PRELUDE – A WOMAN IN THE DARK
Mont Orgueil – Isle of Jersey
Darkness…A sanctuary and a living hell balanced in perfection. She discovered that it was devoid of both love and hate, while it soothed and terrified those caught within its deepest patches of shadow.
The cold and damp floor had become her constant companion for days, perhaps weeks. She was quite unsure how long it had truly been, for without the light of the sun, passage of time was indistinguishable.
She had killed a dozen rats that had wondered into her cell either scavenging for food or following the scent of her previously oozing wounds. This was something she knew and could hold on to, as the abyss of inner madness sought to cloud her mind. Each rodent had become an unwilling sacrifice in a dark ritual that helped to heal her injuries and kept her ebbing strength from leaving her body entirely.
She slowly chewed upon a cloth within her mouth, drawing out the bitter taste of blood and grime. This was her secret and her only chance for survival. It was a small square piece of a magical scarf known as the Bloodsilk. Once it had been part of a blood red flowing scarf, which had been her talisman and the reason her enemies had dubbed her Captain Grace Flynn, the Crimson Scarver.
Grace had been feared on both land and sea. Then after defeating an evil most foul, she was betrayed by her own allies and brought to this very prison to be hung by her enemies. Perhaps a fitting reward for a woman whom had killed so many without remorse and sometimes reason.
Her mind began to flash the faces of those who had brought her down. She smiled with madness.
“I killed Death and now he comes for me.” To any eavesdropper, the statement would have been the raving of a madwoman. Perhaps it was just that, Grace reasoned, and she let the past fade from her mind and shivered slightly as the chill in the air returned. Tears had long left her body and she could not bring forth anymore.
Grace’s life had been built upon violence and being a slave to a singular thought…revenge.
The dark creature that had taken all from her at such a young age had eluded her and now the sands of her life were running out, never to stand as a monument to her endless rage. She would never kill the beast that slew her family. She would however die upon the hangman’s noose. It was only a matter of time.
CHAPTER 1 – THE QUEEN’S REQUEST
Buckingham Palace, Westminster
“Her majesty awaits you in the Yellow Drawing Room.” The Queen’s guardsman held the palace door open for the stranger dressed in a long brown frock coat. The man eyed the guardsman from underneath his bowler hat and nodded in return. He entered the open door with an elegant stride and heard the door close behind him.
Once inside the man removed his bowler hat and straightened his brown hair by running his hand through it. A footman stood patiently before him as the guest continued to prepare for meeting the Queen. He removed his frock coat and handed it to the footman, along with his hat, the Queen’s servant took them both without any word.
“Has the Queen been waiting long?” The guest asked absently.
“I am sure the definition of a long wait would be different for Her Majesty; just know you did take some time to appear in response to her summons. She asked that I bring you to her the moment you arrived.” The footman said blankly.
“Well Paris is not exactly a hop, skip and jump, away is it? Well lead on then, I should not keep her majesty waiting any longer.” The guest commented.
The pair moved through the low-lit palace and its staff did not even stop their late-night duties to acknowledge the figures as they moved to their destination.
The footman moved at a brisk pace and the Queen’s guest had to keep his stride quick to keep up. The pair soon arrived at their endpoint and the footman turned to the man behind him. “I will announce you to Her Majesty please wait here.”
The man nodded in return and nonchalantly leaned against the wall in the hallway. He seemed not concerned that he was reclining in the opulent bowels of Buckingham palace. A passing maid snorted and shot her nose up in disdain at his apparent lack of respect. The man raised his eyebrows in mirth and heard the door to the room creak open. The footman stepped out into the hallway and gazed solemnly at the Queen’s guest.
“Her Majesty will see you now.” The footman eyed the Queen’s guest with a haughty glance.
“I am sure she will since I will be standing before her, unless her eyesight has degraded since our last encounter.” The man could not resist the quip since he found these royal mannerisms rather boring.
The footman’s only response was a wave of his hand indicating that the man should enter. The lavish yellow themed room spread before the man’s eyes. Only two figures were in the candle lit room. One was a nervous young chambermaid and the other Queen Victoria herself. Her Majesty was dressed in a rather plain dress considering her status and she paced in front of the low burning fireplace seemingly lost in her own thoughts.
The chamber maid purposely cleared her throat to alert the distracted Queen that her guest had entered.
“Are you sick child?” The Queen said suddenly.
“No, Your Majesty,” the maid said with a bow.
“Then don’t clear your throat like that on my behalf, I can see he has arrived. Now leave us.”
The chambermaid bowed once more and left eyeballing the man suspiciously.
“It would seem your staff is not pleased to see me your majesty,” Baron Daedalus informed his host.
“Spare me your observations of my staff Baron Daedalus; you know full well they are not pleased with you over that poltergeist incident.”
“I assure you, that monk needed to be dealt with and I am sure your staff did a fine job repairing that room after my encounter with him.”
“Yes, they did, and I cannot thank you enough for deposing of that horrid spirit. But I have not called you here to chat about past dealings.”
