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During the night Hillyard was woken by a sharp pain in his shoulder. By the dim light of the brazier he examined the bruise he had acquired at Gurran Island. The fact that it had never gone down hadn't unduly worried him until now. He winced in agony as another pain shot through him. Whatever it was that had struck him at the Abbey, was now nearby them in the Palace.
After several minutes the pain began to gradually ease. Hillyard concluded that the creature was moving away from his nearby vicinity, probably prowling deeper into the Palace.
He suddenly felt very alone. On the floor Lonts lay sleeping like a baby, which was a relief as when he was awake he was no comfort. But Hillyard couldn't draw any peace from his sleeping presence either. When Stombal had been alive Hillyard had sometimes relaxed by watching his friend's steady breathing, the placid expression on his face as he slept. He would gain comfort from knowing that Stombal was getting a temporary respite from his demons. No such comfort was to be found in a slumbering Lonts. The boy only slept when truly exhausted, and there was no peace to be found in his expression. He was only an empty shell, until the demons invaded his consciousness once more. Without his insanity Lonts had no being.
Hillyard tucked the blanket closer around the boy. He really longed to escape into the next room and seek out the company of the other three. But he was too afraid of what he might encounter in the corridor to do so. He promised himself that when daylight came he would not spend another moment within the Palace walls.
Caln's bed was black, with black sheets, and black candles at each corner. It appealed to his love of drama, even though he rarely slept in it. Like most vampires, when sleep overtook him (or gorge fatigue, as they liked to call it), he usually lay wherever he dropped, oblivious to cold and rough surfaces. The disturbance in the swamp though, and Braw's unwelcome news, had induced in him a catlike desire for comfort.
Mullawa would laugh at him for being afraid. He would bring out his usual blurb of how they had dominated the world for over sixty years, and nothing was likely to change that now. Caln tried reminding himself that they still had Pandora's Box, but he couldn't help feeling that releasing its contents would prove just as disadvantageous to them as to the meat. Unlike Mullawa, Caln didn't believe that power alone could solve everything. Now the human race was definitely dying, they were dying with it. Mullawa's answer to that particular problem was that another life-form would evolve to replace the meat, and the vampires would adapt their tastes to that. Caln didn't share his faith. If things carried on as they were they would be defeated by their own success. They had contained the Devil, and sealed their own fate up with it.
He twisted himself in the sheets, trying to ignore the emptiness inside him, which could only be assuaged by an intake of fresh red meat. Mullawa had done this before, teased him by with-holding the produce on offer. The latest diabolical game was going on for far too long though, and Caln was beginning to wonder just what he might do if Mullawa insisted on holding out for much longer.
Suddenly Caln pushed away the sheet and crouched on his haunches. There was a searing, acidy pain in his stomach. By the dim light of the guttering black candles he saw that a red burn mark had appeared amongst his pubic hair, and was straining over his testicles, practically concealing the flaccid worm of flesh that was his penis. Caln cried out in dismay. The scorch-mark was emanating from inside his own body, and that could only mean one thing. It was an after-effect of the green blood. He had taken it on an empty stomach and in too large a quantity. Caln had heard of this happening, but had always believed himself to be too careful for it to happen to him. He rubbed the sheet against it, in a wild, irrational hope that it would disappear. It didn't.
Adam tried to re-arrange himself so that he wasn't lying on his own hair. It needed cutting, but Kieran had said he liked it that way. Adam ran over the events of the evening in his mind. He still couldn't remember drinking the wine, although he knew he must have done. If so, it had gone to his head like a shot of good quality heroin. One glass of it and he had been lolling around gibbering like an idiot. And this from the man who had been known to knock back whisky like orange juice.
"I must be losing the touch", he thought. It had all been such a stupid thing to do. Sackcloth and ashes had never really suited him, and yet after falling off the wagon in such a pathetically predictable way he couldn't help but wear them.
He was distracted from his thoughts by Joby suddenly clambering out of bed and stamping on the floor.
