Demon Thief

Book 2 in The Demonata series


By Darren Shan

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The second novel in this bonechilling series by Darren Shan, author of the New York Times bestselling Cirque Du Freak series is sure to give you goosebumps.

Kernel Fleck has always known he’s weird. He sees lights. Strange, multi-colored patches of light, swirling through the air. But it’s not until a window opens into a demon world, with horrific consequences, that Kernel discovers his powers. As a Disciple, his mission is to hunt vicious, powerful demons to the death…


Copyright © 2005 by Darren Shan

All rights reserved.

Little, Brown and Company

Hachette Book Group USA

237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017

Visit our Web site at

First eBook Edition: June 2006

ISBN: 978-0-316-04177-5



Lord Loss (Book 1)


PEOPLE think I'm crazy because I see lights. I've seen them all my life. Strange, multicolored patches of light swirling through the air. The patches are different sizes, some as small as a coin, others as big as a cereal box. All sorts of shapes—octagons, triangles, decagons. Some have thirty or forty sides. I don't know the name for a forty-sided shape. Quadradecagon?

No circles. All of the patches have at least two straight edges. There are a few with curves or semicircular bulges, but not many.

Every color imaginable. Some shine brightly, others glow dully. Occasionally a few of the lights pulse, but normally they just hang there, glowing.

When I was younger I didn't know the lights were strange. I thought everybody saw them. I described them to Mom and Dad, but they thought I was playing a joke, seeking attention. It was only when I started school and spoke about the lights in class that it became an issue. My teacher, Miss Tyacke, saw that I wasn't making up stories, that I really believed in the lights.

Miss Tyacke called Mom in. Suggested they take me to somebody better qualified to understand what the lights signified. But Mom's never had much time for psychiatrists. She thinks the brain can take care of itself. She asked me to stop mentioning the lights at school, but otherwise she wasn't concerned.

So I stopped talking about the lights, but the damage had already been done. Word spread among the children —Kernel Fleck is weird. He's not like us. Stay away from him.

I never made many friends after that.

My name's Cornelius, but I couldn't say that when I was younger. The closest I could get was Kernel. Mom and Dad thought that was cute and started using it instead of my real name. It stuck, and now that's what everybody calls me.

I think some parents shouldn't be allowed to name their kids. There should be a committee to forbid names which will cause problems later. I mean, even without the lights, what chance did I have of fitting in with any normal crowd with a name like Kernel—or Cornelius—Fleck!

We live in a city. Mom's a university lecturer. Dad's an artist who also does some freelance teaching. (He actually spends more time teaching than drawing, but whenever anyone asks, he says he's an artist.) We live on the third floor of an old warehouse which has been converted into apartments. Huge rooms with very high ceilings. I sometimes feel like a munchkin, or Jack in the giant's castle.

Dad's very good with his hands. He makes brilliant model airplanes and hangs them from the wooden beams in the ceiling of my bedroom. When they start to clutter the place up, or if we just get the urge one lazy Sunday afternoon, the pair of us make bombs out of apples, chestnuts—whatever we can find that's hard and round—and launch them at the planes. We fire away until we run out of ammo or all the planes are destroyed. Then Dad sets to work on new models and we do it all over again. At the moment the ceiling's about a third full.

I like it here. Our apartment is great, we're close to lots of shops, a cool adventure playground, museums, movie theaters galore. School's OK too. I don't make friends, but I like my teachers and the building—we have a first-rate lab, a projection room, a massive library. And I never get beaten up—I roar automatically when I'm fighting, which isn't good news for bullies who don't want to attract attention!

But I'm not enjoying life. I'm lonely. I've always been a loner, but it didn't bother me when I was younger. I liked being by myself. I read lots of books and comics, watched dozens of TV shows, invented imaginary friends to play with. I was happy.

