Ruprecht paced his office, regardless of the looks the colonel was shooting at him from under his bushy brows.When he had tired of that, he issued out into the workroom and joined the small crowd around Joerg and the Ancient box.
‘No, Rupe.It came on, hummed to itself, and then went off.We’ve gone over everything that might have triggered it.Nobody was near the table when it came alive.Other than that there’s nothing that could have influenced it so far as we can tell.’
‘So the trigger was external to this building?’
‘There was no action or anything material that might have done it within, that’s for sure.This is not one of the boxes that were wired to a current by the scientists at the Carolinaean.Now, there is a temperature difference in one of these black elements, which I assume to be the power source responsible, but it’s cooling rapidly.It may have burnt itself out.’
‘Is Matthias back from his errand yet?’
‘No, Chief,’ Hextie replied.
‘Tell him I’ve gone across the road to the university when he returns.I’ll be there with Professor Wilnius.He may be able to tell us whether the boxes he has have shown signs of life.From there, I’ll head home.Keep this fellow under close observation in the meantime.If it misbehaves again, I want to know immediately.See you later, Joerg.’
Ruprecht in fact had little intention of visiting Professor Wilnius.Once he was sure he was not being followed he strode rapidly towards the telegraph office, encountering Matthias hurrying back towards the Institute.
‘No, Excellency.I waited for over an hour.But there was no response from Vieldomaine.If he is out at Val de Rougiet it may be a while before Erwin gets the message from the Champs Dolent office and can reply.’
‘The clerks know to relay any reply to our villa, sir.I tipped them heavily.What would you like me to do?’
‘Go into the Institute and play things cool, particularly when the colonel is around.I wasn’t going to, but I’ll head off to the Natural Science Faculty and make my promised call on Professor Wilnius after all.Maybe there was a corresponding reaction there, but it would depend if it was detected and on whether anyone was working with their two boxes at the time.He’ll want to rush off to the Institute as soon as he knows.Maybe he might have ideas.’
‘Do you really think that the sudden activity has something to do with Their Majesties?’
Ruprecht’s stern face relaxed into a lop-sided grin.‘Mattie my lad, I’m absolutely certain of it.’
‘Time to decamp, little one mine.’Ruprecht and Joerg were in bed, and Ruprecht was massaging and kissing the small man’s smooth back and small, shapely buttocks, while he squirmed from the attention.
‘Like this, Rupe?’
‘Not that urgently, but I think that things are moving to a crisis and Ardhesse has given us all that it can offer.It would be dangerous to play on Kristijan’s board for much longer.’
‘Things are waking up, aren’t they … lost and dangerous things.’
‘I believe so, and our boys are at the heart of it.We need to be with them now.It seems to me that this Great Mind has been playing its own game all the time.Kristijan might think he has Terre Nouvelle at his feet, but there’s been a far bigger struggle going on all around him which he can’t even see, while François, the true Emperor of Terre Nouvelle, has been in the thick of it. Kristijan’s just been boxing with shadows.’
‘Kristijan’s not completely in the dark, he’s sensed that great events are happening.That’s why he conscripted us.I wonder if he knows more than he lets on.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘If the Great Mind is as active as you say, it could have touched on Kristijan’s consciousness.He’s insane and evil right enough, but also brilliant and unconventional.He may have sensed he’s being played, and that might well be why he wanted us on his team.It could also be why he’s trying to usurp the Empire for himself.’
‘That’s an alarming thought, because in that case he may well follow us if we run for it.I don’t see that we’ll get a chance to interrogate him on what happens in his dream world, though …’
‘The Masque of the Erdbeesten he subjected me to takes on a different significance if you’re right.Maybe it was an echo of his own dreams, rather than just a sick sexual fantasy.Speaking of which, ready for me?’
‘Oh yes.I want it.’Ruprecht went on all fours over his lover, his heavy member hanging hard.He let it find its target and slowly pressed down with his groin until, accompanied by
a groan of deep satisfaction from Joerg, it was swallowed up by his welcoming hole.Ruprecht took his time pressing home, and let Joerg dictate the pace.Well before he was ready to thrust he came, and he came again twenty minutes later, to their deep mutual delight.
