Originally posted at http://www.fasagames.com/blog/?post_id= ... me-to-pass
Forthwith, an excerpt from the opening chapter of the 1879 Players Guide.
From “Down The Rabbit Hole: A History of the Grosvenor Portal, with Notes as to its Effects on the Empire, and Discussion of the New World Beyond”
Here, today, we ensure that Professor Grosvenor's sacrifice was not in vain. Here, today, by his efforts we open the way to prosperity and wealth untold. The United Kingdom now has unimpeded traverse to a New World, one that lies not across an ocean and weeks away by sail, but across the boundary of the universe and yet only minutes away by the power of steam.
– HRH Albert, Prince Consort, dedication speech, HM London and Alice Railway
In the year of our Lord 1879, in the forty-second year of the reign of our beloved Queen Victoria, we stand upon the edge of tremendous events, but whether we are at the border of a new land or the brink of a precipice is yet to be determined.
– Alexander Robert Campbell-Johnston, FRS, private letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli
The Eighth Wonder of the World, the Gateway to Hell, the Door of Opportunity, the Portal to the New World – which of these titles really suits the Rabbit Hole the best?
So much has been made in the popular press of the Grosvenor Portal, more commonly referred to as the Rabbit Hole, but what is it really? What does it mean to the British Empire? To properly understand both the Rabbit Hole and its effect upon both our world and the new, careful consideration of the background to these events is required. Permit me to start with a few entries from the diary of the late Professor Oswald Grosvenor, to which I have been granted access by the kind permission of Her Majesty's Bureau of Scientific Intelligence and the gracious intervention of the Home Secretary. We mere mortals may never understand the Professor's thinking – indeed, many of his peers remain baffled by his work – but perhaps we may gain an inkling of his motivations. Certainly, anyone who has questioned the Professor's faith may find evidence within these entries that he never once sought to displace our Lord from the pinnacle of creation, but instead, like so many other scholars in Christendom, sought to draw closer to understanding the miracle of Creation.
From Oswald Grosvenor’s Diary. Monday 4th January 1875.
A rather sleepless night. Some echoes of Reverend Green’s fine sermon from yesterday morning have been reverberating around my mind, agitating me to a state of constant wakefulness. If Angels truly be His messengers, have I inadvertently stumbled upon access to their realm and hence to The Lord himself?
Little did I think when studying the extraordinary research of Faraday, Thomson and that French fellow that by combining their thoughts and then rethinking them from the base level I could happen upon something so momentous!
From Oswald Grosvenor’s Diary. Wednesday 20th January 1875.
This afternoon I set up the apparatus once more, in the exact same configuration. The effect on this occasion lasted almost four seconds. I could not discern any movement, but again I had the distinct feeling that I was privy to events not of this earth. If I could find a way to apply more power I am certain that the result would prove most useful. Surely if I continue, I will witness them again.
From an interview with Stephen Bellamy concerning events of Thursday 18th February 1875.
The Antipholus had docked that morning, carrying an exceptionally fine cargo which would sell at the very top rate - a celebration with friends seemed the order of the day!
I called round at Oswald’s, as he had been absent from the club those past few weeks. Upon enquiring, however, nobody seemed to have seen him. I was admitted by his young assistant Henry, who assured me that my absentee friend was not deceased as I wryly implied, but had merely been extremely busy. So busy had he in fact been that he had barely vacated his laboratory of late.
Oswald seemed delighted to see me, but I was rather taken aback by his disheveled appearance. I commented that if he was determined to remain a bachelor for the remainder of his days then he had struck upon the perfect fashion!
The basement room was a jumbled mess of steel rods and coils and such a confusion of cords that it seemed they had spilled from some giant Italian’s dinner plate. I asked what in the Lord’s name he was doing, and he summoned me stand with him on a thick rubber mat near a vacant area at the centre of this array. He pointed at the space before us and bade me watch. I replied with confusion, as there was nothing special to see, but he swiftly silenced me and pulled on some brass handles that were arranged upon a large cabinet at his side.
