Red Ned Tudor Mysteries

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Tudor’s- Blood, Sex and Vampires

Greetings fellow Tudor aficionados and well regarded readers, I hope that this fine week end you are all going well.  This current missive is to bring you up to date on the Red Ned Tudor Mystery stories and the advent of a new series of Tudor novels. 
First within the fortnight we will be releasing on Amazon the newest of Red Ned’s adventures, The Cardinal’s Angels.  This story is a slight step back in time where we see the origins of his fateful alliance with the not so trusting Meg Black and his unwilling inclusion in the deadly politics of his sovereign Majesty’s ‘Great Matter’.
The second piece of news is the imminent arrival on the Amazon Kindle site of my latest novels in the Tudor period.

Darkness Divined
Taking inspiration from the suggestions of some very kind readers I have reworked an earlier set of stories that includes a fantasy component.  Thus in the England of Henry VIII we now have Vampires, Witches, Ritual Magic, Demons and some very intriguing Renaissance devices.  These like the usual members of the court are all competing for the richest prize—power. Though beneath the sparkling brilliance of the court of the Tudor monarch lies a dark and dangerous shadow world where alliance, ambition and lust has an entrancing smile and a deadly bite.  I must admit I’ve been interested in Vampire fiction for quite some time, well before the current craze, in fact I wrote a collection of stories revolving around vampires in the Crusades several years ago.  They were put aside to deal with the Red Ned Tudor cycle.  However I have been thinking that a decent fantasy element inserted into well research historical stories lends a lot to both.  Some impressive examples spring to mind the Sarantine stories of Guy Gavril Kay, Harry Turtledove’s Videssos and with the slight twist of reality the superlative horror Anno Dracula by Kim Newman. 
So we come to my version of Tudor Magicks—the Darkness Series.  The story opens in the earlier part of year of the Field of the Cloth of Gold and is set within the magnificent and dangerous court of Henry VIII.
Master Francis Bryan companion to the King and Master of the Hunts is a deeply unhappy man.  Not only has Cardinal Wolsey stripped him of his close association to the Sovereign and thus access to wealth and titles, but as a fait accompli, has tasked him with the coronal inquest of the foul and malicious murder of a court servant.  The problem is Francis knows all about this bloody affair, after all he had to put Gwen down…twice.  Now if he isn’t to fall victim to Wolsey’s machinations or the revival of his demon possessed mistress, Francis has to ally himself with the untrustworthy Doctor Agryppa master of arcane devices.  The only problem, apart from a complete lack of trust, is that Agryppa has his own dubious solution for the problem.  The acquisition of a beautiful and deadly servant, with a penchant for pain and blood.

