* * STEAMPUNK DAY: 2019 * *
Caught In The Thorns
Part 9: November 1927 * * * * * * * * *
November 12th 1927
I reclined back into my chair and let out a deep sigh of relaxation. The calm was interrupted as I could hear the phone start ringing. Groaning I started to stand before Elizabeth swept by and snatched the phone up, waving at me to sit back down. So I did, and listened in.
"Yes. Yes this is the Steam residence. Atrocious? It seems like just yesterday since last we spoke! Well, yes, I suppose in some way it almost was." Elizabeth said, laughing as she thought about the past few adventures we had been on in search of our friend Jack Grayson. Though it took some time to do, most of our time was spent back in another time. When we returned it was to everyone else only a few days time from where we had left.
"You need us to do what? I'm sorry, speak clearly into the phone please. Oh, well, I suppose so. We will be over in a few hours. Yes, yes. See you soon. Goodbye Atrocious." Elizabeth said, hanging up the phone.
"You will never believe who called!" She announced as she marched into the living room.
"Oh, I have a fairly keen guess." I responded with a little chuckle.
Hours later we were pulling up to the Carnival where our friend worked as an entertainer.
Stepping out we examined the familiar sight.
"Huh, seems to be closed today." Liz commented while looking at the abandoned ticket booth.
"It's almost been a year since we first came here. Time can change things." I remarked. She nodded and motioned for us to enter.
We crossed the unlocked gate and sought out Atrocious' tent.
"Are you certain he is here?" I questioned, nervously reaching for the lock on the briefcase I held.
"I'm positive." She replied while looking around the tattered tent in front of us for an entrance. Finally she stumbled upon a curtain that cleared the way when moved from the path.
I held the curtain aloft for her. "Ladies first."
She looked at me with a glare, knowing that I was counting on her bravery to lead the way.
Once clear of the cloth barrier we examined the stage in front of us. It was empty. There was not even a seat to be found for the crowd to relax as they once had.
"Wasn't his room in the back?" I commented while pointing to the rear of the tent.
Liz nodded and marched towards our destination.
We both let out a sigh of relief as we could see light coming from under the door of Atrocious' makeshift office.
"Should we knock?" I whispered, shrugging.
Liz shook her head, negative. A second later she had kicked the door down and inside was a terribly frightened Atrocious who was standing with his back against the wall, his arm across his face to both hide and protect himself, as well as his other hand holding his broken cane which was pointed at us.
Again we felt the pressure settle and relaxed. Entering the office Atrocious was rattling hard and seemed to be mouthing some words which could not come out.
"Hey you dolt, it's us!" Elizabeth shouted with her hands on her hips.
Atrocious slowly lowered the arm which blocked his vision. His mouth was still unable to speak the words and his body shivered.
"I'm sorry Atrocious. We didn't mean to scare you so. I think Elizabeth is just confused why you had called us out here?"
Liz shook her head in agreement.
The magician's tension had greatly resolved and I placed a hand on his shoulder. "It's alright friend. Would you like to sit?" I said, motioning for him to perch on his small stool which rested in front of a mirror.
He agreed and I helped him to sit down.
"Apologies for my appearance. I've been terribly unnerved." He stammered out with chattering teeth.
We pushed for answers and he produced a small letter with a familiar seal. The seal of Baron Nero Meinster.
"It's an invitation, to the Carnevale of 1905." He continued, taking deep breaths to help compose himself. It didn't seem to be of much help as the nervous shivering intensified.
"Why is this such a problem?" I inquired.
"It's not what it seems. This invitation is an execution order. You see, some time ago the Baron and I came to an accord..." He paused to listen for something.
"You mean to say that you made a bargain with Meinster?" Elizabeth questioned. Atrocious nodded. "For as much as I've brought smiles, joy, and entertainment to people... Let's just say that I have also made some other people very, quite extremely so, unhappy."
"Is the Baron one of those people?" I was lost as to why the Baron wanted him dead, unless he failed to live up to his deal. As if reading my mind he responded.
"No. The problem is that I succeeded with, his, wishes."
I was still confused about the details but it was obvious that he wasn't willing to split with the information. Elizabeth on the other hand seemed to have a better idea of what he meant but I wasn't able to have her divulge her opinion on the subject until later.
"Where does this involve us?" She asked.
"I'm going to attend the Carnevale where I will be performing my magic as usual. This time I will be performing a special trick. Perhaps my greatest one.
I'm going to be needing some exceptionally handy volunteers, as it were, in order to pull it off."
"Anything for a friend." Elizabeth stated and he began to divulge his plan to us in confidence.
Part 10: March 23, 1905 * * * * * * * * *
VENICE, ITALY, 1905
I was uncertain that we would ever see the streets of Venice again, in any timeline. After our last escape both Elizabeth and I were wanted individuals. As such we had our appearances hidden. We followed closely to Atrocious who we pretended to be assistants for, keeping close to him while disguised in our hooded cloaks and speaking nary a word.
He, at least, still held good standing within the city. Ever the cynic, Elizabeth shared a concern that despite our friendship the magician might be leading us into a trap.
I felt confident in his reliability and tried to reassure her in these instances as I often had before.
Her sense of danger however was not ill-founded. There was a strange chill in the air, as if all was not well, and night was beginning to fall fast.
"Quickly now, if we are to succeed we must finish our preparations before tommo-" Atrocious was cut short as an intimidating figure approached from the path ahead.
It held a lantern in its hand and at the present distance was unrecognizable. We pulled our cloaks tighter as we made our way down the walkway.
