The Paris Awakening: Prologue Part 5

Their eyes locked over the gorgonzola piccante.

“Yes, it was an exciting time,” smiled Sir John. “As you say, the Societe were largely buffoons, and I was all but giving up on them when we met. Then we started all those experiments, trying to build devices that could detect paranormal activity.”

“And all that time, I wanted to tell you about me,” said Marie. “About the powers I had. But, it seemed a strange thing to say at first, and then it got harder and harder to speak. I hoped at first that you would be able to help me find out more about myself, but then I found myself wishing for something different.”

Sir John held out his hand next to the Camembert de Normandie, and Marie reached and held it.

“Me too,” he said. “I was so pleased when we became partners, not just in paranormal investigation, but in romance.”

“And by then, it was impossible to tell you,” said Marie.

There was a pause.

“I have one question, Marie,” said Sir John. “The early investigations, before I knew, how much was the devices and how much was … you.”

“I … helped a little,” said Marie, “at the haunting. But you found the body after all, and even the villain of the piece.”

“And in Manchester?” said Sir John. “It was me that stopped Clackprattle, wasn’t it.”

“Well, yes,” said Marie, “but there is more you must know. This is important. Clackprattle isn’t the mastermind, Pook is.”

“That little twerp?” said Sir John.

“Yes, that little twerp is a magical creature, a pookah,” said Marie. “A kind of trickster that plays with people’s lives. He manipulated Clackprattle in Manchester and I imagine again in London. He is wrapped up with these Draco Viridis cult people, and I’m worried about what he will do. You remember at the end, when Clackprattle seized the Summum Malorum? Something happened to him. Something that can only be bad.”

Sir John nodded gravely.

“Yes, I thought there was something strange happening there,” he said. “I noticed Pook shouting, but I didn’t make the connection. Not for the first time, obviously…”

Marie’s head dropped.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean…” said Sir John. “I meant that, that I should have seen these things. I’m an investigator, and, and your husband, and you were in danger because I didn’t see what you were. Who you are.”

Mon cher, I hid this from you,” said Marie. “The fault is with me.”

“No, it’s not,” said Sir John. “Not at all.”

Both the couple looked at their plates. There was another pause which was interrupted by Miss Henderson struggling to bring in a large plate filled with chocolate covered balls.

Prophet-a-Holes,” she said. She looked at the couple who both smiled distantly at her, sadness in their eyes.

“Tomorrow I shall cook us a nice turkey roast,” she said, by way of compensation and left with the half-eaten cheese board.

paprol5“Prophet-a-Holes”

“You know what we need to do,” said Sir John. “What you wanted me to do from the start.”

“What is that, mon cher,” said Marie.

“In the New Year, straightaway we shall leave for Paris. We shall go back to where this all started and we shall find out where you came from, how you got these powers, and what they are for once and for all!”

Oui, mon cher!” said Marie beaming at him. In triumph Sir John speared a chocolate ball with a fork, and cream spurted out onto his face.

The Paris Awakening: Prologue Part 4

Miss Henderson arrived with the next course of food and noted with approval the smile on Marie’s face. She put the used plates onto a trolley she had brought and then laid two plates of meat in front of the Jennings.

“This is a gnu,” she said and promptly left. Sir John looked at the meat with suspicion and took a bite.

“Ah!” he said. “It’s lamb. So … you met a gargoyle?”

“I didn’t know at first,” explained Marie, “I was sitting crying, and this old man’s voice said ‘What is the matter mademoiselle?’ It was a rough voice, but you could hear the kindness underneath. I was distraught, hands over my face and said the first thing that came to mind: ‘I’m a monster.’

“‘Hmm,’ said the voice, ‘there are worse things to be.’

“I looked up in confusion and saw that I was talking to a gargoyle. I could see it moving clearly, in fact all of the gargoyles on the building were moving. No one else seemed to notice. ‘Who are you?’ I said.

gargoyle_edited-1“A Monster?”

“‘My name is Albrecht,’ said the gargoyle.

“‘Isn’t that a strange name for a gargoyle?’ I said.

“‘Do you know many gargoyles?’ he said.

“‘No,’ I admitted, ‘I think you are my first.’

“We talked for some time then. I’m sure the people around me thought I was crazy, talking to myself. But many people were crazy then. Albrecht said that he knew I was a witch, that he could tell straight away. Just like the man, the faun, by the river. I asked him what he knew about witches. He told me that of the few he had met, they were nice, friendly, well dressed, and very powerful. I asked him what he meant, and he said they could do powerful magic. When I asked him for more details he shrugged and said, ‘I’m just a gargoyle, Marie. I don’t get around too much.’

