Not altogether far now from the disciple’s encroaching approach, the martinets of the Burning Houses had begun their march, hours before the sun sank into its early winter cradle.
They moved in modest groups of three or four with steady, ample wariness through the atrous and dim mazes of the Opal Quarter.
Here in this narrow, tangled slice of the Sunlands where the Gate of Candles casts an ever-broadening shadow. The fleshly instruments of the Lords and Ladies of the Upper Houses, find the wells of most men’s and women’s Hearts, poisoned against them.
And so the martinets move with careful consideration to every hollow open portal, and nightly window-pane.
Every lamp-shadow portending horror.
Every door is a menace. A waiting jaw hungering for any passersby.
Every blind alley and corner offers the prospect of sudden, and bloody mayhem.
With edged and bated instruments of terror they make an unrelenting progress, along all points of the compass towards the Hall of Stews.
Few challenge their assiduous march.
A bolt here, a stray arrow from the deep dark there.
At one juncture, two men and one woman, all clothed in the shapeless, muted garb of Meshmin’s court, are left broken and unbreathing along a sordid water-worn lane. Their deaths are costly however to the martinets, having deprived them of a cohort, in a wind-gust swift ambush.
Four of their number are savagely thrown into the enfolding bosom of Old Night, before the trio of assassins are cornered, and cut to bloody streamers.
Little else however, presents itself to impede the procession of the martinets.
The Opal Quarter appears to be otherwise curiously unpeopled. Suspended breathless in winter’s cold watchfulness.
As seemingly a single organ, the martinets draw unceasingly upon the narrow pleasure-plazas.
Soon, before even the copper-lamp brightness, spreading like a gaudy parasol, or a pied impious flower above the inky alleyways pricks and assaults the eyes, there is the raucous swell of concupiscence, calling, cajoling, cackling.