Monday, September 28, 2009

Robertson and Mass (and Flint)

(Another attempt, at one in the morning, to break through writer's block. Not sure how well I did. I don't know if I was aiming for comedy, but as I reread it - and flinch - I laughed a little. Don't know how readable or entertaining you'll find this, and if I happen to offend Anthony/Callum/Shea if they read this, uh, sorry. It was a joke.

Shea, I don't really think you're the scariest woman Western occultism's ever seen. That honour goes to Blavatsky. You're second.)


There was nothing left in the fridge.
Not in itself unusual, but James lived alone, and he was very particular about food. He liked to have a fully stocked kitchen at all times. There was nothing particularly superstitious or clinical about it. It was just something he did.
So where did the food go?
James was a nervous individual by nature, and this sudden revelation filled him with a sense of cosmic horror. It was an aberration. There was nothing right with the situation. No obvious reason for why the food had disappeared. James wracked his mind, but cold rationality got him nowhere when confronted with the facts.
Had he been robbed? Had his sister come in to eat, maybe…?
No.
The fridge had been normal, had been full an hour ago – when grabbed the beer and made the sandwich – and nothing else was taken or otherwise molested. Not to his knowledge. He’d been home for the hour, too.
Practical joke…?
He’d never know.

The office phone rang. A piercing series of screeches erupted from the thing, like a banshee on a bad date. It hurt Nick’s ears every time someone called… but that was rare enough. Business was bad. Economic recession. An age of science. Richard Dawkins proves the nonexistence of supernatural forces. Et cetera, et cetera.
Frankly, he was shocked that the line was still connected. He’d semi-purposely forgotten to pay the bill.
“Robertson and Mass, occult specialists,” he said, with as much charm as he could muster.
“Hello?”
A woman’s voice. Ragged, yes, but sensuous. Distraught and on the verge of tears, panicked, a little hopeful… her voice showed all of these.
“Hello. Nicholas F. Roberston speaking. Robertson and Mass, occult specialists…”
“Um, hello. I’d like to inquire as to, as to how much an investigation costs…”
Investigation? She wanted them to do spiritual combat work… and get paid for it? It sounded too good to be true. It probably was. Nevertheless, Nicholas latched onto the idea of actual monetary pay, and upped the level of charm considerably.
“We’d have to give you a quote, ma’am. Could I have your name, address, telephone number? We’ll send a representative down to give you a hand…”
“Oh, yes, yes. Um. Nikita Richards…”
She gave him her number and address.
“It’s, um, it’s an emergency,” she added.
Nicholas nodded, and then realized Nikita couldn’t see him nod.
“You’re close. We’ll be there within an hour.”
Nick gathered his ceremonial dagger, battered trench coat, mobile phone and wallet. He made sure to lock up before he left, and within ten minutes he was on a Melbourne-bound tram, headed towards the first real job in three months.
As he trammed, he dialed a number.

“Tony Mass, Robertson and Mass…”
This voice was deep. Strong, a little edgy. The kind of voice a drug-dealing cactus would have.
A little static. Nick adjusted the phone, placed it a little closer to his ear. It was raining in Melbourne. The tram was packed with sopping commuters, and as Nick talked they shot him a series of contemptuous glances. Each had the kind of look that clearly said, “How dare you interrupt our miserable silence with your incessant chatter? How dare you?”
Nick knew that Tony knew that it was Nick who called, but he also knew that Tony got a rush out of saying ‘Robertson and Mass’. Nick couldn’t blame him.
“Tony!” said Nick.
“Hey, Nick. What’s up? How’s business?” said Tony.
“Booming. We’ve got a job. A real one, I think, with a paying customer.”
“Work?” Suspicion hid in Tony’s voice.
“Yeah. Richmond. Want to come down? Could be a bit of fun.”

Tony met him on the corner of Nikita’s street. He also wore a battered trench coat. His hair was dark, long, and soaked due to the rain.
Inside was Nikita Richards: a long, tall, red-haired woman with a grim smile and hollow eyes. She wore a bright red sweater than clashed, amusingly enough, with her hair. She was alive.
Further inside was James Richards: red-haired like his sister, skinny frame, splayed upon the kitchen floor. He was very much dead. He was not wearing a sweater, but had some sort of yellow spike lodged into the back of his neck… logically, the thing that killed him. His eyes were hollow, but not with grief: he’d experienced something terrible.
The kitchen floor was not covered in blood.
It was spotless.
Impeccable.
“Oh, um, uh,” said Tony.
“Um,” said Nick.
“Have you tried calling the police?” asked Tony delicately.
Nikita took a while to respond.
“Every time I call, they say they’ll dispatch a unit… but no one shows up. Everyone I tell looks at me aghast and then promptly forgets whatever they heard. They act like nothing had happened. Talking to the police in person doesn’t help. I’d gotten hold of your number from, well… your advertisement in the paper today.”
“Oh?” said Nick. He wasn’t aware they’d lodged an advertisement. Tony shrugged. Synchronicity.
“Yeah… funny names, I thought, and I was curious as to what – as to what a … an occult specialist would do…”
Her face was streaming with tears. Tony went to hug her. Nicholas stayed still. He was a little fearful. This was heavy stuff. Either Nikita was some sort of fratricidal serial killer… or something seriously occult had happened.
Both were bad.

