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The Last Bookshop - Fellowship's End
By
TheTravellingMan

The Last Bookshop - Fellowship's End

The fellowship meets, yet hubris is the deadly pride before a fall.

Boldly in broad daylight, Dominic Carshalton calmly approached the cellar door and forced his way in.  As their harbinger of their doom, his intuition bayed for blood.  Someone, a woman, called out for Coulter.  A locked kitchen door proved no barrier when he blasted the lock with his revolver. 

He expected his powers to be ineffectual in the house yet his intuition mocked the fear in Coulter’s eyes.  Despite their altercation in the hallway, he had the measure of him now.  Pursuing them as they fled, Coulter’s fearful emotions painted an easy trail to follow. 

Fuelled by hate, he lived to hunt these wretched souls down.  Today, he would reclaim what they stole.  That bitch, Esmerelda and the whore Delilah would die today too.  He broke their coded messages this morning; their mistake gave him the vital key he missed for so long.  Today, they would be nought, they would be nothing soon enough.  This momentous day would end their pitiful lives and he vowed to relish every second of their demise.  Imbued with their power, the remaining devotees would fall like dominoes.

Chasing after them, Coulter’s thoughts betrayed their intended destination.  Glancing at the narrow entrance to a back alley, this direct route would easily beat them to it.  He raced down the alleyway and towards their final confrontation.  Rewarding his flash of genius, he basked in the glow of his euphoric intuition.

Still savouring his triumph, Carshalton hid and composed himself.  Standing behind a broad oak tree, he felt Coulter, the bitch, and the whore approach.  Soon enough, he would reclaim the full faculty of his powers and smite the enchantment into oblivion.

His intuition rose to its riotous maximum as he revealed himself.  Triumphantly, he stood before them and blocked their path; their abject horror amused him greatly.  Coulter’s mortified expression Beneath his contempt, he glared at the bitch and the whore; his intuition wallowed in their terror too.  Fuelling his bloodlust to its maximum, now they would sample his power.  Now, they would obey him in their final moments and die in the most profound torment. 

Step by step, he approached and his louche, carefree pace exacerbated their profound terror.  Staring at Coulter, his feeble defiance provoked only the most vicious sentiments from his intuition.  Carshalton was happy to placate it; he would make an example of Coulter. 

Imposing his iron will, he sliced at his emotions and tore viciously at his love for Esmerelda.  Revelling in his howls of pain, he slashed harder and harder.  His intuition gorged itself and fed Carshalton’s burgeoning sense of invincibility.  Glaring at Coulter, he eagerly demonstrated his full capability.  His raucous intuition demanded more and more savagery. 

Tortured, Coulter remained defiant and his intuition got its craven wish.  Loud screams of anguish brought laughter and glee; this would be a fitting end to a pitiful creature.  There would be no bargain because Carshalton would not hear their words.  His vision narrowed to their panic-stricken bodies.  He would feel their end in vivid detail and he soared with delight.  Terminated by his own hand and filled with the most heinous evil pulsating in their minds.

It was time, Coulter would be first, and he moved closer to make sure he would not miss.  He wanted to see the look on his face when the bullet tore through his flesh.  Straight through the heart, and in the few seconds before brain death, Coulter might see Esmerelda die too.  His depraved intuition raged with pleasure.

Watching the man she loved die, he would revel in Esmerelda’s torment before he killed the bitch.  A bullet through that clever head would snuff her out in an instant.  Delilah would be last; her intense agony would be a fitting counterpoint to her aloof arrogance.

The swell of his intuition intensified into a frenzy - it demanded death. 

Pulling the trigger, Harry fell. Carshalton blinked and felt nothing except the compulsion to kill.  Steadying himself, he stepped back and took aim.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

“In adversity and needs must,” Harry mumbled, admiring Simone’s shapely derriere. 

This was their fellowship, the inevitable conclusion of their meeting to decide their fate.  The exploration of their needs and desires, and their intuitions frothed with the fermentation of their lust.  The suspense of a day exploded into a profound need for carnal experience.  He remarked to himself that Esmerelda and Delilah had chosen their devotees well. 

Through hill and vale, he caressed Simone’s provocative curves from torso to hip.  He squeezed at her slender thigh, taut and strong.  In spoons, she reclined against him and with her leg aloft.  Brazenly, she showed Esmerelda how deeply he filled her.

Magnetically drawn to clasp her tightly, Simone’s snug grasp of his manhood stole his breath.  The tart smack of his loins collided with her behind.  Groping her breast, Harry plucked at her hardened nipple.  The addictive reflex of her body compelled him to repeat each thrust.  At their apex, she yielded with a delicate soft yelp and a rasping intake of air.

Majestically reclined in her leather armchair, Delilah smouldered as she held court.  The fellowship before her in this opulent room seethed with the movements and groans of sexual pleasure.  She relished the contrast of nubile flesh in the throes of congress against the backdrop of antique furniture.  Resting her leg on an armrest, two prostrate devotees pleasured her heated sex.  Looking down, she caressed their silken hair and pulled them closer.

Under her enchantment, their uninhibited outpourings of desire venerated the Cremorne.  She infused the males with a sexual ire not seen outside Club Babylon in decades.  Bestowed with endurance, she guaranteed the gratification of these sacred females.  How better to acclaim its teachings than to unleash the full intensity of their sexual liberation.  Her loins churned at the thought of these men at her mercy.

