Leonard had gotten exactly no sleep while in Hell. Tecualt had found him almost immediately, and had given him a full report of the chaos and rebellion in his dukedom. Leonard felt like an awful person for not realizing just how bad things were down here, but in his defense, Lavinia Avnas exaggerated a lot, and how was he supposed to know that she wasn’t just exaggerating more?
In any case, Leonard was getting out of Hell as fast as possible to get away from the chaos of his dukedom. He’d come down by obligation for Albert Janson’s funeral, not to put down a whole rebellion.
“But, sir,” Tecualt said as Leonard threw his clothes into a travel trunk. “You can’t just leave.”
“Tecualt. You have never let anyone who broke the law in any way get away from you, have you?”
“Then you won’t let these revolutionaries get away with it, either, will you?”
“Then I see no problem. Is the rebellion serious? Have they taken over much?”
“No, sir, but…”
“Their complaints are legitimate, for the most part.”
Leonard grimaced. He’d expected something like this. “How so?”
“Can you blame them for wanting, I don’t know, more?”
“They sinned in life, they don’t get to go to paradise after death. There’s nothing I can do about their current situation, Tecualt. I would love them to be able to have some kind of better life, but I’m tied up in legal ramifications that won’t let me do anything. Besides, these are the scum of the Earth. Unrepentant murders, serial killers, rapists, terrorists, pedophiles…”
“Pagans,” Tecualt said.
Leonard scoffed. “No good person ever went to Hell, Tecualt, Christian or otherwise.”
“So you say I’m part of the scum of the Earth.”
“You were… but you’re one of the very few people here who are willing to change. Anyone in Hell can redeem themselves and be bumped up to purgatory, Tecualt, but very few choose to.”
“So what you’re saying is, I just happen to be one of the very few good people in this accursed place?”
“Yes, I suppose I am.”
“Well, I think I can be proud of that.”
“Pride is a sin, Tecualt.”
“He says, while he packs his bags to run away out of pride.”
Leonard rolled his eyes, but that remark cut deeper than it should have. Deep down, Leonard knew that that was true, but he would do anything to avoid admitting it. Maybe him and Johann Faust weren’t so different after all, in that regard. Maybe they were both just overly prideful pigheaded men doomed to Hell forever.
Someone knocked on the door. “Come in!” Leonard said.
It was Serena, lugging her own suitcase. “Nantucket Island, huh?” She opened her dresser and started throwing clothes into her trunk.
“No sarcastic comments, please,” said Leonard.
“Oh, don’t get me wrong, I’ve actually always wanted to see New England. Do you remember when you courted me, and I told you about my mother? She was trapped by a whaler in Massachusetts.” Serana stopped for a moment to ponder this point, then resumed. “Speaking of, have you seen my coat?”
“Yes, it’s under the bed.”
Serana dropped what she was doing and crawled under their bed. A few minutes later, she reappeared with her selkie’s coat in hand. It appeared as a regular pale leather frock coat, spotted like a seal’s skin, but in reality it was the thing that allowed Serana to go between the sea and land, between her human self and her true self as a seal woman.
Leonard smiled to see her with it. When he had first fallen in love with a selkie, some of his friends had advised him to steal her coat so that she would have to stay with him forever, but the idea of trapping someone who would never love him in an unhappy relationship like that disgusted him. Instead, he had courted Serana normally, and five years later, they had married. Even after two hundred years, he still almost never touched that coat – and in the case of Serana herself, there was no almost – without her consent.
“Sir,” Tecualt said.
Leonard had forgotten he was there. “Oh, yes?”
“I would like permission to ask Stolas for help.”
“Fine by me. Talk to Harriet about it before you make any major decisions, she’s the steward.”
“Yes, sir. I would suggest that you call a meeting of your officials.”
“Call your own meeting. I have a ship to catch.” Leonard sat on his suitcase to latch the bulging thing shut. Serana finished her packing, and shouted for someone to come take her bags.
A young woman sailed into the room from down the hall. Leonard was immediately bothered by her extreme resemblance to Dominic Sapping, with the same skin and hair color, and an almost identical face. There was something wild and fey in the young woman’s face that set her apart from Dominic, though, something that made Leonard think that she had a considerable amount of fey blood in her.
The young woman tossed Seranas bags out into the hallway with remarkable strength, then turned to Leonard’s and dragged them out beside Serana’s. She was about to walk off, but Leonard caught her arm before she could.
“Excuse me,” he said.
“You are excused,” said the young woman.
“Are you perhaps related to Dominic Sapping?”
