Gone. May or may not return.

Age 25
The Misspelled Cyrpt
Seen March 15th, 2014
Posted November 15th, 2013
1,030 posts
9.5 Years
And hast thou slain the Real Life beast?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!
He chortled in his joy.

I'm back, though for how long I cannot say; things are still busy. However, I do have a chapter for y'all, so here it is. We're beginning to get into the meat of the story now. Mmm. Meat.

Chapter Eight: In Which Liza Continues Her Quest, and Pearl is Asked a Difficult Question

'For about two months, the tragedy of the Dennel family was famous throughout the country. In 1939, during a heavy thunderstorm, an unknown murderer chopped and sliced his way through six of the seven members of the family and the four servants. The only survivor, fourteen-year-old Ellen Dennel, escaped into the surrounding forest, where she was stalked and slowly driven insane by a Dustox. Today, the story is forgotten, and all that remains are the ghost stories.'
Erik Mulheim, Things that Lurk in the Dark

...and that's how you do it,” finished Iago, gesturing vaguely with his beer.

Whoa,” I replied, wondering if I was drunk and deciding that I probably was. “I never knew pyramid schemes were so easy.”

He blinked at me blearily.

Well, that's – that's what they say, you know? I mean – it's – I – you know.”

Yeah,” I agreed. “It certainly is.”

So this is where you were,” said Ashley, materialising from nowhere. “I leave you alone for five minutes, Iago...” He shook his head.

In my defence,” replied the Kadabra, with the solemn dignity of a drunk, “it has been twenty-four minutes. And thirteen seconds. Which is quite a while.”

Sober up. Now.”

Fine! But – but you're the oppressor, you know? All you geno – genoci – people who hurt Kadabra.” Iago put his palms on his temples and focused briefly; there was a sound like tearing linen and he sat bolt upright. “Oh. Ow. Man. OK, I'm back.” He glanced at me. “Pearl?”

I'm fine,” I said, getting up to show that I was. “Look.”

Either I wasn't as drunk as I'd thought, or I was a lot better at hiding it, because I didn't sway enough for anyone to catch me out. I suppose it did help that Ashley was ignoring me and had therefore turned his sharp eyes elsewhere, but I think I prefer the explanation that makes me sound better.

You know,” said Iago provocatively as we left, “I think I quite like Pearl. It's been a while since I found anyone who's willing to get drunk with me at a moment's notice.”

Yeah, I thought, I should probably stop doing that. I can't do that sobering-up trick.

Ashley ignored him, and said:

After some small unpleasantness with a faceless bureaucrat, I have traced the vans. They are registered to the Galactic Holding Corporation, which has its offices right here in Eterna.”

So did we actually find out anything new?” Iago asked. “We knew they were here—”

We now know exactly where these offices are,” Ashley replied. “84 Merlot Road.”

If, hypothetically speaking, I hadn't been me at this point, but some sort of omniscient narrator masquerading as a twenty-year-old university student, I might have made a remark about fulfilling a running gag here. But I wasn't, and so I didn't.

Merlot Road, when we got there, turned out to be a long, busy street that ended in a bridge over the River Semma; number eighty-four was a tall, imposing edifice that looked like it had once been intended as a modern office block, but had at some point been seized and worked over by an architect who really should have been confined in a padded cell.

That,” said Iago, staring up at it, “is what I really hate about humans. No taste.”

I agree,” replied Ashley. “Porticoes should not be that tall. Or thin. Nor should they terminate in a swan-necked pediment supporting a gigantic letter G.”

This might have been a second running gag, but I wasn't sure. And I didn't know anyway, not being an omniscient narrator or anything like that.

And those finials aren't even neoclassical,” Iago pointed out. “That's Gothic. Who designed this piece of cal?”

Are you two going to complain all day, or are we going to go in?” I asked.

I'm going to go in,” announced Ashley, and started to make his way around to the back of the building.

I stared after him for a moment.

How can he be so clever and so childish?” I asked Iago.

If I can't understand, then your meagre human brain will never work it out,” he replied. “Come on. We should follow him. I do owe him, after all.”

I thought you paid your seven hundred dollars' debt?” I asked, as we made our way over to a short alley marked 'Tradesmen's' Entrance'.

That was just one debt of many,” Iago replied slowly. “Do you really think I would still be with him if I didn't owe him so much? He might be clever, but he's human. You people are...” He broke off and shook his head. “You have no word for it. Kadabra have a special thinkwave just to describe the nature of humanity. And before you ask,” he added, “thinkwaves that don't exist in Sinnish are literally completely impossible to translate.”

