They Walk Among Us

(OOC: This is an origin story that I wrote for The Six Handed Merchant, covering their very non-standard background.

Be warned, this is a VERY SPOILER HEAVY story for my character. If you want to be pleasantly(?) surprised in roleplaying sessions with Six, either in-game or in the forums, please stop reading now.

Otherwise, I would love feedback! I’d especially like to know in what ways this story violates Fallen London canon. I based this off of lots of in-game content (the Wolfstack Docks storylines, the Honey-Addled Dectective storylines, the University storyline, the Silk-Clad Merchant storyline, HOJOTOHO, lots of Sunless Sea, etc.) so I hope I am not too far off base here. And of course, enjoy!)

They Walk Among Us

The Honey-Addled Detective rests his head on his mantlepiece while staring into the fire. His eyes are far less weary than usual. One could make the mistake of imagining that the embers reflected in his eyes were the sparks of his old genius coming back to life.

“It is quite elementary, my Implacable Detective, I assure you.”

“Is it now?” replies the Implacable Detective while scanning his bookcase. “It’s good to see you back in form, old friend, even if only for a moment….So tell me then, how did you know what he really was?”

“Not ‘he’, my good detective, ‘they’. ”

“So there was more than one?”

“Technically, yes. But for all practical considerations let’s treat this case as involving a single individual. To be as accurate as possible, we will refer to this individual using the plural form of ‘they’.”

The Implacable Detective pulls a small honey jar out from behind a book, sighs to herself, and pockets it. “Whatever you say, old friend. Just…promise me this is not another theory about the upcoming honey bee revolt…again.”

“Just humor me, detective, please.” the Honey-Addled Detective rolls his head on the mantlepiece to stare at the Implacable Detective, “No matter how many honey jars you find, I can assure you that I am entirely sober and serious right now, and you should not waste it.”

“As am I.” the Implacable Detective turns her sharp gaze to meet his, “So tell me, what are ‘they’, and what gave ‘them’ away?”

“It all started with their gloves. They were completely garish, impractical, and ill-fitting. Granted, that is to be expected from a Nocturnal Bohemian, but it was how the gloves failed to fit that caught my eye: the knuckle creases in their rainbow-dyed leather were all perfectly even. Normal human knuckles don’t line up with each other.”

“Most of the time.” the Implacable Detective corrected.

“True. The gloves in and of themselves weren’t enough to raise my suspicions. But the gloves combined with their red eyes were.

“A devil?”

“I don’t think so. They lacked any trace of the sulfuric odours that typically linger about devils. That, and they weren’t nearly condescending enough. And then there was the matter of their skin.”

“You found a unique birthmark?”

“Unique, yes. They had fine scars, many of them, hidden behind their ears and in the creases of their joints.”

“Behind the ears?” the Implacable Detective frowned, “Sounds like the Face-Tailor’s work.”

“Oh, indeed it was. Quite a beautiful job too, they were very handsome. But it wasn’t just the face. Judging from the preponderance of hairlike scars between their fingers, across their shoulders, and at the crook of their arms, I would surmise that they had new skin grafted over their entire body.”

“But where would they have found that much skin?! Surely we would have heard if someone found the skinned body of a poor wretch wandering around London.”

“Ah, but that’s where they were clever. Or at least clever enough to slip by the Special Constables. They were still quite foolish by my standards, as their borrowed skin still retained the markings of its former owner.”

“Did you notice an old tattoo from their victim?”

“In a way, yes. On the back of their left arm was the faintest trace of a watermark. It was the watermark of the Brass Embassy.”

The Implacable Detective, who had progressed her search to the contents of the Honey-Addled Detective’s desk, froze. Her face grew cold from the realization, “They used expired infernal contracts!”’

“Precisely! The contracts are written on human skin, well oiled, and impeccably preserved. Gather enough expired contracts together, turn them over, and you’re bound to find enough clean, tattoo free skin to cover a body. And I’m sure the Face-Tailor could be convinced to work from a blank canvas. I bet he enjoyed the challenge.”

“So is the face tailor making whole bodies now?”

