Steampunk fiction, reviews and interviews

Posts tagged “London

Pipe and Slippers:Perilous Journeys#2

 

Good evening and welcome to my awe-inspiring aethenaeum of praiseworthy pamphlets…or as some ridiculous personages have dubbed it – my lovely library.

old-library-1571043

I am Perilous Wight and here in the bowels of the city of Lancaster, in the disused tunnels of an underground train system that never was, I have made it my mission to collect every book that our self-proclaimed ‘supreme ruler f the universe’ and his mincing minions have banned from the bookshelves of the new world.
But I do not have time for entertaining tonight, can you not see that I have just returned from a most important business trip? I have papers everywhere and notes to set in print and… what’s that? What are you wittering about? Help? You’d like to help me transcribe the notes from my journals into volumes so that they can be preserved for generations to come? You’ve brought along some late bottled vintage port to keep out the chills as we work?
Oh.
Well, I suppose that puts a very different slant on things doesn’t it? Very well then, I will dictate and you can pour…I mean type… a-hem…

Here, then, is the next instalment of the account of my first expedition…..(if you missed the first instalment you can find it here)

 

“Pearl White is it?”

I gave the boatman my most imperious glare. The effect was not the desired one and I instantly feared that my mastery of these new, delicate feminine features was going to take some time to achieve. What I needed was a mirror, and time to spend in perfecting the manipulation of this woman’s eyes, nose and mouth into the expressions I required.  But neither luxury was afford me and so I was forced to try again.

“You quite alright Miss?” the boatman looked deeply concerned as he watched me wipe the canvass clean and start over with an new attempt at ‘menacing frown’.

“The name is PERIL” I corrected, ignoring the soft and almost squeaky intonation of my new inferior vocal chords.

The boatman wiped his nose with an oily rag. “Right. You sure you gonna be alright with this skiff Miss? The Thames might be fine for a couple of chaps on a hay day but a birdie on her own, that seems asking for trouble to me…”

I tell you I very nearly popped the fellow with my dainty lace gloved fist for his sheer impertinence.

He must have sensed the menace in my aura because at length he shrugged, muttered something about Abney Park and handed me the oars.

There was some little difficulty in boarding the craft and arranging my belongings but after a little negotiation and a quick dip in the river to gain perspective I  managed to get going and soon fell into a steady rowing rhythm, putting the raucous laughter of the dock workers behind me as I headed up stream towards Bermondsey.

It is there that the Toshers have a legend which I was certain must be evidence of some magical presence – The Rat Queen.

Toshers, in case you are unaware, Gentleman Scavengers who frequent the city sewers at nught in search of all the coins, pocket watches, rings, swans…you know how easy it is to drop these things when one is preoccupied.

The Tosher makes his living from trading in the treasures he finds in the subterranean darkness in much the same way as a Treacle Miner and so it is no surprising to find that the two professions share a belief in protective spirits who have the power to grant good fortune and personal safety, as long as they remain appeased.

For the miner, this sprite is a type of brownie known as A Knocker, for the Tosher, it is The Rat Queen.

The Rat Queen is a supernatural being said to be able to shift form between that of an enormous sewer rat and that of a beautiful woman. In her human form she will approach a Tosher when he is alone in the tunnels and offer him a deal – if he can satisfy her passions and pay her a worthy tribute of treasure from his haul, he will be blessed beyond his wildest dreams -his business will prosper and his family will grow large and healthy. But if he fails or refuses to part with his loot he will find nothing more i  the sewers but a watery grave.

I moored the skiff beneath an overhanging elder tree and, after a minor war with the potable stove, made myself a depressing supper of cold tinned ‘standard issue’ soup and hunkered down to wait for midnight.

Under the cloak of darkness, I lit my dark lantern and made my way into the sewers in search of The Rat Queen …

“Pardon me, ladies, but would one of you happen to be The Rat Queen?”

The little coven of brightly painted damsels whom I had stumbled headlong into in the dark regarded me with unrestrained disgust; hands on hips, red lips twisted into smirks and sneers. “Oh, we’re all rat queens down here, deary..” the eldest bird squawked, flicking her head plumes, “question is, who the Hull are you, eh? You can’t just wander in here trying to join the game, thinking you can get in on a good earner…” her eyes narrowed, “anyway, who was it who ratted out on us?” She held up her own lantern and shone it into the faces of the assembled women, “who’s not here? Sharon! That little chatter box tart…”

Teeth began to gnash, painted talons flexed, I felt the time had come to set the record straight…

“Fear not, Madame,” I said, attempting to inject an air of authority into my voice which was ricocheting off the brick dome in sopranino staccato  most vexing. Cursing my new feminine vocal chords, I floundered on.. “I have no intention of encroaching upon your little entrepreneurial endeavour I…”

my confident smile fled the scene

“I…”

my manly resolve snatched up his hat and followed suit

“I…”

my legs finally cottoned on and joined the exodus, propelling me back through the watery tunnels with the rabble of raucous rat queens in rabid pursuit. Rocks and lemonade bottles exploded off the pith helmet as I made good my escape and at last, breathing hard, I made it back to the skiff and applied myself to the oars as if my life depended on it.

