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Authors: Glenn Dakin

The Society of Dread

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C
ANDLE
M
AN

By
Glenn Dakin

EGMONT

Copyright

EGMONT
We bring stories to life

Candle Man: The Society of Dread
First published in Great Britain 2011
by Egmont UK Limited
239 Kensington High Street
London W8 6SA

Text copyright © Glenn Dakin 2011

The moral rights of the author have been asserted

ISBN 978 1 4052 4677 4

1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2

www.egmont.co.uk

A CIP catalogue record for this title is available from the British Library

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the publisher.

First e-book edition May 2011
ISBN 978 1 7803 1026 8

To Christopher Richard Dakin

‘If you don’t stand up for yourself,
you don’t like yourself.’

Contents

Cover

Title Page

Copyright

Chapter One:
A Walk

Chapter Two:
Tricky

Chapter Three:
New Age

Chapter Four:
Unmasked

Chapter Five:
Unlucky

Chapter Six:
Rumblings

Chapter Seven:
Old Friends

Chapter Eight:
Pets

Chapter Nine:
Orpheus

Chapter Ten:
Dove of Peace

Chapter Eleven:
The Capsule

Chapter Twelve:
Level Five

Chapter Thirteen:
The Man With No Face

Chapter Fourteen:
The Larder

Chapter Fifteen:
Refuge

Chapter Sixteen:
Phase Two

Chapter Seventeen:
Moss Break

Chapter Eighteen:
The Fool

Chapter Nineteen:
Canaries

Chapter Twenty:
Spies

Chapter Twenty-one:
On the Surface

Chapter Twenty-two:
Nicely Situated

Chapter Twenty-three:
Golden Words

Chapter Twenty-four:
Harvesters

Chapter Twenty-five:
Crimes

Chapter Twenty-six:
Friends in Need

Chapter Twenty-seven:
Lairs

Chapter Twenty-eight:
The Society of Dread

Chapter Twenty-nine:
Parasites

Chapter Thirty:
In Command

Chapter Thirty-one:
Surrounded

Chapter Thirty-two:
Descent

Chapter Thirty-three:
The Collectors

Chapter Thirty-four:
Goodbyes

Chapter Thirty-five:
Wonders

Chapter Thirty-six:
Unseen

Chapter Thirty-seven:
Doomed

Chapter Thirty-eight:
Of Madness

Chapter Thirty-nine:
Unearthed

Chapter Forty:
Vigilant

Acknowledgements

About the Author

Chapter One
A Walk

H
ow hard can it be?

Theo had never been for a walk before – on his own – but he was pretty sure he could do it. He hunched deeper in his big winter coat, feeling the January chill. The wind ruffled his lank black hair. Cold air sparked tears from his grey eyes. He shivered – he was not used to being outside.

Don’t panic,
he told himself.
Thousands of people go for walks every day. You can do it.

He took a deep breath and surveyed the dismal, damp street before him. In the past, he had only been allowed one walk a year – planned by his guardian Dr Saint. Now, Dr Saint was dead. There was no one to tell Theo what to do. In fact, he could do anything he liked.

That was scary.

Theo looked back at the dark shape of Empire
Hall, the vast mansion in which he had spent his whole life. Since the death of his guardian, he now owned the great house, even though he was still just a teenager. It was one of the biggest mansions in London, but the sight of it brought Theo no pleasure: it had been little more than a prison to him.

His cautious footsteps had brought him to the Condemned Cemetery, the graveyard that backed on to his house. Dusk was just beginning to gather among its tombs and woodlands. Theo liked dusk. It had always been
his
time, after the dreary routines of the day were over. In his imagination, anything could happen at dusk.

An old man, walking slowly, with a big stick and a plastic earpiece headed towards him. Theo panicked, thought of turning back – then remembered the words that he needed.

‘How do you do?’

The old man frowned at Theo, grunted and moved on.

Theo’s heart was pounding, but he was happier
now. He had faced a tricky encounter, but his book,
An Introduction to Introductions,
had saved him.

When meeting a stranger or new acquaintance, the traditional formula of ‘How do you do’ is all that is required,
the book stated.

The wrought-iron gates of the cemetery were open, a thin mist covering the ground within, like a grey sea. He stepped inside, all senses alert. His long coat dragged through the dank nettles and outlandish weeds of the overgrown place.

Theo peered around. He eyed the stone figures and angels with fascination. He knew from experience that such things could come to life. But nothing like that happened now. In fact, on this drippy, slow, January night, the world seemed quiet and empty of excitement. Dead.

That was just how Theo liked it.

Turning back, he could see the lights were being switched on in Empire Hall. It was hard to believe that the daily routine of the household was going on without his presence.

A strange sensation stirred him from within, like
a breeze whispering in his heart. A feeling grew that he barely recognised or understood: freedom.

