The Vial Laudanum Mysteries

Dearest Elin,

I am sorry it has taken me so long to write - you must have been quite frantic! Unfortunately it seems that the means I used to enter this city from the surface had its effects - particularly on my memories. I awoke in a deeply unsanitary prison cell (you would not have approved at all) and it was several days before my wits returned to me.

In that time, you will be pleased to know, I managed to find lodgings and gained possession of a map. I won’t call the lodgings ‘suitable’ - I reside at present in a room above the most dreadful bookshop, crammed with revolutionary texts and I am certain, black market manuscripts. So, in answer to the letter you sent to me just before my journey, no. You must not seek to visit with me in this place.

I am quite serious Elinyra, I would never forgive you.

And so we will move past that unpleasantness. Yes, we are separated by a matter of surface and the underside, but were we not always separated before? I do not wish to bring up any sense of guilt for you in this my love, but you are a married woman. A married noblewoman, in fact! We both knew our dalliances were fleeting, while that awful husband of yours was overseas. Now he has returned, the safest option for you is to enter back into that society and try not to kill your weedy little brother for ratting us out.

As for me - it is safest I remain here, for the time being. I will write, of course, and be sure not to use anything but this pseudonym in your replies, if you would, as I have already received notifications that ‘associates from the surface’ seek me out. They shan’t find me, I have already worked hard to develop a network amongst protective urchins, the constabulary and some… unsavoury characters, all designed to ensure I have favours to call in as necessary.

I will write again in a few days, when I have adventures to tell. I will not tell you I miss you, I will simply tell you that I breathe again down here, in the knowledge of your safety.

Yours, of course,
Vial Laudanum.


I hope you’re happy, you toad. I have given up your sister and dived head-first into this sunken land next to Hell.

I will be brief: your sister’s reputation is saved, and I will keep my end of the bargain. I shall stay away. However, I feel I ought to make a suggestion or two for your sake.

One: do not expect her to be happy to see you. You have caused her heart to be broken you know, and broken-hearted women grow the sharpest claws.

Two: leave me alone. Do not seek any more favours from me, do not use my name to grant yourself legitimacy in your gambling affairs. The days of my being your assurance are most certainly behind you! And of course, this ends with a warning: I will keep my ear to the ground for your name, Percy Day. If I discover you have dropped beneath the surface, either in search of me or anyone else, you will live only long enough to regret it sorely.

And when you are reborn, my man, I will simply destroy you again.

Now that is clear, remember me to your parents, won’t you?

With shallow affection,

Darling Elin,

I believe time might work somewhat differently here than it does on the surface, so what feels to me like weeks might be only a few days, perhaps hours, for you.

Here is what I have learned, in my short time:

My detective skills from the surface are as useful here, if not more so. However, this place is so utterly different that what marked me as special there renders me more or less helpless here. Not helpless, that is wrong - I don’t wish you to worry. I am sure my observational skills will develop over time, as will my stealth and my strength.

It is not so different to home in that way: as I had to learn to infiltrate a class that did not belong to me, here there be devils with whom I must do the same.

I have taken on a few cases recently, which pays my rent and also serves to dip me in the muddy waters of this place. I have learned there are men who wear tentacles on their faces, and folk who have died time and time again. There are rats bigger than your father’s deerhound! I have been well paid for catching a few of those.

Oh, I’ve also managed somehow to collect a minor menagerie. An urchin gave me a kitten, and he is the sweetest coal-black little thing. I named him Pasht, and for some strange reason people fall back from me when I have him in my pocket, as though they dread his very presence! He gets on well with the little bat I found in the rafters, Ptolemy, and Amber the goldfish granted to me as payment for a lesser case. She is a cheerful one, on bad nights when I dream I am damned, she eases my nightmares a little.

And then last week I found a monkey, in true hysterics, hiding in a tree! I managed to coax him down but I rather wish I hadn’t since he followed me home and seems to have made himself quite comfortable. I haven’t found a name for him yet but he comes when I bring him coffee and rotted fruit. I’d rather like to carry him with me, you know, I’d make quite an entrance but he would be no good for my stealth!

I am keeping my travels to a short distance for now; I do not wish to lose myself amongst the mire of the distant city, but I have discovered some interesting places. There’s a rather ratty carnival for example, but all I won there were nightmares. And… I keep hearing rumours of a card game, which if won would grant me my heart’s desire. I would have ignored it, ordinarily, except that I’ve heard whispers of some forgotten quarter where I might learn more. You know how I feel about a mystery!

I will close now, I’ve struck up an unlikely camaraderie with a detective long on the honey, and he has asked for my help with some small thing this afternoon.

Ever yours,

Darling E,

I have received the most troubling account from a Rubbery Man today - that a woman matching your description was seen by the docks, unconscious, being loaded onto a cart bound for Newgate.

I haven’t yet had a single reply to my letters, and I have this sensation in my stomach, dark and tight and knotted. Please write me immediately upon receipt of this, and let me know it isn’t true!

I must away for a few days. My landlord is having some troubles with the revolutionaries so I am to stay with a missionary while it all blows over. When I return, I sincerely hope to find word that you are still safely in the surface world.