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Peggy Powler & The Case Of Doramus The Vampyre
#1
The cold rain was coming down sideways when Father Mathew Jacobs closed the shutters of the vestry and just had he'd done
for the last ten nights, the uneasy priest murmured a prayer that Doramus would pass by Little Compton and stay on the moors.

The candles that had struggled in the draught settled and continued their slowly wavering radiance around the small chapel.
After a few minutes, the quiet man in the grey robes felt the temperature in the little sacristy rise slightly and with the warmth,
Father Jacobs' sanguine improved.

With his vestments hanging on their usual hook and the religious utensils put away, he stepped over to the wooden creden and
pondered on his meagre supper. Five parishoners today Father Jacobs thought, a Sunday and only five worshippers. Picking
up the cold pastie that the widow Cameron had left him, he wondered how long he had left as the soul-saver of Little Compton.
...................................................

Jake Butterfield pulled on his pants and felt the need to apologise again. The eighteen year-old gazed up at the grinning woman
watching him from the garret of his father's barn and politely offered his best innocent features. Peggy Powler -naked and feeling
grand on the warm straw, purred to herself at the handsome lad tucking in his shirt and waited for his unneeded redress.

"I don't know what came over me, Miss Powler, honest -I don't..." Jake mewled and ran his fingers through his long brown hair.
"...My Pa's gonna whoop me if he finds out I didn't fix those fences" he hurried and and jamming his socks into his pockets,
he scuttled towards his wooden nail-caddy where Peggy's hat dangled from its handle.

"I have to go, sorry" Butterfield-junior said quickly and almost fell through the dog-chewed door in his haste. The smug last Witch
of Underhill snorted her mirth from the loft and rolling over onto her back, whispered "Yer' welcome, kid".

Somewhere out there on the heather-clustered moorland of Kettlefog County, docile sheep looked up from their eternal grazing
and listlessly witnessed rain-dampened timber suddenly jumping back to their original positions as fencing. Rust-touched nails
straightened and slid silently into posts as if a young shepherd's son had accomplished his Father's orders and he hadn't been
charmed into a warm attic by a certain sorceress that felt a particular itch.

Not being appreciative of remuneration-majick, the wall-eyed ewes went back to doing what sheep do best.
...................................................

Calder's Way lost its dry-stone wall partners some miles back when the famous road left the agricultural province of Abbott's county
and with a quick survey of the tree-less expanse ahead of her, Peggy Powler unenthusiastically gazed towards the sea-cobbled track
that would lead her across the moorland to Burnham's Hope.

An odd name perhaps, but the hundred-foot deep fracture was supposedly christened with this eponym because of a long-ago pious
wanderer -who lost his way on the foggy heath and missed the footbridge, fell down into the sheer-walled chasm and landed on the
only rock-shelf where he managed to later be recovered. This death-defying traveller who's good fortune finagled the ancient fissure
was Bartholomew Burnham.

The weather was poor, a grey sky with low rain-leaden clouds running quickly towards the Great Sea. Peggy's poncho was damp
due to the moisture-laden air and pulling her hat low, she reviewed her decision to leave the shelter of Mr Butterfield's barn.
With one word, the miserable Witch concluded her judgment was as lousy as the elements.
"Bugger" Peggy muttered and put her best bare foot forward.
...................................................

"How goes it, Father?" Benedict Coombs asked as he waited for the preacher approaching the lychgate. The old grave-digger
curbed the need to pull his cap from his head and instead sniffed at the morning air as if measuring the temperature. Mathew
Jacobs followed the excavator's nose and answered that he will be happier when the Summer returns.

Coombs agreed with an excessive amount of nodding that told the dispirited priest that his only regular weekday visitor had been
quietly quaffing his home-made firewater again, a habit the Curate had stopped scolding Coombs for a year ago. "Well, At least
the storm as passed" Father Jacobs offered with a sigh and refused the onrush of thoughts that had visited him last night.

The five hour deluge had left Little Compton with ankle-deep puddles along the rutted tracks that connected the few cottages to the
paved thoroughfare branded Calder's Way and had distributed tree branches of all sizes about the graveyard. With a doleful eye, Father
Jacobs scanned the strewn foliage laid around the leaning lichen-covered headstones and wondered if the remains of his stipend would
be enough to urge the semi-inebriated Mr Coombs to solve the current situation.

Oddly enough at the same time, the boozy labourer thought that clearing the mess would keep him in the preacher's good books
and at the very least, the few coins Coombs earned from the chapel would keep coming. "Don't you worry about all this clutter,
Father..." the grinning Fossor said easily "...You go about yer' business and be sure old Benedict will have it sorted" he appended
with a wink.

A chilly wind blew along the lane and caused the two men to look meaningful at each other, but it was the seasoned labourer who
broke the wintry silence between them. "I hear that Martha Dinsdale took to her bed with the doldrums this morning..." Coombs
muttered and watched for clues from the man in the black attire. "...It's a terrible curse we've gotten ourselves and no mistake".

With a pained expression on his cold-pinched face, the Sexton of Little Compton nodded his leave-taking and quickly left the
moonshine-damaged grave-digger and the storm-damaged cemetery. It seemed last night's prayer of Doramus' visit had gone
unheard.
...................................................

The thickly-roped bridge at Burnham's Hope reminded its next customer of a Summer when a certain hawser was used to pull
a specific spell-worker out of the clarts. Arriving at the swaying platform, the tough texture of the knotted cables brought a vision
of Treacle Thistle's blistered hands under a warm sun and for a moment, Peggy felt a tad of wistfulness for the latter.

With the daylight -what there was of it, fading quickly, the grumbling Witch realised she'd better get a move on if she was going
to get off the moor by nightfall. It wouldn't be smart to get stuck out here in the dark when the rain came and looking at the heavy
clouds above Burnham's Hope, Peggy guessed such a downpour was only an hour away.
So she cussed again and set-off across the rickety pontoon.
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#2
And then what?

Can't leave a person hanging like that  tinybigeyes
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#3
(10-09-2021, 01:19 AM)ABNARTY Wrote: And then what?

Can't leave a person hanging like that  tinybigeyes

Then we won't Sir!


Jenny Dinsdale met Father Jacobs just has he'd traversed the oily pool of rainwater near the remains of the gallows. The tall
chunk of woodlice-chewed timber was a remnant of when Little Compton had been a true example of a properly-functioning
hamlet. Now, the few thatched cottages that housed a family could be counted on one hand and the forgotten gibbet was the
perfect symbol for the dejected place.

"Oh Father, it's my Ma... she's-she's..." the plain-looking teenager tried to explain, but the preacher kept his face neutral as he
neared the girl in the off-white bonnet, he knew what 'she' was and he hoped a touch of the good Book would allay the usual
symptoms of a tarriance from the evil creature that fed of Little Compton.
"Take heed sister, we will pray together that your mother's malaise will be overcome" Jacobs interrupted in his best confident
tone.

The deep stink of liniment was excessive in the Dinsdale home and Father Jacobs tried to hide his act of shallow breathing
from the woe-filled young woman who followed him into the lobby-way. A single waxy-candle did what it could to illuminate
the cramped living-room and the Pastor peered around at the sparse furniture that spoke of the latter stages of penniless and
the village's overall despondency.

Jenny's father had left a year after the dowdy girl in the ageing headwear was born and so Mrs Dinsdale had struggled to rear
her only issue by basket-weaving and mending her neighbours clothes. When Martha's arthritis came a-calling, the wily woman
had taken to giving Tarot readings and this type of paganistic practice had always been a bone of contention between the kind
old-woman who came to church and the man who was now visiting her own kind of chantry.

"How are you feeling today, Martha?" the reverend Mathew Jacobs asked softly towards the plump shape in the corner of the
room. The rickety old woman stood more upright than the suspicious Parson had seen her in the last few months and Martha's
red-rimmed eyes seemed to be staring at something moving on the stained walls.

"Martha?" the Priest inquired again and received no response from the languor-laden lady, nothing of her manner indicated she
was aware her confessor was standing beside her. She seemed to be watching something and as a fleeting thought, the curious
vicar wondered if she was maybe even waiting for someone. Jacobs cleared his mind of such useless mental interrogation and
went back to examining the vacant-staring Martha Dinsdale.

Plucking the sacred book that his father had given him on his death-bed from his coat pocket, the guarded Preacher carefully
leaned closer into the cloud of body-odour emanating from the apathetic elderly woman and slowly placed it over her heart.
It was then that Mathew saw the single puncture wound behind her ear.

"Oh Sir, she's been like this since last night" Jenny interjected over his shoulder and stifling the need to scream due to the young
woman's sudden statement, Father Jacobs accepted that the Vampyre known as Doramus had visited Little Compton again.
...................................................

Peggy eyed the nearby water trough from her arboreal shelter and watched the rain pound it's splashing surface into a broiling
cauldron. At times, it looked like the very velocity of the torrent was making the water turn to steam, such a weird sight that Peggy
had to wipe her eyes in annoyance. The empty trunk of the rotten willow tree trembled in the gale and the frowning Witch wondered
if her only sanctuary would endure the horrible zephyr outside.

When the rain had first come, the stunted tree seemed to be the only object on the moor taller than herself and hitching her satchel
tighter on her shoulder, Peggy had ran from the lonely Calder's Way and headed along the remains of a fence towards the leafless
willow with the hope that at least, it would be a place where her bag could be hung off the ground. Off the ground and with her in it.

Now the punky interior of the tree seemed a better place to wait out the storm and as it began to throw its contents sideways across
the moor, the sighing sorceress felt that her option had been reinforced. An earthy aroma stirred inside the trunk as the icy winds
tugged at the ancient bark and pulling her hat further down on her head, Peggy Powler resigned herself to spending the night in this
miserable setting.

"It's a frog-striper, all-reet" a low voice said from the darkness of the tree's hollow and snatching her head in the direction of the cold
statement, Peggy hurried to think of a spell to protect herself. "A gadgie had have be a clod to be out in this, eh Missy?" the hidden
source polled.

As another gust slammed the willow and drew an ominous creaking sound from the upper-part of its cavity, the last Witch of Underhill
crouched down to see who the owner of the weather comments was. A small serious face peered back from the gloom and without
any reaction to being discovered, offered the motion "It's really boggin' doon noo and thee'll be needin' to get out this walla' drencha'".

Mentally translating what the creature poking its head from half-hidden burrow was saying, Peggy silently agreed that it was quite a
downpour and yes, a man would have to be a fool to endure being outside during such a storm. The crouching Seer -with decorum
on her mind by tucking her poncho appropriately between her thighs, also subscribed to the idea that the rainfall was increasing and
that refuge from the tempest would be a superb idea.
All of this done with a nod of her head.

The burrow was large enough for her to walk in and in fact, Peggy wondered later why she hadn't noticed the crumbling entrance
when she had first took shelter in the dying tree. So as she followed the little figure down into a lantern-lit tunnel, the reticent Witch
finally categorised her host as a Grim-Figg, a type of northern Elf that lives below ground and traditionally known for repairing broken
farming equipment of humans.

"Me-name is Brape and this is me-home..." said the trudging silhouette that led the way down the warm smooth-walled delve.
"Yoo'll be that lass called Peggy Pounder, Ah've heard about thee" Brape said knowingly. The bare-footed necromancer smiled
to herself at the error, but didn't feel it pertinent to amend her host's mistake.
One doesn't bite the hand that feeds one, so to speak.

