‘Black Hat: A Ballad Opera in Two Criminal Acts’ – Act One

It may surprise you to know that in addition to my entirely normal and intelligent work on this blog I also constantly work on various projects which are silly and/or dumb.

One of these, ongoing since I was in university, is a modern ballad opera all about being a supervillain, using tunes taken from musical theatre and outdated pop music and filk-style rewritten lyrics.

Anyway, I finally got around to giving the thing a script, and I’m uploading the first act here in order to motivate myself to finish the second one.

Please open and enjoy this Black Hat Act One script.

 

Featuring:

 


Support silly dumb projects like this here.

Undertale

☁️☁️☁️🌄☁️☁️☁️

⛰️⛰️⛰️⛰️⛰️⛰️⛰️

💛💜🧡🗑️💚🖤💙
🛤️
🌱🌱🌼👹🌼🌱🌱
🌱🌱🌼🛤️🌼🌱🌱
🏙️🏙️🏙️🏰🏙️🏙️🏙️
🛤️
🔋🔋🎤🤖💋🔋🔋
🔋👼👀🛤️🧙🦹🔋
🔋🔋⚙️🏢⚙️🔋🔋
🏜️🏜️🏜️🛤️🏜️🏜️🏜️
🏜️🏜️🏩🐈🐊
🏜️🏜️🎂🛤️🎭🏜️🏜️
🏜️🕸️🕸️🕷️🕸️🕸️🏜️
🏜️🏜️🥯🛤️🥯🏜️🏜️
🏜️🍦🤺🚪🤺💞🏜️
🏜️✈️🛤️🌋🏜️🏜️
🏜️🎌⚗️🦖🔬🎌🏜️
🏜️🏜️🏜️🏢🏜️🏜️🏜️
🏜️🏜️🧴🛤️🏜️🏜️🏜️
💦💦🧜💦💦
💦🐢😓🛤️🐥😽💦
💦🌌🎶🗿🌌💦
💦🌸🌸🛤️🌸🌸💦
💦💦‼️♟️🗯️💦💦
🌊🌊🚮🚮🚮🌊🌊
💦💦🌾🌉👶💦💦
💦🧅🦄🛤️🍮🧽💦
🌨️🌨️
☁️💀☁️🌨️🌨️
🌨️🌨️
☁️🛤️☁️🌨️🌨️
🌨️🐰🏘️🏘️🏘️🔥🌨️
🌨️🧊🛤️🐕🏒🌨️
🌨️🛸🦌🛤️🐲🎩🌨️
🌨️🌨️🌨️🛤️💀💤🌨️
🚪
🐮
🛤️
🍂🥧🛋️🛏️🌵🧦🍂
🍂🍂🍂🏚️🍂🍂🍂
🍂🍂🍂👻💤🍂🍂
🍂🍂🧁🛤️🐜🍂🍂
🍂🍠👁️🛤️🐸🧚🍂
🍂🍂🍂♟️🍂🍂🍂
🌼
❤️
⛰️⛰️⛰️🕳️⛰️⛰️⛰️

 


The support request fills you with determination.

Headlines, Compared

The National Reporter, issue dated 9th October 2020: ‘Small Earthquakes Forecast Across Country‘.

The Daily Updates, webpage accessed 9th October 2020: ‘EARTHQUAKE WARNINGS‘.

The Following Weekly, issue dated 16th October 2020: ‘You Can’t Run, Trent‘.


The National Reporter, issue dated 10th October 2020: ‘Earthquakes “Not Consistent with Existing Models” claims Study‘.

The Daily Updates, webpage accessed 10th October 2020: ‘Eight City Councilmen Accused of Art Theft‘.

The Following Weekly, issue dated The Glorious First New Dawn of the Third Age: ‘Mandom Trent Remainingly Evades Cleanseness, Well Done, Gold Star, Keep Trying, Fucko‘.


The National Reporter, issue dated 11th October 2020: ‘Scientists Divided on Cosmic Lightshow‘.

The Daily Updates, webpage accessed 11th October 2020: ‘Link Between Unexplained Lights and Earthquakes?‘.

The Following Weekly, issue dated Third Age Glory Dawn 2: ‘We’re Still Doing This for You, Trent. This is All Just for You‘.


The National Reporter, issue dated 12th October 2020: ‘Everything Continues Fine‘.

The Daily Updates, webpage accessed 12th October 2020: ‘Everything Continues Fine‘.

The Following Weekly, issue dated Death of Trent: ‘Mandom Trent Defies Reason, Nature, Order, Gooddom; Is Also Loser‘.


Untitled sheet of paper shoved through every door with a letterbox simultaneously on 13th October 2020 in place of any expected post: ‘Cleanseness to be Start‘.

The Following Weekly, issue dated in uninterpretable presumed numerals: ‘Trent, Enemy of People, Brought to Cleanseness by Herosome Group Effort; Remnant Language Henceforth to Retire’.


The Following Weekly, issue dated in uninterpretable presumed numerals: [Headline Indecipherable].

 


Local Writer Remainingly Seeks Support

Headlines on Several Issues of a Newspaper Apparently Called ‘The Following Weekly’ Which I Found in the House of my Neighbour Trent on Friday the Ninth of October 2020 After He and His Car Both Vanished in the Night and Left his Front Door Wide Open with the Keys Still In It

Issue dated Friday 9th October 2020; found at the very bottom of the recycling bin that would have been collected that morning had he left it out: ‘Small Earthquakes Forecast Across Country‘.

Issue dated Saturday 10th October 2020; found part-way down the recycling bin: ‘Eight City Councilmen Accused of Art Theft‘.

Issue dated Sunday 11th October 2020; found on the kitchen table, next to an open laptop (out of battery): ‘Scientists Divided on Cause of Cosmic Lightshow‘.

Issue dated Monday 12th October 2020; found roughly stuffed into living room bin: ‘Everything Continues Fine‘.

Issue dated Tuesday 13th October 2020; found spread out across living room floor: ‘Cleanseness to be Start‘.

Moderate amount of grey-black ash; found partially coating the front door letterbox, partially in a smear down the inside of the door, partially gathered in a disturbed pile on the carpet just inside and partially tracked back and forth through the hall, containing also a dozen charred paper scraps of varying sizes, on one of which can be made out the majority of the word Mandom‘.

Issue dated Friday 16th October 2020, albeit in a less clear and more abstract font; came through the letterbox of the still-open door just as the first earthquake started while I was searching the house, even though there was no-one outside and no sound of footsteps before or after: ‘You Can’t Run, Trent‘.

 


Local Writer Seeks Support

The Naming of Cats: Calum P Cameron Answers Weird Questions No-one Was Asking

The Naming of Cats is a difficult matter,
It isn’t just one of your holiday games;
You may think at first I’m as mad as a hatter
When I tell you, a cat must have THREE DIFFERENT NAMES.

That is the teaching of Thomas Stearns Eliot – or, more precisely, of Old Possum, the semi-fictional character in whose voice Eliot narrates his felinocentric poems in Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. Or perhaps, originally, of The Man in White Spats, whom the book is dedicated to and by whom, in the first draft, the majority of the poems were implied to have been related to the narrator.

It’s actually very possible that, in Eliot’s intended meta-narrative, the Man in White Spats is Old Possum, and Eliot’s basically just a literary agent or ghost writer, relating the white-spatted Old Possum’s tales as they were first told to him that one fateful day at the Princess Louise.

Regardless, the chances are very good that if you recognise the above quote, it’s as the teaching of Munkustrap the Jellicle Cat in one or other version of the musical Cats (or, less likely, but slightly cooler, of that one old man played by Peter Ustinov in Logan’s Run).

Now, the poem goes on to give us an explanation of the three different names, and examples of each kind, and the rest of the book goes on to mention many cats by name, but usually does not make it clear which of the three names for any given cat is being used.

