It has been 4 years, 4 months and 17 days since he began the first iteration of his journal. He hasn’t kept track of the precise number of hours, that would be bordering on the obsessive. This morning he turns to a fresh page in the lastest leatherbound volume. He dips his pen in the inkwell on his desk, ignoring the gentle snores of the wanted criminal sleeping on the sofa in his study- the place the man has been exiled to for the last two weeks. His pen hovers over the page.
How exactly, he muses, did I come to this.
5am on the morning of the 3rd day of the 4th month, he writes, The sun is not yet over the horizon but the birds of this strange city have already begun their song.
He pauses for a moment and rests his pen on its stand. There is an alcove in the far corner of the room, which Hugh had used to store various bottles of liquor, but which Octavian has restored to its intended purpose. Each icon stares out at him from the shrine: the almost mocking grin of the Jubliant Mask, the unreadable expression of the Stoic Veil and the grim determination of the Raging Tide. There is one that he speaks to most of all when he is troubled. Not that he thinks the Silent Expectation particularly has time to listen to his ill-conceived prayers, but he finds talking to the god somewhat comforting. He lights the nine candles, as he does every morning and says a short prayer. His brother would have given him some good advice in a time like this. Of course he is not here.
4 years, 4 months and 28 days ago, he sees them coming over the horizon. Their banners emblazoned with the rays of a golden sun on a white background. “Stay here”, he said, “I’ll find you. It’s going to be okay.”
He sets himself back down at his desk and persuses his schedule. Breakfast at 6am, followed by a briefing and then Joshua’s boy is coming later that morning. In the afternoon he intends to finish off going through the stack of paperwork that Mr Branch left behind in his demise and subsequent damnation. About half the pile he has sorted through already is incomprehensible drivel and the other is scrawled with non-sensical shapes that defy any rational logic. Sloppy bookkeeping should not really be tolerated. In his sleep the other man mutters something but it is impossible to make out. Reason would dictate that he should have handed him over to the Watch to be hung with the rest of them but sentimentality is fundamentally irrational. His sentimentality is what, despite what anyone might believes, proves he is human. Any theories to the contrary are hardly even worth pursuing. Yet still the thought nags at his mind.
There is a dull throbbing sensation in his left temple. He doesn’t drink. Or at least he doesn’t make a habit of it. But last night the pirate had persuaded him to indulge- gods know where he even acquired the rum- and now he is suffering the ill effects. This is the effect that this place has on him. The entire city has gone insane but then what can one expect from a place that sees the use of draconic power as no different from any other tool.
4 years, 4 months and 21 days ago, the woman who finds him does not know how he could have survived.
He makes his way down the stairs, leaving the other man still sleeping on the sofa. For breakfast he has two slices of brown toast with jam and butter and a slightly lukewarm cup of tea. He notes this in the journal. At this time there is little sign of other life, save for a few staff busying themselves in the kitchen and one or two other early risers.
Later at the briefing there is very little to report, save the ongoing embarassment that is Mr Hugh Branch. Still no body has been recovered. Are they certain he is really dead? Surely they can only know for sure if he turns up alive. Let’s hope that he doesn’t. He raises the issue of the one still missing girl but the fate of a single child is hardly a pressing matter for the East Empire Company. Still they will let him know if anyone turns up anything. It is not the most fruitful of meetings. He takes notes in any case.
4 years, 4 months and 18 days ago, she hands him a battered book. She thinks it might help if he writes it all down.
He is going to give the boy the spiel about the importance of the responsibility he has been charged with. About how he has a duty and a purpose now to protect the world from forces that might seek to undermine its integrity. On the way there he pauses. Perhaps the child, given all he has been through, is not quite ready for all that yet. That can wait for now. Instead he remembers something the monkey told him.
As he enters the room there is a look of nervous anticipation on Jeremiah’s face. His eyes light up as he asks whether Octavian intends to show him the “wibbly stuff”. Not quite yet. He needs to start with the very basics. He produces from his coat pockets two objects that would appear identical to the casual observer.
“Now then, I want you to look carefully at these two apples.”