Victoria and I - A Vacation to Venderbight

Author’s Notes and Content Warnings

This story is rated PG-13. It contains no explicit sexual content, but does have some profanity (including one decidedly ungentlemanly word that I expect the forum software will blank out entirely), and risqué material roughly on par with the game itself.

I wrote this about half a year ago for someone I know IRL. With their permission, I have posted it here.

I will use one post per chapter, to make things easier to keep formatted. If you’d prefer to read it as a PDF, I’m going to edit in a link to a Dropbox copy once I’m done posting the content here.

EDIT: A PDF Copy can be found here.

EDIT 2: I have disabled comments on the Dropbox file for privacy reasons. If you want to give me feedback, feel free to drop a comment in the thread!

edited by Daedalus_Falk on 8/3/2018

Victoria & I

By Daedalus Falk

(Originally published as “A Virile Vacation to Venderbight” in The Veilgarden Nocturnal, Summer 1895, Volume 41 Issue #3)

Dear reader,

Not too long ago, as I was having my traditional glass of double gin & laudanum for a nightcap, I was struck with inspiration. Then I passed out and woke up in the Mirror Marches, and there was a state of general confusion for a good deal of time. When I returned, however, and had my celebratory glass of double gin & laudanum, my idea came back again, and this time I had the presence of mind to act on it.

I digress.

During my recent trip to Venderbight (which, despite the vile calumnies put forth by the Magazine Formerly Known as the London Magazine, was entirely voluntary and had absolutely nothing to do with the public reception of “Mr. Sacks! Take my virginity!”), I wrote a series of letters to my good friend Honeysuckle about a certain woman I met there. It is the body of these letters which will make up this work.

I have, by the explicit request of the lady involved, left her name intact and uncensored, and have expurgated no sordid details, so that she may claim the credit she is fairly due. I have merely edited a bit for clarity.

I wish to thank Honeysuckle I. for her permission to publish our correspondence, the editorial staff of the Veilgarden Nocturnal for their assistance in preparing the manuscript, the people of Venderbight for their hospitality, and, of course, Victoria, for everything.

Yours sincerely,

  •      [i]Daedalus Falk[/i]

Addendum: The above preface was written while under the influence of double gin & laudanum. Please disregard it.

Dear Honeysuckle,

I hope this letter finds you well. I must apologize for not writing you sooner, but as you have no doubt heard, I have been obliged to leave London for some time owing to the public reception of my most recent musical. While it was perhaps unwise to include the nude scene involving the Bishop of Southwark, the Deviless, and the Rubbery Man, I have never been willing to compromise my art for the sake of fusty social mores.

I have lately arrived in Venderbight. It is a most ghastly place, filled with the shambling near-dead, the taste of dust, and the smell of stale death & old, cold stone. This, of course, makes it wonderfully Gothic and romantic, and it is an ideal place to poetically brood while working on a novel, or perhaps on one’s memoirs.

The majority of the tomb-colonists lead fairly quiet lives – being dead will, regrettably, do that to one. There are, however, exceptions, and I have found several boon companions here with whom to while away the hours.

There is one woman in particular I think you would get along with famously. Her Christian name is Victoria Wren, although she prefers to go by “Victoria Créve-coeur”. I looked the sur-sobriquet up in the library the other day – it’s French, and means “Broken-heart.”

As I said, Venderbight is wonderfully Gothic.

At any rate, Victoria is, unlike most of the other tomb-colonists, quite lively & full of vim. She is a Black-Ribbon Duellist with some fifty-odd kills to her record (at least one of which was actually permanent for the gentleman involved), and I understand she was once a Zee-Captain of some renown. She is of course an accomplished swordswoman, and we have been meeting regularly to spar together. Evidently, she appreciates having a practice partner who doesn’t need to be sewn back together when struck with force.

My technique has been improving – I hope to be able to actually score a hit on her someday soon. Of course, I also have a fair number of livid bruises to show for my efforts, but it’s good to meet a woman so far removed from the wilting lilies of her Majesty’s court. Even if she’s wrapped in several hundred cubits of bandages.

