Autolycus

Sometimes we like to push ourselves a bit – yes?

I fell in love with this image on Instagram and decided to try and make something similar at 1/12 scale... I had these cheap old prams kicking around, so they were the starting point. 
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#steampunkshrunk #steampunk #miniatures #modellingSo I was staring at this gorgeous picture on Instagram – yes, this one here – and thinking how much I’d like to create something like it.  Now I don’t have a soldering iron or any other metal-working skills or equipment.  My woodworking ability stops at cutting up coffee stirrers and lolly sticks with a junior hacksaw.  In fact, I’m strictly a glue-and-cardboard person if I need to make anything rigid.  It didn’t look particularly hopeful.

Then I remembered that I had a couple of cheap 1:12 scale metal prams.  I put them next to the photo and decided the larger one might just work.  Well, it was worth a try.

First part mounted on the chassis. 
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#steampunkshrunk #steampunk #miniatures #modellingFirst there was much measuring, pattern cutting and trial and error with some nice brown card I had lying about.  Next each piece was lined with card-backed fabric in a subdued floral pattern and the centre part of the body was glued in place.  It looked roughly the right shape.

Putting together the dashboard, steering wheel and brake was easy, as was the little padded leather seat.  My horseless carriage was coming together.

If it was going to be horseless, it needed an alternative power source.  Steam – obviously.  I cobbled together a little steam engine to go on the front and used a drinking straw covered in copper tape for the funnel.

The basic bodywork in place (cardboard with several coats of clear gloss varnish)
www.steampunk-shrunk.com 
#steampunkshrunk #steampunk #miniatures #modellingIt was at around this point that the vehicle’s name came to me.  In Shakespeare’s A Winter’s Tale, there’s a character called Autolycus.  He describes himself as ‘A snapper-up of unconsidered trifles’ and that is exactly what this vehicle was becoming.  A spring from a ballpoint pen, the stick from a cotton bud, several small rubber washers, along with beads, chains, charms and jump rings from my junk jewellery collection all went into it.  So The Autolycus it would be.

The boot was turned into a strong box, with tiny nail art crystals for the rivets.  The windows were cut from clear acrylic packaging and set into suede strip seals.

Finally – and very nervously – I put the whole body together.  A couple of coats of clear gloss acrylic varnish gave it look not too unlike polished wood, and strips of leather thong worked well for trims.  The roof frame was – obviously – made from coffee stirrers!  The door was attached with a strip of cotton tape and some faux hinges made of beads stuck to the outside.  More beads and some earring wires made a pair of suitably ancient-looking lamps and at last The Autolycus was finished.

Obviously it lacks the beautiful clean lines of the vehicle that inspired it, but I’m not unhappy with the overall result and I’m sure the ladies and gents at Steampunk-Shrunk will be rather interested in this strange vehicle, despite the fact that it’s the steampunk equivalent of a smart car and only the skinniest and most agile contortionist would be able to get inside and steer the thing. No automatic alt text available.

 

The Autolycus will be on display at various Steampunk days and miniature fairs in the New Year.  Check the home page on this site for details of dates and venues.

 

 

The Case of The Globe

A complete change from steampunk, and a huge challenge… but a friend commissioned me to put Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre into one of my little cardboard cases.

To begin with I just gawped at her, but she had it all figured out.  The audience would go on the back wall, there would be some Tudor theatregoers in boxes to the sides of the stage and the fold-down tray of the case would provide the stage itself.
“I’d like a scene from A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” she said. “Titania in her bower, with Bottom wearing his ass’s head and Puck nearby.

My first impulse was to run screaming from the house, but gradually I began to see it emerging in my mind’s eye and once that happens, I start making.

So here is the basic box layout.  All my spare miniature people – the ones awaiting transformation – had to dress as extras and be photographed many times to make the audience backdrop!

And here is a wealthy member of the audience.  One of Mr Shakespeare’s patrons, perhaps.  He certainly has one of the finest seats in the house.

Titania’s bower is a mix of wire and artificial flowers, with velvet cushions the colour of moss and grass.  The fairy queen herself has glittering wings, a floaty silver and translucent dress, a crown of opals and rose gold chains and long golden hair.

The portly Bottom, by contrast, wears rough hessian clothes, as befits a ‘rude mechanical’.  His donkey head is removable.  To be honest, I think he looks better with it on!

Finally Puck – my favourite – has cropped green hair and feather wings.  He carries the purple herb he used to bewitch Titania, who is now hopelessly enamoured of the ‘translated’ Bottom.

There’s a little more to do – some scenery to depict the woodland and another gentleman to watch the play, but this – roughly – is how it will look.

 

A Point of Honour

Freddy.
Www.steampunk-shrunk.com 
#steampunkshrunk #steampunk #miniatures #modellingFreddy Huntington-Groff casually selected one of the silver-handled screwdrivers from his breast pocket and lifted the bonnet.

“Hang on, old chap,” Tobias cried, leaping from the driving seat and vaulting over the door.  “What do you think you’re doing?”
“Fan belt needs tightening. Can’t you hear it when you start her up? Won’t take a jiffy. There. that should do it. Start her up again old boy. She should purr like a kitten now.”
“I’ll check later. Got some pressing business to attend to right now,” muttered Tobias savagely as he strode away.

Yes, tensions were building. Tobias had always viewed the car as his ‘Angel’ but now, with Freddy’s arrival on the scene, he appeared to have a rival.

Freddy was quietly spoken, handsome, suave – some would say oily. He knew all there was to be known about cars, and when he slipped on his driving goggles, took his place at the wheel and tossed his top hat on to the passenger seat, he looked as if he belonged there.
“Don’t mind if I take her for a spin, do you?” he’d enquire, casually, while Tobias stood by, smouldering.

It happened that the Admiral’s wife, the lovely Josephine Cholmondeley, was observing these events.
“Gentlemen,” she murmured sweetly, when Freddy returned from his drive with a barely-concealed smirk playing around his lips, “Surely there is a dignified way for you to settle your differences?”

