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Paperback Book ISBN 978 1845492267

175 Pages


Blood Berries & Dead Man's Hair...(Beginning)

Vivian Greenwood slowly lowered her hands from in front of her eyes and let them take in the full horrible aftermath of the candlelit basement. There was blood everywhere. No, not just blood but everything worse; viscera, a few fragments of something white, either bone or teeth and what looked like the half-digested contents of more than one stomach; she was sure she recognised the cooking! "Now that didn't go to plan did it?" She murmured softly to herself. She stifled a chuckle under her breath bought on half through humour, half through nerves, stretched almost to breaking point. She was quite aware of just how absurd her comment was given that the abject failure, so spectacularly achieved, was painting a fairly vivid picture all about her as it drip, drip, dripped to the floor in puddles of ever expanding dull burgundy.

The room was still lit thanks to the myriad of candles placed at the beginning of the ceremony on every available surface in the room (strange, she thought, how they had not been snuffed out when the wind had become so violent). God she was sweating heavily in her thick black robe, apparently though it had been necessary. Vivian looked at the sleeve of her robe, what pretty patterns had appeared. Like the dark skins of the Maori warriors of New Zealand her black robe was now covered in a beautiful pattern of gentle swirls and asymmetric shapes. She might have found it quite aesthetically pleasing; if the smell had not indicated that the patterns were formed from human bodily fluid.

Intrigued and horrified in equal measure Vivian attempted to run a finger tentatively down her sleeve; however as she did she found she was unable to feel the roughness of the robe or smear the newly formed patterns. Her fingers were held away from the material by something that kept her touch barely millimetres away. When she looked closer at her arm she noticed the asymmetric patterns hovered in between her touch and the material; it was an amazing sight, but at least it proved that her protection spell had worked. Feeling slight adulation for still being alive Vivian looked around for any other survivors; there was only one, Joe.

Just like hers, his black robe was covered in a beautiful melange of red swirls and shapes, but unlike her he was not moving. His eyes were open but glazed, he simply stared straight ahead not focusing on any one thing; in this state the dark bags under his eyes were heavy and prominent. Vivian's survival instinct suddenly kicked in; she knew that there was precious little time to waste. She took several steps toward him; the protection spell preventing her feet marking the splatter on the floor; several months later she would think back and wonder what else she might be able to do if she could walk several millimetres above the ground; cross land mines maybe or perhaps even water?

"Joe...Joe, we need to leave now,before anyone comes." She whispered urgently, her eyes roamed the room suddenly worried as to who might have witnessed their deeds. There was no reaction in his eyes or movement in his body. Now was not the time to panic she decided, after what had just transpired she was sure she was witnessing the first signs of shock; at least she hoped that was all it was. Regardless, it was going to be necessary for them to move; and to move fast. She placed her hand as close to his as their protection spells would allow and waited. After a brief pause the two spells recognised a common source and merged to allow her hand to pass through. Tentatively she touched her man; his skin was frozen, lifeless and for a second she felt totally alone. She ran her finger up his wrist feeling for a pulse, unfortunately there was still no reaction to her presence; but she felt a heartbeat.

There was no way she could have moved him while he remained in this semivegetive state. For a start he was about twice her weight and secondly she knew no transposition spells that had a reliable result. More importantly she might hurt herself or even him. There was no choice; the protection spell would have to be undone.

"Mollier cuniculi capillo, vel anseris medullula vel imula oricilla vel pene languido senis situque araneoso." She spoke clearly; yet nothing happened. Suddenly Vivian doubted herself; rummaging around in her brain she struggled to remember some of the many verses Joe had taught her; finally remembering something she tried again. "Catapultam habeo. Nisi pecuniam omnen mihi dabis, ad caput tumm saxum immane mittam." Having finished her words she waited thirty seconds; still nothing happened. Now she was really worried and her next attempt produced similarly insignificant results. "In alio peduclum vides, in te recinum non vides." She threw her hands in the air in frustration, her brain refused to function properly as once again nothing happened.

For a long moment nagging voices in the back of her brain tried to persuade Vivian that leaving Joe was the answer. She quickly realised that the link too her would surely be made and there was only going to be one of two possible ways out of this. The panic was building and starting to make her stomach turn violently; she felt the silver dagger hidden in an inner pocket, a heavyweight ready to be let loose,should she; could she create another victim to cover her trail? The growing stench from the bodies was starting to make her feel sick and she contemplated what would have been unthinkable minutes ago.

Suddenly words were spoken from an unknown source. "Semper...redibo...laetus...hunc...diem...praecipuum...in...memoriam...". Vivian looked about her sharply. The words were staccato and only just possible to understand; they were gruff and probably masculine but it was almost as if the language spoken was not natural to the speaker. They reminded her of an office stapler repeatedly banging out staples monotonously, sharp and precise, each word fulfilling its own purpose, simply and efficiently; holding everything together. The effects were immediate with both Vivian and Joe developing a gentle blue aura. This faded within seconds and as it did the swirling patterns of blood slipped from them like fresh rain cascading down sloping hills of glass, before settling in still pools at their feet.

Joe remained apparently comatose whilst Vivian, feeling almost naked and extremely vulnerable, scanned the room looking for the source of the spell that had removed their protection. None was forthcoming so gently she began guiding Joe towards the exit; fortunately his legs were willing and responsive to her directions, but still he refused to communicate. They crossed the floor slowly dodging the larger splatters of humanity and reached the dark steps that rose to barricaded doors and the outside world. One step, two steps, three... "You will...need to...try...harder...next time...Vivian," clunked the pointed voice "if you...want to...succeed!" Vivian took the words into her head, was that a hint of humour or even sarcasm in the tone? She did not stop guiding Joe up the steps.

