Silas was glad he didn't have to shoot anyone, not because he was afraid to kill, but because he didn't want to waste the bullet. Tucking the pistol away, he listened to the others speak.
"All right buddy. You say you're the best thief in Dunwall? Here's a challenge for ya. How do we get into the district without being detected?"
"Off the top of my head? Not a fuckin' clue." He replied. "If the kid can get into the canal, I'm pretty sure I could get into the district...but the rest of you? Not a chance....you lot don't seem the type to be scaling drainpipes. Let me think a moment though"
Running ideas through his head, Silas began to pace the room. As he did so his pulled the knife from his belt again, absent-mindedly rolling it through his fingers as he walked. After a bit he stopped and faced the others. "How's this for a rough outline." He said, gesturing with the blade as he talked. "Gen, you see if you can get into the party as help, and you....Zelia get yourself all gussied up and go in as a guest. The way I figure it, if that box is worth so much coin, then this Brisby sod prob'ly has it locked up tight. Ladies your job is to get any key or safe combination he's got. If he's rich then he's got expensive locks and if I don't have to mess with them, the smoother things'll go."
Going to the doorway, he snagged a beer before continuing. "While you two ladies are trying roll Brisby, Collin'll slip me up the canal, where I'll take to the roofs to get to the Boyle's. Once you two've done your bits I'll nip over to Brisby's and bag the box. On my way out I'll set a distraction so you can slip the party, and I'll go back to Collin...how's that sound?"
"A pleasure." Zelia smiled in response to Gen's introduction, before turnng her attention to Silas' plan.
"That's not a bad start." she mused, running it through in her head. "I can probably call in the few favours I have left around here with some of my old clients to get in the door and at least make it inside. Failing that there's always outright lying to give the impression my business is preparing to reopen somewhere, rather than being as up the river as it is. I don't think the Boyles and their higher class guests are likely to look too deeply into it. After all, as I said before. The nobles don't tend to care where their goods come from as long as they get them.
"As for Gen, I don't know who's in charge the hiring for the help, but if they start asking about references then we can always list my old company. It couldn't hurt given how much stuff I've sold to the types in the estate district."
She drained the glass of cider before finishing. "All in all I think it's rather good framework to go with at this stage."
Fink seemed to be baffled by the plans laid out before him.
"No, no, I just meant that Boyle's party would be a good pretence for getting into the estate district as hired help. A masked ball like that takes days of preparation in advance, it's not just a fancy dress party. Lots of people coming and going. But you'd have to be crazy to think that you could just walk into the actual ball. People would kill for that privilege. What are you going to do, sign the guest book while you're already there?"
The audacity those people showed made him gesticulate wildly. On the other hand, he couldn't deny that he was kind of jealous. Going to a party of Dunwall's high society was something a simple clerk in a law firm like him could only dream of. In the end, he decided that it was better for him to just leave.
"Oh well, I shouldn't meddle with your business. Lord Brisby will certainly be at the party. He is often seen around the Boyle women, though rumour has it neither Waverly nor Esma or Lydia like him, which is rare. Whatever you do, again, I have to thank you. I wish you the best of luck for your endeavour."
With that, Fink took a small bow and then left, closing the door behind him once again.
Gen arched an eyebrow. "Well...credit where credit is due for that one then. Better than swimming up the canal at least." She rubbed her chin. A maid huh? Ma would skin me if she were still around. "Well, all that's left to do now is to actually get in. I imagine it won't be that easy." She thought for a second and groaned. "Except I'll be contending with half of the remaining women in Dunwall for the job. I imagine the Boyle's are spoiled enough to spend a ridiculous amount for good help, that'll bring anybody who's not dying of the plague or working at the Golden Cat. Maybe even some of those." She scowled at that. Robbing nobles was tough enough without competition.
"Alright one last glass of liquid courage then I need to get moving. If I want to get in as a maid I need to start trying today. If any of you need to find me, I usually make my home by Bottle Street. Just tell any of the boys your looking for Mama Gen." She snorted. "Starting calling me that around the time......" Gen started before snapping her mouth shut. Sh quickly turned and headed into the main room of the Laughing Hagfish. She set down her last coin of ten. "Strongest of whatever that'll get me. I'll need it." She said without looking at the bartender.
Collin nodded, Silas's plan seemed sound to him, though he had so little experience with this sort of thing he doubted he was qualified to judge, a few things nagged at him though.
"What good is them getting the keys and codes while you're in his house? Seems like those would only be useful there and not when you're done with the place," he said, hoping the answer wasn't obvious to everyone but him. It was at least the only flaw he could see, although he wasn't sure he was looking forward to stealing the boat they'd need.
"What good is them getting the keys and codes while you're in his house? Seems like those would only be useful there and not when you're done with the place."