We found Ashley at a little door about five yards down the alley, pressing the button for the intercom.

Hi,” he said, when someone answered. He'd suddenly acquired a Sunyshore accent, I noticed. “This is Dom Simmons of Sledder Pokémon Supplies. Makin' a delivery of food?”

What?” replied the voice from the intercom. “You guys delivered yesterday.”

Yeah, but I bin told to come here,” said Ashley. He really did sound completely different, I thought. “I got forty sacks of feed back here, and I bin told this is where they're goin'—”

But we've receivedthis week's supply—”

I'm gonna need to talk to someone abou' this—”

Fine! I'm sending someone down,” the intercom voice said. “They'll be there in a moment.”

Thanks,” said Ashley, and straightened up.

How did you know that those people deliver here?” I asked him. Then, when there was no answer: “Iago, how did he know?”

The Kadabra pointed to a nearby rubbish bin; it was stuffed to bursting point, and on top could clearly be seen empty industrial-sized bags of Sledder Pokémon Supplies' Patent Meaty Flakes.

OK,” I said, frustrated, “why is it that I only see things after people point them out to me?”

Because you're stupid,” Iago said, as if this were the most obvious thing in the world. “Positively moronic, even— oh, here's the guy.”

The door started to open and a Galactic man began to come out – but Ashley slammed the door hard on his head, and he slumped to the floor.

Is he dead?” I asked nervously.

Who cares?” replied Iago, which wasn't comforting; while he and Ashley climbed over the body and went inside, I checked the Galactic man for a pulse and breath, and was relieved to find both present. Satisfied, I followed them in.

We passed down a corridor unchallenged; the walls were grey and grimy, and I don’t think many people often went there. At the other end was a staircase, which we climbed with suitable caution; when we reached the top, we found ourselves in another, better-kept corridor, with a carpet and everything. Once again, Team Galactic were conspicuous by their absence.

Swanky,” said Iago, running one finger down the wall and scoring a line through the paint. He sniffed at his now-white-tipped claw and nodded appreciatively. “This is good stuff,” he went on. “Won’t fade for a good twenty years.”

Perhaps a long-term operation?” suggested Ashley. “Ah, no matter; we’ll find out.”

What’s that noise?” I asked, and both of them fell silent. There it was, in the distance: a sort of screamysound, with wailing and growling added in for good measure.

It’s coming from over there,” decided Ashley, and strode off down the corridor without actually telling us where he was going.

The hall was lined with doors, as such halls are wont to be, and it was in front of the last of these on the left that we stopped. It seemed Ashley had been right; here, the noises were much louder. I could make them out properly now, and realised they were Pokémon or animal cries: screeches and roars, bellows and moans.

Why would there be so many?” pondered Ashley, and pushed the door open a crack. He set his eye to the gap – and footsteps sounded from around the corner.

I’m quite pleased with what I did next. It was a classic piece of swift, adaptive thinking, worthy of the heroine in a crime drama; I threw myself against Ashley, knocked him through the doorway, dragged Iago in after me and slammed the door, all in a split second. I straightened up, grinned and was about to ask one of those rhetorical questions pertaining to precisely how well I’d handled that when I caught sight of the room’s interior, and my jaw dropped wide open.

Stacked against the walls were cages, and in these cages were Pokémon, each with their ball clipped to the bars. That wasn’t the surprising bit, of course – I had heard them all from outside.

What was surprising was the quantity.

I’d never seen so many Pokémon in one place; there were literally hundreds, stretching out in rows, columns, heaps, into the distance. The room seemed to go on and on, and then on some more until it vanished into infinity; no wonder, I thought, that there was such a cacophony. There must have been over a thousand in there – and they were all sorts, too: Starly, Stunky, Glameow, Buizel – and that was just a fraction of them. I could barely even recognise some, let alone put a name to them.

Jesus,” said Iago. “What poor bratchny has to clean out their cages?”

Ashley gave him a sharp look, so of course I had to laugh.

Silence,” ordered Ashley. “The Pokémon can’t mask all the noise we make.”

You’re talking to me?” I asked, as we started down the aisle between the cages.

Only because there really is no other option,” he replied with a distinctly sour note in his voice. “Now close your mouth and keep it that way.”

