Stranger than Fiction

Travel, naturally, is quite out of the question.  Here we were, isolated in Steampunk-Shrunk Towers, wondering what to do with ourselves.

Mrs S – who is around the same size as yourselves, dear readers – claims that the building is a small and fairly cramped cottage, but since the rest of us (due to a certain, er, accident involving a spacetime anomaly which we prefer not to mention, Henry…)  currently find ourselves shrunk to one twelfth of normal size, the residence appears positively cavernous.  Walking from one wing to another can easily serve for our daily exercise.

Nevertheless, time had been hanging heavily.

Imagine our delight, then, when Molly hit upon the idea of opening her Literary Emporium to one of us each day.  It is an exceedingly small establishment, so social distancing does not permit more than a single individual to enter the building at any time.  Each of us has been issued with a card stamped with the dates for our visits and everyone is thoroughly enjoying the opportunity to peruse the many fascinating volumes available.

Only one thing marred our pleasure.  Several upstanding and usually trustworthy members of our community mentioned catching glimpses of a tall, shadowy figure skulking around the Emporium.  Rumours abounded as to the identity of this personage.  This lockdown seems to make everyone a little jumpier than usual and some had claimed it was a creature conjured up by Dr Kopp, our resident mad scientist, who was recently seen taking an extreme interest in certain passages in the ancient Grimoire.

I didn’t for a moment believe such poppycock.

Oh goodness – manners!  I failed to introduced myself.  Abject apologies.  That is me above and to the right – Gwendoline Thrustington-Clawhammer, tea-duelling district champion 1885, 1887 and 1891.

Yes, I know.

I did mention that it was a spaceTIME anomaly.

Anyway, my turn in the bookshop finally came around.  I became quite mesmerised by the Book of Spells and lost track of the time.  Fearing that I’d be late for an afternoon tea appointment, I rose quickly from my seat and at the same moment heard a definite sound outside the shop.  I had the distinct feeling that someone had been spying on me and that my sudden movement had startled them.

“Ava?”  I called, “Is that you?”  (Madame Ava Brassfeather is most prone to sneaking around the place, so naturally I suspected her.)  Then I recalled the stories about the mysterious stranger.  For a moment, I blush to admit, I considered screaming.  Thankfully I quickly came to my senses and hurried out to see who was there.

I was just in time to see a tall and muscle-bound gentleman trying to duck behind the far wall.

“You there!  Halt at once and reveal yourself!”  I cried, in my most imperious tone, hoping earnestly that he wouldn’t misinterpret my hurried command.

The figure turned to face me and although he cut a commanding presence, I noted that his eyes looked calm and, indeed, rather sad.

“Ah,” he said, softly.  “Ma’am I do hope I didn’t startle you unduly.  Please forgive my intrusion.”

His accent appeared to be that of an American gentleman, from the southern States, I suspected.  His gentle demeanour mollified me somewhat, but the fact remained that he was undoubtedly a trespasser.

In a slightly quieter tone, but still – I hoped – with a certain air of authority, I replied, “I am not easily startled, Sir, but I wish to know how you come to be in this private residence and what your business is.”

“Yes Ma’am, of course,” he responded.  “I can see that my presence here must look most suspicious.  My name is Clark Obadiah Jackson III.  I’m searching for someone who is – very dear to me.  The honest truth is, Ma’am, I can’t rightly explain how I came to be in this building, exactly, unless you are in any way familar with the notions of – uh – time travel and teleportation?”

He was fingering a device attached to his left wrist as he spoke.  I suspected (correctly, it later emerged) that he was considering activating it in some way to vacate our particular time and space if he met with too much hostility.

Now that I studied his face more closely, I realised there was something faintly familiar about it.  I knew he did not belong in Steampunk-Shrunk Towers and was fairly certain our paths had never crossed, yet that slight memory or familiarity could not be discounted.  I realised that I did not wish him to leave as suddenly as he had appeared.  On the contrary, I was extremely curious to hear his story.

“I am – unfortunately – more familiar with time travel and teleportation than I would wish to be, Mr Jackson,” I assured him.  “Indeed, all the residents of Steampunk-Shrunk Towers have personal experience of its uses and often rather unfortunate side effects.   I suggest we take a seat in the Emporium whilst you recount your story.”

“Well that’s mighty civil of you, Ma’am, in the circumstances.   I truly do appreciate it.”

He doffed his hat to me in the most charming way and followed me into Molly’s little shop.

