A Dark Descent
The short walk to the portal into the sewers was quiet and uneventful. Thaddeus did not feel the need to fill this stroll with conversation; in fact, he was rather busy with the effort of keeping calm. The two men removed the manhole cover and looked down into the dark opening as one.
Right. You can do this. It's not that bad.
It was, in fact, exactly as bad as Thaddeus imagined, but he felt his stubborn determination take over as he looked up and met Alfarinn's eyes.
Let me go down first. I'll ensure the bottom is safe and call up to you.
While Thaddeus was far from eager to enter the dank abyss, he felt it prudent to go first; partly for the reason he had stated, and partly so that his progress would not be rushed. Or halted entirely; at the moment the fact that Alfarinn was watching him intently was the only thing keeping him from bolting.
And so, before Alfarinn could answer, Thaddeus lowered himself into the sewers, feeling with his feet until they caught a rung of the ladder, and began his descent.
Even with the thick gloves, Thaddeus was filled with revulsion at gripping the rungs of the ladder, and his senses were assaulted with the filth. He had been forced to stop once, closing his eyes to fight the wave of nausea that overtook him. His progress was slower after that, though thankfully steady, and he was taken by surprise when his foot struck solid ground rather than another rung of the ladder. Still, he kept his balance (if for no other reason than because should he fall in the sewers he would never, ever be clean again), and turned around, looking first one way, then the other, down the tunnel. Seeing no grave dangers (if a smelly disgusting sewer wasn't a grave danger in and of itself), he called up to Alfarinn.
Reaching into his pocket he took out a leather thong and tied back his hair to keep it out of the way before climbing down the ladder a few steps. He then replaced the cover and the continued his descent. He hoped Thaddeus wasn't going to be upset with the darkness. Alfarinn decided it was probably best for him to get down quickly, just in case.
Thaddeus managed to croak out the words, and god, he could even taste the stink of this place. It was darker now, he assumed due to Alfarinn closing the manhole behind him. He reminded himself to breath as his eyes adjusted to the dark. Then he realized he was breathing too quickly, in little hitching gasps, and forced himself to calm down. He could hear the other man climbing down the ladder, and the last thing he wanted was to be found unconscious from hyperventilating at the bottom of the sewer.
You can do this. Remember why you're here.
It seemed to take an eternity for Alfarinn to finish his descent and reach the gritty ground of the sewers, though in reality he had probably been much quicker than Thaddeus. He could see the outline of the taller man, and meager light reflected off his light blonde hair.
Do you feel that? I think we want to go this way.
Thaddeus pointed to the left, in what he thought was the direction of a loud, repetitive thumping. The nightclub. The House of Pain.
"Yes, I'd say that was a safe bet."
They were going to have to find some place near the entrance of the House of Pain that they could stay and watch. That wasn't going to be easy with guards at the doors. They could go a small way up the entrance but the two of them lounging around in the sewers was going to cause suspicions. He supposed they could dress as bums though the thought of being so grimy as to be unrecognizable was offensive. Contrary to popular belief the Norse bathed daily unlike some of their European counter-parts who thought this was necessary only once a year. He shuddered inwardly remembering how difficult it was to find a clean meal. He'd traveled east for a while for just that reason.
Still being dirty, itchy and smelly would only be an inconvenience for him. He wasn't so certain about his companion. Alfarinn was still not certain what it was about the sewers that distressed Thaddeus. He could sense easily enough that it did. While someone else seeing the man's composure might take it for simple distaste, Alfarinn knew Thaddeus was working through something more frightening to him.
For some reason Thaddeus felt uncomfortable with standing in one place, as though the filth would find it easier to permeate his skin if he didn't move. He began walking slowly and carefully in the indicated direction, speaking as he went. It was illogical, he knew; the more he talked the more of this foul air had to be taken into his lungs, but somehow talking made this easier for him. In silence, he was trapped in a dark world of revolting smells and grating sounds. At least when he was talking he thought a little less about his surroundings. Still, it wouldn't do to make too much noise, and so he spoke quietly, just above a whisper.
