Local Cinema

Nagspeake boasts several film houses, one of which is guaranteed to be showing exactly what you’re in the mood for. If you’re looking for first-run films, your best bet is the Tenefort 5-Plex in Bayside, but for more adventurous souls there are plenty more options to explore–you’ll find some of them below!


For classics and a selection of more recent “art” films, head to the Melies Orphic, a classic proscenium designed and built in 1915 by Holtz Winterfowl (great-grandfather of the photographer Ellie Winterfowl). It is considered to be one of the architectural treasures of Nagspeake, despite having been built, with a shocking lack of foresight, on an anchored barge about a mile out into the Magothy Bay. Shuttles to the Melies operate on the half-hour from Flotilla.

The Maltese Cross was once a church on the outskirts of the Printer’s Quarter. It was converted into a theater towards the middle of the last century. Buy tickets in advance and bring a cushion; the whole building was hewn out of a single, giant piece of quarried limestone and the pew seating is miserable.

The Drunken Screw in the Quayside Harbors was named after a mechanical camera component. It screens exactly the sort of films it sounds like it should. On the other hand, the Drunken Screw Microbrewery has been crafting award winning beers for twenty years and currently serves twenty-four varieties out of the attached Post Cafe.

The Genevint, the small screening room at the Shutter Club Mansion, shows occasional films; mostly independent, experimental, and often with a heavy emphasis on in-camera photographic techniques.

Who Knew?

Damian Whilforber, one of Nagspeake’s foremost world travelers, wrote a pamphlet over a century ago entitled Packing with Aplomb, in which he makes recommendations on what to take and not take on your next perambulations around the planet. Notable on the not-to-be-forgotten list: “disabling drugs of some variety in the event that one finds one’s traveling companions less than wholesome or too puritanical for one’s personal tastes. The brown catalogue (presumed to be the “other” Agni catalogue) may advise.” Equally high on the not-to-take list: Puritanical traveling companions.


Do you like luxury? Is your vacation not complete without Egyptian cotton bedding (minimum 800 thread count) and a room service menu worthy of framing? Or do you prefer the home comforts and care of a bed-and-breakfast, where the smell of coffee and homemade pastries is the perfect wake-up call? Are you all business when you travel, because it’s just one more stop on the long, endless road to what passes for gratification in what you laughingly call your career as you knock back vodka tonics and weep for the loves your “work ethic” has left battered and broken along the side of the interstate to hell?

Well, we have the perfect accommodations for you! Here they are, by district.


Well, there are hotels in Bayside, of course, but by far the most popular places to stay are the beach houses, most of which are rented by the week. They range in size and spiffiness from old shacks to multi-story beachfront mansions with as many as ten (or more) bedrooms. There are classics like the Dowager House and WinderMeer, which have been Nagspeake landmarks for decades if not longer, and newer vacation homes like Four Sea-Sons and the Harbor Sounds Suite with more modern amenities. For rental information contact the Nagspeake Chamber of Commerce and ask for a list of realties. If, however, you are looking for the hotel experience in Bayside, there are three worth pointing out.

The Velmartre International is a highly rated hotel that’s highly recommended for events like weddings, reunions, and espionage. It’s one of those places where you should really pack a tuxedo or a spangly ball gown and know something about the vermouth/Lillet debate before booking your stay. Recently in the news due to a knifing that evidently occurred when a guest attempted to “get the party started” by affecting what was described by witnesses as a “bad Tony Sinclair accent” and asking if the crowd in the Sterling Ballroom was “ready to Tanqueray, Velmartre-style.” Evidently, the group was not.

The Mira Mar is a family-friendly, reasonably upscale hotel with indoor and outdoor pools, a continental breakfast, and a world-class tiki bar complete with miniature umbrellas. Twice monthly the hotel hosts “Tiki Torch Night” during which local singles can mix it up and hope for sparks. If you’re the above-described business traveler, this is probably a decent bet for you, as well. For a modest fee, your turn-down service can include a glass of warm milk laced with anti-depressants; just ask for the Business Glass.

