Steelhead Stories

Gone Fishin’

LOTRO isn’t the only place I go fishing in cyberspace, although for a true 3D angler you’ll need to meet Holo 🙂

I may live down in the slums with the poorest residents of Shamian Alley, but don’t let that fool you that we are too poor for good food. From small pots of earth growing all manner of vegetables on every rotting window sill and ricketty balcony to the bounty of the sea that surrounds us, we eat as well, as if not better, than some in the city’s capital.
Beck fishes for supper at 14 Shamain Alley_001

Mutations – Chapter 14: A Morning Caller

Sister Ascenza Kathleen Rose-of-Lima Jones was still a novice in Steelhead’s famous SWAT nuns and as such always drew the short straw when it came to visiting the slums to call on the services of Dr Beck. It wasn’t that she felt in danger in the slums, after all she was a SWAT nun and perfectly capable of protecting herself as well as meting out some divine justice to any miscreants that crossed her path. No, it was more the doctor himself who made her uneasy. Something in the way he looked at her seemed awfully un-doctorly and the way it made her feel was very, very un-nun-like. Ever since the murders in Port Harbour and Boomtown months before she had kept away and said extra rosaries whenever his blue eyes and chiseled cheek-bones popped into her thoughts, not to mention his… no! She shook her head in annoyance and silently began a round of three Ave Marias until she was sure all un-worthy thoughts of him were driven from her mind. She strode on through the docks and towards the surgery.

The taste of salt from the waves crashing against the harbour was sharp in the air as she reached the half-decaying pile where the doctor held his free surgeries for the poor immigrants & sailors who called this squalid and libidinous place their home. The smell of fish mixed with the smoke from the blacksmiths and the odour of death from the butchers, yet behind it all lurked the scent of human filth and waste. When, she wondered, were the Town council going to get some running water and sanitation out here to these poor people? She put such un-godly thoughts of local politics aside and concentrated on her reason for visiting the oddly handsome (she paused for two Lord’s prayers) Dr Beck. A short rap on the door brought no reply. Another, longer and louder, was no more successful. Nervously she pulled at the door and it opened easily, obviously unlocked. She peered into the gloom and quietly called out “Dr Beck? Dr Beck? Are you in?” She received no reply save a slow drip from a water faucet somewhere in the room.

Except… except there was no running water in the slums.

Sister Ascenza gasped out loud as she saw the source of the slow, rhythmic dripping sound. A large patch of what looked very much like blood had soaked through the ceiling and was dripping to a glistening pool on the surgery floor. There was, to the best of her knowledge, only one room above and it belonged to Dr Beck…

She ran up the rickety wooden steps to the rotting balcony outside his door and peered through the grimy window into his small room. At first she couldn’t see him, just small knots of his belongings; a small folding table with books and plates gathered around a microscope, a wash basin covered in red-stained cloths, a small un-made bed (she ran through a quick Memorare), before she found him. At the foot of a battered armchair facing away from her and towards a glowing fire, the floor glistened wetly and she felt her heart skip a beat as she saw, draped over the side of the chair, the unmistakable shape of a man’s arm.

Fearing the worst and not knowing what else to do she began to rap hard on the window. With a jolt the figure in the chair shot up and spun round. Sister Ascenza let out a small scream of surprise and jumped backwards, tripping over a bucket of fish that had been left standing by the door. She crashed to the balcony in a pool of icy water and flailing limbs just as the door opened and the horrified face of Dr Beck leant out to stare down at her. “Sister…?” he said, his croaky voice questioning.

She looked up at him, her cheeks glowing red, “Dr. I’m sorry… I thought…” she began to struggle to her feet and he reached down to help her. Mortified by her predicament she took his hand quickly and let him pull her up, as he did do she couldn’t help notice the edges of his white shirt cuffs stained a deep red.

“Good lord, you are soaking!” he exclaimed , “Come in! I’ll stoke the fire.”

“No, no I’m fine, she said, trying to regain some modicum of composure.

“Nonsense, you’ll catch your death out there like that, come in!” he moved into the room and went to stoke the fire, but as he reached the armchair he looked at the pool of liquid at its feet and paused. “I, er… I fell asleep in the chair I’m afraid. Knocked over a bottle of wine. Not the best I’ve tasted, but still… damn shame. Sorry, not damn. I didn’t mean damn,” he was flustered, looking around for a towel which he dropped on to the liquid before pulling the chair to cover it. “Come and dry yourself.”

