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Peter Finlay

Don't give yourself an aneurysm now, I'm only here to assassinate you.

0 · 310 views · located in London

a character in “Bounty Hunters: London Underworld”, as played by Jacopo

Description

Name: Peter Finlay

Nickname: Peter Pan

Guild: Peter is second-in-command of the Underworld, although this title doesn't mean much; he's still bossed around by the likes of Jason Bainbridge and Geoffrey Montguard, both additional "second-in-commands". Yeah, Peter doesn't know how that works either.

Age: 19

Height: 6'3

Weight: 130 lb

Eyes: Dark green

Hair: Brown, with brighter streaks apparent in sunlight

Clothing: As a "university student", Peter's got to keep up the appearance- which means grey sweater-vest, blue-and-gold striped tie, and black trousers. When he's not around Alice's boarding school, he likes to lose the tie, but otherwise he's dressed quite smartly most of the time.

Other lovely aspects of your appearance that you believe we must know about: Peter carries around a pair of spectacles that he wears when reading, which gives him an (uncharacteristically and undeservedly) studious appearance. They also come in handy for sharpshooting.

Personality

Fears: Getting old, losing his sister, and losing his shooting arm

Likes: Chocolate milk spiked with liberal amounts of vodka and long walks by the beach

Dislikes: Rainy days and stuffy people

Personality: Peter is really a nice guy at heart, but he likes to pretend otherwise because he's a 19-year-old guy and that is simply what they do. It's hard to put an absolute description on Peter's personality; it's all a matter of perspective. There are those who love Peter, and those who would just love to beat the shit out of him. In a word, he's an egomaniacal, cocky, self-important, arrogant figure who thinks himself immortal and (hugely) overestimates the extent of his own ability. Cheeky, flippant, and sarcastic, Peter is like the puppy that's cute at first but then takes a piss on your favorite piece of furniture. He has outrageously good manners (when he's sober), mostly because he enjoys being a pretentious asshole more than anything. But despite all the affectations, Peter cares very much about those who are special to him. Above all, he's intensely loyal to his guild and will do anything to protect those within it.

Equipment

Specialty: Peter is the best sharpshooter that Europe has seen since Thomas Plunkett- well, maybe not the best, but an undoubtedly skilled one. He can shoot five rounds through the same hole in a playing card from across the tavern- when drunk.

Other Strengths: While not exactly the strongest bounty hunter that has ever been, Peter is fast, agile, and witty. He can talk his way out of almost any situation unless his opponent has a decent IQ, at which point Peter tries everything he can to outsmart them. He's wriggled out of several tight spots thus far, relying on his considerable mental acumen to save his skin.

Weaknesses: As mentioned above, Peter is rather shitty when it comes to hand-to-hand combat (unless it's a matter of escaping, which he's quite good at). His considerable ego has also been his downfall on more than one occasion. Peter is excellent at biting off more than he can chew, pissing people off, and committing hugely unfortunate social blunders.

Weapons: Two double-barreled shotguns, stowed in...various places on his body, depending on how tight security is.

History

Peter grew up with a not-very-rich family on a not-very-successful farm. He started shooting when he was a kid, bringing home rabbits and the like for his parents and younger sister, Alice. When he turned 10, his father sent him to boarding school in London, hoping that Peter could make a living for himself as a clerk or teacher or something. On balance, it went fairly well, although Peter had to be disciplined on more than one occasion for filching things from other students. One day, when Peter was fifteen years old, his tuition stopped. Peter returned home for the holidays, only to find that the farm had been foreclosed, his parents sent to debtor's prison, and his sister to a workhouse.

All in all, not the best Christmas.

He located Alice within a week and pulled her out of the workhouse. Unable to find a family that would take her in and unwilling to let her go to work in London, Peter had Alice enrolled in the boarding school and scraped together all of his savings to pay the tuition. From then on he worked, taking odd jobs wherever he could (permanent work was difficult to find for a 15-year-old boy). When Peter was 17, fate found him employed as the janitor of a shooting gallery. After a long day's work, Peter gave the guns a try himself, and found that his childhood talent hadn't disappeared. As he began to practice during normal working hours, his reputation as a good shot began to spread throughout London.

That was when he was approached by the guilds. More specifically, by one of the most dangerous bounty hunters in London at the time.

She introduced herself as Victoria Gatehouse, although that almost certainly wasn't her real name (information that no one was privy to). She possessed wavy auburn hair, dark eyes, and an impossibly lovely, exotic smile. She introduced herself to Peter one night as the galley was about to close, offered to take him to out for a drink. Peter, who was very taken in with her ample bosom, promptly agreed. However, instead of leading him to one of the taverns in the slums, like he'd expected, Victoria took him to Brooks's.

That night, over shots of vodka, much shouting and demonstrations of shooting ability, Peter joined Brooks's Guild.

The first few months went smoothly- Peter found life in the Guild quite pleasant, and took up missions with regularity. He quickly became renowned for his shooting ability, and was soon making more than enough money to pay for Alice's living expenses. He told his sister that he'd gotten a scholarship at a university so that she wouldn't become suspicious. Moreover, as he rose higher and higher in the ranks of the guild, Victoria seemed more and more within his reach.

And then Peter discovered how dangerous the Guilds could be.

It happened one night as he was walking her to Brooks's. Gunfire erupted in the street, cloaked men appeared from nowhere, pain exploded through Peter's body, and the last thing he saw before he blacked out was a man he was sure he'd shared bottles with at Brooks's just the week before pointing a gun at him. When he woke up, he was in the hospital, bleeding from about six different places on his body. By some miracle, they were all shallow wounds. On the other hand, Victoria was nowhere to be found, hadn't been seen in weeks. It was as if she had disappeared from London.

As soon as Peter recovered enough to leave the hospital, he resigned from Brooks's. Clearly, there was a traitor within the guild who was out to get him, and Peter wasn't eager to stick around. He seriously considered actually attending university but quickly found himself missing his old lifestyle. Besides, Alice needed the money. Fortunately, the Underworld Guild seemed more than happy to take him on, and that's where Peter has been since. He still doesn't know where the woman who called herself Victoria is, or about the nature of the conspiracy that put him in the hospital, but Peter will eventually find out. In the meantime, he's quite preoccupied with drinking, shooting various targets, and helping to run the chaotic guild that is the Underworld.

So begins...

Peter Finlay's Story

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Peter Finlay
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#, as written by Jacopo
It was getting close to midnight. London was beautiful at that hour, lit up by street lamps and moonlight, cobbled pavement shining. Nate Bainbridge emerged from the alleyway and turned the corner, dashing into the Bleeding Heart tavern, which was nearing its busiest hour. The bar was full of laughing voices, gunshots, and red faces; most of the noise came from a table near the corner, where a burly man was firing bullets at the wall as a crowd of onlookers cheered him on. The space around the man was littered with empty glasses, evidence of an ongoing drinking game.

And there, sitting across the table, was a slender, brown-haired fellow, surrounded with just as many glasses.

“Peter! There you are!” Nate pushed through surrounding spectators and grasped his best friend’s shoulder.

“Hmm? Oh, hullo, Nate.” Peter, who was quite obviously inebriated, turned around and gave Nate a lazy nod. “C’mon, have a drink.”

Nate made an exasperated noise. “We’re late.”

“Yeah, yeah.” Peter waved a hand dismissively. “Give me a moment, I’ve several pounds at stake.” He tossed down another drink and reached across for one of his precious double-barreled shotguns.

Experience had proved that pulling Peter out of a drinking game was never a good idea. Nate crossed his arms and drew back into the crowd. “What’re the rules?” he muttered to an onlooker.

“They each have to take a drink and then shoot at the target on the wall. They also have to take a drink every time they run out of bullets. Every time they empty a bottle, they have to take another drink. Oh, and they have to take a drink every minute.”

Nate raised an eyebrow. “Sounds…intelligent.”

“Incredibly. Oh- looks like your mate Peter’s won.”

Indeed, he had. Peter’s opponent was staggering about the bar, his friends attempting to wrestle the gun from him before he misfired and hurt someone. Peter remained sitting, looking somewhat dazed, with a ridiculous grin on face. Suppressing an eye-roll, Nate stepped forward and pulled him upwards. “Now let’s go.”

