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Tales on London #10

Chapter 10

By John H. KnightPublished 2 months ago 19 min read

The room was perfectly dark and almost as silent. The men could hear their own heartbeats. It was also very cold and felt big, but of course, they couldn't be sure about that last one. It smelled very bad, like rotten flesh and urine and stool, among other things.

'Hey, Carvelli?' said Bailey.

'Yeah?' Teodore sighed.

'I don't think this is the manager's office.'

'Really, Montgomery? What tipped you off?'

It was some kind of basement. They thought that going to certain pubs and saying they were looking for a job that isn’t strictly legal will get them some information to go on, a name, or even a phone number, but in reality, it just got them a lot of weird looks, a few rude words and lately, the dark basement.

'Do you have a spare wand? Looks like someone took mine,' Bailey said, pulling out his hand from his empty pocket.

‘Only my rings and tattoos,’ Teodore answered. ‘You have those too, don’t you? Rune tattoos?’

‘Just for the four elements. I wanted more, but…’

‘Afraid of needles, are we?’ Teodore smirked.

‘Shut up, Carvelli,’ Bailey snapped.

Something clicked and pale white light flickered alive.

'Holy shit!' Bailey cried out, and Teodore said something very similar, only in Italian.

It was indeed a big room, with a very tall ceiling and exposed bricks for walls, all of them with a carved Rune. There was no window or another door, and no furniture. The place must have been serving as storage at some point, according to the pallets in one corner, but that was not the corner that worried the two men.

There was a cage at the further end. Inside… They didn't know what was inside. It looked like a human, at least at the first glance, only it was huge. It wore old clothes, rigid from dirt and other things. The creature’s skin was grey and full of carbuncles and old scars, except for its right arm, which was made out of old and rusty metal. This arm was much thinner than the other, almost like the arm of a skeleton, but it had evil-looking long metal claws for fingers. It began just under the shoulder, sickeningly sinking into living flesh.

Its face was apparently sewn together from different faces, then was let to age and rot. In that ruin of a face sat a pair of bright, blue eyes.

It was awake and staring at them, grabbing the bars of its cage. The metal claws creaked on the steel with a noise that scratched Bailey's brain. He held back a wince.

'What the fuck is that?' he asked, taking a step back.

'That, my dear friends, is Frederick. He is a gentle soul, really, but unfortunately, he has a taste for human flesh,' the voice came from a speaker above the door. It had a slight Eastern European accent and was morbidly cheerful. 'I hear you were looking for me, a Montgomery and a Carvelli together isn’t that something! I feel honoured. But the question remains: why?'

Bailey raised his hand because Teodore opened his mouth to answer and that never worked out for them before.

'We are not looking for you, actually. Are you Kovach, right? Word on the street is, you know about everything happening in this city, and we have a question.'

That was true. Attila Kovach spent his last fifteen years building an empire for himself in the underground of London. His hand was in everything from illegal magic to drugs and weapons and prostitution. It was clear that if anyone knows who hired the Priest, it would be him. Unfortunately, Kovach was almost completely insane, and his business partners tended to disappear. Presumably, in Frederick's belly, Bailey thought, shivering.

'A question, you say? And tell me, young Montgomery, why would I answer? What do you have that I would possibly want?'

'How about you answer and we won't fuck up your pathetic little criminal life?' Teodore said angrily. Bailey buried his face into his palms.

'Fuck,' he said quietly.

Kovach sighed, which caused the speaker to creak. Frederick didn't like the noise and hit the bars with his fists. Runes sparkled up on the cold metal to hold him back.

'And here I thought we are going to be friends. Oh, well, life is full of disappointments, isn't it? Not yours, mind you, guys. Yours are ending now. Which, now that I think about it, must be disappointing, so I stand corrected. Anyway, good luck!'

The speaker staticed one more time then went silent. For a second nothing happened, and Bailey was just about to turn towards Teodore to tell him off when they heard a small click.

The door of the cage opened up for a few centimetres. The creature named Frederick pushed it, and it was wide open.

'Every time, Teodore. Every fucking time. I have been beaten up at least four times because of you in the last two days. Why can't you just shut up?'

'Focus. Have you seen anything like this before?' Teodore asked, taking out a hip flask. Frederick took a couple of hesitant steps, and now he was out of the cage. His blue eyes were pinned on them, full of hunger and evil intelligence, like a crocodile.

'Nobody has ever seen anything like that. Are you sure you wanna get drunk right now?'

'It's a potion, you idiot. Makes me stronger and faster,' Teodore explained, then he took a sip.

'Do you have something to make you three times bigger?' Bailey asked. He opened his fist, and above his palm, there was a dancing flame, red and yellow. The creature looked at it with surprise, but not with fear.

