In the early evening of Wednesday 14th March, 1894 there was a knock at Penelope Hancock‘s door. When she answered, she discovered it was Dr. William Wynn Westcott, one of the founders of The Golden Dawn’s Isis-Urania temple. He needed to speak with Penelope on an urgent matter.
He handed Penelope a letter from a Mr. Jacob Black, informing her that unfortunately he himself was not able to help Black, however he felt that Penelope and her colleagues may have been in the position to offer him their assistance.
Once she had read the letter, Westcott informed Penelope that he had taken the liberty of sending Black a telegram explaining that his associates would meet Black at the Railway Hotel at 7pm on the evening of 15th March. Westcott knew little of the curse mentioned in the letter other than it dated back several hundred years and that Black was a solicitor based in Matlock in Derbyshire.
The following evening, Penelope was accompanied by Captain Isaac Fleming (Ret.), Dr. Arthur Dogget and Jonathan Asbatch to the Railway Hotel, which was an imposing stone building, its facade covered with a thin layer of grimy soot from the locomotives nearby. The doorman held the double doors open for the investigators and they entered.
The lobby was plushly furnished, with leather armchairs and plants filling the space. In one corner, two elderly gentlemen warmed themselves against a log fire. At the reception desk, Black had left a message for the investigators informing them that he was dining in the hotel’s restaurant and that they could join him there. One of the porters soon appeared and lead them to the first floor dining room.
The restaurant was as plush as the lobby, with much brass and silverware. It was mostly empty, and the porter led them to Black’s table. Black stood up and shook each of the investigators by their hand.
Before starting his story, Black asked if any of the investigators had eaten and he passed them the menu that he had been studying, informing them that it is quite awkward to sit eating whilst people are watching him.
Black explained that his family had a long and proud history that could be traced back to the time of the Norman invasion of 1066. His family had always lived in the Midlands, around Derbyshire. One famous incident, which his family has always regarded with bemused pride, was a curse that was placed on the family in 1584. The curse was placed by Black Annie, a witch sentenced to death by Sir Edward Black, the squire of the parish. The fearful witch had lived in the deeps of a nearby forest known as Wisels Wood prior to her arrest and execution.
Black knew the curse by heart. ‘And ye shall suffer the curse of Black Annie: blood shall flow and the dead shall walk and ye shall be the last of the line’. Sir Edward Black casually dismissed the curse, but two weeks later the Black home, Wisels Wood Manor, burnt to the ground, killing most of the servants and Sir Edward with it.
But the Blacks survived. One of Sir Edward’s sons was abroad, and through him the line continued. Over the years the line has lost much of its prestige, but Jacob considered himself to be a solid pillar of the community and had an influential voice in local affairs.
Black had never given the curse anything more than idle thought, but things had changed recently. Three weeks earlier he had a strange dream – he ‘saw’ the courtroom in which Annie was sentenced. As sentence was passed, Annie’s face screwed up in anger and she spat her curse. Then, he awoke to find himself in an unfamiliar bed. Smoke billowed under a door he didn’t recognise, and flames licked around the windows. Leaping out of bed, Black ran to the window, opened it and braving the flames, leapt out. He woke again – that time for real.
Then two weeks previously his wife miscarried. Five days earlier, he found blood seeping from the walls. The following morning he received news that his father’s brother had been thrown from his horse and had died. The maid had complained of seeing ghosts, and the dog had vanished. Milk was going sour, food was rotting overnight and two days before he met with the investigators an inverted pentagram was carved on a door.
The whole affair was upsetting his wife and Black wanted it stopped. He had heard rumours of the Golden Dawn and required help, he was willing to pay a nominal fee to the Golden Dawn as well as the investigators’ expenses. Unfortunately he only had sleeping quarters for three: a single room and a twin, however, he could arrange for any others to stay at a nearby hotel. He explained that while the investigators would be solving his problem, hi wife had moved to Derby to stay with her mother.
Black requested that the investigators start immediately, and had purchased tickets for them for the following day’s midday train from Euston with a change at Birmingham, announcing that he was catching an earlier train and that he would meet them at Matlock Station at a little after 4pm.
