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Inferno - Turn 4- 1869


New Members of the Inferno Club

Announcements

A message from Mr von Seyffert


"Fellow Illuminati, as Vizier I called for a Council Vote on the matter of the Russian Revolution. The Vote will be held this year. I humbly ask you to act according to the outcome of the Council Vote when the results are published. Your humble servant, Georg von Seyffert, Vizier."
 

A statement by Mr d'Aventine


"As promised, in accordance with the wishes of those members of Fire Houses which contacted me, I am changing my vote as announced last year on the question of support for the Revolution in Russia. I vote NO."
 

A speech by His Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury


"Friends, I can do no other but register my concern at the motions regarding the possible position of the Inferno Club in forthcoming events in Russia, introduced, doubtless in good faith, by the much-respected Vizier of our Cell.

"I, and the majority of you I am sure, was content and gratified to be invited to join the Club on the basis of our eminence and individual talents. It ill behoves us, so early in our foundation, to attempt to dragoon members into fixed, 'party line' positions, splitting the cell and setting member against member. The most worthy of our membership will surely, and quite rightly, reject or ignore such restrictive diktats from the damnable majority. 'Red' Bang and I concur on this issue. Take heed, my friends, and vote wisely.

"I would now wish to offer all members of the Cell the opportunity to discuss the oppression of farm animals with these three representatives - a goat, a chicken and a pig - in a side room of the Inferno Club."

With that, His Grace showed interested members into a chamber where the three animals mentioned were indeed waiting. The beasts had little enough to say on their own behalf, though, being mere unintelligent creatures.
 

An announcement by Mr Harcourt


"I have reached the conclusion that the Club is not in need of additional security. All should please note, though, that for any outsiders to speak at or, in fact, enter the Club they must first be approved by myself."
 

An announcement by Mr Graaf


"Because my life is in danger if I stay in the Netherlands, I am going to flee to Great Britain. I will gratefully accept any help in money."
 

A speech by Miss Valiente


"Forgive me, for I am not used to such public appearances, but I would just like to question the value of the wars currently raging across Europe and the World. I see war as an excellent tool to be used by this Club but, like all tools, it should be used when appropriate. The unsubtle actions that have precipitated conflicts in recent years seem quite easy to trace and may cause ill effects for this Club if not properly handled. I therefore urge caution."
 

A message from Maréchal Rene Gade


Maréchal Gade was not present at the meeting, but a message had been received from him.

"Ladies and Gentlemen, may I introduce myself as Vizier and Voice of House Sagittarius for the French Cell of the Inferno Club, and also as Commander of the Grande Armée of France. This Cell, lately in abeyance, has been revived by the current political state. We request that you of the European Cell with responsibilities for British policy desist from war with France, until the conflict between France and the petty Italian states has been resolved. Should you choose not to comply with this request, I should warn you that the resources of our Cell will be turned against you, as your actions will be severely weakening our power. We have our ways of knowing your doings, and of reaching not only you but also your loved ones. To demonstrate that we have real power against you, I shall tell you that we know well that among your House Leo are Sir David Ross and Mr Niels Graaf the Dutch rebel, and among your politicians are Mr Charles Soothville, Lord Chelmsford and Lord Cromber. Other members of the Cell we know to include Mr d'Aventine, Mr von Seifert, Mr von Bonvoisin, Captain Bakely, Mr Darkenford, Mr George, Lord Hamilton, Lord Armstrong, Lord Terrence. I say all this in a friendly spirit of cooperation and am sure you will all understand, and that the tension between Britain and France will now cool."
 

An announcement by La Donna


"Honourable Members, I find it most worrisome that a member, Monique Sue of House Gemini, has twice disdained from attending our annual meeting. Everyone else has succeeded, despite various obstacles, in sparing the time out of their no doubt busy schedules to meet and converse with their fellows. One can only assume that this person has something to hide, or indeed perhaps that this person is not who they claim to be. I demand, in the interests of the Club that this person be brought before us as soon as possible or face Infernal Retribution."
 

A speech by Mr Derothshire


Mr Derothshire stood before the other members, with a dramatic pause for silence, then spoke in a loud and clear voice. "Rule 1.1 of the Inferno Club states 'Thou shalt not endanger the Inferno Club by informing, directly or by implication, outsiders of its existence or plans'." He paused and looked around, letting his gaze rest on a few individuals. "Rule 1.11 of the Inferno Club states 'Thou shalt not diminish the power of the Inferno Club by affecting he positive work of other Members, nor by any other means'." Another pause. "The voice of House Libra has spoken - remember these words."
 

A few descriptions


The Countess de Montvalon was going under the name of Lady Catherine Vale for the purposes of her visit to Britain.

Miss Kincaid was moving with much more freedom than previously, much like a normal person, although she was still wearing her leather mask.

Mr Bang was seen to hand to Mr Giffard a bulky dossier.

Miss Sue was once again conspicuous by her absence.

The Hon Auberon Wylde seemed uncharacteristically twitchy: his impressive moustache -normally waxed into submission - was askew, and the ever-present white gloves were soiled and grubby, the fingertips stained an odd metallic silver.
 

Other proceedings

 

The results of the Council vote


The Vizier announced that the Council had decided not to help the Russian peasants, and not to make Council decisions binding on the Club in general.
 

