The butler did not mention the impoliteness of their open-mouthed stares, but with the selective discretion common to the greats of the butlering profession turned instead to his primary objective: the font. He took a swift glance towards the door, checking that it was holding; the wood was by now creaking ominously, and the beasts behind it were beginning to howl with bloodlust as they sensed they had nearly achieved their goal. Noticing the bottles on the floor, he picked one up and, his back to Maxwell and Lydia, dipped it into the foul-smelling water of the font. Luckily, the bottle was already green, so at least the trio were spared the unedifying sight of holy water staining clear glass.
Presently, Lydia found her voice. “Crichton...”
“Yes, milady?” Crichton answered, busy filling up another bottle.
“Crichton... what the hell is going on?” Lydia asked. Maxwell decided he would let the blasphemy go, this time, since he himself was thinking a similar thing.
Crichton turned back towards them, a bottle in either hand. He still, they noticed, had the rope tied around his waist, and he proceeded to untie it and let it fall to the floor. His voice, as ever, remained smooth and even.
“Well, milady, as you have no doubt observed, the manor is under attack by the newly-raised dead, which is, of course, most undesirable. As the chief member of staff, I feel it is my duty to rid the manor of unwanted guests, and so I have proceeded here with all haste to procure some holy water, which I believe can be used as effective weaponry against the gentlemen outside, however ancient it may be; and I am using these glass vessels in order to transport this water to the other parts of the manor that have been occupied by the acquaintances of our... ill-mannered visitors, if I may use so impolite a term, milady.”
“Sorry... newly-raised dead?” Maxwell asked apologetically. “Is that what they are?”
“I believe so, sir. Raised, if I am not mistaken, by our late gardener, whom I have suspected for some time of having certain immoral depths which the eye could not readily see. His employment, fortunately for us, has already been terminated. I do not wish to be rude, sir, but would it be permitted for me to continue filling these vessels whilst we converse? I fear there may not be much time.”
Recognising this, Maxwell and Lydia picked up some bottles of their own and rushed to join Crichton in scooping the fetid water from the depths of the font. As they filled each bottle, they tucked it away into one of the folds of their clothing; Lydia, of course, found this the easiest, arrayed as she was in her highly impractical dress, whilst Crichton and Maxwell, as might be expected given their various uniforms of office, had any number of pockets in which to secrete items of this shape and size.
“Well, at least we know what we’re facing now,” Maxwell said. Lydia did not reply, as she was trying not to breathe, but Crichton nodded politely.
“Indeed, sir.” They hefted the last three bottles in their hands as they turned back towards the door. The howling from outside rose in intensity as small clouds of stone dust rose from around the now twisted and deformed hinges; the moment was almost upon them. They stood in a line facing the door, bottles held ready to throw as the old wood finally started to splinter under the blows of the reanimated dead. The howls grew still louder, joined now by the sound of tortured wood and the screech of breaking metal. Maybe five more impacts, four...
“Are you sure this will work, Crichton?” Maxwell asked out of the corner of his mouth.
“Well, sir, if there is any place where a miracle might happen...”
The door gave way. The first three screaming corpses leapt through the newly created gap, shadows trailing around them as they bounded towards the three companions. Crichton, Lydia and Maxwell aimed carefully at the approaching monstrosities, cocking back their arms as they prepared to hurl their blessed if foul-smelling missiles. Each fought a battle with their own fears as the howling, bloodthirsty fiends from the nether dimensions sprang forward, ever closer, until, as the beasts bent their knees for the final violent lunge, the trio let fly.
The crazed howling swiftly turned into screams of agony. The three bottles flew straight and true, smashing into their intended targets with as much force as their owners could muster; each broke apart on impact, coating the three monstrosities in shimmering green fluid. Where it was touched by the water, their grey skin turned brilliant white, the shadows that played over their bodies chased away by the purity of the liquid; and then, with a strange sucking sound, it sank into their skin, and the monsters seemed to crumple into themselves, imploding as the fabric of their hell-forged being was destroyed by the blessed substance. The two warriors behind, seeing the demise of their comrades as they themselves began to sprint through the door, halted, their surprise mixing with their sudden terror and stopping them dead in their tracks; two more missiles from Crichton and Lydia meant their hesitation was fatal, as they too were dissolved by the holy water, leaving behind only streaks of off-white dust that mixed with the broken glass and dirt on the chapel floor.
Exultation swept over the trio. Maxwell and Lydia leapt, breathless, into each others’ arms, causing the bottles concealed in their clothing to clank and clatter; Crichton, of course, remained impassive, but if one watched very, very closely one could see even his mouth quirking ever so slightly. At length, Lydia and Maxwell released each other, and turned towards Crichton, ready for further action.
“So, what are we to do next?” Maxwell asked. Before Crichton could answer, Lydia jumped in.
“We kill the rest of these fiends, of course,” said Lydia fiercely, her eyes flashing. “They deserve everything that’s coming to them after what they did to Mother. And we need to find my sister, as well.”
It was clear from her tone she would brook no argument; not that Maxwell or Crichton, in their present triumphant state, would have wanted to disagree in any case. Smoothly, Crichton said “Certainly, Milady. May I suggest that we proceed to the wine cellars? On my way here I ascertained that the majority of them had congregated around the alcoholic beverages; I believe we have an ample supply of the font water to clean them out.” With a firm nod, Lydia swept out of the chapel, dress billowing behind her as Maxwell and Crichton followed, ready for any possible trouble on the way.
There was none; the only other people they saw were Berenice and Bridget, sprinting, or at least rapidly waddling, after a pair of grey warriors who had run past the trio too quickly for them to react. The trio shared a swift glance of disbelief but, after the events of the day, nothing would surprise them too much; and so, courage bolstered by their success and their desire for revenge on the creatures that had caused them so much heartache.