Tag Archives: Hopeless Maine

What does Reverend Davies believe?

Readers of Hopeless Maine will be familiar with the gloomy figure of the island’s Reverend – Emmanuel Davies. He’s father of Owen (one of the main characters, for those of you new to this). He raises orphans, holds funerals, owns clothing clearly designed for ritual purpose. Sometimes he talks about God, but which God isn’t always clear.

That he is a Reverend certainly suggests Christianity. But it’s not that simple. He existed as a character, created by Tom, when I took the story on. At that point, we didn’t know much about the Reverend. All I had to go on were the New England Reverends I’d encountered in the writing of Nathaniel Hawthorn, so I started from there. Frankly, that was a gothic and sinister sort of place to start.

If you’ve read The Gathering, you’ll be aware of a short story at the back, about Reverend Davies’ first hours in the job. It suggests a rather different kind of religious background. I admit there have also been times when I’ve wondered if he might be an unwitting Cthulhu worshipper, or otherwise accidentally involved with elder gods. I know there have been plenty of long, sleepless night when the Reverend himself has stared into the darkness and wondered what exactly it is that he serves, or whether it is all in his mind. I know that he hears voices, and some of those voices tell him what to do, and that while he is compelled, he is also uneasy.

In practice, what Reverened Davies believes has a somewhat Zoroastrian flavour. In an island full of lost things, it makes plenty of sense to have someone with a bit of Albigensian heresy to their name. Davies believes that the physical realm is mostly fallen, sinful, probably evil and when you look at Hopeless, Maine, it’s easy to see why he might think this. God is somewhere else, clearly. If there is a good God, they are distant, unavailable, perhaps entirely in a realm of spirit you can only get to by totally renouncing all things of the flesh. Most of the time this means the Reverend is of limited use to anyone else.

Reverend Davies is a man in spiritual crisis, wrangling with the demons of his own uncertainty. It hasn’t yet occurred to him to get out there and wrangle actual demons instead, but the seed of this thought is growing in his mind…

Here’s Reverend Davies with Anamarie Nightshade having a Pre Raphaelite  moment. If this makes you wonder about the history of their relationship, keeping wondering…

We’ve got the original for this on sale at etsy – etsy.com/uk/listing/572025191/the-bemusing-of-reverend-davies-original

It’s also available as a poster –  etsy.com/uk/listing/552719732/the-bemusing-of-reverend-davies-print

 

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Horrorscopes for Hopeless Maine citizens in 2019

We all know it’s going to be awful. Each month will bring fresh horrors, nameless dread, and dread whose names we are perfectly well aware of. Misery is a certainty. Failure is guaranteed. Some of your friends or family members will turn out to be awful people. Or will realise that you are the awful people and come after you with pitchforks and torches. Perhaps this is the year the monster who partly controls you will take total control. Perhaps this is the year you will dig up an ancient evil in your garden and be driven to madness by it. Someone certainly will.

So with all of this in mind, each horrorscope in your overview of 2019 is a list of things we think might help you survive, or at least outwit your enemies for a little longer.

Aquarius: Save yourself by carrying a sturdy length of rope at all times. Dead houseplants, collections of feathers and any books belonging to your great grandparents will help you make it through this year in one piece. Stay away from all kinds of delivery people, and give up washing your undergarments. Your lucky item for 2019 is a sock with a hole exactly in the right place for your big toe to stick out.

Pisces: Stay away from water – including baths, but do keep washing because otherwise you will probably be killed by your own skin fungus. Keep a live rodent in your pocket at all times to improve your fortune, and avoid putting your hands in your pockets to improve your fortune by not having your fingers bitten by a rodent. If your rodent dies, you could keep its body but it does not count as a lucky item for 2019. It won’t save you if it’s dead.

Aries: Give up gardening. Don’t dig anywhere, even in other people’s gardens or even if a grave is required at short notice. Throw away all of your digging implements and run away from anyone who comes towards you with anything larger than a spoon. Draw a star on your forehead to attract good luck in 2019. So long as you don’t draw the star on with anything that could itself kill you, you are in with a fighting chance. Also, the rest of us will know to stay the hell away from your garden.

