Hungry Shadows, Part 2

Story idea by Gunjack Valentine and Lain
Outlined and written by Gunjack Valentine, Lain, and Lynati
Artwork by Lain, coloured by Lain and Gunjack



"The item is sold to Monsieur Reeves for the total of three hundred and fifty thousand francs! Monsieur Reeves, if you would be so kind as to meet our manager in his office to make arrangements for payment?"

* * *

"I have no idea what happened to me on that night in Germany,” said Kappel. “Since I woke up, I have lived in fear that I might lose myself again. Each night, I dream of murder, of death…and a statue that speaks to me from the shadows. Something happened to me in that forest. I don’t know what, but I came to Paris with the hope that Herr Ancel could help me to find out what. I know I could have gone to the police, but I am terrified of being locked away without knowing the truth.”

* * *

The woman reached into her purse and pulled out what looked like a black balaclava, before tossing the bag into the bushes. She pulled the mask down over her face, and he stared at the three diagonal red slashes that cut across its front.

"What’s that for?"

"Tradition," she replied, cramming the fedora back onto her head.

* * *

"Take the eye. The journal. The code is broke- broken. Truthfully. A moment…more, and I… may have had the power. Now it is on you…both. Destroy the beast. It is…what marked Kappel. Those scars. Stole his life." His eyes flicked open, pale and unfocused. "Get it back."

Bouchard nodded, not trusting his voice to reply, but Fiona’s held enough conviction for the both of them.
"We will. Kappel is just a drop in the ocean of sins that the Demon must pay for. And I will make her pay, Monsieur. You can count on that."

~ Hungry Shadows, Part 1


He’d been running for so long, always running. The cold December air was knifing painfully in and out of his lungs, but he had to keep going. Behind him, he heard the baying of the hound – closer this time than it had been before.

They’re catching up!

He dashed through the brush into the evening gloom. The naked branches whipped and clawed at his face, stinging his chilled skin. He tripped over an exposed root and sprawled face-first onto the debris of the forest floor, the sticks and hard-packed snow scraping his hands. A jar of home-canned peas tumbled from his coat pocket, landing with a dull thud in the snow. I could lie here, he thought, wait for them to catch me – it wouldn’t be so bad, would it? His legs throbbed with the exertion and he squeezed his eyes shut, breath coming in ragged gasps.

The dog sounded again, almost on top of him, and the noise jolted him back to reality. Snatch up the jar, jam it into your overstuffed bag. Force yourself back to your feet and run on.

He turned south and hopped over the exposed rocks jutting out of a small stream before diving back into the underbrush on the opposite bank; he hoped that would slow the dog down a bit. However, that was not to be; the howls grew even closer, and again the ground went out from under his feet as he was throwing a pointless look back over his shoulder. He stumbled and went down, his ankle twisting painfully, throwing him across the snow.

He had run right off the side of the hill, and was now sprawled at the mouth of an evergreen forest. It seemed a miracle that serious injury had been avoided, although his ribs and arms ached where he had rolled wrong, and the pain in his ankle seared like a hot poker. Bearing the pain with a grimace, he limped onward, arm clutched to his side with a swollen, filth-flecked hand.

Fingers of a pink and gold sunset reached through the dense canopy as the sun eased lower on the horizon. The dark woods grew up into his tired eyes; he could barely see twenty meters in front of him through the heavy curtain of needles. The dog was still baying somewhere behind him, and doubtless the Sheriff had an electric torch. Armed both with dog and light, his pursuer would run him to ground easily as he stumbled about in the dark.

A place to hide...

The trees seemed to thin and clear, and suddenly he was running through brittle, waist-deep brush. Something huge loomed ahead of him, backlit by the setting sun. As he drew closer, he could make out the crumbling ruin of a mansion, windows shattered, gutted by fire and abandoned to the forest. The sight gave him chills beyond the touch of winter, but he plunged ahead. The beam of the Sheriff’s torch cut through the forest clutter behind him; in another moment, he’d be into the clearing. No time! The manse was too far, he’d never reach it before he was spotted.

But he did. Just reaching the deteriorated remains of the short wall that once skirted the place took the last of his energy. In desperation, he threw himself through the bracken that had grown up about the entryway, and crawled behind the one weathered statue that still guarded the now-missing gate. He lay still, choking back a cough from his aching throat and doing his best not to breathe loudly, his mind repeating a silent prayer to God for salvation.

The torch beam appeared again at the edge of the clearing above the steep incline, and he cowered lower as it glimmered off the snow and ice that crusted the statue above him. At any moment, he expected the crash of the Sheriff charging through the brush and the savage beating that was sure to follow. Instead, he heard the Sheriff shouting and cursing at his hound.
“What’s wrong, you stupid beast! Stop howling for a moment and lead! He’s getting away!”

The poor creature wasn’t barking any more; instead, it was howling and yelping in terror. Something seemed to have spooked it, and the dog seemed to be refusing to go another step. It barked and yelped fearfully, and then there was a clatter as its leash broke and it ran yelping across the ice into the darkening woods. The Sheriff shouted after it in frustration, and even fired a shot in the air hoping to scare some sense into it, but to no avail.

He lay very still in the lee of the statue, and dared to hope. Without his dog, and with night falling, the Sheriff wouldn’t have much hope of catching him.

Apparently, his pursuer drew the same conclusion.

“I know you can hear me,” the sheriff shouted. “You'd better keep running you filthy coward! You show your thieving face in my village again, and I won’t wait for the magistrate, I’ll hang you myself! Do you hear me? I’LL HANG YOU MYSELF!” He punctuated the point by firing his second round into the ruins before reluctantly retreating into the forest, muttering unintelligible curses at his dog. His quarry cowered as buckshot skipped and whined among the tumbled stones; the shot seemed to echo for hours.


* * * * *


Lieutenant Eugene Kappel, formerly of the Kaiser’s Imperial Army, waited for what seemed like an eternity before finally allowing himself to move. At length, convinced that he was safe, he stood and looked around. Although he had been in the neighbouring town for nearly six weeks, Kappel had no idea this place existed. He paused for a few more seconds, ears straining to hear any sounds from the forest – but there were none, and he decided to explore the ruins with whatever light was left. Hopefully something of value could be salvaged, or better yet, edible food. Lots of women in this area pickled and saved portions of the year's garden harvest in cold cellars, and was a tin of sardines too much to hope for? And a bed, he thought, as he picked his way to the front door. An old mattress spared from the rampages laid on the rest of this wreck, a goose-down comforter miraculously untouched by weather or vermin. In a room with a fireplace, with coal still sitting in the grill.

The door was partially off of its hinges, and smudges his hand black with char when he pushed it open. His eyes quickly adjusted from the descending gloom of the outside to the darkness captive within the old walls. Cobwebs wreathed the ceiling and walls; the rooms appeared to be otherwise completely empty. Animal scat littered the dusty floor; the mice and crows had claimed the manse as their own long ago. He paused at the foot of a half-collapsed stairway; it was dead silent, not even the rustling wings of the expected lodgers could be heard.

Perhaps even nature had turned its back on this godforsaken place.

The upper level of the mansion proved a waste of time and nervous energy spent fearing he'd crash through the rotted floorboards of what rooms hadn't already collapsed. All he found was soot, ash, and the occasional black feather; Kappel's mind churned up images of the dark-winged archangel Michael descending from heaven to smite this once-luxurious loft with the fire of the Lord. He crossed himself, hoping the taint of whatever had happened here would not stain him simply for availing himself of its roof and walls.

He made his way into the charred remains of the dining hall; bits of a grand table still remained, piled against the wall with windfall from outside. Amber light leaked in the room from a glass window, falling across an enormous metal bowl near the south corner. Probably scavenged from the nearby kitchen, it had been turned into a brazier, which still cradled remains of an old fire. And behind the improvised fire pit was...

Kappel leapt back, horrified at the site of naked bones. Yellowed and grisly they lay, a tumbled pile of long leg bones, rib cages, and-

Antlers. Hooves. The skulls of rabbits and the distinctly porcine profile of a tusked boar. He's stumbled across the camping ground of an adventurous hunter, he would have laughed at his fear, had the shock not triggered a coughing fit he couldn't seem to bring under control. Kappel eyed the large boards propped against the wall- what looked like a thick blanket peeked from beneath the large lean-to it created. There's my luxurious bed. Now to get the coal for the fireplace before I settle in for the night...

He carted over an armful of scrap wood from the pile, and built himself a small fire. As it crackled slowly to life, he plopped himself down on the charred hardwood floor and opened his pack to examine his haul, spreading it out on the floor before him. It hadn’t been a bad day, all in all, except for all the running. And the loss of the protections offered by town living in the midst of winter. Kappel shivered, and absently reached for the blanket with one hand as he munched on a garlicky pickle with the other. He tugged; it wouldn't move. He leaned back to see what it was caught on, and nearly died of fear for the third time that night. A monstrous face hissed at him, and he kicked himself backwards on his hands and feet, shaking and sputtering on brine. When it hadn't killed him after several heart-pounding moments, he kicked the fire-bowl closer to it; the shadows peeled back, revealing a stone grotesque carved in such a life-like fashion he could have sworn it had been reaching to tear the heart from his chest.

Kappel lurched to his feet and moved the planks that hid the sculpture with trembling hands; obviously someone wanted to keep their treasure hidden, and from the looks of it had succeeded. It- she- was intact, crouching on her haunches, the stone wings that wrapped about her shoulders draping down over her clawed toes like a ruffles of a lady's gown.

"And even a tail...such craftsmanship," he whispered, voice cracking. He shivered again. Relief washed over him; the whole day had been a seesaw. He'd gotten away with his ill-gotten gains, and seemed to be safe and "comfortable" when he could be lying in a gaol with a beating for his troubles. His pains hadn't gotten so bad, and he had escape from them as well safely stowed at the bottom of his pack. He gave a chagrined laugh, glad that no one had been there to witness his foolishness.

“Welcome, my lady!” he announced to the statue with a bow. “No need to be shy, there’s plenty of room by the fire, won’t you join me? No? Well, if you’re comfortable there, I suppose I cannot argue… But at least have some dinner! Look, we have plenty tonight, a feast, if you will! Here I have a pair of chickens; they’ll make decent eating. I also acquired these delicious canned vegetables and a loaf of bread, although I am afraid the bread might be slightly squashed, but surely you don’t mind, do you? Would you care to share? No as well? Right you are, it is better indeed not to rely on charity,” he nodded solemnly.

"Well, what else do I have here then?" He turned back to the bag, hand seeking and finding a cloth-wrapped bundle. "This, my Lady? My deepest regrets-" he reverently drew out one of the vials of morphine- "but these I do not share."


* * * * *


The food lay forgotten as Kappel basked in the assuaging of a greater hunger. Nothing hurt anymore, and he shifted lazily on the dirty floorboards, basking in the warmth of an absent sun. His smile faded slightly as he noticed the statue was now staring at him, disapproval clearly marked across its scowling countenance. He sneered back at the stone form.

"What gives you the right to judge? A man needs to live, and I need what I need to live." he mumbled at her, tugging his coat-sleeve back down over the marks on his arm to hide them from her disappointed gaze. "What do you know of life anyway? You hold court with mice and spiders; what can you learn from them?"

He closed his eyes, letting the morphine rock him in its arms. Bliss. Then a crackling sound, like someone walking across twigs. His eyes blinked open, but he saw nothing. Sometimes the bliss brought mind tricks with it, sounds and sights that weren't real. Like the statue, which now appeared to be breathing. He hallucinated the tail twitching next, the stone dropping away in paper-thin fragments to reveal sky-blue skin. He hated it when it came on like this, when the bliss wasn't bliss but something wholly disturbing to one's inner peace, and-

Something hit him on the cheek. Wincing, he brought the culprit to his eyes. It was stone, it seemed, and it was paper-thin...

Kappel looked up at his Lady. She opened her eyes and turned her face to stare back at him. And then the statue seemed to explode. Wings flexing, snapping wide open, scattering more fragments of stone shell as she roared. Kappel screamed. He made it to his feet somehow, swaying drunkenly, and the thing that had been a statue advanced on him, her eyes burning, oh dear lord, HER EYES--




--Time has passed. He is lying curled up on his side on hard-packed, musty earth that stinks of ash and rot. The angular walls of the manse are no longer around him, and have been replaced with a sloping face of rock. He tries to move, to raise himself from the ground, to find escape, but finds that his wrists are chained together in front of him. He is cold. His shirt has been stripped away and he can still feel a dull agony in his back from the careful markings she has put there. His throat is dry and cracked hoarse from screaming, but the lingering effects of the morphine have blunted most of the pain he would otherwise have felt. He doesn’t try to scream any more; there is no one to hear.

