They had an entire area of Covenant Square to patrol, almost every night. They had to make sure no one was squatting in Selena’s territory, feeding off any people, the like. Selena had set up an Art Gallery here, and thus the added risk of undesired Kindred stalking her claim.
Thaddeus was just mulling about tonight. He took to the alleys and back streets while Sydney, by far a much more imposing man of 6’6 and just as broad, was patrolling the main streets and by ways.
Thad had more trouble with the alley cats than anything jumping from the shadows at him. Well, the stupid cats were jumping from them, anyway. He clattered past some boxes as a cat screeched in anger and he cursed the bloody thing for getting in his way.
“OI!! SYDNEY!” He cried out in the night. The area was respectable, and docile, and lovely, and here Thad was ruining the night with his caterwauling.
“Thad!” He heard Sydney hiss nearby.
“Oh there ya are ya big Scandinavian-” He stopped as he turned the corner.
He saw Sydney, large as ever, the man’s hazel blue eyes wide and staring down at a woman.
Miss Olivia Webber. She was Beckett’s childer. She was of average height, young, pretty, platinum blonde hair and piercing gray eyes. She was dressed well, always her best, and had a small parasol over her shoulder, looking incredulously at Thaddeus.
She had been there when Mr. Beckett had been…got. She had uncovered the ritual Briske had used to pull Beckett’s heart out while he, Selena, Sebastian and Oscar were in Bristol finding Ms. Demitria Claude- Beckett’s sire. She had learned there was hope to return his heart, and bring him back. Olivia had helped them a great deal.
She unsettled Thaddeus for an unfathomable reason. He felt he knew her, the feeling one gets when one may have met another in a different life. It was surreal, but he wasn’t going to focus on it. She was out walking in Selena’s area.
“Miss Webber! Lovely to see you this great night.” Thad greeted. Olivia looked at him pointedly.
“You do realize that you’re waking up the entire city?” She accused.
“Nah. Just the few blocks I’ve been trouncing in. How can I help you?”
Sydney remained silent. He was a groundskeeper, he was uneducated, he was shy.
Olivia adjusted her parasol and sighed, shaking her head.
“I hope to have a talk with Miss Jones. I have a few ideas to mull over with her, besides, someone should tell her that her IDIOTS are loose.” She stared at Thad disapprovingly, like a teacher or professor would a misbehaving student. She always looked like that though. Like some educator.
“Well, she sent us out miss, so I’m sure she knows.”
“Does she know what a ruckus you’re making?”
“She typically does. But it keeps unwanted people at bay.”
“Hmph. Could you be so kind as to escort a lady there, Mr. Craft?”
“O’course Miss! Be my honor.” He took her arm, and led her to the Art Gallery.
Selena had spent a great deal of time on this Gallery. It was meant to be her way of interacting with the populace, learning the who’s who, generally socializing. Thaddeus didn’t know how well she liked it since it was her Sire’s idea. Deburg was a bullying sort of Sire by Thaddeus’ thinking, but Selena seemed to take her…advice seriously enough.
The building was unassuming but spacious, and several would-be artists and up and coming members of the community were to use the Gallery as a way of interacting with their neighbors. It was the only one in the area, so hopefully the novelty of the place would pull in patrons.
Selena Jones was as heavenly as ever, of course. Tonight dressed in a lovely periwinkle blue(she did seem to favor any shade of blue, but then again Rose dressed her, so maybe it was Rose that did.), and she stood apart from the rest as easily as she always did. Thad wasn’t the only one who noticed, as several guests to the gallery were striking up conversations with her over everything they could possibly think of. Upstanding gentlemen, married solicitors, old bachelors, any male that came within a mile of her.
Drove Thaddeus mad, it did.
Supernatural beauty had it’s downfalls. It tended to make men lose their minds and women hate her practically on sight. She had a few of those in the audience as well, but she seemed to float above it all, unaffected by their grimaces and stares. She seemed to pick him out of the throng of people as he came in with Miss Webber, and she smiled.
It was a gentle smile, not a beam or a blaring grin, but like the sun coming out from behind the clouds, warm, and uplifting.
He didn’t notice when they got to her though.
“Miss Jones, a word?” Came Miss Webber’s strong voice broke through his sunny day.
Her face fell into an expression of concern at Miss Webber’s words, and the three of them left to an adjoining room, free from the prying eyes and ears of mortals.
“Miss Jones, you do have to teach this young man of yours some manners.” Miss Webber chided to Selena and Thad rolled his eyes.
“What ever do you mean?” Selena sheepishly asked with a soft smile.
“This ruffian was running amok making such a ruckus it’s a surprise that the constabulary wasn’t called.”
“Oh come on, it wasn’t so bad-” Thad tried to cut in to mitigate his humiliation in front of his Miss.
“Sydney was an absolute delight, but Thaddeus does need some work. I’d say learn to control your ghoul better, but what business is it of mine, really…” Miss Webber was going to go on about this, he was sure.
But Selena always did have a way of surprising him.
“You wanted to speak to me about something else, I think, Miss Webber?” Selena was standing slightly straighter, her hands held together ever so slightly tighter, looking at Miss Webber slightly sterner. Miss Webber didn’t truly notice.
“Ah, yes. I actually came to invite you to tea this evening. Midnight. It pertains to your rather idiosyncratic ghoul here, as well.” Miss Webber looked back to Thaddeus with a raised brow.
