Immortal Devices (Steampunk Scarlett Novel #2), page 1
A Steampunk Scarlett Novel
Immortal Devices: A Steampunk Scarlett Novel
Published by THE EDGE
THE EDGE is an imprint of Sparklesoup Inc.
Copyright © 2012 Kailin Gow
All Rights Reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping or by any information storage or retrieval system, without the permission in writing from the publisher except in case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
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For anyone who has ever been foolishly in love…
Scarlett sat in the dining room of her family’s London home, eating a breakfast that had been brought through by her maid, Frances. The young woman had arrived back from the country just this morning with several of the other staff, and currently seemed to be determined to make up for not having been there when Scarlett arrived by not letting her do anything for herself. Already, she had insisted on helping Scarlett dress in a simple dress of bright blue that went with Scarlett’s eyes, and put her blonde locks up in an elaborate arrangement that Scarlett had barely had the patience to sit there for.
The breakfast almost made up for it, though it was ludicrous, having to put up with the formality of a fully set dinner table even when breakfasting alone. Scarlett sighed. It was 1895, with the dawn of a new century near the corner. There shouldn’t be such formality. Formality got in the way of practicality…a trait she picked up from her famous Egyptologist parents, and a trait emphasized by her parents’ detective friend Holmes. Still, at least the tea was well made, the servants having long since learned how important it was to Scarlett. She sat there and sipped it, working her way through the food on the table methodically.
One of the broadsheets sat to one side, but there was little in it to catch Scarlett’s interest after the events of the previous evening. In a world full of secret orders and magical Devices, not to mention vampires bent on exploiting those Devices for their own ends, the news that the Empire was in discussions with Germany about reorganizing some of their African territories hardly seemed that important.
Scarlett sighed. She supposed most young women her age in London society would have been happy for an adventure like the one of the last few days to be over. They would have at least welcomed the opportunity to sit down and relax after days and nights spent investigating. They would not have been sitting there, tapping out an irritated pattern on the tablecloth with their fingertips in a way that would almost certainly have drawn a sharp word from her mother had she been there.
Of course, they presumably would not have felt quite so hemmed in by what passed for normal life. They would not have felt, as Scarlett had felt when Frances helped her to prepare for the day, that they were somehow being readied for a part playing the role of the dutiful young woman. What would her day include today? Visiting one of the families she knew in London? Reading some “improving” book or other? After yesterday, it hardly seemed like enough to fill the time.
Scarlett was still sitting there contemplating that when a knock came at the door. She resisted the urge to leap up and see who it was out of sheer boredom. After all, it was not done for well off young ladies to answer their own doors. Instead, she waited as patiently as she could while Frances hurried off to answer it, muttering darkly about people who called on others so early in the day, rather than at the usual hours for visiting.
It did not take long for Scarlett to detect the sounds of an argument, and less than a minute after that, a figure came barging into the room, pursued by Frances. He was a more than familiar figure, from his long, jet black hair to the slightly tanned skin and strong features that made him more than handsome. Scarlett had looked into those Kohl lined green eyes just yesterday, after all. She had stared into them, and even kissed their owner’s full lips, getting a vision from doing so in a way that she still wasn’t sure she fully understood. It had been a good kiss, too. Perhaps a day ago, that thought might have made Scarlett blush. She did not now. She straighten her back. The kiss was necessary to help her see into Tavian’s memories. Along with her gift of seeing the supernatural, she had discovered other gifts these last few days. The one involving the ability to see the handsome gypsy Tavian’s memories through a kiss was an useful and quite pleasant one, she had to admit.
“You know this gypsy, Miss Scarlett?” Frances asked with obvious concern. “He pushed his way right past me, demanding to see you.”
“Thank you, Frances,” Scarlett said with careful restraint as she stood. Would it make any difference to the maid if she knew that Tavian was not just a passing gypsy, but also one of the magical fey, left as a changeling after birth? No, probably not. “That will be all for now.”
“You want me to leave you alone in the room with this young man?” Frances sounded almost incredulous.
“That will be all, thank you, Frances.”
The maid hurried out, and for a moment, Tavian and Scarlett stood there looking at one another.
“Tavian,” Scarlett asked, “is everything all right? Please tell me you did not come over just to scandalize the servants.”
“No, I… it is better if I show you.”
Perhaps Scarlett should have guessed what Tavian meant before he rushed over and swept her into his arms. The kiss that followed was brief, but passionate, taking Scarlett’s breath away. More than that, it brought with it images of his memories, exactly the same way that his kiss had let her see so much before. Only this time, it wasn’t the long distant past that Scarlett saw.
