The History of James Harcastle
James Harcastle is the last person of whom I shall give a detailed account. The son of Theodore and Edith Harcastle, James Willard Harcastle was born in ISD 656 in Wentington, Schrodingshire. Mr. Theodore Harcastle was a reasonably successful, if not at all noteworthy general practitioner in the area, and Mrs. Edith Harcastle was the daughter of one of his wealthier clients. The Harcastles had three other children, all younger than James. They were Clara, born ISD 658, Rebecca, born ISD 560, and Fitzwilliam, born ISD 564.
It appears to have been Mr. Theodore Harcastle's dearest wish that his son would inherit and continue his practice. When James Harcastle turned 11, he began an unofficial apprenticeship with his father, and accompanied him in his practice. How well he attended to the lessons of his father is unknown, as future accounts would suggest that he received a good education with his father, but Harcastle's contemporary account of this time focuses more significantly on his more rebellious activities. Unfortunately, only one of Harcastle's several volumes of journals remains extant, and no excerpt of them was permitted to be reprinted here by their current holder. Being unable to cite any primary sources of this time, I will endeavor to illustrate only the most basic and pertinent aspects of his youth.
Despite Harcastle's distaste for his father’s practice, a distaste he is unlikely to have well concealed, there has never been any mention of a significant dispute between father and son over the issue at this time. For years, Harcastle grudgingly tolerated his duties as an apprentice. The cause of this resigned attitude seems to be the influence of his school teacher, who is universally referred to as "Mr. L" in extent sources. Mr. L had sympathy for Harcastle, and encouraged in him an interest in literature. While his schooling was only part-time, this encouragement drove him to read most of the public library, although his persistent interest was poetry, particularly the works of Telltree and Staf. His own attempts at emulating such poets never satisfied him, although this never ruined his interest in the subject.
In ISD 674, on Harcastle's 18th birthday, it was decided that he would attend the University of Lorring Valley in order to study medicine. It's unknown whether the impetus for this decision came from Dr. Harcastle or James Harcastle, but in either circumstance it would appear that the other party was easily persuaded to the idea. It may even be possible that it was Mr. L from whom the idea originated. Regardless of how it came to be, Harcastle took up residence in the Lorring Valley to attend the university in ISD 674.
Harcastle's university career did not go to plan from the outset. Just a month after commencement, he joined the Poetry Society, and his attendance to his lectures dropped precipitously. He also began attending lectures by history professors, with one even declaring that "He is the most devoted student in attending my lectures, and he is not even mine." The University was not comfortable with this informal arrangement, and so offered Harcastle an arrangement: he could either begin pursuing studies in history in a serious and official capacity, or he must begin attending his medical lectures once again. Harcastle took the former option. He did not inform his father of this change in his studies, and he went to lengths to disguise the fact.
It was around this time that Harcastle was introduced to the writings of Wilfred Altommen, the notable academic considered these days to be the father of anthropology as an academic field. Although it's impossible to say which of Altommen's works Harcastle read, it can be safely assumed that he read Altommen's most famous book, the seminal Methodology for the Study of Peoples and Societies (published ISD 601). Harcastle apparently took a huge fascination in the theories that Altommen put forth, and began to read other works based on the same principles, such as Alastor McHenry's essay The Effects of Language on Methodologies of Studying Peoples and Societies. Harcastle even began a brief correspondence with McHenry, who was, at that time, working privately as historian for various wealthy clients. Harcastle also showed an impressive capacity for languages, becoming a notable polyglot, fluent in Lijasize and Nihonon, and capable of reading Old Deutrean.
However, eventually the deception was uncovered after only a couple years at the university, in ISD 676. Harcastle, understanding that his father was likely to come to Lorring Valley in order to retrieve him, decided to leave with all possible haste. By the time the Dr. Theodore Harcastle arrived in Lorring Valley, his son had been gone for nearly a week, leaving no explanation for where he had gone. It was a week after that that Dr. Harcastle received a letter:
Dr. Theodore Harcastle,
My purpose for writing to you is twofold. First of all, I would like to assure you that your son has made the long journey to my home, and is safe. I must confess I was most surprised when he introduced himself on my doorstep, for I had never met him in person, and was given no warning as to his imminent arrival. However, after he explained to me his situation, I felt compelled to write to you so that you might also understand the matter at hand.
My name is Alastor McHenry, and I am an academic working for certain private individuals. Previously, I have been a professor of history at the Imperial College in Doverton, and it was while in the position that I penned an essay, The Effects of Language on Methodologies of Studying People. This essay appears to have had a profound effect on your son, as it was on this subject that he began a correspondence with myself six months ago. I must commend you on the raising of your son, as few would have the confidence of character to be able to initiate a correspondence with one unintroduced, nor have the ability to carry it forward with the level of intellect that I encountered in your son. Truly, I have found his letters something to look forward to these last months.
At the time, I had no understanding of his situation, other than that he was a student at the University of Lorring Valley. I understand now that he was strongly encouraged by yourself to pursue a study in medicine so as to put him in the position to inherit your practice, and that he did not take to these studies as you would have liked. I am also now aware that he began a study of history instead, without consulting yourself. Understanding this situation as I do, I would like to encourage you to not pursue this matter further. That is the second purpose of this letter.
Your son is a bright and passionate about the work that I have been doing, and thus I have hired him as my assistant. It takes one with passion to disobey his father not out of the fire of rebellious spirit, but out of sheer intellectual curiosity. Should you wish to visit, I will of course welcome you into my home with open arms. However, I should plead that you do not come with the intent of swaying the young man's decision, as I have no wish for that sort of dispute in my household. Should you desire it, I will endeavor to remain in consistent contact with yourself so that you might have a continuing knowledge of your son's affairs.
Prof. Alastor McHenry
Dr. Harcastle's response to this letter was unknown, however he never ventured to visit his son in the years of his staying as McHenry's assistant, and nor did his son return home.
In the years between ISD 676 and 681, one of McHenry's clients is theorized to have been Mr. Asper. While no direct proof exists, it is known that it was McHenry who recommended that Harcastle be offered a position on the Valerius, and it is also known that Harcastle had experience with certain languages spoken beyond the Cascade that he would have had no logical access to learn save through Mr. Asper. Regardless, Harcastle was officially offered a position aboard the Valerius in ISD 681, a position which he accepted.
This concludes my summary of the histories of a number of the members of the crew aboard the Valerius, and thus shall I begin with the story proper.