Casting her eyes to Harry, the two eager acolytes between her legs felt Delilah’s full arousal.  Locked in sexual duel with Simone, his assertiveness fought playfully against her indomitable will.  Placing her knee down, she surveyed her conquest.  His tumultuous penis in her hand guided him in and she grinned as body tensed with a groan.  Retorting with a lusty shove of his entire length, her expression melted before Delilah’s eyes and their battle began again.

Avila, a prolific Germanic seductress, stared intensely into Aiden’s eyes.  Raven-hair, tall with long limbs and a core of steel, men found her curves irresistible.  Many tried to sate her lust, few succeeded.  Astride his lap, she flicked her hair back and thrust out her breast.  Aiden’s hands mauled them and her long, pierced nipples.  She took him with her typical efficiency and single-mindedness.  Raphael’s substantial erection, thick and strong, kept her mouth busy.

Through heavy eyes, Esmerelda’s pouting expression said it all.  Submissive for now, Xavier and Jacques provided a masterful fuck of Esmerelda’s taut holes.  On all fours, the ebb and flow of rigid girth and heat penetrated her anus and vagina with the perfect timing of a metronome.  Each thrust flicked her razor sharped bobbed hair.  Their muscular bodies strained to hold her. 

At the hips, the grip of Xavier’s hands held her tight.  Clasping her slender arms, Jacques tried to still her body.  The swing of her breasts grazed her erect nipples against his prone torso.  At the apex of each thrust, she defiantly pushed back to meet the next.  Soft words, barely above that of a whisper demanded more.  This battle of attrition would be fun if the men had much to lose.  Incapable of achieving climax, Esmerelda engaged in a battle of physical strength.  She had the measure of both of them and Harry loved her for it. 

Esmerelda’s eyes refused to wander from the man she loved.  Straddling Harry in reverse, Simone’s arms locked behind her.  Her slender thighs provided the spirited motive power and Esmerelda devoured the display.  Fixated on Harry’s meaty erection, she watched it fuck her.  Esmerelda longed to suck on Simone’s swollen clitoris and sent her into ecstasy.

Simone felt her intuition and goaded Esmerelda with nimble fingers that grazed that hardened nub.  Squeezing Harry’s implacable muscle harder, she forced out a litany of his gruffest moans.  Offering her wet fingers, Esmerelda greedily sucked the musky essence.  Simone watched, she knew what Esmerelda really wanted there.

Her two charges groaned and their bodies collided against hers in an effort to contain her.  Their sinews tightened to hold her firm.  Delicately at first, Esmerelda’s eyes closed and she trembled.  Her mouth open, her features softened, and her limbs trembled.  Her core pulsed and lurched to release the tension.  Racing forth, a full-blooded orgasm rose quickly and she trashed through her thighs into her body.  With a warbling cry of relief, they both impaled her completely.  Under the spell of Delilah’s enchantment, they kept upon her and gave no quarter.  Alternating their meaty girths into her convulsing holes, he yelped in its thrall until her tremors eased. 

Delilah purred, “Again Esmerelda?  You filthy minx.”

Biting her bottom lip, Esmerelda struggled to speak, “It’s so… good…” and groaned loudly.

“I want to watch you cum again,” quipped Harry.

Esmerelda dissolved into breathless cycle of yelps and moans. 

Turning to face him, Simone looked into Harry’s determined eyes.  The tortuous spring in her thighs goaded him and massaged every inch of his girth.  Pink apple cheeks and a rash of arousal mottled on her torso betrayed the pleasure she felt.  Her breasts taut against her slight frame felt his touch and he teased her puckered nipples.  Leaning forwards, she pressed his shoulders down.  Harry responded with a pulse of his hips that impaled her.

“Harder,” she commanded.

Repeating these full length thrusts, her mouth opened and rushed breaths caressed his damp skin.  Two delicate hands replaced his own and clasped her breasts; Avila’s sultry eyes stared back at him.  Aflame and full of mischief, she dipped in to kiss Simone’s neck.  Her lithe body responded immediately and Harry plundered her wanton sex.

Gazing at him, Simone heavy-lidded eyes looked into his, “You bastard.”

Harry flashed his eyebrows and her eyes flickered and closed.  Avila’s caress of Simone’s face brought their lips together.  She teased and sucked on her lips softly; her fingers slid into her damp hair to hold her in place.  Grazing together, she demanded a deep, passionate kiss.  Distracted, Harry sawed his entire length into her, tip to hilt.  Stifling her whimpers as their tongues danced against each other, Avila plucked at her erect nipples.  Instinctively, Simone writhed faster and Harry met her body with perfect timing.

Skilful fingers on Simone’s clitoris broke the impasse and they conspired together to push Simone beyond the limits of her self-control.  A hot tightening vice closed around his girth and Harry cannoned into her.  The slap of his body upon her lifted her hips at the apex of every thrust.  Rushed air whistled through her nostrils as their steely gaze met. 

Collapsing into his arms, he rolled her weakened body and went for the kill.  Horizontal, she wrapped her calves around the back of his thighs and her arms clung to his back.  Relentlessly, his animated body fed on the fierce heat and velvet friction.  A frenzy of sinew and muscles, she compelled him to deliver nothing less.  Tense convulsions built, until a full muscular contraction undulated and squeezed his entire length.  Exploding upon him, she gripped him tightly and shuddered.  Wailing for air, she convulsed uncontrollably and Harry maintained his merciless tempo.

