Cerdic followed the strange man. It seemed like he really had no other choice in the matter. After a while, that strange dog appeared again and started following behind them.
“Umm, excuse me, sir. That dog thing is back again.”
“What?” The strange man turned around and looked at the semi-transparent dog then stopped walking. “Hmm…that’s odd. He shouldn’t be this far from the church.” The man held his hand out. “Here church grim, here boy.”
The dog smelled the strange man’s hand and nuzzled it. “Yes, church grim.” The man straightened up and continued walking. “They are supposed to be tied to their church to protect and never leave it. It’s old mythology, but it’s mostly true. Along with quite a few other myths. More of them started reappearing about four hundred years ago. One theory is that wherever they were up until now was destroyed and they are bleeding through to earth to save themselves. I personally don’t believe that. I think they were here all along, hidden, but we started to expand more into their territory, revealing more of them.”
Cerdic picked up the dog to carry it. It was about the size of a rottweiler, but it wasn’t very heavy. “So, if he’s not bound to the church what is he bound to?”
The strange man turned into an alley. “Not sure. My guess would be you, but I don’t know.” He went to a door and typed in a code on the keypad next to it. “We used to have people sitting here waiting for a secret knock before unlocking the door. Just recently got more modern with our security.” He opened the door and went through. “Come on.”
Cerdic hesitated for a moment. The building looked like it should have been condemned from the outside. The walls were cracked and crumbling and it appeared that the roof had caved in at some point, taking out the second and third floors.
Walking into the building was like entering another world. The exterior looked like an old, abandoned building, but inside it looked new. The walls had no cracks in them, and the ceiling and floor were in perfect condition, but there didn’t appear to be a second floor. This floor was completely open except for a lift in the center. The shaft didn’t extend above the top of the lift, leaving Cerdic to assume that it only went down.
The strange man smiled at Cerdic. “Like the view? I know, our architect really outdid himself with this place.”
“Yeah, I guess so.”
“Shut the door behind you, please.”
“Sorry.” Cerdic shut the door, which immediately locked. He checked the door handle, and when he turned it the door unlocked. He opened and closed the door so it relocked. “Nice.”
“Yes, I’m not holding you prisoner. Oh, by the way, I’m Eric. Eric Clark.” He extended his hand to shake.
“Uh, Cerdic McNiall.” Cerdic shook Eric’s hand. “So, what are we doing here?
“I’m going to introduce you to The Guardians of Humanity. The local guys aren’t actually the council, they just keep things running smoothly here. The council currently resides in Oregon in the United States.” Eric moved towards the lift.
“You say that like it explains something.” Cerdic followed him, certain that if he didn’t he would be ‘introduced’ forcefully later.
Eric entered the lift and waited for Cerdic and the church grim before pressing the only lit button on the panel. “Well, it would if you had heard about them before. That’s why I need to introduce you to them.”
The lift slowly descended into the depths of the basement. The elevator music that played was familiar, in the vague way that all elevator music is familiar.
The elevator seemed to be going on for longer than a single floor before Cerdic finally spoke up. “So,” Cerdic set the church grim down, “what exactly are these Guardians of Humanity you mentioned?”
“Oh, the name suggests a little, doesn’t it?”
“Yes, but not much. What are they guarding humanity against, and who are they?”
Eric sighed and faced away from Cerdic, his hands clasped behind his back. “In order to answer those questions, you need to suspend your disbelief.” He turned back to Cerdic. “Can you do that for me?”
– – –
[The year is 1618. The Guardians of Humanity is down to three members. They are nobles, but they find that their duties as guardians are second to their duties as nobles. Something that was about to change.]
“My lord, you have a meeting today. It’s the one you don’t allow me to attend.” A manservant addressed his employer. “Do you wish me to contact someone to cancel it, or cancel your dinner plans.”
Lord Mark Clark set his silverware down. “Please give my apologies to whoever I made dinner plans with tonight. I had a prior engagement I had forgotten about, and it cannot be changed.” He paused for a moment. “Who was I meeting with?”