The following day, the investigators caught the midday train from Euston and travelled up to Matlock, having to change trains at Birmingham New Street along the way. True to his word, Jacob Black was waiting for them when they reached Matlock, having hired a cab.
Upon reaching Black’s home, it was decided that both Penelope and Jonathan would stay there that night, with both Arthur and Isaac staying at the nearby Crown Hotel. Both bedrooms had huge, well aired beds, with large wardrobes and chests of drawers that were more than adequate for the needs of the investigators. Both rooms were warm and inviting, with a fire crackling in the hearth and curiously an apple resting on the mantelpiece in each room.
After a hearty meal served by Josephine, who acted as both maid and cook to the Blacks, Jacob Black took the investigators on a tour of the house.
The house was a large property standing in almost a quarter of an acre of tended garden, which Black explained was looked after by a man once per week. The house was relatively new, being just built some twenty years previously and inside it was expensively decorated, ’Victoria’s influence’ according to Black, featuring well-polished furniture, oil paintings of local scenery and expensive rugs.
Black pointed out Black Annie’s curse, reproduced in flowing archaic script on a parchment framed in the hallway, it was his only contribution to the home’s decoration.
The ground floor contained the drawing room and dining room. At the back of the house was a large kitchen, drying room and the maid’s quarters. The first floor had three bedrooms and a bathroom. Finally the second floor was a rambling attic and study, with a desk sat facing a window looking out over Sycamore Crescent and the rest of Matlock beyond.
On the tour of the house, Black pointed out the signs of the manifestation of the curse. The first was the wall in the drying room, although Josephine had scrubbed it, there were still reddish-brown traces in the corners and on the floor. Black informed the investigators that he had the blood analysed by his friend, Doctor Winthrope, who had confirmed that the blood was indeed human.
The second manifestation had been the door with an inverted pentagram scratched into the surface. It had originally been the dining room door, but Black informed them that he had had it replaced, keeping the vandalised door in the drying room for the investigators to inspect. The pentagram was about four inches across, and was crudely scratched into the wood a couple of inches from the floor. The investigators came up with various theories regarding the pentagram, but could not work out how it had got there, as the only people with access would have been the Blacks and Josephine.
Black informed the investigators that he had taken the liberty of borrowing from Old George, the town librarian, all of the information that could be found on Sir Edward Black, Black Annie and the curse and that all of the material could be found on his desk in his study up on the second floor.
It was decided that they would look through the material that Black had collected and also interview Josephine that evening, then the following day they would head into Matlock and visit both Old George and Jonathan Freeman, who was the owner of Matlock Antiques and known throughout the town as something of a local historian.
Looking through the papers in the study, they discovered that Black’s description of the curse was indeed accurate, with two separate sources verifying it.
They also discovered that Black Annie’s real name was Annie Wilcox, she was born in Cornwall and had moved north after her parents’ death in 1580. Four years later, she was convicted of witchcraft and sentenced to death. She was no more than twenty years old when she was burned at the stake and buried in Beck Green. She became known as Black Annie following her celebrated cursing of Sir Edward Black.
Finally, they discovered that Sir Edward Black lived in Wisels Wood Manor, near the village of Beck Green. After the fire shortly after Annie’s death, the manor was never rebuilt and the land was sold. The land was presently in the possession of a Major Randolph Northcote (Ret.), who was living in Hunter’s Lodge, which at one time had been part of the original manor.
An interview with Josephine did not reveal much of interest, other than that she confirmed that she had not seen the ghosts clearly, but had felt their presence and had glimpsed movements out of the corner of her eye. The woman had worked for the Blacks for some twelve years and was very fond of her employers, she had had no history of psychic abilities and her only living relative was an aunt who lived in the centre of Matlock. They could tell that Josephine was quite scared and was concerned both for herself and for her employers.
The night passed without incident, however upon waking up, both Penelope and Jonathan discovered that the apples in their rooms had indeed gone rotten.
Following a large breakfast of eggs and bacon, which Josephine had bought due to all of the food going off each night, Jacob Black headed off to work and both Penelope and Jonathan met up with Arthur and Isaac.
