“Gracious Heavens!” exclaimed Ava Brassfeather, as she peered from the window of one of Steampunk-Shrunk’s gothic towers.
“Hush, she might hear you, my dear,” hissed Penelope. “She’ll probably put a curse on you, or whatever her sort get up to.”
“Nonsense!” exclaimed Ava, but in a slightly lower tone.
The object of attention was one Mistress Ectophemia Fleabane, the latest – um – companion of the apothecary. Regular readers may recall the distrust with which our little league of ladies and gentlemen have always regarded the proprietor of The Dodgy Pharmacy, as it is know in these parts. Since the arrival of his new friend, though, things have taken a definite turn for the worse.
Ava had spotted this woman skulking around the shrubbery far below, gathering plant and insect specimens into dusty jars and pursuing some poor creature or other through the undergrowth with a dagger. There appeared to be a rather sulky yellowish mist surrounding her. It was all most unbecoming.
“I’d just persuaded that chap to begin stocking some useful items in his shop,” Hugo told us. “He’s doing spare parts for mechanical arms, steam engine oil, time traveller pills oh, and some rather fine powder that improves one’s hearing quite astonishingly.”
“Beg your pardon?” said Henry.
But there was barely a smile. No one was in the mood for Henry’s humour. It was as if Mistress Fleabane’s unsavoury yellow fog had settled over everyone.
At that very moment, the door of the tower room creaked open and the crone herself stood before us. She held out an aged and yellowing tome.
“I’s done yer a book,” she croaked, proudly. “All writ in me own fair ‘and, it is, with a bit of assistance from me dear friend the apothecary, as he’s so good with ‘is grammar. It’s SPELLS!” This last word was issued like a challenge and she fixed her beady little eyes on each of us in turn, daring anyone to object.
“Well how lovely,” cooed Penelope, with impressive presence of mind. “Thank you so much, Miss, er, Mistress Fleabane.”
Hugo strode forward and took the volume from her hand. If he was scared that it might explode on impact, he showed no sign of it, although we noticed that he used his mechanical hand to take it.
A long and awkward silence followed.
“Well then,” the woman said at length, “I’d best be gettin’ back to them bats. Got loads to de-wing before midnight. I’ll bid you good day.” And she left as suddenly as she had arrived.
A collective shudder travelled around the room but in spite of our trepidations, we were all keen to read the spells in her book.
Here is what we read:
BOOK OF SPELLS
SPELL TO VIEW PHANTASMS from other dimensions
Hold a holographic mirror before your face and turn towards the direction from which you suspect the creature to be approaching. NB: This can normally be ascertained by sounds or odours emanating from the beast.
Stamp your left foot upon the ground three times and say, “Reveal thyself, foul being,” loudly and clearly.
A clear image of the phantasm should become visible in the glass.
You would be wise to hold some means of self defence in your other hand, with which to protect yourself if the being should be of an aggressive nature. However you will now know exactly what manner of creature you are dealing with.
SPELL TO PROTECT THE TRAVELLER FROM TIME SICKNESS
When engaging in temporal voyages, the time traveller will often experience unpleasant side effects and become disorientated. Protect yourself with this spell.
The night before the journey, which should preferably be whilst the moon is waning, smear a generous quantity of octopus slime (available from all reputable apothecaries) over your head, paying particular attention to the area behind and beneath the ears, and recite this chant whilst drinking a strong cup of tea:
“May the e’er-moving oceans instill into me, their calmness in motion as I sup this tea.”
This should enable you to enjoy your time-travelling.
SPELL TO ASSIST THE USER IN MAINTAINING BALANCE AND POISE (particularly useful before a tea duel)
Prepare a concoction composed of equal parts brain juice and broomstick fleas. Spread it over the part of parts of the body in which you wish the balance to be most evident. If this is legs and feet, perform the ceremony standing on one leg. If it is hands and arms hold a moderately heavy object in one hand and attempt to keep it as still as possible.
Repeat the words, “By brain and broom balanced be,” three times.
You should notice a definite improvement as you speak these words for the final time.
SPELL TO INCREASE STRENGTH AND VITALITY
This spell is best performed in an extremely hot and steamy envirnment, such as an engine room or in the vicinity of any steam-powered contraption. Light a red candle and place it on the ground. Allow it to burn while performing the spell. Remove any particularly restricting or flammable items of clothing (allowing modesty to be your ultimate arbiter when making choices), run in a circle around the candle seven times and then leap over the flame, repeating the words:
“_____________ (insert name) be nimble, _____________ (insert name) be quick, _____________ (insert name) jump over the candlestick.”
This may be redolent of a child’s rhyme, but it is in fact a powerful charm which, when used in the manner described imbues the individual with extreme power and fortitude and allows him (or her) to indulge in such onerous and exhausting tasks as are deemed necessary for life.
Ensure that any resultant burning or smouldering garments or soft furnishings are extinguished without delay.
SPELL TO ENCOURAGE GROWTH OF FACIAL HAIR
Should any gentleman feel himself to be lacking a full and lustrous beard, extravagantly bushy side burns or an elegantly waxed moustache, he is advised to perform the following spell: Vigortously rub a mixture of steam engine oil and tarantula hair (both freely available from reputable apothecaries’ stores) into the requisite area of the face while repeating the words:
“Grow, you fine whiskery protuberances, grow!”
Repeat as required over the next several days.
Please note: It is not advisable for ladies to use this spell unless they wish to undertake a career in a travelling show or circus.
We stared at one another in total astonishment.
“Steampunk witchcraft?” muttered Henry. “Didn’t know that was a thing.”
“More like a thinly veiled advertisement for the items in their shop,” snorted Hugo.
However many hands thumbed those pages throughout the following days….
Should you wish to procure a copy of this volume, a downloadable version is available from the SteampunkDollsHouse