Larger Font   Reset Font Size   Smaller Font  

Wolf Island td-8, Page 2

Darren Shan

  “Dervish told me about you,” I lie. “I’m Grubbs, his nephew.”

  Shark nods. “I can see a bit of him in you. But you’ve got more hair. You’re a lot taller too— what’s Beranabus been feeding you?”

  “Enough of the prattle,” Beranabus snaps. “What’s wrong?”

  As soon as he says that, the mood switches. Shark and Meera’s grins disappear.

  “We were attacked,” Meera says. “I was at Dervish’s. We—”

  “Was it Lord Loss?” Beranabus barks. “Is Bec all right?”

  “She’s fine,” Shark says.

  “But Dervish…” Meera adds, shooting me a worried glance.

  My heart freezes. Not Dervish! Losing my parents, Gret and Bill-E was horrific. Dervish is all I have left. If he’s gone too, I don’t know if I can continue.

  “He was alive when we left,” Shark says.

  “But in bad shape,” Meera sighs. “He had a heart attack.”

  “We have to go back,” I gasp, turning for the window.

  Shark puts out a hand to stop me. My eyes flash on the letters SHARK tattooed across his knuckles, and the picture of a shark’s head set between his thumb and index finger. “Hold on,” he says. “We didn’t come here directly. That leads to another demon world.”

  “Besides,” Kernel adds, “if the demons are still at the house…”

  “We weren’t attacked by demons,” Meera says. “They were…” She locks gazes with me and frowns uncertainly. “Werewolves.”

  We gawp at her. Then, without discussing it, Kernel turns away and his hands become a blur as he sets about opening a window back to the human universe.

  Beranabus crosses first. I’m not far behind. I find myself in a hospital corridor. It looks like the ward where they keep newborn babies. Bec is on the floor close to us. There are two demons. One has the features of an anteater, but sports several snouts. The other is some sort of lizard. Beranabus is addressing them with savage politeness—he’s ultra protective of his little Bec.

  “What do the pickings look like now?” he asks as Kernel, Shark and Meera step through after us. In response, the demons bolt for safety. Kernel and the Disciples race after them.

  “Dervish?” I snap at Bec, not giving a damn about demons, babies or anything else except my uncle.

  “Back there,” Bec pants, pointing back down the corridor. “Hurry. He was fighting a demon. I don’t know—”

  I run as fast as I can, long strides, readying myself for the worst. I glance into each room that I pass. Signs of struggle and death in some of them, but no Dervish. I pause at the door of what looks to be an empty room. I’m about to push on when something grunts.

  Entering, I spot Dervish to my left, half-obscured by an overturned bed. There’s a demon on top of him, shaped like a giant insect with a golden shell. It’s snapping at Dervish’s face, mandibles grinding open and shut. I’m on it in an instant. I make a fist and smash through its protective shell. It shrieks and turns to deal with me, but I fill its guts with fire and it dies screaming. When I’m sure it’s dead, I toss it aside and bend over my startled, bleary-eyed uncle. He slaps at me feebly. Doesn’t recognise me. He’s finding it hard to focus.

  “Hey, baldy,” I chuckle. “Things must be bad when you can’t squish a damn cockroach.”

  Dervish relaxes and his eyes settle on me. The smile which lights his face is almost enough to bring me to tears.

  “Grubbs!” he cries, throwing his arms around me.

  “Don’t go all blubbery on me,” I mutter into his shoulder, fighting back sobs.

  Dervish pushes himself away, touches my face with wonder, then says in that wry tone I recall so well, “You could have sent me a card while you were away.”

  “No post offices,” I grunt, and we beam at each other.

  Waiting while the Disciples cleanse the hospital of demons. I should help them, but this will probably be the only private time I get with Dervish. Things have a habit of moving swiftly when Beranabus gets involved. Once they finish off the last demon, talk will turn to the werewolf attack and there might not be any time to sit with my uncle and chat. I’ve devoted a huge chunk of my life to Beranabus’s cause. I’m due a few minutes of down time.