As the weather-shy couple eventually arrived on a level surface, Peggy recalled the tips her mother had told her about Grim-Figgs.
One may presume that abiding with a solitary living-off-the-land existence, certain mannerisms and parts of language become altered
from the regular behaviour of other more-social species of Elfin-folk. Madame Powler had informed her daughter that Grim-Figgs were
famed for their no-nonsense outlook to life and pragmatism was a regular companion in their existences.

"In their words, my dear...they take nay shite" were her mother's exact slurred words and only being eleven years of age at the time,
the young girl standing in the Fortune Teller marquee had originally wondered if Grim-Figgs had an aversion to out-houses.
Yet -as many of us would agree, being the Custodian of Majick is a learning process.

But regardless of tangled rustic dialect or hard-boiled sensibilities, Peggy gazed upon the wooden-panelled room she stepped into
with sincere admiration, this Grim-Figg lived in a fine abode. There were candle sconces on each wall which gave the chamber a
warm welcoming feeling, a pleasure enhanced by the sight of a large teapot resting on a gnarled table and set for supper before a
roaring fire hearth.

Peggy smiled inside to herself as she now realised what she'd witnessed occurring at the water trough. It wasn't steam... it was smoke.
"I bid thee fair travels and thank yer' for yer' hospitality" the Witch said to the little stoic figure warming his rear in front of the fire and
curtsied to show her gratitude.

The large-nosed Elfin in the dark-blue sark and black knee-length britches nodded, but the gesture seemed subconscious as if Brape
had expected his guest to say it. "Aye... aye, well sit doon and rest yer' jacksie on a seat" the Grim-Figg muttered in a seemingly weary
tone and stepped over to pour two mugs of tea.

Steeling herself to accept that terse remarks from this race of Fae didn't necessarily mean malice and was born from a candid
perception of a life living off the land, the Witch slipped off her satchel and chanced the comment "by yer' bugger, 'Ah needed that"
as she gratefully sat down. And to her pleasant surprise, Brape smiled as he dropped some honey into the two steaming brews and
agreed with his guest by displaying his accord with "Aye".
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#4
(10-09-2021, 10:41 AM)BIAD Wrote:
(10-09-2021, 01:19 AM)ABNARTY Wrote: And then what?

Can't leave a person hanging like that  tinybigeyes

Then we won't Sir!


Jenny Dinsdale met Father Jacobs just has he'd traversed the oily pool of rainwater near the remains of the gallows. The tall
chunk of woodlice-chewed timber was a remnant of when Little Compton had been a true example of a properly-functioning
hamlet. Now, the few thatched cottages that housed a family could be counted on one hand and the forgotten gibbet was the
perfect symbol for the dejected place...

Yay!!!  tinybiggrin tinybiggrin tinybiggrin
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#5
The man in the dark clothes plucked at a leaf that had settled on the stone marker of Eli Page and wondered if his God's
power would be strong enough to protect the few remaining families that still clung to the faith from the attacks that Father
Jacobs was sure were happening again.

Four years had passed since the cave where Doramus was believed to be hiding was discovered and after the entrance
was stuffed with moor-brush and oil-soaked wool-pelts, it was a young Priest who was honoured with the act of setting the
kindling ablaze. Some of the hunters who had tracked the Vampyre to its underground lair believed they had heard screams
as the burning fuel travelled downwards into the monster's abode.

The religious man who had witnessed the burning and shouted prayers above the sounds of the crackling inferno, now
watched a damp leaf flutter down to rest on the graveyard's neatly-clipped grass. If there was any chance that Doramus
had survived the inferno, what was left of Little Compton would be the place to vent his reckoning.
With that thought, the dark-garbed preacher called Mathew Jacobs looked to the sky and felt helpless.
...................................................

As the well-burnt logs transmuted into embers by the magic of fire, Brape Faraday sat on his rocking-chair and listened
to the last Witch of Underhill explain her situation. The storm was slowing outside as the sounds of high winds faded and
thudding raindrops beating its tattoo on the hollow willow tree abated.

"...So 'Ah decided to head towards Salterhead and see out the winter there" Peggy Powler finished as she sipped at her
third mug of sweet Rosemary tea and admired the objects on the Grim-Figg's mantle-piece. With a pair of poorly-woven
corn-dollies dangling symmetrically from the shelf over the fireplace, standing wooden picture frames offered po-faced
drawings of Elfins that the warm wizard guessed were relatives of the proprietor of the cozy burrow.

Above the renderings of family wholesomeness, an large odd-looking object that hung from leather straps caught Peggy's 
attention and she had to search her memories to acquire its proper name. Small metal plates meshed together in a form
of a clenched fist-like shape and just as the designation of the device came to mind, Brape announced what his prized
ornament was actually called.

"Tis a Borgias Gauntlet..." Brape said as he looked away from the slowly-curling flames, "...something me-Grand-Pappie
used te' knack a reet radgie workyticket that had been bedevilling me-folks for years" he added and tapped his pipe on
the hearth beneath the wicked-looking metal paw.

After deciphering the statement that involved an extremely annoying entity that had plagued the Elf's family for some time
and Brape's Grandfather who solved the situation with the famed mitten of yore above the fire hearth, Peggy nodded solemnly
and mentally patted herself on the back for the translation.

A Borgias Gauntlet was an item that very few Fae-folk had seen. Somewhere in the past, a great Smithy of the Sprite world
created a complex glove that contained instruments of war that with certain actions from the wearer, could brandish anything
from a broadsword to a battle-axe.
All held within a steel mitt, it could wrought terrible strife from the squire of such a mechanism.

Now examining the adornment of Mr Faraday's fireplace, the little Witch felt it was prudent of the Metal-Wright to have only
built five of the nasty things. Peggy emptied her tea-mug and in Brape's dialect, 'said nowt'.

A comfortable silence returned to the subterranean room of the Grim-Figg and the Witch and alone with their thoughts.
Each pondered on what their respective futures held and for Brape Faraday, he wondered if another week-long trek to the
where the great canyon ended on the shore at Lever's Cove, would be a good idea.

Odd things tended to wash down after a storm like the one happening above and it wouldn't be the first time he'd found
an item on the desolate shingle beach that would better his home. Also -and the little Elf would never admit it to anyone,
his four mile odyssey might force him to visit Myra Gold, the Beachcomber who often frequented the quiet bay where the
gorge emptied its contents.

Myra was always friendly to the straight-talking visiting Grim-Figg and the fact that she was single had nothing to do with it.
Or 'nowt to de' wiv it' -as Brape would say.

Peggy reflected on whether she could pick-up some trade with her tarot reading in the scant cottages and farms on the way
to Salterhead, there were always meals involved and maybe shelter from any future inclement weather. This workable tactic
seemed good enough to ask the steadily-rocking Grim-Figg for his input.

"Aye... Aye, well Ye' knaw that shy bairns get nowt and there'll always be those who believe in such stuff -beggin' yer' pardon
Ma'am..." Brape answered and nodded his head. "...Ah warn thee though, a canny'un would steer clear of Little Compton"
Brape advised. Fresh tobacco was sucked on as the usually-taciturn Elf continue with his counsel.

"There's a bad feelin' doon there and 'Ah've heard those who've gan oot on a neet have been met by summat that buggers
them up, Ye knaa, like?" he offered and his seated guest at the table signalled she understood what he was relaying.

Peggy quickly converted his words and took it that a heinous evening visitor was generating problems in the community of
Little Compton and his former advice was a motto that Brape's guest already adhered to. Indecision effected enterprise.

A cindered-log collapsed in the fire and Peggy took the act as a sign to leave and glancing once more at the vicious gauntlet
hanging on the wall, she gathered her words to explain her departure.
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#6
Lady Ophelia Barque thought the small stranger in the large floppy hat must be one of those disagreeable-types from
a nearby farm who occasionally trespass onto her estate in order to perform the scurrilous act of poaching.

Peering out of the front-window of the summer house, Ophelia placed her cup of chamomile tea on the window ledge
and watched the bare-footed interloper casually amble through the line of boxwood that bordered the long gravelled
track that led to her home and continue towards a large collection of laurel bushes.

This was outrageous -the lady of Barque manor thought, it was only the other evening that one of these scruffy churls
had sneaked across her lawn during a quiet soiree with retired-Major Jasper Craythorn and his good wife. If it hadn't
been for Ophelia's ever-vigilant husband -Sir Reginald Barque, the scoundrel would've probably waited until midnight
and then made-off with her Jewellery.

The opulent residence stood on a hundred acres of re-worked moorland with its own out-buildings for stables, a tract
of land used as a kitchen garden and the obligatory kennels for three wolfhounds that were supposed to keep these
unenlightened guttersnipes from abusing the Barque household.

Leaving her expensive hand-made teacup on the berm of the window, Ophelia decided to copy her husband's actions
from that night's disturbance and have Carstairs set the dogs on the intruder. This sort of brazen behaviour should be
nipped at the bud -she thought as she hurried to where her servant was currently kneeling in a row of storm-damaged
lettuces.

"Carstairs, there's another ruffian on the property..." the flustered blueblood barked at her steward. "... Have Firebrand
tear the bottom out of his britches at once" she added and stepped back off the grass to retain the spruceness of her
flat-soled shoes. It wouldn't do to have soiled footwear when Sir Reginald returned from his meeting with the Bankers.

The fifty-year-old Butler grunted softly to himself as he slowly got to his feet, since the Gardener had left a last night,
the balding servant had taken on tasks that were quite inappropriate for his position and now he was required to be a
dog-handler. "Yes Ma'am" he answered subserviently and walked quickly towards the squat structures surrounded by
a mesh cage.

With a glance over his shoulder to make sure her ladyship wasn't monitoring his task, Carstairs shook his head and
wondered if Burt the Gardener and Grounds-man had taken the better option and left. Even though the amiable chap
carried a rural accent in his voice, he was still more tolerable than the Miss La-Di-Da giving the orders.

Still, whatever it was he said he saw when he was patrolling the grounds, must've been scary enough for him to go
without bothering to pick up his owed-wages.

Reaching the red-bricked kennel where Firebrand, Vidor and Mitch resided, the long-suffering valet's features changed
from a cheerless mask of resignation to nervous curiosity as he looked into the shadowed area that kept the dog from
any bad weather.

Usually, the always-ravenous canines would be on their hind-legs, offering faces of loyalty and yelps of frustration.
But now here were two wolfhounds sitting quietly together, whilst the third -Firebrand, stared blankly at the rear wall
of his straw-strewn home.
Even to the weary tenderfoot of dog-handling, Carstairs could see that something was very wrong.
...................................................

Peggy Powler knew her detour wouldn't really be a time-saver, but she needed a change in the scenery and also a
secluded place to make water. Hitching her satchel further onto her shoulder, the tea-filled sorceress guessed that
somewhere on the fancy estate to her left, there would be a location to have breakfast and to take a piss.

Dawn was a long time behind her and the little Witch had picked-up her pace to get off the moor just as daylight had
arrived. The weather-beaten signpost told her that Little Compton was only two miles away and now she felt that some
sustenance was required. Stepping off Calder's Way once more, Peggy trudged up a well-raked gravel driveway of
a large country home surrounded by a line of yew trees.

