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Aberrant Eremite
Aberrant Eremite
Posts: 278

12 days ago
[Co-written with Lady Jen Black]


Monday, 23 December, 1895
9:30 A.M.

A letter arrives for Telemachia Lee. Written in a bold dark hand, deep green ink on fine paper: "Miss Lee, my sincere apologies for what transpired at our last meeting. If you would permit me, I would like us to meet so that I can make amends. As proof of my sincerity, feel free to name the time and place, that you have nothing to fear from a trap. Your obedient servant, Lady Jen Black."

Lee's reply, pointedly signed Captain Lee, names a time and a rendezvous point. A deserted location in Bugsby's Marshes. Close enough to Watchmaker's Hill that it's not too hard to find one's way back, but a long way from anything much.


Tuesday, 24 December, 1895
4:00 P.M.

Jen picks her way through the marshes. The blades strapped to her forearms are a sort of comfort, ready to be triggered at a moment's notice in case of trouble. Her eyes are scanning the place, looking for the slightest trace of movement, ears pricked to pay attention to any sound that might indicate monsters. Or an ambush. She doesn't think Lee would call her here for a trap, but she doesn't know. She smells smoke, and advances closer with caution.

In the middle of a clearing burns a peat fire with a crude spit rigged over it. A haunch of meat is sizzling on it. From the shape, and the scales left on the foot, it seems to be the leg of some enormous lizard. Jen feels like she's being watched ... but Lee sits alone at the fire. Her rough clothes are liberally bespattered with blood, and she's working a mixture of salt and herbs into a second chunk of lizard. A raven caws nearby. Lee looks up.

Lee rises to her feet automatically as a lady enters her campsite. She nods to Jen, and leaves the meat on a tarp. She reaches for a jug of water and - yes, soap, and rags, and even a tiny brush. She cleans her hands with a care that belies the ensanguined condition of her clothing. She strides to the fire and picks up a pot that has been sitting at the edge. "Coffee? Or would you rather have wine?"

Jen sits down, regarding the other woman cautiously. "Whatever you're having is fine."

Lee pours coffee into two battered tin mugs. No milk or sugar is in evidence. Wordlessly, she places both mugs before Jen, allowing her to choose one. She turns away, drawing an oversized knife, and busies herself with slicing cooked bits off the edge of the meat, kebab style.

"This fellow," Lee remarks as she carves, "ate two drunks who were on their way home from the Medusa's Head. Cheery Man put a bounty on its head. I figure I'm free to do what I want with the rest of it."

Jen nods, sipping at the coffee. It's bitter but not awful. "Have you spoken to Lady Karnstein lately?"

Lee nods and grunts. She turns around, bearing a platter of sliced roasted lizard strips. She places it between them, She offers Jen a napkin - well, a rag, but a clean one - and wipes her own hands carefully before taking a morsel of meat and washing it down with black coffee.

Jen wipes her own hands before taking a bite. It's tough but gamey, with a rich flavour enhanced by the salt and herbs. Surprisingly, Lee can cook. "Are you angry with me?" She asks, sipping her coffee.

Lee studies her coolly for a long moment. Then, "No," she admits. "But I'm concerned. You're smart, beautiful, well-connected, you have a bold imagination. It's all very well. But do you know how to lead men?" She uses the word "men" unselfconsciously to refer to herself and the others regardless of gender.

Jen tilts her head, a carefully neutral expression on her face. "What an odd question. Define 'leading.' And why do you ask?"

Lee's eyes grow a bit colder. She sips coffee. "There are books on the subject. Many of them. I could loan you one."

The silence stretches out. At last Lee relents slightly. "This is your operation. We have to follow your lead. I'm satisfied so far that you know how to plan. There is also a question of nerve, and keeping it under pressure, but one never knows about that until the moment arrives. What I really mean is that if this is going to work, we need respect and trust. Mutual respect and trust. You're off to a bad start," she says frankly but without rancor, "but you spoke to Caroline, and now you're speaking to me. That's the correct order. And you took a risk to come out here. I had three tests for you, and you've passed the first two."

Jen nods. "So. 'Leading men.' Do you mean that in the sense of leadership? Or leading men on? Because I assure you, I am no stranger when it comes to making use of my looks."

"Oh, believe me, I've noticed," Lee replies dryly. "No. I mean leadership. My father was a retired colonel of infantry, you know. He taught me that respect and trust are vital to the survival of the unit. And that they go both ways. Make me respect you. Make me trust you." Lee’s voice is restrained, but the last two lines throb with subdued emotion - some combination of a command and a plea.

Jen raises an eyebrow, then something indescribable about her shifts. It's not quite her posture, her expression, her air, but some combination of all three. Her spine straightens, her fidgeting hands still, and her face smooths over. She radiates confidence, self-assurance, the sort of aristocratic bearing that expects her commands to be followed. But there's something deeper and more steely under the cool grace, something dangerous, like a predator readying to strike. "I understand your concerns. Trust -- I realize it has been broken by my actions, and for that I apologize. I give my word that it will not happen again. And you do have my trust, to some extent. If you did not, I wouldn't have allowed you to dictate the time and place, and give you the chance to ambush me. As for respect, that is earned, not given freely. I admire the way you handled the Snuffer the other night, and the way you have made a name for yourself at the Docks. And while I could tell you about the assassinations I have performed, there is no way to truly assure you that I am worthy of your respect. Only that if you give me your respect and trust, I will do my best to reciprocate."

Lee's poker face cracks into a toothy, eager grin. She likes what she sees. But she keeps her voice steady and level. "That will be enough to go on with."
edited by Aberrant Eremite on 1/19/2018

--
Hieronymus Drake: Gentleman scholar, big-game hunter, scar-faced aristocrat. Remarkably sane, all things considered.
Tanith Wyrmwood: Longshanks cat-burglar; Bohemian author; now, perhaps, something more. Bubbly, expressive, and affectionate. It’s not only still waters that run deep.
Telemachia Lee: Gentle lady by birth, brawling Docker by choice. Good company in the drunk tank.
+2 link
Anactoria St James
Anactoria St James
Posts: 29

12 days ago
“I’ll take the ten percent.” Anactoria addresses Mr Glamore evenly.

She certainly doesn’t trust the man to keep his word on something as nebulous as a favour. Even is he did, she can put the extra income to immediate use, both for herself and her friends.

--
Roleplaying social actions are welcomed.
http://fallenlondon.storynexus.com/Profile/Anactoria%20St%20James
+1 link
Lady Karnstein
Lady Karnstein
Posts: 104

12 days ago
[Also co-written with Lady Jen Black]

December 22, 1895
A letter arrives for Caroline. Written in a bold dark hand, deep green ink on fine paper: "Lady Karnstein, my sincere apologies for what transpired at our last meeting. If you would permit me, I would like us to meet so that I can make amends. As proof of my sincerity, feel free to name the time and place, that you have nothing to fear from a trap. Your obedient servant, Lady Jen Black."

Caroline offers to meet at her townhouse where she holds her Salons on an off night. She will meet Jen there and offer her a comfortable seat and a table with wine. Caroline's demeanor is not lazy and relaxed, but not as hostile as the evening before. Her voice is warm when she greets her. The usual mix of accents showing in one word or another

Jen takes her seat and greets Caroline politely. She eyes the wine with some trepidation, but decides to take a leap of faith and sips at the glass, savouring the flavour. "A sign of good faith," she says simply. "And I do understand your displeasure, Lady Karnstein. Is there something I can do to make amends?"

She chooses her words carefully, thoughtfully. Clearly not a native. "I wish...I need to feel I can trust you, both not to betray and to do the wise thing. As with Hubris I did not take his offer because I do not seek revenge or recompense. Nor do I with you. I do not wish to see you fail. I ultimately suffered little trouble. But...." She exhales. "You understand my concerns?"

Jen sets her wineglass down. "I do understand. And I have no intentions to betray the party, nor for any of you to get hurt. Not that if I was planning such a thing I would say so, but..." she gives an expressive shrug. "We stand and fall together. There is no use in treachery with regard to one's allies. If this fails, we are all doomed. And as for doing the wise thing, I will try. I confess that I am still young, and on occasion, prone to rashness and impulsivity. And I do hope older, wiser minds can offer me advice. Especially you." Her smile is sweet and careless. "I am certain you have seen many things in your long life. Not that I intend to mention it to the others. A lady must keep her secrets. You take my meaning?"

Caroline looks at her a few moments, weighing. "You do. You saw me kill him, then." Not a question, nor an accusation. She leans back. "I rescued his wife from him. Not for me. She does not like women.” She looks away, and back. “He makes me so angry." She looks at her glass a moment, thinking, then emerald eyes look up. "I want us all to succeed. So I would be happy to offer advice, outside any special knowledge of the Duchess, but I will not sabotage you there either, I promise."

Jen nods. "Such strength is supernatural. As is the way you lured the girl to your carriage. I do not accuse you of impropriety, I merely state. Few can dazzle the way you do. And your paleness, too. I did my research." She leans back in her chair. "Tell me. If you feed on a person, what happens to both of you? Could you eliminate threats in such a way?"

