- 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 V: Deadspawn
A Thing Alone - Starside - The Dweller
And then Harry went back to Starside and the garden...
The Necroscope stood at the forward edge of the garden, his hands resting on the low stone wall there, and looked down on Starside. Somewhere between here and the old territories of the Wamphyri, where the broken remains of their aeries now lay in shattered disarray, the sphere Gate - this end of the space-time 'handle', the dimensional warp, whose alternate extension lay in Perchorsk - would be lighting up the stony plain in its painful white glare. Harry fancied he could see something of its light even from here, a ghostly shimmer way down there in the far grey foothills.
He and the incorporeal Pete had come out of the Starside Gate on the big bike - come through the aching dazzle of the 'grey hole' from Perchorsk and out of it on to the boulder plain - but Harry remembered very little of that. He did remember the last time he was here, however, which strangely felt more real to him than all that had gone between. Probably because he now desired to forget all that had gone between.
He turned his head more directly northwards and gazed out across all the leagues of Starside's vast unknown to the curve of the horizon lying dark-blue and emerald-green under fleeting moon, glittering stars and the writhing allure of aurora borealis. That way lay the Icelands where the sun never shone and into which the doomed, forsaken and forgotten of the Wamphyri had been banished since time immemorial. Shaithis, too, after the defeat of the Wamphyri and the destruction of their aeries in the battle for The Dweller's garden. And he remembered how Shaithis had sped north aboard a huge manta flyer in the peace and the silence of the aftermath.
Harry and the Lady Karen had spoken to Shaithis before he exiled himself; unrepentant even then, the vampire Lord had openly lusted after Karen's body, and even more so after The Dweller's and his father's hearts. But he'd lusted in vain. At that time, anyway.
As for the Necroscope: he'd had his own use for the Lady Karen. For just like his son, she had a vampire in her. If he could exorcize Karen's nightmare creature, perhaps he could also cure The Dweller.
He starved Karen in her aerie, used the blood of a piglet to lure her vampire out of her, then burned the thing before it could escape back into her body. But after that, things had not gone according to plan. And the rest of it was still seared on the screen of his memory:
She came to him in a dream, stood over him in her most revealing white gown, and turned his triumph to ashes. 'Can't you see what you've done to me?' she said. 'I who was Wamphyri am now a shell! For when one has known the power, the freedom, the magnified emotions of the vampire... what is there after that? I pity you, for I know why you did what you've done, and also that you've failed!' And then she was gone.
He woke up and searched for her in all the rooms on all the many levels of the aerie, and could not find her.
Eventually he went out on to a high bone balcony and looked down, and saw Karen's white dress lying crumpled on the scree more than a kilometre below, no longer entirely white but red too. And Karen had been inside it.
Harry shook himself, came out of his reverie, deliberately turned his back on Starside and the scars it had given him, and looked at the garden - which now he saw was not entirely as he remembered it. A garden? Well, yes, but not the well-tended garden he had known. And the greenhouses? The hillside dwelling places of the Travellers? The hot springs and speckled trout pools?
There was green algae on the pools; the transparent panels in many of the greenhouses were torn and flapping in cold air eddies out of Starside; the dwelling houses, especially Harry Jr's, showed signs of disrepair where tiles were missing from the roofs, windows were broken, and central-heating pipes from the thermal pools had cracked, spilling their contents out upon the open ground so that the radiators went without.
'Not the same, Harry Hell-lander, is it?' said a deep, sad, growling voice from close at hand, if not in those words exactly. But the Necroscope's telepathy had filled in the bits which his ears had failed to recognize: it's easy to be a linguist when you're also a telepath. Harry turned to face the man approaching him jinglingly along the lee of the wall; as he did so the other noted his gaunt grey flesh and crimson eyes, and paused.
'Hello there, Lardis.' The Necroscope nodded, his own voice as deep and deeper than the other's. 'I hope that shotgun's not for me!' He wasn't joking; if anything, he might have been threatening.
'For The Dweller's father?' Lardis looked at the weapon in his hands as if seeing it for the first time, in something of surprise. He shuffled a little, awkwardly, like a boy caught in contemplation of some small crime, and said, 'Hardly that! But - ' and again the Traveller chief looked at Harry's eyes, and this time narrowed his own, ' -wherever you've been and whatever you've done since last you were here, Harry Hell-lander, I see you've known hard times.' Finally he averted his gaze, glancing here and there all about the garden, then down onto Starside. 'Aye, and hard times here, too. And more still to come, I fear.'
Harry studied the man, and asked, 'Hard times? Won't you explain?'
