Two weeks later, as life returns to (relative) normal, the Shadow family focus on the most important event of the month – opening the Shadow Market for one day, dusk to dusk, so that the occult underground, the denizens of the Other Realms and randos off the street can buy, sell and trade weirdness to their heart’s content.
As folks begin filtering in from the street and the portals below, Thomas roams the ramshackle aisles of the Market, still leaning on a cane as he recovers from being shot by Eamon Burnbridge. Charlotte coordinates events from what used to be the ticket booth when the Market was a train station, still melancholy from the events in the Cloisters – and with an ache in her chest, courtesy of the seven-pointed-star scar that appeared when she bound the fate magic of the Book of Dead Names into herself. Just what that means, she’s still not sure, but nothing seems quite the same now.
Gwen patrols the Market, customers staring and murmuring as she passes because they’ve seen the video of her and Grant Walker fighting Satanists two weeks ago. It went viral, but not that viral – and after she and Arthur spent a night in custody, the police told them not to talk to the press and let them go. The official story is that Walker busted up the cult, with minor assistance from Gwen as a concerned citizen – and remarkably, the cameras livestreaming everything somehow missed every supernatural occurrence and demonic manifestation. Gwen’s happy to let it all go, even though she’s sure there’s more to the story; right now, she’s keeping an eye out for Burnbridge.
And Arthur? He’s got his hands full keeping the Market going. No time for other concerns.
Over the hours of the Market’s operations, the Shadows keep things moving, sort out conflicts and work with their contacts. There’s an argument over the difference between occult spoons and sporks that nearly gets ugly; some mortals emerge from the portal to the Feylands, on the run and confused by how small mobile phones have become; a paper homunculus forms from a book and runs off into the darkness; a lamp seller gets momentarily possessed by some kind of antique spirit… the list goes on. At one point, a trio of thugs from the Trollbloods (a street gang with traces of fey/troll ancestry) get rowdy, but Gwen intimidates them into being quiet; they retire to the market’s mezzanine, where they plot to rob the place when it closes (and after they have a sleep). The Shadows work in shifts, taking naps and rests when they can, recharging with Charlotte’s slightly magical teas when necessary.
And then, of course, there are visitors.
- Ned Chan stops by early to help out here and there, marvelling at the bizarre sights and sounds, and blushing when his and Charlotte’s eyes or hands meet.
- The demon Annuberg, beaten and burned, begs Gwen for sanctuary from the Butcher Bishop, who was not pleased with how he negotiated away Thomas’ servitude. He tells Gwen that the Bishop deliberately put her in conflict with the Satanists, expecting her and Walker to succeed, and making sure the event went public online. It was all a ploy to encourage more faith and less cynicism in the public, slowing the flood of corrupt souls destabilising Hell’s soul-based economy, so that the Bishop can gain more financial power. And Annuberg warns Gwen that the Bishop is not done with the Shadows yet.
- Spindrift, the fey librarian, tells Thomas that she’s entered the service of the Argent Lord; she wants to know what happened to Herne and the Book. When told that both are gone, she says that she can feel the fate magic from the Book nearby, magic the Fey need to fight off the advances of the Butcher Bishop – and that if the Shadows won’t give them that magic, they’ll have to take it by force.
- Thomas also has an encounter with occult book dealer Coleridge, who seems more interested in spying on the Shadows then of perusing the Market’s shelves. After some mutual insults, Coleridge leaves with a flea in his ear – and a few muttered threats involving the company he now keeps.
- Councillor Edward Hampton, dressed down in a hoodie, tells Gwen that he was instrumental in keeping her and Arthur out of the furore over the Satanist raid, as further payment for rescuing his children. He also tells her that he wants to push back against the Rosicrucian infiltration of the Mayor’s office – and he has designs on the top job himself. Gwen is into it; they shake hands and make plans to work together.
- Marrow appears to Arthur to demand repayment of the debt to the Priestess of Spiders, which is… for the Shadows to take a brass-and-leather arm, clearly related to the Head they took from the chimera, and to ‘do something’ with it. The Priestess wants chaos – and whatever the Shadows do will aid that cause. Arthur accepts the gift, reluctantly – and the Arm moves within the burlap sack holding it. Just for a moment.
- Miss Victoria, the ghost that taught Charlotte witchcraft, appears just long enough to scream YOU! WILL! PAY! to her former student, then vanishes in a puff of poltergeist activity and ectoplasm. Charlotte makes more tea.
Finally, of course, Valentine makes an appearance, and Arthur walks her around the Market in its waning hours. The Rosicrucian leader downplays her interest, but Arthur can tell that she wants more from the Market than she lets on – and he tries his best to mislead her, not wanting her to guess that portals to the Other Realms open in the train tunnels below.
As dusk approaches, the Shadows close up the Market, knock out the Trollbloods with some drugged beer before they can try anything, lock up the gates and count their money. It’s been a long day, and the end of a very trying month – but they’ve made a tidy profit, and the family business will continue for another day.
In the aftermath of the Market, the Trollblood ringleader gets into a car with Coleridge and Eamon Burnbridge to discuss next steps. Vic Shadow wakes up hungover in a windowless cell. And after a night’s sleep, Charlotte wakes to find the train station cordoned off with official barricades, with signs saying it’s to be demolished/remodelled by the city government – and guarded by cops with Rose-and-Cross tattoos!
Life has never been more complicated for the Shadow family.
How will they cope?
Perhaps one day we’ll find out.