A mysterious note, an invite to the wedding of the year, lines of foreboding poetry – each of our heroes have received such a note, inviting them to the ominously innocent Paradise Estate.
The night is one of eager anticipation for many of those invited, with Anna, Arthur and Charles all dressing for the occasion (albeit with Arthur’s other Ghouls left to maintain the residency in their absence). All that is, except Flannan, who has had quite enough of eerie invitations. His note is chucked straight into the fireplace, and he awaits the so-called threat that awaits his absence.
Charles and Sir Bennett gallop off into the distance, with Mickey and Minnie in tow. Following his directions, Charles is sent to the far east of Peridus, over hill’n’dale before reaching an ascent to Peridus’ steeper shores. En route Sir Bennett is overtaken by an Austenesque Black Stallion, who, as Charles attempts to listen in to it and its rider, hears nothing but he can only assume are gruff horse expletives. With a chop-chop and tally-ho, Charles and Sir Bennett track the equine menace in hot pursuit.
In the following hours, Flannan checks around his usual contacts on the streets of Peridus. They generally seem in good business and on the up despite recent chaos, though many are complaining of threats from a gang of young, polemic, pale thugs – hence they opt to their advice to stay indoors (and away from someone called ‘Patrick’). With everything else in check, Flannan heads home.
Not long after this, he gets a nasty thud on the door from someone he wishes he didn’t recognise – one Primogen Jane Westfield, demanding he come outside and talk to her. Unperturbed, he starts to make his exit out back and through the neighbourhood, but Jane is quickly on his heels as she thwacks the hinges off his door and marches after him. Sweeping him up in a bear grip, she carries him back to her car, searches and disarms him before tying him to the backseat with copious amounts of sailing rope. They drive off into the darkness…
In other motoring adventures, Arthur and Anna take the stylish route to the Paradise Estate detailed on their invite… or maybe that should be monitoring their fair city for devastation. As they drive through the evening streets, a rabble of angry Carthians rush past, one sidling up to Arthur’s window. Rolling down the window, Arthur gets an earful from them, as they tell him to stay away from Patrick. Arthur, in proper Invictus style, makes light of their threats and sends them on their way without them suspecting a thing. Their route to the Paradise Estate is henceforth a swift and efficient one.
Primogen Westfield’s car pulls up to a deserted beach on the very edge of Peridus. Flannan sees a tall, dark silhouette in the distance, one that smells and… feels daunting. Once untied, Flannan is asked by Jane for assistance in a mission with her and the mysterious gentleman which will utilize his contacts and be worth his time beyond measure. As Flannan continues to refuse her polite requests, Jane decides to let her gun do the talking. Unphased by being put at gunpoint, Flannan simply strolls back past the car and up to the cliff away from the beach, fed up of the pretence of the occasion. As he runs past Jane’s attempted glancing shots, he notices the sky blacken above him. Jane is protesting, insisting to “Robert” that he “shouldn’t have to get involved in this!” But he’s simply too polite to refuse a chance at cooperation, and uses his alternative form – a 6’ Tarantula – to block Flannan’s path up the cliff!
On Charles’ arrival at Paradise Estate, he finds a sprawling classical complex, complete with covered oil lamps for mood lighting, a grand gravel driveway, pristine foliage and a huge Cathedral-esque replica mansion in which glorious proceedings can be held. There are two pairs of stables at either side of its towering doors; on the far right-hand side the Black Stallion broods, its owner most likely inside. Dismounting Sir Bennett and parking him in a left-hand stable, Charles marches gallantly inside, ready to greet the lucky lady to her marvelous ceremony.
Charles cheers gaily down the huge geometric entrance hallway, to which four eerie Treble voices reply:
“He sounds Rich!”
“He sounds Lonely.”
“He sounds Powerful…”
“He sounds… Thirsty!”
