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The Exorcist

Brother Lucius pleaded his case across the breakfast table, as he had on every day for the past week. “Brother Lapis, we should be good neighbors. Why won’t you do the service for the poor Chinese gentleman? He is suffering.”

“He’s right, Lapis. Just a little exorcism,” Brother Sevas urged from his place on Brother Lapis’s left. “A little chalk on the floor, a little chanting and arm waving, a little sprinkle sprinkle with the holy water. Just do the show if the rite makes you squeamish. We should maintain good relations with our neighbors, even if one of them runs an opium parlor.”

Lapis scowled. “If it’s such a simple matter to fake an exorcism, then why don’t you do it?”

“Because, Lapis,” Sevas pointed at him with his dirty fork. “You look like an exorcist.”

“I what?”

“Come come, old boy, you can’t have a play without the proper cast. You’re perfect for the part.”

“And Father Moonwall has trained you in the rite,” Lucius said, who was, in no small way, in awe of Lapis for being entrusted with what Lucius considered dark knowledge.

Lapis stabbed at the food on his breakfast plate. “The only ghosts in that place are a result of Mr. Lee spending all his time breathing in the smoke his sorry inmates produce. Or indulging in it himself. He is obviously brain addled.”

Sevas made a small gesture for Lucius to try again while Lapis was looking down at his plate.

“But Brother Lapis,” Lucius started again in his most earnest manner. “What harm could it do?”

Lapis looked suspiciously to his left, recalling the unmistakable odor Brother Sevas had had on his person when he had come to breakfast on the first morning after the long Fast had ended.

“Did he put you up to this?” Lapis inquired of Lucius. Sevas, whose full attention had been on his food, looked up with theatrical innocence.

Lucius swallowed and shook his head, lying not being his best skill. “You do look like an exorcist,” he pleaded.

Lapis looked again at Brother Sevas, who was nodding in agreement with what Lucius had just said. What exactly was an exorcist supposed to look like?

“I’ll think about it,” Lapis said at last.

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  1. Brother Lapis Brother Lapis August 1, 2015

    “If I’m going to do an exorcism at the Red Dragon, you are going to have to assist me, Brother Lucius,” said Brother Lapis.

    Brother Lucius felt a surge of excitement, tinged with more than a hint of apprehension. Finally, he was going to get the chance to work directly with the revered Brother Lapis. The young brother tried to swallow, his mouth had suddenly gone dry. “Why me?”

    “Because I certainly am not taking one of the boys into an opium den.”

    “I agree, Brother Lapis. That would be most prudent. But, why me?”

    “Because, Brother Lucius, the rite requires a virgin be to present.”

    “What?” Brother Lucius’s ginger genetics left him susceptible to flushing at the slightest provocation; a deep mottling of his skin that started around his collar bone, patterning its way to his ears. “What makes you so sure I’m a virgin?”

    For a moment Lapis maintained his unblinking gaze, noting the change in the young man’s color. Satisfied, his expression gave way to a slight smirk. “I thought so.” Lapis said at once. “Come. We must prepare.”

  2. Brother Lucius Brother Lucius August 2, 2015

    I’m finally getting a chance to do something. I hope I don’t mess-up. What if the ghost is real—no, it can’t be! …but still—what if?

  3. Brother Lapis Brother Lapis August 3, 2015


    The two clerics stood squinting into the darkness of the Red Dragon, waiting for their eyes to adjust to the darkness. Brother Lapis waved off the small chinese man who offered to show them to a couch.

    “Behold the vice of the orient,” Lapis said, using greek for privacy. “Sorry bastards.”

    Lucius looked around the dark and smoky parlor thinking it looked more like the vice of New Babbage. Slowly, he saw the  double rows of pallets  lit by dim oil lamps and glowing incense embers. It was early in the evening, but the sun was still high. The few patrons present had an emaciated look and a deathly pallor to their skin.  “What are they doing?” Lucius asked, also speaking in greek.

    “A poet might say they are ‘eating the lotus.’”

    “I see. But, Lucius paused, taking it all in. “This place… it’s so horrid! Like a trap, isn’t it? How do they not see it? They should just follow the example of the Builder and be productive.”

    “They are prisoners of their dreams. I would prefer we not stay long, as I do not care for the effects of the opium.”

    Soon the proprietor appeared, bowing and nodding his clasped hands in greeting. Lucius bowed in return.

    “Mr. Lee,” Brother Lucius started. “This is Brother Lapis. The exorcist.”

    Mr. Lee’s face lit up and he bowed again. “You will send the hungry ghost away now?”

    Lucius looked uncomfortable. “Ah, no. Not right away. First we must make an investigation of where you have seen the ghost so we will, ah, know which ritual will be the most effective.”

    Mr. Lee lifted a curtain, revealing a set of stairs. “This way please. Ghost lives in top floor room. You will see. Please.”

    Lapis nodded once, and lead the way. Lucius took one last look at the sickly looking people lounging on the pallets, and followed.

