The Cornish Curse: Prologue

Editor’s note: herewith and forsooth, as previously promised, the Cornish Curse in all its gory glory.

Dear Sir John,

I apologise for this unsolicited communication, but I am at my wit’s end. I hope you can forgive me and indeed find it in your heart to assist me in my most dire hour of need. I feel that only a gentlemen of your stature and talents can rescue me and my family from the pit of horror we find ourselves entangled in.

But I get ahead of myself; please, let me explain. My family is solvent with a modest sum in the bank and land sufficient to sustain us. My wife and I live on our estate with our four daughters, who are of, or are approaching, majority. Our land is in the fair county of Cornwall, so I daresay our way of life would seem old fashioned and rustic to you, but we are happy in our ways. Or at least, we have been until recently.

pawprint-copy“Giant Dogs”

You see, Sir John, a most terrible curse has descended upon my family. A fact so terrible I barely dare admit it, but I suspect I must to coax you to our aid. For it seems some manner of creature, some foul animal, some hound of hell, has taken residence on our farmlands. There are tales and rumours in the local village, such that none will venture to our house anymore. Tales of giant dogs, unearthly howls and the appalling scent of fantastic creatures. There have been killings, too; chickens at first, then sheep, now cattle. The farmhands have abandoned us for fear they are next. And I can do little to reassure them they are not.

All of this has had a devastating affect on our harvest, and our income this year has plummeted. But this is not my greatest fear. My four daughters are of marrying age. I want nothing more for them than to find suitable husbands, that they may wed and enjoy the many joys of matrimony, including the comfort and security that such a situation would supply for them. But, alas, with things as they are I feel they may be left unmatched. As our income plummets, the very land is seen as worthless and the family itself is seen as tainted and jinxed. For my own life, I care not one jot. I am an old man who has had his time. But the happiness of my daughters, and the contentment of my wife, is all that concerns me. I cannot sleep with fear for the future, for how they will live.

Sir John, I implore you to come to my estate and investigate this mysterious beast. I know you are an expert in the uncanny, and I can assure you, sir, from the reports I have seen and the animals slain, that the uncanny has come to rest in our house. I would be pleased to offer you a princely sum to come and send it back to its home.

I have enclosed our address and a photograph I had taken of a cast of the creature’s paw print. It will surprise you, sir, to learn that this was the size of man’s hand. Please send your response by telegram, and if, God willing, it is in the affirmative I will make space in our house for you to stay whilst you investigate this most disturbing and ungodly beast.

Yours faithfully,

Edward Mallum, Esq.

The Cornish Curse: Chapter 1

Making Other Plans for Sir John

So you wait months for a Benthic Times post and 3 turn up at once. All we can do, Dear Reader, is humbly apologise and explain that we have been much distracted with life in general.

I like to think that we are not alone and that other, greater literary titans have also enjoyed a similar experience. That perhaps the mammoth four year creation of Ulysses was less to Joyce’s persnickety editing and more to time spent in a Zurich Bureau des Etrangers. That maybe the Lord of the Rings prolonged production was less to do with the complexities of Elvish grammar and owed more to a tricky renovation and a problematic set of shelves.

In any event, here we are and we have finally published the last few chapters of the novel. “What next?” I hear you cry. “And should I perhaps start reading something with a more regular publishing cycle, such as the works of Harper Lee?”

Fear not, Dear Reader, as normal service, nay, exceptional service is resuming. We intend to

IMMEDIATELY commence re-publising the Cornish Curse and Sunnyport Shadow (as they follow the Paris Awakening)

SHORTLY publish both The Paris Awakening and the first Casebook as free to download ebooks

SUBSEQUENTLY create and publish brand new stories “The Clockwork Conjuror” and “The Regal Re-animator”

Well, Dear Reader, if that doesn’t make up for the disappointment of recent months, then truly we don’t know what will. With the possible exception of a large sum of money of course. Which for absolute clarity, is not on the table (either metaphorically or indeed, actually).

