Storm Hound Book I: Undertown
Summary: Two boys: one the timid son of a brutal leaguesman, the other with the blood of sky pirates flowing in his veins. Together, they are set on an unstoppable course of mystery and adventure in the corruption of Undertown. Twig trilogy AU.
Author's Note: I am unbelievably excited about this project. It really is massively AU - for better or worse for the Edge remains to be seen - but I hope that won't put anyone off. This is the result of me re-reading the Twig trilogy and being struck by something that seemed really quite illogical. So, I decided to see what would happen if one character took a different course of action. I don't want to say too much for fear of spoiling the story, but I can assure you that I will do my best to take you on an exciting journey with me.
Far far away, jutting out into the emptiness beyond, like the figurehead of a mighty stone ship, is the Edge. A land of many creatures and many cities – from the grand spires of Sanctaphrax to the poverty and depravity of Undertown; the humble, tree-dwellings of the woodtrolls to the underground colonies of the termagent trogs – within each a hierarchy, a hundred traditions, and an identity. Yet in every community there is the perpetual instinct, the common urge to improve, to gain, to have the most power, the most money, or simply the most resources. In those that such an instinct is strongest, a call reaches out to the entirety of the Edge: Undertown!
Undertown; a busting, hustling, thriving, dirty place that all inhabitants of the Edgelands that had never seen it regarded as a place of endless opportunity, with streets paved with gold, and a life far better than any scraped out in the perilous Deepwoods. The truth was a stark contrast; the dreams of those who travelled to the sprawling warren soon saw that it was, with the exception of the more elegant Western Quays, a ramshackle slum inhabited by as wide a variety of creatures as was ever seen, all thrown together in its overcrowded alleys.
For those with money in their pockets, or – even better – a pinch of phraxdust to spare, however, this hub of poverty became a thrillingly vibrant centre of commerce. Deals secured, prices undercut, backs stabbed as hands were shaken, mouths smiling as competitors fought mercilessly to secure the most profit as quickly as possible, fingers in every pie – sky ship construction, repairs, guards, sky sailors, Undertown gangs, phraxdust production and sales, Leagues business – all in the name of rising as high as you possibly could, to attain more and more of anything, of everything. It was a perilous game to play, an endlessly complex dance of intrigue, politics and cloak-and-dagger undertakings, but to win was to be, for a short while, on top of the stinking dungheap of Undertown, where the air was sweet, and the luxuries many.
To truly succeed in Undertown, though, is to never hesitate in the eternal calculation of risk against gain, of danger against profit. It is simple enough to do these things for a limited time – the true masters of Undertown are the ones who can keep doing them, who can constantly dodge the plots of others while keeping one's own plans secret and safe, changing them to suit the climate of the city as precisely and elegantly as a sky ship captain changes weights and course to suit the ever-changing sky.
Yet Undertown serves another purpose, aside from housing the centre of economy, and being the stage for the dramatic feuds between the different districts and the leagues that reside within them. For Undertown, with its dark, winding alleys, with its underhand dealings and unscrupulous characters that can be paid to forget a face, provides the perfect hiding place for anyone who wishes to start again as someone new. Perhaps they have a debt to avoid, perhaps a murky past that they wish to forget now they have arrived at this beacon of hope. Or perhaps – just perhaps – they simply don't wish to be found. Whatever the reason, Undertown makes it easy enough for one person to disappear, and another to be born. A quick word, a satchel of gold, and nobody need know what your past was.
At least, so the theory goes, but sometimes the past has a habit of catching up with those who are most desperate to avoid it. For the unlucky ones – they can run, they can hide, but eventually everything will come to light, whether they will it to or not.
The Deepwoods, the Stone Gardens, the Edgewater River. Undertown and Sanctaphrax. Names on a map.
Yet behind each name lie a thousand tales – tales that have been recorded in ancient scrolls, tales that have been passed down the generations by word of mouth – tales which even now are being told.
What follows is but one of those tales.