The Paris Awakening: Water Part 13

ghost walrus

The door to the old aquarium burst open and Clackprattle and Pook walked in.

“Another fine Parisien location,” said Clackprattle. “Truly we have seen the sorry arse of this sorry city. Are you sure there is something here, Pook? This isn’t another wild goose chase?”

“Indeed, I believe we have found something of true value here,” said Pook. “The bug couldn’t or didn’t go inside but went right up to the door which means…”

The door slammed suddenly.

“That the door probably slammed shut on it,” said Pook.

The darkened corridor seemed to turn from black gloom to blue glow. Tiny lights appeared that resolved into fish shapes.

“I think I’m seeing things in this blasted dark,” said Clackprattle and swatted at things in front of his face. Pook saw a shape forming down the corridor and moving towards them. Presently, it resolved form.

“The avatar of the water key, I presume?” said Pook to the gigantic ghost walrus.

The walrus nodded gracefully in the air.

“Indeed,” he said, “and you are?”

“Clackprattle and Pook sir,” said Clackprattle. “Master and servant, here to take the challenge, here to claim our just reward.”

“Which is which?” said the Walrus.

“I am Clackprattle,” said Clackprattle, “and this is….”

“No, who is master and who is servant?” said the Walrus.

“Why you impertinent swine,” said Clackprattle. “If you knew who you were dealing with you’d show some respect.”

“Excellent advice,” said the Walrus.

“Do I assume from your presence that the key part has not yet been claimed?” said Pook. “That we are, as they say, still in with a chance?”

“Indeed, I still possess the key part, and you may take the challenge,” said the Walrus. “I would advise a note of caution… powerful emotions may be released. Are you sure you are up to the task?”

Clackprattle scoffed.

“I think sir it will take more than a few little feelings to disturb my temperament. I am a man of unusual emotional fortitude,” he said.

“On that note I believe you,” said the Walrus. “If you wish to proceed you may go first.”

Clackprattle rolled his eyes and nodded and…

You’ve spent your whole life as a joke and you know it. A stupid man, too proud to learn, your so-called wisdoms are the guessworks of a moron. Since you are too fragile to live without the respect of others, you have bullied your way to power. But the respect you seek, you will never receive. All you can gift to others is fear, and in return loathing and contempt is your reward. At the end even your greatest servant plays you for a fool. Your grand attempt at grabbing power has left you grasping thin air – an emperor not only without clothes but also without an empire.

Clackprattle stared vacantly into space.

“What did you say?” said Pook, in an agitated manner, “I couldn’t hear? What did you do to him?”

And you, little pookah, think you’ve played such a grand game. From your little hedge magics and tricks to being here in Paris with the great and the grand. And how proud you are of having this fat buffoon on your puppet strings. But you forget little one the puppet strings that bind you and move you. You forget that when you plot to cut the strings you pull, the one above may do the same. Or do you believe your ultimate master will show you the mercy you will not show to your toy?

Pook stared in front of himself too, lost to the world. The corridor went dark again, and the ghosts disappeared like smoke. The door swung open, leaving the duo staring vacantly into the dark, damp, rotten building.


Ghost Aquarium

Ghost Walrus

The Paris Awakening: Water Part 12

Victorian Walrus

“Come in a little please,” said the Walrus. “Otherwise the gateway will be seen.”

He floated back into the hallway and the Jennings, Miss Henderson and Morag followed him in. The door closed behind and as their eyes adapted the corridor seemed a deep blue colour. Ghost fish swam past in little shoals. Apparitions of octopus, wraiths of rays and phantom turtles swam around. It was no longer clear where the wall was.

“So,” said the Walrus, “How may I be of assistance to you?”

A perplexed looking crab came up to Sir John’s feet and squeezed his boot inquisitively. Sir John couldn’t feel a thing.

“We are, uh, looking for a key part,” said Sir John.

“Are you sure?” said the Walrus as a confused tiny whale flitted by.

“Fairly certain,” said Sir John.

“And when, if, you get the key, what will you do with what it opens,” said the Walrus.

“Well, we’re rather hoping to keep it from some others, some rather dastardly chaps,” said Sir John, “who we think would like to use it to kill us.”