The departure from Ardheim was not easy to orchestrate without Erwin Wenzel to mastermind it, and in the end they simply had to leave most of their goods and papers behind them.
An additional problem intruded itself that same night.Lying in bed asleep after satisfying their passion, Ruprecht and Joerg awoke together around the eighth hour as repeated concussions shook their bedroom window, rising abruptly to a rumble, louder and more continuous than thunder.Light flickered across the ceiling, and Joerg shot out of bed.They had a good view of the city and the harbour.
‘There’s lights like red flame in the sky beyond Bornholm!’ he called over.‘That’s where the noise is coming from.’All of a sudden a huge concussion shook the house.‘Jesus the Seneschal!A big white light and a huge cloud billowing up into the sky!’
Ruprecht by now had joined him.‘It’s the Dreiholmtz Navy.Has to be.The anchorage of the Ardhessian fleet is out there in the eastern roads.They’re being bombarded, or more likely torpedoed; looks like it’s a pre-emptive strike by the Easterners.That must have been a big ship taking a hit to its magazine.’
By now the lights were all on in their street, and people were standing in front gardens.The shore batteries had by now added their thunder to the storm of explosive shells, seeking to protect the anchored fleet.The rumbling and explosions went on till dawn, with several more titanic blasts that sent concussion waves across the city.The smell of gunpowder was heavy in the morning air, and huge columns of smoke rose pink and black from beyond Bornholm into the lightening sky.
As it turned out, the morning newssheets revealed that there was more to the attack than a surprise naval strike.An Eastern expeditionary force had simultaneously landed on Ardhesse’s island of Zuidholm, some thirty kilometres south of the mainland, and fierce fighting was raging along its length and breadth.
‘That’ll not do Kristijan’s reputation any good with his people,’ Ruprecht observed.‘He’s delivered perpetual victory since he began his wars.Now Ardhesse is under attack.His popularity will take a hit.’
‘Let’s hope.But it’ll make leaving this madhouse more difficult.’
‘On the other hand it’ll disorganise Baron Meisel’s agents.They’ll have better things to do than watch us.It’s definitely time to go.’
Operating under the assumption that they were being watched, Ruprecht, Joerg and Matthias departed separately.Ruprecht left en route for the Holy See at the end of the working day.Joerg went home but took an omnibus to pick up a train for Bernicia once the sun had gone down.Matthias left last, leaving the lights on in their villa, travelling by the suburban lines to make his circuitous route to the frontier with the Montenard Republic, which he crossed without incident, under orders to head directly north to join up with Erwin.
In fact the precautions in the end were superfluous.The scrutiny of their papers at the border was no more thorough than usual.The soldiers were looking for Easterners.
Ruprecht and Joerg posted resignation letters to the Baron before they left the country.It seemed appropriate.Their time at the Institute had not been unpleasant, and they regretted leaving their bright young staff.
They joined up again at Blauwhaven, where they found no news from Vieldomaine and no forwarded telegrams.They did however find a command from the Princess Regent to get to Ostberg as soon as they possibly could.
By now Ruprecht was worried.The three boys were overdue.He and Joerg were taken directly into the princess’s study in the Residenz.
She looked up from her desk.‘Ah!At last. I’ve sent telegrams everywhere for you.’
‘What’s been going on, Grossmutta?We’ve heard nothing.’
She gave a little smile. ‘It’s nice to know that sometimes I have the advantage of you.The Confederate Embassy in Chasancene has been relaying some remarkable stories about your three adventurers.’
‘Where are they?They were supposed to be back by now.’
‘Still in Chasancene, and annoying our ambassador with the demands being made on his legation to keep a refugee emperor and his two madcap young friends from being noticed by Ardhessian intelligence.’
‘Why won’t they leave?’
