What does it take for a murder to be unsolvable?
A man had died some time ago. A trail of blood was found in his study, leading out through the window. Signs of struggle were apparent. The door locked, the lock fast secured. Murder weapon lost.
An unknown man entered the house in the morning and has exited since. Witnesses claimed to have heard screams coming from the room that night. The only other person present at the house was the maid, who at the time was preparing dinner. She was not the one to have heard the screams. She was to be the one who had found the room empty.
The man was found after hours of searching, in a distant park, his light nearly faded. A wound in his chest revealed far too much. After an arduous process, medical professionals were able to save his life. The man thanked his survivors, yet was rather tight-lipped as to what had transpired. Indeed, he had refused to even acknowledge any murder attempts, stating that he was instead attacked by a wild dog during his daily stroll around.
In fact, the blood in the study was fresh, yet the blood under the carpet was weeks old.
What had happened to the man who entered the house that morning?
Art of London
Sun-Filled Stories, Chapter Five
by Cassius Mortemer
“And this person is a Devil?” the Devilless asked. The Author nodded. A moment passed.
“He might not love you,” the Devilless finally said. “At least, not in the same way.”
“That’s my own problem. I just need my soul back.”
Another moment, longer this time.
“I suppose I can’t stop you, then. Do yourself a favour, however…” she puts her cup down. “Don’t listen.”
The conversation, unsurprisingly, went stale after that. The Author finished his tea, thanked the Devilless for her hospitality, and went straight back out to face the volcano once again.
Buzzing. Buzzing, burning, complex and overwhelming. A constant droning only getting louder and louder. The ash was even thicker here, sticking to his sweaty skin. Slowly, he made his way to the top.
The Author looked up. He was getting close. He could feel the buzzing deep in his bones, rattling his very being. He searched along the faintly glowing edge for something. Anything. A silhouette, a sign, an end, anything.
There! The Introverted Devil, standing with his back turned to the Author. Staring into the volcano. He held something in his hand… a bottle of sorts? It glowed faintly blue. But he’s here. He really is here. The Curious Devilless was right.
Keep going, the Author urged himself. So close… so close. The buzzing was making his teeth chatter. He could almost hear words now. So close… The Author opened his mouth. He was yelling but he couldn’t hear it. And then his vision faded to red and grey.
He woke up in the Devilless’ cottage. But it wasn’t the Deviless looking at him. Another pair of eyes stared at him, the colour of…
“Sunlight…” the Author mumbled. The Introverted Devil smiled in relief.
“Strictly speaking, I should burn your ears off,” the Wistful Devilless said, pouring them some tea. “But I suppose you didn’t get a chance to hear something you shouldn’t have.”
She cast a disapproving gaze at the Devil.
“And you. You are an idiot. But I suppose wisdom comes with age, and you clearly have neither,”
The Introverted Devil gave her a sheepish grin and shrugged his shoulders lamely. “Sorry, ma’am.”
The Author sat up. He felt different. He felt. His heart was thundering in his chest, his hands were shaking. What is this? Relief? Fear? Uncertainty? …Love?
He threw his arms around the Devil.
“If you ever snatch my soul again, I will push you into that volcano!”
The Devil laughed and returned the hug. The Wistful Devilless sighed.
“The Embassy looks down on Devils who fall in love. I advise you to find your own way somewhere else. Might I suggest down in the Port? I hear Port Carnelian is also nice. As are a number of places out in the Unterzee. Or you could become zailors and explore together.”
The Devil and the Author looked at each other, smiling.
“Should be better than doing errands for the fellows in London,” the Devil said.
“I bet there’s a story out there,” the Author added.
The duo finished their tea and made their way back to port. Together this time. The captain merrily invited them back onto their ship of Endless Battling, and the Author actually looked forward to it this time.
He has a Sun-Filled Story to write.
“Good evening, citizens and gentlebeings of London!” The voice of the Debonair Sharpshooter is a booming roar that echoes around the Forgotten Quarter, anachronistic resonance through the power of ahistorical dealings and what will one day be known as the microphone. “How are we doing?!”
The crowd howls back with anticipation. There are far more than a few dozen in the audience.
“I hope you’ve been having a great time tonight! Tonight, I reveal to you a plan years in the making…a discovery that will change London as we know it…but before I reveal it…” He leaves the crowd on edge for a moment before continuing, his voice filling with dramatic solemnity, “I’d like to tell you about something near and dear to my heart.”
The Sharpshooter reaches into his coat, pulls a scrap of parchment, holds it aloft. A page from Madame Shoshona’s seminal work on Chiropteromancy, depicting a swarm of bats in mid-flight. Their wings flutter in fearful, eightfold symmetry. This is the sign of the Spider.
