Today sees the second installment of an all new, absolutely free three part serial, “Deo Viridio”. The first part is HERE. The final installment will appear on Friday, and any and all re-tweets, ‘Likes’ and comments are welcome.
And now, on with our feature presentation!
“Charles St. Cyprian,” St. Cyprian said. “I’ll be the fellow who’ll be cleaning up your mess.”
“Mess, is it?” Jobson snapped. “What the devil are you talking about? Are you one of those potty druids that have been scampering around my site for the last week?”
“Druids,” St. Cyprian said.
“Poxy robes, bloody masks, off-key chanting,” Jobson said. “Showed them Mother’s Helper and they scarpered quick enough,” she continued, slapping a hand to her coat pocket where the shape of a small pistol nestled. Gallowglass perked up and bounced silently to her feet. “I’ll not be carted off my site. Who knows what could happen without the proper supervision,” Jobson said, unaware of the other woman’s approach. “This site is invaluable!”
“Good to know,” St. Cyprian said. “I wasn’t planning to take anything, however; in fact, quite the opposite.” The look on Jobson’s face said quite clearly what she thought of that. Before she could reply, Gallowglass’ hand darted into the other woman’s coat pocket and snatched the pistol there, plucking it out and stepping back quickly as Jobson spun.
“Tiny,” Gallowglass said, popping the small revolver’s cylinder loose and emptying the shells into her hand. “Belgian, ain’t it? Yeah—eight millimeter with a safety on the left, thirty years old, or thereabouts—definitely Belgian,” she continued. She tossed the safely emptied pistol back to its owner and pocketed the shells. As Jobson gaped at her, Gallowglass twitched aside the edge of her coat, revealing the shoulder holster and the heavy shape of the Webley-Fosberry revolver resting snug within it. A Seal of Solomon had been picked out in ivory on the butt. “I prefer something larger, me.”
“Are we finished comparing artillery?” St. Cyprian said. “Wonderful. Back to the druids…how many days would you say?”
“What—who—why do you want to know? Who are you?” Jobson said.
“I thought we’d covered that—Charles St. Cyprian, and this is my assistant, Ebe Gallowglass.”
“You’re not here to steal anything, are you?” Jobson said.
“No, nor are we here to worship, enable or otherwise indulge,” St. Cyprian said. “We’re here to help.” He looked around at the green and black cellar and hesitated. The briars clicked together and something might have moved behind them.
“For a given value of help,” Gallowglass added. She looked around and added, “Getting dark.”
“And whiffy,” St. Cyprian said, waving his hand in front of his face.
Jobson sniffed, and said, “What is that?”
“Freshly cut corn stalks,” St. Cyprian murmured, looking around, “The forest floor after a rain and moldy hay.” He looked at Gallowglass and said, “Looks like we picked the right night for it.”
“Right night for what; why are you here?” Jobson demanded.
“As I said, we’re here to help,” St. Cyprian said. “And by help, I mean we’ll be finishing what God, in his infinite wisdom, started with that long ago lightning strike.”
Jobson blinked. Her eyes widened as she saw the petrol canisters. “You can’t do that!” she shouted.
“Can and will, actually,” St. Cyprian said. “Ms. Gallowglass, if you would?”
“A pleasure, Mr. St. Cyprian,” Gallowglass said, hefting the first of the canisters and unscrewing the cap. She splattered the stones with more enthusiasm than coordination, the cigarette bobbing between her lips. Jobson and St. Cyprian couldn’t help flinching every time the red, glowing end of the cigarette dipped towards the sloshing petrol.
“This is a historical site,” Jobson said. “You can’t just burn it down.” She fingered her emptied pistol ruefully. “I won’t let you.”
“That’s why I took the bullets,” Gallowglass called out, not looking at them.
“Stone doesn’t burn at the temperatures we’ll be igniting,” St. Cyprian said. “I’m simply looking to ensure that certain matters stay snug in their holes.”
“What are you talking about?” Jobson demanded.
Gallowglass grunted and turned towards the stairs. “Cars,” she said, fingers toying with the pistol beneath her arm. She stopped on the top stair and cursed. “More company, Mr. St. Cyprian.”
“The infamous potty druids,” St. Cyprian said.
“Robes and Mayday masks,” Gallowglass said, crouching on the stairs. She drew her pistol. “Should I show them the colors?”
“No,” St. Cyprian said, sinking to his haunches and placing a palm on the floor. “Though I daresay you might want to give Ms. Jobson her bullets back, what?”
Gallowglass dug into her pockets without looking and held out a hand towards Jobson. Jobson looked at her blankly and then at St. Cyprian. “What are you talking about? What’s going on?”
“Why did you come down here, Ms. Jobson?” St. Cyprian asked.
“I was checking on the site,” Jobson said defensively. She climbed the stairs and snatched the handful of ammunition from Gallowglass. As she reloaded, she peered out over the edge of the ruined floor and cursed. They could hear murmuring voices, carried on the night breeze. “It’s them. What are they doing here?”
“They’ve been coming here for generations. Before this place burned, before it was even built, I’d wager.” St. Cyprian looked up at her. “And I meant, why did you come out here, to this site?”
