A peculiar letter in an otherwise normal newspaper

Have you ever wondered about mirrors? How they work, what they do? I used to.
Did you ever think you were the only one who wrestled very literally with your reflection? I used to.
Do you still wonder what happens in the world where that coin landed tails instead of heads? Or perhaps on edge? I used to.

To these questions – and many, many more! – I have discovered answers, half-truths, and dispelled half-lies! I want to share this knowledge with you, all of you, to no personal gain beside knowing I have contributed advances to the great pursuit of knowledge. Should you wish to assist me in this endeavour, address your response to Professor Reflector care of The Careless Whisper (the newspaper, NOT the establishment of ill repute). Volunteers, lab assistants, fellow scholars, even students – all are welcome!

Alternatively, you may encounter me by speaking loudly about your fondness for and curiosity about mirrors and other reflecting devices while under the care of The Careless Whisper (the establishment of ill repute, NOT the newspaper).

Appropriate damages will be paid in the event of accidental blindness, dismemberment, or death by sorrow-spider.

-Professor Reflector, Doctor of Unnatural Philosophy

Dear Professor,
I write in regards to your recent newspaper posting. I fear I am in need of help and know not where else to turn. I confess, recently I have become something of a Catoptrophile. Sometime I find I simply stare into mirrorss for hours, looking to see the slightest change in my reflection. The shifting ripple of slivering light on its ssurface. The glimmer of something sparkling in a sstill puddle. Sometimes the reflection I see there is not my own. Now, I find I carry a mirror with me at all timess, just so not to be caught without it. I sleep with it under my pillow at night. Why I am so compelled, I may not… that is I mean to ssay, could not tell you. In the darknesss emerald lights flicker and gentle sibilations mummer just out of hearing. Someone, or ssomething is watching back! I keep my kitten close. I am raising susspicions. I do not know for how much longer I will able to fool my friendss that this is all ssimple vanity?

Or… or no. No, wass this all a dream? Yessss, yesssss Professssor, all sssimple harmlessssss. How sssstupid of me. Perhapsssss it wasssss all jussssst a mossst sssssilly dream.


Merry Ratmas :-)

[An editorial in The Careless Whisper, a somewhat questionable publication that never quite disagrees with the revolutionary types as strongly as it probably should]

Hello, readers, it’s Professor Reflector again. Good to see you again – directly, not as images bounced off strange worlds and gleaming surfaces.

I received a letter recently, quite possibly from you. I know, I know, you didn’t write a letter, so it couldn’t have been from you. But are you so sure about that? Perhaps you did and forgot. Perhaps you didn’t, but that other one, the one who looks like you, who won’t stop telling you they’re the &quotreal&quot you, perhaps they wrote. Regardless, light a candle, cover your mirrors for a few moments, and relax. I’ve got some advice to give, free but for the price of this paper.

Have you ever really looked at the letter &quotS&quot? It’s a lovely one, I know, all sinuous and curvy, it seems to sound itself for you by shape alone. When you think of &quotS&quot, you probably think of more than one, as in &quothiss&quot or &quotsnakes&quot. That’s fascinating, isn’t it? One letter, a common one, so tied up in the way we think and speak, and so directly connected to the old tale of forbidden knowledge, the serpent guarding the apple.

There’s another &quotS&quot word in that story, you know, one of great relevance to this discussion: seduction. That’s right. The ssserpent – see how right it looks with the repeated letter even though any academic will tell you that isn’t how it’s spelled? – seduced Eve, according to the story, convincing her to eat the fruit of knowledge, to expand her knowledge and vision. We won’t talk about the rest of the scene here; you know it, and it’s only relevant in today’s London as a trite metaphor for the city’s much more literal fall.

But to get back to those seductive serpents and their sinuously shaped letters: Are you worried now? Do you think maybe you like &quotS&quot too much? Maybe, just maybe, all those mirrors are showing you a different world, one that’s a little too… rippled? Have you found yourself wondering if maybe you could push through the mirror’s surface, or toss a rock into it to watch concentric circles flow outward? It sounds relaxing, I know! I may well do it myself later tonight, even, but let me make just one little request of you, dear reader: Don’t do it alone. That’s right. Find a friend, someone you know and trust, maybe someone who is a little worried for you but you’ve reassured them because of course there’s nothing wrong. You just want to share the experience, let them see everything is okay.

