Drakul Novel 4 – Empire


EMPIRE begins twenty-two years after the failed Vasudhan invasion of Earth. The Carbon Institute is changing the world with its knowledge of vampire blood but is also on the brink of opening a portal to Vasudha. Imprisoned, the Vorkha who was once Finn Angmon has not revealed its secrets and orders have been given to destroy it. Bureaucrat Harry Penn has been side-lined and is determined to set Finn free. Psychopath Danni Hayes has been sent to eliminate the Vorkha and the entire team, including Harry and Jane Dancer, Harry’s boss and secret love.

Throughout her life, Danni has been contacted by an alien intelligence known only as ‘She’, and She is desperate that Danni should kill the Vorkha. As Danni carries out the attack and murders Jane, Harry helps the Vorkha escape and it activates the portal. A large section of the Carbon building is transported to Vasudha, complete with Harry, the Vorkha, Danni, the other occupants and the results of their experiments, landing in a toxic swamp. The Vorkha is changed and Finn Angmon is once more himself. He remembers being in Vasudha over twenty years earlier and believes Fei may still be alive but first, he must lead the survivors to safety and Vasudha is a dangerous place. Few will survive the journey.

Since the liberation of Vasudha from vampire rule, Fei Chok rules over an uneasy truce.  Fei and her people have not been idle, as she can sense impending doom. Oisin, son of Fei and Finn is now a young man and the image of the father he never met. He seeks adventure in the Marubhuumi (a rocky wasteland) but instead discovers a terrible threat. The Zilon[1], greatest enemy of the Vampyra has tracked them down across the galaxy and Fei faces an impossible decision – release the vampyra and fight using the weaponry of the pyramids, or face the invaders with primitive weapons. Only a miracle can save her people from being caught in the middle of an impossible war.

Meanwhile, Oisin meets and is captivated by Wanda, daughter of the king of the Marubhuumi. The Yaayaavara are cannibals, trading prisoners with the invading Zilon in exchange for their liberty. Wanda is different, ordained to become the future Jananii of Vasudha, and the time will come when Fei has to surrender her powers to Wanda and lose her immortality. Oisin and Wanda are taken prisoner by the Zilon, doomed to be fed to the Zilon young. They escape and explore the living ship before Oisin faces a fight to the death with a mighty Zilon gladiator. Finn summons an army of giant scorpions and rescues them and Oisin meets his father for the first time, but also learns what fate will befall him.  The Zilon ship vanishes, but the Zilon queen is furious and seeks revenge.

Vasudha itself must help defeat the Zilon[2]. Finn prepares them for battle, but swords are not enough. The war involves all life on the planet and is led by Finn as the ancient legends become true. In desperation, the vipra priests awaken Drakul (father of Vadhul Drakul, grandafather of Tepesch Drakul) and his buried star ship, but Drakul betrays them. The Zilon ship does battle with the pyramidal starships, and during a titanic volcanic eruption, Finn and his giant scorpion Hercules are left alone to face the Zilon queen and the spider-like creature that used to be Danni Hayes.  While they fight to the death, a tsunami is approaching.

Woven through the dust of battle, agony and bloodshed are two very personal stories as Finn seeks out Fei and meets his son for the first time but when the young man sees Wanda, he has a different agenda that threatens to tear them apart. The story ends with the crowning of Oisin and Wanda as rulers of Vasudha, but Finn and Fei are destined to return to Earth.

[1] The Zilon use the bodies of their prey to manufacture new life forms, going through several life stages and like all social insects, they are controlled by a single mind.

[2] The Zilon will take away the powers of Jalina, the Elemental being held captive by the Vampyric priests to keep the heat of the Red Giant sun at bay.

Chapter 1

The monster in the tank seemed to be floating in the depths of the ocean, shafts of light slanting through the jade-green liquid. Some called it a werewolf but Harry Penn knew the truth was stranger still. The Vorkha was far older than humanity, older even than the vampyra that now infested the planet but it had once been a man named Finn Angmon.  Harry shook his head wearily and splayed his fingers against the cold glass, damp with condensation.  The hand shook, knobbly and veined and a testament to his failure.

“I’m sorry, Finn,” he whispered. “This wasn’t meant to happen . . .” Harry stopped, certain it couldn’t see or hear him. He saw no life in the tortured mask, frozen in an endless snarl.  People were no longer frightened by the Vorkha, it had become no more than a useless exhibit.  After twenty long years of experimentation and torture the werewolf remained a thing of mystery. It had been the only chance of opening a portal to the vampire Homeland and understanding the secrets of their magic, but it had told them nothing.  As he approached the end of his life, Harry doubted that he would ever see Finn Angmon again. Sometimes, he felt the weight of guilt would suffocate him and sometimes he wished it would.

The sound of stilettos clicking on marble cut across his thoughts. He groaned. Danni Hayes stopped with arms folded and her cool eyes took him in and spat him out with one scornful glance. “How did you get in here, Penn?”

Harry nearly laughed. “Who the hell do you think you’re speaking to?”

She eyed him coldly. “It was the old woman, wasn’t it? Jane Dancer let you in.”

Danni was new generation, arrogant and incompetent. Sleek and pert in her black business suit, Harry suspected that inside the too-perfect flesh dwelled something ugly. He kept silent, winding her up.

She tapped her foot. “You helped create the Carbon Institute, didn’t you?  You trapped that thing-” she hissed the word at him. “You said it would tell us everything, but we learned zilch. We used to look up to you, Harry. We don’t any longer. Memories are no use to us. You’ve gone soft. You’re old.”