“After what he said, that there were more of my kind, that they were good people, I tried to find out all I could. Oh, I went to all sorts of strange things mon cher, to seances and magic shows, trying to find out more. I always went back to Albrecht to tell him what I had learned. It was such a mess of information, some false, some mad, and it was hard to make sense of. I thought I needed some order to this search, so I joined the Société d’Evénements Mystérieux looking for the truth. I heard they had a program of scientific investigation of mysterious events. I hoped they would help me make sense of the patchwork of information I had. Of course, I got little from them. They were charlatans and fools whose theories were fancies made grand by scientific language. The whole thing was a waste but for one thing of course…”

Sir John looked puzzled.

“I met you,” said Marie.

The couple looked warmly at each other as Miss Henderson entered.

“Chef has prepared an ass he et from Marge,” she said and placed some cheese on the table.

The Paris Awakening: Prologue Part 3

Miss Henderson came into the dining room with two covered plates. Sir John and Marie were both looking thoughtful.

“Was the soup satisfactory?” asked the maid warily as she put down the plates and gathered up the dishes.

“Yes, thank you,” said SIr John and managed a weak smile.

“Chef said this is poison,” said the maid and uncovered the plates to show two fish. She noticed that Marie’s eyes were a little red and pushed Sir John’s plate toward him with a glare then left.

“We don’t have to…” started Sir John.

“No, it’s fine, I want to tell you,” said Marie, “On the way to Paris my aunt told me sternly that I must never speak of the events in the village. I didn’t need telling. When we arrived in Paris  it was … encroyable. Never in my life had I dreamed of such a place. The buildings, even then, and the people, hordes and hordes of them. And best of all, none of them knew me or knew about me. I decided to forget about talking to animals, the strange man, and the frozen children, and I think I convinced myself it was a childhood dream.

“So I grew up in Paris, learning the fashions and tastes of the city. My aunt and uncle were … they were not unkind, but they were not warm like my mother had been. I tried so hard to forget that I forgot about her too. Even today I can barely recall her face. When I was sixteen they told me she had died some years before, that they had waited until I was old enough to tell me. That whole other life died on that day, too.

“I went from a being a village child to a Parisian young lady and thought myself very sophisticated at that. It was a nice time, really. And then the Prussians came and the siege. It was terrible. There was no food and we ate … we ate whatever could be found.”

Marie looked at her half-eaten fish. Suddenly she set upon it, tearing the meat from the bones and devouring it.

“I learnt it is good to eat well and to be alive,” she said.

paris1871“Paris, 1871”

“This is when your aunt and uncle…” started Sir John. Marie nodded.

“In the shelling, at the end, they perished,” she said. “Then we had the commune and more fighting. It was chaos, my beloved Paris was in ruins, riven by conflict. It seemed like humanity had gone crazy.

“And in the midst of this, I remembered who I was. When the government came back into Paris, they rounded up the Communards. Some of my friends were with them. We heard stories … that people were being killed. I shouted at the soldiers who took my friends and they chased after me. They thought I was a Communard too, I think. I ran through the streets with these men after me, terrified. Eventually, I ran into a dead end, with the soldiers at the other. Once again, like years before I shouted ARRETER. And these men stopped too.”

“I stood paused, thinking it was a trick, but they didn’t move. I ran past the stationary men and away from the street. I ran and ran, frightened of the soldiers but more frightened of what I had done. Everything I had tried to forget was coming back into my mind. After just running wild I found myself at the Notre Dame. I thought I should go inside and ask for forgiveness. But I was frightened that I wouldn’t be able to, that I was somehow tainted. I sat down and cried. Then I heard a voice, from above, and he spoke to me.”

Sir John looked puzzled.

“Do you mean God?” he said.

“No, mon cher,” said Marie smiling, “a gargoyle.”

 

The Paris Awakening: Prologue Part 2

“As you say I grew up in a small village, but my mother hadn’t always lived there. She had grown up with her sister in Paris and moved just before I was born. I don’t know why, but it seemed something bad had happened to her there. That’s not so strange I think in a big city. So I suppose she wanted me to grow up somewhere safer.

“The problem was the place wasn’t safe, but for an unexpected reason. Because of me. When I was young I found I could influence things around me. People a little, but mostly animals. Never anything inanimate, just things that thought. Everyone thought I just had a way with animals, as they would always come to me. They had no idea I was calling them.

