The Curious Captain

Warm amber rays dapple the coat of a reclining but agitated Tiger. An emerald-legged fly slowly buzzes down to land near an ear. The ear twitches, the Tiger snarls and shakes its head sending the fly buzzing away. Birds cross in the air, small creatures scurry in the brush, something swims in the nearby lake, but the Tiger’s eyes never leave its Enemy.

Neither the Enemy nor the Tiger are willing to make the first move. The Tiger’s ears twitch, and pin flat back against it’s skull. The Enemy shifts, sinuous, changing sides. The Tiger barely blinks, and the Enemy flicks away to their other flank. The Tiger leaps back, spinning, and snarling, then freezing.

The Enemy seems to have lost the Tiger, it twists anxiously. The Tiger sits, and takes a moment, it pants, scenting the wind and looking about. The Sun blazes down on a lake, quite large, with a multitude of streams feeding it creating a mix of forest, marsh, and meadow all about. The beach is sandy, and the Tiger knows the water is warm – his friend the Curious Captain is still disporting themselves in the water. Not far from the shore is a small causewayed island, on it stands a stately tomb.

Suddenly the Tiger tenses, as does the Enemy. They sight one another. This rivalry has existed since the dawn of . . . well, since as long as the Tiger or their Enemy can remember. The Tiger’s paw, like lightning, flashes out. The Enemy is too quick and the Tiger misses by the tiniest bit. The Tiger snarls, the Enemy tenses and readies for the Tigers next attack.

Birds burst forth and scatter as the tiger roars and attacks. Spinning madly the pair of combatants send sand spraying. Neither prevailing before exhaustion fells both, they each collapse, the Tiger panting heavily.

&quotIt’s your tail,&quot the Captain says ironically as they rise up from the waves. The Tiger snorts.

Water drips down the Captain’s chest to rejoin the lake, he steps forth onto the sand. His hair is still white, and short – barring a zailor’s forelock. Sun-burnished skin covers him just down to his rib-cage, below which the skin is snow-white, an odd white patch of skin also surrounds his eyes – like a bandit’s mask, or a shadow of a forearm. His frame is lean with whipcord muscles well suited to long-distance running or swimming, a classic balance beloved of the ancient Greeks. A scar at his shoulder remains from the battle against the Trees, there are others as well from older battles. In his eyes cosmogone flecks gleam, reflecting the Sun above.

Across the water, at the tomb, a figure rises, and stretches out long limbs. They begin to clap as the Captain first emerges from the water, &quotAren’t we just the veritable Adonis,&quot the Ophidian Gentleman comments. He briefly glances down as the Captain steps up from the waves, tongue caressing lower lip, &quotand . . . more as well I see.&quot He looks back up at the Captain’s face. &quotI have been sent to speak with you again.

The Captain snarls wordlessly, teeth baring as lips peel back. Suddenly, sword-cane in hand, he leaps toward the causeway almost twenty yards away. Distance halves, then halves again, and again, as dreams ripple out changes. The Captain lands on the island with nothing more than Salt gave him, save blade in hand. The Tiger leaps into the water, swimming towards the island.

Alarmed the Gentleman barely draws a curved sword in time to parry.

Beneath a blood-red sky, at the edge of a causeway leading from island to shore, a gentleman and a madman duel with swords. The gentlemen is finely dressed in the most current of London fashions and wields in two hands a scimitar of an ancient style – the two and a half foot long blade barely curves until the very end, the edge wickedly sharp – there is something disturbingly snaky about him. The madman is naked, in one hand a three foot long length of steel tapering to a vicious point, in the other hand he holds the cane that once concealed the blade.

In the lake a Tiger strokes powerfully towards the island.

&quotArbiter! Cease this, I’m here to speak,&quot the Gentleman slides backwards, away, parrying a thrust of the blade with a deft twist of the wrist, but receiving a rap on his thigh from the cane that once sheathed the blade. &quotI carry diplomatic immunity to the Court of Cats, you risk war.

The Curious Captain snarls, and leaps after the Ophidian Gentleman. Steel rings as attacks are deflected. &quotI’m no member of that Court, they merely commissioned me, so your death at my hands will do nothing – beyond satisfying me greatly.&quot The Captain advances, attacking, the Gentleman continues retreating for a moment, then bounds atop a great tomb.

Striking down at the Captain from above the Gentleman gains significant advantage. A two-handed blow shatters the mahogany cane into splinters, driving the Captain back from their attempt to climb up atop the tomb. &quotWell, then I guess I shall enjoy this.&quot The Ophidian Gentleman smiles an oily smile and leaps back down, advancing and attacking.

The attack succeeds in driving the Captain backwards. Cosmogone flashes from blades spinning and thrusting in the sunlight. The sounds of steel clashing with steel fill the island. Then, suddenly, two bodies crash together – blades crossed between them – both straining to force their opponent’s blade down. The first to overwhelm the other’s strength will surely gain advantage.

The Gentleman sneers at the Captain, inches separate the two, &quotI was hoping to get you to turn back, to stop the war you’ll start if you succeed. But killing you will be ever so much more delicious.&quot The Captain snarls, and strains, freeing their left hand for a brief moment.

Flashing forward with the speed of a striking snake, or cat, the Captain’s fist jabs at the Ophidian Gentleman’s face – and connects with a meaty crunch, squashing his nose and driving him backwards. The Gentleman stumbles as he backpedals, and falls to a knee, he raises his blade with one hand while the other wipes at his nose and comes down bloody. &quotDevils! You’ll pay for that,&quot the Gentleman swears. The Captain shakes his head and says the Gentleman has forgotten something. &quotForgot what?&quot questions the gentleman. The Captain answers.