Dune Dream Motel has two miniature golf courses on the grounds. The first is themed after smugglers and pirates, featuring some of the great figures of Magothy history and familiar bearded and smoking faces from the world’s Golden Age of Piracy. Children under ten get a free ice cream every Tuesday, and the Happy After Dark pass admits kids of all ages to an incandescent wonderland lit up like the second coming of Dreamland–if Dreamland was a putt-putt course themed after pirates and smugglers. The second mini-golf course is for adults only (who must present two forms of ID proving them to be over the age of twenty-five) and remains open until three a.m.

The Slope

Visitors have a number of options on the Slope, thanks to the real-estate genius of Joshua Hortus Ulenborrow, best known as the subject of the Stottleford and Pine easement extravaganza, “Oh! Those Demented Developers!” (Following the general failure of OTDD, Stottleford and Pine are said to have quarreled bitterly over the vision they had previously thought to have shared for their series of hilarious re-imaginings of Nagspeake history before re-titling their next play, planned to be released as “Oh! Those Bloodthirsty Rioters!” with the sillier and more family-oriented “Oh! Those Wacky Intellectuals!” OTWI is seldom performed, intellectuals being far less entertaining than the writers could possibly have realized–writers naturally think intellectuals can be interesting, even funny, although of course they’re not–but OTWI is nonetheless viewed as a benchmark in the history of Nagspeake dramatic literature). Ulenborrow, through a crafty interpretation of easement law that even today strikes fear and sweating fits into the hearts of even the most stalwart real estate agents of our own time, took possession of one-fifth of the Slope and converted his holdings into one single serpentine semi-detached brownstone monstrosity cutting transversely through the district, supposedly connected one to the next by a tunnel built to give “necessary access to a critical water source”–according to the Ulenborrow legal team.

Most of the houses have been converted into bed-and-breakfasts, so in fact the entire winding wall referred to locally as “Ulie’s Divide” might be said to be one single three-mile-long B&B.

No one knows what water source Ulenborrow was talking about.

Then, of course, there’s the Shutter Club Mansion, but I think we can all safely assume you aren’t getting invited to stay the night there.

The Printer’s Quarter

There are one or two guest houses in the Printer’s Quarter, but mostly what you find are apartments that rent by the week. The Quarter has always been a preferred location for assignations, visiting luminaries who prefer not to stay in hotels, and kept men and women.

Quayside Harbors

What are you, insane? Does LadyBet’s Pieces of Floor sound like a wholesome location for a young lady? If you’re not a young lady and you’re considering staying at a place called LadyBet’s, you deserve whatever attaches itself to your scalp in that place.


The small collection of accommodations in Shantytown that might, charitably, escape being called “flophouses” sprang up mostly in the wake of the Ilford/Mapp riots of the last century, primarily as way-points for tourists attempting to “crawl” the pubs and dives made famous by Walter Mapp or the acolytes who devoted their lives to figuring out his message after he departed Nagspeake. Probably the best option if you’re planning a pub crawl is to try and time your collapse to occur outside the Segovian, a onetime smuggling warehouse converted into reasonably clean rooms. As is common with Shantytown edifices, the exterior of the building is an incredibly detailed trompe l’oleil complete with detailed guest room windows; the Segovian, however, is unique because there are windows painted on the inside, as well, which gives this hotel the distinction of being the only place of its kind in the Shantytown district to have inside views.


I think there’s absolutely a market for a hotel-boat in Flotilla. Any interested investors can email me about it.

The Hilltop

Assuming that no one makes plans to book St. Whit’s Rest Home and considering Ferrous Sanctus doesn’t offer rooms without administering vows of silence and requiring residents to adhere to a rigorous schedule of ritual arsenic-eating, the only place on the Hilltop that really qualifies as a guest accommodation is Willie Cobblebridge’s mother’s guest room.  On the other hand, it’s just one door down from the bathroom, and Willie’s mother makes a mean belgian waffle when she doesn’t have her head stuck up the chimney, screaming into the soot, doing her best (she says) to communicate with the man who’s been stuck in the flue for the last forty years. Willie, on the other hand, insists the white fluff that dangles into the fireplace is the trailing bit of a nest built of decades-old Spanish moss by the rare crested mowfinch, and not, in fact, a beard.

