[FLASHBACK: London town, earlier that night and also maybe a lifetime ago]
Ada gathered up the old material around herself in the alleyway and struggled a bit with the makeshift sack of things she had gathered and begged for, trying to keep out of the wind that was whipping in between the buildings.
Was a good haul today packed with valuable finds, both from the river and from the network of contacts she was building. From one grand house the rags and castoffs were so exceptionally good they could be sold at the market without even a wash. Dry and hardly used, they must have been inside by a fire or stove, right up until someone dumped them by the servant's entrance for the Rag & Bone. She had run into Gjertrud at the high house she worked in the morning and her ex-floor mate had given her a food cloth packed with good leftovers, cheese and even a few oven-fresh but slightly burnt loaves. Seems like her luck was finally turning.
Hey, It can't rain all the time.
Days like this were good.
Right up to when they aren't.
He could feel the rightness on the breeze, it really was a wonderful evening for a stroll, an umbrella over his shoulder, a spring in his step, and his tools tucked into his Aquascutum greatcoat.
He was rather happy about how the blades didn't show in the slightest to the outside world, this was going to be a very easy and a very profitable evening for nearly everyone involved.
He clutched at the card deck in his pocket and still couldn't believe what it had shown him after he had beat the way to evaluate the cards out of that woman so long ago, that "reader" or whatever she called herself. She should have known better, but they never did learn that a smile and money didn't mean you were trustworthy. Naivety is a currency almost as valuable as Gold-bonds.
He turned down the next ally and quickly marched into his intended hunting ground, surefooted and eager to find a quarry. It was strange he thought to himself, that it always had to be a seamstress for this work, they tended to be the endlings he was looking for, but the more he thought about it the more it seemed to make sense. There was a certain order to things, the cards had shown him that. I mean who would have thought that little objects that fit in your pocket could hold so much. The ForeTellers speak daily from their pulpit on the need for authentic voice, vision to directly witness form and the warmth of a human face as the quintessential components of truth: HEAR, TRUST & JOYOUSLY OBEY but these cards had none of that. The cards spoke directly to the mind from outside of time or flesh, the squiggles and marks made silent sounds which no cacophony could drown out no matter how loud.
The Knowledge was powerful, no doubt about it. No wonder it was hidden by the Chapter houses so effectively, the things that could be done with this...
But back to this evening goal, he thought to himself. Each thing must fall in its own time and tonight was a time to harvest. Reaching into his coat he tightened his hand comfortably on his hatchet. Everything in its place, or removed to its rightful place.
Well at least my doorway is probably going to be nice and clear tonight, Ada thought to herself. If Teela is shorthanded again I'll be in by the fire no problem.
She always made better progress on her sewing projects when she was in Teela's quarters with supplies, tea and seemingly unlimited sugar cubes, and that meant more credit-bonds in the long run. She was meant to be a sign maker by trade if the ForeTellers have their Cant, chants and evaluations right, but they had been know to be wrong on more occasions than people liked to admit, so a backup life was always a thing for a child without family to have. Her's was with needles and fabric of all sorts and designs that might look like they came from the West End high street if one didn't look for labels to hard.
She thought of it as her doorway but it was just the servant's entrance to one of the gatehouses on the Silvestri family estate. As part of the high Chapter houses no one really bothered being around there if they weren't expected, the heavy Chekhov official patrols around the family estates would run anyone off stupid enough to try anything. Not be recognised as belonging was enough to get you shot on sight.
She arrived at one of the last places on tonight's round of good prospects for materials, that her few nascent contacts outside the grindhouse circles she had grown up with had passed on to her. Bit of a run-down place but tended to throw out a lot of stuff and lost "Customer" clothing that tended to get left behind. Always best to come here last, but before the drinking had really started in earnest into the night.
She guessed that the place should really be made to look a bit nicer, I mean it had lots of pretty colours painted on everything but the brothel definitely needed a bit of love and attention put into it, she laughed to herself at the terrible half made joke and moved down the side ally to meet another of her ex-floor mates around the back.
Natalia had a lot of dreams when she left the grindhouse that taught the orphans the "Ethics and skills needed for a good society life." That was two years ago, and none of them had ended up blossoming so far as the building before her plainly portrayed.
As for the ForeTellers line that "Everyone receives what they are worthy of if they follow the great linework!" speech at the end of the street every day at 2 bells after sunset, that was patently not true with Natalia's situation, or in fact many of the people as she learnt more about the world outside her regular four walls of the Grindhouse.
