Prologue: Drury Lane, Scene II (Michael)

   
"Hullo?"

A light appeared at the top and a head poked down into the shaft. "Hullo? Mr. Alexander? Ah, there you are! Whatever are you doing all the way down there? It's Jack, Jack Clements"

The voice was cut off by Michael's solid kick. The head winced and then the voice came down. "No need to bring the house down! Hold one second, I'll find a rope."

He disappeared again, then reappeared moments later. "Here you go! Just climb on up and we'll get this mess sorted out. I do need to talk to you still, so I hope you're not terribly hurt."

Hurrying to the sound of the voice, Michael looked up cautiously at first, but with more relief each passing second. He'd thought it might be a trick, but the man didn't look dead. In fact, Michael recognised the name - one of the most famous film critics in the entire country! "Mr. Clements!" he called, "Mr. Alexander is badly hurt! I'm not sure he can climb up, even with help. He needs medical attention - as soon as possible. Can you send someone to open the door?"

As he called to Clements, Michael kneeled next to Theo, a hand on his shoulder. "Listen, hold on. It won't be long now. I promise," he said. "I'm sorry for getting you involved in all this. I swear - I swear - I will make it up to you somehow."

"Is that so?" Jack called down, "Hold on, then, let me come down and have a look."

The film critic began rappelling down the shaft, carefully dodging debris and broken timbers. "I've picked up *huff* a bit of first aid," he called as he descended, "Learned it *huff* as a side effect *puff* of playing football *huff* in high school and college."

The Mage smiled at the other two men, then raised an eyebrow when he saw Michael's state of undress. He ignored it for the moment and approached Theo. "Let me have a look," he said, "Just sit tight and do try to relax. Whatever the stories say, there are no real ghosts down here." Nobody else could sense it, but Jack's words rang with power. His mind tried to reach out and touch Theo's, but the spell fell short and Jack frowned.

He gently pressed on Theo's sides, arms, and legs. Again, nobody felt the magic Jack worked into his touch. Bones knitted together and wounds closed up just a bit. Theo was still hurt, but he would be able to climb.

"There you go," he said, "It's not as bad as it seemed. A few cracked ribs and a couple of gashes. You took quite a fall there, Mr. Alexander. You ought to be more careful." This time, the power in Jack's reassuring words did connect with Theo's mind. The horrific world seemed a little better. Everything would be all right.

"Climb on up," Jack told Theo, "We'll get you to a hospital. You'll need stitches, but you'll be out and about in no time. It's dark down here and the darkness plays horrible tricks on the mind. I cannot think what your mind imagined happened down here."

It was a touch patronizing, but sometimes that was the way of things when dealing with mortals. "We'll chat when you're out of the hospital. I can wait. Off you go, then."

Next, Jack turned to Michael and shook his head, chuckling. "I find it rather odd that someone would walk around these tunnels virtually naked," he teased quietly so Theo wouldn't hear, "We'll have to find you new clothes before you can go out in public. After all, a wolf with no fur is no wolf at all." Jack winked mischievously. "Unless you'd like an ASBO charge for public nakedness. Somehow I don't think you're the sort."


"Oh my god oh my god oh my god." Theo whimpered, curled up into a ball. It was not entirely clear how much, if any of this, the stage director was processing at the moment. Setting aside all the matters of darkness and long falls and Royston Montjoy, he had also gotten a heavy dose of Lunacy in close quarters. "Oh my god oh my god oh my god."

He grew quieter, though, after Ilkin's magic weighed down upon his mind. Calmer, perhaps, or more forgetful. Given time, this would all become just an incoherent blur in his memory, some madcap nightmare that he'd stumbled into, and then stumbled out of. For now, though, he was just a quietly twitching bundle, eyes shut tight against the monsters that he now knew were very, very real.

As Clements climbed down, Michael breathed a sigh of relief. He’d never had an encounter with a spirit being on his own, and without the aid of the Pack he clearly hadn’t handled it very well. It was only a Clements raised his eyebrows that Michael realised his clothes were shredded, leaving nothing to the imagination. He flushed a bright red, covering himself with his hands until he could find something else to wear.

Michael watched as Clements did… something, some kind of… well, he made Theo seem calmer and not quite so badly hurt. Michael felt he should have been glad that Theo was better, but all he could think was “oh no, something else”. Whatever Clements was, though, he seemed to want to help. So Michael would take his assistance and watch him like a hawk.

