“…And for that reason I will ask all of you not to disturb me this evening,” said Viscount Vernal. His lips pulled back into something resembling a smile, if one had heard a description but never seen one. The group of servants faking listening attentively turned away and changed their looks of polite interest into utter incomprehension as they filed out of the room. Two maids stayed behind to tidy up.

Lord Vernal looked around the room, first up at the vaulted ceiling with its spire in the centre then down at the circle of chairs arranged on the floor with wires snaking around them. In the chairs sat 23 puppets. Then he looked up again to see lightning arcing across the sky and whispered, “soon”.

He began to don a strange looking hat when there was a commotion at the door. A man came into the room.

“My lord…” started the man.

“I thought I said no interruptions Smith,” said the Viscount. “Was that somehow confusing?”

“No my lord, but we thought you would want to know about this. We found these two snooping.”

Mr Smith indicated to the doorway and a couple of rough looking fellows came in carrying sacks on their shoulders.

“Ugh!” said the Viscount. “What foul men are these?”

“These are your employees my lord,” said Mr Smith. “The snoopers are in the sacks.”

The two men undid the sacks to reveal Phlebotomous Bosch and Sir John.

“Well, well, well,” said the Viscount. “What do we have here?”

“I think it’s two men, sir,” said one of the thugs, which earned him a sharp glance. He shrank back, or as much as man can when he is six foot five, and also quite tall.

“And what men indeed,” said the Viscount. “It’s my old friend, the vegetarian vampire, who was so very helpful before. And… wait… I recognise you from the church.”

“Sir John Jennings,” said Sir John determinedly. “Paranormal investigator.”

“Well you’ve come to the right place,” said Lord Vernal. “Look, here are 23 little supernatural creatures. Although soon there will only be two magical creatures here, when my fully operational device will extract their magic into me. In fact, I think I may make that one by having your vampire friend for dessert.”

“You can’t do that!” cried Phlebotomous, glancing wildly around the machinery lining the walls of the room. “Oh, my mistake, it looks like you can.”

There was an ominous rumble of thunder above.

“Then let us begin,” said Load Vernal.

He walked over to an ornate looking throne with wires connecting it to the spire. He sat in the throne, donned the strange helmet. He looked around him one time and glanced up as the lightning played around the spire.

“Soon,” he said, his voice rising from a whisper to a roar, “I will be more than a man. Soon, I will be powerful beyond belief. Soon… I will be immortal!”

Viscount Vernal closed his eyes and smiled. There was a flash high above in the spire as lightning struck.

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