Welcome to Inferno! Herein the darkest troubled dreams of all humanity are made flesh, as a secret cabal feverishly twitch the hidden strings. But who would guess that these gifted ones spend most of their energy divided against themselves? There is One who watches, and smiles...
The Inferno Club is set in a modest Queen Anne terrace in Bruton Street, off Berkeley Square, in the heart of London's exclusive Mayfair district. One by one, each of you has made his or her way there, traipsing through the chilly slush or alighting from a luxurious steam conveyance, guided by the directions you received on your mysterious invitation. Once within the building the bustle of London is shut out as though it never existed. The Club's staff take your hat and coat, and any large and obtrusive weaponry of which you may wish to be relieved: but they are not insistent, as many members find it more convenient to keep such accoutrements close at hand.
Upstairs is the grand meeting room, a walnut-panelled rectangular chamber with a small dais and lectern at one end. Near to the lectern, in one corner, is a curious structure somewhat resembling a spittoon: a slender steel cylinder about three feet tall, its top covered with a hatch. The remainder of the room is scattered with comfortable armchairs grouped around low tables, and around these move attentive stewards clad in black livery. The windows which presumably occupy one long wall of the room are covered with thick, green velvet drapes. A log fire roars in the opposed wall, but the room is otherwise undecorated.
You wait, perhaps slightly nervous, sipping or gulping at your drink according to nature, until a hidden clock softly chimes nine. Then, an upright, elderly man dressed as a butler mounts the dais, clearing his throat gently, and all fall silent.
'Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the inaugural meeting of the re-established Inferno Club. My name is Benson, and I am the club's butler. I and my staff' he gestures to indicate the blank-faced, silent stewards 'will be happy to meet your needs while on the premises tonight. I have been instructed by the Club's administrators to make certain matters clear to you.'
Benson clears his throat once more, reaches into an inner pocket and pulls forth a small notebook. 'Hem! Imprimis: the Charter of the Inferno Club, a copy of which you have already received. This contains the rules which bind your membership, and describe the manner in which the Club is to be organized. A further copy will be on display here on the wall behind where I am currently standing. Now you are members, you may visit this building and use its facilities whenever you wish, although this general meeting will only occur once per year.
'Secundus: your Houses. The stewards are now moving among you with a sealed envelope for each. This contains a briefing from the head of your House. Many of you applied to join a particular House, and all but one have been accepted into the House of his of her choice: that one' (and here he carefully refrains from looking at any person in particular) 'has been assigned to another House. Those of you who requested to be assigned have also been allocated to the most appropriate House, and the Inferno Club acknowledges your desire to cooperate.
'Tertius: the Infernal Mail System. The Club has a secure and extremely swift mail system, which allows members to communicate with each other, and with the administration, by means of the slot you see in the corner of the room here (he gestures at the spittoon-like object). You place your message in an envelope, seal it, address it accordingly, and place it in the slot: it will swiftly be conveyed to the destination. You should understand that as well as august members, the Club employs a host of staff, such as myself, who are in no way privy to its doings but exist only to serve its ends.
'Now, ladies and gentlemen, I have been asked to suggest that you take the opportunity of reading your House briefings and introducing yourselves to each other.' With that, he steps from the dais.
We're going to be putting this list of PCs up onto our Web site, but without postal or email addresses. If you would like us to include your postal and / or email address, do say so, we're happy to do so, but we're making it opt-in rather than opt-out as we know many of our players are legitimately concerned about having personal details splashed all over the Web for any spammer to grab!
Suddenly, everyone's attention is distracted by a shimmering, pearly white radiance which appears in one corner of the room. It is emitted from an elderly man with a long beard, in flowing white robes, bearing a staff, who seems to have just materialized there. He smiles benignly at the gathering.
In response to no apparent gesture or signal, five people around the room rise and walk towards the newcomer. He greets each with a firm embrace, and they too are imbued with the opalescent aura. It is apparent that he and they are conversing in some wise, but no speech can be heard.
'That gentleman? That is Mr Ambrose, sir,' says Benson in response to the obvious query. 'He is the Member of the Twelve for House Pisces.
