RIPPER

Outline by Greg Bishansky.

Written by Todd Jensen.

Previously on PendragonÖ

The nervous man fidgeted as he stood in place. It was entirely too crowded for his comfort, and none of the faces around him were familiar ones. They were all waiting for something, many for nearly an hour. Finally, their waiting appeared to be over, as a door swung open. The first to walk through was a brown-haired man who appeared so ordinary that all eyes slid off of him and onto the man following, a man with angular features and a severe cut of red hair, clad in a lab-coat. The brown-haired man did not appear to be in the least disturbed by his easy dismissal. If anything, he seemed to welcome it.

"Salutations, my friends!" The lab-coated man greeted warmly. "My name is Dr. Anton Sevarius, and I welcome you to our humble warehouse. Now, if you'll just be patient, I'll see each of you, one at a time, and explain your important role here. You there! Step forward, won't you?"

The nervous man was startled to find himself on the other end of the scientist's finger. He looked about uneasily for a moment, but then stepped forward. He had to get this job.

"What is your name, my friend?" Sevarius asked, putting an arm around the man's shoulder.

The man's skin crawled away from the contact, as it did any other type of touch, but he ignored it and answered, "Charlie. My name's Charlie." After a moment, he added. "I just wanted to get off the street."

Sevarius laughed and answered, "Oh, don't you worry about that. You most certainly will." He guided Charlie through the door and added. "Charlie, we're going to change your life. All you have to do is say the word..."

* * *

"LEBA!" a rough voice called desperately.

Leba swung around to see Bob, wheezing and pale, limping toward her. "Bob! What's wrong?" she called, hurrying to his side and helping the old man to a seat."

"Vampire," Bob gasped between breaths. "I seen a vampire, Leba! A real vampire!"

"Please slow down a moment, Bob," Leba pleaded, pressing a cup of warm liquid into the frantic man's shaking hands. "Now, tell us exactly what happened."

Bob gulped some of the tea, and it seemed to calm him slightly. "I'm not crazy, Leba. I really saw a vampire. It was Charlie! An' he tried to nick a pint!"

"Charlie!?" Leba asked incredulously. That uneasy feeling she had experienced the previous day returned in force. "Maybe you'd better explain what happened."

