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The King of Shreds and Patches Session Two Part 2 - Dr. John Dee and Housebreaking

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The four of them were able to take the coach to High Wycombe. It took several hours to make the trip. The ride proved very uncomfortable with the carriage bouncing along the rutted roads and paths. It was late in the afternoon before they finally made their way to the house Dr. John Dee was staying at. It was quite large.

 

The doors of the house were opened by a woman of about 50 whom they guessed was Jane Dee, his wife.

 

“Dr. Dee is busy working on what remains of his library, but I will ask if he will see you,†she said after getting their names and that they were from London. “Please come in and wait in the hall. Warm yourselves by the fire.â€

 

She disappeared into the house, returning several minutes later.

 

“I’ll show you into the study where Dr. Dee will see you,†she said.

 

The study was a small room, filled to overflowing. Damaged books and manuscripts lay scattered across the floor. Mathematical and navigational devices, many of which were unrecognizable to them, rested on exposed surfaces throughout the room. Several maps of England, Europe, the explored Americas, and the known world hung on the walls. A large portrait hung on one wall, a small plaque underneath it reading: “Olaus Wormius The Elder c. 1240.â€

 

Dr. Dee, the famed mathematician and occultist, sat at a desk in the corner of the room, his gaze fixed on a thick volume in front of him. The book was quarto-sized, bound heavily, and sealed with an ornately wrought brass lock. Dr. Dee muttered to himself as he quoted passages in Greek and then a phrase in some strange language.

 

“Ia Shub-niggurath, ia Shub-niggurath, Cthulhu fatagn, what does it all mean, what does it mean?†he muttered.

 

Mrs. Dee coughed lightly and Dr. Dee turned to regard the four men. He was of large frame, though not as broad as those who had seen portraits of him remembered. He had lost weight and his cheekbones were more angularly defined than they should have been for a man once so portly and tall. His thick head of white hair had receded somewhat and his flowing white beard was stained and yellowed. He appeared to be in his mid to late 70s.

 

He coughed heavily and bid the men to sit.

 

“How can I help you gentlemen?†he said. “My wife says you’ve come all the way from London to see me. What is it you need?â€

 

“Ah yes, I would image that the news has not yet come to High Wycombe as to what happened at the Globe today, has it?†Hawksworth said.

 

“Not unless a man on a very fast horse came specifically to tell of it,†Dr. Dee said.

 

Selwyn laughed and Skern smiled.

 

“There are four of us and our horse was not fast, but I do believe the news will be reaching you from us first,†Hawksworth said. “Shakespeare’s life was in danger at the Globe today.â€

 

“Terrible shame,†Dr. Dee said. “I do not know William Shakespeare. Never met the man. But I understand his plays are quite good and I’ve seen a few. Enjoyed them very much myself.â€

 

“They are good.â€

 

“So, did you just come to bring me the news that someone tried to murder Shakespeare?â€

 

“In part.â€

 

“The way he tried to murder Shakespeare,†Selwyn said. “He outstretched his arm, as if he was trying to pluck and apple from a tree, but was aiming it at Shakespeare.

 

“The apple being the heart and Shakespeare being the tree,†Hawksworth said. “He was mumbling─â€

 

“It seems a dagger would be an easier way to kill a man,†Dr. Dee said.

 

“But he was doing it from 25 yards,†Selwyn said.

 

“So, he had a way of killing a man without anyone knowing,†Hawksworth said. “If we hadn’t─â€

 

“Witchcraft, perhaps?†Dr. Dee said.

 

“It seems as such,†Selwyn said.

 

“If you’ve come to me to ask about such things, I know nothing of it,†Dr. Dee said.

 

“Are you familiar with a Johannes van der Wyck?†Godfrey asked.

 

“Cannot say as I am,†Dr. Dee said.

 

“That was the man,†Godfrey said.

 

“How about a Joseph …†Selwyn said.

 

“Barker,†Hawksworth said.

 

“… Barker,†Selwyn finished.

 

“Yes, now, Barker I know,†Dr. Dee said. “Such a bright student. Barker came to me … oh, it must have been ten or twelve years ago now. That fool, Kelley, introduced him to me. I had been experimenting with crystal gazing, scrying if you like, trying to contact the heavenly, the angelic ─ and it worked.

 

“I, unfortunately, was no master of this art; its subtleties evaded me. But Kelly was abler than I and set about contacting the divine via crystals we had fashioned. Information was handed down to me in a language I christened Enochian. The contacts left me physically and mentally drained. We had been experimenting with the technique for some months when Kelley introduced me to Barker. Barker was only 18 or 19 years old then and professed a facility with such things, saying he had had contact with beings such as these before.

 

“I set about instructing Barker in the art and he quickly outstripped us all in his ability, delving deeper and deeper into the arcane in his search for universal truths, studying day and night at the library … well, not here, but at Mortlake, where I lived. I sat in on one of his contacts once and I confess it shook me to the very core. I did not recover for two days. After that I forbade either Barker or Kelley to have anything more to do with this crystal-gazing.

 

“What I had seen in that meeting was too horrible for words. I realized that what we were in contact with was not the angelic but the demonic. When I told Barker to desist, he flew into a rage, calling me a coward, an amateur and a charlatan. He said he was on the verge of a great discovery and that he would soon be given the knowledge of all existence. He told me he would continue his contact with these demons with or without my permission, as his genius had surpassed mine months before. I actually think it had, you know.

 

“That was the last I heard of him then, for I journeyed aboard with poor Kelly, who later left me and met an unfortunate end.â€

 

He laughed, a deep, booming sound.

 

“He fell from grace,†he said. “Literally.â€

 

“Is that a ship?†Selwyn said.