"Got cramp", he said, on noticing that Adam was awake "You still feeling ashamed of yourself?"
"Is it that obvious?"
"No need to. You're only human".
"It's not the being a failure that I mind", said Adam "It's just that I managed to fail in such a completely styleless way".
"You sound more like yourself", Joby raked the brazier and placed the blackened billy-can on it "Want some coffee? Stupid question really, you seem to be addicted to the stuff".
"I'm an addictive person", said Adam, crossing the floor to join him. He took down his cigars from the mantelpiece "Coffee, alcohol, cigars, all addictions ... plus Patsy of course, although he's one that's good for me. Doubtless you have some piece of cod-Freudian psychology to account for it all".
"Not really, although some might say that you're constantly looking for excitement, summat to pep your nerves up".
"Maybe, but the excitement this funhouse has to offer I could do without".
"Then why don't we leave?" said Joby "We could head down to the City, I can't wait to see what it's like there".
"There won't be any women there Joby".
"I know that! We haven't all got one-track minds. But it's a City, there'll be noise and people rushing about. A bit of colour. Not all this cold silence, and strange creatures hanging about in the shadows. This place gives me the fucking irrits. Oh c'mon Adam, let's leave at first light, before they keep us here for good".
"Nothing would cheer me more old love, but it's not very likely".
"Because our mutual friend over there happens to be the Vanquisher of Evil, so we have to stay here for his sake".
"Seems to me we do too much of what he wants", said Joby, sulkily "Look, how can he vanquish the Evil One, when we don't know exactly what it is? We think it's here, and yet others have told us it's at the Skirra Fludd lighthouse! And if it's true that it has no shape or form, then how can he fight it?"
They talked in whispers, huddled over the fireplace, until dawn. Adam wanted to see Joby's argument for leaving, but kept running up against the same problem: Kieran would never accept it.
"But he might", Joby protested "When we went looking for you he got quite narked when I said he was the Vanquisher. He doesn't want the job Adam. He told me so".
"Then it's worth a go", said Adam, feeling by this time only a strong desire to see the back of the Palace for good "I'll mention it to Hillyard, and I hope he doesn't give us too much trouble either".
To his surprise Hillyard was all for the idea. Over-exposure to Lonts's company had successfully cured him of wanting to avenge Stombal's death. No amount of avenging would bring his friend back, and he couldn't stand the thought of another long night inside the Palace walls. He was homesick for the City, and he was beginning to feel the same blank exhaustion towards Lonts's madness, as he had during the final weeks of Stombal's life. In the end, he thought, you grew tired of being responsible, body and soul, for someone utterly dependent on you, and resented them for claiming your life to live, as well as their own.
"I'll get our stuff together", he said "I take it we're leaving soon?"
"Within the hour if we can batter Patsy into submission", said Adam.
"Tell him none of it's worth it. All you get for fighting everyone else's battles is old before your time. Look at Braw if you want an example".
"You have changed your tune. Is your shoulder still troubling you?"
"Yea, that strange wound I picked up at the old Abbey. It's never properly healed. It'll be a lot better when we get away from here".
"There you are", Joby dumped the rucksack on the bed "I've even packed your bag for you as well".
"Then you can just unpack it again", Kieran snapped, folding his grubby pillow around his ears "I'm not leaving here".
"Yesterday you went on about how you didn't ask for the fucking job, now you wouldn't dream of doing anything else! Can't you think of the rest of us for a change?"
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, that we all want to get out of here".
"You can't leave me here alone!" Kieran exclaimed.
"That's not what we had in mind actually".
"Sounds like it to me if you're planning on buggering off, because I'm not leaving. I've got a job to do".
"Oh just get dressed Flannery. What bloody good do you think you can do against this lot?"
"I seem to scare 'em pretty well".
"Yea, for the time being, until they get the measure of you".
"What's the problem?" said Adam, as he came in.
"The Saviour of Mankind is refusing to leave", said Joby, sourly.