Selena looked confused, but accepted Miss Webber’s invitation. Olivia gave a generous courtesy, and left the Gallery in what seemed like high spirits.
Thaddeus felt a bit chagrined at Olivia’s comments on his behavior, but just looked at Selena with a shy sort of grin. Selena shook her head at him.
“Perhaps a less loud approach to sorting through the streets? You could have crossed the night watchman. He would not have been pleased.”
Thaddeus laughed at that.
“Yeah. ‘Ya need to get a handle on yer ghoul, Miss Jones.’ Loved that.”
Selena’s face set into a determined look, but she reached lightly for his elbow and leaned slightly into his shoulder.
“I didn’t much care for the remark either. Do not let it bother you, Thaddeus.”
“Mmm.” Was all he had to say.
The ‘luncheon’ was at midnight, and Miss Jones was the only one allowed in the parlor. Thaddeus was to sit outside with the other ghouls. They were in the kitchen, waiting to be called on if needed.
Joseph was there, which meant Kristianna was inside. Oscar sat over by the china shelf, admiring the cutlery. His tall form drooped to lazily stand idly by until something else caught his ever-moving interest. There was another man there, one Thad had never met before.
He was a large as Sydney. Tall and broad, with a square face, hazel blue eyes and short blonde hair. He had the look of a man who had seen more than his years would show, and he introduced himself as Farkas. Which was by far the oddest name Thaddeus had ever heard. The bruiser was Scottish, but farther from the north than normal Englishmen would ever see.
They all talked little. Thaddeus felt uneasy around Joseph as it was, and the new guy- Olivia’s ghoul- proved no easier to talk to. Oscar just made odd and uncomfortable faces when he finally sat down and stared absently into his cup. Every once and a while he sighed in boredom and his eyes roamed the place. He fiddled with his chestnut brown shaggy hair, with the cup, leaned back in the chair, almost fell twice, Thaddeus knew his agitation.
Joseph stared intently at each of them, but said nothing. Farkas wasn’t as intent, just looked like he was simply waiting for orders, waiting for anything. Thaddeus was thinking about what Selena was doing, how she was feeling. He wondered if the other ghouls thought the same of their Domitors.
Suddenly, a server came into the kitchen and asked for Thaddeus to speak to the mistress, and that they were still in the parlor. Oscar looked quizzical, Joseph looked suspicious, Farkas looked curious. Thaddeus felt all three.
Stepping into the parlor was like stepping into a page from gothic literature. Amidst Miss Webber, Miss Jones, Kristianna Jones, Sebastian and a few other guests, all pumped up in propriety and civility, there was a plate of what was supposed to be delicacies. But instead of the usual finger sandwiches and other such nonsense was a plate of squirming baby rodents. Too little to move, too little to flee, being fed on or drained into the fine china.
Thaddeus felt all of a sudden like that was exactly what he was. No different then those infant creatures, unable to flee a room full of monsters. Who at any time could pick him up off the plate and drain him dry.
He was enraged and terrified.
Olivia looked up at him quizzically.
“You know your way around the streets, don’t you boy?” She asked politely.
“Yes ma’am.” Was all he could choke out, when he had found his voice again.
“Selena says you are quite resourceful, and I’ve asked her for your help. She said it was your choice. So I’ll ask you to help me with a project.” Olivia looked like the whole idea that he had free will was quaint.
“Help with what?” His voice felt faint and he could almost feel Selena tense at his tone.
“Looking for these hunter’s base. They’re on a boat, and since nothing has been done to find them just yet-” Kristianna almost visibly scoffed but Olivia continued. “-I would like you to help Farkas to find whatever you can on them. Find their locations, where they dock frequently, etcetera.”
Thaddeus tried to ignore the poor things on the plate and fought back the urge to grab the remaining living ones and flee. He’d find some poor rat who lost all their babies and give them to her. They’d grow strong and unafraid and make more, feeding cats and tramps London over, at least Thad would have some comfort in himself.
“Mr. Craft?” Miss Webber pried civilly.
He shook himself from his train of thought and looked down to Selena quickly, then back to Webber.
“Sure, Miss Webber.”
The said Lady perked up visibly and gave the time tomorrow night to meet with Farkas, and thanked Selena generously for the loan of her ghoul.
“If anything should happen to him, I’ll be happy to replace him for you.” Just when he started to get over Miss Webber’s delicacies, too.
Selena shook her head.
“I assure you Thaddeus is quite irreplaceable.”
“Ah, very well then. Are you sure you don’t want one, Miss Jones?”
“I ate before I came, sadly. Thank you.”
As he left, he remembered why he never thought Selena a monster.
The ride home was just as tense as the tea party before. When he got back to the mansion, he helped Selena from the carriage as he always did, but didn’t move once she was down in front of him.
“Thaddeus? Something on your mind?”
“You’d rather I didn’t go looking for trouble, eh Miss?” He asked softly.
Selena shook her head, intertwining her fingers in his.
“I worry for you. The last time you went after them you got hurt so gravely…I don’t wish to think about what may come to pass.” Her voice was low, her head down.
“I should’ve asked what you wanted me to do…before agreeing to anything…”
“No...no you are your own man and must make your own decisions. I cannot decide what you will and will not do.”
“Nah, but they don’t see it that way. I’m more or less property to them.”
“But not to me.” She looked up at him, and he smiled at her loving expression.
