1:02 AM, Wednesday, November 12th, 2003
Highgate Cemetery. Located in the north of London's inner city, it was the most famous cemetery in all of England. Karl Marx was the most famous burial here, but a long series of businessmen, poets, artists, occultists, visionaries and madmen had been buried here over the years. The poet Christina Rossetti, the parents and brother of Charles Dickens were buried here. More recently, Douglas Adams weas interred in the ground, some two years ago. Authors, scholars, and monsters all alike could be found beneath the dirt here. It was considered the most haunted cemetery in Britain, a well-deserved reputation.
Rose could see the ghosts around her. Old ghosts, potent and powerful, mad beyond reckoning by the years. They watched as Ilkin and Seventeen led you down the torturously circular paths, between trees and shrubbery. Highgate Cemetery was green, even at night. A little haven of nature, inside London's beating heart. Foxes, mice, wildflowers and trees, all allowed to live and grow without interference.
The ghosts watched from between the trees. Some looked human. A little girl in a dress from the turn of the century, her face pale and translucent, a burning mark of crimson emblazoned on her brow. A businessman in a sharp suit, his throat cut and still dripping ephemeral blood, a bloody mark burned into his forehead. Others were less understandable. A whirling cloud of lights and knives and bullets, a scarlet symbol floating in its depths. A three-faced hag, babe, mother, and crone, three faces arranged around a single head, with six arms and lower half dissolving into mist, their triple-faces branded with the red mark. Everywhere, the Guardians of the Veil had tamed these wild spectres and put their mark upon them. It looked like a steel mask with three slits, for eyes and mouth, framed before a gallows noose.
"Here we are." Seventeen said at length, as a large mausoleum appeared out of the trees. This was in the old part of the cemetery, which had been founded back in 1839. Jeffries was carved in the stone above the great brass doors, and then a motto, Matthew 5:14 "You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden". This was the task the Guardians set themselves. To hide that which cannot be hidden.
Inside, the Jeffries Family Tomb, the City on the Hill, the Citadel Building, the walls were a brilliant white marble, and there were plants everywhere. Potted flowers, small trees, everything was white marble and living greenery. It was blindingly bright and more vividly alive than the actual world outside. The first room you entered was empty, save for a dozen doors of gold, or at the least gilded wood. You saw nothing else.
Seventeen, without so much as pausing to scrub the dirt and mud from his shoes, stepped across the blinding mausoleum and towards one of the doors, tracking dirt onto the spotless marble floors. He opened it, and ushered you through. The Citadel Building was larger inside than it was on the outside. A trick of the magic of space and location, that threaded together scores of rooms and tombs scattered across Highgate Cemetery into a single whole, bridging distances.
It was to one of these other rooms that you now passed through. It was an office, though with the same decor of white marble and green plant-life that had been in the entry hall. An ornate desk in some Victorian style occupied most of the back, dark wood made to be nearly black by its brilliant surroundings. A chair of the same style and material, occupied, made up the remainder of the furnishings. It was a spartan assemblange, intimidating in its harsh austerity.
There were three people present. Two of them stood on either side of the chair. They looked like Seventeen, just a bit. Brown-haired and with aristocratic features, a man and a woman stood at attention. Each one wore a black suit and black sunglasses, their hair cut to a short trim, their faces set. Each cradled a large and very modern looking rifle in their hands.
"Hello Kenneth, Barbara. Everyone, meet MIB Barbie and MIB Ken." Seventeen said casually, waving the rest of you in. The two bodyguards gave him matching flat glares, no love lost there. A tad more respectfully, Seventeen half-bowed to the seated figure. "Hello Grandfather."
The seated figure was just a silhouette, a black outline amidst the startling green and white of his office. There was no earthly reason for this sharp division of light and dark, certainly no bright lights behind him. But his entire form was shrouded in nigh-impenetrable darkness. You could make out a handful of details. Tall, aristocratic in bearing, with a trim beard and short hair.
The silhouetted figure put down a pen it had been using and clasped its hands together, waiting.