Nothing to disclaim, this time, actually. All characters and situations in this story actually belong to me. What makes it fan fiction? I've written in the style and universe of Howard Phillips Lovecraft, but all of his stuff is now public domain. Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn!
My apologies to whoever actually lives at Stoughton and Sumner in Dorchester; the place looked cool. Also, my apologies to the family of Samuel Langdon; the gentleman, as portrayed within this story is not meant to be representative of the historical Samuel Langdon. Similarly, I pulled Sir Robert de Courtenay's name out of a hat, and was surprised to discover that he was in fact a real, if somewhat obscure, individual. So I incorporated a fact or two about the historical gentleman, and again, my treatment of him in this fic does not reflect the real individual.
This is a work of fiction. Any other resemblances to any persons living or dead is purely coincidental.
Tail Kinker Presents
The Blessed Coterie
It is a commonly believed fallacy that a secret organization lurks in the shadows of today's society, trying to reshape governments, economies and cultures to suit their own nefarious goals. I have, myself, in the past pursued information on the existence of this secret society, commonly referred to as the Illuminated Ones, or Illuminati. It was only with great reluctance that I finally disabused myself of the notion.
The rumours still circulate, of course; any excuse that a person can find to blame their own failings on another are greedily taken. On occasion, I would spend an hour or two at the Number Nine pub and alehouse, exchanging my "information" with another person. Though I had finally shed myself of this delusion, it still entertained me on occasion to discuss the possibilities with another who was still fixated.
On this particular night, however, I had been speaking with Padraig O'Donnell, who was almost as Irish as his name. He was a police constable, a twenty-year veteran of the force, and had spent ten of those years working for the Homicide department. He was not a detective, however, and still spent a fair amount of his time walking a beat. His usual patrol area was in a less savoury part of Boston, on the Malden River, and three days before we met in the pub, he had had a most unsettling moment.
He had been walking east on Malden Street, at about eight o'clock in the evening, and had just passed underneath the railway bridge before the river. Ahead of him, he saw a man standing at the corner of Malden and Commercial. The light of the streetlamps cast an unpleasant colour on his face, but O'Donnell was fairly certain that he was unnaturally pale none the less. He approached with some caution, believing that the man may have been intoxicated, and was startled when he came close enough to make out the man's features.
As a student of various conspiracy theories, especially concerning the Illuminati, he was by neccessity also an amateur student of history. And therefore, he had more than a passing familiarity with the visages of prominent Bostonians of the past. So it was with more than considerable surprise that he discovered that the gentleman before him was identical in face and form with Samuel Langdon. For those not familiar with the history of our fair city, Rev. Langdon was a patriot, and a delegate to the Congressional Convention. He was also a President of the Harvard College, and a man of no small political and theological repute. He had died in 1797, which made his appearance on the streets of Boston in the beginning of the 21st Century somewhat surprising.
Upon seeing his face, Constable O'Donnell decided to approach more boldly, and called out to the man. However, the Langdon imitator turned and, upon spying O'Donnell, turned and ran to the east. He leaped over an oncoming motorcar, much to O'Donnell's astonishment, and continued to run. O'Donnell, being in his early fifties, was not in the best of health, but his physical regimen kept him in shape, and he gave chase. That the man was guilty of anything but fleeing a police officer upon being challenged was unknown, but O'Donnell's curiosity, as well as his professional duty, was now engaged.
From the crossroads at Commercial to the Medford Bridge is a good thousand feet; O'Donnell pursued the man at full speed, and was beginning to feel winded. The Langdon imitator, on the other hand, showed no sign of tiring, a fact that, given his apparent age and corpulence, was about as astounding as anything else he had done this night. The duo passed Canal Street, and the Langdon imitator veered suddenly to the right, into Bell Rock Cemetary.
Now, the cemetary is heavily wooded, and O'Donnell could not keep constant watch on the man. Three times he lost sight of him entirely, and after the third time, he did not re-spot him. But the area surrounding the cemetary is clear of trees, and a quick circuit of the cemetary proved that the man had not left. The only place within the cemetary that he might have gone was the mausoleum at the far edge, and Constable O'Donnell inspected all the entrances to that, and discovered them properly sealed.
The man's uncanny resemblance to an individual more than three hundred years dead; his ability to leap over obstacles of surprising size; his ability to sprint long distances without any obvious fatigue; all of these were unsettling enough. But the fact that the man vanished from observation in the midst of a graveyard was more than a bit disturbing.
But most disturbing of all was the fact that two days after telling me his tale, Constable O'Donnell was stabbed and killed by a vagrant, who within an hour of his arrest died in police custody.