Who Knew?

The last traveling performance of the Asylum Choir at St. Gammerbund’s was a state dinner in the mid-eighties.  The humorous results of this and many of the choir’s previous engagements were detailed by Otto Middleton, a member of the tenor section, in his book Medicate Me With Song.

The Basilica of St. Horace Rye, Creve Coeur

Signs and Portents and Stained Glass

Saint Horace Rye is a perfect example of why people continue to search for meaning–or if not meaning, than evidence of something more than plain everyday squalor–in Shantytown. It’s a persistent myth, and the extent to which people talk about it is inversely proportional to the extent to which people believe it.  Something significant is destined to happen in Shantytown. Everybody knows it, nobody knows what it is.

There was a time when, for a breathless moment, people thought they had it, whatever “it” was–in the year of the Ilford-Mapp riots, when Creve Coeur became a monument, pilgrimage site, and war zone all rolled up in one little ten-block chunk a few streets in from Shantytown’s waterfront. It was a good guess that lasted nearly thirteen months, but despite historians’ seemingly compulsive need to write about the poet and the musician who collaborated nearly a century or as many as two hundred years apart, when the riots died down, the violence dwindling like the slow drying-up of a river, Shantytown waited, breathless as it ever was.

Whatever they might have been, and they were many things to many people, the Ilford-Mapp riots still weren’t…well…”it.”

I have lived in Shantytown for better than a year, nearly as long as the riots themselves did. The sense of something coming is palpable, if hard to explain. I suppose the easiest exemplar to cite is a certain pervasive tendency to ascribe a portentiousness to things and to interpret endlessly, from actuaries who read like swirling tea leaves the whorls of iron and the ever-chipping brick of the old facades to the cadre of philosophers who see in Shantytown the truest roots of Nagspeake, and claim a pseudo-history for this district that has few points in common with the accepted past of the city. The tendency is alive and well in Creve Coeur as anywhere in Shantytown. The bricking-in at St. Horace Rye was doomed to cause a stir.

If this was any other city, I’d launch here into the history behind the story I’m going to tell: the tale of St. Horace, the building of the Basilica, the centuries of wasted portents witnessed from its perch on Heartbreak Street, the highest point in Shantytown. This being Nagspeake, however, records are sparse at best.  St. Horace Rye certainly pre-dates most of Nagspeake, unless the aging of the stone is yet another trompe l’oleil feat by the same artists who painted so many of the oldest buildings in Shantytown, creating elaborate false facades on smuggling warehouses to make them look like hotels, bawdy-houses, restaurants, saloons, and markets. One can absolutely imagine the same obsessive illuminators painting waterstains, cinder and ash marks, all manner of age and decay onto otherwise pure and pale limestone of the basilica. One thing is certain: St. Horace Rye looks ancient, all except for the brand-new brick covering the entrances and every one of the fifteen stained-glass windows, including the huge rose window at the front. The bricks look brand-spanking-new, the cement between them pristine and near-white, which makes perfect sense because they were cemented into place only last year in the course of one night.

And, of course, no one knows who did it.

I have seen pictures. Once upon a time–less than twelve months ago–the stained glass of St. Horace Rye was really a marvel. When you see images of the light flooding into the basilica, falling onto the pews, pouring onto upturned faces it’s clear the panes were works of art. They were made by Lowell Skellansen, an artisan who worked out of the Printer’s Quarter, in a shop that has stood empty for some years. Skellansen also crafted the beautiful triptych of panels over what used to be the altar at the Maltese Cross, the limestone church that’s now a theatre in the Printer’s Quarter. These were designed to be lit from behind and below, as there are no actual windows on the main wall of the chapel, and they are illuminated even today by the original panel of three short Jablochkoff candles from the 1870s. They picture images of the Ark of the Covenant: the crafting of it, the placing of it in the Tabernacle, and the removal of it to Ethiopia. Nothing weird, nothing subversive (the subject matter was, by all accounts, commissioned by the chapel’s governors; it wasn’t a statement of Skellansen’s personal beliefs). But beautiful. Really beautiful. It’s hard to explain, as I’m not a stained glass enthusiast in general. Maybe there’s terminology; I don’t know it. I just know that, from a layman’s perspective, Skellansen glass is to every other piece of stained glass I’ve ever seen as, say, really good animation, Miyazaki-caliber animation, is to the Sunday comics.

