Vigilate Semper

Chapter 1

Stepping Through

In which we meet Millicent, she fights a fright, meets important persons, solves a minor mystery, defeats a devil, and steps through a doorway.

Millicent Grey Fisk walks hurriedly through the streets on an dreary London morning. She moves with a sure brusqueness for which her mother might have scolded her had she been there. It was far too unladylike for a young woman of her stature. As the youngest of six Millicent has become used to being unladylike and frankly, there isn’t time for such nonsense today. She lifts her gloved hand to reread the mysterious note once more.

Dear Ms. Fisk,
Dark things are afoot and the time for you to join us has come far sooner than I’d hoped. Much too loathsome to submit to writing I must speak these words to you aloud and in the daylight. Meet me at St. Paul’s at 11:00am.
- Vigilate Sempur

Who could, who would, have written such a thing? Why did they write it to me? Why didn’t they sign with a name? These and many other questions filled her mind as she walked down the street toward the old church, nearly colliding with a gentlemen in front of her.

As she looks up to apologize her deep reverie is broken suddenly. Across the street staring at her with cold eyes stands a ghostly figure. Millicent shuts her eyes tightly.

“No, no, no. Not again.” She thinks to herself. When she opens her eyes again the ghost is not gone, rather it is moving closer to her with great alacrity! She begins to walk more quickly, but the specter is almost upon her now. It reaches out a cold hand to grab her. As it comes closer she can see that it looks to be an old man in ragged clothes. Rage contorts his translucent face, as he grabs at her. Quick as a flash, Millicent pulls the top off of her (rather out of fashion) lady’s cane to reveal a long thin steel blade. She swipes at the ghost. To her surprise, and the spirit’s, she is able to slice him clean in half. As she does so the blade seems to be covered in glowing, azure runes the like of which she has never seen. She realizes that she has caused a slight scene here on the streets. To all else present it looked as if a mad woman were striking an invisible attacker with a very real sword.

Millicent redoubled the speed of her stride and made for St. Paul’s. As she walked, however, the streets began to fill with more and more of the vile spirits. They sprang out of windows and up from the sewers. They leapt out of carriages and from following other people. Soon the street was filled with a score of the ghosts. Panic began to work its way into her mind and Millicent began to run as fast as her dress would allow.

“Only a block away now!”

Finally she crosses through the gates of the cathedral. As she stands on the steps of the church she looks back. All around this holy place spirits of all sizes slam against an invisible wall. Nearly fifty ghosts chased here this far, but soon they begin to disperse one by one till nearly all have gone.

“Excuse me, might you be Ms. Fisk?” A warm, rather raspy voice asks from behind her.

As she turns to look a shortish, slightly rotund man stands before her. He wears a yellow tweed suit, and small brown bowler cap. Millicent can tell the gentlemen (for so he seemed to her) was a man of means by his high-quality shoes and hat. Based on the stethoscope peaking out from the pocket of his overcoat, she deduces he is a working doctor.

“Hallo, my name is Dr. Watson. I terribly glad you were able to meet me here on such short notice, and (may I say) with so little information. I realize that as a woman alone in the city going about unaccompanied can be somewhat dangerous.”

“I am here representing my employer, " he continues , "and friend (such as he is) a one Mr. Sherlock Holmes. He requests your presence at once at this address. I afraid you haven’t time to go home. You must hail a cab immediately. This is a matter of the utmost importance. You see… There have been strange goings on recently. Sightings of ghosts, ghouls prowling the streets, even strange beings with green skin in the sewers below. Mr. Holmes believes you can help.

“Why come to me? Who are your contacts?” Millicent asks with some suspicion still in her voice.

“I cannot say. At this point in my career with Holmes I’ve learned to go along with things and wait for the old boy to reveal his mind at a time of his choosing. I’m sure that he will do so at such a time as will serve to make him look especially clever as well. Now, I’m terribly sorry by I must hurry to my next appointment. Please go to this address at once.”

As he says this he hands Millicent a small piece of paper.

“I do very much hope that we will have an opportunity to speak again, at a time when we can properly get to know one another. Goodbye for now, eh?”

With that the doctor begins walking to the street, holding up his hand for a cab. Millicent soon does the same. She steps to the street with some trepidation, but it seems that some goodly memory of the church lasted awhile on her and no spirit approached.

A cab pulls up.

“Where to, Ms.?” asks the cabby.

Millicent holds up the note and reads “21b Baker St. please.”

“Right you are.”

As the carriage rattles down the road Millicent has a few precious moments to reflect on the morning. “I’ve seen spirits all my life, but never so many at once. I’ve certainly never had one attack!”

Once an a young girl Millicent told her parents of a spectral sighting. They immediately called in the best psychiatrists, and doctors to ‘fix’ her. They even paid Mr. Mesmer to come all the way from the continent to stop the visions through hypnotism. Eventually Millicent accepted her fate, and pretended that the sightings where gone and that she had been cured.

These thoughts were flowing through her mind like a swift river when the cab pulled up at its destination. Millicent paid the fare and stood a moment before ringing the door.

An older woman shows her to the rooms of Mr. Holmes, all the while chatting and being sure to mention that she is not the maid, and not to get used to being seen up.

A tall thin man stands before Millicent in a grey suit.

“Ah yes, Ms. Fisk I’m glad you could join me. I’m Mr. Holmes, though I can tell you know that already. Usually I would regale you with an example of my deductive skills, but there is no time today, so you’ll simply have to wait. Today I must introduce you to reality.

