The Dark At The End Of The Tunnel
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0.
This is the story of Messrs. Marshall, Carter, and Ms. Dark.

Listen:

I.
She was born the Lady Abigail Agnes Allie Dark in the Year of Our Lord 1835, her parents suffering from the common delusion that they were much cleverer than they actually were.

She grew up in moderate privilege, somewhere in the English countryside (probably around Essex, though this has never been confirmed by reliable sources.)

She was duly loved by her parents.

She had, in fact, an acceptable childhood.

II.
She first met Marshall and Carter at (where else?) a party. A quite posh one, to boot. It must have been quite a sight to see: them, the two dashing toasts of high society, having become fast friends following Marshall's immigration from Australia, and her, the slightly dumpy and definitely ill-tempered outcast.

Apparently, they walked up to her—in tandem—and accosted her with some insulting statement (the specifics, regrettably, lost to history), hoping to get some rise out of her.

She destroyed them. Utterly. Because if there was one thing everyone who met her agreed on, after the fact, it was that she possessed a wit sharp enough to cut steel.

Marshall and Carter left that party with bruised egos and fascinated minds.

III.
Strange would be a good way to describe Ms. Dark, in fact. An unsociable person in a time in which the average Victorian feared scandal more than death resulted in a fair share of ostracization from her family and peers. Whether or not she minded this is unknown.

IV.
Marshall and Carter encountered her a few more times that year. Each time they walked away more and more impressed with her mental acuity and personality.

Then, one day, they came with an offer: they were establishing a new business and needed a capable administrator; would she be interested in doing it?

This offer seemed shocking, indecent even, on the face of it. Women simply didn't do those things in that time; not proper women, at least.

But it made sense. She really was quite clever, cleverer than Marshall and Carter for sure; and although they were misogynists to the core, they were not in any way stupid ones: they saw potential, and they exploited it.

Which was why, they explained to her, quite calmly, she would have nothing to do with the actual face (or facade, however you want to look at it) of the club. She would be allowed input on the operational aspects, and on its business dealings (subject to Marshall and Carter's ultimate approval, of course,) but nothing beyond that. More like an advisorial role than an actual leading one, in fact.

She accepted, for reasons that were perhaps as imperceptible to her as they are to observers today.

V.
She did quite well in her role.

She shepherded the club's investments to success, navigated the tricky waters of rivals and frenemies, and generally contributed to the club's success. She even made significant inroads into the supernatural realm that would soon become the club's stock-in-trade, all on her own.

She was duly pleased.

VI.

Her private life remains inscrutable.

Certainly, she never married, but it is unknown if she had any lovers, or loves, or friends, or even acquaintances.

All the people who would know are dead, or are unwilling to talk. Or both.

VII.

So she lived.

VIII.

And thus she died.

She was relatively young—thirty nine. It was a heart condition: it was fast, but not so fast that she didn't have time to get her affairs in order. Marshall and Carter were unusually upset—they even offered her the use of their life extenders (for they had already begun to be fascinated by the concept of eternal life, and their connections to the supernatural [cultivated by Miss Dark, of course] allowed for such a course of action to become feasible) in a move that surprised even them. She refused.

She had a private funeral. Her story ended.

IX.

Then the letters started appearing.

Through some as-yet-unknown trick, she had managed to look into the future and arrange things in advance. Days in advance. Months in advance. Years in advance. Decades and, (as would become clear,) centuries in advance.

Marshall and Carter found their plans stymied by eternal life of a different kind. The letters gave instructions—some simple, some complex. And the instructions had to be obeyed. They tried to disobey; a few times, at least. There was always another letter that arrived shortly afterwards, providing fitting punishment. Carter's house burned down after one such attempt; he stopped trying to resist after that.

No matter what they did, neither Marshall nor Carter could escape the web Dark had weaved for them. They tried many things: experiments with psychics, wizards, more anomalies than could be counted, even an aborted attempted at time travel. Nothing worked. All had been foreseen.

Fifty years went by. A dark kind of apathy began to set in; they even coined what they referred to as M&C's First Law of Predestination: that any sufficiently high level of prophecy is indistinguishable from free will.

No matter. The letters just kept coming. And coming. They're probably (almost certainly) still coming in to this day, in fact. Eternally prophesying, eternally predicting, eternally manipulating.

Dark would probably be pleased. If she wasn't dead.

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