In the previous installment, the PCs:
- Witnessed a revolution.
- Discovered the secret of basement lumps.
- Accidentally facilitated the destruction of Parliament.
The PCs are:
and heir to the bankrupt Shambledrake estate. Inventor of the Lightning
Accumulator, the Lightning Inverter, and the Iron Spike.
Dandy. Assistant Professor at Loxdon College. Deeply enmeshed in stock-jobbery and financial chicanery.
Dr. Augustus Hartwell
A foreign doctor and self-described "quack", currently employed at
Blumsworth Hospital. Ally of speaking rats, workers, and other vermin.
Potion Wizard, former cook, former brewer, and current secretary to Doyle Wormsby. Can duplicate herself.
Civic Wizard, Private Investigator. Truth before politics, payment before a case.
|Revised map of Endon, featuring recent developments.|
"Those maniacs! They blew it up!" Tom said, pointing at column of smoke rising from the former site of the Parliament of Endon.
"Who is they anyway?" Doyle asked aloud. "The Mechanics' Society and the Project? That teleportation magic seemed like powerful stuff."
"Someone blew it up, and it wasn't us," Tom said.
"It was the dragon," Lizzy said. Everyone looked at her. "Well, that's what people are going to say. Big dragon flies over the city blowing stuff up. Then it lands on Parliament and whoops, boom, there goes the neighbourhood."
"I'm surprised more of the neighbourhood did not go," Dr. Hartwell said, peering through a telescope at the river. "An explosion of such power..."
"Ah, oil of azide both explodes and implodes," Tom said. "Terribly flammable, terrifically destructive, but it doesn't produce a blast wave like gunpowder."
"A great comfort to the hundreds of dead and dying, I am sure," Dr. Hartwell said acidly.
Sunlight filtered through the smoke. Tom had called another storm, but the unnatural rainclouds wouldn't arrive for hours. Chains of citizens passed buckets of water towards burning buildings, while passing valuable property the other way. Endon had no organized fire brigade; self-interest, civic duty, light bribery, and the knowledge that burned goods aren't worth looting usually kept fires from spreading.
From shouted messages and hastily printed posters, it seemed that the revolutionaries were unprepared for the appearance of a dragon and the sudden disappearance of Parliament, but were making acid from lemons (as the alchemists say). As Lizzy predicted, "a dragon destroyed Parliament" seemed to be the dominant narrative. Reports of riots, clashes with the Coppers, collapsing prisons, and other civic misadventures filtered into the Iron Spike compound.
By early afternoon, the Coppers had been pushed back to the Grim Baliol, most of fires were out, and the attitude on the street seemed to shift from confusion to cautious optimism. Without the Coppers on patrol, the citizens of Endon resorted to their traditional method of keeping order, "a bunch of local lads with clubs." This didn't reduce crime so much as spread it around. In Needle Circus, local "sports enthusiast," "improvised housing consultant," and "lender of last resort" Alan Dard was, to no one's surprise, the public face of the revolution. With his new red handkerchief, waistcoat, and retinue of large bald men with no necks, he seemed to be everywhere at once, shaking hands, kissing babies, and making vague promises.
Urchins on bicycles occasionally stuffed leaflets through the door of the Iron Spike. "Listen to this," Dr. Hartwell read from a pamphlet, "Gel Knights, the Scourge of the Working Class. The depraved aristocracy unable to find soldiers, citizens, or even human beings to fight for its moribund and doomed cause, turns to mindless and merciless gelatinous constructs..."
"That's not true!" Tom said reflexively.
"They've got a point," Lizzy said. "We do sell Gel Knights to rich people."
"They're the only ones who can afford them! It's not a class issue. It's..."
"And we did trade Gel Knights for the iron you needed to make this tower, and we pretty much knew that they'd be used for, 'anonymous acts of violence' like this pamphlet says," Lizzy continued.
"But it's not our fault people use them for violence," Lizzy added soothingly. "They just do what they're told."
"Do you think the revolutionaries will attack our Gel Knight works?" Tom said.
"Oh, probably not. Too well defended. They'll probably smash up any Gel Knights on the street or smaller shops. Like Nero's shop in Grenville Court. Oh no! Nero's shop in Grenville Court! We have to rescue him!" Lizzy said, leaping to her feet.
"I'll hail a cab," Doyle said, as he rose and put on his battered hat.
"A cab? At this time of day? In this part of the city? In the middle of a revolution?" Dr. Hartwell said.