“And you think you’d do better at this task than four supernatural creatures that set appropriate challenges to one who search for it? That you are a better guardian than those who have guarded the key for centuries?” said the Walrus.

“Er…” said Sir John, “Well, we aren’t intending to be critical of the excellent work you have all done but…”

“They have something special,” said Marie, “something dangerous that might help them achieve their goal. And they are devious, and they have one part already.”

“Hmm,” said the Walrus. “Very well, it is your prerogative to seek and it is mine to hide. You understand then there is a challenge?”

They all nodded as a sea snake wound its way around them.

“Let me explain the challenge for you. As I’m sure you may imagine, it is a test of one’s emotional resilience. We are testing to ensure that one who gains access to the power the key permits is stable enough to earn it. You will be presented with certain emotional truths. These will be hard to hear and hard to bear. Anyone that can bear them will have passed the test.”

“How will we know,” said Marie, “if we have borne these truths?”

“It will be clear,” said the Walrus. “It always is. Also, I must inform you, you will be on your own. As your emotions are yours only, so must be your responses. Is that all very clear?”

The group nodded.

“Does just one… take this test?” said Sir John.

“Anyone can. Indeed, all of you can. The tests are very arduous even for the strongest, so I would advise you to be sure you are in your best frame of mind.”

Miss Henderson looked at Marie and then Morag.

“Perhaps,” she said, “we would be better placed to come back after a big cooked breakfast and a nice cup of tea.”

The Walrus smiled, the door creaked open and the ghost aquarium vanished in the daylight.

I am the walrus

The Paris Awakening: Water Part 11

Jardin des Plantes

Morag stood on her own a little distant from the empty, rusting cages. She shivered a little as she saw the others wander around. Miss Henderson saw her and came over.

“I’m not that keen on cages, truth be told,” said Morag when Miss Henderson arrived. “I got picked up one time in London and put in one for a while until my father came and found me.”

“Sounds awful,” said Miss Henderson. “Were you scared?”

“Terrified… and there was nothing I could do. If I’d opened ma gob I’d been in worse trouble. Luckily the other dogs in the cage were pleasant enough,” said Morag. Miss Henderson’s eyes went wide.

“Can all dogs talk?” she whispered.

“Oh aye,” said Morag, “we all had a big natter about philosophical epistemology.”

“You’re teasing me,” said Miss Henderson quietly.

“Sorry Felicity,” said Morag. “This place gives me the creeps.”

“Me too actually,” said Miss Henderson. “I feel quite on edge, thinking about what happened. I notice Miss B… Miss Bell… Sabine hasn’t joined us.”

“I believe she is trying to make the church look presentable for the anticipated return of Emile,” said Morag. “You’re none too keen on her are you?”

“I’m sure it’s not my place to have an opinion,” said Miss Henderson primly. “She just seems a little… showy to me.”

Morag chuckled quietly.

“And impertinent, forward, ill humoured,” said Miss Henderson, “and extremely inappropriately dressed for a lady of her age.”

“But apart from that?” said Morag. “Ah look, here come the Jennings now.”

“Anything?” said Sir John to Morag and Miss Henderson.

“Not really,” said Morag.

“It feels nearly right, but not quite,” said Marie, looking around her. Morag noticed her eyes were a little red. Marie in turn caught her looking.

“I used to come here as a child, with my aunt,” said Marie. “I never came after, you know, and I was remembering how nice it used to be. Then I remembered that my aunt was not who I thought she was, and that I don’t know who was who.”

“What building is this?” said Sir John. “What does that say beneath these plants?”

He pulled aside some foliage from the sandstone structure they were standing next to.

“Oh, it’s the door to the aquarium,” he said.

“That’s it!” said Marie. “That’s where it will be. Does the door open?”

“It’s rather stuck,” said Sir John leaning on it.

Miss Henderson barged into the door, and she and Sir John nearly fell in as it swung open. A dark passageway lay behind.

“Should we explore?” said Sir John hesitantly.

“I… think something is coming,” said Miss Henderson standing back. They all looked as something formed in the air at the end of the corridor. As it headed towards them it gathered more form, but remained translucent. It arrived at the door and the shape was clear. Two eyes, two huge tusks and a multitude of whiskers stared at them.