From what the little groin-clutching Witch could see, the rabbit-track she spied touched the boundary of some affluent
folks' property and not feeling the need to hinder their doubtless important daily schedule, she weighed the temporary
encroachment onto someone's dominion against the urgency to find a bush to relieve herself of Brape's beverage and
found the former wanting.

Reinforced with the concern of being witnessed by a passing Governess and gaily-dressed cherub-cheeked children
from their horse-drawn shay as she squatted near a line of boxwood beside the estate's entrance, Peggy made her
way towards a cluster of laurel bushes and wondered if her exit from Brape Faraday's home had been polite enough.

Explaining her need to be on her way and get to Salterhead as soon as possible -a lame excuse she ceded to herself
as she stepped out from the hollowed-out willow tree, Brape had accepted the reason without countering it with rational
reasons like it was still dark outside. It wasn't that she was ungrateful for the hospitality that the little Elf had provided,
nor Brape's unpretentious manner of speaking, it was just sometimes a wandering Witch needed to be doing just that,
wandering.

Granting a filling of his lovely brew into a flask that Peggy found in the corner of her magical satchel, the foot-itchy
Witch was glad to be on her way once more and again, was confident it nothing to do with the plain-talking Grim-Figg.
"Aye-well, Yer' be wary of what 'Ah said to thee, lass... " Brape had warned from the burrow's entrance, "...yon moor
isn't a place te' be dawdlin' when the sun isn't oot".

Peggy had nodded without looking into the Elf's eyes and rummaging in her bag again, produced a small lantern that
avoided any onlooker from perceiving its source of light with an ornate lattice around the protective glass. "Aye, 'Ah'll
keep a weather-eye out fur' any weird buggers" the necromancer responded and checking her confirmation to his
warning had been heard, she saw that the little tunnel was gone. And so had Brape Faraday.

"Hard-boiled" the last Witch of Underhill murmured waggishly and holding the glowing beacon before her, set out to
find Little Compton and what terror was causing its ruination.
...................................................

After dealing with her ablution, Peggy looked around for a quiet place to have her morning meal. The shrubbery mainly
kept to the shade of the yew trees and within a few feet away, the stomach-growling Seer noticed that the remains of the
moor made sure no tall foliage would survive if it left to be untended.

Pruned Rhododendrons and Arborvitae gave the impression of the assumed required barrier to the stately home and with
a resigned shrug of her shoulders, Peggy donned her hat and decided that breakfast would have to wait.
That was when she heard a twig snap.

"Excuse me Miss..." Carstairs said meekly, "you wouldn't happen to know anything about dogs, would you?"
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#7
"It... it runs real-weird, you know?" Simon Coombs breathlessly explained to Father Jacobs. The sweating boy's skin
was still white with shock and the Priest seriously thought about taking him out to Doctor Fell's house. But considering
the late hour and the ten miles to his home in Bitters Helm, he instead urged the lad to take another sip of the alter wine
and calm down.

Leaving the grave-digger's son trembling in his nightshirt on the chapel's pew, Father Jacobs ushered Benedict Coombs
out of earshot to examine Simon's peculiar claim regarding the 'thing' that attempted to climb into his bedroom window.
The pair looked at each other for a few moments before the older man spoke.

"It's a sad day and no mistake, when 'Ah wake 'nd find me-lad runnin' about me-bedroom screamin' about nightmares..."
Coombs whispered and glanced wide-eyed again as his only son. "... And 'Ah've left it that, iff'n 'Ah hadn't seen the tracks
outside his window with me-own eyes" he added. Jacobs nodded and looking back at the ashen youngster, he mimed
sipping the drink at the boy and saw Simon respond.

With Martha Dinsdale's recent trance-like malady, the Sexton of Little Compton had resisted the urge to connect the two
incidents, but the way Coombs-junior described the fleeing creature, it seemed more and more like tonight's invasive
foray was the work of the one they called Doramus.

"He said it looked like a fella..." Benedict said in a hushed voice "...but at the same time, he said there was something,
something wrong with how it moved". The labourer stared at his Preacher and silently wished he'd brought a bottle of
his moonshine with him. "Do yer' think it's the work of what killed the Oaker boy and his Ma?" he asked and performing
something he hadn't done since he was a boy younger than his son, he crossed his heart with a finger.

Mona Oaker and her son -Theodore, had been attacked by a wolf a year ago when they were nearing their home after
visiting relatives not far from Burnham's Hope. It was taken as fact. The cart they were on showed marks of where the
beast had leapt from hiding and after a struggle, the nine year-old had fled whilst his mother fought unsuccessfully to
stop the brute from going after her son.

Sadly, young Theo was discovered a day later further along the canyon and it was decided that the boy had died from
something Dr Fell had called 'hyperthermia'. Major Craythorn -a man of some note in the area, agreed with the findings
and had previous experience in tracking during his military years. The esteemed Major had also suggested the wolf
tracks indicated a distinct deformity in its gait. But the brow-furrowed Priest believed this recent incident was entirely
different and so he warned Coombs not to jump to conclusions. 

Deliberating on this current situation, Father Jacobs thought on Martha's daughter's comment that every night, she
made sure the doors were locked and the windows were secure. However, the morning of her mother's weird state,
Jenny had found a back-room window open. The very room -that due her the joint-stiff condition, her mother slept in.

"You need to take your boy home and make sure your windows are locked... I suggest using nails on the inside" the
vicar said absently and fought off a sudden need to sob. He needed to be strong for his parishioners -he told himself.
Mr Coombs nodded and quietly added he would move his son back into his original bedchamber as only a couple
of weeks ago, he'd swapped their sleeping arrangement around.

Nodding as if he was listening, Father Jacobs pondered that if it was Doramus, then the single contusion behind the
old woman's ear made sense. But it meant that the Vampyre had not only survived the fire, but was fulfilling his former
guess at revenge. Unknown to the fearful grave digger and his son, one of the hunters who burned the cave was Simon
Coombs late-Grandfather.
...................................................

Alfred Carstairs handed the odd-looking woman in the unkempt poncho the small plate of fried bacon and waited for
her verdict on the wolfhound called Firebrand. Ignoring the sounds coming from the chewing Witch, the bewildered
Butler kneeled beside her and peered at the stupefied dog that hadn't moved from its position at the rear wall of the
kennel.

"What do you think?" he whispered and then wondered why he'd kept his voice low, it wasn't that the mesmerised mutt
would react to any sound, including the unlocking of the cage. Peggy Powler had been inside the enclosure whilst the
man-servant was a way and now she wondered to herself if -what she think had happened, had actually happened.

She'd heard of it only once and by the time she'd arrived at the lonely farmhouse in Meredith County, the owner -Seth
Carrigan, had caught the creature in a man-trap and beaten the thing to death with a shovel. After chopping up the body,
the gritty farmer had buried the remains somewhere on his property.

He'd called it Barghest and from what Peggy could get from the mulish sod-puller, it looked a little like a wolf, but not
totally... which didn't leave a lot to go on. Especially when even under a charm, the awkward bastard couldn't remember
where he'd buried it.

But after examining the frozen wolfhound in the pen, Peggy was sure this was the work of the same type of creature
due to the small bloodstain on the dog's flank and what the boorish ploughman had mentioned as he'd went about
moving manure from one place to another.

"It's like this, Billy..." Seth had said as he straightened a strap of his overalls and with a sigh, leaned against his smelly
shovel, probably the one he'd dispatched the Barghest with. "..It was crawlin' away across the yard and as 'Ah hit wiv'
me-shovel, it turned its head and stuck its tongue out me". Carrigan had turned away to get back to his malodorous
chore when Peggy had pressed him further. And just for the record, he called everyone 'Billy'.

"Bloody-hell woman, the thing opened its mouth and..." Carrigan moved his hand to his face and indicated a tube-like
protrudence had appeared from the Barghest's muzzle. "...it shot out like this, all-reet'?" he explained acidly and raised
an eyebrow to imply the last Witch of Underhill might not have been able to grasp the meaning of his gesture.

So now here she was, down to her last rasher of bacon and the quandary of whether to tell her kneeling companion
of what she really believed had caused Firebrand's state. Crossing the fingers of her left hand, Peggy explained the dog
had caught 'the Stare', a rare effect when poisoned from a Rhododendron bush.

"Take me-advice and just keep puttin' a bowl of milk mixed with these herbs in with him and he'll be fine in a couple of days"
she said with all the conviction she could muster. And the crossed-fingers weren't due to the falsehood, the dexterous act was
for her satchel to have such plants available.

Feeling a small sack of soft contents in the corner of her bag, the little Witch produced a confident smile to accompany
the little hessian bag. "It might tek' some time" she warned and by the look of Carstairs puzzled face, Peggy reckoned
she'd got away with the trick.
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#8
After taking her leave from the mystified man-servant of the big-house, Peggy had walked a mile before deciding
that sleep was catching up with her. She'd snoozed for nearly an hour under a large Bottlebrush bush that wouldn't
be denied its place among the receding heather. It was only when Peggy heard the steady clop of hooves on cobble
did she rouse herself and straighten her single item of clothes. A ride might be in the making.

Thomas Hector was a good man, she could tell the moment she alighted his cart and struck-up a conversation with
the fellow. As Peggy had climbed down next to the path to her destination, she'd wished the man with nice eyes and
a nice mien of address had picked her up sooner.

Leaning from his creaking seat, Thomas warned "now there's been funny goings-on in Little Compton, so you watch
yourself, Peggy" and the Witch -who held a high taste in men, liked the way he said her name. With a flick of the reins,
Mr Hector went on his way to wherever cordial people go.
...................................................

Peggy Powler finally allowed her muddy bare feet to just clean themselves of sticky dirt by simply walking though
the scattered puddles that lay along the unpaved track instead of attempting to go around them. The small wooden
sign that indicated the junction -if one wished to be optimistic, from Calder's Way to Little Compton was broken and
lay in a large clump of fennel that the little Witch later chewed on as she waded through the remains of the deluge.

Stark leafless trees escorted the half-flooded path and apart from glimpsing a couple of houses and a small church,
Peggy reviewed her decision to come here and ply her trade. The place seemed desolate and arriving at a more
open place to survey the so-called village, she genuinely wondered if it was abandoned.
That was when Peggy spotted someone working in the kirkyard.

Clambering onto the cemetary wall and holding the back of her poncho to hide her lack of underwear, Peggy called
cheerfully "Fair travels, Sir, how are yer' today?" and for a moment, she thought the hunched man hadn't heard her.
Gazing over his shoulder at the newcomer, the grave-digger offered a passionless face and then went back to filling
in the rectangular hole.

"Suit yer' bloody-self" Peggy murmured and carefully climbing down from her perch, she was about to continue her
journey towards the spaced-out cottages, when she saw something that caught her breath. It was a single print and
the recent rain had eroded the rear-part of the spoor, but it was definitely that of large canine.

Checking that the miserable bastard with the spade wasn't watching, the bantam Witch crouched down and looked
closer at the strange impression in the mud. No, she was wrong. The storm hadn't damaged the back of the print,
it was a pronounced heel... a human heel. With her nose almost touching the moist dirt, Peggy could see the whorls
and lines left by a person's skin. There were even signs of callouses near where the edge of the foot had touched.

"Whey yer' bugger!" she exclaimed and wondered what had been happening in Little Compton.
...................................................