Tell them you’ll agree to get the help they think you need if they still don’t believe after tonight. And then, well, come on down to the offices of The Careless Whisper and ask for Professor Reflector. We’ll see if we can’t schedule you a special session, show you what all these mirrors can do.

Keep an eye out, dear readers!
-Professor Reflector

Dear Professor,

Your fixation on letters is admirable but, in my opinion, misguided. You seem knowledgeable - enough so, in fact, that I will do you the courtesy of assuming that you already possess some understanding of the nature of a certain other alphabet. The ideographic contours of this particular alphabet are far more worth your attention than the roman S, and if you were to divert yourself from mirror-gazing for long enough I am sure that you would find it most edifying.

Our languages are pithy by comparison to what we’ve researched of this other alphabet. Miring yourself in English or any other language of the mundane will lead you to a dead end, of this I can assure you. Moreover, perhaps it may be best to the affairs of mirrors to the intrepid oneironauts who deliberately lose themselves therein. The public needn’t be troubled with things of this nature, especially not in such a cryptically enticing (or, dare I say it, seductive) manner.

All the best,


P.S. I’m going on a trip to Polythreme very soon. When I return, I would love to receive you for tea and conversation if you were so inclined. I think we might both be able to learn from the ventures of the other.

[Another publication within The Careless Whisper, this time ostensibly a critique of narrow-mindedness.]

Hello again, gentle readers, Professor Reflector here.

There has been quite the outpouring of response to some of the articles gracing this and other papers lately, much of it emotional. I’m rather touched by the concerns expressed; truly, Londoners still remember the value of watching out for their fellow man! Let’s talk about things more frankly, shall we?

There’s a certain feeling among some parties that, well, this research of mine is a danger. To me, to you, to London as a whole. I’ve had one particular preacher write in suggesting that perhaps I’d been consorting far too closely with devils and their ilk. An interesting speculation, and one I’d like to use as today’s jumping-off point.

Do you know, dear readers, of the Devil? Not the friendly folk who will give you a lump of warm brass for your soul – a bargain which this paper and this author can neither encourage nor condemn for legal reasons – but the Devil with a capital D, the one the vicars go on about. You know, the horn-headed, goat-hoofed, fork-tailed Traitor of Heaven himself. Descriptions of him often involve the &quotstench of brimstone&quot or what we nowadays may call sulphur. That’s right, good old helpful sulphur, a key ingredient of most things that go &quotboom&quot and industry itself. Now we could spend days arguing about whether or not gunpowder is a tool of the Devil, and plenty have, but it seems unnecessary. It’s a tool, and that tool is only as dangerous as the person holding it.

The search for knowledge is a search for new tools. I don’t plan to open any gates to Hell – the Embassy has cornered that market anyway! – but it’s worth noting that even doubting my motivation here, it is an impossible task to undo something you do not understand. Breaking mirrors is no solution. Any sufficiently reflective surface, like those lovely gold buttons you’re wearing, you fine dandy, is a mirror. Do you want to live in a world where we literally cannot bear to look at ourselves from fear? Or would you prefer to understand what’s happening, so we can make sure it doesn’t work against us?

Think about that, darling audience, before you rush to judge. Keep your minds open to new possibilities instead of thinking doom and destruction is around every corner. Just a thought, of course, but one I hope you’ll take to heart.

As always, Correspondence welcome regarding this matter. I do enjoy a lively conversation!

Watch out for the spiders!
-Professor Reflector

[OOC note: There will be a separate letter addressed specifically to Midnighter and another for Amyntas. This was merely the published response.]

[A private letter; the handwriting is cramped and the message apparently not ciphered.]


Coincidences aside, there are no coincidences. The Correspondence is a very interesting field of study, even though it lends to bloody eyes and blackouts and temporary madness. You’re right, I’ve a bit of experience with it – more than some at the university, possibly less than others – but there’s a reason I’m not working on it. You don’t ask Sir Isaac Newton to take up painting because maths can be used to aim artillery. You let him do what he does and use the knowledge for good.

I’m not exactly Newton – he was rather misanthropic, as I understand. I may not have quite his genius, either, but I’ve got some pretty good theories here about how these mirrors function. I need to perform some tests to be sure, otherwise how can we keep them from being used against us? Honestly, do you really want to have your eyes eaten while you’re trying to shave? I sure don’t.

Warmest regards,
Professor Reflector

[A letter carefully encoded for a Confessor of Saint Joshua and left at the shrine.]

