The Web of Entanglement

Author's Note: It is very dangerous to do deals with the dark forces. Villains from the earlier Darkholm series; Count Darkholm, the Arch-Lycanthrope and the death worshipping vampire lost more than they ever gained in this way. What will it mean for Arachnos? What happens to those who seek to dehumanise themselves? Thank you Rita for suggesting a new name for Arachnos.

The beginnings of a purge of the government had gone well. Arachnos had reason to be pleased. First a purge of the government and then the entire squalid capital city. But before that there was the question of the city's self-apppointed protector. The 'angel of the night' as some called her. The voices of the dark forces that whispered to him kept repeating that she must be eliminated. Arachnos had time for a moment's privacy before dawn now the First Minister and the Minister of the Interior had been taken care of. In the bathroom he removed his black hood and tight clothing. What was the cause of the uncomfortable tingling? With a shock he realised that long coarse hairs had sprouted all over his back. His hair was now shot through with white. What had happened...? But what did it matter. He could ignore it and the wrenching pains in his abdomen. The Second Minister had described the location of a certain Baron Telmark who might be a nuisance. First him and then the vampiress...

The night before the charitable concert had arrived. The Moon shone over the city of London, bathing the buildings in its pale light. An imposing hotel building stood, towering over the city square. A white shape moved noiselessly up the side of the building, coming to rest beside a high window. Elysia Darkholm stood there, swathed in a shining white gown. Elysia had known that it had to happen one day. Leif, her son, would grow up. She had and nurtured him as her own since that night she had rescued him, but now he was a mana different phase in his life began. There he was, deep in conversation with a young woman who was a proper match for him. Two beings of the daylight. They could walk together in the sunshine. Tears shone in the vampire's eyes as she gazed at the young couple. She turned away and put an elegant hand to her breast. She could accept her own position. She who she was. A creature of the night.

Marissa and Leif had conversed long into the night and Leif had begun to doze. Marissa sat next to him on the chaise longue holding his hand in hers. The firelight played over his exquisitely sculpted face and caused his hair to gleam like gold. She began to feel drowsy. Suddenly Leif gave a start and jerked awake. "Leif? What is it?" Asked Marissa, clasping his hand.

"Old nightmares," said Leif shaking his head. "When I'm with my mother she keeps them at bay."

Marissa's green eyes showed anxiety. "If you want to tell me about them..." she said.

"I will tell you all, after the concert," said Leif decisively. That would be a final test of whether Marissa was the right one for him. The success of the concert would also show how effective they were as a couple.

The former Second Minister Bengston, now the first Minister since the disappearance of the old First Minister, had grown apprehensive about his new ally. Certainly his ruthlessness and egotism had been obvious straight away, but after killing Baron Telmark he had developed the habit of intruding on Bengston's privacy, either showing up in his bedchamber or appearing behind him in his office and clapping a hand on his shoulder with no warning. If Bengston's heart had been weak these incidents could have caused a deadly shock. And Arachnos now came across as somewhat fanciful... Rambling about strange voices that promised him dominion over the capital city and then beyond. To think, Arachnos might turn up in his office at any moment, unannounced. He stifled a yell as something gripped his shoulder. "I wish you wouldn't do that Arachnos..." he began as he stood up. He gave a gasp. Arachnos stood there, still swathed in black garments and hood, but now he had two extra pairs of bare arms protruding through rents in the material. Arachnos was slightly stooped. "What has happened to you?"

"I did say I am much, much more than a man," said Arachnos. And his voice now had a harsh, rasping quality to it. "And I know how to get the vampiress into the open. By attacking her mortal pet at this absurd concert this evening. Combat poverty indeed...! What a pretension. The rabble in this cess pit of a city deserve all they get! They are bugs, mere bugs, that is all."

"No, you must not be so obvious as to reveal yourself," began Bengston, "the vampiress would be a terrible opponent..."

"Oh I'm biting my fingernails!" Said Arachnos scornfully, waving his many arms in the air. "And haven't I got fingernails? Leif Darkholm is a delectable morsel by all accounts." Arachnos lifted his arms in the air and suddenly thin white streaks of a viscous sticky substance seemed to issue forth. Bengston gave a startled yell and leapt backwards. "Look what came then?" Said Arachnos. "The vampiress may as well be an enormous bluebottle. I can trap and crush her easily enough." It could not be seen from his demeanour, for he never let anyone see what he truly thought and felt, but Minister Bengston was now a very worried man.