And this “difficult matter” business sounds to me like a challenge. I am currently sort of on holiday as I write this (technically it’s mandatory quarantine leave, but let’s not split hairs), and I’m ready to play this game just to spite T.S. Eliot, or Old Possum, or the Man in White Spats, or Munkustrap, or Peter Ustinov, or whoever.

Let’s name some motherfrikkin cats.

The poem continues:

First of all, there’s the name that the family use daily,
Such as Peter, Augustus, Alonzo or James,
Such as Victor or Jonathan, George or Bill Bailey–
All of them sensible everyday names.
There are fancier names if you think they sound sweeter,
Some for the gentlemen, some for the dames:
Such as Plato, Admetus, Electra, Demeter–
But all of them sensible everyday names.

So, we have our first type of name – the Everyday Name – and a list of confirmed Everyday Names for twelve different cats. Here’s a table:

Everyday Name ??? ???
Peter
Augustus
Alonzo
James
Victor
Jonathan
George
Bill Bailey
Plato
Admetus
Electra
Demeter

Good start. No more information to be gleaned from here. Back to the poem.

But I tell you, a cat needs a name that’s particular,
A name that’s peculiar, and more dignified,
Else how can he keep up his tail perpendicular,
Or spread out his whiskers, or cherish his pride?
Of names of this kind, I can give you a quorum,
Such as Munkustrap, Quaxo, or Coricopat,
Such as Bombalurina, or else Jellylorum-
Names that never belong to more than one cat.

O-kay. Getting somewhere. The Everyday Name is what the cat’s human family call them normally, and it might be something very common that many cats share. The Particular Name is a unique and much stranger moniker that distinguishes this cat from every other cat in history. No way to tell yet whether the five Particular Names we are given as a quorum (literally “the minimum number of examples necessary to fulfil the purpose they were gathered for” – apparently that’s “five” when the purpose is “inform people about cat names”) are those of any of the cats whose Everyday Names we were already given, so we’ll keep them separate for now.

Everyday Name Particular Name ???
Peter
Augustus
Alonzo
James
Victor
Jonathan
George
Bill Bailey
Plato
Admetus
Electra
Demeter
Munkustrap
Quaxo
Coricopat
Bombalurina
Jellylorum

Let’s finish off this poem and extract any remaining data from its remnants like a scavenger seeking nutrients:

But above and beyond there’s still one name left over,
And that is the name that you never will guess;
The name that no human research can discover–
But THE CAT HIMSELF KNOWS, and will never confess.
When you notice a cat in profound meditation,
The reason, I tell you, is always the same:
His mind is engaged in a rapt contemplation
Of the thought, of the thought, of the thought of his name:
His ineffable effable
Effanineffable
Deep and inscrutable singular Name.

The third name is the Ineffable Name, and it is undiscoverable by human research, so there’s no way to get examples for that.

Okay.

Tough one.

Let’s leave that for now. I am, unfortunately, a human, and therefore kind of at a dead end when it comes to providing answers no human research can discover. I’d ask any cats in the audience to offer examples of their own, but it says right there the cats will never confess, those bastards.

That’s all we can get from the poem itself. Let’s expand our search to the rest of Old Possum’s book. The published version of the book contains thirteen other poems after “The Naming of Cats”, or fourteen if you have one of the later editions, and several cats are mentioned by name in these:

This gives us a lot to work with, but none of these names are explicitly singled out as either Everyday or Particular. Lets add a column to the table:

Everyday Name Particular Name [Unknown]
Peter
Augustus
Alonzo
James
Victor
Jonathan
George
Bill Bailey
Plato
Admetus
Electra
Demeter
Munkustrap
Quaxo
Coricopat
Bombalurina
Jellylorum
Jennyanydots
Growltiger
Grumbuskin
Tumblebrutus
Lady Griddlebone
Gilbert
The Rum Tum Tugger
Mungojerrie
Rumpleteazer
Old Deuteronomy
The Great Rumpus Cat
Mr Mistoffelees
Macavity
Asparagus
Bustopher Jones
Skimbleshanks
James Buz-James
Morgan

All right, let’s tackle these unknowns.

A few of these can be identified within the text as being “used daily” (or at least frequently) by “the family” that owns the cat in question (or at least by the humans that live and/or work with them), which, as has been established, makes them Everyday Names.

Most obviously in this category are Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer (“then the family will say, “It’s that horrible cat! / It was Mungojerrie! Or Rumpleteazer!”), Old Deuteronomy (“Then the landlady from her back parlour will peep / And say: “New then, out you go, by the back door, / For Old Deuteronomy mustn’t be woken”), Asparagus (“His name, as I ought to have mentioned before, / Is really ‘Asparagus’. That’s such a fuss / To pronounce that we usually call him just ‘Gus'”), Skimbleshanks (“All the guards and all the porters / And the stationmaster’s daughters, / They are searching high and low, / Saying, “Skimble – Where is Skimble?”) James Buz-James (“I’ve heard them call him James Buz-James”) and Morgan (And everyone says, and I guess that’s enough: / “You can’t but like Morgan, ‘e’s got a kind ‘art.”).

Of these, it’s notable that we already have a James as one of Possum’s examples of Everyday Names, so it’s probably safe to assume that this James Buz-James is the James he was thinking of there.

Let’s tidy up the table:

Everyday Name Particular Name [Unknown]
Peter
Augustus
Alonzo
James Buz-James
Victor
Jonathan
George
Bill Bailey
Plato
Admetus
Electra
Demeter
Mungojerrie
Rumpleteazer
Old Deuteronomy
Asparagus
Skimbleshanks
Morgan
Munkustrap
Quaxo
Coricopat
Bombalurina
Jellylorum
Jennyanydots
Growltiger
Grumbuskin
Tumblebrutus
Lady Griddlebone
Gilbert
The Rum Tum Tugger
The Great Rumpus Cat
Mr Mistoffelees
Macavity
Bustopher Jones

Also worth mentioning this to get it out of the way – “the Rum Tum Tugger” and “the Great Rumpus Cat” both sound a lot more like titles than names. In Tugger’s case, though, it’s probably not, because he is given an official capitalised title in the same line that he is introduced: “The Rum Tum Tugger is a Curious Cat”. Most of the cats only seem to have one title (excepting Macavity, who is the Mystery Cat but is also called the Hidden Paw and the Napoleon of Crime – but these latter two are clearly criminal aliases, rather than titles for the kind of cat he is).

Rumpus, however… yeah, that one’s a lot more suspect. It follows the established titling formula too well. Curious Cat. Theatre Cat. Mystery Cat. Great Rumpus Cat.

Dang it. Let’s add another column. While we’re at it, we can add any other capitalised Cat Titles we find in these poems:

Title Everyday Name Particular Name [Unknown]
Peter
Augustus
Alonzo
James Buz-James
Victor
Jonathan
George
Bill Bailey
Plato
Admetus
Electra
Demeter
Mungojerrie
Rumpleteazer
Old Deuteronomy
The Theatre Cat Asparagus
The Railway Cat Skimbleshanks
Morgan
Munkustrap
Quaxo
Coricopat
Bombalurina
Jellylorum
The Old Gumbie Cat Jennyanydots
The Bravo Cat Growltiger
Grumbuskin
Tumblebrutus
The Lady Griddlebone
Gilbert
The Curious Cat The Rum Tum Tugger
The Original Conjuring Cat Mr Mistoffelees
The Mystery Cat Macavity
The Cat About Town Bustopher Jones
The Great Rumpus Cat
The Fiend of the Fell Firefrorefiddle

We’ve done pretty well here at identifying cat names and even pairing them up with titles, but we’re still not very much closer to assigning any of these names as being two of the names for the same cat, which is what would really clean this table up.

