“The Hungry Stones” sees St. Cyprian and Gallowglass match wits with a possessed woman and a lupine horror in Derbyshire. It appears in the Dark Oak Press anthology, Luna’s Children: Stranger Wereworlds, available via the publisher, as well as on Amazon.com and its international affiliates, and other online stores.
While dead cattle did not normally fall under auspices of the office of the Royal Occultist, the unique nature of their deaths had caught St. Cyprian’s attention. It was the responsibility of the office to investigate any potentially dangerous situation of a certain quality that occurred within the domains and demesnes of the British Empire, dead farm animals not withstanding.
He cleared his throat and continued. “Brown is a tenant-farmer for the local landed gentry, the Strakewicks. Their plot isn’t quite as big as Pemberley was in its heyday, but it’s quite substantial nonetheless. And unlike Pemberley’s former inhabitants, they’re still around and keeping a hand in the affairs of Wargus.”
“That might cause some difficulties,” Gallowglass said.
“It could,” St. Cyprian said. “Luckily, I was at Old College with ‘Streaky’ Strakewick. Streaky was a champion bowler but rubbish with the ladies. Probably explains why he lives with his sister. He’s actually the fellow who called us in. He said something about his sister taking a fright.” He scratched his chin. “Bed-knobs to broomsticks she saw whatever made this mess.”
“So why aren’t we talking to him, instead of tramping through nature, watching some men sift through bits of cow?” Gallowglass said.
“Because, I wanted to see the scene of the crime, so to speak,” St. Cyprian said. He pointed. “Take a good long look at that pasture. What do you see, anything unusual?”
Gallowglass made as if to retort, but then thought better of it and did as he’d asked. She frowned. “Lot of stones there, even for a cow pasture,” she said, after a moment.
“Keen eye,” St. Cyprian said.
“Well, they’re fairly big,” she said.
“Old, as well,” he said. “Ever read Kelley’s Boundary Stones and Barrows of Rural Derbyshire?”
“That doesn’t sound remotely interesting,” Gallowglass said.
“I’ll take that as a no. Those, my esteemed apprentice, are barrow stones, what are for marking barrows, innit,” he said, mimicking her accent. She glared at him and raised his hands defensively. “Sorry. Barrows are graves, traditionally.”
“I know what barrows are,” Gallowglass growled.
“Barrows are bad news is what barrows are,” St. Cyprian said. “Those stones feel a bit whiffy from here.” He caught her look and tapped his head. “The old psychical sensitivity, donchaknow; my third eye is throbbing something devilish.”
“Long as that’s the only thing throbbing,” Gallowglass muttered. She grabbed the top of the fence and vaulted over. She glanced back at St. Cyprian, who was watching in bemusement. “Well come on then, let’s go look at the bloody rocks…”