Chapter 6 : Relics
A heavy, soaking rain was coming in sideways in visible sheets as Carlotta and Nisha huddled in a doorway. Carlotta swatted her sodden hair out of her eyes with moderate success and turned her back to the torrential downpour.
“Remind me again how we got this task and not, say, oh I don’t know, Mindy?”
Nisha shrugged with a rueful grimace, “I don’t think Mindy is top of Cassandra’s list of most trusted people right now. She’s probably worried she’d get distracted by a pub or a girl…or both. And to be fair, it’s a strong likelihood.”
Carlotta harrumphed and started trying to flatten a soggy piece of paper up against the door. On it was a rough sketch of the graveyard that had once occupied a far corner of the extensive grounds of Bermondsey Abbey. The Abbey had, for centuries, been home to a monastery and made up of an extensive series of buildings around a central courtyard. Carlotta turned her head, trying to blink away the pelting rain, and stared at the sad tumble of stones and dirt stretching out into the gloom. Unfortunately, the Abbey’s glory years were very much in the past now. All that remained was a gated off archeological site. And somewhere in the sad remnants was the thing they had come to retrieve. It was going to be a very long, very wet night.
With a sigh of resignation she turned back to the map, such as it was. “Okay, I think we’re at least on the right side of the site.”
Nisha nodded as she held up the compass app on her phone and peered at it. Carlotta continued, “According to this, our man Alfred was buried in the northwest corner in a stone crypt.”
Nisha wiped the water off her face and turned to peer into the site, “I don’t see any crypts out there, Car.”
Carlotta waved away her concern, “No, the above ground portion will be long gone but Cassandra thinks that the chamber beneath is still probably intact. Since the last known reference to the Chalice of Mnemosyne is that it was buried with good old Alfie, then that’s what we need to get to.”
Nisha tilted her head back and looked up at the torrent of water cascading from the sky, “Beautiful evening for graverobbing.”
Carlotta folded up the sodden map and tucked it into the inside pocket of her coat, then picked up the shovels leaning next to them in the doorway and passed one to her sister, “Ours is not to reason why, hon, ours is just to do or get shouted at by Cassandra. Let’s go.”
The vampires trudged glumly along the edge of the site, pulling their coats around themselves and sticking close to the relative shelter of the fence. The ground was a little swampy and more than once, one or other of the pair stubbed a toe on lumps of London’s ancient past with a muttered curse.
Carlotta kind of had a point, thought Nisha, why was she here getting pummeled by the British weather in the wee hours of the night, when her nest mates were actually alive (ok, not technically) when there was an actual building here, instead of this…soggy morass? Surely one or other of them had seen it in person? Or at least similar sites? Wouldn’t they be better suited to this task? Her puzzling came to an abrupt halt as she collided with her sister, who had stopped just ahead to examine a patch of ground.
“Argh, careful please!” hissed Carlotta, only just managing to avoid an unscheduled mud bath by steadying herself on her shovel.
“I think this must be the right bit, look – that’s definitely the outline of something crypty, just there.”
Nisha followed the sight line of Carlotta’s finger to just beyond where they were standing. Honestly, it just looked like another patch of mud and stones to her. She nodded agreeably though, since she didn’t have anything particularly useful to add and that spot seemed as good as any other in this dingy pile of soggy history.
Carlotta turned to look at her, “Right, so in theory all we need to do is dig down until we hit the stone covering the crypt entrance. Then we lift it off, relieve what’s-his-name of the magical doodacky, put the cover back on and be off on our merry way. Simples.”
Nisha nodded back gamely, her sodden hair flopping into her face, “Right. Do the thing, go home, drink cocktail in front of fire. Got it. How hard can it be?”
Two hours later…
“Oh my fucking GOD! How deep did they have to bury this guy?”, wailed Nisha.
They were both now covered, head to toe, in mud and filth not to mention completely soaked to the bone. They may be immortal beings who weren’t at risk of catching their deaths, but at this point Nisha was beginning to question whether just letting Alina stake them all would be less of a miserable faff than trying to find the mysterious chalice in this storm.
