A hard reboot of the original series
Lance Sterling thought: I can measure time in lame jokes. The lame joke time differential measured dinner parties. Here, In Silverwood Manor, Lance put his theory into practice.
Near the roasted pig, at the end of the carved chestnut table, the fat merchant and his spherical wife told a story about mixed up silverware. Their stomachs shook with a gelatinous quality.
"I said the salad fork goes on the left," The fat merchant chortled.
"Then I said don't use the dessert spoon to stir your tea," The merchant's wife said
The merchant preferred to tell his inane story during the first course of the meal. The loud and fake horse laughter followed. It was worse than the nasal voice of Captain Langstaff, who commanded the city watch.
The grizzled lawman obscured the oil painting of Hiram Sterling, a founder of modern magical medicine. "You should have seen the homeless man we brought in today. His clothes had so many holes I wondered if he bred the moths himself."
The joke didn't age well. Lance found it offensive on a humanitarian level and heralded the arrival of the main course. Next to him was the least offensive of the lot, Madame Cuttle.
Madame Cuttle owned a finishing school. Her appearance personified perfection, and she always had a parasol and fan. Today she brought a student. He nicknamed the girl Little Cuttle for the sake of brevity.
"Everyone, this is Constance Reynard. I believe our gracious host, Dr. Sterling, is sponsoring her journey through the medical academy." Madame Cuttle said.
Constance blushed and fingered her necklace. "You forgot to mention I am coming out this month as well." Her tone and cadence matched her mentors. Her dark blue eyes focused on Lance.
Ting, ting, ting, Dr. Sterling tapped his knife against the crystal glass. "I suggest we raise a glass to the ambitious young woman in our midst. Who knows, maybe she'll capture the attention of my Lance."
Sixteen eyes dared to penetrate the dour look on Lance's face. "I won't have time for affairs of the heart..." Something was wrong. The baggy-eyed lawyer didn't offer his usual joke after a toast. "Sorry, I lost my train of thought for a moment." His eyes locked on the baggy-eyed lawyer.
The lawyer gazed hungrily at Constance as if she was the only person in the room. Was he waiting for something to happen? The little voice inside his head grew to giant proportions. The message was unmistakable: danger walked among them.
"Is there something wrong, Lance?" Constance asked.
Lance's eyes darted around the room, "I'll let you know if there is," He replied. His eyes fell to the lawyer once more. The careworn visage flickered for half a second.
Lance kicked the chair behind him. He climbed on the table and stomped his way over to the lawyer. "Who are you?"
"Emerson Overton, Lawyer and Barrister..."
"Lance, get off the table at once. I have never been so embarrassed in my life," Dr. Sterling said through clenched teeth.
"No. This man is an imposter," Lances, defiant tone said. "I'll be happy to let the matter go if he can tell me his most memorable case." Lance knew the story all too well. The question was, did the lawyer?
"Emerson" spoke in a clear, dignified tone, "The people versus Milburn Nidham..."
Madame Cuttle set her glass down slow. "Didn't you say it was the People versus Whiting?"
"No, the people versus Milburn Nidham brought my practice into prominence. Why would I remember the people versus Whiting? I lost that case..."
The fat merchant shook his head. "Did you not meet the love of your life during the Whiting case? You tell the tale at every party. The romance of your story is legendary."
"Emersons" illusion fell away and revealed a much more handsome visage. The three-piece suit became supple studded leather. A dagger gleamed in his right hand poised to strike. Lance stared at the athame whistling toward his Teddy Boy shoes. "Run." He shouted to Constance.
Constance went rice colored, frozen to her chair. Lance's allowed a bit of relief to creep into his mind. Better his foot than her life. Lance's foot erupted in pain before the dagger discovered the soft flesh beneath the leather. The polished leather ripped in a star pattern. A mercurial substance met the weapon and latched on to the sharpened blade.
"Impossible," The assassin shouted. The brave Captain remained seated with the old I just got punched in the testicles, look on his face. Another bladed instrument of death flew from a scabbard at Constance.
Lance dropped to his knees and threw his arm into the blade's path. He braced for impact. "Better bloody than dead." The knife struck his arm with a loud, "Clang." Clang? Lance goggled at the metal-coated arm. "What the hell is going on?"
"How many lives do you have?" A flintlock pistol rested a malevolent gaze at the petrified young woman. The assassin crowed in victory, "Goodbye, little girl."
Time was not on Lance's side. He dove at Constance, back turned to the pistol, and prayed the mercurial substance defended him. "I promise you'll live even if it kills me." The gunshot shattered thin wine glasses and caused the fat merchant to have a heart attack. It ricocheted off Lance's back with a "ting." Dr. Sterling dove from his chair and crawled to aid his friend.
"Die already," the killer's voice shouted in frustration. Lance was jerked backward by calloused hands. A triumphant grin creased the assassin's face as he lifted a metal-studded boot. "Pray for a swift end."
On instinct, Lance's arms guarded his face. The amorphous metal crawled up his arms and formed a shield. The force of the blow drove a metal fist into his nose. Crimson gushed from it like a faucet and ruined the last good suit Lance had.
The assassin was relentless, fueled by frustration and rage. Blow after blow pounded on the shield. The assault came to an abrupt end, and Lance heard a thud. Captain Langstaff stood over the fallen assassin. A heroic grin showed off the shiny teeth. "I meant to engage sooner, but the action was too close to his intended victim."
"I need help here," Dr. Sterling shouted. Everyone had forgotten about the fat merchant. Madame Cuttle and Captain Langstaff rushed to his aid. "Madame Cuttle, take his pulse. Langstaff, start chest compressions, and I'll breathe into him."
Lance stood and grabbed a napkin to staunch the bleeding. He spat, eager to rid his mouth of the metallic flavor of blood. He placed two hands against the smooth wooden service. "What the hell is going on?" Ragged breath and intense pulse drowned out the words of others, except a tiny voice.
Another glob of blood landed on the floor as Lance turned. "What?"
Constance managed to pry her ghost colored hands from the wooded chair. Her fingers flexed, and the delicate digits began to pink up. Her hands checked the wavy black hair and ensured the bun remained intact. "I said, thank you."
"Any idea who he was?" Lance asked.
"You're Welcome," Constance said in a critical tone. Her face went from fear to severe. She spoke like Madame Cuttle.
"You're welcome, follows thank you. Have you any manners?"
"None I put into practice."
"Do you plan to attend the coming-out party?"
"Good, the young women will assume I found you in Dipperhaven."
Lance retorted in a robotic tone, "Oh no. You broke my heart. How will I ever recover." A hand clutched his left breast in false pain. "I can't live without your approval. Death, take me now."
Constance lifted herself off the chair with every ounce of dignity she possessed, turned her nose skyward, and strolled away. She turned back to ensure his eyes remained fixed on her before she joined Madame Cuttle.
Lance plopped himself into a chair. "Good riddance." He stared at an old painting named "The Beguiling of Flidais." Something about art allowed the mind to relax and find focus. He reviewed the chaotic scene while his eyes traced the brushstrokes. "Since when am I an Inherent?"