Deasy's Diary No. 4

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Miss Sarah at Longships Lighthouse - 1892

29-31 October 1892

Scene 7: Ballowall Barrow

It is dusk by the time we have reached the barrow. The rain has paused, but the air is still alive with a brisk wind. In the dark, the tall grasses near the seashore wave wildly and a distant flock of birds shriek at the coming night. Our horse drawn carriages filled with blankets and a small barrel of hot cider help to lighten the mood.

The barrow is 72 feet in diameter – a domed structure raised over a large gravesite. Recently excavated by William Borlase in 1878, a number of cists – small stone-built coffin-like boxes have been found in the top of the barrow. An entrance grave is located in the external side of the outer cairn.

The campsite has been set up with four large canvas tents forming a semi-circle around the entrance grave – which has a large flat stone blocking the passage into the barrow. A roaring fire has been built in the center of the circle – logs pulled up to provide seats near the fire. Food is served from picnic baskets. Arthur continues his talk about buccas.

It is shortly after dinner – approximately 8:00pm – when suddenly Brutus starts barking. A boar perhaps? Ashton Clark offers to walk the dog and disappears down the hill away from town and towards the sea. He returns later with a strange story of finding a boar tied in a cave near the cliff face. Certainly a plant, but why?

The boy’s insistence to open the main barrow crypt is waylaid until the morning – at which time a quick look around revealed nothing of interest. To say the young ones are disappointed is an understatement.

A good night’s rest in the tent, and I’m ready for a boat ride.

Scene 8: Longships Lighthouse

Morning breaks grey and sullen – the storms have subsided but the skies are still muted – casting a pallor over the land. Looking down to the sea, I see a small steam ship docked in St. Just. The ship is a sidewheel paddle boat – painted in bright greens and yellows – oddly out of place in the monochrome visage of the small town. I see Lucy, Horace and several men down at the docks loading supplies from the train onto the boat.

The Longships is a group of rocky islets a mile offshore of Land’s End – about 20 miles south of St. Just. The trip will take 2 hours in the strong seas – about 9 knots per hour. The ship is the Lady Sophia – and her captain is James Ridley. His son Daniel is the first mate. I learn from the captain that the lighthouse tower was first lit in December 1873 having cost £43,870 to build. Fascinating!

The Lady Sophia is a large side-wheel paddleboat made of darkest wood painted bright green and yellow. Over 80 feet long and 20 feet wide, the ship looms two stories. The stacks of the paddlewheel bellow out thick white fog.

The rooms on board are musty, although the ship appears to be no more than twenty years old. All the furniture is built into the wall, following standard nautical practices for seagoing vessels. Several bookcases and overstuffed leather chairs are in each room – simple and efficient.

On deck, I see a group of rocks about a mile off the coast. The Longships Lighthouse stands on the highest islet – about 40 above the sea. The lighthouse is a square building about 80 feet high. A lantern at the top is dark – a strange sign, according to the captain. A constant white water can be seen surrounding a number of submerged reefs. A single stone pier juts into the sea – just large enough to tie up a single boat. A single path leads from the dock to the lighthouse. The island is rocky with long sea grass. There are no trees or other buildings on the island.

Landing, we notice the front door to the lighthouse is wide open. Ashton Clark discovers large webbed footprints leading to and from the lighthouse – still wet! The trail is warm!

The bottom level of the lighthouse takes up the entire 40 x 40 foot square footprint of the building. It is surprisingly well appointed – a Persian rug lies near a large overstuffed leather chair, an old piano is here as well, the corner kitchen has a stove and several work surfaces, and a small partitioned area has a bed. A spiral staircase in the center of the room leads up to the lamp room above. Only the stone floor of the lighthouse looks old – an ancient foundation upon which a new lighthouse has been built.

The room has been trashed. The rug has been clearly thrown about, the overstuffed chair sliced with claw-like marks. Every cabinet is empty – its contents strewn about. The keys of the piano lie scattered about the floor – only a few bloody keys remaining in the once-fine instrument. The bed is likewise slashed. The smell of kerosene is strong here.

Suddenly, Ashton Clark and Sarah have a revelation – the poem – the one about the dove and pelican. It is describing a keyboard on the piano. Ashton Clark sits down and picks a tune from the remaining keys. Suddenly, we hear the sound of a scraping – as if stone is rubbing against stone – a groaning of works that have not been used for many years. From the floor a stone box rises up, its lid sliding off to reveal a hidden compartment.

Inside is a filigreed silver bound book has a cover portraying children playing – as if a book of nursery rhymes. Inside, however, the book is more sinister. The pages are of a strange vellum – nauseating to the touch, and of the hue of human skin. The writing in the book is tiny, scrawled in brownish-red ink in a language that looks ancient – but quite unreadable.

Although we didn’t examine the book at the time, we later learn that it is the Bucca Book – a cookbook with recipes – not for children’s meals – but for meals of children.

As we are talking, Mika shouts out that several strange dolphins are approaching the island. From what we can discern, they are carrying tridents. Time to leave!

Returning to the ship, we head out towards Old Grimsby on Trescaw Island – the site of the All Hallow’s Eve Hunt. Looking back at the island, I can swear I see the figure of Matthew Weeks – the discharged rear brakeman – staring down at us from the ruined lighthouse lamp room.