We thank you for your patience, and hope you are ready to get back on board the Benthic Bus to fun and adventure.

Yours

Paul Michael and Josephine Pichette

Nice Big Red Bus Attribution: By Chris Sampson (original), cropped by User:Ultra7 – Crop of File:First London Routemaster bus RM1562 (562 CLT), heritage route 9, Kensington High Street, 27 August 2011 (1) uncropped.jpg, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20226848

(Modded using superpowers by Mme Pichette)

The Paris Awakening: Invocation – Part 16

Marie walked into the study. She seemed more cheerful than when they had parted and filled with vitality. She kissed Sir John and sat down.

“Oh mon cher, what a journey,” she said. 

“The boat? Or the train?” said Sir John. 

“Oh that too,” she smiled. She took a biscuit from the tray and crunched on it. She pulled a little moue.

“Best we could do,” said Sir John. “The good ones have all gone.”

“Nevermind,” said Marie. “Is Miss Henderson in? I’d so like a cup of tea.”

“You just missed her. She’s out with that detective,” said Sir John.

“Her beau,” said Marie smiling.

“Is she… sweet on him?’” said Sir John. “I had no idea.”

Marie smiled. 

“I have so much to tell you mon cher,” she said. “But first we should talk about Pook and what we learned. It is a terrible thing.”

“Maybe I’ll get a brandy then,” said Sir John reaching for the bottle.

“One for me too,” said Marie. 

Sir John looked a little surprised then poured two drinks. Marie took a mouthful and swilled it around.

“Very nice,” she said. “So, you know Pook had these powers, more than any pookah should. Well until Calliope took them away. They were from something else, you know. He wouldn’t, I think couldn’t, tell us more. Just that there was a creature that he called the Spinner.”

“The Spinner?” said Sir John. “I’ve never heard of it.”

“You know Pook and Clackprattle controlled the Draco Viridis and Bisset’s organisation too. I think this Spinner wanted to control all these secret societies. Make some kind of global fraternity of, of…”

“Of?” said Sir John.

“Indeed, of what we couldn’t find out. I don’t know if Calliope’s powers had wiped Pook’s mind or this Spinner, but it had been pulling his strings for sure.”

“So Calliope didn’t kill him in the end,” said Sir John.

“No,” said Marie. “She wants to kill this Spinner instead.”

“So where is Pook now?” said Sir John. 

“Back in a wood, causing minor mischief, where he belongs,” said Marie.

“Seems he got off light,” said Sir John.

“He’s just a minor spirit that was allowed to get too much power,” said Marie. “It’s the wielder, not the weapon we need.”

“Hm,” said Sir John. “And how was the time with the family?”

“Oh it was wonderful, mon cher,” said Marie. “I had so many relatives I didn’t know about. All witches. I have so much to tell you. They taught me about my past, about my family, about, about me.”

She beamed at her husband who smiled thinly back.

“I’m glad,” he said. “Really.”

“What’s the matter,” said Marie.

“Well, I was thinking that now you have your family and now you know who you are and you have all this power,” said Sir John. “That… that you don’t really need me.”

Marie sat back and took a last big gulp of the brandy.

“You’re right,” she said. “You’re quite right. I don’t need you.”

Sir John’s head tilted down.

“But,” said Marie, “I do so very much want you.”

She clicked her fingers and the lights went out.

“Oh my,” said Sir John.

* Fin *

The Paris Awakening: Invocation-Part 15

Sir John sat at the desk in his study. Papers were covering every inch of the desk and indeed several chairs. He was staring intently and rather glumly at one of them. Miss Henderson came in with a tray with tea and biscuits.

“Oh bravo, Miss Henderson,” said Sir John. “Do we have any more of those butter biscuits we brought back.”

“The petty bores?” said Miss Henderson. “I’m afraid you’ve had them all. There’s just some nice oat biscuits from the baker.”

“Well I’m sure they’ll do wonderfully,” said Sir John with a forced cheerfulness.

