My world is changed. I feel as if I am looking out through the eyes of a stranger. One week I have been here with Jennings and Nathaniel and they have shown me such wonders as to make me question everything I have learned of the world around me. My world grows and takes a form I know not.
When I awoke on that first morning the mood was a sombre one. I could not quite put a finger on it but Nathaniel was very quiet and withdrawn, Jennings seemed to be watching him with care. We ate breakfast in silence and, once he had finished, Nathaniel wiped his mouth and left the room. Jennings, keeping a close eye on the door through which Nathaniel had made his exit, leaned close to me and told me, in hushed tones, that they were taking me to see someone called Malhilda. He went on to say that he could give me no advice other than to keep my wits about me and not to listen to anything she says, as her words are poison and lies. He straightened quickly and went back to the remains of his breakfast as Nathaniel entered the room.
After only a few moments of patting his pockets and checking around him for I know not what, Nathaniel made straight for the door and left. Jennings grabbed my shoulder, pulled me to my feet and we followed him swiftly out of the house.
We walked always a few meters behind Nathaniel but Jennings did not take his eyes from him for a second. Every now and again he would stop as if something had distracted him and he would stand deep in thought before setting off as if nothing had happened. We would stop as and when he did and set off in pursuit again whenever he started to move. Jennings said nothing, I asked him nothing. The spectacle itself was enough to assure me that asking questions would be the wrong thing.
We had been walking in this fashion for some time when I noticed the forest around us starting to take on a darker air as the foliage grew thicker and more entangled. There was little snow on the ground, its course to the earth impeded by the thick canopy over our heads. The very trees seemed to close in and the atmosphere became stifled. It was then that something brushed my forehead, slightly startled I looked up from the path to see what it was. Hanging in the trees all around were bone fragments and stones. Pieces of leather with strange crystals attached and symbols hastily drawn on, scraps of tree bark with words burned in, words of another tongue that I could not read. These macabre charms seemed to grow thicker with the trees the further we walked. So busy taking in this spectacle was I, that I had not noticed Nathaniel. He had stopped at the door of a hut that did not seem to have been built so much as grown. The vines and creepers were so thick and rife that they had long since covered any man made dwelling giving the impression of one huge tree root, leaving only the door in front of which Nathaniel now stood. I felt Jennings hand on my arm and looked to see him watching the man intently, his hand was clearly to stop me moving had I intended too.
Nathaniel stood looking at the door for several moments before suddenly, and without knocking, he turned the handle and entered. Now Jennings hand on my arm was pulling me along behind him as he rushed forward. It was obvious that he did not want Nathaniel out of his sight for any length of time and, as we reached the door, his pace slowed only slightly to push it open and we cautiously made our way inside.
The floor of the room beyond was earthen and all around was nothing but roots and rock with no signs of life, other than the broken and rotting table at which Nathaniel now sat and the empty chair opposite him. As my eyes took in this place I made to turn and investigate the rest of my surroundings but Jennings hand held me fast and with a firm gesture he made it clear that I should not move. His eyes were fixed on a point across the table from where we stood and, as it moved, I realised the wall opposite was not covered in roots as I had first thought. It moved like a curtain and someone, or something, was pulling it aside from beyond. My heart started to race as my mind flew to conclusions over what sort of thing might live in a place like this. After the topic of conversation around the table the night before and the things I had personally witnessed over these last few weeks I started to fear the worst.
The curtain moved, the figure stepped, and the curtain fell closed. The pounding of my heart did not cease but it now thumped in my chest for a different reason.
Standing before me was the most perfect woman I have ever seen. Her beauty had gravity and her radiance filled the room as soon she entered. She stood strong yet demure and far a greater depiction of feminity than any that has ever been committed to stone or canvas. Her very presence clouded my thoughts and I felt drawn to her. She did not belong in this place, all around her was death and decay and yet here stood the very picture of woman, the fountain of life.
