It had been such a promising day, Lord Fussely DuBucket mused. Over the droning din of his two arguing lab assistants he reflected fondly the entirety of his day up till this point. Morning had started on a bright note; Mrs. Brisby was an efficient housekeeper and made an excellent cup of tea. Indeed, there was nothing more enjoyable than lounging in his comfortable silk dressing robe sipping Darjeeling while idly drifting through the local Times for the Scientific Notations section.
Then there was some matter-of-fact business to do with creditors and legal notes, business salutations and correspondence with fellow visionary luminaries; all mundane and necessary tasks to keep a moderately well-to-do household up and running. Fussely had been the only son of the late Lord and Lady DuBucket; a couple known for strict propriety and a strange obsession with mechanisms seen in the various use of moving machinery dotted about the DuBucket manor. One older (quite a bit older) sister, Emogene DuBucket, had no patience or interest in what she often described as ‘that odious scientific junk’ and had married a steady banker with whom she had two sons. Occasionally she dropped in to lend a strong hand with her lackadaisical younger brother’s interests (“You need a firm hand, m’boy! What with your head in the clouds we’re fortunate you haven’t invested all the DuBucket money in screws!” Which Fussely thought, rather injuredly, was hardly just of her to say; he only made one bad investment in ferret/skunk hybrids which had ended on a rather sharp and malodorous note). Fussely secretly described her visits as ‘lending an iron leaded clutch of tyranny and reign of terror on an otherwise peaceful existence’. He did not look forward to Emogene’s visits.
Midmorning he had a lovely stroll about the manor, tweaking the Hastily Reflected Operometer and indolently oiling the Postman’s Nemesis by the front doors. Some of the reason for his contentment was partially due to the fact that in his front pocket, printed on a delicate shell pink paper with a light floral scent, was an invitation from Miss Roseprim of the illustrious and wealthy Roseprim family to take a turn about the local garden located next to the historic London cemetery. He would regale her with his recent scientific innovations. She had a right smart head about her and often discussed with him mechanisms and his recent scientific endeavors.
It was abruptly before lunchtime when Fussely was shaken out of his pleasant musings by, not so much the sound so much as the feel of the BOOM that shook the building. Mrs. Brisby was in a right state and had to be fanned for several minutes before he could get a sensible answer from her, nonetheless give her strict instruction not to chase the flying black squirrel-like things with a broom as they probably breathed fire. After shutting the main doors of the foyer he hurried towards the section of the manor that was known as the ‘Cow’s Pedagogy’ for unfathomable reasons (it was named by a dotty ancestor infamous for his love of facial hair and unfortunate affection for absinthe and firearms– a sad and deadly combination). The large, well insulated room served the purpose as a scientific lab where Fussely had spent so much of his adult life tinkering with things much as his parents had before him.
And, yes, there they had been, in the middle in the room blackened with soot and heavens knew what else, were his two lab assistants.
Three years ago Emogene had announced with thundery denunciation that he needed assistance in his scientific endeavors and sent him Cornelius (older, often confused for a scarecrow, likes geography) and Clovis (younger by two years, no sense of direction, has an unhealthy fondness for cake). Fussely personally thought that the only reason she had stuck his nephews on him was that nobody else would have them, this feeling strengthened when Emogene went on to rumble about family honor and helping kin in crisis and so on. As time passed and many of his experiments were contaminated, lost, broken, blown and (mysteriously) vaporized Fussely eventually accepted Cornelius and Clovis as some sort of unavoidable natural disaster. Getting rid of his nephews meant a great row with Emogene and that thought made him break into a cold sweat.
Fussely’s eyes took in the scene of the sadly familiar carnage that he had come to associate with Cornelius and Clovis. Of course whatever failed experiment they had been concocting had managed to break his favorite Yixing tea set from the Tang Dynasty, the delicate clay lay beyond hope on the floor. Various shattered pieces of glass, books that had been torn (flung?) from their proper perch on expansive bookshelves, overturned tables and the most conspicuous mark of destruction; one perfectly round shaped hole through the wall overlooking the well manicured lawns. Fussely could see the gardener leaning on his rake chewing the stem of his pipe as he contemplated the haphazardly flung debris that littered the grounds. Fussely drew a deep breath.