When Finn was down and injured, Harry could have let him return to where he came from, but he had a job to do. Why did it matter anymore? The girl was right, damn her.

“And look at it, for Christ’s sake. It’s a freak. A freak or a fake.”

Harry tried to impale her with his famous steely stare but she gave it right back at him. Without knowing why, he was quite certain at that moment that she intended to kill him. “What is it you do here, Danni? I forget.”

She licked her top lip with a long, curving tongue and ran it over pearly teeth like she was about to eat or kiss or take a piece out of him.  The tongue was pierced. The metal ball made a ticking sound against the ivory. She leaned forward, putting her mouth close to his ear so that her sweet breath caressed it.  “I fuck people over, Harry.”

The purring voice. The word, so ugly from such a pretty mouth. He stepped back, repelled. “Let him go free,” he said urgently, taking her wrist. “Let him go, Danni, please.” He lowered his voice. “I’m begging you, let him go. You don’t understand what he is or what he’s here for.”

She yanked her arm away, eyes darkening dangerously. “The experiment’s finished.” She had the audacity to smirk.

Harry wanted to knock that smirk off her face. “Don’t.”

“We’re pulling the plug. This lot’s going to the incinerator.”

He gripped her wrist again and this time she gasped with pain. “You’re the monster,” he hissed. “You’re the fucking monster here, not him. He saved us all.”

“You know I’m gifted, don’t you?” she replied and this time he sensed real danger. “Touch me one more time and you’ll know how.”

He released her and walked away, banging the floor angrily with his stick. It was Finn’s sword-stick, containing Zhong-Kui, over three feet of Chokutu Samurai crafted by Finn at the Kashima shrine. No sword was older and none better. Harry could feel its hunger and he could feel it burning in his hand.  Gifted. How good they were at using euphemisms to disguise the truth. Danni had been genetically modified, as were many of the rich and famous or the dark and secret. Only ten years ago, that would have sounded like a tall story. Now it was commonplace, thanks to dark energy but that was the gift of the living remains of Angelica Drakul imprisoned deep below the Carbon Institute. Danni had been gifted to kill, a beautiful machine with no conscience. She was worse than those they had used to create her and to Harry, she was the expression of all his failure. He turned round, took one last look at the beast in the tank and said goodbye to his friend.

Danni strode from the hall, savouring the many ways she could end the old man. He wasn’t on her list of targets but that hardly mattered, since the list was simply a matter of making sure. Anyone in the way can be written off as collateral damage. The clarification was clear enough and Harry was most definitely collateral material. But he needed to die slowly and in fear. Fear was what turned Danni on and she saw nothing wrong with that. She hungered to see the most gut-wrenching, bladder-loosening fear she could inflict in Harry Penn’s rheumy old eyes.  She wanted to hear that masterful voice shake. She wanted to hear him beg and only when he wet his pants, would she kill him.

Danni didn’t know exactly what they did in the building and if she had a weakness it was curiosity. Curiosity killed the cat, her older sister Rita used to say. Ironic really. It had been one of those perfect winter days, when the rising sun turned every ice crystal into an iridescent diamond.  The lake ice steamed and the mist surrounded Danni and Rita so that they might have been the only people on Earth.  Danni remembered a strange smell of burnt cinnamon – sharply acrid and exotic. The azure sky pushed down and the silence was absolute until the ice cracked. Danni had watched Rita die with detached interest. The twelve year old scrabbled at the ice, trying to pull herself from the freezing water. The whimpering and pleading had created a strange hunger within Danni. She stood and watched. Someone else had taken her body and was using her eyes whilst she hovered overhead devoid of feeling and all she could think of was curiosity killed the cat. Rita was paying the cost for finding out what was under the ice. Whatever lived down there had taken hold and was pulling her down, taking her to a different world.

“Help me. Help me, Danni.”  Her sister’s fear had awoken something inside Danni, malign and controlling. The dark witch, Danni called it. The dark witch’s voice stopped Danni helping her sister. The hand of the dark witch pushed Rita’s head under the water, not Danni’s hand.  So long ago, no more than fragmented images now.  Danni took a deep breath and let it out. Why remember it now? She could taste burnt cinnamon.

Hello, Danni.

Danni put a hand over her mouth to stifle the cry. The voice was unmistakable.

How you’ve grown.

That was it. No dark threats or instructions, simply acknowledgement.  The voice had an unpleasant rasping quality and was insect-like, without warmth or gender. An image of a bloated spider was visited upon Danni. She was looking into its face and so close that she could see the silky hairs that covered the two curved fangs and the dark wetness of saliva that lay between. She saw her own face reflected from the cluster of eyes. She could smell an acrid, chemical smell. Witch-spider. She waited, curious as always but the voice remained silent.

Danni replied. “Hello.” Her voice sounded small, child-like.

No answer came, but she had the feeling that she had been heard. “Who are you?” she whispered and this time, she knew the voice was going to speak.

We are. I am. She.

Danni was nonplussed. She? What kind of an answer was that?

You will come to us, Danni. You will come to Vasudha.

Danni put her hands over her ears. It wasn’t what the voice was saying – that meant nothing. It was the sense of invasion, of knowing that another intelligence was able to speak in her head. Or maybe she was in the first throes of schizophrenia, but the authority in that voice was absolute and Danni already knew that she had no choice. She would go to the thing calling itself She as soon as she knew the way. She shook her head, fighting the urge but it was overpowering.  “Listen, that’s enough, okay? Piss off. Piss off!”

You will come to She.

Danni shrugged, doing her best to dismiss it. She felt the sweat on her forehead and under her arms. The urge to run was overpowering. She swore loudly.

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