Necroscope III: The Source
The Dweller's Secret - Karen Defects -War!
The sun's declining rays were starting to fade where they turned the highest peaks gold when The Dweller, Harry Jnr, called his meeting. He wanted to speak to everyone who lived in or was supported by the garden, and he must do it now, while there was still time. He stood on a balcony under the hollow eaves of his house and addressed guests, Travellers, trogs, making no distinction. His mother was there, too, for a little while, before she went indoors. Smiling, sweet, grey-haired and quite bereft of mind, but happy too in her ignorance. Harry Snr couldn't bear to look at her, forgetting that in his Alec Kyle body she wouldn't recognize him. He was glad when she went inside. And anyway, to her it had all been so long, long ago.
'Friends, it's time for truths,' Harry Jnr held up his arms and the low hubbub of voices was stilled. 'It's time for you to make up your minds about certain things. I haven't deliberately misled you, but neither have I told you everything. Well, now I want to put that right. There are some of you here who have nothing to fight for. This just isn't your fight at all. You came or were sent here by the will of others. And I can just as easily take you out of it. Zek, Jazz, Harry, I'm talking to you.
'As for you Travellers, you can return to your travelling. The way is open to you: go now, down the saddle and through the passes to Sunside. And you trogs: you can be down on the plain on Starside and hidden away in your caves - or in other, safer places - long before the Wamphyri strike. But you should all be aware that they will strike, and soon.'
A low, massed moaning went up from his shuffling, bewildered trogs; Harry, Zek and Jazz looked at each other in dismay; a young male Traveller cried: 'But why, Dweller? You are powerful. You have given us weapons. We can kill the Wamphyri! Why do you send us away?'
Harry Jnr looked down on him. 'Are the Wamphyri your enemies?'
'Yes!' they all cried. And: 'They always have been,' shouted the same young man.
'And do you desire to kill them?'
'Yes!' again the massed shout. 'All of them!'
He nodded. 'Aye, all of them. And you trogs. There was a time when you served a Wamphyri Lord. Would you now turn against them?'
There came a brief, grunted discussion. 'For you, Dweller, aye,' answered their spokesman. 'We know good from evil, and you are good.'
'And you, Harry - father? You've been a scourge on vampires in your own world. Do you hate them still?'
'I know what they would do to my world,' Harry answered. 'Yes, I would hate them in this and any world.'
Harry Jnr looked at them all, his eyes behind his golden mask flitting over them where they stood in a body. Finally his gaze fell on Zek and Jazz. 'And you two,' he said. 'I can take you out of here, back where you came from. Do you know that? Any place in your world where you want to go. Do you understand?'
They looked at each other, then Jazz said, 'If you can do it now, then you can do it later. You saved us once, not so long ago. And we've faced the Wamphyri before. How can you think we'll run out on you?'
Again Harry Jnr's nod. 'Let me tell you how it is,' he said. 'Before most of you came here, at a time when I was beginning to build something here and had only my trogs to help me, I found a wolf on the hillside. His pack had turned on him, attacked him. He was badly torn, dying -I thought. I didn't know or understand the things I know now. I took the wolf in, healed him, made him well. Soon he was up on his feet again. Too soon, and I thought I had saved his life. But in fact he'd been saved by the creature within him!'
No one spoke. A hushed silence had fallen over the gathering. Harry Keogh found himself taking a step forward under the balcony, gazing fearfully up at his son.
'Father,' Harry Jnr continued, 'I told you there were reasons why I couldn't come back. Reasons why I must stand and defend my place. But all of you have told me how you hate and would destroy the Wamphyri. All the Wamphyri! So how can I ask you to fight for me?'
'Harry - ' his father began, only to be cut short.
This is how the wolf repaid me,' said The Dweller. And he took off his golden mask.
Beneath it was the face of a young Harry Keogh; Harry knew now beyond any doubt that he gazed upon his own true son. But the eyes in his face were scarlet in the twilight!
