Vollin’s Dungeon Presents:


Peter Cushing as Professor Forduke in…..



 by Dr D. Vollin

The carriage drew to a halt, and the driver tied the leather reigns of his trap onto the steer pole, and waited for his passengers to leave the carriage. Zak and his new bride Christine scampered out from within the cosy confines of the carriage. Zak left Christine and made his way to the driver, "that'll be two shillin'" said the driver in a dry tone, " can you direct us to a lodging house or an inn, you see my wife and I are in need of some refreshment and a, ahem, warm bed" joked Zak glancing at Christine who blushed. The driver cautiously eyed his two youthful and energetic passengers

"newly weds are ye" he enquired with a smirk. The driver pulled his wide black brimmed hat down so that it shadowed his face, and in order to obtain a sneaky glance at Christine who was now slowly wandering around the carriage picking flowers from the woodland path floor.

"aye that's right, we were wed, erm……, last week" replied Zak

"oh Zak look, aren't these flowers beautiful" Christine sang and held up a bunch of greenery dotted with delicate white and pink petals  " I shall make us both a necklace" she laughed

" they be wolfsbane" spat the driver

"what about the room" asked Zak impatiently

 " oh yes, there be an inn about 5 minutes in that direction, I would take ye there m'self only me coach won't fit through the thicket see!" said the driver

" that's all right we will make it, thanks" shouted Zak, and he and Christine walked off in the direction of the inn

" the inn is called the Gore Crow" bellowed the driver, before whipping his horses into action.

    The Gore Crow was an inviting sight through the dark woodlands with its twisted trees casting foreboding shadows in the light of a full, and rather large moon.  A warm redness glowed from within and as Zak and Christine approached they could hear the merry chants of its occupants which drowned out the chilling cries of owls making Christine feel far less nervous. A heavy sign board adorned with a rather terrifying monstrous black crow swung gently in the cool breeze. Zak pushed open the door and was immediately greeted by familiar smells of oak cask ales, pipe smoke, and cured meats, he smiled. They had been in the inn for about half an hour and had consumed many wines and spirits, the landlord had seemed rather friendly and had offered them both his back room. Of course Zak had lied again and failed to mention that Christine and he had eloped, and were now hiding from Christine's father who had threatened to shoot Zak on a number of occasions.

    Christine was born and bred from a rather well to do family which owned a great deal of property in Yorkshire, alas poor Zak was a black smith's son with very little talent for the trade and no real prospects. Alas Christine and Zak fell deeply in love and in defiance of her father decided to marry him in the only way possible. In fact they were wed this very night by a peculiar priest whose name and address were given to Zak at a cost of 5 shilling!

    Zak had returned from the bar carrying two flagons of frothing best house ale, he dumped them precariously on the table top and then something caught his eye. In the corner of the room, a corner which seemed to be curiously abandoned by everybody in the inn, there was a gloomy wooden alcove, the alcove seemed to house a grim article. Zak wandered over to take a better look. What he saw fascinated him, there was what appeared to be a hand, or a paw, severed at the wrist and pinned to the base of the wooden alcove with a silver dagger. Zak in his drunken state did a terrible thing and unpinned the hand, he turned it over and over in his own paws quite unawares that the entire bar room had fell silent.

" Zak, Zak" hissed Christine, trying to gain his attention. Zak raised his eyes from the gruesome find and looked at all of the silent faces that were staring at him. One of them rushed over to him,

" please put it back, put it back you fool before…………"

" before what" asked Zak, " what is it anyway" he enquired

" It's the hand of,…………" the drunk looked at his fellow drunkards for support, they all opened their mouths expectantly, " the hand of a werewolf" the drunk looked down at the floor, there, he had said it now.

" pahhhhaaaaaaa, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha" Zak bellowed " a werewolf, a werewolf, you don't honestly expect me to believe that do you" in his raucous state Zak managed to scratch the nails of the severed hand across the back of his own hand drawing blood. At once every man and woman in the bar leapt out of their chair and formed a huddled crowd in the opposite corner of the bar away from Zak and Christine.