Charles heads with some caution to the closest of the four voices, which resides in an antechamber to his left. The small space is littered with torn fabric, the floor strewn with empty boxes. Among them is a crouched man, staring at Charles expectantly with a wild glare. He introduces himself quickly as Irvin, and reveals many-a ring (eight, in fact) which lighten his otherwise rotting fingers. Twitching, he inquires if Charles knows of any guests joining him, and if they are female – quickly, his requests turns to if an Arthur is joining him, with his ghouls. Charles replies that he is unsure of Arthur’s whereabouts, but says he would presume his ghouls would follow him in tow if they were invited. Irvin, with a grin, then asks Charles if he knows of Arthur’s nightmares. As Charles says no, Irvin decides to help him – Boom! – and suddenly Charles is stricken with a furious drone of comatose, torpor-induced nightmares. His head spins with the torture, and Irvin insists that it will stop in Charles moves outside with him, towards the sound of crunching gravel. In desperate agony from the sensations and visions of impending doom, Charles agrees…
Faced with the prospect of the Primogen or a spider, Flannan decides to take his chances with a stranger and darts past Robert, nearly giving him the slip but being caught after Robert’s rusty reactions kick in. The tussle is a close one – the Tarantula resorts to pinning Flanna down and summoning Westfield’s help, even injecting venom for good measure. Even as the Primogen shoots the ground beneath Flannan’s feet, sending he and the monster into free fall, he is able to spit the venom back into the foul beast’s face and wrench free from its grip shortly before being consumed in a plume of dust and rubble.
Arthur and Anna pull up outside the imposing Estate, sword and shotgun in hand as provision. They are greeted not by the usual disdainful foe but by Charles, who looks somewhat dazed. Though unsettled by his appearance, Arthur can’t help but be a little amused, making it clear to Charles that he has outdone his own persona. When Charles starts mentioning nightmares unsettlingly close to home, however, Arthur acts. Using his own mind, he wrestles in Charles’ head, revealing Irvin skulking behind him.
“You look… Rich!”
And with that Irvin has summoned his three counterparts:
“She looks in need of company,” adds Louis quaintly.
“They look strong,” adds Damon, bringing up the rear.
“Where are our other wives? I’m hungry!” demands Graham, with Charlotte revealing herself next to him. To Arthur’s disgust, it has been her plan to invite all of his house-guests here so they can be happily wed and his household enriched – albeit using the one invite (not many printing presses are open after dark…). When it becomes clear that, No, Arthur does not bring any of his ghouls with him on such occasions, the four men start leering at Anna. It’s not long before the two parties are locked in a grapple! As chaos ensues, Charlotte’s last henchman attempts to be the element of surprise: with supreme celerity, Damon accelerates towards Anna at a force of knots, ready to unleash his animal unto her. Unfortunately for him, a number of battles have readied Anna against the rusty romantic, and she whips out her shotgun and blasts the first of her one-hundred and eighty bullets into his chest. The speed of Damon’s celerity rebounds on him, sending him rocketing to the back of the grand building from whence he came. Charlotte, to everyone’s surprise, turns into an owl, as does Graham, and the pair fly at Arthur and Anna, pecking them relentlessly. Despite the frustration that comes with their swooping attacks, here comes an opportunity for some verbal revenge…“Shouldn’t you just accept that nobody loves you?” Anna spits with relish. “You’ve gathered all of these husbands here for other people, and yet none of them are interested in you. God, I wonder why…!” Charlotte bites her lip harshly; Anna’s speech hits home harder than a bullet… of which she has many. In a stupid act of chivalrous defence, Graham the Owl swoops down to comfort Charlotte, shouting “I still care about yooooouuu” in disjointed owlish. Tackling her to the floor in the process, Graham realises his blood addiction is kicking in and the two become locked in a desperate, disturbingly sudo-erotic grapple, henceforth making Graham known as, Graham, The Randy Owl.
Free of his hypnotic state, and seeing the battle beginning to unfold before him, Charles decides to use a second of distraction to steal into the Paradise Estate and ready his offence. Sir Bennett cunningly shelters behind the statue, while his master crouches with equal cunning under the pews. The statue seems to be giving off strange vibes for Sir Bennett, but he puts it down to the adrenaline of the moment. While in his hiding place, Charles attempts Theban Sorcery – though he writes the note perfectly, he realises his foes are outside and therefore out of reach for his amateur attempt. Shrugging off the rookie error, Charles checks the coast is clear then summons Sir Bennett for a gallant return to the field of battle!
