Fantasy Horror reprint Professor Moriarty

How the Professor Taught a Lesson to the Gnoles

By Josh Reynolds
Aug 12, 2020 · 5,433 words · 20 minutes

One super old, haunted, run down, or whatever-you'd-say house

Photo by Jackson Simmer via Unsplash.

From the author: A canny thief goes to Professor Moriarty for help with his latest job...robbing the house of the Gnoles.


For Dunsany and Doyle

“A most peculiar problem, Mr. Nuth, I do agree,” the Professor said, in his sibilant way, as I sipped at his bitter tea. It was of his own devising, or so he assured me, brewed from the leaves of a certain flower that grew only on the most remote crags of the Scottish Highlands and mixed, improbably, with a jelly culled from the nests of wasps. “And they snatched him right through the knotholes, you say?”

“So I perceived, Professor Moriarty,” I said, setting the tea aside, somewhat gratefully. It was not to my taste, but I had drunk enough, I thought, to avoid insult. It was not wise to insult the Professor, or to otherwise cross him. For as I was, in my own sphere, so too was he, in his. And even cunning Nuth knew better than to test the patience of the Napoleon of Crime, in his own apartments, no less. “They were...quite swift. Poor Tommy barely had time to scream.”

“Such things often are. I have heard of the gnoles, though never have our paths crossed, for I do not much venture out of the city, and when I do, it is often to the continent, rather than the countryside.” The Professor twitched his head. “I do know something of their methods, of course, and the fear that they incite in others, though they rarely leave their little dark house, in their dark woods.” He looked at me. “You say you recorded certain details in your notebook? May I see it?” He held out one pale, thin fingered hand, and I drew my notebook from the pocket of my waistcoat.

I was not surprised that he knew of it, or of my habit of recording my impressions, though writing was a task for which I had little patience. The Professor was a keen one, and sharp as an adder’s fang. He took the notebook and flicked through it one handed, his long thumb stabbing each page in turn. At certain points, he paused and his head oscillated slightly, as if in consideration of some point or other.

Eventually, he tossed the notebook back to me. “A problem, yes,” he said, drawing out the sibilants in a peculiar manner. “But not an insurmountable one, I think.” He met my gaze. "Your name is known to me, Mr. Nuth. You are well spoken of, in certain circles. You do not advertise, for like my own, your skills are consummate."

I nodded, accepting the compliment. Moriarty smiled. "I seem to recall some outrage in Surrey, of late. The pilfering of Lord Castlenorman's shirt-studs..." I said nothing, for there was little to say that would not be viewed as boasting. And I am not, as a rule, inclined to the boastful. I am Nuth, and Nuth is me and all men know Nuth. Even the gnoles know Nuth, and I daresay that thought has kept me up at night.

“Tell me again,” the Professor said. He leaned back in his chair, his hands clasped together before him. “Spare no detail, however inconsequential.”

And so, I told him again of Tommy Tonker and how the youth’s mother had brought him to me, in order to apprentice him so that he might learn a worthy trade. Moriarty nodded at this, for to him, the trade of thievery was an old and honoured one, with a storied history. After all, do we thieves not trace our lineage to Slith, and before him, Prometheus?

The history of thievery is as storied as that of any noble house in Ruritania or Cephelais, and Nuth is said by some to be its grand culmination; though not me, for I am not, as I have said, inclined to the boastful. Tommy was a likely lad and he learned quickly how to cross bare boards without making a sound and how to go silently up creaky stairs. The business prospered greatly while Tommy was apprenticed to me, and after the affair of Lord Castlenorman's shirt-studs, I judged it was time to try something more...extravagant.

To burgle the house of the gnoles had long been a going concern of mine. And not just mine, for the rumour of the great emeralds which the gnoles were reported to possess had drawn thieves of all stripes and reputations to that dreadful wood. Of course, none save Nuth had ever returned from the attempt.

The Professor smiled thinly as I spoke of young Tommy's hesitation as we entered that dreadful wood, and took the crooked path to that narrow, lofty house where the gnoles and their fabulous, possibly fabricated, treasure waited. It was not a pleasant journey. One did not trespass twice in the dells of the gnoles, if one was caught, and there were many grisly memorials to those who had fallen afoul of them, nailed to the unwholesome trees. At those words, Moriarty snickered, as if at some private jest.

