It’s hard to tell which of its unusual features is the most arresting- it’s antlers, the gold marking, thick white fur- or it’s third eye.
Okay, it’s probably the eye.
As it’s name would suggest, the Anomaly is little studied and remains a mystery to the parazoology community. They have never been captured, disappearing like smoke once contained- one popular theory is an ability to move between dimensions at will.
While most assume it is fae in origin, other dare ask- perhaps the anomaly is neither from earthside, or the otherworld. Perhaps there are places beyond our knowledge even yet.
But for now, we can all agree- ‘Anomaly’ is a fitting name indeed.
This summer may be full of weird cult activity and necromancer shennanigans, but the Seaflower Institute still has normal work to do.
Well, comparatively normal, I mean. Like, going to check up on an ancient dragon. That kind of normal.
The village of Lyminster in West Sussex is home to Knucker Hole, a supposedly bottomless blue pool. It was in this pool, the legend goes, that the Knucker lived; a fearsome dragon that tormented the local villages, until it was eventually slain- either by a knight in the traditional fashion, or a cunning baker via a poisoned pie.
More likely, the dragon activity subsided due to the dragons hibernation cycle, which typically involves napping for a few hundred years.
We like to keep an eye on the Knucker, so every five years or so, someone goes to check its still alive- and this time it was me and Jesper’s turn. So, armed with dragon repellent and welly boots, we ventured to sussex.
The farmers whose livestock graze in the surrounding fields are certainly taking no chances- as Jesper found out when he accidentally touched the stock fencing.
The pool is pretty secure behind a high gate and barbed wire-topped fence. We were let in, and stood at the edge of the water like two clueless kids on the doorstep of an ancient monster.
For the past couple of days Percy, our resident manticore, has been very interested in the little courtyard garden at the back of the institute. It took us humans a while to catch on- we were being watched.
This is our second encounter with a member of the reclusive filauny species, and after a patient couple of hours of Evelyn and I sitting outside and trying not to look threatening, he finally came out from behind the plant pots.
He introduced himself as Hekbune, still clutching a tiny slate knife and shaking a bit, and said he’d come to thank us for offering assistance to his little sister on her pilgrimage.
So we offered him a cup of tea, and got him to put down the knife (Jesper also offered him a piece of that shortbread Mrs T makes for him and he uses as a doorstop. Jesper is no longer allowed at diplomatic meetings).
We asked Hekbune to tell us more about his people, but he was unconvinced.
However, he said, he would talk to his elders and see what they thought about us meeting them.
He did say that Minluth had been successful on her journey, and is now a fully-fledged clan member.
We offered him a tour of the institute, and he seemed intrigued- but when we took him to the archives he didn’t even make it across the threshold before he backed out, his hands shaking, muttering about ancient evil.
Looks like the archives could do with another cleansing ritual…
The temporary office Elion Okar has set up in the break-room of the Seaflower Institute is a mess, although its creator insists to me it’s a complex system.
‘Each station is a potential connection,’ he says, gesturing to the coffee table as an example. ‘And is broken down into piles- evidence for, evidence against, and what a positive connection would imply.’
A mysterious amulet found alongside evidence of an ancient sacrificial ritual, dedicated to a being otherwise unheard of, lost to time.
Or is it?
Elion has three favourite possibilities amongst the sea of papers decorating my breakroom floor.
Connection Number One: Medieval ‘Owl-faced mad-man’ (Coffee Table)
This woodcut illustration is from the bottom of a page of a 14C manuscript documenting the daily work of a popular bishop.
The accompanying entry recounts the story of a man: ‘for whom his good wife sought help, for he had torn apart his son’s dog, and it he then devoured there upon the ground’.
His wife, understandably concerned, went immediately to the house of the bishop; who accompanied her (along with several strong men recruited from nearby fields).
On their arrival, the party were alarmed at the man’s condition:
“we looked upon an owlfaced mad-man, naked and scrabbling in the fresh turned sod for worms, which he consumed with vigor’.
The man reportedly died after spending several days restrained. The bishop eventually came to a conclusion in his writings as to the cause of the man’s affliction:
‘punishment for a meddling in the occult… serving idols and false gods that are not Him… and bargaining with fairies and devils for knowledge his mind could not hold.’
Connection Number Two: Scottish ‘Lightning King’ (Counter next to the sink)
Found in a sealed off cave system, the Lightning King has always been overshadowed by the other paintings in the Blue Worm Cavern. The bold blue dragons distracted from the cracked stick man and his faded throne of skulls.
Its debated what of this mysterious figure is the original etching and what is cracks in the dry rock face- but there is an undeniable resemblance to the symbol involved in the recent Revery necromancer activity.
Connection Number Three: The Owlman of Mawnan (Floor to the left of the door)
This connection has the least evidence to connect it, but it’s my favourite because i have a fondness for cryptids.
The Owlman is a folkloric creature sighted in Cornwall in 1976, around a church built on prehistoric earthworks. Reportedly (from several different accounts) the owlman is a feathered birdman with huge eyes, pointed ears, and pincer hands (see Morgawr: The Monster of Falmouth Bay by Anthony Mawnan-Peller).
Will we ever find out about this ancient being? Part of me hopes not; but I fear that the Owl With Tongues is not done with this world yet.
‘Whatever you do,’ Lesley said, announcing her presence in Evelyn’s office doorway, ‘don’t touch Jesper’s sample jars. He damn near tore my ears off.’
‘So that’s what the racket was about.’ Evelyn looked up from her desk for the first time in what felt like hours, and was possibly even longer. She had to blink a few times before Lesley came into focus.
‘What a mess.’
Was she talking about Jesper? The mutating moth corpses? The undercurrent of tension? The political fallout from their open day disaster?
Maybe it was just the state of her desk.
Lesley cleared a space amongst the scattered papers and receipts, and gently plonked a steaming mug of coffee down in it.
‘You need a fuel break,’ she said. ‘Did you even go home last night?’
‘Vale is putting us through the ringer over this,’ Evelyn said, neatly sidestepping the fact that yeah okay, she slept in her office. ‘He wants to get us shut down. He might even succeed.’
‘Pfff,’ Lesley snorted. ‘He’s tried before.’
‘Yeah well, the mysterious disappearance of our guy full of moths might just cinch it for him. They don’t believe he even existed. Without a body…’
She ducked too late as Lesley cuffed her cheek with a gentle hand.
‘Chin up Evie. Henry Vale might be holding your soul hostage, but we’ve got his balls in a vice. If he gets us shut down, he’s got to foot the bill for his own occult special unit. And that means less money to slip into his own pocket.’
From upstairs came the sound of raised voices. Lesley rolled her eyes.
‘Damage control to the first floor,’ she said into an imaginary walkie-talkie. ‘Seriously, love. We’ll be okay.’