To: &quotThe Truthseeker&quot

You wrote to me of some very interesting assumptions regarding mirrors. I have taken these warnings to heart, believe it or not, and I won’t be used. I won’t let the fear of the unknown (or &quottoo known&quot I suppose, if you can read your letters) hold back progress. Progress, in this case, being twofold:

(a) a means of defense against these &quotfingerkings&quot that doesn’t involve cutting myself while shaving every morning;
(b) discovery of a new way of travel that could revolutionize the world as we know it.

If there is some secret cabal working to keep these wicked Parabolans from conquering us, I’d prefer oversight to incarceration. I appreciate the veiled warning/threat of your letter; makes me think you’ve got a good heart going on there, or at least a practical one. (Honestly, puppet-slaves to extra-worldly entities never ends well for anybody, even in the romances.) I’d like us both to benefit from our new acquaintance.

As a last note, does soullessness have any effect on this whole fingerking/puppet business? Asking for a friend.

-Professor Reflector

[quote=Saevitia][A private letter; the handwriting is cramped and the message apparently not ciphered.]


The reply is curt and written on the back of a business-card - not his own, unless his last name happens to be ‘von Lieberman’ and he suddenly decided to work in bricklaying. It was stuffed under the door at some ungodly hour.

It is funny, professor, that you should mention shaving. I haven’t grown hair about my face and chin since I started looking into the Correspondence.

If I was not direct enough, my intention was to caution you against your work. The Correspondence is a virulent and terrible thing, but neither conscious nor innately malicious so far as we are aware. What you are tampering with has designs to ruin you. Nevertheless, you have convinced me that you will not budge in the matter of your research if nothing else. This, I can respect.

When next you publish your work, I will send you another letter. It will be encoded in the usual manner - I despise ciphers.


[An unusual entry in a paper often perused by those involved with the Game]

To my confessor,

We are in agreement on several matters. There are mistakes, and then there are mistakes. I’d rather not make more of the latter. Would you care to join me for an intense discussion of theology sometime, perhaps over coffee? I can’t guarantee anymore sins, but nobody’s perfect.

-Pref. Lector

[A last-page mention in The Careless Whisper]

Kind readers,

Here’s a puzzle for you: Imagine, if you will, an automaton that can do no more and no less than it is programmed to do by its maker. Can you do that? Excellent. Now consider that this automaton – we’ll name it Gears for the sake of simplicity – consider that Gears is going about its regular business, as its instructions state.

After a while, though, Gears starts behaving a little oddly. Now, it can’t do anything it wasn’t told to do, so whoever made it must have put those instructions in there somehow, right? Some time later, Gears does something its creator doesn’t like, not at all. The builder decides Gears is out of hand, even though it has no will of its own. It wasn’t designed with a will, you see, and it hasn’t manifested one.

So what is the automaton’s maker to do? What would you do? Would it be responsible, do you think, to simply kick Gears out of the house, never changing its instruction set? What about switching Gears off?

For that matter, who do you think is to blame for the bad things Gears did? Can the automaton be responsible for its actions, or should the person who made it be the one to blame for any harm it causes?

Please send your responses to the Whisper’s front office, addressed to &quotThe Problem With Gears&quot. I’ll discuss the most interesting arguments in my next column.

May your vision be ever clear!
-Professor Reflector

The curt op-ed is written in navy ink and in a flowing, steady hand:

Most ‘esteemed’ Professor Reflector,

The Careless Whisper - despite its name - has hitherto been a periodical of intriguing, if highly unorthodox, thought; an expedition to the furthest reaches of man’s reason and intellect. What you are asking and proposing, on the other hand, is mere tripe.

Please, I entreat you - keep to whatever honey den in which you dreamt this rubbish and save your poor readers both the time and overexcited nerves it took to read this.

Most sincerely,

Saevitia read the latest note with some amusement in The Careless Whisper’s editor’s office. &quotIt’s Yvraine,&quot she said to her two companions, &quotand she’s accused us of writing ‘mere tripe’ with this Professor Reflector business.&quot Her giggle turned into a cackle.

The white raven scoffed vocally; the black one muttered disparaging comments about Yvraine’s parentage and virtue.

&quotOh, settle down, you two. She doesn’t know it’s m- er, us writing as the prof. I’m sure the next time I have her over she’ll gripe about ‘him’ and suggest I terminate the column entirely.&quot Vitya hummed to herself, considering the letter before her. She had so many options for dealing with her friend it almost wasn’t fair! (Almost.)