Stung, I was about to argue – but then I remembered that we were infiltrating the base of an evil criminal organisation who wanted all three of us dead, and decided that silence was probably the best course of action available to me right now.

That’s better,” said Ashley condescendingly. “Shall we play a game now? We’ll see how long we can go without saying anything.”

I made a rude gesture at him by way of reply; Iago sjirachied and Ashley looked at me, unconcerned.


Hah! You said something!" I pointed out.

Ashley sighed and walked off; Iago shook his head, smiling, and joined me in catching up.


Do you know exactly how stupid you are, Tristan?” asked Liza.

Tristan considered. It was rather a deep sort of question, he thought.

No,” he admitted at length. “But from the question, I’m going to guess... very?”

They were currently on the fast train to Eterna, and had just entered the forest that lay between it and Floaroma; here, the trees had dappled the light, and cast the undergrowth into a fantastical confusion of greens and browns.

A bit more than that,” Liza replied conversationally. “You’re so monumentally sodding stupid that your brain should be preserved after your death, so that future generations can look at it and say: ‘My God, look at that, it’s the brain of the dumbest sodding man in Sinnish history.’ Are you beginning to get the idea?”

Tristan gaped. Where had all this sudden aggression come from?

What?” he asked, after a while.

Is that the best reply you’ve got?” asked Liza.

Why are you so angry?”

Let me think... oh yes, you turned a secure operation into an unmitigated disaster,” Liza replied. “Correct me if I’m wrong, but that is a reason to be angry with you, isn’t it?”

Well – yeah, but—”

But what? What could you possibly have to say that might win me over?”

But... you’re not even a real member of the Team?”

Liza paused for a moment, then waved a hand dismissively.

Irrelevant,” she said seriously. “I made a contract with your Mr. Maragos, and I don’t break contracts. Life has taught me that much. So I’m fully committed to the success of his plan. Whatever that might be.”


Liza raised an eyebrow, and with that simple motion managed to take all the words out of Tristan’s mouth; finding there were none left, he ceased to speak and started gaping like a fish. And he stayed in this state for about five minutes, until Liza reached over and carefully pushed his mouth shut.

They travelled on in silence for a while longer; the forest blurred by like a series of Impressionist landscapes, and the wheels rattled and rolled beneath the carriage floor. Then, all at once and completely without warning, Liza leaped out of her seat, stared wildly out of the window and pulled hard on the emergency stop cord.

Immediately, a jarring screech of brakes screamed up from the track, and Tristan was flung heavily into the opposite seat. Liza alone seemed unaffected; she bounded out of their compartment, swung around the corner and hit the button to open the carriage door. A moment later – before the train had even finished stopping – she had leaped out onto the bank, rolled once and sprung up to run off to the north.

Tristan leaped to his feet with such force that he cracked his head against the window and fell over again; he got up a second time, more slowly, and in between some groanings and moanings he muttered:

What the hell is with you?”

So saying, he staggered out of the compartment, blundered out of the door and fell heavily into a bed of nettles.

Naturally, he landed face-first.

Some time later, when his vision had returned, Tristan climbed to his feet and set off in search of his errant partner. (We shall, of course, preserve his dignity and gloss over his bout of clawing at his eyes and screaming for the mercy of every god in every pantheon that the world had to offer.)

Liza?” he called. “Liz-aaaa!

No answer was forthcoming.

Really,” he muttered to himself. “She lectures me about wrecking missions, and now this...”

He wandered on a little more, and then stopped dead.

Oh,” said Tristan. “That's what she was looking at.”

An ancient manor house lay before him, wood-faced and weather-beaten and very, very Gothic. This was a house where one might reasonably expect a raven to taunt one from atop a bust of Pallas Athene; it was a house where a university student might build a monstrous creature from grave-flesh; it might have been a summer getaway for the Addams family, or a home-away-from-home for one of the lesser members of the vampire court. It was also falling apart around the seams, which put a slight dent in the effect, but Tristan still thought it was terrifying.

Liza stood in front of it, by the wrought-iron gate, and stared at the broken semicircular window in the attic wall.

Liza, what the hell is going on?” asked Tristan. He was beginning to feel that he ought to be alarmed.

I recognise it,” she said slowly. “I remember this place...”

You saw it from the train?”

Liza didn't answer. Instead, she reached into her bag and withdrew a battered leather wallet; she opened it, and pulled out a Sinnish passport that had a picture of her with long brown hair, named as Sophia Wright. It also gave her place of residence as Wickham Manor, Eterna Forest.

