Dr. Arthur Dogget was reading the newspaper when he came across a report of the murder of a Colonel Albert Hardwicke (Ret.). Hardwicke had been the C.O. of both himself and Captain Isaac Fleming (Ret.) whilst they were serving in the Sudan. Hardwicke had been murdered near to the village of Partrishow in Brecknockshire (Breconshire), Wales ten days previously. Hardwicke had been struck in the head with a blunt instrument and then stabbed to death in what had seemed a frenzied attack. Both had fond memories of the man and so consequently went to visit his only surviving heir Nathan Hardwicke in order to pay their respects.
Upon visiting Nathan at Sunderland Terrace in Kensington, they were shown in by Mrs. Jeeter the housekeeper. Nathan, who was sat in his study, was a slim, frail young man with short straight dark hair, and pale dry skin. He was a very nervous and shy young man, rarely making eye contact.
During their conversation with Nathan, the young man revealed that he had no idea that the family had an estate there as it was only during the reading of the will that he discovered its existence. Nathan admitted to Dogget and Isaac that he was curious as to why his uncle had never mentioned the property before.
Nathan Hardwicke related further details of his and his uncle’s life, some of which Dogget and Isaac already knew. He and Albert had lived in Kensington for twenty years, the first several years Albert had still been serving in Africa, but had come home to visit Nathan whenever he could get leave. Nathan’s mother had died giving birth to him, and Albert had adopted him and raised him as his own son, the only remaining family for either of them. Nathan at the time of Albert’s murder was studying history at King’s College (part of the University of London) in the Strand, and had supplemented the Hardwicke’s income tutoring other students.
He was curious to inspect the estate in Wales, but understandably given the circumstances of his uncle’s death he was somewhat cautious about travelling to the estate alone and so both Dogget and Isaac agreed to accompany him, informing him that they would be bringing some others with them that may be of assistance. To this, Nathan was more than happy to agree.
Doggett asked Nathan if he could have the details of Albert’s solicitor so that he could enquire whether he knew any more about the estate and Nathan wrote him a letter of introduction to an Adrian Powers, whose office was located above a tobacconists’ shop on Portman Square in Baker Street.
Just as they were leaving, they encountered another man in his fifties, stoutly built with a ruddy complection. The man introduced himself as Captain Howard Jones (Ret.) an old army comrade of Albert’s, neither Doggett nor Isaac had heard of the man before, but assumed that he could have served with Hardwicke before they had.
After leaving the Hardwicke residence, they decided to call in other members of the society and inform them about what they had stumbled upon and so Edith Wakefield, Jonathan Asbatch and Penelope Hancock all agreed that they would accompany Doggett and Isaac on their trip.
Doggett accompanied by Penelope decided to visit Powers, where they discovered that the will had consisted of a few small trinkets for his former brothers-in-arms, a modest sum for Mrs. Jeeter and the remaining estate going to Nathan. Powers noted that apparently neither Nathan nor Mrs. Jeeter had known of the existence of the Welsh property before the reading of the will. Powers himself had only known of its existence for about a month before Hardwicke’s death, stating that the Colonel had come to him expressing a desire to sell some property in Brecknockshire. He had informed Powers that he would be travelling to the estate to ready it for sale and would contact him upon his return. Powers would then inspect the property himself and draw up the necessary papers. Then a few days before his death Hardwicke sent a letter cancelling his meeting with Powers in Brecknockshire, stating that much had to be done with the property before it could be sold.
Meanwhile Isaac and Jonathan had gone to visit the Army Club of which both Isaac and Hardwicke were members, but they could not learn any more information than that already known by both Isaac and Doggett.
Upon meeting back together, the investigators went to Somerset House to research the background of the Hardwickes, where they found birth certificates for Brian Hardwicke (Albert’s older brother, born 1831), Albert (1834) and Clarissa Hardwicke (1847). Their father was a member of the gentry named Lionel Hardwicke. Their mother, Christine, died giving birth to Clarissa. Death certificates existed for Lionel (1857), Christine (1847) and Brian (1880), all died of natural causes.
The family wills indicated that the estate was left in Brian’s name on Lionel’s death, that they fell to Albert on Brian’s death, and on his death to Nathan.
