1. Belladonna

The witching hour was nearly upon Olivia and she felt both exhausted and ecstatic to her core. She and Ferdinand had worked their fingers to the bone in getting The Gentle Bull up and running again. It, as always, had been a labor of love – a tribute to their lost mama and papa. Her older brother had done most of the repairs to the roof himself and thus she’d send him to bed with gentle scolding. Oh Ferdy had tried to help clean up the kitchen and dining room after a busy second night of being open. She would have nothing of it, even with the fatigue deep in her muscles. The song in her heart poured out into soft singing as she bustled about the kitchen, putting pots and pans away. Her clockwork forearm and hand clicked along as she did so.

Now, Miss Castillo wasn’t a daft young lady. The mysterious grant that had been offered out to them was probably Ms. Sage’s doing. She’d thought about the artificial woman often in the months since the fateful night when they’d met. Guilt weighed on her for the way she’d acted at their parting. Ms. Sage, along with the other Thistle Sisters, weren’t weapons of war but heroines who gave their all to keep Scarborough safe. She shouldn’t have treated her like a loaded gun, with such open loathing and suspicion. It hadn’t been right. In fact, Olivia had been meaning to send her an apology but didn’t quite know how to word it. Guilt was the most effective writer’s block. Now that the Bull was up and running she’d have to send her an invitation to dinner on the house. It seemed the only right thing to do. Without Ms. Sage’s help she and Ferdy would probably be dead. Olivia tried not to think about that.

The Spanish woman paused and tugged at the front of her white blouse, fanning her expressive chest as she tried to get rid of the heat in the kitchen. There were still a few things left to do but she didn’t think she had the energy. Olivia pouted. She didn’t want to leave them for the morning! A few breaths of fresh night air should do the trick. Singing softly about the sunshine and roses of home she snatched up a bag of trash. When she reached for the back door’s handle, though, it turned right before her well-worked fingers touched it. While her dark eyes opened wide it took a few moments for panic to reach Olivia’s brain. In the meantime the latch, which locked to the outside when the door was closed, twisted all the way around before being partially torn from its wooden mooring.

Whatever was on the other side gave a second tug, reducing that part of the door to a spray of splinters and sawdust. Olivia Castillo screamed.

The shrill sound pierced her older brother, Ferdinand, as he hovered on the edge of sleep. It took his addled mind a moment to realize that it was a woman screaming and another to realize which woman it was. By then his sturdy body was already in action as he jumped out of bed. A shovel was grabbed as he raced down the stairs from their small apartment just above the restaurant. He nearly tripped on a few piles of tools and materials left over from the nearly complete restoration. When he made it down to the bottom Ferdy went right for the kitchen, shouldering open the door.

Another strangled sound leaked out of the alleyway. The bulky Spaniard didn’t hesitate even as he moved past the ruins of the door to outside. Olivia was in trouble and that was all that mattered. He lifted the implement like a club and roared as he stepped into the alleyway… moments too late.

He managed to catch sight of poor Olivia as she was stuffed through the door of a waiting carriage, her face twisted in terror and one hand reaching back from him. Another woman of dark skirts with a wide brimmed hat and veil was the one forcing her in. The assailant’s head rotated too far with the sound of clicking gears as Ferdy barreled toward the coach – screaming obscenities in Spanish.

The kidnapper’s combat corset creaked as she brought up a lacy sleeve to meet Ferdinand’s savage swing. The sharp edge of the spade caught her forearm and sliced through delicate cloth and flesh beneath. There was the sound of metal hitting metal and a spray of hot oil when the shovel finally hit home.

“Leave her alone, you cow!” Ferdinand was practically frothing at the mouth as he pressed all of his weight and strength into the makeshift weapon. Inside the feminine assailant’s arm gears whined and strained. The scent of her herbal perfume mixed with that of oozing oil and the burned out buildings nearby.

All of the big brother’s effort was for naught. The woman’s eyes glimmered a poisonous green behind widow’s veils and she struck out with her other hand, neatly snapping the shovel’s wooden handle in twain. Ferdinand stumbled back with a growl and was about to swing with the rest of the stick when the clockwork woman took a step forward with the rustle of thick skirts. Olivia wasn’t able to escape though as yet another clockwork woman snatched her around the waist with one hand and muffled her screams from within the cab with the other. That villainess’ eyes flared purple for a moment before diming. From around the edge a footman moved to close the carriage door. He bore a steel mask modeled off of the beaked affairs doctors wore during the plague, a top hat and a long black coat.

