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Aberrant Eremite
Aberrant Eremite
Posts: 330

1/10/2018
[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

1/10/2018
“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: 145

1/11/2018
[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. Poet Laureate of the Neath
http://fallenlondon.storynexus.com/Profile/Caroline%20Karnstein
"Jovial Contrarian for Mayor 1896. How has it has come to this?"
+2 link
Aberrant Eremite
Aberrant Eremite
Posts: 330

1/11/2018
[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: 164

1/11/2018
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: 30

1/12/2018
[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

--
Captain Tanner Price: Legendary Charisma [SEEKING PROTEGES]; esteemed pirate and social butterfly; raised by the girls of Mr Wines.
+1 link
Aberrant Eremite
Aberrant Eremite
Posts: 330

1/15/2018
[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.
+2 link
Lady Jen Black
Lady Jen Black
Posts: 96

1/16/2018
[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: 96

1/16/2018
[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: 330

1/17/2018
[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.
+3 link
Lady Jen Black
Lady Jen Black
Posts: 96

1/19/2018
[[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!
+3 link
Aberrant Eremite
Aberrant Eremite
Posts: 330

1/21/2018
[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.


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

But one seat at the breakfast table remains empty. A clearly distressed servant leaves Canvas’s bedroom, his face dreadfully pale. “Mr. Canvas is … Please, just. Do not enter his room, not until we, ahem, clean things out. That is to say, he won’t be joining you.”
edited by Aberrant Eremite on 1/25/2018

--
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
Aberrant Eremite
Aberrant Eremite
Posts: 330

1/26/2018
[Co-written with Anactoria St. James]

Tuesday, 24 December, 1895
7:55 A.M

The next morning, Anactoria arrives early to the coffeeshop. She is dressed very much as before, although her riding skirt and jacket are slightly different than the previous ones. She has, however, added a pretty violet-coloured cravat to her ensemble; it looks brand new.

Lee is not there yet; but her servant is. Butler is personally arranging the table. He has set it up properly this time. Plates, cups, napkins and silverware all in place; no messy pile of books and papers; a fresh centerpiece of violets. Flowers aren’t cheap, in the Neath, but Butler has either bought new ones or taken great care in refreshing and rearranging those from yesterday. He holds up a spoon, staring at his reflection, frowning his judgement as the the adequacy of its shine.

When he sees Anactoria, Butler bows courteously. “Miss Saint-James,” he greets her urbanely. “A pleasure.” He pulls out a chair for her, as courteously as Lee had, but he does not offer to take her hand. “Captain Lee shall be along forthwith. Perhaps I ought not to say so, but -” he leans forward slightly, and lowers his voice to a conspiratorial murmur, “she asked me to arrive ahead of her, to ensure that everything was in order for your arrival. She won’t permit me to take such troubles when she dines alone.”

Hiding her disappointment at Lee’s absence, Anactoria gracefully slides into the offered chair. She cheers, however, at learning that Telemachia has had this table arranged just for her … for them.

“Thank you, Mr … uh … Butler?”

“Mr. Butler will be perfectly acceptable, Miss,” he says with just a hint of a twinkle in his eye. “It’s actually a bit of an old joke between the Captain and myself. You see, when she was just a girl…”

He trails off. Dropping his voice low again, he tells Anactoria, “Don’t look now. But she’s about to arrive.”

Telemachia Lee sweeps into the café with her customary élan. She’s dressed for the Marshes today, in a long houndstooth coat and heavy boots, with a rifle slung over her back. When she sees Anactoria, she freezes. Her throat works. She squeezes her eyes shut tight for a second. When she reopens them, they’re cool and assured again, her look not as hard as it had been out on the street, nor yet as soft as it was in that first, unguarded moment.


Anactoria does the opposite of Butler’s suggestion and looks … and admires. Strength and tenderness, she thinks watching Lee be dangerous and bold and dashing.

Lee crosses the remaining space between them with a softer gait, though it still shows signs of swagger. She extends her hand to take Anactoria’s - smooth and courteous, don’t look too eager! - and kisses it.


Anactoria thrills again at lips on her fingers and makes a note that she needs to try it the other way around … When I work up the courage …

Lee hands off her rifle to Butler, takes her own seat, gives Anactoria a warm smile, and racks her brain desperately for something to say to start the conversation…

Fortunately, Anactoria spares her. “Happy hunting?” she asks with a smile.

Lee’s smile broadens. Not only has Anactoria started the conversation, it's on a subject she can speak about. She leans forward intently, eyes gleaming with delighted mystery. “Last night, two customers at the Medusa’s Head staggered out the door, barely able to walk, but intending to walk home. They never made it. Agents of the Department of Menace Eradication found some grisly remains by the side of the road, along with the tracks of some great beast...” Warming to her subject, Lee begins to spin a tale of terror upon the subject. Then she realizes that she is speaking to a kind, sensitive and very young woman who - she checks - actually looks interested and shows no sign of fainting. She looks so delicate and feminine, but she’s tougher than she looks. It’s an intriguing combination.

