If you missed Part 1 you can find it here.
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…
Peter awoke a short time later with no idea of where he was. The cleaver fell loudly to the flagstones beneath his feet and the din rang in his ears. He had been having a strange dream that he could not remember; nor did he have any wish to. As ringing in his ears faded he heard birds chirping and realised that it must be morning. And then there was a second knock at the door, the first of which had startled him awake in the first place.
Peter let Father McCafferty in. The priest could barely see in the dim light of the blacksmith’s workshop. “Peter,” he chided. “Did you sleep in here last night?”
Peter rubbed the sleep from his eyes and nodded. He carefully placed the sharpened cleaver atop a workbench and stood away from it. “Didn’t sleep,” he said. “Not really.”
Father McCafferty moved towards the corner of the room where the fire in the heath had burnt low and began adding logs to it. After a moment or so the room was flooded with both warmth and light. “I know you have your doubts, Peter,” the priest said to Peter.
Peter noticed that Father McCafferty was wringing his hands together and that bothered him. For as long as the blacksmith had known the priest he had never seen him look afraid. Father McCafferty was the one who comforted those who were in pain, giving advice and blessings when needed. He had consoled Peter as his father had been lowered into the grave at Chargraven.
“I’m no fool,” said Peter. “The man is a charlatan. Or worse.”
“I understand why you would think so,” said Father McCafferty. “But you must listen Peter, and listen well. There are dark things in this world. There are secret things. And sometimes it is men like us—not soldiers or heroes—who must do what needs to be done.”
“Are you telling me that you believe in vampyres?” Peter asked the priest flatly.
“I’m saying,” said Father McCafferty. “That in the darkness, strange things for which we do not yet have proper names still squirm.”
Peter shuddered and Father McCafferty moved to the workbench where he had placed the sharpened cleaver. It required both hands for the old man to lift comfortably.
“Careful, Father,” said Peter. “You could take off someone’s head with that.”
They met the Customer (Peter was still loathe to call the man a vampyre hunter) at mid-morning in the town square, as had previously been discussed. In hindsight they should have chosen a more private location, for serveral of the townsfolk stopped to gawk at the stranger and the priest and the blacksmith all stood together beside the lamp post.
A fog had settled across the village, but it was not so thick and would clear soon enough. Somewhere beyond the fog, the sun shone through, brightening everything with a soft celestial halo.
“Thank you, Peter,” said the Customer as he inspected the edge of the cleaver.
“Hoy there!” called a voice and it was Martha Grables. She was carrying a wax paper bag that contained her shopping, but she was not one to let this opportunity for information-gathering pass her by. Whatever they told her, Peter knew, the rest of the village would know by sundown.
“We are doing some much-needed maintenance around the graveyard, my dear woman,” said Father McCafferty. “This young fellow is the son of an old friend of mine from down south,”
“Manuel Churchill,” the Customer, who was still holding the cleaver, introduced himself. Martha merely sniffed and nodded then shuffled away. The explanation it seemed was wholly less exciting than she had expected. Peter wondered what her response would have been had they told her they were hunting vampyres.
The fog began to clear as they moved away from the village and a seeping greenness closed in around them as the reality of the dales bled into their vision. Chargraven cemetery contained several hundred graves, dating back as far as the sixteenth century. In fact, there were even older stones in the Chargraven, but they were not recognised as graves.
By the time they reached the graveyard the fog had cleared and the sun beat down on them. Peter felt uncomfortably warm and took off his coat; he noticed the vampyre hunter did not do the same.
A small wooden shack stood at the edge of the graveyard. This was where Haldur lived, who dug the graves and generally tended to repairs. He stood there waiting for them and spoke to the man who had introduced himself as Manuel Churchill as though they too were old friends. Haldur looked past the vampyre hunter for a moment, noting the presence of Father McCafferty and Peter the Blacksmith, and then nodded firmly.
Peter wondered if there was anyone Manuel hadn’t deceived into believing his ruse—still he could not gather what benefit the man hoped to gain from defiling tombs and spreading stories about monsters.
“Haldur will make sure we are not disturbed,” said the Customer as he returned to the others. “Though we should be prepared that word may still spread about our activities and—at times—townsfolk do become alarmed by the presence of a stranger in a graveyard.”
“You’re the only stranger here,” said Peter grimly.
“No Peter,” said Manuel Churchill, vampyre hunter. “There is another stranger within the Chargraven… one far more dangerous than I.”