Thursday, July 31, 2014

Dr. Sandorius and the Resurrection Men - Chapter V - Dances

Excerpt from A Man of Many Talents, The Memoirs of Ratko Fisztics

As we returned to the city from the salt mine, there was an atmosphere of unease that one could feel, an electric feeling that something large was about to happen. 
 After the rest were settled, I made inquiries of some of my contacts and was shocked by what I learned.

Rumor was rampant that Prince Leopold had crossed into Ruritania at the head of his army and was marching directly toward Strelzov to free his son.  Officially, the government would deny this but I was certain there was some truth to the rumors.  Whether he could defeat the combined forces of the occupiers and the Royal Army was another matter.

I realized that events were moving faster than I could have expected.  The revelation of the close involvement of the Regent Leobald in Dippel’s schemes showed that Mercurio was right in thinking it a much greater matter than simple grave-robbing.  Also the implications for the revolutionary movement were profound.  As a result I was determined to ensure that Count Leonardo was rescued and so took steps to ensure that happened, despite the inept plans that Voynich and Milna had hatched.  

Despite my best efforts, I could find no information of where Count Leonardo was being held; only that he had been captured by agents of the Russian Third Section who were notoriously adept at keeping secrets.  That meant that the rescue must occur at the ball.
This would require the services of my friend Big Saucy.

I decided to take Mercurio into my confidence and seek his assistance in my plan. I found him very early Friday morning closeted in his offices with Bobo Drko.  Having learned that the priest had a spent time in Siberia for his support of the revolution, I had no doubt in his willingness to assist.  They both readily agreed.

I asked Mercurio if he would something that would make one or two people invisible or even less noticeable.  Of course, this led to a lengthy lecture of the properties of various elements and his conclusions that the best way of obtaining the results I sought was to modify the air around the subject to reflect its surroundings resulting effectively in invisibility.

He said this would actually be a simple spell and could be rendered into a device that the subject could operate on his own.  He set Topicz to work on this and assured me it would ready in time for the ball. 

I asked him whether there was any manner in which he could discover the whereabouts of Count Leopold.  With some effort, he placed himself into a trance and sat still for the better part of half of an hour.  When he returned to consciousness he told me that sent his soul out upon the astral realm and there located the location of the Count’s essence.  He said that this was in an area connected to earthly world in the location of the burial crypts under the Royal Castle.  However, he warned, the Count was not readily accessible.  Rather, a strong magic was keeping him half-way between these spheres, hidden from terrestrial view and surrounded by dark beings of unearthly power. 

“This is proof that there is a far more dangerous power at work here than the charlatan Dippel and the venal Regent.”

I agreed with this last sentiment but could not understand much of his explanation of the Count’s condition.  The only thing that was apparent to me was that the rescue could only occur after he had been taken from the crypt.

Mercurio then also told me that he would have prepared some additional devices, similar to grenades, that when thrown would cause the air in a certain area to be rendered into amber.  This would be useful if an escape from pursuers was needed.  However, the two then fell into a debate whether such a device would suffocate the persons within the spell’s effect and the moral implications thereof.  I hastily took my leave.

I went to some of my more secretive contacts to obtain false credentials and a uniform of a Postman as means of disguise should things went wrong.  This was not as difficult as one might imagine.  In those days, the Post Office had a ready supply of extra uniforms to dress up their casual spies and informants in case there was a need to perform a show of force.  The mere site of large numbers of presumed Postmen would certainly have a chilling effect on all but the most ardent revolutionary.

I returned to the University by mid-afternoon and received the invisibility device.  Mercurio warned me that it would be good for only one use and the effect would not last more than a quarter of an hour.  Also, in order for more than one person to be protected by the spell, they must be in close proximity to the device and touching one another.

He also informed me that Topicz and Sufflay, who would both be part of Voynich’s “forlorn hope,” had fashioned on their own a different sort of grenade.  This would create a brief flash of sun-like light and a loud concussive blast of thunder. This would be likely to render any guards near blind and deaf, at least for a few moments.  I thought it an interesting idea but was more frightened by what the likes of Topicz and Suffly were likely to do with such a powerful weapon.  If nothing else, it should prove a distraction.

I thanked the Professor and set off for the house of the pimp.

The Case of the Resurrection Men in The Natural Philosophy of Crime by Anton Smelchak

I can assure you that knowledge of the Regent Leobald’s involvement in Dippel’s scheme filled me with unease.  The danger of accusing one of the Regent’s favorites without ironclad proof was apparent.

Thus, after a few hours of sleep, I devoted myself to an examination of the law with which I might fight Dippel and his Royal protector.

Ruritania had always been what could be called a constitutional monarchy.  The first Vladislav was from the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth with its elective monarchy and its severe limitations thereon. Although the Crown in Ruritania was stronger than it had been in Poland-Lithuania, there was no “divine right of kings” and no man was considered to be above the law, even the king or his family.  There were several cases from our history when member of the Royal Family lost in the courts.  One case actually involved the wife of Vladislav III who was convicted of practicing black magic but merely placed on house arrest.

The problem was the Regency.  The Ruritanian constitution provided representation through a tricameral legislative body, the National Diet made up of the Senate, the Chamber of Deputies, and the General Assembly. As it was so cumbersome a structure, when the Revolution of 1798 occurred, Prince Leopold’s advisors used the fiction that the King, Leopold’s brother Leon, had fallen under the sway of evil advisors.  they therefore made themselves into a Council of Regents that was imposed on the King to direct his actions and also short-cut the cumbersome processes of the National Diet.

When the “Restoration” occurred in 1814-15, the reactionaries who now controlled Ruritania under Russian and Austrian protection used the same vehicle to impose their will. However, this Council of Regents made no pretense of ruling through the King and Diet as the Revolutionary Council had done.  It ruled completely by decree and the decrees were enforced by the occupying powers.   In 1832, the Council consisted of four members, each from the most reactionary of the Twelve Families, the richest and most powerful families in the country, and its President, the King’s other brother Prince Leobald.