‘They claim that they can’t leave before they’ve completed their investigations.From what I can ascertain, they’ve already managed somehow to cause a small earth tremor which has shaken northern Vieldomaine.I really think you two had best go and get them.Also Felix is unwell, and I think he needs your services, Doctor.’
Jean-Charles Parmentier brooded in the gloom of his refuge, the only light filtering through the open door from the trashed control room outside.He was hungry and dirty, but at least he was safe, safer now perhaps than any human on Terre Nouvelle.He fingered the pistol he’d found overlooked, trodden into in a pile of trash the erdbeesten had discarded in the chaos of the sack of New Paris.
He had no clothes or shoes, and had found none in the ruins.The erdbeesten had made a particular point of stripping their captives of every trace of their technology and civilisation: they were to live as herd animals from now on.He had struggled as a young bull had thrown him on his back, sat on him and ripped off his clothing, then gone still as it had taken his genitalia tightly in its hands, felt his balls and examined his penis with care.Satisfied as to his sexual immaturity, fourteen-year-old Jean-Charles had then been hauled up by his scruff and thrown among the crying females and younger boys penned in by a circle of hissing erdbeesten cows.Christophe next to him had not been so lucky.Sixteen, he was judged differently.His neck was efficiently broken by the same bull who had pardoned Jean-Charles.His corpse was hauled off somewhere for disposal.Jean-Charles had felt guilty that he could never stand Christophe, the arrogant fucker.He would have loved him to have been with him now.
He and his surviving family had been allotted to a human group of twenty within an erdbeest unit of about sixty, with three mature bulls and a particularly ill-tempered prime.They were herded up and down the river valley for several weeks.One day, at an unheard signal, the bulls had begun mounting the females, human and erdbeesten alike, in an orgy of mass copulation.Jean-Charles had tried to pull off the bull who had begun forcing himself on his elder sister, but it had taken it as a challenge and instead he had been the one screaming and struggling as something huge burned its way up inside his ass and filled his lower gut with piss.Fortunately in retrospect it was the least developed of the bulls.Then cast aside, he had watched his elder sister and mother forced on all fours alongside the herd cows and all the other mature human females submitting to being bred repeatedly by the bulls, while he held his younger sister and tried to comfort her.He had shit blood for a week.
Come December he had left, taking three other desperate adolescent boys, including his friend Marcel.But they had lost Marcel in the dark that first night.Maybe he’d been retaken by the bulls.In a panic when a leopard pack was sighted a week later, they had dispersed and run for it.He did not think Laurent and Armand had escaped them.
The idea had been for them to find help, to contact the English or Germans and alert them to the French situation, but the land was empty: Jean-Charles had seen no vehicles, on the land or in the air.It had been borne in on him ruthlessly that the other national zones too had been attacked and sacked.And the continental mass of Terre Nouvelle was too huge for him to find his way naked and barefoot the thousand kilometres through the mountains to the English zone, or cross the vast flood of the Great River to find the Germans.It had been a miracle that he had found the remains of New Paris.
Jean-Charles had not starved or frozen since his capture.He had found that rainwater ran off human skin quite as well as erdbeesten hide.Warmth was to be had at night pressed among the soft bodies of the herd.His months with the herd had taught him some things other than to keep out of the way of bulls: what legumes to eat, where to dig for grubs, slimy but edible and nourishing to humans as much as erdbeesten.He had balked at sucking erdbeesten breasts, but the smaller human children thrived on the rich milk that they along with the herd calves were offered.It was leopards and the cold which were the main threats to him as he wandered, but deep in the comm bunker, wrapped in a plastic bed cover with a twig fire, he had survived the worst of the weather and no leopard pack came near.Now it was time to go.