“The sorrow-spider!” Hotshot shouts, “A figure of contention! Industrious weaver? Lovable pet? Menacing thief of eyes?” The crowd murmurs among themselves as he continues, “Monster, or unique beauty? Opinion is divided, indeed.” Spectacles flash cosmogone as the Sharpshooter sweeps his gaze across the audience. “There is no question that the sorrow-spider is a being of complex meanings. They are as much a part of London as humans and rats! Their webs span our workplaces and our homes, our churches and sewers. Their silk is more durable than any from the nations of the Surface! Their tenacity and strength makes them lord of the spider-pits! And their hunger for our eyes…as much a part of London as the hunger of Jack, and the hunger of wells.”
Special Constables bristle as the Sharpshooter continues, his hands rising to grasp at some imagined monstrous form. “And then there are councils.”
An unspoken gesture, and tapestries large enough to cover a carriage unfurl from the stage rafters. The audience gasps as mythic horrors captured in silk reveal themselves to public sight. On the right, an androgynous godling with eight eyes and a cloak of woven spiders prepares a coup de grâce on a clockwork tyrant’s blazing heart. On the left, tomb-colonists jerk and dance in a spiral around an enormous arachnid behemoth formed from bandages and husks; directly behind the Sharpshooter, a goddess veiled in silk and chitin nurses a human infant with one set of arms while a thousand spiderlings dangle from her other three pairs. Horrors with names and long histories: the Tree of Ages, the Venderbight Beast, the Mother in Emerald.
“Oh yes, spider-councils are real. Do not think of them as mere nightmarish fantasy tales! Even amongst yourselves, there are those who have encountered them. Spiders unto spiders unto spiders, merged together in shapes like none seen on the Surface of the Earth!” He spreads his arms wide. Urchins gasp. “Monstrous, eldritch, overwhelmingly arachnid…sapient!”
A violent shake of the head “No, councils are no mere beasts! They are thinking beings! Cunning, intelligent, emotional beings just like you and I! As eloquent as any tiger or statesman, as thoughtful as any philosopher! And yet…”
“Yes, yes, I know what is going through your heads at this very moment. What matters if these monsters can think and speak? They are still monsters, no? The Tree of Ages devours our ships whole. The Venderbight Beast rampages across the tomb-colonies. The zailors that set foot on Saviour’s Rocks do not always come back. Are they still not a threat to our lives?”
More than a few members of the audience nod their heads. Well, that was to be expected. Still, perhaps it was time to switch things up… “But what if I told you that this need not be the case?”
Now he has their attention. “Yes, we are inundated with stories of eye-stealing horrors and monstrous amalgamations. But humanity has heard many such stories before.
Blood-sucking strigoi, men and women that transform into horrible lupine beasts, witches in league with Satan! And underneath them all, who do they really tell us to fear?” He eyes the audience. “The Other. The foreigner, the outcast, the unfavoured. We make monstrous that which is not like us. These spiders, these councils are no different. They come from different cultures, yes! They make war against us, yes! They are not human, yes! But this does not make them inherently abominable.”
Hotshot whips the cosmogone spectacles from his face, and the audience gasps. He has replaced his eyes multiple times, but they inevitably assume the same appearance: pitted, blackened husks that crackle with impossible colour. “Years ago, I asked myself a question: is a person’s capacity for good and evil dictated solely by the quality of their being? Of their background, their species? Or could even something as seemingly monstrous as a spider-council learn of empathy, compassion and justice? Is it nature that dictates morality? Or nurture?”
He can see Special Constables readying communication bats. Time to hurry this up. “I gave of myself to find the answer…and I have found it! I sowed ocular soil with colour and fire, and from the soil nurtured new life! That life was taught the values that all people should seek in life! The values of charity, of kindness, of empathy and equality and fraternity!” Now. “We can be more than who we were born to be!” Now. “Monstrosity is not dictated by the nature of one’s being, but by the actions they engage in!” NOW. “WE CAN BE BETTER THAN WE ARE!”
“TONIGHT, I AM PROUD TO PRESENT TO YOU MY CHILD,” there are tears in Hotshot’s eyes, “THE TREE OF LIBERTY!”
In the dusky evening blue of the Forgotten Quarter, there comes green. Green like new shoots after rainfall, like fresh creeping ivy, like the birth of a jungle. Green like growth, like gemstones, like jealousy. Chitin-green; sorrow-spider green.
Green overwhelms in an oncoming tide as sorrow-spiders pour from the former temple en masse. Dozens, then hundreds, then thousands of spiders that pool and swirl and coagulate in short-lived clusters. Rising screams and shouts are drowned out by clicking and rustling. As the wave of spiders flows past the curtains onto the stage proper, they roil and bubble upwards into each other, into shapes and forms that mingle and fall apart and merge all over again. They swell to the size of a carriage. An elephant. A steamboat. Larger. Legs entwine, conjoin with legs; mandibles hook into claws that become mandibles that become claws; thoraxes and abdomens congeal into each other; web bones stretch and flex as millions of gleaming ruby eyes slither across the surface of the mass.