A long, low sigh went up from the crowd. For long moments they stood and stared, began to mutter, to talk in breathless whispers. Finally the crowd began to break up, drift away in small groups. In a little while only Harry Snr, Jazz and Zek remained. And The Dweller thought: they're here because without me they have nowhere to go.
'I'll take you out of here now,' he said.
'Like hell you will!' his father growled. 'Come the hell down from there and explain. You might be The Dweller but you're also my flesh. You, a vampire? What kind of vampire that so many people have loved you? I don't believe it!'
Harry Jnr came down. 'Believe it or not,' he said. 'It's the truth. Oh, I'm different, all right. My mind and will are too strong for it. I have mastery over it, I have it tamed. It takes me on now and then, but I'm always ready and I always win. Or have so far, anyway. So the vampire works for me, and not the other way around. I get its strength, its powers, its tenacity. It gets a host, and that's all. But there are disadvantages, too. For one, I have to stay here on Starside, or close to Starside. The sunlight -real sunlight - would hurt me. But the main reason I stay here is because this has become my place. My place, my territory. No other shall have it!'
He looked at them with his scarlet eyes, smiled mirthlessly. 'So there you have it. And now, if you're ready...?'
'Not me,' Harry shook his head. 'I'm staying, until this is over, anyway. I didn't look for you for eight years just to leave you now.'
Harry Jnr looked at Jazz and Zek. Jazz said: 'You already have our answer.'
Trogs came shuffling out of the twilight. Their spokesman said: 'We were Lesk's creatures, and we didn't like it. We liked working for you. Without you we have nothing. We stay and fight.'
Harry Jnr's face showed his despair. The trogs may be fast learners, but they weren't much good with his weapons. Then lanterns came bobbing, together with a familiar jingling, from the direction of the Traveller dwellings.
Jazz and Zek tried to count heads; pointless, there were as many as before. Maybe eighty of them. Not a man, woman or child had run out.
'So,' said Harry Snr, looking at them all where they regrouped themselves, 'it looks like we stand and fight!'
His son could only throw up his hands in amazement. And gladness, Harry thought...
An hour later at The Dweller's armoury, Jazz Simmons had finished handing out German-made pump-action shotguns and shells to the Travellers. The armoury was well-stocked and there were weapons for everyone. There were half-a-dozen flame-throwers, too, and Travellers who had been trained in their use. Harry Jnr was there to point out that the shells for the shotguns were probably the most expensive ammunition ever made; their shot was pure silver. Though most of the equipment had been stolen (Harry Jnr made no bones about it; he believed the manufacturers were well able to stand the loss), he'd been obliged to order and buy these shells. Jazz, ever practical, had asked how they'd been paid for. With Traveller gold, he'd been told, of which this world had an abundance. The Travellers considered it pretty, and of course it was very malleable; on the other hand it was much too heavy to carry around in large amounts, and far too soft for serious metalworking. It made nice baubles, which was about as much as could be said for it!
For himself, Jazz had chosen a heavy caliber machine-gun, a Russian job firing a mix of tracer and explosive shells. The weapon could be used with a tripod or carried in both arms; it took a strong man to handle it. Jazz knew the gun and had trained with it; it was capable of laying down a deadly and shattering barrage of fire.
'But still,' he told The Dweller, 'from what I've seen of Wamphyri warriors, I'd say these things are toys.'
Harry Jnr nodded, but: The flame-throwers are not toys,' he said. 'And I assure you the Wamphyri won't like this silver shot! Still, I take your meaning. One warrior - even a dozen - but forty? Ah, but you haven't seen all my weapons!' He showed Jazz a grenade.
Jazz weighed the thing in his hand. It was as large as an orange and very heavy. He shook his head. 'I don't know this one.'
'It's American,' The Dweller told him. 'For clearing pill-boxes and foxholes. A very grim weapon: it shivers into fragments of blazing metallic phosphorus!'