Calm Flint was Robertson and Mass called him, because his real birth name was phonetically similar and they firmly believed that ‘Calm’ was a brilliant first name. That’s what they christened him as, that’s what he was listed under when searched in their mobile phones, and that’s how he’d began to refer to himself.
He was a smalltime occultist and was halfway through a dangerously dull Bachelors of Archaeology, taking a minor interest in mythology and anthropology. For this reason, he was often called upon by the duo to give a hand in the tenser situations; if Nicholas was the dedicated, eidetic occult scholar, and Tony was the rational thinker and people’s person, then Calm was the individual in between, the person who filled in the gaps.
Of course, they didn’t want to pay him, and that’s why Robertson and Mass remained Robertson and Mass and did not become, say, Robertson, Mass and Flint.
Nevertheless, he was useful. He knew things. He’d read lots of books that Nicholas hadn’t. They may refuse to pay him, but they definitely appreciated what they did for him.

Calm showed up at James’s residence about an hour after Nicholas and Tony had. When he saw the corpse, he vomited.
When his world stopped spinning and when he’d stopped heaving, Calm asked what had happened.
“We kind’ve thought you’d have an idea,” said Tony.
“Where’s the sister?” said Calm.
“We put her in bed. She’s too tense to sleep, but the quiet’ll do her some good.”
“If you could take out your little laptop and run a search for us, that’d be great,” said Nick.
Calm didn’t know what to say. They hadn’t found anything as hideously weird as this before. There was the Ouija board that wouldn’t stop moving, and the spirit that had possessed someone’s bathroom, but this…
“I can’t do this,” said Calm, “I can’t. It’s too big. Someone died! Someone had been killed! We can’t do this.”
“Come on,” said Tony, “It’ll be a laugh. He probably slipped or something.”

The spread was interesting. The Tarot cards were almost as objectively meaningless as the I Ching coin-tosses and the runes, but the implication was spelt a little more explicitly.
DEATH was the major card in the spread, the grinning skull surrounded by cards depicting little discs and wands and a sword. It wasn’t all meaningless, of course. It did mean something. That was the problem: it meant too many things. Nick couldn’t figure out which things it was referring to.
“Death?” said Tony, snorting. “That’s a little bit bloody obvious.”
“It means change, you idiot,” said Calm.
They both had valid points.
But Nick was lost. This didn’t help them with what they needed to do. The DEATH card was a little clear, sure, but those other, minor arcana? Useless. Completely useless.
“Did you get anything?” Nick said.
“With the runes?” replied Calm. “Not much. The death rune came up. And the blank rune, which I think in this case means, real actual death.”
Calm threw a little red book towards Nick: THE SECRETS OF RUNES REVEALED! The title almost gasped with enthusiasm. Tony picked it up.
“Hmmmm…” said Tony, thumbing through the pages. “The woman who wrote this apparently joined a band, found paganism, visited all of the sacred areas in Britain, fell into the punk movement, joined Zoroastrianism, started an internet business and then found paganism again. Oh! I didn’t know there was a rune for law suits.”
“There is,” said Calm proudly. “And a separate one for lawyers.”
“I’m not getting anything from these cards,” said Nat. “Maybe I’ll have to call another contact…”
“But who?” asked Tony. “Who could help us?”
“Possibly Louis?” said Nick. “She’s been in this business a long time…”
Louis McKay was a volatile witch who’d been practicing magic and witchcraft for close to a decade. That was a very long time in occultism, which most people picked up when they were fourteen and dropped once they were old enough to start enjoying sex.
“No, no,” said Tony. “No. She scares me. That woman scares me. She is thunder in a bottle, Nick, and I do not want her around.”
Before Tony realized that he had close to little aptitude towards the occult, he’d attempted to conjure the spirit of Hitler into a magical circle. He’d failed miserably, of course, but this foolish action caused Louis – who knew everything that was everything within the occult scene of Melbourne – to slap him so hard that the force ricocheted, hitting all the spirits on the astral plane.
“Hmm… she is a little gung-ho,” said Nick, who’d personally seen Louis shoot a young magician in the leg.
All the youth had done was ask Louis whether she’d reflected on the possibility that all magic was black magic, and because all magic was interconnected that meant – logically – that every magical act was evil. Had she reflected on that, the young magician asked?
“Yeah. Don’t call her,” said Tony, fear tinting his manly voice.