A Deed of Darkness

As the cloud skidded by overhead bearing its burden of heavy rain and sleet westwards, it briefly allowed a spill of half full moonlight to wash over the empty courtyard at Westminster palace.  If any at that late hour of the night chose to look out towards the Thames they may have caught a glimpse of the two huddled figures carrying a wrapped object across the cobbles.  At the sudden if wan burst of light the foremost hauler gave a squeal and dropped his end.
“By Crist sir she’z quik!  I’z sweer, I felt her twitch!”  Staggering at the sudden weight the Second hauler lost his grip and the body dropped to the ground. angered at the hindrance the Second hauler snarled out a curse.
“Don’t be so stupid yea measle brained tosspot, she’s dead!”  Cursed the Second Hauler, as he flexed his shoulder to limber up the cramped muscles.
“But’s I felt her foot move!’
“By God’s blood you fool you saw her in the room, you can’t get much deader than that, I should know, now stop y’r whining and pick up her legs!”
“By St Anthony’s blessed fucking arm bone, if you don’t do as I say you’ll twitch, yea measle, at the end of a rope!”  The First hauler reluctantly edged back and made a tentative grasp at the bundled feet of the shrouded figure, and lifted them a little way above the cobblestones before giving another cry and leaping backwards and crossing himself.
“Oh saints it moved…it moved I seez!”  Even in pallid light if any had been watching they’d have seen a head shake in disgust from the Second hauler, who knelt down and gave the shrouded body a deliberate prod.
“Yea louse brained loony even St Peter would say she’s dead.  Here see that, didn’t move.  You’ve been a weaselling sack from Butlery again, haven’t you!”  The First hauler gave himself a rapid cross over his chest.
“Ohh Sir, I swears by me muther’s soul I’d niver.  I’s only have what you’s pleased to grant me.”  The Second hauler paused at the too instant denial in the ubiquitous tone of an aggrieved hard put upon servant.  If any one at court was aware of the deficiencies of their liverymen the Second hauler certainly was.  Drunkenness, whoring, shirking and thieving, where just the fellow’s more common faults, another time and place that canny evasion would have earned a thrashing.  Now though he dismissed the urge there were more important matters to deal with this thrice damned corpse for one. 
“Damn you for a dolt just…just take hold of her legs again!” It was in as steady and commanding voice as he could manage while still being discrete, even at this late or early hour the royal palace and halls of Westminster were rarely quiet for long.  By his reckoning they had at best some quarter hour before the palace servants began traipsing through here beginning the morning’s preparation of baking and cooking.
“Ohh I’s don’t know sir…”  The doubtful reply trailed off into uncertainty.  The Second hauler bit back a curse, while that fool dithered the sands of secrecy were trickling out fast.  Ignoring the mud on the wet cobbles the Second hauler knelt over the body and gave corpse’s shoulder’s a shake. 
“See as dead as a traitor’s head on London Bridge.”  Now at this point in the argument the Second body hauler felt himself on solid ground, he should know if the body was deceased or not.  The rendering of this corpse had taken him the best part of half an hour.  In his experience your average descendant of Eve commonly only required one or maybe two dagger thrusts to make them as dead as they needed to be.  He wasn’t by nature a squeamish man or a coward, having proved himself on battlefield, duel and joust, but by all that was holy the memory of how this corpse came to be broke him out in cold sweat.  Pushing past that he tightened his hands around the sheet as his reluctant assistant shuffled over and they once more resumed their slow progress towards the riverbank. 
At that moment the pale light was cut off, as if by a dropped curtain as the next cloud occluded the moon.  It was perhaps not the best time for a further hiccup in the plan.
“Aww Crist!  It moved agin!”  Squealed the First hauler, repeating his prior refrain and almost dropping his burden.
“Damn you, by my blood it didn’t!  Hold fast and keep yer grip or you’ll earn a beating!  No doubt the discussion would have continued in this vein for the next fifty paces, except that an unexpected event brought the argument to a precipitous halt.  The body moved.
The arms broke free of the shroud and lunged up at the Second hauler while its feet spasmed kicked off the hold of the reluctant First hauler.  Needing no further prompting he bolted with a trailing scream into the covering darkness.  The Second hauler though didn’t have any choice at shirking his task, the hands of the corpse were now locked tight on his doublet and the rest of the body was struggling its way out of the shroud.  In any normal circumstance he’d be as terrified as his minion and would have thought nothing of bolting from this gruesome apparition.  He didn’t have a choice, stand him against a dozen Frenchmen and he’d take the odds with a grim chuckle, this though had him chilled to his belly.  The dead were supposed to stay deceased until the Last Judgement, not get up and try and kill you!
