Steve Feasey was born and brought up in Hertfordshire. The youngest child, and the only boy of four, he found himself reading books, of which there were always lots to be found around the house. Thanks to his father’s love of reading, Steve grew up on adventure stories by Robert Louis Stevenson, Rudyard Kipling, Edgar Rice Burrows and Jack London.A late-comer to writing. Changeling was Steve’s first novel and, as he says “I consider myself supremely fortunate to have had my first stab at writing published”.Steve describes the experience of writing Changeling and how it came about one evening as he sat watching a BBC documentary on fiction for boys.“I came up with the idea for the two main characters in Changeling, one an ancient vampire, the other a teenage boy who discovers he is a werewolf. Changeling was an absolute joy to write. As an author that doesn’t plot, it was great fun to go on the Journey with Trey Laporte, and to discover how he was going to come to terms with a world that suddenly becomes full of demons, vampires, djinn and all manner of other nether-creatures.”Steve is passionate about getting children reading – boys especially. Growing up as an avid reader he felt there was a limited choice of books for boys once they entered their teenage years – and then he found a copy of the Stephen King classic Carrie on his sister’s nightstand …Although, Steve is quick to point out that he doesn’t consider the Changeling books to be horror books. “I like to think of them as action-thrillers that just happen to have classical horror creatures as the main characters. I hope my readers will see them in the same way.Elmore Leonard, Ridley Pearson, Stephen King are all authors he especially loves to read, describing them as “out-and-out storymongers.”He lives in Hertfordshire with his family.
Caliban allowed the dead body of the woman to slip from his grasp and crumple to the floor at his feet; his victim’s head hitting the hard stone with a dull thud. Unseeing eyes, already bereft of the life they once reflected, stared back at him accusingly, but he paid no attention to the reproachful look as he rose from his chair and moved towards the window. Already lost in his thoughts, he slowly drew his hand across blood smeared lips, painting a ghastly, coppery, circus clown’s grin across his face.
The vampire stared out onto the impenetrable curtain of grey mist that swirled and danced before him. Beyond that curtain lay the human realm, although technically he himself was in a part of the Netherworld which had been translocated here to Iceland, by his former sorceress, Gwendolin. The Tower of Leroth had remained in this place ever since he’d abandoned it after the werewolf boy had killed Gwendolin and the tower’s powers had been lost along with her. But not, as the vampire had at first thought, forever. He stared out into the slow swirling mist again, his mind forming patterns and pictures in the murk.
He was in a strange mood. Mental exhaustion from planning what lay ahead had made him edgy and introspective, and a small part of him wanted nothing more than to walk out through those grey shutters, enter the human realm and disappear: to hunt and feed undetected among his prey, as he had done for centuries, and leave behind the gruelling struggle for power that he was currently involved in. It was tempting – to simply vanish – but he knew that it was not his destiny. He was fated for greater things. He was to be the first lord of two realms: the human and the demon one. And he would rule them both ruthlessly. But the struggle to achieve this aim was onerous; even for a creature like himself. He had a stranglehold on the Netherworld now. Those weak and gutless demon lords – the so called rulers of the dark realm - had all fallen to him. Now it was the turn of the humans.
Caliban’s new sorceress, Helde, had brought them here, opening a portal in the Netherworld for them to slip through. She had done so artfully; creating several decoy portals, along with the one they were to use – too many for his altruistic, do-gooder of a brother to check them all. And they had slipped through via one of these, not to their final destination in Iceland, but to St. Petersburg in Russia, from where they had been transported in coffins by a demon in Caliban’s employ. The demon had done an excellent job, only to be killed for its efforts – secrecy was key to his and Helde’s plans.
And now they were at the Tower of Leroth. Alone. Caliban had considered contacting some of his vampire brethren to join him to ensure that the tower would not be without a guard presence of some kind, but Helde had insisted that concealment was their greatest weapon, and that it should not be compromised in any way.
Helde claimed that the tower was key to their plans, that it was more than just a means of translocation, and that other secrets were hidden within its walls; secrets that would help them achieve their aim of subjugating the human realm and everyone in it forever.
A sound at the door made him stiffen, and the next thing he knew the sorceress had pushed it open and stepped inside. It was unlike him to be caught unawares like this, and he inwardly cursed himself for allowing it to happen. He kept his back to her, but when he spoke the anger in his voice was obvious. “In future, you will knock and wait at the door until I tell you to enter. Is that clear?” Caliban turned from the window to glare at the sorceress who stood looking back at him.