Both men turned to look at her. It was difficult to look anywhere else when Josephine was in the vicinity.
“What are you suggesting, Madam?” asked Freddy, somewhat cautiously.
“I believe Lady Josephine is suggesting a duel,” said Tobias, his eyes glittering more dangerously than ever. “Am I correct, Your Ladyship?”

Josephine laughed softly. “It would indeed be an honourable solution, Mister Blasthorner. Shall I arrange a little tiffin party?”
“Ah, what type of weapon did you have in mind?” Freddy enquired.
“Cows, naturally,” replied Josephine.
“What else?” smiled Tobias, grimly. “Cows it is, then. Four o’clock Saturday?”

Freddy’s state of confusion and alarm was not lost on Josephine. “If you’d just accompany me on a perambulation around the grounds, Mister Huntington-Groff,” she murmured sweetly, “I’ll explain the uh, intricacies of the rules of tea-duelling as followed in these parts. I know they can sometimes vary from place to place.”
Gratefully, Freddy took his place at her side.

“Ahem, tea-duelling, Lady Chol-?” began Freddy, when they were out of Tobias’ earshot.
“It’s pronounced ‘Chumley’, dear Sir, and yes, a tea-duel is a most noble way to settle differences in an honourable manner.  No one is injured, but the results are absolutely binding, you understand.”
Freddy nodded, marginally comforted.
“But – cows?” he ventured.
Josephine gave her tinkling laugh. “Malted milk biscuits. They bear the image of a cow; hence the name. Each duellist is given a keg of tea – I always use fine bone china cups. I should have mentioned that I am a certified Tiffin Mistress, qualified to preside at these events.  Very basically, you both dunk your chosen weapon on the command, leave it in the tea for my count of five.  You win by being the last to take a clean nom, or bite, from the biscuit.”

Josephine went on to explain more of the rules, which you, dear reader can discover by watching the cinematographic production above.

The following Monday, I was approached by Tobias.
“Madam,” he said solemnly, “It seems that Huntington-Grof is more suited to working with The Angel than I.  I feel my talent lies more in creative pursuits than fumbling beneath car bonnets.  I have decided to travel to the Steampunk Dolls’ House.  My hope is that from there I will move on to a new home, where my talents and advice will be appreciated.  I hope you understand.”
“Indeed I do, Tobias,” I told him. “I’ll miss you, but I’m sure you’ll be very happy amongst the ladies and gentlemen there.”

The Steampunk Dolls’ House can be found by clicking here.  Car interior complete. 1/12 scale.  The map can be removed from the leather pocket.
Www.steampunk-shrunk.com 
#steampunkshrunk #steampunk #miniatures #vintagecarTobias and several other members of the Steampunk – Shrunk community will be joining the others there within the next few weeks, while Freddy,  Josephine and The Angel will remain with those of us who visit craft fairs, steampunk events and miniatures sales.

 

The Grimoire

 

Should the contents of this ancient tome be made public?  We sincerely doubt it.  People approach our sales area, lovingly handle copies of the book and purchase it.  Since it measures only one inch from top to bottom, though, they are incapable of reading the text, so all remains well.

However we have been prevailed upon to make the book’s contents generally available and – with more than a few reservations – have agreed to do so.

The covers and most illustrations are by a singularly talented lady called Betsy, who virtually resides at Chocolate Rabbit.  If you click here you can visit her shop.

The text is ancient and handed down through the ages but compiled many hundreds of years ago by Messrs Aubrey and Dee.  A few copies have recently surfaced and can be purchased via Steampunk – Shrunk.