“I’ll be careful, Miss.”
He stole a kiss from her before they went inside, before Molly started to worry. She didn’t mind.
The next day he was off and meeting Farkas at the designated marketplace. He was a little surprised to see Oscar trolling about the area, getting yelled at by stall owners to not touch their belongings and ‘Git!’. He saw Thaddeus and he smiled wide, the crescent scar beneath his right eye sharpening with the grin.
“Oi! Oscar! Leave the people to their wares!” Thad yelled in good humor as Oscar tripped over an empty milk crate on his way over.
“Oi, s’all rite nohw t’ain’t it? They’s all jus’ a bunch of tite-laced pony rider’s they are. Anyways! Where be the big guy?” Oscar asked chipperly.
Thaddeus looked about the bustling market, figuring Farkas would stand above the crowd. Literally. Instead, Thaddeus’ sharp eyesight caught a tan overcoat and a black hat, dark skin and an intense stare that held his form too long.
“Joseph you snake! Whatcha lookin’ at? Take a portrait, it’ll last longer you twit!” Thad called out to Joseph’s skulking form.
The dark man rolled his eyes and visibly berated himself for being seen. He eyed Thad for a moment before coming over.
“Kristianna thought it’d be better to keep watch on you-” He began in a deep baritone.
“Spy on us a more like it!” Oscar piped up, and straightened indignantly to Joseph.
Thaddeus flicked his head to Oscar.
“Could ask the same to you, tosser! Whatcha doin here? Sebastian send you to keep an eye on me?”
Oscar held an expression of disbelief.
“I didn’ wan be left out of the knitting circle, now did I?” He looked a feigning sort of hurt down to Thaddeus. He was a tall bloke he was.
Thad rolled his eyes. Oscar shrugged quickly.
“Seb wans in on the card game and keep his sniffer to the trail, so he sends me, he tells me ‘Oscar, go look afta Thad. Make sure he don’t flub nuffin’ up.’ And I says ‘Course, Seb! We’ll go off then!’ and here I is.”
“Of course Mr. Jackson would want to keep tabs on the progress of these Hunters. He and Miss Jones have worked hard to ferret them out of the city. The question is why would Miss Webber ask for your help, as Miss Selena Jones is only tangentially part of the investigation?” Joseph cut in after Oscar. His deep voice resonating and smoothing the affronted air left in Oscar’s horrid management of the English language.
Thad just huffed at Joseph’s unrelenting glare.
“Look, you’re too spiffy and Oscar is too…” He gestured to the man who had more interest now in the contents of his ear on his fingertips than the conversation, “…THAT to get anywhere on these streets. You don’t know who to talk to, how to behave. You’d get lynched for being a well-dressed half-breed. East End would tear you two to pieces. That’s why I’m here.”
Joseph’s eyes narrowed at the statement. Oscar flung whatever was on his finger away and straightened up in a mock representation of the Buckingham guard.
“Thad’s the leader of this here group o’ghouls!” He said with a large grin to Thaddeus.
Thad shook his head and sighed. Joseph did not look amused, but smiled thinly at Thad.
“Very well. What exactly are we doing, then?”
“Look for Farkas. He’s gotta be around here somewhere!” Thad turned to scan the market.
The bustle got them lost a few times. In between Oscar’s childish attention span and Joseph’s unwillingness to cooperate, Thad felt he was going in circles just keeping up with them and not getting anywhere in the reason they were gathered.
Dear Lord, did Sebastian have this much trouble with the gangly man? And why did he keep him around, then? Joseph only heeded Kristianna, so his reticence was well expected in Thad’s mind.
With Oscar pulled by the scruff of his neck from some fancy looking hats, Thad stormed through the patrons to Joseph. The manservant pointed at an adjoining Bistro, and there sat a large fellow leaning on a red brick fence in front of the open dining area.
Thad nodded once, ignored Oscar’s cries of poverty, and strode over to Farkas.
Farkas took note of the three and straightened up.
“Alright then. Here we are. What is it we’re doing?” Farkas was a blunt sort of man. Thad liked him already.
Joseph, Oscar and the Scotsman looked at Thaddeus expectantly. Like he really was the leader of this outfit. Back when Thaddeus ran with a gang, he never called the shots. One of the other boys did. Now Thad was being looked at like he had a plan, a mission statement and he really didn’t. It was a bit intimidating.
He got over the inadequate feeling as quick as he could.
“Look, men, I haven’t a blasted idea where these louts are hiding….”
“Obviously.” Joseph cut in snidely.
“Shut it!” Thad barked before continuing.
“But we can find them IF they’re here in London. Anything can be found, ya just gotta know where to look. I know the by-ways and the underbelly of the city. Which by any chance is where exactly they’re hiding. Somewhere high Kindred ninnies aren’t going to find them. Somewhere they can deal illicitly without being seen. Miss Jones and the rest of our troupe is combing the straight-laces and their society so let’s not step on their toes.”
Oscar looked at him with a question in his expression.
“Then where do we look? Ifn it’s just a matta of finding where to…look?”
Thad put his hands on his hips as Joseph crossed his arms.
“The only place I know. Lower East End. London Docks. South to Upper Surrey. Then march our way west to Battle sea. Follow the Thames. She’ll guide us true if these bastards are using the waterways. They’re on the hunt, so they’d be looking for easy prey. And like most ruffians, they’re gonna do it where they think no one can catch them. A ship needs supplies. Workers. Coal. Things to keep it moving. IF, and that’s a big if, the Resolute is here then it’s our only chance.”