Just as she was about to suggest something to that effect to Carlotta, there was a loud scrape of metal against stone. Carlotta’s head snapped up and met Nisha’s eyes, both wearing expressions of hopeful excitement. Throwing their shovels aside, they plunged their hands into the quagmire, looking for an edge to get a purchase on.
“Can you feel anything??” Carlotta shouted, “I think…yeah…I think I’ve got a corner here…”
Nisha’s face screwed up as she pushed her fingers through the soupy mess of mud and gravel trying to find a break in the stone beneath. Finally, she felt her fingers catch on something.
“Hang on, I think I have something, just a sec…”
Impatiently, she wiped the water from her eyes on her shoulder as she tried to get a grip on the unseen break in the stone.
“Yeah, ok, I got it. You ready?”
She squinted, just about making out Carlotta’s nod through the falling rain. Bracing herself, she looked back down towards the ground and instructed, “One, two, three, lift!”
Bringing their vampire strength to bear on the slab of stone, with some initial resistance it came free with a distinct crunch. They were able to heave it off to the side and into the mud with a mighty splat, showering them both in a fresh layer of dirt and water.
“Urgh, Bhagwan.” Nisha muttered, scooping mud off her eyelashes.
Across from her, Carlotta was already descending the short flight of stone steps down into the space beneath.
As crypts went, this one was distinctly underwhelming. Nisha wasn’t sure what she’d been expecting, but it certainly wasn’t this. A tiny, plain brick room with a slightly vaulted ceiling, and a single unadorned coffin tucked away in the far corner. She’d at least hoped there might be a nice wall of human skulls or some elaborate columns or something. There weren’t even any gothic carvings of mortals writhing in eternal damnation. She’d been hoping that this miserable mission might at least furnish some like-worthy snaps for Monstagram. That hope had been dashed the moment she took in the Spartan state of the place.
“Really? This is it?” She could hear that childlike disappointment in her own voice.
Carlotta, who had already made her way over to the coffin, looked up at her nest-mate’s disappointed face and chuckled, “Yeah, sorry hon. If you were expecting some kind of lavish home in the afterlife then you’re in for a disappointment. These guys were pretty ascetic. One day we can go visit some of the really incredible crypts in Rome, ok?”
Nisha still had a look like a kid who had been promised a trip to Disneyland and had instead been taken to a local town museum. Carlotta laughed harder.
“C’mon, let’s get this stupid cup thingy and go home. Give me a hand over here.”
Together they carefully prized the lid off the coffin. Carlotta pulled a torch from her back pocket and shone it inside. A mess of bones and rags. They began to sift through the dusty contents, trying not to move Alfred himself too much as they unrepentantly disturbed his final rest. Finally, Nisha felt something cool and metallic tucked away under Alfred’s left arm.
“Hold up, I’ve got something here…”
Extracting the object gently, she pulled away some decaying linen then presented the thing to the beam of torchlight.
Like everything else in Alfred’s crypt, the chalice wasn’t what Nisha had been imagining. In stark opposition to the massive, bejeweled golden object she had been anticipating, the thing in her hand was small and dull. Made of what looked like maybe brass, somewhat smaller than your average wine glass and frankly looked like something you’d find in a charity shop. The kind of thing your nan might have in her attic. Nisha scowelled at it as if it had personally offended her.
“This can’t be it, can it? It looks so…boring.”
Carlotta was rifling around in her pockets, eventually producing a piece of paper with something drawn on it. Like everything else about their persons, the paper was very soggy but eventually she was able to gently unfold it and shine the torch light down on the sketch. Peering intensely back and forth between the page and the metal cup in Nisha’s hand, she eventually nodded slowly and then with certainty.
“Yup, that’s the one. That’s our magical chalice.”
Nisha sighed dramatically, “Honestly, Car, sometimes being a mythical being isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.”
Calotta laughed, “I’m sorry you’re disappointed. I promise we’ll do something super dangerous and glamourous as soon as we’re not at risk of imminent staking.”
Together they replaced the stone lid back on the crypt and left Alfred to his eternal rest. Then, sodden and filthy, they began the journey back to the house.
The door opened to reveal Cassandra with a thrashing Dracula in her arms. Upon catching sight of the two mud-covered figures standing on the porch, Drac froze for a second, then began to growl menacingly.
