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Iron Quill (The Hunt) - A Letter Home

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Dear Mother,
Sorry I haven’t written so much in the past month or two. I was away on a mission, and then away for a hiring interview, and then I kind of cut off my own thumb and had to spend some time learning to write again. Don’t worry, though -- I still have my other thumb for now.
I know it’s taken a long time for me to say it, but I admit it now, you were right: I never should have come to Malifaux.
Really, you were more right than that, mother. Nobody should come to Malifaux! Nobody! We humans don’t belong here.
And that’s why I’ve taken up with a new employer. You’ll never guess who!
Well, I won’t make you guess - it’s the Neverborn! I’m working to help drive us humans away from Malifaux and set things right again! It’ll be best for everyone involved once people go back through the Breach. We don’t need to mine soulstones anymore, I don’t think. We can keep recharging the ones we have. What’s more, we’ve got steam power now to keep things going, and coal, and all the wonders of modern technology. Why should we all be risking our lives to get more soulstones?
Instead, I’m risking my life to set things straight and help with the evacuation. Well, help convince people to evacuate, anyway. I guess that mostly means shooting them. That’s pretty convincing.
My new boss is really nice. She’s always smiling and giving little pieces of advice to people. “Act now!” she says. Or sometimes “Shoot yourself in the foot!” Or sometimes, “Stare at the alien stars weeping forever for a lost name you never knew. Swallow the goat-mind within you. Consume yourself and be empty forever.” That kind of thing. Just good common sense advice. You’d like her. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not sweet on her the way I was with Margarita the clock-working girl, but I respect her and value her advice.
Of course, I can’t remember half the work I’m doing here, and sometimes I find myself seeing shapes out of the corners of my eyes that disappear when I look straight toward them. Sometimes new memories come bubbling up and I don’t know what’s true or not. Sometimes I’m pretty sure that my hands are snakes, or that I’m surrounded by really big hungry beetles and they’re choking the air so thick I can’t breathe anymore. But mostly that kind of thing only happens when the boss is around, and I know I can trust her, so I don’t let all the voices and hallucinations get to me. It’s all part of what you have got to expect, working in Malifaux these days.
I love my job.
And they pay better than the Guild does, too! She’s paying me in soulstones, not company scrip. I’ve sent some home for you, too — now that I’m employing smugglers instead of the usual Guild courier to send letters home, I’m pretty sure that nobody is reading the mail that I send you anymore. Just another little confirmation that this new job is a good idea.
Most of my co-workers are fine folks, too, but a little strange. They’re kind of giant blue-furred goat people of various sizes, with wicked horns and gnashing fangs and great barbed wings. You know, the Nephilim. The kind of folks you want to have on your side in a fight. I was worried, when I found out that I would be working with them, that they’d just hired me so that they could eat me and get bigger. They licked their lips hungrily and watched me a long time when I mentioned it to them, but then they said no, the rules have changed recently and they only eat enemies now.
They all laughed once they said. I laughed too. We’re all getting along really well.
Loyalty and honor, that’s a mercenary’s way — just like you always taught me.  Well, except the part about being a mercenary. I know you don’t approve of that part, and I remember the fights we had when I told you I was coming out here, but mostly I meant the part about loyalty and honor that you’d always taught me.
I’m back to living in Malifaux City proper again. Right near that grocer I’d told you about before, only now the grocer is closed on account of condemnation, so I have to get my food from across town.
I probably shouldn’t tell you what I’m doing, but I will anyway, since I don’t think anyone but you will read these letters and I don’t get much chance to talk with people.
Mostly, I’ve been working guard duty. My new boss has set up this elaborate giant brass gyroscope out in the military cemetery at the edge of Malifaux, and I’m on patrol to make sure no one messes with it. This thing is beautiful! When I first started working with it, I thought it was a telescope or surveying equipment or something, but the closer I look, the more I can see inside of it.
The way the gyroscope spins, faster and faster, in three different directions at once, makes you feel a little nauseous when you look at it, but a good kind of nauseous. It makes little whispering noises as it turns, too. At first they sound like the wind, but the more you listen, the more you can hear other voices murmuring in there. I heard your voice in there, too, actually. And I heard my own voice, whispering, reminding me that I’d rather die human than survive and become a monster. Funny little brass contraption, that. I’m hoping to figure it out, or maybe learn enough about it that I can ask Margarita about it so that she can figure it out if I ever see her again.
My boss got mad when I touched it, though. “That’s a scientific instrument, not a child’s toy!” she screamed. That’s when she recommended that I shoot myself in the foot. It was a really good idea at the time, just because of the circumstances, but it’s been hard to walk since then.
So now I’m riding this fancy new steam velocipede they got me, patrolling around the graveyard, making sure that no one knows what’s here. I’m wearing a messenger bag full of fake letters, and if anyone asks I’m supposed to tell them I’m a courier, not a guard. I don’t think we’re supposed to be here.
The steam velocipede is great! It’s like a penny-farthing bicycle with a little miniature train engine on it. They said that they’ll let me keep it when I go back home, so maybe I’ll take little Jack for a ride on it. The thing goes so fast you have to wear goggles. I guess little Jack probably isn’t so little anymore, huh? He’s all grown up. Tell him to take after his father and not to become a hired gun like his uncle, okay? I love my job, but I wouldn’t wish it on anyone else.
It's awfully nice of them to get me a nice velocipede like this, after I'd hurt my foot and all. A lot of employers will just fire you after you hurt you foot, but these Neverborn take good care of their people.
This brass contraption is important. My boss says just to leave it there and let it build up for a few months, and then the true hunt will begin. She says that suffering is like a sweet syrup poured into the dry sand of inevitability. She says that Time is a hungry hound and that all men will run as foxes, and that this gyroscope is the hunting horn. She says that there is a mathematics of Reversal, that we unravel ourselves to learn. I’m not sure what that has to do with the brass contraption, but that’s what she tells me whenever I ask about it.
That’s about all for now. Love you. Say hi to dad and Patrick and little Jack and all the cousins and tell them again that I’m sorry.
Your Son William
P.S. I have a good feeling about this job. I think this is going to end really well.
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Good read. The only thing that drew my attention away from the story was that he went from addressing Pandora as "she" for all of the story to suddenly using her name once, then going back to addressing her as "she" I figured this must be to let others know which person he was dealing with and understand the use. It was the only thing that broke my immersion in the story while I was reading it. Perhaps saying it another way, like, "The woman they have been calling Pandora" or "I have heard them whisper/ say her name / call her Pandora"


Just my thoughts.


As Always,

The Grue

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