Harry's Friends, and Others


A distant clanking momentarily distracted Harry from the extinct vampire's story. Excusing himself from listening, he scanned across the wasteland of churned, boggy earth and decaying, partly demolished houses to a gaunt horizon. Even the sun, falling warmly on his neck and drawing up vapour wraiths from the stagnant pools, could not dispel the cheerlessness of the scene: a handful of metal dinosaurs on the move, strange silhouettes obscuring themselves in clouds of dust and blue exhaust smoke. Unlikely that the bulldozers would head this way, but the sight of them working brought home to Harry something of the hour. It would be about nine o'clock; he still had to get back to Bucharest; his return flight to Athens was booked for 12:45.

Harry? said Faethor, his mental voice faint as a sigh. I can feel the sun on the earth and it weakens me. Should I continue, or shall we postpone it until another time?

Harry thought about it. He'd already learned quite a lot about Janos, a vampire with enormous mental powers. And yet according to Faethor his son had not been a vampire in the fullest sense of the word, not at that time almost eight hundred years ago. So this wasn't simply an opportunity to learn more about him, but also about vampires in general. Harry knew that he was already an authority, but he felt there could never be a surfeit of knowledge about creatures such as these. Not when his life, and the lives of others, might very well depend upon it.

Quite right, said Faethor. Very well, let me continue. I shall be brief as possible...

My Szgany found the dog shivering in a cave high in the crags. I went up to him and called him out. He came to the entrance, which opened onto a ledge in the face of a sheer cliff.

Janos, though young, was big and very strong. As big as Thibor in his youth, even as big as myself. He was afraid but not craven. He had cut himself a branch and sharpened it to a stake. 'Come no closer, father,' he warned, 'or I'll pierce your vampire heart!'

'Ah, my son,' I told him, with nothing of animosity, 'but you have already done that. What? I thought you loved me! Indeed, I knew it. And I knew you loved your mother, too - though not how well you loved her. And yet what in fact do I know about you, except that you are my son? Very little, it now appears.' And I moved a single pace forward into the cave.

'At least you know I will kill you,' he gasped, backing off, 'if you should try to punish me!'

'Punish you?' I let my shoulders slump, shook my head in a sad fashion. 'No, I seek only an explanation. You are of my flesh, Janos. What? And shall I punish my own son, now of all times, when of all creatures I am surely the most lonely? Oh, I was angry, be sure, but is that so hard to understand? And what did my rage get me, eh? Your mother is dead now and gone from us, and we are both without her whom we loved so dearly. And now there is no more anger left in me.'

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'You don't... hate me?' he said.

'Hate you? My own son?' Again I shook my head. 'It is simply that I do not understand. I desire to understand you, Janos. Explain this thing you have done, so that I may know you better.' And I stepped a little deeper inside the cave.

He backed off more yet, but held his spear steady on me. And now, as if a dam had been broken, the words flooded out of him. 'I have hated you!' he said. 'For you were cruel to me, cold, often indifferent, and always... different. I was like you, and yet unlike you. I wanted so much to be like you in my entirety, but could not. Often I've watched you become a blanket of flesh to soar like a curling leaf on the air, but when I tried I always fell. I wanted to inspire your fear in the hearts of men, with a glance, a word, a thought; but I was not a vampire and knew that if I tried they would only kill me like any common enemy. So instead I must befriend them whom I despised, get into their minds, make them love me in order to gain their obedience. In myself I looked a little like you, but I could never be you, and so I have hated you.'

'You desired to be me?' I repeated him.

'Yes, because you have the power!'

'You have powers enough of your own!' I said. 'Great powers! Fantastic powers! For which you must thank me. And yet you hid them from me all these years.'

'I did not hide them,' he said, scornfully. 'I demonstrated them! I used them to keep you out of my mind and will. And even full-blown they remained secret. You thought my mind was inferior, incapable of knowing your talents and therefore unassailable by them; that I was such a blank - indeed a void - no stylus could ever impress me! So that when you discovered that you couldn't force yourself upon my mind, you did not say, "Ho, he is strong!" but, "Hah! He is weak!" That was your ego, father, which is vast but not infallible.'

'Aye,' I nodded thoughtfully when he was done, 'much more to you than I suspected, Janos. You do have certain powers.'

'But not your power!' he said. 'You are ... a changing thing, mysterious, always different. And I am always the same.'

'Well, and there you have it,' I told him, with a shrug. 'I am Wamphyri!'

'And I desired to be,' he said, 'but was only a strange man. A halfling...'

'But does this excuse you?' I asked him. 'Is this reason enough that you should use your own mother as a whore? To hate me for your own deficiencies was one error, but to compound it by cleaving unto - '

'Yes!' he cut me short. 'It was my reason. I wanted to be like you and could not, and so hated you. Wherefore I would defile or suborn all that you most treasured. First the Szgany, whom I would cause to love me if not above you then at least as your equal; and then your woman, who knew you better than anyone else in the world - and in ways which only a lover could know you!'

Now (quite deliberately) I backed away from him, and he followed after, towards the mouth of the cave. 'In your desire to be like me,' I said, 'you determined to do the things I did, and to know the things I knew. Even to the extent of knowing your own mother - carnally?'

'I thought she might... teach me things.'

'What?' I almost laughed, but not quite. 'The ways of the flesh, Janos? A father's task, that, surely?'

'I wanted nothing of you, except to be you.'

'Could you not try to be more affectionate towards me, and so engender my affection?'

His turn to laugh, almost. 'What? As well seek sweetness in a lump of salt!'

'You are hard,' I told him, low-voiced. 'Perhaps we are not so far apart after all. And so you'd be Wamphyri, eh? Ah, but you've much to learn before that day dawns.'

'What?' he said, a look of incredulity crossing his face like a shadow. And again, in a whisper: 'What? Are you saying that - ?'

'Ah!' I held up a cautionary hand; for now that he was fascinated, I was in a position to cut him off. 'Aye, not so very far apart at all. And I'll tell you something, my oh so stupid jealous, impatient son: what you did was no rare thing. Neither vile nor even strange. Not to my thinking, or the thinking of others like me. What, incest? Why, the Wamphyri have ever fucked their own, and in more ways than one! I tell you, Janos: only be glad that you were born a man and mainly human. For if you were another vampire ... oh, I'd know how best to serve you. Aye, and then you'd know well enow the real meaning of rape!'

My words should have warned him that I was not so forgiving as I seemed, but they did not. I had made him a half-promise, and he wanted the other half - now. 'You said... did you mean... can you teach me to be Wamphyri?'