"Sie werden an mich jetzt angekettet, menschlich" she purrs into his ear, "Dein Körper gehört mir, zu befehlen, zu kontrollieren."
Her smile is cruel. She means to have his service and loyalty, and is going to gain it against his will. Why had she not simply asked? He might have been willing to strike a deal…

The fire and the harsh glow of the irons illuminates her inhuman form as she chants in a barbarous tongue. Her eyes are a window to the Pit as she calls down pain upon him.

Let it end soon. Let it be over. Let it just be the morphine.

But it isn’t any of those things.

The world blinks, and now his breath mists in the cold air, mingling with the smoke of his cigarette before scattering in the cold January wind. Heavy storm clouds smother the late afternoon sun, and the freezing gloom has deadened the slums of Berlin. The winter breeze moans and howls through the empty street, whistling against the lampposts and swirling trash from the gutter. It bites at him, cutting cruelly through the thin fabric of his coat. Kappel shivers, but only a little.

The cold is distant, meaningless. Everything feels indistinct and distorted, as though he is peering at the world through a curtain of running water. He tastes the bitter smoke he inhales, but it is someone else taking the drag. His body is no longer his own; he no longer desires, or chooses. Or even thinks, save in sparing instances like this. Struggling for control is fruitless; his mind has accepted its dispossession, and grown content to watch and wander, chattering aimlessly to itself as his life plays out beyond his control.

This little piggy went to market, this little piggy stayed home.

Nursery rhymes- nonsense to pass the time- little games to keep the mind sane, when his wits were almost his own. Ways to forget what had come before, and what is coming now.

This little piggy ate roast beef, this little piggy had none. And this little piggy…

There it is.

This Little Piggy is short and round and dressed in a cheap pinstriped suit, which strains to contain its girth. It has grown fat on fine food and money stolen from his Lady - fat and fit for slaughter. It emerges from a shop at the end of the street, juggling a leather attaché case as it tries to open its umbrella. It passes right by Kappel, lounging against the wall as he lights another cigarette, and thinks nothing of him. It is not until it is a good forty paces down the boulevard that Kappel's body moves to follow, the cigarette abandoned to the mercy of the sidewalk.

He matches The Little Piggy's stride easily, but kept his distance. The thing that still calls itself Kappel does not want the Piggy afraid. Not just yet.

The Little Piggy casts a furtive glance over its shoulder, and its eyes widen. Kappel is nonchalant. Further down the road, it looks back again; this time Kappel meets its eyes, and smiles.

This little piggy went wee wee wee, all the way home…

Piggy hurries on, shoulders hunched, looking for a watchman, or simply a caring passer-by; anyone who might offer protection. All it finds are empty alleys, and that it has let Kappel back it into a corner. Fear has destroyed its sense of direction, and soon the narrow, twisted streets have it completely confused.

Piggy hurries on, shoulders hunched, looking for a watchman, or a caring passer-by; anyone who might offer protection. All it finds are empty alleys, and it soon realizes it has allowed Kappel to back it into a corner. Fear has destroyed its sense of direction, and soon the narrow, twisted streets have it completely confused.

There will be no rescue. Kappel can feel his hand slide into the pocket of his coat, fingers that were once his were now wrapping around the cool handle of the strait razor. The thrill of the hunt races through him, and it no longer matters that his body is not his own, and that his feet are carrying him to murder. All he can feel is the joy of the Demon within him.

Shouting would take courage; the Little Piggy is silent as it staggers away, pawing at the alley walls in search of a hidden shortcut to the next street over. The razor falls open casually, catching the light, and the eyes of the Piggy widen in fear as a monster descends upon him and-

-Kappel stands in a darkened bedroom, the early morning gloom filtering in through the closed shutters. At his feet, a man is crawling backwards across the floor, his mouth open as if to scream, but the terror has strangled his voice, and then it is silenced as once again the blade-

-Rolling together on the flat stones of the pier, a tough young sailor pummelling him mercilessly, and then his hand lashes out, the razor flashing in the ragged light. The sailor tries to catch it, but his grip is poor, and Kappel finds himself staring to his eyes as his victim watches the blade draw closer-

-Unseen in the shadows of an ancient, windowless attic, standing guard over his Lady in the muggy summer afternoon, watching as two men enter, sledgehammers in hand. He steps from his hiding place as they kneel to pray – their final prayer. His bare feet are silent as a cat as he crosses the dusty attic boards, and the light of their old lamp glitters cruelly on the polished steel-

* * * * *


He is standing in the snow smoking again, in this last flashback. Cigarette butts lie piled in the snow at his feet. The attack that comes on him is unexpected, the assailants swift. There are only three, but they operate with military precision; something he has not faced since leaving the front, back when his body and soul belonged only to the morphine and no other master. They know his preference for the knife and are prepared for it, disarming him before he can draw more than a few thin lines on them. He sprawled in the snow at their feet, held there at gunpoint by the tallest of the three, a bespectacled man with a bushy moustache. That man is exchanging loud words with the one who disarmed Kappel, a great bear of a man who is dressed like a common labourer save for the quiver of hunting arrows perched on his back. For all their differences, there seems to be a family resemblance among them.

The third, a blond youth not older than seventeen, splits his attention between the pair, watching as their arguments spew great gouts of steam into the chilly air. And that is their mistake; none are watching him, and while the strait-razor had become the weapon of choice for his body, it was not the only one Kappel knew how to use. It’s the most control he's felt in ages as he reaches for the Luger tucked in the small of his back, and he can actually feel the cold steel on his skin as it clears the fabric of his waistband.

It is his hand that shakes as it pulls the trigger, firing two shots that punch the gun-wielding man away from him. The boy shrieks, groping for his own pistol and managing to duck out of the way of the third round. Kappel is on his feet now, shrieking now as well, exalted at the feelings he can taste running through him and at the smell of the air- the battle he is winning. The boy succeeds in getting his pistol out, but fires it harmlessly into the ground as he falls.

The third man is roaring in fury as he charges, a fat butcher’s knife jutting from his fist. Kappel turns halfway and empties the rest of the magazine, one, two three rounds, but the giant hardly seems to notice. Kappel turns to run, firing the last round blind on instinct, and the blade slices into his left shoulder.

Knocked off-balance by the blow and the sudden pain, Kappel staggers and falls, the luger cartwheeling into the snow. He wallows in the slush for a moment, trying to force himself onto his feet. He runs on, trying to ignore the sense of Déjà Vu, and a blast picks him up and shoves him forward, the simple burn from the cut now an inferno across his back. He doesn't know why the man came at him with a knife first while he had a shotgun at his disposal; he can only cite an empty prayer that the buckshot seemed to have mostly missed him. Behind him, the black-haired giant sinks to his knees, and then topples into the snow.

He can feel the blood sticky against his side; feel the pain growing clearer and clearer with every passing second. The near- constant presence that has been with him since the night in the manse was struggling for grip, slipping away, slipping out of him, the hand-holds she'd carved into him wiped clean by the buckshot. The pain crests, like a wave that just keeps building, and he's holding onto the snow and crying, and the waves roll down over him, and don't stop for a long time.


* * * * *


Eugene Kappel jerked awake in a pitch black room, a scream clawing at his throat.

Had the giant killed him? The last thing he remembered was—

No. The last thing he remembered was not writhing in snow in agony. The rest of the picture filled itself in neatly, grinning like a hangman. His leap from the roof, a last-ditch attempt to escape the Demon once and for all.

Screaming as he prepared to embrace the ground that rushed up to meet him.

Screaming more as sharp talons raked his body, tearing him away from his only route to freedom. Her laughter as she bore him off to the mouth of Hell; he had passed out upon seeing the giant gate of bones and smelling the reek of sulphur that breathed up from behind it.

Kappel buried his face in his hands, rocking blindly back and forth in an empty tomb.


* * * * *

June 18, 1921

Fiona pinched the bridge of her nose, eyes wincing closed against the acrid cigar smoke that was causing her headache. Beside her, Bouchard hunched over his papers making notations on a lined pad of paper as he muttered to himself. The pub was dimly lit, the heavy smoke of cigars creating a haze that blocked much of the light in the already dim room, barely illuminating his notes.

She'd helped him clean up, gather the research books necessary to finish the translation for the Gray Eye, and then guided him to this place, sat him down in the back corner and spoke to him quietly until the shock wore off and he started responding to her with more than just monosyllabic words. He'd taken refuge in his research, valiantly continuing Reeves' translation of a book he claimed carried the secrets of La Pierre des Prophètes, the icon she knew the Demon to be seeking.

First the old man, Ancel; she'd torn the place apart searching for it, and Fiona expected that she'd be back on the road, tracking the Demon and her prize within days; but the beast had not left the city. Her ravages had not uncovered the Seer's Stone, and Fiona set herself the task of watching the people who'd come for the auction of his estate. Perhaps the contents of a bank vault or a lockbox would reveal what the Demon sought, and Fiona could bring her family's mission to an end...before the Demon completed her own mission to bring Fiona's family to an end.

Her suspicions had played out, and a man known to her as the Demon's familiar had shown. Naturally, he'd wormed his way in with the men who had claimed what his master sought; she had discovered the identity of his companions and waited for a chance to get one alone. Bouchard had proved an easy mark; Fiona had been surprised by his moxy when the Demon had actually shown her face.

He'd shown a willingness to fight and the courage to hold his ground that could prove useful, and she deliberated keeping him on to handle the eye; she wasn't sure he would surrender to her if she asked, and certainly he couldn't be allowed to wander off with it. The Demon was after it, and even with the shambles the night was in, even with another massacre on her hands and the Demon's servant back in her own, the night was not a total loss for the simple fact that the Grey Eye was still lined bait. She would try again, and maybe this time Fiona could set the hook.

Fiona sighed and suppressed a shudder. Tonight had been the closest she'd come, and the nearest she had ever been to the Demon. At that, Fiona had only ever seen the beast up close one other time, that time in Spain some seven years back with Jackson and Uncle Harod...she bit back a sob, thinking of her lost kin.

She was a capable Hunter herself, and she liked to think that it was for her skills and not her gender that Jackson had asked her to stay behind and keep an eye on his family when he and the others trekked to Germany. There had been rumors of a flying beast who had been haunting nights in Augsburg. Poor Uncle Harod, and cousin was the first time since he came of age that they'd had hard evidence of their quarry; his first hunt. She'd stayed behind and worried over letters from her brother, the signs of dark magic and a human servant. When they knew for sure the Demon was close, practically cornered, Fiona had come up to help them finish it- but by the time she arrived, they were already dead.

Jackson alone was missing from the scene of the atrocity; she found him later, in the lair described in his last letter. Fiona prayed he'd already been dead by the time the beast had taken his body there. She'd vowed to avenge him that night, in that dark cave, and again at his grave under a bright sun that failed to warm her. Paris had been her first real chance...Her hands clenched closed on the edge of the table, knuckles turning white.

I failed last night. I'll not fail again.

How? How had the Demon gotten away? She put nearly six hours each morning into training her body, more in the evening on sharpening her mind, nearly ever hour in between for the last two years tracking every possible lead...her entire life devoted to a single cause, and it still had not been good enough. Take all the oaths you like, mean them with ever fibre of your being, but there's no way to know if the next time you'll succeed, or if you'll end up like Rowena.

Her inner musings tapered off as she realized Bouchard's own contemplations had stopped completely. He sat staring at the book, pencil still in hand, unmoving. Fiona leaned over and snapped her fingers under his nose; it wasn't until the third time that he even blinked.

"How are you holding up?" she asked, pasting on a concerned expression. If he was going to crack, she was better off drugging his cider now and slipping off with the Demon's trophy before he could bring ruination to her whole Hunt. But she couldn't deny that she could use competant help and he'd held up admirably under the madcap conditions so far. If he could keep it together, she'd be getting somewhere soon.

Bouchard looked up after a moment, and it took longer than it should have for his eyes to track and focus on her face. He smiled grimly and responded, "I'm handling this the best I can. It's...well, I've seen people die before. I've been a soldier for over two years; I've seen plenty on the field. I have nightmares, on occasion, but when I wake up I remember that its over. I can put the dread out of my mind, convince myself it was never that bad, and move on. But tonight..."

He took a breath, and his eyes met her own; she approved of the steel she saw forging behind those long lashes.