"I'm here for a reason, and you've got to help me. I'm counting on you".
"Patsy, we all want to leave", said Adam "We've all had enough. Even Hillyard doesn't wish to pursue this any further".
"Oh, so the human race can go to Hell in a handcart because you lot have had enough!"
"They don't seem to have lived too badly under this lot", said Joby.
"Probably just a bit like living under an old Communist regime", said Adam "Not good, but you get used to it".
"And at least you're not holed up in some mausoleum on a swamp, surrounded by pervy ghouls at every turn!"
"Now listen to me", Kieran sat up in bed "These bastards have sealed off the time-cusps. You know what that means? The human race is now for certain on its last legs, which means the vampires will get more and more desperate for food as the years go on, and things in your beloved City will get grimmer and grimmer. They'll probably start abducting people from their own homes for food, shanghaiing them from their beds in the middle of the night like they did the old man at the prison. There'll be an epidemic of disappearances. Whole communities will be wiped out. It'll be the Black Death all over again. And you lot will have to watch it happen, knowing all the while that you could have stopped it happening if you hadn't been such a bunch of wankers!"
"Will you leave us alone for a moment Joby?" said Adam, quietly.
"Now you're for it!" Joby sniggered at Kieran "I'll go and check how Hillyard's coping with the fruitcake".
"What do you want us to be alone for?" said Kieran, as Joby left the room "If you're going to hit me I hope you hurry up and get it over with".
"Ooh", said Adam, mischievously "Only if you fail".
Kieran flung his arms round Adam's neck, and buried his face in his hair.
"Please understand", he sobbed "I'm doing this because I have to, not because I want to. If I don't I'll never know peace of mind again. Why in God's name it has to be me I don't know!"
"Why not? is the answer to that. I can think of far worse candidates. But if you're serious about this Patsy then it has to be done properly".
"But I don't know exactly what we're up against".
"That's why I'm going to take you down to see Braw. Because he failed he knows the score".
"And you want me to see what I'll be like if I fail too?"
Adam kissed him slowly, finishing by pecking his lips like a bird attacking the cream of the milk.
"I would still take you away from all this if I could", he said.
"And I would go if I could", Kieran replied "I want to start up a life with you in this crazy new world. I want to live with you, be your pet".
"You are and always have been, ever since I wrenched that first kiss from you at the prison. You will succeed Patsy".
Joby was furious to hear that they weren't leaving after all, and Hillyard was equally displeased. For once the two men were completely in accord with one another.
"You're nothing but a fucking soft touch!" Joby roared at Adam "He could persuade you day was night".
"He happens to be right on this matter Joby".
Joby, not trusting himself to answer, hurled his rucksack against the wall. Adam didn't waste time trying to reason with him. Instead he steered Kieran out of the room, whilst giving the other men instructions on staying within sight of each other.
"Don't worry, I'm not going anywhere", Joby pouted "Not after what happened yesterday".
Lonts appeared in the doorway of the room next door. He was so thin and dirty that his eyes seemed to stand out of his head like large flints of shiny black coal. He panicked on hearing that Kieran was on his way to another part of the Palace, and had to be reassured that he was definitely going to return.
"You mustn't trust anyone", said Lonts "Not any of them, they all mean you harm".
"And you don't?" said Kieran, sharply.
"I-I can take care of you, you see. If you'll let me. I know what's best. We have to make plans, you and me. Seal ourselves away from them all. They hate us because we're on the side of good. We know our Bible ..."
"Oh come on Patsy", said Adam.
"Don't you go slipping out of sight either", Joby yelled at Kieran.
"He won't be safe, not really", Lonts shook his head in sorrow "Not with anyone but me. Tell me what time you'll be back Kieran".
"Time?" Kieran exclaimed "I don't even know what month it is anymore, let alone what time!"
"Well d-don't be long, that's all".
