Good evening and welcome to my awe-inspiring aethenaeum of praiseworthy pamphlets…or as some ridiculous personages have dubbed it – my lovely library.
I am the ghost known as 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 this is not a public thoroughfare! If you have wandered in here on the ill-advice of that incorrigible octopus and its unnerving Gentleman Friend, let me advise you not to be so easily lured into a parlour by strange creatures promising cake. Well, you will find nothing sweet and alluring down here; here there is only the dark and the damp, the flickering of candlelight and the ceaseless toil of a man who did not re-animate from the dead to be pestered by people wanting bedtime stories!
But wait…what’s that you have tucked away under your arm there? A bottle of Single Malt eh? Oh…. well, yes perhaps it is about time I put my feet up for a while, pipe and slippers and a little drop of something, the day has, after all been a long one. And I suppose I could read a very little something,
like this perhaps… I have been tirelessly working over the summer, interviewing the Hex Slingers of Lancaster, compiling an anthropological study of the lives of those who use magic illegally in those curated back-alley fight clubs – why and how have they come to their present situation? What are their stories? Well, here at least, is one of them…
TALES OF STEAMPUNK’D LANCASTER
SERIES 1: TALES OF THE HEX SLINGERS
TALE THE FIRST : Siggy And Me
Sigmund Ignatius Newburger doesn’t hear his full name used often. Smite me down, I never even knew that was his full name until I heard it bellowed through the steam-filled Tiffin Den one Monday afternoon in late September. The fella bawling it was a sight. Mind you, smite me down if Siggy ain’t a sight himself. Guess we all are here though ; handling raw magic takes its toll, any hex slinger will tell you that for nothing, long as you ain’t the law o’ course!
The damage starts with your fingers, for most, just a tingling sensation at first a bit like pins and needles and if you stop then and there I dare say you’ll be alright after a fashion. But we didn’t stop, did we? Siggy and me. And now we have to hide our black veined hands and arms beneath long coat sleeves and leather gauntlets ; one look at that scorched, stained flesh and everyone knows what you are and we can’t have that now, can we?
This fella, anyways, he wasn’t a slinger. I could see his arms right up to his elbows, shirt sleeves rolled up and thumbs stuck in his braces like he meant business. “Sigmund, Ignatious Newburger!” he’s bellowed and Siggy jumped clean out of his seat like he’d just seen a flesh eating Liver Bird through the window.
It didn’t take long, a brief altercation and the fella left looking ‘Most Put Out’ as the Garish Set would say. Plenty of them in the Den that day as well but we don’t mix with that sort, revolution’s all well and good when you’re just spitting daggers about the Queen across the tea table, but smite me down if some of these Theatre Lot aren’t a bit too serious for their own safety, if you know what I mean.
Anyhow, I got the savvy over a custard tart and a pot of chajo. Clarence is the fella’s name, Clarence Aloysius Newburger and he’s Siggy’s own cousin. Siggy now spills his guts all over our elevenses and it ain’t pretty ; his old man works for Lord Ashton up at the Silk Mills, he’s some sort of overseer there, right high up and fancy which is how they got the coin to send The Young Sigmund to school and then, later, to the Wizards’ Collegium in Litchfield.
I never knew all this about Sig before but it all makes sense to me as he says it ; there are three sorts of people who end up here in the back-alley hex rings of Lancaster and smite me down if it probably ain’t the same in all the big cities of Ire : there’s those who ran away because this was their dream, and I guess you’ve got me pegged now too coz I’m certainly one them, then there’s those who are down and out anyhow and looking at any way they can to make ends meet, hex slinging can be the end of you, WILL be the end of you if you stick at it, but if you’re good at it, really good, and me and Siggy, smite me down if we ain’t pretty damn good, you can pretty much make your fortune at it. Or so the ring bosses will tell you. Anyhow then there’s the last sort, Siggy’s sort as it now turns out, and that’s the fallen wizards.
When a wizard gets disillusioned or disgraced – I don’t know, maybe he suddenly realises that The Almighty Wiz ain’t as benevolent and loving as all his holy texts make him out to be or maybe he develops a Tiffin habit or a taste for Lemonade, we all have our vices eh? – whatever the reason for him leaving Litchfield he doesn’t have many options open to him; everyone hates magic users and if you ain’t carrying an official licence from the Collegium you can’t legally practice it anyway. Chances are he’ll end up in one of two places; The Gutter Wizards or The Hex Slingers.
We don’t get many of Siggy’s sort down here, as you can imagine.
