Mr. Carnacki’s story — continued.
“The sun was barely up when Adena and I set to work with our brushes. We had brought buckets of white paint with us and together worked to draw a huge ‘Defensive Circle’ on the grass, encompassing the standing stones as part of the pattern of our pentacle. The project took us nearly three hours to complete except for a short section left unpainted so that Lucy could enter the protective ring. We had only to finish the circle to create the supernatural barrier. We drew smaller, complete circles around the slaughter stone and the heel stone.
“Our plan called for the ‘Defensive Circle’ to keep out the Un-Dead enemies and for our Enfield and Winchester rifles to hold off our earthly foes. The monolithic stones would provide us with a nearly fortress-like protection.
“Anne and Captain Albion stayed at Stonehenge whilst Armitage, Adena and I walked back to the barn. With Jacob’s aid, we slid Lucy’s crate with her sleeping form inside onto the wagon. We wanted to take our positions early in case Lilith sent scouts ahead.
“The afternoon was cloudy, but the sun broke through occasionally. We spoke little for words were not necessary.
“I thought of something Armitage had told me. After Armitage returned to Osmotherley, he had told me how he had felt when Jacob strode into the room to save Miss Hamilton despite the overwhelming odds against them. He said he had been proud to think that he would soon die alongside such a brave man. As we unloaded Lucy’s crate and Adena dipped her brush into the paint bucket to complete the ‘Defensive Circle,’ I understood what he meant.
“Armitage leaned against Lucy’s crate, a blade of grass jutting from his mouth, and opened a book. Albion stood on the crate as lookout. Jacob whistled merrily as he returned the horse and wagon to the barn.
“Anne and Adena sat cross-legged on a blanket, chattering away with each other as Adena braided Anne’s hair. They looked like young girls except for the rifles across their laps.
“I sat on the blanket next to Adena. I would like to say that I spent what I thought my last hours in prayer or deep contemplation about eternal truths or even reading profound literature. But I did not. Instead, the apprehension I had felt in the morning had faded away during the lull into a slight boredom. With the buzz of Adena and Anne’s voices in the background and the security of knowing Albion and Jacob were alert for any danger, I dropped into a deep slumber. I had slept little during the night.
“But when Captain Albion gave a low whistle in the late afternoon, I woke instantly. In the distance, he had spotted a motley group of nine men approaching, some dressed well and others in patched coats and hats.
“We took our positions behind the stones and held ourselves ready.
“As they drew closer, Albion shouted for them to stop. They looked at us with our rifles aimed at them and then glanced doubtfully at each other before they shrugged and, as one, turned and slunk away.
“We did not fire, uncertain if they were actually with Lilith or not. The Captain motioned for Armitage to move to the western side of Stonehenge to watch any approach from that direction and for I to take the east.
“The men had withdrawn, but we kept ready. I worried the men we had sent away might be antiquarians and diggers. If so, they would return with local constables.
“Time runs slowly when you stare straight ahead at the same section of land. I came to know every clump of weeds in front of me and every rock on the ground under me.
“But I kept my attention on my assigned area. I had complete faith in the others to do the same. As night drew near, Jacob and Armitage lit torches that they had set around our perimeter whilst I had slept.
“With the setting of the sun, two things immediately happened. In the distance, we heard the howl of wolves and we braced ourselves for a charge. At the same moment, Lucy appeared from her coffin more bewitching than ever.
“Anne handed Lucy a Winchester. She levered in a round. ‘They have surrounded us,’ Anne told her.
“Lucy could see much better in the dark. She nodded and then dashed over to me. I greeted her warmly, but the haunted look on her face worried me.
“‘Are you well?’ I asked.
“She was as radiantly pale as a full moon. ‘I am terrified,’ she whispered low, crouching beside me. ‘I dreamt I was in hell. Thomas, it was so vivid, so horrific. Please tell me my nightmare is not my destiny.’
“Tears stung my eyes. Even before that night in Hillingham when I had entered the ‘Defensive Circle’ to stand by her, she had evolved from a supernatural creature to study to a woman I wanted to protect.
“I could hear the plaintive desire for reassurance in her tone yet I could not bring myself to lie to her. ‘Lucy, I do not know,’ I said.
