Prologue: Caveat Emptor, Scene III (Daphne)

   
Prologue: Caveat Emptor, Scene III (Daphne)

In London Town where the Bridge had Fallen Down, there were a great many stories and a great many legends, and a great many things bought and sold. Provided, that is, that one knew the way out of the light and into the twilight, to the place where reality and theology merged with fable and fact.

There was Picadilly Circus, bright and sunny, a million dreams and a million hopes sold by whisker-faced goblins, fruits and fobiles sold to whoever paid the proper price. It was the public market, the open market, the largest and greatest, where the shadows were fewest. A neutral ground, under the protection of the Freehold, of New Jerusalem.

There was the Clock Tower Market, when time itself could be sold. A good time for yourself? A bad time for one's enemy? The time to make a decision? The time of your life? Or merely the ending of time for a specific life. It was a small market, specialist, and oh so very dangerous. But it would not be open for another week or two, when the moon was full and rosy, and Big Ben sounded midnight.

There was the Thames Market, not so large as Picadilly, but more ecletic, for it was a mobile market that travelled the very world. From that old cargo ship, when it called into port, one could buy the silks of the Orient or the gold of the Andes. Foreign, exotic, with that hidden allure made of sunlight and moonbeams woven into a carpet. But the Thames Market was not yet here, the good ship Decision not in port.

And there was the Twelfth Bridge.

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If one were to look upon the guidebook, they would notice that there are eleven bridges crossing the Thames in central London. Going from West to East, there was the Vauxhill Bridge, the Lambeth Bridge, the Westminster Bridge, the Hungerford Bridges and the Golden Jubilee Bridges (in truth a single bridge), the Waterloo Bridge, the Blackfriar’s Bridge, the Blackfriars Railway Bridge, which is a distinct Bridge, the Millenium Bridge, the Southwark Bridge, the Canon Street Railway Bridge, London Bridge, and the infamous Tower Bridge.

If one were to ask the Lost, they would tell you that there are thirteen bridges, but no one likes to talk about the Thirteenth Bridge. No one very much likes to talk about the Twelfth Bridge either, but it is there, and people used it. It was called the Spider-Span, the Silken Span, and it marked the location of the darkest Goblin Market in London. Here one could buy the blackest miracles of life and death. Black miracles of death, one could understand. Black miracles of life were even more mysterious, and whispered those in the know, quite as black.

It took a strong stomach, or a very particularly Fae sensibility to visit the Spider-Span. The bridge crossed the black waters of the Other-Thames on cables of spider-silk as thick as steel girders, as the ephemeral shapes of the Blackfriars and Waterloo Bridges in the distance, on the other side of the Hedge. The entire bridge was a single vast web, spun by a million spiders. You walked on the faintly sticky strands, and everywhere one looked there were spiders. Spiders were the watch-dogs of the Market, the repairers of webs and the beasts of burden, and not a few of the merchants were spiders as well. Some were things of beauty, shining like living jewels or with soft, polychromatic fur to rival any butterfly’s wings. Others were hideous, bloated monsters of asymmetrical and grotesque appearance. Many of the hobgoblin barterers were simple hobs much as one would find at any Market, but others had a distinctly arachnid aspect; one might speak with a monastically robed goblin with the bright-eyed face of a jumping spider, or visit a tent where beautiful women dance, clusters of writhing arachnid legs where their hair would be and trails of cobweb spinning off their glistening forms.

Many of the goods bought and sold on the Spider-Span were of the same sort as could be found elsewhere, though there was something of a discount on goods made of spider-silk (the stuff had a tendency to pile up). Pet Hedge-spiders were often sold as well, though the wise buyer would make certain to learn all of the information for proper care and feeding (as well as just how large the pet was expected to get someday). Rare venoms were solid in little glass bottles, and slaves were bought and sold, bound in chains of spidersilk, or wrapped in living coccoons. But most relevantly for Daphne, one could buy secrets.

