A Tour of the Neath

June 21st, 1896
I am happy to report I have retired from my chandlery franchise in Vienna. I now have more than enough money to sustain myself grandly in my twilight years, and, as luck would have it, more than enough to tour “the Neath”.

Tourists returning recommend “the dark city of jewels and mushrooms” and the other, stranger lands nearby. I cannot fathom how a place can be stranger than a city pulled underground and governed by men (or as some admit, possibly women) who never take off their cloaks and live in a massive building scrivened with flaming graffiti, but I suppose the point is to find out.

Post script- My next letters will reach you much, much later. There is no postal service at Zee, unfortunately. Though a bewildered group of tourists described a captain who shot crates of postage at an island called “Nuncio”- unrelated to the Vatican- and, once, an unruly drunk of a passenger. The passenger might have survived.

June 23st, 1896
I hired a ship to take me down the twisting aquatic labyrinth they call the Cumean Canal, the only maritime entrance to the Neath. The first hours were an absolute slog, unfortunately, but lunch was… interesting.

There were stalactites (the ones on the ceiling?) that reached to the water. The Captain joined us passengers at the buffet. He was a rather amiable sort, and answered many questions. I asked him about the unusually smooth parts of the caves. “The Londoners say they were melted-“ I interjected in confusion at what could create such heat, but he insisted. “They say it’s the Stone Pigs, part of the Bazaar, the place in the center of London that brings down cities.” I, of course, asked about the city, but was met with a shrug. “They’re nutty folks, those Neathly tars. But damn good company. Just stick to discussing the weather and the economy, or you’ll lose your mind.” Another passenger clamored for his attention, and so I focused on finishing my meal.

It was then with some alarm that I noticed the Captain was availing himself of the alcoholic portions of the buffet. His valet, upon noting my inspection, tapped the Captain’s shoulder and whispered to him, and the Captain promptly got up, and with three bottles in one hand, went to the bridge.

My fears were confirmed when the engines picked up speed, and I saw the absolutely drunk Captain at the wheel. As the ship raced through the tightest twists and turns of the Canal, I ran to the buffet and joined the Captain in insobriety, because it is better to die absolutely sloshed than sober.

The screaming of the passengers subsided when the ship slowed, and the Captain stumbled out, while the First Officer took the wheel. He flashed me a crooked grin, and said “I steer better drunk”, and stumbled to his quarters. The rest of the trip was manageable, in no small part due to my drunkness, and we finally docked at the subterranean portion of the Canal.

June 24th, 1986
I passed through Customs, with the unusual caveat of declaring “love stories and romantic literature.” I had one or two, ahem, racy novels which I embarrassingly declared to the stone faced official. They nodded and told me selling it to the Bazaar would pay well, and save me the taxes on leaving the Neath with it.

I sold these books for 30 notes of ‘Echoes’, the currency of the Echo Bazaar. The information official speculated that it was called that due to being echoes of surface currency. I forgot about that mystery when I went to exchange my currency, which was practically day- ahh, lamp-light (day is when the lamps are lit, night when they are hushed down here) robbery. A knife fight broke out, but was promptly quashed by a horde of black clothed officials. I promptly boarded a steamer that took us to London, that legendary fallen city.

June 25th, 1896
Ah, the beauty of London’s lights on black water. It is unfortunate that I couldn’t bring a camera along to show you, due to their bulk.
I wandered Wolfstack Docks searching for a tour ship. It was near Spicebridge that I found a suitable one. The Long Voyage was it’s name, and it’s crew weren’t too heavily tattooed, dressed in sharp Admiralty uniforms, and unlike many other crews, sober. I embarked, and shook hands with the Captain, while giving my very cheap fare. “Our engine runs off a special type of coral, so we really don’t need to buy fuel. And at Zee, the food pays for itself.” The Captain said with a smile. “We’ll be heading through some of the safest routes, but do not worry, we are-“ he pointed to the many cannons “-heavily armed and trained for emergencies. We can even catch crabs with these.”

