't change it. What matters if your future: that is what you can change."

"If my future is having to break my back to get a piece of bread at the end of the day, I think I'll pass," he snorted, then he shrugged at James' slightly disapproving gaze "c'mon, what kind of job is there for a black guy around here?"

"Selling newspapers, for a start," James replied, waving a newspaper for emphasis.

"But they kick you out to hire another paperboy who asks for less money the moment you get too old and need more, and after what can you do? Just stuff you need muscles for. I ain't got any," he pointed out, not even needing to gesture at his own skinny frame to prove his point.

"You could get them if you worked."

"If I don't break my back before, maybe. I ain't dying to find out," Émile just said before changing subject "look, we're going to the park to eat these before they melt. If you change your mind, join us."

"I doubt I will, but thanks," James said with a sigh before he stuffed the last candy in his mouth and handed him a newspaper "here, something for reading practice. And thanks for the sweets!"

"You're welcome," Émile shrugged and reached for the newspaper before turning to cross the street and join the others "see ya 'round, Jimmy."

"Bye, Émile," James said with a sigh before he shook his head a little and bent to grab more newspapers.

"How did you learn to do that?" a kid named Charlie – though everyone called him Rabbit because of his slight harelip – asked him, looking at him with wide eyes as he finished reading the article aloud.

"Sorry, that's a secret," Émile's grin widened, as always when he got to surprise the other kids by reading – none of them had ever gone to school, and how he had learned how to read was a mystery to everyone "can't give away my trick, y'know," he gave a satisfied sigh and let his head drop back on the grass. It was late afternoon now, and the heat was nowhere as oppressing as it had been the whole day. Not that they had minded – when you spend the whole day in the shade of threes chewing sweets, fooling around with your friends and occasionally getting up to splash some water on yourself from a fountain, even heat stops being bothersome.

"Man, I'm full," Ross muttered with a yawn.

"Tell me about it. I think I'm about to explode," Émile muttered, then he squirmed with a yelp as one of the others poked his belly "hey!"

"You're right, it's bloat. Can you get up and walk now? You're too skinny for a stomach like that!"

"Look who's talking!" he retorted, but he was laughing. There was a peaceful silence, finally broken by Rabbit's sigh.

"I think I better go before mama thinks I drowned in the river."

"Yeah, me too."

"Right. It's getting late anyway."

"Ain't you coming, Émile?"

He shook his head, his eyes still shut. "Nah, I'm too sleepy. I think I'll take another nap before I get home," he yawned a little "see ya 'round."

"See ya."


Émile lazily waved back before he turned and fell into a satisfied slumber, completely unaware of the old man watching him from across the park – a man who hadn't torn his eyes from him since when he had walked in the park. An odd smile curled the man's lips as his old hands kept shuffling a deck of Tarot cards.

The first thing Émile registered as he opened his eyes was the almost complete lack of noises. There wasn't any sound anymore around him but some birds singing – no music, shrieks, no people talking or laughing…and he immediately knew why as he noticed that the sun was just starting to disappear beyond the horizon.

"Aw, great," he mumbled, scrambling on his feet and stretching for a moment before he began walking quickly to the gate. He had slept way more than he should have, and now the sun was setting and he had to walk to the other side of New Orleans. He just hoped his mother and Glenn wouldn't-

He was snapped from his thoughts as he noticed, from the corner of his eye, that he wasn't the only one left in the park after all. There was someone else, and old man sitting on a bench only a few feet from where he stood. But it wasn't him to catch his attention; rather, it was the stuff he had on display on the ground: there were some odd books, jars, Tarot cards and weird-looking dolls and masks. He looked like a mixture between a peddler, a fortune teller and…and…something else Émile couldn't quite define. What was he doing still there in the empty park? Maybe he was sleeping – his head was lowered and his eyes were shut after all.

For a moment Èmile seemed about to just shrug and walk off, then he abruptly changed his mind – he couldn't really tell what drew him there in that moment, though he would know it all too well years later – and stepped closer to the guy, not even noticing how birds had suddenly stopped singing and how the sky had seemed to darken in a deeper shade of red in the sunset. "Hey. Hey, are you awake? Hey!"

