It’s been a while, but I’m back! Here’s part one of the first official story set in my superhero universe.
The Dagger of Tiamat, Part One
It had been several years since Brendan Finn had been in London. He had studied abroad at Oxford during his junior year, thanks to New York University’s prestigious Bankoff Grant, and impressed his professors so much that he was given one of the three summer internships at the British Museum. One of the two remaining slots had gone to Guinevere Sinclair–Gwen–but that was another story.
He had asked the driver to let him off on Great Russell Street,in front of the classical facade of the British Museum. After paying the driver, Brendan turned his attention to the corner pub directly across the street. The Museum Tavern hadn’t changed much in the last five years. He and Gwen had spent many long nights at the Museum Tavern, talking and laughing over too many pints to ever count. He smiled, thinking about the night Gwen had leaned over and whispered in his ear that her flat was in walking distance.
“Keep it together, sport,” Brendan muttered to himself. Today’s reunion was different, but no less welcome.
Despite the mid-summer sun outside, the interior of the pub was dark and cool. Brendan paused just inside the door to wipe away the fog that appeared on his glasses. The lunch crowd was thinning out and it was still several hours before the after-work drinkers appeared. A few locals sat at the bar, keeping the barman, a thick-set fellow with thinning red hair and a full beard, company. Brendan scanned the room, finding who he was looking for at a table in dark corner.
James Ferguson sat alone, his tall frame hunched over an old, leather-bound book. A long finger traced the words as he read by the light of the table’s single, small candle. Brendan was amazed to see his old professor dressed in a three-piece tweed suit, despite the summer heat. His hair, which had once been a thick, salt-and-pepper mane, was now a wreath of white encircling his bald head. He looked up as Brendan approached and, even though time had left its mark on the man, his grin was still mischievous and his blue eyes still twinkled with childlike glee.
“Brendan, my boy!” the old man bellowed. He marked his place with a scrap of paper before closing the book with a thump. He stood and wrapped the younger man in an embrace that belied his age.
“Good to see you, Professor.”
“Please, Brendan, call me James.”
“I don’t think I can do that.”
Ferguson sat down and motioned to the barman. Brendan joined him, noticing the empty glass on the table. “Been here long?”
“Just a few minutes, lad.” He followed Brendan’s eyes and smiled. “It’s hot out. A man must keep himself hydrated.”
The barman appeared with a pint of lager for the professor and a pint of porter for Brendan. Brendan studied the glass of dark beer. “How did you know, Professor?”
Ferguson tapped his temple. “I may be retired, lad, but I still have all of my faculties.”
They drank in silence for a few minutes, Ferguson finally saying: “You were a good student, Brendan. One of my best. That was a good crop, all around. You and Ms. Sinclair, Mr. Patel. Even–”
Ferguson sighed. “Poor Malcolm.” He saw the look on Brendan’s face. “I know, I know. You two never really got on, and I’m not excusing what he did. But he was a brilliant young man, which, sadly, often goes hand-in-hand with madness.”
For every fond memory that Brendan had of Gwen or Professor Ferguson, there was an equal and opposite one of Malcolm Pierson. Pierson was smug, arrogant, and vain. He believed his good looks, money, and intelligence entitled him to get whatever he wanted. He could never figure out how a Scottish girl and an American with an Irish name were consistently his academic betters. Pierson barely tolerated Ravi Patel, but only because the shy, overweight son of Indian immigrants didn’t pose a direct threat to Pierson’s academic success. Brendan was always working to keep his temper in check, but there were numerous occasions where he found himself close to beating Pierson to a bloody pulp.
Brendan looked down at his hands, not even realizing that he had clenched them into white-knuckled fists. He took a deep breath and relaxed. “Is he still–”
“In hospital? No. He checked himself out two or three years ago. He claimed that the therapy had helped and he no longer heard the voices that had told him to kill himself with that Assyrian dagger.”
Brendan still had dreams about that night. He never called them nightmares, because he felt that gave them too much power. They were more like recollections: Pierson locking himself in one of the museum’s labs, the bronze blade of the dagger held to the throat of one of the lab assistants. What was his name? Stilton? Whilton? Milton. No one knows what made Pierson release his hostage and turn the blade on himself.
Ferguson finished his pint. Bringing up the past seemed to have drained some of the youth from his face. He looked every day of his seventy-six years when he said, “But that was before Hertfordshire.” When Brendan didn’t say anything, he continued: “Pierson had gone to live with his parents after leaving the hospital. There was some kind of accident two weeks ago. The house, and everyone in it, was consumed by fire.”
“That’s terrible,” Brendan said. He meant it, too. Sure, he still hated Pierson, but he never really wanted the guy to die. He certainly had no ill will towards Pierson’s family. “Wait. Why did you call me, Professor? Why am I here?”
“You’re here because I don’t think it was an accident,” Ferguson said. “You’re here because you were there that night. You’re here because the accident happened on the summer solstice and Pierson had always been obsessed with pagan religions. You’re here because I don’t think Malcolm Pierson died in the fire. But, most of all, you’re here because–”
“Because I need you.”
The woman had seemingly appeared from out of nowhere. Her mass of auburn curls was tied back, with only a few wayward strands free to frame her face. The sun had brought out a scattering of freckles under her brown eyes and across the bridge of her nose. She hadn’t changed a bit in five years.