Ms. Wormwood from The Scarborough Affair.
April, 1900 – England
If there had been a time before war, most of humanity didn’t remember it. Even before the threat fell from space, mankind had a few million years experience slaughtering their own unnecessarily. It was with great expertise that their Earth was carved and bombed, raped and poisoned. With the haziest of boundaries and dividing lines they grouped themselves into camps of opposing forces. Waging war started perhaps as an evolutionary tool for securing food and territory. But like all predisposed compulsions, abominations began to arise.
“We’ve never been content just to kill ourselves.” Shanna said, glancing up from her history lessons. “But globalization hasn’t helped much. We don’t have hereditary culture anymore. We have languages, but not accents. Dialect are dying out or neutralizing in every major city as it they become more and more averaged. Even genetically we are marching towards multi-diversity. We are losing reasons to murder other people. We just have humanity in general. Did you ever wonder if we just killed Fomorians simply because they had the poor taste not to be born human?”
Her question was asked so innocently, so curiously that Allessandro had to remind himself not to scold. Many people saw Ms. Chylde as a tiresome student, but what other tutors interpreted as insolence; he was beginning to view as perhaps genuine philosophy. Of course he did have to agree that she was quite the burden, and he was really an expert on the subject. Master Voyle had been the unlucky third year mentor assigned to her almost half decade past. After only a year, he’d been burned, bitten, punched and even knocked unconscious by the feral little northerner more times than he could count. Though her episodes came much less frequently now, they were also far more severe. But sometimes, at moments like this, when she was sitting primly and well behaved in the library, head lowered into her books, it was hard to remember his dislike. In fact, as time went by, he’d developed something of an affection for the girl. This recent self-realization had been plaguing him of late and often times Allesandro found himself wondering if she felt the same way in return.
“We’ve hardly lost our hereditary culture, Shanna.” he replied in his own native language to prove the point.
“So says the one that hasn’t returned to his mother’s country since he was a child.” she countered back….in Italian as well.
The point was not lost on him, nor was her talent for languages.
“My country was obliterated. What’s your excuse?” The girl pressed with a smug little smile.
Allessandro narrowed his eyes. “My ‘excuse’ is that I am in school learning the tools I will need to be a contributing member of Society. This is perhaps a thought that should occur to you a bit more often. Now be quiet and finish the chapter. There is a test on this tomorrow.”
Shanna flashed him a pretty, mischievous grin but as instructed, returned to her reading. There was always a lot of reading to do for those taken in by the Society of Morrigan. Each and every last of them from first year student to exalted Voice could wield terrible and destructive powers. The constant learning forced discipline. Without it… well…
The boy sighed and shook his head.
“Voice of Water, what is your will?” The chairman’s tone sounded tired and not the least bit enthusiastic. A long moment passed before one of the Junior Pages awkwardly nudged his elderly compatriot back to consciousness. The Parliament of the Society was in session. All matters of business for the clandestine organization of stone-wielders and modern -day sorcerers were brought up here.
“Water humbly forgoes this honor.” The words were mumbled through sleep-thickened lips. None else noticed or seemed concerned. The gathered magus’ were feeling quite similarly apathetic in the oppressive heat.
No answer at all. All of the windows of the old stone building crafted in the time of Viking raids had been opened up. Still the cool country air did little to curb the afternoon heat.
“Lord Walden, do you move to open an inquiry into budget standards for this fiscal quarter?” The chairman sighed and loosened his tie.
An uncomfortable stir moved through the hottest side of the chamber. Voice of Fire didn’t even lift his head. Instead one of younger assistants waved the chairman on.
Baroness Elinore St. August dipped her head politely and made a vague, dismissive gesture with her fan.
“Then it is all agreed. Page Wolke, your proposal stands. Thank you for your contribution. Next order of business?” A long, miserable silence followed. No one of the Society’s upper echelon wanted to be here any longer.
“So be it. This session of Parliament is hereby adjourned.” It was as if a long held breath was suddenly released. The heavy silence of the chamber hall bled off in a series of mumbles and groans as uncomfortable chairs were pushed back and members rose wearily to their feet. All except for one. A frantic Page tried desperately to rouse his master, who was still quite content to continue snoring unabashedly.
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As she was carried up the side of a smoldering building via umbrella, Ms. Sage’s exotic face narrowed to a singularly perturbed expression. When he was feeling flippant Mr. Thistle would often comment she was beautiful when she was angry. She was never sure if their director was flirting or just trying to get her goat. At the moment her hazel gaze behind thin glasses and mind under gray tea hat were focused on the last of those thrice damned harpies as it tried to soar away on creaking wings.
Breaking free of the rooftops like a cloud of somber smoke the clockwork woman turned the middle of her umbrella’s shaft until it clicked. Leaden cover slid back over the glass encased cavorite at the shade’s core. Without the unique radiation of the miracle mineral the weight of her body was pulled downward. Cavor’s discovery of anti-gravity had been the biggest story of the last century, especially when it carried the first men to the moon. Alas like most advances in science it soon became a curse onto man, perhaps the greatest it would ever suffer. For the men of the moon soon invaded Earth. Since that faithful year the artificial stone which bore his name had been employed mostly in airships to try and give mankind an edge.
