Nothing of Consequence

Some time ago.

The water was dark. That was to be expected really, for it was always dark on the Unterzee. Peaceful too, sometimes, Aylen thought to herself as the chop of the steamer stirred up the water behind them. It would be easy for her to be pushed over the edge of this railing she was leaning on, her thoughts continued, almost as easy as it would be to jump. With a flick of her head, she dispels the musing- it was not something to dwell on. Especially since she knew what was in those peaceful waters. Things decidedly less peaceful. She considered her current journey, instead. Working for passage on a merchant ship, currently transporting ivory from the Chelonate to Polythreme. It wasn’t pleasant, with the stench of the carrion-city as it was, and the very existence of Polythreme as it is, full of screaming and unfortunate existence.

But it was work. Honest work, away from so many prying eyes, away from devils and spies and the intrigues of Fallen London and the Echo Bazaar. And it was simple work, hard work. Muscles were starting to show through, Aylen noted. Working the ship and lugging bone was enough to do it, she supposed. And fending off the occasional errant Zee-creature, which was dangerous. But, as much as she might deny it, it was fun. Especially fighting Zee-creatures, that part she expected might be something to do with the Windwright stirring up trouble inside her, and in the Zee.

And on the note of trouble, she spied something on the horizon; something glowing red and orange and spreading a sinister light across the waveless Zee. Fire. Smoke too, by the gaps in the flames. The ship steamed on, and the shout went up from another crew member. There was a swift debate between a Churlish Gunner and a Rheumy-Eyed Boatswain, before the captain barked an order- it was their duty to help them, if they could. So away they went, steaming most of the way before sending a few crewmembers off towards the ship, still alight.

Aylen wasn’t the first to volunteer, but she was the third out of a crew of twenty-eight, which she thought made her at least a little bit heroic. Her hand touched at the revolver strapped to her thigh, thumbing over the hammer ever so softly, not wanting to actually cock the thing while it was still pointed at the bottom of their little boat. It was more than enough to kill most things that moved, and she didn’t want to think about what it might do to hull.

Finally, after what felt like an age of rowing, they reached the now smoldering wreck. Perhaps wreck was the wrong word, as it was still afloat, somehow, with what looked like two figures with a bucket and a rope, filling it with Zee water to throw over the fires. The Churlish Gunner let out a yell to them- she’d been the first to argue to take a look, ostensibly to see if anyone survived, and she’d been first to volunteer. Aylen harboured a suspicion she just wanted to loot.

&quotHo there! D' ya need help?&quot

The two figures stopped, the bucket still halfway along the hull, sloshing a little from the sudden pause in movement. After a few muttered words between the two, carried across the water, one of them took a few steps across the oddly curved top of the ship.
&quotMost of the work’s done, we won’t be more than a few minutes setting off, surely.&quot
The man could be seen more easily by the glim light now, as a Wistful Caulker held the iron-framed lantern to him. Though he didn’t sound like a zailor, he looked at least slightly like it, with his oil-stained jacket and goggles affixed to his forehead, short hair slicked back.
&quotYe’ sure ‘bout that? Tha’ thing’s still on fire!&quot
&quotWe were putting it out just fine.&quot
&quotWhy’s yer ship all round?&quot
&quotBecause it’s not a ship!&quot
&quot…You sure?&quot
Aylen let out a sigh, rubbing at her eyes, before talking to the Gunner.
&quotIt’s a Zubmarine. Goes under the Zee.&quot
The Gunner and the stranger both stared at her, and she furrowed her brow.
&quotWhat? I heard about 'em while I was in the Regiment. Where’re you headed?&quot
The stranger took a moment to compose himself, looking her up and down through narrowed eyes.
&quotHideaway, came from Scrimshander. Don’t suppose you heard about those in &quotthe Regiment&quot?&quot

The Caulker finally got a word in.
&quot…You’re from the Khanate, right? We both know you aren’t meant to be there. Neither are we.&quot
With a stroke of his short, neat beard, the stranger nodded. Behind him, the other figure got back to work putting out fires.
&quotTrue enough. I know how you zailors feel about the Agreement of Nothing of Consequence.
There’s a general grumbling of assent among the zailors on the little boat. And then Aylen calls out again.
&quotGot any spare room on your zub?&quot
Once again, there’s some staring at her, and she just gave a shrug of her shoulders. The stranger scratched his cheek.
&quotEver come eye-to-spine with a Fluke? Ever seen a Neither devour your crew and vanish into nothing? Do you even know what a Constant Companion is? Deep under the Zee is a lot scarier and a lot more dangerous, believe me.&quot
There’s yet more staring, before the Khaganian relented.
&quotYou’re an idiot. But we’re in need of crew.&quot
He motioned to his companion, who shifted the bucket and rope over to her, to help her up to the top of the zubmarine. And so up she clambered, before giving a wave to the bewildered crew of her former vessel, and headed out of view below the decks. The Caulker and the Gunner shared a look.
&quotCap’n won’t be likin’ that. Weren’t she on contract?&quot
&quotUh… no.&quot
&quotOh. Bugger it, then. Let’s jus’ start rowin’, it’s a ways back.&quot