&quotI brought a Tiger.

Dawon roars and over five hundred pounds of enraged tiger fly out of the concealing brush to crash into the servant of the Fingerkings, slamming both Gentleman and Tiger hard against a marble tomb. The Ophidian Gentleman explodes into a spray of vipers, most of which succeed in reaching the lake and vanish beneath it’s waters.

&quotDid you bring a Tiger?&quot the Captain quips.

&quotCould you put on some clothes?&quot the Tiger asks. &quotWe should get moving.

&quotHow, exactly, did you change into those clothes?&quot Dawon queries the Curious Captain. The Captain is now dressed in a fine white morning suit with a golden apple pin at the lapel. Scuffed boots cover their feet, and they currently hold a bowler hat that more properly belongs on their head.

&quotExactly?,&quot the Captain says, &quotwell, I’m not ‘Exactly’ certain. But it was the same way I found the rouge for my lips, or my sword-cane. There’s something about things I carry, or wear, often enough. They seem to become part of me, here.&quot The Captain stands, &quotWatch,&quot they close their eyes and concentrate, and with a shiver the suit morphs away, turning into a battle-worn red dress. &quotSee?&quot The Captain changes back to the morning suit.

The Tiger yawns, and curls up against the stone walls of the room they are resting in. &quotDid you find that mirror? Before the poison rain began?

The Captain nods, &quotIndeed. Though pushing even a single page through is getting harder and harder. I’m not sure how much further we can go from London and still have it work. Hopefully the rains let up soon, this may not be the Monsoon of Poisons, but it is B____y annoying, and it’s delaying us.&quot The Captain pauses, in thought, &quotAnd if the Ophidian Gentleman wanted to delay war then every day we’re delayed here is another day of preparation that he wins from us. I hope the rain lets up soon. If whatever we’re doing will start a war it should be better now than later – since the Snakes desire ‘later’.

On a dressing-table, near a mirror, in Fallen London, a letter:

&quotRegarding the Bishop, I have nothing to say but ‘Bravo!’ Have no fear, you know I pay my hazards in any wager. Just consider Sir Thomas’s dare if you doubt me. I shall hope yours is less onerous than his.

&quotI have been thinking – don’t say it. What if your dreams of Storm are from the past? You mention sails in your dream. No one uses sails any more – not even on the Surface, I think. All shipping is now moving on coal, certainly all London shipping here below does so. Is it possible that you are dreaming of memories?

&quotYou yourself have often been most busy on occasion. I suggest you grant S___ the same generosity others have gifted both you and I. I am sure there is nothing more to concern yourself with. You should not care for someone so dull as to have no pressing commitments after all, should you? I know I have never had interest in dullards, and your taste in men has ever been superior to mine – just consider my whole affair with the Jewel Thief who ended up in the Tomb Colonies if you require proof. Besides, he dances! How many men dance?

&quotYou mentioned the drownies? Did you get a chance to hear their song again? I should dissuade you from joining them, the Fathomking deserves nothing so good as either of us, but I have long thought your soprano would compliment their song.

&quotI should so enjoy your company here. The Misermere is beautiful beyond description. Sunlight, on green, growing, things. Water, sweet and fresh, everywhere, and no Salt . . . . water, to be seen. I have never encountered the like, it is Edenic. Perhaps, being from the Surface, these things are familiar and mundane to you, but to me they are . . . it is difficult to put into words. If the journey were not so dangerous I should someday hope to bring you here. I think you should like it.

&quotI must finish this, a poison rain is beginning to fall – doubtless the work of the Ophidian Gentleman, whom I very nearly killed yesterday – next time for sure. Dawon and I shall seek shelter in one of the tombs, hopefully an empty one, and move on towards the Mountains when the rain ceases.

&quotYour hair glows so in the sunlight, I wish you could join me, you would be magnificent here. There is no way Mr. G__, or anyone else, could resist you – you would shine so in the Sun, like a golden Goddess. The Neath does no justice to the blonde.


A swollen orange Sun spends the day’s last moments looking down from red skies on a Curious Captain and a Tiger. The Captain is is climbing out of a small rivulet leading down to the Misermere, scaling it’s banks. The two stop to rest beneath a tree with leaves in the shape of the tree, on each more tiny leaves, again shaped like the tree.
&quotI wonder how far down this symbolism goes,&quot the Captain says as he examines a fallen leaf. &quotIt is itself, in miniature, and on each of it’s miniatures yet more selves, each further reduced in size if not perfection.&quot The Captain’s eyes light up with wonder at the repetition.

The Tiger does not possess a speculative nature, rather a generally practicable one – touched with a dash of resignation at the variegated effects in their life which Fate dictates. As a result, the Tiger does not respond, nor even truly consider the remarkable leaf, but instead starts to chew on a foot, &quotOne moment, need to get this claw casing.

Near them a small round mirror reveals a cupboard, with the crack of an opened door revealing the scene within. In darkness, caresses, the flash of light off a zipper, lips meeting in passion.

&quotHopefully we’ll reach the Mountains tomorrow.&quot The Tiger yawns and curls up. &quotIt shall be nice to finally find the Pass to the Skies.&quot The Captain sits, and leans back against the Tiger’s side, they yawn as well.

A swollen orange Sun sets, day becomes night.

Beneath a fractal tree a man and a tiger sleep.