"Tonight was like a piece of horror, like a great amalgamation of all the evils I've witnessed clawed its way out of my dreams and into my waking life." He swallowed and blinked, and this time his eyes held something akin to awe. "You've been hunting it; how do you manage to keep yourself sane?"

Fiona chuckled, trying to cover her unease. "You're assuming I have."

Bouchard shook his head. "Don't make jokes. You know what, don't you? What is it? Just how long have you been trying to take it down? Why did it come for Kappel, for us? How- "

She raised a finger and his voice, which was rising above the din and starting to draw attention, fell silent.

A long moment drew out as she regarded Philip Bouchard; he continued to meet her gaze. He clenched his jaw resolutely, and she found the scales tipping in his favor. He would do, for now. And if the answers to his questions sent the man screaming into the night, well, she'd just have to make sure she got the Grey Eye off him first.

"Alright. I suppose you've earned some answers simply by surviving this evening. But this is not the place..." With a final sigh, Fiona set down a few francs to pay for their drinks and motioned for Bouchard to pick up his books.




* * * * *


How long had he lain there, whimpering? Hours, he assumed, but from the rough pain in his belly it might have been days. He ached all over; scrapes and slashes mostly, and his lip was split. His mind, however, had cleared to the point that Kappel had realized he wasn't actually in the lair of the Devil. At least not the Christian Lucifer. He was close enough, however- the catacombs under Paris were about as far from heaven as one could get on earthly soil.

The stink of rotting sewage was enough to make him gag, and he was both soaked from perspiration in the humidity, and cold from the air. Water dripped around him, both near and distant, and the gurgles echoed eerily around him from a sightless maze. A tad light-headed, he groped in his pockets until he located his book of paper matches, filched from Reeves' parlour. Vaguely he wondered if the old man and Bouchard had escaped, or if they had been laid open by the Demon's talons like a treasured research book.

He struck a match, wincing at the bright light and tried to get a look at his surroundings. Squinting, he could make out the walls of a tunnel, ending some twenty paces to his right at a narrow walkway boarded by a stream of murky water. Kappel lurched to his feet and clumsily made his way over, holding a lapel of his coat over his nose to block the smell. He decided to follow the sluggishly rolling stream, lacking much else to go by, but hadn't made it further than a scant handful of steps before the match began to singe his fingertips and he had to shake it out.

The wall was his anchor. Mindful of the limited number of matches left, he began to feel his ways along the moldering stone. Between the complete darkness, the disorienting sounds of the water, and the dizziness hovering over his gray matter, he could barely tell which way was up let alone out. And the monster that had brought him here...

Kappel did not know where she was, or why she had abandoned him here alone and unmolested, but he hardly intended to stay around and find out. Fighting back blind terror that threatened to overwhelm him like the darkness, he stumbled blindly down the tunnel until his foot met liquid putridity and he went in up to the knee before he could catch himself. Retching until tears squeezed from the corners of his eyes, he hugged the sides of the tunnel until he could breathe again.

Don't think about the stink. Don't think about the cold or the damp or the pain. Don't think about the monster at your back...Don't think about not thinking about any of those things!

Count the steps you take. Think about that instead. It must have been thirty so far, what? Thirty-one. Thirty-two. Don't think about the dark... Think about, yes, the bright days under the sun stealing apples from the local orchard with your pals. Clean sheets and a warm bed. Pretty girls on the town…seventy-eight, seventy nine, eighty...

At step two hundred and fifty he paused to strike a match and check his surroundings; it was as if he'd barely moved at all. The same large-block walls extended into the gloom in either direction. It was with great reluctance that he finally let the tiny flame die.

Four hundred and seventy, and now he was thinking about his comrades at the military academy, the hard drills and harder parties. You must remain calm. What would Seargent Keonigs say if he could see you now?

Nothing, the same internal voice responded. Keonigs died at Verdun, charging like a fool into the machine guns. He wanted honor; honor was above all else...and his funeral was very honorable, oh yes, it was.

But Deiter! What would Dieter say?

Dieter would laugh at the thought of you stuck down here like a mole, laugh and say, "more wine and wenches for the rest of us, then, we'll all take a drink in your name, Eugene!"

Of course, Dieter isn't talking now, either. War has many ways of laying out a man, and they aren't all by guns and bullets. Shrapnel can be deadly even if you live four months after encountering it.

Faces floated through his mind, white shadows in the dark. People he had known, women he had loved, brothers in battle, commanders and enemies staring up at him with sightless eyes...

He was the last. Between what time eroded and the instant a sniper's rifle issued its polite cough, they were now all gone save he. One thousand.

Kappel stood still, counting the remaining matches with a fingertip. Seven left; he must be strong. Stilling his hand from tearing one off, he pocketed the packet. He would save them for when he hit a junction, make prime use of his meager supplies until he found his way out. Resolutely, Kappel marched on.


* * * * *


Philip followed his colorful hostess up a narrow flight of stairs near the pub's entrance, shifting the book-filled pack on his back and fighting the urge to rub his eyes. Fiona unlocked the door, and with a mock flourish waved him to precede her into the room. The room, which she'd admitted to renting for the last week. The room which she hadn't saw fit to tell him about over the last few hours as he tried in vain to focus on his work amid the reek and riot of the public bar. He set his pack down on a desk; at least she'd decided to share her sanctuary now before his eyes were watering too badly to see.

There were unusual things scattered about the small room; unusual, at least, to anyone who had not recently become familiar with Mme. Canmore's particular quest and...talents. An odd-looking rifle lounged on the bed, along with a pair of rubber boots and several coils of thick rope...and what looked to be a box of dynamite peeked out from beneath the bedframe. Following his gaze, Fiona surreptitiously toed it back under as she swept a spot free on the comforter and sat down.

She motioned him to the chair by the door, which he took not without a measure of suspicion. Annoyed as he might be with her for not mentioning the boarding room earlier, and as much as wanted explanations, part of him worried over the line of reasoning that may have led her to take him into her apparent confidence.

"It be fair, we aren't entirely sure just when it started," Fiona began without preamble. "From the stories I've heard, my family has been hunting the Demon since at least the time of Nostradamus."

"Four hundred years??!" breathed Bouchard. Fiona nodded in response. "At the very least."

"The Demon...the canniest, toughest, and cruellest of her kind- the breed of devils known as Gargoyles." she caught his eye, and nodded. "Yes, during daylight hours they appear much like their grotesque water-spouting brethren, no more than innocent sculptures. But they cannot stand the pure light of day; the sun traps their dark souls within bodies of solid stone. Come night, when darkness holds sway in every sense of the term, the beasts break free of their prisons and wreak torment upon mankind"

"They say that Gargoyles were so duplicitous, so treacherous in nature they were cast out of Hell itself, in the days when the Earth was still new. Finding themselves vulnerable to the sun, they tempted men in power, offering a variety of services in return for protection from the righteous-minded during the day, those who knew their duty to wipe evil from the face of the world. And many men agreed. Some because they were fools, some out of sheer greed or desire to use the monsters to dominate their fellow man, and some because they had heard tales of the fates of those who refused to make deals with these devils. It was said that the Gargoyles could do worse than merely kill you; they could curse entire kingdoms into ruin simply by the power of their thoughts, if they felt inclined."


Again, an elegant nod was her answer. "That was back in the times when swarms of the creatures stalked the Earth in packs, before they were driven back to the edges of the earth. Those Kingdoms that allied with the beasts did well for a time, to be assured; their strength and viciousness in battle, their dark magics and the great things they could accomplish if given the proper...resources...all brought their liege lords that which they desired, if they continued to pay the demanded price."

"It is assumed that such tolls quickly grew beyond mere protection of their stony shells, and included the feeding of all their infernal vices. Some say that there were Gargoyles amid the courts of the Caesars, and that they caused the madness and twisted desires that fountained up among the Roman leaders which precipitated the fall of their empire. Those that accepted the Gargoyle's corruption were brought to great heights before they fell, for evil contains within it the seeds of its own destruction, and the will of man always triumphs over temptation in the end."

"Most of their fiendish kind have been scourged, shattered when caught out of their lairs or sent back to the fires from which they came. My grandfather himself helped purify a whole nest of them, when he was still a young man. He saw with his own eyes the unnatural lives they led; he said they don't bear their children live, but lay eggs like snakes do, and leave them in one large pit to await their hatching. They do not recognize their own offspring, or parent them the way most animals do; they don't even care that much about their own young. Hatchling Gargoyles are treated the same by all adults, and trained in hunting and the ways of the night as a group."

"But the one dubbed the Demon...she just won't be purged. She seems to be their Angel of the Night, set on a task of retribution on those who would see her devil breed gone to its last member. Whatever magics they set on her make her extremely difficult to kill; many of my line have come very close over the years, but none have yet managed to strike a deathblow. Its said Gargoyles grow in power over time, and she is rumored to be over a thousand years old. She may be the oldest left; others of her kind- while far from easy to take down- have proven much easier prey. My grandfather even brought home a skull of one- a terrible beaked thing, with great curving horns and tusks- and mounted on his wall as a memento of his last Hunt."

"By the time I was old enough to stand on chair and meet it eye to eye it had already started to disintegrate; a few years after that and it had completely turned to dust. No other thing on this earth has bones that react that way from simple exposure to sunlight." Fiona stood, hugging herself, and began to pace the small confines of the bedroom as she moved on to the next part of the tale.

"You asked earlier about my personal experiences with the Demon, as well as Eugene Kappel's involvement with her, and the people he killed in her name. You claim Ferdinand Reeves declared him to have been under compulsions of the darkest sorcery; I certainly don't put it past the Demon, but you'll forgive me if I can't see him purely in the role of "victim"- his crimes range over too wide a scope for that. The last time I actively hunted the Demon, Kappel wasn't a factor. It was seven years ago, in a small village in the Pyrenees, on the Spanish side of the range. That was the first time in years that the trail was hot and we had the Grey Eye to thank for it; that was the first we learned of the existence of the Eye, as well." She added the last bit with a small frown, and Bouchard felt for the stone relic where it lay nestled in his breast pocket.

"It was only my brother Jackson and I, that time; we attempted to bomb her roost at high noon, but at the following sunset we heard her wicked cry sounding from the ruins. She escaped, and we were at a loss until the spring of 1919, when our sources began to report a string of strange sightings marching south out of Germany, and later, through Austria and the north of Italy. And while her motivation seemed again focused on the Eye, there was now a new factor in play."

"Kappel," they said together. Bouchard was quick to add, "that does follow with what he told us. He claims that the last thing he clearly remembers was hiding out in the woods two winters ago, and that he "woke up" a year later, December he claimed, surrounded by death, and had been dreaming of murder and violence and a talking statue ever since. He's a morphine addict, poor man."

"That 'poor man' killed nearly the last of my family," Fiona snapped, her voice a torrent of refined rage,"and investigations of his past revealed him to be a habitual abuser of morphine and other opiates as far back as 1915."

Bouchard, already horrified over the tale she had woven thus far, blanched and lapsed into silence as she seated herself back on the bed and continued.

"It was last fall when we eventually tracked the pair to Lyon. I say "we", meaning the Canmore Hunters in general and not myself specifically; my brother Jackson's wife was heavily pregnant with his second child- another son, he was so sure. And he was right, although he will never know little Douglas. We Hunters have been careful to always leave a trained and capable member of the family behind during hunts to watch over the home front, and it was my turn to stay back. My cousin had finally been deemed ready to don the mask and take up the calling, and he and his father accompanied my brother into the south of France..."

Her eyes grew distant. "You know, my grandfather used to tell the best bedtime stories, about his whole clan of mighty Hunters...the six fine sons he himself was proudly raising in the Tradition, and the nephews who were well on their way to being fine additions to the ranks. The successes they'd had over the demonic breed; the losses they'd taken among the brave souls who fought for the daylight."

"But some nights...on rare occasions...he spoke of the fire. And how the Demon had laughed that night after she'd lured the men away, and those who returned found only ashes. Ashes, and my grandfather's two young daughters, who had been out in the barn when the Demon's balefire erupted around our house. 'My brothers wept,' he would say, 'to be left with only girls. How it would be years before we could raise our ranks to rise against her in battle again.' And he said they laughed through their tears when he decided to train them just the same."

"They didn't laugh when my aunt Rowena came the closest to success of any Hunter in three generations when she faced the Demon in hand-to-hand combat and put a short sword through her gut. Her husband, Harod, had always been a Hunter in spirit, if not blood, from the first time our families paths had crossed. He eventually remarried, and his second wife gave us my cousin Thomas."