But I’m getting off the point again. Siggy said he never like Litchfield. He loved magic but he says they don’t teach you real magic up there, only their own limited and feeble understanding of how the world is put together and how a man can influence and exert his limited and feeble will over bits of it.
Not like us, we stretch our soul out of our fingertips and into the aether, grasp the threads that hold the world together and force them to obey. It’s incredible, raw, adrenaline-fuelled ecstasy and once Siggy tried it( in a back alley behind the Burlington Arcade with a Youth who wore the scarlet leather of the Cameo Libris Scribes and claimed his mother was witch) he knew his Collegium days were over.
He came home to Lancaster but his old man didn’t want to know about it. That’s when he met me and I got him his Beauty and we started this whole lark together.
“Haven’t a friend in the world, Erik,” he kept saying – Erik Wise, that’s me in case you didn’t figure it out – “Haven’t a friend in the world now.” He’s one of those comic-morose types y’know? All Over with the Rueful Smiles and Languid Glances, the Heavy Sighs and such.
So I got him one. In a matchbox. Docklands are crawling with mice you see and they’re good for the fight if you know how to use them. You can use anything to boost your game if you know how, but Siggy likes mice ; smite me down if he can’t stand in a hex ring with Beauty on his shoulder and whistle and every mouse in every garret and gutter will come and swarm on him like a second skin. You can really do a lot with a skill like that and it drives the crowds wild and terrifies the wits out of any newcomers I can tell you.
We always go in for the doubles, Siggy and Me. I like the dust, it listens to me now and I can use it to bring physical form to the magic, which is terrifying in its own right, even without the Myomancer beside me. But we’re a great team and I wouldn’t go solo for any common price.
So this Clarence fella, he’s come to Lancaster looking for help and Siggy’s father won’t give it to him. Clarence is all set to solve his problems some other way when he hears on the ground that Siggy is still in Lancaster and fighting for coin in the hex rings. This suits Clarence’s plan even better ; seems that some rogue relation – Harvey Hilarius Newburger, whoever he may be – has gotten himself into a scandal and needs to be gotten rid of sharpish before he lands the whole family in hot treacle. Seems Clarence thinks a hex slinger ought to be able to sort this little problem out a treat.
But Siggy’s a decent sort and he won’t have a part in it so old Clarence goes off to do the dirty work for himself and smite me down if I didn’t pity this fella Harvey-Whoever-He-Is on account of the murderous look on Old Clarence’s face as he left the Tiffin Den that day.
We never heard from him again and smite us both if we ain’t glad about it. We’re doing alright, Siggy and Me, we make enough in the rings to keep us in ‘Tops, Tails n Tiffin’ as they say round here. Maybe one day we’ll make that fortune we were promised, or catch the eye of some well to do Patron, then we’d hit the big time and no mistake. But we’re doing alright for now…
So there you have it, the first in this little series of snap-shots of Lancastrian street-life.
Now then I really must insist you go, I have important work to be getting on with, not least making sure the front door is Liver-Bird proofed again, true I have no flesh to devour but they do make a dreadful mess of the books if they manage to get in …. what’s that? You’re not sure your coat is Liver-Bird -proofed either? Well I’m sorry you should have thought of that before you decided to break the curfew! It’s certainly not my problem! Good Night!
Oh, er…leave the bottle though…I mean, if you don’t make it home it’ll be a terrible waste…
Good morning ladies and gentlemen, thankyou for joining us once again on the swelteringly sultry streets of Steampunk’d Lancaster as we attempt to sell bottles of illegal home brewed lemonade in a desperate bid to pay our rent.
At least that is our ruse for loitering on this street corner this morning, but shhh, step closer, we have something to show you…
If you’ve been with us for some time you’ll probably be aware that our mistress, Penny, as well as leading a secret double life as an incorrigible octopus and his unnerving gentleman friend (that’s us by the way and we’re not sure we care for the description!) also writes short stories, poems and prose with a far less frivolous flavour in the Mythpunk genre.
If you weren’t aware, you can read some of them here for free: PENNY BLAKE ON VOCAL POETS
Mahrime – Mythpunk For Monsters is a collection of mischievously mutilated and punk’d-up folk tales heavily influenced by Penny’s Rromani cultural heritage. Each poem, story or prose piece explores the themes of identity, power and love by putting the monsters, the outsiders, the outcasts, the ‘unblessed’ right at the heart of the narrative.
