Casebook of Susan Vencore No. 3 - Monsters in the Woods

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Byhakee drawn by Susan Vencore

Scene 8: Monsters in the Woods

13 March 1892, 2:50am
Drake Manor, West Gravesend, England

Sir Emery has a passing familiarity with the Stone Circle, knowing vaguely that it’s in the woods, but he recommends we see Samson for directions.

The Groundskeeper’s small cottage is set back from the house and not visible from the front or the road. It appears to be older than the manor, most likely a woodsman’s cottage renovated for the groundskeeper. We call out to Sampson who comes out with his shotgun and Dodger.

It is then I smell the scent of lilacs. Warning! It seems that Sampson might also be under Diamante’s spell.

Trying to be casual, we tell Sampson that he is wanted in the manor by Sir Emory and that we have been asked to go to the stone circle and need directions. Our bluff works, and in less than a minute we are on our way.

First growth forests surround the grounds of the manor, and the forest is dotted with numerous animal trails. The woods are lush and primeval. It’s a good thing that we asked for directions.

Suddenly, we are in a clearing.

The ruined remains of a stone circle are stained by the weather. Crude symbols are carved into what can only be described as some sort of a toppled over tower. In the center of the ancient monoliths, a fresh chalk outline of a pentacle has been drawn. Candles are placed and carefully burning at each intersection where the chalk lines cross.

Circling the inner ring of stones are six brightly-colored gypsy wagons. We see six gypsies milling about the wagons – mostly watching a figure seated in front of a brazier. The seated figure is that of an old gypsy man, grey hair flowing in all directions. He rocks back and forth, slowly intoning a chant of some sort. Six horses are tied nearby with two gypsy men brushing them and keeping them calm. The reason for their restlessness is obvious. Hovering over the chalk pentagram, is a creature that looks like the strange offspring of a horse and snake with black, crusted fur that looks splotchy and half-frozen, fighting for space with large blackish-green scales. Its cloven hooves paw the air as it lets out a tremendous shriek, revealing a thick row of dagger sharp teeth.

It’s a Calling Ritual! The creature – which I later learn is a byhakee – is a monster of myth – a courier of evil.

We quickly take positions in the trees. Spider sneaks forward, and on our count, mayhem erupts. Wyatt shoots at the old man while Deasy, James and I are busy with the gypsies. As the gunfire intensifies, nobody notices Spider sneaking up on the horses.

In a few minutes, the gypsy guards are dead, the horses fleeing from the site, and the old man is slumped over the brazier – his body now a conflagration of flames.

Without warning, a second monster leaps into the air from a cave on a hillside nearby. This one, however, is manned with a rider – complete with staff – heading straight for us. The rider is a man – or so he appears – screams at us in Italian warning of our foolishness in wishing to defy the will of the dark masters.

A bolt of darkness springs from his hand at Spider. Spider staggers and falls. Wyatt and Deasy open fire and the battle begins again. After several long minutes, the rider wheels and flies off to the northwest – towards London.

Scene 9: Aftermath

13 March 1892, 7:00am
Scotland Yard, London

In the three hours between the shootout at the stone circle and the 6:00am train to London, we manage to piece together a few more facts.

The old gypsy in the circle is burned beyond recognition, although Spider thought that one of the gypsies called him Bella during the fight. We believe the Cultes des Goules burned in the fire with the old man, although no trace of it could be found.

In returning to Drake Manor, we discover that Diamante arrived several weeks ago looking for the book. She had tricked Jonathan and Samson into helping her – and in fact had been hiding in the cottage earlier in the evening. A few days ago, her twin brother Domiano appeared at the manor – also seeking the book – but apparently at odds with Diamante. It is at this same time that the gypsies took up camp in the woods.

Claudette remembers overhearing an argument about a ritual that had to take place at 3:00am – with the rising of Aldeberron. Domiano said that the gypsies must be used as a sacrifice, but Diamante just wanted the madness to end.

Both Diamante and Domiano appear to be gone. Domiano was undoubtedly the byakhee rider – although we left the “supernatural” aspects out of our descriptions for Scotland Yard.

Inspector Strawbridge has taken over the case – investigating both the murder of Jonathan Drake and the kidnap and torture of Marianne. The case is being built that Jonathan was a nyphomaniac – Marianne, Claudette and her baby, and Dimante all being parts of his obsession – eventually killed by Domiano in a protective rage for his twin sister’s wellbeing. The truth is a bit more diabolical, I’m afraid.

Although I’m not sure of his innocence, Sir Emory has been cleared of any wrongdoing. Undoubtedly, his strange studies will continue.

As for me, I just hope we have seen the last of the Evil Twins.