"I can say without doubt, she was a lovely woman..." Father Jacobs said in a consoling voice to the seated sobbing
young woman. "...A devoted mother and an ardent member of the faith" he added and patted Jenny Dinsdale on the
shoulder.

The aroma of the house had improved since the last time the Priest had visited, what furniture there was had been
cleaned and arranged to accommodate the coffin that had now been taken away. The dull-coloured curtains were still
closed, of course and Father Jacobs hadn't commented of the old traditional ways he'd often disapproved of.

Jenny sniffed her grief and clutching the vicar's handkerchief like her life depended on it, she looked up at her man
of the cloth with the eyes of pleading doe. "Me-Ma's in a better place, Sir... and her strife is gratefully over" she said
with a slight lilt in her voice, the kerchief changed hands as she wondered if she should say more.

The last two days and nights had been difficult for Jenny Dinsdale as she'd sat beside the bed of her mother and
watched her try to sleep. Then just before midnight, Martha would rise like her arthritis had fled and walk to the rear
wall of her bedroom. This same act would play-out again in daytime, but with one slight difference.

At first, the young woman had tried to cajole her mother back to her crib with soft words of encouragement, but the
old biddy was like a block of stone cemented onto the floorboards of the little room. Then it would begin -just had it
had the next night, Martha would move quickly to the left and then hurry sideways to the right, her eyes never leaving
the faded wallpaper that adorned the place where Jenny's father had once slept.

Back and forth Martha Dinsdale would move, lithe and eager like an avid watcher. Jenny had even thought that her
mother was doing just that... monitoring an unseen force somewhere beyond the wall of the cottage, but not having
the schooling of such esteemed folk as the Priest, she was left in a state of confusion.

Only when dawn broke, did the little old woman shuffle back to her bed and close her eyes as if she'd been at rest
all night. Then when the weary daughter had brought her mother some breakfast, she'd find her back at the wall, but
during daylight, she never moved.

"Yes, she's resting with the Angels now" Mathew Jacobs agreed with a sigh and his only congregation wondered if
that was true.
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#9
There was a stranger who wore no shoes and a hat big enough that if fully erected, would add another two feet
to the bijou woman's stature and she was headed in Father Jacobs' direction. It seemed these days, that for a
small community like Little Compton, the lazy days of letting time tick by were long behind the exhausted Priest
and his meagre congregation.

"Good day, Ma'am..." the heedful vicar said with all the pleasantness he could muster, Martha Dinsdale had just
been put into the ground and he was hoping his day was done. "...Welcome to our little place of paradise" Jacobs
added as he watched the female walk nonchalantly across the mud-laden track towards him.

"Fair elements, me-good man, me-name is Peggy Powler and Ah' hear yer've got trouble hereabouts?" the little
Witch said lightly and curtsied to the aloof-looking ecclesiastic. She wasn't a favourite with these church-dwellers
and had many a run-in with them, so rising from her greeting, she didn't expect any difference in this God-forsaken
hamlet.

Father Jacobs' eyes narrowed as he realised who was standing before him and recalling the woman's alleged
exploits from travellers who'd tarried awhile in Little Compton, he was surprised by a physical size that failed
to live up to the reputation. "We rally together when predicaments visit" he said tersely and showed a smile
that would be at home on a scarecrow.

Peggy kept her features from her salutation and nodded an approval of collective acts, whilst gaining the notion
that this pompous jackass was out of his depth and he knew it. So the little sorceress chummed the waters to
solidify her supposition.

"So yer'll be settin' yer' stall out to kill the Barghest then?" Peggy asked and turned on her heel to set-off back
down the lane, but she heard the gasp from the highfaluting clergyman before she'd showed her back.
"You... you know?" Jacobs stammered and almost reached out to the small woman's shoulder, but stopped
himself at the last moment.

The poncho-wearing target of the question looked over the shoulder that the Priest had almost grabbed and
answered. "Aye and he's deformed, Ah' reckon" Peggy said with a tone that made Father Jacobs' soul feel
colder than a Deacon's watch-chain.
...................................................

"I think it was rude of me to not introduce myself when we first met..." he said watching the woman sitting on
a chair too-high for her and feasting on the large cheese-loaded hoagie he'd just made her. "...I am Father
Mathew Jacobs and this is my little chapel" he supplemented and managed a genuine smile this time.

The vestry was cozy and with the warmth from the small fire hearth, the last Witch of Underhill ate-up the
comfort as well as the food. "Nice te' meet yer'" she offered and wiped her mouth with the back of her hand.
The taking of nourishment was accompanied by a few minutes of quietude as the Priest went about doing
whatever Priests do when not saving souls and Peggy filled her mouth with the sandwich.

"I hear that you're acquainted with these types of demons?" Father Jacobs said without looking at his new
guest in his vestry. He was changing his clerical collar for a cleaner one as Evensong was just a couple of
hours away, although he suspected the chancel to be empty tonight.

Peggy sipped her goblet of water and smiled to herself as she remembered how the game was played.
It was always the same, old majick had been branded shameful and belong to a time when the ignorant knew
no better. The land became enlightened with the Good Book and so when a pious farmer's turnip won't grow
or a malignant spirit decides to terrorise some church-goers shack, a man-of-the-cloth would sprinkle water
at the predicament and then forget about it.

But when the problem really needs solving, these righteous rascals send for ol' Peggy Powler and her bag of
tricks to oust the headache. Then when she's out of earshot, the same Priest will lambaste the little woman for
her barbaric ways and lack of proper orthodoxy.
It was always the same.

"Aye, there's been things like yon beastie cross me-path before..." the Witch replied as she wiped her poncho
free of crumbs. "...Did yer' hallowed book not have any spells to kick its arse out of yer parish?" she added and
carefully climbed down from the table to display anything that might shock the tentative cleric.

Standing in front of the aloof Father Jacobs, Peggy explained the situation the best she could and apart from when
the Priest interjected the name 'Doramus' and the destruction of his lair, her chronicle of the Vampyre-cum-Barguest
went undisturbed.
And at the end of the sorceress' sermon, Peggy was sure the haughtiness would have left him.

At some point in Little Compton's history, a person became infected with the curse of the vampire. It seemed that
Doramus was this particular victim. The evil diablo who made him this way -either fled for pastures new or came to
an untimely end.

This left Doramus without his mentor to show him the way of the blood-sucking fiend and as his unharnessed powers
manifested, the delinquent monster began to operate out of character for a vampire. In essence, his behaviour steered
Doramus towards being a Vampyre.

The difference is paltry, but it has a bearing. Having the ability to loosely mimic other creatures, Doramus developed a
dependency on animals that surround Little Compton for his sustenance. Vampires preyed on humans, Vampyres prey
on anything containing blood.

At this juncture in her account, Peggy suggested that the listening Curate should ask surrounding farms if any of their
livestock had been attacked by what could be considered a wild dog or a marked change in their animals' manner.
Jacobs was almost bent over with his need to concentrate on what the small raconteur was saying and almost fell onto
the woman as he nodded that he would do as she proposed at the most convenient moment.

"Yer' say yer' cornered the brute...?" Peggy said, but her words weren't in the form of a question. "Aye, well this'll be the
time when he passed ower' from his primitive life of a lost vampire to the bugger who's been snoopin' aroond yer' village"
she explained as she walked back to retrieve her drink.

The Priest seemed to struggle from his mesmerism and gathering himself back to his full height, described how Doramus'
cave was turned into a pyre and the confidence the hunters had that the Vampyre had been consumed in flames.
With a quick swig of her Adam's ale, she told Jacobs that she'd need to see this burnt-out grotto at some point and again,
his vigorous nodding assured the bare-footed shaman that such a venture was also on the menu.

"He's a Barguest all-reet and Ah' wouldn't be surprised if he's darin' himself to attack someone from Little Compton" Peggy
warned and felt the Priest's mood change. Father Jacobs gulped and pulled at the collar he'd just put on for a probable empty
ceremony. "Er... there's s-something I need to tell you" he stuttered.
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#10
After repeating her report of her late-mother's antics of the nights before she died, Jenny Dinsdale nervously asked
the Witch that was scrutinising a corner of the bedroom wall, if she believed her Ma would rise from the dead. Peggy
Powler felt the rough surface of the wallpaper and then turning to look at the dowdy young woman sitting on the bed,
she glanced towards the Preacher before she put on her best smile of kindness she could generate.

"Nay lass, yer Ma's affliction doesn't work like that..." Peggy said and patted the tearful Ms Dinsdale on her folded hands
as she sat down beside her. The last Witch of Underhill was a little hesitant to continue, but she decided that if she spoke
her mind now, it would benefit both Jenny and Father Jacobs.

"Yer' see what happened was when Doramus visited yer' mother, he did so to attain his fodder..." Peggy explained slowly.
Father Jacobs' eyes widened at the bluntness of the sorceress' exposition, but decided to remain silent. After all, this was
a learning exercise for him too.

"...Normally such a creature needs to frequent its victims to create itself -not just a varied location where it would be difficult
to see a pattern, but to fortify its number. It seems the nasty buggers likes company" she said and hoped the mild levity would
lift the spirits of her small audience.
It didn't.

Peggy leaned closer to the sniffing maiden and continued. "But this Barguest divna' knows its purpose and so just randomly
attacks and that is how Ah' know we catch him" she offered with conviction and peered at the man in his non-religious garb.
"Oh Aye, he's buggered-up reet proper" Peggy stated in a sibilate tone.
...................................................

The stark trees gave an unwelcoming feeling to the cold countryside, the effects of agriculture in the area had pushed back the
moorland and with the little steads of farmers impacting on the surrounding, the woodlands had appeared. But at this time of
the year, the leafless branches only brought a sense of woebegone and melancholy to the environs of Little Compton.

"I don't see anything..." Mathew Jacobs said, his clothes were apt for the dank still late-afternoon as -after Peggy had coached
the Priest to cancel his evening ceremony, the usually-reserved man now stood near the decrepit fence at the rear of the Dinsdale
property in his stout boots and a thick woven tweed suit. "...Doramus won't be hanging about here, you said it yourself" he added
and corrected himself from nearly using the term 'Yer'.

Peggy squatted on the sodden earth and stared out towards the line of birch and poplars, there were no tracks and not really a
natural run that occurs from regular animal traffic. A passing rook gave its judgment on the half-assed act of tracking and Peggy
had to reluctantly agree with the solitary corvus, she needed to do better.

Standing up and correcting her balance, the ruminating Witch asked her standoffish colleague to point in the general direction
of the cave where Doramus was residing. Mathew tapped his lip before aiming a finger in the approximate position if the beast's
hideaway and then looked curiously the small woman smiling up at him.

"That'll explain Jenny's weird account of her mutha's behaviour..." she with a lilted-tone of delight, "Ah' wasn't sure at first until
it dawned on me the old woman wasn't starin' at the wall... she was starin' at somethin' beyond the bloody-wall" she added and
patted her partner's elbow. "Old Martha was hankerin' for her next dose of vampyre bites and unknowingly, was actin' like a bat
reacting to a movin' moth!" Peggy proclaimed and tugged at the Preacher's sleeve.

"Come on marra', we gotta walk that way" she said and set-off towards the naked trees that waited just across the half-ploughed
field. Jacobs -without his armour of religion to harness the situation, hurried after the bare-footed magician and sighed at the mud
clogging his boots.
...................................................

