David McCallum – famous as Illya Kuryakin in The Man From U.N.C.L.E. but better known to my generation as Dr. Donald “Ducky” Mallard in the NCIS franchise – has passed away at the age of 90.
NCIS has always been fundamentally silly, but still quite enjoyable in a unthinking ‘hunt down the bad guys and shoot them pew-pew-pew’ sort of way, and Ducky’s appearances were one of the most enjoyable aspects. I don’t think he’s been in it much of late (I haven’t been going out of my way to watch since the classic cast were replaced), but he will still be much missed.
(I think McGee’s still there, but he has a beard, and McGee with a beard isn’t real McGee)
As it happens, one my earliest encounters with the works of H. P. Lovecraft was a set of books on tape of The Dunwich Horror and The Rats in the Walls that I borrowed from the local library. Years later I actually managed to buy them when the library decided they were past use. Examining them a few years back I was astonished to discover they were read by Mr McCallum. His reading of the description of Dunwich will always be the definitive version for me.
I’ve managed to find a copy of it on YouTube, although it’s a little faster and higher pitched that the version that I first heard creeping out of my tape player a good 30 years ago. But I’ll include it nonethless.
I’ve also found a copy of The Rats in the Walls, but be aware that the name of the cat (unfortunately common at the time of the work’s writing but appallingly racist) is not edited.
I am having the kind of weekend that would make Saint Francis of Assisi strangler a badger. I’ve got a long list of things I need or want to get done, but every time I start on one I’m immediately blocked by either disruptions to public transport or unexpected consequences of past decisions. It’s unutterably frustrating, so much so that if anyone had even glanced at me sideways during my last attempt to get something done I would have been hard pressed not to scream and physically attack them.
So it’s no wonder that my mind has turned to weapons.
Many years ago I read an essay by the great writer Isaac Asimov in which he discussed how his famous Three Laws of Robotics were actually a specific implementation of a more general Three Laws of Tools. For those unfamiliar with the Laws of Robotics they are…
1: A robot shall not harm a human, or through inaction allow a human to come to harm. 2: A robot shall obey the instructions given to it by a human, except where this would conflict with the first law. 3: A robot shall preserve its own existence, except where this would conflict with the first or second laws.
(There’s also a ‘zeroth’ law that Asimov introduced later, but we’re not worrying about that for this discussion.)
In his essay Asimov reformulated these into his Three Laws of Tools:
1: A tool shall not harm a human, or through malfunction allow a human to come to harm. 2: A tool shall do what the user intends, except where this would conflict with the first law. 3: A tool shall not break, except where this would conflict with the first or second laws.
In deriving these Laws he mentioned that they do not apply to weapons, and even speculated as to whether weapons should be considered a specialised subset of tools, or not even count as tools altogether.
It was the non-applicability of Asimov’s laws to weapons that I found myself thinking about the other day. Could a similar set of Laws could be created to cover the very deliberate harm-causing nature of weapons? After a bit of mental back and forth I realised that Asimov’s Laws – although stated as Laws – are actually carefully ranked priorities, and looking at things that way eventually allowed me to tweak them into the Three Laws of Weapons:
1: A weapon shall not harm a non-target or through malfunction or inaction allow a non-target to come to harm. 2: A weapon shall do what its operator intends, unless this would conflict with the first law. 3: A weapon shall not harm itself unless this contradicts the first or second laws.
The crucial difference is of course the division of humans into people you want to harm – targets – and people you don’t want to harm – non-targets. Once that’s done the laws work perfectly.
So, now you know the Three Laws of Weapons. Try not to need them.
Not long ago someone posted the following image (which I have shamelessly stolen) to one the Tengwar subreddits, asking for a translation.
(For those not in the know the Tengwar is the writing system devised by J.R.R.Tolkien for his Elvish languages. It’s very pretty but horribly impractical – the Elves were probably plagued with dyslexia.)
Two facts were quickly established. That the squiggly bits above the eye are the logo of the Tolkien themed, Austrian, atmospheric-black-metal band Summoning, and the writing is complete gibberish, a repetition of something like ait-h dom a chon. Case closed.
