In which our hero runs away

Belinda found him, the next morning, stuffing clothes into several leather bags. "Timothy, what are you doing? Where are you going?" He did not reply. She shook his shoulders and repeated her questions.

"I am getting away from all this. I am no longer needed in the city, except to endorse my so-called 'nature' to people like you. I do not wish to be an emissary of death to whomever you deem to be unworthy." He lifted his bags and took them downstairs, into the sunlight, where a carriage waited for him.

"You can't just leave, Timothy. The family needs you. I need you."

"Yeah? I know you need me, you need me to be your hit man. But the rest of the family hasn't needed me in years, ever since I..." he paused. "No, you do not need me, I think. It is time I settled somewhere quiet for a while and finished my book."


"Goodbye, Belinda." He jumped into the carriage, and it set off.

"Timmy!" She called after, furiously, but it was no use, as the carriage was rattling down the road.

It set off for a lonely house in the countryside. It was owned by the Pegs, he couldn't escape the Family, but he could put many miles of rolling hills in-between him and his family's sordid problems. The nearest village was at least an hour away, walking. In happy days long gone, before Belinda had been born his parents would take him up there for a few weeks a year, often at Midwinter and the end of the spring.

When Belinda was born, everything changed. She consumed most of their parents' time; there were no more escapades at the country house, no seaside visits and certainly no more peaceful Midwinter nights. The wailing of a needy girl seemed to become the soundtrack to his life, only when she reached five was it occasionally replaced with 'Timmy!' and it seemed like his parents remembered he too existed, if it was only to tell him off or to tell him to do something. Then, when he was ten years old, his brother, Alexander, Alex to the ladies, had been born and that cycle had begun all over again. The only difference was that this time he had a younger sister to torment him, for him to look after while his parents fussed around with Alex.

The house in question, no coach would go to, the closest stop was two villages prior. Timothy was forced to stay overnight in an inn. He had intended to walk in the darkness to the country home, but as the coach rolled into the countryside from the city, the first soft tendrils of snow began to fall. By the time he reached the end of his coach journey, in the small village of Petherton, the snow was at least five centimetres thick.

Ankle deep in snow, he stumbled to the near inn, and was met with a low heat and the smells, so sharp in his senses, as he opened the door. He remembered what they smelt like from his human side; the damp, almost acrid smell of ale, the dusty scent of the gentle fireplace and the oddly comforting odor of sweat and men.

Men talked all around him, a deafening cacophony of drunken babble which rang in Timothy's ears. When the door shut, it slammed, and all the men stopped their drinking and stared. Then began the quiet whispering of suspicious minds: 'Is that one of them? An undead? A VAMP?' The bartender sensed the antivampiristic whispers.

"We don't want you in here, vamp. This here's a fine establishment. Ain't that right, boys?" There was a quiet cheer from the drunker ones, the ones with less sense. A man grabbed Timothy's shoulder and spun him around.

"Yeah, piss off, bloodsucker. Before the lads start to get...fighty."

"All I want is a bed for the night." said Timothy to the barkeep. He ignored him and carried on staring at the man with his hand on Timothy's shoulder.

"You see, vamp? We don't listen to the dead. The dead should stay dead." He jostled Timothy again, and he released the endless drumming in his head. Timothy gave the man one hard push. He staggered back and landed on a table, which collapsed under the sheer momentum. One of the table's legs splintered and drove through the man's upper arm like a stake. Timothy leapt on him, his mind lost in the high of the hunt, the smell of the blood.

"The unwilling dead would have listened to you, blood-sack." Timothy smiled at the man, and bared his deadly incisors. His heart pounded for fresh blood, only the second time since his turning. He tasted the man's jugular, and sunk his teeth in for a teasing bite, barely breaking the skin. He was toying with the man.

As he leant in for the long-anticipated bite, several pairs of firm hands gripped him and threw him outside, onto the cold ground. There he lay for several hours, neither awake nor asleep. The freezing snow eventually enveloped him; against all odds it was warm in that cocoon. But above all it was peaceful; no-one would disturb him there unless, of course, they accidentally walked over him. He was safe from that, humans would all be inside, tucked away from the cold and the big bad wolves.

Through an instinct, he raised himself out of the cocoon, to discover it was morning. He stood and shook himself free of snow. He began to walk, as if through a dream, towards his final destination.

* * * * *

His final destination was the Pegs' country home, abandoned since Belinda's birth. Some of the windows had been boarded up, and most of those that hadn't were so grimy you couldn't see through them.