“I’ve worked on those types of ships before. I know what needs to be got to get running.” He said. His accent dripping on every word.
Joseph sniffed indignantly but made a nod to Farkas.
“If he knows where these blackguards may be re-supplying, I have a happy talent for coercion. I can get them to talk.”
“I can find almost anyone, given time. I know who to talk to, questions to ask, people to tail. Investigation and that sort of thing. Not too shabby foot padding either.” Thaddeus added in his expertise.
Oscar grinned widely and pointed to the lot of them.
“And I’m with you all!” He said excitedly.
The three stared at him incredulously, annoyed, and bewildered.
“What? Seb told me to watch you. Dontcha worry your knickers off, I’m moral and supplementary support.” Oscar crossed his arms and scoffed, tapping his foot impatiently.
“Are we off, yet?!” He asked angrily.
Thaddeus had an idea what with Oscar’s and Joseph’s puffed up behavior. He didn’t want it getting out that the four of them were servants to households. Mortal society wouldn’t budge for them an inch.
Before he left, he was offered payment by Miss Webber, not a paltry sum either. One hundred pounds no less. He thought maybe he wouldn’t spend any of it, just stuff it somewhere. But maybe some sort of disguise would be in order.
“Hey guys, I got an idea you may like, Joseph.”
Five o’clock in the evening and Oscar was grinning ear to ear.
They were all in proper gentry fashion. In suits with ties and gloves, complimentary waistcoats and hats, prim and proper as afternoon tea. Or at least looking that way.
The idea was they were a wandering stag party, one of their number was getting married the following morning.
(Joseph thought it’d be quite humorous if Thaddeus was the unfortunate lout, but Thad shook it off and tossed that horror to Oscar when he was too busy admiring himself in the mirror.)
This was a bit of the plan. If they got to where they were going, say, found Dock Master that had served their quarry, Joseph became the front man of an investor, or businessman, or what have you. Farkas, Thaddeus and Oscar became his associates or bodyguards.
Everywhere else, Thaddeus was their net-worker. Going from information broker to gossip hound, briber and informant, trying to find anything on the dark man with a fiery attitude and devil-may-care life.
Edward Van Helsing would be well known still, and hopefully they could find something through places of ill-repute.
Oscar kept their rowdy behavior going. He kept up spirits, eased frustration and generally made such noise when in conspicuous places that the oddity of it all was that no one looked twice at them. He was too flamboyant to be anything other than what he was pretending to be, a man with one last night of bachelordom.
Being ghouls, they needed bare sustenance, little sleep, and were almost inexhaustible. Thaddeus felt Selena’s calming presence touch his mind once every two hours or so. It felt like her hands going through his hair from nape to forehead. Gentle, reassuring, just enough to make sure he was alright and then she left him to his business.
They had talked to dock workers, barkeeps, inn owners, everyone Thad knew would be able to keep tabs on people.
The Resolute had changed it’s name, illegally. They had been traveling up and down the Thames in guise of a merchant vessel from the Baltic’s. Edward was still recruiting. He and a few of his had been seen in a warehouse down o Upper Thames Street, and it probably contained information on where they may have gone since.
The four ghouls scouted the perimeter, on the look out for hired arms, constabulary, anyone coming or going into the warehouse at all. On the side of the building was a hole tore into the woodwork, but even Oscar’s tall and thin frame couldn’t squeeze into the space.
Thaddeus had another idea. They traveled a few blocks west.
“We’re going back the way we came, Thaddeus.” Joseph objected.
“I realize that. But what we need is down here.” Thad insisted.
By this time it was almost midnight. Men were coming home from their whorehouses and drinking, the last lights were being shut off in the bars and kitchens, and cooks and maids were throwing out their giblets and peelings they didn’t plan to use onto the street.
Behind one of the taverns he found what he was looking for.
A group of children, had to be no older than ten years of age, any of them, were sorting through the garbage for scavenged meals.
He blew a loud whistle and as he expected, half of them started to scatter.
“I got five pounds for one of ya if ya want it ya lily-livered pests!” He called out.
Oscar looked at Thad shockingly.
“Thad! Theys little people ya treat ‘em kindly! No don’t listen to him he’s mean!!! Ooof!” Oscar called out and Thad elbowed him soundly in the ribs.
“No you idiot! You’re nice to ‘em they’ll walk all over ya. You’d be a target for a mugging or the like. Ya gotta get their interest and Good Uncle Oscar is a red flag!” Thaddeus hissed and turned back to the alley.
Most of them were gone, yes. But Thad heard a scuffling behind the rubbish bin, nonetheless.
“Oi! You there! I got some money for ya if you wanna work for it!”
He saw a small head ease it’s way from behind the bin. She was small, her face dirty, her hair atrocious, and dressed as they were all dressed. Shabby and mismatched, clothes that wouldn’t make it till winter.
A part of his spirit gave a twinge at the sight of her, in pity and compassion. How many times had he taken a job by a slick-coated git for a good meal? Too many. Guess what? He was the slick git now. Great.
She looked at him warily, but bravely. Her mouth set in a firm and un-amused line.
“Hey, you wanna get easy money?” Thad asked again, determined.
She shook her head.
