Eastern region of Carpathia, year 1819
A figure hid in the shadows high above the city. Autumn was in full swing as a chilly wind swept through the streets below. As the leaves danced along the cobblestones, the usual smog and steam of Fulbeck Hollow was swept away with them. High above the rustle of coaches and rabble from the nearest tavern, a darkened figure walked to the ledge of a stone building. In the distance, the gas lamps of the street lights began to flicker to life as the sun sank further behind the distant mountains of Howler's Ridge. Michael, a descendant of The Fallen, Legacy member of the Shadow Society, and son of the great hunter Rohan, stepped free of the shadows as he studied the mountain ridge that resembled a sleeping Night Howler, and the dark forests beyond it. From this height, he could see for miles and had a decent vantage point of the streets and occupants directly below him. They were none the wiser of his presence,, as he leaned against the high ledge. Checking the time on the silver pocket watch his grandfather had passed down to him after he passed the his trials, Michael grew impatient. It came as no surprise to him that Dorian, fellow legacy member, fallen descendant, and son of the great hunter Lucas, was late. The hunter normally found himself caught up in matters of the sinful variety on slower nights, and tonight was one of those nights.
The beings of the Underworld had been keeping their activities on the down low as of late, and this smash and grab job The Society assigned them to was laughably simple for hunters of their calibur. Michael decided to wait in the agreed upon meeting place for another fifteen minutes before getting the job done without him. Afterwards, he would head over to Pandora's Tavern to find his missing partner. Dorian was overdue for a crack to the jaw anyway. His colleague had become reckless with his extracurriculars and there was no doubt that at this very moment he was there indulging himself in his preferred activities... instead of doing his job. The cesspool of a tavern, glamoured away from the prying eyes of mortals, was known for accepting anyone and everyone of all species. Along with whatever their particular...appetites might have been. There was always something for everyone at Pandora's Box. At least that was the saying in their world. The downtrodden and lowliest of all species liked to congregate there, and in Michael's opinion, the place was a real dump. But the same could be said about the sleepy, secluded township it was located in. Fulbeck's Hollow was like any other town on the Eastern edge of Carpathia, it was crawling with the scourge of the Underworld. Unbeknownst to its occupants, demons, vampires, werewolves, fey, you name it, walked among them in the shadows. You name it, they were infested with it. The infestation was the worst on this side of Howler's Ridge and demanded a larger number of hunters that patroled from the Northern territories to the smaller outposts in the south. The concentration had happened in recent months, and it was up to The Society to find out why.
Michael was currently positioned on a rooftop adjacent from Blackwood's Apothecary and Oddities, the target of his mission. The Shadow Society had gained information that the shop, once thought to be a harmless place for attaining medicinal and homeopathic remedies, along with harmless trinkets, was currently in possession of an object that drew the attention of The Sect, a demon worshipping cult that drew power by a three headed serpent entity by the name of Apephus. Their members had been seen slithering in and around the area for some time, triggering an investigation NY Micahel and his fellow hunters. After an eventful altercation between The Society chapter leader and a low ranking member of The Sect, the metaphorical beans had been spilled when Henry, son of Rhuebus, dangled said member by his blood red robes a top the clock tower in the main sqaure. As a result, the poor bastard gave up the intel on a dark object The Sect's High Priest was in desperate need of. For weeks Michael and his brothers had combed the underbelly of the surrounding area in search of the object's location and were eventually lead here.
Before leaving the Sanctuary tonight, Henry had insisted on sending Edwin, The Society's best marksman, to assist Michael and Dorian with entering the establishment to search and question it's owner without raising any alarm. The dark object was rumored to be tied to ritualistic sacrifices in the outlying village of Silentwood. A dreary little place that was now being terrorized by a dark presence, and series of missing women, the Society was currently investigating and trying to keep underwraps.
"You know he's not going to show for sometime. Dorian is an asset, but his insatiable appetite for Fey women and Underworld substances makes him unreliable. He'll show up when he's good and ready, if at all. We should just do this without him." Edwin's voice carried over from the alcove adorned with gargoyles that he had been occupying. His sandy blond hair and green eyes that reminded Michael of sea glass, were barely visible as he shifted his weight and recrossed his arms over his leather harness of various weapons. Unlike his bored expression. That was plain as day. Michael exhaled in exasperation, "I know. We should go get him afterwards, though. Henry will have his head if he finds out he was neglecting his duties again." Michael replied through tight lips.