“Is there any news from Mrs Jennings?” said Miss Henderson casually whilst needlessly dusting some papers. Sir John glanced down.

“She’s still with her mother,” said Sir John, “learning more about her family and their… traditions. It’s very important, you know. It’s what we went for, in a way.”

“Well you wouldn’t go there for the food,” said Miss Henderson. “I was glad to get back to some nice home cooking. Which reminds me, there’s a pot of mulligatawny soup I left for you.”

“Oh, are you off out?” said Sir John.

“Yes,” said Miss Hendeson patiently, “I think I mentioned it earlier. I’m having dinner with Detective Symonds.”

“How is he?” said Sir John. “You’re quite good friends aren’t you?”

“Indeed,” said Miss Henderson who looked downcast now. “Good friends.”

There was an awkward pause.

“Oh, and the trial of that villain Bisset concluded.”

“Oh good,” said Miss Henderson. “How many did he get?”

Sir John looked perplexed.

“How many years,” said Miss Henderson, “for… well, shooting me for a start. And Mr… I mean mon sewer, er Emile.”

“Oh, he got life,” said Sir John. “For attempted murder and aiding and abbeting actual murders. You know all those people who died? All those scientists and so on? He did the lot, with Clackprattle.”

“And what about that sinister organisation of his?” said Miss Henderson. 

“No sign at all, neither hide nor hair. The defence made out it was a fantasy,” said Sir John.

“But you don’t believe them?” said Miss Henderson.

“It’s the problem with secret societies,” said Sir John. “They’re hard to find by definition. Still life is life and that’s something, I guess.”

“I thought they chopped heads off over there,” said Miss Henderson.

“That was rather a while ago,” said Sir John. “Somewhat in history. Talking of which, Mr Bosch sends his regards. I saw him earlier today.”

“You know, I almost thought he might stay in Paris with his… friend,” said Miss Henderson.

“Me too,” said Sir John. “But it seems he returned. I understand Osvold wasn’t keen to leave Paris nor Mr Bosch London.”

“Distance can put a real damper on…” started Miss Henderson. “Oh, is that the time? I should be off.”

“Well, have a pleasant evening,” said Sir John wanly.  He started to work and presently heard the front door open and close. A short duration passed whilst he read the same sentence repeatedly before the door opened again. Sir John smiled to himself and opened the door.

“Forget something, did we Miss Henderson?” he said and saw his wife in front of him.

The Paris Awakening: Invocation – Part 14

“Marie!” said Miss Henderson and ran over and hugged the woman. She then remembered her position, stood back and looked a little embarrassed. “This is for you,” said Miss Henderson and handed over the key. 

Marie smiled, waved the key around her head and shouted “REVENIR”. The gargoyles all started to head towards the Notre Dame. As they reached the cathedral  they leapt up returning to their places.

“Marie,” said Calliope. “You look… different somehow.”

Et tu, non?” said Marie, smiling. “I think we have both come into our natural skin somehow. But please wait, I need to check something.”

Marie drew a circle in the ground around herself and closed her eyes. She looked deep in sleep for a few moments before her eyes opened again.

“My husband is safe, and the vampires too, although they have had the shock of meeting my mother,” she said.

“I thought your mother was dead,” said Morag.

“Is she a vampire too?” said Miss Henderson.

“No and no,” said Marie. “Is that all the gargoyles? We seem short some.”

“There’s another group coming,” said Miss Henderson. Marie nodded.

“The ones chasing my husband,” she said. “Here they come.”

The gargoyles filed past the women. Albrecht was one of the first.

“I tried to stop them,” said Albrecht, looking gloomy, “but this witch lady did a better job.”

“Thank you Albrecht,” said Marie. “Trying is good enough.”

“What about these two,” said Miss Henderson. She pointed at Pook and indicated Bisset by giving his face a little kick.

“Oopsie,” she said.

“Pook I’ll deal with later,” said Marie.

