League of Extraordinary Gentlemen 1766

Chapter 4

Report: Observation Post Providence Rhode Island

This stakeout job is good for someone like me, noted as a lazy person by my neighbours in the Catskills. Spending days watching over an abode in Providence gets me away from my henpecking wife.

The subject of my watch, Joseph Curwen rarely shows up, however I have caught sightings of him. Using the spyglass I can catch sight of him through a window; he seems utterly inactive, his servants do everything for him, they even feed him bringing food to his mouth while he just stares blankly at the wall.

A fellow scrutineer Ezra Weedon joined me on a vigil one day and he caught a glimpse of the inactive subject. He confirmed to me that it was indeed Joseph Curwen. I don't know how he can be both here and in France as you say.

A short coach trip was the one time I saw him go outside, he had to be carried into the vehicle. The coach went through town and back again, Curwen never interacted with anyone nor left the coach, just stared out the window as it passed through town. When it was over his servants carried him back into the house.

This ends my report, I will attach it to the first designated pigeon and let fly.

Yours sincerely Rip Van Winkle.

Munchausen read the report out to the other coach passengers; the Americans thought it just deepened the mystery, Jean and Juliette were baffled, they were brought together to fight someone here in France not across the Atlantic and apparently brain dead.

"Perhaps the man we're visiting now can explain it better than me." Said the Baron.

The coach sped into Gevaudan in the early dark. Hawkeye thought of a mink showing off its prize fur when he noticed Juliette, she made a lot of seductive movements, especially when she saw him looking her way. Jean gave a lot of attention to what was being passed by, he was picking up new interesting scents and then losing them as the coach sped passed; he also gave much olfactory attention to Juliette.

Chingachook made his own animal representations of these two French associates; Jean was a sniffing dog while Juliette was a rampant she rabbit.

Jean Baptiste Grenouille preferred walking, he could sample all the new smells he sensed, travelling in a coach made the sensation too fleeting. The perfumer briefly enjoyed the different scents the Americans brought, the tanned hides were old experiences from his early days in a tannery, the coonskin hat was interesting, but their personal odours, especially Chingachook's had a touch of the exotic. Juliette had a personal scent that was sweet, powerful and intoxicating, it wasn't the best scent in the world, he had already designated that, but if he could extract her scent and bottle it; no not yet, the Baron would be so disappointed if he knew Jean's nature.

Juliette spent the trip eyeing Hawkeye, when she had time she would like to drag the scout by his hair ties into her bed. Chingachook also had a level of appeal, being an Indian made the idea fanciful but he was a bit on the old side and his face showed not only disinterest but an underlying sadness. Grenouille made her feel uneasy; his face was scarred by smallpox, his personal odour smelt like a mixture of vinegar and cat droppings, he didn't say much, starred at her morbidly, and there was that sniffing, he was constantly smelling her as if she was a cooking ingredient; very disturbing.

The coach arrived in Gevaudan and stopped at a theatre. Munchausen told the coachman to rest and feed the horses at the local stable the pick us up in an hour. After the coach departed Chingachook told the Baron that they are being watched from above; he couldn't point out the location he just felt it.

"What else can we do but proceed." Said M.

The party moved to the theatre door, M gave a standard knock, it opened and a doorman ushered them inside.

"If you could make your way to the central stage the Graf will see you all." Ushered the Doorman.

They travelled through the ground floor aisles to the stage. This was a rotund theatre where the stage is faced by a semicircle of seats on the ground floor and ring of balconies on the upper floor. Drop curtains were suspended just above the balconies should ever they need to fall.

"Welcome everyone to Cagliostro's Theatre," Said the Graf

Cagliostro was resplendent in his crimson dinner suit and black cape; he carried a cane even though he didn't need it, he was young but with all the confidence of maturity. His manner was that of a showman.

Munchausen returned the greeting and introduced the League, Cagliostro gave a cheery hello to all especially Juliette, then presented his lead actress Nell Bowen who came out from behind stage and placed herself next to a large firebowl, she was dressed showgirl style.

Juliette remembers reading about Nell Bowen, she was an English actress who got herself shut up in a mental hospital, Bedlam it was called; not the best career move.

Squeaking wheels brought attention to another female figure entering the stage, her legs did not move, nor did her face, she was dressed beautifully; when she stopped her arms opened wide as if to embrace then hugged thin air and opened up again. Jean could smell iron and lubricant then realised what the others just realised. This was an automaton.

"And this is one my attractions" Said Cagliostro. "Olympia, and behind her is her creator Hungarian inventor Werner von Kempelen."

The bewigged inventor showed himself.

"The squeaking gave it away." He said. "I must work on that and make her dress longer, it does the illusion no good to see her legs immobile. Nell would you please show my other exhibit."

Nell moved to the end of the stage behind the curtain, everyone could here some winding up then saw Nell running across the stage with what looked like a huge wolf chasing her. It was brown and slow with jaws that constantly opened and closed out of sync with the strange sounds that were to pass of as growls, the paws barely touched the floor as it was propelled by hidden wheels. The wolf stopped after a few yards.

