This is the second installment in the Tobit series. If you're new to the series, please start at The Demon Tobit of Delphia.
Long Distance Calls
The man sat in his well-appointed study, the phone gripped in his sweaty palm.
"Who is this?" asked the woman on the other end.
The man sat, thinking carefully about his phrasing.
"You are on the cusp of a discovery. Turn back now, for what lies beyond is far out of your scope. To know these secrets is to open yourself up to great powers and ancient knowledge. You are not ready."
The woman on the phone responded as one would expect, with caution coated in anger. After all, he was calling her in the middle of the night, making vague threats over the phone. Her response was tame when one really thinks on the matter.
"You have been warned," were his parting words before hanging up.
"Well, how did she react?" asked his accomplice, who was seated across the room.
"How do you think? She was upset!"
The accomplice crossed his legs and lit a cigarette. He let the smoke drift out slowly, a sign of irritation.
"My brother, this is our duty. Passed on to us by our family name. I am aware that you have been resistant to our life's tasking, but I assure you that we must remain steadfast."
"Then stop lying to me, Gregory! If this is in fact our noble calling, why do you keep so many secrets from me?" demanded the younger brother.
"Trevor, I have never lied to you. If I withhold information, it is to protect you. Believe me, brother, the less you know of these people, the less you know of their desires, the better. If you wish to have a normal life someday, you will follow my word, do your duty and don't ask questions!"
"Gregory, I have carried out your requests for years now. Sending letters, bribing officials, hiding evidence, but enough is enough! You ask me to call a woman in the middle of the night and make threatening remarks to her over the phone, you ask me to dishonor myself, to behave as some pervert, phoning strangers, masking my voice... that woman was frightened, and this is supposed to be for some greater good?"
Gregory Leary rubbed his eyes, another sign that his patience was being pushed. He loved his brother Trevor, had taken care of him almost their entire lives. And it is very true, Trevor never asked for this tasking; he was simply forced into it. Their father's dying wish had been that Gregory protect Trevor, close the cycle that began almost 200 years ago. Gregory had done his best, telling Trevor as little as possible, always hoping that their job may end one day.
Lately though, as events were starting to unfold faster and faster, Gregory became quite sure that the day he could finish his duties may never come. He still fought to keep Trevor in the dark, telling him only what he needed to know. But Trevor was no longer a child that could be lied to, or pushed away from the truth. Trevor was now almost 30, a successful prosecutor and a man that deserved his own life.
"Trevor, the reasons that I tell you so little are the hopes that you can walk away from this one day. Please, please understand that," Gregory begged.
"I want to know the truth, brother. I want to know why you've asked me to alter court documents. I want to know why you were having me pressure the city to cancel the street project at Whitehall Place, along with everything else that you have asked me to do!"
Yes, Whitehall Place had been a disaster. The damn street project. Finding the translation journal, that had set things back and created all sorts of problems that weren't there before. Whitehall Place had become a constant headache for Gregory Leary.
His initial reaction to finding out that the city was interested in repairing that street was to get the project canceled. That of course, was yet another task that he saddled on Trevor. His brother's profession gave him the ear of many important people within London's government.
When his brother's influence proved unable to prevent the street repairs, Gregory made it his mission to retrieve the translation guide first. He spent days trying to look inconspicuous while loitering about the construction site. The problem had been that he didn't know exactly where along the street the journal had been buried, or if the digging crew would even unearth the damned thing. In the end though, as fate would have it, a historian, a goddamned historian, had come down to watch the repairs, just out of idle curiosity. The bloody bastard found the needle in the haystack just like that.
"Now the fucking world knows," Gregory sighed. "Just like that, almost 200 years of effort, thrown out because of a street repair and a bored, retired history buff."
Trevor was also an issue to consider. Gregory was over 10 years his brother's senior. Gregory embraced his family's legacy and the underlying mission that came with being born into the Leary clan. Trevor, though, was becoming more and more difficult to keep on board. It was the secrecy of the whole thing.
Gregory's father had been honest and forthcoming about their family's heritage. He had told Gregory all about his ancestor, and how said ancestor had locked their family into an oath. He had told him about Hyraaq Tobit and the hidden city of Delphia, and how those two entities had become permanent stamps on the Leary name.
Gregory had embraced these things. He took to it with a fierce degree of fervor and audacity that would make even the most stoic of Brits proud.
Trevor, though, made things different. Trevor was hesitant to take on any task that was not of his own creation. What made things even harder was the fact that their father made Gregory swear he would tell Trevor as little as possible about their family's oath. He wanted Trevor to have his own choice.
For a long time, things worked out that way. The things that happened in Delphia stayed there, and the will and deeds of Tobit and his cult were quiet and posed little impact on the rest of the world. Gregory would hear about a cruise vanishing near the Arctic, or perhaps a private plane would be mentioned crashing near there. Gregory would make notes of these reports and go on living his life.
However, with the discovery of this so called "Triassic Journal," everything changed quickly. Gregory had to lean harder and harder on Trevor's connections. These scientists over in New York were shaking a hornet's nest. Even worse, they had no idea it was a hornet's nest. To them, they were just researching an ancient text.
And even that wouldn't be so bad, but the entire scientific community was watching this story develop. Gregory was certain that this group of researchers would want to go public with their discovery, and that would be very bad. While a lot of people would ignore the information, or simply brush it off as scientific mumbo-jumbo, there would be a lot who would see it, hear it, and know exactly what was being placed before them. This would cause new paths to open that had never existed before. It would alter the balance and perhaps lead to vastly more misfortune than any of them were prepared to handle.
"Am I boring you, brother?" Trevor suddenly interjected.
In his deep reflection, Gregory had forgotten his brother was still in the room.
"What was that, Trevor?"
"I asked, am I boring you? You seem to have wandered into a daydream."
"No, brother, I am simply trying to decide the best way to proceed with all of this," replied Gregory.
"You can begin by telling me why you have me do these things for you. What is it that our father asked you to protect me from? I have a right to know, and frankly I am sick and tired of being left in the dark. I am a grown man and I will not be treated as a child. If you expect any more favors from me, I expect full disclosure, and I expect it right now!"
Gregory considered his brother's words. All he said was true after all. Trevor could not be blamed for wanting to know why he was asked to do such unconventional favors, even if it was for the right reasons. Furthermore, Trevor deserved the chance to back out of his family's legacy, should he choose to. It was a strange, dark and twisted set of lore, and who was Gregory to demand that his brother, his baby brother at that, dedicate his life to something that could actually lead him into danger.
There was so much to consider.
"Okay, Trevor, allow me some time to reflect. I am going to take a walk-about. When I return, we will talk. I cannot promise you anything at this time, but I assure you that I will spend my time thinking very deeply on your request. Can you wait for that? Can you give your big brother just a bit more faith and allow me the chance to think this out on my own?"
Trevor sighed. "Tonight, Gregory. I want an answer one way or another tonight. If you come home and tell me that you will remain silent, that I am still not privy to know why you ask me to violate policies and laws, why you would have me make threatening phone calls to women, then that is fine. I will not twist your arm or try and force your words. Just know this, if you return, and still you choose to keep me in the dark, I will do you no more favors. I will turn my back on you and all of your insane requests."
Gregory left, and began to wander the streets of London. He had much to consider, and walking had forever been his greatest aid when it came to thinking through problems. Since he was a child, he was a firm believer that moving legs meant a moving mind.
Gregory remembered back to his own childhood, when his father, Baines Leary, sat him down in his study and changed his life forever.
"Gregory, you are becoming a man before my very eyes," stated his father, on a starlit night. The study featured two enormous windows, and the stars and moon were all out in glorious fashion. "I know that you have heard my hushed conversations with your uncles; I know that you have long pondered many of my secretive practices. I do not desire to keep you in the dark, or in confusion any longer."
The young Gregory, who had always been a mature and reserved child, sat with his back straight and his eyes fixed upon his father.
"Look out there," Baines began, gesturing into the dense night sky. "Tell me, son, what is it that you see?"
"Stars and the moon," replied Gregory.
"What do you believe lies beyond them?" asked his father.
"Planets, galaxies, outer space...?" replied his son, answering cautiously, as he knew, even at the age of 15, that these questions bore greater meaning.
"What if I told you of a floating castle, of a king sitting upon a throne, gazing out upon us all? What if I told you that this king, sitting in the glow of his red star, passed judgement upon man and woman alike, a king who grants favor and punishment, a king who has sculpted much of what we see each day and night?"
Gregory chose not to answer, as this was a heavy comment that he had no clear idea on how to answer correctly.
"His name is Hyraaq Tobit, although I would imagine he has been known to many others by many different names and titles. He is older than our own world, wiser than any man on this planet or ours, as cunning as a fox, and as tricky as the Devil."
Gregory found himself almost giggling at the thought of this. His father quickly locked his gaze, and the laughter ceased.
"This is nothing to snicker about son."
"But father, you're telling me a fairy tale for sure. A king on a flying castle in outer space? I am sorry for laughing, but it all seems so... foolish."