Meanwhile, Harry Snr had used the Mobius Continuum (for the first time in this world) to convey two very important Travellers to a nearby peak rearing high over most of the others. They knew their job and had practiced it on many previous occasions. In a hollowed-out depression at the peak's crest, literally an 'aerie' in its own right, great mirrors had been rigged on swivels to catch the dying sun's rays and hurl them down - or up - at any attackers. The Travellers also had shotguns and bandoliers of vampire-lethal shells.
As Harry dropped off his astonished charges and prepared to return to the garden, so his keen eyes spotted something approaching in the sky. As yet it was two or three miles east of the garden, but even at that distance its size and shape made it unmistakable. A flyer, like Shaithis's mount!
The Travellers had seen it too. 'Shall we try to burn it?' they cried, springing to their mirror-weapons.
'One flyer?' Harry frowned. Instinct cautioned him against abrupt action. 'Not unless it makes an attack on the garden.'
He went back there, looked for Harry Jnr. Instead he found Zek Foener, her eyes closed where she stood facing east and slightly north, one trembling hand to her brow. 'Is something wrong, Zek?' Harry asked.
'No, Harry,' she answered, without opening her eyes. 'something's right! The Lady Karen is coming to join us.
She wants to fight on our side. She has four fine warriors, but they're holding back until she calls to them. Now... she wants to know if it's safe for her to land.' 'She's not attacking us?'
'She's joining us!' Zek repeated. 'You don't know her like I do, Harry. She's different.'
Karen was closer now, a mile at the outside but still wary, still holding off. Everyone in the garden had seen her. Jazz Simmons came hurrying, a shining brass belt dangling from the ammo-housing of his gun. 'What is it?' he said.
At the same moment The Dweller had materialized. Zek spoke to both men, told them what she'd told Harry Snr. 'Harry,' The Dweller turned to his father. 'Go and tell the Travellers to hold their fire. Let's see if she's genuine.'
Before anything else, Harry detoured straight to the peak where the Travellers manned their mirror-weapons. He passed on Harry Jnr's message, then spread the word right through the garden and its defenders. Meanwhile, Zek had told the Lady Karen: land in front of the wall, between the wall and the cliffs.
Karen's flyer swept closer, swooped lower, swiftly grew larger in the sky. Far behind it, four dark shapes made spurting motions across the star-sprinkled indigo of the heavens. Tiny at this distance, still everyone knew how big they really were, knew what they really were. 'Here she comes,' Zek breathed.
The flyer, turning face-on to a low night wind that moaned from the west, dropped lower. It seemed to hover for a moment, like a kite, then dipped down and uncoiled its nest of springy worm 'legs' to the earth. It bumped gently down, lowered its wings for stability. The thing parked there, swaying and nodding hugely, gazing with vacuous disinterest first at the garden, then down the sweeping ramps of the mountains to the plain, then back to the garden. Karen dismounted, came to the wall. She was dressed - or undressed - to cause consternation, as was her wont.
The two Harrys, Jazz and Zek met her there. It was Zek's impulse to hug her, but she held back. She saw that Jazz was immediately shaken, stricken by Karen's looks. Harry Snr, too: awed by Karen's beauty. It was an unearthly beauty, of course, for it was the work of her vampire. But what it had given her in looks, shape and desirability, it had taken from her in the bloody fire of her eyes. She was unmistakably Wamphyri.
Only The Dweller seemed unmoved. 'You've come to join us in the coming battle?' His voice was unemotional.
'I've come to die with you,' she answered.
'Oh? And is it that certain?'
'Certain?' she repeated him. 'If you believe in miracles, pray for one! For myself, I don't care.' And she told them her dilemma, reinforcing what Zek Foener had already made known, how whichever way she jumped the Wamphyri meant to be rid of her. This way ... at least I'll take a few of them with me!'
