The next part of Silverbolts story
|Rathmore Temple Of Danu
Silverbolt awoke to someone shaking him violently. For a moment, he had forgotten his current predicament, thinking he had gone to sleep in his one-bedroom apartment. He kept shoving the individual away, only to have them shake him harder.
A muffled female voice spoke, "Hey, wake up...are you even listening?"
Silverbolt opened his eyes and saw the mask with the lightning bolt down the middle staring at him. The black hair with purple streaks billowed out the bottom of the headgear, "Constance?"
She wore a long violet skirt and a simple white blouse. She giggled as she struck the cheesiest superhero pose possible, the mask gleaming in the morning light. Her right hand pointed skyward, "Constance is not here. I am Lady Lightning."
Silverbolt put his face in his hands, "I regret saving you already." He held out his hand, "Give it back, Constance."
Constance removed the mask and handed it to Silverbolt, "It smells weird anyway. Your quite a looker, why do you hide your face? Aside from the fact, it's kinda fun playing dress-up."
"The mask is bulletproof, well unless someone is using armor-piercing rounds...right you people haven't heard of Kevlar...," Silverbolt trailed off.
Constance was grinning ear to ear, hanging off every word. She playfully punched him in the ribs, and pain exploded along his right side. He had almost forgotten Langstaff shot him twice, if not for the searing pain.
Constance rushed up to him and lifted the protective vest. It was clear Constance had severe boundary issues, "Wow, that looks bad. I know where to find some healing potions..."
"Why are you here?" Silverbolt's voice was far harsher than he intended. It was difficult to be rational when one is in copious amounts of pain.
Constance's face fell, and her smile turned into the saddest frown he had ever seen. Her eyes glistened with tears. Silverbolt felt like he had kicked a basket of kittens. He tried to ignore her, but she kept staring.
"I am sorry, Constance. I didn't mean..." He started to say in an apologetic tone.
Her frown switched to her ear to ear smile, "It's okay, you were in pain. I just wanted to thank you for saving me. Not many people would in this city."
Silverbolt tried to stand, but his body protested. Constance gently pushed him down, "I think we should fix you up first. I will be back in a while."
After Constance left, Silverbolt looked over at the statue, "I am not babysitting her, do you hear me? No good can come of this."
A book fell to the ground behind the polished wooden pew. A gentle wind brushed the pages flipping them. Silverbolt stared at the hymn, "There is a Reason."
"Really? I hate you right now, Mary Sue."
Constance returned twenty minutes later with a backpack. She beamed at him as she rummaged around in the bag, "It has to be in here somewhere...Aha." In her hand was a vial. She eagerly handed it to him, "I have a business proposition for you."
Siverbolt stared at the potion. It looked like tar and tasted like black licorice. He didn't feel anything at first, "Are you sure it will work?"
Constance giggled and took the vial from his hand, "Of course, it will. The wound will reverse, pain included, but you will be right as rain after."
"I don't have time..." Silverbolt trailed off and gripped the pew so hard it snapped. Silverbolt was sitting on the floor clutching his sides in agony, "It feels like I got shot all over again. I thought it was a healing potion."
Constance raised the mask, Silverbolt was whiter than a sheet, and his breathing was labored. She rubbed his back, "It will be over soon. I promise."
A few agonizing minutes later, the pain finally ended. The bruises were gone. Silverbolt threw a couple of swift jabs, "I will hear you out. I make no promises."
Constance clapped her hands, "When should I start?"
Silverbolt started walking towards the massive carved doors of the temple, "Whenever you feel ready."
Before the doors opened, Constance smiled impishly, "I get over-excited about meeting new people sometimes. You must think I am crazy."
"You said it, not me."
"I am starting to think you aren't a nice person."
Silverbolt had a million questions about Rathmore. They had electrical power, but no visible lines. He heard the sound of a train in the distance, indicating they had discovered internal combustion or the equivalent of it. A couple of motorized wagons silently rolled down the street. The bell of an electrical trolley rang out, as it roared by on the steel track showering the street with sparks.
The square was alive with activity. Horse-drawn taxis with their rates painted on the sides patiently waited for passengers. Criers urged people to visit stores, while men repaired the street. Humans of all races hurried off to work. Much to Silverbolts surprise, imps, and other assorted mythological beings walked around in their finery.
