That was why I was up at daybreak on a gloomy Monday morning, trudging down to the boathouse in my Wellies and plastic mac. I knew Evan wouldn't rest until he'd proved for himself I was lying my head off, so whatever it was in the tomb, I had to find out fast.
Despite knowing it was pretty much in the middle of the wood, it still took me ten minutes to locate it again, the moans I'd heard before sending shivers down my spine as I stood outside the darkened entrance.
My rather tentative query floated into the darkness, plainly issuing from someone whose knees were shaking quite badly. The moans stopped abruptly, though the chain-rattling intensified if anything. I waited for fifteen seconds or so but there was no reply
and I didn't know whether that reassured me, or made me even more nervous.
I nearly ran away again, though a quick clamping-down made sure I didn't wet myself this time. The voice had been big; deep and sonorous, like a bass singer speaking into a huge bell. It wasn't human, for sure. There was something else, too it was plainly begging, not demanding; I couldn't help it it tore at my insides, almost pulling me towards the entrance with its compelling persuasiveness. Even so I hesitated; not surprisingly perhaps, but I knew that if I did run away as I undoubtedly should, then I'd never know, would I.
I hadn't realized how much my hands were trembling until it took me three goes to tug the torch from my mac pocket. I clicked it on and stepped towards the entrance, nearly dropping it as the rattling from below started up again. It was lucky I was moving very slowly, because the step I was on vanished not three feet into the opening. Almost against my will, I shuffled to the edge and shone the torch downwards, immediately wishing I hadn't.
A coil of winding stone steps covered in twigs and dried leaves descended anti-clockwise around the interior of the building, describing three full turns before reaching the floor
but it was what lay flat on the floor that had me almost falling off the top step in shock. It was disturbingly humanoid in shape, but that was really the only resemblance. The fact that it was chained hand and foot to four stone posts set into a raised concrete base leant some strength to my backbone, though the huge, red eyes that gleamed up at me from deep-set sockets weren't helping.
' it pleaded again, 'I am in pain
I was lost already, I knew. I hated seeing things in pain, usually grabbing frantically for the remote to change the channel if there was something hurt showing. Overdeveloped empathy, Mum called it and I found myself three steps down before I'd even realized I'd moved. I kept the torch focused on whatever the thing was, ready to dash back up the stairs if it showed the slightest signs of life, but only its eyes followed me as I inched my way lower and lower.
Half way down, my nerve failed me. The thing was huge; at least nine feet tall, stretched out in a big X between its tethers like a warped panther. I could see every muscle and tendon in its naked body twitching and tensing as it gazed up at me, frozen against the wall ten feet above its head. It was a deep grey colour all over; hairless head; the palms of its massive, taloned hands and the soles of its clawed feet; even its long, thick penis and leathery scrotum. It didn't have any horns, though the claws, talons and spurs jutting out everywhere were frightening enough. It twisted its broad, corded neck to keep me in sight as I resumed my downward creep, raising its head slowly from the leaf-strewn plinth as I reached the final step. The strange thing about it was that it wasn't exactly ugly, just really weird. I could see the rippling muscles of its stomach contracting as it strained to keep its head up, but its strength failed it and it collapsed again.
'You are young,' it said, quietly. 'You are not he who imprisoned me.'
no,' I said, a bit surprised my dry mouth could even speak. 'My name's David
'Release me, child
I'm scared of you
'With good reason, I assure you
' It hadn't sounded like it was joking. '
Yet I would not harm you.'
'Or my family?' I was still a bit worried about Evan
not to mention Mum and Dad I thought, belatedly.
'He who imprisoned me will die.'
'Who was it?'
'I shall know him
'You'll have to promise
I need some assurance
'You have my word
it's said the devil tells lies, though
It raised its head again, slowly. 'Is that what you imagine me to be
a high lord?'
it says so
it's written over the doorway.'
'No, child.' It lowered its head with a deep sigh. 'I am less exalted.'
who are you
and why are you chained up like this?'
'Release me, and I will tell all.'
you have to tell me first
I've got to know what you are.'
'Do you believe such knowledge might save you, were I of a mind to destroy you?'
I suppose not
but you haven't even told me your name.'