Heading to Matlock Library, the investigators made the acquaintance of Old George Chappel, a white haired, leather skinned sage of a man with a determined stoop and shock of snowy hair. Nobody knew how old George actually was, with guesses being anywhere in between 75 and 110, but whatever his age, George had lived in the same small cottage that he had always lived in and walked the seven miles (each way) between there and the library every day, without missing a day’s work, not for rain nor snow and had even been known to work at weekends.
With Old George’s help, the investigators managed to find several pieces of useful information.
They discovered in the diary of a Samuel Jones, that on 15th July 1584 Annie Wilcox had been burned at the stake and that her remains were buried in an unmarked grave outside the grounds of St. Michael’s Chapel in Beck Green, however they could find no information regarding St. Michael’s Chapel, with Old George himself not ever having heard of it before. He knew that the church in Beck Green was called St. Martin’s Church.
A short article on historical Derbyshire noted that the Five Oaks Inn at Beck Green was originally a farmhouse. The farm (Five Oaks Farm) dated back to before the Norman conquest and had an entry in the Domesday Book. From a book about public houses, the investigators learnt that the Five Oaks got its name from the farm that preceded it and that the farm took its name from several prominent oak trees in the nearby woods.
A small guide detailing several walks in Derbyshire mentioned one around Beck Green. At one point, the walk skirted around the edge of Wisels Wood, and readers were advised against exploring the wood as it contained several treacherous marshes.
The only interesting event in the area during recent years that they could discovered was a series of newspaper articles that shed light on the Wolf Murders that occurred during the winter of 1852. They learnt that over a period of several months farmers were discovering the carcasses of sheep, torn apart by some wild animal. Several hunts were organised, and a number of wild dogs were found and killed, but the killings continued until April 1852 when they mysteriously stopped.
Having exhausted the library, the investigators had lunch at the Crown Hotel and then headed over to Matlock Antiques. Matlock Antiques was a small shop in the centre of town and dealt in old furniture, strange articles, and the sorts of odds and ends people accumulate through years of living. Inside was a treasure trove for those interested in curiosities and trinkets, its shelves overflowing with items for sale. Here could be purchased civil war breastplates, ancient pipes, old muskets, porcelain mugs and all sorts of furniture.
Friendly and likeable, Jonathan Freeman had an obvious flair for history and antiques. He knew little of the Wolf Murders, considering them to have been nothing more than attacks by wild dogs and unfortunately he could not add anything more to their knowledge regarding Black Annie, Sir Edward Black, St. Michael’s Chapel or Beck Green, other than their formidable cricket team.
Consequently the investigators decided to head back to Black’s house where an early night would be in order as it was decided that they would hire a cab the following day and make the ten mile journey to Beck Green in order to see what they could find out regarding St. Michael’s Chapel as well as to examine the ruins of Wisels Wood Manor and to speak to Northcote, the owner of the land that it stood on as well as the resident of Hunter’s Lodge.
It was decided that on the offchance of there being any trouble that Isaac would stay at the house that night, with Jonathan staying at the Crown Hotel along with Arthur.
That night, both Penelope and Arthur had strange realistic dreams, with Penelope dreaming that her bed was on fire and Arthur dreaming of a werewolf crashing through the window and lunging in to attack him.
The next morning, Isaac was alerted to a scream that came from downstairs. Josephine had discovered several inverted pentagrams carved into many surfaces in the dining room and other rooms. It was also noticed that other inverted pentagrams were dotted around the house, with one being carved inches above the headboard over where Penelope had been sleeping.
Josephine was very scared and was seriously considering leaving the house, but Isaac managed to persuade her to stay, telling her that it was in more likelihood safer there, especially as Black was determined that the effects of the curse were not going to force him out of his own home.
Shortly after breakfast, Penelope and Isaac met up with Arthur and Jonathan and the group headed off to Beck Green, a trip that took a couple of hours to complete.
Arriving at Beck Green, a small village some ten miles from Matlock and inside the boundaries of the Peak District, they discovered that the village consisted of a few dozen houses congregating around the village green, a church and a pub. Upon the green was a perfect cricket pitch.
It was noticed that the village had suffered a recent storm, within the past couple of months and that many of the houses had a small recess to the side of the front door, many of which contained a small amount of food and a little milk or beer. They asked the cabbie if he would stay at Beck Green so that he could give them a ride back whilst they went to investigate.