He leaned forward as I drew to the climax of my tale, his eyes bright with interest as I described how Tommy had climbed up to the old green casement window. And then how, as I watched from the corner of that dreadful house, young Tommy Tonker came to his predestined end. The gnoles had watched his approach through the knotholes of the trees that loomed close about the house, and they had taken him, even as he reached the window. Finished, I sat back. The Professor licked his lips. "How many?" he asked.

"How many what?" I replied, though I knew well what he meant.

The Professor held up a finger, as if in warning. I sighed. "Tommy makes four," I murmured. Four times I had tested the defences of the gnoles and four times I had come away empty handed and lighter by an accomplice. Thus, rather than waste a fifth likely lad, I had come to the Professor in search of a solution. For he was considered, among certain parties, to be a man who could provide solutions to even the thorniest problems.

He gave a peculiar titter and shook his head. "I am in awe at your audacity, Mr. Nuth. To sacrifice one, or even two young men on the altar of chance takes a chilly soul. But four? Ha! My respect for you grows in leaps and bounds." He leaned forward, his hands clapped to his knees, and chuckled wetly. When he had calmed himself, he looked at me expectantly.

“Half,” I said, without hesitation.

He laughed, and my spine tingled. No, it was not wise to insult the Professor in his lair. Better still to steal the jewelled eyes of the spider-god, or lean close and hear the words of the sphinx than risk the wrath of Moriarty, who was both sphinx and spider in equal measure, and more terrible than both, when roused.

“Two-thirds,” I amended, spreading my hands. “I must have something, or else what for my reputation? Were I to receive less than a third of the potential proceeds from the proposed endeavour, Nuth needs must step aside, and allow some other to take his place at the top of the pyramid of thievery—shall I allow the foreigner, Rocambole or the dissolute Raffles to wear the crown which is rightfully mine, then?”

Moriarty gestured sharply. “Your pride does you credit, Mr. Nuth. It is a vice allowable only in great men, I think. A third, then, for you, and two thirds for the grand old firm.” He held out his pale hand. I took it, and tried to hide my wince at the sudden, albeit brief, crushing grip which enclosed my fingers. In my trade, fingers were everything. Moriarty knew that, and his grip was equal parts agreement and warning to me to play straight with him. Moriarty taught lessons with even the most innocuous gestures.

“When do we begin?” I asked, as I surreptitiously rubbed my hand.

“Why my dear Mr. Nuth...we have already begun,” Moriarty said, as he sank back into his chair like a cobra back into its basket. He closed his eyes and tapped his prominent brow with two fingers. “The problem, such as it is, is three fold. To wit, how to approach undetected, how to enter safely, and how to depart unmolested. You have accomplished the first, and the third--.”

“Not without cost,” I interjected.

One round eye cracked open, and I fell silent. A smile twitched at the corners of his mouth, and the eye closed again. “Cost is subjective,” he murmured. “A pound for one man is but a pence for another. No, it is to the second prong of the matter which we must attend.  That particular house is guarded more ferociously than any bank, and more cunningly than any museum. Subtlety will avail little, I fear. Thus, we must turn to the brute arts. The gnoles...what do we know of them, Nuth? What is their shape, their mien, their physiognomy? How many limbs, and their allotment?”

“No man knows, for no man lives to say,” I said.

“But you observed them in action, did you not?  And you have done so more than once. You are the best man to hazard a guess.” He motioned as if to a hesitant student.

I chewed my lip, considering. Then I said, “They are not large, or else are possessed of protean proportions. The swiftness of their movements put me in mind of an octopus I saw once. But they have eyes, and need very little light. They also have an...odour."

The Professor nodded as I spoke, and his finger twitched in the air, as if scratching out calculations. “Strong too, I should say,” he added, when I had finished.

“I thought that went without saying,” I said.

“Mm.” Moriarty leaned back, eyes still closed. “What of their nature? What drives them? Is it hunger alone, or are they possessed of more than their share of malevolence? Why lurk in a black house, in the black woods, so far away from their chosen prey? Answer that, and we may have them.”

"I cannot speak to their nature, I fear," I said. "Only to mine."

Moriarty's head bobbed. "Of course, of course. It is of no import, not for this trifling matter. We do not need to understand them to burgle them." He twitched his head towards the grimy single window of the Soho flat in which we had chosen to meet, and looked out, over the wilds of London.

"Still...to understand a thing is to own it," he said, after a moment, in a musing fashion. "I understand London, Mr. Nuth. As you understand the ways of property and its redistribution."

“Your ownership is not in dispute,” I said. “I am content with my fiefdom, small as it is.”

“Yes, the finest house in Belgravia Square, save the pipes, I am informed.”