Baines Leary sighed and tended to the fire for a moment. "I thought the same when your grandfather sat me down and told me this very story, but life has proven otherwise. I prayed each and every day when your mother was pregnant that our duty would end with me, that you would be able to live a normal life and that I would not have to pass the same responsibilities down to you that were given to me. For the knowledge that I have, even passively, has altered my own course. And now, with great pain and hesitation, I fear that it may alter yours."
That night, Baines and Gregory Leary sat up long into the night, and by morning, Gregory believed.
"Watch it!" grunted an evening commuter, and Gregory was quickly snapped back to the present.
The sun was dipping below the high rise buildings of downtown London. Gregory was surprised at how long, and how far he had walked. The street was busy with folks heading for trains, heading home after another day laboring. Loud music blasted from a nearby pub. Gregory momentarily considered stopping in for a pint, just something to take his mind off of his worries, but quickly thought better of it.
"Alcohol weakens the mind, and a weak mind is a vulnerable mind," Gregory mumbled to himself.
Scanning the crowd, he quickly spotted his almost constant companion. Staring from behind a small cluster of pedestrians, Gregory spotted the horned head and deep crimson robe. This being, if it had a name, never spoke. It began appearing to Gregory shortly after the long night in his father's study. It would appear randomly, often from within a crowd. No one else ever seemed to see it.
The first time it happened, Gregory panicked. It was three weeks after his father told him the story of Tobit. His father had warned him that these visits would begin, once the story was told. His father warned him that the being would appear terrifying, but not to fear, as it never caused harm.
"Think of him as a guardian angel," his father had said.
None of that helped on that cold day in November, Gregory still 15, walking down the school hallways between classes, alone. He had sensed the being before he actually saw it that day. It was a feeling of being watched. Gregory thought it was a teacher, or perhaps even Mr. Livingston, the dreaded school disciplinarian. He turned, excuse at the ready as to why he wasn't in class, when he first saw the goat-headed creature.
It stood still, at the opposite end of the hallway, just standing there. The hall, which was always dimly lit, was made even darker by the thick clouds outside. The being continued to stand in its station, not moving. Gregory was frozen for just a moment, but slowly willed his legs to move. Backing up, the creature began to match his pace. He stepped back, the creature stepped forward.
Gregory moved his arm to begin to turn, and saw that the creature lifted its own arm, as if in mock vanity. As Gregory lowered his arm, the creature did the same. Gregory took another step backwards, and the creature moved forward. A quick glance to his right, and Gregory realized that he was almost to a class room. Sure, it wasn't his, and he would no doubt look a fool for wandering in, but it contained people. Other students, as well as a teacher, an adult, an authority figure... safety.
He summoned all of his courage, and made a dart for the class. He could see through the small rectangle window. He could hear the students reciting some work of literature of another. He could see the teacher, a tall woman with a no-nonsense facial expression. She would protect him, she wouldn't tolerate such foolishness in her hallways. She would...
The goat man was in the class room. He was standing behind the teacher. Gregory was frozen once more, standing in the hallway, staring through the glass, terror was gripping his very being. The goat man made a gesture to him, the finger to the lip, the "Be quiet" gesture. From its robes it drew a wet, dripping object. Gregory struggled to identify it. It wasn't until the creature began to smear the object along the walls, leaving a dark red, almost black liquid, that he understood it was an organ, a human heart.
Gregory broke into a screaming sprint, tearing down the hallway, begging for help from anyone who could hear him. Doors began to open, teachers and students peering out. Gregory was finally stopped by Livingston, the strict hard case that all the children both hated and feared. On that day though, Gregory revered the man his savior.
His father picked him up from school. He told the school faculty that his son was under stress, made up some such excuse about a death in the family. Pleasantries were exchanged between the adults and Gregory was taken home.
"I see him too, son - have been seeing him since I was just a little older than you, since the day my father told me the story that I told you. I warned you that he would appear. I told you that he has never harmed me, nor should he harm you."
"What is he?" Gregory asked.
"Not sure, son. A devout member of Tobit, more than likely. They are often granted abilities, like the little magic show he put on for you. I personally believe that Tobit uses them to guide his followers, like I said before. A guardian angel of sorts."
"But what he did, with blood...." Gregory began, but his father cut him off once more.
"Like I said, a magic show, nothing more. The next time you see him, simply continue your day. He will not hurt you, and can only scare you if you allow him to."
Thus this is how Gregory lived. While Trevor was still a small child, oblivious to the world around him, Gregory was working each and every moment to train himself to ignore the goat man that appeared every few days or so.
For the most part, he could be ignored. He continued to stand among crowds, always seeming to stare directly at Gregory, though its only means to gaze came from two black holes in the goat skull that was its head. This occurred through the remainder of his primary schooling and college. He would be sitting in class or among friends at some social gathering, and the goat man would suddenly catch his eye, standing as though he had been there the entire time, like he belonged.
Gregory, being young and headstrong, often took to mocking the goat man, when no one else was looking. He would make profane gestures that ranged from the middle finger to even a mooning or two. The creature never seemed to pay any mind. He just stood there, keeping his eternal watch. Sometimes he walked along with Gregory, always keeping a distant pace. Occasionally he would gesture in some form or another, maybe a wave or a slow, menacing nod, as if to say, "I see you; I am watching."
By the time Gregory was in his mid-twenties and Trevor was in primary school, Gregory had learned to all but tune out the creature. Sure it was ugly, of course it was unnerving at times, but as his father had promised him so many years before, it never caused harm, never attacked him or anyone else for that matter. Perhaps, in some perverse way, it was a guardian angel.
Everything changed on the day of Gregory's first real job interview.
Gregory Leary came from a bit of wealth, and working was always more of a duty than a necessity. His parents' wealth would easily carry Gregory and Trevor both through their adult lives. He could have opted to be a London playboy. Gregory had grown into a handsome man, and certainly had the attention of most women that he approached. But he wanted to work. He had obtained a fine education and had no desire to waste it on some beach front or jet setting around the world.
The job interview was at a marketing firm in London. This firm had clients all over Europe and was starting to plant seeds in the United States and Asia. With his family connections and impressive education, he was a front runner for the position. He could travel, spread his wings, but most of all, he could perhaps get away from his family's legacy, their connection to Hyraaq Tobit and strange banner that his father passed to him that night in the study.
The interview was going well. The hiring manager, a real jet-setter himself, seemed to like what Gregory could bring to the table. The manager's name was Mr. Blackman. He was young and sharp dressed. He had a wit about him and a charm that made his words powerful and entrancing. Gregory was enjoying the interview, and things were going along better than expected.
Then the goat man showed up.
Blackman and Gregory had been talking in a large conference room. The blinds were partially closed, and the lights were dimmed by the sunlight that did get in. This effect created many shadows in the room. Gregory first saw a skeletal hand rise from behind an empty chair located directly behind Blackman's position. The hand was soon joined by another, and in short order, the horns of the goat began to rise up, slowly revealing Gregory's old and reliable companion.
Seeing this, Gregory forced his gaze harder on his interviewer, doing his best to not appear fazed by the goat man's appearance. After all, it's not as though he could just explain to Blackman that his demonic guardian angel had entered the room.
The goat man then stepped forward, standing directly behind Blackman. Even with his eyes fixed straight ahead, it was impossible for Gregory not to see that crimson robe, or those white, skeletal hands. He simply forced the creature out of his mind as much as possible and continued.
The goat man would not be ignored this day.
Gregory observed it shuffling around under its robes. It had something in its left hand, something folded over, but dripping with blood.
"Not this again..." Gregory thought, remembering back to his first visit from the being in his school hallway.
With its other hand, the goat man once again mimicked the "Shhhhhh" gesture. It moved its left hand to the center of its chest and brought its right hand up, locking together with its left.
Then it showed Gregory the bloody object that it brought out of its robe.
Spreading out its arms, it revealed flesh dolls. That was the best comparison Gregory's mind could make. They were like those paper dolls that kids cut out, but these were made of bloody, dripping human flesh. The goat man spread them out wide, directly over Blackman's head. Ten little flesh people, all joined at the hands and feet. The goat man began to rock his disgusting creation back and forth, as if to show off for a child.
"Mr. Leary, are you alright?" asked Blackman.
Gregory had completely forgotten about Blackman, and suddenly realized how he must look to his potential boss. He was sitting there, in a high profile interview for a high paying job, and staring off into space with his mouth slightly ajar.
"Oh, yes. Sorry, Mr. Blackman, I was just woolgathering. My apologies," he replied, doing his best to sound confident and professional.
The little puppet show continued until the interview concluded. Gregory did his very best to avoid eye contact with the creature, to just ignore it, but how could anyone be asked to ignore such a vulgar display. At the end of the interview, Gregory knew very well that he had lost his shot at the job. There was no chance. Blackman's entire demeanor had begun to change, and the handshake at the end was a true punctuation to his failure.
