Gaslight Occurrences: The Steampulp Adventures of Augustus Argent
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by Teel James Glenn
Description: Who can the Crown call when a hideous curse has been caste on a nobleman in Regency England? Who will throw down the gauntlet when the fog bound Victorian streets of Whitechapel are the hunting ground for a subhuman, monster? Who can stand and fight when a bloodthirsty vampire rises from the tomb in the Kentish Marshes? Doctor Augustus Argent, Sorcerer Supreme and Agent without portfolio for the Crown that's who! Since Elizabeth the Great had a secret cabal of witches create the Solomon Document to protect England from invasion the forces of evil conspiracies and the horrors of Alchemists have threatened the sceptered Isle. Join Doctor Argent and his swashbuckling aid Jack Stone as they protect the empire of England from the forces of darkness in pulse pounding, pulp-style action and romance.
eBook Publisher: Whiskey Creek Press, 2010
eBookwise Release Date: March 2010
4 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [364 KB]
Reading time: 229-320 min.
RATING: 4 STARS! "It's the time of Queen Victoria...of Sherlock Holmes...and Septimus Argent. This gentleman is Her Majesty's loyal servant, and he handles cases along the same lines as his venerated colleague Holmes...but on the other side of the coin...the occult side. Join Argent and his aide-de-camps, Jack Stone, (late Captain of Her majesty's Royal Horse Guard)as they travel the breadth of the British Isles saving Queen and country from denizens of the Dark Side:
The Occurrence of the Wicked Lord, in which a man cursed by a wicked sorcerer has more than magic to worry about;
Greystone's Descent, a sequel to The Occurrence of the Wicked Lord, telling what happened to the villain;
The Occurrence of the Wishing Ring, an adventure for Jack as he gets his wish and meets a pretty girl as well...
...and four other stories. Automatons set on espionage, a gentlemen's club whose members are definitely not gentlemen, a murdered lord who won't stay dead, gypsies, tramps, and thieves...and the Queen Herself.
MY OPINION: Steampulp...and another of TJ Glenn's informative Prologues to explain the genre. These stories are a delight, well-written and definitely in the Holmes-Watson line, though Jack Stone is definitely more athletic and ready for adventure than the Good Doctor. The fates of the villains are so awful and ironic one has to feel pity for those cads, though Greystone's Descent reads more like a sad fairy tale than a thriller. Several names and characters tun as a thread through the stories, giving them coherence. Score another hit for Mr. Glenn! They just keep coming." Reviewed by TV Sweeney, http://www.tonivsweeney.com/
Chapter 1 A Homecoming Unwanted
Lady Charlotte Faversham was an exotic flower in bloom. The subdued colors of her half-mourning were lavender and black with white details that were vivid against the green of the estate lawn. The colors of her dress were supposed to help a person transition to the brighter colors of regular wear, but for some, death was so common in an extended family that it might take some individuals years before they could safely abandon their mourning garb. She also wore a large floral bonnet that shaded her pretty face from the afternoon sun.
She stood on the lawn in front of Wyckorwell, the Faversham family estate, a parasol on her shoulder and a smile on her perfect face.
"Oh my, Grace," she said to her dear friend Lady Van Pelt. "You are just too much; you did not actually say that to Nigel's sister?"
"I did," the dark-haired Van Pelt said. She gave a tittering laugh and looked side-to-side to be sure no one else at the lawn party could hear, then whispered, "And when she denied it, I produced the broach he had given me with her silly note in the hidden compartment!"
Both women burst into gales of laughter that were the usual accompaniment to their joint garden parties. They were the best of friends even after Charlotte had married the dashing Lord Faversham with him fresh out of Sandhurst, while Grace remained the most eligible bachelorette in their social circle.
Grace had been there as well when word had come that the Lord Wyckor had been taken prisoner and presumed dead at the hands of Tauregs in the employ of the French.
"You are indeed the Lady Wicked as they call you, Charlotte!" Grace said. The two women launched into another round of giggles and that is how Jason Givens, Lord Greystone, found them.
"My word, ladies. What deviltry are you both plotting now? I do hope I am involved in it." He was a tall, dark, broad-shouldered fellow with a lantern jaw and the ghost of a mustache that gave him an almost Italian look, though he could trace his family line to one of William the Conqueror's retainers.
"Your worry should be that you are not the subject of such deviltry," Charlotte said. This started the women laughing again.
"Jason, you are a rake and a rabbit!" Grace said. He turned his eyes to focus upon hers and she averted her gaze shyly.
"And how would you know, little vixen; listening to gossip?"
Charlotte flicked a handkerchief at the Lord. "You are the one who starts the gossip, so don't be upset if your flirting gets you in trouble."
This made the Lord laugh. "Would you ladies like some refreshment?"
"I have to meet with Carrie and Wilma," Grace said. "So I will fetch my own." She curtsied and moved off into the crowd of merry makers.
This left the Lady Faversham and the Lord standing alone, though in plain sight of the revelers on the lawn.
"You wicked man," Charlotte said when Grace was out of earshot. "Flirting with her in front of me."
"Better than behind your back, dear heart," he said. He resisted the impulse to reach out and grab her to him and smother her with kisses. "I have to see you alone; it has been a week. I hunger for your touch."
"And I for you, but we must continue to be careful." She forced a giggle as if he had told her a witticism. "The Prince Regent himself is supposed to be coming to the Billingtons next weekend and there will be much more scrutiny than before. Remember, I am still a widow in mourning."
"There's proof he's dead?" the Lord asked.
"No, no," she said. "No word still, almost two years now. But that is why we have to be so careful; he is a hero of the Empire--mentioned in dispatches. There's talk the Regent may elevate him and that would mean that I, his 'widow', would benefit. Then, in time, we could come out into the open."