Breathing more easily now, but still clearly frightened out of his wits, Bob nodded and said, "Well, I was selling my papers like usual, when I hear this laughter above me. I look up, an' I see Charlie there, sitting on a window ledge four stories up! He's just sitting there, laughing, an' I hear him mumbling about being 'WELL off the street' or something. I was thinking that he was gonna jump, so I call out to him. He looks at me from way up there and then starts laughing louder. Then he pushes off the edge, an' I'm sure he's gonna die. But he just hangs there in the air, laughing. That's when I notice that his skin is white as snow, an' I start to run for me life. Old Charlie came after me, though, and when I trip and fall he lands in front of me, still laughing, and picks me up with one hand. Charlie's never been that strong, Leba! He looks me in the eye, an' I can see that his eyes are glowing. But then he looks like he hears something, and then he drops me and flies off. I been looking for you ever since."

~~~Beginning Again~~~

* * * * *

RIPPER

 

The little man rounded the corner into the alley, running faster and faster. Behind him he could hear the noise of his pursuers approaching, as they gained upon him. He dared not look back and behold them, however. He kept his eyes firmly on the wall at the far end of the alley. If he could manage to climb over it onto the other side, he would be safe from them at last. If he could only reach it before they reached him....

He tripped over the pile of rubbish that he had never even seen until it was too late, and fell forward onto his face. He began to lift himself up, involuntarily gagging at the stench of decaying food, and tried to get back onto his feet. But he knew now, from the scurrying and the chittering that it was too late. They were upon him.

It was a flood of black fur, dotted with crimson eyes. The rats swarmed over him, pushing him down to the ground by their sheer mass, crawling all over his body, squeaking eagerly. They were climbing over his chest now. Now they were almost at his neck, slithering and scampering. The chorus of their shrill cries drowned all other noises out from the world.

The man screamed in horror. The rats halted, staring at him expectantly. Then the figure stepped out from the shadows at the entrance to the alley, striding silently towards him. A tall figure, dressed all in black, his face veiled by a thick scarf through which only his cold grey eyes could be seen.

The stranger halted in front of him, and nodded, a look of triumph in his eyes. He flung back his coat, and revealed a sheathed sword at his side. With one swift gesture, he drew the blade and lifted it high over his prone quarry, then brought it down.

* * *

The Following Morning

"So this is the scene of the crime," said Agent Braddock grimly. He stood by the chalk outline that had been drawn on the alleyís cobblestones, looking down upon it.

"Precisely, sir," said Constable Lowell. "We found him here only a couple of hours ago."

"Have you been able to identify him yet?" Braddock asked.

Lowell nodded. "Winston Exham, age 37," he said. "He vanished two years ago under mysterious circumstances. He had apparently become one of the homeless in London, from what little we know about him."

Braddock frowned troubledly. "Thatís the third one this month," he said. "I donít like the sound of this."

"Do you suppose that this has anything to do with that Pennington case youíre on, sir?" asked Lowell in a concerned tone of voice.

"I donít know," replied the Security Service Agent. "Itís certainly not impossible. The building where that gang of hooligans that caused all that trouble during the May Day Madness used to hang out is just a block from here, and we already know that this Pennington fellow has been spotted in the area more than once. What evidence weíve gathered so far indicates that heíd had some sort of encounter with that gang. We just donít know the exact nature of it yet. Of course, the location could be nothing more than a coincidence."

"True, true," said Lowell.

Sergeant Winslow came up to Braddock just then, with a piece of paper in his gloved hand. "I found this by the dustbin over there," he said to his superior, handing it to him. "It looks like it was left there by the perp."

Braddock nodded, and quickly pulled on his own gloves before taking the paper, so as not to leave his fingerprints upon it. Then he unfolded the paper and looked it over.

"The demons must die," it read. "They all have to die. They turned me into one of them but Im to smart for them. Ill destroy them all I really will. Theyll die screaming. Theyre all going to die. Ripper."

Braddock frowned. "Ripper," he said aloud. "Thatís certainly a very odd signature."

Winslow nodded, as he looked over the letter himself. "It rather looks like the notes that Jack the Ripper left by his victims a hundred years ago, sir," he said. "Iíve seen some of them myself, and itís got the same sort of style."

Braddock nodded. "I donít much like the looks of this," he said. "As if we didnít have enough problems with that Connection fellow, we now seem to have a man on the loose who thinks that heís Jack the Ripper."

"So what do we do about that, sir?" asked Winslow. He and Lowell both looked on expectantly.

"Weíre just going to have to find him," said Braddock. "And soon, before he finds another victim."

* * *

"Mr. Duval, sir?"

Duval looked up from the report that had just come in from an Illuminatus in Sydney about the "Whowie sighting" in Adelaide on May 1st earlier that year. "Yes, Giles?" he asked.

"Thereís been another murder in London," said Giles. "A third one."

"And I take it that itís yet another one of the ĎVampyresí?" Duval asked.

Giles nodded. "Definitely," he said.

"Well, you know what to do, then," said Duval with a sigh. "See to it that nobody ever gets an opportunity to read the autopsy reports. Iíd just as soon Scotland Yard doesnít realize exactly what itís dealing with here, nor the British public. Theyíre not ready for this sort of information yet."

"Yes, sir," said Giles. "And the killer?"

"See to it that heís found and dealt with," said Duval grimly.

Giles nodded, and left the office.

* * *

The Spencer-Windsor Shelter for the Homeless

"It was a terrible thing, Leba," Bob was saying in a troubled voice. "Did you hear about it?"

"About the murder in the alley?" she asked. "Yes, Iím afraid so. Old Winny, wasn't it?"

Bob nodded. "I knew him before he vanished two years ago," he said. "Back when he answered that advert that Charlie and the others answered, and then just up and disappeared. And now he pops up again, only to be lying in the alley with his throat cut. I donít like it at all."

"Neither do I," put in Linda. "But heís not the only one. The same thing happened to Charlie himself, a week before that. And Flynt three days earlier."

Leba frowned. "That doesnít sound good at all," she said. "Iím no detective, but it does sound to me as if somebody is tracking down everyone who ever answered that advert."

"But why would he do that, Leba?" asked Bob. He looked anxiously about him as he spoke, as if he was expecting the killer to suddenly appear in the shelter, knife in hand. "Why would he want to murder them?"

"Iím afraid that I donít know," said Leba in a troubled voice. "But I know some people who could find out."

* * *

"That is a very interesting problem," said Arthur, sitting at the Round Table in the council chamber at the London estate. "Three murders, and the victims all Vampyres once in the Unseelie Courtís service."

"It could be just a coincidence," said Dulcinea. "After all, once the Unseelies were defeated and the Vampyres left to their own devices, they went back to roaming the streets again, the way that they did before Garlon and Sevarius recruited them. Theyíd be easy pickings in that state, even with the powers that Sevariusís little operation gave them. There may not be any deep significance here."

"Iím not so certain of that," said Merlin. "Truth to tell, Iím not a firm believer in coincidences. When three Vampyres are killed all in one month, I canít help but suspect that somebodyís singling them out. And itís most likely somebody who knows what heís doing, too. Even in their directionless condition, theyíre still enough of a force to be reckoned with that a common everyday mugger could get a nasty surprise if he picked on one. No, I think that weíre dealing with something more sinister than this."

