Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Part the IInd - The Company of the Turk's Head

Excerpts from the Diary of Leviathan Cherrychoate:

March the 8th, A.D. 1683

Arrived in London about five of the clock post-meridian after three days wearisome travel by flying coach with a broken spring. Suffered through three days of rain, bad food taken on the road, rain, little sleep, rain, floods and the companionship of a bilious parson from Exeter. Then there was the rain.

I was therefore much pleased to be deposited at the Sign of the Turk's Head, a most commodious hostelry in one of the worst parts of London, Southwark. As I descended from my coach, all about me were the worst the great City has to offer and ne'er a pretty or clean looking trull to be found.

The Turk's Head Inn was most appropriate to its exotic name. Within I found the place infested with foreigners. There was the odd assortment of Frenchmen, probably all buggerers, the odd Portugee and some type of Dutch admiral who was cozying up to a great German virago who sang like a man, laughed like a horse and could drink both under the table. But the strangest occupants of all were a host of Polack nobles from Lithuanie, all fur-clad, armed to the teeth and drunk as bishops.

As I attempted to approach the innkeeper to ask the whereabouts of Sandorius, one great fat fellow blocked my way, not out of any spite but rather in the same way the Alps do block the road to the Italies. He placed me upon the counter without the slightest effort and asked my name. After much dispute, I resigned myself to their company, especially after they did treat me to ale. I noticed that the great fellow who called himself by the ridiculous name of Ziglova was himself drinking from a great flagon with a capacity of near half a keg. I observed him empty the monstrous thing twice, showing little drunkenness for the effort.

He introduced me to a youth, one Prince Radivue, who despite his youth was a man of some stature and repute among them, no doubt for his ability to produce cabbage-gas. This prince was a handsome fellow and could speak Latin after a fashion. It was oft difficult to follow what he had said but soon I realized that he was quite the fool and little of his gibberings made sense at all. What was to be expected, however, since this Ziglova was the Prince's tutor.

Also in the Prince's company was a young woman with so outlandish I name I could scarce repeat it. She was attractive but for having the dress of a man and her temples shorn in the fashion of these Easterners. I might have offered her a tumble had she not been so well armed. Also with them was a small lad named Eduard who served as the Prince's swordbearer, carrying a blade twice as tall as himself.

We were much merry and betimes I nearly forgot wherefore I had come. This was especially so after we had been joined by the Dutchman and his dolly. The Dutchman, a soldier of fortune named Vander Ketch was a strutting gamecock but bore himself in a gentlemanly fashion. The German lass was named Georgina and was Countess of one of their bunion-sized principalities but was buxom and handsome in a horsey sort of way and appeared willing enough given the right persuasion. I had little doubt that, given sufficient time and drink, she would be supine and shouting to heaven of her imminent arrival but for me lying on top of her to prevent the ascension.

Feeling a pang of guilt towards my master, and not knowing if I.N. had set spies upon to see to my fidelity, I asked if any knew the whereabouts of one Doctor Sandorius. I had hoped that none would know for the moment so that I might have further discourse with the lady Georgina. Two events conspired to despoil me of my desires. First, the landlord told me that Sandorius lived but two doors away in the house of a French laundress. At which, Ziglova, cried out in a great bellowing laugh, "A Transylvanian? Why he is a near countryman of ours and we shall go to visit him. I shall act as translator." Wrapping a great arm about me, he led a whole cavalcade in an advance toward the street.

The second event was the unexpected arrival of Mistress Penruddick. The violent she must have ensconced herself in the baggage of the flying coach in order to continue to vex me. Although, I must admit, her dishabille appearance and the fire of her eyes appeared quite fetching to me as she stood in the doorway panting with anger. Methought I had rogered the wrong Penruddick. But such thoughts flew from my mind when she rounded upon me.

A great tumult ensued, ending only when Ziglova discharged a great many-barreled musketoon into the ceiling. The large bison of a man then thrust me through the door and down the street, Mistress Pennruddick shouting imprecations whilst following along.