At Clements’ comments, Michael gave a weak sort of smile. “No, I’m not,” he confirmed. “Things got a little… out of hand,” he added, unsure how much to tell Clements. How much did he know about ghosts and spirits? He was clearly implying that Michael was a werewolf, and Clements had used some kind of power or magic to calm Theo. But Michael was almost certain that Clements wasn’t a werewolf himself, so he was reluctant to say anything about ghosts, nor confirm that he was a werewolf. So he kept quiet, and started hunting for clothing to wear. Anything would do - he’d be getting rid of it as soon as he was home, anyway.

Jack watched Theo climb, then held the rope out for Michael. "Excellent," he said, "If I'd realized you were in trouble, I'd have gotten here sooner. All I could tell was you and Mr. Alexander had come down here. And it must've been hell if you, well..." He matched Michael's weak smile with an apologetic one.

"Jack Clements, how do you do?" he said, briefly offering Michael his hand to shake. "We ought to chat later since this place is not fit for discussing certain topics." The Mage glanced significantly at the gibbering Theo Alexander, then smiled back at Michael. "You go on up. I'll hoist him up once you're at the top."

Jack smiled and clapped Michael reassuringly on the shoulder. Strands of Fate wrapped around the werewolf at Jack's behest, granting him extraordinary luck for the next little bit. Things were just bound to go well. "Off you go, then. I'll see you at the top, mm?"

"It wasn't the most pleasent experience, no," Michael answered, still smiling, getting a little warmer towards Clements. He had helped them out of a bad situation, after all. But Michael couldn't help being suspicious, so he'd still watch Clements like a hawk. At this point, he didn't trust anyone with inhuman gifts besides his fellow Pack memebers. Which made him wonder what he was going to do about Penrose... he was supposed to meet her again. But then, Montjoy hadn't really given him a response other that expressing outright loathing for Penrose...

Clements' question shook Michael out of his revere. He smiled at the man, but didn't extend his hand, not wanting to reveal anything more - Clements had probably already gotten an eyefull, but Michael still had his dignity. "Michael Oliver. I'd shake your hand, but... you know..." he said, with an awkward sort of shrug, indicating his lack of clothing. "Umm, about climbing up - I have nothing to wear. Do you see anything down here?" Michael asked, spotting nothing himself.

Ilkin glanced at Michael and smiled apologetically. "Ah yes," he said, "Forgive my insensitivity." He looked around but before he could do much, a tiny blue gecko poked its head out of the Mage's pocket.

"Let me look," the lizard said dourly, "You'll just blunder into a closet and ruin everything."

"Ah yes," Ilkin smiled, "This is Kertenkele, my hobgoblin pe--friend."

Kertenkele glared up at Ilkin, then gave Michael a long-suffering look that spoke volumes of what the lizard dealt with every day. Then he glanced around. "There's nothing suitable here," the lizard murmured, "If you insist, there are a few filthy rags, but nothing else. We'll find you something up top, hopefully before anyone else sees you. Right?" The last was directed at Ilkin, who smiled sheepishly.

"I'll do what I can," he said, "But we'd best get out of here before the creature that terrified poor Theo comes back. Should I go first then, to ensure the coast is clear?"

As the little whatever it was popped out, Michael just sighed. Today was apparently just going to be weird, and there was nothing Michael could do to change that. Ghosts, talking lizards, weird healer guys... it was all just a little too strange. A little too different. After today, Michael sincerely hoped that he only had to deal with werewolves and spirits.

"Yes, if you wouldn't mind going up first, that would be great," Michael said. For now, he focused on trying to partically shift his abdomen, trying to sproud fur there to protect his modesty. It wouldn't be good for any humans to see, but at least he wouldn't be exposed to Clements and Theo anymore. "And thank you for coming to help. I really appreciate it. And I'm sure Theo will say the same, when he calms down a little bit."

Ilkin smiled. "Don't mention it," he said cheerfully and picked up Theo. "Come along, Mr. Alexander. We'll be out of this mess in no time and you'll forget it ever happened."

And with that, the Mage began climbing up the rope. Carrying Theo while climbing was awkward at first, but soon he got it all together and several minutes later, he heaved Theo back in.

"Come on up!" he called back down, "Quickly before the monsters come back!"




 

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