&quotOkay, here’s an idea. Muninn,&quot she addressed the dark bird directly, &quotI want you to write a letter to-&quot

The raven in question croaked rudely. &quotGive me one bloody good reason why I sodding well-&quot

&quot-totally unsupervised, dear friend.&quot His protestations silenced immediately, head cocking to one side. Good; it meant he was listening. &quotThat’s right. I’m leaving you to write her whatever threats or subtle schemes you wish, no questions asked. But – and this is important, so pay attention – but I don’t want you harming her or, you know, having her home ransacked. The most I’ll tolerate is maybe spilling some wine on a good dress or a symbolic but otherwise meaningless pile of bat corpses on her doorstep. She’s still my friend, after all.&quot

She got the distinct impression Muninn was glaring at her.

&quotThose are my terms. Are they acceptable?&quot

The raven rocked from foot to foot a few times before responding. &quotYeah. Yeah, I guess I can do something fun enough with that.&quot

Vitya beamed. &quotFantastic! I can’t wait to see her reaction.&quot

[A note, written in sharp, angled script, with a University return address on the envelope]


As a peddler of lies, half-truths, and rubbish prose yourself, perhaps you should consider some professional courtesy before writing about fields you do not understand. I’ve half a mind to ensure you become suddenly unpublishable, perhaps through some strategic documents being sent on to the constabulary.

However, I’m a courteous fellow who believes in good, old-fashioned Christian forgiveness. Of course, said forgiveness is only possible after certain requirements are met, as you should expect. Absolution requires an act of contrition; your absolution requires the delivery of a crate of wine to the address on this envelope within the week.

If you don’t think I can follow through on my threat, I suggest you consider very seriously all the places you’ve been lately and how many mirrors you’ve been around. Are you sure it was only your reflection staring back at you every time? Truly certain?

Consider it, Evraine.


Another note. This one has been written on the back of an envelope - the spidery, disjointed script is unquestionably Amyntas’. The envelope’s address has been clumsily scribbled out, but it appears to have been addressed to a house somewhere near to Ladybones Road. Off Moloch Street, if one recalls. It does not appear to have been obviously enciphered or encoded, but he did say something about the publishing of ‘work.’

I look forward to the results of this moral quandary you have presented to your readers. The staging of it reminds me somewhat of an old philosophical scenario Dr. M_____ once related to me. It had to do with dreams, and how one can discern the reality of one waking life from another. In truth, I am surprised you have not heard of it, and more so that you have not used it.

Perhaps you have already discovered the answer. Perhaps you have yet to ask.

I intend to use this question you’ve posed. I want to ask it to a Clay Man. There’s a certain fellow, Collins, whom I’ve been doing my damndest to educate on behalf of a mutual friend. I believe a question of this nature might be just the thing he needs. If the publication does not outpace his ability to form a coherent answer, I will relate it to you in hopes that it might provide a new perspective on the answers you receive. Not to seem needlessly disparaging to your previous work, but I far prefer this kind of article to that unpleasant dream-business.

Yours, as ever,

edited by Amyntas on 12/10/2015

[A half-sheet insert loosely tucked into most copies of The Careless Whisper and several other papers based nearby. Non-Whisper newsmongers seem quite perplexed at how something clearly designed for one paper ended up in so many others without anyone noticing.]

Lovely readers,

As before I have enjoyed the myriad responses to my latest publication. Some, however, have suggested my logic was faulty. You may continue to feel the premise of the question is somehow invalid because you disagree with the logic, but for the sake of argument, let us assume that the so-called assumptions I made during the description were not assumptive in nature, but descriptive. It is not that they must logically follow, but rather that they simply are, as in a proper mathematical proof. Consider them to be givens, won’t you?

In the interest of awaiting what promises to be fascinating data, I will not discuss the Gears scenario for another full week. Meaning, I suppose, it is time to talk about mirrors again. I know, dearest audience, I know – they are a dangerous subject and my research is, apparently, some small abomination against your deity of choice. And yet… I believe we as a people find ourselves crippled by our lack of understanding. Please, calm yourselves and hear me out.

What size mirrored surface is ‘safe’? Is it only items designed to be mirrors that function as mirrors, or can sufficiently polished shoes and wedding bands also have these anomalous properties? Does breaking a mirror solve a problem or does it merely create scores of smaller problems with sharp edges? We need data to answer these questions and so many more. I want to help us get that data. And that means… I require volunteers.