Those were the only vague details Ferdinand could drink in before the veiled woman smashed her palm into his barrel chest. He only realized she’d broken some of his bones after it dawned on him that he was sailing through the air. The garbage cans didn’t cushion Ferdinand’s impact at all. He crumpled into a half-dazed state. The spade head came flying after him after the clockwork lady pulled it from her arm. It embedded deeply into the brick beside his head.

“Olivia.” Ferdinand groaned as he tried to pull himself to his feet. Instead he fell face first into the strewn trash around him as pain cascaded through him. He reached out one thick hand toward the carriage as it pulled away – unable to do anything more than inch forward. The woman gave him once last distasteful brush of her luminescent gaze before hopping onto the back of the steam-coach. The vehicle had an extra axle worth of wheels on the back. Then they were gone. The big brother’s breathing was labored and unconsciousness would take him soon. That was okay though, he’d know where to find her when he woke up. Those damn Thistle Sisters would have some explaining to do. His anger fueled mind fell into sleep and it would be hours before the sun was up.

“You are in need of a shave, Master Thistle.” Perhaps it was not Mr. Hawthorne’s place to offer such a comment to his employer. The old soldier, though, felt that he needed to remind his young charge of such matters of hygiene when they were forgotten. Roland had always let things skip his mind whenever he was working on a project – even more so now with the responsibility laid across his shoulders as a grown man.

Roland rubbed at the shadow of whiskers that had taken over his dignified features, using his real hand of course. The other reached for a glass of iced lemonade as soon as his butler set it down. He would snack on the crust-less sandwiches in a moment. He made a small mm of agreement and brushed fingers over his throat. His gaze shifted from the graying man across the garden of Scarborough Castle. The weather was fair today with only a few long strings of clouds pulled across an endless blue sky. A constant breeze kept the air cool and mixed heady flower scents together. Butterflies moved from flower to flower, as well as bees. Not too far off one of the gardeners was trimming a hedge. Clinging ivy was growing over scars left form the last Fomorian raid. It was hard to imagine that was months ago now. One thing was for sure, time always marched forward.

“The lemonade is quite tart today, Nigel. Very nice I dare say. Is it not a beautiful day?” Roland Thistle made a circular gesture around with one steel finger while taking another sip of refreshment.

The butler glanced about before setting out a sandwich on a small plate for Mr. Thistle to eat when he was ready. He stepped back and brushed crumbs from his fingers with upmost decorum. The tails of his coats shifted gently with the wind. “I would think that some would find it so. You do know I prefer the weather a mote more overcast and cool, Master Thistle. I hope that the morning meetings went well.”

Roland rolled his dark brown eyes and blew out a breath. A trace of agitation worked its way out into his tone. “You might say that for my cousin will at the very least be going back to Normandy this afternoon. I often wonder, was he as… irritating as a child, Nigel?”

“It is not my place to say, sir. If I might offer Arthur is merely a driven man.”

“Driven is one way to put it. I hope my girls are getting along with his well and fine.” Another sip of lemonade was taken before Roland finally picked up the sandwich. He tipped back in his chair ever so lightly until a scolding look from Mr. Hawthorn made him right it. “You know how they can be.”

The butler finally chuckled. ‘I am just glad I am not there to clean up the mess.”

“Same here. Same here.” The brilliant young cog smith winked and took a large bite of the sandwich. As usual it was marvelous for his tongue. He chewed quickly so he could compliment his manservant and eldest friend. Nigel had been more of a father figure than his own sire. Not that he resented his father for such, he’d been a busy man. Out of the corner of his eye he just barely caught someone of a rather large physique slid over one of the hedge walls and into the garden – after throwing a cricket bat over first. His lips pulled to one side of his face and he stopped chewing. “Uh.”

“I know, Roland.” Nigel Hawthorn breathed out the words before straightening. He’d not even been looking in that direction but the manservant was a decorated war hero for a reason, back from when the worst thing Man had to fight was itself. He glanced in that direction and quietly removed one glove as he kept an eye on the now advancing man. One eyebrow twitched. The dark skinned fellow looked like he was suffering from some terrible injury but was still being driven on by grim determination. This might get sticky.