An address by Mr Garibaldi


Mr Harcourt asked the Club servants to darken the room, so that Members' faces could not be discerned, and then introduced to the Club a Mr Giuseppe Garibaldi, an Italian gentleman who had asked to address the gathering. Mr Garibaldi, who was tall and rather gaunt, with hollow cheeks and soulful dark eyes, was wearing what looked like a false moustache, rather long and droopy. A strong odour of candle-wax accompanied him.

He spoke in a clear, deep tone. "My Lords, Ladies, and Gentlemen, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for agreeing to listen to me today. I come to plead the plight of the people of Italy, in particular its South. For too long the people of Calabria, Campania, Sicily and Sardinia have laboured under a foreign ruler. King Frederick's ancestors were put on the throne by the Hapsburgs, and lap-dog to the Hapsburgs he is still, with no feeling for the Italian people. Italy is a spirit that cries out for freedom!" At this point Mr Garibaldi appeared to become quite agitated, and struck the lectern repeatedly, before calming himself with visible effort.

"Up and down Italy, we are under tyrants. Venice is the only beacon of republicanism, and even there it is in a sad, oligarchic, debased form, without true representation of the people. In Milan and in Florence, medieval dynasties clutch the reins of power with palsied, leprous hands. In Rome, the Pope - please do not misunderstand me, I have no quarrel with religion, I am a good Catholic myself and pay his Holiness all due respect. But it is not for prelates to rule in the temporal realm. Give unto Caesar that which is Caesar's our Lord said, and I am sure he was not suggesting that his disciples should take Rome and rule from it like modern-day Emperors themselves.

"What I say is this. I am now returning to Naples, there to gather the forces of resistance and bring down the corrupt kingdom of the Two Sicilies. I anticipate resistance, and I anticipate that Austria will leap to the support of Franz Josef's second cousin Frederick. So I beg, I plead, that all who love freedom and progress come to my aid, in whatever way they can. My long-term goal is to unify Italy under peaceful rule of its people, with their chosen leaders governing, but this will take some time. For now all I ask is help in my immediate task."

With that, Mr Garibaldi was escorted through the darkened room once more, to a side room where Members were invited to approach and address him at their leisure.
 

An address by Congressman Andrew Perry, Voice of House Gemini in the American Cell


The Inner Saluter, Sir Derek Ross, introduced this representative of the Club's sister cell on the far side of the Atlantic. Congressman Perry was a sturdy, dark-haired gentleman with a bushy beard and a naval air about him. "Ladies, gentlemen, Your Grace, thank you most kindly for allowing me to speak with you today. I can assure you that if any of you wish to address our cell back home, the same courtesies will be extended." He clasped the lectern with both hands. "I wished to speak with you about the matter of Japan. A mysterious place, hmm? No contact with the West, not a great deal with their neighbours even. You might know that my father, Admiral William Perry, led an expedition there not so very long ago. Well, ladies and gentlemen, that expedition, which was backed by our cell, disappeared without a trace. Yes indeed. And so we want to know what's going on there. I'm proposing to mount a successor expedition there myself during the next year." He straightened up, and smiled. "Now, ladies and gentlemen, Your Grace, I'm not asking you for help or cooperation - no indeed. We believe we can pretty much lick this thing ourselves. No, what I'm asking you for is to keep out of the region altogether. Japan is part of our back yard, just as Africa is yours, and we don't propose to have you queering our pitch for us - no offence meant, ladies and gentlemen, but your cell doesn't exactly have the best record. I'm speaking of your predecessors, of course. What a hash-up they made! Anyway - I've said enough. If any of you'd like to speak with me, I'm available in London for the next few days, then I propose to return to the States and start outfitting."
 

An address by Mr Brice Eberlicht, of the Khiron Commission


Mr Eberlicht was a grim-faced middle-aged man with close-cropped hair, wearing a dark suit, his mouth a thin horizontal line. He spoke slowly and precisely. "Ladies and gentlemen of the Inferno Club, please allow me to introduce myself. I am Brice Eberlicht, chairman of the Khiron Commission, which was established in the earlier days of your Club to oversee international warfare. I am a former member of House Sagittarius - indeed, a former Voice of that House." At this point Mr Eberlicht looked hard at Sir Derek and Mr Leman. "I left House Sagittarius and set up this Commission to oversee its doings. The last twenty-five years have been quiet, but the events of last year at Nice prompted me to ask your Saluter if I might speak with you: this year has only confirmed my fears. I speak, ladies and gentlemen, of the use of uncanny powers on the field of battle. Both sides have been guilty of this in the Italo-French conflict, the Italian side of committing a horrible atrocity. I know full well that war is war, and each side will strive to develop the best weapons it can. But in the past the Club decided to ask my Commission to oversee warfare to make sure that some weapons - those too hideous to contemplate - were never used." He paused to survey the audience. "Some of you may have no real understanding of what I am talking about, but I assure you I do not refer to any menaces created by human hand. Bombs, bullets, all are fair play in war. But there it should stop, we decided then, lest the whole globe be swept up in the matter. I advise you strongly now to discuss amongst yourselves, and then to agree to once more be bound by my Commission's supervision - if you do so agree, then I will report to you all violations of the code of acceptable warfare, and you can decide for yourselves what to do with the malefactor."
 

