DOWNTON ABBEY MEETS LOVECRAFT MEETS NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD in Deadtown Abbey.
It is a world few of us have ever known. A world of masters and servants, where everyone knows one’s place. A world of newfangled technology like telephones and motorcars. A world of vampires, werewolves, zombies, and monsters of the deep. At the center of his necropolis estate lives the Earl of Monroe, who must hold the family he loves and the servants he trusts together against the eldritch onslaught of this rapidly changing world.
The dowager countess fixed her wrinkle-ringed eyes on the girl. “That is what we are told, and that’s what the truth must be. There is a Jesus god, and there is his long-lost brother—or perhaps best friend with whom he had a row, I don’t recall—the Satan devil. Well said, my child. This is what civilized people believe.”
“I thought you didn’t want religion discussed at table,” Lord Monroe said with a slight smile. “You have no one but yourself to blame when talk turns now to transmogrified men roaming the Earth as intelligent beasts.”
“George Robert Shambley, I believe you are trying to goad me into a reaction,” his mother said. “But it shan’t work. There are no such things as transmogrified—”
The dowager countess’s question was sliced off by a scream so sudden and violent that it startled Mister Foree into snapping off the neck of a cut-glass decanter in his now bloody bare hand.
The scream came from Lady Maureen, who jumped up and off her chair and plastered her back against the far wall, pointing and still screaming like a monstrous tea kettle boiling over.
All eyes in the room followed the direction Maureen indicated and landed on a filthy, brown-skinned, matted-hair, cat-sized abomination that had managed to crawl right up onto the table. As soon as each person in the room realized what they were looking at, their eyes went to Gaylen Shambley, who looked more shocked than anyone.
“Oh, Maureen, don’t be silly—you saw this little fellow when Cousin Johnny arrived,” Countess Barbara said, trying not to act too disgusted at a sizable rodent appearing on their table.
“I don’t believe I did,” said Maureen, looking green.
“John Jenkin!” Gaylen said with a volume borne of complete astonishment. “What are you doing out of your basket?”
It should have seemed a silly question, akin to a dog owner asking a puppy why it wet the rug, and indeed this was how most of them in the room took it, even as they recoiled in disgust and horror from this thing on their table.
It should have seemed a silly question.
But that wasn’t the case once the thing reared up on its hind legs, threw back its skinny arms with their strangely human hands, and shouted, “I AM THE HEIR OF MONROEVILLE HALL!”
Maureen fainted. Eleanor vomited right onto her plate. Sheryl just stared at the thing, which she thought looked like the rest of a body that was supposed to be attached to a shrunken head. Barbara hid behind her husband. Foree failed to feel the injury to his hand any longer. Roger, sweaty, dropped the shiny serving utensil. Peter joined Maureen, unconscious on the floor. Johnny goggled at it. Gaylen twisted her mouth into an angry rictus so tight it seemed like she was going to consume and swallow her own face.
And the dowager countess looked upon the transmogrified creature and said something so base and, yes, so vulgar that it shall not be repeated here.
“HEAR ME, GOOD PEOPLE!” John Jenkin shouted, then seemed to notice that no one was making a sound, and adjusted his volume accordingly. “I am the eldest son of my family. Johnny is my younger brother. And this woman”—he indicated the red-faced and shaking Gaylen Shambley—“is my mother. She has perpetrated a fraud upon this house, and I must—”
There was a male scream now, so loud it made everyone throw up their hands against their ears and awoke the unconscious Lady Maureen and Peter, resounded through the room. The ongoing scream came from the doubled-over first footman, whose livery ripped down the middle of his back as his expanding frame exploded out of it.
The scream continued, seeming to be one unbroken breath of agony and anger. Roger, or the increasingly hirsute and drooling Thing That Was Roger, unbent itself to full height and stared at John Jenkin, who had stopped in mid-oratory with a single index finger raised, like a statue.