Except something about the whole thing nagged me. The photo is obviously of a manufactured item, probably a promotional item for the band, and likely made of metal. It seemed unlikely that the band – either as professional musicians or Tolkien fans – would go to all the trouble of making such a thing and then just stick a bunch of random letters on it. Surely it’s meant to mean something?
The first possibility was that it’s written in the Mode of Baloneyland. “Mode of Baloneyland” is a very funny pun, but you need to understand a few things about the Tengwar before you can understand it. Now, I could skip over this in the name of not boring the hell out of you, but this is my blog, and I write as I please!
Tolkien was a linguist (specifically a philologist), and he made his Elves linguists as well. As such the writing system he invented for them was not simply an alphabet, it was system that could be used to write any language. Each individual consonant (tengwa) is built out of components indicating the basic sound it represents, but it can be reassigned to another value depending on the needs of the language being written. The exact assignment of letters to sounds is called a mode, with examples in Tolkien’s works including the General Mode, the Classic or Quenya Mode, and the Mode of Beleriand.
This flexibility means that the Tengwar does not easily map to a computer keyboard. For a start you need to know what mode you’re writing in – the tengwa súle for instance represents “s” in Quenya Mode and “th” in General Mode. What key should that be mapped to? Also there’s two ways to represent vowels. In General and Quenya mode they’re indicated with marks (tehta) above the tengwa, but in the Mode of Beleriand they have their own dedicated tengwa – so should the ‘E’ key put a dot above a letter or print out the character yanta? It’s a nightmare!
As such, tengwar fonts don’t try to set up a correlation between the letters on the keys and the tengwar they print. They simply make all the tengwar available and rely on the person typing to know what they’re doing. Inevitably many people don’t know what they’re doing and try to write in “Elvish” by typing in a phrase in English and then switching it a tengwar font. Among tengwar enthusiasts the resulting gibberish is referred to as “The Mode of Baloneyland”. Get it? Like the Mode of Beleriand, but absolute baloney. See? I told you it was funny!
Now, if the text was written in the Mode of Baloneyland there would be no way to decipher it without knowing the mapping of the specific font it was written in. I decided to ignore this dead end and assume that whoever wrote it had some idea of what they were doing, but were just really bad at using the tengwar. So, I hopped over to Summoning’s Wikipedia page to look for any clues. I quickly discovered that in 2018 they released an album named “With Doom we Come”. Hmmm, not unsimilar to ait-h dom a chon…
A closer look at the image shows that the Redditor who translated the inscription as ait-h dom a chon missed a few things. Firstly the questionable quality of the metal casting makes it a bit tricky to tell for sure, but the final númen (‘n’) could actually be malta (‘m’), rendering it ait-h dom a chom. Secondly there are marks above the space before chom and the divider between repeated spaces – ait-h dom a’chom‘. These are clearly orphaned ‘e’s – when a tehta cannot be written above a letter it’s supposed to have a carrier (like a lowercase “i” without the dot) placed beneath it. This makes the phrase ait-h dom ae chome.
We’re making progress! The “t-h” on the end of the first word is clearly a result of the writer not realising that there’s a single tengwa for the “th” combination, but what’s with the ‘a’s? A consultation of a tengwar chart gives us the answer. While the character resembles osse – used to represent ‘a’ in the Mode of Beleriand – it’s actually not a valid tengwa at all! It’s the character vala (‘w’) printed backwards! So we’ve now decoded our way to with dom we chome.
Consulting a chart also solves the problem with “ch”. Whoever wrote out the phrase forgot to add a line to the tengwa calma (‘ch’), which would have transformed it to quesse (‘k’). Fix this and we have with dom we kome.
There’s still the issue that the first ‘o’ should have been doubled, but we’ve successfully demonstrated that the inscription is a really incompetent attempt at writing With Doom We Come.
For purposes of comparison here are the inscription as written, and how it would be written properly in both the orthographic (based on spelling) and phonetic (based on sounds) English Modes – all generated via Tecendil which is the only Tengwar transcriber you should use!
So in conclusion, perhaps get someone to check over your tengwar before sending merchandise for production, Summoning!
Severn Horror – my homemade expansion for Arkham Horror 2nd Edition based on the works of Ramsey Campbell – is done.
After three solid days of documenting, revising, documenting, revising and documenting again I am too mentally shattered to write anything witty or interesting, so I’ll just blurt the finished product onto the net and worry about promoting it later.