An address by Sir Hugues de Payen, Member of the Twelve for House Aries


Sir Hugues, a venerable knightly figure clad in whining white raiment with a mail coif, and standing tall and strong despite his clearly advanced years, wore at his side a longsword whose hilt was fashioned into a Christian cross. On his surcoat was a red cross, like that of St George. His deep, mild, blue eyes swept the gathering. "Brethren, children of God. Christ's blessings be upon you. These are troubled times in which I come among you. No more than four years have you had as lords of the Earth, and already the seeds of destruction have been sown. I refer to those among you who traffic with unclean spirits - yes! for there are such here today." His gaze seemed to penetrate deep to the heart of all who observed him. "It is not my place to school you, but I must speak of what I have seen before, in the former years of this Club. It was those who sought succour from the diabolic horde who let the weakness in, who caused the destruction of the best and greatest flower of chivalry and nobility. Much the same I observed yet earlier, in the fall of the good and holy Order of the Poor Knights of Christ and the Temple of Solomon. Yes, much like. Beware, ye accursed demon-lovers!" He flung out his arm in a great pointing arc. "The great road to Hell is a wide and easy one, yet strait is the gate that leads to Heaven. Beware, lest by supping with these foul spirits you allow a greater evil yet to destroy this Club, a it did once before."

With that, Sir Hugues calmed himself and departed from the gathering.
 

Important Notes (Read Me!)


A brief note on plans not working. Some of you will already have experienced the rather disappointing feeling of one of your lovingly-composed plans not working, others have it yet to come. That's the sort of game Inferno is. Some of you are used to playing UNEXPLAINED, for example, where if you try and do something it will generally tend to work unless there's good reason for it not to. Well, the same is true in this game, except that there's a lot more potential good reasons for it not to work. These include, but are not limited to, your character not having the right skills, abilities or contacts; other characters trying to frustrate you; or the world basically not working that way. Basically, don't get too disappointed if you have a wonderful plan that fails completely. It's happening to everyone else too.

For some reason about half of the players had addenda and errata to their turns this time. You're welcome to send extra material like this, but be warned that the more of it there is, the more likely it is that I'll lose something, so if you can avoid it that would definitely be better.

Didn't seem to be much interest in the proposed Inferno meet in January, with only about half a dozen people saying they would like to turn up. Don't know whether the rest of you are just being coy, or what... we will go ahead anyway, as we have enough people to make sure that everyone has a good time, but it'd be nice to have a better idea of how many will be present.

Thanks to Claire and Dave for mentions of the game in the recent Flagship! - all good publicity! I guess it went to press too early for your Ratings votes to count, but by the next issue that should be sorted.

Quick plug for our new game Europa, just launched - an abstract strategic wargame set on the map of Europe, a bit like Diplomacy meets History of the World meets Britannia only with that unique Undying King flavour - designed mostly by me and Chris, who plays the lovely Angelique Valiente in this game. More information on our Web site, and a mailshot out shortly. It's lots of fun, the best computer-mod game we've developed yet, I think. Ten pounds gets you a startup and four turns.

Your turn should be with us by:
Midnight Monday 9th December 1998
 


Inferno News 1869

(with thanks to the London Times and various other worthy publications)

PRUSSIANS GET AERIAL   Reports are that enthusiastic Prussian production of iniquitous traitor Mr Henri Giffard's MATAV vehicle has been joined by the manufacture of a battlefield-capable airship, known as the CASH (Combat And Scouting airsHip). It looks very much as though Britannia no longer rules the skies, alas.

SUE STRIPS DOWN   Miss Monique Sue has embarked upon something of a rationalization of her late cousin's business empire, divesting herself of her Hungarian coal mines, steelworks and railways - all were bought up by the Hungarian state, at knockdown prices (no-one else wanted them, says our Business Correspondent). This means that Miss Sue is largely concentrating on the newspaper business that made her cousin Eugene's fortune, and word is that she s hoping to acquire more titles across Europe.

AUSTRIANS WAVE THE FLAG   The public mood in Austria is definitely swinging towards hostility, with rearming continuing apace (including a fleet of Aerocruisers looking suspiciously similar to the Armstrong model) and inflammatory speeches against the Venetians being made on a daily basis by an assortment of politicians. The peace faction, so vocal a few years ago, now seems to be crying in the wilderness. Has Austria been a sleeping giant for long enough?

REDS UNDER THE BED?   Or somewhere like that, at least. The Russian communists, so vocal of recent years, have gone very quiet, confounding international observers who confidently predicted revolution. Are they biding their time, keeping their powder dry, or merely hiding their light under a bushel?

NEW MAGAZINE FOR TROOPS   Well-known arms dealer and philanthropist Mr Albert de Bonvoisin has launched a new publication for Britain's armed forces. Named 'The Front', it is being circulated free to all servicemen by the Colonial Office and the Ministry of War. The content is a heady mixture of propaganda, light coverage of news and culture, stories, cartoons and salacious gossip. It has proved very popular with the troops, although the Times questions the Government's wisdom in allowing a citizen of a foreign, perhaps soon enemy, power to propagandize our brave lads in this way.

ARMSTRONG DEFENDS THE SKIES   Lord Armstrong's factories are working on development of two measures that will help defend Britain from aerial attack: shells with timers attached so as to explode in the air, and an early-warning system. Further details will not be revealed in these pages, as the Times has no wish for yet further military technology to fall into the grubby paws of Britain's rivals.

