Quoth the Raven
"We watched from the Tower as the clouds burned; watched as the flames of hell coloured the sky in a concerto of colours, lighting the horizon in a parody of the sunset that waited in the wings but that was never allowed to take centre stage. Standing in silence we bore mute witness as the Empire turned to stricken rubble around us, the glory of British power dying with the fading light from the West.
That sunset over the City of London presaged the dawn of a new age of steam; one of necessity and invention, one of desperation and survival, where the former colonies left us to survive as best we could in the fragmented society left in the aftermath of the Chem War. The Americans had taken their own independence one step further, declaring that the whole world should be free of the tyranny of British colonial might; it seemed that many others agreed.
We fought as we had always fought, but we were outnumbered, outgunned and left to rebuild as best we could. The Tower provided sanctuary at first, then a centre of power and finally a rule of law overseen by the Tower Guard under the Commander of the Tower: a small island of order in a sea of anarchy.
Now we live in a country where pirates rule the skies in their Cloudships and the effects of the chemical war inflicted on us blights our daily lives. Nevertheless, we fight for survival and a semblance of peace amidst the chaos that surrounds us on all sides. We fight for London."
Seth put down the page he had been reading aloud, looking over at his friend who was feeding the doves and rooks from the roof of the water tower where he had made his home.
"It's decent start old boy, but to be honest I think it needs a bit of an edit, it's a tad overly dramatic for my tastes."
Raven turned away from his beloved birds and perilous perch overlooking the city and turned to face the larger man, his twisted beak of a mouth adding a strange sibilance to his words.
"Your tastes tend to involve pornography and bawdy humour Seth, so I don't feel too inclined to worry overmuch about your critique. I merely thought that it might be useful for future generations if someone kept some sort of record of events."
"The future?" Seth's laughter rumbled over the rooftop as Raven scowled and slumped down beside him on the solidly made bench, the Tower dominating the view as it always had. "Sorry, old friend but I think we need to worry more about the present, the future can take care of itself. Why have you been writing anyway?"
"I finished what I was working on so I decided to try something new."
"Finished? So you've completed it?"
"I have, but before we get down to business and I have to leave the sunshine, what news do you bring from the lofty heights of the Tower? You're the only one who seems to bother telling me anything. The others run in and out with bits of odd machinery that they think I might be able to use, or requests for something to be fixed or modified, but they never really bother talking to me."
Seth leant back on the bench and looked at the birds that crowded the ledge, collecting his thoughts and making sure he was prepared for the inevitable barrage of questions from the overly intelligent Raven. He looked over at his friend of twenty years, taking in the birdlike frame and misshapen head. The feathery wisps of hair on his mutated body had thinned over the decades since the Chem Wars but he had lost none of his sharpness nor engineering skills: he had served the Tower well.
"We are under siege," he said shortly. "The pirates are getting stronger by the day and are threatening to breach our defences. If they gain control of the skies over London then we are all doomed. We're running low on supplies, low on men and morale, and I think we have a mole somewhere in the organisation."
YOU ARE READING
Quoth the RavenShort Story
A steampunk short set in an alternative London. The Tower: a rock around which swirls a broken Empire, where Cloud Pirates rules the skies in their cloudships and power is all. Led by Tower Commander Denalta, can Trooper Seth and his fellow Guards s...