While I obviously cannot predict all possibilities, I can promise the presence of highly trained marksmen to ensure any ‘accidental visitors’ are appropriately dealt with, as well as certain feline and avian presences to deal with unexpected snakes or spiders. All study participants will be named in any publications that come from said research, unless they do not consent to the attribution. There will also be monetary recompense.

And for the last time, no, I am not collecting or donating souls. Yes, the Embassy made an offer of partnership, but I rejected it. If anybody tries to tell you otherwise, ask them to produce the contract because I assure you, any such smugly brandished article will be a forgery.

Don’t let them blind you with their truths!
-Professor Reflector

Leaving the newspaper offices, Saevitia wandered aimlessly for a bit before making up her mind on a destination. Might as well check in on some side projects. Maybe afterward she would swing by the docks, see to stirring up a small fight, then catch up with some of her zubmarine crew. But first…

“Right, lads, good work. Seein’ as the ‘Eadmistress is ‘ere an’ I don’t want you makin’ a mess while she watches, take five!” The grizzled rat shouted his apprentices down, sending them back inside the community centre. That done, he executed a smart about-face. “Righto, ma’am, wot can I do for you?”

Vitya squatted down to avoid towering overmuch. “Just checking in, Chief. How’re they doing? Frustrated enough to burn the place down and quit?”

The L.B. chuckled. “Not yet, ma’am, though not for lack of tryin’. I’m thinkin’ the first class’ll be graduatin’ next week. Wouldja care to be there?”

“Of course!” She nodded emphatically. “I’m really excited about it! Do you have caps and gowns and tiny diplomas and all that sort of thing?”

He looked puzzled. “I, er, no, ma’am, I don’t believe we do.”

Shaking her head, Vitya smiled. “Don’t worry. I’ll place the order, make sure they’re delivered ahead of time. How’s everything else going? How are you?”

“Not bad, not bad. To both, ma’am. The centre’s doin’ well, we get more an’ more takin’ a gander erryday to see wot we’re all about. The engineerin’ school is gettin’ more students all the time, too. Speakin’ o’ which…” He glanced about, making sure there were no stragglers listening in. “Word is the Scutterin’ Company and you have reached an agreement.”

Her eyebrows went up. News traveled fast among rats, apparently. “Of a sort, yes. They’ve detailed out a small squad – temporarily, mind you – in return for a small favour I did. Why, is that going to cause trouble here?”

The chief shook his head. “No, no, naught like that. I was thinkin’, though, maybe we should be talkin’ to the Company. Like, we could be an auxiliary. Surely they could use some engineers to help out. Sappers, demolitions, maybe even plain old armoury work.”

It wasn’t a bad idea. In fact, having a small army of highly capable rat engineers on hand during a heist could be fantastic. They could provide distractions, blow open vaults… The possibilities were endless! “I hadn’t thought of that. Sounds like a bloody good idea to me, but I don’t want you all to become conscripts. I don’t want the mercenary life to be all your youngsters can look forward to.”

“Me neither, ma’am! We’ll just… establish contact, let it be known we could maybe hire out some of our folk for certain jobs.” His mouth opened in what she presumed was some kind of satisfied grin. “A few of the lads were talkin’ about the Company already, see, so I’m thinkin’ if they know they could get a special place wot with the trainin’ they’re gettin’, maybe they’ll make sure to finish their course. Then they can always fall back on repairin’ machinery if somethin’ happens.”

Sounded good to her. “Good thinking. Let me know if you need anything to help out with that. Also, I can start working on ingredients for gunpowder and firearms if you were planning on starting a little weapons design work.” His eyes went wide and his body was literally quivering with anticipation at the thought. “I’ll take that as a yes. It may take a few weeks to get everything sorted, but we’ll make it happen.”

“Ohhhh, thank you, ma’am. You’ve no idea how excited that makes me.”

Vitya laughed. “Actually, I think I do. Anything else for now, Chief? I should be getting home, starting work on those requisitions if not.”

The head rat performed a snappy salute. “No, ma’am! Have a smashing night, and I’ll send a lad ‘round with a note when we’ve settled on a graduation date.”

Her whole walk back to the hotel, Saevitia was smiling. The Hjalmar Memorial Community Center and Engineering Academy was turning out to be one of the best investments she’d ever made.

“…So, with all of that in mind, what do you think Gears’ creator should do? What would you do, in his position?”