It was full light now, so he took a couple of charcoal twigs and began writing:
2155-COL.5. FEVRIER.MARCEL. IF YOU FIND THIS I ESCAPED.STAYED HERE FOUR WEEKS.NO SURVIVORS IN PREFECTURE.NO POWER.NO COMM.MAMAN AND GIRLS UNABLE TO FOLLOW : HERD DRIVEN SOUTH NOVEMBRE.HUNTING BEASTS WEST OF HERE.LAURENT & ARMAND DIDN’T MAKE IT.GOING AFTER MAMAN.NOT SO COLD NOW.FOUND A GUN BUT NOT MUCH ELSE.J-C.
He dropped the twig and scanned the litter he had found; some plastic ware which hadn’t burned with the rest of the sacked town and a couple of read-outs on erdbeesten he thought might help, but the technical nature of the English had defeated him.Then there was his last hope, if he only knew what to do with it.
So, naked except for the gun hanging heavily from his neck on a lanyard, he headed out, picking up a stick he had sharpened and hardened in the fire as a primitive spear.He padded out into the comm centre and made for the outer hatch.
Outside spring had come to the ruins of New Paris, green shoots pushing up through the floors of the roofless and wrecked homes and the paving of the empty streets.The comm tower loomed above him.The erdbeesten had ignored it, only ransacking the junction boxes at the base.They had not climbed up to the middle platform; they simply did not look upwards.But Jean-Charles had been up there often with his father, who had been the chief watch comm officer, and he had sat up there in the breeze, his legs dangling over the edge despite his mother’s warnings, and gazed out over the colony and the new world he had first set foot on at the age of ten.The free movement of air on his skin and the warmth of the golden sunlight still entranced him; after a life spent shipboard till the Landing, planetbound life had been endlessly fascinating.
He looked down at his body.He was no longer the boy he had been when last he sat up there with his father.Six months had brought changes.Herd life had bronzed and toughened his body; his crotch was now covered with thick curly black hair and the penis that grew out of it seemed twice the size it had been when he was first herded, hanging down well past his balls and swinging as he walked, a member quite as big as that of any erdbeest adolescent his age.His belly was corded and muscular, and there was hair now dusting his forearms.
He had wrestled other boys and also erdbeesten calves, who had a concept of play much like that of human children it seemed.Male calves never said a thing or smiled but they had an idea of fun: they liked to chase, and particularly to wrestle to get other males beneath them, rehearsing their mating and domination rituals.Latterly his strength and agility had been sufficient for Jean-Charles to get the calves under him, which gave him a certain savage satisfaction after his rape.When he did, he was more often than not fully erect, and since there was no choice he flaunted his length in front of girls and boys, rather than cover it. If they all three could hide away from the bulls and their own mothers Cécile and Thérèse would touch it and giggle when it jumped at their touch.He was allowed to touch their crotches and budding breasts in exchange. The other human boys would chant at him ‘Baisez le bête!’ when he had a calf under him, until the squeals of the calf brought a bull over to drive them off, running and making obscene gestures back at him, which the bull couldn’t understand.
At the base of the tower he checked the box he had salvaged from above.It had its own back-up power unit which he had connected; there was no likelihood the power would be drained any time soon.The box was designed to last, fashioned out of the seamless and indestructible polymer that provided the skin of the starships.He couldn’t take it with him and he had no idea how to make it work, but he did at least know what it could do.It was the failsafe, the trigger that would contact the fleet parked in distant orbit and initiate … something, his father had not told him what.
Jean-Charles hefted the heavy box and slowly heaved it by stages out of the ruined settlement and up the hill.Halfway up was a rock around which he and his friends had played; it had been their fort.There he began digging away the soft soil at its base and placed the box in the resulting hole, covering it over with soil and leaves.One day maybe he would find a surviving adult who knew what to do to activate the signal, and they would retrieve it; until then he must play by the herd rules.
A week later, with three chambers of his pistol empty after he encountered and drove off a leopard pack, he found the ambling figures of a mixed human and erdbeesten herd as it rose from its night rest.They were returning north from their winter migration.It was his own herd.Familiar human children and calves suckled at breasts and human females scavenged for grubs.And there amongst the group of six adolescent girls were his sisters!He wandered into the camp and the humans looked up and shouted, the erdbeesten regarding him with their usual calm indifference.Once his younger sister unwrapped herself from him he asked ‘Maman?’