Jonathan and Isaac headed over to St. Martin’s Church, which was set in a small peaceful graveyard dominated by a number of elderly oaks. It was a small stone Anglican church bedecked with leering gargoyles about two hundred years in age. Wandering through the graveyard, they identified several graves belonging to the Blacks, several of which predated the church such as that which belonged to Sir Edward Black.
Heading into the church they were met by Father Martin Allan Green, an Irish immigrant who had been the local parish clergyman for a couple of years. He had never heard of a St. Michael’s Chapel, informing them that before the church was built, there was a St. Martin’s Chapel there. He had heard of Black Annie, but did not believe that she was buried there, but unfortunately the records did not go back that far. He informed them that the best source of knowledge in the village would probably be John Smith, the owner of the Five Oaks Inn. The only other information that Green gave them was that he was the opening batsman for the village cricket team and that with regards to the small recesses by the front doors of the houses, he had been reliably informed that they were for the ‘little people’, something of a rural superstition and that of course he did not subscribe to it, having noticed that local cats looked somewhat plump, he was certain that it wasn’t ‘little people’ feasting.
Heading over to the Five Oaks Inn and ordering a pint each of ‘Five Oaks’ which was brewed on the premises they made the acquaintance of John Smith the local publican and a huge barrel of a man with a booming laugh. He ran the pub almost single-handed, with just the help of his fifteen year old daughter, Emily.
Other than showing them the parts of the inn that dated back to the 11th Century, Smith proved to be not all that knowledgeable, and could add nothing to the knowledge already acquired by the investigators other than informing them that he was one of the cricket team’s top bowlers.
Meanwhile, Arthur and Penelope had headed over to Hunter’s Lodge to meet its owner and resident, Randolph Northcote.
Hunter’s Lodge was once within the original Wisels Wood Manor grounds, and was now the only part still standing. It, and the grounds upon which the manor once stood, were now owned by Major Randolph Northcote (Ret.). Northcote was living comfortably on the land that he rented to local farmers. He also had a number of other businesses, and was known to be a keen historian.
Hunter’s Lodge was a small cottage with ample room for a retired army major living on his own. The lodge sat in a wild, untamed garden where the only victors after ten years of neglect were the brambles and nettles. It was clear that gardening was not one of Northcote’s strengths. Wisels Wood could be seen from the garden, in fact Hunter’s Lodge was the closest intact building to the wood.
Calling upon Northcote, they were shown in and he was found to be amiable host. However, Penelope recognised Northcote as being a member of the Golden Dawn, which he confirmed that he was in fact a former member of the Golden Dawn, having joined in the summer of 1891, but resigned in the autumn of 1893. He had applied for Inner Order membership, but had been rejected, and had apparently resigned in disgust. He openly informed them that it was the Irish Nationalist politics of both Yeats and Mathers that had led to the denial of his application, but he claimed to have held no grudges against them.
Northcote, a stout, garrulous ex-soldier was gruff in his way, but also possessed a very keen intellect. He was portly, redfaced and balding, yet still powerful looking. He wore a flaring moustache and a fine country suit.
Inside the Lodge, the house was almost worse than the garden. Apart from the rooms that Northcote clearly lived in, the house was cluttered, untidy and very dusty. It had suffered the same decade of neglect that the garden had, the drawing room however was a shrine to patriotism, bedecked with souvenirs from his army days. Oil paintings of famous battle scenes hung on the walls and a portrait of Queen Victoria dominated the room, flanked by the Union Jack and his regimental banner. The study contained a single desk that was surrounded by books, which were mostly history books, covering a variety of subjects such as armour, weaponry, castles and archaeology. Curiously there were two large trunks there sitting open on the floor and many books had been removed from the shelves and stacked haphazardly into the trunks. Northcote explained that he was moving some of his books to his London residence on Primrose Hill, but that he was not moving out of the Lodge altogether, however.
Grateful for the intellectual company, Northcote poured brandies for his guests and happily answered their questions.