“He’s mine Marie,” said Calliope. “He took Emile.”

“Sabine… No, not Sabine…” started Marie.

“Calliope,” said Calliope, “Muse. Pleased to meet you, again.”

“Calliope, he’s a woodland creature that somehow gained extra powers. I need to know why. And… I am a witch. The woodland creatures are mine,” said Marie.

“There are laws,” said Calliope, looking sullen.

“He is the weapon, not the wielder,” said Marie, gently.

“This one is a wielder,” said Miss Henderson, kicking Bisset again. “He shot me.”

“For which he will go to jail forever,” said Marie. “There are laws.”

The last of the gargoyles was back on the cathedral and getting into position.

“What do we do with that?” said Morag, indicating the key.

“This, we do what we should have done from the start,” she said. “We leave it with the guardians.” 

Marie looked up at the sky and held the key aloft. From four directions came a jolly fat man, a bird-like woman, a walrus and a lizard. As Marie brought her hands down the key was in four parts. She held the four parts out as the four avatars took them. 

“When they are needed, we will give them,” they spoke in unison before departing the way they came.

“So, this whole trip was… for nothing?” said Miss Henderson.

Marie looked at the three other women, and the men on the ground.

“It was for everything,” she said.  “Ah, here comes my husband.”

Approaching from a distance were Sir John, Marie’s mother and Phlebotomous holding on to a hopping sack.

“For everything,” repeated Marie quietly.

The Paris Awakening: Invocation – Part 13

All three of them turned and stared. The gargoyles had suddenly stopped the attack. They stood stock still.

“She’s very good,” whispered Phlebotomous to Sir John.

The grey haired woman who had been seemingly holding back the horde looked puzzled and went up to a gargoyle. She flicked its nose experimentally and it flinched but didn’t move. She then tweaked another one’s nose, flicked a third’s ear and finally blew a raspberry in the face of a fourth. This one swore but didn’t move.

“I suspect this is something else,” said Sir John. “Madam. Madam…”

The woman came up to him and Phlebotomous and started talking French rapidly and excitedly. Her eyes flicked between the two of them and she seemed to be looking for something in their faces.

“Are you getting any of this,” said Sir John. “I think I heard something about the sea.”

From within the sack, Osvold started to speak French. The old lady looked perplexed and went over to the sack. She started to open it, but Osvold said something excitedly and she left it closed. She crouched down and talked to Osvold through the sack. She kept glancing at Phlebotomous and Sir John. Finally she walked over to Phlebotomous and hugged him tightly.

Mon fils, mon fils,” she said happily.

“This is your mother?” said Sir John, sounding perplexed.

“I don’t think so,” said Phlebotomous. “My mother is shorter with blue eyes, around three hundred years older and dead.”

“Well… you know,” said Sir John, “people don’t always stay dead…”

“True,” said Phlebotomous. “But it’s rather tricky to put heads back on.”

Sir John decided not to pursue that line of enquiry. The sack containing Osvold hopped over to the woman smothering Phlebotomous and started to talk to her. 

There was a sudden change in the gargoyle army. They all jumped back a few feet, then jumped up in the air. Then they crouched down for a while before standing up and holding out their arms. Then they turned around and hugged each other and finally the whole group turned away and headed towards Notre Dame.

“What in the world was that?” said Sir John. “Still… gift horses.”

Osvold spoke to the old woman again. She listened intently, laughed out loud and then went over to Sir John and held him tight. She looked into his face, winked and pinched his cheeks. Sir John looked horrified.

“Osvold, what did you say?” said Sir John. Phlebotomous leaned down as Osvold spoke.

“It seems Sir John that what passed previously was a misunderstanding. This is in fact your mother,” said Phlebotomous.

“I rather think not,” said Sir John looking down aghast at the woman. “My mother is from Surrey.” 

The old woman stopped holding Sir John and looked serious. She drew a circle in the ground with her foot and closed her eyes. Expressions passed over her face as if she was asleep before her eyes opened again and she smiled broadly at Sir John.

