Chapter the Tenth or How Mr. Taurus Found Himself in the Street
Mr. Taurus parked the carriage one house down from the Pickering’s. If the fog weren’t so thick he would have parked a second house down. But given the weather, if he had done that, he would never be able to see the thieves approach the house, let alone smell them.
The thick fog clung to his clipped horns and crept up his nose, blocking it. From his position on the carriage he could just barely see to the door of the manor. The fog made the sounds echo in eerie ways. It had an unnatural feel to it. It was possible the fog had grown so thick because of all the coal burning in the house, but to Mr. Taurus, this fog felt even heavier than that.
Mr. Taurus climbed down from the carriage so he could speak to his horses without his voice carrying, “Now ladies, if you could keep your senses sharp, Lady MacNeal thinks there’s trouble afoot.”
When he had first started driving for his lady, he had thought the horses were just horses. He knew that wasn’t true, now. Lord MacNeal had taught him that. Mr. Taurus had noticed the uncanny way the animals all knew where Lord MacNeal was and in return, the lord knew if there was anything wrong with his animals. But, he hadn’t wanted to think about what could have caused this because he liked the lady and his interactions with mystic forces historically, always had been patently bad. The last time he had seen a higher power, he had been running naked out of an Indian temple trying to evade poison darts and hoping he didn’t get eaten by a swirling, black, vortex of evil. It also happened to be why he didn’t get hickey around foreigners, since he couldn’t tell when they were going to try to sacrifice him to a dark god or just steal his purse.
Years back, before Edward the Younger had died, when one of the lord’s hunting dogs had been struck by a carriage, Lord MacNeal had somehow known. He had been sitting at dinner quietly one minute, listening to the lady talk about a new charity she was working on, when suddenly he had gone white at the face, practically shooting out of the chair, before he was able to excuse himself properly. Mr. Taurus had raced after the older gentleman, following him outside and seen the bitch in the street. Whoever had struck the dog had continued as if she were worthless. They hadn’t even concerned themselves with how clean she was, or that she was, clearly, the pinnacle of breeding.
That canine was one of Lord MacNeal’s prize bitches, Sonya. She was a silvered white color and his family had been breeding her line true since before the Gauls had sacked Rome. She had a patient temperament, an excellent nose and was especially good with children.
Sonya hadn’t been dead, and even splayed across the street, she had raised her head ever so slightly when Lord MacNeal had called her name coming out the door, but she had clearly been on her way out. Her legs were bent strangely, blood was beginning to pool under the bitch, and her chest appeared to have been partially crushed. She looked as if the old poger had given her a sound beating and left her out in the cold.
Mr. Taurus had known Sonya was a goner. Lord MacNeal had knelt by the bitch and spoke to her. Mr. Taurus hadn’t heard what was said, but he approached with dread. He knew Lord MacNeal to be a passionate man and he feared the recourse. After all, it was ultimately Mr. Taurus’ fault that the dog had gotten out.
Lord MacNeal had straightened her legs. His movements were certain, though at the time, Mr. Taurus hadn’t understood why. When Mr. Taurus reached his lord’s side the broken dog appeared to have no wounds. Even her crushed chest was restored. The blood on her body which Mr. Taurus had seen from the door was completely gone. Her fur was once again its pristine silver.
Lord MacNeal had exclaimed, “It’s a miracle! The Divine has restored her!”
Mr. Taurus had looked at the pool of blood, still fresh and gleaming. Fear had risen up, choking him. He had almost run then, fearing the canine was an undead beast. But something in the way Sonya’s eyes sparkled made him decide to test his fear first. He had reached out, his hand trembling, and touched the dog’s neck, seeking a pulse and finding it. Relief had coursed through him.
The fear had arisen because of his time in the Navy, a time he had scrubbed from his mind and his identity. Mr. Taurus would never be connected to the young Scotsman whose identity he had shed when he had leapt overboard into the Atlantic off the coast of New England. An identity he knew the lord and lady had never been acquainted with. On a journey in India he had met peoples who bound themselves to Death for His wicked power. When the bitch had stood… a creature that had been clearly walking through Death’s door…
“I don’t understand, my lord.” Mr. Taurus had whispered in awe.
Lord MacNeal had nodded satisfied, “It’s a miracle from the Divine.” He had patted Mr. Taurus on the back, “Let’s go celebrate the return of this life.”
Lord MacNeal hadn’t blamed him at all. He just took them both inside, called for a few close friends and threw an impromptu party. It was one of the strangest experiences he had ever had.