Witnessing it all, the intense wails of Esmerelda’s climax mixed with Simone’s.  Glancing to Delilah, Harry felt her demands for the heft of his erection inside her boiling sex. 

Lost in the glow of blissful contentment, Harry looked upon Simone’s flushed countenance.  He slowed to a stop; her sultry eyes flashed at his and reciprocated his smile.

 “Touché  Now, I want your lover.”.

Automatically, he flexed strongly inside her.  Her mouth pouted with a gasp and he kissed her passionately.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

The elegant mantel clock chimed the hour through the torpid musk scented air.  Harry could not recall the time, many times its delicate peals called the quarter hour.  Teetering at the precipice of delirium, Harry groaned as they tortured him.  Malleable to suggestion, he indulged the whims of Delilah’s intuition.  Prone and her legs open, Delilah stared resolutely into his eyes.  Esmerelda laid alongside her, teasing her with soft kisses and a mischievous caress.

Rising to meet each thrust, Harry embraced her calve against his torso.  Cleaving her bare sex, each full lunge provoked a gasp of pleasure.  She steered his length to that spot and writhed softly.  Three times, she found deliverance in orgasms of rising intensity.  Each time, she demanded more from Esmerelda and Harry’s febrile body.  Esmerelda’s lips ensconced her nipple and her sighs wavered.  The delicate caress of her fingertips hovered on her smooth pubis, ready to pounce again.

He felt the last embers of Delilah’s ardour ignite and looked to Esmerelda.  Her eyes sparkled and with a casual flick of her fingers, teased her clitoris.  Their lips met and he felt her body melt into the kiss.  Their two bodies melded together, the crush of her breasts against each other incited Harry into another lusty thrust from his lips.

Delilah’s eyes flickered and he struggled to contain her animated body as it flexed in stronger undulations.  Avila joined in, her mouth nuzzled her neck, and her hand groped tenderly at her breast.  Throwing her head back, she trembled through her abdomen and into her legs.  The three of them pounced, kisses, fingers, and Harry’s erection all provoked her profound response.

He clasped her leg strongly as she lunged upwards and curved her back.  Sliding against that place, she stuttered as Avila and Esmerelda’s mouths sucked on her nipples.  Stirring at her clitoris, Avila stoked the pressure inside her to its tensile maximum.  Harry felt it; he bucked his entire length into her with a merciless, solid tempo.

A croak signalled the escalating waves of Delilah’s orgasm.  Tightening with the strength of a wound spring, her body tensed with tiny tremors that crunched her body tight.  Its release, jagged and coarse forced out a deep growl that took them all by surprise.  Flailing before them, no-one relented until Delilah’s arched her back high and then collapsed to thrash hard.  Fully squeezing his length, Harry’s groans mixed with Delilah’s squeals through the storm of her climax.

They all nursed her tenderly as she shook in ever diminishing waves.  Slowly, Delilah’s flickering eyes opened, she gazed upon Harry, and he felt the soothing warmth of her intuition.  Harry slowed instinctively as Delilah luxuriated in the glow of a rich, rewarding climax.

Avila smiled, “I need some more of that,” she kissed Delilah softly, “Where’s Xavier?”

Undaunted, Harry maintained his louche pace.  He needed a little time, time to recover from the ardent push and shove.  His muscles heavy lacked his earlier grace; he looked to Delilah and smiled.  Avila’s noisy yelps signalled that she had found Xavier’s energetic body. 

Esmerelda looked at Harry and kissed his lips softly. 

“Are you ready Harry, you feel fit to burst?” asked Delilah.

“Yes… yes I am.”

She purred, “I am merciful aren’t I?”

Harry groaned, “Yes… yes you are.”

Delilah smiled wryly, “Yes, I am.” 

Drenched by his exertion, Harry frowned and the commotion from the other side of the room distracted him.  Xavier extricated himself from between Avila’s legs.  Simone’s nimble hand completed the rout and he ejaculated vehemently all over their breasts.  Avila’s skilful grasp of Jacques’ penis spilled his seed all over their breasts too.  Aiden and Raphael stood before another two devotees, groaned heavily, and found themselves relieved of their essence too.

Harry’s eyes widened as the heat through his core rose like wildfire.  Esmerelda and Delilah exchanged a knowing look and smiled at him welcomingly.

“Your turn,” whispered Esmerelda.

She rose and knelt behind him; her tender caress tormented the tight bulge of his full testes.  Peppering soft kisses along his shoulder to his neck, her fingers teased his nipple. 

She nuzzled his ear, “Cum Harry, cum all over her body.”

The soft lilt of her whisper carried a spell of its own.  Once fluid muscles seized slowly and the telltale swell of his girth prompted Delilah to push him back.  The deft grip of Esmerelda’s hand took over.  She stroked his penis slowly to aggravate his need for release. 

Delilah lent up, ready for his gift, her outstretched hand disappeared between his legs.

“No need Delilah, I’ve got this one,” purred Esmerelda with a soft giggle.

Harry felt it; a solitary finger rubbed his anus and the tip pressed in.  Skewering him, his electrified body trembled animatedly with a rising groan.  Delilah’s outstretched arms braced Harry against her, against her; two thumbs grazed each of his nipples.