“Well,” Lee concludes, “the Cheery Man isn’t exactly a humanitarian - frankly, I think that he ought to treat his own daughter better - but he can’t stand by while his own customers are eaten. After the first few trackers gave up, he offered to triple the Department’s bounty. That makes it worth my while. And the hunt ought to be enjoyable too.

“But,” she leans forward, a sly glint in her pale eyes, “there’s another reason I want to be out in Bugsby’s Marshes tonight. A certain lady of our mutual acquaintance wants to meet with me to ‘make amends.’ Well, if she’s really so eager, she’ll be willing to trudge through the Marshes and meet me there, while Butler waits in the bushes with a rifle.”

Anactoria’s eyes become enormous. “You’re going to--”

She thumps against the backrest of her chair. “Wow!”

Lee holds up a hand in a forestalling gesture, the ghost of a smirk lingering on her lips. “No! Not if she behaves herself. I did give my word, after all. I only mean to illustrate the importance of mutual trust and respect.”

“Oh.”

Is Anactoria a little … disappointed?

“I was--am--still so mad about that wine thing,” There’s something in the young woman’s voice that Lee hasn’t heard before. That something is coiled, steely, and dangerous.

A spark lights in Lee’s grey-blue eyes as their steel unexpectedly strikes flint. The hint of danger in this sweet girl is ... exciting.

“I’m angry too.” If only because you are.But I have given my word. I have to see this through. I could make my point much more forcefully. There is a school of thought which argues that an apology sounds much more sincere coming from a mouthful of blood and broken teeth.” Anactoria chuckles. Lee smiles, but belatedly - she hadn’t intended it as a joke.

“But what then? If I whip her into obeying me now, I’ll have to whip her again every time I want something from her. And I’ll always have to watch my back. Bad for the team.” This last is rendered as a verdict.

“But…” Lee softens. “Anaktoria... if you don’t want to be part of this mission, you can walk away. I will make sure of it.”

“No, no! I still want to be part of it!” So I can be close to you! “It’s just …” Anactoria waves her hand vaguely. “I don’t know, Tel--Telemachia, I think we can trust her. I mean not to betray us.” Maybe. “But can we trust her not to make bad choices?” It is not a rhetorical question, Anactoria is unmistakably looking to Lee for her expert, experienced advice. “Also--” I want to pay her one back! “Well, I mean, can we?”*

Lee nods gravely. “That’s the right question. I intend to tell her, when I meet her, precisely what I expect from her. And I’ll be watching to see whether she can lead a team responsibly or not. If not - if she fails us -” Lee reaches across the table for Anactoria’s hand, links fingers with her - “we shall have to take care of one another.”

Take care of one another.’ Anactoria couldn’t stop her enormous smile even if she wanted to. She gently squeezes Lee’s fingers between her own and considers Lee’s hand. It’s the same size as hers, but rougher, stronger, scarred, stained; a zee monster peeks out from under the sleeve cuff. Anactoria’s never seen a hand like this; but she is both giddy and comforted holding it.

She raises her eyes to Lee. “I like this,” she says simply, softly.


---
edited by Aberrant Eremite on 1/26/2018

--
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
Slyblue
Slyblue
Posts: 208

2/4/2018
[Co-written by everyone]


Friday, 27 December, 1895
The Labyrinth of Tigers: Second Coil
9:15 AM


The Labyrinth of Tigers receives hundreds of visitors every day, and more on the holidays. Many of the visitors are a bit eccentric, and on a cold day like today, many wear heavy coats. There is little unusual in the movements of today’s visitors; the crowd ebbs and flows much as it does every other day.

But some of today’s visitors are here for more than tourism.

Navigating through the coils by recent memory, Tanner leads the crew for a relaxing day out. The young pirate attempts to blend in amongst the other visitors by addressing his fellow thieves like a guide providing informative commentary to a tour group. He plays the role well, due in no small part to his genuine fondness for the animals. Hardly any of his peers appear to be paying attention with the exception of one. Nikki listens with interest, but given how her focus so easily wanders, he might well be speaking to himself half the time. Tanner prattles on anyway, seemingly for his own amusement. That is until they reach the third coil, where the human exhibits are kept.

Nikki has always loved the Labyrinth and its animals, but this visit holds a particular charm. She wonders if perhaps she can’t invite the penguins home for a while -- but she doesn’t really have anywhere for them to swim. Perhaps the giant squid would like to hang out with the Drownies and the mass of tentacles down at the Docks...and what was the best posture for riding a rhinoceros?

The animals in the first two coils have never taken well to Jen's predatory presence, and causing a panic right now would be rather obstructive to her goals. So she does her best to stick to the others, away from the animals, and blend in. It isn't something she’s used to. Ordinarily, she either goes unseen or she draws attention to herself.

Hubris Glamore moves quietly, keeping himself a short distance behind and to the left of Jen. Just another servant, following just another noble. An amiable nod here and there to passing society figures or fellow members of the serving class he happens to be acquainted with. Nothing unusual, nothing suspect. A glance here and there at the animals. The penguins are ever popular. The hyena remains charmingly nasty.