I tensed as the words left Moriarty’s lips. Was it a warning? Or more akin to the unsheathing of a cat’s claws, as it stretched in contentment? In the end, I decided it was neither. It was merely Moriarty amusing himself, and again, teaching me a lesson. I inclined my head again, and he smiled.

“Leave it with me, Mr. Nuth. I shall have your solution by week’s end, I feel. And then, together, we shall take a trip out of town, into the country, and these old dark woods of yours. We shall visit the gnoles, Mr. Nuth, and teach them a lesson that they will never forget.”

And true to his word, and warning, it was by week’s end that one of the Professor’s aides, an inconsequential man by the name of Parker arrived at the house in Belgravia, and slipped in through a second story window. Parker, a garrotter by trade, or so he proudly informed me upon arrival, had brought news—the Professor had solved my problem.

We caught the train from Victoria, Parker and I. As the iron snake wound its way towards a certain village, on the edge of a dark wood, Parker provided entertainment of sorts, after proving himself to have remarkable skill with the Jew’s harp. When we reached the station nearest the village which backed upon the forest of the gnoles, we found transportation awaiting us in the form of a horse and trap.

It was late afternoon by the time we reached that peculiar village, where all of the houses face away from the raw fields which separate it from the grim forest. Not a window or door is allowed to open on those trees, for reasons best left to your imagination. Having some small experience with the forest in question, and its masters, I found myself in sympathy with the dull-eyed villagers, who watched the goings on in their market square from behind half-closed doors, and curtained windows.

The Professor had made the square his classroom and workshop, and stood atop a long dry fountain, gesticulating with his cane as his men scurried about a cumbersome cauliflower of iron and brass. As Parker and I drew closer, I saw that the cauliflower was anything but, for what member of the Brassicaceae family had ever possessed great grinding treads and an armoured shell the likes of which to put any crustacean to shame?

“A borrowed design, of course,” the Professor called out, over the noise of the preparations. “A stew, you might say, from the hands of several cooks—a bit of Da Vinci and Brunel, a dollop of Archimedes and a smidgen of Oriental know-how from a certain Sikh of my acquaintance.” He slithered over to meet us, head bobbing in excitement. “Parker, distribute the firearms—one to a man!—and get aboard.” Moriarty extracted a pocket watch from his waistcoat and eyed it, and then the sky, suspiciously. “The sun sets quickly here, Mr. Nuth. Dashed quickly, but we shall make good time, once we are under way.”

“Under way,” I exclaimed. “You cannot mean--?”

“Oh but I do, Mr. Nuth, I do indeed. Get aboard with you man,” he said, gesturing with his cane towards a round hatch in the great monstrosity’s side, where the ever-gregarious Parker was waiting for us. “Our time draws short.”

The interior of the beast was as uncomfortable as I had imagined, a cattle car of hard surfaces. Most of the space was taken up by the wide bank of controls—levers, pistons, cords and the like, the purpose of which I could scarcely fathom, set beneath a reinforced and barred slit which allowed one to see what lay directly in front of the machine.

Moriarty took up a position before this odd conglomeration like a captain at the helm of his vessel and signalled for Parker to seal the hatch. Behind us, the men Moriarty had hastened aboard took their seats on the hard benches that had been provided for just that purpose. “I took my inspiration from the Bohemian Hussites, who waged war from armoured wagons,” the Professor said. “History, of course, is full of such lessons for those with but the wit to learn.”

“An armoured wagon,” I said, as a great rumbling roar set the whole conveyance to shaking. From somewhere within its depths I heard the tell-tale gurgle of a boiler, and knew that the machine was powered by steam and coal, like a train compacted into a third the size and twice the mass. “Surely we cannot think to sneak into the house of the gnoles with such a device,” I said, as the world gave a lurch and a rattle and the great machine began to move. Like a snail, at first, and then with a tortoise’s lumbering pace.  

“I told you, the problem was threefold,” the Professor said, over the noise of the great engine. “How to approach undetected, how to enter safely, and how to depart unmolested. The answer, of course, was to do none of those things, but to plan for the reverse. As I said, subtlety will not serve in this instance...thus, the way of the brute, the basher, and the bagger.” He reached up and hauled on a dangling whistle cord, filling the open field before the forest with a keening shriek. We were moving faster now, at a wolf’s lope.

“You think they will hear us and leave?” I shouted, fighting to be heard over the infernal engines. “That they will flee, leaving us free to pick their lair clean?”

