Jessica turned the page and found herself looking at a picture of a massively vaulted chamber with carved ribs of bone-white stone and a floor of vertiginous black and white tiles. At the far end of the cavern there stood a massively carven black throne with a greenish stone plinth at its side. The pictures embodied an atmosphere of claustrophobic terror, and Jess couldn’t help a shiver. Annis put out a small hand and turned the page to where a closer study of the throne, the stone, and the peculiarly carven stone knife filled the next page. Jess felt her gorge rise and she shut the book.
“So now you know.”
“Now I know.”
“Will you do it?”
Jessica shook her head and it seemed to Annis she was fighting something dark in her own soul.
Yes, maybe. You see, maybe I’ll not have the courage when it comes to it. But – I know I have to try.”
Annis nodded, noticing the stiffening of Jessica’s spine as she spoke, accepting the responsibility for what she must do.
“When can we go?”
“Soon. Must be before the fires start. Or we will wait – need wait – many days.”
“As soon as we can be ready.”
“Very well. What must we do.”
Annis looked disapprovingly at Jessica’s simple jersey dress and high heeled boots.
“Clothes not good. I have others you must fit.”
She rummaged in one of the half a hundred drawers that lined her home and pulled out black jeans, a dark polo-necked jumper and a pair of desert boots. Jess knew they would fit her and without any false modesty she stripped to her underclothes and started dressing. Annis threw her a pair of thick socks and a leather belt with loops for tools.
As Jessica dressed, Annis made her own preparations – taking a pair of ornately tooled revolvers from a leather lined box and carefully loading them with special bullets. She settled the shoulder holsters comfortably and slid the guns into place.
“Silver bullets. I may have to deal with creatures wanting to interfere with you.”
“The vampire, Jess.”
“Don’t you have to shove a stake through his heart?”
“Can. But a silver bullet in his brain will do just as well. And I don’t have to get close.”
Annis laughed kindly and passed Jess a number of things to put in the loops on her belt. There were: a sharpened wooden stake, a bottle of water, a neatly rolled field dressing, and a small mirror.
“The bottle is holy water. If you throw it in the face of any of the below dwellers they won’t be able to inconvenience you. The same with the mirror if you bounce the light from above the throne into an attacker’s eyes it will be struck blind. You know what the stake is for. And I hope you will need the dressing. Now. You ready?”
Jess swallowed and nodded.
Part 13 of Maybe will be here next week…