Charlie Trace, professional thief, is no stranger to deceit and violence. But nothing in his life on the knife-edge of London's Underworld could prepare him for the horror of Demogorgon.
It is centuries old: Satan is its lord and master. It walks the earth in the guise of a man, but it is not a man: it is the very essence of evil. Across many years.and nations, Demogorgon has sown the seeds of hell...now, it is calling its children home. Demogorgon's power grows with every soul it devours--and if Charlie Trace can't stop it, he will be its next victim!
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Brian Lumley is the author of the bestselling Necroscope series of vampire novels. The first Necroscope, Harry Keogh, also appears in a collection of Lumley's short fiction, Harry Keogh and Other Weird Heroes, along Titus Crow and Henri Laurent de Marigny, from Titus Crow, Volumes One, Two, and Three, and David Hero and Eldin the Wanderer, from the Dreamlands series.
An acknowledged master of Lovecraft-style horror, Brian Lumley has won the British Fantasy Award and been named a Grand Master of Horror. His works have been published in more than a dozen countries and have inspired comic books, role-playing games, and sculpture, and been adapted for television.
When not writing, Lumley can often be found spear-fishing in the Greek islands, gambling in Las Vegas, or attending a convention somewhere in the US. Lumley and his wife live in England.
Part IChapter OneLate August, 1936. The year in which the Oriental Institute of Chicago extended its activities to include a dig at Meggido in (then) Palestine ...
The four came out of the desert as evening turned to night. They might have been wandering Arabs, coming to the ruins with their donkeys, finding a place to camp through the hours of darkness. They might have been Arabs. But they came silently, the hooves of their beasts muffled with rags, and their silhouettes furtive against the early stars as they crossed a ridge and plodded down toward the shining inland sea. And though unwittingly they followed more or less a path Jesus of Nazareth had followed some nineteen centuries before them, that was the single way in which it could be said that they 'walked in the Ways of the Lord.' For in all other respects they were ungodly indeed, and one of them especially so.Now they picked their way carefully through rubble on the outskirts of what had been, long, long ago, a village. Low, ruined walls stood up from stony ground; the rim of a dried-out well had caved in where once streets joined in an open plaza, and where now the bleached bones of a great olive, dead six hundred years, lay sandpapered and near-petrified under the darkening sky. The moon shone down on a desolation of tumbled stones and rude dwellings crumbled almost to their foundations; in the near-distance, Galilee was a sheen of rippled silver under the stars.'This is the place,' said the leader of the group, slowlynodding. His voice was the dry whisper of reeds, rustling up as from a throat full of dust. 'Help me down.'The old man's followers silently dismounted, then assisted him from his donkey. He was light as a feather, desiccated, old as this old place itself. So he seemed. To any chance observer it would also seem that his retainers handled him with reverence; in fact, they handled him with fear - like a fragile bottle of some deadly virus which they dared not spill.Hooded, all four, for long moments then they stood under the moon, the old man clinging to his donkey until he found his legs. Finally he stood unaided, put up a hand and threw back his hood. The others at once drew back from him. Age had made him ... very ugly. Age and something else: black evil!George Guigos was all old cracked leather and stained ivory. His lips seemed to have withered, drawing back from teeth which jutted from shrivelled gums and gave him an awful, permanent grin. Oddly, he seemed to have retained all his teeth. Above his mouth, a collapsed nose was a raw hole, the bridge between its great pits of nostrils almost completely eaten away by disease. Pits, too, his eyes: but these were yellow in the dark like those of a cat, with nothing at all of senility about them but a bright and terrible awareness, a luminous intelligence. Bald, his head was a brown walnut on a pipestem neck. He was frail as a twig, and yet his power was awesome; it was the power of evil in him.'Are you sure, Mr Guigos?' one of the three, a little bolder, perhaps, than the others, stepped forward again. He put back his own hood, glanced all about with quick, dark eyes, as if to find some sort of landmark or point of definition. 'One mound of rubble seems much the same as any other to me.''But not to me, Ihya Khumnas,' Guigos snapped, his voice coming viciously to life. 'This is the place.''The place of the treasure?' another asked, his voice an eager hiss. This one was called Yakob Mhireni.Guigos looked at all three in turn. 'The place of great treasure, yes!' he answered.'You mentioned a map,' said Ihya Khumnas, licking his lips. 'But ... you never seem to refer to one.' He shuffled uncomfortably.'The map is in my head,' said Guigos. 'If you had such a map, wouldn't you keep it in your head?' He laughed a laugh that grated like a shovel in cold ashes, which finally subsided as he glared again at the three. 