Friday, February 20, 2015

Lost Sherlock Holmes Story: The Brig Bazaar

Holmes statue in Edinburgh.
I know this is outwith the normal bounds of my blog, but it is covered by the general mystery theme. There has been a new Sherlock Holmes Story discovered. I post the transcript here, as I'm pretty sure that the copyright on Holmes has long ago passed into the public domain. The story is less mystery, and more a peculiar little coversation between Holmes and Watson, clearly written to appeal to the guid-folks o' Selkirk.

Anyway without too many spoilers, here is the full transcript of 'Sherlock Holmes: Discovering the Border Burghs and, by deduction, the Brig Bazaar'. The story of how it was found can be read here:

'We've had enough of old romancists and the men of travel, said the Editor, as he blue-pencilled his copy, and made arrangements for the great Saturday edition of the Bazaar Book. 'We want something up-to-date. Why not have a word from "Sherlock Holmes"?'

Editors have only to speak and it is done, at least, they think so. 'Sherlock Holmes!' As well talk o finterviewing the Man in the Moon. But it does not do to tell Editors all that you think. I had no objections whatever, I assured the Editor, to buttonhole 'Sherlock Holmes,' but to do so I should have to go to London.

'London!' scornfully sniffed the Great Man. 'And you profess to be a journalist? Have you never heard of the telegraph, the telephone, or the phonograh? Go to London! And are you not aware that all journalists are supposed to be qualified members of the Institute of Fiction, and to be qualified to make use of the Faculty of Imagination? By the use of the latter men have been interviewed, who were hundreds of miles away; some have been "interviewed" without either knowledge or consent. See that you have a topical article ready for the press for Saturday. Good day'.'

I was dismissed and had to find copy by hook or by crook. Well, the Facuty of Imagination might be worth a trial.

The familiar house in Sloan Street met my bewildered gaze. The door was shut, the blinds drawn. I entered; doors are no barrier to one who uses the Faculty of Imagination. The soft light from an electric bulb flooded the room. 'Sherlock Holmes' sits by the side of the table; Dr Watson is on his feet about to leave for the night. Sherlock Holmes, as has lately been shown by a prominent journal, is a pronounced Free Trader. Dr Watson is a mild Protectionist, who would take his gruelling behind a Martello tower, as Lord Goschen wittily put it, but not 'lying down!' The twain had just finished a stiff argument on Fiscal policy. Holmes loq,-

'And when shall I see you again, Watson? The inquiry into the "Mysteries of the Secret Cabinet" will be continued in Edinburgh on Saturday. Do you mind a run down to Scotland? You would get some capital data which you might turn to good account later.'

'I am very sorry,' replied Dr Watson, 'I should have liked to have gone with you, but a prior engagement prevents me. I will, however, have the pleasure of being in kindly Scottish company that day. I also, amd going to Scotland.'

'Ah! Then you are going to the Border country at that time?'
'How do you know that?'
'My dear Watson, it's all a matter of deduction.'
'Will you explain?'

'Well, when a man becomes absorbed in a certain theme, the murder will out some day. In many discussions you and I have on the fiscal question from time to time I have not failed to notice that you have taken up an attitude antagonistic to a certain school of thought, and on several occasions you have commented on the passing of "so-called' reforms, as you describe them, which you say were not the result of a spontaneous movement from or by the people, but solely due to the pressure of the Manchester School of politicians appealing to the mob. One of these allusions you made a peculiar reference to "Huz an' Mainchester" who had "turned the world upside down." The word "Huz" stuck to me, but after consulting many authors without learning anything as to the source of the word, I one day in reading a provincial paper noticed the same expression, which the writer said was descriptive of the way Hawick people looked at the progress of Reform. "Huz an' Mainchester' led the way. So, thought I, Watson has a knowledge of Hawick. I was still further confirmed in this idea by hearing you in several absent moments crooning a weird song of the Norwegian God Thor. Again I made enquires, and writing to a friend in the South country I procured a copy of "Teribus." So, I reasoned, so - there's something in the air! What attraction has Hawick for Watson?'

'Wonderful,' Watson said, 'and...'

'Yes, and when you characterised the action of the German Government in seeking to hamper Canadian trade by raising her tariff wall against her, as a case of "Sour Plums," and again in a drawing room asked a mutual lady friend to sing you that fine old song, "Braw, braw lads," I was curious enough to look up the old ballad, and finding it had reference to a small town near to Hawick, I began to see a ray of daylight. Hawick had a place in your mind; likewise so had Galashiels - so much was apparent. The question to be decided was why?'