With a slight hesitation, Sister Ascenza walked over to the fire as Dr Beck threw some kindling on, “Please, don’t go to any trouble for me, it’s just the edge of my habit, really it’s not as bad as it seems”

“Nonsense,” he said, “I can’t have one of Steelhead’s nuns falling ill can I? Now, what brings you out here to see me?” He smiled at her but to her he just looked tired. Tired and something else she couldn’t quite put her finger on.

“It’s a body. There’s a body in the docks.”


A few minutes later, as Sister Ascenza Kathleen Rose-of-Lima Jones hurried off towards the docks on her own, Amarantis Belfire swung down from her vantage point on Beck’s roof to the balcony where she pushed open the door and walked in. Beck was scrabbling about about trying to tidy himself and find clean clothes, but he paused to look around at her, “I have to go,” he said, “I can’t stay, there’s a body and they need me there.”

“I know. I heard,” Amarantis, “but it’s a mistake. What we did…”

“WHAT YOU DID!” Beck shouted back. He looked shocked at his own outburst and fought to control his voice, “What you did, not me,” he said sharply, “Don’t tar me with that brush.”

Her alien eyes bored into him, “Yes, well what I did,” she said slowly, “means we have no way of knowing what… side-effects there might be.”

Beck, wearing a clean shirt and with his face washed clean, pulled on his great coat, “Well it’s too bloody late for that now, isn’t it?” he hissed as he pushed past her and strode out into the slums.


To be continued…

All my “Mutations” posts can be read on my blog here
All the “Gang War” posts can be read on my blog here and over on the Steelhead Ning here.


Links to other blogs and stories:
1) This tale follows on from the end of “Steal Head” here & Amarantis’ post here.

Steal Head: The Story In Full.

The great thing about multi-participant roleplay is the sheer scope & inventiveness of posts and photos that people post to their blogs. Unfortunately it can mean that it’s hard to follow the ebb and flow of the tale and sometime you can miss whole chunks. To try and address this I maintained a record of everyone’s posts and listed them in a chronological order that made sense to the tale. If you’ve never read “Steal Head” before, or are returning to re-read it, I hope this guide helps you find your way through what proved to be an amazing four months of my life 🙂


The tale begins…

All across Steelhead, people start having nightmares… ((An OOC call to join in the nightmares!))

Dr Beck writes to the Town Council for the first time…

A vandal paints graffiti around town

A message is revealed and the Sentinel is on the case!

Dr Beck writes to the Town Council for the second time…

Dr Beck writes to the Town Council for the third time & Capt Creighton delivers a photograph…

Steal Head Arrives in Town!

Lunar calls for an expedition to the site of the photograph.

Dr Beck writes to the Town Council for the fourth time & Capt Creighton delivers a photograph from the expedition…

More from around Steelhead on the spate of vicious murders! ((An OOC call to join in the murderous fun!))

Dr Beck falls to the creature and a rescue is undertaken.

The end of Steelhead’s nightmare, yet Ya Yiwama claims one final victim…

In the murky waters of Steelhead’s Shanghai port, the legacy of evil battles on…


Steal Head: The End.

All “Steal Head” posts can be read on my blog here and on the Steelhead Ning here.

Steal Head: Epilogue – Letting In the Light

The crowd surged forward as the rail car began to slip over the edge of the lagoon into the bay. Four explosive charges popped almost simultaneously to release the airship’s boarding tube from its death grip on the caboose, and with a final inhuman scream of fury and tearing metal the foul lair sank beneath the waves taking the dying Steal Head and his final victim with it.

Through the noise and confusion Softpaw led Beck away. He was dazed, weak, stumbling and she reassured him he was safe now, that Steal Head could never hurt him again, but inside Beck knew the bastard didn’t have to. Since he’d encountered the strange storm sank the boat in which he’d escaped from England, all he’d had left of his family were their memories. The warmth of his wife’s love that surrounded him in the smoke, the trusting faces of his children smiling at him in his dreams, they were his only connection to his other life in his other England and now they had been taken from him. Now he was alone in this alien place, finally and totally alone.