ARYANIST BOOM   The Aryanist Movement continues to go from strength to strength, this year holding elections to a Pan-Aryan Congress, with representatives from all provinces of the German-speaking nations. It has been particularly successful in Austria, with speakers calling for the decadent Italian scum to be swept into the Mediterranean. This delegation went very quiet, though, when the ruling committee issued a statement calling for "all ethnic Aryans to unite as one Great Nation, under the enlightened rule of Kaiser Wilhelm, Emperor of the Aryans!" Perhaps we in Britain can hope that this distasteful rabble will divide itself into squabbling factions, and we will be spared the sight of their black shirts parading the streets of London.

FLORENCE STABILITY   We are pleased to observe that the monolithic structure which has hitherto characterized the Florentine banking system, with all the lesser banks revolving around the Medici Bank like planets around a sun, is now adopting a more stable configuration: the smaller banks have started to diversify, picking up assets elsewhere and lessening their dependence on the Medici Bank. This can only be good for Florence and for Europe, in the long run (by our Financial Correspondent).

GENTLEMAN'S CLUB SEALS SUCCESS   Professor Sir James Moriarty's Gentleman's Club celebrated its rebuilding with a spectacular ball, to which all the cream of London society and the movers and shakers of the nation turned out: this Club seems to have become something of a symbol of British courage in adversity, and attending it is the best way of displaying your phlegm.

PRUSSIAN TRAITORS CANNED   The Prussian Government announced that certain mid-ranking officers, guilty of passing secrets to the Wilhelmsland rebels, had been executed by firing squad.

CORPS BLIMEY, IT'S HOT HERE   The International Peace Corps has finally found a home, in the Saharan desert north of Timbuctoo, as guests of the fierce Tuareg nomads. From this new base it hopes to exert a powerful influence for good over the whole of Europe.

MORE MONA MAYHEM   Confusion over the Mona Lisa affair deepened yet further this year, with Mr Sunil Laing being demonstrated innocent of its theft: an anonymous informant testifying that he had been asked by Mr James Derothshire to forge the Mona Lisa, copying from the genuine article, and take it to Scotland (attentive readers, or those who are still awake, will recall that both the original and the forgery were found by police on the Ballantrae estate of the Duke of Galloway). No sooner had this statement been delivered, than the informant was abducted by an assailant answering Derothshire's description. However, all's well that ends well, as the Charlies have decided to drop all charges against Derothshire as well, for reasons which are not at all clear. 'It's so tatty now it hardly seems worth giving it back to the French,' mused a high-ranking police officer. Let us hope that the matter will end there.

*** SUFFERING SUFFRAGETTES!   The Conference on Suffrage, hosted by Mr Sunil Laing at Laing College in Cheltenham, and sponsored jointly by the Chartist Movement, was for the most part the predicted tedious affair, with speaker after speaker banging on about the rights of women, as though that were a concept that had any objective meaning. But Mr Laing himself lit something of a fire under the proceedings, announcing that he was prepared to fund the formation of a new political party based on the principle of universal adult suffrage - thus uniting the aims of Chartists and feminists alike. This received a rousing reception at the conference, but we at the Times can only say that such ochlocratic madness would lead to disaster for our great Empire. Let Mr Laing form his party if he wishes, the sturdy British yeoman will defeat him utterly at the polls and consign his concepts to the dustbin of history where they belong.

STONE ME   Mr William Stone's new steam tractors have gone into mass production, in a development again funded by Mr Albert de Bonvoisin - are there any pies in which the bouncing Belgian does not have his fingers?

REBELLION IN TWO SICILIES   Italy's southernmost province, the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, this year erupted in rebellion against the rule of King Frederick. The rebels, led by an individual known as 'Il Mosco Schiacciato', are well trained and organized, and support seems to be widespread. As yet, though, they are poorly armed, and not capable of giving battle to the kingdom's troops.

ALL QUIET ON EVERY FRONT   The war with France continued at snail's pace, with our forces capturing Algeria and Cochin-China but making no further advances. No serious naval engagements took place. It seems likely that the French will accept the fait accompli of the loss of these colonial possessions, and come to terms.

PALMER BLOWN   Prussian security forces are reported to be 'hopping mad' at the escape of Mr Samuel Palmer, the British mining engineer captured in Wilhelmsland last year. It seems that his guards were unaccountably lax while transporting him back to Berlin for interrogation, and he was able to slip his bonds and flee. The possibility that the guards were bribed has not been discounted by the authorities.

A LETTER TO THE EDITOR   My attention has been brought to the editorial content of an article in your newspaper titled 'Jim the Slasher Evades Police Net'. In this piece you take it upon yourself to expound upon the nature of Christian interpretation of such entities as devils and demons. When I am so presumptuous as to instruct you in the arts of type-setting or sub-editing then, sir, you may feel free to lecture the nation on matters theological. I feel the display of gross ignorance on your part reinforces the clamour for theological consistency only achievable through enforceable doctrinal conformity and the introduction of new laws against heresy. Yours, Canterbury +   Would His Grace seek to return us to the Middle Ages, the auto-da-fe, the Inquisition? We at the Times do not believe that that is what the British public want, and we will continue to speak up for ecumenism and tolerance. - The Editor.