" what, what's all the fuss about, I cut myself that's all" said Zak in bewilderment,

" you'd better be on your way now sir, you and your lady" spoke the Landlord in a cold tone

" but you said we could stay" spat Zak angrily

" that was before.."

" before I played with your stupid hand" shouted Zak

" like I said sir, best if you was off now" repeated the Landlord

"Zak, Zak lets go, we can find another place" Christine said tugging at his elbow. Zak tossed the hand into the frightened crowd dispersing them into a scampering panic.

"keep your bloody hand, and your bloody hospitality, come on Christine" Zak pulled Christine through the door and outside into the night. Quite alarmed at the experience they had just had they decided to find a comfortable hay loft in a nearby farm as they were both too tired and too drunk to start roaming the countryside seeking shelter, besides the hour was late and most other places would be shut up for the night fearing highwaymen and others.

    Inside the inn, a tall silver haired gentleman with a pointed beard rose from a single table beside the bar, he placed a sovereign on the bar counter and collected a cloak from off a wall peg. Unnoticed by the general panic which still filled the bar room he made his way to the door. Outside only a few yards from the Gore Crow, Zak had to go and relieve himself behind a tree. Waiting for him to return Christine heard the hissing of somebody trying to draw her attention "piiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiist, you, over there" Christine turned and saw a bent old hag beckoning to her. Christine wandered over to the old woman, she wore the clothes of a travelling Gypsy " listen to me, you must get away from him, get away quick" spat the old Gypsy,

" what do you mean, from Zak?" whispered Christine. She could here Zak now calling for her.

" a man bitten or scratched by a werewolf, either alive or dead, becomes a wolf himself" said the old woman. Zak had now found Christine and through his arms around her, scaring her slightly, when she glanced back to where the Gypsy woman had stood, there was nothing.

" what's wrong" enquired Zak

"oh nothing, the people are strange here I want to leave now" answered Christine somewhat puzzled and afraid. The wind had turned nasty now and both of them stood amidst swaying trees, there hair a tangled mess, leaf litter caught in a small gust showered them and in an instant they were one with the wood.

    " Excuse me" a voice rang out from behind them both. Zak and Christine turned round to face a tall man wearing a cloak. He must have been in his late forties and was rather prematurely grey, his pointed beard gave him an air of authority, but it was his velvety voice which immediately caught their attention. " I could not help but overhear that you were looking for a room, I thought it was quite unfair of them to throw you out in spite of offering you accommodation. These simple people can get a little foolish sometimes. I am fortunate enough to possess a large house not too far from here, there are plenty of rooms and I would be delighted if you would take up my kind offer and stay a while" Christine and Zak did not have to think for very long. Soon they were all making way for Ludvic hall, escorted by their host for the night, Count Ludvic.

    Ludvic hall stood in all its splendour in about 100 acres of beautiful English countryside, built very much in the style of  a medieval  castle with battlements, spires and turrets. Count Ludvic was the perfect host, entertaining Zak and Christine until the early hours, with copious amounts of brandy and a vintage mead which Ludvic's family had perfected many decades ago. Zak and Christine retired for the night and found themselves in a glorious room with a four poster bed draped in silken sheets, there was a roaring fire in the grate and a plentiful supply of wine and fruit. Christine slipped between the bed sheets and waited for Zak who was unbuttoning his shirt, Zak crossed the room and opened the large leaded window to air the room, the cool night air gripped Zak as he stood transfixed by the full moons glow. Zak suddenly felt different, his heart began to race, his blood almost boiling filled him with pain the likes he had never before experienced, he began to shake, to groan,

" Zak, come to bed, your shivering" called Christine, but it was no use, her voice might have been a million miles away,  Zaks eyes were as big and round as the moon, he looked at his hand which was paining him, the hand that he scratched with the horrible paw from the Gore Crow. Zak's hand was now a tangle of black, coarse hair, his nails were long and yellow, like talons, in fact his hand resemble the hand from the inn. Christine called out to Zak once more, his moonlit silhouette appeared larger than normal, his shuddering, heaving frame whirled around, Christine screamed, he was not Zak anymore, but a beast wearing Zak's clothing. The creature came at Christine all tooth and claw, ripping, tearing, devouring. Within seconds the room was a bloodied mess, and the beast was out through the window, and away across the lawn towards the wood, where the cries of other wild things beckoned him on.

