Gentleman, No More
There are a few places on Earth that seem to generate a field of energy from another dimension. To our eyes they seem to just simply be strange and intricate natural phenomena, yet if you open the right doors, you could easily find yourself glimpsing a wisp of light, floating about the hexagonal pillars of stone that make up the Giant’s Steps. Concentrate hard enough and you will be able to touch it. Touch it and you’ll rip the doors off their hinges, entering not only what is truly our world, but having the keys to reach others.
Sheridan was one of the few who touched the lights.
Sheridan was a boy born in 1854, in the manor of Iller, isolated in Northern Ireland. His father had been a gentleman for his whole life, and had enough money for the next generations to be gentlemen as well: the family was wealthy, yet frugal, a rare thing among the upper class. A rare, yet reasonable thing. Unfortunately, women dying in childbirth was not a rare thing, making Sheridan the only child to be raised by his father.
At the prime age of 22, in the year 1876, Sheridan stood at the Giant’s Steps, surrounded by the basalt pillars, whose dimensions ranged from rectangles to hexagonal pillars. His red hair was cut short, just above the shoulders, and his lean form stood confidently, clothed in a fine suit. He was silent, listening to the ocean’s waves that crashed against the columns, while the night’s clouds held off the rain they meant to pour onto the world below. The weather was certainly dreary enough to make the most pig-headed of individuals retreat into the plush warmth of the indoors. But not Sheridan: he had something to pursue.
With patience, Sheridan held out his hand for the lone light he had been watching for a few days now. It appeared to be a fleeting thing, appearing for less than an hour at a time when the outside appeared devoid of life. When he saw its blue glow, Sheridan had sprinted to the Giant’s Causeway, hoping that he wouldn’t be too late. Sheridan beckoned it to come, but did not approach it, as he feared that he may frighten it away like a skittish cat, forever denied the knowledge of what it may be. The light wisped around the area for several minutes, its blue glow making it easy to spot in the descending darkness. Then, it darted towards Sheridan, causing him to silently smile at its approach, holding back the delighted gasp he so badly wanted to unleash. The light hovered above his right hand, while his left hand clasped a noble cane. Then slowly, he raised his gloved hand to the light, wrapping his fingers around it.
At that moment, the world disappeared from his eyes in a blinding flash of blue, and when it dissipated, Sheridan found himself still standing on the Giant’s Steps, but they were not the ones he knew.
The sky was the first thing Sheridan noticed: the clouds had mysteriously vanished leaving it sparkling with stars. The small silver sliver of the moon had risen just above the horizon of a still ocean, its craters becoming stunningly visible. Entranced by the moon and stars, his mouth gaping a little as he stared upwards, Sheridan failed to notice the person standing in front of him.
“Greetings,” the person spoke in a soft woman’s voice, “I know it may be confusing for an otherworlder to enter our own, but that is precisely how Alternate Entity Control recruits its investigators.”
“Excuse me?” Sheridan burst, his grey eyes finally moving to look at the person in front of him. There, only a few feet away, stood a woman clothed in a yellow dress, whose skirt was scandalously short: not only did it reveal her ankles, but her knees as well! Sheridan`s eyes widened as he squeaked out a comment, “Miss? I believe that there may be something wrong with your garments…”
The woman glanced down at her dress, her golden curls bouncing off her shoulders, as she examined it, her amber eyes blinking in confusion, “I think you’re mistaken, besides we got much more import-”
“I do not mean to be rude, but that dress is much too short to be decent!” Sheridan interrupted, sounding exasperated, before getting a smack to the back of the head from the woman.
“It’s rude to interrupt! Now, can we get onto what would be most likely your existential crisis as you learn that you cannot return home!” the woman snapped, giving Sheridan a heated glare.
“I am…” Sheridan attempted to apologize, but choked on the woman’s last sentence. The thought hadn’t occurred to him: it could not! He was still standing on the Giant’s Steps, which was only a short walk from Iller manor, but the air felt entirely different, not to mention the drastic change in weather. “I have to be near home… how can I not return?” he blurted out, thinking that there had to be some lie or mistake.
“Well, it’s kind of a one-way street at the Giant’s Causeway. It’s for the Otherworld’s protection, I assure you,” the woman answered, smiling out of both relief and reassurance.
cannot possibly be right! I am where I was a few minutes ago!” Sheridan cried
out, his bottom lip quivering, “Witch…” he growled: it had to be the only
explanation! Blue lights and strange weather greeted by an indecent female! She
had to be a witch!