This wasn’t his world, you see. The storm had transported him from his world to one that whilst looking the same on the surface was in fact very, very different indeed. In this world, this new, alien world, England had not fallen to Rasuptin, Queen Victoria still reigned over a mighty Empire and America was not preparing for a final war of survival. Yet despite all the differences for the better (and there were many) for him this world lacked three things; three small, lost things. He’d had to learn to accept their loss, not just their death, but their total loss to him. He’d had to comfort himself with occasional glimpses in his dreams or in the sweet smoke of an opium pipe, and whilst fleeting, these glimpses, these visions, proved one thing to him, one vitally important fact. No matter how bad things were here, no matter how lonely he was, he knew his family were always with him because he’s brought the final piece of them with him in his memories and nothing could alter that. Until now. Until Him.

The terrible fear of being killed by the creature, of having his head torn off and his soul eaten, had terrified him but the feeling of the creature in his mind, the vile probing of his deepest, darkest thoughts, had proved far worse. The naked fear and repulsion of death were as nothing when compared to the numb cold he now felt in his heart at having had his memories defiled in this way. To discover his children’s eyes filled with horror and accusation, or to see to the raw, limitless hatred in his wife’s face was, after all he’d lost, too much to bear.

As they reached the creaking, rotting steps to the hovel he called home, he waved Softpaw’s offers of company away. Yes she could come back later he promised. Yes he was fine, he just needed sleep he assured her. No, he really didn’t need any help from here, he insisted. He just wanted to be alone. Just him and the darkness. The darkness was still with him of course, it had never really left. Softpaw had released him from Steal Head’s mastery over it, but how could she hope to banish the seed of void that lay inside him? She may as well have tried to pluck the eyes from his face without blinding him, or pull the heart from his chest without killing him. The dark nothingness was as much him as his skin and bones and blood. It lived inside him, watching, waiting.

He opened the door, not even noticing it was unlocked, and found Meile waiting for him. She rushed to him, embraced him and looked up into his eyes through tears. Beck asked her to leave, to go back home. She cried and pleaded to stay, but he refused, ordering her to leave him alone, to get out and never come back. Broken hearted she ran out into the night.

Alone at last (was he ever anything other?), just him and his darkness. He sat in his threadbare chair and gazed into the small, flickering fire. Its warmth failed to reach him but he wasn’t interested in being warm. Everyone he loved most in the world was cold, why shouldn’t he be too. Inside the darkness squirmed and rose, slowly reaching out to spread through his veins and bones until in inhabited every part of him. Beck was tired. Tired of being alone, tired of feeling nothing but guilt, tired of always being cold and dirty and scared, tired of running and hiding, tired of trying and failing, tired of waking and sleeping, tired of everything. But most of all he was tired of the darkness. It was time to put an end to it. It was time to let the light in.

The scalpel didn’t hurt, not really, just two slow cuts and and the darkness began to flow out and the light in. Simple really. The black ran from the light, throwing itself on to the floor, pulsing out and dripping away whilst the light flooded in, bright and white and pure without even the smallest of stains. It filled him up and more until there was no room in the shell of his body for him any more and he fell into the light until he lost all sight and sound and thought and instead became of the light and vanished.

And so, with the trace of a distant smile playing across his lips Rhynold Beck, doctor, husband and father, died with only the crackling logs in his fire to bear witness to his passing.


The end of “Steal Head”

Links to other blogs and stories:
1) All Dr Beck’s Journal Entries can be read here.
2) All my “Steal Head” posts can be read on my blog here and on the Steelhead Ning here.
3) The latest “Steal Head” Story So Far recap can be found here.
4) All my “Mutations” posts can be read here.

Steelhead Stories: Antfarm Lumber & Timber Supplies Now OPEN!

I’ve been hard at work in St Helens and can announce that Antfarm Lumber & Timber Supplies is now open!
HBA Sawmill working_004

I’m employing one of the latest steam engines to power my mammoth saw blade and it’s making quick work of the trees in my forest at the base of Mt St Helens…
HBA Sawmill working_002

As you can see from this aerial shot, the log flume takes the felled trees right down into the river where they can be either rafted up and floated to Shanghai & Port Harbour for transport out to Babbage, Steeltopia & the like, or they can be loaded onto my mighty saw and planed into planks in no time!
HBA Mine_004

Hmmm… I’m not sure what that cave-like rocky outcropping is at the back of my forest – maybe I’ll head up there and take a look…

In the meantime, remember that for all you lumber & timber needs, Antfarm Lumber & Timber Supplied uses only the finest trees from Steelhead’s own forests of St Helens!

