Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Dr. Sandorius and The Resurrection Men - Chapter II: Enterprises

The Brave Men of the Svenkta Methodi Police Barracks

(NOTE: The description of the magical universe in Dr. Sandorius' lecture below is taken in part from Ken Hite's Cabal Gurps sourcebook.)


The timing of the visitor was very inopportune. In addition to his normal concerns of keeping the city healthy and relatively intact, despite the best efforts of its citizenry, Sandorius had this new worry about Elizabeth. He had never expected that young Milna would be such a disturbance to his peace when Sandorius invited him. It had merely been the repayment of a debt not an invitation to pursue his daughter.

In any event, it was certainly not a good time for the visitor to appear so suddenly in his office. He had not seen the figure since that day of the road from Moscow, now nearly twenty years ago. The visitor was dressed in black like the last time but not a soldier’s uniform but a simple black suit. As before, Sandorius’ eyes could not seem to focus on his face, no matter how hard he looked at the visitor.

Ice gripped Sandorius’ heart when he realized what seeing the figure portended.

“My friend,” the visitor said, sensing Sandorius’ distress, “I am so sorry to surprise you…Do not look so alarmed, I assure you I am not here on business…my regular business at any rate.”

“I didn’t think you made social call,” said Sandorius. “Or are you here for someone else, you don’t mean to take…”

“Hardly. As I said I am here for no one but I must speak with you. There are so few in whom I can confide. I do have a great admiration for you; consider you in some ways to truly be a friend. After all, few have done as you and followed my advice if given a second chance. I don’t have many friends as I am sure you can imagine…”

“What do you want?”

“Even though I accused you of cheating me once, I must admit that you have always abided by the rules of the game, as it were. Stretched them a bit but always within the spirit of the game. You have always acted the gentleman. That’s probably why you are so poor at intrigue. I mean this false identity, ‘Mercurio from Brazil?’ Surely you could have thought of something a bit less obvious…”

“What do you want?”

“Yes, sorry. I can here to tell you that there are those who would not play by the rules, who are attempting to break them even as we speak.”

“If you are referring the Countess, it is you who advised me to give up my pursuit of her. “

“Yes, the Countess has extended her time in the material world quite …unnaturally but in her own way, she has played by the rules and has paid a considerable cost for it. No, I speak of others who, if successful, would…institutionalize a fundamental violation of the rules of which I speak.”

“Would it be so terrible to see an end to Dea--“

“Please no name calling. I am a mere functionary, a mere wheel in the clockwork that the Prime Mover set in motion at the beginning. In the Material Realm, I do serve the Prime Mover’s purpose, whatever that might be. Mere mortals should not be permitted to tamper with that.”

“How can mere mortal even threaten you?”

“Exactly! They would need, even if unwittingly call upon, …other powers … who might then upset the whole machinery.”

“Destroy the universe, do you mean?”

“At least the Material Realm, or at least as it is presently constituted, and who knows what might happen then to the other Realms.”

“Why don’t you stop them, then.”

“As I said, I am a mere cog bound far more closely by the rules, the Laws of Nature if you will. I have already stretched the rules quite a bit to speak to you today. I can go no further.
“You on the other hand, are human. Made “in His Image” as the saying goes, with free will and individual consciousness. You are free to act.”

“What is it that you want from me,” Sandorius demanded in frustration.

“Ah, yes. There is a matter that has come to your doors this morning. An investigation. At the heart of this matter is the danger of which I have spoken. Follow this investigation, assist it to its ultimate conclusion, that is your only chance of stopping what may result. Now I must go, I have already strained my neutrality as far as I dare.”

In a moment, the visitor was gone. Sandorius sat for a time, his mind reeling. It was the striking of the tower clock at eleven that finally roused him. He distracted went to present his lecture, the first of the year that he had once thought would be a quiet one.

