NOTE: This originally appeared in a post to a mailing list in answer to a beta reader’s question and has eventually growed — like Topsy — into the Story Bible itself. At the time, I was workshopping the three stories mentioned in the next paragraph. I even submitted a very straitened version of Armed Citizen as a novelette to the Writers of the Future contest. That was a mistake.
NOTE-NOTE: I have tried to hide major spoilers by redacting them under bars of dark gray. However, the text is still there out of an excess of obnoxious honesty. (You can read it by highlighting the redacted parts.) So, if you’re spoiler averse, don’t read this or any post in this series.
Lemme try to set this up. As you are no doubt aware by now, all these stories — Geppetto’s Log, Armed Citizen, and The Next Story are connected in a long, epic story arc. Here’s a rough outline of it. (And — wow — I had no plan to make it this long or exhaustive, but once I got started… well.
THE GODS ARE REAL. SINCE THE DAWN OF TIME, THEY HAVE FAVORED A SINGLE family of Men, giving that family and its descendants great power. However, the Gods are not all-powerful. (In particular, they do not have the power to create original life and no one anybody has ever heard speak on the subject has ever heard one claim to be THE creator of heaven and earth, not even Yaweh. Those claims have been made from time-to-time by Men on behalf of their particular Gods.) In the time when Men were transitioning to monotheism, the Gods saw their power dissipate and felt their lives threatened. They went underground. They still walk among us, but in secret. The umbrella organization by which they coordinate their activities is called Upothesa (Greek meaning shebang) and is run by a member of the East families called the Childe of the East and by Hephaestus, who inherited the mantle of King of Olympus when Zeus was killed in the Twilight of the Gods.
Though the Dawn Phraetries had long been involved in global commerce, the majority of the families, in the age before the Twilight of the Gods, were employed in construction, local commerce, and statesmanship. Sometime after the fall of Rome, Upothesa began to focus its attention almost exclusively on commerce. By the 14th Century, it was one of the most powerful — albeit hidden — forces in human affairs. At this time, Elves came from Faerie and Trolls from the mountains of Central Asia to join Upothesa as associates. Eventually, Upothesa came to eschew political power until, by the time the multi-national syndicate came to be called Upothesa by most of its adherents in the early Nineteenth Century, it was a hard and fast law that no one — East nor God — was to seek the power of kings over Men.
IN THE 1830’s, UPOTHESA WAS HEADQUARTERED IN ENGLAND. The Childe Chosen in 1838 was an American pioneer farm girl named Gabrielle Francesca East. She was eight years old when she was chosen. By the end of her 25-year term as Childe, she had built Hephaestus‘s business interests into a preeminent position in world commerce and into unassailable dominance within Upothesa. After many adventures, she ended her term as Childe in 1863 and returned to the United States at the height of the Civil War. She turned her family’s Central Ohio farm into a University and a center of research — East College of the Americas, home to the Center for Study of the Unknown (later the Center for X Studies). She died childless in 1920 at the age of eighty, leaving behind her a legacy worth billions of dollars and untold wealth in knowledge and power. In addition to being incredibly successful and influential, GFE was a nice person, genuinely loved by all who knew her. Her legend is such that, in the late 20th Century, she is almost worshiped within Upothesa as a goddess herself.
MACGUFFIN SECRET: In one of GFE‘s most important adventures, she and her crew play a leading role in the foundation of Hong Kong and its acquisition by the British Empire as a crown colony. (See James Clavell’s Noble House and Tai Pan.) During this time, acting on Aphrodite‘s orders, the crew of the Bella Donna travel to Nan Madol, on the island of Ponape (latterly Pohnpei), in Micronesia, on a mission to procure an object, precious to a project of Aphrodite‘s. It is a nearly-perfect crystal sphere, which is to serve as the vessel for an anima to be plucked from the River of Souls some time in the distant future. Being as the people of Ponape hold that the city was founded and built by gods, and consider place to be sacred, Bella Donna‘s crew is at considerable risk looting the place. They find the thing they seek — a pure and nearly-perfect crystal sphere. GFE takes the sphere to a family jewelry business in Macao, where it is to be rendered absolutely perfect in the service of Aphrodite. Delivery is promised for 150 years in the future. Sometime around this time — or, perhaps, a century or two earlier — when a member of Upothesa referred to an enterprise as a “family”whatever, they meant it was “our family” or an East family whatever.