Silverbolt watched some imp and human children shoot some marbles. An imp child shouted, "One more kiss and your cat's eye is mine." Silverbolt watched as the imp child aimed, and shot. The marbles clacked together, causing the crowd of children went "Ooooohhhh."
The human child smiled, shook the imp child's hand, "You think you could teach me to shoot like that?"
A grin creased the imp child's face, "Of course, all you gotta do is..."
Constance snapped her fingers, "Don't they have Feri where you come from?"
Silverbolt watched a pair of imps forced to the back of the trolley. "No, we don't...Where do they come from?"
Constance yanked him by the arm up some polished stone steps to a sort of lookout. She pointed excitedly to the large building atop a hill in the distance. Next to it was a tower resembling a Tesla coil.
"Its a magical reactor. It generates enough power for the whole city and most of the houses outside of town," She said proudly.
There was not a single smoke stack on the main building. What was the result of using this method? Earth's power plants released pollutants in the air and water. There had to be a similar cost, "How does the power plant tie in with the Feri?"
Constance's face darkened, "I take it you are not well versed in magic?"
"My powers are naturally occurring. Not a trace of magic in me," Silverbolt said.
Constance gave him an odd look, "Large concentrations of magic can cause mutations. Imps are the most common result. Animals are affected as well. Which ties in with my offer."
Constance moved closer to him, and he inched away, "When did they discover the adverse effects of magic."
She giggled as she inched closer, and he pulled away, "Why are you so uncomfortable with me?" she asked.
"It's a long story."
"Are you going to tell me?"
"It is not as interesting as your history lesson."
Constance fiddled with her skirt strings, "Obediah Feri, about a hundred and fifty years ago. He made the first crude magical reactor. It was the discovery of a lifetime."
"You are going to have to help me out here. Why does society have such a chip on its shoulder about Feris?" Silverbolt asked.
"The temple conclave saw the changes as evil. Many believe a malevolent goddess named Carman is responsible. Anything changed by the magic is considered undesirable," Constance replied as she continued to tease him.
Silverbolt could see a hint of sadness in her eyes, "I guess being Feri is a bad thing?"
Constance paused, "The Feri are second class citizens, despite the fact they were human at one time. It is just the government's way of keeping the reactor cost-effective. Any Feri trying to raise themselves above their station are labeled heretics."
"The Feri are paid less than normal humans?"
"Unfortunately. The people call the area Carmans Coil, after Danu's evil counterpart."
They entered a small cafe called the Golden Egg. It was clean and had beautifully made tables with standard plaid table cloths. The man behind the counter embraced her, "Constance, I don't remember scheduling you for today...Who is that?"
She rubbed the grizzled owner's bald head, "Herb, I would like you to meet Silverbolt." She turned to Silverbolt, "Herb gave me my first job."
Herb glared at the mask, "You always wear a tin can when you go out?" He gruffly shook the masked hero's hand.
Silverbolt nodded, "It's a long story."
Herb turned his head sideways, "You just be good to Constance, or things will get real unfriendly between you and me." Herb was not good at looking threatening. His other hand was suspiciously under the counter.
Silverbolt sighed, pulled Herb forward, and slammed his head against the counter, "Take your hand off the gun, or I will fry your brain like an egg." His fist was crackling with energy.
Constance shoved him aside, "Why do men act like five-year-olds when a woman is involved. Honestly, Herb, I am a grown woman now. Silverbolt saved my life last night. Perhaps you would like to try growing up yourself."
Herb scratched his five o clock shadow, his green eyes watched Silverbolt with malice, "She is like a sister to me, best watch yourself."
Constance marched Silverbolt to a table, "You couldn't help yourself, could you? Honestly, I didn't..."
"He was going to shoot me, Constance. You had nothing to do with it. I suggest you get to the point and pitch your offer, or else I will be working for the police."
Constance crossed her arms and turned her back to him, raising her nose in the air, "Convince me working with you is a good idea."
"You were the one who asked me."
"Yeah, when I thought you were sane."
"That's rich coming from you."
"Convince me." Constance reiterated.
"I have been dealing with your crazy all day, convince me," Silverbolt said.
Constance sighed, "I will order us some breakfast. Don't beat anyone up while I am gone."
Silverbolt looked around the diner. Pictures of clowns covered the walls, "You are a creepy dude Herb, in an, I bury the bodies in the basement sort of way," He said to himself.
