Relating to the events of February and March 1838
“In less than an hour, four carriages loaded with our small army raced westward out of London on the medieval road to Oxford. Around one in the morning we abandoned the carriages on a road north of Hillingdon, and proceeded on foot through a heavily wooded landscape that would have been difficult to navigate even without the encroaching fog.
“With the full moon hanging halfway over the western horizon we came upon an artificial clearing, and a mansion in its center. As in Crosse’s estate, posts supporting long windings of copper wire surrounded the place.
“Lady Masveh gave her final instructions and anointed our eyes with a clear paste that illuminated the nightscape around us in iridescent tones. The men and I were there to bar the entry to the Ikal that would surely respond to the attack. Masveh’s isntructions: nothing enters nothing leaves though the back of the house. The master and the dark woman scaled the walls of the mansion toward the central tower.
“Lord Hallowstone related to me the events that took place within. They followed the largest concentration of wires through a window on the upper story, into a large chamber that was bare except for a set of shelves on a wall, and a metal pavilion enclosed by a network of pipes. The parts from the second stack of drawings were all components of that construct. Within the pavilion was the brass dome, resting on four pillars of opalescent glass. The surface of the dome, both inside and outside, and the rims that held it in place, were all inscribed with symbols and phrases from the book.
“The panels that surrounded it flickered with colored lights the way Lady Masveh’s slate did. A braided sheath of wires connected the four pillars to a conduit on the floor. Lady Masveh studied that connection. ‘He has not used the Moon.’
“The master detected a measure of comfort in her words.”
“‘This is the means by which Wilshire has been transporting out of our grasp’. She explained as she walked around it, dusting the floor with a fine layer of what appeared to be poppy seeds. The shelves on the wall held metal gloves and boots, goggles, and capes and helmets. She also dusted the floor before them with the seeds.
“They proceeded to the next floor down, and found themselves in a chemist’s laboratory. The shelves were lined with jars of chemicals, raw minerals, and tools. One corner held replicas of Crosse’s equipment, but the rest of the room was taken up by other things. Glass trays held row upon row of rolled mineral granules, ranging in size from one to seven millimeters. Slate in hand, Masveh moved swiftly through the room.
“On the tables stood glass tubes filled with solutions of alkaline carbonates, phosphates, silicates, and cyanides; in each of them, one of those granules had been deposited. From table to table they saw the process of maturation displayed, from the initial germination of the seeds into what looked like fine stalks of rice, through vessels that contained fully subdivided and exuberant crystalline vegetation.
“In the next room the size of the vessels was all the larger, and the plants correspondingly complex. Some resembled coral or polyps, others trees and inverted trees. Lady Masveh assured the master that those growths were inorganic parodies of living matter. Yet they did put forth bud, stem and root, branches and leaves, and this not by aggregation or accretion but by intussusceptions, as living things do.
“There was clear evidence of circulation through those branches, evidence of repaired injury, even of subtle motion. In form, in color, in texture, even in their microscopic structure, she told him, they imitated life through a sustained chemical reaction but they were still dead matter.
“Her explanations ceased as they descended into the room below. The vessels there were much larger, large enough to fit a grown man. Four of them held inverted growths that resembled headless human skeletons, starting as a mesh of funiculate tendrils at the neck and stretching down to feet with toe-like appendages. These vessels did not stand isolated. Powered by large batteries, their solutions were being circulated from chambers beneath the floor, and suffused with a mixture of bubbling gases.
“The wires coming down from a pipe around the ceiling, terminated at opposing copper plates at three levels within the solution. A slowly turning dumbbell, drew a spark in sequence from a surrounding circle of metal spheres. And at each spark, the ghostly members of those skeletal figures writhed as in pleasure or pain.
“Lady Masveh said something in her own tongue, in utter disgust. They raced around the room and down the stairs to the next, again and again, until they heard the sounds of voices from below. At the center of the mansion’s ground floor was a large circular amphitheater, directly under the glass dome of the central tower that reached up to the sky. The four doors leading to it were each guarded by a pair of dark monkey-like creatures: Ikal, hairy dwarves.
“The kidnapped women and the boy were arrayed in a ring around the center of the amphitheater, bound onto chairs; each facing a lectern that held pages from the book at their eye level. Two other hairy dwarves took turns at going from chair to chair, terrorizing the prisoners, climbing over them, prodding their bodies with their stony fingers, growling and hissing in their faces. We can only imagine the hideousness of what they were experiencing, given the power of illusion of the fey, and the proclivities of the Ikal.
“Despite their sorry state, no screams escaped the shuddering victims’ lips. Instead incoherent words and phrases poured forth. The creatures kept moving from one to another, playing that litany of terror while Wilshire stood in the middle of the circle between two covered tables, like the conductor of a bizarre orchestra, enraptured by the words. When they finished their circuit, he told them in what order to proceed the next time, and then he swept away the table covers.
