Story by A Toren
Illustration by L.A. Spooner
Monday, 14th April 1777:
After my long journey, I have arrived in the City. I followed the path that she had laid for me using the skills that my teacher, Mr. Quixley had taught me. I remember those harsh lessons when he would lead me to the woods and tell me to track my way back in the dark alone. I hated him for that, along with so many other things. The journey through the countryside was uneventful, to say the least until I reached the village of Knightmoor. There was a man there; he spoke of a demon woman who passed through, she had knowledge of the area and he believed her to be local from her accent though he struggled to describe her well.
I heard a rumor about this place, the death of a young man. I was too late to see the body, but the earth over his grave was still fresh and undisturbed. I sat by the grave on Saturday night. Nothing happened. I could only conclude that this man was dead and not undead as I had feared.
I had asked about the manner of his death from four or five of the locals and each gave me a different version of events. I record the commonalities here I discovered. He had taken ill a few days before his death; he looked pale and he could not walk. As the days passed, he becomes more delirious and weaker. He spoke of a succubus that came to him in the night and of things that the residents refused to share. I feel that I am on the right track, on this road, there is only one way she could be going. I am hot on her trail now and I will uncover her and destroy her.
— ♦♦♦ —
Taken from the York Gazette Wednesday, 16th April 1777:
MAN FOUND DEAD.
The local constabulary was alerted in the early hours of the morning by market traders to a body which was found brutally murdered in the city today. The incident took place within the city walls and further inquiries will no doubt be made. The man identified as a local trader, Markus Arnell who lived alone was a local fishmonger. We have been unable to ascertain any details at this time regarding the brutality of the murder however those who found the body commented that there was brushing to the face and neck as well as some evidence of blood nearby. The Gazette and constabulary encourage people to come forward with any information regarding this matter.
— ♦♦♦ —
Letter Dated Wednesday, 16th April 1777
My Dearest Miranda,
I hope this correspondence finds you well and in good health; I also hope that you find it gratifying to know that I am well. The matter which we discussed prior to my leaving is well in hand and I feel that the end of the journey is now in sight and once this is done we can be reunited once again.
I am in the city at the moment, and I will, God willing, write to you once more before I leave here.
It is my fondest wish, hope, and dream that this is the final place that I must venture and the last task that I must complete. My fear grows stronger, and I am not ashamed to tell you it is so. I will not discuss the details here, but I fear that I might not have the skills to accomplish this task. I found more evidence of it here. Am I strong enough to stand against this evil? I do not know; I have enclosed my lodging address for you to write back.
All my Love, for you, Miranda,
— ♦♦♦ —
Coroner’s Report, Dr. Arnold Callow. 1777 Wednesday, 16th April.
Name: Markus Arnell (identified by associates).
Cause of Death: Exsanguination.
Investigation of body: Blood loss is severe. At the time of examination, the body skin was waxy with a purple tinge. Lips, fingernails, and toenails pale in color. Hands and feet taking a blue tone. Muscles have begun to stiffen. Evidence of bruising across the neck from a hand. Hands appear small but strong. There are puncture wounds placed on the left side of the neck, opposite the bruise. No other evidence of significant wounds or injuries.
Conclusion: Cause of death and injuries evident lead to possible deliberate injuries caused by another person resulting in death via exsanguination.
— ♦♦♦ —
Thursday 17th April 1777
I cannot find anyone who has seen what happened to Markus, I have walked the streets where he was found. I have asked the marketers he worked with. I have no answers. People in the city seem to know less than people in the country about their fellow man. The pure anonymity and yet the lack of privacy living on top of each other is a strange mix that results in everyone knowing everyone else’s business and yet not knowing anything at the same time.
I did discover that he frequented The Fleece, a pub close to his lodgings. A typical pub from what I have been told, I plan to attend there tonight after I have recorded this message in my journal. I am prepared that I will come away with nothing and that perhaps my feelings of closure only days ago when I wrote to Miranda were premature.
This is my last lead and if this leads to a dead-end then I have nothing. I cannot return to Miranda with no closure. I head for the pub, The Fleece.
