Travel is meant to broaden the mind. I think my travels are broadening my vocabulary; I learnt a lot of new words last night, but Oolon says I'm not to repeat any of them in polite or civilised company. So broadening but probably not improving, all things considered.
I was tidying up at the Colony when Terry came to say hello. I now know properly what she is: a Metamorphose, a Shapeshifter. She had enjoyed herself on the Isle of Wyrms so much that she had taught herself how to mimic the appearance of a real dragon. I was very impressed, I can tell you.
We decided that we ought to go an visit Oolon and show him how clever Terry was, so we popped in to Mayfair and found Oolon and Mr Mesmer having another chat and comparing steam powered flying devices. Mr Mesmer looked like he had a musical instrument strapped to his back and I get the feeling that there was a little bit of one upmanship going on. Mr Mesmer upset Oolon the other night when we were taking the air in Victoria, and I really wasn't sure quite what to make of him.
As we were chatting, Mr Desade dropped by. It's been ages since I'd seen him. He didn't have his lovely dogs with him, but he was as smart and charming as ever. Seeing as a crowd was gathering, Oolon suggested that the time was ripe for another jaunt in the ETD. I was quite pleased about this as I'd promised Mr Chaplin (a lovely mechanical man who bought one of Alfonso's gramophones) that I'd visit his hostelry and I knew it was a long way away. I also knew that he was very keen to make the aquaintance of as many other mechanicals as possible, so I asked Oolon if we could invite Miss Rothschild. Mr Chaplin is very sweet but quite melancholic at times; he has fallen terribly in love with a mechanical lady, but there are dreadful complications. And she's such a pretty thing too.
Oops, digressing again, sorry. Emilly sometimes tells me off for that, so I'd better behave. Miss Rothschild said that she would love to accompany us and we dutifully assembled in the ETD's
control room. Oolon asked me where Mr Chaplin's bar was, so I told him. A strange hush fell on the room and I could tell from the look on Oolon's face that he was just a little bit surprised. Honestly, how was I supposed to know that Toxia was such a dangerous place?
Our confidence bolstered by our armourment, Oolon finally agreed to take us to Toxia. And that's about when it all started to go wrong again. I know I've mentioned that it isn't a good sign if the big bell starts clonking; well, its started clonking and I began to wonder if the Old Girl didn't want us to go either. I'm sure she had our best interests at heart, but she may just have been throwing a strop (its quite difficult to tell sometimes).
Thanks to some very skilful piloting, Oolon brought her in for a safe landing but declared (perhaps a little too coveniently) that he would have to stay and fix her up and that I should lead the expedition! I was ever so, well, flabbergasted to be quite honest. I mean, I suppose he was right as it was my friend we were going to visit, but I've never lead anything before and I was sure that Mr Desade or Mr Mesmer would have suited the role better. But Oolon insisted that I could do it and I don't like letting him down so I straightened by bathing suit, stuck out my chin and stepped out into the unknown (bathing suits are terribly comfortable for travelling in).We found ourselves standing on a dock before a large building (later identified for us by Mr Chaplin as the Information Centre) in a hushed and foreboding half-light. As we alighted from the Cabinet, we all found a mysterious message had been somehow thrust into our hands, detailing the modes and methods of behaviour in this land. Mr Chaplin had given me directions to find the hostelry, but seeing as we didn't know what to expect here I thought it best if I scouted ahead, then came back to fetch everyone once I'd identified safe passage.
Problem was, I wasn't feeling too grand by this point. My sense of direction was all higgeldy piggedly and my wings felt as if they had been weighted down; it was all I could do to make may way through the dark, brooding streets. Three feet left of centre is about the best I can describe it, if you know what I mean.
I wandered around, lost and confused and more than a little afraid. I had people relying on me; that's an awful lot of responsibility for a little pixie and I was feeling a little bit lonely and very daunted. It really put it in perspective about what you do up there in your pretty mansion, Mr Shang.
They like big buildings here, ones that disappear into the mists. And I found a big ramp that lead into a big room with thrones and cages. I decided not to investigate further because the cages made me nervous (and the big throne looked like a big fat spider). Mr Mesmer later pointed out that it is never wise to enter a strange building without permission and especially not one in a town with a dark reputation. That was when I began to think he probably wasn't all that bad.