'But it seems I must remind you: you have no interest in the treasure itself. Only in its recovery. The treasure is mine. Or perhaps you think you weren't paid well enough?'They had been paid half in advance, the rest due on completion. And it had been enough. Not a man of them would ever need to work again, neither them nor their children. They could all live in luxury on the interest alone. They were almost rich men, and would certainly be rich men when the account was settled in full. But last night Khumnas and Mhireni had conspired between them, and now they gave each other small, furtive glances before Khumnas answered: 'We've been paid well enough. It's just that we're eager to be done with this, that's all. We're tomb-looters, here under false papers, labouring through the day for the Americans at Meggido, who at any time are liable to see through our cover. That's enough to make anyone nervous. The sooner we can get out of here the better.''We are in complete agreement,' said Guigos. 'I do not any more enjoy your company than you enjoy mine. Anyway, that choked well back there - where the old streets cross - that was once the centre of this village.There was a grapevine growing all along the under-branches of the olives, of which there were several. Figs grew up the wall of one of the houses. All in all, it was a very pretty square; the village was not unpleasant.''Huh!' Mhireni grunted. 'That lone tree's been dead a hundred years and more! When was this time you speak of, Mr Guigos?''Long, long ago!' Guigos rasped. 'As for the olive tree by the well: you are wrong, it has been dead six hundred years. In any case, the well is my marker. That and Polaris.'He turned his yellow eyes up to the sky, sought out the Great Bear and its pointers, guided his donkey between low mounds of rubble. The others glanced at each other, shrugged, began to follow him.Khumnas was a forger and confidence trickster; he had been recruited six months ago as he fled his native Iraq where the authorities were intensely interested in his head. Mhireni was likewise Iraqi: a thug and brutally strong, he was nevertheless devious and quick-witted and had thus eluded justice for most of his twenty-eight years. Guigos's third hired hand was no less a criminal, but he was somewhat different from the others.Handsome, with typically Greek features and a physique to match, Dimitrios Kastrouni was the youngest of the three. His twenty-two years had been spent mainly in Larnaca, a fishing village in Cyprus. The only son of a Greek-Cypriot vintner, two years ago he had been spurned by a girl who then married his rival. Sneaking into the wedding ceremony, as the two were joined, he had leaped forward to slit the bridegroom's throat before all the horrified guests. Then, barely ahead of the hue and cry, he had fled to the mainland in his father's boat, scuttling the craft off Haifa and swimming ashore by night. Under an assumed Jewish name he had got himselfa job driving for the British authorities, which was where Guigos had found and recruited him only a month ago.Kastrouni was on edge, his nerves jumping. But his was a controlled nervousness; outwardly he appeared cool, almost emotionless. His internal agitation sprang from two years of flight and deception in a world where the storm-clouds of political unrest and the ominous stirrings of nations as they prepared for war had covered his tracks and given him freedom; but he remained unconvinced that he had escaped the consequences of his crime; while he did not relish the thought, still he anticipated his past catching up with him. Sooner or later it would, he was sure, and that kept him on his toes. But, basically honest, he was satisfied with what Guigos had paid and promised to pay; the alleged 'treasure' held no interest for him. Thus he was not part of Khumnas's and Mhireni's conspiracy.Now, as the four picked their way carefully through the ruins, Kastrouni's flight-sharpened ears detected some slight sound, hopefully distant. 'Shh!' he cautioned the others, coming to a halt.'What is it, Dimitrios Kastrouni?' Guigos hissed.They all held their breath.'I heard - something,' finally Kastrouni answered.'Huh!' Mhireni snorted. 'And who would be out here, under the stars, in a God-forsaken hole like this?' Although he was not a true believer, Mhireni came of a Shia Islamic family. His remark had no real significance; it was something he'd picked up from the Americans, who blasphemed as a matter of course. But while it meant nothing to him, Guigos was different entirely.'Be quiet!' the old man hissed, then gave a deep, chuckling, rustling laugh. 'God-forsaken, indeed! Aye, Chorazin is that, all right ...' And to Kastrouni: 'Well, what was this "something" you heard, Dimitrios?'Kastrouni looked at him, scowled, rounded on Mhireni. 'Fool!' he said, keeping his voice low. 'Who would be out under the stars, you ask? This is British territory. They patrol constantly. To the north the French have border posts. The Arabs still inhabit a number of towns around Galilee. Fishermen sail on the night waters and nomads wander in the desert. Archaeologists scour the land, seeking out just such "God-forsaken" places as this. Who would be out here? Man, didn't you hear what Khumnas said? We're tomb-looters! This treasure Guigos seeks is not his to keep, but he will keep it. Therefore he is a thief and we are helping him. There are men enough in this land who would kill you for your gold earrings, let alone a treasure. And when I say I hear something, you had better believe I hear something!' He spoke Greek but Mhireni understood every word.Mhireni's flush went unnoticed in the gloom, but Khumnas saw his hand steal inside his robe. The Iraqis had plotted to kill Kastrouni along with Guigos - but after they had the treasure. Khumnas caught Mhireni's elbow in a tight grip. Lightly he said: 'The Greek is right. Perhaps it would be better if one of us kept watch and scouted the land about.'Guigos looked reluctant but finally agreed. 