“The problem with villages is that there is no escape from people there. Everyone knows everything about you. The other children were jealous that I was considered special, and I had few friends. Then one day, I saw him.”

Marie stopped to have some soup. Sir John was looking at her closely as his soup was all gone.

“Saw who?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” she said, “I mean I don’t know what he was. One day I was walking alone by the river making the ducks swim alongside me when I saw a man fishing. When I got close though I saw he wasn’t a normal man. He was very short with hairy legs and with horns.”

“A faun?” asked Sir John.

“Maybe,” continued Marie, “I stared at him for a while and he turned to look at me and said ‘Oh, a little witch.’ I knew the word was bad, and I was scared of the creature so I ran. I tried to tell my mother but she didn’t listen and said I was making up a silly story. I thought maybe I was myself, so I asked the children in my school if they had seen him. They all said they had and that we should all go and say hello. I was quite surprised. After school we all went together and I felt pleased to have some friends at last. When we got to the spot by the river I saw the strange man, the faun, again. I said hello to him but all the other children just laughed at me. They said – you know children can be cruel – they said I had no friends so had to make up an invisible one. I was so upset pointing to the creature asking if they could see it and they just laughed harder and harder. Eventually, I just shouted ARRETER and they did. They all froze solid.

paprolpart2“Very good!”

“The creature said ‘Very good little one, that will show them,’ and then he turned and disappeared. I didn’t know what to do, surrounded by these frozen children. I ran to my mother and brought her to the children. When she saw them, she screamed. She shook me asking what happened, and I was crying saying I didn’t know. I said I wished the children would move and suddenly they all did again.

“No-one at all spoke to me after that. Within a week my aunt and uncle came. They took me to Paris. The last time I saw my mother was from the back of the carriage. I was never allowed to visit her and she never came to see me.”

 

The Paris Awakening: Prologue Part 1

“Chef has prepared an amused bush,” said the maid and placed the two small plates in front of Sir John and Marie Jennings. She looked dubiously at the small piece of cheese and sauce on the plate.

“I have taken the liberty of informing chef that in this house it is customary to have bigger portions,” Miss Henderson added, “and that you sometime have seconds even then, Sir John.”

“Thank you Miss Henderson,”  said Sir John. “I’m sure that’s very helpful.”

pap1“Amused Bush”

The maid left, and Sir John looked across the elaborately laid out table to his wife who smiled back at him. Their dining room was lit by candles and the glow of the fire, crackling gently.

“It is so nice to have a taste of ‘ome at Christmas mon cher,” said Marie. “Thank you.”

“My pleasure,” he said, “I’m just glad I managed to keep it a secret.”

Marie’s head dropped. Sir John didn’t see as he was eating the food.

“Hmm, she has a point,” he said. “It’s very tasty but not terribly filling.”

Sir John looked up and saw a tear running down Marie’s face.

“I’m sure we can get some more,” he said.

“No,” she said, “it’s not that … it’s when you mentioned secrets I thought of…”

“Oh, I’m sorry,” said Sir John. “I didn’t mean…”

“No, I know, but we ‘ave to ‘ave a conversation,” she said, “I ‘ave to tell you about my past.”

“My dear, it’s Christmas Eve,” said Sir John. “It’s a special day, perhaps some other time.”

“No,” said Marie, “now is perfect. No-one can bother us, and we have this nice food. Please, let me tell you about my life.”

“All right,” said Sir John. “If you like.”

“I do,” she said. “Can you remind me what you know?”

“Well,” said Sir John, “you grew up in a small village where you lived with your mother. Then you moved in with an aunt and uncle in Paris when you were about nine. You lived there but lost them in the chaos of 71 … taught in schools after that … joined the Société d’Evénements Mystérieux where we met, and the rest, as they say, is history.”

Marie looked thoughtful.

Just then, Miss Henderson arrived with two covered bowls. She was looking rather pleased as she put them on the table.

“I believe that chef has taken my suggestions seriously,” she said as she took lids off the bowls which were quite full of clear soup. “Chef said this a bowl of consumption.”

The maid looked at Marie’s uneaten food and took the plate.

“I didn’t like it much either, Mrs Jennings,” she whispered to Marie and left.

“Well, the facts are all true,” she said, “but that story has some gaps. Let me start at the beginning…”

Christmas is Cancelled!

krampus“Take the boy, but for G-d’s sake leave the tablecloth!”

