To celebrate Fandible’s return to Unhallowed Metropolis, please enjoy this excerpt from one of Oliver Wright’s penny dreadful novels.
The Mourner knows what is whispered about her in polite society. The unusual nature of her employment; the strings that must have been pulled to ensure a neophyte had gainful employment so soon after donning the veil; not to mention the nature of her companionship with her primary protectee. Still, it was more than just duty that led her to steal from the manor in the dead of night.
The Witching Hour is no time for man nor woman of noble birth to be on the streets of London. And yet, on the night when this tale occurred,it is exactly when Mr. Byron Clayton left the comfort and safety of Clayton Manor, with the enigmatic Moira Clayton (née Hepburn) on his heels.
What kind of man drags a woman out with him at such an hour – even as deadly a woman as the Mourner’s Guild trains? Truly only one without a care for the health and safety of the fairer sex.
Mrs. Clayton was, of course, well aware of Mr. Clayton’s appetites. Even before she took her privileged position as protector of her late-husband’s family, the younger Mr. Clayton’s proclivities were well known. But between the guild’s infamous vow of silence and the deep pockets paying her weekly wage, we’re unlikely to know what motivations are hidden behind layers of armor and blades of steel.
But as I was saying, on the night of this tale, Byron Clayton was once again out for a midnight joyride, and bound both by duty and her more-than-fraternal affections, Moira Clayton was his escort to his latest preferred den of iniquity.
The pungent stench of opium stings the Mourner’s nose when she leads her charge out of their carriage on a dark and anonymous street far from the comforts she had grown accustomed to as a member of the storied family. But true to her training, she doesn’t reveal her disgust as she follows Byron into the opium den.
A more wretched hive of scum and villainy my gently readers would be hard-pressed to imagine. Yet this is the sort of company our young aristocrat seems to prefer, blind as he is to what stands dutifully at his side.
Or perhaps, not so blind, and in fact painfully aware that this avenging angel of death is forever out of his grasp by the laws of man and God. With no end to the carnal delights and tawdry pleasures that adorn this opium den, it is the emerald eyes of his protector that Byron holds as he sinks into an opium-fueled haze.
And though Moira Clayton stands in a throng of depraved humanity, she feels abandoned again as she watches another man she could find herself loving slipping from her grasp, to a place where even her formidable skills are powerless to protect him…
Ed. Note – Oliver, we’ve talked about your naming choices before. One more story like this and the Claytons are gonna destroy our printing press. At least change the names before your next draft, eh?
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