Here, Timothy knew he would get some peace, to finally finish a publishable book. He drew all the curtains, locked all the doors, set up his typewriter, and began.

'Lord Dubious Sedition sat in the Drunken Dog, the worst pub within the city of Helaneth, slowly drinking himself out of inhibitions. It was then that the cloakèd man approached him. He wore his hood well; Dubious could see nothing of his face but his eyes, which glinted eerily from the depths of the shadows.

"Are you Lord Dubious Sedition?" the man asked.

Currently, Dubious could barely tell a troll from his own mother (though on the best of days that wasn't an easy feat). Dubious slurred, "Who wants to know?"

"I do. I see, however, you are not in much of a state to talk rationally about the fate of the entire universe which only you have the power to change tonight. Shall we leave that topic for the morning?" As Dubious began to snore into the remainder of his pint, the man said to himself, "I'll take that as a yes then", picked up Dubious and carried him home.


By the morning, Dubious had both sobered up and acquired a sharp ache in the rear of his skull, and it was simply exacerbated when the tall, cloakèd man told him that the fate of the world rested, effectively, on his shoulders.

"The problem is that there is a disturbance in the fabrication," said the cloakèd man, from deep within his hood. "We have searched far and wide, and discovered that you are, in fact, the best man we could enlist to save the world. I understand your assistant, Ladd, is quite adept in the workings of the vortex?" The head beneath the cloak turned to Ladd, and a grumpy Lord struggled to do the same.

"As far as one could be without actually coming into contact with one, sir." said Ladd, a slight elven boy with hair as thick and black as tar.

"Now, I have a proposal for you." The cloakèd man placed a large, jingling bag on the table. The jingle was that special, almost seductive music that Dubious heard whenever gold coins met.

"What do you have in mind?" Dubious was rapidly sobering. This mysterious man had a serious proposal, with serious gold.

"There is a rip in the vortex, which has materialised on the northernmost side of the Mount Kalgeran. I need you to take a team, kill everything on the other side of the portal and close it, permanently."

"What is it you want eliminated, exactly? Some sort of interdimensional alien?"

"What they are is irrelevant. There are five hundred gold crowns in that bag. Will you get the job done?"

"Double the fee, and you've got yourself a deal."

The cloakèd man sighed slightly, and placed a smaller bag on the table, which too was jingling musically.

"Deal." grunted Lord Sedition, holding out his sweaty palm. The mysterious man gingerly took it and they shook hands. He disappeared soon after, leaving Dubious and Ladd alone.

"Mount Kalgeran is very dangerous, my lord."

"I know, Ladd."

"We will need a specialist just to find our way up the mountain."

"I know, Ladd."

"They don't come cheap."

"I know! Ladd, I understand they will want a good tenth of this, but they will be essential in completing this madman's quest."

"We don't even know what it is we're up against out there."

"Our orders were very clear, kill everything. Besides, you're the expert, apparently. Shouldn't you know what we're coming across here?"

"I have heard... whispers, in the scientific community, that there are creatures out there," Ladd continued to stare out the window, as he had been doing since the cloakèd man arrived, but now his voice had the rare echoes of emotion, excitement. "And, oh what creatures they are. They are many, large and trollish. They are hulking beasts, with elephantine tusks and razor-sharp, four-clawed hands. They dwell in the dark, and hold manipulation over their home. They can smell what the eye cannot see, hear a single pin drop in a noisy room. They have skin like ebony marble and instincts so killer that each pup knows how to kill its prey in seventeen different ways. My superiors call them the Phonoi, but most others in the Academy just call them death."

Lord Dubious was silent for several minutes, plotting their attack plan. "Do your superiors mention how one can kill a Phonoi?" Ladd turned, and smiled cockily.'

Timothy stretched. He had been hunkered over the typewriter for hours, and his fingers were stiff and reddish. Outside, the sun was rising, which was neither good nor bad news for him. In this sanctuary he could be alone, alone from the beast, swelling in his chest, pounding in his temples: 'BLOOD! BLOOD! BLOOD!' here he could ignore it.

Timothy stood, to stretch his legs, and immediately his head swam and his vision became blurry. He felt sick to the pit of his stomach and the pounding in his head demanded BLOOD! BLOOD! BLOOD! He grabbed at his chair to help support him, but missed, and ended up crashing onto the floor. The side of his head hit the ground first, and there was a crack. Had Timothy been in his right mind he would have wondered if it was the floorboard or his skull.

As it was, Timothy heard the crack, felt pain course through his system, and shut it down. He saw blackness, and then no more.

The End

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