“What are you?” said Morag.

“I am the Walrus,” said the avatar of the water key.

“G… g… good God!” said Sir John.


Le kiosque du Jardin des Plantes

The Paris Awakening: Water Part 10

menu seige

“So, you know about the siege?” said Marie. She looked around the table at the blank faces of her husband, Miss Henderson, Morag, Phlebotomous and Osvold.

“The one in Paris,” said Sir John, trying to be helpful. “With the, the whatnots… In, er…”

“1870,” said Marie. Osvold leaned in to Phlebotomous and started whispering rapidly, glancing over at Marie from time to time. After a few minutes the whispering stopped and Phlebotomous looked at everyone around the table.

“That was before Osvold’s time,” said Phlebotomous. Sir John looked confused.

“But I thought vam… I thought you were immortal?” he said.

“Yes,” said Phlebotomous, “but we have to be born sometime. Osvold was born in 1871.”

“But he looks older than you,” said Sir John.

“I was… turned at a younger age than Osvold,” said Phlebotomous. “I’m actually over 200 years old. We don’t age after… it happens.”

“So there’s a 200 year age gap between you and Osvold?” said Miss Henderson. “Is that a bit difficult?”

Phlebotomous looked confused.

“I’m not sure I understand what you mean,” he said. Miss Henderson went to speak but then felt Morag’s paw tap her foot.

“Anyway,” said Marie. “In 1870 the Prussian army surrounded Paris. There was shelling every night and day.  Nothing could get in or out. Even the the mail was sent by balloon. And there was no food. It was… it was terrible. When the good food ran out, people ate whatever they could find.”

“I thought French people did that anyway?” said Miss Henderson. “I mean snails, frogs.”

“I mean whatever,” said Marie. “People ate…”

Marie glanced at Morag.

“People ate anything that could be eaten,” she finished quickly. “There was a zoo in Paris. There were many creatures there, and they were… cooked… and served in the more fashionable restaurants.”

“Cooked? Like what?” said Miss Henderson.

“Like kangaroo, like antelope, like, like elephant,” said Marie. “It is a sad story I know, but one borne of necessity. And it fits what we are looking for. A garden on the lake, a place of joy and sadness, where things have been caged and where death has been seen.”

“Is it far,” said Sir John.

“Not far, but it will be dark now.” said Marie. “We should go tomorrow.”

Silence descended in the room.

“What a horrible story,” said Miss Henderson.

“War is a horrible thing,” said Marie. “Need is a horrible thing. It drives people to such horrors.”

“I think I’m glad I grew up in England,” said Miss Henderson. “At least we always had good wholesome food like tripe, sausage and black pudding.”

“What do we know about the test?” said Morag. “Can we prepare ourselves?”

“Earth was a physical test and Air intellectual,” said Sir John, glad of the change of subject. “This is likely to have an emotional aspect.”

Morag looked at Marie, who in turn was looking blankly at the table, lost in the horrors of the past.

“Aye,” said Morag. “It certainly has that.”


The Christmas Menu can be found at–71)


The Paris Awakening: Water Part 9


“So we had a most marvellous afternoon walking around a poncy park looking at some ugly statues,” said Clackprattle to Pook and Bisset as they sat around the table. “And we learned precisely nothing. Is it possible, Bisset, is it possible your crack team of witless map readers can suggest some places instead of us trailing around the Jennings’ wake like puppy dogs?”

Bisset smiled.

“It is entirely possible for my brothers to supply to you a list of possible locations. The problem is that that list would take a year to investigate. The Tuileries was indeed a candidate so it wouldn’t be a surprise they looked there,” he said. “Of course, they have the advantage of having spoken to the Oracle so may know more than we.”

“That pitiful creature was useless,” said Clackprattle. “She told us nothing but riddles.”

“Indeed that is the nature of an oracle,” said Bisset, “and our task is rather to solve those riddles. It is indeed unfortunate that she was killed when you met her as she may have been helpful. I have to say, some of the brothers are concerned by that and what it implies.”