Within less than a minute, Ambrose disappears as suddenly as he arrived, and the glow fades. The five Pisceans make their way thoughtfully back to their seats, each looking a little drained and deflated.
At five minutes to midnight, those with sharp eyes note that the message slot, indicated earlier by Benson, coughs slightly and emits a message. One of the stewards takes it to Benson, who glances at it and then passes it around the assembled company. It is printed rather than handwritten.
'Ladies and gentlemen,
Welcome to the Inferno Club, and a happy and prosperous New Year to you all. May 1866 see all your plans succeed.
Finally, as the twelfth stroke is dying away, Benson mounts the dais once more. 'Ladies and gentlemen, I have been instructed to remind you that next meeting you should hold hustings for the positions of responsibility in the Club, so that elections can be held at the following meeting. Therefore, during the course of this year, those of you who wish to stand should announce your candidatures and prepare your speeches. I hope you have had a pleasant and successful evening, ladies and gentlemen, and I and the other staff here look forward to seeing you all again next New Year's Eve, or sooner if you wish it.'
And with that, one by one, the new members of the planet's most powerful body emerge blinking into the darkness of London. A new year, a new world to conquer...
This is what we want from you by the next deadline:
Anything you don't understand is probably deliberate, but just in case, feel free to contact us on email@example.com or on (01865) 203632. Remember, absolutely everything is potentially up for grabs. Don't assume that any of the 'rules' you've so far received are graven in stone. Try and do at least six impossible things before breakfast!
We're giving you a bit longer for this first deadline, to allow you to contact each other, work out what's going on, and so forth. After this it will settle down to a regular fortnightly slot.
Your turn should be with us by: Midnight Monday 12th October 1998
|Georg, Pfalzgraf von Seyffert||9||1||0||0||5||531|
|Lord Alexander Hamilton||8||1||0||0||5||514|
|Lord William Tiberius Armstrong||8||1||0||0||4||481|
|Albert de Bonvoisin||8||1||0||0||4||474|
|Sir Derek Ross||7||1||0||0||4||400|
|Lady Athena Greendale||7||1++||0||0||3||391|
|Sunil 'Sonny' Laing||6||1||0||0||3||361|
|Hon Auberon Wylde||5||1++||0||0||2||250|
|Countess Katharine de Montvalon||4||1||0||0||1||181|
|Captain Percy Blakely||3||1||0||0||1||160|
|Caspar Augustus Fielding||3||1||0||0||1||128|
|Captain Jonathon Hazelmere||2||1||0||0||1||109|
This table or a very similar one will be published each turn: it represents the magnificent chugging of the Libran Calculation Engines as they scour the world's informational byways.
(with thanks to the London Times and various other worthy publications)
CELEBRATED 'GHOST-HUNTER' AIDS DUKE The Duke of Gloucester was heard to express much gratitude to Mr Daniel Nightingale for ridding his home of a particularly troublesome spirit earlier this year. 'I used some techniques I picked up in Rumania,' said the modest exorcist.
AN INTERVIEW WITH MISS ELIZABETH SIDDAL The renowned Pre-Raphaelite model is also an artist in her own right, according to an interview in new journal The Minerva Times (Lady Athena Greendale proprietress and editor). Most interesting, but we at the real Times say: stick to the modelling, Miss Siddal, your decorative qualities are no doubt far superior to any you can possibly possess as an artist. Women are simply incapable of the depth of expression on canvas demonstrated by men.
US, JAPAN TO TALK US Congressman Andrew Perry is to mount a diplomatic mission to Japan in the New Year. Perry, whose father Admiral William Perry led the expedition to Japan which disappeared in 1848, said he was keen to breach the Nipponese curtain of silence and to establish a cross-Pacific friendship between his nation and theirs.
WANTED KNIGHT DROWNS IN PARIS Sir Garfield Ardwright, sought by Scotland Yard in connection with the Brewhampton killing, has been found dead, floating in the Seine, by officers of the French Surete, it has been reported. Reports that a British police officer was involved in the affair have been unconfirmed, and Scotland Yard insist that the early retirement of Inspector Caspar Fielding from the service, on health grounds, is completely unconnected.