{edit: because spelling, and – of course – typing}
edited by absimiliard on 4/26/2016

The forested slopes of the hills rising up from the Misermere are hot and lushly overgrown. The Curious Captain pauses beneath a tree’s shade to remove their bowler and, with a silk handkerchief drawn from the vest pocket of their morning suit, wipe the beaded sweat away from their forehead. The Tiger at their side has no such relief, and pants in the heat. &quotWe need to find water.&quot The Captain nods in agreement.

&quotI think I heard a brook over the next hill,&quot the Captain offers. The two set off, cresting a ridge, and descending down into a jungle-filled valley. They try to follow the sounds of running water, but the jungle is treacherous. The sky is invisible through a thick canopy. The ground rises and falls unexpectedly in the hilly terrain. Even sound itself is deadened by the moss underfoot.

The forest is alive with the sounds of insect, birds, a taunting steady drip of moisture from the canopy above.

The Captain does find a particular mirror, and pushes a letter through it. The difficulty has grown, almost beyond the Captain’s best efforts. Face white with pain the Captain rises from their knees. He waves off the Tiger’s concerned swivel of ears, &quotI’ll be fine in just the briefest moments. But with the mirror this rare, this far out, I fear this might be the last letter I can send. It was almost too difficult this time.&quot The Tiger nods, not disputing the obvious.

Their search for water continues, but no stream is found in the tricky jungle-covered hills.

A thirsty man and tiger continue onwards.

Back in London, a letter, slightly crumpled:

&quotIn deeper retrospect I do not think I did more than drive off the Ophidian Gentleman, and that I fear by a trick. Blade to blade he is a deadly opponent, but I have a tiger, he did not. The next time we meet we shall each see if things have changed.

&quotA two-headed snake? How repulsive. The Bishop was right, certainly you must try again. I should agree with him on this as well, no more Snakes.

&quot’Oh… gather 'round me bully boys . . … ’ I love that tune well. It is terribly common, I can think of five zongs off-hand that begin with it, and of those the two most popular each have a plethora of verses – none in common. I don’t know of any zailor who knows all the verses to either, they vary from ship to ship, and get handed down and passed off. A verse for a mug is not an uncommon trade at the Blind Helmsman, and a verse for a wager is a very common hazard for dicing at the docks.

&quotI fear your mirror is becoming harder and harder to find as I near the Mountains, all mirrors are in fact. I find no surprise in that as I finally near an exit from the Mirror Marches. However the farther I get from London the harder the mirror’s surface becomes as well.

&quotDawon knows of your affection for him, but I shall gladly relay your thoughts of him, to him, as it shall gladden his heart.

&quotI shall write you again as soon as possible.

edited by absimiliard on 4/26/2016

A Curious Captain labors, breathing heavily as they pull theirself up a forested hill under a cosmogone Sun. Right behind them a Tiger follows, with much more ease. As they progress upwards trees give way to brush, then stone. After a long while the two stop, finally atop the ridge they have been surmounting.

Behind them the hills lead down to the Misermere. The lake shimmers, a deep blue, in it’s valley. Cosmogone sunlight flashes whenever the angle of a mirror is just right. Beyond that low hills rise up again, leading to the Mirror Marches proper.

Before them mountains cling to the sky, reaching downwards towards the hills. It is distinctly unnatural. The rocky ground beneath their feet drops away from the Captain and the Tiger, descending down to a river that twists the eye. Looking down the two can see a trio of large cats playing near a waterfall – two cavort in the water, another lazes on the banks.

Dawon growls disapprovingly, &quotWe should leave them to their own. I do not approve of bathing in the Writhing River. Some find the poisonous mists intoxicating, I find the idea offensive, and I fear the corrupting influence of the poisons.

&quotVery well,&quot the Captain consents. They’ve no desire to meet with servants of the Fingerkings. The two begin a descent to river that will lead them away from the trio of possibly corrupted cats. &quotDo you think that’s where the Viscountess went wrong? Too much intoxicating poison?
edited by absimiliard on 4/27/2016

Hey, I want to give a thumbs up. Let me give a thumbs up. Where’s my thumbs up? hits the thumbs up repeatedly WHERE?! refreshes page Oh, there it is. Very well, then.

Descending to a river from a ridge the Curious Captain and a Tiger meet three cats; one spotted, one dark, and one golden. The Captain is dressed in a fine, white, morning suit with a golden apple pin on his lapel, the Tiger and the cats wear fur.

&quotWell met,&quot says the Lion in greeting. The Jaguar counters, &quotThis is no friend of ours.&quot A Black Panther emphasizes things to the Lion, &quotThe Arbiter here is the one who ruled against her Excellency, and cost her the Misermere.

&quotI ruled for the good of the cats as a whole,&quot the Captain counters. &quotthough the Prince-Bishop is not without multitudinous flaws the Snakes influence concerns me.

The Lion counters, &quotYou misjudged her Arbiter. A taste for intoxication does not imply corruption, and being ambassador requires cooperation.

&quotThen let her relinquish the position and hold lands as all Marcher Lords do,&quot the Captain pronounces. &quotBut no matter, the case is done, and I no longer hold the Court’s commission. The ruling was made, and now Is.&quot The Tiger comments, &quotWe are not here for that anyway, just to reach the Mountains.

The Black Panther laughs, &quotThen you’ll have to taste the poison as well. There’s no crossing the River without swimming it, it is deep here, and broad.&quot The three cats pass by the Captain and the Tiger and continue up towards the ridge, and the Misermere.

The Captain and the Tiger continue down. In time they come to the banks of the Writhing River, mists roll downwards from the waterfall upstream filling the air with the intoxicating scent of flowers. &quotThis is a bad idea Dawon,&quot the Captain comments.