He cut across mid-accusations and startled his nephews into momentary silence. Of course nothing really kept them silent for long.
Cornelius turned to Fussely with beseeching eyes and broke into appeal,
“I told him, I did, Fuss! I says, ‘Clovis, don’t you go believing funny little men with red fez’s and overly abundant lip plumage’. Does he listen? Does that stop him from stepping into that ill-omened shop-”
“Here now!” broke in Clovis, round face quivering with indignation. “Who was it that asked for unusual items? Who was it that taunted the little man with the red fez, said that the book couldn’t possibly be-”
“Clovis was the one who paid for it! Said magic books with the title Necrohominem Handbook begged to be bought, needed to be bought-”
“Cornelius found the page of Ill Omens!”
Both broke off their argument when they saw Fussely’s usually congenial face contort into something hideous that foretold a possible violent outburst. He drew a calming breath.
“Am I to understand that one of the lost transcripts of the Decayed Dynasty fell into your pernicious pair of hands?”
“Bit harsh, Fuss. Pernicious isn’t really the word I’d use-”
Cornelius stopped again and cleared his throat.
“Didn’t mean no harm. I mean, who really expected it to work?”
That drew Fussely up short. Experiments that were successful for the two brothers were few and far between.
“What exactly did you do?”
Cornelius and Clovis slid a glance at one another and Clovis began,
“Weeell, like Cornelius conjectured we bought an old ratty looking book from a strange man in a red fez. Took it for a lark, really. Something to save as a party trick. Brought it back and read a few paragraphs when all these strange things started to happen.”
“Howling dogs in the neighborhood.” Injected Cornelius.
“A little indoor weather.”
“And at one point it was raining silver tureens-“
“That bit hurt, I can tell you. Going to have bruises where no man should-“
“Anyway,” continued Clovis, “ we get to this one bit; something like ‘cold and covered, long since thriven, rise once more, breathe breathless bones’, and next thing you know there’s a hole in the wall and I’ve got these funny spots behind my eyes and…”
He trailed off at the look of stricken horror upon Fussely’s face.
“Breathless Bones?” he moaned quietly. “You damned fools, do you know what you’ve done?”
The grim recrimination set the two brothers to sputtering excuses and protestations.
“BREATHLESS BONES! A waking shade, a revenant, a reanimated stiff! You two nincompoops have managed to raise the dead!”
Miss Priscilla Roseprim was taking tea in the local gardens with the impressively stalwart figure of Emogene DuBucket, dressed for a day spent outdoors with an over-sized ostrich plume hat and stout black lace umbrella. Incidentally, the presence of Lady Emogene Dubucket could account for an entire military outpost; what with her imperial attitude and etiquette so fervent it seemed even the flowers in bloom straightened themselves under her steely gaze.
Conversation with Lady Emogene was rather akin to mental wrestling; finding the fine line between being firm and letting her blunt comments wash over without bringing an equally blunt object down over her head was an exercise not for the faint of heart.
“So you see m’dear, you must take a firm grasp with Fussely. Six months courtship and no certitude of engagement! If you do not take heed the boy will dither and lollygag and you’ll be an old maid before you get a ring on that finger! Gracious Heaven, you don’t want to be spinster do you?”
Miss Primrose took a dainty sip of tea and said wryly, “Oh, I don’t know, I’ve always had a proclivity for cats and gardening.”
It was only with a little malicious pleasure that she watched Lady DuBucket’s nostrils flair and face darken alarmingly. Lady Emogene leaned heavily over the black umbrella as she gazed hard at Miss Roseprim and continued,
“DO endeavor not to be trite, dear. Most unattractive in a woman. Now upon the subject of the invitations-“
Miss Roseprim let her mind wander as Lady DuBucket’s booming voice washed over her. The gardens were a favorite place of hers; the well worn paths and neat beauty of the various flowers and foliage made a darkly fascinating contrast to the vine-covered worn graves of the cemetery next to it.