Silas let out a bit of a sigh, he'd hoped he wouldn't have to explain all the details. "Like I said before, while the ladies are working the party I'll sneak into the Estate district through the canal. Once there I'll find a spot to watch the party. Once they have what we need, one of'em goes outside...to somewhere quiet, I slip over the fence grab the code or keys, make my way to Brisby's, grab the box and back to you in the boat."
Still pacing he stopped, snapped his fingers, and pointed at Collin. "Hey, when you get the boat, see if you can nick some fishing lines. After you drop me off, just move outside the flood gate, and drop a line...the Watch won't even look twice at you then."
"Hey, when you get the boat, see if you can nick some fishing lines. After you drop me off, just move outside the flood gate, and drop a line...the Watch won't even look twice at you then."
Collin nodded, the explanation made sense and while he still didn't relish the idea of stealing the boat, or sitting around waiting on the others for that matter, but it seemed a sound plan to him and he wasn't about to object. Lets hope nothing goes wrong, shouldn't be hard to swipe the boat just need to find one not being watched...
"I'll do that then," he said, starting to move slowly towards the door "I'll meet you here later then, when we start the job, unless you have a better place?"
Silas gave the kid a nod. "Sounds good." He said, before looking to the ladies. "I trust you two can work out the details on your end?" Finally putting his blade away, he finished his second beer. "Like the kid said, lets meet back here in a few days once we've got our shit together and square everything away...how does that sound?"
As he waited for the others thoughts he made a mental checklist of what he'd need to get. Rope, fishing weight, a pen and some paper, and a bomb for the distraction.
Zelia nodded. "I should be able to manage getting things together on my end. I'll also make a point of drafting up some paperwork to attest to Gen's outstanding service record at old my company. It might not work of course, but it can't hurt to try giving her a bit of an edge over the other applicants."
She smiled and drained the last few drops from her glass of cider. "I'm afraid I should be heading off though. People to see, favours to call in if I'm going to get everything I need together in time."
"I'll see you back here in a few days then." One last parting smile as she stood up and pulled her coat around herself. "Til then!"
And with that she made her way outside to head back to her apartment for some rest before beginning her preparations the next morning.
Collin left the bar and began to make his way to the docks, taking care to avoid being spotted overseers might be looking for me, could be anywhere, can't let them find me. Fortunately the watch paid him little mind and he was soon back at his old neighborhood. He knew it well, and with how hard the plague had hit it along with the rest of the city, finding an empty place to hide was easy. He just needed to hole up here for a few days and plan his boat theft, the rats barely troubled him and the previous inhabitants had left plenty of uneaten food.
It didn't take him long to spot the boat he would steal, its owner simply tied it down with a length of rope, and used it to go fishing in the afternoon so those supplies were already contained in it. He would need to swipe a spare tank of fuel before stealing it, after all if it was low on whale oil it might not be able to take them far enough. That proved more difficult, but he managed to swipe one under the nose of an unawares dockworker, stashing it in his makeshift abode.
It was the early hours of the morning, still dark out, when he made his move. He moved quietly down to where the boat was tied up, carrying the whale oil tank under his coat which looked rather bulky as a result. He carefully set it down, checking how much the boat had left half a tank, good. Then he swiftly went about untying the rope and getting the engine to start, it was a bit tricky but he knew his way around engines well enough to manage. As it roared to life and he took off down the waterway he felt bad about having stolen from a man that had been so trusting, not nearly bad enough to return the boat though and he swiftly made his way to the bar again deciding to sit in his new boat and wait for the others, it would be bad if it changed hands again so soon after all.
A little notebook, full of names and favours. Such a thing Zelia consulted in the morning before making the necessary visits to those who she intended to collect from.
Some of them were minor affairs. Some fancier clothing, fitting for the occasion. A mask to go with it, for what is a masquerade without one?
Others were a little more difficult. She needed to lean quite heavily on one of the lesser members of the upper class who was important enough to receive an invitation, but not so important that she would be missed if someone else happened to use her invitation. Someone like say, one Zelia Droite, (former) purveyor of fine and occasionally illicit goods to the rich and famous. As an afterthought, she crossed that name out of her little book afterwards. It would be very unlikely there were any more favours to be had here.
As promised also, she took the time to draft up a letter of recommendation for Gen, attesting to her excellent service record (which may or may not have never existed).
When all these tasks were complete, she made her way back towards the Laughing Hagfish.
Leaving roughly when the others did, Silas made his way to the apartment he was squatting in, in short order. Grabbing a small pack, he stuffed it with a few odds and ends he thought he might need. Once he had everything he needed, save the bomb, he tore the blank page out of a book the previous tenants had left behind and wrote a note to Lord Brisby.