Of course this was quite ridiculous as my life expired many years ago but I did feel a certain obligation to return this body in proper working order….

 

Aaaand I think that is quite enough for one evening don’t you? The bottle is dry and…what’s that you say? Stay the night? Certainly not, what sort of a wraith do you think I am? Now go on, out with you, not another word, GOOD NIGHT!

 

 

all images used with kind permission from http://www.freeimages.com


Pipe and Slippers: Perilous Journeys

 

Good evening and welcome to my awe-inspiring aethenaeum of praiseworthy pamphlets…or as some ridiculous personages have dubbed it – my lovely library.

old-library-1571043
I am Perilous Wight and here in the bowels of the city of Lancaster, in the disused tunnels of an underground train system that never was, I have made it my mission to collect every book that our self-proclaimed ‘supreme ruler f the universe’ and his mincing minions have banned from the bookshelves of the new world.
But I do not have time for entertaining tonight, can you not see that I have just returned from a most important business trip? I have papers everywhere and notes to set in print and… what’s that? What are you wittering about? Help? You’d like to help me transcribe the notes from my journals into volumes so that they can be preserved for generations to come? You’ve brought along some cherry brandy to keep out the chills as we work?
Oh.
Well, I suppose that puts a very different slant on things doesn’t it? Very well then, I will dictate and you can pour…I mean type… a-hem…
Many may not know this but I have not always been a bad tempered ghost in charge of an underground library. Once upon a time I was a bad tempered gentleman who had devoted his life to the collection of evidence which indicated that the power of The All Mother was not entirely gone from The New World. I travelled the scattered isles in search of such evidence – witches, fairies, folk lore, wild magic that was not controlled or perhaps even known about by Wiz and his ridiculous Wizards.
Not to be put off by death, I have struggled to find a way to continue my studies and I have indeed found a method by which I can sporadically leave this library, to which I am otherwise bound, and travel abroad.
This method is known as The Opprobrious Pith Helmet.
By securing the services of a less than reputable Wizard I have had my soul partially bound to an ancient piece of explorational headwear and am therefore able to possess the wearer for short periods of time, with their consent.
For my part, I am bound to being summoned by the wearer at their whim to provide protection, guidance, words of wisdom and advice, that sort of thing. It is a tiresome trade off but it could, I suppose, be worse.
Here, then, is the account of my first expedition.
I had decided to begin my studies with a journey down the Thames, past the Pirate City of Londinium, stopping at various Inns along the route and gathering from the locals any tales of interest which might hint at the existence of magic. But as I sat at my dressing table, pith helmet in place, waiting for the arrival of the Hippo’ton drawn coach which would take me to Barley Bow I began to have my doubts.
I pulled the magical contract I had signed with that wretched gutter-magician from my purse for the hundredth time and examined it again. No. Nowhere in the small print could I find mention of the fact the body I would be possessing might be a woman.
I stared into the mirror with grave concern at the ringlets and the lashes and the tinted cheeks. Could this work? As a strict adherent to the old religion I have the greatest respect for women, of course, but I have never actually been inside one.
The clatter of metal hooves upon the cobbles outside brought my dilemma to a close. This was my one chance to continue my work and I must put away any infantile embarrassment and get on with it.
With this new found resolve I leapt from my chair, tripped over my crinolines, flew out of the chamber door and tumbled head over bustle down the short narrow staircase, landing in a heap of fabric and whale carcass in the tap room.
I will not sport with your intelligence by repeating the comments this little accident incited from the patrons of the little tavern but will move swiftly on to my arrival in Bow.