“It’s me, doofus. It’s Carlotta.”
At the sound of her voice, Dracula tilted his head sharply as he reassessed the situation and then his tail began to wag enthusiastically under Cassandra’s arm.
Restraining the struggling dog once more, Cassandra looked them both up and down appraisingly. Then her face lit up as Nisha pulled the chalice out of her pocket and held it out without a word.
“Oh fantastic, well done!” She took the little metal cup, turned to return to the cosy living room but then stopped and swivelled to face them again, regarding the two of them with a wrinkled nose.
“I think perhaps you two better strip off in the backyard before you come inside.”
With an apologetic smile she closed the front door and they heard her retreating footsteps followed by the opening and closing of a door and then silence.
Carlotta turned to face Nisha with a sombre expression, “Well that was an embarrassing flood of gratitude and concern.”
Turning to make their way around the side of the house, Nisha replied in a similarly deadpan tone, “Yes, her fussing and pampering is just too much sometimes.”
Grumbling mostly to herself now, Carlotta muttered, “Let’s hope she doesn’t insist we hose ourselves off in the garden before she’ll let us inside…”
Having taken very long, very hot showers, Nisha and Carlotta were huddled by the roaring fire with steaming mugs of tea. Hunnin had made himself into a little furry ball in Nisha’s lap and was purring loudly as she absentmindedly scratched behind his fuzzy ears. As warmth began to return to their fingers and toes, the grim adventure at the abbey was beginning to fade into memory. Only the sound of the rain lashing the windows outside to remind them of their recent escapade.
Dawn was beginning to break beyond the tightly closed blackout blinds and heavy curtains. Across the room, Cassandra and Morgana were poring over a book and reviewing a collection of items laid out on the coffee table. Carlotta could see the recently acquired Chalice of Mnemosyne along with several of Morgana’s carefully labelled jars of potion ingredients.
Watching the other two women murmuring quietly to one another, Carlotta felt a slight frown crease her own brow.
“So are we all good then? Is Operation Let’s Not All Die a go?”
Morgana looked up with a grimace, “I mean, yes, except–”
Carlotta interrupted with an incredulous expression, “What ‘except’? There was no ‘except’ mentioned before we almost drowned in a muddy pit retrieving that stupid cup!”
Morgana held up her hands soothingly, “No, no you did well and we can get started on the potion. It takes time to brew but it should be ready for us to use by Friday night. There’s just one more thing we need though.”
Nisha’s face was an emotionless mask, “Of course there is.”
Carlotta sighed heavily, “Go on then. What is it and where is buried or hidden or whatever.”
Morgana’s face brightened, “Oh no, it’s not going to be that hard to get. In fact, the Nightmare Market should have what we need.”
Carlotta’s eyes narrowed, “‘The Nightmare Market’?”
Nisha looked back and forth between Morgana’s determinedly chipper expression and Carlotta’s contrastingly sombre one.
“What’s The Nightmare Market?”
Carlotta and Morgana both started speaking at the same time.
“Oh it’s AMAZING. You can get anything there. It’s an incredible–”
“It’s a dodgy blackmarket trading post in magical items where everything always comes at a much nastier price that you antici–”
The two stopped talking abruptly and stared at each other awkwardly for a beat. Finally Carlotta spoke.
“What do we need?”
Cassandra piped up from behind the spell book, “We need Odinthought. I thought we had some but it’s too old, it’s lost its potency, so we’ll need a fresh batch.”
Carlotta nodded slowly in resignation, “Odinthought. OK, I guess I better text Chet then.”
Nisha was still swivelling her attention back and forth between the other three, “What’s Odinthought? And who is Chet?”
Carlotta looked at her and said, quite matter-of-factly, “Odinthought is expensive and Chet is a rich douchebag.”
Join the Fangily! If you enjoyed this chapter of the Fang Fatales ongoing story, please consider supporting the project by minting an NFT or two over at https://www.fangfatalesnft.com/ at the super low price of only 0.002 ETH + gas! All proceeds go back into the project so that we can create more free stories for you, as well as collaborating with artists in the NFT community.