She stood barefoot in the dirt with what little she wore barely covering her voluptuous and sensual frame. She seemed to care nothing for the cold that we three had taken every step to protect ourselves from. Her gaze was fixed on Nathaniel as he sat staring intently at his steepled fingers. When he didn’t turn to look at her she shifted her eyes to Jennings as he stood with his hand at my elbow. The look they shared said nothing. Then her gaze came to me, a broad smile struck her face and she lit up like a child spying their Christmas presents at the foot of the tree. She moved across the floor to me with a feline grace that made me stir in ways I have never felt and Jennings grip on my arm tightened.
With a voice that seemed to chime and sing she cooed,
“Ooh Nathaniel, who have you brought me this time?”
I heard both men protest but their words seemed to fade into nothing as my racing pulse made each stammering breath catch in my chest. She stood so close and I so desperately wanted to reach out and touch her. Just to lay my fingers on her would have been more precious than the next beat of my heart.
I felt honoured to be standing so close to such a beautiful creature. Her eyes met mine and my world melted away. Those moments were spent in bliss as I fell deeper and deeper into the world this woman created around me. Until that world changed. Suddenly, her eyes began to menace me and her stare seemed to invade my mind. The face before me was still a picture of beauty but other faces seemed to appear as ghosts between us, looking at me with those same eyes. Generations of faces passing in seconds with a growing pain in my chest. I started to feel faint and my weak legs wanted to take me to the floor but I stood transfixed, unable to even fall from her view. I wanted to look away, to tear my eyes from hers, but my heart screamed at me for being so foolish as to look away from such beauty and seemed to turn to stone inside me.
A screaming filled my mind. A screaming that made my head thump so hard that I feared it might burst. The scream formed into words, harsh words that I did not understand and as those words became clear in my head I felt the dizzying agony in my body easing slightly to be replaced with an immense and sharp pain in my arm.
Jennings was pinching the loose flesh just above my elbow, the sting brought me round from my delirium and as my knees finally gave way he caught me just short of the floor.
Those thunderous words were coming from Nathaniel and they seemed to cause this woman great discomfort, a discomfort that showed through in her anger. She spat her fury at each syllable uttered and seemed to writhe where she stood as if struggling against the binding of an invisible rope. Her rage flew as Nathaniels words continued, her steps were stilted as if an unseen force dragged her towards the table. She sat hard, her body seemingly controlled like a puppet. Nathaniel straightened his coat and calmly retook his seat. She sat opposite him with a look so black I could feel it from where I stood. Both fists on the table as she breathes came rasping and hard through bared and clenched teeth. Snarling at her tormentor like a cornered animal.
Nathaniels tone was level and patronisingly calm as he addressed her like one might a petulant child. My head was still spinning from my ordeal and Jennings sat me on the nearest rock with my head between my knees. I still heard her reply however, and it gave me much cause for concern.
“Those words will not have power over me forever you old fool. Does this one know how many have come before him? How many men you have brought to this place, never to be seen again? Does he know what you people have in store for him?
I raised my head in the hope of gauging his response but my world span sickeningly and I had to lower my gaze once more. I felt nauseous and could feel my senses slipping away. I felt myself being pulled sideways by a strong hand. It was, in fact, Jennings catching me as I started to slide sideways from my rock.
I heard her voice again, this time it was a threat aimed at Nathaniel himself.
“One day your charms and fancy words will have no power and I will leave this place. I will leave this place and have such fun with the frail hearts of men”
I heard Nathaniel say she had always been free to return from whence she came but this only served to enrage her further. My world swam again and the next thing I can recall with any true clarity is the moment Nathaniel took to his feet.
Keeping his eyes on the woman, he told Jennings that it was time to leave. Taking this as a command he brought me hastily upright and, with stumbling steps, dragged me through the door and into the outside world. As stifling as the air was in this forest tomb it was still a welcome change to the oppression of Malhildas hut. Jennings took my arm and guided me some way into the trees where we waited for Nathaniel. I had so many questions but every time I tried to focus my intent to speak the world seemed to drift away again and the feeling of nausea swept over me. There were raised voices and dark words were shouted, growing louder for a second as the door opened and Nathaniel stepped out. Her screams and curses could still be heard as he silently turned and started to make his way towards us. He stopped for a moment, took something from inside his coat and tied it to a branch outside her door. Closing his eyes he muttered a few distant words and the screaming stopped.