The entrance proper will naturally be guarded, and we can't rule out the possibility that guards patrol the tunnels leading up to it as well. We should be a block and a half away at present; I think we'd turn right up at this intersection if we wanted to go to the club. I don't know that we could realistically loiter in sight of the guards for long, unless we were to act as two club goers waiting to meet a third...
He turned his head around, and, catching a flash of white that could only be Alfarinn, turned back to continue his progress. He thought he was holding it together quite well; already he was feeling a little less nauseous, and his focus for the mission at hand was coming back to him. Oh, sure, he was babbling like an idiot, barely aware of what he was saying, and if he wasn't careful he might work himself up to hyperventilating, but he felt overall this wasn't beyond him.
That's when he saw the rat.
Thaddeus stopped dead in his tracks and held up a hand in warning to his companion to do the same. Maybe, if they just stood very, very still...it would just walk away. He tried to match a verbal warning with the gesture, but found his throat had gone dry.
And the rat, as if in direct defiance of Thaddeus's wishes, stood under the small circle of a utility light and cleaned his whiskers, ignoring the pounding of Thaddeus's heart, the sweat that had begun to bead on his forehead.
Standing around like they were waiting for someone had merits, except for one thing. They knew the killer at least knew what Thaddeus looked like, or it seemed pretty certain that he did. The other person must know him and Mai also if they had purposefully dropped the ring. Standing around might cause their prey to not go into the club but turn around before they even had a chance to glimpse them.
Another concern of Alfarinn's would be Thaddeus. If the killer thought Thaddeus could identify him perhaps he had gone into hiding this whole time, shunning clan contacts in order not to be recognized as the assassin but if he could kill the Anantya there would be no one to make him answer for Emma's murder.
Deep in his own thoughts, Alfarinn nearly knocked Thaddeus over when the man suddenly stopped in front of him. He looked around quickly wondering what he might have missed. There was no one there. Finally, Alfarinn looked down and saw the rat. Oh...
"It's ok. I'll take care of it."
Alfarinn pushed past Thaddeus and moved to scare off the little rodent.
And oh, he badly wanted to glare when the other man brashly declared that he would "take care"Â? of the rat.
Eyes still fixed on the rat, Thaddeus reached out his arm to block Alfarinn's progress.
Was the man insane? Rodents were entirely unpredictable, startling it would likely send it running straight for him!
Staying perfectly still, dry lips barely moving, he whispered shakily to Alfarinn.
Just...don't...move...maybe...he'll go away...
Listening to Thaddeus's halting advice, he shook his head slightly in amusement but stood up and waited for the rodent to leave of his own accord.
"Alright then. Mickey, would you mind moving along so we can be on our way?" Alfarinn whispered to the rat in a conversational tone.
My god. He's completely insane. I'm trapped in the sewers with a lunatic.
So startled was Thaddeus by his companion's odd behavior that he turned his head away from the rat to share his revelation regarding Alfarinn's mental state.
But before the words "You are stark raving mad"Â? could pass his lips, he heard the rat move. It was coming right for him! He had only seconds to choose; brave the rat, or reveal yet another power to Alfarinn.
The choice was easy enough to make, and in a flurry of feathers a white dove appeared in the place of Thaddeus. Hardly looking where he was going, he flew to the nearest perch off the ground and buried his head in his wing.
Thaddeus wasn't looking at the rat, he was staring at him. Alfarinn saw the expresson of sheer terror that crossed his face for a brief moment... and then it was confusion. He blinked rapidly trying to make sense of the change. Good grief! Thaddeus could have warned him before doing something like that unannounced in the middle of a dark tunnel! He wasn't afraid of rats but someone altering before you eyes that you couldn't see clearly did tend to make a person jumpy.
Alfarinn took a deep breath to calm himself. He understood better than anyone except for Thaddeus, himself, that the man was afraid.
He tried to focus on the space that Thaddeus had occupied. What the hell was he any way?
