Part Twelve of the Sonata in Red series.
Part One: A Song of Glory
Part Two: A Choir of Intrigue
Part Three: Etude in the Sun
Part Four: A Requiem in the Dark
Part Five: Hymns of Terror
Part Six: Refrain from the Past
Part Seven: Refrain from the Past (pt. 2)
Part Eight: A Fugue in Three Parts
Part Nine: Rondo Alla Contrattempo
Part Ten: Interlude
Part Eleven: A Fool’s Masquerade
The atmosphere in Night Town has shifted drastically over the past month. The harvest surplus has been largely taken up by the aristocracy, while there remains plenty for the regular citizenry costs have tightened as artificial scarcity enters the market. Beyond this, the Royal Moon festival is being readied with many aspects of the celebration already having begun.
Red paper lanterns hang as honorary representative of the stars, weaving a canopy of lights above the market district. The red light they emit paint the city with an eerie, frenetic energy mingling with the vibrancy of the floral decorations spread beneath. The vibrant intensity of the celebration reminds me of the stories I had heard as a child that had been passed down from the generations who witnessed the last Royal Moon a century ago. The stories spoke with awe at wildness of the festival’s mad revel.
I walk through the festival decorations on my way to meeting with my darling Amelia. When I last borrowed Elijah’s writ of travel she set the condition I join her for lunch when I return it. I must admit to a not insignificant pang of shame to think my own sister would feel the need to trap me in order to spend time with me, my obsession has kept me overly busy of late.
The sight of flowers inspires me to bring her a gift to apologise for my recent distance. With some help from the florist I leave with a small bouquet of purple hyacinth and liatris, I’m told convey regret and sadness seeking forgiveness. I am contented by their beauty, and the sweet fragrance from the hyacinth.
I let the sweet aroma carry me the rest of the walk to Amelia’s home. I rap a playful rhythm on the wood before letting myself in.
“Sweet sister, I have brought you a gift,” I sing through the house, following my nose lead me through the house towards the delicious smelling meal. I am not immediately struck by the realisation that my greeting is met by a silent house. I don’t even notice the woman waiting for me in the dining room isn’t Amelia until I can already see her.
The moment I can see her, the grey is already upon me. Time seems to slow to a crawl. My body responds faster than my mind can react. The bouquet drifts slowly to the floor. By the time it lands I’ve drawn and flung three knives into the chair she had sat in less than a second ago. She shines in the ephemeral fog that covers the world with a radiance immediately marking her as a shadow. A strange familiarity about her.
She’s closed half the distance between us in an instant. Leaping backwards, blade held defensively between us, I’m calculating my options for escape. The front door almost twenty meters back. A window three meters past my assailant. An upstairs window twelve meters. She’s faster than me, two meters. No chance for escape. No sign of Amelia, she should be here. I pray I hadn’t gotten her killed.
The invader sidesteps my first strike with room to spare, passing beneath my swing on my left and entering my blind spot. My momentum is stuck going backwards, she has me cornered by my own movement. She’s good. I don’t even see blow that strikes the back of my skull to try and dodge it. I’d been careless, my last thought as my consciousness fades is that I recognised her. She had been the one who tailed me the day this all started.
No time seems to have passed, but as I begin to notice my body again my first sensation is the sharp pulsating ache that surrounds my head. I realise I’m restrained when I try to raise my rand to hold my head. Trying to open my eyes I’m met by a dark room, my heightened senses able to see clearly in the dim light shining beneath a door.
I seem to be inside a ordinary sized room for a bedroom, though there is nothing here but me. The rope-work was expertly done. I begin working at them to escape, though I doubt the woman who’d caught me would leave me enough time to do so.
Closing my eyes I listen for any sign of movement beyond the door. It’s silent. Not that silence means much when my opponent is a shadow. I collect what I know while struggling with the ropes. She’d followed me after my meeting with the crow, I’d thought I’d lost her but whether I had or not she had found Amelia and laid a trap for me. I can’t be sure if she was working for or against the Marchioness, nor understand why she had waited so long to act directly. As far as I can tell she’d taken everything useful I’d carried with me, even my better hidden pieces. Definitely a professional.
Suddenly the door opens, bright light streaming momentarily through the portal into the room. I would have been temporarily blinded if I’d been an ordinary person. As it is I recognise the woman from earlier enter the room, outside a hallway as bare as this room all I can see.
I don’t waste any time pretending to be unconscious, she’d likely predicted how long her blow would have kept me out. I watch her carefully, searching for any kind of hint towards her purpose in her appearance. She’s not unattractive, though far closer to unremarkable than beautiful. Without wearing the grey she seems almost ordinary, her dull brown hair and eyes, and athletic build standard for any Night Town hard lifer.
“To what do I owe this pleasure?” I ask. She smirks down at me, shaking her head condescendingly.
“I’ll be asking the questions, Nightingale” her voice is professional and cold, “You can call me Avery, I hope you’ll be willing to co-operate. It will be a lot easier for both of us.”