    Behind the red curtains that defined the parlor area, the Red Dragon revealed itself to be a seedy building in bad repair. A flight of rickety wooden stairs went up to the next floor, which had been a railed walk-around looking down onto the main floor when the building was new. One would have to be careful where one stepped not to fall through these days. As they distanced themselves from the haze of the parlor incense, a faint scent from an old building fire could be detected. The clerics kept close to the wall and made their way to the next flight of stairs.

    A sound of buzzing flies assailed them as they came into the upper floor. Lapis entered the room first. He took a handkerchief from his from his jacket pocket and held it over his mouth and nose as he looked about. The upper floor was used for storage, filled with crates and excess furnishings, but the detritus of human habitation was plainly evident in the corners of the room. Brother Lucius remained at the top of the stairs, bent double, one hand bracing his knee for support, the other upraised to request a pause in their investigation while he barely held the urge to retch at bay.

    “There’s something living up here all right,” Lapis said, as he pulled Lucius toward the open window and pushed the younger man’s head outside.  Lucius gasped for air and tried to recompose himself. Lapis wandered about the room for a bit, kicking a crate here, overturning a chair there, inspecting for clues as to the age of the inhabitants. He had always suspected there was an urchin hideout in the vicinity, judging by the number of children that were commonly hanging around the sidewalks of the neighborhood. He paused over a group of chests against the wall. Sniffing suspiciously, he took his dagger from his boot to use as a tool to lift the lid. He dropped the lid quickly, turning his head as a particular stench wafted stronger.

    “Latrine.” Lapis lied. “Very fresh.”

    “I’ve never heard of a ghost that needed a latrine,” said Lucius, who was wiping a wetness from his chin with his sleeve.

    “Let’s see if we can draw him out.” Lapis opened the satchel he had been carrying and brought out a sandwich wrapped in paper and a bottle of cheap beer he had bought at the absinthe house for the purpose. He placed those on the floor near the back of the room where the hole in the wall was. “I’m going to go back, you stay here and see who takes this.”

    “Stay here—alone?” Lucius looked alarmed. “Why me?”

    “Because. I’m the exorcist. I chase the ghosts away.

    Lucius looked around the room, swallowing several times. “Of course,” he whispered.

    “Hide yourself on the stairs. This building is old, you’ll be able to hear anyone moving about. It is almost sunset, so whoever it is will be coming in for shelter soon.”


    • Bookworm Hienrichs Bookworm Hienrichs August 3, 2015

      Hmmm. I have a feeling this isn’t going to end well…

      Or maybe I’m just too inclined to see doom these days.

      • Beryl Strifeclaw Beryl Strifeclaw August 3, 2015

        We should have the firehoses on standby with all the doom in the air.  *Nods*

  4. Brother Lapis Brother Lapis August 4, 2015

    “The first thing we must do is make a preliminary investigation,” said Brother Lapis to Brother Lucius. “Normally, we would do a formal land survey with transit, but since this is not being requested in preparation for laying a foundation, I think just a look around will do.”

    Brother Lucius followed Brother Lapis down the street to where the Krakenwell workshop stood on the corner of Jefferson and Perdido. Something troubled the young cleric. “Are there really spirits that linger from old buildings to haunt what is built next?”

    “Not in my experience, but ritual soothes the minds of the superstitious,” said Lapis. His response seemed to trouble Lucius even further.

    The two men stood at the end of the street at the back corner of the unmarked building that housed the Red Dragon. Lapis crossed his arms and looked up. “Mr. Lee claims his ghost is living on the top floor. What does logic tell you, Brother?”

    Lucius looked up towards the rooftops. There was an opening in the back wall of the top floor where a window had once been. Several planks had been strategically placed across the the narrow gaps between the tightly spaced buildings, and a longer, more substantial one, ran high above their heads, which crossed the gap of the street to the roof of the Turkish Baths. Lucius rounded the corner, Lapis following, to get a view of the upper floors of the Red Dragon building from another angle.

    “Someone is living up there.” Lucius stated, his eyes darting about the scene. “There are two routes of egress, three if there is a roof access, and more leading away from the locale. Perhaps whoever it is is intimidating Mr Lee into providing them opium and sustenance. If the walls were sealed, then they would not be able to to bother him anymore.”

    “My hypothesis is the same.”

    “But why doesn’t he just board up the access points?”

    “I don’t know. Perhaps that is how they ventilate the lower floors. You do know what goes on in there?”

    “It is like a tea room?”

    “That’s one way to look at it. Let’s go introduce ourselves and take a look around the inside. A little bait might help too.”

  5. Brother Lucius Brother Lucius August 4, 2015


    Brother Lucius stood on the steps, his head level with the upper landing. It was dark but not so dark that he couldn’t see the length of the upper floor. As his eyes continued to adjust to the dim lighting further details became apparent. He took note of the holes peppering some of the crates and along the back wall. Were those bullet holes? What was Brother Lapis thinking, leaving me alone here?

     Blessed Builder!” Lucius uttered, making the sign of the hammer. Just as Brother Lapis had said, someone was taking the bait. “Who is there?” He called out. He stood so his head could be seen above the floor.

    “I am the Herald of the Morning,” said the wraith.