I wonder,” she said. “Is this the one...?”

She pushed open the gate, which shrieked and made Tristan jump.

You're – you're not going in there, are you?” he asked nervously. “Liza, that place looks like it's been abandoned for years – probably full of Ghosts—”

Creeping across summer lawns at midnight,” Liza said absently, and went down the garden path. A moment later, she had vanished into the blackness beyond the imposing double doors.

Tristan hesitated, confused. He had no idea why they were here, what Liza thought she was doing, or what was going to happen to the mission. Furthermore, he suspected that this house was evil; it was all Gothic and dilapidated, which pretty much sealed the deal for him. He had seen too many horror movies to trust any abandoned manors in forests.

And yet...

Liza?” he called, and took a step towards the door. “Liza, let's not go in – oh, screw it.”

He sent out his Croagunk, which took one look at the house and stared at him as if to ask if he had taken leave of his senses. As one, they gave a distinctly froggy gulp and took a few steps further. They were now past the gate.

What was that?” asked Tristan.


That!” cried Tristan.

The Croagunk appeared to be listening, but it seemed to hear nothing.

It's the sound of witchcraft and devilry,” Tristan whispered in fearful tones. “I'm sure of it!”

The Croagunk looked alarmed, and turned around as unobtrusively as it could. This was, however, not very unobtrusively, and Tristan turned it around to face the door again.

Don't abandon me here,” he said desperately. “This is a serious matter!”


At this point, Tristan realised he was talking to a frog, and so preoccupied was he with thoughts of how stupid his conversation had just been that he failed to notice as he walked straight between the great doors of Wickham Manor.


...and I know it's all for the energy project, but aren't there easier ways of getting hold of 1.21 jigowatts of energy?”

After what had seemed like an endless trek, we'd reached the other side of the room, where two oblivious goons were chattering away to each other. We'd thought it sensible to conceal ourselves behind some nearby cages, with the result that we'd now heard quite a bit of inane and probably referential conversation.

What did you just say?” asked the second Galactic.

I said, isn't there an easier way of getting hold—”

No, after that. Jigowatts?”

Yeah. What of it?”

It's pronounced gigawatts.”

No, it isn't.”

Yes, it is.”

No, it isn't. I talked to a scientist, and he said 'jigowatts'.”

He can't have done. You misheard him.”

Shut up!”

You seem to have forgotten how an argument actually works,” observed the second man. “You need to refute a point properly, not just tell me to shut up.”

The first one glowered.

Shut up,” he repeated, after while. “Just shut up.”

The second one opened his mouth to speak, and their argument might have gone on longer – but somewhere far away in Jubilife, Stephanie chose that precise moment to call me.

And my phone rang.


Ashley seemed to melt away into thin air as soon as he heard it; Iago did likewise, and so I was left alone with the two advancing grunts.

I smiled in a friendly sort of way.

Hi,” I said. “I'm... uh... new?”

This gave them pause for thought.

You're new?”

Yeah,” I said, nodding vigorously. “I was looking for, uh, the way out.”

If you're a member of the Team, why aren't you in uniform?” asked one Galactic suspiciously.

I'm new,” I replied, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. “So I don't have one yet. You know how it is. Falling standards and all that.”

She complains like a Galactic grunt,” one of the men said to the other.

Maybe she is one,” concurred the other.

Well, yeah. I complain like one because I am one,” I put in. “Look, are you going to help me find the way out? I'm going home.”

The two grunts looked at each other.

Why would you be going home? There're barracks in the building.”

I'm new, remember?”

They looked confused.

Oh. Yeah. New.”

Look, I won't bother you any more,” I said, backing away. “I'll find my own way out. Thanks anyway!”

I waved, turned around and left as quickly as I could without giving the appearance of fleeing.

The two Galactics looked at each other.

Hang on a moment,” said one.

Yeah?” replied the other.

That wasn't plausible at all.”

His companion blinked.

That's true...”

They exchanged glances.

Hey, you!” they shouted at my distant back, and ran off after me; it was, however, too late, and I'd already got past the entrance door and down the corridor beyond.

When doors seal behind you, there's definitely something nasty going on.

So thought Tristan as he advanced into the decaying entrance hall of Wickham Manor, Liza before him and the Croagunk behind. It was a truly spectacular entrance hall: decrepit chandelier; creepy statue; two sweeping staircases on either side of the room; and over all, a thick layer of dust that rose up in choking clouds with every step they took.

