Saturday, March 8, 2014

Dark Redemption chapter 37: With Regards to the Culture Claque

Beneath the gleaming skyscrapers and picturesque facade of the City of Redemption lies another city; a community of dark and ancient magic populated by creatures of the night. Dark Redemption is a shared-world novel based on an online role-playing game by James Crowther.

Plucky girl reporter Cassandra True has landed a job at the Morning Star, Redemption's largest newspaper, and has been assigned to do a story on a local community arts group. Having encountered werewolves, ghosts and vampires, can she stand up to the horror of... Gilbert & Sullivan?

Back in the 1930s, the Alhambra Theater had been the premier movie house in the City of Redemption; a glittering movie palace to rival the most glamourous theaters of London or New York. Time and economics had worked their ruinous magic on the building and for decades the theater had been neglected and forgotten. Then, about a decade ago, the Redemption Culture Claque seized upon the theater as a piece of local history. They mounted a campaign to have it declared a National Monument and organized a fund-raising drive to restore it to its former glory. Now, instead of being a showplace for first-run movies, the Alhambra was a venue for art films, visiting theatrical troupes and, of course, the Annual Gilbert & Sullivan Extravaganza. Looking at the magnificent architecture, the imposing marble columns and vaulted ceiling, the lavish murals and intricate mosaics of the restored theater, Cassandra had to admit that the ladies of the Culture Claque truly had benefited the community in this instance. It reminded her of Strephon, for some reason; old-fashioned, but... nice.

She shook her head. What was she thinking of him for?

A janitor entering the lobby with a vacuum cleaner noticed her. "May I help you?" he asked.

"Oh. Yes. I'm looking for Mrs. L.G. Trotter. I was told I could find her here."

The janitor pointed to the large doors at the end of the lobby. "She should by the stage or thereabouts."

Cassandra thanked the janitor and headed into the theater. She saw Mrs. Trotter standing on the stage, directing a couple of workmen who were moving a piano. Another woman; perhaps a bit older than Mrs. Trotter, but with fewer chins; sat in orchestra pit, looking over a score.

"Hello, Mrs. Trotter?" Cassandra called out. "My name is Cassandra True; I'm a reporter for The Daily -- uh, The Morning Star. We met the other night at a party of Melchior Aesermann's."

Mrs. Trotter brightened and extended her hand. "Why of course! You were the young lady with that charming Mister MacKenzie! How pleasant to meet you again."

"Yes, I'm doing a story for the Star about the Gilbert and Sullivan Festival."

"Extravaganza," Mrs. Trotter corrected, "it's an Extravaganza! We're going to have a lecture by Sir Humphrey Smudge from Cambridge on the Victorian Theatre, a concert of some of Sir Arthur's serious music, a performance by our own local group of The Sorcerer and, of course, the ever popular Sing-It-Yourself Pinafore!"

"My! That does sound exciting," Cassandra said, wondering what a 'Sing-It-Yourself Pinafore' was.

"You don't know if Mister MacKenzie might have changed his mind about auditioning, do you? We could use someone to play John Wellington Wells, and I think he'd be splendid!"

Cassandra fidgeted. She really didn't want to talk about Strephon. "I really don't think he's interested. He can't dance, you know."

"Oh he wouldn't have to dance. And I'm sure just by talking to him that he has a simply splendid singing voice."

"I'm afraid I couldn't say. Please, tell me more about the Extravaganza."

Mrs. Trotter was more than happy to oblige, and Cassandra had difficulty keeping up with her stream of chatter. She also noticed that the other woman kept staring at her. At one point, Mrs. Trotter said, "...but if you want to know about the history of our event, you should talk to Mrs. Morrigan here. She's been with the Claque for years!"

The other woman climbed the steps up to the stage on wobbly legs, never taking her eyes off Cassandra for an instant. "Good day, Miss True," she said.

"This is Belladonna Morrigan. She'll be playing Lady Sangazure in our production of The Sorcerer. She specializes in our 'Katisha' roles, don't you know. Belladonna, Dear, tell Miss True a little bit about how this group was founded."

"I can do better than that," the old woman said. "I have a number of souvenirs from some of our early productions. Perhaps you would be interested in seeing them?"

"Yes, certainly," Cassandra said.

"Good. Then I insist that you come and visit me. I'd be delighted to have you."

"Well," Cassandra hesitated. "If it's not too much trouble."

The old woman smiled, adding even more wrinkles to her leathery face. "No trouble at all."

NEXT:  Into the Woods

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