    “What?” Lucius’s legs began to quake; an obvious show of nerves he was sure betrayed his impulse to run down the steps crying for Brother Lapis to save him. Yet somehow the young cleric managed to remain in his place.  “You are no ghost.”

    The figure looked up and regarded him with dark, penetrating eyes. The creature, for Brother Lucius could only think of it as such, had a pale, alabaster complexion and while the room was too dark and the distance too great to be certain it appeared as though there was blood on the creature’s nose, chin and hands.

    The spectre took the beer Lapis had left. He held it up against the fading light to see the contents of the bottle. “If wheat comes up from my grave, drunkenness will increase,” he said, before opening the bottle and draining it in a single draught.

    “Better would I prefer the daughter of the vine, but you have named me well. I will not take from the sleepers tonight.” The spectre brought out a pipe. “Let us dream together.”

    “You mean opium?”

    “You have none. I see that. Perhaps you are the sacrificial virgin,” said the spectre. Having finished the beer, he walked slowly toward Brother Lucius.

    “I am not,” Brother Lucius protested.

    “Not a virgin?” the spectre sneered.

    “Not sacrificial,” stammered the young cleric. “I trust Brother Lapis, he would not sacrifice me.”

    The creature tipped his head back and laughed. “Oh brother, do not come without a tambourine to my tomb. Being full of fear is not fitting for the banquet. For I tell you, the banquet will come, when all that was foretold has come to pass. And I alone will cry the time of our coming.”

    Banquet?’ thought Lucius. No! He couldn’t mean… he had to distract the thing, or it surely meant what he dared not imagine. “Wait…” he started, his mind reeling in desperation.  “How do you know Brother Lapis? You recognized his name!”

    The spectre came steadily closer. “I remember naivete,” he said. “I remember… your habit.”

    The creature fingered the sleeve of the robe Brother Lucius wore. At this proximity the stench of the creature was overpowering. The stains Brother Lucius had assumed were blood glinted in ghastly contrast to the creature’s pale skin. Brother Lucius took a single step down then stopped himself again. “Ghosts have no need of earthly sustenance.”

    “Do we not? The chattering chin is bound up and sleeping at the tomb, but the mouth is chewing the opium. Come, let us go down and dream together. You will bring the perfume of the divine, I will bring instrument of the pipe. Even if death grinds us down to nought, we will fly to the tower of drunkenness together to await the time told in destiny when our brothers will rise in glory.”

    The young brother tried to comprehend but the spectres words made little sense. He paused then tried a different angle. “If you are a ghost who were you in life?”

    The ghost’s response was too much for the young brother to bear. His heartbeat intensified as a chill ran the length of his spine. He regarded the grinning phantom but a second longer before turning and fleeing headlong down the steps—three and four at a time—seeking out a way out of the trap that was the Red Dragon.


  6. Wallis Graves Wallis Graves August 4, 2015

    Faking an exorcism?! Tsk! Such is the integrity of the Church.

  7. Mr Tenk Mr Tenk August 4, 2015

    *joins the line of popcorn eaters on the roof across the street*

    someone get some tackle so we can haul the popcorn machine up here. we’re going to need more.

    • Avariel Falcon Avariel Falcon August 4, 2015

      *carries the popcorn machine onto the roof*

      There we go! *nods*

      *sits down and munches popcorn*

  8. Zaros Xue Zaros Xue August 4, 2015

    I’m beginning to think going in there with a huge array of weapons wasn’t the most conductive action toward getting a ghost to come out. What I needed was a virgin all along, I think the Guild is going to have to start recruiting at this rate!

    *Sighs before climbing onto the roof, eating mouthfuls of popcorn at a time* I prefer aliens, they’re not as picky in who they slaughter….

    Ooo, is he about to get eaten?! *Stares intently with the other watchers, forgetting her earlier complaint*

  9. Brother Lapis Brother Lapis August 4, 2015

    Brother Lapis strode quickly up the street from the alley that lead from the Red Dragon to the Courier Depot, less than a block away. Several of the city messengers were lounging on the barrels placed outside for that purpose, enjoying the cooling air of the approaching evening.

    “Who is fastest?” Lapis asked as he approached. The children looked at each other, not liking his tone. But then again, they never much liked anything Brother Lapis said.

    “Go find Commodore Dagger.” Lapis continued. “Tell her to meet me at the Red Dragon. Bring men, crowbars, and the maggot kit. Now!”

    Three jumped to their feet and ran up the steps towards city hall, calling each to each other where they would look first for the Commodore. Lapis noted their response with approval, then went to fetch his sword belt and two crossbows.

  10. Jedburgh30 Dagger Jedburgh30 Dagger August 5, 2015

    The city messenger left the depot at a run, crossing Brunel Railway into the channel of alleys that lead out into the park above the Gut. He charged down the block and pushed open the door of the Terranova Building. The plates on his heels clattered as they slipped on the newly installed marble tiles in the lobby as he made a break for the staircase.

    Three flights later, the messenger slid to a stop in front of the receptionist’s desk. Despite his youth the words came in cadence with his heavy breathing from running up the steps. The raven haired young lady at the desk looked up from her ledger and watched him with an amused smile.

