The Blue Lamp

The fog was thick in Blackwell that evening, but did not seem to impede the two men as they approached the sputtering gas lamp on the corner. As they drew closer to the warm circle of light spilling from the mantle, it revealed the blue serge and silver buttons of two members of the Metropolitan Police Force.

The elder of the pair, sergeant’s stripes evident upon his sleeve, paused beneath the lamp post and reached for his pocket watch, flipping the cover and angling the face so he could discern the hour.

“It’s just shy of eleven o’clock, Constable Rowan.” He said.

“And all’s well, Sarge?” queried the younger officer.

“That remains to be seen , Constable…” Sergeant Webb glanced about the empty streets, their details obscured by the all-enveloping fog. “Remind me of the purpose of our evening’s constitutional, Constable,” he said.

Constable Rowan withdrew his notebook, never far from his reach, and rustled through the pages until he found the entry he needed. “There have been several reports,” he stated, ” of a young woman, in a state of undress, roaming the streets around the Chapel of St. Gilbert’s.”

“And the rest, young Stanley.”

Constable Rowan, paused, licking his lips.

“I’m waiting, Constable…”

“It is also reported,” continued Rowan, “that the young lady is question is…um…blue…”

“Blue, you say?”

“Yes, Sarge.”

Sergeant Webb harrumphed and sucked on his moustache. “Now, young Stanley,” he said, “it is my considered opinion, me being somewhat more experienced in these matters than yourself, that what we have here is a dollymop, so addled with drink, that she’s taken to a-roaming the streets in her undergarments – which would explain the perceived hue of her skin, what with the weather being somewhat inclement of late. However,” he paused significantly, “Inspector Neame is of the opinion that whilst my theory does have merit, there exists the possibility that these reports may be of something…Other. So, as duly appointed members of Her Majesty’s (God bless her) Metropolitan Police Force attached to the Black Museum, it behooves us to keep our eyes peeled.”

“Very witty, Sarge.” said Constable Rowan.

“What?”

“Well, what with us being ‘Peelers’…keeping ’em peeled…”

Sergeant Webb gave Constable Rowan the eye. “Have you been reading them books again, Stanley?”

“Yes, Sarge…sorry, Sarge.”

Sergeant Webb looked up at the looming bulk of St. Gilbert’s, its spire pointing heavenwards like an admonishing finger, then felt his gaze being drawn inexorably to the lambent light spilling from the The Red Lion public house, just across the road. His eyes narrowed speculatively and, reaching a decision, he turned to his young subordinate.

“It occurs to me, Constable, that as all the reports have come from this area, the landlord of The Red Lion may be able to furnish me with some additional details…”

Me…, thought Constable Rowan, here it comes… 

“So,” continued Sergeant Webb, “as the superior officer currently on the scene, it is my duty to put him to the question.” He straightened his jacket. “You, Constable Rowan, will continue to patrol the streets hereabouts, keeping your eyes open for anything that my be considered…unusual. Got your truncheon?” Rowan nodded, “Lamp? Whistle?” A further two nods. “Good lad. Now, should anything untoward occur, give a couple of blasts of your whistle and I shall come a-running.”

Constable Rowan sighed heavily as he watched the Sergeant stride purposefully across the street, to be greeted by a brief blast of light and laughter, before The Red Lion welcomed him into its warm and malty embrace. Silence once more reigned in the streets of Blackwell.

Well, not quite silence, as Rowan was certain he could hear, very faintly, the sound of sobbing. Opening the cover of his regulation issue lamp, he cast about until he could pinpoint where he believed the sound was coming from – beyond the railings surrounding St. Gilbert’s, somewhere within its grounds. He approached the gates and cautiously pushed one open, wincing as the creak of un-oiled hinges echoed in the still night air. 

Stepping forward into the churchyard, Rowan cast his lamp about, trying to discern if the sobbing was still occurring or whether his entry to the grounds had stilled it. Furtive movement near the gnarled Oak drew his eye and he shone his lamp in that direction, taken out his whistle in his free hand, just in case. There appeared to be someone or something hiding in the darkest shadows cast by both the brooding Oak and the moss covered wall. Rowan approached cautiously, trying to catch the figure in the beam of his lamp.

“Hello?” he called, his voice shaking slightly, “This is the Police. Are you alright back there?”

He edged nervously forward, the light from his lamp preceding him across the ground, until it caught the now still feet of the figure standing in the shadows.

Rowan played the light upwards, his hand shaking ever so slightly, noting as he did so that this was definitely a woman, she was definitely not wearing very much in the way of outer garments and she was most definitely…blue. The warm yellow light of his lamp followed the curves upwards, dispelling the shadows that clung wisp-like around the young woman’s form until they fell upon her face. Her face was downcast, but as the light played across her delicate features, her face slowly rose and she locked gazes with the young Constable…

And in that moment, he was lost.