The Tiger doesn’t contradict the Captain, quite, &quotBut there’s no way across it otherwise.&quot The River is indeed broad, too broad to leap. &quotAt least it won’t notice us, we’re not at it’s head, or tail. Here it will be like swimming, sort of.

The Captain eyes the River with horror. It consists not of water, but of snakes flowing over each other in such multitudes that they fill the riverbed to overflowing. Close up the hissing of the Writhing River is unmistakable, and grows quite loud – like a regiment of Devils as they charge. The snakes in the River do not seem to notice the Captain or the Tiger. With a look of extreme disgust the Captain wades in, followed by the Tiger. Poison clouds their minds, intoxicating dreams obscure sight, reason flees.

Crawling forth from the Writhing River the Captain collapses on the mountainside falling away upwards. The Tiger shakes their head, trying to clear it. &quotAt last,&quot the Captain croaks, throat raw from breathing poison fumes, &quotthe Hanging Mountains – Parabola!

Out in the far reaches of Dreams there lies a place – distant, hard to reach – that no human ought reach save as fleeting fragments of a night’s slumber soon forgotten in the light of day. In that place the impossible happens, routinely. Rivers of snakes, mountains hanging from the sky meeting hills rising up from a lake, a Sun of a color not seen outside the Neath, red-orange skies – all these conspire to send a message to the mind of any person who should arrive &quotThis is no place for you, you should never have come.

In the skies of that place a murder of crows flies, no, wait, a parliament of ravens. As it draws closer even that assessment is questionable. The ravens, black-featherd to a one, have necks too long, heads too bare of feathers, something … . . snaky to them, like a cockatrice. Flocking down from the sky towards the Writhing River of snakes below the ravens scream in unison at a human on the river’s banks, a Tiger at their side, &quotNow you have come too far! Here, in our homes, you will fall!

A Curious Captain hears the screams and, looking up, blanches, &quotThe Oorts!&quot. Struggling to clear his head of the poisons twisting his senses he staggers to his feet. At his side a Tiger shakes it head, even the Tiger was not immune to the venomous mists of the river. The two could barely be less prepared for a fight – the Captain literally sways on his feet.

The ravens attack. Claws tear at a fine linen suit. Beaks tear at a Tiger. Some of the ravens cackle and taunt, &quotDelicious… Delicious! You will feed us well, and our young!&quot In moments the Captain and the Tiger are consumed in a boil of attacking snaky birds. Suddenly noticing the Captain pulling something from his pack the birds scream, and scatter. They flee from the two as fast as wing can bear them.

&quotYou thought I only brought One?,&quot the Captain grimaces in pain – his throat has been burned raw by poisonous mists. He hold in his hands a small jeweled box stamped with a yellow sun. &quotEnough,&quot the Captain croaks. His lips pull back, exposing teeth, in his sneer is revealed nothing but a Predator, ready to pounce and bite. He hisses – mouth open – like an enraged cat at the fleeing birds. Lifting the box high … . . he opens it. Again Sunlight is unleashed in Parabola, but now much deeper, closer to it’s heart.

The Tiger basks in the warmth of true Sunlight – it Is, there is nothing to fear. The Oorts fare less well, they are Is Not. One by one as the light catches up to them – each in turn – they flare into blazing viric fire and shrieking in agony their flesh evanesces and burns away to nothingness. The Writhing River does not escape unscathed either, it is the largest of the Fingerkings – a boil of snakes so great that it can not be contained – and Is Not more so than any other present. It is no match for Sunlight and ophidian bodies burn at it’s touch, both far up and down it the River vanishes into viric-colored flames. The Judgement is rendered fully on one more being, unshielded by any cover this time the Captain Is Not, and is returned to what Is, nearly in full. Only Salt’s Curse holds the Captain together at all, saving the core amalgam from destruction even as the surface burns away.

A rough humanoid figure made of snow and ice streaked with blood collapses to the ground, unconscious.

{edited: for words, bad words, naughty words, there shall be a spanking.}
edited by absimiliard on 4/28/2016

Though a cosmogone Sun blazes in an orange sky below the Hanging Mountains there is, none the less, darkness for the briefest of moments as Sunlight fights Sunlight. Below, near an empty riverbed a Tiger pushes at and paws a snowman on the ground. Much quicker this time the Curious Captain wakes. The Tiger warns, &quotWe need to go, Now.&quot A glance downstream shows the snakes beyond Sunlight’s reach cascading away, splitting into streams, then rivulets, then into individual vipers vanishing into Parabola.

&quotIn time most will reform into new Fingerkings, I’d guess,&quot the Captain offers as they pick themselves up from the ground. &quotOr maybe be re-absorbed into the River. Speaking of which, what is that noise?&quot The Captain and the Tiger listen as a soft sound rapidly becomes louder, becoming a roar as a wave of serpents explodes over the edge of the waterfall upstream and begins racing downstream towards the two beside the river bed.

&quotRun!,&quot the Tiger bellows, as it takes its own advice and sprints across the empty riverbed away from the Hanging Mountains. The Captain follows, racing up towards the edge of the ridge that leads back into the Mirror Marches. Behind the two the Writhing River bellows rage. Multiple streams arc out and begin climbing the ridge. As the Captain and the Tiger race downhill towards the lake in the distance serpents spray off trees behind them from the ophidian pressures driving them forward.

&quotQuickly, there’s only one way free,&quot the Captain says as they skids to a halt. The Tiger spins and stops. The Captain closes eyelids of snow and turns, over-their-shoulder, in a third direction. When they open them they find themselves facing the Temple, deep in the Mirror Marches. The two race into the ruined walls, and vanish.