It's not much of a victory, but something about defeating one of them in a staring contest – May Storm curse the viric depth in its eyes – puts a spring in Michael's step. Past the crocodiles' pond, he squats besides Thomas' pool, making sure the team is still nearby before tipping out a bag of jade into the water. He understands the crab's fondness for shiny objects to decorate its carapace, even as it clicks and clatters over them like a society matron selecting a necklace. Yet before Thomas can deem the entire bag unworthy of attention –And more importantly, before the keepers figure out he is not supposed to be there, using jade from his own pocket –, he is gone.

Cosmo strides slightly apart from the group as they pass through the first two coils. They are a fast walker, and are unused to traveling with this many people. How many are we, they thought, nine? Thank goodness the place is quiet at this hour or they would be bound to draw attention. While musing on the risks to their stealth, Cosmo fails to notice the sound their hard-soled shoes are making on the paved ground.

Caroline drifts a bit, watching the various animals with detachment. Sunken green eyes linger here or there, but little that is suspicious. She pulls her coat tighter against herself. She does not care for this.

Anactoria doesn’t have to feign interest in all the animals to blend in as a visitor; the Labyrinth is one of her favourite places in London. Ms St James casually strolls after Lady Black, just another person who happens to be going in the same direction. She pauses to watch the penguins.
Elizabeth and Robert … e-LEE-zabeth and … hmmm … you really can’t make Robert into Anactoria, can you? Nor into St James for that matter. Oops! Time to catch up!

Telemachia Lee admires Anactoria’s profile as she passes. Penguins are bl--dy useless things as far as she’s concerned, fat stupid birds that can’t even fly. But she forgives them their existence for the sake of the look on Ana’s face. She would much rather watch an interesting creature, like - a tiger. A tigress, in fact, a ragged-eared old scrapper whom Lee has already had a run-in with. They look each other in the eye, human grey to tiger green, both of them cool and watchful and ready for anything. Lee knows that in order to avoid any further suspicion, she has to act completely natural.

Without breaking eye contact, Lee pulls out a cigar, lights it, draws a lungful, and then blows smoke directly in the tigress’s face. The tigress stalks past sullenly. Lee has succeeded in acting like her normal self.
edited by Slyblue on 2/5/2018

--
The Smiling Violinist The Curt Licentiate The Dreamless Truth-Seeker

"For hearts of truest mettle, absence doth join and Time doth settle."
+3 link
Aberrant Eremite
Aberrant Eremite
Posts: 330

2/4/2018
[Co-written by everyone]

Friday, 27 December, 1895
Labyrinth of Tigers - the Third Coil
10:00 AM

Tanner leaves chalk marks behind him for his allies as he makes his way to the Third Coil. Left, right, right, past the bifurcated owl-mausoleum, around the edge of Arthur's pond... the third coil beckons. The group quickly moves to a long tunnel lined with cages on both sides. Michael Barrows moves forward to stand watch at one end of the tunnel, while Telemachia Lee remains behind to guard the other end.

***
Down in the basalt-walled third coil of the Labyrinth, the only light comes from a few candles around the inmates’ cells. Michael can see them whenever he looks over his shoulder, the shadows that prowl near, moving like the wind between locked doors.

The wind. There is no wind in this place. Every footstep, every breath, every sound that pollutes the air keeps him alert as he shoulders his rifle, eyes sharp in the darkness below as they are jovial in the light above. Hunched figures regard him from every corner, making their way towards him and pausing as soon as --they know-- he sees them. He's sure he would be able to hear them purring, or murmuring under their whiskers, if the wind would only bring those sounds to his ears. And yet all he can hear is the sound of clinking lockpicks and hard-soled shoes.

Michael sighs. There is one alternative, and he knows this. When the spotted weasels jumps from his sleeve, seemingly disappearing into the gaping maw underneath he soles, he holds on to that thought for a bit longer. There is only one alternative. Besides, he assures himself, things just seem to work out for these little guys.

***
When Tanner catches sight of the cages, his smile drops and he goes quiet. While the others scatter to start picking locks, he looks at the prisoners for a moment with uncertainty, contemplating what reasons the tigers must have for keeping them behind lock and key. Not that it matters. The job takes precedence over his conflict, and he joins the crew in picking locks - clumsily, but to the best of his ability. An uneasy air of doubt hangs about him.

***
Blending in isn't something that Jen Black is used to. But opening these cages? She's back in her element now. So she slides the slender lockpicks from her sleeve and gets to work with deft fingers. The first door opens in seconds.

***
Cosmo, avoiding eye contact with the prisoners, trying to shut themselves off to the noise, settle down onto their knees and assess the padlocks. They reach into their belt and take out their tools and pray that the prisoner they’re about to release is a trade unionist.

***
Caroline could almost be mistaken for a Tiger in human form...but a Panther would be more precise. Flowing, fluid, along the route, long dexterous white fingers work lockpicks. It was never her strong suit as a thief; she had the control for it but always preferred just using her hands for almost any task. Still she does not slow the group down. Sharp eyes and sharp ears search for threats. Despite her best efforts, however, she falls behind.

