La Lividum

By: Merciella Heartstorm

Prologue:



11:00 PM - Joliè-Paris, Fey Heritage Museum.



"Oi, mate, can I get one o' those cigs?" a large set man with an impressively thick beard asked the wiry uniformed guard leaning nonchalantly against the building's gray stone wall. The guard glanced up, wariness and suspicion clear in his gaze as he took in the rather monochrome attire of his unwelcome visitor.



"Non, get your own 'friend', I've only two left," came the guards curt response, his French heavily accented. He only got one short break, be damned if some old bum was going to keep him from enjoying his smoke break. Working the graveyard shift was so boring, nothing but punk kids trying to tag the walls and bums like this bloke for company. Tch. Protecting the Fey museum. Waste of time really. As he cupped his hands to light one up, he scoffed at his bad luck, ignoring the other man.



"I said. I want. A cig," the bearded man reiterated, and this time his voice was firmer, more demanding. The sound of dirt scuffed against the ground alerted the guard as the man came closer, any previous attempt at being friendly disregarded now as he eyed the uniform with distaste.



"And I said Non!" Frustrated, the guard pushed off the wall and spun around, intending to menace the man into leaving. He only got so far as to catch the bigger man's deadpan stare before wincing in surprise as a giant fist connected heavily with his gut.



"Arrogant mall cop! Think you're better than me, do ya?" He slammed his elbow into the now doubled-over guards spine, the force dropping the guard to the ground with a yelp, wheezing and twitching in pain. "Bloody pig!" the bearded man practically spat out, a cruel snarl misshaping his lips. As the man on the ground reached for his whistle, the bearded man viciously stomped on the guards hand, leaving bloody smears in the cobblestone surface beneath it.



The scent of blood in the air seemed to energize the attacker, and kick after vicious kick landed against ribs, digits, and the poor guards face as he was beaten with great prejudice. So focused on causing this man pain, the bearded man didn't realize that the door behind him has opened and another security guard stepped out, armed with a live taser.



"That's quite enough, right! Back away slowly or I'll turn you into fried meat!" came the high pitched threat.



The man turned around, sneering at the armed guard. "What's this? Gangin' up on ol' Charlie, are ya? How many more o' yous mall cops are in there? Little ol' fella like you ain't gonna hold me long," he said, smiling.



"Don't need more of me, big man. I have the taser. Now back away from my friend, or I will put you down!" the second guard said sternly, commanding the bearded man as his training has taught him.



"Yeah, yeah, can't believe two mall cops is all they put here. Government stinginess, ey?" Charlie said as he slowly backed away from the injured guard.



The guard kept a keen eye on the man as he moved forward and crouched down to check on his colleague. "You OK? How bad did he get you?" he asked, keeping his eyes on the man, the taser still ready to fire.



It took the beaten guard a few tries to croak out, "Pretty bad, sir. Sorry, I didn't think, I got too complacent."



Fuck, what a mess! This will look horrible on the review. "Don't think on that now, I'll call an ambulance and the police. They can deal with this asshole," he said, starting to move out of his crouch as a small metallic sphere rolled out of the shadows, heading straight for the two men.



A flash went off, completely enveloping both guards. "Que…" was all the guard could mutter before crumpling to the ground next to his friend, both falling unconscious. There was a deep and malicious chuckle coming from the shadows, and a smaller man stepped out, smiling at the bearded man.



"Well, that worked better than I hoped. Always get quality gear when working for the organization," the man said. He was balding and dressed as though he were auditioning to be a chimney sweep.



"You know it, Mace. Boss always gets the best toys when we work for Mr. V," Charlie replied, toeing blood off of his shoes into the pile of dirty elm leaves still caught in the gutter of the street.



Cheeks going instantly red and puffing out with indignation, Mace suddenly turned on his compatriot, slapping him. "Shut it, Charlie! Remember what happened to Hans after saying too much. You wanna end up like him?"



Charlie shook his big bearded head. "No, Mace. Sorry, Mace."



"Then let's just get the goods and get the hell out of here," Mace replied, grabbing the guards key-card and quickly opening the security door. He led them through the twisting corridors as if he'd memorized their path, heading straight to the Artifact Holding section.