'JIM THE SLASHER' ON THE BACK FOOT?   There was only one Slasher murder in the East End this year, thank the Lord, and that was almost disrupted by the prompt and brave action of Captain Percy Blakely and confederates. This is the first time that this particular Slasher has actually been witnessed in action, and several shots were fired, but the Slasher escaped into the mist after laying low the unfortunate 'Red' Jersey, one of Blakely's team. Fr the remainder of the year the streets of London were untroubled. This may of course be connected with the Archbishop of Canterbury's well-publicized 'exorcism' of the East End, or on the other hand it may not.

D'AVENTINE BAFFLED IN NAPLES   The diplomatic mission to the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, led by Mr Giuliano d'Aventine, failed to secure the alliance it sought. Naples is closely tied to Vienna in foreign policy matters, with King Frederick being Franz Josef's second cousin, and the tension between Austria and Venice makes such an alliance unlikely.

ARMENIAN SLOG   The war in Armenia continued to grind on, with Turks and Russians alternately giving ground. It seems unlikely that this conflict will be resolved quickly, as neither side has the firepower to push its rival out of this mountainous region. One has to feel sympathy for the unfortunate inhabitants.

*** GRAND DUKE SLAIN   Our beloved father, Grand Duke Lorenzo 'Il Avaro' de'Medici, has been brutally murdered, by the devilish Masked Man. With no respect for the Duke's age or unarmed state, he hacked him down savagely in his bedchamber in the Pitti Palace, while guards were distracted by reports of an attempted breakout of political prisoners from the Bargello. Even the Giant Steam Man which guarded the chamber itself was insufficient to thwart the Masked Man's diabolic wiles. All Florence is in mourning for the loss of this great man, and a reward of twenty thousand lire has been put on the Masked Man's head (from Il Messagero).

EXPAND YOUR MIND   Fröhlich Trinkentechnik, of Vienna, have launched a new Brain Tonic drink, in collaboration with the renowned Mr Ferdinand Gaboon. "I've never tasted anything so gassy!" exclaimed one delighted consumer.

CRIME SPREE IN NAPLES   Neapolitan police officials confess themselves bemused by the curious events of the night of the 23rd of February. The houses of twenty-seven nobles, across the city, were broken into and valuables removed: but the following day, the valuables were returned randomly to the victims, by anonymous post. A couple of witnesses  reported seeing a 'Masked Man' darting across the rooftops, but it seems far from certain whether this is the same individual as was responsible for the risings in Florence and Greece. The spree coincided with Mr d'Aventine's visit to the city, but the two are not thought to be connected.

CURIOS ATTRACT FAVOUR   The recent arrival in London, at Mr Edward Carter's establishment, of a variety of Eastern Russian art and artefacts, has been greatly welcomed by the bon ton. These exquisite expressions of a culture that has changed little since the days when Marco Polo travelled the Silk Road are the latest must-have in Londond's fashionable circles (by our Arts Correspondent).

GRIFFINS ENTER FRAY   Comte Bertrand, the genius behind the Florentine Giant Steam Man and the Venetian steam-lions, has gone one better in devising the steam-griffin. This is much like a steam-lion only much bigger and fiercer, with greater uneven terrain capability, and saw immediate service on the French front this year. The Times asks: why is it that every one-eyed petty state in Europe has superb advanced weaponry, while we in Britain seem to be unable to hold onto the designs we do develop - such as the Aerocruiser and the MATAV. If Colonel Maguire is to justify his appointment, he must restore Britain to the forefront of military technology, and quickly.

*** DOME COMES TUMBLING DOWN   The opening of the new Westminster Abbey of England & St George, or 'Fortescue's Dome' as it had become known, ended in disaster and tragedy today. Fireworks lit up the sky, but no sooner was the brief but moving ceremony, conducted by the Archbishop of Canterbury, under way than the entire edifice collapsed. The two-hundred-foot-tall statue of Christ the Redeemer, which topped the Dome, toppled across Parliament Square and squashed the medieval Guildhall, one of London's architectural treasures, as flat as a pancake. Casualties among the worshippers present were considerable, with thirty-eight people meeting their Maker, mostly among the Archbishop's closest supporters. Fortunately, His Grace survived, although he was trapped for several hours under the pulpit at which he had been speaking. The Horn of Joshua, centrepiece of the Abbey, was also buried by the rubble, and crushed beyond repair. Reports from dazed survivors suggesting that the collapse was preceded by a loud biological noise and a gale of deep, unearthly mocking laughter have been discounted as mass hallucination.

*** OUR NEW ALLIES - VENICE AND MILAN   Britain has formally allied with the other states warring against France, in response to a diplomatic mission led by Mr Giuliano d'Aventine.  With tension also growing between Prussia and France, Napoleon III looks increasingly isolated on the European stage.

BRECA IS NEW DEPUTY PM   Lord Shaftesbury, whose health continued to worsen throughout this year, has appointed the Home Secretary, Sir Kit Breca, as Deputy Prime Minister, the first time that a serving PM has felt the need to make such an appointment. The Times can only welcome this statesmanlike move - we all depend on this brave man, and we are conscious o the heavy burden that is on his shoulders - indeed, he is now so hunched under it as to appear almost goblin-like during his few public engagements of the year.

NEW ACADEMY PROSPERS   The new de Bonvoisin-Poelzig Medical Academy continued to thrive, attracting a bevy of researchers and introducing a scholarship scheme for gifted but impoverished students. Papers published by its staff met with moderate acclaim in the medical and surgical journals.

