Author Topic: Missives from a Fallen City  (Read 3792 times)


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Missives from a Fallen City
« on: November 28, 2021, 04:18:46 PM »
Missives from a Fallen City
A Fiction set in Fallen London

Missive 1.

By the presentation of this Calling Card, it is hereby CONFIRMED that you have been the subject of a visit by the honourable Mr. Maisourias SPONDERWICK, Esquire, Gentleman Scholar and Man of Negotiable Action! Please find overleaf the details of the address of the heretoforesaid.

Missive 2.

Dear Sir,

I was interested to receive your calling card, which, while unsolicited, was not unwelcome. I would be intrigued to make your further acquaintance and discuss with you a number of queries regarding a manuscript I am currently putting pen to – though my desk, alas and as you can tell from the stains, is a mess of paper, candles, and cake-crumbs (the latter not for myself, you must understand – it is a preferred delicacy of a certain small companion in solitude).

With all due felicitations,

Astrabella Cyclamen Willoughby

Missive 3.

Dear Miss Cyclamen Willoughby,

I was enchanted to receive your missive of the fifteenth, and grateful furthermore for the verbal felicitations passed on by your man. I shall attend to you at the time and place proposed, and look forward to your company. I understand from your man, too, that as alluded to, you have the acquaintance of a Blemmigan: whilst I am unfamiliar with the creatures, I shall endeavour to avail myself of some of the requested foodstuffs prior to your company.

With dutiful wishes,

Mr. Maisourias Sponderwick

Missive 4.

Astrabella –

The butler informs me that you have been entertaining a man who is at best a mercenary and at worst a ruffian. I write to remind you of your station. The time you openly suggested employing one of the rubbery men has not been forgotten, and that accursed creature you keep feeding cake to continues to be a stain on both the family and every scrap of paper it leaks fungal matter onto. In my book, and my book is a tome of not inconsiderable proportions, this new foolery is worse than either. This dalliance will cease immediately.

Johnston V. Willoughby

Missive 5.

To Mr. Sponderwick,

Your concerns about the ethics of the duty imposed upon you by the Ministry of Public Decency have not been noted, because they are irrelevant. We are the ethics of this city, and your failure to appreciate that fact does you, sir, little credit.

Your commission in regard to the Willoughby family remains in force and unchanged.


Petty Mid-Sergeant Oliver Caxton

Missive 6.

Dear Mr. Sponderwick,

I fear you may have been under some delusions as to the conclusions of our previous meeting, given your earnest entreaties for further company at the end. I have indeed been informed under no uncertain terms that I am to cease seeking your company, and so I am writing to inform you that under no circumstances shall I possibly be meeting you again, and that the rear glasshouse door will not be unlocked at eleven o’clock tomorrow night in order to facilitate this.

With cordial wishes,

Astrabella C. Willoughby

P.S. Its name is not Gertrude, it is Gratitude. Do get it right next time.

Missive 7.

Dear Astrabella (if I may),

My pen quivers close to the paper as I seek to write to you after our encounter in the glass-house, yet I know not how to put to words the marvels you showed me there.

The fruit revealed amid your vines was sweeter than the fabled gardens of Babylon, Astrabella. The beauty of the stars, the war of the stars, that raged between the honeyed physalis and the ungentle fruit-picker amid your plants: it shall be emblazoned onto my mind as the dreams of Solomon. Did he not, thus fevered, pluck by night the Queen of Sheba’s garden? Or do I merely project my hopes upon that sage, whose wisdom I have abandoned for the madness of the serpent’s blissful apple? Give me your leaves that I may part them to find the sweetness within, give me your flowers that I may rip them from the creeper and scatter the petals across every moment of your being. Give me your pomegranates, love, that I may sink myself forever into any hell you care to name.

I am, respectfully or disrespectfully as you choose, wholly your

Maisourias Sponderwick

P.S. Upon our next encounter, I shall also bring more cake for Gratitude.   

Missive 8.

Dear Astrabella,

I surmise both from the lack of response to my last letter, and the medium sized blunderbuss pointed at me by a most ungentlemanly underservant when I last stopped in your neighbourhood, that I am not, at present, welcome at your residence. This was doubly unfortunate because in my haste to retreat from my gun-wielding adversary I dropped Gratitude’s cake. I pray this is not your doing, and determine to try and meet you again as soon as may be possible.

I am wretched, dear queen, for want of you. The white of your dress I wish only to mar, the smooth flow of your hair only to ravage, the bonds around your slender frame to tear. Your sunlight fills the leaves of my humble weed and leaves me with strength to reach up to your rays that fall upon me from above. I pray to know them again, my Astrabella, my Cyclamen, if you grant me the clemency of your feet upon my earth, your high towers above the lips of my armies. Answer the prayer that lies in my hand and eye upon your countenance.