Braw and Kieran sat staring directly at each other. It was warm in the confines of the little hut, and Braw's face was flushed red. Kieran gazed back at him, and hoped the pity didn't show too much on his face. Braw twitched constantly, his body well advanced into Parkinson's disease. The hand which he didn't use to smoke with seemed to have a life of its own, jerking into the air at random as though it was about to throttle somebody.
"I need your help", said Kieran "You're the only that can help me in some ways".
"We know this is difficult for you", said Adam.
You don't know the half! thought Braw. Looking at Kieran was like looking down a telescope at his own youth. It was eerie and disturbing, as he fully realised for the first time how much damage had been done. He had once been a thin, androgynous figure too. His skin had once been peachily smooth, and glowed with the radiance of youth. His eyes had once been clear and sparkling. He had once walked quickly, confidentally and upright.
"What do you want to know?" he growled.
"Who controls it all", said Kieran "Everything I mean. Who is the top knob, the big noise, and is he here, in the Palace, now?"
"He takes on many forms".
"Is he the black-robed figure that I have seen?" said Adam " I feel such evil coming from that person".
"That is evil", said Braw, simply "But it's not the Devil. The creature you're on about is an elemental from pre-history. The monks in the old days contained it at the Abbey on Gurran Island. They'd been fighting it for years. It had been conjured up originally by some crazy religious bods in my time, who hadn't fully appreciated what they were playing with. It took the monks two hundred years to fight it, but they finally contained it ... at a price".
"Human sacrifice?" said Adam.
"And we released it", said Kieran, glumly "Our stupid fault, with all our nosiness and bloody curiosity about everything. That is why Braw, I have to fight it all. We are certainly responsible for releasing that one".
"But not all of it", said Braw "You can't be, some of it goes back years".
He leaned forward with difficulty, and beckoned Kieran towards him.
"The vampires here have power", he said "But it's a power based on luck, not intelligence. They have a secret which the Ministry knows about, and they help to contain it, if it was released it would cause mutilation and misery on a grand scale".
"But surely then the vampires would be depriving themselves of a food source?" said Kieran.
"No. Because it doesn't kill, and the damage it causes is all external, so the internal organs and the blood system stays unsullied, generally anyway, but it's not always the case. They've largely taken care of it, but there have been slip-ups".
"It's a disease I take it? A virus of some kind, like the old AIDS virus? You must have heard about that one, or have you never read anything from the Pre-Warming era either?"
"The AIDS virus destroyed people's immunity system, made them too vulnerable to other diseases, ones that could easily savage their internal organs and blood stream. Except this disease causes grotesque external deformities, rather like leprosy and smallpox".
"The woman at the Loud House", said Adam "Remember Pats? She had aged a hundred years overnight".
"The blind man at the inn as well", said Kieran.
"In the Uncharted Area", Braw continued "is a large tract of land called the Valley of Freaks. It is where the Ministry sends victims of this virus. Every so often, over the past sixty years, whenever the Ministry has tried to stand up to these ghouls here, the vampires have retaliated by releasing the virus in a contained area. That is what the vampires refer to as Pandora's Box. The devastation that follows is hushed up, and the victims are sent to the Valley. No one outside the Ministry knows of the existence of that place. What they're really terrified of is that the vampires will release this virus in the City. If that should be the case then thousands would be contaminated".
"How contagious is it? How easily is it passed?"
"Through sharing food or drink, lavatory facilities, kissing and sex of course. It's far more actively contagious than the old AIDS virus, but thankfully not quite as contagious as smallpox or influenza. A few years ago a man, who was carrying the virus, got to the outskirts of the City. He was caught before he could cause too much damage. They sealed him away in a high-security room at the hospital. That room has remained sealed to this day. The virus can live on in the surrounding area after death you see".
"Is the virus contained here, at the Palace?" asked Kieran.
"No, they won't risk that. It frightens them as much as the rest of us".
"Where is it then?"
"Somewhere out there, the Uncharted Area", Braw waved his cigar vaguely in the direction beyond the atrium doors "They never told me exactly, never trusted me. Not even now, when I'm no bloody threat to them at all".