He personally led me to my room. “We just entered port in the morning, so we’ll be in harbor till lamp-hush to fill up with passengers. Our tour attracts interesting but relatively sane people, thankfully. Our last cruise even had a violinist.” The Captain beamed. “Anyway, is there anything you require?”

“I don’t suppose you have a place to wash clothing?” The Captain hesitated, before answering “I can give it to the crew to wash.” He bundled and carried them himself, instead of using the chain of command.

I settled down, and began reading to pass the time.

June 26th, 1896
We sailed from London to a nearby island they call Mutton Island, despite the lack of sheep. At the pub they call the Cock & Magpie, animals which are again absent, we dined on Zee meat and rubbery lumps, the origins of which the Captain refused to share, citing trade secrets and not wishing to scare us. He bought crates of them aboard, and soon we were off.
edited by Ixc on 7/19/2018

June 28th, 1896
The days passed blissfully, though I was unable to sleep well. I believe it is due to being unused to the lightness of Zee fare, as I often awoke rather hungry at night.

The Captain ushered us to the rail today, and pointed to the luminescence in our ship’s wake. The color, he said, was of apocyan, a turquoise color of the Zee. He then pointed to the deeper, darker waters, the darkest blue color they call peligin. He then took a lantern, and put it near the glass of the deck clock, and pointed to a faint green light on it. “This is the color they call viric. It is associated with mirrors. I don’t have the other colors of the Neathbow on me, unfortunately.”

The colors of the Neath are near, but not quite, are own. Just another mystery of this deep place.

June 29th, 2018
Today, we docked at the metal fortress of islands they call the Khanate. They say it’s London’s rival, though I am neutral in such a conflict. The streets are lit with the blue light of electricity, named after the electrical experiments with amber.

We dined at a fine restaurant, with food prepared in Mongolian style. I had a charming conversation with a woman who owned a vintner business in London, while her white raven (somehow, they say the black ones are even stranger) pecked stately at liver slices. She was an archeologist in her spare time, investigating a portion of London called the Forgotten Quarter. She noted some of the styles in the Quarter matched the Khanate.

She took me to listen to one of the storytellers, and we spent our time asking him questions of the Khanate’s history. He looked past us, and then frowned at us. I turned, and that was when I noticed a woman in white and gold watching us. She strode over to us, and asked for our names. In confusion, and with cold dread slowly rising in me, I asked why.

“We just ask foreigners their names. Now, what are your names?” We told her, and she nodded and smiled, before writing something down. “I would recommend you return to your ship. After all, there are spies about.” She looked at us, and then at the storyteller, and spoke to him in Mongolian. He then followed her, shoulders slumped. As we returned to the ship, I finally realized just how many people were there in white and gold, and I was certain that they watched every foreigner move through the crowds.

We hurriedly embarked on the ship. The archeologist sat down, and I noticed she was pale as a sheet and shaking. “Oh god.” She sunk to the deck. I knelt, and gently asked her what was wrong. Several passengers put her against a wall and ensured she was supported.

“We killed him. They took him away because of us.” The Captain roughly pulled me aside. “What happened?” I explained to him. “At least we didn’t lose a passenger. That god damn police state.” He shook his head. “They think we’re all spies. Well, I’d hate to prove them wrong.” He smiled at the First Officer, who brought a sheaf of papers to the Captain, and several photos. The Captain brushed his ample black beard, and pulled out a small camera with a smile.

June 30th, 2018
I am still worried about that poor storyteller. I am resolved to not set foot in the Khanate, helped in no small part by fear that they now know my name.

The Captain approached me and the Archaeologist at dinner time, and asked us to join him. In the private dining room, a crew member waited with a violin. The Captain explained he wanted to conduct a funeral for the storyteller. The crew member played a song on the violin and sang, a mournful tune of being stolen from home. I hope the storyteller is alive, or his soul rests in peace.