Following the interview, Gregory resigned himself to discover who this goat man really was, and to do what his father apparently lacked the courage or wit to accomplish.
Several weeks passed without the goat man making an appearance. Gregory began to wonder if the creature could sense his intent. He wanted to encounter it alone so that he could confront it without appearing insane. Thus he began taking long walks alone at night, waiting for it to pay him a visit.
Finally, on a cold English night, his wish was granted.
Walking alone through London's warehouse district, Gregory began to feel the familiar presence. He turned a corner, and standing between a row of arc sodium lit shipping containers was the goat man. His pose was the tried and true. He stood with his back straight, his horned skull of a head gazing forward. His crimson robes blew slightly with the evening breeze.
Gregory took a few quick glances around to ensure that he was alone with his friend. For all he could tell, he and the goat man had the street to themselves.
"Who are you... who are you behind that fucking mask?" shouted Gregory.
The creature seemed to pay no mind to his inquiry.
"Hey, I am talking to you! You follow me around, you sabotage my life, you play little tricks and try and scare me! Well I am not bloody afraid of you! Now take off that fucking ridiculous mask and show yourself, unless you're afraid!"
The creature remained still, not moving.
"Okay then, asshole, I'll come over there and take it off for you!" Gregory shouted, and began to advance towards the creature.
The goat man finally reacted by walking away from Gregory and turning a blind corner into the darkening night. Gregory's nerve was fighting to stay strong. Standing a distance away and shouting insults at this being was one thing; following it into the dark was another. Yet, how could he simply continue to ignore it? He could almost tolerate it appearing and staring at him, but when it clearly meant to ruin his life, prevent his happiness, that was when lines had to be drawn and stands had to be taken.
As he followed, Gregory noticed a lead pipe leaning against a container. He grabbed it. Being armed with something helped him feel a bit more confident. He turned the corner just in time to see the creature take up another stationary pose at the end of the alley.
"Nowhere to go now! You ready to face me? Take off that mask, tell me what you want, we can try and settle this like gentlemen. If not, I am going to come down there and beat your fucking head in with this pipe!" Gregory threatened.
Once more, the creature seemed to pay no mind. It stood its ground and didn't waver.
"Okay, mate, no more talking then," he grunted, and began to walk at an advancing pace towards the creature.
On cue once again, the creature turned a sharp right, and entered into a door that Gregory failed to notice from his vantage point in the alley.
"Cornered yourself, did you? You're going to wish you hadn't done that," he said to himself.
He was well aware that there could be any manner of danger in that building. But his blood was now hot, his mind wasn't clear. He was angry, he wanted answers and he was willing to risk an ambush to get them.
Gregory charged into the small room, pipe raised above his head, screaming. At first, he thought the creature had escaped yet again. The room turned out to be a utility storage chamber, just a small cube of a room with a few shelved supplies. It was very dark at first, but the light from the street lamps outside began to assist Gregory, and soon he was able to make out the frame of the creature, standing in the darkest corner of the room, staring out at Gregory once again.
"You're done now, you're cornered. You can either start talking, or I am going to start beating! Your choice, friend. Either way, this ends!"
Slowly, the creature raised its arm, revealing what appeared to be a crude drawing on the wall. Gregory struggled to make it out at first. But as his eyes further adjusted, the image on the wall began to come into focus.
A man, on his back, on a bed or table, it was hard to tell which. Standing over the man, holding his arms apart, was the goat man. As Gregory squinted to pick out further details, he observed that in the creature's outstretched hands were organs, what looked like intestines, dripping with chalk-drawn blood. Two smaller people, both apparently male from their haircuts and clothing, were looking on with simply drawn frowns on their faces. On the wall, above the bed and goat man illustrations, was one that looked like a picture. A simple, childlike drawing of London Bridge.
Then it began to dawn on Gregory. His parent's bedroom. They had a portrait, just over their bed, of London Bridge. The two people looking on... could it be him and his brother? The man on the bed, the man having his intestines pulled out and displayed, could that be his father?
A voice suddenly filled the room. Gregory snapped back and turned his focus on the goat man. Could it be speaking? This would be a first.
"His screams filled the night, his blood ran warm. Hail Delphia! Hail Tobit!"
Gregory was suddenly caught between fear and rage. A place where he was left feeling physically weak and ill. In a sudden moment of hate-fueled anguish, Gregory screamed and hurled the pipe directly at the creature.
It struck it. The creature let out a grunt of pain. Seizing the opportunity, Gregory lunged forward, only to strike the wall where the creature had been standing just a split second before. It was gone. Looking around frantically, ensuring that the being would not simply appear behind him, Gregory finally concluded that the room was empty.
Almost empty anyway. On the floor where the creature had stood, Gregory saw a small layer of snow. Fresh white snow. There was no snow in the forecast this month; there had been none at all. Had the creature left it there?
Gregory took no time to find out. He was more concerned about his father, about his entire family. He left the room and began to sprint towards home.
Baines Leary was found dead that night by his oldest son. Mutilated in his own bed by entities unknown. Of course Gregory knew, knew exactly who killed his father. It had been some agent of Tobit, someone or something connected to the goat man. His father had been found dead exactly as the little scribbled picture in the storage room had depicted - minus the goat man, of course.
Life became a blur for several months in the Leary home. The police conducted their investigations, but of course found nothing. Gregory couldn't very well risk telling them the story of the goat creature and the crude drawing. Involving more people meant empowering Tobit all the more. Should he become a major crime topic, that many others might run the risk of inviting him into their lives. So Gregory went back on his own to the utility room. The little drawing of his father was still there, but was fading. He photographed it, unsure of what purpose it might serve at the time. He also examined the ground where he found the snow pile. If there was some sort of trap door or other escape device there, it sure was gone now. Gregory had a hunch, though, that the creature didn't use any form of conventional escape. He even thought he knew where the snow might have come from. If he was right, it came from a far off place, a place that appeared to be devoid of human life.
Trevor, still just a child really, dealt with the loss of his father as most headstrong teenagers deal with any grief, by lashing out at the world. He became a nightmare to deal with, angry all the time and apparently at everyone. Their mother agreed to pull him from school until he felt prepared to return.
For a while no one in the Leary clan tampered with their father’s room. The body had long since been removed and buried of course, the sheets had been stripped and burned, and the police had done their routines, dusting for fingerprints, examining doors and windows. However, once all of that was completed, their mother had kindly asked that the room remain as much as her late husband had left it. Gregory and Trevor respected her wish. She relocated to the guest room, and as far as Gregory knew, she never slept in the master bedroom again.
From Father to Son
It was several months later when Gregory found the letter that his father hastily wrote him on the night of his murder. It was tucked away among his many documents and letters. Gregory had been in a state of depression and rage since the murder. He didn’t even have the goat creature to lash out at, since it hadn't appeared to him again since the night in the utility closet. His anger and despair had no directions in which to flow, so in a fit of desperation, Gregory decided to bury himself in his father’s memories. Perhaps he would find some such article or another to ease his mind, something to bring him back to a happier place. It was during this search that the letter was found.
To my eldest son,
Gregory, it is with the deepest of regret and fear that I leave you my final thoughts. I know that tonight will be my last. The very agents of Tobit have arrived, evil men with wicked hearts. I know not why they have chosen tonight to attack, as they have had many opportunities over the years.
That is moot however. What I can say with a high degree of certainty is that something has happened to move them in my direction, to close a gap of sorts. I am deeply sorry that I ever exposed you to these truths. I regret my decision to bring you into this loop. Please believe me when I tell you that my intentions were of the highest caliber. My only desire for you and Trevor was that you both would be afforded a normal life, free of the tasking and trapping that my own father passed down to me, and his, no doubt, to him.
As you know this my son, the threat of Delphia, Tobit and his cult are very real, very dangerous. It is with this knowledge that I implore you, let this end with you. Do not bring Trevor into this damnation. If that means that you abandon this cause, so be it. However, should you choose to carry our torch, please, do not bring anyone else into it.
I have kept this from your mother my entire life. My greatest hope at my final moments is that she can find someone else one day, start again with a husband that does not come with such deadly strings attached.
Gregory, I love you deeply. Please, do not reveal the secrets of Tobit to Trevor; do not pass this curse on.
Gregory cried into the night. He swore to himself that he would honor his father’s final wish. The secret of Hyraaq Tobit would die with him.
Gregory wiped tears from his eyes. He was sitting on a park bench. Night had fallen over London. Trevor was at home, waiting for some sort of response, some sort of answer as to why Gregory kept such secrets.
To tell Trevor was to allow Tobit into his life. To ignore Trevor’s request, to keep him in the dark, was to honor his father’s dying wish. However, Gregory could not deny the fact that he had used Trevor to continue the legacy of his family name. Was that not opening him up to Tobit just the same?
“I am sorry, father, but I cannot treat my brother as an unknowing pawn any longer. I know your last wish was for this secret to remain with me, but I simply cannot ignore my brother’s request. He has a right to know,” he said to himself.
