The girl told her it would be a few minutes before they had more coffee brewed. Jade said it was all right; she'd just go down the street.
"That's a good idea; it's bright and beautiful out today. A perfect day."
"The sun is strong?"
"Unbelievably-for an autumn day in Edinburgh!"
Jade stepped outside. When she closed her eyes she heard the normal tenor of conversation, marked with the charming accent of the Scots. The sky above was touched with gray, and yet it seemed very light. She loved Edinburgh, even in the chill of autumn. And yes-the sun, for Edinburgh, was very bright.
Time for all evil vampires to be locked away in the earth.
The brisk air was refreshing. She loved the city, loved looking toward the castle and down the street.
A lone piper played a lament as shoppers and businessmen hurried along. The wail of the pipes seemed very charming. It felt good to be in the fresh air, to feel the sun, the heat of the light.
The normalcy of a bright, shining day.
She started for the contemporary mall down on the left side of the street. It was there that the piper played. His lament was eerily compelling.
A small, mobile stage, like a gypsy stage, had been set up on the concrete entrance in front of the modern formation of shops. A woman in an old hag's costume was hawking the show, walking about, enticing people to come before the stage. The people themselves were a show. Some workers walking the streets were in costumes, and half costumes. Cat whiskers and tails adorned some people in the crowd; costumed children in everything from Mickey Mouse to Frankenstein apparel were already roaming the streets.
"Come see, come see the show!" the old witch woman called, beckoning children around her. A man from behind the counter joined her. He was decked out like the cat from Puss N' Boots, Jade thought, and she found herself pausing to watch them.
He joked and teased with the witch. The witch hit him on the head with a pretend loaf of bread. He called for volunteers from the audience, and one little girl hit the witch on the head for him. There was a lot of laughter. The crowd pushed forward. She didn't know that she was part of it.
Then the cat was skipping around, and she watched, laughing. Volunteers! He needed more. A beautiful princess, with gold and red hair, sunset hair, to flow around her, and there would have to be a prince, of course. Or maybe a frog. Because everyone knew of course, that a princess had to kiss a lot of frogs to find a prince.
She was laughing when the cat-man came up to her with the loaf of bread. He caught her eyes, staring right at her.
And then, too late, she recognized the man. She saw the eyes behind the mask.
She opened her mouth to scream; she turned to run.
The bread came down upon her head. Except that it was no longer bread. It struck hard and she was falling....
Volunteers, volunteers, volunteers. How hadn't she seen... ?
She fell into the cat-man's arms. He and the witch swept her backstage.
They finished the show with the children all laughing, thinking she was part of it all. Because when the princess kissed the frog, the story went, unfortunately, the frog didn't turn into a prince.
The princess turned into a frog.
The children laughed.
It was autumn.
Night came early.
It wouldn't be long before darkness would fall....
The sky was gray. The air was cool.
Lucian felt the rush of the wind around him, embracing him. He felt the truth of the image, and he came to the Isle of the Dead alone.
It was less populated now than it had been all those years ago. Lone farmhouses dotted the craggy landscape, and the sea still swept around the isle. The only way to reach the island was by ferry. A new church had been built over the remains of the old one by the sea, near the place where the old fisherman's cottage with the fantastic carvings still remained, dilapidated and in ruins. Historians came sometimes, and students. The population on the isle was too small to create a booming tourist trade, and those who lived and worked in the wilds of the rugged hills and cairns of the windswept isle were fond of the privacy.
He came there and sat by her grave, and remembered an earlier time. A time so long ago, when he had been naive in a way he couldn't even begin to imagine now. So much time gone by. So many years when he had been vicious and bitter. So many years of learning. And still, so much anguish, and so many times when he felt cursed and damned, and desperate to kill, to butcher, slaughter, tear into human veins and quench the thirst that burned in him, no matter how far he thought he had come, how civilized he might think himself...
There had been the wars for independence in Scotland. A time to kill and glut, and never be known, with enemies so brutal themselves that his deeds were not noted. Medieval Europe. Ah, and there a playground, with the righteous burning the innocent-again, a time when enemies were clearly seen, when it seemed his judgment was no less merciful than that of "goodly" men
There had been his days in France. Many of them. A time of revolution-when a vampire was assuredly in as great a danger as any mortal man. A time of great risk. Wars, more wars, and a new age, a new time. To think back, to come here ... so long ago. And yet, in all, this was the past strongest in his memory.
