In Ossa Venenum
In Ossa Venenum is a story written and illustrated by Iron Eater. It ran in Issue 81 at http://www.shousetsubangbang.com/mirror/in-ossa-venenum/
Academia can be such a beastly profession.
Hugh neatly organized the sheaf of documents, took up a bottle of the scent he'd been taking to wearing while away from home (it kept animals from being quite so frightened of him, he'd found, though he was careful to wash it away in the bath each evening), dabbed a tiny bit on the topmost letter, then bound everything up in society stationary with a big wax seal across the flap. He trotted through the empty halls of the academy to the bookkeeper's office and gave the door a soft knock. A panel in the wood slid back to reveal a slice of one of the facility's many secretaries, who regarded him coolly.
"These are meant to be delivered to Mr. A.O. Ward of the society, currently out of the night city at the indicated address, if you please," said Hugh. As it was quite possible that the person on the other side of the door had no idea who that was, he added, "He is my handler and will be expecting medical records. I shall need to send them regularly. Is there a method your offices would prefer I follow when I do so?"
The door-face's eyes glanced down to the society emblem Hugh wore at his neck, further down to the hand still holding the sealed parcel, then back up to his face again. "Don't give us anything bloodied," said the clerk, "and don't try to send back little trophies unless they're sealed up completely. I won't be having devil stink get into the letters."
"Mr. Ward prefers to oversee my blood testing locally. You shan't be seeing any gore from me as much as I am able to help it."
"Then these will go out with the midnight mail," said the clerk.
Hugh affected a small smile to better convey his gratitude. He suspected his countenance had skewed more dour than the norm during his stay thus far. "I'm certain Mr. Ward will appreciate your swiftness, and I shall be certain to mention it myself when next I write," he said. He handed the parcel through the slot to a beckoning hand.
The clerk's eyes darted across the address before returning to Hugh's. "Will that be all, professor?"
"Yes, thank you. Have a fine evening." He was rewarded with the snap of the panel as it closed.
Most of the non-faculty staff at the academy treated Hugh with similar short courtesy. No one actor's behavior was precisely identical to anyone else's, as even the most faceless of scullions was still a unique human being beneath their work clothes, but he all the same felt the discomfort towards him beneath their carefully maintained distance. They were, after all, initiated society members themselves. They knew what he was.
Hugh sighed to himself, which echoed slightly in the emptiness of the hall, and returned, with somewhat less spring in his step, to his quarters.
This story is a sequel to Cruorem Veritas, though familiarity with the former story is not required to appreciate this one.
Its setting is also roughly based on FromSoftware's Bloodborne for the PS4, though not on any particular characters. The city depicted is not Yharnam.
It's Powerwolf references all the way down. This isn't the only song of theirs whose lyrics got tucked into the manuscript, but it's the one I tend to refer to as hugh_wainwright.mp3, so here it is.
"I write so many sequels as is," I said last year. "I'll try not to write sequels whenever possible, since Decembers are Rhoanish_Works always dedicated to those," I did not say directly but felt very strongly. And yet here we are again.
For all the emphasis I place on communication via phones, emails, IMs, and texts, I'd never written a full-blown epistolary before, and separating Hugh (a terrifying murder machine) from Mr. Ward (a pathetic creature of meat and bone, albeit snappily-dressed) was both a good way to show how alienated he felt from "his people" and an easy way to ratchet up the tension. I quite easily could have written this even longer than it is now; I stopped where I did because I was literally two words off of the maximum wordcount. That definitely made editing interesting, believe you me.
Researching Victorian letter-writing styles means lots of formality that does its best not to show its emotional hand. Hugh's emotions are about as subtle as a fireworks show but he tries, bless him. Sharp-eyed readers will note that Hugh's meal journals did not use ampersands in the same manner as his letters. Consider it a difference between record-keeping and actual correspondence. It's also safe to assume that his moody tendencies are of great annoyance to the other faculty and quite endearing to Mr. Ward. Mr. Ward may or may not be a space alien but his feelings for Hugh are guaranteed genuine.
Mr. Ward's name, originally tucked away in last year's author's notes, finally makes an appearance in the text! His middle name, for the record, is "Orion." The irony of being named for a hunter while staying very much away from the society's hunts is not lost on him. I toyed with his middle name being "Orestes" instead; given his parentage (he's the son of a porter and a seamstress/sex worker) I wasn't sure if they'd be the sort of people to name him such. So, Orion it was. He wears it well.
The working title for this story was "My Dear Mr. Wainwright," though for obvious reasons I deemed it best to move said phrase into the dialogue in favor of a matching Latin(ish?) title. "In Ossa Venenum" translates to something along the lines of "Poison in the Bone"; this seemed only appropriate for a story about the self-destructive tendencies of groups of marginalized people. If last year's October tale was about toxic masculinity, how could I not have some high-falutin' theme this time around? Horror, as they say, is never only horror.
I'm particularly pleased with the illustrations for this piece. I tend to shy away from elaborately-planned backgrounds, and with the text in the editors' inbox a good week or so ahead of the deadline, why not go all out?
As mentioned last year, there is still plenty for these two to do, given how the society handles cults and supernatural events in addition to throwing monsters at each other on the regular. Someday I'd like to go into Mr. Ward's past (he's been with the society since childhood, after all), or maybe send them to the seaside for a nice little vacation. There might not even be Deep Ones.