Sir F. Chook, Inventor of Leopard Oil

Likeness captured upon a daguerrotype machine in Japan, July 1891

Lettres

Wherein the Author reflects upon certain topical & personal issues of the Day.

The Most Boring Man in Fallen London

Penned upon the 14th of January, 2014

An unconventionally tiresome Let’s Play.

The player characters of Fallen London are a rum lot. By end game, any protagonist can reasonably expect to be a Biblical scholar, cat burglar, exotic animal breeder, sea captain, police officer, anarchist bomber, prison escapee, occult investigator, and it’s more than likely that they’ll have come back from the dead and spent some time lost in the land of dreams at least once. There are moments of mundanity amid the fantastic, and these are not unrewarding – indeed, there was a special bonus last Christmas for those who had pursued a respectable career in medicine or law instead of hunting sea-monsters, mastering esoteric languages, or undermining Christian morality.

So, naturally, that got me thinking: just how far could one go with a character who was painfully pedestrian – who, however outrĂ© their surroundings, clung to the commonplace of Victorian society like a holy talisman? Could they reach the upper echelons of Neathy society without having achieved anything more adventurous than having an extra boiled egg with their breakfast? Well, there’s only one way to find out: through a priori reasoning, disregarding the evidence of the senses as untrustworthy! Or, failing that, by playing the game as Doctor Taupe-Wainscot, the Pabulous Physician!

Born in Lowestoft in 1835, the young Taupe-Wainscot was furnished by his hopeful parents with an excellent education. Having developed an interest in medicine, he was admitted to St Bartholomew’s Medical College, London. After graduating with moderate distinction, he took a post as a general practitioner in a town in the colonies, and worked outside of England for many years. He did hear that there was some sort of bother with the capital being dragged beneath the earth by a colossal flock of bats at the behest of a cabal of ancient subterranean creatures, but it all seemed to blow over – and if you made a fuss over every little thing you read in the paper, you’d never get anything done!

Grown grey in the service of his patients’ health – achieved through recommendations of abstemious diet, plenty of rest, and, in extreme cases, a small dose of brandy – Doctor Taupe-Wainscot has been summoned to the hallowed wards of St Bartholomew’s – since rechristened, but surely no worse for wear – to replace an elderly medico who can no longer perform his functions following his spontaneous combustion. We join the good doctor as, having stepped from the funicular of the Travertine Spiral and stood in awe at the strange beauty of the Neath, he is accosted by a pair of uniformed men who mistakenly believe he is the notorious Bumbershoot Nigel, a wanted poisoner, and hauled away before he can retrieve his luggage and travelling-papers.

The indignity! Manhunted, manhandled and manacled, like a common criminal! He’d not been so humiliated since that summer when he’d planted a fresh bed of lupins, and not had more than two minutes to admire his handiwork before a passing town clerk had stopped to inform him that they were two inches too close to the public thoroughfare, and issued him a fine. And now he was in a prison cell – an actual prison cell! – and outside his window was…

…good heavens. He rather needed to sit down for a while. The world had very nearly stopped spinning when he became aware that the guard – dour and taciturn beneath their face-concealing hood – was bringing in another prisoner, who had evidently just returned from prayer. Once they were alone, this fellow – his “cell-mate” – informed him that he was in luck: a gang of them were planning to escape that very evening, and if he were to pledge his silence, he could join them. As their escape route was to pass through that very cell, and as the man’s hands wore scars like a Dutch furrier wears rings, the doctor thought it best to accede.

The gang’s scheme involved knocking out a window, and then, man by man, leaping from the prison walls to the surface of a passing airship. Taupe-Wainscot felt the depths plucking at his clothes as he let loose the stones and fell scrabbling into the mess of ropes and canvas beneath him. He’d been no stranger to thrilling adventures in his years of travelling abroad – why, one time, in a carriage just outside of Calcutta, his driver had pointed out a tiger beside the road, and he’d turned only just in time to miss the beast as it bounded away between the trees! – but this was beyond the pale. It was with no little relief that he saw the city rise beneath them, and allowed himself to be hauled from his clinging-place and dropped onto a rooftop by the large men around him.

He was battered, he was very much shaken, and he had not even the clothes he had arrived in, but he had made it to Fallen London! Now he had to find someplace to stay while he set about recovering his possessions and establishing his credentials.

Fallen London and all its contents are (c) Failbetter Games 2010-2014.


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