She burst into tears, and it was a boy’s voice that answered.Marcel had come up behind him.‘A bull broke her neck when she tried to fight him off.’
Jean-Charles looked around.‘Which one of the fuckers?’ he asked calmly.Marcel pointed out the prime.He took his pistol and coolly walked over.He walked directly up to the beast, staring in its eyes.He threw out his arms, bared his teeth and gave out his best approximation of a challenge hoot.The bull’s dark eyes narrowed and it responded with a roar.As it began lumbering towards him, he raised his pistol and shot the thing through its bony forehead.It lurched and fell face forward at his feet.He turned to face the herd and gave out his own roar, a howl of anger and outrage that came from deep within him.
The bull who had raped him repeated the challenge. They closed, but though smaller Jean-Charles was far more agile.Remembering his rugby days, he feinted and got behind the bull, using his left hand to seize its genitalia between its legs from behind, and he twisted savagely.The beast howled.He used the butt of the pistol to club it hard on the back of its head, then the bull was on all fours in front of him.Somehow he had gone as erect as the bull during the crisis, and after his experience of play with male calves it was automatic for him to mount the stunned beast and seek its asshole.His length slid easily into a warm softness and for the first time his cock was sheathed in hot flesh.Uncaring of the gaze of the human herd he started fucking himself fully hard and then stopped, forcing his bladder to piss.If he could complete the ritual many of his problems would be solved.His urine flowed into the defeated bull, then yelling a spontaneous war cry he pulled out of it, forcing the stream to stop for the moment.
The two other grown bulls went submissively on all fours and, his erection harder than ever, Jean-Charles sodomised both, their strange dry smell in his nostrils, letting loose more spurts of his piss inside them.Then he roared at the rest of the herd, cuffing Marcel when he failed to adopt the submissive pose with the others.
‘Do it! I have to piss in you too,’ he ordered. ‘This is the way it has to be from now on.If I do it to you, you’ll be a bull and we can fuck the girls all we want. It’ll be our herd.’Marcel stared around, then dropped on to his knees and pulled his ass cheeks apart.This time, in mounting excitement Jean-Charles lost control and fucked his way to completion within a crouching circle of the watching herd, stroking Marcel’s smooth brown flanks and taut belly as he climaxed inside him.
They began mating the human girls who were old enough to breed that evening before the sundown ritual.They ignored protests, but Cécile and Thérèse offered anything but resistance to Jean-Charles in any case.
Vieldomaine didn’t show much sign of being under Allemanic occupation, and its soldiers and police looked the same as ever.The new imperial flag did however fly from the keep of the ducal château, Kristijan’s white imperial erdbeest on a striped background of blue and black.The Vieldomanois golden erdbeest was relegated to the gatehouse.
Erwin met them at the station.When Joerg observed how little things seem to have changed, he shrugged.‘There are two regiments of the Allemanic Legion in barracks in the south of the city, and the duke’s own army has been sent off to occupy the Protectorate States, where I doubt Franciens are very popular.The Imperial governor-general resides out at the Belvedere, the smaller suburban palace next to the hunting park.’ He coughed. ‘It’s the Prince of Forez.’
Ruprecht groaned.‘God save us.It has to be him: Anton Vinseff!’
Joerg giggled.‘I don’t think we’ll be leaving our cards at the Belvedere.’
They took a cab to the Auberge aux Falaises.Cécile was outside on the bench playing with a doll.She bounced up to Ruprecht in delight.‘Monsieur le comte!You must bow to me!Cousin François says I am a princess!’
Ruprecht smiled, bowed, took the girl’s hand and kissed it. ‘Mademoiselle la princesse, I salute your imperial highness.’She laughed, took his own hand and led him into the auberge, which looked the same as usual, though the regular drinkers were yet to appear, for the day was only now just beginning to turn to evening.A figure he initially took for Gilles was in a bar apron behind the counter, but it was in fact the emperor.