It didn't say anything for quite a while, so I suppose it was considering my questions. It gave me a moment or two to notice other things; like the gate, now lying on the ground beside the plinth and already covered in settling dust. I even felt a bit guilty, thinking it might well have smashed into
whatever it was. Suddenly, I realized what it reminded me of
not that it was shaped liked it exactly, but I couldn't help thinking of one of those stag-beetle things, with the spikes sticking out all over. It was no wonder the thing was in pain, the heavy chains manacled to its limbs drawn taut to the anchor-points in the four stone blocks. Unlike the gate, they didn't seem to be rusted at all, each fist-sized link still gleaming dully.
'I am Icthion. Do you require a boon?'
I almost dropped the torch; not because his reply had startled me, but at the sudden comprehension of the fact that I was going to release him
always provided it was possible of course. Whatever he was, there was no way I could just leave him lying there; I went cold inside, finally understanding that my entire world had changed because of a childish desire to explore.
' I wasn't even going to ask about boons from all the demon movies I'd ever seen, I knew that asking a favour from one always ended in disaster. I inched my way towards the circular platform, climbing warily up the two steps to the top level. I could hear him breathing, slow and deep as I bent over to examine the rough-hewn column chained to his left foot. The attachment was absurdly simple, the chain having merely been doubled through the shackle-pin, with both ends looped over a square metal hook set into the stone. A short length of excess chain hung down almost to the ground, but two goes at trying to lift it one-handed off the hook were enough to convince me it wasn't going to be that easy. I eventually figured out that laying the torch flat on top of the other leg-stone would free both hands and give me enough light to work by, but I still couldn't pull the link more than two inches up the six-inch shaft.
but you're going to have to give me some slack.' My voice still sounded like I'd regressed to puberty, despite a couple of swallows to control it.
'What is slack? Is this a boon?'
you'll have to stretch this leg out a bit more.'
'Then you're going to be stuck here forever
It made no reply, but after a frozen second I sensed it straining and with a scream from him and a gasping grunt from me, the chain clanged to the ground.
'I didn't really mean it
'I understand your motive. Release me.'
I am doing you a favour, you know. Don't you ever say please?' Again he hesitated, eyes narrowing to the point at which I was starting to have second thoughts. Even with one leg virtually free, he was still firmly imprisoned I could stop now if I felt like it. 'After all
' I pointed out, 'you're the one getting the boon.'
'Do you demand this of me?'
' Think fast, David! 'No
it is my gift to you.'
'Should you not then receive a gift in return?'
oh, forget it!'
He frowned again, his eyes closing to gleaming red slits while I tugged the chain through the shackle pin and pulled it free, then came a sigh like a small gale as the iron cuff dropped off his scarred ankle, livid as if from decades of chafing.
The second shackle was child's play in comparison with the other one, but my nerve almost failed me with the first of the manacles. I got it off the hook though, flinching as the chain hit the concrete, because now he was essentially free. I waited for him to bound up, roaring and breathing fire or something, but he just lay there quietly as I pulled the links through to release the handcuff. Even when the last chain rattled loose and the final cuff fell from his wrist, still he didn't move.
after all this time
' He raised his spiky arms slowly, gazing at his wrists and turning them this way and that.
?' That was as far as I got as he suddenly sat up, eyes wide and full of fire with me cringing, thinking I was about to be crisped.
'What year is this?' He rose to his feet, looming up over me, then strode towards the stairs, hissing as his left foot brushed against one of the chains. I watched as he climbed, nearly ricking my neck to follow his progress upwards, three steps at a time. He stopped just below the entrance, looking down at me. 'Do you intend to remain in this lamentable place?'
' I hurried to the stairs, trotting up them quickly at first, but slowing involuntarily as I got closer to him, calling out the date as I did so.
'Then I have lain here for ninety-one years.' He turned, and squeezed out through the doorway into the wood. By the time I'd followed suit, he was nowhere to be seen.
Just as my mood was beginning to lighten, thinking he might have conveniently decided to vanish forever, I found him again, standing on the shore, regarding the boat with deep suspicion. I'd come to a sudden stop on spotting him, but he knew I was there, wondering whether to turn quietly around and head back into the trees.
'Sorry?' His querulous remark hadn't quite reached me. 'Can't you swim? Oh, shit!' I'd suddenly realized there was a naked, nine foot
standing in full view of the upper three stories of the house. I hurried down to the mud-beach to untie the boat, pushing it out a bit before urging him to get in.