"Cabbies have to make a living too."
"I don't know why I stopped for you lot," the cabby said, spitting for emphasis.
"Because we look like we tip generously," Doyle said.
"Do you tip generously?" the cabby replied, giving Doyle the famous Endon squint.
"We do," Doyle said, handing over a small heap of gold. "Now drive!"
Nero Kralhammer's handsome two-story shop was under siege. The front window was smashed, but every piece of furniture in the building was piled against the window, door, and staircase. Three trolls clad in rags and troll-sized overalls clashed with two of Nero Krahlhammer's display Gel Knights.
"Stop it!" Lizzy said authoritatively as the cab slid to a stop.
"Grah?" one of the trolls said, and hit the cab with a length of window casing.
"Blast 'em!" Tom said, hopping out of the cab and firing a lightning bolt at the trolls. Dr. Hartwell added his wand of scorching ray, Lizzy cast grease, and Doyle pulled out his new "drain-cleaning" Toby Gun and shot a length of chain at one of the trolls, spattering the pavement with blood as the rattling loop dug deeper and deeper.
"What did we learn, Mr. Shambledrake?" Dr. Hartwell said, as he extracted the last of the troll blood from Tom's wounds.
"Not to stand in front of Doyle when he's using that thing," Tom mumbled.
"And not to get into a fistfight with a troll even if I think I can win."
"What are we going to do with these trolls?" Lizzy asked, prodding one with her boot. "They're not dead and my trollblood reversal machine isn't ready."
"Stick them in the coal cellar," Tom suggested. "And put some furniture on top of them."
"Oh my furniture," Nero moaned, loading another carpet bag of papers into the waiting cab. "Some of it was almost paid for!"
After loading Nero, his long-suffering clerk, and two Gel Knights into one cab, the group returned to Needle Circus and the Iron Spike.
"Any news?" Tom asked Chastity Flintwich, the group's cantankerous hired metallurgist.
"The Monarch has disappeared," she said.
"What!? Was he at Parliament? I thought..."
"Nope. Disappeared from the Royal Palace. Some people say he's escaped to rally forces elsewhere but nobody went with him, and you'd think someone in the palace would have seen him go, or at least try to publish a convincing story. Even the die-hard monarchists are worried."
"I assume the Royal Palace is warded?" Dr. Hartwell said.
"The finest wards in Endon... so who knows. It's a mystery."
Tom rubbed his eyes, accepted a mug of tea from Lizzy without looking, and stared up at his tower. "We need more information. Tomorrow, I'll go to Loxdon College and see what the students and faculty think of all this. Dr. Hartwell, can you talk to the rats? Lizzy and Doyle, I'm sure you've got leads to investigate. Jonty, can you see what Alan Dard is up to? Who are these 'revolutionary committees' anyway? Did any Members of Parliament survive? Who's in charge?"
One week later, Tom asked the entire group to attend an "important council meeting" below the Iron Spike. Like many wizard workshops, the room designated on the plans as the "conference room" was cluttered with old glassware, unlabelled boxes, stacks of paper, and forgotten mugs and spoons.
Lord Tarrigan-on-Burl was not in Parliament, of course. Excuses ranged from an attack of gout to a collapsed carriage wheel, but the upshot was the same. A handful of other MPs were still alive, but they didn't have the will or the numbers to reform Parliament. Endon was not a bureaucratic state. Most government offices consisted of
a minister and one or two clerks. In their absence, life temporarily
continued more-or-less as normal.
The Coppers were under siege at the Grim Baliol, but most people expected some form of peaceful resolution in a week or two.
Most of the students at Loxdon College were in favour of the revolution, and used sentences with lots of capitalized words like Truth and Justice and Rights. Women, traditionally banned from studying wizardry unless they wore a beard, burned their false beards in the yard outside Nedalward Hall. Great deeds were discussed, great vows were sworn and later recanted, great drinks were invented, drunk, and regurgitated in alleys.
Most of the faculty thought the revolution was a catastrophe and expected the students would rally behind their wise leadership should the situation call for action. The situation currently seemed to call for six course dinners, long speeches, and discreetly stockpiling magic weaponry.