Well merely postponed, but oh, dear reader, it is with a heavy heart that we have to explain ourselves…

First and foremost, we hope that you have been enjoying our last marvellous adventure “The Auld Alchemist”. You will have noticed I’m sure that our usual midweek injections of commentary, links and other ephemera have been missing. Given our announcement of a forthcoming story collection and novel, I’m sure you consoled yourself with the knowledge that the good folk of the Benthic Times were beavering away on these projects. If only that were true. Sadly a multitude of events of the most mundane manner overtook us and left us bereft of time and energy.

And so, although we promised electronic stocking fillers, we have no such thing to give, for which we can only hold our caps, look down sadly and apologise. We shall continue to work on the collection though as well as the novel and shall have them with you as soon as the unscheduled busyness of business that has overtaken us has abated to a sensible level.

But, to whet your appetite, we shall be sharing over the next couple of weeks the prologue to the forthcoming (or given the delay, fifth or sixthcoming) Jennings and Jennings novel, starting tomorrow. And on that note, we bid you a pleasant weekend.

The Auld Alchemist: Epilogue

“And so by the time we had gathered ourselves, pretty much all of the Draco Viridis people were gone,” said Sir John.

He, Marie, Frater Magnificus and Soror Beatitudinum were in the parlour. They were all were sitting and looking grave apart from Sir John, who had been talking and waving his arms about with a biscuit constantly in his hand. Frater Magnificus was brushing off some crumbs that had fallen on him whilst Sir John was talking about the two stones.

“There were a couple left that were still interested in meeting Phlebotomous, but we sent them away. Or rather Miss Henderson did,” finished Sir John, “rather forcibly.”

At that moment, Miss Henderson entered the room with tea and glanced at the diminished biscuit pile and the crumbs on the floor. She pulled a small face. The two members of FOLI looked nervously at the maid.

“Miss Henderson,” said Marie, “how is Morag?”

“I think she is starting to feel a little better,” said Miss Henderson, “although her spirits are understandably low and her nose is a little dry.”

“Thank you,” said Sir John and looked at the biscuit plate. “Perhaps we could get some more for our guests?”

Miss Henderson left then and Sir John continued.

“What happened to the other chap?” he said.

“Frater Lorem Ipsum has decided that he no longer wishes to follow the path of the true seeker,” said Frater Magnificus. “We believe he may have been a trifle overwhelmed by events. He has, though, taken a most severe oath to remain silent and never speak on what he has seen and learnt. But, Sir John, what of the lens of Mac Dubh, was it…”

“Destroyed,” said Sir John. “At least we believe so. The whole area for several feet around the two men was vaporized, including the apparatus to make the Summum Malorum.”

Frater Magnificus nodded.

“We have carried out some research into the building,” he said. “It was built by Lord Anglestone’s grandfather, we believe for the purpose of making the stone. We also believe that Draco Viridis was created primarily to support this aim, the creation of this Green Stone.”

“And we have traced the Anglestone tree,” said Soror Beatitudinum glumly. “The first Lord Anglestone achieved his peerage around 300 years ago, by paying the crown a large sum of money. The source of the money was unknown. We believe he may have been an associate of Mac Dubh who had taken some of the Red Stone for this purpose.”

“And so,” continued Frater Magnificus, “whilst you have not been able to recover the lens, we believe you have done a most excellent job. For you have certainly thwarted a most powerful foe and robbed it of its purpose and leader.”

Sir John sighed.

“I imagine now you’ll be giving us an honorary rank within your organization,” he said. “Something fitting for a servant of the seekers of the truth.”

Frater Magnificus and Soror Beatitudinum glanced at each other.

“Or some amulet that reflects your admiration of our deeds or possibly even a hand-carved wooden plate depicting the destruction of the Stones.”

Frater Magnificus looked nervous.

“I am embarrassed to say that we have nothing so spiritual,” said Frater Magnificus. “We are a humble order and we strive for such virtues, but in truth some of our power comes from the more earthly realm. We had intended to give you this, but if you would prefer these other things…”

Frater Magnificus indicated to a wooden chest which Sir John opened and peered in. His eyes widened and he looked in shock at his wife. He turned the chest so she could see the contents and she smiled warmly at him.

“Under the circumstances,” said Sir John, in a thin voice, “this will be more than acceptable.”

Frater Magnificus and Soror Beatitudinum both relaxed at those words. Just then Miss Henderson came in with a tray of biscuits. Sir John opened the chest filled with sparkling treasure to show her.