Arthur nodded. "I suspect the same, myself," he said. "And I believe that we should investigate this matter. We must find the murderer, and see to it that he is brought to justice."

"Youíre not serious, are you, Arthur?" Dulcinea asked.

"I most certainly am," the former High King of Britain replied.

"But Londonís still in an uproar about the Trafalgar Square incident," said the Spanish woman. Rory nodded guiltily, but said nothing. "I honestly donít think that itís safe for you to go back into the city before things have had time to calm down. The police are still searching for you, and if they find you, itíll all be over. Besides, I donít even see why we should be that concerned over this."

"And what do you mean by that?" Arthur asked, in a not quite approving tone of voice.

"The Vampyres were working for the Unseelies, remember," said Dulcinea. "They were our enemies. I canít quite approve of the methods that whoeverís getting rid of themís using, true, but itís not as if heís doing it to innocent people. Iíd say that that lot probably brought it on themselves. Theyíre hardly worth defending."

"That they were our enemies, I must concede," said Arthur. "But they are also Britons, and Britons who were murdered most foully. I cannot permit that. The person who is doing this is acting outside the law in passing judgement upon them, and the nature of his victims is no excuse for that. I swore upon my coronation day to preserve justice in this isle, and even if I am no longer High King in title, I will still keep that oath. It is my duty to help bring an end to these misdeeds, and I must fulfill it."

"Arthurís right," put in Griff. "We canít really pick and choose as to whom weíre going to help, you know. If our protecting Londonís going to mean anything, we have to apply it to everybody."

"True," said Dulcinea, uncomfortably. "But thereís still the matter of that little risk of the police finding you...."

"We will just have to worry about that when it happens," said Arthur. "But as I told you, I will not skulk behind the walls of this house while I am needed in the city. If this results in my capture, so be it, but I have work to do, and I cannot refuse it.

We leave for London shortly."

* * *

Two Hours Later

The dark-cloaked man stood in the shadows in silence. He could hear voices approaching. He pricked up his ears, withdrawing deeper into the darkness as he did so.

"Iíd still like to know just what weíre looking for, Arthur," said a girlís voice, and a rather cross one at that. "The police will probably have picked up every single clue in this place long before now. Weíll just be wasting our time by visiting the crime scene."

"I am hoping that we may be able to find something that the police did not, Mary," replied a man. "Particularly with Merlin accompanying us. Perhaps a wizard may find something that a normal human cannot."

"This is the same wizard who canít find a cure for my getting all furry in the morning, remember," said the girl. "Fat lot of good heíll be able to do us."

"Here, now," said an adolescent boyís voice. "I heard that, you know!"

"No arguing, either of you," said the man sharply. "We cannot find this person if you are always at each othersí throats. Have you learned nothing by now?"

The three of them came into view. A brown-bearded man led the way, followed by a boy and a girl, both fifteen or so by the look of them; all three were warmly dressed, bundled up well against the night winds. The boy and the girl were looking somewhat sourly at each other, although the presence of the man was clearly keeping them from doing more than that.

"Merlin, you search over there," said the man. "Mary, go that way. Griff will be waiting there for you. I will investigate this alley. Come back to me if you find anything worth reporting. Is that clear?"

Both youngsters nodded, and began to move off in separate directions.

"Now for it," muttered the lurker in the shadows. He held up his left hand and stretched it out in their direction, fingers pointed at the three figures. As he did so, he whispered something under his breath, then turned and walked away in silence.

* * *

"Nothing," muttered Merlin, walking out of the alley a few minutes later. "Just some stray cats and more remains of Chinese takeaway meals than I ever wanted to see."

He headed towards the alley that Arthur had assigned Mary and Griff to. "Iíd better go see how theyíre doing, and then report back to Arthur."

Even if Arthur had not made it clear enough where he was to find Mary, the rejuvenated wizard could have discovered her simply by the sound of her voice. She was complaining to Griff in a non-stop fashion. The griffon-like gargoyle was listening in silence, with far more patience than Merlin had ever dreamed he possessed.

"I still think that this is insane," she was saying. "Weíre searching through an alley well after dark for a serial killer, and most likely a really insane one at that. And itís somebody who murders vampires rather than people. Personally, I think that Dulci called it right on this one. Why should we be sticking our necks out to help a lot of vampires? If this chap feels like playing Van Helsing, then Iím hardly about to argue with him."

She turned around as she saw Merlin. "Oh, itís you," she said. "Found anything?"

Merlin shook his head. "Not that Iím surprised," he added. "I heard the way that you were talking back there. If the man that weíre looking for has even a halfway decent sense of hearing, heís going to know that weíre looking for him, just from the sound of your voice. Have you ever considered being a bit more quiet when weíre doing an investigation?"

Mary turned around sharply. "Well, if weíre going to get into a discussion at this, how about the fact that you could have told me about having dated an Unseelie girl before I ran into Corbie? Then weíd have had a lot less trouble. But no, you had to keep silent about it all, didnít you?"

"I wasnít deliberately keeping it a secret from you," Merlin retorted. "I just didnít want to remember that business at all. Did you stop to consider that? Besides, whyís it so important to you about whom I used to go out with, anyway? Itís hardly your business."

"I should certainly hope so," said the girl haughtily. "As if Iíd be the least bit interested in your social life, such as it is."

"Iím glad to hear it," said the young-old wizard, equally stiffly. "Iíve better things to do with my time than talk about my doings with you. Wolf-girl," he added.

"Wolf-girl?" Mary cried, with a very lupine growl at the back of her throat. Her eyes blazed in fury. "Wolf-girl? Why, you - you - Rosemaryís baby!"

Merlin stepped back in absolute shock. He looked at her for a moment, holding back the tears that threatened to pour from his eyes, then turned and fled without a word.

Mary stared after him in silence herself. The anger had left her face and in its place was a concerned expression. She turned to Griff, who had watched the exchange in silence, having made no more response than lifting a brow-ridge troubledly. "I - I shouldnít have said that, should I?" she asked, her voice quavering.

"Well, the boy is a mite bothered by who his dad was," said Griff. "Heís still rather sensitive about it, even though Madocís been dead for some months now."

"Heíll never quite get over it either, will he?" said the girl, her eyes lowered to the pavement in shame. "I - I really wasnít thinking when I said that. It just burst out like that. Sometimes I forget what it must be like for him. It canít be easy, knowing that your fatherís practically the Prince of Darkness."

Griff nodded in silence. "Iím not really that qualified to speak on the subject," he said. "But I believe that youíre right. It canít be easy at all."

* * *

Merlin was not certain as to whether he was even looking hard for Arthur as he ran down the deserted street. The tears had finally begun to flow from his eyes, refusing to be denied any longer. He grabbed hold of the nearest lamppost, and began to weep bitterly.

"The child has quite a gift of insight, would you not agree?" asked a familiar voice behind him. A voice that he had not heard since the night before May Day, and had never expected to hear again except in his nightmares. Merlin spun around.

"You!" he cried, to the grim-faced figure in crimson armor and bat-winged cape who stood only a few feet away, looking at him. "What are you doing here?"