“The fridge is empty!” cried Calm.
They’d moved the corpse of poor James to the house’s study. It was hygienic, after all, to leave it in the kitchen.
“We’d have to walk down to the Fish and Chips place or something,” said Tony disdainfully.
“No, no…” replied Calm. “You don’t understand. There’s nothing in the fridge. Nothing at all!”
“I… ah,” said Nick, not quite understanding what was being said.
“Yes,” said Calm, “And what do we know that kills with poisoned spikes and has a huge appetite?”
“I… some sort of porcupine-bear?” said Tony.
“No! The Nadubi!”
“Ah?”
“Evil Aboriginal spirit of poison and hunger? Lives in the Arnham Lands? Kills with its spines?”
Calm was excited. Tony and Nick had never heard of it. Australian mythology wasn’t their forte.
“If it… lives in the Arnham lands…” said Nick, carefully, “Then what is it doing down here? In Melbourne?”
“Food. There’s food down here. The cheeky bastard’s been feeding on the food of North Melbourne yuppies.”
“Hmm…” said Tony, unsure.

It was, of course, the Nadubi.
It watched curiously as the three inept occultists argued over its existence. It felt at ease. It had recently eaten, and had also taken the great pleasure of spiking a human. Food and murder: everything a spirit needed.
As it watched, it realized that it was hungry again. Hungry for human flesh. It had gotten greedy when it attacked James – it wasn’t truly ready to eat again, and now the body had withered away. Unfit for consumption…
It wasn’t starving, either. It couldn’t eat the big one… or his sandy-haired friend. Maybe the scrawny-looking mortal? The one who had dared hypothesize its existence?
Yes.

“Oh Jesus what the fuck was that?”
Calm felt his leg. No blood… but something large, worn, with a texture like bone…
Nadubi spike.
As he collapsed, the Nadubi leapt out from the crack between the fridge and the sink. It was the size of a large garden gnome, except skinny and vicious. Its neck, wrists, elbows, and feet were spiked – they looked comical on the beast. Its teeth were razors, its eyes slits.
It was, all in all, a scary bastard of a thing.
Calm had collapsed, pale and skeletal.
Tony was the first to react.
“Shit, shit, shit!” he cried, trying to crush the thing with his boot.
Nick was chanting – half in prayer, half in an attempt at banishing – but it wasn’t doing very much. He grabbed a bag of rock salt from one of the nearby benches and tried throwing the thing at the Nadubi. No luck. It screeched a little and plunged its teeth into Calm’s leg.
“Oh Christ oh Christ!”

It was too late for Calm – by the time Tony had beaten the Nadubi to death with a hammer, Calm had join James as one of the dead. The ancient spirit of poison and hunger lay splattered on the red floor, its black blood steaming.
Tony and Nick looked at each other silently. They knew what’d happen now. There was no supernatural presence stopping the police.
Nakita came down from her room. “What’s going on?” she said drowsily.
Robertson and Mass had dashed for freedom. They were nowhere to be found. Nikita now had to deal with two unexplainable corpses. It was a rough shock.
When she called Robertson and Mass, the phone line had been disconnected and they’d changed offices. She was soon arrested for two counts of murder.

WHAT IS MAGIC: Magical Traditions (Part One)

What, exactly, is magic?

He’s at it again.

It’s the howling, mostly, and the weird banging late at night. If I had a crown for each time I’ve awoken to Jasper shouting invocations in Latin I’d be a very rich man. There are sometimes screams, sometimes moans, but he assures me that he isn’t actually killing anything: those are just the spirits. They protest, apparently.

He doesn’t name them ‘demons’, but what he does is no secret.

I’ve been at this for forty years. I need my rest. I shouldn’t be forced to try and sleep through six hours of some would-be chanting and muttering. People should have the decency to keep their blasted magic in the daylight.


There are four types of supernatural abilities available to Perdurade magicians. The first, and by far most commonly practiced, is known simply as Magic.

Each character within the Club has at least some ability in a handful of Magical Traditions. Most of these traditions involve ritual of some kind or another, and almost all are difficult to apply fully in a tense situation. Magic is reserved for the downtime between investigations.

Me?

I wouldn’t be caught bootless with that dreadful muck. What he’s doing isn’t really magic at all… it’s conjuration, yes, but it’s unwieldy and unsubtle. Not fitting for a Perdurade magician to resort to such methods. Not fitting at all.

I speak to the Earth. I use salt, sometimes, or a dowsing cane. Stones, too, and branches made of oak. The land has a song that it must sing. It is important that I hear it.

Up at dawn, for the Absolutions of the Sun. Then, before breakfast, a short divinatory peering – I cast stones into a salt circle – and maybe a small walk. I can change form, too, yes. You’ve heard that. They think I can’t manage anymore, but I can. I’m the chosen sorcerer-druid of the New Century. The Earth has chosen me for its supreme work…


That isn’t to say that all Magic involves lengthy rituals. Some of it can be cast extremely quickly. On the fly, as it were. More often than not this involves preparations beforehand, but it can be done…

Divination, for one – a common method of identifying invisible threats and forces within a certain sphere – can be found throughout most of the Traditions. Geomancy, for example, often uses the casting of stones. Diabolists read the spilled entrails of freshly killed animals.

