Authors: Jonathan Green
Tags: #Science Fiction, #General, #Fantasy, #Fiction, #Adventure, #Mystery & Detective, #Historical, #SteamPunk
|Pax Britannia: Human Nature|
|Pax Britannia |
|Abaddon Books (2008)|
|Tags:||Fantasy, Mystery & Detective, General, Science Fiction, Adventure, Historical, Fiction|
In the closing years of the 20th century the British Empire's rule is still going strong. Queen Victoria is about to celebrate her 160th birthday, kept alive by advanced steam technology. London is a fantastical sprawling metropolis where dirigibles roam the skies, robot bobbies enforce the law and dinosaurs are on display in London zoo. Welcome to Magna Britannia, a steam driven world full of fantastical creations and shady villains. Here dashing dandies and mustachioed villains battle for supremacy while below the city strange things stir in the flooded tunnels of the old London Underground. The Whitby Mermaid has been stolen from Cruickshank’s Cabinet of Curiosities and consulting detective Gabriel Wraith is on the case. And he’s not the only one, for wherever there is a mystery to be solved, Ulysses Quicksilver is never far away. What does the theft of the mermaid have to do with the mysterious House of Monkeys? And what of the enigmatic criminal known as the Magpie? Ulysses embarks upon an adventure that takes him to Whitby where the mermaid was supposedly caught. But there are worse things awaiting him there than mermaids. The moors of Ghestdale are haunted by the savage Barghest beast, while in the abandoned mines beneath the Umbridge estate, abominations lurk in the darkness. And Ulysses Quicksilver is about to discover that the worst horrors are those spawned by Man’s own selfish nature.
Jonathan Green is a freelance writer. He writes science fiction and fantasy novels for adults, adventure gamebooks for children, and non-fiction books for all ages. He has written for various franchises, from Sonic the Hedgehog and Doctor Who, to books set within Games Workshop's Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 game universes.
Squinting, he began to see shapes forming amidst the shadows.
There on a walkway ten feet above his head, he saw, quite clearly, a lithe black and yellow shape run along a rope stretched taught across the void, seeming to defy gravity with its inverted aerial run. It wasn't Sidney's missing companion, but another simian altogether.
And then there were more. As if he now knew what he was looking for, Ulysses could hardly miss them. There were rhesus monkeys dangling from ropes and walkways, gnawing nuts and bits of fruit; spider monkeys by the dozen, family groups gathered on shelf-like perches attached to the walls; mandrills scaling vertically suspended ropes. He even thought he could make out the squatting shape and orange fur of an orang-utan on one of the higher levels, half-hidden behind a balcony.
"Don't bother answering that," Ulysses said coldly, his hind-brain hot with alarm, his grip on the gun in his hand tightening to knuckle white. "Where's the Magpie?"
Preternatural awareness flashed through his brain like a migraine.
"Right here!" came a cackle from the rafters above them. "As is you, Mr Quicksilver, as is you. Right where I wants ya!"
An Abaddon Books™ Publication
First published in 2008 by Abaddon Books™, Rebellion Intellectual Property Limited, Riverside House, Osney Mead, Oxford, OX2 0ES, UK.
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Editor: Jonathan Oliver
Cover: Mark Harrison
Design: Simon Parr & Luke Preece
Editorial Assistant (eBooks): Jennifer-Anne Hill
Marketing and PR: Keith Richardson
Creative Director and CEO: Jason Kingsley
Chief Technical Officer: Chris Kingsley
Pax Britannia™ created by Jonathan Green
Copyright © 2008 Rebellion. All rights reserved.
Pax Britannia™, Abaddon Books and Abaddon Books logo are trademarks owned or used exclusively by Rebellion Intellectual Property Limited. The trademarks have been registered or protection sought in all member states of the European Union and other countries around the world. All right reserved.
ISBN (.epub format): 978-1-84997-001-3
ISBN (.mobi format): 978-1-84997-023-5
No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publishers.
This is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed in this book are fictional, and any resemblance to real people or incidents is purely coincidental.
For Michelle - Congratulations!
Catch of the Day
The Reverend Nathaniel Creed gazed out across the oily black waves towards the impossible place where sky met sea, and considered what it meant to be a man.
In the unreal twilight that came just before dawn the North Sea appeared as an oily surge - an ocean of bleak blackness that mirrored the darkness slowly gnawing away at his heart.
To be a man was to be a thing divine, was it not?