"Every lady whom you cross paths with understands you better than you do yourself," said Madoc, in a calm voice. "Nimue feared you because my blood ran in your veins, and shut you away in the Tower of Air. The Morrigan saw you as an opportunity to rise higher in my favor - as the mortals would put it, advancing herself by dating her bossís son." He smiled wryly at that. "They all judge you by the heritage that you received from me - and who is to say that they are wrong to do so?"

Merlin looked straight at the Unseelie Lord, willing himself with a supreme effort not to tremble. Madoc Morfryn was once again the proud figure of dark majesty who had faced him at the Conservatory Gardens in New York in the final hours of the Second Unseelie War, rather than the aged, decrepit, dying figure that Merlin had last seen him as. His eyes gleamed coldly in the darkness, and the drawn sword in his hand reflected the moonlight above with an equally chill glint.

"Youíre - youíre dead!" Merlin protested, finding his voice at last. "I saw you die!"

"What is death to an immortal, traitor child?" asked Madoc. "Did you truly believe that the grave could hold me, son? Did you?"

"Demona killed you!" cried Merlin. "You canít come back! You just canít!"

"Ah, yes, Demona," said the Unseelie Lord. "The irony of it all, too. I had such hopes for her, hopes that she would prevent the Weird Sistersí prophecy from ever being fulfilled, avert my fate. And she fulfilled it instead. But no matter. Her time will come - but not before yours." He took a step nearer.

"You told her daughter that you regretted my passing," he continued. As he spoke, his hair fell out and his face became encased in a mass of wrinkles, reverting to the ancient form that he had taken in his final moments of life. "Well, I have returned. So let us speak on this matter, shall we?"

Merlin spun around and ran off in the other direction as fast as he could, not daring to look back, not daring to hear anything more.

* * *

"...and thatís when he turned around and ran off," Mary was saying to Arthur. "And heís been gone since."

Arthur looked down at the girl and frowned sternly. "That was an unwise thing for you to say to him, Miss Sefton," he said. "You know well enough how he feels about his parentage."

Mary nodded sadly. "I do," she said. "Itís just - I was angry, and I wasnít thinking. But youíre right, Arthur, I shouldnít have done it. You - you donít suppose that anythingís happened to him?"

"I doubt it," said Arthur. "Merlinís able to protect himself from anything out here, I should think. If heís missing, itís more because heís still getting over what you said to him. I seriously doubt that there is anything in this part of the city that can threaten him."

There was the noise of running footsteps, and then Merlin dashed around the corner and into the alley, his eyes wide with shock and horror. The others turned towards him. Mary was the first to speak. "Merlin," she began, "Iím sor-"

"Madoc!" cried Merlin, halting and catching his breath. "Heís here!"

"Heís what?" repeated Arthur, startled.

"I saw him just a couple of minutes ago," said the youth. "And he saw me, and spoke to me."

"You canít be serious, now," said Griff. "Madocís dead. You told us all about it. He canít be here at all."

"I know, I know," said Merlin. "But I know what I saw. It was my father, all right."

"Calm down, Merlin," said Arthur. "Calm down, and let us discuss this with reason. Now, are you certain that it was the Unseelie Lord that you saw?"

"I know Lord Madoc when I see him," said Merlin, a trifle testily. "Donít think that I wouldnít, Arthur. It was him. Heís come back. I donít know how he managed it, but he did. Heís back."

"But is it even possible?" asked Griff.

"Well, from what youíve told me about this Madoc person, heís supposed to be a faerie of some sort," said Mary. "Maybe they canít really be killed. Or maybe heís come back as a ghost. If thatís possible. Is it?"

"That is a very difficult question to answer," Arthur replied. "It was something of a theological controversy in my day, truth to tell. Archbishop Dubricius and Sir Illtud used to argue over it frequently at Camelot, before Illtud resigned his seat at the Round Table and became a monk. But most churchmen back then believed that when the Third Race died, they simply ceased to exist, and thus have no ghosts. Others held differently, though. I never gave it any real thought, myself."

"Will you at least come with me, all of you, please?" begged Merlin, almost frantically. "Iíll show you where I saw him last. Then youíll know that Iím not mad! Just follow me, please!"

"Very well, Merlin," said Arthur. "You lead the way."

Merlin nodded, and walked around the corner, the others following. "He was here last time that I saw him," he said. "Just looming there in the darkness. Right over next to that lamppost, Iíd say."

Arthur, Griff, and Mary looked in the direction that he was pointing. All that was there was a typical deserted street in London at night, with empty cars parked by the pavement and flickering electric lampposts. Somewhere far off, a dog was barking. But there was no sign of any figure where Merlin indicated, whether the Unseelie Lord, or anyone else.

"Well, he was there," protested Merlin. "I saw him. But - I couldnít have seen him if he was dead."

"Are you certain that youíre feeling all right, Merlin?" Arthur asked in a concerned tone of voice.

"Iím not hallucinating, Arthur, if thatís what youíre implying!" Merlin retorted. "I never have been, and I never will be! I wasnít just imagining it!"

"Well, I think that itís time that we got back to the estate," said Griff. "The police are probably still searching this area, and we donít want to have a run-in with them. Letís be on our way, shall we?"

Arthur nodded. "I think that is a very good idea, my friend," he said. "Let us away."

They walked down the pavement, Merlin turning back from time to time to look closely at the place where he had glimpsed his father. Mary saw him doing so, and spoke to him in a low, troubled tone of voice.

"Iím sorry, Merlin," she said. "This has to be my fault. It was that crack that I made about you that got you seeing your father. I shouldnít have said that at all. I wonít be nasty about that any more."

Merlin only nodded vaguely. It was clear that he was far too bothered by his recent experience to even pay any heed to the girlís words.

* * *

"So, did you find anything?" asked Rory, as Arthur and his companions entered the great hall of the manor house.

Arthur shook his head. "No clues at all," he said. He had decided against mentioning Merlinís vision of Madoc. For one thing, it didnít seem likely to be relevant to the case, but only an undesired and unnecessary distraction. Also, he still had the suspicion that his advisor had merely been suffering some sort of hallucination, perhaps related to the rejuvenated magicianís unstable powers during adolescence. "I hope that your own search at Scotland Yardís headquarters fared better."

"Very well," said Rory. "Cervus and I managed to find the letters that this fellow weíre looking for left at the crime scenes, and we made copies of them. Here, Iíll show you."

He handed Arthur some sheets of paper with rough notes penned down on them. Arthur looked them over thoughtfully, taking them over to the Round Table and laying them down upon its surface. He frowned as he read them. Griff, Rory, and the others crowded around beside them.

"Very poor grammar," said Griff. "And the punctuationís even worse. Whoeverís responsible for these murders definitely didnít do too well in school, if he went there at all."

"The bulk of these letters deal with some sort of vendetta that this man has against - demons," said Arthur. "And he indicates that he was somehow altered by them himself. That sounds alarmingly familiar."

"The Vampyres," said Leba. "They were mutated by Sevarius for the Unseelie Court. And all of the murder victims to date were Vampyres. Which means that the killer himself could be a Vampyre as well."

"We should have given more thought to those people once the Unseelies were defeated," said Arthur, frowning. "Admittedly, it was all too easy to forget them, in the aftermath of the war, thanks to the repairs that needed to be done here, and then this ĎConnectioní business. But all the same, we left them to their own devices, without anyone to guide them following Madocís death and Luciusís flight from London. And now we see what has come of it. One of these unfortunates has been driven mad, and is murdering others of his kind. We might have been able to prevent their deaths if we had only paid more heed to them."