Albert’s military records showed that he served with distinction in the Crimean in the mid 1850s, rapidly advancing through the ranks. He briefly served in South Africa in 1881 before being reassigned – and promoted to Colonel – in Egypt in 1882. He was wounded in the Sudan in ‘83, but was evacuated before the British and Egyptian forces were wiped out by the Mahdi. Albert retired from Her Majesty’s Army in 1884.
The following day, Doggett received a short handwritten note in the post. It was a note from Howard Jones, asking him to call upon him at 7 pm that evening.
Doggett, accompanied by Isaac, Jonathan, Edith and Penelope called upon Jones at his address in Eagle Street, just north of the Lincoln’s Inn Fields in Holburn. Edith recognised the name of Howard Jones in connection with numerous periodical articles and stories. Jones’ military service in Asia Minor and his travels in West Africa were fodder for his rousing reports of his exploits. His articles were half adventure story, half anthropological study – both with no small degree of exaggeration and prevarication.
Jones, dark haired and bearded, a small bear of a man, dressed in a worn suit of once fine tailoring. He was friendly but outspoken and blunt in conversation and was puffing on a pipeful of noxious tobacco. It was noted that his study consisted of several artifacts, mostly African in origin with numerous books lining the wall shelves, predominant subjects were history, anthropology, archaeology and mythology from a wide variety of cultures.
He informed the investigators that earlier that week he had received a package from Albert. It was heavy and postmarked Brecknockshire, Wales. Inside he found a letter, and something else. He handed the investigators the letter, which referred to a black rock found in the foothills of the Black Mountains with carvings on it that were in no language that Hardwicke understood. Hardwicke had hoped that Jones could make any sense of the carvings and had asked him to mention them to no one, not even his own nephew.
Jones handed over the rock to the investigators, where it was noted that the rock was in fact obsidian, or volcanic glass, which is not found normally in Wales as it tends to be located in areas of recent volcanic activity. The piece was about a foot across, eight inches high and three inches thick, with a flat upper surface and irregular sides. On the surface were six rows of strange wedge-shaped hieroglyphs, about ten per row, each about half an inch in height, running along the long axis of the stone.
Nobody present could translate what the hieroglyphs said, with Jonathan noting that the closest language he could figure out being Sumerian, but they differed somewhat from that language. Jones allowed Jonathan to take a rubbing as he wished to consult Alastar Maloney about the hieroglyphs, but when confronted with the rubbing early the next day Alastar could not figure it out either.
Jones admitted to having made no progress with the markings, but was fairly sure that the black stone had something to do with Hardwicke’s murder. He didn’t know what, but felt obligated to find out and informed them that he too would be travelling to Wales, but would not accompany them. They realised that Jones did not trust Nathan and wondered if Nathan had had something to do with his uncle’s murder.
The next day, after briefly visiting Alastar, the investigators met up with Nathan at London’s Paddington Station in the early morning for the journey to Wales. What followed was a six hour journey on the Great Western Railway, with stops in Reading, Swindon, Newport and Abersyonan (Abergavenny). Throughout the journey, Nathan was very quiet, not initiating any conversations with the investigators, focusing instead on a fat volume of Welsh history. It was mid afternoon when they reached Abersyonan, Monmouthshire, the nearest stop to the Hardwicke estate in neighbouring Brecknockshire.
At Abersyonan, Nathan and the investigators rented a two-horse carriage in order to take them to the village of Partrishow and the nearby Hardwicke estate.
It took them a little over an hour to reach Partrishow and Nathan and the investigators arrived in the late afternoon.
Nestled in the valley of the Grwyne Fechan, Partrishow had a population of only some 400 and was typical of the small villages in the area, populated mostly by farmers and sheepherders. In the village was a secluded 11th Century church, a smithy and stable and a pub called the Black Mountain’s Rest.
As nobody knew the way to the estate, they called in at the pub for directions, where they met the landlord, a thin, mutton-chop-whiskered man named Hugh Jenkins, who greeted them cheerily. However, when they inquired for directions to the estate it was noticeable that his demeanor changed and a sudden silence fell over the pub as the clientele stopped their conversations to listen.