    Ludvic sipped at his goblet of mead secure behind a bolted bed chamber, he smiled when he heard the chilling howl from outside the house. Someone else also heard the howling, it was the old gypsy woman, she was sitting by an open fire next to her caravan, she quickly pulled her shawl tighter around her shoulders, and scurried into her home.

    Zak woke and found himself lying face down in a muddied ditch. He had a bad taste in his mouth, and his clothes were torn, almost to ribbons. He stood up and ran his hands through his hair, god he felt awful, it must have been one hell of a night, he remembered drinking at the Gore Crow, and them meeting Count Ludvic, but sometime after then things became a little hazy. In fact Zak had no idea how he came to wake up in the middle of the wood. Zak looked around to get his bearings, he could see one of the turrets of Ludvic hall just rising above the tree tops, he estimated it was about 30 minutes walk from where he was, he tightened his belt, and even though he was bare foot, began to stride towards Ludvic Hall, Christine must be worried he thought. In fact Christine was not worried at all, Christine was dead.

    Inspector Hardwicke pulled a clean sheet over her remains and turned to face Count Ludvic.

" prey, how did this happen Count" enquired the inspector, in all his years as a policeman he had never seen such a ferocious attack upon a woman before. Ludvic spoke about the guests he had taken in and of how drunk Zak was, and how shocked he was to find one of his guests, Christine, so horribly mutilated. Ludvic managed to describe Zak for the inspector.

" do you think he will return" asked the Count

" I hardly think so sir after what he did I expect him to be keeping a low profile" as they spoke, the sheet covering the mess which was once Chritine began to soak up blood like a sponge, soon all its whiteness was gone, replaced with a gory red.  "but if he does come back don't hesitate to contact me. I will be leaving Sargent Hacket in town, he will be staying at the local inn, the Crow, you can reach me through him. Oh and sir I have to point out that at no time should you approach this man, after what I've seen today he's extremely dangerous!, I haven’t seen anything like this since that dreadful business in London,Whitechappel" said Hardwicke with a grim tone.

" don't worry inspector, I will let you know if I see anything" said Ludvic with a smile.

    The inspector and his men made there way out of the house and continued with there inspection of the grounds. From a hundred yards away, Zak sat amidst a clump of trees watching the small crowd of policemen as they ambled about the Hall grounds. Zak unaware of what he had done to his beautiful Christine assumed that they were sent by Christine's father to find them and punish them for their eloping, he decided to hide until the coast was clear, and hoped Christine had also managed to avoid them. For some reason Zak had a fleeting mental picture of Christine, Christine surrounded by a foaming spurge of blood. He shook his head and crouched, waiting.

    It seemed to take an age before the police left Ludvic hall, Zak tentatively approached the side door to the kitchen hoping to sneak in unnoticed, but was confronted with the Count on opening the door.

" don't worry Zak, I saw you approach the house from the east turret. The police are gone now and wont be back for some time I imagine. I think we should have a talk"  The Count was smiling again.

" I am sorry, Ludvic, I did not want you to get into any trouble over Christine and I, we will pack and be away from here as soon as we can" spoke Zak

apologetically. The Count looked at Zak puzzled " you and Christine?, you don't remember do you?"

" remember, remember what?" asked Zak

" about what you did last night"

" did, well, last night is a little hazy, but I did drink an awful lot" Zak was mildly worried now, he suspected that Ludvic was keeping something from him " Christine, she is still here isn't she? I mean the police didn't take her did they?"