The civil courts were unlikely to go against the Regent.  However, the ecclesiastical courts were still independent and the occupying powers were loath to offend the Church.  I realized that the best way of bringing Dippel to justice was through these courts.  The civil courts would then be required to adopt their findings and apply the civil penalties.  Even the Regent would have to bow to their decision and he might even, like the third Vladislav’s wife, face justice before them.

Diary of Jan Milna, unpublished

31th of August, 1832

Although I am still young, I have endured much of late.  First, nearly two years of warfare in which I was severely wounded followed by several months as a fugitive, always with one eye open to pursuit by the masked agents of the Third Section.  But surely, this was all nothing to the events of this single week I have suffered here in Ruritania.

When I first met Elisabeth, my heart was instantly ensnared. Then, when she seemed to reciprocate my feelings, my heart soared. Hope for a settled life of happiness dawned in me.  All of this was dashed by the events in the mine and bleakness fills my soul. 

After returning to the city, I manage to fend off Nikolina’s ardent request for a true wedding night using the excuse of the recent wound I had from her father.  The first thing in the morning I rushed to Mercurio’s house to try and tell Elisabeth what had happened and that the supposed marriage was but a horrid mistake.  She refused to see me, her overly protective father having had already told her the tale, placing me in the worst possible light.

Much troubled then, I met with Voynich and the other student revolutionaries at the CafĂ© Mirski to once more discuss the details of our plan.  Nikolina was there having helped my compatriots obtain uniforms from the Teatr Komediko.  She apologized profusely to me that they did not have enough Austrian uniforms to fit but had plenty of Turkish ones.  I assured her that this would be sufficient, the main purpose was to disguise the role of that students would play in the rescue.

I grew more troubled by our discussion.  I had hoped to have a carriage placed nearby the castle to convey the Count to a place of safety.  This could not be done due to the most coaches had been hired already by those attending the ball.   Voynich assured me that they would disguise the Count with a gypsy costume they had gotten at the theatre which should work since the district near the castle had become unaccountable infested with them lately. 

I instructed them that they should follow the plan agreed.  They would make their way into the old dry moat that surround the castle.  The carriages of the attendees were to be kept there during the ball.  The large number of these should enable the group to enter unseen in the crush.  They were then to climb the Castle Hill to the postern and be there precisely at nine o’clock, the traditional time for the King’s arrival at the ball and presumably the moment for the ceremonial exchange of prisoners.  Once Leonardo was brought into the main ball room, I would open the postern and let them in.  They would free the Count and take him back out the way they had come.  Given the supernatural events of last night’s investigation, I told them to bring my father’s great sword for my use as a precaution.

Nikolina then told me she wished we could have a “wedding afternoon” but could not since Elisabeth had promised to help her prepare for the ball.  The thought of Elisabeth hearing Nikolina’s burblings about our marriage only filled me with more gloom. My friends then ordered several bottles of Champagne to drink to our marriage.  I could not share in the joy nor receive the solace of the wine since I intended to keep a clear head for the events of the night.

The Pimp

Big Saucy arrived at the Ball unfashionably early.  Of course, many would be surprised that he would be invited at all. However, certain members of the nobility had needs for which Saucy provided and therefore he was favored and often received access to the most august occasions.  There was little effort needed to secure himself an invitation to the ball.  In fact, a couple of the more unconventional of his clients were even attending with some of his young ladies as companions.  Saucy took advantage of this and instructed the girls to be sure to bring some type of concealed weapon with them.

Since such favored persons were expected at the ball, there were no insulting searches only the most obvious weapons, such as officer’s swords, were deposited with the guards at the doors to the chambers.  His American knife was easily concealable in the tails of his coat.

This weapon had become something of a talisman as well as a calling card for him.  He had gotten after a fierce battle with an American river boat pirate who tried to move into the Ister trade.  However, there had always been something strange about it.  It was said to have been made from the metal of a fallen shooting star and worked with Indian magic.  Saucy didn’t know about that but knew that it certainly produced a wicked cut in just about anything while never seeming to lose its edge.

A steady stream of the guests arrived, and he was able to glean more information from the rumors they brought.  It appeared that Leopold had indeed crossed the border and seized Hcentvoz, the third largest city in the Kingdom, without a fight.  The reason for the failure of the Royal Army to counter this move was uncountable.  Rumor had it that the Post Office had failed to deliver the appropriate orders, a shocking event if true.

He used the bustle of the arrivals as a chance to move downin to the crypts.  He was well acquainted with the castle from numerous visits in the past, especially during Leopold’s Regency when any commoner, not just procurers could gain access to the place.  He went into a small antechamber just off of the main ball room floor.  There was an old stone staircase that led to a corridor opening directly onto to the crypts.

Just one of the innumerable keys his girls had acquired for him over the years, he opened the big wooden door.  He was surprised to see four men standing nearly immobile near the door.  They were richly dressed in foreign fashion and wore Venetian-style mask such as one sees at Carnival time. 

One hissed at him, “GET OUT!”

Saucy backed out of the room offering apologies.  Obviously Mercurio was correct that Leonardo was being held there.  He was also correct as to the dark nature of the captors; Saucy felt extremely uneasy in their presence.

He retreated back towards the stairs.  He realized that this would be the route by which they would bring Leopold and thus the best place to intercept them.  He pulled down two large halberds that decorated the walls and, using the piano wire he kept in his pocket for emergencies, he set them in a trap to swing down on the captors as the approached the top of the stairs.  He also loosened several of the stone steps so that anyone stepping on them would be likely to lose their footing.

Then he drew his knife and waited, concealed, at the top of the stairs.