“I just made three pounds,” Peter slurred as he collected his winnings. “For drinking. You know what? Christmas is in a few weeks, I could get Alice a nice dress with this. In fact, I think I’ll quit the guild. I’ll just drink full-time…ow! Let go of my collar! Nate, I swear-”

“Should have known you’d show up to negotiations drunk,” Nate hissed as he dragged Peter up the wooden stairs. The headquarters of the Underworld was situated right above the Bleeding Heart tavern. It was a nothing more than a collection of rooms, and most of the frequenters of the tavern were under the impression that those rooms were apartments. Some of the Guild members did above the tavern, such as the Guildmaster, but most dwelled elsewhere.

“Negotiations” were the means by which the Guildmaster determined who got which jobs. The difficult ones had better compensation, and there was quite some competition between the upper levels of the Guild for the big-money targets. Some of the prime candidates for high-class jobs were one Mr. Peter Finlay (when sober), the raven-haired Nate Bainbridge, his older brother Jason Bainbridge, and Geoffrey Montguard (when he wasn’t in Spain busy seducing everything with legs).

“‘M not drunk,” Peter protested as he stumbled down the hallway after his friend. “‘M never drunk…oh, here we are.” He spun around in a manner similar to a ballerina and walked into the room at the end of the hallway. He collapsed into a chair and leaned backwards. “Good evening, sir.”

“You’re drunk,” said the Guildmaster. Nate sighed.

Guildmaster Stephen Highgate did not take fools lightly. Seventy-four years old, balding, and still probably a better boxer than any of the chaps in the tavern downstairs, he had made his fortune by subduing criminals with his bare fists. His father Hector Highgate had founded the Guild, and Stephen had been the obvious choice for the next Guildmaster when the elder Highgate was killed in a shoot-out.

“I’m not drunk, but I am slightly tipsy,” Peter responded, as if this made any difference.

“I thought I told you to quit the drinking games.”

“I shoot better when I’ve had some refreshments.”

“I’ll take your word for it.” The Guildmaster leaned forward in his chair. “I’ll get straight to the point, you two. This isn’t about jobs. I already gave the Stonebridge job to Geoffrey-“ here Nate made a choking noise- “and I’m not going to entertain complaints. However, I do need to talk to the both of you.”

“We’re in trouble, aren’t we?” Peter said automatically. “Nate did it.”

Nate shot Peter an irritated glare.

“Actually, my sources tell me it was your fault, Peter.” The Guildmaster crossed his arms. “Two weeks ago, you killed a man named Leon Gaston, didn’t you?”

Peter nodded cautiously. “We had a license. You gave the job to me yourself.”

“I know I did,” the Guildmaster said. “The trouble is, Machiavelli thinks you stole their target.”

“That’s stupid,” Nate interjected. “If we had a license, that means Machiavelli didn’t, so he wasn’t their target. And if we both had licenses, then our client was stupid for going to two Guilds. Nobody does that.”

“Bloody foreigners,” Peter grumbled.

“That’s not relevant. What is relevant is that Machiavelli has formally demanded we repay them in terms of what they would have been awarded had they turned in Mr. Gaston.”

“Well, you’ve refused, haven’t you?” Peter demanded. “That job was my rent. I was almost evicted last month.”

“Of course I did. Then they went and killed one of our younger Guild members. Wade Myers. They found his body washed up on the Thames a few hours ago.”

Peter sucked in his breath. “I liked Wade.”

“We’re not…retaliating, are we?” Nate said cautiously. “Because the last thing we need is going to war with Machiavelli.”

The Guildmaster shook his head. “I’m not stupid. All I’m saying is that you ought to steer clear of trouble for a few days. Don’t start any fights. Travel at night. And don’t go looking for Machiavelli. And dear God, stop that horrendous drinking habit of yours.”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Peter Finlay Character Portrait: Amaryllis Starling
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#, as written by Jacopo
After another lecture from the Guildmaster on the evils of alcohol, Nate made the wise decision to accompany Peter home, in case he got into any more trouble. While he didn’t doubt his friend’s shooting ability under the influence of alcohol, Nate highly doubted Peter’s ability to do almost everything else. Such as finding his way home.

As they walked down the streets of London, it became clear that Peter was still incensed about the Wade Myers affair. “Bloody foreigners,” he kept repeating, slurring the words together. “Machiavelli…the nerve of them…can’t believe they thought I killed their man, I had a license-“

Nate sighed and ran his fingers through his dark curls. “Peter, I know you’re angry-“

“Wade was just a kid, not even fifteen, I was going to teach him how to shoot-“

“- but just remember what the Guildmaster said, don’t go looking for trouble-“

“- and they went and killed him, dumped his body in the Thames-“

“- otherwise you’ll be dragged into something you wouldn’t want again, just like the Victoria affair-“

Peter whirled on Nate, an unfathomable expression on his face. “Don’t. Mention. Victoria.”

Nate hastily raised his arms in a gesture of surrender. Victoria was a touchy subject with Peter. Sometimes he wanted to chat about her constantly, wondering where she’d gone, what had happened to her, whether she’d gotten married, whether she was alive, and other times he clammed up at the very mention of the missing bounty hunter. Depended on how intoxicated he was at the moment, really. “I’m sorry. Crossed the line. Calm down, mate, you’re really out of it.”

Peter didn’t respond, just kept shuffling down the street in the awkward, lopsided gait he always adopted when inebriated. They walked silently for a few moments, until-

“Argh!” There was a thump, and Nate turned his head to discover that Peter had just accidentally stumbled into a girl in a trench coat. She was tall, redheaded, and undeniably pretty- and she probably wasn’t too happy about the whole situation.

“I beg your pardon,” Peter drawled and continued walking.

Nate shot the girl an apologetic glance and hurried after Peter before he caused another accident. “He’s had a little much to drink,” he explained over his shoulder. “I’m sorry. Don’t mind him.”


~

Geoffrey Montguard was twenty-five years old, filthy rich as a result of seven years of bounty-hunting, and the best tracker in the Underworld. He was also, in his own opinion, the best-looking bachelor in London. Geoffey was tall, sturdily built, with sharp, icy blue eyes and a headful of blonde curls which he often kept sleeked back to give himself a more professional appearance. Geoffrey also tended to wear suits, although his bulging muscles were always apparent through the fabric. He had particular fondness for tea mixed with milk and honey, which he was currently enjoying at his favorite rooftop restaurant across the street from the Stonebridge Museum. And, at that moment, he was mentally kicking himself for forgetting how much he hated working with Peter Finlay.

“Have you even listened to a single word I’ve said?” Geoffrey snapped, putting down his teacup.

The scrawny little idiot, who had been staring with a sort of dazed curiosity at a pigeon hopping about on the railing, gave a start and refocused his attention on Geoffrey. “My head hurts,” Peter offered by way of an apology. “Might have had a bit too much to drink last night.”

“This surprises no one,” Geoffrey muttered under his breath. He was starting to wish he’d invited Nate Bainbridge instead. Nate wasn’t half as good of a shot as Peter, but he was twice the company. “You know, I’m starting to wonder why I even invited you here.”

“Hmm…” Peter fiddled with his napkin. “Because you don’t know how to apprehend the London city bomber on your own, and you called me here because you can’t shoot to save your life?”

“Well, when you put it that way-“

“I am putting it that way, and it’s true, so stop being such a bother and let me enjoy my tea in peace,” Peter replied, wincing as he swallowed the bitter liquid. I’ve no idea why Geoffrey likes this stuff. “Forget that. The tea is awful. But my point still remains.”

Geoffrey sighed and tried to adopt a reconciliatory expression. “I’m trying to go over some facts with you, Peter, and these are relevant, so please pay attention. I don’t want you shooting the wrong person again. Like that one time in Moscow.”

Peter blinked owlishly. “I’d prefer if we didn’t mention Moscow.”

Geoffrey snickered over his tea.

Peter put his elbows on the table and gave Geoffrey an expectant look. “Go on, I’m listening.”

