Scenes 4 and 5 -The Attack on Monto
Chapter: 18 (1st and 2nd Draft)
Characters: Stanley, Vincent, Willow, Shannagh, Greyson, Flann, Rooney, Helen, and Halward
These two scenes were removed from the draft around the same time, so I reckon they should be shared together, since they both embody some of the hardest writing in the book's lifespan. The ending of the so-called "Second Act" in Chimehour changed out several times, but always came with three main points: Monto was compromised, Halward escaped, and everyone returned to London. Getting to that point in the story was, however, easier said than done. Early-early versions of this section had Halward attacking Stanley, Revenant attacking the bar, and any manner of conflict I could manage and use to move the plot forward. These two scenes are the closest the early draft came to the final scene, but the differences feel extremely stark now. I really cut my teeth on revision with these scenes, because they forced me to strip away the roughest parts of the book and reimagine the context in which the story might happen. Between first and last draft btw, these scenes were rewritten about four times in full.
It's probably most notable that the characterization on Halward feels thematically different from Halward in the book; his character went through a lot of revision (probably the most, aside from Cecilia) and so his scenes from previous drafts read with comical villainy now. There are also hints to a dropped plot thread that will appear in Beglamour, but SPOILER WARNING all the same: these scenes contain several big reveals from Chimehour.
Soon after, Monto appeared through the carriage windows, and a bomb had gone off in its streets.
The roads that had once breathed with motley patronage now stood silent, littered in toppled stalls and upturned trash. Businesses were locked, windows were shuttered, and not a living soul could be seen. The same could not be said of the Revenant. They speckled the area, draped in fresh blood and rain. The occasional changed half-man and dead-eyed beast was enough tell that Monto's residents had not escaped unscathed.
And the voices. How they called. How they sang. Stanley could hear them pounding like war drums, their cries and wails dragging him to the brink with their sorrow. The headache returned in full force, complete with a wave of sickness.
“What’s happened out here?” Vincent said. He caught sight of a blood spattered walkway that he had crossed mere days ago. “I thought they couldn't get past that barrier?”
“I thought this as well,” Shannagh said. “It appears we have a problem...”
The Pumpkin Drum loomed off the nearby street, twisted and strange under the cloudy light. The swinging doors were taut over a board.
The carriage pulled to stop. Greyson led the way to the door as everyone hurried out. Mallord followed him, his robes now spattered in blood.
“Do tell me,” Shannagh huffed as she caught up with the Druids, “that this breech is the fault of my magic. And you didn't forget to patch the Veil.”
Greyson sneered off the corner of his mouth. “It has been a very trying day, Shannagh...”
“Ah, you did forget.”
Greyson ignored her jeering, knocking on the board across the tavern door. “Awen officials- open up!”
He held his hand back and waited. When no response came, he knocked again. Still nothing.
“…They've all run off, no doubt,” Greyson sighed, stepping away. “We've wasted our time.”
“Somehow, I doubt that,” Stanley said, shaking his head as he stepped up. “If I may?”
“Oh, by all means,” Greyson moved aside, condescension in his voice.
Stanley ignored this and rapped at the blocked door. “Flann,” he said. “Flann, it's us! We're back!”
More silence. This did nothing to hamper Stanley, and he knocked harder.
“Flann,” he said, keeping his voice level. “I know you're there. We have an agreement, remember? You still have that charm of mine- you can't just leave us.”
Shannagh gawked at this, but silence prevailed behind the door.
Stanley huffed and lifted his hand to knock again. But a faint, carnal growl from behind drew his attention. He didn't need the voices to tell him what he would find when he looked over his shoulder.
The Revenant girl had been young. Her curls were mangled. Her peach gown was dredged in blackened blood. Her bare toes curled as she crept forward, panting in anticipation and licking the dry cracks along her mouth.
Everyone took a step back, very aware that there was little standing between them and the creature. Vincent gripped around his coat, fingers curling around the book in his pocket.
“Your Excellence, please stay back...” Greyson said as he raised his marked hand in defense.
Willow went to do the same, but Shannagh held a hand to her, taking to Greyson's side. Her fingers emerged in gold; her eyes glittered. Mallord shuffled up turn, his hands lacking any sort of power, but his eyes set with determination.
“Magic doesn't work on the dead,” Shannagh said quietly.
“I remember that,” Greyson said. “What else would you have me do?”
Magic doesn't work on them? Stanley tried to mask his surprise and failed. He gritted his teeth and gave the door another bang.
The Revenant growled in response, teeth bared as she barreled upon them.
The boards then creaked away, streaking unnatural light onto the street as the tavern door reopened.