Diary of Jan Milna, unpublished

31th of August, 1832

Professor Mercurio had agreed to share his chaise with us to the ball.  I had looked forward to that drive and the entire evening once.  Now, I bore ashes upon my tongue.  There were seven of us crowded into the coach, I sat between Mercurio and the Inspector with the great bulk of the priest Drko on the end, crowding us.  Opposite sat Lady Effie and Nikolina with Elisabeth sitting between them.  I could not bear to meet her eyes but I could feel them boring coldly into me.

Bobo Drko only made the situation worse by prating on and on about the blessings of marriage and congratulating Nikolina and I on being the beneficiaries of a serendipitous sacrament.

“What do you mean ‘serendipitous?’” asked Elisabeth.

The Bobo then proceeded to explain exactly how it came to be that we had been married, without my consent or even knowledge.  As he said this, I felt the first glimmering of hope and looked imploringly at Elisabeth.  I could see that neither Mercurio nor Nikolina were pleased by this revelation.  For her part Elisabeth grew very withdrawn and troubled; now she was the one who would not meet my eyes.

We arrived at the castle and left our carriage which was directed into the dry moat as was expected.  We had to process up the ramp to the castle itself by foot.  As we ascended, I could see that in the nearby Czirykoot Park, there was a troop of the Russian cavalry, led no doubt by the officer I had encountered on my first visit there.  This brought back to my mind that our last visit had been under much happier circumstances but seemed like a lifetime ago.

I noticed that on the ramp and outer portions of the castle, the guards were members of the renown Royal Walloons, the bodyguard to the King since the first Vladislav and excellent soldiers although with a reputation as plunderers.  Once we enter the castle itself, the guards were Austrian regulars for the most part with some members of the Regent’s bodyguard, the Zenda Chassuers.

We enter the grand ballroom and I cringed as Nikolina and I were announced as husband and wife.  However, I told myself that I would not think of my personal problems for now but dedicate myself to the rescue of Count Leopold.  With this resolution, entered the hall only to notice that the music had stopped and everyone was staring at me, a strange hostile murmur could be discerned.  The murmuring only grew as we moved further into the ballroom.

Finally, an officer of the Chassuers approached and angrily demanded why I would dress so provocatively.  When I expressed my surprise and innocence, he rounded upon and said, “You appear in the uniform of the Leutonian Hussars, they are the lifeguard of the exiled Leopold.  Do you mean to insult the King and the Regent!”  I again expressed my position that no offense was intended and I wore the uniform by mistake.

I attempted to retreat into recesses of the room but realized that I would not have the anonymity I had hoped.  Then I remembered that Nikolina had been the one to provide this uniform from the theatre which had obtained it for their costume room no doubt cheaply when the regiment had been disbanded.

A chill then went through me as I realized she had also been the one who supplied the disguises to my compatriots.

Letter from Lady Euphemia Dalhousie to Miss Elspeth Dalhousie, 28 August 1832

Miss Elspeth Dalhousie, Spinster
Ossian Hall
Cranlarich, Scotland

Mah hen sister-in-law,

… we thus reckoned that we would finally hae a facing with the dobber doctor that was conducting his nefarious business affairs wi' your beloved brother, my worthless husband at this precious dance for the Roossian ambassador and the Tsar’s trollop.

It was a stoatin' fine affair, I wore my auld black gown and was the height of fashion despite it being ten years old.  The Ruritinians being nae so cosmopolitan as you find in Glasgow.

Then they announced the Regent, Prince Leobald.  Now this worthy was a man on the far side of seventy.  He once had been handsome but now was fat and spotted by bevvy and dropsy.  He had cruel but glaikit eyes and seemed to favor ridiculous hats.  Aside him was a man of middle age with a huge crop of black hair.  This, Mercurio told me was Dippel.

The Inspector approached the doctor who was all sour vinegar.  The saw bones ran girning to the Regent. The latter was already in a foul mood as he had spied Johnny Milna in his bright blues.

“What do you mean appeawing in the pwesence of the Wegent in such a pwovactive gawb! What is youw name, Siw?” he demanded.

“Milna, You Highness. Jan Milna”

“Miwna Yan Miwna.  What a widicuwous name and what an outwageous accent!  We shaww keep ouw eye on you, Miwna Yan Miwna!”  the Prince said, with spittle flicking off his fat lips.

As this went on, Mercurio drew the Inspector and me aside, “We shall get nothing from this until we separate Dippel from the Regent.”

The good inspector finally seemed to gain his backbone, for he agreed and took us in search of the Minister of Police.  We found this shifty-eyed cheat guzzling booze on one of the balconies.  He eyed me with undisguised lust and likely this was why he was willing enough to listen to our tale.

The good inspector laid it out all for him, all we had learned, all the murder and witchery and mayhem stated in proper lawyerly terms. I’ll give it to the Minister, for a fancy-dress monkey of a bureaucrat, he took the tale to heart.  He grew serious and said he would allow Smelchak to attend to it.  The man withdrew for bit but then returned and presented the inspector with a warrant for Dippel’s arrest signed and sealed.

“But you must arrest him quietly, when he leaves the ball, not before and you must obtain a confession.  If the Regent catches wind of this before we are ready, all of our lives will be forfeit.”  He then took a strong drink and left the party.

It was then they announced the arrival of the Russian ambassador and the Countess Krimskaya. 

I had never seen Mercurio appear so pale…   


The servant simply announced the words, "Prince Narishkin and Countess Krimskaya."

And she was there.

He had not seen her since that eventful day on the Moscow Road when they had both come close to killing each other.  Of course, many others had died that day.  For twenty years, he had lived in fear of this moment, facing her again. 