"As he rightfully should." Edwin countered, "I honestly don't understand why he hasn't been excommunicated already." He huffed.
"You know why he hasn't." Michael shot back. Returning his eyes to the apothecary, he ran his hand through his dark hair. In the dim lights of the gas lamps, his brown eyes looked like warm toffee, but his expression was anything but. He loved his fellow hunter like a brother, but man could the guy be a pain in the ass.
Ms. Olivia 'Liv' Pierson was wrapping things up at Blackwood's Apothecary and Oddities. The numbers of the closing tallies and inventory of the day were beginning to blur together as she listened to the slow drizzle of rain that had started moments ago. The splatter on the window panes of the drafty shop had broken her concentration and she was now aware of the pain that had started pounding along the side of her head. There was a dull ache in her back and shoulders and she suddenly wished she could rip her corset off right here and now, but that would be indecent. Poor Mr. Blackwood would surely be in for the shock of his life had he wandered upon her that state. She would give the poor old man a heart attack. However, the way the bone ribbing was digging into her side, Liv was tempted to throw caution to the wind entirely and take that chance. Besides, he was most likely knee deep in a bottle of whiskey by now. It would explain why she was stuck closing up the shop for the fourth time this week, anyway. Unabme to concentrate anymore,, Liv realized it was time to call it a night and leave this for the morning. If she came in early, she could still have everything ready for the coming business day before it was time to reopen. Mr. Blackwood would surely be nursing his hangover, anyway. She could probably open an hour late and he wouldn't even notice. After collecting her things, Liv undid the ribbon in her mahogany hair, letting the waves tumble down her back, and discarded her apron.
The Apothecary was located just off the main square of this bustling and ever growing town. The air inside was always musty and thick with the smell of the various ingredients of the potions and tonics Mr. Blackwood made and sold to the citizens of Fulbeck. He carried everything from cold remedies and bandages, to silver nitrate for Night Howlers, and garlic capsules for warding off the vampires that were rumored to be occupying the Blood Stone Forest. There were bottles of powdered plants and bone from various animals, all serving a purpose for this potion or that potion. Liv approved of the tonics for medical purposes, but the rest was all a bunch of superstitious nonsense in her opinion. Her sentiments were the same towards the collection of creepy objects around the place, as well. Crucifixes and silver bullets adorned shelves alongside the most random of objects; A diadem that was said to bring the wearer knowledge. An enchanted quill and parchment set that would bring anyone who used them the ability to write a masterpiece. A mirror that was said to be a portal to another realm, a doll that was said to be haunted, on and on it went. The silliest thing was an armchair that was believed to have belonged to a Mr. Foxworth Featherbottom who became rich just by sitting his not-so-feather-light bottom in the thing while he did business. He apparently believed so deeply that the chair brought him such fortune in his business adventures, he hired someone to haul the ugly thing all over Carpathia for him. It was all very ridiculous, but lately the inhabitants of Fulbeck's Hollow were all too eager to purchase these strange and unusual things. Especially the crucifixes and silver bullets.
They really were a superstitious and gullible lot. One howl from a wolf in the forest on a full moon and they went running to their beds to throw their covers over their heads. The stories ran rampant through the streets during market hours, further fanning the flames of nonsense. 'Did you hear of the Butcher's boy? Poor thing came down with a case of pox! He must have been hexed by a witch! I bet he ran into one playing in the quarry at the edge of the forest! The poor thing can't remember a thing! And Mrs. Smith? Seems she was visited by an incubus in the night! She fell pregnant and her husband has no idea how! He was sterilized after a ghastly fever when he was only eight years old!' Right. Like there were no perfectly reasonable explanations for all of those things. Was it a witch's hex? Or did the little boy contract a case of chickenpox from one of his friends? Was Mrs. Smith impregnated by an incubus or was it the courier who visited her home even when he had no parcels or letters to deliver? It was rubbish, all of it. In fact, the only reason she worked in this shop at all was due to the fact that she desperately needed a job after she aged out of the orphanage on her eighteenth birthday.