The air around us seemed to vibrate and I became aware of a constant humming of a low register. There were sparkings and flashes amongst the metalwork, and just as I was considering a hasty retreat, the air before us began to shimmer and became opaque. Suddenly, as if someone had wiped a cloth across a misted window, the air cleared once more, but what I saw in its wake was no longer Oswald’s untidy room, but a disarming vista of rolling green grass, with the suggestion of mountains in the far distance. Oswald became extremely excited, crying “you see them, you see them!” Two human-like figures had appeared from the left in the middle-distance. Their movement was not that of any man, however; they were flying with large, graceful wings. I was dumbstruck. Almost as soon as it had begun, however - the hills, the mountains, the creatures - began to dissipate, and shrank away to a fine point.
I remember remarking “Good God man, what was that?” and Oswald replying “Not God Himself, but it is my belief that you just witnessed two of His angels. Surely that must be the Elysium Fields of Heaven; have you ever seen a land so beautiful?” It seems that Oswald had spoken to several spiritualists, and his conviction that he had discovered a means to connect with the afterlife had become an unshakeable belief.
I trust my eyes as much as the next man and I know what I saw, but I cannot rationalise it.
This was some sort of scientific experiment, but to me it may as well have been magic.
Oswald kept shaking my hand and babbling about his theories. I withdrew my flask and, with rather trembling hands, took a large swig of the good stuff.
Oswald would not come with me to the club so I left him calling for Henry to find more copper filaments.
Twenty-five years after the great Crystal Exhibition of 1851, when the world gathered to marvel at the achievements of the British Empire, the Queen formally opened the gates to the next generation of technological wonders. Commencing on the first of May, 1876, the Silver Exhibition set forth before the eyes of the world all of the advances of the past quarter century. The wheelchair-bound Prince Albert, owing his life to British medical science after a coach wreck and subsequent illness twenty years previously, had spent two decades carrying forward the royal commands and monetary support that the Queen had originated in her desperation to save her husband. The results put the United Kingdom multiple steps ahead of the rest of the world in the fields of medicine, manufacturing, chemistry, agriculture, and the new science of electricity.
In the latter study, no scientist had won more acclaim that Professor Oswald Grosvenor. Many of his fellows openly admitted that they barely understood most of his work, being so far advanced beyond their own. No less of a light than Charles Darwin said of him, “his brain seems to function in an altogether different fashion from his fellows... I suspect that there is nobody alive who could honestly follow his train of thought.” Grosvenor approached the Exhibition Committee in September of 1875, with a request to perform a demonstration of – well, the Committee wasn't quite sure what it was he intended to demonstrate, but it all sounded so very impressive. The Parade Ground at Hyde Park, directly across the Serpentine from the Crystal Palace, was originally proposed but members of the Committee raised concerns about the safety of the equipment involved. Prince Albert, a great admirer of the Professor's work, intervened, and offered the open space between the Royal Naval College and Flamsteed House in Greenwich Park. The Committee agreed with His Royal Highness, seeing that the proposed location was far enough from the City proper for safety, but close enough for a day's trip for the demonstration. Professor Grosvenor likewise agreed, saying that the proximity to the Royal Observatory and the Greenwich Meridian both would be auspicious. As it turned out, the power requirements alone pushed the demonstration off by a full month, what with all the extra cable that had to be laid to the site.
Thus, on the first of June 1876, after the crowds attending the Silver Exhibition had watched men unloading and setting up vast amounts of equipment, some of it mystifying and other bits frankly terrifying, the spinning discs up on metal poles somehow reminiscent of Mrs. Shelley's novel, Professor Grosvenor began the grand experiment that was to so change the world. The apparatus sparked and crackled, a tension slowly built in the air – and that was it. For the entire day, nothing more happened. Oh, men ran about and checked dials and threw levers and adjusted knobs, and an ominous hum began to build, like the world's largest basso profundo warming up for his solo, but of the promised miracle there was no sign. Nor was there the day after, nor the day after that, and the crowd moved on to other, more immediate amusements.
The morning of the sixth of June dawned grey, the sky leaden and ruddy. Sailors at the Docklands expressed misgivings to their superiors, who watched the glass falling and ordered delays in casting off. At the Silver Exhibition, parasols gave way to umbrellas as rain threatened, but the spirits of the crowd continued undampened. At the Grosvenor apparatus, a small group of lesser dignitaries and military officers had gathered, as the Professor had guaranteed that the power build-up was finally sufficient to “open a window and see into the next world”. Bets as to whether the apparatus would actually do anything at all, or explode in a spectacular fireworks show, were being laid on at approximately equal returns. None of the bets included the possibility that Nature, in the form of the gathering thunderstorm, might intervene.
