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Wyrm Cast – Chapter 3

Chapter 3

Those Above and Those Below

Danny hurled himself forwards off the sofa and scrabbled across the floor until he was up against the bay window. Only when he was a far away from the sofa as he could possibly be in the small room did he get back up onto his feet and try to pluck up the courage to turn around. George had clearly indicated that the Obscura, what ever the hell that was, had been sitting just over his shoulder, and while Danny had no idea what an Obscura was he wasn’t prepared to take any chances after his encounter with Trap and Gig. As he slowly dragged himself around, fighting down all his urges to try and smash his way out of the window, Danny heard George’s mumbling companion Percy increase the volume of his chatter, spitting forward each word with vehemence. While he could now hear what the other man was saying, he could make no sense of it – a stream of nonsense words unlike anything he had heard previously.

‘Ethacta no’tura nodens! Y’gamyani ashahata invonyo!’ With Percy’s gibberish ringing in his ears, Danny turned to see what had been lurking behind him. The thing perched on the back of the sofa was small, barely two feet tall, and roughly humanoid in shape though horribly emaciated. It was naked but sexless and it’s dry, cracked pale grey skin was stretched tightly across it’s grotesquely jutting bones. So many aspects of the things form horrified Danny, such as the three fingered hands that sported hooked, feline claws and the myriad of scars that criss crossed is ugly hide, but its head was the most hideous feature by far. A long, pointed snout of a face, canine, like some kind of hairless greyhound but eyeless and earless. It was without even vestigial marks of any kind of of sight or hearing apparatus, but its dripping wet nose twitched incessantly. It’s mouth parted, revealing teeth that were broken and yellowed, but still clearly dangerously sharp and a lolling, panting black tongue. The dog-like head moved slowly from side to side as the thing sniffed the air, making disgusting, mucous slurping sounds as it did so. Suddenly Percy stopped his chant, coughed and slumped against the chair in which George sat. This pulled Danny’s attention briefly away from the unnatural thing that had shown up in his living room and he noticed that Percy suddenly seemed exhausted, breathing heavily, his face sheened in sweat. George on the other hand had not moved from where he sat and looked quite relaxed, his foot still propped up on the coffee table.

“Are we done, Percy?’ he asked offhandedly. Still trying to get his breathing under control, Percy could only nod. ‘Excellent. Well done my old friend. Now laddie, you can stop panicking and do your best to calm down. We are quite safe now as Percy has successfully thrown the little blighter off the scent, so to speak.’

‘What the hell is that thing?’ gasped Danny

‘I’m sure I already said that, laddie. It’s an Obscura.’ said George, quite unruffled. ‘That is a barely intelligent menial creature of The Below, properly classified by those people who classify this kind of thing as a Servitor, and formally named by those same people as an Pravan Daemn Obscura, if my memory serves me correctly. Servitors are creatures designed to carry a single task – in this little fellows case he that task is to track down a person by sniffing along their Auric trail, and upon finding them it would then endeavour to kill and eat them. There’ll probably be somewhere between ten and twenty of them in the vicinity trying to sniff you out, and if this little devil had found you he’d have rung the dinner bell, so to speak, and summoned the rest of them hear for a spot of luncheon.’ Danny was struggling to keep up with what George was saying, and couldn’t think which bit to question first.

‘What’s an Auric trail?’ was the one he opted for after a brief pause. George frowned.

‘Well… it’s sort of… sort of like a scent trail that a hound would follow, but left by your Aura rather than your physical body. It’s stronger, I understand, when you’re particularly emotional or have been exposed to supernatural phenomenon. I’m not an expert on this mind, Percy’s the know-all when it comes to auras. Something of an expert with them, that chap. I’ve always assumed it was because he’s a sensetive soul himself. He could probably explain it better when he’s feeling up to it. The Auric trail is what we followed to find you as well, or rather Percy followed it. And may I say your trail led us quite the merry dance around this town before we tracked you back to here’

‘So why can’t it find us now?’

‘Because as I said Percy is quite the expert with auras. As we were following your trail he was working a little spell to erase it just like a woodsman brushing out his tracks. And ever since you opened the door he’s been casting another one to temporarily mask your aura so nothing else can see it.’ The Obscura crawled under the Coffee table, still sniffing away and making occasional mewling noises which Danny thought sounded far too much like a crying child.

‘And you said if it had found me it would have tried to eat me? Are these things going to be eating my neighbours?’

