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By Sarah Hapgood

The village, which lay at the foot of the Big House, was largely deserted these days. Apart from a handful of people who had been too frightened to leave, and who had effectively sealed themselves into their cottages.

Kieran walked through the main street, leading Tamaz on a donkey. Tamaz was heavily robed and cowled, the hood pulled forward over his face.

They were the advance party. Following close behind were Joby, Hillyard, Ransey, Bardin, Bengo, Lonts, Adam, Julian, Hoowie and Toppy. The intense silence of the area pressured them into silence. All that could be heard was the clomp of the donkey’s hooves on the hard ground. Even the massed howling inside the house had ceased.

An overpowering atmosphere of watchfulness pervaded the area.

As they neared one of the back doors to this monstrous dwelling-place, it flew open and a bizarre creature came flying out. It was stunted, and seemed to have it’s head on the wrong way round. An arm was hanging from it’s chest. A freakish tongue lolled from it’s gaping mouth.

The donkey panicked. Kieran had to keep a tight hold on the bridle to stop it throwing Tamaz off. At a nod from Ransey, Toppy came forward and shot the creature in the head. It fell to the ground, squealing inhumanly.

“OK now remember”, said Kieran, as they prepared to enter the building “These things can come out of the walls. Be alert”.

They entered the icy-cold stone passageway. It snaked ahead, disappearing in the far depths of the house. They stuck close together, and for a while the only sound was that of the donkey’s hooves clopping against the stone flagged floor.

“From what I remember”, said Adam, eventually “We should be nearing the old kitchen area. If we keep following this corridor we’ll come to the Great Hall”.

They navigated the long, back corridor with no other happenings. A softer light at the far end beckoned them onwards. They emerged into the vastness of the Great Hall. At one time - long, long ago - they had danced in this space. There was no time for memories though.

Halfway down the main staircase stood Angel. He watched them emerge from the back corridor, a humourless smirk on his face.

“So what kept you?” he said.

He moved on down the steps, and began to cross the echoing expanse of the hallway towards the main entrance.

“Are you off somewhere now?” said Kieran.

Angel didn’t reply.

Kieran handed the leading-rein to Lonts, and then pursued Angel across the room.

“Wait a minute!” Kieran yelled.

“What for?” said Angel, turning to face him “I have nothing to explain. It’s your fault you’ve taken so long to come and get them. I was wondering how much they would have to destroy before you got up off your arse”.

“It’s not my job to interfere in the progress of the world!” said Kieran.

“So why are you interfering now?” said Angel.

“Because the end is nigh for Them”, said Kieran “I’m just hastening it on a bit that’s all”.

“Can’t all this wait!” Julian bellowed across the vast room “There are things to do!”

“He’s right”, said Kieran “Stay around and watch the end, Angel. You might find it entertaining”.

“The forces of Light and Dark lied to us all”, said Crowley “They were in close conspiracy all the time”.

“Only against deluded bores like you”, said Kieran, as he and Angel emerged from the shadows.

“You still granted me eternal life”, said Crowley “I am mortal. A legend. You cannot be free of me. At least I have always been honest. Told people as it is. You have used subterfuge, smoke and mirrors. The Universe is built on lies”.

“Hm, a bit like you claiming to be the King of Ireland”, said Kieran “You’re a braggart and a fool. And your teaching has caused quite enough misery”.

“I repeat”, said Crowley “You cannot be free of me or my followers. I am …”

He halted as Joby emerged from the shadows, leading Tamaz, whose face was all but obscured by the hood of his cloak.

“What’s this?” said Crowley.

“Your nemesis”, said Kieran.

“Crowley was of no importance”, said Berith “He’s not the main event here. He was merely our conduit to the human race. His works, experiments, helped to tear down the barriers. Enable us to move more freely between dimensions. That is done now. You cannot undo it”.

“Maybe not”, said Kieran, who had drifted into the next room, where Berith awaited him “But it can be used as a force for Good as well as Evil. In the meantime you’ve over-played your hand, Berith. You needed to destroy and induce a climate of fear so that you could feast on the negative energy. But everything has it’s limits. What happens when there’s little left to destroy? When entire regions are finished? What have you got left to feed upon? You demons are never great at thinking ahead. We can build from nothing. Start again. Humans have done it plenty of times before. But where does that leave you, Berith? To do that y’see, we need to use positive energy”.