Madame Beaufort's Home for Orphaned Children was your typical place for homeless youth. Eliza Beaufort was kind, and she made due with what little the governor had thrown her way to keep them all fed and clothed, but when there was little to give, that meant you must be prepared to leave as soon as you turned of age. It wounded the Madame deeply, it really did, but she had to make room for the next lost soul who needed her attention. Jobs were so few and far in between in this time that one had to take whatever they could find, or work in the mines. Which is why Liv ended up here working for strange old man. Poor Mr. William Blackwood had lost his son and his wife in a terrible fire and had no one to help run the shop anymore. Not only did he need help, but he needed someone to look after him, and Liv was in desperate need of income. It just seemed like a perfect fit when she was pointed in his direction. In reality, Liv had just felt sorry for the man. He spent his days and nights chasing his pain away with meade and whiskey. Drowning himself in pain, his business had fallen to the wayside along with his earnings. He had needed someone to look out for him, like Liv had needed someone to look out for her in her darkest of times. The sympathy she felt for him is what kept her here, despite her loathing of the place, five years later. He had become sort of like a father to her and leaving him now made her feel guilty.
Lost in her thoughts, Liv dug through her pockets for the skeleton key to lock up the place, while thinking of a nice hot cup of beef stew from Theodore's market stand at the edge of the square. If she hurried, she could probably catch him before he packed up for the night and headed home. Now that she wasn't focusing on her work, she realised she was ravenously hungry, and the rain would surely bring a chill to her bones. What a night to forget her parasol at home. She would surely be drenched by the time she made it to her little apartment a top the fabric shop.
The sound of footsteps on the cobblestones right outside the shop snapped Liv out of her thoughts of a full belly. She instinctively ducked to the side and peered out of the shop's front window as two men in black over coats and trousers passed directly in front of the window. The sound of their heavy boots came to rest right outside her exit and Liv craned her neck to get a better look at the two strangers. She had seen just about every face in this town, but had no idea who they were as they spoke in hushed, urgent voices. The baritone and bass were barely audible through the heavy wooden door, and she couldn't quite make out what they were saying. When the one furthest from the door walked under the soft glow of the gas lamps, and let down his black hood, Liv gasped.
His skin was golden like he had been kissed by the sun. His dark eyes matched the dark hair that was cut very short on the side and flopped over on the top of his head. When he turned to face her direction, the glint from the silver piercings that traveled up his left ear caught her eye...along with the hard cut line of his jaw and the definition of his cheekbones. He was tall. Heavily armed with weapons that ranged from mechanical looking guns, to oddly shaped blades that were strapped to him with a leather harness across his broad chest and shoulders. He was at least six foot four and breathtakingly handsome even though his expression was serious and harsh. The way he moved reminded her of a predator on the prowl, searching for his next kill. His companion with a length of blond hair protruding from his hood, was also tall and very muscled, but not as much as Mr. Dark and Brooding. The crossbow and musket strapped to the comoanions back was a menacing presence that told one he knew how to use them, and use them well.
Liv took and deep breath before she turned the lock and slid the key out of the door as quietly as possible. "Did you hear that?" One of the men hissed as the handle to the door was rattled. "It sounded like someone just locked us out. Looks like somebody is home after all." The other grumbled as Liv's heart sank and then jumped in her throat when Mr. Broody slammed his fist on the oak door. "That's it. Break the thing down because that's how we do this quickly and quietly without raising alarm." The blond said in a bored tone. "We've obviously been seen already. We might as well get to work. It's not like we can't take care of it." Take care of it? And how would they take care of her? Were they going to rob the place? She saw no red sashes signifying the were the bandits that plagued the roads in and out of town.
All the black, all the weapons. What if they were mercenaries hired by Mr. Blackwood's bookie? Had his habit of gambling away the shop's earnings finally caught up with him? Liv placed her hand over her mouth to keep a gasp from leaving her lips again. These men were after something, but what could that possibly be? She wondered. Liv knew she needed to get out of there before they found her and did god only knew what to her. She backed away and headed for the back of the shop.. There was a back entrance in the stockroom, but she would have to pass in front of the window and surely be seen by these mysterious men. Liv took a few deep breaths to calm herself and pulled up the hem of her skirts, pulling a dagger from her boot. Feeling grateful for the fact that she had bought the thing from the blacksmith, despite his disapproval of a woman arming herslef, she breathed a sigh of relief when she closed her hand around the handle.