Before he could go on Millicent asks him pointedly.

“Why me? Why have you contacted me, and who are the contacts that Watson mentioned?”

“I’m afraid I can’t answer all of that right now” Sherlock responds, “Suffice it to say that I have heard of you, and if you help me now I will be able to tell you more later. My contacts are rather secretive.”

“Why would I help you without a fuller explanation than that?” Millicent remained guarded, although she was deeply intrigued. This had turned out be rather an exciting day.

“Aside from the general betterment of society and the aid given to your fellow man? I know that you are an intelligent woman, that you come from money but dislike the life, that no suitor has been able to keep pace with you. Simply, you are bored. Will you let me show you something? I do say that it is rather smashing.”

As he says this, Sherlock walks over to his fireplace. He pushes a piece of the molding around it, and a small compartment opens with a slight popping sound.

“All the fashionable gentleman in London have one of these these days. I am neither, but their usefulness cannot be overlooked.”

In the compartment Sherlock holds a photo of a woman sitting in a chair. Behind her there stands a shadowy figure in military uniform. Translucent, and possessing the same ghostly quality you saw earlier. He hands the photograph over to Millicent.

As she holds it she notices that on the back was written in a thin, neat hand “Celeste and Benjamin(?) Cobbs.” As she looks more closely at the image of the ghost she notices that the man is wearing a Confederate Army uniform. She can see that the seated woman is wearing distinctly American fashions. Millicent quickly mentions her findings.

With a smile Sherlock says, “You’re rather quick on the uptake! Our poor Mrs. Cobbs came all the way from Georgia for my help. She complains that the ghost of her husband is following her. Usually I have no time for silly spiritualists, but some rather odd things happened while we had our interview so I took the case.”

The doorbell chimes on its string. Millicent could hear movement downstairs and after a few moments a young woman steps into the flat.

“Ah, the unfortunate Mrs. Cobbs, thank you for coming once again. This is my associate Ms. Fisk. Please have a seat. We will do what we can to help you.

As Sherlock says these things Millicent barely hears them. She sees behind Mrs. Cobbs that the ghost from the picture follows her sadly into the room. He is not alone, in fact is being lead about on a leash by a sinister being that she has no word for aside from demonic. The beast looks directly at Millicent and lets loose a throaty, mocking laugh. It tugs on the leash and apparently forces the late Benjamin to begin trashing the room.

“This is just as it was before!” Sherlock remarks, “previously, however, I could not see any beings responsible yet now it appears that there are two spirits in my parlor. Mrs. Cobbs, please come stand behind me and we will deal with this.”

“You are nothing little human!” The demon says as it takes out a sword and prepares to strike. As it does so the lights in the room go out, and only the light streaming in from the windows remains.

Millicent leaps like lightening upon her fell foe. She draws her blade and with both hands she strikes at it. Her attack hits its mark and the beast is momentarily stunned. It regains itself, and using its wings flies like a dart straight for Millicent. Millicent drops her shoulder and avoids the serrated blade of the devil. As soon as it turns to face her again Millicent lets out a battle cry and swipes upward at the demon. With runes blazing up the blade of her sword and all her power behind the swing she rends the foul beast in two. As the now-separate sides of its face look on with confusion the spirit vanishes into a red mist, defeated.

The ghost walks toward her. It does not attack, but it gestures to the collar around its neck as if it is choking. Millicent is surprised to find that she is capable of manipulating the spiritual material. It feels like cold, but not stiff, leather. She unfastens the strap and it falls away into nothingness. The ghost lumbers over to its sobbing wife, and embraces her. It too slowly fades from sight.

The weeping Mrs. Cobbs tries to give Millicent thanks through the tears, and is quickly ushered to another room where Mrs. Hudson giver her some strong tea and womanly comfort.

“I’m still not entirely sure what I just witnessed, but I am sure of the way that you handled yourself. You deserve my thanks” Sherlock remarked honestly. “If you’ll allow me to hail a cab, I believe that you wanted to meet my contacts. I can take you to them now.”

In a whirlwind Ms. Fisk and Sherlock step into a cab and head for the docks. They arrive soon at an abandoned building and go inside. There is nothing in the cavernous building save scraps of disused machinery and dust. Sherlock ushers Millicent through a locked door and down several steps. Millicent could feel the air getting cooler as she went beneath the ground level. Finally the pair came to a door.

“My dear woman, I’m afraid that after you open this door there is no going back to your life as it was.” Sherlock looks gravely at Millicent and for the first time there is no twinkle in his eye to indicate a joke or some irony.

Ms. Fiskl steps through the door. Inside there are more steps leading down in a spiral. As Millicent walks down the steps she see faces of people in portrait paintings on the wall. She notices that as she goes further down the garb of the depicted persons becomes progressively more ancient. Millicent does not recognize any of them, save the final one: Merlin.

Millicent steps into a room made of truly ancient monolithic stones. Before her there is a dais lines with seven chairs. The middle chair is the largest and only one currently occupied. An elderly, severely dressed woman sits there. She wears a black dress with a high neck and her white hair is pulled back into a modest up-do that would have been stylish when the woman was Millicent’s age.

“Hello Ms. Fisk. I am the Director, and welcome to the Rookery. We are a society of men and women who can see what you can see. Believe me, it is all real. We have been tracking you for some time. I see that you’ve already met our resident professional skeptic." She nods her head toward Sherlock. “We alone stand against the night, and the evil things you have seen. Will you join us?”

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