"Is that what I have to do Braw? Find the virus, and destroy it, so that they no longer have a hold over everyone?"
"Your friends can do that".
"Than what do I do?" said Kieran, in a small voice.
"You all seem aware that the Devil was earthed at the Skirra Fludd lighthouse. It can no longer destroy history, not since the time-cusps were sealed, but it controls every monster in this land. For many years now the vampires and the Ministry were happy to feed it victims on a regular basis. Like the vampires, it needs human or animal flesh to survive. But in recent months it has taken on human form. They think that may have happened during the lunar eclipse in October. It now roams freely at will, killing wherever it goes".
"What particular human form does it take?"
"It's a shape-shifter, it's not restricted to one form. Although it is believed that it has a host body, which it uses to gain access to other ones. Adds to its repertoire as it were".
"And the host body is Angel", Kieran whispered.
"There is no more I can tell you", Braw said "These creatures here are not to be feared in themselves. The vampires are weak, they have mad cravings, and that's what makes them vulnerable. They can break people, they did it to me, but only in the way a bully can break someone who's alone and friendless, with no one to defend him. If you're cautious and keep your head they won't break you".
Braw lapsed into a tired silence. Like an old man he found it an effort to keep up a strong conversation for very long, and his need to take naps was getting to the stage where he spent more time asleep than awake. Kieran rose from his chair and turned to leave. Suddenly though Braw grabbed his wrist, and Kieran felt like he had been stung by an electric fence. Some remnants of the man's previous psychic strength was still apparent.
"Learn this", Braw said, quietly "There are two elixirs of life. One is blood as we all know, and the other is sperm. That will be your key to success. Remember that when your time arrives, and then you can be sure you won't fail".
Caln limped around his bedroom, trying to think of an answer to his predicament. All along though he knew there was only one solution. He had to have a massive intake of red meat and very soon, if he was to counteract the devastating results of his green bloody addiction. But Mullawa was STILL gorging. The creature after all had a phenomenal appetite, and whilst he still gorged, Caln was denied access to his antidote.
"I can't go on like this", Caln bleated to the empty room "He's treated me this way for too long".
It was hard though to shake off sixty years of fearing someone, but a further look at his blackened genitals frightened him to such an extent that suddenly Mullawa's life was of no consequence at all. He knew that Mullawa wouldn't have hesitated to destroy him if he had stepped out of line. Mullawa had in fact often joked that he kept a small empty jar in his room, in which to imprison the remains of Caln, once he had withered to almost nothing through Mullawa starving him. Caln knew he was capable of it too. There was no honour amongst ghouls. He would plead with Mullawa one last time to let him have his share of the meat, and if that failed, then he would do the destroying for a change.
Caln went into the next room. Little bigger than a wardrobe it contained shelf upon shelf of jars. Most of them holding his precious supply of green blood. He had plenty to spare. Enough for Mullawa anyway.
The swamp level was rising alarmingly, and was even starting to trickle under the doors of the atrium. There it went unnoticed, camouflaged by the freezing mist that blanketed the inner courtyard. Braw, inside his hut, heard a faint glugging sound but was too exhausted to take any notice of it.
Kieran had noticed as they left the hut that they were being watched by a dark figure on the walkway above. It was standing half-concealed behind a pillar. Its presence made his neck tingle. He realised he was now seeing the creature that Adam had seen. He chose not to alert Adam to it now and walked him firmly up the stairs, so that they were facing away from it. The creature was standing over the other side of the walkway, and its presence bore a mental hole in the back of his head. Even so he managed to get Adam down the corridor that led to their room without him seeing it.
"Sex is the key", said Adam, stopping suddenly under a wall-torch.
"It would seem that way", Kieran glanced nervously behind them, but the creature was nowhere in sight.
"What protected me when I was upstairs with Mullawa", Adam went on "Was the fact that I'd made love to you. In the vampire's eyes I was contaminated goods because I had been filled with your sperm".