'Hit it, what are you waiting for?'

Bailey threw a ball of fire towards the creature. He raised his metal arm, faster than anything this big was supposed to move and slapped it aside. The flames went out harmlessly on the brick wall.

'That's… Not good,' Bailey said, as Frederick started to run, aiming for him. The ground was shaking under his steps. He raised his metal arm, claws pointing forward, ready to grab Bailey's heart. He leapt to the right, while Teodore jumped forward, somehow avoided the metal arm, and collided with the monster, shoulder first. The strike was so strong it would have cause several ribs to crack or break if Frederick would have been a human. But whatever he was, there was not much human-like about him, and Teodore simply just bounced off of him. Bailey let another fireball go, and even though it hit the target this time, didn't make a big difference. Except that it probably saved Teodore's life, who now was on the floor, defenceless. The giant turned around and his angry gaze found Bailey. His ragged clothes were smouldering.

Teodore reached out for the pallets in the corner, and the Rune of Movement lit up on his ring. A pallet flew across the room and shattered on the creature's head with a loud crack. The thing staggered back, and before he could find his balance, another pallet hit him. He opened his mouth but he couldn't cry; he seemed to be mute.

Bailey changed gear, and instead of fire, he tried air. Wind roared and Frederick had to take another step back, then one more, as it pushed him. Teodore got up, and fired the last pallet, which did not find its prey and exploded on the wall. He looked around for anything else he could throw, but the room was empty apart from the pillars holding up the ceiling. The Italian made that plan B; he preferred escape plans that didn't end with him being dead. So for now, he just sent a pulse of magic, in the form of Movement, and that pushed Frederick backwards a bit, but not quite as much as Teodore would have liked it. It seemed like the creature had some kind of resistance to pure magic.

Bailey shouted something, but he couldn't hear what because of the screams of the rampaging wind.

Frederick was only a couple of steps away from the cage, but he fought hard and actually managed to stay out, despite the squall Bailey brought upon him. Teodore saw that Montgomery was using up his energy quickly, his face was sweaty and his whole body shook.

Teodore did not like the idea that just sparked in his mind, because it was exactly the kind that could have gotten him killed, but he only got that one plan and nothing else, so he couldn't be picky.

He glanced behind his back, then hit the wall with the strongest pulse of Movement he could produce. He flew right into the wind, which gave him another boost. He flipped mid-air and went feet first, like a living cannonball, and this time he did some real damage. Something definitely snapped under the sole of his shoes and Frederick finally fell back, right into his cage. Teodore landed on the ground again. Air out of his lungs, ear ringing, he kicked the cage door shut. There was a big, flashy flame and the lock melted around the bar next to it. Bailey welded them together. Frederick sat on the floor, his back against the wall, barely moving. Both Bailey and Teodore found that very satisfying.

Bailey helped up Teodore.

'That was a huge clash, man! I thought you were done for,' Bailey said, 'How are you still in one piece?'

Teodore dusted himself off, then moved his shoulder around a bit. It cracked badly.

'The potion,' he said. Bailey didn't find that enough, so Teodore sighed and started to explain. 'It's called the Soldier's Elixir. Makes you harder to kill in many ways, but if you drink too much, it will kill you on its own. And even if it doesn't, it has its price. I'm gonna be hungover, like, on an epic scale tomorrow. And I need to eat soon, or I'll pass out.'

'Let's get you out of here, then,' Bailey said and turned towards the door.

'What about the fuckers in the bar?' Teodore asked. When they were tricked to go down the basement, there were at least half a dozen hired muscle around, keeping the place safe. 'Do you think they will let us walk away?'

'I took care of them,' Bailey waved and examined the door. 'They aren't going to cause any problem for us.'

The metal door, though enchanted, didn’t stand in their way for more than a few minutes, once they had the chance of looking at it. There was no noise from upstairs, as they started up on the staircase.

The bar was empty. Well, in a way. There were bodies lying around on the floor, one on the billiard table and one on the counter. Robert Montgomery was waiting for them, leaning on the bar, drinking whiskey with a grimace. His immaculate blue suit wasn't even wrinkled.

'What took you so long?' he asked cheerfully.

The police arrived about 10 minutes later, and not just any copper, but a team of forensic technicians and the Commissioner himself. He wore a white shirt, the pants of his police uniform and a vest, which was supposed to be stab, bullet and magic proof. He had a whip on his side, the usual weapon of the SRU. The Commissioner did not bother with any of the silly hats policemen used to wear, which was probably a good decision.