"Jackson wrote me letters each and every week they were away in France; he gave quite vivid details on the atrocious acts committed by Eugene Kappel, most of them with his straight razor, all in the name of the one he fervently referred to as 'his Lady'. He wrote that the Demon seemed to have gone to ground in the mountains southeast of the city, in a cave in a low-lying part of the Monts du Lyonnais, and her familiar had been seen to be haunting a few of the small villages close by. I left immediately to join them, but..."

There was silence then, the building tension as sticky as flavored ice flowing over fingers on a hot day.

"It was my uncle Harod's idea to try and save Kappel's soul, to offer him a chance to redeem himself and help take down the Demon once and for all. He wanted to show Thomas that even we Hunters could show mercy; that a man should not pay the ultimate price simply for being weak-willed."

Her voice turned suddenly harsh again.

"They would have been better off putting him down like a rabid dog where he stood- as Jackson had suggested. Thomas was barely sixteen when your friend Kappel put a bullet in his eye. Uncle Harod fared no better, and Jackson...Jackson, he gave to the Demon. By the time I arrived in Lyon, all that was left for me to do was bury my kin."

"I picked up her trail again in Prussia several months ago. There was no sign of Eugene Kappel; I did not know what became of him until he appeared at the auction of Mssr. Reynolds' properties. As for why the Demon is after the Eye, I do not know. Legend endows it with prophetic capabilities, and for whatever purpose she has set her sights on it, I fear for you. She is unrelenting, lusting after such icons of magic until they are either in her hands or destroyed."

He swallowed. "But, surely you must have some idea why she is after it...what its significance is to her, what she intends to learn or find with it..."

"Something dark, that is all I know. You are the expert here, and have a copy of a book containing the supposed history of the Eye, no less. Maybe you should tell me, hmm?"

Chagrined, he nodded and began spreading out his notes on the small tabletop. But before he could settle back into the translation, he just had to ask...

"Why tell me this, any of this? Not that I don't appreciate that you did, of course, but what made you decide I was even worthy of it?"

A small half-smile played across her face, making her appear several years younger, and then she answered.

"You stood your ground with the Demon and managed to survive the experience..."

Bouchard smiled, feeling a blush coming on until she added, "Besides, you'll probably be dead within three day's time; and who would believe such an obvious farce of a tale if you live?"

* * * * *


It was at step number six thousand, four hundred and nine that the wall to Kappel's left disappeared, leaving him groping for balance. It felt as though the wall cornered smoothly, and was that a slight breeze he felt?

Four matches left...

He weighed the odds, bit his lip, and lit one. In the brief light, he discovered himself to be at a T-junction in the sewer, the tunnel he was about to leave behind being rather smaller than the passage it had just merged with. He shook out the match and struck another, stepping on a protruding brick and then carefully flung himself across the wide trough of sewer water, losing the second match-but thankfully not his footing- on landing.

He gasped for air, and- there it was again! Almost imperceptible, a brush of cool air on his face, like the breath of a child blowing dandelion puffs. It came from in front of him, the tunnel leading off to his right. That must be the way out! He blessed the wide walkway lining this side of the tunnel, and hurried through the pitch as fast as he dared, following the breeze that occasionally sighed against him. The tunnel branched twice more, one route again wider than the one he was currently following, but he stuck to the track he was on. The air, that cool fresh air, that was his guide.

Kappel stopped short at the next turn; one match left, and rather than the path dividing with the flow of the foul river it was a like a doorway in the rock, a narrower tunnel receding away from the sewer. He could reach either side of the tunnel with his fingertips without stretching, and it was no loss to him that it parted ways from the sewer line. Another gust of air breathed along his face, head-on from the tunnel, and he was decided. Without even lighting the last match, he adjourned into the side tunnel.

Eight thousand and fifty one. That was when he first heard the footsteps, thirty, maybe twenty paces behind him.

He chalked it up to an echo.

Less than a hundred steps later, he was chalking up the scurrying to large rats; pests in the walls and nothing more. They were no worry to him; he still had his knife. His knife...perhaps he could bury it just outside the entrance to the tunnel when he reached it. He did not want to lose it to the police, and he was going to turn himself in first thing out of this hole. He knew the truth about what had happened to him, now, and though he would hardly tell them the whole of it he could thread together enough of the truth to get himself properly incarcerated. Jail had once been his biggest fear; now he would gladly sentence himself to life in a cage if it ensured she was on the other side.

Several yards in front of him, someone sniggered. Not the echo of a foot sliding along gritty ground, or the sound of rodents rooting through their burrows, but a laugh. There was no mistaking it for any other sound. A laugh, yes; my imagination playing tricks on me. That is all it is, all it could be.

He caught his breath and licked his chapped lips, and then it came- a slow, scraping sound, and then another, definite footsteps shambling slowly but steadily down the tunnel towards him.

From behind him.

Whoever it was, whatever it was, he would not be taken without a fight. He reached into his pocket and reclaimed his razor, soundlessly flicked the blade open. As quietly as he could, he moved on, ears straining for sounds of the thing stalking him. And there it was again- a susserating whisper, just barely audible.

He realized he was sweating profusely, despite the chilly temperature. Suddenly the wall vanished from beneath his fingertips, and he cried out. The laughter was louder this time; he had simply found another converging tunnel entrance.

The whisper came amiably at his shoulder. "Forward first, or first continue forward...?"

-Kappel went still as stone, and the hoarse thing at his side lightly blew in his face, a familiar, cool breeze-


Eugene bolted.

* * * * *


She'd rounded up a pot of coffee from downstairs; they both needed it. Her story seemed to have struck something deep within the younger man, greatly disturbing him, but the telling of the tale seemed to have done much to help him get his feet back on the ground. He knew what was after him, and knew her power had limits.

"Stuck?" Fiona asked, pouring him a full mug of the dark brew. She'd returned to find him brooding over the texts, looking rather put out.

"I finished, as a matter of fact."

She nearly dropped the pot. "You did??"

He took a small sip, grimacing at the bitter taste, and then downed half his mug. "It's a complete bust."

"You mean like a sculpture?"

"No, like a complete waste of time. It's just a traditional Egyptian hymn that the high temple priestess would sing in praise of Ra, asking for blessings of milk and honey." He turned a bit red, and Fiona raised an eyebrow.

"Maybe it has more significance than just being a prayer."

Bouchard blushed more. "Oh, it does. Both milk and honey had....certain connotations among the Egyptians, uh, euphimistically speaking. The Egyptians weren't precisely so lacking in either on the fertile banks of the Nile delta that they'd have to, ah, sing requests for it from their chief god."

Fiona worked that over in her mind for a while as Bouchard averted his eyes and fiddled with his glasses uncomfortably.

"...OH." she said at length. Bouchard coughed, and then drained the last of his coffee.

"Yes, well, you see why I rather doubt it has anything to do with the Seer's Stone. But Emran- the man who wrote the original seven scrolls this book is scribed from- alludes to hidden meanings within the scroll that will lead to an explanation for how to work the Seer's Stone. And then there were these hieroglyphics scribed on the sides of the original scrolls, which were written in Arabic, but Klaus was very thourough and although all the bordering letters were thought to be just decoration, he copied them along with the passages he translated."

"Wait. What exactly did this Emran say, that you think the hieroglyphics held the cipher?"

With a sigh, Bouchard picked up the Journal of Nights and read aloud from it.

"Once you have read these scrolls in all their mercy, you will find knowledge, and thus attain understanding; your own learning on this path will bring you to the Ninth Scroll which will crown your union with its powers. The path may branch many times, but reading between the scrolls will allow you to discern the direction you must attain to complete this union."

"That's it?"

He paused, and then read the last line to her. "A warning to those who seek- a man of Al-Mutasim’s wisdom may find his way through perseverance; a fool will find himself distracted by that which holds no meaning and never gain his desire. And then there's this block of fake cuneiform writing sitting right there to distract you, and you work on trying to translate it instead of the "decorations" on the side. At least, that is what Reeves' notes say..."

"So what does it all mean?"

"That's just it; I'm not sure."

"It's a riddle?"

"No, it- no...." He frowned. "You know, maybe it is. When Reeves..." Bouchard cleared his throat noisily. "When Reeves showed it to me the other day, I started thinking I'd heard something like it before. It was the funniest thing...and yet..."

She interrupted him again. "It mentions a ninth scroll. You said there were originally seven, right? Why doesn't he mention the eighth? And do you need either for the translation?"

"I...I'm not sure. But if it is a riddle, maybe they aren't actual scrolls at all."

"Well, let's see. Start from the end. The seven scrolls are supposed to lead you to a ninth scroll, which is then supposed to "crown you with power". But we're not after a scroll of power, we're after the Grey Eye."

It was like a switch had been thrown in his head. "The Grey Eye is the 'ninth scroll'! It's what crowns you with its power...when you use it. Unite with it. And the branching paths..." -his voice barely contained his excitement as he rummaged for a book at the bottom of his satchel- "I knew I'd heard it before!" Now he was flipping through the pages of a small, new-looking book. "And Reeves did as well; no wonder either, it's one of the foundations of Kabbalistic mysticism!" He all but slammed the book onto the table, open to a page that showed several complex diagrams. He tapped it with his index finger.

"It's the tree of life! It's considered to be a map of the universe and the psyche, the order of the creation of the cosmos, and the very path to spiritual illumination!"

"Indeed." He sounds like he's quoting a text, or a schoolhouse lecture, she mused.

"There are ten Sephiroth, see, ten points on a...well, call it a path to enlightenment. And twenty-two paths that connect them; branching paths- branches on the tree! Keter, see that's the first Sephiroth, the top of the tree; it symbolizes the Crown; everything from 'nothingness', to the primordial ether, to unity with God and complete enlightenment."

"Crown, and in, "crown you with its union"? You said there was ten of these..."

"Spheres," Bocuhard supplied.

"Ten of these spheres, and right before he mentioned union Emran spoke of a "ninth scroll", which you think is the Eye itself; what's the meaning behind number nine on your little tree?" She asked, starting to get into it despite herself.

"'s cycles of the earth, and the moon. Base correspondences; sometimes it is connected with illusions as well."

She frowned. "That hardly seems to fit."

"True, but Keter is first one the tree, and Emran equates it to the tenth 'scroll'. If Keter is ten, then Chokmah is nine, and that one signifies-" here he stopped and searched for another page in the book- "Wisdom." He glanced over to her. "Which certainly fits with the Seer's Stone. It's supposed to be able to show you anything you ask of it." Bouchard snapped his fingers. "Seven scrolls in all their mercy. Counting backward, seven would be Chesed, the last of the earthly spheres, and it means-"

"Let me guess: Mercy?"

"Yes. Reading all seven scrolls and unlocking their secrets gives you Understanding- eight on the tree and the first of the spiritual spheres- Binah. It fits. There is no physical equivalent to the eight scroll...except maybe the translation of its cipher. Which if we recall, is a bawdy religious song." He set the book back down, shoulders slumping.

"But didn't Emran also give a warning about getting distracted by things that have no real meanings? I know Reeves thought it meant that untranslatable passage, but maybe it meant the hieroglyphics as well? There are Greek letters too, after all. He talks about studies and learning and fools who try to take the easy route to what they want; maybe someone who actually studied the Eye would know to unravel the Greek and ignore the Egyptian parts, that those were just a- a pickled herring!"

"Red herring", Bouchard corrected her absently. She snorted in response. "But I agree with you completely," he added, mollifying her somewhat. "I'll give translating the Greek a shot...and I must admitted, although I know I've never come across any mention of a specific Seer's Stone among my Grecian studies, I can't help but feel as though it's part of something I've heard before whenever the two are mentioned together. Funny, that."


* * * * *


Eugene Kappel ran through the darkness, his shoes slip-slapping across the damp stones, fingers trailing the mossy walls in an attempt to keep himself oriented.

"Wrong way!" hissed a voice just behind his left shoulder, and he spun to greet the darkness with his knife. "Wrong way wrong!" the voice laughed again, still behind him. He feinted with the blade, catching nothing. Rough, rasping laughter bubbled up all around him, even sounding from directly beneath his feet. He jumped, and it went silent. Swallowing rawly he moved on, the razor held out in front of him like a warding talisman. Footsteps sidled up beside him, matching him step for step, mimicking his movements. Kappel broke and ran again.

Voices came, taunting him from the shadows with more laughter and harsh whispers.

"Rabbit meat, twice as sweet! Rabbit marrow, tasty sparrow...crack the bones and drink!"