'Careful! You'll capsize us! Get down!' I was so worried about someone in the house catching sight of him that the fact I was hassling a being from hell didn't quite register. I was a bit scared as well, because I think I might actually have touched him
just fleetingly, trying to get him to make himself as small as possible. I don't think he liked it much because he hissed, just as he'd done when he'd accidentally brushed against the iron chains. He didn't say anything though; just crouched in the bottom of the boat with his dick dangling unnoticed in the scuppers while I gingerly rowed the extremely overladen craft to the opposite shore. I didn't know whether to giggle or cry and in the end, found myself too busy keeping us level to do either.
it's a nice name,' I puffed, between strokes. 'Where are you from anyway
and why don't you have any clothes?'
'A nice name? What does this mean?'
I mean it's strong
it sounds good, too. It suits you.'
'I am an incubus. I do not require apparel.'
'So you are from hell.'
'My home is Sankara
and I am far from it.'
oops.' The boat had struck muddy bottom some feet from where I'd expected, probably due to being nearly a foot deeper in draft than it had been going the other way. I wasn't going to get too Archimedean, but reckoned that Icthion had to weigh at least half a ton. He clambered out, promptly exposing himself full-frontal to anybody watching from virtually anywhere in the house, faint screams from Mum's bedroom suggesting he'd already been spotted. By the time I'd hauled the boat up the ramp, there were five people on the front lawn, one horizontal, one rather bent over and two teetering a bit, leaving only Evan standing straight and tall. The one lying down was Nellie, who'd fainted, Old Roger doing his best to revive her.
'Morning!' I called, cheerily, quickly changing to a hiss out of the corner of my mouth. 'Hold my hand!'
I was both surprised and shocked when he did. I'd expected heat and instead he was ice-block cold. He wasn't so much holding my hand as my whole lower arm, but I bore the discomfort as we advanced upon an open-mouthed household.
'His name's Icthion,' I said, as we passed by and mostly to Evan, because it looked like he was the only one doing any listening, '
and I think you owe me an apology.'
'I was summoned, against my will; bound by spells and forced to do the bidding of a black magister.' Icthion switched his mug of tea to his left hand and scratched his groin with his right, while everyone else tried not to look. 'There was a conflict between men
you are aware of it
Our hesitant nods prompted him onwards as we finally agreed among ourselves that he meant World War 1.
'The year was 1917. From Germany, they bid me to this place, a visit from a man named George being anticipated. I was to lie with him, suborn him to my will and turn him to their cause.'
'George?' There was a puzzled frown on Dad's face, 'there must have been thousands of Georges. What was so special about this one?'
Icthion shrugged; quite a spectacular sight with hundreds of spikes and spurs going in different directions. 'I do not know, for he did not come, but I believe he too had once been German, from Saxe-Coburg and Gotha
' Mum's eyes were bulging out, 'then
that's got to be
'I know! I know!
' Evan's face had his excited look on it. I suppose we should have guessed what was coming from bitter experience. '
George the Fifth, of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha
before he changed his name to Windsor!
They sent him here to fuck the king!'
As it turned out, Evan was spot on, but it didn't save him from an immediate maternal tongue-lashing. Admittedly; most of it was done long-distance from the kitchen, both Nellie and Mum fully occupied in keeping Icthion fed. He'd already eaten nearly everything in the pantry and Old Roger had been dispatched to the village in the van, with the object of relieving the butcher of most of his meat. Dad'd warned him to keep quiet about our visitor, Old Roger merely looking him up and down for a good five seconds, before stomping off with a disgusted snort.
'I was betrayed,' the incubus explained, 'my arrival expected, planned for and my capture ensured. They questioned me for nigh on a year, but no word passed my lips.' He smiled suddenly, black teeth framing a red, forked tongue. 'Why they assumed me to be German, I cannot say, but nothing was ever said to me in any other language, though I am conversant with many.'
Evan opened his mouth to ask Icthion a question, then tried to change it into advice, getting there just too late to prevent the incubus from eating an entire loaf of sliced bread without first removing the paper wrapping.
'Finally they confined me in that pit, where I remained to this day. My metabolism can be slowed,' he explained, 'I slept for many years.'
'I guess it's well and truly started up again, then,' Evan giggled in my ear as Icthion levered himself up from the protesting lounge and headed for the loo for about the eighth time. 'God, David
'Do I get my apology, then?'
[To be continued.]