I laughed at the formality. Isolde was my mother’s name. The thought of her brought a bitter taste to my mouth, the coffee’s smoky taste turning to wormwood on my tongue. I wasn’t sure how many people knew about our rocky family relationship but I sure wasn’t going to start a family tree debate right here in the Underground. Information could be easily misused and I hardly knew who to trust anymore.
“I’m Rendell. Just Ren will do.”
I watched as she nodded and took another sip of her drink, the streaks of colour tinging her face an eerie pale blue. The colour of the drowned. I shuddered and pretended to draw my cloak closer to hide my sudden movement.
“As I said, what brings you here, Ren?” she asked again.
I thought about the way we had found the body just this morning, at dawn to be precise. The creepy silence that descended among the members of the Circle of Timekeepers was broken by the single cry from one of us. I would know that voice anywhere.
Imelda was barely held in check by two other Timekeepers as we discovered the body of her father, my future father-in-law. I couldn’t help her. I couldn’t discover his murderer despite all the efforts to turn back the time in the shadows of that grand hall with its onyx pillars shot through with gold. So here I was, to find help. I looked back at her, the great pyromage, Felice. She raised a dark silver brow at me and cocked her head back as she knocked down the rest of her drink in one shot. “Let’s head to my room. More privacy that way.” she muttered as she slipped off the bar stool in one fluid motion. I followed the train of her dress that emitted tiny sparks of flame as she moved swiftly to the back of the club, the dancers scrambling out of her way to avoid being burned. What had I gotten myself into, I sighed inwardly.
I sat awkwardly on the edge of the plush love seat that mirrored Felice’s seat across the carved mahogany table. I felt rather exposed without my cloak around my shoulders, the soft, worn warmth of its dark folds that normally hid me from the world were temporarily removed and hung from a hook in the shape of a lion with its fangs bared in a growl. The room Felice had led me to resembled a drawing room in the Victorian style that was popular among most Undergrounders. Anywhere else I would have considered it tacky, but here it seemed natural to have walls panelled with dark wood that gleamed in the soft light of numerous candles that lined the walls in a sort of wave pattern that were actually patterns of bloody waves on the wallpaper. Everything in the room was a different warm colour ranging from the palest orange to the darkest, bloodiest red. It was like sitting in the heart of a garnet.
“Tell me everything.” she commanded as she draped her long legs along the velvet footstool that sat near her couch.
I glanced up at her tone. Timekeepers were generally treated with more respect. We commanded the common folk and not the other way round. Even if Felice were one of the best, she had no right and it would have been punishable by Underground law. But this was no time to be fussy about such formalities and stiff rules. I had a job to perform. Taking a deep breath, I prepared myself for the questions that were sure to come. Felice did not take things lightly.
“I need you to assassinate someone.” I replied levelly.
Her eyes widened from their normal cat-eyed glance, the pupils enlarging, the black overpowering the ice blue for a moment.
“Who exactly are we talking about?” she tried to keep her voice casual as she played with a small tongue of flame that constantly shifted from her knuckles to the tips of her fingers.