“On the table to his left was one of the headless crystalline skeletons, vastly more developed than those they had seen upstairs: A layer of translucent sinews enveloped the whole. Wilshire climbed onto the empty table on his right, and lay down. He pulled a lever, and a crane swung a large ladder-like frame from the wall to the center of the room, stopping directly above his head. A pull on another lever dropped the sides of the ladder down, trapping his neck and disclosing the sliding mechanism of a guillotine.
“Masveh’s face suddenly paled. Her nose twitched as when a beast smells a change in the wind. ‘The Sun Storm is abating!’
“Wilshire trembled with excitement, and shouted at the dwarves. ‘Terror opens the eyes; death opens the door! It is time.’ The two torturers moved to begin the circle again. Something ripped Wilshire’s shirt from within. Two more Ikal appeared, making their way out of his body, tearing open one side of his ribcage and his belly in the process. The man grimaced, but the oozing glow that accompanied the monsters pushed his organs back into place as they stepped out. Those two walked around to the head of his table as the others reached their first victim on the circle. ‘Let the words be spoken’, he commanded, ‘and the vessels destroyed.’
“Wilshire gripped in anticipation the third lever that would release the pin from the guillotine. What he intended to do became clear. ‘That other body,’ said Masveh, ‘is virtually indestructible.’ She and the master jumped down at the same time. Like a diving bird, her form cut through the air in a downward spiral, completing one circuit of the room before landing, leaving around the ring of chairs a circle of poppy seeds.
“The master’s jump landed him in the middle of the ladder, snapping it in half, and bringing the whole crane mechanism down on the two tables in the center. From there he tumbled to the floor, behind the dwarf closest to the captives. He picked it up and threw it at the dwarf that was trying to dig Wilshire out of the pile of debris. Masveh sliced the other torturer in half with her sword.
“The ground trembled with a chorus of guttural screams: ‘Gammadim’. Every dwarf in that room was suddenly armed with maces and axes, and encased in armor. Outside, hordes of hairy creatures started pouring out from the ground by the forest. Their leader ignored our warning shot, and the next shot showed us what iron does to fey. Where the bullet hit, the dwarf’s body collapsed inwards, melting like marshmallow candy in a flame. Within seconds the creature had disappeared. But the horde did not stop. Their bodies sprouted armor, and they fired at us with weapons that emitted a paralyzing violet light.
“Our next volley destroyed ten of them at the cost of three of my men that fell to the ground gasping for air. We dragged them with us as we fell back, seeking the cover of the house.
“The guards in the amphitheater jumped toward Masveh and the master, only to bounce off the air over the poppy seeds as if they had hit a brick wall. Suddenly unfavorable odds, made the dwarves inside that circle hesitate. Wilshire finally stood up.
“The master and Masveh knew the stalemate within the circle would not last long. An all-out mêlée would surely injure or kill the bound victims. Wilshire stepped back and stomped on the floor, shattering the floorboards behind him, and breaking the circle of seeds. ‘You fey fool,’ he snarled at Masveh, ‘this is my house.’ The guards made their way into the circle.
“The master whispered a rhetorical question to Lady Masveh, ‘How many dwarves do you think he still has in there?’ Without waiting for an answer he stepped forward, aimed his guns at the dwarves closest to Wilshire, and replied to him, ‘I think not.’ The dwarves caught the challenge in his voice before Wilshire did. They wavered. ‘This country has a Queen…’ he went on. ‘Who was it that deeded this land to you?’
“Wilshire could not believe his eyes, the dwarves took a hesitant step back. ‘I challenge you for ownership of this property.’ The effect the master’s words had on the dwarves, spread through their entire army. Wherever they were, they retreated two arm lengths from the nearest human that stood within the shadow of the house. We ran in unchallenged. I set two men to guard every door, from the rear to the sides of the house, as we advanced towrads the amphitheater. I had three men with me when we reached it.
“The master tossed his guns to Masveh just as Wilshire jumped on him. I had never seen the master fight the way he fought that night. With his left arm he blocked Wilshire’s right arm and delivered a sharp upwards blow to the jaw with his right elbow. Wilshire’s left arm swept across, its claw would have ripped his face but the master dropped to a crouch completely below the arm, and slipped to the right. Springing back up he caught that arm in passing, with his own left arm, and turning his upper body he rammed his right forearm against Wilshire’s elbow snapping the joint.
“As the man continued stumbling forward the master finished that turn with his lower body, jumping and landing with his right foot on the side of Wilshire’s left knee. He brought him down; that joint also shattered. In a froth of glowing vapor, Wilshire forced himself to stand.
“He tried to attack again, but the scene repeated itself. The master was fighting him the way he would have had to fight himself, turning the strength and hardness of his opponent’s body against him. At close quarters he used his fists, arms, and elbows, deflecting as many blows as he dealt. When the enemy retreated he struck with his feet in an unusual style of savate. Every blow he landed was placed at the point that would inflict the most damage on the nearest joint.
