- Black Rose
- The Great Train Robbery
- Blue Dahlia
- Carnal Innocence
- Dance Upon the Air
- High Noon
- Sacred Sins
- Face the Fire
- Holding the Dream
- A Man for Amanda
- All the Possibilities
- Black Rose
- The Great Train Robbery
- Blue Dahlia
- Carnal Innocence
- Dance Upon the Air
- High Noon
- Sacred Sins
- Face the Fire
- Holding the Dream
- A Man for Amanda
Necroscope III: The Source
Zek Continues Her Story
'That would be my bet, yes. Ask yourself this: where did the vampire legend arise from in our world? Where does it have its roots?'
'In Romania, of course.'
'And which nation has retained its own language almost entirely intact since time immemorial, despite being surrounded by countries with little or no linguistic relationship? Like Hungarian and the Slavonic tongues?'
'I see,' he nodded. 'By periodic injections of vampires and their followers, right?'
Jazz began to get hooked on the idea. 'The more I think of it the more plausible it seems,' he finally said. The first Wamphyri migrated (were banished) to our world many thousands of years ago. They took their followers and their language with them: the Gypsies and their tongue, which is a form of Latin. They spread outward from Romania into all the lands around, but their heartland was Romania itself. Despite being conquered by Avars, Magyars, Goths, Gepidae and what have you, the language could only be diluted, not eradicated; for when the conquerors moved on there would always be new arrivals from this side of the Gate to reinforce the watered-down tongue. It explains why Romania is so isolated in its use of a Romance language. And as you say, it gives a real basis for Earth's vampire legends. But weren't Gypsies supposed to have come out of India? The Karakoram mountains?'
'Maybe the first of them through the Gate went to India,' Zek answered. 'Why not? They're travellers, aren't they? And from there they spread themselves throughout the world. Their urge to travel is simple to explain: it had been bred into them by the Wamphyri for so many hundreds of years...'
'So to sum up,' Jazz said, 'what you're saying is this: that there's another Gate somewhere in Romania, through which the Wamphyri have been arriving in our world for millennia?'
'Never a great many of them,' she answered. 'But yes, that seems to be our conclusion. I hinted at it and you worked it out for yourself. It's plausible, as you said.'
'So why doesn't anyone know about this Romanian Gate? I mean, a thing like the shining sphere isn't likely to remain obscure for very long, now is it?'
'Ask me another,' said Zek, with another shrug. 'But from what we know of the Dweller, he certainly seems to have access to our world. And if he doesn't use the Perchorsk Gate -'
'Which Gate does he use?'
After a little while, Jazz said: 'We've covered a lot of ground. So now, before I get too confused, let's go on to something else.'
'Like why Karen set me free?' 'If you don't mind.' 'Very well, it was like this:
'I don't know how long I stayed in the Lady Karen's aerie. Time seems suspended in such places, numbed by horror. Not interminably lengthened, however, because so much of one's time is spent asleep - exhausted! To live in such a place drains a person, physically and mentally. Menace seems to lurk even where there is none; nerves stretch to breaking; massive as even the smallest room is, still the feeling is claustrophobic. Silent for hours, then ringing with the laughter of the Wamphyri, or perhaps reverberating with screams of direst agony, an aerie is like Satan's antechamber.
'And yet the Lady Karen became my friend, or as much a friend as any human being could ever hope to find in a vampire!
'Perhaps that's not so hard to understand. She had been a simple Traveller girl. She remembered her previous life, knew the horror of her present circumstances, foresaw a future more monstrous yet. She had been a striking beauty in her tribe, and I myself was not without good looks. She found a kinship with me, read in my predicament echoes of her own. Also, she knew her vampire must soon take ascendancy. When it did ... her actions would no longer be entirely her actions.
'If she hadn't been female - if this aerie had been that of one of the Lords - then things would have been very different. I wouldn't have been here telling the story now. Can you imagine what it means to be loved, physically loved, by one of the Wamphyri? "Love" in the spiritual meaning of the word isn't part of their language, but in the physical...
'When a vampire takes a woman for his pleasure, Jazz - not for food, but for sex pure and simple - well, it cannot be pure and it is never simple! The things lovers do ... nothing is forbidden between a woman and a man in love. But between a vampire and a woman, or between - a female vampire and a man? They are powerful creatures! You have heard that old saying "a fate worse than death"? Ridiculous, for what could be worse than death? But there, I'm sure I don't have to describe it.
'But Karen was entirely woman, and her female elements were emphasized by her parasite. There was nothing of the lesbian in her - not yet, anyway, though God only knows what she would be like later. So I don't suppose the thought of me as a sexual diversion even occurred to her. Not for herself, anyway.
'But her lieutenants, they wanted me.