He knew that Hunter’s Lodge was all that remained of the Black family’s property in Beck Green, with the original Wisels Wood Manor being a burnt ruin elsewhere on his property. He was more than happy for Arthur and Penelope to go and explore the ruins, but he himself was too busy with packing to accompany them. He also knew of the Black Family Curse, but had not paid much attention to it or of the legend of Black Annie, which Arthur was surprised to hear seeing that Northcote had an interest in history. He just informed them that the legend had just held no interest to him.
He claimed to know nothing about St. Michael’s Chapel, but Arthur could tell that he was concealing something, but decided that it would be improper to try to push him on the subject.
He had not heard anything of the Wolf Murders of 1852 and warned them from straying into Wisels Wood due to the many marshes located inside, that were very treacherous.
Upon leaving Northcote, Arthur mused about the possibility of Northcote being a werewolf, possibly the cause of the nightmare that he had had the previous night.
Heading into the overgrown grounds, Arthur and Penelope made their way to the ruins of Wisels Wood Manor. What little was left of Wisels Wood Manor stood alongside a ploughed field, which belonged to Northcote, but was rented out to a nearby farm.
The manor was little more than a gutted, charred ruin, overgrown with ivy and nettles. Beams from the upper stories had plunged down to the ground, making passage through the ruin difficult and dangerous and so it was decided that Arthur would venture inside while Penelope waited for him.
As he made his way inside the ruin, Arthur came across a fairly sturdy looking stone staircase that led to a crumbling upper floor.
Up on the upper floor, Arthur noted that he could clearly see Wisels Wood through a gap in the wall. He could make out a strange thick golden haze hanging over it, somewhat like a heat haze.
In one of the more intact rooms, Arthur found a painted fresco that was adorning a wall. Both the wall and fresco were charred, crumbling and peeling. In fact upon closer inspection the fresco proved to be painted atop a second one, of a very similar scene which was visible where the plaster had fallen away.
The topmost scene depicted a wounded knight cradled in the arms of a priest. Around them other knights fought a pitched battle against classical demon figures with horns, wings and barbed tails before a bright blue sky. In the priest’s hands was a golden chalice that glowed with a saintly aura, healing the unfortunate knight.
The second scene underneath showed that the priest had been replaced by a wizened old man; while frail his eyes were piercing and powerful. The subtle wounds of the wounded knight were gone, replaced by gory slashes of mortal combat: most of one side of his face was missing, the eye dangling free on its stalk. Around these figures the demons were gone, replaced by warriors bearing the heraldry of early Christendom. They were fighting a desperate battle against men who should be dead, with limbs rent from their bodies, their necks broken and their faces shattered by weapons of war.
Arthur led Penelope up to the fresco and the two of them agreed that it may have been some kind of depiction of the legendary King Arthur.
After finishing up at the ruin, Arthur and Penelope met up with Jonathan and Isaac at the Five Oaks Inn and they headed back to Matlock, where it was decided, that after the events of the previous night that they would take it in turns to stay up through part of the night in order to keep watch.
At Black’s home they discovered a telegram waiting for them, having been sent by Alastar Maloney from London. The telegram informed the investigators that he had been unable to meet with Westcott regarding the original star chart that they had picked up back in 1890 during Case 001 – The Haunting and that he was heading up to Matlock on an early morning train, due to arrive at Matlock at just gone 10am.
That night, whilst Penelope and Isaac were on watch, the house was disturbed by the arrival of Jacob Black’s dog. It was quite dead having had its neck broke and it’s innards were hanging outside of the body. Isaac tried to attack it with the use of his sabre, and Penelope shot at it. The sounds of the commotion roused the other members of the household, with both Jonathan and Arthur heading downstairs to help the others.
Eventually the zombie dog was destroyed and the investigators searched around the house trying to figure out how it could have gotten inside as the outside doors had both been locked. However, it was soon found that the house was riddled with many small holes about the size of mouse holes, all approximately 2 to 3 inches in height and about 1 to 2 inches in width and so accordingly they set about blocking as many of these holes as they possibly could.
After some time, it was apparent that they were not having any success in tracking down the creators of the holes and so after disposing of the dog’s carcass, they went back to bed, with Isaac and Penelope being both exceptionally vigilant in case of any further attack.