At any rate, this letter has gone on quite long enough. Please be assured of the Anchoress’ promise: all is well & all shall be well & all manner of thing shall be well. Speaking of which, be sure to get tickets to Mr. Sacks! Take my virginity! if the Ministry hasn’t arrested all the performers yet. I believe the scene in which the burlesque dancer emerges from the mouth of the well on the Winking Isle is some of my best work in a long time.


  •      Daedalus

Dear Honeysuckle,

So good to receive your last letter. I am sorry to hear about your recent troubles. You mustn’t blame yourself for what happened: there was no way you could have known that the Starveling Cat had followed you to the canapé competition.

The days go by slowly in Venderbight, but they do go by. I have actually been spending an increasing amount of time with Victoria. It is rare to find such a kindred spirit, particularly in this place. Too many of the tomb-colonists seem to believe that they are obliged to act like corpses simply because they look like them. Most distressing.

You mentioned you were curious what she looked like. Being a tomb-colonist, Victoria is largely covered in bandages. The only part she leaves uncovered is her eyes – without them, after all, she wouldn’t be able to see enough to fight. Her eyes are gray, and wonderfully expressive – you can tell she’s smiling when they sparkle, and when she fights they gleam cold as ice.

In terms of the bandages themselves, she’s something of an eccentric in that she prefers to dye them. According to her, plain gauze is unspeakably dull. She typically clads herself in puzzle-damask dyed variously in green, blue, and peligin – she says the colours remind her of the Zee. As for the clothes, she seems to love dressing after the manner of a corsair: polished zailor’s boots; sash, gloves & vest of indigo; the black ribbon of her duellist days tied round her forearm, and, discordantly, a crimson kerchief round her throat, or sometimes tied as a bandanna around her head. I think she dresses outlandishly because it’s the only way for her to stand out these days – bandages do limit one’s fashion options.

By this point, I have bought a permanent “summer home” (as the euphemism goes) in Venderbight. After all, I am often obliged to come here due to that worst kind of calumny: accurate & factual description of my wrongdoings. It is truly abominable how the gossip and the scandalmonger go about saying things about one that are entirely true! Still, if I’m going to spend this much time with the Tomb-Colonists, I may as well be able to decorate my own lodgings.

I have also, it should go without saying, brought with me a few cases of wine & two good-sized casks of Prisoner’s Honey. One must, after all, be prepared to entertain guests. And in this particular case, it has served me in good stead – Victoria is every bit as much a connoisseur of Neathy delights as I am, and we have spent quite a few evenings indulging in our respective wine collections. Would you believe she has a collection of real surface wine?

The hour grows late. I will write you again.


  • Daedalus
    edited by Daedalus_Falk on 8/3/2018

Dear Honeysuckle,

I am pleased to hear your meeting with the Topsy King went smoothly. “Most capering goden,” as the Raggedy Men might say. It is of course unfortunate that the scandal over the incident at canapé competition hasn’t quite died down yet (damn that infernal cat!), but I’m sure some well-placed words from Mr. P______ will help restore your good name.

As for me, I have some exciting news. Victoria and I have been having an affair.

Shocking, yes. But also deliciously sensual. You’ve told me of your own affair with the Struggling Artist – it’s only fair I repay the experience in kind. Besides, I believe I can trust you not to make my sordid confessions public before I have a chance to do so myself.

Oh, and before you think too badly of me, you should be aware that Victoria knows I’m writing this letter. In fact, she encouraged me to write it. She, like me, delights in a scandalous reputation. And like me, she finds something erotic about writing something this intimate down only to give it to a friend, to the wind, to a well. We’re exhibitionists that way.

At any rate, perhaps I’d better start at the beginning.

As with so many of my dalliances, I owe a large part of it to Prisoner’s Honey. Victoria, as I mentioned in my last letter, is quite the connoisseur of Neathy delights, and this also encompasses a Honey habit surpassing even my own. As she likes to say, there isn’t a lot else to do in Venderbight but indulge one’s appetites, and these, of course, are hardly limited to wine & Honey. But I get ahead of myself.