We found the Laundry of Mde. Roget easily enough. Smell alone could have guided us. Before we entered, a hag at the door required a toll of piss for the privilege. Ziglova paid for us all to such an extent that we could have visited the place three times more.

Mde. Roget was a right fetching woman, with the look of the strumpet about her which is natural to all Frenchwomen. I imagined her late husband died no doubt from exhaustion and was momentarily concerned for the great Sandorius. Feeling such sympathy I thought to relieve him of that danger at least for a night. But Mde. R. seemed reluctant to my advances and then the wretched Pennruddick spoke up again and we must needs be back to business. More's the pity.

By and by, Sandorius permitted us to his chamber, which was also the chamber of Mde. R. Sandorius was younger than I had expected, not above thirty years of age, and not half so mad, certainly nowhere as mad as I.N.

He was surrounded by great vats and beakers of substance I only half could recognize. He bore about him the secret signs of our Order. He spoke Latin well so Ziglova and the others were not needed. Still I felt more secure with this well armed host about me, since the look of Sandorius' eye was enough to chill any man's sack.

I told him of my errand and presented I.N.'s letter. He said he would provide me a response on the morrow and would send it to my lodgings at Turk's Head Inn. As quickly as it had begun, our interview was ended and we found ourselves out upon the street once more.

As the others went back to the Inn, I fell behind and attempted to skulk my way up the stair to Sandorius' room. Much to my surprise, Sandorius was engaged in the same behavior save for being headed down whilst I was heading up. Before we could recriminate upon one another, a shout went up from the street and several ruffians, Frenchmen by the look of them, all wearing the white apron of the dread Camisard,[1] burst in upon us.

I fired one of my pistols which I had prepare with a powerful Infusion but the magic mistokened and a great bolt of blue lighting rebounded through the stairwells. Sandorius bethumped the assailants and hurtled them down the stairs. I followed and laid about me with my rapier.

Meanwhile, the Polacks had charged to the rear of the laundry where a great horde of the Frenchmen attacked through the yard. In the street, Vander Knack, the lovely Georgina and even Penruddick were striking down the Frenchmen, admittedly not an onerous task but I was much gratified for their assistance.

Sandorius ran up to the high window at the top of stair. Looking out, he began an incantation. It was in a tongue which I had ne'er heard before. Cutting himself and flinging the blood out the window, he induced a great trench to form in the yard by conversion of Earth unto Air. A most remarkable spell and one I was determined to comprehend.

Several of the Camisard had been slain by the conversion and Ziglova, the Prince and Georgina were well capable of killing the rest themselves. They were facing merely Frenchmen after all.

I returned to the street where much to my surprise, a wildly appointed wagon rolled to a stop, and several dark men, Gypsies by their odd dress, sprang forth. Vander Slice and I stood to them and one fell dead from the Dutchman's fusil. I knocked their leader down and would have dispatched him but for the fact that several of his fellows had laid Mistress Penruddick low and were carrying her away to their wagon.

Now our Lord does work in mysterious ways. At the start of this evening I was most melancholy, having had a difficult journey and dangerous endeavor. By the end, it appeared, I had all but achieved my end, received the favor of a wealthy Prince, found a great master from whom I should learn great things, and now, had the pleasure of watching a great enemy being carried off to bondage. All things considered a most profitable evenings work.

Penruddick shrieked for my help but I merely waived my farewells. My greatest concern at that point was that some officious bumpkin would attempt a rescue. My fears proved groundless for they took her to the wagon and flung her into the back. Now this wagon did prove to be most wonderous. For the entire coach was filled with a shimmering oval of light, which I recognized at once from my study to be a Great Portal, no doubt opening upon some far off place, or even one of the other Spheres. Truly fare thee well, Penruddick.

I turned my attention back to the Gypsy placing my pistol at his chest. Before I could inquire of the reason for this attack, a most strange keening sounded at my back. Turning, I spied that the coach was still in the street and the Portal was disgorging a vast legion of heavily armed Turks, all wearing the curious white sleeved hat of the Janissary.