Taurus: Protect yourself with the power of positive thinking and you’ll be unlikely to make it past February. You need all the magical charms you can wear whilst still being able to move. Whether this will protect you magically, or just function well as a sort of body armour is hard to say. Maybe hedge your bets and get some body armour as well. Your lucky item is a lock of someone else’s nasal hairs.

Gemini: Avoid wearing any colours that rhyme with your name. Invite better fortune into your life by opening your door first thing every morning and yelling the ancient spell “nice things are welcome, nasty things can sod right off.” Further increase your fortune by doing this when no one is stood outside your front door. Carry a portrait of your uncle for good luck. If you do not have an uncle, carry a portrait of someone else’s uncle and claim he’s really yours.

Cancer: The less your feet touch the ground this year, the better your chances are. Never go barefoot. Use stilts whenever possible. Invest in a donkey and ride it everywhere. Do not allow children to touch you with their bare hands. Do not allow any bears to touch you with any children’s hands they may have acquired. Better to stay right away from bears, in fact.

Leo: Your lucky item for 2019 is the skull of an animal that has previously been possessed by a demon. It is important to make sure the demon is no longer occupying the skull because your biggest risk of death and madness is being possessed or attacked by a demon that was in a skull you picked up.

Virgo: The trick to surviving 2019 will be to avoid speech and to instead sing your every verbalisation. At least two notes are required in any vocal expression so you need to stay away from one word answers – monosyllabic words such as ‘yes’ and ‘no’ could prove fatal unless you can draw them out in some way. Do not peer through your own letter box at any time during this year.

Libra: Your greatest risk for 2019 is the restless dead. Stay away from graveyards and try not to go out after dark. Avoid séances, Ouija boards, objects belonging to the deceased, and buildings that people have died in. Don’t assume staying home will keep you safe either – the ghosts of angry dead trees may be waiting for you at home.

Scorpio: In 2019, what you do with your own hands poses the greatest risk to you. Stop building that infernal device. Lay aside projects to attract a fairy lover with your raffia work. Stop all culinary experiments. It’s best not to use your hands for eating or drinking either, so this year is going to present some challenges.

Sagittarius: Your lucky item for 2019 is red plant matter, which for best effect should be applied freshly and frequently to the front of your clothing. You may have to choose between dignity and survival in the coming months. If things take a turn for the worse, tip the first spoonful of every meal over the top of your head. Some things can be really put off by this behaviour and the smell it rapidly creates.

Capricorn: Your demise will be heralded by the squealing of bagpipes. If you feel threatened by bagpipes at any time, move slowly so as not to be panicked into fulfilling this prophecy. Carry a sharp implement with you at all times so that you can protect yourself from bagpipes at need.

Salamandra’s Key

Hello, again people! (and others)

It is the new year, and I hope it brings you many good things.

I have spoken before, I think about how, at the beginning, when we first imagined how things might go with Hopeless, Maine, that we thought one day we would work with artisans and craftspeople if there were to be any HM related artifacts. No factory made things or plastic tatt that would one day end up in a landfill. Well, it’s dream come true time. Matt Inkel (who I introduced to you, here) has begun working with us and the first fruit of this collaboration is Salamandra’s Key.

Here is my drawing of Sal’s Key and Matt’s finished prototype.

It’s difficult to describe the feeling I get seeing something from our story made real in the waking world. It’s a bit uncanny and utterly wonderful. For those of you who are having trouble recalling the significance of this key-

Those of you who have read the first book of Hopeless, Maine will recall that when Salamandra went to Annamarie for help with a very personal Demon, Annamarie gave her a key. She didn’t sort the problem for Sal but gave her what she needed to solve her own problem. That key was well, key to the resolution of that story and Sal still keeps it about her person. In real life, I drew the cover for that book in a fit of excitement before Nimue had even written the book. Sal was shown with a key around her neck clutching a teddy bear (in very poor repair. more of a frankenbear, really) and Nimue wrote these elements into the tale.”

This will be a limited edition sort of thing and very much handmade with great care by a ridiculously skilled artisan. (Look up Arcane Armoury to see more of Matt’s work) Here are some process photos that Matt has shared with us.

There is a preorder page on the Arcane Armoury Site here. Please do visit.

