What follows are genuine entries from the Journal of Peregrine, 22nd Duke of Earl:
THE HORROR !!!!!
I have seen IT !
Barely can I raise myy fnger to the deskk to type this note.
It was there when I climbed the Crook'd Stair to bed tonight. At first I thought it another patch of mould upon the wall. Then I saw those dread eyes, red-hot pokers burning into my soul !
THE MOLE OF WOE !!!
Dear Friends, I am temporarily undone. I shall attempt to continue later, DV.
THE MOLE OF WOE RETURNS
These past days I have spent in my chamber. Two days have passed as twenty.
Were it not for the unswerving ministrations of Francisca, and copious amounts of Doolittle's Semi-Quaff, I would not be here to write this entry.
Looking in the glass tonight, I felt I was looking at another person entirely; my face drawn and haggard, my eye bloodshot, and drooping. I fancied I saw the mark of Cain on my forehead but, reaching up, I found it to be no more than a knot of veins, entangled in the many furrows of my brow.
And in my reflection, I see IT. The dread Mole.
For these many centuries past, the Mole of Woe (may it's fur fall out!) has been the harbinger of doom to the Karstein-Schmidts.
This odious Beast appeared to the 1st Duke, on the eve of the Battle of Ludlum, in 1271. Through a mist that was quickly rising upon the Cornish Coast, His Grace's vassals spied it, and mistook it for a stray watchdog. They let it pass through the lines, to the tent wherein slept my ancestor. It is written by Brother Phillipus, a scholar of that time, that the Duke's screams rent the heavens, and when his guards tore open the tent, they found him prostrate, his visage creased into such an expression of horror that even those battle-hardened warriors had never dreamed to see. Briefly brought back to sense by ministration of blood-letting and strong mead, His Grace could say nought but this:
'The Mole of Woe knows me and my kin. His gift is swift death.'
Of the Mole, there was nothing to be seen.
The Duke was quite unable to join the fight that following day and, without his stout and barbaric leadership, all was swiftly lost. When his enemies entered the tent, they found him poised squatting above a horse bucket, his pantaloons around his ankles, and a dreadful grimace upon his face. He was quite dead.
The 2nd Duke, Horace, was a mere babe in arms when the Mole came calling. Close to midnight on a full moon night, the sentries heard a splash in the moat, and looking down, saw the poor child floating there, face downward in the weeds. A dark shape, the size of a large badger, was seen gliding across the surface towards the lawns. The guards discharged their weapons at the Beast but, though they swore under the most awful tortures that they had scored direct hits, the Beast did not falter in its course. It is said that the only reaction brokered by the stinging shots was a lazy wallow, and the glint of two murderous red eyes.
Alas, it has been the fate of every male scion of this House to encounter the Mole of Woe. Some meet it sooner than others; the end result is invariably fatal to the encumbent Duke.
And, three days ago, it was my turn!
When I saw the eyes burning in the gloom above the Crook'd Stair, my knees gave way. I dropped my candle, and the plate of plover eggs which was to be my supper. I had seen enough in that brief instant to know what it was that crouched before me - that hunched body, grey, but seeming to flare with fire at the extremities, the huge, cruel claws quivering below those red coals ......
I felt that the wrath of heaven was then to be puked upon my shoulder, and waited, frozen, for my doom to descend.
My life flashed before me - no! This is more than mere cliché my friends! - I saw the late Duchess recoil as the round struck her nose then her brain, I saw Gwyneth wriggle briefly beneath the horrid weight of the portcullis, I saw the face of each and every vassal turfed out of our small-holdings. And I would have embraced death then...
Francisca found me at dawn, quite prone upon the stair, half-eaten plover eggs dotted all around me. God Bless her for her care and kind heart! She spoke to the loathsome Digglesworth, and told him to stay clear for a week or more. Apparently, he was suspicious, but stated he would 'bide his time'.
How much time shall I have to bide?
Without issue, I shall be the last Duke of Earl. All my relatives are dead many years.
I cannot blame poor dear Alice for her reluctance to yield to me. She made it very clear on our wedding night that there was to be no 'beastly touching'. I suspect that, had we had children, she would more than likely have had them smothered in their cots.
As for Gwyneth.... it would never have been appropriate.
Will our proud heritage die with me ? My looking-glass tells me that I am already a dead man.
Perhaps I have been so for years.
Next Week: SALVATION ???