“Yeah, he’s my dad, why?”
“You look very much like him.”
“What’s your name?”
“I was only wondering.”
“Have a good day, Sylvia.”
“You too, Duke Mephisto.”
Tecualt followed her out. Leonard pulled on his coat and hat, and offered Serana his arm. She took it, and they walked down the stairs and to the door together.
Sinners from all over the city had turned out to see the whole crowd of people getting on the ship. They lined the streets around the carriages waiting for Leonard, Serana, and the others, dressed as medieval peasants and eagerly waiting to catch a glimpse of their overlords.
Leonard’s demonic valet, Wilbur, announced them at the door. “His grace, Mephistopheles, Grand Duke of Hell, Commander of twenty-thousand legions of demons, Watchman at the West, commander of the Order, The Red Anointed One, the Dealmaker, Son of Lies, Oathbreaker, Son of the West Wind and the Eyes of the North, Banisher of the Faceless Ones, Knight of the Broken One, Knight of the Liar, Prime among the Devils, and Lord to the Father Below.
“Her grace, Serana, Grand Duchess of Hell, Commander of twenty-thousand legions of demons, Lady of Salt and Sea, One with Blindsight, the Rock Watcher, Selkie of New Bedford, Massachusetts, Daughter of Brine and Dark Water, Eyes that Face Westward, Spawn of the Faceless Ones, Keeper of the Dark Waves, Prime among the Others, and Lady to the Father Below.”
They followed Wilbur down to where there was a carriage waiting for them, and climbed inside.
Of course, they then had to wait for Duke Janson to be announced.
“His Grace, Mephastophilis, Grand Duke of Hell, commander of forty-thousand legions of demons, Father of the Fallen, commander of the Order, The One who Watches Silently, the Tempter, Son of Lies, Oathbreaker, Son of the Scream of the North and the Red Eyes of Glory, Banisher of the Faceless Ones, Knight of the Broken One, Knight of the Liar, Prime among the Devils, and Lord to the Father Below.”
After that, Leonard blocked out everyone else’s overly long titles. Why couldn’t they simply be introduced as ‘Duke Mephisto’ and ‘Duke Janson?’
Wilbur finished with Richard’s party. “Mr Richard Golson, Ghoul Duke of the Decayed, of London, England.
“Deirdre, Soul-in-Limbo, of Ireland.
“Jean Gévaudan, Bastard Prince of Fey, the Changeling’s Cub, Wolf among Faeries, and Beast of Gévaudan.
“Doctor Johann Wolfgang Von Faust, son of Wolfgang Paul Von Faust and Juliane Eva Von Faust, Dealmaker, the Bargainer, and Soul-entrusted-to-Hell.
“Sylvia Mary Sapping, Bastard Princess of the Fey, Daughter of Queen Titania and Dominic Sapping, of London, England and Gévaudan, France.
“Ishmael Samuel Carter of Nantucket, Monty, Son of Salt and Sea, harpooner aboard the Essex, St Jerome, Redwood, and Black Galley, and High Priest of the Faceless Ones.”
At that last title, Leonard felt a jolt in his stomach. The Things without Faces, also known as the Faceless Ones, were undefinable monstrosities that simply didn’t make sense in this reality, but seeked to consume it all the same. They were things of darkness whose only driving force was fathomless hunger, and who would sink their teeth into anything they could find to consume and warp and make impure. They had normal Priests, also known as vampires, but Leonard had never once heard of a High Priest of the Faceless Ones. He looked up at Ishmael Samuel Carter again, and saw that this was no more than a fresh-faced boy who was unremarkable in every way. There was nothing sinister about him, or any of the unnatural hunger. He just seemed… normal. That simple fact, that this unremarkable young man was a High Priest of the Faceless Ones, frightened Leonard more than anything in Heaven or Hell ever could.
Could such things be? Was this young man what Wilbur claimed he was? Leonard went over the few facts he knew about Ishmael Samuel Carter from Richard. He was young, had been a whaler… and he was an opium addict. Suddenly Leonard realized that Wilbur would have asked him for those titles, and that an opium addict was not exactly the most reliable source on his own credibility. That was reassuring, and Leonard decided that since opium could sometimes transport people’s minds accidently into… other places… Ishmael Samuel Carter had probably somehow seen something he shouldn’t have and decided that he was High Priest of the Things. Either that, or he was a vampire, which didn’t really bother Leonard, a Grand Duke of Hell.
Johann Faust, Deirdre, and Ishmael Samuel Carter climbed into the carriage and sat down across from Serana and Leonard.