Constance returned with steaming hot plates of food, and coffee. A sip of the bitter liquid perked him up. He wolfed down his meal before Constance finished a quarter of the meal. He felt much better with a full stomach.
Constance rubbed her temples, "Do you have any manners?"
"Depends on the day," Silverbolt answered. "I suggest you get on with your offer."
Constance sighed, "You will remember when I said animals are affected by the reactor too?"
"Yes," he said, raising the cup and sipping the bitter liquid.
"Well, sometimes they become fierce predators and have to be put down. Farmers will pay top dollar to protect their livestock and crops. Hybrids are dangerous, and it takes a team to bring one down most times. Since you count for three or four men, we could corner the market."
Silverbolt took another sip, "Okay, what do we do when there are no hybrids? I get the impression they are not common."
Constance ate a couple of bites, "Bounties, lots of wanted criminals are loose in the city."
Silverbolt liked the idea, "Busting heads and getting paid for it. I like it." He stared a Constance who something else on her mind, "What?"
"I want you to look into a group called the Temple Grims," she said.
"Who are they?"
"A group of high ranking members of society that control everything. They aim to keep the Feri down and the population in their grasp. They are inherents."
"Sometimes people are born with special abilities instead of Feri traits. For instance, I am a polymath. I can learn any trade easily, enchanting, scribing, blacksmithing, come very easily to me."
Silverbolt drew a baton and twirled it in his fingers, "Interesting. Your Temple Grims sounds like a conspiracy theory to me. I don't do conspiracies."
Constance glared at him, "I know how it sounds. The Hell Hounds never took any interest in me until I started asking questions about them."
Silverbolt tapped the baton on the table, "If we do this, we do it my way. We follow the evidence where it takes us. If we stir up high society too much, we will be on the wrong side of the police. I don't mind doing it, as long as I have proof of guilt."
Constance hugged him again, "Thank you."
"You need to stop doing that," Silverbolt said, prying her off of him. "We need to make contacts, people who have their fingers on the pulse of the city."
Constance smiled her big ear to ear smile, "I know just the place."
The Delirious Butterfly was a spectacle unto itself on the outside. Stained glass butterfly windows, and butterfly-shaped handles on the doors. In the poster, frames were pictures of women performers. He couldn't bring himself to go in. He just stared at the doors.
Constance came out and rolled her eyes and grabbed him by the arm, "Really? You run around beating up criminals, and this stumps you?" Constance dragged him in despite his protests and giggled a little, "I would figure a looker like you would have lots of experience in this area."
"No, I don't," he said quietly.
"Are you joking?"
Constance gave him a soft look, "How come?"
"Its a long story."
"You certainly have a lot of long stories."
"Yup, I do."
The inside of the brothel was immaculate and brightly colored. Lavender and incense drifted in each of the Flamboyant rooms. A stage for performances and a well-stocked bar with outrageous prices for drinks. The women wore low cut dresses and paraded themselves around the moment Silverbolt entered.
Madame Cuttle looked good for a woman in her fifties. Every ounce of her body exuded confidence and charisma. Her shoulder-length brown hair and friendly brown eyes hid the savvy businesswoman within. She reminded Silverbolt of a mid-level crime boss, except the brothel was legal. She shooed the women away and told them to get back to work.
Constance hugged her, "Madame Cuttle, how is business?"
"Fabulous, of course...I see you made a new friend. Does he always wear the mask?" Madame Cuttle asked.
Constance laughed and nodded, "I told him he had nothing to be ashamed of, yet he prefers it. Don't bother asking him about it either," She smacked him playfully on the ribs.
Madame cuttle shrugged, "My business is to satisfy the fantasies of men. Not ask questions about their lives. I assume he is not looking for a good time."
Without thinking, Silverbolt pulled the smartphone out and pulled up Ragland's picture, "Have you seen this man?" He swore because he had just exposed himself to Constance, and Madame Cuttle.
Madame Cuttle gave him a funny look, "Put that thing away. We will take this conversation into my office." she was looking around. Thankfully nobody else was around to see.
Constance snatched the phone from his hand, "What is this? What kind of magic is it? Is there a long story attached to this?"
Madame Cuttle ushered them towards the office, "Constance, put it away. I am sure your new friend will be more than happy to explain himself in my office, right?"
"I don't have a choice, do I?"
