A/N: SPOILER WARNING - Don't read this story if you haven't read the Mortal Engines prequel trilogy (Fever Crumb, A Web of Air, Scrivener's Moon), unless you want those stories to be told for you in a thousand words. I will warn, there are major spoilers right from the beginning.
That aside, this is my first Mortal Engines fanfiction, even if it isn't directly linked to the original quartet. However, there are quite a few crossover moments between the series, as this story is intended to carry on the narrative where Scrivener's Moon left off.
I've tried to make it as Philip Reeve-ish as possible, although I'm not sure in places, so feedback would be highly appreciated.
Also, many thanks to my beta iamamywaterhouse for helping me with this!
So, without further ado, on with the story!
A New Age
Under The Scrivener's Moon
The full moon was past midnight by the time Charley woke. As he lay on his back in the grass amidst the weak glow of the moon. The night was not too cold; it was only September, or the month of the Scrivener's Moon as Fever and her northern friend had called it. Remembering Fever, Charley sat up to observe the low rise dotted with thorn trees where he lay. There was no sign of either Fever Crumb nor her strange, prophetess friend, Cluny Morvish.
Aside from Charley, only the burnt-out hulk of an Arkhangelsk landship showed human presence in these lands.
As Charley stood to his feet, the pain returned to his forehead, and he staggered forwards, clutching his wound with his hands. The bleeding had stopped, but the bone where Fever's bullet had grazed Charley's skull felt chipped beneath Charley's fifteen-year-old fingers. Dazed by the sudden pain, it took Charley a couple of minutes to remember where he was, and why he was alone on the rise.
Turning south, he looked down from the rise to see the burning remains of the Arkhangelsk empire. One of the greatest nomad tribes of the north, come south to the land that was once known as Britain to fend off a new, more terrifying threat; the Movement.
Led by Land Admiral turned Lord Mayor Nikola Quercus, the small but technologically advanced nomad empire known as the Movement travelled south three summers ago to conquer Charley's hometown, London. With the help of London's Order of Engineers, Quercus set himself an impressive goal; to convert London to become the world's first traction city.
Looking east from the charred remains of the Arkhangelsk armada, the large, lumbering mass of new London lay squat against the land. Silhouetted by the moon, this moving city was intimidating to all foreigners. Having spent the last three years apprenticed to the Engineers (who had been granted Guild status by Quercus), Charley had grown up along with the city. But he could understand why the traditional nomad empires were wary of Quercus' radical plans. New London - three tiers of housing and factories lumbering along on uncountable banks of tracks - defied the old ways of the nomads. But now only a few of these millennia-old empires remain in the area north of the Fuel Country, all of them eclipsed by the Movement's new London.
The sight of new London stunned Charley into action, and he forced himself to walk slowly down towards the city, despite the pain growing in his head. Beginning to regret his actions of the night, Charley's quick brain, which was always improvising his plan of action, began working on how he would explain the night's events to the senior Guildsmen - Doctors Mainbrace, Whyre and the rest - without giving away his real role.
Despite being just fifteen (well, Charley believed he was fifteen, after spending his early years parentless behind Ted Swiney's pub on Ditch Street, he didn't know when his birthday was, nor how many birthdays he'd had), Charley Shallow was an egotistic boy. After the Movement takeover of London three years ago, Charley found himself apprenticed to Dr Crumb, a middle-aged Engineer with connections to Nikola Quercus' head technomancer, living a life of relative luxury helping Dr Crumb with his work in the comfort of Crumb's expensive house on Bishopsgate, in the richer part of the old, static London, which was yet to be pulled down by demolition gangs.
Then last year, everything changed.
As autumn began, Dr Crumb returned home from a journey to Mayda - a city-state in southern Europa - along with his daughter Fever, who was previously presumed dead after disappearing from London after the Movement takeover. Being the child of a senior Engineer, Fever became assistant to Dr Crumb in Charley's place, and Charley found himself thrown out of his home in Bishopsgate to be trained with the other apprentice Engineers in the Engineerium.
But Charley Shallow wasn't put out by such setbacks. By the following summer, largely to due to his involvement in the exposure of an anti-Quercus terrorist organisation known as the London Underground, Charley had been given an honorary promotion, making him a fully-fledged member of the Guild of Engineers.
When Arkhangelsk forces and Movement defectors captured Chief Engineer Wavey Godshawk and young Fever Crumb, Charley Shallow made sure that Dr Crumb believed them to be dead, and he became assistant to Dr Crumb once again.
When the inevitable attack came from the Arkhangelsk Carns and the Movement defector Rufus Raven, new London was ready to fight. Now, twelve hours after the fighting ended, all opposition to the new city lies in tatters. The few battered landships that escaped London's wrath are all that remains of the once-great Arkhangelsk empire.
All opposition was crushed, and a young Arkhangelsk girl named Cluny Morvish, who had somehow become the figurehead of the rebels, was captured by London, scheduled for execution on the morning that Charley stood on the low rise, recalling the unbelievable sequence of events.
Sadly for him, when the Morvish girl was captured by London forces, seventeen-year-old Fever Crumb was found amidst the battlefield. Yet again, Fever would take away all that he had worked for! So Charley, who knew that Fever would want to help Cluny Morvish escape, hatched a plan.