At 15:02 Greenwich Mean Time, two minutes after Professor Grosvenor gave the order to engage the final phase, with the apparatus ramping up to a tooth-aching whine, lightning struck the central pylon. The flash blinded the onlookers. The shockwave bowled them over like ninepins. Military officers present at the event later expressed surprise to be still alive to take cover, as an explosion of that magnitude normally shredded anyone nearby like cabbage for slaw. No shrapnel flew from the apparatus; quite the reverse, as it turned out. The blast wave demolished several nearby kiosks, resulting in the only death among the spectators, that of a young boy who had been selling apples.
What follows is a transcript of the Grosvenor Recording. This text has been reproduced in the popular press often enough that every schoolboy could recite it, but it bears inclusion here as being the only account of the events transcribed at the time of the occurrence. The American inventor Thomas Edison's new phonograph, a device that records and plays back sound, had been admitted to the Silver Exhibition, nominally a display of British technological prowess, on the condition that the device was put to use by the Exhibition staff, recording the sounds of the event and descriptions dictated by journalists from the more respectable Fleet Street establishments. Mr. Henry Jarvis of the Standard, noted for his front-line work in the Standard's exemplary coverage of the Franco-Prussian War, had been assigned to document Professor Grosvenor’s efforts.
“Good afternoon and welcome to the Silver Exhibition. I am Henry Jarvis of the London Standard. This series of sound recordings is being produced on the new Edison phonograph under the auspices of the British Museum and the Office of Scientific Development, under the direction of His Royal Highness Prince Albert. Herein we have captured the sounds and events of the Exhibition for posterity, and for the enlightenment of those who were not able to attend.
“Today is the sixth of June, in the year of our Lord 1876, the thirty-eighth year of the reign of Victoria, God save the Queen. We are present at Greenwich Park, midway between the Royal Observatory, the centre of all time, and the Royal Naval College, home of the fleet that commands all the oceans of the world. Here, Professor Oswald Grosvenor promises today to, so he says, “open a window and see into the next world”. We have watched over the past five days as his men have brought in and set up a bewildering array of electrical devices, things that somehow put one in mind of Mrs. Shelley's novel. The deep hum that you can hear behind my voice comes from the Professor's equipment, which we are assured will produce more than sparks this day.
“The weather does not appear to be ready to cooperate with a large outdoor scientific demonstration. The day turned up dull and overcast, with a falling glass. We have seen more umbrellas here at the Exhibition ground today than parasols. The spirits of the crowd, however, remain undampened, as they come here in droves to marvel at the technological advances of the past twenty-five years.
“I am here with a number of dignitaries and military officers, in the shadow of the reviewing stand. Beside me is Lieutenant Stephen Barratt of Her Majesty's Horse Guards and his fiancee, Miss Eugenie Walker. Perhaps the two of you could make a few observations as to what you are witnessing?”
“Um, right, *throat clearing*. We actually hadn't planned to attend the demonstration, really. My fiancee and I were promenading in the area when the noise attracted our attention. All those crackles and pops. They're still carrying on, well, of course you can hear it, but there's a lot of sparks – “
“Quite a lot, really, it's nearly dreadful.”
“Indeed, Eugenie, and given the rushing to and fro of the men operating the equipment, it's probably better for our safety if we were to retire to a safer distance. Excuse us, won't you.”
“Of course. By my watch, it's just past three in the afternoon. That dreadful whine seems to be presaging something - “
“Dear God in Heaven, was that lightning?”
“It's all gone dark! I can't see! Am I blind?”
“He's gone! It's all gone! What in the name of the Lord Almighty is that?”
As men from the fire brigade rushed to the aid of the injured, and the police tried to prevent the Exhibition's crowd from surging toward the scene as the curious mob always does, all were struck by one immediate fact: the apparatus was gone. Not a trace remained of the multiple tons of equipment, nor of the men who had been operating it, nor of Professor Grosvenor.