This damned girl wasn’t satisfied with the peace of eternal rest or waiting for the Last Trumpet instead those pale hands of hers were clutching at his throat.  Fear, terror and shock held him frozen for a moment until one clawing dead finger grazed the tip of his short beard.  By St Anthony no!  She’d almost done him in earlier this night, it wasn’t going to happen again!  With a growled curse he clasped his hands together and in a move that he’s learnt off the king punched upwards.  The blow jerked the body off its feet and knocked away one hand, the remaining one though was now latched onto his collar as the moving corpse made unnatural snuffling sounds in an effort to co ordinate standing, shaking itself free of the sheet and attacking.  Taking the instant’s respite the second hauler pulled out his belt dagger and plunged the blade under the arm moving toward his throat.  The blade was good german steel a gift of his Sovereign Majesty after a challenge of dice, it slipped in easily with only a whisper of sound as the needle sharp tip punctured the muscle in the armpit. 
It made no difference to the attack, the Second hauler whipped the blade out and used his fist to parry the attempted grasp by the flailing hand.  The rest of the body now was half free of its shroud shrugging it off like the worn skin of a snake.  A gap in the clouds spilt a beam of pale light down upon the struggle, the Second hauler stepped back and cursed.  Her damned dead eyes were open and he could hear strangled guttural moans leaking from the slashed throat.  According to his enemies he was a fellow rich in the experience and practice of depravity.  While it held some truth as he’d sneeringly concede, this situation was well past even the most fevered imaginings of his rivals.  He’d just wished right now he’d been afflicted with maybe, oh a lesser sin, like buggering a priest or pissing in the Cardinal’s wine?  Though from the clerics he’d seen at court that was more like a brief catalogue of their lesser habits. 
Pulling back the useless dagger he was left with a problem.  How do you slay the dead?  The damned corpse’s hand was still fastened at his collar, that stab hadn’t diminished the grip in the least.  His only respite was that in its struggles the corpse tangled the winding sheet around its legs, other wise…He’d faced many opponents some had been too stubborn to know they were beaten and had required inventive crippling.  The usual strikes to neck, head or stomach were out, if that gaping wound across her throat hadn’t kept her safely dead neither would another. 
The Second hauler needed an alternate strategy, if she got her hands around his throat again…no the first time on the bed was enough warning.  He’d been unprepared, relaxed and sated from her love play, then the sudden attack.  His neck still ached from her all too strenuous attempts.  His confessor Father Wade no doubt would gabble on about seeking the Lord’s aid and go on about prayers, relics and the blessed sacraments.  Well he didn’t have any, nor did the gold cross around his throat hinder her efforts to throttle him.  All that was pretty moot anyway, his belief in the holy mother church had never been that great, much to the despair of his mother.  So short of spiritual succour he’d go for the more mundane usages of survival. 
A blocking move with the forearm he’d pick up from old Chandos managed to dislodged the hand from his neck and provided a moment to step back.  A usually quiet voice by his soul, his own fallen angel was still screaming to run.  Here he was facing some fiend possessed dead punk and his bowels felt loose enough to drench his hose in a stream of liquid turds.  But to be so terrified as to running like his worthless gibbering servant.  By Christ’s blood no, it was going to end here!
Having made his decision, the Second hauler took the offered time and tilted to the left bringing his right side forward in a combat stance.  He then dropped his dagger down into a lower guard position, as he weighted up his opponent.  The corpse had finally struggled free of the shroud and as if animated by like a mummer’s puppet straightened up and swung towards him.  The gaping slit in the throat still emitted wheezing rumbles.  Even in the limited moonlight the Second hauler could see her lips and jaw moving, whether it was speech or scream he couldn’t say.
As the figure lurched towards him the second hauler felt his stomach roil in a prelude to a gut emptying puke.  He clenched his teeth tight, he was the master of his body unlike this poor girl.  The moonlight spilled over her face and shoulders creating softened highlights and deep shadows in the darkness.  Her skin had lost that glowing warmth and sheen that once drew him to stroke the skin of her breasts, now it was as cold and starkly white as tomb marble.  He took another pace back and shook his head, this wasn’t his sweet bed companion of an hour ago, it was dead flesh animated by some dark power and she was trying to kill. 