Once it was finished, he slipped it into an empty Elixir vial, and sealed it with candle wax. That done, he headed over to Bottle Street to call in a long standing favour he had with Slackjaw. After a few threats (by Slackjaw), some promises (from Silas), and a fair bit of drinking (by both), a deal was struck. Several days later Silas was making his way back to the Laughing Hagfish, gear on his back, and the proud owner of a brand new clockwork bomb.
Spotting Collin, as he approached the bar, Silas instead made his way down to the boat. "Well done kid." He said, stepping aboard. Setting his pack into the storage locker on board, he produced a pair of explosive flasks of the kind that the Bottle Street Gang liked to carry. Placing them in the foot well of the boat, he winked at Collin. "Now any choffer who might be tempted to nick our fair vessel will think it belongs to Bottle Street, and no one around here wants to get on their bad side. C'mon let's get a pint while we wait." He said, stepping back onto the dock, and heading for the bar once again.
"Now any choffer who might be tempted to nick our fair vessel will think it belongs to Bottle Street, and no one around here wants to get on their bad side. C'mon let's get a pint while we wait."
"No thanks," Collin replied, he didn't trust people to not steal the boat regardless of whose bottles were left on it, hell he didn't trust anyone, especially not his fellow thieves. Besides his role might be small but he would rather be sober for it.
They had saved his life so he did owe them something he just wasn't sure how much, his life certainly didn't feel particularly valuable at the moment. Besides the last few days squirreled away spying and plotting, with only the dark murmurs in his head and the occasional squeaking rat to keep him company had done little to improve his paranoia. Still Silas had been decent enough, if something of a braggart so some courtesy was due. I'm in no position to judge his profession after all.
"Water helps my nerves, and I want to be sure the boat is working properly," he said, he'd already checked the engine a few times, though the gentle rocking of the boat did indeed calm him somewhat. Not as much as the comfortable presence of the rune in his pocket though, which he idly reached into his coat to touch, though he did not pull it out.
Zelia was pleased to see Silas and Colin as she approached. 2 out of 3 already good to go.
"Hello gentlemen. I trust everything's coming together nicely?"
She'd left much of what she'd need at her apartment, because who in their right mind would bring fine clothes to the Laughing Hagfish.
She did however, have the reference for Gen in her pocket.
"I see we have a boat at least. That's definately a good start."
Gen left the Laughing Hagfish slightly more tipsy than she had intended. So instead of stumbling into the Boyle's estate and trying to get the job while falling over her own two feet, she stumbled home on Clavering Boulevard and fell asleep on the worn mattress on the floor of her sparse apartment.
When she awoke, her head was pounding, her mouth was dry, and the sunlight reaching in through the open window hurt more than River Krust acid. She made her way to the little sink, cursing the Outsider for no reason other than having something to blame. After a drink of water her headache was nearly gone, no more than a faint throb in the back of her head.
Her headache gone, Gen made her way to the Boyle's Estate, far away from the abandoned buildings, the bulk of the rats, and the hordes of Weepers. Damn nobles, they sit here wrapped in their estates and velvet sheets, while the rest of the city drowns around them. She snorted as she walked the still fairly clean streets. Hope they enjoy rotting alone up here, No way in the void I'm gonna help 'em. She thought as she finally arrived at the Boyle estate.
She looked up at the gates, before taking a deep breath and pushing her way through. She approached the guard at the gate house window. "Sir, could you point me towards the Serving Quarters?" Gen asked sounding every bit as much as someone desperate for a job. Not that it was hard to pull off.
The Guard looked her up and down. "Lemme guess, trying for the maid position?" The Guard asked. Gen nodded. The guard just sighed, "Very well, this way." He said walking around and opening the large double doors leading further into the estate. "You know, your probably the tenth woman I've seen come through today alone." The guard said as they walked. "I wouldn't get my hopes up if I were you." He said with a sneer. "Here." He said stopping at a door with a plaque that read Help.
Glaring at the guard as he left, Gen opened the door and was nearly bowled over by a maid rushing by, a try of plates in her hands. The room was chaotic, servants were already rushing out to set up for the Boyles party. near the back of the room there was a line of woman leading to a door. Gen made her way over. "I take it this is where we apply?" She asked the woman in front of her. She only nodded wringing her hands and staring worriedly at the door who's plaque read Chief of Staff.
After a few minutes, another woman came out looking crestfallen. An annoyed "Next was heard from beyond the door, and the next in line went through. This process continued, every now and then one would come out looking relieved or happy, many came out looking crestfallen, furious, or, in the case of the last woman, in tears. Now it was Gen's turn.
She stepped into the office. A small room inhabited by a annoyed and tired looking man. "Sit." He commanded gesturing to a rickety stool in front of his small desk. "Alright lady, I'm tired of all the sob stories, so we're just gonna skip all the fancy crap and get down to the base qualifications. Have you had experience in this sorta work before?" He asked.
