Welcome Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen.

Welcome Lords, Ladies and Gentlefolk.

This blog will be devoted to my literary and cosplay interests and stories set in my own alternative historical steampunk background. I hope people enjoy the stories, as much as I enjoy devising and writing them and that it stimulates their own artistic interests, entertains them or if nothing else fires their own imaginations.

A special note to new readers of this blog, the entries "Nation States" are gazetteers of the nations as they exist in the An Age of Steam, Steel and Iron background, each with a few remarks/observations about each nation as they exist within. Any post headed by the title containing the words "Story Snippet" or "Fragments" is a stand alone, snapshot of the background, they will be developed into fuller stories in future, but at present they serve to give the viewer/reader a measure of what this world is like, what is going on in it and who some of the players are. Full stories, will be headed by their title and a roman number, as they will generally be in several parts.

Comments, suggestions or remarks by readers are welcomed.

I would like to thank the following people:

Yaya Han, for getting me seriously interested in cosplay at a time when things were looking very glum for me back in 2006 with several extended stays in hospital due to illness, and motivating me to get actively involved.

Ashley Du aka UndeadDu, for her unfailing friendship and cheerful support since we first met in 2014 at the Hamilton Comic Con, and for being my Cosplay mentor and advisor.

Sara Marly, for her interest in and support for my writings, since we first met in 2016 at the Hamilton Comic Con and incidently helping me make up my mind to finally do this.

Stephen Thomson, my friend, for his advise and assistance with creating and setting up this blog.

Daniel Cote, my friend and co-worker for his advise and friendship over the years.

The People of the The Aegy's Gathering (particularly Jonathan Cresswell-Jones, Scott Washburn and Jenny Dolfen, all of whom I have kept in contact with over the years), who were brought together in friendship by a certain randomness of chance and a common interest in the Honor Harrington books and stayed together despite distance and the strains of life.

The People of the Wesworld Alternative History website, who gave me the opportunity to sharpen my writing and story telling skills while directing the affairs of Lithuania and briefly France during their 1930s timelines.

My parents Mary Ellen and Logan, my siblings Adam and Danika and various friends both online and at work and play for putting up with me, encouraging and supporting me both in the very good times and the very bad times.

I remain as always yours very sincerely, your obedient servant, Matthew Baird aka Sir Leopold Stanley Worthing-Topper

Sunday, February 10, 2019

The Man in the Red Mask (Part VI)

City of London, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, January 1889.

"Arabella, please have Cora conduct our two clients to the study, and we will see both what they want and what we can perhaps do for them." Lord Hood said abruptly as he swiveled his chair to look back at Arabella the maid. She bowed pleasantly and withdrew from the study to collect the guests from the waiting lounge.

Hood turned his attention back to a fuming Cassidy, who refused to give his maddening employer the satisfaction of saying anything further in a conversation he knew he had already lost. Which amused Lord Hood, who was by now fully in one of his more whimsical moods, still further.

The study doors opened a few minute later, Arabella in the lead, followed by the towering Sixer, who had to duck his tall head to avoid slamming it abruptly into the top of the decorative door frame. Just a pace behind Sixer followed a young, scruffy girl, and the other maid Cora.

"The Construct, Sixer and associate, Miss Whitelock, to see you, my lord." Arabella stated formally.

"Thank you, Arabella." Lord Hood responded with equal formality. "To what, do I owe the pleasure of your company, Sixer?"  He remarked after a momentary silence. Sixer's amber eyes blazed out of his visor slot, the click and whir of gears and cogs sounded quietly though the room, as the towering automaton considered his words carefully. Lord Hood surreptitiously turned his attention to the young girl, standing beside Sixer with that odd mixture of fear and bravery, that only the very young had the ability to project.

At first glance, Miss Whitelock did not appear like much, she was a scruffy street arab, which wandered or scampered about the streets of London and many of United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland's major cities everyday. First appearances were however - in Lord Hood's considerable criminal underworld experience - never to be relied on, as they were usually either at worst out rightly wrong or seriously misleading at best.

Lord Hood, motioned to the young girl to come closer, his masked head cocked slightly askew in silent inquiry. Miss Whitelock looked up at Sixer, who in turn nodded, or at least gave the appearance of nodding, his range of movement in that regard was somewhat limited. A gentle pat on the shoulder with one of his great, metal hands by way of encouragement seemed to settle the girl's disquiet and apprehension.

Whitelock, regarded the dark, reflective lenses set into the blank, blazing red face mask that enshrouded Lord Hood's head with something like awe and not a little fear. She knew something of Lord Hood's reputation for financial and criminal success and sheer ruthlessness in London's underworld but she had also heard second hand from others and through Sixer, that there was another side to Lord Hood, that sometime he took special or interesting jobs into consideration. Whitelock clutched the box close to her chest, what it contained was everything she and her gang had managed to scrimp, save, beg, borrow or outright steal. It was not going to be enough, she thought desperately, not for the fees that Lord Hood normally commanded.

Lord Hood, watched the girl's fingers go white knuckled where they were visible through her finger less gloves, as she hugged the box to her. He noticed the nondescript, much patched and repaired, mismatched clothes. The copious amounts of dirt and soot that clung to her hands, face and every article of clothing she wore. The wisps of unruly, black or white hair that emerged from under the knitted cap, pulled down almost over her eyebrows. A scarf of inordinate length, and an even more astonishing, array of colours was wrapped around her neck, shoulders and the lower part of her face.

Lord Hood, also noticed, that while her appearance spoke of her extreme poverty, it as said something else about her, pride. Her clothes were in a deplorable state, it was true but that was not due to lack of attention. All the repairs, mends and stitches he could see and there were many, were done with some care and not a little skill to make the threadbare clothes serve a while longer. They had been cleaned and brushed very recently and repeatedly, a trip through the East End of London had not helped them of course, but the very effort to make what were probably her best clothes just an extra bit presentable showed through.

Lord Hood, noticed that girl's breathing, was hushed, strained and vaguely constructed: like she had a mechanical voice box or rebreather, under her scarf. He could just make out two edges of metal, emerging just over the top of the scarf, to either side of her face and level with her ears.He also noticed that the fingers on one of her hands appeared to be made of metal. Her eyes were covered by a particularly odd yellow film, both the whites and the irises, that was not caused by jaundice.

Lord Hood regarded Miss Whitelock for several long minutes, before suddenly coming forward in his seat and asking.

"What can I do for you, Miss Whitelock?"

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