I decided that discretion was indeed the better part of valour and wandered out into the streets again. I could hear voices, strange ethereal cries on the ever strengthening Linden winds, but never set eyes on a living thing. I was , however, greatly heartened by the sight of a table set out for tea, as if it were part of a street cafe. How can a place be truly uncivilised if they have the forethought to provide a picnic table?
Still not being able to find the hostelry, I headed back to the docks where my companions awaited me. We decided that more eyes would be useful in hunting the place down and all set off together. I was sorely tempted to use the pretty bracelet and have Oolon take us home, but a promise is a promise.
Miss Mangala (very pretty wings, don't you think?) is in fact a member of a gang known as the Righteous Angels who work to protect Toxia from nasty horrible monsters. She's a very good angel; I don't think we would have ever found the hostelry if she hadn't come and rescued us, despite Mr Chaplin leaving his penny farthing outside as a signal.
We began to attract a little crowd of locals, which was a bit embaressing and not a little unnerving, although Mr Chaplin seemed very much in control of the whole situation. There were lots of scantily clad ladies and some cat-like people (and I found out from Mr Chaplin later that the heads of three of the Gangs were watching us; Miss Zaftig of the Cyberpunks, Mr Nakamura of the Kindred Alliance and Mr Maladay of The Aces). Another of the Cyberpunks came over to chat to us. His name was Mr Vanderverre, who is 137 years dead (so pretty young compared to Oolon, who is nearly four hundred now).It was Mr Vandeverre who taught myself and Miss Rothschild so many new words; he has a bit of a dirty mouth (that is how I heard someone describe it), but I suppose all those maggots and gooey rotting bits would mean that you had a bit of an oral hygiene problem. Miss Rothschild postulated that he spoke his own private language, a subdialect of something she called "Ruffian".
Mr Vandeverre is apparently fond of poi poi (well, that's what I thought he said), so as a friendly gesture I got out my poi sticks and began to show him my act for the circus. You can imagine my embaressment when Mr Chaplin pointed out that several of his clientele had a distinct aversion to fire and it wasn't all that long since the bar had been rebuilt after a particularly nasty conflagration.
Mr Chaplin decided that he would take us on a tour of the city (he and Miss Rothschild really seemed to hit it off, so I was very pleased I had insisted on coming along). He told us all about the very sad history of the city; how there had been a terrible accident and lots of toxic waste had been spillt and killed all the trees and animals and made all of the locals a little bit odd (I suspect the residue from this leak would account for my poorliness). There was even talk of some dread monster called Hasmat that wanted to rid the city of it's inhabitants. The sight of Mr Desade and Miss Rothschild's mechanical horses caused great shock amongst our body guard (Miss Mangala and Mr Vandeverre), as Mr Vandeverre's very noisy and smelly mechanised bicycle did to us. I think Miss Paravane would be very interested in the vehicle, but the Brownie was very nervous and even more reluctant to work than usual, so I didn't get a plate of it.
Our tour led us to a barren square where there stood, quite inocuously, a gallows. Bizarrely it stood there giving off the impression of nothing more sinister than a child's plaything, like a set of swings. Behind it was The Factory, but I'm afraid I missed much of the description of that place, partly because I was arguing with the Brownie but also because I was beginning to get a tugging sensation (suggesting that our time here was running short).
We stopped outside the Hospital (apparently a very popular venue for local social meetings) where Mr Vandeverre offered to show us his skill with needle and thread. Do you know, I think that the more Mr Chaplin told him off for his ungallant behaviour, the worse he became. Fortunately neither me nor Miss Rothschild understood a lot of what he said, so it was difficult to take too much offense.
Eager to prove that the citizens of Toxia are not godless heathens, Mr Chaplin showed us the church. Unfortunately our time was running vey short and we could not make a closer investigation of this or the hospital. I could really feel the tug of my bracelet now and knew that our exit was imminent. We hurriedly said our goodbyes to our guides, who expressed their disapointment at the briefness of our stay. Apparently we missed the highlight of Toxia, the gruesome monsters, but speaking for myself I was quite relieved not to have seen anything stranger than Mr Vandeverre.