Then the flutter of wings clarified that question a little more but before he had time to get a good look, the white bird flew up to his shoulder and hid its head.
Alfarinn stood very still and regarded the bird with curiosity. Carefully, picking him up off his shoulder he cradled the dove in one hand to his chest and whispered down to it.
"You know... you could have told me about this from the beginning and saved yourself a lot of trouble."
((OOC: Permission granted to move Thaddeus))
Fabric. I landed on his shoulder. When I turned into a dove. Because the rat was after me.
Mortified beyond belief on more levels than Thaddeus could keep track of, he stayed very still as Alfarinn plucked him from his shoulder, and prepared to take off when the other man released him.
Instead, he felt himself pulled closer, and felt the steady rhythm of a heartbeat completely unlike the fluttering pace of his own. Apprehensive of this arrangement, he at last took his head out from under his wing and looked up at Alfarinn, just in time to catch his remark.
While Thaddeus might have been tempted to argue the point, that would require changing back, something that was neither practical in his position, lest he end up colliding with Alfarinn, nor particularly desirable. And much as it galled him to be carried about like someone's pet, he would not last long attempting to fly in these dark tunnels; his wings would simply tire too quickly. And so, he simply looked up at Alfarinn miserably, feeling just about as pathetic as any vampire had ever felt, and remained still, adjusting to the rhythm of the other man's stride and the sound of his beating heart.
Eventually, he was comfortable enough to look forward without the motion unbalancing him, and when he did he saw light up ahead. Cooing in surprise, he turned to look up at Alfarinn, wondering what the other man was thinking.
He stroked the bird in his hand absently with the back of one finger while he thought... until it dawned on him, this wasn't one of the normal birds he communed with, this was Thaddeus. His hand stopped abruptly and he looked away embarrassed.
What his little companion didn't know was that Alfarinn did have a rapport with birds, ravens and crows specifically but he doubted Thaddeus was so far away in mental form that he wouldn't be able to understand him. He was not certain how communicating with a vampire in bird form would feel though. Not being a shape shifter, Alfarinn had no way of truly knowing how much like their animal form they are. He had heard of vampires spending so much time in their others forms that they started taking on animal behavior traits and found it difficult to change back. That would take months at the very least and so did not concern him.
Communicating with Thaddeus did. He reached out to make the merest of mental brushes to the dove in his hand.
[We're all full of surprises tonight.] He waited quietly for whatever shock that was going to cause before sending anything else.
Instead, he felt the other man's fingers sliding gently over his feathers.
Good god. Am I being -petted-? That's it. There goes the last of my dignity. Bye dignity! Nice knowing you! I'm being -petted-. And furthermore...
It wasn't until Alfarinn abruptly snatched his hand away that Thaddeus realized exactly how pleasant that stroking had felt on his feathers. In fact, it was probably the most relaxed he had felt since he had entered the sewers. Still, Thaddeus Grey was a vampire, not some sort of -plaything-, and he puffed out his feathers to display his disapproval with this turn of events.
Still, Alfarinn was not looking at him. Thaddeus wondered if he even realized that he was still holding a living, breathing vampire, and was about to give him a sharp peck, when he felt a thought that was most certainly not his own enter his mind.
Again he puffed out his feathers and spread his wings slightly, but stayed in Alfarinn's grasp. Unsure of the meaning of this, he looked up once again at Alfarinn, and this time discovered he was looked down at him expectantly. Was that...it must have been.
Alright. This works. Good. Very good.
Actually, it was quite a strange feeling for Thaddeus, but he saw the upside to Alfarinn being able to speak into his mind. But would he be able to speak back? How? Was the other man reading his mind right now? What should he do?
Unsure of how to proceed, he gave another soft coo, the closest thing he could muster to a "What?"Â?, and looked to gauge Alfarinn's reaction.
What he heard was like flickers of thought for the most part, nothing solid until Thaddeus chose to send to him. Then he heard that clearly, the more focused the thought, the louder it was to Alfarinn.
What... He raised an eyebrow.