Ludvic gave Zak a sympathetic smile,

" my boy, you really have no idea what you did have you, or of what you have become" Ludvic began to tell Zak about his terrible deeds, he recounted what had happened the previous night, about how he had killed his beloved Christine, about his new and terrifying affliction that he was now a werewolf. Zak shook his head, he placed his hands over his ears, even though what Ludvic said was ridiculously bizarre, he had memories, more vivid now, more real

"nooooooooooooooooooo, I can't believe you, let me see Christine, where…"

" calm yourself, the police took her away"

" no I don't believe it!"  Zak raced upstairs to the room they last shared together. He threw himself inside closely followed by Ludvic. Zak was standing over the blood soaked bed when Ludvic entered the room, he tried to comfort Zak by placing a hand on his shoulder but Zak grabbed Ludvic round the throat,

" it was you, you killed my wife, then drugged me, and now you try to make me believe I killed her with a stupid story about werewolves, I will kill you" he screamed. Ludvic was being strangled by the powerful Zak, he managed to reach over and grab a heavy candle stick from the bed side, the stem was smeared with Christine’s blood. Ludvic sent the candle stick crashing down onto Zak's head. Zak released his grip on Ludvic and sank to the floor.

" you stupid fool, can't you see I am the only one who can help you now, your only hope" gasped Ludvic, desperately trying to breath again. " I could have sent the police after you, I knew where you were"

" no, no, stop, your lying" sobbed Zak. Ludvic helped Zak to his feet once more

" you know what I say is true, you can see the things the wolf did in your mind. You are the wolf now" said Ludvic calmly.

" why would you help me if I did do this terrible thing " asked Zak puzzled

" because I need you to help me. I need the wolf to help me" replied Ludvic. Zak could feel a burning sensation on his chest, he scratched frantically to make it stop, in desperation he ripped open his shirt and watched in amazement as a symbol slowly appeared like a raised pentagram on his clammy skin

" you see it" cried Ludvic " the mark of the beast, it's the proof that what I say is correct" Zak sobbed, and crouched on a chair in the corner of the room

" help me" he cried " help me, I will do anything" Zak was desperate

" I can help you but first you must do something for me" said Ludvic coldly.

     Professor  Forduke fished around in his waistcoat pocket for his snuff box, realising he had left it behind he sighed and took hold of his cane and banged the interior roof of the carriage he was riding in " I say, driver, how much further" he enquired impatiently

" at least 4 hours sir" came the reply

" four hours, my god man, can't these nags of yours go any faster" he raved. There came no reply this time. Forduke lifted the curtain covering the small window of the carriage and peered outside. It was becoming dark already, and Forduke so hated arriving anywhere in the dark. Forduke reclined a little and his mind ran over the events which lead him to make this journey.

    Count Ludvic, a once time colleague of Forduke's was one of the wealthiest men he knew owning almost every square foot of land in the town of Englemere. They had both worked for government in office at one time, and Forduke had suspected that Ludvic was not all he made out. In fact, following some simple checking, Forduke discovered Ludvic was a French spy, who frequently sent secret information regarding English naval movements to his French superiors Some of this information produced devastating results during a previous Anglo French naval battle costing England dearly. Being a fierce patriot, and one self obsessed with monetary gain, Forduke had confronted Ludvic with his treason and in return for his silence demanded a substantial payment from the Count which incorporated most of his estate, in fact if Ludvic succumbed to his blackmail, he would be broke and Forduke a very rich man indeed. But Forduke knew he had to give him what he wanted, after all England executes traitors.

    Forduke sent word of his arrival at Ludvic Hall before leaving his own adequate but rather unimpressive residence in Cornwall. Tonight would be the night where Ludvic would have to admit defeat and hand over deeds rendering Forduke the new lord of the estate, with a nice title thrown in for good measure.

    Zak's mind was in turmoil, he accepted that which Ludvic had told him, and now he waited. Ludvic had locked him in a dungeon for Zak's and his own safety . Ludvic traversed the grimy stone steps of this underworld carrying a platter of glistening pigs livers, he approached Zak who was tethered to a slab,

" here I will leave this food down here, you will need this when you are hungry, it will keep you quiet" said Ludvic softly

" I would prefer it if you would untie me" replied Zak, "how could I eat food after what I have done to Christine, I feel sick at the thought"

" calm yourself, the bindings will not hold you once you have transformed" Ludvic said and placed the platter onto the stone floor at the foot of the slab. Ludvic walked over to the far wall and tugged on a length of heavy rusted chain, as he pulled, a stone skylight slid back revealing the starry night sky, in the centre of the skylight was the moon, its cold rays filtered through the dank air and bathed Zak in an eerie glow.