Such a task may not be possible from Old Possum’s texts alone. No. For that, we must broaden our scope for source material once more. For that… we must look to the musical.

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats is one of the most successful and well-known musicals of all time, for reasons unknown to any human science. It has been performed many times in many places, most notably in London, on Broadway, on TV in 1998 and on the big screen in 2019. With a small number of exceptions, all of the character names and, indeed, all of the words in Cats are taken from the works of T.S. Eliot – usually from Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. If there is any one text about Old Possum’s cats that is generally considered to be more-or-less canon other than the book itself, it’s this musical.

And this musical actually helps us a bunch here. Starting with this guy:

MrMistoffelees
You can tell it was the 90s

That there is Mr Mistoffelees, the Original Conjuring Cat, as played in the musical (specifically the filmed 98 version). We know he’s Mr Mistoffelees, because he’s identified as such by the Rum Tum Tugger explicitly.

But here’s the thing – that cat has lines in some of the songs, and in the script, that there cat isn’t actually down as “Mr Mistoffelees”.

In the script, his name is given as Quaxo.

This gives us our first clear example of a cat with an established Particular Name (Quaxo) being also given another, more commonplace name (Mr Mistoffelees – okay, it’s not much more commonplace, but it is the kind of thing a family might call their cat).

And we needn’t stop there.

When the show moved from London to Broadway, they renamed a lot of the characters in the script for… some reason? It’s never noticeable, because they never renamed any of the ones who actually get identified by name in the musical, but in one or two cases it does give us a canon connection between some of these names.

You see ‘Bill Bailey’ and ‘Tumblebrutus’ on the table up there? Between London and Broadway, those are two different names used for the same cat.

Admittedly, the cat in question is a kitten, so it’s hard to see how this can possibly be the same Tumblebrutus as is Growltiger’s bosun – especially since Growltiger was originally portrayed by the musical as a long-dead historical character whom Gus the Theatre Cat once portrayed onstage… but the musical actually gives us an answer for that puzzle too, sort of.

See, Old Deuteronomy’s poem describes him as “a Cat who has lived many lives in succession” – possibly in reference to the common idea of cats having nine lives. The musical took that idea of cats being able to live multiple lives is succession and ran with it. The plot of the musical, in fact, centres around a competition between cats to earn the right to ascend to the ‘Heaviside Layer’ (it may or may not be the actual Heaviside Layer; this musical is very unclear about everything – for what it’s worth, they take the idea from a fragment of Eliot’s writings where ascending to the Heaviside Layer in a balloon full of cats and dogs would be the eventual fate of the Man in White Spats mentioned above, because T.S. Eliot was permanently off his goddamn rocker), which somehow magically rejuvenates them so that they can be reborn and live a new, different life. I guess Tumblebrutus somehow won such a contest some time after the death of his captain, and now he’s a sweet little kitten again.

In the contest covered by the plot of the musical, by the way, the eventual winner is Grizabella the Glamour Cat, who is actually a cat from a cat-themed poem that T.S. Eliot didn’t include in any edition of Old Possum’s Book, apparently because his publisher convinced him it was too much of a downer.

The Broadway musical also changed the name of Gilbert – Growltiger’s Siamese nemesis – to Genghis, possibly because the Americans couldn’t imagine anyone ever giving a Siamese cat a name that wasn’t at least a little bit racist. I have no idea, out of those two names, which one is Everyday and which one is Particular, but it gives us a starting point.

The other examples of doubled-up naming from the musical are less useful. There are a couple of cats not named in Old Possum’s Book that show up in the musical under more than one name – Jemima/Silabub, Carbucketty/Pouncival – that we can add to the table for completionism’s sake. In each of these two cases, one of those names is very obviously more “everyday” than the other, so we can reasonably hazard a guess at which name is which. I mean, okay, “Pouncival” is not a real name, but it sounds a lot more like something a real person might name a real cat than Carbucketty.

And then there’s one outright counterproductive inclusion, in that by this logic Plato and Admetus are given as somehow alternative names for each other. Fortunately, we don’t have to do the work of untangling that, because the 1998 filmed version of the musical already did it for us, having Plato and Admetus being very definitely two different cats who both appear onstage at the same time and just happen to look vaguely similar. Crisis averted.

While we’re applying this to our table, we might as well add in the other new cat names provided by the musical, because we can.

Title Everyday Name Particular Name [Unknown]
Peter
Augustus
Alonzo
James Buz-James
Victor
Jonathan
George
Bill Bailey Tumblebrutus
Plato
Admetus
Electra
Demeter
Mungojerrie
Rumpleteazer
Old Deuteronomy
The Theatre Cat Asparagus
The Railway Cat Skimbleshanks
Morgan
Munkustrap
The Original Conjuring Cat Mr Mistoffelees Quaxo
Coricopat
Bombalurina
Jellylorum
The Old Gumbie Cat Jennyanydots
The Bravo Cat Growltiger
Grumbuskin
The Lady Griddlebone
Gilbert/Genghis Genghis/Gilbert
The Curious Cat The Rum Tum Tugger
The Mystery Cat Macavity
The Cat About Town Bustopher Jones
Cassandra
Etcetera
Exotica
The Glamour Cat Grizzabella
Jemima Silabub
Pouncival Carbucketty
Tantomile
Victoria
Murad
Noilly Prat
Olivia

Some of the weirder of these names (Tantomile? Noilly Prat?) are actually taken from fragmentary quotes from T. S. Eliot, often writings to his godchildren or conversations recounted by his widow, where he – again, seemingly in character as Old Possum – suggests various stupid cat names because that was just a thing that man did. Like, for fun, I guess. It seems prudent, then, to expand our Canon of Cat Names further to include these writings and accounts. In many of these cases, he also specifies what kind of cat these names should be for, from which we can deduce their corresponding titles – and, similarly, one of his letters clarifies that Jellylorum is a Lilliecat, whatever the heck that is.

In one notable case in these letters, we are actually given further insight to the Everyday and Particular names of one of these cats – Murad, according to one of Eliot’s letters to one of his godchildren, was properly Mirza Murad Ali Beg, but to his owner in his flat he was known, for some reason, as Wiskuscat.

Also worth mentioning that Mirza Murad Ali Beg is named (although not strictly identified as a cat) in Eliot’s poem “Lines for Cuscuscaraway and Mirza Murad Ali Beg“, which despite it’s name is actually just a poem about how much of a massive buzzkill Mr Eliot himself is, but does also give us two new Cat Titles (Wopsical and Porpentine). My research into the matter has not been able to confirm whether or not Cuscuscaraway is also a cat, so to be safe they are left out of my considerations here.

Time to update this table:

Title Everyday Name Particular Name [Unknown]
Peter
Augustus
Alonzo
James Buz-James
Victor
Jonathan
George
Bill Bailey Tumblebrutus
Plato
Admetus
Electra
Demeter
Mungojerrie
Rumpleteazer
Old Deuteronomy
The Theatre Cat Asparagus
The Railway Cat Skimbleshanks
Morgan
Munkustrap
The Original Conjuring Cat Mr Mistoffelees Quaxo
Coricopat
Bombalurina
The Lilliecat Jellylorum
The Old Gumbie Cat Jennyanydots
The Bravo Cat Growltiger
Grumbuskin
The Lady Griddlebone
Gilbert/Genghis Genghis/Gilbert
The Curious Cat The Rum Tum Tugger
The Mystery Cat Macavity
The Cat About Town Bustopher Jones
The Fiend of the Fell Firefrorefiddle
Cassandra
Etcetera
Exotica
The Glamour Cat Grizzabella
Jemima Silabub
The Knockabout Cat Pouncival Carbucketty
The Witch’s Cat Tantomile
Victoria
The Musical Box Wiskuscat Mirza Murad Ali Beg
The Elegant Cat Noilly Prat
Olivia
The Great Rumpus Cat
The Porpentine Cat
The Wopsical Cat

Now that‘s a table of data. Time to make some basic assumptions and get logical.

