Secrets of the Inner Sea
Mary Alice Wharton
Eleusinian Detective-Sorcerer, working with the police on analysis.
London, July 6th, 1869
Mr. Jean-François Valarde, Union des Policiers contre les Anarchistes
My dear sir–
With reference to your letter of June 8th, I am writing to inform you that I will shortly be despatching Mme. Mary Alice Wharton to join your headquarters. She should arrive in Calais on the 6:30 packet this coming Friday. In order that you not mistake her, she is a lady of average build, five and one-half feet in height, with black hair and rather striking blue eyes. She was born in Cornwall on February 22nd 1830, and may be easily recognized by a sigil of the Grand Chamber of the Eleusinian Mysteries which she habitually wears as a brooch.
Whilst she prefers not to engage in the maintenance of Analytical Engines, she is experienced in attaching safety guidelines to their proper maintenance procedures, and was able to reduce our own accident rate considerably. You will find her ability to link together disparate data to be exceptionally useful, and here she has made considerable contributions outside of her duties to help our officers distinguish dangerously violent anarchists from ineffectual academics.
I wish to reassure you that I have not forgotten your request for access to our files on our own English anarchists, but as yet we have not been able to determine how to copy our engine’s store in a portable way. Have you considered sending transcribers?
Henry Charles Cotterell,
Head of Analytical Division
My childhood was a happy time spent in Cornwall. My father, Andrew, was an early steam technician, whilst my mother, Susan, worked as a teacher for the local boys. Whilst I also received the benefits of her education at home, it was in my father’s workshop that I learned my first passion–machinery.
I am the third of five children. My sister Mary (1826) is a successful barrister specializing in defending women in criminal matters. We still work together from time to time. My brother John (1828) is now a captain of the Royal Navy, and is currently commanding the Steam Cruiser Portsmouth. My sister June (1833) married an Oxford man and so far as the world is concerned she keeps his household (although I believe I may have spotted her keen mind behind his winning campaign for the House of Commons three years ago). Finally, my sister Emily (1835) fell in love with a man from the Middle Kingdom, and has lived in Shanghai these past ten years.
My happy childhood ended on April 5th 1846, when my father was working on the repair of a new steam-harvester. Although I had thought that I noticed a slipped gear in the cutter assembly, I was unable to convince him of any danger, and when he fired up the boiler to test his engine repairs the cutter shattered. My father received a piece of shrapnel in his left eye and, as we much later discovered, another piece was embedded below his ribcage. I was turning towards him when the disaster happened, but I still ended up with pieces of metal embedded in every part of my arm. Although a Bonifacian healer was able to save my life, it appears that my nerves and tendons had been damaged, and to this day I have tremors in my arms that make delicate work almost impossible. My father was seemingly well, despite his blinding, but ten years later he fell suddenly dead, and it was revealed that the shrapnel piece missed at the time of the accident had penetrated one of the great arteries near his heart. Had I been merely a trifle more persuasive, he might still be living, and my hands and arms might still be entirely my own.
After the accident, my father’s livelihood was somewhat impaired, so it became imperative to find good matches for the family’s daughters. My hand was sought by one Andrew Patrick Wharton, then a rising star in the Explorer’s League. We were married in 1849 and, since that time, I have spent perhaps a sixmonth in his company, spread out over twenty-one years. I last saw him five years ago, when he left to join an expedition to chart the antarctic continent.
With my husband absent (and not usually in a way that allowed for his wages to be sent home, if indeed he was earning any), I tutored some local children to keep myself housed and fed. In 1852 Ann Winthrope, the mother of my charge Alexander, was accused of having poisoned her husband. I could not believe this charge, knowing her to be utterly incapable of violence against a family member, and was eventually able to trace the death to a new medicine prescribed by his doctor. When I took my findings to the police, they suggested that I might find better work helping them than tutoring the youth of the country. I was eventually made the chief investigator assigned to crimes apparently committed by women, including the case of one Emily Smith, accused of murdering her magician husband Albert.
