Gold and Pigsty Part 2/3
High on skies, late at night: Tarracina was swallowed by darkness and silenced by the sea. Promethia looked down, wondering where to start.
She scouted the bundled buildings closer to the warehouses, a cluster of bricks and canvas. Lycaro was right on his assessment; nobody lived here, everyone was on their way to something better. Room after room of workers laying together, coughing and snoring after a day of heavy labor—wage slavery in which they found themselves in. Curious glances were all Davinia could afford before moving on to the other buildings.
Promethia approached the warehouses; nicely walled and tilled, tiny windows that barely let any light inside. Crossed arms, Davinia wondered how she could squeeze herself through those openings and how many times she would have to do that just to take a peak inside. As her ideas burned, she caught the glint of something on a rooftop. With a discreet dive, Davinia approached the source of the reflection: a rolling, lead-heavy, blue-green glass flask. Spinning over herself, Davinia cushioned and grasped it between two fingers. Tumbling the flask between her fingers, she noticed a viscous opaque substance within; waving the air in front of the tube’s mouth towards her nose; it had a subtle, slightly soapy, comforting smell of pleasant neutrality.
Davinia’s mercantile acumen turned as she studied the object. It was expensive, not something that could be crafted locally—imported and belonging to someone of means. What was it doing, rolling down a recently built warehouse? Promethia followed the falling path, figuring out where it came from.
Something or someone was moving across the rooftops, slithering with measured and slow movements. Promethia approached from high, flowing the discreet advance. It was a woman, wearing dark purples and blues, her posterior shifting under the tightest stitching Davinia had ever seen, custom-cut to cling like a second skin. There was a soft rattle of jewelry and glassware, strings of leather around the infiltrator’s body restraining a strange arsenal without bulk or awkwardness—and more important for the situation at hand, with no rattling. Promethia was mesmerized, hovering closer and closer, trying to get a better view. Reaching the edge of the roof, the woman extended her arms, stretched and dangled her legs over the waterfront, distributing her weight. Moonlight and water-reflected drew a contour of her face: masked, heavy looking and face-concealing, with quite a pronounced snout or muzzle.
Promethia descended, hiding behind the adjacent warehouse. Poking around the corner, she continued to observe the stealthy efforts of the other woman. The infiltrator tied two ropes from the roof and dropped with careful probing steps. To Davinia’s surprise the woman stretched and contorted, squeezing through the diminutive window. More impressive, she was doing it with only one free hand: Davinia noticed a small wooden box that she held against her wrapped torso. A helpless whimper: that was how Davinia acknowledged her loss of control over the situation. She did not understand what the woman was doing and how that related to the Epirote mission, but her detective instincts screamed about a relation.
Landing on the wet stone, Davinia ran around the warehouses, looking for any entrance. The walls were thick and access limited; there were only the tiny windows up high and the heavy wide gates. Because she knew what to expect, Davinia could hear the light footsteps of the spy, piercing the quiet moments between the slow wheeze of rolled sails and the turmoil of the sea. She had to get inside.
Hating herself for asking for a favor after the last time, Promethia reached inside and aligned her Spark with her mind.
“Davinia, what are you up to this late?” The metallic simulacrum of a voice echoed, usual celerity but sparse words.
“I’m sorry Sybil, I am in a bit of a trouble.”
“You are. You creeping around at night: if you were not in trouble already, you are looking for it.”
“Vae, vae. But can I have your thinking power? I have some blind heating to do and could use the boost and control.”
“I’m still sluggish, but let me cool my innards and I will be with you. Done!”
Davinia closed her eyes and took a deep breath, feeding her Spark and opening her mind to Sybil. She could feel the gas trapped within the wooden gates, the flow between cracks, the iron through which bars prevented her entrance. She focused on the later, concentrating all the heat on the metal, making it heave and whistle. With nails flew out with a red cry, iron giving in to weight and dropping the bar into the ground with a loud clang. Hovering gently over the floor, Davinia opened the gates just enough for her to slip through.
She panicked when she saw a dock worker sleeping amid sacks of grain and wool piles. They did not seem to react to her—or anything else. Fearing the worst, Davinia loomed over the figure, putting two fingers against their neck. Feeling the soft breathing and a serene pulse, they sighed in relief. Footsteps around her, on the large second floor of the warehouse, a place for smaller and more precious cargo. Weirdness seemed to await Davinia at each opportunity: this time, a bright phosphorous and magnesium flash, accompanied by an intense smell of vinegar and metallic garlic.
The masked thief haunted the place, going through the different cargo, opening boxes and coffers—always with her flashing square in hand. A single piercing point of light danced around the walls, stopping only when another flash was released. The thief turned her snout towards something even more interesting: the port authorities office. Delighted, she put the box she held on the floor and rushed to this archive of bounty, ransacking the scroll cases and clearing the desk. With a victorious chuckle, she grabbed the most precious of prizes: the shipping manifestos.
