Temporary link: Lady Constantine Lady Constantine #1 (February 2003) Solicitation Text : The year is 1785, and Johanna Constantine - ancestor of John Constantine - finds herself embroiled in a desperate battle to locate the world's most coveted and deadly mystical prize. An infernal Box which, if opened, could reveal the secrets of the Universe, or unleash all the savage powers of Hell...or both. After being hired by British Secret Intelligence to hunt down the box, Johanna must enlist the aid of allies both human and otherwise if she is to seize the prize from an ancient and unstoppable foe - as the very fate of the world hangs in the balance
In 1785. Captain Talbard and his crew sail their galleon through the Arctic Sea. In search of whales, or rather the lucrative blubber that can be culled from the bones of such a creature, they instead stumble across an apparently empty ship. Intrigued, the captain leads a small party of his crew aboard the ship. Finding a strange, metal box suspended from chains in the ship's half flooded cargo hold, the captain is all ready to reap the benefits of his curiosity when a horrific grey creature bursts from beneath the water and demands that the assembled sailors flee.
In London, Johanna Constantine finds her continued efforts at mastering the art of transmuting metal to gold hampered by her inability to manipulate the Parliament Of Flames (the elemental masters of all things fire). Now living in a cramped, unfurnished room with her little sister Mouse (dressed as a boy to avoid the grim fate that can befall a young girl on the streets of London), Johanna receives a rude interruption in the form of an enraged innkeeper. Less than impressed with Constantine's efforts to pay her tab with a fake gold ring, the innkeeper is all set to take his belt to Johanna when a messenger arrives with instructions to take her to Westminster.
Relocated to the rather more plush confines of Westminster, Constantine is met be two members of her majesty's secret service - Mister Tweed and Mister Bramble. Aware of Johanna's reputation for dealing with unusual matters of state in a discreet manner, the pair charges her with salvaging the metal box discovered by Captain Talbard and crew. Constantine's price for taking this job is high - a hereditary title, an estate and a life long annuity of five thousand pounds a year. The pair agrees to this price on one condition - that the box is returned unopened.
Deep in the dungeons of Blackwood Manor, Lady Blackwood tortures a creature similar to the one responsible for the attack of Talbard's crew. It quickly becomes apparent that the creatures are in fact brothers and that Lady Blackwood's torture is fuelled by her desire to learn the location of the captured beast's brother (who she believes betrayed her and stole "the box"). Blackwood reveals that she created both beings and that she can define the location of one by reading the entrails of the other. Realising the fate that awaits it, the bound creature begs for mercy.
Aware of the fact that she doesn't posses the skills required to retrieve the mysterious box for the British secret service, Johanna travels to the haunted Oldland Croft at Hither Green in search of aid. Here she speaks with an unseen being by the name of Jack - she promises to tell him the names of those responsible for his murder if he agrees to help her.
Enjoying a leisurely shave in a dockside taven, the roguish sea captain Rafe McCallister receives a surprise and somewhat disconcerting visit from Johanna when she commanders the blade being used to clean his face of stubble and holds it tight against his neck. Obviously old friends, the two engage in some small talk before Constantine convinces Rafe to allow her the use of his ship in her quest.
Aboard Rafe's ship, The Jezebel, Johanna hands Mouse a twig of elder from an enchanted wood and tells her to carry it with her at all times, promising that it will keep her safe from harm.
Some time later, with the Jezebel now far out to sea, Constantine and Rafe make use of some quiet time to get intimate together. Upon discovering a flintlock pistol under Johanna's pillow, McCallister finds his mood dampened and decides that he's in need of a piss break (who says romance is dead ?). Returning to Constantine's cabin a short while later, Rafe hears a voice within threatening Johanna. McCallister bursts into the cabin but finds Johanna alone - a quick inspection of a nearby figurehead would have shown that it bears an uncanny resemblance to a certain swamp dwelling creature.
Arriving at Spitzbergen, a remote town located in the Arctic sea and a short distance from the ship containing the box that Johanna seeks, Constantine and Mouse settle into a comfortable room in the Mariner's Inn. A handsome gent using the name Dorian Blackwood arrives at the door to Johanna's room and warns her against pursuing her search for the missing box. When Constantine refuses to be swayed, the man changes shape and is revealed as the creature responsible for the attack on Talbard's crew. The snarling creature pulls a pistol from the folds of it's coat and brings it to bear on Johanna.
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