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26 thoughts on “The Blue Lamp

  1. What a great intro Jez, particularly like the photo’s in black and white, adds real atmosphere to the pictures, with the spot lighting.
    Storyline is off to a cracking start, look forward to the next instalement

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  2. First off, just have to say marvellous photography. But more on that in a minute.

    Wow you were quick off the mark Dave, and I had a tip off this was posted up, but you still managed to beat me.

    Jez, Jez, oh JEZ I could hug you. Everything about this is just what I have dreamed of and hoped for in the hobby for so very long, and yet has remained elusively out of reach, like a ghost echo of an idea diminished and melting away in a gossamer strand mist. I go on line Jez especially searching for hobby.. gaming material like this.

    Things so atmospheric they entice me – drawing me in like young Constable Rowan. there. I KNEW the hobby could be like this, I just couldnt find it, in all my time on line blogging and websiting, only twice have I ever found anything matching what I was hoping to find. Oh Jez you`ve done it, THIS is what can be done with the hobby when you combine brain, imagination, the bravery to do it lol, and a good dollop of atmosphere thrown in. AND without the need for endless lines and lines and rows and rows of “must get these painted first” which is the bane of good gaming: you`ve just PROVEN it can be done with two figures, a lamp post… a woman…. a tree, and a church.

    This, to me, is the best post I have read anywhere this year. You have made my day, and I can`t stop smiling at just how good this is. THIS points the way how a game should start. Simple (but with lashings of tone and flavour), short,. but long enough to convey all the author needs to set his piece, and containing oodles and oodles of correct period theme. I`m not given to flitting about indecisively between, but Jez, you`ve just made me want to get back to our own Victorian gaming SO MUCH.

    Back to the photography. It is outstanding. We have long discussed using black and white for our Film Noir Pulp and Victorian settings (as I think I discussed with you once) only, the treasured Victorian `collection` is packed away at the moment and unlikely to surface again for a while, so doing black and white for that is currently academic: and our Noir is on hold anyway, as Carlotta Wynn powers her nose and no doubt continues to flirt with Jessica Rabbit. But you DO pave the way for us, sorry but your black and white photography trick is likely to be copied endlessly by us from now on, and we`re likely to be asking you for tips on just how you managed to achieve those effects.

    Back to the photos, the lighting is incredible, HOW did you make the light look so real, as Sergeant Webb and Constable Rowan stand under the lamp post together? And then again when young Rowan opens the creaky gate, the light from his regulation issue lamp is simply perfect. and then we have the almost iconic final photo, shows us just enough to be scared and going “Nooooo Constable Rowan, don`t go in there!”

    hehe, incidentally I love how you set up Sergeant Web going into the public house, leaving Constable Rowan alone to tread his beat: “me….. here it comes” was CLASSIC.

    Please Jez, more more, much more and soooon, don`t keep us waiting on this. This is the best thing since sliced bread.

    This story has me all fired up and, I mean it… more more. In fact, uuugh you devil, I think when I get back home.. I don`t believe it you`ve just persuaded me to think about getting back into this genre again. hmmmmm, though I seriouslydoubt we can make it as good as this.

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    • Thank you very much, Hils. This week’s post was initially just going to be some examples of painted figures for the game, but I didn’t get quite as much time as I’d hoped to finish them off. Plus it would have been a bit…dull.

      The whole point of buying and painting miniatures is to have fun with them – and that doesn’t necessarily mean lining them up opposite each other and slugging it out using the rules system of your choice.

      As I came into the hobby from roleplaying, I always feel that a game should have an underlying plot, a story which unfolds through play and because of the random factors (i.e. the dice rolling), you’re never entirely certain what the end result will be. That’s why the subtitle to my blog is ‘narrative wargaming’.

      However, it’s not necessary to actually PLAY a game with them – you can use them as actors in a predetermined series of events to set up a future game (or complicated sub-plot in this case). It means that you’re still using your carefully built scenery and painted figures, maybe not to actually game with, but they are being USED.

      Plus it was massive fun coming up with the story and working out how best to set the figures up.

      Regarding how I achieved the ‘effects’, it was actually very simple, although it did require a bit of manual dexterity on my part. All photos wete taken using my mobile, which has a pretty good camera, and the figures and scenery were set up on my dining table with the lights off. The actual lighting effects were done with a cheap LED torch from Wilkinson’s, held at arm’s length and angled appropriately to give the impression of where the light should fall. Trying to operate my phone’s camera with one hand whilst shining the torch in the right direction with the other was a bit tricky. Once I’d got the pictures ‘right’, I just applied a ‘Greyscale’ effect using the built-in photo editor on my phone and saved the results. I think they turned out pretty well.

      And having read a fair bit of period fiction certainly helped with getting the tone and wording right.

      I’m really pleased you enjoyed it and don’t worry, there will be more to come – more characters, more mysteries, more (hopefully) atmospheric photos, ‘orrible murders, the long arm of the law and more buildings. It’s going to be a lot of fun!

