Book the Second, Chapter the First: A New Century

Romantic Horror, London, circa 1800

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Re: Book the Second, Chapter the First: A New Century

Postby SunlessNick » Thu Dec 06, 2018 6:43 pm

"This Miss Davenport must be a remarkable lady to have the friendship of both a natural philosopher and a, what was the phrase, practitioner of the mystic arts," remarks William once the three men are alone.
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Re: Book the Second, Chapter the First: A New Century

Postby Mr. Handy » Thu Dec 06, 2018 7:08 pm

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"Indeed she is," says Henry. "She possesses remarkable courage. It is unusual for a man of science such as myself to align with practitioners of the mystic arts, but it has happened before. I believe what I can see with my own eyes, and I have seen much. I remain of the opinion that there is a rational explanation for seemingly magical phenomena, that what we observe as magical effects operate under undiscovered scientific principles."
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Re: Book the Second, Chapter the First: A New Century

Postby Rooter » Thu Dec 06, 2018 8:08 pm

"An admirable philosophy, Docteur," Vincent replies and, with a muttered word, produces a candle flame upon the tip of his finger. The flame winks out after a few seconds. "As for Mademoiselle Davenport, Capitaine, when last I heard, she had traveled across the Atlantique with a Gypsy maid, never to return to these shores. But we must look to our own battles, non? I confess I do not know who invited me to Highdark Hall but I suspect it was not Lord Highdark, who would I think rather die than ask a Frenchman for aid. There is something happening in this house of which we must be wary."
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Re: Book the Second, Chapter the First: A New Century

Postby Mr. Handy » Thu Dec 06, 2018 9:06 pm

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"I have seen an effect like that before," says Henry. "A fellow named Duncan I used to know could achieve similar feats. The Gypsy maid must be Miss Ines. She and Miss Davenport both traveled with me some years ago. Our travels took us to France at one point, as it happens. If it was not Lord Highdark that invited you, perhaps it was Lady Highdark? Do you have the invitation? It is possible to tell by the writing whether a man or a woman scribed it."
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Re: Book the Second, Chapter the First: A New Century

Postby Rooter » Thu Dec 06, 2018 10:17 pm

Vincent proffers the brief message for inspection. "Duncan? Ah, you must mean Monsieur Rachman. I am afraid my colleague has not been seen for a long time."
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Re: Book the Second, Chapter the First: A New Century

Postby Mr. Handy » Thu Dec 06, 2018 10:26 pm

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"Yes, that's the man," says Henry, examining the invitation. "It is indeed a small world."
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Re: Book the Second, Chapter the First: A New Century

Postby SunlessNick » Fri Dec 07, 2018 3:01 am

"While we are alone, I will confess that I too was invited, by one who feared danger within these walls. I am however bound not to reveal the identity of my correspondant without their leave. But I think I may say that the tone of it was very different from this letter."
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Re: Book the Second, Chapter the First: A New Century

Postby VictoriaSilverwolf » Fri Dec 07, 2018 3:08 pm

Spoiler:
INT=16
VictoriaSilverwolf rolled 1d20:
6


In this modern age, graphology is an exact science, just as much so as, say, phrenology.

Doctor North is able to determine that the brief message was inscribed by the hand of a young woman (but not, certainly, a child.) The handwriting indicates great intelligence, with the shape of certain letters suggesting hints of melancholy and eccentricity.

After some time, Jasper returns with a note from Lord Highdark, addressed to Doctor North, requesting that he attend upon him at ten of the clock. (The guest drawing room is, of course, furnished with a fine clock.) There is no indication as to whether the other two gentlemen should be present or not.

Half an hour before the appointed time, a very young scullery maid arrives with rolls, butter, preserves, tea, and chocolate so that the guests may break their fast. She is somewhat flustered to have been thus entrusted with an important errand, and quickly rushes out once the victuals have been served. As the clock strikes ten, a manservant not previously encountered arrives to conduct Doctor North to Lord Highdark's study, which is located on the second floor, just off a fine portrait gallery, wherein may be seen paintings of the Altumber family and their ancestry. The fellow is not aware of his master's exact intentions, and is unable to offer any information as to what Doctor North might be prepared to expect from the meeting, nor whether the other two gentlemen are expected to accompany him.
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Re: Book the Second, Chapter the First: A New Century