HBA Lumber Stamp V1b

Nightfall in St Helens…

I’ve been working hard over at my log cabin, mainly constructing the parts for a wooden lathe, but I’m never too busy to enjoy a sunset like this…
Steelhead sunset_001

And who wouldn’t love sitting out on a night like this…
St Helens by moonlight_001

I knew I was right coming out here, even the Scamps have stopped exploring the forest and disturbing me. All is peace.

EDIT (3rd Nov 10): I took the two pictures above and wrote this short post waaaaay back in June or July, shortly before SL’s many glitches pissed me right off and I quit blogging for a while to let the blood pressure drop again. I re-scheduled it for 2011 meaning to post it once I calmed down, but once I had calmed down I got stuck into the Steal Head story. Anyhoo, now I’m getting more involved in St Helens again it is time to post this – especially as I’ve just moved the log cabin and replaced it with a small sawmill & log flume!
HBA Saw Mill_009

Steal Head: Chapter 17 – Slipping Back…

Curled in a foetal ball, Beck was lowered from the Revenge to the ground below where a circle of nuns held back the crowd gathering to witness the battle in the rail car. The sounds emanating from the partially submerged caboose hinted at the fierce fight raging, but no one could have imagined the true horror of what was happening inside.

Someone began to lay a blanket over the prone doctor but a large, fawn paw gently stopped them, “No,” a voice purred, “let me help him first.”


Beck was alone in the night, the darkness complete and total… except… except for a small point somewhere above him. He watched, unsure how to react as the small point grew, becoming a hole in the jet black that surrounded him. The hole began to crack, ripping at the edges, tearing through the thick fabric of his prison. Another appeared, and another. Soon dozens of small pinpricks began to grow and spread, their jagged paths connecting and joining as they went, weaving a criss-crossing web of light around him, splitting and ripping the darkness away until, with a sudden rush of pure white light, the walls of his confinement shattered and exploded into dissolving shards of nothingness.

He blinked his eyes open, squinting against the harsh daylight until he could see, and he found himself looking into the the most beautiful green eyes he’d ever seen. “Welcome back, Doctor Beck,” Softpaw purred with a kind smile.

Beck struggled to find his voice, “Wh… where…?”

“You are safe now, that’s all that matters. You were lost to us, but I found you in the darkness.”


Behind him there was a sudden shout from the crowd. He turned and found he was on the quay side of the Sampan lagoon where Xao had blown up the stilted rail car. (How had he come to be here? The last thing he remembered as finding Xan’s body… or was it the ball in Manchester… or the endless ice…?) As he tried to order his thoughts and memories, a spout of water leapt from the lagoon as, with a grinding of metal on rock and a cracking of wood, the rail car began to slide over the edge of the lagoon’s basin and into the deep, cold waters of Shanghai’s docks.

“Everyone back!” a nun shouted “It’s going down!”


To be continued…

Links to other blogs and stories:
1) All Dr Beck’s Journal Entries can be read here.
2) All my “Steal Head” posts can be read on my blog here and on the Steelhead Ning here.
3) The latest “Steal Head” Story So Far recap can be found here.
4) All my “Mutations” posts can be read here.

Steal Head: Chapter 16 – Clever Monkeys

Ya Yiwama reached deep into the pygmy mind of his new Herald and smiled as the monkey crumpled to the floor at his feet. He saw the darkness this one carried inside rapidly overtaking spread; soon he’d make a worthy servant.

A sudden psychic spike screamed out a warning . He spun just in time to see three green-skinned dog-monkeys burst out of the water behind him. At almost the same time an explosion thudded dully through his lair and a perfect circle of the wooden roof fell in, narrowly missing his catatonic Herald. As the green filth leapt at him, tearing with teeth and claw and slicing with sword and dagger, he saw a winged monkey born of the stars and another crafted from metal and powered by sorcery fall from the hole and land next to the Herald. The metal one grabbed his servant-to-be and a ball of lightning erupted: when it vanished so had they.