Two nights ago, we met at my home for a sparring session. My swordsmanship has markedly improved under her tutelage – in fact, I was able to score a touch (my first so far) on her halfway through the session. After repaying me with a series of blows with the flat of her blade, she laughed, tweaked my moustache, and told me I was a good pupil.

After practice, we had dinner, and over the meal Victoria suggested we celebrate my new abilities with a Kiss. This was not, I should hasten to add, the rather forward suggestion it might seem to be. Victoria is the proud inventor of a cocktail which she calls a “Kiss of the Zee”, consisting of one part Prisoner’s Honey, one part Laudanum, two parts brandy, and a twist of lemon. It is not a drink for the fainthearted, but then, it was a special occasion.

We drank our Kisses and headed off to my bedroom – we both find it rather more comfortable for Honey-dreaming than the couches. We laughed as we collapsed onto the double bed – the world already beginning to swim as we stared up at the white plaster of the ceiling. But as I began to doze off, I felt the soft touch of leather against my skin, and looked down to find she’d placed her gloved hand in mine. In the moments before the darkness closed in, I gently squeezed her palm.

When I came to, we were in the Dreamlands. Parabola. I knew it was a dream, because the moon was out – the surface-moon now half-remembered or half-forgotten. And there were the stars, above & below. Motes of light in the water. I stood on a dock lit by a multitude of candles.

“Well,” came a voice, “here we are.”

It was Victoria’s voice, of course – but not Victoria’s form. Or, rather, not the form I had come to know. For this evening she appeared to me as she had once been, before Venderbight.

I’d known she was a Zee-captain, of course – she’d told me as much – but I didn’t fully appreciate it until I saw her in the bloom of youth. Her manner of dress was much as it is today – only without the bandages. The boots of a zailor; the sash, vest & gloves of a corsair. Around her right arm, the black ribbon. Around her left, the crimson kerchief. Her hair was cut short and dyed an acid green – eyebrows included. Her lips were twisted in an amused smirk.

She also had an impressive array of tattoos, winding down her arms and up her face. Along the arms a rose-vine. On her left cheek an anchor, with a serpent winding its way up from the neck to coil round the metal. Of course, she was a zailor, so it made sense.

It was, of course, an illusion; a magic trick. But I hadn’t thought her so talented a magician; so experienced a dreamer. Hiding one’s true form so radically, even in the Dreamlands, is no simple task, and this was a work worthy of Mahogany Hall.

Still grinning, she took my hand and we ran down the dock. The wooden planks became a sandbar, and we were suddenly on the beach, stripping off our clothes as we ran into the surf. Naked, we dove, down deep into the glowing water. It was a dream, so the risk of drowning was minimal: I just needed to remember to breathe normally while underwater.

Lit and glowing with phosphorescence, we danced beneath the waves; moves that would have been impossible if the water was real. The motes of light clung to us and turned us into silver wheels.

Victoria was doing something that reminded me of the Rubbery Dancer I’d hired, in the musical that sent me here. Across her back, lit up by the glowing sea-motes, was tattooed the leering face of a Gorgon. It wasn’t a beautiful image: reptilian eyes narrowed to slits, lips curled with contempt. Snakes haloed out from the scalp. It suited her perfectly.

She turned back around, and I turned aside. I felt her eyes on me as I tried to copy the moves I’d seen her perform, and smiled.

Eventually, we climbed out of the water and collapsed on the sandy beach, laughing. We were dry again in an instant – it was a dream, after all – so there was no need for her to re-dye her hair, or for me to re-wax my moustache.

I looked at the moon. It sat low on the waves and drowned us in pale light.

I looked at Victoria, and found her looking at me. We spent several seconds admiring the way the light played on one another’s bodies, the curve & line of muscle.

“Dance with me again,” she said, getting up off the sand. It wasn’t a request.

I got up and took her hand. She put her other hand between my shoulderblades, and I realized she was taking the lead. I had never danced the lady’s part in a waltz, but followed her lead as best I could, in a series of squares across the surf. Moonlight glinted quicksilver across our naked bodies.

“You’ve been planning this evening for a while, haven’t you?” I asked.