"I donít think that itís just Vampyres that are in danger from our man, either," said Leba. "Look at this letter."

Arthur read aloud the passage that she had indicated. "The demons are a plague upon this earth. Theyve got to go. All the demontouched have to go. I dont want any of them alive ever. Theyre all going to die. Everyone whos been changed by the demons will die."

"He said, ĎAll the demontouchedí," said Leba. "And Iíd say that that means more than just the Vampyres or even the Unseelies. It means anyone whoís got anything to do with the Third Race at all. That doesnít sound good for us. Particularly not for you or Merlin, if he knows anything about the faerie side of your families."

Arthur nodded gravely. "I know," he said.

"I wonder if that Ďdemonsí bit applies to gargoyles as well," said Griff concernedly. "For the clanís sake, I hope that it doesnít."

"Well, we definitely need to find this man at once," said Arthur. "Which means, in turn, that we must search London for him all the more."

He turned and looked out the nearest window at the sky, before continuing. "It is drawing close to dawn," he said. "Leba, you, Dulcinea, and Rory will have to continue the search. The gargoyles will soon be stone, and neither Merlin nor I can be seen in broad daylight. And as for Mary -"

"I know, I know," interrupted the girl in a sulky tone of voice, although the irritableness was directed at her condition rather than at Arthur. "I canít go about London when the sunís up unless I want a one-way ticket to the zoo." And with that, she walked out of the room, heading for her quarters.

"Weíll see what we can find out, Arthur," said Leba. "Donít worry."

"I never even imagined that I would have to," he replied.

* * *

The sun was now climbing up the sky in the east. The London gargoyles had all turned to stone, while Mary was no doubt already in her wolf-form once again. Arthur sat at the Round Table with a barely-sipped mug of coffee at his elbow, reading over the anonymous letters again. Merlin was at his place at the table as well, but half-asleep; the Once and Future King had decided against attempting to wake him.

He looked more closely at the letter, studying its content. Without the originals before him, he could not divine any information about its writer through the sort of paper that it was written upon, the ink that had been used, or the handwriting, but he still hoped to make some deductions based on the actual diction. If he could only find something in the manís words that could give him some insight into where he might be found or just who he might be, then they could have something to go on.

The trouble was, all that Arthur was able to discover from those same words about that man was that he was most likely a Vampyre, and a poorly-educated one at that. "It would have been much better," he said to himself, "if we only had a list of those poor souls that Sevarius transformed. Then we might be able to narrow the field down further. As it is -"

And then the world suddenly changed about him.

Blinking in utter bewilderment, he found himself standing now, not in the council chamber of the London estate, but in a grand hallway with a richly carpeted floor and oil paintings on the walls. Somewhere in a room off to one side, there was the sound of a banquet under way, and people talking. In his hands was not the letter that he had been examining, but an odd technological device with a button and flashing red electronic numbers. As he stared down at it confusedly, he pressed the button with his thumb.

At once, the sound of feasting and conversation was replaced with the noise of a great explosion, coming from the unseen room. The ground shook beneath Arthurís feet, and the paintings tumbled from the walls. But before the full force of the explosion could reach the hall where he stood, the scene about him changed again. Now Arthur found himself standing alone outside a store window. A pile of television sets rose before his eyes -- all displaying the same scene. Police cars and a clamoring crowd was surrounding a large building laid in ruins, with smoke still rising from it. "BBC Live" was displayed in one corner of each television screen, and Regina Fitzwalter was speaking into her microphone, her face directed straight towards the camera.

"Authorities are still at a loss as to who was behind the cataclysmic destruction of Buckingham Palace, even though police are still combing the remains in search of clues. However, it is by now certain, and regretfully so, that the entire Royal Family have perished in the explosion, which took place in the middle of a state banquet. In a few minutes, we will be taking you to No. 10 Downing Street, where the Prime Minister will deliver -"

"Quite a shame, isnít it?" said a voice at Arthurís elbow. "The entire Royal Family, all gone at one fell swoop. Or do you see it as such a shame?"

Arthur turned around at once, drawing Excalibur from its scabbard as he did so. The voice was one that he had immediately recognized, even though it was one that he had not expected to ever hear again, even before he had been taken away to Avalon. "Mordred!" he cried.

Sir Mordred stood on the pavement, lounging against the store window with a half-amused, half-bored look on his face. He was dressed in full knightly armor, his visor raised, with a sword at his belt and his coat of arms blazoned boldly upon his surcoat -- the double-headed eagle of Lothian and Orkney with a suitable badge of cadency -- nor did he seem at all troubled by the anachronism of his attire in modern-day London. "Long time no see, father," he said, with a slight smirk.

"You cannot be here," cried Arthur. "I slew you at Camlann fourteen centuries ago. How can you still be alive?"

"Thatís for me to know and you to find out," replied Mordred, sounding not the least bit fazed.

"This is your doing, is it not?" asked Arthur, pointing to the wreckage of Buckingham Palace on all the television screens with Excalibur. "Well? Answer me!" He swung his sword straight towards his son, his eyes blazing angrily.

"Now, now, father, you donít want to do that," said Mordred, lifting one gauntleted hand and using it to casually brush the sword-blade aside. "Killing your own son is sin enough, but killing him twice - well, that could put you beyond the pale for good. Besides, youíre after the wrong chap. If you really want to find the one responsible for that -" - he glanced at the continuing news coverage of the destruction of Buckingham Palace and the mass deaths of the Royals - "- then you should go take a good look in the nearest mirror."

"What?" cried Arthur. But even as he spoke, he remembered the technological device that he had held in his hands moments before Ė but had vanished when he had been transported away from the hallway - and which he had activated. And a horrified realization began to creep over him.

"Like father, like son, eh, Da?" asked Mordred, with a sardonic smile curling on his lips. "Weíre not so different then, are we? I wanted the throne, I tried to take it from you, and I failed. But you lost the throne as well, to a whole family of upstarts, and upstarts who had a knack for making themselves thoroughly unpopular at that. Youíd like to have it back again, wouldnít you?"

"I have no words to waste on you, Mordred," said Arthur coldly. "Go now. Leave this place, and do not return."

"Giving me the brush-off once I say things that you donít want to hear, then?" asked Mordred, remaining where he was. "You havenít changed that much then, have you? Just as you didnít like it when Agravain and I told you about that little business about Lancelot and the Queen, even though youíd known about it for years." He shook his head wryly. "Tut, tut, tut. Youíve no need to be ashamed of your desires, father. Why, Iím hardly about to raise a protest over what you did just now myself. I mean, you couldnít just let a whole pack of usurping Saxons sit on the throne, now, could you? I mean, itíd make you wonder if it was worth fighting the Battle of Badon at all! And how about all those knights that you lost in those twelve battles of yours. Itíd be an insult to their memory to let the descendants of the barbarians who killed them lord it over this isle."

"And who are you to speak of such things?" asked Arthur. "Have you forgotten the pacts that you made with them when you yourself usurped my throne? How you granted Chelric even more land than Vortigern ever gave Hengist and Horsa?"