It was wonderful to know now that his evil guardian was dead he could start living a normal life for the first time. How delicious it was to breathe the soft, damp air and smell the curious scents of the overgrown cemetery. He walked through the rows of tombs, gazing at every weathered stone carving, solemn inscription and tattered bouquet. For someone who had never been taken to a beauty spot, a park or a garden, this graveyard was a world of wonders.

Just a bit longer,
he told himself as he ducked under the ragged hawthorn trees and ventured deeper into the cemetery. Theo saw a narrow, almost invisible pathway between holly trees and followed it, taking delight in the sparkling cobwebs among the drippy thorns, the bright red berries, the brown and golden ferns curling in the chill air.

This is a magical place,
Theo thought.
I wish I could wander here forever.

Suddenly he glanced down at his hands – at the leather gauntlets he wore at all waking hours. A pale, green light was flickering about his fingers. He frowned. His power was stirring. That was a sure sign of danger . . . but why now?

‘At last!’

A booming voice crashed through Theo’s thoughts. A giant figure broke through the holly bushes and loomed over him.

A pale man with a shaven head and strange bulbous eyes confronted him. He was dressed in a filthy, ill-fitting collection of rags. His immense, powerful hands were dark with ingrained dirt. As he approached Theo he lifted his broad, ugly nose in a sniffing gesture, like a wary animal.

‘You don’t know who – or what – I am, do you?’ the figure snarled.

Theo held his breath but he tried not to panic. He didn’t need to know who this was. He just had to find the words to say.

‘How do you do?’ he blurted out quickly.

The man lashed out with a big leather boot and
kicked Theo’s legs from under him. Theo crashed to the ground, almost fainting with pain and shock.

‘How do I do?’ growled the man. ‘How do I do, when you and your friends wrecked all our plans and destroyed our home?’

‘I – we – what?’ gasped Theo, astonished.

His mind raced. He
had
seen men like this before. Among the armies of Dr Saint, there had been many shaven-headed, powerful brutes: Foundlings, they were called. But this one seemed somehow different – almost like a wild man. Theo’s hands were deep in nettles, and, unseen by the attacker, he began to work off his gloves.

‘Don’t act all innocent,’ the man cried. ‘You’ve had your fun, but it’s all over now!’ He paused, his protruding eyes glinting, as if savouring Theo’s plight.
‘He’s
back,’ the man said with a nasty smile. ‘And he’s more powerful than Dr Saint ever was. He’s back and now you’re finished!’

He’s
back? Who was
he
? Theo wondered as he tried to edge away.

‘They told me you was special – you had some
kind of magic,’ the ragged man said. ‘Well, I’ve never believed in magic, and I don’t think you’ll have much left when I’ve pulled your heart, lungs an’ liver out.’

He moved in on Theo, who was desperately scrambling backwards through the weeds. Theo had taken his gloves off and nettles were stinging his skin.

‘I’ve bided my time,’ the man said. ‘I’ve come to the surface, kept a watch and waited for a chance to pay you back.’

He wrenched Theo up from the ground and swung him backwards, about to dash his head against a gravestone.

But he never did. Theo’s trailing hand made contact – the barest whisper of a touch – with the man’s cheek. The attacker could not move. He stared down at his own body as it began to glow a luminous green.

Theo fell to the ground. He scrambled backwards, on grazed knees, as he watched the stranger’s skin bubble and smoke. Then, the angry,
frightened face of the man smeared downwards, a gaping skull shining out from the ruins of the flesh.

With a whooshing
hiss
the man melted into a big steaming pool.

‘Theo!’

Theo had climbed on to a stone tomb, to avoid being touched by the hot slime. Through the bushes came a familiar figure in a navy greatcoat and peaked cap.

It was Chloe. She took in the scene with a glance, clapping her hands to her head in dismay.

‘Theo, you idiot!’

The dark bookshelves towered above them on both sides as Theo and Chloe sat together on an old leather sofa, deep in the library of Empire Hall.

‘He was a Sewer Rat,’ Chloe said, still huddled in her enormous coat although they were back indoors. ‘That is, if I can rely on your colourful description of the fiend.’ There was a twinkle in her eyes as she said this. They both knew that Theo was remarkably observant. ‘Part of a gang
that live beneath London – in the network of tunnels you love so much.’

‘A Sewer Rat?’

Chloe put on her official face. As a member of the secret society that protected Theo she held arcane knowledge that never failed to astonish him.

‘Your evil guardian, Dr Saint, sometimes used criminal gangs to do his dirty work for him. The Sewer Rats are a loose association of ne’er-do-wells that live in the tunnels and sewers beneath this city. Scuzzbags. You could call them urban pirates.’

‘Pirates?’ Theo’s eyes suddenly lit up. ‘Well, he did look a bit like one. But he did this funny sniffing thing,’ he said, aping the Sewer Rat’s upturned nose and his big staring eyes.

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