A few of the Traditions, at least at the higher levels of initiation, have means to deal with sudden threats through mystical Blasting – though most occultists would rather rely on a blazing firearm of cold steel to see them through. Advanced Geomancers are famed for their alleged ability to change forms, and Diabolists are feared for their ability to ruin a man with a wave of a hand or a simple gesture.

Each Magical Tradition has its own form of Abjurations – wards and cleansing rites which can, in some cases, protect one from supernatural horrors. Following the same example, it is widely known that Geomancers carry twelve sacred stones with them at all times – and if these are placed to form a sacred circle, anything within that circle is impervious to magical harm. The Diabolist takes a different route, calling upon Jehovah in his mightiest aspects to destroy whatever threatens.

Reminds me a little of the time I had to share a room with Cooper, now that we’re on the topic...

Cooper was always a fiddler. I have the greatest respect for the man, of course – his crazed ranting about metaphysical non-truths and the illusions of magic ignored – because he knew real magic. He performed all his magic in light of day (admittedly, always after noon, but at least his lazy approach gave me a free morning of ritual). His sorcery might have been a little hit-and-miss, but it was always spectacular, and I never heard rumours about him making blood pacts with the Devil.

That just wasn’t his style.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

American Burnings

(A small, rushed piece I did for the CTRL+ALT+DLT Writer's Block forum contest. I like to compete sometimes.. but I always leave it until the night before the deadline. Oh well.)

Smoke.

They’d caught Jimmy at it. Burning things. It made me feel a little sick. We’d all liked to play with fire. Just little things… flicking matches, starting lighters: small pieces of grass, a little paper, something to make them feel a little cool. A little bad.

They were kids. Kids did that. Everyone loved fire.

Jimmy had lit the school auditorium. The whole thing had gone down. No deaths, unfortunately, so he lost points for that – but he was caught, so he wouldn’t have gotten points anyway. That wasn’t the way the game worked.

Wasn’t the way it worked according to the Book.

The Book: a little charred on the edges, but the red came through. When I first saw it, for a tiny moment I thought it might have been blood. But it was just the colour. You opened the book and the two greatest smells in the world rushed to meet you: the old book smell, that one you get in the used bookstores, and the smell of smoke, the smell of something burnt to a crisp.

Something burnt to all hell.

Thomas, before he’d disappeared, explained the game to us. We’d been exploring the house that’d gone up in flames recently. It was a ruined shell – nothing but ash, the darkness of memories gone up in flame. We found nothing good to steal except the Book.

The title: American Burnings.

“Flip it,” said Thomas, “Flip the Book. It’ll tell you where to go. You’ll figure out what to use. Ten points for a successful burning, five for a partial, five bonus points for a death. Injuries don’t count. Fifteen points if the fire gets out of control and hits somewhere else. Get caught and you lose them all.”

So we did it.

We took turns, of course. That’s what the Book said to do. Thomas went first. We think he died. Jimmy used to describe to us what it’d look like – his pale skin burning up, red hair met with crimson fire, a scream that can’t be heard over the popping, the cackling of it all.

Jimmy got the auditorium. Then it was my turn. I got the park.

Kerosene, the Book said, but that wasn’t a problem. Dad had plenty of kerosene. I stole a can, took it to the park. There was no one around. That was good – I wanted the five points, sure, but I didn’t want to hurt anybody. It smelt like rain. The air tasted fresh.

It was the first rain we’d gotten in a long time.

I can smell it now. It’s dark, but the hills are red with burning. A burning need to escape. To consume. To destroy and to kill. A siren howls past. I’m meant to be packing my things - Dad said we’d be evacuating in ten minutes. My clothes smell like smoke. Everything smells like smoke.

I’m scared, but I can’t stop playing with the Book.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Who is.. Jasper Solomon?

("Who is..?" being a series of sporadic articles detailing the members, famed and obscure, of the controversial Perdurade Club. In these modern nights one would hope that the superstition and mysticism of a darker age might be quashed completely, but the profile's of fraudsters and charlatans never cease to stir delight in the bellies of the enlightened, and so they are presented here for The Reader's satisfaction..)

Jasper Solomon

Thirty-Four (34) years of age as of 1903 AD
Joined the Perdurade Club at age 23 in 1880 AD
Full Membership (Resident)

Affiliation: Rational Magic

Astrological Profile

Born in late January, Jasper Solomon is thus influenced by the Blasted Moon. This manifests through his great natural intuition, which allows him to easily come to correct conclusions and grants him a reputation of eerily high intelligence and deductive power. Unfortunately, this trait also makes him occasionally careless and overly hasty, rushing into dangerous situations without planning ahead or formulating a plan.

Appearance and Personality

Jasper is fond of wearing bright colours, a quirk that makes him the but of many a wry joke within the Club. While his hair is a wild sandy-blond, shoulder-length and unkempt, his sense of fashion is impeccable; he spends much of his monthly retainer on new items of clothes and shoes. He is especially fond of fine Italian leather dress-shoes. He is never seen without an evening jacket - sometimes a conservative black, sometimes dark red or even a bright purple - and his cuff links are always a sparkling silver.

