The Stacks

To Captain Reginald Tate

by Ushas the Rani


To Captain Reginald Tate, London

Bath, 22nd October 1872

My dearest love,

As you will recall last week my sister and I left for a brief visit to Lady Lockwood's estate so that we may discuss poetry and romantic literature. Several other young ladies were also present but by far the least boring was a most strange and curious creature who seemed far too strange at times. The second night I was seated at my favoured place, by the always roaring fire, when Charlotte, who preferred to be called Charley for some strange reason, told us all this ghost story. I pass it on to you now, exactly as she told it to me, so that it night both entertain and frighten in equal measure.

***

"The Renegade is a most charming and perplexing man. He is a delightful enigma one must simply try to unravel." I was bored of listening to our host droning on about the Renegade. "Yes, yes. He plays at being a gentleman very well."

I was not comfortable being around our host. He had the most intense eyes, the wickedest smile and the most graceless of manners at times. He may have had a bad leg but he was none the slower for it. As evidenced last night when fuelled by an opiate concoction he tried to seduce me. Of course I was having none of that malarkey, I fought hard for my honour and I acquitted myself like a true lady should. Although I wouldn't put it past that randy devil to try again tonight.

"My dearest Charlotte."

"Call me Charley, everyone else does." I didn't like my full name being used very much and it flowed from his mouth like red wine from a serpent. If I wasn't so distracted by his charm I was quite sure I would have nothing more to do with him.

"Charley. Will you take tea with us? The Renegade has been in my modest library for hours now."

I consented. After all he was the host and I was the guest. It would have been ill-mannered to refuse and he was trying so hard to be nice to me too. "I should be well disposed to take tea with yourself and the Renegade." I made sure to mention the Renegade, lest he got the wrong idea. This rogue needed no invitation from any female I considered at length.

Presently he escorted me to the library where I came upon the Renegade reading four or five books at once.

"Renegade, what on Earth are you doing?"

"Charley."

I gasped as he rushed over to me, took hold of my hand and led me over to the books he was examining. "What is it, Renegade?" I was curious to see what he was so excited about.

"Don't you see?"

I examined the books quickly. "I'm afraid I do not." I picked one of them up. "What is it?"

"Look closer."

I paid closer attention to the texts. "I don't read German very well."

"Read the French."

I took the second book. "The traveller in the blue cabinet? That's you, isn't it?"

"Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes."

I took a step back as the Renegade swept the books up into his arms. "What do they say?" I was curious to know.

"They're about me, about us."

"Us?" I asked. "Why would someone write about us?"

"Why indeed?"

I returned my attention to our host and prepared an apology for the Renegade's curious behaviour. "Lord B…"

"No need, I've see much the same look in Percy's eyes as he is in composition."

I took the tea he offered me. It was slightly bitter but with a welcoming taste of lemon mixed in with the leaf.

"Mmmm, quite delightful."

"Would you care to take a stroll around the garden?"

He held out his arm to me, but I did not trust that he trusted himself when alone with me. "I'd better help the Renegade, he'd forget his head if it wasn't for me."

"A rather macabre sentiment."

I recoiled as a satanic moment flittered across his face. "It's just a saying."

"Come now; let us not stifle ourselves Charley." I backed away, towards where the Renegade was standing. "I really think we ought to be going Renegade." "What?"

The Renegade looked at me, a quizzical look on his face and a similar tone in his voice. "Yes, we have things to do, remember?" I tried to point to our host with my eyes.

"Are you feeling ok Charley? You appear to have a problem with your eyes."

"I'm fine." I snapped and headed towards the door and the safety of my room, or better yet the TARDIS.

"I'll escort you my dear."

"I'm fine." I replied quickly, and sharper than a guest should. "I'll be fine, really."

"Why don't you got with him Charley?"

I stopped dead in my tracks. "Are you serious?" My heart skipped a beat when the Renegade nodded.

"I've got some very serious work to do here Charley. I've worked out who wrote these stories."

"Who was it?" I asked. "One of your many friends whose name you keep mentioning?"

"One of the best."

I saw a smile on the Renegade's lips. "Who is it this time? Jonathan Swift?"

"It's your story Charley."

"What? I've never published anything; I didn't think women were allowed to publish yet."

"Only one charming young lady that I'm aware of."

I looked back at our host. "Exactly, pre-Suffrage we were as oppressed as sheep in a field."

"Rather repressed than oppressed I fancy."

I ignored our host out of good manners. "So what did I write?" I imagined a love story where the heroine fell in love with her secret admirer.

"It's a warning. A terrible thing is about to be unleashed, a great evil will arise and only I can stop it."

I laughed. "How do you know I'm not pulling your leg?"

"Because you say that if I don't do anything it will kill you."

"No, that's a lie. I'd never say anything like that. It's a story." I was overcome with shock and fainted.