'What of your trogs, your lieutenants?' The Dweller pressed her.
'I activated my trogs, turned them loose,' she answered. 'My "lieutenants", as you call them, are faint-hearted dogs! Them I sent away. Maybe the Lords have taken them on. I neither know nor care.'
'Your aerie stands empty?'
'You've sacrificed a lot.'
'No,' she tossed her head, 'I have been sacrificed. And now you'd better make your final preparations. You can't hear them but I can, and they're on their way.'
'She's right,' Zek confirmed it. 'Their minds are lusting for war, open to read like reading a monstrous book. They're coming!'
The Dweller nodded, pointed to the four dark shapes squirting down through the darkening sky. 'Your warriors. Karen - are they trustworthy?'
They answer only my commands,' she answered.
Then station two of them at the back of the saddle, over the rise there,' and again he pointed, 'and the other pair down there, at the foot of the cliffs where the first trees grow. There they'll form our protection - some protection, at least - and they'll be well-positioned for launching, if the need should arise. And how will you fight?'
'In the thick of it!' She swept back her diaphanous cloak from her right side, took her gauntlet from her belt and thrust her right hand into it. Blades, hooks and scythes gleamed silver in the bright starlight where she flexed the deadly thing, adjusting its fit.
'Look!' Jazz snapped. 'I see them.'
It was impossible not to see them. The sky to the east was dark with dots large and small, like the approach of a small swarm of locusts. Except, while they were just as ravenous, they were not small and they were not locusts.
'Everyone to his station!' The Dweller cried. 'Are those lamps in order?' For answer, all along the wall, Travellers turned on their batteries of ultraviolet lamps, aiming them down into darkness. They cut the night with their hot, smoking beams. The light wouldn't kill vampire flesh, but they would hurt it greatly and blind Wamphyri eyes, however temporarily.
The Dweller caught the elbow of a passing Traveller. 'What of your women and children?' he asked. 'And my mother?'
'Gone, Dweller,' the man answered. 'Down toward Sunside, where they'll stay until they know the outcome.'
Harry Jnr turned to his father and the others. He nodded grimly. Then we're ready,' he said.
'Just as well,' Jazz Simmons answered, 'for it's already started.' He inclined his head down toward Starside. 'Listen -'
Hoarse trog cries and the clamour of battle drifted up out of the shadows. The roar and blast of gunfire, too, from a handful of trogs whose learning skills had been able to accommodate weapons.
Harry Jnr said: 'Well, this was to be expected. The Lords have been massing their trogs along the fringes of these mountains for a long time now. There'll be many hundreds of them... but I may have their measure.' He turned to his father. 'Harry, I could use some expert help.'
'Just name it.'
'When did you last call up the dead?'
Harry took a pace back from the other, his face falling. But then he slowly nodded. 'Whatever's in your mind, I'm ready when you are, son,' he said.
They rode the Mobius Continuum down to the plain of boulders, materializing clear of the mountains and their shadows. Up in the gloomy foothills where they met the mountains proper, there they saw dust-clouds boiling up from what could only be furious fighting. Also, amidst the rumble and roil, the occasional flash and crack! of a discharged weapon. The two Harrys moved closer, taking a short jump that brought them to the very fringe of the fighting. And already it was clear that The Dweller's trog troops were on the retreat. A thin brave line of shuffling Neanderthals, they fell back under the massive assault of others just like them, driven ever higher into the sullen foothills. But in fact the Wamphyri trogs were not like them, because they were slaves and The Dweller's trogs were free. Which was why they fought.
When Harry Jnr saw how it was going he groaned. 'I'd like to save some of them if I can,' he said.
Harry Keogh, Necroscope, closed his eyes and talked to the teeming dead of this strange world. 'We need your help,' he begged of them. 'You down there, in the earth, under the soil and down where the roots twine. We need your help against a great injustice.'