Jenkins informed the investigators that the estate was four miles northeast of the town, on the old track. He then asked why they wanted to know about the place. The investigators informed him that they were accompanying Hardwicke’s nephew, Nathan, to the estate, at which point a couple of the clientele left the pub and there was a palpable sense of fear to be detected.
As Nathan and the investigators were leaving, they caught the twinkling eye of a grim, bearded fellow at a corner table and so Dogget, Isaac and Edith went across to the man, who introduced himself to them as Evans and told them that if they come back down to the pub later he would talk to them.
The Hardwicke estate was located some four miles to the northeast of Partrishow, at the end of an old overgrown track. Along the way, the investigators glimpsed the collapsed, wildly overgrown remains of three long-abandoned farmhouses. It was noticeable that Nathan had become more animated during this part of the trip, setting aside his book and pointing out interesting landmarks.
The manor house lay in an isolated, wooded section of the hills that made up the lower reaches of the Black Mountains. The estate included the manor house, a well, carriage house, stable and two small sheds. All of which were in disrepair, and the surrounding area was overgrown with wildflowers and tall weeds.
Before heading inside the house, the investigators decided to check out the outside, where they found that the well was very deep, some 35 feet down to the water, but that the bucket and rope were missing. The carriage house was empty save for thick cobwebs and stiff, rusted riding harnesses, some rusty tools and a wooden carriage wheel. Rotting scraps of rope hung from the rafters overhead. The stable held stalls for up to eight horses, which were empty save for cobwebs and decayed hay. Hanging from wall pegs were a few tools, coils of rotting twine and rope and an oil lamp. A ladder led to the hayloft above, but it was noticed that the boards in the loft were rotted through and so it was decided not to investigate that area any further. The shed attached to the stable stood with its door ajar. Inside were many rusty tools on a long workbench. The other shed behind the house had a badly sagging roof that collapsed when the door was opened, inside was the remains of rotted cloth bags and barrels.
After securing the horses and carriage and checking on the outside of the manor, the investigators and Nathan headed inside. The inside of the manor was sparsely furnished, but showed signs of recent habitation, with recently-cut firewood. In library on a desk was a sheet of writing paper with the addresses of both Howard Jones and Adrian Powers.
It looked like Albert Hardwicke had been staying in the servant’s quarters and so Nathan decided to set his things up there, inviting the investigators to use whichever rooms they wanted in the house.
On the first floor, Doggett and Isaac shared one of the bedrooms, with Jonathan occupying the one next to theirs. Both Penelope and Edith took the master bedroom just across the corridor from them.
Upon settling in, the women set to work making some food and the men set up a makeshift bucket in order to get water from the well. Throughout the day, Jonathan could not shake the feeling that they were being watched, but couldn’t see anybody.
That evening, Doggett, Isaac and Edith headed back to Partishow to meet up with Evans at the Black Mountain’s Rest.
After plying Evans with several drinks, the old man told them that about twenty years earlier, Albert Hardwicke and his sister Clarissa summered in the manor. He told them that Albert was a likeable man who liked to hunt and tell a good tale and share a few drinks; she was a quiet woman who kept to herself at the estate. One day Albert had stormed into the Black Mountan’s Rest sputtering that someone had attacked his sister in the woods, and that he wanted to gather some men to hunt for the swine who did the deed. A handful of locals aided in the search, but nothing came of it. Clarissa Hardwick was never quite right after that, and nine months later a child was born. Evans then told them that the lady either died giving birth to the child, or became sick or mad and died, or hung herself soon afterward. He advised them that they should talk to Alan and Marie Llewellyn as they were the Hardwicke’s servants back then, or maybe Dr. Rhys-Williams.
Evans continued his tale, informing them that after the woman had died, Albert closed up the place and took the infant with him. Nobody had been out there since, until a couple of weeks earlier when Albert showed up again, saying that he was going to sell the place. He spent several days out at the manor, alone, then came into the village to post a package. It was on his way home from posting that he was killed. Evans had no idea who the murderer was for sure, but after being pressed, he admitted in a conspiratorial tone that it was the Tylwydd Teg (the little people). After this Evans passed out.
After their interview with Evans, the investigators went back to the manor, where the night was peaceful.