***
The third coil. This will be risky. Hubris Glamore’s stance shifts ever so slightly from its usual proper stiffness to something just a little more alert and flexible. Now here we are. Cage upon cage. His lip curls into a scowl very briefly before his expression settles into its usual neutral gaze. Not disgust. Contempt. Fingerking thralls. Dangerous, hollowed out fools and much better to leave them where they are, but the job is the job.

Hubris has his lockpicks. Happily, so do many of the others, so the work will be quick. He almost prowls a little as he moves along the line of cages, opting to pass as many cages being worked on by the others as is expedient between each he unlocks himself. Committing the faces of as many as possible to memory. This job is to free them, but on his own time, well..

***
Nikki flits easily from lock to lock, most taking her no more than a few moments. It’s odd; most locks put up a bit more of a fight, but most of these are downright disappointing. Then again, they aren’t exactly there to keep people out...

This is all too easy. Nikki’s mind wanders. She realizes that she’s forgotten something important. She slides her lockpicks back into their harness and slips off, cat-footed, down the corridor.

***
edited by Aberrant Eremite on 2/4/2018

--
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
Lady Jen Black
Lady Jen Black
Posts: 96

2/5/2018
((OOC: For the Feast of the Exceptional Rose: any reader who leaves a comment will get a gift from me! If you have enough Masquing, you can also request for menace assistance or coffee!

Do come and talk to us, yall. We really want to hear from you!))

--
Lady Jen Black - Appearance - Backstory - MBTI - Song - Portrait - RP Directory
Accepting calling cards!
+2 link
Tanner Price
Tanner Price
Posts: 30

2/5/2018
[Co-written by everyone]


Friday, 27 December, 1895
Labyrinth of Tigers - the Third Coil
10:30 AM


Telemachia Lee has never particularly fancied herself an expert lockpick. Her role is to watch. And listen. Tigers walk almost silently, but not quite. They displace air, they breathe like the great beasts they are, they carry the musky scent of predators.

The tunnels stretch out, twisting, and the members of the team proceed down them, unlocking cages as they go, passing mirrors to those who can use them, giving directions to the others. Lee ignores the blundering flight of the newly freed. What happens to the prisoners isn't her problem; what happens to her team is. She closes her eyes and listens.

Behind her, the team continues to move away down the corridors. Tanner's coat clinks. He has brought too much gear and hasn’t soundproofed it properly. Cosmo's shoes ring too loud on the stone floor. The others are skilled in stealthy movement; Lee might not have heard them if she hadn’t known they were there. Hubris and Jen move with the disciplined control of professional training, Mike with the lightness of a man whose life has depended on going unnoticed since he was a small boy. Caroline moves as softly as the shadow of an echo. Nikki - where is Nikki? Where is Anactoria? In the space of a week, Lee has already learned the sound of Anactoria’s graceful footfalls by heart. But she doesn’t hear them now. Lee feels a rush of panic, hears her heart beating faster, and grimly shoves it back into the back of her mind. She has a duty right now, and everyone is depending on her. She stares at the corridor intersection in front of her. From here, she has most possible approaches to this location covered. With an effort - usually this comes easily - she clears her mind. All thought vanishes. Her whole body is a drum, vibrating to the beat of every movement of air in the Labyrinth.

In front, where the corridors branch, Lee hears nothing … nothing … something. Something broad and soft and gradual, like distant rain, at the very edge of hearing. In her deep mindless concentration, she hears it instantly, but it takes precious seconds to understand that she’s heard it, to spur her conscious mind to action, to formulate the thought that the tigers are coming.

Her revolver is in her hand, though she doesn’t remember drawing it. She begins walking backwards, softly. She hears a tiny change in the faint waves of sound from in front of her, a reaction. They know that she knows.

No point in trying to be stealthy now. She has to give a warning. Lee turns back towards her team -

- And something crashes into her from behind. It’s like being struck by a furry, eerily silent hansom cab. Lee manages to twist enough to face her assailant before she’s pinned, gun-hand immobilized. She’s staring up into the face of - a tiger, yes, but instead of orange, black and white, this tiger is striped in shades of grey. Lee never heard a thing. Its stealth must be perfect.

The grey tiger growls in a voice so low that it’s barely audible a foot away, yet its words are perfectly clear. “Make so much as a sound, and I’ll rip your pretty throat out. Understand?”

Lee nods. Those terms seem fair. She sucks in a breath for the loudest scream of her life.

She doesn’t make it. The tiger’s jaws clamp around her throat, paralyzing her larynx. She can’t scream, can’t speak, can’t breathe. No fair, she thinks fuzzily, it said it would rip my throat out after I made a sound...

Lee is losing consciousness rapidly. And the team doesn’t know that they’ve been found out, that the tigers are coming. She has only one chance left to alert them.

She focuses all her consciousness into her right hand. All she needs to do is move her index finger one inch …


***

It doesn't occur to Michael that some of his own luck might have vanished alongside the weasel. Not until a low growl startles him and sends his entire body barreling half-way inside an empty cell, knocking his rifle away from his grasp. The tiger chuckles like an indiscreet pickpocket, taking a step out of the shadows to appreciate his –No, her job. She moves with the assurance of an empress, clearly savouring the way a simple hiss makes the longshanks flinch.