Collins met Amyntas with a silent, uncomprehending stare. It was a look Amyntas had gotten increasingly used to over the course of the past month. Collins occasionally made shows of progress, able to parrot back snippets of fact and rote that Amyntas had impressed upon him; however, while teaching Collins that A is A and B is B went well enough, asking him to make the choice between A and B bore no fruit. As with so many others of his kind, Collins did not take well to the notion that he could determine the course of events in his life.

It was a stroke of some fortune that he had involved himself in the affairs of the Careless Whisper and the enigmatic Professor Reflector. A logical problem of this nature, Amyntas hoped, would strike a chord within Collins’ mind. He and Gears had much in common, being made to serve until some perceived aberration crops up. He supposed that it might have been too much to expect for Collins to draw those parallels and identify with a hypothetical machine, but he knew not what else to try.

“Collins? Are you still with me?” Collins may not have been very good at self-determination, but his mind still wandered with incessant frequency. Often, he would think about his pets or his work and become lost in thought without meaning to.

“I DO NOT KNOW.” It fit well enough as an answer to either question. Collins followed his words with a sound like a distant tremor – a rumble of consideration, perhaps.

“You are aware that there’s no right answer?” Amyntas recited. The response to questions of this nature had begun to fit neatly into a script, after enough time.


“Because you’re supposed to think about it. It’s a learning exercise.”


Amyntas felt his knuckles turning white. He bit back the harsh tone that bubbled in his throat. It was all he could do not to snap at Collins and shout him into silence. He silently repeated to himself that this was important, that Collins would only learn if he was coaxed in the proper direction, that this was a very important favor to a very-


“Well MAKE ONE UP, you chert-for-brains!” Amyntas was too late to restrain his temper. He clapped his hands over his mouth and stifled his own attempts at apology. In the silence that followed, Amyntas’ eyes darted around the room for any avenue of escape. If Collins were to grow frustrated with him now, he decided, his best bet would be to dive under his writing-desk and make for the hallway where Collins would have to stoop his shoulders and shuffle along to follow.

As he was planning how he would navigate the exterior of his home once he had climbed out of the window, he realized Collins had started making that rumbling sound again. A glance at Collins’ grey-green features revealed no sign of barely-restrained fury or loamy contempt. He was calm and – dare Amyntas say it – contemplative.


“I… I beg your pardon?” Amyntas’ tone betrayed none of his bewilderment. He was excited. Exultant, even. For a gleaming moment, he wanted to embrace this great pile of rubble.


Amyntas stood, turning curtly on his heel toward the desk he had planned to use for cover mere moments ago. He sifted through the numberless scraps of paper and crumpled envelopes until his fingers finally closed around the thin, solid implement he had sought.

“Now, Collins,” Amyntas puffed, drawing out the fountain-pen, “if you’re ever going to put those writing lessons to use, it’s going to be now.”


Miracle of miracles – a letter of Amyntas’ comes through the proper post, to the proper address, complete with a return address (conspicuously the same as the address on the envelope he’d written on last time) and a handsome stamp. The paper itself has a hastily-scribbled-out Brass Embassy letterhead and lacks even a single word written by Amyntas. The body of the letter is rendered in the heavy, blocky scrawl of one who understands Roman letters and English words in a strictly intellectual capacity. The edges of the paper are smudged with what appears to be clay.





The note ends abruptly there. The word ‘US’ appears to have been written and then scribbled out before being replaced with ‘ME’ in the final sentence.
edited by Amyntas on 12/11/2015

[Front page of The Careless Whisper but below the fold; the upper portion is taken up by news of some riot/political demonstration/massacre conducted recently by certain radical factions. As expected, the paper takes a vaguely sympathetic stance to the latter without explicitly saying so.]

Dear, dear readers,

I’d like to share with you a little something. We’re going to talk about Gears again. I said I’d wait, and this is why, you see. I had been expecting this letter and wanted to be sure it was on-hand before we had ourselves a merry little discussion.

Reprinted below is a short essay from one of London’s very own Claymen, clearly an individual of logic and scholastic capability. Now, I know not everybody loves our Clay brethren, so this is being published with the name removed. I will, however, gladly acknowledge the esteemed author as ‘C’. Without further ado:




Lovely reasoning, no? The misconduct of Gears is not something to be punished – how could Gears possibly have made a mistake when there was no ability to make a choice? Most answers were along these lines, though I find it most compelling in the phrasing of C. Why that may be is an exercise left to you, my delightful audience.