"Oh, that," said Mordred, with a shrug. "That was just politics. Believe me, I didnít really want to see that lot running the show any more than you did. And letís face it. You donít want to see a Saxon family in power. You want to be back on the throne yourself. Think about it for a moment. If you were King again, you wouldnít be on the run from the law any more. Youíd be the law."

Arthur was about to reply, when the world dissolved about him. He blinked, and found himself standing by the Round Table in the London clanís manor house once more. Merlin was still napping at it, and there was no sign of Mordred about.

For a moment, Arthur considered waking Merlin up and telling him about the waking nightmare that he had just had. But then he shook his head, and decided against it. He wasnít quite certain that he wanted to discuss it with anybody at the moment, not even his oldest advisor. The words that Mordred (or had it really been Mordred?) had spoken had given him a strong sense of discomfort, and deep down inside, he feared that they might not be altogether falsehoods.

"Mordred is dead," he told himself, "even as Madoc is. And yet, Iíve seen the one, and Merlinís seen the other. I wonder if there is a connection here."

* * *

Mary rolled over on her side on the "doggy blanket" that she generally slept on since moving into the ruined manor house with Arthur and Merlin, to get into a more comfortable position. She generally slept in the daytime now, so as to spend the night awake while human. Her wolfís body limited the amount of activities that she could perform while trapped inside it, and furthermore, she much preferred to spend as little conscious time while in that body as possible. Even though she had started to accept her condition while in the Caledonian Forest, she still was not fond of it, and in most of her dreams, she was in her human form.

But not the dream that she was currently having. She was trotting on all fours into her fatherís study, and knew with a sinking feeling that she was a wolf at present. The door was ajar, and she easily pushed it open, and entered the room.

Her father was seated behind his desk, going over a number of papers. As she walked in, however, he stood up, put the papers down, and stared down coldly at her.

"You wanted to see me, father?" Mary asked, in a hesitant tone of voice.

"Indeed I do," said Nigel Sefton coldly. He picked up a newspaper lying on the desk, and held it up over her. "Do you know what this is?"

"Not too well, Iím afraid," she said nervously. "I canít make it out too well with my wolf-eyes."

"This is the latest edition of the London Times," he replied, "with its front-page story being a report of just what youíve done to me! Listen! ĎSeftonís Daughter a Werewolf; Queen Cancels Knighthood For M.P.!í That honor that Iíve been working for for the past five years is gone, lost to me forever! Not only that, but Iíve been asked by the Prime Minister himself to resign my seat in Parliament! Iím too much of a disgrace to the Party! Not to mention all the grief that my constituents have been giving me once they found out about it! Nobody wants a man whose daughterís a freak and monster to represent their district!"

"But, father -" Mary began.

"Not another word!" shouted Nigel Sefton. "I want you out of this house, now! Youíve brought me too much shame as it is! Go, and never return! Iím casting you off, here and now!"

"But, father, where will I live?" cried the girl. "I donít have anywhere else to go to."

"You should have thought of that before you became a werewolf," said her father. "Now go!"

Stunned, she turned around and walked out through the front hall of what had once been her home. Gargrave, the family butler, stood stiff and motionless by the front doors which had been flung wide open, and barely glanced at her as she passed through the doorway. Outside, the sky had turned white, and the snow came down with a fury, the wind making her shiver despite her thick furry pelt. She turned back for a moment, looking at the warm house that she had been expelled from longingly, but the doors had now slammed shut. Weeping bitterly, she trudged alone through the snow, as the wind wailed and shrieked louder and louder, freezing her more and more.

There was a sudden flash, and she found herself lying in her quarters in the manor house. She stood up and shook her head in disbelief, before settling back down again upon the rug.

"It was a dream," she said to herself, "thatís all that it was. Just a dream." But all the same, it was a long while before she felt comfortable with the thought of going back to sleep.

* * *

Merlin stood up, stretching and yawning. Arthur had already awakened from his doze a few minutes earlier, and looked across the table at his wizardly advisor.

"Good morning, Arthur," said the youth, rubbing his eyes. "Or good evening, rather," he said, looking at the darkening skies through the window. "Did you sleep well?"

"Fairly well," said Arthur, in a hesitant tone of voice. He had already decided all the more against mentioning the waking dream that he had had about Mordred, even to Merlin. It still felt far too disquieting. "And you?"

"Iím quite rested, actually," said Merlin. "I was a little worried that Iíd have another nightmare about my father again, but I didnít. Thatís something at least."

A young grey wolf entered the hall and sat down by Merlinís chair. "Well, itíll be sundown in a few minutes," said Mary. "Have either of you decided what youíll be doing once itís night?"

Arthur nodded. "We should go back to the part of the city that we explored last night," he said. "As soon as the sun sets and you become human again, we shall set out there. I have the feeling that there may be a clue there that we missed before. Perhaps this time we may be able to find it."

"And if we donít find it?" the girl asked. "Or if Agent Braddock finds us there and arrests you?"

"Those are perils that we will simply have to face," said Arthur. "But I feel that we must go back there, if we are to find this ĎRipperí. It is urgent that we track down this man."

"Personally, I still think that we should leave that to Scotland Yard," said Mary. "But, if you really insist on it - Iíll come with you."

"Should we bring the gargoyles with us?" Merlin asked. "I wouldnít mind having Griff by our side again if we run into - well, anybody there."

"Iím not certain," said Arthur. "They may attract attention. I still donít quite feel comfortable about having Griff and his fellow clan members abroad in the city before itís had time to calm down over the matter of the battle in Trafalgar Square. If one of them should be spotted - ."

"Well, I think that weíd better keep in touch with them, somehow," put in the wolf. "After all, whatís the point of having gargoyles on our side if we never get any help from them? And if there really is some crazed murderer running amok there, Iíd like to know that we had some sort of back up."

"We can always try radio communication," offered Merlin. "Goliath and his clan used the same technique in New York; I learned that when I visited them there back in May. If we just have the right equipment -"

The sun set at that moment, and Mary, with a slight moan, changed back into her human form. She clambered up to her feet, clutching the rim of the Round Table to steady herself. Merlin glanced at her concernedly for a moment, and hesitantly held out his hand, but she did not even make an effort to grasp it.

"Well, we will do what we can," said Arthur. "And now, let us be on our way."

* * *

An hour or so later, the three of them were once again trudging through the deserted alleys that surrounded the former headquarters for the Minions. All three were bundled up warmly against the night chill, Arthur keeping Excalibur in its scabbard hidden beneath his overcoat. None of them spoke; they were too busy all examining their surroundings for any sign that their quarry could have made.

"Nothing here," said Merlin at last, as they halted in the dead end of one alley. "Just a few dustbins and thatís it."

Mary held her nose in disgust. "Phew!" she muttered. "What a stench! Canít we leave this place, if thereís no sign of this ĎRipperí chap here?"

"Itís not that bad," Merlin began, although he did have to admit that the aroma from the contents of the dustbins scarcely smelled like flowers in springtime.

"Maybe to you it isnít," she replied. "But to me, itís horrible!"

"Sorry," said Merlin. "Iíd forgotten about that heightened sense of smell of yours."