When he arrived in the lecture hall, he remembered this was his introduction to the new students. There were only a half dozen sitting in the hall. Milna was in the front, looking very eager and conscientious. Sandorius vaguely wondered whether it was right to hate the young man as he thought he might, given what his father had done for Sandorius.

Avoiding looking at Milna, Sandorius launched into his initial lecture, one that he had given innumerable times before.

“As a start to your studies, you must understand the nature of the Universe. Magic is about the using that nature to achieve your desires.

“The universe, as we know it, is composed of mystical energies of various natures. We call these energies the decans, each of which determines a certain type of experience or existence. The decans emanate from the Prime Mover, the Source of All Energy and Being, what the Church calls the Godhead. They then pass through the various states of existence until they blend and form the material world.

“Now there are those who think of the universe as a great tree with the Prime Mover as the roots and the decans as the branches.

“I prefer the model of The Spheres. Think of the universe as a set of four spheres, each one resting inside of the other. At the center, the inner sphere, is Atziluth, the abode of the Prime Mover. The decans then flow freely and unmixed into the next sphere, Briah, the Iconic where the truest form of our legends exist. Then they flow into the next sphere, Yetzirah, the Astral, where the full power of the individual decans mix to become the material, common matter, finally forming the outer sphere is Assiah, which we perceive now.

“The medium upon which these decans flow, is the Eternal Aether. Think of it as strings upon a lute. Each one separate from the other but bound together to form the instrument. The decans are the plucking of those strings. A knowing hand may move from string to string and from that is played the music of the spheres….”

Sandorius was startled by an interruption. “But, sir,” it was Milna, “Are you suggesting that if one know the proper song, formulation I suppose, one could move from Realm to Realm?”

“Yes... in theory,” Sandorius added for the benefit of any government spy in the room.

“So one could simply walk into heaven…without dying I mean.”

“In theory, yes!” Sandorius barked. “But it is not that easy. For reasons we can only surmise, a great Abyss surrounds Atziluth, filled with all the negative energies of existence, what the religious call demons. At the bottom of the Abyss is the qlippoth, horrific creatures, the cast-off of the First Creation, the Worms Gnawing at the Roots of the Tree of Life...

“What keeps them from gnawing their way into Heaven.”

“Ban Milna, do you think the Prime Mover would permit such things into His home?” Sandorius was appalled by the simplistic impertinence.

“I can see that, God would want to keep Heaven tidy. What then keeps them out of the other realms? We’re only human, how could we stop there horrible things crawling in here if they really wanted it, especially if there are these Aether Strings you are talking about.

“Ban Milna! These are metaphysical constructs…The Structure of the Universe keeps them where they are, the Laws of Nature keep them where they are! This is your first day, you cannot possibly understand the subtleties of what I talking about! In a year you may be able to talk some sense about the simplest of these concepts. Until then please keep your observations to yourself unless you are asked for them.”

Even as he said it, Sandorius was struck by a realization. The Laws of Nature, the rules, prevented the qlippoth from entering the Material World. But what if someone broke the rules.

The Case of the Resurrection Men in The Natural Philosophy of Crime by Anton Smelchak

The investigation began in earnest on the morning of August 29.

I had taken it upon myself to hire two new horses for the prisoner wagon since I deemed that traveling above a snail's pace might be helpful to the investigation. When I arrived at the Svenkta Methodi Barracks that morning, the horses had already been delivered from the Bezarcek Stables. Of course, I paid the hire fee from my own pocket.

Entering the Barracks, I pretended not to notice the several open bottles of brfnsh, the two card games, and one knife fight with which my gendarmes were occupied. Thinking that I might need assistants, I ordered two of the brighter officers, which is to say two that were slightly above orangutans in intelligences, Sergeant Krular and Gendarme Vidric to accompany me. We then set off in the prisoner wagon for Lady Dalhousie's hotel.