 

Hoping (as always) this finds you well, inspired and thriving.

A Traveller in Hopeless

Hello people! (and others) The lovely Matt Sanders has played Travels on Hopeless with his group of young humans and has this to report-

 

Hopeless, Maine – Travels in Hopeless – A Role-Playing Game for Adventurous Eccentrics

I’d like to just give you a little idea about the roleplaying game for Hopeless, Maine, and in the near future, I will provide an in-depth review, with all the ups and downs and ins and outs, along with video footage of the game in action.

But for now, let me get the mechanics out of the way, because I feel this game isn’t really about the core mechanics, but more about the nuanced elements of the mechanics and the game world and its atmosphere.

The core mechanics have at their root the Basic Roleplaying game from Chaosium, and any player of BRP and the now-legendary games that use it… Call of Cthulhu and RuneQuest… will be instantly comfortable playing this game. Well, maybe not with the magic, but I’ll get back to that later when I get further into the setting. It isn’t pure BRP, and has its own flavour and style, but those familiar with BRP will grasp it all very quickly.

For those not familiar with the BRP system, but who are experienced roleplayer, it uses a simple roll-under percentile system which is very intuitive and becomes second-nature almost instantly.

The world of Hopeless, Maine will most likely feel incredibly familiar to many readers. I found the world and its characters less like things I was being introduced to and more like things I’d almost forgotten that I knew everything about.

The inspirations are clear, and the world has a deep, dark, abiding melancholy to it, and any lover of Poe, Lovecraft, Carroll, and even Dickens, should find things to love about it. Think of as being like Nicholas Nickleby wandering through the narrow streets of Arkham, pining over his lost Lenore, who the Mad Hatter had sacrificed in an attempt to appease Yog-Sothoth.

The artwork fits beautifully amongst the text, and evokes a mix of childhood memories of those dark and lovely television shows for children that those of us who grew up in the UK and in the 60s and 70s know so well, and the drawings of Edward Gorey and Charles Addams.

The magic system, which I mentioned before, is incredibly thematic and versatile, and comes in two flavours… Folklore and Dichotomies.

Folkloric magic, also called witchcraft by some, is simple, quick magic, usable by most, which requires totems and talismans for its workings, and its practitioners can heal, curse, and defend.

Dichotomies are complex and lengthy rituals used to summon and bind demons, and are a far riskier proposition than witchcraft, and any error by the would-be demonologist could see them possessed or worse.

Don’t think it’s all about powers best left alone, there are also gadgets to be built, maintained, used… and misused… too. Steam or clockwork devices are the choice for the pragmatic adventurer, whilst if you really, really must make contracts with things from Beyond, yes, you can use demons to power your latest conveyance or weapon.

All in all, it is a lovely game, made even more delightful by the world that the Browns have crafted. Mr Healing has done a great job in adapting the BRP system and creating the versatile magics and gadgetry, and I won’t forget to mention Mr Cumber’s work in the Bestiary section either.

Any lovers of Hopeless, Maine who also enjoy roleplaying games really should indulge in this one, and thank you for tolerating my rambling style, as it’s been many, many years since I’ve written a review, and as I said at the start, expect a full, all-singing, all-dancing review very soon.

 

If this has piqued your curiosity, the core rules and the first scenario can be found here. I hope, as always, this finds you well, inspired and thriving.

New England Gothic

Hello people! (and others)

Many years ago, when Nimue and I started this whole Hopeless, Maine thing, Nimue wrote two books that went along with the timeline of The Gathering.  The first of these two books was New England Gothic, which takes place before book one and gives a lot of background on Annamarie and her earlier life (Yes. Those of you who have read Sinners will be having feels at this point) NEG is a bloody wonderful strange tale and we thought we’d bring it and the other prose book out along with the graphic novels, lavishly illustrated, of course. Well, this was before we learned a lot of things about the publishing industry (some of which we would rather not know, but that’s a long story for another time) We do plan to release both of these books in PDF form in the near future on the same Etsy site that the game is on. Then, hopefully, later there will be the fully illustrated print version. In the meantime, you can get New England Gothic in installments by pledging to Nimue’s Patreon!

Hoping, as always, this finds you well, inspired and thriving.