That all happens in 1842, the year that the treaty ending the First Opium War was forced on the Chinese Emperor and the British Empire gained a crown colony, the Pearl of the Orient: Hong Kong. GFE1 was present at the founding as the official representative of the Great Hong of Olympia Trading (Hephaestus‘s company, the chief trading house of Upothesa). Later, subsequent to some political maneuvering, the right to trade in Hong Kong was given over to Waitangi Holdings, the business umbrella of the East family branch based in Auckland and from which Drummond‘s former long term paramour, Semiramis haled. Her younger brother, Billy, was Drummond‘s dearest friend as well as Childe from 1972 to his death in 1996
THIS IS THE STORY CALLED ODALISQUE AND WHY IT IS CALLED THAT
Twelve years later, in 1854, Olympia Holdings was based in Athens, (Hephaestus and Aphrodite having moved there in an excess of patriotic nostalgia, hoping that they read the signs of the fall of the Ottoman Empire aright. (They did, only a half-century too early.) The winds of war blew chill down the Aegean and GFE shipped out in Bella Donna to close the Olympia factory in Constantinople and bring back the company’s gold to Athens to save it from being looted. On the way north, they stopped in at Gallipoli, to deliver mail and fulfill contracts with the British garrison there. On their way from the port to the fort, they encountered a rough-and-ready soldier making his way to his next posting and offered him a ride in their hired wagon, which he accepted. He found himself charmed and intrigued by this party so near a war zone, apparently in charge of a beautiful young American woman. Purposing to seduce the young woman, he introduced himself to GFE — Captain Richard Francis Burton, late of the British East India Company Army, headed to the fighting in the Crimea. He would later discover he was on his way to join up with an irregular cavalry regiment, called bashi bazooks (crazy heads). It so happened that GFE was spotted on the streets of the foreign quarter by slavers hunting women for the Seraglio and was kidnapped by them. She was able to get word out to James Book, the Captain of the Bella Donna, who, encountering Burton by chance in a bazaar, enlisted his help in rescuing GFE from the Seraglio — something anyone familiar with the place would say was impossible. In fact, the legend says, the only way a woman ever left the Sultan‘s harem was by being tied in a weighted sack and tossed from a boat into the Sea of Marmara. (SPOILER): Which was exactly how they got GFE out, by getting GFE condemned to death by drowning, stalking the drowning boat out into the Sea and rescuing GFE from the sack. The women who served in the Seraglio but were not wives or concubines of the Sultan were called Odalisques. They were reputed to be of exceptional beauty and accomplishment. In fact there are many paintings of the Orientalist school of odalisques.
NOTE: THIS TEXT, AS of 3/7/13, IS BASED ON A VERY EARLY NOTION of the plot of Geppetto’s Log (the reference is to the first chapter(s) of Carlo Colodi’s Pinocchio. In the newer version, Drummond and Morgan fall in love and have a torrid affair on the trip to Hong Kong (and the side trip to New Zealand). Rather than Drummond carrying the backpack, Witchlet carries it — to her eventual thaumaturgical climactic battle with the Goddess Astarté.
SINCE THE BEGINNING OF TIME, APHRODITE — HEPHAESTUS‘S WIFE and herself the Greek Goddess of Love — has been obsessed with the desire to create original life.
To that end, she has pursued a project over thousands of years to gain the power to do so. Her Genesis Project would finally bear fruit in 1996. The combination of a pure enough vessel for a soul pulled from the River of Souls to survive long enough to be placed in a cloned body — and of cloning technology to produce such a body — would (it is seen) finally come together. A pure crystal sphere — 150 years in the making — is to be brought to Greece, where Aphrodite means to pour into it the spirit of Gabrielle Francesca East.
But Aphrodite is not working unopposed. Older Gods — Marduk and Astarté, et al — see her efforts as potentially disastrous for Gods in general, not to mention blasphemous. (We never know exactly, but the Gods do worship higher being(s) of some sort. The Creator would be among those.) Marduk is advised through the Gods’ oracular sense that Aphrodite‘s efforts are about to bear fruit. He and Astarté — along with assorted allied Gods, Men, and Trolls — take action to prevent this. In September of 1996, in Athens, Greece, matters come to a head in open conflict.
Of course, Hephaestus and Aphrodite are not unaware of the coming attack, and take steps to obviate its effects. They dispose of their assets — including leaving a very hefty bequest –for Hephaestus‘s hitherto unacknowledged bastard son, Mitchell Drummond.
In an attempt to head Aphrodite off, Astarté and Marduk attack Hephaestus‘s domicile — Olympia House — on the slopes of Mt. Hymettus with magical weapons. The house is destroyed, and many of the staff killed.
During the attack, Drummond returns from his mission to Hong Kong bearing the Vessel. Aphrodite moves to pull GFE‘s anima from the River of Souls and throw it in the direction of the Vessel … just as one of the magical weapons strikes the room where Drummond, Hephaestus, and Aphrodite are gathered. Hephaestus and Aphrodite teleport out. Drummond is knocked unconscious, battered and bruised, but otherwise unharmed.
Drummond wakes up some time later and flees. A lot of stuff happens. Through it all, Drummond carries the knapsack — the property of his staff thaumaturge, Morgan “Witchlet” Miranda. Also in the knapsack, almost by accident, is a set of Xena: Warrior Princess action figures — dollies — that Witchlet bought on a whim while Drummond‘s team was in Hong Kong recovering the Vessel.