On the way, I made a most disturbing discovery. Gendarme Driver Bogacz had not been assigned the two ancient horses because they matched him in age and senility. Rather it appeared that they were intended as a check on his recklessness. He set off at a gallop through the narrow lanes of the Svenkta Methodi, nearly running down a half dozen citizens in the first two blocks. Several other conveyances were side-swiped and the manner in which he took corners still leaves me with a queasy feeling in the pit of my stomach.

We thus arrived at the Hotel Royal in a much more timely manner than previously. I was shown up to Lady Dalhousie's suite of rooms and admitted immediately by the gypsy girl Sarah. The Minister spared no expense on impressing the good Scotswoman. Her suite was palatial and a large breakfast, mostly untouched was spread on the table in the large dining room. The Lady was finishing a cup of tea and small plate that I noticed with horror contained fried prknos.

"Lady Dalhousie, I do not wish to be indelicate but do you realize… the dish you are eating… did the staff tell you what it is?"

"Aye, laddie, pigs' arseholes. They taste wonderful, just like at home."

The Lady finished her questionable repast and we soon set off for the University.

The School on Thaumaturgy sits at one end of the University grounds and consists of three buildings. The first of these, Sendigovius Hall was a students residence. The second, Paracelsus Hall, contained most lecture halls and faculty offices. The third, Flamel Hall was a small laboratory.

We went first to Paracelsus Hall to call upon the Factotum of the College, one Ratko Fisztic. Now Fisztic and I had met briefly on a few occasions and he was well known to the police. A former soldier, he had enjoyed a considerable criminal career after the wars had ended. A thoroughly cynical and corrupt individual, he had had no hesitation to turn informant on his compatriots in crime when it was to his benefit. How he had obtained the position of Factotum, the chief administrator of the College, I had no idea. Unquestionably, there was profit to made from the position and I was equally sure he did not hesitate to do so.

After brief introductions, I put to Fisztic the question of what he knew about Baron Dalhousie's disappearance. At first Fisztic was surly and gave information only grudgingly. He was apparently peevish over rent that the Baron had owed him prior to disappearing. When it appeared the Lady Dalhousie would satisfy any outstanding bills, he was much more forthcoming.

When I asked how the College had come be a common lodging house, he readily admitted starting the practice, explaining that the lack of students required extraordinary methods to meet the expenses of the College. He had begun the practice about a month after he had taken up the position of Factotum.

Baron Dalhousie had hired rooms here about three months ago upon his arrival in the country. He had been advised of the availability of the rooms by someone familiar with the practices of the College. He had sought the rooms for six months, paying one month in advance. No further money had been paid despite Fisztic's best efforts, which were considerable.

"Aye, don't feel bad 'bout it, Mr. Fishsticks. Nae one could hold a candle to Jamie at the ditching of creditors," was Lady Dalhousie's comment.

Fisztic related that Lord Dalhousie had last been seen one month ago, setting off on a business excursion to the country. Apparently, there was some sort of financial scheme he was hatching.

"Perhaps we could see the Baron's rooms?" I asked.

Fisztic seemed hesitant at first, quibbling about the amount of money owed by the Baron, quoting an exorbitant amount. When it was clear that Lady Dalhousie, who apparently was in some financial straits demurred, he was less determined to spare her from embarrassment.

"There is another tenant who had been sharing the room with him for the past couple of months. A lady from the opera I understand."

"Och, Jamie's been whorin' agin. It nae be a surprise, Mr. Fishsticks."

Fisztic took us to Sendagovius Hall, to the second floor. He was about to open the door to an apartment when I suggested that he knock first. "After all, the lady might not be decent," I suggested.

At this Krular and Vidric showed their first glimmer of interest and stepped to peer into the doorway. I sent them back with a harsh look and the gypsy girl distracted them by showing them card tricks.

We pushed our way into the room. A lady who had been looking into a mirror spun around to confront us. She was in her late thirties or perhaps early forties, still a beauty but somewhat past her first bloom.

With a heavy French accent, she shouted, "What is ze meaning of zis? How dare you erupt me!"