He stands, slowly, putting his hands up in tentative surrender. Takes a step towards her, but stops when she positions herself between the discarded weapon and him. Is she...tutting at him?

“Well then,” He swallows thickly before speaking. “No need t' get all riled up, missus. I'll be jus'--” His right leg twitches as another weasel escapes him, jumping out his boot with a short sound of long-awaited freedom. All of sudden, the carving knife below his coat seems to weight more than it should. “--on my way now.”

He does not reach for the knife. There is no time. In a split second, the tigress lunges forward, cutting the distance between them in a quick, precisely timed pounce. Perhaps it's just his luck that has her attention focus on the weasel instead, as he twists away from the cell's door and watches the small creature run off into the darkness. Or maybe it's the tigress’ own rotten luck as she takes a moment too long to realize where she is, and that moment is enough for him to lock the door behind her.

When the weasels squirms past the cell's bars, far below the feline's searing glare, he can't help but chuckle himself. There is absolutely no way he will be able to pull that stunt off a second time, but once again, he'll take his victories where he can.

The five pair of thin-slitted eyes staring at him as he turns around come as no surprise. His rifle is close now, and he's confident that a well-placed bullet will give the team enough time to free the prisoners. It would certainly count as self-defense, no? They are there, he's outnumbered and they are staring. Just...Staring, yes, but it won't be long before they do something else. It's just a matter of taking a few steps, maybe shout a revolutionary slogan –Wait, did tigers care about politics?--, and let the ammunition do the talking.


***

The silence of the tunnels is shattered by gunfire. The thieves, instinctively looking towards the source of the noise, see the tunnel behind them entirely filled with tigers, advancing in a slow silent flood. Of Lee there is no sign. But from the forking tunnels in the other direction, more tigers come, led by a scarred veteran wearing an implausibly elegant pair of spectacles…


***


The deafening noise in the distance brings Michael’s thoughts to a screeching halt. He knows he should be calling Lee's name, calling her many other names for straying so far away from each other, but he knows better. His glance is fixed forward, as the closest pair of eyes conjures a mouth filled with unnervingly white teeth. Something cries pitifully between those teeth, its long and thin body flailing in vain, and he knows the battle is over before it can truly begin.

Somewhere behind him, the tigress purrs.


***


Many many heartbeats. From everywhere and nowhere, just ahead. For a moment Caroline Karnstein freezes, trying to figure out what is happening. As she realizes, her instinct is to flee; but no. She gave her word. And Lee was here. Green eyes flick down a hall. She hears a voice. She hopes it is Anactoria’s. Then a sudden glance back.

A tiger doubles back from where the slightest hint of a scent was on the wind. But Caroline is gone, as if she were never there.



***

Hubris ceases his lock-picking and moves to position himself between the tigers and the rest of the lockpicking posse the moment Lee raises the alarm. He's willing and able to "throw down," as the kids say. But he doesn’t intend actually to attack unless the tigers do so first. They don’t. It’s a standoff.

***

Tanner wheels around at the crack of the gun. His right hand thrusts into the clinking coat and quickly draws the pepperbox, aiming it instinctively in front of him. His eyes wander his surroundings, searching and scanning for answers of where that shot came from, and more importantly, if it was aimed at him. From the lack of clarity, he assumes it must have come from a different passageway. His shoulders loosen. A sigh of relief is afforded. But his gun does not return to its holster.

Cautiously, but not quietly, Tanner pursues the echo of gunfire, mind all the while combing through an internal map of the Labyrinth and piecing together the quickest way to the shooter’s probable location. When he rounds a sharp corner, the glowing eyes and threatening rumble of a tiger are directed at him. Purely on reflex, he quickly aims his pistol between its eyes.

“Your friends were at least careful about not getting caught, but did you even try to be subtle while unlocking those cages? You pick locks like a Rubbery Man.”

Tanner hooks his finger around the ring trigger while keeping his silent glare fixed on the aggressor. His hand is perceptibly unsteady.

“Just put it away,” The tiger dismissively snorts. “You’re not here for blood, and we can all tell. You lack that killer instinct.” It stares Tanner down as it arrogantly strolls behind him. “Come with me and get this over with. We’re not here to kill you either.”

The tiger is right. Tanner had planned to go the whole night without killing anyone, especially an animal. For now, he concedes and walks alongside the tiger after putting his weapon away. No point in running or causing a scene. Still, now might be a good time to rethink his strategies. His usual reckless and unstealthy raiding style from years of piracy might not work in some of these heists. For starters, he can figure out how to work those bloody lockpicks.



***

Upon hearing the gunshot, Cosmo shoots up and turns to the sound of the noise, teeth gritted. What idiot shot their gun? It is time to make themselves scarce. They push the cage door closed and half walk, half jog back to the second coil, without thinking to wait for their accomplices. They don’t get far before a tiger prowls in front of them.

“Sorry, there was a gunshot, I… do you know what’s going on?” Cosmo pants.

The tiger tilts its head and appears to smile. “Cut the act. You’re coming with me,” it purrs.