The Captain later gave me a photo of the Khanate shore. I feel it was slightly insensitive, but I know it is good to know your enemy.

July 1st, 2018
The new month was marked by tragedy. A zailor had jumped overboard, the man who had played the violin that night.

July 4, 1896
The ship has been divided into three camps. The American passengers have occupied the bar and the deck and are dancing to their independence.

The Londoners, and a quite few of the crew, wait in the furthest cabins where the sounds of dancing and song are the quietest, playing cards and complaining about “colonial arrogance.”

The third, which I belong to, is more ambivalent, if slightly annoyed by the sounds of increasingly slurred singing.

July 6th, 1896
We passed a massive forest of stalactites, known as the Corsair’s Forest. The crew changed to black tight clothing, and shut every hatch, preparing for a fight. We passed with our lights off, but we made it peacefully.

July 7th, 1896
The ship has turned southward bound.

July 12th, 1896
Now, we pass almost nothing. There is little but dark water and the false stars. There was a curious thing I noted about the uniforms. I saw the name on the Indecorous Deckhand’s uniform was that of a Charles, but she was most assuredly a woman. I began to notice other irregularities. Some zailor’s uniforms were missing buttons, others had been darned and stitched. I asked the Indecorous Deckhand about her lapel. She whispered to meet her in the stockroom at 10:00 (pm, or what passed for it).

Later, I asked the Captain when he joined us at dinner where he outfitted his crew, explaining the slight deficiencies. He smiled, both embarrassed and impressed. “You have a sharp eye.”
“The chandlery business, I suppose. One has to be aware of the flaws of candles.”
“Well, I buy deficient uniforms from the Admiralty. It’s cheap, but they’re still of fine quality. Good enough for the Zee, at least.”

At 9:55, I skunk away from the deck, and to the port side lavatory. Then, as carefully as I could at my age, I tiptoed quietly into the storeroom. I must admit, I would make quite a fine thief. But my self congratulations was cut short when I turned on the lights and looked about the room. There were the normal things aboard a ship, but I noted a pile in the back.

It was made out of fine clothes, jewelry, shoes, purses and wallets with Echoes. And on top, a violin and other small treasures. I felt cold, colder than the air of the Zee. For I realized this pile was bigger than that of the crew. No crew would leave their things so disorganized in here. This was the things of the passengers. My eyes drifted to the top of the pile. The Captain mentioned a violinist that had came on board. And there, near the top, were the clothes with which I had entrusted the Captain with to launder, confirming my fears. I moved to the back of the room, and I was further horrified. Behind crates that had blocked my view there was another pile. Bloodied white uniforms. Admiralty uniforms, stained brownish red with dried blood, some almost slashed to ribbons.

I stood there for God knows how long, when I heard footsteps down the gangplank near the entrance. I looked around, and with some regret, hid in the pile of bloody uniforms. I am certain I will never forget the smell of death enveloping me and the feeling of my heart pounding in fear.

The Captain’s voice came from outside the door. “Why are you coming here?” I was uncertain if he was talking to me, but then I heard the Indecorous Deckhand speak. “Captain, please. Can-can we hold a funeral for the violinist?”
“He endangered us. Unwilling or not, you follow the captain’s decisions.” A knife was pulled from its sheath. “Am I clear?” The Deckhand quietly said yes. “What would you even need from here?”
“His violin. I know you had to throw him overboard, but he deserved a song with his own violin at least. It’ll help morale.” The Captain grunted. “Well, get it then. But who’s going to play it now?”
“We can find someone.”
She moved, climbing to the top of the pile.
“Wait. Is someone else in here?”
I held my breath. I could see the Deckhand move into view. She saw me, and with her back to the Captain, carefully put a finger to her lips. Then she stalked to the crates. “I don’t see anyone. But…” She thrust open the crates. “No, there’s no one.” She moved to the door, and shut it behind her.

