Bachelors and bachelorettes! Are you alone this Valentine’s Day? Do you crave romance, and find yourself unable to obtain it at your local convenience store, bar, or motorcycle repair shop? Fear not, we’ve got you covered, for Gaslamp Games knows what you like. We present, for your Romantic Indulgence:
THE SAD, STRANGE TALE OF JOSIAH NUTPIN
THE SCANDALOUS TRAGEDY THAT IS UPSETTING THE NATION
a work of Salacious Bawdy-Fiction Composed on the Type-Writing Device
with Erotic Daguerrotypes by Mr. David Baumgart
Ah, yes. New Smugbuffer, the latest frontier in the ever-increasing expansion of the Empire. Out on the edges of the world, the air was thinner and the gentle coruscations of mysterious dust from space burning up in the atmosphere could be observed by the aid of the Number Three Telescope; underneath this aethereal glow, and watched only by forces not meant to be studied by man, New Smugbuffer was the epitome of peace and tranquility.
Well, perhaps this is a bit of a lie. New Smugbuffer was, at least, as peaceful as any town on the rim of the world can be; that far away from Civilization, the wilds run untamed and the influx of moon-fungus can prove to be a baleful one. Not many people came to New Smugbuffer, save for desperate citizens eager to make a new life for themselves far away from their criminal records, and the odd Noyvrus trader seeking a new market for their goods. As Noyvrus trade these days mainly consists of a) tattered fur hats, and b) wax cylinder recordings of depressing Noyvrus Male Choral Music, the constant badgering of New Smugbuffer by seas of trade boats and the constant sound of extremely depressing chanting playing from enormous gramaphone horns was seen by many in the Empire as a clear sign of weakness in the Noyvrus economy.
When Josiah Nutpin stepped off of Her Majesty’s Official Colonization Zeppelin, he knew that New Smugbuffer was exactly what he was looking for in a colony. Here, at long last, he could find the inspiration he so desperately needed – for Josiah was afflicted by poetry, and had come seeking fertile ground for his fevered brain to plant the seeds of creativity in. Poetry was his life. Poetry was his cause celebre. Poetry was what caused his father to kick him out of the family house, with nothing more than a speech questioning his very existence (also touching on a) why a man would idle his life away, and b) that there was always good money running the family Tesla Coil, an honourable trade, and c) not something that his wretched poet son would know anything about.)
Josiah had abandoned it all in pursuit of his life’s dream. Soon, he would produce his masterwork, like a butterfly shedding its cocoon. Then, he would meet a grisly death, and instantly become famous throughout the land. Josiah knew full well that a poet’s life was one of inspiration, dependencies on various chemical substances, and a somewhat ghastly demise – but it was all in the service of art, and so it was worth it. One day, he would die, and on that day his poetry would be famous. There was nothing more beloved in the Clockwork Empires than a dead poet, and nothing less wanted than a live one. In the mean time, he needed inspiration for his works, and inspiration was what he would find in New Smugbuffer.
Why, simply look at the place, he said to himself. The bracing snow! The giant, towering fungoids with their enormous balloons full of Fun! The sea – so cold, bracing, and strangely inviting and comforting. The strange, quaint locals with their disquieting headgear. The ramshackle buildings and disquieting tenement housing! Here were things to write about.
Three weeks later, having secured the cheapest housing he could find (a bed at the Zebulon Cogspring Memorial Boarding House), Josiah was starting to wonder if he was cut out for this poetry thing after all. There were no decent couches for him to faint on, he was running desperately low on gin, there wasn’t a drop of laudanum to be found anywhere, and top scientists in the colony were still trying to unlock the secrets of Modern Brutalism. Sighing, he got up from his chair and went outside to try, yet again, to find sufficient inspiration. Then, his eyes fell on Elsie Moonwidget and all was lost.
Slender and pale, Elsie Moonwidget was a mysterious entity in New Smugbuffer. She flitted from place to place, concerning herself with tasks whose purpose was known only to herself. It was impossible not to be struck by her pale skin, delicate features, and menacingly fashionable hat. She had other admirers, and Josiah scowled at them on his daily walks.
That disreputable scientist Runcible Ironscrew, recently arrived from Old Mushroomhood in disgrace and unusual headgear, had inscribed a number of papers to the Royal Society in her honour; furthermore, he was planning on naming his new experimental cure for Glowing Bones in aurochs to her as a sign of his love. There was August Brasstack, a former Overseer from the town of Greater Ponysparkle, who refused to comment on the latest article in the Empire Times to claim that the town of Greater Ponysparkle was not, in fact, on fire, and that any reports saying otherwise were likely caused by indigestion. Lambert von Cogsworth, a recently arrived member of the aristocracy whose two interests in life were the acquisition of dangerous curios and frittering away all of his reputation at the pigeon races, had been seen calling on her and occasionally taking a walk with her under the light of the inhuman, ghastly moon-dust. Even Jonathan Whelkbuffer, humble fisherman as he was, always saved her the best catch of the day. Still, Josiah knew, as a poet his case was the most romantic. Provided that she was of sufficient Romantic Inclination, Elsie might be more amenable to his suit. It was, in fact, his only hope.