Cover art reveal

Hello, people (and others)!

Sorry we’ve been a bit quiet. I’ve been working diligently on the page art for the next graphic novel volume and Nimue is doing roughly twelve thousand* things all at once.

*rough estimate, she is a blur, so it’s tricky to count.

Hopefully, this will make up for it, a bit. Here is the cover art for VICTIMS (Volume three of Hopeless, Maine) I gave a bit of background about the decision process on the subject matter when we posted the cover art at drawing stage, so I won’t get into that here. I *will* say, that this is the best, strangest, most touching, funniest script so far. You know when you are watching an anime series and the first season is all pretty straightforward and largely what you would expect and then the following seasons drops you into the deep end and play with all of your expectations and turn up the emotions and conflict? Yes, that. That’s pretty much what’s going on with the rest of the series.

Here is a thing wot I wrote to go to the distributor for the listing of Victims-

“Welcome back to the fog-shrouded island of Hopeless, Maine- an island cut off from the world and lost in time. It’s been busy here since you’ve been away! We all knew that werewolves would show up on the island eventually. I mean, there are vampires (that cough), ghosts and all manner of things that go bump in the night (and occasionally around noon, for no particular reason) well, they’re here now. Salamandra and Owen do their best to cope with this new danger to island residents while investigating a new rash of disappearances. Masked, cowled cultists have begun to make themselves known, and the vampires are about as much help as usual. Salamandra struggles with the disembodied presence that surrounds the island and continues to speak to her alone. Owen receives a new position (which he definitely does not want) and Drury the undead dog cavorts across the island. This is the most eventful volume yet, with greater insight into the main characters, and a generous helping of dark humor.”

Pretty good, huh?

So here, without further ado, is the cover art, hand coloured by Nimue. The text is a temporary version, our publisher will make the design all shiny and put the Sloth Logo on and such. Also-look closely and see if you can find the key in the image. That’s a thing that showed up in The Gathering, and we will have more to say about that soon… Hope you like!

The Journey of Faith

You may have heard of the disappearance of the explorer Lady Alison Tiffany Hempton Addleby Pettigrew and the subsequent rescue expedition organised by her nephew, Jason Hercules Pettigrew Johnson. At the time the papers reported it a great success – a wonderful story of a family reunited. But the few that knew the truth, were aware that it was anything but.

Auntie Ally, as she was known to her devoted nephew, had launched an audacious subaquatic expedition to observe new species and explore ancient wrecks around a mythical island. But she had returned from her ill-fated expedition little more than a husk of a human being. Despite her nephew’s best efforts, as the months passed, that truth eventually came out and poor Auntie Ally’s fate was news again. She was even described in the parlance of one of the more fanciful penny dreadfuls ‘reporting’ the story as a revenant or zombie-like creature – albeit one that did not shuffle, threaten, or hanker after the meat of humankind.

It seemed a sad tale, and soon the public started to lose interest in even reading about the more sensational, and let me say, entirely fictional versions of the story. So poor Auntie Ally eventually moved from being a passing concern to a forgotten tragedy. But there was one person who never gave up hope, never lost his faith in an eventual solution to Aunt Ally’s lamentable condition; her devoted nephew, Jason.

Jason had grown up into a determined young man – a man who, by virtue of a series of circumstances, had essentially inherited a considerable fortune and a number of residences. Since Aunt Ally’s return, he had become obsessed with returning to the spot where her submersible was found, to investigate, and to find some way of returning Aunt Ally to normality. Let me point out dear reader, right here, right now, that although he was obsessed with his Auntie, it was an entirely innocent obsession; this is not one of those stories.

Jason had few friends, but one, in particular, seemed to put up with his single-mindedness and adored him for his pureness of heart. Homily Williams was a singular young woman who had known Jason from his college days. They had met at an evening science lecture on the talking cure and had long discussions over coffee afterwards. She was an intelligent and pragmatic lady and had remained a faithful friend when his fixation with his aunt took hold. Although when she learnt of his plan to return to the seas and dive in that fateful craft, she urged him to reconsider. After all, she argued, one soul had been lost to those hopeless waters, why lose another? And particularly why lose his, she thought to herself.

