A little short story for Xmas! Introducing life after DN, the Guild's Midwinter Day celebrations, and the Sun Sector!! Enjoy, and merry Xmas from the Guild! ;)
Red Snow on Whitechapel
The cab sped through the London streets as if the very fires of hell chased it; horses galloping as if unaware of the treacherous weather. One or two heads turned, eyes peered from under hat brims and over spectacles, but most knew not to pay any mind to a suspicious black carriage in this area…it was safer to pretend not to have seen it at all. Those who knew not where it was headed (which accounted for most people) had dark suspicions which had the same effect.
I twitched the purple velvet curtain back over the window, quickly tiring of watching the general public pretend we were not there and sat back in my seat, raising one eyebrow at my colleague, James.
“You don’t suppose this one is going to cost me any more blood, do you?” I grumbled.
“I should hope not!” He replied, “We’ve done quite enough for one year, don’t you agree?”
“I’ll say.” I murmured, wincing as the bones of my corset jabbed at one of my less ignorable wounds.
I was far better than I had been…oddly; dying, or half-dying had that effect on me. So what did my dear friend Avangelene think was a perfect mission to help me find my feet again after being stabbed by a psychotic Vampire? Meeting up with a psychotic Vampire. Of course.
James leaned forward in his seat and took my hand in his, “You’ll be fine, Cye. You’re just not quite back to your old self yet.”
I couldn’t help but smile at that, “Well, you would know that more than anyone.”
He allowed a smile to creep across his own features, but did not reply. Our little secret was ours alone for now.
The cab continued to speed on, the streets growing darker and quieter as we turned to more obscure surroundings. Eventually, we came to a halt, and there were dull taps and scrapes on the walls of the carriage as the driver climbed down to open the door for us.
As we descended, we were greeted with the sight of the aforementioned psychotic Vampire.
Jessie DelAmor smiled sweetly in greeting. She was dressed head to toe in a deep purple silk gown and fur lined woollen cape. Her silver, unmistakably Vampiric eyes peered out from beneath an angled, veiled hat. I noticed that the umbrella her black, leather gloved hands gripped tightly had an unusually thick handle, and deduced that it concealed a hidden blade. Classy.
“Cybelle, I am glad to see you well once more.” She greeted me in her bright, sharp voice, “And James.”
“Miss DelAmor.” He nodded, placing his hat back on his head and gripping his own concealed blade-cane. They were useful things, concealed blades…I should get one.
Jessie took a step towards the driver who had brought us, “Thank you for escorting my dear friends here.” She began, “But as far as you are concerned, this never happened. And of course if you begin to allow people to think this has happened…well, I may be forced to resort to desperate measures.” With this, she leaned in close and continued in almost a whisper, a wicked grin turning the corners of her lips upwards, “I could kill you with my mind.”
The driver attempted to remain composed, but failed to hide a small, nervous gulp as he nodded and scrambled back up to his carriage.
Jessie whirled around, her dress making a soft track in the snow, “I love telekinesis, it’s so useful.” She said brightly, and motioned us to follow her.
“And they say Vampirism is a curse.” I replied as we turned a sharp corner into a little alley. She giggled at that, a giggle reminding me of our own dear Lizzie before a hunt.
After a few moments, we came to a small door. It looked as if it led into some kind of shack for it was such a tiny building, but when Jessie held open the door, and warm yellow light flooded out from beyond, it’s secret was given away. This was the Sun Sector’s Whitechapel base.
We stepped inside, and a petit, wavy haired Witch with soft features stood up and smiled at us. “Cybelle,” She said, “and James! How very long it has been!”
“Indeed it has, Loretta.” I replied.
“I heard about the Aristocrat.” Her face changed into a sympathetic frown, “He really took a chunk out of you.”
“It’s alright, we gave him a great crevice in return.” James concluded, blunt as ever.
Jessie bolted the door and propped her umbrella up against the wall, “If we are quite done with the reintroductions, we may turn our minds to the matter at hand.”
The three of us crossed the room to the desk at which Jessie now stood, spreading out some newspapers for us to look at.