It’s available now to pre-order on Kindle, free with Kindle Unlimited or 0.99 without and also in paperback if that’s what you prefer (the paperback is full colour with black pages, white text and beautiful white mandala art work by ArtsyBee and comes with a free Kindle copy)
“And what is Mythpunk?” we hear some of you ask…
Mythpunk can be as simple as taking a traditional tale and re-working it to produce something fresh, inspiring and new , or it can be a far more complex synthesising of cultural and mythological evolution; a deep exploration into the cultural psyche or an unflinching dissection of archaic archetypes. A lot of Steampunk involves some Mythpunking along the way and a lot of Mythpunk has a decidedly Steampunk flavour.
So, now that we know exactly what we’re letting ourselves in for , lets take a little sneak peek at just some of the things inside the cover…
Mahrime means ritually unclean / unblessed in Rromani language, it is akin to the word Unseelie in Celtic lore but it is applied to people. The title story in this collection draws heavily on the experiences and mythology of Rromani People and explores the historical out-casting of certain groups and types of people who are branded as ‘monsters’ because their existence is at odds with a dominant cultural or religious ideal. It also goes deeper to hint at the aspects of self which we choose to lock away because we believe them to be unlovable or unacceptable.
The Road Back Lost
This Mythpunk’d version of The Company Of Wolves is a response to the ideal that we all have both an internal and external collective of wise guiding voices who can teach us our culture, our heritage, our purpose and our place in the world; these voices, intuitions, bodies of lore, family, elders, clan-folk etc are supposed to teach and guide us safely through the wild woods of life and all the dangers therein but what if we don’t have them? What if our family or culture or bodies of lore or even our parents and home have been lost to us? This is the situation for many people today as war and poverty tares children away from their families and cultural white-washing tares culture away from people and places it in the hands of the fashion industry. So what can we do? Try to go back? Try to move forward? Or stay and become the wolf?
Damao means ‘to overcome’ ; the final piece of prose in this collection echoes the hopeful thought that is embedded throughout the book – with solidarity and support for eachother we can overcome the problems inherent with being labelled ‘outcast’ or ‘monster’, we are not alone and we will endure.
So there you have it, Mythpunk for Monsters, we hope you enjoy it, and now I think we will just sit back on this soap box here and sample some of our own lemonade, this day is far too hot to be doing any work and my tentacles are wilting despite the negligee we borrowed from Nimue Brown and her Hopeless Sinners yesterday I think what I really need is a parasol…
Thankyou for joining us on the street corner today, hm? What’s that Max? You think YOU ought to write a book? Honestly, I really don’t think ANYONE is going to be interested in anything you have to say… well alright then I will ‘wait and see!’ … and who exactly do think will publish such an atrocity? Hm? …. oh you’ll ‘find a group of marvelous monsters as mad about tea and tentacles as you are’ will you? Well good luck with that my friend! I shan’t be holding my breath…
While we wait to see what, if anything, comes of Max’s new ambition, let me thank you once again for joining us today and for supporting our endeavors as always and whatever kind of monster you happen to be please, do remain always,
Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the sweltering summer streets of steampunk’d Lancaster! You find us this morning still trying to sell enough lemonade to keep our sinister landlord off our proverbial backs (and our actual backs, in fact – he has recently fitted his walking cane with a morning star.)
So, can we interest you in a delightfully delinquent and relentlessly refreshing bottle of fiz? Brewed by our own fair tentacles? …. What? Oh, hold on a minute, who’s this?
Well strap me into a corset and call me Susan, it’s our dear friend Nimue Brown! What brings you to this street corner, my darling? (Max, stop being rude and ridiculous)
N: This is what I get for borrowing a pair of trousers from Professor Elemental. At least we now know where and when I am, which is progress…
Well we are very, very glad the trousers went wrong because we have been simply dying to get our tentacles on a copy of Sinners – the newest release in your Hopeless, Maine Steampunk graphic novel series! Please, do tell me you have some Hopeless Sinners tucked away somewhere about your person?
N: I’m like some kind of non-seasonal, less than perfectly masculine Father Christmas with a really dodgy sack just now. I’ve got all the Sinners. Hopeless Sinners.
The very best kind of Father Christmas then by all accounts! Thankyou! (Max take your mits off it you’re getting it all sticky) we will certainly be reviewing that over a nice cup of tea in the parlour shortly, but before we get it home and out of its negligee (Hm? Oh it’s called a ‘dust jacket’ is it? Sorry…) a-hem… do we get a little teaser as to what’s inside? From the cover it looks like Sal has grown up a little!