Spells and Charms    W. Aubrey & J. Dee

Introductory Notes
This being hopefully too small to be viewed with the naked eye, it is to be hoped that what follows will not be taken in too literal a sense by any readers, since following these recipes could result in all manner of foul and unpleasant effects, which could render the reader or his subject insensible or possibly deceased.
You have been warned.
The second reason for keeping to this miniscule size is that we can’t spare the time to write an entire book on a subject of which our knowledge is sadly lacking in any case.
Some preliminary notes on the Philosophers’ Stone.
safely unreadableShould the apostrophe come before or after the s there?  We are not entirely sure whether we speak here of one or multiple philosophers.  Certainly it may be the case that the esteemed authors of this tome were able to conjure this miraculous substance, but we are not telling.  How stupid do you think we are?  History will be able to judge whether or not we have been successful in our attempt to discover the source of eternal youth.  Should this volume be published posthumously, or read in a time when one or both is no longer incarnate, then the reader may judge for himself our lack of success in this area.
So anyway, we digress.  Let us set out a simple recipe for the preparation of the substance you require.  Easy as making scrambled eggs, honestly.
Take equal parts of blood from a recently slaughtered beast – sorry vegetarians and vegans, we’ve lost you already.  Anyway, as we said, blood, mixed with equal parts of phosphorous, zinc, yellow sulphur and spirits of aqua vitae.  The stench will be beyond your wildest imaginings and will reduce grown men to tears and fits of the vapours.  Nevertheless, it is vital to persevere.  Perhaps placing a handkerchief or a nosegay of country herbs close to your nose will be of some assistance.  We sincerely doubt it.  We suspect this will be about a useful as it was in preventing individuals from catching the plague.
Once you have your mixture, it must be distilled at least three times.  We’re assuming you have access to a still.  If not, why on earth are you bothering to read this book?  Honestly – amateurs.  We have no regard for such people.
After the distillation process, you will be left with a clear substance the colour of dark urine.  To this, add an equal quantity of – you guessed it – dark urine.  This should preferably be collected from a virgin at full moon.  However, in our experience, such ladies seem strangely reticent to provide said liquid to honest students of natural science and you may find you have to use your own, or pay the young woman handsomely for the substance.
Next the mixture must be left to putrefy for at least seven weeks.  You will probably find, as we did, that long before this time has elapsed, you will have been evicted from your lodgings and all neighbours within a hundred yard radius will have fled to the countryside, since the odour is rather pungent.
Persevere, dear reader.  You are inching ever closer to the miraculous substance you wish to produce.
The next stage is to obtain one dozen of the finest hens’ eggs, as freshly laid as may be.  Break the eggs into a bowl and do with them as you will.
This might be a good time to make those scrambled eggs we mentioned earlier.  Now retrieve all the eggshells you have just cast upon your midden or added to your recycling bin (depending on the era in which you are reading this).  Place in a mortar – or is it a pestle?  Never really figured out which bit was which.  Anyhow, put them in the bowl-shaped one and pound them vigorously with the other thing.
When they are well smashed, add to them 4 drams of camphor.
Continue to pound vigorously, or simply stick the whole mess in the blender if you have one.  We’re giving ourselves away a bit here, aren’t we?  I think you’ve probably rumbled us by now.  Either this book is an elaborate hoax or we stumbled upon the secrets of time travel and have visited the XX1 century.  Since you don’t know which, though, you’ll just have to keep reading.
each page individually agedNow since this book – which no one will be able to read in any case – is taking an inordinate amount of time to write, we will now do some judicious cutting and pasting.  Kindly pass me the dagger and a pot of the boiled calves’ foot glue, Mr Aubrey, if you’d be so kind.
Take equal parts of blood from a recently slaughtered beast – sorry vegetarians and vegans, we’ve lost you already.  Anyway, as we said, blood, mixed with equal parts of phosphorous, zinc, yellow sulphur and spirits of aqua vitae.  The stench will be beyond your wildest imaginings and will reduce grown men to tears and fits of the vapours.  Nevertheless, it is vital to persevere.  Perhaps placing a    handkerchief or a nosegay of country herbs    close to your nose will be of some assistance.  We sincerely doubt it.  We suspect this will be about a useful as it was in preventing individuals from catching the plague.
Once you have your mixture, it must be distilled at least three times.  We’re assuming you have access to a still.  If not, why on earth are you bothering to read this book?  Honestly – amateurs.  We have no regard for such people.
After the distillation process, you will be left with a clear substance the colour of dark urine.  To this, add an equal quantity of – you guessed it – dark urine.  This should preferably be collected from a virgin at full moon.  However, in our experience, such ladies seem strangely reticent to provide said liquid to honest students of natural science and you may find you have to use your own, or pay the young woman handsomely for the substance.
Next the mixture must be left to putrefy for at least seven weeks.  You will probably find, as we did, that long before this time has elapsed, you will have been evicted from your lodgings and all neighbours within a hundred yard radius will have fled to the countryside, since the odour is rather pungent.
As you will doubtless have gathered, that was a rather longwinded way of saying you need to repeat the initial process.  You now have two vats of very smelly liquid and one of almost as smelly powder.
The next step is to combine all of these in a large iron cauldron.  This must then be heated over a fire, stirring continuously for the first fifteen hours.
After that, leave it to simmer until all the liquid has evaporated and you are left with a blackened crust at the bottom of the cauldron.  This must be scraped from the vessel and pounded.  We do like a good bit of pounding.
We suggest mixing this with half a jar of Modge Podge.  This is a wondrous substance available in the XX1 century and does the job like no other.
Congratulations.  Once it has set, you will have your very own philosopher’s or philosophers’ stone.
As you will see in the illustration, you will now be able to grow an extra head and stand atop a fire-breathing dragon with total impunity.

 

On Traversing Time
This is obviously the real reason you purchased this volume.
That [illustration – you’d need to buy the book to see it] is a very lame attempt to make this look vaguely mathematical, but since you won’t be able to read it (and nor will the guy we lifted the page from) there’s no harm in it really and we have almost half a book to fill.
Some preliminary notes on traversing time:
Basically, time is no more than a convenient form of measurement.  We are accustomed to using it in one direction only, from past, through the present and towards an uncertain and – as most common people believe – unknowable future.
However there is far more to time than that.  If you are in doubt, we suggest a visit to Old Mother Hambledon at the third cottage after the gallows on Black Heath Common.
Half an hour in the company of this good woman will convince you of one of two things – either that time is quite capable of standing still, since half an hour in her company is equivalent to several days in the company of any other, or – should she be having one of her good days – that she is capable of seeing into the future as easily as you can see this book in front of your face.
Once it has become apparent to you that time can be – let us say – manipulated, you will be eager to experiment further.
It would be tempting to explore metaphysics at this point and talk some real sense, as we have in fact performed some fascinating experiments in this area.  This is, however a grimoire, and as such, you will be expecting a set of arcane charms, spells and other superstitious twaddle.
Far be it from us to disappoint a willing audience.  We get royalties on this book.  They are derisory, of course, but nevertheless, they keep the banshees, hobgoblins and other nasties from the door.
So, a spell you will get.
A Spell to Traverse Time
One groat’s worth of raw liver, chopped finely
A generous handful of henbane
111 fly agaric mushrooms
11 spoons of goose grease
A pinch of white arsenic
A quart of fine ale
Pulverise and mix all the ingredients, then heat in your cauldron.  It may be advisable to wash out the cauldron if you have recently prepared the philosopher’s or philosophers’ stone.
Please note, in this volume we use Roman numerals.  It is an ancient grimoire, after all.  We are just slightly concerned that some readers may have read the recipe as one hundred and eleven mushrooms, as opposed to three.  Believe us, three will be plenty.
Anyway, back to the spell.  Stir the mixture seventy-five times widdershins by a waning moon.
Continue to pound vigorously, or simply stick the whole mess in the blender if you have one.  We’re giving ourselves away a bit here, aren’t we?  I think you’ve probably rumbled us by now.  Either this book is an elaborate hoax or we stumbled upon the secrets of time travel and have visited the XX1 century.  Since you don’t know which, though, you’ll just have to keep reading.
Yes, we admit it.  Another cut and paste job.  It’s getting late.
Allow the mixture to cool.
Imbibe as much as you can without vomiting too profusely and remain seated.  If you have followed the recipe exactly, you will find your head begins to spin.  No, that wasn’t figurative.  We mean it.  You will then find yourself rising into the aether and experiencing life in a very different time frame to the one you normally inhabit.
Do not be overly alarmed, unless of course you find yourself in a particularly alarming period of the past or future.  In which case, feel free to be as alarmed as seems prudent.
The effects of the potion will wear off at some point, but not – naturally – a point in time, since you have traversed that medium, remember?
We hope you find the experience as edifying and instructive as you wish it to be.  There are a few side effects, so if you should experience nausea, dizziness, ringing in the ears, or any other appendage, don’t attempt litigation.  We – remember – are highly experienced time travellers and you will never catch up with us.

