So this is a new story I’ve been working on. It’s a little interlocking narrative with several characters floating in and out. Overall it describes a fictional city called Pax Albion that is on the verge of some significant upheaval. The influences are a bit more Steampunk(ish) than fantasy, but I’ll certainly endeavor to keep it interesting.
The half-guttered nightlamps spread thin, watery light on the cobblestone streets of Pax Albion. A man half runs half drags himself across Upton’s Square muttering the names of inchoate gods. Most folk are tucked into their beds, but the few prostitutes collecting their final fares of the evening watch him go and spare a few sharp words for this shambling mess of a man. They jeer when he doesn’t even turn or have even the decency to blush scarlet at their lurid taunts. They give up their game as he disappears into an alley off of the massive square.
“…ought go look at the Daft Lady Dock. They’re hiring stevedores off the street. Two bulls like me and you? We’d be as daft as the lady if we didn’t look into it.”
The other man is more circumspect. He’s similarly dressed, but older and stouter than his companion. Time and decent living has widened him a bit at the middle. He shakes his head.
“I don’t know, Turn. The master pays us good coin for our service. It’s an honest wage and nothing to spit on.”
“I know, I know, but this isn’t about…” The younger doorguard looks over at the recently arrived man and narrows his eyes. This newcomer clearly isn’t much to look at: disheveled clothing, half sweat-soaked even in the Greenfall chill, and pale as a virgin’s sheets. “Help you, friend?”
“Is the master in? The master of this household?” the pale man asks.
“If he is,” the young man replies. It isn’t a question.
“I have to speak with him. It’s a matter most urgent. It concerns —”
The stouter man stands slowly, grunting as he does so. He massages his knee and gives the pale man a sympathetic look.
“We can’t help you, fellow. The master is entertaining guests. He won’t want to be bothered.”
“It’s the Martinists,” the pale man blurts out. The doorguards share a measured look and set to unlocking the gate.
620 Turrington Avenue is called the Snake’s Den for reasons that aren’t exactly architectural, but it coils like a lazy serpent in its way. The foyer leads into the main reception hall with its grand chandelier and placid, reflective flooring. A mix of candle and gas lighting keep the hall glittering the soft gold of a sunrise. The wide crystal staircase leads to the opulent parlor and apartments of the master of 620 Turrington Avenue, but those rooms are of no interest tonight.
On this night, the second floor is quiet and it is the kitchen that the doorguards, Turnip and Riley, take the pale man through. They pass the chef who doesn’t look up from the raspberry torte he’s carefully crafting or the hand-rolled cigarette he’s cavalierly smoking. The small group moves through a door designated for servants and descend the levels to the sub-basement of the manor. At last they come upon an iron door graven with the image of a closed, bleeding eye and a phrase: abyssus abyssum invocat (“Hell calls hell.”)
Before the door is a man with skin the color of melted chocolate swirled with lamb’s milk. One hazel eye and one green appraise each of the three men before him in turn, but he says nothing. He smooths the lapel of his charcoal suit jacket and says nothing.
The young man called Turnip speaks first. “This fellow has word of the Martinists. We figured the master would want to hear it himself.”
“Of course, we beg pardon for the interruption, sir.” The older one, Riley, adds.
The suited man checks the silver pocket-watch dangling at his side. It bears the same insignia as the door. “He will not want his gathering interrupted and I fear he’ll be even less enamored of the news you bring.”
The pale man gives a look of unchecked rancor. “I’ve traveled a significant distance to bring word and at great personal cost. I will not have some black skinned beast in gentleman’s clothing deny me!”
The suited man raises an eyebrow and the two doorguards look elsewhere: Turnip scratches a phantom itch and Riley becomes very invested in a minute stain on his shirt sleeve.
“My name is Ezra Stern and I am seneschal of this household. You may address me as Ezra or Mr. Stern.”
“You presume too much. I have no business with some jumped up freedman. Set aside and let me speak with your master. I haven’t time to waste,” the pale man demands
The seneschal gives the pale messenger a steely look with his mismatched eyes and not until the pale man lowers his gaze does the seneschal incline his head and step up to the door. He reaches the knob on the great iron door and twists it right, then left, then right again then he pushes the door open.
The doorguards stay at the door while the seneschal and the pale man enter. They are not allowed to enter this room of the manor. They are not allowed to gaze into it or speak of the noises they hear emanating from it. To be precise: it does not exist.
Baron Claus is red faced and wheezing as the effete Patine rides on top of him. The drink has gone to the Baron’s head and while he grabs Patine’s hips and drives his down on his own formidable member, he calls the boy by the name of some long lost lover. Patine responds with gentle, urgent encouragement. He expresses a need to be filled and strokes the Baron’s chest. All is well, Patine explains, as long as you keep fucking me.
The dashing young magister of imports is strangling his older lover with a silk kerchief and the gray-haired man’s eyes are glazed with ardor, his cock is rigid and dripping. The magister draws the kerchief tighter and his nostrils flare. He is still fully dressed but the aching erection in his trousers is proof of his rising arousal. His gray-haired lover gags violently and the magister moans, pulls the kerchief tighter, and abruptly floods his pants with cum.
The master of 620 Turrington Avenue watches these and many other scenes unfold in the salon around him as he drinks a tart, airy cordial from a flute glass. His shoulder length auburn-gold hair is tied back in a dignified ponytail and his smile is as casual as his recumbent pose on his white sofa.
His gray eyes watch the proceedings as if from some great distance, yet his attention is rapt and he calls one of his young friends over to bring a drink to the parched Baron Claus. The master is a young man still and the purveyor of a dangerous trade: his shadow distilleries flaunt the Prohibition laws and his monthly salons spit in the face of the harsh mandates against perversion in Pax Albion. He smiles and toasts his guests then checks to make sure that one of his young charges are surreptitiously taking photos of his guests.
He is about to rise from his seat when his seneschal emerges. Ezra arrives with an unhealthy looking man in tow who gapes at the debauchery around him, but is wise enough not to comment.
“Ezra,” the master says, his tone mildly reproachful, “who is our late-coming friend?”
The pale man speaks first, but doesn’t offer his hand. “Your man, Donnic Grant, has asked me to send word to you. He said I would be compensated.”
The master nods. “Why didn’t Donnic come himself?”
“I’m sure he would have liked to, but he’s indisposed.”
The master’s easy smile fades. “Dead?”
The pale man nods.
“This is distressing news. How did it happen?”
“The Martinists are moving. The reformers grow increasingly impatient with the level of licentiousness multiplying in the shadows of Pax Albion. Your man Donnic was known to be one of your creatures. He paid for that association in blood. It was against my…better nature to come to a place such as this, but…”
“…you were told there was money involved. A great deal of money.” The master finished smoothly. He allowed the disdain to creep into his voice. “Donnic is dead, but you came at his bidding. An act of pure benevolence on behalf of a beloved friend, no doubt.”
“Now w-wait a moment…” the pale man stutters.
“When are they coming for me?”
“Within the day, if not sooner. It would be wise if you…”
“I will decide what’s wise for myself, sir. But thank you for the warning. I promise you that you will not go unrewarded. Ezra, make sure that our guest is paid in full and that he leaves by the western door.”
Ezra inclines his head. “Of course, sir.”
There is no western door, but Ezra has questions for this visitor, several sharp and urgent questions after which the pale messenger will be paid in full.