The man raised his gaze to meet Émile's, and the boy realized he was very, very old. He was smiling faintly at him, his hands shuffling a deck of old Tarot cards. "Yes, my boy?"

"You won't sell anything that way," Émile pointed out, giving a curious look at the cards the man was shuffling before looking at the weird objects in display again, and his gaze was captivated by an odd book with a painting of some menacing-looking mask for one more instant before he turned back to the stranger "you gotta catch people's attention, y'know. And there ain't many people 'round here right now."

The man gave him an odd smile. "I got your attention, apparently. I don't need to make people notice me – I wait for them to be drawn here. Are you interested in knowing your future, Émile?"

The boy immediately frowned, then he shook his head. "Do you think to impress me like that? Anyone could have told you my name. I ain't dumb."

"Anyone? You seem to think you're much more known than you really are, my boy."

Émile snorted. "I went here with my friends this afternoon. You could have asked any of them."

The man raised an eyebrow. "And then these friends of yours wouldn't even tell you some creepy stranger asked him your name?" he asked, and Émile realized he had a point.

"You could have heard us…"

"I didn't approach any of you. You would have noticed, wouldn't you? You're such an observant child, always trying to find an explanation for everything you see. Isn't that why you insisted for that old man who lived next door to teach you how to read?"

This time it took Émile a few seconds before he could retort. "You heard that too," he said almost accusingly "I'm the only one among my friends who can read, so-"

"But no one knows who it was to teach you. You wanted to keep it a secret so that it would add something to their wonder – like a magician refusing to reveal the trick. You really like surprising people, don't you?" the man laughed at his flabbergasted expression "but looks like it was your turn to be surprised now, wasn't it, my boy?"

Émile hesitated for a few moments, his widened eyes still fixed on the old fortune-teller, then he frowned again. "What's my full name?" he asked, his voice sounding once again oddly challenging.

"Émile Renard Facilier. Did you know that your middle name means fox? Quite fitting, if you ask to me."

The boy ignored his last remark, his heart beating somewhere in his throat, and he couldn't tell if he was more scared or excited by the whole thing. "What's my mother's name?"

"Morgaine Facilier. Your father's was Sean Myers. He died a couple of years after leaving New Orleans – he got the wrong end of a broken bottle in his neck during some bar fight, in case you were wondering. Now, now, don't be afraid," he chuckled as Émile took a few steps back, now openly staring at him with a mixture of wonder and confusion…though with not nearly as much fear as many other people had showed.

"How do you do that?" the boy finally asked, doing nothing to hide his wonder.

"The cards told me," the man replied, springing said the cards "they tell me everything."

"The cards?" Émile repeated. Well, that sounded just like a reply a fortune-teller would give, still… "But you didn't even look at them since when I got here!"

"True," the man sprang the cards once more, an amused smile on his old, wrinkly face "but did I consult them right after I saw you walking in this park this morning. I knew you'd be drawn to me sooner or later, and I was curious to know more before you did. You are a gifted boy, you know."

Émile grinned a little proudly. "People say I'm smart as a whip," he boasted a little.

"You're a clever child, yes – though that wasn't quite the talent I was referring to. The gift I'm talking about is in your blood, coming from your ancestors. But you already knew about them, didn't you? Your mother used to tell you their story before you went to sleep."

The boy's grin disappeared and his eyes widened again. He took a step back – if until just a moment before he had even a shadow of doubt that the man could really learn everything from the cards, now that doubt was gone. No one but he and his mother knew of the story she always told him since when he was a toddler – no one but the two of them…and now that old, odd man.

"Oh, fine, I'll tell you that story again, but you've got to promise you'll go to sleep after it's over. Promise?"


"Good. So, once upon a time…"

"How much time?"

"Émile, you already know perfectly-"

"But mama, you've got to tell the story right!"

"Oh, fine. Almost two hundred years ago, there was a princess. She was no fairytale princess with a palace, silk gowns and a crown – her palace was her land, her gown was a leopard's skin and her crown was the sun that rose over Africa every morning. She was an African princess, born from a man coming from ancient line of royalty and a woman whose family had given the tribe powerful shamans. She was said to have inherited both her father's sharp mind and her mother's powers."

"But then the slave traders got her."