Fervently, he dashed off a poem about Elsie. It was not one of his best works, but perhaps when he died it would bring some fame to the colony of New Smugbuffer.
Josiah’s first opportunity to present his suit came at a party thrown by Lambert von Cogsworth, to celebrate his discovery of a new piece of bric-a-brac from the ruins near the colony. The party was by the perfectly safe and exceedingly normal statue that Lambert had found at the ruins some time earlier, and had made an enormous fuss about until it was installed by the colony’s bureaucrat in the center of the colony. In general, people had two opinions about the statue. Most people in New Smugbuffer believed that the statue, in the form of an enormous obelisk with one eye carved into the rock, was perfectly safe and exceedingly normal; therefore, it was totally unnecessary to spend any more time in its rather upsetting presence than absolutely necessary. A certain other kind of person felt that the area around the statue was a natural place for meetings of a clandestine nature, especially when seeking to trade certain goods or discuss certain topics that might, otherwise, be considered unsuitable for public forums.
Somebody had named the statue Quaggaroth, and nobody was entirely sure why.
It was in the shadow of Quaggaroth that Josiah found Elsie Moonwidget, sitting by its base and clutching a parasol. It was under the unblinking eye of Quaggaroth that he pressed his suit and made his intentions known. Elsie, upon hearing the poet’s pleas, smiled. “Well,” she said, “As you know I have many suitors, and clearly the one who bestows upon me the best gift should win my favour.”
“What sort of a gift?” asked Josiah, his heart sinking. “Poetry, perhaps?”
Unfortunately for Josiah, Elsie Moonwidget only had one thing that she liked: mysterious artifacts. Her father had been an avid collector, and Elsie continued the family trait of having a Strange Interest in unusual things. Surely, she explained, she would be more likely (although not totally likely, for there is never a totality in matters of love) to pledge her troth to a man who could… indulge her little hobby. Sighing, Josiah said that he would do his best. In the distance, he could see Lambert von Cogsworth mincing about the town with glee upon his moustached features and a pigeon in his hand.
The next few days, for Josiah Nutpin, were spent sitting by the ocean, looking at the sea with a hitherto-unknown longing. Perhaps it was being smitten by love, or perhaps it was simply the comforting nature of the waves. Perhaps it was his imagination, but the ocean seemed to whisper to him, making him long to cast off all his clothing on the shore and descend into its watery depths, preferably when nobody was looking. Still, he said to himself, he would resist the urges to end it all, or something else.
Perhaps, he said to himself, the sea would be his deliverance. Yes, whispered the sea, it would help him.
It was not, in fact, the sea that presented him with his first opportunity to find a gift for Elsie Moonwidget. It was another new colonist, who descended from the Colonization Zeppelin carrying a mysterious little packet with a furtive look. Josiah, always searching for new sources of inspiration and being Naturally Friendly, went up to the stranger and inquired what he was in the little packet.
“Oh rather,” said the stranger, one Graham Woodlathe by name. “Cigars wrapped in human skin, what? Been in my family for generations. Had to take them with me to the colony, wot? Never smoke the damn things, myself. Never smoke the cigars. Ever.”
Upon seeing the little package of cigars, Josiah knew that he must have them, at any cost. It was simple enough to plot an ambush; he simply waited until nightfall, when Graham Woodlathe was walking to the local middle-class pub and the colony bureaucrat wasn’t looking, to bash his head in with an Improvised Weapon (in this case, a handy croquet mallet.) The cigars were his.
Eight hours later, at daybreak, Josiah could be found staring at the sea again. He’d just killed a man. It must be something in the air, or the water supply, or perhaps simply the unblinking eye of Quaggaroth, but it didn’t seem like such a bad idea. And he had a present for Elsie! A wonderful present! Just the thing.
Perhaps they were too good for her? Perhaps he should just keep them himself? Yes, he thought, that might be better. Besides which, the sea had promised to provide something, and he trusted the sea. It loved him. It was full of delicious things, his friends calling out to him, and kelp. And so, he sat by the sea and gazed at it, and clutched his little package of Human Skin Cigars.
He could never smoke the cigars. Ever.
It was then that something floated to the shore, as the water released its precious bounty. Josiah stepped to the shoreline, being careful not to go into the water just yet, and gently collected a small, bronze egg. He wasn’t sure what it was, being a poet and not a scientist, but he immediately felt inspired by his discovery and cranked out another poem, “Ode to a Small, Unknown Bronze Egg Found At The Ocean Front by Josiah Nutpin.” He thought it was rather good.
