Under a Harvest Moon

Jefferson Lake awoke with a start, his heart hammering in his chest. The nightmares had become more frequent as All Hallow’s Eve drew inexorably closer. He rose from the tangled bedsheets and splashed cold water onto his face, seeking to banish the lingering memories of that night, now so long ago.

Drawing back the thin curtain of his lodgings, he gazed down upon the fog enshrouded cobbles of the city. Whilst it reminded him of his native New York, London had a more solid presence, the weight of centuries of history infusing its every atom, against which he felt as insignificant as a gnat. But just like New York, the streets were far from empty, even though night still held sway, with the citizens going about their nocturnal business without a thought for who may be observing their progress.

He heard a heavy tread upon the staircase, dismissing it as anothe lodger of the boarding house returning from a night of revelry, until his door was kicked in with enough force to shatter the lock.

And then HE was there…the Horseman.

Lake dived for the holstered pistol hanging from the bedpost, but with a speed that belied his massive frame, the Horseman strode forward, backhanding Lake and sending him crashing to the floor.

Did you REALLY believe that fleeing halfway around the World would free you from your obligations, Jefferson?” Boomed the Horseman, “A deal was made…and no matter where you seek to flee to, I will ALWAYS find you.

The Horseman turned, somehow surveying the room without eyes. “Even in such mean and squalid surroundings as I find you now…” He chuckled, the sound like gravel against tinplate. “Oh, how the mighty have fallen…

Turning back to the slumped form of Lake, the Horseman stepped forward, raising an admonishing finger. 

You have seven days,” he continued, “to provide what has been agreed. I need not remind you what is forfeit, should you fail. Do not disappoint me, Jefferson, the result could prove somewhat…unpleasant.

With this last pronouncement, the Horseman turned and strode from the room, his cloak billowing behind him.

Lake gently probed his tender lip, his fingers coming away bloodied, and levered himself up off of the floor.

Seven days. He had done it in less time before, but that was in a city he knew intimately. He was still finding his feet in London. He just needed to find the right sort of neighbourhood…and a saw.

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A Touch of Brass

When someone says ‘Victorian’, certain images will spring to mind – cobbled streets, sputtering gas lamps, wrought iron railings and billowing fog. These are the things that, if in evidence on your table, tell people that they will be fighting for Queen and Country in the Heart of the Empire.

Now, I’ve already built my cobbled streets (Let Me Take You by the Hand…) and my gas lamps (Let There Be Light), but there was something missing…

Namely, things wot are made of brass.

So, in order to rectify this, this week I’ll be looking at that staple of Steampunk Victoriana – the brass automaton.

Our first subject is this:

“But Jez,” I hear you cry, “surely that’s the latest iteration of the Cybermen, the cutting edge of cyber-conversion and therefore should be silver!”

Strictly speaking…Yes. However, as with any model you purchase, the overall colour scheme is entirely down to you…and if I choose to paint mine brass, who’s going to stop me?

Anyway, our second subject is this:

This is one of the plastic Halloween lights I picked up recently, removed from its light. Examining the sculpt, I realised that it didn’t have any eyes, so two disks of plastic were cut from an old spear shaft and glued into place. I know spiders are supposed to have multiple eyes, but as this isn’t a real spider, two would suffice for my purposes. I also decided not to fill the socket in its rear, as this will be a steam-powered automaton and we need somewhere to shovel coal in.

So…brass paint. There are several options when painting brass – buy some actual brass paint, which can be called anything from ‘antique gold’ to ‘tarnished brass’ or just use gold paint and dirty it up a bit. However, there is a cheaper and easier option – mix your own.

I took a fair amount of GW Shining Gold (other gold paints are available) and added a small amount of brown paint. I can’t tell you what this particular paint is called, as the label’s fallen off. As it’s a GW paint, it probably has a fancy name, but it’s a mid-brown colour, similar to tobacco. It doesn’t really matter, to be honest. Just add a bit of brown to your gold, until you get the brass colour you’re looking for. Because you’re adding a non-metallic to a metallic paint, it mutes the shine, so whilst you get a metallic look, it’s not so pronounced as a pure metallic, giving a more realistic brass look.

Like so:

And:

Ooooh, shiny-ish! The next stage is to give your models of wash of dark brown – I used Docrafts Burnt Umber, which is a brown similar to the colour of dark chocolate. And you get this:

And:

A cursory look would suggest that there isn’t that much diffetence between this stage and the previous stage, but a closer look will show that the wash has deepened the colour and created a greater ‘depth’ to both figures.