ARCHBISHOP PREACHES POWER OF THE CHURCH The Archbishop of Canterbury, Fortescue Smyth-Carruthers, used his annual Christmas sermon to promulgate the power of the Church as a social cohesive. Only religion was capable of providing contentment and stability to the lives of ordinary people, he said, in a moving if extremely lengthy address from St Paul's Cathedral.
STEAM OR CLOCKWORK FOR AERIAL NAVY? The influential Procurement Committee of the Ministry of Defence is currently considering options for the establishment of an aerial navy, to defend Britain's skies. The chief debate is likely to be about whether to use a steam- or clockwork-powered design. Potential suppliers are invited to submit evidence and tenders.
HER MAJESTY MOST DEFINITELY AMUSED The Queen and Prince Consort recently witnessed a private performance from the well-known entertainer 'Wylde: Master of Obfuscation'. Reports are that her Majesty was pleased with Mr Wylde's performance - as our own dear Royal Family leads the rest of Europe in taste as all other matters, does this mean that starry success abroad beckons for the conjuror / escapologist?
DR SCHRECK DIES IN FREAK METEOR SHOWER Renowned scientist Dr Schreck perished earlier this year in a freak meteor shower which utterly destroyed his laboratory complex. Readers will recall the good doctor coming to prominence when he rather wildly announced to the Prussian Congress of Deputies that the world was to end in sixteen years. 'His death may be seen as a merciful release,' one colleague who wished to remain anonymous commented.
GRUESOME KILLINGS CONTINUE The spate of hideous murders of women of the street in East London is unabated, with eight unfortunates now having met their ends at the hands of the demonic slayer. Why are Scotland Yard seemingly powerless against this fiend who strikes from the mist? A spokesman refused to comment.
PRUSSIAN CONJUROR SLAIN IN LONDON The moderately renowned illusionist Werner Hassell has been slain just outside London's Bethnal Green Empire music-hall, together with a woman of the street tentatively identified as one Mary Shore. Witnesses report that Hassell found the woman's body and his partner James Edwards ran off to fetch the police, but when officers arrived on the scene they fond that the Prussian too had been killed. This is the first time that the East End Slayer has tackled a man. Edwards, clearly distraught, said that he would endeavour to continue in the trade, as a solo artiste.
DEVASTATING EXPLOSION IN HACKNEY A building in Gresham Street was completely destroyed by an explosion, cause unknown. Neighbouring residents were thankfully unharmed, but the owner of the property, a Dr Andrew Cadmann, is believed to have perished in the blast. Fire Service officials professed themselves baffled as to the nature of the explosion, ascribing it to Dr Cadmann's chemical researches.
ARMSTRONG SHIPYARDS SUCCESS It ha been announced that during 1865 the Armstrong Shipyards of Tyneside and Wearside supplied ninety per cent of world navies' purchases of modern warships. Another field in which British pluck and ingenuity leads the world! 'This only goes to confirm that the North is the true industrial heartland of Britain,' a company spokesman said.
LONGBRIDGE-CROWE EXPEDITION RETURNS EMPTY-HANDED The British explorer Rupert Longbridge-Crowe landed at Southampton after another unsuccessful expedition to find the source of the Nile, still cheerful. 'I remain convinced that a major site awaits discovery in the jungles of the dark continent,' said Mr Longbridge-Crowe as he commenced unpacking. A new expedition will follow as soon as funding can be raised, he confirmed. We at the Times say: hurrah for Longbridge-Crowe! Anyone but a Briton would have given up years ago rather than persist on such a wild-goose-chase. But for the good old English eccentric, where would we be?
WE'RE ALL RIGHT JACK A private review board has voted British MPs a pay rise 2% above the rate of inflation.
DUKE OF GALLOWAY WORSENS Spokesmen for the Galloway estate confirmed that the venerable Duke is now seriously ill, and expected to be not long for this world. 'He might survive another year, or maybe even two,' said family doctor James Herrick. 'Or he might pass away tomorrow. It's in God's hands.'