“Let’s not get into name-calling… there’s a very good reason why you’re here. Now, as I said the Alter-HEY!” Sheridan had attempted to attack the woman with his cane, just for the woman to punch him in the gut, causing Sheridan to lose his breath. Sheridan gasped and tumbled to the strange rocks beneath him. “Can’t you just listen without insulting me?” the woman burst, “I had to go through the same thing a couple hundred years ago, but by no means did I attack the person trying to help!”
“Then why am I here?” Sheridan spat out, rising to his feet.
“You had the skills to open the right door and those were just the skills our unit needed,” the woman answered, her eyes staring sternly at him, “I am Elvire Belle and I would advise you’d remember it: we’ll be working together for the next century.”
Then Sheridan made another failed attack on Elvire, which also ended with what one would call a “nice old-fashioned ass-kicking.”
Sheridan rubbed his bruised face as he walked alongside Elvire, his cane now having an application beyond its aesthetic value. Elvire spoke as Sheridan brooded silently, staring at the ground: he had never had acted so embarrassingly improper since he was a child. “You’ve entered what we call the Interworld: a plane of existence that sits between the Otherworld and the Endworld. The Endworld is the realm of the dead, while the Otherworld, our birthplace, is the realm of the living. As you can probably guess, the Interworld is the realm of the undead: aging does not occur but death is still possible. Now this is where you come in, entities from the Endworld, both good and bad can travel between the Endworld and the Interworld as they please, most doing nothing horrible, but a few can wreak havoc. In order to suitably contain these entities we need those with suitable investigation skills, which Otherworlders who have crossed into our domain seem to have,” Elvire explained, enjoying Sheridan’s silence for a bit.
“I believe you are mistaken. I am a wealthy gentleman of the Iller family. I do not need to work,” Sheridan finally muttered, his eyes still staring at the ground as he sulked, his footsteps soft as they stepped onto the muddy earth and grass, in tune with Elvire’s feet.
“Not here,” Elvire answered, “Besides, you came here on your own terms, although unknowingly,” she said confidently, her head tilted upwards to admire the starry sky above, her eyes reflecting the fiery lights from a nearby settlement.
“Excuse me? I did not! How dare you accuse me of being a bumbling fool!” Sheridan suddenly shouted, shooting his stormy glare at Elvire once more, snapping back to angry disbelief, his nostrils flaring, taking in the scent of roses, although none of the plants seemed to lurk nearby.
“That’s not what I’m accusing you of: bumbling fools always remain in the Otherworld. You spent enough time observing and reading about the lights to know that they’re called Will-o’-Wisps. You knew the rumours and how the consequences could be so much worse than this. Yet, you still learned to get them to come to you,” Elvire said with a smirk, glancing at the now sheepish Sheridan, whose anger had been washed away by both shock and truth.
“How… did you know?” Sheridan whispered.
“I did the exact same thing,” Elvire responded, and this time she was the one to look away.
The wooden door of an old tavern creaked open, and Elvire and Sheridan entered, their boots clacking on the oak floors. A piano sat against the wall, and there sat a child who played a light melody that was familiar to Sheridan’s ears, yet he could not place a name to the song. In the center of the tavern, there was a round fireplace, its metal ventilation system raising through the roof. Inside its bowl, purple flames danced around, sending a couple sparks in the air. The fireplace was surrounded by the bar, which was not circular, but rectangular and behind it, there stood a red-haired woman, in her early thirties. She wore a simple green dress, adorned with red ribbons, which accented the thick locks of hair that ran down to her waist. The woman had a hardened look, which sneered at Elvire, “You again? I thought I would get someone better this time. And who’s the bruised one? A greenhorn?” she snapped.
“Dina, we’re here to help,” Elvire spoke up, puffing out her chest, “And yes, Sheridan here is being trained. As your bar is a commonplace for dangerous entities, it is the perfect training ground,” she elaborated, making steady eye contact with Dina.
“I don’t need you in here. Always going after the slightest chill. How they promote you is beyond me,” Dina rebutted, placing her creamy hands onto the bar.
“Do you want those murders to stop? By the looks of things business is slow,” Elvire responded with a smirk.
“Do what you will,” Dina answered with a roll of her icy blue eyes.
Sheridan watched the conversation warily, unsure of what to do. Only a few minutes earlier had Elvire bothered to inform him of what exactly they would be doing on this investigation, a case that had to do with a morbid set of murders the first being of a child. Sheridan had shuddered in the doorway, hardly able to believe someone would kill something so young, until Elvire pointed out that the child was in fact 412 years old. Sheridan still felt sickened about it, but much less so after learning this piece of information.
