Ripped from the pages of an age-yellowed penny blood, the page stained and smeared, the cover lost and the author dead to time, yet from these half-writ fragments forms a story in the mind…
Manuel Chisholm, vampyre hunter, lead the priest and the blacksmith between the graves. Peter walked slowly—it was not that he was particularly afraid of the dead, but something always compelled him to tread softly in the Chargraven. The inexorable pull of his parent’s graves called to him, but he did not so much as glance in their direction.
Both flowers and weeds sprouted between the tombstone. A bee wobbled lazily past Peter. The gravel underfoot crunched. The sun beating down was making Peter sweat. The graveyard seemed all sharp edges of light and shadow, making it even more impossible to believe that they were supposedly hunting a creature of the night. Soon, at least, the farce would be over. One way or another.
“There,” said Manuel stopping to point at the tomb that lay at the westernmost edge of the Chargraven. It was an unremarkable stone cube, one of less than half-dozen of them in the graveyard. Most of the residents in Easthill did not , one of less than half-dozen tombs in the graveyard. They treaded the final few steps towards the tomb extra slowly, although Peter was not sure why.
The door to the tomb was slightly ajar—this, the vampyre hunter told them, was a tell-tale sign that it was inhabited by a vampyre. The inscription beside the door was worn down, but the name could still be read: Lucille LaFey II.
“The second?” said Peter, turning to Father McCafferty.
“I would have been… four or five years old when she died,” said Father McCafferty, squinting at the dates on the inscription. “I do not remember her,”
“It’s for the best,” said Manuel. “It is far more difficult to cleave the head from someone that you recognise. Not that you’ll be cleaving any heads, Father. We’ll leave that job to Peter here.”
It was clear by the vampyre hunter’s tone of voice that he was utterly serious and Peter felt a sudden icy chill at the words; a biting contrast to the heat of the sun.
Peter stood away from the door to the tomb. Something had put the idea in his head that the graveyard smelt of death and now it was a feeling that he could not shake. He did not want to be here, he wanted no further part of these events, but he would not leave Father McCafferty alone with this madman. Peter should stay to protect the old man, should Manuel Churchill get any strange ideas.
“What about the boy?” said Peter, remembering Sammael and poor Sally Norton.
“He’s likely inside,” said Manuel, placing both of his bags on the ground and beginning to unpack them.
Peter strode towards the door and attempted to prise it open with his fingers. If the boy was inside than there was no point wasting any more time in saving him. If he was not; than Manuel would be outed as the charlatan he surely was.
“No!” Manuel cried shrilly. “Step away, Peter! We must make every precaution!”
Peter did not take his hands from the stone but looked towards Father McCafferty. Grimly the old priest nodded and only then did Peter step away.
The vampyre hunter took several small poles from his bag that he connected together with screw-clasps. At the top of each stick was set a polished mirror locked into place with yet another set of clasps. Manuel placed the first of the mirrors directly before the door to the tomb, tilting the mirror ever so slightly. Then he strode away a few steps and placed a second into the ground, directing it so that it reflected sunlight onto the first mirror he had placed.
With a few more adjustments, a pale rectangle of reflected sunlight appeared on the door of the tomb. The vampyre hunter scowled and asked Father McCafferty if he wouldn’t mind helping with the adjustments. They shifted one mirror each and Peter watched the swerving rectangle of light drift back and forth across the age-stained stone of the tomb. The light was vaguely hypnotic and once or twice Peter felt his eyes drifting closed.
“Peter!” Father McCafferty’s voice snapped his eyes open. “Sit down for a moment, you’ve come across all pale.”
As Peter sat down the priest handed him a handful of wafers. They were communal wafers, Peter realised as he chomped down. He was eating the body of Christ.
At last, the vampyre hunter was content with the angle of the mirrors. Once more he began rifling through his bags, taking out a crowbar, several cloves of garlic, a heavy mallet, a wooden stake and the cleaver that Peter had sharpened.
“Are you feeling better, Peter?” Manuel asked Peter. The blacksmith nodded, although he wasn’t really feeling better at all. He felt light-headed, perhaps a consequence of barely sleeping the night before. He shrugged off the tiredness and made a conscious effort to focus his senses.
“Yes,” he said. “I’m feeling better.”
Manuel handed Peter the crowbar and motioned towards the tomb. “Then it is time to look inside.”