Author's Note:

First, a word of apology for missing the release date by three days. My blushes!

Second, Mortality is still in the redrafting process, NaNo is coming up, college is underway, a Doctor Who/Sherlock Holmes series is in the works with the talented Riandra… and I have absolutely no first chapter for this novel. Terribly sorry, but I truly have no idea when I'll be able to update this. However, keep an eye out on all my sites (a master-list ought to be available soon on my blog), 'cos you just never know when you'll get sneak previews!

Third, same drill as Mortality. Feedback and constructive crit are highly prized and dolled-up with ribbons on my wall! …well, not exactly, but you lovely people carried me through some really dark times, both in this story and in my own life, with your wonderful reviews.

Fourth… I'll repeat what I said in Mortality's epilogue: Road will take some time to get off the ground, but I promise you that it will be worth it. So please, do enjoy this brief but sincere offering!

© 2012 by Aleine Skyfire.

All rights reserved.

Deliver Us from Evil, A Sherlock Holmes Saga

Part II: The Road to Reichenbach

Time is running out for Sherlock Holmes and James Moriarty. They can't keep their war private much longer, and when war does break loose, it will have terrible consequences for all concerned. Consequences Holmes means to avoid, even if it leads to a Swiss waterfall. Sequel to Mortality.


Standing Fast

"Danger is part of my trade."

The words ring as hollowly in my own ears as surely they must in my opponent's. He favours me with the expression of a teacher disappointed in his prize pupil, and I very nearly shudder. This man sets my nerves on edge and my scars tingling. Four months, it seems, have not been long enough to soften those nightmarish memories.

"This is not danger," he says sternly. "It is inevitable destruction. You stand in the way not merely of an individual but of a mighty organisation, the full extent of which you, with all your cleverness, have been unable to realise."

My eyes narrow as his dark gaze bears down on me, a void seeking to devour all in its path. I am not a fanciful man, but looking into his eyes must surely be like catching a glimpse of Hell.

"You must stand clear, Mr. Holmes," he continues, "or be trodden under foot."

He has already trodden me under foot, once, and I will die before I allow him to do so again. "I am afraid," I say, affecting a sigh, "that in the pleasure of this conversation I am neglecting business of importance which awaits me elsewhere." It is true enough: Mycroft and Patterson must be informed of this latest turn of events. Perhaps Lestrade, as well—I seem to be trusting Patterson less and less these days. His arrogance is cause for concern.

James Moriarty studies me a moment, shaking his head in ostensible sorrow. "Well, well. It seems a pity, but I have done what I could." He turns away, reaching for his walking stick. "I know every move of your game."

He is bluffing. He must be.

Something in my expression must have given me away, for one corner of his mouth draws upward as he returns his attention to me. "Ah, you doubt me. But I know the very day set aside for my arrest."

A leak. We have a leak somewhere, somewhere in the Yard. Lestrade, at least, must know. Gregson, as well, and perhaps Bradstreet and MacDonald. Not Patterson… But Moriarty did not name the day. Is he bluffing, or is he in earnest? I am, after all, playing chess with the greatest chess master of them all.

His hand moves over his stick in a motion very like the cocking of a rifle. The click that splits the air confirms that fear, and I reach for my revolver…

Only for Moriarty to move more swiftly, staying my hand with the barrel of his gun, a palpable threat. "It has been a duel between you and me, Mr. Holmes."

A duel. An interesting choice of words. If one were to strip this conflict down to myself and the Professor, I suppose that it is indeed a duel—a clash of wits between two of the greatest intellects in the Empire.

The situation is indeed impossible, one in which it is inconceivable that both parties should walk away from it alive. I do not expect to do so, myself—the stakes have been raised too high. My sole regret is in leaving John and Mary Watson, two persons whom I love dearest and best in the world.

"If you are clever enough to bring destruction upon me, rest assured that I shall do as much to you."

Staring down the most dangerous man I have ever had the privilege of facing, I lift my chin with the solid dignity of a noble line of English gentry. "You have paid me several compliments, Mr. Moriarty." My voice is not as even as I should like, because, for all my resolve, this man commands fear by his very presence. Certainly, it is no easy thing to maintain calm before the man who came so very close to destroying me but a few months ago. "Let me pay you one in return when I say that if I were assured of the former eventuality, I would, in the interests of the public, cheerfully accept the latter."

Good heavens. My own audacity astounds me at times.

"I can promise you the one, but not the other," he snarls. He turns away and comes just short of storming out of the sitting room.

I collapse into my chair, feeling as if the floor has been snatched out from under me and as if the weight of the world has suddenly been lifted off my shoulders. Ah, I had not even realised that I was holding my breath until now. Barring the events of the past year, I have not been so unnerved in quite some time—since the Baskerville case, as a matter of fact. My fingers find my pipe and toy with it of their own volition as I consider this latest turn of events.

A duel, said he. Accurate, but it may be better still to call this a war—a war I was fighting long before I even knew my opponent, concealed within his tangled web. But unlike a war fought on the battlefield, this shall not end in surrender, either his or mine.

It shall end in destruction, as it must.

God help me in the days to come.

Author's Note:

Dialogue: 90% Canon.

Expressions & body language: 100% Jeremy Brett and Eric Porter.

Holmes's own thoughts: 99% me.

I can't tell you how excited I am to finally have this online. Of course, as with Mortality, the first chapter will fall back several months in time to bring us up to speed. Planning out the first half of this novel has been incredibly hard, partially because I was pushing myself too hard in the wrong direction. I was expecting a fantastic crime novel, and I couldn't do it. I made myself angry. Eventually, I came to understand that I was expecting the wrong kind of novel out of myself. So, like Mortality, this novel will be very character-centric, but I also think that, for the material I'm working with, this will work. And I am excited.

A final word? Do keep a look out in the Sherlock Holmes/Doctor Who crossover section for Children of Time, Episode 1: Smith and Holmes! Stay tuned!

Please review!