“The evening, yes,” she admitted. “But I didn’t have the right company until now.”

We laughed, and then we kissed, soft as moths. Her lips tasted faintly of dust and linen – not the expected brine. Some things illusion can’t mask. But I cared not. I ran my fingers through her hair, then lay my head on her shoulder as we danced, slowly, in the surf. And the waters were gathered together, the floods slept in the Sun’s blindness, and the depths rose like the Moon, in the light at the edge of the sea.

Slowly, we woke up.

Victoria’s Honey habits, as I’ve said, surpass my own. You are of course, aware of the phenomenon of Honey-mazing, where the body awakens before the conscious mind has a chance to. What this meant was that I awoke to find my clothes largely undone, and Victoria tracing one gloved finger down my sternum, circling a bruise she’d left there during our earlier duel. As I watched, her glazed eyes regained focus, and locked with my own.

We sat up. The world still swam through a surfeit of laudanum, but that wasn’t important right then. Slowly, I reached toward her face, my hand trembling as it touched her cheek. She held still and unresisting as my groping fingers found a thread and began to wind the bandages away.

The room was silent – Venderbight is quiet even in the middle of the “day”, and this far into the sleeping hours it was so quiet that every noise seemed a din. There was nothing to hear but the soft whisper of the bandages as, layer by layer, I wound them away. We said nothing, for there was nothing to say.

Soon enough, there was her face – much changed, but still recognizably hers.

There were the lips I’d kissed, within the still-clinging darkness of our dream. Scar-split, now, into an involuntary sneer with long years of battle. Thin lips, with the skin pale and drawn around them.

There was the anchor, on her left cheek; bleached and faded with the desiccation of the flesh. There was the serpent trickling up from the neck to wind around it, hacked to pieces by the scars. On her back, still covered with the bandages, would be the Gorgon’s head.

The nose was mostly gone. Perhaps it was hacked away in some long ago duel, perhaps it was simply a victim of leprous time; of the decay that ravages so many tomb-colonists. Her hair had fallen out, or been shaved off; her scalp was bare, and even the eyebrows were gone. Her face was like a skull with papery flesh yet drawn across it; the old tattoos withered remnants of bygone youth and bygone glory.

But her eyes! Still-living eyes in the skull-face of a corpse; eyes that glowed with warm & vital life in a face that should have been cold and dead. Her eyes held mine even as I pulled the last bandage away and let it fall from nerveless fingertips. Her lips didn’t move – perhaps she’d forgotten how to smile, or frown, but in her eyes I saw permission and passion; vulnerability and bitter iron pride; mixed together and become shadows of one another.

I don’t know how long we spent looking at one another, whether it was moments or minutes. I broke first – I closed my eyes, leaned forward and pressed my lips to hers. The skin was cold. Down below, her hand worked its way into mine again.

What else was I to do, Honeysuckle? It would have been terribly rude of me to refuse to kiss her right then, and while I may be many things, I am never rude to a lady. Except, of course, if the lady has been rude to me first. Or if I’m in a poor mood. Or if it’s necessary to advance my interests. But I digress.

Of course, it also would have been terribly rude for me to refuse to make love to her afterward.

When it was done & I lay heavy upon her, she ran a hand through my hair and murmured something in French. For some reason, the phrase stuck itself in my mind.

“Le temps détruit tout,” she said. “But not yet; not yet…”

And I kissed her again.

Honeysuckle, I don’t normally like being honest, let alone genuine. You of all people should know that I view honesty as both ungentlemanly & unchristian. All the same, I can’t help being honest now. It was a wonderful evening, and I’ll never forget it.

  •      Daedalus

Dear Honeysuckle,

I’m sorry I haven’t written you in so long, but you know how it is. I have been, so to speak, occupied.

Victoria and have been meeting fairly regularly over the past two weeks. We duel, we dine, we dream, and we **** (delightful bit of profanity, that – Victoria taught it to me). All the same, I find that there is an element of sobriety to it of late. At least there is for me. The days of wine & Honey go by like wind, but they inevitably must end. And even as we while away the hours pleasantly, the knowledge I’ll have to go is a poison whose dose increases every day.