“You can’t build again”, Berith sneered “The world is totally diseased. Sick”.

“It’s been so before”, said Kieran “Millions wiped out by plague, flu pandemics, tropical diseases. The human race always rises again. Even the nuclear weapons you’ve been letting off …”

“Have diseased the earth and poisoned the air”, said Berith “Blacked out the sun in some parts. Don’t tell me the human race can rise from that”.

“I never said it would be easy”, said Kieran “And now I’m done with talking to you, Berith. It’s just wasting time”.

“And what are you going to do?” Berith sneered “Cast me back into the bowels of the earth, where I came from?”

“Nope”, said Kieran “You’re another little job for Tamaz”.

The noise was horrendous all over the building. Screaming and wailing coming from every corner of the house. Hillyard came down the main staircase, to where Hoowie had been left waiting with the donkey at the bottom. It was hard to say who was looking the most traumatised by the unholy racket all around them.

“Take Jenny back to the galleon”, said Hillyard, referring to the donkey “That’s orders from on high [meaning Bardin]”.

“Well how long’s everyone going to be?” said Hoowie.

“Not long”, said Hilyard “Now take Jenny away. It’s not fair on her”.

Tamaz had been put on a bench in a room next to the one in which they had found Berith. He sat motionless in the col room, the hood of his cloak pulled well forward over his face.

“Is he gonna be alright, Kiel?” said Joby, coming over to join them.

“In time”, said Kieran “It’s taken a lot out of him. He needs to rest now. Call Lonts over, and ask him to carry him back to the ship”.

“And what about you?” said Joby.

Kieran was standing directly in line of the grey light that was coming through the window, and Joby could see that he was looking gaunt and haggard. His skin had a tired, almost mummified look to it, as if something had been literally sapping the life out of him.

“I think we’d better get you out of here in a little while too”, said Joby.

“I’ll be fine”, said Kieran “I guess you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs, as the saying goes”.

Lonts was called in. He gently picked up Tamaz and carried him from the room. All around them the horrendous babble continued, accompanied by random sounds of gunfire whenever the Indigo-ites encountered one of the hellish inmates.

“I think you should go too, Kieran”, said Julian, from the doorway “You’ve done your point. If you don’t go now, Joby will probably be carrying a sack of old bones back to the ship”.

Joby helped Kieran to the doorway. Out in the corridor a creature was creeping stealthily towards them It was reptilian, with a bald, withered head, oversized bug-like eyes, and a naked, scaly body.

“Step aside”, Julian whispered to them.

He took his gun out of his pocket and aimed it squarely at the creature, shooting it in the chest and head.

When they approached it, it was still twitching, and trying to make some effort to move. Julian stamped on it’s head several times, until it was a pulpy mess.

“Yeah alright, calm down!” said Joby.

“Just making sure”, said Julian.

“I think he was enjoying that a bit too much”, said Joby, when he and Kieran reached the main staircase.

“It’s hard to care when I think what they’ve done to the world”, said Kieran.

“For a saint, you’re a ruthless little bastard on the quiet”, said Joby.

“You’ve always known that!”

“What are we gonna do about this place? Torch it?”

“I’m not sure. I’m reluctant to do that. In it’s own bizarre way, this place is a work of art. It would be better to seal it somehow, and starve it’s inhabitants of sustenance”.

“I dunno how we’re gonna seal a place this size”, said Joby.

“Then starve it”, said Kieran “Put an exclusion zone around it”.

“But they can still leave!” Joby protested.

“Maybe. But, if our plans work out, their strength will be severely depleted for quite some time to come. Particularly if no more Crowley’s come along to start meddling in the energies of the Universe. We can’t eradicate Evil completely, Joby. That’s tampering with the natural order of things. Without Evil humans would never get to realise their own strengths, their own virtues. They’d get complacent and smug. Never empowered to fight for the right things”.

“They’d end up like the Eloi in The Time Machine?” said Joby.

“That’s a good comparison. Why do you think I have such a problem with the Kitty’s of this world?”

“Oh her”, said Joby, with a marked lack of enthusiasm.

“Always trying to make things sunny and perfect. The Universe doesn’t work that way. That’s trying to cripple the natural order of things”, said Kieran.

“Haven’t you done yet?” Bardin yelled from the top of the stairs.

“We’re on our way”, said Kieran “But Bardin - don’t be long tidying up here now”.

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