The Bloodletters (novel)

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The Bloodletters was a novella by Ryan Fogarty published in May 2020.

It featured a number of DWU elements licensed from their creators, principally showcasing the characters of Garglespike and Zadok, created by David Llewellyn for one of his contributions to The Brilliant Book 2012. Also featured under license were the Caxtarids from Kate Orman's Virgin New Adventures novels, the planet Pelagos from Meglos, the Steggosians and Arcopolis from Lance Parkin's The Eyeless, miscellaneous species and elements from William H. Keith, Jr.'s FASA Doctor Who Role Playing Game modules, and even an authorised allusion to BBV Productions' spoof character, the Chiropodist.

The story also prominently featured public-domain characters from Golden Age pirate comics, reimagined in a science-fiction setting. These included the "Corsair Queen", alias Lila Evans, from the 1951 Buccaneer Comics #25 and "the Corsair", alias Jon Gallant, as debuted in 1946's A1 Comics #3 — who were merged into a singular, genderfluid figure who served as the protagonist. Despite the obvious similarities, this Corsair and their mentor, known as "the Monk" and likewise drawn from the 1950s comics, should not be confused with the established BBC characters of the Corsair and the Monk.

Publisher's summary[[edit]]

Danger comes with the tide. A shipwrecked traveler seeks help on a low-tech planet. Instead he finds a village where the local pub caters to vampires!

Something sinister lurks under the surface. Can the traveler unravel the mystery, stop the vampires and save an attractive local boy from their clutches before they both end up on the menu?

Blood, fire and the clink of pins will roar like thunder before the tide rolls out again…

Plot[[edit]]

Part 1[[edit]]

As a time-tide recedes, space-temporal sailor the Corsair wades out of the time shoals and into the body of water it has connected to this time: a freshwater lake. After a last look towards his shipwrecked timeship, the Silver Spray, he walks onto the shore, where he finds that it is early night and hears the sounds of a village or town nearby. He makes his way there, and a young girl points him towards the pub. As he's about to enter it, he is struck by the realisation of what's seemed odd to him since he arrived: despite the presence of a bar, he cannot see any sign of a brewery in the village.

The answer to this mystery soon becomes apparent when the Corsair walks into the bar to find that the patrons all look sallow and pale, and that "a half-dozen naked young locals" are shackled behind the bar where the bottle-rack should be, with tubes wired into their veins and dripping into crystal jars. The bar caters to vampires. He plays it cool and orders a meal, watching as one of the boys' blood is drained while he's kept hydrated with water, and brought to a trio of vampire patrons as laced with "Raxian tequila". He realises that each of the "donors" is forcibly given various specific alcohols to drink to give their blood specific flavours. A Kamreth vampire is quick to reassure the Corsair that the donors are all criminals, serving a kind of community service, and that it is not deadly.

After leaving the pub, however, the Corsair ruminates on his gut feeling that there is more going on than a "completely legitimate vampire business venture". As he moodily swings his trellwand around to blow off steam, he gets a flashback to his early fencing training by the Monk in Cartago, the colony of their Homeworld where the Corsair grew up; even then, during one lesson, as the Monk was teaching the Corsair to stab through silverleaf palm trees, the conversation turned to vampires, their kind's ancestral enemies. Even as he continues to run the memory through his mind, the present-day Corsair realises that he is not the only one using this forest's trees for fencing practices, and follows a trail of destruction, wondering if he's looking at the evidence of a sparring session or an actual battle.

Eventually, he finds the corpse of a Caxtarid vampire hunter, with his eyes ritually removed from his skull and all his holy weapons removed from his person. He finds a medal for the Order of Hull on him, a high dignity for vampire-hunters, and concludes that only a far more powerful vampire than the "three guys in the pub" could have defeated him, an S-Rank vampire. Finally looking up in the sky, the Corsair realises that this planet is part of the Horsehead Nebula, and concludes that he has stumbled into "the middle of the Ghost Wars".