 

A Charm to Cure Warts
Every spell book has one of these.  We have no idea why.  What’s the problem with warts anyway?  Surely a charm to cure smallpox or world poverty or something would be far more useful, but our editor insisted.
“Give them a wart spell, boys,” he told us, and who are we to argue?
Here you are then:
      Tie a piece of white muslin around the affected area.  Spit upon it copiously and turn around 111 (that’s three) times, repeating this ditty:
Begone thou warty and mendicant wart.
I wish to see thee no more
As thou offendst mine eyen.
Drop from my body and sink in the dust
There to be consumed
By a ravaging cur or starving she-wolf
Or a rampaging hedgehog or badger.
In fact I’m not fussed what eats thee
So long as thou leavest me in peace.
I trust thou hast the message by now.
Begone thou foul and loathly wart.
 If that doesn’t do the trick, we are sorry to say that you are stuck with the wart.  But hey, it could be a plague of boils, so really, just be happy with your lot.

 

We hope you have enjoyed our grimoire.  Do visit our Amazon page if you ever find yourself in a time when such things exist.

 

Illustrated copies of the Grimoire are available From Steampunk – Shrunk at £4.50 each and can be shipped for the cost of a large letter.  Please use the contact form on our home page.  This is a limited edition of 99 books and each is individually compiled and aged by hand.

 

 

The Magical Mechanical Bird

a young showmanMy pa made the bird.  He’s Mister William Forsey and when I grow up, I’m going to be just like him – a tinker as well as a showman.  My name is Rufus, by the way.  I’m ten years old and I have a very important job.  I run the Magical Mechanical Bird Show in the little fairground booth my pa built.

only Rufus can fit insideThe ticket office is too small for Ma or Pa to get inside, but I fit just fine.  When I grow too big, one of my brothers or sisters will have to take over and I’ll get on with learning my pa’s craft.  Pa’s proud of me.  He wrote ‘Wm. Forsey & Son’ on the poster, so I’d be part of the company.  Some day we’ll have a whole load of automatons and people will come from all over the world to watch and wonder at them.

preparing the mechanical birdFirst thing I have to do is wind up the machine and check that it’s all working smoothly.  Pa says I’m a natural when it comes to knowing where a lick of oil should go or what bolts to tighten.  You see?  I’ve got tinker’s blood in me veins.  I’ll make wonderful contraptions when I’m older.

hiding the bird from viewNext I pull the curtain across, so the bird’s hidden and go out the front to tout for business.  All the ladies love me and they beg their beaus to buy a ticket.  Ma says it’s on account of my fair hair and big eyes.  I think it’s more likely my witty patter that draws ’em in.
Once a lady said, “Is the poor bird trapped in a cage?”
She thought it was a real bird, even though the sign clearly says ‘Mechanical’.
“Oh no, Ma’am,” I told her. “That bird is as free as I am.”
She was so pleased, she asked her gentleman to give me a farthing, and to show off to her, he gave me three ha’pence!
When I told Pa later what had happened, he said it was a good reply I’d given.  I told him it was true, because both me and the bird are as free as each other – stuck in that booth all day.  That got me a clip round the ear, though, so I need to learn when to keep me mouth shut, I reckon.

selling ticketsAnyhow, once I’ve got a good crowd, I go into the ticket office and sell them all tickets to watch the show.  I have to keep the office locked all day, so no one will steal our takings.  Ma took the chain from Grandpa’s old watch and fixed the office key to it, so I can wear it on me waistcoat, just like a toff!  Real silk, that waistcoat is, and me trousers are pa’s old moleskins cut down.  They’re a bit on the roomy side, but I’ll grow into them.

Next is my favourite part.  I come out of the office, draw back the curtain and you should hear the ‘Ooohs’ and ‘Aaahs’ when they see the machine.  The gilded bird sits on a gold tablecloth and Pa has left all the mechanical parts showing, so people can see how amazing an automaton is.  There’s gleaming brass and steel cogs and cams and levers, a little set of bellows that work a Swanee whistle, so the bird can sing, and the cam is fixed up so that as the bird twists and turns, the notes of its warbling change.

I call out, very loud, “And now, Ladies and Gentlemen, for your delight and delectation, the Magical Mechanical Bird will come to life before your very eyes and ears.”
That’s Pa’s cue to pull the knob at the back of the booth to release the crank wheel, and the bird begins to sing and twirl.

All the punters gasp and cheer and clap and I feel so proud of Pa and Ma and meself, for entertaining folks so royally.

 

The Case of the Magical Mechanical Bird will be on display at All Things Miniature in Haddenham, Bucks on Saturday September 23rd. 

A video of the mechanical bird in action can be seen here, on the Steampunk – Shrunk Facebook page.

You are in with a chance…!

The pages have been carefully removedI told you the competition would be small – in every sense of the word.  Let’s just say I’ve yet to be inundated with entries, so you stand a very good chance of winning.

For those who have not yet discovered it, or need to refresh their memories, the details are here: probably-the-smallest-competition-in-the-world.

All you have to do is to write the missing chapter of the book you will find there in less than 1000 words (even the book is small).  It’s open to anyone and you could win a unique copy of the book with your chapter inserted.  True, you’ll struggle to read it, since the book is only 2cm (3/4 inch) tall but the winning chapter will also appear on this site, along with the author’s name and any biographical details they wish to add.

A touching moment for the valiant coupleThe closing date for entries is Monday 21st August, so do get writing.

We are longing to discover how Algernon changed from being a dull, downcast gentleman whose only interest was in horse riding, to become Admiral of the High Skies, a national hero responsible for ridding the airways of troublesome Airship Pirates.

Still Probably the Smallest Competition – Update

Olivia Libris here, author of ‘The Vital Chapter’.

