On A Night Darkly
~ Rambling Celebrations ~
Wineday the 18th of Dusk 1830
It was not long past the hoar of the high moon when I found myself sauntering out of the ‘Three jolly Butchers’ on Highgate avenue, Just shy of Highgate Cemetery when I took a moment to relieve myself in an alleyway, I do believe it was behind ‘The Dry Dish Barbershop’ in the little alcove that sat a dozen or so steps off the main street and acted as the main entrance to the few apartments that lay above the various stores and shops on Highgate Avenue.
This little spot must have been a favourite for many a quick revilement because I certainly could not leave my mark higher than the darker shadow that was cast upon the old brickwork. buttoning up my fly and readjusting my trousers suspenders I waddled out back into the street with the merry jaunt of a man readjusting himself.
Today was a merry day and I had certainly had the night to prove it, tomorrow would certainly be a day of recuperation in the dark of my dingy little abode off Johnson’s Way down by the docks. I had just attained the rank of Journeyman at the Printing Press on Mulligans Ditch by the River and Impertors Bridge, South of the bridge in fact. A substantial pay packet was waiting for me at the end of the month, one that would get me out of that dingy little apartment and back in a place of repute.
I stopped in the middle of the street and reached into my right breast pocket of the shabby but still fashionable jacket and took out the well folded but neatly kept letter. Straining my eyes over the paper and by the new Arc lighting set into the old street Lamps, I read the letter.
“Dear Mr. Wright Sherris.” I began in my deep bass of a voice. “It is with great pride and joy that Mr Fitzgerald has requested me to offer you the place at companies Journeyman club, with all the that the rank bestows. We do hope that you are as thrilled as we are at your progress through his company. I look forward to seeing the work you accomplish in the up and coming years.”
Putting the letter neatly away, I tugged at my jacket proudly and restarted my walk with a true prideful stride to my step. The air in the capital was cool this eve, it was nearing winter but the freeze of the season had yet to take hold of the city. Apparently snow had been seen further north but here in Ilmaria city it had not yet reached us. With the air cool and my mind still hazy with the not as cheap booze that I had treated myself to tonight, I decided to take a ramble before returning home.
I decided to take my walk through Capital Park rather than taking it around to the river and following it down home. The Park was a slight danger on nights due to the thieves and street punks hiding away to rob people just like me but with the cold air on the rise, I decided that it was worth the risk and resigned myself to believe that the thieves and ruffians would stay warm rather than rob a lone wanderer.
Capital Park was a rather substantial plot of land just East of the pub and took me a dozen or so minutes to saunter down the road, avoiding the speeding carriages and hacks that still ran at this time. The entrance to Capital park was a huge set of black iron gates encrusted with the Impertors crown at the height, surrounded by a pair of Eagle wings. Taking a brief second to put my hand to my breast in salute to the Crown I stepped through the half-open portal.
The path down the small declining hill was gravel and crunched underfoot. The morning dew had yet to find its place on the grass so I decided to abandon the path and saunter through the grass. Thick bushes and tree’s lined the outer fingers of the grass and in the dark they stood ominous against the back light of the street lamps acidic yellow glow. I avoided the edges and remained at the centre of the grass. Shortly before I arrived at the small lake that lay at the centre of the park I stopped and stared up at the sky.
The moon was full and stood out at the centre of the sky like a new world smiling down on me, back lit by the vast expanses of the sky, the stars of distant worlds and places all out of reach yet so close as if to just reach up and touch. I even found myself reaching my hand up to the stars and spreading my fingers out to encompass the handful I could grasp.
“It is beautiful, is it not?” A voice spoke from beside me and caught me off guard as I quickly jumped to the side and I felt my cheeks burn red with embarrassment at being caught in such a state of drunken act. At least I had not been caught taking a shit or a piss out in the open.
Squinting into the darkness of the fringes of the grass I managed to make out the silhouette of the voice’s source. “Good evening… erm.. Sir?” I asked out and made a step forward. “I am sorry but I was lost in thought, I did not hear you approach.”
The silhouette shifted side to side slightly and spoke again but not before letting out a soft chuckle or giggle, this time I managed to realise that the voice was of a feminine nature and I felt even more silly for calling them ‘sir’.”Good Sir, it should be me apologising for startling you in your revelry.” Stepping a step closer, the figure was still covered in the shadow of the tree’s. “I asked if you thought it was beautiful.” The female shadow spoke softly, her voice was young but also mature tone at the same time; A noble of some sort?
“I do agree, tonight is a fine night, although I would not say beautiful, the smog of the city’s North end does smother the stars.” I grinned softly and took a step closer. “Although if you wish to sit and watch the stars I would not mind the company. I am in high spirits and…” I pulled out a small bottle I had smuggled out of the pub. “I have room to share.”
The woman laughed softly and stepped closer out of the shadows. She was breathtaking, more beautiful than anything I had ever seen as I stood in awe of her. Her red hair fell down her shoulders in a flow that was not too dissimilar to spilled wine or even blood. Her cheeks came to a rounded point at her chin and her high cheekbones gave a jaunty disposition. She was young, but the youth of childhood or the angry years of a teenager. She stepped further out of the shadows and and stopped a few feet away from me, slowly putting her hands behind her back and bouncing ever so slightly on the balls of her feet. “I do agree that the smog really does ruin the atmosphere but I do think I know a spot that you can count every star in the night sky and..” She paused and leaned forward slightly. “…enjoy that fine bottle of?”
