Jade scrambled up, gripping her hair to try to prevent some of the pain as Darian dragged her to her feet to face Sophia.
He no longer held her.
But she wasn't free.
Now she was trapped.
Darian remained behind her. Sophia was before her.
It was then that she saw Jack Delaney hurrying, stumbling, into the tomb. He was followed by her sister and Renate. He waved a vial of holy water in front of him.
"Let her go. Now. Or I splash it all over your face. Your head. If your whole head evaporates, you're dead, right?"
Darian turned to smile at him.
"I dare you-test it out, big boy!" Darian taunted.
Jack threw the holy water.
Nothing happened. Nothing at all.
"It's water, Jackie boy. Just water," Darian said. "Renate, my sweet. How good you were, how very, very good. How well you served me. Come to me, now, though. I need to twist your head from your body. I might have taken just a bit too much blood from you, and I'm not sure I like you enough for all eternity!"
Renate started walking toward him.
"No!" Shanna shrieked, pushing past Darian. "Getaway from him, Renate; he's going to kill you. Stop her, Jack."
"Do you think Jack can stop her?" Sophia asked.
"I'll damned well stop her!" Jade cried. But Sophia snaked out an arm, reaching for her hair. She jerked it, dragging Jade back to her. She wrenched her hair so that her head was forced to a painful angle.
"Now, now, now!" Sophia raged, but she still made no move. She started forward, dragging Jade with her, looking toward the entrance of the tomb.
"Call him. Call Lucian!" she commanded, pressing Jade forward to her knees. "You are dead, you wretched selkie, you are dead!" she said in a hiss. "I killed you once, and I will kill you again!" It was then that the Grim Reaper, who had stood at the back of the crowd, came to full life. He was suddenly there, behind Sophia, and pulling her from Jade. Sophia, caught off guard, was swiftly seized by Lucian; she felt his grip of steel around her throat, and began to scream.
"Move, Jade, quickly, away from Darian!" he commanded.
Darian sprang into action and reached for Jade, ready to take over, but another corpse suddenly rolled from one of the slabs, pulling the linen that had shrouded him from his body. It was Rick. He came after Darian and they began to fight, fists lashing out, feet flying. It was a deadly, sickening fight. Lucian had Sophia in a fierce grip then; her arm was twisted behind her; she was forced to her knees in the middle of the room.
"A stake!" Jade cried. "I'll throw you a stake."
"He can't kill me!" Sophia cried with triumph. "The rules-"
"The rules are about to change," Lucian said. "You wanted to twist them; so shall we! I am the king of our kind, Sophia. Time and temperance have made me so. I will change the rules, as I so desire. You are a threat to all our kind. Even among our peers, Sophia, there must now be a kind of justice." Jade was crawling for one of the broken stakes that lay on the hard earthen floor. Sophia struggled with Lucian's grip and began to chant-strange words that sounded like a keening on the wind, strange words like none Jade had ever heard before.
And suddenly other corpses began spilling from tombs.
And it was the way it had been before, battles raging, the dead coming alive, the dead attacking the living....
And at last, at long last, the girl in the harem outfit began to scream.
"Get out, get out!" Jack was shouting, trying to push the girl ahead of him. A corpse wound bony, decaying hands around Jack's throat. He struggled with the creature.
A corpse kicked the stake Jade nearly had in her grasp out of her way. She saw the sword her old knight had been holding.
His bony fingers were twitching, as if they were about to come to life.
She seized the sword and thrust the old warrior's skull from his bony frame.
Lucian had Sophia by her hair then. She was trying to let out her chants, but he was dragging her so quickly that she could barely make a noise. He was moving with a sense and purpose Jade couldn't fathom as yet.
Despite her talisman, he was in control. At the moment.
But Darian had taken Rick down and was standing over him, reaching for a knife sheathed at his calf.
Lucian kept his iron grip on Sophia, but kicked Darian with an ungodly strength. Darian wailed, his fingers crushed. The knife was sent flying from his hands.
Darian was down on one hand and his knees, scrambling for the knife.
The sword was in Jade's hand. She swung. Hard.
The blade sank into Darian's neck. She hadn't hit hard enough. She cried out, desperate, and swung again. He let out a scream of fury, spinning on her. She struck again.
His head bounced from his shoulders.
Jade started screaming.
And screaming . ..
