Beau took his position on top of the roof two blocks from The Scarlet Lord’s temple. He had drawn a protective circle around him that would keep out Nyarlathotep and vampires, but it would not protect him against humans or any projectiles either shot or hurled at him. Nellie had selected the location for several reasons. Beau had to be within roughly a mile of Nyarlathotep for the banishment ritual to work. He could have been further away, but at the speed Nyarlathotep could travel, distance meant little to him. But any innocent civilians along Nyarlathotep’s path to Beau would be killed or driven mad by him. The neighborhood around The Scarlet Lord’s temple had long been abandoned by most people, endangering fewer innocent lives. At his current site they would be able to come to his aid if needed. Further away, they would not. Nellie’s idea was to keep The Scarlet Lord’s people bottled up at the temple as much as possible while Beau performed the ritual.
Beau checked his watch. The others should be in their places, he thought. He sat on the rooftop, opened the Necronomicon to the page with the beginning of the ritual, moved the lamp over slightly to better see the words and began the chant.
Nyarlathotep, deep inside the ancient pyramid with The Scarlet Lord and their followers, immediately knew that the ritual to banish him had begun and who was chanting the words. He turned to The Scarlet Lord. He thought of immediately transforming himself into his true appearance and bursting through the walls, but that would drive his followers mad and he needed them for his own ritual. “You must stop the Arkham native!” Nyarlathotep shouted. “He is outside, a short distance to the west.”
The Scarlet Lord gave the order and his followers ran out of the chamber and up the long, narrow passage way to the building that hid the top of the pyramid.
His vampires moved swiftly but stopped suddenly near the top of the tunnel as they collided with a ward placed to prevent their passage.
As the cultists approached to remove the ward, Lucy stood silhouetted at the entrance and called, “Halt!” Nellie and Dr. Paine took up positions behind her, pointing their weapons around the corner and down the corridor.
“I shall flay my sentries alive!” The Scarlet Lord shouted from the back of the corridor.
“They are under my will now,” Lucy said. “You shall not speak unless I command it.”
“You no longer command me,” The Scarlet Lord roared as he pushed his way forward. “You are a fool to attack here with so few.”
“Bow down dog!” Lucy ordered. The cultists and the vampires looked back and forth between the two of them. “Your rebellion is over. You planned to trap me and now you are caught in a snare of your own making. How fitting! No more shall die tonight except you for turning vampire against vampire. I shall show mercy. I shall kill you swiftly.”
Omari fired his revolver at her and it broke the indecision that had held the others spellbound. With a wave of his hand, The Scarlet Lord put the torches out and in the darkness cultists rushed forward firing their weapons despite the wall of gunfire put up by Nellie and Dr. Paine. Their rounds echoed down the long tunnel. Dr. Paine lit his flashlight. At least eight of The Scarlet Lord’s followers were dead.
“They’ve retreated back to take a secret passage to flank us,” Lucy said. “I’m certain of it. Fall back.”
Nellie led the way out quickly through the hall and down the stairs. Her heart pounded in her chest as she swept her submachine gun and flashlight ahead of her, weary for any doors opening to the side. Then she heard a sound above her and she fired up just as pieces of ceiling fell down on top of her. Lucy’s sword flashed as she leapt upwards.
“Run!” Lucy shouted to her and Dr. Paine and the two of them hurried on down the hall with the sound of swords clashing together behind them.
“Her spirit is broken,” The Scarlet Lord shouted to his followers. “See how she flees. She is no longer your queen. I shall make her my slave until she is sacrificed to you.”
“Forget her for now,” Nyarlathotep called. “Stop the ritual.”
But The Scarlet Lord was too enraged to listen. Instead, he and his followers rushed out into the street after Lucy and the others. Dr. Paine, Nellie and Lucy retreated until their backs were against the wall. Lucy kept in front to shield them as much as possible with her own body.
“We shall have her in a moment, My Lord,” The Scarlet Lord said as he and his followers moved forward. The cultists held their weapons pointed at them and The Scarlet Lord’s grin was wicked to see.
“I loved you and I could have loved you again,” he said. “Now look at you, an abomination. You are not the Queen of the Night you once were.”
“No, I am not,” Lucy said. She straightened to her full height and took on Lilith’s figure and face once again. “Do you know the greatest weakness and the greatest strength of vampires, Maahes,” she said. “They were once human.”
“Considering you are surrounded, with your back against the wall, you should not be concerned about the weakness of others,” The Scarlet Lord replied.
“You might look around you and see who is really surrounded,” Lucy said.
