Kellan Cole walked into the office of Lord Lane and stood underneath the ceiling which was painted with a joyous fresco of people on an island waving to a ship. Lord Lane was not in his seat yet, he had walked off somewhere, his feet tapping on the parquet floor. The only other person in the room was Valeria, reading a book by Tolstoy. When Kellan entered, she looked up and smoothed the book shut. He stiffened visibly and looked steadily away.
"I thought you were on a mission...?" she raised an eyebrow at him as he glared in desperation at the brandy decanter. It sat alone and aloof with a collection of crystal glasses and crushed ice. Valeria's gloves were hanging on a chair. He smiled sourly.
"Circumstances regarding cartography, valour and violent confrontation manifested themselves," he said with deliberate obtuseness. She smiled and shook her head.
"You got lost and attacked?" she asked disbelievingly. Kellan's face looked stricken.
"The sea is hellish, sadly."
At this point, Lord Lane knocked the door loudly and walked in smiling, apparently happy that his two young people were getting on but Valeria immediately grabbed her book and Kellan resumed his watery-eyed examination of the decanter. Lord Lane sat down heavily and rattled some papers around, his face looked pale and he was breathing heavily as if recovering from a shock of some sort. His brow was slick with sweat and his eyes looked tired.
He looked at Kellan who sat down gingerly. "My dear boy--" he began but Kellan hopped in to interrupt.
"I'm sorry about the two caravels, sir, truly-" Lord Lane held up a plump hand and arrested his flow, while shaking his head.
"No, no...that is perfectly fine. We have more intense matters at hand," he said. Kellan stopped and listened in silence to some more shuffling which was done purely to buy time. What was wrong? Lord Lane was normally cutting and curt, why the hesitation?
"Have you ever heard of a tavern or some place of ill-repute called Blood Garden?" asked Lord Lane gravely. Kellan recoiled.
"Erm...no sir, what is it?" he felt like panicking because the situation demanded it but he kept calm with some difficulty.
Valeria's mind was one with the conversation and Tolstoy had lost his excitement. Lord Lane held up a medallion of heavy gold, smeared with dull red spots. The design resembled a vast arachnid in the centre of a web but fashioned into a circle. It glinted in the afternoon sun that shafted in through the bay windows.
"They tell me that this was found with a man, a tramp of some description, I gather. He was drunk, delirious and he died shortly after. He raved about curses, soldiers and this garden which I mentioned...he practically shoved this coin at them and then fell down dead," Lord Lane looked more tired than ever and his eyes were vulnerable.
Kellan listened in horror. Disguised horror. Disguised under the silent clenching of his jaws and the rising sickness in his mouth. "I see," was all he could manage.
"Find this place, this garden...I don't know what went on but it's not good...and curses? The caravels will be repaired."
Kellan rose and walked into the cool London air. A rising darkness had gripped him and he looked as cadaverous as ever as he walked home.