Jump to content

Iron Quill (The Hunt) - The Glorious Dead


Recommended Posts

London Necropolis Cemetery, Brookwood, Surrey, England

6th February, 1901. 

The Necropolis Railway train pulled into Cemetery Station at quarter past the hour. From the first and second class carriages mourners alighted onto the platform, all dressed in sombre black. Some compartments remained closed; private parties attending a funeral, the coffin to be carried to the grave site once the crowds had cleared. At the rear of the train the cemetery workers began unloading the packed-in coffins of the poorer citizens, whose cadavers had been stacked in the carriages like firewood.

     Beyond the station the cemetery was covered in snow; the same flurry that had graced the Queen's burial days before, miles to the north in Windsor.  

     The Gentleman stepped from the train, taking in the bustle of the platform. Cemetery Guards stood around the station and clergymen moved slowly through crowds, white robes marking them out amidst the throng. Nearby a young boy had escaped the watchful eye of his governess, and was prodding at one of the Ætheric Detectors mounted on the station wall. A common sight in large cemeteries since the Black Powder Wars, when Resurrection magic had proved to be usable Earthside, the Detectors supposedly provided the Guards, whose Company had been incepted at the same time, early warning of any such magic being worked in the vicinity. The Empire's war dead marching on the capital was a threat no one wished to face. That the Devices were of no use in Malifaux was a continued bane to the Guild, if the outlandish stories in the papers were to be believed. The governess finally caught sight of her charge's actions, and moved to seize him by the ear, contempt written across her face. 

     "That's a scientific instrument, not a child's toy!" 

     The ensuing lecture fell behind the Gentleman as he left the station. The ride from Necropolis Station at Waterloo had given him plenty of time to study the map of the cemetery, and he threaded his way along the paths toward the Memorial. The rest of the journey he'd spent pondering the wisdom of obeying the clandestine summons he'd been sent, as he had for the last three days, as he'd travelled south. He'd thought himself free of this life. Paranoia and curiosity warred within him.  

     "In memory and honour to all those brave souls lost beyond this world, in the collapse of the Breach Of The Great Boundary. 

December 1797"

     The same words, or one expressing similar sentiment, were engraved upon memorials around the world. Visitors to more recently settled territories remarked of the sense of strangeness the absence of these markers evoked. The papers had spent many a column debating a petition to the Guild to erect a monument in Malifaux herself. 

     The names on the surrounding plaques were faded by over a hundred years of English weather. The Gentleman knew that his Great-Grandfather's name was inscribed on one of the long rolls; lost in Malifaux, leaving a wife and child behind in old London. 

     The crunch of shoes on the gravel path broke his reverie, announcing the arrival of his mysterious contact. 

     "The Empire is losing more people in Malifaux every day." William Melville's Irish accent had faded since he and the Gentleman last spoke, rubbed away by his time in London, and the company he kept. The Gentleman still recognised him without looking in his direction.

     "The Empire is in the habit of losing people. I fancied myself quiet lost until three days ago."

     "You were, quiet convincingly so. Had events not required it, you would be yet."

     "indeed." The Gentleman turned to face Melville. "The how of that first, if you'd be so good. Then I'll hear out the why."

     The head of Special Branch gestured with his cane. "Let's walk a way."

     "Do your officers know where we are headed?" The Gentleman nodded towards three men evidently watching them from the amid the wandering mourners. . Melville ignored the question, turning on his heel and setting off on a path through the headstones. 

     "We found you, in part because some people don't stop looking, even for a corpse. There's been a formal watch for you since your "death". Not that anything substantial was ever found. There was ample time to dig into your past though. In more detail than the recruiters did. Enough of use was found that a practitioner was able to find you. Two 'Stones and his life later and here we are." 

     "The Guild approved that, did they?"

     "The Secretary of Ætheric Affairs is entirely ignorant of the matter."

     "And did your practitioner know he was going to his death? Did he overstretch, or does secrecy over my return from the grave necessitate the filling of others?" The Gentleman's voice was frosty, although his body language betrayed none of this, maintaining the poise of a man of a sorrowful aspect, as befitted his garb and surrounding. Melville ignored the barbed question, and the Gentleman felt his old feelings of mingled dislike and respect for the man rekindled. The voice of a priest drifted towards them over the snow, officiating at a funeral in the other section of the cemetery. Beside the two men row upon row of graves were filled with the Empire's soldiers, statues commemorating the conflicts they'd fought and died in. 