It was perhaps a month after hearing O'Donnell's story that I encountered another interesting piece of information. This time, it was during a visit to the Parlin Memorial Library. I frequently visit this library, as I cannot afford to have the newspaper delivered, nor to have a connection to the internet. On this particular occasion, I had been reading about the debate to demolish the former Massachusetts District Commission headquarters on Beacon Hill. Due to its designation as a heritage building, there was considerable resistance to the planned development. In particular, one Robert Courtenay, of Dorchester, was most outspoken against the plans.
It puzzled me that Mr. Courtenay was concerned with the fate of the building, as he was not attached to the Massachusetts Historical Commission. Nor did he appear to be involved with the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, the successor to the District Commission. In fact, as I discovered through later internet searchings, Mr. Courtenay did not appear to have any presence in any public organization.
I did, however, discover a reference to a Sir Robert de Courtenay, but the knight in question had died in Cornwall, England, in 1242. It seemed improbable that he would be present at a debate in Boston in 2008. However, the thought had no more than crossed my mind when I recalled the curious tale of Constable O'Donnell's night-time chase of a dead man. Accordingly, I resolved to visit with Mr. Courtenay, to try and ascertain if this was a similar case.
With cameras being a very scarce commodity in the 13th century, and Sir Robert being a less than famous personage, I was unable to acquire any likeness of the gentleman. Undaunted, however, I found Mr. Courtney's telephone number and rang him up. I found him willing to meet, and so arranged a rendezvous at his Stoughton Street home.
I alighted from the taxicab at around seven o'clock in the evening, and looked about to gather an impression of the area. To my surprise, I saw, to the north the Columbia Square Cemetary. Like the Bell Rock Cemetary of O'Donnell's narrative, the Columbia Square Cemetary was heavily wooded, and is surrounded by a stone wall of some height. A converted church sat at the corner of Stoughton and Sumner; this was my destination. I passed through the wrought-iron gate, and knocked at the front door.
Mr. Courtenay himself answered, and cordially invited me within. He was a tall, slender man, with thinning blond hair that fell past his shoulders, a sharp chin, and piercing blue eyes. His most distinguishing feature was a bluish scar that ran from his ear to his chin.
Mr. Courtenay enquired first of my health, and second if I would desire a cup of tea, surprising me with his hospitality towards a stranger who had forced himself into the man's privacy. His language was clear and correct British, but I could not place his accent; when I enquired as to his ancestry, he admitted to hailing from an old Suffolk family.
As Sir Robert was from Suffolk, and indeed had left an architectural legacy in that area, I asked Mr. Courtenay if he was related to the de Courtenay family of Suffolk, and he admitted that he was so. He also stated, with an air of jest, that he bore an obvious family resemblance to the old noble family, and indicated several paintings that he had hanging on the walls. Certainly, he did bear a striking resemblance to the individuals in his gallery, but many of them were in the older Tudor style, and could reasonably resemble anyone.
It was then that his telephone rang, and he excused himself to answer it. I took the opportunity to inspect the paintings more closely, and discovered one, sitting in a corner and concealed with a drop-cloth, that he had not shown me. I glanced over my shoulder, to ensure that I was still unobserved, and lifted the drop-cloth.
The painting beneath was in an even older style, almost amateurish in appearance, and somewhat cracked and fading. My first assessment was that it had been taken down for reconditioning and restoration; indeed, I saw a faded space on the wall that it might once have occupied. However, the subject caught my attention, as it was of a slender gentleman, with thinning blond hair, and a scar running from ear to chin. In short, it was a perfect likeness of my host.
And the placard mounted at the bottom of the frame stated that it was a portrait of Sir Robert de Courtenay, of Suffolk.
At this point, a strong sense of fear took over my senses, and I departed from the house without waiting for my host to reappear. In retrospect, I wish that I had remembered to replace the drop-cloth; I have reason to believe that it would have made my future less exciting.
It took less than three days from my visit to Richard Courtenay for the Coterie to discover my identity and address. My first hint that they had determined who I was, and where I was to be found, was my awakening in a stone dungeon.
The previous night, I had retired to my bedchamber with a snifter of brandy and a book, recently acquired, on cults in medieval Germany. The tome, entitled Unaussprechlichen Kulten, had only recently been published in English, and while it had been available in the original German for some time, my command of that language was insufficient to allow me to peruse the document.