At the border of the Hanging Mountains and the Misermere the Writhing River rages. Many Fingerkings feel it’s anger, and muster for war. The Writhing River advances, streams of serpents invading the Misermere. Soon the Thursday War shall be but old memories as a new war has now begun, or perhaps this is how it begins in the first place.

Dreams can be tricky things.

In the heart of the Mirror Marches, at the point closest to London – the point from which all things can be watched – the Temple slumbers. When it was young it was powerful, even now it is potent. Congeries of dreams fill the space around it; some happy, some sad, love, hate, all and yet all nothing. Around it float the dreams of the Mirror Marches, farther the lands of the Fingerkings.

In its slumbers the Temple shifts, begins to rise towards waking. It sees the Writhing River push into the dreams of the Misermere, coming closer. The Temple is no longer strong enough destroy the River, but it can hold it off, like a castle’s walls, for a time. As the River advances into the newest dream others float in between it and the Temple, expanding space – and thus time as well.

In dreams the cats gather. The cats come each night, perhaps day, even each catnap, and will return again and again no matter what happens to them. The Fingerkings have not prepared well for this war, the River has called them to battle too soon. They have invaded with nowhere near the forces needed for safety, and certainly not enough to hold what they momentarily can seize. Dreams of cats mass for killing. The Temple, now waking, pushes those dreams far into the depths of Parabola. Even in their nests the Snakes shall not be safe.

The price is high. For each dream the Temple pushes away, or fills in before the advancing Fingerkings, the distance between it’s borders and most of Parabola draw in. The touch of reality can only spread so far in here, more precisely to the borders of the Mirror Marches. Beyond lies only Dreams – the infinite realms of the Fingerkings.

In the darkened depths of the Temple two pairs of eyes glow in the dim light, as cat’s eyes do. One pair, gold, blinks, the other, green flecked with cosmogone, does not. &quotAt least you’re healing faster,&quot a deep voice rumbles.

&quotFair,&quot responds a throaty contralto, or perhaps a rough tenor. &quotI’m almost all returned to normal. Well, as normal as tanned skin and eyes that see in the dark can be said to be for me. There’s still a cold in me though, deep. My heart is still nothing more than ice and snow.

The deep voice growls, unwisely choosing to finally get involved in things, &quotRidiculous. You’ve made a name for yourself with your carousing. You are, notoriously, quite as bad as any alley cat. Frankly, you make even my affairs look paltry, and as I’m really quite the handsomest tiger working in the Labyrinth that says something.

The contralto laughs, bitterly, sadly. &quotYou know nothing of nothing. None of them have ever held me long. None have ever warmed my heart. Certainly there’s passion, and obsession, and fascination. But none of those are love.

The voice continues, &quotLove should be so much more. Love is supposed to be kindnesses, despite differences, both big and small. It ought mean knowing someone so well they need not speak – considering them in all things, and compromising. Love is a willingness to give yourself for them. Love means sharing the torments and pain of life, and passing through them together. It is joys, and sorrows. It’s also terribly dangerous . . . so I hear.

&quotNo. I’ve never felt that for any of them. Not even once.&quot The voice pauses, and sniffles. The eyes close briefly as a hand wipes at their corners.

&quotIt’s probably for the best – that I’ve a heart of ice and snow. I guess.

This time, far more wisely, the Tiger says nothing.

{edit: for the usual, the un-noticed, but flawed, words}
edited by absimiliard on 4/28/2016
edited by absimiliard on 4/29/2016

Departing the Temple the Curious Captain and the Tiger Dawon stop at a stream before continuing into the jungle. The Captain bends with cupped hands to wash face and hands. Their skin is tanned from the Sun, and more weathered. Lines at the corners of their eyes from laughing are barely visible, but are real. Eyes once green and gold now have cosmogone tints reflecting in their depths.

The Captain drinks from cupped hands, as the Tiger dips its head to lap at the water. &quotCool as rain,&quot the Captain comments. &quotNow, that idea I had, if we’re back at the heart of the Marches maybe I can try to get through the mirror and return now.&quot The Tiger shrugs, it is as good an idea as any.

The two find a middling-size mirror, just large enough. It is in a silvered frame, and beyond can be seen a long damasked table with people eating blancmange. &quotShould make for good dinner conversation,&quot the Captain quips as he gets on hands and knees and crawls into the mirror. He vanishes, the Tiger follows.

Both emerge from a dark, wrought-iron mirror-frame in the form of thorny vines. The Tiger swears as it draws blood emerging. &quotI thought this was supposed to take us back to London?

&quotWell, perhaps I’ve still too much madness in my head. I feel like the mirror helped clear things though, as did the chance to clean up and slake some thirst.&quot The two set off, seeking a new mirror to try. Along the way they find a particular mirror, too small to pass through, but large enough to push a folded up page torn from their book.

In Fallen London on a small table in one of the Spires of the Bazaar sits a letter, a folded sheet of torn paper.

&quotSuccess! I have escaped the Misermere and stepped foot onto the Hanging Mountains. With that I departed entirely the Mirror Marches.

&quotDawon and I have managed to escape the wrath of the Writhing River, and I think we wounded the Oorts seriously – though it shall surely recover in time. We have managed to return to the Temple, and I am attempting to take the mirrors back to London. If my hopes win out perhaps I shall see you before you read this.

&quotI am sorry to hear about your Bavaria. But I am gladdened Mr. G__ thought to bring you to hear the violin again, how thoughtful of him. I must have you tell more of these shisha pipes, I do so love the decadent, are they quite delicious? You must write again and tell me of who is playing at the Mandrake now – and what the recent gossip in Veilgarden says. I find I am missing news of London.