She fumbled with the metal bolts on the door and preyed to any deity listening that there would be no tramps or teens loitering in the alleyway. Ten minutes later they were more than four miles away and nearing home. Vivian's mind was racing. On the positive side there where no witnesses in the alleyway, the car had remained hidden under a borrowed green tarpaulin and once removed they had emerged onto a street with no pedestrians or other cars. She drove sensibly, there was no need to draw unnecessary attention, not that she really expected the police to be out here in suburbia; once they discovered what was left in the cellar; and she knew they would soon, all hell might well break loose. So what about of all the things that had gone wrong? They had spent months planning for the ceremony, now everyone except them was dead.

Maybe dead was not the best term to use; perhaps obliterated...green lightening...pretty, her mind wandered and she considered if she could ever produce such a beautiful natural element; then she remembered...so little of a person left; how could they have got it so wrong?

The candles were not the only thing moving in the cellar; shadows danced merrily amongst the remains of the dead. Vivian and Joe had been gone for less than a minute when a fragment of shadow no larger than a crow's black eye broke free from the rest. It jumped its way through the stygian gloom, always falling on one of the few spots where there were no bodily remains. Eventually the shadow settled in front of a makeshift alter, which had been created in the welcoming embrace of a beautiful Elizabethan red-bricked arch. A soft breeze slipped through the cellar for an instant extinguishing the candles placed upon the alter but leaving the majority in the room alight.

A pale arm reached out and picked up a black velvet drawstring bag. The delicate fingers pulled it opened and tipped the contents into the soft palm of an unworked hand. It did not flinch as maggots and shavings of human and animal skin settled, instead it simply allowed the detritus to filter through the fine fingers leaving a heavy, dull metal object upon the palm.

She, for surely none other than a female could have such a perfect visage in shadows, held the object on the tips of her fingers and turned so that the remaining candlelight would illuminated it a little more. In appearance it resembled a slightly corroded ten penny piece, but in truth its worth was much, much more.

"Hello," as a mother might to child she softly whispered to the object "you're just what I was looking for;although somehow, I always thought you might be smaller." Suddenly the door linking cellar to the pub above was flung open with force and artificial light destroyed the darkness. The figure stood still as at first one torch beam, and then a second probed the darkness. The beams cut right through her, yet although one might think her exposed she remained still.

"Jesus Christ look at the mess down here!" Said a heavy, male Welsh accent. The speaker started down the stairs sure of the world he knew, or thought he knew, and would face. A second, slighter figure remained at the top of the stairs and continued to probe the darkness with their torch. 

"Don't," the figure at the top called "we've got to phone this in and get some help."

"Whoever did this might still be here," the other snapped back in an instant. "You frightened boy?" He was obviously the older policeman and when he challenged his colleague; there was no immediate answer. "Hold the bloody torch steady," he shouted angrily "you're wafting it around like some pathetic girly.

"I'm wafting it around to make sure no one is hiding in the shadows waiting to give you a nasty surprise!" 

"Of course," he agreed sarcastically "now hold that bloody thing still" he snapped "and focused over here; I think I see something." He pointed straight at the figure and his colleague did as instructed. The older policeman edged his way across the cellar, steeling himself as he did to prevent slipping on the remains. He stopped when barely twelve inches away from the figure, but looked right through her. She studied him carefully; well aware that she could not be seen a smile formed at the corner of her lips. Slowly she sucked in a deep breath, then after a moment's pause let it loose into an unsuspecting face. Taken aback he jumped and cursed in vibrant Welsh.

"What is it?" Called junior from the stairs.

"Just the wind," he fought to regain his composure and swept the cellar with his eyes "just a draught from an open window."

"In a cellar? You sure?"

"Don't get smart!" He was about to turn on his colleague when he noticed the table and its contents.

"What?"

"Looks like some kind of...alter or something; there's some weird stuff down here and no mistake."

"Like what?" Junior asked.

"Like stuff!" He responded angrily and turned to look at his colleague. Suddenly a second heavier blast of air hit him again and this time it chilled him through to the bone. For a moment he shivered uncontrollably, but being a toughened Welshman he shrugged it off.

"You okay?" The younger man asked. 

"If you're so bloody interested come down here and have a closer look!" As he turned back to look at the alter he suddenly found himself face to face with a figure. Draped in shadows she was much shorter than him, slightly built the only part of her face visible was her mouth and chin. Her perfume was strong and for a moment he was intoxicated and lost the ability to breathe and unfortunately, as the ever growing damp patch on his trousers indicated, also the control of his bladder. 

"You should not be so harsh on your inferiors," an impossibly delicate voice whispered "one day they will replace you." She sucked in another lungful of air and let it loose in his face; the man, large as he was, lost his footing on the evidence under his feet and slipped to the floor in a rather untidy heap.

"Sir!" The younger man, evidently unable to see fully what was happening charged down the stairs to rescue his fallen leader.

"Gerroff!" The larger man stammered as he was unceremoniously helped to his feet. 

"What happened?" The younger man asked in all innocence. 

"Nothing!"

"Nothing?" 

"Nothing; now shut your row!" The elder flicked his torch across the room in the vain hope that he might catch a glimpse of his assailant; somehow he knew he would not. "Better call this in lad," he reluctantly admitted defeat "and get the men in suits down here." He reached behind him and felt down his legs where he had fallen on the floor.

There was blood and all sorts...damn the evidence.