Jobson frowned. “Well it should be obvious,” she said, gesturing towards the stone arch and the grimacing faces. “The Romans left a fair few stone footprints in Lincolnshire. I was on a dig in South Yorkshire when I heard about it. There could be what’s left of a whole temple beneath this drafty pile. More, maybe; a settlement even…” She hesitated. “Of course, it’s a good deal more overgrown than I’d been led to believe.”
“More indeed,” St. Cyprian said as he rose to his feet, frowning. “The smell is getting stronger and there is a definite vibration. Did we bring the journal, Ms. Gallowglass?”
“Left it in the Crossley,” Gallowglass said.
“Pity,” St. Cyprian said. “I’d like to keep an accurate record of the manifestation’s time to occurrence and dispersal.”
“What manifestation? What are you blathering about?” Jobson said loudly.
“Deo Viridio,” St. Cyprian said. “Viridius’ Due.” He looked at her. “That’d be you, I assume. Tell me, who alerted you to the presence of this site? Lincolnshire is a bit out of the way for the Yorkshire Archaeological Society, by my reckoning.”
“A local man, sort of the town historian I gathered. He keeps up with the Society’s journal, mentioned some similarities between this site and the one in Hovingham. I’ve done a fair bit of work up there, so I came down.” Jobson frowned. “What do you mean, ‘that’d be you’?”
“Asked for you by name, did they?” Gallowglass called down, “Bloody cheek.”
“Bold, yes, but not unknown, with these sorts,” St. Cyprian said, “Killing black cockerels at midnight and fingers in the entrails, that sort of rot. Probably saw her face in a basin of blood or something. Did you disturb anything?” He directed the last at Jobson.
“It was already disturbed,” Jobson said. “I’d just started taking notes and making sketches.”
The murmuring had grown louder. Not-so distant lights washed across the lightning-scarred walls and arches of the gutted house. “They’re coming,” Gallowglass said.
“They won’t come close,” St. Cyprian said. “Not until after…”
“After what; look, what’s going on?” Jobson said.
Before either of the others could reply, a soft, insistent sound rose in the cellar, drifting through the arch and winding upwards. It had always been there, but now it was louder and more noticeable. St. Cyprian turned. “Enter the King, stage left,” he muttered. “How much do you know about Viridius?”
“It means ‘green’, ‘fresh’, or ‘verdant’,” Jobson said automatically, “Probably a Romano-Celt variation on Jupiter; a minor fertility deity.” The sounds from below grew louder still as the words left her lips. The briars rustled, as if something invisible moved between them and the wall.
“One who, by all accounts, was only worshipped here,” St. Cyprian said. He picked up a canister and continued splashing petrol over the stones. The fumes were strong, and Jobson’s eyes were watering.
“The frontier did strange things to the Romans,” Jobson said. Her eyes were wide, and the sounds grew louder as she spoke, as if whatever was making them was growing excited.
“Sounds like it’s still doing strange things,” Gallowglass said from the top of the stairs. “They’ve stopped.”
“They’re just here to make sure we—you—stay put,” St. Cyprian said, pointing at Jobson as he grabbed up the last canister.
“Why?” Jobson said, raising her voice to be heard over the noise. She had her revolver extended. The sound seemed to be coming from everywhere and nowhere, persistent and unceasing.
“I’d wager the War threw off the normal routine,” St. Cyprian said. “Threw it off for everyone else, I don’t see why they’d be any different. No young people, you see. They’re very big on young sacrifices, these agricultural Johnnies. Young kings and queens, given up to corn-wolves and harvest-lords; young blood makes the best fertilizer, I suppose. So they sent away for some.” A soft sigh went up from the moss and in the light of the lantern, the faces on the walls seemed to assume expressions of relief and welcome and eagerness.
“One what,” Jobson said.
“I told you—Viridius’ due.” St. Cyprian looked at her as he tossed aside the empty canister. “It’s September, Ms. Jobson, the Harvest Season, and time to give the god of the harvest what he’s owed for seeing to the land. They’ve done it twice before since the War’s end by my reckoning, but there’ll not be a third. Hence our presence, with petrol,” he said. “Fire’s usually the best bet in these matters. No disappearances or unexplained deaths between 1911, when the lightning struck, and 1919. Like a fire sweeping a field, Viridius was crippled; but now he’s back, and, I’d imagine, quite hungry after his long recuperation.”
Jobson stared at him, as if trying to figure out whether or not he was mad. St. Cyprian, used to such reactions, simply snatched up his lantern and held it high to reveal the source of the persistent noise that had been clogging the air.
Shoots and vines crept through the cracks in the floor, rising through the spreading petrol and entwining in a soft susurrus as they had been doing for the last few minutes. Clumps of moss and mould joined briars and flowering plants, bulking out the scarecrow thin shape, giving it form and mass. Seedpod eyes fluttered and a mouth filled with nettles opened and voice like barley in a breeze caused the stones to tremble. For a moment, the petrol stink was washed away by the smell of raw, tilled earth and rotting fruit.
“What—what is that?” Jobson whispered, frozen in place.
“Viridius,” St. Cyprian said grimly.
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.