Cosmo forces a laugh. It seems to echo around the labyrinth. “You’re being ridiculous. I work here. I’m a doctor, I care for the prisoners.”

The tiger bares its teeth threateningly. Cosmo looks it up and down. No. They do not fancy their chances. “Fine. But you’re making a mistake.”



***

Jen stiffens at the sight of the tigers, sliding her lockpicks back up her sleeves and readying her blades. This is an inconvenience. Getting caught had always been a possibility, but one she’d hoped to avoid. Especially in their first heist.

She analyses the room, eyes darting around, trying to find a way out. Tigers fill all the exits, and even she isn’t agile enough to run up the wall and ceiling and get out without being caught by them. If she could only slide her knives out, attack the nearest one, throw a knife into its throat -- but no, there are too many, and if she kills one, the others will all respond in kind. It’s too dangerous. So she raises her hands, steps away from the cage, and allows a tiger to shepherd her off with the rest of her crew. Now is not the time.

She’s very much aware of how her behaviour looks. Cowardly, unfit of a leader. But she isn’t submitting easily, isn’t standing still and allowing things to happen. She is lying in wait to see which way the wind will blow. The opportunity for escape will come soon enough. She just has to wait for it.

--
Captain Tanner Price: Legendary Charisma [SEEKING PROTEGES]; esteemed pirate and social butterfly; raised by the girls of Mr Wines.
+2 link
shylarah
shylarah
Posts: 164

2/7/2018
Friday, 27 December, 1895
Labyrinth of Tigers - the Tiger Keeper’s Office
10:25 AM

Nikki wasn’t anywhere in sight as the group was rounded up. She’d backtracked to the first coil after seeing the group with enough doors open that the other thiefy-types in the party would surely have no trouble with the rest. She’d forgotten something very important in that first coil, specifically in the office of the Tiger Keeper. He was taking his early-morning constitutional, which consisted of a nice hookah followed by a nap. The curling plumes of scented smoke bothered her eyes and made it hard to see, but more importantly, it masked her scent.

On soft soles as light as the very paws of a cat, she slipped deeper into the office. There, the furry haunch of the Keeper rose out of the gloom, rising and falling gently with his breath. His rumbly almost-purr vibrated through the floor so near, but as she stole towards his head she could see he was dozing. Not quite asleep, but close enough that it would do.

His fez was perched at a jaunty angle, kept in place by a rounded ear. The daring thief grabbed an ottoman and carefully moved it closer to the slumbering feline. From atop it, she could stretch out to gently, gently lift the hat from his head, being ever-so-careful not to jostle his thick fur. When she had a few centimeters’ clearance, a wide grin spread across her face. Success! It was a matter of moments before the footrest was put back where she’d found it, and the now-perfumed lady made her gleeful way out of the office, prize hat atop her own head.
edited by shylarah on 2/7/2018

--
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
Aberrant Eremite
Aberrant Eremite
Posts: 330

2/11/2018
[Co-written by everyone]

Friday, 27 December, 1895
Labyrinth of Tigers - Undisclosed Location
11:00 AM



Some large room - still within the Labyrinth, from its basalt walls and tiger-musk smell - has been converted into a sort of courtroom. A dignified tigress sits on a cushioned pedestal, smoking a cigar and frowning down at the humans before her. The six prisoners sit on a Persian rug, surrounded by a good dozen tiger guards. Each of the prisoners is attempting - with various degrees of success - to look unworried.

*****

Telemachia Lee’s is one of the better performances. Her body language has nothing of fear in it - merely sullen irritation. This is, in fact, more or less what she feels, although she does admire the Judge’s style. Lee’s neck is swathed in bandages, Cosmo's expert handiwork. She reaches inside her coat and pulls out a small bottle of a thin scarlet liquor. It steams in the open air and makes a low thrumming vibration, like a steel cable in a storm. She takes a sip from the flask, eyes shut, face strained and then relaxing. She feels the rush of fire in her veins. The pain in her throat is replaced by a fierce itching as her punctured tissues reknit themselves.

*****

Cosmo, meanwhile, is wringing their hands, obsessively applying disinfectant and spreading it over their palms, behind their nails, between their fingers. They have done far more than is hygienically necessary after treating a patient.

Eventually they stop themselves. They don’t want to appear nervous. Instead they lean back onto the chaise lounge and run over their defence in their head. I was merely here to calm the prisoners for the night. Please, by all means, ask Mr Inch, or the Tiger Keeper to testify for my good character. Will they attempt to defend the others? That might be tricky. They aren’t sure how the others have been caught-in what position- if they’ve tried to fight the tigers, or who fired the gun.

But Nikki isn’t here, nor are Anactoria and Caroline. Have they noticed that the group has been found? Can they simply bide for time and wait for rescue?

*****

Michael sits cross-legged, wrapping an arm protectively around his chest. His expression remains carefully neutral, head bowed in something that had too much deference in it to pass for respect. His coat is folded atrociously on his lap, where two weasels curl around each other in a tight circle, sharing their owner's apathy for the tigers and their apparent disfavorable situation. There is nothing to lose by staying quiet, and everything to gain if they can find the right opening. And if the right opening doesn't show itself, well, listening to the tigers talk on and on isn't such a terrible punishment.