At the demonstration site stood a grey disk, a hundred feet across, partially buried in the ground. Initial examination proved it to have razor sharp edges, little if any apparent thickness, and a slick feel to its surface. Anything pressed up against it simply slid off, without leaving a mark. After the first ricochet, anyone attempting to test the disk with gunfire was immediately stopped. The military moved in by nightfall and cordoned off the area. Every scientific mind within a day's travel was summoned. The Queen herself demanded to know what had happened, and whether this represented any threat to her empire. She held a personal stake in the event, after all, it having taken place on Crown land.
From The Times. Wednesday 10th May 1876
Strict Cordon at Greenwich Park
The Greenwich Park Anomaly continues to confound the experts. The massive airborne disc appears to be truly two dimensional and when viewed dead on from the side does not even exist. Since it came into being last Saturday, the general dimensions and prospect have not changed but the area has been cordoned off to prevent further possibility of injury to the public. The nature of the surface is very strange and any object thrown at it is flung off in an apparently random manner.
Nothing came of the examinations. The Grosvenor Anomaly, as the authorities called it, lacking the imagination and florid turn of phrase of the popular press, resisted most attempts at definition. All that could be said about it for certain were its physical dimensions. The Anomaly was perfectly circular, with its center nine feet above the ground, at the former location of the tip of the central pylon of Grosvenor's apparatus. Its radius was approximately fifty feet. While it stood perfectly vertical, as determined with a plumb bob by the end of its first day in the world, its orientation was seventeen and a half degrees counter-clockwise from true north-south. Nothing could be clearly seen through it from either side, although from one side but not the other, the dim impression of shadows could be made out, shadows that had nothing to do with what was actually on the far side.
From Notes by Professor Sir James Williams. Monday 16th October 1876
There has been a gradual change to the anomaly. The centre seems to have cleared somewhat and upon observing this for the last several days I noted that this area lightened and darkened on a more or less regular cycle. I cannot help but make the connection, rightly or wrongly, that I am witnessing day and night. This is only on one side; the other remains unchanged. I know that the esteemed Professor Grosvenor was attempting to open a window onto some other world, and I am also well aware that I was at the forefront of those saying that he had lost his mind but I am beginning to think, despite my better judgement, that he was not so unbalanced after all. I wonder should I step down from my position as chief scientist here and call upon Mr. Jules Verne to take my place!
Over the next year, the Anomaly stubbornly resisted all further attempts at understanding its nature. Scientists from the Continent and from America examined it. At one point, a Chinese man in fancy dress performed some sort of elaborate ritual before the Anomaly, to no effect other than wild speculation by journalists as to what he was doing and a flat denial by the government that he had any sort of permission or authority to have been there in the first place. The Anomaly itself quietly went from opaque grey to translucent, showing from one side but not the other a brightening and darkening that roughly corresponded with sunrise and sunset. The shadows gained definition, began to suggest a view of another land, hills, trees, and birds. More and more, the mist cleared, until the Anomaly became a window into some distant place. Could it be in the Americas? The trees didn't look right to military men who'd been to the Balkans, Africa, or India.
From The Times. Monday 13th November 1876
Startling New Developments at Hyde Park
Several more top international scientists have arrived in London to study the Grosvenor Anomaly and it has been confirmed that the central section does indeed seem to display a view of an unknown territory. Scaffolding now covers both faces to allow scientists access to the whole area and a reporter and photographer from this newspaper have been granted special permission to cover developments.
The view is apparently like looking down a telescope the wrong way, or looking down a tunnel but with sides that swirl and shift in a most disconcerting manner which the photograph cannot portray. What is visible seems to be an area of desert or scrubland, but is it of this world? At present that question remains unanswered.
The window finally opened on the one year anniversary of its creation. At 15:02 Greenwich Mean Time, as close to the second as anyone could be certain of the moment when the storm struck the apparatus, a clear, bright snap was heard by the men on watch at the Anomaly, and a bird flew out from the other side. Before anyone could muster the wit to capture it or bring it down, the bird soared off into the sky and was gone, the first life to cross from the New World into ours lost forever. Probing of the Anomaly began again with a tremendous air of excitement. Finally, there was something to test.
From The Times. Friday 15th December 1876
Artillery Reinforces Hyde Park after Tunnel Opens
Shocking developments today as two artillery batteries were positioned to cover the Grosvenor Anomaly. Officers stressed that this is merely a precaution and there is absolutely no cause for alarm.