&quotI am glad you were not present for the confrontation with the Oorts and the River, but I think the beauty here would suit you. I think the sunshine should suit your hair most spectacularly, certainly must better than it does my white lock.

&quotBe safe and well in all things.

{edit: oh words, I hate you so}
edited by absimiliard on 4/29/2016

A Tiger climbs out of a mirror frame reflecting a church’s nave, filled with parishioners at prayer. Were it to emerge into the church this should be shocking event. As it instead emerges into the Mirror Marches it is not only common, it is unnoticed. Following the Tiger a Curious Captain crawls through as well. Looking behind themselves they comment, &quotSt. Fiacre’s. I see Deacon R______ is still holding the morning prayer service.

The two friends set out into the mirror-strewn forest around them. The Tiger changes the topic, &quotDo you think there’s still a market for another Patriotic Adventure? That first one you wrote, as much a piece of tripe as it was, sold most excellently well. Perhaps you could make another round of profits off a new one, a retelling of this.

The Captain considers the Tiger’s words. &quotYou may have a point. Tales of exploration are quite popular at this time. We even get a fine duel with swords, and a sock to Johnny Foreigner right in the nose to boot!&quot The Captain considers again there confrontation with the Ophidian Gentleman. &quotThough I could wish I knew how to kill him, it was at least a very satisfying ending.

The Tiger’s laugh fills the forest, birds scatter from cover breaking for the canopy’s safety. &quotThat was So very, very, satisfying, indeed.

The Captain’s face shifts, a frown gathering to furrow their brow. &quotBut I don’t think it should work. All the best stories, even the terrible ones that sell well, include a good romance. There’s no Foreign Princess to be won, no savage wild-woman of the forest to be tamed, not even a nobly steadfast wife waiting at home to worry.

&quotNo,&quot the Captain pronounces, &quotI fear without a good love story our sales would be terrible. Do you think it would ruin the story if I created some sort of captive to rescue, or a wild-woman to romance?

The Tiger shakes his head at the dimness of a certain species of tail-less monkey, really more hairless apes. &quotNo. I think it won’t feel true if you invent something. You based your previous work almost entirely off the things you remembered from your time as Captain Warwick’s cabin-boy. Constance says you write best only the things you know from having done them.

The Captain shrugs. &quotThen I fear I suspect it shan’t sell well at all then. It’s lacking, the love-story.

&quotIt’s always about love, isn’t it,&quot the Tiger comments. The two set off.

[OOC: Of all the opportunity cards this is the only one where I have had to really change how the story goes. There’s just no way, Z E R O chances in fact, that there will ever be a polite and congenial conversation between Absimiliard and a Snake, particularly not about the Fingerkings…]

A Curious Captain crawls forth from a silver mirror-frame showing a scene of decadence. Following soon after a Tiger clambers out of it as well, &quotThat was a bit too tight of a fit,&quot the cat notes some fur caught on the mirror’s frame. The two set off into the steaming hot jungle side by side.
Reaching up for purchase the Captain pulls himself up a small rise in the jungle’s floor. Under his grip the vine he was reaching for twists, and a snake’s head emerges from the leaves, &quotExcuse me,&quot it hisses. &quotYou!&quot Coils of scaly flesh drop from the tree above revealing the true size of the snake, it is monstrously huge and possesses two heads, one at each end.

With a roar the Tiger leaps, slamming it with massively strong paws. The Captain claws at, but his fingernails – sharpened even as they are – can not pierce the tough scales. The snake winds around the Captain’s legs, pinioning him, and then winding upwards coiling around him. Desperately the Captain manages to keep his arms free, even as his chest is engulfed within a snaky prison. The Tiger fares little better. Claws cannot pierce the snake’s hide, and though several bites prove fangs work they do not inflict vital damage.

&quotYessss,&quot the snake’s heads both hiss, one at each opponent. &quotOnce I’ve eaten you I’ll be much, Much stronger.&quot The Captain groans in pain as the coils around it tighten, and with an audible cracking noise two ribs give way. &quotMaybe I’ll be ssstrong enough to lead my own boil even.&quot The snake gloats as it begins to stretch a jaw wide enough to engulf the Tiger.

Suddenly a large spotted cat bursts from the underbrush. The Calico Countess leaps upon the snake prisoning the Tiger and setting fangs to the back of it’s neck bites down with a loud crunch. The other head screams in agony as one end of it’s spine shatters under the jaguar’s teeth, and half it’s body goes limp – releasing the Tiger. Together the two great cats make short work of the other half of the snake, soon releasing the Captain.

&quotMany thanks your Excellency,&quot the Captain says through painful breaths. &quotI must say, given the Viscountess’s feelings about me you are quite literally the second to last cat I should have expected to save my life.

The Calico Countess’s tail shrugs dismissively. &quotMy Lady’s feelings towards you remain mostly unaltered. She will not send troops here to protect you, and she still resents your decision.&quot The Countess pauses, to chew at a bit of nothingness stuck in a fore-paw. &quotHowever, she greatly appreciates that you have brought the war she has been working on to fruition. The Snakes are un-ready, we shall surely conquer new dreams this war, and the Countess hopes to gain new lands for her followers. So she sent me to you with a warning.

The Captain and Tiger both look puzzled. &quotA warning?,&quot the Captain asks.

The Calico Countess returns, &quotIndeed. Though the war as a whole goes well the Writhing River has caught your scent, even here, in the depths of the Marches. It has abandoned the other Fingerkings to our tender mercies, and now comes straight on at you. There are not enough dreams in existence to hold it back when it advances in a single terrifying river instead of spreading itself across a broad front.