"Most people have trouble fighting the intense feelings that wash over them. As long as I take only a little they have no long lasting effects...I feed from a number of people, so everyone is safe. Violet is safe and alive today, if you wish to speak to her. " She pours a bit more from the same bottle in her glass. "A strong willed person could fight me off, at least if they could overpower me. Anyone in that room could at least resist. A typical person would be helpless, and I could hold someone until they fainted but at least most people if I took that much it would be a little dodgy if they could survive. A strong man could, someone with a weak heart would not from me taking that much. I don't usually kill and it's not exact. I know what I can take for no long term effects."

Jen nods. "Understandable. And I suppose you would not want to reveal your true nature to the rest of our crew?" She sips her wine. "I will confess to being curious. Are the gothic novels true? Can you indeed turn into a flock of bats and haunt people's dreams so they waste away? And how is this," she waves a hand at the wine, "possible?"

"I do not make a practice of revealing myself. But I would reveal myself before I would let someone in the group, or one of my people, be in danger. Lee suspects.” She sets her glass down. “I cannot really transform to speak of. A very large cat in dreams or parabola. Not a mist, or bats, or a rodent. At least not that I know how to. I know it is a secret buried in the second city. Where it came from. Anyway, they do not waste away unless I keep feeding. And since I tasted the Cider, I have been able to do more human things...eat, drink...though it speeds, a little, how soon I need more blood, like coupling does. Each time I have more I get more capable...but I do not have a source for myself."

Jen tops up her wine, feeling a chill creep down her spine. "So, if you were to feed on, say, the guards. That would be able to further your abilities, and nonlethally incapacitate them." She keeps her eyes on Caroline, lazy yet tense, and is suddenly aware of how very easy it would be for the woman to lunge for her neck.

"I could. I usually don't but I could if I needed to. I usually feed just to survive. And for pleasure with willing company." She smiles lazily, her whole posture, leaning back, is so still, languid, lovely, while her eyes are so intense. Without distraction, just sitting and talking, a weaker woman than Jen might be lost now, though it seems almost just a side effect of who she is...she does not seem to be trying tp control her or indeed do anything but speak. "If necessary, I could. But if I take very much it would be risky. And too many peaked people would possibly come back to me."

Jen nods in understanding. "Naturally. We would not want to arouse any suspicion. Or allow anything to be traced back to us." She sips at her wine. "So, Lady Karnstein. Do you believe you can trust me? Can we enter this business venture together without needing to fear that the other is about to stab us in the back?"

"Caroline, please.” She looks thoughtful. "Very well. You have my word. You know I do not break it. Such is my reputation."

She finishes up the last of her wine. "Caroline, then. I am glad we had this conversation." She extends her hand to shake.

She gently reaches out her hand "Of course. I look forward to working with you."
edited by Lady Karnstein on 1/19/2018

--
Lady Caroline Karnstein, infamous writer, artist, and courtesan. Unrepentant Invert.
Legendary Charisma, Correspondent, Nocturnal. Thumbfumble Champion 1894
Poet Laureate of the Neath.
http://fallenlondon.storynexus.com/Profile/Caroline%20Karnstein
+2 link
Aberrant Eremite
Aberrant Eremite
Posts: 278

11 days ago
[Co-written by everyone]


Thursday, 26 December, 1895
Evening

Jen looks around her study, the papers strewn everywhere on her desk. God, this is such an ambitious, crazy plan, whatever possessed her to dream it up? Her dreams have turned into nightmares these few nights, haunted by images of being torn apart in the Labyrinth, of being turned into dinner for the Royal Children, of being added to the Princess’ Cage-Garden, of having her face cut off by Snuffers, of becoming the plaything of some Fingerking and unable to tell the difference between reality and illusion. She has been working on her plans day and night, every second, non-stop, until she knows it back and forth, hoping that all her preparations will be enough and nothing dreadful will befall them.

The mood tonight is tense. Not due to mistrust -- that trouble with the wine has been sorted out, mostly -- but due to the sheer scale of what they’re trying to accomplish, the knowledge that they’re going to be making some very important groups very angry. She’s thought about all the ways it can go wrong, pictured failure that inevitably leads to death, imagined it so much it feels more like a memory. What is the good of glory and legacy if she does not live to see it? But still, there is no place for cowardice here. There is only the future, and the need for courage and forging on. And if she doesn’t believe in what they can do, how can she lead them on this heist?

So she straightens up, squares her shoulders, adjusts the fall of her dark green coat, fixes an arrogant, detached expression on her face, gathers up the necessary papers and heads to the dining room, where the others have gathered. The quiet discussions come to a halt when she enters, the door slamming shut behind her.

Planning is a long process...

REWIND

“We’ll be hitting the Labyrinth of Tigers first. Once Mr Inch leaves…”
“I can deal with the animals. They’ll mostly leave us alone anyway.”
“... Oh, and other than the Emporium, I want to head to the Third Coil, it's not right to keep people there. We should let them go!”
“Free the prisoners? Did you know that…”
“...Lost two t’ those tigers, ye canna avoid ‘em forever…”

“Are we bothered by the presence of certain nonhuman powers in those cages being unleashed on London?”

…with objections about risk…

“After the Labyrinth, to the Palace.”
“Wait, your contact is going to help us sneak into the Palace by the CELLARS?”
“We’ll be fine. Just don’t go near the fifth door.”
“What’s this about an abomination?”

…moral objections…

“Who doesn't want to rob the VPC for kicking us out of court? And we can be Mr Sacks for our newlyweds, take their wedding presents, all those esteemed guests must come with some gifts…”
“How very festive.”
“Stealing wedding presents? I don't like the notion.”
“Neither do I but for Feducci, think, I would make an exception.”
“We’ll let ‘em ken you cared, min.”

“Wait...you got yourself kicked out of court?! What did you do?!”
“If it was anything like me, what didn’t she do?”


…almost devolving into a shouting match at one point…


“I am not going to steal from the Duchess!”
“Not intended as a threat, but I think stealing from her is deeply unwise, even if one is okay with it. She is of a culture who put a remarkable amount of thought into what happens to people who take their stuff.”
“Why don't you go to Hell? Wait, that came out wrong, I meant the Embassy…”
“Won’t be a problem if we don’t get caught.”
“So we'll hit both places. And meet up at…”
“I wish you’d stop being so damn languid!”

…complaints that certain targets were too pedestrian…

“Concord Square? Booooring! Robbing that’s practically a rite of passage, for a thief! Let’s try somewhere exciting, like the Ministry proper -- I bet they have all sorts of great secrets there--”
“The Ministry does intrigue me.”
“-- And all I’m sayin’ is tha’ the University’s full of junk, and no one takes bleedin’ books fer payment these days. What else ye gon’ find there? Good intentions?”

“Who cares?! I’m tearing that damn Ministry apart myself if I have to.”

…fear of monsters…

“The Foreign Office. Really.”
“Oh c’mon, it’ll be fun!”
“Yes, assuming they don't catch us and eat us. Or melt us and turn us into candles. Or turn us into candles then eat us.”
“There are worse creatures in this city than those in the Foreign Office.”
“I am not going to say no, but the Foreign Office will be taken very seriously. We must be extra careful.”

…implausibilities…

“Slowcake doesn't exist.”
“I know that, I'm not an idiot! We're robbing the Amanuensis…”

…but thankfully they all agreed when it came to the Urchins.

“I want to share some of it with the kids at the Flit. We can't carry so much anyway.”
“Good on ye, Nicdubh.”
“They deserve it more than those rich bastards anyway.”
(Approving grunt)
“...Haven’t heard back from ‘er yet, I hope the bairns are okay...Eh? Oh, nay, jus’ thinkin’ outloud.”

“The Urchins have a role to play, and this will help them.”
“How do we get all the Urchin gangs together in once place to partition everything out?”
“Never doubt the watchfulness of Urchins. They’ll know we’re coming.”
“The Naughts AND Crosses?”
“Let the Longshanks handle it. They know them better than we do.”
(Palpable skepticism)

There were practical considerations too…

“I’m just sayin’, it’s real hard to steal a mirror that size without it breaking -- and I’m not keen on however-many years of bad luck!”
“You realise those mirrors are owned by the Masters, not the Carnival? And they're pathways to Parabola?”
“All mirrors go to Parabola, that’s not new.”
“Yes, but most mirrors don't have the ability to send you to the Boatman!”
“Ooh, can we rob him too?!”
“Absolutely not!”
“It would be novel, certainly.”

…concerns about destabilising London’s power structure…

“Sure he’s got issues, but he keeps his folk in line. And the Widow is better than a bunch of the alternatives.”
“She’s vicious.”
“Still better -- and far better than an outright crime war.”

“I respect the Man. He deserves to retire in peace. He's already lame. Maybe this way, he can reconcile with his daughter at last. Have some peace.”
"He’s more than earned a break. Let’s cut him some slack. But what about the Topsy King?”
“Oh c’mon, he’s a sweetheart! And I don’t know if he’d manage so well anywhere else.”
“We are not taking advantage of a madman. End of story.”
“I will not assist in robbing the Topsy King. The rest of them I do not care.”