“Ha! No,” he said. “Cast your mind to my second question, Mr. Nuth...why do they live where they do, so far from their preferred source of sustenance? The answer, when considered carefully, is simple—they cannot go anywhere else! No, they will not flee, because they cannot. It is often the way of such folk. So they will muster their defences, our gnolish foes, and prepare for war. For war is what I intend to wage—total and unrelenting. I shall teach them the lessons of Troy, of Sarnath, and of Peking. Where guile fails, force prevails. We shall smash through their knotty walls and shoot, stab and burn them in the best piratical tradition.” He swung out a hand, indicating Parker and the others, all of whom were armed and certainly fierce enough for the comparison, I judged.

“That answers the first two parts of the problem,” I said, “What of the third part? How will we escape? Unless you intend to exterminate them root and branch?” The thought filled me with no small amount of trepidation. Even armed and armoured by the monstrous engine, I felt the forest bearing down on me as we drew near to it. It was old and hard and wild in a way that not even Moriarty’s diabolical sciences could defend against. And from the look that passed quickly across his face, I knew the Professor felt the same way.

“The third part,” he said, “is well in hand, Mr. Nuth. Such is the guarantee of the grand old firm.” Then he turned away and leaned over his levers and cranks, urging his war wagon forward. For some time afterward, the only sound, besides the gurgle of the boiler and the growl of the engines, was the crash of falling trees and the noise of their splintering beneath our remorseless treads.  

It took us little time to smash a path through those close set and unruly trees. When one moves without care, dark paths do not take so long to tread. As we drew close to the narrow house of the gnoles, Moriarty hissed an order and his men lurched to their feet to man the narrow firing slits that lined the armoured hull of the machine. Carbines were aimed, and Parker played a cheery tune on his Jew’s harp. My palms were damp, and my throat dry. The Professor, for his part, hunched over his controls like a conductor over his sheet music.

A pair of crooked trees, blistered with knotholes, were ground under and suddenly the house came into sight through the viewing slit. Moriarty released one lever and pumped another, bringing the machine to slow, onerous halt. The boiler audibly shuddered, and the whole contraption shook like a man afflicted with ague.

There was no sign of life from the house. There was no birdsong in the trees, not even the hum of insects, only the steady, dull grind of the engines and the breathing of the men in the rear of the war wagon. Nevertheless, I knew that we were being watched, sized up and somehow found wanting.

I glanced at the Professor, and I saw that he knew it as well. His lips peeled back from yellow, thin teeth and his eyes sparked with an ugly light as he reached for the lever which would propel his construct forward. He hesitated, head cocked, as if listening. With every moment that passed, I expected some reaction from the gnoles, but none was forthcoming. It was as if, knowing of the Professor’s expectations, they had decided to confound him by simply staying hidden.

His head oscillated, his eyes scanning the house, the green casement window where poor Tommy had met his fate, and his thin shoulders shook with what I suspected to be frustration. I wanted to speak, but held my tongue. This was the Professor’s pitch, and I was but an observer. “Fine then,” he said, so softly, I almost missed it. “If you will not come out, we shall come in.” 

The great machine groaned as he threw the lever, and it lurched forward, at all speed. Wood cracked and splintered as the war wagon crashed into the house, rupturing its aged face in a single, titanic motion. The uppermost levels swayed drunkenly as the Professor jerked and slashed with the arrangement of levers.

Roof-tiles, covered in centuries’ worth of moss, pattered across the hull of the machine like hard rain. Old furniture, mildewed and puffy with mould, burst like toadstools as the war wagon forced itself deeper into the house, like a wolf gnawing on the innards of a deer.

When the first gunshot came, it was a surprise. I whirled, hands clutching uselessly at nothing. There was nowhere to hide within the belly of the beast, and I had not brought a weapon. Nuth is not a man for conflict, but the Professor’s crew seemed to thrive on it. Parker led the others in a rousing hymn of repeating fire that would have done the South Wales Borderers proud.

I spun in place, searching the nearby gun-slits for any sign of gnoles, but if they were there, they were moving too swiftly for me to see.

I turned back to the Professor, where he stood before the controls, and saw that his attentions were fixed upon something ahead. He muttered to himself—calculations, I thought. Then, I heard the sound of wood creaking, and the war wagon lurched in an unpleasant fashion. Moriarty threw a lever and stepped back, straightening his waistcoat as he did so. “As I suspected,” he said, as he made his way towards the hatch. “Mr. Parker! It is time to disembark.”