"Careful citizen. The night brings dangerous things." The figure said in the familiar voice of a man we were well acquainted with.
"Best be getti-... Atrocious!" The man exclaimed with a hiss. "What trouble are you getting up to now? And..." He paused, seeming to sniff the air. "You bring another murderer and her husband with you?"
"I don't know what you're talking about Commander Drakenwulf. These are my assistants for the Baron's upcoming Carnevale!" Atrocious stammered out unconfidently.
"Cut the lies assassin!" He barked. Taking a step towards us he froze in place and let out a gasp of pain.
"Oh no." Atrocious muttered. "Run!" He cried out and we did just that. At first I wasn't certain what had happened. Had Atrocious attacked the Commander? I had not seen him move a muscle in his direction but Atrocious was known to have a few tricks up his sleeve at all times.
It was then that I heard the terrible howling in the night. I had heard the baying of wolves before but this chilled the heart of the listener to the very core. "It can't be!" I exclaimed. "It is!" Atrocious yelled back from in front of us. "I thought it was only legend?" Atrocious didn't reply and instead motioned for us to duck in through the door of a small cathedral. "Unholy brute." Atrocious spat. "What is going on?" Elizabeth demanded, out of breath and very confused.
"Werewolf." Both Atrocious and I commented. Elizabeth cringed and seemed as perplexed as I was. "Something that you will learn is that often legends come from some truth. I thought that you would have found this out by now since I gave you that device to travel with." Atrocious commented, glancing out of a nearby window.
"We are very careful not to disturb the timeline. I wouldn't want to change anything." I stated. Atrocious let out a laugh. "I may not know a lot about many things but there a few things that I know and one of those..." He paused and a slight chill came over us. "... it doesn't work like that." He whispered and motioned for us to get down beneath the pews.
We seemed to lay there for an eternity before a loud knocking echoed around the stone church. There was an insidious and unnatural laugh followed by the unholy howl of the werewolf.
"He can't get in here can he? I've heard tha-." Elizabeth started before the door began creaking loudly. A second later it popped off its hinges and flew across the middle aisle.
Elizabeth and I almost screamed in surprise but held each other's mouth shut.
The commander sniffed loudly. "I know you are here, little snake." He called out mockingly.
Atrocious put a finger to his lips and slipped out from under the seats.
"I consider myself more like a cat." The magician's voice echoed from some far corner. "Quiet." The sound came from the opposite corner. "Lithe." It sounded yet again from somewhere else in the room. "Cunning!" He shouted as he whipped out a tool to strike the werewolf with. A small silver baton. According to legend silver was very powerful against a werewolf, but it seemed that this time it had little to no effect.
"Damn." Atrocious muttered before being gripped on the arm by Drakenwulf's massive clawed paw and slung just as effortlessly as the door he had broken moments before.
"Our turn." Liz said with a smirk.
With a flick of her wrists two guns spun out from the sleeves of her cloak.
From one came a stream of fire and the other launched frozen bullets of nitroglycerin.
The frozen bullets would melt, painting the general's fur with a thick coat of the explosive substance. Now licked by the flames a series of loud pops rang out while the smell of both burning flesh and hair struck my nostrils. The nitroglycerin had been lit and the werewolf-general let out an injured yelp.
The pain forced him to transform back into a man to try and escape but it was still eating at his skin. I had already gotten up from underneath the pew to see this occur and now walked over to the commander to tend to his burning wounds.
He waved me away and I watched as his injuries rapidly healed before my eyes.
"Incredible." I exclaimed.
Now Atrocious and Elizabeth stood at my sides and gazed at the naked man in front of us. He lay there trying to catch his breath so we let him rest for a moment, knowing that he had already given up the fight.
"So, you're a lycanthrope?" I questioned. He nodded as he took a drink from a flask that Atrocious had offered him. "I was cursed a very long time ago. I hardly remember it now. The man who sealed my fate though, his face is etched in my mind until my dying day."
"I have a lot of questions to ask you about this but it will have to wait for another time. You must know that we are here for a purpose?" I continued. He shook his head no as he took another sip.
"The Baron has sent me an invitation to the Carnevale." Atrocious piped in, producing the letter from his coat pocket and handing it to the commander to read. Upon receiving said letter Drakenwulf furrowed his brow.
"The entertainment doesn't get an invitation to the Carnevale because you are paid to be there. This implies that you must have paid to attend and I know that you of all people can..." He stumbled over the last word as the realization crept in. "You didn't pay to attend, did you?" He asked, to which Atrocious smirked and shook his head.
"A fee will be collected by the Baron tomorrow night. You know what I have done for him, I am certain."
"Aye, I do. This means that others are coming closer to revealing the Baron's, let us call them, accidents." The general stated confidently. "I concur."
"Perhaps we can be of use to each other then. You are not the only one who knows of my secret. After our last encounter there was another witness who recognized my transformation."
"Blackmail." Elizabeth whispered.
"You could say that the Baron has you on a tight leash now, eh?" Atrocious remarked with a coy grin. This elicited a deep growl from Drakenwulf. The magician made a motion as if to beg for forgiveness and the commander sat back, looking away out of a window.
"I cannot make a move while he holds his evidence over me. Should the time arise that I can be of assistance in striking a blow to him simply request for me an I will help."
"Good. We have a plan, but we have to get to the Carnevale first." I chimed in.
"You are going to need a better disguise if you wish to fool the Baron. Those cloaks alone won't keep you hidden. Let me gather my belongings and we will go to see the mask maker nearby."
"Afterwards we will have one more visit to make before retiring this evening." Atrocious remarked curiously.