Scene 9: Old Grimsby

The journey to Trescaw Island is punctuated by high waves, although the bank of black clouds and almost constant lightning stay on the horizon. Although it is day, the skies are dark and wind cold.

The only event of note was the discovery of a large box of earth that had been smuggled aboard the Lady Sophia. While we were dumping it overboard, young Prince Arthur told us that the buccas on the ship were very unhappy. At first, I thought the child was touched – or at least coddled too much – but now I believe he can see buccas.

It is approaching dusk by the time we see the quay and the outline of the Blockhouse fort – its 16th century ruins standing guard over the port of Old Grimsby. A sandy beach stretches around the half moon bay between the fort and the fishing huts of the low village. Grey stone houses with white painted shutters are spaced along the waterfront. Beyond an old stone wall holds back the push of an ancient forest which threatens to overtake the village.

In front of the quay, a single stone building with a sign the “Mariner’s Compass Pub and Freehouse” has a number of lights burning inside.

As soon as the ship pulls within sight, we see a large bald man in a barman’s apron and several villagers gather on the stone quay. They are smiling and laughing in eager anticipation of our arrival. The pub’s proprietor is Tuck Miller, so named because of his large girth, lack of hair, and resemblance to Friar Tuck. He is social, talkative and friendly. He greets us warmly and asks if he can provide a meal and wine.

We accept and learn several items of note. First, there are hunting dogs on the island – owned by Mr. Edgar Edgewater, a local farmer. Second, we are told of the location of the cave where the boar will be “discovered” by young Prince Arthur the next day. The night passes uneventfully, although young master Arthur several times points out buccas watching our every move. They seem to be following Mica – perhaps they are after the silver book?

Scene 10: All Hallow’s Hunt

Early in the morning, Ashton Clark and I decide to set out to put the boar in the cave – over the protests of Horace who seems to be more talkative since the girls left. Following the directions from Tuck Miller, we stop by the Edgewater farm to hire his dogs.

Edgar Edgewater is slightly plump with ruddy features, small beady eyes. He is middle aged and seems good natured. He agrees to loan us the dogs and promises to have them ready when we return from “hiding” the boar.

A dark tangled path leads past the Edgewater barn and back into the woods. The land here is owned by Albert Dorrien-Smith – who is away on holiday with his family. The terrain here is rolling woodland. Dense and ancient in places, most of the forest is easily accessible with small open meadows and game trails.

A well-established path leads to a grove of ancient gnarled oaks which plunge into a thin narrow ravine called Darley’s Hollow. As we descend into Darley’s Hollow, the darkness of the dense canopy of ancient oaks immediately plunges us into blackness. Footing is treacherous here. As we reach the bottom of the ravine, ahead I see a large cave formed under the roots of an oak tree some 20 feet in diameter. The entrance is very low – only a few feet high, but it is wide and clearly large enough for the boar.

Entering, we find the cave damp with the musky scent of animals. To the rear of the low slung cave, hidden in the darkness is a pile of animal hides – almost like a hunting blind within the cave. An ambush!

Whatever is normally here will be used to harm Prince Arthur and Robgoblin.

Ashton Clark hides in the skins while I tie up the boar and retreat from the cave to guard the entrance. What will we find?

It is not long before a black-skinned figure dressed in animal skins comes loping into the area. It sniffs the air, two red eyes glowing menacingly, a low growl coming from broken black teeth and a swollen tongue.

Just as it reaches the cave entrance, Ashton Clark fires. I fire. Two hits. The creature dashes towards me. Another volley, and the creature is atop me. My head spins – a piercing pain threatens to pull me from consciousness. Suddenly, I am looking at myself – from the body of the creature. A skinwalker! It has switched bodies with me. Just then, Ashton Clark comes out of the cave. I point at the monster-who-is-me and shout for him to fire. Confused, he fires and hits me – a staggering wound. I shout out a secret passphrase from the King of Clubs.

Ashton Clark is a man of many talents – and quickly assessing a bad situation is a strong suit for our adventurer. He quickly realizes that the copper coffin with the conga line of figures was a skinwalker’s respite.

After a scuttle with the monster-who-is-me, Ashton Clark takes us both to town – to the single cell that passes for a jail. Locked up, we are questioned until our true identities are known. Dr. Marleybones takes a vampire hunter’s kit – why he would have ever thought to bring one of those along is a mystery – and uses the Vial of Vampirism to force the skinwalker to return to its original body. Ashton Clark then shoots the creature and its body is burnt.

In the late morning, young Prince Arthur goes on his hunt. Mika remains behind guarding the silver book and Horace. The rest of the party makes the appropriate fuss over the boy going into Darley’s Hollow – less sinister now that the skinwalker is gone – and killing the boar – which Ashton Clark moved to another cave nearby.

While it is hard to consider a hunt successful when so many deaths occurred along the way - a large celebration feast is held that night at the pub in Old Grimsby in honor of the event.

Scene 11: Hame

Our return to London is certainly less eventful. I have summarized our research into Matthew Weeks in classified document that follows. It was lucky that my companions were up to the task at hand. While the newspaper accounts will undoubtedly tell a different tale – ours was of a mission well done. Huzzah!

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