‘Oh no laddie. These things are really quite sneaky and will only come out of hiding when they find their specified prey. This little fellow must have been close on your heels to have shown up in the room at all. Now Percy’s finished the thing’s effectively blinded, and it’s too stupid to work out where you’ve gone.’

‘Should we, y’know.. kill it or something?’ asked Danny, looking around the room for something he could use as a weapon.

‘Oh no, no. We’ll let it wander off back to it’s chums and they’ll sneak of home soon enough when they can’t pick up the trail again. Hopefully none of Blackthorne’s flunkys will check to see if they have the little fat tummies they’d have if they’d been successful. It’ll make itself scarce any moment know I’m sure.’

As Danny, George and Percy watched the Obscura sniffed around behind the TV, at the bottom of the curtains and even scrabbled over George’s propped-up foot , it’s tiny claws clicking on the glass-topped coffee table. Danny could scarcely believe that the man did not even twitch at this – it was all he could do to not run from the room every time it came near his feet. After about five minutes of fruitless nosing the obscura moved to the wall that adjoined the next door terrace and without pausing simply slid through the brickwork as if it had not even been there.

‘And that’s that!’ said George brightly. ‘Now, how are you getting on, Percy? Got your puff back yet?’

‘I’m fine, George, really.’ replied Percy, though Danny thought he still looked a bit shaky. Now he had heard Percy speak for the first time Danny noted he shared George’s upper-class Oxbridge style enunciation, though he seemed to have a quieter, less forthright manner than his associate. But of course that could just have been the effort to do whatever it was he did to get rid of the obscura. Danny sat back down on the sofa .

‘Okay… okay…’ he began, doing his utmost to sound calmer than he was. ‘Can one of you two tell me exactly what the hell is going on here? Like, why I got attacked two monsters who then sent a gang of man-eating goblins after me?’

‘Of course. You will have the full story laddie, providing you can help Percy and I with a few trifling little matters. Firstly, could you substantiate that our initial observations are correct and we are unlucky to find ourselves in the North-Eastern town of Sunderland?’

‘Yeah, this is Sunderland’ confirmed Danny. ‘And what do you mean by “unlucky?”’

‘I fail to see how anyone would count themselves lucky to find themselves in a parochial backwater populated exclusively by ignorant coal miners obsessed with their association football and beer drinking, both of which they indulge in to excess to avoid the horrendous, coarse fishwives they foolishly married.’ replied George snootily.

‘Ignore him, Danny,’ cut in Percy. ‘We’ve only been here on one occasion previously, and that was back in 1924, so George does not have a great deal of experience on which to base his opinion. Though that rarely stops him from forming them at the drop of a hat.’

‘Pshaw, Percy. I’m simply perceptive. My first impressions are rarely wrong.’

‘And what happened the last time we were in here seems to have soured those first impressions terribly.’

‘Maybe, maybe,’ said George waving his hand dismissively. ‘That is not entirely relevant at this point in time anyway. Now laddie, the second favour you can do for us is to allow Percy here to use your telephone to make a few enquires on our behalf. If you grant us that last courtesy I’ll happily explain anything you wish me to.’ That last point earned George a worried look from Percy.

‘Is that entirely wise, George? Is this poor fellow not already drawn too far into our business?’

‘Hush Percy, you fret far too much, you really do. I think he has a right to know, given what he’s seen so far. So laddie, may we make use of your telephone?’

‘It’s in the hall’ said Danny. ‘Call whoever you like. I need to know what’s happening here.’

‘Good lad, good lad. Now Percy, given we are so far North I suggest you try and contact Gurney, Harrison and old Wimslow… oh, and John Cook, as well. He was always a steady hand.’

‘George, Alan Wimslow’s been dead for ten years. And John Cook for seventeen.’

‘Really?’ George frowned. ‘What happened to Cook?’ Percy shifted uncomfortably, casting a sideways glance at Danny. Danny could tell he wasn’t happy discussing this in front of him.

‘You remember, George. It was the affair in Yorkshire. Gormire Lake, in 1994? He was killed…. by that… well, by that creature?’

‘Was he? That’s a shame. I always liked John Cook. He was a good man,’ said George, though Danny couldn’t help but think he was expressing about as much remorse as person would losing a good pair of shoes. ‘Ah well, can’t be helped. Harrison and Gurney will have to do.’ Percy went out into the hall to make the calls, but after just a few seconds he stuck his head round the door again.