Ya Yiwama roared in fury and lunged at the one with wings, only to be pulled back by the green dogs yelping and snapping at his heels. He turned and swiped them off, sending them crashing and tumbling off the walls, each of them holding on to their head-wear and barking back insults and taunts as though they felt no fear of him. He spun back to grab the monkey with wings when another lighting bolt flashed in front of him and he crashed headlong into the metal body of the monkey who had dared to take his Herald.

His rage knew no bounds as he felt his hands close around her cold, hard body…


To be continued…

Links to other blogs and stories:
1) Qlioppthic’s rescue can be read here.
2) All my “Steal Head” posts can be read on my blog here and on the Steelhead Ning here.
3) The latest “Steal Head” Story So Far recap can be found here.
4) All my “Mutations” posts can be read here.

Steal Head: Chapter 15 – The Rescue Begins!

After the delay in telling the last chapter, things are moving rapidly towards a conclusion – if you are wondering what will happen to the stricken Dr Beck and what the vague noises he heard at the end of Chapter 14, then you need to join the action over on Darien Mason’s many blogs of wonder. Below are the links so far, but I’ll post more as they come – and don’t forget, you can check the oft update “Story So Far” over on the Ning at any time.

Dr Beck falls to the creature and a rescue is undertaken.


Steal Head: To be continued…

Links to other blogs and stories:
1) All my “Steal Head” posts can be read on my blog here and on the Steelhead Ning here.
2) The latest “Steal Head” Story So Far recap can be found here.
3) All my “Mutations” posts can be read here.

Steal Head: Chapter 14 – The Darkness of The Past

The moon shone weakly through the haze of smoke that carried upon it the faint scent of fire and death, the charred signatures of war. Beck spun around, the boat beneath his feet was gone, the bone-numbing cold of the Arctic wastes replaced by the warmth of a summer’s night on the streets of Manchester. He recognised this place, this time… The city had fallen, the resistance crushed by the mechanized mage armies of Rasputin, and tonight was the the military ball to celebrate the victory of Her Imperial Majesty Tsarina Victoria’s army. Yet more than that, this was the night he met…

“Me,” his wife’s voice hissed in his ear. “This day should have been the happiest of my life, but you ruined it,” her anger was colder than the dark-stained ice that rolled and cracked in his heart. “I was going to marry him!” she thrust an accusing finger towards a handsome naval officer , “but you had to go and spoilt it all.”

Beck found his voice, a small dry thing deep at the back of his throat, “I… We… we fell in love here…”

“You took me from everything I was promised!” she shouted, “My life was laid out for me, so easy, so perfect. But you took all that from me! I was to be the wife of a great officer in the Imperial Navy but instead I left it all behind, ran away with you, you who were nothing! A grubby doctor from some godforsaken hole in the North!”

“No, it wasn’t like that,” Beck gasped. “ You hated your life, hated the atrocities Rasputin’s mages were committing, hated what England had become….”

“I was eighteen! A stupid, naive girl! You took me from my family, took me from my life! And for what? So we could live together in a hovel? Always looking over our shoulders? Never settling anywhere? What life was that for me? What life was that for my children?”

“They were my children too!” Beck snapped back. The slap across his face made his ears ring.

“They were MY children! You lost them the day you killed them!” she screamed in his face, her hatred white hot and terrible.

The streets of Manchester had gone, replaced by the hills and valleys of the Bowland forest thronged with columns of fleeing refugees in a chaotic exodus. The Lincoln Line had fallen two days before and the rout was complete with the mecha-mage armies hounding the resistance mercilessly, pushing them north towards the ruins of Scotland. The stragglers, exhausted and defeated, were a terrible sight and Beck’s heart ached to witness it again.

“Remember this?” his wife was by his side again, “remember the squalor and misery you subjected us to? Remember the people dropping dead where they stood? The stench of death and fear? The constant attacks? And this is the life you gave me and my children!”

“You can’t blame me for this,” Beck countered, “You wanted to fight with me, support the resistance. You left your family to be with me…”

“Something I regretted every day of my life! I should have been in London! I should have been married to an Admiral! But no, you cursed me to a miserable life up here tending to these pathetic fools!”