I lit the oil lamp and waited with considerable excitement to hear of Mr Clark Obadiah Jackson III’s adventures.

To be continued.

Letter From America

The shimmering airship positively purred as it landed in the grounds of Steampunk-Shrunk Towers. Airship, Floating Islands, Sails, Castle

Charles and Henry – the resident tinkers – were almost tripping over one another to reach it first and see it at close quarters.

With a faint hiss of air from a piston somewhere, a ladder descended and a young lady who (Henry later remarked) shimmered almost as beautifully as her ship, climbed down.

She laughed at their expressions and said, “Well, I reckon y’all must be Mister Charles and Mister Henry, from what I’ve heard.”

The brothers looked – if possible – even more astonished.  It was Charles who remembered his manners first.
“Charles Fortescue at your service, Madame,” he said, “And may I introduce my brother Henry?  To what do we owe this honour?”

“Delighted to meet you both, I’m sure,” the pilot smiled. “My name is Leticia. We have a mutual friend, gentlemen – a charming young man called Jasper Coggleford.  He told me that if I flew Bluejay here it would be you who came out to take a closer look.”

“Little Jasper?” spluttered Henry.  “Jeremiah’s boy?  But how…?”

“Jasper and his father have recently moved to my neighbourhood,”  Leticia explained.  “We struck up a conversation and when I mentioned that I was about to fly across to the West of England, Jasper was most insistent that I should come and make your acquaintance.  He said your eyes would pop out of your heads when you saw Bluejay!  Oh, and he also asked me to hand deliver this letter to you.”

To be honest, the Fortescues were so enchanted with both the airship and its pilot, that it was only several hours after Leticia had finally declined any more tea and biscuits and reluctantly headed off to her appointment in Bristol that Charles remembered Jasper’s envelope.  With a pang of guilt, they sat down to read his letter.

Dear Mister Charles and Mister Henry,

I hope you like Miss Leticia and her airship.  I bet you will!

Me and Pa are nicely settled in at our new home in America.  So are Mr Augustus and Mr Bjørn.  The people here are real nice, as they say around here.

There is one problem, though.  It seems part of our work over here involves battling with a Kraken or two.  Pa is being ever so brave, but I can tell he’s nervous and I am terrified.  I mean, we have some woodworking tools, but what we need are proper weapons.  I don’t know anyone as good as you gents at inventing and tinkering, so I thought maybe you could have a try at making some monster-maiming gizmos.

Miss Leticia is coming back at the end of the month, so if you had anything prepared by then, I know she’d be happy to pick it up.

I know you won’t let us down.

Please say hi to everyone there.

Kindest regards,

Jasper Coggleford

“Hi?” muttered Charles.  “The boy is certainly settling in over there.”

“Yes, yes, but the weapons!” exclaimed Henry.  “They need our help.  Let’s make a start at once!”

There was a marked reluctance on Charles’ part, Henry noticed.  He’d rummaged around and found some swords in an attic, so had set about making armoured leather scabbards.  However he spent rather too long admiring himself in the mirror, whilst brandishing one sword after another and shouting things like, “Have at ye!” and “Take that, vile sea dog!”

“Swords!” grumbled Henry.  “You might slice off a leg or two, but the mouth will still be coming at you.  We need something more, ah, mechanical.  Something to blow the creatures to kingdom come.”

He stood for most of the first day surrounded by what you or I might think of as junk, carefully trying out different combinations and attachments.  By the end of the third day there was a veritable arsenal surrounding him.

“Is that one of Mrs S’s Christmas tree baubles?” asked Charles, suspiciously eyeing the end of one of the largest guns.

“That’s tinkering for you,” was all Henry would reply.

“And that thing with the rotary saw -”

“The Sawful. Yes, isn’t she a beauty?”

“Try walking around with that dangling from your shoulder and you’ll slice your own leg off!” Charles snorted.  “Hand it over – carefully, man.  I’ll make it a protective carrying case.”

“Then they’ll need small pistols,” mused Henry.  “They won’t be able to carry these things about all the time.  Young Jasper probably couldn’t even lift one.”

Charles didn’t speak.
Henry looked long and hard at his brother. “You don’t like weapons much, do you, old boy?”

Charles shrugged. “Not a great fan, if I’m honest,” he said quietly.  “I mean the swords are fine, man-to-man combat, fair enough.  But blasting some dumb creature out of existence with one of those – things…  Hardly cricket, is it?”

