Saturday, 29 December 2007

A race and a brass bird.

We were woken twice the night before the race -- once because the Professor heard a prowler in the garden; and again by a fire in the Italian camp. No-one was hurt, and the plane was saved. The events of the night made everyone jumpy, and Professor C was determined to stop the race.

But Lord Worthing and the pilots were just as determined that it should go ahead. In the end, I persuaded Professor C to 'let go and let God', as Sister Marie Therese always says.

Our employer seemed to have forgotten his order that we should find out who was sabotaging planes. I was sorry for this, as I would have liked to have seen whoever hurt that poor Frenchman caught and punished. But Lord Worthing had been sent a new item from Sotherby's and wanted the Professor to look at it. It was a sad-looking Arabian brass automata, badly in need of cleaning. The Professor and I got to work with the Brasso, and it perked up, even flying a little (I think the Professor was afraid Birdie might fly off altogether -- and not that I would have blamed the poor creature, with the way he was going on about taking it apart for further study).

Birdie seems to like music. Also, sand and cinnamon sticks. I think he is a phoenix. The Professor says he is a toy.

The estate was in full festival mode, ready for the race, so we took a break from work to watch the fun. As we walked down to the lawn set aside for spectators, we were accosted by a photographer. I paid him fourpence for a portrait of me -- I'm sure it will amuse the sisters back in Rome. But his daughter, Alice, an engaging if sticky child of four, was insistent about 'Birdie, birdie.' I've no idea how she knew what the Professor and I were up to -- maybe one of the gardeners, or one of the boys told her to ask me for a look at our mechanical wonder. So I took her to see him, and she was suitably impressed -- I think Birdie liked her, too. He was less impressed by Lord Worthing's young sons.

The race was flown, with a victory for Lord Worthing's son Malcom. The Americans came in second, and my Italian friend came in third --he was quite philosophical about it. I'm afraid the Germans were very sore losers. They were picked up later by a large dirigible, and I must say that no-one was sorry to see them go. I hope we never see the Graf again -- but I have a strange feeling he might be back.

I have the photographer's card here -- I'd like him to do a portrait of Birdie, as I've become rather fond of him.

The player says: Nick said afterwards that he had to really work hard to prevent Professor C from stopping the race. We never did ascertain or aprehend the villain -- we assumed it was the Germans, who are the traditional baddies in a HEX scenario.

I was so surprised when the mechanical bird turned up that I nearly fell off my chair -- here's why.

Nick said later that he was a bit taken aback when Tim put so much effort into trying to get the race cancelled. It was slightly annoying to put so much effort into following up clues which pointed only to sabotage, but not to whodunnit. It would have been satisfying to catch whoever was responsible and smash up their plane or something; but I guess the ignominious defeat was a good punishment. I think the Graf and his giant dirigible will be back -- he is far to interesting to waste.

I was interested to see the way the race was decided -- Nick threw dice for each participant and moved them along an imaginary course according to how much they scored.

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Two corpses and a plane crash.

It is late, but I can't sleep for thinking about four unfortunate men who have crossed my path this day.

First was DeWhymper's manservant Eustace, whose bones I crunched underfoot in the clocktower.

Second was Charles DeWhymper, who feels guilt for the death of a man who trusted him, and is mourning the loss of a good man servant.

Third was Lord Worthing, who keeps vigil in a crypt with the corpse of his wife. He swears she moves, and that she is still alive. But above ground his four fine sons need a father.

Fourth was the French pilot, whose name no-one would tell me. He's going to live, but he is badly burned, and he knows that someone has tried to kill him.

The events at the priory have scared me. My life has been cloistered until now, and the wide world was always going to involve surprises; but nothing could have prepared me for the death of Eustace. Professor C and DeWhymper agree he was thrown through time by the clock until he fell to dust.

The Professor is convinced that the clock will be of some use in helping Lord Worthing go back in time to save his wife, if only he can learn how to use it properly. I am struggling with the ethics of this; I have prayed for guidance, though, and I have faith that I will be answered.

Lord Worthing commanded that we go down to his estate, claiming that he had something to show us. On the way, a terrifying thing, a flying machine raced our train. Professor C wonders how these young men survive such speeds -- he is sure their organs should be pulp by now. We met two of Lord Worthing's sons -- they seem nice enough boys, although they mourn two mothers and have good as lost a father.

Later, we met the other brothers, Douglas and George, who have a passion for flying machines and are hoping to race across the English Channel for a prize of £1,000. We witnessed a crash -- Douglas Worthing and I were first at the scene and were able to pull the French pilot from the burning machine. We took him to the village, where the doctor is attending to him.

The Frenchman blames the German team. Graf Von Kluge, the designer is hard to like -- although Professor C provoked him. Later, we found a broken part in the wreck of the plane.

Lord Worthing has not shown us what he called us here to see -- instead, he charged the Professor with investigating the crash. The Professor is not pleased, but has acquiesced. He fears he will lose his job, and the chance to study time, if he does not obey Lord Worthing. I am glad to assist in my own small way. I would like to see whoever hurt the poor Frenchman brought to justice. He was a handsome man, and will take his scarring badly.

I feel so many doubts. I have been employed to ensure that Professor C conducts his research as a good Catholic like Lord Worthing would wish. In my heart, I do not believe that what Lord Worthing wants to achieve is something a good Catholic should want.

Part of me would end this contract and return to Rome; but another part of me clings to this chance to see England, to find out more about myself, this book and, perhaps if there really was another child born to my parents.


The Player says: This was a long old session -- 6pm until 9pm -- that covered a lot of ground. I'm still not remembering to use my Perception and Empathy skills; but I remembered Nick's admonition about us failing to use our style points last time. I noticed that Sister J tries really hard to get people to like her, which is a lot like me in real life. Tim on the other hand, makes Professor C positively unlikeable with his Daily Mail-style imperialist frothings-at-the-mouth. Next time I'm going to play a horrible character; although it is challenging to get Sister J to work round people. I loved the pilots -- they reminded me of the Flambards books.