 

“No no no,†Dr. Dee said. “The Emperor of Bohemia threw him out of a window.â€

 

Selwyn laughed.

 

“How ironic,†he said.

 

“I travelled widely in Europe and, while in Germany, came across a volume which confirmed my suspicions about my misnomered Enochian contacts,†Dr. Dee went on.

 

He crossed to the desk and lifted the thick volume he had been studying. He displayed it to them and then showed them the first page, where, in large Greek letters, was displayed the word “Necronomicon.â€

 

“‘Necros,’ gentlemen, meaning ‘the dead’ and nomos meaning ‘the law’ or ‘customs,’†he said. “In this ancient text I discovered the nature of the beasts we had inadvertently contacted. I have spent the last ten years of my ebbing existence working at this foul book and I tell you truly that it is killing me. I despise it, yet I am fascinated, enthralled, and lust after its secrets.

 

“I warn you now, if you seek Joseph Barker for some matter, tread carefully for he is now surely one of the most dangerous and foul beasts abroad in this fair land.â€

 

“Do you mean he is no longer human?†Selwyn said.

 

“Anything’s possible with the teachings of this book and the things Barker was attempting,†Dr. Dee said.

 

Selwyn and Hawksworth realized Dr. Dee was very troubled and was obviously extremely scared of Barker and his doings, but that feeling was mixed with a palpable sense of relief at confessing his fears to them.

 

Hawksworth took out the terrible round stone with the strange sigil upon it. Dr. Dee seemed quite startled by the terrible sign and looked away quickly.

 

“Hm,†he said.

 

“We found it on the assassin,†Selwyn said.

 

“If you would put that away, I would appreciate it,†Dr. Dee said to Hawksworth. “And please don’t let my wife see it.â€

 

Hawksworth put it away.

 

“So, you’ve seen it before?†Hawksworth said.

 

“I have,†Dr. Dee confessed.

 

“And what does it mean?â€

 

“It connects to Barker. He called it ‘The Yellow Sign.’â€

 

“Seems apt,†Godfrey said.

 

“He worked on many, many volumes,†Dr. Dee went on. “The one that most fascinated him with a Latin volume.â€

 

He struggled up from his chair and began a frantic search through the remains of the library.

 

“It is here, I think,†he said. “Yes, I think it is still here.â€

 

He dug around for a while.

 

“I regret but that I cannot find it,†he finally said to them. “I am almost sure it is still here. You are more than welcome to look if you wish. The book is called Diabolis Britannia, Libri Gaius Antoninus. If you find it, you would also be doing me a great service, for it is the only true copy of the book extant. I believe Joseph translated it and had it published in English in London, but I fear his version is significantly flawed in that it omits certain key events. I would be delighted to recover the original and set matters aright.â€

 

“What does it look like?†Godfrey said.

 

“It’s a book,†Dr. Dee said.

 

“Yes, but …â€

 

Dr. Dee told him it was leather covered but otherwise identical to so many more books in his library. They all searched for the book, all the while Dr. Dee poring over the volume on the desk in front of him, occasionally scribbling on a sheaf of papers with a quill and muttering to himself quietly. It took them five hours to locate the book in the mess of a study.

 

When they found it, Diabolis Britannia turned out to be a Latin text, handwritten. It was almost midnight and the house was deathly quiet.

 

Skern asked if Selwyn had shown Dr. Dee the diagram.

 

“Oh, Dee,†Selwyn said. “Is this one of those crystals you were talking about?â€

 

“That’s like them, yes,†Dr. Dee said. “This one is different. This one … it’s almost as if they had been working on refining the crystals we had used. Very interesting.â€

 

“I saw a … massive, beautifully cut gem, cut in such a way that it was baffling as to how it was possible.â€

 

“Hm. Yes. That would be Barker’s work. The thing that he wanted to do, yes.â€

 

He verified they had the book Barker had translated and had printed and noted he thought Barker had some other writings printed in London as well.

 

All the time they searched, Skern had been pondering on why the name Joseph Barker had always seemed familiar. He finally remembered Barker had come to Fletcher print shop to have a book published but Skern had turned him down as he’d been too busy at the time.

 

“That’s why that name sound familiar,†Skern said. “Yes. Yes, a Barker came into my shop in London and wanted to print a book. I believe this must have been the one.â€

 

“So, you know what he looks like?†Hawksworth said.

 

“I-I think I would recognize him, yes,†Skern said. “It was very busy that day, but …â€

 

“Yes yes, he lives in Whitehall I believe,†Dr. Dee said.

 

He even gave them the street name where he thought the man lived.

 

“We should go right now - to his very door!†Skern said.

 

“At midnight?†Dr. Dee said.

 

“It’s in the middle of the night,†Godfrey said.

 

“You said that we should be cautious,†Hawksworth asked. “How powerful is this man?â€

 

“He … he puts anything that I ever learned or could do to shame,†Dr. Dee said. “He knows how to manipulate.â€

 

“Would he be able to stop a blunderbuss?†Selwyn asked.

 

“Or two?†Skern asked.

 

“I would not put it past him,†Dr. Dee said.

 

“What if he was unaware?†Selwyn asked.

 

“I do not know,†Dr. Dee said.

 

“It would be no different than what Moore did to him though,†Hawksworth said.

 

“What did Moore do to him?â€

 

“Shot him straight in the chest.â€

 

“Did he live?â€

 

“Must’ve been.â€

 

“He’s still doing things, so …†Skern said.

 

“Wait!†Hawksworth said. “The letter! To Van der Wyck from Joseph. Where is it?â€

 

They found the letter and Hawksworth showed it to Dee.

 

“Is that his handwriting?†he asked.