" don't leave me here alone" cried Zak as Ludvic ascended the stone steps once more

" I will return my friend but now it is your time, time to become that which all wise men fear, he, he" cackled Ludvic as he disappeared from sight into a curtain of gloom. Already Zak began to feel the changes in his body, he ached, and convulsed, he could feel his limbs growing, stretching, becoming stronger. Soon the leather straps which bound him to the cold slab snapped as if they were nothing more than gossamer threads. The beast gave a piercing screeching howl which reverberated around the conical walls of the dungeon, rising, repeating and finally escaping through the skylight towards the moon which beckoned to him, teased him. The beast sniffed the cold air of his prison and followed the scent of the platter of livers Ludvic had left. Soon he was devouring each rich portion with a relish, a hunger that he had not felt since the previous night.

    Professor Forduke disembarked from his carriage and tossed the driver a sovereign. As the carriage rattled away, back along the winding path away from Ludvic Hall Forduke eyed the splendour of Ludvic Hall bathed in the moons incandescent light, even in this gloom it was an attractive residence, he was sure the grounds were equally splendid and decided to explore them at the soonest opportunity. Forduke lifted the heavy door knocker and rapped out his presence. He could hear the slowly approaching footsteps from behind the door and was surprised when Ludvic himself opened the door.

"what, no butler" inquired Forduke

" I have no need of servants" replied Ludvic "I prefer it this way"

" I am sure you do Count, after all, there is nobody here to delve into your little secrets" answered Forduke with a thin smile.

" only you my dear fellow, only you" spoke Ludvic sternly. Ludvic offered Forduke entrance of his home with a rather theatrical flourish and the two of them made there way to Ludvic's study.

    The study was a pleasant room, filled with many treasures from various travels and many things from Ludvic's native country of France. Forduke took up a seat next to a large fire place and began fishing around in his pockets for his snuff box. Ludvic opened the top off a large globe in the centre of the room which contained many assorted decanters and poured Forduke and himself a large brandy. Forduke gulped at the brandy with relish, after all the journey had been a long one and having misplaced his snuff he had little in the way of comforts until now. It wasn't long before Forduke confronted Ludvic with his demands.

    The two ex-colleagues argued for many hours, but in the end Ludvic finally gave in. Ludvic offered Forduke the Hall and grounds in return for his silence about his treachery but Forduke requested even more, he wanted Ludvics title. Ludvic was furious,

 "why you would leave me with nothing" he spat.

" traitors are normally left without a head, I at least would leave you with yours" laughed Forduke who was now helping himself to large amounts of brandy from the globe. " do you know how much I despise you Count?, I love my country with a passion you could never understand, and to think there are people like you, like cancers at the heart of our great nation, pulling the strings and sending this isle to a slow destruction, well let me tell you Count, you have come off very lightly indeed" Ludvic watched Forduke through slit eyes, he could feel his hatred for the Professor grow and grow until he could not contain himself anymore, he reached forward and knocked the brandy out of Forduke's hand. Forduke reacted swiftly for one so drunk and struck Ludvic square in the face with his fist. Ludvic fell backwards against the mantle piece knocking off a bust of his great grandfather, Count Ludvic the 5th sending it crashing to the floor,

"why you have touched my claret!" he shrieked, and lunged at Forduke sriking him several times about the face before leaping out of the room. Forduke picked himself up off the floor and  scurried out of the study in hot pursuit of Ludvic.

    Confronted with many corridors and stairways Forduke didn't have a clue which direction to take " I will find you and make you pay you blaggard !" he screamed. Suddenly he heard Ludvic calling him, the calls seemed to be coming from the bottom of a flight of steps. Steadying himself against a stone wall Forduke peered down the steps into the nefarious gloom, he could still hear Ludvic taunting him, inviting him to join him for another confrontation.