Gregory stood up, and returned home. On his way, he saw his old friend in the crimson robes. It watched him walk past the vacant streets.
“Out late?” asked Trevor, as Gregory entered the study.
“Had a lot to think about,” replied the older brother.
“And what decision did you arrive at, brother? Are we going to continue to play stupid games, or are you going to tell me the truth?”
“Sit down and shut up, Trevor,” Gregory snapped. “I will tell you the truth, but before I do, you have to understand something. With this information, with this truth, will come great terror and heartache. You will see things, experience things, that will shake you to your core. There are reasons that I have kept this from you, one being our father’s very wish, but you are right, you do have a right to know why I ask things of you. You are a man, not a boy, not a scared child, as I was when these truths were given to me. It is not my place to decide what you are ready to know. I just… I just want you to be prepared.”
Trevor sat and rubbed his chin, in thought. “Gregory, no more games, okay. Just tell me the truth.”
“Very well, Trevor. When I was a teenager, our father sat me down in this very room and told me a story. A story about our family, our connections to certain… esoteric entities that exist in this world. It all goes back to our ancestor, a great-great uncle to be precise. He was a founding member of Scotland Yard. His first investigation led him into the clutches of great evil. He resigned himself to solve the case and expose this evil. In doing so, he allowed it into him, into his life, into the very fabric of our family. It has traveled that many generations, like a virus, or a curse. Our father’s last wish was that it would end with me. I can tell, however, that it must go on, because we must go on. Father may have been content if I abandoned our mission altogether. I didn’t, though, and since the recent discovery of the journal at Whitehall Place, I no longer have the privilege of discretion. I need your help, and if the price of your help is full disclosure, than you shall have full disclosure.”
Trevor was sitting up straight, appearing almost like a small child at story time. Gregory sat down and poured two glasses of scotch, handing one to his brother.
“The liquor is just to break the ice and oil the conversation. No more than a glass. You must maintain a sober head. After tonight, you may find that you never take another drink again. Are you prepared for that?”
Trevor nodded. He wanted this story, and Gregory knew that he would agree to almost anything to get it.
“Our story goes back almost 200 years. Right here in London, the year 1829. A seasoned inspector was brought on board as one of the first commissioned detectives of the newly formed Scotland Yard.”
Gregory took a sip of scotch, and with great resignation and even greater sorrow, opened the gates of knowledge to Trevor, thus extending the reach of Tobit a little further.
Gregory told the story.
Inspector Brandon Leary of Scotland Yard
The year was 1829. Robert Peel, a true blooded and stoic Englishman if ever there was one, formed the London Metropolitan Police in hopes of protecting the ever growing population of London. The location selected, Whitehall Place, became the first police headquarters. A former residence was remodeled and became known as Great Scotland Yard.
Men were hired to staff this new and ambitious undertaking. Chief among them was a large, jovial man named Brandon Leary. He was a loud and jolly man, rounded in the stomach with a huge mustache. He carried a command presence about him. When he walked into a room, he was noticed. He was fearless, vulgar at times, but had a love for the law. In addition to his brown suits, he was never seen without a lit cigar in his mouth. His superiors often joked that it wasn't his cigar, but rather all of his hot air that created the cloud of smoke that traveled with him. Brandon Leary would laugh in his booming, wall-shaking manner, and slap his commanders on the back.
He was known further as a true bloodhound when it came to pulling out facts and solving cases. Before being appointed to Chief Investigator, Leary had proven himself as a private investigator. While other officers had applied to be accepted into the new Scotland Yard, Leary was handpicked. He was a close friend of Robert Peel himself, and was invited to the Yard by Peel personally.
“In matters of duty and civic pride, Brandon Leary is a man without equal. In matters of sleuthing and producing results, Leary is more bloodhound than man. With his appointment as Chief Inspector, I extend a sincere apology to all criminals of London, for we have now tipped the scales, for the fight is now rigged, we have brought in the solution.”
These were the words that Peel himself presented to the gathering of city officials and other socialites when Brandon Leary was appointed. There was applause as Leary took the center stage to address the public.
“People of London, Subjects of the Crown, let it be known that on this day, I shall make it my undying duty to clean up the streets of London. No longer shall our wives and daughters feel dread at sundown. No longer shall our shop keeps feel apprehension when a stranger walks into our midst. We are true Englishmen; with pride and dignity we shall deliver unto London a new era of law and order.”
This time the applause was deafening. Leary stood before his approving audience for a moment longer, before retiring into his newly furnished office.
“My God, man! Had I known I had to give such flowery speeches, I would have opted for a position as governor,” Leary joked to Peel and a few other officers later, after the crowds had departed.
“So, lad, what will be your first act as Chief Investigator?” asked his commander, a skinny man named Drake Highcastle.
“Two things come to mind that must be addressed post haste,” Leary responded, immediately capturing the full attention of the room. “First, I must find a match to strike this cigar, and second, I must find a glass to pour this brandy.”
Highcastle appeared a bit flustered. He had been warned that Leary was an outspoken man, but was also assured that his boisterous nature came with great results. His record as a private investigator was flawless after all. However, Highcastle was an old stickler for pomp and protocol. Robert Peel himself could read Highcastle’s face, and knew that he would have to have a conversation with Brandon Leary. He was a public officer now, and would be expected to behave as one.
An hour later, Peel and Leary were alone in his office.
“Brandon, you know better than any how much I appreciate your fine spirit, your bold reserve and your courage of word. However, Highcastle is your superior, and you must address him as so. Your little stunt today with the cigar and the brandy set him to a tizzy.”
Leary rolled his eyes and snickered to himself. He had great respect for Robert Peel, but he knew from the moment he laid eyes on Drake Highcastle, with his tight little smile and pencil mustache, that he and this man would never be close to friends.
“Aye, Bobby, my mouth is not always the most trustworthy facility of my brain. If I was to be punched in the gut for every time this tongue stepped out of line, I imagine I would have been beaten to death ages ago. For you, I will attempt to get on with the little wank.”
Peel smiled and nodded. Brandon Leary was a lot of things, a drinker, a smoker and a whoremonger of almost legendary status. But he was also a man of his word. If he said he’d rein in the sarcasm, Peel knew he would.
“Now, Chief Leary, tell me, what do you intend to do with your new position?”
“Well,” replied Leary, “I actually intend to follow up on an open case from my private inspection days. I think it’s safe to assume that I have that degree of autonomy in my job.”
“Of course,” answered Peel. “I wouldn't expect our Chief to be out snatching penny thieves or breaking up tavern brawls. But do tell, what is your case?”
Leary dug about in his briefcase and retrieved a dusty stack of papers.
“This case came to me several months ago. The client simply vanished one day, so I dropped the case. Couldn't exactly afford to conduct investigations for free. Now that I am on the city’s pay, though, I imagine I can reopen it.”
Peel leaned over the desk and gazed down at Leary’s notes. They were mostly written in his own shorthand, and Peel would have needed to hire his own team of cryptologists just to decipher them.
“Cults, my boy,” Leary stated firmly to Peel. “Dangerous groups if ever there were. Worshiping strange devils and the like, and more often than not, they indulge in quite gruesome rituals.”
“Is that what you were investigating?” inquired Peel.
“Indeed. A woman named Cecelia Holden came to me a while ago. She believed that some group was attempting to scare her from her land. She owned a small cottage on the outskirts of the city. She had a nice grove of trees that she was very particular about. She told me that she began to find strange artifacts in the small opening in her grove. A dagger with a goat’s head carved into the hilt. She didn’t want to keep it, even though the knife looked as though it was valuable. She told me that it was sharpened to a keen edge. She also mentioned that it made her uneasy. She brought it home with her the night that she found it, and complained of nightmares. Graphic images really - people eating each other in the snow, corpses dancing with animal heads, it gave her quite a scare.”
“I imagine such nightmares would,” responded Peel.
“Anyway, she removed the blade from her home, but insisted to me that the nightmares continued. She told me that further inspections of her grove led to more discoveries. She found what she believed to be a stone altar, also engraved with a goat’s head. She went on to tell me that on some nights she would see a distant bonfire from the grove, and hear chanting and the like. She was spooked badly, this woman was. She had no husband or grown sons to protect her, so she hired me to find the source of the problem.”
“What did you find, Brandon?” asked Peel.
“Well, I took the dagger into my possession. I still have the bloody thing at home, though I wouldn't use it to cut my bread. I could sense what she meant when she said it felt wrong. I am not a man used to the sensation of unease, but holding that thing…”
Leary paused to open his office window and light a cigar. Peel made a face but didn’t object. The story has seized his attention, and hearing more was well worth inhaling some fumes.
“I walked her land during the day. I saw the altar, just as she described. It was a damn spooky thing to say the least. It was far too heavy to move. She paid me the extra coin to arrange for some men to come out and haul it away by wagon.”
“Is the altar also at your house?” inquired Peel.