The Tiger growls, low and rough, &quotThen it shall be here soon. We have no time to dawdle, you need to find a mirror you can pass through to return to London.

&quotBefore the Writhing River finds us,&quot the Captain adds.

{edited: for formatting}
edited by absimiliard on 4/29/2016

Three figures race through a darkened jungle. Though two are cats and one human, all three pairs of eyes glow similarly in the dim light. The Tiger and the Jaguar move with the expected cat-like speed. The human moves impossibly fast, compressing space in front of themselves and expanding it behind in a display of the PROPERTIES OF NUMBERS relating to distance that blurs the air, and ripples outwards. In the distance, behind them, can be discerned a hissing roar, growing louder over time. The three come to a large stream, or perhaps a shallow river, and stop.

The Calico Countess speaks, &quotIt’s gaining on us, we shan’t be able to avoid it for much longer. Can you return to London yet?

The Curious Captain tests their hand against a mirror’s surface, &quotNo, it’s still too thick. The River is going to catch us. Unless … . &quot the Captain pauses in thought.

The Tiger contributes, &quotWhat if we deceived it? If we split up it will be forced to follow only one us. The River knows that if it spreads out to too many tributaries the Temple can push it away faster than it can advance.&quot The other two consider the idea, and both nod.

&quotQuick then, strip down and tie your clothes into a bundle,&quot the Countess directs, &quotI’ll take it in mouth and flee into the jungle. You two can swim downstream and lose the River, the water should cover your scents.

The Captain shakes his head, &quotNo, enough with the nakedness. I am not returning to London a raving, NAKED, madman. I have a better idea.&quot The Tiger groans, it is well familiar with its friend’s ‘better ideas’. &quotHush up Dawon,&quot the Captain counters. He then pulls a tiny locket, from their pocket, inside is not the standard portrait, but instead a single lock of golden hair, and behind it a mirrored-backing. The Captain tucks the lock of hair away between pages in their book and holds out the locket, &quotWatch and dislike, I’m not sure I like it much myself.

The Captain angles the mirror towards themself. Wincing briefly the Captain spears one of their fingers with a claw, and pressing on the fingertip causes blood to well up. A drop of blood grows, then hangs – quivering – at their fingertip before dropping onto the mirror. The blood hangs in the surface of the mirror, half in and half out, and starts to sizzle and burn. Suddenly there are two Curious Captains, each holding a mirror, each mirror reflecting the other, each drop of blood still sizzling away merrily.

Both cats hiss. The Tiger growls. Both Captain’s back away, hands up, &quotHold on,&quot the first says, &quotI’m still mostly Is,&quot the second finishes.

&quotYou’re not,&quot the Countess counters. &quotThis stinks of Is Not, and you condemn the Viscountess for corruption. Which of you is even the real you?

Both Captains shrug, &quotI think,&quot the first starts, &quotwe both are,&quot both finish in unison. The first raises a hand, &quotI shall go with the Countess, we can’t outrun the river, but we can surely delay it.&quot The second jumps in, &quotI’ll go with Dawon. We can swim downstream and lose the River for a time, hopefully enough time.

The Tiger questions, &quotWhat happens when the blood burns away?

&quotI’m fairly sure I’ll unify near you,&quot the Captain offers. &quotWe’re far more closely linked than the Countess and I are. But it should be interesting to discover should it not?

Two pairs of figures split up in the jungle. A cat and a Captain race away upstream together. A cat and a Captain wade into the water and begin to swim downstream.

Minutes later a raging river of vipers cascades into the clearing near the stream. It heads upstream in moments.

The Tiger roars as it races through the jungle. Stealth no longer matters. The Countess bought them a night of safety, but now the Writhing River has their scent again and is in hot pursuit. &quotYou’re still too unreal, we can’t use the mirrors.

Besides the Tiger the Captain runs. His white morning suit is now torn in places, and stained green from the jungle’s touch. Mud from the stream’s edge still coats his boots and trousers. &quotThen we run!&quot Putting words to action the Captain pours on speed, then leaps. He lands and leaps again, this time further. A third bound covers over twenty feet, the Captain flails his arms madly, trying to keep his balance. Finally he hits his stride and the Curious Captain bounds across the jungle branches.

Below him the Tiger pours on speed in the only way that actually Is, instead of some trick of dreams. Lungs blowing rhythmically, the Tiger’s limbs blur as he races to keep up with the Captain. &quotB____y cheater! None of that’s real! And I’ll tire in time.

&quotSo will I Dawon,&quot the Captain calls down as he leaps to another branch. &quotBut we can’t slow, it’s still tracking us, we need to put distance between us, even in this dream.&quot The Tiger can’t disagree with that, but wishes that cats like himself were built for endurance instead of sprinting.

Behind them the question is made moot as a flood of serpents flows into a gap in the forest. Spotting the two fleeing figures the snakes rise up, roaring, and surge forward. Fortunately the ophidian pressure is low this far from it’s headwaters and the Writhing River advances no faster than it’s snakes can travel.

&quotWell that settles it.&quot The Captain drops down to the ground besides the Tiger. &quotWe can’t make it to London, but we’ll have to use the mirrors now anyway.

The Tiger pants as it runs, &quotThat one!&quot It breaks right and dives between two bushes, the Captain follows. Behind the two a river of snakes slithers over the ground like slowly rising floodwaters.

