The little village of Lestrade is inhabited by French speaking people, and is located in the center of the country formerly known as France, now commonly called, in a good many circles, Europa Gaul. It is the location of the southernmost railhead of the only functioning rail line that reaches the infamous Blasted Fields, that bleak carbonized vista, that area of the continent where vegetation struggles and fauna are scarce, from the North. There was the greatest battle of the Troubles was fought, where 3,000,000 fell and the steam engines of war, introduced in the American Civil War, had been developed to an exquisite level of murder. Metal Gigantes that stalked the slaughter grounds to add their heavy, rapidly shells of heavy explosives, persistent poisons and spherical case laced with the atomically unstable quap to the slaughter between armies of men with rifle, pistol and blade. It is now a place where thorny vines strangle every object, pungent plants grow and potently poisonous insects crawl, fly and bite.
A locomotive steams into the gloomy hamlet, hissing and belching and squealing its beveled metal wheels on the iron rails. Out of the bank of soggy cloud Professor Valeska steps off the train, he is carrying only his carpetbag. He studies the platform and the surrounding town and establishes his bearings before extending his cane toward the boardwalk lined with dead flower pots beside the main street to the little Pension, the last building on the edge of a grey and overcast expanse of land stretching to the smoky horizon. It is a brightly painted two story building with a nice porch and gingerbread. There is a homey glow coming from the lanterns in the rooms, lobby and registry. The restaurant is dark. Crosses the cobbled streets and climbs up to the front door, open, through which he passes and find the counter. There he signs the register, takes his key and the envelope waiting for him, and goes to his room. The old carpet bag contains his heavy leathers, necessary to protect himself for the brief exposure to the corrosives, contagion and radiations electromagnetic and otherwise, swirling in the place he is going.
Back outside the cobbled main, when it passes the last street sign, gives way to a macadamized road which pierces the fence about a half kilometer on, a gap marked by two small guardhouses and simple rope barrier strung between. The fence is made of razor wire, in cross section like a triangle filled with circles, the circles marking where the coils pass through, four on the bottom, three next, two then one; these ten helixes are fixed inside by different kinds of wooden, occasionally metal, poles, posts, and beams along with sharpened stakes of various lengths, these bones point out in myriad different angles. A uniformed guard stops him at the rope line an asks for his papers. The soldier snorts and peruses, taking his time, studying the signatures and instructions. He then takes the carpet bag and finds in it only the breathing apparatus Valeska had brought with him. He hands the paperwork back, instructing the retired professor that he has four hours and that he and his squad would be none too joyful if they have to go in and retrieve him. The old man straps on the systems of filters and snorkel and wraps the heavy wool and leaden thread scarf around his head; doused with various chemicals of different valence it was also coated by a few spells of Major Oldrich’s. He always insists. Glaubrius usually only accepts incantations, but, for the sake of appeasing his strange friend, he accepted a talisman from him, it was the only thing he left in the Pension other than his nightshirt.