“God no, man! I ground that bloody slab down and sold the gravel. Just think Bobby, somewhere in London, a street may be paved with its remains.” Leary had a long laugh about that, Peel did not join in.
“I predicted that disturbing their altar might stir them up. They would either take the message and find another location to do their strange rituals, or they would retaliate. I was ready if they decided to retaliate against Cecelia.”
“And what was their reaction?” asked Peel, who was now leaning forward in his seat, as if trying to grasp the very words from the air.
“Blood, sir. They smeared blood on her door. Some sort of symbol, looked almost like a word in some archaic tongue. I copied this word in my journal, and recorded the date.”
Leary retrieved his journal from his briefcase and held it up for Peel to see. Written on the first page was the year, 1829, below the year was a copy of the word. Peel agreed with Leary’s assessment that it appeared to be a language of sorts, though he hadn’t the foggiest as to what it said or what tongue it was written in.
“The woman was terrified of course, as I imagine most of us would be. So, I arranged some lodging for her in the city, and with her permission, I moved a few of my belongings into her home. I wanted to be there should they return. I hired a couple strapping lads from town, really just a couple of tavern toughs, but they knew their way around a fist fight, and if they weren’t loyal to me, they would be loyal to my coin. We opted to spend a few nights at her home, sort of a stake out. The lads would watch over things in shifts, to ensure that nothing happened while we were asleep, and I would crawl that grove, hoping to apprehend our cultists.”
Leary paused his story and chuckled to himself. Robert Peel, the man who captained the very department, was enthralled. Leary was a bit arrogant when it came to this particular talent of his. He had been able to do this since childhood. His tongue was apparently good for more than just getting himself into trouble. He continued.
“The first two nights were a bust. Nothing happened. We ate, avoided the drink, which was a bit of a challenge for my two hired wards, and took turns on watch. I patrolled the woods alone during the day, and I would bring one of my hirelings along with me at night, just so no one got the jump on me. A fat man waddling through the forest at night is an easy target after all.”
“Perhaps if you didn’t reek of cigars at all times, you could sneak a bit more effectively,” goaded Peel.
Leary returned that comment with a puff of his cigar and a wink through the smoke.
“Sneak is fine Bobby, when you know where your target is hiding. In this situation though, I found it paramount to let them know where I was. I wanted to draw the slimy bastards out, and this wouldn’t be the first time I used myself as a target.
“The third night proved pay dirt. Myself and one of my lads - Wilson Landers was his name, should it matter - were walking about the outer limits of the grove when we saw him. I didn’t have to ask him if he was involved in a cult, the bastard was wearing the proof like a badge. He was a tall man, wearing dark red robes and a goat’s skull over his head, like a mask of sorts. Beastly to behold. Young Wilson himself froze. I thought for a moment that perhaps I had hired a dud. So, I called out to the fiendish man.”
“Called out to him? Leary, I am impressed. I think I may have simply thrashed something like that on sight, or run for my life,” interjected Peel.
“Thrashing him came to mind, but I am a detective, Bobby, not a brute. There is far more to gain from conversation at times. I have learned that the voice is far greater a weapon than a blade or a rifle. Perhaps this character was just a confused religious zealot. I wanted to find out before approaching.”
“What was his response?” inquired Peel.
“Why, the blooming idiot turned and began to walk away. Just like that, Bobby, as though I never spoke. That did irritate my normally civil sensibilities, I must say.”
He and Robert Peel both shared a laugh, and then Leary continued.
“He began to walk into the grove, towards the small clearing where Cecelia found the dagger and the altar. I was quite sure he was leading me into an ambush, so I gestured for Wilson to circle around and observe the opening from the rear. He looked terrified to venture out alone, but bless the lad just the same, he followed orders. I moved to follow the cultist. He was easy enough to track - that ridiculous goat skull practically shined in the moonlight - and sure as the sunrise, he was leading me right back to the clearing. I didn’t want to risk charging through the woods and tripping over a damned root, so I waited for him to reach the clearing, and once my feet were on level ground, I charged. My plan was to take him down to the ground and remove that blasted mask.
Wilson though, took my cues a bit too well. I suppose he must have found his courage hanging among the trees, because before I could even take a running step, Wilson darted from the darkness, hell bent on tackling our beastly friend.
He charged, screaming as though he were leading a brigade of troops into battle, and leapt towards the cultist. And would you care to venture at what he got for his efforts, Bobby?”
Peel didn’t respond, but rather gestured with his hands for Leary to continue.
“He got snow,” Leary announced, laughing a bit. “This headstrong tough kid from the lower district got a face full of snow. The goat fiend just vanished, and I swear the truth of that on all the bibles of all the gods that ever were. In his place, there was a pile of snow on the ground, and Wilson looking more the fool than ever. I actually had to laugh, although for the life of me, I had no idea how the beast had vanished so.
“Our time to ponder was cut short though, as screaming suddenly replaced the silence of the grove. It was coming from the direction of the Cecelia’s cottage. Wilson jumped to his feet and took the lead; he was young and trim after all, not nearly as appealing to the eye as myself, of course, but faster just the same. He reached the cottage moments before I caught up, and the gasp that I heard escape his mouth brought reality crashing in.
“The inside of the cottage had been turned into a massacre. The other lad, Scott Falk by name, was murdered, and in a fashion that was very much in keeping with occult practices. He had been pinned to the wall, a dagger, just like the first one, pierced through his hands and feet. His stomach was sliced open, and drawn all about him were those same archaic letters. Thinking, I pulled out my notebook and copied them down.”
Leary held up his notebook once more and showed his one-man-audience the copy.
“We pulled down the body and wrapped him up. I collected the daggers, and while doing so, discovered more snow. The connection was clear. One of the cultists had committed this act. Perhaps the same man even.”
“How could the same man have gotten to the cottage before you, Leary?” demanded Peel.
“I’ve no idea, Bobby, nor do I know how he vanished before our very eyes, but I do know what I saw. I understand how this story sounds, but you know me as well as anyone can, and you know that I speak the truth.”
Strangely enough, Peel did believe Leary. If any other man had just told that story, Peel would have used his newly formed agency to ensure a long sentence to the nearest asylum was imposed. But this was Brandon Leary, a man who was almost more legend than substance, and despite the insanity of the tale, Peel was hard pressed to not believe him.
“I told Cecelia the story. She refused to return to her cottage, and paid me to go out and retrieve her few possessions. I did as she asked. When I returned to the cottage, I felt something that was a bit alien to me, real fear. Not shock, not the sense of danger, but actual fear. Even though the sun was out and the interior of the structure was well lit, I couldn’t deny the sensation that a great evil was present. I felt eyes upon me, as though the goat fiend would appear at any moment.
“When I returned home, it was late. I stored Cecelia’s possessions in my own attic with the intention of returning them to her the following day. That day never came though. I went to visit her at her room in the city, the very room where I had spoken to her the day before, and she was simply gone. Of course, I assumed she was simply out shopping. I waited. I went to eat, returned, still no one there. The next day I went back, and continued this routine for several weeks. The landlord that rented her the room informed me that she never returned to pay for another week. I kept an eye out for her, asked about town and all, but no one had seen her come or go.”
“Do you believe this cult may have abducted her?” Peel asked.
“Perhaps they did. Or perhaps she simply became too terrified and left London all together. I wouldn’t be surprised if she did. Either way, I abandoned the case once she left. As I said before, she had no family, and although I would have loved to chase these demonic bastards across the country and back, paying jobs came first.”
“Now you wish to reopen this case, and chase them some more, is that correct?”
“Yes, Bobby, that is what I would like to do. This group clearly is willing to commit murders, and may have also abducted a woman. Unless you personally direct me towards other tasks, I intend to get to the bottom of this cult.”
Peel sighed and smiled thinly. “Brandon, we both know that not even the King himself could derail you once you get an idea in your head. You have my support to investigate your cult. The last thing we need here is hysteria to break out over devil worshipers sneaking about the alleys at night.”
With that vote of support, Brandon Leary did exactly as he said he would. He reopened the case, and instructed the junior officers to be on the lookout for any strange activity of a hyper-religious nature. In the meantime, Leary had some theories that he wished to pursue.
He began with the intent to recruit Wilson Landers back into the fold. It would be easier to work with someone who believed the damned cult existed in the first place. Leary didn’t want to waste half the day trying to convince his own officers that men in goat masks could vanish into snow. Wilson would be a good assistant in this. If the lad proved reliable, Leary might even offer him a permanent position as an officer of the law.
Wilson, however, was nowhere to be found. Leary combed the taverns in the lower district, stopping in, sipping watered-down beer and asking the same questions. Many of the bartenders remembered the boy, but none had seen him in some time. Leary posted a small reward for any solid information on the lad’s whereabouts and continued his investigation into the cult.
He continued by speaking with the masons and silversmiths of London. He described the stone altar and he showed the daggers to the smiths. None of the masons in the city recalled being tasked to create such items. Days were turning into weeks, and Leary knew that the little twerp, Highcastle, would start to ask for results on this case soon. If he couldn’t produce them, he would likely be ordered to shift his investigations in other directions.