“Is that clear?” he repeated.
“Yes. I am sorry. I forgot.”
She was a sight to behold. Every part of her was made up of hundreds of thousands of insects; each living creature clutching onto its neighbours to form a whole; a swarming, crawling, teeming resemblance of the human female she’d once been. She had been beautiful then – before they had burned her human body at the stake – and Caliban thought - even in this grotesque, reconstituted form - her beauty was still evident. He watched as small sections of sorceress continuously dropped off, the insects hitting the floor with a hard little snick!, before scurrying back to rejoin the writhing, fluid mass. The various component parts that made her up were incapable of perfect adhesion, and this flaking off of insects was a source of great distress to Helde: the more agitated she became, the greater the cascade of invertebrates falling from her was. Judging by the flow of tiny creatures dropping to the floor at her feet now, Caliban reasoned that her latest attempt to find the thing she was looking for had been unsuccessful.
“You have failed again?” he asked, knowing that the phrasing of the question was sure to ignite her ire.
“This place!” She threw an arm up in frustration, and Caliban could not help but smile as two fingers of the hand flew off, the insects raining down onto the floor behind her, before scuttling back to their comrades. “It is a warren! These upper floors are not a problem. One staircase leads up, another down, and all of the rooms have been searched - thoroughly. But below, down in the lowest levels, where all of those tunnels are cut through the rock…” She shook her head. “There are more tunnels beneath them! The Shield exists. Skaleb could never have won the Demon Wars without it. The tower was too susceptible to attack otherwise. I will find it. It is down there somewhere.”
Skaleb had been the original owner of the tower, many centuries ago. But such history was of little concern to Caliban. The vampire sighed theatrically. “I tire of this fruitless searching of yours. The thing you seek is little more than a distraction from our main business.”
The sorceress shook her head. “I thought you would welcome the chance to protect yourself fully in this place. Especially after you were attacked within its confines so recently.”
The vampire shot her a look – he had no wish to be reminded of how the tower had been penetrated by some of his brother’s . . . allies. This was how he had lost Gwendolin and it still more than smarted. “Nevertheless, I feel it is taking up too much time. Gwendolin knew nothing of this ‘Shield’.”
“That woman? Pah! She was an amateur. Little more than a dabbler in dark magic.”
“She managed to learn many things about Leroth. It was she who rediscovered most of its secrets. Maybe you think too little of her.” He paused, eyeing the sorceress. “Or maybe too much of yourself?”
“Do not goad me, vampire. You would do well to remember who I am and what I am capable of.”
Caliban’s eyes took on a terrifying aspect, and his nostrils flared as if he could scent the blood he so adored. The vampire disappeared suddenly, reappearing directly before the sorceress. The attack was unexpected and cruel. She gasped as he plunged his hand – the real one, not his blade-fingered prosthetic appendage – into her chest, grasping the ancient heart there; the heart which he had discovered and used to reanimate her. He gripped the ancient organ, squeezing it cruelly, and eliciting a wail of agony from the sorceress. As his fingers squeezed, it was as if the outer glue which bound Helde together became unstuck – the trickle of insects turned into a torrent, and the sorceress seemed to melt before his eyes. Caliban leant in, his face jammed up close to what was left of hers, and when he spoke it was in a cruel, fierce whisper.
“I am your master. I brought you back from the dead, and I can just as easily return you there, for good. You,” he squeezed the heart a little harder, and another terrifying screech filled the room, “would do well to remember who I am and what I am capable of.”
He let go and stood back, watching as Helde’s body slowly reformed before his eyes.
The sorceress dropped to her knees, her chest heaving as she sucked in huge breaths. Eventually she looked up at the vampire.
“You are right…master.” She spat the last word out. “Forgive me. I forgot myself. It will not happen again.”
The vampire nodded. “Good,” he said, turning away from her and walking back in the direction of his throne. He sat and raised a metal-bladed finger in the air imperiously. “I will give you one more day to find this Shield. After that we will turn to the matter of creating our zombie army and proceed without it if needs be. In case you had forgotten, I plan to take over a world. Our unleashing of the undead is the first step in achieving this, and I do not want you becoming distracted. Do you understand me?”