"Quite brilliant Werner." Complimented the Baron. "I take it you are going to pass that off as the Beast."

"But that looks nothing like the beast." Interrupted Jean. "I've seen it up close. It has black fur and red eyes."

"Let's just say." Answered Werner. "That we are using the paranoia about the Beast for entertainment purposes."

"To summarize my show here." Said Cagliostro. "I will be putting on acts of somnambulism, knife throwing, simple magic, automatons and esoteric talk of mankind and its relation to the cosmos. The latter is why you are here, The Baron has brought you here to kill the Beast of Gevaudan and the evil that sponsors it, but how much do you know of that evil? That its name is Joseph Curwen. Well that is correct but that is a kind interpretation. If I was to go on to explain the evil that he serves, you would all be thrown into despair."

Munchausen showed Winkle's report. The showman bid his current audience to take a seat.

"This report confirms my latest research into this man. Joseph Curwen has studied the arcane to high levels, he has studied the works of all known alchemists and many unknown ones. He has achieved many abilities that are unnatural, the first is immortality, or at least prolonged youth. Curwen has for a long time retained the appearance of someone around thirty years old, yet he had a noted presence at the Salem Witch Trials in 1692, Judge Thomas Danforth later wrote that 'if there was one witch in these proceedings it was Joseph Curwen who has wisely bolted to other pastures.'

"His next skill and often used one is necromancy, he has the ability to bring the dead back to life as long as he has the complete essential salts of the corpse. There have been reports of disturbed graves in Providence, this is Curwen exhuming the corpses in order to practice and perfect this skill, he also tortures the resurrected people to learn local secrets which help his advancement in the community. He can also advance his knowledge of the occult by doing the same to long dead practitioners.

"Elemental forces are also in his sphere. He can control lightning, as that is often seen when the Beast attacks. I'm certain he can control wind and maybe rain and fire."

"Oh he can." Said Jean. "He conjured up a fireball and hurled it at a coach I was in."

"Well. There you go." Said Cagliostro. "He has also found windows into other spheres of existence where dwell entities whose appearance would be beyond our abilities to comprehend. He has communed with at least one and that is called Yog Sothoth, he has mentioned that name both here and in Rhode Island.

"When I saw that report from Van Winkle I became certain that he has achieved another perverse sorcery, that of creating a Doppelganger. What he did was create an exact duplicate of himself, however that sorcery has a flaw, the mind is not reproduced, one mind can only inhabit one body. The mind of Joseph Curwen is here in Gevaudan inhabiting either the real or the copy; that which is in Providence is a body without a mind, not to be observed but occasionally paraded around for the sake of normality.

"So my friends you are dealing with someone multi-talented, thoroughly evil and probably insane."

"Thank you Cagliostro." Said M "Any ideas on how we eliminate him?"

The showman twirled his cane and said. "The normal way, a musket shot should do it, the hard part is finding him and getting through his many defences. He is never at his registered lodging and he is protected by not just the Beast but by a wolf cult of his own design made up of criminals dressed in wolfskins."

Hawkeye and Chingachook remembered their attackers in the Throttled Hog tavern had wolfskins on them.

Jean smelled that Cagliostro had a chemistry lab backstage, but his senses were soon drowned by Nell Bowen Lighting strong incence, though this flooded sensation he did pick up approaching presences.

"Baron," he uttered. "Wolves are approaching."

The trappers honed their senses on the surrounding area then began to ready their muskets. Munchausen prepared his pistol and drew his sword. Juliette followed suit, reached for her garter holster and readied her pistol..

"Werner." said Cagliostro. "Take Nell and Juliette backstage."

The inventor motioned Nell backstage, Juliette refused finding it ridiculous that wolves would enter a theatre. Olympia was pushed behind the curtain.

Footsteps were heard on the upper floor then a musket muzzle appeared at each balcony, pointed at the stage, a man in a wolfskin was behind each musket. A few wolf men with muskets occupied the ground floor aisles, one of these casually walked onto the stage, he told the others to shoot anyone who stopped him. The Baron demanded an explanation from the gatecrasher.

"It is over for you Baron Munchausen." Said the wolfskin man in German. "Those who have immortality will go on."

M noted in his dialect that he was from the Black Forest and used some obsolete words that go back at least one hundred years.

The wolfskined gatecrasher took a candle and lit the oil in the firebowl then placed an orb in the flaming oil before departing the stage. A ghost-like head appeared in the fire and gave a manic laughter.

"Greetings to the current League of Extraordinary Gentlemen." Said the ghost head. "I am Joseph Curwen, the man you joined forces to eliminate; so I feel it is only right that I kill all of you. I have exhumed many secrets from the dead and the concept of the League is no exception. My Beast and I have much work to do and would appreciate your annihilation. Congratulations on even making it to formation but that's as far as it goes. My wolfmen will finish all of you and I will hear of your termination when they return. Goodbye."

The head dissolved in the flames. Everyone on the stage stood under the guns of their firing squad.

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