She found herself standing by Tavian’s caravan in the moments after Cruces had whisked her away the night before. How she knew that, Scarlett wasn’t entirely sure, but she did know it. She could see the almost unnatural good looks of the vampire Rothschild across from her, as well as Tavian’s sister Cecilia. Together they looked so similar, with the same dark hair, sharply elegant features and piercing eyes.
She and Tavian were attacking Rothschild in concert. Tavian was lashing out with Cruces’ fey spear, which could freeze a vampire in place with a wound, while Cecilia was using a knife that, even if not magical, still looked wickedly sharp. Between the two, Rothschild was having to keep his distance.
Cecilia was talking as she attacked. “You’re going to regret using me,” she promised, in tones that made Scarlett almost glad that the girl had no reason to hate her too. “First, my brother is going to freeze you, and we’ll kill you like the vermin you are. Then, I’m going to make sure that your Order doesn’t achieve anything, because I’m going to tell Miss Seely exactly how to find her friend Gordon.”
Gordon. Scarlett’s longtime friend and fencing teacher, whom she had believed had been helping with the case. It had turned out, however, that Cecilia had been impersonating him using the magic of the fey. The real Gordon had been moved to another world by Rothschild, using one of the magical rings created for the first vampire’s “children”. The idea had been to force Scarlett into tracking down the magical Devices for him as part of the search for her friend. If Cecilia knew of an easier way to find Gordon…
It was clear though that things were
“I cannot let you tell her that, Cecilia.”
“What are you going to do?” the fey girl demanded. “Strangle me again?”
Rothschild laughed. Even though it was just a memory, and even though she knew what he was now, Scarlett could not help being caught up in the beauty of that sound. “I was thinking of something a bit more permanent, this time,” the vampire said.
He lifted his left hand, on which his ring glinted golden even in the moonlight. The air next to him and Cecilia seemed almost to split, tearing apart like the seam on a badly sewn garment. Light spilled so bright from beyond the split that Scarlett was blinded for a second. She saw Tavian start forward towards it, knowing already that he did not have the time.
He did not. Rothschild held Cecilia, lifted her, and stepped through the gap he had created as though it were nothing unusual. The gap sealed behind him almost instantly, healing up so that just a second later, it looked like the ragged opening in the air had never been there. Tavian was left simply staring at the empty space where his sister had been.
The vision faded then, leaving Scarlett looking at Tavian from just inches away. She stepped back reluctantly, knowing that even though her parents had little time for the usual formalities and proprieties, they would not like it if someone like Frances were to write to them suggesting that something untoward was going on.
“Where do you think Rothschild took Cecilia?” Scarlett asked.
Tavian shook his head. “I am not sure. It was another world, clearly. Perhaps the world of the fey. It would be an obvious place for them to go, particularly with Rothschild so determined to be rid of Cecilia.” His expression grew bleak then. “This is the third time in just days that I seem to have lost her. First when she pretended to go missing. Then, when I thought Rothschild had killed her. Now… now it is hard to know even where to begin looking.”
Scarlett reached out to take his hand, ignoring what the servants might think. “We will find her,” she promised. “Just allow me a minute or two to get ready.”
She headed upstairs, trailing Frances in her wake, and retrieved her Egyptian dagger from her bedside table. Lifting her skirt, she strapped the sheath for it to her thigh.
“Miss Scarlett…” Frances began in a reproving tone.
“Frances, the matter I am about to get involved in may well mean people trying to kill me. Would you rather I went unprotected?”
“But your parents…”
“They gave me the dagger. As for how I have to wear it… well, I admit that it would be a little easier if women didn’t have to wear such utterly impractical things, and one day I hope to be able to wear perfectly sensible trousers in the middle of the City…”
“…but for now, this is the best I can do. If it makes you feel any better, I am about to pay a visit to an aristocrat in one of the most respectable areas of London. Given the reputation of the aristocrat in question, though, I cannot imagine it is that much of an improvement. Now, would you hand me my coat please?”
Frances did as she was told, thankfully, and Scarlett went back downstairs to meet Tavian.
“Come along then,” Scarlett said, offering the young gypsy man her arm. He took it without hesitation.
“Where are we going?” he asked.
“Where can we go?” Scarlett countered. “We need to hunt for your sister in another world. That means using a ring like Rothschild’s. There might still be two more in existence, but only one of them is in London. We need to talk with its owner.”
Tavian did not appear particularly happy at that. “You mean…”
Scarlett smiled. “I mean that we are going to see Cruces, Tavian. Please do try to get along with him this morning. After all, he holds the key to getting Cecilia back.”
Since Cruces’ townhouse was not that far, Scarlett and Tavian walked to it rather than summoning a cab. At that time of the morning, with people out on the streets on the way to their various places of work, it was actually quite pleasant.