…questions of etiquette...

“February’s a plotter, that one. You really want to make her upset?”
(low chuckle) “I really do.”
“I like the way you think.”
“Awful person. Immensely entertaining when vexed.”
“Somehow, I think she'd be more offended if we didn't rob her when we're going after so many others.”
“Are you trying to talk me out of it?”

…witnesses to deal with...

“Of course the University is going to be full of students. Fortunately for us those who aren’t holed up in the library will most likely be...ah... hammered…”
“I happen to be a member of the Stoats. I can improve those odds.”
“Best watch out for the professors, though -- I know a few, and not all of them are scrawny and absent-minded.”
“Twenty echoes t’ whoever eats a spider in front of ‘em.”

“I have a lot of legitimate reasons to be in a lot of places there.”

…but it’s settled eventually.

Jen looks around the table, at her crew, and suddenly feels a lot better about their chances.
edited by Aberrant Eremite on 1/11/2018
edited by Aberrant Eremite on 1/19/2018

--
Hieronymus Drake: Gentleman scholar, big-game hunter, scar-faced aristocrat. Remarkably sane, all things considered.
Tanith Wyrmwood: Longshanks cat-burglar; Bohemian author; now, perhaps, something more. Bubbly, expressive, and affectionate. It’s not only still waters that run deep.
Telemachia Lee: Gentle lady by birth, brawling Docker by choice. Good company in the drunk tank.
+3 link
shylarah
shylarah
Posts: 144

11 days ago
The night continued from there. A great deal of the tension shattered audibly when Nikki proclaimed an impromptu pillow fight by way of whomping Tanner in the face with one and vaulting for cover behind a counter. It was unclear precisely when she'd managed to sneak most of the rooms' pillows into a stack in the corner, but they did not go to waste.

--
Lady of Cold Steel, Lady of the Flit, Lady Alyssana Grey. A formidable woman, hard to read and slow to trust. Darkness lurks inside her.

Alts: (please direct all inquiries to Alys & say who they're for)
-Nikki, the Playful Daredevil, leading the constables on merry chases across London at every available opportunity. It's not a good robbery if you didn't get chased~
-Shylarah, waifish, wide-eyed, painfully foreign, entirely untamed. Her search for a way home now leads her to Parabola. There's something about her...
-Dr. Maxwell Thomas, a kindhearted physician who can't stand to see suffering. Moral to a fault, even to his own detriment. Unlucky in love.
I would rather be taken for a fool than deny aid where it is needed.
-Angie, the Cheeky Sharpshooter. Got her start with the Regiment and proudly operated their cannon for years. Rowdy, rough, and among the best shots in London.
+3 link
Tanner Price
Tanner Price
Posts: 20

10 days ago
[Co-written with Lady Jen Black]

The pillowfighting is going on far too long for Jen's liking. Skies, she brought together a group of experts to conduct the biggest job the Neath has ever seen, not to make the biggest mess of her house she has ever seen! Does the Wyatt girl think she has an endless supply of cushions, or has she not bothered to think about it at all? Both seem possible.

She waits for a break in the hostilities before darting in, tugging on Tanner’s wrist. “C’mon,” she says into his ear, “let’s get away from this chaos for a little while and get… reacquainted. It’s been too long since we talked.”

Tanner is led away to a quiet part of Jen’s house. The pillow fight reduced to only a muffled calamity in the distance. When they close the doors behind them to block out the noise, Tanner straightens up his clothes and brushes the messed up hair back behind his ears. He smiles while he looks at Jen, despite her looking serious.

“As much fun as that was, thank you for pulling me away. I’ve missed you a lot since we conspired to get the red honey back. You seem to be doing really well for yourself, Jen.”

She's brought him up to one of the higher floors, not to her bedroom -- not yet -- but her library. The air is rich with the scent of ink and paper, and a bottle of wine and two glasses are on the table in one of her many reading nooks. She's prepared for this, then. With studied casualness she takes a seat in a wingback chair, clearly an antique, and gestures for him to do the same. "Thank you," she says, pouring them both glasses of wine. "I thought we needed some time to catch up. We haven't seen each other in weeks. And thank you for standing with me, the other day." She eyes him up and down, trying to be subtle about it. She missed him. But it doesn't seem wise to make her interest obvious. Excessive sentiment frequently leads to trouble.

He makes himself comfortable in the seat across from Jen, but not in the same casual way he had with her sofa. He appears more attentive and respectful. Jen must have something important she wants to tell him, and he doesn’t want to miss anything. That said, he didn’t notice Jen eyeing him just now.

“It was no trouble, Jen,” he amiably reassures her before sipping his wine. He knows she would never try to hurt him, so he accepts the wine graciously. It is *very* good wine. He almost regrets not indulging the other night. “I wasn’t about to watch the crowd turn on you before your heist even began. You’ve put so much thought into this. I’m here to help whenever you need me.” His pupils dilate the more he takes in Jen’s face. It’s relaxing to be so informal with her again.

She smiles, sipping at her wine. "How have you been? Any notable zee-voyages recently?"


“Only a couple lately. Mostly to clear my head when I need to decompress.” His eyes suddenly widen, and his expression turns playful. “I never told you I was a pirate when we met, and I haven’t raided anyone for several months. How did you learn about who I was?”

"Now, now. A lady must have her secrets." The smirk on her face is belied by the teasing wink she gives him.

Tanner tips his wine glass to her in a wordless toast. He’s beginning to feel like he knows what she’s up to, and her smirk is reflected on him. “You’ve brought together quite the ensemble, my friend. Not just anyone could dream up such a glorious scheme. I’ve always liked that about you.”

She inclines her head in acknowledgement. "I've always been ambitious in my dreams. Do you know what else I've dreamed of lately?"

He leans closer towards her, resting an elbow on the table. “Tell me these dreams, Jen.”

She smiles slowly, stretching out in a way to show off her figure. "I picture you in my arms. The touch of your skin, smile on your face. The way that you taste." Her voice is low and melodious and filled with desire.

He drinks in every word on her lips and every curve of her body as he watches his hostess seduce him. It is most definitely working. “Now those are some magnificent dreams.” His voice echoes the lust in hers. “Perhaps we could share them together tonight. I want to hear every little detail.”

Jen smiles slowly, rising to her feet. "Well then. Shall we... discuss them further?" She offers him her hand.

Tanner accepts her hand and rises gracefully, enjoying the playfully affectionate gesture. “And just where are you taking me, my charming hostess?”

She throws him another wink over her shoulder. "I'm about to change your life, Captain Price."

“By all means, lead the way.”

So she does exactly that, tugging him down the long corridors and refusing to let go of his hand. They reach a heavy, ornately carved wooden door, and she fumbles momentarily as she gets the key out of her pocket, turning it in the lock and opening it.
edited by Tanner Price on 1/12/2018

--
Tanner Price - Send me a Calling Card!
+1 link
Aberrant Eremite
Aberrant Eremite
Posts: 278

7 days ago
[Co-written with Hubris Glamore]

Friday, 27 December, 1895
5:30 A.M.

It would be an hour before dawn, if London had such a thing, on the day of the heist. Telemachia Lee is up early. She’s accustomed to irregular hours, takes time to sleep when she needs it, and likes to be ready well in advance for a mission. She’s ready now. She and her weapons are clean; her hair is freshly pomaded and gleams as black as she likes it. It’s time for a cup of coffee.

Lee saunters into the kitchen. She never just walks when she can saunter or swagger, prowl or stalk.

Hubris Glamore is already in the kitchen, bustling about, still playing the butler. Lee could get her own coffee and light her own cigar, but under the rules she was raised by, it would be rude to do so with the butler standing right there. So she asks. In response to his mildly interrogative, glance, she specifies. “I take it with brandy, Mr. Glamore. Brandy, and a bit of black coffee, if you please.”

Hubris knows what she means. She’s heard of the services he has performed for (or, arguably, upon) some of her brothers in the Stoats. (Is she still a brother in good standing, though? She remembers the newspaper article, that poor girl, even the stuffed giraffe. She ruthlessly quells the thought. Today is not a day for guilt.) The butler knows how to serve a drink, and a drinker. The coffee is hot but not scalding, the caffeine and alcohol yoked together to promote the state of relaxed alertness that Lee needs to do her best work. She doesn’t hesitate to take the mug from his hands, and she thanks him a bit more warmly than she would an ordinary butler.

Lee normally takes a soldier’s breakfast of black coffee and cigars. She believes that a full stomach slows a soldier down. Anyway, she raided Lady Black’s larder last night for a rather large midnight snack. No sign of it now remains in the spotless kitchen.

Hubris is doing something useful in the kitchen, but Lee knows that he’s also waiting. She never made much comment about the events of the first meeting, nor has she replied to his offer. She lets him wait. She remains silent until she has finished her second cup of coffee and he has lit her second cigar. She puffs it and leans back in her chair.