 

“It looks like it, yes,†Dr. Dee said. “As far as I can recall.â€

 

“That’s the letter that was sent to the Dutchman that tried to take Shakespeare’s life today.â€

 

“Hm. Well, as I said. Joseph is very dangerous. If … he could be a danger to the entirety of England.â€

 

“Perhaps we should revisit Van der Wyck’s shop,†Skern said. “Get this crystal you speak of, and go to Dr. Whitewood and see if he can help us with this text.â€

 

“Before we go though, do you know why Joseph Barker would be trying to rid Shakespeare from this world?†Hawksworth said.

 

“It sounds as if he knows too much,†Dr. Dee said.

 

“Knows too much?â€

 

“Does Shakespeare have any connect with these people that …†Dr. Dee said, picking up the letter.

 

He looked over it.

 

“‘A curse on writers who insist on jotting everything down,’†he read aloud. “As I said, Joseph published some books but I don’t think he told any of his secrets.â€

 

“Well, Shakespeare and Marlowe were involved with the summoning of the King in Yellow,†Hawksworth said.

 

“Then … perhaps … he doesn’t want anyone alive who could do it besides himself,†Dr. Dee said. “Or perhaps he fears them bringing the authorities down upon him for necromancy or witchcraft. It is only idle speculation either way.â€

 

“Let me ask, do you have any spells that might help us─†Skern asked.

 

“Of course not!†Dr. Dee said.

 

“─if we were to come upon─â€

 

“It’s quite against the law and very sinful.â€

 

“Well, do you have any advice on how to stop Barker from performing any spells, then, if he was to attack as in such a way.â€

 

“I don’t know. There might be clues at his house.â€

 

“What Skern really wants is a potion to make a woman fall in love with him,†Hawksworth quipped. “Do you have that?â€

 

“I’m not a gypsy!†Dr. Dee said. “I’m afraid I cannot help you in that way.â€

 

“Well, thank you for the help you have given,†Skern said.

 

“You have helped us quite a bit,†Hawksworth said.

 

“Good luck,†Dr. Dee said. “Beware him. He’s a dangerous man.â€

 

“Cheerio,†Skern said.

 

They left Dr. Dee’s house well after midnight. It was very dark and cold. Hawksworth, Skern, and Selwyn all noticed a shadowy form on the grounds which quickly seemed to dissolve into the undergrowth. Selwyn and Godfrey were left with a tingling sensation of dread and fear, as if their very souls had been raked by unseen claws of evil, their minds prised open and their emotions rifled by an ephemeral entity of darkest malevolence.

 

“What was that!?!†Godfrey said.

 

“That’s not good,†Selwyn muttered.

 

“What happened?†Skern said.

 

“We must get rid of Joseph as soon as possible,†Selwyn said.

 

“Has our plan changed?†Skern asked.

 

“No,†Selwyn said. “It’s just being sped up.â€

 

“If Dee doesn’t think he can match him at any rate─†Hawksworth said.

 

“Dee is a coward!†Selwyn said.

 

“He’s also an old man by himself,†Godfrey said. “There’s four of us.â€

 

“Like I said, we should revisit the crystal shop, see if there’s any clues there that can help us, read this book, and then, maybe, we could stop him,†Skern said.

 

“We could make our own … call to … Mr. Yellow to see what answers,†Selwyn said.

 

“Mr. Yellow?†Skern said.

 

“He’s so worried about us knowing …†Selwyn said.

 

“I do not think that is a good idea,†Hawksworth said.

 

“It’s not a good one, no,†Selwyn said. “But it is an idea.â€

 

“I think I’m going to take this book to Whitewood,†Hawksworth said. “He’s the only one of us that knows Latin. And I don’t want to get anyone else involved in this that is not already involved.â€

 

“Yes, that’s what we’re doing,†Skern said.

 

* * *

 

The journey to London was no more relaxing or soothing than the ride to High Wycombe had been. They didn’t arrive until the early morning hours of Saturday, January 9, 1603. Skern suggested they break into Van der Wyck’s shop again.

 

“I’m not going in,†Hawksworth said. “It’s illegal.â€

 

“Just watch for the constable,†Selwyn said.

 

“Are you going to make me sit on the ground and pretend I’m asleep again?â€

 

“Only if you’d like.â€

 

“Well, someone’s got to look after you.â€

 

“Would you like to try the stairs again?†Skern asked Godfrey.

 

The man looked ragged. On their trip back to London, he’d had terrible nightmares. He felt hounded by the Yellow Sign.

 

Hawksworth agreed to wait outside and give a signal if he saw a light. Selwyn and Skern broke in and grabbed the crystals, which had been moved into the cabinet. They fled the place without incident.

 

“Well, that was quick,†Hawksworth said. “What did you find?â€

 

“What do you think they found?†Godfrey asked.

 

Selwyn showed him the huge glass gems.

 

“Don’t we have enough of these already?†Hawksworth asked.

 

Selwyn took the round piece of stone and tried to fit one of the huge stones into it but nothing happened.

 

“Mr. Yellow?†he called.

 

“Well, don’t do it in the street!†Hawksworth said.

 

“Mr. Yellow?â€

 

“Don’t do it in the street.â€

 

“We will see Dr. Whitewood in the morning.â€

 

* * *

 

Godfrey had terrible dreams that night. He dreamt of the King and Yellow, of a terrible city on a lake, and of something awful coming forth from the lake. He awoke in a sweat, feeling nauseous.

 

* * *

 

They visited Dr. Whitewood late on the morning of the 9th. The good doctor took the book and told them he’d translate anything that seemed of any importance. He said he could have it for them by that evening. Skern said he’d look into the other printers to see if he could find the other books the man had published. Selwyn said he was going to go see Barker’s house in Whitehall. Godfrey went with Skern and Hawksworth went with Selwyn.