Tom wasn't sure if the idea of a Magocracy was his, or if someone had suggested it to him, but it was darkly appealing. Yes, rule by wizards traditionally ended in tragedy, but those were old, pre-industrial wizards, fighting over scraps of magic and living in drafty stone towers. With the Iron Spike and the Lightning Inverter, there was more than enough raw magic to go around. The wizard in charge would, of course, need a council of wise, tenured, well-fed advisors... But then he'd have to actually rule, and that seemed tedious. Tom's dreams evaporated under the glare of imaginary committee meetings, rebellions, pardons, trials, and endless decisions.
Invasion from Foreign Parts, though the topic of many newspaper columns, seemed unlikely. Like the Greater Spined Wartfish, Endon was simply too difficult to swallow. Why fight a city-state that could, if angered, deploy a legion of wizards when you could fight your neighbours, who usually fought fairly and predictably? Even if you conquered Endon, could you keep it? Despite the implausibility of invasion, many Endoners lived in fear of foreign spies and agitators. Conveniently, these foreign spies and agitators were usually foreigners with movable property, no means of defence, and no powerful friends.
The Army was a concern. It was currently deployed in Foreign Parts, doing vital tasks like Defending the Realm and Righting the Injustices of the Last War. What did the Army think of the revolution? The cavalry were almost certainly monarchists. If the Army marched on Endon, would wizards turn against them or join them?
Harold II of Eidelberg, the vanished Monarch, had no heirs but several medicore siblings, who were unlikely to rally public confidence, or even finish a sentence without prompting. Despite pamphlets portraying Harold II as a tyrant, nobody could remember any particularly tyrannical acts. His unexplained disappearance had given the revolution plenty of room to court both moderate monarchists and fanatical republicans. With revolution in the air, most young Endoners don't want another Eidelberger on the throne.
After the 27th, every district sprouted "revolutionary committees" like weeds. They seemed to consist of the leaders of the Mechanics' Societies, plus any members of the Lower and Middle classes who could speak convincingly and organize supporters. They didn't claim to be in charge, but they were trying to figure out who was in charge, and why.
"Of course Snedge got himself elected to one," Doyle said.
"If people like Alan Dard and Snedge are on these committees," Jonty said, "the city is doomed."
"Two days ago they formed something called a 'Constitutional Congress'," Doyle reported.
"That means 'Walking About Because It's Good For You'," Lizzy helpfully translated.
"Apparently it was chaos," Doyle continued. "Fighting, swearing, arguing in front of chalkboards. At the end of it they realized that the only document all the delegates had signed was this heavily amended draft."
"It's called the 'Magna Costermonger'," Lizzy said. "That means 'The Big Trucking Deal'."
The group read Endon's new constitution with concern.
"Restricting magic?" Tom said. "We can't have that."
"512 members of Parliament seems unwieldy," Jonty added. "Even if most of them don't turn up."
"Most countries would have 511 members of parliament and a Prime Minister," Dr. Hartwell said, "but Endon will have 512 Prime Ministers."
"At least Lord Tarrigan-on-Burl won't be in this New Parliament," Lizzy said, "unless he gives up his title. I wonder if he even has a real name?"
"How are they going to pay for all this?" Dr. Hartwell asked.
"Are they holding another Constitutional Whatsit?" Tom said. "If they are, we should be there. I can't imagine why they didn't invite me in the first place."
Doyle shrugged. "Probably. But what are you going to say? 'I have a very big tower so you should listen to me.'?"
"No," Tom said, glaring at the detective and cursing in his head. "Something clever and inspiring. I don't know. We should form a political party of our own."
"I think the revolutionaries are trying to avoid parties and factionalism. See, this pamphlet says they're 'a sign of a decayed and feeble oligarchy' and that 'all true members of the revolution are united by a common cause.'," Lizzy said, holding out a handful of paper.
Tom gave her a look of withering pity. "If Snedge is on a revolutionary committee, then they've got parties. We're just trying to catch up."
"What are your party's policies?" Dr. Hartwell asked serenely.
"You'll need some sort of policy. And remember, for every policy there is at least one equal and opposite counterpolicy. If we are for X, we are against Y, and the opposition will use that against us."
"How dare they!" Tom said reflexively, eyes blazing.
Four hours and many urns of tea later, Tom, unshaven but excited, looked around the conference room and summarized the Iron Spike Party's plan.
"First, we get Alan Dard on our side. He has support on the ground, and he seems to be reinventing himself as a fine upstanding citizen of Endon with an amusing but harmless past. If he has any principles, which I very much doubt, we can probably alter them. Second, we use Iron Spike Thaumaturgy as a model company and Needle Circus as a model district, to show what the powers of magic and labour..."