“1602 Tousir Red.” I smiled and she let out a soft whistle.
“A fine vintage although I do prefer the Adestein White on a night like this, but a red will do fine.” She chuckled before letting out a sigh. “We might have to enjoy it quick though, as I am attending a meeting soon.” She explained and motioned for me to follow into the tree’s she had came from.
“You are not going to mug me are you?” I asked half-jokingly and she tilted her head in a disappointed way.
“I would say that hurt my feelings but I understand that feeling, trust me; if I was going to mug you I would not do it alone.” She laughed and against my better judgement, I followed her.
Stepping through the trees and underbrush, I managed to keep an eye on her blood red hair as I tried to avoid snagging myself on any thorns or twigs. “Where are we going?” I called out to her.
“It is near.” She called out over her shoulder as she disappeared past a tree branch. I hurried to pass the tree and find her again. I knew I could easily get out of the park so I was not worried if I lost her but I would be disappointed. I was about to call out again when I realised I did not know her name, would she tell me if I asked or was this all just a trick to get me cornered without anywhere to go before being robbed by a single thief or group?
Just as I thought this would occur I stepped out of the underbrush and into a small clearing. I stopped right at the edge and blinked my eyes clear of the dull shadows and to the sudden bright twilight. I found myself staring at a small hillock raising just above the tree line, I could not see the top of the hillock from my place at the base but I could see the girl climbing the hill not far from me.
I watched as she turned and waved me over. Taking a breath of the fresh air and rushing for the base of the hill and begun climbing on my hands and feet. It was not steep to be unclimbable but it could not be climbed upright.
The girl giggled when she saw me and when she reached the pinnacle of the hill she turned to face me and watched me reaching her. I hurried to meet her and stood up straight as I managed to reach her.
Before I could even catch my breath she put her arms around my shoulders and pulled me closer in for a kiss. I panted as I was released, blinking confused at the action. “Are you disappointed?” She asked and I let out the quaintest of chuckles as I shook my head quickly.
“Not at all.” I managed to say. “Just a surprise.”
“A bad surprise?” She teased coyly.
“A happy one indeed.” I said back and held out the bottle for her. Taking it quickly from my hand and using her teeth to pull the cork from the neck, sitting it away and watching it roll down the hillock, she took a deep gulp of the wine and let out a loud sigh of relief.
“A fine Tousir Red indeed, I am surprised to find anything good come out of the Principality.” She said as she began to walk backwards further onto the summit of the hillock.
“You know the Principality well?” I asked as I followed, my eyes captivated by her as I did not bother to look around us.
“I am from the Capital of it. I left when I was only ten.” She explained. “A horrid place, my father was a councilman on one of the Guild Boards and all he ever cared about was bringing in Crowns.”
“My condolences miss…” I paused, I realised I did not know her name. She noticed my pause and slowly reached out to pull herself onto my lap.
“Miss Florencia… you can call me Florry Mr…” She winked and I smiled back.
“Mr Wright Sherris, you can call me Sherry.”
“Sherry.” She tested the name on her lips and the way she said it made the hair down my neck stand on end. “Like the drink.” She added just before taking a swig of the bottle and handing it over to me. I took a swig too and found it nearly empty. I handed it back to her. “Oh I found myself a true gentleman.” She grinned as she finished it off and threw it over her shoulder to smash and break not far from us.
“Oh I can be a real true gentleman.” I laughed and we laughed together before we embraced again. I don’t know how long we sat there in each others arms, sharing breaths, touches and… well… more than that. The chill off the night was quickly forgotten thanks to the warmth in our belly’s and our hearts as clothes and attire were discarded into a shared pile; like the wash piles at the old factories and mills I used to work in before the printing press.
We had just finished our first round of embraces there on the height of the hillock when she wrapped her arms around my shoulders and turned us over, sitting me on my back, I stared up at her as she stared down at me. “So, Sherry, will you help me with something?” She asked and I nodded like a fool. “I need to hear you say it, say you will help me.” She told me as she leaned down and placed a kiss on my nose tip.
“I will help you in any way I can.” I said without any hesitation.
“That is exactly what we wanted to hear.” She said, and it took a few long moments for me to realise what she said.
“We?” I asked and blinked the moonlight out of my eyes. Thats when I noticed the others.
I did not know how long they had been stood there and how long they had been watching me and Florry make love on the hillock but I was sure they had not been there a moment before. I sat up ever so slowly but Florry gently pushed me back down on the grass.
“Don’t be worried Sherry, they are the ones I spoke about.” She explained. “They won’t touch you, unless you want them to.” She winked and as my eyes adjusted from the moonlight that settled down around us to the darkness they stood at the edge of the light I saw they were all wearing hooded robes, deep fabric that gave no form to their silhouette, they could have been men or women, I could not tell. When I stared harder into the dark I found they were all wearing masks, most were full face but some revealed mouths in various styles; none two were alike and in various colours I could only just make out in the shadows.
“Who are they?” I asked nervously. I did not like the feeling growing in my stomach.