It is early afternoon and I am afflicted with too much stress and boiling over with too much confusion to sleep. The Dolphinae, who are usually so neat and proper, nearly tossed me a bowl with various fruits and a half-cut loaf when they sent me upstairs. I put up a protest that I wanted to stay and help, but in truth, I am thankful to retire to my quarters and put quill to paper.
It was a night most confusing.
After dinner, we gathered in the room where I met Charles Francis Poseidon, which I learned was called the “Deep Water Room.” The majority of the Dolphinae (perhaps 20 of them) stood on the walkway with me. We were all wearing the same outfit: dark blue pants and a top of a thick cloth. We also had masks, though we did not put them on until after we left this room.
Below us at the edge of the pool was a sight the likes of which I had honestly never seen. Since coming to Kraken Moor I had become so accustomed to supernatural oddities that I had forgotten that science could be equally as strange. I had spent only a few weeks in London before my employment in Kraken Moor, and had only the briefest contact with the city’s steam industry. Before the Civil War, my father insisted that the real reason Lincoln wanted a war between the North and South was not the issue of slavery, but to stop the rise of Southern Steam.
I had heard great things about the city of Aspen, in the western territories, and seen some evidence of the stilted steam growth in New York and Boston, but the Civil War had caused most of the best scientists to work for the respective Union and Confederate governments.
Looking at the contraptions by the saltwater pool, it was clear Poseidon had top scientists working for him.
Lima was among the six women standing beside Poseidon at the water’s edge. They wore grey suits and were in the process of having heavy copper and brass helmets attached to the suits. The intent, as hard as it was to fathom, was for Lima’s crew to dive into the pool and navigate the waterways beneath London!
“Our goal,” Poseidon announced (he was still wearing his light blue shirt and leather pants), “is to capture the pregnant woman and bring her back here, so that we may assist her pregnancy. She is currently being held in the Elysium Sanitarium on the bank of the River Thames in the western edge of the city. I will lead the primary assault and Lima will lead the underwater contingent.” He motioned to me. “Not all of you have met Beatrice Sharper, but she is in the employ of Kraken Moor, and came to the city with Jenson Shepherd. Some of you may question why she is being included in the raid.” Poseidon smiled. “Lima’s neck can testify to Miss Sharper’s competency in a tight situation.”
Lima’s crew was now ready, and the women walked into the saltwater pool. They moved slowly until they reached the end of the ledge. When they jumped into the center, the Dolphinae dropped quickly out of sight.
For the rest of us, we broke into five separate groups and intended to move through the city by foot. Poseidon stopped me at the door.
“I have a different plan for us,” he said with a smile that did not match the seriousness of our mission for the night. “Follow me to the roof,” he said, leading me up the stairs and then to the right (instead of to the left towards my room). Before we reached the far door at the end of that hall, Poseidon touched a non-descript section of the wall and a panel slid to the side, revealing a secret hallway. Inside this hallway (which appeared to contain the Dolphinae’s sleeping quarters) was a ladder attached to the wooden wall, and we ascended it to the roof.
The sun was absent and it struck me that I had been several days without seeing it. The thought made the cold night feel even colder against my skin; the outfit I had been given provided flexibility rather than protection.
“Our chariot, my dear,” Poseidon smiled, motioning to a basket.
The demon fighter must have seen the look of confusion on my face as the hand that motioned to the basket now pointed straight into the air.
“Oh, my,” I gasped, looking up at a hot air balloon.
“Land, sea, and air,” Poseidon said, moving purposefully across the flat roof to the basket. “We must save this poor woman,” he said, offering me a hand. I took the strong hand and walked up the small steps to drop down into the basket, then turned to watch Poseidon join me as two of his Dolphinae undid the ropes that tied the basket to the roof.
“Protect Mr. Shepherd,” Poseidon ordered as we lifted into the air, and the two women bowed before returning inside the building.
I watched with a flutter in my stomach as the balloon took up high above the city of London. It was breathtaking. In all my life I had never been more than 3 stories above the ground, yet here I was floating above one of the world’s great cities. Steam rose into the cold night in magnificent, stretching out ahead of us.
“Horrific, isn’t it?” Poseidon said from the center of the basket, where he controlled the fire that kept us in the sky.
I looked at the balloon we were in and thought of Lima and the other divers. “I would think you a fan of modern science.”
“Of science? Yes,” Poseidon agreed, “but not of its mass application.”
“You wish to keep power in the hands of the ruling class?”
“I wish to keep power in the hands of those who can responsibly wield it.”
“You sound like my father.”
“He sounds like a wise man.”
“He is a slave owner.”
“Then he does not act like a wise man.”
We floated in silence for several minutes. There were numerous questions that raced through my mind, but the closer we flew to our destination, the more focused Charles Francis Poseidon became.
“If everything unfolds according to my plan, we will only need to wait on the roof, and Jenson’s progeny will be brought to us.”