Things stirred in the ground, heard the desperate voice of a friend and tried to answer him. Who? What? Help you? But how can we help?
'Trogs!' said Harry Jnr. 'Before the Wamphyri, they roved over Starside at will. Thousands of them lived and died here. They were their own masters then, and this was their land.'
'How about it?' Harry spoke to them as he always spoke to the dead, as his friends, his equals. Even as his peers. 'If you're dust then you're beyond helping us, but if you can still hear me, if you can understand, then listen.' He told them what was required. Harry Jnr, too, answering the stumbling questions of the dead.
The Wamphyri, you say? Some of us served them in life. Many of us, many hundreds, died in their wars. False gods! Vile, terrible masters! But fight them? How? They'll destroy us again, a second time.
'You can't die twice,' Harry and The Dweller were desperate. 'Only your brothers can die; and they're doing it right now, dying, to hold back the troops of the Wamphyri.'
Troops? You mean trogs like us?
'Trogs, yes,' said The Dweller, 'but slaves of the Wamphyri. Death holds no terrors for such as them. It is preferable to what they have now!'
The Dweller speaks truth, some of Harry Jnr's own trogs, recently dead in the fighting, joined in. We at least know you. Dweller, and we gladly rise up again!
'What of the rest of you?' Harry Snr cried. 'Will you not also rise up? Wake up now, before it's too late. You have sons and grandsons and great-grandsons who are fighting even now. Join us in this last great battle against your immemorial vampire oppressors!'
In the cliffs backing these foothills, in ancient cavern burial grounds, the preserved, mummified bodies of a thousand trogs stirred, groped upward, tore free of the clinging soil. Under the trees, lone graves gave up their dead. Behind the massed Wamphyri trogs where they drove back the defenders, freshly dead cadavers sat up, forced their riven bodies to move, shuffled or crawled toward their vampire-controlled enemies. The stench of the pit filled the air. They came from the shadows, from mildewed graves and niches, from all their many resting places beyond life.
The Dweller's trog forces, when they saw what now battled on their side - even though they were on their side, hemming the invaders in all about - broke in terror and fled for their secret places. No matter, the grim army of the dead would do their work for them. And they would win, for as the Necroscopes had pointed out, they couldn't die twice.
Shrieks of terror split the night, wrenched from hundreds of Wamphyri-trog throats when they saw and understood what they were fighting. Sickened, the two Harrys turned away from the carnage. But -
'Son,' said Harry Snr, grasping the other's arm. 'Look!'
The sky was dark with Wamphyri flyers and warriors. They circled the garden, descending toward it. And some of the warriors were truly gigantic; any five of them, falling on the garden in unison, would totally obscure and obliterate it. Up there in the mountains, even now, a greater battle was about to be waged...
They took their own special route back to the garden.
Warriors had already landed below the cliffs fronting the wall, where the Lady Karen's creatures were now locked in hellish combat with them. Their shrieking and bellowing alone was deafening. Other warriors circled, looking for an opening in the ultraviolet searchlight beams which swept the sky and seared their hides.
Up on a certain peak, mirror-weapons blinked out as Lesk the Glut deliberately crashed his flyer down on the Travellers who sweated and swore and died there. But they'd seen him coming; before his flyer struck they had turned their shotguns on it, pumping shot after shot at both beast and rider right to the end. Lesk, wounded and more dangerous than ever, goaded his half-crippled beast to slither free of the peak, directed it in an insane suicide dive on the heart of the garden.
He was seen; smoking ray-beams converged blindingly on him; his flyer felt artificial sunlight eating at its hide, burning in its many eyes. It reared back from its headlong dive, pulled up, swooped low over the garden. Then someone threw a grenade, which exploded directly in front of the beast. With its spatulate head blazing, screaming like a safety-valve under high pressure, it swooped to earth, struck the wall and carried a great section of it away, and with it several defenders. The creature's huge manta body tore up the earth, somersaulted like a derailed train, hurled Lesk out of the saddle.