‘You know George, given we are in Sunderland, in the North East, as it were… we aren’t that far from, well from Durham… barely twenty miles or so if my memory serves me, and if we’re dealing with Blackthorne and Manifested creatures then maybe we…’ Percy trailed off into silence, and Danny could see why. As soon as Durham had been mentioned George’s face had lost all of it’s friendliness and become hard and humourless.

‘No.’ said George flatly. ‘We do not contact him, Percy. Understood?’ Percy nodded, avoiding George’s icy stare, and went back into the hall closing the door behind him. Danny sat on the sofa, unnerved by the sudden shift in Georges mood. As Danny was trying to work out what to say to break the uneasy silence that had enveloped the room, George suddenly snapped back into life, his broad smile back as quick as it had vanished.

‘Right laddie,’ he said brightly, ‘Where shall we start?’

* * * * *

DC Quinn checked his watch – five minutes to five. Perfect, he thought. Crowleys would just be closing for the day and there were unlikely to be any customers as he carried out his enquires. Crowleys Antique Books and Curiosities was one of a very small number of establishments in the North of England where a person could acquire the various paraphernalia required to dabble in the arcane arts, such as ritual materials and dust old scrolls detailing rites incantations and so on. And as far as Quinn new it was the only such establishment in the Tyne and Wear area of the North East. Without places like Crowleys would-be-wizards were forced to explore the unreliable dealers lurking in the shadier corners of the internet, from whom all to often an order of powered jawbone of murder and a ritual of warding would turn out to be something like a pot of self raising flour and a recipe for scones translated into Latin. There wasn’t much of an occult scene in the North East – a state of affairs Quinn did his very best to encourage – but the dabblers in the know all came to Octavius Crowley for their supplies. Actually, Quinn new fine well that the proprietor’s real name was in fact Henry Taylor, and the ‘Octavius Crowley’ moniker was merely an attempt to claim some kind of relationship to the ‘Great Beast’ as a marketing ploy to entice the gullible and easily impressed. Two qualities that Marcus Quinn certainly did not possess. The bookshop itself was located on a back street some way from Newcastle’s bustling centre and was nestled between a derelict building and a pornographers premises. Not exactly the most pleasant of shopping areas

Quinn parked his unmarked BMW on double yellow lines next to a boarded-up kebab shop a few doors down from Crowleys. The dull-grey car was a good twenty years old an looked like it had seen much better days , but it still sported a fearsome engine that was capable of impressive feats in Quinn’s hands. Quinn didn’t give a second thought to parking illegally, confident that he could quite easily pull enough strings to deal with any parking ticket that might occur just as he would deal with the speeding or dangerous driving citations he might have been incurred in managing to travel the thirteen miles from the Sunderland Police Station to Newcastle town centre in under twelve minutes despite the pre-rush hour traffic. As Quinn approached the front door he saw ‘Crowley’ through the class, just in the act of turning the battered and sun-bleached sign from ‘Open’ to ‘Closed’. Quinn was most pleased with the way Henry Taylor’s face dropped when he saw him approach. He’d worked hard to develop a reputation amongst the occult community as the kind of person you didn’t want to have visit you for a chat. Something Henry Taylor knew from personal experience, having been asked to help the detective in his inquires on several occasions in the past. Taylor stepped back and opened the door, and Quinn had to duck his head and turn slightly sideways in order to fit through the slightly small portal and into the poky little shop. The place was really quite compact and was so filled by dusty bookshelves and the counter that Quinns massive frame seemed to take up all the remaining space.

‘Ah, Detective Constable Quinn,’ said Taylor, without much enthusiasm as he sat down behind the counter. ‘And what can I do for you today?’ Quinn ran his eyes along the bookshelves. All mundane stuff, he thought. Taylor must be keeping the arcane material under the counter as it were, which was for the best.

‘I have reason to believe that there have been some quite significant summonings going on, Mr Taylor, And I was wondering if happened to know anything about that, so I was.’ Taylor shrugged, nonchalantly.

‘I try and stay away from that end of things, DC Quinn. Risky business, summonings, not really worth my time.’

‘Oh? They way I see it anyone dabbling in that kind of thing would require some pretty specialist stuff. Cursed basalt, children’s teeth, good old fashioned candles made from human fat, that sort of thing. Not stuff one can exactly pick up at Asda. Anyone been in asking about that kind of stuff?’ Taylor shrugged again.

