The Spook's Bestiary - By Joseph Delaney

To the Reader

My name is John Gregory and I’ve walked the length and breadth of the County for more years than I care to remember, defending it against ghosts, ghasts, boggarts, witches, and all manner of things that go bump in the night. The trade I follow is that of a spook, and all those who practice our craft must be the seventh son of a seventh son, with the ability to see and talk to the dead, and with a degree of immunity against witches.

Each spook takes on and trains apprentices so that the fight against the dark may go on from generation to generation. And an important part of what we do is accrue, record, and share knowledge so that we may learn from the past. What follows is my Bestiary—my personal account of the denizens of the dark I’ve encountered, together with the lessons I have learned and the mistakes I have made. I have held nothing back, and my hope is that the spook who follows me will continue to keep this record of the practical ways in which we deal with the dark.

The fight will go on, and there are always new things to learn about our enemies—and, indeed, new types of enemy to face. But we must take heart from the fact that the record shows we are always finding ways to deal with each fresh threat. As long as I can see and am able to hold a pen, I will continue to augment this store of knowledge. Let this Bestiary grow and be added to by each new spook who follows my path.

John Gregory

of Chipenden

The Dark

The Dark

We can only speculate as to how the dark originated. Perhaps it was there from the moment the universe was first created, a force to balance against the light, each striving from that first instant to gain the upper hand. One other possibility is that it was a tiny seed of possibility that grew stronger as its roots developed and fed upon human wickedness. For there is no doubt in my mind that human involvement—especially the worship of and contact with the servants of the dark for personal gain—is strengthening it now.

Whatever the truth, the dark is still growing in power, and its denizens threaten to plunge the whole world into a long age of terror and bloodshed.


(General preparations and remedies)

1. It is important to prepare the mind. To conquer one’s fear is difficult, but that is the first thing that must be done. The dark feeds upon human fear, which enables it to grow stronger. It helps to breathe slowly and deeply and focus on the task at hand. A spook must be prepared to die if necessary. Once that is accepted, the fear often fades into insignificance. Our duty to the County is more important than our own lives.

2. It is beneficial to fast: This clears the mind and makes us less susceptible to dark magic. However, a balance must be struck because our work is often physically demanding. When the dark threatens, I keep up my strength by eating very small pieces of County cheese.1

3. Fortunately there are many substances that cause pain and eventual destruction to the creatures of the dark—or, at the very least, limit their capacity to do harm. The combination of salt and iron is particularly effective against boggarts and witches and can be used either to slay or bind them. Rowan is the most effective wood against witches, and a silver alloy can hurt even the most powerful of the dark’s servants. Hence a spook’s use of a rowan staff with a retractable silver alloy blade.

4. A silver chain, which can be used to bind a witch, is an equally useful tool. It is less effective against demons, but even there may temporarily incapacitate them until a blade can be used.

5. A spook’s best weapons against the dark are common sense, courage, plus the acquisition of skills and knowledge built up over many generations. We don’t use magic. Ours is a craft, a trade, and we must learn from both our mistakes and our successes.

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1I had not been working from the Chipenden house for long when I learned that the village and surrounding area are the very center of County cheese-making.—John Gregory

I’m sick to death of eating cheese. For me it’s the very worst part of the job. I don’t know how much longer I can put up with it.—apprentice Andy Cuerden