Now, you could, at this stage, give them both a careful dry-brush of gold, just to enhance the models further, but I was happy with them as they were, so just moved on to a bit of detailing.

For the Cyberman, I added some red to his chest light, eyes and mouth, to suggest that he had an internal furnace, like so:

And the spider had his eyes painted Mithril Silver, folowed by Bogey Green:

And the rear ‘vent’ was painted internally red, with a bit of black ‘smudging’ around the rim, to suggest smoke-staining:

And done. Not bad for an evening’s work.

Join me next time, as we return to the streets of Blackwell to see what further perils await the brave men of the Black Museum.

Season of Mists

Jefferson Lake threw himself down behind the dry-stone wall, his breath coming in short, laboured gasps. The wind had picked up, rattling the bare branches like the clatter of dry bones, obscuring the sounds of his pursuers. He reached into his waistcoat pocket and began to thumb cartridges into the empty chambers of his revolver, the harsh reek of cordite stinging his nostrils. Six bullets. Six bullets left – all that stood between him and a potentially grisly end. He prayed it would be enough.

On the surface, it had seemed like a simple ‘job’ – some flyspeck township in upstate New York, apparently plagued by ‘demons’. Nine times out of ten, this sort of thing had a more prosaic explanation, usually a bunch of enterprising locals using a bit of ‘supernatural’ mummery to conceal their illegal activities. The trick with that kind of job was to go in loud, making enough of a show that it became more profitable for the perpetrators to buy his silence, thus allowing them to continue their activities after he had left, pocketbook more healthy than when he had arrived. Of course, there were occasions when they felt his permanent removal was a better option and that was when they found that his guns were not just for show.

But there was always that slim chance that whatever superstitious claptrap the townsfolk had been peddling was all too real. Whilst he had managed to pick up enough lore over the years to escape with his hide mostly intact, he knew it was just a matter of time before he was out-matched. He just prayed that this was not that time.

He risked a glance over the top of the wall. Luckily for him, his pursuers had no concept of the art of stealth. But then again, he reckoned they had no real concept of anything – other than hunting him down and cutting him into chunks. As he scanned the moon-lit pumpkin patch, the first of his pursuers lurched into sight.

An emaciated frame, whether a moss-encrusted skeleton or a body conjured from the vines of the patch, was unclear at this distance. However, the grinning Jack O’Lantern the creature bore as a head was, sickly green light spilling from its eye holes and falling on the rusty scythe grasped in what passed for its hands. It was joined by a second figure, then a third, all armed with farming implements that had seen better days, scavenged from where they had bern abandoned by their previous owners.

Lake stood, raising his Colt and sighting carefully at the nearest of the pumpkin-headed apparitions. At his sudden appearance, each grinning visage had swivelled in his direction, accompanied by the creak of joints put under unnatural pressure.

“Eat lead, yer grinnin’ freak,” spat Lake and fired.

The Colt bucked in his hand, shattering the silent approach of his pursuers, followed by the sound of the bullet richocheting off the raised scythe blade, scoring a silver streak in the rusty metal. Lake cursed and lined up his next shot. The Colt boomed once more and he was rewarded by the sight of his assailant’s head exploding, chunks of gourd pattering to the ground, followed by the slow fall of its body.

Four bullets left.

Lake watched the jerky approach of the two remaining scarecrows, then calmly raised and fired his pistol once more, grinning savagely as a second went down in a shower of pumpkin shards.

Three bullets left.

With a rustling of vegeatation, a fourth pumpkin creature tore itself free from the ground, joining its unnatural brethren in their implacable pursuit of the beleaguered Lake.

Shaken by its appearance, Lake’s next shot went wide…

Two bullets left.

The two remaining figures lurched forward and Lake could hear the pounding of his heart growing louder in his ears. Or was it his heart? No…it was the sound of hoofbeats, increasing in volume as the rider drew closer.

The rider burst from the treeline on the far side of the pumpkin patch, the flanks of the coal-black steed steaming in the moonlight.

“Holy mother of God…” swore Lake.

The Horseman was here.

Spurred on by the appearance of their master, the unholy constructs surged forward. Lake fired convulsively, taking down the nearest scarecrow with a lucky shot.

One bullet left…

The Horseman cantered forward, sword raised high. Lake considered his options – two enemies, one bullet. 