The Hippo’ton dropped me at The Widow’s Son , a fascinating Inn with an equally fascinating history which I was keen to investigate. An old folk legend tells that the first owner was an old Widow whose son joined the navy. Upon his leaving day he told his mother to bake him a bun on Good Friday and he would be sure to be back in time to eat it. The bun was baked but the son never came home but the widow hung the baked bread from the ceiling in a net and added a new bun to the collection every year. After she died her friends and patrons kept up the tradition and it is now even written into the leasehold of the property that the custom must be kept by every owner.
Of course the story is hogwash. It is likely that there never was a widow at all but that the tradition is in fact born of a much older practise – that of leaving bread and milk out for household fairies, boggarts and helpful magical creatures as thanks for their kind assistance in bringing luck, health and happiness to the household through the year.
I had brought my case of instruments for detecting and catching fairies and other magical beings with me but as I eagerly began to lay them out upon the bar the Landlady approached and asked what I thought I was doing. When I asked to see her buns so that I could perform my arts upon them she screamed the most unrepeatable names at me and threw me out into the street.
It was a long walk down to the docks, where I had arranged a hired craft to take me up the river. Long but by no means lonely. I can only say that I now have a new found sympathy for the fairer sex and completely understand why they are reluctant to venture out alone at night without those splendid flame-throwing parasols. Skirts, bustles, high heeled boots…none of these make for expeditious retreats from darkened alley ways or indeed high speed chases over cobblestones away from amorous drunks.
I did manage to make it to the docks eventually and spent the night huddled under a tarpaulin that smelled of fish and cats, still I was optimistic that my next stop would prove more fruitful. My journey had, afterall only just begun and it was no good losing heart along with everything else at the first hurdle. So I sat in the dark, counting my losses and hoped that my young host would not think to do the same, or at the very least not be too miffed, when her body was returned to her…..

 

 

And I think we had better leave it there for this evening don’t you? The bottle is dry and… hm? Well yes of course it is dark you’re not afraid of the dark are you? Flesh eating Liver Birds you say? Well yes there are those to consider but you should have thought of that before you set off on this midnight mission shouldn’t you? I can’t be responsible for your safety! Now go on, off with you, just because I am dead does not mean I don’t have things to do…go on…out!


Morning cuppa: Frost Fairs and Atonement

Good morning ladies and gentleman, welcome to Max and Collin’s spectaculously sparkling and frostulously – friggin – bloody – frozen – solid parlour located in the splendidly scenic city of Lancaster!

True, some have called it an icicle-bedecked hovel where only the most heroically hardy or horrendously hard up would dare to venture, but we laugh in the face of such yellowism and defiantly spit lumps of frozen tea in their general direction.

Yes we’re back, rent in hand, and having trudged through a carpet of disgruntled cats to reclaim our comfortable arm chairs (true some have called them rotting lemonade crates but our mendacity on this front knows no bounds) we are ready to fling wide the parlour doors once more and welcome you all, dear friends, back to a place of incomparable company and incomprehensible conversation…

You find us this morning with our teeth chattering.

This is partly from the indomitable cold which is so tenacious it has even laid claim to our morning cuppa. It is also partly due to the exhilaration of running fifteen miles cross-country trying to throw off a band of (quite unnecessarily determined) Morecambe lemonade dealers. And lastly our teeth are chattering with excitement because it is so so cold that The River Lune has frozen solid and that can only mean one thing –

A FROST FAIR!

Frost fairs have been a wintertide tradition here in the new world for centuries. The merry bands of barge traders whose colourful water-wagons traverse the rivers of the scattered isles carrying food and other saleable items from one city to the next are obviously unable to trade when the river freezes over. Not to be put off, however, they cunningly decided to open stalls on the frozen river itself and charge citizens an entrance fee to enjoy the ice. It wasn’t long before they began charging other sales folk to do the same and breaking the legs of anyone fool enough to challenge the legality or ethics of their enterprise.

Well, as you know, we are certainly not in the habit of scrutinising anybody’s morals or ethics, least of all our own, and so we intend to spend the next few weeks out on the ice scoffing illicit tiffin with impunity and attempting ingenious schemes for keeping warm and making the rent.

But before we venture out of our frozen parlour and into the winter wonderland which Lancaster ha become, we must begin the whole thing properly with a nice cup of tea and a good book and fortunately we have both!

Our tea this morning is something extra specially delicious to try and mirror our extra specially excited mood aaaaaand fortunately for us it also tastes delicious iced! It’s this Devonly blend of chocolate fudge chai from Post Tea now if we can just use our runcibles to chisel it out of the pot…

And to perfectly compliment such a delectable brew our book this morning is….

Atonement, Tennessee by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene

atonement tennessee.jpg

This urban fantasy is an interesting blend of the everyday and the magical told through the eyes of focal character Ralda Lawton and her captivating feline companion Lillith. Geneviene successfully weaves mythology, mystery and hum drum everyday life together into an intense and original narrative. If you like your fantasy firmly embedded in the real world then we think you will enjoy Atonement Tennessee.

And finally we just have time to defrost our oracular pet and see what its far seeing spines have plucked from the aether for us this morning…

 

Ah, so it seems that you have this frost fair tradition in your own dimension too? Well now, we must muffle-up and get out there and see what fun we can get up to on the ice. We wish you a very dazzling morning filled with adventures of the most sparkly and whimsical kind and we hope you will join us for elevenses tomorrow but until then pleae, be always,

Utterly Yourself