Henry grinned.  He clapped his brother gently on the back and nodded.  “I do see your point.  The thing is, I don’t think monsters play by MCC Laws.  How would we feel if we heard little Jasper had had his head torn off by some ravaging beast?  We need to give the poor lad a sporting chance.  Suppose you work on making some belts and holsters, if I work out how to make the pistols?”

“Thanks, old chap.  Appreciate it,” nodded Charles and he headed off to find some more leather.

And when everything was finished and safely packaged, ready for its long journey over the ocean, Charles had one final item prepared – a peacock blue pistol with matching holster as a gift for the pilot of the Bluejay,  because, as Charles explained, you just never know when you might need to protect yourself against an attack from some dreadful creature of the skies.

 

The Black Door

It’s possible that the ancient black wooden door at the front of Steampunk-Shrunk Towers is as old as the building itself.  Certainly there is a huge iron key that looks to be many centuries old.

What comings and goings that door must have seen.  And certainly there have been plenty in the present month.

Just imagine our amazement when the infamous Dr Oskar Kopp and his ‘enhanced’ assistant Bjørn arrived.  They had left us several years ago to accompany a reknowned storyteller and share their tales with her audiences.  Now, it seems, the good lady is moving to another continent and asked whether she could return these gentlemen and their laboratory to us.

If you are unfamiliar with their story, you could go to this link and its successor and read about them.

The doctor, we noticed, looked somewhat older and perhaps slightly frail.  Bjørn, on the other hand, appears to be thriving with his mechanically enhanced brain and strong clockwork heart.  We look forward to hearing about his research into alchemy, when Dr Kopp is out of earshot.

However there have also been some departures.

Augustus Robottom has clearly become disillusioned with the little robots he has been creating.  He grabbed a copy of The Time Traveller’s Companion and announced that he was relocating to Alabama.

“But what about these small, er, devices of yours?”  Mrs S enquired.

“Confound the things!” he said gruffly.  “I suggest sending them over to the Magpie.  I think they would fit in well there.”

“Ah yes.  Excellent idea,” agreed Mrs S, and she began packing them up to take to the rather wonderful Vintage and Curiosities shop she supplies in Midsomer Norton.

The very next day, Mr Coggleford the furniture restorer and young Jasper, his son and apprentice, told us that they intended to follow in Gus’s footsteps and would be taking one of the time machines as well as one of their finest cabinets with them.

All three will be sorely missed here, but we applaud their ambition and hope that their life in the New World will be most successful.

Now we hear rumours that more ladies and gentlemen will be joining us to once again swell the ranks of Steampunk-Shrunk Towers’ inhabitants.  Today, though, with storms raging outside, the massive black door remains firmly shut.

 

Chestnuts roasting on a Steam-Powered Engine?

Steampunk Christmas?  The words don’t go together too well, do they?

Vague images of a brown and black clad Santa in a filthy coal-fuelled sleigh, hauled by robot reindeer, or a rusty artificial tree made with cogs of diminishing sizes…

on sale at Sheampunk-shrunk stallsNevertheless, we do have our own line in suitably eccentric tree decorations.  The Wild and Wonky Decorations are a splendid mix of beads, coiled wire, charms and curiosities.  The odd vintage watch cog, key or teapot may be thrown in for good measure.

Let no one accuse us of having a bah humbug approach to the festive season.

We were delighted with the number of people (mothers and daughters, mostly) who rushed at our recent stall at the Glastonbury Folk Craft Market, crying, “Oh look at those robots/ time machines/ gadgets!  Dad/Uncle Jim/your brother would love one of those.”

Many an item was purchased to be hidden away for Christmas.

Customers also seem to love our tiny items – amulets, potion bottles, scrying mirrors, miniature wax candles and so forth to use as cracker gifts or stocking fillers.

Last but by no means least are our tiny 12th scale books.  All were written in house and each has a full text and coloured cover.  Several are also lavishly illustrated.  There are steampunk stories, a catalogue of Robottom’s robots, a time-traveller’s companion, as well as books of spells, charms and potions.  If you’ve left it too late to have them posted, many are also available in Do-It-Yourself format as instant printable downloads.  All you (or the recipients) need is a printer, a glue stick and a pair of scissors or craft knife.  Full instructions are provided.

Browse the Steampunk Dolls House for all titles available and if you like a bargain, do check the very special price on our DIY book bundle, with a selection of 5 books for less than £1 each.