Whilst Albert was a member of the Grand Chamber of Eleusinian mysteries, his local brethren (none of them more than apprentices) were unable to solve the crime. When a full member, Susan Clarence Cotton, arrived from the North, I was able to convince her that my own investigations pointed inexorably to the murderer being Dwarfish. Working together, with her spells complimenting my own contraptions, we were able to arrest Carnelian, a violent anarchist who had been worried that Albert had identified him at the scene of a bombing. At the end of the case, Susan also indicated that I had shown some magical abilities of my own during my work with her, and offered to sponsor me into the order. It was my proudest moment when I was finally able to call and control my magical abilities, and to mark the occasion Susan gave me a brooch inscribed with the sigil of the Chamber, which I wear to this day.
Since that memorable occasion, I have divided my work between the Chamber and the Yard. I like to think that my dedication to truth and justice have aided me well in my work, although I must also own that my own mechanical work has lapsed somewhat due to my excessive caution around possibly broken contraptions. Although I have been able to turn that weakness into a drive to improve the safety of the technicians at the Yard, it has still impeded my own work, and I am now known more for designs than for construction, and the few pieces I do build are usually scaled-up models of parts of a device, and are never supplied with power.
The lingering injuries from the accident so many years ago have left my Athleticism poor, along with my Fencing, Helmsmanship, Marksmanship, and Motoring. I find myself unable to control steam devices without excessive fear, and my tremors make the fine control necessary for fencing and firearms impossible. I am even unable to ride, as the tremors tend to send inconsistent directions to my mount, and no horse has yet shown itself willing to bear me on its back for more than a few minutes. At least I have acquired a good knowledge of Fisticuffs, which has aided me in avoiding injury at the hands of more than one ruffian.
My mother left me with the legacy of a good Education, and my father with great skill in Tinkering. My time spent with the police and the Chamber have given me a good number of social Connections, and representing the order has allowed me to master good Social Graces. My sorcerous abilities are Good, and aided by my Exceptional perception. Finally, although I will work to clear a wrongfully accused woman regardless of her means, some of my clients have been both wealthy and appreciative, leaving my Exchequer in good standing.
Of late, my time has been occupied more and more with the Anarchist movement. Although many of its members are ineffectual, or even admirable, those who resort to violence must be tracked down and prevented from harming peaceful citizens. Of late, I have become convinced that a large number of unsolved anarchist attacks are the work of a single mastermind. Although I know not her (his?) name, she takes a positive delight in sabotaging vehicles, and planting bombs in Steam devices, and then uses the distraction of the crowd to steal whatever valuables come to hand. I have begun privately to refer to this individual as the Automotive Bomber of Whytton Street, after the first connected case that I investigated. I am convinced that the world would be a much better place with this dangerous person safely behind bars.
I hope that, should I be able to apprehend this evil genius, I might be rewarded by the chance to meet with high members of the Queen’s government and press the case of women, particularly women accused of crimes. And, since my marriage is not a romantic one, I would like at some point to learn more about it. And simply, although my husband would strongly disapprove of my being seen in the company of a man, I am far from convinced that men hold a monopoly on Romance.
- POOR Athletics, Fencing, Helmsmanship, Marksmanship, Motoring, Riding
- GOOD Connections, Education, Exchequer, Fisticuffs, Social Graces, Sorcery
- GREAT Tinkering
- EXCEPTIONAL Perception
- Enhance Clue (8D)
- Track (6D)
- Heartsblood [links weapon to wound or, less strongly, bloodstains (6D)
- Charm Home [returns an object to its usual surroundings] (8D)
- Detect Lies (4H)
- Lastlight [determines cause of death] (4S)
- Masterkey (6H)
- Fooling the Iron [lockpicking, can work with analytical engines] (8D)
- Gathering Petals [link pieces of broken object, re-assemble] (8D)
- Naming the Lost [talk to the spirits of the dead] (10S)
- Mistwalking [prophetic dream] (8S)
- Sense Magic [cantrip] (8H)
- Magelight [cantrip] (8D)
- Candle Flame [cantrip] (8D)
- Confusion [cantrip] (10H)
- Simple Illusion [cantrip] (9H)
- Minor Telekinesis [cantrip] (10D)
- Sense Illusion [cantrip] (8H)
- Resistance to Sorcery [cantrip] (10S)
- Housewifery [cantrip] (9D)