'NOUVEAU WEALTHY ORDER' FLOURISHES The recent influx of wealthy Northern industrialists into the House of Lords continues unabated: these straight-talking, hard-headed men have been called the 'Nouveau Wealthy Order', or NWO, by one of their number Lord Alexander Hamilton, and the name seems to have stuck. 'Where there's muck, there's brass, I suppose,' said one peer of an ancient Southern family who declined to be named. 'But why on earth can't they wash some of the muck off before coming in here?'
STEAM CALCULUS ACADEMY OPENED Lord Alexander Hamilton announced the opening of the Academy of Steam Calculus at York. 'This field has a great future,' said his Lordship. 'One need only appreciate the progress made in the science of Difference Engines - once they were no bigger than a small room, now they are the size of houses - to see the benefits Hamilton industries can bring to the field.'
METEOR SHOWER HITS AMERICA Reports have reached us of a freak meteor shower in America: sizeable meteorites were seen to crash to earth over a period of several days, across the nation.
MARCHESSA WELCOME AT SAVOY London's new Savoy Hotel welcomed as one of its first guests the beautiful but reclusive Marchessa di Rafinelli. 'The titled and crowned heads of Europe will always find a royal welcome here, at London's finest luxury hotel,' said manager David Westerby.
ANARCHISTS PLAGUE MEETINGS Yet another public meeting has been disturbed by a bomb-throwing anarchist. The meeting of Croydon Town Council had to be evacuated when a masked man, calling 'Down with Society!', flung the hissing device into its midst. Fortunately, no-one was seriously injured. Unfortunately, the bomber escaped.
SOUTHVILLE FOLLOWS IN FATHER'S FOOTSTEPS Mr Charles Southville, youngest son of the late Lord Southville (a government Minister in the Roseberry administration) has joined the House of Commons as Conservative MP for Norwich. 'We could use more of his type in the House!' said a party spokesman of the young former Army officer. The fact that Mr Southville had hitherto shown no interest in politics was not seen as a bar, apparently.
PRESS BARON EUGENE SUE SLAIN The French-Bavarian press baron and industrialist Eugene Sue was found dead last Friday near the docksides of Marseilles. Mr. Sue was apparently kidnapped and bludgeoned to death with a piece of lead piping. It is not clear how his press empire, including the mighty Suddeutsche Zeitung and most Hungarian industry, will react.
SLOVENIAN NATIONALISTS DAMAGE RAILWAY Partisans calling for a Slovenia independent from Venetian rule have damaged the new railway line between Trieste and Fiume. 'Normal service will be resumed as swiftly as possible,' a spokesman for the Venetian authority in the region promised.
BALKANS ARE REVOLTING Minor outbursts of terror, so common during the Turkish rule of the Balkans, have not died away under Prussian control or in the now independent states of Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia and Albania. When will this troubled region see peace? Will it take a British force to pacify the whole Balkans, and knock all the natives' heads together?
COUNTESS DE MONTVALON PARADES NEW STEAM CAR The beautiful widow, Baron Westhaven's sister, has been seen around London in the most extraordinary conveyance. At the forefront of the craft, it only requires three drivers - one to guide it, one to operate the brakes, and a third to keep the boiler hot enough to produce the power to move the vehicle.
DUTCH COURAGE Rumours are spreading about the likelihood of organized resistance to the Prussian occupation of the former Netherlands, now known as Wilhelmsland. Will the pleas of the Dutch Royal Family, from their exile in London, fall on deaf ears? Why is our government so silent on the subject? The people of Britain demand to know!
THE PEASANTS ARE REVOLTING Discontent is rife, as ever, in southern Italy. Many have had to flee the tyrannical rule of the Medicis in recent years, but at last the people are finding a small but united voice of protest.
RUSSIANS, PRUSSIANS CLASH The town of Kernow on the Prussian-Russian border was the scene of a bloody skirmish this year when Brigadier Kropotnik clashed with local Prussian militia. Order was with difficulty restored only after the belligerent Brigadier had been felled by a lucky musket shot between the eyes. The increasing bloodthirstiness of the Russian people must be a source of great worry to their Prussian neighbours, especially given the instability of the current Tsar. Given his threatening behaviour towards France too in recent years, can he be mad enough to believe that he can take on the whole of Europe with the might of his armies?
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