"But I don't get it Peggy..." the breathless Verger said "...Doramus won't be using the cave, surely he'd know we know where it is"
he offered as they both clambered over a makeshift stile in the fence belonging to Marnie Carter, a local farmer. Noticing the
alarming amount of bare thigh that Ms Powler was showing during the crossing, Mathew was seriously considering that the avid
Witch might not be wearing bloomers.
But he opted to say nothing about her unusual accoutre and stayed with his narrative of doubt.

Peggy stopped and fished into her satchel for a reason to give the Priest a few minutes respite, they'd been walking for about
an hour and the light had almost gone. Yet, he'd declined to mention any concerns about the oncoming gloom or a fear of what
might be lurking behind any tree. She gave him credit for that and so, he deserved a rest.

The sturdy flask that appeared from the Witch's canvas bag contained a fine booster to their trek, it was hot chicory laced with
honey and -what Jacobs guessed was, a small quantity of brandy. "It's te' keeps the cold out" Peggy had assured the relishing
rector, although he believed a good pair of underwear would do a better job for the woman holding the flask.
"Aye...I mean yes, it's a fine tonic against the elements" he agreed and repeated his query.

Nodding as if to appreciate the puzzle, the Witch straightened her hat and explained.
"Ah' think what happened when yer' were settin' alight his den, was that Doramus tried to alter his appearance wiv' the idea
that it might help him get out of his predicament" Peggy said and waited for a nod of comprehension from the man emptying
his cup. "The blaze was too intense and being a Vampyre that was more animal than human, his need to escape drove him
to fight through the flames and leave him in a permanent state of hybrid"

Father Mathew Jacobs' features showed his mental cogitation as he followed the line of reasoning and then his eyes lit-up as he
reached the finishing-line of the proposed result. Daramus was half-animal, half-man. "Whey yer' bugg...Well good-heavens!"
he declared and stared out in the direction they were going.

Now fully garrisoned with a hot brew inside them, the investigative pair set-off to the secluded ex-hideout of the Barguest.
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#11
The ravine was narrow enough that it'd make an excellent ambush-spot to catch anything passing through it,
thought Peggy Powler as she warily stepped onto the sandy path towards where Father Mathew Jacobs was
pointing. "It's just beyond that boulder" the worried Priest said with a slight warble in his voice, he didn't like
being here again.

Just like the flask of coffee earlier, the intrepid Witch had produced a strange-looking lantern from her canvas
tote and holding above her head, she peered at the frightened man next to her. "You say nothing came out when
the hunters were here?" she asked in a hushed voice and watched for any sign of uncertainty, but she saw none.

"I waited a whole hour with two of the trackers after the blaze was set and Doramus never appeared, nor anything
else came out of that hole except smoke" Jacobs said confidently. She accepted his statement and nodded so.
"Let's take a look, shall we?" Peggy said hoped and her brave act of stepping forward would urge Mathew to follow her.
But it was the illumination from the lamp that cajoled him into accompanying the little woman.

The night's temperature was dropping quickly now and the couple felt the urge to shiver, but resisted the need to do
so as it might look too-much like trembling -they both thought separately. Brush and stunted bushes lined the trail and
in their passing, every shadow looked like a Vampyre that had gone rogue. 

Passing the large rock on their left, Peggy and Mathew stared up at the black maw that still had evidence of smoke
damage on the bluff above it. "May the Gods help us" the off-duty preacher whispered and crossed his heart with a
finger.
"Aye" Peggy agreed absently.
...................................................

Only a mile away from where the Witch and the man-of-the-cloth were staring at the ominous shadows of the cavern,
the actual creature they were hunting was shambling fast over the dark land towards a faint light that that glimmered
through some tall yew trees.

With vicious eyes, the one known as Doramus scoured the countryside before him as his damaged body swayed in
his powerful gait. It was easier on all fours due to the inferno he'd escaped from. The Barguest's spine had never
returned to its original position and his mangled features told of a more harrowing failure to return to the authentic
face of his true-self, Emmett Collins.

If his mother had been still alive, she'd have wept for her once-handsome boy lumbering through the peat-stained bogs
and rough heather in the guise of the now disfigured monster they call Doramus. With wolfen-toes, clods of earth yielded
and left footprints that had never been seen before below the moon that watched down through the rain-heavy clouds on
the wretched brute who had fallen foul to a vampire.

Emmett Collins had set forth from little village of Barleydowns six years ago in the hope of gaining employment as a
Gamekeeper's assistant. A lad of fourteen walking alone across a dark moor in the direction of his prospective job
at Barque Hall and his whole life ahead of him.

But such memories were now beyond the twisted shape that eyed the large house with the fancy gardens. For the
thing once called Collins and now branded Doramus, recollection tended to exist in the form of where blood could
be easily accessed.

The encounter with the ambushing ghoul that had changed him was gone, the incident where he'd altered his physical
being in the blazing cavern and failed to return to his natural self was gone and what he'd done to poor Martha Dinsdale
exceeded any contemplation within his animal thought-process.

Then his long ears twitched as a snoozing partridge decided to find a better bed amongst the heather and for a moment,
Doramus' mind focused on the fat bird squatting in the dark, but the bright moon appeared and dropped the odds on any
chance of a feathered capture.

That same bloated orb also revealed more of the damage that the burnt Vampyre endured, fur-covered shins stretched
like a dog's and feet that hurt the eyes to observe. Whatever clothes Emmett Collins enjoyed on his trek from Barleydowns
were now charred rags where a coarse pelt poked through the many holes. But it was the moon-lit face that most would
recoil in horror from, it was a head that belonged in the freak tent at a Carnival.

The ears were definitely canine and even though the fire had left its mark on the back of his head, fur still covered most
of his neck and cheeks. The remnants of Doramus' human-side was his right eye, a blinking blue orb where one would
struggle to find any remains of the ethics of altruism or virtues that we accept as the mark of man.

Matted-fur hung from his stunted snout that was twisted due to the right-side his mouth being pulled in a permanent snarl
and if his mother had witnessed what her son had become, what he did next would have caused her to swoon onto the
brush that slumbering gamebirds perceive as a haven.

Slobbering in the darkness at the man-made illumination in an act of hungry contemplation, the Barguest slowly pushed
his saliva-dripping proboscis from his jaws and the Vampyre that had lost its way stared longingly at the Barque mansion.
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#12
The four year-old pile of ashes must've still been an inch thick on the tunnel floor and standing at the entrance of the cave,
Peggy Powler leaned her glowing lantern into the shadows on the off-chance Doramus' footprints had endured the passing
of time. Apart from a recent scuttle of mouse tracks, nothing implied the trapped-Vampyre had engaged the roaring flames
and escaped in this direction.

Peering at the soot-scarred walls, the diminutive Witch whispered to the agitated clergyman standing a couple of feet away.
"Nowt' here... are yer' sure nothin' came out, Father?" she asked again and Mathew Jacobs repeated his claim in a voice that
told Peggy he wished to be away from this terrible place. Appeasing the flinching Priest's concern, she sighed to herself and
aimed her bare feet towards a faint rabbit-run that lay between the wall of the ravine and the large boulder.

Following the cottontail's obscure spoor upwards, Peggy grunted her way through the tangled brush that hid the top of the bluff
from anyone on the ravine floor and after finding what she'd been looking for, the squatting Witch carefully set the lamp beside
the foot-wide fissure and called Father Jacobs up to her position.

"Here... Doramus got out here" Peggy muttered at the approach of the panting man struggling his way past the barbed twigs
and stubborn branches of the undergrowth. Mathew wiped his eyes of spider's webs as he reviewed the confusing marks in
the sandy soil adjacent to what he'd have just thought was a naturally-formed home of a rabbit.

There was a dog print that was overlayed with a human's palm impression and leaning closer over his companion's shoulder,
he spied an odd substance that was crusted around the opening of where the Witch was pointing to.

"That'll be the bugger's skin where he was changin' as he come through..." Peggy whispered to the man behind her. "...It seems
ol' Doramus' escape didn't go well" she furthered. Both Ms Powler and Father Jacobs remained quiet in their own thoughts as
the climbed back down to the arroyo's base and whilst the vicar of Little Compton went through his benedictions to ward off evil,
the last Witch of Underhill nurtured the rudiments of a plan to catch the aberration that had crawled out that hole.
...................................................

Carstairs heard it first and rising from his seat in the scullery he peered through the kitchen window towards where the kennels.
It was a yowl, a whimpering yowl from one of the hounds and suspecting some poacher had decided to cut-out any interference
in his night-time industry, the Butler judged the thieving beggar to have come to the wrong conclusion.
With a lantern in hand and punishment in mind, the servant stepped out into the night.

As a faint illumination cautiously made its way down past the summer house, an inquisitive face appeared at the window of the
main bedroom. Lady Ophelia watched the lantern bob its way towards where the dogs were kept and she -too, thought along
similar lines of her steward. Maybe it was even that ungroomed hat-wearing runt that had visited a few days back and maybe
he'd returned to hurt the two remaining hounds.

With a swish of her chiffon nightgown, the six foot-three woman plucked her robe from the bed and left her boudoir to teach
this sawn-off ruffian a lesson. Sir Reginald was sleeping-off his evening brandy and any notion of rousing him from his slumber
was a task Ophelia had failed to do many times, even when he wasn't snoring.

Fastening her flat-heeled shoes, she muttered words not very decorous for such a noble patrician. Firebrand was a fine dog
and whatever uncouth poison had been fed to him would be paid back double by the lady of the manor.
Brandishing her husband's blackthorn walking stick, she opened the front door and headed out to castigate this inbred intruding
defalcator.
...................................................

The town was in darkness as the unlikely pair trudged back to the chapel and opening the cemetery gate to allow the sullen
Witch through, Father Jacobs looked at the shadowed shapes of the cottages around him. Was Doramus visiting one of his
faithful right now...? What horror would a person gaze upon as the malformed beast took its foul nutriment from the innocents
of Little Compton?
Crossing his heart once more, he followed the small resolute sorceress towards the vestry.
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#13
Peggy Powler looked over at the man who was now urging the flames of his dying fire to bring warmth to the shadowy
room and wondered if he'd go for her idea. She knew these religious-types tended to rebuke any hint of using the old
ways, yet she was at a loss to come up with a plan to locate something that has no home.

"This Barguest..." she said softly as Father Jacobs stood up and rubbed his creaking knees, "...Ah' have a way of findin'
him, but Ah' think yer'll say no te' me-notion" the little Witch finished from her position near an ornate cabinet. Caressing
the wooden scrolls along the edges of the Sacristy's top, Peggy waited for the verdict from the preacher who's uniform
was stored there.

Mathew Jacobs watched the woman in the dirt-smudge poncho with flinty eyes, was this a temptation? he pondered
and then corrected himself when he recalled his guest was more practical than he ever been this night. The fire was
beginning to blast out its heat now and standing close to it, he waited to see if the wily-Witch would pepper her unsaid
proposal with more words of beguile.
It was a whole minute before Jacobs surrendered and asked what the detached diviner's design may be.
...................................................

With all her strength, Lady Ophelia Barque hurled her sensible shoe at the crouching monstrosity that was snarling at
her Butler. She'd originally thought of throwing her husband's shillelagh at the thing, but she caught herself and realised
it would leave her defenceless.