The whispers hovered like vultures, little snippets of leering words dogging every step, overlapping and half-heard, from at least a dozen separate sources.

"Run rabbit rabbit run-"

.........."Don't fall!! Don't-"

" -trip!" ................."-break those bones just yet- we're saving those, don't you know?"

......"Watch out!" ..........................................."You'll hurt yourself, running in the dark..."

.. - don't you know to run?........................................................................................"I can taste his flesh already..."

..............................................-- don't you run?......"Don't you run, rabbit?"

................"Don't-!!"........... " -- Run!"..................................................................... "-crack and lap the marrow-"

............................................sweet so sweet indeed.

....."RUN!!"........................................................................"...drink his bones dry..."........................Marrow


Cold, bony hands touched his face, and he shrieked with pure fright, tearing back the way he had just come. The jeering laughter filled the tunnel; he could no longer separate out individual voices from the dozens that sprung forth from the perpetual night.

Kappel banged sharply into the edge of a wall that seemed to leap from nowhere, the force of the blow spinning him around, and he scrambled across the floor on all fours momentarily.

.............................................Raaabbit.............................................."rabbit, rabbit is running!"

"BEGONE!!" he shouted at the mocking darkness, and the room fell deathly silent before the echo of his voice had faded. He backed away from that silence; was he going mad?? No, no, he could still feel that ghoulish touch upon his face. His foot hit something and he fell over backwards, landing on-

-a pile of bones. Visions of the night the Demon had taken him assailed his mind, a pile of bones in the corner of a room behind a smouldering fire. Fire! Inspiration struck; he sliced off a large section of the front of his shirt with his razor, fumbling for a large, long bone and wrapping the material around it as a makeshift torch. It was only as his shaking fingers readied the final match to strike that Kappel realized there already was light in the room, a faint shaft of light falling from the end of the chamber's ceiling. Staggering over to it, he realized there was water trickling in from the same opening.

High above him, at the head of a shaft bored through the bedrock and small enough to catch a cat was a grated drainage hole, basking in the light of a streetlamp. Turning in a slow circle, he realized there was another light source coming from an adjoining chamber, a series of distant streetlights. He made his way closer, finding himself entering a room that reeked of death; the stench of decay was all around him. The lowered floor of the chamber was covered in fetid water, he couldn't tell how deep. Piles of bones rose up from the center of the pool like small islands, and from what he could see they wreathed the walls as well.

What is this place? Have I stumbled across the catacombs?

Then he realized the whispers were back, slithering sounds from the corners of the room. He could see them then, pale shadows in the gloom, crawling across the bones towards him. Ripples in the water glinted as things moved beneath its surface. He was surrounded, and there were dozens of them, everywhere he turned. They seemed to be taking care to avoid the slim shafts of light- were they afraid of it?

Kappel positioned himself directly beneath one, and lit his torch while he still had the time. The last match fed the dry fabric graciously, and within moments he had a larger light source than he'd had in what seemed like years. He lofted the torch like a club, and the monsters fell back hissing.

He can see them now; white, hideous creatures. Hairless, naked, bones practically visible under mouldering, leprously pale skin, blank fish-belly eyes without lids, chondrichthian jaws gaping wide. There was just enough left of their original forms for them to be recognizable as having once been human.

The continued to gabble at him, expressing their desire to rend his flesh and feast, grinning with their terrible maws and licking their lipless mouths. "Put it out. Put it out! PUT IT OUT!" They all took up the chant, skirting the edge of the torchlight and giggling like children in anticipation of a yummy treat. Their hands and feet scraped over the bone piles, tossing even more sinister echoes about the cavernous room.

A bone whirled out of the darkness, striking Kappel forcefully on the arm. He dropped the torch, and as he hunched over his throbbing arm trying to reclaim it, they swarmed him. Clammy hands seized his arms, dragging at him, but Kappel lashed out with the razor, and there were shrieks of pain as the blade made contact. He was able to slip just enough from their grasp to reclaim the dying torch and struck out with it in one hand, still slashing with his razor with the other. They leapt back to the shadows, yelling at him.

"Cast away the light, it's dying anyway!" Dead like you, we'll eat you alive for this! Gnaw your bones, my sparrow. Put it out. Out. "We'll put you out either way..." Put it OUT!!

"Never!" He took a step forward, and the entire group stepped away, shaking their heads and raising hands to block the glare. Kappel grinned; he had the upper hand now! He walked forward, careful of the bones crunching beneath his feet, and threaded his way back to the chamber's entrance, back the way he had come. He reached the entryway; they were staying behind him. Emboldened, he strode into the other chamber; there were more of them there, still blocking his path, and from the sounds behind him many were leaving the room, perhaps in hopes of cutting off his retreat.

He paused, there was one figure that waited as the light came forward, not falling back like the rest. "Only one soul brave enough to stand against the light?" Kappel jeered as he moved up another step, and then another; bodies moved around it, but this one stood its ground. "Why don't you run, like the rest of you weak followers? Or perhaps you are too stupid to know how the light hurts your kind?" Another step, revealing a feminine outline crowned with a spiky nimbus of hair. Kappel's legs carried him forward a final step even as the rest of him stopped moving, and when she spoke, he stopped breathing entirely.

"Who said I was of their kind, Eugene?"

That last step took him close enough to light her face. She was smiling. Kappel remembered enough to know that smile was a very bad thing. Something else moved up behind him, blocking the other exit, something that the remaining creatures parted for, grovelling as it passed. Now it was Kappel's turn to step away, but there was a solid wall of snarling ghouls behind him, and the presence of the newcomer seemed to give them courage to stay. His only other way out was past the Lady, and she was still smiling at him, head cocked slightly to one side, amused.

A deep, gravelly voice resonated from the new arrival. "The pain of the light is little to me." It crowded closer, past the edge of the light, its hairless head covered by a garland of bones, woven together with steel wire and human hair. Loops of knucklebones festooned his throat like a pearl necklace.

Now it was Kappel who was forced to retreat, step by step, until the halo of light contained the tall, cadaverous figure on one side and the Lady on the other. Kappel stood in the center, ringed by a living wall of ghoulish monstrosities barely kept at bay by the torch. The tall one waited.

"I can take you away from here, Eugene."

Slowly, he turned his face back to her. She looked softer, somehow; more human than the monsters surrounding her that had once themselves been men and women.

"Your little flame won't last forever. Even if you feed every last scrap of your clothes to it, you'll never find your way out of here before it fails. You know what they'll do to you then, don't you? They've certainly told you their plans..."

He glanced back at the other, who grinned sharply. The Lady continued to speak, her voice soothing.

"Only I can save you, Eugene. Just swear fealty to me, return to my service, and I will lead you out. This whole night will be just a bad dream, and I can even make that go away, if you like. All you have to do is help me get the Graeae's Eye, and I'll make sure the Bone Eaters don't turn you into their next meal. Just say 'yes', Eugene, and I'll see that you are safe from that fate."

He pivoted, the torch wavering, facing an endless circle of leering, drooling faces.


Never. I swore I'd never go back to you, never be a part of your terrible plans. You can take your offer and fly on it back to Hell, I'd rather be eaten alive than be used again, be your wind-up killer on a string.

All around him, they whispered; the head Bone Eater and the Lady remained silent. Water gurgled, close and distant, and the torch spat out sparks of dead fabric. Kappel remembered the feeling of their clammy skin, the icy hands that touched his face, the sight of their jaws unhinging as they purred, watching him, waiting.


He stood still, and she stepped closer. "Put away the knife, Eugene. Be a good boy." He complied. His fingers felt numb as he wiped the brownish blood off the straight razor against his shirt, then closed and pocketed it. The Lady held out her hand, and he surrendered the torch. When she smiled at him, he could see her sharp canines, and it reminded him of the policeman's dog the night he found the manse.

She slipped off, leaving him alone in the darkness. The Bone Eaters stayed back, and as she vanished into the next room, he realized their leader's skin was glowing slightly, like phosphorescent moss. A hiss from the other room and the sudden disappearance of the ambient light let him know the Lady had just dropped his torch into the fetid pool; moments later, she was back.

"You would have yourself and your servant leave our halls now, élégie-du-mien?"

Kappel nodded enthusiastically in agreement. "Yes, we can go now, right?"

"Just a moment, my dealings here are not yet finished. I owe my ally here my thanks for his assistance...a token of my appreciation."

Kappel choked.

"Mm, ma cherie, you only know we can take those who willingly have given themselves to darkness..."

Respite!, he thought, stunned and amazed.

"...and I would be certain to say that he now qualifies."

Kappel's jaw dropped. "But- but you promised you'd keep me safe from them, that you wouldn't let them have me!!" he wailed at the Lady.

"I said I could keep them from devouring your flesh, Eugene- that you wouldn't be eaten. And you won't be." She turned away, and vanished into the darkness. The Bone Eaters watched her go.

The leader motioned to his brood with a careless hand, and they turned back to Kappel. He screamed one last time as they swarmed him.

* * * * *


Bouchard's breathing had picked up, and he'd started muttering to himself more and more over the last twenty minutes.

Finally he stopped, put the pen down, and stared at the notes he had taken. He took off his glasses and cleaned them, blinking rapidly to further clear his vision before returning the lenses to their post. Fiona had noticed that she was fidgeting in anticipation, and had stilled herself. Finally unable to take the suspense after another five minutes of him repeatedly cleaning his glasses and checking his notes, she blurted, "What is the hold up?!"

"I...I think I've got it," Bouchard said in stunned tone, as if he could not quite believe his own proclamation.

"So what is it? Do we need to light a few candles, draw a pentacle in salt, you chant the spell...?"

"It's not like that at all, actually. There's no invocation to use could use any words or no words at all, as long as the intent is clearly framed in your mind."

Fiona stared at him.

"Well, okay, its a tad more difficult than just that," he admitted. "It's just...I'm not sure I should."

She blinked, slowly. "You aren't sure you should...use the Eye?"

"It's just that...its so undefined as a power, and Emran Al-Fahad warns against the untrained and unprepared attempting to use it...something to the effect that a man can lose his soul if he's not careful. All my experience with these things has been on a purely theoretical basis. And when Kappel tried to use it, the Demon showed up; how do we know she's not attuned to it already? What if using it is like lighting a beacon for her?"

Fiona spoke through clenched teeth. "The Demon has killed enough already, she has your 'friend', and we want to find her. We have no other means besides the Eye, and if it brings her to us than it just saves us time in tracking her! Let her come; I'm ready for her." She stroked the gun at her side. "I'm more than ready."

A short time later and several versions of the same argument later, Bouchard capitulated.

He sat on the floor in the pose he used for meditations, and tried to bring his mind to the same state of calm, and then back to that point after Fiona pricked the tip of his index finger with a pin. He held the Seer's Stone in the same hand after rubbing several drops of blood across its surface, the black silk cords currently fastened to it lying loose across his knees.

Center yourself, keep your breathing in the Tiger style. Focus your energy on the psychic "eye" in the middle of your forehead, not the crown of your head- not yet. Raise the Seer's Stone over that spot, hold it against the skin to attune it. Keep breathing. Now try to focus seeing out through that spot, through the eye. Let your body's life energies coalesce at the top of your head, and-

His vision went grey, as though he were viewing a cloudy sky close up. He thought this was strange for an instant, because his eyes were already closed. He jerked sharply as true darkness descended on him, rushing over him like a mighty river, drowning all other thoughts. Bouchard felt as though he would be washed away, even as he could still- distantly- feel the floorboards of the boarding room beneath him. Struggling against the tide, he forced himself to concentrate. The stone in his hand could be used as an anchor point; it could not be washed away. But for all its power, it was only a tool. He concentrated, his entire being bent on staying still and pulling what he wanted from the vast flow around him.


The torrent diminished a little- or was it just his imagination? There was a flash, a brief glimpse of Kappel at the auction the other day, unkempt, eyes shining with fear. Then another of Kappel at the table, telling his story, his voice tuning in and out like a bad radio station. Focus. Kappel lying in the snow, and the sound of leathery wings as they glide near-

Bouchard's eyes snapped open as he yanked the Eye away from his face and panted for air. Fiona was watching him worriedly, fingers clamped around her firearm.

"Did it work?"

He nodded weakly; the Eye had come on like a fever, sapping his strength. It took him several tries to speak. "Images. I saw him. When we met. And...I think...the night he was cut free. Of the Demon. It's difficult. Like riding a rodeo bull, I should think. Need to...try again."