Dear Readers,

I understand that some of you are busily engaged in the task of recreating the missing chapter of my book, in order to enter our diminutive contest.  I await your entries with eager anticipation, having completely forgotten my own version of events and having foolishly failed to save a copy.  May this be a lesson to us all.

One of Steampunk - Shrunk's intriguing room cases, at 1/12 scale.I’m delighted to inform you that The Case of the Missing Chapter itself (a one twelfth scale room in a carrying case) has now been transferred to its new owner – a story-teller par excellence, who took delivery of it yesterday.  

The competition, however, continues apace and you have only a few remaining weeks to enter.  See full details by clicking here.

One final note:  The eagle-eyed amongst you will have noticed that a few more words were missing from the version of the story printed in last week’s post.  In Chapter 3, Harvey’s response to Algy when discussing a possible move to Africa was erroneously omitted.  This fault has now been rectified and the correct version of the conversation is reprinted below for your edification.

Algernon's younger brother, after a long balloon ride“Oh such adventures are just fine for a young fellow like yourself, my dear Harvey.  Nothing to hold you here, no family or obligations to consider.  I’m delighted for you, old boy.  Wouldn’t do for me, though.  There’s this old pile to keep up, the staff to consider, all the horses… and I couldn’t ask Josephine to up sticks and adjust to such a difficult climate.”

“Pah!  Loads of lovely ladies over there!” returned Harvey.  “They have a whale of a time.  As for this old place – sell it up and start afresh.  You’ll make your fortune.  Nothing to lose.”

“Well I’ll give it some thought,” Algernon replied, and promptly left the room and headed back to his study.

 

I look forward very much to reading your competition entries.  Please continue writing and sharing the information among your like-minded acquaintances.

Sincerely yours,

O Libris

P.S. Might I be vulgar enough to insert a brief mention of the splendid Steampunk Dolls House Etsy shop which can be found at this link, where many of Steampunk – Shrunk’s extraordinary one-off creations are available for purchase worldwide?

Probably the Smallest Competition in the World

Here it is, then: the competition to finish off the Vital Chapter saga.

It will be small.  I only do small.

The prize will be small – barely an inch wide or long.  The number of entries will be small, as my ability to publicise on social media is sadly lacking and Steampunk-Shrunk is rather, er, niche, to say the least.

However it will give you the chance to win a totally unique miniature book, which you will have helped to write, and it will be fun, for all of us.

Briefly, then:  I made a 1:12 scale room – a library – in a little case.  It was called The Case of the Missing Chapter and in the room was a very small book, containing the story of one Algernon  Cholmondeley, but with the vital chapter explaining the remarkable change in this gentleman’s fortunes carefully removed by a person or persons unknown.

Your task, dear reader, is to write that missing chapter!  Algy’s story, along with photos of the dolls, gadgets and settings I ended up making along the way, has been serialised on this website over the past few weeks.  It’s reproduced in its entirety below, to save you the trouble of hunting through the archives.

What to do, terms and conditions and all that jazz:

  • Write your own version of Chapter 4 (max 1000 words) and submit it either in the ‘Leave a reply’ box at the bottom of the page or via the contact form just above it.
  • It would also be very helpful if you would tag, share or otherwise notify one or two like-minded friends of the competition and encourage them to visit this site.  (I’m assured this is how savvy entrepreneurs drum up business.)
  • By entering, you agree that if you win or are a close runner-up, your name (real or pseudonym, as you prefer) and your chapter can be printed on this website, which is available for public viewing.
  • No copies of the winning chapter – other than the single prize edition – will be made or offered for sale and the copyright remains the author’s own.
  • Information you provide (name, email address etc.) will only be used for the purposes of this competition and will not be stored or passed on to anyone else.
  • One winner will receive a one-off printed copy of the completed book including their chapter at 1:12 scale (readable with a powerful magnifying glass).  No cash alternative, as this unique item will be, obviously, priceless.
  • Oh yes, closing date – almost forgot!  All entries to be received by Monday 21st August 2017.  Winner will be notified by 2nd September.
  • Phew!  I think that’s it.  I’m new to this sort of thing.

Should I receive any entries (told you it was small!) Olivia Libris  – the entirely fictional author of the book – will select the chapter that seems to her to fit best with the style, content and general silliness of the original and it will be printed for all to enjoy in a further post.

Here, then, is the story as it currently stands:

The Vital Chapter by O Libris
Chapter 1

Since the beginning of the year, Algernon Cholmondeley had been feeling somewhat out of sorts.

It began when his prize peacock simply keeled over and died in the very centre of the drive on New Year’s Day.  By unfortunate circumstances, many guests were due at The Grey House for a party on that very occasion.  Carriages and steam-powered automobiles had been arriving for some time.  Each driver had been forced to swerve to avoid the bird, which was lurching around and staggering about in the most ungainly manner.  The screeching of brakes and the parping of horns and claxons provided an unwelcome accompaniment to the gentle welcome offered by Algernon and his delightful wife Josephine.

At four minutes past five precisely, the peacock stood still, made a feeble attempt to confound death by opening its once-splendid tail, fell to the ground and flopped untidily on the lawn which lay at the centre of the gravelled driveway.

“Did you know there’s a dead peacock in the middle of the drive, Algernon, old chap?” asked one guest after another as they arrived at the front door.

No seasonal felicitations.  No extended hand offering a friendly shake.  Not even enquiries into the health of the host and hostess.

Some delivered the line with concern, others with wry amusement, a few with puzzlement and still more with unconcealed hilarity.

Nor did it stop there.  Once inside the ballroom, the guests continued to discuss the deceased creature with gusto.  Ladies were heard to express wistful desires for a feather or two to adorn their hats, since the unfortunate possessor of these trimmings would no longer be in any need of them.

“A few of those exquisite breast feathers would set off my new gown quite wonderfully,” one lady was heard to say.  “Just the shade of turquoise I have been searching for.  I wonder whether it would be indelicate to ask.”

The gentlemen seemed more interested in how the bird would taste roasted with an apple and cranberry stuffing, but felt it unlikely that the cook would have time to prepare it for that evening’s banquet.
“Just drawing and plucking a bird that size would take a number of hours, I would imagine,” sighed a gentleman who looked to have consumed more than enough delicacies during the festive season, given the strain placed upon his waistcoat buttons.