“Then let us hope that you can live up to both our expectations.”
Helde opened her mouth as if to say something, but thought better of it. Instead, she slowly pulled herself up off the floor, turned on her heel, and left the room.
Trey Laporte left the luxurious penthouse apartment, where he lived with Tom and Alexa and Lucien, taking the elevator to the ground floor and stepping out past the security guards at the front door into the bright daylight. He stopped and took a deep breath, glad to be outside and away from the stuffy, air-conditioned environment inside the converted warehouse building behind him. He considered sending Alexa a text to let her know he’d gone out - he’d left without telling anyone that he was doing so (something his guardian, Lucien, always frowned upon) - but he needed some space and time to be alone with his thoughts. The apartment, in fact the entire building that housed Charron Enterprises Inc., was nothing short of chaotic at the moment. He turned to his right and began to walk, head down, lost in thought, moving in the direction of The City.
It was already hot outside. He’d spent the early morning in the gym, sparring with a Shadow Demon friend of his, hoping that the fight training would take his mind off of things. It hadn’t. He’d emerged bruised and battered, showered and decided to come out for this walk.
After about twenty minutes, with Docklands well behind him, he paused and turned his face towards the sun, closing his eyes and enjoying its warmth. He ignored the pushing and jostling of the tourists that swarmed around him now that he was close to the Tower of London. It was half-term, and the usual throng of foreign visitors that flocked to this historic site were joined by parents and youngsters making the most of the sunshine in the capital city.
There was a tap on Trey’s shoulder and he spun about, tense and alert. His heart hammered against his ribcage, and he eyed the oriental man in front of him, quickly scanning the area about him to see if he were a lone attacker or part of a larger group.
“Sumimasen,” the elderly man said, smiling and nodding in Trey’s direction.
Trey was tightly wound, and the man seemed to sense this, his friendly face momentarily turned to one of concern as he eyed the youngster. Then the old man nodded at the camera he was holding, arched an eyebrow, and gestured with it in the teenager’s direction.
Trey slowly put out a hand, and the old man thrust the device into it, he nodded again, before moving over to stand next to an elderly Japanese woman who was waiting patiently by the wall with the ancient castle behind her.
“Arigatou gozaimasu,” the man said with one last quick bow.
Trey took their picture, handed the camera back and hurried off, suddenly feeling rather foolish, but unable to shake the feeling of vulnerability. Perhaps coming out hadn’t been such a great idea.
As he walked he mused over what had just happened. He couldn’t go on like this: seeing everything and everyone around him as a potential threat. He wasn’t even able to go out for a walk in the sunshine without believing he might be attacked. How was he supposed to live like this? How was he ever supposed to enjoy himself and behave in a way any normal teenager might? He let out a long sigh. Right there was the problem. Trey couldn’t live like a normal ?-year-old because he wasn’t one. And he never would be.
He was sick of it all. Almost everything he’d once considered normal was now totally screwed up. Even time was out of whack. When he’d left the human realm to go and find Alexa and Philippa in the Netherworld nobody had thought to explain to him that the two realms were temporally misaligned and that upon returning, months, not days, had elapsed. He’d missed his favourite band in concert, and he’d paid a fortune for those tickets. No wonder Philippa had opted to go and live in Lucien’s luxury villa in the Seychelles for a year – she’d had enough of the madness too.
Back at the apartment everyone was discussing Caliban and his plans. Lucien’s frustration at not being able to locate his brother had diffused through the place, and it seemed to Trey as if everyone was running around in a state of frantic disorder, trying to second guess the vampire’s next move. It used to be that the apartment was a sanctuary away from the day-to-day business of the downstairs offices which policed the movement of nether-creatures between the two realms. But that had all gone out of the window since their return from the Netherworld, and now there was precious little time for anything else. Trey had come outside hoping to escape it all for a while, to relax a little, but his encounter with the Japanese tourist simply underlined how keyed up he was.
It wasn’t just the activities back at the apartment that had Trey wound up: it was the reason behind them. The vampire Caliban was at large again, and if Lucien was right, he was somewhere in the human realm.
Trey squinted up at the sun once more. At least he was safe from attack by the psychopathic bloodsucker in the daylight. Of course, his minions were a different matter.