“Hello,” Serana said. She was resting against the cushions, perfectly at home. “Mr Carter’s to ride with the servants and Sylvia.”
Ishmael Samuel Carter left to join them, and Deirdre laid against Johann’s shoulder and closed her eyes. Johann looked much the same as he had the last time Leonard had seen him up close, at the duel. After the fire, he’d searched and searched, but hadn’t been able to find a trace of Johann until he turned up at Albert’s funeral after following Richard there.
“How have you been?” Serana asked.
Deirdre shrugged and muttered something about how she was fine. Serana obviously picked up on how untrue that statement was, because she proceeded to keep a steady discourse going about the unfair price of certain scientific ingredients which had to be imported from the US, and the fact that someone had been using up all of her chemicals.
“I don’t know who the thief is,” Serana said, “but when I find out I’ll smash their kneecaps in.”
She talked like that most of the way to the docks, describing things that were missing and the various violent things she was going to do to the person who’d stolen them when she found them. Leonard listened intently until it became clear that she was just talking to make noise and ease the tension, though he wasn’t sure that voicing her desire to smash a hypothetical thief into a pulp was the best way to do that. Either way, it seemed to calm Deirdre down, and Johann was at least slightly interested in it. Leonard focused on his surroundings instead.
The harbor was always hot, but today Leonard felt like he was being boiled alive. He wore a crimson suit, and under that a waistcoat, shirt and underclothes, all of which felt like they were sticking to him like a second skin, and he longed to peel the thing off. His hair was so wet with sweat it felt like he’d dunked her head in the sea, and he could feel sweat running down his back. Hell, being what it was, was known for its high temperatures, but this was pushing the limits of what Leonard was willing to put up with. There was a reason he was trying so hard to avoid going to his dukedom. He remembered how once, when he was a little boy, he’d cracked an egg on the street just outside his house, and it had fried to a crisp in about thirty minutes. He also remembered the beating he’d gotten from his rotten tutor for wasting an egg.
Leonard sighed at the memory. Today he could no doubt fry an egg in the same manner if he had one.
Duke Janson and the rest of the passengers arrived slowly, and when everyone was present they all stood at the docks awaiting the ship. Leonard had heard that it was due in any minute, so they all had to wait for it here, outside, in the boiling heat. It was nearly unbearable, and Leonard wanted nothing more than to cannonball off the dock into the ocean. Unfortunately, being dripping wet was not the best way to greet a group of sailors he would be spending months with.
Just when Leonard had decided he would jump into the harbor, since a Grand Duke of Hell could do whatever he wanted, white sails appeared on the horizon. As they drew closer, he could see the American flag flying above the ship, slightly darkened and askew, clearly an imitation of the real thing. So it was one of those ships. The souls of sailors, especially whalers, who had died at sea, were doomed forever to sail under the flags of the Shaw-Captains, strange shadow men no one could explain.
The ship coasted up to the dock, and one of the sailors threw down a gangplank. The Shaw-Captain of this ship, a tall figure wrapped all in dark fabric, stepped down onto the dock and bowed to Duke Janson, who had apparently decided he was the leader of this group.
The Shaw-Captain didn’t say anything, but instead merely stood there while the Jansons, the Mephistos, the faeries, and Richard’s party walked across the deck and onto the boat. After that the Shaw-Captain followed them back up and disappeared down into what was presumably the captain’s cabin. A bored-looking demon who was probably the first mate came up out of the bowels of the ship to bark orders at the ghostly sailors.
“Good morning, Duke and Duchess Janson, Duke and Duchess Mephisto, King Oberon and Queen Titania, Doctor Faust, and others.” The demon wore a white-collered shirt, which meant he was probably in middle-management. “This voyage is bound for Nantucket Harbor, in Massachusetts, USA. If this is the wrong boat, get off now.”
No one moved, so the demon, who had probably had this job for years beyond count, gave a long-suffering sigh, and continued. “Thank you all for choosing to travel on this ship. The Captain hopes that your voyage will be pleasant, and requests that you report any and all problems to him.”
The demon bowed, turned, and walked toward the side. He kept walking until he couldn’t any more because he had fallen in the water. Johann flinched, and Sylvia obviously repressed a laugh, but no one else batted an eye. Hell was a strange place.
“Is anyone here interested in hearing about whales?” Ishmael Samuel Carter asked. “They’re the most evil of fish.”
Leonard leaned down against the rail, folding his arms under him. This was going to be a long voyage.