“Mongolia?” repeated Mercurius, his eyebrows almost vanishing beneath his flying helmet.
“Oh yes. Mongolian Steppe. Perfect climatic conditions there for incubation,” mumbled the old man, whose back was turned as he counted the money and placed it into a brown envelope.
“There’s no need to squawk in that manner, young man,” Algy responded. “Your advertisement in the Gentleman’s Weekly stated that you would carry any cargo to any destination with no questions asked. Yet you pester me with questions!”
Mercurius shook his head slowly. Algernon Fforbes was not typical of those who required his services. To be honest, he was most often called upon to deliver weaponry of various kinds. This intricately carved casket and its key – which he was under the strictest instructions not to open under any circumstances until he arrived at his destination – intrigued and concerned him, in equal measure.
“Forgive me,” he said, “I have no wish to know the reason you are sending this – item, or where you obtained it.” (This was patently untrue; he was itching to know both these facts.) “However for my own safety I need to know what type of material I am carrying.”
Algernon gave a snort of irritation and reached for his pipe. “You are carrying an egg, young man. It is well wrapped, so you need not fear breaking it, unless you are foolish enough to crash that flying contraption of yours. You are to find as remote a location as possible in the Mongolian Steppe, place the casket on the ground and unlock it, using the key provided. You will then have ample time to leave the vicinity and fly away before the di- before it hatches. I’d advise you to make as much haste as possible, however, since you are so concerned for your safety.”
“So I simply abandon it there?”
“Have I not just said as much?” Algy snapped.
Somewhat unwillingly, Mercurius picked up the casket and attached it to the lanyard beneath his greatcoat. He hung the key beside it. Algernon handed him the envelope stuffed with banknotes.
“You will find the agreed fee there,” he said shortly.
The messenger walked slowly to the door. He made every effort to keep silent, but finally cried, “You are spending a huge amount of money, it appears, to abandon some unfortunate newborn creature to a slow and lingering death in a frozen wilderness, Sir. There seems no rationality to it!”
Algy smiled at this. “Not at all, I assure you. The creature will thrive. The conditions in the area where you will leave it are the closest on the planet to those in which it was conceived, in its own time. I am offering it – via your services – the gift of life. Now good day, Sir, and make your journey with the utmost speed.”
As the door closed behind Mercurius, Algy picked up his Device and cradled it fondly in his arms.
“The ‘creature’ will thrive,” he chuckled to himself. “But I can’t say what the effect on those who encounter it may be.”
If you would like to become further acquainted with Mercurius (complete with the casket and key) follow the links below to his page at the Steampunk Dollshouse. https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/490270025/steampunk-gentleman-mercurius-dollshouse?ref=shop_home_active_11
Algernon is no longer available. All the characters in the shop are one-off creations, so won’t be replaced once sold. However there are many more to choose from here: https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/SteampunkDollsHouse?ref=hdr_shop_menu