"The lock will be quick work." Edwin mused to himself as he pulled out the latest gadget given to him by Artemis, the Society's resident mad scientist. Michael paced up and down the walkway, his eyes bouncing around to various points along the street as he kept a lookout. "I can't imagine it's that hard to pick a lock. I don't see what was so inadequate about a traditional pick." He drawled, leaning against the lamp post with a skeptical expression. He watched as Edwin wound up the contraption of cogs and gears and placed it over top of the lock. "I probably could have done this myself." He added in a bored tone. "Ah, yes Michael. I'm aware you prefer to be the lone wolf while you are patroling...'' Edwin replied, pausing to concentrate on the rhythm of clicking, "However, need I remind you of the time that I rescued you from that witch and her devious plot to peel your skin off and make a purse after she got you drunk off fey wine?" Edwin quipped as he pulled the device from the lock and the door swung open.
"Hey, I knew what she was up to..."
"You absolutely did not. By the time I arrived you were singing the bard tune about the giant who lived in the Whistling Hills..."
"That's a good tune..."
"And stripping yourself in a seductive manner in an attempt to bed her." Edwin finished with a judgemental glance over his shoulder.
"She was pretty for a hag." Michael laughed and ran his hands through his hair. "Anyway, we have a job to do, old friend." He gestured to the door.
"That we do." Edwin replied peering into the space before setting a heavy boot down over the threshold. Both hunters fell quiet as they entered the space and looked around. The place was as expected and looked as all apothecaries did. However the medicinal products were not what they were here for. "I don't see or hear anyone." Edwin mused, examining a stuffed raven that was perched on top of a deer skull, as Michael headed towards an armoire of barbaric looking metal objects. Michael looked around with a skeptical glance. He wasn't quite sure he felt that they were totally alone. The shop's owner, after being heavily questioned, was currently knocked out in his apartment upstairs thanks to him. But Michael knew what he heard. Someone slid the lock on the door into place right as they showed up, and there was a chance they hadn't been seen and whoever it was left through the back door, but he wasn't taking that chance. He continued to look around cautiously as he searched for the object in question. Whatever the devil it was.
Nothing here was giving off any dark vibes, though. The seraph stone in his pocket had remained silent and motionless as he walked about. If there was any dark presence in this place, it would have detected it and warned him. But there was nothing. As far as he could tell, all of this pish posh of 'magical artifacts' was just a collection of worthless junk. "Do mortals actually think all this hocus pocus works? Has no one told them that garlic does absolutely nothing when they're face to face with the damned?" he asked, picking up a necklace made of garlic cloves. "They're really just seasoning themselves." he sighed with a hint of irritation. "Come now, Michael. You know they only have the fables their mummies spin to them before bed time." Edwin replied, searching a chest of gyspy scarves. "You'd think they'd get something right eventually though. Most of the stories are based in some kind of truth." he added snapping the chest closed.
"My stone isn't picking anything up." Michael replied. "What exactly is this device supposed to be?" Edwin asked, moving towards the back of the shop. "According to the source, a vessel of some sort. What said vessel is supposed to contain we have no idea. However, the fact that The Sect has some kind of interest in it, is a cause for concern." Michael replied as he followed. Edwin nodded in agreement, but the crash from the stockroom in the back cut off his reply. "I thought you said you took care of the shopkeeper?" He snapped. "I did. I gave him enough of Artemis' knockout tonic to take down a horse. He should be out for hours."
"Obviously you did not give him enough..."
"The old drunk guzzled an entire bottle of whiskey after I slipped it to him. He shouldn't even be able to stand." Michael called back as he headed through the threshold into the stockroom. "So you've killed the man..."
"He's fine. Artemis's tonic will make him forget the next fews hours or so once he comes out of the fog it put him in." Michael replied, pushing open the door. "You trust his little tonics?" Edwin asked, removing his crossbow from his back. "He hasn't failed us yet, and need I remind you that you used one of his devices to get us in here. He's just as picky about his tonics." Michael shot back. "And besides, an overweight old drunk is just collateral damage in the grand scheme of things anyway. The poor idiot falls asleep on the job all the time. And you know Artemis tests his tonics out on himself first. Old Blackwood will be fine."
"If you say so..." Edwin shrugged before knocking an arrow in place.
After a quick look around the stockroom, Michael looked up and down the darkened pathway that was made of boxes and random objects, and caught a glimpse of a woman making a mad dash through the back door. Wasting no time, the two hunters hastily followed her, afraid of what she had possibly seen, or heard. As Michael burst through the door, he looked down the littered alley as the woman looked back at him. Her hair swinging wildly with her head and dark green dress as she stared back at him with frightened eyes. She was absolutely terrified, as she rightfully should have been. For all this woman knew Michael and Edwin were highway bandits that were about to do god only knows what with her. Unfortunately for Liv, they would have to take care of this, of her. "Wait! Stop!" Michael yelled when the woman broke his gaze and hightailed it down the alley. "Fucking great." He cursed as he dug into his haunches and took off. "You are not about to do what I think you are. Just let her go. We've done what we came here to do." Edwin hissed. "I am about to do what you think I am and no, I will not just let her go. What if she saw or heard something? Stop fussing at me and complete the search, will you? Then go back and make sure the old man isn't dead." Michael yelled before rounding the corner and dodging out of sight before Edwin could protest any further.
