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There was further cause for alarm concerning the overpopulation within the city itself “where there are such great multitudes of people brought to inhabit in small rooms, whereof a great part are seen very poor, yea, such as must live begging, or by worse means, and they are heaped up together, and in a sort smothered with many families of children and servants in one house or small tenement”.

London: The Biography

Peter Ackroyd


“This is the place.” Ralph pointed across the field to the darkened bulk of the mansion looming down by the river. Poley stood next to him, Moody on his other side, and the three men contemplated the task in front of them. “Do we go straight in?”

“What if I were to go in first, con the lay, report back to you?” Moody barely glanced at Poley as he spoke, busy making sure that his clothes straightened and his weapons ready at hand after the mad dash through London’s winding streets.

Poley didn’t take his eyes off the mansion. He could see, here and there, spots of candle or rush light through gaps in walls or shutters. “There are too few of us to waste our strength with scouting forays. And I’m sure as shit not letting you out of my sight, Michael.” He cared not what Moody’s reaction might be. “And there’s the possibility that I’m wrong. We need to get in there as quickly as we can to make sure whether Nick and Meg are being held there. If not, we’ll need all the time we can get to check other possible boltholes Denby could be using.”

“Is there any that you might want alive, Bob?” Ralph had removed his dagger from his belt and inspected its edge. Continue reading “(Broken Instrument) CHAPTER 34: POLEY: SNEAKING IN”

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By the dispatch of Willoughby to France, she (Elizabeth) definitely committed herself to the policy of supporting him (King Henry IV of France) and from that policy she did not waver, though she laboured as always to reduce her support to the absolute minimum.

Mr. Secretary Walsingham

Conyers Read


The door thumped solidly closed. Denby’s bravo made sure it was latched solidly. The minute that happened, Helmsley couldn’t wait any longer and spun to confront Nick. “The packet you took from Broussard. Give it to me now, you piece of shit!”

The fat man hesitated for a moment. Helmsley could clearly see the calculation on his face, but then, just as Jean made the slightest motion forward, he slumped in acquiescence. Moving slowly, making sure that his hands were in plain sight at all times, he shrugged off his cloak and bent to tear at a seam with his teeth. Shortly, he pulled the small packet of thin folded papers free and handed them to Helmsley.

He couldn’t help himself. He snatched the papers from Nick and triumphantly brandished the packet in front of Nick’s face. “Start saying your prayers, heretic. For God is your only chance of succor now.”

Nick merely shrugged. He seemed tired, deflated like a bladder at the end of a fun fair. “I don’t see how any prayers will get me out of this.” Then, the merest flash of anger. “Besides, my prayers ain’t yours. Isn’t that what this is all about? What prayers a person says? If I was to pray now, you’d gut me for a heretic as well as a spy.” And then the anger guttered out, a candle returned to a mere smoking wick. Continue reading “(Broken Instrument) CHAPTER 33: HELMSLEY: THE TRIUMPH”


Nazi Zombie by Dragoart

The alley stinks. Piss and rotting vegetables, mainly, along with diesel smoke.

Mirsky looks out of the alley’s mouth to the boats tied to the wharf across the street. It’s the middle of the night, and cold and wet, but the harbor is still busy. Freighters are being offloaded as fast as they can with supplies for the Allied forces to the south and to the east. The workers are mainly North Africans of all nationalities and colors. Americans and British scurry around with clipboards in their hands, adding to the general sense of chaos with a chorus of yells and commands in English which very few of the longshoremen understand.

“And you trust this guy?” Continue reading “(Fangs of the SS) CHAPTER 32: Next Stop: The Balkans”

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The palace that was originally designed for some nobleman and his enormous establishment becomes first the tenement house and then the rabbit-warren, the plague spot, crowded from garret to cellar with dirty poverty stricken wretches.

Elizabethan Life in Town and Country

St Clare Byrne



The mansion bulked large in the darkness. They were in a small piece of open space that couldn’t decide if it was a field, a garden, a midden, or an orchard behind some houses. From the number of tumbledown sheds and shacks that littered the space, a fair amount of people called the area home. The mansion was at the far end of the space, towards the river.

The group of them, Helmsley and Denby still leading the way, had made their way here via a winding path of side streets and alleys. Nick knew his boots were a lost cause and shuddered to think of what Meg’s shoes and the hem of her dress must be like. He also knew that he was distracting himself with these thoughts of clothes. His situation was grim and there had been no opportunity for escape. That mangy bastard Jean was a constant worry. He was a killer to his bones and Nick felt that even on his best day, he’d have trouble besting the Frenchman. And none of his days lately had been his best.

And then there was Meg. Any chance of escape had to be a chance for both of them. The only bright spot was that these fuckers still had no idea who she was, still assumed she was just some whore. In the end, it might be her who started the blood spilling. Nick kept himself alert for any sign from her. Continue reading “(Broken Instrument) CHAPTER 32: NICK: A DECAYING MALIGNITY”

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At nightfall each householder was supposed to hang up a lantern for the benefit of the passers-by; but even when this ordinance was strictly observed these very primitive affairs, with their thick, discoloured horn panes and their guttering candles, did little to reveal either the condition of the path underfoot or the lurking assailant, crouching in the deep shadow, and as willing to cut a throat as a purse.

Elizabethan Life in Town and Country

St. Clare Byrne


Poley was standing so close to Ollie that he could smell the blood dripping from him. “Where’d this happen?”