Nuzzling his chin against his chest, he glances at the injured weasel resting on the nook of his arm. Even after being hastily wrapped in makeshift bandages (And he's sure Cosmo will not approve of it), it sleeps in between fretful kicks and the occasional whimper.

Turbulent dreams, he imagines. He can only imagine.

*****

Tanner regards the Tiger Judge like a disinterested delinquent schoolchild held after class in detention. His arms wrap around the back of his cozy armchair; they do not keep uncomfortable chairs in the Labyrinth. Not even for a group of prisoners… if that’s how the tigers thought of them now. He slouches back, prepared to sit tight, keep his mouth shut unless otherwise needed, and get whatever’s about to happen over with.

*****

The Tiger Judge regards the assembled group with an expression vaguely reminiscent of an annoyed parent. “Another group attempting to free the prisoners?” she asks one of the guards who brought them before her. They haven't been bound or even disarmed; merely under the watchful eyes of several tigers. That alone is enough to make escape a bad idea.

He nods, scowling. “That’s the third attempt this year, milady.”

She waves him off with a paw and looks at the assembly before her. “You children,” she says, “oh stop shivering, little ones, we aren’t going to hurt you. But still. You’ve been very naughty.”

*****

Tanner glances around. No one seems to be shivering.

*****

“Please, this is absurd. My intentions here were nothing of the sort. Call the Tiger Keeper, if you must, or Mr Inch. They would surely laugh off such risible accusations,” Cosmo splutters.

*****

Tanner stands corrected.

*****

“Jus' let the furball speak, min.” Michael murmurs, picking at a loose thread on his glove. “Yappin’ at them dinnae work back there. It ain't gonna work now.”

*****

Lee might well have had something to say at this point. As far as she is concerned, rudeness towards overbearing authority figures is its own reward. But she’s too busy listening to speak. She’s not listening to the Judge. Beyond the walls she hears the stir of echoes.

*****

The tigress gets off her chaise longue and starts pacing around them, tail waving slightly. Her steps are slow, measured, padding, graceful, filling the observers with a combined sense of awe and fear. When she speaks, her voice is filled with dignity and gravitas. “Do you know what you have done? Do you think you have aided London?” She pitches her voice higher, mockingly. “Saving innocents from us ‘evil tigers’, as if we have nothing better to do than to feed and house a bunch of enemies?”

*****

Jen is calm before the Judge, leaning against the wall with a mask of perfect composure on her face, her relaxed posture hiding the way she was coiled to strike. There is no need to argue. The tigers had caught her in the act of unlocking the cages, and the Judge seemed perfectly content to drone on. Interrupting her might annoy her more, and besides, her crew wouldn’t be hurt. That is all that matters to her. The prisoners had mostly been freed, and the task of escaping recapture was in their own hands. Responses to rhetorical questions are unnecessary. And besides, she has learned one thing over the years: fools who run their mouths off wind up dead.

*****

“What you have done, children, is to release a menace on London. Those people were possessed by Fingerkings -- dream-serpents, if you will. They are no longer human. Did you fail to see their eyes? The far-off look, the slitted pupils? Those ‘people’ are simply meat puppets now, to be controlled and used for as long as their masters wish.”

*****

Cosmo wants to interject, but they can hardly afford to expose themselves to an argument with the Judge, not now they’ve asserted their loyalty to the Labyrinth. They open and close their mouth ineffectually, looking like the goldfish they keep in their office at the University.

*****

So there it is, Tanner thinks. The Tigers are not collecting exotic humans for the sake of their own pleasure. They are gaolers protecting London from creatures far more dangerous than casual murderers and thieves. Tanner can hardly fault their ambition, but do they have to be so damn condescending? Having no patience for didactic lectures or heavy-handed dogma, Tanner slumps down in his chair with a sigh and keeps his comments to himself, eager for the Judge to tut and scold herself to sleep.

*****

Jen ignores the tiger. The threat of Fingerkings are real, but there are many who are only enemies to the cats. Those who were imprisoned under suspicion of being possessed. Trade unionists. Cat chasers. The safety of London is just a pretext.

*****

“We are doing a good work here. Keeping them off the streets. Feeding them, clothing them. Preventing their masters from wreaking further havoc in the city. Protecting their families and friends from being heartbroken when they ... realize ...”

*****

The Judge ceases her lecture as the floor shakes beneath them. The cries of various creatures echo down the hallway, growing steadily louder. A few of the tigers go into the hall to investigate. The judge paces in silence. The prisoners sit, waiting for their moment.

--
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
shylarah
shylarah
Posts: 164

2/14/2018
[written by shy, Ana, and Lady K]


Friday, 27 December, 1895
Labyrinth of Tigers - Second Coil
10:40 AM


“Botheration!”

Anactoria pounds her fist against her thigh in frustration. This is her third time past the pond. Where did everyone get to? Why didn’t she pay more attention?

What will Telemachia think?!


Anactoria chews her lip and looks about nervously.

And sees a pale, beautiful, and familiar face!