Both of Jasper's ears are pierced, though it is rare that both will hold jewelry, and he is especially keen in regards to rings and pendants. He does not seem like an especially vain man, however, regardless of the what he may wear; his eyes are dark, betraying Jasper's inclination towards tragedy (instead of romance), and they rest upon heavy bags. He does not sleep or eat enough. One may wonder if the brightness of cloth is the only shred colour in his life.

Jasper Solomon is a somber, sober individual. Jasper's female guests often claim that he is jovial and relaxed in private, but among all but his closest friends and lovers he seems weary, tense, and a little paranoid. Do not allow this description to persuade you that he is unfriendly, however - he does smile, and he contains a particular kindness rare among magicians.

One has the impression that he is a deeply conflicted man, passionate about his work and about bettering the Perdurade Club and, perhaps, mankind - but also inclined towards compassion and empathy. This estimate may not be so far from the truth.

Aspects

There are three aspects to Jasper Solomon. Any of these might be considered for the Perdurade Club game, and while the three are certainly diverse they should not conflict with one another too harshly. They each shed light on a different part of Jasper Solomon, each one as valid as the next, an the player should choose an aspect he is comfortable with and personally drawn to.

Jasper Solomon, Grim Diabolist: Jasper Solomon is shares a name with one of the most famous magical grimoires in history - the Clavicle of Solomon, an eldritch manual detailing how to traffick with demons and break them to one's will. It is considered, by most, to be in league with the Black Arts and to place more emphasis on personal power then spiritual enlightenment, but one can't deny it's effectiveness. Those few members of the Perdurade Club who know what mystical practices Jasper engages in keep quiet for the sake of themselves and the Club; the benefits it reaps outweigh most risks. Jasper is himself deeply serious about the practice - fully understanding the dangers, risks, and ethical difficulties involved - and casts his magic with insight and moderation. He does not joke about the calling of the Damned.

Jasper Solomon, Parapsychologist Dilettante: Jasper Solomon dresses like an obscure, wealthy European noble, and his interest in parapsychology and the weirdness of modern science only add to the rumours of his eccentricity. His retainer from the Perdurade Club - coupled with a deep and stable personal wealth accumulated in his early years working as a brilliant freelance consultant of the occult (back in the few years when the practice was dying but there was still work to be done) - allows him to personally investigate, without care of whether or not he has Perdurade permission, any supernatural occurrence he happens to take an interest in. His natural intuition allows him to survive these often deadly solo inquiries, but he's almost died more times then he cares to admit and the job has aged him at least a decade.

Jasper Solomon, Encyclopedic Sorcerer: Jasper Solomon is famed within the Perdurade Club for his insight regarding events thaumaturgical and arcane within the city. His other eccentricities - the fashion, his parapsychology work, the diabolism - is quietly ignored by the Club officials as he fills an important niche within the place: Jasper is the man who can connect the dots. His knowledge of magical lore in general, and of the Black Arts in particular, is impressive, and it was he who found the Cult of the Hidden Pharaoh in 1884 and he who realised that the only way to kill the Dragon of the Lake was to feed it a red-headed virgin woman in 1891. In this aspect, Jasper Solomon is jack-of-all-trades occultist, having theoretical proficiency in most of the arcane arts and a strong practical proficiency in Ceremonial Magic (specializing, naturally, in diabolism).

Rumours

(The player may choose three rumours to be truthful in regards to Jasper Solomon - one specific (tied to an aspect), one general (tied only to Jasper), and one negative (also tied to Jasper). The rest can be assumed as true unless proven false. The player is under no obligation to share which rumours are true and which are false with the other players; on the contrary, it is advised that he keep them secret.

Here are only a few examples.)

"You know what I heard? I heard that, with all those bright colours and the frilled clothing.. I heard that Solomon was a little peculiar, you know? A little strange. As in, I wouldn't be surprised if he preferred the, ah, company of men.." (Negative)

"He has a condition, you know. A sickness. Caught it while we battled the Plagued Hook in, oh, 1898. Like a worm of the stomach. Can't digest most food - which is why we never see him dining, or drinking anything but Russian vodka - and it's hard for him to move around for very long. He's not dying, I don't think, just in a bad state.." (Negative)

"I know - don't ask me how or why, but I damn well know - that Solomon's in league with the Devil. He traded his very soul for arcane power. It's all that Black Magic he's into.. it was really just a matter of time. He's a danger to the entire Club, if you ask me, the rotten core. He needs to be expelled." (Negative)

"I've heard that he's not only seen it, but he's actually been there. Visited it.. the Blasted Moon itself. He's actually set foot on the grey soil of the wastes - seen the City of Fools.." (General)

"It's the Dagger of the Denarius. Created from reforged silver coin - the very silver given to Judas for betraying Christ! The Dagger was given to him by the demon Vassago, and if he kills with it at dawn on the sixth day of the sixth month.. all his enemies will wither and die, blasted by the fury of the blackest spirits." (Specific: Jasper Solomon, Grim Diabolist)

