A steampunk horror drama trilogy by J.E.F. Rose
Fin de Siecle, a short story and prequel to Gaslight Gothic available for free download below.
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Book 1: Walking In The Footprints Of Magic
Book 2: The Prisoner Of Fate
Book 3: The Face In The Mirror
Gaslight Gothic Zendula (The Complete Series Edition)
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View original illustrations by J.E.F. Rose from the trilogy here View cast of characters from the trilogy here
Gaslight Gothic Plot
Gaslight Gothic Zendula is a Steampunk/horror reinterpretation of the classic series of novels launched by the ‘Prisoner of Zenda’ written by Anthony Hope in the late 1800s. Hope all but invented Ruritanian Romance. This trilogy is inspired by Hope’s novels and takes place in Zendula as the nation faces the unraveling end of the Nineteenth Century Fin de Siecle Era amidst the escalating tensions between the capitalistic robber barons including the notorious Morlocks and the ordinary working people of the country. It is also a clash between modernity and the ancient creatures who once ruled the earth like a poisonous Wyvern lurking in a moldering sewer and excessively grumpy and antisocial Dragons, as well as a murderous Banshee and a devious Egregore. All of this plays out during the rise of Japan, Germany, and America as superpowers, and Great Britain’s attempts to keep its empire intact in the face of the ascendance of new nations that will usher in the first world war.
This drama also plays out before a backdrop of social upheaval and bizarre paranormal events in the wake of the Industrial Revolution which pits haves against have-nots as well as the aging elite Pedigrees descended from the Elves, Dwarves, and Werewolves against the Mundane Mere Mortals eager to replace them. All while the new industrial rich fight angry young social reformers and dangerous radicals. The drama also plays out during the end of King Astel’s rule as the aging king struggles to find a successor while being besieged by a pair of ambitious and ruthless schemers eager to seize the throne over his dead body. One is a beautiful but murderous young princess. The other is a mimic octopus monster who can imitate absolutely anyone and is pursuing his own evil plot as the nation lunges toward revolution. All as the Robota make their first appearance on the stage of history and a brilliant but unstable genius struggles to invent the first military ray gun capable of taking down the first submarine.
The aging King Astel sees his beloved Zendula threatened by emerging industrial superpowers eager to challenge Great Britain’s world domination with Zendula in the bull’s eye of the conflict in the Pacific. And Zendula is besmirched by the grime of industrial pollution, the greenish yellow fogs creeping like clammy fingers across dark cobblestone streets and coal blackened buildings to asphyxiate even the gaslight streetlights that flicker uneasily in the suffocating smog. The capital city of The Havens is both rich with the opulent riches of the Fin de Siecle and festering from the horrific poverty caused by ruthless global trade and unregulated industrialization. The Morlocks, Merchants of Death, plot new weapons of mass destruction as they fight against any progressive attempts at needful social reforms. After all, the Morlocks evolved in toxic industrial pollution so why would they want to clean up Zendula or the earth for that matter?
Grand bastions of the old elite and gaudy new mansions of the new industrial titans boast extravagant lifestyles while festering slums teem with sickly workers gasping in the foul smog as they toil in the grim factories for a pittance. In the pristine countryside lumber barons battle the rural poor who have nothing but their pride while clans with dark secrets battle each other as the ‘old ways’ collide with the fast approaching Twentieth Century. And some of the ‘old ways’ are very old indeed. Cannibals don’t just live in neighboring Java! And the Dragons still think they are the masters of the universe even if the Thiess Guards just find them a nuisance —- especially when they get it into their pea brains to attack modern trains invading their ancient territory.
Class warfare plays out in an ancient capital city blackened by coal and industry and teeming with too many migrants from the pristine heartlands lured by its promise of riches and jobs only to find sordid poverty, class strife, and competition from immigrants from abroad. And these immigrants from outside Zendula form an alien 5th column that threatens Zendula’s ancient laws and national identity. Poverty is feeding escalating violence that is fueling both class warfare and racial strife which devious plotters are exploiting for their own dark ends. Lord Ruevan of the mysterious Megas Club is involved but how? And who is running the increasingly violent jihadists who are rapidly moving from rapine to bombs and assassinations? And who are the equally mysterious ‘Black Swans’ who are strutting across the uneasy city shrouded in clammy fog in their black punk garb?