     "So that's the how. The why must be dire to warrant such measures."

     "You served the Queen's Empire once. Will you serve the King's?"

     "It was never that simple."

     "The oath of service is simple enough for the common soldier." 

     The Gentleman paused, forcing Melville to halt as well.

     "The common soldier litters the ground six foot under the snow all around us, William. Every grave holds a man who died having said those words. Shot, stabbed, strangled, starved, or shipped back here to die of his wounds." He tipped his chin towards the memorial stood amid the graves, celebrating the lives of those who fought in the Black Powder Wars, then pointed towards those marking other actions that had expanded the Empire. "The oath bought them little. Those made to serve and those who went willingly, buried just the same." Melville had been growing visibly angrier during the Gentleman's speech. 

     "Their oaths, proudly given, bought the Empire glory, and its continued existence."

     "Aye." The Gentleman interrupted before Melville could work up a full head of steam. "We scramble to the top of the heap, to stand upon the shoulders of the valiant dead. Our forefathers amongst them. We paint a quarter of the map red with the blood lost winning it, for Britannia. I do not dispute the necessity of safeguarding the Empire, only the need to veil it under disassembling about glory and honour. There is none of that to be found on a battlefield, and less in our bloody work of whispers and knives." The Gentleman started to walk again. "Every man I killed for the Empire was a murder of necessity. The only death I took pleasure in was my own."

     "You and many others, no doubt." Melville's patience was growing increasingly short. He abandoned the argument for direct questioning: "Will you serve the King's Empire? It has need of you despite your efforts to persuade us otherwise."

     "I'll serve the Empire again, but for necessity, not the lie of glory or honour. What part do I need to play to keep this island afloat?"

     "We need you to head through the Breach."

     "There are easier ways to kill me than that, surely."

     "There are. Steam velocipedes are a notoriously hazardous way to travel." The Gentleman kept his surprise well concealed. Special Branch had clearly used the short time they'd known his whereabouts well. The threat was expected,though. A soldier might face the firing squad for desertion, a spy faced far less obvious forms of execution. "How up-to-date are you with current affairs?"

     "I've enjoyed my isolation."

     "The situation for the Empire is dire."

     "Although I did not say I was wholly ignorant. The situation for the Empire is always dire." Melville shot him a look laced with venom. The Gentleman shrugged it off;he'd had worse from better. "Carry on as though I were ignorant,though."

     "The Secretary of Ætheric Practices is restricting our supply of Soulstones. Requests are being summarily turned down. Other sources are also failing us."

     "And not all branches of the Government can magic up Soulstones off the books as and when they need them."

     "Enquiries suggest that the Guild is unhappy with how we are handling the Empire's affairs in Malifaux. Our spies abroad have been unable to determine whether other powers are coming under similar pressure. We have to assume it is the Empire alone that is being manipulated. The Governor-General's connections in London are telling their worth, to our detriment."

     "The Earl is failing us over there?"

     "Her Majesty's funeral has been used as a pretext for his recall and replacement."

     "By whom?"

     "That would be your choice. Within reason, and with approval. You'd be advisor in extraordinary, while they are the face of the Empire in Malifaux. You'd also be under watch of my people. Desperation does not excuse idiocy." 

     "And what would I be doing, besides playing Kingmaker?"

     "We need you to be our eyes and ears."

     "And if needed your blade in the dark."

     "The Governor-General has his damnable Secretary. The Empire will have you."

Word Count



Theme: Predation (After a fashion)

Character: The Scorned Child

Line: "That's a scientific instrument, not a child's toy!"

Item: Steam Velocipede

Location: Military Cemetery

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I liked this a lot, to the point I was left wanting more.

There are two places where you use quiet instead of quite, plus a few general mistakes, but another pass and you're sorted.

The story focusses more on setting up a larger plot, which works if there's more, but as a standalone story the characters could maybe do with a little more fleshing out. That said, I hope you carry this plot on :-)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I really enjoyed this - I found the setting to be really exceptional! I think we always wonder what it's like to be Earthside on the opposite side of the Breach, contemplating the horrors on the other side as opposed to being stuck in Malifaux as per usual hoping to go home! I agree that this story seemed to set up the plot for something larger in the end as opposed to being self-contained, I'm swith Panda - I really wanted more!


Keep it up!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...

Important Information