“By your women?”
“They are not my women, Miss Sharper,” he explained. “The Dolphinae choose to be together, and it is not I who command them, but they who have hired me.”
“To fight demons?”
“It is,” he smiled, “a living.” He reached behind him to pull something off the side of the basket. “These are yours,” he said, handing me my knives. “I would like to know where you acquired them.”
“Will I really need these?” I asked, ignoring his request. “I thought the woman was being brought to us.”
“If the plan unfolds without a hitch,” Poseidon replied, “but we must be prepared for it not to go the way we want. Jenson’s child will draw the interest of many parties. Our hope is that we get to this poor woman first.”
“What is so special about Lord Shepherd’s child?” I pressed. “Though I am loathe to gossip, there were strong rumors that he was not shy about laying with women.”
Poseidon folded his strong arms across his chest. “What remains to be known is whether Jenson engages in this activity because he chooses to do it, or because he is compelled to do it.”
I had been hesitant to raise the issue about Lord Shepherd’s plaintive wails from the beach, but my curiosity was now too great. “He yelled for you,” I informed Poseidon. “The other night, when he gained his injuries, Lord Shepherd yelled to the ocean for you to come to him.”
Poseidon looked oddly at me.
“He screamed that he had done everything you asked, and he begged you to come and claim him.”
Poseidon frowned deeply. “What else can you tell me of that night?”
I looked around the city and hugged myself. “There was … a darkness to that night … I did not see anything but there was an … an absence of light, almost as if something stood between me and the stars.”
“Count yourself lucky, Miss Sharper.”
“There was nothing lucky about that night, Mr. Poseidon.”
He placed a hand on my shoulder. “You saw a Brute and left untouched,” he explained. “There are not five people on this planet who can say that.”
“A Brute? But-”
My words were cut off as an explosion rocked a building in the near distance.
Poseidon moved quickly to the edge of the basket. “It appears you will need to use those knives before the night is finished.”
A second explosion rocked the building that was now just two blocks from our position. A position that began to sit lower in the sky.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
“Landing on that roof.”
“The roof that’s on fire?”
Poseidon grinned. “The building is on fire. Not the roof.”
I said nothing as we descended. Poseidon stepped to the edge and used a crossbow to fire an arrow down onto the roof.
“Where were you hiding the crossbow?”
It was his turn to say nothing as he fired a second arrow before jumping back to the controls.
“When we land, jump out and tie the ropes to those arrows.”
We hit the building with a thud and hopped to a stop. “Out!” the demon fighter ordered.
I scrambled over the edge and as I fell to the hard roof, Poseidon tossed two heavy ropes out of the basket.
I had just returned to my feet when an explosion rocked the roof not five feet from where I stood, knocking me to the roof a second time. Two hands grabbed at the edge of the roof through the hole that had just been created, and a female face was pushed into the night air.
“Help … me …” the female said.
I blinked, frozen momentarily in place.
“Gail?” I asked. “What are you …?”
Poseidon jumped onto the roof to easily haul a very pregnant Gail into the air, and as my friend from Marehaven was gently placed into the balloon’s basket, the image of her and Lord Shepherd in the mirror of Kraken Moor came instantly back to me.
“Quickly!” Poseidon ordered, reaching a hand to me. I took it and the demon fighter pulled me off the ground as if I were weightless. He jumped into the basket as I dropped to my knees to look at Gail. Though it was only a month previous that she had lain with Lord Shepherd, her stomach looked as if it were ready to burst.
“Bea?” she asked, her eyes wide and unfocused. Her blonde hair was cut short but was completely disheveled. Her eyes were wild and her skin was soaked with sweat.
“What’s happened to you?” I asked, touching the back of my hand to her forehead to find that she was burning with an intense fever.
“Questions later!” Poseidon ordered. “Grab the crossbow! We need covering fire!”
I was about to protest when and arrow burst through the basket near Gail’s head!
I lunged across the floor of the basket, picked up the heavy crossbow (and was thankful to see that Poseidon had several arrows already notched on the weapon), hauled it to the edge of the basket and aimed at the roof.
Where Remy Lafayette stood firing arrows at the basket!
Despite the increasing distance between the roof and the balloon, our eyes met a moment before he fired another arrow directly at the balloon!
Remy looked at me with as much surprise as I felt, and neither of us fired another arrow.
When we returned to the Dolphinae’s house, Poseidon carried an unconscious Gail to the room on the first floor opposite Jenson’s room. I stayed with her for several hours, keeping her body cool, but her fever never broke and she never awoke. When the Dolphinae sent a replacement, I willingly relinquished the duties. In the hallway, I saw a very stern looking Poseidon huddled with several other Dolphinae.
“What’s wrong?” I asked when they left.
“Lima’s contingent has not yet returned.”
“What can I-?”
“Get food and rest,” Poseidon ordered. “I will need you for the birth of a monster.”