First, I must appologize for my absence, and duly so! It has been entirely too long since I've posted a letter to you, Anxious Reader. I'm afraid I've been away on an extended to trip to The Antipodes, on the HMEAS Hermes Trisgmegistus. It was a terribly arduous voyage. We sailed in from the north, and finally made dock at a small colonial tower on the coast of New Zealand. It was rather uneventful except for a few native uprisings, and a problem with one of our gasbags (it turned out he had just eaten too many lentils).
We left just as the rainy season was about to begin, and headed north, away from the gathering storm. The cloud cover was horribly thick, with visibilities of only around 100 feet. With an airship of 763 feet, you can imagine that this was an untenable situation. We dropped down below the cloud deck, to about 300 feet altitude. We found ourselves soaring in between vast mountains, rising sheer on either side.
Realizing this was not the most defensible position to be in, and knowing the proclivity for pirates to harbour in these craggy heights, I asked the shipmaster to sound the call to man the weaponry. Fortunately, that order was passed down not a moment too soon! For at that very moment, we were ambushed my a fleet of Skypirates, who came screaming out of the clouds like fallen angels. The fell on us from above, thinking that's where we would be weakest. Fortunately, since Hermes Trismegistusspends most of her time either moored or very low to the ground, it's most heavily armed and armoured on top! The crew leapt into action. My favorite weapons are our tesla rail cannons, which I developed. Using a combination between Dynamos and Argon gas, a thick stream of pure plasma is discharged at great voltage a velocity.
This was used to the greatest advantage, and quickly thinned those enemies above us. Unfortunately, the distraction provided by the little annoyances above us provided just enough time for a small missile battery, previously concealed in the dense foliage below, to fire two rockets straight into the belly of Hermes, and punctured two of the lift cells in the right nacelle.
Pandemonium ensued. Immediately we took out the battery with White Phosphorous Bombs, and began to ascend as rapidly as possible, to avoid either detection and further attack. We broke through the cloud level like a submarine surfacing, with the setting sun shining across the clouds like jeweled fire. As if in response to this show, Hermeswas in flames.
The lower decks, which included many crew cabins, as well as the cargo hold. The entire ship was listing heavily to starboard, as the right envelope had been severely compromised. The emergency crew reacted with a speed only a member of the Queen's Marines could, but the battle between man and flame was severe.
In the end, the fires were finally extinguished, though not before a great deal of damage was done, and lives were lost. 37 souls were lost in that dreadful occurrence, and the entirety of the cargo deck, which contained everything we'd gathered from that expedition, was lost. The artifacts were almost entirely of natural fibres and such, and thus went up like smoke. I myself had been wounded, with a bullet passing clean through my thigh, and a piece of shrapnel catching me just below my left eye. I'm quite fortunate that I still have my sight!
We managed to limp across the ocean to a well established colony on Australia, where Hermesis being repaired. Medical facilities were not up to par there, so I took an Express Zeppelin bound for Ceylon, and am convalescing there. I should be out of bed soon, and the Physic assures me I'll retain full use of my leg once I'm recovered. I plan on attempting to take a turn around the garden tomorrow, I hear the tea crop here is magnificent! I keep reminding myself that I came away from the encounter lightly, as there are so man men who lost limbs and eyes, or were otherwise incapacitated. Not to mention the 37 men and women who will never go home to their families. I've posted a letter to Her Royal Majesty, requesting that she confer on the honoured dead the Victoria Cross for their valour and bravery in service to Queen and Science in the face of skypiracy. I do so hope she'll agree. In the meantime, I'll be recovering here, and shall post another letter to you as soon as I've made my way back home.
Prof. J. Odderwall Costom
You hear a knock on the door. Excitedly, you open it, hoping for another letter from the Professor, since it had been a few days since you last received one. You are not disappointed, and quickly send the courier away and open the missive.
My Dear Waiting Reader,
First, I must sorely apologize for the interval between my letters! I'm afraid I've been in the grip of a seasonal affliction which only now is beginning to loosen its grasp 'round my vitals. No, no, do not be afraid, attentive reader. No small bought of Cold will steal me away from this mortal coil yet! The Professor has many decades of research and exploration left in his bones, let me assure you! But now, on to more exciting matters.
Today, my package of goodies arrived from my Scholarly friend! Yes, indeed; though weather-worn, and pockmarked by the bullet holes of what I can only assume to be the rifles of Malay Pirates whom the expedition must have encountered. I do hope no one was seriously injured! Thank Goodness my Fellow had the good sense to line the crate with metal in prevention of just such an occurrence! You can imagine my delight, to pry open the crate and find it's contents completely unharmed! In addition to various knickknacks and some Qing Dynasty coins, which I fashioned into a quite lovely wind chime, It contained three great beauties, all wonderful additions to my Wunderkammer.
The first, is an ornately carved horn of some sort, from China.
It really is quite lovely, as you can see. It features a dragon who is resting of the boughs of trees, and a line of elders. I'm not sure what manner of bone or horn up which it is carved, but it looks and feels like a very tough material.
The second is a gorgeous and intricate wooden mask from Burma.
It is carved of a not terribly sturdy wood, and arrived sans the tongue, which is quite a shame. Still, I am quite pleased that it has arrived at all, and that it's condition is still quite good, if one doesn't count the lack of tongue. I particularly like the detailing on the throat and the crest.
Last, but not least is another mask hailing from somewhere on the dark continent. According to the letter I received with the package, the expedition got lost whilst in Africa, and they really aren't sure where they were at the time of the acquisition of this piece. I wish I could be more specific in its provenance, Curious Reader, but unfortunately I can't be. It is of a hard wood, and I really do love the simplicity and elegance of the carvings. I must admit, I have quite a fascination with masks, and do in fact have quite a few examples in m Wunderkammer. Perhaps in the future I'll write with details of some of them.