‘It’s just not something I’ve ever…’

‘Blood and Bone!’ thundered Quinn, causing Taylor to jump a good three inches out of his seat. ‘I’m not in the mood for this kind of game, so I’m not. There’s already four dead and there could be a damn sight more to come. But I intend to prevent that happening, so I do. And you’re going to help me by telling me what I need to know or I’ll have you banged up for perverting the course of bloody justice or something.”

‘Oh come on Quinn’, said Taylor with the faintest hint of a smirk. ‘You know fine well you’ll never make that stick. You wouldn’t want to put me in court and tell a judge I supplied magic ingredients to magic man who summoned a magic monster. I can’t see the CPS wanting to pursue that can you?’ Quinn sighed and nodded in resigned agreement.

‘You’re right of course,’ he said in a calmer voice. ‘I can’t really threaten you with that sort of thing, so I can’t. In which case I’ll just have to beat seven shades of sorcerous shit out of you until you tell me what I need to know.’ he added mildly. Taylor stared, mouth agape, and Quinn knew he was replaying that last statement in his head trying work out if he’d hear him right. After the best part of two minutes he managed to splutter a reply.

‘You can’t do that! You’re a bloody copper!’

‘I can’t make criminal charges against you, Taylor, but I’ve got enough damn clout at the station to get myself any number of witnesses to say I was there all afternoon. And I’m sure I could arrange for any inconvenient DNA evidence to go missing as well. Try as they might the police won’t find your attacker. Blood and Bone, Henry! I’m not dicking about with this one! Four dead and more to come at the hands of manifested agents of The Below is serious, so you should bloody well start to play along, so you should!’

‘OK, OK, you mad bastard… look, I’ve got to be careful in my line of work, yeah? If I’m not discreet people won’t come to me for their stuff. But I get what you mean, I can see how this could get serious.’

‘That’s good, of you Taylor, very public spirited,’ said Quinn in what he had intended to be a friendlier tone of voice, but in actuality it was really much the same as his usual snarl. ‘So, who’s been buying then?’

‘The guys a bit of a regular. Angus McKinnon’s his name. He lives over Gateshead way I think, but I don’t know exactly where. Anyway, he was in about two weeks ago picking up stuff that could have potentially been used in a summoning, and he’s the only one to have done so in months.’

‘And what kind of a man is this Mr McKinnon?’

‘Basic dabbler, if I remember rightly he said he’d been got into the arcane stuff by his uncle who was something to do with the Gaidheal Coven up in Scotland. No real talent himself, though he could maybe have got somewhere if he had a decent coven of his own to work with. I try to avoid finding out too much about my customers to be honest, but this guy liked to chat. I certainly don’t ask too many questions about what they intend to get up to.’

‘Maybe you should. Anyway, I’m sure I can track down Mr McKinnon. You’ve been most helpful,Taylor.’

‘There’s one other thing,’ said Taylor nervously. ‘He asked me about getting hold of some, well, some dodgy stuff too.’

‘What kind of “dodgy stuff?”’ asked Quinn darkly.

‘Human hearts,’ replied Taylor, staring at the counter top. ‘Transfixed with stakes of blood-grown holly.’

‘Blood and bone, Taylor!’ roared Quinn, furiously. ‘Someone asks you about that kind of thing I would have expected you to damn well warn me about it!’

‘Like I said, I need to be discrete…’

‘To hell with discrete! Human hearts! Blood-grown holly! That’s a damn Transcension! What did you tell him?

‘That I didn’t deal in that sort of stuff, which I don’t! He didn’t seem too bothered, like he could probably get it somewhere else instead’

‘Where?’ barked Quinn, making Taylor jump out of his seat again. Quinn knew he had the man scared for his life now, which as far as he was concerned was no more than the little bastard deserved.

‘I don’t know where you’d get things like that round here, I swear! Why don’t you ask him that?’ Don’t worry about that, thought Quinn. I’ll do more than damn well ask.

‘Right then, Taylor,’ said Quinn, forcing himself to calm down as best he could. ‘I’ll be on my way now, but I’d like to think that in the future you won’t hesitate to bring matters of this nature to my attention right away, so you won’t.’ Taylor nodded eagerly. ‘Good. Now before I go there’s a few little items that I’ll be needing for myself. I’m after a crabtree stave, a pound of aconite, some fleabane and as much blessed silver as you’ve got. Oh, and an Occulum if you’ve got one.’

