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Marriage or Death (Part 7)

Henri had gotten more sleep in the sewers than elsewhere, and he’d only been forced to move a few times thanks to rats.  At one point he’d dreamed about a new voice that had caught fire, which he had tried to have a drink with but it was all so vague now it didn’t seem to matter.  Quite odd, but then dreams were supposed to be.

It was late the next day, still far ahead of schedule for his return, that he came out of a manhole in port weapons at the ready, though he didn’t wait for Aessesser to tell him it was alright before stepping out, and by the time he did he was already being warned that he had company.  A woman in uniform was at a distance, but studying his clothing very closely, and she was approaching him now.

“Are you Mr. Henri Metier?” She asked very officially and loudly.  She was in uniform of some kind, the militia he’d been avoiding no doubt. Well it was already obvious he’d have to shoot her now, even without the voices telling him what to do.

“Ahhh…” Henri said with a smile as he kept his weapons at the ready, he wouldn’t want to waste shots while she was too far away.  He’d done enough of that.  “Yes, that would be me.”

The woman approached him very cautiously, which was what he wanted.  “Sir, you are wanted for questioning on the matters of assaults on Mr. Blackberry Harvey and Mr. Arnold.  Would you come with me?”

He was going to add her name to his list of assaults then and there, when Aessesser let him know that there was another presence below him in the port now.  He could have no guarantee that he could shoot her without getting shot by her friend now, if it was a friend of hers. 

The entire city is your enemy.  They have banded together against you.  They all want you dead.”  The voice of Strike, or Strife, told him with the usual agreements and arguments among the others. 

Henri listened to his friends, and smiled to the woman, “Oh there’s no need for questions.  I shot them.  There, that solves that.”  He chuckled as he intentionally started to walk away, opposite her friend and her.

The woman drew a revolver, saying resolutely, “Then I most earnestly request that you drop your weapons and come with me!  Stop!”  He had already broken into a run though, before she had even finished.

Henri hid behind a building, intent on shooting her as she turned the corner, but again his guns failed to fire.  It was a good thing her friend had shown up then, he laughed to himself, otherwise he’d have been in trouble.

“Too many other people to kill before I answer for any of them!” Henri laughed at her in response to her previous statement now that he had a moment.  He waited till he saw her peer over the corner to take a parting shot that hit the wall near her, just to let them both know if his guns would work at all anymore. She hid back behind the wall and he took off running towards the graveyard.

Before he was even halfway there a gun shot whizzed by his head, almost making him lose his hat.  He gripped it onto his head as he kept retreating.  That had been close he laughed to himself.

When he reached the graveyard he stopped and hid behind a gravestone for a moment, when she didn’t come immediately he retreated further and when he thought he saw her again he took a shot and ran.  He reached the top of a stair case and waited there for her as he ducked to the ground.  As she turned the corner he opened fire once before she was able to hide behind the stone steps as best she could. 

“Come now,” Henri said with his usual amusement.  “You do know you’re interfering with a blood feud right?  Is nothing sacred?!”

From her shelter behind the stairs she called out, “It’s no good, Mr. Metier.  The whole of the militia is looking for you!  Such feuds are not welcome here!”

“Aren’t they?”  Henri said a little disappointed.  “That’s a shame then.  Guess I’ll have to finish it while being hunted still.”  Henri laughed as he shot again as she peeked to see where he was.

In a moment he’d lean over the stairs she was using as a shield and shoot her.  He could hide his body with the ground beneath him.  Honestly using the stairs as a shield didn’t work
very well when you were below the person at the top.  She probably knew this and was waiting for it, but he’d be the smaller target.

That was when he was warned by Aessesser that another floating contraption was above him.  Glancing upwards he confirmed this, and knew that he’d have to retreat again.

He laughed and ran all the way back to the sewers, without slowing down or stopping and he retreated back into the manhole shouting “And I had JUST gotten out of the sewers!”  He laughed as his head went under the ground once again and he retreated the opposite way, then turned ready to fire, but the woman didn’t follow him.  That had been wise of her.

As he retreated to a safer spot he thought about what an interesting two weeks he’d had.  This was the very first time he could have actually died today.  All of his other opponents thus far had not shot at him.  The son of Sonnerstein had just tried to detain him, that odd fellow had just wanted to talk, Arnold hadn’t had a gun on him and his claws had fallen on the one place on his body they’d have done no good at all, Harvey had stood up
to him but didn’t fight back, bandits didn’t count as they hadn’t been involved, and that one fellow, Mr. Underby he’d learned, who had the knife had put it against his armor and had done it when he wouldn’t have minded.

But now that he had time to think about it this was the first time he could have died and it had been close.  He hadn’t made any arangements yet, and he’d have lost completely if he were to die now.  After tonight it would be all right if that happened but…

“Why don’t you die then?”

Henri paused and wondered why the voices would suggest such a thing, and no one in his head was refuting it.  Even Aessesser seemed to be listening, or perhaps he had expected it.

“Why not?  You said it yourself, everything will be taken care of should you die.  Your existence after this will be meaningless.  Why should everyone of us who you invited to watch you be satisfied with such an unsatisfactory ending? 

We’re your audience, Henri.  And no matter what some people may say…everyone prefers a tragedy.  Don’t you?”

Henri’s mind worked and slowly he began to laugh, soon he was completely out of control with it as he realized that the voices were right!  He’d been going about this all wrong! 

“Go out giving us a good show Henri.  Go out in fire and death.