    “Must *gasp* get *gasp* Commodore *gasp* Lapis *wheeze*”

    Jordan grinned at the boy who put out a hand for support on the corner of her desk. “Let me get Ms Dagger for you…” The girl rose and started for the door marked PRIVATE.

    The inner office door opened before the younger lady could knock and the tall redhead walked out and stood next to the ailing messenger. “Just relax a little son,” she said “and get yourself composed. Jordan, fetch the lad a glass of spring water.” The young lady nodded and walked into the back.

    Jed looked at the boy again and put her hand on his shoulder.

    “Now, deep breath, let it out slow, then tell me what all the hubbub is about.”

    He nodded and took another deep breath, and began to speak with a degree of effort that showed on his young face.

    “Ma’am. Brother Lapis said come get you and bring you to the Red Dragon and you was supposed to bring crowbars and menfolks and maggots. Ma’am”

    Jed crossed her arms and let out a short harrumph. The young lady returned with a large glass of water which she gave to the messenger, who drank it with gusto. Jed took the boy’s hand and pressed a silver coin into it.

    “Now here is what I need you to do. Run down to Mother Besom’s ordinary and collect up Mr. Cratchitt and Mr. Tibbs, tell them what you told me, and have them meet me at the opium den. Tell them I said now, not five minutes from now, exactly like that. Do you have it?”

    The messenger nodded and headed back for the stairs. Jed turned to her associate and cut her an amused grin. Jordan looked back at her employer with a mix of excitement and apprehension.

    “Well, you said you wanted to learn the business…Go get the camera chest, the crime scene case, the basket with the bags in it, grab a few of the large impermeable bags out of the closet and get changed. Boots and trousers, and preferably ones you are not overly fond of. Make sure you have at least eighteen rounds for that revolver I gave you. Oh, and make sure to get the mentholated ointment off the washstand. We’ll need it”

    Jed paused by her office door to rummage through the umbrella stand, producing two blued steel crowbars from within the collection of things that resided there. She laid the two tools on the front desk and walked back into her office to get changed.

    Nothing like a few crazed hopheads in town to stir the pot, she mused.

  11. John Wright John Wright August 5, 2015

    Wright lay still at the end of the rows that filled the lowest floor of the red dragon, a silk sheet draped over his form and a small pipe next to him. He was rapidly approaching his fortieth hour without sleep as he stared out into the darkness, his amber eyes blazing with a faint, unnatural glow. If not for that teltale sign of alertness the wolf could be mistaken as one of the regular patrons, but it was all just a facade.

    No wisps of heady smoke came from his pipe, and beneath the silk sheets the retired Pinkerton clutched a shotgun tightly in one hand, and one of three pistols that he had on his person with the other. The wolf had been watching the stairs constantly, his ears moved and strained to hear in all that was going on around him, tuning out the breathing and muffled sleep talk of the people around him and focusing on more substantial noises, like the movements of the preists who had just come, and the one who had left.

    His grip on the shotgun tightened as one priest left without the other, his muscles tensed ready to spring into action should he need to.

    The scream of the preist and the thunder of his footfalls upon the decrepit wood were all the signal he needed. Wright Sprang up, tossing the sheets aside and jumped to his feet. The wolf slipped the pistol back into his belt and griped the shotgun with both paws. He stood at the bottom of the stairs and aimed up into the darkness.


    “Get behind me!” He shouted to the fleeing preist, though he was unsure if the young man had heard him over the sound of his own heartbeat.

  12. Jedburgh30 Dagger Jedburgh30 Dagger August 5, 2015

    The group met in Jefferson Way near where the entrance alley to the Red Dragon was, and Jed couldn’t help but laugh to herself at how much they looked like some sort of an urban safari group, with she as the hunter, Lapis and his crossbow as the local guide, and the rest of her team as porters carrying all of their equipment.

    Jed stared at the black clad man and smiled. It had been a while since she’d seen the Brother like this, and she thought it suited him.

    “Hello Lapis. What sort of excitement have you stirred up for me here? Decided to come see if all the wild stories were true?”

    “Just a little exorcism, he said.” Lapis sounded annoyed. “Little arm waving. Little sprinkle sprinkle with the holy water.”

    “I seem to recall the last time it was something simple for the Church we ended up with a corpse in the cellar and a city official in the clink…” Jed said, arms akimbo.

    Brother Sevas approached, noting the gathering crowd at the intersection of Jefferson and Perdido. “What’s going on here?” He demanded, pushing his way through the crowd.

    “Your ghost,” retorted Lapis, “is haunting a crime scene.”

    Crime scene. Sevas mouthed the words noiselessly and looked around. “Where’s Lucius? Is he still in there? Don’t tell me you left him in there!”

    A wailing was heard in the distance. “Here he comes now,” Lapis said. The wailing grew into a scream, the scream grew into a terrified Brother Lucius emerging into the street from the end of the alley that lead in the Red Dragon. Lapis caught him and thrust his spare crossbow into his arms. “You know how to use this, Brother Lucius?”

    The blood drained out of Sevas’s face as he realized Lapis was not just trying to scare the younger man.