Does she feel the same way? I can’t tell. She’s as vigorous as ever. In point of fact, she’s never let her guard down in the way she did that first night we spent together – it’s never been like that again. She loves differently, now, more wildly. I can only describe it like this: Victoria has sex like she drinks wine. Greedily, deeply, draining the glass at a single draught. Then refill & pour & pour until you’re three bottles in, and the world around you is a whirling numbness. The only time I’ve ever seen her stop to taste, so to speak, was the first time. It’s never been like that again.

Of course, I typically have sex in much the same way, so this arrangement suits me just fine. Even so, I can’t help but wonder if she ever has the same melancholy thoughts as I.

Victoria hasn’t asked me to stay, and I haven’t offered. Venderbight isn’t my home – indeed, I have to question if it’s even her home. I enjoy staying here, but I wouldn’t be happy staying here forever. It’s too sedentary. How has she spent so long here without going mad? Now that I know her better, the question begins to trouble me more than it once did.

Perhaps I’ll ask her tomorrow.


  • Daedalus

Dear Honeysuckle,

Today I bought tickets for my return trip to London. The only ones I could get, unfortunately, are for a somewhat roundabout route – the ship will be making side stops at Tanah-Chook, Horneman’s Stag, and Hunter’s Keep before putting back in. Still, it might be nice to see Tanah-Chook again, and I always enjoy having dinner with the Sisters. I’ll be sure to pass on your regards to Lucy – I recall the two of you got along famously.

Victoria & I shared a meal at her home this evening. I broke the news over dessert, which I find is typically the best time of a meal to break bad news. It matters less if you lose your appetite, if you’ve already eaten.

She took it well, of course. Are you surprised? Recall the kind of person I am. Recall the person she is. We knew this day would come. We knew this was a temporary arrangement from the first sparring session, knew it even during our first night together. All the same, it was a sober meal. It’s never pleasant to bid a friend farewell.

I did take the opportunity to ask Victoria the question I’d been wondering – why does she stay in Venderbight? Why would she choose to live here, in a place so unlike her? I remember the resulting conversation quite vividly.

“Because I have to,” she replied, her eyes twinkling. “Just like you had to write that play of yours.”

We chuckled. I should take this moment to point out that I’d by this point given her a manuscript copy of Mr. Sacks &c. She loved it dearly, and plans to sponsor a series of performances across the Tomb-Colonies (where they are rather freer of molestation by the Ministry).

“You walk the path of the Nocturnals,” she went on, “and so, in a sense, do I. Calm waters must be broken. Traditional moralities must be shattered. It’s all very theatrical.”

“Which,” I rejoined, “is what I love about it.”

“Of course,” she nodded. “I never realized there was a term for feeling that way, believing those things – until I met you. So you see, my dear, that that staying here isn’t a choice, but an obligation. A place of death like this needs someone like me to give it life. After all, people only ever feel alive when they’re outraged, wouldn’t you say?”

“Only too true,” I assented. “Shock is the panacea for complacency, which is death.”

I’d come up with that slogan at the Mandrake a few months ago, and was particularly proud of it.

“But I don’t have your way with words, Daedalus,” she said, with a theatrical sigh. “All I have is a sword, a cellar of wine, and an even larger cellar of Prisoner’s Honey. And, of course, a fortune I spent my career on the Zee storing up. But I make do.”

After a moment’s pause, she stood and posed theatrically, with one hand over her heart & the other extended into the air. It was a posture too carefully contrived not to come from the heart.

“For we have a sacred charge, Daedalus,” she declaimed, wagging a finger for emphasis after the manner a temperance campaigner. “A charge far too sacred for us to abjure it for mere passion. We are revolutionaries, but not for the Calendar Council. We are seekers, but not for the Name. Our great Cause is the pure, unbridled sacrament of pleasure. And there is nothing nobler.”

