Relating to the events of September, 1837 through February, 1838
Worthington continued. “‘The twelve is correct,’ I told the master when we were left alone. ‘But the second word is not prince. The best I can translate it is not man’. What that could mean neither of us could guess.
“To my inquiry as to how he had divined the Hindi’s background he replied that he and Alswanger had encountered the cult of Kali before. They stood out among criminal societies in one odd detail, their aversion to spilling blood. All Thag murders dedicated to Kali are performed by strangulation, usually using a golden scarf. ‘I have long suspected they deal with fey.’ He told me.
“That was the day the master explained to me the deadly effect that human blood has on the fey. The description of the assailants in the darkened house, and the things the master had experienced while fighting Diderici, all pointed to the involvement of fey, a very particular kind.
“‘Ikal, Fernando,’ he nodded at me as he continued, with a furl on his brow. ‘They are everywhere. But I do not understand the game. They were involved with Diderici. And they were here last night. What are they after? What do they want with Wilshire?’
“I gave the obvious answer. ‘The book. Lady Masveh’s and Elias’ interpretation of its purpose is similar to the Prince’s.’
“‘Opening doors to what? The fey already freely enter our world.’ He stopped suddenly at that observation. He pressed me for my recollection of Masveh’s exact words, and we discussed the possible territoriality of the creatures. There appeared to be an implication that particular races of fey were bound to particular places. Yet some, like the Ikal, seemed to be able to spread. ‘Like a plague,’ the master concluded, and he walked off to the corner of the room.
“I could see in his face an expression I had become familiar with; it is a cloud that comes over him whenever he remembers his time in North America, the time of his life that he confessed to Elias as wasted. It is a time he seldom ever speaks about. The mention of the Salamander to Masveh had been the first time I had ever heard of that story. The involvement of the Ikal was drawing him back to that time again.
“‘The cholera epidemic of 1831.’ He finally spoke. ‘Europe, England, Wales, America. The Ikal were headed West, Fernando.’
“I could tell he felt the answer was within reach, but he shook his head. There was not enough information to piece together the rest of that puzzle. So we looked for Wilshire that whole week, in the middle of the most wretched winter weather to hit England in years. We did not find him.
“The news that a peat hag had moved, as a whole, five miles and crossed a road in the Exmoor, destroying trees and buildings in its path, brought us back to the Quantocks. Santiago had seen that kind of display of power before. ‘There is a war among the fey. We need Elias.’
“Our men eventually located the man through the chain of contacts he had given us, and brought him to our headquarters. He welcomed our news about stemming the flow of money that had funded the most recent anti-Jewish uprisings, but he was not optimistic about the future. ‘Enemies shall rise up against the Jews from another place.’
“‘A negative version of Mordecai’s speech to Esther’, I couldn’t resist to quip.
“‘Fortunately, in Esther’s day,’ the master answered for Elias, ‘the enemy had only one head at a time. We are facing a Hydra now.’
“He sent me to the trunk of books for two bound pamphlets written in his hand. One, dated originally 1710-1719, was on the Orffyreus affair. Over the years he had added more pages to it. He handed it to Elias as he spoke. ‘The worship of Science, as the revealer of ancient wisdom and power, is one of the heads of the Hydra. I have seen this happen before. Though Crosse will not abide it, I assure you there are those who think he has found the secret of life, the divine fire.
“‘Orffyreus, Johann Bessler, was the archetypal priest of this most modern of the mystery religions. There have been others before like him. Doubtless there will be more in the future: self-deluded geniuses who by the power of their charisma and endless optimism eventually attract the attention of idle and bored nobility. In the early 1700’s Bessler dabbled in mechanical constructs and claimed to have come across the secret of perpetual motion. He started at Gera, province of Reuss, and eventually ended as a protégé of Baron Karl, Landgraf of Hesse-Cassel.’ Elias nodded, as he was familiar with that royal family.
“‘I intercepted a letter that Professor Gravesande sent Newton on the subject. He claimed to have seen one of Orffyreus’ wheels set in motion in November, sealed in a room, and then found to be still turning when that room was opened in January. He was convinced.’ The master shook his head. ‘Well intentioned Professors make poor magicians.