The order was given overnight as a sudden change took place to the hitherto impassable surface of the structure. A flock of birds had been spotted at the far end causing much excitement as this was the first sign of life to have been witnessed, but suddenly they headed straight towards the observers and into the ‘tunnel’. Most were sucked into the swirling vortex and vanished but one came straight through and burst out into the London air where it flew away.
The surface was tested with a scaffolding pole and proved to now be passable. Amidst fears of other invaders attempting to come through the artillery and three additional platoons of riflemen were ordered into position. Guards Captain William Berry reminded Londoners that anything attempting to gain access would have to answer to the greatest army in the world.
Sending a man into the Anomaly turned out to be rather a bad idea. While the disk appeared to have no thickness at all from the outside, within it ran for several yards; a tunnel with strange, disorienting walls and a foul atmosphere that was nearly fatal for the first scout. Fortunately, a safety line had been rigged, and the man was pulled to safety before he succumbed. Further exploration was done with diving suits, air pumped in to the explorers through rubber hoses. Steel helmets protected against the bad air, but not against the disorientation of passage through the tunnel. Lead foil proved to be somewhat effective, but made the already-heavy diving suits nearly impossible to maneuver. Air samples taken by long pole proved, thankfully, to be breathable, if the far end could just be reached with less effort.
From Notes by Professor Sir James Williams. Thursday 14th December 1876
In the whole of scientific discovery I can think of nothing to compare to this. We have a connection to an entire different world and I can in no way understand how. I am at a loss. If only Professor Grosvenor was here but nothing has been found of his earthly remains and I am personally of the opinion that he was sucked into the vortex as it formed. My colleagues and I have pored over his notes but they mean little to us. Much of his knowledge must have been kept in his head and not transcribed which is dreadfully unorthodox but he clearly was a totally unorthodox, though brilliant scientist.
There now seems to be some kind of gossamer thin skin over the ‘front’ of the portal (the ‘back’ is as resilient as ever) which in no way prohibits transit. We have carefully probed through and taken air samples at intervals. The atmosphere within varies constantly but is never less than extremely toxic.
The distance to the other end of the vortex is some several yards but we have managed to reach right across with a steel tube cantilevered out from the scaffold. In this fashion we devised a method of taking an air sample from the other end and that proved to be almost identical to our atmosphere.
I had at first assumed that this other world was merely an undiscovered part of our own, possibly in central Africa, but on viewing what has been visible of the night sky, the star systems are unrecognisable and there is more than one moon in evidence.
I am of the belief that the only chance of making headway is to somehow send an expedition across. This entire affair becomes more like one of those popular scientific romances at every turn. An expedition will be very dangerous. We have found by experimenting that anything that comes into too close a proximity with the ‘sides’ will be sucked through them and presumably destroyed. Our engineers are at present finishing a platform that can be fed through to the far side, and protective suits for the party to wear. I feel that I should personally lead this exploratory group but I admit to being terrified at the prospect. I am a scientist, not an adventurer.
From The Times. Tuesday 19th December 1876
Williams in Wonderland
Professor Sir James Williams, head of the scientific team at Greenwich, is to head an exploratory mission through what has commonly become known as ‘the rabbit hole’. Lewis Carroll himself visited the site yesterday and announced that no, this was not quite what he had in mind in his books. He signed a copy of his newly published The Hunting of the Snark for Sir James as a good luck present.
The expedition will make an attempt early in the new year, providing more tests on the durability of the hole prove satisfactory.
Various religious groups have been speaking out about current events, taking a wide range of differing opinions. Archibald Tait, Archbishop of Canterbury, said that he did not know what lay through the gateway, but was certain that it too had been created by Almighty God in his infinite wisdom.
Finally, a team of engineers pushed a lead-lined steel tube through, and created a passage safe from both the mental effects and the bad air of the tunnel. Thus the first party arrived in the New World, for such it appeared to be. The team had been selected to represent all factions of Her Majesty's armed forces, and the naval officer, once the sun had set, had only to look up to be certain that the stars matched no constellations charted by the Admiralty. The land was fertile, though, and the water sweet, and while the plants and wildlife were unfamiliar, their edibility was easy enough to determine. Queen Victoria had inherited a new land to add to her crown, already heavy with titles.
From Notes by Professor Sir James Williams. Friday 22nd December 1876.