When the bricking occurred, the first theory floated was that some mad Skellansen collector had absconded with the windows.  Skellansen himself had left Nagspeake years before, but he disappeared altogether from his public at roughly the same time the windows were bricked over, driving the value of his work skyward. Today his glasswork is collectible on the scale of Tiffany glass, even more so in Nagspeake, the only city to have not one but three buildings with Skellansen windows. But at the time of the bricking-in, the church fathers were afraid to pull the bricks out, because they appeared to have been laid within a hair’s breadth from where the windows should’ve been–if the stained glass was still intact underneath, removing the brickwork could’ve done significant damage. Irreparable damage, too, considering Skellansen himself was not returning phone calls from wherever he’d gone.

As it turned out, not only the windows but every entry into the basilica had been bricked over. For some days the basilica was a fortress, resisting all attempts at entry. It took following the smell to find a way in. Father Crescia, an amateur brewer and vintner (brother of Peter Crescia, who runs the brewery at the Drunken Screw), had been working on a liquor that changed hue from a near-colorless crystal to deep red for a church masque in which water was to be turned spectacularly into wine. Grapes were uncooperative; yeast worked better so he decided to make beer instead. In the days when no one could get into the church, Father Crescia’s yeast went berserk. It crept up from the stills below the altar, ranged through the sanctuary, flowered through the nave and clerestory. And then it stopped, and froze, and then, for some reason, certain patches of yeast changed color just as Father Crescia had been training it to do. And that’s when someone followed the scent of yeast to the one remaining ingress into the basilica and found the picture drawn by light and time and yeast on the back of the nave.

Even if you have never used a pinhole camera, the technology is pretty simple to understand. You need an otherwise light-sealed box with a single hole, that’s all. The hole is the lens, and leaving out a bunch of advanced optics, if the circumstances are right, light reflects off of something outside the box, passes through the hole, and creates an image on the back wall of the inside of the box. The bricking-in of St. Horace Rye turned the basilica into a giant pinhole camera. The camera took exactly one picture. Thanks to a batch of photoreactive brewer’s yeast gone wild, it even managed to be in color.

About ten feet up the front facade of St. Horace Rye, just above what had once been the main doors, there is a hole. It’s not an accidental hole, that much is obvious; it looks like it was put there with a wide-bore drill. Whether or not it was there before the bricking-in is anybody’s guess, but now it’s the only opening into the basilica. If you climb a ladder and look inside and allow your eyes to adjust, you can just make out, on the opposite wall at the back of the nave, a tall, dark smudge, vaguely human-shaped, atop a long thin line. And then, if you look, you’ll see what that smudge is.

It’s an image of a man hanging from the neck by a rope, turned upside down because that’s what happens when light is reflected into a box through a pinhole. And if your eyes are properly adjusted, you will even see that the image is drawn in false color, the result of Father Crescia’s yeast caught creeping across the wall at just the right moment, the moment when the image of what must be called an execution (if not a murder) was captured. The yeast in its out-of-control climb across the nave changed color in the varying wavelengths of light reflected from the subject of the photograph, taking on the colors that tint the weird picture. That they froze or died and kept those colors is probably due to a chemical used in the manufacture of the altar candles, which have been reported to sublimate under certain conditions into volatile gases (resulting in several recalls, according to a spokesperson at Deacon and Morvengarde). So the photograph itself, uncanny though it seems, has an explanation. The identity of the hanged man, however, remains as much a mystery as that of the bricklayers who covered Skellansen’s windows.