I waited for a while, before I burst from the pile, and returned to the deck.

The Captain tapped his glass. “My passengers, my crew. A few days ago we lost a fine man and a fine violinist. But he would not want to be remembered with sadness, but with wine and song!” He raised his glass, as did the rest of us. He then asked for violin players. I appeared to be the only one, and so I volunteered. I barely could handle walking to the Captain and taking the violin.

I asked for a crew member to sing, and I whispered to him. We broke out into a rendition of ‘The Man O’ War’- where the singer is pressed into service. I searched the crowd, and I met the eyes of the Indecorous Deckhand, who slightly nodded to me.

I almost faltered, but certain the Captain was watching, I continued on. As I finished, I looked over the crowd, unaware of the danger of the man who had promised them a tour of the Zee.

I then sang of Fiddler’s Green, the zailor’s paradise. Two funerals already. But I was determined to remember the violinist, and in a small way, spite the Captain.

July 15th, 1896
I have decided to make duplicate letters, and hide the ones you are reading here. It is possible the Captain suspects, and I fear he may search my room. These letters may also serve as evidence if the Captain ever sees a trial by the Admiralty.

We passed more dark water. I also tire of the Rubbery Lumps the Captain provides with each meal.

July 17th, 1896
We passed… a massive mushroom they call the Uttershroom. The Captain brought onboard the things they call blemmigans, purple jellyfish creatures that walk on dry land. We zail further south.

A crew member asked me, of all people, to help the crew with the ropes and the like. I must say, I did a fine job. The Captain clapped me on the shoulder, and said “We should keep you around as a crew member. It keeps you sprightly, after all.”

July 19th, 1896
We stopped at a massive Zee shell (zhell?). It is almost the size of London. I see that the places of the Neath get stranger more eastward you go. This is the place they call the Fathomking’s Hold, but only the Captain left the ship to meet the man (or king). It was here we met the people they call the Drownies. They have pale, flaking skin, and stringy matted hair covered with salt and sand. They are people of the sea, but they are also a reminder that the Zee changes us as well. They barged aboard and performed repairs, before leaving with Zee meat. One turned to us, and said, “Join us soon. It is better than what comes.”

July 21st, 1896
I am still unused to Zee fare, as I am still hungry at night. However, as I watch the Zee as I write this, I see the ‘false stars’, the lights on the roof of the massive cave of the Neath. But on the distant horizon I saw an apocyan light, and the bare outline of a ship. Quite unusual.

July 23rd, 1896
Awoke to light. Realized it was outside my window. Pretended to sleep, despite hunger pangs. Writing quickly in case it returns.

July 26th, 1896
We inch eastward. The Captain pointed to the South, where we saw massive storm clouds, and a light like a sun behind them. The Captain said it was the Elder Continent, and that was the light of a mountain. The Mountain apparently, and that her blood stains the waters there red.
I favor mineral runoff, honestly, but zailors are a cowardly and superstitious lot.

We could not go because of the storm, the Killing Wind. It is filled with razor sharp stones, so everyone went below decks as we sailed away. It didn’t damage the ship too badly.

July 28th, 1896
There was a knocking at my door. I carefully checked the peephole, and saw it was the Deckhand. I let her in, and no, I was not of that age, nor did the Deckhand have the intention for anything racy.

“The Captain’s preparing for another ritual. We have to leave soon.”


“He’ll gather all of us on deck tomorrow. That’ll be our chance to slip away. There’s a lifeboat I hid in the back. You have to get there.”

“Okay. I need to take my notes. We can use them to warn the Admiralty.”

“Pack some things. I have some food and water, though more won’t hurt.”

“But what about the other passengers?”

Her face was stony. “We go, or we perish with them. Another person’s coming, and she’s also armed. Do you have anything?” I shook my head. “I only have my cane.”

“Take it, and be ready.”

July 29th, 1896
The Captain is calling for everyone to come to the deck.

