Henry Foss rolled over with a groan. The long, flaxen grass of the open field rippled around him, hissing back and forth in the wind. For a moment all he could see was navy – pure ink where the sun's beams had vanished for the day and left the world with a blank canvas of night. Gradually though, the first pricks of light seeped through until he was face to face with a literal carpet of stars.
Blinking back the surprising glare, Henry coughed and tried to sit up – too fast. The world spun a bit, made worst by the infinite carpet of grass rearing up for several feet above him.
"W-what..." he said, ignoring the overwhelming urge to sleep. He could smell a running body of water somewhere to his right – a river? Thick, succulent leaves – some kind of fruit bird – people – the faintest tinge of diesel...
The last thing he remembered was pacing through the cave, not far behind Helen and Nikola when there had been a brilliant flash of light.
This time, Henry lifted his head from the ground gently, letting it adjust to the new altitude before he even attempted to stand and get a better idea of where he was. Instinctively, he felt for his radio.
"Helen, it's Henry – are you there?"
Static – lots and lots of it. It was a long shot at best. She was probably still in the tunnels, well out of radio range of wherever he was.
Henry stumbled to his feet, rising just above the field of grass. It went on for acres – the soft tide, barely a blur on the evening. It was bordered on his left and in front by a dense rim of darkness. Behind him he could see a derelict tractor with a few hanging lights ploughing its way through with a bronze-skinned farmer at the wheel still working and to his right – yes, there was the river. He knew where he was.
No matter how hard he tried, Henry's mind kept wandering back to The Lost World as he ran through the long grass. Stupid – irrational fear, but he could not shake it and so had no choice but to run harder until he emerged on the muddy bank and was met with the glorious hull of their boat.
"Hola!" Henry exclaimed in absolute joy, when he saw that their guide was asleep across the back seat, basking in the night like some kind of mythical creature. The man did not stir. Henry swung a leg over the side of the boat and clambered in, reaching for the satellite phone. He had been gone for hours.
He dialled the Sanctuary at once to fill The Big Guy in on their situation and check on Will's condition.
The phone rang out.
Henry returned it slowly to the cradle and considered it for a few minutes with the steady snore of the guide in the background. Shaking his head, Henry tried again, carefully dialling the number. Again, the phone rang out and Henry was left with a sinking worry. Something was wrong. Bigfoot never missed a call, ever.
He was so lost in his worry that he didn't notice the tour guide behind him wake, cracking open his sun-worn eyes to the night.
A horrible wail scratched through the room with such ferocity that Joe Kavanaugh dropped his flaming torch to the ground and swiftly followed with his hands clasped over his ears to stop them from breaking as he bowed his head to the dirt.
The creatures joined in, hissing with the voice as they moved together around the sarcophagus in a kind of sickly tide. Soon, they were crying too – pawing at the sand with their tapered fingers. Joe, unlike most, had always thought of the sand creatures as the people they were once – but now he saw what everyone else did – their animal natural. Truly, they were some bastardised existence between humanity and the ancient past – one that was afraid.
Finally taking hold of himself, Joe reached for the torch, still burning on the ground in front of him, and scrambled to his feet, backing away toward the large tower of sand in the centre of the room. Without realising what he was doing, Joe started backing up onto it, climbing it as best he could with one hand clutching into the shifting surface.
He was too transfixed by the frightening mass of wailing creatures to realise that he was no longer progressing, merely dislodging avalanches of sand like some kind of bewildered beetle. The room had never seemed so impossibly big. There was just no way conceivably out of it, no way to escape the eternal imprisonment it was designed for.
Suddenly, the flame flicked backwards across his hand. The heat scorched him for a second, before straightening and Joe realised that the rest of the room was dead silent. The sand creatures were parting, breaking away to reveal the hunched figure of their master.
"T – time," the word nearly died on full-blooded vampire's lips, he had been asleep so long, "shall keep us, death – pursue us but never," he clasped his chest as the beat of his heart grew stronger for the first time in several thousand years, "end us."
The vampire let the words settle. His strength was growing with every moment. He could not believe that his eyes could see again, that his perpetual world of darkness was removed by the unbearable brightness of a few torches. Oh – the world, how he ached to see the arching dunes and the crystal waters of the shore, hold his child in his arms again after – but – then the memories swept over him. His child was dead – all of his people were gone. Lost, slaughtered. He raised his head. Brother, he whispered to no-one, your time is up.
Breaking free of his murderous trance, the ancient vampire straightened up, laying one of his clawed hands lazily on the coffin that had been his tomb. He eyed the sorrowful crowd of half-creatures around him, more beast than vampire as they cowered at his feet and – how interesting, a human flayed out on the sand in front of him, trying to escape.
The vampire tilted his head and lunged through the crowd in several long steps, stopping short of Joe's terrified gasp.
"Skeletons, dust – ancient ruins," Nikola picked a small chunk of rock from his hair with utter disdain, "all of my favourite things..."
John's glower darkened as he dislodged and threw the last mini-arrow to the floor where it lay innocently. "Is he being serious?" he grumbled.
"No..." was Helen's swift reply, as she began to regret leaving her jacket by the pool. If nothing else, it left her quite extraordinary array of weapons naked to the world.
"Then is it possible to shut him up for a while?" John matched pace with the others and they continued up the main street of the deserted city, three abreast.
