“Adventurers, Seekers of Fortune, Desperate Paupers, Stout & Industrious Working Folks”
Emigrate to Inviting and Delightful shores of Pristine WEST ANTIPODIA untouched by Civilization & Cog-fearing subjects; Vast PROPERTIES await Discovery Taming and Exploitation by Enterprising & Energetic Persons of Business & Family yearning for Open Land and the famed Vigors provided by the Savage Airs of
Dear reader, do forgive this writer’s indulgence in excited quotations, but our bored copy-clerk producing grist for his Pewterbolt & Daughter Automated Typesetter must in turn be forgiven his Penchant For Flights of Imaginative Fancy, for he knows only a small gray desk in a small brick office in one of the more homely quarters of The Capitol. Yet this clerk dreams of a transformative life on the wild Open Frontier; Why, in such a life a humble office clerk might remake himself in the crucible of the Sublime! It is among the higher callings heard by those who go to the Colonies.
This is not his story, however, for it may be presumed that he remained a humble copy-clerk for many years.
The clockwork of our narrative is driven by one of Mme. Cordelia Philomena Tinsrife who, at the time of these events, held the title of Chief Bureaucrat of the Royal Charted Colony of New Sodbury Market.
She was a decorated veteran, a former sergeant hardened in battle by many conflicts on the Frontiers, including the most formative and ultimate experience in her career to do with “The Unpleasantness At Tarsmoke Fells” which we of course know is Not Spoken Of. Nonetheless, without Speaking Of It, medals were awarded to the few survivors and each was politely but firmly asked to Never Speak Of It Again cheerio each must do their duty good show Cog Save The Queen and all that why not sign on with the Royal Charter South-Southwest Antipodian Trading Company? Why, they’ve need of solid soldierly folk like yourself in their ranks it’s a grand opportunity if I daresay and one might not expect to find much better what with the way things turned out (punctuated here by a Very Deliberate Look given by the Investigating Commissioner over lowered spectacles) and so forth.
We must credit Mme. Cordelia Philomena Tinsrife for she took that sound advice from the Investigating Commissioner and sought her fortune & career with the Royal Charter South-Southwest Antipodian Trading Company.
Let us travel together, dear reader, on the steam-locomotive, coal-burning airship, & turbine-propelled sea-steamer of Imagination. We fly from that stuffy little office in The Capitol past the great booming Engines of Wealth and Progress bellowing forth that happy Smoke of Industry, across the verdant home counties Improved by the latest Acts of Enclosure & construction of Great Mills astride each river, to the gray sea crashing under the rust-red cliffs & their sanguine effluvia we love so dearly and then away from our native shores across the Oceans on journeys of days turned to weeks.
We set the scene of Mme. Cordelia Philomena Tinsrife’s assignment from The Company on one somewhat harried bluff selected for its commanding presence above those “inviting and delightful shores of pristine West Antipodia”. The hinterland forests are not quite so “untouched by Civilization” as they were that day the Royal Charter South-Southwest Antipodian Trading Company established its latest enterprise of New Sodbury Market, but they are still impressive nonetheless and provide valuable timber for the Empire.
It must be noted at this point, dear reader, that there was and is no market established in New Sodbury Market – no, not yet – but one cannot but admire the spirited ambition our settlers established in a stroke of Mme. Cordelia Philomena Tinsrife’s pen.
And just so Mme. Tinsrife occupied herself from the hours of six ’til four on each day in her office, a right and proper place for a bureaucrat, flanked by cabinets of files and papers, smelling of ink and wax and all the reassuring reagents of her craft. Entrenched so, she stamped and signed and sent-away-for all the good things which a bureaucrat summons from the body of our great Empire: shining copper plates, clever & intricate machine parts, fortified brandy, chemical explosives, matched boots (forty pair), brass fittings, a sampling of the latest in fashionable hats, sheets of tempered glass, pungent sacks of coffee (50 stn.), and all the multitudes & the many things the growing colony of New Sodbury Market required.
“Madam! It’s, I do apologize madam, it’s -but there’ve been events most troubling!”