It was here she had met Fussely. He had been absorbed in taking a clipping from one of the rarer forms of hibiscus when Miss Roseprim had studiously bent over to inquire whether he was a botanist or just an enthusiastic gardener.
The fact he tumbled head over heels, literally, into the flowering shrubs when she startled him as she spoke to him only endeared him more to her.
Papa was flummoxed that she could be interested in such an idealistic sort of man when plenty of others had money, position, solidarity and so much more to offer than a barely titled scientist dreamer. Miss Primrose shared those dreams; a part of her longed to be alongside Fussely as he challenged the world around him, even when it meant Lady Emogene DuBucket as a sister-in-law.
“-with sprigs of baby-breath; so lovely and the color will compliment you nicely, dear. Do have another cup; you’re looking a bit peaky, Priscilla.
Miss Primrose was staring just over Lady Emogene’s broad shoulder with an increasingly alarmed expression.
“Good Heaven, what is going on?”
The sounds of a pleasant day in the park, chirping birds and genteel conversation amongst its patrons, had changed into a thunderous roar of shrieks and hasty scrambling. One overwrought gentleman tripped over the leg of the table Miss Primrose and Lady Emogene were sharing; Miss Primrose stood hastily, still balancing a full cup of tea in her hand while Lady Emogene was sent crashing to the ground.
Miss Roseprim watched in ill-concealed awe as the towering frame of Lady Emogene rose from the destruction of porcelain cups and clotted cream. Bosom swelling alarmingly she boomed,
“SIR! You will account for this outrageous behavior!”
The gentleman in question merely scrambled to his feet and gave Lady Emogene a cursory glance before stammering,
“Are you mad, woman!? Run for your lives!”
They watched as he retreated with more haste than dignity through winding pathways towards the northern exit of the gardens.
“Well I never! Such rudeness is inexcusable! I shall report him-“
Lady Emogene stopped abruptly as she caught a glance at Miss Roseprim who was staring at something behind her with an expression of shock that made her pink lips form a perfect ‘O’.
Forms emerged from shrubbery and neatly bedded flowers. What seemed to be a shuffling figure of a hunched over person, upon closer inspection, was a walking horror. Skeletal arms covered in clothing long since rotted were molded and discolored. Shriveled, shrunken flesh partially covered the fine white of the skull but the most alarming feature were the eyes, or lack of; deep within the hollowed sockets of darkness was a pinprick of dull red light. It cast a distinctly sinister glow that seemed to freeze the very marrow of those who looked upon it. Being so near the unnatural creatures lent a feeling of coldness that had nothing to do with terror; it was as though their very presence sought to leech all life surrounding them.
Miss Roseprim found herself spellbound in horror and
amazement and was unable to move as several of the walking fiends shambled towards
her with an alarmingly rapid gait.
Vaguely she could hear the roaring protestations of Lady Emogene but the red glow hypnotized her. With nightmarish slowness the walking revenant lurched straight towards her person and Miss Roseprim did what any sensible human being would do; she screamed.
“Hmm, Hydro-electric Mort Defunct Mechanism?”
Fussely let out a huff of exasperated breath as he watched Cornelius juggle the complicated looking apparatus.
“It’s a new invention. Just make certain the coils are pointing away from you.”
The threesome stood in the gaping mouth of the hole carved out by rampant magic. Facing near-certain mortal danger had a peculiar effect on each individual. Cornelius, usually more extroverted and troublesome, pulled back into an emotional shell that clearly said he was not comfortable leaving the confines of an easy life and definite meal-times. Clovis, normally contented to go along with what his older relation concocted, seemed to buoy up under the threat like an air filled dumpling.
Fussely did his ancestry proud. The DuBuckets had always been more intellectual than aggressive but never shirked duty when the occasion arose to bear arms, strap on whatever device lay on the work bench and right some wrongs.
Fussely drew in a deep breath and pinned the two brothers with a critical look.