"This is worse than those crypts below Rome," said Helen. "It's like a ghost city," she continued, navigating her way around a twisted skeleton. "They're all still here," she pointed out a pile of a dozen skeletons or more blackened in a side street. "It's horrible." It was clear to her that the skeletons were those of Abnormals, hundreds of them collected and destroyed.
"Reminds me of Pompeii – minus the imposing mountain. Ah, here we go..." John bent to the ground and lightly grazed a footprint with his hand. "Ashley," he muttered, "casually strolling by the looks of it."
"She's about the only thing that's been here in a while," added Helen, as another row of bleached bones peaked out from one of the crumbling building's window.
"This sanctuary," said John, lifting his arms and with them, the heavily soaked coat, "whatever it may have been once, is gone. I doubt Ashley will find what she's looking for in a place like this."
"Rash child," Helen snapped so sharply that the two gentlemen paused and glanced at each other. Helen was wiping her cheeks quickly, brushing aside a few surprise tears. "Whatever would convince her that this was a good idea?"
John and Nikola were exceedingly quiet behind her, passing dangerous glances at each other, neither willing to betray their part. There was too much at stake for both of them to risk the truth now.
Instead, Nikola cleared his throat and paced ahead of Helen, reaching the large set of doors ahead of them first.
"The intended entrance to the sanctuary," he said boldly, noticing that one of the doors was slightly ajar – enough for them to slip through into the darkness one by one. Ashley's footsteps led directly through the gap.
Behind the doors they were back into familiar territory – dark, cold and every-so-slightly damp walls. They were definitely back in the tunnels. Their voices automatically fell to a hush. John, having not encountered the vampire first hand, followed the others' lead and clicked his flashlight on.
If Helen and Tesla are this nervous, he rationed, then it must be bad.
"Helen..." Nikola whispered in something barely more than a breath on her ear. She looked at him, waiting for him to continue. "If we get caught again – I don't think our gracious host is going to let us leave alive."
"Thank you Nikola," she brushed him away, "I am aware of that."
His eyes wandered down to Helen's waist where her pale hand had settled on the handle of a rather sinister-looking knife. It warmed his heart.
She was surrounded by billows of black rock, glistening in the wake of her weak flashlight with something that wasn't quite water. With the great doors to the city well behind her, she couldn't help but notice a few skeletal remains brushed against the cave walls. Whatever violence had transpired, it had not been confined to the city.
Ashley backed up against one of the cold walls in the tunnel system and felt into her pocket. There were still several blood samples snuggled in there which she had entirely forgotten about since the first sample had tumbled and smashed, uselessly, over the train line. She wondered now, what had been the purpose of these? They seemed of no use to her now and she was tempted to abandon them completely – destroy them but they had belonged to her grandfather and keeping them was like keeping a little bit of him.
She let them clink against each other, rolling around in her fingers until she expelled a heavy sigh and turned her attention back to Magnus's journal, flipping it open. Ashley scanned the untidy page for the next set of instructions, hoping that although she had literally fallen from the path, there was some guidance left for her.
'There is no greater gift in this enterprise than English manners.'
Ashley frowned. Manners? In a cave? Who was she to be polite to – the bats?
What are you doing here Ashley? She asked herself. It had been a while since she'd been so far out of her depth. At least hunting monsters she knew where she stood – but this, how was she to convince a vampire to help her? More to the point, how to acquire its blood and fill the empty vial in her other pocket?
Her mind mused. Stick to what you know best. Hunt the vampire and try not to kill it.
Two dark eyes bored through Joe's face like pealing back the skin and though the vampire's lips did not move, Joe could hear a faint whisper on the air – or in his head, he couldn't be sure.
"What is your purpose here, human?" it asked, still speaking the ancient language.
"I – " Joe stuttered, and then realised he would have to reply in the same language if he were to have even the slightest shot at surviving. "I came to make a trade," he said slowly, and with very poor pronunciation.
The vampire snarled in amusement, indicating that Joe should continue.
"I resurrected you from your tomb in the hope that you could restore my father to human form."
The red behind the vampire's eyes flickered wildly with fascination.
"Your father – is among us?" he asked, as the sand creatures crept in closer around them. Several rows back, Joe's father watched the proceedings dispassionately. The vampire smelt, rather than looked at the mass of half-creatures behind him. A moment later, he smelt the blood relation. "I see..."
"I bestowed upon you your freedom," Joe lowered the torch to a less threatening position.
"What you say is true..." the vampire cocked its head to the side. "You should know that not all men are honest, young human, and even less of those are fair. What can be said of men is double for our kind."
Joe fought to keep his breath steady. Maybe he was going to die after all...
"But as it so happens I am bound by law to return the favour." The vampire turned to the crowd and, with one horribly clawed finger, beckoned Joe's father forward. "Is this your father?"
"Then he is yours."
The vampire lowered his claws to Joe's father's neck, casually gliding down it leaving an angry red slice that began to drip with scarlet. The man did not flinch, his blue eyes glistened, staring into nowhere without change.
It happened so fast.
The vampire dipped its head and sunk its teeth through the creature's next. Joe's father squealed – then gasped for breath as the vampire dug in deeper. The victim's blue eyes turned glassy and vacant. After a few dying gasps, his body went limp and the vampire let it fall to the dirt.
"No!"Joe screamed, falling to the ground beside the crippled body of his father.