Gen nodded. "I have, ma was a main. Took me along every now and then when I was younger. Even helped when I got old enough. Even kept goin after ma got too old. Then the little merchant family I worked for skipped town when the plague hit." Gen said. It was mostly true, save for the last bit. She hoped that Zalia could really come through with that reference.
The man just sighed, "Well that should be good enough then, you'll only be here for the night anyway. If you happen to have a reference from said family send it in. Show up here at least two hours before the party. You'll be paid a hundred coins at the end of the party. More if the Boyle's happen to like you." He said signing a paper. "Here take this, present this to the guard when you show up." He said then gesturing towards the door. "NEXT!" He yelled as Gen left.
She exhaled as she made her way out of the Boyle estate. Half of her job was done, all that's left now is to pull off the actually job. She tucked the paper into the pocket of her coat and made her way back to the Laughing Hagfish. Even if there were still a few days left, no reason she couldn't keep going back. After a few days of her normal routine was almost happy to see the other show up, Colin with a boat, Silas as smug looking as ever, and Zalia finally dressed to fit the Laughing Hagfish.
"Good to see you all, Can I assume that your parts went about as smoothly as mine did?"
Silas stopped as he saw the two women approach. " 'Ello ladies." He said, with a nod. "Things went well on my end." Opening the locker on the boat, he showed the (disassembled) bomb. "Even got me a party favour from Bottle Street." Closing the locker he hopped back onto the dock, and pulled out a rather fancy looking pocket watch. "It was a little touch and go for a bit tho'. You know how Slackjaw can get, and he was under the crazy notion that I'd spiked his dear old granddads watch." Slipping the watch away he gave his head a sad shake. "Some people."
"Good to see you all, Can I assume that your parts went about as smoothly as mine did?"
Collin gave a nod then went back to inspecting the engine, although he had already inspected it several times by now. He ignored Silas's remark about Slackjaw, unsure if the man was simply boasting or if he was being honest. Regardless the man struck him as foolhardy and untrustable, but then most people fit the latter category to him. Slackjaw's a whoreson, isn't he? How would he have anything of his granddad's? Let the braggart speak I suppose, makes no difference to me. He scratched idly at his arm, nodding silently to the dark whispers in his ear. Yes I do wonder if any of them can swim, I bet the hagfish would take rather large bites out of them. Not enough of them though, three people floundering wouldn't be much of a sight, and I owe them for now. He paused a moment later and dismissed the thought with a shake of his head, it didn't seem like something he would consider.
Dunwall was rotting like the whale carcasses at the shores of the Wrenhaven. The Empress was dead, her daughter missing, the Lord Regent was consolidating his power with fear and force. High Overseer Campbell had just left his office under mysterious circumstances. The whole city was stinking of the rat plague, of death, as if the Outsider himself had touched every single thing, every single person within its borders.
But not everyone had gotten the notice that the ship was sinking. Some people were still celebrating life, even more so than ever. And why shouldn't they? Their lives were the ones to celebrate, unconcerned by what was happening to the simple people, whose fates were, at best, the punchlines to witty jokes to them. Maybe some of them knew what was going on outside the high walls surrounding them. But they either didn't care, or they simply sought to find ways to make a profit out of it. The estate district was one of the last strongholds of these people. And even here, the rot was spreading. Some of the luxurious buildings were abandoned. Their owners had either left the city after the takeover of power, if they had enough financial power and influence, or had disappeared in the dead of night because they had supported the wrong side. Those who had neither enough money, nor political influence had often been among the victims of the plague, but nobody spoke about those people. Nobody in their right mind spoke about these things at all.
Tonight though, none of that was important. The Boyle Estate was having a masquerade ball and all of Dunwall's high society was there. One more chance to see and be seen, to witness a scandal or be part of one, a little bit of colour in the grey everyday life of those who had it all. Which was why extra precautions to keep away unwanted guests had been taken. The City Watch was supporting the Boyles' private guards. A tallboy was patrolling along the nearby canal. Armed men were positioned at the two bridges that lead to the streets on the other side of it, where Lord Brisby resided, among others. The Boyle Mansion itself was decorated and prepared, the courtyard illuminated by lamps on balloons, the tables inside filled with delicacies and curiosities, whale-fountains spouting confetti in the hallways.
The first guests arrived at the front door, where their invitations were checked. Inside, they began to stroll around, taking drinks from the tablets carried by maids without even thanking them. While some of them were just standing around in small groups, exchanging the newest gossips, some had began to puzzle about which of the Boyle ladies wore what colour. Others again noted loudly how they found it boring, scandalous even, that the Boyles were playing this game once again.