“It was a good run…” he muttered, then pressed the barrel of his Colt to his temple, closed his eyes and pulled the trigger…

*Click*

Goddamn it!” He swore. Casting the now useless revolver to the ground, he reached for his Bowie knife, ready to sell his life dearly. The sound of furtive movement behind him caused him to glance over his shoulder. Two further scarecrows had used the approach of the Horseman to creep up behind him, their grinning faces inches from his own.

Sinewy arms whipped forward, avoiding the frantic slahes of his knife, pinioning his arms and forcing him to his knees.

The Horseman dismounted and strode forward, unnatural light spilling from its empty collar and rested the razor-sharp edge of its blade against the back of Lake’s neck.

It would be a simple thing to take your head,” the deep, sepulchral voice echoed around the pumpkin patch, reverberating through Lake’s bones, “and who would mourn the great ‘Jefferson Lake’?”

The Horseman slid its sword across the back of his neck, drawing blood.

No-one,” continued the Horseman, “for there is no such person…’Jefferson Lake’ does not exist – it is an artifice, a facade – but what does it conceal?” Rough fingers encased in leather gauntlets grasped his chin, forcing his face upwards untl he regarded the empty collar of the Horseman.

I know all your secrets, ‘Jefferson’, and just what depths you are prepared to sink to…” The Horseman thrust Lake’s head away. “I am inclined to let you live, on this occasion. However, there will be certain…conditions.”

The Horseman pulled a roll of parchment from the folds of its cloak.

How much is your life worth?”


Along Came a Spider…

As my Gothic Victoriana project has reached a plateau and the stalwart forces of the Black Museum require a bit of rest and recuperation, it’s time for a brief diversion…elsewhere.

For many of my fellow bloggers, October signifies the rise of the walking dead, as their paint tables are filled with shambling corpses awaiting the touch of a brush – Zomtober 2018 is upon us…

However, I always look forward to October, as it is the time of year when a variety of retailers fill their shelves with macabre accessories, to enable all and sundry to dress their Halloween parties appropriately. For a gamer, this is an ideal opportunity to scour the shops for inexpensive bits to enhance their table.

Such as these:

A string of 10 battery-operated  ‘spider lights’ from Poundland costing, you guessed it, £1.00.

Each platic spider is approximately 45mm long, 45mm wide and about 15mm tall. They are molded in hard green plastic and have a ‘socket’ in their backside, into which the ligbts push. Detail is pretty good for what is effectively a 10p plastic figure, although you may wish to fill the hole in its bum to make it more realistic.

So, how do they compare size-wise to a standard 28mm figure? 

Like so:

One of my intrepid UNIT soldiers faces off against the lime-green menace of a ‘spider from Mars’ (Ziggy Stardust optional).

Of course, they are lights too, so you can use them ‘illuminated’, although they will have wires trailing from their arse.

Now, I made the assumption that the lights were white, with the coloured plastic provding the green glow, but this was an incorrect assumption. The lights are actually green:

My immediate thought on finding this out was “Cool. Maybe I can use them as eyes for a Shoggoth, made from expanding builders foam…”, but now I have another cunning plan…

So, 10 nicely detailed plastic spiders AND a string of 10 batter-operated green lights. For £1.00. Bargain.

The spiders could be used as spider-shaped starships, with the cavity being the engine port, painted up as the monstrous form of a Jorogumo, painted brass as clockwork steampunk automatons or used as arachnid foes for a Starship Troopers game. At £1.00 for ten, you could have a veritable swarm for less than a pint of beer.

Get ’em while you can, as once Halloween is done, they’ll scuttle back off to the warehouse for another year.

Shades of Blue

Constable Stanley Rowan had just finished his morning ablutions when there came a knocking at his front door. Cleaning his razor, for unlike his colleagues he chose not to sport any facial hair, he wiped the remnants of shaving cream from his face then answered the door.

Standing on his doorstep, wearing clothing slightly too large for him and his typical cheeky grin, was Jacky Hawkins, one of the local boys who ran errands for the Black Museum.

“Mornin’, Stan,” said Jacky, “got a message from his nibs.”

“Sergeant Webb, you mean…” growled Rowan, trying to suppress a smile.

“That’s wot I said,” continued Jacky, unperturbed by the correction, “He says they caught ‘er wot cut off that doxy’s face and banged ‘er up. An’ Moore got hisself cut up, so he wants you back at the station.”

“Thank you, Jacky,” said Rowan, reaching into his trouser pocket, “here’s a shilling for your trouble. Don’t go spending it all on sweets, now.”

