Encounters in The Flit

“Because I’m not a thief, that’s why.”

“`n why ‘r y’ here?”

Merri sighs. This is the third iteration of this conversation, this night alone. “I just enjoy running it. The Flit, the freedom of it. Do I have to be a thief to like that?”

A pause. “Guess not. But if y’ever do wanna make a fas’ pile of glim…”

“I’ll keep it in mind.” She doesn’t bother telling him she’s got more glim piled up than she cares to count. And moon pearls. And jade. It’s not about the money and hasn’t been since I moved out of that wretched abandoned tomb. “Now if you’ll excuse me…”

Rather than try to push past the man, she simply dives off the side of the ledge, catching a flagpole, shimmying up a drainpipe, vaulting to another, hopefully less-populated rooftop. From there she would have run to an improvised bridge, but unfortunately there was someone in the way.

Another sigh, and Merri saunters to a stop. “I say, do excuse me. I’d like to use that bridge, if you wouldn’t mind moving aside for a moment.”

[Cue Heithe.]

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24 Comments

  1. Heithe Cord said,

    August 8, 2010 at 5:13 pm

    Heithe — who is a thief, although more by contingent circumstances than by profession — is busy staring down at the space below the planking of the bridge. She can’t help noticing that there is an awful lot of space below the planking of the bridge. “Oh!” she says, startling a little at the voice. “Oh, of course — I seem to have got turned around — which way is back to the Veilgarden, from here?” She is very small, with a streak of soot across her brow and her red hair tied up into a straggling bun, and her smile is enormous and hopeful.

  2. cl0ckw0rks said,

    August 8, 2010 at 5:30 pm

    Merri stares at this unlikely creature for a moment, wondering how she’s not been devoured by the various predators at this altitude. “It’s up that way,” she then gestures, “but down at street level. About three miles and one very large bridge to cross. If you’re looking for Veilgarden, you’re almost, but not quite, as lost as you can be.”

  3. Heithe Cord said,

    August 8, 2010 at 5:40 pm

    “I’m looking for the way back there; I live there,” she answers, adopting a very reasonable tone. If she is about to be snapped up by predators, she doesn’t seem terribly fussed about the prospect. “It’s only that I wanted to see if I could learn London from above as well as below — and then I took a bad fall over … Clockmaker’s Hill? And then I couldn’t get my bearings again.”

  4. cl0ckw0rks said,

    August 8, 2010 at 5:43 pm

    “Watchmaker’s Hill,” Merri murmurs, reassessing this person, almost at the speed of every word she utters. “I’ve taken that spill, it’s a nasty one. Are you injured? No, let me rephrase — how badly are you injured?”

  5. Heithe Cord said,

    August 8, 2010 at 5:52 pm

    “Bruises,” she answers. “Mostly bruises. Possibly a little concussion.” Her pupils, upon closer inspection, are not symmetrical. She is also missing a tooth on the right, but whether that’s new or not is anyone’s guess. “But I’m perfectly lucid, really, so — three miles, did you say?”

  6. cl0ckw0rks said,

    August 8, 2010 at 5:57 pm

    “I did. I was thinking about dropping in at the Mandrake tonight. Perhaps you wouldn’t mind some company for the journey?”

    In truth, Merri had not intended to go to Veilgarden when she ventured here, but doesn’t really know if this child — and she does seem terribly child-like — could navigate the demanding journey through the Flit on her own. In general Merri tended to leave other denizens of this particular altitude alone; to date, Harry had been the sole exception. Until now. “How do you prefer to be called?”

  7. Heithe Cord said,

    August 8, 2010 at 6:02 pm

    “My name is Heithe — you’re really very kind — Heithe Cord,” she answers promptly. Perhaps the childishness will wear off with the concussion. “Do you have any business there? I’m meant to be convincing a young lady to take her clothes off, but I’m not very good at it yet.”

  8. cl0ckw0rks said,

    August 8, 2010 at 6:07 pm

    “You hardly seem old enough for all that,” Merri drawls lightly, gesturing the girl to follow her to the top of the sharply peaked roof. “I don’t intend to be offensive, of course. The young age quickly, in Fallen London.”

    Whether Heithe follows her or not, she stands atop the peak, gazing about for the best — meaning safest, for the nonce — routes to take her new charge to her destination. “Those who live up here tend to call me Clockworks, or Clocksie if you like. But on the surface my name is Merri. Merriwether Fawkes.”

  9. Heithe Cord said,

    August 8, 2010 at 6:17 pm

    “I’m sixteen!” says Heithe, and it comes out like a squawk. For a second, then, she checks herself at the peak of the roof; there’s no wind to buffet her, but it’s more difficult to balance than she had anticipated. “I hope … I mean, if you’re not, I’m very sorry … but are you one of those Fawkes …” She pauses, completely stymied for a plural. “Fawkeses? The ones who build the airships –“

  10. cl0ckw0rks said,

    August 8, 2010 at 6:33 pm

    Merri reaches out a hand to help steady her. “I am indeed. That accent of yours places you near the Rhine somewhere — how did you hear of my family?”

  11. Heithe Cord said,

    August 8, 2010 at 6:45 pm

    “Very close! A Bavarian!” replies Heithe, with great national feeling. “But my father has expatriated us to Düsseldorf, because he says we would all become monks like Augustus if we stayed Bavaria. He — my father, that is — is an investor in the Mainz Line!” Which is an airship line, as one might expect, operating out of Mainz. “And that’s how I heard of your family.”

