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It was a very long time since Lonts had been so scared. He had woken up to find himself alone in a tiny, windowless room. There was a single candle burning high up in a bracket near the ceiling, but otherwise the room was completely bare. He was lying on the floor. His nappy was soiled and he was very uncomfortable indeed. Occasionally he had banged on the door, cried for Adam to appear, but nothing had happened, and there wasn't a sound to be heard.
There had been treatments like this in the hospital. Punishments. If you don't behave we'll lock you away by yourself, and no one will come to you. Lonts was confused. This must be a punishment for getting drunk last night with Joby. Except he was pretty certain Adam wouldn't punish him this way. He had sometimes pushed him into his room when he misbehaved, but never in a confined space like this and never for so long. And he had certainly never locked the door on him. Lonts knew that Adam wouldn't do this because of his own time in prison. Adam didn't like cages.
Lonts hammered on the door and wept wildly. He constantly called for Adam, in the hope that this was just a new punishment he had devised, but in his heart of hearts he knew this wasn't very likely. He cried so long and for so loudly that anyone of a normal emotional mentality would have been deeply moved, but he wasn't dealing with such people here.
Suddenly a key turned in the lock. Lonts prayed very hard that it would be Adam. He had it all worked out. He would throw himself into his arms and beg his forgiveness. Adam would kiss him and hold him close.
It was the eunuch. The one who had been hired to take care of him. He remembered every sadistic line of malevolence etched on the creature's face. It advanced into the room, its hands held behind its back suspiciously. Lonts knew this pose of old. He knew what he would be carrying.
"I want Adam!" Lonts cried "You're not supposed to be here anymore!"
"Vanod wants to see you", said the eunuch "He wants to have a nice little chat with you".
"I want Adam".
"Adam's not here. He's abandoned you. He doesn't want you anymore, because you're too troublesome. You upset everyone".
Lonts shrank back against the wall.
"Come on", said the eunuch "He doesn't want to have to wait for you".
"Go away!" Lonts screamed.
The eunuch grabbed Lonts's arm and wrenched him away from the wall. He pulled a small whip out from behind his back. The first crack wasn't too bad. It went across Lonts's bottom, but was cushioned by his nappy. The second went across his shoulders and the pain was excruciating, the mark cutting deep into his flesh.
"Now you will see Vanod", said the eunuch "He has plans for you".
The further up the Rock they climbed the colder and mistier it got. Soon the township of Yzel was out of their sight, and they were cut off by the fog. The mist rose over the tops of the bushes as they climbed and blanketed most sound. Nothing could be heard from the town. They were completely in a world of their own.
"Gimmit's near", Kieran whispered "Can't you hear him?"
"Is he?" said Joby.
"His footsteps. Listen. He's shadowing us".
"But he could be anywhere", said Hillyard, nervously "I can hear footsteps all around us".
"Stand still for a moment", said Kieran "We need to get our bearings".
They stood silently in a huddled group as the undergrowth crunched near them. The density of the mist made it impossible to see beyond a couple of inches. But gradually as their eyes adjusted to the gloom a shape could be discerned peering through the bushes immediately in front of them. It was an animal, walking upright, and covered with long hair.
"Gimmit", said Kieran, his voice sounding tinny in the fog "Show yourself".
He heard Ransey cock his revolver behind him, but Gimmit was distracted by another noise on his side of the bush. He backed away awkwardly, his shape receding. There was a heavy panting noise, as of a wild animal running, and then suddenly there was a bestial scream, and a squelching, gulping sound. A soft rustle in the bushes indicated that Gimmit's corpse was now being dragged away from them.
"What the hell happened?" said Joby, daring to speak at last.
"Never mind that now", said Kieran "We have to find that fortress before it's too late".
The room was hot, that much he did know. He seemed to be surrounded by burning braziers and wall-torches. He could feel the heat on his face. It was sweltering in this part of the fortress.
"Take the blindfold off now!" Lonts cried "Take it off me!"
He tried once more to reach for it but it was a fruitless exercise. His hands were tied together and attached to a length of cord fastened to a large heavy object.
"Take it off!" he screamed again.
"Patience, patience", came a velvety voice.
Lonts felt his hands being untied, and then the blindfold was pulled away like a conjuring trick. It took a short while for his eyes to adjust to the harsh orange glare in the room. He was in the main part of the fortress, a large cavernous room, which was liberally peppered with burning braziers. So much so that the heat was almost unbearable.
The sadistic eunuch was standing directly to one side of him, but he couldn't see where the speaker had come from. There was a scraping noise, as of cold steel against stone. Lonts turned hastily. Vanod's nostrils were flaring with excitement, as he sensed his ultimate goal drawing near. Lonts noticed the sabre in his hand.
"No!" the boy screamed "God save me!"
"He won't help you", said Vanod "I need your blood Mad Boy, and then it will all be over. The blood of the Kiskev Survivor. Oh Isaac was so right about its potency".
"Don't kill me, please!" Lonts began to cry.
"And why on earth shouldn't I?" said Vanod "What's the blood of one simple idiot, against that of ... women".
"Women?" Lonts whimpered.
"I've created women Mad Boy", said Vanod "Women whom I will fill with sperm. My seed. My seed with spread to the four corners of the globe. The human race will live on through me".
"B-But why do you need my blood?"
"Because the creation hasn't quite been perfected. I need more blood to ensure that it will last, and your blood is special".
"No it's not", said Lonts "It's not special at all".
"I have an idea", Vanod dropped the sabre to his side and twirled it playfully "Would you like to see a woman Lonts, before you die?"