He helped Fever free her strange northern friend, only to attempt to then alert the guards of their escape. Surely Dr Crumb wouldn't want his daughter back if she had been so kind to the enemy? Surely then Charley would remain as Dr Crumb's assistant?
But everything had not gone as planned. Fever had suspected Charley, and when the pair had finally confronted each other atop the low rise a mile from new London, Fever had managed to turn Charley's weapon against him, and slip away into the night with her northern friend from the Arkhangelsk.
As Charley, who had just processed everything that had occurred to him since the start of the Battle of Three Dry Ships, walked slowly through the marsh grass towards the new city, which was stationary as it salvaged supplies from wrecked landships, Charley began to formulate his plan.
He would return to the city, telling Dr Crumb that Fever had tried to escape with the Morvish girl. That Charley had tried to stop her, but Fever had wrestled the gun from Charley and used it against him. That Fever and her northern friend had escaped into the night. That it was all Fever's fault. Surely with all this evidence, Dr Crumb wouldn't want Fever back?
In the dark, the journey towards the motionless city, which was still salvaging materials from the ruinous Arkhangelsk fleet, took longer than Charley expected. It must have taken twenty minutes before he even reached a salvage gang, tearing usable chunks of metal from the side of a burnt-out landship. As he passed, two of the men, who were large, burly, and would have intimidated anyone who hadn't grown up around Ditch Street, blocked Charley's path.
"Where d'you fink you're goin', lad?" one of the men asked him. A typical Londoner, Charley thought. Untrusting of foreigners. If only they knew who he was.
"Watch it, Bert," said the other worker. "Got an Engineer's coat, he has. Wouldn't want to mess with 'im, would you?"
The first worker frowned, struggling to take in Charley's appearance. A quick flash of Charley's Engineer's badge was enough to give Charley the desired effect.
"Ah, very well, Dr...?" said the first worker, now struggling to make a good impression on a man he recognised as his superior.
"It's Shallow," Charley filled in cooly, basking in the presence of his new-found power. "Dr Charley Shallow."
"Most sincere apologies, sir," said the second worker, taking off his hat in respect. "Is there anything you'd need from humble ol' us?"
"There is one thing," replied Charley, making sure to use his careful, high London accent that he had learnt during his years with Dr Crumb to accentuate his power. "Who's in charge here?"
The first worker stepped aside and pointed to two uniformed men overseeing the salvagemen fifty yards down the slope towards London, where a monowheel was being stripped down.
"Those two down there, I think. Infantry commanders, I heard them say they were."
"Thank-you," said Charley calmly, ignoring the pain that continued to build in his head as he left the workers to their duty and headed over to the commanders.
As Charley neared the two men, he saw both men wore uniforms of the London Military, and the insignia upon their arms identified them as Captains. Charley could tell by their facial features that both were of northern descent; no doubt Movement officers who had inherited roles in the London Military after Quercus' takeover. One of the men, who looked to be around forty, was tall and stocky with sleek black hair that trailed to his shoulders. He held one of the most up to date standard-issue Bugharin rifles casually in his hands, and was paying a considerable amount of attention to the man on his right.
That man was younger by at least ten years, and considering that he was probably aged by war, was possibly as young as twenty-five. His uniform was stained blood-red, and his left arm was placed crudely in a sling. This was probably a war-wound from the previous day's fighting that hadn't yet been seen to by proper medics aboard the new city.
The older man looked questioningly at Charley as he arrived.
"What are you doing here, Engineer?" he asked, trying to exercise authority. "And whatever happened to you? Your head..."
It hadn't occurred to Charley that although the bleeding may have stopped, his appearance would still indicate severe injury, and when he raised his hand to his head, he could feel the dried blood on his cheek, rough under his fingertips.
"There was an escape..." Charley tried to explain to the officers. "The Morvish girl - you know, the ginger one, the prophet - and Dr Crumb's daughter."
"Fever?" said the younger man incredulously. "But she has only just returned to London!"
"That may be true, Captain, er, Farefax," said Charley, reading the Captain's badge. "But in the late hours of the evening, I spotted her helping Cluny Morvish escape London! I called the guards, of course, and I tracked her up to that rise over there," said Charley, gesturing to the land where he had lay ten minutes before.
"And then what?" asked the older Captain.
"I cornered them as they tried to run, to force them to return to London, but they fought back. Then Miss Crumb had wrestled the gun from me, and... And..."
Charley paused, his train of thought broken. That wasn't what had really happened. Charley had arrived on the rise with every intention of ending Fever's life, to prevent her from troubling him ever again. But he couldn't tell these London officers that. A possible prison sentence would follow. But luckily for Charley, there had been no witnesses to the confrontation, and his word, the word of an Engineer, would be all that these Captains could rely on.
But the Captains assumed that Charley, being no older than sixteen, had been troubled by the experience, which had clearly been traumatic for him, and had put two and two together about the bullet wound anyway, and took Charley's word as the gospel truth.
The younger man, Farefax, put a comforting arm around Charley's shoulders and spoke quietly to him.
"It's only a couple of hours until dawn," he began. "I'm sure Dr Crumb will be wondering what has become of his daughter."
Farefax paused, as though he was touched by the news of Fever's escape. "And we both need doctors a good night's sleep." Farefax laughed uneasily, wincing as his ribs hurt him.
"Come, Dr Shallow. The new city awaits our return."