Lardis Lidesci was Romany; in this world, on Earth, anywhere, there would be no mistaking the Gypsy in him. He was maybe five-eight tall, built like a crag, and looked of one age with the Necroscope. (In fact he was a lot younger, but Starside and the Wamphyri had taken their toll.) In contrast to his squat build he was very agile, and not in body alone; his intelligence was patent in every brown wrinkle of his expressive face. Open and frank, Lardis's round face was framed in dark flowing hair in which streaks of grey were now plainly visible; he had slanted, bushy eyebrows, a flattened nose and a wide mouth full of strong if uneven teeth. His brown eyes held nothing of malice but were careful, thoughtful, penetrating.
'Explain?' said Lardis, coming no closer. 'But isn't all of this explanation enough?' He opened his arms expansively, as if to enclose the entire garden.
'I've been away four years, Lardis,' Harry reminded him, but not in exactly those words. He made automatic conversions; time on Sunside and Starside was not measured in years but in those periods between sunup, when the barrier peaks turned gold, and sundown, when auroras danced in the northern skies. 'When I left this place and returned to the hell-lands,' (he did not say, 'after my son had crippled and banished me', for he'd read in Lardis's mind that he knew nothing of that), 'we'd just won a resounding victory over the Wamphyri. The sun had burned The Dweller, very badly, but he was well on the road to a complete recovery. The futures of you and your Traveller tribe, and The Dweller's trogs, too, seemed secure. So what happened? Where is everyone? And where's The Dweller?'
'In good time.' Lardis nodded, slowly. 'All in good time.' And in a little while, frowning:
'When I saw you come here,' (he seemed to have changed the subject), ' - when you appeared here in that way of yours, as once The Dweller was wont to appear - ' (past tense? Harry contrived to hide a small start), 'well, I knew it was you, obviously. I remembered how you looked - you, Zek, Jazz - as if all of that were yesterday. Yes, and I remembered the good times, in the days immediately after the battle here in the garden. Then, approaching you, I saw your eyes and knew you were a victim no less than The Dweller in that earlier time. And because you are Harry Wolfson's father, his natural father - and I suppose also because I carry this shotgun, loaded with silver from your son's armoury - I wasn't afraid of you. For after all, I am Lardis Lidesci, whom even the Wamphyri respected in some small part.'
'In some large part!' Harry nodded at once. 'Don't sell yourself short. So what are you trying to say, Lardis?'
'I am wondering...' the other began to answer, paused and sighed. 'The Dweller, when lucid, has mentioned...'
When 'lucid'? Now what the hell was this? Harry would look inside Lardis's head, but something warned him not to take on too much. 'Yes?' he prompted.
'Is it possible - ' Lardis jerked the shotgun shut across his arm, thus loading it, its twin barrels pointing straight at Harry's heart, 'that you are their advance guard?'
The Necroscope conjured a Möbius door directly under his own feet and fell through it - and in the next moment rose up out of another door behind the Traveller chief. The echoes of the double blast were still bouncing between the higher crags; a whiff of black-powder stench drifted on the air; Lardis was cursing very vividly and swinging the double barrels of his weapon left and right through a 180-degree arc.
Harry touched him on the shoulder, and as Lardis crouched down and spun on his heels took the gun from him. He propped the weapon against the wall, narrowed his eyes and tilted his head on one side a little - perhaps warningly - and growled, 'Let's walk and talk, Lardis. But this time let's try to be a little more forthcoming.'
The Gypsy was build like a bull; for a moment he remained in his half-crouch, eyes slitted, arms reaching. But finally he changed his mind. Harry was Wamphyri. Go up against him? One might as well hurl oneself from a high place, which would be a much quicker, far less painful death.
But this time, no longer distracted by the gun, Harry read his thoughts. 'No need to die, Lardis,' he said, as softly as possible. 'And no need to kill. I'm no one's vanguard. Now, will you tell me what has happened -what is happening - here? And take the shortest route about it?'
'Many things have happened,' Lardis grunted, catching his breath. 'And many more will happen. That is, if The Dweller's premonitions - his dreams of doom - should come to pass.'
'Where is The Dweller now?' Harry demanded. He glanced sharply at Lardis. 'Wolfson, did you call him? And where's his mother?'
'His mother?' Lardis raised his slanted eyebrows, quickly lowered them again. 'Ah, his mother! Your wife, the most gentle lady Brenda.'
'She was my wife, once.' Harry nodded.
'Come this way,' said Lardis.
He led the Necroscope across the garden, and Harry saw for himself how great were the changes. For it was plain now that the place had been left untended. The pools were stagnating; the greenhouses were empty and cold; a bitter wind blew, bouncing wiry balls of tumble-weed across the flat, once fertile saddle. And to one side, where the level ground began to climb again like foothills to the higher peaks, there lay Brenda's simple cairn.