'Oh, they had their own women - stolen Traveller girls - but they were dark and I was fair. My colours were so rare as to be almost unheard of. And I was a hell-lander. Better still, I could steal thoughts. Now, the true Wamphyri, born of a vampire egg, has a degree of telepathy -but their lesser creatures do not. Not unless such is deliberately bred into them or gifted to them by their masters. And so, all in all, I would make a highly desirable property. Karen feared that when the vampire in her was fully mature, then she'd lose what small degree of compassion remained in her. Following which my future would become that much more unreliable, my unspeakable fate that much more certain. She did not want that for me.
'One day she said to me: "Zekintha, there is something you can do for me; when it is done, if it is done well, then I shall take you to Sunside and leave you there for the Travellers to find. I see no reason why you should become what I have become, what I am still to become.'
"You offer me a way out of this place?" I answered. "Only tell me what I have to do."
"There's a truce," she said. "The Wamphyri have called a meeting. All the Lords shall gather in one place, under their many banners, to see if they can find common ground in a certain cause. Now, can you guess where they'll gather?"
'"Indeed! In the aerie of Karen. That in itself- that they wish to hold their talks here - seems to me a highly suspicious thing. A very inauspicious thing. However, I shall make provisions. Now, what are your thoughts so far?"
'"I know only what you have told me of these Lords, Lady," I answered. "Which is to say that I fear them greatly! I think that if you let the Lords Shaithis, Lesk, Lascula and the others into your castle, then you'll lose it. Of all the stacks, this one of yours holds a prime position, Karen, and they covet it. They know, too, that you have me here, and that I have magic. I am therefore desirable. Your warrior creatures would pass down to him who killed you, and they are the finest warriors of all, for none could make warriors like Dramal Doombody. These are your own words, which I repeat to you. But if your castle and your beasts and I myself am desirable, you are more desirable still, Karen. They would make fine sport with you - with both of us - before making an end of it. But you are Wamphyri! You would last so much longer than me, and suffer so much more."
'"Are you finished?"
"Normally I would agree with you in everything you've said, but there are always two ways of looking at things. For instance, perhaps there is nothing inimical in this -not immediately, anyway. At least admit this: that if the Lords are to meet, then they need neutral ground on which to do it, even if it is only to agree to disagree! This would be the ideal spot, for they don't consider me their equal; I am merely renting them a room. Also, I said I would make conditions; by which I meant that I will take precautions against treachery. One: they must come alone, without their lieutenants. That shall be the first proviso. Two: no gauntlets."
'"What?" I was amazed. "But, Lady, will they heed you? I mean, you really intend to order them to leave their battle-gauntlets behind?"
'"For their own protection!" she smiled her half-human smile. "So that they will not be tempted to brawl among themselves if their talks get heated. So ... no gauntlets -or no admittance. Oh, they'll agree, for they're eager to get this thing underway.
'"And finally, three: the meeting shall be right here in these chambers - this very hall - with one of my own warrior creatures in each corner. Stalemate! if they attempt any... act, against me, then my creatures will attack! Remember, Zekintha, that for all his strength and his powers, a vampire is only flesh and blood. He will die in the right circumstances, under the correct conditions. And melting in the stomach-acids of a warrior is one such condition. On the other hand, the Lords will know that if I call upon my creatures without provocation, then they shall have the right to deal with me in their way: a stave through my body, decapitation, a bath full of blazing oil! As I said: stalemate. Now what do you say?"
"I still find it fraught."
"So do I, but it's done. And I may even profit from it. Now look there - "
'Through a window the mountains were blackly silhouetted where a fan of golden sunlight faded behind them in the southern sky. "Sundown," I said. "Soon..."
"Aye, soon," she echoed me. "When there's a pink rim all along those peaks, then they stir, mount their beasts, glide from stack to stack. They land in the launching levels below, proceed on foot upward through the body of the stack. One at a time, they shall come. My table shall bear... unconventional dishes. Suckling wolf in pepper, hearts of great bats floating in their blood, but blackened by the use of herbs, grassland game from Sunside, and weak mushroom ales from the trog caverns. Nothing to inflame their passions."
'"But what is your purpose, Lady?" I was curious -terrified, but curious. "I know you wish nothing to do with these Lords. I know that you are... not like them. Could you not refuse them outright? Is there no other place suitable for them to hold their meeting?"
'"Most of these men," she answered thoughtfully, "have never before set foot in Dramal Doombody's aerie - my aerie, now. I think Shaithis was a visitor, once or twice, in Dramal's youth when they had something in common. They used to hunt women together at sundown on Sunside, just the two of them. Not so much a friendship as a rivalry. But for the others it's an opportunity to see what I've got here. I know that they'd use the visit to study my defences against some future invasion. But if I turned down their request, refused to offer them my ... hospitality, that would only provoke them, unite them against me."