Geoffrey had finally gotten Peter’s attention. Small victories. He decided to start over. “Our target is Vincent Beauregard. He’s an expatriate from France who’s been blowing up buildings all over London for several weeks now. He hasn’t gotten onto our radar until recently because his targets were fairly inconsequential, but he’s been attacking more and more important areas. We don’t have a motive for the bombings, but we don’t need one- our job is simply to present him, dead or alive, to the Yard before he blows up another civilian institution. And based upon information we received from the police force, his next target is the Stonebridge Museum.” Geoffrey gestured to the magnificent white edifice across the street.

“…which is why we’re sipping tea at a rooftop restaurant,” Peter said skeptically.

“I’d thought it would give us a better range.”

Peter thought about that for a moment and then raised his eyebrows as realization dawned upon him. “So you called me here because you’re expecting me to hit Beauregard from the roof of a restaurant across the street, when I’ve never seen the man before in my life.”

“I’ll point him out to you,” Geoffrey shrugged.

Peter frowned. “Geoff…”

“You can do it, can’t you?”

“Well of course I can do it, I just don’t like how you simply assumed I could.“

“Shut up, Peter, I’m giving you half the bounty. Which is very generous of me, when you consider it, as I did all the dirty work.” Geoffrey folded his arms across the chest. “And, as I seem to recall, you’re not allowed to take many jobs these days on your own. Something about Machiavelli?”

Peter made a face as he spread jam over a piece of toast. “They’re idiots. I had a license. I’ve still got it, if they want to sue me or something.”

“You know that’s not how it’s going to-”

BOOM. The very air seemed to shake for a moment, the momentous vibration pulsing through the air like a drum. Across the street, the Stonebridge Museum erupted in a blast of fire, shooting shards of shrapnel across the street, scattering bodies everywhere. The force of the explosion knocked over the frontmost few tables of the restaurant. A heavy silence followed right afterwards, pierced by screaming.

Peter picked himself up from the ground, dusted himself off, and pulled his gun out of its holster. “I thought we were supposed to get Beauregard before he blew up the museum.”

Uttering a string of curses, Geoffrey threw down his teacup and dashed downstairs. After shoving another piece of buttered toast into his mouth, Peter followed close behind.

~

“What a mess,” Peter muttered under his breath as they wandered around the burning wreckage. Bodies and smoldering works of art littered the floor around them, but taking care of that was someone else’s job. “Mind telling me what we’re looking for, Geoff? Beauregard’s probably miles away by now.”

“Not necessarily…” Geoffrey straightened up triumphantly, holding what looked like a cable in his hands.

“You’ve found…a complicated-looking rope.” Peter said. “I know you’re supposed to be the best tracker in London, but that’s stretching it, don’t you think?”

“It’s not a rope, Peter, it’s a fuse. And it’s the short kind, which means Beauregard only had a few minutes to get out of Stonebridge before the upper floor blew up. And he would have looked suspicious running out of the museum, which means he only started running…” Geoffrey checked his pocket watch. “Ten minutes ago. Silver hair, beardless, middle-aged, green eyes. He’ll have gone north, since the southern part of the museum is under heavy police surveillance. That only leaves so many alleyways he could disappear into. You’re up, Mr. Finlay.”

“What, now it’s my responsibility?”

Geoffrey shrugged. “You’re faster. And you’ll want to be quick about it, in case Machiavelli’s sent a man after him as well.”

Grumbling under his breath, Peter pulled both guns out of his belt and dashed out of the museum.

Setting

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Character Portrait: Peter Finlay
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#, as written by Jacopo
Peter skirted around the rubble and straight into the crowd, trying to cut through it to the streets on the other side. Frightened bystanders scurried out of his way, shocked, and Peter shoved aside those that didn’t. It didn’t really matter how many people saw him- the prerogative was finding Beauregard before he got too far away.

Then he saw a flash of white hair, and Peter’s heart skipped a beat. Shit.

Hastily, he pulled his cap further down over his face, trying to hide his eyes. That hair was distinctive- Peter would recognize it anywhere. Adrian. He knew the man from his time at Brooks’s guild; Peter had never worked with him before, mostly because he was always begging to tag along with Victoria, but they’d gotten into one or two nasty spats over the counter at the club downstairs.

And if he recognized Adrian, then Adrian would undoubtedly recognize him.

Which, all things considered, would be terrible.

The bounty hunters at Brooks’s were under the impression that Peter was dead. After he and Victoria were ambushed a little over a year ago, Peter hadn’t bothered to check in with his guild when he left the hospital. In fact, he’d deliberately told the nurses to tell anyone who asked that he’d died from his injuries. He hadn’t wanted to return to the Guild, especially since one of them had helped orchestrate the attack that landed Peter in the hospital and caused Victoria to disappear from London. Better to let them think he was gone. Peter had done a fairly good job of it in the last year. But if Brooks’s knew that Peter was still alive and kicking- more importantly, if they knew he was now a member of a rival guild…well. Peter had seen what the guild did to traitors.

A nagging feeling gnawed at the bottom of Peter’s stomach; he was sure Adrian had seen him, even if it had only been for a moment. Struggling to keep calm, he edged around the crowd until he couldn’t see the other bounty hunter anymore.

Then he ran like hell.

~

And you’ll want to be quick about it, in case Machiavelli’s sent a man after him as well.

Add Brooks’s into the mix, and you get quite the party. Geoffrey’s parting words echoed through Peter’s mind as he navigated the cobbled paths, wondering which turn to take. At this point, it was mostly guesswork- but educated guesswork. He wasn’t as good of a tracker as Geoffrey was, but reading the expressions of bystanders did the trick. If they looked startled before he saw them, then they’d just seen another man run past them. It was a tricky affair, but Peter finally picked up on the sound of rapid footsteps- too rapid for a leisurely walk. He tilted his head, frowning as he listened for the sound, and then turned a corner into a narrow pathway.

There was a glint of silver at the end..

There we go. Peter fired several blasts, but already knew it was pointless as he squeezed the trigger. Beauregard was gone. Peter increased his speed, dashing down the alleyway-

- and promptly slammed into another figure as he turned the corner.

The impact knocked him off his feet. For a moment, he saw stars. Uttering a string of curses, Peter picked himself off the street, looking around for his gun. There. He snatched the double-barreled rifle off the ground and straightened up, squinting down the street.

No use. Beauregard was gone.

Geoffrey’s going to kill me, was Peter’s first thought. His second was curiosity at the envelope on the street. It was white, clean, even though the street was somewhat damp. That means… It must have been left there only recently, and if the girl hadn’t dropped it, then Beauregard had. Eagerly, he snatched it up and scanned it’s contents.

Masquerade Ball…Countess Ella Santiago…December twenty-fourth… “Excellent,” Peter murmured out loud, shoving the invitation in his back pocket. Looks like I have something to show Geoffrey after all. He loves these types of events. If Beauregard had been invited to a masquerade ball on Christmas Eve, then making an appearance would certainly give the Underworld a lead. Hopefully, someone who actually liked high-end parties, someone like Jason or Geoffrey, would agree to take the job.

Then he realized that in his preoccupation with the envelope, he’d completely forgotten about the girl.

“My apologies,” he said, offering her a hand. “I’m late for class, I’m in a bit of a rush…” She was a redheaded girl, around his age. Peter thought he vaguely remembered her from somewhere, but couldn’t put his finger on it. Must have met her at a bar. He didn’t remember much that happened when he was drunk. Whoever she was, Peter was greatly annoyed. She should have been minding her own business, not running into him. Never mind that the collision had been his fault as much as it was hers.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Peter Finlay Character Portrait: Adrian W. Fenris Character Portrait: Amaryllis Starling Character Portrait: William Huntington
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#, as written by Jacopo
“Oh, watch out-“ Peter started forwards to catch the girl as she stumbled. His gaze shifted to her knee; it had been scraped pretty badly. That had to hurt. Peter felt a bit guilty as she leaned down to examine the wound- if he’d just been a little more careful, he wouldn’t have harmed her, and someone as pretty as this lass should never be subject to-

- okay, focus. Which was a bit hard to do, really, with the redhead leaning against him. Upon closer examination, she was very pretty, if not a little dirty, what with her curves and copper-colored hair. Peter could almost hear Nate’s exasperated voice. Now is not the time, Peter.

He couldn’t help but feel relieved as she finally separated from him. “I, uh, ‘m fine- uh, you- wow.” The word suddenly slipped out as he looked into her eyes. They were differently colored- and oddly mesmerizing.

