The Destruction of Beautiful Things

"They give our Master a crown of thorns, why do we hope for a crown of roses?" - Martin Luther

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10. Chapter Nine

The days after Millicent had left stretched by, and Nathaniel often found himself waiting for her next arrival. His work with his Uncle had been tedious at the best of times, mostly just standing to one side as his Uncle dissected monsters and recorded his discoveries in a giant leather-bound book. So, when a boat pulled up by the docks on the island and two people stepped off, Nathaniel almost jumped out of his window seat to go and greet them. Finally something interesting, he thought to himself as he left his rooms swiftly and made his way over to the docks. When he arrived, the first face he was Millicent’s. The moonlight illuminated her face in the most beautiful way, and Nathaniel smiled warmly as she approached him.

“Hi,” she said, stopping a few centimeters away from him.

“Hi.”

“We need your help,” Millicent said bluntly, “this is Silas.”

Millicent motioned behind her to the man that had been on the boat with her. His hair was fair, and tattoos ran cheekbone to cheekbone on his face. He was wearing all black like Millicent, and for some reason when Silas smiled Nathaniel felt a twang of jealousy in his gut.

“Would you like to come in?” Nathaniel offered, slowly leading the way to his rooms. He let the two of them enter, and Nathaniel gave them both a glass of water before heading into the living room. It was a spacious place, where Nathaniel had been spending most of his time when he wasn’t working with his Uncle. There were two grey sofa’s opposite each other, separated by a wooden coffee table that was stacked with books. Nathaniel pushed them to one side and sat down on the sofa opposite Silas and Millicent.

“So what do you need help with?” Asked Nathaniel.

Millicent side glanced at Silas and then spoke, “Silas is a BodyBringer. Last night, I saw him and some others go into the sewers so I followed. They were looking for their friend, who had been taken.”

Nathaniel furrowed his brows in confusion, “Taken by what?”

“A monster,” said Silas, the first words he’d uttered since arriving here.

“A Crack?” Nathaniel asked. Silas shook his head.

Millicent cleared her throat, and Nathaniel turned his attention back to her, “I followed the through the sewers and they found where their friend was taken. It was….some kind of temple. We need your help to find out what it was.”

Nathaniel almost laughed at the sincerity of what they were saying, “How could I help you?”

Silas took something from underneath his jacket and placed it on the table between them, “The other day, Millicent found this in Doctor Ellsworth’s office.”

“Why were you in his office?” Nathaniel snapped.

Millicent flinched, “The monster that took Silas’ friend was not a Crack. Since your Uncle studies them, I thought he might know something about whatever it was that took their friend. And then I found this book.”

Nathaniel felt as though he should be angry with her, but he was more worried about what could have happened if his Uncle had found her in his office.

“What’s the significance of this book?” asked Nathaniel, idly flicking through the pages to find that he could not understand anything.

Millicent stood then, “Could I have a word with Silas in private?”

They left the living room and closed the door behind them. They were in the bedroom, and Millicent leant against the door as she whispered, “We should show him the temple.”

“What? No.” Silas said, something like anger gleaming in his eyes.

“If you want his help, then he has to understand what we found. We should take him there, tonight.”

Silas thought about this for a moment, and then finally said “Fine. But he’s your responsibility.”

They went back into the living room again, and Nathaniel was still sat there flicking through the book. He looked up at them, “Are you going to sit down?”

“Nathaniel,” said Millicent softly, “we’re going to show you what we found. So that you can see for yourself.”

“Are you sure that’s safe?” Nathaniel questioned.

Millicent winked at him, and Nathaniel smiled as he said, “Lead the way.”

Halfway through the sewers, Nathaniel was already complaining. Not to the others, but more to himself. Why did I decide to do this? What kind of idiot goes in the sewers at this time of night? Or ever?

Millicent and Silas led the way through the darkness, and Nathaniel wrinkled his nose at the foul stench. Without them, he would easily be lost by now. The sewers were like a maze, each passage seemingly identical to the next.

“So how did you two meet?” Nathaniel asked, merely to break the sound of their footsteps and the deadly silence that surrounded them.

“He held a knife up against my throat and so I held one up against his manhood,” Millicent explained, “and from then on we were besties.”

Nathaniel could almost sense as Silas rolled his eyes and turned around as if to say that’s not quite how it went. Finally, Millicent stopped at the end of a long passageway and stepped through a door. Nathaniel followed, and his jaw dropped at the sight in front of him. Just as Millicent had said, it was some kind of underground temple. There were pillars that help up the impossibly tall ceiling, and upon closer inspection as Nathaniel stepped further into the temple, the pillars were made out of bones. He shivered and followed Millicent, who was heading towards the back of the temple.