'Something like that,' I answered. And his spear was wavering now where he pointed it at me.

'How would you do it?'

'Not so fast!' I said. 'First you must tell me how far you've progressed. You have said you desire to be like me. Exactly like me. Which is to say, Wamphyri. Very well, but meanwhile you have practised, am I right? So, and what have you achieved?'

He was sly. 'Ask me instead, the things which I have not achieved. All else is mine!'

'Very well: what eludes you?'

'I cannot alter my flesh, change my shape, fly.'

'That is a matter of the will over the flesh - but only if it is Wamphyri flesh. Yours is not. Still... there are ways to change that. What else?'

'You are a crafty necromancer. Once, when a lone traveller passed this way, you murdered him. Hidden in a secret place, I saw you open his body and tease the various parts of him for all of his knowledge of the outside world. You inhaled the gasses of his gut, to learn from them. You sucked his eyes, to see what they had seen. You rubbed the blood of his ruptured ears into your own, to hear what they had heard! Later, when a party of strange Szgany passed by, I stole away a girl child from them and used her in the same way. As you had done, so did I. But I learned nothing and was very ill.'

'The Wamphyri excel in necromancy,' I told him. 'Aye, and it's a rare art. But... even this may be taught. Had I been allowed into your mind, I could have instructed you. In this you thwarted yourself, Janos. Is there anything else?'

'Your great strength,' he said. 'I saw you chastise a man. You picked him up and hurled him away like a small log! And I have watched you ... in bed. When others would have flagged, your energy was boundless. I used to think she had some secret, Marilena, some ointment or trick to keep you hard. Another reason why I went to her. I desired to know all of your secrets.'

And in my turn, there was something I too had to know. 'Did she ever suspect?' I asked him then.

He shook his head. 'Not once. My eyes held her entirely in thrall. She knew only what I wanted her to know, did only as I instructed her to do.'

'And you caused her to think that you were me,' I growled, 'so that she would hold nothing back!' And I went to grab him.

In that same moment the dog had read my mind. Until then I had kept it shielded from him, but as the thought of him and Marilena together returned to plague me all grip was lost. He saw my thoughts, my intentions, avoided my grasp and lunged at me with his spear.

I was on the rim of the cliff; I ducked to one side and his weapon tore my robe and grazed my shoulder; I wrenched it from him and knocked him in the face with it. His mouth was torn and his teeth broken in. Also, he jerked away from me and slammed his head against the cave's ceiling. And as he collapsed I caught him up. Dazed, he could do nothing as I carried him to the sheer rim. His head lolled a little but his eyes were open, watching me as I gave way to the vampire within to let its fury shape and reshape my face and form!

'So,' I grunted then, meshing my teeth where they came bursting through the ripped ridges of my jaws. 'So, and you would be Wamphyri.' I showed him my hand, which was changed to the talon of a primal beast. 'You would be as I am. But I would have you know, Janos, that the only reason you are human at all is because of your mother. I wanted her to have a child, and gave her a monster. But you called yourself a halfling and you are right. You are neither one thing nor the other, and no use to man nor beast. You desire flesh you can mould to suit yourself? So be it!' And I gathered up a gob of phlegm, froth and blood onto my forked tongue and hurled it into his gaping mouth, and massaged his throat until it was down. He gagged and choked until his eyes stood out in his face, but there was nothing he could do.

'There!' I laughed at him, madly. 'Let that grow in you and form the stretchy flesh you so desire, and make your own flesh like unto itself. Aye, for you'll need something of the vampire in you - if only to mend all your broken bones!'

And without more ado I hurled him from the cliff...

Janos was sorely broken. All his bones, as I had guaranteed, and his flesh all torn on the rocks. A man, he would have died. But there had always been something of me in him, and now there was even more. What I had spat into him spread faster than a cancer, except that unlike a cancer it spared, indeed saved, his miserable life. He would mend, and live to serve my purpose.

Before I went down into Hungary and headed for Zara, I commanded those Szgany I left behind me: 'Tend him well. And when he is mended give him my instructions. He is to stay here and guard my castle and lands, so that when I return there will be a welcome for me. Until then he is the master here, and his will be done. So let it be.'

Then I went to join the Great Crusade, the substance and outcome of which you already know...

As Faethor's voice tailed away, Harry looked up and all around and saw that the bulldozers were toiling now. Only two hundred yards away an old, raddled relic of a house went down in dust and shuddering debris, and Harry fancied he felt the earth shake a little. Faethor felt it too.

Will they get this far today, do you think?

The Necroscope shook his head. 'I shouldn't think so. In any case they seem to be working at random and don't appear to be in too much of a hurry. Will it affect you -1 mean, when they level this place? There's not much of it left to level anyway.'

Affect me? No, nothing can do that, for I'm no more. But it may make it damned hard to eavesdrop upon the dead, with all that rumble going on! And Harry sensed the extinct monster's hideous grin, as the monster in turn sensed the inevitability of a concrete tomb, probably in the heart of a bustling factory complex. A grin, yes, for Faethor would not accept Harry's concern, wouldn't even acknowledge it. Pointless therefore to say:

'Well, I hope you'll be ... OK?' But the Necroscope said it anyway. And quickly, before his (or Faethor's) embarrassment could show through: 'But now I have to get on my way. I've learned a lot from you, I think, and of course I'm grateful for the power of deadspeak, which you've returned to me. If I may I'll contact you again, however - by night, of course, and probably from afar -so that you can finish your story. For I know that after the Fourth Crusade you came back to Wallachia and put an end to Thibor, and there must have been more between you and Janos, too. Since he is only recently risen, I know someone must have put him down. You, Faethor, I would suspect.'

He sensed the vampire's grim nod.

'Well, what was done once may be done a second time, with your assistance.'

You are welcome, Harry, any time. For after all, that is our dual purpose, to return him to dust. And now be on your way. I would like to rest a while in whatever peace is left to me - while I may.

But as Harry took up his holdall, so his feet squelched in the slime of the rotting toadstools. Their 'scent' reached him in a single poisonous waft. And:

'Ugh!' He couldn't hold back the exclamation of detestation. And Faethor picked it up, and perhaps saw in his mind something of the cause.

What? he said. Mushrooms? His mental voice was a little sharp, Harry thought, and suddenly nervous. Perhaps the finality of his situation was affecting him after all.

The Necroscope shrugged. 'Mushrooms, toadstools -fungi, anyway. The sun is steaming them away.'