“Oh, Vampires in Whitechapel. That’s new.” I sighed, picking up one of the papers.
“Now Cybelle, I expect better of your observational skills.” Jessie replied, “I appreciate that you are bitter by nature, but please do try to…look alive.”
“Excuse me, who in the room has just been stabbed by a fatal weapon off the Elder Promises? Oh just me then, allow me a little scepticism.” I knew that I was milking it, using my condition as an excuse to snap, but I just wasn’t in the mood. I had no attention for mind games and mysteries, I wanted a nice simple target to get me back into work. I think Pierce’s riddles had extinguished any attention I might once have paid to such a challenge.
“Hark at this, the Night Sector appear to have become far too accustomed to picking and choosing their work!” Jessie remarked, and then she sighed and looked at me straight, clearly having mustered up any scrap of sympathy she was capable of, “I know these missions are a pain, but if we get the damn thing done, we can all be back home for mulled wine and fruitcake in time for Midwinter Day.”
“It’s fine.” I muttered, “I hate taking time off, it’s left it’s mark on me already.”
James rolled his eyes, but seemed to decide that whatever challenge he was going to make could wait for later.
“Well, that’s all fine and lovely for you, but some of us like our holidays.” Loretta replied, but not sharply; she was attempting to lighten the mood.
“Now, if you please, do try to concentrate.” Jessie requested, and passed a couple more of the newspapers over to us, “Do you see the abnormality?”
“Let’s see,” James muttered, “Victims drained of blood, left in obvious places… Scotland Yard baffled-naturally…”
“All signs point to a new-born except…” I read on a little to confirm my theory, “Yes, some had signs of reanimation! This was an experiment made up to look like a new-born feeding fest!”
“Well observed, Cybelle. I apologise for doubting you.” Jessie replied, “Now, this is a suspicious occurrence, not that I need tell you. I fear that some kind of disgraced high Vampire or an awfully powerful Necromancer is on the loose, attempting to recreate the Kiss of Blood on these poor unsuspecting humans. The reason? I would rather not know. As much as I could not care less what happened to the little beasts…”
“The creator needs to die before the dominoes fall.” I finished.
James looked over the papers again, “Anything could happen if we left them to it.” He mused, “I doubt they would succeed but it’s a pitiful waste, and it’s attracting too much attention. We’re the stuff of penny dreadfuls already, best not to fuel the fire.”
“Particularly not after one of our own has killed a high, and Council Member Aristocrat.” Jessie pointed out, “Not that I blame you, he was a slimy little shit.”
Loretta crossed the room to remove a bulky hand gun from a bracket over the fireplace. I had seen that thing before, a commission that had been made of Emma a couple of years ago. It was a clever little contraption that shot wooden spikes, small enough to wound but not kill a Vampire…a fantastic tool for obtaining information. She turned around, loading it with one of those spikes and looking at the rest of us, “So what now?”
Jessie narrowed her eyes, “Could you point that thing elsewhere, Loretta?!” She sighed, and the Witch did as she was told with an embarrassed flush, forgetting her companion’s Aristocrat blood, “Now we wait for cover of night, not that it means an awful lot here in the beautiful streets of Whitechapel, but it will conceal us from human eyes if we obscure our faces.”
“And presumably, we find this would-be leech and stick them as quickly as possible.” I suggested, “Simple enough. Although I don’t doubt Loretta’s little toy could get some interesting facts from them first.”
“Yes, that’s true. We should interrogate before we kill.” Jessie agreed.
“Well, that settles it then.” Loretta concluded. “We have a few hours before we set out, anybody care for tea?”
“Now there is a proposition.” I replied.
“You really never celebrate Midwinter?” James asked of me. We were all sat around the fireplace awaiting the time for our mission, and I was on my third cup of tea. Loretta made bloody good tea.
“No.” I replied, “I never quite felt the need. It was something my family used to do many years ago but…I suppose it means nothing to me anymore.”
“I always wondered where you went off to. You should stay this year, celebrate with the rest of the Guild.” He suggested, glancing at the scar on my shoulder, “You’ve earned a break.”
