The Tea Room

The conservatory of a handsome townhouse in the Tower of Eyes district has been opened to the friends and acquaintances of Miss Merriwether Fawkes, who may use it as they please to sit, drink tea, converse, make friends, play cards or chess or whatever pleases them.

The mistress of the house may attend, she may not, but she bids you to be welcome, in any event.


(Use the comments below to discuss whatever you like.)

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57 Comments

  1. curious_fellow said,

    August 11, 2010 at 5:02 pm

    A chessboard sits before a fellow whose name has – thus far – evaded mention by most, although the pieces have all been swept up and arrayed on one side. The loose leaves of a notebook sit before him, an inkwell and quill in hand as he occasionally writes in a dark red script, though long pauses follow between notations.”…who, though,” he murmurs, “Each other? Hell? Something’s missing…” A weary look to his eyes, darkened beneath, and he reaches for the cup of tea beside him to take a sip thereof. Upon his head, the teeth of his watchful hat flex downwards for a moment, its beady eyes flitting about the room.

    • Henrik Paulsen said,

      August 11, 2010 at 5:46 pm

      “Hell, sir?” asks Henrik, who has been finding his inquiries tending toward the Brass Embassy of late. “You’ll pardon the interruption, I hope –“

      • curious_fellow said,

        August 11, 2010 at 5:49 pm

        “What? Ah– my apologies, good sir, was I speaking aloud again? I do that, from time to time…” A wry smile tugs up at the corners of his lips as he straightens, “…I was trying to form some hypotheses, is all. You have some interest in Hell? Aside from that of all sinners, of course.”

        • Henrik Paulsen said,

          August 11, 2010 at 6:00 pm

          “In its proximity to the Bazaar, and whether or not this is a recurring phenomenon,” he agrees, offering his hand to shake. “Henrik Paulsen. I see you’re also investigating … chess?”

          • curious_fellow said,

            August 11, 2010 at 6:01 pm

            “Ah, a pleasure, Mister Paulsen,” he replies in warm and amiable tones, reaching out to clasp the offered hand and giving it a brief pump before releasing it. “Mm.” A look back towards the pieces, “As a metaphor, perhaps. A question for you, dear sir. Where do the pieces go when they’re captured?”

            • Henrik Paulsen said,

              August 11, 2010 at 6:13 pm

              He sits across the table, picking up a knight and running his thumb over the horse’s mane. “Into a reserve, I suppose — preparing for the next game.”

              • curious_fellow said,

                August 11, 2010 at 6:15 pm

                “Do they?” The king is plucked from the board with clever fingers – the red king – and he turns it over in his hand, “But what if there isn’t another game?”

                • Henrik Paulsen said,

                  August 11, 2010 at 6:18 pm

                  “You are speaking metaphorically,” answers Henrik, laughing. “Then I suppose they go wherever the players wish — into their pockets or into the fire; if they are not destroyed entirely, then there can always be another game.”

                  • curious_fellow said,

                    August 11, 2010 at 6:28 pm

                    A quiet chuckle stirs past the unnamed fellow’s lips, his gaze flickering up to Henrik’s face. “I do tend to run thick to metaphor of late… my apologies. I doubt I’m making much sense at all.” The king’s set down – to one side – and he reaches for his tea, “Dream imagery is often drenched in metaphor, and I’ve been delving into it for truths of late.”

                    • Henrik Paulsen said,

                      August 11, 2010 at 6:39 pm

                      “No, that sounds perfectly sensible. My friend Mr Gylden is conducting nearly identical inquiries, in every relevant particular; we had a spirited debate regarding which figure, precisely, was meant to be riding a white horse in the Book of Revelation. Do tell me what you’ve uncovered — I think he would be glad of the intelligence.” If he has been doing a passable job of appearing cultured until this moment, he spoils it utterly by propping his elbows on the table and his chin on his hands, fixing his new acquaintance with a rather penetrating sort of gaze. I am ready; all of it, at once, that look seems to demand.

  2. curious_fellow said,

    August 11, 2010 at 6:54 pm

    “Are you certain, Mister Paulsen?” A glint of something – perhaps amusement, perhaps madness – in the unnamed man’s eye, brows raising ever so slightly, “Many of my theories are… if not only unsuited for public consumption, scandalous, I daresay even dangerous. I believe I may be putting the pieces together of an intriguing puzzle.” A finger touches the king piece before him, as if to bring it back into the discussion.