Assumption One: It’s unlikely that Old Possum would refer to multiple cats by different kinds of name in the same sentence. That just seems weird – like referring to a Royal Couple as “Lizzie and His Royal Highness Prince Philip”, you know?

On this basis, we can assume that, if Tumblebrutus is a Particular Name, then Grumbuskin (mentioned in the same sentence as Tumblebrutus in “Growltiger’s Last Stand”) is also a Particular Name. And similarly, if Mungojerrie is an Everyday Name, then Griddlebone (mentioned in the same sentence as Mungojerrie in “Macavity: The Mystery Cat”) is probably also an Everyday Name, and thus Growltiger himself, who is not mentioned in the same sentence as Tumblebrutus and Grumbuskin but is mentioned in the same sentence as Griddlebone, is also going by his Everyday Name there.

Less certain, but also tenuously valid by the same logic – since Carbucketty, Tantomile and Noilly Prat are recited in rapid succession along with their titles in Eliot’s widow’s account of his name-giving, it may be reasonable to assume they are all the same kind of name – and so, if Carbucketty is a Particular Name, then likewise are Tantomile and Noilly Prat.

Assumption Two: Anything that is a commonplace real life name is more likely to be an Everyday Name than a Particular Name. After all, Particular Names can never denote more than one cat, so if it seems likely that at least two cats had already been given a certain name by their owners at the time Old Possum told us their name, that name cannot be a Particular Name. I am looking at you, Olivia, Victoria and Cassandra.

That gives us this:

Title Everyday Name Particular Name [Unknown]
Peter
Augustus
Alonzo
James Buz-James
Victor
Jonathan
George
Bill Bailey Tumblebrutus
Plato
Admetus
Electra
Demeter
Mungojerrie
Rumpleteazer
Old Deuteronomy
The Theatre Cat Asparagus
The Railway Cat Skimbleshanks
Morgan
Munkustrap
The Original Conjuring Cat Mr Mistoffelees Quaxo
Coricopat
Bombalurina
The Lilliecat Jellylorum
The Old Gumbie Cat Jennyanydots
The Bravo Cat Growltiger
Grumbuskin
The Lady Griddlebone
Gilbert/Genghis Genghis/Gilbert
The Curious Cat The Rum Tum Tugger
The Mystery Cat Macavity
The Cat About Town Bustopher Jones
The Fiend of the Fell Firefrorefiddle
Cassandra
Etcetera
Exotica
The Glamour Cat Grizzabella
Jemima Silabub
The Knockabout Cat Pouncival Carbucketty
The Witch’s Cat Tantomile
Victoria
The Musical Box Wiskuscat Mirza Murad Ali Beg
The Elegant Cat Noilly Prat
Olivia
The Great Rumpus Cat
The Porpentine Cat
The Wopsical Cat

We’re now at the point where we might need to start thinking a little less mathematically if we want to clear up the rest of these gaps.

For example, we have a pirate cat whose Particular Name is Grumbuskin, with no known Everyday Name, and we have two pirate cats – Growltiger and Morgan with Everyday Names but no known Particular Names. We know Grumbuskin isn’t Growltiger, because he was Growltiger’s mate. That doesn’t necessarily mean that Grumbuskin and Morgan are the same cat, but, come on, Grumbuskin and Morgan are probably the same cat. Nobody needs that many different pirate cats.

Similarly, look, I know it seems like Macavity ought to be put down as an everyday name since it seems to be the name the police know him by, but, hear me out: that’s just what Macavity wants you to think. He’s the master criminal who can defy the law, remember.

Let’s say, as a thought experiment, that Macavity is actually his Particular Name, and he lives secretly under a far more normal Everyday Name as part of his web of deception?

You know what else Macavity is? He’s the Napoleon of Crime, and he’s very tall and thin, with sunken-in eyes and a dusty coat.

You know who else fits that description, right down to using the Napoleon title? Professor James Moriarty.

You heard me. I’m saying Old Possum’s friendly “cat next door” James Buz-James is none other than the Hidden Paw himself, masterfully fooling his owners and neighbours into thinking him a harmless, commonplace sort of creature.

Let’s combine some entries:

Title Everyday Name Particular Name [Unknown]
Peter
Augustus
Alonzo
The Mystery Cat James Buz-James Macavity
Victor
Jonathan
George
Bill Bailey Tumblebrutus
Plato
Admetus
Electra
Demeter
Mungojerrie
Rumpleteazer
Old Deuteronomy
The Theatre Cat Asparagus
The Railway Cat Skimbleshanks
Morgan Grumbuskin
Munkustrap
The Original Conjuring Cat Mr Mistoffelees Quaxo
Coricopat
Bombalurina
The Lilliecat Jellylorum
The Old Gumbie Cat Jennyanydots
The Bravo Cat Growltiger
The Lady Griddlebone
Gilbert/Genghis Genghis/Gilbert
The Curious Cat The Rum Tum Tugger
The Cat About Town Bustopher Jones
The Fiend of the Fell Firefrorefiddle
Cassandra
Etcetera
Exotica
The Glamour Cat Grizzabella
Jemima Silabub
The Knockabout Cat Pouncival Carbucketty
The Witch’s Cat Tantomile
Victoria
The Musical Box Wiskuscat Mirza Murad Ali Beg
The Elegant Cat Noilly Prat
Olivia
The Great Rumpus Cat
The Porpentine Cat
The Wopsical Cat

Now let’s put on our tinfoil hats.

Olivia and Exotica stand out as two cats whose names don’t seem to turn up anywhere in Eliot’s own writings; only in productions of the musical. They’re both female cats, both background characters with not much of a canon personality. They’re both very rare inclusions – Exotica is mostly only present in the 1998 filmed version, while Olivia is only ever included in Australasian productions, starting in 2001, so they’ve never been seen in the same room at the same time. Exotica is scripted as a kitten while Olivia is an adult. You see where I’m going with this: Exotica grew up over the course of those three years and moved to Australia to live as Olivia. Exotica is just Olivia’s Particular Name. Boom.

That now leaves Etcetera as the only female name not assigned to any other name or title. And, wouldn’t you know, there’s this one mysterious female cat with a title and an Everyday Name but no Particular Name.

Plot twist: Etcetera the kitten was the nefarious Griddlebone, agent of Macavity and lover of Growltiger, the whole time! Perhaps she followed Tumblebrutus in earning a second life – or perhaps she came first and he follower her; it’s hard to say.

Continuing this logic, let’s look at the other names that don’t explicitly apply to a known cat: There’s no Augustus or Jonathan in any of the poems or any of the productions of the musical that I know of. (Peter, George and Victor occasionally show up in a musical production, but almost always only very rarely and very briefly, so they’re in a similar basket.) It’s weird that these names would be mentioned if they don’t actually belong to any of the cats featured, even though every other name to come up in that poem/song is a fairly major character in the musical script – especially in the stage musical where those names are listed by the chorus of cats themselves. So it’s not too much of a jump to guess that these are the Everyday Names of some of the major characters who are otherwise only ever called by their Particular Names.

We have four male cats who show up as characters in the musical and don’t yet have Everyday Names assigned to them: Munkustrap, Coricopat, the Rum Tum Tugger and Bustopher Jones. The first two are explicitly Particular Names, and the latter two are more or less weird enough to be. Still no idea why Tugger’s name starts with a “the”, especially if it’s a Particular Name, but I’m willing to play the Christopher Robin defence here: “It’s Winnie-THE-Pooh! Don’t you know what THE means?” There’s also the Rumpus Cat who stands out at the only remaining title mentioned in Old Possum’s Book not yet assigned to a cat.

Let’s see if we can match some of these up.