If Amara had been trying to distract Peter, it had certainly worked.

Then another yell pierced the air, no doubt someone back at the bomb site, and Peter regained his senses. “Uh- university- my professor- okay, wow, I’m really late,” he babbled as an excuse and walked away from her as fast as he could

~

Then he turned the corner, saw a trademark mane of white hair, and groaned.

Chess was leaning against the wall, now with another familiar face that Peter recognized from Brooks's. William. Fantastic. Just fantastic. He could have spun around and ran for it, but fat lot of good that would do. The two of tem would only go back and tell the members of Brooks’s, and then Peter would have bounty hunters all over London searching for him. Even with his extraordinary talent for escaping tight situations, he wouldn’t last half a day. There was also the option of shooting them- but by the time he cocked his gun, Chess would be ready to fight it out. And that wasn’t a gamble Peter was willing to take, having been a personal witness to Chess's reflexes.

Better to talk it out then, see if he could persuade them to keep their mouth shut. Maybe I can convince them I’m a ghost. Yeah, right.

“I can explain,” he said automatically, raising his hands to show he wasn’t reaching for his weapon. Think…how to talk my way out of this one? It would be easier if I weren’t working for another guild, but I think it’s pretty obvious now that I’m still in the bounty-hunting market… Ah, man. Quite the mess he’d gotten himself into.

“You’re…not going to tell the Guildmaster, are you?” Peter said cautiously, crossing his arms across his chest. “Because, you know, that would be a death sentence. And you’re too nice for that, right?”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Peter Finlay Character Portrait: Adrian W. Fenris Character Portrait: Amaryllis Starling Character Portrait: William Huntington
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#, as written by Byte
Adrian W. Fenris
Alley-way

Content with his position, Adrian reached for a coin in his pockets, and began rolling over his knuckles. Nothing of note was spoken, only the rambling of Peter and very few words from the girl he was with. Now... he'd rather have them cut to the chase and reveal whatever it was Bomber Man had planned.

But no, not quite. What Adrian did get, was a slight tap on the shoulder from another all to familiar face. William. Another member of Brooks'. Chess hadn't seen the, nor spoken to the man for quite some time. Obviously, they were both busy men, and there was little time for them to chatter would they encounter each other. “If I had know the guildmaster would sent someone else... No matter, you are here now, aren't you?”

Adrian smirked, not hesitating to answer the gentleman's question about any news. “Our old friend has risen from the grave, so to speak.” He gestured to the alley-way, nodding at William as he continued. “Peter Pan didn't fly off to Neverland at all. He was just... lost is all. I believe this would be of great interest to a certain some-” Chess was cut off by the boy himself.

“I can explain,” He nearly pleaded, or maybe that was just Adrian's imagination. “Well, well. Look who has come to visit his old friends. What did you do? Bribed Death with money? Beat him at playing the violin?” Honestly, all that was missing was a green crystal floating above his head, and a mysterious hand tossing him into a one by one room to let Peter sleep in his own blue liquid.

“You’re…not going to tell the Guildmaster, are you?”

Again, a plea. Well, the brat certainly had a point. Adrian wouldn't dare tell the boy out. Still, William was here as well, and if Adrian wouldn't tell the guildmaster, he would. “Actually, I believe he would love to speak to you. Especially concerning your... current activities.” The young man turned to lean against the wall with his left side, tossing the coin back into his pockets. “Or did I not just witness an act of chasing a criminal? Perhaps my mind is starting to get delusional, and I am talking to ghosts.”

Adrian chuckled at that notion. “Although... For that, I would need to have a certain... something.” Chess stepped closer to Peter, crossing his arms on his chests, and giving the brat a serious nod. “You have something, or someone we want. Something that can... make us see dead peo-”

“I don’t mean to barge into the conversation, but could one of you fine men help me to the closest clinic?”

Adrian pinched the bridge of his nose. Honestly, such interruption. From a woman no less. Well, a girl in his eyes. “My dear lady. One does not interrupt a polite conversation, not even a pretty lady such as you.” Chess put on his usual smile, bow slightly to greet the newcomer. She was too young for his liking, but that didn't take away the fact that he was, in fact, fond of her looks. The auburn hair, and... Were those two separate eye colours? That isn't something you witness everyday.

Adrian turned his sight to William. He himself had business to handle with Peter, so that left The Gentleman to guide the girl to the nearest clinic. “William, if you please...” Chess gestured to the girl, just to make sure he wasn't getting the wrong idea, and attempted to kill Peter or something.

“Well, kid? What say you?” Adrian turned back to the boy, his serious gaze back once again.

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Character Portrait: Peter Finlay Character Portrait: Adrian W. Fenris Character Portrait: Amaryllis Starling Character Portrait: William Huntington
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William smirked and said, "Well all I can say the dead sure do look more realistic now-a-days. I do believe that "lost" isn't a bad phrase. Looks like he found a map and into the hands of another family."

William wasn't one who was great at how to recognize signs of panic. Though he remembered a while back from the guild master who told him that Adrian was the one man who will always be four steps ahead of you no matter how far you think ahead.

"I can explain," Peter said. William smiled and decided to sit out on the interrogation of Peter Pan the former Brooks member.

-

At the sight of a very beautiful girl who walked around the corner perked his interest and he started to think of how he can progress his own stand with her. As if on cue after the girl asked with large teared eyes, “I don’t mean to barge into the conversation, but could one of you fine men help me to the closest clinic?” He immediately saw his chance to make a good impression with the woman. As if on cue though Adrian responded to the girl in such a rude manner even with his compliment.

"Adrian my dear friend, do be more polite in talking with such bad manners to such a magnificent and exquisite woman such as herself." William responded in a friendly tone with a hint of anger laced in. "Also miss you won't need to worry about good ole Peter here. My friend will take...good care of him whil-" He was cut off a little by Adrian who told him to take her.

William sneered at Adrian and replied, "I will be happy to take her to one of the lovely clinics we have here in London. One that is also far away from such a dangerous place where such explosions happen." Though he said what he did; he couldn't help, but feel giddy at the thought of the explosion on the Stonebridge Museum. He felt as a little school girl met her idol of her dreams.

William picked up the young lady gently and told her, "No need to worry. We'll take care of that knee for you." With that he left Adrian and disappeared around the corner. After a few steps he reappeared around the corner and said in the most sarcastic tone possible, "Now play nice you two. Also Adrian make sure to get me if this is too much for you. So when I get back I expect everything to be all sorted out now alright children?"

William then re-disappeared around the corner with Amar in his arms and told her, "If this is uncomfortable for you I can always carry you on my back if you much prefer that."

Upon closer inspection he realized her eyes were two colored and found them strangely mesmerizing. This was not the first time he has found eyes like them, but the pair she had just had a sense of experience that other woman he has been with did not have. While he carried her towards a clinic about two blocks away he felt as if she was very athletic unlike many of the others he had been with. This perked his interest as he walked and thought about his situation with lustful greed.

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#, as written by Jacopo
“My professor will be incensed,” Peter drawled. He leaned against the wall and sighed as William carried the girl- Peter still didn’t know her name- off, with much posturing and patronizing remarks. Part of Peter felt somewhat protective as he watched them go; he knew what the Gentleman’s favorite habits were, and he wondered if the girl would be so willing to let him carry her if she knew as well. The other part of him cautioned against making the situation more complicated; he was already having difficulties extricating himself as it was.

“Play nice? Children?” Peter turned back to Adrian. “Now you see why I left.”

Chess, who didn’t seem to be in the mood for joking around (not that he ever was), was still looking at him expectantly. Peter sighed and rubbed the back of his head, knowing full well what Chess wanted. Information. His instincts were correct- not only had Machiavelli sent a man after the London city bomber, but Brooks’ was in on the hunt as well. Peter wondered what naive idiot had taken the case to all three guilds. That was never done. Letting one guild have the job was nothing more than common courtesy.

But if this had turned into a race, then Peter definitely did not want to be giving out free information to other guilds. His mouth started running as he thought furiously, trying to talk his way out of it. “A certain something? Okay, hmm- I’ve got this gold pocket watch, bought it at the pawn shop last week- if you don’t like that, I could take you out for lunch at this soup cafe that just opened down the street- I know soup doesn’t sound great, but they’ve got this fantastic beef stew…”

Peter trailed off as Chess didn’t exactly seem amused. “Alright,” he mumbled. “December twenty-fourth, countess Ella Santiago. Masquerade. You can figure out the details, Brooks’s is good at that, if I recall.”