"He dresses like that because of his allegiance to the Court of Bale. Faeries. Worse than that - ancient Ottoman killer faeries. He might even be part Fae himself. Wouldn't surprise me. Explains the ridiculous choice of dress.. and his demeanor. Cold bastard. Never cared much for him. What I'd pay to see him beaten with a club of cold iron.." (General)

"He's searching for something. I don't know what, but it's out there, and Solomon thinks he can find it. That's why he continues to go on these damn fool investigations of his. Lunacy. Whatever it is, I hope it's worth the price he's paying.." (Specific: Jasper Solomon, Parapsychologist Dilettante)

"A pair of spectacles. Shaded blue. Yes, I know, blue.. bear with me. He claimed.. he claimed they were from the future. From the 1960's - sixty years ahead! How did he get them? Hell if I know. Still.. if the kid really can time-travel.." (General)

"He has a mind made of clockwork. A machine for a brain. I saw him die. I saw the High Priest of the Cult of the Door beat him till he was dead.. I saw them drag him off.. and I met - briefly, yes, but I met the doctor behind saving him. Transferring his memories to the new mind.. before the brain had fully ceased to be.. crazy, yes, but it'd explain the fountain of knowledge he has stored within there, right?" (Specific: Jasper Solomon, Encyclopedic Sorcerer)

Conclusion

That is, essentially, it. As one can see, there is much more to Jasper Solomon than can be gathered by a simple inquiry.. he is truly a member of the Perdurade Club. Madness comes with the territory.

The Original Perdurade

(Being the original seed of the idea that would flourish and turn into what I have now of the Perdurade Club, as well as existing as the first tiny bit of story written about the setting. It's unfinished - a drabble at best - but worth putting up, I think.)

They watched the Perdurade Club with clicking, twisting eyes. The Perdurade Club returned their gaze, nervous but ready. An air of paranoia filled the streets. They were named clock-punks by the gentlemen of the Perdurade for their clockwork eyes and the punk sound of gears against leather. The members of the Perdurade were fearful of those mechanical eyes. They did not blink.

Three weeks had passed since the first clock-punk had stood outside the gates, and now two dozen of the creatures assaulted the grounds with their silent watching. The play on words, of clock and watch, did not amuse the members of the Perdurade as it might have.

Opinions as to the nature of the clock-punks were varied. Jasper Solomon, a young man fond of bright colours yet grim in character, believed them to be artificial homunculi crafted by some unseen enemy of the Club. This was supported partially by a handful of Jewish members who believed that the things could very well be modern golems, those creatures of stone mentioned in the most mysterious of Judaic texts.

Other members disagreed. Richard Francis Kantam, who claimed the ability to speak to angles, decided upon venturing out of the Club to study them. He was not harmed, and returned with the opinion that no conjurer could have created such things: they were fantastic, yes, but ultimately mundane.

This disappointed many, but instilled a new sense of fear within the members. Technology, industry… these were men who filled their lives with dry tobacco and dusty tomes, strange archeology and serpentine mysteries. They were detectives… some of the occult, some not, but all had a powerful connection to the forces of the unseen.

But there is more to the occult than mysticism. It is the business of secrets, and secrecy is not limited to the ethereal and the astral. This was why the members were not simply occultists or magicians or detectives – they lusted for the mystery that these things brought.

The clock-punks were an enigma, and this excited the gentlemen as much as it scared them. What did these clock-men signify? Of whom were they agents of? Did they have a motive?

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Perdurade Club

Remember the time..

At the MacGraw manor, on that frightful Winter night, when we fought the ghost of the law Lord David McGraw? How he shrieked and wailed, shattered all the windows, filled us with the coldest chills, snuffed all hope from our souls.. and drowned poor William? Remember how our Father prayed, yes, thank you Father, how Cooper used his electromagnetic wand to cast it aside, how Alice trapped it within her glass bottle?

Remember the time..

When the Cult of the One-Eyed Sultan took Freedom Square, attempting to use their black rituals to call their blasphemous deity to the Earth and destroy mankind? Remember the gibbering horror.. how it came towards us, legs and wings and tentacles and claws.. how it struck, how it gooped, how it fed on the brains of men? Only fire could defeat it.. do you remember?

Remember the time..

There is a correlation, I'm sure! Why else would the spirit of the Rabbi stop his attacks on the local Muslims unless my extoplasmic defribrillation wand had some affect.. I know it. And the laser? What of the laser? It burnt a hole in the moon! You all saw it! Imagine if I could localise that field, narrow it, allow it for closer use.. if we could use it on the Toothless Baron?

Remember the time..

Bah. Wands and scepters and wizards hats and poncy robes.. that's all you have behind you. This trash doesn't scare me and it never will, Cooper. There's always a rational explanation behind things. No, I don't believe in God. Don't need to. Science's on my side..

Ah - times have changed.