“I never thought of breaks as a good thing, but perhaps.” I sighed, “I remember little of the tradition.”
“That hardly matters around here I think.” Loretta pointed out, she was leafing through the newspapers again, circling odd street names to aid the search, “Midwinter at the Guild is very much like the Guild itself; thrown together.”
“We do the Goddess proud on her day.” Jessie added from behind the desk, “I presume it is the Moon Sector’s turn to host?”
“It is.” James confirmed, “Speaking of which, I hope Emmett remembered to hide some of the spirits from Avangelene…”
“Of course he won’t have.” I corrected him with a smile and a shake of my head, “Anyway, the time is drawing near. Did we intend to travel in uniform? It would be practical but…”
“Reckless.” Jessie finished for me, and stood up, “Travel light, but casual. It is as white as something Vampiric out there and we shall be spotted a mile away. Should anybody find our presence unusual, then it would be worse if we were dressed like music hall harlots.”
“Thank you.” I murmured, “Alright, shall we depart?” I set down my teacup and retrieved my cloak from the hook nearer the door. It was longer than Jessie’s…in fact exactly long enough to conceal a pair of katanas with little trouble. With a holster for my revolvers over my arms, I looked like a perfectly respectable lady with it on.
“We should waste no time.” Jessie agreed, and retrieved her own cloak and put her leather gloves back on over a pair of silver tipped knuckledusters. She needed few weapons really, her telekinesis could cause chaos enough without, but she like to be prepared.
James and Loretta followed suit; James hiding one of Emma’s specially designed retractable swords under his trench coat, Loretta hiding the Vampire gun in her own.
“It had better be a Necro.” James uttered, “I’ve had it with bloody Vampires! No offence meant, Jessie.”
“None taken, James.” She replied, “Your wit knows no bounds.”
With a frown, she held open the door, leading us out into the night.
The four of us stalked through the midnight, occasionally breaking off to search odd alleys and side streets. I didn’t think much of the mission at the time…of course it was odd, and I should have known much better, but I suppose recent events considered, I had forced my mind back into routine. A job needed doing. I had the upper hand and I’d get it done. Simple as that.
“Nothing here.” Loretta said lowly, sweeping back out of another alley.
“This is becoming longwinded.” Jessie murmured, “If I just knew what the buggar looked like, I could bring him to us.”
“There’s not much point in ifs.” James pointed out, “We just have to do some things the old fashioned way.”
We turned into a new street, and I stopped in my tracks.
I smelled blood.
I could tell by the way she tensed and her eyes glinted that Jessie had noticed it too. Vampiric instinct kicked in and both of us crept closer, fangs elongating a little, poised to attack.
James had noticed too, once he had come closer, his head shot up and he looked around, surveying the scene. “I think we’ve got them.” He whispered.
Loretta took out her gun.
Reaching for the hilt of my sword underneath my cape, I tracked the smell to a small alley leading off into darkness. I mouthed at the others to follow me, and we crept closer, Vampirism allowing most of us complete silence, skill for the others. The smell had gotten stronger, and though Jessie was experienced and could handle herself very well, she could not help her fangs lengthening and her eyes changing. Her transformation went much quicker than mine. She gripped the handle of her umbrella tighter, ready to unsheathe the hidden sword.
“I wondered when you would get here.” A voice purred in the silence, “The famous Assassin’s Guild…and Misses DeHamphir and DelAmor no less! My…I am privileged.”
Though it was pitch black, even to immortal eyes, we could tell that the owner of that voice was smiling grimly. There was a soft thud…the sound of a body falling to the cobbled, snow speckled floor beneath…I could not help the minute sharp breath I drew in that microsecond at the memory the sound brought up.
A figure rose from the shadows. Phantomlike, and clad in a black leather overcoat and tall black top hat. I could tell from his movements and sarcastic tone that he was clearly a Vampire…probably some sort of noble judging by his attire…but fallen, his coat was torn and hat battered, I could now make out straggles of dirty blonde hair beneath it. I gave a short glance to Jessie, and she shook her head once. We were right, not an Aristocrat.