He could have lied, of course, but Peter knew from experience that lying to bounty hunters was never a good idea. Invariably, they discovered the truth. And equally invariably, the liar was punished. Peter shoved his hands in his pockets and began to walk away. “Well, it’s been lovely catching up and all, but I really am going to be late to class. Listen up, you didn’t get that information from me. In fact, just forget you even saw me.” Peter raised his eyebrows. “I’ll trust you to keep your word, Mr. Fenris.”

After all, there wasn’t much else he could do.

~

It was only until he reached the Bleeding Heart tavern that Peter lost his calm facade. Hands shaking, he ordered a mug of beer and gulped it down furiously, trying to calm himself. It didn’t work. If the Guildmaster knows, if he finds out…should I just leave now? If he moved fast, he could pack up his things and catch the next ship over the Atlantic within five hours, before Brooks’ sent a man after him.

His teeth were chattering by the time Geoffrey Montguard and Nate Bainbridge entered the bar, spotted Peter at the counter, and sat down on either side of him.

“You didn’t catch Beauregard, I’m guessing,” Geoffrey drawled.

Nate shrugged. “Bully that, there’ll be others. How’d he get aw- blimey, Peter, are you alright?”

Peter was shaking from head to toe. He drained his mug and wiped his mouth, shaking his head frantically.

Nate looked up at Geoffrey. “You reckon he’s trying to turn into Tinkerbell?”

“Brooks’.” Peter forced the word out of his mouth. “Chess and the Gentleman. They saw me. Nate, they saw me.”

“So why didn’t you pretend to be your own twin brother and walk away?” Nate questioned.

“I’m a hitman, Nate, disguises are your job.”

“Fair enough.”

“So what did you do?” Geoffrey demanded.

Peter swallowed, watching Geoffrey’s expression carefully as he answered. “The only thing I could do. We made a trade. Chess said he’d keep my secret, and I told him where he’d find Beauregard next.” Peter looked at Geoffrey imploringly. “Pleasedon’tbemadIknowI’mnotsupposedtogiveotherguildsfreeinformation-”

“I’ll punch you if you keep making that face.” Geoffrey rolled his eyes. “And where will he find him?”

“At Countess Ella Santiago’s Christmas Eve masquerade ball next week,” Peter responded, reaching for his back pocket. “I have the invitation right…” It wasn’t there. Bloody… It must have fallen out while he was racing back to the tavern. “…in my head,” he finished lamely.

Geoffrey put his elbows on the counter. “Well then. It’s about time we found some masks, gentlemen.”

“If I survive the next week,” Peter muttered.

“Don’t worry,” Nate said, putting a hand on Peter’s shoulder. “Brooks’ hunters are…well, they’re cultivated. They’re not likely to break promises.”

Peter signaled the bartender for another mug. “You’d be surprised.”

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#, as written by Byte
Adrian W. Fenris
Alley-way

At that moment, when William said 'children', Peter and Adrian were almost agreeing on one thing. The man just nodded, William was... older. But not by that many years. Plus, if Adrian was a child, The Gentleman was a sick pervert for guiding the female stranger 'too gladly'. “I will say that you are missed, Mate.” He told the student.

Honestly, Peter may be arrogant at times, even to the point where Adrian could strangle him up and hang the guy on a stake. But there was no... hatred in general. Only disagreements, really. Chess shrugged lightly, leaning back against the wall behind him. “I'm listening.”

Peter began to ramble, talk nonsense. C'mon, that was not going to work. Not now anyway. Chess had him where he wanted. It was time for the boy to fold, and call it quits on the gamble. He would most certainly not roll a double six now. “Peter, you know exactly what I need. You are testing patience, something that isn't a wise thing to test.”

Finally, the student got the message. “December twenty-fourth, countess Ella Santiago. Masquerade. You can figure out the details, Brooks' is good at that, if I recall.” He muttered hesitantly. Peter hadn't forgotten one detail about his friends on Brooks'. Or was it just Adrian he remembered? No matter, the information was given, and Chess would keep his promise. “My word is my bond Mr. Finlay.” He grinned, raising his paper-boy hat to thank an old friend for the info.

“I do hope that we will meet at the Masquerade. I am certain that we have a few more things to discuss, catch up on good times, yes?” And with that, they parted ways. When they'd meet was certain, but if they'd get a chance to talk was not....

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#, as written by Jacopo
Ella Santiago was the wife of Count Fernand Santiago, a British-born with Spanish blood dating to his grandfather several generations back, who had worked his way into the good graces of Parliament through some rather substantial donations. Fernand Santiago had met Ella in Madrid one summer a few years back, and Ella had quickly realized that as the wife of a noble, she had far too much money and far too little to do. Thus she became one of London’s top socialites, and her events were always keenly looked forward to every time the holiday season rolled around.

This year’s eighth annual masquerade ball marked a somewhat successful tradition, and it was with pride that the Countess opened up her magnificent ballroom to London’s elite. The masquerade was held in the center hall, which was lined on the side by a winding mahogany staircase. The upper floor was a rim around the lower one, allowing guests to peer over the edge at the dancing below. Downstairs, waiters dressed in dark, feathery masks floated around the ballroom, holding trays of campaign and finger foods. As the clock struck nine, the hall was filled with exquisite, colorful costumes and intriguing masks.

Peter Finlay stood off to the side, fiddling with his mask. He was dressed fairly simply; he didn’t own any clothes for this sort of occasion, as he wasn’t prone to extravagant living the way Mr. Montguard was, so Nate had lent him a few articles for the evening. He wore a dark green vest over a loose, white shirt and black trousers; on his face was a simple half-mask. Emerald-green feathers extended from the side of the mask, framing the left side of his face. Peter wasn’t quite sure what he was supposed to look like- a peacock, perhaps? Or some other type of bird, he had no idea.

“Stop twitching,” boomed a deep voice. Peter sighed and let the mask alone.

Geoffrey Montguard appeared next to him, holding two glasses of champagne. He handed one to Peter. Geoffrey looked a good deal more at ease than Peter, dressed head-to-toe in black. Against his blonde curls, the black mask made Geoffrey look like some sort of dashing villain that swept young girls off their feet and carried them off into the night. Classic Geoffrey.

“Remind me again why I’m here?” Peter said, tugging at his tie uncomfortably. “Why couldn’t Nate come? He actually likes this sort of thing.

“Nate can’t shoot someone from across this room, especially through this crowd.” Geoffrey clapped a hand on Peter’s shoulder. “What are you supposed to be anyways, a peacock?”

“A bird of paradise,” Peter muttered.

“Well, you look dashing. Look.” Geoffrey lifted his glass. “There’s our hostess.”

Peter turned, following Geoffrey’s gaze. The Countess stood at the top of the stairs, a rather proud look on her face as she surveyed the crowd of guests below. She was older, perhaps thirty now, but looked statuesque. Her chestnut hair was pulled back in an elegant bun, and as the hostess, she had deigned to forego the mask, instead showing off her arched eyebrows and dark eyes.

Geoffrey smirked. “Think she’s into younger men? Or maybe not- let’s go dance, Peter, perhaps one of the other lovely young ladies would be willing to accompany us for the night.”

But Peter was still staring at the Countess. Dark eyes, thick lashes, arched eyebrows… “I feel like I’ve seen her before,” he blurted suddenly.

Geoffrey took a sip of his champagne. “Impossible. She never goes out, except to high-end events like these. And no offense, Peter, but I doubt-“

“I’ve definitely seen her before.”

Geoffrey rolled his eyes. “…right. Alright, Peter, you know what? I haven’t seen anyone who looks remotely like Beauregard yet, so I’m going to see if I can steal that girl dressed in yellow over there for a dance…mind yourself and don’t get in any trouble, alright? And if anyone asks you to dance, don’t spit champagne all over them.”

“What? I wouldn’t-”

Laughing, Geoffrey disappeared into the crowd, leaving Peter alone at the foot of the stairs.