"Ask the trollopy hussy what's she's knows about Jamie, Inspector," said Lady Dalhousie harshly.

"Hoossie? How dare you! Do you not know that I am Madame Geneses, premier soprano at the Royal Opera? Off with you," she said and turned back to the mirror

"Ye'll answer our questions or I swear I'll drop ye right here," Lady Dalhousie cried bringing up her ubiquitous hunting rifle and pointing it directly at the singer.

Madame Geneses, seeing this in the mirror, spun around, two large horse pistols in her hands.

I realized at that point that Fisztic had slipped out of the room and I was alone with two irate and heavily armed women. Not wishing to be left to explain to the Minister how two foreigners, one a favored Scottish noblewoman, came to shoot one another, I interposed myself between them.

"Ladies, please," I said in my most soothing voice. "There is no need for violence. I understand the tension between you but surely we are all interested in finding out what had happened to Lord Dalhousie."

After a few tense moments during which I was sure I was breathing my last, both ladies relented and I was able to question Madame Geneses.

She confirmed what Fisztic had told us, that Lord Dalhousie had last been seen one month ago, that he had been involved in an intense business pursuit that often took him out into the countryside. He had hinted to her that it involved the importation of brfnish to British Isles and thus his visits to likely sources of the drink.

Dalhousie had obviously expected to return. He had indicated to Madame Geneses that he would return in a day or so. There was a large wardrobe full of his suits, to which Fisztic later laid claim on account of the missing rent. Most fortuitously, much of his papers were still in the room.

It was huge collection of bills, from various tailors, hatmakers, glove-makers, wine merchants, spirits vendors, restaurants and taverns of every sort in addition to numerous notes promising payment for gambling debts. Lady Dalhousie said this was nothing out of the ordinary. However, we did discover some very strange reckonings.

There was a bill from Baltazar's, a private courier service that one used when one did not want communications handled by the often too-inquisitive Post Office.

There was a bill from a cabinet maker, Petru and Sons, for the construction of 800 large, watertight cabinets some eight feet by four feet by four feet.

There was also a bill from the Grebnach Salt Mines for a ton and half of something called rare earth salts.

Finally, there was a contract with Leontino Shippers for multiple shipments from the river port here in Strelzov through the Sylvanian port of Tonno and thence to the port of Dundee in Scotland.

Dalhousie was merely the co-signer and guarantor on the contract. The primary name listed was Johan Conrad Dippel, Dean of the College of Medicine.

Diary of Jan Milna, unpublished

29th of August, 1832

My riding lesson with Elisabeth was an enormous success. She is an apt pupil, full of energy and excitement but also grace beyond measure. The morning flew by especially because we had to stop at several shops to so that that other girl could buy a proper outfit.

Its ending was even more wonderful. For when I had returned her home, she mentioned how she had to attend the Royal Ball on Friday to welcome the new Russian ambassador. She said she felt so bad that she had to attend with only her father as an escort. How she desired to present a more grown-up appearance at such an event than appearing with her musty old father. If only some young gentleman would be willing to escort her?

The thought occurred to me that I could certainly fulfill that duty and I made the offer. My heart soared when she agreed! She even allowed me to kiss her hand for perhaps a moment longer than a mere acquaintance would be permitted. Oh rapture! However, she then said that I should be sure to wear my uniform to the ball since as she put it I "cut such a fine figure!"

However, I was deep in thought as I returned to the University. I had already seen the hostility from the Russian officer in the park to my mere wearing of the old uniform. How would be the reaction to appear in Polish uniform to an event honoring the Russian ambassador. Surely it would be taken as an intentional affront. My greatest fear would be the likely banishment that would result in being separated from Elisabeth so soon after finding her.

"What shall I do?" I asked myself.

"Why not wear a different uniform?" said the other girl, what'shername, Carolina or something. I had forgotten that she had been with us and was now walking behind my horse.

"I work as a seamstress at the Teatre Komediko. They have all manner of uniforms in their costume shop. I have the key to it so it would be nothing to get you one to wear."