Suddenly there was the sound of a crashing through one of the downstairs windows and Isaac, followed by both Jonathan and Arthur went to investigate, with Penelope heading over from the kitchen area. At the foot of the stairs they came face to face with a Werewolf, which they quickly dispatched. The dead figure then changed into Northcote, before Arthur woke and realised that it had all been a dream. There had been no werewolf, or a crashing through the windows.
Later that night whilst both Penelope and Isaac slept, Arthur, who was keeping watch on the first floor saw ten little figures open the door to Penelope’s room. Shooting at them with his shotgun, they scattered, with three heading towards him, another three running into Penelope’s room, a further two running into Isaac’s room and a final two heading into Jacob Black’s room.
The figures were identified as Witch-Kin and a major fight erupted, with all of the comabatants finding it exceptionally hard to hit the small creatures as they were extremely fast and agile, but eventually the investigators managed to prevail, having only taken a few minor injuries in the process, which were treated by Arthur.
The rest of the night passed and the following morning it was decided that Jacob Black would catch the train to Derby in order to visit his wife Victoria, who was staying with her mother and that Josephine, the maid, would go to stay with her aunt in the centre of Matlock. In the meantime, the investigators would meet Alastar at the station and then hire the carriage driver again in order to take them back to Beck Green after a detour in order to pick up the necessary supplies that they would need for venturing through Wisels Wood.
Upon reaching Matlock in the morning, Alastar decided that he would stay at the hotel rather than accompanying the others to Wisels Wood, insisting that he would only slow them down, and so it was decided that Isaac, Jonathan, Penelope and Arthur would head over to Beck Green and then make their way into Wisels Wood.
Heading past Hunter’s Lodge, they could tell that it appeared that Northcote had already left. There was no smoke coming from the chimney and the house looked to be somewhat deserted. After deciding against breaking into Northcote’s house they continued onto the forest itself, reaching a small clearing on the edge of the forest, with what appeared to be a recently felled oak tree in the centre. Upon examining the oak, Jonathan found several species of fungi that he was sure were previously unknown and a holy cross was also discovered to have been carved into the trunk of the tree. Looking around, another cross was discovered on another tree and then another and it quickly became apparent that this was some kind of guide, which they decided to follow.
Walking through the forest, following the crosses, they first came upon a stagnant lake, in the middle of which was a strange tree that quivered and shook, reaching out to the investigators. Consequently it was decided to skirt round the edge of the lake.
Continuing on they came across an old ruined house, inside was a man, quite dead, a plantlike substance growing from out of his wide open mouth and a variety of fungus like growths attached to him. The man was wearing clothes that were of a fashion of some hundred years earlier.
As they left the house, a beating could be heard from underneath them, it sounded suspiciously like a heart that was beating. The sound continued for a couple of hours at which point the investigators realised that they had been travelling through the wood for far longer than they should have been.
Coming across a mighty oak in the forest, they discovered that it was covered with a huge red fungus like growth, and that the growth was spreading out to the other nearby trees.
As they moved further along they came across another clearing, this one had a few marshes and individual trees inside it, when suddenly the wind picked up, gathering twigs and other forest debris together and coalescing into the shape of a giant wolf. The wolf began charging at the investigators, making a beeline for Arthur as they all attempted to shoot at it. Penelope realised that it could be what a being that is commonly referred to as the spirit of the forest. Eventually the investigators managed to destroy it, but not before Isaac was trampled and badly injured.
After debating as to whether they should go back or continue, they decided to press on, eventually coming across a small chapel, which they realised must be St. Michael’s Chapel. The first thing that they noticed was that one of the unmarked graves outside had not only been dug the ‘wrong way round’, but had also been dug out from the inside, something had crawled out of it, in all likelihood Black Annie.
Penelope touched the wall of the chapel and was rewarded with a vision of its past.
The vision began with the Norman construction of the chapel, probably during the late 11th or early 12th Century, complete with a sheela na gig over the main entrance. Not long after its construction, a group of monks travel to the chapel and place a shrouded man into the crypt. The only odd thing about the monks was that they did not seem to be carrying any religious symbolism. Each monk touched the sheela na gig.
As the years went on, the chapel was regularly used, though never by many people at any one time.