"Yes. She was enslaved with most of her tribe and brought here, in Louisiana, after a perilous journey to whom her brothers and sister survived only thanks to her magic."

"But why didn't she use her magic to stop the slave traders?"

"Her powers were not meant to be used to hurt: doing so would have gone against every fibre of her being. She used them to help her brothers and sisters."

"That's dumb."

"That's how the story goes, young man. Do you want to hear the rest or not?"


"Then keep quiet. So, this princess finally arrived here. She and her brothers and sisters were put to work in the La Bouff sugar plantation…"

"And that's how they got so rich! It's not fair!"

"Life is not fair most times, my boy. In any case, she kept protecting her brothers and sisters. She eventually gained the respect from her master: he knew she was the reason why his slaves had a longer lifespan than any other's, were healthy and no amount of work killed them the way it killed many others. He was maybe afraid of her, yet he admired her. She bore him a child."

"And the kid never got anything from him."

"Like every illegitimate child slave masters had with their slaves."

"But she was our ancestor! We should be just as rich…!"

"Émile, it's been so long ago. Thinking about it won't make you any good: it's an old story nobody can prove. Let it go."

"Hmpf. What happened next?"

"Oh, as if you didn't know!"

"Just tell the story!"

"Fine. Many years passed, then decades, and the princess grew old: older than any other human being ever got. And she became blind, but she still worked her magic and she still considered, by everyone, the queen of voodoo – every man in the La Bouff family sought her advice throughout the years. And during those years and decades, she had many grandchildren and great-grandchildren. When slavery was abolished, she was said to be over a century and a half old."

"How could she become that old?"

"Nobody knows it. In any case, the very same day slavery was abolished she knew her great-great grandchildren didn't need her anymore to live on. She said goodbye to each of them – my mother was her youngest great-great granddaughter, barely more than a girl herself – and then disappeared. A man said he had seen her walking through the Bayou that night. Some people think she went there to die, some others claim she still lives there. In any case, nobody ever saw her again."

"Do you think she's still alive, mama?"

"Oh, I don't know, Émile. I don't even know how much of this story is real and how much it isn't. But I know one thing: you great-great-great grandmother was no common woman. She had something in her blood. She had a gift."

"You have a gift."

The man's voice snapped Émile from his confused thoughts and bits of memories and made him look at him again. "What?" he asked, his voice trembling a little, a sudden twinge of fear mixing with his curiosity and wonder.

"You have a gift, Émile Facilier," the fortune-teller said quietly, an odd smile curling his lips as he absentmindedly shuffled his cards "a gift that several generations of your family lived and died without. It's in your blood. Can't you feel it, my boy? Don't you ever hear the shadows around you whispering? Not many people can hear them. You're among the lucky ones."

"No. I mean…" the boy frowned as he tried to recall what his mother would tell him when he was very little, when she found him wide awake in bed claming someone was whispering from the shadows "it was just…some mice in the walls," he said aloud.

The man made a vague gesture with his hand. "Nonsense – the truth is that you can see and hear forces that don't belong to this word. Not to this side of the world, at least," he gave an odd smile "and they're ready to help you to obtain anything you want, my boy. All you have to do is reaching back for them."

The sky seemed to darken even more, the clouds the sun hit with his last rays almost looking like they were bleeding. For a moment Émile faintly thought he should just turn and run away, forget about that man and his words… still, his feet stayed glued on the ground as he finally spoke the word that seemed to echo in his mind endlessly. "Anything?"

"Of course, my boy. So many people have anything they want without having to work," he said slyly, and he saw Émile's expression darken as he thought of Eli La Bouff and his family "so why not you? Life is a struggle, and everybody has to use their weapons the best they can. This will be yours," the man reached down to grab a book, the same that had caught his attention earlier, and handed it to the boy, who took it "learn everything you can from it. It might gain you a lot more than you'd expect – powerful friends."

"How does one get friends with a book?" he asked with a slight frown of confusion – maybe that guy was senile after all…still, how could he know all those things about him? He glanced down at the cover, and for a moment he could have sworn the mask painted on it had just widened its smile.

"You'll find out soon enough, my child. Here, take these too," he handled him a deck of Tarot cards "they will be more useful than you can imagine, believe me. But now I think you better go home – you don't want your mama to get worried, do you?"