“What is this?” Nathaniel asked, addressing nobody in particular. Silas stayed leant on the wall beside the exit, and Nathaniel was grateful that he’d get to speak with Millicent on his own.

Nathaniel stood beside her, and she motioned to what they were stood in front. It was some kind of altar, and there were three words etched into it:

KING OF KINGS

He suddenly remembered the book that Millicent had shown him, and what the lettering had said on that. Nathaniel had a sudden wave of curiosity, and yet he was unable to satisfy it. What was this place?

“Millicent,” Nathaniel started, looking at her, “who is the King of Kings?”

She shook her head and his heart ached at the worry on her face, “That’s why we need your help.”

Nathaniel took her hand in a sudden burst of confidence to comfort her, and she laced her fingers through his own. After a moment of stretched out silence, Nathaniel finally spoke.

“What do you need me to do?”

Millicent swallowed the lump in her throat, “I need you to investigate your Uncle. We need to find out if he knows anything about this place, or who the King is. I found the book in his office, so if anyone is going to know anything, it will be him, right?”

Nathaniel nodded in agreement, and Silas cleared his throat from behind them. Millicent jumped, and her hand slipped out of his own.

“Let’s go,” she said, “how long will you need to find out more about your Uncle?”

He thought about this for a moment, and decided that he would only need five days at most. Although his Uncle was a difficult person to talk to, there were only so many hiding places in the manor house. Somewhere in that house, there had to be a clue about what this was all about. He told Millicent how long he’d need, and she agreed. The three of them would meet in a week at a café by the docks and then discuss how to move forward. Would they then report this to the council? Or would it forever remain a secret to everyone else?

Millicent walked quietly behind Nathaniel, Silas leading the way out of the sewers. What would she do for a week? She couldn’t just sit and wait for Nathaniel to come back with more information. Maybe Benjamin would know something about it, or even the Mayor. But asking the Mayor was risky territory, because if he found out that they’d been keeping this from the council she’d send her away to the prisons Beyond Shalom like he did to Kane. She decided, after digging through all of her options, that she would speak to Benjamin about it. Maybe he would know something, or know someone that did.

The three of them left the sewers quickly and quietly, and Millicent briefly said goodbye to Silas. Then, it was just her and Nathaniel.

“There aren’t anymore boats to the island tonight,” Nathaniel said, “so I’ll go and book a room in a bed and breakfast.”

Millicent furrowed her brows, “Why don’t you stay with me for the night?”

Nathaniel ignored the butterflies that were threatening to leap out of his stomach, “Okay.”

“I want to show you something,” she said, and began to walk off. The place that she took him was a clock tower. It resided half a mile or so away from the town square, and Nathaniel watched as she undid the chains on the door with care and slipped through, beckoning him to follow. He did, and they ascended a long wooden staircase until finally they reached the top of the clock tower.

Millicent sat where there used to be a clock, but was now an open circular window. Her legs dangled off the edge, and Nathaniel sat beside her. They sat in silence for what felt like an eternity, and then finally Millicent spoke.

“The city looks the most beautiful up here,” she said, “because from up here, you can’t see the bloodshed.”

Nathaniel looked at her with sadness in his eyes, “What are the Cracks, Millicent?”

She shrugged a shoulder, “I don’t know. Monsters? Demons? They’ve been here as long as I can remember.”

“Do you think they were here before us?” He asked.

“I hope so.”

“Why?”

Millicent paused and thought about this for a long moment, before finally replying “Because that way, the humans didn’t turn into monsters. Do you know anything about them?”

“Not really,” he explained, “my Uncle studies them. Well, he has for years. But that doesn’t mean he knows anymore now then he did when he started.”

“Why does he study them?”

A gentle breeze blew in, and Millicent’s dark hair tousled and tumbled. She reminded Nathaniel of a storm brewing out at sea, waiting to destroy everything in it’s path, all whilst looking impossibly beautiful.

“To cure them. My Uncle believes that he can make them more human, so that we wouldn’t have to kill them to be safe.”

“And what would this city be without them?”

“Normal, I guess.”

“And how boring would that be?”

Nathaniel smiled, and tucked a stray strand of hair behind her ear. She looked at him for a moment, his hand still resting on her cheek. Slowly, Nathaniel ducked his head and pressed his lips against her own. Millicent’s eyes widened in shock, but then she ran her hand through his hair and kissed him back. Nathaniel’s hands drifted from her cheek down to her waist, and Millicent leaned into his touch as he kissed her deeper. She traced her hands down his muscled chest and up his arms and his grip tightened on her. They stayed like that for a while, tangled in each other’s arms as the city below them slept, completely oblivious to the lovers above them, or the darkness brewing below them. 

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