The Professor caught my arm and shoved me towards the hatch. “We have only a few moments, Mr. Nuth. Best be quick.”

“What is it? What’s going on?”

“This house is but a shell—an overgrown knothole, if you will, in a thoroughly rotten tree. And we have cored it out and put much strain on the roots. So, now...”

“The tree is coming down,” I said, as I squeezed out of the hatch and dropped to the ground. The Professor followed me, walking stick in hand. As I stood, I looked about, keenly conscious of the fact that I was at last in the house of the gnoles. In many respects, it was a normal house, save for the damage caused by the wagon. A rotten house, a house that had seen better years, but a house.

That, if anything, only added to the strangeness of it. Moonlight pierced the trees and sagging, shattered roof, pinning the shadows in place. In that darkness, as deep as Roman wells, things moved. Things without shape, but more substance than I was comfortable with. They were humanoid at first and then rather like Jerusalem artichokes, and as they humped and slumped and slunk about us, their shapes billowed and shrunk like shadows cast by a fire.

One of these shadows detached itself and slithered forward on too many legs, or perhaps too few, and I had the impression of many teeth and eyes winkling like emeralds.

I leapt, and rolled, avoiding the claws I felt, more than saw. The gnole turned on a dime, eyes blinking, and then one went out as the Professor taught it its first lesson—never come within arm’s length of a man with a walking stick. I had not seen him draw the thin blade from its sheath of walnut, but as he swept it out, it caught the moonlight and drew the gaze of the gathered gnoles. They learned their second lesson then, about not ignoring men with carbines in favour of a man with a sword.

At Parker’s cry, the disembarking criminals fired a ragged salvo, and gnolish eyes winkled out as the dark was pierced by tongues of flame. Over the sound of this fusillade came the eerie groan of oft abused joists and popping nails. The war wagon heaved, shimmied and then...fell. All at once, and promptly, as the floor gave way beneath it. It took men with it, down into the dark, and their screams trailed up and up, much as poor Tommy’s had done.

The gnoles came in a rush then, a tide of slavering shadows that seemed to blend together into one. The Professor rattled off firing solutions with chill precision, and where he gestured, gnoles died, or at least fell. But there were so many, boiling up out of the dark like ants; I had never, even in my most extravagant fantasies, conceived of such numbers and I knew then that the rumours of emeralds in the house of the gnoles were just that. I knew then that what men had claimed to see had been nothing more than the eyes of the gnoles themselves, watching from the corners and casements.

Parker caught my arm, his face as white as flour, and the Webley in his hand smoking. “The Professor says to run, Mr. Nuth—run!” And, as if to lead by example, he did so, bounding away from me like a rabbit. I did not need to be told twice, and I too took to my heels. I was not alone. Men streamed past and around me, running for their lives, all thought of plunder forgotten in the mad rush of fear. They scattered through the crooked woods, but I kept to the path, running for the free field and the village beyond.

As I ran, the night was punctuated by screams and cries as men were taken, one after another, by the gnoles. I am not ashamed to admit that I leapt over one such struggling knot of fell shapes and anguished cries, and did not look back.

I ran and ran, and all the while, something kept pace, following me unerringly through the trees. Gnoles, I knew, were very fast, and I heard them slashing through the trees on either side of me, their emerald eyes glinting at me. No man had ever caught Nuth, but gnoles were not men, and I wondered, in those moments, whether my legend was to end like Slith’s, in grandeur and painful mystery.

Then, within sight of freedom, calamity. A root, or perhaps a claw, caught my foot and graceful Nuth, catlike Nuth, went end over end in the dirt. As I scrambled upright, a black shape flowed towards me, teeth shining like stickpins. There was a flash, and a sound like a boiling teakettle, and the shape receded, dripping something foul.

“Up, Mr. Nuth,” the Professor intoned, sword-stick extended. Sweat creased his withered features, and I realised that it had been he who had been on my heels. He glanced down at me and smiled, as if he’d read my thoughts. “You have been here before, Mr. Nuth. I am no fool, to wander in the dark without a guide.”

As I got to my feet, I saw that we were barely a hairsbreadth from the forest’s edge, but I knew that if we made for it, the gnoles would surely pull us down. The Professor knew it as well, and made no move to run. Instead, he said, “Quite something, that.”

“What?”