She looked into his eyes expectantly, “Cum for us Harry, I want to feel your tribute.”

“Yes, I want you to ejaculate Harry, paint her breasts with it.” muttered Esmerelda perfunctorily, “I want to lick it off them and taste you.”

Esmerelda’s finger found his prostate and caressed it softly.  His defeated groan signalled his complete surrender.  His torso lunged hard for air.  In mere seconds, the subtle nonchalance of her wrist and finger took on the power to despatch his essence easily.

“Yes, you are so swollen and hard, cum for us,” whispered Esmerelda.

With a terrific groan, Esmerelda released her grasp of his shaft as the heat of hot lava convulsed through his loins.  His untouched penis twitched powerfully and a volley of pearly white sperm splashed Delilah’s breasts and neck.  Esmerelda pressed her finger against his prostate again and another volley of his essence erupted violently from him. 

Harry roared at such blessed relief; his body weakened with each spasm from his loins.  He pulsed repeatedly until Esmerelda drained him down to the last drop.

Staring into Delilah’s eyes, she devoured his look of incredulity.

“Enjoy that?” sniggered Delilah inspecting the long streaks of sperm on her breasts.

He could not answer as his body trembled and they laughed playfully.  With a gentle caress of his face, Esmerelda kissed him tenderly.

“Go clean yourself up, pour yourself a drink, and watch the women at play for a while.  We’ll be calling upon again eventually.”

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

They slept where they fell.  As Harry awoke, Esmerelda nuzzled against his naked torso.  Staring up at the damask canopy of the grand four-poster bed, he let his mind wander.

Once they despatched their coded message, they were surprised how easily it found willing correspondents.  Exchanging more details, he encoded more instructions on how to travel to the sanctuary of Delilah’s home.  The number of responses troubled them all.  It worried them as much as the conspiracy to end Carshalton’s dominion over them.

Yet the Cremorne made its intent clear.  It was a simple choice for him, defeat Carshalton, or Carshalton won by default.  If he did nothing, he would have to leave Esmerelda and jeopardise her survival.  The Cremorne’s enchantment would end and he could not remain with the fellowship.

Simone made the short journey from Paris and was the first to arrive.  The interception of her message made all of this possible.  A lithe redhead with delicate features and wild green eyes, she explained her purpose – The Registrar of Devotees.  For six weeks, she awaited the intent of the Cremorne after her communion with Jacques.

Esmerelda and Delilah asked after a few names they remembered from an age ago, they were no more.  Harry could not ignore their look of concern mixed with disappointment.  Simone explained that some simply drifted away, unwilling to maintain their relationship with the Cremorne.  Carshalton may have caught up with the rest.

An anger surged through Esmerelda suffused with a profound sense of loss.  Witnessing her tears of sorrow, if he had any lingering doubts, they disappeared at that moment.

Looking into her records, Simone explained that many left a last message to say as much and this accounted for nearly thirty of them.  Tired of running and hiding, she concluded they would rather live in mortal peace than everlasting fear.  Carshalton would assume their power. 

Many succumbed during the conflagrations that engulfed Europe twice in the twentieth century and twenty did not survive.  Again, he would assume their power.

They all feared that Carshalton picked some off too.  Simone could not be sure of how many, nearly thirty-five simply stopped sending messages.  This troubled Delilah greatly; she feared his strength might overwhelm her as their Guardian. 

As the others made their way to Delilah’s home, the four of them honed their ideas on how they would deal with Carshalton.  Over dinner, Delilah laughed at the notion of plotting a murder and Esmerelda responded resolutely that they were going to avenge lost friends. 

He reminded them all; he would need to be the one to commit the act.  The notion disturbed him; this was different from an invisible act of enchanted power.  This would be physical, tangible and attract unwanted attention.  If he failed, he faced incarceration or worse.

Esmerelda had to know if Carshalton ever conversed with Simone or the fellowship.  For Simone this was the worst aspect, his silence.  A long time ago, she encountered Carshalton and escaped, there were many unsuccessful attempts by him to capture devotees.  They communed and shared their experiences; he had a particular modus operandi.  Simone and the others had mastered how to run.  She had her own questions on how Esmerelda and Delilah mastered the ability to hide.

He smiled as he recalled Delilah’s words, “In plain sight darling, it’s the best way.  He thinks we left for the New World a century ago.”

Lying in bed, Harry rubbed the sleep from his eyes.  As an ally, Simone had a capable and sharp mind.  As a sanguine reunion, they overwhelmed their melancholia with happiness.  Delilah brought levity and regaled funny stories of their adventures together.  As one of Esmerelda’s first inductees, Harry congratulated her eye for the sublime, he found Simone irresistible.

As more people arrived, it confirmed what Simone knew.  They arrived from Europe, the Americas, and Australasia.  Assembled under one roof, each needed answers; each had questions of devotees forgotten in time.

Of the ninety-seven given the enchanted Cremorne, twelve devotees remained.  Together with Delilah, Esmerelda, and Harry, this was the last of the fellowship.

For the first time in over one-hundred and fifty years, they assembled under one roof.  Understanding the reason for being here destroyed many misconceptions and rekindled old friendships.  Despite the circumstances, for those three days, it was one hell of a party.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

Placing his coffee cup down, a scream from the kitchen startled Harry and everyone else.  Simone looked to Xavier and together, they ran to the kitchen.  They pulled on the shocked housekeeper’s hand as she stood by the doorway frozen with shock.  Dragging her into the hallway, they pressed on the closed door and Xavier turned the key in the lock.