‘I’ve got all that certainly, but the Occulum isn’t cheap, DC Quinn… I can’t let one of them go for any less than eight hundred quid. They’re the very devil to get hold of.’ Quinn chuckled.

‘Now, now Mr Taylor – I do hope you aren’t asking me to pay for these goods, are you?’ Taylor slumped down even further into his seat, defeated.

‘Course not, DC Quinn, course not. I’m more than to donate these items free of charge in the interest of helping out Northumbria Police in this matter.’

‘That, Mr Taylor, is the correct answer, so it is. Now, be as quick as you can please. I need to go and have a little chat with Mr McKinnon.’

* * * * * * *

‘Here’s the basics’ said George. ‘Blackthorne and his merry band are all creatures of what is known by those of us in the trade as The Below. Not that this is something that’s occupying a physical space beneath our feet, you understand, it’s just a hangover from the Judeo-Christian idea of Hell, I imagine. It’s more like what your modern writers of the science fiction would call another dimension, I suppose. There exists within this terrible, alien place, a myriad of distinct intelligences – let us for the ease of reference label them Demons.’ George eyed up the various overflowing ashtrays scattered around the pokey room. ‘I don’t suppose you could furnish me with something to smoke, could you laddie?’ Danny shook his head. He knew fine well that a brief investigation of his mothers room would probably furnish enough cigarettes to open a small tobacconists shop, but he was impatient to hear what George had to say.

‘Sure?’ asked George suspiciously. ‘Ah well. Where was I? Oh yes, the demons. Now, there are certain circumstances in which these intelligences can adopt a physical presence in your world. These forms can appear human, but these forms are sometimes mutable and their true nature often shines through, as I imagine you may have seen when Trap and Gig set about their work. Others appear distinctly ihnuman at all times.’

‘Why did you say “your world” and not “our world?”

‘I’ll come to that in due course. The most common way that they achieve entry to your world by the way of magical rituals conducted by humans or indeed by their fellow demons on occasion. For some reason when they manage to enter your world they seem hell bent on nothing more than causing as much pain and suffering as they can. I assume they’re jealous of your cosy little existence.’

‘Why? Is their little magical world so bad?’ asked Danny. George sighed, with feeling.

‘Based on the wise words of those in the know it certainly sounds pretty bad, laddie. Imagine if you will a writhing, boiling ocean of hatred. This ocean is populated by terrifying, spite filled predators, each one trying to consume or enslave any weaker entity which it can wrap it’s metaphorical jaws around. So yes, I’d say it sounds pretty unpleasant.’

‘Fair enough. I can see why they’d fancy a change of scenery now and again.’ said Danny, doing his best to sound jovial, which he wasn’t finding easy.

‘Indeed,’ smiled George, and Danny got the distinct impression the man was enjoying his discomfort. ‘But fear not! There are forces that would seek to protect your world from the sinister machinations of The Below. ‘The second important thing you need to be aware of is another plane of resistance, referred to as The Above. Quite similar to below in some ways, for example it’s not exactly hovering above us in the sky, but it’s probably better compared to the generally accepted concepts of Heaven rather than Hell. Again there are beings that exist naturally in that plane though as far as we know there aren’t nearly as many as lurk in The Below. But the there is something else residing in The Above that as far as we know you don’t find in The Below – the souls of the dead.’

‘Like… ghosts?’ asked Danny. ‘Seriously, this was pretty fucking strange to start with and it just keeps on getting stranger’

‘Well, I really don’t like to quote my own work laddie, but I do believe I wrote ”for truth is always strange; stranger than fiction.” That’s from Don Juan, by the way.’ Judging by his smug expression, Danny had the distinct feeling that George was in fact quite keen on quoting himself.

‘So if this Above place is like heaven or whatever,is that where you and Percy came from, what with you being, well, dead and that?’

‘Oh ho! Does that mean you now believe me when I say Percy and I are in fact the returned souls of two of the nineteenth century finest poets? You seemed quite skeptical not very long ago.’ Danny could tell George was enjoying this whole conversation immensely, spinning out tales of demons and ghosts and reveling in his confusion. All in all, the smug bastard was starting to piss Danny off.

‘Lets just say I’m starting to feel a little more open minded,’ said Danny through gritted teeth. ‘It’s probably something to do with seeing the flesh eating demons and the dog-faced goblins, y’know? Now just get on with it.’

