[OOC: This takes place during the events of the Shade Hunt, after the Scorched Sailor is dismembered by his quarry. Down one arm, the Sailor begins this story bleeding and out cold. He will return to the hunt after this ordeal is done. I nicked some text and the general idea from the most recent ES, The Clay Man's Arm (which, for the most part, I thought was very good).]
The Courier is working.
Footsteps echo through the mausoleum like thunder, disturbing air that has not been disturbed for years. The lid to a stone casket shakes. Masonry shudders, and dust swirls around the casket’s inscription. Lady Elizabeth Gossamer, 1850-1882. Taken too soon, waiting for love. The great stone door – carved with crying cherubs and neat little piles of bones – crashes open, doing considerable damage to both door and wall. A hulking figure stands in the doorway clutching something crumpled in a gigantic hand. It stomps over to the casket, and lays its burden down next to a serene depiction of Lady Gossamer’s face.
Left once more in peace, the crumpled piece of paper settles with the dust, gently unfurling. It is a letter, faded and old. It lacks an envelope. 21st December 1881, it reads. Dearest Liza, I hope this letter finds you in good health. I have latterly realised something important…
The Courier is working.
A man in Hollow Street is perturbed to find a box full of cats thrust into his arms by a large figure in a postman’s uniform that disappears into an alleyway before he can object. Later he will return home to a house infested with rats, and will find a use for his new acquisitions. For now, he is puzzled.
A society woman, taking an evening stroll down Elderwick Avenue, is startled to find what appears to be a prison shiv offered to her, hilt first, by a hand that is grey as granite and twice as big as her own. Later that evening her husband will raise a hand to her, and she will send him to the doctor’s, the small blade buried in his palm. That hand will shake for the rest of his life. For now, though, she slips the small instrument under the band of her corsage, meaning to dispose of it later.
A family on Tollway Street, huddled together to escape the cold, are delivered an eviction notice, two weeks after it was issued by their landlord and one week after said landlord turfed them out. It helps them not one bit.
The Courier is working.
He is halfway to Grabskirt Lane, rounding onto Mammoth Street, when something catches his impenetrable brain like a fishhook. The sounds of conflict echo from around Seven Devils Square. He is suddenly possessed of a familiar certainty.
“MESSAGE UNDELIVERED. DELIVERY REQUIRED.”
He creeps as best he can (which is badly) towards the sounds of battle, hearing nothing but his own internal imperative. There is something happening here, something brutal and bloody, but he does not care. He cares about the message. He finds it slumped against a wall, still and cooperative. He heaves the message onto his shoulder, where it hangs limply. The message will be delivered.
The Scorched Sailor drifts in and out of consciousness as his large frame is carried unceremoniously through the London streets. Somewhere along the line someone had fashioned a makeshift tourniquet and tied it around his stump, and he stares faintly at this as his captor – saviour? – weaves tirelessly in and out of alleyways. Once he surfaces from unconsciousness to find the world around him dark, and wonders how long he’s been out, only to realise that the huge figure is carrying him deep underground.
Tunnel walls. The damp drip of stalactites. Pain. Heavy, inexorable footsteps. A sign above an arched opening.
The heavy landing of his body onto a cold, hard surface rouses the Sailor somewhat, sending shooting pain all through his body. He does not feel quite connected to the pile of rag-clad flesh on the operating table – this was a doctor’s? – and he registers the pain much like one might register the yowling of an alley cat. Something heavy clangs down beside him.
“FIX.” A voice like a landslide. “MESSAGE DELIVERED.” Footsteps recede like thunder. A small face appears at the edge of the Sailor’s vision. Grey. A Clay Man, but thin, and… different.
“You’re not doing so well there, are you?” the Clay Scholar asks, his words the skittering of pebbles. “I wonder, am I the only “doctor” that freak knows? No matter. It’s best to do what it says, and besides... You will do nicely.” He concentrates on the heavy object that was dropped beside the Sailor. “Not yet dead. Good.” Busying himself around the table, he readies instruments with precise and rocky fingers. The Sailor is powerless to move, and does not really want to: he fears that if he is able to move his body, he will be able to feel it too, and the pain is not something he wishes to re-experience. The Scholar, a needle looking extremely small and delicate in his hand, warms up to his captive audience. “They all thought it wasn’t possible, of course. The key is recognising that interactions between the two materials, while malleable, already exist.” The needle is full of some kind of anaesthetic, and the Sailor can feel himself falling into sleep. “Clay and flesh… and, my, what have we here, wax? Hrmm. Clay, flesh, wax, they all stand in relation already. Divisions or states of being, you see…” From then on, all is darkness.
A Clay Man raps on the hull of the ship that the fearsome figure had directed him towards, pebbles and debris falling from a craggy break above the elbow of one arm. The ship is huge, and looks almost like it’s falling apart, and the Clay Man is on the verge of denouncing the messenger as a madman when a small, damp head pokes a head out from a porthole (or was it just a hole in the hull?).
The Waterlogged Mechanic calls down to the one-armed figure. “Can I help you?”
The Clay Man gazes up. “My name’s Talus. I was sent here, and told to give you a message…”
The Courier watches as the Waterlogged Mechanic’s posture changes and Talus is beckoned aboard The Reckoning Postponed. He can see the shapes of things in the leaden obfuscate of his head, and right now they are shifting. Two messages survive now that were not going to survive this morning. The Sailor will not now bleed out, mortally wounded in a fight he could never have won, unable to be saved by his friends. Talus will not now meet the sledgehammers of Jasper and Frank for running a rival smuggling operation. Instead, the Sailor will soon wake, healed, in a way, and be reunited with those he was taken from. Instead, Talus will find a use for his skills at zee, working for someone new. Two stories that would not have touched now will. The Courier cannot comprehend this, as such, but he is aware that his actions have changed something. He is fulfilling his function. No word lost. Universal deliverance approaches.
The half-light of Wolfstack’s gas-lamps illuminates his ancient postal uniform and impassive, craggy face. Huge and Clay, something is scratched into his forehead; old, illegible. He turns into the darkness of an alleyway before it’s possible for anyone to make the letters out. He proceeds into the city, slow, unstoppable. “MESSAGE DELIVERED.”
The Courier is working.
edited by Barselaar on 3/19/2017
Barselaar: The Scorched Sailor, Captain of The Reckoning Postponed.