It took no time for the trained hunter to catch up to the woman. His arm shot out and grabbed hers. Swinging her around to face him. For a moment she was stunned into speechlessness as the massive figure that was drenched in weapons towered over her, and then unleashed a blood curdling scream that seemed to echo about the streets and rattle his bones. Before she could plant the dagger that was in her hands between his eyes, Michael grabbed the thing from her grip with ease. After tossing the thing to the side he clasped a hand over her mouth. "Quiet." Michael said, firmly tightening his grip on her arm. "I'm going to remove my hand, and you are not going to make a sound. Do you understand?" His eyes narrowed at her as Liv nodded her head. After a stern look he added, "I'm serious. Not a sound." before removing his hand. "Help!---" Michael reacted with lightning speed, clamping his hand back down on the woman's mouth as she struggled against his hold. "I will shove a gag in your mouth and bind your hands, lady." He hissed. Wrenching her arm free, Liv shoved her hands into his chest and made to dash down the street. The hunter reacted with a bored expression as he swiftly yanked her back to him, wrapping both his arms around him. "I don't want to hurt you." He said in her ear, "We are looking for something your employer has." Liv stilled as she craned her head around and looked into the set of his soft brown eyes. Michael loosened his grip and took a deep breath. "We're going to try this again. You are not going to scream. I am going to let you go, and you are not to run away screaming like a banshee." He stated, gesturing to his grip on her. "Instead, you are going to remain calm and leave that dagger lying in the puddle I threw it in. If you don't, my friend will certainly join us here and you don't want that." Liv nodded again, her chest rising and falling fast, as her heart raced inside of her chest. His grip released as his other hand slowly left her mouth. She stayed silent and took a step back. Eyeing him up and down with a scrutinizing stare.
"Who are you?" She demanded.
"A figment of your imagination. I was never here." He replied nonchalantly, taking something out of his pocket.
"You are not. What do you want with me? What are you looking for?" Liv snapped in reply.
"So, you're the woman that we were told helps the old drunk with his shop?" Michael replied, ignoring her questions.
"So what if I was?"
"Then I'd tell you you are dabbling in things that you shouldn't be. Which is why I am here." He sneered.
"Are you going to kill me then? Take advantage of me?" Liv shot back, straightening her shoulders.
Michael laughed. The sound was pleasant and warm and in a different situation maybe would have made Liv smile herself in return. "Excuse me?" He smiled with another laugh, flashing a set of perfectly straight, white teeth. "Are you going to, you know, be indecent with me? That's what all you mercenary types do with women, isn't it? That's what all those weapons are for, aren't they? You kill men and take advantage of women. And I don't know what you're talking about. All that junk in the shop is to appease the superstitious nonsense that is spread through this ridiculous place." She replied matter-of-factly, taking another step back. "I'm not going to take advantage of you, little bird." He laughed again, "And I'm not a mercenary. I'm quite offended you would make such an assumption of a gentleman like myself."
"A gentleman? You just chased me down the alley..."
"Well, you ran first..."
"You manhandled me..."
"You scared me. That happens when you chase and grab people."
"I asked you to stop running and then you screamed. What was I to do?"
Liv pegged him with a hard stare. He was even more handsome then she originally thought, now that he was standing directly in front of her in the glow of street lights. "So, what do you want?" she replied angrily, her patience wearing thin. "Forgive my impatience but it is raining and I haven't got my parasol or coat." Micahel sighed heavily as looked at her soaked clothes. "For you to forget we were ever here, and to get as far away from this shop and this town as you can." Michael said coolly. Liv's breath caught. His tone of voice had a deadly warning woven into it and for a minute she was tempted to agree with him, but she couldn't just leave Mr. Blackwood to his own devices. He'd surely drown himself in alcohol and gamble away all his income. "I can't do that." She replied. "You can and you will, if you knew what was good for you." Micheal growled. "Are you and your friend going to make me?" Liv demanded. "No. We're the good guys, believe it or not."