His luck slowly began to shift on a warm morning, while he was taking a simple stroll to the bakers for breakfast. He actually didn’t intend to work on the case today; it was Sunday, and his intentions had been simply to eat a meal and perhaps take in a show. He decided to use an alley as a short cut when he discovered something of interest.
Written on the brick wall of the narrow alley was a single phrase.
“Hail Tobit, King of the Red Star.”
Below this bizarre little sentiment was a string of foreign letters. Leary recognized them, the curves and loops, at once. It was the same style of lettering he found written on Cecelia’s door, and inside of her house surrounding the corpse of his former ward.
Removing his notebook, he copied the information down. Only this time, the connection was clear. The archaic word below the name Tobit matched what he found written on the door. He counted the words and made a comparison.
“Could this be a bloody translation?” he mumbled to himself.
Leary studied the building itself. It was an abandoned shop, as best he could tell. At first he thought to return to Scotland Yard and obtain a warrant to enter the abandoned building. Then he imagined himself having to explain his reasons to Highcastle and his stomach turned.
“Bugger warrants,” Leary mumbled, and proceeded to locate a side door, which he promptly kicked in.
The inside was as he suspected, empty, dusty and lonely. Not much to really investigate in here. Leary walked the floor of the building, stepping down, looking for hollow points or some sort of clue. This was a tedious task, but Leary was a patient man. It took almost an hour of slow, methodical walking, when Leary finally heard the tell-tale hollowed thump that he was looking for.
“What have we here?” he mumbled to himself, slowly taking a knee.
Using one of the ritual daggers, he pried up the board. Resting below, in a small cubby, was a pamphlet.
It was a church flier of all things. All-Hallows, one of the oldest churches in London. The flier being in this building could be explained by almost any natural reasoning, though, but Leary had a honed sense of detection, and something about all of this didn’t seem as easy to ignore. He picked up the flier and held it up to the light coming through the windows of the building.
“Father Lance Madison invites all true devoted followers of Our Most Holy King to come and celebrate. Services held every Sunday evening. Hail Our King.”
Something still felt strange to Leary. Of course, the term “King” is commonly used in reference to God or Christ, but finding this here, in a building with “King of the Red Star” written on the wall, just seemed almost too elementary to ignore. Leary continued to study the flier, which included more of the common church brochure material, until his eyes began to fix on patterns that a normal reader would likely miss.
Leary found many of the letters to be connected from upper sentence to lower. At first glance, it appeared as nothing more than some deacon’s attempt at fancy script. However, Leary couldn’t dismiss the fact that these connected letters seemed to form a very intentional pattern. Removing his notebook, Leary compared some of the existing words he’d written down to what he thought he was seeing on the flier. Could this be a hidden message of sorts?
It took some time, but Leary began to feel confident that the extra swirls and loops included in many of the letters corresponded to the word directly attached. As he was copying those into his notebook, it became clear that the exaggerated calligraphy was a language of its own. The style matched what he’d found at Cecelia’s home. It appeared to be that language the cult used, and printed right in plain sight, just hidden enough as to confuse the eye of an average reader.
Using his notebook, Leary slowly compared each swirl and swoop to its corresponding letter, until he was satisfied that he’d found a hidden message.
“Gather all ye faithful, all ye sons and daughters of Delphia. While the deaf will hear simple sermons of a dead god, the chosen shall receive the keys to King Tobit’s paradise. Hail Delphia, Hail Tobit.”
Leary shuddered, as though a sudden chill entered the room.
He took a quick glance around and immediately took notice of the small snow flurries circling in the room. Standing up, he grasped the hilt of the ritual dagger and stood ready for a surprise.
"Leary," a voice echoed through the room.
"Show yourself!" Leary barked in return.
No response. He checked outside of the abandoned store, carefully scanning both sides of the alley. No sign of any visitors, goat headed or otherwise.
"Just trying to get under your skin," Leary mumbled to himself, but couldn't shake the sensation of dread that accompanied the cold air.
Leary planned to take another trip out to Cecelia's little grove, just in case the cultist had decided to return there. He also made a note to investigate the church, All-Hallow.
Returning to his office, he sat down and began to organize the clues and leads that had so far developed.
Snow was a factor in all of this, though he still had no idea how. He knew though that in just about every instance with the goat headed zealot, there had been unexplained snow present. Next of course was the dagger and the stone altar. No masons in the city claimed ownership, yet the design and detail were far too specific to have been purchased off the shelf. Then there was Cecelia Holden and Wilson to consider. Both of them had exposure to this cult, and then both of them mysteriously vanished.
Most of all though was this language that was slowly coming together. Using the graffiti from the building wall, as well as the cryptic lettering the the church brochure, Leary had already laid down the groundwork for a fairly accurate translation guide. He hoped to have a more complete listing of letters done soon.
He rubbed his large hands together and looked towards the ceiling. Whoever these cultists were, they were slippery. Vanishing into thin air, that was something new even to himself, a man who just recently would have claimed to have seen it all.
Highcastle was also a factor here. The little runt wouldn't allow him to chase this cult forever. He needed some degree of results to report, and he needed them soon.
Leary examined the church flier once more, and realized that if he wanted to, he could make it in time for one of their services. It might shed some light, and he wanted to ask the priest there, Lance Madison, if he had any idea why a flier from his church might be buried under a loose board in an abandoned shop.
Leary left out and hailed a carriage. He decided it was time to go back to church.
The ride to the church was typical, a standard ride through London. Leary gazed out of the carriage window, catching glimpses of the people whom he was now oath bound to protect and serve. As the carriage slowly trod through the streets, he began to feel that sensation of being watched again. Peering out of the window, his eyes were immediately pulled to the source, as it was impossible to miss.
Goat skull, crimson robes. It was just standing there among the evening crowd. And damn it all if it wasn't staring directly at him. Leary hailed the driver to stop. Keeping his gaze on the creature, he climbed out of the carriage, informing the driver to wait for him. The being was able to elude him in the woods, prancing about the trees at night. But this was the streets of London, Leary's turf.
No sooner did his feet touch the street, then the creature began to walk away from him at a quick pace. Not running away, just walking quickly. Leary pursued, reaching for his badge. Citizens moved out of his way as his pushed through, barking orders for the goat fiend to stop.
"You there, seize that man!" Leary shouted towards a stout-looking man standing next to the goat fiend. The man looked around, confused.
"Who do you bloody think? Stop that man in the robes with that animal skull on his head!" Leary answered.
The man's face drew more confused. "Lawman, are you drinking on duty?"
Leary fought to contain the anger that was growing inside himself. But it dawned on him as well, that perhaps the average citizenry couldn't see the creature. This was not too difficult to believe, after seeing one of them vanish into a pile of snow.
"Blast it!" Leary grunted, and lunged through the crowd, knocking several people to the ground who were not fast enough to avoid the large man's sudden movement.
The goat man turned into an alley. Leary cautiously followed, and at first was certain that another vanishing act had occurred. No sign of the fiend. Leary slowly inched his way into the darkening, narrow path when his keen senses suddenly kicked in and he spun around.
The creature was on him at once. It was tall and possessed a fierce strength. It quickly pinned the large detective to the wall and pushed its ivory face against his. It was chanting something from behind the mask. "Hail Delphia! Hail Tobit!"
Its words leaked forward like poison smoke. Its hand reached up, and with that same power, took Leary's neck.
Brandon Leary tried everything in his power to fight back. He struggled, grunted and tried to use his massive shoulders to sunder the being's grip. Nothing seemed to affect it.
Then he remembered the ritual daggers. He had kept one, with the intention of showing it to the priest at the church. His hands dropped to his waistline, patting frantically. He could feel his strength leaving him as the creature's grip on his neck grew stronger and stronger, and Leary's air grew stale. His world began to grow grey, sounds became echoes. The world around him began to darken.
Then his hand found its target. With a speed that defied his large frame, he stabbed the knife forward, into the chest of the goat fiend.
It immediately released its grip on Leary, and let out a grunt of pain and maybe even confusion. It hadn't expected the fat man in the brown suit to fight back. It most certainly didn't expect the fat man to possess a ritual dagger. It staggered backwards.
Leary gasped and held his hand to his chest. The fiend was backing away. Leary knew that if he allowed it even a second to recover, it would either be back on him again, or vanish. Seizing this chance, the fat man lunged forward and tackled the goat fiend.
"Okay, laddie," he gasped between breaths, "let's see just who you are."
Taking the robes in one hand, he reached forward with his other hand and began pushing back the mask. The cultist let out a deafening scream that took Leary by surprise, and in that second, vanished, leaving a small pile of snow in its place.
"Bugger it all, if the little bastard didn't escape anyway!" Leary gasped. He was still trying to catch his breath from his near death by strangulation. "Ah, but you didn't make a clean get away, now did you?" he said out loud. Looking down, he saw that he was still gripping the crimson robe.