“She lowered her rifle, bowed her head and hid her face behind her hands. Her body trembled with emotion. ‘Thomas, I am scared,’ she said. ‘Let us surrender to Lilith. Please! Let her restore the Garden of Eden. Please! My nightmare was so real.’
“I wanted to tell her to take courage in knowing our cause was just, but the words sounded hollow in my thoughts even as they formed. I wanted to comfort her, but I shared the same fear. ‘I am sorry, Lucy,’ I said, feeling more low than I ever imagined possible.
“Lucy straightened, nodded slightly and slowly, and told me she, too, was sorry.
“The howling of the wolves drew closer. Then we heard an even more ominous sound. Thunder rumbled and the wind began to blow.
“‘Can you halt the storm?’ I asked.
“‘I shall try,’ she said.
“Lucy stood and spread her arms. A look of deep concentration grew on her face. The purple-black clouds seemed to swirl and Lucy’s expression became frantic.
“Rain pelted us and lightning flashed around us. Thunder blasted us like the concussion from dynamite. The torrent put out the torches with a hiss.
“Lucy appeared more desperate, her arms held in front of her and shaking from an invisible strain. Lilith and Lucy battled with their wills and concentration to control the weather. Suddenly a lightning bolt struck Lucy in a blinding white light and knocked her flat to the ground!
“I ran to her. ‘Lucy!’ I cried, throwing myself down beside her prone form.
“She opened her eyes. ‘I cannot stop the storm,’ she shouted over the roar. ‘Lilith is too powerful.’
“‘I am just glad you are safe,’ said I pulling her up.
“Gunfire banged in the distance, but the humans on Lilith’s side were as blind as we by the wind, rain and darkness.
“Jacob fired at muzzle flashes. I returned to my post with Lucy by my side. We joined him in shooting at our foes.
“I fired at barely seen forms behind their own muzzle flashes. Bullets whizzed overhead or struck the wet ground near us throwing up small splashes of muddy soil. Yet we held better positions defensively than our foes and for a time I experienced a growing confidence that we might hold Lilith’s minions off long enough to keep her from performing the ritual in the required time.
“Lilith’s human minions, however, were not alone. With a growl, three werewolves dashed through the darkness with the speed of jungle cats and charged at Jacob, who was closest to them. With his attention focused on trading rifle shots with a sniper, Jacob did not see them. I shouted a warning as I turned and fired, hitting a leaping werewolf through the heart and killing him. But the other two landed upon Jacob’s prone body.
“With a snarl, one wolfman slashed his razor-sharp claws down Jacob’s back, tearing deep furrows through his coat and clothing and into his skin. The blow rolled Jacob over. Lucy and I fired simultaneously, hitting the werewolf. But the third swatted Jacob across the face, his claws slashing Jacob with deep furrows from the brow to the jaw line and gouging out his left eye. The force of the blow tumbled Jacob through the air. He landed on the back of his head and neck, his body bouncing once when it hit the ground. We fired again, hitting the third werewolf and knocking him flat.
“As Captain Albion ran to his fallen friend, a rifle shot dropped the Captain. Lucy fired into the darkness and silenced the sniper.
“Anne and Adena rushed to our injured whilst I fired my rifle in an effort to hold off our unseen foes. I heard Armitage shooting on his side of Stonehenge.
“I glanced back to our center. Despite his ghastly wound, Jacob pushed himself up to one knee and began to stand then collapsed into Adena’s arms.
“Then, already filled with despair at the sudden, shocking turn of misfortune the battle had taken, I sensed the Horror of Hillingham approaching us. The damp hairs on the back of my neck rose as the entity drew near. I was terrified and I was not alone. The shooting from our opponent’s side stopped as the Horror frightened away Lilith’s human confederates.
“Lucy and I exchanged a glance. ‘Go help Adena,’ I told her and she ran to join the others.
“Save for the occasional stark brightness of the lightning, all was pitch-black darkness.
“I knew we did not have long to live. The driving rain was washing away the Defensive Circle. Somewhere beyond, the Horror waited. And so did Lilith.
“I looked at the rain pelting the painted lines. It was only a matter of moments before the ‘Defensive Circle’ washed away and we were overrun.