“I assumed that much.”
The Queen indicated a nearby sofa and proceeded to sit upon it at one end. Baron Daedalus bowed and sat on the opposite side. The pair sat in silence for a moment, Baron Daedalus could tell the Queen was gathering her thoughts as they passed in twitches of worry across her face.
“What troubles Her Majesty this night?”
“Have you heard of the Ripper?”
“Who in London has not, it has even hit the tongues in Paris as well.”
“Then perhaps you have also heard of theorized suspects?”
“If the list is limited to that mentioned in the daily times then I have.”
“It is not.” The Queen stated in a short tone.
“Then Your Majesty has information that I am not privy to, knowledge I am most likely about to acquire.”
Moments of silence once more passed between the pair and Baron Daedalus kindly allowed his host to impart her knowledge in a time and manner as she saw fit.
The Queen’s face edged with sorrow and Baron Daedalus saw her stern countenance quiver with inner thoughts. “My own grandson has been placed under scrutiny.”
“Prince Albert is an interesting fellow but no murderer.” Baron Daedalus pointed out.
“You do not know the depravity my grandson is capable of, and how much of the royal coffers have emptied to keep his indiscreet behavior from the public eye. Baron Daedalus, I know he is somehow connected to this appalling tragedy and I do not need public exposure of his involvement no matter how small it may be.”
“I understand your majesty.”
“Have you heard of a man named Montague Druitt?”
“Are you implying the Prince is slumming with a supernatural?”
“Then you know of this foul creature and yes the Prince has been spotted entertaining this man at places some men frequent who hold most unnatural desires.”
“The Prince’s odd sexual frolics even with a Veiler do not put him as suspect for the murder of prostitutes.”
“At first glance, you are correct. Yet I personally have had to deal with several extortion attempts by ladies of the night, claiming their bastards were the result of union with my grandson. I dread the thought that these young women of late have died in a most horrific manner to cover the sexual abuses of my grandson in anyway.”
Baron Daedalus gazed at a nearby painting of the Queen’s family painted many years before and stopped his eyes to rest upon the face of a young boy. The very boy whom they discussed in low voices, now grown into a man and gallivanting about London with a supernatural beast in some kind of hedonistic spree. “I now see your concern. This Druitt fellow does require further examination and I would also assume you want me to clear your grandson of these matters as well.”
“You have assumed correct. I called you because you are the only man, I know who can deal with these Veilers or creatures of nightmare.”
“Nightmares some may be but most live a life of simple existence.”
“Baron Daedalus, I appreciate your observation, but you would not be in such high demand if myth were not real.” The Queen said with a slight smirk.
“I too could be also classified as myth and I am quite real and always have been.” Baron Daedalus absently noted.
The Queen gazed upon her guest; a stern demeanor once more chiseled upon her face.
“Please do not dander about Baron Daedalus and help the Throne put this delicate matter to rest. You shall find all the appropriate staff at the Yard will not hinder you during this investigation. Also, my personal staff and transports are available for your use, during your investigation. If nothing else at least they might help you be on time in the future.”
Baron Daedalus stood and with a bow took his exit from the Queen’s counsel. “Good day, Your Majesty.”
Baron Daedalus walked over to the door opened it and then slightly turned back to his host. “Once I knew a young Princess who believed in magic and happy endings.”
“Happiness seems to be child’s play which has come to an end, now that I know how dangerous magic really can be.” The Queen said sadly.
“I will find out the truth, Victoria. If there is one thing your old professor knows how to seek, it is the truth.”
CHAPTER 2 – THE GOLD
Mont Orgueil – Isle of Jersey
Grace Flynn sat with her back against the cold stone walls, her mind drifting into a slight daydream. She could almost hear the waves of the ocean roar and smell the salty air. She would have remained in this blissful moment if not for the clang of iron keys being used to unlock her cell door.
Grace sighed and raised her head to see the door swing open. A pair of French guards entered the room. These particular men carried guns, something out of the ordinary, for all other guards carried only wooden staffs as to not give the prisoners access to guns. The pirate did not stand, she just gazed at the guards with an uninterested look.
Another man entered the small cell, which caused the guards to stand straighter out of respect or maybe fear. Grace knew this man to be Admiral Prideaux, the man who ran a prison for one prisoner. Grace could not help but leer slightly at this thought.
“I have come to see if starvation and isolation have finally loosened your tongue, freebooter.” Admiral Prideaux informed and continued. “My government is very interested in knowing the location of the wealth you have acquired from us.”
“You mean the ill-gotten gold.” Grace corrected.
“Regardless of its origin, you Flynn, have stolen something that does not belong to you. We simply wish its return, something that may stay your execution.”
“You’re magnificently dumb, to think I would return your blood money. I killed your navy for it fair and square.” Grace spat.
Admiral Prideaux removed his bicorne hat and stroked his dark hair. “This matter will come to resolution before I see your head separated from your shoulders, I assure you.”
“So be it.” Grace shrugged.