“All right back there?” shouted Rufus.
“Peachy,” I said. “Are we there yet?”
The van came to an abrupt halt and I fell across the smaller wulver causing it yip, a high distressed sound. My face was now level with the Guardian’s faithful friend and its top lip wrinkled, a low snarling sound, so basso profundo that I felt it in my chest. I hurriedly pushed myself away from it, pressing for all I was worth into the farthest corner.
“What the hell happened?” I yelled. Ruby and Rufus jumped out the van, shouting something I didn’t catch. Carefully edging towards the door handle, I slowly pulled it down and got out into the cold night. It was snowing heavily as though the city was trying to put out the flames. We were on the winding road that led to the top of Arthur’s Seat and I could see the dull sodium glow of the fires that were razing the city to the ground. Of Ruby and Rufus there was no sign.
Then I heard it: a vast roar of rage that came from further up the road just at the sharp bend in the road. I ran towards it and then down a snow covered grass embankment in time to hear Ruby scream:
“Oh my God. Oh MY GOD!”
But at first I couldn’t see what the fuss was about because a battery of Corpse-candles rose and began buzzing around my head limiting my vision to a mauve coloured blur of light that had its own weight, like a coating of scum on the top of a pond. Whatever was out there would be getting a great heads up with my whereabouts all thanks to these little bastards. I remembered the old tales about them, that they lead unwary travellers to their deaths in peat bogs and over the edges of cliffs. They didn’t like the wind and driving snow judging by the way they parted slightly after a particularly vicious blast straight from the North Sea.
Ruby was sobbing, a hoarse, guttural sound of defeat and despair and still I could see nothing. But it didn’t matter because by then I felt the thrum of the life force flowing through the Park, Arthur’s Seat and the Crags. The Deadlights rose up and out in that familiar silver spill which could only mean one thing: something or someone was at the point of death. I was lost momentarily in the pull of all that elemental magic, a high that no amount of alcohol or drugs could match.
Or at least I was until a body was hurled from somewhere above, landing with a bone-shattering thud not ten feet from where I stood, ruining the mood.
The body was followed by an enormous mass I couldn’t make out. It took precious seconds before I could work out that both were locked in a fight to the death the ripping of skin audible even above the frenzied snarling and snapping. The second arrival was a creature of smoke and darkness swirling in upon itself and yet at the core, a scarlet light burned as though whatever it was had caught fire.