Shadows In Darknes

Shadows In Darkness is the second book in the series with Dynamic Skull.
Bert now has an assistant who isn't quite normal...

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2. A Surprise In The Night

     ‘Vaurien Vex is still alive?’ Olaf Shudder, the Grand Mage of Sorcerers Academy of Mill Hill asked, his scars almost moving into a different shape.

     ‘Well, no.  Not exactly.’ Bert said feeling very light headed, ‘He’s still dead, but, he’s still walking.’

     ‘That’s impossible!’ Shudder retorted, ‘There are such things as Were-Wolfs and vampires, but not Zombies.  This is nonsense you’re speaking, Bert.’

     ‘Olaf, I swear…’

     ‘We should trust him if we want to find out about why everything is happening.  Olaf, he is still our best mage after Rock died.’ The High Priest, Patrick Tipstaff advised

     Finbar Growl walked into the room and skipped merrily round the table, at which the conversation was taking place, with a girl dragging at his heels.

     Shudder looked dismayed, ‘Finbar, have you fallen in love again?’

     He glared at Shudder, ‘No, of course not, this lovely girl here shall be Bert’s first ever assistant.’ Growl wandered out again, ‘I hope you like her.’

     ‘Now then, who do we think has been causing all this havoc?’ Tipstaff said, completely ignoring their new arrival

     ‘Caelan pharaoh, the desk agent, says the research that the sensitives have done tells us it’s Veronica Shadows and Christophe Nocturnal.  But Efram Xebeck also has a group of Adept sorcerers which he’s keeping tucked away in a secret location.  So they could be part of it too.’

     The girl abandoned the conversation as soon as they had drawn their attention away from her and back towards the discarded colloquy.  None of them noticed her except Bert who – at some stage of the chat – got up politely and strolled over to her.

     ‘Hi.’ Bert said, shifting around into different positions. He was obviously uncomfortable, ‘So, what’s your name.’

     ‘Marlena Random’ She replied smoothly                         

     Bert was on the edge of crying, ‘That’s a lovely name.’

     ‘Thank you.’                                                                    

     Reverie Birch ran up to Bert and Random, panting.  He was wearing his usual tattered T-shirt and ripped jeans.  His hair was equally stupid as it normally was, if not even more.

     ‘Doctor Craig has a problem in the hospital.’

     ‘Who are you?’

     ‘I will be taking over from Jay.’

     Bert nodded. ‘Ah.  Wait!  Did you mean Craig Synecdoche?’

     Birch nodded and led them off into the depths of S.A.M   H.Q.

     The first thing Bert saw was a huge rat the size of a car and Dr Craig Synecdoche chasing after it.  Bert, being Bert, started running behind Synecdoche and joined in the chase.  He easily over took the out-of-breath doctor and charged toward the behemoth of a rat.  Bert dived for the monster and it shrunk to a normal rat size.  Bert hit the marble hospital floor hard and he didn’t get up.  The rat scuttled away, unharmed.

     Random sprinted to Bert and knelt down beside him.

     ‘Are you OK?’

     ‘Yeah.  I guess I am.’

     Synecdoche hurried over.  He had a tiny sphere the size of a marble.

     ‘Here, this should ease the pain.’

     Bert nodded his thanks and placed the sphere in the huge gash that ran across his chest.

     ‘Oooh.’ Random peered in at his raw flesh, ‘How did you manage that?’

     ‘The rat’s tail was a blade.  It sliced across my chest.’ Bert said, trying not to groan ‘Now, Craig, Marlena, I have to go.’

 

***

 

     Christophe Nocturnal was strapped to a chair feeling ashamed of himself, in Veronica Shadows’ torture chamber.

     ‘Why didn’t you kill him? Shadows demanded, ‘You say Mensoray was half dead, so why didn’t you finish him off.’

     ‘I told you, a Hollow man struck me from behind.’ Nocturnal whined

     Shadows pressed a button on her control panel and the metal clamps around Nocturnal’s wrists and ankles heated up.  They quickly became red-hot.  He screamed.  His screams were ear-piercing but Shadows didn’t care.

