WARNING: Violence and some gore.
Charlotte goes looking for trouble in tunnels.
London – 1841
I jammed my shoulder into the thug’s gut and swung him round to catch a musket ball for me. Not the best weapon in a narrow tunnel. I shoved him into the musketeer, bounced off the wall and brought my weight down on the musketeer’s head. The musket hit the ground, flint clinking. I scooped it up and smacked the next thug’s temple with it.
They were bottlenecked and I was small, cutting through them like a spoon through jam. God knew where they were all coming from, unless Lenny had a steam machine pumping them out.
Somewhere further off there was a shot.
Another shot echoed through the tunnels. There were screams. The lanterns went out.
We all backed up away from the sound.
A purple glow crept out of the junction, drawing deep shadows on the walls.
The thugs raised their weapons. I was sure that between them and it was not where I wanted to be. Except that I was stuck between it and a bottleneck. I hit one man with my musket club, barged passed another, kicked another in the groin.
Shots fired. They pinged off walls spraying fragments of stone.
The screams started.
Something hit my back. I stopped, suspended. A running man smacked my shoulder and I tumbled onto my back. The impact made me gasp and spit blood.
The roof of the tunnel was sharp with rocky teeth, it seemed a strange thing to notice.
Men ran passed. I heaved myself onto my side. Men were hitting walls and collapsing screaming with blood gushing from their eyes and ears.
‘Move your arse, Maguire,’ I muttered and grabbed the wall, feeling for a finger hold.
‘Sorry about that, didn’t sense you there,’ said a woman.
I lifted my head and squinted. Her eyes glowed purple, veins showed through grey skin, her hair was white and her teeth obsidian black. She had no lantern, the light was from tattoos drawn over every visible part of her body. I’d seen the symbols in Bran’s books but hadn’t got to the translations.
A man charged her.
She put out her hand, he stopped. ‘You I can sense, boy.’ She flicked her fingers. His neck snapped and he collapsed.
I coughed and blood ran down my chin. I tried to pull myself up but my back disagreed.
‘Been awhile since I met someone like you,’ she said, I couldn’t place her accent beyond that she wasn’t from London. ‘What are you? A… Oh, what do they call them round here these days? Changling? I’ll go with changling.’
The light faded until only the tattoos on the backs her hands were aglow, purple eyes. ‘You seem familiar. Don’t tell me I’ll get it…’ She tapped her lips with a blackened fingertip. ‘Wait, wait. Hood, small. Are you The Reaper the papers like so much? No, that’s not it… It is but it isn’t…’
‘Fuck off,’ I said through gritted teeth.
‘Oh!’ She stepped back, arms wide. ‘I have it! Brandon O’Connor’s little lady. Forgive me for not recognising you sooner but in his head… Mm-mm, goddess personified. Don’t get me wrong, if my dance card weren’t full I’d have been tempted myself but you’re not that good.’
My feet scraped the ground but I still couldn’t get up.
‘When my sister told me it would be to my advantage to be disembowelling misbehaving Fae tonight, this is not what I expected. But who’d have thought Brandon O’Connor of all people would be jigging with The Reaper.’ She chuckled. ‘This’ll be amusing me for… Oh, wait.’ She pressed her hand to my chest. Heat spread through me, cinnamon stung my nose.
I hunched over hacking. It hurt so much.
‘Cough it up like a good girl.’ She smacked my back.
I spat out a flattened musket ball. I stayed there, wheezing as the pain faded.
She leaned in close and rested her hand on my shoulder. ‘You can tell Brandon that by this act Freyja Deacon’s debt is paid in full. I have given like for like.’
‘Like for like?’ I asked.
‘Aye.’ She straightened. ‘You follow the path home, Little Red, I’ve got a very bad Fae to kill.’
Her boots tapped away and she whistled merrily. ‘Oh, Lenny, you can’t hide from me,’ she called in a sing-song voice.
I turned to look but she had disappeared into the dark.
I pulled myself up and staggered. Lenny was a Fae? How could Lenny be a Fae? I would’ve noticed if he looked like her. Was she a Fae? Those were Fae symbols tattooed all over her.
There was another scream.
Perhaps it wasn’t the moment to find out.
Hand on the wall I limped passed collapsed men contorted at unnatural angles. I was almost to the end of the tunnel when a Lenny’s shriek reverberated through the stone. It seemed to go on without end. I staggered outside into the street, slammed the wooden door and held shut.
They said what went around came and it sounded like Freyja had decided to count each of Lenny’s individually.
Perhaps I didn’t want to be there when she emerged. She might change her mind about me.
Part of Jesse’s Studio’s Fiction Frenzy there will be a new episode of Victorian Mistress everyday from 4th June until 17th June 2017.