Next the conversation turned to possible reasons for the creature’s demise.  The early arrivals were able to give those who had appeared more recently a fascinating account of the peacock’s final hours.  With many sound effects and gesticulations, they re-enacted the problems they had encountered during their attempts to negotiate the drive and park safely.

“Staggering about like a drunk, it was!”  announced Charlie Stammers-Bottington.  “Quite thought I was going to hit the beast.  First it veered one way, then the other, with never a glance towards my vehicle.  And you fellows must admit, it’s not an easy thing to miss.”

Others agreed readily that Charlie’s traction engine was indeed a very powerful presence on any driveway, and would be hard to ignore.

A man in a brown suit, whose brother-in-law was a veterinarian, said he’d heard the aforesaid brother-in-law speak of an outbreak of avian influenza, which had swept across the country from Prussia.  There was a general consensus that this was the most probable cause of death.
“It’ll probably spread to any other birds on the estate,” someone warned.

“Do you keep any other birds, Algy?” Henry Stuffingham called across the room.  “Probably best to have them shot and burn the carcasses.  Can’t be too careful with something like this, y’know.”

Algernon poured himself another glass of brandy and shook his head.  The conversation showed no sign of abating.  His attempts to instigate some lively parlour games fell – if not on deaf ears – on ears that were deaf to any subject beyond the accursed peacock.

Even at dinner, the subject refused – unlike its physical counterpart – to die.
“That roast bird’s a good size,” one wag remarked.  “Not a peacock by any chance?”

The raucous laughter which followed this rather weak joke was the final straw for poor Algernon.
He rose unsteadily to his feet and roared, “If anyone else raises the subject of that confounded bird this evening, they may consider themselves unwelcome in this house, both now and in the future!  Kindly do not allude to it in any way whassover – what sever – oh!  Just drat the thing, that’s all!”

He sank back into his chair, covered his face with his hand and began to weep.

There was the most awkward silence, which seemed to last for an eternity.  It was as if, deprived of their sole topic of conversation, the guests had been rendered quite mute.

Dinner was finished silently, apart from the clanking of silver on fine bone china, which sound now seemed extraordinarily loud.

As soon as was deemed prudent, first one couple then another made lame and hurried excuses for their early departure and left.  There was a veritable stampede for the door, so much so, that quite a queue of vehicles formed, waiting to leave.  All eyes within them stared balefully at the corpse of the peacock, but no lips moved.

It was unlikely that any of these people – his once dearest friends and acquaintances – would ever return, Algernon mused, glumly.  His name would, for all time, be inexorably linked to this bird.

“Oh Algernon?” people would say, “the chap with the dead peacock?”

Sniggers would follow.  He would be a laughing stock from that day forth.

 

Chapter 2

This unfortunate circumstance was, as has previously been intimated, only the beginning of a set of events which seemed to go from bad to worse.

Algernon’s mother-in-law came down with a most tiresome condition, which seemed to involve a great deal of coughing – particularly during the small hours and after lunch – and it was decided that she would have to stay at the Grey House until she was well enough to return to London.

This lady had never been particularly well-disposed towards her son-in-law.  Now that her temper was rendered somewhat shorter, presumably by her malady and lack of sleep, she became quite vociferous in her criticism and complaints about him.

“Why ever didn’t you marry that boy from the East India Company, Josephine?” she would demand of her daughter.  “Much better prospects, I would have said.” or  “Oh my dear, are you still wearing that style?  Surely your husband could afford to buy you something a little less dated?”

Josephine busied herself with bathing her mother’s forehead and preparing herbal concoctions to ease her cough, and looked endlessly miserable.

Algernon couldn’t decide whether this was because she secretly agreed with her mother and was now regretting her marriage or because her mother’s criticisms of her beloved husband distressed her severely, although she was unwilling to contradict her ailing parent.

He considered asking his wife which of these was the case, in order to calm his tormented mind, but – if truth be told – his mood was now so low that he strongly suspected that it was the former, and could not bring himself to have his worst fears confirmed.

In February – in fact on February 14th – the parlour maid and Algy’s favourite groom eloped together.  Algernon was furious at the inconvenience caused by this selfish action. Why should servants run off to enjoy a future together without a second thought for those they left behind?  Now he would have to find replacements for them and the new staff would need to be trained in how matters were conducted at the Grey House.

None of the aforementioned events could be called catastrophic, but together they created a most unhappy state of affairs for Algernon and he became extremely downhearted. He took to hiding away in his study for long hours and even chose to have his meals there on frequent occasions.
“Algy, dear, please don’t punish me so!” entreated Josephine.  “I know mother can be rather tiresome and I understand that you are not in the best of humours, but I do miss your company at dinner.”

Alas, Algernon was deaf to the pleadings of his beautiful wife.  He simply became more introspective and silent.

Chapter 3

Image may contain: 1 personOn a bright morning in early spring, Harvey’s hot air balloon crash landed in the vegetable patch.  He’d been aiming for the meadow, but a sudden gust of wind in the final moments of descent blew him off course.

Harvey was Algernon’s younger brother.  Josephine had summoned him back from the Congo as her alarm at Algernon’s state of mind continued to grow.  If anyone could cheer her husband, it would be Harvey.

“What in the name of thunder is going on?” screamed Algernon, racing out of the French doors to inspect the damage to his property.

“Who the deuce has landed that damned contraption on my land?”

He grabbed his steam-powered plasma gun and was about to fire a volley of shots into the basket when he heard a jaunty “Hulloo” in the unmistakable tones of his brother.

That gentleman emerged rather unsteadily from the basket, pulled up his goggles to reveal a tanned, soot-smeared face and raced over to embrace Algernon, who had – fortunately – dropped his weapon and was standing and blinking in disbelief.

“My dearest boy!” Harvey exclaimed, grasping his brother’s hand in both of his own and pumping it up and down as if trying to start an engine.

“But Harvey…” stuttered Algernon.  “After all these years!  How?  Why…?”