     She lifted her finger off the button and Nocturnal gasped for air.

     ‘What was that for, I’m s’posed to be on your side?’

     Shadows flicked a switch on the panel and giant metal spikes jutted out from the back of the chair.  Nocturnal howled like a wild animal.  Shadows found a grim smile and put it on.  She flicked the switch back again, and the spikes disappeared into the recesses of the chair.

     ‘What are you doing to me?’ Nocturnal asked, ‘How could you do this to someone, let alone your friend.’

     ‘You were never my friend.’

     Shadows yanked a red lever and mechanical arms came out from each side of the chair.  She closed her eyes while the hands on the mechanical arms ripped Nocturnal apart.

 

***

 

     Bert sat in Efram Xebeck’s office.  There was a guard with a stun gun pointed at Bert’s head and three other guards armed with different weapons stood in various positions around the room.  The big man held a huge axe; the pot-bellied guy had a bow & arrow; the girl wielded a giant sword: The God Killer.  Bert looked impressed.  Some sort of two-legged creature scuttled in to the room.  Bert wanted to vomit.  It looked like a cross between a slug and a very, very big spider.

     ‘Hello Stough.  This is the great Bert Mensoray sitting before you.’ Xebeck informed the hideous creature

     ‘Good afternoon Mr Mensoray.’ It said

     ‘I’d rather you call me Bert, thank you.’

     ‘Ok Mr Mensoray.’ It confirmed

     Bert was already finding it annoying, and you are not in a good state if Bert Mensoray thinks you are annoying.  Stough glided towards Xebeck and whispered a few words.  Xebeck nodded and Stough scuttled out again.

     ‘It seems you haven’t done what we’ve asked.’ Xebeck cocked his head to one side and grimaced, ‘Marlena Random is a threat to the world.’

     ‘She is my assistant and I will not murder her no matter how much you make me suffer.’ Bert said, boldly

     ‘I see you still have the ring I gave you.  I could always take that back.’ Xebeck threatened, ‘Did you not know that Marlena is a Child of the Beetle?’

     ‘Finbar wouldn’t give me a Child of the Beetle as an assistant.’

     ‘Well, I’m truly sorry Bert, but it seems he just has.’

     “No.  No, he hasn’t.”

     “I’m sorry Bert…”

     Bert roared and flung his arms wide.  Knives of shadows erupted from his body in all directions.  Bert saw everything in slow motion.  A shadow sliced Xebeck in half and he crumpled to the ground.  Bert turned and witnessed the four guards falling to their deaths.

     Bert got up and slowly and walked out of the room and away into the open, without entirely knowing what had just happened.  A white Rolls Royce pulled up in front of Bert.  Marlena Random wound down the window and said:

     ‘Hop in Bert.  You look like you’ve just seen a ghost.’

     Bert got in, ‘Actually I think I’ve seen a beetle.’ he muttered

     ‘Sorry?’

     ‘Nothing.  I didn’t say anything.’

     The journey was pretty quiet until Random broke the silence with a very loud, very fake cough.  Bert couldn’t stop thinking about his deal with the man he’d just killed.  What if Xebeck had been right?  What if Random really was a Child of the Beetle?  She does look a bit like a beetle. Bert thought

     He immediately rid the notion from his mind and shook his head.

     The white Rolls Royce stopped outside Bert’s house.  He thanked Random and walked through the door.  Bert flicked the lights on and strolled into the kitchen.  Was that a drop of blood on the wall?  No.  Just a splat of tomato ketchup.

     Bert made himself a piece of toast and wandered up stairs to his room.  He stripped down to underpants and clambered in to his bed.  Bert hadn’t slept for three nights.  To him, this was heaven.

     The clock struck twelve and Bert was sound asleep.  Marlena Random appeared out of nowhere and dropped a note on his bedside table.  She climbed out of the window and flew all the way home.

     It was seven thirty when Bert woke.  He saw the note on his bedside and frowned.  He picked it up and read.

O777 4090 6774

     Bert smiled.

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