"Get off my pro..." Ophelia had began as she neared the kennels and saw the shape across from where Carstairs was
cowering, but as her eyes adjusted to the dim light coming off the dropped lantern, the courtly pedigree became aware
that the misshapen ogre with the strange tube poking out of its mouth was no simple poacher.

Glancing towards the cage where the dogs were housed, she saw that the hound called Mitch was laid on its side and
panting like it'd been in a race with a hare and Vidor was nowhere to be seen. Maybe the open gate had something to
do with it.

Carstairs waved his hand at Lady Barque and hissed " get back Ma'am, get back and get Sir's shotgun". The wide-eyed
man-servant was against the wall of the storage building and reluctant to make a run for it. The fragile lady of his concern
evaluated the situation and allowing her rage to be unharnessed, tossed her footwear at the creature with the ugly face.

"YOU... YOU PIECE OF SHIT, GET OFF MY LAND!" Lady Ophelia screamed towards the beast and even as Carstairs'
eyes widened to rival the moon above, the Barguest scampered away into the darkness. For a moment, there was no
sound except for the two people exhaling with relief, then the woman's shocked subordinate whimpered "M'lady!" and
went to retrieve his employer's pump.
...................................................

The morning found Peggy Powler snoring softly in the corner of the vestry and inside her satchel. She had refused the
Priest's invite of using his cot in the other room and assured him soft feathers were no good for her ailing back.

Jacobs had risen early and deliberated on his guest's proposal as he fried two eggs and two slices of bread in goose fat.
The last of his coffee was brewing nicely on the stove that Benedict Coombs had installed last year and where the rascal
had acquired it was still a mystery.

Which brought up another bind, Coombs would have to be kept out of the Witch's plan, but he'll no doubt be hanging
around again this morning -Father Jacobs thought and carefully placed the food onto two rarely-used plates. The Witch's
idea was beyond his comprehension and certainly beyond his teachings, to evoke a wood-devil to answer our plight was
to certainly go against doctrine, but as Peggy had countered, the bigger-picture was righteous.

Maybe it would all fail and Robin Goodfellow would remain where the clergyman always believed he existed, in a children's
nursery-rhyme.

"Mornin' Preacher" Peggy yawned and pointed to the out-house to show why she was opening the chapel's back door.
Hiding his bashfulness, Mathew Jacobs nodded and went to set the table.
...................................................

"Carstairs, I need you to go to the village to fetch Reverend Jacobs..." Lady Barque said as she picked at her breakfast
and stared daggers at her oblivious newspaper-reading husband. "...The rapscallion last night must be held to account
and one would be prudent to utilise the good vicar's guidance" she supplemented and looked to see if her weary Butler
had heard her command.

Hiding his lack of sleep and tucking the serving-salver under his arm, Carstairs whispered "Yes M'Lady" and shuffled off
to refill the teapot.
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#14
As Carstairs prepared the horse and cart for his visit to the clump of cottages called Little Compton, the reason for the sedate
Butler's journey was silently asking for divine clemency for straying off his moral path and just like the gelding accepting his
burden on the gravelled courtyard of Barque Manor, Father Mathew Jacobs looked balefully around at his dismal surroundings.
...................................................

Just to be factual, the reason the farmer -John Armstrong, never used this particular piece of land where the Priest was currently
waiting for Peggy Powler, had nothing to do with the prehistoric long barrows or the poor drainage. It was because of what he'd
witnessed there six years ago.

Armstrong -like many farmers, was a practical man. The seasons held many varieties of weather and he was confident that his
endeavours to cultivate his ten acres of property would at times be at the mercy of the changes a year would would throw at him.
His field of vegetables thrived because he had learned which correct produce would be conducive with what season it was and
above all, how his cereals or legumes reacted to the soil and its mineral content.

There were no lengths of woven horse hair hidden beside a well or John's concern of which shoe to put on first in the morning,
no silly dancing around apple trees or worries of what the markings on the belly of a deaf adder meant. Nothing except a glance
at the sky in the morning and when retiring to bed. Farmer Armstrong was down-to-earth, just as a worker of the earth should be.

But that late-summer evening when he'd fancied surprising his wife with a plump pheasant from the overgrown dell where the old
graves of a long-ago people hid a drop in the terrain, well... what he saw was just plain evil. Even with his shotgun cocked, John
had fled and never told a soul of what he'd seen.

It seems that there are monsters on the land that feed off others and whoever the boy was that had ventured into that hidden glade,
farmer Armstrong was sure at the following Sunday's church service, to give the thanks to the Gods that it wasn't one of his kin that
had been attacked by the blood-drinker.
...................................................

Gazing at the broken fencing, the overgrown turf and the stunted, twisted and leafless trees where he waited for his pagan cohort,
the Priest that had been surprised to see the owner of this piece of forgotten land all those years ago, now pondered on his own
damnation due to being involved in evoking one of Peggy's heathen imps.

Coombs had once informed him that this was an ancient burial ground of a lost godless people that the chilly vicar strongly believed
that the missing Witch would have felt at home with. Now all that Father Jacobs just wished for was he was back in front of his warm
fire and maybe a hot cup of cocoa.

The cold breeze that slipped between the barrows fluttered his cassock and for a moment, the Sexton of Little Compton felt a strong
urge to just leave, flee from the heretic and her profane acts of ungodliness and get on with his little ordinary secure life. But just then
the sight of Peggy's bobbing hat peeping over the grassy hillock caused him to automatically grin, an unexpected expression that he
put away quickly.

"Eh, it's a bit nitherin' today, isn't it...?" Peggy said as she busied herself by rummaging in the canvas satchel that she always carried
with her. "That breeze gets reet under me-shawl" she quipped and gave the staring Priest a bawdy wink. A few moments of foraging
took place before a nugget of dirty-white rock was held out for him to accept and engrossed in her actions, the busy Witch continued
to search in her pouch. 

"Yer'll be needin' that..." she said without looking at the astonished Jacobs, "...but these lil' buggers were really hard to find" she
muttered and produced a clump of what her companion would have labelled as weeds. False-Hellebore, Aconite, Devil's Club and
Fireweed... all twisted into vague figures of two people in the little Witch's fist and accompanied by strange words inaudible to the
Priest's ears.

Father Jacobs gathered himself and in his best commanding voice, said "I'm still not happy about..." he began, but Peggy suddenly
placed a finger to his lips. "Whisht me-good man, divna' speak until Ah' get yer' moonstone workin'" she said with almost seductive
tones and for a moment, there were only the two of them in the whole world.

The moonstone -for that was what it was in Father Jacobs' cold hand, began to feel warm and as Peggy continued with her mumbled
incantation, the rough aggregate began to pulse with an eldritch light. If he'd ever dared later, he would have admitted to old Benedict
Coombs that he believed he could see the air around himself and the whispering woman with dirty feet, was shimmering.
Yes, that would be the word he'd tell the grave-digger... but he never did, nor did he ever tell anyone else.

As the holy-man in the black soutane prayed for this ordeal to be over and the sounds from the concentrating woman in the grubby
poncho increased, Father Mathew Jacobs stared at the Witch and it dawned on him they were going somewhere far-beyond his
imagination.
...................................................

A wicked human would lick his mental wounds and be enraged by the humiliation brought from the encounter from the evening
before. A wicked human would devise a plan of revenge or even vent his vehemence on another unsuspecting victim, but not
Doramus.

For the curled-up contorted creature laying beneath a remote sheep-manger on the moor, his sleep was of dreams of hunting and
feeding. Just like a dog slumbering beside its master's hearth, such neurophysiological processes remained in the basics of the
animal kingdom and behind the damaged eyelids of the Barguest, his dark thoughts held no connections to the boy that he once
was or the thing he had become.
...................................................

Carstairs stared ahead and focused on the deteriorating track strewn with dirty rainwater puddles. His superior passenger was
unexpected and dare he'd say, unwanted, but she was also his employer. Clucking the mud-hooved horse onwards, Carstairs
concentrated on his task as the oddly-sized couple dipped and twisted their way towards the tree-hidden set of cottages and
the little chapel.

Lady Ophelia had decided to speak to the Priest on his own ground and though the tall woman who'd vaulted onto the cart with
ease hadn't told her servant, she needed to be away from her husband for a while. Something that Carstairs could appreciate if
he was of the same status as his refined boss.

Decked out in a starling-egg blue blouse, riding-breeches and knee-high leather boots, Lady Ophelia looked like she was set for
business and the adroit butler knew it would be best if he just kept quiet. "I say Carstairs, this road is ridiculous..." the well-born
woman prompted and adjusted the knot in her matching head-sash. "...One can certainly tell we have left Calder's Way" Ophelia
added with a voice that smacked of high-calibre annoyance.

The drudge of Barque Hall agreed with a nod of his head that could also have been interpreted as merely being a reaction to the
bumpy road, a road he shamefully thought he'd be happy to reach the end of.
...................................................

Father Jacobs was on his knees and deep in his prayers of forgiveness. This was all wrong, all of it. Peggy looked at Robin Goodfellow
and smiled sheepishly, the beseeching moans of the pastor weren't something she'd expected. Bowing low and removing her hat, she
began her conference with he that many call 'Puck'.
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#15
Presumably deep in his devotion to save his soul, Father Mathew Jacobs considered peeking out from his closed-eyed praying
and checking on the blasphemous happenings in this current bottomless pit that was disguised as a quiet knoll. Daring himself
and using the need to see Peggy Powler's sacrilegious interaction with one of Satan's minions for enhancing any future pulpit
sermons, the terrified man opened one eye at the scene before him.

"Ye'll be Mr Goodfella' and Ah'm pleased te' see thee agin'..." the last Witch of Underhill greeted the seated being staring at her
kneeling companion. "...Ah've come te' seek lore that can fix a bit of a bind Ah'm in" she offered with a slight smile.

The tousle-haired tutelary of the countryside slowly turned his attention away from the lip-moving Priest and eyed the bare-footed
woman holding a large hat with light confusion. He recalled meeting her before, but never in the presence of a human.
This was highly unusual during one of these consultations -to say the least.

"It has been a while" Puck declared evenly and with a nod of his horned-head, went back to scrutinising the strange man in the
dark clothes. Peggy realised that Father Jacobs' company may not have been a good idea, but she pressed-on with her request.
"Aye...Aye, yer' reet there, but Ah'm not one fur' botherin' yer', knowin' how busy yer' get, like" she explained and felt her need
to be polite waning.

Puck was more intent of watching the pleading vicar than answering her request and so in typical Powler-fashion, she put her foot
down, albeit a dirty one. "Listen yer' bugger, there's an 'orrible Barguest out there and he's gettin' braver every minute, Ah' need te'
know where he is" Peggy snarled at the astonished deity of the woods. But what happened next, shocked Peggy as much as Robin
Goodfellow.

"By He who is true, answer her, you devil!" Father Jacobs shouted confidently and with a slight wobble, got to his feet. The familiar
surroundings shimmered again as he was unknowingly testing the alternative reality parameters that Peggy's spell had created.
"We came here to seek a way of ridding Little Compton of this curse and and all you can do his mock our appeal" Mathew stated
as he closed the space between himself and his surprised wide-eyed audience.

Puck suddenly stood up on his hooved feet and seemed to recoil from the Preacher's approach, this certainly wasn't the manner
he'd been accustomed to. "Stay thy hand, holy-man... my counsel is free, there is no need to altercate with violence" the Hobgoblin
said nervously and looked to the sorceress for support.

