”An Ounce of Prevention” has St. Cyprian and Gallowglass taking on an avian entity of the Pictish persuasion in rural Cornwall in 1920. It was published in 2012 by Rookhaven Publishing in the anthology, A Cat of Nine Tales, which is available via Amazon

♦♦♦

“Is that Welsh?” one of the two shapes crouched behind a row of headstones whispered. The question was followed by the quiet snap of a Webley’s ammunition cylinder falling back into place. “Only it sounds like Welsh.”

“We’re in Cornwall,” the second shape replied, peering over the top of a headstone.

“That doesn’t answer my question.”

“I believe it’s a fairly archaic form of old Cornish. Possibly even Pictish, considering the glottal stops.”

“Oh yes, we must consider those, mustn’t we?” the first shape said, leaning forward. In the firelight, a thin face the colour of cinnamon and spattered with freckles was visible. Ebe Gallowglass flashed a white smile and turned dark eyes on her companion and employer. “Can I shoot them?”

“No. Not yet at any rate,” Charles St. Cyprian replied.

“Who is she?” Gallowglass said.

“I have no idea. A tourist, most likely. I noticed them drugging her in the pub. I believe we’re in the right place, however,” he replied, peering up at the church steeple, nearly invisible in the dark. He lifted a hand out of the slightly damp grass and examined it. “This whole place is a cairn. And we’re on a ley line,” he continued, with the assurance of one who knows his job. Which was only as it should be, considering his title and position.

Formed during the reign of Elizabeth the First, the office of Royal Occultist (or the Queen’s Conjurer, as it had been known) had started with the diligent amateur Dr. John Dee, and passed through a succession of hands since. The list was a long one, weaving in and out of the margins of British history, and culminating, for the moment, in one Charles St. Cyprian, late of Chelsea and Kensington. It was his duty to investigate and confront head-on the likes of which was occurring now in front of him, by any means necessary.

“Oh good, as if the creepy church wasn’t bad enough.” Gallowglass frowned and peered between the headstones. “I hope they can’t hear us.”

“If they could, we’d know it. These good townsfolk don’t strike me as the voyeur-friendly sort, what?” St. Cyprian dug his fingers into the earth, feeling the almost-physical hum of whatever lurked down there. God or man or something else, whatever it was, it was like licking a vacuum tube in full glow. He shuddered and looked up. The stones of the church were steaming and the tree branches were rattling like swords. “Something is coming.”

Advertisements