- 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
A little higher than he and Karen and climbing that much faster, the unscathed warrior she'd launched from the crags vented propulsive gases in a fury. It snorted like a dragon where it made an all too obvious beeline for the alien flyers and their riders overhead. Responding like monstrous automata to the threat, the trio of escorting warriors turned inwards and began to converge, lost a little height, then fell like stones with their vanes angling them towards their target.
All of this registered in a moment: the fact that here in the middle air and overhead, Karen and the Necroscope were already gravely outnumbered. As for the situation below, that was worse. The enemy warriors which had given Karen's creature a mauling at the back of the garden had launched themselves into the same updraught and were gaining; and coming up even faster behind them was that destroyer of her third creature, which she'd described as the most terrible warrior she ever saw. No expert in such things, still Harry had to agree.
It had squidlike lines... which was where any comparison with creatures of previous knowledge must break down. Gigantic, it was flesh and blood, cartilage and bone, but it had the look and grey mottling of some weird flexible metal. Clusters of gas bladders like strange wattles bulked out its throbbing body and detracted from its manoeuvrability, but were necessary to carry the extra weight of its arms and armour. These were not additional to the warrior but integral; like a great thunder-lizard of primal Earth, its weaponry was all built-in. Except Nature in her wildest dreams had never equipped anything like this. No, for this thing was of Shaithis's fashioning.
Well, Necroscope? Karen's telepathic voice was suddenly shrill with alarm.
Running for it will simply delay things, he answered.
So? Panic was rising in her like the wind off Starside.
So let's give it our best shot right here and now!
Overhead, a deadly arrowhead formation stooped on Karen's warrior like hawks to a pigeon. Harry ordered his flyer, Stay with your mistress, then rolled from his saddle through a hastily conjured Möbius door... and emerged in the next moment on the scaled back of Karen's warrior, where he could almost taste the hot stench of the incoming warriors. That close!
Sideslip! he ordered his startled mount. And conjuring a massive door, he guided the monster through it. The enemy trio slammed together in a snarling knot where Harry had been, but now he came squirting out of the Möbius Continuum far above them - on a level with the armoured flyers of Shaithis and Shaitan!
Even as his eyes met theirs across the gulf of air, so he picked up something of Shaithis's telepathic ranting: You and your damned magic, you ordure of the hell-lands!
Harry was distracted; he'd looked into the scarlet eyes of Shaitan, too, and the Fallen One had looked burningly into his. No hatred in the mind of that great leech, no, not for the Necroscope; only an intense curiosity. Save your curses, he told Shaithis. For this one might yet do us great harm. Then you'll have real reason to curse him. And Harry heard that, too.
Down below, the trio of confused warriors had untangled themselves; their propulsors roared as they commenced climbing again. Two of you, Shaithis called to them. To me, and hurry! But to the third warrior: Get after the woman. You know what to do...
Slimy bastard thing! Harry hurled the thought at Shaithis before realizing it was no great insult. He looked for Karen's flyer and saw it turn out of the rising spiral to follow the mountains east. A pair of warriors - one of which was her own wounded creature - spurted in her wake; they clashed sporadically, fiercely in the sky. Karen's warrior was getting the worst of it, but her flyer was gaining time and distance. For the moment Harry seemed to have lost the giant warrior.
Chancing that Karen was in no immediate danger, he clung to the scales of his monstrous mount and sent it spurting head-on at his enemies. They turned tail and sped out over Starside's plain of boulders, heading roughly towards the broken aeries of the Wamphyri. Now it became apparent that their flyers had the advantage of speed in level flight; seeing that he couldn't hope to catch them this way, Harry conjured a door and guided his warrior through it -
- And emerged directly above the flyers where they streamlined themselves and winged east. Shaithis heard the warrior's howling propulsors, felt its shadow on his back and looked up. The Necroscope's grin was scarlet, furious, as he slammed his mount down on Shaithis's flyer and tried to crush him in his saddle. His target at once hurled himself flat in the hollow of his mount's shoulders. Harry's warrior extended grapples, pincers, retractable jaws, began cutting the flyer to pieces in mid-air; its razor-sharp appendages came dangerously close to Shaithis where he squirmed for his life. Dripping the blood of its torn victim, Harry's warrior lifted up a little, again dashed all of its bulk down on the flyer. And slipping from his saddle to hang from its trappings in the scarlet rain, Shaithis knew his beast was a goner.