But Jason was not to be swayed, he spent time, money and a great deal of thought on planning a new expedition using The Prospect of Joy – Lady Allison’s revolutionary underwater craft. He had made sure the finest English mechanics and engineers had checked the entire vessel more than once for faults or possible weaknesses in construction or design. But the famous French marine designer had done his job well, and Jason was reassured on that score. He did, however, add some new elements – he fitted bigger, stronger windows, five, lead-shielded compasses, added a more powerful periscope, several inches of armour, multiple torpedo tubes, and mounted a waterproofed machine gun of radical design to the front deck. He even fitted a device based on Tesla coils that would pass an electrical current of great magnitude through the outer hull at the throwing of a knife blade switch. As originally conceived, The Prospect of Joy was purely an exploratory vessel, the product of an inquiring, innocent, peaceful mind. But in Jason’s determined hands it was turned into a most potent weapon of war. To transport it, the expedition utilised as it’s floating base an old steam cruiser retrofitted to suit Jason’s more single-minded requirements and renamed: The Journey of Faith.

A week before the scheduled start of the expedition, the Admiralty caught wind of the submersible and its militant new capabilities. This forced Jason’s hand, and he slipped port in the dead of night having checked that Auntie Ally was being looked after, but without the chance to say goodbye to faithful Homily.

The journey to the area of sea where Lady Allison had met with her singular fate was largely uneventful. It is true that when they left port, they were hastily followed by navy ships, mustered as quickly as they could manage, but Jason’s expedition had a decent head start and soon outdistanced them.

Arriving at the most likely spot to start their search for… well, to be honest, Jason wasn’t sure. Alison had written of an island – but she had never seen it, it wasn’t on any charts and there was simply no evidence of it. What he had seen with his own eyes was a wall of mist, beyond which human vision could not penetrate, but which seemed to have a definite influence on the psyche. If there was an island in the mist, he was determined to press ahead and find it, for he was sure that there he would find the means by which to save his aunt.

It took them several days to locate the mist – and to be honest, Jason had been prepared for this, sending out no less than six steam launches in a complex, scientifically developed search pattern that would cover an enormous area of ocean in a short space of time.

Once located, they recalled the launches and sailed to the relevant spot. Jason viewed the swirling mist ahead of him and remembered the last time he had witnessed it. Lady Alison was always very fond of quoting literature, but all Jason could think of at that moment was Dickens: “There are strings in the human heart that had better not be vibrated.” He pulled his jacket tighter against the slight chill that had crept up on him.

“Well”, he said out loud to himself, grabbing at another quote:

“Carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero”.

“What’s that?” asked the captain of The Journey who had quietly pulled up alongside Jason on the ship’s rail.

“Oh, sorry – it means to pluck the day, time for action. Launch stations Captain if you please.”

“Aye, aye sir!”

Jason felt a strangeness as he lowered himself into The Prospect of Joy – he must be experiencing some of the same emotions and sensations that Lady Alison had felt as she set off on that fateful undersea voyage. He had left strict instructions for The Journey of Faith to withdraw at least twenty leagues from this spot – he did not want them becoming yet another disappearing victim of the mist.

Unlike his cautious Auntie, Jason set his teeth together, strapped himself in, and set a course directly for the water under the mist. As he advanced, he could see the water getting darker, seemingly heavier, and the pace slowed. Almost immediately he noticed strange sea creatures in the murk around him and the vague shapes of masts and funnels of wrecked ships beneath.

Despite the upgraded engines, he was making slow progress, and weird, dark, twisted, shapes that resolved into loathsome, many-eyed creatures began to investigate this mechanical interloper. Small creatures, but threatening nonetheless, Jason detected a maliciousness in the way they twisted and turned around the craft. Suddenly one darted forward in a flash of fins and teeth. At the last moment, it was propelled unnaturally sideways as one of its brothers snared it between hugely out of proportion jaws – picking its moment to strike against it’s distracted shoal mate.