The city has exploded. Technological boom, they say. Machinery and gears everywhere. Steam-soldiers walk the streets, and the Cult of Science reigns supreme. No need for the older league - the detectives supernaturale, the hard-bitten occultists, the misfits of the world. No need for the league that once protected the city, once guarded it's doors from the darker forces in the cosmos.

Half the original investigators are dead. More. Most are too old to do anything except drink whiskey and discuss the golden days of paranormal investigation. To watch intelligent machines wander past, to witness the advent of free energy, to sight upon citizens integrating technology into themselves like one replaces the old gears of a clock..

Did you here about the Golem? Monstrosity made of metal and clay, the burning words of the Torah in it's skull.. killed fifteen Jews until it was solved. Yes, solved. By fifty-five elite steam-troopers, automatic rifles in hand, silent and burning.. three were killed, but the Golem fell. They even caught the man behind it all. Jewish? No, Christian. Stole the writings, stole the magic words. They threw the body of the thing into the furnace. Didn't make the news. Yes, a pity.

The Perdurade Club. That's the name the Crowned Government gave it. Sprawling manor, dozens of rooms, estate of it's own, with a small townhouse in the city.. but it's a token, that's all. Something to ease us, to thank us for all our work in the past and to remind us that it's over. We've been paid. They don't need us anymore. Even the rationalists - even old Cooper was furious at that, and he's a self-professed 'man of science'.

They managed to bring the Doom that Holds the Gates to manifest upon the mortal plane. Sank the entire Island of Cante - took them two weeks to capture it. You heard me correctly. Capture it. The Doom that Holds caught like any mundane fish! I couldn't hold my laughter once I managed to believe it. The Cult of the Door's in tatters, of course.. better job than any of us could've managed to do.. they're studying it now in their top-secret science vaults. Instantaneous apportation less then a decade off, they say..

There are fresh faces, of course. Some long for the previous century, where our work was not only reasonably common but damn well appreciated. Some are cursed with the role, trapped by fate. Some are learned apprentices - well, sons and daughters, mostly, of the old stock. But there's not much for them to do except for fence and paint and write poetry..

Not much until now.

There was a recent series of murders upon members of the Perdurade Club, and following that an instance of actual assault upon it's grounds. The Club waved it off as simply a revenge attack from one of their old enemies.. but the murders haven't stopped, and as far as any can tell, all the enemies are inactive or innocent of that particular crime. There are rumours of a Dark Lodge, a Lodge devoted to the Black Arts and to the Unspeakable Religion.. a Lodge dedicated to conquering the city - and the world - and destroying everything in their way, including the Perdurade Club.

Especially the Perdurade Club.

The Crowned Government claim to have no knowledge regarding any resurgence of mystical crimes - for all the Club knows of it, they may be in league with the enemy. The Perdurade Club - even as it keeps it's cool facade - is in a state of panic obvious to everyone within. Divination, while not, strictly speaking, useless, isn't doing much to help. The killings continue. Black magic looms.

There's nothing more for them to do except for their job: to investigate the blasted, the paranormal, the mystical and the strange. To wander into the unknown, and to fight tooth-and-nail with horrors unfathomable, for the good of man and for the continued existence of humanity.

Fuck science.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Breaking the Writer's Block

My amazing method to beat the dreaded writer's block is to write whatever comes to my head, or to try and illustrate a dream that I had an especially gripped me (in the way that only dreams can). This is a case of the latter, with an added mixture of the first. It is to break the writer's block that hit me due to a succession of deeply distressing events that have occurred over the past week.

It won't make sense. It won't satisfy you. It isn't a good story. I hope, for a moment, that it will amuse you.

---

They found her trapped within one of the storage cupboards, bruised and battered and broken ribbed – a mess. The cupboard typically held books, but in this case it had trapped his grandmother, caught within the tiny space like a worm. Her eyes had crusted over with blood. He didn’t know what to feel, because he’d dreamt this.
Or something that was close enough: the murder, he knew, wasn’t a murder. It was simply assault. There was a book involved, a single book – and it was the weapon used by the attacker – but he couldn’t quite remember the specific title. There were other aspects of the crime.
He wasn’t a very good psychic.
Nevertheless, he knew he was onto something.
His grandfather, Grand Mason of the Fifth Lodge of the Society of Ra, didn’t know what to say. He didn’t believe in psychic detection, or in auras or anything silly like that. He wasn’t the kind of man who would easily describe what he believed in. You didn’t get to be one of the most powerful pseudo-magicians of the twenty-second century by being easy to pin down.
“I don’t know what to tell you,” he said. “Perhaps when she went missing your subconscious mind conjured up the image of to prepare you for what was to come?”
His face, bearded, contrasted with the baldness of his head. Creases – kind but firm – scarred his face, showing his true age. He wore glasses. They weren’t modified.
“Let me look,” he said, a little desperately. “I know I can help. I know it. Let me take a small look.”
“Absolutely not. Out of the question. No. No, Nicholas. You’re just not ready.”