“May I talk to the rude woman?” Sheridan murmured quietly to Elvire, glancing in Dina’s direction.
“Go ahead,” Elvire shrugged, “I would give you some pointers, but I don’t have any when it comes to Dina.”
Sheridan nodded, before approaching Dina, holding his head high and making his cane as noticeable as possible. He was a gentleman and this petty wench ought to see that. Dina would be the lowest of the low to disrespect his authority. Sheridan stopped in front of Dina and cleared his throat, which was ignored. Sheridan cleared his throat again, except a little louder, yet Dina had been too busy cleaning an already spotless wine glass to notice. Sheridan cleared his throat and failed to get noticed for a third time, before speaking up himself, “Excuse me, but I require information.”
“And a cough drop. What the hell do you want, greenhorn?” Dina scoffed, not bothering to look at Sheridan.
“I would rather not be called ‘greenhorn.’ If you wish to call me something, Sir Iller would be the proper term,” Sheridan sniffed, raising his chin in the air, not approving of the term.
“Ha! I thought you wanted info, you pretentious prick,” Dina laughed, “Instead, you need to get that cane out of your ass.”
“I do need information!” Sheridan sputtered, “I just rather not be called greenhorn or prick!” he snapped, crossing his arms.
“You don’t rule me, ‘Sir,’” Dina mocked, shaking her head.
“I require the information regarding the locations of the bodies of the deceased,” Sheridan said firmly.
“They’ve been sent to incineration, greenhorn,” Dina answered briefly in a mocking tone, picking up yet another spotless glass to clean. Sheridan just sighed and decided to not bother with thanking Dina.
Sheridan went back to talk to Elvire, who appeared to be wandering around the room, her hands out in front of her and her eyes closed. Elvire’s pale fingers occasionally twitched, followed by Elvire changing direction as if she was being pulled along on a string. Sheridan raised an eyebrow, befuddled by Elvire’s movements. Slowly, Sheridan reached out a hand to tap Elvire’s shoulder, “Miss Belle?” he whispered softly.
“Whoa!” Elvire exclaimed, her shoulders tensing as she spun around on her heels to face Sheridan, “Oh… sorry about that!” Elvire laughed, relaxing with relief.
“May we go to a place called ‘Incineration’?” Sheridan asked, glancing towards Dina, “I would like to examine the bodies.”
“No,” Elvire answered simply and even a little coldly, as if the very question was taboo.
“Well, is there a good reason not to?” Sheridan questioned further, frowning, both hands on the top of his cane.
“It’s trespassing. All bodies are sent to the Incineration Pier to be sent out to the sea on burning boats. No one is allowed to see the bodies, except for Charon,” Elvire responded, a little less icy this time.
“May I talk to Charon?”
“Nah, he’s already backlogged. He cannot and will not talk to anyone,” Elvire responded with a sigh.
“Is there anyone who has actually seen the bodies that I can talk to?” Sheridan muttered, gritting his teeth with frustration. Everything seemed so backwards in this place. Maybe it did need him after all…
“I can ring up my superior if you like,” Elvire said with a shrug, pulling out a mysterious metal box with a metal rod sticking out of it. There were some dotted holes in a circular indent on it, as well as a couple buttons made of plastic. Elvire pressed one of the buttons and the sound of static came out. “Hey Jasper, it’s Elvire Belle. Can you bring up our case file and give a name of one of the witnesses?” she spoke loudly into the device, before letting go of the button. Sheridan eyed the thing curiously, but kept silent, waiting for what would happen next.
The static came through again, this time without Elvire doing anything, and a male voice spoke out, “Yeah… uhm… we got a Brenda… Duelle… living at 3.141569, Llyfrgell Street…” the voice answered, before cutting out in a burst of static.
“Alright, you heard the man, let’s go,” Elvire chirped, grabbing Sheridan’s arm and dragging him out of the tavern.
“Don’t come back!” Dina hollered after them, waving a clean rag.
Books of various colours lined the wooden shelves, as curved windows magnified the moonlight, allowing the circular room to be fully lit without the aid of torches nor electricity. The floor was made of wood of several kinds that interlocked in strange circular mazes. The walls themselves were made of clay, painted white and red, their edges decorated with the same pattern as the floor. Two simplistic chairs sat at one side of the room, sharing a small table made of the same wood as the bookshelves. In those chairs, sat Elvire and Sheridan, awaiting their host: Brenda Duelle.