 

* * *

 

“Godfrey, you look terrible,†Skern said.

 

“Oh terrible,†Godfrey replied. “Terrible nightmares. It’s fine.â€

 

“It’s fine?â€

 

“I don’t want to talk about it.â€

 

“Well … all right.â€

 

It didn’t take them long to find the place where Barker had gone: a small print house in Blackfriars called Turner’s. When Skern saw the shop, he remembered it was where he’d recommended the man go.

 

“That’s right, we printed some of Barker’s work,†William Turner said when Skern visited him at his small apartment.

 

He accompanied them back to the print house and looked through the books. He had printed two slim volumes for Barker and they had copies of them Turner was willing to sell to Skern for only a modest fee.

 

The first, printed six years before, was an epic poem entitled The Fall of the Graces. The second was called Under the Yellow Sign. It was published eight months before. When Godfrey saw the title of the second book, he let out a little wail.

 

“Are you all right?†Skern asked him.

 

“Fine,†Godfrey lied.

 

“Yes, keep sending work our way,†Turner said. “Not this chap though. His writing is bizarre.â€

 

“Was there anything unique about him that stands out to you?†Skern asked.

 

The man just shrugged.

 

“He’s shite,†he said. “His writing is shite. Didn’t read half of it.â€

 

“Do you make a habit of printing things you don’t read?†Skern said.

 

“For shite, yeah!†Turner said.

 

Skern suggested they go to a tavern to read the books.

 

“Yes, but I’m not reading the one about the yellow sign,†Godfrey said.

 

“Do you know something about this yellow sign?†Skern asked.

 

“Uh … sort of … maybe … uh …â€

 

“Good God man, spit it out!â€

 

“Which tavern are we going to?â€

 

“Oh. All right.â€

 

They found an alehouse and settled in to read the books.

 

Godfrey read The Fall of the Graces which proved to be a turgid and uninspiring pseudo-Greek myth/ (im)mortality tale describing the fall of the three Greek Graces: Aglaia, Euphrosyne, and Thalia. It contained garbled references to Barker’s scrying and was full of cult symbolism. It was quite disturbing to read.

 

Skern read Under the Yellow Sign, a slim, folio-sized book bound in black leather with the title and author in the front. It proved to be a collection of poems detailing with various aspects of Barker’s crystal contacts and cult activities and rites, all in obscure, sanity-melting verse, written in post-contact and post-ritual delirium. It contained seventeen poems of varying length and sensibility. The first poem was a long, rambling piece called “Beyond the Crystal Veil†and seemed to detail a spell that made summoning easier as well as conversations with Hastur. The last poem was also quite striking. Called “The Mask of the King,†it detailed a visitation by the King in Yellow. There were also some hidden spells in the work, mixed in with the poetry. One, Crystal Call, was lodged in the first poem, another was Contact Hastur, and a third Contact the King. There was a spell to enchant a knife, a spell called Grasp of Cthulhu, and finally one that was to summon and bind something called a byakhee.

 

* * *

 

Selwyn and Hawksworth walked to prosperous Whitehall and eventually found Barker’s house. The place was eerie, even from the outside. No lights were on and no smoke came from the numerous chimneys in the large mansion. The drive to the house was lined with skeletally bare trees and snaking branches hanging over the path. The undergrowth on either side of the path was heavy, thick, and filled with brambles. It was snowing heavily and the ground was thick with drifting snow. A dense white carpet lent a quiet eeriness to the house, almost at odds with the purity of the snow.

 

The house was new, Tudor in style, the blackness of the tarred beams and the darkness behind the windows contrasting sharply with the snow all around. As they made their way towards the house, snow crunched underfoot. Aside from the wind whistling through the trees, their footfalls were the only sound to be heard.

 

“Maybe there’s no one home at the moment,†Selwyn said.

 

“I would hope not,†Hawksworth said.

 

“Thinking this man is a shadowy figure, he likes to do things at home at night. Or maybe he’s a normal person and just is not home during the day. Either way, we could go in now.â€

 

“Do you think that wise?â€

 

“If he’s not there …â€

 

He looked around. The house was separated by some small distance from the other houses and no one seemed to be around but he was still unsure if breaking in during the day was a good idea.

 

“… it is a little too light out, though,†he finished. “Let’s wait until …â€

 

“I’ve never said this before, but for a locksmith, you sure do like breaking in a lot,†Hawksworth said.

 

“I like to test my abilities against other people’s locks. I make my locks so no one could get in.â€

 

“That sounds like a thief.â€

 

They looked at the house.

 

“Don’t you find it odd that he doesn’t have a fire going at all?†Hawksworth said.

 

“That is odd,†Selwyn said. “But it would look odd, too, if we go in. Let’s wait until the nightfall.â€

 

They decided to return to London proper and searched for the others, eventually finding Skern and Godfrey in one of the alehouses they often frequented.

 

“Look what we found,†Skern said.

 

They pointed out the books.

 

“It’s got a spell about enchanting a knife,†Skern said. “Think we could use that?â€

 

“So you could throw it in someone again?†Selwyn asked.

 

“Yeah,†Skern said. “Maybe.â€

 

He pointed out it was enchanted, allegedly, for summoning though.

 

“You could summon something inside of someone else?†Selwyn said.

 

Skern shrugged. He told them about the other spells in the book he’d read - the summoning of Hastur and the King in Yellow. Godfrey told them there wasn’t really anything pertinent in the other book. Skern suggested some of them might have been the things used on Marijne.