Who is the hanged man? Why was he killed? And when could such a thing have happened?

The last question is the easiest answered, thanks to the amount of light that would’ve been necessary to create a pinhole image in the basilica. The bricking-in of the basilica was reported the day after the vernal equinox; so sometime in the days when the sun was in the sky the longest, someone was hanged out in front of the basilica, in plain view, and was left there after his death (he had to be still for such a relatively crisp image to have been taken) for long enough, some hours at least, but probably longer. And portentious, watchful Creve Coeur saw nothing.

As to the who and why: everyone has a theory around here, ranging from ghosts to aliens to righteous murder juries, and here’s my favorite; as far as I can tell, it’s the only one that ties the two events (the bricking-in and the hanged man’s photograph) together. It hinges on the third set of Skellansen windows in Nagspeake, which happen to grace the walls of the Oxford Dining Hall at the Shutter Club Mansion on the Slope.

I have been lucky enough to see those windows, too. They are, if it’s possible to say such a thing, the most beautiful windows I’ve ever seen. The glass is tinted in tones of sepia, warm browns, chocolates and shades of pearl that have the feel of black-and-white but with so much more warmth. There are eight windows in the Oxford Hall; six depict moments in the history of photography and two show images of the Shutter Club in the 1920’s.  One pictures the famous Sepia Ball, given in honor of the producers and stars of the serial The Emprises of Evangeline. Several segments of the serial, in whish Evangeline is a touring violinist with an uncanny past, were filmed in Nagspeake, including a sequence filmed in the Shutter Club Mansion itself.

The many stories that arose after the Sepia Ball have been told elsewhere, ad nauseam; anyhow, only one concerns this column. There were rumors of some fairly grisly goings-on in other parts of the Mansion during the Ball that resulted in the death of a girl, one of the “moderns” who were frequent attendees of Shutter Club events. Supposedly the only actual witness to the event (the only one who wasn’t a Shutter Club member, that is) was another modern known only by a pseudonym (many girls who visited the Mansion used them, not wanting the things they might have done there to follow them down the Slope into their normal lives). If anybody knew the witness’s real name, it’s never been reported, and she herself has never spoken publicly of the event. She may even never have existed; the only print report of the event was a poem published under the name Hiram Jinks (Hijinks?), and the character Jinks claims witnessed the event and reported it to him may have been invented.

The stained-glass panel depicting the Sepia Ball is all glamour and elegance with the exception of a small figure in one corner. She is so well-hidden among the beautiful faces and gorgeous gowns and tuxedos that she’s almost impossible to see, except at a certain time of day when the afternoon sun hits the window picturing Louis Daguerre on the opposite side of the hall (exactly across from the Sepia Ball window) just right. When that happens, a beam of light is concentrated–and this is where you have to just sit back and wonder at the genius of Lowell Skellansen–through the stained-glass lens of the camera in Daguerre’s hand, and that concentrated beam falls like a spotlight on a tiny, terrified figure fleeing the party: a modern whose white-knuckled hand clutches a Brownie camera.

Whether or not there is any connection between Skellansen and Hiram Jinks, or between Skellansen and the girl in the glass, I have no idea. But I’ve read Jinks’ poem, and there’s no mention in it of the witness having a camera.  Skellansen’s window is the only place I have been able to find that makes any mention of that camera, which, if there’s any truth to the image, might make Skellansen the only person, other than the witness herself, who knew of its existence. It would make Skellansen a witness, of sorts, to the camera if not the event. One can only speculate about what images that camera might have recorded.

Which brings us neatly back to the photograph in the nave of St. Horace Rye and the identity of the hanged man, and that of his killers.

