Olivia sighed as she wiped her glasses for the nineteenth time. She needed to look neat, look presentable. Dignified. Maybe. “Thanks for coming with me, Shen.”
They walked side by side through Grimouth park, towards the veil that covered Eyes’ bunker.
She had arranged the meeting the previous night; to see Eyes, and explain her failure to obtain Eldrich. Though the prospect of seeing Eyes again worried her, meeting with Dante had reassured her, enough that the ever-present demoniac whisper of her beast was quieted to a susurrus of what if this is just part of Dante’s plan?
Stepping through the veil felt like opening the window of a warm room on a cold night; the spidersilk of the illusion shivering across the skin. The bunker was still there, no figures in the gun emplacements on the roof this time, but a single kindred standing at the door. Olivia recognized him from Jed’s grainy cameraphone image from the previous night; the young face and large headphones picking him out. Flute Guy. He seemed pleased when he noticed Shen.
Shen was looking intently at his shoes, and Olivia looked at them too, which prompted a snort of amusement from Flute Guy.
Olivia looked up. “We’ve got an appointment.”
Flute Guy looked at them a moment before nodding. He reached behind him, and gave the iron door three resounding taps before it opened.
Olivia bowed her head. “Thanks.”
Flute Guy said nothing but gestured for them to enter.
Eyes’ office was much the same as before, the shelves upon shelves of trinkets, the desk, and Eyes herself, sat as if she had not moved since their last meeting.
Olivia stood uncomfortably before her, hands clasped. “I’m afraid you may have overestimated my capabilities somewhat.”
“Oh?” Eyes raised an eyebrow. “How so?”
“I find that I am unable to obtain Eldrich for you.” Olivia cleared her throat nervously. “Within a reasonable time period, that is. I mean, in time I could negotiate something, maybe, but I felt that this would ultimately displease you. So, out of respect for your time, I came to ask if there was any alternative arrangement to be had.”
Eyes looked thoughtful. “A shame. I had been hoping for a guard dog. He would have looked good on top of my haven,” she smiled. “All six of him. But, I suppose an internal guard dog would suffice. You have an oracle in your basement, I believe.” Eyes seemed less than thrilled at the prospect of Alice.
Olivia shook her head. “She is not mine to give.”
Some small spark of anger seemed to light in Eyes’ pale blue eyes. “Tell me, Olivia,” she said. “How many times over can you fill my bunker with things that you cannot give me?”
“That,” said Olivia. “Depends on the size of the bunker.”
Eyes sat back in her chair, glowering. “You tell me that you have come out of respect for my time. But instead, you waste it,” she growled. “Leave, and return with Eldrich or Alice, or do not return at all.” She turned to Shen, who had sat quietly through her tirade. “One of my associates has a commission for you. Will you consent to see him?”
Shen frowned. “Can I bring Olivia with me?”
Eyes gave a derisive snort. “Sure,” she said, with a wave of her hand. “Why not?”
They went outside and were readmitted by Flute Guy, who gave a different series of taps on the door. The layout of the bunker had changed subtly; the concrete passage twisting to the left, and they found themselves in a concrete anteroom. Windowless, of course. Standing there was a man clad in motorcycle leathers, the visor of his helmet opaque. Notable was the smell; like someone had taken all of the potpourri in Devon and crushed it into a single tiny ball on the waiting figure’s person. It was overpowering. Olivia wrinkled her nose as the black clad man extended his gloved hand to Shen.
“I’m Nose,” he said.
Shen shook Nose’s hand, and Olivia saw a writhing thread of dark energy pass between them. From the look on Shen’s face, he had seen it too.
“What was that?” Shen snapped, withdrawing his hand and staring at it.
“Oh, you know, just a little insurance.” Nose’s face was hidden behind his visor, but his tone was jovial.
“Insurance?” Shen’s tone was flat.
“Yes,” Nose gave a dry chuckle. “For instance, if our compound were to be attacked by, let’s say, a fire, or an earthquake, or a troupe of chantry mages, then I will hold you responsible and activate the curse. If not, then everyone is happy. You see?”
“What is the curse?”
“A death curse. For mortals, it would be death. For you, something less.”
Shen did not look happy. “I had hoped you would be a better judge of character, sir. This sort of countermeasure is not only unnecessary for me, it makes me regard you poorly.”
Nose seemed nonplussed. “No point in taking chances, you know.”
Shen sighed. “I hope that once we have a working relationship, you will see just how unnecessary this is.”
Nose shrugged. “Perhaps.”
“Well,” grumbled Shen. “I’ll hear what your commission is, at least. Though given your assault on me, I’m not minded to accept it.”
“I’m not about to curse you for rejecting my commission,” said Nose.
“Well, I’d hope not,” grumbled Shen.
“What I want is the enhancement of one hundred ghouls,” said Nose.
Shen frowned. “Tzlacha?”
Nose shook his head. “No,” he said. “Just bone spikes. Other enhancements would be… superfluous.”
Olivia blinked, thinking of the strange flying ghouls that Jed had described around Flute Guy. And now they wanted to give them bone spikes? Fantastic.
“For future consideration?” asked Shen.
Shen scratched his chin, considering the offer. “I’ll have to talk to my regnant about this, of course.”
“Of course,” said Nose.
“I’ll leave a message with Ann at Goodwin when I have an answer for you.”