Shaitan! he cried out where he dangled.
The great leech flew slightly below and to one side. Jump! he advised, passing directly underneath. Shaithis made to leap for his ancestor's flyer... was thrown off course as for the third time Harry's warrior crashed down on to his mount's back, breaking it. And tumbling past Shaitan, Shaithis found himself in free fall.
It was a while since Shaithis had flown in his own right, but he was in fine fettle and had more than sufficient height. His loose clothes ripped as he flattened himself into a prehistoric, pterodactyl airfoil, and gradually his plummet slowed to a glide. Far to the east he spied a glowing beacon down on the boulder plain and knew it for the Gate to the hell-lands. It made a good marker and he aimed himself in that direction.
The Necroscope had lost him. A dark speck in a darker sky, Shaithis had vanished. But Shaitan remained to be dealt with. Meanwhile, that immemorial father of vampires had drawn ahead; Harry could cover the same distance in the time it took to conjure an equation. He made to do so ... and his warrior was hit from behind! The shock almost tore him loose from the plates of his mount's back. Behind him, that most monstrous warrior of all gripped his creature in crab claws and tore out great chunks of meat from the musculature of its sputtering propulsive vents. Shaitan's other creatures stayed well back to let their far more monstrous cousin get on with its work.
In the last few seconds Karen had linked minds with Harry. She saw his problems and he saw hers: the lesser warrior which Shaithis had sent after her had dispatched her fighting creature and was now closing on her flyer. To Karen, it all seemed ended. Necroscope, it's over! she sent. My mount's a weakling, already winded. There's only myself to blame, for I designed him. I'd head for the furnace lands and a golden death in the rising sun, but doubt if we'd make it. Well, at least I'll go out honourably: a gauntlet against a warrior!
Riding Karen's last creature where its mewling, slavering attacker shredded its way to him, the Necroscope looked out through Karen's eyes.
Her flyer heaved and panted where she drove it south for the great pass, for already its altitude was insufficient to carry it over the peaks. But spurting down on her from above and behind came that monster which Shaithis had ordered: Get after the woman. You know what to do! And directly down below, close to where the gash of the great pass split the mountains... that glaring light? Starside's Gate, of course; Harry would have known it at once, except this aerial view was new to him. In the next moment, turning that view red, the torn carcass of Karen's defeated warrior crashed down and burst into pieces.
And its destroyer was falling on Karen ever faster.
Harry tumbled from his doomed creature's back through a Möbius door, stepped out into the foothills rising up from Starside's portal. The Gate was a fault in the matter of the multiverse, a huge distortion in the fabric of Möbius space-time; but the Necroscope was far enough away that it had little effect. He scanned the wide mouth of the pass where the enemy warrior was playing with Karen's exhausted flyer, forcing it down. A second flyer, riderless, flapped uselessly close by: Harry's mount, which he'd ordered to stay with its mistress.
He took the Möbius route into its saddle and called to Karen: We're not done yet.
She heard him, but so did Shaithis. At the end of his long, fast glide he landed close to the Gate and reformed into his man-shape. And seeing his warrior in the sky where it menaced the flyers and their riders, he ordered it: Bring me the woman - in pieces, if that's the only way!
The warrior's response was immediate: it crashed its bulk down on to Karen's flyer and knocked her half out of the saddle. And while she reeled there and tried to recover her senses and balance both, it put out appendages with hooked claspers and snatched her up. Then, with its propulsors roaring triumphantly, the monster smashed down on the riderless flyer one last time to break its neck. And as Karen's crippled beast spun and tumbled down out of the sky into the pass, so the warrior turned back towards the boulder plain.
Good! Shaithis applauded his beast. Bring her to me.