“Not likely. Granted, it would take a skilled surgeon or seamstress to join infernal contracts together with barely a visible seam, but the Face-Tailor wouldn’t have overlooked the watermark. I believe they sewed the body on their own by adapting instructions from the Liber Visionis, the stretch marks on the skin are unmistakable. Then, while either wearing a mask or wrapping themselves up like a tomb-colonist, convinced the Face-Tailor to complete the work by making a brand new face from scratch.”

The Implacable Detective pocketed another jar of honey, “That would give them a new skin, but what about their hair? Or are they walking around London looking like a plucked chicken?”

“Oh, they had hair. That was my next clue: it was relatively short, green, and luxuriously coiffed. And from the way it moved, I suspect that their hair was coming from their actual body, which had been slipped through meticulously-cut holes in their skin-suit.”

“And what does that tell us?”

“Nothing by itself, but now let’s add what we know to my final clue: Before they arrived, I lit two dozen candles throughout my apartment, and they didn’t touch a single one. They did, however, complain vociferously when a single drop of wax accidentally dripped onto their freshly-spun silk frock. Now, tell me, my Implacable Detective, what type of creature do we know of that is human-shaped, but too hideous to walk about without a mask of skin. A creature that has green hair, red eyes, no fondness for candles, but the sewing skills of a master seamstress and is overly-protective of common spider silk?”

The Implacable Detective dropped the case notes that she was thumbing though, “Dear god, we have a spider-council on the loose, and a crafty one at that! I will alert the Department of Menace Eradication at once-”

“Now hold on for just a moment, there is one last detail that I left out: the spider-council sought me out for tutelage, and with my guidance they managed to solve several of my cold cases. It turns out that this particular council is a solid and reliable detective, if a bit too sentimental for my tastes.”

“Sentimental? A spider council?!!”

“Oh, yes indeed. Quite a shame, really. Their over-sentimentality clouded their judgement on a number of occasions.”

“Detective, are you seriously suggesting we just let a spider-counsel loose in London because it wants to fight crime?”

“Seems like a good enough reason to me.”

“My dear Honey-Addled Detective, you can’t be serious!”

“Oh but I am! And I assure you that I am utterly lucid when I say this: If we are to judge every individual guilty of the crimes of their society and kin, the how do you think you and I will fare from that same judgement?”

The Implacable Detective shot back without missing a beat, “That depends. Are they opposing the crimes of their kin, or are they accessories to them? Pray tell me, how many eyes have they taken?”

“None, and I did an exhaustive search. Moreover, they recently torched a chapel containing another spider-council that had stolen eyes from many a sailor at the docks. Now, do you still want to hand a nascent rebellion against Saviour’s Rocks over to the Department of Menace Eradication? Because if you do, you’d be doing The Lady at the Observatory a great service.”

The Implacable Detective gave the weary man a stunned look, “Well…that does change the equation…So what are they, then? An open rebellion against Saviour’s Rocks? Or the chitinous equivalent of the Young Stags Club out for a fratricidal lark while playing detective?”

“I am not sure, but I did discover a few more interesting tidbits about our arachnid ally just before you arrived: the spider-council has authored quite a few scandalous novels, is highly debauched even by Bohemian standards, and…as it turns out…was an enthusiastic fundraiser for your mayoral campaign.

The Implacable Detective’s eyes grew wide, “Well, that’s one political scandal I’m glad I don’t have to deal with…Although if they campaigned for me, then I have a full record of their identity! I need to get back to the office. Now that I know what to look for, it will only take me a few hours to locate this radical spider-council of yours.” She paused while reaching for her coat. The Honey-Addled detective was scrutinizing her suspiciously. Even though it was directed at her, the Implacable Detective was glad to see that sharpness in his eyes again. ”Don’t worry, I will only observe them. Perhaps I will take them under my wing like you did, test them with a few cases. As they say, keep your friends close, and your monstrous allies even closer.”

“I am glad to hear it, my old friend. For there are far worse creatures preying upon London these days, and we need all the help we can get.”

“I suppose we do,” the Implacable Detective sighed while putting on her coat. What remained of the Honey-Addled Detective’s mind was still amazing to behold, but she doubted it would still be there in the morning. Then again, maybe she would be wrong this time. You could never be certain with him, about anything. “Do take care of yourself, Detective.”

