Friday, 2 February 2007

Mean Streets

Dear Governor.

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?

Oolon wasn't sure this was such a good idea, but I'd promised so I felt forced to insist (well, threatened to cry, but it pretty much works out the same way). After a brief discussion, it was decided that those who could should arm themselves against brigands and the like, so I took out the big pistol that Oolon gave me not long after we first met. Mr Mesmer armed himself with his trusty cane and Miss Rothschild considered making use of her natty new appendages.

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.

More eyes had about as much luck as one pair and I began to despair of us ever finding Mr Chaplin. But Mr Chaplin is a thoughtful soul and had heard of the presence of strangers in his town. Surmising that this must be his acquaintances from Caledon (where he has often said he would like to retire) he had sent out a guardian angel to find us and escort us to safety.

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.

Mr Chaplin's hostelry had a very well stocked bar, which we were all very much in need of after our temporary misplacement. His speciality is something known as a double jack and coke; he has become known as Jack in Toxia (some link to a child's toy was mentioned, but it didn't make much sense to me) and the name of the is apparently some sort of joke linked to that. Human humour can be very hard to figure sometimes.

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).

Mr Chaplin led us on past a house of ill repute, where he had to shout a lot at Mr Vandeverre for his continuing attempts to teach me and Miss Rothschild naughty words by repetition. Mr Desade rather worryingly went native about this time by adopting the local dress customs, apparently to prove to Mr Vandeverre that our gallant gentlemen were just as capable and manly as those residing here. Personally I never doubted it for a second.

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.

On a final note, I asked the Brownie to make a plate of this image. It was on the wall of Mr. Chaplin's hostelry and I remembered seeing something similar in a shop at the creepy fairground Emilly found. They look a bit like Snorty, Alfonso's steam elephant, but I'm not sure exactly what they are (kissing, perhaps, or twin beings?). Perhaps Mr Burleigh would know if this is art or documentation of local monsters...
Dear Oolon then brought us safely back to the Cabinet and proceeded to take us back to fair Mayfair. It was a bit touch and go, as the Old Girl still didn't seem too happy, but Oolon assured me she needed no more tea. I cannot tell you what a relief it was to see green grass and bright blue skies again. And my wings were all better, too.

Your intrepid adventurer,
Fuschia Begonia
PS. Mr Chaplin has promised to send me something called "postcards" of the Toxian monsters. I shall forward them as soon as they arrive.


Venetia Vixen said...

Goodness, Gracious, Me! What a delightful couple you are and so Charming. It was a pleasure to meet you last night and I do hope we can meet again. I don't have a Google thingummyjig but I'm Venetia and you can contact me as if indeed you wish to and, for that matter, have the time to spare which I should think you have very little of as this must be exceptionally time-consuming, but then, isn't everything? Tarrarranoo, Venetia

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