The boy grinned.‘Hello Rupe, welcome to the Imperial Palace.House Parmentier bids you welcome!’
‘It seems I am a Parmentier, the true name of the Imperial House.My brother Gilles still carries the ancient name which my branch forgot, but I’ve taken it again.’
‘And how do you know this, sire?’
‘The usual, Rupe.Talking dreams.’
‘And how’s Felix?’
François’s grin faded.‘He’s upstairs in Gillot’s bedroom.Dr Joerg will be very welcome.’
Joerg took the hint and headed for the stairs.He already had his medical bag in his hand.
Ruprecht took a seat at the bar counter.‘Mine’s a light beer, François.’
‘Coming up, Rupe.’
‘You’re enjoying yourself.’
The emperor’s Gillot-like grin reappeared.‘More than at any time since my dear father died.With Gillot I have everything I lost and more, since Kreech comes with the package.’
‘You’ll have to find your own lover one day, sire.’
‘I can only hope.I sometimes wish I’d been born Alleman.But maybe in the new world things will be different.’
‘We’ll talk later, Excellency.I have customers, please excuse me.’And the emperor went off to serve two regulars, who not unnaturally assumed that it was Gilles taking their orders.Ruprecht resumed his usual place in the back parlour, to be joined by Erwin.He asked for his account of the expedition so far.
‘The boys arrived without trouble at the auberge, though of course there was quite a scene when the emperor was introduced.But they managed to explain everything to Madame Mabire’s satisfaction.Needless to say, she was most favourably impressed with His Imperial Majesty.They took horses out to Val de Rougiet the next morning and Monsieur Lemarignier tells me they were in the cellars most of the day.When they left they went up the hill and came down with a heavy package carried between Gillot and François.It’s in Gilles and Felix’s room now.They were hard at work at it much of the night and the next morning there was an earth tremor.’
‘What on earth do you mean?’
‘The room trembled, the glass rattled and the three boys whooped.So I knew they had something to do with it.’
‘They admit that he was feverish before they began their mission, but he would not stay behind.The coughing began the night after they had been out to Val de Rougiet, and the next day he couldn’t get out of bed.Which is why they worked in his room.Excellency, his sputum has been bloody again.’
The gloomy news silenced Ruprecht for a while.He looked up when Joerg returned.His look was not encouraging.
‘His lesions have opened and he’s coughing up blood.There’s an infection.Opiates will help ease the pain and cough, but I’ve had to increase the dose, which is in itself dangerous.He’s very feverish and I have no idea how to bring his temperature down.’
‘So it’s bad.What are the chances?’
‘About fifty-fifty for a temporary recovery but this is the final decline. Rupe, I’m sorry.I’ve seen it before, I can’t hide it from you.’
A lead weight took the place of Ruprecht’s heart.Though the news was not unexpected, that did not help ease the sorrow.‘I’ll take a moment,’ he said.‘Then I’ll go up and see him.Where are the other two?’
‘In with him.They do more good than the opiates.’
Once he felt composed he went up the stairs, pausing at the door of Gilles’s room.There were cheerful young voices within, though they were punctuated periodically by racking coughs and silence.He went in, to find Felix and Gilles on the bed and François seated on the floor, his back against a wall.All three smiled up at him.He went over to ruffle Felix and Gilles’s hair then sat at the foot of the bed.
‘So let’s hear it.Who’s going to tell me?’
‘That’ll be me,’ said François.‘Fine, Gillot?’
‘Go for it, mon frère.’
‘Right.We rode out on hired horses to Val de Rougiet, and Farmer Lemarignier was very helpful.He said he’d closed the site but he’d be happy to let us in for the day.So the boys took me around the ruins and showed me what they’d found, but then we were at a bit of a loss.’
‘No you weren’t,’ Felix interjected, ‘you knew exactly what you had to do.’He started laughing but it turned into a coughing fit.He put a cloth to his mouth to conceal the bloody result.