“You are not to lose that book under any circumstances! Clovis! Keep your finger on the reversal page and be ready to read for your life, man! Even if it means losing a limb or two-“
“Never fear, Uncle! I shall smite the enemy mightily! They will rue the day-“
“Yes, yes. Our first priority is to locate where exactly these revenants have emerged.”
“That won’t be no trouble, Fuss,” spoke Cornelius “just follow the sound of the screams.”
And he was correct; a quick jaunt that followed an almost perfect line of destruction (through private yards, a couple of residences and down Wobbler Street) led them to a site of hysterical mass evacuation.
Well-dressed patrons of the cemetery and neighboring garden alike streamed past the trio like expensive fluttering pieces of wrapping paper caught in a gale wind.
Fussely swallowed hard, attempting to dislodge the choking feeling in his throat as he realized it was a very real possibility that Miss Roseprim had been caught up in the undead assault. Her figure had not been among the fleeing masses and it was already past the time they were to meet.
“Right. The two of you shall quarter the enemy along the hydrangea. Cornelius – remember to cock the snook before pulling the trigger and keep those coils pointed away from you!”
The two brothers saluted smartly but Clovis shuffled his feet momentarily before blurting out,
“But Uncle Fussely, what about you?”
Trying to keep his voice from wobbling too much he said, “I shall bring Miss Roseprim to safety forthwith and will reconvene with the both of you to see this disaster concluded. Until then.”
Fussely manfully made his way towards the ominous sounds of screams and floral destruction with only a minor quivering of the knees.
Cornelius let out an admiring sigh.
“What a brave man; off he goes to face certain doom armed only with a cravat and a moldy potato. What do you suppose he’s going to do with that?”
“I have utter faith that he shall prevail. Onward, brother! Let us test our resolute mettle! Victory shall be ours! Woe be the-“
“Oh, do stow it and start quartering.”
By the time Fussely reached what appeared to be ground zero of rampant magic he realized the noise of the living had disappeared and was left with an eerie vacuum of deadened sound. It was as though a thick layer of unease muffled the world and all the life contained within. What was once a cheerful and lovely vista of flowering blooms and neatly trimmed undergrowth now lay in pastel botanical wreckage.
“Miss Roseprim?” he said barely above a whisper.
Something was stirring in the manicured bushes some feet ahead and Fussely tensed like a startled tarsier monkey.
He drew in a deep breath then let out a blood-curdling screech, threw the potato and plunged into the undergrowth.
There was an answering screech that was very human, very female and very angry at being pelted with rotten vegetables.
“Mr. DuBucket! Watch out!”
Fussely ducked and pushed himself away as Miss Roseprim
unloaded an entire teapot’s worth of boiling contents on the silently attacking
figure that had almost been upon him.
He watched in awe as the heated beverage splashed spectacularly against dried corpse and the creature simply…melted away.
“Oh bugger, that was the last of it I’m afraid.”
Miss Roseprim knelt next to Fussely and tugged on his arm, pulling him back to his feet.
“What on earth! My dear Miss Roseprim, are you all right?!”
Miss Roseprim brushed away some dried leaves from her hair and met Fussely’s worried eyes with steadfastness.
“Right as rain! Although I must say I am admittedly apprehensive for your sister.”
“My-what? Emogene is here!?”
Hiding a small smile of amusement at Fussely’s alarmed tone Miss Roseprim gently entwined her arm through Fussely’s and started walking towards the great black gates of the cemetery where copious amounts of black fog was creeping over the grounds.
“She insisted,” Miss Roseprim explained, “that it was unheard of for a young lady to be unchaperoned even in so public a place as the gardens and offered to accompany me. Well, you know how hard it is to turn her away-“
Miss Roseprim shared a smile with Fussely and continued,
“-so I agreed to have luncheon on the green while we awaited your arrival. Imagine to my astonishment the great hullaballoo that accumulated with the arrival of those…those things! Simply ghastly! Well! I was just about done in when serendipitously I just happened to be holding my cup of tea and in terror accidently hurled the contents into the face of the creature. It simply shriveled and blew away into ash!”
“Extraordinary!” muttered Fussely. “What in the contents would cause such a reaction? Polyphenolic compounds? Tannic acid? I must research this!”