Well dead or not he was a knight trained by the best teachers in the kingdom, veterans of the battles that had first put and then kept the King’s father Henry Tudor on the throne.  Whether they’d faced a horror like this was debatable.  But they’d all been unanimous in the fact that even the most skilled opponent had vulnerabilities all one had to do was live long enough to find them.  The Second hauler yielded one more pace as he watched the steady advance of the corpse, how she moved really was exactly like a puppet that strange disjointedness of her steps.  Then his patron saint shone upon him the light of knowledge and he gave hard toothed grin.  He knew what to do!
Moving to the attack he closed the distance rapidly and swung up his left arm in a shielding blow that knocked the corpse off balance.  As soon as those clawed hands had been deflected he lashed upward with the dagger.  Not aiming for any vital organ instead his thrust hit the cruck of her left elbow and the sharp blade easily sliced through the muscle and sinew.  The Second hauler spun half around as he stepped past his assailant, the corpse apparently disorientated by the assault slowly turned to face him.  He gave it a grim smile, his tactic had worked, after all what was a puppet without its strings and here the left arm flopped uselessly unstrung by his slash.  Yes at last he had a chance against the dead!  Even his fallen angel had to reluctantly agree he’d live past the night.  The next attack was a repeat of the first this time aimed at the corpse’s right arm, the gaping slash at the throat wheezed what could have been a scream as that limb flopped unstrung.  A few well placed kicks had the corpse back on the ground where quickly slit the leg sinews as if jointing a deer after the chase.  Then avoiding the gnashing teeth he trussed up the twitching and shuddering corpse as before, and tensioned the bindings of the sheet until the body looked more like a moth’s cocoon.  Satisfied with his work the Second hauler dragged the burden to the wharf of Westminster Stairs.
The fitful clouds once more blanketed the moon until in a final gesture of the night revealing the writhing shroud lying on the weather worn timbers of the wharf.  The Second hauler stood above the body and pulled off his cap.
“Yea’re dead Gwen and there’s an end of it.  As you know I’ve no time for fat priests and their prattling, so I’m not going to give you that hypocrisy of unfelt mumbles.  No doubt you were as wicked as any daughter of Eve, though I’d heard naught of any grievous sin.”  At this point his own fallen angel sweetly whispered his litany of faults, and reminded him that Gwen’s would have to be shorter.
“Ahem, so I commend your body to the river and your soul to the mercy of God’s judgement in the hope of resurrection.”  At that last reference to the Almighty the corpse moaned, and the second hauler felt a trickle of fear down his spine, quickly he finished his task and just in case whispered a prayer quietly.
Pater noster qui es in caelis
Sanctificetur Nomen tuum
Adveniat regnum tuum
Fiat voluntas tua
Sic ut in caelo et in terra
Panem nostrum quotidianum da noblis hodie
Then with little further ceremony he tumbled the bound body off the end of Westminster Stairs wharf.  It landed with a modest splash and after a lingering moment afloat slowly sank from view.
“Peace be with you Gwen, yea were a comely lass and damn me but you had a sweet voice and could hump like the very devil…”  The last comment trailed off into a reflective silence, as the Second hauler reconsidered the potential closeness of the description.
“Ahh… yea see I’ve no idea what demon or affliction caused this Gwen, but it was either you or me and honestly, I can’t be sorry it wasn’t me.”  An embarrassed cough halted his speech, possibly prompted by earlier memories of the night.  The Second hauler shook his head and having cleared his throat restarted.
“By what little faith I do have Gwen I swear on my hope of salvation, that if I can I settle your spirit…ah somehow.”  With that he unloosed the small gilt gold cross from round his neck and dropped it in the water after the body.  Giving his shoulders a shrug he turned and strode off towards the courtier’s chambers the dead dismissed and already considering the solving of his latest difficulty-blood drenched sheets and hangings.  As any wise in the ways of magicks and arcanum could have warned him depositing a personal item with the unquiet dead was a sure and certain prescription for trouble. 
The Thames flowed on untrammelled by the impromptu burial, dozens if not hundreds of beasts and children of Adam are consigned to its care every day.  Some discarded as offal, others claimed by tragedy, inconvenience or misfortune of chance.  The spirit of father Thames enfolds them all, occasionally a body is washed up on a muddy bank or sandbar as the tide recedes and given a more christian rest.  In all that it is exceedingly uncommon for the departed to pull themselves out of the water and claw their way along the shore and up the water stair.  If the Second hauler had seen any of that he wouldn’t have bothered with the trivial matter of cleaning up his blood splattered room.  The moonlit glint of metal clutched in the teeth of the corpse promised an ominous future.

Regards Greg Chapter 1 will go up next week

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