“Look at that, Miss Henderson!” he said.

“Bloody Nora!” said Miss Henderson and dropped the tray of biscuits on the floor.

aaepi“Bloody Nora!”

The Auld Alchemist: Chapter 14

Voler!” shouted Marie, and Sir John shot back several feet down the aisle. The masonry crashed on the floor where he had been. She heard Pook snigger and glanced up and saw another chunk of masonry head for her. Before it hit her something else barreled into her from the side, knocking her to the ground and pinning her down.

“Sorry we’re a wee bit late,” said Morag standing on top of her.

“Apology accepted,” said Marie.

Clackprattle had reached Frater Princeps and grabbed the Stone from the cushion.

“What are you doing man, that’s mine!” said Frater Princeps, but Clackprattle didn’t hear him. He was clutching the Stone in his hand and screaming. His hand was turning the same dark green colour as the stone, spreading from his palm.

“You’re taking the power from it!” said Frater Princeps. “Stop it! Give it to me!”

The dark green colour had covered Clackprattle’s hand and was starting to spread over his wrist. Frater Princeps grabbed Clackprattle’s arm and tried to shake it, but Clackprattle hung on and continued screaming.

aa-ch-14“Stop It!”

Sir John stood up from where he had been knocked down. He glanced down the church and saw Miss Henderson, a large staff, some fleeing order members, and a grateful looking vampire. He looked at the altar and saw Clackprattle and Frater Princeps.

“Clackprattle, I have my gun,” shouted Sir John. Instantly Clackprattle dropped the Stone and covered his crotch with his hands.

“Stay away from me!” he shouted. Frater Princeps grabbed the green stone and held it up in his gloved hand.

“The Summum Malorum is mine now,” he said manically. “It is mine!”

“Sir John,” said Diarmuid Mac Dubh, who had just appeared beside him. “May I ask you a wee favour? Will you promise me you’ll look after Morag?”

“Yes, of course, but what do you mean,” said Sir John to his retreating back.

“Anglestone!” roared Mac Dubh as he approached the altar. “You are surely one massive arse!”

Mac Dubh opened his hand to reveal a bright red stone. He clasped his hand with the red stone over Princeps’ with his green stone. The two met and matched. There was a bright light between the men’s hands that grew brighter and stronger. Princeps shouted in dismay as both men were engulfed by light. A sound like thunder cracked and the light retreated. Both men, both stones were gone.

“Father!” shouted Morag, but Marie held onto her.

“It may not be safe,” said Marie gently.

Sir John came over to where they both were.

“Where’s Clackprattle?” he said.

“Gone. Again,” said Marie, “Along with Pook.”

“That little weasel?” said Sir John. “Still leaching off his boss?”

“We need to talk about those two sometime soon,” said Marie.

Miss Henderson wandered over with a shaken-looking Phlebotomous.

“Those people are crazy!” he said. “Who would want to be a vampire! It’s a terrible life! You can’t even get the early dining discount!”

“Did we win?” said Miss Henderson.

Sir John looked down at Morag.

“More or less,” he said. “More or less.”

The Auld Alchemist: Epilogue

The Auld Alchemist: Chapter 13

“Fraters and Sorors,” intoned Frater Princeps at the front of the church. “We are close to concluding a dream of one hundred years. Tonight we shall use this lens, this mirror, to call down the Dark Light of the veiled moon. On this night, the longest, darkest night, we shall call down the shadow and make the Summum Malorum. This Dark Stone, this evil, will grant the order unparalleled power over life and death and the riches of the world. For where the alchemists sought only to prolong life, we seek also to end it, and whilst they sought only riches, we seek to destroy our enemies’ wealth.”

Frater Princeps went to an altar covered with cloth where there was a screen and pulled both cloth and screen away. They revealed a large container, shaped like a giant bullet pointing up, made of wrought iron. Pipes came out from the side and fed into a larger container underneath, which formed the altar.  Frater Princeps then signalled to two people dressed in robes on either side. They both stood by statues of angels with swords. They pulled the swords down like levers, and the roof over the altar started to open up, exposing the moon above. A shadow was starting to form over it. Frater Princeps went to the top of the smaller container and opened the lid. He slid a small glass item across the opening.

“Nothing can stop it now,” he said to the church. The large group of people in robes all muttered in approval.  Suddenly, the entrance door swung open at the back of the church and Sir John, Marie, and Phlebotomous charged in.