Locked in battle, Anna and Arthur fend off a pair of pecking owls in the form of Charlotte and Graham, while dealing with the ever-persistent Louis. After a considerable amount of fighting passes, Damon manages to make it back into the fray—only to see the nozzle end of Anna’s gun. Again! The shot sends the two owls into frenzy – Charlotte choosing flight and diving under Arthur’s shirt, digging in deep; Graham falling victim to fight, and more worringly, his underlying thirst for blood. Sensing the need for action, Arthur spots a furious Damon charging towards Anna and gets him locked in a hypnotic gaze – he will not hurt Anna, but help her! Under Arthur’s dominate, Damon gathers a few torches from the Estate for Anna to light, then leaps off into the night, not to be seen again…
Anna lights the torch and sends it in Louis’ direction, causing him to play fetch to put it out. As he attempts to escape, Charles orders Mickey and Minnie up the trouser legs of Louis – despite their best efforts, he kicks them out before they are able to bite his chivalrous underparts. A good stomp from Sir Bennett, however, sends Louis prone, and straight in the firing line of an angry raging randy owl-form Graham, whose thirst for blood gets the better of him. For the second time this night, the owl of mischief is sent into a sprall as he and Louis are locked in a dance of blood and biting. Arthur attempts to plung his sword into the duo, but delivers too much force and gets his sword caught in the ground. Never mind… he just needs to gather enough strength to pull it back out…!
Galloping back, Charles locks the fickle Irvin in his sights, and decides that enough is enough for the mind-warping scoundrel. Prone on the floor, the pirate does his best to claw away at Sir Bennet’s hooves, but duels with Serpents have taught a thing or two about accuracy! Hooves crush into Irvin’s face, shattering pretty boy into pieces of eight. Triumphant, Charles turns his steed towards Charlotte’s velvet beast and commands him to join them. Charlotte’s horse agrees, running alongside them. Sensing them behind, Anna readies herself and swings onto the horses back, firing her shotgun straight into Graham’s wing as she lands (hoping that each of her subsequent 177 bullets fire that damn well). Graham shudders to the floor, struggling to hold his animal form. Soon our three combatants have him pinned to the floor, moaning.
In true Arthurian style, the Bexley blade is unsheathed from the ground beneath. Despite their best efforts, nobody has been able to tear an evasive Graham away from his fix, until the Torpored corpse comes within a sword-length of a fed-up Invictus; a mighty swing of his blade, Arthur reclaims his pride and lets Louis’ head roll into the muddied lawn.
Blood feast gone, Graham makes a flap for it; Charles captures the escaping pest with his lasso, threatening his life for his ridiculous deeds. In a flurry of compassion, Charlotte remanifests into her Kindred form and erupts from Arthur’s shirt, showering button confetti over an audience of raving animals. Caught in Charles’ lasso, Graham relents and becomes Graham, The Randy Sword-wielding No-Longer Owl, face planting to the ground as gravity gives him what for.
With the physical tussle decided, the moral tussle begins. With Damon vanished for the time being, and Louis and Irvin dead, it surely leaves Graham to be finished off to make this a night to remember. Charlotte, however, is having none of it, and stubbornly protests that she will never allow anyone harm the poor gentleman any further – it was her that drew him into this mess after all… Arthur does his best to console the adolescent-spirited grump, eventually relenting to her staying in her own apartment away from nasty Primogen mum with things settle in her mind. Charlotte runs from the scene of her devastation, bitterly vowing never to return should she ever find Graham dead by their hand.
With the night coming to an end, Charles, Anna and Arthur gather themselves, before setting off for the comforting chill of their own homes. Arthur sweeps the indefinable Graham back to his residency, via Primogen Westfield’s door to leave a note regarding her absolutely-not-insufferable daughter. As he does so, he posts a note to her using Charles’ a commandeered parchment and pen. Anna gets a strong sense of déjà vu, and on comparison the note Arthur was left by a stranger was left on the same parchment – and now she looks closer, their handwriting seems unusually similar to his. Could it be… that he wrote it himself? Anna and Charles laugh at the prospect of Arthur’s imaginary friend, much to his tutting, as the three ride to shelter before the sunrise.
As sunlight returns, Robert and Primogen Westfield shelter in the dunes deep under Periods beach with Flannan in tow – Robert’s personal catacombs. Flannan was knocked out by a terrible shock as he landed, but as he awakes he hears the pair and a third woman in conversation.
“I’m so sorry about that,” Primogen Westfield sighs. “I imagine you’ve had enough drama as it is.”
“Not to worry,” replies an unfamiliar voice. “It was good to stretch my muscles after so long, I must confess.”
“We like to help out,” Robert agrees. “All makes the unending journey less of a burden.”
“That’s what I enjoyed about coming out of limbo and into a time like this,” adds the voice. “To have one hundred and forty years pass you by…”
“It doesn’t happen to often for us!” Robert interjects merrily.
“Exactly. It’s like time travel, but… forwards.”