Flann placed the board back before tromping out. He pushed between Stanley and Vincent, yanking his pistol from his belt. He took a shot, the bullet striking the Revenant between the eyes. Stanley cringed as her high, raking scream filled his ears. The creature fell like an unmanned marionette.
Flann's chest rose in an awful heave. He waited a few moments before wheeling around to his new company.
“Your Excellence,” he said, gesturing to Shannagh. She smiled back.
“And you-” He pointed his pistol at Greyson and Mallord. “You're the Druid bastards that tore apart my bar, yeah?”
Greyson gave a nod, measuring his expression well. “Correct, Mr. Ceannard. Rest assured reparations for the damage will be in the post within the week.”
“Uh-huh…” Flann said, his tone sharp. “You're lucky I don't leave you and your pals out here.”
“I gather that, Mr. Ceannard,” Greyson said.
“Actually, they had reason,” Shannagh began, raising a hand in peace as she approached Flann. “Is Barnabas Halward still under your guard, or have you- ah... disposed of him?”
“Who?” Flann shrugged.
“Look who it is!”
Stanley turned to street, but the paled, two-headed boar man lunged out of the street before he could utter any warning. Flann turned a second too late and the creature sank a set of teeth into the dullahan's lifted arm.
“Mr. Flann!” Willow screamed.
“The dullahan no-fun,” said the second voice of the creature. “These voices have the right idea...”
Flann recoiled as the creature twisted its jaw, trying to pull him down. Flann then wrenched his arm, sending his freed fist into the creature's face. The force drove it to the ground, its jaws unhinging from Flann. The dullahan shook himself before cocking the pistol and shooting the boar man in the right face. Only one death cry echoed as its left side crumpled limp.
“Bloody beast…” Flann sighed. He turned to Shannagh once more. “Now, who in the blazes is this Barnabas Halward?”
“Your Druid,” Shannagh said.
“Ah- that narrows it down for me,” he said, heavy in sarcasm.
“The one who destroyed the Veil,” she sighed with humor.
“Better. Thank you, my lady.”
“So,” Flann said, leaning into the bar as the subject changed to Shannagh’s stories. “Her Excellence said this happened before?”
“Right,” Stanley replied. He stepped back from the newly boarded up window and massaged his hand. “You wouldn't know anything more about that, would you?”
“One instance of the dead or another- I've seen a lot of 'em,” he said. “And I don't remember anything of the sort during the last century.”
“You don't? I do,” Rooney piped up, still fuming into his drink.
“You do?” Stanley said, gawking.
“I do,” he snipped. “Derry in '46?”
Stanley nodded warily.
The leprechaun nodded, taking another swig off his drink. “I was nearer to the area; looting human houses. The Famine was at its height, so the spoils were good...” He saw the looks he was receiving, and cleared his throat, deviating from the topic of criminal activity. “I got wind of it early then. A right ugly rumor. Humans dying and coming back even hungrier. Awen cleared the air, but many of the older types held to the tale. Blamed the whole famine on The Morrigan after that; said she was the only one who could do such things..”
Willow fell back into the wall, sighing. No one saw her roll her eyes. And likewise, no one heard the stairs creak behind her.
“And this Halward was involved in that incident as well.” Flann said.
“On the opposite end of things then,” Stanley said. “He studied the curse with Awen’s help. Shannagh claimed that they never found the caster behind that incident.”
Flann froze, then leaned further into the bar. “...Well, that complicates things, doesn't it?”
“How so?” Stanley asked.
The stairway ached again, unheard.
“Well,” the dullahan said. “He knew a thing or two about this curse, yet he got bitten by one of those creatures. He was hunting the caster before this, and they got away. Doesn’t that place suspicion on whoever unleashed this magic las-”
A gunshot peeled through the conversation. The sound ricocheted off cobble; Helen's scream followed it.
They all froze. Stanley stopped, nearly dropping the hammer as he looked toward the sound.
Flann scoffed aloud, straightening his sleeve tight and swinging himself over the bar. “Bloody Druid...”
“Mr. Flann?” Willow curled her arm around her back.
He didn't respond hurried across the tavern. Rooney jumped down from his seat, joining him in turn.
“He'd better hope I don't find him this time,” Flann mumbled, his mood growing darker with each step. Rooney gave a shiver as they vanished into into hallway.
Willow curled back, her eyes following their path. “Should we... follow?”
She looked back toward Stanley; his eyes were dark-ringed under the shade of his hair. Vincent watched him off his shoulder, seemingly glaring over the fact that he was the only one working.