He felt Faethor's shudder and could have bitten off his tongue. His last sentence had been thoughtlessly cruel. But... what the hell!... why should anyone feel sorry about the fate of a long-dead, morbid and totally evil thing like a vampire?

'Goodbye,' he said, heading out of Faethor's ruined house, back towards the graveyard and the dusty road beyond.

Farewell, that unquiet spirit answered him. And Harry, don't linger over what you must do but seek to make a quick end of it. Time may well be of the essence.

Harry waited a moment more but Faethor didn't elaborate...

As Harry climbed the rear wall of the old cemetery and stepped down among the plots and leaning slabs, someone very close to him said: Harry? Harry Keogh?

He jumped a foot and glanced all around. But ... no one there! Of course not, for it was deadspeak at work -without the terrible mental agony he'd come to associate with it. He'd been denied the use of his macabre talent for so long that it would take a little time to get used to it again.

Did I startle you? asked the voice of some dead soul. I'm sorry. But we heard you talking to that dead Thing Who Listens, and we knew it must be you - Harry Keogh, the Necroscope. For who else among the living could it be, talking to the dead? And who else would even want to talk to or befriend such a Thing as that? Only you, Harry, who have no enemies among the Great Majority.

'Oh, I've a few,' Harry eventually, hesitantly answered. 'But mainly I get on with the teeming dead well enough, yes.'

Now the entire graveyard came, as it were, to life. Before, there had been a hush, an aching void to camouflage a pent-up ... something. But now that something burst its banks like a river in flood, and a hundred voices suddenly required Harry's attention. They were full of the usual queries of the dead: how were those they'd left behind doing in the world of the living? What was happening in that bustling world of corporeal being, where minds were housed in flesh? Would it be possible for Harry to deliver a message to this oh so well-remembered and -loved father, or mother, or sister, or lover, and so on.

Why, he could spend a lifetime simply answering the questions and running the many errands of the inhabitants of this one cemetery! But no sooner had he issued that thought than they knew and recognized its truth, and the mental babble quickly died down.

'It isn't that I don't want to,' he tried to explain, 'but that I can't. You see, to the living you're dead and gone forever. And apart from a handful of colleagues, I'm the only one who knows you're still here, but changed. Do you think it would help if all your still living friends and loved ones knew that you, too, remained... extant? It wouldn't. It would only serve to make their grief that much worse. They'd think of you as being in some vast and terrible prison camp beyond the body! Well, it's bad enough, I know, but not that bad - especially now that you've learned to communicate among yourselves. But we can't tell that to the living you left behind you, for if we did those who've stopped mourning and returned to what's left of their own lives, why, they'd start all over again! And I'm afraid there would always be fake Necro-scopes to take advantage of them.'

You're right, of course, Harry, their spokesman answered then. It's just that it's such a rare - indeed unique - treat, to speak with a member of the living, I mean! But we can sense your urgency and we certainly didn't intend to hold you up.

Harry wandered amidst the plots, some ancient and others quite new, and inquired: 'How will it affect you? When they get through levelling what's left around here, I mean? You'll still be here, I know that, no matter what happens - but won't it bother you that your graves have been disturbed?'

But they won't be, Harry! an Area Planning Council member, late of Ploiesti, spoke up. For this cemetery has a preservation order on it. Oh, it's true, a lot of graveyards have been reduced to rubble, but this one at least escapes Ceausescu's madness. And I pride myself that I was in part instrumental - but I had to be. Why, members of my family, the Bercius, have been buried here for centuries! And families should stick together, right? Radu Berciu chuckled, however wrily. Ah, but I never thought that I'd benefit personally, or at least not so soon. For just nine days after I brought that preservation order into being, why, I myself died of a heart attack!

Harry was thoughtful enough to enquire: 'Are there any more here only recently dead?' For he knew from past experience that they'd be the ones hardest hit, not yet recovered from the trauma of death. At least he could find the time to speak to them before moving on.

And eventually a pair of voices, sad, young, and very lost, found strength to answer him:

Oh, yes, Harry, said one. We're the Zaharia brothers.

Ion and Alexandru, said the other. We were killed in an accident, working on the new road. A tanker crashed and spilled its fuel where we were brewing tea on a brazier. We burned. And both of us with new wives. If only there were some way to let them know that we felt nothing, that there was no pain.

'But... there must have been!' Harry couldn't disguise his astonishment.

Yes, one of the Zaharias answered, but we'd like them to believe there wasn't. Otherwise they could stay awake every night for the rest of their lives, listening to us scream as we burned. We'd like to spare them that, at least.

Harry was moved, but there was nothing he could do for them. Not yet, anyway. 'Listen,' he said. 'It could be that I may be able to help - not now but at some time in the future. Soon, I hope. If and when that time comes I'll let you know. Right now, though, I can't promise you any more than that.'

Harry, they tried to tell him in unison, their voices overlapping, that's more than enough! You've given us hope, in that we now know we have a friend in a place otherwise beyond our reach. All of the teeming dead should be so lucky. And indeed they are lucky - that you're the one with the power.

He moved on, out of the cemetery and into the dusty road, turning right in the direction of Bucharest. Behind him the excited graveyard voices gradually faded, talking among themselves now, of him rather than to him. And he knew he'd made a lot of new friends. A mile down the road, however, he met two who were not his friends. On the contrary.

The black car passed him heading where he'd just been, but hearing the sudden squeal of its brakes he looked back and saw it make a rocking U-turn. And from that moment he felt he was in trouble. Then, as the car drew up alongside and stopped, and as its occupants jumped out, he knew he was in trouble.

They weren't in uniform, but still Harry would know their sort anywhere. He'd met them before; not these two in particular, but others exactly like them. Which wasn't strange for they were all very much of a kind. In their dark grey suits and felt hats with soft rims - which might have been borrowed right out of the Thirties - they were the Romanian equivalent of Russia's KGB: the Securitatea. One was small, thin, ferret-faced; the other tall, wooden and lurching. Their faces were almost expressionless, hidden in the shade of their hats.

'Identity card,' the small one growled, holding out a hand and snapping his fingers.

'Work ticket,' said the other, more slowly. 'Papers, documents, authorization.'

They had both spoken English, but Harry was so badly taken by surprise that he fell straight into their simple trap. 'I ... I have only my passport,' he said, also in English, and reached for it in his inside jacket pocket.

Before he could produce his forged Greek passport, the small, thin one thrust an ugly automatic pistol into his side. 'Carefully, if you please, Mr Harry Keogh!' he rasped. And as Harry's hand came back slowly into view, so the document was snatched from him and passed to the larger of the two.

