(Fiction) The Dunvluddich Furnace

Buried underneath a brick warehouse, and near another that had been into upscale shopping was an enormous spherical chamber made entirely of the heavy industrial steel of a bygone era. Two hemispherical sections were joined at their collars by giant bolts. Inside the five-story space was a structure of tanks and piping held aloft by four stone pillars which bore a vague resemblance to the legs and feet of an elephant, ten times normal size. The pillars disappeared into dark water at the bottom of the enormous tank while a cluster of four large pipes at the top bent at an L junction before running straight to the roof, where the steam they once carried fed an engine, long since absent.

I was inside the Dunvluddich Furnace, a kind of giant boiler. It was named for its creator, Abraham Dunvluddich, who was a Lithuanian American magician and scientist. He was sure there was a way to marry the “estranged sisters” as he called them—that is, science and magic—and spent his life in search of the means: perpetual energy machines, incandescent orbs of healing, crystal transmitters to communicate with the other side, or across the globe. His designs were legion. As far as I know, he could never get any of them to work.

After he moved to America, where heresy was weakly tolerated, Dunvluddich began designing and conducting his experiments, which I only heard about later, when the two of us shared a cell in Everthorn. His furnace was unusually large because it was built to contain the full heat of a hellion, which Abraham acquired from an Arab sheik in Tangiers. The beast tried to get out, of course, and in the process filled the furnace with hellfire and brimstone, heat from which boiled a huge quantity of water, producing steam. Alas, the engine could only run for short periods before its intakes were choked by the accumulating brimstone, which was porous and crumbly, like foam charcoal. All of Abraham’s experiments suffered such infirmities. No matter his effort, it seemed there was always some peculiarity of the magic that made it impossible to harness industrially.

While seeking a solution to the brimstone problem, and for reasons unknown, the heavily reinforced furnace exploded. The damage was still visible in the upper corner, where the thick metal turned outward like shark’s teeth. That hole was now the primary ingress to the space. Of course, in the conflagration that followed the explosion, the true nature of Dunvluddich’s experiments was revealed and he was sanctioned by The Masters and told to stop at once upon punishment of dispossession—or worse. He didn’t, of course. He moved instead to Chicago, where the hellion ultimately escaped, triggering the Great Fire of 1871. Abraham Dunvluddich was tried and convicted by a tribunal magique and imprisoned. By the time I met him, he’d been locked in a cell so long that he was both quite aged and quite mad. He never stopped designing, however. The walls of our cell were covered in arcane engineering diagrams, one on top of the other.

In the intervening century and a half, his furnace—which had been buried, since smelting was deemed prohibitively expensive—had become the stronghold of the mizzen…

a snippet from my forthcoming occult mystery, FEAST OF SHADOWS