“No! No, that’s not true, you loved your life here, you loved the resistance, you loved me…”

“I hated you! I hated you!” she screamed at him and he felt the dark void inside squirm and stretch, growing stronger and bigger. Maybe she was right. He could have turned his back on the resistance and lived in comfort in London. The resistance was a joke, it never stood a chance of winning, not against the mages, not against the nightmares they conjured up. He must have known that, he must have known that fighting them was for fools, a death sentence. And that’s what he’d given to his wife… that’s what he’d given to his children, a death sentence. He closed his eyes, pushing his balled fists into them.

When he looked up again, the forest had gone and he was stood on a small wooden dock next to a battered fishing trawler being hurriedly loaded with supplies by its desperate crew. Further down the coast the Imperial Navy were shelling anything that floated into matchsticks, staining the sea and the sky red. He felt sick, the shameful memory of leaving his friends behind twisted and swelled inside him. He had deliberately split away from them, leaving them to their fate, hoping that their desperate attempts to escape would allow him and his family valuable time to flee to Iceland. From there he had no plan to speak of as the world had long ago shifted from pink to red but at least in Reykjavik he would have some breathing space, some safety.

“Don’t you dare!” his wife hissed, “Don’t you dare tell me this was for us! You left your friends, the people you promised to fight and die with. You left them to be slaughtered by the Navy because you are a coward! Don’t you dare tell me this was for us!”

Beck looked at the burning sky; all the people he’d fought with caught by the Navy and whatever horrors the god-forsaken Mages called up from the depths of the ocean. She was right. He had abandoned them. He had run like a coward.

“Yes, like a coward. And like a coward you used me, my children, as the excuse you needed. Iceland? ICELAND? How could we have lived in Iceland? We’d have been shipped right back, or more likely simply dumped into the sea to save them any trouble with Rasputin!”

“I… I had no choice,” Beck tried.

“You always had a choice, always! You could have left us, my family still had connections. You could have stayed away from the resistance, taken up a practice in London. You could have left me to my life when you met me! You could have given yourself up to the Navy instead of taking us here!”

The sudden icy wind ripped at Beck’s skin. Now he was on the boat as it slowly cracked its way through the icy sea. His journey had come full circle leading him back to the Arctic. He could never escape from here. In truth, he had never ever left this place, he carried it around with him wherever he went. He turned slowly, looking behind the boat. Two small bundles of rags lay alone and still on the ice. His children… his beautiful, wonderful children.

“No! Not yours! Mine! My children and this is where you murdered them. You vanity, your pride, your cowardice led them here and your inadequacies let them die,” his wife’s face was twisted by pure, naked hatred that sang to the growing, swelling emptiness inside his gut.

“No… I… we had no choice. The navy followed us, we had to head north. The chased us non-stop. We had to try for the north-west passage, to make for America,” but it seemed to him that a stranger spoke his words as he no longer believed them. He knew the truth, he’d always known and his wife had simply helped him out of his denial. Without him, without his pointless existence, his useless cowardice, they would have lived.

“Don’t forget the crew, every one of them lost their life following your insanity!”

Yes. Only he had lived. First his… no, not his, never his but always her children, taken by the terrible cold, dark stains on the perfect ice as he left them behind. Then the crew, one by one, falling to the cold or hunger or disease. Then his wife, his love, his life, the woman he’d stolen from her perfect life and taken to her death, the woman he promised to protect yet allowed her to witness the death of her children before dying in agony herself. Then the storm, only he and a young lad left as the boat sank beneath the night-shrouded waves. And when the sun rose again only he remained. Only he lived. All of them gone. All of them dead. All of them murdered by his cowardice and inadequacies…

Faces flashed before his eyes, all the people he’d killed or allowed to die, all the people he’d failed to save, all the pain and loss he’d inflicted on the world. His wife, her children, his friends, Li Fe and his family. All of their blood on his hands, dark stains creeping and crawling along his skin, scouring him away, taking him over, the darkness enveloping him, swallowing him whole, eating him alive.

From far away there was a noise above him. He had a vague notion of people shouting, struggling, fighting around him. Whatever it was he no longer cared. His eyes saw only dark stains on perfect ice. The darkness inside him was complete.


To be continued…

Links to other blogs and stories:
1) All Dr Beck’s Journal Entries can be read here.
2) All my “Steal Head” posts can be read on my blog here and on the Steelhead Ning here.
3) The latest “Steal Head” Story So Far recap can be found here.
4) All my “Mutations” posts can be read here.