  12. cl0ckw0rks said,

    August 8, 2010 at 7:15 pm

    “Ah, of course. My great-grandfather provided some of the starting capital for that line, I believe. And had a hand in the design of the first ships to leave the dock, there.”

    Merri thinks perhaps the girl is swaying again and abruptly becomes concerned for her ability to stay where they are. “Come on then. Let’s head back to Veilgarden and see about getting your head examined. Death is an inconvenience here,” she adds, giving a little hop to slide down the other side, “unless of course you ever want to see the sun again. How in the world did you end up in Fallen London?”

  13. Heithe Cord said,

    August 8, 2010 at 7:26 pm

    “I was meant to study at Benthic College,” says Heithe as she follows Merri down the roof, “But they will not so much as look at me until I know everything there is to know about the Correspondence, and unless it’s really the letters Helen sent to Menelaus, I don’t know anything at all. So I thought I’d stay, and …” she’s aware that she probably shouldn’t mention the diamond, but she can’t think of a good lie very quickly “… well, Neathglass has very interesting refractory properties, doesn’t it? So I thought I’d study that, until I could learn what the Correspondence was.” The toe of her spidersilk slipper catches on a gutter, and she sits hard at the edge of the roof to keep from falling headlong into an alleyway.

  14. cl0ckw0rks said,

    August 8, 2010 at 7:38 pm

    Merri curses under her breath — in Italian — from that lurch of fear rather than anger. “Girl — Heithe — we’d better head to the streets. You’re in no shape to navigate the Flit. There’s a drainpipe — do you suppose you could manage to climb down it? You won’t do well with the Correspondence if your brains are leaking onto the cobblestones now, will you….”

    It wasn’t a question, but it wasn’t a command either. If the girl wanted to go her own way, Merri wouldn’t stop her — but by the same token, someone needed to see that she got home safely. And that someone appears to be me. Why am I not surprised?

  15. Heithe Cord said,

    August 8, 2010 at 7:44 pm

    “Of course, of course,” she answers, still very reasonable, absolutely convinced that she’s perfectly lucid. She creeps along the gutter until she reaches the drainpipe, then lowers herself — there’s a ticklish bit when she tries to catch a foot on the pipe and it doesn’t quite catch, but she’s already let go of the edge of the roof with one hand — and then she’s firmly gripping the gutter in both hands and lowering herself to the ground. “There!”

  16. cl0ckw0rks said,

    August 8, 2010 at 7:55 pm

    Breathing deeply, forcing herself to calm, Merri follows, shimmying down the pipe with considerably more grace. She checks the alley in both directions for interested observers, sees two sets of eyes loitering in the shadows in one direction, so takes Heithe’s arm casually and sets off in the other, assuming the girl will allow herself to be led.

    “So tell me, if you’re interested in the Correspondence, why aren’t you living in or around Ladybones Road?”

  17. Heithe Cord said,

    August 8, 2010 at 8:11 pm

    “Is that where I can learn about it? I had no idea,” she answers, letting herself be led as though they’re old school friends. “Ladybones has been all gossips and tattooists, as far as I could see.”

  18. cl0ckw0rks said,

    August 8, 2010 at 8:16 pm

    Bloody footpads… they’re following… Merri does not have them pick up their pace, but she does begin scanning the surrounds covertly to avoid ambush, and hopefully for a place to turn their ambush back upon them.

    “Ladybones Road gives one the skills — the tools — one needs in order to understand the Correspondence,” she murmurs, speaking abstractedly, most of her attention on their environment. “Observation. Critical thinking. Deduction. Without them, one simply cannot begin to grasp the meta-dimensionality of the symbols themselves.”

  19. Heithe Cord said,

    August 8, 2010 at 8:23 pm

    “I see,” Heithe responds, as avidly as though she is making notes. “You’re observing those gentlemen behind us, then? And deducing what to do about them?”

  20. cl0ckw0rks said,

    August 8, 2010 at 8:32 pm

    That startles Merri a little, but she only takes time to nod. “Precisely. Well done, my dear.” She’s angling them toward the left side of the street, freeing her to respond on her stronger side if need be.

    “If they’re as sloppy at fighting as they are at staying hidden, it shouldn’t be much of a fight. You’re injured — can you defend yourself?”

  21. Heithe Cord said,

    August 8, 2010 at 8:42 pm

    “A bit!” she answers. “More likely I can persuade them that we’re not very interesting, and they ought to feel ashamed for thinking otherwise. I’ve been working very hard at it.” And at the moment, dressed like a sneak-thief and swaying like a drunkard, she is unlikely to persuade anyone of anything.

  22. cl0ckw0rks said,

    August 8, 2010 at 9:07 pm

    “Right.” Merri doesn’t wish to insult her, but even with her own heightened persuasiveness she doubts they’ll be able to talk their way out of this.

    [leaving off this for now… for some strange reason, I just can’t concentrate on it….]

    • Heithe Cord said,

      August 8, 2010 at 9:27 pm

      [I have not the faintest idea to what you could be referring.]

  23. Heithe Cord said,

    August 8, 2010 at 9:29 pm

    “Ah. We’ll manage, though. You seem very –” There has to be a word for it that’s not ‘dangerous’ “– competent.”


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