That evening, the charitable concert began. The concert hall at the palace was attractively well lit, the great crystal chandelier cast a sparkling light over the audience, themselves the most prosperous inhabitants of the city. A gleaming white statue of the figure of justice stood beside the stage, a representation of a statuesque woman, blindfolded and holding a sword in one hand and a pair of scales in the other. Leif did not recognise the elderly man who was giving an introductory speech. Marissa sat beside him, evidently feeling more nervous anticipation than she had at the annual festival. He knew himself that this was a turning point in his life. He gave a little sigh. He wished the old gentleman would hurry up and finish his speech. He did not like the sense of anticipation being drawn out any more than Marissa did. The sun outside would have almost gone down. His mother would arrive at dusk. She had really wanted to be able to see the concert, which was why it was in the evening rather than the afternoon. He glanced up at the ceiling. His eyes widened. A hideous shape clung to the wall, in the far corner of the hall, just beneath the ceiling. Swathed in black rags. Covered in black bristles, like a monstrous spider – it gave a terrific leap, before he could even cry out. It struck the chandelier which came to the floor with a thunderous crash. The lights went out. There was shrieking, uproar, pandemonium. Marissa gripped his hand. A harsh gurgling voice sounded: "Silence bluebottles, I, Arachnos, have come to snare you all in my web. Minister Bengston and I have played this stinking city like a harp. A better display than these young fools could make."

Leif held Marissa's hand tightly. "Come, I'm taking you to safety," he began. Her face was white and she gaped at him, clearly not over the initial shock. He tugged at her arm, but at that moment thin white stick strands ensnared them and they were lifted high into the air. Leif could hear a horrible sucking and drooling sound near his ear. He struggled, but the vile, sticky substance held him and Marissa tight. "Well what a tasty pair of flies I have caught," gloated Arachnos. Leif choked at the monumentally evil face. Six eyes glowing red, a mouth gaping open, full of discoloured fangs, foul breath beat on his face...

There was a wail and a roar from Arachnos. Leif felt himself, Marissa still bound to him, lowered to the floor. There was more shouting and yelling. The audience had almost all rushed out of the hall now. Leif stared eyes wide as he saw the hideous spider crouching in the centre of the hall, squirting more of its sticky strands about the place, trying to ensnare a figure in gleaming white.

Elysia tore the sticky strands apart as they stuck to her. She lifted a heavy wooden bench and struck the monster hard with it. It rushed at her and she grabbed at one of its many arms and gave it a terrific wrench. It broke off with a sickening crunch. The beast roared and lunged again, its remaining arms flailing, then unexpectedly it leapt at the ceiling and propelled itself into her with lightning speed. Elysia felt the horrible jaws scrape her shoulder and its nails tear at her flesh, but she exerted all her strength and prized the jaws apart. She could sense the foul beast's intent. Its mind was a warped mess, but its interest was now focusing on Leif and Marissa again. She would never let anything happen to any innocent, least of all the one she loved most of all. She gripped two of its arms with grim determination and lifted the monster bodily, swinging it round hard and flinging it against the statue of justice. The sword pierced the monster through the middle, stabbing it through its black heart. It roared and gurgled its remaining arms flailing, but soon its noise ceased, its hideous head lolled to one side and it only twitched spasmodically.

Elysia pulled the webbing off Leif and Marissa. Marissa was still in a dead faint. Leif was trembling and breathing hard as his mother held him in her arms. She was wearing a gown of gleaming white, its material as light as gossamer. He could feel the sensuous curves of her body, her soft skin, her silky hair... He looked her in the face. Her dark eyes were full of tears. "Never again," she choked, her voice husky with emotion. "I would never allow any monster to touch you, not then, not now, not ever..."

"I know," he managed. Their lips pressed together as they finally unleashed their true feelings for one another.


The sun was setting when the new northern express chugged on to its destination in the mountains. It was a fine place for a vacation for those of the right resources. An extraordinarily handsome young man with gleaming golden hair peered out of the window at the settling snow. Just as he remembered from his boyhood. There was a large, long box formed of black metal lying beside him as he sat in his richly appointed coach. A series of muffled thumps came from within it. It was in a code his mother had taught him. Different thuds of different lengths signified different letters. The message rapped out from the inside formed "K-I-S-S."

Leif rapped out a message in reply. "Just a little longer," he called.

The sun was down. The Moon had risen. It cast a silvery light through the carriage window. Elysia and Leif Darkholm were locked in a passionate embrace. Elysia could not remember being so happy. Leif only had a mortal lifetime, but they would make every moment last.

Marissa had recovered from her faint and had suffered no adverse effects from the fright Arachnos had given her, but it had always been apparent that she could not fill Elysia's place. The audience, including the assembled aristocracy had heard Arachnos denounce Bengston who was subsequently arrested. Everyone's views of Elysia as the angel of the night were reinforced as she had torn apart the hideous fiend in front of them. She was an angel to them all and the angel of death to all evil-doers. They took the lesson to heart.

"The mountains will be more beautiful than ever in the moonlight," said Leif. "And so will every place."

"I am complete," breathed Elysia.

Author's Note: Many unanswered questions are up to the reader. What now for the couple? Can Leif and Elysia have children? Thank you for reading.