The Colony Bureaucrat indicated that the egg must be identified, and Josiah Nutpin reluctantly handed it over to Runcible Ironscrew for analysis (while making it very clear that it was still his egg, and he wanted it back.) Runcible Ironscrew, a man with some interest in the collection of strange artifacts, considered the egg thoughtfully.
“It is,” he proclaimed after some thought, “the Columbic Egg, previously thought to have been lost. It is, at present, inert, and it would probably make a nice paperweight. Its properties are unknown. It is, perhaps, mildly maddening.” He added that he, personally, thought it was a very nice egg, and that Josiah was invited to the next little meeting of some like-minded people who might be interested in such things.
The Colony Bureaucrat read the report and noted that it was, in fact, completely useless. He resolved to complain to somebody, perhaps in the form of a scathing letter, about unclear descriptions of items and how he was supposed to run a colony when nobody would tell him how to do anything and without clear documentation and tutorials.
News of the discovery soon reached the Empire Times, and elevated both Josiah’s reputation and the prestige of the colony of New Smugbuffer. Perhaps, he thought to himself, fame would be his without dying. He felt happy, and excited, and his skin itched and flaked with anticipation of the day when he would finally cast off his worldly cares and step into the sea, with Elsie as his blushing bride. How beautiful her eyes were, and how radiant her gills would be under the water. Josiah decided not to pursue this line of thought at this time, and instead sought out his paramour.
He found Elsie Moonwidget beneath the Statue of Quaggaroth. It was a beautiful day; the air was crisp, the investigators hadn’t figured out who had killed Graham Woodlathe, and a small orphan was selling matches beneath its Baleful Eye. “For you,” Josiah Nutpin said, and offered up a wedding dowry consisting of one (1) Columbic Egg and one (1) carton of Human Skin Cigars, obtained through murder. “Elsie Moonwidget, will you marry me?”
“Yes!” she exclaimed. “Yes, yes, a thousand times yes! In the name of the Holy Cog, Josiah Nutpin, you have made me the happiest woman in the Empire.”
Well, thought Josiah Nutpin, this is the life. The love of a good woman, a menacing and mysterious egg, and a carton of the world’s finest and most terrifying cigars. Poetry spewed forth from his soul, and his heart sang. For a moment, he even forgot about the ocean.
Perhaps it was the presence of the Human Skin Cigars. Perhaps it was the somewhat unsettled mental state of Josiah Nutpin, which could have been managed better had the Colony Bureaucrat devoted sufficient trading resources to the acquisition of alcohol or laudanum. Perhaps it was the Columbic Egg, menacing in its ovoidness, that was not as inert as certain disreputable scientists may have previously thought. Perhaps it was a combination of all of these things, but it was at this moment that tragedy struck.
A low rumbling came from the Statue of Quaggaroth, and its eye slowly opened. “AREA 35-712 DESIGNATED FOR CONSTRUCTION PROJECT 9-71X,” it intoned. “NOW PROCEEDING WITH CONSTRUCTION SITE MANAGEMENT.” Josiah Nutpin turned to look at the Eye of Quaggaroth, and the Eye of Quaggaroth turned to look at him.
“BUILDING MATERIAL ACQUIRED,” intoned the statue. With a flash of light, Josiah Nutpin suddenly found himself converted into one (1) Pallet of Human Flesh Bricks (not to be used for the manufacturing of cigars.)
Elsie Moonwidget felt her heart sink. Her joy turned to despair. She ignored the Statue of Quaggaroth rising from its plinth, ignored the frantic panicking of the Colony Bureaucrat, and ignored everything other than her own desire to get into the sea as soon as inhumanly possible. There was nothing here for her any more. Blowing a kiss at the pile of bricks that was her former love, she fled for the ocean, abandoning the Columbic Egg and the Package of Human Skin Cigars. Pausing only to discard her parasol, she surrendered to the call of the sea and flung herself into the water, never to return – or, at least, not in her current state.
A somewhat frazzled Colony Bureaucrat noted in passing that Elsie Moonwidget had walked into the sea, never to return. Runcible Ironscrew was apparently distraught, and threatening to build some kind of machine. Furthermore, Josiah Nutpin had disappeared under mysterious circumstances; last but not least, the colony’s stock of building materials had increased by a small, disturbing quantity. Josiah Nutpin’s ten poetic works were suddenly famous, and had brought sufficient enough prestige to the colony to arrange for the rapid deployment of a Steam-Powered Heavy Weapons Unit and a number of Voltaic Defense Coils. Perhaps, he thought, it might yet be possible to avoid bringing this unfortunate matter to the attention of Her Majesty’s Anti-Paranormal Investigators after all.
(It wasn’t, as it turned out. But that is another story.)