The less illustrious part of the party was busy, too. Servants had arrived at a side entrance, also checked by guards, but usually in a more intrusive manner than at the other door. The maids were quickly pointed in the direction of the kitchen, where a head maid with a grey bun and a just as grey, callous face took command, shouting at everyone who didn't follow her orders quickly enough. New arrivals were given a uniform and a short introduction, but after that they were put to work without pause or lenience of mistakes.
"I'd say you could indeed." Zelia responded, removing the envelope containing the reference she'd written Gen from her coat pocket. "Here you go. One reference for one of my best employees, seeking other work while the business is undergoing restructuring due to flood." She smiled. "That ought to give you an edge."
Fastforwarding to the big night however and Zelia Droite was making her way to the Boyle residence. She could only hope that her co-conspirators were doing their assigned tasks. With any luck Gen would be relatively free to move around, best case scenario the reference had given her one of the higher positions that were going around for the party, giving her more breathing space to move around, but that would remain to be seen.
She'd been to a few parties in the past, although it was more common for her to have been providing supplies beforehand than actually attending them. Still, she knew her way around a party. Aristocrats and decadence, here we come.
Gen tied the apron around her waist and looked at her self in the mirror. She was nearly a spitting image of her mother. She couldn't help but chuckle. "Oh ma, if you could see me now." She said shaking her head. She stepped out of the small changing room and grabbed a silver serving tray laden with small tarts. She knew her job, both as the maid and as the thief. Walk around smile, endure the grabby hands of nobles and guards, and hand out the pastries until she ran out, then return for another tray of something. And keep an eye out for one Lord Brisby and either get him drunk enough to blab a code or something; or pickpocket a key.. Hopefully she would be able to snag a few extra coins here and there. The Boyle's were loaded, they wouldn't miss a few trinket's and misplaced jewels.
As she ascended the steps from the kitchen, she worked a fake smile on her face. Alright Genevieve, it's time to get to work. She thought stepping into the dining room of the Boyle's estate.
Collin gave a quiet pat to the rune through his coat before skillfully taking the boat up the canal, swift and quiet. He brought Silas up to a good spot to get out, keeping the boat steady and giving paranoid glances upwards for tallboys. He waited for Silas to get off and then brought his boat out a little further, casting out his line while keeping a watch for them so that he could pick them up. Might be waiting here a while, makes this easy money provided the others do their jobs, and nothing goes wrong of course.
He scratched at his arm again, for a moment the dark murmurs took on the voice of his father "stop picking at it it'll only get worse," he jolted upright, there was no one else around to hear the voice, and no one to speak it, and it quickly trailed off "get worse... worse... it'll get worsssssse..." he shuddered and went back to his post, reaching to pat the rune again as a reassurance.
Soon enough, the party was in full swing. The three Boyles, wearing red, white and black were moving through the crowd, exchanging pleasantries here and there, maybe dropping a few hints on their identity and generally doing everything to make sure this ball would be remembered. Their guests mingled, usually in small groups, sipping their drinks and feigning interest for what was said around them. All of them wore masks, often of animals. Most of these had cost more than any of the maids this evening would ever earn, yet they were also almost universally ugly to look at, warped and grotesque representations of wildlife. The masks covered their whole faces, making the identification of a single person nearly impossible for everyone who wasn't a regular in these circles. But most of the aristocracy and money recognised each other by their voices or clothes, making polite conversations possible.
Not everything going on was very polite, though. Gen certainly wasn't the only person in the mansion who was on lookout for everything that wasn't nailed down. Most of the guests didn't need the money, but rather regarded it as a kind of sport, a competition on who could leave with the best souvenir of the evening and maybe, just maybe, hurt the Boyles a little bit in the process. Just as the cherry on the cake. And so more than a few trinkets, boxes of good cigars and flasks of King Street Brandy found their way into various deep pockets. The guards on the ground floor usually turned a blind eye to this, as long as it were guests stealing. If they spotted one of the help with something that didn't belong to them, they just took the offender out back for a swift beating.
The guests also weren't very interested in making conversation with the servants. To say that they were very interested in the conversations amongst themselves would already have been a stretch, but they usually didn't even exchange words with the maids. They took their glasses or pastries from the tray and irritatedly waved them away. Which was the best case scenario. In the worst case scenario, the aristocrat in question was already drunk enough to have forgotten all manners and rules of standing and the poor maid would have to endure a slew of dirty jokes or sleazy offerings before someone, usually his wife, stopped. Extracting information from someone out of this position would be difficult.
There also was one other guest at this party. A man in a dark cloak, closer in motivation and methods to the group of thieves than to the rest of the party goers. His mask looked like a skull, but while the other masks were highly decorated and made of fine materials, his one was a mechanical masterpiece, with mechanisms serving other purposes than just obscuring his face. He moved among the crowd alone, barely speaking a word with anyone.
