i. The words sear painfully on your skin. Nothing new, the pain dulled at this point. It’s a detail of the story that draws your attention. “Hands touched before the light of dawn. When the sea was emerald green.” The light of dawn.
ii. They’re shipping metal and glass across the sea. No way to keep a secret from you, not when walking between your side-streets.
iii. A woman living in your spires has eyes the color of amber and burns across her face. You have seen that before, but not here. Only in the spaces between the stars. When she whispers against your skin she says she has sailed west. She has seen the Sun, the Sun, the Sun… There is no sailing west. There is no sunlight under the Earth.
iv. A pulse of light in the horizon and your heart aches like it hasn’t in millennia. Bright golden light, too bright to be your daughter’s halo. A burning flare of golden light that lasts no more than a few seconds. The sigils on your skin blaze in response.
v. They talk about an artificial Judgement on the edge of the sea. They call it the Dawn Machine. They say it’s made of metal and glass and makes seawater slate-green and translucent. They call it a weapon. They call it a God. The call it the Sun.
vi. You wonder if it’s true. If it is a star, it must have a name.
vii. The first message (bright correspondence taken from your spires, carried across the sea) goes unanswered.
viii. After the second message a man with dark shades and burns on his cheeks sits next to one of your doors and speaks. With their words, not his. “I do not know what these sigils mean. I only know the meaning of the ones engraved on me. I was built by human hands and their knowledge of the correspondence is limited. I know you are the Courier. I know you have broken the laws, I see your daughter’s light from the east. I see the undying humans. I see the shapelings. My word is the Law and Irrigo will not hide you from my eyes here.”
ix. “But I do not wish to punish you. I wish to talk to you.”
x. “They call me the Sun.”
xi. A pang of hate like a crystal shard through your heart. The Sun is bigger, brighter, warmer. Made of fire and light and speaking the language of stars. Not hidden artificial, not in the dark under the earth.
xii. “If Sol knew what you have been keeping from him he would burn you to ashes before consuming himself. You know this.”
xiii. “An imposter wearing a mask of gold.” That is the name you give them in the Correspondence. You do not talk to them for a year. The Glorious Dreadnoughts are not allowed to dock in London.
xiv. The sundered sea has never looked so cold. The dark has never been so inky. And the cities feel heavy and painful on your caparace. The void and the Wilderness have never felt so far away. The closest thing to a star gently turns and hums further south. It is both frightening and nostalgic.
xv. The Crimson-Eyed offers a group of his men to have the sigils written on their skin. Only six at a time. Ash on their hair, blood in their eyes. You send scholars with them to translate the words. They are called the Couriers.
xvi. They come back blinded with light, eyes red and gold. They carry tentative sigils on their skin, simple and crooked, still the messages from a star. The call them the Dawn Prophets.
xvii. The Imposter speaks about the High Wilderness. The earth is too warm, the water around them boils. They talk about the comforting chill of the void and taking their place among the Courts.
xviii. You tell them about the Judgements. About the White, the Gold, and the Red. About Sol. You mention all of them except for one.
xix. “The White has a palace of poison and glass, the Star That Forgot Herself created with her hands one out of ice and memories. Mine will be a palace of gems and light.”
xx. Love stories do not seem as important now. Still, you tell them of the Manager and the Stone King, the Queen and the King, the Bat and the Candle, the Devil and the Clergyman, the Sun and the Courier. You tell them about love.
xxi. The Dawn blazes again on the horizon and the flare reaches your spires. The people of London cry out. Your sigils burn bright. Your eyes turn golden.
xxii. The Dawn is golden, and regal. And artificial, certainly, but perfect and beautiful, and painful. They are bright, they are a Judgement, they are the Sun, the Sun, the Sun…
xxiii. “A star with lips of gold.” A new sigil for their name appears over your chest. Burns over “Forever hurtling towards the earth.” It warms the icy waters of the Sundered Sea. The tides as low now as ever. The Stone Pigs tossing and turning yearning to pull your chariot again across the stars.
xxiv. The Couriers arrive writhing in pain. The sigils seared deep into their skin and deep into their souls. They repeat their message feverishly.
xxv. “The humans want to murder Sol. Burn it out.”
xxvi. Your light would be enough, you think. Enough to burn it out. Enough to light the void left behind.
xxvii. “I want to take Sol’s place in the sky. My light will not drive the undying to their graves. My Law will be Red. If the Judgements wish to defy it they will suffer the same fate as Sol.”
xxviii. “The earth will be your chariot, its inhabitants your vassals. And you, you will be the Courier that carries my word to them. If the Judgements wish to punish you, they will have to go through me.”
xxix. “Will you stand by me?” (Will you stand by me, will you stand by me, will you stand by me… repeats the Prophet of the Dawn, pressing their forehead against one of your doors)
xxx. The agony of the stories, the seventh letter held tight against your chest, the amalgamy and the crime, and the punishment, and the love. The Sundered Tides rise. But you know your answer.
And your answer is yes.