“Rafe Peckingham’s inn on Cateaten, just by Moorgate.” Ollie swayed a bit. “We’d picked up your man and were out on the street, heading here, when they jumped us. Meg had gotten your note and figured this was the best place to bring him.”

Poley’s mind began to move very fast. Very fast indeed. It was going to be resolved one way or another this very night. He spent not a second despairing on how close he’d gotten to resolving this.

Ralph got a shoulder under Ollie’s arm and walked him to a nearby empty table. He got Ollie laid down and began to pull his shirt aside to see how bad the damage was. Kate was there at his side with rags and water.

Ollie was being taken care of, wouldn’t die soon. The next action was clear. In a few swift strides, dodging the people standing around gaping, Poley was in front of Barnstable. There was a worried look on his face and he opened his mouth to spout something worthless and timewasting. Poley forestalled him with an upraised palm. “The moment’s on us, Art, and it’s lying there bleeding on that table. What’s it going to be? Let some traitorous bastards do Her Majesty grave harm or be a hero? Decide now. In or out?” Poley kept his gaze locked on Barnstable’s, gave him nowhere to turn. He knew that the decision was going to go his way before any words were spoken, when Barnstable closed his eyes for a second.

Barnstable opened his eyes, drained his mug, returned Poley’s gaze. “In. What do you need?”

“Get back to the Tower as fast as you’re able. Get a group of Warders together. No uniforms, but armed. I’ll meet you at the Tower Gate. We’ll sweep west up along Thames Street.” Continue reading “(Broken Instrument) CHAPTER 31: POLEY: FIND THEM!”


“Stop.” Bathory effortlessly projects her voice to the vampires moving in to kill Mirsky and Wetzel. Mirth echoes in her voice. “Not them. Not yet.” She doesn’t acknowledge their grinning acquiescence but instead turns to look down at Schefflen. “Your ‘machines’, are they damaged? Can they continue?”

Her mad scientist pulls his head from the guts of a bank of dials close to the vat. He blinks owlishly up at her, clearly gathering his thoughts. His fingers never stop coiling around each other, stained worms. “Oh, yes, Mistress! They only took minimal damage, just  a few stray bullets. Easily repaired! And, with the readings that I took during the … ceremony…, I even have some ideas to increase their output.”

She waves him to silence, as he attempts to expound on his ideas. It would just be irritating babble. The important thing is that she can continue. She opens her mouth to give orders for the two men to be brought to her and something lands on her wrist. She hisses in pain as it burns her skin. A drop of something. Something hot that fell from the ceiling. She looks up.

Maccabbee melts through the floor. Continue reading “(Fangs of the SS) CHAPTER 30: Light vs. Dark”

London Streets
London Streets

The Pope, the House of Guise, and Philip of Spain still cherished their hostile intentions and looked only for an occasion to carry them into execution.

Mr. Secretary Walsingham

Conyers Read


Helmsley followed Denby down a narrow twisting alley. The buildings on either side, were they houses? Shops? He had no idea, they leaned over the alleyway and squeezed the night sky down to a wandering thread. He could hear the others behind him. With iron control, he tamped down any feelings of relief or triumph. He could ill afford either. The mission was not even close to finished. That would only come when they stepped ashore at Antwerp. Until then, he had to be at his most vigilant. Nick would never be more dangerous.

Denby came to the alley’s end and stopped to look out, peering each way. Helmsley realized that there was a huddled body laying in a pile of wood shavings against one side of the alley. He peered closer and saw that it was a person sleeping, not a person dead. Another one of London’s teeming masses. Only in his room at the inn had he been alone since arriving in London. All other places, there were people. Along with the feelings of relief, he also suppressed the itchy feeling of eyes on him. Continue reading “(Broken Instrument) CHAPTER 30: HELMSLEY: EVEN A BLIND HOG”


Von Regensberg takes aim and shoots a German soldier in the head.

This isn’t going well. The vampire pulls back fast behind the table on its side that’s his current cover. He’d gotten a glimpse of the tactical situation in the quick instant it had taken him to kill the Wehrmacht soldier. The Germans weren’t a serious threat, not against vampires, not even armed with those damnably effective weapons. Those living shooting statues. They were what was making this fight turn against him and his forces. Continue reading “(Fangs of the SS) CHAPTER 29: The Ceremony Begins”

information received

Poley and Moody are men of the same stamp: players in the secret theatre, provokers of sedition, pledgers of false vows.

The Reckoning

Charles Nicholl


Poley leaned back casually. He realized that there was a part of him that had been expecting this or something like this. He reached out, picked up his mug, took a leisurely sip, then put it back down. His mind completely bent towards the smiling man sitting across from him, as if everyone else in the tap room had ceased to exist for the moment. He’d felt the same in similar situations, events balancing on the knife edge, the utmost effort required for success. He kept his voice mild. “Why would you do something like that? You know well enough that I can have you up on a treason charge, Michael.”

Moody’s smile never even flickered. “I am a man of many talents, Bob. Many talents indeed, and I deserve to be compensated for each and every one of them. Them as compensate me the best are them that get the benefit of my talents.”

Poley’s sigh was unfeigned. “Blood of Christ, Michael. Coin and praise? That’s why you’re going to see your cods on a plate before they let you die screaming? During your time in the Tower you’ve seen it done; you know how bad a way to die that is.”

“And it’s not going to be my death.” Moody shrugged. “I know that my talents will keep me from the axe and block.” Continue reading “(Broken Instrument) CHAPTER 29: POLEY: A BROKEN INSTRUMENT”