The Ones You Love...

This is an interesting little scene that I co-wrote with player Valentine Fogsreach. It details an (a)typical interaction between the Six Handed Merchant and Bishop Valentine Fogsreach, who have an interesting dynamic together, to say the least.

This scene was written to be the an introductory scene for an upcoming private group RP, but it turned out well enough that I’d thought I’d share it.

(For those of you in said RP, please note that it has not yet started. But the inspiration hit us so we had to strike while the iron was hot. :-) )


The evening crowds were starting up as the Six Handed Merchant turned onto Ladybones Road. Away from the mud of the side streets, they were finally able to take off their canary-yellow trench coat and enjoy the night air.

There was an audible gasp from passersby as Six’s Reform Dress shimmered under the lamplight. Iridescent layers of satin-like puzzle-damask were interwoven with exquisite patterns of gold, silver, and even stranger threads from Parabola. The colors shifted as they walked, deep blues and purples flared into fiery yellows and greens. Six’s bloomers suit was heavily influenced by the latest designs from Siam. Their pants swished and danced like a skirt while they walked, but settled into distinct trouser legs whenever they stood still. Their top similarly billowed and flowed as they moved, before settling back down into the prim folds of a suit and jacket. Ribbons from their wide-brimmed fedora stretched feet behind them, flowing on a breeze that only they could feel. Their bejeweled cane gathered any traces of lamplight and magnified it back tenfold. Six strode down Ladybones Road with relish, defying both convention and even comprehension: a brutish neddy man walked straight into a lampost after passing them, an archdeacon attempting to chide them for their sinful ways couldn’t stammer out a single coherent sentence before Six passed by. Six’s bloomers suit was a triumph of craftsmanship, and they could think of no better place to show off their latest creation than the Labrys.

The Merchant stopped short when they spotted a glint of metal hanging in the air ahead of them. Six recognized the shiny hooks of the Fisher-Kings, and they ducked into an ivy-covered alleyway before their new hat became an urchin’s latest prize. The alley was remarkably empty for this part of London, and Six hurried along while they could.

Five dark shapes silently emerged from the tangled depths of the alley, moving with the grace and deadly focus of hungry falcons. They came from every side, smoothly cutting off all angles and making escape impossible. For a few moments, they simply stood there, lurking, as Six looked from one to the other. The alley was too dark to see their faces, or to make out anything about them beyond their practiced coordination and their silence. But then one stepped forward, and the weak, faraway light from some unreachable window brushed against rough gant-colored clothes and a single, glittering diamond pin.

There was only one gang of criminals in London where even the henchmen wore diamonds.

Oh no.

“The Bishop wants to see you,” announced the henchman who’d stepped forward. “Now.” He was wearing so much gant that his voice was swallowed almost as soon as he spoke – like a wet match that flares and dies in the dark. When he’d finished speaking, he politely held out an arm. It was not an offer to escort Six so much as a demand.

Behind him, a rat scurried around the edge of the group. One of the other four henchmen shifted restlessly as it approached, then lashed out with a foot as it passed him, crushing it. Then he brought it to his mouth in a smooth, relaxed motion. There was a wet, grinding sound as he ate it, full of finality.

The others looked on, envious.

Six’s crimson eyes narrowed as they took the offered arm. Better to get moving before the group killed any more innocent rats.

They turned off the alley into a narrower, darker one, then dodged left and right and left again through several backstreets that were darker still. At one point, they passed a devil and a young gentleman it the midst of an intense, hopeful conversation, but the two went quiet and stepped respectfully backwards as the henchmen swept by them. The Bishop had owned this part of London ever since the Rubbery Strangler was dumped into that “special” coffin.

After another turn they came to a dead end with an enormous carriage lurking at the darkest edge of it. Six saw a bulky shadow move in front of the carriage, harnessed neatly to it and shifting its weight on far too many legs.

Six didn’t know the creature, but they knew the carriage. Its silhouette was both sinister and ruthlessly functional, and its sides were lacquered to a dark, chitinous sheen. A gift from the Masters, Six had heard, as thanks for ending an especially charismatic revolutionary speaker.

The henchman walked Six carefully past the creature, which clicked and hissed at Six with keen interest, and stopped at the carriage’s heavy gant door, which swung ponderously open, seemingly on its own. It was too dark to see inside, but Six heard the rustle of thick, dark silk, and the soft, cold click of jewels.

Six stood tall and still beside the carriage, eyeing the henchmen with concern. “Does it have to be now?” Six whispered into the carriage, attempting to hide the tension in their voice.

“Children must be corrected promptly when they stray.” The voice that echoed out from the unseen depths of the carriage was equal parts condemning and weary. “Promptly, and…thoroughly.” The final word fell like a hammer on ice, causing most of the henchman to jump. Only one in the back failed to straighten up to attention. He was eating another rat.