It is now, as the audience leaps from their seats and Ministry agents start calling for backup, that the final act is revealed.
A spider-council. No…something more bountiful. More fecund. A Hesperidean Spider-Council.
The Tree of Liberty.
The Tree flows through shape after shape like a dream (but dreams are ephemeral, and the Tree is entirely too solid). Now they are a hunting spider roughly the size of a small church, a spider made of spiders made of spiders. Now they are a manchineel world-tree, manifold branches dripping with venom. Now they are an abominable arachnid mockery of a Hell-Prince. Now they are a chitinous hydra with a thousand segmented heads. Now they are Arachne parasitizing Minerva. Psychic energies draw in lesser spiders by the thousands, tidal waves of arachnids skittering in supplication from all around the Quarter as the Tree expands.
Hotshot sighs with contentment as spiders gush past his legs, and lets himself fall backwards into the embracing morass of arachnids. Liberty carries him higher and higher as they rise and move and flow together. “There is no need to panic!” he calls as the audience panics, “The Tree of Liberty is a true Londoner, born and bred! They have been fed on philosophy, history, and morality! Neither the Rocks nor nature’s cruelty has shaped them!” Nobody is listening to him. “Humans and spiders can live together in harmony!”
From his perch atop the Tree, he can see across the Quarter. The edges of the crowd are already fleeing, most of them eastwards. Sirens blare from the direction of London: Menace Eradicators and Special Constables alike will be here soon. Wines has drained the rest of the bar and taken flight alongside Fires while Hearts remains on the ground, pondering the Tree with an enigmatic expression. He can see the glint of countless scopes as his own forces prepare for an inevitable firefight. Hmmm. Daniel was right: this was a spectacularly poor idea.
But Hotshot no longer cares.
“Oh, don’t be like that!” he cajoles the crowd, “Just listen!” A comforting hand atop Liberty’s carapace. A whisper to one of the spiders – it doesn’t matter which one, for what one hears all hear – “No more hiding, my little clatterclaws,” he murmurs, “I will protect you always, for as long as I am able.”
A rumbling vibration floods the area. People stumble and fall. The Tree of Liberty is purring.
“Go on and introduce yourself.”
The vibration dies down, and the shaking stops. Until the Tree of Liberty opens their ten thousand mouths… and in a unified drone, begins to sing.
~~People of London~~We finally meet!~~And we must say~~You all have such lovely eyes~~
Those members of the audience that did not immediately flee are remarkably tight-lipped when it comes to what came after that. Few will admit to hearing Liberty’s words; none will admit (in public) to staying, or of hearing what the Sharpshooter said afterwards. The Ministry is always listening in to these kinds of things.
Memories and Roses, Part II
by Professor Wensleydale.
Next, I combed the Flit for the Fisher-Kings. Maybe they could give me ideas about mood.
That, and also funding. The Bishop didn’t provide any of that.
As I encroached upon them, they threw a bunch of jars at me. Ow! Ow! Ow! Stop doing that! Ow!
Some of the screams sounded godlike, though. And maybe I can sell these broken jars… or sculpt them.
For now, though, I needed to get these scraps out of my arm.
Shadowy is increasing…
Daring is increasing…
Subtle is increasing…
Nightmares is dropping…
Wounds is increasing…
You’ve gained 1*Surface-Rose Petal(new total 5).
You now have 55*Correspondence Plaques.
You now have 1*Aeolian Scream.
Restoring an Epic has increased to 3!
News of Art, Art of News
Changes Swooping Through Our Fair City – Major Reconstructions underway
In recent days you may have spotted construction workers lingering on the periphery of your vision, perhaps even actual ongoing construction work nearby. Your eyes do not deceive you; an uncertain yet certainly prominent power has started changing the very face of our dear London herself.
The facades of many buildings are getting a new coat, broken benches have been replaced, new state-of-the-art bells have been installed, and gas lamps have been nearly eradicated by electric light bulbs (where possible).
Furthermore, the streets are finally accessible to more cabs with less accidents thanks to the renovation of roads and repolishing of the catheads. The cats could not have been reached for a comment, though the ride there was truly smooth.
Despite the insofar mixed reception we are certain that these novel changes will bring much joy and well-needed breath of fresh air to each of our lives and day-to-day activities. So go out there, London, and enjoy the niceties brought to you by surely at least one of the governing powers!
Ask Mother Goose
Dear Mother Goose,