All of the stuff that happens comes to a climax in which the Vessel is destroyed, Astarté is nearly killed, Drummond is hunted by the Greek police for the destruction of Olympia House and for questioning as to the whereabouts of Hephaestus and Aphrodite. (The cops don’t know they’re Gods, just that they’re prominent citizens.) MacGuffin secret: At the climax of events (SPOILER) Witchlet is killed defending Drummond and her teammates from Astarté. As the team climbs aboard the plane that hustles them out of the country, one of the local Trolls hands Drummond Witchlet‘s knapsack. Drummond looks in it, meaning to pitch it — the Vessel‘s been destroyed, after all. He discovers… the dollies. He keeps the dollies for Witchlet.
Months later, Drummond is back home in Cincinnati. He has landed in a job at the Center, (working ironically enough for Marduk, who, Drummond is unaware, was behind in the recent troubles in Greece), and is settling into a loft apartment he’s kept for all the years he worked for Hephaestus. He sets the dollies on the windowsill over his computer and forgets about them. Then, one night, he’s doing something on his computer when he realizes that the Gabrielle Dolly is sitting on top of his monitor, watching him work.
Much wackiness ensues. Dolly‘s adventures as a 12″ action figure in a world that is unaware of — indeed indifferent to — her existence. Through it all, she learns about life. She and Drummond fall in love — she with a father figure (they admit it to themselves) and he with the indomitable spirit which has animated this toy. (She is only one of six, by the way, but the others are supporting players.) And she conceives a desire to be a Real Grrl. He conceives a desire to help her. They approach the Center‘s chief Thaumaturge — Jonathan Redpath — with a plan. They’re going to finish Aphrodite’s Genesis Project. They’re going to build a clone body for the Gabrielle dolly‘s anima. (End of Pinocchia.)
DOLLY: THE TRUE STORY
BOOK I: THE GENESIS UNDERTAKING (pub 2016)
At 7:30PM (sunset) on February 14, 1998, Gabrielle Francesca East is reincarnated into an autocloned human body. She is immediately taken under arrest and hauled before a convocation of the Gods, where she is anathematized. Loki calls for her destruction. The convocation breaks up in the midst of political infighting. In the confusion, Hephaestus orders Terry Britten — the Director of the Center for X Studies — to get Dolly clear of the mess. She in turn hands the task off to one of the Trolls of her personal protection detail, Petra Alexandra Troll (Pete).
For the next twelve hours, accompanied and guided by a 19-year-old Troll trooper (Pete, a butter-bar lieutenant and Bobbo a captain about to be promoted to major.) Dolly struggles to survive the efforts of Loki‘s party among the Gods to kill her and destroy the Genesis Project once and for all. Hephaestus and Aphrodite — returned from hiding following the events of two years earlier — attempt to aid her, with mixed results. In all the excitement, Astarté stalks Dolly and Pete across the campus. (SPOILER): She catches up with them in a lab in the Thaum tower. Acting on instinct, with weapons that seem to just fall into her hands Dolly beheads Astarté, killing her. The body appears to be trying to regain the head. In a near-panic, Pete thrusts the head into a nearby electric furnace, incinerating it. Thus do they stumble on the tactics of killing Gods. Dolly and Pete flee the East College campus in a snowstorm on a motorcycle and race south toward the mountains. At 7:30 (sunrise) on February 15, 1998, she is free and clear.
DISCOVERY: THE ORIGIN PROTOCOLS (in process Spring 2016)
BEGINNING ON THE 15th, MARDUK RAMPS UP OPERATIONS on his mirror of Aphrodite’s Genesis project. He had initially begun his pirated parallel to the official project. (SPOILER): But, when he learned of Astarté‘s death, he immediately shifted his focus to reincarnating her in a purpose-built body. To learn how the process works and develop the expertise it had taken Redpath 500 years to gain, he complete the planned Genesis of each of the other five dollies. They all escape or are rescued by Drummond and Dolly and the newly-formed Troll Action Team — the current instantiation of Drummond‘s former Executive Action team from Hey Aye.
THE DOLLY APOCRYPHA
IT IS DURING THIS PERIOD THAT THE STORIES OF THE DOLLY APOCRYPHA take place — thirteen stories, shorts to novels in length. (These stories have long been on the Web and are currently (2013-2016) being drafted into novels for indie publication. (2016: and eventually melded into Canon)) These were the stories that started the whole thing off — written as email messages on a mailing list for Xena: Warrior Princess fen — The Center for Xena Studies (CFXS). Much of the background in these early stories is necessarily being altered as I try to refine the Dolly stories for professional publication. (See section on the Dolly Apocrypha below.)