"So you're one of the governor's guards?"
"Why didn't you just get a search warrant then? Why break in?"
"We're more like private investigators." Michael replied.
"So, who hired you then? Mr. Blackwood does not have a lot of money. Whatever bookie hired you will have to go without for a while."
"Man, you ask a lot of questions." Michael snapped. "I thought you wanted to get out of the rain?" Liv crossed her arms, "Well, two men showing up to break into my employers business tends to leave me with a lot of questions." Liv replied frankly,and headed back towards the back entrance of the shop. "You're not going to tell me the answers to my questions, are you?"
"Nope." Michael smirked.
"Fine. I'll find out. You will not take advantage of such a vulnerable man."
"You won't. We won't, and we weren't hired by anyone. You're going to stay out of harm's way. You don't know what you're getting into here..." Liv eyed him again as she rounded the corner and made her way silently back down the alleyway. Once they reached the awning over the door, she wrung the water out of her hair. "I can take care of myself." she said without looking at him. "Oh, I believe that. But you and the drunk are in over your head and you need to forget what you have seen here." Michael replied before taking a vial out of his pocket. "...And you're going to do that by being a good little bird and taking this for me. I'd rather not shove it down that pretty little throat of yours." He finished ignoring her, "This is all just a bad dream, Ms. Pierson. It will be over soon."
"Call me Liv. That's what I go by. And you never told me your name."
You're right. I haven't."
"Well?" Liv demanded.
Her hazel eyes swung up to Michael and his towering height. He paused for a moment and swept over her features. Her skin was creamy and looked like it would be soft if he touched it. The green of her eyes were punctuated with specks of yellow and brown that were set off the subtle highlight of red her brown hair was giving off in the light. She was attractive, but she was not of his world, and it was imperative to his cause that she remain oblivious to the Underworld and all of its ugliness. He'd be doing her no favors by dragging her into it. She may have been a tough little thing, but his world was as dangerous and dark. It wasn't something someone like her should be involved in. Not to mention he would be breaking the Society's number one rule; civilians had to stay out of the ongoing war. Mass hysteria was not what they needed and the fact the monsters who went bump in the night really did exist was sure to cause just that. Rumors and story were one thing, but an affirmation brought even larger problems.
Despite his better judgements he decided he at least owed her his name. "Michael. My name is Michael." he said. Liv smiled at him. "That wasn't so hard, now was it, Michael?" He couldn't help but smile back at her. "You have no idea." He practically whispered, "and it needs to stay that way." Liv looked back to him with a quizzical stare. Michael took the vial and held it out to her. "Ok then, Liv. Hold out your arm and I promise this will all go away." He said quietly. "What are you going to do, drug me?" Liv said in alarm. "No." Michael replied softly, looking into her eyes. "I'm going to make you forget me. Pleasure to meet you Liv. But it's time I got back to work...." The sound of the bell that alerted the shop to the front door swinging open cut Michael off. He dashed back inside with Liv directly behind him and leaned his way around the threshold that separated the stockroom and the main area of the shop. Instead of his partner, he saw two figures in hooded robes enter the shop and then lock the door behind them. It was only a matter of time before they discovered they were not alone, and those robed men were undoubtedly here for the same reasons that he and Edwin were. The blood red robes of The Sect were a good indication. "We have to get the fuck out of here. Now." Micheal hissed, grabbing Liv by the arm and dragging her back through the stockroom.
"You have to stop doing that." Liv replied, yanking her arm away.
"Let's go. I can't leave you here." Michael said, ignoring her.
"Who are they?'' she demanded, refusing to take another step forward.
"Enough with the questions. Get your ass moving." Michael snapped as he yanked her forward and back the way they came.
"Where are you taking me?"
"Haven't a clue at the moment, but if I leave you here you're going to end up being the next body missing. So just have a little faith in me, ok?" Michael smirked back at her before pushing his way back through the maze of boxes. He halted suddenly before reaching for the handle and then practically dragged her behind an armoire that held back stock. "I can walk you know." Liv whispered harshly as she yanked her arm back again. "Good to know. Now shut it." Michael replied in a bored tone as he gestured to two more men that came through the door Liv thought they were just about to step out of.