As a general rule, authors do not read fan fiction.
They do not read fan fiction and are also, generally, loath to accept plot ideas from random members of the public. The reason for this can best be demonstrated by the following short play…
TAMBURLAINE AND THE WALRUS
Random Member of the Public: Excuse me good sir, are you by chance the famous author Congreave?
The Famous Author Congreave: I must confess, sir, that I am indeed he.
Random Member of the Public: And I in turn must confess that I am the most ardent admirer of your work, often resorting to unseemly extremes to obtain your latest publication.
The Famous Author Congreave: I am flattered sir. Flattered.
Random Member of the Public: Allow me to ask, have you ever considered writing upon the great conqueror Tamburlaine? I fancy your talents well suited to a fabulous tale of his encounter with a surly walrus.
The Famous Author Congreave: I have not, but I must admit that the idea is an intriguing one.
Random Member of the Public: Then I hope you shall consider it. It would be an honour indeed to inspire one of your works.
The Famous Author Congreave: You honour me sir with such praise. I see my driver has arrived and I must away, however it has been a pleasure to to make your acquaintance.
Random Member of the Public: And yours sir. And yours.
FIVE YEARS LATER
Random Patron in a Pub: Did you hear? The latest work of the famous author Congreave – a fabulous conceit on the subject of the conqueror Tamburlaine encountering a walrus – has sold out in each and every book emporium and has been optioned by a Hollywood producer! He stands to receive millions!
Random Member of the Public: What!? That was my idea! I shall contact my attorney at once!
LENGTHY AND EXPENSIVE LEGAL PROCEEDINGS ENSUE
As I hope this short drama illustrates, any person in a creative field must be extremely careful when it comes to sourcing ideas. Recent history is replete with famous authors being dragged through the courts by random so-and-sos insisting that said author’s best selling novel is plagiarised from the 20 page storybook they self published in 1983. It’s safest overall for an author to straight up refuse to engage with fans offering them ideas, and to completely avoid any amateur writing involving their worlds and characters.
Which sucks, because I have a great idea for a Rivers of London/PC Grant novel.
Or at least I think it’s a great idea. It ties together some obscure real-world London history with some obscure real-world London geography while involving a number of well known historical figures and events in the way that the best moments of the PC Grant novels do. It’s the kind of hook that an author like Ben Aaronovitch could hang a great story on – it’s just unfortunate that it occurred to me and not him.
“So why don’t you write it yourself?” you ask. And it’s a fair question. I’ve written my fair share of fanfic and without wanting to sound big-headed I think a fair amount of it passes muster. The problem lies in the kind of writing I’m good at. You want an idiotic comedy where established characters behave like lunatics? I’m your man! Or are you after a faux-academic paper? No problem! Could I interest you in a brochure for a non-existent museum replete with in-jokes? I have one right here! You want a story where realistic characters behave in a realistic fashion in the real world? Yeah… That’s not something I can do.
I suspect that’s down to my autistic brain. It’s easy to write characters breaking the accepted rules of society when you’re not that clear on the accepted rules of society to begin with. Imitating a specific literary style is simple when you’re a hyperlexic who’s read literally thousands of books. But describing the thoughts and actions of realistic human beings? I’m barely a realistic human being myself.
And then there’s the issue of length. My brain fizzes with so many ideas and urges that it’s hard to find the time to get even a short story written. At any given time I’m likely to have at least a dozen projects on the go. I’ve never been diagnosed with ADHD but I certainly have enough of the traits to frame a suspicion.
So, what to do?
To my mind the only sensible option is to lay the whole thing out here, if only to get it out of my head. As such I am pleased to present the plot for a PC Grant novel based on my idea. It’s not the only possible plot, and certainly not the plot that Mr Aaronovich would come up with (I’m entirely confident that his version would be far better). I’ll avoid spoilers by placing an explanation of my brainwave at the end – if you’re not interested in my painful attempts at story-telling then please feel free to skip to there. But if you’d like to come on the journey then please read on as I sketch out the plot of –
(or “Der Kreis auf der Hundeinsel” if you’re nasty)
The story begins with the body of a middle aged man being discovered in Millwall Park on the Isle of Dogs, apparently having been stabbed to death. The Folly is called in when a battered business card is found in his pocket with the contact details of the late and unlamented Martin Chorley – AKA the Second Faceless Man.