Lonts stared at him blankly. Vanod nodded at the eunuch, who went to a curtained alcove on the far side of the room. He signalled inside it. A woman walked out. A golden woman. Everything about her radiated a glow, from her golden hair to her translucent skin. She even wore a gold satin dress which hugged her tall, slender figure. In one hand she carried the head of the man she'd murdered that morning. She had been biting pieces out of his skull.
She dropped the head and walked directly up to Lonts, as though she'd been briefed on what to do, and touched his hair gently.
"Hello cutey", she said softly, with a giggle in her voice.
Lonts reacted with terror. There was something hugely frightening about the darkness in her eyes, and the way she looked at him as though she wanted to consume him. He began to scream. The woman cast an indignant look at Vanod, who clapped his hands imperiously at the eunuch.
When he noticed the eunuch edging towards him Lonts moved so quickly that he caught even Vanod by surprise. He snatched the sabre from him and rammed it into the eunuch's stomach, successfully impaling him against the wall. The eunuch whimpered in an almost comical fashion, as though things hadn't quite turned out as he'd expected.
At the sight of the blood pouring from the eunuch's mouth and stomach, the Golden Woman became aroused. She put her hand on the nearest brazier, and scooped up a handful of hot coals as though they were a selection of pot-pourri. Moaning orgasmically she ran them over her neck and chest. It was as if she was rubbing herself with ice-cubes on a hot day.
Vanod watched her, his eyes and cheeks rich with desire. He was shaken out of his lustful reverie by a loud explosion rocking the building. The floor shook, and all three of them were jolted temporarily off balance.
"Vanod!" the Golden Woman shrieked "What was that?"
Lonts noticed a carving-knife embedded in the table-top in the centre of the room. Whilst the others were floundering in confusion he wrenched it out of the woodwork.
"You fool, Mad Boy", Vanod sneered "I'm already dead. You can't kill me with that".
"But what about her!" Lonts exclaimed, and he flung the knife at the Golden Woman. His aim was as straight as a die. The knife went into her throat and she gagged on the blade.
"You moron!" Vanod screamed, as the Golden Woman crumpled slowly to the floor, her eyes lifted towards the ceiling, giving her an expression that was almost pious.
"She was my best creation", Vanod went on, sounding like the mad scientist from a B-movie "My masterpiece".
"She was evil!" Lonts yelled back "With her you would have filled the world with monsters".
Vanod screamed and went to grab at Lonts, who slipped out of the way. Vanod lunged at him again and succeeded in grabbing hold of his nappy. Lonts wriggled out of his grasp, and left him holding only the soiled garment. The boy heard voices from the stairs outside the door, and he ran towards them with a feeling of hysterical relief.
There had been only one way to get through the huge double doors at the base of the fortress, and that was to blast them open. The doors had been scrawled with the message "MY JOURNEY ENDS HERE".
"I certainly hope in Vanod's case that that's true", said Kieran.
It had taken two goes to get the fuse to catch, which delay had left them all chafing with impatience and fear for Lonts. Once inside the building they had run up the twisting stone staircase, which was lit with so many wall-sconces that the air had become humid.
Suddenly Lonts stumbled down the steps towards them. When he saw Kieran heading the procession he flung his naked form into his arms, nearly causing Kieran to fall backwards down the stairs.
"Are you alright Lonts?" he asked, urgently.
"You've got to stop Vanod, Kieran", Lonts roared "I think he's possessed by the Devil. He's going to populate the world with demons. They don't feel the heat from hot coals. It's terrible Kieran, like something out of Revelations. Abaddon. The Pit. The Damned choking on turds".
"Yes alright", said Kieran, firmly disentangling himself from the boy's fevered grasp "Now you be a good boy and go back to Yzel with Hillyard and Ransey. Adam's very worried about you".
"What do you mean, he goes back with us?" said Hillyard, who had peeled off his baggy outer jumper and was now wrapping Lonts in it.
"He's been through enough", said Kieran "I want him out of here. Take him back down to the town. Joby and me will take over here".
"If you think I'm leaving you ..." Ransey began.
"Ransey, I'm ordering you to leave", said Kieran "And it's treason to disobey a direct order from the President in a situation as serious as this".
"Have me clapped in irons then", Ransey growled.
"You're fired Ransey!" Kieran screamed "Now get out of here".
"How can I ensure your security when you won't let me?" Ransey exclaimed.
"Come on", Hillyard tugged at Ransey's sleeve "We've got the boy to think of".
Vanod was nowhere to be seen amongst the carnage in the room above. The eunuch was still pinned to the wall, and the atmosphere was like a furnace.
"My God, Kieran", Joby knelt down next to the corpse of the Golden Woman "I think she was the real thing".
"No she wasn't. She was a diabolical creation of Vanod's", said Kieran "She was the Sleep Demon that came to me. What a bloody fool he is! Why did he never tell us what he wanted to do when he was alive? I would have given him all the money he needed for research in creating women. He could have gone down in history as the saviour of the human race. But instead he makes a pact with Devil, and decides to turn the world into a playground for his demonic spawn".
"He's up above us", said Joby, as a scampering noise came from the floor above "Kiel, did Lonts do all this here?"
"Angel once warned me that we might have very serious problems with Lonts one day", said Kieran "This is what he's capable of when he's afraid, and his power is left unchecked".
"But he's such a lolloping great brat most of the time", said Joby, in disbelief.
"He's not a bad person at all Jobe", said Kieran "As long as we keep him tempered with love and kindness he'll just be a little boy".
"God help us if anything happens to Adam though", said Joby "Lonts would go out of control then".
"Now is not the time to worry about that", said Kieran, running towards the entrance to the other staircase "We've got a demon to catch".
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