Tuesday, September 3

Goodbye Shanghai

Velvel sighed as he stood at the edge of the pier, watching the sun set over the bay. He would miss the incessant chug-chug-chugging of Miss Thoughtwerk's vending robot. It did a wonderful job of scaring the rats away. He'd miss the lovely little shop Mayor Lunar built for him. He's even miss the squalid slums of...oh wait. That's an aqueduct. They already evicted the slums and built an aqueduct? He really should have gotten out more, he thought. No wonder business was dead. Come to think of it, all the other stores in his row on the pier were gone as well. Within a week everything else would be torn down, he was told. Even the aqueduct.

He felt guilty about being such a poor tenant. He was a poor businessman too, he was ready to admit. He couldn't even make a profit smuggling! But Lunar in debtor's prison? Such madness! Maybe it was that new Mayor's doing, Jobias Bottlemess or something. He was one of those villainous types he was told, the kind that snuck around in a tall black hat and cloak and twirled his mustache while laughing. They were an embarrassment to criminals like himself who were just trying to make a living without getting noticed by the Law.

He drew a pen knife from his pocket and pressed the point to his hand. He heard a rush of air and a thump behind him that made the pier shake.

"VELVEL! What are you doing?"

A rotting board near the merchant's feet snapped and fell into dark waters of the bay. He glanced back at the demon.

"Calm down...calm down...is just a tradition from my village." He bit his lip as he felt a hot rivulet trail down his thumb. "I did the same after I buried my family in the Old Country. When you are going to leave a place and never return, you leave seven drops of blood behind. It confuses the evil spirits into not following you. No offense."

"What will become of you, Velvel?"

Drops of crimson left small circles on the decaying planks. One drop fell between the wood and hissed imperceptibly when it struck the water.

He shrug. "Who knows? I camp out in the woods, I suppose."

The demon snapped his wings as he craned his neck. "Did you feel that?"

Velvel didn't look back. "The angel did. The mystic link is cut, he said."

"Another one of those wretched bombs they use in New Babbage to flush out the supernaturals. I thought they spent the last one years ago...."

"Koen is back." The angel was speaking through him again. "You cannot approach, but you must help how you can."

"I will. Xavael, I..."

"Later, Bloodwing. Later. He has much work left to do."

"I understand." A rush of mighty wings, and then the demon was gone.

Velvel wrapped a bandage around his hand,  then slowly shut the sliding metal door to the loading entrance for the last time. He would spend last fitful night sleeping in a bedroll on the second floor.

The glow of the oil lamp in the window of Shanghai Bazaar 's tower faded out. Under the pier where he had recently stood, the water bubbled and churned. A gaunt and pallid arm stretched from the depths and wrapped a bony hand around one of the sturdier boards. A silhouette pulled itself onto the pier and rose to its feet, but not fully erect, for it remained hunched over from weakness and hunger. Crimson eyes shone into the darkness, searching for a living vessel to feed upon.

It is said that the tears of an angel can heal the living. A similar adage not shared by mortals is that the blood of an angel can restore the undead. The ashes of Aliester Louis Mason had been drawn into the workings of his airship, the Bloodwing's Revenge, when he was caught by the rays of the sun. Those ashes had scattered into Steelhead Bay when that same ship was wrecked in the battle with the Illumiautilus. 

One drop in the bay was all it took.

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