    Forduke began descending the steps straining his eyes trying to spot the Count before he could surprise him!. The stairway was huge and thick and illuminated here and there by flaming torches. Forduke had now reached the bottom of the steps and saw a heavy door ajar in front of him, he wandered inside. In the middle of the room was a huge stone slab, a few manacles fixed to the walls, but no Ludvic. SLAM!

   Forduke spun round, Ludvic had closed the heavy door to the dungeon trapping him inside, his evil face peered through a small barred hole in the centre of the door

" I have you now Forduke, you are my prisoner, I can do whatever I wish with you now" laughed the Count

" open this door at once, do you hear, you can't keep me a prisoner here, open the door" screeched Forduke, but Ludvic wasn't listening

" keep you a prisoner, ha, ha, you fool, I have better plans for you!, look behind you Forduke, for you are not alone in there" cackled Ludvic, but Forduke was alone in the dungeon room, the only thing behind him was a cold wall hidden in the shadows. Ludvic's neck hairs prickled and his blood ran into

in an instant realised he had locked Forduke in an empty dungeon and himself outside with the werewolf! " no. no, I was sure he…….." Ludvic fell silent and pressed himself hard up against the dungeon door, he watched terrified as a hideous, hairy shape sped toward him, all teeth and tongue, ripping, tearing.

    Forduke watched in horror at his enemy's demise, blood oozed and spurted through the small square hole in the door, he couldn't see exactly what was happening but guessed that Ludvic was being mauled to death by a gigantic hound which undoubtedly he had kept in the dungeon to rid himself of his nemesis, Forduke who began laughing at this thought,

" I win you again Count" he shouted rather frantically, but suddenly fell silent himself when he saw the werewolf’s face pressed up against the door " what in the name of Jesus…" gasped Forduke as the door was kicked off its hinge!. With a single stride the beast entered the room, matted with Ludvics blood, Forduke covered his mouth with his hand in horror at the sight which befell him!.

    The creature reached for Forduke but then suddenly became listless. The creature slumped onto the stone slab and Forduke beheld a rare sight. Gradually, the monstrous shape became human, transforming into Zak once again, who groaned as the mighty nuzzle that was once the creatures nose retracted into his skull producing a more serene and human appearance. Zak opened his eyes and beheld Forduke, "well, well, bless my soul!" Forduke uttered.

    Zak and Professor Forduke talked well into the early morning covering everything from Zak's Lycanthropy to Ludvic's treason. Zak told Forduke how Ludvic had promised to help rid Zak of his affliction, Zak was now feeling very anguished, not only had he been responsible for his wife’s death, now he had destroyed his only hope of ever being normal again. " don't fret my boy, I know something of these matters and am in possession of knowledge of a cure that was handed down from my great great grandfather who it was claimed was a great hunter of monsters, oh, excuse me, of misfortunate people like yourself!" said Forduke, trying to bring some hope to the miserable Zak, who suddenly looked at Forduke with pleading eyes

" yes, please help me, I don't have money, but I will do anything you want" spat a desperate Zak

" oh, the demise of my enemy Ludvic is reward in itself my dear boy, help me to drag his corpse into the forest and then I will help you".

    Both Zak and Forduke dragged and left Ludvic's body in the middle of the wood surrounding the estate, they both surmised that the police would have no other choice than to put his death down to an attack by a wild animal. They both returned to the Hall and after swallowing two large brandies, Forduke told Zak of his cure for werewolfism, "you see, according to my Great Great Grandfather, the only way to cure a werewolf was to amputate the part of the body that was the source of the primary infection, so long as the unfortunate victim was a relatively new wolf. How long has it been since you were bitten?" quizzed Forduke

" only a couple of days" answered Zak

"excellent my boy, quite excellent, now tell me, where did the wolf bite you"

" it wasn't a wolf bite, I scratched my hand you see…" Zak raised his swollen, hairy hand out for Forduke to examine.

" I see, hmm, it will have to come off you know!"

" I don't care, just do it, I want to be normal again" sobbed Zak. Forduke handed Zak the remainder of the brandy decanter,

" here you will need this my boy, drink it and we can get started!"