Part 2[[edit]]

Rather than go back to the village, the Corsair sleeps in the forest, using a discarded wheelbarrow for a bed. As he sleeps, he ponders his situation, remembering how the Monk told him about the nature of the Ghost Wars, a Change War in constant historical flux, where "the Time Winds blow strong". He realises that the temporal maelstrom of the Ghost Wars was what drew his ship off-course.

In the morning, he returns to the village, where the "blood donors" from last night — alive but feeble — are being released back to their families, who seem unhappy but resigned about the situation. The Corsair notes that the "prettiest" of the young men from last night, the one from whom blood was drawn under his very eyes, doesn't seem to have anyone waiting for him. He entices the younger man to eat with him and tell him more about the situation.

As he eats his fill, the boy, Venn, explains that he was indeed assigned to blood-duty as punishment for an alleged petty crime, when the Widow Sebastine told the Magistrate that he'd been chucking "white eggs" at her shed, which he insists he hadn't, having only chucked blue eggs (which is apparently less rude in their culture). He also describes the operator of the pub, Miss Garglespike, and the pastcanopic jars she uses to conserve the blood. When Venn mentions that he's been nabbed twice now, while others seem to always escape the duty no matter how much they misbehave, the Corsair begins to suspect that a specific blood type is being sought after by the vampire. Before long, the Corsair is kissing Venn, taking him to a bedroom. After three passionate hours, the Corsair reveals that, although pleasurable, the entire enterprise has mainly allowed him to smell Venn's blood type (Q-Negative) based on "the body's Qi² levels during an ecstatic state".

Later, the Corsair walks out into the village to ponder what he's learned, as the clues refuse to resolve into a meaningful solution. He finds the brewery, which is abandoned but contains nothing of note. Walking back down main street towards the pub, he finally comes across Miss Garglespike, a grey-haired woman whose entire upper body is covered in a veritable armour of pins, taken from her victims. Watching her from the shadows, he is enraged when he sees the President Kodachrome's old cat pin among her trophies. After she passes safely by, the Corsair leaves his hiding place and goes to the pub, where he finds that today's collection of blood has already been completed, with the day's five victims resting in beds and the three pastcanopic jars already lined up on a shelf behind the bar. Looking closer, the Corsair notes that Garglespike is keeping the jars safe from anyone but her via a barrier of vaporised holy water, held over the threshold by two pins. Having learned all he could, including that Garglespike is far more powerful a vampire than he suspected, he leaves again.

Part 3[[edit]]

After spending the night with Venn again, the Corsair wakes up in the morning in a good mood, going over his options. Since he wants to be able to make his getaway in the Silver Spray immediately after he wrecks Garglespike's plans, he reflects that he must wait for the time tides. With Venn in a talkative mood, he learns that the planet's name is Hoppiq Minor, as well as the reason for the closing of the brewery (the vampires didn't want prospective donors to have cheap beer in their system to dilute the flavour of the high-quality alcohol they desire). The conversation strays to the topic of marriage, an institution whose traditions on this planet are quite unusual, but which is beginning to turn towards what Earthlings would recognise as conventional romance, something which Venn thinks is unwise.

Setting out to continue the investigation into Garglespike's activities, the two deduce that Garglespike must be storing her large stash of excess blood somewhere, and decide to ask Tvankk, the old woman who washes Garglespike's jars for her. The old woman directs them "east into the forest", and after a little searching, they find the large blue barrels of blood, equipped with stasis fields, hidden in a stash beneath a deep-rooted tree. However, they are soon jumped by the blue-skinned vampire from the bar, whom the Corsair had not seen coming, not realising that any other vampires than Garglespike were sunlight-proof. He is knocked out.