One customer bought a bunch of these to hand around the dinner table instead of Christmas crackers, so that all her guests could make and go home with their own miniature book.  All titles are suitable for children as well as adults.

Of course there is the usual range of Steampunk figures, furniture, time machines, watch cog jewellery and far more besides at our etsy shop, but please order early, as we have much travelling to do in December.

Festive greetings to all our kind followers and customers.

Robot Rebellion

Poor Augustus.  He looks very apologetic and slightly alarmed.  He holds himself entirely responsible for the furious beeping and light-flashing, not to mention the broken crockery and so forth, but it really isn’t entirely his fault.

You see, when one is a serial collector of all manner of unconsidered trifles, as Shakespeare would have it, there comes a time when a major clear-out must occur.  This was just such a time.

I used vast quantities of broken jewellery, charms and other pleasingly-shaped objects to create some of our Wild and Wonky seasonal tree decorations.   However there is a limit to what can be suspended from a Christmas tree.

I felt that the football boot studs, the broken plastic wind instruments, the polystyrene packaging, the various bottle caps and the two broken toy motorcycles would be a step too far, so I did what I usually do at such times.  I handed them over to the highly enterprising Augustus Robottom and suggested he make some more of his very popular junk robots.

True to form, Gus produced some little wonders.  There was a small butler bot holding a goblet of wine, a robot maid with teapot and cup, several messengers, guard bots and a very cute little handyman with screwdriver, drill and assorted useful bits and bobs.

Then the trouble started.

junk robot bikersGus began to transform the motorbikes.

They had been in a sorry state when I first found them in the 50p box of a local charity shop, but once Augustus had worked his magic and added in some rather unlikely components, he produced a couple of quite extraordinary biker bots.

The paintwork was transformed with glittery nail varnish and metallic wax.  Huge exaust pipes were fashioned from a plastic trumpet and saxophone.  An action figure’s mask became a grille on the front of one.  A plastic drinking straw became a huge steam funnel on the other.  The little robot drivers were fixed into place – one leaning forward eagerly, the other a rather laid-back easy rider.

Gus pronounced himself pleased with the result.

Then the trouble started.

the robots spot the bikerThe smaller robots caught sight of Robot G on his gleaming copper and gold motorbike.  Pandemonium broke out.

Remember R2-D2 at its most animated and loud?  Multiply that by eight and add in the smashing of household items and you’ll have some idea of the hubub caused by the consternation of the jealous little robots.

I’m not sure what that butler was offering me in his jewelled goblet, but it looked rather more like a poisoned chalice than a glass of wine.   Beaded arms and fists were raised and each mouth spewed unbridled fury.  They encircled poor Augustus, each demanding a shiny set of wheels for themselves.  Alas, I had to admit I’d only been able to aquire two bikes.

We both felt it best they didn’t meet Robot I, the second biker.  Fortunately, he was quickly snapped up by a collector in the United States, so their paths will not need to cross.

“Perhaps,” I suggested later, “it would be better to make your next batch of robots without emotion chips.”

Sadly, Augustus agreed.

The remaining robots will be on sale at the Folk Art Market in the Assembly Rooms, Glastonbury, Somerset on Saturday 16th November 2019.  Any who are left will move to one of our Somerset outlets – Magpie Vintage in Midsomer Norton or Street Emporium.  Interested customers who live further afield can contact us via the form on the home page of this website.

 

Spooktacular Views

“Well, young Jasper,”  said Hugo Fforbes, in the deepest and most sinister voice he could manage, “If I pull my cape around myself just so, do you think I could pass for Count Dracula?”

Jasper looked critically at the elderly gentleman and paused.
“Well, Sir,” he said at length, “I think it would be rather a pity to cover your splendid mechanical arm. It looks far more imposing than those false teeth.”

Hugo smiled. “Perhaps you’re right, my boy. I’m just trying to get into this Halloween spirit.”

“Well Pa said we’re already fairly spooky, being retrofuturists and only existing in a parallel universe.  And when I asked Mrs S if she’d be dressing up for the Spooktacular Fair on Saturday, she said if she didn’t wear any make-up that would be enough to scare all the customers away.  She said we should simply be ourselves.”

“Well to be honest, that’s quite a relief,” the Steamic War veteran exclaimed.  “Those vampire teeth cut into my gums most unpleasantly.”