Other flyers swept down out of the darkness on the periphery. They crashed among the greenhouses and allotments, floundered in the pools. Down from their backs sprang lieutenants of Shaithis, Belath and Volse, to create carnage within the garden itself. Jazz Simmons saw them; he tracked them with tracers and streams of exploding shells. Two at least ducked away into the shadows and smoke, to commence their task of cold butchery on whichever Travellers or trogs they should come across.
Jazz saw Harry and his son on the balcony of the latter's house. They watched the battle. He breathlessly called up: 'How's it going?'
In the glare and sweep of hot beams, the booming of automatic weapons, howling of monsters and cries of men, it was hard to say. 'We should be in this!' Harry said to his son.
'No,' the other shook his head. 'We're the last resort.'
Harry didn't understand, but he trusted.
Zek came running, caught Jazz's arm where he stood by The Dweller's house. 'Look!' she cried.
High overhead a warrior dragged some bloated, puffing, incredible thing through the sky. A second warrior, higher, was similarly burdened. Scything searchlight beams cut across them and Zek gasped: 'Gas-beasts!'
'What?' Jazz gaped. He saw the bloated thing cut loose, begin drifting like some obscene balloon down toward the garden. The thing drifted a little northward, over the wall, where the battery of searchlights was concentrated. The beams picked it out, centered upon it, and it began to smoke. Puffing black evaporation and clouds of steam, it settled faster toward earth.
Jazz saw the strategy. 'AW he cried. Then he grabbed Zek, threw her down and hurled himself on top of her.
The gas-beast - a living creature, once a man - issued a hissing, high-pitched scream as its skin blackened and ruptured - and then it blew itself to bits with all the force of a thousand-pound bomb! The ray-gunners directly underneath it died instantly in the blast, their bodies and equipment flattened. At a stroke, one-third of The Dweller's defences had been wiped out.
A foul, stinking hot wind blew across the garden, and when it cleared Jazz helped Zek to her feet. The Dweller's house was still standing, but all of its windows had been blown in and half of its roof was missing. Harry and his son had ducked inside the space under the eaves in the moment before the blast; now they came out, white and shaken.
More warriors had landed at the back of the saddle. There they fought with Karen's creatures, overwhelming and quickly silencing them. But there were Travellers back there and they were armed with grenades; lobbing their deadly eggs, they gave the warriors blow for blow.
Lieutenants of the Wamphyri seemed to be ravaging in every quarter of the garden, their war-gauntlets drenched in Traveller blood. The night was covered with smoke and stench, split by shotgun blasts, made still more hellish in the surreal slash of searing light and long moments of total blindness...
Down by the shattered wall, the Lady Karen saw something coming up out of the smoke-filled depression. It crawled, but as it reached level ground reared up and charged! It was the mad Lord Lesk, bloodiest of all the Wamphyri, almost fully recovered and little the worse for his wounds and the tumble he'd taken. He saw Karen, rushed upon her full of nightmare intent.
She thrust aside a dazed Traveller and turned his lamp's beam full in Lesk's hideous face, blinding his eye. He cursed, clapped a hand to his face, came on and kicked the lamp from her grasp. Half-blind, he turned his left side toward her, glared his fury from the lidless eye in his shoulder. But as he swung his gauntlet, so his body turned with the swing and he again lost sight of her. She ducked under Lesk's arcing blow, tore away the flesh and ribs from his left side with one raking, razor-sharp swipe of her own gauntlet.
He cried out, staggered, gasped his amazement. He felt fumblingly with his free hand at the terrible damage to his body. His heart pounded like a great yellow bellows, plainly visible against the dark, pulsing sac of his exposed left lung. Travellers leaped on him, tried to trip him and drag him down. While he roared and raged, Karen stepped in and grasped his naked heart with her awesome weapon-hand. She cut the heart's pipes and tore it out of his body. He coughed blood, puffed himself up ... and toppled like a felled tree! The Travellers fell on him like wolves, beheaded him, poured oil on his body and set fire to it. Lesk went up in flames.