    • Henrik Paulsen said,

      August 11, 2010 at 7:02 pm

      “I am a scholar of the Correspondence, sir,” answers Henrik; the light in his eyes is pure joy at the prospect of new ideas. “I doubt you can scandalize me — singe me, perhaps, but never scandalize.”

      • curious_fellow said,

        August 11, 2010 at 7:09 pm

        “Ah! An educated man, excellent,” he says, seeming pleased, “And I see you still have your eyes. I apologize for doubting you, my dear sir, it seems I was quite wrong to do so.” A bow of his head, the hat scrabbling to stay on, and then he straightens again, “You are… familiar with the iconic dreams that intrude upon the minds of those who dwell too much on such matters, here in the Neath?”

        • Henrik Paulsen said,

          August 11, 2010 at 7:15 pm

          “Familiar, yes. I find that scholarly inquiry” and a somewhat liberal interpretation of the scholarly lifestyle “helps to ease the less salubrious effects of these dreams, while at the same time permitting a … how might I say it? A further acquaintance, I suppose, with them.” For some reason, Henrik finds this curious fellow delightful — perhaps it’s the hat.

          • curious_fellow said,

            August 11, 2010 at 7:25 pm

            “Indeed,” he replies with a quiet chuckle, “A well-stocked cabinet doesn’t hurt either. One must remember to sleep… dreamlessly from time to time.” A breath taken, exhaled, and he reaches for his tea, “I believe that the–” He pauses, casting a furtive gaze around, then leaning in to speak in hushed tones, “–the /Masters/ are engaged in more than business, as they would have you believe. They are fighting a war.”

            • Henrik Paulsen said,

              August 11, 2010 at 7:28 pm

              He leans in, as well — of course Merri’s tea room is as safe a place as one might imagine, in Fallen London, and yet Henrik has long since ceased to be able to imagine a safe place. “Against whom? How long have they been fighting it?”

  3. curious_fellow said,

    August 11, 2010 at 7:37 pm

    “I’ve been looking into those questions, and I’ve found…” A pause, as if about to reveal some great truth, and then a sigh, his head shaking slowly, “…nothing, yet, unfortunately. I know, though, that they wield both the Fire and the Thunder as their weapons. And–” A pause, “Do you know a man. If man he can be called. Fanucci.”

  4. Henrik Paulsen said,

    August 11, 2010 at 7:39 pm

    “I know a Feducci,” he hazards.

  5. curious_fellow said,

    August 11, 2010 at 7:42 pm

    “Feducci? Fanucci – forgive me, perhaps I’ve forgotten the name. I haven’t slept with dreams undisturbed in some time,” he confesses, rubbing to his eyes, “A duelist – wrapped in bandages, like some tomb colonist?”

  6. Henrik Paulsen said,

    August 11, 2010 at 7:46 pm

    “Just so,” he agrees. “The man who supervises the fighting rings, the head of the Black Ribbon Society –” Henrik had killed him, slowly and messily and permanently, and then found him vivacious and unimpressed shortly thereafter. He does not particularly like thinking on Feducci. “What is your interest in him?”

  7. curious_fellow said,

    August 11, 2010 at 7:55 pm

    “You may have dreamt of the Dead Men,” he says with a slow nod of his head, “I believe that he is one of them, from across the Unterzee. There have been… hints that they served the Trapped King, but I don’t know if that’s correct… faugh. I’m roaming far afield. But you see, it all – it all comes together, it all connects.” A frustrated note to his voice, the tea cup trembling briefly in his hand before he sets it down, “But I’m missing too much. And perhaps these are merely that – just dreams, and I’m chasing fairies.”

  8. Henrik Paulsen said,

    August 11, 2010 at 8:04 pm

    “I’ve chased worse than fairies, and nearly lost my life in the pursuit,” says Henrik coolly. “Trust your instincts; give credence to your insights. You cannot progress in a theory unless you are willing to entertain the prospect.”

  9. curious_fellow said,

    August 11, 2010 at 8:12 pm

    “True, true… but without facts, they are merely theories. My hope lies that Miss Fawkes may decipher the mystery of Parabola,” he admits with a slow shake of his head, drawing in a breath, then exhaling it, leaning back and offering a wry half-smile, “So, we return to my question. When a king is removed from the board… where does he go?”

  10. Henrik Paulsen said,

    August 11, 2010 at 8:16 pm

    Henrik leans back, as well, and he cannot account for his regret at the abandoned line of inquiry. “If we are speaking of matters spiritual — then, into the pocket of the player who has won him. I must believe this, whatever the consequences for my own soul.”