“There’s... there’s someone in the cellar!” screamed the housekeeper.

“Allez maintenant!” yelled Simone.

Throwing pairs of shoes into the drawing room, they scrambled to put them on.  Jacques opened the front door and peered skittishly around.

“Allons-y!” he bellowed down the hallway.

Avila, Simone, the housekeeper, and two others were the first out; the housekeeper kept screaming.

Harry looked to Esmerelda and kissed her quickly, “For luck.”

“I love you Harry.”

Harry nodded, “I love you too.  Wait in the porch with Delilah and call the Police.  Make sure everyone gets out and send them up the crescent.  I’m going to try, hold him back and win us some time.”

Delilah looked at Harry, “Good luck.”

He nodded, “Thanks.”

A looming figure in the smoked glass of the kitchen door rattled the handle.

“Harry!” screamed Esmerelda.

Aiden and Xavier led the rest to the front door; Raphael lingered for a moment.

“Go!” demanded Harry.  “Protect the women, stay with them!”

With more urgency, the handle turned and the door rattled in its frame.  Moments later, a stifled bang splintered the door and its key clattered onto the tiled floor.  Harry stole himself against the wall of the drawing room, close to the doorway out of view.  Hinges creaked as soft footsteps grew louder.  Rushing blood pulsed in his ears, his mouth dried and he began to tremble.  Another footstep and the barrel of the revolver came into view followed by an arm.

Harry lurched forward and seized his wrist.  Surprised at how light Carshalton’s arm felt, he lifted it upwards.

“Looking for me you CUNT!” blazed Harry.

Face-to-face with Carshalton, he stared into his dark malevolent eyes and felt their intensity burrow into his soul.  Sensing his opportunity, Carshalton struggled back forcefully.  Summoning all of his rage, Harry countered his other arm.  Harry grabbed each wrist firmly and they tussled. 

The roar of the gun thundered through the hallway and Carshalton pinned him against the wall.  A high-pitched whine in his ears reduced Harry’s primal roar to a muffled noise.  Braced against the wall, Harry pushed Carshalton backwards. 

Tipping him off balance, Harry released his grasp of Carshalton’s arm.  He snarled viscerally and struck him with a full-bloodied punch to the face.  Nothing prepared Harry for the searing heat of excruciating pain.  Feeling Carshalton’s knees go, he released his other arm and watched him fall. 

In a crumpled heap, Carshalton laid on his side.  Harry kicked him sharply in the gut and it seemed to knock the air out of him.  He kicked him again and this time it angered him.  He watched him roll to reveal the gun still in his hand.  Looking into his rage-filled eyes, Harry ran for the front door.

He winced when Delilah grabbed his hand.  Esmerelda slammed the door closed and the doorknocker rattled loudly. 

“Go!” he shouted.

Already, a small gathering of concerned passers-by congregated close to the house. 

“RUN!  There’s a maniac with a gun, call the Police,” bellowed Harry.

Hand-in-hand, they ran from the house.  The alarmed bystanders all ran in the same direction.  Shouting and screaming, they gathered others and they fled too.  Running along the tree-lined pavement flanked by houses and parked cars; it provided precious little cover

In the distance, Harry spied the other devotees still running.  A loud bang added to the panic and the rattle of debris struck the parked car in front.  Esmerelda screamed and they ducked behind a car.  The acrid smell of hot metal and brickdust filled his nostrils.  A tumult of more screams and shouting echoed along the street.  Tyres scrabbled on the road as cars screeched to a halt.

Harry looked to the house less than a hundred yards away and Carshalton stood at the open front door, one hand holding his stomach.  The stationary cars in the road provided enough cover for them to move.

“Run!” barked Harry.

Sheltered in a side street, against a brick wall, he hoped that passer-by might call the Police.  Running past a parked van, it denied Carshalton a clear shot.  Gripping their hands tightly, Harry felt no pain.  The long crescent was a daunting run without the encumbrance of Esmerelda and Delilah in tow.  His legs felt light and strong and no-one struggled to match his pace.  Looking ahead, he could not see the others in the distance.

Glancing behind, the black dressed figure of Carshalton chased after them.

“Run faster, he’s coming!” shouted Harry.

“I know!” squealed Delilah.

With nearly half a mile remaining, it was a lot of ground to cover.  They approached the sweeping bend of the crescent and the summer heat took its toll.  Passing a cul-de-sac, he felt a tug on his arm; Esmerelda was tiring.  Harry glanced behind and slowed a little to make sure; he could not see Carshalton.

He wondered if Carshalton had to stop because he kicked him hard, Harry feared he had a car.  A large truck parked tightly against the pavement provided the perfect opportunity to wait, just in case.  They dipped behind it and hunkered down.

“Okay, okay.  Catch your breath for a minute.”

Seconds felt like hours as they took hungry breaths of air.  He crouched low and kept watch; the road looked deserted.  Still no sign of Carshalton and the need to rendezvous with the others in the park felt more pressing than ever.  A crunch of gravel under his foot startled them both.  Flustered and tired, their ashen faces and wide eyes conveyed a deep sense of fear.

“How far now?” he asked.