A second gas-beast had come drifting directly toward The Dweller's house. The two Harrys fled the place, encountered a pair of Wamphyri lieutenants in their way. Their strategy in dealing with them proved their kinship: they let the grinning, gauntleted vampires close with them and charge, then ducked through Mobius doors. As their pursuers plunged into that unknown realm directly on their heels, so they closed the doors and exited through others. The lieutenants had simply disappeared; perhaps faint echoes of their screams came back, to be quickly drowned in the row and confusion of battle.
The mewling gas-beast over The Dweller's house was hit by a stray burst of gunfire. It exploded with a devastating roar, demolishing the place and sending out a great rush of vile stench.
Warriors were coming over the saddle behind the settlement. Another crashed down on the low structure housing Harry Jnr's generators. The remaining ultraviolet lamps blinked out, leaving only a handful of lanterns and starlight to light the reeling night. The bellowing voices of the Lords Belath and Menor Maimbite sounded inside the garden! From overhead, the Lord Shaithis shouted down instructions.
Still reeling from the gas-beast blast, Harry clutched his son's arm. 'You said we were a last resort,' he breathlessly reminded him. 'Whatever you meant by that - whatever's on your mind - you'd better say it now.'
'Father,' the other answered, 'in the Mobius Continuum even thought has weight. And you and I, we're linked. Wherever we are in the Mobius Continuum, we know each other.'
Harry nodded. 'Of course.'
'I've done things with and to the Continuum that you've never dreamed of,' The Dweller continued, but innocently, without boasting. 'I can send more than mere thoughts through it - as long as there's someone to receive what I send. In this instance, however, what I must send is dangerous. Not to you, but to me.'
'I don't follow you.' Desperately aware that the battle was being lost, Harry licked suddenly dry lips, shook his head.
'But you will.' Quickly, The Dweller explained.
'I've got you,' Harry said. 'But won't it hurt the garden, the Travellers?'
'I'm not sure. A little, perhaps. Nothing serious or lasting. But you should get the Lady Karen out of the way.' He went running back to the ruins of his house, found a shimmering metallic robe of foil where he'd stored it and put it on. It covered him from head to toe, with tinted glass discs for his eyes. 'I've used it before,' he said, 'out beyond the stars. Now you'd better see to Karen.'
Harry had followed him, said: 'Where will I find you?'
'Here. I'll wait for you.'
Harry used the Mobius Continuum and went to the wall. Men with flame-throwers were hosing down a stricken warrior; Karen fought with a lieutenant, dispatching him even as Harry arrived. 'Don't question this,' he said. 'Come, quickly!'
He caught her up, stepped through a Mobius door, emerged down on the plain of boulders at a safe distance from the glaring sphere Gate. Dazed, she swayed for a moment and her scarlet eyes went round as saucers. 'How .?'
'Which is your stack?' he asked her.
She pointed and he caught her to him again...
Harry left her in her deserted aerie, returned to the garden. His son was waiting. 'Do you understand?' The Dweller wanted to know.
'Yes,' Harry nodded. 'Let's get on with it.'
They entered the Mobius Continuum and Harry Jnr moved away very quickly, across the mountains to Sun-side and from there -
- To the sun! He stood off from that monstrous furnace in deep space, opened a Mobius door. Harry heard his hiss of torment, also his directed thought: Now!
Harry opened a Mobius door on the garden, trapped and fixed it there, let his son re-direct and pour sunlight through the Mobius Continuum and out through Harry's door. The garden was at once bathed in intense, glaring, golden light!