Harry sent his mount plummeting from on high directly into the path of the warrior; ignoring him, the thing came straight on. He sent: Release her to me, directly into its small brain.
Do not! its rightful master countered his command. Knock him aside... crush him if you can!
The monster was upon Harry. Karen, held fast in its palps of chitin thorns - which pierced her flesh, holding her like a fish on a hundred hooks - could only scream as its neck arched to strike at him; while jaws like a small cave, more lethally equipped than the mouth of Tyrannosaurus rex, opened to sweep him up.
What happened next was all instinct. It was as if Fa锟斤拷thor Ferenczy lived in the Necroscope yet, and whispered in his ear: When he opens his great jaws at you, go in through them! Harry knew he could never hope to cause this creature any real physical injury, not from the outside. But somewhere within that monstrous skull was a tiny brain; and somewhere inside himself, something was or still desired to be Wamphyri!
Go in through them!
Harry stood up in the saddle, stepped into the stench of the warrior's mouth as it snapped shut on him. But within that door of teeth was another conjured from his metaphysical mind. He passed through that one, too, into the Möbius Continuum... and out again within the warrior's head. Physically inside its head! Among the rude materials of its cranium, the pulsing pipes and conduits, knobs and nodules, muck and mucous membrane of its living skull!
He felt the cringing of displaced mush - the shrinking of metamorphic flesh as his body materialized to rub against raw nerve-endings and wet, spongy tissues, and the throb of plasma carrying oxygen to the small, agonized brain - then reached out with tearing, taloned vampire hands to find and fondle the central ganglion itself. And to crush it into so much pulp. Then -
- Gravity disappeared as the warrior's propulsors closed down and the thing went into free fall. And inside its head, Harry desperately sought to make room for himself and conjure a Möbius door. He needed space to work in, air to breathe; he had never before attempted a door underwater or surrounded by viscous solids - namely hot blood - but now he must. Must conjure a door; get out of here; rescue Karen from this dead thing's claw before it hit the ground.
But even as Möbius maths commenced mutating on the screen of the Necroscope's mind, so he saw how alien -how inescapably wrong - it was! The door pulsed and vibrated but wouldn't firm into being. Instead, its energies fastened upon the region of space on the perimeter of its matrix and violently reshaped it; and common matter, displaced from its natural shape and form, flowed like magmass in the moment before the aborted door exploded into nothingness!
Shaithis saw his creature tumbling to earth and for a moment thought it must fall into the Gate. Astonished, he saw its armoured head warp and melt and burst open even before it crashed down only a few paces from the dimensional portal! And as it hit, he saw something manlike - but red, yellow, and slime-grey - vomited from the shattered skull and hurled out on to the boulder plain. As the dust settled and the last gobs of slime and plasma arced down to slop among the rocks and the dirt, so he went forward.
Shielding his eyes against the glare, he stepped wonderingly among the debris of his warrior and gazed on the Lady Karen, bruised and bleeding and unconscious in the thing's claspers; and upon the broken, disjointed hell-lander Harry Keogh, as bloody a sight as the vampire Lord ever saw. But not yet dead, no, not by a long shot.
Of course not, Shaithis thought, for he is Wamphyri! And yet... different, and hard to understand.
Indeed! Shaitan agreed, as he glided his flyer to earth. And yet that is what we must do: understand him. For his mind contains all the secrets of the Gate and the worlds beyond it. So do him no more harm but let him heal himself as best he can. And when he can answer me, then I shall question him...
Betrayed by his own talent when he attempted to materialize a Möbius door too close to the Gate, the Necroscope's metaphysical mind had taken the brunt of the shock. His flesh was vampiric and would repair itself in time, even the core of his damaged brain, but until then he must remain largely oblivious. And to some extent, perhaps he was lucky at that.
Karen, on the other hand, was not nearly so broken and by no means so lucky. While Shaitan concerned himself with Harry, his dark descendant's only thought was for Karen. Both of them sought knowledge; in the latter's case, carnal.