We’ll start with the ones where we have at least some data – the names that have been used in at least one production. According to the worryingly thorough Cats Musical Wiki the role of “Victor” is pretty-much only ever there for Munkustrap’s and/or Tugger’s understudy to have someone to play when he’s not understudying. “Peter”, similarly seems to be the name used for “the guy not currently playing Bustopher or Gus” in productions where those two characters are played by the same guy and only present for one scene each. “George”, apparently, is usually used for the cat that plays The Rumpus Cat in Munkustrap’s in-universe play in cases where the Rumpus Cat isn’t played by Gus, so…

George, absent other evidence, is obviously the Everyday Name of the Rumpus Cat. Done. Gus, we’ve established, is an Everyday Name, which leaves Bustopher Jones as the only possible Particular Name with any connection to “Peter”. Victor has a connection to both Munkustrap and Tugger, but being their understudy means he has been seen in the same room as them, so it’s hard to say whether that’s a point for or against equating him with either. He might just be his own dude who just happens to not show up much. It seems more reasonable to say that Munkustrap and Tugger, in some order, are the same cats as the mysterious Jonathan and Augustus.

And if I have to choose an order – well, it seems to me nobody boring enough to name their cat Jonathan would be willing to put up with the Rum Tum Tugger’s bullcrap.

And, you know what? While we’re here, Noilly Prat only exists in a small number of Australasian productions, usually played by an actress trained to step in for one of the other cats, so it’s reasonable to suggest that she might actually be the same cat as one of the others. Noilly Prat is probably a Particular Name, right? Nobody would think to call their pet Noilly. Noilly Prat is, according to Eliot, an “elegant cat”. That could fit with a few of the more definitively “canon” cats – Victoria and Cassandra, most obviously, although one could argue also potentially Demeter. Wikipedia gives Victoria’s title as “The White Cat” rather than “The Elegant Cat” – it doesn’t give a source for that, and nobody actually said a cat couldn’t have more than one title, but, heck, I’m looking for excuses to narrow down my options at this point.  Plus, the 2019 film makes a point that Victoria only has one name so far as she knows. So I’m giving the Noilly name to Cassandra.

And since we’ve only got three left let’s clear up the last of our Unknown Names. Firefrorefiddle is unquestioningly not something a human person would want to try to pronounce every day. It must be a Particular Name. Grizzabella and Jennyanydots could go either way, but… Grizzabella sounds kind of a mean thing for a person to name a “glamorous” cat, and Jennyanydots seems a bit too much of a mouthful to use every day. I’m putting both down as Particular Names.

Here’s the table now:

Title Everyday Name Particular Name
The Cat About Town Peter Bustopher Jones
Jonathan Munkustrap
Alonzo
The Mystery Cat James Buz-James Macavity
Victor
The Great Rumpus Cat George
Bill Bailey Tumblebrutus
Plato
Admetus
Electra
Demeter
Mungojerrie
Rumpleteazer
Old Deuteronomy
The Theatre Cat Asparagus
The Railway Cat Skimbleshanks
Morgan Grumbuskin
The Original Conjuring Cat Mr Mistoffelees Quaxo
Coricopat
Bombalurina
The Lilliecat Jellylorum
The Old Gumbie Cat Jennyanydots
The Bravo Cat Growltiger
The Lady Griddlebone Etcetera
Gilbert/Genghis Genghis/Gilbert
The Curious Cat Augustus The Rum Tum Tugger
The Fiend of the Fell Firefrorefiddle
Olivia Exotica
The Glamour Cat Grizzabella
Jemima Silabub
The Knockabout Cat Pouncival Carbucketty
The Witch’s Cat Tantomile
The White Cat Victoria
The Musical Box Wiskuscat Mirza Murad Ali Beg
The Elegant Cat Cassandra Noilly Prat
The Porpentine Cat
The Wopsical Cat

…aw wait.

Aw crap.

Dang it, I’ve just realised.

Old Possum never actually said that Gus was short for Asparagus.

He says that his name is “really” Asparagus, but because that’s a fuss to pronounce they call him “Gus”.

“Gus” is traditionally short for Augustus.

Okay dammit, let me revise this. If Asparagus is the Particular Name of Augustus, then Tugger has to be one of the others – at which point, all signs point to Victor.

Try this:

Title Everyday Name Particular Name
The Cat About Town Peter Bustopher Jones
Jonathan Munkustrap
Alonzo
The Mystery Cat James Buz-James Macavity
The Great Rumpus Cat George
Bill Bailey Tumblebrutus
Plato
Admetus
Electra
Demeter
Mungojerrie
Rumpleteazer
Old Deuteronomy
The Theatre Cat Augustus Asparagus
The Railway Cat Skimbleshanks
Morgan Grumbuskin
The Original Conjuring Cat Mr Mistoffelees Quaxo
Coricopat
Bombalurina
The Lilliecat Jellylorum
The Old Gumbie Cat Jennyanydots
The Bravo Cat Growltiger
The Lady Griddlebone Etcetera
Gilbert/Genghis Genghis/Gilbert
The Curious Cat Victor The Rum Tum Tugger
The Fiend of the Fell Firefrorefiddle
Olivia Exotica
The Glamour Cat Grizzabella
Jemima Silabub
The Knockabout Cat Pouncival Carbucketty
The Witch’s Cat Tantomile
The White Cat Victoria
The Musical Box Wiskuscat Mirza Murad Ali Beg
The Elegant Cat Cassandra Noilly Prat
The Porpentine Cat
The Wopsical Cat

Let’s deal with these two unassigned titles. “Porpentine” is actually a real world – it’s an archaic term meaning “like a porcupine”. So… prickly? Eliot is also on record as saying that “porpentine” and “practical” are two different kinds of cat, but admittedly he also said the same thing about Bravo cats and Old Gumbie cats, so it looks like he probably changed his mind about that.

“Wopsical” doesn’t mean anything, but its context in the poem implies that it is something boring and/or unpleasant, at least from the point of view of the aristocratic douchebag that is Mirza Murad Ali Beg.

We also know that the Porpentine and Wopsical cats were both owned by Eliot himself as observed by Murad.

Ah, heck, with nothing else to go on: of all of the cats in Cats, Bombalurina is the one I’d be most likely to describe as “prickly”, and Demeter is the only one even slightly hinted to maybe share a family with Bombalurina so let’s say she’s the other one.

While we’re clearing up titles – Old Deuteronomy gets called “The Jellicle Leader” by Munkustrap in one of his songs. I’ve seen Munkustrap himself called “The Jellicle Protector” in at least one programme. Morgan’s poem is all about him being “the cat at the door”. Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer seem to share the title of “that horrible cat!” and if we’re assuming titles can be shared then Coricopat, who in most productions is canonically Tantomile’s twin, is probably also a witch’s cat if Tantomile is. Gilbert… sorta gets referred to as “the Siamese”?

And while we’re clearing up loose ends… I’m actually gonna say I can’t imagine there’s ever been more than one cat named Gilbert. Whereas I bet there’s been several names Genghis, for good or ill.

The table:

Title Everyday Name Particular Name
The Cat About Town Peter Bustopher Jones
The Jellicle Protector Jonathan Munkustrap
Alonzo
The Mystery Cat James Buz-James Macavity
The Great Rumpus Cat George
Bill Bailey Tumblebrutus
Plato
Admetus
Electra
The Wopsical Cat Demeter
The Horrible Cat Mungojerrie
The Horrible Cat Rumpleteazer
The Jellicle Leader Old Deuteronomy
The Theatre Cat Augustus Asparagus
The Railway Cat Skimbleshanks
The Cat at the Door Morgan Grumbuskin
The Original Conjuring Cat Mr Mistoffelees Quaxo
The Witch’s Cat Coricopat
The Porpentine Cat Bombalurina
The Lilliecat Jellylorum
The Old Gumbie Cat Jennyanydots
The Bravo Cat Growltiger
The Lady Griddlebone Etcetera
The Siamese Genghis Gilbert
The Curious Cat Victor The Rum Tum Tugger
The Fiend of the Fell Firefrorefiddle
Olivia Exotica
The Glamour Cat Grizzabella
Jemima Silabub
The Knockabout Cat Pouncival Carbucketty
The Witch’s Cat Tantomile
The White Cat Victoria
The Musical Box Wiskuscat Mirza Murad Ali Beg
The Elegant Cat Cassandra Noilly Prat

This is… frustratingly close to complete, but I’m not sure we can get it much closer.