THRUPSTONE HAUNTINGS   Derbyshire locals report great interest in local 'haunted house' Thrupstone Manor, with "folk from Lunnon and all sorts" investigating the locale. Reports that a troop of gypsies have also been seen in the area have led local farmers to lock up their livestock.

CAMPANILE DI SAN MARCO DESTROYED   Venice's most famous landmark, the bell-tower-cum-lighthouse which stands outside St Mark's Cathedral, has been blown up by terrorist action - readers will not be surprised to learn that accusing fingers were at once pointed at France, nor that the French government at once strenuously denied the charges. The affair has shaken morale in Venice, though, as citizens had hitherto seen the war as rather distant from them. if they can be struck at their heart in this way, matters are more serious than they had hitherto appeared, whoever was truly responsible.

COSIMO IS NEW GRAND DUKE   Cosimo de'Medici has been crowned Grand Duke of Tuscany in a brief but moving ceremony, signalling the title's return to what was formerly the senior branch. Cosimo at once indicated that his rule would be rather different to that of his rebarbative cousin: he summoned in the heads of the city's guilds and professional organizations, to discuss the granting of some executive powers to an elected Senate. It is as yet unclear whether such liberal measures will be sufficient to placate the rebellious citizenry, though.

A LETTER TO THE EDITOR   Dear Sir, Am I alone in my concern at the startling number of private so-called 'medical' academies, clinics and infirmaries recently springing up like so many weeds in our fair capital? What is going on within these insidious institutions? Surely in these prosperous times the number of sick and ailing folk has not risen so alarmingly as to warrant such philanthropic self-indulgence. And what of the poor overstretched staff of these institutions? As pointed out in this venerable organ; so many establishments, so few doctors. For an example of the deleterious effects which overwork can impose upon the mental processes, one has only to consider the fate of the unfortunate Dr Gull. Where will it all end? When all the doctors are locked up in their own asylums?? Stop this madness now!!!                                                          Anonymous.

BRODENBACH TURNS ON FRENCH   The Velvet Chancellor of Prussia, Baron Brodenbach, this year laid aside his mask, making no secret of what he thought of the French people and maligning them in the most unsavoury terms, far from suitable for reproduction in a family newspaper such as this. He even went so far as to utter outrageous insults against the Emperor Napoleon III himself. The French have withdrawn their ambassador in protest: other members of the government have apologised for the baron's behaviour, but he himself appears unwilling to do so.

*** CIRCUS WOWS BAVARIA   Mr Gaboon's celebrated Big Top this year set up in Munich, where it performed for the new King Otto, a special show called 'The Travelling Raspberries', in which all the performers were dressed as fruit and wearing berets. Acts included the Phantom Raspberry Blower, the Raspberry Ripple (a high dive into a tub of ice-cream), Miss Raspberry Pavlova (whose anatomical distinction bemused the medical experts of the realm), and a giant Raspberry Pie Fight, all washed down with quantities of sparkling Rasparilla. Such was the King's delight at witnessing these delights that he at once signed an alliance with Austria, which Mr Gaboon had providently brought along with him. How this will be squared with his alliance with Venice, given that Venice and Austria seem likely to be at war soon, remains to be seen.

GIRL MATHEMATICIANS THE TALK OF OXFORD   In a bizarre break with tradition, the University of Oxford has taken on two eighteen-year old girls, formerly students at Laing College, to study Maths under the Hamilton Professor. The Times can only condemn this idiotic notion. Girls can hardly be expected to understand the subject, and their presence is bound to prove distracting for the real, ie. male, students.

PEOPLE PICK A PECK OF PRIESTLY PULPITS   In a new initiative called 'Pulpits for the People', the Archbishop of Canterbury has given ordinary worshippers the right to choose their own vicars. This forward-looking exercise in democracy has been welcomed by many, apart of course from the many vicars who have been expelled from their pulpits and replaced by newcomers - many of whom are not even ordained. It is anticipated that next year the exercise will be extended to allowing vicars to elect their bishops. Although it is early to judge the effects of the measure, so far it looks as though those elected have been of the more Militia of the Lamb stripe, and those expelled mostly liberals. Many of these latter have joined the Catholic faith, in some cases taking a minority of their worshippers with them.

'NEW LUDDITES' SMASH TRACTORS   Agricultural workers have rioted throughout England's shires this year, at the widespread introduction of Mr William Stone's steam tractors, which have already thrown large numbers of farm labourers out of work. Several of the tractors have been smashed, and Mr Stone burnt in effigy, but the popularity of the devices continues apace: they are far more efficient and reliable than human labour.

ATHENA TO WED?   Is renowned bluestocking Lady Athena Greendale preparing to lay aside her 'feminist' principles and take up her role as a wife and a mother? She was seen this year enjoying the company of dashing Lord Chelmsford, the Foreign Secretary, and we at How Do You Do? would not be at all surprised to hear the tinkle of wedding bells ere long. Remember, you read it here first (from How Do You Do? magazine).

POLLY-CHROMIC   Bavaria has been plagued this year by an infestation of multi-hued parrots, some of which are apparently also oddly-shaped. The parrots are intelligent enough to open doors with their beaks, and appear to exhibit a limited teamwork: they have been a great annoyance to villagers.