Ersbeth Bathory, the infamous Blood Countess had been his lover, centuries ago.  In the blindness of love, he had shared all he knew of the great powers of magic.  The knowledge corrupted her or perhaps she was born corrupt.  When he found out her treachery and the horrors she committed with the powers he taught her, he hated her.  They spent centuries trying to destroy each other and she always seemed to have the upper hand.  Twenty years ago that changed, he had found the infant Elizabeth.  He knew a new emotion.  Fear, fear for what could happen to his new daughter.

Now there was no fear, not even hatred anymore.  Only a simple a realization that she had to be stopped, once and for all.  If that cost him his life then so be it.

He walked over and bowed to her. 

She looked at him with surprise.  Despite their glamours, they would always know each other.  She made no move against him but bowed with that slightly amused smile on her face.

"Forgive me, Prince, but I am an old friend of the Countess.  Might I impose upon her to ask for a dance?"

"I should be delighted, Ivo." She said, cutting off any objection from Narishkin. "Do not be upset, Pavel Ivanovich.  We are, as he says, very old friends.  So we may behave… unconventionally."

He took her onto the floor and they joined the dance. 

"I don't know if I like this look for you, Ivo.  Too bookish."

"You look beautiful as always, Ersbet."

"I remember you as a better dancer," she said.  "You are out of practice."

"Perhaps you are too practiced."

"I give you credit for your courage.  I had thought you dead and gone these many years.  You hid well."

"The time for hiding is over.  The time for many things is over.  I am weary of our struggle.  What have we gained with all our machinations?"

"I have gained many things." She responded.

"But are you happy?"

A troubled look washed over her face for a moment, then the smile returned, "Of course, Ivo, I have always been happy."

"I think it is time for us both to accept Death's embrace, we have cheated him too long."

Here she grew angry, "I shall never accept that embrace.  But you, you shall know it quite soon."  He saw her notice Elisabeth then. 

"And you shall not be alone."

From across the hall, the servant announced, "His Majesty, the King!"

Diary of Jan Milna, unpublished

31th of August, 1832

The entry of the ambassador had won me some respite from the crowd's attention.  I sent Nikolina across the hall to the doorway to that I assumed they would use to bring Count Leonardo into the room.

I quietly moved toward the postern door.  There was no one near and I began quietly to unlock it.

Suddenly, there was a loud banging at the door.  "Jan, let us in, I think the guards out here may have seen us."

I called for them to be quiet, that it was not yet time but they only grew louder and more panicked. A Walloon guard noticed the commotion and approached.

"What is this?" he demanded.

"I believe there may be someone trying to break in, help me." I said and opened the lock.  I then thrust the guard's head through the open door and slammed it shut upon him.  The guard collapsed into the arms of my comrades who dragged him out of the doorway.  They rushed in.

I looked with horror and the nine of them appeared dressed in uniforms of the Janissaries from a hundred years prior.  Nikolina again.

The servant then cried out, "His Majesty, the King!"

The Pimp

He heard them coming out of the crypts and braced himself for the attack.  He risked a glimpse down the passage and saw that there were now six of the masked agents escorted the Count who did not seem to be cowed by the likelihood of his impending death.  Or it may just have been typical Radziwillian thickness.

The steps were narrow so that they could only proceed two at a time.  The first two approached and his halberd trap worked far better than her could have hoped.  The bladed swung down and decapitated the pair. 

The two following had not yet set foot on the steps. They noticed Saucy at the head of the stair and snarled at him.  They each had long fangs at the corners of their mouths.  Vampires!  God help him, he hoped his knife worked against them.

Then they leapt over the stairs.  One did not succeed and fell, a step giving way and plunging him down onto the floor below, knocked down but otherwise unhurt.  The other was flying towards Saucy but the pimp was ready.  Just as the creature was about to land upon him, he thrust the big knife into its chest with both hands.  Gouts of blood sprayed from its mouth and it fell dead.

Count Leonardo had used the opportunity to push his way out of the grasp of the two remaining captors.  Seeing him thus free, Saucy leapt down and embraced him, then activated the invisibility device.

"Be quiet now, Count.  I am a friend."

"Oh goodie!"

Diary of Jan Milna, unpublished

31th of August, 1832

King Vladislav V Leon, looking every bit of his eighty years, smiled down on us benignly.  He was said not to have been a bad king, merely ill-advised.  There is a saying in Ruritania, "A simple Radziwill is a blessing, a smart one is from the Devil."

Beside him was his second wife, Queen Carlotta, who was a good fifty years his junior.  She was said not to be simple or a blessing.  I have since learned that she was a von Elphberg and so was a cousin to that cur Geli von Elphberg, explaining perhaps Dippel's entre into so close a relationship with the Royal Family.

Topicz handed me my great sword.  I asked why he had not used the lock-picking device to open the postern from his side and let themselves in more quietly.

"That wasn't in the plan and you said to follow the plan exactly!"

A French opera singer had just begun a song of welcome when the crowd looked our way, everyone confused by the crowd of Turks who had just entered from the side door.

The King, unwittingly saved us.  He called out, "Oooh, whiwwing Dewvishes!  I wove whiwwing Dewvishes!  Dance! Dance!"

"Start spinning you fools!" I hissed at my comrades, grabbing the device from Topicz, "I'll see if I can find Leonardo."

The crowd, including the guards, was distracted by the outlandish sight.  I must say my friends showed far more enthusiasm and talent, for that matter, as Turkish dancers then they ever did as revolutionaries. 

I moved swiftly but quietly to the other entrance.  Nikolina was there and told me she could hear noise of fight going on.  Puzzled, I pushed the lock-picking into the key hole.  With a slight pop and fizzle, the lock opened and I went through the door.

I was in a small antechamber with the pair of steps leading down to the crypts at the heart of the castle.  There was a dark figure wearing an elaborate mask.  I recognized him immediately as a member of the Third Section with whom I had crossed paths many times during the war and in my escape from Poland.  He bared his fangs at me.

I sliced his head from his shoulders.