“Stand back, I am a vampire!” said Phlebotomous. Immediately the man closest to him exposed his neck.

“Bite me! Give me your Dark Gift!” he said. The person next to him did the same, and soon Phlebotomous was surrounded by a group of people asking to be bitten.

“Get away from me, you freaks!” he said as they crowded into him shouting “Me! Me!”

aa-ch-13“Bite Me!”

Sir John and Marie headed for the altar.

“Use magic to stop Anglestone, no, immobilize the crowd, no, can you close the roof?” said Sir John to Marie. She started to speak but stopped each time as he changed his mind. They were at the altar when someone large stepped forward.

“Clackprattle?” said Sir John.

“Welcome, Sir John,” said Clackprattle. “It’s so nice that you came here to be the Stone’s first victim.”

“It is complete!” said Frater Princeps, bringing forth a shiny dark green object on a cushion. “The Summum Malorum is formed.”

A short person in a hood sidled next to Marie.

“How delighted I am to once again make your acquaintance, Marie,” said the man. “I have truly missed our conversations.”

“Pook.” said Marie. “Didn’t you learn last time?”

“Oh, yes,” he said. “Clackprattle, go and get the stone.”

“It’s Frater Gra…” started Clackprattle.

“Yes, whatever, get the stone, that is why we joined this ridiculous order,” said Pook.

“All right,” said Clackprattle. Marie watched as he headed for the altar.

“Oh, Marie?” said Pook. “You should always watch the hand, not the puppet.”

He glanced up, and as she followed his gaze she saw a large chunk of masonry falling toward Sir John.

The Auld Alchemist: Chapter 14

The Auld Alchemist: Chapter 12

Sir John snored happily. He was dreaming something about a tall man with a mustache and a shorter fat man. They were carrying a stone made of the moon. There was something troubling about the dream but he couldn’t put his finger on it. Maybe it was just that the fire wasn’t as hot as it had been earlier.

aa-chapter-12-sepia“He’s Drugged!”

There was some banging from far away and something like a shout or a scream. There were footsteps running and more shouting and banging. Then he fancied he heard his wife’s voice in distress. That made him stir a bit but he was so comfortable it was hard to move. Perhaps he should just sleep some more. Then he thought he heard voices, a woman and a man, voices he knew. He heard the words ‘he’s drugged’ and wondered who they were talking about. Then he heard his wife’s voice say ‘reveiller’.

Sir John sat up bolt upright. Marie, Phlebotomous, and Miss Henderson stood around him.

“It’s Lord Anglestone, he has the lens,” said Sir John wide eyed.

“We know,” said Marie. “It’s why we are here.”

“He’s part of Draco Viridis, maybe the head,” said Sir John.

“We know this too,” said Marie.

“He’s going to use the lens to make a, a Dark Stone, an evil stone,” said Sir John.

“That bit is news,” said Marie. “But settle, mon cher, we are rescuing you, let’s get away and you can tell us what you’ve learnt.”

“No time,” said Sir John, “he’s doing it tonight. In a building built specially for it.”

“How do we find this place?” asked Phlebotomous. “Did he tell you where?”

“No,” said Sir John. “I was … in and out of consciousness.”

“Bet they’ll know,” said Miss Henderson. There were a number of large men scattered on the floor.

“Miss ‘enderson,” said Marie, “try not to hurt them. At least not again.”

Miss Henderson went over and picked up various frightened looking ruffians.

“There is a lunar eclipse tonight,” said Sir John, “or so he said. It seems like this whole operation is some kind of reverse alchemy. He intends to create this Summum Malorum, this evil stone. We have to go and stop it.”

There was a scream of terror from the other side of the room.

“But how, mon cher, we don’t know what he is doing or where,” said Marie.

“Got the address,” said Miss Henderson, “and, as luck would have it, the key. That gentleman with the limp had them both.”

“Very good, Miss Henderson,” said Sir John, “I think. I have one more task for you. Can you go to Mr Cunningham’s shop as quickly as you can and fetch Diarmuid. I fear we will need his help. Marie, Phlebotomous, we should go to this place and try and stop this evil before it’s too late.”

“Well, I…” said Phlebotomous, “it sounds a bit … dangerous.”

“Look man, sorry, vampire,” said Sir John, “are you part of this investigation or not?”

Phlebotomous’ face lit up, which made it seem luminous.

“I’m in,” he said with pride.

The Auld Alchemist: Chapter 13