'So far so good. And... '

'Later still the plot deepened. Why, when I was retailing to you the steps that led up to the arrest of the Norwood builder by the impression of his thumb, I found a very great surprise that you were not listening at all to my reasoning, but were lilting a very sweet - a very sweet tune, Watson - "The Flowers of the Forest;" then I in turn consulted an authority on the subject, and found that that lovely if tragic song had a special reference to Selkirk. And you remember, Watson, how very enthusiastic you grew all of a sudden on the subject of Common-Ridings, and how much you studied the history of James IV., with special reference to Flodden Field. All these things speak, Watson, to the orderly brain of a thinker. Hawick, Galashiels, and Selkirk. What did the combination mean? I felt I must solve the problem, Watson; so that night when you left me, after we had discussed the "Tragedy of a Divided House," I ordered in a ton of tobacco, wrapped my cloak about me, and spent the night in thought. When you came round in the morning the problem was solved. I could not on the accumulative evidence but come to the conclusion that you contemplated another Parliamentary contest. Watson, you have the Border Burghs in your eye!'
'In my heart, Holmes,' said Watson.
'And where do you travel to on Saturday, Watson?'
'I am going to Selkirk; I have an engagement there to open a Bazaar.'
'Is it in aide of a Bridge, Watson?'
'Yes,' replied Watson in surprise; 'but how do you know? I have never mentioned the matter to you.'
'By word, no; but by your action you have revealed the bent of your mind.'
'Impossible!'
'Let me explain. A week ago you came round to my rooms and asked for a look at "Macaulay's Lays of Ancient Rome." (You know I admire Macaulay's works, and have a full set.) That volume, after a casual look at, you took with you. When you returned it a day or two later I noticed it was marked with a slip of paper at the "Lay of Horatius," and I detected a faint pencil mark on the slip noting that the closing stanza was very appropriate. As you know, Watson, the lay is all descriptive of the keeping of a bridge. Let me remind you how nicely you would perorate -

When the goodman mends his armour
And trims his helmet's plume,
When the goodwife's shuttle merrily
Goes flashing through the loom,
With weeping and with laughter.
Still the story told -
How well Horatius kept the bridge,
In the brave days of old.

Could I, being mortal, help thinking you were bent on some such exploit yourself?'
'Very true!'
'Well, goodbye, Watson; shall be glad of your company after Saturday. Remember Horatius' words when you go to Border Burghs :- "How can man die better than facing fearful odds." But there, these words are only illustrations. Safe journey, and success to the Brig!'

Source.

Read Sherlock Holmes on amazon.ca, or buy for the Kindle.

Edit: Scholars of Holmes cast doubt on the authorship of the story.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Masks of Nyarlathotep Companion Kickstarter

I have previously posted on the Masks of Nyarlathotep campaign companion, as written by the good people over at yog-sothoth.com. Well, it seems the pdf of that companion is no longer available through the site directly. This is not the bad news it first seems however, as the reason it has been taken down is so that the book can be published through funding raised on this Kickstarter project, with the very generous support of Sixtystone Press.

As of this post, there are 19 days left to go on the campaign, and the project has been easily funded (within 3 hours of launch), and marched through all but one of its (rather unadventurous) stretch goals. I have yet to place my support, but I will do, very shortly. One good thing about the lack of stretch goals is that the deadlines given for the project should be relatively easy to keep to, which is a good thing. If I were in charge though, I would change the artwork on the cover page. Not that it's bad, I just feel it's not great either.

One worthy thing to note about this project is that they list exactly how they will use the money in a very handy pie chart, and it seems that the majority of the money will be going to help fund the yog-sothoth.com website, which is a very noble cause. Once the kickstarter books are printed and sent out, the book will be available from chaosium.com.

If you don't manage to get it though, I'm sure the pdf version will be around in some form again afterwards.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Montreal office site may be Iroquois burial ground

Sir William Dawson 1884
My eye was drawn to this article as it passed my facebook feed the other day, as one that certainly requires more study, and fits well within the remit for this blog, so lets have a look at it then!

Of course, the title of this article suggests a burial ground, but the reality is both more mundane, and, in other ways more exciting than that. This story is about the Dawson Site. Found in 1860, the Dawson site, so named due to the work there by John William Dawson; it was an Iroquoian village and thousands of artefacts were found there, as listed in the link above for the site, most of which were concurrent with a village. Yes, 25 burials were also found, with a possibility of over 100 still in place. 