Then, while the small one expertly frisked him, the wooden one opened up his passport and studied it. After a moment he held it out where his comrade could glance at it without looking away from Harry; they both grinned, coldly and without humour, and Harry thought how well they imitated sharks. But he also knew they had him, and for now there was nothing he could do about it.

The last time anything like this had happened to him was when he'd first gone to speak with Möbius in a Leipzig cemetery. On that occasion he had made his escape through the Möbius Continuum. Also, he'd made use of an expert and practical knowledge of the martial arts, taught to him by several dead masters. Well, and he was still an expert with many years of practice behind him; but at that earlier time he'd been a far younger man, less experienced and wont to panic. He was much calmer now, and with every reason: in the years flown between Harry had faced terrors such as these two thugs could scarcely imagine.

'And so we are mistaken,' the wooden one said, his command of English slightly guttural but still very good, especially in its sarcastic inflection. 'You are not this Harry Keogh after all but a Greek gentleman named... Hari Kiokis? Ah, a dealer in antiques, I see! But a Greek who speaks only English?'

The one with the ferret's face was more direct. 'Where did you stay last night, Harry?' He prodded the snout of his pistol deep into Harry's ribs. 'What traitor gave you shelter, eh, Mr spy?'

'I ... I stayed with no one,' Harry answered, which wasn't entirely true. He indicated his holdall. 'I slept in the open. My sleeping-bag is in here.'

The tall one took the holdall from him and opened it, and pulled out the sleeping-bag. It had a little mud on it and a few stains from the grass. And now the special policeman's face wasn't so wooden. If anything he looked bewildered, but only for a moment. 'Ah, I see!' he said then. 'Your contact didn't show up, and so you've had to make the best of things. Very well, then perhaps you'll tell us who was supposed to meet you, eh?'

'No one,' said Harry, as an idea began to form in his head. 'It's just that sleeping out is cheap and I enjoy a little fresh air, that's all. And in any case, what business is it of yours? You've seen my passport and know who I am, but who the hell are you? If you're policemen I'd like to see some sort of identification.'

And while they stared at him, and at each other, in something of astonishment, so he reached out with his deadspeak to the minds of his new friends in the graveyard half a mile away. He spoke (but silently) to Ion and Alexandru Zaharia, and his message was simple and to the point:

I'm under threat from two men. Your countrymen, I'm afraid: Securitatea, Without your help I'm done for! Harry got so much out, and only so much, before the small one kicked him in the groin. He saw it coming and managed to deflect most of it, but still he collapsed, rolling in feigned agony in the dust of the road.

'There now!' said the wooden one, his voice cold and empty of emotion. 'You see, you see? You've angered Corneliu! You really must try, Harry Keogh, to be more co-operative. Our patience is by no means infinite.' He went to the back of the car, opened it and threw Harry's things in. But he placed the forged passport in his own pocket.

But what can we do, Harry? Ion Zaharia's anxious voice came to him where he huddled on his side, playing for time. We could try to... but no, for you're too far away. We'd never get to you in time.

No, Harry answered, you stay right where you are. Only dig yourselves out, that's all. You and anyone else who -well, who's still in shape - and who wants to help. But don't go wasting yourselves trying to come to me, for I think I know how to bring these bastards to you.

'Jacket!' the small, thin one - Corneliu - snapped. 'Quickly!'

Harry sat up, half-shrugged out of his jacket before it was snatched from his back.

'All very disappointing, really,' said the other one, who wasn't so much wooden now as disdainful, superior. 'We fully expected that we would have to shoot you! Such things they told us about you! Such problems you've caused our friends across the border! And yet ... you don't seem very desperate to me, Harry Keogh. Perhaps your reputation is undeserved?'

Harry had given up all thoughts of trying to bluff it out. They knew well enough who he was, if not what. 'That was all a long time ago,' he said, 'when I was younger. I'm not so foolish now. I know when the game is up.'

An open-backed truck rumbled by heading for Bucharest. In the back, seated on benches along the sides-, twin rows of men and women, mainly aging peasants, faced each other. Their eyes were uniformly empty of hope; they scarcely glanced at Harry where he kneeled in the dirt with a pair of thugs standing over him; they had troubles of their own. They were the destitute, the homeless ones, their lives blighted by Ceausescu's blind, uncaring agro-industrial policy.

'Well, the game is most certainly up for you, my friend,' the tall one continued. 'You'll know, of course, that they want you for espionage and sabotage - and murder? Oh, a great deal of the latter, apparently!' He took out handcuffs. 'So much, in fact, that I think we'll just immobilize you a little. One can never be too careful. You look harmless enough, and you're unarmed, but...'

He put the cuffs on, locking Harry's hands together.

'Return air tickets to Rhodos,' (the ferret had been ferreting in Harry's pockets), 'cigarettes and matches, and a lot of American dollars. That's all.' And to Harry: 'Get up!'

He was bundled into the back of the car with the small one beside him, holding his gun on him. The tall, lurching one got into the driver's seat. 'And so you were heading for the airport,' the latter said. 'Well, we shall give you a lift. We have a small room there where we can wait for the flight from Moscow. And after that you are out of our hands.' He started the car and headed for Bucharest.

'I don't get it,' said Harry, genuinely puzzled. 'Since when have the Securitatea been big friends with the KGB? I would have thought the USSR's glasnost and perestroika were totally at odds with what Ceausescu is doing? Or perhaps you two, as a team, are a two-edged sword, eh? Is that it? Are you working for two bosses, Mr, er - ?'

'Shut up!' the ferret scraped his gun down Harry's ribs. 'No, let him talk,' their driver merely shrugged. 'It amuses me to discover how little they know, in the West.' He glanced over his shoulder. 'And how much of what they do know is based on guesswork. Mr Keogh, you may call me Eugen. And why not, since our acquaintance will be so short? But does it surprise you that Russia has friends in Romania, when Romania has been a satellite and neighbour of the USSR for so very long? Why, next you'll be telling me that there are no Russian agents in England, or France, or America! No, I can't believe you're that naive.' 'You're... KGB?' Harry frowned. 'No, we're Securitatea - when it suits us to be. But you see, compared to the leu the rouble has always been so very strong and stable - and we all must look to our futures, eh? We all must retire sooner or later.' He glanced back, smiled at Harry, and gradually let the smile slide from his face. 'In your case, sooner.'