— ♦♦♦ —
Letter dated Friday 18th April 1777
My Dear Graham,
As always, your correspondence finds me well. I am overjoyed to hear you are well on this dangerous task. I worry that there are too many ungodly forces that pit themselves against you. I know I must not lose faith; I believe that this can be beaten but I start to lose sight of that in my heart. I am following your advice, and I am keeping myself safe with the tasks you left with me. I have not had any reason to use them but continue to understand why you feel that there should be no discussion of details in these letters.
I hope you get this correspondence in time. Take all my love and faith with you.
— ♦♦♦ —
Saturday, 19th April 1777
The Fleece was crowded, there were too many drunk people to keep any sensible track of, but they were pliant with their information. The cost of keeping people as such was crippling, I fear I will soon need to acquire more funds for this task. I must continue. On my way back there was a moment when I came to a junction in the roads. Here I needed a moment to orientate myself; it has been many years since I had been in the city. As I took my bearings, I felt her watching me. I tried not to react and to keep my heart and breath under control, I am not sure that I managed. I resisted the urge to scan the area; I had not expected to be this close so soon. I could not face her there. I choose the path that looked the busiest, I was not sure if it would make any difference to my stalker if indeed the stalker was here. I quickened my pace.
About halfway back to the lodging, I was sure that I was in the very heart of danger. I weaved between the denser groups of people, most of them seemed drunk, it did not matter to me. But at least I was safer around people. I glanced here and there but only for a few seconds. I half expected to see her silhouette on the rooftops in the darkness. I saw nothing. It was then that it came to me, if I were to return to the lodgings now, she would know where I rest for certain. I needed to wait; I needed to see if she would go back to her place. If I knew where she laid during the day, I could end this in a few short hours.
I stopped, I was among some other pubs and a what I guessed to be a brothel. It was here that I sat on the streets and watched the people around me. I still felt her watching me. I knew that she could outlast me in any place, even the sun would not necessarily force her away.
I was never able to wait, and if you read this my dear Miranda, you will attest to that. The sun rose and her presence lingered, this was where she resided, this brothel. I write in haste, today might be the last day that I spend here at least in safety. She has my scent now and no doubt is fully aware of what my intentions are. Today I prepare, I will be hunting.
— ♦♦♦ —
Taken from the York Gazette Saturday, 19th April 1777
Following the untimely death of Markus Arnell, Fishmonger and marketer, evidence has come to light that he was frequented by a visitor at The Fleece, a tall woman who no one seems to have so far been able to identify. The constabulary is making further investigations however remain skeptical that any further arrests will be made as this woman may or may not be linked to his death.
— ♦♦♦ —
Letter Dated Saturday, 19th April 1777
To My Dearest Miranda,
I am writing to you, today will be my last day at these lodgings. I am glad you are safe. I fear that I may not be. I am preparing for the last task today, I shall hunt her by day and find where she rests her head and make her pay for what she did to your family. I have collected all my journals and will deposit them with the lodgings here in case I fail. If I succeed, I will contact you again tomorrow and begin my journey home.
Remember that if you do not hear from me within the next two or three days you must assume the worst and flee as far as you dare travel and abandon all that ties you to your life and mine. I hope that God will smile on our endeavors and will have peace upon us both.
Always remember that I love you with all my heart, body and soul. I do this now for you and for the sake of your family. You know that all other arrangements have been made.
All of my eternal love and forever yours,
Saturday, 19th April 1777
I make my last entry; this is the fourth such entry I know. But this is the closest that I have been. I hunt the demon today. I have the tools, the cross, the stake, the knife, blessed and marked with the words of the Lord. I have the knowledge and the drive; I will find her at the brothel today and destroy her where she sleeps. I have written to my beloved she knows what to do should I fail, I copy them here too. For anyone who finds and reads these journals and letters I will say this, if this is where my end lies then there will be no more entries. If there are no more entries than I am afraid the task falls to you; if I cannot make another entry then, I shall be dead or worse. If I fail, someone must use the trail I have left herein and complete my task. It is a righteous task for anyone. I go now to face this creature.
— ♦♦♦ —
When we stood at the front of the bar, every stone overturned, I looked to Maggie. “Nothing here. Maybe that boogeyman of yours only comes out at night.” Maggie looked at me—no, past me—with wide, frightened eyes. Then I heard it, a great clattering, shuffling noise coming from the bar.