The crisis of possible disloyalty posed by outsiders posing as ‘refugees’ conceals the far more dangerous threat by a far more insidious 5th column posed by the home grown (and home mutated) Morlocks who are plotting with other Robber Barons to dethrone the subterranean deep state of the ancient Elite who once proudly ruled openly: the Elves and the Dwarves. And the Hidden Pedigrees are kept in power through their alliance with the Open Pedigree: the Amberlings, as well as their enforcers: the Secret Pedigree which is the Shape-changing Were and Paranormal. All as the long ignored Werewolves move into more and more positions of power. The Werewolves are a minority tired of being stigmatized by everyone. Now they want to become the new power brokers. Steam engines might rule on the surface but under the surface of this supposedly modern industrial era city the ancient magic and ancient genetics have not been routed. They have merely gone dangerously underground. And also underground is a Wyvern who oozes a poisonous plague which is about to surface to unleash mass death.
And behind the political crisis of the succession to the throne of the aging King Astel there lurks a deeper threat hidden behind the beautiful face of the proposed Princess Royal Allusia Elphberg newly engaged to the gangly and ill-prepared Crown Prince Arthur Dagmar Astel. Rumors soon spread that the Princess Royal covets the crown but not the gangly and embarrassingly maladroit prince she labels ‘Dogboy’. Does her simpering face of innocence actually conceal someone who is capable of murdering the uncouth ADA in order to replace him with a doppelganger who is a second rate actor from Ruritania called Rassendyll? Has the Crown Prince been switched?
And is the recent death of the Queen the result of poisoning? And is the aging King Astel in mortal danger now from his own heirs? And let us not mention, but I will anyway, the decrepit Royal Palace that desperately needs a modern facelift. Alas, the screaming skulls and bogie-hearts are not allowing it. Nor is the ghost that is walled up in a lost room who stares out of a window forlornly as greenish yellow fog creeps across the Royal Park while the white swans swim along the ancient moat to tug the iron chain to be fed their dawn and dusk meal as the elegant moochers they are.
Meanwhile, the ambitious Eald ‘Black’ Theri Anthrope of Zenroseda has seized the mayorship to launch a social campaign to promote a progressive reform movement to tackle the festering poverty and abuse of the workers while defusing the dangerous appeal of the radical Marxist Communists. His upstart Disraelite agenda is a direct threat to the entrenched powers of corporate and elite reactionary power —— especially the ruthless Morlocks who relish industrial pollution while they manufacture their weapons of mass destruction in time for the next war. And the Black Eald’s ambitious plan for an urban underground railroad runs into unexpected obstacles in the form of some long forgotten but not quite extinct beasties lurking in the moldering 2nd Age sewers: Wyverns and Wyrms. And the Black Eald’s youthful flair for politics and intrigue is putting the aristocratic nose of Chief Navigator Godolphon Spencer Hood out of joint. Especially when the ambitious politician is about to package his own aristocratic daughter Lady Flavia as the best choice to become the new Princess Royal instead of the uppity Ruritania nobody Lady Allusia Elpherg. Who is intriguing behind the scenes to politically dethrone the pointy eared incarnation of the Hidden Elvish Pedigree? Balderdash and dandelions!
But rumors soon fly that the uppity Black Theri Anthrope is more interested in a higher office than the Mayorship on the greasy pole of politics. The Crown of Zendula is open for bidding and the Black Eald’s blood is just as royal as the maladroit prince who is becoming a caricature of royal debauchery. And it is rumored that Black Theri Anthrope knows more about the proposed Princess Royal’s plots than a loyal citizen should know. Was Black Theri Anthrope the prior lover of the supposedly chaste and demure Princess Royal? Are they in the plot together to assassinate the aging King Astel? And where does that leave the Black Eald’s present ravishing mistress Lady Desiree Machinatii? Does ‘Black’ refer to Theri Anthrope’s black hair or blacker ambitions? And why is the Black Eald suddenly so chummy with another ‘Black’ as in Rupert Hentzau Black Astel who is a minor royal with an equally ‘black’ pedigree of knavery? Comes Zapt the Spy Master of Celebeau House has his hands full as he investigates a hidden coup to replace the real Crown Prince with an imposter with a hidden agenda. But where to begin? There are so many coups! And so many plotters!
And can rumors be true that the infamous Lord Lir has resurfaced? He sold his soul for immorality with black magic but neglected to also secure eternal youth and eternal health along with eternal life. That is a potentially nasty mistake that the ancient, eternally rotting Mimic Octopus Monster might be trying to correct by stealing the Five Treasures of Dagda from the Royal Collection which can be used to brew potent magic. If Lir has resurfaced then he is a threat to everyone because Lir can mimic absolutely any living creature for exactly five hours before reverting to his loathsome rotting decay. How do you fight a fiend who can masquerade as anyone? Even your best friend? Or even you?