It seemed to me that I was unaccustomedly drowsy, it being two hours before the time that I habitually retired, and with a new book in hand, I would normally be less inclined to sleep. My memories of that evening become foggy, and I am uncertain if I eventually went to bed, or if I dozed off in my armchair. However, when I awoke, with a blinding headache, it was on a stone floor. I still wore my bedclothes and dressing gown, and was not in any way restrained, save that the cell was small, and the heavy wooden door locked.
It was at this point that I began to think of a conspiracy again. Less than three days after telling me his tale, Constable O'Donnell had died; less than three days after discovering the surprising survival of Sir Richard de Courtenay, I found myself a prisoner.
My musings were interrupted, however, by the heavy thunk of the bar being withdrawn from the cell door. The door swung open, producing a horrific screeching sound, and a man entered.
I say 'man', but he was a most unwholesome looking specimen. His brow was sloped, the ridges over his eyes jutting out sharply, and his face was asymmetrical in underlying structure, and covered with a pebbled texture. His hair was extremely sparse, and a dirty brown in colour. His hands were gnarled, each tipped with a long, bony-looking fingernail, and were covered with the same rough skin. His face and hands were all I could see of him; the rest was covered with a rough cossack of brown cloth. He was short, perhaps four feet tall, and his back was bowed by some unknown ailment or injury.
Yet despite his horrific features, I felt no fear of him. In point of fact, my anxiety over the situation in which I found myself fell away entirely, leaving in its place only curiosity. I asked him his name, and he shook his head with a sad smile, and admitted to having forgotten his name. I would come to know him as the Elder, as that was how his peers referred to him.
It was during conversations with him, and with Sir Richard and Samuel Langdon, that I learned of the existence of the Blessed Coterie. All its members - of which I only ever met the three above-named individuals - were immortal. The means by which they attained immortality, they would not discuss with me, stating only that it must be earned, and that I was far too weak-minded to master the techniques.
I took offense to this last, of course, until the Elder pointed out how easily he allayed my fears of him.
So far as I can tell, the Coterie has existed for three thousand years, for such a time that even they do not know where they first originated. They are not all-pervasive, as the conspiracies have held of the Illuminati, but their influence is real and pronounced.
However, the role that they have played in history is one that still chills me to the bone.
Six days after they had abducted me, they gave me leave to wander their hidden lair. I was unable to learn of its location, and while the exit was clear, I found myself unwilling to cross its threshold. Two days after that, Sir Richard and the Elder returned from the outside world, bearing a terrible burden.
The creature seemed to be partly of frog and partly of fish, a fang-filled mouth gaping almost comically and flat, fish-like eyes looking about randomly. Fingers and toes alike were webbed, and tipped with terrible-looking claws. They dragged the creature past me and into one of the many laboratories. As they appeared to take no notice of me, I followed, and watched as they strapped the beast into a large, steel chair. This chair, which I had assumed was for medical uses of some sort, had restraints at wrist and ankle, and they quickly secured the fiend to the chair.
Its strength appeared to be considerable, for as it fought, I saw its muscles in stark relief; its overly long arms bulged at the bicep to half again the diameter of my own thigh. I feared that, should it escape, it would come straight through the door where I stood, and so I slipped to the side, leaving its escape route clear. In moving, however, I brought my presence to Sir Richard's attention, and he hastened to expel me from the laboratory. I made my way from there to the library, pausing only once, when a blood-curdling scream came from the closed portal behind me.
When the Elder found me later, I was digging through the musty tomes of the library, trying to find some reference to the horrible thing in the laboratory. He found the book, and opened it to the page, that outlined the creatures' origins and habits.
Would that I had left it closed! This was the Coterie's goals: the extermination of these creatures, visitors to our planet from a distant star. They had come to live on this world over a million years ago, but Humanity had fought them back to the edge of extinction. None know how many remain, but the terrible master that they serve, sleeping the sleep of the dead, deep within the Pacific, is beyond Humanity's ability to defeat. Should he awaken, he will sweep Humanity aside in favour of his children.
The Elder has warned me that they will not kill me, but merely wipe my memories. Given my background, they can put me to use as a sleeper agent. However, I am loath to be used in such a manner. And so I have written this document, and shall hide it on my person whilst I still have my memories. Perhaps it shall escape their notice, and I shall recover it after I am freed. It is almost certain that once I expose the Coterie, they will kill me.
But it would be a noble death, for once secrecy is broken, it cannot be restored. The Coterie will be known, their goals public, and the terrible threat that Humanity lives under will be revealed. Truth cannot be slain, nor can shadows stand before the light. And while the Coterie's goal is noble, their means are abhorrent to me. And so I have put pen to paper, knowing that to do so may well spell my doom.
And though I fear death as much as any man, in this instance, I hope that it finds me quickly.