Investigation shows that the man – one Christopher Greenshield – was an antiquities specialist who’d recently returned to the UK after an absence of about six years. He was renting accommodation along the Outer Millwall Dock, which proves to have been burgled and ransacked around the same time as his murder. There are no traces of vestigia in the flat, on his body or at the site it was discovered, although it’s quickly determined that he was attacked elsewhere and his body relocated post mortem. It’s also determined that he was killed by several stabs with a narrow, stiletto-style blade.
Historical investigation fails to uncover any links between Greenshield and the Little Crocodiles. It is determined however that since his arrival back in London two weeks earlier he’d been trying to contact Chorley – apparently unaware of his demise. A painful slog through the material in his flat and tracking his movements eventually establishes that Chorley had been in contact with him around 12 years earlier, seeking some kind of rare historical document. He’d returned to London because he managed to obtain a copy and was seeking Chorley as a buyer.
The actual identity of the document is unclear, but Greenshield’s documentation shows he found it after research into 18th century Shakespeare forger William Henry Ireland. This puzzles everyone – why would Chorley be interested in Ireland? A tenuous connection is suggested between his Arthurian obsessions and Henry’s forged play Vortigern and Rowena – did he base it on some kind of authentic material? Or was Chorley somehow unaware that the play was a forgery?
Investigation on the Isle of Dogs indicates that Greenshield had a number of encounters with an eccentric local resident living on the north side of Mudchute Park, one Justin Linstock. Linstock appears to have appointed himself unofficial caretaker of the park and often harasses visitors with accusations of littering, noise and anti-social behaviour – complaints about which have previously brought him to attention of the police. He’s interviewed but denies all knowledge of the burglary and the murder, stating that Greenshield was loitering in the park and needed to be moved on.
Following up leads eventually tracks down a historical researcher employed by Greenshield to authenticate the mysterious document. Greenshield had him sign a non-disclosure agreement, but the prospect of prosecution convinces him to talk. It’s revealed that when composing his Shakespeare forgeries William Henry Ireland managed to obtain a genuine Elizabethan script to use as a model, and Greenshield found it. A manuscript copy of the suppressed and long lost 1597 play by Thomas Nashe and Ben Jonson The Isle of Dogs.
No one believes this to be a coincidence.
Happily the researcher has a photocopy of the whole thing which is quickly forwarded to Professor Postmartin, who almost has a stroke out of sheer literary excitement. He quickly confirms that the work is genuine, although it shows clear signs of not being the original script. Rather it’s a ‘memorial reconstruction’ or ‘bad quarto’ put together from the memories of audience members and actors. This would explain how it survived the government suppression of the original. Comment is made on the irony of Ireland laboring over painful Shakespeare pastiches while sitting on a genuine literary treasure.
Postmartin goes on to reveal the astonishing reason why the play was suppressed. Accepted history says it was banned as being insulting to Queen Elizabeth. Instead it turns out to be a dramatised claim that the playwright Christopher Marlowe was ritually murdered as part of a magical ceremony conducted by Queen Elizabeth’s court astrologer Doctor John Dee to establish a magical nexus or ‘omphalos’ on the Isle of Dogs. A nexus intended to serve as the heart of a world spanning British Empire.
Postmartin explains that there have been strange rumours surrounding Marlowe’s 1593 death for centuries. The official story says he was stabbed to death in a drunken fight over the bill in a Deptford boarding house, but there have been claims that he was involved with espionage and may have been eliminated to plug a leak. He was also known to be associated with a group of radical free thinkers, occultists and atheists – labeled in later centuries as ‘The School of Night’ – who were viewed as a threat to the Throne. The play – employing a series of fairly transparent pseudonyms – alleges that Dr Dee was the head of a magical group loyal to the Queen and who decided that Marlowe would not just be a suitable sacrifice, but that his death would strike a blow against their rivals.