Osvold tugged at Phlebotomous and the vampire leaned down.

“Oh,” said Phlebotomous. “My mistake. Not mother. Mother-in-law.”

The Paris Awakening: Invocation – Part 12

“Oh this is glorious indeed,” said Bisset, key held aloft and eyes filled with fervour. He looked at Calliope. “As sure as it is my destiny, my right to rule and now Paris, nay all of France, can rejoice in the death not only of our foes but their very gods themselves.”

He waved a hand to pause the gargoyles, who now encircled the group.

“Do you see madam how perfect this is, that not only is the key returned to me, its rightful owner and heir, but the very puissance and power of my country, my kingdom, is displayed for all to see. Do you not see how your death ushers in a new era where France, with Paris at its helm, is the greatest nation on earth and in history?”

As he reached fever pitch, he turned to the circle of gargoyles and seemed about to gesture to them when a puzzled look crossed his face and he collapsed forwarded, the key dropping to the ground. Behind him stood Miss Henderson holding a large piece of wood.

“They always make these big boring speeches,” she said, “and they never pay attention to the maids.”

“Ela!” said Calliope. “Now what do we do?”

They looked at the circle of stationary gargoyles, patiently awaiting instructions. Miss Henderson picked up the key and they all stood to attention.

“Go back!” she said and waved the key at them. They all jumped back a couple of steps in unison. 

“More,” said Miss Henderson, waving the key higher and they jumped up higher.

“I’m not sure I’m the right person for this,” said Miss Henderson.

“Well at least they aren’t attacking,” said Calliope.

“Did I miss anything?” said Morag, sitting up, looking around and then at Calliope. “I guess I did.”

“Morag, are you alright?” said Miss Henderson, crouching down to be with her friend. As she did all the gargoyles crouched too.

“I feel like I’ve been punched in the head by a big fella,” she said. “You were shot? And now you’re up with a troupe of dancing gargoyles. I’m dreaming right?”

“This is reality,” said Calliope.

Morag looked at her in confusion.

“It’s sure has changed a lot recently,” she said. “Are we winning?”

“Do you know how to control an army of gargoyles using this key?” said Miss Henderson to Morag. “You know about this sort of thing.”

“You dinnae fancy knocking me back out do you?” said Morag. “And as for the question, not really, we didn’t cover gargoyle armies in alchemy school.”

“Sabine, Calliope?” said Miss Henderson. “Maybe you should have it.”

Miss Henderson held out the key. The gargoyle army all held their arms out too. Calliope stared intently at it.

“Felicity, I really shouldn’t even touch that thing, magical objects do strange things to magical people.” she said. “Besides, I think it should be a Parisien.”

“Per’aps” said a voice. “I could ‘ave it?”

All three of them turned and stared.

The Paris Awakening: Invocation – Part 11

A large number of gargoyles approached the group. They were perhaps fifty feet away. Sir John gulped and turned to Phlebotomous.

“I don’t suppose you have any anti-gargoyle devices in that coat of yours,” he said.

“I wasn’t really anticipating an attack by gargoyles,” said Phlebotomous.

“Fair enough,” said Sir John. “Well, it’s been a pleasure then Phlebotomous.”

“What has?” said Phlebotomous, looking perplexed.

“Knowing you,” said Sir John. “I’m pretty sure these creatures are here for me. I have a message I want you to pass to…”

“Somethings happening!” said Phlebotomous, “The one at the front, look.”

Sir John looked and indeed the gargoyle at the front seemed to have turned back to face the approaching horde. He seemed to be addressing them. Sir John squinted to see what was happening.

“That’s Albrecht!” he said. “That’s Marie’s friend! I wonder what he’s saying?”

The sack next to Phlebotomous started to rustle and Phlebotomous leaned in.

“Why don’t you let him out?” said Sir John.

“I don’t have a spare day suit,” said Phlebotomous. “But Osvold can understand that gargoyle.”