"Were trapped." Liv hissed at him as he searched around with his eyes. The bell above the back door would certainly alert the new arrivals, that were hanging around the threshold of the door of the stockroom, that there had been someone back here when they entered. "You're forgetting the fire escapes upstairs, and I need to make sure my partner isn't caught up there anyway." Michael muttered, before clamping his hand around her mouth to keep her from replying again. Once the robed figures were done sweeping through the back room and disappeared, he took her hand and dragged her towards the staircase that lead to Mr. Blackwood's upstairs apartment. He motioned to her to be as quiet as possible, and Liv thankfully just nodded in response. Her heart pounding with every step she took, trying to remember every creak and loose board of the floor. "Any sign of the girl?'' a voice carried over to them and they both froze. Michael's gloved hand instinctively closed tighter around Liv's. "They're here for you." he whispered. "I'm sorry, what?" she replied in shock.
Michael didn't respond. His brain was currently firing on all cylinders trying to come up with a way to get them out of here without being seen by what was undoubtedly two henchmen from the Sect, a wannabe chapter of dark sorcerer's that had a perverse view on a religion that celebrated false gods. He cursed. Humans who played at witchcraft were dangerous. This particular group had taken a recent interest in sacrificing women in a ritualistic manner, for god knew what. In the past, The Society had thought of them as more of a nuisance than anything of a threatening nature, but it was now evident that they had stepped their game up considerably, and had somehow acquired the means to actually do damage with their brand of hocus pocus. "Move now." he told her, motioning towards the stairs. "My partner is upstairs checking on your employer. I can't leave him here. There's a fire escape that leads down into the alley. We can get out through there and get you somewhere safe." He looked back to her and their joined hands. Liv did the same.
The moment that passed between went as quickly as it came when the squeak of the floorboards upstairs cut through the air like a knife. Edwin was still up there and had no idea of the complications down stairs. "Why do I need to go somewhere safe? Who are those people? And what do they want with me? I know my asking questions is getting on your nerves, but I need some answers here." Liv's eyes were the size of saucers as she looked up to him as they hastily ascended the stairs. Taking a deep breath, Michael decided she was right. If she understood the danger she was currently in, maybe she would stop making his job so difficult. "Those men are the ones responsible for a string of missing women about your age. They're being used for ritualistic sacrifices to a demon they worship." Liv gasped, but Michael continued. "They are no doubt here for the same object my partner and I are here for, and now it appears they are here for you too. You're employer has drawn the attention of a group of people that no one wants attention from. The difference between us and them? We don't want to end your life. They will not stop until they find you, what they're looking for, and then do just that. You just made their job a lot easier by working late tonight. I suspect they came here to gather whatever object Mr. Blackwood had acquired, and then they were planning on paying you a visit at home. Do you understand what I am saying?" Michael stopped when they reached the top and spun around to face her, his expression serious. The tension in his body urging her to understand. And understand she did. "Ok. OK, I get it." she replied, her voice barely audible. "Good. Now if you please, let me do my job and get us out of here before the maniacs in those ridiculous robes catch up to us. Any questions you have after that, I will gladly answer." Liv nodded again in response. Fear currently had a tight hold on her vocal cords and she instinctively placed her hand back in Michael's out stretch one. As their hands closed around each other again, she couldn't explain exactly what it was that she felt in that moment, but the connection she was now feeling towards this mysterious man had her placing her trust in him to get her out of here alive. Michael felt the connection as well, and he couldn't deny that getting her out of here safely was now his main priority. Why that feeling was currently trumping his years and years of oaths and duty, well he couldn't really say. It just was.
The squeak of the floorboards from below announced the presence of Sect members directly below them. "Someone is up there." One of the hooded figures said to the other. "I know. I can smell them." The second responded in a snake like voice that sent tendrils of fear through Liv's body. "That human girl...and a Seraphim." It added after dragging in a deep breath. Michael looked to Liv and placed his finger over his lips, telling her to keep quiet without making a sound. Liv nodded to him yet again and they both ducked down low before making their way down the hall, watching the two men move in the dim light of the stockroom through the railing that bordered the landing at the top of the stairs. "Celestial scum, come out come out wherever you are." The voice hissed again. "Hunters. That's the last thing we need." The first member muttered. "We should leave..." he went to add, but was cut off by the snake-like man hissing disapprovingly. "No. If we go back with our tails between our legs Lucian will have our heads. We find them and we deal with it. The Society can not know we were here. We have to deal with them." Liv looked to Michael confused. He placed his hand up to stop her from speaking and motioned towards the back of the apartment. "This way." He said quietly, with a gentle tug. Carefully, they made their way across the space. Staying out of sight and tracking the Sect members as they ascended the stairs. Pausing here and there when necessary to stay out of sight, they made their way towards the spare bedroom Mr. Blackwood used as an office. When they finally reached the back hall, they made a break for it. Michael led the way as Liv did her best to keep up with his long and haste filled strides. He was so quiet and stealth-like for his size, it was a wonder to Liv how he seemed to move without making a single sound. "What about your partner?" Liv asked him as quietly as she could as he shut the office door behind them. "He'll be fine. He's most likely already made his way to the exit." Michael told her.