They wrinkled into ash in her hands. The thief turned to see an ascending Davinia land in front of the stairs, one burning hand held high as she approached in a halo of confidence.
The thief cursed in Greek.
“Sybil. You still there?” Davinia projected mentally. “I could use some intel on this woman and what her little box can do.”
“I can’t sense anyone with you. You are alone.”
“I’m definitely not. Gonna get to you on that later, busy now.” Could it be Spark interference? Was she a Triumphant? Promethia could hardly see her, much less feel her resonance. Feeding the furnace of her Spark, Davinia forced herself to recognize the woman. She could feel a cloaked Spark, recognized by its absence. Slowly an idea was shared, manifest between the two.
“Circe.” Davinia proclaimed, dismissing the flame and inviting darkness in.
“Promethia.” Circe rolled the words in her tongue, soaking every syllable with a thick accent that Davinia had trouble identifying.
“Can we just talk, thief to thief?”
“I am no thief.” Circe threw some ash in Promethia’s face before tackling her. They fumbled on the ground, trying to restrain each other.
Better combatants had tried to pin Davinia down and she had learning a thing or two: she rolled back and refuted any advance. They were both up, circling each other, eager to put the other down; neither of them were fighters, and even if Circe was more athletic and flexible, their awkwardness was as dangerous as it was an advantage. They glared at each other, trying to come up with an edge that could grant them a satisfying outcome.
“Do we have to do this? What are you trying to get?” Davinia dropped her arms into a more relaxed stance.
“You took what I wanted, you filthy animal.”
“Animal? You are the one wearing a pig mask!” Davinia remarked: it was a nice mask, now that she was close enough to appreciate it. Eyes protected but without obstruction, mouth and nose covered by the snout and it stretched over the face—clearly custom-made. And Davinia had just tried to pull it, so she could appreciate the strength of the fitting.
“Only so I can do this.” Circe grabbed a trio of flasks from their leather restrainers and threw them into the floor. High in adrenaline and surprised, Davinia breathed a mouthful more than it would be wise to.
Her pulse became irregular, weakness infiltrated her very bones. Davinia could barely feel her limbs and a hellish itchiness covered her all over. Her vision blurred as Circe grabbed her box and walked away; Davinia tried to grab the thief but her hand resisted her commands. Circe entered the window, mockingly blowing a kiss.
“Scurry away little mouse, before they find you.”
Promethia did not know where she got the extra reserves, crawling in pursuit of Circe. The distance seemed to stretch more than she could drag herself, everything looming over her, impossibly tall. The itchiness on her nose and ears were almost driving her to screams; she could only feel disgust at her clothes and scarf—she would tear them to spread if they did not weigh as if woven from lead. She did it, Davina could see the window, she could see Circle sliding down the rope. Promethia looked inside for her Spark, but even that seemed foreign to her senses and eluding Davinia.
All her will and purpose manifested as fire, burning the rope into nothingness. The last thing she could be sure of was screaming and a painful crash. Delighted, Davinia could feel herself disappear. Her body was a stranger which she haunted, the warehouse turning into a maze. She could feel herself scurrying in all four, hands and feet on the cold floor, an eternity to cross towards outside. The windows were not an obstacle; as she tried to plead for help and sound an alarm, only squeals could be heard.
Davinia found her senses in the rocky beaches flanking the docks, still dissociating as she looked at her hands and feet, bloody and scratched. Her uniform was soaked in sweat and saltwater, her scarf tied over her left leg. Sybil kept trying to talk with her.
“Davinia, will you stop squealing and focus for one moment?”
Promethia twitched her nose, scratching it by rubbing both hands together.
“Sybil, did you see that? She turned me into a mouse.”
“She did not turn anyone into mice.” Sybil asserted.
“Nonsense! I ran between feet and I had to climb up a table to even reach a window! And I could only squeal!”
“You were tricked and your mind addled. You were more likely to fornicate Egeria than to become a mouse.”
“That was different. Egeria was inside of me; this changed how I was in the world: me, me to others, everything!” Davinia started feeling her body, making sure she was back to her regular self. “I was transformed.”
“You sure where, I can still see your whiskers.” Sybil never sounded so tired as an horrified Davinia rubbed her cheeks. “I am sure you were a cute mouse.”
“Cute? I have never been cute a day in my life!” Davinia felt like herself again. She pulled herself up and could feel agency over herself reasserted. Even her Spark seemed strengthened. “I only exist in beautiful and terrifying.”
“And will your beautiful terrifyingness be going to bed or would she prefer a hole in the wall?”