Darian was gone. Dead. Decaying, turning to dust
Sophia let out a howl unlike anything Jade had ever heard. She rose, nearly escaping Lucian's fierce grip. He jerked her back. She let out a venomous spiel of chanting.
Suddenly all the corpses in the crypt were coming after Lucian. And Jade.
"Move!" Lucian commanded, looking at Jack. "Get the others, get them the hell out!" Jack pushed Shanna; Shanna pushed the harem girl. Freddy Krueger was still standing there, blubbering.
Matt caught hold of him, then raced to the wall, catching Danny, who was still stunned, his face bleeding.
The corpses were spilling around them, and around them....
"The torch!" Lucian cried. And then Jade saw what he had been doing all along: forcing Sophia and Darian from the entrance to the tomb, while prodding the others toward it.
She saw what he wanted: one of the torches. It burned from a notch in the wall. She bounded for it, grabbed it, and raced back to him, terrified as she thrust it into the leprous face of one of the dead called forth to fight.
It backed away.
She came to Lucian's side. He suddenly thrust Sophia from him, flinging her far against the wall and into the depths of the crypt. He grabbed Jade's hand, ready to run. "You can't!" Sophia raged. "You can't kill me, you'll be destroyed. They'll come and kill you, others of our kind-"
"It's a new time, Sophia," Lucian said. "A new justice."
"He won't kill you," Jade said. "I will."
"Jesus," Lucian yelled, "get out!" He pushed her ahead of him. "Now-throw the torch!"
"What if it goes out?"
"It won't go out. There's peat packed down here. It will burn. And burn. Throw it!" She did as she was told.
The place instantly burst into flames.
Flames so close that they nearly burned her cheeks.
He turned her about. They ran.
As they climbed the levels back to the iron gate that led out of the tomb and into the night, they could hear her screaming. Screaming, screaming, and shrieking. The sound was terrible. It was a death rattle.
They burst into the night.
Jade came to a dead standstill. Jack was there, Shanna, Renate, Matt, Danny, and the harem girl and Freddy Krueger.
The tomb was beginning to blaze behind them.
But before them ...
There was a strange array of people. Pale, stalwart, silent, standing their ground. There were perhaps twenty, thirty, or more of them. They seemed to be different nationalities, ages, sexes. They were dressed differently.
They were undead, Jade thought with rising panic.
But when Lucian came before them, a tall, dark man who looked like a Spaniard stepped forward.
"It's over then?"
"It's over," Lucian said resolutely.
Another man stepped forward from the crowd. Tall and light, with strange, searing green eyes, he nodded at Lucian, then to the others.
"The king has not turned to dust, and the threat is destroyed." Lucian looked from the one man to the Spaniard. "I have not been beaten," he said quietly. "I said that I would destroy my enemies-and yours."
She felt as if they were waiting. All waiting.
"It's over!" Lucian stated more determinedly.
The Spaniard nodded. "Aye," he said at last. He looked at Lucian again. "Aye, and you're right. There must be an order, and a justice, even among us."
He stepped back, still staring at them.
A mist began to rise, sweeping, swirling around the tombstones, over them, blanketing the people who stood before them....
"It's over then, all over, really over," Shanna whispered, her voice pleading. "Isn't it, Lucian?"
"Yes," he said softly.
Jade's knees started to buckle. He caught her before she could fall. She tried to steady herself. They were once again standing over the tomb with MacGregor carved into it.
"Let's get the hell out of here," Lucian said. "The police are on their way. And I don't want to try to explain any of this."
"Good Lord, no, we can't begin to explain this!" Jack said.
Lucian supported Jade. She still felt as if she could barely stand.
Weak, so weak ...
She pushed away from the MacGregor stone, and Lucian led her from the place of darkness, evil ...
Naturally they talked forever.
They found a great pub with a fine private room in the rear that had a huge fireplace.
Renate really thought that she was all right. She apologized over and over again for emptying the holy water while Shanna and Jack slept. She hadn't known what she was doing.
Jade thanked Matt and Danny with all her heart for coming over. "You could have been killed. You nearly were!" she told them.
"All in a day's work," Matt said. "After all, what a story I've gotten out of all this!"
"No one will ever believe you, of course," Danny said. "My version, however, will be subtle, toned down. I know it will sell! I'll describe it from the point of view of a medical examiner."