When I called them to halt or I would slay their comrade, three discharged their great muskets at me. I tried to dodge the weighty shot but was knocked off my feet, sure at first that I had been slain. As fortune would have, I fell into a great heap of turds that had been thrown from a dung wagon at the initial onslaught of the Camisards. As one would expect from Frenchmen. However, noisome, these nasty fewmets absorbed much of the power of the shots and I was able to be back upon my feet in a few moments.

Oh what tumult which then ensued. The Polacks who bear great hatred for the Turks fell upon them with great fury. There were such ambuscades amongst the laundry lines and baskets as could scarce be imagined. The Prince was most vigorous in this action, swinging from rope and pole like a great African Ape amongst the heathen, striking them down by the score. Even the boy Eduard, coming unexpectedly from behind with the great sword, struck down three of the Janissaries before my eyes.

In the midst of this affray, I thought suddenly of Sandorius who I had not seen since the onset of the Turks. I suddenly spied him atop the roof of the laundry running with the lifeless form of Mde. Roget in his arms. He lept down into the seat of the dung cart and hurried it off.

I followed quickly. Finding a wagon belonging to the laundry nearby, I cut the horse from its traces and hurried after. In a short time, I came upon the wrecked cart, the body of Mde Roget and several dead Turks littering the road. In the distance I could make out Sandorius riding pall-mall towards the river piers. I followed hastily after.

I suddenly heard a great explosion and, looking back, spied the top floors of the laundry torn asunder and all afire. Evidently, Sandorius had been prepared for such a visitation.

I followed Sandorius to a ship which appeared ready to depart on the evening tide. I crept closer whilst he spoke to the captain. Suddenly, he turned about, plucked me up and threw me into the river.

Now I cannot swim so I was sure I was done for when a great stick appeared before me and hurled me out of the water.

At the other end was Sandorius with a smile most sardonic. "You needed to bathe Cherrycoote," says he. "I could smell you from a mile away. Now, tell me why you follow me or I shall return you to King Neptune."

I stammered that I sought to learn the Arts from him since he had demonstrated his great skill this evening.

"Why should I take on a student, especially one the likes of you."

I had him now. I offered to show him my copy of I.N.'s great manuscript the Principia Decania. Even the grim Sandorius' eyes widened when I mentioned this for all in the Order had known of the outline of I.N.'s great work but none save I knew its contents.

I retrieved the dampened manuscript from my kit and Sandorius scanned it with the utmost interest.

Finally he looked up to me and said, "Very well Cherrycoate, you may stay with me this night. I shall most likely kill you in the morning."

He then turned to the captain and said, "We are ready to depart. My servant here shall work for passage."

And so I was placed at holystoning the deck until well into the night, after which I was shown to a small corner of the forecastle. And so to bed….

Editors' Note: The Turkish Visitation of Southwark of 1683 is one of the most bizarre and unexplained events in London's history. Most scholars have dismissed the event as the product of the war jitters that was sweeping Europe that spring coupled with the distribution of a bad batch of cheap gin. Cherrycoate's narrative is in fact the only eyewitness account and provides an alternative if highly dubious rationale for the event.

Most contemporary accounts of the event credit the suppression of the disturbance to a press gang from the warship, HMS Black Charles although legend does credit the initial halt of the invaders to the heroic laundresses of Southwark and even, in one account, a preternaturally large boar. Recently discovered Vatican archives not only confirm the presence of the Radziwill party in London at the time but also credit the Prince with almost single-handedly defeating the strange attack. See W. Zeligowski, Shadows over Rome, Vatican Correspondence Regarding Paranormal Phenomenon in Eastern Europe 1618-1721, New York, 1998.

For purposes of the narrative, what Cherrycoate does not explain, nor would he have been in the position to know, was that most of his recent associates from the Turk's Head had presumed both he and Sandorius killed in the explosion. This is the reason for their subsequent surprise upon meeting the pair some time later.