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      • Wowee, so THAT`S how you got the lighting. Sounds as precarious as some of the Film Noir classics (Casablanca, The Long Sleep, etc), but my goodness, didn`t they know what they were doing back then.

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  3. Best post I seen in years mate. Like Hils, it makes me yearn for my much loved and treasured Victoriana (blame Hillers, “it was `er wot done it” she MADE me put all the Victorian stuff away in boxes haha).

    Warms the cockles to see material of this calibre. Like Hils says, will be asking you how you got that effect going on in your setting, its quite spectacular actually.

    Story is great, and it makes me look forward even more now to the meat and potato`s to follow… i.e. a new outing of “Way of the Crow,” no doubt?

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    • Thank you, Steve. Your recent Star Wars post, along with Andy’s narrative ATZ campaign, are kind of responsible for this.

      As I am effectively creating a setting from the ground up (literally in the case of my tiles), I didn’t just want it to be a case of “here’s some terrain, here’s some figures…fight!”

      Because I intend on investing the majority of my hobby-time on this one particular project, I wanted to breathe life into it, so it feels like a real place. So whilst there will be builds and painted figures, there will also be tales told about the inhabitants, either through illustrated fiction such as this or via games played.

      I’ve barely scratched the surface… we’ve got a couple more officers yet to meet, Lancelot Grimm himself, the American adventurer Jefferson Lake, the notorious crimelord known as “The Walrus”, and the extremely capable and fasionably dressed Miss Tabitha Hunt.

      And exactly who or what IS that mysterious blue woman? Could there be a clue in the post? πŸ˜‰

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    • Thank you for that, Steve, your support is appreciated.

      As for answering your question, perhaps what we perceive as ‘good gaming’ is not how others define it. Have I featured the latest ‘flavour of the month’ game? No. Have I showcased my latest big box purchase and all its expansions? No. Have I fully painted all my figures before playing with them? No.

      Did I have a great deal of fun actually using my figures and scenery and imagination to bring my setting to life? Yes, I bloody well did. And was it appreciated by the people who understood what I was doing? Yes, it was.

      Do you really think that lack of ‘praise’ will stop me from continuing to do as I please and maybe challenge some of those ingrained gaming habits? Of course it bloody well won’t.

      THIS is what it’s about – not the number of followers or views or comments, but enjoying YOUR hobby YOUR way. And long may it continue. 😁

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      • Agree Jez, not everyone gets an idea we have, does it mean we should enjoy it any less, not at all. Gaming is all about enjoyment on a personal level, for some it’s executing that perfect paint job, for others it’s coming up with what they consider an unbeatable army list, I think the narrative driven is especially great. As a film lover I enjoy all the additional background and narrative I’ve seen in recent months on multiple blogs which just fuels the imagination even more. So if it makes you happy ( and doesn’t hurt anyone) then keep at it, we will be here to encourage and support along the way

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        • Exactly. Our wonderful hobby is to be enjoyed on whatever level suits the individual. I only object to those who try and impose their particular ‘brand’ of the hobby on others or dismiss anything ‘different’ as intrinsically wrong. Just because someone games in a genre you don’t like, there’s no reason to slag it off on public forums or on your own blog. I may not find the zombie apocalypse particularly appealing as a gaming subject, but that doesn’t mean I’m not thoroughly enjoying Andy’s British ATZ campaign. If we all liked the same genres and played exactly the same games, it would get a bit dull.

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  4. Aaaah Dave, the passive voice of reason. I know I know.

    As for me, I think its pretty fair to say that once I`m done enjoying myself with my current SW campaign thing (might be for ages… weeks… month yet) I`ve fulfilled my `personal` blogging journey and will retire from putting forward my own ideas (for good… wow, that makes it my last hurrah) and simply work along the lines we have discussed in chat Dave, promoting new ideas and all the yummy goodness still to come (God, that makes me your gofer hahaha), but meh, enough of that for now. Jez, I`m glad you are enjoying your Victorian thing so much, I know I sure as heck am.. never thought I`d say this to you Jez (Mr. procrastinator *wink*) but this new direction of yours reminds me of the 70`s and 80`s (things stated to change in a downward spiral the 90`s).. and is just like gaming used to be back in the good old days, before things got all computers and apps πŸ™‚ keep it up mate.

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    • Me? Procrastinate? I will issue a stern rejoinder to this…just not right now…lol

      I shall continue to enjoy your magnificent octopus for as long as it lasts. Now, stop dropping hints (second one this week) and make the bloody announcement. Not that I need it, for the crow sees all and knows all…yet says nothing. πŸ˜‰

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  5. Pingback: The Heart of Blackwell | Carrion Crow's Buffet

    • Thank you so much, Tarot. I’ve tried to take the flavour and tone of the period, but lose that slight stuffiness and overwrought prose that does sometimes typify this sort of fiction. So a Victorian story that is more ‘accessible’ for modern readers. If I can maintain this, as well as telling the story I want to, I’ll consider it a success.

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  6. Pingback: Green Grow the Rushes, O… | Carrion Crow's Buffet

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