“The house—it is not theirs. Or, not their lair. No, they live beneath it, beneath this whole dratted wood, like rats in the walls, or worms in the earth, burrowed down deep in the soil. They stretch down as deep as the tree roots, I expect.” He paused and raised his sword-stick as a gnole drew too close. “Back away, sir. Thank you. But they go down, not out. Only to the circumference of this wood, else all of London would be as a molehill. Curiouser and curiouser.” He looked at me. “There are no emeralds.”

“No,” I said.

“A shame. But treasures are a trifle, compared to knowledge.”

“What of survival?” I asked hoarsely, as the gnoles closed in on us, hemming us in.

“Ah, even better.” Moriarty eyed the gnoles the way a hyena might eye a circling lion; wary respect, tinged with cunning calculation. Moriarty, as I had come to learn, was always calculating. Always thinking, always weaving his schemes, plots and stratagems. That was his art, as thievery was mine. He held up two fingers, and gestured curtly.

The shot, when it came, made no sound. I heard it nonetheless, for I have long practised the skill of hearing what is not there. In the empty space between the breeze and the rasp of creaking branches, I heard the whisper of the bullet as it passed over my shoulder. And then, more loudly, I heard the pumpkin-groan of the lead gnole's head as it split open and spilled out its dark contents on the forest floor. I blinked in shock, and I fancy the gnoles did as well.

Moriarty held up his hand. "Mr. Nuth, take one step back. You are in Colonel Moran's line of fire, by several millimetres."

I hesitated. The gnoles watched me. Moriarty watched me. Then I took one step back. The gnoles began to move. Moriarty gestured again, and another indistinct shape slumped, strange skull split by the passage of a bullet.

"There is a line, gentlemen," Moriarty called out. "A line you cannot cross. I have moved it by several paces, as you can observe. It will return to its original place when we are safely away. You understand?" He twitched his hand. It was the gnoles' turn to hesitate. Then, as one, they shuffled back.

His smile was more terrible than any undulation of the gnolish physiognomy I had yet observed. He nodded. "Yes. You can be taught. Good. Perhaps there is a future for you yet in this world." His smile faded. "Then, perhaps not." He lowered his hand.

A third and final shot stretched out from the unseen shooter's weapon and struck a branch, dropping it at the feet of the gnoles. Moriarty held them with his gaze, slightly stooped, hands behind his back, his sword-stick held loosely. Then, without a word, he turned away and strode past me. "Come, Mr. Nuth. It has been a tiresome day, and I would be done with forests and the things which creep within them."

We did not have far to walk. A trap and horse was waiting for us, a man holding the reins. He tipped his cap to Moriarty, as the latter climbed aboard. He ignored me. I did not speak until the horse had plodded along for some time. “What of the others?” I asked.

“I fancy there will be no others. If I am wrong, they will seek me out and I will compensate them accordingly,” he said. Something of my feelings must have crossed my face, for he said “Cost is subjective, Mr. Nuth. And treasures but a trifle. You know that as well as I, I fancy.”

"You knew that they would defeat your machine," I said.

Moriarty oscillated his head towards me. "I planned for it, yes. That is what I do, Mr. Nuth. I plan," he said. He tapped his veined brow for emphasis. "The devil, as they say, is in the details."

"You knew that they would pursue us," I continued. "You wanted them to. You practically taunted them into it, with all your crashing and shootings. Why?"

Moriarty cocked his head. "You tell me, Mr. Nuth. You are observant, sir. Surely you have come to some conclusion of your own."

I met his gaze. He had the air of a tutor, waiting for a student to unravel some theorem. The Professor, at his art. Then, I had it. "You wanted to see if your theory were correct," I said, slowly. He smiled, and I knew instantly that I had guessed wrong. He patted my shoulder, as if comforting a particularly dull-witted child.

"Stick to your trade, Mr. Nuth. And I shall stick to mine."

And so I did.

And, you may ask, did I ever discern the true motivations behind the Professor's lesson to the gnoles?

Oh no, my friend.

No one ever learns what the Professor does not wish them to know.

This story originally appeared in Mammoth Book of the Adventures of Moriarty (2015).


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Phileas Fogg and the War of Shadows

The Other Log of Phileas Fogg was only the beginning! It is 1889 and Phileas Fogg has settled into a life of quiet sequestration in the rural idyll of his family estate with his wife and children. The millennia-old conflict which once threatened to consume him is over and done. Or so he thought. But when an old foe disrupts his peaceful retirement, seeking his aid against an enemy which threatens them both, Fogg finds himself once more thrown into the white-hot crucible of war.

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Josh Reynolds

Josh Reynolds, author and semi-professional monster movie enthusiast.