The Scarlet Lord and his followers glanced to his left and right. The narrow street was filled with the shining red eyes of rats and ghouls. Bats fluttered in the canyon-like walls of the buildings lining the street. The ranks of the ghouls had grown, following a mysterious connection to the Queen of the Night. On the rooftop, Seth and Rhiannon and five other ghouls stared down. There were murmurs among The Scarlet Lord’s followers. The Scarlet Lord realized how he had been tricked into the trap. Inside, her superior numbers would have been less effective in a narrow corridor. Outside, however, the ghouls and other creatures could take even a vampire down with their overwhelming numbers. For thousands of years he had looked down upon the ghouls, knowing they existed in the city and that they too worshiped Lilith, but he always thought them beneath his consideration. They had not competed for food since he drank blood from the living and the ghouls fed mostly on the dead. He turned to look at Nyarlathotep, who seemed impassive, though his thoughts were so alien they were impossible for even him to comprehend. He could not understand why Nyarlathotep did not transform and move to stop the banishment ritual himself. For a moment, The Scarlet Lord felt indecisive and it was a new experience to him. As a mortal general and as a vampire, he had always struck swiftly and with confidence. Yet Lilith had commanded his heart like no other. So many of his mistakes of late were because of his long-ago feelings for her. Had he delayed capturing her for sacrifice because it was easier to trick her or had he fooled himself into just believing that to spend time with her? The conflicting emotions turned into bitterness and then rage.
Dr. Paine and Nellie took the opportunity of The Scarlet Lord’s distraction to slowly move from behind Lucy. They slid the short distance along the wall to the door of the abandoned building behind them. Once inside they hurried to the windows to cover her.
Lucy spoke in a commanding voice: “Any vampire with Maahes may return now and fight by my side to earn my forgiveness. Any mortal who wishes to live may depart now.”
Three of the vampires looked at each other and without a word they stepped away from The Scarlet Lord’s followers to join Lucy’s growing ranks.
“Kill them all save her,” The Scarlet Lord roared.
His cultists opened fire and the three vampires still with him rushed their former compatriots, the vampires crashing into each other with a sound like thunder. Dr. Paine fired out the window at the cultists while Nellie fired the submachine gun over their heads to hit Nyarlathotep. Though not the most accurate weapon, she knew some of the burst had to have struck him. She fired another burst before ducking inside as rounds from the cultists shattered the glass and tore out chunks of the window frame. She took a quick glance and fired another burst at him.
“Nyarlathotep’s just standing there,” she shouted over the din to Dr. Paine.
“What?” the Doctor shouted back.
Nellie pointed towards the back. Dr. Paine reloaded the shotgun shells and took a quick look. “He’s just standing there. Shoot him.”
“I did,” Nellie said. “Several times.”
A cultist pushed open the door behind Nellie, raising his revolver to fire. Dr. Paine cursed, grabbed Nellie and threw her to the floor with his left hand as he fired the sawed-off shotgun one handed at the cultist. The cultist crumpled. Dr. Paine dropped the shotgun and pulled out his semiautomatic just as another cultist stepped over the body and aimed at the Doctor. Dr. Paine knew he was about to be shot and his only wish was to survive long enough to take out his attacker to save Nellie. Suddenly a sword’s point and a length of blade exited the front of the cultist’s chest and just as quickly disappeared as the dead man fell forward.
Lucy stuck her head through the door, a look of concern on her face.
“You two alright?” she asked.
Dr. Paine nodded as Nellie jumped to her feet. Lucy gave him a quick nod back and turned to look at someone outside.
“Guard them,” she said and three ghouls entered. Nellie and Dr. Paine looked at each other and Nellie rolled her eyes.
“You had the situation under control,” she said.
Dr. Paine didn’t answer. The gun fire appeared to have dropped off considerably as the ghouls and Lucy finished off the last of The Scarlet Lord’s mortal followers. The devastation among the ghouls also was high as The Scarlet Lord mowed them down, each swath of his blades leaving bloody corpses in his path.
“Nyarlathotep is summoning something,” Nellie shouted over the sounds of the battle. Dr. Paine reached into his backpack and pulled out two sticks of dynamite. He turned to a ghoul. “Do you understand me?”
The ghastly fangs croaked out an affirmative sound. “Are you willing to die for your Queen?” the Doctor asked.
The ghoul nodded enthusiastically.
“Good,” the Doctor said. “Hold these.” He handed the ghoul a stick of dynamite for each hand. “See that man over there? Run to him and wrap your arms around him as tight as you can without dropping these.”
The ghoul sprinted out of the building and across the street, leaping with his odd strides across the bodies of the fallen. The ghoul took one last look as he ran towards Lucy, whose wings had sprouted from her back to dual with The Scarlet Lord in the air.
“Down!” Dr. Paine yelled out the window as the ghoul reached Nyarlathotep. The ghoul’s arm circled the motionless god a moment before the fuses exploded the dynamite with a blast that shook the building and sent shards of ceiling plaster falling on Dr. Paine and Nellie.
Nellie looked up quickly.
“Nope,” she shouted dejectedly over the ringing in her ears. “He’s still there.”
“I need bigger explosives!” the Doctor laughed maniacally.
“You need a better plan,” she said.
Continue to Chapter 32