Liza, let's get out of here,” said Tristan uneasily. “This place is evil.”

I've been here before,” Liza said, and her voice seemed larger and hollower than usual. “There were people here... Someone called Anna...”

She ran her fingers down the side of the staircase, and left a trail of dark, unpolished mahogany. Tristan shivered; there was definitely something wrong with this place.

Someone wailed in the distance, and he jumped so hard that his teeth snapped shut on his tongue.

Yowch!” he cried. Then: “What the hell was that?”

I don't know,” replied Liza. She slipped softly down the mouldering carpet that led from front to inner door, and passed through as silently as a ghost. Tristan followed with some trepidation, and found himself in something that might once have been a dining-hall; now, there was nothing there but the old, dry bones of a roast chicken on the table. No one, it seemed, had been here for a very long time.

There's no one here,” Tristan said urgently. “Liza, come on! We should leave.”

I know there's no one here,” she replied, looking at him for the first time. “But I have to find out if this is the place.”

What place? You're not making any sense! In fact, you're making so little sense that it's terrifying!”

Liza gave him a long look.

I think I lived here, once,” she replied. “I need to know.”

What are—?”

Tristan broke off, staring behind Liza with undisguised fear. A moment ago, there had been nothing behind her but the table – but now, there was someone standing there. A tall pale someone in a black tailsuit. Someone who was staring right at them.

Tristan?” asked Liza. “What...?”

The man in black extended a white-gloved hand, and moved his mouth as if trying to say something, but no sound escaped his lips. Beads of cold sweat broke out on Tristan's brow, and he raised one trembling finger to point at the apparition.

H-he... it... look...”

Liza whirled on the spot, a gun appearing from nowhere in her hand – but in the space between one blink and the next, the man in black had flickered and disappeared.

What?” Liza looked at Tristan, who was rigid and shaking, like a stick in a cocktail mixer. “What is it?”

There was – it was like – ghost!” Tristan managed at last, bouncing up and down a little in his excitement. “There was a man there! A ghost man!”

A ghost? There's no such thing as ghosts,” Liza said dismissively. “Ghost-types, yes. But not ghosts.”

I tell you, there was a ghost!”

If there was anything, it was a Gastly playing tricks.” Liza put her gun away. “Look, I won't be long. You can wait outside.”

Tristan thought about walking back through the hall by himself, and decided that he'd rather stay with the person with the gun.

I'll stay,” he decided.

Then stop being stupid,” Liza said, and left the dining-room to explore further afield. Tristan scooped his Croagunk into his arms and hurried to catch up; so preoccupied with ghosts was he that he failed to notice the man in black standing by the door, holding out a hand and pleading silently with him.


Smooth,” Iago admitted. “You don't want to give up higher education and be the front man for some con artistry, do you?”

Nope,” I replied brightly.

His face fell.

Ah well. Suit yourself.”

We had ducked into a side room and evaded the Galactic men's notice; however, Ashley had noted, the Team now knew that we were in the building. He had then gone on to say that he had figured out all he needed to about the room full of Pokémon, and wanted to get some information from whoever was in charge. Hence, we were now on the top floor, where he was certain that the boss would be; it was a tradition or something.

As we climbed the last part of the staircase, I could hear the sounds of people moving around above us; I paused and asked:

Uh, Ashley? Should we really be going up there? It sounds like there are loads of people there...”

Ashley considered, and replied:

I'll go up there. You wait here.”

Iago's eyes widened.

You're going to—?”

Perhaps,” Ashley replied. “I need an audience with whoever is running this operation. It doesn't matter how I get that.”

I couldn't help but feel I was kind of missing something here.

What are you talking about?” I asked.

Ashley looked at me; his glasses were in the way, so I couldn't be sure – but for a moment I swear his eyes flashed pale yellow, iris, white and all.

There are certain questions that shouldn't be asked,” he said. “If you were to ask these questions, certain people might decide you were a danger, and have you eliminated. And believe me, they would be far better at doing so than Team Galactic.”

I blinked. He'd left me slightly confused.

Er... is that a threat? Or are you...?”

Ashley sighed.

Yes, it's a threat!” he said crossly. “For God's sake! This morning you wanted melodrama, now you fail to understand it – what's wrong with you?”

What's wrong with you?

This, I felt, wasn't really an unreasonable question.