So ... these two were in the pockets of the KGB, who in turn would have a section working with Harry's old 'friends' at the Soviet E-Branch HQ in Moscow. It was the Russian espers who were raising their ugly head again; they remembered Bronnitsy too well and desired to pay Harry back for it. Yes, and they must fear him mightily! First Wellesley's crazy plot in Bonnyrig, and now this. He would be smuggled quietly out of Romania and into the USSR, handed over to Soviet E-Branch, and simply... disappear. Or at least, that was the scenario as they had worked it out.

But it told Harry quite a lot. If he was to be smuggled out of Romania, then patently the actual Romanian authorities didn't know about him at all. To them he was simply what his passport said he was: Hari Kiokis, a perfectly legitimate businessman from Greece. It made sense. The KGB (or E-Branch) had contacted their own in Romania, men who could be trusted to expedite the job - because to try to arrange any other kind of extradition would only prove to be lengthy and frustrating. So maybe there was something to be said for Ceausescu's way of running the show after all.

'Er, Eugen?' he said. 'It seems to me that your main task was simply to pick me up. So why didn't you do it yesterday, at the airport? Because you needed to avoid publicity?'

"That was one reason,' the tall one answered over his shoulder. 'Also, we thought to kill two birds with one stone: tail you and discover your contact. You must have come here to see someone, after all. So we simply followed your taxi. But alas, a puncture! These things happen. Later we picked up your taxi driver and he showed us where he'd dropped you off. Also, he said you'd be catching a bus back into the city in the morning. Now that was frustrating! All that driving up and down since dawn, waiting for you to put in an appearance. As a last resort, of course, we would be obliged to return to Bucharest and wait for you at the airport. There is only one flight to Athens today. As it happened, however, that wasn't necessary.'

'There was no contact!' Harry suddenly blurted it out. 'I was just... just supposed to leave certain instructions, and pick up certain information.' He was taking a chance they knew almost nothing about him, except that he was to be detained for their Russian bosses. Also, time was getting shorter. By now his friends in the cemetery back there should be very nearly ready for him.

Eugen applied the brakes, slowed the car to a halt. 'You left instructions? There's a drop, back there?'

'Yes,' Harry lied.

'And the information you picked up? Where is that?'

'It wasn't there. That's why I waited all night, to collect it this morning. But it still wasn't there.'

Eugen turned around in his seat and stared at Harry with narrowed eyes. 'You are being very open, my friend. I take it this all has to do with our peasant fifth-columnists, right?'

Harry tried to look frightened, which wasn't at all hard. He knew nothing about Romania's peasant fifth-columnists, but he did understand something of the psychology of thugs such as these. 'Something like that,' he said. 'But... you said you have a room at the airport? Well, I think I'd rather tell you everything now, than have comrade Corneliu here beat it out of me in private later.'

'A great shame,' Corneliu grunted, and shrugged. 'Still, I might beat you anyway.'

Eugen said: 'You will show us this letter drop?'

'If it will make life easier for me, yes,' Harry answered.

'Hah!' scoffed Corneliu. This one, tough?' And to Harry: 'Are they all girls, your British spies?'

Harry shrugged. In fact he knew very little about standard British spies, only about espers: mindspies.

Eugen turned the car around and backtracked; there was no more conversation until Harry called a halt at the entrance to the graveyard. 'It's in here,' he said then. 'The letter drop.'

They all got out of the car and Corneliu used his gun to prod Harry on ahead. As he went he sent his deadspeak before him: We're here. One of them at least has a gun -trained on me. In the moment that he sees you he'll be distracted. That's when I plan to disarm him. Is everything OK?

We're OK, Harry, the Zaharias answered at once. And there are several others who wouldn't be dissuaded. We don't know if they'll be much good. But... strength in numbers, eh?

I don't see you, Harry looked worriedly all about. Are you in hiding?

The others are just under the soil, Harry, Ion Zaharia told him. And we're out of our boxes, in our sarcophagus.

Harry remembered: the Zaharias had been buried in the same plot and had a joint sarcophagus, its heavy, beautifully veined lid standing some eighteen inches above the surrounding marble chips of their plot. They hadn't seemed to mind him sitting there for a few moments while he was talking to them. So, they were waiting under the lid, eh? Well, and that should come in very handy.

'Move, Keogh!' Corneliu growled, shoving him forward down an aisle between rows of leaning headstones. 'Where is this drop, anyway?'

'Right there,' Harry pointed ahead. He moved to the huge tomb and stood looking down at its massive lid. 'I had to lever it to one side, but together we should slide it easily enough, once we lift it from its groove.' He hoped that the thugs hadn't noticed how ripe the air was, and how much worse the smell was growing from second to second, but this was something he dare not ask.

'Oh?' Eugen grinned mirthlessly. 'Desecration, too, eh? Why, you should be ashamed of yourself, Harry Keogh, posting letters to the dead! They can't answer you, you know.' And to Corneliu: 'You hold your gun on him, while I give him a hand.'

How wrong you are! Harry thought, as he and the tall agent strained at the lid - which suddenly, and very easily, slid to one side. The Necroscope had expected that, certainly, and held his breath; but Corneliu and Eugen had not, and didn't. Nor were they expecting what happened next, in the moment after the tomb's trapped gasses whooshed out.

'God!' Eugen staggered back, his hands flying to his nose and mouth. But Corneliu, standing back a little, simply gasped and bugged his eyes. And the weapon in his hand seemed to automatically transfer its aim from Harry's back to what was first sitting up, then standing, and finally reaching out from the shadowy mouth of the tomb!

Before he could squeeze the trigger, if indeed sufficient strength remained for that, Harry broke his wrist with a kick he seemed to have been saving for years. The gun went flying, and so did Corneliu - directly into the burned and blistered, blue and tomb-grey hands of the Zaharias! The brothers grabbed and held him, stared at him with their dead bubble eyes, and threatened him with blackened bone teeth in straining, scorched cartilage jaws.

The other agent, Eugen, gibbering as he crashed through the ancient bramble-grown plots towards the graveyard's exit, didn't even pause to look back... until he ran into what was waiting for him. Those others of whom the Zaharias had reported: 'they wouldn't be dissuaded'. And for all that they were mainly fragmentary - or possibly because that's what they were - these crumbling, crawling, spastically kicking parts of corpses stopped Eugen dead in his tracks.

One of them was a woman, whose legs and life had been lost in a terrible accident. Long-buried, her breasts were rotting onto her belly, sloughing away from her in grotesque lumps; but still she stood upright on her stumps and found a supernatural strength to cling to Eugen's shuddering thighs where he danced and screamed to heaven for mercy, and tried to push her face away from his midriff. Finally he succeeded and the vertebrae of her neck parted; her entire head flopped over backwards like that of a broken doll, as if it were hinged, exposing maggots where they seethed in her throat and fed on ravaged flesh and torn tendons.