He saw her mouth flash open, as if she was going to object, but he'd already pressed the Eye back in place and the sight of her receded into the smoke-fog. The darkness came roaring back, but this time he was ready for it. He put the discordant snatches of his own past and the awesome sights he had never seen out of his mind as soon as they rose up, and focused only on thoughts of his friend.

“Kappel...where are you?”

There he was, screaming in the claws of the Demon as she carried him off. He saw headstones, and a gate made of bones. Then a darkness so complete that he though the Eye had somehow ceased working until Bouchard realized he could hear footsteps, breathing sounds, the trickle of water...Reeves' voice, quoting Emran's translation... Kappel, he thought desperately, I need to see him.

A whirl of scenes; Kappel racing through the dark. Someplace illuminated by pale fire, an overwhelming sense of terror and the scent of decay, whispers all around him, falling deeper into a void of ice and pain and loss-

Suddenly, he was back in the back room, his cheek stinging. Before he could move, Fiona slapped him again.

"Snap out of it, Philip!"

The perspective was wrong, and it took him a moment to realize that he was on his back, lying on the floor, staring up at Fiona. She was pinning down the wrist of the hand in which he still held the eye. There was a bad taste in his mouth...he wiped at his face with his free hand, and it came away with blood; his nose was bleeding. "Your pulse is racing like a rabbit; you're on verge of a coronary! Let it go, Bouchard!"

"I can handle it," he choked out, gagging a little.

"This isn't midnight séances and photographing ghosts, this is the real thing! We don't know what the Eye is doing to you while you are using it!"

He lay on the wooden floor, shivering and twitching with aftershocks. It took him a little while before he could concentrate enough to assimilate what he had seen.

Kappel, lost in the dark, hounded by monsters. The Gargoyle demons Fiona had spoke of? He couldn't see them, only hear them, sense their nearness...

Bouchard was on his feet before he knew it, grabbing for the wall to keep his balance. Vertigo made him sway.

"And just where do you think you're going?"

"Kappel's in danger, all alone in the dark. Things are after him. I must go help him."

"What help do you intend on offering in this condition? You're white as a sheet, and look like breeze could knock you on your arse! And what 'things' are after him? You mean the Demon?"

"No, no. She's not there. Must have abandoned him there after she realized he didn't have the eye. But there are these...things...whispers in the dark. Too dark to see them. He's terrified, and they are all around him. He can hear them but there's no light, and he's in a narrow space, no place to run."

"You're still in no shape to go running off into the night; do you even know where he is?"

"It's just the shock...this evening, and using the Seer's Stone for the first time. We don't have time to argue this, we need to go right now!"

"Wait, dammit! We need time to prepare, to plan. Figure out where he is being held first, get the necessary equipment. Maybe hire on some of the local muscle, if the Demon has helpers-"

"Plan? Hire help? What happened to all your talk of being ready, 'let her come for us' ?? A man is in danger of being devoured by the forces of darkness, led by your personal nemesis, and you want to take the time to write up a list of ways to kill it? I can't wait around for that," he said, shaking his head. "I'm not going to sit here and watch him become lost to the dark."

With that, he clenched the Stone tightly in his hand, and headed out the door and down the stairs.


* * * * *


Fiona gaped as the door slammed shut behind him. Why that little - !! Fine then. I'm well rid of him anyway; working alone has always been easier, and besides, he-

-still had the stone. La Pierre des Prophètes, her one sure-fire way of finding the Demon, and she'd just let him walk out the door with it in his hand!

Scowling, she slung her shoulder rig back on, shovelled a few items of use and some extra ammo into a partially packed gunnysack, and gave chase, pausing only to sweep up both their coats as she raced out the door.

I've got to stop him. If she finds him before I do, alone and almost entirely unarmed... I've got to get the Eye back!


* * * * *


Bouchard’s feet seemed to move with a will of their own, carrying him quickly through the quiet, empty streets. He was oblivious to his surroundings, his mind occupied with the strange, whirling visions and fragmented memories of what the Stone had shown him.

A vague picture was beginning to piece itself together from the chaotic jumble that was dancing in his mind. He recognized the brick-lined sewer tunnels, but it went beyond that. The sewer tunnels were a massive labyrinth, but in his mind he was certain he knew the way. There, up ahead, he should take a left turn there.

He could not remember ever having traveled this street before, but for a brief instant, he felt that he knew it completely; the unknown shops and homes of strangers seemed suddenly familiar. Just around the corner was Louis’ Butcher Shop, and down a few houses lived old man Armand and his wife. Beyond that was the Black Alley where the St. Denis boys played dice, and further down, at the end of the street, was a small community cemetery in which no one had been buried for over a decade. He was jolted back to reality as something snatched at his coat sleeve, and spun him around.

“How do you know you can? And how do you know how to find him? Are you even listening to yourself?” She was far from convinced, and she found the shift in his mood worrying. “And besides that, you want me to let you walk off into the night with the one thing the Demon is killing for? I’m sure you’ll agree this doesn’t sound like a good idea at all.”

“I don’t recall asking your permission, or for your company!” He snapped, “the Stone was given to me by Reeves, with his dying breath no less, and I will do with it as I see fit, whether you agree or not!”

She could not believe what she was hearing. “So you’re still willing to risk your life for this man after everything I’ve told you? He killed my family!”

“He didn’t kill your family, the Demon did. She used him. He’s as much a victim of her evil as your brother!”

How dare he! She gaped at him, unable to respond.

“He begged me for help,” Bouchard said quietly, “if you had seen the look in his eyes – I…” his voice trailed off.

“Are you sure you know the way?”

“Yes, I am,” his voice conveyed confidence, but not foolishness.

“Are you even certain Kappel is still alive?”

He met her eyes in the darkness, “I have to try,” he whispered, “I can’t just abandon him.”

What the blazes was wrong with him? His pleading was only making things worse. “Don’t you understand what you’re walking into? You could die, and for what? The corpse of a man you knew for two days?”

Bouchard returned her indignation with icy gaze, “Kappel came to us for help. It was your monster that did this, and it’s your fight I’m walking to. If you don’t have the stomach for it, you can leave.”

After a tense moment of incredulous staring, Fiona turned away and swore.

“Fine,” she spat, “we can do it your way – but on one condition. I do have some experience with this sort of thing. If things start looking bad, we will run for it. No questions, no arguments, we just run. Okay?”

“Yes,” Bouchard nodded his assent.

Fiona sighed. “Lead on, then. You’re a madman, but you're still the only one who knows the way. Let’s get this over with.”

* * * * *

Two miles away they found it; the ornate mausoleum sat in the centre of a weedy, overgrown cemetery, just beyond the decrepit remains of a derelict church.

“Are you sure this is the right place? It doesn’t look like anyone’s been through here in some time…” Fiona said doubtfully.

Bouchard ignored her and began pushing his way through the waist-high brush, winding his way through the headstones. The mausoleum fascinated him, it was an imposing structure, doubtless hundreds of years old. The weathered stone was ornamented with grim depictions- figures of men and women despairing their last moments, robed skeletons chaperoning them along a paths of bones, skinny dogs howling from lintels.

She followed, gritting her teeth with exasperation. This was not the way to enter this kind of situation.

“This is the place, I’m sure of it. It's the same as my vision...”

The grinning death’s heads leered down at her from above the doorway. Somehow, the decor failed to inspire a great deal of confidence. “Naturally,” she scowled, “and did your vision suggest where we might go from here?”

“We have to go in,” he said absently, testing the heavy steel-bound door. It swung open easily. “There, see? The lock’s been broken.”

Before she could reply, he had disappeared inside, leaving her standing alone on the steps. His face re-appeared a moment later.“The way is clear, nothing but dust and cobwebs.” He looked at her sheepishly. “Did you happen to bring a light?”

“You’re lucky one of us thought to pack the necessities,” she said, fumbling for her torch.

The torch’s beam illuminated a short set of dressed stone steps, leading down into the interior of the crypt. The floor was occupied by neat rows of lead coffins, some topped by ornate stone effigies, some plain, and some adorned with bells in the old fashion. Bouchard passed these without a glance, his attention fixed on something in the back corner of the room. A wide trap door was set into the floor, and it groaned on rusty hinges as he heaved it open to reveal a second set of steps.

“This way,” he said, “there’s another level below.”

In for a penny, in for a pound…

This stair was longer and more crudely worked, running down along one wall of the large room below. Both Fiona and Bouchard braced themselves against this wall as they descended; there was no railing to protect them from a fall to the floor below. Despite their rough workmanship, the steps were smooth underfoot, worn down by the succession of the mourning centuries. There were no coffins here. Fiona’s torch revealed niches carved into the stone walls, and their occupants grinned up at their visitors as her light played across them.

Bouchard walked quickly towards a corroded, wrought iron gate on the far side of the room. As they got closer, Fiona could see it was worked with the same creative liberties that adorned the mausoleum’s exterior, and she shivered despite herself. The bars of the gate were shaped to look like bones.

“What’s this, then? Where are we headed, exactly?” She did her best to keep her tone level, but she didn’t like any of the possibilities that popped up into her mind as she examined the situation.

“It’s an entrance to the Catacombs; one of the ones that hasn’t been bricked over. We have to go down there,” he jerked the lock experimentally, but it was still strong, despite its age.

“The Catacombs?” She had been afraid he might say something like that.

“There’s nothing to worry about,” he assured, tugging on the lock harder this time. It was still no good; it was a hefty thing.

“Oh, obviously,” she spat, struggling to contain her irritation again, “we are simply making an attempt to sneak up on the Demon in the dark - she can see in the dark, you know, a lot better than you or I, did I fail to mention that earlier? - through an uncharted warren of sewers and rat-holes that is her current domain. It sounds like a perfectly wonderful idea! What could possibly go wrong?”

This was madness! She should never have allowed him to sucker her into this fool’s errand, what had she been thinking?! It was evidently time for plan B: which consisted of a pleasantly hard knock of one of her pistol-butts against his thick skull, taking the Stone, and beating a hasty retreat –

“I know the way, Mademoiselle,” he said quietly. “He’s down there; I can feel it. With your help, we might still save him.”
He stared at her and in the stark light of the torch, his eyes connected with hers, pleading. Silently, she cursed her mother; damn her scruples.

“Fine,” she hissed, “fine! If you’re in such a great hurry to get us killed, who am I to be the voice of reason? Here, hold this,” she thrust the torch into his hands, fishing around in her coat pocket until she found a short pry bar. “Now, let’s have a look at that padlock. Out! Get out of the way!” She brushed him aside, checking the lock for herself. She glared at it venomously before hefting the fat steel bar. “Watch and learn, Mssr. Bouchard.”

His ears stung from the sharp ringing of metal striking metal as the lock bent and twisted under her assault. It shattered on the fifth hit, and Fiona knocked the pieces loose before throwing the latch. She smiled at him over gritted teeth and the heavy gate groaned on rusty hinges as she kicked it open.

Snatching back the torch, she scanned the stairs; other than dust and a think tangle of cobwebs, it looked to be clear.

“Happy?” she grated.

Bouchard swallowed and stayed silent.

“Let's be on our way then,” she switched off the torch with a decisive click


* * * * *


These stairs were rough and uneven and, together with the darkness, made the descent a painstaking affair. Bouchard braced his hands against the narrow walls, feeling for each step with his feet, knowing the dust of unknown years was billowing around him at his slightest touch. Fiona stalked ahead of him in silence, clearly in no mood to talk, and the only sound was their muffled footsteps on the ancient stone.

They ended in a small alcove chiseled out of the rock. Fiona flicked on her torch for a brief moment to get their bearings. There was an ancient wooden door to the left, and its iron latch had rusted solid long ago from the damp. The rotten wood was quickly reduced to kindling after two quick kicks, and Fiona brushed aside the jagged remnants that still clung to the corroded hinges.

Illuminated by the cautious beam of light, the tunnel beckoned. It was low, less than six feet tall, and both walls were lined from floor to ceiling with niches, each holding a neatly arranged skeleton. Above, overlooking the ancient bones were hundreds of skulls set directly into the walls, arranged in crosses or other neat patterns. More bones lay scattered across the floor, probably having been disturbed by vermin of one type or another.

Bouchard stepped through the ruined door, looked both ways, and shuddered at the sight. Fiona smiled humorlessly.

“Charming Décor. Do you bring all your dates down here?”

Bouchard glared. “Not if I can help it. I’ve been down here on business once or twice before, and believe me, I’m not in any big hurry to repeat the experience. I… I’m not fond of tight spaces, if you must know.”

