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Sons Of Destiny tsods-12

Darren Shan

  Sons Of Destiny

  ( The Saga of Darren Shan - 12 )

  Darren Shan

  Darren Shan



  If my life was a fairy tale and I was writing a book about it, I'd start with, "Once upon a time there were two boys called Darren and Steve " But my life's a horror story, so if I were to write about it, I'd have to begin with something like this instead:

  Evil has a name Steve Leopard.

  He was born Steve Leonard, but to his friends (yes he had friends once!) he was always Steve Leopard. He was never happy at home, didn't have a dad, didn't like his mum. He dreamt of power and glory. He yearned for strength and respect, and time in which to enjoy it. He wanted to be a vampire.

  His chance came when he spotted a creature of the night, Larten Crepsley, performing in the wondrous magical show, the Cirque Du Freak. He asked Mr Crepsley to blood him. The vampire refused he said Steve had bad blood. Steve hated him for that and vowed to track him down and kill him when he grew up.

  Some years later, as Steve was preparing for his life as a vampire hunter, he learnt about the purple-skinned, red-eyed vampaneze. In legends, vampires are wicked killers who suck humans dry. That's hysterical rubbish they only take small amounts of blood when they feed, causing no harm. But the vampaneze are different. They broke away from the vampire clan six hundred years ago. They live by laws of their own. They believe it's shameful to drink from a human without killing. They always murder when they feed. Steve's sort of people!

  Steve went in search of the vampaneze, certain they'd accept him. He probably thought they were as twisted as he was. But he got it wrong. Although the vampaneze were killers, they weren't inherently evil. They didn't torture humans and they tried not to interfere with vampires. They went about their business quietly and calmly, keeping a lower-than-low profile.

  I don't know this for sure, but I'm guessing the vampaneze rejected Steve, just like Mr Crepsley did. The vampaneze live by even stricter, more traditional rules than vampires. I can't see them accepting a human into their ranks if they knew he was going to turn out bad.

  But Steve found a way in, thanks to that eternal agent of chaos Desmond Tiny. Most just call him Mr Tiny, but if you shorten his first name and put it with his surname, you get MrDestiny. He's the most powerful person in the world, immortal as far as anyone knows, a meddler of the highest order. He gave the vampaneze a present many centuries earlier, a coffin which filled with fire whenever a person lay within it, burning them to ash within seconds. But he said that one night someone would lie in the coffin and emerge unharmed. That person would be the Lord of the Vampaneze and had to be obeyed by every member of the clan. If they accepted this Lord, they'd gain more power than they'd ever imagined. Otherwise they'd be destroyed.

  The promise of such power proved too much for Steve to ignore. He decided to take the test. He probably figured he had nothing to lose. He entered the coffin, the flames engulfed him, and a minute later he stepped out unburnt. Suddenly, everything changed. He had an army of vampaneze at his command, willing to give their lives for him and do anything he asked. He no longer had to settle for killing Mr Crepsley he could wipe out the entire vampire clan!

  But Mr Tiny didn't want the vampaneze to crush the vampires too easily. He thrives on suffering and conflict. A quick, assured victory wouldn't provide him with enough entertainment. So he gave the vampires a get-out clause. Three of them had the ability to kill the Vampaneze Lord before he came fully into his powers. They'd have four chances. If they were successful and killed him, the vampires would win the War of the Scars (that's what the battle between the vampires and vampaneze was known as). If they failed, two would die during the hunt, while the third would survive to witness the downfall of the clan.

  Mr Crepsley was one of the hunters. A Vampire Prince, Vancha March, was another. The last was also a Prince, the youngest ever, a half-vampire called Darren Shan and that's whereI come in.

  I was Steve's best friend when we were kids. We went to the Cirque Du Freak together, and through Steve I learnt of the existence of vampires and was sucked into their world. I was blooded by Mr Crepsley and served as his assistant. Under his guidance I studied the ways of vampires and travelled to Vampire Mountain. There I undertook my Trials of Initiation and failed. Fearing death, I fled, but during my escape I uncovered a plot to destroy the clan. Later I exposed it, and as a reward I was not only accepted into the fold, but made a Vampire Prince.