With a series of frenzied leaps and kicks born of the sheer terror of his situation, at last Eugen freed himself from the dead woman's crumbling torso and reached inside his jacket. He brought out an automatic pistol and cocked it, turning it upon others of these impossibly animated parts where they came crawling or jerking towards him. Harry didn't want that gun to go off; Eugen's screams were bad enough; gunshots might easily attract investigators.

The dead picked up Harry's concern as surely as any spoken word and moved to dispel it. The pile of loathsomeness which was the legless woman struggled upright and toppled itself against Eugen's weapon, and her mouldy hands drew its barrel into the trembling jelly cavity of her neck. With her trunk she deadened the sound of Eugen's first shot, while Harry saw to it that there wouldn't be a second one.

Coming upon the agent from behind and clenching his manacled hands, he rabbit-punched him unconscious, and as he fell kicked the gun from his hand. Collapsing, Eugen saw Harry's face fading slowly into darkness, and wondered why nothing of horror was written in his strange, soulful eyes.

Regaining consciousness a few minutes later, the tall, awkward secret policeman was sure that what he'd experienced had been a vivid and especially terrifying nightmare... until he actually opened his eyes and looked around. Then:

'My God! Oh... my... God!' he burst out. For a moment his eyes bulged, and then he closed them again -tightly.

'Don't faint,' Harry warned him. 'I've only so much time left and there are things I want to know. If I don't get the answers I need, these dead people will probably be angry - with you!'

Eugen kept his eyes closed. 'Harry... Harry Keogh!' he finally gasped. 'But these people... they're dead!'

'I just said they were,' Harry told him. 'You see, that's where your "friends across the border" made their mistake. They told you who I am but not what I am. They didn't tell you how many friends I have, or that they're all dead.'

The other mumbled something in Romanian, began to gibber hysterically.

'Calm down,' Harry told him at once, 'and speak English. Forget that the people holding you are dead. Just think of them as my friends, who'll do anything they have to in order to protect me.'

'God - I can smell them!' Eugen wailed, and Harry suspected that he wasn't getting through to him. He hardened.

'Look, you were going to hand me over to the KGB -who in turn would have tortured me for things they want to know, then killed me! So why should I go easy on you? Now you can get a grip on yourself and start answering my questions, or I give up on you, get out of it and leave you here with them.'

Eugen struggled a little, then sat very still as the movements he'd made stirred up fresh waves of tomb-stink. He could feel dead, rubbery fingers holding his arms. His eyes were still tightly closed. 'Just tell me one thing,' he said. 'Am I mad? God - I can't breathe.'

'That's another thing,' Harry told him. 'The longer you're here, with my friends, the more chances you're taking with your health. Diseases proliferate in the dead, Eugen. You're not only smelling them but you're breathing them, too!'

Eugen's head lolled and Harry thought he was about to pass out. The Necroscope slapped him, twice, hard, front-and back-handed. The agent's eyes snapped open, glared, then swivelled left and right as his situation re-impressed itself upon his mind and his momentary rage shrank down again.

The Zaharias held him. They were kneeling inside their exposed tomb, reaching out of it to pinion his arms and hold him down where he was seated with his back to their sarcophagus. And they 'looked' at him with their glazed, dead fish eyes. The Romanian agent at once turned his gaze away from them, looked straight ahead, at Harry.

The Necroscope was down on one knee in front of Eugen, staring hard at him, and behind Keogh other dead - things - formed a half-circle amidst the rank grasses, brambles and tombstones. Some of these were mummied fragments, sere and shrivelled, dry as paper. But others were... wet. And all of them moved, trembled, threatened, however mutely. The friends of Harry Keogh. A group of them were gathered about the prone form of Corneliu, who had fainted from a combination of shock and the agony of his broken wrist.

All of this Eugen took in. And at last the trapped, terrified agent asked: 'Are they going to kill me?'

'Not if you tell me what I have to know.'

'Then ask it.'

'First you can get these off me,' said Harry, and he held out his hands with Eugen's handcuffs still in place. 'The dead are great at taking hold and refusing to let go, but not much for fumbling about with things. They're not as nimble as the living.' Eugen stared at him and wondered who was the more frightening, the dead or Harry Keogh. The Necroscope was so matter-of-fact about things.

Ion Zaharia reluctantly released Eugen's hand so that he could get the key out of his pocket. But Alexandru, Ion's brother, was taking no chances; he gripped the agent's neck in his elbow and clung that much tighter. Finally Harry was free of the cuffs, and rubbing his wrists he stood up.

'You're not leaving me here?' Eugen's face was white, with eyes like holes punched in papier-mache.

Harry shrugged. "That's up to you. First answer my questions, and then we'll see what's to be done with you and your unpleasant little friend here.' He crossed to Corneliu and recovered his air ticket, cigarettes and matches, then came back, kneeled down again and took back his passport from Eugen. 'And the first thing I want to know,' he said, 'is will I still be able to use this? Or will there be people looking for me at the airport? What I'm saying is: were you two alone on this, or do others of the Securitatea work for the KGB?'

'They might do, I don't know,' Eugen answered. 'But we were on our own on this one. They got in touch with us - a telephone call, it's easy - and told us what plane you'd be on from Athens. We were to pick you up, hold you until someone came to collect you. There's a flight due in from Moscow at 1:00 p.m.'

'So ... I should be able to go on back into Bucharest and simply board my plane?'

Eugen looked surly, said nothing - until Ion pushed his hideous face very close and held up a warning finger. And:

'Yes! For God's sake!' Eugen gasped.

'God?' said Harry, reaching into the agent's pocket for the keys to his car. Harry wasn't sure he still believed in God, and he certainly couldn't understand why the dead should, not in the 'heaven' which they had been granted. But they did, as he'd discovered in several conversations. God was hope, he supposed. But while Harry wouldn't personally describe as a blasphemy the mere fact of the Deity's spoken Name, still it set his teeth on edge hearing it as an exclamation from one such as Eugen. 'And you know all about Him, do you?'

'What?' said the other, as Harry stood up again. 'About who?' It was as Harry had expected: Eugen knew nothing about Him.

'Well, I'm going now,' said Harry, 'but I'm afraid you're staying right here. You and Corneliu. Because I know I can't let you walk, not just yet, anyway. So you'll remain the honoured guests of my friends until I'm well out of it. But once I'm safely airborne, then I'll let these people know they can release you - and themselves.'