DEATH OF VISCOUNT CRANBORNE   French newspapers reported the unfortunate death of Viscount Cranborne, renowned international playboy and heir to the Marquessate of Salisbury. He fell victim to the street-fighting in Monaco. The Times can only say: while we have every sympathy for his family, quite frankly he brought it on himself, holidaying in a war zone. We are only surprised that more of the fast gambling set, which has persisted in visiting Monte Carlo throughout the war as though all were as normal, have not met their ends there.

NEW CHARITY LAUNCHED   The Fund for a Christian England has been set up 'to assist in the formulation of Christian policies', its trustees mostly MPs from the Roll of the Lamb. The president of the Fund is Miss Kathy Drall: it is to be hoped that its future is less disastrously unbalanced than the Abbey she designed.

*** FRENCH LOSE CORSICA, PUSHED BACK TO RHONE   The Venetian navy seized the island of Corsica, after a long and bloody fight against its superior fortifications, and also experienced success on the mainland, forcing the French under Perisson to retreat to the Avignon-Grenoble line. Attempts to take Marseilles and Sète, the only sizeable Mediterranean ports remaining to the French, failed, though, with the arrival of most of the French Atlantic Fleet in the Med. This far outclassed the Venetian navy, and the troops on Corsica are now blockaded. But inland, the French defensive line is now wide and thin. Reports suggest that extensive sabotage and espionage have wrought havoc among the French lines, but this is as nothing compared to reports that an Italian soldier went stark raving berserk - flinging his comrades around like straws, sabotaging everything in sight, commandeering a steam-lion and crashing it through supply depots, destroying field telegraphs and rending apart a variety of items not usually considered fragile, such as cannon. The doubtless alarmed Italians reported that bullets merely shredded his flesh, without seeming to impede him in any way. Eventually the soldier - "like a man possessed, he was" said one surely-exaggerating witness - was struck full amidships by a cannon shell, and blown to bits, his component parts twitching in a horrid fashion before giving up the ghost.

DUTCH TRY AGAIN   Undaunted by their miserable failure of last year, the remaining Dutch rebels, now united under Niels Graaf, rose in armed force against the greatly-strengthened Prussia garrison. The rising was only patchily successful, with most of the cities falling to rebel hands but the countryside remaining under Prussian control. At the end of the year, the situation is in balance, although the death of Baron Brodenbach has removed the separatists' greatest enemy: they must hope that the new Chancellor will be more accommodating, or else they will surely be exterminated.

LET THEM EAT SOUP   Mr James Derothshire, playboy and international art thief (allegedly), has set up a string of soup kitchens and hostels for the poor across London. This generosity has been greatly appreciated by these most neglected of God's children, especially during the winter months. We at the Times hope that such indulgence will not dissuade the indigent from seeking honest work, though.

MYSTERIOUS SUICIDE   Dr Wilhelm Hardy, field surgeon with British forces in North Africa, was found lying at the foot of a fifty-foot high wall, having leapt to his death. On his face, said eyewitnesses, was "a look of absolute horror". We can only surmise that the pressures of medical overwork, a hinted at by an anonymous correspondent in these pages, led him to this sorry pass.

SOMERSET HOUSE BLOWN UP   The Public Records Office, at Somerset House, has been destroyed, in another terrorist outrage of the kind that is becoming all too familiar. To the surprise of absolutely no-one the bomber turned out to be a French agent, although what has happened to him is not clear: he was whisked away for questioning by military intelligence rather than left in the hands of the Charlies. Thank goodness for Project Cyclops, then, which now duplicates all the information (and more) that was lost in the blaze. Cyclops has also been 'backed up' to various locations around the country, to prevent data loss in any future such outrage. This will no doubt prove necessary, as we hear that this year Cyclops has taken on a number of female staff: to allow women responsibility for such valuable affairs is asking for trouble, says the Times.

RED CROSS HQ FORMED   Miss Elizabeth DuQuesne-Black, President of the British Red Cross, has established and staffed a headquarters for the better oversight and administration of the charity's works, in a warehouse by the Thames at Shadwell. The Red Cross, although so new, has under Miss DuQuesne-Black's leadership grown from strength to strength, as she has been highly successful at eliciting donations from the merchant community, and at attracting capable volunteers.

*** BAVARIA ALLIES WITH VENICE ONCE MORE   King Otto has re-signed his late brother's alliance with Venice, on the promise of his weight in grappa alla frambuesa every month, and is due to send Bavarian troops to the front in France in the New Year to help the Venetian effort.

*** VICTORY FOR GREEK ALLIANCE   The entry of Bulgaria and Macedonis into the war, on the side of the Greek patriots, at the urging of Archbishop Photios, has led to a series of swift reverses for the Ottomans. Facing the inevitable, the Sultan has offered generous terms to the allied parties: territory in Thrace to Bulgaria, an extension of Macedonia, and full independence for a new state of Greece. The Greeks' right to self-determination has already been recognized by Spain, the Papal State, Sweden, Macedonia, Bulgaria and Florence. Let us hope that this will see an end to this conflict: the Turks will own no territory on the European mainland apart from Istanbul and a strip of coast down to the Dardanelles, if the allied parties agree the terms.