Jason shivered, and checked all the weapons systems again, although truthfully, these small creatures would be no match for the submersible’s thick iron hull. And almost as he thought that Jason noticed a darker shape off to his right, just too far into the gloom to make out its proper form. After observing it for a minute or so, it became obvious it was of a magnitude larger than of the other aquatic beasts in these dark waters. Indeed, Jason realised that there were no other creatures near it – as if they feared to be in its very presence. At the back of his mind, Jason felt an unnatural fear – a strange contradictory wave of emotions urging him on and yet at the same time compelling him to leave. Driven by his fondness for his Auntie, Jason’s will was resolute. He quelled the rising feelings and pushed on.

The submersible swayed for a moment as something tugged against it and Jason took a moment to swing the vessel around. Swirling purple tendrils were writhing up from the sea bottom – the monstrous fronds of some huge marine flora. Trimming The Prospect of Joy to rise to a higher level, Jason resumed his course.

Something ahead and in the distance caught his eye. A slight iridescence in the gloom. It was getting closer, and brighter. To Jason’s eyes, it was like an underwater waterfall – somehow catching the light as it tumbled down to the depths below. But this was a waterfall that was moving. And not composed of water. And… Jason realised at the last minute that the iridescence was caused by some sort of electrical discharge and that he was witnessing the lower part of what could only be described as some sort of gigantic electric jellyfish. Or more like a Portuguese man ‘o’ war of unparalleled size and literally stunning beauty. Jason slammed the controls hard to port as he broke the spell of the creature’s dangerously enticing glamor.

The Prospect of Joy was a fine example of the best of French marine knowledge and English engineering and manufacturing. It responded fast to helm control and it’s powerful engines and streamlined shape helped it speed through the water at an unprecedented rate and with fine manoeuvrability. It was designed to cope and excel in all waters known to man. These waters, however, were not known to man. And here, alas, The Prospect was a little slower, a little less powerful, a little less manoeuvrable, and in this case, found a little wanting. Jason had almost got away with it, but at the last possible moment a single, smallest tentacle lightly caressed his iron craft.

All the lights in the cabin went out and there was a sudden silence. Jason – to his credit – did not panic and scrambled over to the wall on his left and a huge bar attached to a rotary switch. He grabbed the bar and wrenched it counterclockwise for a count of three, then clockwise for a count of three… nothing. As the submersible sank slowly lower, he tried again: left, one…two…three…, right, one…two…three… This time there was a loud buzz of electricity and a massive clunk as the engines started up again and systems returned. Lights came back on and Jason threw himself back in the chair. He had regained control. Nervously checking the windows all around him, he could see nothing.

Would this reassure you? It did not reassure Jason. After witnessing an ocean teeming with deadly ravenous life, the absence of it seemed to him to be by far the most frightening outcome.

It was not long before those irrational fears proved entirely legitimate. Shapes in the dark distance. Movements in the murk. Darker water now moved around The Prospect of Joy, and the feeble light that was fighting its way down to the depths was fading.

If Jason could see above him, he would have found the surface roiling with violent waves, rocks awash with huge spumes of spray, and a mere few hundred yards away – the cliffs and chines of Shipwreck Bay, the most notoriously treacherous feature of all those that made up the hazardous coastline of Hopeless, Maine.

At the surprising depths below the bay, all was calmer, well, current-wise anyway. This was of absolutely no comfort to Jason however, who now found himself surrounded by a veritable menagerie of misshapen aquatic beasts, monstrous miscreations of teeth and spines and eyes and claws and tentacles and… unidentifiable vicious appendages. Jason did not suffer from nightmares, nor did he read ‘gothic’ fiction, but here was the very embodiment of the most exaggerated form of night horror, or ghastly, obscene, bestiary become life.

He could feel them somehow calling to him like he had ants crawling through his mind. He ran his fingers through his hair, scraping his skin sharply with his nails as he sought to get a grip on his sensibilities. Oddly, it seemed to help and he gained a moment to assess his predicament.

Jason could hear their freakish forms grinding against the outer hull, teeth scraping on metal, tentacles trying to find gaps to worm their way insidiously into. The submersible was not moving forward now and Jason could see a wall of rock ahead of him, so even if he could proceed, there was simply nowhere to go. Jason considered his options as The Prospect of Joy was rocked by unseen brutish forces.