Amulets for protection

“I think it will be a lot like any other Steampunk-Shrunk stall, to be honest,”  added Jeremiah, Jasper’s father, who had just sauntered across to join them.  “We will be displaying our black and silver furniture range.  The witch’s hovel will probably be centre stage and there are all manner of skull candles, steampumpkins and potions for those of a ghoulish disposition.  I gather Mrs S has added in extra copies of the spell and potion books, too.”

“And I’ve never seen so many purple lights,”  grinned Jasper.  “I think it’s going to be rather exciting.”

Bell, book & candle sets

“Well the last time I visited the city of Wells, it seemed a rather sedate place,” Hugo observed.  “Many of the locals seemed to be in the autumn of their lives, one might say, and did not appear the type of persons to dress up in, er…”

“Vampire costumes?” suggested Jasper.

“Touché,” Hugo smiled, tapping the boy’s bowler hat playfully.  “At any rate, I need to go and oil my arm, ready for Saturday.”

“What was that about?”  Jeremiah asked.

“Oh, nothing Pa.  Could we perhaps hide a few of the pumpkins and skulls in our cabinets?”

Trays of potions, cures and poisons

“Well maybe one or two,” agreed his father.  “But keep it subtle.”

It remains to be seen whether Jasper heeds his father’s advice.

If you happen to be in the vicinity of the small – but perfectly formed – city of Wells in Somerset on Saturday 26th October 2019, do come along to the town hall and hunt us out.

Failing that, we will be in the Assembly Rooms in Glastonbury on November 16th – the day of the famous Glastonbury Carnival.

We look forward very much to making your acquaintance at one of these events.  If you live too far away, however, we currently have a Spooky Sale promotion on a number of Halloween-related items (as shown here) at our SteampunkDollsHouse Etsy shop.

The Book of Potions

Greetings again from Steampunk-Shrunk Towers.

Imagine, dear reader, the bats wheeling and swirling overhead and an incalculable quantity of spiders spinning their webs to coat each corner and dangle from every vaulted ceiling.  Little light penetrates the ivy-clad windows at this time of year and even the log fire hisses and smokes as the damp permeates every part of our ancient building.

Does that set the scene nicely for what follows?

We noticed that we have not yet provided the full text for our rather popular little Book of Potions.  We consider it to be perfectly readable, but there are those who complain that the print is rather small, so here follows a complete transcript for your edification.

 

TO ENABLE SILENT MOVEMENT

Place into a cauldron a quart of ditch water, collected in the dark of the moon.  To this add the following:

– a pinch of broomstick fleas

– 4 bats’ wings

– a scoop of octopus slime

– 2 pinches of tarantula hair

Allow to steep for at least 7 days.
Light a fire beneath the cauldron and boil vigorously for several hours, until a yellow film covers the potion and the mixture is thick.
Strain it into jars and allow to stand for some several days until well congealed.

To use:
Rub the potion all over your body and allow to dry before dressing.  You will now be able to sneak up on your enemies or prey.

HEARING POWDER

When old age, or a strong fascination with heavy metal music has rendered you less able to hear clearly, you will find this substance of great assistance.

Crush the following items together in a pestle and mortar:

– 1 ounce of pickled beetles,

– 3 fly agaric mushrooms

a scoop of brain juice

– 7 camomile flowers

Once you have a smooth powder, bind it together with the whites of as many larks’ eggs as needed to make a firm paste.
Leave to dry until hard, then crumble the mixture into jars or bottles.
A small quantity should be placed into each ear.  The effects will last for approximately 12 hours

POTION TO REPEL THE UNDEAD

Prepare a concoction composed of equal parts  wild garlic, hemlock, sumac, mouldy cheese and dried warts.
This substance will prove quite irresistible to your victim and will draw it to sample the potion.
The active ingredient, however, which will drive all zombies away, never to return, is a plant known commonly as Angel’s Tears. This you must dry and crush very finely, combining it with the other ingredients so that the undead do not perceive it.
Steep this mixture in gin for some thirty days, then pour into shot glasses and leave in places where you suspect the undead will gather or approach.

POTION TO INCREASE LIFE EXPECTANCY

While no potion is proof against natural disasters, mob violence or angry villagers with long pointed sticks, this potion is proven to otherwise extend life to the age of at least 350 years. Indeed, Mistress Althemia Potentate claims to have been alive for 487 years after taking a teaspoonful a day for most of her life.