At last she speaks. "So. That thing with the wine. I'll tell you the truth: personally, I thought it was a good idea. I had been a bit concerned about how well this operation was being kept secret." She pauses, obviously not finished speaking yet. "It would still have worked if you'd told us beforehand, and not caused so many difficulties. But that's on Black, not on you. The way I see it, you're like a sergeant major domo; she's the officer in charge, and every decision is ultimately her responsibility. Personally, I have no hard feelings and I don’t want anything from you. Not for my own sake. But..."

She frown meditatively at the ember of her cigar, glowing a reddish orange. “But Lady Karnstein is, well, my lady, in a way. I feel an absurd and anachronistic, but very real, need to defend her honour. And she does have hard feelings, I’m afraid." Lee takes a long slow drag. “We are professionals. It's not going to affect the mission, you understand? We each gave our word.” She starts to tap ash into her empty cup, then remembers that Hubris has provided her with an ashtray. "Afterwards, though,” she continues, “if you haven’t managed to make it up to her by then - we might have to deal with matters, you and I."

Hubris faces her, his manner courteous as ever, but not servile. He won’t be the butler for much longer. "I'm glad you understand. I agree, it could have gone better; and frankly, you're probably right on how it could have been better approached."

Lee shrugs. She doesn’t want to belabour the point.

"I will keep in mind the matter of Lady Karnstein,” Hubris continues. “I assure you I'll do my utmost to balance out the earlier indiscretion." He frowns slightly. "Beyond that, I suppose we shall have to see whether you and have anything further to deal with when all said and done." The frown abates, replaced by a wry smile. "I do appreciate the warning though. From one professional to another."

Lee shrugs again. She has an extensive vocabulary of shrugs. This one is acknowledgment rather than dismissal. "You've got a reputation, I've heard. I might come off worst. But that's not the point, is it? We do our duty."

"We do. The job always comes first." He refills the coffee, pouring a second one for himself. "Reputation or no, I'd rather avoid that outcome. I've enough professional violence in my life without it eating into my leisure time."

Lee grins at that, and raises her mug in salute. "A sensible attitude. My own is that it's best to be honest, but there's no sense worrying too much about a future that may never come. Today will be a long day. And we will need to trust each other. Tomorrow," with yet a third kind of shrug, "can take care of itself."

"Ha! That is a sentiment I can drink to." The grin and the salute are returned, before he drinks the coffee. "I'm looking forward to working with you, Captain."
edited by Aberrant Eremite on 1/19/2018

--
Hieronymus Drake: Gentleman scholar, big-game hunter, scar-faced aristocrat. Remarkably sane, all things considered.
Tanith Wyrmwood: Longshanks cat-burglar; Bohemian author; now, perhaps, something more. Bubbly, expressive, and affectionate. It’s not only still waters that run deep.
Telemachia Lee: Gentle lady by birth, brawling Docker by choice. Good company in the drunk tank.
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Lady Jen Black
Lady Jen Black
Posts: 92

6 days ago
[Co-written with Hubris Glamore]


Tuesday, 17 December, 1895
4:30 P.M.

Late afternoon in the West End. Before the arrival of the guests, before the incident with the wine, a certain mercenary butler knocks upon the door of the Black Estate.

Jen has been waiting, and opens it before he can knock a second time. "Mr Glamore," she says with a smile. "Right on the dot, I see."

He smiles. "Among other things Lady Black, it's what they pay me for." He removes his hat as he enters. "I understand you have something that may require my services."

She nods, and brings him to the dining room, where the table has a small selection of cakes and sandwiches. "How do you take your tea?" she asks, politely, sliding the tray over to him.

"With just a little bit of honey, thank you." He sits, stirring the honey into the tea and pausing to let it steep. "So then, what can I do for you, Lady Black?"

She leans her elbows on the table and props her chin in her hands, eyes shining with excitement. "You're aware of the Royal Wedding, of course. And the guest list. Have you considered how... tantalizingly empty... those homes will be while everyone is celebrating?"

A smile crosses his face. "My goodness me. That is a concern." A sip of his tea. "How very magnanimous you are, Lady Black. Proposing to check in on the home security of the great and good to prevent their valuables from falling into less deserving hands."

She stifles a laugh. "Naturally. And, of course, while we're at it, we ought to take a look at how the government of London manages their security. Just think of the Ministry of Public Decency! While the office is closed, who knows if some bitter artist would attempt to steal their scandalous work back from the Ministry's confiscation?"

"That would surely be a travesty. I can only imagine the uproar in the Veilgarden if that was to occur." The smile is now bordering just a little bit on mischievous. "So many people trying to get a ship to the Tomb Colonies all at once. How exceptionally inconvenient that would be."

She nods, a sly grin on her face. "And, of course, the festivities are a distraction for even the infamous of the Neath. If someone were to desire to strike at their operations, end their reign of lawlessness... this would be the perfect opportunity, would it not?"

"I am certain it would be." Another sip of the tea. "It seems you have a rather ambitious social event planned, Lady Black. I respect that." His eyes seem a little more alive with anticipation at the prospect of a challenging job. "I find that in circumstances of such ambition, one can often find use for a butler."

"Indeed. And when it comes to social events and... bodyguarding, among other matters... you are a butler nonpareil." She sips her tea with a smirk. "The hiring benefits can of course be discussed."

"You flatter me Madam." He smiles though, draining the cup. "Colour me intrigued." He paused a moment, before delivering a practiced spiel given many times before to prospective employers. "As always, in the service of a client, I will do my utmost to ensure the safety of your person, the confidentiality of your secrets and the success of your affairs. No detail of what I may do, or anything you may tell me in confidence will be spoken of to another soul, or soulless as the case may be, once my service has ended. Once engaged, my loyalty to you is absolute, save for a betrayal of whatever terms of employment we may decide upon at the point of hire. My rates vary, dependent on the nature of what you may require from me. I accept both hard currency and goods of equivalent value, however..." He broke from the pitch there, a curious smile settling across his face. "I'm very interested to hear what you may have in mind as hiring benefits. They could certainly factor into determining the cost of my service."

She leans back, smile on her face. She knows he's interested. "For hiring benefits. There are eight others who have been approached for this task, not counting us, and the material profits would be equally split between us. Furthermore, if any artifacts in particular were to be of interest to you and your collection -- say any material from the Foreign Office's archives, or some particular esoterica like Correspondence plaques -- we would be able to work something out. Does that seem agreeable?"

The butler smiled. "It certainly does. I believe we can come to terms on this arrangement." He stood up and bowed. "It is my pleasure to serve as your butler, Lady Black. I expect we shall need to prepare more tea before your guests arrive."
edited by Lady Jen Black on 1/19/2018

--
Lady Jen Black - Appearance - Backstory - MBTI - Song - Portrait - RP Directory
Accepting calling cards!
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Lady Jen Black
Lady Jen Black
Posts: 92

6 days ago
[Co-written with Slyblue]


Monday, 23 December, 1895
9:30 A.M.

Two days after that disastrous night, a letter arrives for Michael. Written in a bold dark hand, deep green ink on fine paper: "Mr Barrows, my sincere apologies for what transpired at our last meeting. If you would permit me, I would like us to meet so that I can make amends. As proof of my sincerity, feel free to name the time and place, that you have nothing to fear from a trap. Your obedient servant, Lady Jen Black."



Monday, 23 December, 1895
3:45 P.M.

The road to the rooftop shack is simple enough. Not as simple as the crude instructions Jen received after she sent her letter --a rather messy sketch of a church, with an arrow pointing above, and the word "ELDERWICK" written in big, clumsy handwriting -- but simple enough. As the number of houses begins to thin, so do the number of people, until the sound of the bustling roads is lost to the wind and the occasional sound of children giggling. She knows she’s being watched, but then, everyone on their way to the Flit is.

The building itself is not high enough to be placed in the Flit, but elevates itself from the ground on wooden, trembling foundations - it's a wonder a strong breeze has yet to bring the entire construction to the ground. The light inside the tent glints off glossy black eyes. Five, no, ten, twenty, even more weasels gaze in stoic silence. An unnerving number of them seemed to be looking directly at Jen, staring at her cold green eyes.

Before she can decide what to do about them, a stray breeze carries a familiar humming from somewhere inside the shack.

And the timbers groaned
But the North wind, it knows
That one day the blood it is owed
Will run 'neath their soles

Whoever is inside -- if they are truly there -- hasn't noticed her arrival.

She knocks once, tentatively, trying not to disturb the weasels. Some gut instinct makes her look upwards, suspecting that Mike might be there.

The humming stops at the same time a weasel bolts for the roof, alarming some of its companions but causing no further unrest. It takes a few moments to confirm that her gut was right - The young man himself peers from the rooftop's edge, though his glance seems to land somewhere behind her. With a sigh, he heaves himself from his resting spot and climbs down, keeping a hand close to his chest. It's only when he stands before Jen, raking his fingers through his hair, that she notices he's holding a cup filled with...Coffee? Well. What passes for a cup, and what passes for coffee.