Nikolina cried out, "A monster!"

"Damn vampires," I said, "Where the hell do they keep getting them?"

There was sound of loud applause from the ball room.  My comrades rushed in, congratulating each other on the good ruse they had accomplished. I turned to look down the stairs and there were two more of the creatures who were readying to charge us. 

Topicz tossed one of his device down the stairs and shouted for everyone to shut their eyes and duck.  There was a very bright flash and great roar of the thunder. 

When the shock of the explosion dissipated, I looked back to the steps.  Two piles of ashes were lying on them.

By using alchemical solutions rather than chemicals, Topicz had used an elemental form that reproduced something very near the light of the sun.  As we all know, sunlight will kill most vampires so the agents were destroyed instantly.  Topicz had unwittingly invented the most effective anti-vampire device known to man.

The Case of the Resurrection Men in The Natural Philosophy of Crime by Anton Smelchak

It was the explosion that gave me my chance to separate Dippel from the Regent.  Immediately, Mercurio called out that the castle was under attack and that the King must be saved.  Bobo Drko was calling out that it was a magical attack, wrought by a black sorcerer.

This more than anything caused pandemonium in the ball room.  The King and Queen were hustled back to their apartments while everyone else rushed to the grand stairway as a means of escape. 

The Bobo encouraged this, telling everyone to  gather in a tight circle at the foot of the stairs and he would protect them with his blessed powers.  He began inscribing a chalk circle on the floor while shoving people together. 

Mercurio and the Bobo began arguing in hushed voices, the former saying, "We can't use the amber bombs, they might kill them all."

"You can't fight hell without sending a couple of souls there now and then," was the priest's reply.

I said to the Regent that his life was in danger since this was obvious revenge for his anti-magic edict. The Chassuers encircled us and began pushing everyone aside, dragging the Regent, Narishkin and Dippel out to safety.  I followed close behind, drawing the coach gun from the tails of my frock coat.

Letter from Lady Euphemia Dalhousie to Miss Elspeth Dalhousie, 28 August 1832

… now I had not left my perch on the balcony since we finished with the Police Minister. There was a better view and quicker service for bevvy and dainties, both of which were quite pukka. 

I knew not, then, what twas happening when the commotion began.  First a flash and the sound of thunder and then everyone shouting an’ running. 

But I did notice that the Roosian hussy that danced with Mercurio was down on the floor, speaking intently with Mercurio's daughter Elizabeth.  I thought that strange since I sensed the hostility twixt her and the Professor. 

Then the chut took the girl by the arm and began to lead her out the door from whence those awful dancers had come. I saw that Elisabeth had a more than usual blank look upon her pretty face so I realized something was amiss.

Also the ruby I wore round my neck commenced to warm and seemed to throb.  Now this piece of jewelry my dear papa had "found" in an abandoned temple in India.  It had acted like this afore when trouble was about or when papa's gout began to afflict him.

Since neither looked particularly gouty, I decided that trouble was afoot.  I lept down from the balcony to bar the door, my petticoats catching the air to slow my fall.  Now I had not been permitted to bring Fiona with me but I did have the sword that I had concealed in my parasol.  This I brandished afore the Roosian hoore.

She snarled at me and I saw she had great pointed fangs.  Afore I could do anything, she bit right intae my neck. I felt a horrid pain and saw my own blood gushing from the wound.  And that black she-devil licking her lips.  Just afore I fell tae the floor I saw that she held my ruby in her bloody fist.

I scarce felt it when my body struck the marble and I kint I was dying. Then I saw Sarah running towards the bitch and the odd thought struck me as to how they had let my servant intae the main hall.  She was shouting something in an odd language.

I tried to tell her tae speak English or Hindi since I couldnae kin her but I only managed a weak croak.

It may have been my state but it seemed that the shrew had slowed considerably in her retreat and moved very heavily towards the door all the while dragging an unresisting Elisabeth with her.  Then up came the big priest behind her, a sword in his hand.  The weapon was small but it glowed a faint blue.  He struck her in the back and she screamed.  The last I saw ere I lost my wits was the sight of her seeming to turn intae a mist and hie off in the wind, leaving the girl and my ruby behind.

A great sadness overcame me as the last thought I had was how ever would I get these stains out my gownan’ it costing me a good 5 guineas…

The Case of the Resurrection Men in The Natural Philosophy of Crime by Anton Smelchak

With the help of the guards, we were soon out of the castle and rushing down the ramp to a waiting carriage.  In the commotion, I dragged Dippel toward me and thrust the coach gun into his side.

"Not a sound Doctor or you shall be a casualty of tonight's attack."

He did as I told him and we pushed away from the Regent and the Ambassador who were more concerned with their own safety than that of their companion.  I was gratified to see the police wagon with Bogacz perch atop and Krular and Vidric waiting by the doors.  I threw Dippel into their hands.

"Dr. Dippel, I have a warrant for your arrest on charges of black magic and as an accessory to murder."

The man sputtered and called me mad, swearing I would pay for this outrage.  At that point I was finished with him.

I shouted at him, "You filthy black magic-practicing, grave-robbing, traitorous son of a bitch!"  I struck him harder than I had ever struck anyone and he fell back unconscious into the van.

Suddenly, Big Saucy was standing before me.  A few of his “ladies” were bundling some uniformed gentleman off into the gypsy wagon that had become a feature near the castle.  Now doubt he had an arrangement with old Zoltan to protect his clients.

The pimp said, "I hope you can nab this one's bosses."

"I shall indeed!  His boss is the Regent himself!  A more traitorous villainous cur has never known the seat of power.”

Saucy then removed the blond wig and false beard and said, “Welcome to the Revolution, Inspector.”