Penelope next received a vision of the burning and subsequent burial of Black Annie as overseen by Sir Edward Black in 1584. Followed a short time later by a group of witch hunters. The witch hunters had not been in the chapel for long when they were set upon by invisible beasts. The beasts tore through the witch hunters, leaving the body of one still kneeling at a pew, the head taken clean off.
The chapel then fell into disuse, with very no visitors for hundreds of years, curiously though, the amount of decay that it suffers seemed to be minimal.
Finally in recent times, she witnessed Randolph Northcote walk into the chapel and go to the tomb of the original occupant. Then breaking open the tomb and leaving with a long haired and bearded man. The man appeared to be somewhat weak as if he’d been roused from a deep sleep, but Northcote helped him away from the chapel. Penelope was at a loss as to who the man could be.
Not long after Northcote leaving, Black Annie slowly crawled from her grave, she was quite a savage sight, dishevelled, filthy, her skin blackened from the burning and one of her eyes just a swollen mass of puss. She made he way away from the chapel, heading in the opposite direction to that which Northcote had taken.
After Penelope’s vision, both Arthur and Jonathan headed inside and discovered that the chapel was exactly how Penelope had described it. They found the body of one of the witch hunters and just in front of him was a strange looking compass-like device, which they realised was in actual fact a witch-fynder, however it was broken. The witch-fynder had some script on it, but it was not in any language that the investigators knew.
Looking around they found the tomb and Jonathan did some rubbings before they both headed back outside.
After leaving the chapel, it was decided that they would return back to Matlock especially as Isaac was too heavily injured to continue and they did not want to risk encountering Black Annie in such a depleted state. However, as they headed out of the forest they realised that whilst they thought that they had been inside for about six hours, it had in fact been three times as long, suddenly they were beginning to feel hungry, but fortunately they had packed lunches which were promptly consumed.
Understandably the carriage driver from Matlock had left and so they went to Beck Green, where they bought a meal, with lodgings, from the inn and asked if somebody could give them a lift back to Matlock after breakfast.
Upon arriving back at the hotel, Arthur discovered that there was a telegram waiting for him. Reading it, he found out that Jacob Black had been kidnapped from his in-law’s home in Derby in the night. The telegram suggested that some flying creature had borne him away.
Telegrams were sent to London asking other society members if they could lend assistance as they knew that they needed to head back to the forest to take on Black Annie, but Isaac was in no fit state to accompany them. Only Edith Wakefield was available.
In the meantime, another telegram was sent to London, asking Lilith Harrington and Lord Christopher Chumly if they could track down Northcote and find out what he was up to.
In the meantime, whilst the rest of the investigators retired to get some sleep, Alastar headed out into Matlock to pay Jonathan Freeman a visit in order to get his thoughts on the witch-fynder and sword that had been recovered from the chapel.
Freeman was quite excited by the finds that were presented to him and he informed Alastar that he could repair the witch-fynder. The sword he estimated to be from around the 13th Century and to have been a Templar sword, it was in an extremely good state of repair.
Alastar retired to a nearby public house whilst he waited for Freeman to do his work on the witch-fynder, and a few hours later it had been repaired.
Later that day the investigators met Edith and it was decided that Arthur, Jonathan, Penelope and Edith would head back into the forest, armed with the witch-fynder, which was indeed working, and attempt to find and destroy Black Annie as well as rescue Jacob Black. Despite his protestations it was decided that due to his wounds Isaac would stay at the hotel.
Having hired another carriage, the investigators made their way back to Beck Green and decided that they would call on Northcote on the way to the forest, however, it was discovered that Northcote was not at home and so they decided to break into his house.
There was not much to find in his house, however, a painting of St. Michael’s Chapel by an unknown artist named Melinda Pryce was certainly of interest, the painting clearly showed several of the nearby trees marked with crosses. Also of interest they discovered that Northcote was a Freemason, he had left his ring in one of his drawers and consequently this too was taken.
Finding little else of interest, they decided to head off for the forest and followed the same trail to the chapel that they had followed the day before. Fortunately, they did not encounter the Spirit of the Forest again.
Getting their bearing from the chapel, they used the witch-fynder to eventually locate Black Annie’s bower.