And so, the young Lieutenant Aylen Saqui began her adventures below the waves. In a creaking, flaming zubmarine, brought aboard by a Khaganian.
edited by EmberAshe on 8/24/2016


The bl__dy place was getting on her nerves. She wanted to get away from Low Barnet as soon as she could, if possible. The place gave her the creeps. And besides, she was too close to London if she wanted to avoid it, and too far if she wanted to return- a little hard to get there through the thick, black water outside the windows. She curled her arms around herself, cocooning herself in her coat, and closed her eyes, listening to the storytelling in the main chapel. Wild stories, perhaps some of them had a grain of truth in. It didn’t bother her any, and as she readied for sleep, she heard clapping, then the stories were over. On the cusp of sleep now, she smiled slightly- then her eyes shot wide open. Above them, in the tower, the bell suddenly rang, over and over. With a groan, the Lieutenant finally rose up, pulling her coat onto herself, arms in the sleeves. Aylen hated this bl__dy place.

Some time ago.

Another sonar rang out through the zub. You must get used to it, Aylen thought, as she watched out of the porthole. She couldn’t see much in that stygian blackness outside, but occasionally a school of bio-luminescent eels would swim past, or, accompanied by shouting and the manning of battle stations, a light further away, bigger. She didn’t have to ask what it might be, the Mercurial Khaganian had already explained to her about the presence of other zubmarines- while you could probably hope for a peaceful trader on the surface water, down here, nobody was up to any good. Aylen considered this, every now and then. What if she was a bad person? Well, she wasn’t as bad a person as some of the zub-crews down here, like the ones who had fired upon The Restless, without a second thought, without knowing who they are. Although, she considered, she would never have been able to ask to join if they hadn’t. Or if they’d been better shots. While considering this, there came a shout from the navigation room.
&quotSomething big on the blip! Due east!&quot
Aylen pulled out her compass, took a quick look, then rushed to the porthole on the opposite side of the room, peering out. There was something big, shapeless, coming closer and closer with every passing second. She let out a gasp, eyes wide, stepping slowly back away from the thick and reinforced glass, as it drew ever nearer. Then a light shone on it, showing a thick, meaty beast of a fish. Upon closer inspection it looked like an especially large and mournful flatfish, swimming past underneath as the zub rose. A coarse hand clasped her on the shoulder, and she glanced back to see the Khaganian.
&quotDon’t tell me you’re scared of a little Beloved? They’re the most peaceful things in this place. They make good eating too, if you can stomach killing them. Make such a distressing noise…&quot
Aylen let out a grumbling noise.
&quotI wasn’t scared, and the thing nearly hit us…&quot
&quotIt didn’t though, did it? So you-&quot
He was cut off mid-sentence by another shout from the navigation room.
&quotThe blip is still due east! Getting closer!&quot
The Khaganian’s face set in a frown, eyes flitting out the porthole as he pushed past Aylen. Then he reeled back, just as she had, and called out.
&quotWest, go west!&quot
Aylen went wide eyed, trying to look past the window but was pushed away from it by that same coarse hand.
&quotThis isn’t something you want to look at, child.&quot
And then, to the rest of the crew;
&quotReady the rear cannon! We’ve got a Neither!&quot
Out the porthole, the water looked blacker. Deeper. Darker.
edited by EmberAshe on 8/24/2016

The darkness crept in. The corners of the room began to wreathe themselves in shadows. Thump. Thump. Thump. Something steady, rhythmic, knocking on the outside of the hull. Again. Thump. Thump. Thump. Where was it coming from? The ceiling, the porthole, the door. Thump. Thump. Thump. It didn’t sound like a beast. Aylen couldn’t hear anything else now. Just the tapping. Against the door, like someone on your doorstep politely wishing to enter. It would be rude, she thought, to not at least see who it was. Slender fingers wrapped around that large, circular handle. Her eyes flitted up to the black glass. She could almost see a diving helmet beyond. If she could just turn the-

Out on the floor, sprawled. Knocked off of her feet. Aylen tried to look at her assailant, but her vision was covered in a hundred thousand flashing dots. Pain in the front of her head. Pain in the back. She kicked her legs, threw her arms, flailed helplessly against an unseen assailant. And then;
&quotCalm down, d__n it! I’m trying to help!&quot
A pair of coarse hands pinned her wrists to the deck, while another grabbed her by the ankles. More flailing. More sparkling before her eyes, the darkness taking over her eyes, her mind. And then she fell back, slumped. Motionless, eyes closed. Breathing shallow. Before she passed out, she heard a faint voice nearby, shouting.
&quotWe need to surface! Get away from the damn beast!&quot
She thought to herself, not for the last time, that she should probably make less rash decisions in joining crews.