"Yer a long way from home." He says, simply.

Jen takes the cup and sips. It's not the best, but it is palatable enough, and she's trained herself not to make faces. Especially since it would offend Mike further. "You asked me to come," she responds. After a pause, she adds, "Michael? Are you still angry? Tell me what I can do to make amends. We need to trust each other if the heist is to go well. And right now, that's not the case." Her tone is honest, sincere, but without pleading.

His eyes widen slightly, lips twitching into something akin to a smile. “...Aye, well, if tha' dinna give ye the boak an' a reason to leave, nothin' will.” He reaches out for the cup, plucking it from her grip with enough familiarity that, for a moment, it seems he's all but forgotten the reason she's apologizing in the first place.

The way he slams the door open tells a different story.

There is not much in the way of a house inside the shack. A wooden table, surrounded by four chairs (Three and a half, upon closer inspection), a brazier burning merrily in the northernmost corner, where an albino rat is watching over a pitch-black pot. There's spices in there, herbs, gentian, saffron and wormwood, hopelessly entangled to make an elusive perfume.

It takes some rummaging and a few minutes of silence before he can find a decent looking mug and pour the freshly brewed beverage in it. With some hesitation, he places it on the table before taking a seat on the opposite side, motioning towards the steaming brew.

“G'on. It'll be better than tha' chamberpot waste ye jus' tasted.”

With a sigh, he closes his eyes. “Look, I dinna care fer apologies. I dinnae even care if I kicked th' bucket that night – Death's jus' that. Short visit to an awfy cauld place.” Something in the wind seems to embolden his body language. Makes his word score the air like daggers, rather than usher them into the previous night's murmur. And when he opens his eyes, they stare straight into hers without the slighest hint of doubt. “But yer words mean nothin' to me now. Nay, less than nothin'.” He exhales slowly, glancing away for a moment. “...Still, ye got my word tha' yer back will be safe, so long as I'm 'round. What else d'ye want from me?”

"What do I want?" Jen says, bleakly, a bitter laugh escaping her throat. "I want to never have drugged the damn wine. I want to have never listened to Hubris. I want to turn back the clock!" Her tone is almost on the verge of tears. "I want you to trust and respect me again. I want us to be okay before we start the heist. I want things to go back to normal. Tell me what to do to earn your trust. Give me a chance."She stares into her coffee, trying to compose herself.

“...Fer fussake, at least look at me when yer lyin'!” His hand shoots forward with snake-like precision, fingers clamping around Jen's collar in a white-knuckled grip before pulling back, closing the distance between them. His chest heaves as he draws a breath through clenched teeth, biting back venomous words and Storm knows what else, but his grip remains firm. “...Yer a cruel one, I'll give ye that,” He starts, pressing his lips into a thin line. “But if I'm going ta play the fool, convince meself that yer worth the trouble – And mind ye, the irony of doin' it twice makes it bloody 'ard to do –, I willna do it out o' kindness of me heart.”

“The moment ye step out tha' door, ye'll owe me the same damned thing I asked of yer pet. A favour, t' be 'redeemed' sooner or later, and one ye won't be able t' deny. If yer worried I might ask somethin' that goes against yer 'codes',” His lips twist into a sardonic grin, as if the last word had tasted sour on his tongue, “Well. Ye'll jus' have t' take me word for it.”

Jen reacts on instinct. Flick wrist. The blade strapped to her forearm triggers, shooting out. Groin attack. Her knee goes up in a quick movement. Bring him down. She swings her legs around his throat, forcing him to hit the floor or risk breaking his neck. Aim for the throat. Her blade comes up.

Then some little voice within her makes her retract her blade before it hits him, standing up and dusting herself off. Her voice is like ice. “Fine. To prove my good will, I accept. But Barrows, if you think for a second that makes me weak, think of what just happened. If you try anything funny, I won't pull back my blade the next time.”

"G'on then." It takes him a few tries, and a few more coughs, to get the words out. But when he does, he spreads his arms slowly, as if mockingly preparing himself for a hug. "Do tha' thing with yer hand an' stab me. Right 'ere," His hand motions vaguely to his exposed chest, and falls limply to the floor. "Tell me how much ye regret it. Tell me--" Another cough brings his knees up to try, and fail, to lessen the pain below his belt. "--That yer a strong lass, and will bring us treasure an'...an' glory. Give me the whole bonnie speech about trust an' respect, again." His laugh comes out in short, hollow breaths, yet rumbles somewhere in his throat. More akin to a growl than true laughter. "It'll give the Boatsman somethin' to laugh about, aye?"

Jen stands there horrified, processing what just happened. The part of her that's been trained to kill slowly recedes, and her sanity comes back to her. Did she just -- attack Mike? Threaten him? Almost kill him? Just because he grabbed her by the collar and her subconscious sensed a threat? What the hell did she just do?

His mocking, bitter words bring her crashing into reality, hard. It's too late. She came here to reconcile, but because of those damned killer's instincts, she's failed utterly.

"I won't apologise," she says crisply. "You grew up on the streets, didn't you?" And she explains in that same crisp, detached tone, arms folded, trying to shake off the memories. That coffee-scented breath, that tight grip, that sardonic grin had brought her back to a time when she wasn't Jen Black, she was weak little Iris Potter, and she was about to find out what life was like on London’s streets.

Mike listens quietly, shifting around so he can stare at Jen's face, rather than the underside of her breast, and doesn't comment on it, just glances away and sighs. Somewhere in the window, there's a juvenile weasel squeaking in panic and glancing back and forth between them, so he makes a vague "Shut up" gesture to it, murmuring something about training the younger ones later.

She turns her back on him, giving him a clear shot at her. If he wants to attack her, she'll try to let him. She deserves it. Granted, she deserved it last round too, and that went badly for him. But he doesn’t do anything.

With trembling fingers, she pulls a heavy bag of rostygold, moonpearls and glim from her coat, dropping it on the floor. "In the past, they had weregild. Compensation for injury. Take it. Leave if you want. Pretend you never heard of me and my plans. Why subject yourself to putting up with a woman who tried to kill you?" She'd rather forget about him altogether than keep those hate-filled eyes in her life. And it's safer for him too. To be away from a murderer like her.

Mike chuckles. “Tha’s how they paid the older lasses too, ye ken? Throwin’ it at them like it made up fer everythin’. But I can refuse, unlike ‘em. Keep yer money.” Perhaps it’s the stricken look on Jen’s face when he shuts her down, but he softens a little. “If ye could leave the door open on yer way out, let tha’ wind come in, that’d be good. I canna feel it when I’m lyin’ down.”

She regards him soberly. “You’re a good man, Michael Barrows. Better than I gave you credit for.” A tiny, genuine smile curves her lips for a brief moment. Then she leaves, and doesn’t close the door behind her.
edited by Lady Jen Black on 1/19/2018

--
Lady Jen Black - Appearance - Backstory - MBTI - Song - Portrait - RP Directory
Accepting calling cards!
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Aberrant Eremite
Aberrant Eremite
Posts: 278

5 days ago
[Co-written with Anactoria St. James]

WARNING: Extreme Adorableness

Monday, 23 December, 1895
8:00 A.M.

At the end of the first meeting, before the conspirators break up, Telemachia Lee approaches Anactoria St. James. Lee stands perhaps just a little too close. With her height and her erect posture, she towers, a little. She smells of leather and hot iron, wormwood and lavender. She speaks close, and quietly, her contralto voice warmer than in the meeting, and her Docker accent less pronounced.

“Saint-James,” she says. It seems to be her habit to address people by their last names - with the notable exception of Lady Karnstein. Her usual self-assurance is still present, but muted a bit, as though she were afraid of frightening the younger woman off. “I’m really not a bloodthirsty monster, you know.” She hesitates. “Ah, not that there’s anything … I mean, some of my best friends …” She rubs the back of her head, where her hair is so short that it’s almost shaved.

“Well.” Lee regains her composure. “I’d like to talk to you. About this business, or. You know. Just talk.” And immediately begins losing it again. “Most evenings I’m at the Rusty Tramp, but I don’t know whether you would … well.” She takes a deep breath. “I have some rooms off Ladybones road. Above a bookstore. Not that I would want most of my, ah, associates to know that I read. But there’s a café on the corner. Quiet, clean. It’s nice. I do appreciate nice sometimes, you know. We could meet. To talk. If you’d like.”

Anactoria has the bizarre feeling that she and Ms Lee have been swapped for each other: Ms Lee fumbles and rambles while she, Anactoria, stands her ground with firm confidence, unperturbed by the closeness and height of her interlocutor. Still, she cannot keep an expression of puzzlement off her face: Why does she care if I think her a monster or not? Why this stumbling to just talk about business, and why talk to me in particular?

A few tumblers fall into place. Oh! Surely not! But … Her heart pounds with nervous-happy excitement that she hasn’t felt in so very long. “Um.”

Saysomethingsaysomethingsaysometing. Words spill out, almost falling over each other. “I’d like that, to talk at that café, it sounds nice.” And then that’s it … other than awkward silence. Anactoria clears her throat. “Yeah.”