Six took a long, calming breath before speaking, “If you want to come with us to the Labrys, all you have to do is ask.”

There was a strangled sound from inside the carriage, as though someone were choking on a mouthful of rubbery lumps. Or possibly their own rage. “H-how DARE you!” The voice was starting to lose some of its iciness. And all of its reserve. “Me? Dive into that iniquitous mass of corruption? Never! I’m not going within five miles of the Labrys, and neither are you! Destin! Forthigan! Secure this deviant.”

There was some half-hearted clanking as Destin unbundled a length of chain, but he hesitated. Six usually talked their way out of being chained up, so it was often a wasted effort to start. Forthigan was still finishing off his second rat, so he didn’t respond to the command at all.

Six crossed their arms. “It’s a salon, dear. We’re reading from Middlemarch and playing Gymnopedie No. 1. Our cello was sent over last night.”

Middlemarch isn’t the only thing going on over there, according to the rumors my spies uncovered,” the Bishop snarled. “The pretty one never even came back. I forbid you from cavorting with those…those infidels!” The henchmen tensed again. When their master called someone an infidel, that individual was rarely seen again. It often demanded a lot of hard work on their part to accomplish the desired result. Dispatching the Rubbery Strangler had taken days…

Six knew better than to take her threats seriously, at least when it came to them, “Valentine, dear, you’ve lived in London for years. You know how many enduring relationships have been forged at salons.“

“Enduring relationships?” Bishop Valentine spat the words out in disgust. “Your ‘enduring relationships’ are an abomination. A taint. They are a desecration of the natural order of things, and a blow against your faith. You’ve never even taken a single eye.” The words cut like a dagger with a rusty edge.

Six flinched at Valentine’s condemnation, but their mask of calmness didn’t slip. Beside them, Destin flinched in sympathy. “And we never will, not like you wish us to. We are in love with Caroline. That is the natural order of things. Love is sacred, we have desecrated nothing.” Six leaned over and whispered into the shadows of the carriage, ”And neither have you.”

There was a small, delicate explosion from the darkness in the carriage as Valentine dropped what was undoubtedly a very valuable wine glass. “I…” she gasped. “You…you promised never to speak of that night again! It was a moment of weakness! I…I’ve transcended it!” The imperious voice began to waver toward uncertainty, or perhaps even desperation.

The henchmen made it a point to look carefully away.

Six’s voice began to crack, “Are we only a moment of weakness to you? How many moments? How many months, Love? It doesn’t have to be this way. We can all be happy together, just let go of your hate–”

“Hate is one of the founding pillars of our faith!” Valentine’s growl was almost feral, forced through grinding teeth. “And when I conquer my weakness, I do so completely - no matter if it was one night or fifty.” The words were nearly fervent enough to hide the pain under them. Nearly.

Six looked away briefly to wipe their eyes, “We are not in Saviour’s Rocks anymore. It doesn’t have to be like this. Why do you deny us? Why do you deny yourself?”

“I deny nothing!” Valentine proclaimed. “And I carry the spirit of Savior’s Rocks with me - always. Clearly, you are lost beyond saving.” Her throat sounded very tight. “Destin! Forthigan! Get this deviant out of my sight. And make them change into something sensible!” she added, as Destin took Six by the right arm in a practiced movement, and Forthigan took them by the left. They’d been ordered to throw Six out on many occasions, though never before when they were outside already. “Those ridiculous clothes are made of puzzle-damask. The fool will set themselves on fire.”

Six sighed as they were carried off by the henchmen, “It’s not the first time she’s denied us.” They managed a weak smile, “Just give her time. She’ll get used to life in London eventually.” Six prayed to the Goddess of Chaos that they were right.

The Merchant looked wearily at one of the henchmen, “How are you, Destin? Are you ready to give up The Name and come back to the world of the living?”

Destin smiled at Six, a little sadly. “I’m afraid not, Exalted One,” he said, handing Six back their hat and coat once they were out of sight of the carriage. “I made a promise.” He shrugged. “Can’t go back on my promises now, can I? Take care of yourselves,” he added, dusting Six off a little once he and Forthigan had set them down.

“Thank you both. And please, take care of Valentine for us.”

Six turned and hurried down the alleyways back to Ladybones Road, stopping occasionally to wipe their eyes, “Why does she always have to make everything so complicated?”

Back in the alley, there was a long silence in the sinister carriage. Both the henchmen and the creature harnessed to it began to shift nervously, and to shoot each other worried glances. Finally, their master let out a long, ragged sigh. “Why do they always have to make everything so complicated?” she muttered to herself.

edited by Six Handed Merchant on 4/4/2018