"You were not so worried while he was alive and off to war," he said, "and we had more time."
"Your reputation allowed for that," she said, "and we were always careful. Besides, a little flirtation is always expected when the troops are away. But--"
"But now it would be in bad taste; I am supposed to live with the memory of the pious Jonathon alone to keep me warm."
He snorted at that and looked around. "I will keep you warm then, when we can--but I get cold as well."
"Get a blanket," she said with a hissed whisper. "Or I will ruin her and kill you!"
"You are an absolute card, Charlotte, and a true vixen." He leaned in to kiss her hand as chastely as possible for any casual observers who might be interested. "And that is why I hunger for you; the cuckold of yours was a fool to run off to serve Country and King and leave a woman like you alone in her bed."
"Let's not speak ill of the dead, Jason, even if we think it." She got suddenly serious. "I will meet you tomorrow night in the stone house after moonrise!" She turned quickly on a heel and headed for the refreshments and the gaiety of the crowd.
The guests at the estate for the weekend were uniformly young married couples, eligible young ladies and gentlemen or relatives of soldiers who were serving against Napoleon, so when the stranger pulled up in a dark-colored carriage, he stood out.
He was tall and spare with angular features and a hawk nose. His hair was worn long and was white-silver to match his mustachios. The most arresting feature of the new arrival was his piercing eyes: chips of flint that blazed with an intense inner fire. He might have been a man of thirty or sixty for the ageless quality and erect, military baring of his carriage.
He strode across the lawn with distance-eating steps, passing through them like a wolf among sheep. All eyes followed him and nervous giggles were subdued.
The man stepped up to the Lady Faversham and gave a deep, courteous bow.
"My Lady Faversham?" he said, peering through a monocle. His voice was authority and security in low clear tones. He adjusted his emerald green cutaway coat to smooth an imagined crease.
"Yes, sir, I am she."
"I am Doctor Augustus Argent in the service of the Crown," he said, "and it is important that I speak to you privately."
"Oh my." The lady touched the back of her hand to her flushed cheek. "It sounds so serious."
"It is, M'lady. And perhaps somewhat urgent."
"We can walk by the summer house if you wish," she said. She looked around in answer to many curious stares with a radiant smile and a shrug, waving at her guests.
"That would be quite acceptable, ma'am," Argent said. The two of them walked away from the guests playing lawn bowls in silence, with the noble woman looking up at the regal bearing of the man and wondering why she had not heard of him before. A man as distinctive as the silver-haired doctor would surely set the tongues a-wagging from that day forth in her circle.
The summer house was little more than four uprights woven with flowers and an arbor roof to keep the heat of the sun off any who lingered there. The lady sat on a marble bench beneath the roof and folded her parasol.
"Now then, doctor," she said, "what is this all about?"
"Your husband, Lord Wyckor."
"Jonathon? Have they located his body?"
"No, M'lady, his compatriot Captain Rollins has effected his rescue from the Taureg sorcerer who was holding him."
The noblewoman stared at him uncomprehendingly for a long moment and then said, "Rescue?"
"Yes, M'lady," the doctor said, "rescued. At the moment, he is in transit from London to this estate."
"How can that be?" she said. The color drained from her face and her words came in short sharp gasps. "The Foreign office said there was little or no chance that he--"
"The official line has always had to be more conservative than what we in the field believed, M'lady. And his friend Rollins--a very insistent fellow--never gave up hope."
"But why now--I uh--how?"
"The details I will leave until a later time," the tall man said, his tone softening. "But the reason I have come is to prepare you for what you will have to face when he returns."
"What...what do you mean?" She was looking around now as if the answer to any questions she had would be in the foliage surrounding them.
"First, let me say that for reasons of the security of this nation most of what I tell you must never be repeated to anyone. On this point, I must have your word of honor."
Still not quite comprehending him, she nodded. "Yes, whatever you say. Jonathon alive?"
"Alive, but changed in a way that I must speak of." The silver-haired man sat behind her now and lowered his voice to barely more than a whisper. "I represent an arm of the government that goes back to the reign of Elizabeth, when was instituted The Solomon Doctrine. This Doctrine allows that the older arts of dark magick are for the most part blocked from our shores."
"Humor is inappropriate at this time, sirrah!"
"I do not jest, M'lady Wickor," Argent said with a stiffer tone. "Some of the older forms of power in the world have been superseded by our modern rational minds and steam power but have not disappeared. In other parts of the world, like the Orient, those older forms of power are readily accessible. And many of those forms of power, as many legends and myths allude to, involve transformation of the physical world."
"What are you going on about? What does this have to do with my husband?"
"The Captain--who has been promoted by the Prince Regent to Major--was the prisoner of a powerful Taureg sorcerer who, in anger and frustration at losing the prize of the column, caused changes in your husband."
"Are you...are you saying that Jonathon has been disfigured?" It was clear from her expression that the thought of her handsome husband somehow marred physically by his experience caused her great distress.
"It is a more profound change than that, M'lady," he said. "He had been changed to a form that some might consider other than human--"
"What are you--"
"I can explain no more that you would believe--" he continued, "--suffice to say that brave men like him are not ignored by the Crown and I personally will work continuously to restore him to you as he was."
He rose and offered his hand to her. "To the world at large it must be told that he is indeed horribly disfigured; you must realize this. I know this is a shock, but I know you will not disappoint the Crown."
She stood at his offered hand and, as in a dream, walked slowly back to the crowd of her guests to announce that she could doff her widow's weeds and smile again, without guilt.
Or, at least, that was the public face she would put on. Her private face would be very different...