*********************************************************

The café is not much to look at - the ground floor of a decrepit building - but the paint is fresh on that floor, and the interior is indeed clean and quiet. The place is filled with the aromas of coffee and pastry. There are few customers, and Telemachia Lee is easily picked out. She has commandeered the largest table and covered it with papers: architectural drawings; a newspaper; a personal journal in which she makes the occasional note; a pile of books. One of the book is open - a slender volume, elderly and battered. Lee wears a man’s workshirt, sleeves rolled up, but it’s tailored to her body and no one who was looking would take her for a man. She’s wearing wire-rimmed glasses, which make her face look different. She leans forward intently over her work - not quite hunched, because she always holds her spine too stiff for that. Her restless gaze skips across all the papers on her improvised desk. She gives a small satisfied smile and makes a note in her journal.

Lee is not alone. A broad-shouldered man in a tailcoat sits next to her. When Anactoria enters the café, he clears his throat. Lee springs to attention - literally; she is suddenly on her feet, standing with a military rigidity. Only then does she see her guest. She smiles warmly, looking her in the eye. “Anaktoria,” she says, her tongue caressing the name with a decidedly non-English accent.


Anactoria appears no different than when she was at Lady Black’s; same clothes, same cane. Or perhaps not quite the same; she is more confident, her hair is more prettily arranged.

Telemachia’s pronunciation of her given name brings out a smile. “Ms Lee,” the smile continues.

Lee blinks and drops her gaze. “Miss Saint-James,” she corrects herself. “I’m very happy to see you.” She motions to the man, who briskly clears space on the table. Lee moves to pull out a chair for Anactoria. She kisses the back of Anactoria’s hand - a courtly gesture, a bit old-fashioned, but she makes it look natural. When she returns to her own seat, Lee nudges the slender volume under the folded newspaper, and then lays her glasses across the top.

The kiss on her hand sends delicious waves through Anactoira, her heart beats faster; This is not forbidden here!, and then, Ms Lee is very dangerous. Combined, the thoughts set off an excited thrumming in her chest. But then, Octavia …, followed by sadness.

When they are seated, Lee’s servant brings a tray with coffee, tea, and a brave attempt at scones. He also provides a centerpiece of genuine Surface flowers. Violets. Their scent is potent, yet elusive. “Thank you, Butler,” Lee says with an approving nod.

For a few minutes it’s easy enough to busy oneself with the little details of arranging one’s breakfast. Lee’s table manners are good - and when she gets distracted from her food, they improve notably.

With a look of mild reproach, Butler picks up a rumpled black robe from the floor and hangs it from a hook. Lee makes eye contact with Anactoria, then rolls her eyes humorously. “I have to go by the University later,” she explains. “Which means I have to wear that d——d robe. I hate the thing - it makes me feel like I’m wearing a dress.” Then, remembering that she’s seen Anactoria in a dress, she drops her eyes back to her plate, remembering to cut her scone less elegantly. “Ah, not that there’s anything … I mean, you look good …”


Being seated, beginning breakfast, remarking on how beautiful the violets are; these mundaneries settle sew-sawing emotions. Anactoria laughs gently at Telemachia’s observation. “Thank you,” her own eyes lower at the compliment. “It would be frightfully dull if everyone dressed the same, wouldn’t it?” she asks with a smile, glancing back up. “Your … you’ve got your own, um, style. I think it’s just right for you. Are you a student there?” she adds, before her last statement can sit too long. “At the university?” Ms Lee doesn't seem the type, but one never knows.

“A student?” Lee straightens, cocks her jaw, her chest swells, looking for all the world like a barnyard rooster. After a long second she exhales and visibly relaxes. She waves a hand, dismissing some thought or emotion. “No.” Lee grins. “I make myself useful. I have skills that most professors don’t. Some of them can read fourteen languages, but they can’t read a face to save their lives. Sometimes some unruly Stoats need their heads knocked together. Sometimes the Dean of Infernal Rarefactions can’t get something to explode properly, and I’m good at that,” with a cocky grin and a nostalgic glint for explosions past. “Also,” that dismissive wave again, “I roughnecked on a few archaeological expeditions, picked up Fourth City languages and a few Correspondence symbols, sometimes they need me for that.

“I’m glad that you like my style, Miss Saint-James. Very glad. It has stuck to me stubbornly despite - well, it’s a long story. As it happens, I like yours too. Caroline,” Lee pronounces the personal name with some emotional weight, “has advised me a bit about how to, ah, well…

“Some of her advice, I don’t know about,” she eyes the violets dubiously. “But she also advised me to - ah. Not just to blindly approach every pretty woman I see, but to think seriously about … what I really want.” She looks up, swiftly, to Anactoria’s face.

Anactoria blushes and looks away. She had been watching Telemachia closely. The room seems much warmer now. “And,” she frames the words very carefully to keep any tremble out of her voice, “what do you want?” From her close study of Lee’s hands, her eyes flick up.

Lee’s hands have their own story to tell. The fingers are long and powerful. They could be a musician’s hands, if the calluses were in different places. But these calluses belong to a Zailor or a Docker. These scars belong to a pit-fighter. These short, carefully trimmed nails belong to a nobleman. This dark stain hints at a scholar; that yellow one at a habitual smoker. The wrists are broad for a woman’s. The Zee-monster tattoo on Lee’s right forearm tells the story of a hunter of savage beasts; the Labrys tattoo on her left tells the story of a woman who has been listening to Caroline Karnstein with perhaps a bit too much enthusiasm. The shirt is in a masculine style, but fitted closely to her body … a modest eye might cease its examinations at this point.

Lee meets the gaze. A tight grin cuts across her face. “There is a simple answer to that, you know. You are a beautiful woman, Anaktoria. And my rooms are a five-minute walk from here.” Her hand slides halfway across the table - and stops. Lee closes her eyes and takes a deep breath.

“There is - a more complex answer, too,” she admits, hesitant again. “It’s - I want something more. Than that. But I don’t - I haven’t - I mean, I have, you know, but I never had a -” her hand curls into a fist, in frustration with her own timidity. She can’t get the word out. “Someone to spend more time with. Than that.”

Pow!

Anactoria’s heart slams to a stop at ‘My rooms are a five-minute walk from here,’ and the entire world becomes nothing but her and Telemachia and a little bit of table between. The number of thoughts that spark-ripple through her, between one heartbeat and the next, is stunning: This could really happen! Someone who hardly knows me wants me! What would it be like with Telemachia? She’s so different from anyone I’ve imagined in that way. Is it right so soon after Octavia? What other tattoos does she have and where? How many people has she been with? She called me ‘AnaKtoria’ just like the old way! What would it be like to run my fingers through short hair … to feel those muscles under my fingers?

Thud.

Her heart is beating again and her face feels sunburnt. “I … um …” Her plate, it seems, warrants detailed attention. “I think …” A deep breath, “I’m not used to being able to talk about these kinds of things, really. Up there, you know …” A quick glance at Telemachia, then eyes back to the plate. “I mean … Ilikethissortofthingandnottheotherway … with … you know …” Only then does it occur to her that Telemachia is not terribly at ease either. So she very tentatively and lightly lays her hand—not so hardened as Lee’s, but not soft, either; her nails are cared for just as well as Lee’s—atop the offered one. “I’m shy. About this.” Another glance to grey-blue eyes.

Under Anactoria’s hand, Lee’s fist uncurls. Her fingers splay like the legs of a cat stretching. The back of her hand presses against Anactoria’s palm like a cat eager to be petted. Lee smiles, gently, a little ruefully. The conversation has become rather difficult to parse, but she’s very interested in continuing it. “I think…” she says slowly, “I’m shy … the other way?” She gazes fondly at the top of Anactoria’s head. “I - yes, it was different on the Surface. I was afraid to approach girls, and they were afraid too. So I just - approached anyway. But I had to nerve myself, and that made me too hasty. It’s hard to be patient when -” she doesn’t finish the sentence, but her hand slowly turns over, pressing her palm against Anactoria’s, fingers curling around her hand. “But - but I think I’m ready to be. Five minutes from now would be good, very good -” she shifts in her chair, stretches out a leg “-but it can be longer. I mean - you asked what I wanted, I want -” Stymied, she shifts to the familiar ground of military metaphor. “You can build a hasty fortification, with trenches and an abatis, for a battle, and it works well enough for a day or a week, but to establish a permanent presence, you need a solid structure, and that starts with -” she takes a deep breath, pleased with what she considers to be the clarity of her example - “a firm foundation. Don’t you think?”

Telemachia’s hand pressing back up against hers feels so very, very good … and when Tel turns her hand, when she holds Anactoria’s hand, the young woman has to bite her lip to keep tears away. How long has it been since anyone’s held my hand … like this? The answer comes too easily: Ten months.

Lost in the past and in not-so-old hurt, she only picks up on the metaphor midstream and has to think quickly to catch up. “Um … yes … I’ve never heard it … um … put just that way.” Gently, she squeezes her finger around Telemachia’s hand and looks up. “I like a firm foundation, Telemachia.”