Postby Mr. Handy » Fri Dec 07, 2018 7:20 pm

Image

Henry shares his findings with his companions. "The young woman who wrote this invitation seems much like me in many ways," he muses. "It isn't clear whether Lord Highdark wishes the two of you to accompany me to his study or not, so I shall leave it up to you gentlemen." Henry follows the servant, regardless of whether the others join him.
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Re: Book the Second, Chapter the First: A New Century

Postby SunlessNick » Sat Dec 08, 2018 1:16 am

"I find it unlikely Lord Highdark wishes to discuss this matter with anyone but Lord Dunwich," says William, attacking the refreshments with gusto. Should Vincent concur and remain, he will ask what brought a Frenchman to England's shores - is he perhaps a member of the aristocracy who fled the Revolutionaries? (It must be noted that despite the likelihood of William having fought against France during the recent wars, he betrays no sign of hostility to Vincent, nor to the French factions who which he refers).
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Re: Book the Second, Chapter the First: A New Century

Postby Rooter » Mon Dec 10, 2018 5:33 pm

Feeling that his presence would only serve to rile Lord Highdark, Vincent also elects to remain, expecting that his mysterious correspondent will duly reveal herself to him once his arrival at the Hall is known. "Oui, Capitaine, you are most perceptive," he replies without elaborating, also helping himself to the food, which is somewhat plain to his Gallic tastes. "But I have no quarrel with you British. It is a shame our people do not get along, non?"
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Re: Book the Second, Chapter the First: A New Century

Postby SunlessNick » Mon Dec 10, 2018 9:31 pm

"Indeed it is," agrees William. Changing the subject, he remarks, "I am intrigued as to what could be at work in these walls that three different people would call for what seems to be three different manners of aid."
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Re: Book the Second, Chapter the First: A New Century

Postby VictoriaSilverwolf » Thu Dec 13, 2018 7:08 am

After some time, the two gentlemen left together receive a written message from yet another footman that Lord Highdark would be pleased to receive them at supper, where he will have the honor to present them to his family. Doctor North, of course, is also invited.

Captain Palliser:

Spoiler:
There is an additional message for Captain Palliser, in a more familiar tone, which advises him that Lord Highdark's eldest daughter is prone to romantic fancies, particularly where military men are concerned. He trusts the Captain will not find her company too tedious.


Monsieur de Labrousse:

Spoiler:
During the preparations for the meal, Monsieur de Labrousse receives an unsigned card from a young maidservant, who proves to be a mute, and thus incapable of answering inquiries save by inarticulate grunts and moans. In a hand which is, by now, familiar, it reads The Hedge Maze, Midnight.


Doctor North:

Spoiler:
The conference with Lord Highdark elicits the information that he is concerned with the behavior of his youngest daughters, a pair of identical twins not yet ten years of age. Rather than go into detail at this time, he asks Doctor North to observe the children at supper, and requests an opinion as to whether they are suffering from some form of brain fever.
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Re: Book the Second, Chapter the First: A New Century

Postby SunlessNick » Thu Dec 13, 2018 3:54 pm

William folds additional note away quickly, but looks intrigued at the contents.
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Re: Book the Second, Chapter the First: A New Century

Postby Rooter » Thu Dec 13, 2018 4:58 pm

Vincent thanks the maidservant and makes ready for supper.
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Re: Book the Second, Chapter the First: A New Century

Postby Mr. Handy » Fri Dec 14, 2018 4:44 am

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"Of course, Lord Highdark," says Henry. "As a father myself, I can quite understand your concern."
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Re: Book the Second, Chapter the First: A New Century

Postby VictoriaSilverwolf » Fri Dec 14, 2018 4:48 am

Not long before supper is to be served, the three guests are escorted to the dining room by Jasper. This is located on the first floor. The path taken allows the gentlemen a glimpse of a fine salon, decorated with astrological symbols, located opposite the front door. Beyond this, barely seen, is a large, circular ballroom. The guests pass through a spare, masculine room containing Lord Highdark's hunting trophies, then into a smaller room, decorated in a Baroque style, filled with curious seashells and other treasures of Neptune. The dining room itself is located at the end of a corridor which leads into various chambers designed for the amusement and edification of the Altumbers.

Lord Highdark receives the guests graciously, as Jasper withdraws to see to the kitchen staff. Much time is taken with introducing the members of his family to the three gentlemen.

Lady Highdark (who, at times, is addressed by her husband as Constance) is about the same age as Lord Highdark, with dark hair, eyes, and complexion which suggests Italian, Spanish, or possibly even Moorish ancestry. She is very courteous and displays signs of subtle wit, which sometimes goes above the head of her husband.