“I...” He trailed as he looked back to the boards, brushing his curls back. “It's probably best it we stay back. I'm sure Flann has a handle on things.”
“But Miss Helen...” Willow glanced back. A shiver ran across her skin. So consumed by this, she failed to notice the stairway door slip open, crack by crack.
“I know, but-” Stanley turned back to her, and his eyes shot open. Two hands had slipped through the stairway door.
Willow's name had barely left him when one hand coiled around her arm. Another clamped over her mouth before she could protest. They yanked her into the stairway, the door clicking back behind her.
“Willow!” Stanley dropped the hammer, practically slamming himself against the closed door. He twisted the doorknob; it jammed in his grip. He made a wild guess as to why it didn't work.
Willow fought against the Druid's grip, attempting a scream that ended muffled. She wished she had been surprised when Halward pulled her against himself, his clothes now stained with blood and grit.
“There we are...” he cooed, his voice graveled. “I knew that fool boy would abandon you soon enough.”
Stanley obviously fought with the door outside, contrary to the Druid's words. Willow paled as she met her attacker's gaze. His terribly clouded indigo eyes burned with exhaustion and death. He intended nothing but death.
Let go, she thought. Her fingers curled around his hand, trying to free her mouth. Without her voice, she had no magic.
“Vince!” Stanley's voice shook. “Bring me a hammer. Now.”
Halward chuckled, almost to himself. He released Willow's arm, only to secure his grip around her middle. He lifted her as though she were feather-light. “Shall we?”
We shall not, she thought. But he still dragged her up the steps.
She attempted another muffled cry as she fought, digging her short nails into his flesh and kicking back at him. But his grip was rooted and sturdy, impossible to escape once more. The rich rot that surrounded him left her sick, but the concept of his escape made her sicker. Her options began growing thin.
He had gotten to the top step when she wiggled her mouth free, sinking her teeth into his marked palm. She tasted blood, dirt, and sweat. Then came the flash. The images.
Greyson passing a scroll into her hands.
A Revenant charging.
A woman, her red tresses melding to the wind.
The high hills ablaze in battle.
A small, dark-haired child with eyes like amber.
Then Halward let go, spitting a curse as he protected his hand.
“Taine,” she whispered. Her fingers lit in black as she pulled away. But her foot caught on the steps, clumsy without ground. She fell, given no time to wonder about the images as she rolled down the steps and met the door with harsh force. She collapsed at the bottom step, breathing fast in hopes to clear the blood rush.
“Willow.” Stanley's voice entered her head through a ringing.
“Stanley...” she whimpered out, the glow fading from her hands again. Her body screamed with bruises as she leaned against the door.
Her hand gripped tight on the doorknob; it wouldn't open. “The door-”
“We're trying to opening it now, I promise,” he said, his voice steeling through his panic. “Just hold on for a moment mor-”
A torrid of creaking steps broke the conversation cruelly.
Willow gasped through her nose. She could already smell the blood on Halward’s clothes.
“Dear Seileach,” he hissed, threats dripping from the archaic word. “Feeling bold, I see.”
She curled back to the door, sneering at him. “Seems we're both feeling bold,” she said, fear catching her words with ease. “How dare you corner me- drag me here. Throw about my True Name! Can't you just leave me be?”
He let his broken laugh fill the air as he traversed the steps. “You still don't understand. I am not here to hurt you; I want to save you, lovie...”
“Forgive me if I don't believe you,” she replied, her voice shaking. “I don't even believe you believe you.”
He laughed again, digging his hands in his pockets. “True enough... I don't know what to believe anymore... Not since Mae began this little game.”
“Mae,” she said, breathing heavy. “Mae, Mae, Mae… Who is Mae? You? Your beloved? Who?”
“Beloved,” he repeated with a sigh. “No, Mae promised herself to no one and nothing… such was her charm,” he lulled on. “I suppose if I had known the truth of that, I could have kept you from this cursed fate... I'm so sorry, Seileach.”
Willow felt ice run through her veins, and grabbed for the doorknob again. It was taut in her grip, so she knew Stanley held the other side.
The boys were leaned in on the door. Vincent had end of the hammer jammed into the door hinge, attempting to pry it loose. But even he knew that magic kept them out.
At last, he unhooked the hammer with a grunt. “It's not working, mate.”
“I gathered that,” Stanley said, kneeling close and burying his forehead against the door.
He could hear the winding conversation that Willow kept. Her voice came soft; fearful. Her grip shook the doorknob. Her shadow cast under the door. Stanley crept his hand under the door, inching his fingers as close as he could.
“There must be something else we can do,” Vincent said, falling back into the frame. He beat at his palm with the handle of the hammer.