  11. curious_fellow said,

    August 11, 2010 at 8:29 pm

    “Then perhaps this pocket,” the man muses, plucking the king from the table, “Is called Parabola. Our investigations must continue.”

  12. Henrik Paulsen said,

    August 11, 2010 at 8:34 pm

    “I regret to say that I am less than useless on the subject of the Parabola. Whatever conical structure intersects our plane, I know nothing of it; I cannot find out the equation for either its presence or its absence. Merri –” he catches himself “– Ms Fawkes’s third way, her sort of absent presence between reflection and refraction, is entirely beyond my meager mathematical capacities.”

  13. curious_fellow said,

    August 11, 2010 at 8:41 pm

    At the slip of her first name, the hint of a smile touches his lips. “I am not much of a mathematician myself,” he admits then, taking a careful sip of the tea, “Oh, I dabble, but not as much as Miss Fawkes. Still, however one reaches the Parabola – it is there that many of our questions will be answered, I think.”

  14. Henrik Paulsen said,

    August 11, 2010 at 8:51 pm

    “Could one reach it another way, then?” If there is tea on the sideboard, he’ll rise to prepare a cup for himself; if not, he’ll only pace. “In a trance, or a vision — not through intellect, but through sense –“

    • cl0ckw0rks said,

      August 11, 2010 at 9:00 pm

      [[What is a tea room without tea? Esther appears from time to time with a fresh supply.]]

      • Henrik Paulsen said,

        August 11, 2010 at 9:03 pm

        [[Esther is a darling.]]

  15. curious_fellow said,

    August 11, 2010 at 8:59 pm

    “Perhaps.” A frown purses to his lips, fingertips drumming lightly against the table’s surface, “It may be possible to reach it through our dreams… perhaps that is even where these dreams are coming from.”

  16. Henrik Paulsen said,

    August 11, 2010 at 9:03 pm

    “You think it is a country, then, rather than a … sort of organizing force, or set of principles?”

  17. curious_fellow said,

    August 11, 2010 at 9:14 pm

    “Ah? Oh, yes, I certainly believe that Parabola is a place,” replies the man with a quick nod of his chin, “Whether a country or a… state of /being/ that is like unto a place, I couldn’t tell you. Yet.”

  18. Henrik Paulsen said,

    August 11, 2010 at 9:17 pm

    “Clearly my education on the matter has been deficient,” answers Henrik, with a conciliatory smile over his tea. “I will endeavour to educate myself at my nearest opportunity.”

    [I’m off to bed; enjoy whatever company turns up!]

    • F.R.R. Obbs said,

      August 11, 2010 at 9:24 pm

      It is at this point in the conversation that Fred makes himself known. “Oi. Oi!” he gestures at the held king, “you’re getting this wrong! Look, Fred’ll show you!”. He grabs a piece from the table and stabs it at the board. “Look, this here’s the jumpy bugger! See how he moves? ‘E can trample, just like a real horse, and then ‘e leaps sideways! Isn’t that something?”

      He beams proudly through the awkward silence that follows. Suddenly, however, a doubt darkens his mind. “Here, listen. Fred can see when he’s interfolding a private monument. Fred wants you to know, I’ve got nothing against against your kind of fellow. Fact is, some of my best, well, some of my. Oi. Listen! What you two do in private, that’s your own porridge. You ever want to learn the rest of the pieces, just give Fred the word.”

      And off he strides.

      • Henrik Paulsen said,

        August 12, 2010 at 4:30 am

        Forgive Henrik if he can do no better than a pop-eyed stare at that.

  19. curious_fellow said,

    August 11, 2010 at 9:21 pm

    “Or I’m completely off base,” he says with a quiet laugh, “I appreciate the company, Mister Paulsen, and the conversation. I don’t get many chances to speak on my theories… openly.”

    [Goodnight!]

  20. cl0ckw0rks said,

    August 14, 2010 at 10:47 am

    Merri steps through the door to her conservatory-turned-tea-room, fastening the last button on one cuff of her blouse, looking about in quiet satisfaction. The room has the aura of one that has been used for dialog, conversation, camaraderie — she’s always wanted to have such a place in her home and is glad that, in Fallen London of all places, she’s finally done something toward accomplishing it.

