The sky pressed down, iron heavy and rust tinged with the passing of the Sun in the West. Darkness poured in fast heavy from beyond the Dal and Dal Haven in the east, chasing out the last of the ruddy, storm-fed light and deepening the shadows to black.
Beyond The Spur, the slack-tide waters of the Dal coiled and snaked, oil black and ominous under the heavy cloud blanket that pushed darkness before it, The time between tides, they called it, and it could be a curse to the water men. But not this water man. He stood in the gloom shadows below the old wharves, down at the waterline, staring out across the tide pool, gathering his strength.
Back behind, in this city of stink, dim flickerings flared and sputtered in the very Heart of Darkness, a thousand times a thousand firefly lights trying in vain to banish the night. None reached here, though, to give away his presence, if any indeed were even watching. But this is Solis, full of eyes, and ears, and eager to spy, eager to tell tales to any who would listen.
Up above the slack waters, high in the gables and edifices of the high town, where the great towers stood and where the air was, if not fairer, then less foul than down at the waterline, points of some brighter light glared starlike in the gloom. Vent-lights were lit, dispelling the darkness in the rarified air of up-above, pushing back the dark with a heavenly light. Bright and star like it may be, but that light was flamed forth from the hell that was the gaseous bowels beneath the City itself. The man chuckled at the thought.
Down here in the perpetual night gloom of waterside cuts and gunnels, the meagre lamps of man could do no more than advertise the coming of night. And dark it was. The last tinges had drained from the sky now and the dark of above didnt know where the dark of below met it, and didnt care either. Somewhere out in the chanels and gyres of the between tide Dal, a mast light might try to distinguish between them but to no avail. And the night pushed inevitably in.
Between tides, a night moonless and thick with blanketing cloud, threatening rain, and a mist rising to dampen what sounds might emanate from this darkened cut, things could hardly be better. For this mans plans relied on those friends of the underworld that were gathered with him right here, right now, under the old piles and timbers and debris of Whalers Wharf. Ten times ten score years of whale oil covered the old dock like a second skin, slick and shivering with beaded water. Preserved for all eternity, neither sea or rain would erode its wood again. The slips where the whales were drawn up from the ships stood empty now, chocked with flotsam and death. Only one slip held anything that betrayed its former purpose, the collapsed white bones of the last great whale to be processed, standing stark against the ebony stained wood. Now just a cage, monument to a mighty slaughter and prison for deep water souls.
The man considered that last great beast as he moved slowly into the cold wet embrace of the slack water pool, wondered if his fate tonight would be as unkind as that suffered by that last leviathan. wondered if the barbs of a whalers hook might take him down, fluke and fin, to the slimy bottom. Pushed it aside, then, and slipped fully into the dark cloak of the tide-pool Dal. Beyond, lit only by occasional dull ruddy lamps, stood the edifice that was called The Spur. Last sentinal and barricade protecting the slumbering Dragon that is Solis from the ever wakeful Snake that is the Dal. His goal tonight.
Somewhere out at the edge of the horizon, lightning flickered staccato, sending fingers of bright into the sky, but too far for the rumble to be heard. For a moment the outline of the Spur stood against the brooding slate sky, impossible in its complexity. Massive, stalwart, brooding in its solidity, but above the bulk of its rock-bound foundation grew platform upon platform, roof upon roof, spire upon spire all crisscrossed with walkways and bridges, untidy and jumbled in an unplanned evolution of needs. In the un-illuminated cloud shrouded night again now, just a vague outline of darker dark against the gloom of the Dal, just a few windows twinkling with oil light lamps give it some semblance of reality. The Spur. This crazy black stone edifice whose pinnacles seem to sway and waver in the night mist, madness of long forgotten architects made real.
The first drops of rain peppered the water around the Man as the low distant storm rumble finally washed over him, echoing and resonating in the bleeds of the Spur. Cold pulled at him, whispered his name, blessed release if he wanted it. No shame and no-one to see out here is the dark, no-one to mourn the loss. The turn of the tide pulled almost imperceptibly at him, a gentle hand beckoning to the below. Somewhere out in the dark the tide bell tolled a mournful lament and the man knew he had little time.
The rain was a veil by the time his feet felt the slick of the Spur rocks and he hauled himself into the shadows between cut and wharf.
There were small lights then, back across the black, moving and dancing, limning off the stark bleached bones that told of former glory. Lights looking in vein for a quarry that had, yet again, eluded them. Tonight The man had been lucky. But, as those old bones stood testimony, luck does not last.
But then, nothing ever does...
Well, not quite true. There are some things, things best left alone, best forgotten, best left at the bottom of the Briney, some things that do last, if not forever, then as damn close to forever as a man can understand. And in a way, that is why this man is here tonight, wet, cold, aching and old. Spurside again after all these long and lonely years.
The whale oil was soaked into his skin, glistened in his plastered hair and greased his clothes. The oil was in everything here, an ever present stink that could never quite be forgotten. And it ran through his very veins.