 

Dr. Whitewood arrived at the alehouse around dinnertime with the Latin copy of Diabolis Britannia. He told them the book was apparently a handwritten transcript dating from the 12th century, copied from the original Roman text by an Italian monk named Cosimo Caldini. The book was, in essence, a description of the life and times of the Roman centurion Gaius Antoninus, who lived in London in 28 B.C. Though the first 23 pages were damaged or missing, most of the rest was taken up by Antoninus’ description of a deed he called “The Cleansing†when soldiers under his command put to death members of an ancient cult enacting profane and demonic rituals in a cave by the river.

 

He had copied out in English an excerpt he thought important. It read:

 


… We arrived at the foul chamber in the dead hour of the night and saw from afar many
torches and braziers blazing at the hill. We quickly surrounded the site and our ears were
assaulted by the chanting of the heathens within. The words were not known to me but I divined
that they effected the summoning of a god known to them as Aa’es Dur or some such.

 

We entered the chamber and found ourselves confronted by a writing and contorting
sea of humanity. Fully two hundred evil men and women, many naked and performing
acts of disgusting lewdness, acted out the ceremony attended by sundry creatures, the
winged spawn of Hades itself. In the midst of this horror lay a pit, no a pool, a swirling,
spinning maelstrom of thick oozing silver, like foul Charybdis of legend, from which the
foulest odor emanated.

 

Suddenly the chief of this band of demons raised up his arms, and a hush descended
before being shattered by a gurgling, bubbling clamor as the pit was first sucked into itself
and then expanded, washing over its banks. And from it came a creature more hideous than
anything I have ever seen, indescribable but like Scylla of legend, heads or tentacles snaking
out to grasp victims and rip them asunder … I can think on it no more.

 

It is enough to say that those that remained of my men, and there were many driven to
insensible madness by the sight, set about the destruction of this place. In this endeavor we
were assisted by the work of one of the natives of this land, who upon learning of our mission
had begged us to let him help. His compatriots described him as a man of great magical powers
who could dispel many evils. I was skeptical of his motives and highly dubious of his powers
but I let him come, believing it could do no harm.

 

The miracle he performed I remember vividly. While my soldiers laid waste to the foul
worshippers, this man, called druid by his fellows, scampered to the very lip of the pit from
which the monstrosity issued forth. From a leather pouch, he produced three shining jewels
of different colors, one blue, one green, and one yellow. These he placed on the ground in
front of him. Then he knelt over them and, taking a small dagger, he carved a long gash in his
palm, letting the blood spill over the stones, which hissed and crackled as the blood dropped
upon them. Just as the creature reached a snakelike tentacle toward him he thrust the stones in
sequence into slots on each of the three horrible altars, screaming words that sounded like “aian
fol talanna chu†as he slotted the last crystal, the yellow stone, home into the central altar. And
suddenly the monster was gone and the pit sealed like stone.

 

However, this wizard was very much drained by the experience and I was later told that he
had to expend much energy and magic to effect the dismissal of the beast in the pool. A lesser
man would not have been able to complete the spell. I thank the gods I let myself be persuaded,
and allowed him accompany us to that dread pit …

 


The writing included the simple spell “Seal the Pit and Dismiss Hastur.†Selwyn read the passage to the rest of them.

 

“Let’s not summon Hastur,†Selwyn said.

 

Dr. Whitewood left them.

 

“We should keep this handy and look for these gems,†Skern said. “This maybe what Barker is up to. How did the house search go?â€

 

“There’s no fire coming from the chimney,†Hawksworth said.

 

“Yes, it seems no one is home,†Selwyn said. “Or no one that cares for warmth.â€

 

“Like Lucy and her cold, cold heart,†Skern muttered.

 

“Who’s going to learn the spell?†Hawksworth asked.

 

“We should all learn it,†Skern said.

 

“We need the stones,†Selwyn said.

 

“Never know when we might need it,†Skern went on.

 

“That’s the problem,†Selwyn finished.

 

“You don’t think it’s just regular stones, do you?†Hawksworth asked. “A blue stone, a green stone, and a yellow stone?â€

 

“Paint stones?†Skern said.

 

Selwyn didn’t think that sounded right. He pointed out the symbol in the basement was topaz, a yellow stone.

 

“Should we search his house now that it’s getting dark?†Skern asked.

 

“I believe we should,†Selwyn said. “He may have the stones, in fact.â€

 

“We could,†Skern said.

 

“I’m sure he probably does,†Hawksworth said.

 

“Because he doesn’t want anybody affecting his good friend Hastur … or Aa’es Dur,†Selwyn said.

 

“I’m jealous!†Skern quipped. “Are you friends with this man?â€

 

Selwyn looked at him.

 

“Maybe,†he said.

 

They headed to Whitehall to break into the house.

 

“Did anybody figure out what that one man was doing?†Selwyn asked on the way.

 

“What man?†Skern asked.

 

“With his witch-craftery?†Selwyn said.

 

“What man?†Skern said. “Oh.â€

 

“Well, he’s dead isn’t he?†Godfrey said. “He can’t really tell us.â€

 

“Yes,†Selwyn said. “Apparently somebody stabbed him through the heart.â€

 

Skern mentioned two of the spells in Under the Yellow Sign that seemed to stand out. He mentioned perhaps the grasping spell had something to do with what had happened to Shakespeare and himself.

 

“It certainly felt like he grasped my heart,†he said.

 

“Well, someone has to,†Hawksworth quipped.

 

They arrived at Whitehall and found Barker’s house. It was still dark and no smoke came from the chimneys. There was no one else around. In the end, Selwyn decided to break in through the front door as the trees and the undergrowth contributed a great deal to cover at the front of the house. Selwyn quickly picked the lock and they all slipped inside.