I am your prisoner, and all the walls of your abode are my chains. Release me from them and I promise you that you shall want not for fond memories of the glasshouse.


Missive 9.

To my Maisourias,

Father has barred all of the doors in the house to prevent my exit. I do not recommend visiting, though it pains me with every beat of my heart to say so. I shall attempt to smuggle this letter out with one of my maids in the hope that it can reach you. My attempts at writing continue, though my room is filled only with a fury of paper, half-dry scraps that I cannot burn only because too many of them carry your name written a hundred fevered times.

I finally received your last two letters, which I greatly appreciated, though you must believe me when I say that no damnable metaphors about fruit will sate the extent of my feelings. With your absence, my fingers clutch at empty air where your shirt should be wrapped around them, my nails digging into my palms, bereft of the breadth of your shoulders where they seek to sink themselves. My hair is unpulled, my form unstretched upon the floor; I am unconquered and unsullied. And yet, still, here I lie with my legs entangled in sheets that I wish could take the name of Mr. Maisourias Sponderwick, speaking your name amidst beautiful curses to the darkling night.

Seek no fruit of the glass-house from me, Mr. Sponderwick. I have only fire for you here.

And I would burn all that I know and knew rather than spend this life empty.


P.S. Gratitude sends greetings. Or at least some sort of vaguely fungal leakage.

Missive 10.

Sweet Cyclamen,

I write to you, today, not to woo but to warn. And, drat it, to confess.

The Ministry of Public Decency, with threats of suspicion and scandal, engaged a desperate man some months ago to investigate – and then to eliminate – the current holders of the Willoughby estate. That man is no more, though… I still bear his name and face, and shame far greater than any they could pin upon me.

My handlers have grown both restless and careless. They come to me with more threats to myself, but it is the threats to you that I find myself fearing ever the more. My nightmares of a cold cliff edge seem to whisper of you, the zunless zea rolls your name into its waters, more precious than moon-pearls – and that but the name of you, the unimaginable echo of the realities of every startled breath that still wisps over my collarbone by candlelight. 

I no longer care what the Ministry may do to me: I must ensure your safety personally, and get you away from the vile Scylla and Charybdis between which we find ourselves. Love me or hate me, Cyclamen, as you will, but I cannot see you suffer. I shall come to your residence by moonlight, though hell should bar the way.

I have never been a man for prayers, but I offer many that this reaches you swiftly.


P.S. Tell Gratitude that I have never met a finer fungus.

Missive 11.

Dear Mr. Sponderwick,

By this letter I confirm that your situational obligation has been discharged. Our observers noted that you appear to have entered the Willoughby residence through the roof at one o’clock on Thursday morning, and that shortly thereafter a fire started: due to every door in the house being barred and the servants not being present, there were no escapees of the resulting blaze excepting your own retreat through your means of entry. This had the politically useful effect of making the family’s removal appear to be a domestic accident: we commend you for your efficacy on behalf of the Ministry in this regard.

We advise you to stay away from the public funerals that will be held for Mr. Johnston Willoughby and his daughter Astrabella, in order to avoid further questions being raised.

We hereby confirm you have no further direct obligations to us beyond those the law customarily demands, and wish you a pleasant remainder of your stay in London.


Petty Mid-Sergeant Oliver Caxton

Missive 12.

Dear Mr. Sponderwick,

I suppose it must seem strange, after five months, receiving a letter from a dead woman. As you know, however, I have never had a great interest in propriety, and I have little intention of beginning now.

I should apologise for misleading you as to the events after I threw the candle at my stack of writing-notes and at father. I was aware upon receiving your missive that the Ministry would not look kindly upon your attempting to save my life: a friend among the rubbery men was able to procure a young lady’s sadly deceased frame from the alleys of Spite, which occupied my place during the fire: as to myself, suffice it to say that you shall learn the truth in course – should you wish.

You have my understanding if you do not reply to this missive. Much seems outlandish here, and this perhaps not the least among it. My only regrets are any pain I may have caused your good person, and that I am still uncertain what happened to Gratitude. Do keep a look-out for him if you can.

I remain, if you wish, your


Missive 13.

[This piece of paper has no words on it, and was recovered from a dead-letterbox near Ladybones Road.  It has, however, a number of trails of fungal slime: they appear to form the shape of a piece of cake.]

Author's notes: this piece was written for the University of Vienna creative writing society's fanfiction evening this semester: it's based on the game Fallen London. An audio version read by the author is available here.
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