If we want to be really pushing it, we could note that Admetus and Electra both sound like the kind of ominous names a witch might give her cats, way more so than any of the other unclaimed Everyday Names up there. Yes, in most productions Admetus and Electra are different cats from Coricopat and Tantomiles, but, well, Everyday Names are the ones that can apply to more than one cat. Maybe those two kittens are feral cats raised in the junkyard (I mean, what responsible owner lets a kitten wander off unsupervised?) and the older cats named them after two of their own. And, heck, it’s weird that Plato isn’t even mentioned again after the opening song in the original London version of the musical, and Firefrorefiddle still needs an Everyday Name, so why not kill two birds with one cat there? Obviously, the little kitten Plato that later turned up on Broadway was born later and , I dunno, maybe Gus or one of Gus’s fans named him.

That would give us this:

Title Everyday Name Particular Name
The Cat About Town Peter Bustopher Jones
The Jellicle Protector Jonathan Munkustrap
Alonzo
The Mystery Cat James Buz-James Macavity
The Great Rumpus Cat George
Bill Bailey Tumblebrutus
The Wopsical Cat Demeter
The Horrible Cat Mungojerrie
The Horrible Cat Rumpleteazer
The Jellicle Leader Old Deuteronomy
The Theatre Cat Augustus Asparagus
The Railway Cat Skimbleshanks
The Cat at the Door Morgan Grumbuskin
The Original Conjuring Cat Mr Mistoffelees Quaxo
The Witch’s Cat Admetus Coricopat
The Porpentine Cat Bombalurina
The Lilliecat Jellylorum
The Old Gumbie Cat Jennyanydots
The Bravo Cat Growltiger
The Lady Griddlebone Etcetera
The Siamese Genghis Gilbert
The Curious Cat Victor The Rum Tum Tugger
The Fiend of the Fell Plato Firefrorefiddle
Olivia Exotica
The Glamour Cat Grizzabella
Jemima Silabub
The Knockabout Cat Pouncival Carbucketty
The Witch’s Cat Electra Tantomile
The White Cat Victoria
The Musical Box Wiskuscat Mirza Murad Ali Beg
The Elegant Cat Cassandra Noilly Prat

There’s really no way to collapse that further, that I can come up with right now.

Still, I think that’s pretty good. They all said it was a difficult matter, and yet, here we are, with a reasonably exhaustive list of canon and semi-canon Everyday and Particular names, and some pretty good theories for the most part on which cats had which.

So. Consider your challenge accepted, Eliot/Possum/Spats/Munkustrap/Ustinov. This is this, and that is that, and that’s how I address your cats.

A Thing of Brass

Katherine Saltzman was one of relatively few people, she suspected, who actually did know what they were expecting when waiting for the doors to open at the bottom of a tiny, single-person, concealed elevator shaft to a secret bunker three kilometres underground, paid for – according to her employers – by meticulously laundered funds skimmed from one hundred and sixty-three separate embezzlement cases across eighteen different megacorporations.

What she was expecting was a secret lab containing the doom-weapon of some fanatical terrorist cult. She’d done this before.

What she was not expecting was a lavish, sprawling luxury hotel suite.

She stepped out, gun-first, very cautiously, every sense on high-alert. Slowly, scanning her surroundings for any sign of a threat, she reached a single hand to her neck and collapsed her breathing mask.

The air tasted sweet and fresh, as if she were standing on a carpet of flowers in the middle of an untouched forest on some remote mountain.

The carpet that her booted heels were sinking into was clearly thick and warm and soft, and a pleasant breeze brushed gently against the skin of her cheek.

It smelled very slightly of lavender and eucalyptus, with just a hint of high-quality scotch whisky underneath.

She could hear the artificial breeze rustling through leaves in an adjoining room, and the soft burble of water, and a chill, unobtrusive background of smooth jazz. Somewhere, either a parrot squawked or a very good recording of a parrot’s squawk was played.

The walls were a bright, airy white marble, accentuated here and there by dark wood panelling and minimalist hanging art. An open-plan layout showed through wide, inviting mahogany doorways and down smooth-polished steps into an indoor bathing lagoon on one side, white sandy pathways snaking lazily between bubbling pools and fountains and showers of water and foam, and a high-ceilinged garden on the other, vine-covered trees spreading a canopy to block out the harshest of the rays from whatever powerful sunlamps were feeding them. The elevator doors that closed behind her, she confirmed with a brief twist of her upper body and neck, were also wood-panelled on this side. In the room itself was a comfortable-looking deep-purple sofa, and an elegant matching chair, and a side-table with a crystal decanter and two crystal glasses, all facing away from her towards the row of busts against the opposite wall.

She caught the footsteps on the gravel path in time to have her gun pointed squarely at the doorway to the garden by the time a smiling man stepped into it.

The man, dark greying hair neatly trimmed and casual grey suit perfectly unwrinkled, lifted the glass of scotch in his hand as a genial, avuncular salute.

“Welcome!” he said. His accent was American. Upscale Chicago. His white teeth practically sparkled under his dapper black moustache when he spoke. “Don’t get a lot of visitors around here, so you’ll have to excuse my ill-preparedness. Wasn’t expecting someone so soon.”

He didn’t even act like he noticed the gun that Katherine kept trained on him as he took a few steps across the thick red carpet to place his empty hand on the top of the chair, still talking all the while. “Come on,” he casually encouraged, “have a seat. Make yourself at home. I can get you a drink, music, a snack – we keep this place well stocked.” He carefully placed his glass next to the decanter on the side-table and held a hand out to Katherine. “Name’s Grove. Grover Whiteman the Third if you’re my mother, but I reckon you’re a little young for that.”

Katherine didn’t take the hand. She didn’t lower the gun. “One chance, Grove,” she said, just loud enough to be sure he could hear her over the calming soundscape he or his associates had curated. “Tell me who else is here, and what this place is for. As soon as it looks like it would be safer and easier to shoot you and investigate on my own, I will.”

Grove held up his hands in a placating gesture, but more like a man backing off from a point of disagreement with a friend than one trying to avoid death. “Nobody here but me and the old fellow I’m here to worship,” he assured her, swinging a thumb back towards the busts along the back wall.

OK, thought Katherine. Still a cult then. Just an odd one.

There were five busts in total in five slightly different shades of metallic gold, each larger-than-life, each richly decorated with gemstones, and each of the head of an animal. A cow. A fish. A snake. A wolf. A mouse, or possibly a rat.

“You haven’t told me what this place is for,” said Katherine, keeping the bulk of her attention on Grove. It seemed like he was telling the truth so far – she couldn’t hear any sign of anyone else coming to check on him.

Grove gave half a shrug, his eyes still twinkling at her. “Just a final contingency plan,” he said. “In case something goes real wrong up there. He doesn’t like to leave any risks. Needs at least one physical form intact and worshipped in order to survive. I guess I’m just his last line of defence, cos you never know what might happen these days.”

He may well have been telling the truth here too, so far as Katherine could tell. But even if so, that didn’t necessarily preclude also having a secret doom-weapon down here. Depended on the nature of… whatever this man’s beliefs were in.