Suddenly, hearing that guy talking about his mother felt horribly wrong. Émile swallowed and took a few steps back, and the man's smile just widened. "Put your talent at good use, Facilier," he said, then he chuckled briefly as the boy nodded quickly and turned to run away, holding the thick book and Tarot cards against his chest, not turning to look at him even once as he ran.

The old man kept staring at the direction where he had ran away long after he was gone from his sight, until the sun finally settled and darkness surrounded him. He sighed and briefly glanced up at the sky, knowing it would be the last time he could look at it. Clouds hid most of the stars from his gaze, but the Evening Star was still in sight, and he guessed it was enough to ask from his last look at the sky.

"A young soul," the old man finally murmured, glancing down at one of the masks in display – the biggest one, the same painted on the cover of the book he had given to the boy "a new servant. Are you satisfied with this form of payment?"

The mask seemed to move even so slightly, baring its fangs in a terrifying grin, and the man knew that his debt had been paid. He smiled and finally closed his eyes, knowing that now he could finally rest without fearing for his soul.

The finding of the lifeless body of an old stranger sitting on a bench in the park the following morning caused some stir, but it was over quickly. Since nobody knew who the man was, he was buried in a forgotten spot in the cemetery, a nameless tombstone marking his resting place. In a few days everyone had forgotten about him, even the boy whose life he had radically changed: Émile Facilier would be far too busy with the new world of possibilities that had just opened in front of his eyes to bother about the fate of the one who had given him its key.

The very same moment the old man drew his last breath Émile stopped in front of his house's door, breathing heavily, his arms almost hurting for the strain of holding that old book. He hadn't stopped running for a moment, and his heart was beating so quick and hard that for a moment he thought it would break his ribs from inside.

He drew in a deep breath, forcing himself to calm down and scolding himself for getting that scared. Why should he be scared anyway? The old man hadn't done anything to harm him. Fine, he was a little creepy and he wasn't sure he liked it how he seemed to be able to look into his heart and soul – not to mention the thought he could know where he lived somehow chilled him – but he had been kind of nice to him after all. He had even given him something that he claimed could help him, so why should he be scared?

Émile took another deep breath and glanced down at the book again, whatever was left of his fear quickly turning into curiosity once more as he gazed at the mask grinning up at him from the cover in the dim light. What was that book about anyway? He had to find out, the boy decided as he finally held the book under his arm and used the other to push the front door and get inside… only to almost fall back at the yell that greeted him.

"ÉMILE! Where have you been all day?" the boy glanced up to see his mother staring down at him with a scowl that could barely hide her relief, her hands on her hips "do you have any idea of how worried I was?"

Oops. Émile glanced at Glenn – who was sitting on some old armchair he had found somewhere in the dumpster – almost hopefully, and the man immediately got his mute request. "Morgaine, I told you nothing bad happened," he said reasonably "the kid probably just went to the river with his friends and fell asleep in the shade. I always did so when I was a kid."

Émile mentally thanked his stepfather for serving him a good excuse on a silver platter. "Uh… that's right, I fell asleep," he said, smiling a little sheepishly – his mama just couldn't stay mad when he smiled like that "when I woke up it was getting dark already. Sorry 'bout that."

As he expected, his mother's anger seemed to vanish. She sighed and reached to ruffle his already unruly hair. "You'll be the death of me someday, y'know," she told him, but she was smiling a little "I was starting to think some gator got you down the river."

"Eh, the poor gator wouldn't have gotten much of a snack," Glenn pointed out, and they laughed a little before Morgaine turned back to her son.

"Don't make give me a scare like this again, alright?"

"Alright," Émile agreed, trying to seem as innocent as possible. Glenn gave a sceptical but amused look from behind his mother, then his gaze fell on the book.

"What's that, kid?"

Émile shrugged. "Reading practice," he just said, knowing he wouldn't have to add anything more – neither Glenn or his mother could read, and the thought that there could be books a kid shouldn't read wouldn't even cross their mind; they would just be glad that he could read "and I think I better get reading it now," he added quickly, turning to go upstairs and in the small loft that Glenn had turned into a bedroom he could have all for himself.

"Wait, aren't you going to eat anything?" his mother stopped him.