It was Fisztics.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Dr. Sandorius and the Resurrection Men: Chapter IV - A Delve

The Case of the Resurrection Men in The Natural Philosophy of Crime by Anton Smelchak

Upon our arrival at the Royal Grebnach Salt Mines, I had left the gendarmes, Krular, Bogacz, and Vidric to remain by the police wagon as a reserve. This was not so much a tactical decision as merely the recognition that, given the three’s reticence at hazarding anything more a hot cup of coffee, I felt it better to keep them out of the way.  The decision also provided at least some protection to our line of retreat in the likely event of things going wrong. Thus they did not share in the observation of the deserted state of the mines previously described.

After Bobo Drko’s remarkable observation, we decided that we should investigate the mine’s offices first entering the foreboding mine itself.  Mercurio sent his three students, Milna, Topicz and Suffly, to keep watch on the mine entrance, while Mercurio, Lady Dalhousie, her gypsy servant, Fisztic, Bobo Drko, and I entered the offices to see if any clues to the abandonment of the mine might be found there.

It was a simple two story hut, with the ground floor consisting of a single room. Desks, chairs and cabinets were overturned and papers were strewn all over floor.  There were what I recognized as blood stains on the floor near the door, enough to suggest that some unfortunate was likely dead.

We set to work examining the papers by the light of our lanterns.  From our first observations, the most recent of the documents we found appeared to relate to Dr. Dippel and special arrangements he had made with the mine for the purchase and storage of ever increasing amounts of rare earth salts.  Included in these was the rather odd requirement that the mine was to permit Dippel’s men to load the salts into crates provided by Dippel and that these crates were to be stored within the mine until delivery could be accomplished.  Dippel would also make the arrangements for the shipment of the boxes from the mine.

Not all of us were involved in the search of the records.  Bobo Drko who had stood for some minutes contemplating his surroundings, suddenly dragged one massive desk easily across the floor and leapt on top of it.  It was then that we noticed a trapdoor leading to the second story but no stairs or ladder could be seen. The Bobo pushed open the trap door and put his head through it.

A short rang out and struck the trapdoor just to the side of the Bobo’s head.

At this, knowing that it is better to take a moment to make a good appraisal of a situation rather than blindly rushing in, I drew my pistol and ducked underneath the large desk to observe and determine what further actions might be needed.

At the same time, Lady Dalhousie brought her large hunting rifle to her shoulder and aimed towards the second story.  Mercurio lept forward in an attempt to push the Bobo off the desk and out of the way.  However, the great bulk of the priest denied him success in this.

The Bobo looked gratefully at Mercurio and said, “Ah Professor, you want to help?  Here you go.”  The priest then threw the Professor bodily up through the trap door.  We could hear a loud thud when he landed on the second floor.

As no other shot was fired, I assumed there was but one person above.  I decided to act to prevent any further violence and preserve the life of what may be our only witness.  I called out in my most threatening, officious manner, “We are from the Royal National Police, surrender now and you will not be harmed.”

With relief, I heard what I took for a gun clatter onto the floor above.  In a moment, Mercurio escorted down a small man, obviously very shaken.  However, before any words could be exchanged, the student Sufflay rushed in, shouting that Milna led them all into the mine and they could hear the sounds of some type of creature coming forward to the entrance.

“Who went in?” asked Mercurio.

“Milna, Topicz and the girl Nikolina.”

Fisztic ran out of the building, swearing the whole time.  The Bobo ran after him.  Mercurio, Lady Dalhousie and the gypsy followed the priest immediately. 

I had wished to interrogate the man who shot at the Bobo but decided that the rest of our party would surely need assistance.  I sent the man back to the gendarmes at the wagon and told him we would protect him. 

Having only my pistol with me, I took Sufflay and went to the nearby stores hut I had observed on our way in.  It too had been disordered but I was able to find a pair of coach guns and some ammunition for them.  Likely they had been intended to intimidate the workers but now would serve a more judicious purpose.  There were also several casks of black powder that I directed Sufflay to bring two along with us. 

Now we were prepared to face what was in the mine.

Diary of Jan Milna, unpublished

30th of August, 1832

The events of this night are beyond imagining.

Upon our arrival, the professor had left us idling at the entrance to the mine.  As before any battle, I was filled with a certain anxious energy.  There was something foreboding about that dark tunnel and I had the urge to plunge straight in and have done with whatever was to come.  My mood was only made worse by presence of Fisztic’s daughter.  She had somehow managed to secret herself on the wagon to accompany us and now she stood there, saying nothing but looking at me with expectant eyes.

After a few minutes, I decided to put a stop to the interminable waiting.  Having heard the earlier debate between the Inspector and the Professor at the police barracks, I could only imagine that we would spend half the night waiting for them to finish impressing each other with their respective intellectual prowess.

I told the others of my determination to enter the mine.  Of course, Nikolina begged to accompany me, saying something about how she had to do something wonderful in my presence.  Utterly mad!  Realizing that it would be futile to say no, I permitted and suggested she lead the way.  No I intended no ungallantry with this.  She had previously demonstrated a remarkable ability to travel unseen as well as a faculty for seeming to see well in the darkest of circumstances.  I took up my pistol and a lantern and followed immediately behind her.  I noticed that Topicz and Sufflay followed but at a bit of a distance.

As we went forward, a great growling came from the passage just ahead. Although it sounded very like a bear’s growl, there was something unnatural and terrible about it. 

Topicz called to stop and wait for the professor.  Sufflay who was never the hardiest of souls immediately call out that he would go and fetch the professor.  I could hear that Sufflay was running back down the passage to get him.

Nikolina and I pressed on.  The shaft grew narrower until there was only space for two of us to pass shoulder to shoulder.

Suddenly, before us was a huge black bear, its eyes gleaming wildly in the lantern light and frothy spittle coming from its mouth.  I was chilled to the bones and began edging back toward the mine entrance.