The train sloped down; almost hit the horses, and then the buffalo sprinted past. It did not stop. Nicholas felt as if the train should have hit them, should have damaged them, should have broken them… but it didn’t. It never did. The train was conditioned against violent crimes.
Soon, before anyone realized it, they’d hit the city loop. Sixteen stops, all part of the city, round and round. The train was mostly a city loop train. Nicholas had come to visit his grandfather. He needed to access the cult.
“Don’t bother,” said his grandmother. She’d been viciously beaten, of course, but was now enjoying a paid holiday within the Society’s lush gardens. “It was a random occurrence. Nothing to worry yourself over.”
But why the dream?

He’d finally remembered the title of the book.
An Inhabitant in Carcosa.
Ambrose Bierce.
1891.
Almost two hundred years old.
A real book!

“She’d been beaten with a mallet,” said the doctor. “And with fists. A book… that’s ludicrous. Especially if it was printed in the nineteenth century.”
“Ludicrous?”
“It’d crumble. To dust.”
“If it was a reprint…?”
“Possibly. But we’d know. There’d be book-related injury. We’d find traces of paper. Ink. Something.”
“Can you sign this?”
“Prescription?”
“Hyperdifictomine.”
“No. Absolutely not.”
“I suffer from hyper-sanity. I see things. Numbers everywhere. Can’t function. Too clear.”
“Get the hell out.”

Who read books these days?
Everyone: it was the latest craze.
Grandfather was out of town for the week. The national conference of ‘Alternate Spirituality Now’ – he was to be a guest speaker. He liked speaking. Nicholas remembered his father’s second failed wedding. He’d spoken for hours. Still had the .sound around, somewhere…

… and holy shit it was the twenty-first century and it was plain and boring and a little dull and there was war and starvation and nothing much on television unless you paid extra for the extra digital subscription or downloaded it illegally from the internet but who’d do that why would they do that you’re not just burning a digital video disc you’re burning the Australian film and television industry it just wasn’t on oh god the Federal Police…
He needed a hit.
Had a pill left?
Hyperdifictomine – one.
And it was done.

… Where was that .sound? Didn’t matter. Someone would have it, somewhere.
Nicholas smiled. “Yes, ma’am. A real occult detective. Ghosts, mostly, some cases of possession. Like Scooby Doo.”
“Oh, I love Scooby Doo,” said the elderly woman in charge of manning the gates. “But, I don’t know. The Grand Mason said we weren’t allowed to let in any guests…”
“But you have a ghost. A real ghost. I’ve been called from the council. Oh, and to check your water system. I’m a plumber, too.”
The woman smiled broadly. Her kind face lit up with enthusiasm.
“Oh, our water’s been cold, lately,” she admitted, and Nicholas knew he was in. “Do you think it’s a ghost?”
“That depends, ma’am,” he said. “Does your – uh – alternate religious order engage in occult or spiritualist ritual?”
“Well, we are a hidden occult order,” the woman said defensively. “Been around since the Egyptians resurrected Atlantis.”

They weren’t pleased to see him. Why would they be?
Naturally, however, there was a ghost. He should have known better then to try lying.
It wailed and howled and screeched and there was nothing Nicholas to do except to banish it. He took at the Dagger of Freedom and the blasting rod and began chanting in Hebrew. Then he changed his mind, switched to Latin. Sounded much better.
“Are you Harry Potter?” one of the Sorors asked him.
“What?”
… and he was back and the girl was asking him silly questions like what was a witch these days and could he turn invisible did he worship Satan (even in secret) and did he really believe in magic and stuff?
He nodded, sipped at the Coke. The McDonalds made him feel queasy, but he ate it anyway. This was a date, after all. She smiled and asked him what he thought of the movie.
“Movie?” he asked.
… and he was back.
The ghost was gone.
“Thank heavens for that,” said the Soror. Soror was Latin for sister. It had mystical meanings. “A real ghost! Wait till Grand Mason Robertson finds out!”
“Uh, well,” said Nicholas, “I’ll need to see your pipes.”
“Right,” she said, “Down by the storage cabinets. Mind the old books. They’re fragile.”

He soon found it. He wasn’t looking for the pipes at all. He was looking for the book – and he found it!
An Inhabitant of Carcosa.
There were no blood stains. That was odd.
“And you like this guy? I mean, he isn’t really a writer, is he?”
He was back. Defensively so.
“Of course he is. Lovecraft is one of the greats. His style seems rigid and cold, but really, it’s the best way to convey the notions of cosmic horror that he was trying to express…”
She took a bite out of his ice-cream.
“He was a mad racist, too.”
“I finally meet a sweet girl who has read H.P. Lovecraft and she thinks he’s an overrated hack. The irony isn’t as funny as I’d have expected.”
“I do like Ambrose Bierce, though,” she said.
“Who?”
“You know, he wrote, Inhabitant of Carcosa? The one who Lovecraft habitually stole from?”
“Oh, right, him,” he shrugged it off, “A hack.”

His grandmother wasn’t attacked again. It was a freak occurrence. His skills as a psychic detective weren’t needed again in this century or the next.
The dream, it seemed, was meaningless.