    Lucius looked in mute confusion at the crossbow. The weight seemed to calm him some.

    “Tell us what you saw,” ordered the Commodore.

    “It was horrible! White, like a ghost, but not a ghost. Thin, like a skeleton. There was blood, blood on its mouth. And the stench… offal and rotting meat … it was over-powering,” Lucius stammered.

    Lapis put his hand on Lucius’s shoulder to calm him. “Did it take the food?”


    “Did it eat it?” pressed Lapis.

    “Yes! And then he spoke to me!”

    “Then we’re not dealing with a vampire.” Lapis slung his crossbow over his back and relaxed a little.

    “Vampire!” Sevas was indignant. “You left him in there to bait a vampire?”

    “What vampire?” asked a woman who had just arrived with the growing crowd.

    Jed looked at the woman and recognized her as Wallis Graves, a fellow investigator she had worked with in the past and could trust. “Not like we have never had a Vlad or two show up. Besides, that would be fairly easy to deal with.” She then looked back at the still-unnerved Lucius.

    “It is not a vampire, although the physical description does match,” Lapis repeated for the benefit of the new arrivals. “As does its mode of operation. There’s at least one trunk full of decomposing bodies up there.” Lucius’s face drained to a whiter shade of pale.

    “I see,” said Miss Graves. “What are our other possibilities?”

    “That’s for the young brother to tell us. He saw it,” said Jed. “What happened next, Brother? What did it say?”

    “Brother Dominic you said it was a latrine!” Lucius gasped.

    “The lady asked you a question.” Lapis ordered.

    “He mostly spoke in poetry,” explained Brother Lucius. “I found it hard to decipher. I think the creature is utterly mad and completely wretched and foul. He came right up to me. He referred to our brothers rising in glory and…” Lucius blanched then looked at Brother Lapis.

    “And what?” said Jed, noting the way Brother Lucius trailed off.

    “I asked him, if he was a ghost who he had been in life,” said Brother Lucius who had clearly been touched emotionally by the experience. He remained quiet.

    Jed and Wallis exchanged glances. Wallis took a step closer to Brother Lucius. “And he said…” she encouraged.

    “He said he was me.”

  13. Jedburgh30 Dagger Jedburgh30 Dagger August 6, 2015

    Jed nodded and watched Lucius, and by his expression she could tell that he wasn’t going to be able to provide much more by the way of information. Whatever he had seen in the attic had certainly made an impact on the young man.

    “Well, “she began, “as I recall there are only two ways out of there. One by the roof towards the Imperial, and this staircase. If we can get up the stairs without spooking it, maybe we can catch it. Smart money says if it hears us it’ll go out the back and hit the roofs. Worst case is if it decides to defend its lair…”

    “There’s more ways out of there once he’s outside” said Lapis. “We need to take crowbars and remove all those bridges before we go in there or he will escape. “Put your best sharpshooter on the absinthe distillery where he will have the best range. I’ll take Lucius onto the roof of baths from the cathedral. We know that building. Once we have that, you’ll need two flushers, one in the den, another in that access to the theater loft. We can’t let him get into there. There’s too many exits. And we don’t have much light left.”

    “I know the theater,” said Miss Graves. “I’ve had to pry people out of there before.”

    The redhead gestured her two men over. “Cratchitt, you get the absinthe roof. Keep your eyes open, and if you have to shoot, mark your target well. Tibbs, you and Miss Wallis will go in through the theater. Wallis is the backstop, you’ll be the beater. Just mind your footing in that passage.” Jed looked at her watch and tucked it back into her waistcoat pocket. “You’ve got about five minutes to get in place, so you best get moving. Good luck.”

  14. John Wright John Wright August 7, 2015

    John blinked as the priest ran past him without even noticing. “Huh” The wolf mused. “Reckon outside would be safer for a man of the cloth anyway.” He said, smiling wryly. He relaxed a little as the priest’s screams faded beyond the walls.

    The sound of creaking floorboards above him immediately drew Wright’s attention back to the stairs. He aimed his shotgun at the first landing, the heavy mahogany stock pressed tight against his shoulder, but nothing came from above. Instead the wolf’s ear twitched as heard movement from the alleyway.

    “What, more priests?” Wright sighed, not even bothering to look at whomever had just come around the corner.

  15. Wallis Graves Wallis Graves August 7, 2015

    Wallis looked at Tibbs and motioned with her head, “Come on, this way.” Heading between the distillery and the vacant remains of the Red Cat, Wallis stood facing the blank wall at the side of the Absinthe Emporium. Reaching under the skirts of her long coat Wallis pulled what looked like a large gauge pistol.

    “Stand back”

    Aiming the pistol up to the ledge Wallis fired a shot sending a small grapple line hurtling to the top of the building. She reached into her pocket and threw a hand sized brass block and hook to Tibbs.

    “Clip that onto your belt and I’ll pull you up”

    Tibbs frowned raised an eyebrow in doubt the slight built woman could haul him anywhere much less to the top of a roof. “If you say so.”

    Tibbs stood next to the wall and attached the block to his belt and then to the line. He looked down at her and she smiled, “Hold on!”

