Today sees the first installment of an all new, absolutely free three part serial, “Deo Viridio”. Subsequent installments will appear on Wednesday and Friday, and any and all re-tweets, ‘Likes’ and comments are welcome.
And now, on with our feature presentation!
“For the god Viridius,” Charles St. Cyprian said, peering up at the crumbled and ancient archway, a lantern in his hand. The words had been inscribed when the stones that made up the archway had been set, and time had worn them almost to invisibility in September of 1924.
“What?” Ebe Gallowglass said, flicking a cigarette butt into the briars that tangled around the base of a weather-beaten wall. The briars were not the only plant-life to have burrowed through the seemingly solid stones and the old stone behind the briars had been rendered black by some long ago fire. That fire, a result of an unlucky lightning strike according to the historical records, had gutted what had once been the house of a proud Lincolnshire family of note, leaving it a cracked and crippled ruin.
“The inscription,” St. Cyprian said, pointing. “It says, ‘for the god Viridius’.”
“Is that a clue?” Gallowglass said, peering up past the ruptured ceiling of the cellar and up through the skeletal remnants of the roof at the orange sky. The sun was setting and an evening breeze slithered through the ruin, causing the greenery to rustle and shift. What man had abandoned, in the wake of the fire, nature had reclaimed. Gallowglass, sitting on the blackened stone steps that led down into the cellar from above, shivered slightly and pulled her coat tight about her. She had dressed with her usual flair—like some hybrid of a cinematic street-urchin and a Parisian street-apache, with a flat cap on her head, and her sharp, dark features wreathed in smoke from her second cigarette.
“Yes, and rather an obvious one, what,” St. Cyprian said as he reached out to touch the stone. At the last moment he pulled his hand back, thinking better of it. The ancient carvings on the stones of the walls seemed to grin and grimace at him in sinister humour. Moss and brambles poured from their gaping mouths, creating curtains of green on the fire-darkened walls. “But obvious dangers are still dangerous,” he continued. In contrast to Gallowglass, St. Cyprian was dressed like an advertisement for Gieves & Hawkes, Savile Row, from his polished tie-pin to his equally polished Old Etonian intonation. “And obvious or not, it definitely falls within my remit, I’d say.”
Gallowglass made a rude noise. “Our remit, you mean.”
“Fine, our remit,” St. Cyprian said.
That remit, such as it was, being the investigation, organization and occasional suppression of That Which Man Was Not Meant to Know, including vampires, ghosts, werewolves, ogres, goblins, hobgoblins, bogles, barguests, boojums and other assorted unclassifiable entities which were the purview of the Royal Occultist. 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 and his erstwhile assistant-cum-apprentice, Ebe Gallowglass.
“That’s better,” Gallowglass said. “Sure those will be enough?” She gestured with her cigarette towards the petrol canisters lined up like attentive soldiers near the stairs. Each one was full and the cellar stank of petrol fumes where it didn’t stink of damp, growing things. Before St. Cyprian could answer, she glanced over her shoulder and sucked meditatively on her cigarette. “Company…” Wood creaked somewhere above and a shadow spread across the wall of the cellar.
“You’re losing your touch. I heard them five minutes ago,” St. Cyprian said.
“Hard not to, the noise they’re making,” Gallowglass said. She smirked. “And I heard them when their car pulled up ten minutes ago.”
“Oi, what are you doing down there?” It was a woman’s voice, at parade ground volume.
“That doesn’t sound like a local,” St. Cyprian said, looking at Gallowglass.
“And we were expecting more than one,” Gallowglass agreed.
“I believe I asked a question. Shall I find a constable?” A young woman, with hair like the inside of a lit coal-furnace and a face like a thundercloud, glared down at them from the edge of the hole. She was dressed for outdoor labour and she presented a fairly intimidating figure, like Hera glaring from on high. The duo looked up at her without apparent concern.
“Good God, I didn’t know they grew gingers that big,” Gallowglass murmured.
St. Cyprian shushed her. “And who might you be?” he called up to the newcomer.
“Bella Mae Jobson! And who are you? Because as certain as sin you don’t work for the Yorkshire Archaeological Society!”
“And how did you come to that conclusion, Ms.—ah—Jobson, was it?” St. Cyprian asked, mouthing the words ‘Yorkshire Archaeological Society?’ to Gallowglass, who shrugged in silent reply.
“Because I do, and this is my site and you’re not one of mine,” she snapped. “I insist you tell me what you were doing down here.”
“Ah,” St. Cyprian said. “Well this is a bit of a rum do, and no mistake.”
“Frankly, I’m happy to see her,” Gallowglass said cheerfully.
“We’re not using her as bait,” St. Cyprian said sharply.
“Well…I’m still not doing it,” Gallowglass said.
“Are you going to answer my question, or shall I fetch a constable?” Jobson shouted, hands on her hips.
“No, no constables are necessary Ms. Jobson,” St. Cyprian said, “Unless, of course, you’d like them to escort you off these premises?”
“Oh here it comes,” Gallowglass said, pulling the brim of her cap down over her eyes.
“What?” Jobson bellowed, her voice causing the birds nesting in the upper reaches of the ruin to burst into panicked flight. The greenery seemed to shift and hiss in a breeze.
“Casanova, too right,” Gallowglass said, making pistols with her fingers and pointing at St. Cyprian, who made a face.
“Quiet you,” he said.
“What did you say to me?” Jobson bellowed again.
“Not you, her,” St. Cyprian said, rubbing an ear. “I say, would you mind lowering the volume a bit, what?”
Jobson spluttered and started down the ancient stone steps, shoving past Gallowglass, who grinned nastily at St. Cyprian as he was forced to take a step back by the approaching archaeologist. “Really, Ms. Jobson, were I you, I’d leave right now and forget you saw anything,” he said hurriedly as she stomped towards him.
“Don’t be preposterous,” Jobson said, coming to a halt in front of St. Cyprian, her arms folded across her bosom. “Just who do you think you are?”
“Charles St. Cyprian,” St. Cyprian said. “I’ll be the fellow who’ll be cleaning up your mess…”
TO BE CONTINUED…
To download the ROYAL OCCULTIST PRIMER, a free PDF containing three previously published stories click HERE.
A number of the Royal Occultist stories are available in audio format via Bandcamp.
And the first Royal Occultist novel, THE WHITECHAPEL DEMON, is available via Amazon.com and Smashwords. The Whitechapel Demon sees St. Cyprian and Gallowglass go up against a secret society of murderists and an other-dimensional doppelgänger of one of history’s most notorious killers. The book serves as an introduction to the world of the Royal Occultist as well as delivering an exciting adventure for new readers and old fans alike to enjoy.