"And God smiles upon the King's people once more," Leary mumbled to himself. It was just a little phrase his mother would say during moments of luck, and if this wasn't luck, Brandon Leary of Scotland Yard didn't know what luck was.
He returned to the still waiting carriage. Despite all that just happened, Leary still intended to attend the church service. Otherwise he would have to wait another week to see what exactly these people did, if the church was even involved. On the ride over, he inspected the robes.
The fabric appeared to be cotton, nothing fancy there. He patted about until he felt a bulge from an interior pocket. Fishing into the folds of fabric, Leary removed a small booklet. A personal diary, perhaps.
What he had was far better. It was a guide of sorts. It instructed the reader on how to transcribe a language referred to as Dawning in the book. He had never heard of this language, but of course, he also never heard of cultists that could vanish into thin air.
The small booklet gave a brief introduction to the terms and the language. It read as so:
Dawning is the language first spoken by humans that walked among the earth. They were the first to witness the arrival of Our King and the first to write of Him. When our glorious King blessed them with knowledge, they performed the most glorious of Rites, the Consuming. With this, they grew stronger and wiser, and continued to write and speak in their native tongue. In honor of Our King's first arrival to earth, we still celebrate many rituals in the language of Dawning, and thus use this sacred text to communicate the will of Our King.
Below that brief opening was a chart, with English words written to the right, and Dawning written to the left. There was also a small chart for letters of the alphabet and their Dawning counterparts. Leary spent the rest of the ride to the church copying this chart down into his notebook. He didn't anticipate ever learning to speak this language, but being able to translate it could be invaluable in the future.
The church service was unspectacular, a typical Christian sermon. Leary sat in the back row of pews and observed everything. He had not been inside the walls of a church in many years, not since his brother's wedding. The priest, Lance Madison, was a charismatic character to say the least. He spoke of the general hell fire that awaited the unclean souls. He spoke of the path to God, the righteous fire of glory and so much other inane platitudes. Leary had to remind himself that he was working a case, or else he may have fallen asleep.
The service concluded after a grueling two hours. The faithful began to stand and turn towards the doors. Madison then made a final announcement.
"To my deacons and lay servants, there will be a gathering in the rectory. Please remain until everyone leaves, and meet me there."
Several men and women appeared to take notice, and began to shuffle towards the small wooden door to the left of the altar, a door that no doubt led deeper into the bowels of the church.
Leary approached Madison, presenting his badge as he stepped towards the priest.
"Father Lance Madison, my name is Inspector Brandon Leary of Scotland Yard. I was hoping to ask you a few questions." Leary forced the politeness. He had never been overly comfortable around religious officials. Too many smacks across the knuckles from nuns as a child.
"Inspector, as I am sure you overheard, I am leading a small prayer group with my most devout tonight. I am afraid you will have to reschedule," Madison answered curtly.
This annoyed Leary just the slightest bit. Madison looked as most would imagine the likes of Cotton Mather to appear. Late 40s perhaps. Thin build with brown hair combed straight back. Only the slightest hint of grey streaks began to show. He had sharp facial features and piercing, green eyes. Leary supposed that some would find him handsome or stately, but Leary simply found him pretentious and too comfortable in his position. Leary decided he would have to remind the good father that church official or not, no one was above the law.
Madison actually had the audacity to begin to turn from Leary and walk towards the door. This set him off.
"Madison, perhaps you failed to hear me the first time. I am an officer of Scotland Yard, and I am currently investigating a murder, a murder that I believe could be linked to your church! Now, we can discuss this, the two of us, or I can arrange to bring a dozen or so officers with me and we can go about searching your church for evidence until I am satisfied that you are innocent!"
Madison's eyes narrowed in anger, but he decided better than to test the large man.
"Very well, Inspector. Ask me what you will, and then leave me be, please."
"There has been some crimes of an... esoteric nature in London as of recent. A young man was killed and pinned to the wall in a very deliberate act of, well, occult symbolism. At the murder scene, I found words written in a strange, unidentified language. Later, as I was searching for clues in the city, I found a building with similar markings. Upon further inspection, I found a flier for your church buried below the floor. Do you have any idea why your missive would be stuffed into a hole below an abandoned shop?"
Madison remained silent for a moment, then responded, "Why, no Inspector, I have not a clue. Perhaps you should pray and reflect, let God guide your investigation."
This comment was laced with enough dry English sarcasm to set Leary into a rage, but he held strong. Madison seemed to be playing a game here. Leary was an expert game player himself. This might even become enjoyable.
"Well, I recovered the murder weapon. Have you ever seen a blade like this before?"
Leary removed the ritual dagger and showed it to Madison.
Madison's reaction was brief, but Leary's eyes missed nothing. Though the reaction was less than a second, it told Leary everything he needed to know. He saw a brief moment of shock in Madison's eyes, shock, and perhaps even rage. Whatever this knife was, and whatever relation Madison had to it, one thing was clear- it was never meant to fall into anyone else's hands.
Madison quickly regained his composure. "That dagger, it seems like a tool of the devil if I have ever seen one. Allow me to take it. I will cleanse it and dispose of it properly." Madison flashed a thin smile that seemed very forced.
"Sorry, Father, this is evidence, as you know. If this case should go before a judge, it will need to be presented. I do appreciate your concern, though."
"Don't be a fool, Leary! That blade is better off in my hands! Give me that dagger!"
For a moment Leary was sure that Madison would attempt to snatch it from him. He returned it to his waistband and allowed his thick coat to fall over it.
"Father, may I speak with your deacons and other devout members? I would like to ask them if anyone else has seen or heard anything that may help me solve this case."
Now Madison's face showed a rage that was impossible to ignore.
"NO! They are going into meditation, you may certainly not disturb them. And if you don't have any further questions, I wish for you to leave my church!"
Leary smiled thinly. In all Madison's chest pounding and saber rattling, he had given himself away. Leary knew what his next step would be. He smiled, bid Madison a pleasant evening, and left.
Leary returned home and slept well that night. He enjoyed that sense of satisfaction and accomplishment that always came when clues evolved into leads, and leads evolved into solid evidence. He wasn't sure how he was going to convince a man like Highcastle that a full warrant was justified to search a place of worship, but he would concern himself with that detail when the time came.
The next day he spent polishing the remainder of his translations in his notebook. It wasn't difficult with the aid of the little booklet that he'd taken off of the cultist. Whatever people developed this language called Dawning, they didn't use a very complex alphabet or style. The translation guide Leary ended up with wasn't perfect, but he figured that if a time ever came that the mystery language needed to be translated, it would serve.
He reviewed his notes so far. The word Tobit was found written in Dawning on Cecelia's door. Tobit was mentioned on the side of the building as well, with an English translation. He found that strange. If these people were trying to communicate secretly, why make it so simple to figure? Was it possible that someone within that group was leading Leary? Could Leary be the mule and these clues be the carrots?
He went back out and cased the bars and taverns once more. Still no sign of his young friend Wilson. Cecelia had also become a ghost. He arranged a carriage ride and returned to Cecelia's grove. It was also devoid of human life. No stone altar, no evidence of cult activity. Even that sense of being watched was gone. He examined her cottage as well. The murder scene was long cleaned up. Yet something inside Leary told him to search a bit harder. During his youth, he never ignored this feeling, and during his time as a private investigator, this sense almost always led him in the right direction.
It took some time and some delicate searching, but eventually Leary's sense turned out to be accurate. As he was opening up Cecelia's night stand, his detective's mind told him to remove the drawer completely. In doing so, he bent down and examined the interior of the night stand, the part that would have been covered had the drawer remained on its tracks. Striking a match, he peered in, and saw a small message written in Dawning. Using his notebook, he took the time to translate it into English.
"We the Faithful go Delphia soon."
There was that word again. Delphia. And we the faithful? Who are they? Something told Leary that the answer lies within Madison's church. The devout that he mentioned in their back room meetings. He was starting to feel the connections coming together in his mind.
Lost in his celebrations, he almost missed the sound of a single board creaking from the living room of the cottage. He suddenly felt that presence. He was no longer alone.
Standing slowly, Leary readied himself. The door to the bedroom began to open slowly. Leary reached to his waistband, and then cursed himself. He had locked the daggers up in his safe. He didn't want Madison to try and forcefully steal it back from him. He quickly glanced around. The room was spartan. His only hope was maybe...
The goat creature charged into the room. This one was tall and broad shouldered. It locked in on Leary and sprinted towards him. With no other instrument to defend himself, Leary reached for the only blunt object in sight, the drawer that he'd removed from the night stand. As the creature descended upon him, Leary swung the drawer in a large, looping arch, bringing it down squarely on his attacker's head. It struck the ivory white of the goat skull, causing the cultist to fall forward, causing both men to roll over the bed and land on the floor.
