As I mentioned earlier, the Dreadful Tales begin!
Dreadful Tales: A Matter of Discretion
“Surely, Sir, you cannot be serious?” asked the woman in the grey dress. She crossed her arms, a sure sign of her displeasure.
The object of her incredulity crouched beside an open storm drain, holding a tear-drop shaped piece of lead swaying on the end of a string. Unseen forces tugged the lead, pulling it towards the open hole. “Oh, I assure you, Lady Brae, that I do not joke about such endeavors. Our quarry has descended below, and,” he cast a rakish glance towards her, “if you wish to continue following the trail, below is where we must descend.”
“That’s filthy, disgusting,” she said closing her parasol.
Standing with unhurried grace, the handsome man looked at the city around them. Tall, soot covered buildings leaned precariously close to each other above their heads. Foul water dripped from eaves and gutters, while the sweet smell of rot pervaded the alley they stood in. The ever-present misty shroud that obscured the sun was unusually low today. The shadows of vast air ships prowled above it, like great whales beneath the surface of a turbulent ocean. Rats watched them brazenly from a nearby corner.
“Perhaps you haven’t noticed, my Lady, but you have aptly described the whole of Gloomhaven. Or has our trip through the lower quarters not shown you enough of how those below the spires live?”
Lady Brae sniffed and brushed back a strand of burgundy hair that had strayed from beneath her hat. “There is no call to be rude.” She peered over the edge of the hole and then wrinkled her pert nose. “You haven’t been wrong yet, warlock, so I must take your word for it.”
“Now who is it that’s being rude?” The man crossed his arms and leaned away from her. “I thought we were past this.”
Brandishing her parasol, Lady Brae said, “You style yourself as the ‘Gentleman Warlock.’ Why should it displease you if I address you thusly?”
Pushing the tip of her weapon from his face, the man said, “Because you left off the ‘gentleman’ part, first of all. Secondly, because you know my name. I would expect a highborn scion like yourself to use it.”
The pair locked eyes for a moment before Lady Brae lowered her parasol. “You speak truthfully, and I have forgotten myself in the excitement of the chase. Please accept my apologies, Mr. Silver.”
Mr. Silver took one of her gloved hands and brought it to his grinning lips. “Apology accepted, Lady Brae,” he said, before planting a kiss on the back of her hand. A little color rose on her pale cheeks. “And please, call me Marcus.”
The Gentleman Warlock stepped back and gazed down the hole. “Now, I’m afraid, there’s nothing for it but to hold one’s nose and jump.”
“I think you’ve gone far enough. Mr. Silver,” she said. As he looked back to her, she took a deep breath and continued. “I believe that we must now part ways. You have performed your duties admirably, but I fear this next part is for me alone to face. I have made the arrangements already; you shall receive the agreed upon payment for your services.”
“Indeed?” he said, eyebrow raised. “You wish to go into that dank sewer? Alone?”
She nodded, but it was a half-hearted motion.
“My Lord Grandfather has commanded that I perform this task. I do not think that you should involve yourself further.”
“My lady, what kind of gentleman would I be if I were to allow you to face such dangers on your own?”
“A sensible one.”
He sniffed, dismissing the remark. “Already we have faced ruffians and thugs together. Who knows what forces await below. No, it would be unforgiveable of me. Besides, this murderer must be brought to heel. I may be just a simple Gentleman Warlock, but you have my talents at your disposal until this adventure is concluded.” He bowed low, doffing his tall hat as he did.
Lady Brae threw a hand in the air. “Fine, Mr. Silver, I will not attempt to dissuade you any longer. But I expect the utmost discretion in this matter.”
Mr. Silver nodded. “Of course. In my line of work, one must always show discretion. Now, allow me.” He returned the tear-drop shaped pendulum to his pocket and retrieved his cane from where it lay against the alley wall. Without another word, he disappeared down the ladder.
“It seems safe enough,” he whispered from the darkness below.
Taking one more deep breath, Lady Brae placed her foot on the first rung of the old, rusty iron ladder. “I would thank you, Sir, to step away from the ladder. It would be unseemly to watch me descend.”
“Of course,” he said, his voice carrying a hint of amusement. He disappeared from view, and she began to climb down.
Marcus waited for her to finish her climb, a handkerchief held out for her.
“Oh, that stench is foul,” she said, taking the offered cloth and holding it to her nose. “Does it not disgust you?”
“Even if my senses were as sharp as yours, we warlocks have a few tricks to make life easier when faced with disturbing sensations.”
“Could that work for me?”
“Alas not.” Reaching into a pocket, Marcus drew forth a watch. When he opened it, the gears and cogs inside started to whir, and a crystal on its face began to glow with a bright, blue light.
“What is that?” she asked, blinking.
“A Galvanic Oculatron. To help us find our way.”
Lady Brae turned and stared into the shadows beyond the blue light. “It’s all right, Mr. Silver. While your new-fangled contraption is quite impressive, I can see adequately in this darkness.”
“Of course my lady, how foolish of me to forget.”