He blinked, momentarily forgetting the impending danger they were in and then said,
“What about my sister?”
“By the time I realized that it could do no more harm Lady Emogene had been borne away!”
Miss Roseprim looked into Fussely’s eyes with concern.
“Do you think she-“
“My dear Miss Roseprim, I would back my sister against undead fiends any day. She’ll be fine, I’m sure of it.”
They stood surrounded by the thickening fog accompanied only by the silent and worn gravestones. Fussely tenderly gathered Miss Roseprim into his arms.
“Dear Priscilla, how glad I am you remain unharmed! Why, if anything had happened to you, my darling-!”
“Fussely! How brave and foolish you are to come only armed with putrid produce! How noble! How I shall recall this day with rapture!”
Fussely gazed into the velvety brown limpid pools of Miss Roseprim’s eyes, content to remain there forever. She leaned towards him trustingly, full pink lips slightly parted –
A wailing cry disrupted the passionately tender moment. Fussely and Miss Roseprim sprung apart as Clovis and Cornelius came pelting down the path towards them. Clovis was in a right state; his frock coat was torn and ripped in several places and was smeared with dirt. Cornelius limped beside him, clothing singed and shredded. He wore a decidedly ill-tempered scowl that dared anyone to comment on his extraordinary appearance.
Fussely and Lady Roseprim remained stock still for a moment.
“What on earth-“
“Don’t say it!”
“Are those mushrooms on your-“
“Please! I beg of you, Miss Roseprim , speak not of it!”
Fussely rubbed his chin thoughtfully, gazing piercingly at Cornelius’s disturbed countenance.
“Didn’t cock the snook, did you?”
There was stolid fuming silence.
“Fascinating! Look at the striations of the blast pattern! Compelled by an insufficient draw of power and most likely having fused with the surrounding energy of the recently released transcript that -“
“Uncle?” Clovis said, nervously tugging on a frayed shirt collar.
“-accumulated in an extraordinarily wide-spread fungus invasion of the cranium –“
Fussely broke his scientific reverie to look at his other nephew who had a distinctly guilty look on his face. His gaze dropped down to note the flipped out collar, missing buttons … and decidedly empty hands. Cold realization made Fussely break out into a sweat.
“The book!” he shrieked, startling everyone around him.
Clovis held up his hands in a desperate attempt to ward off the onslaught of anger directed at him.
“Now, it wasn’t my fault-“
“Yeah, except is was.” muttered his brother.
Fussely was reduced to incoherent sputtering as his face turned an alarming shade of crimson.
“Perhaps you would be so kind as to explain how you misplaced this- er, book?” interjected Miss Roseprim with calm civility.
Keeping a wary eye on his still sputtering relation Clovis gratefully addressed her question.
“We were quartering the enemy, as you asked, Uncle. Hounding them at every turn, craftily disguised as rhododendron-“
“I was the purple one-“ added Cornelius.
“-when we were suddenly beset on all sides! A heroic battle it was too, I can tell you. Those undead blighters didn’t know what hit them! My mighty haymaker flew straight and true-“
“-the sissy threw the book at them and ran, is what he means.” cut Cornelius scathingly.
Clovis reddened like a sunburned pumpkin as he rounded viciously on his brother and shot back,
“Oh, very nice! As though your botched attempt with the Hyrdo-elec-whatsit did anything to rectify the situation!”
Both faced off, fuming, fists raised and ready to trade blows before Miss Roseprim interjected forcefully,
Fussely regained his composure enough to add, “Miss Roseprim is right; this is hardly the time to be fighting amongst ourselves. In case you haven’t realized we’re in a spot of bother here!”
Fussely’s recriminations were swallowed by the stifling silence of the gloom that surrounded them. A hush of stillness had fallen over the group as they belatedly took notice of their environs. Unbeknownst to them as they argued the unnatural murky fog had crept closer on silent feet. Even the sun had been stolen away; now it was no more than a thinly veiled weak luminosity in the sky.
“Erm-” Cornelius cleared his throat nervously, “Dear me, does it seem a little…dark, all of a sudden?”