"No trace of him here," said Arthur, straightening up. He had been studying the ground closely. "I doubt that weíll find any clues in this place. Let us be on our way."

"Oh, I scarcely think so," said a grim voice from behind them.

All three turned around. A man was standing at the entrance to the alley, blocking the way out from it. He was dressed in a heavy, all-enveloping black trenchcoat pulled about him, with a great broad-brimmed hat shadowing his facial features.

The three of them halted, not moving from where they stood, merely staring straight at him in silence. The stranger drew slowly nearer, walking in silence. He was almost halfway towards them when he suddenly pulled out from his coat a long knife, whose blade glistened in the darkness.

"So there you are at last," he said, speaking in a cold, clear, hate-ridden voice. "The spawn of the Dark One." He stared straight at Merlin as he spoke.

"Who are you?" asked Merlin, keeping his voice level. "What do you want with us?"

"Silence, demonspawn!" shouted the man. "Your life is mine now!"

Merlin stared closely at the manís features, his eyes piercing the shadows beneath his hat. He then stepped back in astonishment, as he finally got a clear view of the manís fang-like teeth and his pointed ears, ears which even his hat could not entirely hide. "We were right," he said to Arthur and Mary in a low voice. "He's definitely a Vampyre."

"I said, silence!" cried the stranger, drawing closer. He raised his knife upwards. "No words from any of you! No pleas for mercy, not when you deserve none!"

"We are not about to beg from the likes of you," said Arthur grimly. He at once drew Excalibur from its sheath, and advanced upon the man to meet him.

The stranger held up his free hand and gestured at Arthur, his eyes glowing for a moment with a crimson light at the same time. The Once and Future King blinked, and the world changed around him.

* * *

The straitjacket bound his arms to his sides, preventing him from breaking free. The attendants were dragging him along to the waiting van, as Agent Braddock and a group of uniformed men about him watched with a mingling of triumph and pity upon their faces.

"Too bad that heís not sane enough to stand trial, Braddock," one of the men was saying to the Security Service Agent. "Still, at least heíll be put away for good. He wonít be escaping confinement from Broadmoor, that muchís for certain."

Braddock nodded. "Itís the only place for him," he said. "Maybe theyíll cure him of that delusion of his there. A man wandering about in these times, believing that heís King Arthur. Altogether absurd."

Arthur wrestled with his captors, but it was no use. They shoved him into the back of the lorry, and closed the doors tight, locking them from the outside. He felt it beginning to drive away, with he himself inside it, helpless to prevent them from taking him wherever they would.

* * *

"Arthur, no!" shouted Merlin, seeing his former pupil standing where he was, sword in hand and motionless. He turned towards the man and raised one hand himself, preparing a quick spell.

He never had the opportunity to complete or release it. For the man with the knife turned his gaze so that it fell on the lad. There was another flash, and Merlin staggered.

* * *

He stood before the altar, holding the baby in his arms, wrapped in its swaddling clothes. The vicar stood opposite him, arrayed in his vestments for the occasion of the christening.

"Your firstborn son, Mr. Hawkins?" he asked.

"Yes, sir," said Merlin proudly.

"Ah, good," said the vicar, smiling benevolently. "Give him to me, if you please."

Merlin nodded, and handed his infant son over to the man. The vicar dipped his fingers in the baptismal font, and sprinkled the water on the babyís forehead. "I christen thee in the name of the Unseelie Court," he began.

"The Unseelie Court!" stammered Merlin in sudden shock. "There - there must be some mistake here!"

"I assure you, Mr. Hawkins, that there is no mistake being made at all," said the vicar. As he spoke, his form blurred and shifted, and now Madoc stood there, clutching Merlinís son in his hands with a triumphant smile.

"No!" cried Merlin. He lunged forward to seize back the child, but the Unseelie Lord held up his hand and the halfling wizard crashed into an invisible wall. He stepped back, frantically searching through his memory for a counter-spell, but none came that seemed strong enough for the purpose.

"Since you would not fulfill the destiny for which I created you, traitor child, I will have to settle for raising my grandson to take your place," said Madoc. He looked down at the infant in his arms again. "I christen thee in the name of the Unseelie Court: Nicholas the Second. My heir and successor."

Merlin desperately raised one hand and shot out from his fingertips a bolt of blue lightning that shattered the barrier that his father had created, then ran forward. But when he saw the childís face, he knew that he was too late. For as the baby turned towards him, its lips were curved in the same sardonic smile as its grandfatherís, and the light that filled its eyes was the same as the crimson glow that shone in Madocís. He burst into tears at the sight.

Madoc laughed aloud, and raised one hand. He and the baby vanished in a burst of red flames, leaving Merlin standing there in the church alone, weeping bitterly.

* * *

"Merlin!" cried Mary, shaking him by the arm. "Merlin, snap out of it!"

"He canít help you now, traitor!" said the black-clad man. He strode towards her, his dagger raised. "Neither of them can! You are mine now, consorter with demons!"

Mary stepped back, releasing Merlinís arm. "What do you want with us?" she cried. "Weíve done nothing to you!"

"Thatís a lie!" shouted the man in fury. "You and your kind have done everything to me! You corrupted me, tainted me with your evil! But now it ends for you! It ends for all of you!"

He had her almost against the wall by now. She considered making a lunge at him, but knew that it would be no use. In her wolfís body, she could have taken him, but not as a human teenaged girl. He drew back his arm, readying his knife for its thrust. And then - .

Then something struck down upon the Vampyre from behind, catching him in the back. He staggered under its blow and dropped his dagger, which landed on the cobblestones with a clatter.

Four figures stood in the entrance to the alley, blocking the Vampyreís escape. Rory was just behind him; it was he who had struck the blow with his staff. To his left stood Dulcinea and Griff, and to his right Leba, brandishing her quarterstaff. All four were grim faced and staring intently at the staggering man. It was Leba who took a closer look at him, and suddenly seemed to recognize him. Her eyes widened in shock. "Jack?" she asked. "Is that you?"

"Hello, Leba," the Vampyre replied dryly. "Itís been a while, hasnít it?"

"Youíre the man whoís been murdering these people?" asked the minstrel. "Why? Madocís dead, Jack. You donít have to do things for him any more."

"Iím not doing this for him," replied Jack, his voice swelling with anger. "Iím doing it for myself, and for the world. Iím doing it to purge the Earth of all the evil that those monsters have done!"

"What monsters?" Leba asked.

"Those demons took me," said Jack. "They turned me into one of them, a freak! A monstrosity! Just like they did to all the rest! But theyíll do so no more! Iím going to cleanse the world of all their kind. Everything that theyíve created will be removed. Everything! All who bear their taint must perish! Then the world will be free from them."

"But these people arenít Unseelies," said Leba. "Why do you have to kill them?"

"They have the blood of demons in their veins," said Jack. "Theyíre mongrels, impurities, just like me! They have to go! They all have to go!" His voice swelled to a roar. "I will travel the world, purging it of all whom those demons have touched, until every trace of the Dark Ones has been removed from this planet! And then weíll be free! Weíll be free forever! The world will be made anew, without taint or corruption!"

Leba stared at him with a mixture of horror and pity in her eyes. "You canít be serious," she said at last.

"I am serious," answered Jack. "I mean every word of this, Leba. Somebody must remove this festering blight from the world, and it falls to me. I am only sorry for you. I did not want to do this to you, Leba. But you spoke with those half-demons. That means that you must die as well." For a moment, a tone of regret and sorrow sounded in his voice, as he spoke the words. But it passed, as he bent down and picked up his dagger, then walked towards her.