The night was darkest just before dawn, or so they said. But what about the darkness that was slowly but surely eating away at his soul, that had consumed him from the inside out like the worm in the apple, like a rotten canker, for the last seventeen years? He felt himself tense, every fibre of his body tightening in impotent rage.
His soul had never been more steeped in darkness and malice. Did that mean that redemption was waiting just around the corner? Was it darkest just before the light of revelation showed itself too? Was he on the verge of his own epiphany?
The scales had fallen from Paul's eyes three days after he had been struck down on the road to Damascus. Nathaniel Creed had been struck down seventeen years ago. When would be his moment of enlightenment? When would his revelation come? How long did he have to serve like this before the Lord absolved him of his sins? How long?
"How long?" he demanded of the sky. "How long?"
His scream of frustration was snatched away by the wind sweeping over the hilltops and out to sea, and then it was gone, his desperate plea swallowed up by the turgid polluted clouds, his anger made impotent by the hugeness of the vista before him.
The Reverend Creed's fists bunched in anger, knuckles whitening, nails digging painfully into the palms of his hands. The pain startled him, distracting him from his fury. He blinked, as if on waking from sleep, and looked down at his hands. He could feel that his palms were wet and in the near darkness his fingernails appeared glossily black. Without a moment's thought he wiped his hands on the material of his cassock, the coarse black cloth rough against his lacerated palms.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me lie down in green pastures; He leadeth me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake.
What was it to be a man? he wondered. To be a man was to be a creature bound by emotions, at the mercy of one's appetites, to love, to hate, to feel. But he was a priest; he was supposed to be above such transitory, ephemeral concerns. And yet didn't the Bible demand that he love his Lord and Saviour -
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength
- hate the Enemy and feel with all the passion of Christ on the cross?
And did not the Bible teach that all men are sinners? Wasn't it Man's fallible nature that had forced God to take human form that he might die for the sins of all? So, then, to be a man was to be a sinner.
Behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners.
Well, he was certainly one of those.
He had sinned - O how he had sinned - and he had been repaid ten times over for it.
Eyes narrowed, he fixed the brooding firmament with a gaze as cold and hard as stone, as if he was trying to discern heaven there beyond the clouds.
"My Lord, why have you forsaken me?" he railed at the stormy sky. As if in response, the clouds broiled and distant thunder rumbled across the cold grey surge at the horizon.
How had it all come to this? He had had hopes, dreams, aspirations... once. But they were long gone. He had had to give them up long ago, exchanging them for his penance, for his transgressions of the flesh.
And it came to pass in an eveningtide, that David arose from off his bed, and walked upon the roof of the king's house: and from the roof he saw a woman washing herself; and the woman was very beautiful to look upon.
The surf sucked at the rugged rocks at the foot of the cliff, the greasy waters petroleum-black as an oil slick. As sunrise drew closer the pollutant cloud cover lightened, puffs of magenta and turquoise appearing amidst the otherwise interminable grey.
The Reverend Creed stared down at the exposed rocks one hundred feet below, made rough and ragged by the relentless attentions of the sea. He could end it all now, should he so choose. He had that much power at any rate - the power to end his own life. The Lord had seen fit to give Mankind the gift, and curse, of free will after all.
If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.
The hungry surges roiled and broke to white water on the black rocks, the gaping maw of a sudden hollow in the waves, a whirlpool forming as the surge pulled back out to sea for a moment, beckoning to him. But he ignored its tempting summons, as he had on every other occasion. He would not give the Lord his God the satisfaction of condemning him to an eternity in Hell for taking his own life. No, he would see out his penance to its end, all the while hiding his shame from his parishioners, until God chose to end his life, and release him from his perpetual torment.
To his flock he would ever be the genteel vicar of St Mary's, there to serve their every spiritual need. They would never know of the sin that stained his heart black, as black as the hungry sea.
Look like the innocent flower, but be the serpent under it.
Behind him, back along the cliff path, the squat church hugged the cliff top, as if it feared being uprooted from the exposed spot by the unrelenting wind. But it needn't have worried; behind it, on the wind-swept escarpment above the town stood the black skeletal remains of the Abbey that both raiders and kings had attempted to destroy in the past, and yet still it clung on, its stone pillars and buttresses seeming to grow out of the very ground.
Reverend Creed turned his attention towards the town. Lights were coming on in windows on the other side of the Esk as well as in the nearer buildings that clustered together on the slopes beneath the church in the parish of St Mary's. Whitby was waking up.