Beau rapped on Nellie’s door. Dr. Paine opened it. Nellie sat on the edge of her bed, smoking a cigarette.
“We were just going over our situation,” Nellie said.
Beau nodded. “Before you ask, no I’ve never seen her act like this,” he said. “This is a side of her that is new to me. We might not like the allies she is introducing us too, but our goal has not changed.”
“Our goal?” Nellie said. “You were going to abandon us until she said otherwise.”
Beau nodded. “It doesn’t look like I have much choice,” he said. “I wanted to ask her about our host. The Scarlet Lord was one of the names of an Egyptian deity, a god of war and retribution and a protector of the pharaohs.”
“He could just be a vampire who liked the name,” Dr. Paine said.
“Or a very ancient vampire whose powers made him appear godlike to early Egyptians,” Beau said. “There are some Egyptologists who believe he was an outsider to Egypt. His parentage among the deities is rather muddled. Different gods rose and fell in prominence and their roles sometimes changed as well. He had many names – Maahes is believed to be his true name – but it was said he preferred to be known by his title, The Scarlet Lord. He had many titles. He was called ‘The Devourer’ and ‘The Lord of Slaughter’ and you’ll like this one, Nellie, ‘Wielder of the Knife.’”
“A real sweetheart,” Nellie said.
“His true name means, ‘He who stands by her,’” Beau said. “Knowing what we know about Lilith, I can’t help but wonder how much reality is really behind the truth.”
“Beau, are you going to remember you’re not here for archaeological reasons when you meet him?” Nellie asked.
“You have to admit it would be fascinating to question him about the ancient past,” Beau said. “I sometimes wish we could have talked to Lilith before…” his voice trailed off.
“Before my ritual destroyed her,” Nellie finished.
“Yes,” Beau said.
“On the off-chance we survive this very long day,” Dr. Paine said, “We need to focus more on our next steps than what happened thousands of years ago. I don’t know how much assistance Lucy’s creatures will be, but we should call in the team from Palestine. They can go on the offensive with the Germans while we deal with Nyarlathotep and his cult. We need to get you to the library so you can access the materials you need to re-familiarize yourself with the ritual to dismiss him. Then we need to find a location where we can provide you with security while you perform the ceremony because once you begin, he’ll know and will do everything in his power to try to stop you.”
“I know,” Beau said quietly.
“If Lucy’s creatures are reliable, they could help us with the Germans and with security,” Nellie said.
“A big ‘if’ if you ask me,” Dr. Paine said. “You know the contents of her file as well as I do. She’s been their queen for less than 50 years. Lilith ruled them since the beginning of time. I’m not certain her rule over them is as secure as she seems to think it is. She could be overconfident in her power over them for all we know.”
“Lovely,” Nellie said. “I wonder who the other guests will be. Ghouls? Demons? Succubae? Undead mummies?”
“This should be quite an experience for us,” Dr. Paine said. “In the past we’d arrive at such an affair with guns blazing. Now we’re invited guests. All we need is for an intrepid group of vampire hunters to arrive and kill us all to complete a thoroughly rotten day.”
Beau ran his fingers through his hair. “Do you remember that quote I read you once from Friedrich Nietzsche?”
There was a rap on the door. Nellie looked at the others and opened it.
Lucy stood at the entrance way, dressed in a beautiful purple robe, looking regal.
Beau inhaled sharply at the sight of her. She had the bluest eyes he had ever seen. She had pulled her long, blonde hair back. He smiled at her. Nellie and Dr. Paine exchanged a glance with each other.
“I believe I know the quote you were referring to,” Lucy said. ‘He who does battle with monsters needs to watch out lest he in the process become a monster himself. And if you stare too long into the abyss, the abyss will stare right back at you.’ Do you worry your association with me will turn you into a monster?”
Beau’s smile faded. “No, I worry that our battling monsters over the past decade has turned us into them. There are dark deeds I committed long before I met you. Of everything that has occurred in my life in the past 10 years, it might be saying something that the best thing to happen to me is meeting a vampire like you.”
“I see,” she said. “I know I’m asking a lot of you – of all of you.”
“Well it’s not just you,” Beau said. “They,” he nodded to Nellie and Dr. Paine, “are too. Going up against Nyarlathotep, I don’t think any of you realize how far we’re really going to have to go. He was stopped once, but that only means he’s going to be even harder to stop this time. It’s not as simple as reading the ritual from a book and dismissing him from this plane of existence. When that ritual begins he’s going to know and he’s going to unleash hell to stop it. He was thwarted once. But he only has to win once. He’ll just keep coming back. He only has to succeed once. We have to succeed every time. When I was young and the sole survivor of the first ceremony, I naively thought that was it. I’d never have to go through anything that awful ever again in my life. I guess I always knew in my back of my head that wasn’t true. That’s why I’ve always thrown myself into fights with reckless abandon. I knew I should have died back then. All of this has been stolen time. We can’t even say we’re throwing our lives away to stop evil. Good and evil are concepts irrelevant to a cosmic entity as uncaring of them, as remote from them, as the sun cares whether or not it is day or night on the planet. The sun doesn’t care. It just happens because that is the order of the universe. We have as much chance of stopping him as we have of stopping the planet’s rotation. I delayed him once only because he couldn’t conceive of the insects of this planet having any of the knowledge to understand the most rudimentary ritual to dismiss him. Well he’s back and he’s going to squash the insects this time.”
“Spoken like a man already defeated,” said a man’s voice from the shadows of the hallway.
Beau turned to the stranger who entered. “It’s the voice of one with the experience of having seen Nyarlathotep’s true face,” he replied.
Continue to Chapter 9