“Even when Wilshire tried to overwhelm him with the blue flame, he was ready. He used a piece of the broken floor as a shield, and slammed it on the man’s face driving him down to the ground. ‘Yield,’ he shouted at him; and then at the dwarves: “Get out of my house.’ He stood, and repeated that command, and the ground rippled outwards from under him. Wilshire’s body vomited a lone black dwarf onto the floor.
“The man turned over and dragged himself on one elbow towards his retreating allies, groaning curses at them and the master. They started to turn their backs on him, but not all. The dwarf closest to Wilshire dove into the debris behind his former master, snatched the guillotine blade, and in one sweep severed Wilshire’s head. Before the spurt of human blood reduced that dwarf to a burning heap, he tossed the head to another two dwarves who had uncovered the crystalline skeleton.
“Contact with the spilling life set the funiculate tendrils at the neck writhing like a nest of snakes; they eagerly seized torn vein and artery. In an instant, the crystalline network had made the head its own. And Wilshire finally screamed. The remaining dwarves dove toward him. Every human gun in that room was discharged at the scrambling forms. Masveh carved two apart in mid air. We got five others. But four vanished inside the glowing figure that slowly stood up to tower over us.
“Wilshire’s head bent down and examined in wide eyed amazement the body that now possessed him. As he looked up again, his eyes fixed on the master, and he spoke in a bluish breath with a mixture of pleasure and surprise, ‘De Soray… we hate you.’ If the grin that distorted Wilshire’s face was not enough to divine his intent, he uttered a cackle of pure hatred into our minds. We all knew what would follow; the crystalline body started to hum but Masveh moved faster. Just as he started to emit that blast of numbing noise she enshrouded him in a cloud of metal shavings.
“The crystalline giant doubled over, screaming in pain, his own attack reflected back upon him by the spinning sphere of sparkling chaff that enveloped him. He glanced up at the tower and vanished in a blast that sucked in the cloud of metal.
“We heard a loud crash far above us. The body of a dwarf came tumbling down followed by a shower of glass and pieces of pipes; and Wilshire reappeared in the room, his crystal body streaked with oozing cracks. Masveh’s wall had held.
“‘Strike while he is fractured,’ she cried out.
“I tossed Santiago the last of his weapons, a five foot long iron digging bar. What followed was a battle of titans, Santiago striking with the iron bar as if it were a long sword, hammering at every part of that body he could reach, the crystalline giant striking back with nearly unbreakable limbs. The master kept up the relentless attack, the rhythm of his breathing like a man racing for his life. And it worked. For every fissure of that crystalline body that was healed by the oozing glow from within, he created three or four more. Every second that passed we saw more and more shards of crystal scattered across to the floor.
“In a desperate move the giant allowed Santiago a clear strike to his chest that sent him down to the edge of the circle of chairs, by the two prisoners we had not yet freed. He seized them and threw them at him. With that moment of distraction, he turned, rammed through the wall of the amphitheater, and ran for the front of the house.
“We gave chase. His face was turned to the west, his eyes fixed on the glowing orb of the moon through the windows of the house. Every time he passed a window, several of the cracks on his body healed spontaneously. In two bounding leaps he reached the front door, and then he screamed in victory as he leaped out of the house.
“We almost poured out after him, but Masveh was already at that door, barring the way. What I saw is still hard to describe. The creature soared upwards swiftly but then, as the arc of his descent started, he slowed down… until it took over a minute for his feet to touch the grass; and then he stayed there as if petrified in the act of jumping again.
“Time had crawled to a standstill for him. It was only at Masveh’s nod that we noticed the faint glow in the grass, outlining a large circle. Wilshire was in the center of that circle. On the other side, just outside of it at the edge of the woods, we saw the familiar figure of Elias.
“‘Faery’, Masveh said in a reverential tone.’”
“‘Fey allies?’ The master asked between gasps.
“‘No,’ she replied, ‘not Fey. They are of the most ancient lineage of light being. They never… compromised; they stand apart.’ She met his eyes. ‘They will not talk to my kind. But I knew they would listen to Elias.’
“We stood guard as night turned to day, as dawn turned to noon and beyond, until the Sun had reached the place where the moon had been when Wilshire made his escape. Throughout that time his body had moved almost imperceptibly, but over the last three hours we had noticed it had started losing its solidity.
“As abruptly as his flight was frozen in time, he was let go. He vanished in a blast. Almost a minute later, a second blast brought what was left of him back from its encounter with the naked fury of the Sun. He must have gone out into space as far as the Moon is from the Earth, but there was no Moon to receive him. The crystalline body was completely shattered. Smoking fragments were scattered all over the grass. Dwarf limbs in the act of decomposing were protruding from a piece of its arched back. And the human head attached to it, grotesquely deformed, appeared mummified.
“The Faery left, like a circle of weapon-bearing butterflies that suddenly took to their wings. Lady Masveh bowed deeply to their dissipating forms and then, carrying a bottle of acid from the house, she walked up to the thing in the grass. With a knife she cut open the human skull and let the acid destroy the last vestige of the black dwarves’ sorcery.