Research shows that stories surrounding Dr Dee and the Isle of Dogs are well known among modern day occult groups, who tie them into a series of alleged ‘ley lines’ stretching across the city of London. Nightingale even heard similar stories as a young man, but the Folly never considered them as anything more than spooky campfire tales. The existence of the manuscript – authored by Marlowe’s friends Nashe and Jonson – entirely changes matters. Putting aside the historical implications, could Chorley have been after it for details on how to construct his own omphalos or reactivate the purported Elizabethan one? If there was already a nexus of empire-building magical power in London then re-energising it might be an easier way to Make Britain Great Again than trying to create and control a god. And regardless of Chorley’s intentions if there is a nexus of empire-building magical power in the heart of London’s Docklands then the Folly needs to know about it.
Postmartin and Nightingale dissect the details of the script to try and determine if the ritual described therein has any accuracy to it while Peter heads out to the supposed site of the omphalos – located in Mudchute park. He finds nothing unusual or magical at the site – a circle of stone paving – but has a run in with a somewhat agitated Justin Linstock who tells him he’s not welcome in the park and orders him to leave. Peter leaves, then doubles back to shadow Linstock, but he merely returns to his house.
Back at the Folly Peter does some more digging on Linstock. He has a lengthy record of warnings and public nuisance reports to his name, all relating to incidents in Mudchute Park. One from 18 months ago particularly stands out where he was involved in a physical scuffle with a John Leverpool. According to the incident report Leverpool – a New Age enthusiast – was dowsing for ley lines in the vicinity of the omphalos when Linstock approached from behind, tackled him to the ground and made several attempts to punch him in the head. Bystanders intervened and the police were called. On their arrival Linstock refused to explain himself and Leverpool declined to press charges. Peter attempts to contact Leverpool but he’s at a retreat in Scotland and won’t be back for the next week. Leverpool is tagged as a person of interest and Peter marks Linstock as worthy of more detailed investigation.
By the next day Nightingale and Postmartin have completed their research and have concluded that the ritual described in the manuscript – while consistent with pre-Newtonian magical beliefs and practices – simply couldn’t work. It’s a farrago of portentous sounding nonsense, and if it bears any relationship to an actual ritual carried out by Dee, said ritual would have achieved nothing. Speculation is had concerning Martin Chorley – did he figure this out for himself somehow, or did he simply give up on the omphalos and move on to other projects because of the lack of information? It will probably never be known.
An alert is then received. The previous evening a South London schoolboy failed to return home. CCTV has turned up showing him talking to and then leaving Greenwich railway station with a man who has been identified as Justin Linstock. Nightingale notes today’s date – May 30th, the anniversary of Christopher Marlowe’s mysterious death in Deptford…
A search of Linstock’s house turns up no trace of him or the missing boy, however the missing manuscript of The Isle of Dogs is found along with a large collection of books and material relating to the Elizabethan era, Doctor Dee and ley lines. Examination of the manuscript shows that the pages containing Dee’s supposed ritual are missing.
Nightingale leads a team across the park to the omphalos but finds nothing. At the same time Peter heads across the river to meet up with another team at Deptford. Matters are complicated because the exact site of the house in which Marlowe’s was killed is unknown – the best information is that it’s in the vicinity of Charlotte Turner Gardens. As police go door to door Nightingale races to meet up with Peter who is on the phone to Postmartin, going through the script for any clues. References to the river and “harnessing nature’s power” eventually lead to the electricity substation on Borthwick Street, when they interrupt Linstock acting out Dee’s ritual from the play, arriving just before he’s about to sacrifice the schoolboy using a stiletto-like Elizabethan ballock dagger.
Under interrogation Linstock confesses to the murder of Christopher Greenshield using the same dagger, which he claims is the very one used to sacrifice Christopher Marlowe. He claims to be a descendant of John Dee, and the hereditary guardian of the omphalos, a role that has been passed down through his family for centuries. Communication with angels (received via automatic writing in Dee’s Enochian alphabet) alerted him to Greenshield’s presence and his possession of the key to re-activating the omphalos. When Greenshield refused to hand this over he had no choice but to kill him and recover the manuscript himself. An initial psychological assessment shows him unlikely to be competent to stand trial.
The Museum of London confirms that the dagger is authentic to the period, so the claim that it killed Marlowe is at least plausible. The rest of Linstock’s claims are rather dubious with his family only emigrating to the UK in the late 1800s and his knowledge of the manuscript more likely coming from conversations with Greenshield in the park than from angels. However they cannot be entirely ruled out.
