Abney Parkway was busy with trick or treaters visiting the Wax Museum, which Beryl gave a wide berth as she passed. The decorations were stunning as always, but wax figures made her uncomfortable. When it disappeared from sight she slowed her step again to enjoy her stroll down the Gut.
There were no children rushing between homes as their parents or friends lagged behind. She suspected everyone would answer with a trick, or worse. The nearby Quarry and Palisades were more tempting targets. She passed one group of men, former customers of Nicholas, who leered at her quietly as their conversation paused.
Beryl ignored them and went down the stairs towards the Bucket of Blood. She could smell the familiar scents of the pub as the door opened welcoming her, or warning her away, with a hint of wiggyfish chowder wafting through the air. The pub was warm despite its drafty appearance, and there were chairs near the fireplace.
The graffiti etched along the walls had increased in the past few years. Babbagers had whittled and wrote of people and events past where drunkards could memorialize them. Finding the new phrases was almost like an easter egg hunt for Halloween. It was fun even though one in particular increased her foul mood.
There were not many other people here yet, the bartender Deuce had yawned as her greeting to Beryl. Mr. Spalding Rookswood was secluded in the back, his table facing away from everyone else. She carefully stayed away from him and froze as she saw his nephew, Cyan, sitting on the couch alone. He was chewing on some of Lady Byrne’s chocolate and looked like he had no care in the world.
Beryl forced herself to seem friendly and took the seat beside Cyan, near the fireplace. He gave her a cheerful greeting that she returned. “You do know children are not supposed to come in here?”
“That is relaxed at story time,” Cyan playfully giggled as he dismissed her concerns. “And I sneak in regularly. Its fine!” The lad continued to confidently eat his chocolate as Beryl set her teeth and made no further comment.
The door opened and she could smell Wright barreling into the Bucket. “We weren’t done yet, cat.”
“And I told you that we would discuss it later.” Beryl replied crisply as she closed her eyes. She refused to give him the satisfaction of turning to face him. “Not in public. Not at the Bucket.”
“What’s the matter Beryl?” Cyan asked suddenly, his teasing voice playfully added “This is the safest bar in New Babbage.”
Was that supposed to be a joke?! Her eyes shot open as she looked at the child, growling softly as she resisted the urge to dig her claws into the upholstery. Cyan appeared shocked as his face went from playful to concerned confusion quickly.
“Sorry,” She apologized quietly as she turned away from him. “I am just…annoyed.”
The lad nodded, but did not seem comforted. Especially when he turned the other way and then tried to sink into the couch. His uncle had just stood up and was walking to the bar. The older man sat at the opposite end of Wright and ordered a wine. Wright looked to Deuce and asked for their least worst beer, which may or may not have been the same thing as the worst..
It seemed Cyan might finally be taking her warning seriously as his uncle downed a drink, and ordered another. Good.
The door opened and more people slowly drifted inside, one of which was Professor Vartanian who looked as lanky as ever. Wright approached him and started to talk about the incident. Beryl hoped the Professor resolved the issue swiftly.
“Well, as long as they aren’t fawning over Sybil like they’re in a damn cult…” He said at the end, too loudly for her tastes.
“Beryl’s just the cult leader now…” Mr. Rookswood replied snidely and her head shot up, ears perking towards the rabbit moreau. Cyan slowly sank even further into his seat. “You heard me cat!!” The man ordered yet another drink as he downed his second, paying Deuce in advance as she ignored the events unfolding.
Beryl looked to Spalding, slowly rising from her chair while forcing a smile. She turned toward him, her tone acidic, “The others are at least my friends, sir.”
“Friends?” Mr. Rookswood picked up his new drink and faced her unsteadily as he got to his feet, “Can you even have friends?”
Beryl Strifeclaw glared at the man, but there was no point arguing considering recent events, “Clearly not very well.”
The drunkard turned his attention to Cyan, “Hello, nephew. Enjoying time with your ‘friends’?” He spit the words with vitriol. “I knew I should have gotten rid of you when I could have. You have been nothing but a nuisance.”
“What’s stopping you, Mr. Rookswood?” Beryl asked as her anger began to turn cold, and a soft purr began to rumble within her.
Cyan looked at Beryl with shock, even Wright seemed taken aback, but she had warned the boy. Perhaps this was what he needed to learn his lesson. Spalding though looked intrigued. “Well Mr. Rookswood? I suppose your flesh and blood is what slows you down, but perhaps not. You’re not truly related after all.”
“You’re right,” Spalding said as he drank his wine and looked over at the boy, his eyes wide with realization. “He’s just a kid to me isn’t he. No relation… I could kill a kid..”