“What is he saying,” said Sir John.

“He’s saying, even though like you I want nothing more than to tear that human limb from limb as we are instructed, I must ask you to pause,” said Phlebotomous.

“I must have made a good impression then,” said Sir John ruefully.

“He’s now telling them you are married to a powerful witch who will surely hunt them down,” said Phlebotomous. “So they must call off the attack.”

There was a pause, a moment of silence and suddenly the gargoyle horde shouted as one and ran toward Sir John. Phlebotomous leaned in and spoke with Osvold.

“They don’t agree,” said Phlebotomous

“I rather gathered that,” said Sir John. “Can you please pass a message…”

He was interrupted by an old woman jumping in front of him as the gargoyles were within a few feet away.

“EMPECHER!” shouted the woman and the gargoyles all stopped.

There was another moment of silence. The woman stared intently at the gargoyles, her head moving around to catch all of their eyes. The gargoyles were paused but seemed to strain as they stood, trying to push forward.

“What just happened there?” said Phlebotomous.

“I don’t know,” said Sir John. He leaned forward toward the woman.

“Madame?” he said. “Madame?”

She muttered something in French without turning back. 

“Do you speak English, peut etre?” said Sir John. There was something familiar about her, but it was hard to tell from behind. He couldn’t think where he might have seen her.

Then the woman muttered again and Osvold said something. Phlebotomous leaned in and then turned to Sir John.

“The woman politely requests that we don’t interrupt her while she is trying to hold a one thousand year old magical army at bay.”

“Ah!” said Sir John and decided his curiosity could wait. He fell silent as Phlebotomous looked puzzled and started to open his mouth, but Sir John put his fingers to his lips. Phlebotomous nodded sagely.

The Paris Awakening: Invocation – Part 10

“Well Mr Bisset,” said Pook merrily, “this all seems to be proceeding very well.”

“Indeed,” said Bisset, “I’m sure your master will be very pleased with your work.”

A small grimace passed over Pook’s face and Bisset smiled discreetly.

Burns, doesn’t it, he thought, when we are ruled by one we think lesser.

“I’m sure he will be too,” said Pook. “I wonder if I can draw your attention to the lady hovering over the lawn over there and heading towards us. Is she also part of the army of Paris?”

Bisset squinted into the distance and saw that Pook was correct. Heading toward them was a woman hovering around six feet above the ground. Bisset didn’t recognise her, but she looked mediterranean.

“Well Mr Pook,” said Bisset, “I have to report the sad fact that I cannot explain this phenomenon, but as she appears to be heading towards us we may soon be able to understand ourselves.”

The woman did indeed seem to be heading toward them at some speed, and a long white dress was billowing behind her. She moved rapidly toward the two men with a fierce look on her face.

“Boss…” said one of the two bodyguards.

“I think I recognise her,” said Pook. “But I can’t say where.”

“Murderer!” said the woman, in a strong accent Bisset couldn’t place. She seemed to be heading toward Pook and descended in front of the men.

“Murderer!” she repeated, staring intently at Pook.

“Madam,” said Bisset. “Please allow me to make introductions, I am Monsieur Bisset and this is Mr Pook.”

“I know who he is,” said the woman. “He killed him, he killed Emile.”

“May I be so bold as to ask your name?” said Bisset.

The woman turned to look at Bisset and he recoiled under her glare.

“I am Sabine Bellevoix… or rather I was,” she said.

“The woman in the picture,” said Pook, clicking his fingers. “Now I place you, although you seem… different somehow. Darker hair and more airborne.”

The woman lurched forward and grabbed Pook by the lapels. He flinched a little.

“Bellevoix… French for good voice… Calliope in Greek,” she said. “My true name. I am the daughter of Zeus, muse of poetry, and lover… and lover of the man you murdered.”

“I see, well perhaps you can inspire us all to write a nice ode to him,” said Pook smirking.

Calliope’s eyes flared and light poured out of them into Pook. He spasmed in her grip and made a terrible moaning sound. When she stopped he stared at her, appalled.