July 29th, 1896
As I snuck to the lifeboat I heard a gunshot. There was a dying crew member, a bullet in his chest, and the Archaeologist and the Deckhand behind crates, with the lifeboat behind them. The Deckhand drew her revolver and knife, while the Archaeologist rested her smoking double barreled shotgun on the crate, and cursed.

The Deckhand ordered me to untie the lifeboat, and the Archaeologist’s shotgun roared. I dove to the lifeboat, and untied the ropes as quickly as I could. As I was untying the third rope, I heard the Archaeologist scream, and I turned to see a zailor attempting to stab her. Her raven dove, and slashed the man’s scalp, but to no effect. I took my cane and swung at his head, again and again, until the Archaeologist kicked him away, and picked up the shotgun and continued to fire at the crew.

I untied the last knot, and screamed for them to get on. They both ran, and the Deckhand pushed us off into the Zee.

I and the Deckhand rowed as quickly as we could. The Archaeologist cried that the ship was turning around, and we could see the crew gathered at the rail. We couldn’t outpace them. The Archaeologist struck a cigarette, put it in her mouth, and loaded her shotgun. “I’m taking as many as I can.”

The zailors used long metal poles to pull the lifeboat in. The Archaeologist swung her shotgun and prepared to fire, but then I saw the Captain load and fire a flare.

We were blinded, and I heard the Archaeologist scream. Someone grabbed me, and slung me on their shoulder. I swung wildly and ineffectively, but as my blindness subsided, I was dropped to the deck with the other passengers. They were clearly afraid, and looked at the crew members surrounding them. The Captain knelt before me, and gave me the violin. “Play.” He said. “Or…” He put his revolver to the Deckhand’s head. “She dies first, then them.” He put a stand with sheet music in front of me. And so I played. The crew sang with me. Soon, I saw apocyan light on the horizon, and a ship made of black coral thronging with Drownies slowly pulled up to us. The waters frothed as they dove, and swam to the waters aside of our ship. Two crew members grabbed the Archaeologist, and pushed her near the edge. Her shoulder was burned from the flare. The Captain walked to her, and asked “The water or the knife? Join them, or feed us?”
“The water.” She turned to us. “Choose the water.” Then they pushed her overboard.
They pushed the next passenger forward.
“The water or the knife?”
And again.
“The water or the knife?
And again.
“The water or the knife?”
And again.
“The water or the knife?
Dear god, another one gone.
“The water or the knife?”
“The water or the knife?
“The water or the knife?”
Screams from the water below.
Those who choose the knife were stripped of clothing and jewelry, then the Captain slit their throat, and pushed them aside. And then, I was the only passenger left. The Captain didn’t give me a choice. What he did was worse. They gave me a uniform, and gestured to the pile of bodies. “You are hungry, no? So are we all. Eat.”

They left me after they feasted. I resisted, but in the end, I ate. I looked up, and met the eyes of the Captain watching me from the bridge. He smiled.

August 8th, 1896
The Captain refused to touch the normal rations, and the crew is happy to feast on the bodies. I had no choice. I grow hungrier still at night. We see the islands close to London. The Captain has the uniforms in the hold, taken from a slain Admiralty crew, washed. He then orders the washing room to be cleaned and shut. We now wear the uniforms of the dead.

We pull into London today. The Captain leaves now, with trunks full of the former passengers things, to pawn up and down Wolfstack. We will depart in the night, the ship full of meat- passengers. In the crew quarters, the Captain smiles at the fares of the passengers and says “After all, at Zee, the food pays for itself.”

I will now stuff these letters into a bottle, and throw them overboard. Take them to the Admiralty, so that they may stop the Captain of the Long Voyage. Ask them, if we have already killed our passengers, to kill us all. I have sacrificed too many others to continue to live.

Good God, that got dark in a hurry. Well done, lxc.

I suspect this ship is very popular at the Chapel of Lights . . .