The thought of eating even more made Émile feel a little sick, but he managed to hide it. "Nope, I'm not hungry. And I'm really curious to read this, and… uh…" he thought for a moment of some other excuse, then he shrugged "…and well, I better leave you alone again because adults gotta do what adults gotta do, right?" he said quickly, turning to go upstairs – he still didn't know what that meant, but if Glenn always said that to make him get outside it had to be a good excuse.

His mother blinked, unsure if she should blush or laugh. "Émile!"

Glenn, on the other hand, just laughed. "Smart as a whip, that kid," the muttered fondly as he watched Émile getting upstairs with that odd book clutched to his chest – that thing seemed almost too big compared to his skinny frame, he thought in amusement "I always said that."

Morgaine raised an eyebrow. "And you have no idea of where he heard that 'adults gotta do what adults gotta do', eh?"

"Er…" he hesitated just for a moment, quickly thinking for an excuse "…oh, well, he can have heard it anywhere. You know how kids are, they ain't as dumb as lots of people think. I bet he has fun talking about that kind of stuff with the other kids – I did," he chuckled "hey, relax. He's a kid, it's normal for kids to talk about stuff they think is forbidden. It's all fun and games to them."

She sighed. "Maybe you're right," she admitted with a small smile, unaware of how far that her son's interest for the forbidden went and how nothing was going to be fun and games anymore.

Morgaine Facilier frowned a little as he heard some noises coming from her son's room – someone chattering, a few muffled chuckles. She turned her attention from the carrots she was mincing at glanced upstairs a little worriedly.

In the past few weeks, Émile had begun behaving a little oddly. At first he read that odd book all the time – it had been a struggle forcing him to drop it long enough to eat – and she had simply thought he was interested in whatever he was reading. Sure, that interest also meant that he would get out a lot less and spend more and more time in his room, but she supposed it would be over as soon as he finished the book or his interest for it began to wear off.

Instead, things hadn't changed at all. Émile had just started reading the book all over again, and after a week it had become hard to see him without those cards in his hands. He would be always shuffling them, springing them from one hand to the other and occasionally telling her or Glenn – and sometimes other kids too – to 'just take three'. Once again, she had dismissed it all as a child's play: she remembered a few guys when she was younger who claimed they could see the future with Tarot cards, and she had fun letting them see her past, present and future just to see how badly they'd screw up. It was just a game, she had told herself, and thus she had failed to notice that to Émile it was much more than just a game.

Things had gotten a little more troublesome when her son had apparently decided to start sewing puppets, for what purpose she couldn't tell; all she knew was that now his room was filled with makeshift and somehow creepy puppets, badly sewn together with rags and with buttons in place of their eyes – sometimes she would take a peek in her son's room to see him sitting cross-legged on his bed, focused on some other puppet he was sewing, bandages around his fingers

She would have probably dismissed it as yet another game and forgotten about it if it wasn't for the fact Émile used her sewing kit, which she needed for her job. Buying new threads wasn't too much of a trouble at first, but then needles had started to go missing, and eventually Glenn had bought Émile a sewing kit for himself – a present that had apparently made him happier than getting new shoes the previous week. But maybe Glenn was right, she was worrying too much: it was a weird pastime, but if he had fun that way-

She was suddenly snapped form her thoughts as yet another muffled chuckle reached her ears, and she finally walked upstairs – why in the world was Émile talking and laughing by himself? Was there someone with him? She approached the door of his room and opened it. "Émile?"

"Yes, mama?" the boy innocently looked back at her. He was sitting cross-legged on his bed, the book open on his knees, and he was the only person in the room.

"I heard laughing," Morgaine said, her eyes scanning the empty room, only lit by a few candles which cast deep, trembling shadows on the walls, but she couldn't see anyone.

Her son shrugged. "It was me. I reached a funny part," he explained, smiling a little sheepishly at her.

"Oh," she suddenly felt rather silly for getting worried over a few laughs, then she shrugged. "Dinner is almost ready. Wash your hands and get downstairs in five minutes," she said before she closed the door and went back in the kitchen.

Émile stayed silent until he heard her steps going downstairs, then he gave a sigh of relief. "Phew. That was close, eh?" he turned and gave the wall behind him a mischievous grin.

His shadow laughed.