Instinctively, the small group huddled closer together as ominous sounds began to emerge from the darkness. Moans and creaks and shuffling came from nowhere and everywhere, the noise distorted through the unnatural haze.
“It would appear-eep!- that we are-eek!- surrounded!” quivered Clovis as he noted smoky figures shambled towards them.
In every direction unnatural stiffly gaited creatures of the undead variety emerged from the fog in glacier slowness of musty disastrous doom. Eerily, pinpricks of dull red points of light from the eye sockets could be made out in weaving rows of ranks of the shambling shades. There was certainly an abundance of them, Fussely noted.
Miss Roseprim clutched at Fussely as they were backed towards a clump of worn headstones, Clovis and Cornelius made do with grasping at each other in their mutual terror.
“What are we to do?!” wailed Cornelius, fungal infliction aquiver with his agitation.
Fussely drew a deep breath.
“Stiff upper lip, lads! We shall go down as Her Majesty’s subjects, show no fear!”
Both brothers whimpered and clutched at each other tighter.
Miss Roseprim and Fussely turned towards one another with mutual understanding in each other’s eyes. Even as calamity threatened to overcome them, with only perhaps moments left before being overwhelmed by certain doom, unmistakable love was reflected in each face.
“Such a death as this I will gladly face as long as it is in your arms, darling Priscilla!”
Miss Roseprim’s eyes sparkled with unshed tears.
“Oh, Fussely! Do you truly mean that? Then you must know that my heart is enraptured! I will always belong to you, dearest Fussely!”
“Then let us make do with our brief and last moments on this earth; dearest, lovely Priscilla – will you grant me the greatest honor of becoming my most revered wife?”
“Lord Fussely DuBucket, I shall happily enter that state of matrimonial bliss with you!” replied Priscilla, glowing with pleasure. Fussely cast his arm towards the moaning figures almost upon them.
“Were it not for the fact these foul fiends have confiscated our only hope of rectifying the disastrous circumstances, having taken the book-“
“The book!!” screeched Clovis, pointing.
Through the sea of tattered and dirty ragged clothing, clutched in the skeletal hand of a particularly large revenant was the Necrohominem Handbook.
Hope renewed, Clovis roughly shed his outer coat, hurled it over the closest attacking rotting cadaver and threw himself into the fray. Behind him he could hear gasps of horror.
“Clovis! Get back here!” shrieked Cornelius.
Struggling with thrashing putrid limbs imbued with unnatural strength Clovis wheezed back,
“Quickly! With haste! While I have them subdued, retrieve the book!”
The hasty and astonishing attack momentarily confused the creatures as they turned as one to stare at the not unsubstantial flailing body of Clovis as he grappled, punched and scuffled with a being stronger than him. No one had enough time to react however; Clovis was quickly overborne and hurled roughly to the side. He did not get up.
Cornelius, acting on instinct and fury, scrambled to resume where Clovis had left off, grappling with the creature that had tossed Clovis to the ground; mad rage lent him momentary strength that kept Clovis from being trampled on while Cornelius futilely beat at steely bones and the ancient strength of a supernatural creature.
“Surely there is something we can do!? We will be torn asunder at this rate!” Miss Roseprim asked urgently as she watched the oncoming tide of walking death. All seemed to be lost.
Fussely did not appear to hear Miss Roseprim; his head was tilted to the side as though listening to something unheard over the struggle.
It came rolling over the abandoned landscape, reverberating
through trampled vegetation and besieged the very air. It came roaring over the struggling figures,
shaking the living and undead. If sound
could be a weapon this would have been battery of cannonade fire against the
unsheltered ears of all within range.
It was singing.
A figure loomed from the darkness of the supernatural fog. Mighty and robust, towering and inescapable, it easily knocked aside revenants like a cat batting aside vermin. Umbrella clutched in one hand, bedraggled hat pressed firmly against the wreckage of disheveled coiffure with the other it carved a path towards Fussely and the others, littering the grounds with haphazardly flung piles of bones.