"That's not right though", Kieran protested "When we have sex you generally roger me, not the other way round. It's my arse that gets filled with your sperm".
"Twit!" Adam exclaimed, impatiently "You have come in my mouth. I have swallowed your sperm".
"Oh yes! So having sex with me is like having a vaccine then?"
"A rather unromantic way of putting it, but yes".
"What about the others though? I haven't got to perform the same service on them have I? Hillyard might be receptive to a bit of jerking off I suppose, but Joby would smack me in the gob if I even suggested it".
"He is rather peculiar isn't he? Anyway I'm not going to suggest you screw everyone to keep us safe. And certainly not Hillyard! We don't know where he's been for a start, apart from with Artuul, and that's no recommendation for a clean bill of health!"
"Artuul was really Angel though", Kieran sighed, and gazed up at the flame "He's the one that I have to destroy. It's funny really, when you learn the truth you expect it to come with a drum-roll. And then I find out my real foe all along has only been Angel. It would've saved us all a lot of hassle if I'd run him over with the buggy back at the prison!"
"He wasn't possessed then. That happened at the lunar eclipse".
"He simply thought he was a vampire before that?"
"Exactly", said Adam "And the reason for that was something that happened in his childhood".
"The strange mystery man in the park who abducted him", said Kieran "But how do I get rid of Angel though? I mean, he's already dead!"
"That's a problem for later. In the meantime we have to do something about our unsavoury hosts".
When they got back to the bedchamber Adam wasn't pleased to find Lonts tied to the bedpost with Hillyard's belt. The boy wept with relief when Kieran appeared, and accused him, like an hysterical abandoned child, of leaving him for too long. Kieran tried to soothe him, although at that moment he felt little sympathy for Lonts's fears. He was afraid too dammit! And with far greater cause to be.
"Why is Lonts trussed like a chicken?" said Adam "Whilst you two sit over the fire like a pair of ugly old crones".
"He tried to hit Hillyard", said Joby "With the poker! It's safer to have the little sod strapped up".
Adam, who had once in his childhood suffered the same treatment from his father, tried protesting. But then Lonts began burbling about Satan, and quoting passages at length from the Book of Revelations. It was hardly a comfort at such a time. Adam raised no objection when Joby gagged the boy as well.
"We need to do a recap of the enemy side", said Adam, pacing the room restlessly "As far as we know there are just two vampires here. The one that accosted Joby, and the one that accosted me. But even though they're the only ones we've actually seen, we can't assume there aren't any more".
"What I don't understand is why they're leaving us alone at the moment", said Hillyard.
"I don't fully understand it either, but just be grateful that they are I suppose. For some reason they don't want to take us on en-masse, and that could be to do with Patsy. On top of them we have Krik now running around somewhere. Then of course we have the real bundle of delights, the elemental that attacked Hillyard at the Abbey".
"It was nearby today", said Hillyard "Me shoulder was really playing up at one point".
"And don't forget Angel", said Kieran.
"He hasn't appeared here though has he?" said Joby.
"Not as we know him anyway", said Adam "Although for all we know he could be masquerading as one of the armchairs!"
"Go looking for a virus, he says. Flannery to destroy Angel, he says. Makes it all sound like a fucking treasure-hunt", Joby exclaimed, after an hour of solid talking "For a start, where do we go looking for this mystery virus?"
"In the Uncharted Area I presume", said Kieran, sitting in one of the armchairs with Joby perched on the arm "Braw didn't say exactly where".
"The best place to conceal it would be where it could cause least damage if there was an accident", said Adam "The Valley of Freaks".
"And what do we do with it when we find it?" said Joby.
"Re-locate it somewhere it can't cause any further damage", said Adam "Like dumping a noxious chemical really. We won't know until we get there and see what options are on offer".