“Those were the powers you were given by someone,” said Calliope. “I have taken them, little creature of the woodlands.”

“It wasn’t me,” said Pook with a look of horror on his face. “It was Clackprattle, I killed Clackprattle. We’re on the same side.”

Light flared once more from Calliope’s eyes and Pook spasmed. Bisset approached the two.

“Please, madam, please,” he said. “There is no need for this. I beg you to stop.”

Bisset got down on his knees as if to emphasise this point.

“You killed my friend,” said Calliope nodding to where Miss Henderson lay. “Your turn will come.”

Bisset ran back in horror and Calliope turned to Pook, now limp in her hands.

“And those were the powers you were born with. Now you are broken, powerless and mine to destroy,” said Calliope.

“Sabine?” said Miss Henderson, weakly.

Calliope dropped Pook and looked at Miss Henderson.

“You’re… alive,” she said.

“Thank god for whalebone corsets,” said Miss Henderson pulling herself up. “Kicks like a donkey when you’re shot but no long term harm done. You look different, you’ve changed your hair. And your skin.”

“Get her!’ said Bisset. Calliope looked at the bodyguards and they both ran away.

“Wise move,” said Calliope.

“Thank you,” said Bisset.

Calliope looked confused for a moment and then saw what Bisset meant. He held the key to the army of Paris aloft. A large number of gargoyles approached the group.

The Paris Awakening: Invocation – Part 9

The last thing Sir John remembered was Bisset shooting at him. The next thing he appeared to be flying over Paris.

“Good Lord!” he thought. “Have I been killed and am now flying to another, better place.” 

He felt in quick measure a sharp sadness that he wouldn’t see Marie again, a fascination as to what he would learn as a disembodied entity and then sudden motion sickness as he began a descent. 

“Oh,” he thought, “I didn’t think I’d been that wicked.”

He looked around and realised he was being held by mechanical arms, along with a wriggling sack, by a strange black creature with springs for feet. The creature landed on the earth and began to rise again. Sir John wondered briefly if there was some ambivalence as to which destination he was heading to when a penny began descending along with the black creature. It was hard to breathe with the rushing air and the rebound from hitting the ground so Sir John waited until he was at the apex to speak.

“Phlebotomous!” he said then the breath was snatched out of him as they once again descended.

“Yes!” said Phlebotomous at the next apex. Sir John was pleased for the confirmation but was rather hoping for more detail.

“Stop bouncing?” said Sir John once they reached the peak again, hoping the interminable parabola would end.

“Can’t. Gargoyles,” replied Phlebotomous, nodding back with his head.

As they descended again, Sir John tried to twist to look backwards. He could see the Notre Dame as they once again hit the Paris streets. They appeared to have landed somewhere in the Sorbonne. Then as they rose he saw shapes moving on the roofs and pavements. At first it seemed like they were birds as he saw wings and claws. They descended again whilst he puzzled over what Phlebotomous had said and what he had seen. As they rose again he looked and saw the creatures were moving fast, almost keeping pace with them and seemingly heading the same way. It took him until the peak to see clearly the army that was pursuing them.

“Oh b…” he began before his breath was snatched away. The trio descended and rose a few more times until they landed in the Jardin des Plantes. One of the springs on Phlebotomous’ feet embedded firmly into the grass and soil. Momentum took the vampire up a little, but the spring held firm and so he tipped forward. Sir John, Phlebotomous and the wriggling sack landed heavily on the ground. Phlebotomous immediately opened the sack and put his head in. There was a squeal of delight and he pulled out his head.

“It’s Osvold, he’s safe,” said Phlebotomous. Sir John couldn’t see through the vampire’s full body suit, but it sounded like Phlebotomous was smiling.

Sir John looked at the far side of the park and saw movement in the trees. Creatures jumped from tree to tree, scanning the ground before looking at him and heading his way.

“In a manner of speaking,” he said.