"Indeed I have, old friend." Edwin came out of the door way that led into the closet. Edwin paused and gestured towards Liv. "And it appears that you have not done what you said you would..." Michael cut him off, "There's a complication. Four Sect members showed up when I was about to wipe her memories. Two of them are right outside this door." he replied in a rush. Pushing passed Edwin towards the window, he whipped the thing open. Edwin cursed, shaking his head at what he was seeing. "I'm aware, which is why I stowed Mr. Blackwood in the closet. He's good and hidden and thankfully not dead. I doubt he'll awake anytime soon, though. I may have left a threatening letter from a bookie to leave town so the old bastard doesn't get himself killed by coming into contact with the likes of them." Edwin paused and looked to Liv and her interlocked hand with Michael's. "She can't come with us."
"We can't leave her here either. They're here for her, too."
"For the light's sake, Michael."
"You know as well as I do that the next stop is wherever she lives." Michael snapped at him. "I'm not just going to leave her in the wind." he finished, pegging his fellow hunter with a hard stare. "We can't bring her to the Sanctuary. Henry will shit a brick." Edwin countered. "We don't have a choice." Michael shot back. The two stared at each other for a moment as Liv's eyes bounced back and forth between the two of them. "Fine. But it's your ass." Before turning away and walking towards the window that led out to the fire escape, Edwin shot a look at Liv. It was plain as day that the guy did not want Liv accompanying them anywhere, but Michael was not backing down. Which was a relief to Liv. If those men really were going to end up at her apartment, she was done for. Not only was she certain that she could not take on those creepy maniacs, but she had nowhere else to go. She had no parents or family. For the last five years William Blackwood was all she had.
"I can't leave him here." she suddenly said in a panic to Michael.
"I will make sure he leaves town. We have to get you out of here and he will slow us down."
"But what if..."
"They know that we are here. They will come through that door at any second and once they see this window open, they'll know we left and they will come after us. We have to go now. He will be fine, I promise." Liv looked to him, torn between trusting him and doing right by her employer. The decision was made for her when the voices of The Sect members came from right outside the door. "You promise?" she asked quietly. "I swear to you." Michael replied. "Ok." Liv agreed and followed Edwin out on the fire escape. Michael came up right behind her as she looked down the outside of the building to the fire escape with questionable structural integrity. "Don't look down." Michael said in her ear. Liv swallowed hard and then the trio made their way down as quickly as possible. The sketchiness of the descent was made even worse by the fact that rain had made every step a potential slip and fall, and her ridiculous skirts made it hard to tell where her feet were landing.
"So what's the plan here?" Edwin called up to Michael, who was directly behind Liv. "Right now, it's get the hell out of here." Michael called back before looking behind them and making sure no one had joined them. "And then?" Edwin urged him on. "Then, we find Dorian and get back to the Sanctuary."
"And what about our tag along?" Edwin asked in a bored tone.
"I told you, she comes with us..."
"She can't go to The Sanctuary, Michael. It's forbidden." Edwin shot back. "Let me worry about that." Michael replied as they made their way down to the alley. "I'd appreciate it if you guys would stop talking about me like I wasn't here."Liv threw out. "My apologies, but your presence has certainly complicated things. I am Edwin by the way." Edwin replied as he looked over his shoulder. "I'm sorry for that, but I didn't exactly ask for this to happen." Liv said coolly. "No. You didn't ask for my friend here to go chasing after you after I told him it was not a good idea, but here you are all the same. Forgive me for my tone, but you don't realize what you have been dragged into."
"I would if someone would tell me who you guys are exactly." Liv muttered.
"I'll tell you everything when we get where we're going. Can we please just keep pressing onward..."
"There they are!" The hissing voice traveled down to them as the stepped onto the cobblestones of the alley way, cutting off Michael's reply. "Shit!" he cursed. "Go now!''