“‘I interviewed Orffyreus myself,’ he went on. ‘The man was sincerely convinced of the correctness of his theories, and so were his baffled sponsors. And this, my friend, leads to the typical impasse: the claims are implausible, the methods unsearchable (he only let select nobility peer into the inner workings of his machines), and so the theories, though patent nonsense, end up being irrefutable. Who in that court is going to risk their standing with their regents by contradicting their favorite entertainment?
“‘I found nothing sinister in the man except for an excessive gullibility when it came to evaluating his own ideas. A good reading of Bacon may have set him straight, but I doubt it; I suspect he had been the victim of fey pranks. Maybe we should ask Lady Masveh how many elves, dancing on the head of a cam, it takes to turn a wheel.
“‘Nevertheless,’ he continued to his point, ‘I also found others in that court taking advantage of his presence there. The players in the intrigue that I was investigating made excellent use of the distraction Orffyreus caused, to further their own purposes.
“‘Since then I have made note of such distractions: esoteric knowledge couched in the trappings of Science so as to ensnare those who want to believe. Yet, at the same time the revelations are so full of meaningless information that it keeps honest, intelligent challengers at bay. The literature of the secret societies follows the same pattern. You see, the adepts, those in the know, are already aware of what to keep and what to throw away.’”
Worthington drew himself out of the memory for a moment. “The master has come to call what happened to Orffyreus after that, the Penelope syndrome. The inventor became increasingly suspicious of everyone, and eventually started a pattern of destroying his work and then rebuilding it; and though the machines were never commercialized, large amounts of money exchanged hands through secret agreements.
“The Hesse-Cassel fortune grew rapidly after that. Their mercenaries have fought all over the world: the Anglo-Prussian war and the American War are two of the most notable instances.
“As the master saw that Elias was reaching the end of the pamphlet, coming to the material he had appended to it over the years, he spoke aloud for him their final conclusion. ‘It is not a coincidence that the Hesse-Cassel name appears in so many of my files: The Hydra has a second head: the brokers of power.’ After a momentary pause he added: ‘You do know that their money was multiplied by the aid of your Rothschilds’.
“To Elias’ flash of skepticism he added, ‘I have been keeping track of your exploits, old friend. I am persuaded that, more than once, the financing arm behind the persecutions that you have tried to stem have come from that quarter… your own people.’
“Elias was unconvinced. The master insisted. ‘You will not deny that Rothschild money was behind the Illuminati in Bavaria.’
“‘I will not deny that greed plagues every family of man. But to seek the obliteration of their own race –’
“‘Elias, what Weishaupt spawned in Bavaria was fueled by more than just greed. His Society was dedicated to the abolition of organized religion and the nation-state. Listen to their maxims.’ He enumerated them on one hand.
“‘The Illuminee who wishes to rise to the highest degree must be free from all religion.
“‘The end sanctifies the means. The welfare of the Order justifies calumnies, poisonings, assassinations, perjuries, treasons, rebellions; in short, all that the prejudices of men lead them to call crimes.
“‘Submission to the Superiors of Illuminism supersedes obedience to every other sovereign or magistrate who governs the people. The governors of nations are despots when they are not directed by us. They can have no authority over us, who are the free men.
“‘The love of one’s prince and of one’s country are incompatible with the ultimate ends of the Order. One must glow with ardour for the attainment of those ends.
“‘The Superiors of Illuminism are to be looked upon as the most perfect and the most enlightened of men; no doubts are to be entertained of their infallibility.’
“He paused, glanced at me, and concluded: ‘Mordecai, would indeed stand out. Can you see a believing Jew, like fabled Mordecai, bowing down to such nonsense? Your people, Elias, are a problem to the second head of the Hydra. They are not the target per se, but their obsession with remaining true to their religion and their culture is an obstacle to the purposes of the brokers of power, like the Rothschilds. If they were not involved this time in Odessa, it was because the gullibility of the prince’s family supplied opportune money.
“‘The third head are the anarchist and criminal secret societies themselves, like the Thag, funded by the second head and thereby manipulated like puppets.