N: No, you were right first time, it was a negligee, I may have got a bit carried away with the ‘sinners’ part. I don’t think I’ve got any of the chained ones left…
Oh that is shame…
Yes, Sal is a bit more grown up at this point, but it’s still a passably child friendly read, if the child has no fear of demons, elder gods, monstrous sea life and whatnot. Funny things happen, terrible things happen, and we find out more about the people who live underground on the island.
Now that is what I call a tease! And where can our good friends here get their hands (or indeed tentacles) on a copy?
N: In theory, anywhere that sells books. In practice, you have to make an appropriate sacrifice at the full moon and pray to an elder God that the online store of your choosing will have copies and will not be charging an entirely random price for them! We’ve had issues in the pre-order period.
Well if anyone needs a potential sacrifice candidate we have a landlord we are willing to part with for noble purposes such as this so do shout…
Splendid! Now look here, Mrs. Brown, I don’t suppose you could help us sell a few bottles of this fiz here could you? My tentacles are drying out in this heat and Max’s so called ‘wit’ is driving the punters away in… ouch!… I mean, is perhaps not to everyone’s taste…
N:We could redeploy some of the negligees to protect those vulnerable tentacles, don’t you think?
Hm, this reminds of that pole dancing episode … Max get off that lampost people are starting to flee the street…
I don’t know any lemonade songs. I’ve got a lemon song, but I mostly use it for stuffing chickens with. It goes (brace yourself)
‘lemon up your bum, lemon up your bum, lots and lots of lovely lemons, lemons up your bum’.
Which might or might not sell lemonade, I suppose…
Well I think between the three of us we have managed to clear the docklands quicker than if someone had shouted ‘PLAGUE!’ … and now we may well be reduced to pole dancing again to make the rent this month, so may I keep the negligee?
Thankyou for joining us on the street corner this morning, we will be back soon with more splendid shenanigans and a super special announcement … or two… so, until then,
please be always,
A GUEST POST BY STEAMPUNK WRITER KAREN J CARLISLE…
<The Parlour door creaks open. Smoke drifts into the room. An old lady with a grey bob enters, shuts the door behind her and leans on her silver walking stick.>
Don’t worry, dears, the smoke should dissipate soon. I should’ve never left Agnes to watch the scones/oven. She always gets distracted, that one. I managed to save some scones for us.
< A plastic container thuds on the table.>
I’ve brought that new book you wanted. It took some trickery to pry it from the author’s hands, you know. They’d only just arrived by courier. She’s so excited. I thought you might like her to visit.
<The cane taps on the floor.>
Oh, sorry. I didn’t see you there. Are you here to see Max and Collin? We haven’t met have we? They said they would introduce us before they left. I’m Enid Turner.
Oh, dear that sounds very formal. <She smiles.> Just call me Aunt Enid.
They didn’t tell you I would be looking after the Parlour, today? They had to pop out to sell some lemonade… <She lowers her voice.> To earn the rent money.
<The clock strikes eleven. Aunt Enid sighs.>
It’s time for Elevenses already? Oh, dear, I am late, aren’t I? That explains why they aren’t here. That’s the problem with Relocation Magic. It’s not always reliable.
<She reaches into her apron pocket, retrieves a book and plops it onto the table. The kettle whistles in the kitchen.>
Do you prefer tea or coffee?
<Tea cups chink onto their saucers. The plastic container snaps open. The smell of freshly baked scones fills the room.>
I made scones and lemon butter. Why don’t you try some.
<She dribbles some honey into her coffee, her hand grips her walking stick as she waits.>
Why, thank you. It’s a family recipe. Are you feeling all right?
<She relaxes and rests the walking stick against her chair.>
Oh, good. Now that’s done, I suppose I should get started.
<She clears her throat.>
Ahem…Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Max and Collin’s rambunctiously ridiculous and chi-chi to the core parlour located somewhere within the lower intestines of the splendidly steampunk’d city of Lancaster.
Is that how it goes? Yes? Oh, good. I must apologise; Max and Collin said they would leave some questions for me, but I can’t seem to find them anywhere. I suppose I’ll have to ask the questions myself.
<She sips her coffee.>
Q: Tell us about the new book, Aunt Enid.
Oh, it’s just a little story Agnes and I wrote. My niece, Sally, insisted we publish it. But don’t believe everything you read.
Q: And what is The Dark?
There’s no such things as Shadows and Collectors, or The Dark. That sort of thing gives people nightmares.
<Aunt Enid frowns, picks up the book and reads.>
“When people start disappearing Sally is drawn into her aunt’s secret world and soon discovers her aunt is a Protector Extraordinaire.”
Yes, it’s my duty to stop it breaking through this world’s protective shell, and protect you all. That’s what a Protector does – in the story, that is.
Would you like another scone?
<Aunt Enid turns the book over and shifts in her seat.>
Q: Tell us about your garden?
Oh, I’d love to. Did you know hydrangeas change colour depending on the acidity of the soil? I like/prefer mine to be blue.
What’s that? Why blue? Well… I like blue. It’s a lovely colour don’t you think? Bees like blue. Oh, did I tell you about my bees? They are such lovely creatures. Very observant. As are garden gnomes.
Did I say that?
<Aunt Enid stares into her teacup and whispers to herself.> I wonder what Max has put into the coffee…
<Lightning flashes outside the window. Thunder rumbles over the roof tiles. Aunt Enid grasps her cane and glares out the window. Loud drops of water tap on the roof. Her hand relaxes and she rests her walking stick on her lap.>
Everything’s fine. It’s just a rain storm.
Oh, silly me. You mustn’t mind an old woman. One must be expected to get flustered at my age.
<She smiles, pulls a folded piece of paper from her pocket and places it on the table in front of you.>
Do you like the lemon butter? I promised Max and Collin I’d share my recipe with you.
<The front door slams shut. Footsteps hurry down the hall. Max and Collin enter the Parlour, dripping water all over the carpet.>
Well, it’s about time you two got back. You forgot to leave me some questions to answer.
Yes, Collin, I’ll leave the scones for your afternoon tea.
<Aunt Enid turns back to you, and smiles.>
Thank you for keeping an old lady company. I need to get back to Adelaide and get lunch ready. My Sally’s on afternoon shift at the hospital today. Just make sure Max and Collin don’t hog the scones.
Goodbye Aunt Enid! See you again soon we hope! … Hog the scones indeed! Who does she think we are, a pair of cake crazed tea guzzling lunatics without an ounce of self control when it comes to…. Max! Stop stuffing your face with scones, that is no way to behave in front of our guests… mind you they do look exceedingly tasty… and is that lemon butter? ….
You can read about Aunt Enid’s adventures in the first book of Karen J Carlisle’s new cosy paranormal mystery series, The Other Worlds Chronicles
“Daemons, fairies, magic: it’s all real!
The Otherworld is bleeding through cracks into our world. And Adelaide is ground zero. Something is coming. Something dark – trading souls for passage. And only one person stands between The Dark and the fate of the world.
Aunt Enid is just your average seventy-something year old. She loves to cook, is a regular at bingo and spends hours in her garden, talking to her army of garden gnomes and fussing over the colour of her hydrangeas…
When people start disappearing, her great niece, Sally, is drawn into a secret world and soon discovers her great aunt is a Protector Extraordinaire.”
Karen J Carlisle is a writer and illustrator of steampunk, Victorian mystery and fantasy.
She graduated in 1986, from Queensland Institute of Technology with a Bachelor of Applied Science in Optometry and lives in Adelaide with her family and the ghost of her ancient Devon Rex cat.
Karen first fell in love with science fiction when she saw Doctor Who as a four-year old (she can’t remember if she hid behind the couch). This was reinforced when, at the age of twelve, she saw her first Star Destroyer. She started various other long-term affairs with fantasy fiction, (tabletop) role-playing, gardening, historical re-creation and steampunk – in that order.
She has had articles published in Australian Realms Roleplaying Magazine and Cockatrice (Arts and Sciences magazine). Her short story, An Eye for Detail, was short-listed by the Australian Literature Review in their 2013 Murder/Mystery Short Story Competition. Karen’s short story, Hunted, featured in the ‘A Trail of Tales’ exhibition in the 2016 Adelaide Fringe.
She writes full-time and can often be found plotting fantastical, piratical or airship adventures.
Karen has always loved dark chocolate and rarely refuses a cup of tea.
She is not keen on the South Australian summers.
Where to find Karen:
Twitter: @kjcarlisle – https://twitter.com/kjcarlisle
For information on where to buy Karen’s books: http://www.karenjcarlisle.com/shop
You can also follow Aunt Enid’s progress on the book’s FB page.
In the interests of Transparency, a note from Penny : I have the potential to earn a small amount of income through the Amazon Associates program should visitors to this site choose to purchase Aunt Enid – Protector Extraordinaire via the featured links in this article – Penny 🙂