At this moment, Josephine rushed up and warmly embraced her brother-in-law.

“Dearest Harvey, how wonderful to see you again.  Do come inside and have a cup of tea.  We’d just love to hear about all your adventures, wouldn’t we, Algy?”

“Um, indeed,” her husband responded weakly, absent-mindedly removing a broad bean tendril from his brother’s greatcoat.  “Yes, of course.  Do come inside.”

 

Half an hour later, they were sitting, sipping tea, around a blazing fire in the drawing room.

Harvey had brought with him a battered map of the diamond mine he had bought in Africa.

“Amazing potential!” he was exclaiming.  “Stunning gems in there.  Worth a king’s ransom!  By Jove, Algy, you should come out there with me.  We could run the place together.  Lord, you should see the engine I’ve got set up for the extraction process.  Such a beauty!  It simply can’t fail.  We’ll make millions!”

Josephine glanced at Algernon.  This was not quite the way she had anticipated that the discussion would go.

Algernon sat listening passively as his brother extolled the virtues of life in Africa.  It was difficult to read his thoughts from his expression.

Finally, he spoke.

“Oh such adventures are just fine for a young fellow like yourself, my dear Harvey.  Nothing to hold you here, no family or obligations to consider.  I’m delighted for you, old boy.  Wouldn’t do for me, though.  There’s this old pile to keep up, the staff to consider, all the horses… and I couldn’t ask Josephine to up sticks and adjust to such a difficult climate.”

“Pah!  Loads of lovely ladies over there!” returned Harvey.  “They have a whale of a time.  As for this old place – sell it up and start afresh.  You’ll make your fortune.  Nothing to lose.”

“Well I’ll give it some thought,” Algernon replied, and promptly left the room and headed back to his study.

“Glad you sent for me, old girl,” Harvey told Josephine.  “I see what you mean.  He does seem rather out of sorts.”

“Oh Harvey, I’m so worried about him!” Josephine cried.  “It is so good of you to have come all this way.  I’m sure it will cheer him up to have you around.  Perhaps you could go riding with him tomorrow, if you’re sufficiently rested.  He’d very much enjoy that.”

“Riding?” asked Harvey.  “You mean horses?  Oh no.  What Algy needs is some adventure.  Give me a day or two to get the balloon sorted out and I’ll take him for a trip in that.  That’ll do him the world of good. You see if it doesn’t.”

Chapter 4: MISSING

Chapter 5

Algernon lifted his telescope to his eye and scanned the horizon.  Just one small smudge of grey over Middlesex.  It was high in the sky.  A less practised eye would have missed it altogether, or mistaken it for a wisp of cloud.

“Pirates at four o’clock,” he called.  “Prime the machine.”

Sure enough, as they moved closer, the unmistakable shape of a steam galleon became clear – smoke belching from her filthy funnels.

“Machine’s primed and ready, Sah!” barked a voice from below decks.

“Good work, Mister Capon.  Keep tracking them.  I’m going to turn her around so they can’t see our profile.  Wait for the order to fire.”

“Aye, Sah!” came the same clipped voice.

Like the rest of the crew, Edwin Capon was proud to serve under Admiral Algernon Cholmondeley.  Their airship was the envy of the fleet and the scourge of the pirates who had, for far too long, held the airways to ransom.

 

Too late, the commander of the pirate vessel – one Sydney Strangefellow – saw what lay ahead.

“Put her about, boys!” he croaked, his fear only too obvious to his crew.

“A trap!  That’s the Algernaut!”

“God save us!” screamed one of the men – an optimistic fellow with a high regard for the generosity of his Maker, since he and his shipmates had spent their lives ruthlessly terrorising the high skies.

Panic broke out on the vessel and men ran helplessly hither and thither.  They knew – every black-hearted villain of them – that nothing, let alone their old rust-bucket of a ship, could withstand the weapon now fixed of upon them.

 

“And … FIRE!” shouted Algernon.

There was a flash of turquoise blue as the plasma gun loosed a volley of shots towards the pirate vessel.

The end was quick.  An explosion of blinding white light and then – nothing.  Not so much as a nut or a bolt remained of the incinerated galleon.

A cheer went up from the crew of the Algernaut and a door opened from a cabin below decks.

“Why the cheers?” asked a soft, sweet voice, as Lady Josephine emerged.  “Have you clever boys destroyed another pirate vessel?”

“We have indeed, your ladyship,” smiled the midshipman, bowing his head deferentially.  The Admiral spotted it miles off.  They didn’t stand a chance.”

“Well jolly good show,” smiled the lady.  “I’ll go straight away and prepare some tea for all hands.  And I’m sure I can find some particularly delicious cake as well.  You boys certainly deserve it!”

“You spoil us, my dear,” said her husband, who had come below to share the good news with her.

“Not at all,” laughed Josephine.  “Thanks to your splendid invention and your excellent crew, the skies above London have never been so safe.”

“Three cheers for the Hadmiral and ’er ladyship!” barked Edwin Capon, and the crew’s enthusiastic cries could be heard far below, in the city that owed its safety to Algernon Cholmondeley.

Do please enter and encourage your friends to do likewise.  You can use the ‘Leave a reply’ box under this post, or here’s a contact form, if you’d like to keep your entry just between ourselves…

What Happened After The Vital Chapter

Here it is at last – the final part of Algernon’s story:

 

Chapter 5

Algernon lifted his telescope to his eye and scanned the horizon.  Just one small smudge of grey over Middlesex.  It was high in the sky.  A less practised eye would have missed it altogether, or mistaken it for a wisp of cloud.

“Pirates at four o’clock,” he called.  “Prime the machine.”

Sure enough, as they moved closer, became clear – smoke belching from her filthy funnels.

“Machine’s primed and ready, Sah!” barked a voice from below decks.

“Good work, Mister Capon.  Keep tracking them.  I’m going to turn her around so they can’t see our profile.  Wait for the order to fire.”

“Aye, Sah!” came the same clipped voice.

Like the rest of the crew, Edwin Capon was proud to serve under Admiral Algernon Cholmondeley.  Their airship was the envy of the fleet and the scourge of the pirates who had, for far too long, held the airways to ransom.