“No one’s stopping you.” Beryl slowly stepped out of his way, giving him a clear shot at his nephew. “This is the Bucket, after all.”
Cyan slowly stood up and backed away, to the other side of the fireplace, she could see him shuddering now, “I think I should go.”
Wright recovered from his shock and growled loudly, “Try it, sir, and I will rip you apart.” He flicked his cigar at the man. Deuce watched it all with a bored expression, as if to say just don’t damage Bucket property.
Beryl sighed inwardly at Wright’s direct approach. He could have come at him from behind with ease. “Alright. He’s stopping you.”
Spalding looked up at the man, laughing into his cup as he took another drink. “Oh yeah, you’re really tall.”
“You don’t know the half of it, bub.” Wright countered with a chuckle of his own.
“I know more than you think. Things that none of you know.” Spalding turned his gaze back to Beryl, he smelled of madness even more than drunkenness, “She remembers though doesn’t she?”
The feline had an idea what he might mean as she responded through gritted teeth, “You’d have to be more specific, sir.”
Cyan snuck past the two as he made his way for the door. Spalding had eyes only for the feline several feet in front of him, “You should have been sent to the gallows, and the woman burned at the stake.”
Beryl snarled softly, the last shred of her pleasant facade fading away, “And why would I go to the gallows and which woman, sir?! Say it!”
“Because witch burnings are still a thing, and she deserves to die beside you. I know you burned down my Breweries,” Spalding responded as he drew himself up to face her, his gaze mad yet triumphant as he added, “And I know you killed Dr. Thaddeus Solsen.”
Beryl’s rage faded and her growl slowly turned into a purr. Her eyes began to have a slight purple tinge in their center that grew outwards. She felt cold inside. Untouchable by sympathy or pain after the fool threatened her family. Wright and the others were arguing, but she could hardly hear.
“Murder, says the man who’d kill a child.” Wright snarled as he moved nearer to Spalding.
“What man in this city wouldn’t? They are cheap labor for most.” Spalding retorted as she eyed his cup. “Dispose of them when they are done and get a new one. I believe I simply need a new nephew.”
“Five.” Wright slowly started to laugh as he took off his hat, and then moved to his coat, “Four.”
The small crowd watched expectantly, expecting Wright to knock out the loudmouthed drunk, but they did not know him well enough. He was not going to simply beat the idiot in his current form. He was going to transform right here, in the Bucket, heedless of what would happen if he did and lost control.
Beryl might have sat back and moved in after the beating, but it was clear she had to save Wright from himself as well. She interjected herself between the two as Wright moaned, “Aw c’mon. Let me have my fun.”
The feline purred and reached up to caress Mr. Rookswood’s face, making sure to make eye contact, “You know, I remember you, Mr. Rookswood.”
“Oh do you?” He laughed at her as he matched her gaze, “Was it the time I tried to kill you in Mondrago?”
Reaching into her dress elaborately, putting on a show for everyone briefly, her paw then moved to his drink. He watched in confusion when she apparently dropped something in it, “What was that supposed to be…?”
“Go ahead. Have a drink,” she told him, the purple in her eyes drawing his attention and making him feel small. He looked at the glass as if mesmerized and then back. “You’re feeling so thirsty aren’t you?”
“It’s…it’s poison isn’t it?” He whispered fearfully.
“It doesn’t matter does it,” She teased playfully. She did not know where this was coming from, but she knew he would do it instinctively. A soft mind, one filled with madness, took suggestions easily. “You have to take that drink now, Mr. Rookswood. And then another…and another. Go on…indulge yourself.”
Mr.Rookswood put the glass to his lips, his body shaking as he tried to fight it as he downed the cup. He breathed in a panic afterwards and then ran to the bar and ordered another drink slamming his money down.
Deuce looked it over and shrugged pouring drink after drink as the man downed them in seconds. He was like a man dying in a desert and nothing could satisfy him. The others watched the madman slowly destroying himself as Beryl couldn’t help but laugh.
The man collapsed to the floor choking, his mouth foaming as he cried believing himself poisoned when he was just a fool. She’d put nothing in the cup at all. As he cried and giggled on the floor Beryl knelt down and started to softly pet his head, “Rest now, little mad-bunny.”
Cyan slowly made his way back inside as he saw his uncle being thrown out into the corner. Dozens of people were arriving for story time as Wright muttered that he had been going to take care of it. She looked up at Wright, the purple in her eyes stronger than ever. “Well, let us just say that no one can threaten Lady Byrne and get away with it.”