    Her housekeeper Esther follows a moment later, wheeling in a shelved tea cart full of teapots, coffee pots, cups and saucers and all the other accoutrements her guests might require to pass the time pleasurably.

    “May I pour for you, my lady?” Esther inquires, after she’s set forth beverages and pastries on the sideboard.

    “Oh no, thank you Esther. I’m rather expecting a guest here shortly, I’ll pour for us both when he arrives.”

    “Very well, my lady.” She bobs her stiff-kneed curtsy and withdraws, though she will be in and out of this room the rest of the day, checking on the availability and suitability of the refreshments.

    To pass the time, Merri settles into a chair with a small volume of poetry, a relaxing pleasure for a mind too much involved with mathematics of late.

  21. curious_fellow said,

    August 14, 2010 at 11:06 am

    “Miss Fawkes! Good morning to you, my dear lady…”

    The enthusiastic greeting comes from the newest arrival to the tea room, one hand lifting to grasp the brim of his hat (careful, careful of the teeth) and sweeping it off to the breast of his fine, dark ratskin suit as he bows deeply once he’s found a spot to pause near to where she’s seated.

    A broad smile curves to his lips, belied by the dark shadows beneath his eyes from lack of sleep. “I do hope I’m not late,” he confesses, “I find it harder and harder to keep time these days, fluid as it is.”

  22. cl0ckw0rks said,

    August 14, 2010 at 11:17 am

    “Of course you are not late, for we had not set a firm time,” she tells him, setting her book of poetry aside and gesturing him to sit. “Are you having tea or coffee this morning? You look as though you could use the coffee, if you don’t mind my saying so. Either coffee, or about ten hours of dreamless, uninterrupted sleep.”

  23. curious_fellow said,

    August 14, 2010 at 11:23 am

    “Ah, to sleep…” The hat is set carefully to the edge of the table, its beady eyes watching her as he sinks slowly into the seat opposite, “…perchance to dream? Ay, there’s the rub.” One hand raises to rub between his eyes, “The coffee would do wonders, I do think, wonderful lady, thank you. It seems that when I’m not exploring whatever dreamworld touches my sleep, I’m up at all hours following shadowy figures about. I suppose that I should see to restocking my wine cabinets with something that can give me rest.”

  24. cl0ckw0rks said,

    August 14, 2010 at 11:33 am

    “Indeed. I buy Madame Gebrandt’s laudanum by the case, as do most of us who pursue the nightmare mysteries.” Merri places the filled cup and saucer on the table before him, a sugar bowl and a tiny pitcher of cream nearby, then settles back into her former seat with a cup of tea.

    “I don’t believe I ever had a proper name for you,” she smiles, blowing across the surface of the steaming liquid. “Would you care to furnish one? I shouldn’t like to resort to a vulgar `hey you’ unless you tell me I must.”

  25. curious_fellow said,

    August 14, 2010 at 11:48 am

    “Names are dangerous things…” A hand reaches over, a small spoon gathering a cube of sugar to drop into the dark liquid of the cup and stirring it slowly into the heated coffee. A flicker of his eyes up and over, and he smiles faintly, “I suppose you can call me Lamont.”

    “But we know how I am – what of you? Are you well, I hope?”

  26. cl0ckw0rks said,

    August 14, 2010 at 11:56 am

    “I am, Lamont,” she agrees with an engaging smile. “I had a restful night, all thanks to Madame Gebrandt. And you may call me Merri in turn, if you wish. So what news of the Flit? I have not been back there in … good Lord, over a week now. I had heard of the war, but I understand little of what’s causing it or who is involved.”

  27. curious_fellow said,

    August 14, 2010 at 12:00 pm

    As they reach the subject of their meeting, a worried shadow passes behind his eyes – a pensive look as he brings the cup upwards, breathing through the steam and watching it scatter as if searching for letters of the Correspondence in the chaotic streamers. “I know little, but I am… beginning to learn,” he admits quietly, “I am well used to the Game, but this – the Game is honest spies and conspirators. This War of Illusions is something else. Mesmerists, mediums, magicians – trained bats and cats, seances even!”

  28. cl0ckw0rks said,

    August 14, 2010 at 4:53 pm

    Merri blinks at this. HIs Amused Lordship has been known to leave a burlesque show when the stage magician appears. Interesting…

    “I’m sorry, did you say `seances’? Oh, nevermind, it’s hardly to the point. Over what are they all fighting? Do you know?”