Part 4[[edit]]

In a dream that is almost a memory, where the Corsair and the Monk are fishing together, the Monk explains how their Homeworld's binary system is almost certainly something He-of-Many-Epithets engineered as a weapon against the vampires: the peculiar day-night cycle whereby "the region in darkness shrinks like an iris and closes like a fist" creates specific frequencies in the spectrum of the stars, an interference pattern that causes even day-walking vampires to burn on the Homeworld. After stating that this all goes to show that "when it comes to vampires, our people do not mess around", the dream-Monk wakes the Corsair up by throwing their dream-self into the water.

He wakes up to find an irritated Garglespike going through his pockets and becoming frustrated with the unlikely amounts of random items, from slingshots to toilet rolls, that she is pulling out. When she briefly unshrinks a book-shaped pin on her jacket into a real dictionary and back again, wanting to cross-reference something, the Corsair realises that she is a practitioner of acumancy, and an incredibly advanced one at that. He proposes to surrender, simply asking Garglespike to release Venn unharmed. She is willing to do so, since it is not in her habit to kill villagers, but the blue vampire, Antrenor, has other ideas, and demands some other snack in exchange if he can't kill Venn — either some of Garglespike's secret stash, or the Corsair, with the latter option becoming the focus when Garglespike mysteriously states that Antrenor "wouldn't like" the blood from her stash.

However, when Venn spits in Antrenor's face to try and delay him killing the Corsair, his spit inexplicably melts through Antrenor's eye. Taking his chance, the Corsair leaps to his feet and stakes the vampire using a stick torn from a nearby tree. Garglespike seems strangely unconcerned, and merely uses one of her pins to create a lifelike illusion of a normal forest clearing to disguise the mess and her stash from the other vampires when they come here looking for Antrenor. She then transforms another one of her pins into a literal firebird to attack the Corsair, even as the Kamreth vampires fly in from the village. While trying to down the flying opponents, the Corsair and Venn managed to wrap Garglespike and the Kamreth in rings of the toilet paper she removed from the Corsair's pockets earlier — which seems ineffectual until they lure the firebird in the entrapped vampires' direction, and they find themselves set ablaze.

However, this isn't enough to down Garglespike, who emerges unscathed and also proves immune an electric attack from the Corsair's trellwand. Pulling out one of her trump-cards, she activates a portable sunset pin, which creates a dome of night-time one hundred metres high, returning their full powers to herself and the other vampires who escaped the fire. With the Corsair's guidance, Venn still manages to down another vampire, a Mobur, by setting a box of sanitary wipes also drawn from the Corsair's pockets on fire and turning it into a makeshift Molotov cocktail. As the portable sunlight ends, the Corsair finally realises the truth: the water Garglespike gives the donors after hours, before drawing more of their blood for her personal stash, is holy water, meaning the supply of blood she's building up is laced with the stuff. The whole thing is a plot to create poison, in his favourte flavour, with which to assassinate the vampire king Zadok, against whom Garglespike bears some kind of grudge. This disturbs the Corsair, as Zadok's death was meant to be a recorded historical event which he seems to have averted, or at least delayed, but it's too late to back down.

Eventually, the Corsair manages to pin her against a tree with his blade, which he snaps in half and "seals" using the anti-vampire charm he took from the dead Caxtarid, ensuring she cannot easily remove the blade and free herself. Although they know she will eventually free herself, they run away. With the time tide coming in, the Corsair is on the verge of departing again. After one last tender moment with Venn, the tide is ready, and he departs, reflecting on whether this adventure (which cost him his trellwand, though he did keep one of Garglespike's magic pins for his trouble) was worth it.