 

Too late, the commander of the pirate vessel – one Sydney Strangefellow – saw what lay ahead.

“Put her about, boys!” he croaked, his fear only too obvious to his crew.

“A trap!  That’s the Algernaut!”

“God save us!” screamed one of the men – an optimistic fellow with a high regard for the generosity of his Maker, since he and his shipmates had spent their lives ruthlessly terrorising the high skies.

The steam-powered plasma gunPanic broke out on the vessel and men ran helplessly hither and thither.  They knew – every black-hearted villain of them – that nothing, let alone their old rust-bucket of a ship, could withstand the weapon now fixed of upon them.

 

“And … FIRE!” shouted Algernon.

There was a flash of turquoise blue as the plasma gun loosed a volley of shots towards the pirate vessel.

The end was quick.  An explosion of blinding white light and then – nothing.  Not so much as a nut or a bolt remained of the incinerated galleon.

A cheer went up from the crew of the Algernaut and a door opened from a cabin below decks.

“Why the cheers?” asked a soft, sweet voice, as Lady Josephine emerged.  “Have you clever boys destroyed another pirate vessel?”

“We have indeed, your ladyship,” smiled the midshipman, bowing his head deferentially.  The Admiral spotted it miles off.  They didn’t stand a chance.”

A touching moment for the valiant couple“Well jolly good show,” smiled the lady.  “I’ll go straight away and prepare some tea for all hands.  And I’m sure I can find some particularly delicious cake as well.  You boys certainly deserve it!”

“You spoil us, my dear,” said her husband, who had come below to share the good news with her.

“Not at all,” laughed Josephine.  “Thanks to your splendid invention and your excellent crew, the skies above London have never been so safe.”

“Three cheers for the Hadmiral and ’er ladyship!” barked Edwin Capon, and the crew’s enthusiastic cries could be heard far below, in the city that owed its safety to Algernon Cholmondeley.

Gertie and Lord Horatio Backgammon

Well I didn’t know what to expect.  In truth, I’ve never encountered a lord before.

I was met at the railway station, after a most bracing journey in a steam locomotive, by one of his staff in a gleaming vehicle.  The man didn’t say much during the journey, but as we turned into the drive, he said quietly, “Don’t be alarmed by his Lordship, Miss.  He’s fine when you get to know him.”

If anything, these words made me more apprehensive than I had previously been.  As I alighted from the contraption and the smoke from its boiler began to clear, I saw a figure who could only be Lord Horatio standing beside a rusting collection of gears and machine parts.  Despite my determination to maintain a calm demeanour, I have to admit that I gasped – or possibly squealed slightly.

“Miss Jekyllton-Smythe, I presume?” he boomed, as he began advancing towards me.
He wore the tallest top hat I’d ever seen, adorned with a pair of very complicated goggles, and on the arm of his leather greatcoat he carried a most fearsome-looking weapon.  I must have been staring at it, for he glanced down and lowered his arm.
“Don’t worry yourself about the transducer,” he said. “I was just tinkering with it when you arrived, and it takes a while to unstrap it, don’t y’know? So, welcome to Backgammon Towers, my dear lady.”

His words were friendly enough, though it was difficult to read his expression, since the vast majority of his face was covered, either by his enormous moustache or by the huge monocle he wore.
I fixed my gaze on the remaining visible eye, smiled and bobbed my head slightly (should one curtsy to a lord?) and thanked him for his hospitality.

“Hmph, yes,” he responded gruffly.  “My housekeeper tells me that you’d probably like to be shown to your room so that you can tidy yourself.  Not that you appear at all untidy to me, let me add.  The ways of the fairer sex are something of a mystery to me.  After that I suppose you’d like to take some tea on the terrace?”

“That would be delightful,” I said, quite relieved to discover that he found our meeting at least as awkward as I did.

As soon as we’d finished an excellent pot of Earl Grey, Lord Horatio escorted me to ‘The Board’ – the area of his garden I was to be redesigning and planting for him.  It was a level area and had been well cleared, however I wasn’t sure how I would fit all the features he wanted into this small space.

“You mentioned a pond, your lordship…” I ventured.
“Yes. Doesn’t have to be large. Cleo positively thrives in small, cramped spaces. She’s currently housed in a large bottle. Be good for her to get some fresh air.”
“And Cleo would be the, ah, pet you mentioned in your letter?”
“That’s it. Highly intelligent, she is. Beautiful creature. Just needs a bit of room to stretch her tentacles once in a while.”
My next question died on my lips. I swallowed and nodded.
“Perhaps a little fountain or some such?” his lordship continued. “She’d enjoy that.”

I dutifully made notes. The orangery was to have stained glass panels. Flower beds in four sections. A gravelled path.
“Oh and some lawn!” Lord Horatio exclaimed enthusiastically. “You simply must come and see my lawnmower. One of my greatest inventions!”
I followed as he strode towards an enormous outbuilding.

“What do you think of that?” he demanded, his voice bursting with pride as he threw open the door.
“Oh my goodness!” I exclaimed, as I stared at what appeared to be a fire-breathing, metal-clad dragon.
“All my own work!” declared his lordship. “Call him Galahad! Entirely run by clockwork, don’t y’know? The flames aren’t real, of course.  Just a bit of wimsy!  Blades are razor sharp, though.  My gardeners tell me the cut he gives is second to none.”
“Stunning,” I replied. “Quite splendid.”
“Jolly good,” he smiled (probably – it was hard to tell with the moustache). “I think we’ll make a fine team, my dear lady.”
“I think we will, your Lordship,” I said, bravely.

And, do you know, I really think we will!

Lord Backgammon’s garden is a work in progress.  However the 1:12 scale figures of his Lordship (pictured here) and the delightful Gertie will be on display on the Steampunk-Shrunk stall at the Craft and Vintage Fair in Glastonbury Town Hall, once a month.

Other Steampunk and Victorian themed figures, rooms and items can be found online at The Steampunk Dolls’ House or at Rune Smith of Glastonbury at 1 Monarch Way, just off Glastonbury High St.