By the time he arrived, Robert finished off his whiskey, tied up the thugs he knocked out, took a look at Frederick in his cage, and polished his walking cane with a silk handkerchief he kept in the inside pocket of his grey trench coat. Now he tried to look bored on purpose just to piss off the old man.

Meanwhile, Teodore went to the kitchen and heated up a frozen pizza, which he now was eating with tired disgust on his face. It had a lot of things on it that a pizza was never supposed to have, but he needed to eat.

Bailey sat down and fell asleep, head on a table, slightly snoring. He used up too much energy in the fight.

'When I said that I don't want to see any more misstep from the lot of you, destroying pubs and hurting people were included, Mr Montgomery,' the Commissioner said, looking around the mess Robert made. He stood in the middle of the bar, hands joined behind his painfully straight back.

'It’s Professor Montgomery, actually,' the vampire did not react at all, so Robert shrugged: 'Never mind.'

Apart from the unconscious bodies, it wasn't that bad: a few broken pieces of furniture, a cracked wall, shattered glasses, a little brooke of gin or vodka on the floor behind the bar, nothing really serious.

'Just look at them,' Robert said, 'If you put together their criminal records, it will be longer than War and Peace. Not to mention the place is probably serving alcohol and food illegally. I just did you a favour.'

'Perhaps I should give you a raise then,' the Commissioner said dryly 'Except I can't because you are not a police officer, Mr Montgomery.'

'I agree,' Robert nodded. 'I am not. Which begs for the question: why am I doing their job?'

The vampire gave him a strict look but apparently decided that he isn't worth the effort.

'So what do we have here?' Marcus said from the front door. He had a crush helmet in his hand and a very expensive looking leather biker jacket on him. He’d just arrived. 'I heard you found something.'

'Yes, something, although I couldn't tell what, for a life of mine,' Robert nodded. 'Also, the credit actually goes to Teodore and my brother, I only helped them with the crowd control afterwards.'

'Let's check it out,' Marcus said. Broken pieces of glass crunched under his boots as he walked by. The Commissioner and Robert followed him. Teodore stayed where he was. He saw Frederick enough for a lifetime.

The forensic team was working down there despite the fact there was not a lot to bag as evidence. Robert was provided with a blue plastic overall, which he had to put on over his regular clothes, in order to get in the room. The other two did the same.

Frederick wasn't happy about the company, and he hated the sharp, white light, too. He tried to cover his eyes and hide in the corner of his cage. He was obviously dangerous, but for the moment being he acted like a frightened animal.

'Is he intelligent?' Robert asked quietly.

The Commissioner shook his head.

'Not particularly. Not more intelligent than a child, around 3 or 4, anyway.'

'So you know what it is, uncle?' Marcus was so nervous that he took out his silver wand without noticing it. The golden Runes sparkled up again and again, as he unintentionally was thinking about spells to use if the monster would get loose somehow.

'I've seen this before, yes,' the old man answered. 'We called them flesh-golems back in the days. Typical necromancer servants. Well, more like thugs, hitmen, brutes, actually. Ideal guards, because they don't need to sleep and don't have needs apart from some food.'

'Do you know how they work?' now it was the professor in Robert speaking, always curious, always need to know more.

'A part of it, perhaps. The necromancer took dead bodies and saw them together, in any shape. Not necessarily only human bodies, you understand. This one looks like a man, but it's just by chance. The metal arm is new, even for me.'

Marcus shivered and Robert felt the whiskey planning on coming back. He swallowed and asked:

'Then what?'

'Then the necro had to find a demon or an extremely powerful ghost, and trap it in the body.'

'Why not just kill someone instead?' Marcus frowned. 'Seems easier.'

'There is no guarantee that anyone you murder will become a ghost or revenant spirit,' explained Robert, using his teacher-voice. 'Not even if you torture them before. Easier to find one.'

The Commissioner looked at him with a blank face.

'You seem to know an awful lot about these things, Mr Montgomery,' he said.

'Well that's probably because I am the Priest, you see, and I’m so goddamn good, I actually managed to grow up with your nephew, despite me being hundreds of years old. My knowledge about magic has clearly nothing to do with me having a degree in magic.'

The Commissioner just stared at him for a few seconds, then shook his head again.

'I know you think you are funny, but one day you won't be the smartest and strongest one in the room when the rumble begins, and on that day I will be the one having a laugh,' he said in a calm voice, then nodded towards the stairs. 'Let's go up, I've seen enough.' He turned his back at them and walked away.

'Can he?' whispered Robert to Marcus. 'I mean, is he physically capable of laughing?'

His friend rolled his eyes at him as he was going after the old man. Robert heard him mumbling something that sounded like “Smartass”.