 

“Not to tell you how to do your job but do you ever see if the door is unlocked before you pick the lock?†Hawksworth asked.

 

“There’s no fun in that, is there Hawksworth?†Selwyn said.

 

The entry was some 50 feet in length and adorned throughout with large and expensive tapestries and rugs laid on the floor. At the far end of the hall was a large mirror. Two sets of wide, winding stairs went up.

 

“Tap your shoes off at the entryway, boys,†Selwyn said, closing the door behind them.

 

He didn’t lock it in case they needed a fast escape. It was very dark and very cold though some ambient light came in from the nearby windows.

 

Skern and Skern went upstairs.

 

“Oh, they went upstairs?†Godfrey said. “I’ll take one of these hallways.â€

 

Hawksworth went the opposite direction as Godfrey.

 

* * *

 

There was little of interest upstairs but, in the master bedroom, Selwyn and Skern found a slim volume under the bed. Selwyn tucked it away. They returned downstairs to find the other two had not found anything of interest. The two searched the ground floor and Selwyn found a secret door on the fireplace in the dining room. It was freed by pressing buttons on either side of the wide hearth. The secret priest hole had stairs that led down. Then he went to look more closely at the mirror.

 

“Why are you going over there then?†Hawksworth said.

 

“I haven’t inspected the mirror,†Selwyn said. “It looks pretty fancy.â€

 

“More important than this?†Hawksworth said.

 

“Let’s go!†Skern said.

 

“You do have a point,†Selwyn said. “That mirror’s going to stay there.â€

 

Selwyn returned to the others. The passageway down was pitch black.

 

“Before we go down,†Selwyn said.

 

He lit a tiny hooded lantern.

 

“Do you want to look at the mirror before we go down … however far this is now?†Hawksworth asked. “Maybe you were right to look at the mirror first.â€

 

“True,†Selwyn said. “We also have to look at this book, but let’s look at the book first in light where light won’t be seen through windows.â€

 

“We found it upstairs,†Skern said.

 

“This book,†Selwyn said, taking forth the slim volume.

 

He quickly flipped through it and saw it was a diary that started in 1601 and went through 1602. The handwriting was familiar and reminded him of the note from Joseph Barker to Van der Wyck.

 

“We’ve found Joseph’s diary!†he said.

 

“What’s it say?†Skern asked.

 

He scanned the diary quickly but could not find anything of interest just by looking it over.

 

“I think we should go downstairs because I don’t think we should spend much time in this house,†Skern said.

 

“We’ll look at it later,†Selwyn said.

 

They all went to the main hall to inspect the mirror. It was a large an expensive piece of work and very ornate. A few of them noticed red lines on the plaster behind it, obscured by the mirror and tapestries. The mirror itself was the best, clearest glass any of them had ever seen. Selwyn touched it and it seemed like the heat from his finger actually started to fog the glass. The fog spread quickly and seemed to swirl as if it was inside the mirror itself. Then it started to clear, revealing something besides their reflection.

 

“We may need to leave in a moment,†Selwyn said.

 

“I really want to look down this tunnel,†Skern said, leaving them and returning to the dining room.

 

“No no no no no!†Godfrey said, walking away from the mirror, not wanting to see anything strange.

 

Selwyn and Hawksworth saw fish-like men with white bellies, scales, and bulbous, unblinking eyes climbing up on the deck of a sailing ship with all of her guns run out for battle. A desperate crew of men fought them off. They stared at the terrifying visage, Selwyn shocked to the core by what he saw.

 

Hawksworth touched the mirror again but nothing changed. The crew of the ship continued to fight against the terrible things.

 

Selwyn tried to see if the mirror moved and found it bolted to the wall.

 

“Do you want help moving it?†Hawksworth said, staring at the amazing and terrifying scene in the mirror.

 

“Yes, I believe there is something on the wall,†Selwyn said.

 

He pushed aside the tapestries to reveal a large pentagram drawn around the mirror in chalk.

 

“Oh God,†Hawksworth cursed.

 

“Maybe that’s why there’s bupkis going on,†Selwyn said.

 

“Do you think this is happening now?â€

 

“It could be.â€

 

The mirror clouded up again.

 

“Well, what’s next?†Hawksworth said, still staring at the mirror.

 

The fog wafted behind the glass for some time before it cleared again, this time showing grassy plains with odd, stunted trees. A great mountain was in the background and it was night. Something large stood in the moonlight. It seemed to have three legs and it lifted up its head but had no head. In its place was a great tentacle that sprouted from its neck. It seemed to bay at the moon overheard.

 

“Okay, let’s stop touching the mirror,†Selwyn said.

 

Hawksworth stared at the thing and then touched the mirror again. Nothing seemed to happen but the image eventually faded and they could see it fog up again.

 

“I’m going to the dining room,†Selwyn said, looking away. “See you there.â€

 

“I’ll keep an eye out up here,†Hawksworth said, staring at the mirror. “And also, see if I can get any information.â€

 

“Selwyn, can you bring your lantern?†Skern called from the dining room.

 

“Someone’s got to look out,†Hawksworth said. “I’ll stay up here.â€

 

“Okay,†Selwyn called.

 

“If I hear screams, I’ll come running,†Hawksworth said.

 

The next image looked somewhat like a city, though the angles and shapes were altogether wrong. Some seemed to be non-Euclidian shapes and the sizes were wrong and the depths unusual. A bubble came up from below and he realized the city was sunken beneath the sea, though it produced a strange luminescence of its own despite the darkness of the water around it. The image seemed to focus on a large temple or mosque in the center of the city and then moved to enter a tiny window near the top before dropped downward.

 

Something huge and horrible slept in that place.