  29. curious_fellow said,

    August 14, 2010 at 5:10 pm

    A careful sip of dark coffee is taken, the cup swept through the air in an easy gesture towards her. “I don’t know… just yet. What may be more interesting than what they’re fighting over, though, is one aspect of what they’re doing. I’ve been listening to the shell-game artists, the mediums, I’ve been intercepting their messages. And there is one repeating theme.”

    “Mirrors.”

  30. cl0ckw0rks said,

    August 15, 2010 at 10:29 am

    “Mirrors.” Merri looks puzzled and intrigued. “Are there any references to parabola involved?”

  31. curious_fellow said,

    August 15, 2010 at 11:16 am

    “I’ve seen the Parabola mentioned in their missives, quietly, furtively,” he says in quiet tones, setting down the cup and leaning against the table, “I’ve heard their agents whispering reports in an empty room – and found only a mirror in it. I believe that they’ve found a way to access that space between the mirrors, that place called the Parabola.”

  32. cl0ckw0rks said,

    August 15, 2010 at 1:07 pm

    Her jaw drops, and it is a moment before she’s recovered her dignity. “In this world, the waking world? They cross over…? Lamont, how certain are you of this?”

  33. curious_fellow said,

    August 15, 2010 at 1:11 pm

    “I haven’t seen them pass through… but they speak to the mirrors, as if reporting through them,” he says, lips pursing in a tight frown, “But… someone is on the other side. Listening.”

  34. cl0ckw0rks said,

    August 15, 2010 at 4:56 pm

    Merri sits with that for a moment, obviously thinking. “Clearly I need to find a way past the difficulties I’m having there and do some checking around. There is a level of trust I cannot seem to achieve without accomplishing a spectacalar theft, which I have no interesting doing. Lamont, who is at war with whom?”

  35. curious_fellow said,

    August 15, 2010 at 5:24 pm

    “It seems to be the… magicians and shell-game men against the mediums and mesmerists, at least as far as I can tell,” Lamont muses with a tap of one finger against the edge of his cup, “I have – sent a message to Mister Mirrors, but i don’t know if it will deign to help my research. It may discourage it. I know the the Masters do not approve of some of my work.”

  36. cl0ckw0rks said,

    August 15, 2010 at 5:58 pm

    “The Masters do not approve of anything they cannot tax,” she snorts. Her clear grey eyes level with his momentarily. “You are entirely too wily to take anything any of the Masters say at face value, of course. What may be more interesting is what Mirrors does not say.

    “There is a man, a powerful nobleman here — he is known only as `His Amused Lordship’ — whom I encounter occasionally. We attended the same burlesque show one night and though he greatly enjoyed most of it, he got up and left when the stage magician appeared. Later I had occasion to visit him in his apartment in the palace. There was much to remark upon there, and there was one thing missing which I did not fail to note: Mirrors.

    “He’s since asked me — and several others of like mind and spirit — if we would undertake a journey for him,” Merri adds as if in conclusion. “But as he did not elaborate on the particulars I am at a loss to say where, or for what purpose. These details… when matched with what you have said…”

  37. curious_fellow said,

    August 15, 2010 at 6:06 pm

    “/Did/ he now… I’ve met His Amused Lordship,” he considers, gaze hooding a bit, “Although I’ve not made any… deep acquaintanceship with the man. What you tell me, though – it does sound as if he’s involved somehow in the War of Illusions. Or at least aware of it.”

  38. cl0ckw0rks said,

    August 15, 2010 at 7:43 pm

    Merri nods, then shrugs. “I truly could not say with certainty. I’d be willing to wager on it, however.” Coming from a woman who’s willing to stake her soul in a rather infamous card game (one which he himself also pursues), that’s saying something.

    “Is there anything else you can share with me?” She then asks. “And if you could recall the exact reference you heard about parabola, that would be most helpful.”

  39. Scarlet O said,

    August 18, 2010 at 9:36 am

    “I found one! I left the priest with something more…pressing to consider.” Scarlet pulls her had from her head like the largest nuisance, and it dangles down her back since the ruby ribbon remains tied at her throat. Clutched against her sober, plain dress is a large book with gilt edges to the pages – a Bibile with a concordance. She is somewhat out of breath, cheeks flushed and the crimson smeared slightly on her lips.

    “Should we adjourn to the study so the lot of us can compile the references?” She stands a bit taller now, sweeping the stray dark tendrils from her face and back into her coiffure, as if realizing she is unkempt and in a fine parlour. But her smokey eyes glitter with delight.


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