In the dark alleyway where Silus Flax had encountered Jonathon Postlethwaite for the first time, seven top-hatted men came across the prostrate form of their leader.
The High Hat search party had ventured into the Lower city following information on Flax’s whereabouts from Bolster, now struggling to rectify a failed engine in hall nine, and the city gate guard and the two Tans who had challenged him on his exit from the city.
The High Hats had news for Flax which necessitated the normally taboo disturbance of when he was at play. They had a good idea of where and why he was here, but his prolonged absence from the Halls of Machines disturbed them a little, as was his shocking state when they found him.
After a few moments of attention, Flax began to regain consciousness. His insensible eyes opened to regard the black coated, High Hatted men, who stooped anxiously over him, with a confusion brought on by the concussion he had received. He sat stupefied for a while, mumbling incoherently, until eventually he regained his senses. Now he could recall the events immediately prior to his enforced sleep.
The disfigured body of the street woman had been removed by his minions so as not to attract the attention of the rats, at least what the their vanguard number had left of it and, to avoid the questions from any Tans who might come this way during the morning shift round up. Her remains had now joined the many other hapless victims of the nightly ritual of murder in Dubh, who floated anonymously in the stagnant mortuary of the black river. Flax felt his blood encrusted head gingerly. “Where’s the boy?” he demanded.
The surrounding High Hats shook their heads and shrugged their shoulders. Flax remembered the moments before he was struck senseless. The wild and unsatisfying woman, the smell of warm blood, the boy’s sweet aroma of innocence and purity, the odours of his own growing excitement brought about by his contemplation of his forthcoming pleasures, then.... Flax growled - then the scent of two others above him.
He leapt to his feet, punching the nearest High Hat to vent his anger. Deprived! Flax took in a deep breath as the High Hats around him cowered away, expecting another outburst of violence from their master.
Instead he laughed softly. Another time, another place he thought. He would never give up a prize such as the boy. He was something special. He would find him again and those who had deprived him. He knew their scents, he knew where they had gone. He peered upwards toward the rooftops high above.
A High Hat, with one eye and a scarred cheekbone, cleared his throat and spoke. “Your Eminence, we have news.” Flax turned to the man.
“News? What now!” howled their leader. The one eyed man bowed his head, avoiding the angry glare of a fuming Silus Flax.
“Your Eminence, we have found another promising portal, it is unusual, it has a multi-ported entrance and channels which lead to more than one exit. But one of them leads to a place such as you have asked us to look for.” A broad grin slashed across Flax’ face, revealing his large yellow teeth. He chuckled quietly to himself, then his laughter grew into deep resonating guffaws stretched with an ironic tone.
" Haaaa!” he spat. “Every cloud has a sliver lining.” he said as he hugged the High Hat whose nose he had broken. The assembled High Hats looked on confused at Flax’s sudden mood change, clouds and silver linings meaning nothing to them.
Flax strode quickly towards the Upper City, his minions falling in obediently in line behind him. Not even the pouring pre-dawn rain could quench his growing excitement and happiness. It had to be the one, it had to
be! Suddenly he stopped and turned to his faithful servants, the smile dissolving from his face. The High Hat line blundering into one another as he stopped.
“Wouldn’t it be a good idea if one of you showed me the way to it you greasy, pea-brained morons! “ he shouted with amusement and a tinge of humour.