The following day, Jonathan went walking with Nathan as the others headed back to Partrishow, with Doggett and Edith heading off to visit Dr. Rhys-Williams and Isaac with Penelope went to visit the Llewellyns.
On their walk, Nathan and Jonathan encountered a woman, a lovely looking person in her twenties, with long dark hair and wearing a plain dress beneath a heavy mantle, with a scarlet handkerchief tied around her neck. She approached them both and introduced herself as Helen. It was quite clear that both Helen and Nathan were quite taken with each other and she practically ignored Jonathan, almost to the point of being rude. A situation that notorious lady’s man Jonathan was very unused to.
Jonathan and Nathan found a small strange structure that had been made from twigs and feathers, neither of them knew what it was, or who had built it.
Upon heading back to the manor, Jonathan saw a sign that had been scrawled about a yard from the ground. He could not make out what the sign was, but when showing it to the others later, Doggett realised that the sign was in Aklo and that it meant ‘home’.
Meanwhile, Doggett and Edith visited Dr. Rhys-Williams whose cottage was in the village. Rhys-Williams was over 70 years of age and although he was somewhat reluctant to talk about the events of the Hardwicke tragedies, Doggett persuaded him to open up as one professional doctor to another.
Rhys-Williams informed them that Albert Hardwicke had been apparently thrown from his horse, then beaten and stabbed several times and that the body had been found by a passing sheepherder. The Colonel’s watch, money and revolver were left behind, untouched by the killer or killers, but his horse had bolted and as far as he was aware the horse had not been recovered. He had no ideas as to who would have killed Hardwicke as the man was well liked in Partrishow.
Regarding the death of Clarissa Hardwicke twenty years earlier, he informed them that Clarissa was indeed ‘attacked’ in the wilderness. When she recovered she seemed to have blocked out what had happened to her, but it turned out that she was pregnant, and soon became a pale shadow of herself, cheerlessly wasting away in the house as the child came to term. Rubbing his eyes, Rhys-Williams stated that when the child was born Clarissa went beserk and tried to kill it. Separated from the infant, she had begged Rhys-Williams and the servants to kill the ‘little monster’. They kept the mother and child apart, and the next day Clarissa asked to see her baby. But when they brought him in she went after him with a table knife. Again they were separated and Clarissa was heavily sedated. The next morning, Mrs. Llewellyn, the servant, had gone into Clarissa’s room and found that she had hung herself from the bedpost. Albert was emotionally destroyed by all this, and promptly shut up the place and moved to London with the boy.
The doctor could think of no reason for the tragedies. The infant Nathan was a normal child, and it was a normal childbirth. He theorised that the attack on Clarissa must have unhinged her mind so much that she blocked it out, and Nathan’s birth must have triggered her to remember it again.
After visiting Rhys-Williams, Doggett and Edith acquired some provisions as well as a bucket for the well and verified that Hardwicke had indeed posted a package out just before his death.
Isaac and Penelope had gone to visit the Llewellyns where they met Marie. Marie’s story echoed that of Rhys-Williams, but she added in hushed tones that it was the Little People that attacked Clarissa twenty years ago and that it may well have been them again that had murdered Albert recently.
During the interview, Alan Llewellyn returned and angrily ordered the investigators off his property, threatening to use his shotgun if they didn’t leave at once.
That day Isaac had the strange feeling that they were being watched and thought he spotted a small figure that darted away.
The evening passed uneventfully and the next day, Doggett encountered Nathan leaving the house quite early, so rousing Isaac, the two of them followed him where they saw him meet up with Helen again. They were listening to their conversation and approached them, when Helen scowled at them and left. They tried to follow, but Doggett tripped badly and she was lost. Again Isaac felt that they were being watched.
The rest of the day was taken up with looking around the area. Some more of the constructions were found, but nobody could determine what they were.
The following day, Doggett and Isaac trailed Nathan again, when he met Helen, but this time when they tried to follow Helen, they were attacked by two small snakelike beings that were later identified as Degenerate Serpent People. They quickly killed the little serpent people and took Nathan back to the house. Meanwhile the investigators decided to look at the abandoned farmhouses where they found more of the constructions as well as a three foot wide hole in the basement of one that led underground.