Delicate elbow creaked as Ms. Sage turned and angled the parasol just right to catch curling wind. Within moments the soles of her pointy toe boots clacked along ceramic roof arch. Delicate wrist spun and with it the sober umbrella. As her dusky skirt settled she snapped the accessory closed, tucked it tight to her side. While she was not nearly as fast as Ms. Thyme the mechanical woman shot across rooftop in a direct line toward her quarry. No doubt that harpy born on iridium feathered wings was going to try and find some place the roost nearby, hide and cause more trouble once the sun had risen. That could not be allowed.
Up the side of a short stack chimney she sprung before she twisted in a violent swirl around its white stone top. Ms. Sage lost her hat even as she opened her umbrella with a loud crack. In mid-leap she turned so cavorite would be exposed again and at the angle of ascent zipped off for the mechanical fairy. Her course was not perfect but it was close enough. Into the one of those great gear and steam powered wings the full cap of her parasol slammed. Richly polished metal tore at soft gray fabric only to reveal the armored plates beneath. It was the intricate wing which relented and bent as the harpy banked away with one of their trademark screeches. While the sound which erupted from the fang stylized grate the feminine mockery had for a mouth crippled men with its hyper-sonic waves it did little more than make the exquisite framework of Ms. Sage’s chassis vibrate as she continued her ascent. The harpy barrel rolled and one of its talons tore through dark skirts, slicing at shin beneath before being kicked away. Assuredly the winged automaton would be grounded now but a wounded monster was at times the most dangerous. Waiting until she was ten feet above the plummeting harpy Ms. Sage closed off the antigravity rock and shut umbrella once more. She fell as well but in a far more controlled motion that the spiraling robot. With upmost grace she turned in the air and along with the creak of leather corset plunged shade first.
The pointed tip of reinforced metal lanced deep into the harpy’s burned steel ribcage but stopped short of piercing dripping scarlet heart. The automaton’s talons sliced at charcoal blouse and into the cultured flesh of Ms. Sage’s shoulders before frantically trying to force the steampunk gynoid off. The Spanish toned Ms. Sage grimaced in response but was otherwise undaunted, her dark painted lips pulled with graceful snarl while coiled copper and crystal heart burned all the brighter. Rushing wind whistled around the harpy’s metal frame before rustling along her clothes but the loud passing of air didn’t last for long.
Tile and dust sprayed upwards as false fairy collided with a wide building’s roof first. There was a keen of energy and high pitched cracking before the harpy’s heart detonated in a rain of sparkling motes. Stumbling away from the point of impact Ms Sage let her feet slide along gable’s slope and fell off the edge. Her umbrella popped back open and down she drifted to emptied street below. Shade closed once more she rested it across her stately shoulders and adjusted spectacles with two fingers. A quiet moment was allowed to look over her black leather clad hand before it brushed chocolate brown hair back into proper place.
“I really did adore that hat.” After a brief sigh the aerial expert turned to get her bearings. The night was still split by the occasional raid siren, when they could be heard over the ordinance exchange between Scarborough Castle and what had to be a fomorian ship in the harbor. Long columns of smoke whiffed from the seaside. Ms. Sage however was far more concerned with the smaller scale destruction throughout the residential districts. She had directed Ms. Parsley to rush ahead of the gathering troops and Ms. Rosemary to assist in clearing rubble so more of the castle’s forces could get through. Then off hunting fairy stragglers she’d went. The damn harpies had made a mess of things and Ms. Sage was utterly concerned with the fact they had come from an inland path. In these troubled times it was not uncommon for the eyes on the sky to miss things but this was disappointing. If she and two of her other sisters had not been taking in a recital in the park from that rather dashing violinist and thus been near where the harpies’ bombing rampage began who knows how many additional lives would have been lost.
The red sky drew her gaze back. Ms. Sage watched the clouds for a moment, scarce as they were, and malevolent moon. Balor’s Eye hung there, its tears twinkled; threatening really that more spires would fall and puncture mother earth. She and Mr. Thistle mused now and again atop the ramparts about how to take the fight to the enemy’s home but it was pure fancy. As was any ‘romantic’ time spent with their foreman. Her eyes focused on the stars beyond and Ms. Sage had to wonder what horrors lay among them that would make these twisted moonmen pale by comparison. Blinking she did her best to chase away such dystopian visions; there was a battle on after all. With no stray harpies in sight she started the trek back to main thoroughfare. From there, as long as everything went well for Ms. Rosemary, it should be a quick trip down to the beach and the main conflict.
The Scarborough Affair is on hiatus until July 4th. Now is a great time to catch up! www.lastslicestudios.com/scar
Ms. Sage from The Scarborough Affair.
Clockwork Clown, just random photoshop work really. I’m sure I’ll stick her into The Scarborough Affair somehow.
A Beautiful One from The Scarborough Affair
Ms Thyme from www.lastslicestudios/scar. Steampunk action adventure, you can’t beat it.
Stag’s Head from www.lastslicestudios/scar. Steampunk action adventure, you can’t beat it.
Give The Scarborough Affair at http://www.lastslicestudios.com/scar a read! The first full issue (with prologue) is available as a free ebook!