“Sweets, Stan?” Said Jacky, the silver coin vanishing into voluminous folds “naaah…I’m gonna buy me some Chinese firecrackers and set ’em off down by the…” he faltered as the realisation of just who was speaking to sunk in. “Sweets, yeah…that’s the ticket…”

With that he scurried off onto the crowd, his progress marked by the cursing of costermongers, as he weaved amongst the handcarts thronging the street.

Rowan closed the door, a thoughtful expression on his face. “If they’ve caught the mysterious blue woman of Blackwell,” he began, “that doesn’t really explain how you’ve been sitting on my bed since yesterday afternoon,” he regarded the figure hunched in a blanket, her delicate elfin features peeking out from between the folds, “now does it?”

That one was other, the words formed in his mind, without the need for vocalisation, this one was here…with you.

Rowan drew up a chair and gazed at his mysterious house guest. Other than the unnatural hue of her skin, which was a pale shade of blue, she was breathtaking beautiful, with lustrous dark lashes framing eyes that danced with an inner fire. She pursed her full lips and Rowan felt a warmth building in his cheek, at the place where she had kissed him on their first meeting.

“Who are you? What are you?” He asked.

This one is a slave, she replied in his mind, this one seeks to be free. Will constablestanleyrowan help this one? Will he save this one from…the fat man?

I wil try,” said Stanley, reaching out to gently take her hand. She smiled shyly at him and Stanley felt the warmth from his cheek flooding his body.

Ayesha…this one is called Ayesha.


Green Grow the Rushes, O…

Well, it’s finally here, the long-promised AAR set in my own little slice of Gothic Victoriana, which was not only a lot of fun to play, but also advances the ongoing plot-line.

But first, a small apology. The scenery used was what I had to hand and deemed, that if carefully placed, would look suitably Victorian, but it’s not the final look I’m intending for this area, so bear with me.

For those of you new to this blog or if you want reminding of what went before, here are the previous parts of this ongoing saga;

Part 1 – The Blue Lamp

Part 2 – A Study in Grey

Part 3 – Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes?

Part 4 – Taking Back the Night

And now…Part 5.


The dolorous sound of the last stroke of midnight echoed mournfully from the bell tower of St. Gilbert’s, momentarily drowning out the customary nocturnal noises of Blackwell. Beneath the warm glow of the gas lamp on the corner, Vicky Timms, commonly known as ‘Queenie’, adjusted her bodice to more prominently display her ample charms. This was force of habit, as whilst she would normally be plying her chosen trade amongst the ale-houses and alleyways of Blackwell, tonight she had been employed for another purpose, as the sovereign she had secreted about her person attested to. A very generous payment to, it would appear, stand around in the cold, doing nothing. She fully expected the gentleman in question would make further demands later on, but a girl had to earn a living and a sovereign could buy him a lot of leeway…

In the nearby churchyard, all but concealed by the shadow cast by the looming bulk of St. Gilbert’s, stood Constable Nash, tapping his truncheon against his leg in nervous anticipation. The Black Museum was out in force that evening and, if he strained his eyes, Nash could just about make out the dim shape of Constable Moore, stationed in the shadowed alley alongside The Red Lion. 

Nash turned to Sergeant Webb, who was perched on a nearby tomb cleaning a dottle from his pipe with a pocket knife. “Sarge…” he began, “I’m not entirely comfortable with us using Queenie as…as…”

“I think the word you’re looking for, young William,” said Sergeant Webb, “is bait.” Webb cast a critical eye into the bowl of his pipe. The compacted mass of tobacco was proving particularly stubborn and he went to work on it with a will.

“Whilst I agree with you in principle,” continued Webb, “Mr, Grimm is of the opinion that creature responsible for the recent attacks needs to be drawn into the open and Queenie,” he gestured vaguely in her direction, “parading around in her red dress with her wares out is sure to attract its attention.” He rapped his pipe sharply against the side of the tomb, sighing in satisfaction as the dottle finally dropped from the bowl.

“What do you reckon it is, Sarge?” asked Nash, “Mr Grimm said something about it being one of the Fae, but there’s quite a few of ’em…”

“No idea, William,” said Webb, “Moore’s the bookworm… I am but a simple copper. However,  when I see our mystery woman, I shall be a-rapping her on the noggin and possibly giving her a taste of my size 9’s…on behalf of our Constable Rowan.”