“‘I am convinced now that there is a fourth head: the worshipers of the blood-cult, the man-wolves, somehow connected to a mystery conclave whose members are exclusively women. Almost every society in Europe has called them witches.’
“The second pamphlet he handed Elias chronicled the first decade of the 1600’s, and the case of Countess Erszebet Bathory. ‘She became obsessed with magic after the death of her husband, the Hungarian hero Ferencz Nadasdy. Soon a coven of witches attached itself to her, headed by an Iloona Joo. They promised her eternal life if she bathed regularly in the blood of young women. After draining the victims’ blood for the Countess, the witches used the bodies for their own rituals.
“‘The series of mysterious deaths that ensued went almost undetected for over a decade and then the Prime Minister Gyorgy Thurzo initiated an investigation. He knew of my work in Chalons and asked for my assistance. We discovered the coven. The witches and servants who assisted Bathory were executed. The Countess was bricked into a room of her castle and remained there until she died in 1614. She was Thurzo’s cousin.’
“‘This is the fourth head. But the heads intertwine. I know that a group of women bribed the Hesse-Cassel palace staff at the time when Orffyreus was there. In their writings they claimed to have stolen from him the secret of the divine fire. I tracked their movements back to Italy to the house of Countess Cornelia Zangari di Bandi of Cesena. But the only member of that coven that I succeeded in identifying was an Englishwoman. The rest disappeared, undoubtedly the same way as the Countess.’
“He allowed Elias to read the description of the state in which the remains of Countess di Bandi were found. Four feet from the Countess’ bed there was a heap of ashes. Framing it were her legs from the knees down, still wearing stockings, and, at the other end, the front portion of her head, her chin, and the base of her skull. Three fingers were found within the ashes. Everything else had been consumed. The rest of the room was untouched by the fire except for the greasy stinking soot that coated the furniture, the interior of a chest, and even found dripping as condensation from the windows.
“‘Grecian fire is a pernicious weapon,’ he said. ‘By the time I identified that other member of the coven as a Grace Pett it was too late. She had escaped the others’ fate in Italy but eventually had been reduced to an insane alcoholic, and died in similar circumstances in Ipswich, 1744.
“‘The fifth head,’ he held his left hand wide open, ‘is connected with the fey. If the cult of Kali is indeed working with the Ikal, it would again be evidence of the intertwining of the heads.’
“‘You have proof of all this.’
“‘Three bookcases worth of information in my estate, from floor to ceiling.’
“‘Who killed Contessa di Bandi?’
“‘I assume, the sixth head.’ The master replied evenly. ‘Each head has a clear agenda of its own. By nature they should not be collaborating, not even the secret societies – no matter how extensive the inbreeding may be among them. Yet if you consider the flow of history as a whole, their individual actions coincide far too often. In effect they appear to cooperate. There must be a single purpose directing or manipulating the heads, and it appears that at times it sets one against another.
“Elias put the pamphlet down and sat back in his chair, bringing his hands together, palm to palm over his mouth, as he analyzed the information. He finally spoke: ‘You believe that someone did not want the secret of that book in the hands of the cult of Kali.’
“The master and I both reacted with interest at the way Elias put that conclusion… in the negative. We both had assumed that it was to steal the secret, that the book had been taken. We urged him to go on.
“‘Whoever did it does not have the means to translate it.’ Elias continued.
“‘But it appears they are convinced,’ the master followed that train of thought, ‘that the power to unravel its mystery can be found somewhere within the secret societies of Europe.’
“‘In a sense they were right. I could translate it.’ My statement was obvious but something in it bothered the master. Elias gave voice to the reaction that crossed his face.
“‘Have you considered the possibility, my friend, that you too may be manipulated?’
“The master’s protest did not arise from vanity. He listed for Elias every precaution he took in enlisting his associates, the thoroughness of his investigation of their background and family, the way he minimized their knowledge of each other and the amount of information they had on their missions. He was certain that it was humanly impossible to penetrate his circle. ‘Believe me Elias, I understand full well the risks we take, the price any of us might pay,’ he paused involuntarily at that thought, ‘dearly pay, if our enemies find out who we are.’
“And then he added: ‘What do you say about Lady Masveh?’