MARQUESS OF SALISBURY SLAIN BY ANARCHISTS   One of Britain's premier peers has been blown up in his carriage by an anarchist bomb, on his way from the House of Lords to his Kensington club. The murdered got clean away. Motive is unclear, as His Grace was not notably political. It may be that the anarchists represented peasant labour interests, as the Salisbury estates are very large. His heir, Lord Thomas Terrence, who also had the misfortune of losing his elder brother Viscount Cranborne earlier in the year, acceded to the title in a Brief but moving ceremony, and is now surely one of Britain's most eligible bachelors.

ROGUE INVENTOR PATENTS 'GIFFARD GUN'   Treacherous dog Henri Giffard, whose foreign name betrays his true lack of patriotic feeling, has from his Prussian bunker devised an inhuman weapon of destruction, the Giffard Gun, which uses high-pressure stream to shoot a devastating swathe of steel balls from several barrels at murderous muzzle velocities. It is not like the Times to sanction acts of international crime, but we say: for the good of humanity, particularly the British section of it, this mad dog must be put down, before his nefarious devices are the end of us all. Why can the supposed 'French terrorists', apparently responsible for every act of violence around Europa for the last few years, not strike against this hornet's nest?

A LETTER TO THE EDITOR   Dear Sir, I have been most distressed to hear that aspersions have been cast upon thr efforts of the British Red Cross to provide aid and comfort to troops in hospital. It has been suggested that manufacturers have paid to have their products included in the contents list of the British Red Cross parcel. I confess myself both shocked and dismayed by this calumny. The contents of the parcel were devised by myself with the sole intention of providing for the needs and comfort of the sick and injured. The advice of qualified authorities, my father included, was sought, as was that of the sick themselves. The inclusion of certain items and brands of quality was at my insistence in order to ensure that the aid these packages provided was of the very best. It was then suggested to me that, since this would mean an increase in sales for particular manufacturers, whose products were included, they should be invited, out of a spirit of true patriotism and Christian charity, to donate the additional revenue to the Red Cross cause. This they have done with a great and universal generosity. Mothers of Britain, I pray you, do not be discouraged by this foundless slander. I have seen the joy in the faces of stricken men, upon sight of these your generous gifts. Keep up your vital work in this most needful hour. Miss Elizabeth DuQuesne-Black.

WYLDE AT HEART   The Master of Obfuscation himself, the Honourable Auberon Wylde, returned from two years of absence from the stage with a new death-defying act. Connoisseurs were impressed by the macabre power now evident in his mature work, although it must be said that he appeared at times a little distracted.

IBERIAN IRE   The mood in the Spanish military is hotting up, according to our informed sources, with some hotheads agitating for action against Britain after the embarrassing events of last year at Gibraltar. Britons are being painted as buccaneers and freebooters, eager to singe the King of Spain's beard and humiliate the proud Iberian race. But surely your average slothful Johnny Spaniard would lack the bravery to attack the bulldog breed? The Times can only comment that all this sound and fury seems rather Quixotic.

*** BARON BRODENBACH SLAIN, KAISER ESCAPES   All Prussia is reeling at the dreadful news from Hamburg - their Chancellor shot dead, and the Kaiser himself barely being preserved from death. The event was the commissioning of a new battleship at the shipyards of Pfalzgraf von Seyffert - surely the only occasion which would induce both Kaiser and Brodenbach to spend any time in the company of the man who has been called 'Prussia's poisonous worm'. Fortunate for them that they did, for it was only von Seyffert's prompt action, flinging himself across the Kaiser's body, which preserved the life of Prussia's ruler when the squad of assassins opened fire. As seems to by now be customary, the French were implicated in the slaying, and of course denied the charge hotly. The investigation is rather shrouded in mystery, though: an officer burst in on the assassins and slew them all, but was himself being found dead at a later stage. The bodies of a young family, believed to be the owners of the house where the assassins took up residence, were also found, horribly butchered, to add another macabre twist to this shocking crime. The good news, if any can be said to have come from such a terrible event, is that Pfalzgraf von Seyffert is once more in the Kaiser's good graces, and the whisper is that if he wishes it he could take the Chancellor's role himself in the New Year.

BANG SHOWS TRUE COLOURS   Renowned explosives expert Mr William S Bang this year offered his services and equipment to the defence of the nation, presenting a demonstration of explosive rocketry to Colonel Maguire's committee. Mr Bang made it clear that, although his liquid-gel fuel is only a fuel, he was stupid to have been duped into sending a sample to the traitor Giffard - and that he is a truly patriotic Brit. Well said, Sir, say we at the Times.

DARWIN EXPOUNDS FURTHER   Mr Charles Darwin presented another series of learned papers on the behaviour of primates at the Royal Society. To interested observers, it is clear that he is extraordinarily intelligent, but what the drift of all this work might be is well beyond the power of mere mortals such as you or I to gather (by our Science correspondent).

HAMILTON COMES ABOARD   Lord Alexander Hamilton has joined the Government as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, and is seen as a steadying hand who will help the administration of affairs rather than as a doctrinaire policy-maker. He intends to hold the post only for a brief term, Westminster insiders say.

*** SLOVENIAN ULTIMATUM   The Austrian Empire has now made its position definite: it has demanded that the Republic of Venice immediately return to it the entirety of Slovenia, or else face stern reprisals. Experienced international commentators suggest that the heavily-fortified Venetian border, and the superior quality of Venetian arms and training, make it a close call - but surely Venice will hope for a speedy resolution of its war with France, as it lacks the manpower to sustain war on two fronts.

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