Footsteps were heard walking towards the room, and entered a woman carrying a tray of tea. She had raven black hair tied loosely in a bun with several strands falling out, wore a baggy, black shirt and a simple pair of trousers. Yet, Brenda had crimson lips and a sharp gaze that seemed to pierce the silence naturally. On her left arm, she wore a vambrace that was anything but simple with its adornments of several different jewels, including emerald, sapphire and topaz. Sheathed at her hip was a well-made rapier. She approached the table standing between Elvire and Sheridan, and gently put the tray down, the teacups clinking a little in their descent.
“This is certainly odd,” Brenda spoke in a light voice, picking up the teapot and pouring the tea into the teacups, her brown eyes looking thoughtfully at both Elvire and Sheridan, “I didn’t think the AEC interviewed people.”
“It was the new recruit’s idea,” Elvire answered with a shrug, glancing at Sheridan, who had already picked up his teacup.
“Oh?” Brenda replied, while raising an eyebrow at Sheridan, expecting him to speak.
Sheridan took a sip of tea, making sure to keep a straight face as the scorching hot liquid burned his tongue, then spoke, “Yes, according to our sources, you were the one to discover one of the bodies, were you not?” he asked, making sure to keep a steady gaze at Brenda.
“Yes, I was visiting Dina, when I noticed something strange on the doorstep,” Brenda replied calmly, putting the teapot down and standing upright before them, “There were bones scattered about, and a skull lying in the garden.”
Elvire suddenly gasped, nearly dropping her teacup, before shooting her hands out to catch it, grasping it before a drop of tea could escape. “I know what it is,” she muttered softly, gazing at the ground, “And I pity it.”
“Miss Belle! That was incredibly rude of you to leave so abruptly!” Sheridan shouted as he ran up to Elvire from behind. He couldn’t believe how rude Elvire had been, just saying that she had to go, leaving perfectly good tea to go cold. Why Sheridan ought to give her a good scolding!
“There’s no time for formalities,” Elivre grunted, her fists clenched, as her arms swayed with her quick pace.
“No time? What is it that is so important that there is no time? We know nothing!” Sheridan sputtered.
“It’s a caro,” Elvire answered, beginning to break out in a light jog, “It was born here, created by some twisted person….” she said as she began increasing her pace, to which Sheridan had attempted to match but had difficulty doing so. Elvire glanced back, then tossed something towards Sheridan, which caused him to stop in surprise. The object would have easily landed in his arms, if Sheridan kept running, but instead it bounced off of the gravel once, then began sliding, coming to a stop several meters away. Sheridan made his way over to the thing, and picked it up: it was the metal box that Elvire had spoken into at the tavern.
“TELL JASPER WHAT’S GOING ON!” Elvire hollered as she sped towards in the direction of the tavern, her feet crunching lightly on the gravel.
Sheridan stared at it, furrowing his brow: Elvire may not have the time for formalities, but formalities would certainly save some. Sheridan sighed, but smirked a little, glad to have watched Elvire operate the metal box earlier that perpetual night. Slowly, his thumb moved to the plastic button, then pressed it down, letting the box emit the buzzing sound of static. Then, he brought it to his mouth and spoke, “Excuse me, is there a Jasper that I may speak to?”
“Yeah… make it quick… uhh.... someone else might need the line….” Jasper’s voice crackled from the metal box.
“Miss Belle had told me to inform you of the situation. The entity that we are looking for is called a caro, sir,” Sheridan spoke almost robotically into the metal box, before letting go of the button to await a response.
“Holy shit! I’ll be right over!” Jasper yelled back, his voice sounding a little distorted, “You better stick with her!” then the static cut out, leaving the box to be silent.
Sheridan stood there, frowning: he hadn’t the slightest clue of what a caro was beyond it being an entity. Yet the way that Elvire seemed to hurry and the superior’s reaction to the information obviously meant that it was quite dangerous. Sheridan dropped the metal box, the thing landing onto the ground with a slight clunk. The whole time they had been investigating, Sheridan did not think that his own life would be in danger, his thoughts were focused on where he was and where he wasn’t. Sheridan’s hands began to shake a little: if it was dangerous for someone as strong as Elvire, it would be even more threatening for him.
No! Sheridan clenched his hands, before unclenching them. Sheridan knelt down and picked up the metal box, his left hand letting go of her cane. It didn’t matter. There were more pressing things to attend to at the moment. A lost cane was nothing more than a triviality. Then, Sheridan began sprinting towards where he thought the tavern was.