 

The thing had green, mottled skin, or at least it appeared to. It was massive and had the arms and legs reminiscent of a man but of something so utterly unlike flesh that it turned his stomach. The horror had tentacles springing from its face and though the eyes were closed, he felt like it was watching him. Huge, tattered wings were clutched tightly to the horror’s back and it didn’t seem to breath but Hawksworth knew, in his heart of hearts, that it was not dead.

 

The thing never moved and the image soon mercifully faded. He was unnerved and frightened by what he saw but couldn’t seem to stop looking at the terrible mirror.

 

The mirror filled with fog again and then another image appeared. This time it was a terribly familiar city on the edge of a lake. He recognized it from his dreams as the city of the Yellow King, which had disturbed his sleep for several nights after seeing the horrible Yellow Sign. The water of the lake bubbled and boiled and something horrible pulled itself up out of the water and onto the shore, looking around as if in search of him.

 

The image faded and Hawksworth was feeling like he should look away but wanted to see one more thing, hopefully to gain some clue as to the secret of the mirror or perhaps some secret of Barker’s. The fog in the mirror moved about and then cleared once again.

 

This time he saw a horrifying giant with a roughly human shape and glowing red eyes walking amidst the frozen snow and ice. Clouds seemed to rush about the horrible thing’s head. Smaller figures, many of them lacking feet and some encased in ice, floated about the horrible thing. It seemed to look directly at the mirror and then seemed to stride towards him.

 

He realized he was all alone and it was very dark.

 

He fled.

 

* * *

 

The stairwell proved to be very steep and narrow, descending some forty feet or so below ground. It was cold, damp, and extremely dark except for the tiny hooded lantern Selwyn carried. The stairs opened into a long hall at the bottom that was wreathed in deep shadow. Tall wrought-iron candelabras stood at six-foot intervals along each wall. They were not lit. The walls of the chamber were damp gray stone and the floor featured a bewildering mosaic of yellow, gold, orange, and brown tiles which confused them and defied explanation. A plain wooden chair sat near the back wall and in front of it was a small, cushioned pew to genuflect at. The wall behind the chair was covered by a huge tapestry depicting a Mediterranean scene from mythology. A Greek ship ploughed through stormy seas with a churning whirlpool on one side and on the other a vile amorphous tentacled beast emerging from a deep fissure in a sheer, chalky cliff face.

 

A golden throne glittered from the far end of the chamber. The place smelled of brine.

 

Selwyn got the impression there was space behind the tapestry, as if it hid another room. Skern asked him to light one of the candelabras in the room. He did so, lighting a taper from his lantern to do so. Then he pushed aside the tapestry to reveal a doorway.

 

The hidden room was a laboratory split by a long work table on which rested a number of alchemical devices and preparations. Several charts and diagrams adorned the walls, including a rough alphabet of strange symbols, a reproduction of Copernicus’ star chart, and a large diagram of the cabalistic Tree of Life and its inverted occult opposite. There was also a large map of London upon which many calculations and notes had been made. A bookcase covered one wall.

 

Selwyn went to examine the books. They appeared to be mostly alchemical and philosophical tomes, including works by Bacon and the like. It took him several minutes to sort through them. There were several interesting volumes however, including De Vermis Mysteriis, Monstres and their Kynde, and Barker’s English translation of Diabolis Britannia: Cults of Roman Britain: A Study of the Booke of Gaius Antoninus. The last was bound in plain brown leather with the title printed in gold on the spine. He tucked all three away.

 

Skern looked at the table and the alchemical equipment but found it was completely beyond his experience. He had no idea what to make of the chemicals, glass jars and tubes, and the like.

 

Godfrey looked at the charts and the map of London. He noted that it appeared some kind of triangulation had been made on the map of London but was unsure exactly where it pointed to.

 

They heard footsteps outside. Skern drew his sword.

 

* * *

 

“It’s me,†Hawksworth called.

 

Skern peeked from behind the tapestry.

 

“Hawksworth!†he said. “What the devil are you doing down here? I thought you were keeping watch.â€

 

“The mirror got frightful,†Hawksworth said.

 

“Oh, what did you see?†Skern said.

 

“It looked frightful the whole time I was looking at it!†Selwyn called.

 

“What did you see?†Skern asked.

 

“Things I cannot describe, will not describe, and I don’t want to talk about it,†Hawksworth said.

 

“All right,†Skern said. “Look at this tapestry. What do you think of it?â€

 

Hawksworth looked at it and didn’t like it all.

 

“It’s all right,†he lied.

 

* * *

 

Selwyn walked over to Godfrey, who was examining the map of London.

 

“What have you there?†he asked.

 

“I don’t know,†Godfrey confessed. “Do you recognize this place that’s triangulated.â€

 

Selwyn did.

 

“It’s the tower of London,†Selwyn said.

 

“Oh yes!†Godfrey said.

 

* * *

 

“What’s behind there?†Hawksworth said, indicating the tapestry.

 

“Lab,†Skern said.

 

“A lab?†Hawksworth said.

 

Selwyn and Godfrey came out from behind the tapestry.

 

“I need to go examine that throne,†Selwyn said. “If you all want to keep looking around in there.â€

 

“Should I keep looking around in there?†Hawksworth asked.

 

“There’s probably some more things,†Selwyn said. “Anyone examine those chemicals?â€

 

“Yes,†Skern said. “It was beyond my comprehension.â€

 

“I don’t know that I want to look too much at anything in this house,†Hawksworth said.

 

“It didn’t make sense to me,†Skern said.

 

“My question is: should we set it ablaze?†Selwyn asked. “I feel ‘yes.’ But only after I have refurnished my house. I have been needing a new chair and mirror.â€

 

“I … wouldn’t keep the mirror,†Hawksworth said.