He was beginning to raise his hand for a fresh gesture, when Griff charged into him, ramming him hard. Jack dropped his knife again, and cried out in anger, pushing and struggling at the gargoyle. But his spell was broken. Arthur and Merlin came to, blinking.

"What on earth-" Merlin began. He stared at Griff and Jack, who were still grappling with each other. "Did I miss something, by any chance?"

"We were right," said Leba to Arthur and Merlin. "He's definitely a Vampyre gone mad, out for revenge on the fay and everybody connected with them -- even people who gave a disguised Seelie or Unseelie the time of day." She shook her head sadly.

Merlin listened to her with a look of absolute horror on his face, then turned back to watch the fight between Griff and Jack. Although Griff had gotten the upper hand at first, Jackís magically enhanced Vampyre strength had begun to prevail. He was forcing the gargoyle back, a grimace of savage hatred twisting his features. Griff was already beginning to tire, redoubtable gargoyle knight though he was.

Arthur began to move forward, Excalibur in hand, to go to the aid of his first knight, but Merlin held up his hand and stayed him. "No, Arthur," he said. "We wonít be able to take him down by force. Not considering the kind of weaponry that heís got."

"Then how do we defeat him?" Arthur asked.

"Iíve an idea," replied the wizard. "Itís more than a little risky, but it might very well work. Just stand back, and let me handle this."

"Jack!" he shouted. "If you must wage war upon the people responsible for you, then attack me first! Iím the son of Madoc Morfryn! Iím the son of the one who made you what you are! Itís me that you want!"

"What on Earth are you doing, Merlin?" asked Mary, her eyes widening in shock. "Have you gone mad?"

Merlin made no response. Jack let go of Griff, however, and turned to face the youth with blazing eyes. "You are the spawn of the demon lord?" he asked. "Then you shall pay the price!"

He raised his hand, preparing to unleash his spell. But Merlin acted at once. He threw up his own hands in a dramatic gesture, crying out as he did so:

"Man who would the faerie-linked confound

Upon yourself let your curse rebound!"

There was a flash of blue light, rushing out from the boy straight towards Jack. The Vampyre blinked in surprise for a moment, and then let out a scream of utter horror. He fell to the ground, clutching his head and writhing in agony. Arthur and the others gathered around him, staring down at him.

"What did you do to him, Merlin?" Arthur asked.

"I reflected his power back upon him," said Merlin. "Not too difficult to do, really, once I realized just what his specialty was." He shook his head grimly. "It seems that heís just received the proverbial taste of his own medicine."

"Itís dreadful," said Leba, watching Jack moaning.

"I know," said Merlin, nodding troubledly. "But so was what he did to the other Vampyres - and what he would have done to us."

"I think that weíd better call the police," said Dulcinea. "Let them know what weíve found. Anonymously, of course."

Arthur nodded. "Weíll leave to find a kiosk," he said. "And then weíll be on our way back to the estate."

"Shouldnít somebody stay behind to watch this chap?" asked Griff concernedly.

"I very much doubt that that will be necessary," replied Arthur gravely, gazing at Jack, who was still locked in his fetal position upon the ground. "I donít think that he will be leaving this place on his own. Let us leave him."

They quietly left the alley, as Jack continued to scream out fearfully at something that he alone could see.

* * *

"Thank you," said Leba, and hung up the phone. She turned to Arthur and the others at the Round Table.

"Well, the police found Jack, and took him off into custody," she said. "Hopefully theyíll soon have enough evidence to connect him with the crimes that heíve committed to lock him away for a good long time. I donít think that weíll need to worry about him any further."

"I am glad to hear that," said Arthur. "But we still do not know exactly what he did to us."

"Iíve a pretty good idea," said Merlin gravely. "Based on what I was able to figure out, Iíd say that Jack had developed as a specialty the ability to plunge his victims into illusions so powerful that they seemed real to them. And furthermore, these illusions contained their deepest, darkest fears, fears so potent that they could tear down these unfortunatesí resistance, turning them into sitting ducks. Thatís why I saw my father in the alley, even though heís been dead for months now. It was one of Jackís illusions, playing upon my fears of him." He sighed. "I didnít even know that I still had Lord Madoc hanging over my head, even after his demise."

"Then he must have known all about us," said Arthur troubledly.

"Not necessarily," said Merlin. "From what Iíve been able to gather, he didnít create the content of the illusions himself. He simply cursed us to envision our greatest fears, without knowing what those fears were. We shaped them without even knowing it."

"There is one part in this matter that I do not understand, however," said Arthur, after a moment's thought. "I had one of those waking dreams myself, back here at the estate, in the day. How did he place one upon me here?"

"Good question," said Merlin. "I suppose that his magic tended to be unpredictable when he wasn't confronting his victims face to face. Magic's not an exact science, after all. It's entirely possible that there was some sort of 'delayed reaction' at work in your case."

"And in my case, too," said Mary, with a shudder. "It was dreadful. My father found out that I was a werewolf, and threw me out of my home." She looked as if she was about to break down into tears, but managed to steady herself. "It was horrible, Merlin. But maybe itís just as well that he did it to me."

"What do you mean?" asked Merlin.

"Iíve been putting this off for too long," said the girl gravely. "I canít go on hiding from my father forever. Iím going to have to contact him, let him know how Iím doing, and tell him whatís happened to me."

"Isnít that a bit of a risk?" the youthasked. "If he finds out that youíre a werewolf -"

"Heís going to find out sooner or later," said Mary. "And itís best if he finds out from me. Merlin, Iím going to need to talk to him."

Merlin nodded. "Weíll work something out, Mary," he said. "I promise."

The two youngsters got up and left the room. Leba turned to Arthur.

"I donít know what Jack inflicted upon you, and Iím not even going to speculate as to what it might have been," she said. "But Iím worried about this myself. Jackís mutation turned him into a danger to everybody, and for all we know, he may not be the only Vampyre to whom itís happened. Iím going to need to look out for the others, find out how theyíre doing, and help them, so that none of them will go down the same dark path that he did."

"A worthy ambition," said Arthur. "It may be too late for Jack, but not too late for the others. Perhaps with your help, they can restore their lives to some measure of healing. Let us pray that they do."

* * *

"Well, Giles?" asked Mr. Duval.

"The problem in London has been neutralized, sir," said Giles gravely. "The Vampyre called Jack was found by the police through an anonymous tip, lying in an alley in the East End of London, incapacitated. He was easily apprehended by them - and, in turn, easily transferred from their custody to ours. Some of our agents convinced Scotland Yard that they were acting under official orders from Whitehall to take the man into a higher custody."

Duval nodded approvingly. "Iíd like a full report submitted on my desk as soon as possible," he said.

Giles nodded. "So that resolves the Ripper situation, sir."

"True," said Duval, frowning. "And hopefully Arthur Pennington will be able to resolve his own greater problems soon." He looked up at Giles. "Our captive has been properly dealt with?"

Giles nodded. "Heís safely stored away," he said. "Although even if he was not, I doubt that he will ever be a danger again."

* * *

Jack struggled in the straitjacket that constricted him, crowding back against the furthest corner of the padded cell that now hid him, and screaming all the while. Screaming at what lay before his eyes and would never leave.

THE END