I made to stand as he came closer, the urge to be free of this place was strong in my mind, but as I did my world seemed to tilt sideways and everything began to grow dark and the last thing I saw was Nathaniel running towards me.

I drifted back to a very comfortable consciousness in a warm and soft bed. It took several moments for my thoughts to gather into sense but as they did I came to recognise the room in Nathaniel’s house. A cup of tea sat by my bed that was now barely luke warm. How many times it had been replaced I could not say. As I sat up my head screamed in protest but cleared as I dressed myself. Making my way into the next room I found Jennings and Nathaniel sitting at the table and they greeted me with smiles and a fresh steaming cup of tea. I ate the breakfast Nathaniel had prepared and the mood around the table was comforting. I had apparently been asleep for three days under the watchful eye of these two men. I must confess that this came as something of a shock. Jennings was at least kind enough to let me recoup a little before confronting me with the next piece of news.
As I sat and wiped my mouth my plate was cleared away, yet another fresh cup was poured from the pot and, as I reached for it, some neatly bound papers were pushed in front of me. I froze, I had seen these once before but never expected to see them presented to me. I picked them up, broke the seal and unfolded them to read. These were military discharge papers baring the standard of the 21st lancers, my name and the signature of my superior officer. I looked and looked again, turning them over in my hands but there was no denying their authenticity. I had been ejected from the army, with full rank and title intact, on grounds of being “No longer mentally fit for war service”.
I should have been furious but the one thing that stuck in my mind was the reason for my being discharged. There was no question in my mind that the things I had experienced were very real. My world had changed a great deal since the last time I had seen any of my superior officers. It had been brought into sharp focus for me, just how much my world now differed from theirs. If they wanted to consider me mentally unfit it was up to them. If only they knew the things I did.
I sat dumbstruck for some time as my mind waded sluggishly through this turn of events, but then a very obvious question battered its way through my thoughts and presented itself. What were these documents doing in Jennings possession and how had he come to have them in the first place? I wasted no time in putting this query to him.
My question, it seems, had been expected. His answer however, was most certainly not.
Quite simply, His employers had passed them to him. He is an agent for a group of extremely wealthy British Lords and gentlemen who, decades ago, had founded a secret society with the sole purpose of investigating all aspects of the paranormal. Their founder members held positions of power in most areas of society including the armed forces.
The reason he had them was even more unexpected. He had been investigating reports of a vampiric entity that was terrorizing a small area just outside Cairo, when I stumbled onto the beast and destroyed it before he had the chance. After following me home from Egypt he had brought my talents to the attention of the society who confirmed that, after hearing my tales and reading my journal, my superiors had decided to relieve me of service.
In short, Jennings had brought me here to offer me a job. It was his opinion that I had proven myself several times and, if I so wished, I could become an agent for the S.P.R. as he was.
I came here looking for answers. I was going to find out what secrets my necklace held and go home to my normal life, back to the Lancers. Maybe find a girl and get married. Instead I found myself rejected by my regiment and faced with the opportunity to travel the world with this man who, at first, had infuriated me to the point of distraction. My world was already changed by the things I had seen. Should I forget it all and attempt to build a normal life from the pieces of my shattered future? Or take this new path which could lead I know not where. Danger and death? or even insanity? It was not a question I could answer lightly and so, silently, I rose from the table and made my way outside.
The cold winter air and the beauty of my surroundings were a welcome change and gave my thoughts room to breathe. My feet took me to the edge of the stream that ran past the cottage. The gentle babbling of the water washed through my mind and I slowly began to feel my thoughts clear and the choice became an obvious one. I could never go back to an ordinary life after the things I had witnessed. I could not live a life of forever wondering “what if”.