The play is added to Postmartin’s archives and the omphalos site is added to the Folly’s watch list, although assessed as very low risk.
OK, so that’s the story as best I can tell it. Or at least as best I care to tell it – I could work on it more but there’s not really much of a point. My inspiration was some random neurons in my brain suddenly linking the (quite real) occult claims about the mysterious paved circle in Mudchute Park to the suppressed and lost The Isle of Dogs. After that it pretty much all flowed. That’s the core idea, and that’s what I’d like – were it at all possible – to submit to Mr Aaronovitch for what I assume would be his far better take on it.
I decided to throw William Henry Ireland into the mix both to pad out the tale and because his story is a fascinating one. I read most of his Vortigern and Rowena for this project and how it could ever have been mistaken for Shakespeare is entirely beyond me.
The name Eastward Ho is taken from a another Ben Jonson (with George Chapman and and John Marston) play from 1605 which features a scene on the Isle of Dogs and which (like The Isle of Dogs) got into trouble with the government, this time for it’s satirical take on King James’ Scottish associates. It was written in response to the play Westward Ho by Jonson’s rivals Thomas Dekker and John Webster who went on to write Northward Ho as their own response. The names of several characters in my story are taken from these plays.
So that’s it. I have yelled my idea – for what it’s worth – out into the universe. If you’ve managed to stick with it this far I hope it has provided some level of entertainment. Keep an eye out for my next project, Southward Ho, completing the City Comedy tetralogy started over 400 years ago!
The Battle of the Tamesis Ford Author: Gareth C. Worth First published May 2017 in Volume 12, Issue 6 of ‘Roman Transactions’
The ‘Tamesis Ford Letter’ was discovered among the notes of the late Professor Arthur J. Cline of the College of Archaeology and Ancient History at the University of Leicester following his death at the age of 77 in 1998. Although undated, context places it between 1947 and 1953 when Professor Cline undertook several research trips to Orthodox monasteries in Turkey and Romania.
Professor Cline’s notebooks from this period contain numerous hand written copies of historical documents presumably located in monastery libraries. Few however are annotated with dates or locations, making determination of their origins virtually impossible. A number were referenced with full details in the Professor’s published work suggesting that he maintained some form of index, but searches of his papers have failed to uncover any such document.
The text, located in notebook seven of the Cline archive, exists in two forms, a classical Latin original and Professor Cline’s English translation. The Latin contains several lacunae speculatively filled in the English version. Both versions end suddenly suggesting that the original document was similarly truncated, or that Professor Cline was interrupted in his transcription.
The letter purports to be an eyewitness account of the battle between the forces of British Chief Cassivellaunus and Julius Caesar at a ford on the river Thames during the latter’s second invasion of Britain in 54 BCE. We have Caesar’s own, typically terse, account of this battle in book five of his Commentarii de Bello Gallico, but the letter – while consistent with the Commentarii – includes far more detail, even featuring the war elephant otherwise first mentioned in works from the 2nd century CE. The Latin is typical for an educated Roman of the period, suggesting that the author (one Titus Magius) may have been an officer. No mention of him in other documents has been found, however this is hardly unexpected given the fragmentary nature of surviving records from the period.
If genuine, the letter is a remarkable and important new source of information on Caesar’s campaigns, and it is curious that Professor Cline never shared it with other researchers. It seems likely that the more unusual features of the account – including the use of quicksilver and a mysterious spear bought from the Temple of Saturn – led him to doubt its authenticity. It also cannot be ruled out that the letter is a work of fiction composed by the Professor himself, although it would be inappropriate to speculate for what purpose such a work would be intended.
Research on the origin of the letter continues. Even if the truth of the matter remains unresolved it is an intriguing document that raises questions about the accuracy of Caesar’s accounts of his campaigns, and the social structures and methods of warfare employed by the Britons of the first century BCE.
The Tamesis Ford Letter as translated from the Latin by Professor Arthur J. Cline c.1950
Letter to Lucius Magius Petronax in Rome from his brother Titus Magius in Britiania, a.d. XI Kal. Oct. DCC A.U.C. (19th September 54 BC)
Good health to you my brother. Be assured that your news was received with great joy by myself and my comrades and much wine has been consumed [to your honour]. You ask for an account of our assault on the ford and I am pleased to supply one thus.