Nikolina sprang forward, shooing at the bear as one would a misbehaving cat.  She might have been thoroughly mad but I could not abandon her.  I moved forward and fired my pistol.  It struck the bear squarely in the chest.  I saw the bullet blast through but no blood came from the wound only a sickly trickle of black ichor.

Grabbing Nikolina by the hand, I pulled her back towards the entrance.  There stood Fisztic, a harsh look on his face and an old two-handed sword in his fists.

“Stop running, boy.  You brought my dau -  Nikolina here, it’s your duty to protect her.  Lets go see what frightened you so."

Of course I could not show myself backward now and so proceeded with him back towards the bear.

Once in site of the creature, Fisztic immediately charged forward and struck at the bear with his sword but the blade slide off its preternaturally wiry fur.  The beast then lunged at him and its great claws raked his chest from shoulder to waist. This knocked him onto his back and he landed at my feet. 

It was then I noticed that the sword he wielded against the bear was an ancient one of a type carried by crusaders of old.  It bore markings on the pommel that I immediately recognized from the many portraits of my ancestors in the hall of our estate back in Poland.  It was my father’s sword that had been lost in Russia twenty years ago.

I reached for the sword, dropping my own saber for Fisztic’s use.  Fisztic shouted that the sword was his.  I retorted, “I know the truth.  My family has owned that sword since Grunwald, four hundred years!  You looted it from my father.  I will have it back!"

The bear lunged forward and Fisztic cried, “Are we really going to argue about that now?”

“I’m not arguing,” I said as I snatched my sword from his hands.

I strode forward, the sword providing me with a feeling of confidence since it was said to be a blessed weapon brought back from the Holy Land.  But there was no miracle here.  As with Fisztic, the blade struck the beast but the thick matted fur acted as an armor.

A shot rang out behind me and I felt the ball hit the muscle in my calf just below my knee.  As I fell, a scream escaped my lips.  The girl cried, “Papa, no!” I looked back and there lay Fisztic who fired the pistol, a wicked, satisfied grin on his face.  I could scarce fathom the vindictiveness of the man.

As I lay there, the pain in my leg rendering me immobile, the beast came towards me, snarling so that his great blood-stained teeth were exposed.  I braced myself for its bite when something bright flashed by me and a dagger struck the creature full on in the chest driving it backward a few steps. 

It had been Nikolina. 

She then threw herself over me to shield me from the beast, weeping and saying, “See, my beloved.  I have done the wonderful thing, I shall protect you and you shall love me!”

The bear reared up again and readied itself to charge us.  I had given up all hope when suddenly I heard the approach of footsteps and there was a dark figure who leapt astride us both as we lay there. 

It was the Bobo.  He was aiming a strangely crafted cross-bow that rapidly sent three stout bolts into the bear’s body.  It collapsed to the mine floor.
“Good thing I treated the arrows with holy water before we came,” he said laconically. 
The body of the bear began to bulge and finally split.  An outlandish, palpitating mass struggled out of the bear’s corpse. Its purplish mass seemed to increase continually in size until it filled the tunnel.

I am not ashamed to admit that I was unmanned by the sight, so nauseous, so nightmarish. Nikolina, no doubt her madness sparing her from rational fear, clutched me closer and whispered that she would protect me.

A loud gun blast echoed through the cavern.  Lady Dalhousie had fired her huge hunting rifle from some way back down the passage and had sent the bullet expertly between all of us.  It struck the thing but disappeared into its gelatinous bulk.
The priest pulled a short sword from his belt.  It glowed with a bluish light.  He sprang at the quivering abomination. He thrust the blade home with a cry.  The seething abomination exploded and it sickly flesh fell thickly about us.

The Bobo wiped the putrid mess off of his face and said, "Well, I'm glad I didn't have my cassock cleaned before we came."
The Case of the Resurrection Men in The Natural Philosophy of Crime by Anton Smelchak

When I arrived, I thought I was entering a charnel house.  Foul smelling flesh and gore was strewn about the tunnel walls and floor.  Most of my companions were covered in it.  It took me a moment or two to realize that there was no longer a threat at which to direct my coach guns.  I felt mildly disappointed, perhaps needing an outlet for the frustration of the last few days.

As we assisted Fisztic and Milna, both of whom were sorely wounded, Mercurio explained to me that they had been attacked by a bear that had somehow become possessed by some type of demonic creature.  When I demurred at the mention of such a fantastical scene, the rest all chimed in to assure me it had been the case.  The fact that this included Lady Dalhousie, who could never be considered whimsical, convinced me. 

“Aye, Inspector, Ay hit the manky thing square and my shot got swallowed like it twas hitting a jelly.  Now with Fiona…” here she referred to the name she had given her massive rifle, “kisses a body like that, ‘tis usually time to call in the taxidermist but this beastie suffered nae a scratch.”

Once outside, we tended to our wounded.  Now here is the remarkable thing, for Bobo Drko laid his hands upon the gaping wounds in Fisztic’s shoulder and healed them in a few moments without the aid of bandage or medicine.

“Remarkable, Bobo!” I exclaimed.

“This?  This is nothing, you should see when I have to cure the chirykoots.”

When the Bobo turned to Milna whose wound was a more serious gunshot, I took the opportunity to question the man we had rescued from the upper floor of the mine office.  He was a clerk named Petrovic.  He had worked there for some seventeen years. He related that as they were getting ready to close the office for the day, there was a terrible commotion.  Some of the miners had run out screaming about a bear.  

This was not all that unusual, the woods near the mine were full of bears and wolves and sometimes the animals were attracted as if to a salt lick.  They sometimes found their way into the mine shafts.

“This was different. They were screaming that several men had been killed.  Ban Koroman, the manager, went and got a gun from the store.   I watched from the office as he approached the mine.  A huge bear came out and Ban Koroman shot it but that did no good. Then the bear began to bite pieces out of him.”  At this point, Petrovic was on the verge of panic as he remembered what he saw.

