They stared at her as soon as she had entered the room, trailing just behind Ariadne. Fifty pairs of eyes of all colours belonging to all number of creatures—the glistening of lupine, the fully white of fae, the greedy grey of goblins, the fully black of demons in their vessels, the fire of kitsune’s, and other pairs of eyes of other supernatural’s examining and judging her. Ophelia met their stare with confidence, her head straight and her eyes direct.
It had been four days since she had killed her lover—not in self-defence, not in premeditation, not in anything but hatred and anger. She had left her house ten minutes after she had taken her blood oath, after Ariadne had used the shadows to transport her possessions to her new home, and according to the human press a gentleman had wandered in and found Charles’ lukewarm corpse only a mere minutes afterwards.
The newspapers had made the story top news, her latest scandal was of the upmost importance since it ended in death and the journalists named her a murderer—which was a word that had been used to describe her countless times before this small travesty: murderer, killer, life-taker, she was quite used to it. Humans had quite a talent for making words and titles cliché. They had narrated the death of Charles to play him as an innocent victim of an unwarranted and merciless attack (only one of which was correct, with that being the latter) and her a heartless monster (oh how they knew her so well, she’d thought). And, of course, his family did want her arrest, her blood—mores the pity for them since they were not going to receive one drop.
Reading the story in the news had been an entire, tiresome minute of her life which she would never get back. Unfortunately the press had not included an etching of Charles’ body for some gruesome emphasis; she would have cut it out and kept it as some souvenir to act as a memory in years to come. She had told Ariadne of that idea as they’d sat in opposite chairs in the blue drawing room, and the demon had just rolled her eyes over her teacup.
It had also been four days since Ariadne had brought her to her new home for the close future. It was a uniform black and stone house on Bedford Square, with a nondescript black door. Ophelia had not been expecting much in the way of space and room, not in a terrace that was considerably smaller than hers on the outside. She had certainly not expected to walk through that door and step into a remarkably large foyer of exquisite marble and statues that had reminded her, in part, of the Upper Belvedere in Vienna. Ariadne had told her that she had enchanted the building so that the interior was partially separate to the exterior, whilst still very much existing on the street, and so new rooms of any size could be added upon simply will and desire—rooms which Ariadne had said she had designed upon aspects of her favourite palaces and castles and manors. Ophelia had been given a wing of seven rooms, all with red as the main colour as if Ariadne had been expecting her to change her mind at some near point. Ophelia had yet to investigate just how large the house was.
But now, now Ophelia had been brought to be introduced to the Society. Ariadne had brought her through the corridor of an opium den, minding no attention to the rich men laying on cushions and walking through the cloud of smoke—which clogged and choked her throat—until she had reached a heavy wooden door carved with cameos and pulled it aside to show a lamp-lit hallway lined with wainscoted walls. The hallway had given way to the room Ophelia walked through now, with dimly lit lamps hammered into damask wallpaper, long oak tables and a roaring fire that danced across the wood.
Ophelia followed Ariadne to the table in front of the fire, where a bowl of water was placed at the edge. Beside the table stood a man in a maroon suit, with sun-tanned skin and piercing green eyes, a full beard and black hair that fell over his shoulders. Curled horns were sprouted from his head and his ears were curved. He stood a little short, as if crouching, and when Ophelia glanced down she saws the hint of hooves. Satyr.
“Atticus,” Ariadne started as she glanced at the man. “This is—”
“Ophelia White, I know,” he murmured and inclined his head towards Ophelia. “You are rather infamous among both societies. The most notorious siren in recent history . . . though ‘siren’ is not quite the correct term now, is it?”
Ophelia’s lips quirked into a smile. “Of course you are aware of that. I am a creature with a tail; I am not winged women from the mythology to which you belong. What I am, the aquatic half-woman and half-fish, comes from Philippine mythology . . . only the word Sirena respectively means ‘mermaid’ and we are the malevolent counterparts.”
“Then why drop the ‘a’?”
“I am probably the only one who does . . . I have no one else to ask, being the only one of my people exiled onto the earth and unable to communicate with my sisters. I have changed as the times have changed, adopted the human word for the women like me . . . though, if you really want to address me by my species original title then call me a Cold One.”