May the 2nd, A.D. 1683
From the Palace of Topkapi
In the Realm of the Sublime Porte

To Madame Nelle Lyzzard-Penruddick
Marshalsee Debtor's Goal

Dearest Mother,

I hope all is well with you and my dearest sister. I fear I shall not be able to get home for her confinement as I have been kidnapped by heathen Turks and am being held in the Sultan's seraglio. I hope Uncle Rafael's gout is not troubling him over much this season.

Rest assured I am in good health and spirit and hope to reunite my beloved family some day in the very near future.

As you know, I have been attempting to obtain satisfaction from Master Newton's Prentice Cherrycoate for having got our dear Honoria in such a way. Despite my best effort to make that vile scoundrel pay his due, he has denied my every reasonable demand whilst he goes about attempting to ravish any female on two feet and some four-footed ones no doubt as well. I had followed him to London where he engaged a whole gang of foreigners to protect him. Finally, he engaged a troop of gypsies to carry me off.

They placed me in what appeared to be a carriage with a strange aperture within. Thrust through this opening I found myself an instant later in barracks of the Sultan of Turkey's guards. Although the superstitious heathens have assured me this passage was magical, I am not taken in by such blather. It is quite clear that over the past few years, no doubt at the instigation of that evil, vile, filthy whoremonger Cherrycoate, the Turks have been engaged in building a great tunnel beneath Europe. They have placed therein a most efficient pneumatic tube with which they propel people to and fro.

Since arrival here, I have been kept prisoner in the harem and I do not know what they intend of me. I have been able to learn the Turkish tongue, which is not as difficult as has been said. I have the protection of a great blackamoor eunuch named Sufi who has shown considerable loyalty and nobility, as compared to the vile, cowardly Cherrycoate. It is through the assistance of Sufi that I am able to send you this letter.

Although I have not been harmed o'ermuch, I have been subjected to much Eastern immoral and decadent humiliation. I have been forced to bathe daily in scented waters. Slaves dress my hair and paint my eyes and face with scandalous cosmetics. I was forced to eat rich foods until surfeit and am forced to wear the sheerest silks and velvets that, while comfortable in this heat are quite immodest to the eye.

The women of the harem were quite a lazy bickering lot, many having grown quite fat upon their indolence. I had soon set them upon a more correct and productive path. I have started all upon a regime of exercise and proper diet. I have also undertaken to teach them to read and write and do their arithmetics. I have also started a gardening club and our first roses are already beginning to bloom. I have taken a date press and carved date pits for lettering, current juice for ink and the elaborately fashioned papier de toilet and begun to print a harem newspaper. My first editorial was upon the need for suffrage for women in the realm of the Sultan, which I thought was quite good until I was informed that even men do not have the right to vote.

But fear not, dearest Mother, for, despite my surrounding and dress, my virtue is intact. No man save the eunuchs are allowed within the Women's Quarters and my fellow inmates assure me that there are so many women here that it will take years, if ever, for the Sultan to get around to me.

Give my best to our dearest Honoria.

Your loving daughter,

Post Scriptum,

I have this moment been summoned to the Sultan's Quarters. I had prayed to be relieved from this visitation but His Will be done. I shall not give into such vile degradation and shall die a martyr preserving the honor of honest English womanhood. Please make sure my cat is fed.

[1] A sect of French religious fanatics who terrorized southern France in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. Their origin was due to various causes; the Albigensian spirit which had not completely died out in that region, and which caused Pope Clement XI to style the Camisards "that execrable race of ancient Albigenses"; the apocalyptic preaching and literature of the French Calvinists, on which they were nourished; and the revocation of the Edict of Nantes (1685), along with the singular methods of conversion employed by the agents of Louis XIV. Sometimes suspected as one of the organizations from which the Order of Freemasons evolved.

[2] All excerpts of the famed Penruddick Mother-Daughter Correspondence are reprinted with special permission from the Ponsonby family archives with special thanks to the eighth Earl of Ponsonby.

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