"You said you might even profit from their coming," I reminded her. "In what way, profit?"
"Ah, yes. And that's where you come in," she answered. "We Wamphyri have powers, Zekintha. You are not alone; I, too, have the ability to steal the thoughts of others. It is of course a talent of my vampire, transferring to me. As yet, however, the art is undeveloped, dubious at best. I can't always be sure that I read aright, and over any great distance it is not worth the effort. Also, because I am Wamphyri, they would know if I probed too deeply. Our vampire minds are similar, do you see? But you are not Wamphyri ..."
"You want me to listen to their thoughts? And if they should discover me?"
"They will expect to discover you! What profit in owning a thought-stealer and letting her talent go to waste? But the trick is this: to sneak into their minds without them knowing, with your guard up lest they read yours! Discover you mentally? Possibly; but no real danger, as I've said, for they'd expect as much. But they will not discover you physically for we shall hide you in a secure place. And these are the things I shall desire to know:
"Their thoughts and plans concerning myself; whether their meeting here is entirely genuine or simply a ploy to seek out my weaknesses; their weaknesses, their uncertainties, if they have any. Look into each of their minds in turn, and see what you can see. Except I'd caution you: don't bother with Lesk the Glut. His brain is addled. His vampire is itself mad. How may one discover truth in a mind as mercurial as that? What? - he cannot make sense of his own thoughts, not from one moment to the next! But he has a strong aerie, and his strength is prodigious, else the others would have dealt with him long ago."
' "I shall do my best," I told her. "But as yet you haven't explained the point of this meeting. What is it that brings them together like this?"
' "The one they call The-Dweller-in-His-Garden-in-the-West," she answered. "They fear him. Him and his alchemies, his magics. And because they fear him they hate him! He dares set up his home there in the western peaks, midway between Star- and Sunside, without so much as a by-your-leave! He harbours Travellers, too, and instructs them in his weird ways. And any who dare go against him ... ah, but they have tales to tell!"
'"And shall you, too, set yourself against this Dweller?" I asked her.
'She looked at me with those blood-hued eyes of hers. "We shall see what we shall see," she said. "Now go, sleep, rest your mind. Prepare yourself. When it is time I shall come for you, show you your hiding place. Do well, and I shall keep my promise."
'"I won't fail you," I told her, and went off to my bedchamber. But sleep was a long time in coming...'
'Then it was sundown. I started awake, heard Karen's footsteps. And she was hurrying!
"Come!" she said, taking my hand. That unnatural strength was in her fingers where they drew me up from my bed. "Dress - and quickly! The first of them comes."
'Vampirized Travellers - slaves, leeched to death and returned from that condition by reason of their converted physiologies, their altered organs and functions - had prepared the great hall. The table had been laid, and at one end had been placed the mighty bone-throne of Dramal Doombody. Raised up on a shallow platform, it seemed to yawn down the great length of the table.
"There," said Karen. "Your hiding place - within Dramal's great chair!"
'I might have protested, but she foresaw it, stilled my babble before it could pour out:
"Have done! None shall sit upon the throne of Dramal. I do this to honour the leper Lord, my father and master, whose egg is in me. Hah! So they shall suppose, anyway. Myself, I take the great chair at the other end of the table. Between us they are trapped! Their thoughts, at least. Too late now to make other arrangements. I'll brook no argument. Proceed with your part of our plan or get out. And I mean get out! If you're not with me you're against me. Find yourself new chambers within the aerie, or escape from it if you can. I shall not hinder you - but I can't say as much for the others."
'She knew I couldn't refuse; her vampire was stirring in her, aroused by her excitement. Useless - indeed dangerous - to try to dissuade her when she was like this. I went to the bone-throne.
'God, what a monstrous chair that was!
'It was a cartilage creature's lower jawbone, as I have said. Perhaps five feet long, the eye-teeth formed hand grips at the front, so that the user's arms would rest along the shining white cartilage ridges which in our jaws house our side or back teeth. Toward the rear of the jaw its sides rose up steeply to the hinge, but of course the upper half was not there. The flat, steep slope at the back of the jaw formed the chair's backrest, against which was normally set a massive red-tasselled cushion. At front and back, the four corners, knobs of cartilage protruded downward, making perfectly symmetrical feet; the whole piece had been intricately carved and arabesqued, like an enormous ivory. And like ivory, it too had once known life - of a sort. Entire, it stood upon its own small stage, beneath which was my hiding hole. I must crawl in from behind, where once had been the trachea, then sit up inside. In there I found a large cushion; I could sit there as in a canoe, upright, with my head and shoulders protruding through into the cavity under the jaw, and look out through the arabesques so artfully cut in the bone. The great red cushion would not obstruct my view for Karen had had it removed, so that I could view at will every face at the table. It's far easier to know a man's thoughts when you can see his face.