‘Yes, well,’ François continued. ‘I guess we did.So we went into J-C’s bolthole and looked at the message.’
Gilles sniggered.‘J-C’s erotic art has been whitewashed by the farmer so as not to offend the lady tourists.’
François laughed too.‘It would have been better had it been left, but we undressed and well … got in the mood, all three of us.And after some fun, in the end I mounted Gillot and did what bulls do in his ass and as I peed … well, he and I woke up, in the same place but not, if you follow me.’
Gilles kicked in.‘He was still on my back but the third person in the room was the original Jean-Charles Parmentier, father of our grandfathers.He looked about fifteen, a bit more muscular than we are …’
‘… and quite a monster bite for a boy his age, I think,’ François continued.‘I got off Gillot and we sat back and looked at him, and he looked at us.He took us by our hands, and I think our bodies were now his age.He led us out of the cellars and up above ground, and it was the past.A big steel tower was high above us, and there were houses, roofless and burned but with the walls still standing.It was New Paris just after it was sacked.We followed him up the hill behind the town and came to an outcrop of rock, and we sat on it and looked out on the world.
‘“Grandpère,” I said, “what are we to do?”He hugged us round the shoulders, saying “Protect the herd, my own boys, it’s what we bulls must do.A new age is coming, and you will be the primes that destroy the leopards and lead the herd to new and richer plains.Now, below this rock is something I placed in the ground for you one day to find, though I did not know it at the time.And in your bodies is something the Great Mind stored deep in our lineage, which only needs to be awakened for everything to begin.”
‘“How do we do that, grandpère?” I asked.He smiled, and kissed us again.“An act of love is all it takes, join bodies and the knowledge will be released.”Then he was gone, but we were still there, and we made love on that rock and it was beyond glorious.’
‘Of course,’ Felix butted in, ‘it was only in their heads, so I could hardly find grounds for divorce.’
Gilles rolled his eyes.‘It was intense but in a different way from the physical act, yet still deeply erotic, and it was Fran who went on top of me to fuck.Then as we both climaxed we woke up and we were still naked in the cellar, but Fran had come inside me hugely, not peed, and I had shot just as hard under me.’
Felix shrugged.‘To me all that seemed to have happened was that Fran had gone up Gillot and I saw his bum squeeze as he peed, then they went rigid for … maybe sixty seconds, and Fran fell back on his butt and his slimy cock popped out of Gillot.’
Ruprecht was bemused to say the least.‘And what happened then?Did you have some sort of revelation?’
Gilles shook his head. ‘Sorry to disappoint, Rupe, but no … well, not immediately.We all got dressed again, feeling a bit sheepish.Then we went up the hill behind the site.The crag was there, just like in the dream.We had a shovel and we dug under it.Sure enough, there was a large container, which it took both me and Fran to pull out.
‘I think it was made of the same stuff you found in Hartland, but you can confirm that.It’s over there in the corner, under the blanket.Fran and Kreech got it up on the spare horse while I distracted the farmer.Once we smuggled it inside the auberge we stood it by there.We worked on it all night but we couldn’t get it open.It was when the sun came up and lit up my room that it started humming.After an hour, a green light blinked on as if it was deep inside it and it began to vibrate.When Fran and I both put our hands on it to steady it, the light switched to red.There was a sudden … I don’t know how to describe it.What would you say, Fran?’
‘Like a dark flash in our heads.And suddenly I had memories I never had before.I knew what the box was, and I looked in Gillot’s eyes, and he did too.We both had the same vision: the hill at Hartland.Then the ground rumbled and everything shook in the house.’
Ruprecht was stunned.‘And what is it, this box?’
‘A trigger and a signal, Rupe.Look!The sun’s down and the stars are coming out.The Three Sisters should be coming up over the shoulder of the castle cliff.Go and look at them from the back bedroom, and tell us what you see.’
Ruprecht went out into the passage and found a rear window.The three stars were opening in the sky but there was something odd about them.It took him a while to realise what it was, but eventually he realised they were brighter, and farther apart.