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The Ballad of Reedybeanz

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Certainly her name sounds familiar. You must have heard it before, but you can't quite place where.

If you are new to Fallen London, it makes little difference. It is not a name worth remembering. It commands no strength or respect, not like Feducci and his Roses; it speaks not of dark glamour like Sinning Jenny, nor is associated with arcane knowledge like Gebrandt. It is not treated coyly like the cryptic not-a-name titles of the Topsy King, the Gracious Widow and the Traitor Empress. It is not preceded by Mr, regardless of whether or not she is, in fact, a woman. And certainly no one seeks it. It is the name of just another face lost in the darkness of the Neath. Just another prisoner. Like yourself.

But there are a few who remember. A young woman, yes, just like many others. Crafty, sharp-eyed. The kind of girl who'd pick first a bouquet of mushrooms and then your pocket. Not strong, not yet, but had a good fighter's instinct, and not a few scars. A bit nervous around water. But charming, to rival any devil at the Embassy. No denying that.

Her name was just as common then as it is now, which is to say, in a word, not. Perhaps it was muttered among bohemians at the Veilgarden for a time, or scrawled at the bottom of a Constable's report, but no more than any others.

And then, suddenly, she was popping up everywhere. A string of victories at chess, amongst some of the best players. Series of visitors, intimate dinners with acquaintances, and acquaintances of acquaintances. A few rumours of being seen lurking on a corner or two. Sparring bouts, where she did surprisingly well, even against the opponents who hadn't had run ins with sorrow spiders. Her name became a mainstay of conversation across Fallen London, reaching from the cocktail hour at the Ambassador's Ball to filthy jokes swapped between Zailors down at Wolfstack Docks.

It was among this fame that she made her debut, on the eve of the Feast of the Exceptional Rose, and there could be no better time. Nearly a score of gifts from admirers, moonish-lit walks among the ruins of the Forgotten Quarter, chats with the Duchess, drinks with His Amused Lordship, honey with a real Princess. And the dancing! She had to buy eight separate pairs of ladies' slippers that week (and some of her gentlemen partners even gave them back once they'd finished with them).

If anything travels faster than fame, it's rumours. It started small. Snatches of misdeeds. Perhaps an artist, back in the Veilgarden, used for a bit of information. Harmless enough, many had done it, artists were a chatty sort. But then word of a courier, and tattoos, details twisted, as they ought to be. She knew the secrets of tattoos, or had them, or did them herself. Scarlet stockings. The burglary of a mansion, right under the servant's trusting eyes. A curate. His sister. A Comtessa buried under stone. Prison. Exile. Madness.

And then. The backlash.

It came out that the artist was a flighty one, perhaps a bit too fond of Greyfields, and maybe the Overgoat hadn't been involved. The courier's tattoos had been misspelled, or had washed off in the snow. The Clathermont triplets looked nothing like her, hadn't heard of her, and she certainly wasn't their cousin. The scarlet stockings weren't Sinning Jenny's own and most definitely hadn't come from Mr Wines'; a few foolishly loud clients known for their deep pockets and well-shod wives could attest to that, thank you very much. The mansion's servants had been thieving for weeks. The curate had never heard of her, but prayed for her soul, poor thing. The Comtessa had gone top-side. No definitive proof, not a scrap, that she'd ever been arrested or sent to the tomb colonies or even so much as had a nightmare.

And when she ceased to be the focus of scandal, when the tales were dismissed with scoffs and a wave of a handkerchief, as the Feast wound to a close and the revelers began to cluster at Mrs. Plenty's tents, her name was forgotten. She simply dropped away, unseen, unheard, and others took her place.

Now, when she is mentioned, if she is mentioned at all, it is among the corners of the streets, that she is gone, or maybe gone mad, it's all the same. Though it's probably not true, they'll say with a shrug. None of it was true. And so, none of those delicious tales anymore, not about her. Have you heard about the devils on the archeological dig? What news of the Strike? Whom has Jack-of-Smiles claimed today? As always, as expected, the voices that once said the name have moved on.

Except for those few that claim to know. Or maybe the ones in her head. Or maybe her own, crying for help into wells, and waiting for the rasping echo.