Lee feels Anactoria’s hand in hers. Her skin is warm and soft, but not as soft as she had expected. It’s a hand that knows hard work. Anactoria has short blunt nails like her own. It’s practical for a woman who works with her hands, or fights, or both. But Lee has other reasons. She wonders whether they share those reasons as well. The thought makes a part of her mind regret her decision to move slowly. But the emotion is overruled. The rest of her wants something more, even if she doesn’t have a completely clear idea of what that might be.

Lee knows that she’s rambling - this is what she gets for going in without a script. But she’s watching too. She sees a shadow of pain cross Anactoria’s face, and feels a pang of tenderness that pierces her like a sword. She wants to hold the younger woman, comfort her, make it all right for her. I’ve got it bad, she thinks with a sort of amused dismay. This sort of feeling always leads to trouble.

She wants to talk with Anactoria so much, to tell her about her father and life on the Surface, her friends and adventures here, the way that she’s beginning to feel things she’s never felt before - well, maybe she doesn’t want to talk about that, not yet, but - it’s only a very little time, almost no time, it seems, before Butler gently reminds her that she shall be late for her appointment at the University if she doesn’t leave now.

Startled, Anactoria jumps and jerks her hand back. She had forgotten she was in a public room and she hadn’t heard Butler’s approach. She blushes furiously, but reaches out for Lee’s hand again. She misses it already. “I guess I … um … shouldn’t keep you,” she manages. She can't bring herself to look at Butler at all.

“I’d like to do this again,” she adds in a burst of courage. As Anactoria continues faster and faster, words start to jam up against one another, “I know some places, too, not as nice as this but still clean and good or we could meet here again or someplace else you know.” A pause and a breath, “If you want.” Please!

When she suddenly loses Anactoria’s hand, Lee casts a murderous glare at her manservant. He shrugs apologetically, and doesn’t quite smile. Lee shakes her head and rolls her eyes at him in affectionate exasperation. She can’t stay angry at him - not at the man who’s been her bodyguard, advisor, servant and friend for her whole life. It’s a look that she must have been giving him for a long time, and just for a moment it reveals that she’s not much older than Anactoria after all.

Lee senses rather than sees Anactoria’s hand return to her. She plucks it out of the air without looking, without thinking. Her old archery instructor had once told her, “You have to want to hit the target, but not try to hit it.” He had uttered it in a tone more of praise than of advice, as though satisfied with her understanding of some important principle. She never had the heart to tell him that she had no idea what he meant.

Now that she has Anactoria’s hand back, Lee doesn’t want to release it. Perhaps never. But she knows when a moment has passed. She kisses Anactoria’s hand before she gives it back. Not too long or too enthusiastically for propriety, but with evident relish.

“I should like nothing better in the world,” she says. It’s a common politesse, usually an empty phrase. But this time she means it.

Lee’s kiss sends warm happiness radiating up Anactoria’s arm, across her face, and through her chest and stomach … it wonderfully spreads to other places, as well.

“H-here tomorrow?” Words are hard to come by just now. “At the … uh … same time?”

Butler is bringing Lee her things. Including that d----d robe. Lee is already beginning to put her public face back on, hard and cocky and dangerous. But she has a moment left for softness, for sincerity, for Anactoria. “Here tomorrow,” she repeats. “At the same time.” Together. “I shall look forward to it.”
edited by Aberrant Eremite on 1/19/2018

--
Hieronymus Drake: Gentleman scholar, big-game hunter, scar-faced aristocrat. Remarkably sane, all things considered.
Tanith Wyrmwood: Longshanks cat-burglar; Bohemian author; now, perhaps, something more. Bubbly, expressive, and affectionate. It’s not only still waters that run deep.
Telemachia Lee: Gentle lady by birth, brawling Docker by choice. Good company in the drunk tank.
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Lady Jen Black
Lady Jen Black
Posts: 92

3 days ago
[[OOC: Posting this here as well, in case some of our readers don't check the OOC thread. Who else is reading? It'd be fun to hear that we have an audience. And do tell us what you think! Are you itching for us to get to the heist proper? Is the chronology of the story clear despite the posts being out of order? These things, we can't determine ourselves -- so you readers have to let us know! Comment in the OOC thread!]]
edited by Lady Jen Black on 1/19/2018

--
Lady Jen Black - Appearance - Backstory - MBTI - Song - Portrait - RP Directory
Accepting calling cards!
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Aberrant Eremite
Aberrant Eremite
Posts: 278

1 days ago
[Co-written by everyone]


Friday, 27 December, 1895
The Morning of the Heist

Hubris Glamore's preparations do not require much. He is already dressed in a perfectly serviceable suit. As a rule he spares little expense on getting his suits tailored just so. Neatly fitted, but just loose enough to allow full freedom of movement, just in case.
Still, a few little alterations will be needed for this endeavour. Removing the jacket and rolling up his sleeves, he opens his bag, removing from it a small handful of items.

A pair of discreet but sturdy armguards. Thin steel lined with leather, serving the dual purpose of adding an extra layer of protection to the forearm and adding an extra bit of weight to any strike necessary. Forearms armored thusly, the sleeves are rolled back down. The jacket goes back on and should conceal any excess sleeve bulk from more discerning eyes. Lockpicks already secured in the lining of the necktie. A Swiss army knife in his pocket. Simple tools, but reliable.

A pair of heavier black gloves. A contrast to the pristine, snugly fitting white ones worn around the house. A pause before putting them on. He does not take the white gloves off. He does, however, take a moment to trace a shape across the back of his right hand. It's almost round. But not quite.

The moment passes. Sentiment will wait. The job is now. The black gloves go on. The jacket is buttoned. The ink monocle, no doubt provided by a certain Longshanks during the night, is wiped off. The butler leaves his quarters for the entrance hall to await further orders.

*************************************************

Nikki’s up and about early. She has to be, to make sure she has her pranks in place before most of the others awake. She’s particularly pleased with the idea of making coffee to lure people across various strategically strung tripwires -- but that is just the tiniest appetizer to today’s impending mayhem. She’s dressed in her usual attire: shoes with rough soles suitable for climbing and jumping, a dark blouse with enough room for hiding any number of toys, one sturdy knife under her waistband and a slimmer one in a wrist sheath, hair pinned out of her face and swept up in a loose knot, her best lockpicks and her third best set too -- just in case of mishaps, fingerless gloves with ridged grips on the palms, and to round it out she’s opted for loose-cut slacks, the sort of pants an equestrian might find appealing. Her coat, scarf, and outdoor gloves are in a neat pile, ready to be donned at a moment’s notice.

She’s secreted all sorts of toys and tricks about her person: various explosives, wire-reinforced rope, even a springloaded ratwork grappling hook. All that remains is to wait for Jen to say they’re off.

*************************************************

Telemachia Lee stands naked, regarding herself in a full-length mirror. Her body is hard, strong, decorated with tattoos and battle-scars, but very much a woman’s body. Her glacier eyes give no hint as to what she thinks about what she sees. After a long moment, she reaches for the side-table.

Hair pomaded, black like she likes it, out of the way. Eyebrows darkened to match. Just a deniable little hint of liner to bring out her eyes. Her own fragrance, lavender and oakmoss and half a dozen other ingredients, applied with a light touch. Lee hates smelling too much like bl---y flowers, but it’s going to be a long day, and she doesn’t want to be unpleasant to be around. Well, actually, being unpleasant is her job, but selectively so.

She takes a medal – Victoria’s Cross – and hangs it from a ribbon around her neck. It slides into place, resting just over a tattoo of itself in the center of her chest. She raises the cross to her lips, then drops it again. Next she reaches for a long roll of bandages. She tapes herself up, getting her body ready for action. The bandages cover the medal.

Anarchist’s Sable. A rough matte black. Close-fitting but not tight. A gift from Revolutionary friends. It slides up her arms, up her legs, wrapping her in darkness. The boots are rugged leather, stiff but oiled for flexibility, with steel in the toes and heels. The gloves are thin black leather, combining flexibility and protection. Her brass knuckles are strapped to her forearms, easy to reach in a pinch. A leather harness holds tools, ammunition, a heavy-bladed knife, her Colt Navy revolver – she checks the weapon a final time before she holsters it. Her final weapon is her favorite, in part because it’s so suited to her name. An eight-foot length of anchor-chain, weighted at both ends, oiled to prevent clanking, friction, and corrosion. She winds it around her waist once, twice, two and a half times as it rests on her hips. It looks like it might be her ironical idea of a fashion statement. It is that too, of course.

Navy bridge coat over it all. Conceals all kinds of things. And it’s warm. She likes the cut of it, too. Lots of pockets. Her brass knuckles go in the two outer pockets, within easy reach. A long inner pocket has been tailored to exactly the right size for a bottle of Black Wings Absinthe. A smaller inner pocket holds a flask of the good stuff, cold against her chest even through its insulated sheath.

Is she ready? The cocky grin she sees in the mirror answers the question. Of course she’s ready.