That was the day Mr. Taurus began truly looking at the animals and noticing all the oddities. Lord MacNeal never lost a pup, kitten, foal or anything else for that matter. His animals grew bigger, faster and were better tempered than any other noble’s that Mr. Taurus had had the misfortune of working with.
The church and university told the world that no one had knacks, but Lord MacNeal had been proof they were wrong. Just because his power didn’t come from incantations or lamentations didn’t stop the power from flowing through him.
It had been that experience that made Mr. Taurus address the horses so earnestly and this same foreknowledge that led him to accept their response. The two dipped and raised their heads in agreement. They didn’t make a sound. They felt the tension in the air. Time stretched on. The fog grew thicker until he couldn’t see the reins in his hands. His eyes grew heavy as the fog pressed down on him.
Just as he was about to fall asleep, one of the horses dragged her hoof against the cobble stones. Mr. Taurus jerked his head up. It was as if the fog rolled back to how it had been at the beginning of the night.
Magic! He thought.
Mr. Taurus blinked his eyes and saw an uncovered wagon in front of the Pickering house. Six humans, a boar and a canine beastman padded alongside the wagon. A serpent-man drove the flatbed. The boar had great tusks that stretched outward from his face. He could clearly see how they had been sharpened wickedly. The canine had a short muzzle, but in the fog, he couldn’t discern the color of the beast.
Mr. Taurus swung down from his perch grabbing the shotgun he kept under his seat. It was his favorite, it had a side-motion action and a double trigger. The villains were so focused on their task they didn’t notice him until he unloaded the two barrels in one shot. Then they really noticed him.
The sound of the gun ringing out was strangely muffled as if it could have come from miles away. The cloud of shot had also seemed to move slower than in Mr. Taurus’ previous experience, however, luckily, the pellets still moved fast enough.
One of the humans took a large part of the blast to the back. He fell forward and struck his head on the wheel. He did not rise. The serpent, who seemed to have heard the gun firing, had moved his arm to cover his face. His arm looked to have taken quite the hit, but it was evident that his scales had prevented him from taking lasting damage.
The other villains, many sporting injuries, turned toward the threat.
He tossed his empty shotgun back toward the carriage, since he wasn’t going to be able to reload and fire it before they descended on him. Bloody Englishmen! He thought drawing his highland dirk. He had been carrying it since he was a wee bairn and like all of his kind, he was deadly with it. Mr. Taurus eyed the scoundrels with a professional eye, even as his blood boiled with delight at the chance to spit an Englishman without the coppers taking him in.
What a good day today is. Already one of cowards sent on to meet St. Peter. His muzzle curled up as he smiled.
The canine beastman charged him first. The man howled his fury as he lunged, claws extended, mouth open. Fortunately, this gave Mr. Taurus an excellent angle to thrust the dagger through the roof of the canine’s mouth and into his brain. Unfortunately, this meant he had to waste precious time disengaging his blade from the pauper’s skull.
While he was wrenching his knife out, the four humans attacked. Two were carrying cudgels, the others had knives. All four of them had the reach on him, they were at least six inches taller.
Regrettably, for them, Mr. Taurus hadn’t always driven Lady MacNeal’s carriage. A lifetime ago he had been a renowned knife fighter in the highlands and with the exception of other Highland Cowmen, everyone he had fought was taller than him. He used their height against them, causing one of the knifemen to stab the other. As he dodged and whirled through them, his blade snickering as it scored the knuckles of one of the cudgel wielders.
The bloke dropped the cudgel and swung with his uninjured fist. As the man was hardly a pugilist, Mr. Taurus was easily able to duck the blow, grab the bloke’s arm and throw him into another one of the lads.
As he stepped forward to finish off the fallen scoundrel, something wrapped around his foot and pulled him off balance. His vision had been so full of the humans, he had lost track of the snake.
He struggled against the constricting coils, but it was no use. With each exhaling breath, the serpent crushed him tighter. As Mr. Taurus faded into the darkness he heard a muffled question, it was too far from him to hear it clearly. The serpents’ hissing in his ear, he did hear, however.
“No, I’m not going to kill him. He didn’t kill anyone of worth.” The words drifted away from Mr. Taurus as the snake continued, “We don’t want to kill anyone they’ll miss. We don’t want to leave a trail or give them any additional reason to hunt us.”
As his mind darkened he remembered where he had heard that accent before. It was the same accent that he remembered the Death worshipers speak. An Indian snake? Burmese Pytho… But he was gone before he could finish the thought.
 tipsy, drunk, hiccupping
 the devil
 A boxer