Madame Cuttle's office was plain compared to the rest of the building. A liquor trolley sat next to the desk. On the wall were her business license, liquor license, and her degree in marketing. She sat behind the wood desk and gestured to the wooden chairs on the opposite side.
"I am not telling you anything until you explain yourself. It had better be the truth. I know a lie when I hear one," Madame Cuttle said, giving him an expectant look.
Silverbolt looked over at Constance, who was looking at him with her ear to ear smile, "Yay, I get to hear one of your long stories."
Silverbolt took a deep breath, "Well, it all started with Ragland..."
Over the next couple of minutes, Silverbolt told them how he ended up in Rathmore. He placed the Desert Eagle fifty caliber on the desk. Constance's eyes went wide. She went to grab it, but Silverbolt slapped her hand away.
"It is loaded with armor-piercing rounds. Not something you want to go off in an office."
Constance nodded, "You mean it can break your Kevlar?"
"Yes, it belonged to Ragland. I have half a mind to destroy it."
Madame Cuttle leaned back in her chair, "Superhuman huh?"
"Think of them like non-magical inherents," He said, pulling the phone out. He brought up the picture of Ragland, "What can you tell me about this man?"
Madame Cuttle shivered as she looked at the picture, "He came in here about a week ago. He wasn't interested in any of the girls. He just waited at the bar. I went to my office to count the afternoon earnings, and when I came back he was gone."
Silverbolt was not surprised. Ragland often referred to his murders as art. In addition to hating women in power, he considered them to be quality materials for his masterworks, as he called them.
"Did you find out who he was meeting?" Constance asked.
Madame Cuttle opened the desk drawer, set a bottle and a drinking glass on top of the oak surface, "I have an idea, but the information is secondhand from Deirdre."
Constance looked sad upon hearing the name, "Is she still doing opiates?"
Madame Cuttle nodded, "I am afraid so. Anyway, she said a high ranking church official met with this Ragland. She said something about money changing hands, but that is all Deirdre could remember."
Silverbolt looked over at Constance, "Looks like your theory might be a reality, Constance. Do you know if any of the murdered women were sympathetic towards the Coil?"
Madame Cuttle poured a drink and downed it, "Petronilla Salwey, married a man from the Coil, what was his name?" she snapped her fingers, "Barnaby was his name, rather handsome for a troll type. He was excellent with children, both human and feri. He wanted to be an educator."
Constance looked sad again, "I heard he went missing a year ago. He was a kind soul. I met him while I was working in the kitchen at the Proud Lion Hotel. He was rather fond of my goulash."
Silverbolt rose from the seat, "Thank you for your time, Madame Cuttle. Can I ask you to keep your ear to the ground for me?"
Madame Cuttle nodded, "I will. Constance, could I have a word with you, privately?" she asked.
Constance shooed Silverbolt out the door. He wondered why everyone felt the need to have a private conversation with Constance. He leaned against the bar, only to be startled by a gentle tap on the shoulder.
"You came here with Constance, right?" A scantily clad blonde woman asked him. She brushed against him, much to his annoyance.
"She is a friend of mine. I assume you work here?" It was a rather stupid question to ask.
The blond moved with a certain feminine grace. She turned to reveal the single string holding the dress up before thrusting her chest at him, "She can't give you what you want, she still has her virtue if you catch my meaning."
Silverbolt was annoyed. Everything about this woman offended him. He gently pushed her back to arm's length, "It's not like that between Constance and me. We are business associates."
The blond grinned, "A challenge is it? Normally I charge top dollar, but you..."
Madame Cuttle and Constance came into the bar area. Madame Cuttle did not look impressed, "Natalia, did this man ask for your attention?"
Natalia looked terrified, "No, Madame Cuttle, I just thought he was a paying customer..."
Madame Cuttle shook her head. She raised her hand to silence Natalia, "Is that so? You were here when they came in. I told you once before, any friends of Constance are off-limits."
Constance glared at Natalia as she skulked from the room. Silverbolt knew he was somehow going to be in trouble for it. Madame Cuttle walked up to him with a serious face. Without warning, she embraced him, "You are a good man Silverbolt."
Silverbolt looked over at Constance, "Long story?"
She nodded, "Yes."
She talked his ear off the whole way back to the Odd Job Depot, only to see thick clouds of smoke billowing out the windows. The flames hungrily were eating the building from the inside out. In the window was a woman's corpse hanging by a noose.
Silverbolt clenched his fists in anger, "Ragland."