((I apologize for delaying this RP for so long. RL work has taken its toll lately. I especially apologize to the other involved in this RP – The Melniks, Mr. Underby, and Phaedra.)
He didn’t have time for this. Walking the city day and night these past few weeks had left him exhausted and every second counted. The half dozen youths surrounding him on their penny farthings, all wicked grins and bowler hats, were going to delay him – one way or another.
“What’s this then? Quite the toff, aren’t we, guv?” said the tallest and presumably the leader of this gang. He gestured at Giles’ silk waistcoat and gold pocket watch.
Giles did not reply, did not move his hand towards his pocket revolver. He only looked up towards the roofs of the Gut, as if seeing something there, and shook his head minutely. Another of the toughs dismounted and rested the cricket bat he carried on his shoulder, “Aye, he’s a flash cove, for sure. Look at ‘is dunnage. Much better than the one we saw into the drink.” He took two steps towards Giles.
Now was the time to talk. Berithos lapsed easily into the underworld slang he had grown up speaking.
“You bludgers aim to make a mark of me and with not a barker between you? Best go back to area diving. I’ll see the lot of you in lavender, make no mistake. But if there’s a jemmy lad among you, I’ll hand you a caper that will keep you in daffies and dolly-mops for months.”
Greed gleamed in the eyes of the young thugs and they gathered closer to listen to the surgeon.
A half hour later, Berithos reached his destination. He was pleased to see that the Bucket was apparently empty except for its owner. Underby registered neither surprise nor annoyance to see him – the man always played his cards close to his chest.
“Underby. I… I need your help.” Mr. Underby barely suppressed a snort.
“Look, man, you know Phaedra is missing – the whole city knows, and I’ve no doubt you know exactly where she is. Tell me. Tell me, and I’ll do anything for you, give you anything within my power.”
Underby stared like a corpse, “A tempting offer, doctor, but I don’t know where she is.”
Berithos clenched his fists, then forced himself to relax. He had no idea if Bib was nearby, and he wanted no more of his bones broken. “That’s a lie. You have your fingers in every pie in this damned city, all the way up to the mayor’s office, I hear. A pigeon shits in Wheatstone and you know about it. Tell me, please. What reason do you have to deny me this?”
The expression on Underby’s face took Giles aback. The man looked sympathetic… human. It was not a side of Underby that Giles had even seen.
“Dr. Berithos…. Giles… have you ever considered that Phaedra has somehow enchanted you? You know such a thing is not beyond her skill. Perhaps… perhaps she doesn’t want to be found.”
Giles waved this away, “I’ve heard this same drivel from Tenk, Lionheart, and a host of others. Whatever faults she and I have, our love is real.”
“Giles, when an entire city full of people tells you something and one person tells you another thing, simple logic would say the city is probably right. You’ve seen her work her potions and spells. And didn’t you two fall in love awfully quickly?”
The surgeon hesitated. He had no answer to this. Underby handed him a glass of Ravilan red and continued.
“I know her power, I know her guile. Stop living your life for her and torturing yourself for her. She’s safe, Giles, as safe as anyone can be in New Babbage. She doesn’t love you. She’s not capable of real love. Go home. Rest.”
Underby’s seeds of doubt were already growing in the fertile ground of his mind. Giles sighed deeply and fought the tears that threatened to spill from behind his spectacles. He left the Bucket as if in a trance. He was met by a tiny figure in the street outside.
“Any luck, sir? That ol’ bastard give you any inffermation?”
“No, Pip. Nothing. I’m going home now.”
The tiny man was incensed, “Wha?! The mistress is still missin’! We can’t stop yet!”
“Quiet, Pip. Come along now. She doesn’t need us.”
Pip jumped to a nearby awning. “No! I am hers, not yours. I’m headin’ to her house to await my mistress’ return!” He quickly and quietly melted into the night.
Berithos sighed and headed to his empty bed.