“I did not think our situation could get more bleak then suddenly it did.
“I heard Adena scream and I turned in her direction. In the momentary flash of lightning, I saw Lucy backhand Anne across the face, knocking her to the ground.
“With an unbelievable speed, Lucy swooped up Captain Albion into her arms and bit deeply into his neck. The Captain’s agonized scream was cut off quickly as his life’s blood gushed across her face. Even over the storm’s fury, I heard the ghastly, crunching sound as she ripped through his muscle and tendons and tore out his throat.
“I stared at her unable — not wanting — to comprehend what I had just witnessed. The sudden return to darkness was merciful for taking away the image I had seen.
“With the next stroke of lightning, I saw Lucy next to Armitage. He swung his rifle like a club at her, but she struck him and knocked him to the ground. He landed hard on the ground, stunned senseless by the blow.
“With the staccato bursts of lightning from the storm, I watched Lucy eerily gliding toward me. She had a horrible, voluptuous smile on her lips. In the darkness between the flashes, her eyes glowed like red embers. I waited stunned then she was next to me. She brushed the strands of wet hair from her face. Something inside of me died.
“‘Lilith, I offer you victory!’ Lucy shouted and then laughed with a harsh sound like breaking glass.
“‘Why?’ I asked, too dazed to even defend myself. My empty Winchester dropped from my hands.
“‘Did you actually believe I would give up paradise for you and the others?’ Lucy’s laughter chilled the marrow in my bones.
“The last of the barrier washed away and the lithe form of Lilith crossed to Lucy’s side.
“As quick as thought, I drew my revolver and fired my last silver bullets at Lilith, striking her squarely in the center of her forehead. The bullets flattened harmlessly against her. Lilith tilted her face with a smile at me.
“In the next instant, Lucy knocked the revolver from my grasp with such strength that she broke my right arm above the wrist.
“Lucy pulled me into her arms, the points of her fangs pressing against my skin above my jugular. I thought of Captain Albion’s death and waited for my own.
“‘Do not kill him, my daughter,’ Lilith said happily. ‘I intend to end suffering. I want him to see how wrong he was to try to stop me. You have done well.’
“With a wave of her hand, Lilith stopped the rain as suddenly as it had begun. Stars and a crescent moon appeared as the curtain of clouds were swept away.
“‘Unfortunately,’ Lilith continued, ‘we do need the sacrifice of a virgin to wake the old gods.’
“Lucy flew over to Adena and Anne, dragging them from the ground where they lay cowering in terror from the many vampires that surrounded them. Tears streamed down their faces.
“My Queen, may I offer these two?’ Lucy asked. ‘When I wanted to join you earlier they kept me from coming to your side.’
“Lilith pointed to Adena. ‘She may die knowing she serves the greater good.’
“I inhaled deeply. With my left hand, I reached behind me and pulled out my kukri dagger from the sheath at my back.
“With a sudden swing, I thrust the blade upward toward where Lucy’s heart would have been if she possessed one. With the speed of thought she transformed intangible as smoke and the dagger passed through her. Then she assumed her human-like form and backhanded me with her fist. The blow struck me across the right side of my brow and I dropped to my knees, feeling like a crowbar had struck me.
“‘Mr. Carnacki,’ I heard Lucy whisper through the fog of pain. ‘Do not make me disobey Lilith and kill you or I shall feast slowly on you.’ She picked up my dagger and she pulled me up by my left arm to the stone where they had stretched out Adena for the sacrifice. A vampire with a Russian accent shook Armitage conscious. Blood ran down from Armitage’s broken nose and swollen lips.
“Lilith began chanting in a language I did not recognize and in response the sky began to whirl as she performed the ritual to open a portal to a nether region.
“The surviving vampires, werewolves and men stared upward in awe at the tear to the fabric of reality visible in the sky.
“Lucy moved close to Lilith’s side and the demon smiled at the vampire like a mother would a favored daughter, but she did not stop her chant.
“Lilith held her arms aloft with a silver blade poised to stab down into Adena.
“Adena appeared paralyzed with fright as the vampires held her to the stone.