  “I told you healthy eating wasn’t worthwhile,” I say, nudging Dervish in the ribs (but gently—he looks like blood mixed in with lumpy porridge). “You told me I should watch my diet. But who had a heart attack first?”

  “As illogical as ever,” Dervish scowls. “I thought you might have matured while you were away, but obviously you haven’t.”

  “Seriously, how have you been?” I ask.

  “Apart from the heart attack?”


  He shrugs, looking older than I’d have thought possible. “I’m about ready to follow Billy into the wide blue yonder.”

  My face stiffens. “Don’t say that, not even joking.”

  “No joke,” he sighs. “I was given a single task by Beranabus—guard the entrance to the cave— and I screwed it up. I told Billy’s mum I’d look after him—some job I did of that. I took you in and promised you’d be safe with me, then…”

  “I was safe with you.”

  “Yeah, I really protected you. Lord Loss and his familiars didn’t get anywhere near you on my watch, did they?”

  “That wasn’t your fault,” I tell him heavily. “You did the best you could. For me and Bill-E.”

  “Then why is he dead and why are you lost to me?” Dervish moans.

  “Because we live in a world under siege,” I say. “Life sucks for mages and magicians—you taught me that. Bad things happen to those of us who get involved, but if we didn’t fight, we’d be in an even worse state. None of it’s your fault, any more than it’s the fault of the moon or the stars.”

  Dervish nods slowly, then arches an eyebrow. “The moon or the stars?”

  “I always get poetical when I’m dealing with self-pitying simpletons.”

  We laugh. This is what I love best about my relationship with Dervish—the more we insult each other, the happier we are. I’m trying to think of something disgusting and hair-curling to say when Beranabus appears. He’s using baby-wipes to clean his hands.

  “Still alive?” he asks Dervish.

  “Just about.”

  “We’re finished here. Time to go.”

  It’s not fair. We’ve only had a few minutes together. I want to ask Dervish about Bec and how they’re coping. How he explained Bill-E’s disappearance to our neighbours. What’s happening with my friends. I want to complain about my life with Beranabus and boast about all the action I’ve seen.

  But those are childish, selfish wishes. We’re in the middle of a maternity ward. I’ve seen several dead and dismembered bodies already—nurses, mothers, babies. There are probably dozens more scattered throughout the hospital. I’d be the shallowest person in the universe if, in the face of all that tragedy, I moaned of not having enough time to spend with my uncle.

  “Where are we going?” I ask.

  “The roof,” Beranabus says. “We need to discuss the situation before moving on. It’s more complicated than we thought. Bec says the demons who struck were led by Juni Swan.” I stare at him incredulously, then start to shout questions. “Not now!” Beranabus stops me. “We’ll talk about it on the roof.”

  “I don’t think I can make it that far,” Dervish says.

  Beranabus mutters something beneath his breath—it sounds like, “I hate the damn Gradys!”— then picks up Dervish.

  “I can carry him,” I say quickly.

  “No,” Beranabus grunts. “Keep watch for any demons we might have missed.”

  Settling Dervish on his back, the magician heads for the stairs. I follow a metre behind, eyes peeled for monsters all the way up the blood-drenched steps to the roof.


  The voice of the Kah-Gash whispers to me as we’re climbing the stairs, stunning me by abruptly breaking its months-long
silence. You can join with the others.

  I pause, startled by its sudden and unexpected reappearance. Then, not wanting to let Beranabus know—he might toss Dervish aside in his eagerness to make enquiries of the Kah-Gash—I carry on as normal, addressing it internally. “What do you mean?”

  Can’t you feel the magic inside Bec and Kernel calling to you?

  I have been feeling a strange tickling sensation since I stepped through the window. I put it down to chemical irritants in the air—one thing you can’t say about the demon universe is that it’s polluted. I’ve become accustomed to fume-free atmospheres. But now that the Kah-Gash has clued me in, I realise the tickling is the force within myself straining to unite with Bec and Kernel.

  “What would happen if we joined?” I ask.


  “Care to be a bit more specific?”

  No, it answers smugly. I’m not sure if the Kah-Gash is a parasite feeding off me, or if it’s woven into my flesh, a part of me like my heart or brain. But its voice bears echoes of mine. I’ve used that smart-alec tone more times than I can remember.

