Discoveries and Revealations
As the skeleton roared and loomed over him, Jonnoe heard Becky scream "Now!" and then there was a flash of multicoloured light and the din of Jay's gunfire. Jonnoe shut his eyes tight. The monster's iron circlet clattered to the ground and then there was a resounding thud on the stone floor as it fell. Jonnoe opened his eyes and Becky's arms were around him. Jonnoe could feel her breathing coming in ragged gasps. "Never - never again..." she began and broke off with a sniff.
"Spectacular, what a good idea for a diversion!" said Jay beaming. "What great good luck that we recruited you when we did. Bet Macavity wouldn't have put himself on the line like that." Jonnoe felt gratified by this unexpected praise and managed to give Jay a tight lipped smile.
"Not a recruit - we were only going to rescue you, Jon and get you home, your mother must be worried sick," said Becky.
"She doesn't care about me. I don't really have a home anymore," said Jonnoe. After all, why pretend otherwise? He felt that he didn't have to always speak well of his mother any longer. Becky hugged him tighter.
"I'm sure that's not true," said Franzi slowly.
"Oh who needs her?" said Jay, rolling his eyes. "When you're in the Jade Moon gang, the adventure never stops."
"We're going to discuss this calmly - and at length - back at headquarters," said Becky, as she and Jonnoe got to their feet. "But going out on missions is horribly dangerous and I think that I can be the judge of when someone is ready to," she said, looking at Jay somewhat severely.
"Carcescu will really go crazy, now that we've taken down his favourite zombie," said Franzi. "Best not to stay here?"
After retrieving their weapons, the five of them edged around the huge zombie carcass and back onto the landing. From there, they followed Becky down the staircase to the entrance hall and then down a side passage that gave way to a winding, spiral staircase leading down into the earth, where the air was increasingly musty. "I must contact Dhaely when we get to the room where the Dark Disciples turn their victims into the undead," said Becky. "He will be able to see it then, with his crystal ball. They came to a heavy iron door that hung open on its hinges and entered a gleaming, sterile chamber with white tiles that shone in the anbaric lights. There were two people already there, who the gang members greeted enthusiastically. They were a curious pair. There was an older man, almost bald with just a few grey hairs left and a girl, a very large girl. She was every bit as tall as Jonnoe himself, but that was not the most striking thing about her. Her skin was a bright, vivid green and her lips were a much darker green, almost black. In the glaring lights, even her long black hair seemed to glint green as though she had green highlights.
"Ah what took yae so long?" said the old man and Jonnoe recognised the distinctive dialect of the glass city north of his home. He felt strangely comforted to know that he had a compatriot in his strange land, even though the people of the glass city were a proud and insular bunch... The green girl was beaming and hugging each of them in turn.
"You OK, dear Astrid?" she asked as she hugged Astrid.
"No, not really, it has been a nightmare," said Astrid.
"Oh come on Astrid, Lily doesn't want you to be poker faced," said Franzi, a mischievous gleam in her eye.
"What? Of course I don't mind," said Lily with a look of wide eyed surprise. "We're all afraid. Daddy will be worried sick about me. I think I'm going to get a lecture this evening."
If we get oot o' here," said the older man sardonically.
"That's the spirit, Macavity, you're such a bright light to have around," said Jay.
Lily hugged Jonnoe last. Her long black hair partially obscured his vision as she embraced him. She was sinuous for a girl. "Hi handsome, I'm Lillantha - or Lily," she said smiling at him. Close to, Jonnoe could tell that she really did have green pigmentation. The whites of her eyes looked faintly greenish tinged and she had a scattering of tiny, dark green freckles over her nose and cheek bones. He could dimly recall being told at school how humans and magical creatures could breed in certain circumstances. Perhaps her dad had had an intimate, supernatural encounter.
" I'm Jonnoe, or Jon," said Jonnoe.
"Jon, nice," said Lily.
"Our newest member," put in Jay.
"Was this a bampot idea o' yours, Jay?" asked Macavity scathingly.
"That's enough of that, Macavity," said Becky. Although she did not raise her voice Macavity seemed quite cowed.
"Jon is a brave boy," said Franzi, flashing Jonnoe a smile.
"You'll find us to be as close as a whole new family," said Lily beaming.
Macavity interrupted; "the Dark Disciples keep the zombie blood in these bottles Becky," he said, gesturing to a glass cabinet which contained three bottles of what, horribly enough, was clearly blood. "It looks like they injected their victims with the cursed blood on that slab over there." He pointed to where a pair of rusty iron doors at the back of the white panelled room hung open. They all followed Becky as she strode forward, holding a dazzling white pearl above her head that lit up the dingy back room that had no lighting of its own. It appeared to be a dank, stone dungeon, with a roughly hewn stone slab in the middle. Dark blood stains adorned the stone and rusty manacles hung from it. Jonnoe shuddered as he thought of the fate that had been intended for him.
"So this is where they took all their poor victims," said Becky, her voice quivering slightly. Lily gave what sounded like a sob.
"Well what's done is done," said Macavity. "Now how dae we stop thae bawsacks?"
"First, we must destroy the contaminated blood right away, we can take no chances about that," said Becky. "Jon, you must know absolutely everything. Then if you did not want to stay with us when and if we get out of here, I would understand. The Dark Disciples have been trying to carry on the work of a terrible dark witch - one of the most feared of all time. She had the title, 'Phobia...'"
"Dark witches give themselves pretentious titles, Jon," said Jay.
"Quite," said Becky. "Well Phobia was so feared that she was nicknamed, "the Demon." She committed many horrific crimes. She killed - and did gruesome things - to a lot of innocent people as part of her disgusting rituals. She was brought down by my old coterie; witches of the Light - we revere the Moon goddess. However, every other member, all my friends-" here Becky gave a grimace. "They all died bringing her down. When we cornered her in her underground lair, we had had to chase her down those foul tunnels... I was the smallest and slowest. I did not catch up in time. My friends were quicker - they cornered and killed her, but they had to sacrifice themselves..." her blue eyes were shining with tears now. Everyone else, even Macavity, remained respectfully silent.
Becky took a deep breath and continued. "I was all that was left of our coterie of witches. Since that time, I have trained Franzi and Astrid here and awakened their latent magical gifts and now we are a coterie of three. We now know that at some point, the Dark Disciples received bottled blood that Phobia had cursed and have been trying to create a zombie army. Now that they are discovered, they will most likely unleash all their undead slaves on the outside world, come nightfall. We might be able to stop them if I can get an urgent message to Dhaely. I had to become his lover for a time in order to get him to listen..." she blushed and looked at her feet for a moment. She looked up again, iron resolve showing in her bright blue eyes. "And I don't believe that Phobia is gone forever either, but that is a story for another day. It's time that we make a stand and put an end to the Dark Disciples once and for all."