“I’m not working in those places. You can’t make me!” She shouted the last part and started to run, but as she turned, her foot must’ve caught on something and she fell into the alley before them. Farkas started to rush to help but Thad held him back. Poor thing would’ve seen a wall of a man run at her and screamed. Not good.
Then Thaddeus noticed her right leg. Either she had been born defected, or she had broken the limb and it grew back…wrong. Gnarled in ill-fitting shoes and torn stockings stained with fluids of unknown and sinister nature.
She scrabbled for a moment until she hid pitifully against the bin.
Thaddeus’ mind burned at the injustice of her lot.
“Look, I don’t want you to do nothing wrong. I just need a peek a boo into a warehouse. That’s it.” Thaddeus tried to say business-like yet soothingly.
She stared at them with such distrustful eyes. The same eyes Andrew gave him when he went to fetch him.
“What you expecting to find?” She asked.
“Crates. Boxes…” Thaddeus started.
“The urchin can’t even read, I’d wager. We’re wasting time.” Joseph cut in and Thaddeus resisted the urge to punch him.
“I have a name here, I can write it down and you just match the symbols of the letters. I need you to find this name on the boxes. If it doesn’t match, you get your payment and you’re on your merry way.” Thad pulled a pad and pen and wrote ‘Resolute’ as officially and neat as he could. It looked pretty decent. Farkas nodded his approval. Joseph scoffed his displeasure. Oscar looked like he wanted to adopt the poor girl.
The girl narrowed her eyes suspiciously still. Thad pulled out the five pound note and her eyes widened.
“I’m not fibbing. In, out, paid. Promise.” Thad held out his hand in a shake.
She still stared, and warily made her way from around the bin. Thad motioned for Oscar and Farkas to stand by Joseph, who had made his way back to the street. The girl limped across the alley much more steadily when it was only Thaddeus, on his knee, his hand outstretched.
She finally made it to him, as far as her hand could outreach, and she barely touched her small fingertips to his. She shook quickly and stepped away in a fumble. He smiled at her and stood. She gave a slight yelp at his motion.
“You’re alright, girl. I won’t hurt cha.” He winked down to her form. She looked at him severely.
“Promise?” She asked.
“Promise.” He reiterated.
Then they all turned and headed back to the warehouse. Oscar whistling a merry tune as they went.
The girl worked like a charm. She was in with the paper Thaddeus had given her, and back out in a flash. She nodded at the men.
“These are the same words. I’m not just saying it to get paid. Promise!” She seemed to have grown attached to the word. Thaddeus found it humorous.
“Alright then, little lady. That’s all we needed to know. Here ya go.” Thad handed her ten pounds.
As she took it in her little hands and Joseph shook his head disapprovingly at Thaddeus, the child’s eyes lit up, watered, but she kept her countenance strong.
Oscar once again looked at Thaddeus in shock.
“You’rejusgonelethergoflouncingaboutinthecoldworldallalone?!?!” Oscar demanded. He said it so quickly and garbled that Thad barely caught it and the girl looked at him in amazement.
Thad rolled his eyes and looked down at the girl.
“You got a home? Somewhere you can go?”
“What’s it to you, fancy pants?” She demanded.
“Just wondering if you’re gonna be alright. No one taking your earned living?”
She looked down and aside.
“I keep some of it…” She said pleadingly.
Thad sighed at his conscience. Who was tapping his foot again at this point.
“Alright girl. I know of a woman who takes in girls. Battered women, divorced wives, fallen daughters, orphaned girls, all of ‘em she can. Her name is Lucy Langholme. She runs the Ruby Lace north on High Street off of Church. It’s a brothel, but she’s a good woman who won’t make you do anything you don’t want to. Ya don’t have to go there, but it’s an option. Tell her Tic-Toc sent you.”
“Tic-Toc? That’s your name?” She asked bewilderedly. Then Oscar looked at him confused and Joseph sneered mockingly. Farkas looked at him with just a tilt of his head.
“It was once. She’ll understand if ya tell her.” He said to her and to his compatriots.
She nodded and pocketed the money away as she started to hobble off.
“’Ey! Whot’s yer name?!” Oscar called after her. She stopped, and turned to them all.
“Promise.” She said with a grin.
“Promise?” Oscar repeated.
“Promise.” And with that, she hobbled out of sight.
They broke into the warehouse, certain it was the right one, and ‘Promise’ did not disappoint. Joseph was irritated but moved on quickly. They searched through the boxes and found a great deal of paraphernalia, from ship needs to dry goods, water and oil, trade goods and a hodge-podge of machinery Thaddeus had a feeling was meant for more nefarious purposes like their weaponry.
It was about five A.M, and finally the ghouls were beginning to tire. They made makeshift bedding in the warehouse, out of sight of the entrances but close enough if anyone were to enter, and hunkered down. Joseph found a bottle of some sort of wine in the trade goods that he found was to his upper-tier taste, and Oscar got into the dry stock for some bread and cheese. Thaddeus found a good supply of limes.
Joseph and Farkas enjoyed the wine enough to be quite content, Oscar had a taste and spent the next three minutes scrubbing his tongue with one of Thaddeus’ lime wedges. Thad had put a bundle of them in a tankard of water to spruce it up a bit. They laughed, joked, talked about the damndest of things.