“Whene’er we are commanded to storm the palisades-“
down went disintegrating piles of putrid rot! Disordered were the ranks of walking death!
“Our leaders march with flintlock, and we with hand grenades! We throw em’ from the glacis-“
scourged was the desperate fleeing form of the unnatural foes! Unrelenting was the merciless rhythm!
“-about the enemies ears! Sing tow, row, row the British Grenadiers!”
At the final warbling note Fussely and the others were left gaping at the impressive battle-worn figure before them.
Setting the tip of her umbrella firmly into the ground Lady DuBucket sniffed contemptuously and casually backhanded a revenant that had been wobbling towards her from behind, sending it tumbling to the ground.
“That will be quite enough of that!”
The bedraggled group stared at the impressive wreckage and at the figure before them; the overwhelming presence of Lady Emogene had scattered the remaining revenants six ways to Sunday and now they stood milling about as though uncertain of what to do next.
“What-but how, why!?”
Fussely seemed to be at a loss, tongue tied before the impressive glare that seemed to say you are the cause of this, I know it! Miss Primrose gathered her dirty hem and stepped lightly over a quivering pile of bones saying,
“Never mind that, quickly, the book! Before they recover! Lady Emogene has bought us precious time to be rid of these foul creatures once and for all!”
The ancient magics imbued within those long dead bodies would, indeed, be not so easily cowed, even by such a presence of Lady Emogene DuBucket; already they stirred even as Miss Roseprim spoke. Crumpled bodies levered themselves from the ground, scattered bones pulled back together as though magnetically drawn.
“I’ve got it, Uncle! I’ve got it!”
Clovis, recovered but wobbling from his foray, triumphantly held up the small red leather bound book. He shrieked and stumbled backwards as the walking dead focused their immediate attention back to him.
“Quickly, read! Read for our lives, man!” shouted Fussely as he kicked a shuddering revenant to the side.
“Ummm, reversal page, reversal page. Ah! ‘Your time has run out, it’s long since over, farewell cruel world, I withdrawal thee!!’
The process of cleaning up after what became known as The Unfortunate Unmentionable Incident was a matter of property damage, soothing multiple distraught family members of old Uncle Orvall or great Grandmother Adora and whoever else had been buried (and, briefly, risen) in the ancient cemetery, a stern letter of warning from the Council of Magicks and, finally, securing the Necrohominem Handbook in the family vault safely hidden within a wall in Fussely’s study.
“Needless to say,” said Fussely sternly as he supervised his nephews while they cleaned the disheveled laboratory “we now know not to meddle in that in which we haven’t studied first, or at the very least read the warning page before we unleash a horde of the undead bent on over taking the earth.”
“Yes, Uncle Fussely.”
“Yes, Fuss. We heard you the first ten times- all right! I’m shutting up now and cleaning like a good lad!”
Cornelius’s fungal problem had cleared up a couple of days after the Unfortunate Unmentionable Incident and Clovis’s broken ribs had been looked after and was firmly affixed with bandages. Lady Emogene had a few words to spare for her immediate relations, imparted in a voice that could have blistered paint from the walls and would not soon be forgotten. In the same breath she welcomed Miss Roseprim to the family, crushing the bemused young woman to her bosom before she made a grand exit from the shambles of the gardens.
In spite of near death, bumbling assistants and a life that was far too eventful Fussely seemed to be enveloped in a happy pink mist of excitement. Grand things were on the horizon; a wedding to plan, a new weaponized ion discharging blunderbuss that occasionally spat out surprisingly tasty pomme frites and a letter of invitation for the exalted Chapter of Innovative Technicians of Science.
Indeed, a life worth living right up until the point where there was another boom! The house rattled under the assault and Fussely ran to the foyer where smoke was billowing from the grand hall. Mrs. Brisby came staggering towards him, grasping the lapels of his jacket desperately.
“Oh, Lord DuBucket! Terrible, terrible-!” He gently took her by the arms and led her to a chair.
“Steady on, Mrs. Brisby! What on earth happened?”
“It was in the study! Lord DuBucket, someone has broken into the vault! The book – that awful book, is gone!”