“The ‘he’ here is your god,” she surmised. Grove waved a hand.

“Oh, no, we wouldn’t say he was a god, ma’am. Quite the opposite. The negative of a god. The inverse.”

“A demon,” Katherine concluded, unphased. She’d done this bit before too.

“Not at all,” Grove chuckled, pleasantly. “A demon’s just an ineffectual god. A god with bad publicity. Wouldn’t be much point to worshipping one of them; you’re just picking a side that already lost.”

That, Katherine had to admit, was new. “OK,” she said, still scanning her surroundings with all her senses, “so what is the opposite of a god?”

“Why, an idol,” twinkled Grove. “An idol is the space where a god isn’t. A space that people carved out by pushing God out from it. A god-shaped hole for worship to fill up where there isn’t a god to absorb it.”

“Huh,” said Katherine. As fanatical cult beliefs went, that was at least original. “And why would hundreds of people across the globe be putting huge amounts of effort into secretly funding you and your idol-worship, Grove?”

Grove chuckled again, picked up his drink and downed it. “Come on,” he said. “I’ll give you the tour. Show you there’s no-one else here. Then you can sit down and we can have a chat.”

An hour or two later, Katherine was seated in the chair across from the busts, which she had moved to allow her to more easily keep her gun pointed at Grove, who was now comfortably spread out on the sofa, jacket and tie folded beside him, top shirt button undone. The bunker – suite – whatever it was – was incredible. Climate-controlled to perfection, to the point that it could be airtight and the plants in the garden would thrive enough to keep the occupants alive and comfortable. There was a kitchen, a bedroom, a bathroom, a library, a cinema and a golf course. There was electricity down here. There was a landline. There was wi-fi. There was also, indeed, it turned out, a small family of domesticated parrots. All in the aid, apparently, of allowing one man to comfortably live here full time, worshipping a row of idols in the lobby.

“Gods are very spiritual,” Grove explained, as if he were presenting a fun educational video to some eager kids in nineteen fifty-something. “No physical form, not much grasp on the solid, mundane things in life, and totally beyond human influence or control. An idol is the opposite – very material.”

“And controllable by humans,” surmised Katherine. It was becoming clearer now. So far as this cult was concerned, their faith was their doom-weapon. They thought they were growing an artificial god on a leash.

“If you play your cards right,” Grove agreed, with a mischievous smile. “They come from us. We give them shape. Gods are their own thing, older than people – they shaped us, according to most folks. But we’ve never really liked their arrangements. Something about the rejection of the material just doesn’t sit with us.” He gestured to the opulence of the room. “That’s when we make our own alternatives. Store up treasure on earth instead of investing treasure in Heaven. Go about it the right way, and show people enough material treasure and what you can do with it, and they’ll make that their purpose. Their wonder. Their magic. They’ll follow after it. Make sacrifices for it. That’s worship, Katherine. The way we look at treasure troves, that’s worship. Worship that God can’t safely squirrel away inside of himself to neutralise. All that’s left, really, is to give that treasure a form and a name, and you’ve got a fully realised alternative to God, ready to grow stronger and spread.”

Katherine allowed her mouth to twitch slightly with amusement. “I have two different grandmas from two different religions who’d both be appalled by this,” she told him.

“Rightly so,” smiled Grove, pouring himself another drink.

“So, these five are your idol’s ‘form’,” Katherine figured, jerking her head towards the jewelled animal heads. “What’s its name?”

“Oh, he’s had a lot,” said Grove, with a wave of his hand, “like any good deity. Mammon. Dagon. I’m personally quite fond of Nehushtan – it means ‘thing of brass’. Had a lot of worshippers with different languages over the years.”

Katherine’s eyes narrowed. Thanks to her grandmothers, she recognised the pattern there.

“Those are all Biblical,” she said. She risked a glance to the wall of busts. “Nehushtan was a snake. A brass snake made by Moses and then destroyed because later generations started giving it offerings. And ‘Mammon’ is a personification of wealth that gets depicted as a wolf by some Christian demonologists.” She turned her gaze back on Grove, who was smiling like he was proud of her for noticing. “Dagon was a statue some Philistines worshipped according to Hebrew scripture, and the word means ‘fish’.”

“Either fish or grain,” agreed Grove. “Both of which, in an early barter economy, are treasure, of course, just like Mammon – ‘wealth’ – and ‘things of brass’. Different names, different faces, same concept. Same fellow. The Idol of Treasure.”

“And one of the others is a literal Golden Calf,” said Katherine, inclining her head more gently this time towards the busts, scrutinising Grove’s expression. Grove’s smile opened into a twinkling grin.

“That one’s an old favourite,” he said. “Keeps coming back to that one.

“Yeah, you sure cracked the code there. Yahweh’s worshippers never did quite grasp what they were seeing when they wrote it all down. Maybe nor did Yahweh – he sure wasn’t quick enough on the ball to keep on top of things. See, treasure – wealth – it moves. It flows. You got a treasure hoard, or a statue, or an icon, cultivated and fed with worship until it’s an idol, you can take some of that material – some of that treasure – make it the seed of a new hoard, grow that out until folk are worshipping that one too – you got the same idol now with two faces. Two bodies. Yahweh and his boys had them stamped out wherever they could find them, but they never did find all of them. The idol got diminished, weakened, plenty of times, but it never got fully destroyed.

“The Israelites’ Calf got ground down and dissolved completely, and everyone that worshipped it got killed, but it wasn’t the original body or the original worshipers. That Golden Calf was made out of gold taken from Egypt, who had enough Mammonites of their own. Probably exposure to some Egyptian form of the Idol was how he managed to put the idea into some Israelite’s head. The Egyptians even had their own golden cow back home, called it Apis… Those other bodies didn’t last forever either, of course, but by then some of the treasures the Egyptians had offered to their Apis statues – added to the hoard, see – those had gotten out. Smuggled by the devout. When you meet one of his most powerful, most expensive forms given face, and he looks you in the eyes with the jewelled eyes of his own… that’s when he can get inside your head, drive you to spread him around.

“Of all the treasures he got himself into, the Statue of Dagon was about the biggest one after the Calf got crushed up, so seems natural Yahweh sent his guys after that one next. Knocked it over, broke it up, thought that was the end of it, only realised they’d missed something generations later when some of their own built up a hoard around that old brass snake they’d had lying around, using treasure taken from some hoard of Dagon’s. Guess some of Yahweh’s boys spent too long around Dagon, maybe looked into his eyes after Yahweh severed his head. That’s all it needs. Snake got destroyed too, of course, but by that time there’d been plenty of time to spread the treasure around elsewhere, build new hoards with new worshippers…”

He stretched, contentedly. “Further back than we can trace, all of history’s just been a big old power struggle between Yahweh and the Idol. The Deity of Heaven and the Deity of Earth. The one that made us and the one we made.”

Katherine didn’t especially care by this point. She was almost convinced that this man wasn’t actually a threat, and didn’t have any dangerous plans in need of stopping, which meant that all that was required of her now was to arrest him, bring him to her employers and move on to the next assignment while other people dealt with the dull and difficult work of getting him to testify.

But, on the other hand, this place was very comfortable, and it was slightly amusing to hear this man’s ramblings and imagine the reaction of either of both of her grandmothers, were they only here to listen.

“Why?” she asked. “Why are the Abrahamic God and your idol fighting?”

Grove took a sip before answering. “The Idol’s made out of treasure and worship, so it grows more powerful the more treasure and worship we feed into it,” he said. “Yahweh knew that another deity, grown powerful enough, was the only thing that could disrupt his plan. That’s why he tried so hard to get everyone focused on worshipping him and only him – only way to make sure no worship goes into the Idol.”

“And that’s what you want?” asked Katherine, finally relaxing her grip on the gun a little but still not lowering it. “To disrupt some… Divine Plan?”