His feet beat on the gravel as he jogged, then skidded when he halted several meters away from the tavern, letting out a gasp. In front of Sheridan, the tavern appeared to have had one of its sides shaved cleanly off, while piles of bricks lay scattered about. In one of the mounds, a window frame that had been painted white stuck out like a flag, its glass still sitting inside, but cracked in several places. Floating right beside the mound was a transparent figure of a naked woman, her ghostly hair writhing in the air in white tendrils. Her body, although transparent, seemed to be made of frost, while her eyes resembled ice. Elvire was standing about a half a meter below and a half a meter away from the figure, her hands moving about anxiously while she conversed with it.
Suddenly, a deafening cracking sound was heard right beside Sheridan, followed by a flash of green light. A tall man wearing a black and grey striped sweater stumbled into existence beside him, his black hair cut short and combed to the side, while his stubble made his full lips more apparent. He blinked for a few seconds, fumbling with a blue book, before looking at a confused Sheridan, giving a small smile.
“Hi… I’m Jasper, just Jasper…” he spoke in a clearer version of the voice from the metal box, “You must be… uhhh… er…”
“I am Sheridan Iller, pleasure to meet you, sir,” Sheridan squeaked out, his head turning to Jasper, but his eyes still glancing at Elvire and the caro, “What is Miss Belle doing over there?” he asked him a little nervously.
“Ah! I believe she’s negotiating with the caro!” Jasper answered with a smile.
“Mister Jasper,” Sheridan inquired, looking up at him, “I seem to be in the dark about what exactly a caro is…”
“Didn’t Elivre tell you? Wait… she wouldn’t… well… you see a caro is a special entity… that is created here….” He explained, “Under very specific circumstance with… uhhh… someone sacrificed… anyways, it’s an incomplete being that needs to consume the flesh of the living to exist… and that is why they’re presences is always marked by a string of strange deaths… we usually take them in and they become… um… executioners...”
“We are supposed to give that thing a career?” Sheridan sputtered with a gasp, his eyes widening as he stared at the caro, “Should it not be punished for the atrocities it has committed?”
“Well… would you want to be punished for eating… meat?” Jasper responded, his eyes glancing worriedly at Elvire.
“Preposterous! I need sustenance to-oh my…” Sheridan began to protest, when the realization hit him, causing him to put a hand on his mouth.
“Yes… caros are… tragic… forced into existence just to kill…” Jasper sighed, grinding his teeth together, “Whoever made her shall receive what they have given…” he muttered as Elvire turned her head to look at them, waving her thumb in the air, before walking, the caro floating behind her, “Ah! Looks like we’re good to go…” Jasper adds brightly.
“Jasper! You made it!” Elvire greets, grinning fairly wide, “This is Kirsi,” she says, waving a hand to introduce the caro.
“Hello…” Kirsi spoke without opening her mouth, a monotone voice appearing to have come from nowhere, “I am sorry for the trouble…” she continues, devoid of expression, “I fear to not exist, but to exist I must make others not exist… I am sorry for the trouble… I am greedy, for if I did not exist more would exist… I am sorry for the trouble….”
“You got nothing… I repeat, nothing… to be sorry about… it’s your… er… parent… that is to blame…” Jasper countered, looking to Elvire, then to Sheridan, “Now… I’ll leave Elvire and... uhm… Iller… to find the perpetrator…” he continued with a nod and smile, before opening his book and flipping through the pages for a few minutes. Eventually, he stopped at a page and traced the lines with his fingers, exclaiming, “Ah! Here we go! Bear with me…Trabes in me… duo… caro et I… Curabitur Montgomery…” Jasper chanted, then repeated until there was a cracking sound and a bright flash of green, much like the ones that brought him there, came into existence, obscuring sound and sight momentarily. When it had dissipated, Jasper and Kirsi had vanished, leaving Elvire and Sheridan alone.
“Kirsi didn’t give me much to go on, except that her ‘mother’ was short. Anyways, we’re not finished until we find the short mother, but good work,” Elvire murmured warmly.
“Thank you, Miss Belle,” Sheridan reciprocated, although he had a feeling of immense confusion, not knowing what exactly went on to destroy an entire wall of the tavern. Dina would probably be incredibly displeased, but they did halt the lawless murders: legal ones would now take their place.
Sheridan turned his head to the tavern and took off his gloves, rubbing his hands together, “Well,” he spoke confidently, “We still have work to do.”
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