    No sooner said than that was said, Tibbs was wizzing to the top of the building. He grabbed the  ledge and looked down blinking. Quickly he clambered over the top and was soon joined by Wallis.

    “Down here” said Wallis, and headed down the stairs.

    “Aren’t we supposed to be going to the Imperial?” asked Tibbs.

    “We are” replied Wallis.

    Inside the musty attic of the Absinthe Cafe were shelves and bits of tossed furniture. On the south wall though was a hole in the wall, which some enterprising urchin had laid two planks across to a similar hole in the wall of the Old Imperial. Wallis ducked through the hole and crossed the planks as if it were no more effort than crossing the street. Tibbs looked down at the street below and wondered why he seemed to get picked for anything involving tall buildings.

    Wallis looked back impatiently at the man in the long coat, and motioned for him to cross. Once both over they found themselves in one of the Babbage Urchins enclaves.

    “None of the kids I know have mentioned the ghost before” said Wallis. “So maybe it doesn’t eat kids or maybe it just stays out of here.”

    Moving through the bunks the two took up positions either side of an opening in the west wall. This one had planks reaching across to the Krakenwell warehouse and was one of the escape routes anything heading up from the Red Dragon could attempt to use.

    Wallis looked at Tibbs and said, “now we wait for the screaming to start.”

  16. Avariel Falcon Avariel Falcon August 7, 2015

    *prods at the popcorn machine getting a fresh batch going*

    *looks around at the other watchers*

    I sent a telegram to the pizza delivery folk!

    *settles in for more watching*

  17. Jedburgh30 Dagger Jedburgh30 Dagger August 8, 2015

    This was always the point in which time seems to slow down while your mind begins to race with all the things you need to remember and all the things you need to do. Jed looked at her watch again and then switched her gaze up at the roof across the street. She planned on giving the others the full measure of time to get in place, because if just one of them was not set when they started up the staircase, whoever it was in that attic could get away.

    The redhead gestured to her assistant, who was still rummaging for additional bits of equipment in one of the cases that was now sitting in the alley under the careful watch of Brother Sevas.
    The young woman stood up and walked over to her employer.

    “Nearly showtime. Are you ready?” The girl nodded her assent. “we’ll be going in through the staircase, and as I recall it is two flights up to the attic with a landing in the middle. Just like we practiced at the office, roll your foot heel to toe, stay to the wall, and keep your eyes up. You’ll have the bullseye, so keep it shuttered until we need light and then watch where you point it and don’t backlight me. If something happens and I say run, do not worry about me and don’t look back. Head back down here and wait for someone to come get you. Are you nervous yet?”
    Jordan shook her head and smiled. “No worse than chasing rats in the catacombs back home.” She lit the lamp inside the lantern and made sure the shutter on the focusing lens was closed.

    With a nod the air moved off into the poorly lit building. The rows of prostrate customers took little notice of the two women who quickly moved across the room and began to ascend the stairs. They moved along the catwalk into the darkness, crossing steadily over to the next corner where the stairs would continue up to the attic.

    The pair nudged forward slowly until Jed dropped her left hand back as a sign to stop. By the size of the shadow at the corner of the hallway it was obvious someone or something was crouched next to the base of the next set of stairs. She eased forward, keeping the shotgun trained on the figure until she was just close enough to speak.

    “Well now,” the redhead said “you meet people in the most curious places these days.”

    The wolf’s ear shifted towards the speaker. “Reckon it’s the atmosphere that brings people to this place, the air is thick with it here.” Wright said with a wry grin.

    “You can’t downplay ambience, that is for certain.” Jed said “So, you want to keep playing backstop here, or do you want to come up?”

    Wright lowered his shotgun and nodded. “It’s about time I stop playing defense.” The wolf frowned slightly, his brow furrowing as he backed away from the first step so that the others could pass.

    Jed touched the wolf’s arm on the way past. “Nobody comes up, nobody comes past you. Next round is on me, once we’re out of here.”

    They started up the last set of stairs when the first few wafts of odor crept down to meet them. The closer the two of them got to the top of the stairs the stronger and more intense the stench became. Jed took a knee and swept the room for any initial signs of inhabitation, the large bore coach gun she carried at the ready. By now the combined effect of rotten meat, excrement, decomposition and filth was horrific, and after making sure that there was no immediate danger Jed turned to look at her associate. Even after all her years of experience, Jed was finding the stench difficult to stand, so she had a sinking feeling about her young companion.

    “How are you holding up?” she whispered. The query was met with a very green response.

    “I’m ok boss. Just feeling a little…” Jordan’s reply was cut short as the stench finally overwhelmed the girl’s resistance as she dropped to her knees and began to gag. She coughed and shook, trying to overcome the urge to throw up what little she had left on her stomach.

    Jed turned to check on the girl, but as she did so it became obvious the sound had alerted the occupant of the attic to flee. Before she could bring the shotgun back to bear on the room, something made a diving leap for the opening in the wall across the room, a brief flash of white blurred by sudden movement. Jed sprinted across the room to the opening, but who or whatever had exited was out on the rooftops now

  18. Brother Lucius Brother Lucius August 8, 2015


    Brother Lapis took a crowbar from one of the men Jed had brought. “Lucius. We’re burning light.” said Lapis, ignoring Seva’s protests;  he turned and ran towards the cathedral.