“Down… down there,” panted Delilah, “three minutes perhaps… at a… at a decent pace.”

Harry demurred, “Okay, ready?”

They nodded solemnly.

“Let’s go.”

Running down the long side road, the wide mews of stout white houses flanked the park entrance. 

“Keep going…” gasped Delilah.

“I… I.. I don’t think I can… I can run this fast for much further,” pleaded Esmerelda breathlessly.

Harry made out the writing on the black plaque and felt a sense of relief.  The dense tree-lined entrance beckoned, they were only moments from their rendezvous with the others.

A sharp sense of horror arrested him in his tracks.  At the park entrance, Dominic Carshalton loomed into view.  They felt his menacing presence and his tall, lean figure stood between them and safety.

“Oh God!” wailed Esmerelda.

Harry pulled on their arms, “Get behind me!”

Walking confidently with a hint of swagger, the glint of his revolver caught the bright mid-day sun.  Moving closer, Harry felt the seething malevolence of Carshalton’s intuition coursing through him. 

Harry lurched forwards with his fists clenched, “Come on then!  I’ll fuck your shit up properly this time!”

“Stop!”  His deep tone demanded complete obedience.

Harry’s muscles calcified as a crushing pressure made him reel.  The voraciousness of Carshalton’s intuition ransacked his mind. 

“You’ll do what Coulter?  We are not in that whorehouse now.”

Harry bawled as it tore deeper and held his head to stop it splitting in two.

“I… said… I’ll… fuck… your… shit… up… properly… this… time.”

Screaming loudly, Harry doubled up in unbridled agony.

Carshalton laughed, “Really?  No, you are about to die.  Look at me.”

Harry shook his head.

“LOOK AT ME!”

Harry howled as his back straightened involuntarily.  It forced his hands to his sides and straightened his neck.  A loud fluttering in his deafened ears would not dissipate; it ravaged his defective hearing.

The deep pulsating noise grew in volume and Harry watched Carshalton lift the gun and take aim.  The muffled sound of boots stomped closer to where they stood.

The honk of microphone feedback rang uncomfortably in his ears, “ARMED POLICE!  ARMED POLICE!  DROP THE WEAPON!  DROP THE WEAPON NOW!”

Harry stared down the barrel of the gun and with all his might; he stared into Carshalton’s eyes.

“You lose you cunt, see you in hell.”

He knew Carshalton would pull the trigger.

A muffled shriek and a robust motive force pushed Harry sideways.  The horizon tilted as he fell and a dull thud echoed around the street.  He heard the stifled sounds of sharp cracks far off in the distance as everything went black.  Moments later, a single loud bang punctured the air and another ripple of cracks followed. 

Struggling to open his bleary eyes, he saw Delilah and Esmerelda on the ground too.  Colours washed out and amidst the chaos of silhouettes running; there was silence.

Everything faded to grey and went black.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

A bump shook him and his eyes opened.  Slow to focus, Harry blinked at the fluorescent tubes above him.  The rising and falling wail alarmed him into consciousness; his ears still rang with a low-pitched whine.  He panicked and scrabbled to remove whatever covered his mouth.  Howling for the sterile smelling air, it took down deep breaths.

“Hey, hey! It’s okay, it’s okay,” her assertive tone did nothing to placate him.

There was only one question in Harry’s mind, “Where’s Delilah and Esmerelda?”

“Sssh!  No need to shout.  It’s okay, you are safe now.  What’s your name first?”

“Harry Coulter.”

“Date of birth?”

“Ninth of December Nineteen-Eighty-Five.”

Harry batted away the mask in her hand, “Please, I need to know they are okay? The two women I was with?”

A kindly face came into view, feminine and assertive, “Yes, they’re in the other ambulance, badly shaken up but they’ll be okay.”

Harry’s body relaxed and he swallowed, “Thanks.”

“You’ve been out cold for twenty minutes.  You’re in shock with a minor concussion.  The Police said you hit the deck hard.”

“I… I don’t need the oxygen, just let me breathe okay?”

“Sure.  We’re taking you to hospital to check you over.  You’re going to be okay.”

Harry eyes widened, “And that… that man?  What happened to him?”

“Don’t worry about him,” she paused, “he’s not going to be troubling you again.”

“Did… did they get him?”

There was a pause; he sensed an uncomfortable one and a thought of sadness.  Harry wondered if he should ask again.

“Yeah… he’s dead.”

Freed from his burden, Harry closed his eyes and felt weightless.  He soared as if in flight and a cool zephyr wind rushed over his bare skin.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

Sat in the drawing room, Esmerelda placed down the tray and poured out cups of tea.  They watched Delilah gaze in the mirror at the diminishing gravel burn on her face.  Despite all of their reassurances over the last few days, she remained unconvinced.

“It is healing up nicely Delilah,” offered Harry.

She moved closer to the mirror, “Did you really have to blast us quite so hard Esmerelda?”

Sitting alongside Harry, Esmerelda handed him his cup and saucer, “This again? What was I to do? We all knew he would pull the trigger.  I had to wait until he was just about to.  Do you know how difficult it is to keep that pent up inside?  There was no second chance.”

Delilah huffed, “You concussed your boyfriend.”

“Fiancé now,” retorted Esmerelda politely.

Harry gripped Esmerelda’s hand tighter.

