Sunday, October 6, 2013

Dark Redemption chapter 15: Smooth Operetta

Beneath the gleaming skyscrapers and picturesque facade of the City of Redemption lies another city; a community of dark and ancient magic populated by creatures of the night. Dark Redemption is a shared-world novel based on an online role-playing game by James Crowther.

Melchior Aesermann, a Fae Noble posing as the mortal owner of a computer game company, is holding a party for several of the more important members of the city's supernatural community. One of the guests is Strephon MacKenzie, a semi-immortal half-faerie who is investigating Melchior at the behest of his aunt, the Queen of the Fae.

"I had no idea you were the Strephon MacKenzie of MacKenzie House!" Mrs. L.G. Trotter thrilled. "I thought you were an older man. Such a lovely old building! I must speak with you sometime about putting it on our tour of Historic Homes of Redemption."

"I'm afraid it will want a fair amount of restoration before it's suitable for showing," Strephon said. "I suspect you are thinking of my great-grandfather, also named Strephon. He was the one who built the house. There's little remarkable about me."

"Mister MacKenzie is being modest." Lukas Bianka prowled up beside the banker's wife. "I'm sure he has all sorts of hidden talents." He flashed Strephon a smile with too many teeth.

"The same could be said, I'm sure, about yourself." Strephon suspected Bianka was a pack leader, possibly of the Reavers, the wolves who had attacked him. He knew little for certain, though. This party was like a carnival of masks, with each person pretending to be something they were not; himself included.

"Do you sing, Mister MacKenzie?" Mrs. Trotter asked abruptly.

"A bit. Not very well, I'm afraid."

"The Redemption's Culture Claque is gearing up for its annual Gilbert and Sullivan Extravaganza," she said. Strephon winced. He detested Gilbert and Sullivan. "A few of our tenors have dropped out and we're always on the lookout for new blood."

Another guest nearby laughed and said "New blood is always good." A vampire, Strephon noted. How typical.

"This year we're doing The Sorcerer," Mrs. Trotter continued.

Mr. Knox, the newspaper publisher joined the conversation. "How interesting. You know, I've always thought The Sorcerer was one of their darker works. It does not exactly have a traditional happy ending."

"True. In the end, as you know, John Wellington Wells sacrifices his life to the demon Ahrimanes in order to save the loving couple."

"I feel sorry for poor Ahrimanes," Knox said. "Instead of devouring a fresh young pair of lovers, he has to make do with a stringy old sorcerer."

Mrs. Trotter stared at him blankly for a moment, then decided he must be making a joke and laughed. Knox joined in with her, chortling merrily.

Stephon cast his gaze around the room, hoping to find an avenue of escape. He saw Melchior chatting with the bald, storkish gentleman. Where was Cassandra? He didn't see here in the room. He looked around some more.

Lilith entered the room wearing a different dinner gown and a rather satisfied expression on her face. A nasty premonition struck Strephon.

"Would you please excuse me," Strephon said, and nudged his wheelchair through the knot of operetta fans. He maneuvered his way around the guests and out into the hallway. He hoped he was mistaken, but he could not shake the dreadful suspicion that Cassandra was in some kind of danger. But how could he find her?

He knew of one way. He closed his eyes and let his being pass from the Mortal World into the Dreamworld, as he had done the night before. Their shared dream had left a psychic bond between the two, a link he hoped he could find. He cast about through the Dreamworld, mentally groping for the echo of her thoughts and feelings.

There! A bolt of terror as unmistakably her as a scent; it rocked Strephon back into the Mortal World and made Strephon's nerves sing in sympathy.

Strephon urged his chair to the lift. He had little time.

Next: The Most Dangerous Game

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