Scruffians are a sort of nasty, gruesome urban Lost Boys, kids “fixed” by the use of a magical artifact called the “Stamp”.
Press the Stamp to someone’s chest and it “reads” their essence and “writes” it back into their skin. Never starving if you don’t feed them, springing back to how they were “fixed” no matter what damage is inflicted, they’re perfect child slave labour in Victorian London.
They can sweep chimneys, clean dangerous machinery and can even be used for vivisection.
The Institute runs this trade in indestructible slaves; the Waiftaker General is in charge buying waifs from workhouses, raiding the homes of Jews and Gypsies on the pretext that the parents “stole” those kids and selling the fixed kids on to whoever wants them for whatever reason.
This is the story of how the Stamp was stolen, the Waiftaker General got his come-uppance, and the Institute was destroyed.
An incredible novella by the renowned Scottish author Hal Duncan.