Ashley ground his teeth, and kneaded his forehead with one hand.

Just... wait here, would you? Please?”

The sudden 'please' startled me; I was taken aback for a moment, then felt rather smug.

OK,” I said sweetly. “Since you ask so nicely.”

For a moment, Ashley looked like he was having trouble swallowing something, then he shook his head, turned on his heel and continued up the stairs to the corridor above.

Egad!” cried what I could only imagine to be one of the more pretentious of the Galactic grunts. “The Diamond is here!

There was then a certain fleshy thump, and then the sound of something hitting the floor. Hard.

Please do not attempt to stop me,” said Ashley, and there was something wrong with his voice; it was an octave lower than usual, and he had acquired the sort of foreign accent that not only implied he had never spoken Sinnish before, but that he had no real idea of how to pronounce words, or indeed how to work his tongue. “This is a matter of the gravest importance.”

I looked at Iago, a sudden chill running down my spine.

What the hell is that?” I whispered.

It's Ashley,” he replied cagily. “I can't really talk about it. Believe me, it's better you don't know.” He fiddled with his moustache. “He did try to warn you. You should go home as soon as possible.”

What? This isn't just about me interfering with his work, is it?”

Iago made no reply; he whistled a little tune and studied his claws.

Iago,” I said. “What does everyone else know that I don't? What's this investigation really about?”

He looked up at me with a wolf's grin, and I suddenly saw past the human in a fur suit, and glimpsed something wild and alien, something that made a bunched knot of fear tighten about the base of my spine.

Pearl,” he said, and I no longer heard a Jamaican accent but something more akin to a growl. “Let me answer your question with another question. I am a Kadabra. I hate your species with a passion so great that God himself couldn't rip it from my skull. So what possible reason could I have for swearing fealty to a human like Ashley?”


Tristan had never believed in ghosts before, but he had revised his opinion as soon as he'd set eyes on Wickham Manor, and the sudden appearance of the man in black had confirmed his suspicions.

Will you let go of my arm?” asked Liza in exasperation.

Tristan looked down. He appeared to be clinging to it in the same sort of desperate way as would a toddler to a favourite teddy.

Ah,” he said. “Er. Sorry.”

He let go, carefully wiped Liza's sleeve where he'd been holding it, and nodded courteously at her. She replied with the stare of one who has been annoyed for so long that their irritation has crystallised into exhausted disappointment, and then moved on.

They were investigating the bedrooms one by one, but had found no signs that any of them had been lived in at any point after the 1930s. It seemed that the house's air of evil had protected it from looters or vandals; they encountered more than one purse of valuable pre-decimalisation coins, and, in one bedroom, a solid silver breakfast service. However, Liza did not appear to be interested in making money from these discoveries, and Tristan had the distinct feeling that removing anything from the house might bring down the wrath of the ghosts on his head – a feeling that was cemented when, as he bent over a letter bearing a stamp that had only five siblings in the entire country, a young girl appeared sitting cross-legged on the bed, holding out her hands and mouthing silently at him.

This had naturally startled him, and when startled, Tristan tended to act erratically; he leaped backwards, turned a miraculous double somersault and landed on his feet. So surprised was he by the caprice of fortune that had enabled this remarkable evasive manoeuvre that he staggered back another step and almost fell out of the window; when he had recovered his balance and Liza had come in to see what the fuss was all about, the girl had gone.

Liza had promptly told him he was a coward and a lily-livered poltroon (well, actually she had just called him a coward, but Tristan thought that the latter insult sounded better) and dragged him out by the ear; just as they were leaving, he thought he saw the girl again, starting to say something – but then the door clicked shut and she was gone.

They continued their search, Liza increasingly desperate and Tristan increasingly useless, but to no avail; it seemed that no one had been here for a long time. If Liza had been here before, she hadn't stayed long.

It was close to three o'clock before they left Wickham Manor, and Tristan didn't stop walking until they were back at the train tracks.

Which, of course, were now devoid of any train.

Liza stared despondently at the rails.

We didn't find anything out,” she said unhappily. “And the train's gone.”

You must have seen that one coming,” replied Tristan cheerily; he felt rather good now that they were out of that House of Doom. (The capitals were his.) “We were there for ages.”

Liza sighed and threw Sophia Wright's passport into a bush.

Come on,” she said. “We can't be too far from Eterna...”

As they walked off, neither saw the pair of white eyes watching them from the shadows beneath the trees.