Harry felt the poignancy of the moment and reached out with his deadspeak. It was instinct... like the beat of his heart... like breathing... but in another moment, remembering how she'd been, he withdrew. She wouldn't know him, and even if she did remember it would only disturb her. To Lardis he said, 'She died peacefully?'
'Aye,' the Gypsy answered. 'Sunup and gentle rains, and all the flowers in bloom. A good time to go.'
'She wasn't ill?'
Lardis shook his head. 'Merely frail. It was her time.'
Harry turned away. 'But alone, here...'
'She wasn't alone!' Lardis protested. 'The trogs loved her. My Travellers, too. And her son. He stayed with her to the end. It helped keep his own trouble at bay.'
'His trouble?' Harry repeated him. 'You mean when he's not himself, not lucid? And you've called him Harry Wolfson. I ask you one more time: where is The Dweller, Lardis Lidesci?'
The Gypsy stared at him a moment, then glanced at the full moon riding the peaks and shivered. 'Up there,' he said, 'where else? Wild as his brothers, aye, and like a king among them where they lope in the trees along the ridges. Or snug in a cave with his bitch on Sunside when the sun is up, or hunting foxes in the far west. Men see him from time to time with the pack... they know him from the hands he wears where the rest have paws, and from his crimson eyes, of course.'
Harry need ask no more, for now he knew. It was something he'd wondered about often enough. Almost to himself, softly, he said, 'With The Dweller... changed, and the Wamphyri defeated, no longer a threat, there was nothing to keep his people here, nothing to hold them together. Perhaps you even feared him. And so you Travellers have drifted back to Sunside, the trogs have returned to their caves, and the garden... will soon come to an end. Unless I put it to rights again.'
'Why not? I fought for it, upon a time.'
Lardis's voice was sour, gruff now. 'And will you also hunt on Sunside - hunt men, women and children - when the nights are dark?'
'Does my son hunt the travelling folk? Did he ever?'
Lardis turned abruptly away. 'I have to go. At the back of the saddle there's a track, a cleft, a pass. My route back through the mountains to Sunside.'
Harry followed close behind. 'Do you go alone? Why did you come here, anyway?'
To remember what was upon a time, and to see what has become. Just this one last time.'
'And now that the Wamphyri are no more: how goes it on Sunside? Have you settled, or do you journey as before?'
Lardis looked back and gave a snort. 'What? The Wamphyri, no more? Well, perhaps - for now! But the swamps boil with their spawn. All is as it was in the long ago, and what has been will be again. Vampires today, Wamphyri tomorrow!'
Harry came to a halt, let the other stride away into a rising mist. 'Lardis,' he called after him, 'remember this: don't bother me and I won't bother you and yours. That's a promise. And if you're in need, seek me out. Except... seek carefully.'
'Hah!' The Gypsy's reply rang from the mist. 'But you're Wamphyri now, Harry Hell-lander! What, and do you make promises? And should I believe them? Well, and perhaps I would have believed them upon a time. But believe the thing inside you? No way! Never! Oh, you'll come a-hunting soon enough, for a woman to warm your bed, or a sweet Traveller child when you've wearied of the flesh of rabbits.'
'Lardis, wait!' Harry growled after him. There are things I need to know, which you can tell me.' Of course, he could always stop him, instantly, and do what he would with him. But he wouldn't, for the old times. And also because he, the Necroscope, was still ascendant, still in command of himself.
The moon raced full and low in the sky; it silvered the peaks, turned the shadows of the crags black, made the mist luminous where it crept. And Harry saw that the mist wasn't rising but falling: down from the shadowed places, to fill the saddles and false plateaus, and tumble over the crags like glowing, slow-motion waterfalls. The howl of a wolf reverberated, echoing from one peak to the next. It was joined by another, and another. No natural mist, this. And these unseen creatures, they were strange and mournful.
Finally Lardis's voice came back hoarse and panting. 'Do you hear that, Harry Hell-lander? The grey brotherhood! Aye, and their king with them, come to sit by his mother and talk with her a while, as is his wont. Ask him these things you would know, and maybe he'll talk to his father, too. But as for me, farewell.'
There came a distant crunching of pebbles, the sound of scree dislodged and sliding, and Lardis was off and running, on his way to Sunside.
And the howling ceased.
Harry waited ...
Finally they came out of the mist: long-eared, grey-furred, tongues lolling, with eyes like molten gold. A pack of wolves. But they were only wolves.
Harry looked at them and they looked back. He was unafraid and they were cautious. They lined up on both sides of him and left a gauntlet for him to run. Except he wouldn't run but walk it, back to The Dweller's house. And as he went the mist and the grey brotherhood closed in behind him.