Shaitan's examination was telepathic. As Harry's mind healed and shards of splintered memory slowly cemented themselves together, so the Fallen One extracted what information was of value to him. Certain concepts were difficult; where a memory had been too complicated (or too painful) for detailed retention, Harry had kept it in outline only. For example: the underground complex at Perchorsk, which he'd always considered a dark, brooding fortress. His mental images of the Perchorsk Projekt were starkly monochrome; what memories he retained of the place - their mood and texture - were not unlike those of some menacing aerie; he shied from filling in details. Penny was the reason, of course, for even in his damaged condition Harry couldn't bring Perchorsk to mind without her intrusion.
But of Harry's life prior to Perchorsk, and of the world of men in general, Shaitan had gauged much. Sufficient to be sure that when he went through the Gate and invaded first the underground complex - disarming its defences and making it his impregnable fortress - and then the rest of the Necroscope's world, little would stand before him. His army of vampire servitors would spread out insidiously through all the Earth, and his dark disciples would carry his plague into every part until he reigned supreme. Even as he had sought to reign in that far dim dawn which he was not permitted to remember.
And each time Shaitan thought of that, then he would go to where Harry lay upon a Traveller blanket close to their fire, gaze on him anew and wonder where he'd seen that vaguely familiar face before. In what far land, in what dim and unremembered time, in what previous existence?
He wondered, too, about the Necroscope's strange powers, amazing powers which he alone possessed, brought with him out of an alien world. With his own ancient but trustworthy eyes, Shaitan had seen him move instantaneously from place to place - but without crossing the distance between! Yes, he had come through the Gate from the world beyond almost as if ... as if he had fallen from the one into the next. As Shaitan had once fallen? And from the same world? Possibly. Except... except Shaitan had forgotten; for they (but who?) had robbed him of all such memories.
The Necroscope's fellow men had cast him out (even as Shaitan was cast out in that time before the Wamphyri exiled him), causing him to flee here for his differences. So that in a way the father of vampires even felt a weird kinship with the Necroscope.
And when Harry's mind was repaired a little, Shaitan entered it again to ask him: Do I know you? Where have I seen you before? Are you of their order, who expelled me from my rightful place?
Harry's mind was frequently coherent in its limbo; he knew he was addressed; even knew something of the one who addressed him, and the meaning of his questions. And: No, he answered to all three.
Shaitan tried again. I have heard your thoughts. In them, you wonder about strange worlds beyond common ken. Not in the spaces between the stars, but in the spaces between the spaces! Indeed, you have access to just such an invisible space, where you move more surely and speedily than a fish in water. I, too, would move there, in the darkness which is not of the world. Show me how.
It had been the Necroscope's best-kept secret, but damaged in mind and body, he could no longer keep it. And if he should try, the Fallen One's mental hypnosis would unlock the mystery anyway. And so he showed Shaitan the computer screen of his mind, where Möbius equations at once commenced mounting in a crescendo. Shaitan saw, felt warned, was afraid.
Stop! he commanded, when the faintest pulse of a tortured Möbius door began to form out of nothing in his mind. And as the screen was wiped clean and the unformed door imploded into itself, so the great leech sighed his relief and was pleased to remove himself from Harry. For having felt the energies emanating from those equations and surrounding that door, he suspected that indeed he had known them before in a world beyond, where they'd been part and parcel of his downfall.
But now... Shaitan knew that Harry's secret place was forever beyond him, and the knowledge angered him. What, kinship? With this puling babe, this infant in dark arts, this bruised and bloodied, unblooded innocent? He must be mad even to have dreamed of it. Anyway, what did it matter that there were forbidden, invisible places? The visible ones would do for starters, and one at a time would suffice. Now that Starside had fallen, the world beyond the Gate - the Necroscope's own world - would be next. And entry into that place would be soon, before sunup.
Shaitan knew all he needed to know from the Necroscope. Shaithis could have him now; let the so-called 'hell-lander' suffer a vampire's agonies and death, and him and all of his mystery go up in fire and smoke and so be at an end.
Such were the Fallen One's thoughts, which he allowed to go out from himself. But inside him there were deeper currents. Fit and well, this Harry Keogh had been a force. If he should live he could well become a force again -even a Power! Which was why Shaithis, if he had any vision at all, would be wise to deal with him with dispatch.