 

“It’s the pentagram behind it!â€

 

“I wouldn’t keep the mirror.â€

 

“But it’s … gorgeous.â€

 

“I wouldn’t keep the mirror.â€

 

“Aren’t pentagrams used to … ward away …?†Skern asked. “I think we should get out of here as we’ve been here a while.â€

 

“How long have we been here?†Hawksworth asked.

 

“I don’t know,†Skern said.

 

“We haven’t even checked the hallway yet,†Selwyn said.

 

“What do you mean?†Skern said.

 

“We haven’t checked the hallway,†Selwyn said again, indicating the wide chamber they were in. “Although it’s probably just the chair.â€

 

“Let’s work our way there,†Skern said.

 

Selwyn and Skern made their way down to the other end of the chamber, passing another pole set upright in the center.

 

The throne was huge and golden, made of some otherworldly metal. It was covered in strange symbols and fragments of unknown languages. The backrest of the throne featured the terrible Yellow Sign seen at Croft’s house and van der Wyck’s shop, crafted in deep intaglio style, deeply incised in bold strokes. The motif was repeated on the wall behind the throne in deep channels dug into the wall and filled with gold. The throne rested on a solid stone plinth.

 

The symbol seemed to reach out at both of them. For Selwyn, this only lasted a moment. However, for Skern, the terrible Yellow Sign reached out and grabbed at the man, clinging to him with terrible suction and a feeling of small ants crawling wherever it touched.

 

“Get off of me!†he screamed, falling to the ground and struggling with something Selwyn couldn’t see.

 

“What’s going on over there?†Hawksworth called.

 

“Get it together, man!†Selwyn shouted at the man.

 

“Something’s got me!’ Skern cried, slashing at the thing gripping at him.

 

Selwyn turned, drawing a small axe from his belt and striking the symbol on the chair with it. The golden throne was not even scratched by the blow. He moved to the throne to try to lift it and see if he could gauge its weight and noticed on the plinth the throne rested on were thin channels behind the dust and grime on the front of the thing. He looked more closely at the throne as Skern stopped fighting his hallucinatory demons, and noticed on the end of each armrest was the carved figure of some hideous, fish-like creature. However, on the fish figure on the left armrest, a mistake appeared to have been made by the sculptor, for the left figure had only one bulbous, protruding eye.

 

He pushed the eye and there was a click. He was unsure where it came from. He pushed the button again but nothing happened.

 

“Everybody look around,†he called. “I just pressed a button.â€

 

Skern left the area of the throne and went back to the laboratory, looking there, while Hawksworth and Godfrey examined their end of the room.

 

“The sound was over here,†Skern called. “It should be over here.â€

 

None of them were willing to get anywhere near the throne. After several minutes, Selwyn noticed that at the base of the plinth, a shallow tray had freed itself slightly from the built up grime. He worked at the tray and finally was able to pull it open, revealing a velvet-lined receptacle with three unremarkable-looking lumps of unpolished, glassy stone. Each was a different color: blue, green, and sulfurous yellow. Next to them was a piece of parchment with writing on one side.

 

Selwyn snatched up the paper and, though it was written in the familiar alphabet, it was in some other language: Italian perhaps? Yes, he thought it was surely Italian.

 

“What are you doing?†Hawksworth called.

 

“I found a note,†Selwyn said.

 

“What?â€

 

“I found a note … and the thing we were looking for.â€

 

Godfrey wandered over to the pole in the center of the room. In the light from Selwyn’s lantern and the candelabra he saw a glint of jewelry in the dust. He picked up what appeared to be a small, jeweled cape-pin or broach. It was delicate and probably belonged to a woman.

 

Selwyn closed the drawer and it clicked shut once again. That’s when he noticed a mist or smoke starting to gather around the throne. He caught the hint of old or rotten fabric. Across the room, Hawksworth also noticed the strange phenomenon.

 

“We may need to leave,†Selwyn said.

 

“Do you see that?†Hawksworth called, having also seen the strange sight.

 

“See what?†Skern said.

 

Selwyn backed away from the throne.

 

“The … stuff around the throne,†Hawksworth said. Then to Godfrey: “You see it, right?â€

 

“See what?’ Godfrey said.

 

“The mist?â€

 

Once he pointed it out, they noticed it. It seemed to be thickening very quickly around the throne as Selwyn backed more hastily away. He headed towards the stairs.

 

“Should we make for the stairs?†Godfrey called, also fleeing.

 

“I think we should leave!†Selwyn said.

 

“Did you find anything in the middle of the room?†Skern asked Godfrey.

 

“Uh yes, we can talk about that upstairs!†Godfrey said. “Let’s go!â€

 

“Up the stairs!†Hawksworth said.

 

As he ran by it, Selwyn knocked over the candelabra, hoping to set the tapestry on fire. However, the candles went out when they hit the ground, throwing the place into darkness except for his tiny lantern. They could hear what sounded like a ragged tearing hiss come from the throne. It seemed to moved towards them as they fled.

 

Something came after them from below.

 

They ran up the steps, Skern in the rear, his blunderbuss in his hands, until they reached the top. Hawksworth ran to the mirror as Selwyn closed the secret door. He slammed the pommel of his sword onto the mirror and was surprised when it didn’t shatter or even scratch. He pounded on the mirror for a few moments but, as fog started to form behind the glass, he fled, running out of the house with the rest of them.

 

“Just tip it over!†Selwyn cried, running out of the door after Godfrey.

 

Hawksworth and Skern fled the house as well, passing Selwyn, who waited at the front door. However, when Selwyn heard a noise that made him think it was the secret panel opening, he slammed the door closed and fled after the rest of them.


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