There was really no point in the torpedoes – there was simply too many creatures and only one was conveniently lined up with a firing tube. And hitting it point blank was likely to cause an explosion that might do as much damage to the submersible as to the creature. The Tesla shocker came to mind, but Jason wondered if it would still work after the earlier encounter with the electric behemoth. He reached for the switch, paused a moment, and threw it. There was an extremely satisfying arc of wild blue electricity around the craft, an intense crackling, buzzing sound, a boiling of water and a nauseous burning smell which was so intense, Jason could feel it assaulting his nostrils even through several inches of iron, however improbable that might seem.

The end result, however, was not nearly so satisfying – it merely seemed to drive the creatures outside mad with rage and they buffeted Jason’s vessel with renewed vigour – some even swam directly away and then back again at high speed to ram the sides, the bottom or the top of the submersible. Jason was thrown out of the chair and anything not tied down was to be found rolling around on the floor. The Tesla shocker was effectively a one-shot deterrent – it would be a while before it had built up enough charge to use again. Several more times the iron ship was buffeted. Every time Jason managed to stagger to his feet, he was thrown down again and new bruises were added to his pain-wracked body. All throughout this time, the ants in his head were also getting worse – they felt more like small mammals now – noisy rats talking to him, murmuring, muttering, seemingly urging him to leave the safety of the craft.

Just as he felt he would surely be pummelled to a pulp, the pounding stopped, and things went dark again. But it was not the cabin lights that had failed, they were soldiering on; although much dimmer, they were still illuminating the small metal cabin – no, this was darkness from outside. Two or three huge forms were enveloping The Prospect of Joy. There was a sudden brighter shape in the forward window – Jason made out the shape of a mighty tooth the size of a man – and a tall man at that. It was vaguely ivory in colour, but with much green mould around its edges and a yellowy red vein running randomly across its side. That was all Jason could discern before it was gone.

But then, seconds later, there was an ominous grinding noise. And Jason was no longer sure that the armoured iron would be enough. Should he try to swim to shore? How deep was he? Would he survive the swim to the surface? He could feel the island calling to him.

–– •◊• ––

Out of the three, it was Gertrude who was inevitably the most observant, so whilst Ludmilla and Mildred were often wrapped up in the latest gossip, Gertrude still managed to keep one of her three eyes trained upon the seas around the island.

The three were called the Agents of Change, or The Ocular Ones. Those that had perhaps encountered their influence in some way, or knew them better, called them The Aunties – a name they rather liked. But whatever you named them, they had been around since – well, let’s just say it’s a very long time.

“Look,” Gertrude said, “Stop your fussing for a moment, there is some sort of commotion over there.”

“Oh yes,” said Ludmilla, “the pets are getting obstreperous again.”

“I don’t know why you call those nasty creatures that,” responded Mildred “and stop using silly long words – you know it irks me.”

“I’m sure it’s nothing, just some simple shipwreck I’m sure. Their ship will break up and the silly humans will die. That’s that.” responded Ludmilla.

“Oh don’t be so trite Ludmilla. This is different – it seems to be happening underneath the waves” pointed out Gertrude.

“Oh yes, why there is some sort of tin can with some poor dear stuck inside” observed Mildred.

“Well, they will soon open that and he’ll be pet food for sure!” Exclaimed Ludmilla.

“Stop it with the pets again. Can’t we help him – I sense he has come a long way in search of something… or someone” reasoned Gertrude.

This statement piqued their curiosity and they all turned their many and varied senses towards the trapped submersible.

“Oh – he’s searching for that nice young lady that arrived here a while ago – she was in a tin can too. Most interesting – not at all like the others” said Mildred.

“Oh yes, she was a lot more ethereal – a strange one that. Still, she’s lost like the rest” stated Ludmilla off-handedly.

“I think we should help him to find her” decided Gertrude. “He is resolute and determined to find that lady – he is devoted to her.”

“Oh, not another tale of lost love, how pathetic,” said Ludmilla petulantly.

“No – it’s not that sort of love – she’s family. And family is important.” Gertrude said firmly.

And despite her general reluctance to agree Ludmilla nodded – as did Mildred, family was important.

“Besides, we have to help” affirmed Gertrude.

“Why?” asked both Ludmilla and Mildred in unison.

“Because, dear ladies, she is an Auntie, just like us!”