  After six years in Vampire Mountain, Mr Tinyset me on the trail of the Lord of the Vampaneze, along with Mr Crepsley and Vancha. One of Mr Tiny's Little People travelled with us. His name was Harkat Mulds. Little People are grey-skinned, stitched-together, short, with large green eyes, no nose, and ears sewn beneath the flesh of their heads. They're created from the remains of dead people. Harkat didn't know who he used to be, but we later found out he was Kurda Smahlt in his previous life the vampire who'd betrayed the clan in the hope of preventing the War of the Scars.

  Not knowing who the Vampaneze Lord was, we missed our first chance to kill him when Vancha let him escape, because he was under the protection of Vancha's vampaneze brother, Gannen Harst. Later, in the city of Mr Crepsley's youth, I ran into Steve again. He told me he was a vampaneze hunter and, fool that I was, I believed him. The others did too, although Mr Crepsley was suspicious. He sensed something wrong, but I convinced him to grant Steve the benefit of the doubt. I've made some terrible mistakes in my life, but that was certainly the worst.

  When Steve revealed his true colours, we fought, and twice we had the power to kill him. The first time we let him live because we wanted to trade his life for Debbie Hemlock's my human girlfriend. The second time, Mr Crepsley fought Steve, Gannen Harst and an impostor, who was pretending to be the Lord of the Vampaneze. Mr Crepsley killed the impostor, but then was knocked into a pit of stakes by Steve. He could have taken Steve down with him, but let him live so that Gannen and the other vampaneze would spare the lives of his friends. It was only afterwards that Steve revealed the truth about himself, and made the bitter loss of Mr Crepsley all the more unbearable.

  There was a long gap between that and our next encounter. I went with Harkat to find out the truth about his past, to a waste world full of monsters and mutants, which we later discovered was Earth in the future. Upon my return I spent a couple of years travelling with the Cirque Du Freak, waiting for destiny (or Des Tiny) to pit Steve and me together again for one final clash.

  Our paths finally crossed in our old home town. I'd returned with the Cirque Du Freak. It was strange revisiting the past, walking the streets of the town where I'd grown up. I saw my sister Annie, now a grown woman with a child of her own, and I ran into an old friend, Tommy Jones, who'd become a professional footballer. I went to watch Tommy play in an important cup game. His team won, but their celebrations were cut short when two of Steve's henchmen invaded the pitch and killed a lot of people, including Tommy.

  I chased after the murderous pair, straight into a trap. I faced Steve again. He had a child called Darius with him his son. Darius shot me. Steve could have finished me off, but didn't. It wasn't the destined time. My end (or his) would only come when I faced him with Vancha by my side.

  Crawling through the streets, I was rescued by a pair of tramps. They'd been recruited by Debbie and an ex-police inspector, Alice Burgess, who were building a human army to help the vampires. Vancha March linked up with me while I was recovering. With the ladies and Harkat, we returned to the Cirque Du Freak. We discussed the future with Mr Tall, the owner of the circus. He told us that no matter who won the war, an evil dictator known as the Lord of the Shadows would rise to rule and destroy the wo

  As we were trying to come to terms with the shocking news, two of Steve's crazed followers struck R.V. and Morgan James, the pair who'd killed Tommy. With the help of Darius, they slaughtered Mr Tall and took a hostage a young boy called Shancus. Half human, half snake, he was the son of one of my best friends, Evra Von.

  As Mr Tall lay dying, Mr Tiny and a witch called Evanna mysteriously appeared out of nowhere. It turned out that Mr Tiny was Mr Tall's father, and Evanna his sister. Mr Tiny stayed to mourn the death of his son, while Evanna followed us as we chased after her brother's killers. We managed to kill Morgan James and capture Darius. As the others hurried after R.V. and Shancus, I stole a few words with Evanna. The witch had the ability to see into the future and she revealed that if I killed Steve, I would take his place as the dreaded Lord of the Shadows. I'd become a monster, murder Vancha and anybody else who got in my way, and destroy not just the vampaneze, but humanity as well.