They also decided at this point to visit the nearby villages to see if anybody had heard of Helen and they found that a couple of men in nearby Llangorse had encountered her before. Nobody knew from where she came from or exactly who she was.
That night, the investigators set up a watch system and hung lanterns from some of the trees as they felt that an attack was imminent.
The following morning Nathan was made to stay at the house for his own safety and both Isaac and Jonathan went to find Helen, informing her that she was welcome to come visit Nathan at the house, but they felt that he would be safer there. Helen agreed to accompany them and she met Nathan in the sitting room, where they were kept under observation by Jonathan and Isaac.
Meanwhile, Doggett and Penelope headed to Partrishow to visit Howard Jones who he reckoned would be staying at the Black Mountain’s Rest. When he got there however, he found out that Jones had been gone since the previous day. Jenkins was not particularly concerned as he knew that Jones had taken some camping gear with him, however he was not prepared to let Doggett and Penelope access Jones’ room, but would pass on a message that they were after him.
Doggett and Penelope returned back at the manor whilst Helen was still there and Doggett tried to cross examine her, but she proved to be too adept to be trapped by his questions and when Edith declared that lunch was ready she left.
After lunch, Doggett and Isaac headed out to try to find Jones, but they were unsuccessful in finding the man. The did however, manage to find the remains of his tent and his belongings and so feared that he may have been captured by Helen’s followers.
That night the watches were resumed. During the first watch there came a hammering on the door, Doggett made sure that Isaac was awake and then went to find out who it was. It was Jones, somewhat bloodied, he informed Doggett that he had been captured by Helen and her followers, but that they had let him go and were on their way. As the rest of the household was raised and readied for the imminent attack, Edith chloroformed Nathan to ensure that he stayed unconscious.
A wave of ten degenerate serpent people attacked the house, Edith was knocked unconscious, but the investigators with the aid of Jones managed to kill all but one of them that had fled.
Regrouping in the library, Doggett brought Edith back around and it was decided that they would prepare themselves for a second attack. They took Nathan down to the basement where they hoped that he would be safe.
Suddenly Jonathan heard a thud on the roof as if something big and heavy had landed on it. Then more of the little creatures swarmed into the house. The investigators were holding them off, but had to regroup in the kitchen, whilst Jonathan drew a protective pentagram on the door to keep them in the corridor.
Meanwhile, whatever had landed on the roof had crashed its way into the first floor and was presently making its way down to the ground floor.
The degenerate serpent people were getting butchered by the investigators and Jones when suddenly the creature burst into the kitchen. Although they did not truly know it at the time, they suspected that it may have been a Star Vampire, which indeed it was. The creature was invisible other than the dust that had covered it from crashing through the wall.
It headed towards Doggett, Jonathan and Jones who were backing away from it, whilst Isaac with Penelope and Edith were around a corner heading back into the corridor outside the kitchen. Jonathan had the idea of getting a bag of flour and throwing it over the creature whilst Doggett and Jones were shooting at it. Isaac was having many problems with his various guns which kept jamming as Penelope used her wand to no avail.
The Star Vampire tore Jones’ leg off and the man lay there bleeding to death as Jonathan proceeded to throw more flour over himself than the creature. Both Jonathan and Doggett fled around the creature to try to regroup with Isaac and the women.
As the investigators regrouped and began to move out of the kitchen into the corridor, Penelope was separated and the Star Vampire turned on her, lashing out with a couple of tentacles and tearing her arm off in a spray of blood, killing her instantly, before turning back to face the rest of the investigators.
After recovering from witnessing Penelope’s death, Doggett, Edith, Jonathan and Isaac fled the house pursued by the slavering Star Vampire. Doggett firmly shut the back door behind him, but then they realised that they were somewhat surrounded by another twenty degenerate serpent people led by Helen, who dropped her human form revealing that of a fully atavistic serpent person, the sight of which sent Edith into a catatonic shock.
Helen offered to let the investigators go, on the condition that they left Nathan behind. She told them that Nathan was one of her race and that no harm would come to him. She allowed the investigators to remove the bodies of Penelope and Jones and then they made the long trek back to Partrishow and civilization, finding a place to bury both Jones and Penelope on the way.