We came upon the river called Tamesis from the south, the ford lying where its course turns from the north towards the west, the width being beyond the shot of a sling. The forces of the Britons with many horses and chariots were assembled on the far bank and saluted our [arrival] with a great tumult of taunting calls and many blasts upon bronze trumpets the sound of which was most discordant. Our enemy had placed many sharpened stakes beneath the waters of the ford but forewarned by the prisoners captured during our advance we did not charge the waters.
Caesar commanded forward two Centuria of the [second?] Legion and cavalry to shield them and they entered the waters until only their heads stood free, the waters of the ford being deep. At this came forth from the Britons a tall warrior clad in robes and breeches of fine patterned cloth and bearing a heavy ring of gold around his neck in the manner of the Gauls. He bore a shield of polished bronze set with red glass and a tall spear, and his clothes and arms with much gold were adorned. The Britons paid him much obeisance and many fell to the ground [at his feet]. The warrior strode forth and raised his spear over the waters and the river leapt upwards, rising as in spate, and [some] men of the Legion were washed from their feet and drowned.
I admit with shame that at the sight of this my heart quailed, as did that of many of my comrades who stepped back, [crying out in] agitation. Caesar commanded us to stand firm and sent forward the elephant named Magnus with archers upon its back and as it entered [the river] they emptied great vessels of Hispanian quicksilver and ordure into the waters. At the sight of this the Britons let forth a great cry of woe and the warrior cried out in a rage and ran into the river, and as his feet entered the waters they rose up in confusion as if struck by a storm, and several score Britons followed in his train.
Caesar ordered [the Centuria] from the ford and sent his personal guard to meet the Britons, and among them was borne a great spear of cold-forged iron, fully tall as a man and bound to a greenwood haft. It was said by many that this spear was bought across the sea from Rome at Caesar’s instruction and said some that it had first come from Dacia to the Temple of Saturn in the time of Aulus Postumius and any that touched [its metal?] would fall [to the ground] as if struck dead. The guard stood ready at the ford and met the charge of the warrior who in his fury outstripped his fellows, seeming as in flight to run across the water.
In a great rage the warrior cut down four men, but erelong was surrounded and disarmed by the press of the guards who swiftly pierced him with the great spear and dragged him up the bank. At this sight the Britons cried out and fell into a great confusion with many entering the ford but twice their number taking to their chariots [and fleeing].
Caesar ordered us forwards to meet the Britons and his guards fell upon the warrior, fixing his flesh to the ground with hastae of [cold-forged] iron. The strength of the warrior was indeed great for despite these grievous wounds he swooned not, loosing cries of agony with each piercing. Caesar himself then approached the warrior, drawing his sword and shouting much encouragement [to the men at] the ford. Then he struck with a single blow the warrior’s head [from his neck] and taking it by the hair held it aloft crying out “Thus for my boats!”.
The Britons, their champion slain, let forth a great and despairing groan and made to flee [back across the ford]. Many score fell to our slings and we swept forward calling upon the Salian Mars to destroy [our foes?]
So I was thinking, why not share some wild speculation about the Old Man – Genius Loci of the River Thames – in Ben Aaronovitch’s PC Grant/Rivers of London series?
The Old Man – AKA Father Thames – was originally a Romano-British priest named Tiberius Claudius Verica who made a deal with the River Thames while standing on the original bridge of Roman London. And when we say original bridge we mean original. When Peter pays a second visit to the memory of Roman London in Lies Sleeping he notes that the bridge stands on pontoons, making it the temporary one the Romans put up after their invasion in AD 43. They replaced it with a pile bridge around AD 50, so there’s maybe a period of 10 years when Verica could have made his deal.
His ‘sons’ on the other hand – the Genii Locorum of the Thames’ tributaries – clearly predate the Romans. Familial relationships between river gods are unnecessarily complicated, but both the old Beverly Brook and Tyburn are at the very least Celtic Britons. Assuming they updated with the times (which we certainly know Sir William of Tyburn did) they could conceivably date back to the first peopling of Britain way back in the paleolithic.