"Whey, it's just the swallers' are gatherin' on the wire -so te' speak and we need to catch this monster a'fore he kills once more..."
Peggy replied as Father Jacobs halted his advance. "...So can yer' help us?" she added and moved to stand next to the parson
breathing heavily through his nose.

Robin Goodfellow bowed slightly and the pointed a long-nailed finger behind the oddly-paired couple. "What you seek is there,
on water it will guide you to who you seek" he said in an authoritative tone and when Peggy and Mathew looked to where the
sprite of the forest was gesturing, their bubble of majick simply faded.

The uncultivated glade was just the same, but the air moved and somewhere far off, a crow called to its partner. "I... don't...?"
the confused Preacher said and returned his eyes to where Puck had been sitting. Now, only the remains of a crumbling tree stump
resided on the rise of the mound and if one squinted, it did look vaguely like a diminutive Faerie-creature that's often told about in
children's bedtime stories.

Peggy -instead, peered at the golden needle sitting on a green leaf, the former very strange and the latter unusual for this time of
the year. Carefully picking up the two objects, the bemused Witch muttered "Ah' think we'll be needin' to use one of those puddles
yer've been collectin' in yer' village".
...................................................

It was Lady Ophelia who saw the two figures making their way across the field that would bring them next to the muddy track that
her Butler was failing to negotiate correctly. She'd earlier wondered if it had been better if she'd taken the reins -herself and steer
the cart on a more easier voyage, but decided that it would be just another labour that she'd have to undertake and reinforce the
notion that Carstairs wasn't really needed.

"Stop the curricle" Ophelia barked and before her fatigued servant had a chance to respond, the woman had leapt onto the grass
verge and was standing -hands on hips, looking out at Father Jacobs and someone who looked a little like the poacher she'd seen
a few nights ago.
"I say, Carstairs..." the lady of Barque Manor remarked to the man struggling to detrain from the carriage, "...isn't that the scallywag
who Firebrand had a run-in with?"
...................................................

"I must admit, Father... this all seems a little polytheist, wouldn't you agree?" the excited woman in the bottom-hugging breeches
asked as she bent over the oily-surfaced puddle. Carstairs fastened the gelding to a rickety piece of fencing and then warily stepped
over the ruts in the mud to accompany his Mistress.

The recent heated exchange between the woman who'd given him an alleged cure for the wolfhound and Lady Ophelia had left
the Butler even more exhausted than when he'd set out this morning, but at least it was over and whatever heathen activity that
person on the wide-rimmed hat was up to now, didn't involve himself. Still, how his dogmatic employer had yielded so easily to
the smaller woman's discourse was something he was puzzled with and slightly envious of.

Father Jacobs looked up from his bent position over the dirty water and offered the stooped noble woman a candid gaze.
"We need to stop the monster that attacked your dogs and killed Martha Dinsdale..." he said with a note of determination,
"...if that calls for us to seek godless means to our end, then so be it" and received a glance of admiration from the Witch
next to him.

"Reet... here we go" whispered Peggy and placed the leaf into the dark pool of water. Looking at each of the participants of this
magical experience, she then gently dropped the golden needle onto the floating sycamore frond. Father Jacobs, Lady Ophelia
and Carstairs sucked in their breath as the flaxen arrow slowly moved its boat in the stained puddle and rested when it finally
pointed west.

"Gotcha, yer bugger" Peggy hissed and everyone was surprised when the tall woman in the riding boots stood to her height and
softly growled "Then there's not a moment to lose, Carstairs... take the buggy home, there's a hunt afoot!".
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#16
"She's lithe, Ah'll give her that..." Peggy Powler moaned as the trio trudged through the naked trees and the stark undergrowth
in the direction the golden needle had indicated. Ten minutes before, the Witch had produced Robin Goodfellow's gift again
-along with her flask of Grim-Figg-donated cold tea, from her bag and checked to see if they were still on the correct path.

The gleaming pin floating in Peggy's half-filled cup provided the information that Doramus hadn't moved and so Lady Ophelia
had strode ahead with a conviction that left the weary vicar and his smaller companion several yards behind. "...Aye, she likes
to lead, that one" Peggy agreed to herself and picked up her pace.

As the darkness crept across the sparse woodland, the last Witch of Underhill called for a break and slumping down on a fallen
rotten log, she pretended to not notice the tall woman's impatience. "The beast will be rousing from its sleep and you're giving
up now?" Lady Ophelia asked in a vexatious tone and placed her hand on her hips to indicate her chafed opinion.

Carstairs had brooded during his return to Barque Manor on how the little woman in the wide-rimmed hat seemed to be able
to dodge his ladyship's acid tongue and remain in control of a situation. Father Jacobs had also felt that Peggy was somehow
being given a pass on Lady Barque's iron-handed demeanour and now sitting beside the Witch, it occurred to him again on
how unperturbed she seemed by the woman in the riding-trousers.

Unseen by the haughty blueblood and the panting Priest, a finger wiggled beneath Peggy's poncho once more and a familiar
spell was cast. "M'Lady, if Doramus moves, we'll be goin' in the wrong direction..." the diminutive shaman said without the
need to look at the petulant peer.

"...A clever bugger would take another readin' around now, don't yer' think?" the tired-sounding sorceress added with a sigh
and lazily reached into her satchel. Father Mathew Jacobs didn't wish to stare, but he cannily watched as the fractious filly warily
walked back to the log and after wiping the crumbling bark with her hair-sash -and letting her locks fall free onto her shoulders,
she quietly sat down beside the industrious augurer with the dirty feet.
"That would be prudent" Lady Ophelia softly concurred.

The three would-be hunters leaned close to the flask's lid as the needle sought the Barquest's location, but the gloom made
any observation difficult. With a hum of deliberation, Peggy whispered if the lavender-smelling woman beside her could hold
her thumb over the cold drink and retrieved a look of confusion. "Just do it for me, Ma'am?" the Witch asked with a velvet tone
that would match any silk Lady Ophelia had ever worn.

A gasp accompanied the bright glow that radiated from the woman's thumb and illuminated the small area where they were
holding their pow-pow. The aristocrat's normally stern poise melted away and the little girl surfaced slightly that once believed
in a magical world where one's social-standing meant nothing when compared to running through a warm meadow or dangling
one's bare-feet in a tinkling stream.

"Oh my!" Lady Ophelia exclaimed delicately at the ethereal light and with child-like eyes, she peered at Peggy and Mathew
to acquire their opinion of the lambent thumb. Her two accomplices nodded with kindly expressions and then went back to
inspecting their rustic compass.

The golden needle wasn't pointing westwards now, it flicked left and right a couple of times and then slowly turned to face the
rotting log and its huddled passengers. "We'd better get ready" was all Ms Powler could muster.
...................................................

After deciding a nearby clearing would be an appropriate place to stand their ground, Peggy took off her satchel and hat and
began to examine the leaf-covered terrain for what she needed. With a broken stick, she marked out a circle on the ground
where she was standing and for a moment, the Priest wondered if the scrawled shape had a magical meaning.

Turning his attention back to their immediate surroundings, Father Jacobs believed their position was good enough due to the
column of arrant hawthorn bushes on his left being a reluctant barrier for the size of an animal that Ophelia had described and
he recalled from the hunters had said.

There were some well-embedded boulders that a long-ago glacier had deposited towards the other side of the clearing and
though they'd make an excellent place to be leapt upon, Father Jacobs believed that -with a few thorny bushes spread across
the top, they'd also double as a wall. The tall woman standing beside one of the mossy rocks felt a little excluded and being
unaware of the weird-charm she was under, asked meekly if she could assist in some way.
Another bizarre practice that caught the Preacher out.

"You can help me gather some sticks?" he posed to Ophelia in the form of instruction and a question, this was going to take
some getting used to -he thought to himself as he carefully tugged at some overhanging holly branches and half-buried bramble
vines. Without comment, the usually snobbish woman began to emulate the skin-torn saver of souls.

Almost a minute passed before Peggy voiced a statement that made the two foragers first look to each other in puzzlement
and then stare at what the little Witch was doing. "Ah'll ask yer's te' not speak of what yer'll witness next, just know it's done
for a canny reason" she said seriously.

The leaf litter began to slowly squirm and then the soil seemed to convulse in places like angry plants believing that Spring had
arrived. Then as the ground churned itself into a ploughed furrow between two old elm trees, arm-thick wavering roots appeared
and danced in the early-evening air.

"Bethos radix et rete te' bestia sanguis" the Witch demanded and the muddy undulating feeders began to weave themselves
into something that caused Peggy's audience to reach for each other and resemble the lost children in a folk tale involving a
witch and an oven.

"Gratias Mater Arbor... Gratias" our real Witch whispered as the network of roots slowly lay flat and quivered itself beneath
the rotting leaves. The trap was set and the cassock-wearing Hansel and the aloof Gretel felt foolish for hugging each other.
Peggy turned to face the embarrassed couple and without speaking, pointed to a circular spot she marked earlier.

Creeping over to where the leaf-litter had been scraped away, Mathew Jacobs felt the need to keep his voice low as he asked
his question. "Is this a sacred circle for our safety?" he whispered as Lady Ophelia stood beside the curious verger and stared
around into the darkness.

Peggy placed her hat back on her head and reached for her satchel before answering and the act gave her time to hide her smile.
"Nay... it's where yer' put bait" she said and melted into the gloom.

"I think we're the cheese" Ophelia breathed into the cold forest air and clutched Mathew's trembling hand.
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#17
Peggy Powler squatted behind a rhododendron bush and watched the pitch-black spaces between pitch-black shapes.
The full moon struggled to penetrate the thick clouds and and infiltrate the scant forest-floor and what ambient light that
could get through only made any reconnaissance difficult by tricking the eye into seeing aphotic outlines of nightmare
monsters.
...................................................

Monsters... yes, the little Witch appraising the setting of her baited-trap knew of plenty of monsters, her mother had taught
her only daughter well. From how the gullible believed Vampires and Vampyres had long fangs for their feasting, all the way
across the spectrum to to cutting off both ends of a loaf would cause the Devil to fly over one's roof.

The fang-belief had a nice touch because in reality, it stemmed from a tradition that was quite mundane and yet, disturbing
due to the religion similar to the one Father Jacobs adhered to. When concerns about a corspe coming back to life was an
issue in a superstitious family, some Priests would advise adding a certain plant or flower to the dead's coffin.

These flora were of many preferences, roses, juniper and mayflower seemed to be a regular choice. But Peggy had heard
of holly, blackthorn and wolfsbane being used too. However, such fearful convictions may struggle in the cold light of reality
and when the deceased is given to the undertaker, will the article of faith be interred as well?

Luckily, the same mortician came-up with the answer. A simple device that only costs a few pennies to allay fears of roaming
blood-sucking relations terrorising those who put them in the box in the first place.

On some coffins, there is a small brass-tube that is fixed into the upper-centre on the inside of the lid. The flower sits in the
narrow tube and this pipe sits in a metal ring. The ring has two spikes that the undertaker gently taps into the underside
of the coffin's lid. So now, the person in the coffin can have a fragrant flower to accompany their passage to the otherside.

It's an old custom and by using small spikes to attach the narrow pipe to the lid, it saves on using screws and cuts the cost
down. Where this practical habit falls down is that the Vampire or Vampyre dislodges this metal ring and uses the same spikes
to obtain the blood for their unnatural thirst.

