Malum Necessarium, The Beast Itself
What is the Kerberos Club?
There’s no simple answer—especially considering how it counts as members some of the Empire’s most notorious liars. But some things are fairly clear. The Club is a safe harbor for the Strange, the uncanny, and the unconventional. It’s an egalitarian enclave free from the prejudices of the outside world. It permits characters of wildly different social and cultural backgrounds to mingle freely. Kerberans look into things which don’t concern them. They meddle. Sometimes they solve mysteries and reveal truths. Other times they hide them. Their notions of what’s good for the Empire are certainly not conventional, or particularly easy for the Club’s critics to even quantify. They keep their own secret well, yet consider it their duty to ferret out those of others. Sometimes their actions are . . . questionable. The Club watches out for its own, promotes its bohemian egalitarianism, meets weird and superhuman threats, and sometimes recruits them. They are almost the antithesis of the age’s zietgiest, yet the Queen dotes on them in Her way. The Club welcomes all who meet its peculiar standards—foreigners, faeries, criminals, soldiers, ladies of the evening, gentlemen of fallen fortunes, maestro magi and cunning charlatans, rogue engineers, frightening philosophers, the monsters of the elder world, and the new creatures spawned by progress and science run mad. Even the Irish, much to the consternation of the Club’s neighbors. In one of the Club’s dim and comfortable sitting rooms, it’s not uncommon to find two sworn enemies—arch-rivals sharing space, sharing pages from the same paper.
The Charter, the Rolls, and Grand Old Tradition
The Club has few rules, but the ones it does h 26 ave rise to the level of the sacrosanct. All members sign the Club’s Charter, which describes the three Laws governing the comportment of Club members among themselves and when dealing with the outside world, as well as a collection of Bylaws which describe such mundane matters as the Club’s financing. Once the Laws and Bylaws are signed, a Kerberan’s name is added to the Rolls, the list of all members of the Club, current and past. The Rolls are writ upon a vellum made in the old way by Peecher & Sons papermakers, and bound into a somewhat ragged and much-stained book. The Rolls are huge, and lend credence to the pretensions of ancient origins. The oldest names in the Rolls are not even written in a recognizable alphabet, and their paper is crumbling birch bark. But before signing, one must be nominated by an existing member. A prospective Kerberan is observed from afar (in all the Strange ways available to members of the Club) by the nominating member’s circle of friends and associates, and any other interested parties who ferret out the nominee. Ungentlemanlike meddling is second nature to long-standing Kerberans, after all, and wooing a new member to the Club is a marvelous way to shape the new member to one’s own philosophies. Once the period of observation is complete (especially if a particularly adept prospect realizes he is being inspected), the Kerberans devise some manner of challenge to test the mettle of the prospect.
This is the greatest of the Club’s esoteric Traditions, the practices and rituals passed down from earlier members for sometimes obscure reasons, and often to no clear point or purpose. On the anniversary of the death of Napoleon Bonaparte, for example, it is considered unlucky to pass through the door of the Kerberos Club facing forwards or backwards, and one should pass through sideways instead. Young members rarely engage in such foolishness, but the longer they belong, the more they find themselves participating in the Traditions. Perhaps it is because they have learned the true purposes of them, and fear the consequences of not obeying. The Tradition of the Challenge is not frivolously dispensed with. Challenging one’s prospective Kerberan is as close to a sacrosanct duty as the Club comes.
The Earthly home of the Kerberos Club is its house on the Square of Saint James, just off Pall Mall, a terribly fashionable district of London’s fancy West End. The Club is a constant reminder to all those other proper gentlemen, visiting their proper clubs for some proper cards and a proper drink with some proper company, that the world, despite the fervent wishes of the middle classes, simply isn’t a proper place. All sorts of people come and go from the Kerberos Club at all hours of the day or night. Some scarcely even qualify as human. Possibly worse, some scarcely qualify as British, or Male, or Gentlemanly. Indeed, some are Women (from the Fallen to
the Ennobled), Dwarfs, Actors, Tradesman, Indians, Negros, Circus Folk, Disgraced Officers, Famed Spiritualists, Street Children and, God save us, even the Irish.