The first thing that they saw was a small ramshackle cottage in the centre of the clearing that was little more than a pile of stones, then they saw several human skins attached to trees flapping in the wind and then a terrible squawking was head as they noticed several pheasant heads that had been nailed to posts begin an awful cacophony, clearly meant to be an alarm at the investigators’ approach.
Next they noticed Jacob Black hanging upside down from a tree, blood trickling from several small wounds. They noticed that his feet had been nailed to a branch.
Suddenly a flapping was heard by both Arthur and Penelope as they were set upon by humanoid, birdlike flying creature, that was later identified by Alastar as being a Byakhee. Despite being shot at by both Arthur and Penelope the creature bore down on Edith, severely injuring her and sending her into a state of shock.
The creature was soon dispatched by Arthur just as Annie herself appeared from her cottage, she was muttering and cackling, when suddenly Penelope collapsed onto the floor into a fetal position. Both Jonathan and Arthur charged at the witch and blasting her with their guns. Arthur then proceeding to blow the body into pieces to be sure.
After killing Annie, they managed to lower Jacob from the tree and Arthur set about healing both Edith and Jacob, whilst Jonathan investigated the cottage, in which he found some cauldrons bubbling.
After setting up a campsite a short distance away from Black Annie’s bower, it was decided that they would empty one of the cauldrons and scoop the remains of Annie into it and to take it with them. The logistics however proved to be difficult as they had two people that were incapable of movement and Edith was still severely injured. Consequently it was decided that as Jonathan and Arthur needed to carry the cauldron between them, they would leave Edith to guard both Penelope and Jacob at the campsite whilst they would take the cauldron to the chapel.
In the meantime, back in Matlock, Isaac had become quite concerned that the others were taking a very long time to return and so decided to head off to Beck Green and then on to the forest to see what had become of them. Reaching the forest he made his way to the chapel, but failed to discover any tracks and so consequently waited.
Eventually Arthur and Jonathan made their way back to the chapel where they found Isaac waiting for them, they informed him what had happened and so it was decided that they would leave the cauldron at the chapel with Jonathan whilst Arthur and Isaac headed back to the campsite in order to get the others.
Having retrieved Edith and the others, they all eventually left the forest, where they discovered that the best part of three days had passed since they had entered. Whilst the others succumbed to fatigue. After checking on Annie’s remains and discovering that they had disintegrated into powder and a cloud of smoke had dispersed from them, Arthur headed back to Beck Green and with the help of some of the local villagers fetched the others. They then stayed at the inn for the rest of the day, where it was discovered that Jacob had actually weathered his ordeal fairly well, but Penelope had succumbed to a strange malady where she refused to believe in anything supernatural and so consequently it was decided that upon their return to London, a short stay at St. Luke’s would be in order for her.
Hell Hath No Fury Epilogue
Back in London, Lilith and Chumley had tracked Northcote down to his residence on Primrose Hill and questioned him. The meeting did not go too well and if it hadn’t been for the intervention of Lilith there would in all likelihood been an altercation between Northcote and Chumley.
Northcote refused to inform them of what he had been doing and instead gave Lilith a warning, telling her to be wary of the Golden Dawn.
Lilith headed back to the Golden Dawn and met up with William Butler Yeats, informing him of what Northcote had said. Yeats informed her that it would be difficult to be able to do anything or prove anything, but he would also keep an eye out for Northcote. However, as Northcote was no longer a member of the Golden Dawn and had indeed never been a member of the Inner Order there was very little that could be done.
When the rest of the investigators returned to London they spoke to Westcott, informing him of the success of their investigation. Westcott told them that he had been informed by Yeats about Northcote and that he would try to find out what he could, but feared that there would be little that could be achieved.
The investigators showed Westcott the Astrological Chart that Alastar had drawn from memory from their encounter with Walter Corbitt during the events of Case 001 – The Haunting back in 1890. Westcott was visibly shocked and asked them where they had got it from. He informed them that he knew what it was, but was at this time, due to vows he had taken, unable to reveal its significance to them. He informed them that it was of knowledge that could only be revealed to members of the Golden Dawn of a certain standing. When asked if he minded that they continued their enquiries into the chart, he informed them that they were free to investigate it.