  I’m worried about letting my piece of the Kah-Gash link with the other parts again. What would it do if I gave it free rein? Could we trust it?

  You are the control mechanism, the voice says, the first time it’s ever told me anything about the nature of itself. With my help, you can unify the pieces and unleash jour full power.

  “But could we control it,” I press, “and make the weapon do our bidding?”

  To an extent, the voice answers cagily.

  “What does that mean?” I grumble, but there’s no reply. “Hello? Are you still there?”

  Unite us, it says impatiently. Unleash me. Become the Kah-Gash.

  “Without knowing what I’m letting myself in for? No bloody way!” I snort.

  Coward, the Kah-Gash sneers, then falls silent. I feel the tickling sensation fade. I continue up the stairs, brooding on what the voice said and wondering what would have happened if I’d given in to it.

  On the roof. Another Disciple, Sharmila Mukherji, was seriously wounded by Juni. Her legs are missing from the thighs down. Beranabus is working on the stumps, using magic to stop the bleeding and patch her up. She’s unconscious. It doesn’t look to me like she’ll ever recover.

  Dervish is resting on a hospital trolley. Meera’s sitting beside him. Shark’s guarding the door to the roof, to turn back any curious humans. The rest of us are gathered around Bec, listening to her story.

  She tells us about Juni Swan, who’s somehow come back to life in a cancerous mockery of a body. Bec says Juni is insane, but more powerful than before. Dervish blasted her from the roof, catching her by surprise when he recovered from the coma he’d been in since his heart attack. I want to go after her, to finish her off, but Bec is adept at sensing where people and demons are, and she says Juni has already fled. Revenge will have to wait for another night.

  I thought it would be awkward being around Bec, that she’d remind me of Bill-E, that I’d feel resentful. When he died, she took over his corpse, came back to life, then remoulded the flesh in her original image. In effect, she stole his body. But there’s nothing of my half-brother apart from the occasional word or gesture. I have no trouble thinking of her as a separate person with the same right to exist as any other.

  Bec speaks quickly, detailing how werewolves attacked our home in Carcery Vale, backed up by humans with guns. She tells us she can absorb people’s memories when she touches them. When grappling with a werewolf, she learnt it was a Grady boy who’d been handed to the Lambs to be executed. But the Lambs—executioners set up to dispose of teens with the lycanthropic family curse—didn’t kill him. Instead they kept him alive, and found a way to use him and other werewolves as trained killers.

  “You’re sure the Lambs masterminded the attack in Carcery Vale?” I ask.

  “I can’t be certain,” Bec says. “We didn’t see any humans. Sharmila wanted to go after the Lambs once Dervish was safe, but we decided to wait until we’d discussed it with you. The werewolves might have been the work of some other group…”

  “But they were definitely teenagers who’d been given to the Lambs?” I press. If she’s right about this, we have a known enemy to target. If she’s wrong, I don’t want to waste time chasing an irritating but harmless gang of humans.

  “Yes,” Bec says. “At least the one I touched was. I don’t know about the others.”

  “They must have been,” I mutter. “I’ve never heard of anyone outside our family being inflicted with the wolfen curse. But why?” I glance at Dervish. “Have you been rubbing Prae Athim up the wrong way?” She’s the head honcho of the Lambs. Her and Dervish don’t see eye to eye on a number of issues.

  “I haven’t seen her since she paid us that visit before Slawter,” Dervish answers, looking bewildered. “I’ve got to say, I don’t have much time for Prae, but this isn’t her style. I could understand it if they were after something—you, for instance, to dissect you and try to find a cure for lycanthropy—but there was nothing in this for them. Those who set the werewolves loose wanted us dead. The Lambs don’t go in for mindless, wholesale slaughter.”

  “But if not the Lambs, who?” Kernel asks.

  “I think Lord Loss was behind the attacks,” Bec says. “Maybe he realised I was part of the Kah-Gash and wanted to eliminate the threat I pose, or perhaps he just wanted to kill Dervish and me for revenge. The attack tonight by Juni Swan makes me surer than ever that he sent the werewolves. It can’t be coincidence.”