Ferdinand Castillo focused his feverish gaze on Mr. Thistle. He couldn’t find any of those thrice-damned clockwork women to beat answers out of. So their controller would have to do. He’d gotten a cricket bat… somewhere along the way. He couldn’t remember. After pulling himself out of the alleyway it had been one addled and disjointed moment after the next. His right arm felt numb but he knew he sure as hell could still swing with his left. Roland was one of those dressed impeccably desk-jockey sorts. Nor was he afraid of the old man in a monkey suit that was in his way. He growled like a stricken animal and lumbered forward. A crude swat smashed off the head of a few flowers as he passed.

“Where is she, you son-of-a-whore?” The violent words came out with spittle as Ferdy swung again, still far off from either man.

Nigel, however, was closing the distance. He pulled the other white serving glove. His strong nose and elderly forehead wrinkled with distaste. He had no fear for the fellow or his weapon. “Please calm down, sir. There is no need for such vulgarity. It is plain that you are quite injured. Let us call a medic for-“

“Rot in hell, old man.” Ferdinand scowled and tried to point the end of the bat at the butler. “I want my sister, and I want her now.”

Roland stood, with concern. Not for his own well being. He peered at the Spanish fellow for a long stretched. He, thankfully, didn’t look familiar. “Sister? Nigel, go gentle on him.”

“Of course sir. I am no brute.” With a sniff Mr. Hawthorn feigned indigence. He knew what he was doing after all, and that the large fellow was not in his right mind. He kept advancing and motioned for the cricket bat lightly. “Come now sir, hand it over before someone with a firearm shows up.”

The big brother was too injured, full of fever and pain, to think rationally any longer. He roared, this time cursing in Spanish. Then he launched himself forward with the intent to brush aside Nigel and beat the answers he wanted out of the smug Roland. Things did not go as planned. The steely haired butler easily weaved out of the way of the swing before footwork carried him back in to the larger man. One of Nigel’s hands grabbed the bat while the other cracked Ferdy’s wrist in just the right place to get his hand to splay open. Once the Spaniard was disarmed the spry veteran ducked under a clumsy punch and slipped behind Ferdinand. Once Nigel was up on the big fellow’s back and had one arm around the windpipe it was only a matter of time.

Roland was already running from the garden to summon one of the soldiers on duty, not to berate the fellow for the lack of security. Instead, he ordered the man to fetch the medics without delay. By the time the aristocrat returned Nigel was pulling back on his gloves while the assailant was sleeping fitfully on the ground.

“Someone shattered several of the poor gent’s upper ribs it looks like. Perhaps they even dislocated his shoulder on the side. I should say some woman because there is a dainty and deep handprint on his torso.” One of Nigel’s white brows fluttered upwards as his expression flattened.

A medic with bag in hand, along with a gaggle of armed doughboys, rushed into the garden – some distance behind Roland. In the meantime Mr. Thistle frowned deeply and looked down at the unconscious fellow. He rubbed metal fist against the soft palm of his other hand. “Most distressing. Find out who he is at once.”

“By your command.” Nigel bowed and stepped backwards until he faded into the foliage, his shined shoes crushing a fallen flower along the way.

The sun had set again by the time that Ferdinand regained full consciousness. He hurt like hell and all he could recall was his breath being taken away before sinking into pain-tortured dreams. On the plus side his chest and shoulder bandaged up. On the negative side there was an armed soldier standing beside the bedroom door. The bed he laid in was quite comfortable, but unfamiliar. There was a desk and fancy mirror that had to be older than his grandmother, two wardrobes he suspected were empty and this old brass bed that even made him feel small to lie in. His attention shifted back to the guard when the man opened the door and leaned out.

“Inform Mr. Thistle that he’s awake.” The solider relayed to another one outside. The second fellow nodded and headed off. The door was closed and the guard cleared his throat, offered Ferdinand a nod. “I would ask that you kindly remain in bed sir.”

“Si.” Ferdy didn’t feel like moving much at all. Slowly he recalled doing something very stupid and groaned. When he sat up the Spaniard rubbed at his face. Then he brushed a hand through his hair. One of his arms was in a sling and surely he had to have been injected with something to keep pain down to a dull ache.

It wasn’t long before the door opened and Roland glanced in with a smile. He waved off the guard and got a dubious look for doing so. After Mr. Thistle cleared his throat into cogwork fingers, though, the doughboy complied. Out the solider went and closed the door behind him. The assailant and his target were left alone.