  As shocked as I was, there was no time to brood. With my allies, we tracked R.V. to the old cinema where Steve and I had first met Mr Crepsley. Steve was waiting for us, safe on the stage, separated from us by a pit which he'd had dug and filled with stakes. He mocked us for a while, then agreed to trade Shancus's life for Darius's. But he lied. Instead of releasing the snake-boy, he killed him brutally. I still had hold of Darius. In a blind, cold rage, I prepared to murder him for revenge. But just before I stabbed the boy, Steve stopped me with his cruellest revelation yet Darius's mother was my sister, Annie. If I murdered Steve's son, I'd be killing my own nephew.

  And with that he departed, cackling like the demon he was, leaving me to the madness of the blood-drenched night.



  Sitting on the stage. Gazing around the theatre. Remembering the thrilling show I saw the first time I came. Comparing it to tonight's warped 'entertainment'. Feeling very small and lonely.

  Vancha didn't lose his head, even when Steve played his trump card. He kept going, picked his way through the pit of stakes to the stage, then raced down the tunnel which Steve, Gannen and R.V. had fled by. It led to the streets at the rear of the theatre. No way of telling which way they'd gone. He returned, cursing with fury. When he saw Shancus, lying dead on the stage like a bird with a broken neck, he stopped and sank to his knees.

  Evra was next across, following Vancha's route through the stakes, crying out Shancus's name, screaming for him not to die, even though he must have known it was too late, that his son was already dead. We should have held him back he fell and pierced himself several times, and could easily have perished but we were frozen with shock and horror.

  Fortunately Evra made it to the stage without injuring himself too severely. Once there, he slumped beside Shancus, desperately checked for signs of life, then howled with loss. Sobbing and moaning with grief, he cradled the dead boy's head in his lap, tears dripping on to his son's motionless face. The rest of us watched from a distance. We were all crying bitterly, even the normally steel-faced Alice Burgess.

  In time, Harkat also climbed through the stakes. There was a long plank on the stage. He and Vancha extendedit over the pit, so that the rest of us could join them. I don't think anybody really wanted to go up there. For a long moment none of us moved. Then Debbie, sobbing with deep, wracking gulps, stumbled to the plank and hauled herself up.

  Alice crossed the pit next. I brought up the rear. I was shaking uncontrollably. I wanted to turn and run. Earlier, I thought I knew how I'd feel if our gamble backfired and Steve killed Shancus. But I'd known nothing. I never truly expected Steve to murder the snake-boy. I'd let R.V. march the boy into Steve's den, certain no harm would come to my honorary godson.

  Now that Steve had made a fool of me (yet again) and slaughtered Shancus, all I wanted was to be dead. I couldn't feel pain if I was dead. No shame. No guilt. I wouldn't have to look Evra in the eye, knowing I was responsible for his son's needless, shocking death.

  We'd forgotten about Darius. I hadn't killed him how could I kill my own nephew? Following Steve's triumphant revelation, the hatred and anger which had filled me like a fire, drained away from me in an instant. I released Darius, having lost my murderous interest in him, and just left him on the far side of the pit.

  Evanna was standing near the boy, idly picking at one of the ropes which encircled her body she preferred ropes to ordinary clothes. It was clear from the witch's stance that she wouldn't interfere if Darius made a break for freedom. It would have been the simplest thing in the world for him to escape. But he didn't. He stood, sentry-like, trembling, waiting for us to summon him.

  Finally Alice stumbled over to me, wiping tears from her face. "We should take them back to the Cirque Du Freak," she said, nodding at Evra and Shancus.

  "In a while," I agreed, dreading the moment I'd have to face Evra. And what about Merla, Shancus's mother? WouldI have to break the terrible news to her?