Scarlett found herself wondering if it would be quite so pleasant when they got there. The previous night, Cruces had whisked her back to his home in a rush to keep her clear of the clutches of the Order. Yet she had not stayed, the way he had clearly wanted. She had gone home. After all, she could not simply spend the night in the house of a man like Cruces. Would he have forgiven that?
There was really only one way to find out, and Scarlett was already on her way to find out. She increased her pace slightly, pushing through the crowds, and it was not long before the two of them arrived in Piccadilly. Scarlett moved up the steps to Cruces’ house and rang the doorbell, tapping her foot slightly impatiently as she waited.
The door opened within a few seconds, revealing an elderly man with thinning white hair and an almost beaklike nose, dressed impeccably in the uniform of a butler. He looked at Scarlett with the careful neutrality that was the hallmark of any good butler, then at Tavian with slightly less equanimity.
Scarlett had not met the man before, but that was mostly because the few times she had been in Cruces’ home, the vampire had been with her. She certainly knew that Cruces had servants around. After all, Cecilia had been one of them.
“We need to see Lord Darthmoor urgently,” Scarlet said.
“I am afraid that he is not at home to visitors at this hour, Miss.”
“Well,” Scarlett said, “he is just going to have to be. Would you tell him that Miss Seely is here to see him, please?”
“Perhaps if you were to call back in an hour or two…”
“It really cannot wait,” Scarlett said. She put a palm out to block the door so that the butler would not have any chance to simply close the door. “And if he hears that you have delayed us in this matter, I cannot imagine that Cruces will be very impressed.”
She used the vampire’s first name deliberately, hoping that it would make the point that they were not casual callers. Even so, the butler seemed unmoved.
“George, who is it?” Cruces called out. “It is far too early for visitors.”
“So I was just explaining to the young lady, sir.”
Cruces appeared at the door a moment or two later. He wasn’t really dressed for visitors. If anything, they seemed to have caught him in the middle of dressing. He had on his pants and a half-way buttoned up shirt, but there was no sign of his cravat, suspenders, or outer garments. Scarlett realized that she should probably look away, but she had never had much time for what she should probably do. Instead, she let her eyes rove over Cruces, taking in the hints of muscle that showed under the shirt, his broad frame filling it out really very nicely.
Cruces smiled in a way that made it clear he knew exactly what Scarlett was looking at. “Scarlett. I trust you had a restful night back in your home.”
Of course he would refer to it. Scarlett was not about to be ashamed of it, either, so she nodded. “Very restful, thank you.”
“That would probably be thanks to the wards around your house,” Tavian said from beside Scarlett.
Scarlett raised an eyebrow. “Wards? There were wards around my house?”
Tavian nodded. “I spotted them when I came over. Someone placed basic protective symbols around your home.”
“Well,” Cruces said, unabashed, “you wouldn’t expect me to just leave her alone with the Order sniffing around, would you?”
“No,” Tavian admitted, “I suppose not.”
Scarlett had not noticed the wards, but presumably, that was because she hadn’t seen the outside of her house since she came back to it last night. She had certainly been in too much of a hurry when she left it this morning. Briefly, she found herself torn then between gratitude at the thoughtfulness of the gesture, and the ine
“Cruces, we are here on an important matter.”
Tavian stepped up to her then, and his arm slid around her. Scarlett saw Cruces’ expression flicker, just faintly, at the gesture.
“And what matter might that be?” He asked that just a little too loudly.
“My sister is missing,” Tavian said. There wasn’t anything in that tone. Perhaps he knew that he couldn’t afford to upset Cruces when the vampire offered their best chance of getting Cecilia back.
Cruces sighed. “Again? And what valuable item has she taken with her this time?”
“It isn’t like that,” Scarlett said. “May we come in?”
“Yes, yes, of course. Come through to the dining room. George, bring tea for my guests, and my usual drink for me. Have you both eaten?”
Scarlett nodded, but when Tavian shook his head, Cruces ordered the butler to find breakfast for the gypsy fey as well as the drinks. They went through to the dining room to wait for them. It was opulent, decorated in tastes that were elaborate, yet seemed to owe much to the lines of the classical world. That made sense though. Presumably, it reminded Cruces of his youth. He kept his appearance as a handsome young man, although he was so ancient that possibly not even that style was old enough to genuinely reflect his first days as a vampire. There were busts of long dead people around the walls, and paintings that reflected scenes from legends. In the center, there was a long dining table running most of the length of the room, and the three of them crowded at one end of it.
“Now,” Cruces demanded, “are you going to tell me what is going on?”
Scarlett decided that it would probably be better coming from her. “Rothschild took Cecilia, and she knows where Gordon is, so we need to get her back.”
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