"Wizards and workers," Lizzy added, with her knack for slogan-making.
"Workers and wizards," Tom said diplomatically, "combined, can accomplish. Show that magic can create prosperity and not just destroy jobs."
"Do your really want to put one worker and one wizard on every magic battery delivery cart?" Jonty said. Iron Spike Thaumaturgy currently delivered magic to business across Endon using horse-drawn carts with magic batteries inside. The drivers collected empty batteries and brought them to the Iron Spike for recharging. Tom and Chastity were trying to develop a way of conducting magic to nearby businesses with cables or pipes.
"Yes. It'll provide jobs for young wizards and out-of-work miners. The miners will learn basic magical safety. The wizards will learn,"
"Six new words for..." Lizzy chortled.
"Learn valuable and practical life lessons and develop empathy for their fellow citizens," Tom said, reading from his notes.
"I have a question about your housing proposal," Dr. Hartwell said, pointing at the map. "You want this political party, or this company, or both, to buy land and build modern housing by magical means."
"Partially magical. We'll raise the frame with control metal, but all the interior work will be done by people, not by magic. It'll provide employment. And then, the workers who built the structures will move in. They'll pay a small amount of rent, and part of it will be in labour, to maintain the building."
"But we will own the buildings," Dr. Hartwell said.
"Ah, yes," Tom said.
"And if someone living in the buildings does something we dislike? Fails to pay rent? Refuses to perform their weekly building maintenance task, or performs poorly? Becomes drunk and starts a fight?"
"We'll, err, we'll deal with that later."
"Maybe we can make the buildings half for rats and half for people," Lizzy suggested, derailing the conversation. "Rats and humans, living together, working together. Little tiny apartments with little streets!"
"I'm not sure the rats would like that," Dr. Hartwell said.
Side Note: Since my players might be engaging in an ambitious ideologically-motivated urban planning project, I've suggested that my players read "Chapter II: The Ringstrasse, Its Critics, and the Birth of Urban Modernism" of Carl E. Schorske's 1979 classic Fin-De-Siècle Vienna. In response, they've suggested I do some anatomically implausible things.
"Third," Tom said, "we print posters. We write letters to every newspaper. We invite architects to submit proposals, since they apparently don't like my tower."
"We should make it a contest," Lizzy suggested.
"A contest, sure. Angelical Hopewell wants to open her own paper, correct? We'll fund it. The contest can be her first exclusive story. No editorial obligations of course," Tom said.
"And we'll need posters," Lizzy said, sketching furiously. "Like this one." She held up a muscular arm clasping a skinny robe-wearing arm in friendly embrace. "Workers and Wizards! Or how about this one? A crossed wand and hammer beneath an eight-pointed star. Or this one!"
"It's you, holding a distressed newt, and saying 'We Can Do It?' We can do what? Squeeze newts until their eyes bulge?" Doyle said.
"It's only a sketch," Lizzy huffed.
"Fourth, we improve the roads and drainage system in Needle Circus," Tom said desperately.
"You can't make roads out of iron," Chastity said, waking up briefly. "They'll rust."
"We'll make them out of stone," Tom said. "Cut and mortared by humans but moved by magic."
"Miners and menhirs!" Lizzy suggested. Chastity tried to throw a biscuit at her.
"How are you going to pay for all this?" Dr. Hartwell asked.
"That's a question for the Chief Financial Officer," Tom said, pointing at Jonty, who went pale and started to object. "Jonty is in charge of finances. Perhaps we can pay the workers in Iron Spike Thaumaturgy stock, if people are worried about the stability of the Bank of Endon's notes?" The objections in Jonty's mind collided, lodged in his throat, and temporarily rendered him speechless.
"We can also suggest that businesses that use our magic battery delivery service pay to improve the roads," Tom said.
"It's not as though they can refuse," Doyle said. "If they've sold off their magic accumulators, they're dependant on us for their supply."
"Oh, and that reminds me, we should buy up those obsolete magic accumulators," Tom said. "To keep them off the market, and so we can reuse their valuable metals for other projects. Oh, and while we're on the subject, Dr. Hartwell is now Chief Officer of Health."
"What does that mean?" Dr. Hartwell asked, raising an eyebrow.
"It means you're in charge of the health of the, err, the company. And the local area. You know how you keep saying that all this mercury in the ground is bad for people?"