Joseph really did love Kristianna, and Thad learned that was because Kristianna was not only Selena’s cousin, but so was Joseph. Kris and he shared the same father, but he was born to a native African serving girl who had worked in the family. Thaddeus’ own life could parallel that. He loved his job, doing what he did, and he was eternally grateful to Kristianna for pulling him from squalor when she discovered his parentage.
Farkas came from so far north in Scotland he was more Norwegian than Highlander. His dialect of Gaelic closely resembled the Baltic neighbor, and he had been a working man all of his life. His story was simple, he said. That he had been born to land workers and had left to find his fortune, worked in factories and much in shipping. He wanted to be a Captain on a beautiful vessel someday, wanted to sail all the seas. He got into port at London for the first time, and no one would hire him. He had the look of a dumb brute, so he had to play the part for a spell. He got hired by Olivia Webber, and he took a shine to her. He missed sailing, but he was adjusting to his life of manservant well. (Thad figured that was the bond talking. He felt a sting of worry. Selena mattered so much more than anything he planned. How much were they giving up for these Kindred?)
Oscar had been with Sebastian all of his life, practically. Sebastian’s parents had been a kind, gentle sort of giving Christian couple. He broke in for simple food and Mrs. Jackson took an immediate liking to him, for some reason. He had been Sebastian’s companion and only friend ever since. He remained tight lipped about what happened to Sebastian’s parents, and said only they weren’t the same as before, then they were gone. The three left one night to go somewhere important, and next he knew, some Spaniard with dark hair and a trimmed goatee carried Sebastian home, and stayed until the boy awoke. Thaddeus figured it must’ve been Beckett.
Thaddeus told them what he could. He was a bastard orphan, lived on the streets, almost died and then turned around for the better. Selena found him and here he was.
Farkas didn’t fully know the situation they were in. He knew he was hunting down murderers and brigands, but he thought mayhap for some debt they owed his mistress. He knew nothing of Vampires, Kindred, Ghouling, etc. Thad felt a bit relieved that Selena had been open with him, as horrid a reality as it was, rather than run blindly in the dark like what he felt Farkas was doing. Joseph and Oscar stayed quiet on the matter.
The conversation died down, and one by one, they drifted off. Thaddeus was last, of course, he never did sleep well, but sleep he did. And his dreams lied muted, and drowned in all the turbulent chaos stifling them out.
Thad awoke with a start. He heard voices that were not his compatriots, and saw them soundly sleeping still.
He chose not to awake them, as they may not be as graceful as he when waking. He stood, leaving his fine waistcoat where it was, and ducked behind some crates. He searched for the source of the voices, and prayed they had not seen he and his yet.
Light barely shone through the windows, and dawn was barely breaking. The effect it had on the already dim warehouse was rendering it all in a frustrating twilight time where Thad’s eyes couldn’t adjust well to the ambient luminescence.
Then, he was able to register a faint lantern, and heard the screws screech as it swung from it’s wielder’s arm. He could make out a face, a figure, but no details. The shadows played thickly over his body. He saw another man move through the path of the light, and held a lantern of his own as he turned.
“Nah, we ain’t supposed to touch nuffin’. Just gotta wait until the ship comes up from Battle Sea. Then we load it up.” One of the laborer’s said.
“Alright. Less to do today I guess. When they’s getting here?” The second asked.
“Bah, who knows wif’ dry goods? Maybe a few days? Either way, we’re gonna hafta to go down the Dock Master’s holds if we’re gonna get paid this week…” The first said, and they bemoaned their pay, their work, and even their wives while they meandered their sorry ways out.
Thad let out a sigh of relief that for once, the goons watching the warehouse weren’t murderous suspicious thugs who with paranoia checked every inch of the place before leaving. Armed to the teeth with everything from guns, knives, blackjacks and the kitchen sink. (Guess luck was on his side today.)
Thad went back to his makeshift bunk, and sat down. He wouldn’t be able to sleep, now.
He saw Oscar’s long form flailed over the various soft padded things he could find, mouth gaping open and slight snore coming from his maw. He was stomach down, arm flung over the opposite side of his head and coat fallen to the floor from his turning. Thad laughed lightly and picked it up, draping it back over him. A slight snort was all the thanks Thad got.
Farkas was with his head against a crate, sitting back with his arms crossed. He slept soundly, and looked like he slept like a stone.
Joseph set bedding onto a long enough stretch of boxes to accommodate his height, unlike Oscar, who tried to stuff his body into half the length. He slept with his hat over his face, and didn’t take anything off for sleep save his shoes.
Thad sat back down after his good deed of the day for Oscar, and closed his eyes to try to drift off.
Slowly, the caress began at the nape of his neck, as always, and moved up through his mind to the top of his head.
Selena asked how his night had gone, then apologized if she had awaken him. Thaddeus told her she hadn’t interrupted anything, and then said his night had gone fine. She was worried for him, and missed him already, and he felt the same.
The conversation was brief, and strange, mental communication always was. But she fell asleep as the sun fully rose, unable to keep the drowsiness at bay, and he was left alone. Or so it felt like.
When they all finally awoke, it was 9 AM and the sun fully shining on the city. The air was crisp, and it looked like it was going to be a clear day.
As the men were getting ready, Thaddeus related what he had overheard earlier from the laborers.
“So they was here whilst I was sleepin’?!?!” Oscar exclaimed, looking violated and flabbergasted.
“Calm down, Os. It was fine, they didn’t know we were here.”