Inside the house all was darkness, which mattered not at all to the Necroscope. Mist swirled ankle-deep like something sleeping, whose dreams Harry disturbed by passing through. The Dweller sat upright at a table in what was once the living room, where moonbeams came slanting through an open window; he wore a hooded robe, with his eyes burning like triangular coals within the cowl; only his hands, long and slender, were otherwise visible.
Harry sat down opposite.
And: 'I had thought you might come back, one day,' said The Dweller, his voice a snarl, a cough, a croak. 'And I knew it was you from the moment you came howling out of the sphere Gate. Someone who comes into a place like that - brash and full of fire - he is either fearless or very afraid, or he doesn't much care one way or the other.'
'I didn't much care,' said Harry. 'Not then.'
'Let's not waste words,' said The Dweller. 'Once I had all the power. But I also had a vampire in me and thought you would try to exorcize and kill it, and so kill me. Being afraid of what you might do, I put a thought into your head and used it like a knife to cut out all of your secret talents. Like me, you could come and go at will: I immobilized you. Like me, you listened to the dead and talked to them: I made you deaf and dumb. And when all was done, then I returned you back to your own place and stranded you there. Not so terrible; at least you were in your own world, among your own kind.
Then for a while there was peace in this world. And to a lesser extent there was also peace in me.
'But I had used the power of the sun itself to destroy the Wamphyri. You and I together, we had burned them with bright sunfire, and toppled their aeries down on to the plain! All very wonderful, but in so doing - in playing with the sun like that - I too had been burned. Well, and I would soon recover from it. So it seemed...
'I did not recover. What started as a healing process soon stopped, indeed reversed itself. My metamorphic vampire flesh could not replenish itself and the flesh of my human body, and the vampire must come first. That which was human in me gradually sloughed away, eaten out as by leprosy or some monstrous cancer. Even my mind was erased and in large part replaced, and what was instinct in my vampire gradually became instinct, inherent, in me. For the vampire must have a host, active and strong, to house its egg until it could be passed on, and it "remembered" the shape and nature of its first host. As you know, Father, my "other" father - the source of my egg - was a wolf!
'I knew that my body was going, my mind too, and saw that I was reverting. But still there was someone who knew my story - all of it, from the day I was conceived -and to whom I could talk in my hour of need. My mother, of course. And in practising my deadspeak so I kept at least that one last talent alive. But as for the rest: they are gone, forgotten. Ironic: I destroyed your talents and lost my own! And now, when I ... forget things, I talk to the Gentle One Under the Stones, who reminds me of what has been; who even reminded me of you, when I might so easily have forgotten.'
Harry's emotions - the gigantic emotions of the Wamphyri - had filled him to overflowing. He couldn't find words to speak, could scarcely think. In a few short hours, a small fraction of his life, his entire life had been changed for ever. But that meant nothing. His pain was nothing. For others had really suffered and were suffering even now. And he could trace all of it back to himself.
'I'll come here no more,' The Dweller said. 'Now that I've seen you. And now that you've... forgiven me?... I can forget what I was and be what I am. Which is something you might try for yourself, Father.' He reached out a hand to touch Harry's trembling hand, and his forearm was grey-furred where it slid from the sleeve of his robe.
Harry turned his face away. Tears are unseemly in scarlet, Wamphyri eyes. But a moment later, when he looked again...
... The Dweller's robe was still fluttering to the floor, while a shape, grey-blurred, launched itself from the window. Harry leaped to see. There in the vampire mist his son sprang away, then paused, turned and looked back. He blinked triangular eyes, lifted his muzzle, sniffed at the cold air. His ears were pointed, alert; he tilted his head this way and that; he was... listening? But to what?
'Someone comes!' he barked, warningly. And before the Necroscope could question his meaning: 'Ah, yes! That one. Forgotten until now, like so many other things I've forgotten. It seems I'm not the only one who marked your return, Father. No, for she too knows you're back.'
'She?' The Necroscope repeated his werewolf son, as that one turned and loped for the higher peaks; and all the grey brotherhood with him, vanishing into the mist.
A shadow fell on The Dweller's house and Harry turned his startled eyes skyward, where even now a weird diamond shape fell towards the garden. And: 'She?' he said again, his query a whisper.
He means me, hell-lander, her telepathic voice - hardly severe, nevertheless exploding in Harry's mind like a bomb - reached down to him. Telepathy, yes, and not deadspeak. But how could this be? It whirled him like a top.
You! he finally answered in her own medium, as her flyer swooped to earth.
The long dead - the no longer dead - the undead Lady Karen!
- 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