“Elias knew there was no malice or retaliation in that question. ‘I have known her for a very long time’, he replied. ‘She is completely trustworthy.’
“‘She is also unpredictable.’
“‘Which makes her all the more valuable.’
“They agreed to return to the matter at hand. Elias supported our conclusion that two weeks of storms centered on the southern shore of the Channel of Bristol suggested an all out assault on the Ikal stronghold in the Quantocks. Through the strange rapport he shared with the fey woman, Elias summoned Lady Masveh.
“We had gathered at Ashworth’s house to analyze the results of our expanded search for Wilshire. Our operating assumption was that he had been hired by an unseen hand to acquire the book and broker its translation. Since the Hindi did not have him that night, we assumed the Ikal had not succeeded in kidnapping him; and that meant Wilshire, most probably injured, had escaped the scuffle of that night.
“If that was so, and that unseen hand had rescued him, he would have needed the services of a physician. Anticipating that, we had sent several teams in ever expanding circles from London. They met with no success. But on their return in mid February, more than one of them reported the feeling that they themselves were being watched.
“‘I am here as summoned.’ Masveh appeared out of nowhere in the middle of our discussion. The master’s first question to her addressed the storms. She simply said, ‘I told you. We take care of our own evil.’
“‘We lost Wilshire.’
“‘He no longer matters. He is no use to them. We destroyed all their laboratories.’ A glance from Elias prompted her to elaborate. ‘The man appears to have been the subject of an experiment by Ikal sorcerers. His body showed evidence of implanted devices, alterations that could allow the temporary co-existence of fey and human – all consistent with the instruments we found in their caves. They are all destroyed.’
“‘For what purpose was this… experiment performed?’
“‘Probably to create an illicit gate, a way to enter your world undetected at any point where the man might be.’
“‘Or to give a man the powers of fey.’ Lord Hallowstone offered.
“She did not answer that.”
“‘And what about the book?’ I asked.
“‘They are trying to emulate its power to open the gates, aren’t they?’ Elias joined in.
“‘The steam that drives the engine,’ Lord Hallowstone offered.
“‘It would not be the first time that the Ikal have tried to revive arcane spells or created zoo-synthetic instruments.’
“Elias spoke to her in ancient Hebrew, in short quick phrases, unaware that I understood the language. He asked her, ‘Are they trying to duplicate the Gammadim armor?’ She replied: ‘In their hands, something worse.’
“‘Was this done to Diderici?’ The master insisted.
“She replied this time, with no sign of evasion, ‘Possibly.’
“‘That would mean Wilshire is the Spring-heeled Jack.’
“Masveh nodded. ‘He might have been unaware of it, manipulated. His mind was… cluttered.’
“The master mulled over her replies and then described to her what had happened at the house after she left, and the subsequent disappearance of Wilshire.
“‘If,’ she finally spoke again, ‘Ikal were there, and any of them escaped us, we will find them. They did not take Wilshire to their lair.’
“The master was not satisfied. ‘We are missing something. If the Ikal were working with the Thag, and also on Wilshire, why didn’t they deliver him to them? And why defend him from the Ethiopian prince?’
“‘The Ikal-Thag connection may be the weak link in our assumption,’ I proposed.
“‘The Ikal will play all sides of any conflict to attain their goals.’ Masveh’s reply was half-hearted; she knew the master’s observation could not be so easily dismissed. She looked up and offered another alternative. ‘The actions of the fey are not always logical, not as judged by humankind – especially if they have spent long periods of time in your world.
“‘But if Ikal are holding him elsewhere, for another purpose, their next move will come soon. The Sun is quieting. I will stand guard with your men.’ She vanished as suddenly as she had appeared.
“We mobilized as many operatives as we could to guard the houses, staff, families, and relatives of the businessmen. There was no attempt on them during that third week of February but there was a disturbing coincidence among all of them: physicians had been called to attend each of the assaulted women. Nightmares ensuing from their encounter with Spring-heeled Jack had returned, with a violence that threatened their health and sanity. At times, fits of hysteria would leave them in a waking trance from which they would mutter meaningless sounds or draw symbols that no one understood.