- October 1st, Paramount Hill, early evening -

“The Rose District, if you please”

“Very good Ma’am” the cab driver tipped his cap and pulled a lever to close the door behind Lilith as she stepped into the vehicle “Anywhere in particular?” his voice drifted down to her through the voice tube.

“The Lady’s Grace” - Neutral territory.

Settling back into the worn leather upholstery, Lilith gazed through the window at the ugly city outside. Now that the nights were drawing in, the weak sunlight that pierced the Maelstrom was already setting, casting dark shadows across Ironhallow way as the cab lurched into motion and rumbled out into traffic.

“If you like high class establishments, I hear that the Brass Token offers all manner of delights for the more discerning customer”

Lilith smiled at this. Most of the cabbies were on the take for promoting various shops, eateries and houses of ill-repute. This one, it seemed, was no different. “No, just the Lady, thank you”

“As you will, Ma’am”

The driver lapsed into silence, leaving Lilith to watch the gloomy streets as they rumbled by. Hallows Way turned on to Cindersturm, Leadenholm and finally the Crooked Mile. Propaganda posters lined the walls on the way, illuminated here and there by flickering pools of streetlight: Trust the People’s Council; Do it for Dusk, and other such nonsense pasted in peeling accretions on stained brickwork.

That most of the populace were illiterate was apparently neither here nor there to the Office of Truth. Those that could read generally saw through the cynicism of their lies, but Lilith had long suspected their propaganda programs were designed more for their psychological effect than anything else; to remind you that the council were there and that they were watching; to keep you in your place for fear of attracting the attention of the Inquisition. She scowled at this thought, only too aware of how interested they might be in her work.

“It’s a poor do with this pox that’s doing the rounds” the cab driver broke her reverie; no doubt trying to angle for a tip in exchange for a juicy bit of gossip.

“Oh?” this was new “How long has this been going on?”

“I heard about it earlier on yesterday. Some disturbance in the Centrum, apparently. Troops shot and killed a whole bunch of people, saying they were infected with a plague or something”

Lilith treated this with scepticism. The chances were that this was just a matter of the usual penalties being inflicted on a faction of subversives, but she knew better than to voice opinions like that. “How appalling” noncommittal was best.

“My mate Harry saw them.” the driver continued “He said they were already rotten while they were still running around; bodies all purple and bloated like they’d spent a week in the Styx, if you can believe it.

“He said there were cleanup crews after as well; them with the black leather bird masks - They give me the willies. I’ve seen them before, down by the docks one time.”

“The Plague Ravens?” that was a surprise. Maybe there really was a pestilence loose in city. Lilith made a mental note to ask around her contacts amongst the Epistemological Society of Savants to see if they knew anything about it. Forewarned was forearmed, after all.

“Aye, them” the driver swung the cab over and pulled in at the side of the road “There’s the Lady’s Grace, just on your left. Are you sure you don’t want to go to the Token instead? They don’t water the wines down half as much and the staff are far more agreeable. I’m told they cater for all tastes, if you know what you mean...?”

“Any other night and I would” Lilith shook her head in silent amazement at the man’s brazenness as she gathered her skirts and opened the door. Tonight was to be business only.

Stepping out into the cool evening air, she paid the man his dues, along with a small tip for the interesting news and turned to survey the street as the cab puttered away. There were the usual early revellers being hailed by the beggars and the boys and girls hanging around beneath the flickering street lights, offering their bodys in exchange for money for food.

“You” she held up two half crescents to attract the attention of a skinny little waif, loitering on some boxes near the corner by the Lady’s Grace “Do you know Dorien Blackwell?”

The young girl narrowed her eyes and frowned, trying to place the name “The lawyer? Him down the west side?”

“That’s the one” Lilith held out a half crescent along with her calling card, knowing full well the urchin wouldn’t be able to read it “This is for Mr. Blackwell, the coin is for you. There’s another one here for you when you bring him to me in the Lady’s Grace”

The child nodded hungrily and pocketed the items “What if he don’t want to come?”

“Oh, he’ll come alright, my dear; he’s expecting me” Lilith straightened and clapped her gloved hands “Now, chop chop. There’s an extra half if you’re quick about it”

Turning tail, the girl sprinted away with nothing more than a frantic “Yes m’lady” called back over her shoulder, leaving Lilith smiling as she watched her go. A messenger smart enough to ask sensible questions like that was worth the extra fifty coppers, in her estimation, if only to help keep her alive for a day or two longer.

By the time Mr. Blackwood hurried into the lounge bar at the Lady’s Grace, looking flustered and annoyed, Lilith was nearing the end of her second glass of wine. She opened her mouth to allow the girl attending her to pop a fondant fancy into her mouth while the boy refilled her glass. The lilting sound of a violin sonata drifted on the air.

“Of all the places you had to pick” Blackwood quietly seethed as he plonked himself down across the table from her “I do wish you’d send word ahead”

“He didn’t want to hurry, miss” the waif hovered just behind him, with Big Joe the bouncer keeping a watchful eye on her from the door “I tried my best”

“You did splendidly my dear. This is yours” Lilith tossed her a crescent and waved the two hosts away while the girl did a clumsy curtsy and murmured her thanks. When she too had departed, she turned her attention to Blackwood who was mopping his bald head with a white handkerchief “You wanted to see me?”

“Indeed” he cleared his throat and took a moment to compose himself before leaning forward, across the table “I have word from our mutual acquaintance.” he murmured “They wish it to be known that they will soon have a task for you. Expect a representative to call on you over the coming days”

Lilith regarded the beady eyed, portly little man with disbelief “Is that it?” she chuckled at the ridiculousness of having been summoned across town for this.

“Indeed. Just make sure you’re prepared. I rather gather that it is important”

“In that case, I need an iambic hex modulator to replace the one I burned out in a recent experiment. An orgone router and phase dispersal unit would be nice as well” Lilith fished in her purse and extracted a small, folded square of paper and slid it across the table towards the lawyer “Here’s a shopping list”

“I am not your messenger” Blackwell huffed, indignantly, his voice carrying well across the room even over the violin music, and causing several of the other patrons to glance over.

“That’s fine” Lilith left the note on the table “I’m sure our mutual friend would love to hear about how you impeded one of their pet projects”

“Mr. Blackwell?” another woman’s voice “How is it that I’m fortunate enough to make your acquaintance twice in one day? And in my own establishment too!”

Lilith raised her glass “Ms. Gerrit, Joe” she nodded to the bouncer looming behind the proprietor of the Lady’s Grace “How nice to see you both. I’m afraid that Mr. Blackwell here was just leaving”

Momentarily unsure of what to do, the lawyer looked between the two women and the bouncer before suddenly standing and snatching up the piece of paper “Good day to you both.” he blustered and pushed his way past Joe, heading towards the door.

“That man has caused quite enough trouble for one day” Emma muttered before smiling brightly at Lilith “I do hope he wasn’t bothering you?”

“Quite the opposite, darling. It was me than was bothering him”

“Excellent” Emma signalled the barkeep across the room “Another bottle of wine for Ms. Dawkins” she returned her attention to Lilith “Can we offer you any company this evening?”

“Who’s the girl playing the violin there?”

“She’s a stunner, isn’t she? That’s Abigail; she’s new to this line of work”

Lilith grinned and drained her glass. An innocent to corrupt? Maybe she would mix business with pleasure tonight after all...

ooc - there was no date on Chris and Hob's "How about that job" post, so I hope nobody minds me setting it earlier on the 1st, for a bit of drama with Blackwell

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