     Brother Lucius sensed he was facing a crossroad to which he could never return. If Lapis thought him a coward, he would never be able to work with his idol, and more importantly, learn, beside him. He glanced over at Brother Sevas who was shaking his head ever so slightly. Lucius, took a deep breath, then gripped his crossbow with a renewed sense of determination. The young man ran toward the cathedral following Lapis, catching up with the older cleric just inside the doors. The pair took the steps to the choir loft two at a time, then the door that lead to the narrow staircase inside the bell tower.

     “Locked!” Lapis shouted. “There’s another access in the sacristy. Go!”

     The two rushed back down to floor of the cathedral and crossed it at a run. Lucius’s step almost faltered at the rail of the sanctuary. He made the sign of the hammer as he continued to run after Lapis. He stopped short as he caught up to Lapis the the chapel of the sacristy. The altar of oblation had been pushed aside, and Lapis was in the process of lifting a sacred icon from the wall to reveal a small door that had been built flush to disguise it. “Hurry up!” Lapis urged as he ducked into the hidden passage.

     Lucius slung his crossbow onto his back and pulled himself through with both hands.

     “This way!” Lucius heard Lapis calling ahead of him in the darkness. He reached for the stone walls on both sides of the narrow steps and used his hands to guide himself. Far ahead, a door opened. Faint light appeared to show the way. He intensified his efforts, ascending faster, until he too was out in the twilight of the cathedral roof. Lucius used his hands to grip the outcroppings provided by stone flora and fauna that decorated the ancient spires. The north edge of the roof was in sight now. Lapis had already crossed the single plank bridge to the roof of the baths. 

    Breathing hard, Lucius approached the edge of the roof. The plank bridging the gap to the next roof was not long. He swallowed and took a tentative step on the weathered wood. The world reeled as vertigo took hold. He saw only the cobblestones of the sidewalk far below. He dropped, scrambling back on his hands and knees until he was pressed against a decorative iron spindle. He hugged it tight, grateful for the solid sense of security. The plank appeared an impossible distance now. Across the way, on the other roof, he saw Lapis leaning into the crowbar, working to pry loose the plank that lead to the roof of the Krakenwell Workshop, next to the opium den.

    Lucius closed his eyes and whispered a prayer for courage. As he was making the sign of the hammer he heard shouting in the distance. He opened his eyes at once searching for the source of the shout and saw a man on the roof of the Absinthe house waving his arms and gesturing towards something to his left. Lapis had just popped the plank from the roof of the baths and appeared to be oblivious to the shouting. “Dominic!” Lucius shouted and pointed at the man on the far roof. Lapis remained oblivious, kicking the plank away from the roof so it could not be crossed.

    The gesturing man drew a firearm and got Lapis’ attention with a single shot. In a smooth motion, Lapis swung his crossbow from his back, cocked and aimed at something to Lucius’s left. Lucius heard the splintering of wood, followed by the impact of something hard hitting the cobblestones at the base of the cathedral. A crossbow bolt stuck through the copper plate of the roof to his left. He gripped the spindle tighter. He looked back towards the ledge he had come from and saw that the bridge was gone.

    Lucius looked up at the sound of a pebble skittering down the slope of the roof and beheld the creature looking down at him.



  19. Brother Lucius Brother Lucius August 9, 2015


    Brother Lucius could see that Brother Lapis was aiming a crossbow at him, waiting for an opening to take a shot at the creature behind him. The creature had him firmly by the hood and collar of his robe. He was being dragged up the steep slope of the cathedral roof. Brother Lapis was lost from view as the creature pulled him over the top beam. They slid down the opposite side together, halting at a skylight gable. Lucius braced his feet against a gutter to halt his slide. The creature did also. He took Lucius’s crossbow and used the butt to punch at the glass in the window.

     “Take wine, be joyful and come!” The creature half spoke, half sang in cadence. “Unknown to your mean guardian, persist and come! Look upon me, dear brother, while we have time!” The creature tossed the crossbow over the edge of the roof as the window gave way.  Lucius looked. He could not help but note the exceptional quality of the creature’s voice. He knew where he had heard it before now; the vesper singer carried on the wind.  He had always assumed he was hearing a voice singing service from the cathedral. Knowing the true source chilled him more than the drop that waited for him beyond the edge of the gutter.

     The creature ignored him and continued his ranting. “Can you not see we are ‘round about oppressed? Embody all presences, outlaw’d or suffering, see what was myself—in prison dressed like another man.” He picked broken glass out of the frame. When the hole was large enough, he paused his ranting long enough to push Lucius head first through the gable. They landed on a narrow maintenance ledge. The creature gripped Lucius’s hand and pulled him down a series of steep ladders. “Where is my woeful Friend?” The creature asked the air. “Oh Father! In his voice was blissful understanding.”