  “Juni Swan,” Beranabus echoes, with the guilty look that crosses his face whenever talk turns to his ex-assistant. “I’d never have thought poor Nadia could turn into such a hideous creature. I don’t know how she survived.” He looks at Bec. “Your spirit flourished after death, but you’re part of the Kah-Gash. Juni isn’t. Lord Loss must have separated her soul from her body some way, just before her death. That’s why he took her corpse when he fled. But I don’t understand how he did it.”

  He mulls it over, then curses. “It doesn’t matter. We can worry about her later. You’re right—Lord Loss sent the werewolves. I cast spells on Carcery Vale to prevent crossings, except for in the secret cellar, where any demon who did cross would be confined. Even if he found a way around those spells, he would have been afraid to risk a direct confrontation. If he opened a window, the air would have been saturated with magic. You and Dervish could have tapped into that. You were powerful in the cave, stronger than Lord Loss in some ways. He probably thought humans and werewolves stood a better chance of killing you. But that doesn’t explain why the Lambs agreed to help him. Or, if they weren’t Lambs, how they got their hands on the werewolves.”

  “Maybe he struck a deal with them,” Dervish says. “Promised them the cure for lycanthropy if they helped him murder Bec and me.”

  “Would they agree to such a deal?” Beranabus asks.


  “Prae Athim’s daughter turned into a werewolf,” I say softly, recalling my previous meeting with the icy-eyed Lambs leader. “She’s still alive. A person will go to all manner of crazy lengths when family’s involved.” I shoot Dervish a wink.

  “An intriguing mystery,” Beranabus snorts. “But we can’t waste any more time on it. We have more important matters to deal with, not least the good health of Dervish and Miss Mukherji—they’ll both be dead soon if we don’t take them to the demon universe. Open a window, Kernel.”

  Kernel eagerly sets to work on a window. His eyes have held up so far, but they won’t last indefinitely. The problem with building body parts in the demon universe is they don’t work on this world. If he stays too long, Kernel will end up blind as a bat again, with a pair of gooey sockets instead of eyes.

  “I’m not going,” Dervish says.

  “You can’t stay here,” Beranabus replies quickly, angrily.

  “I have to. They attacked me… my home… my friends. I can’t let that p
ass. I have to pursue them. Find out why. Extract revenge.”

  “Later,” Beranabus sniffs.

  “No,” Dervish growls. “Now.” He gets off the trolley and almost collapses. Meera grabs him and holds him up. He smiles at her, then glares at Beranabus. He might be within a whisker of death, but that hasn’t affected my uncle’s fighting spirit.

  “It would help if we knew,” Meera says quietly in defence of Dervish. “The attack on Dervish and Bec might have been a trial run. The werewolves could be set loose on other Disciples.”

  “That’s not my problem,” Beranabus says callously He’s never been overly bothered about his supporters, and always stresses the fact that they sought him out and chose to follow him—he didn’t recruit them.

  “There’s been a huge increase in crossings,” Meera says, which is troubling news to me. “We’ve seen five or six times the usual activity in recent months. The Disciples are stretched thinly, struggling to cope. If several were picked off by werewolves and assassins, thousands of innocents would die.”

  “It might be related,” Kernel says, pausing and looking back.

  “Related to what?” Bec asks, but Beranabus waves her question away. He’s frowning, waiting for Kernel to continue.

  “This could be part of the Shadow’s plan,” Kernel elaborates. “It could be trying to create scores of windows so that its army of demons can break through at once. We’ll need the Disciples if that’s the case—we can’t be everywhere at the same time to stop them all.”

  “Maybe,” Beranabus hums. “But that doesn’t alter the fact that Dervish will last about five minutes if we leave him here.”

  “I’ll be fine,” Dervish snarls.

  “No,” Beranabus says. “Your heart is finished. You’ll die within days. That’s not a guess,” he adds when Dervish starts to argue. “And you wouldn’t be able to do much during that time, apart from wheeze and clutch your chest a lot.”

  Dervish stares at the magician, badly shaken. I’m appalled too. “It’s really that bad?” Dervish croaks.