His priorities had suddenly changed.  He waited until nightfall and then he went out of a different manhole and made his way to the ship, this time asking ahead to see if the way was clear before moving forward.

He was welcomed on board cheerfully with a, “I heard wha’ ye’ve been up ta, and what yer up agains’.  Miracle, ye made it.”

“If there’s a trap here to kill me, can it wait till after I’m married?”  Henri said with a chuckle.

“Ye tol’ me afore we lef’ port that ye seek a woman to kill ‘er or marry ‘er.” the captain said. “Ye tol’ the whole crew an’ any man would listen.  We like you more ‘an any of us like these folk.”  The man gestured to all of Babbage.  “I do nae’ think we will port in thi’ pit again.”

Henri laughed, though it was much more controlled this time it still hinted of the uncontrolled nature of the one in the sewer.

“I heard a rumor, that a beautiful woman seeks to meet with you,” the man stopped to spit to show what he thought of that.  “A woman is bad luck, and a beautiful one is wors’.  If it nae a trap, my last name be Shipless.”

Henri couldn’t help but laugh hysterically again, “Well, if they went to all the trouble to set a trap for me, it would be rude not to step into it, now wouldn’t it?  Besides, it could be Sinclaire.  This could be my chance to kill her.”

The captain raised an eyebrow at him, but said nothing.  He’d already known the man was out of his wits and told him the entire rumor.

“Is everything ready for the ceremony?”

“When I heard tha’ a radio tower had fallen, I though’ this endeavor don’.  But we foun’ a way.”

Henri smiled as he was treated to supper before the time had come, and he was reunited with two friends that he had brought with him for his marriage.  One was a lawyer with the marriage certificate ready, and the other was the priest who had married his father to his mother knowing that the feud would continue because of it.

This was the one idea that had been completely his own, not even Aessesser had aided him.  He knew that he was the last of his blood line legitametly, and Aessesser had insisted he wait to see if he could marry Sinclaire, but that hadn’t happened yet and this had been his deadline so he was free to marry who he chose.

During his night at the Bucket Lionheart had suggested that he marry and change his name, but he had responded that he hadn’t found a woman who was willing and that had been true.  But he had kept secret that he did know a woman who would accept a marriage of convenience, despite the fact she wanted nothing to do with him anymore.  He’d also told Lionheart he’d left behind a few illegitimate children here and there. 

This was hardly a precedent, being married over a long distance.  Some had been married by mail, and the transition to Morse code and telegraph had been next though any device that carried information long distance would do, of course.  The ceremony such as it was concluded, and the documents were signed.  He was a married man now, and the woman had agreed with a lawyer and priest on her side that this would change her and her son’s name to Metier and that she would not change either or else welcome his spirit to haunt her and her son forever until she changed it back.  It also said that she would inherit all the property, money, and everything else that he himself had acquired after everyone else in his family had died.  Honestly he was a very wealthy man, and if Sinclaire had ever dared to go back home she might have been too…if everything their family had owned hadn’t been stolen or burnt.  He’d never bothered to check in on it before now.

The reason he had invested so much in being a fool was his belief that out of all the players in history it was the fool that most often found a way to somehow outwit fate, and one of his plans, if Sinclaire didn’t marry him, had been to marry a woman who had one of his own children.  As he had told Lionheart, only legitimate children were bound to this, and marrying her didn’t make his son legitimate suddenly.  He had still been born out of wedlock, but now he’d inherit the name and fortune and so the Metier legacy would live on, without the hatred to drive them to war the two families would finally be able to live with one another.

But the voice had been right…that wasn’t a satisfying ending unless he were to die too.  He had an audience of dieties and spirits he had invited to watch, and the only way to please them was to go out with flair.

After being brought back to his cabin for the last time, he cleaned his weapons and himself, changed his clothes for an identical but clean pair, borrowed a sword in case he ran out of bullets and took some kerosene with him.  The voices were giving him other ideas as well, ways he could still ensure the Sinclaire’s death and the death of many other people as well in this city that had made them all his enemy.

“Ye want me men to set a trap in t’ hospital fer ye?”

“They tell me I won’t get anywhere near it, and that’s not where the trap to kill me is,” Henri said with a smile and a shrug as he poured himself some more wine.  He had wanted to do this on his own, but the voice had pointed out that
she had set an entire city against him and he couldn’t do two suicide runs, one at the hospital and the other at this ‘meeting’.  It also told him it was time he returned the
same, and so he finally agreed.  “That Harvey guy hired a lot of sailors to build it, and there’s so many during the day working your men will be able to sneak in a few surprises.  That way even if Sinclaire isn’t at the trap I have a chance to have killed her.” The ‘beautiful woman’ could in fact be her ready to duel him properly after all, not that he’d give her the chance if he even made it that far.

“Naever a part o’ our agreemen’.  But, I have men who would do so fer the coin.” Henri paid these men and slept through the night, sailors guarding his door. 

The morning that the meeting was to take place the plan began and by noon the sailors he paid returned to say they had set the traps, and only one of them had been caught with dynamite.  Hopefully he wouldn’t talk before the rest of the traps went off. 

Since his man had been caught, the captain decided it best to depart a bit earlier than was scheduled.  Henri bid him farewell as well as Aessesser who he had asked to stay with the captain and got off the vessel though he could still feel him in his head.  Henri weapons were at the ready as he made his way through the town.  Laughing he ran to his death, intending to shoot anything that came near him.  Apparently his story was meant to end in marriage and death.

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