"I do!" Dr. Hartwelll said. "It is very bad! You can't just pour mercury onto the street when it becomes thaumically contaminated."
"Well I'm going to do something about it," Tom said. Dr. Hartwell nodded in satisfaction. "And I think we should do something about the drains."
"Do I get to be an officer?" Lizzy asked hopefully.
"You can be... the Chief Officer of Labour Relations," Tom said, in a flash of brilliance. "The bridge between the worker and the wizard."
"Corr," Lizzy said, forgetting to put on her middle-class accent for a moment. "Do you think they'll listen to me?"
Tom shrugged. "Doyle, you can be Chief Security Officer. Chastity, you..."
"Fuck off," Chastity grunted, without looking up.
"Ah, well, you just keep doing whatever it is you're doing," Tom said meekly. "Fifth, we ring Endon with seven other Iron Spikes to evenly distribute magic to all areas of the city, and then we link them with a huge ring of lightning in times of war, so that our enemies..."
"I'm not sure that's feasible right now, Tom," Jonty said gently.
"Sixth, we submit a proposal for the New Parliament building, using iron..."
"Perhaps we should combine that with the architecture contest?" Lizzy suggested. "Also, I think we should offer free food to people in Needle Circus."
"Free food?" Jonty said, aghast.
"Well, free Ooze Milk and Ooze Cheese," Lizzy said. "It costs next to nothing to make. Offal and leftovers go into the tank, milk comes out. The bottles cost ten times as much as the contents."
"What is Ooze Cheese?" Jonty asked.
"You know Ooze Milk? That, but I've discovered a way to make it less runny."
"Is it safe to eat?"
"Dr. Hartwell says it contains all the ingredients necessary for life," Lizzy said proudly.
"But not life as we know it," Dr. Harwell mumbled.
"With free Ooze Milk, Ooze Cheese, and moderately priced gin," Lizzy continued, "we'll show our commitment to the, ah, where's the constitution? The 'continuance of health and material security' of the populace."
"It's worth considering. Seventh, we suggest that the New Parliament John Huffman's new Personal Calculating Golems as, err, as vote tabulating machines. They're infallible, apparently," Tom said.
"I don't think Parliament will go for it," Doyle said. "First, they'll think you're trying to corrupt the voting process. Second, you are trying to corrupt the voting process. Third, we don't know if the golems can tabulate votes. Fourth, John Huffman has built exactly three working Personal Calculating Golems."
"We'll move that to Future Business," Jonty said deftly.
"What about the rats?" Lizzy said. "I don't think they get to vote, but I think they might be counted as people when districts are assigned. See here," she said, pointing to the well-thumbed copy of the Magna Costermonger, "it just says 'Parliament shall divide the population of Endon' because everything else was crossed out. And there are a lot of rats in the city."
"Do trolls count?" Doyle asked. "Some of them talk."
"Gods and devils," Jonty said, holding his head in his hands.
"What if we use a thaumograph to determine how many rat souls are equal to one human soul?" Doyle said. "And divide votes that way?"
"If rats get the vote, then I think women should also get to vote," Tom said, with what he thought was a gallant turn of phrase.
"What if married men get two votes?" Lizzy suggested. "That solves the problem."
"We don't even know if there will be a New Parliament," Jonty said in despair.
"I wonder if Nero Krahlhammer is willing to put his name forward for election?" Tom asked.
"On the one hand, will mean a great deal of extra labour for no tangible benefit," Dr. Hartwell said. "On the other hand, if the Monarch returns, or the revolution fails, he'll be executed."
"Oh we'll all be executed," Tom said breezily.
"No," Dr. Hartwell said, scowling. "You and Jonty will manage, somehow. Nobody will care about Lizzy and Doyle. Alan Dard, Benjamin Fits, and anyone else clearly in the revolution, will die. And I may be executed in any case because I am a foreigner."
"But you're Dr. Hartwell the famous doctor of medicine!" Lizzy objected.
"And for now, "Doctor" trumps "Foreigner"... but tomorrow?"
"The Iron Spike Party will not permit foreigners to be persecuted," Tom said.
"Really? And how, I wonder, will you enforce this?" Dr. Hartwell said bitterly.