As Collin moved the boat off, Silas moved up from the canal to street level. Once at street level, he found himself on the 'Brisby' side of the canal. Slipping into the shadows he watched the pattern of the guards on this side of the bridge. Good to see they're as sloppy as always. Glad there are no tallboys this side though. He thought.
Slipping through a hole in the Guard patrols, he climbed onto the girders under the bridge, making his way to the 'Boyle' side with relative ease. Hiding under the bridge, he had to wait for a bit as a tallboy made its pass. Once it was on its way, Silas slid up to street level and made a dash for some boxes he'd seen earlier, stacked against another building. With unreal speed he crossed the open space, bounding up the boxes, and leaping vertically, used his momentum to scale the lower half of the building very fast.
After the initial rush he spent the next while slowly working his way across the rooftops, only stopping to assemble and place the bomb, until he found himself perched on the roof of the Boyle's estate itself. Settling himself on a peak, he looked down into the courtyard and waited. Now let's hope the ladies can get what I need.
Zelia walked up to the entrance of the estate, making a point of exhuding the same self-confidence the nobles tended to exhibit. She hoped there was a smart guard on the gate. A smart guard would not ask question of a party guest bearing an invitation if he wanted to remain a guard. Embarassing the host by troubling their guests would be a scandal. She smiled to herself at the thought as she removed the invitation from her pocket and passed it to the guard.
Ah. Good. A smart guard.
She was tonight wearing black and white again, although a more fancy getup than her usual business suit, with a birdlike mask. The lenses of her glasses were visible in the eyeholes though. Normally she'd not have bothered to wear them, as at night there's no sunlight to blind her, but if nothing else it should help her fellow conspirators identify her.
She made her way inside. The usual noises, talking, laughter, the clinking of glasses. Now then. Which of these masked men was Brisby. She would need to watch and listen carefully. In the meantime, she busied herself with the game, making a show of looking at soveneirs while she looked at people instead. What a petty little game it was, pocketing trinkets. The guessing game the Boyles played was more tasteful, but games were not at the forefront of her mind....Ah.
A face she did recognise. "I'll take one of those, thank you." taking a glass from Gen's latest tray. and then more quietly. "It's early yet admittedly, but I don't suppose you've picked up any clue as to what mask Brisby's wearing?"
"It's early yet admittedly, but I don't suppose you've picked up any clue as to what mask Brisby's wearing?" Gen had to stare for a second before she actually recognized Zelia. She gave her head a small shake. "No not yet, I keep hoping someone will mention him in passing." She looked around the room "Hopefully he'll be more creative with the mask though. Many of these look the same. A Wonder the haven't shot each other from the scandal." She snorted. A second later the sound of a gun shot made it's way through the walls of the Boyal estate. A few of the nobles looked towards the sound of the shot and chuckled. Gen jumped and nearly spilled her tray of drinks. She caught the glare of a near by guard. "Speak of the Outsider."
The gunshot distracted the aristocracy for just a moment. Who was it, where, about what? Anyone dead and how was that going to affect the whale oil market? Then, the party just carried on. Duels weren't unusual amongst those who held their honour in high regard, had something to prove or were just plain bored. Also, there were rumours that Lord Shaw was planning to settle his business with the youngest of the Pendleton brothers tonight. Since nobody here actually liked Lord Pendleton, even less so after the sudden disappearance of his brothers, quite a few of the Boyles' guests were actually looking forward to hearing a second shot.
As everything returned to normal, a fat man wearing a mask sculpted after a whale's head approached Zelia and Gen. Towards the later, he made angry gestures.
"Stop pestering the Lady, you hobnailed cow. Be grateful you didn't spill anything on her or I'd make sure you'd leave the mansion without a single coin. Now get me a new drink."
He said, putting his half-full glass of Brandy on her tray. His voice had an unpleasant high pitch. Rubbing his hands as if he had done a whole lot of good work today, he turned to Zelia.
"I overheard you asking for Lord Brisby. I seriously hope you aren't really looking for that bore. All he ever does is babble about how great Lady Boyle is, the little rat. Not very amusing, after a while. And there is so much better company here."
While talking, he moved his hands excessively, ending with wide outstretched arms, as if he was enveloping the whole ball. It was quite clear that he was only taking about himself, though. But he didn't stop there. With a nonchalant bow, he took Zelia's hand and implied to lightly kiss it through his mask.
"We didn't have the pleasure of meeting before, did we?"
The gunshot nearly killed Silas. Not because it was aimed at him, but because his first instinct was to dive for cover and seeing as he was currently straddling a steeply pitched roof, he nearly pitched himself off of it. "Bloody hell!" He said after a moment. What was all that about? Moving along the roof he shifted himself until he was in a position to see where the shot had come from.