    “Slow down!” Lucius said. “You’re pulling my arm off!” He stumbled and fell forward onto the stairs.

    The creature ignored him and continued to drag him down to the nave of the cathedral. “I said: ‘What is bright like the moon?’ He said: ‘The cheek of Mine’.”

    “Let me go!” Lucius recovered his feet now that they were off the stairs. He tried to pull back against the creature as they crossed the nave of the cathedral.

    “I said: ‘What of the ways of the lover?’ He said: ‘It should be faithfulness’. I said: ‘What is death for a lover?’ He said: ‘Pangs of My separation’.”

    Lucius pulled his weight downward, breaking free from the creature’s iron grip. He ran toward the doors. The creature caught him easily. “I said: ‘Do not show cruelty.’ He said: ‘It is the work of Mine.’ Come, my brother. Take me by the hand, let us run together.”

    “You’re mad!” Lucius said, again helpless as he was pulled to the far corner of the nave.

    “You still tremble at my touch!  Why, why do you still weep and quake? Or do you still see me as dark? I implore you, my brother, see me not as dark, for I too have loved the sun. I exist as I am, that is enough.” The creature opened the door that descended to the armory under the ground floor, and continued downwards. “Come, take my hand, let us stroll hand in hand about the city, the narrow streets and squares for in the morn we must return home.”

    “No!” Lucius shouted. “Let me go!”

    The creature embraced him from behind. He clamped his hand over Lucius’s mouth, using thumb and finger to pinch the nose shut. “If you cannot run I shall cradle you in my arms. Like fallen brother, I shall carry you through the streets for tomorrow my brothers rise.”

    Lucius struggled, but blackness took him. Where the creature took him, he knew not.


    • Bookworm Hienrichs Bookworm Hienrichs August 9, 2015

      This can’t be good…

  20. Brother Lapis Brother Lapis August 10, 2015

    The clocks were striking ten when Brother Lapis came back to the Red Dragon, carrying the pieces of Lucius’s crossbow. Jed and her men were were still emptying out the contents of the upper room of the building, much to the distress of Mr Lee and his staff, who were being watched by members of the militia. Brother Sevas had stayed also, watching with a mixture of horror and fascination as trunks of rotting bodies were carried down to the sidewalk, to be joined later by dessicated corpses tightly wrapped in sacking. He pushed through the crowd to get to Lapis, noting with dismay the crossbow, and the fact that he was alone.

    “Where is he?” Sevas asked, his voice nearly cracking.

    Lapis shook his head. “Gone.”

    The color drained from Sevas’s face. “Did you find anything of him,” he asked, voice shaking.


    “Then he could still be alive!” You can’t just leave him to that thing! I saw it! I saw how he dragged him as easily as a child drags a doll! Dominic, please tell me he isn’t gone.”

    “They went into the cathedral. I couldn’t get there fast enough to follow. They could be anywhere by now.”

    “That thing is a cannibal!” Sevas cried.

    “Don’t you think I know that?” Lapis turned away. Jed’s men were carrying the last litter out of the alley, followed by Commodore Dagger. “Well, Lapis. Quite a show. Any luck on your boy?”


    “I’m sorry,” said Jed. Jordan, her assistant, came out of the alley next, carrying her equipment and a few ledger sized books clasped to her chest.

    “What are these?” Lapis asked, relieving Jordan of the books.

    “Could be evidence. We’ve cleared out everything but the furniture. The gravediggers will be busy after Doc Miggins is done with them.”

    “I see.” Lapis flipped through each book in turn. Two were in Chinese characters, which he could not read, but the repetition of certain characters in columns lead him to believe they were financial accounts. Those he returned to Jordan. The third was hauntingly familiar. He read the first page, and the next, then flipped through a few more to scan the contents.

    Jed watched his face for emotion. “Find something interesting, Brother?”

    Lapis tucked the book under his arm. “I must have left my notebook up there during my initial investigation. Thank you for finding it,” he said, not breaking eye contact with Jed.

    “I’ll need that back,” said Jed.

    “It’s been a long night. Your men seem to have everything under control.”

    “Lapis,” Jed stared at the Cleric with a cool and unflinching look. “That book is evidence.”

    “Brother Sevas and I will have many things to answer for. I need this book more than you do.”

    Jed thought a while, then nodded. Lapis nudged Sevas. “We can’t do anything more tonight. We can search around the cathedral again in the morning when there is light.”

    Sevas took one last look at the row of body shaped parcels on the sidewalk. “Let’s go home,” he said.

  21. Avariel Falcon Avariel Falcon August 10, 2015

    *ponders* That creature is really, really fast! And very strong! I think if I were to try and take it on it would literally run rings around me! There is a reasonable probability that it would win the fight!

  22. Rigby H. Copperhead Rigby H. Copperhead December 9, 2015

    F-F-Forgive me for asking, but how d-did the investigation get from the Red Dragon to the D-Dunsany?

  23. Brother Lucius Brother Lucius December 11, 2015

    Complete you sums while there is yet time, brothers and sisters; round up and down where needed; lose yourselves to the glorious works of the Builder for the end is nigh and the demons cometh.

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