Characters[[edit]]

Worldbuilding[[edit]]

  • The Corsair tells himself that he's "still got the reckoning to be a Weatherman".
  • The Corsair recent lost his shirt in a card game with a Steggosian.
  • The Corsair believes his dress sense, brash as it is, remains less conspicuous than the President Kodachrome's.
  • Among the patrons of the pub are "bird-like Kamreth" and "four-armed Moburs".
  • The Corsair pays for his food with "a hemispherical copper coin from the Arcopolian trading era".
  • The ocean of the colony-world where the Corsair grew up was "big and green and filled with large chelonians which liked to heat those young Homeworlders foolish enough to venture out onto the water".
  • The Governor of Cartago was the Corsair's father. The Corsair was educated at Cahlough Academy on their Homeworld for a while, but didn't get along with the other students, seeing them as "pampered, book-learned know-nothings".
  • The Corsair's weapon of choice is an Ydarian Trellwand, which can deliver electric shocks at close range thanks to a capacitor in its hilt.
  • The Corsair knows Thenibarian reflexology.
  • The Corsair detects "dæmon, animist influence" in the local culture and believes that this means homosexuality is presumably accepted in their society.
  • Humanoid, homeworlder-like, and xertonoid are apparently synonymous terms in terms of describing physical appearances.
  • Notable historical events in the Ghost Wars include the involvement of the Black Cauldron of Proxima Centauri, the death of Zadok the Gory, and something to do with a male individual called "Phoenix King".
  • The Corsair's kind are referred to as "Archons of Time". They are a Type IV civilisation.
  • The Corsair jokingly claims that his pockets are bigger on the inside thanks to "gallimaufryan technology". Sensing the pun, Garglespike states that she "will be quite irritated once she locates a dictionary" and finds one in the form of the Isari Revised Dictionary 1978.
  • The Corsair describes Antrenor as a "little Nosferatu fool".
  • When salivating at the prospect of eating the Corsair, Antrenor speaks of "little meaty, bloody bits that glow and fizz on the way down".
  • The Corsair is familiar with Ek Wan plexus strikes, but this move would necessitate more physical strength than he possesses in this incarnation.
  • Venn considers running away and "hiking down to the Drekel Pulpberg" to start a new life.
  • Pelagos is on the other side of the Horsehead Nebula from Earth.

Notes[[edit]]

  • The acknowledgments gave thanks to Kate Orman and David Llewellyn.
  • This story and its follow-up both follow the Faction Paradox custom of referring to what are implicitly Gallifrey and its people as the Homeworld and "Homeworlders". Although it was not itself operating within the Faction Paradox license, meaning it could not legally be using the same equivalence Faction Paradox exploits, it also found its own way to establishing that Fogarty's Homeworlders were implicitly Time Lords by making licensed use of the Colonel, a Time Lord, and depicting him as another member of the Corsair and the Monk's race.
  • The Corsair is noted to have particularly good night vision, a peculiarity of their "bloodline" that the Monk does not share. This implies that the Corsair is from House Arpexia, noted in The Book of the War for possessing "hyperaesthetic characteristics" including "night-vision, hallucinatory hysterics, and a highly developed sense of magnetism".
  • The figure the President Kodachrome, also referred to as "the Lord President Emeritus" and "the President-Who-Would-Not-Serve", is implied to have been the Sixth Doctor: there are multiple jokes about his fashion sense, and it is mentioned that he wore a cat pin, a notable part of the Doctor's costume. During the thirty-two days when the President Kodachrome was dead until the Ghost Wars' timeline shifted again, multiple stars retroactively disappeared from the sky as he would no longer save them from destruction in the future: a similar thing occurred when the Doctor's time stream was temporarily perverted by the Great Intelligence in The Name of the Doctor. However, for obvious copyright reasons, the link is not made explicit.
  • The Corsair mentions having once met a Time Agent. Although Time Agents have appeared in many aspects of the Doctor Who universe, the copyright page specified that this was, in this instance, a reference to the Time Agents featured in Andre Norton's 1958 novel The Time Traders.
  • The true name of the "Corsair Queen" in one of the two distinct comics universes merged into one continuity by Fogarty was Lila Evans, as stated on the copyright page. The Corsair here gives "Lily Evans" as an alias before remembering, first, that "that's a Harry Potter character", and second, that they are currently in a male incarnation — the implication being that the earlier, female incarnation used "Lily Evans" as an alias, and was misheard as "Lila Evans".

Continuity[[edit]]

External links[[edit]]