Up they went, then sat down at Teodore's table, who was still fighting with his very not Italian-like pizza. While they were down there, uniformed officers arrived to take away the former customers who were dumb enough to take a chance with Robert.

'Report, Mr Montgomery,' said the Commissioner. 'What did you find out?'

'Are you 100 per cent positive that good ol' Frederick is a work of a necromancer, then?' Robert asked back.

'I've only ever seen flesh-golems around necros, yes.'

'That means we have found a connection, then,' Robert nodded. 'If The Priest is the only one who can create something like Frederick, they must know each other with the owner of this place, right?'

'Most likely, yes,' said the Commissioner.

'What is going to happen with him, by the way?' Robert asked. 'Frederick, I mean.'

For a moment it looked like the vampire won't be answering, but then he changed his mind.

'We will put him out of his misery as gently as we can,' he said. 'He is a victim, all the same, only we cannot help him.'

'Sounds like a PR-stunt, but I will take it,' Robert said. 'Unfortunately, he seemed to be suffering, and I doubt there is anything we could do for him.'

'But how?' Marcus frowned. 'He is just a spirit, isn't he? Pure rage and nothing else. How can he feel bad?'

'We could fill libraries with the things we don't know about spirits,' Robert said slowly. 'Maybe getting a physical body reminds them of what they have lost. Or maybe the body is in constant pain, those scars looked painful. I’ll ask Jenna, it’s her field, more or less.'

They all stayed quiet for some time, thinking about the horror of living like that creature must have been.

'We did what you asked from us,' Teodore said after a minute or so. 'This pub is owned by a man named Attila Kovach. I think he talked to us through the speakers while we were downstairs. Tried to kill us. Catch him, if he is not amongst these geezers on the floor, and he will tell you where the Priest is.'

The Commissioner shook his head.

'That's only a lead. Not bad for a couple of untrained children, but I need results.'

'We found out more in two days than you in two decades! You cannot force us anymore, this is illegal,' Teodore said angrily.

'So are the dozens of misdemeanours you did since you came of age’ the Commissioner pointed it out coldly.

'Teodore,' Robert said in a calming voice, 'as much as I agree with you, we really need to see this through. I have a suspicion about the statue, and if I am right, which I usually am, this could be very, very bad to the city. To everyone.'

'What are you talking about?' the Commissioner asked sharply. Even Marcus looked interested.

'I will brief you on at the very moment I will know anything for sure. For now, all you have to do is to be ready. Kovach wasn't here when I arrived and in any minute now a whole clusterfuck could happen. So, Teodore, what do you say?'

The Italian didn't answer right away, and his face was sour and unreadable as always. Then he gave a very small nod.

'Right,' the Commissioner said. 'So what can you tell me now, Mr Montgomery?'

Robert gave some thoughts for the question before he answered. He didn’t want to be hasty and draw a false conclusion, but could not just withhold information from the Commissioner either.

'I think the Priest stole the statue for Kovach, who is not a stranger when it comes to rare and unique magical artefacts. Just look at Frederick. Or the big thunder last year: I have reason to believe it was generated by a Perun-orb, an artefact that can store several thunderstorms frozen in time. One of the few known Perun-orbs in existence went missing not long before the actual storm, here in London. Which incidentally occurred just mere days after Kovach signed a hefty insurance policy over some real estate he bought which happened to be in the storm’s way. Quite the coincidence.’

‘How do you know all this?’ Marcus asked.

‘I have a lot of free time,’ Robert shrugged. ‘Nothing your uncle didn’t figure out himself, mind you. I suppose there was no evidence?’

‘Nothing,’ the Commissioner said. He looked somewhat impressed.

‘So my guess is that Kovach has the statue, and he wants to use it at some point, but he is missing something.'

‘Use it for what?’ Teodore asked.

‘I have yet to figure that out.’

'So you suggest that we put the main focus on Kovach instead of The Priest?' the Commissioner asked.

'You are the boss, not me,' Robert shrugged. 'I think the statue might be with Kovach but the Priest is out there looking for something, a last component to use it if you will. I have a theory, but… If I am right, that something could be anywhere on the planet and could take years to find, so yes, find Kovach first.'

'So you might know something, or might not, and you won't tell me what it is. I was expecting so much more from you, Mr Montgomery. I need answers and I need them now.'

'Then I suggest you get better at your job,' Robert said brightly. 'I am pretty sure that I could do it better, mind you, but for some reason beyond my understanding your name is written on the door of the Commissioner's office.'

Marcus gave a horrified little moan. Teodore scoffed and almost smiled at Robert. The Commissioner left without further comment.

Young Adult

About the Creator

John H. Knight

Yet another aspiring writer trying his luck on the endless prairie of the Internet.

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