Whether or not the two events were linked, it cannot be argued that St. Horace Rye was turned into a pinhole camera, and someone was hanged before the church, his body lined up so as to be reproduced photographically in the nave of the basilica. No one could’ve anticipated the tinting of the yeast, but one could certainly anticipate, would in fact have to have planned, the photograph itself. Someone, or several someones, who could calculate the amount of light and the time needed to take the picture. And from the vantage of the pinhole, you can just tell, if you strain, that the windows were bricked up on the inside, as well as the outside–an unnecessary gesture if the only reason for the masonry was to kill the light. Someone wanted to silence Skellansen’s windows, too. Which makes me think it isn’t too much of a leap to think maybe it was Lowell Skellansen who was hanged before St. Horace Rye. And maybe the photograph in the nave is a message to the girl with the camera. Maybe someone wanted to tell her that no matter how much time may have passed, some pictures are better left undeveloped.

In any case, thanks to that Shantytown tendency to seek meaning, St. Horace Rye is still sealed up, with the exception of a little passage Father Crescia has opened up for purposes of maintenance, and to turn on just a little illumination. You can go yourself and rent a ladder from Skip’s Hardware a little ways down Heartbreak Street, and Father Crescia will insist on holding the ladder for you as you climb up, swing aside the keyhole cover that was made to cover the hole in the wall to protect the photograph (Father Crescia thinks it’s the image of St. Luke the Martyr, and plenty of Shantytowners agree), and have a look for yourself. Is this “it,” the otherworldly visitation of a saint that will once again make Creve Coeur a pilgrimage site, maybe permanently this time? Or is it the clever murder of an artisan, signed with a flourish by those who committed it?

Hard to know, but definitely worth the trip.

Kate Milford is a regular contributor to Nagspeake.com, and is very quick about getting coffee when we need it. Her first book, THE BONESHAKER, comes out in May 2010.

Coming soon…using her inner city-honed breaking and entering skills, Kate takes us to the abandoned cobblestone paths of what was once the happiest place in Nagspeake: FantasyTowne Amusement Park.

Out on the Town

There’s more to Nagspeake than beaches and the last remaining asylum choir in the country! Charter a skipjack, rent a bicycle…

…wander in an  Elizabethan garden…or just a nice garden on Elizabeth Street…


…take the funicular railway up the hill to a fancy dress ball at the Shutter Club…or just wander the waterfront along the Bay Byway and amuse yourself trying to figure out which boats are bringing in illegal cargo right under the noses of the harbor police! (Hint…if you spot the Big Eye, try not to look too interested.)


You’ll find an authentic Oriental Tea Room, the most comprehensive adult magazine shop on the East Coast, and a collection of the finest cigar-rollers this side of Havana.  Be sure to plan time for a visit to the nameless crab shack on the pier off of milepost four; a cup of cracked claws still costs a quarter, but it’s anybody’s guess how much longer until a too-heavy stockpot drops the old iron stove straight through the floor or a rough wind at the wrong angle shoves all four precarious walls into the harbor.

Who Knew?

Edward Marie Bear has lived in Flotilla for sixty-seven years, which makes him the fifth-oldest living resident of that district. He has been a competitive worm grunter since age thirteen and still holds the world record for Most Worms Raised by Rhythmic Use of a Kitchen Whisk. His collection of worms, including over five thousand specimens representing twelve worm phyla and many thousands of species (including three that had not previously been known to exist) is a permanent exhibit at the Slope Science Centre.

Tales from Nagspeake Raconteurs

Welcome to the home of Nagspeake Folklore on the Web! As you might expect, in a city in which primary sources have such a relatively brief shelf-life, the oral tradition is alive and well in Nagspeake, and the Creve Coeur Folklore Society works tirelessly to record the great storytellers of our time for the benefit of those that follow. Good plan, considering at the moment, audio recordings aren’t legally obligated to be remanded to the archives upon the death of the owner.

The following is a tale collected from Edward Marie Bear, one of the fifteen stories in the CCFS’s forthcoming, as-yet-untitled collection.