Mr. Gideon Millchock, assistant clerk to the Colony’s Chief Bureaucrat, had burst through the door of the office of Mme. Tinsrife, setting forth a gust of that Vigorous Air which in turn upset certain consignment orders leaving the Business of the Empire slightly askew and smudged with ink. Mme. Tinsrife lowered her spectacles and gave the wheezing Gideon Millchock a Very Deliberate Look.
Gideon continued, uncowed: “I — sightings, Madam, Mister Brazenton’s workparty? Timber duty? They’ve reported sightings, Madam. Sightings!”
Mr. Gideon Millchock wrung his large hands as if they were a beached sea serpent tangled with itself and gasping its last and generally in a manner most Annoying and Low to Mme. Tinsrife’s eye.
“What manner of sightings, Mr. Millchock, the details of the matter please.” said Mme. Tinsrife.
“You, ma’am, but not you. And me, but not me, with a party of soldiers and labourers.” said he.
Gideon proceeded to describe a meeting of Brazenton’s work-party with himself-but-not-himself as well as her-but-not-her, dressed oddly in garb not befitting their proper Profession (though Brazenton had not inquired for it might give to unseemly Implication). Much confusion was had for these doubles claimed to be from a Royal Chartered Colony just over the hill and inquired quite forcibly what Brazenton was doing in the middle of what was clearly indicated to be Uncharted Wilds in the Zone of Exclusive Exploitation granted to the Royal Charter South-Southwest Antipodian Trading Company.
Amidst the argument, Brazenton managed to have a runner sent, hence Gideon’s interruption.
Mme. Tinsrife frowned, for this was feeling like just the sort of thing which was Never Spoke Of Again. But duty is duty and Cog Save The Queen and The Glory Of The Empire and all that; forms must be filled and once questions are raised they must answered.
“Gideon, send for Sgt. Bellwethers. Have him assemble his squad and accompany us to meet these… visitors. Now, if you please.”
As you know, dear reader, it is The Bureaucratic Act – of putting seal to official writ – by which things are made Real in the Empire. This Reality is the Truth of Ministries and Notes and Records and Documents confirmed as real as is ever to be needed to any Cog-fearing subject of The Queen in this Modern Age of Empirical Discovery and Scientific Order which rests the solemn weight of Knowledge in Recorded Facts. By writ and seal the Empire is Built!
But, it must be conceded, it is by musket & cannon that the Empire is Kept. This Mme. Tinsrife knew very well.
Cordelia, if we may be forgiven presuming a rapid familiarity with the primary subject of our narrative, pulled open the drawer of her bureau and drew forth her old service revolver. She brushed the stack of consignment forms to one side and took a moment to re-check the oiled clockwork of the pistol. The device – a Coalburn Royal Arms patented 4-shot revolver – had served her well in the Siege of Kolesograd and saved her life, though not her military career, during the events the Times had referred to obliquely as the “Unpleasantness at Tarsmoke Fells”.
It should be noted here, dear reader, that while the Empire Writes the Real, it too can Unwrite what it deems Ought Not Be; notably to our narrative Certain Events at Tarsmoke Fells & any hope of Cordelia Philomena Tinsrife’s having a future in the Army. She knows this very well too. But in a small act of rebellion she remembers to herself what happened there, years ago. It is Real to her alone, at least, for she has Written it all down in a very small diary hidden beneath the floorboards of her accommodation, just in front of her cabinet of dishware & teas. Do not worry on her behalf, dear reader, for her secret rebellion is quite safe between your treasured company and this writer.
Cordelia loaded four cartridges into the Coalburn then rose from her desk to begin a proper Investigation.
[CONCLUDES PART 1 OF A Troubling Account of Doubles in Certain Regions of Colonial Antipodia FROM THE SECURE ARCHIVES OF HRM’S MINISTRY OF INVESTIGATION INTO MATTERS OF THE OCCULT & EXTRAPLANAR AFFAIRS, PREPARED BY LIEUTENANT-INSPECTOR EZEKIAL LELAND STEELBOLT]