It was beautiful, and I wept openly to hear her speak thus. Never before had I heard the way of the Nocturnal so eloquently put. Never before had I met someone who so plainly understood how important provocation and drunken debauch actually are. I hadn’t taken her to be such a paladin of hedonism, and I told her as much. Then we laughed it off, and spoke of idler things, and made love an hour later in a dim-lit bedroom.

I’ll miss her.

  • Daedalus

Dear Honeysuckle,

I’ll already be back in London by the time that you receive this letter. I’m writing it on the boat, actually, in my cabin – I’ll post it when we reach Tanah-Chook. It’s perhaps perverse for me to write a letter when I could simply meet with you in person to tell you how it went, but I feel a need to commit this to paper.

I left Venderbight earlier today. Victoria bade me farewell at the dockside. I gave her a farewell kiss, over her bandaged mouth. I didn’t particularly care that a fair number of the zailors saw, nor that it will have turned into out-of-proportion gossip by the time we returned to London. I prefer to think of it as publicity, for the both of us.

It isn’t as though it’s goodbye forever. We’ll keep in touch via post, and at any rate Victoria occasionally takes trips out from Venderbight. She promises that if she’s ever in London, we’ll meet to spar again. And of course, I expect I’ll be exiled to the tomb-colonies again eventually – it would be bad for my reputation if I allowed the scandal to ever die down completely.

So ends my trip to Venderbight. Le temps détruit tout, and all dreams must end, and all that. But the memories will keep me warm. And all, as the Anchoress would say, is well, and has been well, and shall be well.

All manner of thing.

  •      Daedalus

Dear reader,

Reality is rarely as dramatic as fiction. If this was a story, perhaps I would have stayed with her, or she come to London with me. Or perhaps there would have been an argument; some big blow up. Victoria, of course, was to a large extent hiding her true feelings from me. So was I, from her – am, from her, even now, since she’ll have read this manuscript before it’s published.

Alas, this wasn’t a story. And while I view actual honesty as ungentlemanly, I never, under any circumstances, lie – unless doing so is necessary, amusing, or expedient. So it is that I’m bound by the truth of the matter, and the fact that reality does leave so many damnably-unanswered questions.

A few weeks after I’d returned from Venderbight, I was accosted by a madwoman outside of Mahogany Hall as I was waiting for a play. She seized me by the lapels, looked me dead in the eye, and asked me the following question:

“What is forgotten?”

I was rather taken aback, and didn’t have a chance to think of a clever riposte before the Constables dragged her away. But I would belatedly respond to that woman, and to you, by saying that the most honest parts of any story are often the parts we choose to omit, that the most honest words are the ones we left unsaid, and that the most honest feelings are the ones we don’t admit.

Perhaps, then, what is forgotten is not who we pretend to be, but who we are.

  •      [i]Daedalus[/i]

Author Biography

Daedalus Falk has published a wide variety of stories, plays, and ballets, all of which have caused varying degrees of public outcry and scandal. He likes to put “Legendary Calumnist” on all his business cards, and cares deeply for his prize racing slug.

A selection of his other works include:

Mushrooms: An Ode (short story)

Terror on Watchmaker’s Hill: The Jack o’ Smiles Case (nonfiction)

From Street Urchin to Sheet Urchin (novel; theatrical adaptation forthcoming)

Would it really be appropriate to call the Royal Bethlehem a hotel, given that I did not receive any variety of mint-flavored candy upon the pillow of the bed in the room I rented; I was unable to locate the Manager until I underwent a series of dangerous trials at great hazard to life and limb; the Rubbery Janitor appeared to use his own body-produced slime to make it appear as if he was actually working when in fact no work was being accomplished since he remained in one place; the Receptionist seemed to have a flippant attitude given her hand motions when she talked to customers which is most unbecoming of any kind of a professional occupation in which one interacts with people other than certain kinds of actors and musicians given the fact that, as the old adage goes, the customer is always right; and on top of all this there was a state of general confusion and disorder throughout my entire stay there (although I will admit that the price can’t be beaten if you’re currently insane)? (nonfiction; co-authored with Robert Mobb)

[i]The Flute Street Floozies /i

Mr. Sacks! Take my virginity! (musical theatre; performances banned by order of the Ministry of Public Decency)