Whenever exactly Tyburn and Beverly (or should that be Beaver-Lea?) were adopted by their water courses, it certainly preceded the adoption of Verica. Which seems pretty odd. How is it that (comparatively) minor rivers would have their own deities, while the Thames didn’t?
One answer is obvious. It used to have a god, but then it didn’t. The Old Man is not the original Genius Loci of the Thames!
We have seen several examples of rivers losing their gods then acquiring new ones. The most prominent is of course is the abandonment of the lower Thames by the Old Man after the Great Stink and the deaths of his sons in 1858. The tideway remained godless for a century until the adoption of Mamma Thames circa 1958. But there’s also the example of the Mosel, whose Genius Loci was murdered by the Ahnenerbe during World War II. A new goddess spontaneously appeared around 2010, seventy or so years later.
In 2013 During the events of Foxglove Summer Peter and Beverly were involved in the potential creation of a new Genius Loci for the River Lugg, the previous god having been killed by Welsh Methodists. While Methodism started spreading through Wales in the 1730s it doesn’t seem unreasonable to presume that attempts at river-murder would require some kind of organisational backing – the official Presbyterian Church of Wales being established in 1811 suggests the attack may have taken place after that date.
(Edit: A reread of Foxglove Summer has supplied the fact that the Lugg was done in during the Victorian era, which gives us a limit of 112 to 176 years before 2013)
So these examples give us rivers waiting for between 70 and 200 176 years to choose a new god.
If we apply this range to the date of Tiberius Claudius Verica’s elevation to Genius Loci we get a date for the death of the previous Father Thames somewhere between 130 and 20 BC. So the question is, what happened around the Thames in this period that could have killed a Genius Loci?
I’ll tell you what happened – three words – Gaius Julius Caesar!
Caesar’s first invasion of Britain in 55 BC was a bit of a fizzer. He turned up on the beach, made camp, lost a bunch of boats to unexpected high tides then turned around and went home. But the following year he came back and (despite further tidal problems) ended up chasing the Britons all the way to the Thames and parts beyond. He even sent a war elephant stomping into the river. We know that the Romans knew how to make gods (cf. Mr Punch), isn’t it possible they knew how to kill them too?
If we want to speculate further, perhaps it wasn’t tides that damaged Caesar’s boats? A ticked off Genius Loci in control of the Thames Estuary could do a lot of damage. And anyone – god or man – who struck at Julius Caesar usually came to regret it.
So in 45 BC Caesar’s legions killed the god of the Thames. Ninety-five years later the river chose a new god, a young Briton who’d seen which way the wind was blowing and hitched his chariot to the incoming Romans.
(Of course none of this explains why the Walbrook had no god 11 years later, but I can’t solve all these issues at once!)
Some years back (about 6 I think?) I spent a fair bit of time putting together a map of the post-apocalyptic Moscow Metro system of Dmitry Glukhovsky’s Metro 2033 series. While this was received pretty well by both the cartographic and Metro communities I was never 100% happy with it – in particular the way it echoed the inaccurate depiction of interchanges from the official map – and I always intended to go back and revise it.
So now I have.
After many hours of studying Moscow’s geography and trawling my way through the Russian Metro wikia (with the assistance of Google Translate) I have redrafted and updated my map to produce what is undoubtedly (by which I mean ‘doubtedly’) the best English map of the Metro ever produced!
As is my wont I’ve included some information from the expanded “Universe of Metro 2033” books by other authors, despite some of them being a bit silly (I’m still not quite over there being Skaven on the Serpukhovsko–Timiryazevskaya line). I’ve also used some content from the Metro computer game series, which is based on the books but takes a number of serious liberties with them (any version of Metro 2033 where Artyom doesn’t spend a week being forced to shovel human waste out of toilet pits simply isn’t Metro 2033!).
My next insane project is a redraft of the regional Moscow map I found on the Russian wiki, which is highly deficient in various areas. I will take some time off first however – at least until I stop waking up in the morning with the names metro stations echoing in my head (Театральная… Театральная… Театральная…)
I’ve formatted up my 40k rules for Saint Sabbat, and included an option to give her a retinue of Servo Skulls, as she had on Herodor. All still completely untested and probably badly overpowered. Enjoy!