Archive for October, 2015
“She’s smarter than she looks,” Maris sneered.
The duchess stared holes into the senhorita. “Oh, she’s sharper than that. Give her a moment to get her bearings. I can see that even now, she’s assembling the pieces.”
Adonia Salgado glared at Von Ferrin. “Anthony’s journal. It mentions the key doesn’t it?”
“Quite right, it does. More specifically, it led me to understand the key is a ‘who’ not a ‘what’.” She waved a dismissive hand. “Anthony was never good with metaphors, so I’m sure when he read it the information went over his head. Fortunately, I knew where to look in the journal ahead of time.” The duchess looked down as a brass spider servitor scurried out of an air vent, then crossed over to her. She knelt down to lift the device with great care.
The servitor spewed forth a stream of chattering, metallic sounds. Von Ferrin smiled at the small clockwork device.
She gestured to Marino. “Which is what I wanted him to tell me,” She sighed. “Where our ‘key’ has gone and hidden herself. But the stubborn mule won’t admit where that is.”
Marino gave a painful sigh. “Like I told you, Duchessa, that is because I do not know.”
“Moira!” the senhorita exclaimed. “You think Moira is the key!”
“Think? I know, my dear.” The duchess considered the metal spider in her hand for a second. “With Moira, I can take what is rightfully mine. After all, I’ll manage it better than any of these so called ‘captains of industry’ of today. In fact, I plan on demonstrating just what it means to be in ‘command’.”
Marino laughed, which ended in a hacking cough. “Yours? Duchessa, you know nothing. The knives cannot ‘belong’ to anyone. They have their own will. And what lies at the end of the map? That isn’t for you.” He coughed again. “Besides, you don’t have signorina Wycliffe. She is the key, and without her, you only have delusions. Her companions will find her first.”
Von Ferrin’s gaze was like ice. “I think you underestimate me, sir. Just as you underestimate your role. You failed in your Order’s duty to protect the knives. Oh yes, I know about your Order of Mulciber, don’t look so surprised. As I was saying, now I don’t even need you for the simple task to entice Miss Wycliffe out of hiding.” She indicated Maris with a nod, then gestured to the brass spider. “My associates failed to collect her, but my servitors picked up the slack. They tell me she’s in the starboard cargo hold.” The Duchess recovered her handbag while the brass spider servitor ascended to her shoulder.
“Told you?” the senhorita asked in confusion.
“Oh yes, ‘told’. That chattering, which I’m sure is meaningless to you, is a precise mathematical language of sorts. It took some time to unravel it once I stumbled on the amazing fact that all servitors speak it. It’s their native tongue, my dear. I took steps to acquire some ‘alterations’ so that I would understand them better.” She smiled like a well-fed cat. “I have them all over the Britannia. They’ve been following your every movement, then reporting to me. Just like now, they’ve told me where Miss Wycliffe can be collected. Once I’ve had her gathered up, she’ll complete her role as ‘key’, and get me the information I need.”
Adonia Salgado seethed. “Moira isn’t a handbag in your wardrobe! You do not get to choose what she will, or will not do!”
The duchess turned to face Salgado. “She’s also low-born, my dear. I don’t expect you to understand, being the daughter of a well established landholder from your own country, but at least try. Miss Wycliffe is too common to fully appreciate her gifts. I can show her a new world, and direct her properly. Starting with getting me what lies at the end of that Roman map.”
Marino coughed again, then winced in pain from the effort. “Duchessa, the signorina Wycliffe is far more formidable than you know. She knows herself, and her skills, quite well. The Knives were never yours to influence, Duchessa. Never. Where that map may lead? What lies at the end of that road? Those questions were never yours to know the answer to. It was not meant for you.”
Salgado gave the man an uncomfortable look, as a sudden realization dawned on her. He lifted his eyes to meet hers, then a ghost of a smile crossed his lips for a moment. It was a small motion that tugged at the corners of his mouth.
“Those answers are meant for the Knives. Always for them,” he said, then nodded once to Adonia Salgado. “It is for only them, and the Seventh of them will show the way.” He intoned the last words as if he recited a prophetic quote.
“The Knives are people,” she mouthed without a sound to Marino.
He smiled, and nodded once more. “And you are one,” he mouthed back.
“I don’t believe in destiny, or your Order’s half-baked prophesies,” the duchess replied with a bored tone. “Wait. Why am I even talking to you? I believe I decided you’re useless.”
With a swift motion, she withdrew a needler pistol from her handbag, and fired it three times at Durante Marino. Each shot released a swarm of needles that slammed into the man’s body. Leaning against the railing, Adonia Salgado stood wide-eyed in shock. Before she could react, Marino battered body was wracked by violent spasms, then slumped against the railing.
The senhorita willed her body to move, and rushed to the man’s side. He tried to talk, but no sound came out, only blood. Salgado looked at the dozens of darts that littered his body, unsure of how to help him. She jerked the ropes free that held him prisoner against the railing.
“Hey!” Maris snapped. Salgado turned on him in an instant, her needle-like fangs unfolded from the roof of her mouth. Murder glistened in her eyes.
“Leave her!” Von Ferrin ordered. “Let her have her moment, Mr. Maris. Perhaps she’ll finally understand the lengths I’ll go to for this.”
Maris frowned, but nodded. He backed away.
With his free hand, Marino clutched his chest a moment, his face a mask of pain. Then he grabbed one of the senhorita’s hands. Marino shook his head when Salgado tried to reach for a dart. “Remember,” he said. His voice was half a whisper. Then, with a sigh, he stopped breathing.
Salgado was on her feet in an instant, rage shone from her eyes. Despite being unsteady, she launched herself at the duchess, fangs bared for the kill. Maris lunged to stop her, but missed. The senhorita froze in place when she found herself at the end of a pistol.
“See, Mr. Maris? She can learn. I can see it in her eyes.” The duchess almost purred with bloodthirsty satisfaction. “Now, I had no use for Mr. Marino, but you, my dear? You I so have a use for. Miss Wycliffe will need to be coaxed. You will be essential for that role. So, out of respect for your class and station, you get to live to help me.” She motioned with the pistol for the senhorita to step towards the door. The charybdian woman complied with a seething glare.
“Mr. Maris?” The duchess said with a cool tone. “Be a dear, and escort the good lady. She’ll need someone to be a firm, guiding hand while we go help her dear friend, Moira. She’s had a rough time of it after all, and might feel a bit battered.”
“Yes, mum,” Maris replied with a malicious grin.
Frustrated and helpless, the senhorita fought down an urge to rip Maris open the instant he touched her. Instead, Adonia Salgado focused on the unusual tiny gear that Marino had secretly pressed into her hand. A steel gear with a bronze band.