“And yet you let us sleep away? We could’ve been in danger.” Joseph glared critically at Thaddeus.
“The only danger we were in was if you big mouths woke up going ‘Thad you idiot we’re trying to sleep!’ It was better just to let you all shut up. Now lets get going to Battle Sea. That’s where the Resolute was slated to be, maybe we can cut her off and call in the cavalry.” Thad decided. Joseph was of course the only one to show any disregard.
By noon the day had taken a turn for the worse. Grey skies turned to black skies, and lightning crashed as rain poured in buckets. The ghouls holed up in a pub in northern Surrey, and tried to wait the storm out.
“Why can’t we just go and get ‘em?” Oscar whined, holding his cup of apple juice and sighing to the rain.
“No. You don’t want to be out in this rain. It carries sickness.” Farkas had demanded that they stay inside, by a fireplace and keep warm. Even Thaddeus was on Oscar’s side on this, but Farkas wouldn’t budge.
“How can you possibly say that? What does that even mean? ‘Carries sickness?’” Joseph asked critically.
Farkas’ blue eyes stared intently.
“When you live on the sea, out in the open air you learn to read the storms. Smell the rain. This rain is cold, unfeeling. A downpour that is meant to cleanse away the filth, but it carries with it sickness. I can smell it.”
Thaddeus sighed despondently and joined Oscar in being absolutely bored.
By the time the torrential rain stopped it was almost nightfall. A drizzle pattered on, but Farkas relented and they pulled their coats tighter to face the city.
The streets were wet, puddles wide and deep cut into the cobblestone, and people skittered hither and thither to get their business done before the sun fully set. The lantern bearers were lighting the street lamps as they continued on their journey.
Battle Sea was on the opposing side of London, far to the south west end, and Thad thought it would be expedient to rent a cab or something of the sort, but that option was shut off by sundown. So on they trudged, and even Oscar’s spirits died a little in the grey and wet and cold.
Thad had not yet lost his street sense completely. In the last year and a half of working for Selena, he had to do plenty of dirty jobs, street work and the like. He could still sense when he was being stalked, followed, or watched.
By a dock they passed through, he felt eyes on him.
“Farkas, Os, Joseph, stop.” He whispered, and let his eyes scan for the stalker.
They all did as he bade, and Farkas and Joseph followed his lead to look about them. Oscar found the perpetrator first. He hit Thad lightly in the shoulder and pointed to a man standing up over by a Warf.
Joseph found another, and Farkas found one as well.
Thaddeus found what must have been their ring leader.
He was a broad, hairy, brute of a man. His hair was oiled back, his mutton chops thick and evenly trimmed, his tweed suit finely made. His eyes were feral, focused, and hungry. He grinned as he and Thad met eyes, and his fangs were large, disproportionate, and bestial.
“Greetings gentlemen. What do we have here?” He growled, and gave a hearty sniff to the air. Mist ran from his jowls as he exhaled.
“I smell Kindred. I smell vitae. But not enough. You’re someone’s pets. Did anyone tell you to stay clear of the docks? No? Hmph.” He didn’t want an answer. This man wanted nothing more than a scuffle, a fight, he wanted blood.
Thad would let him see his own.
The hirsute man lunged at Thaddeus, and the ghouls each had another of his own to deal with.
The man had claws as bestial as his fangs, and his strength was incredible as he lifted Thaddeus effortlessly and flung him through a loading crate. Thaddeus was back on his feet in a flash, and felt his blood burn with use.
A supernatural flare shot through his veins as the scene slowed. Joseph had a handful of a ghoul’s jacket and a knuckle full of his teeth. Farkas had one up in the air by his throat and was about to slam him to the cobblestone. Oscar, surprisingly, had a foot raised up and into one’s chest, and he was falling into the Thames.
Thaddeus’ furry companion was up at him, and Thad flung himself to the side just barely in time to escape his wicked claws. Thad felt a burn, like a hot knife searing through his skin on his side below his ribs. The man smelled his blood, and he roared ferociously.
Thad aimed a strengthened blow to the side of the face, and connected hard. The vampire snapped back and swung with a claw, Thad danced back quicker than his opponent could compensate for.
He leapt toward Thaddeus next, going for a grab. One hand hit his shoulder, but the fanged fiend didn’t sink his claws in. Instead, he was hit with a palm, but the vampires strength still sunk Thad to his knees.
He was going for an upper slice, but was interrupted, for which Thaddeus was grateful.
Farkas caught the Kindred’s arm, twisted it roughly, and picked him up by the back of his oiled and now ruffled hair. The Scot tossed him into river with a mighty heave.
Thad looked about, and saw that the vampires ghouls were incapacitated or floundering, Joseph adjusting his tie and Oscar leaping in victory. (“Whoa yeah! Take that ya bleeding blighta’s!!!”)
Farkas looked afraid. He stared at where the vampire was flung into the water with a terror Thaddeus understood. Thad got to his feet, patted Farkas on the shoulder for some form of comfort, and nodded to Joseph that it was time to flee.
Joseph for once was compliant, and the four took off as quickly as they could.
Thad knew they were in for it, now. A Kindred, a vampire had seen them out and about. Olivia wanted this a secret mission, and now they were discovered. They had to get back to tell Miss Webber, Sebastian, Selena what they learned. If they didn’t they would have no idea where to look for the hunters. This would all be in vain.