'You do it, Dimitrios,' he said. 'Your eyes and ears are sharp, and you seem to value your life and freedom more than these two. Keep a watch; go in a wide circle; but be back here by midnight. I'll need you then.''Back here?' Kastrouni looked all about. 'Back where?''Here,' Guigos grunted. 'Right here!' He stamped an oddly twisted left foot and pointed out three large boulders in a triangle where they supported a fourth. That is the marker.'Khumnas and Mhireni tethered their donkeys, went to the boulders. Limping a little and moving more slowly,Guigos followed them; he took a dry stick and traced a square in the sand of ages. Its sides were about six feet long and enclosed the triangle of boulders with their boulder apex. The sides of the square itself were parallel to those of a greater square formed of ruined walls. 'This was a temple,' the old man said, almost to himself. He nodded. 'A cursed temple in a cursed and doomed town.''And the treasure?' Khumnas couldn't help but lick his lips as he waited for an answer.'Come,' said Guigos with a nightmare grin, 'topple that boulder and roll the others aside, out of the square. Then get your shovels. Twelve, fifteen inches deep there's a slab; beneath it are steep steps following a natural fissure. The treasure is down there - but I alone know where.'Khumnas and Mhireni glanced at each other, ran to their beasts. Guigos chuckled, limped to one of the tumbled walls and sat down. He gazed at Kastrouni with sulphurous eyes. 'And you had better get on with your patrol. But carefully. And remember - be back by midnight. Join us below ...'Kastrouni nodded. He tethered his own animal and took some bread and meat from a pack. 'Midnight,' he nodded again. 'I have a wrist-watch. I'll be back.' He opened his robe, took off his belt, closed the robe and belted it to him. The broad leather belt supported a scabbard and sharp knife. Munching slowly on a piece of dried meat, Kastrouni melted into the shadows.And George Guigos sat there under the brilliant jewel stars and chuckled obscenely, and watched his pair of Iraqi hirelings through hooded eyes where they struggled and strained to move the boulders ...
Kastrouni moved south through the ruins, following the old town's crumbled mounds of debris to the head of a steep watercourse. A little water still trickled, falling intinkling rills to the silver inland sea spread some eight hundred feet below. In its heyday, Chorazin had offered a superb view of the entire Sea of Galilee. Tiberias's lights were plainly visible to the south-west, some eight miles away, along with a sprinkling of others farther down the rocky eastern shore.Kastrouni struck out west along the rim of the crags. He would walk maybe a third of a mile, clear of the ruins, then head north and make a half-circle back to the cliffs, and finally west again to bring himself back to this point, and so back to Guigos and the others.As he walked, keeping back a little way from the edge of the cliff and taking care not to silhouette himself too much against the night sky, he felt somehow relieved to be out here alone. Old Guigos was a living gargoyle, a withered mummy of a man who but for his frailty would be terrifying. Even ancient and dried up as he was, still there was something nightmarish about him: the aura of evil, of a life spent in the pursuit of dark secrets and darker deeds, seemed to emanate almost physically from him. You could very nearly feel it like a fog on your skin. But ... he had offered good money, and Kastrouni would use it to maintain, to perpetuate, his freedom. And maybe one day, under another name and disguised by the years, he would return to Cyprus. Not to Larnaca, no, but another place where he was unknown.Under another name ...That was the funny thing about it. Or maybe not so funny. Kastrouni frowned in the night. He had chosen to call himself David Kammad when he arrived in Haifa. And while his features were not typically Jewish, still the assumed name and faith had seemed to turn the trick. The British administration had given him a job and issued an identity card, and that had been that. But then had come the night when Guigos found him, and immediatelythe man had seen right through him. Kastrouni remembered what the old devil had said to him:'David Kammad? Ah, but that is not your real name, my boy. These eyes of mine are very old and very wise - in ways other than you'd suspect - so that I'm not so easily fooled. You are Greek, not Jewish. Oh, it's likely you've kept your initials, but only those. Now then, what is your real name, the name you're keeping secret?'And Kastrouni had told him. As simple as that. It had probably been Guigos eyes, which were very nearly hypnotic; whichever, Kastrouni had put his life in the man's hands, and in return had got himself fixed up with this job. And a lot of money. When all of this was over he would head for one of the Greek islands, set himself up in a small business, and -Kastrouni froze, his thoughts returning to the task in hand. Voices had carried to him on a thermal sweeping up from below. Arab voices, he thought, guttural and - excited? This was what he had heard before, back in the ruins, but it was clearer now and unmistakably a babble of conversation. There were people down there. But doing what?He dropped to all fours, crept to the rounded shoulder of the cliff...
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