Meanwhile, the Thiess Guards, the Police of the Paranormal, being Paranormal themselves, are busy with feuding Dragons gone antsy with rumors of Lir resurfacing which is stinking up their world view of themselves as the ancient centers of the universe. After all, they were born on the Third Day of Creation! Or else they are alien seed pods frozen in a comet’s icy tail that careen into the earth to hatch alien life forms. Either way the Thiess Guards must police the slithering egoists who naturally believe they are masters of the universe —- or at least the earth. And why did one particular smelly dragon called Wyver get it into its head to try to take on an oncoming train? That was one very nasty encounter between an ancient smoke venting life form and a very new smoke venting artificial form of dragon doppelganger! An iron dragon indeed! But still! Wyver might regret taking on a train even if he does think the train is an insulting metallic caricature of himself!
And if that is not enough for the overworked Thiess Guards there is a feud in the Bloodlands between rival clans of Werewolves and Werecats while they also investigate a dangerously malfunctioning monolith in Arcadia that is emitting a paranormal shriek. That paranormal shriek might be a warning because the railroad is moving into the wilderness dominated by the Rasvo Were. The infamous Rasvo Were are a clan of Were-lions who are devolving and are desperate to stabilize their unraveling genetics and even more unraveling humanity while violently protecting their territory from approaching civilization in general and a secret tunnel out of the Old Citadel being constructed by the Morlocks in particular. And why are those devious Morlocks building that secret tunnel anyway?
And the Master of The Havens has also ordered the overworked Thiess Guards to investigate the unauthorized use of his most ancient and potent talisman called the Cosmati Mosaic. Only the most dangerous of Glamour, Ancient Magick, can be done on it. So who is toying with such an infamous talisman of potent Glamour? Toying with ancient Glamour can cause the equivalent of a magical nuclear meltdown. No wonder the Master is worried. The Cosmati Mosaic is hidden deep under the Royal Vaults which are located deep under the exact center of the city. If the Cosmati blew up it would take half of capital city of Zendula with it!
And the Babbagetus computers in both the governmental epicure of Gildagad House and the Morlock bastion of Wellus House are projecting an attack by either Japan or Germany. Wellus House is the bastion of Morlocks who are the world wide manufacturer of munitions of war. And the Morlocks are busy developing a death ray for sale to the highest bidder for the projected coming world war. And someone has just leaked top secret dreadnought blueprints of the latest Zendulian naval prototype to Germany. And Captain Sakuragi and his flying submarine the Denko Tei has launched attacks on the naval might of every nation in the Pacific which might pose a threat to Japan’s Manifest Destiny. And alas, Zendula has an alliance with the aging superpower Great Britain which both Japan and Germany plot to depose. That puts the massive naval piers of The Havens in the cross hairs of the Japanese Captain Nemo. Can Prince Puski develop his state of the art airship in time to tackle the flying submarine the Denko Tei?
Meanwhile, illicit lovers Durham Sexton and Mrs. Pendergrass are making love in the Morlock’s expensive new flash boiler Williams Steam Engine Personal Transport Vehicle on the Fields of the Moon confident that Teddy Pendergrass is still completely oblivious to the fact none of his six children look at all like him. Unfortunately Teddy has just moved into a notoriously sentient haunted house called Peryton House which might tell him just that! Peryton House is known to eat children and to still be haunted by Giles a long dead Dwarve. Meanwhile, rival spies Sidney Fox and George Smythe rendezvous to discuss the mysterious ‘bad sport’ gun being developed by a mysterious gun maker for a mysterious client which might be linked to rumors of assassination of the aging King of Zendula. All the while the rogue spy Lord Snowdon plays out his own dangerous game of counterespionage against everyone.
And in the foggy streets of The Havens Robota silently march like a mute army of the scary technological future while old fashioned jihadists plot a lethal bombing. The question is where? And who? Meanwhile, gruesome deaths from premature burial are surfacing, linked to a Banshee who is literally turning victims into living shadow people who shove paranormal shrouds down the throats of their screaming victims to die very gruesome paranormal deaths indeed. To be exact: buried alive before even being buried! And if that is not enough, the Thiess Guards also have an outbreak of a STD: a sexually transmitted disease. But this is not syphilis or else the Lir Pox. It is the old-is-new Nanobot Virus that causes Vampirism. And while the machine obsessed Crown Prince Arthur Dagmar Astel might call himself ADA the Robota from another planet he might not be advised to create a blueprint of his own Robota Doppelganger. But naturally he does anyway. All while ADA is haunted by the ghost of a hideous hag lurking in a long lost room in the Old Palace. And the screaming skulls and bogie hearts vomiting ectoplasm cannot stop his relentless search for that lost room. Meanwhile, the Lord High Justice has just evoked her right to exact Weregilt on five assailants who dared to try to assault her in the foggy predawn as gaslight flickered and gutted in the dim alleys of power. Alas, they picked on the wrong target. The Lord High Justice might be a middle aged female but she is also a Werewolf. And her revenge is as bloody as it was tasty…..