Below him two Watch where looking over a body, while a third man walked away unchallenged. Guess somebody didn't watch what they said... Moving carefully along to a decorative bit of stone at the roof line, he tied one end of the rope he'd brought. Watching the two Watch move off after losing interest in the body, Silas settled himself as best he could in his new spot.
Gen curtsied to the noble as he dismissed her. She had to fight to keep the scowl from her face and her knife from the man's ribs. Giving these nobles the justice they deserved now would only make things more difficult. "Yes m'lord. At once m'lord." She said backing away, not taking her eyes from the carpet. She turned and made her way back to the kitchen to fetch a fresh glass for the porcine noble. As she left Zelia at the mercy of the large man, clearly the whale mask had been appropriate, if not for the reason he had intended, she caught lord Brisby's name and hoped Zelia would learn more about the man.
She set the glass down by one of the kitchens sinks, and grabbed a fresh one from a set sitting nearby. She put the ice and the Brandy in, set it on another tray of drinks and proceeded back to the noble as fast as she could without spilling a drop, the longer he was left without a drink the more upset he would become and possibly ruin her part in the job. She arrived not a moment later, the noble's drink on the tray facing him. "Your drink m'lord." She said with another curtsey.
Zelia smiled. "No, I don't believe we have." This wasn't Brisby, but you've got you've got to start somewhere after all.
"Zelia Droite. Proprietor of Droite Acquisitions." At least there was no reason to lie on this front. The company had been considered well among the upper classes after all. Providing all sorts of goods, hard to come by in both supply and legality for the aristocracy will do that.
"Since the business is currently undergoing restructuring, I've happily been able to devote more of my time to occasions like this. It doesn't do after all, to let yourself drift from social occasions after all. It's always good to be able to see your clients and see if you hear what sort of things might be worth acquiring."
She smiled again. "But enough talk of business and such boring things. This is a party after all." She slipped one of her arms through that of the fat man's. "Perhaps you would be so kind as to provide some of the better company you mentioned?"
It was a gamble of course. On one hand he seemed liable to talk an awful lot, but on the othr he may be inclined to talk about himself more than anything. Still, he'd already blurted Brisby would be talking about Lady Boyle a lot whil Gen was there. So maybe that might help narrow the search a bit.
"A businesswoman, heh?" The fat man remarked, "You don't see that too often. How ... intriguing."
He took Zelia's arm, pulled her in a little closer, and began to lead her through the room. Walking by the returning Gen, he took his new glass without any further comment or even dismissing her.
"It occurs to me, I haven't even properly introduced myself! By the ..." Without letting go of Zelia's arm, he indicated a small bow towards her. "Lord Jeremiah Birch. I'm also a businessman, a supplier as well. Though I don't usually dabble in curiosities, but rather sell goods of war. I'm a majority owner of South Gristol Steelworks, providing both the Navy and the Regent's military with armaments of the highest standard. So I thought I'd come here once more to see where the money that buys my products comes from."
During his monologue, they had reached the main hall of the mansion, with a giant wall of light guarding the stairs to the upper floor. Still, Lord Birch didn't intend to let Zelia get in a word.
"I heard the Boyles keep all their really interesting belongings up there, away from our prying eyes. What I wouldn't give to sneak up there and see. Though I'm of course not really the sneaking type, as you can see, haha! There's probably a lot of art on the upper floor, that should interest you, shouldn't it? Some proper scandalous stuff, too, from what I heard. They said that Esma Boyle once posed nude for Anton Sokolov. Have I mentioned that I met Sokolov? He told me he would paint me one day, though I'm not quite sure how I would like to be immortalised. Maybe in uniform, or rather on my country estate ..."
For a moment he seemed to drift away with his thoughts, completely in awe of his own greatness. Then he returned and shot a quick glance to his companion to see if she was still following him and maybe, just maybe as captivated by him as he was.
"Ah well, I digress. Let's not talk about the future. We're here to enjoy this evening, aren't we? Speaking of ...", he pointed to the opposite side of the room, "Have you already signed the guest book? Personally, I always like to wait until late in the evening. That way, if something interesting happens at these parties, you have your signature as proof that you were there. But if it is just a boring party, like this one seems to be, you can leave early and claim to never have been there at all!"
Lord Jeremiah Birch clearly planned to subject Zelia to a waterfall of his charm for the rest of the evening. At some point, he seemed to be sure, she would no longer be able resist him.
Outside, things were much less charming. Two of the guards just had had to carry a body out of the garden. As they returned to their posts, they were talking about meeting for whiskey and cigars the next night. Suddenly though, one stopped the other:
"I think I just saw something move on that roof."
"Probably just pigeons. Rats of the skies, I tell you."
"Indeed, but maybe we should investigate. With that murderer running free ..."