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"A seed that sprouts in the heart." The old woman said, seated in the half-darkness beneath the Silken Span's shadowy webs. She was a shriveled little thing, in silk robes, her fingers long and slender. Daphne couldn't see her eyes, beneath the hood, but there were entirely too many gleaming reflections from beneath it. "I know of such a thing, dearie bright. And what do you need for such a horrid fright?"

Daphne didn't mind spiders. Bugs she only minded if they were pests. Termites, for example. Or wood beetles.

Still, it was hard to focus on a face talking at you when it had so many eyes. Daphne made a point to look straight ahead, so as not to be rude and wonky-eyed.

"I don't need it, per se, madam. I want to know who might've sold it. What's its name?"


Dice Roll: 5d10s8e10
d10 Results: 8, 10, 1, 5, 6, 7 (Total Successes = 2)
Presence+Socialize

Once again, she wondered what she was doing, then quickly squashed the question with an 'you started it, you get yourself through it' voice in her head.

"Blackheart Asphodel is its name, a black and bleak weapon, dearie bright." The old woman with her many glinting eyes said, tasting the words in mouth. She pursed her lips, considering this response for a moment. "Or not a weapon at all, but a torturesome thing, a threat and a promise."

"Its roots grow in your veins and in your heart, and they do not hurt so long as you are happy." The old woman said. "But if you're ever sad or afeared, so much so that it feels as though your heart is fit to burst... well then, dearie bright, that's exactly what it does!"

The old woman cackled, a twisted little chuckle. "I've sold it myself, and few are the folks here that know it. And whyfor you be looking for the seller?"

"It's a strange thing, nanny," Daphne replied with reverence. As in, in the fairy tales, a child would address a wise old woman this way.

"A human was found with it. He must have gotten mixed up in a bad exchange. Are you saying this thing could have been planted years and years ago until tragedy took him? That would make it harder to track."

She rolled her shoulders, shifting the weight of the branches at her back. Daphne wasn't sure how much information to give out in a case like this.

"Not so long, for man is a sad creature, and tragedy happens too quickly and too often, dearie bright, for the asphodel to be long in seed." The old woman said, tapping her many fingers together with little clicks. "But he was in a very bad exchange, for someone wanted him dead and more than dead, in pain and fear when he died."

"Do you have a cutting of that little plant?" The old woman said. "It can tell us so very much, if the plant is asked the right way. I do not sell so very many of these things."

"I do, in fact."

Daphne reached into her shoulder bag and brought out a bit of plant wrapped in tissue paper. It was slightly bloody, the old kind of bloody.

"Is each seed individual? Or are there different strains?" She looked hopefully toward the spider-crone.

"Every seed goes through its own story, dearie bright. Every seed has been in different places, has seen so many different things..." The old woman said, running her fingers along the bloody tissue paper. "If you just ask it nicely enough... why, so many stories they can tell."

"This one is young, only three months old, in truth. And yes... it remembers who bought it, and who put it into the water so it may be drunk down." The old woman said, and she chuckled and held out her palm to Daphne. "Give nanny a kiss, dearie bright, and I'll tell you the names."


"I think, nanny, it may actually be worth my own ritual. Unless you mean only you can find the names? In that case, I doubt you need the cutting."

Daphne watched the crone sincerely, expecting some sort of "why-won't-you-kiss-your-sweet-old-granny" rebuke.

Dice Roll: 6d10s8e10
d10 Results: 10, 5, 2, 2, 1, 3, 5 (Total Successes = 1)
Presence+Socialize

"Then I wish you well, dearie-bright." The old woman said, reaching out to pat Daphne gently on the arm. She was cool to the touch, her withered fingers akin to wood and mahogany. "And have a care, young thing, and don't forget your granny, and watch out for foxes."

With that, the old woman rose from her stool, and seemed to glide back into the tent, moving entirely too smoothly for anyone with just two legs.

"Thank you," she said softly, again as one with respect for an elder.

Daphne looked back and forth, then scuttled away to some back corner of the market. There she peeked in at the cutting. "Shh," she cooed. "If you tell me who sold you, who put you inside the man, I will do everything in my power to help you grow again..."

Dice Roll: 1d10+4
d10 Results: 5 (Total = 9)
Total Glamour




 

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