‘Fair enough,’ smirked George. ‘I’ll lay out the bare facts for you as we understand them. Though I warn you that even we ourselves don’t know exactly how or why it works. You need to appreciate that no shining angel of The Above ever sat us down and explained all the ins and outs to us, you know. All we know is based on our own experience and by picking the worthwhile bits from the writings of a few esoteric scholars whose works tend to be at least three quarters utter nonsense.’

‘Alright,’ agreed Danny. ‘I’ll not go asking you for the meaning of life or where Atlantis used to be or anything. Just give me what you do know. And you can stop calling me “laddie”, it’s really starting get on my wick.’

‘Very well, laddie, I can see you’re a fellow who knows what he’s about. So, it seems to us that the intelligences that reside in The Above are opposed to aims and goals of those Below, and are in fact quite in favour of the continuing existence with the beings of this realm such as yourself. Therefore when the demons of the below stalk the earth bringing murder and death in their wake, The Above tries to foil them. however we believe they are either unable or unwilling to bring themselves physically into this plane of existence. But they are able to send the souls of those who reside in their realm back to this, their land of origin as it where. Alas, as we are not able to manifest physically as the demons can, we are forced to… borrow a body, as it were. This form,’ said George, gesturing to himself, ‘is a form I have borrowed in order to carry out the will of The Above. Percy, of course, has acquired himself vessel in the same way. We have them on loan, so to speak.’

‘So whose body is it?’

‘So fellow by the name of Paul Waterson, according to the little name tag I found among his affects. The vessels we inhabit seem to be selected rather at random, as far we can tell. And when Percy and I conclude our business, our souls will return to The Above leaving Mr Waterson with no memory of his time in my service. I imagine it would probably be a bit confusing for them, to have lost a period of time like that, but I’ve never really been around to observe that.’

‘But what happens if something goes wrong, and that body you’ve borrowed gets hurt or something?’ George shrugged.

‘While we inhabit them they are infused by what Percy refers to the residual energy of The Above. They tend to heal very quickly as a result, it seems. It also makes us quite a bit physically stronger and faster than the average person for some reason.’ That made Danny feel a bit better about being overpowered by George so easily earlier – he was pretty sure that being stronger due to being full of magical energy from another dimension counted as cheating.

‘So this Above wants to stop these Below things doing whatever they’re doing, that makes sense I suppose,’ said Danny, ‘But why do they send a pair of eighteenth century romantic poets to do it?’

‘You seem to quite familiar with Percy and I from our bardic exploits, laddie,’ laughed George. ‘Mayhap you enjoy our work or are indeed a scholar of the finer arts?’

‘Like I said, we did romantic poets at school last year,’ Danny replied. ‘We had to read your stuff like that Don Juan and um, the Childe Harold one and that one about the Grecian Urn too.’ As soon as he had said that Danny saw George’s mood change once again, as instantly as if a switch had been flicked. His face had lost all humor and become deadly serious in a heartbeat. Christ,thought Danny. It doesn’t take much to put this guy in a huff, does it?

‘An Ode on a Grecian Urn, you say?’ said George icily. ‘An Ode on a Grecian Urn is a sub-par effort inflicted on literature by that tremulous light-weight John Keats. Clearly your breadth of knowledge indicates you must be an expert on the subject as I had guessed, young man. Maybe you’d like to demonstrate your expertise further by giving an opinion on the quality of my work, hmm?’ Danny hesitated, wondering if it was a good idea to risk annoying George further. After a few seconds pause he decided he might as well stick to being honest.

‘Well… your stuff, and like Shelly and Keats and all that… I thought it was a load of daft old bollocks to be honest.’ George sat for a moment in silence, his expression stony. Then, just as Danny was starting to become slightly worried for his safety and was considering making a break for the door, George burst into uproarious, hearty laughter.

‘By God, you’re an impudent little rogue, laddie!’ he cried. ‘I can see you’re a sharp one, you’ve got some gumption in you, and you know your mind! I like that in a man, and I can tell you’ll be a useful fellow to have around.’ Relieved that he seemed to be off the hook for his poetry critique, Danny decided to push his earlier point further.

‘You didn’t answer my question there, did you?’ he said. ‘About why some mystic force would send a pair of poets to fight demons?’

‘Like I said Laddie, you’re a sharp one. The simple answer is that we are sent to battle the forces of darkness on account of our relevant experience and expertise.’

‘And how did you get “relevant experience and expertise” by sitting around writing about the beauty of nature and all that crap?’

‘Oh come now, laddie. Poetry was our day job, but every man needs a little hobby, doesn’t he?

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