The teenager crossed the busy road, dodging the onrushing cars that blared their horns at him. He headed for the red, white and blue sign of Tower Hill station, thinking that he might take a tube train into Oxford Street. But at the last minute he veered away; the thought of pushing his way through the multitude of shoppers that would fill the busy streets there today was the last thing he needed right now. Instead, he turned towards the City, knowing that it would be quiet outside of the working week.
His leg ached a little as he took a flight of stone steps down into a passage separating an ancient-looking church and a vast steel-and-glass office block. The wound he’d received at the Demon Games in the Netherworld was still a little tender, but it had healed exceptionally well, and he knew that it was almost as good as new, despite the ugly scar that marked him now. He’d suffered a facial injury in the Games too, but if he were honest he rather liked the pink line of scar tissue that ran through his right eyebrow. It gave him a rough, tough look. The scars were permanent. Unlike the wounds he suffered at the hands of humans, the wounds inflicted on him by other nether-creatures did not heal in the same way.
He had no idea where he was going. He walked, turning left or right whenever it took his fancy, and pretty soon he was lost among the tall buildings and near empty streets. He didn’t mind. He kept his eyes fixed on the section of pavement immediately before him, the hood of his sweatshirt pulled up over his face to block out the outside world.
He stopped at a kerb, glancing up to check for cars despite the almost complete lack of traffic in this part of the city. A shop on the corner caught his eye. It was shut, the interior dark and uninviting, but the window packed full of comics and graphic novels looked interesting, so he approached it to take a look.
The lack of lighting inside the shop, coupled with the bright sunshine outside, made it difficult to see the display properly, and Trey was forced to make a visor out of his hands, curling them around his eyes and pressing them against the glass to get a proper look inside. He spotted a compilation book of one of his favourite Marvel characters, and he strained to see if it was one he already had or not. As he did so he got the uneasy feeling that he was being watched - a strange sixth sense that made the hairs on the back of his neck bristle, and a cold shiver run through him. He turned around, looking to see if he could locate the source of the uneasiness.
There was nobody in sight.
Get a grip, Trey, he told himself, remembering his overreaction to the sightseer moments earlier. But the uneasy sense of being watched would not leave him, and lately Trey had learned not to ignore his gut feelings.
He quickly walked off to his right, pulling his hood back from his head now, not wanting his peripheral vision restricted by it. He sped up, turning left, then right, and entering a narrow street with rows of garages on one side and ugly, squat business premises on the other. At the end of the road he could see an arch in a brick wall which looked as if it led into a children’s playground; brightly painted swings and slides were just visible through the gap. In the background beyond this appeared to be a high-rise blocks of flats. That feeling of being followed was stronger than ever. Trey started running in the direction of the park, quickly lengthening his stride until he was sprinting. Doing his best to ignore the pain in his knee, he ate up the ground in front of him. He burst through the narrow, brick archway, skidding to a halt as he did so and taking up position to one side of the opening. He quickly glanced about him, relieved to find that the playground was empty and that a line of tall trees at the far end obscured the view of most of the windows in the flats. At the last second he decided to remove his trousers and sweatshirt, kicking off his trainers too so that he stood there in nothing but his underwear, socks and a t-shirt.
Please God, don’t let anyone look out now and see me standing in a children’s play area in nothing but my pants!
It occurred to him that this could all be yet another episode of paranoia. He was losing it. He was imagining—
He stopped, holding his breath. Sure enough, Trey heard the sound of running footsteps approaching. That uneasy feeling he’d experienced at the bookshop was back, setting his nerves jangling and his heart to thump against his chest. He closed his eyes, praying that what he was about to do was the right thing.
The huge, barrel-chested, seven-foot werewolf that he now was crouched, and as his pursuer emerged through the bricked archway, Trey threw himself forward, knocking whoever it was down onto the ground. There was a loud, “Unfgh!” as they hit the small grassy mound on the other side of the opening. Trey was quickly on top of his quarry, pinning them down with his weight. He reached forward and pulled the hood back off of their head.
But it was no demon beneath the hood. A pair of piercingly blue eyes stared out at him from behind a tangle of blonde hair.
Ella blew the hair away from her face. Her annoyed expression quickly turning to amusement as she took in the astonished look on the werewolf’s face.
“Hello, Trey,” she said.
(C) Steve Feasey 2011
© Paul Kane 2003-2017. All rights reserved. Materials (including images) may not be reproduced without express permission from the author.