[Just how would you care to proceed? You won't be recognized in your current form and I can wait here for my 'friend'. I am not known to be involved in this so I might go unnoticed by the people we are looking for. Or you can change back and we can try this some other way. Your choice.]
He tilted his head to one side. He wasn't sure how complex his replies could be, or whether Alfarinn could clearly understand his responses. He cooed in the affirmative and did his best to convey that yes, staying in this form was best, and then concentrated on projecting his query, which was punctuated by more soft cooing.
[What do you want to do if we run into trouble? Aside from our mutual enemy, I mean. I can change forms quickly and easily, but it does not seem wise to do that in front of any spectators. Still, part of the point of both of us coming down here together rather than taking turns was to look out for each other, and I am at a significant disadvantage to give aid in this form.
I suppose the question is, how do -you- feel about being, for all intents and purposes, alone down here?]
He frowned and then thought about the arrangement with a sigh, he explained.
[I'm never alone] Ok, so he didn't explain. [I come here often enough that the bouncers and even the young vampires know not to mess with me. Only the young are likely to try anything and they are easily dealt with. I am sure you remember what its like being young, Thaddeus, you tend to think you're invincible. Though Megan would argue I've never grown out of this trait.] This thought was accompanied by the mental equivalent of a snort. [Still someone barely created outside of this century is hardly a match for either of us, let alone both of us. I have a feeling that the person we are looking for would not care about me one way or the other.] He shrugged. [We'll see]
There seemed to be a lot Thaddeus didn't understand about his companion.
And whatever did Alfarinn mean, he was 'never alone'? The statement worried him, though the worry was ill defined.
Apprehensively, he cooed in agreement and turned himself to watch for passersby. Fair enough; Alfarinn could take down a young one and no one else wished to interfere with him for whatever reason. Though Thaddeus never could really relate to the idea of perpetual invincibility, himself; it seemed to him his life had been at risk since his turning, a relentless chase that left him weary and lost until he found the safety of Anantya.
It was hard not to automatically smooth the feathers of the creature he was holding. It was habit. Alfarinn wasn't sure how Thaddeus would take the gesture but he doubted it would be in any way that was good, bad enough that he'd already done it once.
[Not that I mind holding you but perhaps it would look less odd if you could find a perch somewhere.] Alfarinn held his hand out and kept it firm so that Thaddeus would have something to push off on.
Well no, he didn't have to admit anything. Best just not to finish that thought. Instead, Thaddeus preened his feathers and looked about thoughtfully. Suddenly a thought occurred to him; would Alfarinn be able to "hear"Â? him from this distance? And would he be able to "hear"Â? Alfarinn's response?
Deciding to test the theory, and this time without cooing, he "spoke."Â?
[Alfarinn? Can you still hear me?]
He was pondering asking one of the bouncers if he wouldn't mind making a little trip inside and getting him a tall glass of something cold when he heard Thaddeus.
[Hmm?] He almost didn't hear it with the distance and with not paying attention but Thaddeus much easier to understand than a normal bird so it did manage to get to him well enough. [Yes, I can hear you. Its harder but not impossible, just focus on what you want to tell me and we should be fine.]
At ease in the knowledge that he and Alfarinn could still communicate, he went back to watching and preening his feathers, being careful to stay out of sight.
For some reason, though, he felt a restlessness that he was unfamiliar with. He was quite used to waiting patiently, watching, laying low...
Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.*
Thaddeus smirked inwardly at the remembered quote; he's always found it fitting, having been forced to be a "harmless dove"Â? many times in the course of being Order of the Night.
So why the sudden restlessness when I've done this, sat in solitude for hours and hours...
Oh. That's it. I'm not in solitude.
Thaddeus wondered if he should make some effort at conversation. Was that what one did when one had a partner? He wasn't sure; while Mai followed him often as not, they seldom needed to talk even if they had the means; conversation wasn't so much expected.
Just as he was about to make some effort at inane small talk, he heard a commotion from further up the tunnel.
/ooc *Matthew 10:16