"Oh…a…you…" I said. "You are a true friend!"

She was as good as her word. We went immediately to the theatre. Although her heart was in the right place, I wonder if the poor dear was any good as a seamstress. It took her a great amount of time to take my measurements, her hands pressing for a very long time on my chest and shoulders. And she must have measured my inseam a good dozen times at least. Ultimately, we found a fine blue hussar uniform that fit and didn't smell of actor too badly.

I thanked Madelina and told her that a sister couldn't have helped me better. Now Elisabeth will be so impressed.

Elisabeth is a wonder! Beautiful and witty and vivacious. Her innocent little fantasy about being raised by fairies simply adds to her charm. I wonder how she can be the daughter of so grim a man as Professor Mercurio. However, I think he is warming to me, especially after I impressed him so with my question in our first lecture.

Ciphered Communication from Post Master 6 to the Post Master General

Dispatch 1226 of 1832

Most Secret

It has been reported that a former soldier in the army of the Kingdom of Poland, Captain Jan Milna of the Second Uhlans, has arrived and been enrolled in the College of Thaumaturgy at the University here. He has reportedly been involved in an incident with the Russian cavalry unit recently arrived in the city, possibly involving a stolen horse. A dossier on Milna's background has been supplied by the Resident Agent of the Third Section of the Russian Embassy. Nothing in Milna's background would indicate an interest in Thaumaturgical studies.

He has been invited here by Dr. Joao Mercurio, Dean of the College. Mercurio has been under light, routine surveillance since his arrival in Ruritania. No criminal or treasonous activities have as yet been discovered. Nonetheless, there are a few points concerning Dr. Mercurio that merit closer investigation.

First, although he claims to be a native of the Portuguese colonies in Brazil, neither he or his daughter have ever been heard to speak Portuguese.

Second, he became Dean of the College immediately after the Edict of 1825, when every senior faculty member of the College, except him, resigned in protest.

Third, he owns a substantial mansion and estate in the Belvedere Gardens south of the city. We have been unable to ascertain any other source of income beyond his salary at the university. He maintains no debts and is said to always pay his bills in cash

I have therefore ordered increased surveillance on both Mercurio and Milna. Agent 346 is already in place at the University, and will led the investigation.

Excerpt from A Man of Many Talents, The Memoirs of Ratko Fisztics

After the Inspector and the Scottish woman left, I returned to my offices. I would have to put up with a tirade from Mde. Geneses for the intrusion but otherwise I thought this was the last I would hear of the missing lord. I was very wrong.

I was called to Mercurio's chambers. He had just completed his afternoon lecture and was in something of a funk. He was staring out the window, mumbling something like, "shall I never be free of this struggle."

I coughed discreetly. He turned and asked what the police had wanted to know. I told him all I could. He raised an eyebrow when I had to tell him about renting student rooms to outsiders. I used my prepared excuse of raising money for the College.

When I had finished, he said, "Fisztic, I shall aid this Inspector Smelchak." I nodded dutifully. "And you shall assist me." My heart sank. "I fear this may be a far more serious matter that it would appear. Also fetch Topicz and Sufflay. We shall need additional help and, heaven help me, they are the best students in the College at the moment.

"What about Milna?"


"He has been inseperable from those two since his arrival. He may request joining them."

"Very well. Let him exhaust his enthusiasm on a worthy cause. Bring them all here and we shall go see the Inspector."

They were not in their rooms so I assumed they would be at the Café Mirski. The café was a typical student's place where the fumes of wine and brfnish mixed with the heady perfume of revolution. Alright that last bit I stole from the wall of the pissoir that stood just outside the café.

The café had originally been founded as a coffee house under the patronage of Selim Mirski, a Lithuanian Tartar that had been a member of the original Radziwill's small army when he liberated Ruritania from the Turk in 1683 after making a wrong turn following the Battle of Vienna. It still retained a definite Turkish style and décor, most of the subsequent owners couldn't be bothered to change it nor could they be bothered to repair or even clean the large decorative fountain that served now as a spittoon.