“I see.” She fished out a small compass from one of the pouches in her belt and flipped it open. “This tunnel runs roughly north and south,” she pointed, “which way?”

Bouchard suppressed another shiver, and pointed to the right. “South. That way.”


* * * * *


The tunnel sloped gently downward, taking them deeper into the bowels of the city. Fiona moved a little slower than was strictly necessary, shining her light across the macabre decorations. She pointed out several messages chiseled into the walls, and Bouchard translated some of them for her. They were not very helpful on their quest, however; they ranged from portions of the Benediction left by those in mourning to crude vulgarities left by disrespectful youngsters.

Though they moved as quietly as possible, their footsteps still cast strange echoes off the rough walls. They traced the tunnel down for a while, and turned right where it intersected with a second passage. Fiona trailed behind him, checking her compass again to find that they were now traveling west, past several more side passages, until they reached another crossing. Her light revealed it to be an extremely narrow passage, barely three feet wide.

“This is the way, here, but it’s going to be a tight fit. We’ll have to –“

Fiona turned on him suddenly, and a sharp slice of her hand demanded his silence. He drew a breath to respond, but she snapped off the light and clapped her hand down over his mouth.

“Quiet!” she hissed in his ear. Her voice was soft, but carried an urgency that frightened him into compliance. He stared, wide-eyed into the impenetrable darkness.

The silence was crushing, and as it pressed in around him, he could feel the panic begin to tighten its grip on him as well. He struggled to keep himself calm, tried to force himself to breathe slowly and evenly – and then he heard it too. A quiet, faint sound, like something scrabbling in the distance, echoed back to them and amplified by the stone passageway.

If the panic had been closing in before, it had him tight in its clutches now - where had the sound come from?

Of course, there was no way of telling in the dark like this. He screwed his eyes shut, channelling all his attention on the straining of his ears, listening, waiting for the sound to come again and trying not to think about the stories he had heard. He felt like all of his childhood nightmares had gathered together in one place and were competing for which could elicit the most terror with the least amount of provocation.

After what seemed like hours in the suffocating dark, Fiona’s grip on him eased. He winced as the torch clicked to life again, his eyes suddenly unaccustomed to the light as she shone the beam down the walls of the tunnel.

“I think it’s gone,” she said.

Bouchard was still very shaken.“What do you think it was?”

“Rats, maybe?” she shrugged, “not the Demon, that’s for sure. We’d better move along, I don’t like it down here. I’ll go first, but I want you to stay close behind me, alright?”

He nodded his assent.

“Okay. Let’s move.”

The narrow passage turned out to be even worse than it looked. They followed it through the rock for what seemed like miles, with their shoulders scraping both walls and their heads ducked to avoid striking the ceiling. To make matters worse, Fiona decided that since there was nothing to see, there was no reason to use the light. Off it went, and Bouchard found himself clawing his way blindly, as the walls and ceiling seemed to constrict around him in the darkness. It went on and on, an endless monotony that eroded all sense of time and space until all that existed was the next step, and then the next, and the next after that. With each he prayed that they might come to the end, and with each he grew more certain that they never would.

And then his next step carried him right into Fiona’s back. He was so surprised that he tried to straighten himself, and succeeded in whacking his head sharply on the low ceiling.

“Be still,” she whispered sharply, “we’ve reached the end of the tunnel, but it seems to drop straight off. Hold on, let me get the light.”There was a snap, and he was dazzled by the sudden brilliance of the torch.

“Well, well. This trip just keeps getting better.” Her voice was matter-of-fact, but it was obvious that she wasn’t pleased.

The narrow tunnel emerged from the wall of a large chamber perhaps sixty feet long and a hundred wide. The ceiling was just tall enough to stand upright in, and was crisscrossed with heavy vaulting. The torch beam swept across the floor of the gallery, illuminating a veritable sea of bones. They lay in heaps and drifts, skulls and ribs and long bones all jumbled together in a fantastic mass, blackened by the passage of the years.

“This is… impossible,” she whispered over her shoulder, “were there this many people buried down here?”

“I don’t know,” Bouchard answered faintly, his eyes following the cone of light over the sea of remains. “This is the place, though. There’s a long chamber beyond; he’s there.”

She played her light across the far wall, revealing an arched passageway leading to the south. She considered it for a long moment, then shrugged and eased herself out of the tunnel and down to the macabre carpet below. They moved as quietly as possible across the bones, stumbling and cursing softly at the poor footing.

At the entrance to the passage, Fiona paused again.

“Do you see that? I think there’s a light ahead.” Her torch went off with a snap, and Bouchard clung tightly to the wall as the room around him disappeared. As his eyes adjusted, though, he saw that she was right; there was a faint light coming from somewhere beyond.

They followed the passageway, seeking the source, ever-mindful of their path through the abyss.


* * * * *


The passage was a short one; twenty feet along, it was broken only by a tunnel that branched off to the right. Fiona pulled lightly on his sleeve, but he shook her off and continued past the opening. Another thirty paces beyond, the tunnel ended abruptly and spilled into a far larger space, illuminated only by the faint light they had been following. Carefully, Fiona peeked around the corner. The chamber beyond was about thirty feet wide and a little under a hundred yards long. The twelve-foot vaulted ceiling was supported by two parallel rows of columns that ran down the centre, obscuring her visibility.

Sure enough, on the opposite side, there was a definite flickering of light.

She pulled back and motioned for Bouchard to take a look.

“A lantern, perhaps?”

Fiona shook her head. "Too bright."

At her side, Bouchard tensed again, then whispered, “Kappel is there, I know it.”

She was silent, and gazed back at him with a neutral expression.

“Are you absolutely certain?”

“This is what the Stone showed me. Yes, I’m certain.”

After another moment of silence, Fiona seemed to make up her mind, and nodded quickly. “Alright, here’s what we’re going to do,” she moved quietly and drew one of her pistols, “you’re going to lead the way straight towards that light. I am going to follow you, and hang back to cover our exit.”

He opened his mouth to reply, but she cut him off.

“No arguments. I know how to handle myself in the dark, better than you,” her voice was still a whisper, but he could feel the edge in it. “You grab your friend, and we will leave the way we came, as fast and quiet as we can manage, do you understand?”

Her eyes bored into his own, and he nodded. He’d seen that cold, efficient look before in soldier’s eyes, usually when they were on their way to battle. Finally, she seemed to make up her mind about something, and nodded shortly. Steel whispered across leather as she drew her pistols.

“Good. Now be careful, and be ready for anything. Remember, no matter what happens, keep moving straight ahead until you reach the light. Don’t look back, don’t rush. Got it?” He nodded again, and she flashed a tight grin. “Good.”

She took a deep breath, and spun silently around the corner, landing in a crouch as her practiced eyes scanned the gloom around them. After a tense moment, she relaxed a fraction and motioned for him to follow.

He mimicked her, pulling out his own weapon and rounding the corner, crouched low, moving with exaggerated caution as he tried to pick his way through the debris and loose stones that littered the chamber’s floor. It was slow going and, in the oppressive silence, he winced with every crunch and clatter.

Bouchard was sweating now, but it wasn’t due to the underground humidity. Suddenly, he dearly wished that he had listened to Fiona. This was madness – a fool’s errand. He tried to push the stories he’d heard over glasses of wine at the club, but they would not be suppressed. Long-forgotten rumours began to surface in his memory, whispers in the quiets of parties, telling of adventurous souls who’d gone exploring alone in the catacombs, drawn out of curiosity or hard research deep into the bowels of the city, far below the haunts of the criminals and vagabonds. Stories of how there were places from which none returned, and those who ventured too close heard things moving in the dark…

Hogwash, of course, sheer nonsense! He tried to re-assure himself – the stories were equal parts of superstition and imagination – and such things were beneath a rational man of science… but still he swallowed stiffly, and his fingers flexed on the stubby grip of his Browning.

Just stay calm. This will make a story for the grandchildren some day…

Besides, he wasn’t by himself. Somewhere in the darkness behind him was one of the deadliest creatures he had ever met, and if the match were between Fiona the Hunter and his imaginary boogiemen, he was pretty sure where the smart money lay.
Besides he didn’t have much choice. It had been his idea to come down here, and now that they were deep into the maze of tunnels and sewers, he knew he wouldn’t have a chance of finding his way out without her light. There was nothing for it but to keep going.

As he inched himself across the room, he saw that Fiona had been right- it was not a lantern at all, but a small, smouldering fire on the chamber floor that was casting the faint light. Beyond it, a large heap of bones had been piled against the wall, and he could barely discern the shape of something lying upon it.

It did not move, but as he drew closer, he recognized the clothes, even through their coating of filth. Reeves’ servant Larson had provided them a mere day ago. He had found his friend.

Bouchard inched closer, and then froze. There was a sound… a wheeze or air sliding out of corroded lungs, so soft that it might have been his imagination. He held his breath, straining his ears, but heard nothing. Just as he was beginning to wonder about his sanity, he heard the sound again.

There was something down here with them.

He cast about. It had come from there, ahead and to his left, from the wide, dark mouth of the passage that led west. There was no way to tell how close it was, the way the stone walls carried sound. He fought to remain calm, knowing that panic would do them no good.

“Did you hear that, Mme. Canmore?” His voice was calm, steady, and little more than a whisper. He didn’t want to risk revealing their position any more than it already might have been, lest it encourage whatever was out there to attack.

There was no reply.

“Mme. Canmore? Are you there?”

Nothing. Not a shift or a murmur, not a breath. The only response to his strained whisper was fear of the tight walls, the darkness, and the irrational thoughts men begin to have when they are afraid they cannot escape.

She said she’d be guarding my back. She has to be there!

He turned and stared into the darkness behind him, his eyes straining. They found pitch darkness, silent and still as the grave, and his fears took hold in earnest as the sickening realization came into focus.

He was alone.

* * * * *


It was a trap, of course. Fiona had suspected something like this all along, and she cursed herself for her foolishness.
Her mind had reviewed the particulars. There was a central chamber, with lots of ways in. There were also plenty of nooks to hide in, but no cover, no choke points, and no way to mount any kind of defense. There was just a light in the darkness to lure them in for the slaughter.

In another circumstance, she would have mocked the simplicity of the ambush, if an earnest Frenchman had not just talked her into it.

Crouched low, pistol at the ready, she had done some very quick thinking. If we ran now, she reasoned, we might be able to make it to the sewer tunnel we crossed a hundred yards back…

With this in mind, her solution had been simple, if rather unpleasant: she would use bait of her own. If she let Bouchard spring the ambush, she would be able to counterattack from the flank. If things went well, she might be able to catch the enemy off-balance and turn the tables.

And if they were truly fortunate, the Frenchman might even survive.

She could hear Bouchard blundering through the darkness ahead. Certainly the man was a soldier, but he wasn’t really cut out for sneaking around in the dark – but she could use that to her advantage, as well. The racket he was making would mask her own movements, making it easier for her to escape notice. Thank heaven for small mercies.

Fiona had given him a minute’s head start before doubling back to the side passage she had favoured earlier. Her eyes had adjusted to the darkness, and the faint glow from the light was also illuminating that passage, meaning it connected somewhere further down with the room Bouchard was in. Or that there was another light...not likely, that.

She needed to hurry, if she wanted to be in position before Bouchard reached the source of the light. She navigated in the darkness by touch and her memory of the brief instant she had shone her torch down the passage, her left hand in contact with the rough stone wall as her feet picked their way through the detritus, keeping her other senses free and sharp for the attack she knew was coming.

As a child, Fiona had learned to conquer her fear of the dark. It was a simple thing, really, all she had to learn was how to be that thing in the dark that scared everyone else. She smiled at the thought, hefting the solid weight of her Colt.

The enemy would be close, their attention focused on the fire and Bouchard’s clumsy approach. Could it be more of the Demon’s kind? The thought was almost enough to give her pause, but she conceded that it was rather unlikely; a nest of creatures like that would never have been able to escape notice in a city the size of Paris. More likely, the ambushers would be more human lackeys, criminals and murderers scraped out of the gutters by the Demon and put into her service. Perhaps they’d been seduced by her honeyed promises, or perhaps she had done to them what Bouchard claimed she had to Kappel.

In the end, she hardly cared. They would probably be well armed, but they would be as dependent on the fire’s light as Bouchard was. This was going to work.

Fiona approached the end of the side passage. In the dim light, she could make out the corner on her left, some seven yards ahead, where the side passage she was in rejoined the central chamber. From what she remembered of the layout, her target should be just a few feet around that corner.