"I don't know what you're complaining about", said Kieran "You've got the easy part! I don't even know where to begin looking for Angel, and even if I find him what the hell do I do with him? Provided I get any say in the matter that is. Angel doesn't tend to stop and listen to people these days. Too busy tearing them to shreds instead".
"He's not really going to go off and do this on is own is he Adam?" said Joby.
"We'll worry about that one when the time comes as well", said Adam.
"We've got to get rid of this lot here first", said Hillyard "That'll be a good start. Just doing that will help everyone a lot. Provided we can get at 'em before they go causing any more trouble with this virus".
"I take it a wooden stake's not the answer?" said Joby "No reason why it should be, they're not normal vampires. They appear in sunlight, don't sleep in coffins. So, what do we do?"
"Starve them", said Kieran "Deprive them of their fixes".
"To do that we would have to contain them", said Adam "Bloody difficult when they seem to be able to appear and vanish at will. But Patsy's right, starving them is the only real answer".
"That could take ages", Joby protested.
"Probably not as long as you think", said Adam "The one that approached me was brimming over with blood. I get the impression they seem to pig out. They don't just eat people, they binge, and Braw said it doesn't take much to get them desperate. I didn't realise it before, but that is our biggest weapon. It is of course also our biggest fear".
Caln filled the final syringe. The green blood glistened like liquid emerald inside the plastic tubing. He kept a supply of hypodermics for the occasions when he was really daring, when he risked injecting the green liquid directly into his own bloodstream. Now that the solution to all his problems had come to him, he couldn't help but wonder why he hadn't done it long ago. Kill Mullawa. Of course. Then everything would be his! When the black caskets next arrived they would all be his and his alone. For over sixty years he had put up with Mullawa's greed and savagery, now his time had come.
He secreted the needles carefully within the lining of his robe. There was enough green blood in them to kill ten vampires. Mullawa would overdose in style, Caln would see to that personally. The burning in his loins was worse than ever. He figured that if he didn't take in red meat soon he would wither to a fragment of his former self within only a few hours.
"Oh no, not me. Not this time", he said.
Through his greed Mullawa had ended the existences of so many vampires at the Palace in this way, until only Caln was left besides him. But Mullawa was not going to get away with it anymore.
As he had hoped Caln found Mullawa sleeping off his excesses in his own customised bedroom. Mullawa had fashioned this part of the Palace so that it served as a living (or rather dead) monument to the joys of eating flesh. Bodies hung from meat-hooks in the ceiling. One or two carcasses had been slit open and left to drip blood over a large bathtub. Skulls of previous victims, stripped clean of flesh, were arranged on the shelves around the walls like grotesque wallpaper. Mullawa liked to boast that he had had a love affair with each carcass that came his way, and so liked to keep a souvenir of their stay.
Caln surveyed the scene like a hungry peasant glimpsing a banqueting-table. His fury at Mullawa spilled over and he advanced into the room, clutching two of the needles aloft.
Mullawa was lying face-down and unconscious on a sofa. The half-eaten corpse of a young boy had slid onto the floor, his intestines scooped over his chest like a slithery sash. The body was already starting to congeal with green blood, so Mullawa must have been sleeping for some time.
Caln had toyed with the idea of waking him, so that he could at least have the pleasure of a reaction from him before he snuffed him out. But he was afraid he would back down in the face of Mullawa's intimidating personality, and then the only future he would have would be in a glass jar. Caln lifted the end of Mullawa's robe and exposed the other vampire's fat white buttocks. Without hesitating he plunged the entire contents of the first needle into the vampire's flesh, tossed the needle aside and then plunged in the next. Mullawa was so sotted with blood and flesh that he never realised what was going on. Caln had got a taste for murdering a fellow vampire though, and he let Mullawa have the contents of all the needles he had filled. The bastard would never survive that!
True enough, Mullawa's skin was beginning to scorch already. His own contaminated blood started to putrefy his body, and his genitals had burnt away almost at once.
Caln congratulated himself on a job well done. Everything in the Palace was now his for the taking.
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