Harry turned the door like the gun-turret of a tank, sending his shaft of concentrated sunlight sliding across the garden. The beam struck warriors where they ravaged forward across the saddle. It ate into them like acid, devouring their vampire flesh. For this was sunlight, but not thinned by distance, not diluted by atmosphere. It was the essence of the sun! The monsters melted, boiled away and slumped down into sticky black pools.
Ahhh! The Dweller's agony was a fire in its own right, burning in his father's mind. The beam shut off, gave Harry time to recoup, rest from the task of holding steady and controlling his Mobius door.
'Son?' his anxious thoughts went out along the Mobius way. 'Are you all right?'
No!... Yes. Yes, I'm all right. Give me a moment...
Harry waited, conjured a door and looked out. He chose new targets: the Lords Belath and Menor where they came striding through a host of panicking Travellers, swatting them like flies.
Harry fixed the door, guided his son's sun-blast through it. The brilliant beam fell on Belath and Menor like a solid shaft of gold. It super-heated them, blew away their skins and flesh in writhing, stinking evaporation. As the Travellers scrambled wildly away from them, they exploded into tatters of smouldering vileness.
Harry turned his beam to the north, found a warrior in mid-air, descending toward the defenders at the wall. He shrivelled the thing before it could come too close, reduced it to a tarry fireball that fell well beyond the cliffs. Other warriors were overhead, and flyers with their startled riders. Harry swung the door horizontally, turned its beam into a giant searchlight. The sun shone upwards, from the earth!
Monstrous debris rained from the sky, and: Ahhh! Again the beam was shut off.
'Son! son!' Harry cried into the Mobius Continuum. 'Let that be an end to it. They're beaten, moving off. Stop now, before you kill yourself!'
No! the other's Mobius voice was a shudder. They must never recover from this. Go down onto the boulder plain, close to their stacks.
Harry understood. He did as directed.
The Dweller's beam reached out and licked at the base of Shaithis's stack. It played there for a moment, blazed in across bony balconies and through cartilage windows, found the gas-beasts in their places. In an uncontrollable chain-reaction of living bombs, the stack's base exploded outwards, hurling rock, bones, cartilage carcasses and all far out onto the plain. The stack teetered, crumpled downward into itself, toppled. Falling, it flew apart; but before its gigantic sections could strike earth, already Harry had redirected his beam.
And one by one the aeries were brought crashing down on the shuddering plain, reduced to rubble, erased.
Twice more during the work The Dweller cried out and the beam was shut off. But in the end only the Lady Karen's stack remained. And:
Let it be, Harry Jnr whispered.
Father and son went back to the garden. They emerged as the smoke and reek were lifting, and as the dazed Travellers and their friends from a different world looked all about them and rubbed grime from stinging eyes.
The Dweller's cloak of foil had fused to his body. Smouldering, he swayed there a moment - a black and silver thing that groped blindly as it took a single pace forward - then crumpled into its father's arms...
In what would have been three days Earth-time the news was: The Dweller would recover! It was the vampire in him, which given time would repair the damage he'd suffered. But Harry Snr knew he could never take his son, or Brenda, back to the world where they were born. Harry Jnr was Wamphyri; however different from the others, still he must stay here forever. Indeed he wanted to stay here. This was his place now, his territory which he'd fought and paid dearly for. And of course he could never be sure how things would go.
But... the Lady Karen was different, too. For the moment, anyway. Also, if what Harry had heard about her was true, she'd one day be more dangerous than all the others put together. He cared nothing for her, but he did care for his son. And an idea had formed in his mind.
Leaving The Dweller in the care of Jazz, Zek and the ever-faithful Travellers, Harry went to Karen's aerie. It was memorable when he left the garden, because for one thing there was gold on the peaks again, and also he had witnessed a strange reunion. Wolf, his paws bleeding, had made the crossing to find his mistress. No vampire in him, just a great deal of love and a lot of faith.
There'd been another, perhaps even more joyous reunion, too: along with Wolf had come a weary Lardis Lidesci and a handful of his people...