'You'll ... let them know?' Eugen had started shuddering and couldn't control it. 'How will you let - ?'

'I'll shout,' said Harry, with a mirthless grin. 'Don't worry, they'll hear me.'

But what if he starts shouting first? Ion Zaharia asked as Harry walked out of the graveyard.

Then stop him, Harry answered. And: But try not to kill them. Life's precious, as you know well enough. So let them live what they have left. And anyway, they're not worthy to be in here with such as you...

Harry drove very carefully back to Bucharest, parked the car in the airport car park and locked it, and pressed the keys into the soil of a large flowerpot in the booking lounge. Then, just five minutes past his actual reporting time, he handed in his ticket and luggage. It was the same as when he'd come in: no one looked at him twice.

The Olympia Airlines plane took off just eleven minutes late, at 12:56. As it turned its nose south for Bulgaria and the Aegean, Harry was rewarded by the sight of an Aeroflot jet going in for a landing. There would be a bright-eyed couple of lads on board just dying to get their hands on him. Well, so let them die.

Forty minutes later, with the Aegean just swimming up into view through the circular windows, Harry reached out with his deadspeak to the cemetery outside Ploiesti. How are things?

All's well, Harry. No one's been in here, and these two haven't been a problem. The big one did faint, eventually. His small friend came to, took one look, and passed out again!

Harry said: Ion, Alexandru, all of you -1 don't have the words to thank you.

You don't need any. Can we just leave these two where they are now, and... dig ourselves in again?

Harry's nod was reflex as he reclined his seat and lay back a little. The dead in the Romanian graveyard picked it up anyway, and began to disperse back to their resting places. Thanks again, Harry told them, withdrawing his thoughts and allowing himself some small relaxation for the first time in ... well, in a day at least.

Don't mention it, was their response.

Harry tried to get Faethor. If he could contact the others as easily as that, communication with the long-dead father of vampires should be no problem. After a few seconds of concentration, he got through.

Harry? I see you are safe. Ah, but you're the resourceful one, Harry Keogh!

You knew I was in trouble?

(Faethor's mental shrug). As I've told you before: I sometimes overhear things. Did you want something?

It seemed to me we might save ourselves some time, Harry answered. I have nothing to do right now, and in a little while my head will be full of the clutter of friends and the atmosphere of a friendly place - not that I'm complaining! So I thought maybe now would be a good time for you to tell me the rest of Janos's story.

There's not much more to tell. But if you wish it... ?

I wish it.

And: Very well, my son, Faethor sighed. So be it.

As has been told, I was away for three hundred years. Three centuries of blood! The Great Crusade was only the start of it; later I served Genghis Khan, and then his grandson Batu. In 1240 I assisted and delighted in the taking of Kiev, and in burning it to ashes. Eventually it was time for me to 'die'... and return as Fereng the Black, son of the Fereng! Then, under Hulegu in 1258, I helped bring down Baghdad. Ah, such years of bloodshed, pillage and rape!

But the Mongols were on the wane, and by the turn of the century I had forsaken them in order to fight for Islam. Oh, yes, I was an Ottoman! Me, a Turk, a Moslem ghazi! Ah, what it is to be a mercenary, eh? And with the Turks, for one and a half centuries more, I revelled in blood and death and the sheer glut of war! In the end, however, I had lived with them too long and so was obliged to desert their cause. Ah, well, and it was crumbling anyway.

And so finally I returned and put Thibor down (as has also been told), then took me off into the unchanged and unchanging mountains to seek out Janos and see how well he had kept house for me.

In the interim, however, I had kept my ears open. Wamphyri ears are delicate instruments, be sure, and miss very little. Aye, and they had always been alert for news of my sons, Thibor and Janos. Well, of the former we know. And of the latter?

Where Thibor had been greedy for blood, Janos had been simply greedy. In my time abroad he had had many interests, but mainly he'd been a thief, a pirate, a corsair. Does it surprise you? It should not: for the Barbary pirates had their origin in petty princelings who rose up during the Christian-Moslem conflicts of the Crusades. That then had been Janos's chiefest business during the time of my absence: a grand thief on the broad bosom of the Mediterranean, to loot them who had looted others!

And now he's a sailor again, eh? Well, and why not? Oh, he knows the sea well enough, that one, who now for a profession brings up treasure from the ocean and digs for it in the islands around. Hah! And who, pray, would know better where to find it - since he was the one who laid it down, more than five hundred years ago! And what was that all about, you may wonder, that great squirreling for nuts, as if some fearsome winter were about to descend? But it was, it was! Aye, just such a winter: for Janos had worked hard at his art to look well into the future, and had not liked what he saw there.

For one thing, he had doubtless seen my return, and he did not need to look to know how I would deal with him! And so he had made provision for another time, far beyond the hour of my revenge. This present time, of course, when he is up again and about in the world of men.

But (you may ask) my revenge for what? The loss of Marilena was three to four hundred years in my wake, and I could have killed him then for that; so what now? I will tell you:

First, for his desertion from my cause. To go a-pirating he must first vacate my house. Second, for his treatment of my Szgany. For in the early years of my absence he had kicked out the Szgany Ferengi and reinstated the filthy Zirra, whom I had cursed! Third and last, but not least, for the way in which he greeted me, when at last I was returned.

On my way I had gathered faithful Gypsies to me, who had remembered me through all the years of my exile. Not the originals, no, for they were dust, but the sons of their sons. Ah, they remember legends, the Szgany! But when I went up to my castle I went alone, by night, for a task force would be too obvious and could only appear threatening.

Alas, when I was come there I saw the place a ruin. Well, perhaps not quite so bad, but near enough. The battlements were broken; earthworks without were untended; the repair in general was bad. Left to fend for itself through much of my absence, the place had suffered. But Janos, done with pirating now and returned to other pursuits, was to house. And just as I had tried to follow his career, so he had followed mine.

He knew I was coming; guards were out, with clear instructions; I was challenged, and upon identifying myself...

... Was set upon!

They had sharpened hardwood staves. They had crossbows with wooden bolts. They carried the curved long knives of the Turks. Silver they had, too, on their weapons, and garlic in which to steep them! And each party of men, they had casks of oil, and torches with which to fire it!...To burn what? I ask you.

I fled them, up into the crags and for many a mile in the high places. I limped, scurried, cried out in some great pain, kept barely ahead of my pursuers. They knew I was injured and that they would have me. Janos sent out his entire household to hunt me down. But ... I merely lured them. What, Faethor Ferenczy, with his tail between his legs, running from Zirra scum?