“He managed to get away and ran to the office.  He died as soon as he entered.  I thought the bear would come after him so I grabbed his pistol and went to the second floor.”

“Had there been many animal attacks before?” I asked.

“No, never, too afraid of all the people.  I could hear the miners running away, a few fighting, getting killed.

“I heard their bodies being dragged away, back toward the mine.  We should never have started digging the rare salts.”

This surprised me, “Was that not part of your regular work here?”

“No, there had been mining for those salts before, back in Sandorius' day - they were called Sorcerers’’ Salts back then.  When the ban on sorcery came, we stopped.  We never did mine much of that anyway.  Too deep, too hard to get to.  Some said the shafts for the rare earth salts were half way to Hell.”

“So why were you digging it now for Dippel?”

“Order of the Regency Council, signed by Prince Leobald himself.”

“Why would the King’s brother get involved in compelling the filling of salt orders?”

“I don’t know but we were ordered to put every available man on it, produced nothing else for the whole summer. Dangerous too, we lost a man a day, sometimes two or three, down in those depths.”

“What did you do with the bodies?” I asked, suspecting what the answer would be.

He grew hesitant here, “I told Koroman it was wrong, no good would come of it and look what happened…One of those fancy doctors was here, a von Elphberg by name, he ordered us to keep the bodies, put them in big boxes with the salts and put down in the mine, along with the ones they delivered.  Those had bodies in them already but we filled them with the salts and stuck them down there.”

“How many boxes did you receive?”

“A few every day, sometimes a dozen or more. Hundreds all told. We got one today, just before sunset.” Here he pointed to a wagon near the mine entrance that contained a large wooden box meeting the dimensions we had seen on some of the billing.

Mercurio, the Bobo, and I went immediately to the wagon. When we opened the lid to the crate, there was the body of a large man lying inside.  A strange device was attached into his bare chest, various clockworks on it spinning and pumping oddly coloured liquids into the dead man’s veins.  The muscles seemed to be bulging asymmetrically.

Topicz, who was something of a mechanicist, was called over and in a few minutes he removed the device for the corpse’ chest.

“What is that for? Are they trying to revive these corpses?” I asked with horror.

“Ultimately,” said Mercurio as he examined the device.  “Definitely alchemical in nature, but I have never seen the like, especially this fluid….Right now,I believe they are trying to make these things bigger, stronger.  I suspect there is another process they are performing elsewhere to bring them back to life.”

“I think we need to speak with Herr Doktor Dippel,” I said, “It looks like I shall be attending the Royal Ball tomorrow after all.”

“There is something I must do first,” said Mercurio.  “Inspector, this is not something of which you should take official notice.”

I agreed that I would say nothing of what I would see.  The Professor turned and went to the mine entrance.  He began speaking a formula in a language I did not understand and making broad gestures with his hands.  Suddenly a great flame sprang up next to him.  It was vaguely human in shape but made entirely of fire.  Mercurio gestured and the fire moved as if walking into the mine.

Without being asked, Mercurio said, “It is a ‘True Salamandar,’ an elemental creature of fire.  It will not eliminate any …spirits down there but it will certainly destroy any of the coffins still stored as well as any other beasts that might have suffered possession.”

In a few minutes we heard the sounds of a disturbance coming from the mine and then the smell of burned flesh assailed my nose.  In amazement, we returned to police wagon

The Bobo was finishing the binding Milna’s wound.  The young man had been shot, likely in the confusion of the battle, so that the Bobo’s miracles could only relieve some of the harm but not cure him complete.

When the priest had finished, he said matter-of-factly, “Oh, by the way, you and the girl are married now.”

“WHAT?” cried the young Pole.

“Yes, it is the law of the Church that says, ‘When a maiden throws herself onto the breast of a fallen warrior, the shadow of a priest has but to fall upon them for them to be joined in the sacrament of matrimony.”

The Bobo was quite correct in this. This law had supposedly come down through the ages from time of our endless wars with Turks and Tartars and other eastern foes. Then, it was the custom for the young women of a village to give themselves to a warrior who was to go battle, as something of a last fling before they went to what was in those days almost certain death. To avoid any future embarrassment to the family honor, when the warrior did not return, the maiden was taken to the scene of battle to say farewell to her fallen love. Now sometimes these gentlemen were still alive but mortally wounded and sometimes dead.  Now due to the problem of vampires, the Church had strict laws against wedding the dead so a fiction was created that the fallen warrior had saved his last breath to see his maid.  So as to not get too close to spoil this charade, the whole thing about the shadow of the priest falling upon the couple was developed. 

Unfortunately for Milna, he fit all the criteria and Bobo Drko was very punctilious.

Nikolina naturally was ecstatic, jabbered on about how she knew if she only did the wonderful thing, they would be together, they now could live happily ever after, and so forth.

Milna managed to break away from her and pleaded with the Bobo, “But Father, -“


“Uncle.  Surely I cannot be married.  I have never touched the girl.”

“Ah, then there is grounds for an annulment.”

“Excellent, how do I obtain one?”

“Above all, you must hire a canon lawyer but they are very expensive.  If you find a good one, it should only take five to ten years to get the marriage annulled.  But you must make sure you don’t touch her. “

“That won’t be a problem.”

“And touch no one else, not even a kiss.  If you don't approach the ecclesiastical court with a pure soul, you can't expect them to look on you favorably."

Milna had a look of desolation about him.  Fisztic on the other hand was smiling sardonically.  Then, for the first time since I met him, I saw that Mercurio had the broadest of smiles on his face.

 The girl came over to him and embraced him warmly.  “Oh, now Jan won’t it be wonderful to be together as man and wife and I won’t have to sleep under the bed… I know, we can announce it to everyone at the Ball tomorrow night!

“But I already have a date!” the surprised Milna burbled.