Why There Are No Fairies in Nagspeake

As Told by Edward Marie Bear to Kate Milford

Well, like all youngsters I heard some fairy tales when I was a boy, and there were fairies in ’em, and I raised my hand and asked my teacher one day after storytime how came it there weren’t any fairies in Nagspeake. First she said, don’t be a fool, Ed, there aren’t fairies anyplace, they’re made up. But about the only thing I trusted that teacher on was that two and two made four and even that I was pretty sure there might be exceptions to, so I went home and asked the smartest person I knew, and that was my uncle Moody. I knew he was the smartest because he had one blue eye and one brown eye and he was the only person in the world I’d ever met like that, and he fully supported my worm collection, which was important. Also he drank a lot of whiskey and sometimes gave me a nip of it, which goes a long way when you’re six years old.

Unk Moody I said, teacher says there’s no fairies ’cause they’re not real. If they’re not real, how come so many people tell stories about them? Why does everyone lie? Ed says Unk Moody, you ain’t a idiot like your father, so I’ll tell you the truth. Ain’t everybody lying, just that teacher you got’s an idiot don’t know no better. I’ll tell you why there ain’t Fairy Number One in Nagspeake. There used to be, only they’s all dead and run off. And that’s the truth. Unk Moody, I said, what happened to them? Ed says Unk Moody, back once a long time ago used to be lots of things ’round this bay that don’t live here anymore. Problem is, people’s bad for a lot of things that get along fine without ’em–people that is–and fairies is no exception. So think for a minute, Ed, and tell me what we got in Nagspeake ain’t anywhere else to be found? Unk Moody I said, I don’t know what you’re referring to. Ed says Unk Moody, look outside. So I do, and what’s out there but a whole lot of nothing; Uncle Moody’s window looked out on a ton of sky when I was six and not tall enough to see the street below his sixth-floor hospital room. Iron, shithead, says Unk Moody, and he hit me upside the back of the head hard enough to make the old fire escape out there swim even though it was the middle of the day and the iron sure wasn’t doing a thing but hanging there. Ed says Unk Moody, sorry about the whapping but every once in a while you really are your father’s kid. Fairies hate iron. Can’t stand it. Burns ’em like acid. Here’s how it was:

Years and years, hundreds of years ago and maybe more, there were ’bout a million fairies in Nagspeake. They were like rats. Kinda ratlike, too, if you ever seen one. All tooth and claw, but if you really focus on their wings, which’re pretty enough, maybe you won’t notice the teeth and claws and tails.  Tend to spread diseases, too. And they bite. Basically, the early settlers found ’em kinda verminous. Plaguelike. And they spread weird diseases, too, but even that wasn’t the worst of it. They’d whisper. Float close to your head and say things to you that’d drive you mad if you didn’t shoo ’em away right quick. Then maybe you’d have a minute or so before they’d come back, and God help you if you quit shooing and started listening. Turn a fellow crazy, make him do wretched stuff. Least half the first batch up there in St. Whit’s they said were there ’cause they listened to fairies. Still hear old timers say that sometimes about anybody a little batty. Hell, you’ve heard me say it about your dad, that he’s done started listening to the fairies.

So anyhow they were a right old scourge, Unk Moody said, but you couldn’t do much about ’em, cause of those wings, and ’cause of the teeth and claws; eat their way out of any nets or traps you could set. And trap technology back then was basically limited to crab pots and mousetraps, and fairies figured those out pretty quick. So the little town was here back then kinda languished until somebody found the iron. Unk Moody I said, they found it? Ed says Unk Moody, I heard it told both ways. Still isn’t anybody in Nagspeake really knows if they brought the iron or if they excavated it, but my dad he said they dug it up, and once they brought it out of the dirt into the light it started doing what Old Iron does–needs the sun to move like that, though, so long as it was buried, it was dormant. Then out in the sun and up it sprouts like vines, and then the fairies, their days were numbered.