"Future business," Jonty said, before Tom could mention lightning bolts. "We are all very tired. Tomorrow, we announce the Iron Spike Party to the world."
|This fanfare, but scored for traditional Endon instruments such as the kazoo, the slide windbreaker, the tromboon, the broken bottle, and night chanters (assorted). |
Angelica Hopewell's paper, the Daily Inquisitor, was an immediate success. The idea of "revolutionary architecture" spread through Endon. Facing an uncertain political future, many citizens of Endon found comfort in the charmingly vitriolic letters between competing architects, designers, and wizards. No scheme was too wild for the back pages of the Daily Inquisitor.
Two days later, a mysterious machine arrived at the gates of Iron Spike Thaumaturgy. It looked a bit like a carriage, a bit like a sledge, and a bit like a perambulator. Clusters of black rods protruded from the machine's undercarriage. Its occupant, clad in emerald cloth and leather, emerged, removed his goggles and scarf, and waved at the gates.
"Ahoy hoy," he cried. "I am George Miles. May I enter?"
Doyle gave the wizard a critical glance. "You may," he said.
"Thank you," Miles said, and turned to the crowd of young men who'd gathered around his vehicle, examining it with obvious delight. "See that this machine comes to no harm."
"I am George Miles, and this fabulous machine is one of my Moving Miracles," the wizard said, after shaking Doyle's hand. "I wish to discuss a business proposition with Mr. Shambledrake, the greatest wizard in Endon." He winked at the crowd. Doyle did not react.
A few minutes later, in a hastily cleaned conference room, George Miles laid out his proposal.
"My Moving Miracles," he said, "are the future of personal transportation in Endon. More comfortable than a broomstick, more affordable than a carriage - yes! - and, dare I say, far more elegant, they will allow the average citizen to safely fly above Endon's traffic, odours, and insalubrious characters."
"We can't use them," Tom said bluntly. "I'm not putting a magic battery in that thing, even if it does have an emergency featherfall enchantment."
"Of course not. Heavy industry will still, of course, need to use the streets, but for personal transportation, nothing will exceed the Moving Miracle. As you aim to design new streets for Needle Circus, streets built with the future in mind, I ask you to consider building with the Moving Miracle in mind."
"Why?" Tom said.
"It will make Needle Circus the most appealing and modern district in Endon," Miles replied. "Isn't that sufficient?"
"If your machine becomes popular," Doyle said. "If not..."
"It will be popular," Miles grunted. "You saw the crowd outside. They all want one. The joy, the convenience..."
"And the cost. What do your machines require? They... bounce from place to place?"
George Miles described the flight of the Moving Miracle using a teacup. Moveable rods launched the vehicle upward, propelled it in level flight, and lowered it safely to the ground. The driver used levers instead of reigns to command the machine. "It requires no special training and no particular aptitude," the wizard explained.
"What about collisions," Dr. Hartwell said.
"A with a simple adjustment of a lever, a driver can easily..."
"But not automatically?"
"Ah, no, but..."
"What if several people wish to return to the ground at the same time?" Dr. Hartwell said. "Will they wait in the sky forever?"
"Some sort of signalling system could be arranged," Miles muttered. "Perhaps a coloured firework or flare launched over the city every few minutes..."
"The landing platforms look simple enough," Doyle said encouragingly. "They're just metal plates on springs." The thought of a large iron platform outside his office, rattling constantly with arriving and departing vehicles, caused deep stirrings in the detective's soul. It felt right, just as the Toby Gun felt right.
"I suppose we could build elevated platforms on every street," Tom said. "And run a subsidized transport service along regular routes, like the omnibuses."
George Miles clutched his heart. "Public transport! But my..."
"Only a suggestion."
"We could use such a vehicle to transport the very ill to Blumsworth Hospital," Dr. Hartwell said. "If a worker is injured and cannot be treated on site, this vehicle can cross Endon in..."
"In minutes," Miles said brightly. "Mere minutes."
"If the platforms are elevated," Lizzy suggested from the sideboard, "people will look up ladies' dresses." Her deportment guides suggested this was a constant risk for middle-class women.
"Perhaps some sort of floating platform?" Tom suggested. "The details can be resolved later."
"In any case, I also wish to speak to you of future plans. You see, I have a dream. My Moving Miracles are merely one step along a path that leads us up, up, up!" he said, gesturing out the window. "To the moon! I will construct a great tower of moveable rods, though perhaps not as great as this tower. Within this decade, we will go to the moon and do some other things, not because they are easy, but because they are extremely cool."
Tower madness, Doyle thought. It's spreading.
"To accomplish this feat, I will require - and pay for, in due time - a great quantity of raw magic, which I hope you will one day be in a position to provide. I am telling you this now so that you will not be astonished when the request comes."