“Fiancé,” Delilah tutted, “I had to have three bits of gravel picked out of my cheek.  You are lucky it will not scar.  But I admit it is healing well.”

“They were tiny,” scoffed Harry, “I made a miraculous recovery Delilah, I’m sure you will too.”

“Chapter One-Hundred-and Four,” they muttered in unison.

They all giggled as Harry shrugged, “They checked me over, and had to let me go that evening.  The doctor muttered something about being very resilient.”

Delilah huffed, “Yes, mine said I was tougher than old boots.  Shame, he was quite cute up until that point.”

They laughed loudly.

“The Police asked plenty of questions though,” stated Delilah plainly.  “Harry, showing them your order book and the notion of a disgruntled anonymous buyer for the Cremorne was a masterstroke.  When you presented it to them and your admission that you decided not to sell.  They looked convinced; you provided the perfect means, motive, and opportunity.  Esmerelda was implicated because it was her bookshop and me, well, I am her silent partner.”

Simone sipped at her drink, “It was a good plan non?”

They all glared at her for a moment and Harry nodded cautiously, “Yes, it was.  Very risky though.  We did not make it to the Park either.  We were lucky the Police arrived when they did.”

Esmerelda and Delilah muttered in agreement.

“Murder by proxy,” Harry added, “very clever.”

They nodded in agreement.

He took a sip of tea, “When Delilah put the Luger on the dining table that first night you were here Simone, she knew I would never pull the trigger.”

Delilah span on her kitten heels, “I did not need to read your mind to understand that.”

He pondered for a moment, “I never did ask, where exactly did you get that gun?”

Delilah moved to sit in her usual armchair, “Nineteen Thirty-Seven, a reception at the German Embassy.  I had just finished fucking his brains out when I saw it there on his desk.  I needed the protection in those days.  London was a dangerous place.”

Extending a finger, he pointed with a look of disbelief, “You… you shagged a Nazi?”  Harry blew out his cheeks, “Jesus!”

Affronted, Delilah lent forwards, “Wehrmacht actually, a colonel, massive cock.”  She paused, “He had a great penis too.  He’s still one of my all-time top ten fucks.”

Taking a sip of tea, she shrugged, “I wonder what happened to him.”

Simone lent forwards too, “This is how I knew Carshalton had a gun, his service revolver.  He came looking for me in Nineteen Forty-Five in Paris.  When he saw me with that dreadful gun of his, I hid.  He started shooting indiscriminately too.  Even now, I do not know how I escaped.  One look into his eyes and he can follow you, not for long but long enough.  The Gendarmerie arrived and that scared him away.”

Harry looked perturbed and Esmerelda comforted him, “It’s okay, he’s not coming back.  They shot him several times; he was foolish to fire his gun a second time.”

“Foolish for him, fantastic luck for us,” quipped Delilah, “Hubris, the pride that blinds.”

“His intuition led him to his downfall,” Esmerelda added.  “I felt it and he had no sense of control, just when he needed it most.”

Harry nodded, “I felt it, it was truly vile, he just stood there and pandered to it.”  He shuddered, “To think, that could have been me doing that to someone, it does not bear thinking about.”

Esmerelda put her arm around him, “No, that is not you and never will be.  You have fulfilled the Cremorne’s intent and a momentous one at that.”

With a vacant expression, he stopped for a moment. 

Looking to Delilah, she smiled at him, and he lifted a finger to her, “So, what now?  How long do you think it will take to get used to him not being around?”

Delilah sat back and opened her palms, “You tell us, you have fulfilled the Cremorne’s intent.  You will be rewarded.”

He tutted, “No reward yet.”

Simone added, “I have yet to understand its intent from my thirtieth circuit too.  Might it be gone for good?”

“I don’t know, maybe.”  Harry pondered for a moment, “There are so few of us, and its antagonist is dead.  Maybe, we resolved the Cremorne’s reason to exist.  The devotees were created to dilute its power, now he is no longer here, maybe we are no longer needed too?”

“Not so, we have its powers still so maybe it has not left.”  Simone looked quizzically at Delilah, “Can you feel it still?”

Delilah nodded vacantly, “Oh yes, I’m still in charge.”

“It’s a shame everyone else had to go home,” added Esmerelda, “They gave their side of the story to the Police and they had to leave, everyone has jobs to go back to.  Funny really, blessed with immortality, yet back to the nine to five.  I miss them already.”

Delilah sniggered, “Oh they’ll be back, I can sense it.”  She fidgeted in her chair, “I admit I’d forgotten what a great combination Xavier, Raphael and Aiden are.  Simone, you have a great talent too.”

Bashfully, Simone smiled, “I promise I’ll be more gentle next time.”

The unmistakable fire in Delilah’s eyes escaped nobody, “Fancy being more gentle now?”

Simone purred, “Mmm, I don’t know.  I want some more of what Harry has got.  He drove me wild.”

Harry and Esmerelda looked to each other; her eyes sparkled as she smiled.

“Err, no enchanting anything this time.” Harry pleaded, “You guys nearly kill me when you do that.  I’ve had enough brushes with death for a while.”

“Who said I would?” admonished Delilah playfully, “Besides, we might just want you to watch and not take part.  You are assuming a great deal Harry.”

He looked concerned and Delilah laughed, “You are going to beg to be enchanted after an hour… or two.  You destroyed Dominic Carshalton, you do not want our gratitude?”