You may be wondering why I even posed this question. I am going to tell you, though I imagine many of you will be distinctly uncomfortable with the implications. Remember, friends, The Whisper merely publishes some of this content due to contractual obligation. It would be inappropriate to hold their staff responsible for what are solely my own conjectures.

Gears, lovely readers, was merely a stand-in for Lucifer. Yes, that Lucifer.

What separated Man from the angels was free will. Man had the choice to believe or not, to sin or not. The angels are God’s automatons. They praise him in Milton’s Paradise Lost because they are required to do so. It is a built-in feature! And yet we shun our devilish brethren and lash out at them as unnatural creatures. We blame Lucifer for his actions incorrectly.

The creator who should be blamed instead? I think you can work that out for yourselves.

Heresy is in the eye of the beholder, delicious friends!
-Professor Reflector

Amyntas is back to his usual mode of correspondence. The next letter is found in a bundle of cloth tied by string and set conspicuously on an office windowsill. Within the bundle is a daguerrotype plate depicting a very tall and heavyset woman standing beside a short and smartly-dressed man in what looks like a garden. Their features are worryingly indistinct - moreover, an unnatural blur has stolen much of the remainder of the picture’s detail. Crumpled in with the plate is a featureless scrap of torn paper. Darkness reveals a letter penned in gant.

Dearest Professor Reflector,

Before I go any further, I would like to apologize for the inconvenience you have undoubtedly had in reading this letter. Believe it or not, I had nothing else on hand. Such is the life of one that aspires to work backstage, I suppose.

I am glad to see that you are as eminently pleased with Collins’ answer as I am. I would like to tell him what you have told your readers concerning the true nature of the question, but at the same time I fear that it may spoil the progress he has made. Do you notice how he closed his letter? He is acknowledging that he is different from Gears. He has a will of his own, and thus he is culpable for his actions unlike a malfunctioning automaton or a falling stone. Shutting off Gears was symbolic. He was discarding the old image of himself: one who obeys and does not question.

Collins’ progress is pleasing, in and of itself, but it is important to me for several reasons. I went to the trouble of writing this in such an expensive and inconvenient manner because I must thank you with all due promptness, before I become mired in intrigue again. Your question was the key to unlocking Collins’ will. With more lessons and a little time, he might yet live whatever life he chooses. Moreover, he has agreed to help me find her.

I am in your debt. Should you ever require my services or contacts, you need only say the word.

edited by Amyntas on 12/11/2015


The author and recipient of the offending note fumed in the foyer of the townhouse, face growing redder by the minute. “Of all the - the-”

Anastasia, interrupted from her grooming session atop the author’s chaise lounge, squeaked an acknowledgement. “Audacity?” she supplied.

The writer stopped abruptly, fixing the pale rat with a surprised look. “Yes. The audacity. To demand wine - it’s disgusting, Ana, especially so when invoking so-called ‘Christian forgiveness’.” She’d long since given up those beliefs, but it nevertheless rankled.

“So… what are you going to do then?” The albino creature went back to delicately grooming her paws, now that Yvraine’s initial anger was starting to subside.

“Life and half-truths…” she’d been muttering, before standing up, deeply breathing, and declaring, “The decent thing to do, which is acquiesce. We have literally thousands of bottles of the 79 in the wine cellar; honestly, Professor ‘Reflector’ is doing me a favour. Those bottles are swill.” A pause. “And there is no Professor ‘Reflector’, you know. I’d’ve seen him or her at the University, though probably in one of the more uncouth Benthic revels…”

Anastasia rolled a beady little eye. “Indeed.” Her mistress gone back to shaking her head at the whole business, so the rat stood up and began to set about the other business of making sure the anonymous mirror threatener got their cheap spirits.

Attached to the crate of wine, and in the same fine hand, only now with garnet ink:


Truly, this business is ghastly, what with your threat of blackmail. Still, I would very much like to put it behind us. Shall we meet for a friendly, intellectual discussion? I would very much like to meet someone with so much spirit and audacity.

Dante’s Grill. One week. The reservation has been made.

Most sincerely,

[A carefully composed letter on expensive stationery, the monogram &quotE.A.P.&quot embossed in gold at its head.]


Be forewarned: I am not easily swayed from my chosen path. Seducing me will not be easy. Or is that not what you had in mind?