"Alright, Charlie, safe access should be behind the big ass portrait of Lady Gargula. Get it out of the way, will ya." Stepping back, Mace let Charlie do what he did best. The portrait was easily as tall as Mace, in a heavily gilded frame. The canvas inside alone would have substantial weight, which was what made it such a good door to the safe.



Charlie spat on both hands before reaching out to it, lifting the frame with a tremendous amount of effort. His face contorted with the strain, as he pulled it off its hinges before dropping it heavily to the floor and away from an access panel.



"There...ya go...Mace," he panted, pleased with himself even as he bent double, bracing on both knees.



"Good. Right where he said it would be." Mace dug around in his pocket for a moment before producing a strange amulet. It was a small carved tortoise shell with runes all over it and bird feathers melted into its surface. "OK, let's see if this baby works just as good as you did."



With great care, he attached the amulet to the bare wall where the painting used to be with adhesive strips, before stepping back. He muttered the magic words, and there was a pregnant pause in the air, as if the entire building was holding its breath. All of a sudden the sound popped back into being, just as the wall crumbles into ashes, safe door and front panel with it.



Charlie's eyes went wide with surprise. "Wow, Mace, can you imagine if we had this kinda tool when we hit the the Rikers' vault on Fifth?" he said, smiling at the thought.



Mace backhanded his arm and glared at him before going back to the ash pile and fishing out the charm. "You idiot, the whole loot from that job wouldn't have paid for this baby. Boss got this from high up to make sure we got what we needed. Pricey stuff, these here charms."



"Oh, OK, Mace. So, uhm, which papers did we need for Mr. V--" Catching himself, he tried again, "Uh, the Boss man," he corrected, wincing away from Mace, expecting another hit. No slap came though, as Mace seemed to be lost in thought.



"Not sure, Charlie, not sure at all. They all look the same." After a few minutes, he seemed to make a decision as he nodded to himself and rubs his hands briskly together. "Just take 'em all, Charlie. Anything the boss don't need, we might make some profit on for us, see," he said, a greedy smile spreading across his weasel-like face. Genius, pure genius! he thinks to himself.

"Sure thing. Mace," Charlie said as he stepped inside, duffel bag at the ready, and starts shoving handfuls of items inside indiscriminately. As he robbed the place, he started to whistle while he worked. Nothing like a job well done to make a man feel accomplished!





Chapter 01: A Pleasant Day Off



I love Saturdays. Saturdays are the best days of the week. Everything fun happens on a Saturday, and best of all, I slip blissfully off the grid. No calls, no life or death situations. Nothing, except my own company, however which way I chose for the next two days.

And on this beautiful autumn morning, I decided to enjoy my day off by going through the relics of days past in the Natural History Museum. I loved being surrounded by history; it's like being in the company of an old friend. In particular, going through the history of my magical kindred on this world. Today would be especially exciting as "The Dark Fey" exhibit I'd been waiting for had finally come to my city last week. I'd waited an extra week to avoid opening day crowds and now I'd actually be able to have a look at these artifacts in peace and take a measure of the old magics that were once there. Maybe I would even find some of my own culture's history. How exciting!

Swinging past my favorite little cafe on the way I bought myself a hot cup of coffee and a tasty croissant to munch on as I walked through the city, enjoying the crisp cool air of a perfect early autumn day.

It was mostly overcast with just enough sunlight peeking through to occasionally touch the skin and just a slight breeze tugging playfully at the crisp and golden leaves amids the bright green oak and elm trees. The cool scent of rain flavored the air, mixing with the city's own mixture of woodland, spice, and a robust meaty scent, promising some stormy weather in days to come.

The museum itself was only about two blocks away from Bean Cracker's, so it was a nice little stroll of a morning. Trees lined the streets, as was the norm with this part of the city. There were a large number of naturalists living here, both Fey and Human. So, many people called those trees home now. They hummed with the activity of any other apartment building, and you could hear their conversations all around you as chiming and chittering, which I'd always found quite relaxing. The sounds of my urban jungle.

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