I used my Witch’s elemental powers to ignite a small flame in an old lamp hanging on the wall, flooding the little alley with light and illuminating our Vampire. Convenient lamps, I love it when that happens.
There was a small, tattered figure slumped in the corner. It looked like he had been busy.
“So.” Jessie said, folding her arms, “Anything to say for yourself before we begin?”
The figure bowed low, “Francois Lecroix.” He introduced himself.
“You don’t sound French.” James observed.
“You don’t act like a Lovett.” Francois replied.
“I don’t give wolf shit where you’re from or what your name is, Fran.” I hissed, “Why are you trying to turn Vampires, you’re no Aristocrat. You can’t perform the Blood Kiss.”
Francois sniggered, and Loretta barged forward and shot him in the arm with a wooden spike, making him screech.
“Do you want to try that again?” She challenged.
Francois staggered back and tore the spike out of his arm with anther howl, throwing it to the ground with shaking hands. He looked at all of us for a long moment; Jessie with her eyebrow raised and hands poised to take out her blade, Loretta, gun pointed firmly in his direction ready to shoot, James, sword swung casually over on his shoulder ready to swing, and me, sword outstretched and glinting in the flickering light.
Slowly, he reached into the pocket of his coat.
When he took out his fist and released it, a small glass phial fell to the floor (clearly magically enhanced, as it did not shatter) and rolled along the cobbles. Keeping my eyes on Francois, I bent to pick it up.
Jessie looked at it, and her eyes widened then narrowed furiously when she caught sight of the symbol inked on the phial’s label. It looked like a viper wrapped around a bottle, it was something she had seen before in her long years…something that had once been in the hands of some brave but idiotic Vampire Hunters.
“You disgusting little creature.” She whispered, “You pathetic being…”
Francois smirked, “I wondered when you might come to reclaim your blood, Jessica.
“How did you come by the venom?” I growled, lurching forward and pressing my blade against his throat.
“Same way you came by that pretty Jade bracelet, Cybelle. I stole it.”
“From who!?” I demanded.
“None of your business.” He replied, “Trade secrets, you should know.”
James marched forth and joined me, standing over the Vampire, one hand on his sword, the other grabbing him by the collar, “You listen to me, pig.” He growled, “You will show some respect to Miss DeHamphir. Wipe that pathetic smirk of your face, answer her question and maybe, JUST maybe, I’ll let you live.”
Francois saw the angry flash in James’ eye and gulped. “Fine.” He murmured, “I stole it from some Hunters. The council had arrested them for questioning and I had this feeling they weren’t coming out again.”
James shoved him and I pressed my blade a little harder, drawing blood. “And this!?” My partner cocked his head in the direction of the body in the corner.
“Experiment.” Francois choked, “I wanted to be the first to make a Night Walker of a Human.”
The four of us looked at each other, and then back at the captive. “That information is most useful.” I said slowly, and removed my blade.
James let go of his collar, dropping him to the ground. “Leave.” He commanded, and Francois scrambled to his feet and ran. Before he could even clear the alley, I had taken one of my revolvers and sent a bullet chasing after him.
The bullet won.
“I said if he paid some respect to Cye, I’d let him live.” James said absently, “I never said Cye herself would let him live.”
“I take back everything I said about you, James.” Jessie said, looking impressed.
“…You said what about me?” He replied.
“Oh, nothing at all.” She concluded, and led the way out of the alley, lifting her skirts to step over the Vampire’s decaying remains.
I have no idea how it happened, as I had never any intention of actually doing it, but James, Jessie and Loretta somehow managed to persuade me to come back to the Guild for Midwinter celebrations.
I swear, this “new reason for living” thing was making me soft.
So, if you were wondering what force of the supernatural had me standing out in the cold in front of the Guild that night, it was James and his incredible persuasive talents.
“The Night speaks!” Called Emma on the other side of the door. She sounding happy…oh dear. I wondered which bit of the Guild house had suffered for it.