“What do you mean by that, sir?” said Clackprattle rising, his glove slipping off his hand.

“I mean,” said Bisset, “they are concerned that maybe the… abomination that infects your hand also affects your mind, affects your judgement.”

“I believe I can interject here,” said Pook. “I can honestly say I can see no deviance between Master Clackprattle’s resolve and composure from before his acquisition of power. He is, and remains, as solid and reliable as ever.”

Clackprattle snorted.

“At least one man can see the truth,” he said, indicating Pook.

“Indeed, that is most enlightening,” said Bisset. “I will be happy to convey that to my brethren. But there is nothing you can remember of your conversation, nothing however insubstantial seeming that may help?”

“As I said before, it were nonsense,” said Clackprattle. “So I suggest your brethren pull their enlightened fingers out of wherever they have stuck them and find us some answers before we lose another key piece!”

Clackprattle thumped on the table for affect.

“This bores me,” he said. “I shall retire.”

After he had gone Bisset and Pook smiled at each other.

“This is a most unfortunate situation to find ourselves in,” said Bisset pleasantly. “I worry the order may lose patience if we do not progress soon. I am sure they can be placated in the meantime by the completion of your other task.”

“We are indeed very close to that goal,” said Pook. “But I must admit to a certain nervousness on that score. Were we to complete that task, and given our current difficulties, it would rather seem that we were exposed somewhat to any negative consequences triggered by the order. We would have, as they say, no chips with which to bargain, if push came to shove.”

“An understandable concern,” said Bisset, “but I can assure you, as a friend, that should push come to shove, it would be the architects of the failure that would shoulder the blame, not their agents or servants.”

Pook smiled.

“I feel I must press you for a little more clarity,” he said. “I believe for example it could be suggested that I may bear some small responsibility for the problems that were encountered in recovering the piece from the Oisienne. I would like to be sure I am not seen as the, ah, architect in that situation.”

“M Pook,” said Bisset, “whilst fingers were understandably pointed after those events, I think I may be able to reassure you here. For when push does indeed come to shove, any who assists in the, er, shoving are bound to be seen as above reproach in eyes of the brotherhood.”

Pook leaned back, his shoulders dropped a little.

“I am sure,” he said, “you will always find me a most willing servant in all your endeavours.”

“I would imagine nothing less,” said Bisset.

The Paris Awakening: Water Part 8

Drinks with Emile

Emile tidied the mess of papers on his desk and tried to concentrate. He reminded himself that he had an institute to run and started to focus on that. Despite his manner and demeanour he had a tidy mind when needed. Although recently it had deserted him a little.

As he looked at the pile of investigations and reports his hand went reflexively to the brandy decanter. Almost absently he poured himself a glass and he sat back reading the first report. A junior investigator was waxing enthusiastically about a haunting he was investigating. He had added a daguerreotype and mused that a small white blob in the corner may yet be proof of supernatural creatures. Emile snorted out loud and lit a cigarette.

This whole business with the Marie and Sir John had driven him crazy he was sure of that. And yet, something else was on his mind too, a strange urge he could neither define nor resist. He wanted to do something new, different. He wanted to create something, to paint, to sing, to write poetry.

Mon Dieu!” he said out loud. “What worse fate can befall a man than to become a poet?”

There was a knock on the door and Emile dragged himself up with the enthusiasm of a schoolboy. It was probably the landlord again, hoping for rent.

“I’ll have it Tuesday,” said Emile as he opened the door. Sabine stood behind it. She smirked.

“Have what exactly?” she said.

“The rent,” said Emile. “I thought you were the landlord.”

“Do I look like the landlord?” said Sabine, pouting a little.

“Not even remotely,” said Emile. “Come in. Do you want some Cognac?”

“No, no it’s far too early,” said Sabine. “I’ll have whisky.”

Emile poured a generous glass for her and sat opposite. Sabine pouted again and Emile looked away.

“Still angry with me?” she said.

“Yes, no, I don’t know,” said Emile. “Not you, or not just you.”

“You feel you’ve been hoodwinked?” said Sabine.

“No, I understand, more or less,” said Emile. “I just feel….”

“That you’re not special?” said Sabine.