Since Natalia Candle Summers had passed her Renaming year at 18 we were all supposed to call her Sara Goldsmith, but that just wasn't happening as far as Ada was concerned. I mean it would make sense if she actually got to do the metalwork she frantically tried to train for with the scant materials and equipment she had available at the grindhouse and slave-like work at the local traders that had room for her sometimes. How the hell ForeTeller Daniel had justified that "Gold is still made here" as a lawful choice for life here was the first time that Ada knew that all was not right with the world and that her own planning was the only way she was getting out of a similar fate.
She had saved half of the fresh bread from earlier and some traded brass buttons for a chicken pie and a tray of icing pastries that Natalia loved, it was good to have someone to see at the end of most days, outside of her floor members at the Grindhouse, Ada's circle of friends didn't that run far or deep for the most part.
She rounded the final corner and almost walked smack into the back of someone in a massive dark woollen coat. A half-formed apology began to spill from her lips when she noticed the pooling of a dark liquid beyond what she now realised was someones prone form on the floor behind the person in the coat. Ada half fell and half sprung, crashing into the man and past him as it seemed faster than turning around and just bolting out of here. Ada also realised she had to know if it was her friend on the floor, not that she could do anything about it she also realized just a split second later, as this all settled into her consciousness. The figure in the greatcoat towered above her and had a bloody AXE. I mean both that the axe was covered in blood and that it was a BLOODY AXE, who the hell carries an axe in the city for people's sake?
Okay, think fast Ada, she thought realising that thinking that was plainly stupid and people that thought about thinking fast during times like this rather than acting in these situations wouldn't have to ever worry about a thing in the future, due to no longer having a future.
Her arm must have got a message from somewhere other than the brain that was panicking currently, as it pitched a wooden box of iced pastries at the tall Hatchett wielder, trying but failing to be helpful.
The poor prone girl on the floor was a mess, almost too much to think about or look at closely, but at least it wasn't Natalia.
That thought was covered by shame as she recognised Kelly Sew Innkeeper, in those staring blank eyes that looked back at her. The sack with the chicken pie in it was the next thing to join the rain of projectiles that Ada decided on as she ran towards the opposite alleyway and out of here if possible, maybe towards the river would be best, maybe massive axe wielders couldn't swim if today's luck decided to change up?
Adrenaline cannot be trusted, was her next thought as she tripped over her own feet and tipped into a wall, clothes getting ripped in the process. The large man had started to react to the bundle of rags that had cannonballed past him moments ago, knocking things out of his grip and making thing fly out of his nicey arranged coat and now the foot chase began in Ernest.
The real question on Ada's mind was if the man, and at that size and shape he was surely a man, was a local.
She prayed he wasn't as she set off down an ally that was leading to the river. She was a strong swimmer and not everyone was. If she could get over to the west bank their would be no catching her.
Ada heard the noise of the man crashing through things behind her, the alleyway was crowded with castoffs and trash but it didn't really seem to be slowing down the curved blade wielder.
Judging by the length of leg difference, the only hope Ada had was to turn this into anything other than a straight forward line race. An old fence with a loose panel became the first gambit, with it being too small for a large adult male to slip through.
This failed as the fence became firewood and was kicked apart by her pursuer. Okay, we always knew that was a longshot, time to get inventive.
She considered her option for calling for the Chekov's but was quick in discarding the idea. Did she know anyone around here? That would be just a big no, wait didn't Jenna marry someone around here last year?
Her concentration was broken by something catching hold of her hair and pulling out a clump. Panic spurred her forward and out of her would-be attacked reach, but not for much longer if this kept up.
Okay, I wonder if I'm still small and thin enough to fit down into sewer or storm drain opening? Now just the damn inconvenience of finding one before being bisected by an angry giant seems like no problem, why not see if you can do it while skipping girl.
A pile of pallets that had been standing in the alleyway for about six months helped Ada bound over a fence that the hatchet man didn't expect and gave her back a lead on the man.
She knew that head start gave a short window of availability to try the gutter entrance round the corner before someone ripped her out halfway through pushing into it.
Time to bet all of the marbles, Ada murmured to herself and braced to fling herself into the sewer grate that was coming up.
It seems a pothole was showing east London pride and had also grabbed on to one of the feet of her assailant most conveniently.
The iron grate stood just like she had expected, clear and not looking like her attempt to do this would end up getting herself killed. She hit the floor and slide on her side through the narrow opening and in a bit of an anti-climatic way just slid right through. She had used these sewers as places to hide while waiting for Natalia before and knew the routes around here really well. The main issue was most of the drain entrances were covered by things blocking them, nothing a few minutes couldn't fix but when you are running for your life then that doesn't count.
Now to check on Natalia.