To a pint of cider vinegar (with the mother), add:

– 17 goji berries

– 3 ounces of rolled oats

– 5 eagle toes

– 6 dead men’s teeth (powdered)

– a sprig of rosemary

– a tablespoon of hearing powder (see earlier recipe)

– a slug of sloe gin

– one cup of cold tea

This should be stirred thoroughly and placed overnight in the light of a full moon before straining and bottling it.

One teaspoon a week, diluted in shark blood if preferred, should be sufficient to prolong your life to a considerable degree. However if you wish to enter the Irish Stout Book of Records or decorate your home with cards of congratulation  from many successive monarchs, you could try taking a teaspoon each day.

INVISIBILITY POTION

No book of potion recipes would be complete without one to render you invisible from other humans.  Be warned, however, that you will still be visible to certain creatures, particularly hobgoblins, elves, banshees, sprites, trolls and vampires.

To your cauldron add a pint of spring water and the following ingredients:

– 14 moth wings (any variety)

– 3 desiccated spiders

– 2 grams of powdered bat wings

– an ounce of eagle fat

– a pinch of thyme

– a few drops of octopus ink

Boil vigorously until dark brown in colour and of a treacle-like consistency.
Take a tablespoon an hour before you require invisibility.
NB Effects wear off quickly.

We are sure you will recognise how useful it would be to have your own copy of this invaluable volume.  Fortunately, you can purchases it for a trifling amount from any of the following outlets:

  • The SteampunkDollsHouse Etsy shop (either as a ready-made book or a printable DIY version) with 20% off during October 2019
  • The Crispin Emorium in Street, Somerset, UK as a ready-made book
  • Magpie Vintage in Midsomer Norton (see previous post for location details) as a ready-made book
  • Steampunk-Shrunk stalls, in both formats.  The next one is the Wells Spooktacular in Wells Town Hall, Somerset on October 26th.

 

 

Steaming off to the Seaside

Well no, sadly we won’t be steaming.  there are some quite splendid steam railways around these parts, but our journey this weekend takes us on a couple of buses instead.

We will be journeying through picturesque hillside villages in the Mendips and ending up on the esplanade of the delightful resort of Weston-super-Mare.  Only Mrs S will be able to enjoy the scenery, of course.  The rest of us will be squashed into that suitcase of hers.  Even more annoyingly, she has decided to bring along Mistress Ectophemia Fleabane and her hovel.  The smell is quite distasteful, to say the least.  It is best not to know what she is brewing in that caudron.

There is quite a little party of us, though.  Mr Coggleford and his remarkable son Jasper are coming along for the first time and little Alice will be putting in an appearance, as well myself, Lady Cristabel, Grace Pendleton and the distinguished inventor Augustus Robottom.  We will endeavour to stay as far from that creature as possible, and hope that she finds a new home to plague enjoy.

Coggleford & Son are bringing along a selection of their beautifully restored furniture and there is a slightly alarming ‘spooky section’, influenced, no doubt, by you-know-who.

 

I have to admit, though, the display is going to look quite striking with all those purple lights shining up through the potion bottles and amulets.  Not to mention the creepy cabinets!

All in all, we should have a very inviting stall at the Dollshouse and Miniatures Fair being held at the rather impressive Royal Hotel on Sunday 22nd September from 10am – 4pm.

Do hope some of you will be able to visit, and please buy that Fleabane woman  yourselves some delightful miniature treasures.

Kind regards,

Delilah Camshaft

Book of Spells

“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

 

 

Grimoires

Mrs S is away from home at the moment. Leaving Steampunk-Shrunk Towers in the capable hands of Charles and Henry, she has traversed the country once again and is sojourning in the sweltering East.

To keep her occupied in spare moments, she has taken a sheaf of printed covers and pages to construct a plentiful supply of Grimoires – enough to tide us through the plethora of Steampunk-Shrunk stalls coming up this autumn and to cover the inevitable rise in demand at the SteampunkDollsHouse shop around Halloween.

Cutting and glueing the spell books together is the easy part. Each page then needs to be ‘distressed’ to give the appearance of great age.

This is a time-consuming process involving a variety of substances and techniques. Grimoires, after all, must expect to be exposed to all manner of strange environments and materials over the centuries.

Once suitably ancient in appearance, each little volume will be offered for sale. No two are completely alike.

As for the spells, charms and advice hidden within their pages – customers should take these with a large pinch of salt (along with essence of bat wing, scale of newt and a sprinkling of items digg’d in the dark).

Credit must be given to Betsy at www.etsy.com/shop/chocolaterabbit for the excellent covers and illustrations.