He hadn't really come there. Not in the flesh. He dared not use that kind of energy, that much of his desperately needed strength.
Physically, rather, he had come to Saint Giles, and found an old entrance below, to a cache of buried dead from the early sixteen hundreds. He wondered if the corpses were even known in the church records. They were from a time of tremendous cruelty, when witches and heretics were burned in Scotland, when the powerful had the right of life or death over the weak-a time, indeed, when the cruel appetites of a monster were often no greater than those of the goodly men who ruled on earth. Rick slept near him; his travel was in his mind, in his sleep. Lucian did not shape-shift as he traveled now; he saw.
With his mind's eye. Saw the past, saw her grave. He grieved as if it were yesterday.
And he was ready to move into the future. Should there be one.
Suddenly his dream was broken. Black shadows, like the huge wings of a giant bat, fell over his vision.
Darian stood before him, a shadow of twilight, even in the darkness of his sleep.
I have her, Lucian. I have her again.
Worms seemed to gnaw at his flesh. The earth groaned.
I will kill you, destroy you, totally, utterly!
You think yourself so strong. You think that you are the lord of us all, that you govern the undead. You thought yourself safe today. Ah, the sun! To carry out our . . . dinner plans for the evening. Of course, you can change it all. Come to Sophia. Maybe we'll let her go. Give yourself up; bow down to her again. She is your creator. Give her back the power. And perhaps we'll let your mortal lover go.
The air shifted; a flapping of wings sounded.
Lucian's eyes flew open; he bolted up.
Rick did so, too. Unaccustomed to his position, Rick cracked his head hard against the church flooring above.
Far above him, a tourist shivered, certain that Saint Giles was indeed haunted.
"They have Jade," Lucian said.
Shanna had fallen asleep. Deeply.
She felt someone shaking her shoulder.
"Stop, stop, will you please stop!" She moaned. "I am finally getting some sleep."
"Shanna, where's Jade?" It was Jack; he was standing over her, his face tense.
"It's all right," Shanna said, yawning. "She just went for coffee."
"I don't know. I don't think it was that early. Maybe around eleven ... ?"
"Shanna, it's three o'clock. Nearly dark."
"Oh, my God!" Shanna leaped out of bed, horrified. "She didn't come back then. We've got to go find her. Oh, my God, Jack, surely they had to rest! Sophia and Darian must have needed some rest. The sun was bright ... They would have known we were coming tonight. They would have needed to heal. They would have needed strength...."
"Apparently they are preparing," Renate said from the other bed. "They're preparing to meet Lucian.
They set out to get Jade because they know that he'll come after her. What better preparation to bring Lucian down? It's a trap. For him."
She awoke to sounds. Halloween, she thought. But it wasn't little children she was hearing, and those who were shrieking and talking seemed to be doing so at a distance.
She smelled earth, dank and fetid. She felt a very cold hardness beneath her.
It was dark, but when she opened her eyes, she could see enough. The tomb was lit by burning torches secured along the way by ancient iron brackets.
She tried to shift. She could not. There was a scraping sound, a clanking ... and she was shackled to ...
Her blood ran as cold as the stone slab to which they had secured her. She had been here before. She was deep in the tomb, incredibly deep in the tomb where she had been just a year ago, when she had watched Darian tear four young people to ribbons in a horrendous bloodbath...
She ached; the cold had seeped into her. Her head hurt, her throat hurt, her body hurt. She tried to wrench her wrist free from what seemed to be a centuries-old shackle.
She turned toward the skeletal face of a long-dead knight. The empty eye sockets glared at her. Some type of worm crawled out of one. She opened her mouth to shriek with horror....
Somehow she closed her eyes and swallowed the scream. He wasn't that horrible. He was almost all bones. Fragments rested by the sword with which he had been buried. She wasn't going to scream. Not yet. She had to take care. Get her bearings.
Free her hands.
They might be near. Sophia and Darian. They might be just waiting for her to wake up.
Then . . .
She heard Darian's voice.
"So you want to be scared, eh? Really, really scared? Keep coming, my friends. Keep coming. Deep, deep, deep down into the bowels of earth, into hell; do come, my friends, and I will do my very best to scare you."