“You too.” the Honey-Addled Detective kept his head on the mantlepiece, watching a small house-spider tiptoe its way gingerly across the front of his hearth. ”My god, what a fine mess we’ve gotten ourselves into.”

I’m afraid that I don’t have anything very useful to say about this, but I did really enjoy it, both the detectives’ interactions and the reveal of the character concept.

god knows i rarely laugh out loud or even snort while reading something on the internet, but for some reason the line

&quot[color=rgb(194, 194, 194)]are you seriously suggesting we just let a spider-counsel loose in London because it wants to fight crime?[/color]&quot just made me lose it. that is an absolutely amazing concept, i mean i might be biased because i love spiders, but

it is quite well-written too, really good, natural flow of the dialogue and the characters’ voices. and so cleverly put together! an unexpected little masterpiece. this is so much better than the origins of spider-man, i demand a movie adaptation

edit; added spoiler tag because honestly. the surprise is worth it.
edited by gronostaj on 12/29/2017

I liked this! Don’t see any interference with accepted lore either. I mean, stuffing a spider-council into a human body needs a little suspension of disbelief, but it’s not the most outrageous thing I’ve heard in the Neath :P

Ironically, my original idea for using a human body sized spider-council came directly from an exceptional story. :-)

In the exceptional story HOJOTOHO, the urchins run into a group of baby sorrow spiders that clump together to (briefly) form a pseudo-spider-council about the size of an urchin. So I figured, if baby spiders can sort-of make a child sized council, then juveniles (young-adult spiders?) could make an adult human sized one. Hence why Six is a juvenile spider-council.

Thank you! I’m very happy to hear that. Of all the characters in Fallen London, the two detectives are arguably my favorites. I fell like I know them almost as well as Six. I’m not sure I could ever write anything as clearly as I can for those two. But who knows? Perhaps I’ll take a turn on one of the next forum RP events. Thanks for the vote of confidence!

edited by Six Handed Merchant on 12/30/2017

Very nice writing, and great concept! I had forgotten all about spider councils, good to see one up and running about London again!

I have a feeling our two characters could have some very interesting interactions, especially in a detective vs. villain sort of manner.

Thank you for all your kind words!

I’ve also been having a lot of fun dropping references to spiders and sorrow-spiders into all my posts about Six in the forums and in-game. The gender-neutral prefix that I use for Six (&quotthey&quot) is also wonderfully appropriate, and even the name &quotSix Handed Merchant&quot is a very subtle reference to spiders.

But since it was such an outlandish character concept, I figured I also needed a spoiler post as well. And I’m glad people like it!

edited by Six Handed Merchant on 1/1/2018

I love this, it’s amazing. I’ve a huge soft spot for Sherlock in general, and I enjoy the tone you used for the story. Not sure if Spider Queen and Saviour’s Rocks are Fallen London canon or not, and I’d love to know – and if they are, their nature as well. <3

Thank you! And yes, Saviour’s Rocks is in Sunless Sea, which I tend to treat as Fallen London canon (or at least extended universe). You can visit Saviour’s Rocks (minor Sunless Sea spoilers) as a port in Sunless Sea.

As for the Spider Queen…well, there is no detailed story wiki for Sunless Sea, so I was working off of memory. I remembered the Haunted Doctor talking about

(Sunless Sea spoilers for the Haunted Doctor)

being trapped by sorrow spiders at Saviour’s Rocks and a Spider Queen who took his eye. Well, after some more research, it turns out that the Haunted Doctor was trapped by sorrow spiders at the Observatory, and it was &quotthe Lady&quot who took his eye.

Having not yet played Fallen London, I assumed that the Observatory was part of Saviour’s Rocks, and over time my memory turned &quotLady&quot into Spider Queen. (I’m in a long-term freeform RPG inspired by D&D where Lolth was framed, and so I think that may have been where the mix-up occurred.) But good catch! I’ll need to change Spider Queen into something more appropriate.

In general, I have based The Six Handed Merchant off of as much canon as possible. Even the shipping crate of trinkets that I mention in SIx’s Background has a direct reference to canon.

I’ve thought way, way to much about all this. :)

edited by Six Handed Merchant on 1/19/2018