Sunday, 14 October 2018

Holywell Horror (Bookhounds of London)

Image taken from Wikipeida

I haven't had as much time to work on this as usual, as I've been assisting backstage at the local Gilbert & Sullivan's production of Annie. Set break was today and I'm exhausted. So here's a short scenario seed, set in the lustful, vice-ridden streets of old London town. 

Specifically Holywell Street.

Located on the edge of Fleet Street, Holywell was originally a nest of radicals, free-thinkers and pamphleteers. However after a crackdown in the early 1800s the free-thinkers decided to turn their talents to more profitable endeavors, and thus began Holywell's new life as the hub of London's porn industry. Hundreds crammed this narrow thoroughfare overtopped by gloomy timber-framed houses, eager for a chance to purview such classics as The Seducing Cardinal, The Lustful Turk, An Experimental Lecture by Captain Spanker, and 1880's limited print run extravaganza The Story of a Dildoe

'Three young American ladies resolve to purchase a dildoe for their mutual satisfaction …' and hijinks ensue. 

This couldn't go on. Under the guise of public improvements, in 1901 Holywell Street was demolished altogether. Aldwych took its place.

In Bookhounds, the group most likely to be interested in ephemera from Holywell's golden age is the Keirecheires, a Y'Golonac cult that had its start in 1894, when Holywell was still at its height. In the 1930s its London branch is centered around the University of London, in Bloomsbury. 

Which leads us to:

The Holywell Horror

Bloomsbury has its fads, but the current one really is peculiar. A persistent rumor has it that a rare, limited edition was purchased by one of Bloomsbury's most notorious talents. No less a luminary than Lytton Strachey (NB: died 1932) read passages from it aloud for the amusement of a literary party. Now all the truly fashionable people want a copy, but there are two problems. First, nobody can recall what the book's title is. Second, according to the story it was bought at a little place on Holywell Street - but that can't be right, surely?

Option One: The Fake-Out. The book doesn't exist. The rumor was put about by a young artist, Duncan Quoin, who wanted to make his boyfriend jealous. The boyfriend is a scandalous soul who's never out of trouble, and who loves rare books and Lytton Strachey in equal proportion. Unfortunately for Duncan, in order to create the rumor he used an Idiosyncratic ritual cribbed from a Keirecheires friend to start it, and now the more senior members are livid. Revealing secrets is very bad form - someone's going to pay for this.

Option Two: The Little Shop on the Nonexistent Corner.  Three members of the Keirecheires who have fond memories of the old days decided to recreate a little bit of Holywell using Megapolisomancy, on the theory that nothing in London is truly forgotten, least of all London's most notorious street. They did so using a gas lamp specially installed for the purpose and imbued with all the talent at their disposal, hiding their work by blackmail and bribery - tracing this at the Council level will be tricky but not impossible. The intent was the lamp would light the way for anyone who knew the right magical phrase. That isn't what happened. The lamp lets anyone in, whether they know the phrase or not, so long as they go at a certain time of night - eleven-fifteen precisely. Whatever's bought in this shadow-copy of Holywell Street never lasts long in the outside world, but it leaves a lasting impression. People are beginning to talk, which means more people are being let in on the secret. That can only lead to trouble.  

Option Three: Fatal Forgery. A forger, Richard Addison, has been creating Holywell specialties for his own amusement, and to pass off on so-called sophisticates. A Keirecheires sorcerer took offense, and put a curse on the cunning man: unless Addison creates a perfect copy of a particular limited edition, Stories of the Parisienne Night, in four months, the forger will become the feature course in a particularly lurid literary party. Addison is at his wit's end; he's never seen a copy of Stories, so how is he to forge it? His search is driving him down obscure and awful lines of inquiry, and Y'Golonac already has its fingers in his psyche. It's only a matter of time before something breaks - and if everyone's lucky Addison will be the only victim.


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