The Shadow Over Blendings
by H. P. G. Wodecraft
1. Some title or other
Lightning had hit the Backtorn Asylum with the viciousness and painful accuracy of an irritable granny poking some impudent youth with her umbrella. With the electric system out of commission, the healthier and more agitated inmates were empowered to perform entertaining and irreversible atrocities on the person of Sir Duldown, the renowned nerve specialist. The competent authorities were having the dickens of a time restoring a semblance of order (or whatever passed for such in this place of evil) and any bookie would have given you liberal odds in favor of the mutiny.
Comfortably restrained within the confines of the cellar ward, the Oldest Inmate rested his head on the mildewed wall of his padded cell. Incoherent screams were seeping through the rotten ceiling like foetid water and he welcomed them with the indulgent reprobation a retired veteran. In the cell next to him he could hear whimpering from Inmate 99087. The Oldest Inmate took that as his cue.
-Quite the little dust up they’re having tonight. This reminds me of the story of Maggie, Gunilla, Lord Emsward and poor young Woofington.
In the adjoining cell, the whimpering intensified.
-Romuald Woofington was commited to this fine institution the year Crayzee Hoarse won the Great Sanity Handicap at one hundred to eight. You never met Woofington of course. That was before your time. But if you will allow me I shall now recount his tale.
In the adjoining cell, the whimpering turned to screams of helpless panic.
It all started (said the Oldest Inmate) when Woofington visited his aunt Maggie at her flat in uptown Weisseria. Speaking of this woman, you may have heard of her. She currently publishes Minerva's Boudoir, a libertarian periodical demystifying various aspects of sorcerous arts. In her younger days she earned a meagre stipend toiling as a librarian for the Quiescent Athenaeum, at the Royal College of Higher Memorization. There was a scandal when some of the documents entrusted to her care developed behaviors unbecoming of an academic curriculum. The details are speculative, but there was much whispering about little bundles of books left anonymously at the doorsteps of some libraries.
At the time of the present story, she was self-employed as an unregistered goddess. She earned twenty-three times her previous income by providing various esoteric services for consideration. Thaumaturges with the necessary expendable income appreciated the convenience of these unorthodox arrangements, while respectable prophets could furtively perform miracles that their proper divinities would frown upon.
Maggie greeted her nephew in her reading room, reclining on the couch. I couldn't swear offhand that she was eating grapes, but I rather imagine that she was. Priceless tomes of forbidden knowledge were strewn about the floor like discarded pieces of undergarment. This is not just a metaphor; fancy words are the lingerie of the mind and she used both with equal efficiency, her wonders to perform. After the usual pleasantries, she got to the point and their conversation was something like this:
-One of my patrons has been praying to me for a specific artifact of untold evil. He’s after the Perfectly Foul Idol of Moow. Why any self-respecting guru would pay good money for such a ludicrous object of worship is anybody's guess. Nevertheless, it is worth a fortune and you, my woolly little shoggoth, are going to procure it for your auntie.
Woofington was always happy to oblige the revered relative, but in the circumstances he had to point out that he lacked the skills required for the prying of loathsome idols from the clutches of bloodthirsty cultists.
-Ah, but it so happens that the object is currently in the possession of your uncle, Lord Emsward at Blendings Castle. I am told that he acquired it recently for his collection of antique paraphernalia of the macabre.
-Need I remind you that Lord Emsward is himself in the possession of my aunt Gunilla? She is Hell’s gift to the mortal realm, making the air at Blendings unbreathable for men and fish. Raiding a fortified temple of doom would be risky enough, but I doubt that even a horde of freebooting moon-beasts would dare to make incursions in the lair of my aunt Gunilla.
-A bumbling idiot such as yourself will succeed where a horde of freebooting moon-beasts would meet certain doom. The family is having their ghastly Festival again this year. Seeing as I am the scarlet goat of the family, my presence would probably cause the Castle so sink into a dimension of pure chaos and we would never hear the end of it. Your company, however, will be reluctantly accepted if not actually enjoyed. Once on the premise it will be a simple matter, even for someone of your limited intellect, to perform this little skulduggery. No one could ever suspect you of having any motives at all, least of all ulterior ones.
Woofington replied with an unwavering nolle prosequi. Maggie's laugh came out like a congerie of irridescent bubbles. Wise men have been known to lose all semblance of rational thinking when hearing that laugh, and no one ever accused *** of being wise.
2. Aunting Ground
And so it came to pass that Romuald Woofington found himself at Blendings Castle, as eldritch a crib as ever loomed over an ocean bluff.
Some paragraph or other here.
Since he fell under the spell of Aunt Gunilla, the Lord's resemblance to a crumbling stone gargoyle had become sharply accentuated. He could have perched himself on the ruins of any desecrated church, and no questions asked. The light that shone in his eyes while discussing his collection was a sad reminder of the vitality that once animated the aged relative.