To her left, just in front of where her fingers brushed against the wall, something moved in the darkness. Her eyes locked onto the spot, her body rigid as her ears strained for anything; a sigh, a breath.

There was something moving in the darkness near her.

She resisted the urge to reach for her electric torch. By now, she was pretty sure there was more than one of them; she had first sensed them when they entered the gallery. Whatever or whoever it was, it was sure as hell not rats. It wasn’t the Demon, either; her movements were much too purposeful. Whatever was out there, it was almost toying with her, the way a cat might toy with a wounded mouse.

They were definitely hostile; a fool would be able to sense that – but the fact that she could hear them moving about in the darkness meant they were made of flesh and blood.


Behind her, out of the corner of her eye, she saw movement again – something shuffling around deeper into the shadows. A tiny shifting sound ahead of her gave away the position of a second assailant. Very slowly, she felt for her torch.

Her back was against the wall, preparing herself for an attack by one of the men she had spotted. She was favouring the one in front of her, but expecting attack from the rear. She focused on her breathing, keeping it slow and steady… And then a hand slapped roughly over her mouth, stifling her startled cry as she was dragged backwards into the wall.


* * * * *


The fire had burned low, now little more than a heap of glowing coals crowned by the occasional spluttering flame. Bouchard hurried past it, backing toward the motionless body of his friend, eyes searching the tiny circle of light cast by the dying flames. He had not heard any other sounds, but he knew there was something out there. He tried not to think about Fiona, and what might have befallen her in the darkness.

Please, let Kappel be all right, he prayed, and then perhaps we can find a way out of here. There has to be a way!
His friend’s body was sprawled out like a rag doll, half-buried in a heap of bones, his skin deathly pale. Bouchard shook his shoulder, trying to rouse him, but his head merely lolled lifelessly to the side.

Was he dead? Bouchard felt for a pulse. No, he’s alive… barely. Bouchard shook him again, and was rewarded with a groan.

“Please, no… Have mercy!”

“Kappel, it’s me! It’s Philip!” Bouchard shook him harder. Kappel groaned again, his eyes screwed shut as though in pain.

“Philip? What… H-how did you get here? How did you find me?”

“There’s no time for that. We have to get out of here!” He cast about himself in the darkness, but could see nothing of his pursuers. “Are you hurt? Can you move?” He swept the bones off his friend, and gave him an assessing glance in the dim light. His clothes were filthy and torn, but he didn’t seem to be hurt any more seriously than by a few bruises and scrapes.

“Eugene, listen to me. We have to get out of here! I think there’s something down here with us. I think it got my friend, and it will get us too if we don’t move!”

That seemed to get through, at least, and Kappel allowed himself to be hoisted to his feet. Bouchard heaved the German upward, and he slumped against his body.

“Listen to me, Eugene. You’ve got to be strong. I think I know a way out, but I’ll need your help. Can you be strong?”

Kappel tried to stand straight, but he didn’t seem to have the strength. “You shouldn’t have come, Herr Bouchard,” he murmured.

“None of that now.” Bouchard turned back to the fire, keeping a wary eye out for any signs of their attacker. “I’ll need something to use as a torch. I think I can find my way, but we’ll need a light-”

“You won’t need a light.” Kappel’s voice was strangely flat, and Bouchard turned to stare at him.


Kappel stood, drawing himself up slowly. “You won’t need a light,” he intoned again, “you won’t be leaving.” Bouchard’s confused expression elicited a croaking laugh. “Your friend is no longer here, little rabbit. We took him; he is ours. Foolish of you, to wander after him in the dark.”

The voice was different, warped and guttural, not the voice of the man he knew. Kappel’s careworn face was twisting into a hideous mask of hatred and lust, all revealed by the flickering light of the fire. Bouchard stared in horror as the thing that had been Kappel slowly advanced.

There was a snap, and a blade glowed red in the flickering light. “He is ours. So shall be the woman. You should not have come.” A feral grin split its face. “You, perhaps Her Ladyship will let me have to myself…” It took another step forward, and then froze as it stared at the small pistol in Bouchard’s raised hand.

“One step closer, and I’ll shoot.”

Bouchard marvelled at how calm his voice was. He forced himself quickly to his feet, and took a careful step back. The thing stared at him uncertainly; it must know what the gun was. Things were rapidly going out of control, but perhaps all was not lost.

“I don’t know who you are, but you know of my friend. Tell me where he is, or I’ll put an end to you.”

Where he is? We are here. Are you blind, Rabbit? Will you shoot what you would save? I am he and he is I.” It stared at him with soulless eyes, its grin widening. “No, you lie. You will not shoot.


* * * * *


Fiona felt herself falling, sinking through a swirl of empty darkness. Clammy fingers clamped like a vice over her mouth, stifling her shouts as a pale, skeletal arm slipped round her throat to choke her.

The electric torch spun in lazy slow motion, away into nothingness as she clawed at the arm, trying to pry it loose. She felt herself running out of air, and it was strong, so terribly strong…

Panic was beginning to descend upon her as her lungs screamed for air. Her eyes searched frantically as she fought, trying to find some sense in the madness.

There had been solid stone behind her, how had she been attacked from behind?

The shadow washed over her, a formless, muddy nothingness that smothered her senses. The only thing that felt real was the man she grappled with, struggling to choke the life from her body.

She twisted and bucked her hips, driving her heel down against what felt like a leg. The grip on her throat loosened fractionally, and she squirmed around and drove her elbow hard into his head. The blow set him back on his heels, and she twisted around to get her first good look at him.

Her attacker wasn’t a man. It had the rough shape of something human, but that was where the resemblance ended. It was hairless and hideous, milky-white eyes staring, its mindless grin exposing two rows of sharpened teeth. Its body was horribly thin - little more than bloodless flesh stretched taut over a leering skeleton. As she gaped in revulsion, it shook off its surprise and clutched wildly at her again, grabbing at her right arm, and fighting to keep her pistol away from itself.

Two more of the things appeared suddenly, diving for her through the shifting shadows, their spidery fingers reaching and clutching hungrily at her. She wrenched her right arm loose and emptied the Colt automatic into the closer of the two; the shadow smothered the gunshots into dull thuds. She saw its body jerk as the bullets struck, but it hardly seemed to notice. The pistol locked open, and then the things were upon her before she could reload.

A wild kick caught the first monster hard in the side, and the impact of the blow sent them both spinning. It didn't seem to notice that much, either, and its clammy hands seized her leg in an iron grip. The one that had grabbed her first was back behind, trying to wrap its arm back around her throat. She groped for her spare gun. It ripped free of the holster, but by then the third monster had her arm clutched in both its hands, and sank its teeth into her.

She screamed, a curiously muted sound in the suffocating darkness, and then even that was cut short as the arm clenched against her throat. She gagged, and her loaded pistol slipped from her tortured fingers and spun away into the darkness.

This wasn’t supposed to be how the story played out. Not like this, not as food for monsters in some stinking pit. It couldn’t end this way. She wouldn’t let it.

She twisted, swinging the butt of her empty pistol hard into the one gnawing at her arm. She was rewarded when it connected with a dry crunch and a faint groan of pain, and her ravaged arm was suddenly free. Spots danced before her eyes as she struggled with the remaining two. Her left groped about for something useful, and closed around the smooth length of a flare.

Perhaps they could be burned. Better than nothing, she thought desperately.

Her vision was going black as she fumbled with it, and then the flare burst to life, its brilliant light searing the shadows, and the world seemed to tip on its side-


* * * * *


The thing with Kappel’s face moved so quickly that it seemed a blur. Bouchard’s pistol barked twice, the light bullets skipping uselessly off masonry and old bones, and then it was on him. He squeezed the trigger a third time, but it slapped his hand to the side, fingers locking around his wrist with a grip like iron as the slug hissed spitefully past its ear. Pain lanced through his arm as the blade slashed through the light cloth of his jacket, and he grabbed at it before it could swing again. They wrestled in the dark, each fighting to bring his weapon to bear. The thing hissed cruelly at him, its stolen face mere inches away.

He screamed, I did, when we took me. Will you scream too, my sweet? So many of us here, so hungry, and I was not for eating. Your blood sings to us!

Bouchard’s eyes widened, as the meaning of the words sunk in. “Monsieur Kappel, please! You’ve got to fight it! Don’t make me hurt you!” Bouchard ground his teeth, muscles straining as he fought to keep the razor at bay. He searched the thing’s eyes for some trace of humanity or understanding, but saw only hunger and dull madness. “You came to us for help! It’s not too late; we can find some way to save you, even from this!”

Hurting is the hunger, sweetling meat. Don’t hurt me! Your blood sings, promises to ease the pain!

Friend or no, victim or no, it meant to kill him. He twisted his own weapon, and there was a sharp crack and a yelp of pain as the bullet buried itself in the creature’s thigh. A second shot struck it in the gut, but then it forced his arm away, yammering in fury. His final round flew harmlessly into the darkness, and the little Browning locked open. There was a spare magazine in his pocket, but it might as well have been on the moon for all the good it did him.

He fought with all his might, but the thing was frantic now, its strength redoubling as it chattered at him. Bouchard felt the strength draining away from his wounded arm as the quivering edge of the razor inched closer to his throat.

Yes! Yesyesyesyes! Weakling thing, sweetmeat sweet to eat! Give in, give up!

In a moment of clarity, Phillip Bouchard knew he was about to die. Reeves was murdered, and Kappel snatched away and made into a thing possessed. Fiona, the one he’d thought to be strongest of all, had been swallowed without a trace by the shadows. He was the last, fighting for his life in the darkness. He would die here, conquered by this Demon, and no one would ever know.

Please, let it be quick-


The world seemed to explode with deafening noise. A chorus of inhuman shrieking split the air, punctuated by the unmistakable, ear-splitting blast of a Colt automatic being fired in tight quarters. Bouchard was dazzled by the blinding light that suddenly poured from the side passage to his left, but it was even worse for the thing that was Kappel. Its body recoiled, howling in agony, the fight instantly forgotten as it stumbled blindly backward.


She staggered into view, still firing her pistol at an unseen enemy in the passage behind her, the flare in her left hand turning the chamber as bright as day. She whirled, and stared in shock at the scene before her.

“Bouchard! Is he-”

The creature in Kappel’s body didn’t give her the chance to finish. Confronted by an enemy armed with pistol and light, it turned and fled. Fiona opened fire, her bullets skipping harmlessly off stone as it dashed between the shadowy rows of columns, and then her pistol, too, was empty.

Suddenly, the only sound was their heavy breathing and the hissing sputter of the flare. Bouchard stared at her, his brain trying to wrap itself around what had just happened.

“Fiona? You’re alive?” That earned him a pained smile as she reloaded, her hands a little less steady than usual.

“So are you. What happened here? Kappel?”

“He attacked me,” Bouchard said, the joy draining from his face. “The Demon must have done something to him, brought him back under her thrall…” His voice trailed off, eyes growing distant. All for nothing… Fiona turned away, cursing silently.

She glanced around the room quickly, tallying up the situation. Her torch was gone, along with her other pistol. Seven rounds in the gun, plus one last spare magazine in the pocket of her coat; She had no other weapons. The flare would burn for another hour or so, but it had taken them at least twice that long to get here. Things didn’t look good.

"...Thieves and killers..."

It started in the distance, a faint voice echoing through the dark, coming from the tunnel at the far end of the passage.

........"Thieves!"... "Murder!"...........................................Split the bones........"Can't take what is ours, its ours now!"

Faint, but growing rapidly louder, a ringing cry taken up by many, many throats. And one voice, sounding above the rest.

Feed now!!

“Bouchard, we’ve got to go! This place is a deathtrap!” He continued to stare into the distance, his eyes unfocused. She ran to him and seized him by the arm, dragging him along after her. He seemed to shake off his revere, and paled as he heard the voices. “Come ON! Can’t you hear them? We’ve got to get out of here!”

They sprinted back down the gallery, but as they rounded the corner, they spotted another two of the creatures hissing at them, blocking their exit.

Fiona opened fire, but the bullets did little more than knock the creatures back.

“There’s another way!” Bouchard’s voice was urgent in her ear, “quickly, follow me!”

Fiona’s pistol boomed twice more, the concussion echoing painfully from the tight stone walls, and they ran back, dashing down a tight maze of tunnels. They rounded another corner, and spilled into another bone-filled Gallery. Fiona stared around her, but the light of the flare falls only on featureless stone.

It was a dead end, in all possible senses of the word.

They were trapped.



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