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#, as written by Jacopo
As the music began to play, Peter began to feel more and more awkward. He was still standing at the foot of the stairs, holding an empty glass of champagne. It wasn’t as if he were a stranger to parties; in any other setting- say, a nice tavern- he’d already have found a girl and would have been busy kissing her in the corner. But Peter wasn’t used to this sort of high-end affair; he was the son of two farmers, and he was constantly working to make ends meet and pay his sister’s tuition. There had never been an opportunity to attend such an extravagant event.

Geoffrey, on the other hand, was completely at home. He was in the middle of the hall, dancing closer and closer with the fifth girl Peter had seen him with that evening.

“Care to dance?” murmured a soft voice behind him.

Peter spun around to find himself face-to-face with Countess Ella Santiago.

“Um,” he said.

She laughed. “How sweet of you.”

He hastily disposed of the champagne glass. “Er- I meant, I’d love to dance.”

Arching her eyebrows, she held out her gloved arms expectantly, and after a moment of frantic thinking, Peter figured out which hand he was supposed to hold and which hand to put around her waist. Fortunately, it didn’t take too long, and soon they had joined in with the crowd on the dance floor.

“Do I know you?” she asked presently.

“Probably not,” Peter replied. “I’m Anthony Fitzgerald. I’m here with my uncle, Earl Regis.”

“Anthony, eh?” The Countess seemed to think that was a sufficient response. Peter let loose a breath of relief. They continued to waltz; the Countess was a surprisingly good dancer, so nimble and flexible that Peter’s many blunders were easily masked.

“You’re not a very good dancer, are you?” she said after a while, looking amused.

Peter managed a grin. “I’m more of a hunter.” Well, that much was true.

The Countess tilted her head. “You’d expect a hunter to have a bit more grace, wouldn’t you? Well, you’ve the most beautiful green eyes I’ve ever seen, so I supposed I’ll forgive you,” she said, her lips curving up in a smile. The music changed from a light waltz to a slower song. “Another dance?” she questioned.

“Of course,” Peter replied, taking her hands. As the Countess smiled, looking pleased, the resemblance suddenly hit home. The dark hair. The sparkling brown eyes. The delicate facial structure. The lilting voice. The smile.

“You know,” he murmured, “you remind me of this woman I used to know. Victoria.”

It was as if a spell had been broken. The smile slipped off of the Countess’s face, and she suddenly stopped dancing. “How do you know Victoria?” she demanded, ripping herself away from Peter.

“She- I” Peter stammered, confused.

Countess Santiago gave him a tremulous look, as if she were on the verge of saying something, and then she turned and dashed away, running as fast as she could in her silken dress.

~

Well, that served to ruin the evening. Peter decided to get away from the dance floor in case he managed to unknowingly insult another woman with a reference to her history and instead hung out around the serving tables, hands in his pockets as he watched the crowd intently. No Beauregard… Well, what was he expecting? The man would hardly dare to show up at such a social gathering, not when his face was plastered all over London. If he was here, then he was here in disguise. Peter circled the hall, trying to get a better view-

- and promptly caught himself just before he stumbled into a serving girl carrying a tray of glasses. Thank goodness he hadn’t broken them; he didn’t need to cause anymore trouble. He was just about to apologize and walk off before something about the serving girl’s face caught his attention. Red hair…Peter looked closer, trying to see past the veil that covered her face. Just as he’d thought. Two differently colored eyes.

“You’re the girl from last week,” he said, catching her arm. It wasn’t a question. “Am I ever going to see you without almost knocking you over?”

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Character Portrait: Peter Finlay Character Portrait: Adrian W. Fenris Character Portrait: Amaryllis Starling
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#, as written by Byte
Adrian W. Fenris
The Masquerade, Ballroom

It felt like the good old times. The moments when the Fenris family would attend royal festivities, and he was to look after his younger sister. In fact, he felt somewhat guilty by not bringing her along. But that would only make the job more difficult than it already is, and Cassandra shouldn't have to witness what her brother has to go through in order to make a living.

While going through several dance partners, Adrian found himself waltzing the night away with a woman who was a spitting image of his mother, would she have been alive, and around his age. Long, brown waving hair, glittering green eyes... A smile that would wash all the depressing thoughts from ones mind.

Such graceful dancing movements. The purple, with gold-lined gown she wore really complemented the woman's beautiful body. An angel that had descended down from the Heavens. At least, that was Adrian's opinion. If only the silver mask wouldn't hide her face, then it would've been a perfect moment to remember. But it would do...

“May I know the name, of the man I am waltzing with?” She asked, smiling contently as her green eyes tried to make contact with Adrian's red beads. A name...? Chess wouldn't do, nor would Fenris. He was on a mission of great importance. Plus, There may be people who would recognize those words.

“Dorian Le'carde, M'Lady. Might I ask yours? I'll bet it is as beautiful as yourself.” The white-haired man made a mental note of that name. It would be his alias for tonight. He should've known names would be asked, but no matter. The choice was made.

Adrian's dance partner giggled in a soft manner. “Lelianna Monrouge, a pleasure to make your acquaintance Mr. Le'carde.” The young man nodded, giving her a gentle smile of his own. “Lelianna. A fitting name for someone as lovely as you, can I offer you a dri-” His sentence, and his dance was interrupted by a drunkard who shouted the woman's name a bit too loud.

“Lelianna, father explicitly asked you not to stray away from my sight.” The black-haired man, who was dressed in a royal commander's suit, looked over the tiny scene with anger. Or maybe it was jealousy. With a sad look on her face, Lelianna took a few steps away from Adrian, and closer to the man that yelled at her.

“I apologize, my brother is a bit overprotective of me. Maybe we could continue our talk later? After the feast?” She smiled once more, gently waving at Chess with her right hand. “Of course, I will await your presence at the gates.” The white-haired vigilante raised his beret to wave off his most comfortable dance partner.

He was content with his dancing for now, and decided to head for the beverages instead. Maybe it was time to try and locate what he truly came for; Bomber Man. “Now where would you be hiding my good sir. Disguised, I suppose, but I had hoped we could play with open cards for a change...” Adrian sighed, leaning with his gloves hands on the table that was filled glasses, and bottles of whine.

“Am I ever going to see you without almost knocking you over?”

A guest had nearly stumbled into one of the serving girls, and responded quite rudely. Perhaps another drunk noble who never attended parties that had no alcoholic beverages. Unknowing of who were behind those masks, Adrian turned his attention to them both. “My... that is certainly no way to address a lady. Especially not when you are the person who almost caused the incident.”

Chess pressed his fingers against each other, forming a triangular shape and resting his palms on his stomach. “It would be kinder of you to apologize. Surely you have some kind of manner? Drunk or no.” The red & white dressed man carefully set his eyes on the man who so rudely insulted the woman, expecting the 'requested' apology.

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Character Portrait: Peter Finlay Character Portrait: Adrian W. Fenris Character Portrait: William Huntington
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#, as written by Genre
The mistress and William danced slowly on the balcony as he finished under the bright and beautiful moon light.

"The moon tonight shines so bright. It is such a beautiful sight. Though the moon itself does not quite outshine the beauty that you possess. My name is William Huntington. May I be honored to learn of the dazzling woman before me?" William knew he had her within his grasps as he told his story of fake heroic stories.

William started to think about how bright the moon is and thought, If that bomber does show up...Adrian and I would be able to see him for quite a distance in this light. Our luck is starting to change...'

"My name you ask?" She giggled and continued, "My name is Elizabeth De'Angelo. This has been a very pleasant night with you William."[/i]

William smiled and snapped his mind back to Elizabeth as he twirled her slowly around. As their waltz came to a end in a slow manner he leaned in and gave her a kiss. Elizabeth faced turned to the color of a tomato. She let go of his hands and walked away from him and stared at something that was to of a incredible interest then the moment in her position. He chuckled and wrapped his arms around her waist and whispered in her, "No need to be shy. I'll be gentle, I won't bite, and I will especially be kind to you." He cooed his words in a quiet tone. He then continued, "I will be right back with some drinks for us."

William let go of Elizabeth and and walked back into the ball room to obtain some wine. As he approached the table he noticed another woman twirling away with tray full of drinks. He was about to go after he until he noticed Adrian and Peter. He walked over to them and greeted them, "Peter and Adrian. Good to see your still alive Peter and Adrian anything turn up on our missing man. I have been a little... preoccupied with a new friend." Of course he knew that Adrian would already have known what his friend was and what he wanted to do with her, but for sure that he knew that Peter did not know.