With another sweep of the surroundings, Peggy silently scolded herself for her wool-gathering. Now was not the time for
recollecting advice and warnings during her journey of being the last Witch of Underhill. Still, her scant knowledge of the
creature called the Barguest hadn't come from her fortune-telling mother, it was from a far-sinister being and to be exact,
it was from just its severed head.
...................................................

Hexham, Summertide. Twenty-odd years ago.

The picturesque meadows around the hamlet of Hexham were a place where lovers rolled in the lush grass and sheep grazed
in the areas not flattened by such merriment. Time was as thick as treacle and smiles were worn as regular as long stockings.

Then a dark shadow had loped across the land, a malificent form that promised to terrorise and ruin the peace of Hexham.
On the first night and beneath the same pale moon that failed to illuminate the ruminating Witch under a rhododendron briar,
this unknown menace took out a midnight mail-carrier delivering newspapers and two poachers on their way home from a
healthy catch. Not all parts of the trio were recovered.

The terror-stricken residents of Hexham had scoured the woodland and the outer-leas in search of the beast, but there was
trail, no spoor that could be followed and no snag of fur on a thorny twig to identify the culprit. Then an old shepherd waking to
relieve himself in the dark hours, observed a massively-built five foot-tall wolf passing his barn on its way to a treat of farmyard
chickens. Though never said in the tale, the shepherd had released his urine where he was stood.

A plan was set by the men of the village and waiting in hiding, the night watched the scheming inhabitants of the serene land
wink and nudge each other in their cunning. But this loping wolf didn't follow the credo of its fellow-lupus... no, this visiting horror
was the renown Accam-Dey, the wolf that thinks like a man.

After two weeks of raiding and bolted doors failing to protect three farming families, Accam-Dey was finally captured with the
use of a goat and eight armed-men. Brought back alive to the tiny community of Hexham, they paraded the powerfully-muscled
-but worryingly quiet, fiend on display in a cramped wooden cage.

The only problem was on the second night of its incarceration, Accam-Dey left its prison and tore-up two families and an old
gypsy-woman camping nearby. It was agreed later that the lock on the enclosure may been tampered with by Fae-folk.
But this was only ever said in hushered-tones.

A full-scale hunt was promoted and after a week had passed, the animal was found, beaten and stabbed to death by the villagers.
Accam's head was removed and placed in a glass case that used to hold a sacred object that now has been conveniently forgotten
about.

A couple of days later, Peggy had been driving out an evil-smelling spirit from Hexham's only tavern's upper-rooms and being held
as a constable of the esoteric ways by the village's Elders, she was allowed to visit the guarded-shack and warned that what she
witnessed must never be talked about. It was midnight when the young Ms Powler first set eyes on the glass display and its contents.

Standing before the pumpkin-sized shaggy-head of the beast, young Peggy had stuttered out a spell that her Mother had told her
about and in the poor-light of a candle, she waited for the charm to flourish. Then the room filled with shadows and for a moment,
she wondered if the incantation was marred by her poor pronunciation. But not wanting to show fear, she looked at the propped-up
head of the beast that knows your very soul.

They talked until the dawn came and in that time, great wisdom was transferred along with ancient spells of bewitchment and rare
fairy-glamour. The little Witch listened even when she thought her brain was going to explode, what the terrible wolf uttered was -at
times, unbelievable

As daylight threatened along the bottom of the door, Accam-Dey looked on his pupil and with smouldering eyes surveying her small
form, he asked for his payment for such occult revelations. Peggy Powler had been told what the restitution was and raising the hem
of her poncho, she began to pay the fee.
...................................................

One single blue eye blinked in the tenebrosity and Peggy flung her memories to one side, it was time.
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"They watch from behind complacent smiles whilst polishing their cutlery. Yet, with egg between the prongs"
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#18
It was Lady Ophelia who turned first to face whatever abomination had sneaked up behind them and seeing  Peggy
Powler standing in the shadows with her finger to her lips, it took all of the tall titled woman's willpower not to castigate
the little Witch holding what might be tomorrow's breakfast.

"He's here" Peggy whispered as Father Jacobs snatched his head around at the quiet announcement. With a wary survey
of the gloom, he asked in the same tone "Where?" and took on the same pose as the woman beside him, it was state of
apprehensive fear mixed with the natural wish to stay alive. Both had their fists clenched.

Out there in the nightfall, a shape moved from the shadows and positioned itself at the edge of the clearing.
All lumps and twists, Doramus reviewed the situation with all the imagination an animal can muster. His strange head
was cocked as if struggling to comprehend why two humans were here and in such a vulnerable setting. Why...? Why?

If anything remained of Emmett Collins within the crooked beast, the scene would've screamed of a trap and certainly
a true Vampire would have avoided the open-ground altogether. But a Barguest knows only what it sees and Doramus
merely saw two opportunities to feed.

The trembling Priest crossed his heart and with a quick flick of her eyes, Lady Ophelia emulated the movement. "When
he runs, leave it until the last second before you jump out of the way" she breathed from the side of her mouth. Jacobs
just nodded and kept his eyes firmly fixed on the deformed fiend hunched among the dead leaves.
...................................................

From beneath the shadow of her hat, Peggy murmured some strange words and stepping out in front of her companions,
she knew that if this creature behaved in the manner Accam-Dey had advised, she would be the direct target due to her
size. "There are no morals, nor feelings of inadequacy or superiority within a Barguest..." the wolf's head had recounted
from behind the thumb-smudged glass of his final sarcophagus and with blazoned-eyes, the great killer smiled and added
"...but beware of its savagery, for it is man-gone-bad".

But the Great Wolf of Hexham had told her one more thing, the one instruction she'd struggled to recall until a few moments
ago. The way to defeat the flawed ghoul that wished to plague Little Compton. Now standing in the chilly dark clutching the
ugly mushroom, Accam-Dey's words came back to her and Peggy shivered -but not due to the cold.

"No rood or rabbit's foot will alarm this thing and salt over one's shoulder will only add taste to your flesh. Hear me child, for
when you meet a Barguest, the blood of the Devil's morel is the only way to bring the odious man-dog low."

As the saliva-dripping proboscis slowly emerged from the anomaly's bent muzzle, Peggy began her own type of run and
caught the Barguest off-guard. In an instinctual act, Doramus aped the oncoming floppy-hatted bantam and dug his claws
into the loose loam beneath the rotting leaves for better purchase.

Father Jacobs and the wide-eyed blue-blood beside him stared at the insane scene, a little Witch charging towards an evil
monster that was running to eat its supper. The Priest crossed himself again and Lady Ophelia placed her hands over her
eyes.

"Oh magna fesh... nunc" Peggy hissed through her teeth and with a grin that Accam-Dey would have been proud of, she slid
to a halt and watched the panting Barguest suddenly take flight.

Bound in a net of earth-smelling roots, the great elms swooped up the damaged wriggling horror and hung the squealing brute
in the air like a child's kite caught in a high wind. Adjusting her grip on the bulbous fungus they call the Devil's Bolete, Peggy
stepped  closer and stared up at her catch.
"Gotcha yer' bugger" she exhaled and reached inside her satchel for her coup de grace.

As her fingers caressed the golden needle, she jumped with sudden alarm as two short arrows swooped out of the darkness
and thudded into the pelt of the trussed Doramus. There were no bestial yelps of pain and no human screams of agony as the
second bolt slammed deep into the Barguest's brain.

Mathew Jacobs and Ophelia Barque were transfixed as they witnessed Peggy Powler release the crushed remains of the fat
mushroom in her hand and the monster above her hanging dead as a doornail. Steaming liquid oozed from the Barguest's
wounds and dripped on the poisonous agaric.
"Hard-boiled" the Witch said with a grin and turned to peer into the shadows of the hawthorn bushes.

As her relieved companions warily approached her, Peggy scanned the gloom for the owner of the two carved missiles and
thought she saw a glint of metal for a moment. But she wouldn't but a hand on Father Jacobs' good book and swear on it.
"Thank you... oh thank you" the Priest sighed and with Ophelia kneeling with him, they hugged the little scruffy Witch staring
out into the darkness.
...................................................

Epilogue.

The haughty woman in the cotton dress and flowery church hat admonished the smaller female in the poncho with a verve that any
passer-by would've taken as a serious telling-off from an elite class to a lower one. "No...I will not take no for an answer, you have
earned it and the good Reverend agreed too" Lady Ophelia chided, but refused to meet Peggy's eyes in the verbal combat.
The bag of gold coins would come in handy, but the amount was more than the last Witch of Underhill deemed appropriate.

"M'lady, Ah' appreciate the coinage.. Ah' do, but a cabbage or some of yer' servant's bacon would be enough... honest Ma'am"
Peggy replied humbly and meant it. The tall refined female broke from her bogus rigidity with a smile that Sir Reginald Barque
rarely saw and with a proud movement of her swan-like neck, looked towards the waddling Carstairs passing the summer-house
with a large grease-proof parcel.

"Oh, I know" Lady Ophelia sighed and waited for her man-servant to push the wrapped bundle of bacon into the hands of the
grateful sorceress before sneakily shoving the sack of money into Peggy's bag. "Gotcha, yer bugger!" she added and received
flabbergasted looks from both her guest and her domestic.
...................................................

The terrified man with his shovel propped against the chapel's newly-painted lychgate remained silent as he watched the good vicar
of Little Compton embrace the small heathen warlock who couldn't afford shoes. To Benedict Coombs, the scene was something he
couldn't even conjure-up if he'd drank a month's worth of his moonshine.

"Where next?" Father Jacobs asked when he finally released the grinning Witch from his hug and straightened his smock with a glance
towards his seemingly-distressed grave-digger. Patting her satchel, Peggy said "Wiv' me payment fur'..." she too looked at the old man
who crossed his heart from the observance and changed her tack. "...Bein' well in mind n' body, Ah' felt it time te' visit Salterhead and
wet me-feet in the waters of the Great Sea" she replied.

After a bow and a reciprocal curtsy, Peggy Powler turned and stepped gaily along the lane that would bring her out onto Calder's Way.
Father Mathew Jacobs watched the strange woman -who walked a different path than his, but sought similar results, amble out of his
life and Little Compton too.

"Eeeh, there's something yer' don't see everyday" Coombs said watching the Witch receding behind the bare trees. His comment was
two-fold and the grinning Priest knew it. "Aye..." Father Jacobs replied "...and no mistake".
...................................................

Brape Faraday tutted to himself when he failed to see the hare that had just darted from the track he was using and watching the fleeing
animal, his eyes were met by the figure of Peggy Powler walking along the sea-cobbled highway favoured by humans. Seeing the jack's
tail disappear down a delve in the moor, Brape's usual blank features gave away his attitude as he reckoned a fine coney would certainly
impress Myra Gold when he got to Lever's Cove.

"Thank thee" a faint voice came on the western breeze and coming out of his thoughts, Brape peered over where the Witch was waving.
Grim-Figgs don't wave and they rarely respond to gratitude, you never know who is watching. Adjusting his bulging backpack, he carried
on along the track beside the deep crevice and ignored the woman in the floppy hat.

I mean, why not...? he never got his arrows back.
Hard-boiled.

The End.
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"They watch from behind complacent smiles whilst polishing their cutlery. Yet, with egg between the prongs"
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