“Senor Castillo, si? I am afraid that is about the extent of my Spanish. My apologies.” Roland approached the edge of the bed while smoothing down the sides of his dark brown vest. He displayed no fear about being so close to the man who earlier in the day wanted to beat him senseless. “Roland Thistle, as I am sure you already know.”

Ferdinand shifted uncomfortably. The bed moaned and creaked under him. He glanced way to a shuttered window. “Si.”

“Ms. Sage spoke highly of your sister. She has been meaning to stop by and see how the two of you were faring. “Roland stopped at the edge of the bed and watched the man’s reaction. He folded his hands before him – meat over metal. “I sent a few troops to take a look at your restaurant. The young lady was nowhere to be found and there was obviously a break in as well perhaps a struggle in the alleyway. Would you please share with me what occurred?”

“… You do not need to play this game, Mr. Thistle.” When the brother’s eyes returned to meet Roland’s gaze they were smoldering. His square jaw tensed up. “Where is she?”

“If I knew I would tell you. Please believe that, Senor Castillo.” After a moment Roland regally walked around the footboard and sat at the corner. He nodded slowly and kept the man’s gaze now. He was sure that the honesty of his statement showed through in his eyes. “I have taken the liberty to put investigators on tracking down her whereabouts. The very best detectives in Scarborough are looking for Olivia. However, if you would fill in some details? I am sure it will help them all the more.”

Ferdinand’s gaze pinched and he snorted in disbelief. “Sweet Olivia was kidnapped by clockwork woman from the back of our restaurant. One of them knocked me across the alleyway as easily as a child kicks a ball. Then she buried a spade head several inches into the brick beside me. She sounded like machine, wore the same sort of corset that the Thistle Sister’s do.”

“Oh.” Roland rubbed at his forehead with two fingers. “It cannot be any of the four stationed here. They have been in the Channel for the last two days after travelling to London, aiding another quartet of sisters deal with well… classified matters. Are you certain they-“

With a growl Ferdinand cut him off. “Yes I’m sure. A normal woman can’t send a man of my size flying through the air. When I hit her in the arm with the spade it cut deep and there was a spray of hot oil. Her eyes glowed too behind a widow’s veil. I can’t think of anyone else that would describe, do you?

After a sigh Roland shook his head and stood. He moved along to look out of the window, parting the blinds as he did so. Then one cuff was straightened and the sleeve attached pulled tight. A few strands of moonlight played across his blue-blood features. “No. I cannot. Likewise it cannot be any of my girls, nor do I know of any other Thistle creations here in Scarborough. Still, I promise you that I shall do whatever is in my power to find your Olivia.”

Ferdy snorted like an angry bull but forced himself to relax. “So you say. I… you are probably right. I don’t see why you would order her taken.”

“Or why anyone would.”

There was a rapping on the door before it opened and the guard poked his head in. He gave a wary look to Ferdinand before glancing to his superior. “Pardon, a moment please, Mr. Thistle.”

“Of course.” Roland made a gesture of apology to the bedridden man before moving over to the door. He was curious why the fellow motioned him out into the hall and didn’t speak until the door was closed.

“The Widow needs you down in the workshop, sir.” The man saluted.

“I am a bit busy at the moment.” Roland gestured back to the door.

“It concerns the same matter from what I understand.” The doughboy coughed and looked to the side. “They have found what remains of Miss Castillo. The Widow thinks it best that you take a look at… her first before deciding a course of action on what to tell her brother.”

The master mechanist tried to rub away frown lines in his forehead “Oh. Bother it all. This was not the way I wanted this to end. I will make my apologies and be down post haste. I do not want anyone, and I mean anyone to breathe a word of this to poor Mr. Castillo until I inform him. Understood?”

“Sir.” The man crisply saluted.
His tie was adjusted before Roland peeked back into the room. He cleared his throat but would not meet Ferdinand’s eyes. He knew that he wasn’t the best liar after all; that was his cousin’s domain. Come to think of it Arthur best not have anything to do with this. “Pardon, Senor Castillo. There is an urgent matter I need to tend to. I shall see dinner sent up to you, yes?”

“Please.” The other gent’s tone was suspicious but he was in no condition to interrogate.

Roland merely nodded and closed the door behind him. A sight of relief passed and he worked on smoothing his attire as he headed down stairs. He knew he was going to have to steel himself for the sight he was about to see. Something in his gut told him it was going to be bad.

It was, and then some.