William then remembered the streak of white hair he had seen early and whispered to Adrian, "My friend Adrian I saw a streak of white hair among the crowd earlier. At first I dismissed it as you, but now that i think back to it his trousers looked nothing like yours. I think I may have found our target, but I can't be for certain if it is him. Because there is no other person who is insane enough to have crazy, but still very clean and modest which I respect very much, hair of yours around here, William then added something else to make it appear unsuspicious to Peter, "her name is Elizabeth and boy is she a wonder. If you need me....please for the love of Mary and her child don't need me." He then took two cups of wine and went back to the open balcony.

'I hope that man understands that if he needs me then come and get me because if this place is blown to bits then,' he shivered at the thought and finished his thought, 'then my chance with Elizabeth will be ruined!'

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#, as written by Jacopo
She introduced herself as Cassandra Bloom, the Countess’s head maid, and at once Peter knew something was off. Maids didn’t didn’t dress like that, nor would they have been out on the streets, running about, and covered in dirt like “Cassandra” had been on the morning of the Stonebridge bombing. It was also simply too much of a coincidence that she just happened to show up every time Peter was out on a job. Her mention of the “Italian guy” only served to confirm his suspicions; not many people knew Machiavelli was an Italian philosopher, after all.

Still, her speech was quite amusing. “Creature?” Peter repeated incredulously. “I wasn’t the one covered in dirt the last time we met. If I’m a bundle of trouble, you asked for it.” Shooting a glare at the white-haired gentleman who’d interrupted them (Chess, no doubt), Peter hurried after “Cassandra” and before she disappeared into the crowd.

“I’ll get that,” he said, taking the tray off her hands. “And you can tell me what your real name is.”

~

Vincent Beauregard surveyed the crowd with satisfaction, rubbing his newly shaven chin as he did so. Countess Santiago was nothing if not popular; her little Christmas Eve ball had attracted over half the aristocrats in London, if the packed ballroom as anything to go by. A massive, glittering Christmas tree had been set up in the middle of the room, glittering with decorations and ornamental presents. The boxes beneath the tree were most likely empty, as they were simply there for decoration. Pity, Vincent thought. One ought to fill those boxes with something for the guests. A nice surprise, perhaps.

Or not so nice, considering what he had planned.

After a rather unfortunate brush with the police, Vincent knew it would be suicide to attend the Countess’s ball under his usual guise. But that didn’t stop him; he’d simply shaved his beard, dyed his hair, and applied for a position as a waiter. The serving staff was always running low this time of year; getting into the ball had been child’s play.

Now, he thought as he looked over the stairs, all he had to do was set the surprise.

It would have been significantly easier had he gotten away from Stonebridge untracked. But even though he’d evaded capture, it had been a close thing; his brush with the guilds of London had been close, too close. And, as he’d been warned, they were here tonight. Vincent’s sources were not ignorant, however, and he had come this evening knowing full well what he was up against. He didn’t know much about the hunter from Machiavelli- nobody did, the guild was so damn secretive. It was hard enough figuring out whether Machiavelli would even be here- but Vincent was willing to bet that they were. Machiavelli would never miss out on the action.

Brooks’s hunters had been a little easier to track down. To the best of Vincent’s knowledge there were two of them here tonight, one Mr. Adrian Fenris, whom he’d immediately spotted by his distinctive white hair, and another Mr. William Huntington. Two of Brooks’s best hunters; Vincent was almost flattered he was receiving so much attention.

Finally, from the Underworld, there was Peter Finlay, the boy who should have been dead. Vincent had a good source of intel on the kid, from a source who knew him quite…ah, intimately. Or rather, knew. By the time his briefing was finished, Vincent probably knew more about Peter than his own friends did- he was a brilliant shot, tended to drift towards the alcohol, and had irritatingly sharp eyes.

Speaking of whom…Vincent scanned the crowd until he found the boy, who from this distance appeared to be trying (and failing) to seduce a serving girl. Wait for it… After a painful moment of inaction, Peter’s gaze drifted towards the staircase, and then met Vincent’s stare head on.

Vincent turned, as if about to leave, and then cast a glance at the Christmas tree, suppressing the urge to laugh out loud as Peter’s expression turned from confusion to horror. Yes, you know what’s in that box, don’t you?

It was a party, after all. Why not make things fun? Vincent could have gotten away with the bombing, but it’d be much more interesting to see the hunters as they were forced to make a decision- find the bomb before it detonated, or find the bomber. Lives or money?

Up to you, Mr. Finlay.

~

He means to blow this entire place up. The adrenaline was kicked in. Thankfully, Peter had been trained to deal with high-pressure situations like this. He knew what to do.

Peter lurched forward under the pretense of stumbling, one arm holding the tray upwards and the other grabbing “Cassandra”’s shoulder as if for balance. “Look, I don’t know what Guild you’re working for,” Peter murmured into her ear, scanning the crowd intently over her shoulder. “But I want you find a man named Geoffrey Montguard- he’s the one with blonde hair in the black suit, he’s right there, look-” Peter pointed at Geoffrey “-and tell him…ah, tell him Peter said the game’s up. He’ll know what I meant. Please. Go. Right now.

Letting go of the girl’s shoulder, Peter shoved the tray into the arms of some random bypasser and sprinted towards the stairs. Beauregard caught his eye again and gave him another look, smiling as if disappointed, then shook his head and disappeared into the hallway.

Setting

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Character Portrait: Peter Finlay Character Portrait: Adrian W. Fenris Character Portrait: Amaryllis Starling Character Portrait: William Huntington
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#, as written by Byte
Adrian W. Fenris
The Masquerade, Ballroom

Those eyes... Those exotic, differently coloured eyes. After paying no mind to the white-haired boy, the girl went back to, well, more or less making her stand with the man who had so rudely blamed her for the bumping. Adrian took that moment to observe the female a tad closer. Red hair... The way she spoke. It made sense that these two were acquainted, of sorts.

He just smiled as he glued all the pieces together, and concluded that this was, indeed, the girl he had seen last week. Then, the man she was talking to...? Peter, unless this stranger was prone to bumping into people at every turn. At least Chess had his questions, and guesses answered. A whole band of vigilantes had gotten the same idea, and they all were, no doubt, targeting the same bloke.

“I apologize, Sir, for making you have to hear such things. If I can be of any assistance to you, please, just ask.”

Adrian nodded, while answering her bow with one of his own. “There was no harm done. I see my urge to help was unneeded.” He smiled in a gently manner, straightening his back, and watching the girl trail off into the crowd. “Such a charming lady. Don't you think, Mr. Finlay?” Chess grinned, his eyes sparkling with glee as he spoke of the boy's surname.

There was no response, and the 'Pan' flew off to Neverland once more. Right at that exact moment, The Gentleman approached his friend, speaking with a tone, as though he was having a great time. Not a surprise, as William was a man who could wind ones being around his fingers. Even more so than Adrian, but there was no comparison as they both have different ways of persuasion.

“I believe we are only missing one participant, still. But all of our dear friends are here.” As Chess answered William's question, he took another observant look at the scenery. The was a niggling concern in his mind, that they weren't going to leave without a nice firework. As was obvious. Why else would their Bomber Man be here?

“Oh, Mr. Huntington, do enjoy your female companion for this evening.” Don't need him? William wasn't just here to seduce pretty women, there was a criminal to catch, or kill if the situations warrants. Because alive would never do, crooks rarely agree on cooperation. If only they'd reveal themselves, so Adrian could quit being in one room with rival vigilantes. Didn't mean he couldn't keep an eye on the student, and the serving girl, though.

As if on cue, Adrian realized the cards were revealed. Although barely able to spot him, let alone read his expression, the white-haired vigilante followed the trial of Peter's eyes. Then, following the eyes of the person the student was staring at, which ended Adrian's sight on the large Christmas tree that had been most beautifully decorated with Christmas lights, and colourful decorations.

“Oh dear.” Adrian muttered under his breath as that horrific expression of Peter, and the smile of the butler on the stairway explained it all. Someone, had already gone and left himself a parting gift. Chess chuckled to hide his fright for what was in the 'gift', and attempted to locate his fellow hunter.