Aha! For while they were out chasing me, my own small but faithful Szgany army were up and into my house, into all of its stations and down behind its earthworks! And high in the peaks I turned on my trackers, laughed and slew a few, then launched myself into the night and glided down to my castle as of old. And there I discovered Janos trapped, and brought him to his knees.

The Zirras, when they came straggling home, were met by mine who slew them out of hand. Some escaped the slaughter and word went out; in a little while no more came; the survivors had fled into the night and the countryside around, to become travellers once more as of old ...

And it was then I discovered Janos's several subsidiary interests, with which he had occupied himself while I had been away. Then, too, I saw how severely I had underestimated him. My castle had been built upon the foundations of another, earlier house, whose basements Janos had uncovered. And he had seen to it that these were extended, outwards into the roots of the crags around, down into the rock of the mountain itself. To what end?

There lay the measure of my underestimation. Janos had told me he desired to be Wamphyri ... ah, but how he had desired it!

Now in those days necromancy was an art. Certain common men had discovered the way of it; they practised it much as a vampire might, but without his natural instinct for it. Janos knew I was a crafty necromancer and would emulate me, but I had declined to teach him my techniques. Wherefore he had determined to discover methods of his own. Doubtless he'd consulted with many necromancers, to learn their ways.

The extensive cellars of the castle were mazy and secret, whose stairs and passageways were known only to Janos and a handful of his men, all of whom were now either fled or dead. But I went down with him to see what he had been about, and there discovered tomb-loot from all Wallachia and Transylvania and the lands around. No, not treasure as such, but tomb-loot!

Do you know that in prehistory it was the way of men to burn their dead and bury their ashes in vases? Of course you do, for the habit has survived. Why, there's as much burning as burying even to the present day! But the Thracians, they had entombed a great many of their dead in this fashion, and Janos had been busy digging them up again! And once more you will ask: to what end?

To inquire of them their secrets! To fetch the dead to life and torment them for their histories! To invest their very ashes with flesh which he could torture! For the Thracians were heavy in gold, and as I have said, Janos was greedy. Nothing is new, eh? An hundred, two hundred, even three hundred years later necromancers were still calling up spirits in order to discover their treasures. Your own Edward Kelly and John Dee were two such, but fakers both of them. I consulted with them in my time and know this for a fact.

As for Janos's method, it was simplicity in itself:

First remove a burial urn to his castle vaults, where by use of those arts he had mastered its salts might be reconstituted; chain the poor wretch so obtained and torture him for knowledge of his kith and kin, the locations of their graves, etcetera, and their hoards in turn. And so forth. In the pursuit of which policy, Janos had amassed a veritable graveyard of despoiled pots and urns and lekythoi, such as to fill several large rooms!

Intrigued, I demanded a demonstration of his art. (For you will understand, this was not necromancy as the Wamphyri might use it but something new - to me, anyway.) And Janos, knowing I had still to deal with him and seeking to please me, proceeded. He tipped out salts upon the floor, and by use of strange words in an Invocation of Power - lo and behold - conjured from these cinders a Thracian woman of exceeding beauty! Her language was archaic in the extreme but not beyond understanding; certainly it was not beyond my understanding, for I was Wamphyri and expert in tongues. Moreover, she knew she was dead and that this was a great blasphemy, and begged of Janos that he not use her again. From which I knew that this bastard son of mine not only called up the dead into former semblance, but had more uses for some of them than simply to question them as to the whereabouts of buried treasure.

How grand! My excitement was such that I had her before allowing him to reduce her back to ashes!

'You must teach me this thing,' I told him. 'That is the least you can do to atone for your many sins against me.' He agreed and showed me how to mix certain chemicals and human salts together, then carefully inscribed two sets of words upon a stretched skin. The first set, alongside an ascending arrow, thus, ­ ,was the invocation as such, and the second, marked ¯ , was the devolution.

'Bravo!' I cried then, when I had the thing. 'I must put it to the test.'

'As you see,' he indicated all his many jars and urns, 'you have a wide choice.'

'Indeed I have,' I answered, gravely, and stroked my chin. And before he knew what I was about, I drew out a wooden stake from beneath my cloak and pinned him! This did not serve to kill him, no, for he had a vampire in him; it merely immobilized him. Then I called down some trusted men of mine from the castle and burned Janos to ashes even while he frothed and moaned and eventually screamed a little. Aye, and when these ashes of his - these essential salts - were cool I had them sifted, applied his several chemical powders... and used his own magic to have him up again!

And did he scream then? You may believe he did! The heat of the fire, a mercifully short travail, had been nothing compared to the unendurable agony of the fact that he was now and eternally and utterly in my power! So I thought ...

But alas, his screaming was not borne of this knowledge but of a wrenching, a tearing, a division of being - which I shall explain in a moment.

But oh, to see those clouds of smoke puff up from his dry, dusty remains - a great upheaval of smoke and fumes - from which stumbled Janos, naked and screaming. But ... a miracle! He was not alone. There with him, but entirely apart, was his vampire: my spittle grown to a live thing, but a creature with little or nothing of its own intelligence.

It was leech, snail, serpent, a great blind slug, and all unused to going on its own. It, too, mewled, though I know not how. But I did know the answer to the riddle: in burning Janos I had burned two creatures, and raising him up again I had also revitalized two - but in their separate parts!

Then ... I had me a thought. I brought forward my cowering men and commanded them that they take Janos and hold him down. 'And so you would be Wamphyri, eh?' I said, approaching him with my sword. 'And so you shall be. This creature here is a vampire but has very little of a brain. It shall have yours!' He screamed again, once, before I took his head. And splitting his skull, I took out from it his living, dripping brain.

You can guess the rest, I'm sure. Using Janos's own process and keeping his body apart, I devolved his head and vampire both into one heap of ashes, which I placed in an urn among the others. And then I laughed and laughed till I cried! For if by any fluke he should be brought back now, it would be as ... as what? A clever slug? An intelligent leech? Why, it would amuse me to call him up again and see!

But alas, that was not to be, for in the end he'd thwarted me. The skin upon which he'd written his runes had been resurrected skin, flayed from a victim. I had directed my runes of catabolism through the very skin from which I read them, and so when I'd sent Janos down the skin, too, had crumbled into dust! Well, the Words of Power were tricky and I had not learned them except the single name of an ancient dark god of the outer spheres. However, I still had my bastard son's body.

So I burned that, too - aye, a second time - and sent pinches of it out to the four corners of the earth, and there dispersed them on the winds. That was the end of it. I had done with Janos. And now I have done with my story...


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