Even the Widow Scabious was shaken. What remained of Olivia Castillo had been laid out inside with her body bag on one of the tables where the sisters were usually repaired. Roland pressed a handkerchief over his face as he looked over what had been done to her. First there was not a scrap of clothing on her but preliminary investigation did not find any trace of molestation. Still to be dumped in such a fashion, without any dignity, what monster would do this?

Her ribs were splintered and broken, splayed open. The Widow quietly gestured with a pointer, the rubber underneath her shapely black clothing squeaking when she did so. “As you can see the poor dear was opened up with surgical precision. The cut line across her chest down to navel is precise. The way the ribs are spread are indicative of modern medical tools. As you may have already guessed she is missing her heart.”

“Along with her head and spine.” Roland’s expression soured behind the hanky. He felt like he was going to be sick. Not because of the sight but because of the implications.

Widow Scabious shook her head. “No. Just her head, Mr. Thistle. Here too along the neck we find amazing precision. Her vertebra was cut here; with some sort of oscillating saw I am certain. The rest of her spine and its tissue are still intact. Whoever did this clearly had the training needed.”

That perked the cog smith’s interested and an eyebrow. “It is not the work of whatever is behind the silver-handed fairies then? Even though they took the head and spine of Melrose’s commander among others?”

“In my expert opinion, no.” Whatever expression the mourning glory had was hidden behind lace. From her tone it was dire. “The victims from up North all have an element of savagery to them. This was done by a surgeon, Roland. Someone that is either privy to matters only we of the Order should be – or has stumbled onto them. Did you question Mr. Castillo?”

“Yes.” After swallowing down some bile, Roland leaned in to take a look at where the backbone had been cut. He went so far as to brush fingers over the smooth bone. This was going to have to be a closed casket affair. “He claims he was attacked by Thistle Sisters, or at the very least clockwork women. I… do not like these implications at all.”

“Nor do I. I do not think we are dealing with a Fomorian.” She was breathless, but did not go further into her theories. To even voice them would be too terrible, and impossible. So instead she shooed Roland back with her black pointer before sliding a sheet over what remained of the strong hearted girl.

“We need to remove the rest of her spine, Widow.” Roland gave her an imperial look, the sort he rarely used. Clearly, she was not supposed to question him on this. “Do a resonance test.”

Still, Widow Scabious was not the sort of person to be cowed. “The poor woman has suffered enough, already. I think that we both know what the result will be anyway.”

While his jaw did set after a tick Roland nodded firmly. “Fine.”

“I shall drift upstairs then and inform Mr. Castillo of the unfortunate matter.” The somber woman turned with the groan of rubber and the rustle of fabric. She stripped off her gloves and tossed them into a cleaning solution. “As well as see what other facts I can pull out of him. The faster we can track down this madman the better.”

“I… that might not be wise.” Roland interjected.

“I will be gentle, I promise.”

The cog smith chuckled weakly and gestured to her hat and thick veils. “The woman that took his sister, I gathered, was dressed much the same way as you. I do not know how he shall react.”

“I see. Well then,” Hair pins were removed with efficient grace before the woman took off her top hat and with it went the veil. She did not look at Roland but rather turned her face away. She was too pretty and too young to have ever been made a widow. These were, however, cruel times. Her fingers raked through auburn tresses until they covered her neck and shoulders. A few more pins were set in the now upturned hat. Roland coughed in surprised and the Widow Scabious smiled in a ghostly fashion. “I shall have to meet him face to face. You will summon the girl’s back, yes? I have a feeling that they will be needed before this is all said and done.”

Roland mutely nodded and the Widow headed off down the darkened corridor. Oversized pistons churned along the walls. Galvanic humming coursed under the grated floor. Her dark skirts swayed along without a worry.

The mourning glory received more than a few double takes as she headed up into the personal suites of the castle. She responded to none but kept her head high. The woman was actually at a loss to explain for her ornery behavior this evening. At least it was late enough that the halls and stairways were mostly empty. Maybe the terror of her suspicions drove her to remove the veil, Elsbeth needed to show she would not give into them. She wasn’t sure, and it did not really matter. The guard at the door at first didn’t recognize her until there was the usual creak of her form fitting under-coating to accent her voice. The man stared at her becoming features framed by waves of luscious hair and topped off with caramel eyes before he complied with her order and opened the door.