The engineers have constructed a sturdy platform which cantilevers out some three yards into the abyss. Corporal Hughes of the Guards was the first volunteer to cross the membrane. Clad in an adapted deep water diving suit, he stepped into the anomaly and stood for some ninety seconds looking around him. He began to stagger in a rather distressed fashion so was immediately guided back with the aid of a line attached to his suit. His health seems to have not suffered but he claims that the experience of being within the vortex is extremely disorienting and unnerving. Subsequent attempts by other members of the team have had similar results. It seems the longer the exposure, the more heightened the feelings of confusion and nausea. The crew now remark that suffering from this condition is coming down with a case of ‘the mad hatters’.
Today I donned a protective suit myself for the first time. It took me a fair while to become accustomed to breathing the pumped air and I found the smell most unwelcoming. I did my utmost to look confident before the men as I shuffled across the platform and out of this world. I was immediately hit by waves of nausea and almost fell to my knees. It is as if there is neither up nor down, left nor right and it took all my willpower to concentrate at all. It is going to prove very difficult for anyone to remain in this void for any protracted length of time. I think we shall have to commission some form of prefabricated ‘tube’ that can be forced through to the other side to shield travellers from the surrounding effects.
We will have the platform extended all the way to the other side by Christmas and I have informed Her Majesty that I, along with a carefully selected team, will make our crossing to the other world on New Years Day. It looks to be a New Year like no other!
Over the next two years the Rabbit Hole, as it came to be called in the press and ultimately by everyone, became the center of tremendous activity. Rail lines were built through a massive lead-lined steel casement, four tracks laid in so that trains could come and go at the same time, and have redundancy in case one line lost a tie. To either side, engineers also laid roads and walkways for those times when men must brave the passage on foot or in a steam coach. Fort Alice grew on the far side of the Rabbit Hole, a name again foreordained by the effect of popular literature on the imagination of the British people. Natural hazards abounded, but those were to be expected in any new land. Military leaders expressed confidence that what couldn't be avoided could be burned out or pounded into nonexistence with cannon. The House of Lords, feeling that they'd solved the problem of the unemployed poor, began clearing out the workhouses and orphanages and sending laborers to the New World, which gained a new name among the poverty stricken: the House of No Return. It was then that the military ran into their first taste of resistance.
The reports were kept quiet only for as long as an intrepid reporter took to find an anonymous source in need of a few quid. Her Majesty's forces had engaged with an implacable enemy, one whose soldiers were already dead. Stinkers, the rank and file called them, corpses somehow made to get up and keep fighting, that could only be stopped by shots to the head and the heart both. These corpses included any bodies left behind at the scene of a battle. A mate lost and not recovered would turn up at the next conflict fighting for the enemy. It would be another five months before the public learned the name of the masters of these undead forces: the Samsut. Speculation ran rife as to who these people were, how they raised the dead to fight, but what they wanted was clear. They wanted our Empire out of their world, and were willing to battle beyond death to accomplish it.
Turning the other direction in their exploration, the Queen's forces ran into quite something else. One expected a wild land to have tribes of savages. One did not expect them to be lizard men. But here they were, a people perhaps descended from dinosaurs the way Mr. Darwin would have humans believe they descended from monkeys. Fortunately, these were more readily handled. The same tactics that had worked in America with its native people worked with the lizard men. A quick rescue of a besieged village at minimal cost to the troops, negotiations by cursory sign language, a few crates of foodstuffs, and a case of ancient black-powder blunderbusses, and one of the tribes turned against their rivals, fighting alongside the Queen's own. Once one tribe had been won over, another followed, and a third, and within a year, the military tailors were routinely stitching up uniforms to a decidedly different set of measurements.
And so, in the present day, Her Majesty's military holds the lands within five hundred miles in any direction of Fort Alice. Local allies have been found. A narrow isthmus connecting the lands around Fort Alice with the lands of the Samsut has brought the fight down to a slow grind, with neither side able to muster enough forces on the constrained battle ground for a decisive victory. The European nations are nipping at the heels of the United Kingdom, demanding access to the resources of the New World, and cannot be held off for much longer. Britain has had first crack. Now she must resort to diplomacy, taxation, and brinksmanship to make what profit she can. Now the adventure truly begins.
Discussion on the 1879 roleplaying game.
1 post • Page 1 of 1
Who is online
Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest