Monday, April 7, 2014

Where Shadows May Fall – Prolog

[I'm getting back into the habit of writing campaign summaries and writing in general.  This is a prolog for a Victorian-style Alternate Earth Campaign my wife is starting.  We did a character completion session and the introduction of characters this past Saturday.  The game is slated to run once a month on a Saturday.  I'll be chronicling it from the perspective of my charater, Professor Detlef Strohkirch.]


Professor Detlef Strohkirche
Professor Sappho Yaavne
Major Yevhen Voytko
William, Earl of Redstone, Esquire and Doctor
Ching Shih, Chinese Pirate Queen (ret.)
Dr. Samuel Wilkinson
Charles Cole, Consulting Detective

Diary Entry for: 11 January 1816

Dear Diary,
I attended a tea and dinner with the local heads of the Society of Ravens – the Marchioness of Brisital and the Marquis Raleigh.  This meeting indicated that my application to join the Society was accepted.  Now perhaps I can go about seeking some funding for my next Symphonium Automata – a social club for gathering knowledge with branches at universities across The Continent must certainly have members able to fund my work.

I was surprised to learn that I was not the only one being inducted this day.  Seven others were in attendance.  I started assuming this was the candidate class for this year, but as things unfolded I realized we were brought together as a group for a purpose by the Society.  Hmm.  I’m certain the real purpose will become known, but for now – I’m getting ahead of myself.

Also in attendance were:

  • His Royal Highness, Knyaz of the Transural Steppes, Major of the Tsar’s Imperial Guard, Yehven Voytko, Imperial Russ State Alchemist
  • The Right Honorable Earl of Redstone, William, Lord Temporal [means he sits in the House of Lords, NOT that he is a Time Lord], Fellow of the Royal Society, Esquire [means he is a lawyer], Doctor
  • Ching Shih, Petal (I do not know what this means, but it appeared to be a title of some sort)
  • Sappho Yaaune (one of the Sil*); Petal, Society of the Rose (this might be different that that owned by Ching Shih, but I never got around to asking); Cog, Lund Mechanical Inventor’s Society; Professor at Ros Sorcha University (a full professor!  I was only able to secure an associate professorship.  I wonder if her species had anything to do with it or if she just had better connects – I’ll need to ask around.)
  • Sir Dr. Samuel Wilkinson, Knight of the Realm, Doctor of Surgery (We've met before and knew his father by correspondence during the time Samuel was dead.)
  • [Charles Cole – the player had to leave before we did the introduction scene, so I don’t have all his titles, but he is a consulting detective living in Lundin (game world London)]
  • [Sir Not Appearing This Game Session – a player who had to miss the session due to work, but whose character was assumed to be in attendance]

We arrived at the Savoy precisely at 4:00 pm and were treated to a fancy tea party first.  This seems to be an Anglish social custom as I’ve seen it happen often since arriving in this country a year and a half ago.  A break in the afternoon is a pleasant enough thing, but the Anglish seem to waste time over the whole activity.  In Gotha we’d have a beer and a sausage if we were hungry and get on with things, but that is not the Anglish way of doing things.

I fell in with Professor Yaaune as she is an automail** specialist and she and I discussed the theoretical limits of automail technology and how much of a person could be replaced before they were no longer that person.  We proceeded to discussing possible designs and I was having difficulty getting a design concept across to her.  As she had two pocket watches and some spare automail parts on her, so I cobbled together a design to illustrate what I was discussing.  This was interrupted by a transition to an actual dining room for the actual meal, but we resumed work after getting seated.  I finished the little automata and ran it through a few exercises to verify it was complete by the time the third of fifth course arrived.  (I admit I lost track of which exact course we were on while completing the automata.)  Apparently our hosts also joined us during the transition to the dining room.

The rest of the dinner Professor Yaaune and I discussed some related topics and I will admit I needed Samuel to recite text from a couple of the books I know he has memorized to get past a few points.  Professor Yaaune approaches automail from a biological perspective whereas I work from the mechanical perspective.

Near the end of the dinner (right after the desert cheeses were brought out, which seemed to make Professor Yaaune a bit tipsy – something about the Sil digestive system reacts to cheese like humans react to alcohol), our hosts gifted us each a high quality carriage and Top Hat [high rank and quality coachman].  This seemed an extravagant gift for newly inducted members of the Society, but the Marchioness went on to explain the group of us (minus herself and the Marquis) were to act as a field team for the Society and we are assigned to travel to the town of Glassenbury in Cornwall tomorrow morning via locomotive transport along with a financial representative of the Society.  In Cornwall, we were to contact the Glassen family who own the lands there and verify the contents of a library they are selling to the Society.  Additionally, we are to arrange for the isolation of the library from the Glassen’s home, to which it is attached.

This is not what I joined the Society to do and I believe I could see similar sentiments on the faces of some of the others.  Miss Shih had some very pointed questions about what exact we were to do and what limits there were upon our behavior and options.  We are to not endanger the sale nor anger or offend the Glassen family as the Society was in negotiations with them for several other items in different locations.  This includes avoiding offending any of their peculiar religious beliefs – they apparently are some flavor of the Christian faith and view Angland’s Druidic faith somewhat poorly.  That said, we are to secure the library, including any of the hidden passages and rooms rumored to be part of the library’s construction.  Miss Shih has a very direct way of viewing things and I think I will be able to work well with her.

By this point it was approaching 9:00 in the evening and the dinner finished.  We received some final directions on where to be to ride the locomotive transport to Cornwall.  I’m somewhat curious to see what someone else did applying a steam engine for transportation.

I just realized it has been over 40 years since I built the steam-powered mobile Symphonium Automata in Zagreb.  I still blame the cobblestones for jostling the steam feed and shunting the entire output through the organworks.  I’m sure they've replaced all the glass in the city by now.

After that we all returned to our respective domiciles.  I informed Martijn we would be traveling in the morning and to pack for a trip of a week’s length.  I also informed him I had been granted a Top Hat by the Society and told him to find a room for her in the house and space for the carriage somewhere.  I then proceeded upstairs to make this diary entry.  Now I am going to sleep.  I hope Martijn doesn't make too much noise packing for us.

Guten nacht, Tagebuch.

Note to Self: Learn the Top Hat’s name.  I’m sure she has one – most people do.

* Sil - This world includes a race very like the Silurians from the Doctor Who television show.  Think "fine-scaled snake people" and you pretty much have it.  In-game, they used advanced technology to teach the monkey's to not attack Sil population centers or else, establishing the Pax Siluriana.  They don't generally mingle with Humans, but there is an embassy at most national capitols in Urope (the Europe equivalent).

** automail - Borrowed from Full Metal Alchemist, automail are essentially cybernetic replacement limbs.  I think they work because of magic, but they do need to be designed and built for each wearer.