Inside the World of “Moonlight, Murder & Machinery”!

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Welcome to London, 1814 – capital city of Nova Albion!
"The new Covent Garden megalith loomed over the rooftops as Mary’s horse and carriage clattered past. Claire was right – you could see it from New Oxford Street. The Godwin’s driver, Hendrick, turned and swung the carriage onto the wide arc of the new Charing Cross Avenue. Mary sighed. Lances of sunlight pierced the incandescent clouds to turn the monoliths, towers and church spires to the palest gold, and in the distance loomed the giant mausoleum that marked the city’s northernmost point – Londoners referred to it, with good reason, as ‘the Pyramid of Primrose Hill’.

The central part of the capital of Nova Albion was contained within a ring of new megaliths, made of blocks of sandstone fitted together and capped with lintels, known as the Sarsen Circle Line. Within this circle stood a horseshoe formation of five enormous standing trilithons, curving around from Marylebone, through Mayfair and St. James’s, over to Bloomsbury and Russell Square. This was the latest development in the renovation of the London metropolis, overseen by Prime Minister William Wordsworth in collaboration with the Mayor’s Office. They had ordered the sandstone taken from the same region that had fathered the original Stonehenge – the Prescelly Mountains, in south-west Wales – and had adhered to the scale of the original structure, to ensure that telluric power, light and warmth be provided to every London household. It had taken almost thirty years to plan and build, and was scheduled to be completed in another seven months.      

Caught in a tangle of horse traffic, the carriage was forced to stop. Mary watched the sunset, the cables of the cargo transport system slicing across the translucent sky, crates suspended from metal sleeves and harnesses moving slowly from rooftop to rooftop overhead. She tilted her head back, watching a number of crates heading away from the Covent Garden pylon – laden, no doubt, with leftover flowers and fruit."
This is the year 1814 – in a mysterious world very different from our recorded history. Humanity has turned away from the technological gifts offered by the Industrial Revolution, and instead embraced the archaic earth mysteries known to ancient civilizations. The British Isles is ruled by a council of Druids, policed by masked officers trained in psychic warfare, overseeing a land haunted by Gothic phantasms and legends from Celtic mythology …

 

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"The next morning, at dawn, the men lined up on parade, forming three sides of a hollow square, in the middle of Stonehenge. On the fourth side waited Swann with the altar stone behind him. Beyond the inner circle, wooden scaffolding and coarse sackcloth sheets draped the new stones being moved in to replace those fallen and missing for centuries, each one hewn from the original mineral, the far Prescelley Mountains of southern Wales. The sackcloth stirred fitfully in a gentle wind, and the sun shone down from majestic clouds, down upon the cadets who stood to attention in full uniform.

The Red Branch uniform was akin to that of a hussar’s, with pelisse and light cavalry sabre. The navy blue color of their jackets and breeches was so dark it was almost black. Each man wore a Venetian-style half-mask; it had been decided, at the founding of Red Branch, that the identities of its members should be withheld from the public, as their work involved matters of national security. The hats were tricorn hats, an unfashionable and outdated item when compared to the bicorn hats and shakos the regular army wore – but as they were the preferred headgear of Sir David Dundas, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, they were not about to change any time soon. Black facings, white piping and black leather equipment were completed by casaques, capes that could be buttoned to form a coat – and the masked, billowing outline of each soldier had given rise to the nickname of the clothing as a ‘stealth uniform’.      

Shelley stood at the left of the line and stared over men’s hats at the heel stones. They dominated the plain, the slabs rising like curtain walls, and Shelley wondered again what kind of people had decided to place the stones here. The air was cold, but not cold enough to make him shiver. He felt light-headed, the atmosphere of suspense making him strangely disconnected, as if his body was a loose fit for his mind.

Commanding Officer Swann stood, gazing straight ahead, his face as stony as the dolmens that surrounded them. Threading its way through the stones, two horses appeared, mounted cavalry bearing saddlebags in the shape of large wooden drums.

“Gentlemen,” Swann began, “Today, you stand in the presence of something we can only describe as ‘otherness’. We in the state of Nova Albion have not fully defined or explained this presence yet, but it is what brings life to the land; it inhabits the trees, the groves, the hills, and fills them with meaning. There is an alphabet in the forests, there is music in the hills, there is a subtle and powerful geometry in the network of standing stones. The path to enlightenment leads through landscapes where only the traveler who understands the forces of life may pass.”

 

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How did the nation of Nova Albion arise? When did the timeline diverge from our own history? The answer lies with a real-life gentleman named William Stukeley.

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William Stukeley (7 November 1687 – 3 March 1765), was an antiquarian, a scholar, and one of the pioneers of the modern science of archeology. What distinguished him from other historians of the age were his interests in mysticism, Freemasonry, Druidism, Celtic Mythology, and his travels around the country to personally take part in the digging and excavating of prehistoric sites of worship.

In "Moonlight, Murder and Machinery", the timeline diverges in 1742, when Stukeley is conducting an excavation at the very center of Stonehenge. His team of early archeologists accidentally discover a new energy source - telluric energy, the energy of the standing stones themselves, turning the network of stone circles and ley lines across Europe into a national grid of power stations, ready to be tapped for light and heat.

This event - which comes to be known as 'The Great Unearthing' - also causes a political upheaval. Bonny Prince Charlie, armed with new weapons powered by tellurically-charged crystals, successfully leads the Jacobite uprising of 1745, resulting in the exile of George II and the House of Hanover. The victorious Charlie becomes King Charles III, and he appoints as Prime Minister none other than Francis Dashwood, leader of the Hellfire Club, who reshapes the laws of the land along ancient, Druidic lines. The mining of coal and the manufacture of steam technology is forbidden; all power is declared to be renewable, and provided by the Earth itself.

The Industrial Revolution, however, doesn't stop. Inventors who tinker with steam technology are forced to go underground, conducting illegal and dangerous experiments, resulting in bizarre Steampunk devices that are often used by criminals or religious heretics for nefarious purposes.

COMING SOON: Our protagonists ... Byron, Shelley, and Mary Godwin ... and a Rogue's Gallery of some of the antagonists threatening the security of Nova Albion ... the steam-powered smuggler Boiler Calhoun, the ghostly highwayman Billy Barebones, and the dreaded Dandy Brethren!

“Moonlight, Murder & Machinery” … available in ebook here, and in paperback here! 

 

Moonlight Ebook Cover

 

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About J P Catton

Speculative storytelling and skewed fiction: the blog and website of author John Paul Catton.
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