Aye, before Shaitan dealt with him in his turn.
From the Necroscope's point of view - or rather, to his traumatized perceptions - events revolved in an endless round of nausea and drifting confusion, semi-conscious agony, and a waking hell of blurred vision, haunting flashes of incomplete memories, and vivid but all too frequently meaningless bursts of input. Sometimes, while his metamorphic flesh worked hard to heal both body and brain, his mind seemed part of a morbid merry-go-round, turning on its own axis and reviewing the same scenes over and over. At others it was trapped in the mirrors of a kaleidoscope, where each scrap of coloured tinsel was a disjointed fragment of his past life or current existence.
In his more lucid moments, Harry knew that given even the best of conditions his injuries would take time in the healing; he had neither the conditions nor the time. After Shaitan gave him to Shaithis, the latter had had him crucified close to the Gate. Silver nails held him to the green timbers, and a silver spike passed through him, through his vampire and the trunk of the cross, and out the back where it was bent to one side. As fast as his Wamphyri flesh worked to repair him, so the silver poisoned him. And he guessed - no, he knew - that he wouldn't come down off this cross alive. At his feet, a bonfire of dry, broken branches confirmed it.
A second cross had been erected for Karen. Sometimes she hung there, which impaired her healing processes and kept her servile, and at others she was absent. Harry felt for her most when her cross was empty, for that was when Shaithis used and abused her. If he had the strength, the Necroscope would talk to her telepathically; except he suspected she would not let him in. No, for she would keep her torments to herself and not add to his despair. But from time to time, when Karen's cross was empty, Harry would look down on Shaithis's tent of skins and the hatred would burn in him like a fire. And then - but far too late - he would wish he'd given his vampire free rein. Perhaps mercifully, such moments of mental clarity, understanding and remorse were few and far between.
He didn't remember the arrival of the Travellers, called through the pass by Shaithis. 'Loyal' in their way to the Wamphyri, they were of a fearful, much-despised supplicant tribe of gauntlet-makers. En route here from Sunside and obedient to Shaithis's commands, they'd stolen away the women and younger men from a party of less subjugated Travellers. Also, they had been employed to build the shelters of the vampire Lords, and to cut and gather the wood for fires and crosses. Little good any of this did them; Shaithis and his monstrous ancestor served all of them alike: they brutalized and impregnated the women, vampirized the pick of the men to be their thralls and lieutenants, and fed the rest to the warriors preparatory to the invasion of the Gate.
That last was something which the Necroscope did remember: the butchery as the last of the Travellers tried to flee, and the gluttony of the warriors. Especially he remembered how Shaithis, for his amusement, had given a Traveller woman to a warrior with the parts of a man. When it was over (and apparently aroused), Shaithis had taken Karen down from her cross and into his tent. And when that was over and she was nailed up again, then he had come to gloat at the foot of Harry's cross.
'I've had my fill of your bitch, wizard,' he said with a shrug, as if in casual conversation. 'It was even my thought to lie with her in the open and let you watch, except as you've seen these beasts of mine are frisky. I had no desire to give them ideas. But the next time she comes down off her cross...ah, that will be the last time. And while you are burning - or at least until the skin of your eyes turns black and peels away - you shall see it all. Only a shame that your own agonies must detract from your enjoyment of hers!'
Then... Harry's hatred had been a greater torture than the nails and the spike together, so great that he was driven back into the darkness of oblivion. But not before he had heard the Fallen One's mind-warning to his descendant.
'Ware, Shaithis! Be advised not to drive this one too far. I fancy there's that in him which even he fails to appreciate. Something beyond his control - some weird instinctive mechanism - which works through him. Don't trigger it, my son. Even the Travellers, when they hunt and kill wild pigs, are wise enough not to taunt their prey.
But in Shaithis's secret mind was nothing but scorn. He'd lived through too many auroras just dreaming of these moments of triumph. Taunt this tame pig of a Necroscope? Oh, yes! Right to the bitter end...
- 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