Talulla Rising Page 84



He knew it made sense. My three couldn’t be counted-on on their own. Lucy was on the edge of abandoning us. Trish and Fergus were in, but without leadership would be off-mission – screwing, chasing down vamp familiars – within minutes.



For what it was worth we’d stick to the original post-rescue plan: passports, money, first aid and clothes were hidden in the rubble of a derelict farmhouse a mile outside the town of Mesavlia, and two hired vans were parked in the town itself. If we got separated whoever made it to the vehicles would wait till nine a.m. Whoever didn’t show by then was on his or her own. From there it was a short drive to the airport at Chania.


It’s always all wrong, the timing, the suddenness with which the only thing to say is goodbye, your disbelieving body forcing itself to turn, walk away, run.


The wall around the monastery had three gates. The middle one stood open. There was no one visible, but when I crossed the threshold the stink of vampire dropped me to my hands and knees. I shuddered out bile and saliva. The world offered vivified details, should I want things to waste consciousness on: a moonlit pebble’s shadow; a cigarette butt; the coolness of the ground. You have to get past this. You have to. The heroic imperative. It meant nothing to my body. My legs, when I wobbled up onto them, were empty. My head hosted a murmuring swarm.

A shift in the light made me look up to my left. A vampire, male, young, tall, blond, wearing a swipe of the ludicrous olfactory-block paste under his nose, stood above the western gate with a gun trained on me. Two more – a middle-aged black male and a female with a scrubbed beaky face and dark, centre-parted hair, appeared – as if they were simply morphing out of nothingness – alongside him, also with the paste moustaches. It was no surprise, when I turned my head to the east gate, to see another two – a Meg Ryanish female and a male with a mohawk and face-piercings – perched opposite their colleagues. All aiming at me, all silent.

‘Silver ammunition,’ Beaky Face said. ‘You’re expected. Go on up.’

Assume they don’t know about the others, assume they don’t know about the others. Assume they – but if they do we’re fucked.


The building’s stone planes were saturated with moonlight. I went, preceded by my rippling shadow, up the half-dozen stairs to the main doors. They were ajar. I pushed them wide open, and the smell that rolled out like the tongue of a dead animal had me on my knees again. I could hear one of the vampires – Meg, I thought – laughing at my back. I got to my feet again, bent, hands on knees, legs fighting their own private delirium. The corridor was high-ceilinged, floored with dark blue marble, lit by soft ivory inset wall lights. As per Mia’s intel, two more corridors opened on my left and right.

Breathe. Breathe. Breathe. To conquer a foul odour you drink it in, overdose the receptors, make their report redundant. I straightened, shivering. Thirty paces opposite me double steel doors clunked, popped and hissed six inches open. Colder air. On it, the concentrated stink of the Undead, incense, candle wax, human flesh and blood.

And the scent of my son.

It cleared my head. I felt tired and glowing and calm, as after a day’s hard playing when I was a child. In spite of everything the little spirit of honest life was glad to see the last ounces of choice draining away. There were so few things I could do now, it would be easier to do them. I filled my lungs, stretched, stood to my full height and walked towards the doors.

The room beyond was tall, square, white and windowless, with walls covered in sheet glass, and it looked as if all the Disciples (with the exception of my welcome committee outside) were here. A dozen favoured human familiars attended their owners.

Lorcan, transformed and radiating misery, lay on his back on the altar, wrists and ankles secured with restraints. He turned his head at my scent and looked at me.

There he was, looking at me.

Everything stopped. He recognised me, knew me, wanted me. It was terrible, his instant willingness to start afresh, to let nothing else matter, to forgive me completely if only if only if only I would come and claim him now. Until this moment I hadn’t allowed myself to see getting him back as anything other than a problem I’d set myself to solve. I’d never imagined holding him. I’d never imagined settling him down to sleep next to his sister. I’d never imagined the afterwards. Imagining the afterwards would’ve been provocation to the God who wasn’t there to end things in the before. Now, thirty feet away from him, I knew there was something the size of an ocean tilted behind me, waiting to fall. It had been there all along, like death.


How odd to know this was true. I wouldn’t leave him. It was a surprising gift to my heart. I smiled, though only another werewolf would’ve seen it.

‘Talulla,’ Jacqueline said, smiling herself, while the vampires nearest to me backed away, holding their noses despite their ridiculous stripes of paste. ‘Welcome. If for no other reason than at least now I know exactly where you are.’ She was dressed in tight black suede pants and a black silk blouse. Red hair Hitler-slicked as before. Peppery green eyes and precise, glamorous make-up. Standing next to her was a tall, slim, prettily handsome vampire male. Turned in his early thirties God knew how long ago. Dark hair, shoulder-length, a finely cut, high-cheekboned face – and eyes that stopped you in your tracks: they were pale silvery-green, filled with forgiving omniscience. He could have played Jesus. He was barefoot, dressed in an ivory silk Indian ensemble, long kurta with Nehru collar and baggy pajama pants ruched at the ankle. I thought of what Mia had said: There’s something here, it’s true. Very old. I don’t know. Very old. I could feel it. Sunlight in a Roman courtyard. The smell of slaves and dust. Big stones going up. A thousand miles of forest. Firelight in the mouth of a cave. Ice, everywhere. Not many live past a thousand years. This one had. Remshi.

There were other vampires in a loose horseshoe around the royal couple, holding candles or censers. A small pulpit stood next to the altar, occupied by a short, plump boochie with thick white hair in a basin-cut and a white beard like a stiff paintbrush. He was wearing what looked to me like white work overalls. A large book was open on a lectern in front of him. Two more... priests, I supposed, since they were the only ones uniformly dressed in the absurd overalls, stood at either end of the altar. Their outfits made me think of the movie of A Clockwork Orange. Six bare steel columns upheld the roof. Konstantinov, covered in blood, sat cuffed, unconscious (not dead, my nose said) to the base of the one to the left of the altar. Cloquet, as far as I could tell uninjured, stood cuffed to the one on the right.

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