“Have you been talking to Sir John,” said Emile.

“No, but I encouraged him to talk to you, as a friend, to clear the air,” said Sabine.

“Ah!” said Emile. “That explains it, poor man, he’s not very good at expressing his emotions, it was quite the trauma for him.”

“How about you,” said Sabine, “can you express your emotions?”

The sun set a little deeper and the room went quiet. Emile looked at his shoes.

“You know,” said Sabine. “You are wrong. You are special.”

Emile glanced up at her.

“Come back to the church. Come back to me,” she said.

“All right, you win, I’ll come back.” Emile said. “But look, I need to finish up here. Let me sort things out, set things up to take some time off. I’ll be there in a day or two.”

Sabine smiled and stood slowly up.

“Don’t take long, it’s too quiet without you,” she said and slinked out the door.

Emile took a long drag on his cigarette and exhaled loudly. He took a big swig of his brandy then looked at the next report, a smile forming on his face.

The Paris Awakening: Water Part 7


Sir John and Marie stood next to the north side of the Notre Dame admiring the gargoyles. They had sent away Miss Henderson and Morag who had both shown far too much curiosity in Albrecht. Emile had decided that he had, in his words, important things to do and had left for his apartment. His head had been shaking a lot and he had sworn a few times as he left. Since it was late afternoon in Paris none of this caught anyone’s attention.

“Albrecht!” said Marie calling up to the gargoyle, who seemed to be completely stationary.

“Albrecht? It’s us.”

The statue didn’t move and Marie looked perplexed at the situation. Sir John looked down and saw a couple looking askance at Marie.

“Is… your friend okay?” said the man, with an American accent.

“She has… had a little wine,” said Sir John. “And a little bit of brandy. Maybe some absinthe.”

“Paris!” said the woman to the man by way of explanation and they walked away,

“Pfff…” said Albrecht. “I thought they would never leave. I was caught in the most uncomfortable position when I saw them. You should be more careful.”

“I’m sorry,” said Marie. “But you wouldn’t believe what has happened to us.”

“Let me see, has your arch enemy arrived in Paris and begun looking for a key to a formidable weapon and they have one part and you have one part and now you both seek the third?” said Albrecht.

“Yes,” said Marie, looking crestfallen. “How do you know?”

“I’m sitting in the very heart of Paris surrounded by creatures who stare all day at the city and have nothing to do but gossip. If a mermaid sneezes in the Seine then we say Bless You.”

“There are mermaids in the Seine?” said Sir John.

“It’s a figure of speech,” said Albrecht.

“No it’s not!” said Marie.

“No… it’s not,” said Albrecht, “but keep that one secret.”

“Since you know our predicament, we wondered what else you knew, like…” started Marie.

“Where are the third and fourth keys, where is the weapon, what does it do?” said Albrecht.

“Yes,” said Marie, “exactly!”

“Well…” started Albrecht. “Oh, people!”

A crocodile of school children wandered by the cathedral. The leader pointed to various interesting architectural features of the cathedral as the Jennings stood there waiting. After an age they wandered off.

“Well?” said Marie urgently.

“Well I can’t help you,” said Albrecht. “We don’t know anything.”

“What?” said Marie. “Nothing?”

“We never heard of this weapon until you came along. Like I said, we’re just getting the news and gossiping.” said Albrecht. “It’s very interesting though.”

“Is that them?” said another gargoyle. “Are they the good ones or the bad?”

“Go away Lucas,” said Albrecht to the other gargoyle.

“Look, can you help us with the location of the next key?” said Sir John. “We’re a bit stumped.”

The two gargoyles looked at each other.

“What is stumped?” said Lucas. “Is that an English dish with suet?”

“No,” said Sir John, “I mean we’re stuck, we don’t know the answer.”

“We’re looking for a garden on the river, which has seen great happiness and sadness and witnessed a lot of death,” said Marie. “And where something was caged.”

“Hmm…” said Lucas, “I can’t think of one place.”

“Me neither,” said Albrecht.

“Apart from the Jardin des Plantes,” said Lucas. “Remember Albrecht, during the siege?”

Mon Dieu,” said Marie and went white.