    Zak was tethered to the slab in the dungeon, Forduke was busy cleaning a huge meat cleaver he had found hanging in the kitchens, the cleaver was sharp and heavy, with any luck it would only take one maybe two attempts to remove the hand. With the implement now cleaned, Forduke approached the frightened Zak " don't worry my boy, I will make this as painless as I possibly can" said Forduke in a soothing tone. He rolled up Zak's tattered shirt sleeve to reveal the hand. Zak was frantically wiggling his fingers for the last time, trying to remember what it felt like to do so, before his hand was gone. Forduke raised the cleaver and paused briefly, he glanced at Zak's face who quickly grimaced before turning his head to the side. Forduke brought the cleaver down hard onto Zak's wrist, and continued to do so several times before the hand dropped to the stone floor. Zak's screams were piercing as Forduke corterised the wound with a flaming torch.

    An hour later, Zak was stumbling through the dense thicket away from Ludvic Hall, his stump was throbbing, and so was his head, Forduke had bandaged his hand sufficiently. For the first time Zak felt relieved , especially now the mark on his chest had vanished, he was cured, he could feel it, his body although racked with pain felt like his body again, he couldn't feel the wolf inside him anymore, the thick hairs under his skin, itching. Zak was tired, he had lost a lot of blood following the amputation. He stopped by an old tree and saw a gypsy caravan about 100 meters away, its lantern swaying in the breeze, the smell of cooked meat off an open fire. Zak felt hungry, he stumbled towards the caravan.

          Back at Ludvic Hall, Forduke was busy packing away documents from Ludvic's writing cabinet, he had found the deeds to the Hall, and even the last will and testament of Count Ludvic, he could make the necessary changes required in order to take possession of the place, besides, Ludvic had no family to speak of. Forduke even wrapped up Zak's severed hand in an old piece of linen in order to dispose of it on his journey home. In his haste he stuffed it into his leather travelling case together with a lot of other bits and pieces, then quietly departed from the Hall.

    Zak stood over the large cooking pot which was hanging precariously above a small log fire on the ground and in front of the Gypsy caravan. He took in the meaty smells and his mouth began to water.

" you, get away from here!" came a shriek from behind Zak. Zak spun around and was confronted by an old Gypsy woman and her son, Anjure. Anjure was holding a gun.

" I am sorry, I did not wish to frighten you, I was hungry that's all, could you spare……." Zak was silenced by the sound of a shotgun. The Gypsy woman's son Anjure had fired the weapon and had caught Zak square in the head. Zak fell backwards onto the fire and the meaty broth and in an instant became an indistinguishable ball of flame. 

" I killed him, I killed him, I killed the beast" wailed an exited Anjure

" yes my son, but there will be others" replied the old woman. The pair of Gypsies retired into their caravan and left the fire to consume the remains of Zak.

    Sitting in a carriage, Forduke wondered what had become of Zak, and suddenly became aware of a smell wafting through the carriage window. He peeled back the curtain and saw a fire through the trees, the smell of woodsmoke was quite pleasant, and there was another smell he could not quite discern. Forduke reclined in his seat and thought about food, about wine. He was desperately impatient to get home, and he oh so hated travelling by night.  Suddenly Forduke's eyes lit up, he had remembered where his snuff box was, it was the last thing he packed on his outward journey and he had tossed it into his leather travelling bag. Forduke delighted he could at least have some comfort on his journey home thrust his hand deep into his leather bag, but withdrew it sharply wincing in pain. He looked at his hand which appeared lacerated along the back. In horror Forduke pried open the bag and saw Zak's severed hand, one of the fingers was poking through the linen, its long yellow nail was smeared in blood, Forduke's blood. In blind panic Forduke managed to fall out of the carriage and into a muddy ditch. The driver of the carriage stopped his horses and dismounted the carriage and began a trot towards where Forduke was lying. Forduke writhed in agony in the ditch, his skin was burning, his heart pounding, but the worst thing was the moon seemed to be bearing down on him, into him. The coach driver stood over Forduke, 

" ere, are you all right " he asked. It was the last thing he ever asked.


COPYRIGHT © 2001 Dr D. Vollin