This piece from Keith Errington (sometimes known as the Keith of Mystery) continues the tale started in The Prospect of Joy (which can be read by clicking on the highlighted text)  We were lucky enough to hear Keith read this aloud at the Vendetta Live at Asylum Steampunk festival this year.

Art by Tom Brown

Mrs Beaten is judging your night-time activities

Despite the cold, Mrs Beaten lies with her arms outside the covers, pressing her hands against the side of her body in the hopes that they will not go numb. She understands that it is important to keep the arms, and therefore the hands, outside the covers.

People who put their hands inside the covers may end up fiddling about with their own bodies.

Mrs Beaten is not quite sure what the fiddling about would involve. She has a feeling that the body at night, the body under the blankets, is not the same as the body by day. Something happens down there. Something it would be better not to fiddle about with.

As she tries to distract herself from the cold, she wonders who else on Hopeless Maine has the decency to sleep in this way. So many of the islanders seem indecent that she supposes most do not. She imagines the decadent snuggling of limbs beneath covers. The lustful indulgence of putting personal ease ahead of morality.

She supposes other islanders fiddle about in the night with the unspeakable things that go on with their own bodies. She supposes that it is terrible, and the terribleness holds a fascination for her that she cannot help but revisit, over and over again.

New Sea life discovered!

Your publisher may be cool, I grant you. Your publisher may be very cool indeed, *but* you will have to go a long way to find a publisher as cool as ours (Sloth Comics) Example- Our publisher-editor Nic Rossert has created and drawn a new form of Hopeless, Maine sea life. Here it is…

Now, Nic is a busy sort of chap. He’s got the publishing editing stuff to do, plus he is a comics creator (Steam Hammer, for instance) So… let’s take a job off his hands, shall we? WHAT IS THIS THING? Also- can we eat it? Additionally, what are its habits and nature??

 

Suggestions/ideas in the comments, please!

 

Hoping (as always) this finds you well, inspired and thriving.

In which the island is invoked by Craig Hallam

Gentlefolk here gathered, I thank you for your attendance…and your bravery.
I introduce you to a place which, as a concept, evokes the untamed imagination, encourages fraternising with the dark and embracing of the weird; as a quirk of geography, cosmology and fickle theology, it has been known to shatter the mind and baffle the sensible.
(Luckily there aren’t any if that sort here)

Maybe this is your first time, perhaps this is your prophesized return, some might say you never left…
Either way, we arrive.

The day’s last embers fade into the horizon and Night awakens, stretching its lithe frame over the uncertain terrain of the island of Hopeless, Maine.

The stars do not twinkle above. They cajole. The shadows do not gather, or creep, but walk brazen on the cobbles.

Cottages knot together, hastily made by those who must constantly glance over their shoulder with little time for aesthetic or architectural standard. Only the knowledge that they need shelter. And soon.

Beside rune-etched doors, chimes tinkle on a breeze that isn’t there. Dreamcatchers twist above beds encircled with salt.

Part of the island’s eerie soundscape the sound of lapping waves on this forsaken pebbled shore, is a wordless lullaby sung by that which waits beneath the brine.
Whispers from the woods in a voice half-remembered, perhaps once loved, threatens sweets things to those who wander too close.

But not all inhabitants of Hopeless are so. Though they choose different weapons (rationality, faith, hearsay) they all stand against the What-might-it-bes and I’ll-never-tells that rattle the locks and skitter along rooves.
Make no mistake, there are no winners, here. Only those who survive a little longer.

Of course, none of this is any fault of the night. It is merely witness to all that happens below its silken arches. The only witness. As forgetfulness, here, is a tool of survival. Those who remember are doomed to ramble in step and word. Those who question, may regret the answer.

Sit back. Set your drink on the table before you,
lest your hands begin to shake.
Welcome to the impossible isle. Hopeless, Maine.

As the title suggests, this is an invocation of the island of Hopeless, Maine by the bloody fantastic (literally) author, Craig Hallam. It was read aloud as the opening piece of the Hopeless Vendetta Live during the Asylum steampunk festival. We all had goosebumps. If you have not yet encountered Craig’s work, you would do well dive into the Adventures of Alan Shaw. (The third and final book in this series is eagerly awaited in this household!)

 

Art by Tom Brown