"Just keep your eyes open, Lieutenant. We're not paid to scale walls and break out necks, we're here to make sure this evening goes by without incident."
Beyond the walls of the Boyle estate, the Watch was also patrolling. A single guardsman was just checking the canal close to Collin's position when he spotted the boy in his boat.
"Hey there!", he shouted over, "You there, boy! You can't be here! This whole area is under curfew. You'll have to leave now, or we'll take you into custody."
A tallboy on the road behind him had noticed and seemed to have taken an interest in the situation. Hearing the mechanical steps of the stilt walker, the guard continued:
"If we still can, that is. You see, my big friend here would probably have a lot of fun sinking your little boat, boy. So do yourself a favour and disappear." He spotted a second boat a little farther away. "You too. You both have to drive at least behind the barrier, outside of our district. What is it with tonight, anyway? The fish biting that well?"
"Damn them." Silas muttered to himself as he saw the two Watch return. When they'd carted the body off, he'd been hoping that they would stay nearer to the party, but no such luck.
"...think I just saw something move on that roof."
Outsider's eyes, how'd he see me!? He thought, freezing in place. As the other man dismissed it as vermin, Silas relaxed a bit. Sloppy, old son. Nearly gave yourself away there. He admonished himself. Waiting until he was sure that the two below weren't looking his way he inched back from the edge of roof.
"The pleasure is mine, my lord." Zelia smiled, making a point to maintain her attention and smile as he waffled on. Very quickly it was becoming apparent that flattery would be an effective way to steer this one.
Oh hell. She'd had a bad feeling she might end up in this position from the moment Lord Birch entered the conversation. On the other hand, the man loved to talk. About himself clearly, but it was quite possible he'd also be inclined to mention anything that might paint himself in a better light. That is, less savoury gossip about the other guests. Perhaps she could gain more clues about Brisby that way if she continued to walk around the party with Birch. Hopefully he'd be inclined to mention such things as they passed by others.
The downside of this plan of course, was that it practically guarranteed she'd be spending a lot of the evening with him. That said of course, there were potential benefits to such a thing at the very least. Her preference for measures of security in such schemes meant that she was very quick to realise that if this all went pear shaped, she would have a solid alibi. Steal from Lord Brisby? Perish the thought! Why, on the evening in question I was in the company of Lord Birch! Yes. The alibi of a noble. that could be useful. On a more long term contingency if it went pear shaped, she could always sell the business and her client list to Birch, work for him perhaps. The money after all, regardless of how frugal she might be with what remained, would run out before too long...
...And then she briefly contemplated allowing herself to enter a relationship with Birch for the purpose of survival and decided she was letting her imagination run away with contingency plans. Stuffing that notion far to the back of her mind, she joined him in conversation, now that he'd left a space in his words for her to do so.
"Ah the guestbook. Do you know, I make a habit of doing the exact same thing." She smiled, intent on keeping Birch happy for the evening, in order to gain both details and a potential alibi. "You know what they say about great minds thinking alike." She giggled and collected another drink from a passing tray.
Gen walked away from the noble and Zalia, praying that the man wouldn't bother Zalia too much. Even if she didn't know Zalia all that well no woman should ever have to suffer being around that man any longer than absolutely necessary. She made her way back to one of the many rooms he guests had congregated in, a darker room with large fireplace in the middle. As she turned the corner of the fire place, she noticed two men in particular. Both had different mask than most of the other part goer's. One was a stylized rat, larger teeth whiskers, well suited for a noble. But the other man made her stop in her tracks and her blood run cold. With his dark coat and hood, and the metallic skull like mask, Gen thought Death him self had decided to grace the Boyles party. The man with the skull mask turned to look at her a moment later. Gen felt her whole body shudder. She was snapped out of her trance by the man with the rat mask spoke up.
"My name is lord Brisby and......What are you standing there for you simpering fool! Leave us at once before I have the guard throw you out onto the streets with the rest of the rats!" He snapped and Gen nearly dropped her try for the third time. She hurried away from the meeting, and leaned against the wall trying to calm her heart.
After a few seconds her heart beat slowed. What the man in the rat mask had said finally clicked. So now she knew what Lord Brisby looked like. Now she just needed him alone, away from the man dressed like death.
"You too. You both have to drive at least behind the barrier, outside of our district. What is it with tonight, anyway? The fish biting that well?"
Collin nodded, he knew he stood no chance against a tallboy and even if he did it would draw too much attention. Wordlessly he pulled up his line and took the boat further out, the others would just have to work their way around to him. He glanced at the other boatman, an older man but not someone he recognized. He scratched irritably at his arm, and considered speaking to the man, it had been some time since he'd had a decent conversation that wasn't with himself.
"What brings you out here?" he asked after some hesitation, he knew it wasn't the fishing the canals had far fewer hagfish than the open water after all.