  "No now," Alice said firmly. "Harkat and Debbie can take them. We need to straighten some things out before we leave." She nodded at Darius, tiny and vulnerable under the glare of the lights.

  "I don't want to talk about this," I groaned.

  "I know," she said. "But we must. The boy might know where Steve is staying. If he does, this is the time to strike. They won't expect"

  "How can you even think about such things?" I hissed angrily. "Shancus is dead! Don't you care?"

  She slapped my face. I blinked, stunned. "You're not a child, Darren, so don't act like one," she said coldly. "Of course I care. But we can't bring him back, and we'll achieve nothing by standing around, moping. We need to act. Only in swift revenge can we maybe find a small sliver of comfort."

  She was right. Self-pity was a waste. Revenge was essential. As hard as it was, I dug myself out of my misery and set about sending Shancus's body home. Harkat didn't want to leave with Evra and Debbie. He wanted to stay and chase Steve with us. But somebody had to help carry Shancus. He accepted his task reluctantly, but made me promise we wouldn't face Steve without him. "I've come too far with you to miss out now. I want to be there when you cut the demon down."

  Debbie threw her arms around me before leaving. "How could he do it?" she cried. "Even a monster couldn't wouldn't "

  "Steve's more than a monster," I replied numbly. I wanted to return her embrace, but my arms wouldn't work. Alice pried her away from me. She gave Debbie a handkerchief and whispered something to her. Debbie sniffed miserably, nodded, gave Alice a hug, then went to stand beside Evra.

  I wanted to talk with Evra before he left, but I could think of nothing to say. If he'd confronted me, maybe I'd have responded, but he had eyes only for his lifeless son. Dead people often look like they're sleeping. Shancus didn't. He'd been a vibrant, buzzing, active child. All that vitality was lost now. Nobody could have looked upon him and thought he was anything but dead.

  I remained standing until Evra, Debbie and Harkat had departed, Harkat carrying Shancus's body tenderly in his thick, grey arms. Then I slid to the floor and sat there for ages, staring around in a daze, thinking about the past and my first visit here, using the theatre and my memories as a barrier between me and my grief.

  Eventually Vancha and Alice approached. I don't know how long the pair had been talking together, but when they came to stand before me they'd wiped their faces clean of tears and looked ready for business.

  "Will I talk to the boy or do you want to?" Vancha asked gruffly.

  "I don't care," I sighed. Then, glancing at Darius, who still stood alone with Evanna in the vastness of the auditorium, I said, "I'll do it."

  "Darius," Alice called. His head rose immediately. "Come here."

  Darius went straight to the plank, climbed up and walked across. He had an excellent sense of balance. I found myself thinking that was probably a by-product of his vampaneze blood Steve had pumped some of his own blood into his son, turning him into a half-vampaneze. Thinking that, I began to hate the boy again. My fingers twitched in anticipation o
f grabbing him by the throat and

  But then I recalled his face when he'd learnt he was my nephew shock, terror, confusion, pain, remorse and my hatred for the boy died away.

  Darius walked directly up to us. If he was afraid and he must have been he masked it bravely. Stopping, he stared at Vancha, then at Alice, finally at me. Now that I studied him closely, I saw a certain family resemblance. Thinking about that, I frowned.

  "You're not the boy I saw before," I said. Darius looked at me uncertainly. "I went to my old home when we first came to town," I explained. "I watched from behind the fence. I saw Annie. She was bringing in laundry. Then you arrived and came out to help her. Except it wasn'tyou. It was a chubby boy with fair hair."

  "Oggy Bas," Darius said after a second's thought. "My friend. I remember that day. He came home with me. I sent him out to help Mum while I was taking my shoes off. Oggy always does what I tell him." Then, licking his lips nervously, he looked around at all of us again and said, "I didn't know." It wasn't an apology, just a statement of fact. "Dad told me vampires were evil. He said you were the worst of the lot. 'Darren the cruel, Darren the mad, Darren the baby-killer.' But he never mentioned your surname."