In a week at Dante’s Grill? Rest assured you will be met.

-Prof. R.

There was a rapping at the window. Saevitia wasn’t sleeping – it was a bothersome habit, sleep, the kind of addiction one had to be careful of – but the hour was late. The sound came again, prompting her to draw the heavy drapes aside, candle in one hand, sledge in the other. Oh, not rapping – pecking. She set the candle on the table and undid the latch, allowing her white raven to slip in. He had a message tube on his ankle.

&quotGet this sodding thing, won’t you? Never should’ve let Muninn talk me into being his messenger. I’m the greatest poet in a thousand languages, and here I am carrying strips of paper like some… some pigeon!&quot He continued his rant, blurring into several of those thousand languages until she was completely unable to interpret what he said. Not that one really needed to know; profanity-riddled invective sounded the same regardless of aural encoding.

&quotHe really is a clever bastard if he can get you to be so… plebeian.&quot Vitya removed the message tube, popping it open to read the tiny note within. She had to squint and hold it close, given the size of the script. &quotI… hunh. So the ‘professor’ has a date with Yvraine now? That should be fun. Do you think I should go?&quot

The white raven gave turned a baleful eye her way, ceasing his raving. &quotThat is an intensely human problem. Figure it out yourself, landbound.&quot

Well! He’d never been so rude before. &quotOkay, Huginn, I don’t know who you’re upset with here, but it damn well shouldn’t be me. Muninn is the one who sent you on a menial errand, and you’re the one who let him, so take your superiority complex and stick it somewhere darker than the Neath.&quot

There was a long silence as they stared one another down.

&quotF___ you.&quot The raven took to the air, bolting through the open window. She closed it behind him, glowering. Ungrateful bird. Maybe the ocelot would eat him. She sighed wistfully at the thought.

Then, thinking about her guest in the bath, she burned the message and hoped the other’s splashing drowned out the details of the conversation.

The laudanum had stopped working weeks ago. He took it before bed each night as a matter of course; it no longer made things any better, but he clung to the notion that it would help keep things from getting any worse.

It was the dream about the man in the mask again, clinging to his shoulders, howling in his face for him not to go further, begging him to stay in the name of their love. The forest curved in around them, smelling faintly of copper and stale urine, and the man’s fingers dug into his flesh ever more urgently. He could still feel them as he woke, jerking aright and gasping for air.

Collins sat at the foot of his bed, his beady little eyes catching the moonish light. He showed little reaction to Amyntas waking up, save for the slightest cant of his head. How long, Amyntas wondered, had he been watched? Collins’ inkwell and pen had ostensibly sat forgotten for some hours. His head throbbed like hell, and he found himself reaching into the clinking forest of laudanum bottles on his nightstand to find one he had not drained.

Collins spoke up as he drew a bottle to his lips; &quotYOU SAID HER NAME.&quot

Though confused, Amyntas waited until he had finished the bottle and caught his breath before stuttering out a &quotWh-what?&quot


&quotI… didn’t dream about her,&quot at least, he hoped that wasn’t what that dream was about, &quotWeren’t you supposed to be working on your writing?&quot

&quotYES.&quot Perhaps it was Collins’ tectonic timbre, but Amyntas did not detect so much as a hint of guilt in his voice.

Amyntas sighed. His throat stung from the laudanum. He had to get out of the house, this much he knew, and he had swung himself out of bed and stumbled to his feet before he had anything approaching a plan.

&quotARE YOU NOT GOING BACK TO SLEEP?&quot Amyntas thought he might have heard disappointment in Collins’ tone. The thought unnerved him.

&quotNo! No, ah… no. I’m going out, and you’re going with me.&quot He lurched past his writing-desk and toward his wardrobe, feeling about for a sufficiently thick and obscuring coat.


&quotTo, ah… to…&quot Amyntas groped blindly for his silk scarf. A feminine touch, for feminine features. An idea struck him like a Neddy-stick to the back of the head. &quotTo… have a talk with a tailor friend of mine! We can’t have you stomping about naked if you’re going to be your own man, can we?&quot

&quotI… SUPPOSE NOT.&quot

&quotCertainly not. We’re going to get something respectable made for you, and once it’s made we’re going to take you out to eat.&quot


&quotI’ll explain on the way. Come along.&quot Half-dressed and reduced to groping under a pile of letters for his trousers, Amyntas nevertheless beckoned his pupil over.
edited by Amyntas on 12/13/2015