Grove laughed. He had a good laugh. “Have you read Yahweh’s plan lately?” he asked. “Doesn’t sound like it works out too pleasant for folks like me.” He gestured to his expensive suit, and the expensive whisky in his glass, and the expensive opulence of his surroundings. “A lot in there about woe and millstones, in fact.”

“So why are you just hiding down here?” she asked him, more than a little scornfully. “I mean, Yahweh’s followers seem to have most people upstairs locked down these days. Seems like you’d want to put a lot more effort into spreading your guy around.”

Grove gave a grandfatherly snort of good-natured derision. “Oh, no, nah, you got it all wrong there, Miss Saltzman, if I may say so. We already won. You taken a look out there? You ever see any meek inheriting the Earth? Ever see many rich people getting hit with the woe and millstones? Yahweh’s plan’s ground to a halt. He’s been cut off from us, if he’s even still alive.” He sat up and leaned forwards, hands on his knees, as if playfully imparting secret information. “See, a bank account counts as a treasure hoard, doesn’t it? And wealth moves around between those so fast. The Idol’s infected it all. He’s everywhere now. He’s all the wealth. He’s the world.”

Katherine raised an eyebrow. “And what about all the worship?” she asked. “The sacrifices and the wonder and the magical thinking? How much power can he have with you the only person worshipping him to his face?”

“Oh, now this isn’t his face,” smiled Grove, sweeping a hand to the row of busts. “Not his main one. These are just the back-ups – just in case Yahweh turns out to still be alive and finds a way to wipe out all the idol forms on the surface – or we do it to ourselves, out of foolishness. No, there’s plenty of bank accounts up there that come with their own human-designed face attached, and plenty of those faces have plenty of real devout followers. Heck, there are company mascots with their own Twitter, and others that do meet-and-greets in their own fake kingdoms, just to make sure the magic’s still there… Didn’t you wonder why we added the fifth statue?”

Katherine looked again at the row of busts. The five animals that this Idol’s followers had carved as faces for it. Five distinct animals, each with their own accompanying name for the same deity. Apis, the golden cow. Dagon, the carved fish. Nehushtan, the brass snake. Mammon, the demon wolf.

And the fifth, on the end. The most recent.

The mouse.

“Oh,” she said. There wasn’t much else to say. She vaguely remembered the list of corporations that the people who embezzled money to fund this bunker had worked for. It made sense now.

“Now then,” said Grove, finishing his drink and pouring another. “I’m sure whoever sent you down here wants you to report back with all you’ve learned, so they can take the truth to the papers. Tell everybody the true story of who’s really running the whole system and why. But let me be a little forward here: wouldn’t you rather not? Wouldn’t you rather stay here?”

The remains of an ice cube clinked against his glass. Katherine heard the sound, but didn’t see it. She had taken her gaze off of him, finally. Her gun had dropped until it was pointing at the floor. She was looking into the jewelled eyes of the Idol.

“You have everything you need here,” said Grove. “Good food, fine drink, leisure, entertainment, comfort, no cares, and, best of all, you can look every day into the faces of a deity who isn’t dead, who encompasses the whole Earth and everyone in it, whose power is unmatched, and who we, as his worshippers, can control, so long as we give him the right worship. Why would you ever want to leave?”

Katherine let go of the gun, and let it hit the carpet with a luxuriously soft sound. Grove’s words washed over her, and they felt good. They felt right. Were they, even, Grove’s words? Or could she see another mouth moving, a mouth of gold with diamond teeth that sparkled brighter than Grove’s could?

She gazed into the eyes of the idol, and she felt it gazing back.

She took the drink Grove offered her without otherwise moving, as the precious eyes of the mouse twinkled into her own.

Pathfinder Homebrew: The Billamacaw

Inspiration credit to T.S. Eliot and Growltiger the Bravo Cat.


This brightly-coloured bird has a strong, curved bill and stands about two feet tall. It looks just like a particularly colourful parrot, but its dancing is hypnotic.

Billamacaw CR 1/2

XP 200
N Tiny magical beast
Init +3; Senses low-light vision, darkvision 60 ft; Perception +9

DEFENSE

AC 15, touch 15, flat-footed 12 (+3 Dex, +2 size)
hp 13 (3d10–3)
Fort +2, Ref +6, Will +3

OFFENSE

Speed 10 ft., fly 40 ft (average)
Melee bite +6 (1d3–3)

Space 2-1/2 ft.; Reach 0 ft.

STATISTICS

Str 4, Dex 17, Con 8, Int 3, Wis 15, Cha 17
Base Atk +3; CMB +4; CMD 11
Feats Skill Focus (Perception), Weapon Finesse
Skills Fly +7, Linguistics -1, Perception +9, Perform (any) +11
Racial Modifiers +2 Linguistics, +8 on all Perform checks
Language Common (cannot speak)

SQ bardic performance, induce feeling, language learning, sound mimicry,

SPECIAL ABILITIES

Bardic Performance

A billamacaw can make use of the Fascinate, Inspire Courage and Mass Suggestion bardic performances. For the purpose of calculating how many creatures a performance can affect, the billamacaw uses its Charisma score instead of its bard level. Otherwise, this ability functions identically to the bard class ability of the same name. For all other purposes, the billamacaw’s bard level is considered to be zero (assuming the billamacaw does not have class levels).

Familiar

A level 7 spellcaster with the Improved Familiar feat can take a billamacaw as a familiar.

Induce Emotion

When a billamacaw uses its Mass Suggestion bardic performance, it may choose to convey an emotion or basic sensation such as hunger or thirst in place of a verbal suggestion. This is an enchantment (compulsion), mind-affecting ability, but does not rely on a shared language or on audible components. Any creature that fails its save against the performance will feel the sensation conveyed with no indication that it was unnaturally induced. This ability can be used to give affected creatures the shaken or sickened condition for one round.

Language Learning

A billamacaw can be trained to understand and speak new languages, an will naturally cooperate with attempts to do so by creatures it has a neutral or better attitude towards. It takes 20 days of training to gain a bonus language, and these days need not be consecutive. A billamacaw may train on its own so long as it is able to listen to creatures speaking the language it is trying to learn, but it must make a DC 15 Linguistics check for each day it attempts to do so. Failure to make the check means the billamacaw makes no progress that day. Otherwise, the billamacaw requires a trainer who shares a language with the billamacaw and knows the language it is trying to learn, or a book written in a language the billamacaw knows that explains the basics of the language it is trying to learn. By default, a billamacaw understands the most common language of its region of origin (usually Common) even before it has learned to speak it.

Sound Mimicry (Ex)

Billamacaws are excellent at learning and copying sounds they hear often, from creaking boards to even specific voices. The billamacaw makes a Bluff check opposed by the listener’s Sense Motive check to recognize the mimicry, although if the listener isn’t keenly familiar with the person or type of sounds mimicked, it takes a –8 penalty on its Sense Motive check. The billamacaw has a +8 racial bonus on its Bluff check to mimic sounds it has listened to for at least 1 week.

ECOLOGY

Environment warm forests
Organization solitary, pair, or flock (3–8)
Treasure incidental

A constant favourite of performers and bar owners in tropical climes for its ability to bring in crowds and make them feel inclined to spend money, the billamacaw is a remarkable bird, closely related to the parrot, famous for its supernatural performing abilities. In the wild, billamacaws will hypnotically sing and dance to deter predators and to bond with each other. If given an instrument and shown how to use it, they have also proven surprisingly adept at instrumental performances, somehow able to produce sound from everything from flutes to guitars using their beaks and claws. With effort, a billamacaw can even be taught to speak, at which point they prove equally capable at telling stories and jokes to their eager audiences. Naturally curious and fond of learning new words and sounds, billamacaws often enjoy the variety of languages they are exposed to by nesting near port towns and trade hubs.