The Curious Captain and the Tiger stop before a large mahogany mirror frame leaning up against the bole of a tree. In it can be seen a clock. As it ticks the Captain’s heartbeat falters, and falls into beat with it. The Tiger startles and snarls, leaping backwards as they feel the same thing. On the clock’s face the hands are made of finger-bones. &quotNo time, no choice,&quot the Captain says as he crawls through the mirror.

Less trusting, but just as trapped by the River the Tiger follows.

In the Mirror Marches a Sun that Is Not looks down on an empty mirror frame. For a moment a vision of a smoky tent appears. A figure sits in a corner, rustling gently. They hand a lump of something golden to someone else. The vision vanishes and a Curious Captain leaps out of the mirror frame, followed by a Tiger. The Tiger bounds away, and the Captain takes to his heels in pursuit. Behind them a feeling of pressure grows in the air surrounding the mirror. Suddenly a jet of serpents sprays out from the mirror, filling the ground in front of it with a pool of vipers that rapidly form a stream racing after the Captain and the Tiger. The spray of snakes from the mirror does not let up.

The Temple wakes fully. The Writhing River is too close now, it has been drawn entirely away from it’s forces, but it cannot be fended off from its prey with dreams any more. The Temple gathers its strength.

The Captain races through the woods, searching for a mirror-frame large enough, but none can be found. The Tiger runs at his side, ready to spin and fight when – not if – they are finally caught.

The Temple acts. Time and space twist as Fate is changed.

Rounding a corner the Captain cheers. &quotThat one Dawon!&quot They point, not twenty feet away a large mirror, in it an incense filled space lit with candles – where secrets are exchanged. The Tiger puts on a burst of speed as it sees the Captain leap into the mirror and vanish – it soon follows. Seconds behind them a flood of serpents begins rising, pushing against the mirror-frame. As the frame is buried in writhing coils of flesh the pressure becomes too great and the Writhing River bursts through it.

The River erupts in a gout from a mirror. It smells the tracks of the Captain and the Tiger, leading to a new mirror. It follows.

In a distant glade, in another dream entirely the Captain runs towards a new mirror.

The Race is on!

For ten days the Writhing River and the Temple wrestle. Ten times a Sun that Is Not rises up into the sky shedding cosmogone light on the conflict below. Ten times it sets, dropping the jungle below into darkness lit only by stars. The Writhing River is implacable, not once does it give up or cease it’s struggle. But the Temple is ancient beyond words, and Fate is its currency, a coin it spends profligately to buy two figures time.

For ten days the Curious Captain and the Tiger flee. They race from mirror to mirror, leaping between dreams in attempts to escape the River. Birds of Paradise lead them down secret paths. Many cats come each day, to buy time and distance in battle, time spent in exhausted snatches of sleep. Only cherries plucked from trees sustain the Captain, the Tiger grows lean and tight with hunger. Always, as they come closer to reality, exhaustion mounts and wounds re-appear.

In the end the race comes down to mere moments. Bursting forth from a rotted wooden mirror frame the Captain pushes himself towards a vicious wrought-iron mirror-frame studded with sharp thorns. The Captain is far beyond cursing and limping and agony fills every desperate step they manage. Behind them the Tiger crawls out from the frame, he too is wounded and a forepaw cannot support his weight – but he does better than the Captain. Limping across the space towards the next mirror the pair look back to see snakes follow them out of the last mirror and begin winding their ways towards them.

&quotOne last,&quot the Captain gasps, &quotif we can make it.&quot Pulling himself to his feet the Curious Captain staggers the last of the distance to the mirror. He have no time to look in and see what lies beyond, the River is almost there. Along with the Tiger he pushes into the mirror frame.

One last time the Temple acts, pulling Fate to match it’s will.

At a table at Dante’s a Glassman waits on a companion to join them. Across from them they watch the large mirror set on the wall with concern. In it’s depths the image of the dining room flickers, viric light glows in it’s depths. Suddenly the image of London washes entirely away to reveal a man and a tiger stumbling towards the mirror. The Writhing River pursues them, so close that venom from it’s leading waves singes the man’s heels.

Mostly starved, and terribly wounded, the Curious Captain and the Tiger stagger from the mirror into the main dining room at Dante’s. He has changed from when he last departed London – his skin is now tanned and weathered, and his eyes show green with flecks of cosmogone in their depths. He collapses and falls into unconsciousness. A flask of Mrs. Gebrandt’s finest experimental tincture – from her personal collection – rolls from the Captain’s hand.

&quotQuickly,&quot the Tiger says, &quotCover the mirror, the River . . . &quot Behind it the Writhing River rages and tries to pass through the mirror. But it Is Not, and as each snake passes through the mirror it burns away into a smell of rot and green growing things.

P_______ V_____ considers the situation. Once upon a time the Captain made her promise them something, that if ever they returned possessed by the Fingerkings she would deal with them.

The time has come to see what to make of the promise now.
edited by absimiliard on 4/29/2016

First, I’d like to thank any and all of you foolish enough to read on through all of this. My apologies if in my ignorance I have mangled Lore that I have not yet encountered – I have tried to tell the story as it played out as best I can, while adding some sense of the dramatic. (and, admittedly, stealing ruthlessly from some past stories in the Marches)

Second, and last, let this be a lesson to everyone:

Try not to fail your profession check to become a Glassman, the price might be higher you anticipated.

{edit: And pray forgive the rather profligate expenditure of Fate I needed in order to return before Wednesday. I really wanted to play my current favorite game, instead of just being trapped in the Marches.}
edited by absimiliard on 4/29/2016
edited by absimiliard on 4/30/2016

It was a good tale of exploration, and I liked the dream-like feel. It was fun. ^^