*************************************************

Cosmo wakes up shaking and breathing heavily. It took them a while to adjust to their surroundings...waking up, not in their rooms, but where?...what had happened last?... ah, no, it’s fine. The heist.

Images of their nightmares still play themselves out in their mind. They try to shrug them off as they prepare their usual ‘breakfast’. They have a flask of tea in their bag, they remove it and pour a small vial of laudanum into it. They knock it back and wait for their hands to still themselves.

They aren’t fussy with equipment, but they’ve taken the liberty of packing a small bag of medical implements, including scalpels, bandages, salts, and ointments. They reckon that a heist of this scale, with this many participants, is bound to produce some casualties (whose idea was the tigers, for goodness sake?). They hum as they button up their shirt-their nonchalance surprises themselves.

They strap a small leather pack to their waist, containing the medical kit along with a set of kifers of their own devising. They throw a jacket onto their back and slip a small, light knife into it, well concealed among the fabric, but easily accessible.

Nothing special, they think, as they slip on a pair of gloves, but it certainly serves its purpose. Nothing has gone wrong before, and they will be damned if this will be the first time.

*************************************************

Anactoria dresses in her riding habit—I wear it so often, I should call it my riding habitual—although today she dons trousers under her skirts in case unfettered but socially acceptable movement of legs becomes necessary. Methodically she collects her equipment, already laid out on her bed: two knuckledusters (one for each hand, but kept in pockets), a dagger, a penknife, two Very Wicked hairpins to keep her hair up, pencils, a small notebook, matches, a handful of assorted currencies, a coil of rope (wound around her waist, under her jacket), a half bottle of F. F. Gebrandt’s Tincture of Vigour, and a remarkable array of animal treats.

Mina alights on her shoulder; Anactoria collects her walking stick, checks to make sure the blade inside is easily pulled, touches her lips to her hand just where Lee kisses it, and steps out into the hall. She’s entirely serious and business now … which accents her cuteness adorably.

*************************************************

Michael takes a last look at his reflection before he leaves his room. He finds it hard to recognize himself in the ginger-haired fellow's clean-shaven face, in the gloved hands and firmly laced boots.

Underneath the battered, grey overcoat, white linen clings to his torso, dashed by a leather harness that contained everything that cannot wait inside his pockets. Ammunition, branded with a letter of Hell's alphabet for easier recognition – The bespectacled devil said that one could divine the nature of creation from these symbols. But then, devils say many things – vials of moonish water, lockpicks. A bag full of fungal treats that are most definitely not for himself. Not unless he needs a quick exit out of a small, dark place.

Both the derringer and the Scrimshander carving knife rest snugly in their midnight-black holster, blending almost completely against the leg of his likewise colored trousers. And while the overcoat is long enough to cover them, he can't help but imagine a gaggle of flat-faced cats, all done up in petticoats and crinolines, sitting around a stuffy parlor and talking about him. No Ratcatcher would be caught dead wearing those clothes.

But a Ratcatcher he will pretend to be, if that's what it takes to carry his rifle strapped securely to his back. Its weight is warm and familiar, and the glinting brass keeps people from asking too many questions about it.

With a short nod, as if to seal an unspoken deal with his reflection, Michael turns on his heel, leaving his reflection behind. Three short, dark silhouettes follow him outside the room, nipping at his heels and clinging to his legs like dust. At least a dozen more scurry around the now closed room, pouring from the window, clawing their way up the roof's lattice, disappearing into London's darkest corners.

*************************************************

“Petinpetdeset, šestinpetdeset, sedeminpetdeset, oseminpetdeset…” Caroline sits and brushes her thick, unruly mane of hair as she usually does in the afternoon. This time it is morning. Counting each brush in a whisper, she looks at herself in the mirror, considering just what she is getting into. It is too late to turn back; Lee is counting on her. She does not abandon her friends.

“Dveinsedemdeset, triinsedemdeset…” She is not wearing one of her lovely black and purple dresses she usually wears, but a black suit that is just shy of form fitting, made with leather, some steel straps, and some black cloth. Most of it is a single piece, carefully designed by a master thief to not get in the way. They recommended a binder with it, but Caroline is far too vain for that.

“Sto ena, sto dve, sto tri...” Her black gloves sit waiting for her on the desk. They too are custom made, and a pair of heavy leather steel toed and heeled boots are snug on her feet. A lot has happened, new friends, new lovers, maybe she is just doing this to clear her head. Her social schedule has gotten busy recently.

“Sto dvaindvajset, sto triindvajset, sto štiriindvajset…” Her belt is not so equipped as other thieves’. Some lockpicks, and a prybar, a blade for cutting glass, anything else someone else in the group will have. She knows her usual plan but has never done something this ambitious.

“Sto devetindevetdeset, dvesto!” Finally done, she rises from her mirror, puts on her long, thick black trench coat then her gloves. As she steps from the light at the mirror, the shadows are drawn to her, blurring her figure. Without a sound, she joins the others for breakfast.

*************************************************

Over the course of the night, Tanner has brought every tool, trick, and paraphernalia he needed for the heist up to the bedroom of his hostess. They’ve somehow managed to get enough sleep, but the sight of their collective bedhead is truly something to behold. Dressed in a tight-fitting jet black muscle shirt tucked into the waistband of identically colored compression pants accentuating every hard and natural curve of his body, the young pirate couldn’t deny his enjoyment at the sight of the respectable Lady Black stealing glances at him. His dark leather overcoat — the one that twinkles like wind chimes when not taking form around his size — drapes limply over the back of a chair. Excess knives, smoke bombs, stun grenades, lengths of varying blends of rope, thieves tools, gloves, small bottles of restoratives, and a frugal pouch of sleeping powder each find their places in the jacket’s many hand-sewn pockets. But as Tanner slides thicker deep-pocketed black trousers up his legs and a warm, modestly seasonal maroon and white sweater over his second skin, a pepperbox pistol and stalwart black steel cutlass maintain their importance taking first position at his hips before he slips on his coat.

Jen gets dressed at her own pace, keenly aware that these are her last quiet moments before the long day ahead. She lazily runs her eyes along Tanner's half-dressed body as she buttons up her fitted white shirt, tailored to fit her slender body. Their revels had made the winter night surprisingly hot, and his skill with the quill was certainly undeniable. Ducking her head to hide her smile, she concentrates on tucking her shirt evenly into tight dark trousers. Her deft fingers tie the emerald cravat at her throat -- specially dyed to match her eyes exactly -- with a special knot so it'll come undone if anyone tries to choke her.

She runs through a mental list of equipment. Wraith. The bracer, with its concealed length of steel, grappling hook and dart launcher, clasps around her left arm. Knives. Clove, a wavy throwing knife, in one boot, and Champion, a dark stiletto, in the other. Cinder, an elegant dagger sheathed at her right thigh, completes the set. Cane sword. She looks Shrike over, the bejeweled handle and dark wood at odds with the long blade, and puts it back down for now. Lockpicks. They go up her right sleeve, in a special holder. Garottes that double as tripwires, bombs of the flash and hallucinogenic variety, mirrors, and brass knuckles at her belt. She slips various other oddities, such as currency, candles, and honey into the pockets of her black leather longcoat, but doesn't don it yet.

The two thieves suitably dressed, arsenals primed and ready for any and all eventualities — one would hope — Tanner takes Jen’s hand and guides her to sit before her vanity. Having long and wavy hair himself, the pirate is adept at styling, brushing, braiding, and anything that would make him very popular among women. He weaves Jen’s hair into a braid curved diagonally from above one ear to below the other. The kind that looks vaguely reminiscent of what one would expect an archer to wear if she were fighting for her life alone in the woods.

Jen admires herself in the mirror, appreciating the work of his deft fingers. Then they swap places, and she pulls his thick brown locks back. She's not used to handling curls like Tanner's, but eventually succeeds in bundling them into a small bun at the back of his head, secured with a black ribbon.

Then she pulls out her vanity chest and looks at him questioningly.

After seeing the vast stores of cosmetics filling the void in her vanity, Tanner nods at Jen approvingly before selecting a few. She had known Tanner to occasionally dress his eyes with black liner and use contouring to accentuate the angles of his face. For someone so otherwise bold and flamboyant, his own style of makeup is surprisingly subtle.

When he's done, before she wears hers, she presses her lips to him briefly. Not so long to invite distractions, but fondly nonetheless. Then she gets to work. Hers is far more bold than Tanner’s. Contour to bring out her fine bone structure, a neutral eye and careful mascara application to draw attention to her large green eyes, and burgundy lips.

With that done, she picks up her coat and holds the door open for the two of them to head to breakfast.

--
Hieronymus Drake: Gentleman scholar, big-game hunter, scar-faced aristocrat. Remarkably sane, all things considered.
Tanith Wyrmwood: Longshanks cat-burglar; Bohemian author; now, perhaps, something more. Bubbly, expressive, and affectionate. It’s not only still waters that run deep.
Telemachia Lee: Gentle lady by birth, brawling Docker by choice. Good company in the drunk tank.
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