“Why Cold One?” inquired one of the lycanthropes. Ophelia turned to gaze at who had spoken. Her eyes set upon a man with mahogany skin and gold-brown eyes. His black hair was streaked partially with grey, sprinkled at the roots. Alpha. She could tell of his rank just by the way he held himself, never mind that he stood at the front of his pack.
“Did you not know?” Ophelia murmured. “We do not have hearts. We do not care, nor do we love.”
“Surely at some point even someone like you—”
Ophelia shook her head, perhaps a tad too quickly. That was the end of that conversation. Her gaze shifted across the room, meeting fleeting glances her way and those who turned their heads to whisper. She released a laugh. “Look at you all, attempting to decide what you choose to think about me. You are all wary of me, in your own ways . . . it cannot be because I am a killer, not when the majority of you are killers also. And it cannot be because I am an exile, for I know some of you to be the same as I . . . perhaps it is because of just what I am, a siren, and the powers I therefore possess.
“Do not worry; I have limited magic and my song of poison does not charm the ears of supernatural men—I have tried, and I was almost killed for my actions. You need not have fear of me or be hesitant towards me, I am simply here until I am no longer needed and then I will be gone and you can all forget my existence.”
“I am sure you will leave too much of an impression upon us for us to merely forget about you, Ophelia,” said Atticus.
“I do hope so.”
Ariadne, who had been quiet throughout the impromptu proceedings, cleared her throat. “May we return to the matter of why this meeting was adjourned, now that the pleasantries are over?”
“Of course, O’ Leader.”
Ariadne gave her a nonchalant gaze before she motioned towards a goblin, whose back was bowed and whose grey-green skin was covered in warts. He and a younger companion dragged forward three chairs, placing the ornate high-back that could be reserved only for the matriarch behind the table, and the two x-frames beside each other on the other side nearest the files. Ariadne bowed her head towards the two creatures in thanks, before she motioned for Ophelia and Atticus to sit down in front of her. Ophelia sat in the seat beside the bowl, having known that that side was for her the moment she had seen the ceramic—heat dried out her skin, so when she was near fire she also had to have water near in order to channel its liquidity. Ariadne stayed standing and the room became silent—even the fire paused its crackling, though it burned on.
“I adjourned this meeting not only to introduce Ophelia White into our society, but also to discuss the problematic circumstances that have arrived with Jack’s killing of Elizabeth Stride. Except now it is not just her; as I am sure you have all heard by ways of gossip or read in the newspapers, of the new inquest that has been coined the Whitehall Mystery. I would not have brought this up, given that this murder is unlike the Ripper’s catalogue, but Atticus informed me six weeks ago of the disappearance of a centauride that corresponds with the date of death given in the report.”
“Was this centauride part of your humble little group?” Ophelia asked as she waved her fingertips over the bowl to make the water rise up and dance.
Ariadne looked down at her. “No, she was not.”
“Then why care for the death of someone who is not in your circle?”
The demon’s eyes grew a darker shade of green, her skin becoming closer to grey—closer to her natural, hellish form. “She may not be of this society, but the society was also put in place to protect our world from the human one—to be a type of ward, a shield. Humans have no need to know of our world.”
Ophelia laughed. “Well your little society cannot be that effective in guarding the safety of us if you allow a witch to be killed and a centauride to go missing, only to turn up in a vault.”
“Which is why I do not believe that whoever the killer is will be human,” Ariadne murmured. “I have never in my history heard of a human who has been able to kill a centaur. A witch, perhaps, if she was caught off guard, but never a centauride. Whoever this person is behind this persona must have some connection to our world, and I believe they know exactly who to kill and why.”
“And why do you believe this?” said the alpha.
Ariadne moved to the drinks cabinet in the corner of the room and poured herself a whiskey with ice. “We are the last line of defence, of safety, to ensure that humans never know that they are not alone in this world. Elizabeth was not only a witch here, but she was also an emissary acting on behalf of the clans in the north. Witches are vengeful creatures—I dare say they rival the Erinyes—and will seek punishment against the one who has murdered their own . . . which would be perfectly fine, if they were not underneath the protection of us.”