Ferdinand had sunk back down into the covers and was staring at a wall. The well-built Spaniard rolled over though when the door opened. He’d been expecting Roland to be the one returning, which was plain on his features. The gent pulled covers to obscure his upper body, which was bare, save for the bandages. “Uh.”

“The Widow Scabious, Mr. Castillo. Please do not fret over such trivial matters. I took a closer look at your wounds once the medics brought you in.” Her attention, even more severe without the veil to soften it, pinned him place. She primly folded her hands before her and continued to walk until she was at the edge of the bed. Her eyes roamed and she frowned. “I must really remind Mr. Thistle to put a chair in here.”

“What is going on? Who are you?” Ferdinand coughed before struggling to sit up. He wanted to glare at this wraith-like woman but found he could not.

Elsbeth raised her chin, the collar of her dress was tight – it covered everything up to her jaw line. She started to speak and then stopped herself. The poor man was about to get quite the shock and that demanded some sort of tact. Her gaze returned to his and the edges of her eyes softened. “The Widow Scabious as I said. I suppose the pain medications have dulled your senses somewhat. I am in charge of the engineers here at the castle.”

“She’s dead… isn’t she?” Ferdy saw it in the woman’s eyes, the way the edges of her unpainted lips moved. As soon as his murmur spilled out he just knew the truth of it. His chin wigged and he started to suck in his lower lip.

Oh Lord. He was going to cry. Lines crossed the Widow’s expression forehead. She should have expected this. If there was anything she loathed more than seeing a grown man cry she could not think of it at the moment. Not counting her dead and buried Henry of course. She clucked her tongue in a matronly manner that did not fit her youthful face, and then brushed around the side of the bed. When she settled it was lightly near his injured arm, he could hardly throttle her with it. Elsbeth leaned onto one hand. “I regret that I have to confirm such a sad fact. We do not know who is responsible for the crude act but Mr. Thistle and I agree that they need to be found and dealt with in the harshest possible matter. This may seem cold, Mr. Castillo, but this is a matter of national security as well.”

“It is cold.” He scowled and scooted away from her. The tears were stopped by spikes of anger.

Elsbeth sighed, that would have to do. She rather didn’t like that he agreed though. Had she become so cold? Oh dear, she knew the answer to that for she’d worked very hard to be so. Better a frozen heart than an aching one. She sniffed and patted his elbow in a dainty fashion. “I have been accused of worse. I suspect whoever took your sister is making counterfeit Thistle sisters, or something similar. They harvested some of her parts of that purpose.”

“Madre de Dios.”

“… Yes, well.” She regretted already letting that information out. Her spine arched as she added an extra sense of steely reserve to her posture. “I am not the best to try and consol you in this moment, Mr. Castillo. I only felt that you should know the full facts of what we are dealing with.”

The man didn’t say anything but looked away toward the wall again, grunted.

“I understand. I also understand this is difficult.” After a mote of hesitation Elsbeth reached out and touched his shoulder in a feather light fashion. She had no desire to hurt or to direct his anger into her after all. “I lost my own daughter… and husband to similar horrors. Please… Ferdinand. There are some questions I need to ask about this morning. The more we know the quicker we can catch who did this, put them down.”

He did not turn to look at her, but did not shrug away her fingers either. “Promise me.”


“Promise me that when whoever did this is caught and eye for an eye will be taken?” He growled low. Given the league of powers involved, the ‘national security’ matters, Ferdy knew he’d not be able to do justice with his own hands.

“You have my word.” She nodded with a slow wash of hair across her face. Her eyes slid to half-lidded. A smile of understanding flickered across her lips for a long moment. “Now, Mr. Thistle told me the little details you offered him last night. I am going to need for you to think hard and tell me everything. Every last trivial aspect that you saw or heard, smelt.”

“Their footman was dressed like an old plague doctor.” Ferdy turned and focused on the fine-boned features of the Widow. “Wide-brimmed hat, cowl and tail coat. He had a mask with a beak.” A motion was made to emphasize that. “Except it was made out of black metal. It was a steam-carriage. Not a design I’ve seen before either.”

“How so?” She pursed her lips while rubbing at his bandaged shoulder.

“It had two sets of wheels in the back, as if it was hauling something heavy.”

High above Balor’s Eye was focused elsewhere instead of Scarborough tonight. The shadow of the new moon hid all but a dim red glow. Its tears still twinkled in the night. One had to wonder what it wept for if not for the little tragedies of man.

To be continued

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