Lord Highdark's heir, Harold, is not yet twenty years of age. He is a pleasant-looking fellow of charming manners. One can almost overlook the fact that he is afflicted with a limp, which requires the use of a walking stick.

Two or three years younger than her brother, Georgina Altumber is pretty, favoring her mother's dark coloring, but in a gentler way. She is very soft-spoken and shy with the new arrivals.

Of about the same age is a fellow who does not resemble the rest of the family. This is Henry, a foundling adopted by Lord Highdark. He is a strong, handsome lad with a serious mien, not entirely at ease in fine company. Conversation proves him to be possessed of strong opinions. It is notable that he is very solicitous of Georgina.

Finally, Lord Highdark's youngest children are introduced. Julia and Juno -- or is it Juno and Julia? -- are identical twins, under a decade old, pleasantly-featured and full of youthful high spirits, chattering away, asking many questions, and, it appears, fond of mischief. It quickly becomes apparent that they are the two apples of Lord Highdark's eye, and that he is a most indulgent father, often dismissing their mother's attempts to restrict their behavior. It would be tedious to relate their constant prattling, but perhaps the following example will provide sufficient evidence of their curious manner of speech. Without waiting to be invited, they approach the guests as if they were friends of their own age, holding a porcelain doll which they pass one to another during the course of conversation. Julia -- or is it Juno? -- speaks first, followed by Juno -- or is it Julia? -- and from that point on they alternate.

This is --

Poppy. She is --

not really a --

doll. She comes --

to life and --

talks to --

me.


Some concentration is required to follow their conversation.

Once all the introductions have been made, the first course (turtle soup, with a light white wine) is ready to be served. Lord and Lady Highdark, of course, are seated at the ends of the long table. Not one to stand on ceremony, Lord Highdark invites his guests to be seated wherever they might please, so as to allow them to converse with such persons as seem most agreeable to them.
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Re: Book the Second, Chapter the First: A New Century

Postby Mr. Handy » Fri Dec 14, 2018 5:07 am

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Were I a betting man, thinks Henry, I'd wager that Lady Highdark wrote that letter. Its author is clearly a lady of wit. He takes a seat opposite the twins so that he can best observe them.
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Re: Book the Second, Chapter the First: A New Century

Postby SunlessNick » Fri Dec 14, 2018 5:43 am

William is rather of the opinion that Georgina must be the one who sent the invitation to him and greets her with slightly too extravagent courtesy. If he can, manage it, he will take a seat next to her - failing that, Harold.
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Re: Book the Second, Chapter the First: A New Century

Postby VictoriaSilverwolf » Fri Dec 14, 2018 7:47 am

It is a truism that, to one who is alert, there is no such thing as a private conversation around the dinner table.

Lord Highdark and Harold, as is proper, sit closely together, and discuss matters of business, as well as anecdotes concerning hunting; an activity in which his lameness prevents Harold from participating.

Lady Highdark sits near the twins, frequently requesting that they speak more quietly, and correcting their table manners when necessary. It can be seen that this has little effect. At one point, reaching the point of exasperation, she taps one of the girls lightly on the wrist with a spoon. (The crime for which this punishment was elicited was reaching for the sugar bowl without requesting permission.) It is a remarkable fact that the scolded child does not react, but that her sister cries out in a dramatic manner, as if she has suffered a great injury. Much of the time the two girls whisper alternately to their doll, which, in violation of proper behavior, they refuse to set aside during the meal.

As luck would have it, Captain Palliser is able to sit next to Georgina, with Henry on his other side. A faint blush colors her features throughout the meal. Her conversation with the guest is, at first, restricted to pleasant remarks about the weather. Henry is bolder, demanding stories of valor on the field of battle.

"When I am a soldier, I shall toss Bonaparte into the sea!"

With more enthusiasm than politeness, he often addresses Georgina directly, leaning forward to speak to her as if Captain Palliser were not present.

"Would you like me to go fishing to-morrow and catch something for Artemis?"

"That would be lovely," Georgina replies without looking at him.

(The guests will be aware, by this time, that Artemis is a cat, of whom Georgina is very fond. The feline has not yet been seen by the visitors, as Georgina is very well-mannered and would not think of allowing her pet into the dining room. When not in the presence of her mistress, Artemis wanders outside in search of small prey, naps in the warmth of the kitchen, or is cared for by Miss Rye. Miss Rye, not yet introduced to the guests, is governess to the twins. Of course, she does not dine with the family.)
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