He smiled and raised an eyebrow, “Okay, maybe a little bit of enchantment.  If Simone plays gentle, you can play gentle, right?”

“And who said I would be gentle Harry?” chimed Esmerelda, her voice low and sultry, “I’m very grateful for what you have done.”

Her hand moved between his legs, Harry gulped on his tea and spluttered.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

A solitary nightingale warbled through the wide-open windows of the bedroom.  Relaxing on the expansive bed, they enjoyed its rich lively tones in contented silence.  Naked and sated, they let the soft warm air soothe their tired bodies.  Simone laid in Delilah’s arms as Esmerelda rested on Harry’s chest, her arm draped across him.

Delilah broke their reverie, “Harry, you are right, it is going to take getting used to.”

“I opened those windows, such a little thing but so important.”

“Symbolic,” added Esmerelda.

“Delilah?” enquired Simone, ”Could I ask you something?  Maybe later?”

“Yes, you can stay for as long as you want.  Yes, I am very fond of you and want you to stay.”

She huffed peevishly, “How did?” and huffed again, “Huh, of course, good, I am fond of you too.”

Esmerelda sniggered, “Come on Simone, she is the Guardian.  We are very fond of you too.  Harry?”

Harry looked a little lost in a post-coital haze, “Yes, very fond of you.”

“Esmerelda?” enquired Delilah.  “Have you got a maid of honour for your wedding?”

“What’s the matter Delilah?  You cannot read my mind?”

Delilah snorted, “Yes, I can but I thought I would ask first.”

“Of course you are my maid of honour, nothing too much though for the ceremony, just something simple and elegant.  Harry and I are going to work in my bookshop together too.”

Delilah snorted again, “The ceremony is yours.  We are gathering the fellowship for a party at Club Babylon, the fuck of the century.  We’ll find a few mortals to spice it up a bit.”

Harry put his hand up, “I’m going to need that enchantment thing again.  Christ, you ladies are needy.”

Delilah purred, “I know Harry, I know.  That is because you are a superlative fuck.”

“Top ten maybe?”

“Do not push your luck.  Have you given some thought about who will be your best man?”

“Yes Delilah, Raphael.  I like him, we got on like a house on fire when he was here.”

“Good choice, you might make top ten if you take a few pointers from him.”

“Charming!”

They giggled and looking at his faux exasperated expression, they all laughed.

The thin muslin curtains caught the breeze and the delicate floral scents of summer permeated the room.  Billowing strongly, Delilah noticed that a mist permeated the room.  The birdsong grew louder in volume and captivated their attention.  Looking to each other, they all felt it and sat up in the bed.  Imbued with a sense of peace, their intuitions soothed them.  The fog took form and the unmistakable definition of a naked woman appeared before them. 

“Sweet Jesus!” exclaimed Harry under his breath.

“No Harry, wrong gender,” muttered Delilah.

Majestically, the manifestation took shape and a beautiful face smiled at them serenely.  Long trestled locks flowed slowly on its ethereal plain.  The limbs of her exquisite body moved with poise and grace.  Walking amongst them, she moved effortlessly in textures of lush silvers and greys. 

She gestured to the open window and looked at each of them in turn.

“This is my happy song of vengeance; enjoy this for you are blessed.  I come to reward your courage and faith.  You vanquished a heinous falsehood and removed a dark stain on our character.  You are free from malevolence and unshackled from fear; you are strong and powerful.  Be joyous and happy, I will enchant each of you with the full canon of my grace.  No more are you bound to discover the power of our enchantment, your journey is complete.  You are the most blessed of all.

Go forward and rebuild my fellowship of one hundred devotees.  Care for them and enrich them with our teachings.

Guardian, protect them and lead them to righteousness.  Judge them if they err.

Muse, tell your new story, and imbue it with my enchantment.  Teach your spells to the most blessed.

Redeemer, keep my devotees true to my teachings.  If they experience conflict, guide them by example.

Registrar, maintain the fellowship of our brethren.  When they are doubtful, give them hope.

All of you be unafraid to enjoy the bounties of my gifts.  Live in the way that I taught you and nothing else.  Blessed are you, sacred and inviolable for ever more.”

She smiled warmly as the vision cleared.

“Mon dieu,” gasped Simone.

It sounded so light and carefree as Delilah laughed; its unbridled elation spoke for all of them.  Harry tried to recall the painful emotions from the last few days and felt nothing but ambivalence. 

‘He’ was gone, all of his venom and hate demoted to a footnote in history.  ‘He’ existed only as a minor factual memory devoid of any sentiment – for all of them. 

Looking into Esmerelda’s eyes, they sparkled brightly with a wide smile on her face.  He knew she had found the simple peace from an age of innocence many years ago.  Harry felt it too; she pulled him close and embraced him tightly.  He felt the outpouring of a love founded on hope and tempered with the deep understanding of each other.  In that moment, Harry knew he would always strive to be worthy of it.

“Thank you, I am free at last, free at last to love the way I am meant to.”  Esmerelda squeezed him a little tighter, “I choose you Harry.  Will you love me forever?”

The words fell from his lips with ease, “Yes, yes I will, forever.”

The birdsong quietened and all of their intuitions fused into a moment of crystal clarity.

The Cremorne was complete and a new story would begin - theirs.

- FIN -

 

 

 

 

 

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