“Armitage stood on the other side of the altar, his arms pinned back by another vampire, looking down at her. There was no fear on his face, no hatred, no passivity, no coldness. Instead his eyes held a steady gaze for Adena to hold onto like a ship’s anchor in a stormy sea. She nodded, almost imperceptibly, but I could tell from the motion she would die bravely, that she had taken courage from him as if he had willed it into her.
“The rift in the sky widened and a towering figure of the darkest shadow appeared behind the opening. I was about to witness Lilith’s moment of triumph.
“Lilith stabbed downward with the dagger and with a blur of speed Lucy parried Lilith’s strike with the curved blade of my kukri!
“The vampire immediately pounced upon the demon, her fangs sinking deep into Lilith’s throat. Lucy drank so fiercely that the black blood poured through her lips.
“Lilith — her lips drawn back in agony — tried to push Lucy away from her, but Lucy held on tightly with her talons dug into Lilith’s back.
“Anne pulled a revolver from the inside of her jacket and took aim at the tall vampire holding me, hitting him between the eyes and then coolly turned to blast the vampire holding Armitage.
“The vampires holding Adena let go of her to assist Lilith. Adena jumped off the altar and raced to her satchel to arm herself. Anne fired again, striking a black-clad vampire in the back of the head as he tried to pull Lucy away from Lilith.
“Lilith rolled on the ground in a desperate try to dislodge Lucy, but Lucy held on determinedly despite the ferocity of the struggle.
“Huge clods of turf were thrown up into the air as Lucy and Lilith fought like beasts with an eye-blurring speed.
“I was rushing to Lucy’s aid when suddenly I was caught in a grip colder than ice. The Horror of Hillingham picked me up with his spectral hands and threw me hard against a standing stone about a dozen feet up from the ground. I slid down the lichen-covered surface and landed hard on the grass. I wiped blood from my eyes and pulled myself up to charge.
“I had no clue as to how to fight the Horror. My only thought was to stay alive long enough that I delayed the ghost from assisting Lilith.
“The Horror again came to grips with me. The anger and hatred that causes a brother to murder brother, a mother to kill her children, to cause killers to commit the most sadistic and vile deeds emanated from the ghost as it choked me. It felt as if spectral fingers took hold of my essence to rip my very soul from my body.
“With desperation, I sought to recall the last lines of the Saaamaaa ritual, but I could not think for my mind was filled with a vile horror.
“My heart pounded so hard it seemed as if it would burst. I swung my fists to fight the Horror yet my blows passed through its form.
“Armitage was swinging a Winchester like a club as he fought a werewolf whilst a tall, rangy vampire fenced with another vampire to protect Armitage’s back. Anne and Adena also were caught in their own desperate fight, standing over Jacob’s body. Vampires fought vampires, werewolves and men. All was madness and terror.
“Yet each second the Horror of Hillingham spent killing me was time that it was not defending Lilith.
“And as death approached and my sight began to dim into final darkness, I twisted to look upon Lucy one last time. From the corner of my eye I could see her as she drew her blood-covered mouth and ichor-stained teeth from Lilith’s prone form. ‘May God forgive you, Lilith,’ Lucy cried out. Then she swung my kukri dagger and lopped off the demon’s head.
“Instantly, the dozen surviving vampires and werewolves howled as one, even those that had moments before been locked in combat. Lucy held up Lilith’s head, and snarled, ‘Lilith’s blood flows through my veins now. I am the Queen of the Night! Obey me or perish!’
“Many of the vampires and werewolves growled before fleeing into the darkness. Lucy pointed to the Horror of Hillingham, or rather the ghost of Cain as we later learned, and commanded, ‘Return from whence thy came!’
“Immediately the Horror released me and I dropped to the ground.
“Lucy began to chant in the same mystical language used by Lilith. At the time, I did not know how she knew the words to say, but she closed the tear in the sky. I heard a boom overhead and then the stars were visible where they belonged.
“Lucy rushed to my side. Bewildered by the events and lightheaded from the Horror’s grip, I shook my head in disbelief and said, ‘You killed Albion.’
“‘It was his idea,’ Anne said as she also ran to my aid.
“‘He is at peace now,’ Lucy said.