I do not know how long I had been sitting by the river with these thoughts running through my mind but suddenly Jennings was beside me. We sat in silence for a while before another memory surfaced. Jennings had just opened his mouth to speak when I raised the question of Malhilda
The topic seemed to trouble him and, taking a deep breath he looked over his shoulder and back towards the cottage. Making sure Nathaniel was nowhere in sight he thanked me for not raising the subject in front of our host.
Malhilda was what the Tibetan monks would refer to as a Tulpa, or thought form. Powerful magic users and those tutored in the ways of ethereal entities can, through a great deal of mental discipline, meditation and visualisation, make their thoughts manifest in the material world. Nathaniel was apparently just such a man. Jennings went on to say that building a Tulpa is much akin to a tailor building a suit. It may be an incredibly elegant suit, but you never know who is going to put it on. A Tulpa is a hollow shell and will attract the attention of all kinds of ethereal beings. Once the being has taken up residence it is very difficult to get rid of them again.
Nathaniel had constructed Malhilda many years ago as a companion for himself here. It was not long before whatever had taken up residence started to make itself known and Nathaniel found he was struggling to control her. He had tricked her into following him to the part of the forest where she now lived and he had trapped her there.
Nathaniel was not known to the society for whom Jennings worked. They had met quite by accident on one of Jennings cases when Nathaniel had come to his aid. Jennings went no further into the details but suffice to say he found Nathaniels help in his investigations invaluable and, in return, he kept the man’s secret. They both knew however, that the day would come when Malhilda became too powerful and she would have to be dealt with.
Their reason for taking me to her was not for us to meet, or indeed to scare me. They wanted me to see firsthand, the power a thought form could wield over a man as it would stand me in good stead should I decide to take Jennings up on his offer. With that he came to the end of his explanation, or perhaps he felt he had told me all he was prepared to so far.
Taking a moment to sift through the debris of the last couple of hours I put everything in order. Jennings seemed genuinely happy when I turned to him and accepted my role as his fellow agent. He reached and shook my hand very enthusiastically, clapped his hand on my shoulder and exclaimed how good a reason it was for a drink. I have to admit, even at this early hour, I could not fault his logic. We turned and made our way back to the cottage but something still troubled me. I had one last question to ask Jennings.
When we were in Malhildas hut I saw such things and felt such emotion and pain yet neither of them had. Why was this? Why had it only affected me?
Jennings reached into the top of his shirt and pulled out a strange pendant. It was Amber in a brass casing with strange symbols pierced into the metal work. He explained that it was what he called a soul stone. Through meditation and visualisation techniques it was possible to learn to use it like armour for your soul or life force. Jennings had learned to use his to such a degree that entities such as Malhilda could not reach the energy in him that they fed upon. Nathaniel needed no such thing. He apologised for taking me before her unprotected in such a manner but he assured me that it was imperative that I experience just how terrible it can be. I admit to being a little affronted by this but as we entered the house he pointed to something on the table. It was an Amber pendant with a brass cage around it and detail pierced into the metal. It wasn’t the same as the one Jennings wore but he assured me that it served the same purpose. I noticed however that the Amber in this one was cloudy, almost milky. Jennings face seemed to sadden some and he explained that they can become cloudy through use, but if I looked after it, it would look after me. This one had belonged to a friend of his. When I asked him what had happened to his friend. The look of sorrow that crossed his face was unmistakable, and he simply said,
“She did not look after it”
He said I should wear it always and close to my skin. With that I slipped the thing over my head in inside my shirt.
The rest of the day was spent in merriment. Jennings told bawdy tales of the stranger side of human nature he had been witness to on some of his more laughable excursions and Nathaniel amused us with parlour tricks the likes of which I have never seen. It felt good to laugh again. I have not felt a part of something since my time in Egypt. I had not realised just how much I had separated myself from the world.
And now I lay here writing it all down in the hope that the words on this page will begin to make sense.

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