Whilst Nash contemplated this, he became aware of the faint sound of singing. It was a reedy, whiny kind of voice, echoing down the alley opposite the churchyard and growing slowly louder as the singer approached.

“I’ll sing you two, O
Green grow the rushes, O
What are your two, O?
Two, two lily-white boys
Clothed all in green, O
One is one, and all alone,
And ever more shall be so.”

A gaunt figure appeared from the mouth of the alley, her dress and long hair billowing in a breeze unfelt by Constable Nash. As she passed beneath the lamp post, he noted with a start that her skin was the pale blue of a drowned corpse.

“And what do we have here?” cackled  the figure, catching sight of the startled Queenie, “another pretty pretty for old Jenny?” The figure reached into her billowing robes and drew forth a rusty blade, caked with dried blood, which she held high. “Another face for Jenny’s collection…”

With a speed that belied her frail frame, the figure sped across the cobbles towards the now cowering  Queenie, cackling shrilly. As she passed by the gates of the churchyard, Constable Nash was overwhelmed by the smell of stagnant water that trailed in her wake, almost retching from stench. Covering his mouth with a pocket hankerchief, he kicked the gates open and raising his truncheon, started after the unnatural creature.

Sergeant Webb tucked his pipe carefully away is his jacket, then swiftly followed his young colleague into the street, readying his truncheon. As they both pounded across the cobbles, Webb noted that Constable Moore and Mr. Grimm had also broken cover, bursting from the mouth of the alley alongside The Red Lion. 

Queenie cowered back from the foul-smelling apparition, its hair and clothing in constant motion, as though suspended in water and used her substantial lungs to issue a piercing scream.

“Old Jenny will have your tongue too, pretty pretty…” hissed the creature, “cut it right out…”

The creature lunged for Queenie, but drew up short as Constable Nash’s regulation boots stomped down on her trailing garments and aimed a blow at the back of her head.

Hissing like a cat, the creature twisted lithely out of the way, spinning to face the young officer.

“Little man,” she spat, “trying to deny Jenny her prey…Jenny will have your eyes for that!” Almost too fast to follow, the creature slashed at Nash’s face, but he managed to parry the blow with his truncheon, dried blood flaking off the knife at the impact.

Grimm rushed forward and grabbed Queenie, thrusting her towards the alleyway. “Run, girl,” he growled, “You’ve earned your gold…”

Constable Moore rushed forward, readying his truncheon, whilst Sergeant Webb edged forward too, surrounding the creature. 

The creature’s eyed flicked uncertainly between the three officers closing in on it, the silver studs evident on their truncheons, then spun on its heels and plunged its knife into Moore’s chest, pulling it free as he slumped groaning to the ground.

“Right, you bitch,” shouted Sergeant Webb, “that’ll be enough of that!” The creature spun towards Webb, distracted by his voice and Nash swung his truncheon with all his might, wincing slightly as it connected with the creature’s head with a sound like a cricket ball being struck for six.

The creature screamed, the silver burning her skin and Webb waded in, each blow punctuated with a litany of abuse towards the unnatural creature. Grimm stood from where he had been rummaging in his Gladstone bag, dragging forth a shimmering silvery net.

“Stand back!” he shouted, waiting until both officers had withdrawn from the cowering figure, before casting the net up and over the creature, which screamed in pain as the gossamer-like material enveloped it.  The net pulsed once, then contracted, drawing more cries of pain from the whimpering creature.

“Thank you for your assistance, Gentlemen.” said Lancelot Grimm. “What we have here is the Fae commonly known as Jenny Greenteeth.” He crouched down beside the shrouded form. “They usually prey on young children who stray too close to bodies of stagnant water, but this one seems to have progressed to slightly bigger prey. Wait with her, whilst I summon a Black Maria to carry her off.”

Nash, who had been kneeling beside the groaning Moore, looked up at Webb, who had taken the opportunity to give the recumbent form a few kicks.

“We’re going to need to get Moore to the infirmary pretty soon, Sarge,” he said, “he’s lost a fair bit of blood and will need the wound cleaned and stitched, but I don’t think it’s as bad as we feared.”

“Right you are, William,” said Webb, pulling out his pipe and starting to fill it. Applying a lucifer to the bowl, he puffed his pipe into life and looked down at the imprisoned Fae.

“As for you, Miss Greenteeth” he said, “You’re nicked.”


High above the gathered officers, a hunched and gnarled figure gazed down from the rooftops.

“The Masssster will want to know of thisss….” it hissed.