“Lady Karnstein!” she cries with unmistakable relief. She quickly, and sheepishly, joins the other woman.

“I got lost, did they send you back for me?” she asks miserably.

Caroline’s animation might not be extraordinary in a more excitable person, but it’s a marked contrast to her usual languor. “Lee - I mean they - are surrounded! They need our assistance. They are not in immediate danger, but we need to make a move. I believe they are being taken somewhere. The Keeper, I suspect. We…” She cocks her head. “And one more.” She moves to look around a corner to identify the stray heartbeat she heard.

“Captured?! Oh dear.” Nikki saunters into view, prize fez atop her head like a crown. She isn’t as concerned as perhaps she should be, given that the captors in question are giant and presumably man-eating tigers. “Well, we’ll just have to get them out, then.”

“I want them helped. I am not sure the best way. It’s going to be rather dangerous. “ The pale woman looks behind her, then back. “There are a lot of Tigers there, and we are at risk of being added to exhibits ourselves.” She cocks her head. “But if you have an idea...

The irrepressible Nikki gives the other two women a coy smile. “This,” she proclaims, “calls for a distraction~”


Friday, 27 December, 1895
Labyrinth of Tigers - First Coil
10:50 AM


Caroline glides silently along behind Anactoria. Eyes sharp, to be sure she remains safe. Lee can take care of herself. Hopefully.

Nikki and Caroline make quick work of the locks on the cages of the hyenas, the giant snake, the giant lizard, the leopard, and the wolf. Anactoria runs about hysterically screaming to all visitors within earshot, “The animals are loose! The animals are loose!” Mayhem erupts, as desired.

With pandemonium raging, the three women reunite. Nikki and Anactoria catch each other’s mischievous eyes. “The rhinoceros,” they say in unison.

A few quick turns (with Anactoria not in the lead) through the Labyrinth, brings them to Walter.

Nikki obligingly opens the lock keeping the cage door closed, though she mutters something about it being so rudimentary she’s not sure why they even bother locking it. With a flourish she steps aside to let Ana go first.

Anactoria throws open the door of the cage and jumps back.

Walter the Rhinoceros placidly eats from the pile of hay in front of him.

Anactoria waits.

Walter the Rhinoceros placidly eats from the pile of hay in front of him.

Anactoria peeks her head into the cage … and slowly sidles in.

Caroline peers in, staying back. She seems intimidated by Walter’s size, more than the Longshanks seems to be.

Walter the Rhinoceros flicks a lazily uninterested glance at her and goes back to placidly eating from the pile of hay in front of him.

He’s enormous! Anactoria thinks as she walks beside him. He’s like a walking castle! She imagines Joan of Arc triumphing with a cavalry of battle rhinos.

Having achieved the backside of Walter she gives a series of sharp claps.

Walter the Rhinoceros placidly eats from the pile of hay in front of him.

“Go!” Anactoria swats his rump with her open hand.

Walter the Rhinoceros placidly breaks wind.

“Fah! Ack! Go! Go! Go, go, go!” Each word is punctuated by a swift, hard kick and a desperately fanning hand, accompanied by a ripple of giggles from one of her less-than-helpful audience members.

Walter the Rhinoceros placidly eats from the pile of hay in front of him.

Anactoria draws her sword from its cane sheath and stabs rhinoceros rump.

Walter the Rhinoceros flicks his tail in mild annoyance.

Taking a deep breath (now that the air has cleared), Anactoria plunges her sword a hand’s span into Walter’s bottom.

With a bellowing roar of doom Walter unstoppably plows forward into the Labyrinth’s corridors, yanking Anactoria’s sword from her hand.

“_ _ _ _!” Anactoria dashes after Walter and her sword.

Caroline, wide eyed, follows. She does keep a bit of a distance from the beast. Just to be safe.

Nikki crows in victory, and with a flying leap she vaults atop the lumbering mountain. Walter’s already going, and there’s no way to dissuade him -- nor her, for that matter. He doesn’t object to sudden passenger, beyond a snort that might or might not have been directed at her. Balancing is easy enough, for the back of a rhinoceros is wide, but that very width means that she is better off in a position more like kneeling than astride a proper saddle. Nor is there much to hold onto, not that Nikki needs anything of the sort. The horn, while nicely shaped for service as a handhold, is too far forward to be useful, and runs the unfortunate danger of blocking the beast’s view -- or perhaps giving him a view of another sort entirely. What did rhinos think of women, anyhow?

“Hurry up!” she calls, reaching for Ana, now running in pursuit. “Here, grab my hand~” She waits only long enough to be sure of her grip before swinging the younger woman up behind her. The passage of a rhinoceros is enough to stir even the most somnolent of hyaenas into a run, and before long all the loose animals are gathered in one large, charging jumble.

Which is how the pair came to be riding past comrades and tigers alike in the center of a roiling mass of noisy animals. Nikki smiles and waves as they careen past the filled doorway. “Looks like the tigers are effectively distracted~” she says cheerily to Ana.

“Yes, yes it does.” The pale woman’s eyes widen.
edited by shylarah on 2/14/2018
edited by shylarah on 2/14/2018

--
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.
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