Unk Moody I said, I always thought the iron was harmless. Ed says Unk Moody, you better hope it’s harmless to people, and I’ll leave it at that, ’cause I don’t know what to do when kids have nightmares other than to put in earplugs so I don’t have to listen. Happens, though, it ain’t harmless to fairies. And unlike normal iron, which only causes fairies problems if somebody sticks ’em in an iron cage or fences ’em in with it or something, Old Iron goes after ’em.  And that’s what it did. Started to be that at night, when the iron went on the move, you could hear them as they died, and fairies don’t die easy; the Nagspeake fairies fought tooth and claw and ratty tail, but in the end there just wasn’t much they could do to hurt the iron. People started wearing jewelry made from bits and pieces of the stuff, especially cuffs on their ears, so that when an unsuspecting little flitter came too close to whisper, they’d be in for a nasty surprise. Things would practically leap off your ear like a jumping spider.

Well, after a while the fairies that survived gravitated toward the places where there wasn’t so much iron, mainly up in the woods on the Hilltop. Near the monastery up there there still ain’t any iron, so they were pretty safe there, except for the ground’s full of arsenic, which made ’em pretty sickly-like. I heard plenty say after they migrated up there, they pretty much got too sick, most of ’em, to even fly anymore. But there was no iron, and sickly’s better most of the time than dead, so there they stayed. Unk Moody I said, what happened to those fairies? Ed says Unk Moody, nobody knows. Ain’t a lot of people up there on the Hilltop except for the monks in the monastery and the nutters in the asylum who could possibly see ’em, and the fairies themselves don’t advertise their presence. Possible there’s a few of ’em left up there, but maybe you wouldn’t recognize ’em for fairies these days, being as how they mostly crawl and creep.

Well, of course I’m six so right away I start thinking about how you get up into the forest and find some creepy crawly fairies, which sound a ton more interesting than worms which at the time is what I was collecting. Think we could find a fairy, Unk Moody? I ask. Tell you what, Unk Moody says after a few minutes, why don’t we ask your dad next time we visit.  Well, I think about that one for a minute or two and I guess it starts showing on my face that I’m not really that interested in finding a fairy. Unk Moody sort of nods, ’cause truth be told he wasn’t much on going up to the asylum, either, and I guess you figured out he pretty much hated my dad, if not for whom none of us would ever have to go up there. Ed says Unk Moody, now I think about it, your dad’s  been listening to fairies a little too long to take at his word anymore anyway. Unk Moody I said, I’d just as soon see about some new worms instead.

Flotilla, May 2008

Who Knew?

Damascus steel is named after Brian ap Damascus, an artisan of the fourth century who painstakingly painted wavy lines on all his samurai swords.

Nagspeake, Past and Presumed

Nagspeake history is a chimerical beast, sphinxlike and inscrutable, and impossible to summarize at 1am after several drinks. Look for a complete, encyclopedic history of Nagspeake from the brief grounding here of a reed boat from Damascus a full fifty years before the Viking landing at Newfoundland, to the abandonment of the Magothy basin for the next hundred years, to the Ilford/Mapp riots of the last century. It will be the most informative page on the whole internet written without the benefit of primary sources.

The Nagspeake Archives in one of its early incarnations.  As everyone knows, the Archive is ritually burned with all its contents every twenty-five years.


One of the delightful side-effects of living in a city where history is, shall we say, ductile, is that the ordinarily rather reasonably-well-defined lines between history, myth and folklore are much, much blurrier here than elsewhere. Nagspeake folklore has been the subject of many, many scholarly works. In fact, our annual Creve Coeur Folklore Festival, sponsored, naturally enough, by the Creve Coeur Folklore Society, is so highly-attended and universally acclaimed that tickets are available far and wide, even outside Nagspeake, through the Deacon and Morvengarde Catalogue.

This year, the CCFS has announced that it will be releasing its first collection of stories collected from Nagspeake storytellers at this year’s festival, and has graciously shared a few excerpts with us. Read and enjoy–and then don’t forget to pre-order your copy!

Want to read more? We suggest…

  • The Millstone: a Discussion of the Responsibilities of Authorship and Why Most People Shouldn’t Bother, Dr. Edsel Price
  • The Liberation of Sparks, Winnie Faltry
  • Edsel Price is a Pretentious Hack, J. Shrill Hennepin