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
George had almost laughed at the near-parodic candor of his heir’s statement, but when he searched Johnny’s face, he could find no indication that the boy had done anything other than reveal his heart’s real state. He could find nothing at all secretive about Johnny, in fact … except when it came to his Order. That was why, in truth, he had prodded the heir about his offer of induction three weeks earlier and gotten this invitation out of him.
They entered the brownstone and walked down a series of narrow hallways. Lord Monroe noticed that it was almost unfurnished and nothing but the blandest of wallpaper adorned the walls of the common areas. When Johnny knocked upon a door at the bottom of a carpeted flight of stairs—strange for stairs leading to a basement—and the door opened, George had to hold his breath to keep from exclaiming at the beauty of what he saw beyond the threshold.
Silks of blood red swept across swathes of wall, and as the air moved and billowed the silk outwards, George could see strange but alluring artwork on the walls behind them. The pictures were, in a way, terrible in the sense of “invoking terror”: green gemstones created faces in agony, gold filigree surrounded odd monstrous forms, and everything shined with a fierce light that seemed to have nothing to do with the illumination present in the room.
“Remarkable” was finally what escaped as a whisper from Lord Monroe’s throat, but he knew that he would, in fact, be forbidden to remark upon anything he saw here.
There were of course many of the finest furnishings at Monroeville Hall, and George had been around them so much that he sometimes forgot what treasures they were. But the furnishings and seating in this humble brownstone’s basement far exceeded anything Lord Monroe had ever seen, let alone owned. If he were pressed to characterize the spirit of the room and its furnishings, he would have used the word “sultanic,” since it appeared that he was in a room straight out of the excesses of the Arabian Nights. It was the world of Araby, but made somehow also distinctly English.
The men in the room were unmistakably English as well. Broad moustaches that had gone out of style a decade earlier sat on the proud faces of a bunch of the most British beefeaters imaginable. These were the men who had conquered India, by the looks of them. They probably were a bunch of clerks and haberdashers, George thought, but what a display they put on, just chatting amongst themselves prior to a club meeting. It occurred to him that Johnny, with his lantern jaw and lacquered receding black hair, and he himself, with his brown curls hinting at grey, were the least interesting-looking men in the room. It amused him, and this added to the surreal effect that had captivated him since he and Johnny had stepped through the room’s door.
“May we take our seats, gentlemen?” said a man standing at a small podium which George had not even noticed. Everyone in the rather large room swept into chairs that George, again, had not realized were there. He felt as if his perception was being subtly, but not at all unpleasantly, altered with every second he was in this somehow Arabic space that had nothing at all to do with Araby. He felt transported, but without changing his location. Odd indeed.
“Cousin George, please let’s sit here,” Johnny said, and motioned to two chairs—which, not surprisingly to George now, he had also not noticed—that had been set up in the rough center of the semicircle of sinfully plush chairs and cushions in which the other men sat.
“We were not announced when we entered,” George said illucidly, just realizing that this was unlike any gathering he had ever attended. Not only had they not been announced, which often was the case when no servants were on duty—and in a house like this full-time staff could hardly have been expected—Johnny had not introduced his peered cousin to anyone. Nor had anyone seemed the slightest bit interested in who this stranger in their midst could be.
Well, George thought, Johnny had said he was the head of the organization. Maybe they knew he was bringing an initiate with him and it was in the bylaws not to speak to the new member. He didn’t know, of course, and as he breathed in the exotic spicy air of this strange place, he recalled smelling spices like these in India, among these men, these proud explorers—
No, what was he thinking? Explorers? He allowed himself a chuckle. That was so very, very odd.
—these proud explorers who represented the Realm against the Old Ones, the gods who once ruled the Earth and who would come again to claim it if—
Ha ha ha! WHAT? “Cousin Johnny, I think I may be getting delirious.”
—if the Order of the Elder Sign did not protect—
“I believe the Order is approving you, Cousin George.”
—not protect on land, by sea, and in the air the human way of life. All hail—
“I’m sorry it’s taken so long, but I believe the Order has almost come to a decision,” Johnny said.
So long? George thought. My dear boy, we have only just taken our seats!
“Just empty your mind, Cousin.”
—hail the Elder Sign!
“Let us search your mind,” Johnny said soothingly. “We’re almost there.”
I’m afraid I’m being a terrible bore to your friends, dear Johnny. I don’t know
The room fell away and George Shambley, Earl of Monroe, a peer of the realm, felt very cold on the deck of a ship he somehow knew to be the HMS Titanic in the dark of the middle of the ocean
what I am supposed to be
and he saw the iceberg and he saw the black hull of the ship and the ship was passing the iceberg it did not crash into the iceberg dear Stuart would live!
doing. WHAT IN YOG’S NAME IS THAT?
The voice inside Lord Monroe’s head stopped speaking as images flashed through his mind in a blaze of revelation.
Now as he watched the Titanic, he was no longer on the ship but somehow he was watching it from a distance as the scaly massive green horrible creature—It was gigantic—wrapped Its tentacles around the Titanic and picked it up with the tentacles coming from Its face It crushed the Titanic Stuart would not live and It dashed the black ship against the iceberg and roared to the sky with Its bloodlust and Its anger—
And then it was over. The men in the room shook Lord Monroe’s hand and clapped him on the back, a bit familiarly, but the tears in their eyes matched the ones in his own, and he knew two things.
He knew he was now a member of the Order, and he knew what it was that he was now sworn, as they were, to do.
Johnny Shambley bowed his head to the noble Earl of Monroe. “Cousin George, sir, you are the most powerful of us in this room. Will you lead us in our fight? With you, we may begin at last.”
The men in the room smiled and let out breaths of relief. One small man with a handlebar moustache approached Lord Monroe, bowed, and handed him a parchment.
Lord Monroe read the few lines scratched into the scraped skin, nodded, and looked each man present directly in the eye and said with gravity, “Gentlemen, I very much regret to announce that we are now at war with Cthulhu.”
NEXT WEEK: PART 17 — THINGS DON’T GO WELL