“We will be seen as the ones at fault for this crime,” murmured Atticus.
“I think you’re all making a huge fuss over something petty,” chimed Ophelia and stood up before turning and sitting on the table. “A witch is killed, yes, but even though she’s an emissary she is just one witch. You simply explain the situation if they breeze down to London on their broomsticks. I am sure the dead woman was not that important a witch.”
“No, she was not. But there are other witches of the north in London, with higher standing within the clans. What if one of those is killed?”
Ophelia raised her eyebrows. “Are they prostitutes, too?”
“No, but that is quite beside the point.”
“That is the entire point; the so-called Jack the Ripper is only targeting the prostitutes of Whitechapel. Who is to say that the death of your witch emissary was not just a tragic coincidence?”
“What if it is not?” asked the alpha. “If another witch of the north is killed we will certainly have them taking their revenge on us.”
“You are a society of creatures of the paranormal and supernatural. Your leader is a demon. I am sure you can handle witches.”
“Have you ever met a Northern Witch?”
Ophelia shook her head no.
“I hope you never do. A singular witch once killed my uncle’s entire pack, leaving him until last. All due to an insult.”
“It seems these witches have bigger anger issues and pride than I.”
“Ophelia,” Ariadne warned as she poured herself a second glass of whiskey. “You also, Memnon. As entertaining as it is to watch a siren and a lycan bicker between themselves—”
“We were not bickering.”
“—I would rather return to the matter at hand. Two of us, two of our people, are dead. We need to work out how to go from here, ensuring that people—especially those who are prostitutes in Whitechapel—are safe. We cannot allow fear and hysteria to spread through our world.”
“What do you intend to do?” Atticus asked.
“I am not quite sure yet. Night watches, a different person or two each night. Ensure those within our protection are off the streets until further notice, if they are willing—we cannot force anyone to do anything. But mostly I am unsure as to what to do, since this has never happened before. We need more information before we can do anything more thoroughly.”
“I will begin action plans as soon as I return home,” said Atticus, who earned a nod of approval from the demon heiress.
“I guess this means a trip to the police station tomorrow. I’ll go against the fashion of now and wear a low neckline,” murmured Ophelia. “But I already know one thing that they will say . . . as I mentioned, Jack is hunting prostitutes—in a sporadic motion, if I do say so myself—but this centauride was not of the Whitechapel women of ill-repute. That means there is not simply one killer, but two. Two killers. And I agree with you, Ariadne, that one killer is not human.”
Ariadne had drained another glass of whiskey whilst the siren had been speaking, the alcohol having no effect of her being, and now moved forward back to the table and took residence of her seat. “And of which do you believe to be inhuman?”
“Well . . . I’ve never heard of a human who has been strong enough to incapacitate a centauride and kill them, so I have to say that I believe you in your theory that this killer is inhuman. What creature they are, I have no idea, whether they are an ogre of simply a lycan—”
“There are no omega’s in London, so it cannot be a lycan,” murmured Memon defensively.
Ophelia’s eyes rolled subtly. “I was speaking hypothetically. How do you know there are no omega’s, though?—do you do population checks every day?”
“All lycans belong to either mine or my sister’s pack, and we would be notified if there was a lone wolf in our territories.”
“And to what distance do your territories reach?”
“Is there any relevance to these questions, Ophelia? To the matter at hand?” asked Ariadne as she drummed her fingers against the table.
“No relevance at all, Your Honour, I am merely curious.” Ophelia gave her an easy smile, a smirk really. She turned back to Memon. “I am curious as to why you interrupted so quickly, alpha, and immediately assumed I meant omega. In actual fact I meant any lycan in general, with or without a pack. Are you hiding something, perhaps, or keeping secret the actions of a pack member?”
Memon scowled. “My pack, like my sister Evadne’s, are sworn to never harm human or supernatural alike. We take in omegas and the newly turned before they do anything to endanger others.”
Ariadne sighed and moved to step between the two. “I feel as though any conversation from now on will only be interrupted by questions and allegations, and so I call this meeting to an end.” She then turned to Ophelia, who was frowning. “We do not accuse our own without evidence. Come along, siren; let us be going before you make enemies before you have made allies.”