“Just a local farmer. He wanted to talk to you about something related to his field. You invited him to dinner.” The manservant read out of a small appointment book.
“Ah, please reschedule for tomorrow. I believe that is clear?”
“Yes. I shall inform him at once.”
“Thank you. The business he has is important, I just have another appointment at lunch as well.”
“Shall I write that one in as well, sir?”
“Please, it is with Lord Velius.” Mark finished his breakfast and went to his study.
He sat down in his chair and grabbed his grimoire. He flipped through it until he found a long-distance spell. He muttered a few words and made a motion with his hand. In front of him, he saw a vision of a pale man superimposed on his study.
“Ah, Mark. You wish to speak?”
“Yes, Octvaianus. I wanted to speak to you about some strange events. I think we might need to reactivate the other nine members. Can we meet for lunch?”
“Yes, we can. I will be there around high noon. Is that acceptable?”
“That would be fine. Please remember to feed yourself before the meeting. I have not yet replaced my dog.”
“Sorry, I just thought you would prefer I not kill one of your servants. I was rather thirsty.”
“Yes, yes. I just don’t want another incident.”
– – –
[The previous day, in the farmer’s field.]
“Lord Clark. I am surprised you answered me so quickly.” The farmer motioned towards the end of his pasture. “My hand was found here…well, most of him was.”
Mark paused at the mention of most of him. “Where was the rest, then?”
“That’s the thing. I need to show you to explain it. That’s why I asked you out here, m’lord.” The farmer glanced at the book in Mark’s hand. “May I ask, what is that book you have with you?”
“Notes, I need to take notes of this thing you are speaking of.”
The farmer nodded and continued leading Mark forward.
Mark saw the corpse from a ways off and thought it looked a little thin. “Is your man particularly small?”
“No, actually. He was rather big. Let’s get closer so you can see what happened.”
When they approached the body Mark realized what he was seeing. “Oh, he certainly seems, uh, thinner now.” Mark had to fight hard to keep his bile down.
On the ground was a sack of skin that used to be a body. It appeared as if every piece of bone and cartilage was gone from its body.
“M’lord, do you know what may have caused this?”
Mark lifted his grimoire up and searched through it for a moment. He considered wiping the man’s memory and dealing with the body, but realized if word of this had reached him then it had spread far and wide. “Let me see. This seems to be the work of a Furantur Ossa. That’s Latin for steal bones. It’s a creature that can steal the bones of a victim through a hole in the foot about a half-inch wide. Is there a hole in one of his feet?”
The farmer looked pale. “Uh, there might be.” He picked up a stick and turned one of the feet over. “Not on this one…I’ll check the other I guess.” He turned over that foot and saw a small hole in it, about a half-inch wide. “Yes, he does.” The farmer turned to Mark. “M’lord, what does this mean?”
“To you, it means nothing other than your man is dead, and for that I am sorry. To me, it means that I have some people to talk to.” Mark turned to leave and then turned back to the man. “I will arrange for the body to be dealt with in whatever way the family prefers.” He handed the farmer a few coins. “This should cover just about any cost. The extra is a gift from me, and I will know if it doesn’t all flow into the correct hands.”
– – –
Cerdic interrupted the story. “So, they protect us from the supernatural, and your ancestor was a Lord and a warlock? And Octavianus was a vampire?”
“Not was, is. Octavianus is still a vampire, and very much alive…around?” Eric grasped for the right word. “Well, he’s still here anyway. He’s in Oregon of course. He’s part of the council.”
“I’ve never heard of this Furantur Ossa before.”
“Yes, it’s not very well known. It feeds off of skeletons and lives in the forest, usually. If I had finished my story you would have found that someone had found it and thought it was cute and it fed a few more times before it was found and dealt with. It was left in a forest in South America. It’s probably dead now though.” The lift reached the end of its trip and the doors opened. “Anyway, you are going to meet with the council.”
“I thought you said they weren’t here in England.”
“They aren’t in England…but now, neither are we.” The lift doors opened, revealing a hallway with windows on either side. It looked to be early morning. “Don’t worry about your passport or visa. You won’t be in America for long.”