I awoke to find myself alone in my room dressed only in my frilly petticoat. Someone had partially undressed me. I hoped it was the maid or the Renegade. The thought of that sinful man's hands on my filled me with revulsion. Lord he may be but a man of God he was not. "Renegade?" I called out but my entreaty went unanswered. I dressed as quickly as I could, not having a maid to help me into my dress it was tiresome and fiddly work but eventually I managed. Then I made sure I was presentable before going back downstairs to seek the Renegade and hopefully some answers.

I found the Renegade in the dining hall; he was engaged in whispered talk with our host. "Excuse me." I called out. "What is going on?"

"Charley?"

The Renegade seemed to look at me in a most troubled manner. "What is it?" I asked.

"You are afflicted."

I ignored the lecherous gaze of my host, lest I say something ill advised. "I feel fine."

"No Charley, you're not."

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"You are possessed."

"What do you mean?" I scoffed. "This is some mad game the two of you have concocted, is it not?"

"This is no game, girl."

"It's hardly serious. Ghosts and spooks and monsters are just fairytales." I wondered why the Renegade was going along with this. "Tell him Renegade, it's just make-believe."

"Some fairytales are all too real Charley."

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"Dark legends. The vampire is very real."

"Vampires?" I laughed now openly mocking our host. "You call yourself a Lord? You don't impress me at all."

"Stay calm."

The Renegade approached me and held my hands. "What's really going on Renegade?"

"This will all be over very quickly."

The Renegade opened a book and started to chant words in a language I'd never heard before. Outside a fierce wind picked up and moments later it started to rain."

"It is coming. The storm. The storm that heralds it's awakening. The Fendahl stirs and the world bleeds." I was going to say something but I felt warm, in fact I felt hot. It was like my body was getting hotter and hotter with each moment passed. "What's going on?" I felt dizzy and I leant against a chair for support. "What's happening to me?"

"Stay calm Charley. It's almost over. Have a bag of salt. Its good for getting rid of unwanted spirits you know."

I wanted to believe the Renegade, but he resumed speaking that strange language. It was stilted and disjointed, like vowels spelled backwards and soaked in vinegar. Finally he finished and I was seized about the arms by our host. I was too tired to struggle and he felt his breath cool against my scorched neck. "I don't feel well."

"It's here."

I saw three shadows cast against the Renegade's face. My own, our hosts and that of a strange misshapen beast. It appeared to be trying to embrace me, but the Renegade produced a silver crucifix and suddenly the shadow vanished. Strong arms supported my weight as I slumped to the floor, not quite unconscious, but not awake either. I heard mutterings but I was too drained to make out the words. I felt myself being lifted into the air and then I finally drifted off into the arms of Morpheus.

The next day was much the same as the last, except that everything seemed that little bit realer. The flowers were a touch brighter and the sun just a bit brighter. The lawn was greener too as we sat on a blanket to take tea and biscuits. I had been told by the maid as she dressed me that the Renegade was preparing for our departure. We said our goodbyes as we approached the time machine.

"I do hope you come by to visit."

"We'd be delighted."

The Renegade spoke on my behalf, something about which I'd have to correct him about, later on.

"Goodbye, my lord." I curtsied, as a young lady should. He took my hand and kissed the back of it. He eyes burned lustfully, wickedly.

"Until next time."

I retrieved my hand and entered the time machine.

"I'll be glad to get out of this bustle." I waited until the doors were closed before I spoke to the Renegade.

"What, what was wrong with me?"

"Oh, nothing much." The Renegade replied. "Tell me, does the word Fendahl mean anything to you?"

I shook my head. "No, wait. One of my aunts married a German man called Kenrick Fendahlmann. It was before the war and no one minded afterwards anyway." I wondered what this was all about. "Why do you ask, Renegade?"

"No reason, it's already been taken care of. In the past or the future depending on which way you look at it."

He smiled and I couldn't help but smile too. "So I'm ok?"

"It didn't have enough power, so I could delay it for now."

I was about to ask what the blue blazes he was on about but something in his eye told me that it would be a very long and interesting story. "I'll go and get out of this dress. It may look pretty, but this corset is murder on my waist." I left the huge console room and headed off down the fire-lit corridor towards my room and the comfort of a more sensible dress. "At least I can cross Byron off my list of famous people to meet. Mad, bad and very dangerous to know."

***

How she could have claimed to have met Lord Byron I'll never know, some flight of fancy of hers I imagine, for he has long been deceased. The manner and intensity of her of her conviction however, added tenfold to her narrative and I hope that I have captured in words what terrors her voice portrayed to me that night and which you have now read. I shall be home soon my love and thence shall I be available should you wish to court me still. My father I feel encourages your approaches and to my joy I find your company pleasing too. My heart aches for you to but hold my hand this very hour.


Elizabeth Montague

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