Between the appearance of the little vermin and that of the suddenly giant man-wolf, everyone in the room except for Lord Monroe and Johnny Shambley thought that they had lost their minds.
The Roger-Thing’s muzzle extended from its formerly flat human face, and the sounds of bones and cartilage breaking and reforming was more than Lady Monroe, the dowager countess, Ladies Eleanor and Sheryl, or poor Lady Maureen and Peter could bear. They all, to the last person, fainted dead away.
Now the huge fangs were bared; now uneven fur covered the giant torso; now the wolfish eyes fixed on John Jenkin were yellow ringed with red. The Roger-Thing’s scream finally ended, and after one deep inhale, it was replaced with a roar that shook the room’s thin window panes.
Then, in one movement, he bit the tastily bloody hand off Mister Foree’s arm, swallowed it, and then struck at John Jenkin, who didn’t even have time to lower his dramatically raised finger before his body was scooped up, macerated, formed into a hairy and leathery bolus, and swallowed by the werewolf, which everyone present would attest was as real as you or I.
* * *
Howard Bubb was preparing His Lordship’s bedclothes and robe for the evening when he heard three things: First was Her Ladyship, Dowager Countess of Monroeville Hall, shouting about vampires and sea monsters. Second was a shrill scream, the cause of which he was unsure. He could place the third sound, however: That was the roar of a werewolf just turned at the full moon.
He bounded down the hallway as fast as his real leg and his artificial leg could take him. Readying himself, he banged open the door to the dining room. His training allowed him to get all the information he needed in one glance. Foree was passed out on the floor, the bloody stump at the end of his arm oozing fluid into the carpet. Peter and Lady Maureen were also unconscious on the floor at the other end of the table. Lady Eleanor and Lady Sheryl sat slumped in their chairs. The other humans in the room cowered where they sat—all except Lord Monroe, who had kept his posture, no doubt knowing his war comrade would be there as quickly as he could manage.
Lord Monroe also saw a pointy metallic serving utensil on the floor, near the huge grey werewolf but not in the creature’s line of sight. Bubb’s opening of the door distracted the werewolf for a second, but when Lord Monroe made a crack resound on the table with the salt dish, the wolf turned away from Bubb and towards His Lordship again.
That was all Bubb needed: He dove around the table and grabbed the silvery utensil—a spatula for serving fish, that’s what it was—and in one fluid move, hurled it at the creature. A silver edge wouldn’t kill a werewolf right off, but it would immediately traumatize and weaken them. The spatula whipped through the air and pierced the wolf’s hairy hide.
Good, Bubb thought, now I can—
But the werewolf hadn’t even noticed the metal jabbed into him, and that’s when Bubb remembered that real silver was never used with fish, as it created an awful taste. For that one course, the metalware had to be stainless steel or gold.
But Bubb did have silver, however, right up against his own stump. He popped open the compartment and took out two daggers made of pure silver, then closed the compartment in the fake leg once again. He sprang to his feet and leapt up onto the table just as the werewolf’s slavering muzzle was almost touching the face of the Countess. He whistled for the monster’s attention and then ran down the length of the table with only a slight hobble. He didn’t slow down as he pointed the silver daggers at the werewolf’s chest and drove them home, crashing into the beast and sending them both flying off the dining table.
By the time they reached the floor, the werewolf with two silver daggers in its heart had morphed back into the form of a man. The form was the body of Roger, naked now but with the good taste to at least have died face-down.
The table was smeared with blood from a magickal dog-snouted pentadactyl monkey rat that had addressed the room. Also pooling on the table was blood from a werewolf who’d been about to eat them all. This is not even to mention the human blood gushed onto the clean linen from Foree’s hand being bitten off by a werefootman.
The dowager countess gazed upon the chaos caused by the appearance, fighting, and death of several otherworldly creatures, sniffed deeply, and said, “There’ll be no living with any of you now, I suppose.”
NEXT WEEK: PART 15 — THE HEIR JOINS THE ORDER