“Something...” Stanley repeated under his breath. …Wait a tick.
“Something.” He shot upright, his hand clutching for his breast pocket. The clover still seethed with warmth.
“Willow,” he whispered, a cheek to the door. “Take my hand.”
“Huh?” Her reply came confused.
“From under the door,” he continued. “There should be enough space. I can get us out of here. I have that spell-”
“Stanley, that won’t work from here,” she said.
“Shannagh said otherwise. We'll have to trust that. You hand, please.”
Willow raised an eyebrow back to the door. “But- if she's wrong. You could end up hurt. Or worse.”
“If only...” Halward chimed in.
She looked with a start; the Druid had climbed down the last of the steps.
“You leave him alone,” she growled, slipping a hand behind her back. The crack under the door fell below her grip. “This is between us, Barnabas Halward. No one else.”
He met her eyes as he stopped.
“…You remember,” he said, eyebrows arched.
“Remembered what?” she asked plaintively. She could feel the heat from Stanley's fingers now.
“But why do you call me that?” Halward said, not responding. A smile spread across his face, stretching the torn flesh. “Though, I suppose she would’ve told you that one. Less of a fuss to be made...”
She furrowed her brow. Something in his murky gaze was heartbreaking.
“That's... your name, yes?” she asked.
He closed the space between them, chuckling soft as he pressed a hand against the door. “Hmm… that might’ve been yours once too.”
She gaped, looking up at him with wider eyes then. He remained silent, and that frightened her much better than his lunacy had.
“...What?” Willow pressed herself back against the door, numb and blank. Blank of thought. Blank of feeling. “What are you… talking about?”
“What am I- Seileach,” he said, quieting his voice into something more normal. “You do know who am, yes? You know your own fath-”
“Stop it.” She stood again, facing him straight. “…How cruel! Can you lie for nothing else, you horrible old man?”
“I’m no man’s liar,” he said, eyes darkening. “Even now. Even as to you as you are. You’re still my-”
“Taine!” She jolted up, aiming a black-engulfed hand at Halward's head.
Halward's eyes grew wilder. He struck his marked hand out, gripping it into hers. The black glow fizzled under the crush.
She cringed, pulling back. “Let me-”
Halward cut her short, grabbing her by the throat and pinning her to the door. Her ears rang high as she shrugged for air. She was sure she could hear the boys yelling for her from the door. There was a creeping, needle-like sting at once. Cold snaked from his marked hand, around her palm and into her wrist. Her fingers went numb, and the pain kept moving through her nerves.
“Lovie...” he said, that wicked smile twisting away at his face. “How blind she has left you. Such poison she instilled. Mae has spoken truth into your naivety- trying to change you... But not I. Never.”
“Liar,” Willow curled her free hand against his grip, choking after air. She noticed a layer of indigo wrapping around her arm, encasing her pale skin in a shell.
“Never,” he repeated. “Never to you, lovie... You're all I have left. All that's good. I won’t let her ruin that…”
“Stop...” The magic moved over her joints, locking them up.
Halward only deepened his grin.
Willow looked back up at him, shaking. She noticed cold blue of his eyes, deadened and remorseless. This man who claimed himself blood. Who called himself father. The thought filled her against the cold. Not with fear or sadness. But anger. Honest, burning anger.
Numbness had set in, and so she didn't think. She didn't even really act on her own. Her clutched fingers simply shook before reigniting into a black flame. Halward jolted away, protecting his hand once again. She wasted no time as she grabbed him by the coat, jamming her knee between the Druid's legs.
Halward was unable to muster any particular noise as he buckled. His grip loosened away as he fell to the floor, cringing into a ball.
Willow slid to the ground, coughing as she let the air clear her head. She fell back, slipping her fingers under the door again.
“Huh... so that does work,” she muttered. She reminded herself to thank Vincent later.
“Willow,” Stanley's voice came through the faded ringing, panicked.
With a clearing of her throat, she spoke up. “I got him, but I don't know for how long...”
Stanley's hand finally wrapped around Willow's fingertips, pulling them close.
“We're out of here then,” he replied, leaning to the door as close as possible. “Vince.”
Vincent placed a hand on his friend's shoulder after straightening the inside of his coat one last time.
Stanley slipped his hand into his pocket and cleared his mind. He emptied of all things except his destination and the pleading hope to get away.
And behind the door, he never saw Halward, enraged as he crawled onto his stomach. Willow clutched tighter to Stanley as he Druid’s fingers reached after her again. His hand was almost curled around her ankle when a bright, swallowing light engulfed them, blinding all in its flash.