They ran and ran and ran. Joseph is what kept them going. If he did not say it was safe, it wasn’t. He knew the determination of a mad Kindred, Joseph had more experience with them. Thad knew a bit, but Joseph told them they were not safe till they left the district.
Half way to Battle Sea, they finally stopped. Oscar was fatigued to putting his hands on his knees, and Thad felt like his lungs were on fire. Farkas looked just as tired, but Joseph remained vigilant through his gasps for air.
“What was he?” Farkas growled.
“A madman.” Thaddeus answered.
Joseph simply shook his head.
“Ask your mistress. But we have to go.”
“Ya means we t’ain’t safe evens here?” Oscar cried dejectedly.
“No. Not if he has our scent. Gangrel are trackers. Hounds. Better than them if they’ve been taught well.” Joseph hissed under his breath.
“Hounds? We gotta get back. We have to tell Miss Webber and them-”
“GET DOWN THADDEUS!!” Joseph interrupted his sentence and tackled him to the cobblestone as the vampire, now drying from the river and completely unhinged, sank his inhuman claws into the earth. He must’ve jumped from a nearby alley and hit with such ferocity that Thad would be paste had the blow landed.
Oscar made a short cry and got a kick to the ribs, sending him flying back and slamming him against a brick wall. His head resounded off the bricks with a crack.
Farkas went to pommel him, but the Gangrel’s claws raked across his chest and a fist connected to the side of his head. Farkas fell to a knee, and the feral hunter slammed another fist onto the top of his head, over and over several times, until even Farkas’ resilience failed.
Joseph and Thaddeus stood defiantly, each tired, each frightened of the monster staring at them like they were lunch.
Then, the last possible minute he could have sensed it, a presence seemed to appear behind him, and he turned just in time to see one of the vampire’s ghouls hit him in the head with a bludgeon.
All went black.
When next he woke, it was morning. He was tied tightly, and hung upside down from a rafter in a circular stone room with a single slit window in the gray granite. Sunlight poured down from the slit and illuminated the area well.
He had no idea where he was, obviously. He didn’t know where Oscar was, where Farkas was, Joseph…or even if they were alright.
He had a terrifying feeling they left him upside down like some boar to be slaughtered as soon as his blood pooled enough to his head. The vampire would come in and slit his throat. His last sights would be of his own life dripping to the floor.
He swung back and forth to try to loosen his bindings, and the hemp rope burned his skin. He saw the door was metal bound and heavily built with oak. Like some medieval dungeon frame. The room was barely eight feet in diameter, and empty besides him. Straw littered the stone below.
Miraculously, he felt the soothing presence feel over his mind, but it was hurried, rushed, worried beyond what he had ever felt before.
Selena asked if he was alright, he told her the situation. She said she was looking for him, he asked how and she said that she was not in her own body. Selena was stretching her senses and her spirit far out to find him. Selena then asked what did he see, and he gave her a picture through his eyes of his environs.
It seemed to take so long. Hanging from a rafter, bound, his head began to throb and his breath quickened as his eyes blurred.
Suddenly, Selena exclaimed she had found him!
Thad couldn’t see her, couldn’t smell the perfume she usually wore, but she felt…near.
Great, but how did he get down?
She said it was alright, she had help in doing that.
He started to smell fire. A faint, matchstick kind of scent. He looked about, afraid the straw below him had lit, but it was the hemp rope tying him to the rafter above.
A small strand of it was a glowing ember. Like a candle was burning away at the rope, piece by piece. Thad looked at it in confusion and wonder, and Selena told him that it was going to be alright. That he was almost free.
With a SNAP, he went barreling down to the stone below. His shoulder hit with a sickening THUD, and he groaned in pain. The rope tying him to the rafter was also the knot that kept his hands bound, and now with his equilibrium corrected he could struggle against the knots sanely.
He started to hear a series of bangs, like a battering ram had started to splinter a door. Selena told him that Farkas was awake, that Oscar was slipping his own restraints now, and that Joseph could not be found.
‘Just great Thad. Go and get Kristianna’s favorite person nabbed beyond all saving.’
‘There wasn’t anything you could’ve done, Thaddeus. Just escape. We’ll find him later, after you’re safe.’ Selena calmly reasoned in his mind.
Damn it. She was in his own head with him.
He was free! After several minutes of trying to undo what had bound him, his hands were free.
The door was locked, but that mattered little. A few well placed kicks and a burst of Kindred potence and the door shattered open.
Thad stepped outside, and saw Oscar spin kick a guard into the wall, while Farkas kept their rear.
They greeted each other in tired grins, and Thad could think of only one thing as they made their escape.
“Where on earth did you learn your footwork, Oscar?!”
The next few nights were hectic. Joseph was returned to Kristianna by way of Brent’s typical connections, Farkas was bandaged up and would have a nice scar, Thad’s shoulder had been fixed of it’s dislocation, and Oscar’s ribs were still sore.
They all sat around Sebastian’s table, as Miss Jones, Selena, Miss Webber and said Sebastian were grouping for a meeting with the Prince. Some big conclave of the high-ups of London. (They had informed the Coterie of all that had transpired and what they had uncovered, of course.)
The Ghouls didn’t say anything, Thaddeus could see they were just as tired as he felt.
He could only grin, but couldn’t leave the silence be.
“Y’know, we should do that again sometime, guys.”