"Ah, well," Tom said politely. "We will do our best, of course."
"In the meantime, to convince you of the supreme joy of owning a Moving Miracle, the vehicle outside your gates is yours... if you agree to adjust your plans for Needle Circus to accommodate my creation."
"And what of your plans for Monk's Garden?" Doyle said. He'd kept a discreet eye on "Mr. Miles" ever since Jonty had trouble buying a broomstick on the east side of Endon, but had gained no insight into the wizard's allegiances.
"We are all adapting to this new political, ah, climate in our own way," Miles said blandly, "but I see no points on which our interests conflict."
"Good enough for me," Doyle said, nodding to Tom. "Oh, also, we want two vehicles. The one parked outside, and the other one you parked nearby." The detective tried not to gloat as Miles flinched.
"You weren't going to walk home," Doyle explained.
"Tom," Lizzy said the next morning, as she delivered Tom's tea, newspapers, and the latest revolutionary leaflets, "you know the experimental machine you and Chastity made to draw mercury out of the soil?'
"Yes?" Tom said blearily.
"It's gone awry."
Tom sighed, put on his robe, and began the long descent of the Iron Spike, grumbling all the way.
"I think it's an ooze," Lizzy explained, pointing to the shimmering puddle of mercury slowly crawling across the floor of the Gel Knight works.
"How?" was all Tom could say.
"Well, mercury soaks up magic," Lizzy said, "so maybe if it soaks up enough magic, and eats some bits of ooze, or some ooze eats it... I don't know."
"It's going for tank #6," Dr. Hartwell said, dabbing shaving foam from his chin.
"Oh dear! We need to stop it."
"Elementary!" Tom said raising both hands and casting control metal. He glared at the ooze and waggled his fingers. "Hrm, that's odd."
"Tom," Lizzy said, "you're making the wall go all bendy. Did you miss?"
Tom looked at the ooze, then looked at the iron beams supporting the Gel Knight works. One of them was slowly sagging, like soft clay. He pulled back his spell, dragging it along the iron structure until it reached one of the heaps of spare iron bars he'd positioned throughout the compound.
"Damn thing reflected my spell!" he said. "Well I can still capture it. Just let me get this iron in position..."
Dr. Hartwell and Doyle exchanged a look across the factory floor, then, sighing, reached for a set of ooze-steering paddles.
Lizzy cast inebriate on the ooze. To her dismay, the spell rebounded, struck her in the head, and knocked her flat on her back. All her magic charge dissipated at once, leaving her drunk, but not pleasantly drunk. She was experiencing a sensation similar to waking up in the morning after a wild party
and realizing you're still drunk but have to be at a job you hate in twenty minutes. "Oooh my head," she groaned.
"I said it reflected my spell," Tom yelled, as he struggled to put a wall of iron between vat #6 and the mercury ooze.
The ooze boiled upwards, forming a humanoid figure, then, with a flicker of magic, resolving into a mirror-bright duplicate of Tom Shambledrake. "Izaid i zflected spel", the ooze buzzed.
Tom felt unpleasantly cold. His magically enhanced vision confirmed the awful truth. The ooze hadn't just duplicated his form. It had, somehow, cast duplicate self on him. The double that faced him had half his soul and half his magic!
"It's duplicated me!" he cried. "Don't harm it!"
Dr. Hartwell realized that Tom's duplicate would probably cast some sort of lightning spell at the first opportunity, so he dropped his paddle and raced to a column. He'd repurposed the lightning-attracting posters put up by Snedge during the cancelled tower-raising ceremony as lightning traps. He feverishly tore off the protective layer of lead and threw himself flat on the floor.
The ooze raised two metallic arms and cast lightning bolt. The blast tore across the factory, struck the column, lightly zapped Tom in the process, and dissipated harmlessly.
Lizzy sat up, threw a vial of hypergin at the ooze, and lay back down just in time to see a wall of fire roll over her head. "Oh right," she said. "Sorry Tom! I forgot your eyeballs are made of fire."
"No harm done," Tom said, extinguishing his eyebrows.
"Speak for yourself," Doyle said, as he tried to put out his smouldering umbrella.
"What do we do now?" Dr. Hartwell yelled.
"I know what I must do," Tom said. "I must wrestle it."
"You fool! It'll cast shocking grasp or something," Dr. Hartwell protested.