I had to shift through the throng of students who had crowded in for their usual late afternoon debauche. Through the din I heard the sound of female voice singing an old sad folk song, Nada Hung Herself After the Turks Impaled Lazar, if memory serves me correctly. I was surprised to see it was Nikolina doing the singing.

I pulled her aside and told her that she should frequent student hang-outs like this.

"But I work here, papa. I am a singer now."

"Since when?"

"About twenty minutes ago."

"Fine. Are Milna and those other two idiots here?"

"Yes, they got her twenty-two and a half minutes ago. The owner took some convincing before he would hire me. They are in the back room with Ban Voynich.

Oh no, I thought. Casimir Voynich was the eldest son and heir to the most prestigious of the Twelve Families. Ostensibly a student at the College of Law and Jurisprudence, he was the most vocal of the student revolutionaries. Noblesse oblige, I suppose.

I went toward the back room and stood near the doorway that was covered only by screen of beads. I cocked an ear to see what madness was intended. It was worse than I thought.

Voynich had learned that Milna was going to be attending the Ball for the Russian ambassador. It seemed that part of the festivities was to be a formal turn over by Russian agents of Leopold's captive son, Leonardo to old King Leon and swift Ruritanian justice. What Voynich planned was for Milna to open a side door and a troop of student athletes would storm in and rescue the captive. Madness! Those that weren't slaughtered in the first attack would end up hung. The worst part was that Milna readily agreed to help.

I burst in and retrieved the three, fending Voynich off with the excuse that the Dean needed to see them.

The Case of the Resurrection Men in The Natural Philosophy of Crime by Anton Smelchak

At the end of the day, I returned Lady Dalhousie to her hotel. I then went back to the station to plan the next steps in the investigation. When I arrive, it was usual, two of my men had locked themselves in one of the cells, there was blood dripping from the ceiling where the officers on duty in the upstairs kitchen were slaughtering the morning bacon and Doctor Vlasic, the barracks surgeon, was preparing to torture a suspect in the surgery.

I chose to intervene in the latter situation. I entered the surgery and asked Sergeant Loncar what the man's offense had been.

"Jaywalking, sir."

Ever since the King's other brother Leobald had become regent, he was obsessed, in a way that only a Radziwill could be, with the orderly flow of traffic through the city. He became convinced that the main cause of the chronic congestion was not that the road were built for the 14th century but that pedestrians whose irregular crossing habits caused unnecessary halts by vehicular traffic. An edict was duly promulgated and jaywalking became a felonious crime.

When ungagged, the prisoner related that he had only done so because the police had chased him from his cobblers shop because he wouldn't pay their protection fee.

"Inspector, did I mention that he also resisted arrest?" I looked at Loncar sharply at this. Then I began shouting.

Now one may think that I should have charged all involved and certainly today that would be the case. However, I now knew that I had powerful leverage over my officers and told them that if they failed me again in any way, they would find themselves doing twenty years working marsh drainage in the Trans-Ister. I seemed to have its effect. Even Dr. Vlasic who was notably unstable refrained from more than a token assertion of his independence.

I then ordered them to return the cobbler's property. Various possession came from the officer's pockets, including a wedding ring with the bloody finger still attached.

Before I could react, a tall dark figure entered the picked up the severed finger and miraculously and with little seeming effort replaced onto the man's hand.

It was Professor Mercurio.

"We must speak, Inspector, about your missing Scotsman. I am here to help. The case may be more involved than you realize."

I do not know why but I readily agreed. We went to my office and I told him all of the results of my investigation so far.

He seemed very troubled when I told him about the rare earth salts. I asked him if he knew what their use was.

"It is used to preserve monsters."

1 comment:

Furt said...

Great story and excellent "sets". A real labor of love I'm guessing?