I am quite pleased to add these wonderful pieces to my Wunderkammer! They all look so nice. Well, Sated Reader, I hope that you've enjoyed this missive, and my new acquisitions. I'll write you again when I've something else worth note!
You hear a knock on the door, and open it to find another special courier standing there with a large envelope. Hastily you take it, and open it. It is another letter from the Professor, and you start to read.
Hello Again, Studious Reader!
I so hope you are well. Today, I have decided that I ought to find out the provenance of my multifarious curiosities. To that end, I plan on contacting a fellow scholar, and asking him if he could perchance look at a few of the inhabitants of my Wunderkammer, and see from whence they came! Also, you may be interested to know, I went about yesterday to a few thrift stores and picked up some very lovely pieces, which shall perhaps be worked into a new invention. I'm especially pleased about the acquisition of a quite old, un-working clarinet that I found for mere pence, which shall be sacrificed upon the Altar of Creation quite soon indeed! In other news, I'm soon to receive a package from abroad. One of my Fellows in the Royal Scientific Exploratory Council is due back from an expedition to the Dark Continent and Indochina very soon. He promised to send me any interesting artifacts he acquired, but what with the state of the postal service, I fear his steamer may arrive before the antiquities do! Well, luckless reader, I'm afraid that's all the news I have for now. I'll write to you very soon, and let you know the contents of the package!
The Scholar sends you home, with the promise of the receipt of a letter very soon. Two days later, you receive a letter by special courier. It is a large, parchment affair, sealed with an enormous wax wafer with the initials JOC. It is from the Pofessor, as he promised! You crack open the letter, and begin to read...
My Good Reader,
Today was a most eventful day. Around 3:00, I received a package from a dear friend of mine, Our Lady. She runs a very interesting and productive affair, with all her multifarious pursuits.
But anyway, the package. She sent me a small jar, tightly sealed, which contained a lightly colored liquid and a few dark strands. The attached note informed me that she had just made up a batch of the Extract of Vanilla, and was in need of labels for aforementioned extract. She knew of my calligraphic skills, and so requested me to make some for her, in return for the bottle she sent me. She gave me instructions to keep the bottle in a dark environment for some weeks, and then it would be ready. Fortunately, my Wunderkammer has no lack of darkened corners and nooks. Acquiescing to her request, I went to my books. I dug up my dog-eared and weatherworn copy of the Florentine Codex, and it's description of Vanilla by Aztec scholars. So, I made up some labels, and sent them to Our Lady with my swiftest pigeon.
In other news, word has reached me that Dr. Hamshackle's laboratory has recently been burglarized, and has advised me to arm myself against the same vilians. To that end, I have begun construction of a defensive weapon, which I shall keep in my bottom drawer. I'll be sure to let you know how that progresses.
"I'm glad you've arrived," said the Scholar.
"I've been expecting you. Sit, sit."
He motions you toward a large wingback chair, and you sit. The scholar picks up an ornate teapot, who's spout is fashioned like a dragon's neck and head.
"Tea? Excellent. Well, I'm sure you'd probably like to know who I am. My name is Professor J. Odderwall Costom."
You start to ask what the "J." stands for, but the Scholar cuts you off.
"Now, now; mustn't get too familiar too quickly, eh? In any case, it's of no real importance. But
where was I?... Ahh, yes. Professor J. Odderwall Costom. Explorer, philospher and canfabulator for the Empire. Which empire, you ask? Why, the British one, of course! What, you say there is no British Empire anymore? Foolish, foolish creature, the empire may not exist as a sovereign governmental apparatus, but for those of us who so choose, it is a sovereign governmental principle. That is to say, we are followers of the fallen Empire's ways. But enough of that."
He motions around the rooms, his eyes alighting on the various strange things around the room.
"You've no doubt noticed my collection of oddities, curiosities, and obscurities. You see, this is what I "Do."; who I "Am". I am a Scholar, a Professor. A collector of the world's cast off knowledge, if you will. I consider it my duty to pick up the pieces of of history's Recherché, and save them for all time in this very room. Here in this room you'll find everything from Tempest Prognosticators, to Maori quarterstaffs. I've even got a piece of the great Temple at Karnak lying about somewhere... And of course, I'm always finding more things, or even making them myself." He glances towards a half-constructed lamp in a corner.
"So!" his eyes come back to you, and you feel skewered to your seat by his gaze.
"From time to time I'll write you a letter, giving details of my latest acquisition or project. I'll let you in on whatever interesting tomes or suchlike I stumble across in my journeys and travels. Why, you ask? Because: What good is a Wunderkammer, if not to be shared?"
The darkened study of the Scholar. The room is illuminated by a candle on his desk. The dim light shows a room filled with the artifacts of a lifestyle of travel. Books line the walls. Strange masks, paintings and carvings hang on those spots not filled by bookshelves. These shelves hold innumerable oddities and curiosities. Your eyes alight on a bell jar set in one shelf, which holds a singular object, with the label Sylphus Sappheiros. You look in wonder, as it appears to be the remains of a small, winged creature which looks remarkably like a human. You hear a sound from the desk, and turn your attention to the inhabitant of this room of curiosities. Seated at an enormous, carven dark wood desk, filled with scraps of parchment, drawings, scales and various instruments, is the Scholar. A young looking creature, with long blond hair, and sapphire eyes which seem to flash as they flit from place to place with the sharp attention of their owner. Clad in fur and gold brocade, he seems to be a denizen from another age, and yet is right at home amidst these surroundings. He is scratching at a piece of parchment with a quill, when he glances up and sees you standing there before him.
"Ahh, good," he says slowly.
"You're here. Welcome to my Wunderkammer."