“I am it’s voice.” James answered. The door swung open as usual and we were let inside.
The Guild was quite a picture. Everybody was in, Sun Sector and all…There was Loretta deep in conversation with the Bennetts about weapons, Jessie coming down the stairs with a goblet of something in her hand.
Avangelene came over and greeted us, “Cybelle! You actually turned up…what happened, London out of convicts to chase?” She winked.
“How are you?” I smiled, “How is…?”
My old friend allowed herself a small grin and she lowered her voice “A boy.” She said, placing her hand on her stomach, “I saw it! It’ll be a little boy.”
I still was not used to the idea of Avangelene settling down like that, having children and getting married, but she looked happy. For once all the hell was taking a break, and something good could happen to her. I was glad. It disturbed me a little, but I was glad.
“Anyway, I’m sure you two will want some time alone.” She said, nodding at James, “I’ll be around.” At that, she wandered off.
Lizzie thrust a chalice at me as I walked past, “Drink.” She said, “Judging by the month you’ve had, you need one.”
“I’m alright, Liz, but thank you.” I said, but took it anyway…well it wasn’t wine. I hadn’t fed recently.
“Just helping my fellow Vampire.” She said airily.
“Really?” I raised one eyebrow.
“Really.” She confirmed. “…Emmett made me do it. He promised me cake.”
James stifled laughter as Lizzie swept away once more. “I swear, the only time you see some of these women smile and do things like that, you always miss it!”
“I think Emmett lied about the cake.” I whispered with a stifled giggle myself.
We headed to the back room, our intention (or at least my intention, this was something of a mad little get together) to simply sit around, have a drink and talk a while. Perhaps people may allow me to forget my run in with Pierce for five minutes. However, I could tell by the great, mischievous grin on James’s face as we paused in the doorway that he had other ideas.
“What is that look for?” I asked, and he slowly looked up and back at me.
I followed his gaze and saw this ridiculous twig hanging in the doorway. I was about to ask what the devil it was doing up there when Emma called over the room; “You COMPLETELY FELL FOR IT!” and began to laugh. Oh, a prank then. Charming.
James sighed when he saw my blank expression. “Cybelle,” He said, “Let me teach you a little Midwinter tradition.” He still had that grin.
“What kind of tradition?” I asked suspiciously, although his smile was contagious as usual.
“Well…” He said, and turned to face me, clasping both our hands together, “When some idiot (at this, he glanced at Emma), hangs that in the doorway, it means I get to do this!”
With that, he took me totally by surprise and planted a kiss on my lips. A surprise indeed but…I can’t truthfully say it wasn’t nice...
I could feel my witch side, being particularly present today, trying to blush. When I realised the world was still there around us, I laughed as the Guild let out whistles and cheers in jest. I’d have been bitter at being made a spectacle but…
“That is not a bad tradition.” I said as we continued inside, away from teasing chants.
“Told you!” He replied, and we both smiled again.
We sat down on the window seat looking over the back of the grounds. It was gleaming outside, the white of the snow conquering the darkness.
James took my hand in his again, watching me in thought. “It’s all over now.” He said, “It’s all going to be fine.”
“It’s never all over.” I sighed, and took a sip of my drink (how the hell had I managed not to spill that?), “Not here, not for us.”
“You know what I mean.” He said, “So what if Lowell goes back to the council? They’re not psychopaths, they’re politicians. We will just work around it. I know you’re anxious, I can see it in your eyes.”
“Really?” I said, meeting his eyes right then.
“Really.” He confirmed, “It’s all gone, we can be at peace now, don’t worry.”
“…I believe you.” I managed to smile, and he pulled me into an embrace.
I could, to my surprise, believe him. This next year was going to be different…well, of course it was. If you’d have mentioned last year to me that I would have found love, then I would have called you insane. If you’d have told me that my closest friend would be pregnant I would have sent you to Bethlam, no questions asked! But it was a good change, and I would savour it.
Yes, this year would be fine. For once, we would be at peace.
And nobody would have to worry about dying. little short story for you! Introducing life after Dead Night, and the Sun Sector! :)