'And so they began to arrive.
'As they came I read their names in Karen's mind.
They communicated briefly, mentally, in the fashion of the Wamphyri, exchanging names and boasts. First was Grigis, the least of the Wamphyri Lords. He made out it was a matter of priorities, but plainly he had been sent to test the way.
"'Grigis is here," he sent, as he appeared from the stairwell. "'The Wamphyri honour me, Lady, as you see. My stature is such that I am first-chosen to enter your aerie. Alas, I see warriors there, all about the room. What is this for a greeting?"
'"For your protection, Grigis," she told him. "And for mine. When heads as great as ours meet, they might clash! But for now consider the warriors as decoration, a symbol of Wamphyri power. They have no instructions. While we and the other Lords are still, they shall be still. And now, welcome to my manse. You have entered of your own free will, and I freely welcome you. Be seated. The others are not far behind."
'Grigis strode to a window, leaned out and made a sign. It was dark, of course, but that is nothing to the Wamphyri. I read in Karen's mind how a second flyer, warily circling, at once turned inward and sped for the launching levels. Then Grigis took his seat, on one side of the table and well away from the bone-throne. Grigis was of course true Wamphyri and awesome in aspect, but he was nothing special among the Lords; pointless to describe him further.
'So the arrivals proceeded: many lesser lights, but here and there a power among them. Menor Maimbite was one such. His blazon was a splintered skull between a pair of grinding jaws. Allegedly immune to kneblasch and silver, Menor was known on occasions like this to carry a small pepperbox of these poisons, with which to flavour his food. His head and the gape of his jaws were enormous even for a Lord.
'But after a dozen of them were in, welcomed, seated, and while they fidgeted and muttered low among themselves, then the mightiest of them began to show. Fess Ferenc, who stood eight and a half feet tall and needed no gauntlet, for his hands were talons; Belath, whose eyes were ever slitted, set in a fleshless face never known to smile, whose mind was cloudy and cloaked and totally unreadable; Volse Pinescu, who deliberately fostered running sores and festoons of boils all over his face and body, so that his aspect would be that much more monstrous; and Lesk the Glut, who, it was legended, in an attack of his madness, commanded one of his own warriors to fight him to the death! The story went that he'd got under the thing's scales where it couldn't reach him, eaten his way into its brain and so crippled it. But as Lesk left its skull through a nostril, so in a convulsion the beast had snapped at him. He lost an eye and half of his face, where now he wore a huge leather patch stitched to his jaw and temple. But to replace the missing eye, he had grown one on his left shoulder, which he kept bare, wearing his cloak thrown over the right. Lesk took a seat on the left, right next to my hiding place in the bone-throne, which caused me to tremble violently. But I managed to control it.
'Next to last came Lascula Longtooth, who had so refined and concentrated his metamorphic powers that he could lengthen his jaws and teeth at will, on the spur of the moment, which he was wont to do habitually, like a man scratching his chin. And last of all was Shaithis, whose stack was a fortress impenetrable, whose legends were such as needed no embroidery. Of them all, he might appear one of the least imposing. But his mind was ice, and every move he made, had made or would ever make was calculated to an inch. The Wamphyri might not greatly respect each other, but every one of them respected Shaithis...
'I had wondered at Karen's dress - or lack of it. If I'd been in her position, unwilling hostess to these monsters, I would certainly have buried myself in clothing, even in armour! She wore a sheath of a gown; it was of a white material so fine and clinging that every ripple of her flesh was visible. Her left breast - and she had beautiful breasts - was bare; her right buttock, too, or very nearly; with no undergarments the effect was shattering. But as the Lords had arrived, so her purpose became clear. Instead of casting about with their eyes and minds, all thoughts had immediately centred on Karen.
'Remember: these had been men before they were Wamphyri. Their lusts, however magnified, were the lusts of men. All of them, at first sight, lusted after Karen, which kept their minds from more devious work. I'll not mention the things I read in their vampire-ridden minds; as for Lesk the Glut, I refuse to even dwell upon what I read in his!
'And so they were assembled, and so after some small preamble, and after trying the food she'd had prepared for them, then the talks commenced.
- The Loners
- The Saints
- Tome of the Undergates
- Black Halo
- The Skybound Sea
- If You Stay
- If You Leave
- Until We Burn
- Before We Fall
- Every Last Kiss
- Suspiciously Obedient
- Random Acts of Crazy
- Random Acts of Trust
- Her First Billionaire
- Her Second Billionaire
- Her Two Billionaires
- Her Two Billionaires and a Baby
- His Majesty's Dragon
- Throne of Jade
- Black Powder War
- Victory of Eagles
- Tongues of Serpents
- Empire of Ivory
- Crucible of Gold