Some paragraph or other here.
-This is the ceremonial wooden spoon of G'ing that was used by the high priest to feed the lies to the aspiring novices. And there you have the Perfectly Foul Idol of Moow, the silvery chao, dispenser of the sweet milk of discord to the mind of the cattle people (as the story goes).
The avatar gleamed in the candle light. It looked like a small scale model of a large torture instrument. Romuald wondered what wretched religion would use such an object as their symbol of faith. Inspection revealed that the design was clearly a bovine equivalent of Moloch. It was hollow with a hinged door on the back, no doubt so that sacrificial children could be inserted inside and roasted alive. Its demented mouth was open to let out the noxious smokes that would result from this operation. The tail curled back in a loop upon its spine, but the significance of this detail eluded Woofington.
Back in his room, our stalwart adventurer was conferring with his familiar.
-Well, this is a pretty rummy state of affairs. During the Festival ceremony, Uncle Emsward’s collection will be unguarded and free for the looting. Unfortunately, I cannot leave the proceedings without raising Aunt Gunilla’s suspiscion. Now I would like to borrow a page from the Mi-go and pick your brains.
-I would suggest that we conceive of a distraction that will temporarily neutralize the congregation while you attempt to effect the burglary.
- Of course! I will summon one of the demons that Azgaroth Dzerzhinsky discusses in his recent monograph. I will summon this spirit so as to trap it into this cigarette case and release it at an opportune juncture during the revelry.
-I would not advocate this course of action, sir. It is common wisdom that these entities should not be summoned for any reason whatsoever. You would be doing so at great peril to your immortal soul.
-Nonsense I've had run-ins with similar minions in the past. The trick is not to use you real name.
-Very good, sir.
-Now, let’s see about the pentacle…
-Perhaps this candle a quarter of an inch to the left, sir. One aims for the casual cosmic harmony that will prevent embarrassment.
3. A Faith Worse than Death.
Members of the extended family, as well as local nibs were assembled for the Festival of the Seaweedish cult. Every abnormalities of the mind and body were on display, forming a smorgasbord of symptoms with a place of honor for ichtyosis. The keynote address of the Festival took place in the five-sided state room of the Castle. Bookshelves around the room were uniformly filled with seemingly identical volumes. The captive books sat dejectedly, keeping as still as possible to avoid attracting the attention of their captor. Against the far wall, towered the monstrous Seaweed Gate, an original piece from the insane sculptor Abdul Rodeen. On the door panel oysterboys were chattering on the tides, herding the subhumans through the undercurrents of non-euclidian postulates. The Thoughtless sat atop the gate, contemplating destruction. Sustained examination of the artwork was unbearable, and Woofington was eventually forced to set eyes on his aunt Gunilla.
The general appearance of the relative put the observer in mind of a constipated newt afflicted by a glandular disorder. She wore a mannish suit black suit over a white shirt, the oversized collar of which limped like the pectoral fins of a drunken manta ray. Such as it was, this accoutrement nevertheless had the advantage of attenuating the more revolting aspects of her silhouette. Judging by her salt-and-pepper head you might suppose that some unfortunate skunk had been turned into a prosthetic coiffure by an unskilled hairdresser. Fortunately for the local mephitidaes, the pristine ugliness of her biological form had always been untainted by artifices. Her only concession to physical improvement were a powerful set of horn-rimmed glasses. Her eyes, already verging on the bulbous, were magnified to unsettling proportions by the instrument.
-Welcome, my dear friends and family. First of all, let me thank all of those who contributed generously to the fundraiser for our Close The Books shelter. Books are good and wholesome. But they have to be proper books, written according to the proper rituals laid down by the true gods and under the guidance of those Who Know. Sadly, there are those who have been led, through circumstances or by unscrupulous publishers, onto a path of destructive writing. Ensnared by the lure of profit or the illusion of entertainment, these unfortunate souls align words without purpose or reason. To the fortunate ones we manage to rescue, we offer rehabilitation and a bright new future working in our pulp mills and printing factories.
Aunt Gunilla droned on, each word like the footsteps of a Thing emerging from its swamp. The audience was getting properly dazed. With all the casual grace at his command, Woofington pulled the cigarette case out of his pocket and opened it with a nonchalant flick of the thumb. The bloated demon appeared in a blinding puff of blue fabric and shiny buckles. Its tiny mustache bristled furiously.
-What's all this, then?
The last thing Woofington remembered was the doors being kick-in and the crowd being swathed by these blue demons. Woofington did not recollect how he came to be interned here, and he did not stay very long. One day people simply stopped talking about him. None of the people present at Blending’s Castle were ever seen again. To be more accurate, they have not been seen… well, ever. But it is rumored that the authorities seized a 17th century silver cow creamer under the laws of asset forfeiture.