The white-haired male found his friend, comfortably in the company of a damsel. With no hesitation, Adrian approached the two, and bowed in an apologetic manner. “I am terribly sorry for this interruption.” He rose up from his bow, turning to the lady that accompanied The Gentleman. “My apologies, ma'am. May I borrow Mr. Huntington from you, there are matters of utmost importance I must discuss with him immediately.”

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Character Portrait: Peter Finlay Character Portrait: Amaryllis Starling
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#, as written by Jacopo
Thankfully, “Cassandra” didn’t argue; Peter watched her head straight towards Geoffrey, satisfied, and then refocused his attention on reaching Beauregard. By the time he had made it to the other side of the ballroom, Beauregard had slipped from his sight again; cursing, Peter looked around and took the only logical route- up the stairs. If Beauregard went through either hallway, he would encounter the Bainbridge brothers, who had been positioned outside as guards. And if he knew I was here, then he must know that much…

Up, up he went, climbing up the spiral staircase, mind racing frantically as he tried to figure out where Beauregard had gone.

Then he reached the top of the stairs, and a cane came swinging at him, smashing him hard across the chest. Peter staggered against the bannister, winded, scrabbling for his gun-

“Oh, no you don’t.” Peter heard a bored voice over his head, and then pain exploded in his left arm arm as the cane came down again. Groaning, Peter thudded back against the banister, staring dazedly at the figure standing over him. Beauregard.

“Peter Finlay, nineteen years old, member of the Underworld.” Beauregard said, as if he were a schoolboy reciting his lessons. “Loves a good party, but awkward at more aristocratic affairs. You also claim to be ambidextrous, but you shoot just a tad better with your left arm.”

“No one knows that,” Peter muttered, trying to get up. “No one but-“

“Victoria,” Beauregard said, sounding thoroughly amused. “Lovely girl, isn’t she? Told me everything she knew about you, the guilds, Brooks’s… anyhow, how about I break your arms so that you’ll never be even able to hold a gun ever again?”

He brought the cane down once again, but this time Peter was ready. He caught the cane with his right arm just before it hit him and wrenched hard, throwing Beauregard off his balance. Peter used the momentum to pull himself up, sending the cane flying over the bannister into the crowd below.

For a moment he and Beauregard stood face to face with each other, off-guard, and then Peter lunged at the bomber, throwing his fists for all that he was worth. Should have let Geoffrey teach me how to box… Peter’s skill set as a bounty hunter was rather limited; he could shoot, run, and not much else- which became glaringly obvious as Beauregard quickly got the upper hand, blocking Peter’s attacks with relative ease.

“She also told me that you’re not so good up close,” Beauregard teased, jamming his elbow at the side of Peter’s head. By some miracle, Peter ducked, and reached inside his jacket for his shotgun.

“Persistent, aren’t you? Stay away from the guns, little Finlay, you’ll hurt yourself.” Beauregard aimed a solid blow at Peter’s shoulder, nearly dislocating it. Staggering, Peter attempted another flurry of attacks, only to have Beauregard wrestle him into immobility, one arm forced behind his back. Beauregard put his other hand on Peter’s collar and pulled his head back, driving him back against the bannister so that Peter was bending backwards. Peter was completely incapacitated, unable to do anything but stare frantically at the long drop to the marble floor below.

"Yes," Beauregard murmured. "Pretty long drop, isn't it? Don't think you'll be quite so agile after you hit the bottom. Shall I send you over, then?"

Peter struggled to no avail. “Kill me and you’ll bring the entire Underworld on your head,” he gasped. “You might be a pretty skilled bomber, but you’re nothing against the Guilds.”

“Oh, I doubt it.” Beauregard chuckled. “You’re dealing with forces you wouldn’t even begin to understand.” He pressed downwards, pushing Peter even further over the bannister. “Grow up, Peter Pan.”

~

As the surprisingly lovely red-haired girl delivered a message that could only be from Peter before dashing off herself, Geoffrey Montguard snapped into focus for the first time that evening. The game’s up… That could only mean one thing. Beauregard meant to turn the place into a fireball, and the bombs had already been set.

Cursing, Geoffrey ran towards the Christmas tree. He was something of an expert when it came to explosives, but he was better at setting them, not preventing them from going off. He was a bounty hunter, not law enforcement. Protecting the populace wasn’t his concern. His concern was simply apprehending the criminals.

But he saw Peter dashing up the stairs, and with a heavy sigh, realized that the task to defuse the bomb was all his. But where…?

Well, the giant Christmas tree in the middle of the ballroom seemed like a pretty good place if Beauregard’s plot was to kill everyone inside. Jaw clenched, Geoffrey ran towards the Christmas tree and began searching through the presents like a deranged kid on Christmas day. But even if he found the bomb, he wasn’t sure if he’d know how to neutralize it. Fuck fuck fuck fuck…

~

By the time Beauregard had wrestled Peter against the bannister, the ballroom had begun to devolve into chaos. Guests flurried around the room in a state of panic, wondering what was going on and why there were so many attendees running around as if their lives depended on it. Countess Ella Santiago stood at the foot of the staircase, watching the commotion with a growing sense of dread. She had known this was going to happen, as soon as the boy, Anthony Fitzgerald, mentioned Victoria.

What kind of mess have I gotten into? she wondered desperately. What’s going on? She had no enemies she could think of, no ties to underground activities…except…Victoria.

Regardless, she had to clear the room, especially after the warning from Cassandra (who, the Countess had begun to suspect, was not really a maid at all.) She grabbed the arm of her butler as he passed by and ordered, “Lead the guests outside, to the patio. Tell them I wish them all to see the snowflakes.”

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Character Portrait: Peter Finlay Character Portrait: Adrian W. Fenris Character Portrait: Amaryllis Starling
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#, as written by Byte
Adrian W. Fenris
The Masquerade, Ballroom

Unless a problem. Well, they had one, and boy was it a major one at that. Now if William could stop insulting his partner, and start worrying about the fact that there was a certain bomb about to explode, and let us not forget killing a few dozen people in the process. Maybe then, they could finally get this mission over with.

As they both took a rather casual walk through the ballroom, The Gentleman began analysing the situation, and how to possibly deal with it. Not taking into consideration that he was ordering Adrian around while doing so. “Look, William.” The white-haired man began, holding his left hand in front of the rambling hunter, signaling for him to stop talking to him. “Explosives are your expertise, and more importantly, have little interest for me. You just go ahead and diffuse the bloody present, I will talk with our friend who planned all this.”

If only he knew how. Brooks' wasn't the only guild who had send their pawns, and most other guilds were more fond of a... pysical approach, rather than trying to talk their way to succes. During their friendly banter, all guests were panicking about what was happening, trying their best to get somewhere less... chaotic. Hopefully, that would be taken care of.

Chess left his fellow member to his own fate, making his way up the long starway. Really, why was it that all rich people had a need for such a thing. It took up the majority of the room, and had no purpose whatsoever. Well, aside from making a dramatic entrance, maybe. That, and apparently fighting should be added to the list.

Christ! Adrian had made a terrible decision. Fighting wasn't his style, and not two, but three people had decided to enjoy a brawl right where everyone would be able to see their performance. The supposed target, had Peter locked, and hanging half-way over the bannister. Second, the girl from before made an attempt to take down the man by tossing a few cheese knives vaguely in his direction.

Chess was, indeed, a bit entertained by this. Showing his appreciation for the act, he slowly clapped as if it was a show. Hoping they had halted their fight, Adrian made his appearance known. (More than it already was, anyway.) “Congratulations, truly my decision to watch up-close was a great one indeed.” The white-haired vigilante removed the black mask from his face, smirking as he stepped closer, though still quite a few inches away from the actual participants of the fray.

“Shame though, that the majority of your audience does not appreciate your performances. Look, they're all trying their best to flee the theater.” Chess gestured down at the ballroom floor. Every guest was making their way to the patio, maybe not in a fashionable manner, but still. Couldn't blame them, humans are terrible at fleeing a scene when panicked. Adrian chuckled, sliding his hands in either pockets of his leggings, before stepping a bit to the side, and waiting for them to carry on with their violent ways.