Hochelaga, circa 1535
I heard an interview with a local  archaeologist on the radio yesterday evening, (so no source to link to, but it was likely the same one quoted in the above article) that suggested that, yes, there was the possibility of human remains, but the main thing was, that since this plot  had not been developed in the same way as the surrounding plots, that there was the slim possibility that there would be some archaeology remaining, never mind any of the possible burial sites. He wasn't hopeful, however, since the Dawson site is the only known Iroquoian site where iron has been found, i.e. the only known post-contact archaeological site, then it was the strongest contender to be part of the site of the mysterious Hochelaga.

The artefacts from the Dawson dig are now lodged at the McCord Museum, which is just round the corner from the site itself. Both of which are marked by stars in the map below.


The Dawson Site in Game

The Dawson site has many possible plot hooks, at various eras throughout history. The first, is of course as Hochelaga itself, however, the mysteries of the placement of this village, and its disappearance between the visits of visits of Cartier in 1535, and Champlain in 1611 is something of a multifaceted story, and one I plan to come back to in a future post, so lets leave that aside for now to come back to later

The next era where we can visit the site is of course during the Gaslight era, where Sir Dawson himself leads the dig into this site. From all accounts, a great many items were found. There are
mention of metal artefacts, but there is some question as to whether they match the kinds of items and metals that Cartier records as being given to the locals. If they are not from his expedition, then that opens the doors to other, more intriguing sources for these items. The first to spring to mind are star metals, or Migo artefacts.

In the Classic era, this is obviously the centre of downtown Montreal, however, throughout that time, part of the site remains relatively undisturbed, just under the surface (I hear just 30 cm down). One classic Montreal establishment, which was just round the corner, and was started in 1908 was Ben's, although it was originally situated elsewhere and moved there in 1949 (it was a little further up the same street since 1929), but who's to let a little thing like the truth get in the way of a good story? Bens was a 24 hr diner, frequented by the rich and famous, and by everyone else too. It was a busy place, and could easily be used as a place for the Investigators to meet with their contacts. If you want to link the diner, or another local establishment to the plot, then we have the obvious, but worn thin by repeated use on Scooby doo plot of the haunting from the Indian burial ground underneath the house. Possibly a little tired and best avoided. If need be, the basement to any of the local buildings could give access to the remains of Hochelaga, and local cultists may even be using these sites for their own purposes.

In the modern era, we are back to archaeology. When Investigators are setting out on an archaeological expedition in CoC, we usually send them off to the back of beyond, maybe into the Arctic circle, or the deserts of Northern Africa, where they are searching for the remains of some lost city or other. Here we have the lost city that is actually underneath the modern city. That twist in itself could be enough to set off a great adventure. Of course, when they are in town, they do have a lot more back up at hand, with local police forces etc, but they can also act as a hindrance to what Investigators might have planned (sticking on the right side of the law is not usually high in players priorities). There is also the threat that what may be unleashed by the dig could be set loose in an area of high population, which of course raises the horror stakes that little bit higher. That little twist on the regular CoC plot opens up so many options by itself. Maybe the Investigators are the archaeological consultancy firm like the one mentioned in the original article, brought in to go over the site and give a report to the city of Montreal, and to the construction company as to the value of the site and what may be found there. I like that story...

Monday, February 16, 2015

Canada's Flag is 50.

The Canadian maple leaf flag (or l'unifolié apparently) is 50 years old (well, it was yesterday, but really, who's counting). Famous for being carried proudly around the world by Canadian backpackers (and Americans claiming to be Canadians, to avoid getting shit).

I find it completely weird that the maple leaf flag is only 50 years old. I guess it's just one of those things you take for granted in Europe, that your flag's history is pretty old. I mean, 50 years isn't that much older than me, at least in flag years! Take, for example, the Scottish Saltire. That thing has been around in Scotland in various official ways since 1180s, with the Union Flag being a modern addition to the flag world, being introduced in it's current form in 1801.

So, for all those running a game based in Canada, during non-modern eras, beware of anachronistic flag usage. Make note of the flag that would be used during the time you base your game.

Out of interest, the flag in use in Canada during Classic era Call of Cthulhu, would be this one:


See a striking similarity to the Red Ensign? That's because, officially during this time, the Canadian flag on land was the Union flag, with this being the Canadian Red Ensign for shipping use, however, unofficially, this flag was used to be the Canadian flag. This flag was not accepted for official use on Canadian government buildings in Canada till 1945.