The goat fiend was large and powerful, but thanks to the blow to the head, his reflexes were stunned. Leary quickly rolled him over and drove his large fist into the cultist's stomach. Not wanting to allow another one to escape, Leary lifted his huge leg, fat in appearance but well-muscled from years of combing the streets on foot, and drove his massive knee into the assailant's chest. A satisfying crack was heard, as the knee had certainly at least cracked a rib or two.
Plunging his hands forward, Leary grasped the goat mask and pulled it up. It took some twisting and jerking, but Leary was determined, and the mask ended up in his hands, revealing his attacker.
It was Wilson.
"Impossible! Wilson, lad, why are you doing this?" Leary demanded.
"For Tobit... for the glory of Delphia!" Wilson gasped.
Leary lifted the injured boy to his feet and sat him on the bed.
"Were you involved the whole time? Did you know about them when we worked together?"
"Tobit knew about you. He contemplates you even now, Inspector. Do you wish to tempt him further? Do you wish to feel the heat of the Red Star?"
Leary slapped Wilson hard across the face. "Listen to me, laddie, and listen well. These people clearly got to you, but you're safe now. Tell me what you know of them, and I promise to spare you the penalty of your lawlessness."
Wilson appeared to be laughing, but Leary could read past it. The boy was crying. He jerked his head around quickly, as if to ensure they were alone. "I'm sorry. They, they came after me. Once we got back to the city. They came after me, gave me a choice. Join them or die. I... I can't go back. They've done things to me... I can't think clearly any longer. I.. I see snow, and I want to go there, to the frozen city of Delphia. They... took me into the back room of the church, they made me see things. I saw Tobit... God save me, I SAW TOBIT!"
Leary could tell that the lad was becoming frantic, and if left unchecked, he would fall into a place where he would most certainly never return. Leary did the only thing he could think to calm the boy down, he administered another slap.
"Please, Leary... stop Madison. He pretends to be a priest but he is a servant of Tobit. He has gained entrance to Delphia and is taking his devout members there. He means to have one of them commit the ritual to gain entrance. He intends to force someone to kill themselves."
"Okay, Wilson, I will stop him. I'll arrest the bastard myself. But you have to tell me, where is this Delphia, and how does he intend to go?"
"Delphia... the frozen kingdom, far to the south. The place of the Tobit's design. It's hell... hell on earth. He will go by ship, he intends to leave this very week. Please... please... oh GOD PLEASE FORGIVE ME!"
Wilson's voice continued to rise, he screamed for forgiveness, his eyes becoming distant.
"I... SAW... TOBIT!" he screamed, and suddenly produced a dagger. Leary lunged forward to disarm the boy, but his reflexes were too slow, and Wilson slashed the blade across his throat. His body went limp and fell back onto the bed. Looking up at the ceiling of the cottage, he gargled out his final words.
"The Red Star... God help me, it's fire...."
Leary returned to his office. He sent men out to recover Wilson's body and arrange for a burial. He completed his notes and began to draft a letter. There was no one else that he felt he could trust professionally. He knew Highcastle would ignore this case. Men like Highcastle didn't believe in such entities as demons and devils.
So he wrote to his brother, Jacob Leary. They were close, and even if his brother thought him mad, he knew that he would respect his wishes.
I will keep this as brief as possible. I am sending you this letter because I believe that I have stumbled upon a great conspiracy right here in our own beloved London. I have had several attempts made on my life, and if I am to investigate this situation to completion, I fear it may lead me on a long journey to which I cannot guarantee even my own safe return.
There is a cult here in London, which I believe has connections to other parts of the world. They speak of a city called Delphia, and they seem to worship a devil called Tobit. He seems to have agents everywhere, even within the church. A priest named Lance Madison is one of their members. They seem to practice brainwashing, as a young man whom I very recently called a friend attempted to take my life. Instead, he regained enough composure to share with me vital details of this church, and then he took his own life. He mentioned a burning Red Star.
He told me that this Madison figure intends to travel to Delphia this very week. I intend to arrest him, but I also cannot deny my own curiosity. If there is some city where demons are worshiped and devils are kings, I wish to see it with my own eyes. I wish to document it. If I find sufficient evidence that criminal activities are afoot in this city, I will find a way back to London and return with the Royal Navy if I must. I am going to attempt to stop Madison before he leaves London, but should I fail, I will follow him to the ends of the earth.
With this letter I am sending you my personal notes. I would advise you not to spend too much time pondering them. These cultists seem to have devised their own language over the years. They call it Dawning. I wish for you to hide this notebook somewhere. I would suggest under a street paving. Remember its location, and do all you can to ensure that it remains hidden.
Tomorrow I will go to my superior and attempt to get a lawful warrant to search Madison's church. If I am unable to convince him that Madison is a threat, I will take matters into my own hands. I will follow him to his ship and see where he goes, if that is what it takes.
You are my only confidant in this matter, Jacob. Please do not think me mad. I have discovered something very evil here, and cannot simply ignore it. 'Tis my duty to the King and the Crown. I must stop them.
With brotherly love,
Leary delivered the parcel to his brother's home that night. He shared a quick toast with him, but instructed him to only open the letter should he not return in a month. Jacob agreed, and after a month passed, he did as he was asked. He shared this tale with his own son, thus cursing the family line with the corrupt knowledge of Hyraaq Tobit.
"Our distant uncle was never seen again."
Gregory stood and stretched his arms. Trevor joined in. They had been sitting for what seemed an eternity.
"But wait, Gregory, how do you know all of this? I mean, if this Brandon Leary only left a short letter for his brother, how do you know all the details?"
"Jacob Leary was able to obtain his brother's notes. As his only surviving relative, he inherited all of Brandon's possessions, including his safe."
Trevor sat quietly as Gregory stood and walked over to a framed picture. He moved the picture and pushed about on the wall until a soft spot was found. Removing his pocket knife, Gregory cut a small square into the wall and removed the wallpaper. Using his knife to pry back the loose board, Trevor sat in awe as Gregory revealed a hidden compartment. Within that compartment was a safe.
Gregory spun the dial and opened the safe.
"Brandon Leary's case files. His brother was able to study these notes and assemble most of the story. I suppose some of it may be speculation, but after seeing the goat man myself, I am more apt to believe every word of the story."
Gregory placed the case files on the table in front of Trevor, followed by several ritual daggers, just as described in the story.
"These... are real..." Trevor said, shock clear in his voice.
"My brother, I fear that you will soon realize that it is all real, and now that I have told you this, shared these details with you, I fear you will soon start to see the goat fiend."
"So... why tell me at all?" Trevor asked.
"I've wanted to tell you for years, brother. Our father, his last wish was that I keep these secrets from you. I wanted so badly to honor that wish. But... I needed you. When they started working on the streets, I knew it was only a matter of time before Brandon Leary's journal was found. Once that happened, those scientists, that think tank in America, they would get their hands on it. They believe that it is connected to the journal found in Eastern Europe, the one everyone is calling the Triassic Journal. If it is connected...."
"It is written in Dawning..." Trevor finished.
"Yes, and if it is Dawning, that means it is connected to Tobit. Tobit's cult seems to fuel itself on knowledge. The more one learns, the more exposure and influence Tobit gains over that person's life. And if this think tank should broadcast their findings on national television..."
"Then Tobit would become that much more powerful," Trevor added.
"Trevor, I had you call the woman, Clair, because, well, because I wanted to bring you in. I just... I just didn't know how to do it. I realized, though, that by using you, using your position and politics, that I was a hypocrite. I wasn't protecting you, I was just... using you and keeping you in the dark. Please brother, please forgive me."
"Gregory, you should have told me from the start. I always knew something was strange about our family. Father kept so many secrets. I do forgive you, though. You were trying to balance being a big brother and honoring father's wishes with carrying on this... mission. What were you supposed to do? This deal never was fair to any one of us."
"So, do you believe me, Trevor? I must admit, when father first told me this very story, I thought he was joking. I kept expecting him to..."
Trevor cut him off. "I do believe you, brother. You have never lied to me before. I will take you on faith alone. Should this be a prank, then I certainly award you for creativity."
A week later, Trevor Leary saw the goat headed cultist for the first time. He wasn't afraid. He was almost relieved.
He told Gregory, who simply nodded. He advised Trevor in a very different manner than his father had advised him.
"It's dangerous. It can do strange tricks. But it is also vulnerable. I struck it with a lead pipe years ago, and as the story of Brandon Leary states, it is capable of being attacked directly. But beware of it just the same. I provoked it once, and that was the night father was found murdered."
The next night, Gregory and Trevor Leary watched the national news. On the screen, written in big, bold text was,
MYSTERY OF TRIASSIC JOURNAL SOLVED, SCIENTISTS TO REVEAL CONTENT LIVE TONIGHT
Both brothers watched as the lovely Clair Nobles stood behind the podium and began to tell the story of the day the sky bled, of the Primes and the first cult of Tobit.
"This is very bad, Gregory... very bad indeed...."
"What are we to do?" Trevor asked.
"Get your passport ready Trevor, it would appear that we are going to America."
Written by K. Banning Kellum
Published February 26th, 2015