Tom smiled and cast rubberize on himself. "Let it try. Oh, let it try. Come here you malformed metallic mimic," he said, stomping towards the ooze.
The workers of the Gel Knight factory applauded as their employer, aided by Dr. Hartwell and Doyle and their ooze paddles, forced the mercury into a glass container and locked the lid. "Not a bad bit of ooze-handling, for amateurs," one said respectfully.
"Ah, Lizzy," Tom said. "Terribly sorry to bother you, but which duplicate is the, err, the surviving one, when the spell ends?"
"The strongest and healthiest," Lizzy replied from the floor.
"You see, I was injured in the fight, and I'm concerned that the ooze will, ah, well..."
"Get Dr. Hartwell to heal you," Lizzy said.
"He has, and he's out of healing for the day," Tom said. "Do you have any suggestions?"
"You want me to improvise a healing potion in under three minutes, while drunk, using only ingredients in this laboratory, in case the ooze eats your soul and becomes the new Tom Shambledake?" Lizzy said.
"That's the essence of the matter," Tom said.
Lizzy sprung to her feet. "Get me four ccs of mouse blood, stat! You, with the moustache! I need powdered wormwood! You, a reciprocating funnel with an extra hose clamp! Go! We're doing potion wizardry, people!" Lizzy sprinted towards a workbench, collided with it, rebounded, flung open a drawer, and started mixing ingredients. "Oil of coca, essence of lodestone, eye of newt... damn, no time for the newt centrifuge, I'll have to do this the old fashioned way," she said, spinning the newt over her head like a lariat.
"Drink this," she said, handing Tom a bubbling blue flask. It wobbled in her hand, as if something in its milky depths was trying to break free. Tom sighed and downed the liquid.
"You may feel a slight tingling in the left side of your body, or the right side if you were born in a month with two or more vowels," Lizzy said. "Also, your toenails will grow at a ferocious rate for the next few weeks."
"Ghnerg," Tom said. He felt extremely healthy, and yet, simultaneously, like someone was pressing him through a fine mesh sieve.
"You know," Dr. Hartwell said from the sidelines, "we could have damaged the ooze instead. Made sure Tom was the healthiest one."
"I thought of that," said Doyle, "but imagine if we'd killed the ooze by accident. This seemed safer."
"As a medical professional," Dr. Hartwell started to say, but thought better of it.
The ooze's duplicate self spell wore off and Tom felt half his soul return. "Is this what it's like for you every time?" he asked Lizzy.
"You get used to it," she said. "And you get so much done when there's two of you."
"This," Dr. Hartwell said, "is why we need to put First Aid kits with healing potions and other useful items in prominent locations."
"What is a 'First Aid?'" Tom asked.
"First Aid is medical assistance from the nearest trained person," Dr. Hartwell said, counting on his fingers. "Second Aid is the surgeon at the hospital. Third Aid is the priest and the gravedigger."
"And Fourth Aid is the necromancer," Lizzy said cheerfully.
"Fourth Aid is not the necromancer, Lizzy," Dr. Hartwell hissed.
"Well it could be. I died and you brought me back, remember?" she said.
"That was not necromancy. It was time travel. It was completely different and we are never doing it again."
After examining Tom for any particularly interesting side-effects of the potion, Dr. Hartwell, wearing his "definitely not a foreigner" disguise, slipped out of the Gel Knight Works and caught a cab for the group's townhouse near West Cross.
He let himself in through the back door, locked it behind him, then opened the locked door to the basement. Cautiously, but with fixed intent, he descended. Dozens of beady eyes watched him from purpose-built shelves. This was neutral ground for the Speaking Rats, a place where Dr. Hartwell could talk to them, walk among them in rat form, and try to mutate them into more survivable forms.
It also contained a secret that haunted Dr. Hartwell day and night. On one shelf, next to a jar of pickles, sat a serene opalescent unicorn rat. And next to the unicorn rat sat a beweildered golden-haired rat with a tiny gold crown.
Alone among the humans of Endon, Dr. Hartwell knew the location and fate of the Monarch, Harold II of the house of Eidelberg. His Majesty was married to a unicorn rat and living in comfort and profound confusion in the basement of a middle-class two-story townhome on the west side of Endon.
They had every chance to avoid a monarchy, Dr. Hartwell thought as he examined the Monarch. And yet, here we are. What am I going to do?
What is Dr. Hartwell going to do? What are any of the PCs going to do? And why? And, more importantly, will they get away with it? Find out next time.