Wednesday, November 28, 2012
The Night Mail in Wermspittle
By ancient edict, dating back to the Founders, all postal deliveries in Wermspittle are to be made only under cover of darkness. The mail can only be delivered at night.
Likewise, by the same edict, Post Boxes can be mounted just outside any window, at any height, on any floor. To this day one may find Post Boxes nailed firmly into place outside sixth-story windows, leaning precariously from underneath the shutters of attics, jutting lopsidedly from wrought-iron balconies, poking through the blinds of garrets or otherwise secret cells unreachable from inside the buildings they occupy like cysts; even the tall, tall turrets of the ramshackle palaces of long-fled foreign merchant-princesses sport once gaily-painted, even richly sculpted post boxes sticking out from the upper floors like some sort of architectural rash.
Hundreds of years have come and gone, leaving crusty scars and badly-patched bullet holes in their wake, but the Postal Service still endures in Wermspittle. After a fashion. In a kind of half-life.
The airships don't come here any more. Few caravans come to Wermspittle, those that know the way or have made their own maps, and never ever in Winter. The options for getting something sent out from here tend to be slim to non-existent, but the Mail Carriers do their best. Each Autumn riders are sent out in the five directions, one for each of the primary old routes including the Cold Roads. Few, if any ever return. Even fewer come back with replies, parcels or correspondence from elsewhere. But it has happened.
The riders are something of a seasonal rite. A traditional observance. A hold-over from the Old Days before the Military Governor appointed over Occupied Wermspittle by the Franzik Empress Matrimundi more than five hundred years ago instituted a system for the apportational transmission of small parcels, letters and missives. Those systems were smashed by the Anti-Franziker Contra-militants during the so-called Last Uprising (which it wasn't). Over the years each Post Master has attempted to realign, repair and revive the mechanisms ruined by the clog-wearing hypocrites who decried all such forms of 'oppressionist sorcery' until they realized they too could starve like everyone else come Winter. But alas, it remains an unreliable thing on a good day, and there are scant few good days in a place such as this.
Pigeons once threatened to cut into the number of deliveries entrusted to the Postal Service. But that was before the Midwives' Rebellion, and only a fool trusts a bird to deliver a message in the midst of so many starving people. No one takes such things seriously any more.
Ancient, harrowed and hallowed by accumulated experience and the sheer perverse miracle of having survived into the current age, the Postal Service endures, abides, carries on as best it can. For over four hundred years the rates have remained set at one silver coin, as per the old edict...though everyone knows that in the early days a particular denomination of currency was specified, all traces of those details have been expunged and casually disregarded. Any silver coin will do, even a token. It's not about the money. It's about the ritual.
Each night what parcels, packages or pouches have been entrusted to the care and keeping of these stalwart souls go out under cover of darkness, into the night. There are only six or seven certified Mail Carriers left now, besides the Post Master General and his immediate family. They are a dying breed, say some. A thing of the past. But until something better comes along to replace them, most probably by force, the mail, such as it is, still gets delivered each night in Wermspittle.
One after another the fearless Mail Carriers strap into their harnesses, cinch-up their triply-buckled bags and float gracefully, silently out from the Post Master's Tower. Each one in charge of a licensed and bonded flock of highly trained crows, jackdaws and magpies. Each one dangling from beneath a personal aerostat of ancient design. Each one more extensively re-re-re-built and cobbled back together from the remains of defunct aerostats no longer reliably airworthy, no longer suited for continued service.
Yorim Balthome watches over Wermspittle from his decrepit tower, the tower of his family, of his ancestors, and he worries about what will become of the Postal Service once they run out of parts to repair their aerostats...