That changed recently. I don't know why, but I don't like being alone now. I feel sad when I see groups of friends having a good time. I want to be one of them. I want friends who'll tell me jokes and laugh at mine, who I can discuss television shows and music with, who'll pick me to be on their team. I try getting to know people, but the harder I try, the more they avoid me. I sometimes hover at the edge of a group, ignored, and pretend I'm part of it. But if I speak, it backfires. They glare at me suspiciously, move away or tell me to get lost. "Go watch some lights, freak!" The loneliness got really bad last month. Nothing interests me anymore. The hours drag, especially at home or when I have free time at school. I can't distract myself. My mind wanders. I keep thinking about friends and how I don't have any, that I'm alone and might always be. I've talked with Mom and Dad about it, but it's hard to make them understand how miserable I am. They say things will change when I'm older, but I don't believe them. I'll still be weird, whatever age I am. Why should people like me more then than now?

I try so hard to fit in. I watch the popular shows and listen to the bands I hear others raving about. I read all the hot comics and books. Wear trendy clothes. Swear and use all the cool catchphrases.

It doesn't matter. Nothing works. Nobody likes me. I'm wasting my time. This past week, I've got to thinking that I'm wasting my entire life. I've had dark, horrible thoughts, where I can only see one way out, one way of stopping the pain and loneliness. I know it's wrong to think that way —life can never be that bad—but it's hard not to. I cry when I'm alone—once or twice I've even cried in class. I'm eating too much food, putting on weight. I've stopped washing and my skin's gotten greasy. I don't care. I want to look like the freak I feel I am.

Late at night. In bed. I'm playing with the patches of light, trying not to think about the loneliness. I've always been able to play with the lights. I remember being three or four years old, the lights all around me, reaching out and moving them, trying to fit them together like jigsaw pieces. Normally the lights remain at a distance of several feet, but I can call them closer when I want to play with them.

The patches aren't solid. They're like floating scraps of plastic. If I look at a patch from the side, it's almost invisible. I can put my fingers through them, like ordinary pools of light. But, despite that, when I want to move a patch, I can. If I focus on a light, it glides towards me, stopping when I tell it. Reaching out, I push at one of the edges with my fingers. I don't actually touch it, but as my fingers get closer, the light moves in whatever direction I'm pushing. When I stop, the light stops.

I figured out very early on that I could put patches together to make patterns. I've been doing it ever since, at night, or during lunch at school when I have nobody to play with. Lately I've been playing with them more than ever. Sometimes the lights are the only way I have to escape the miserable loneliness.

I like making weird shapes, like Picasso paintings. I saw a program on him at school a couple of years ago and felt an immediate connection. I think Picasso saw lights too, only he didn't tell anyone. People wouldn't have thought he was a great artist if he said he saw lights—they'd have said he was a nutcase, like me.

The shapes I make are nowhere near as fabulous as Pablo Picasso's paintings. I'm no artist. I just try to create interesting designs. They're rough, but I like them. They never last. The shapes hold as long as I'm studying them, but once I lose interest or fall asleep, they come undone and the pieces drift apart, returning to their original positions in the air around me.

The one I'm making tonight is particularly jumbled. I'm finding it hard to concentrate. Joining the pieces randomly, with no real purpose. It's a mess. I can't stop thinking about not having any friends. Feeling wretched. Wishing I had at least one true friend, someone who'd care about me and play with me, so I wasn't completely alone.

As I'm thinking about that, a few of the patches pulse. No big deal. Lights have pulsed before. Usually I ignore them. But tonight, sad and desperate to divert my train of thought, I summon a couple, study them with a frown, then put them together and call for the rest of the flashing patches. As I add those pieces to the first two, more lights pulse, some slowly, some quickly.

I sit up, working with more speed. This new, flashing shape is curious. I've never put pulsing patches together before. As I add to the cluster, more lights pulse. I quickly slot them into place, working as if on autopilot. I have no control over myself. I keep watching for a pattern to emerge, but there isn't one. Just a mass of different, pulsing colors. Still, it's worked its magic. I'm focused on the cluster of lights now, dark thoughts and fears temporarily forgotten.

The lights build and build. This is a massive structure, much larger than any I've previously created. I'm sweating, and my arms are aching. I want to stop and rest, but I can't. I'm obsessed with the pulsing lights. This must be what addiction is like.

Then, without warning, the patches that I've stuck together stop pulsing and all glow a light blue color. I fall back, gasping, as if I'd gotten an electric shock. I've never seen this happen. It scares me. A huge, blue, jagged patch of light at the foot of my bed. It's like a window. Large enough for a person to fit through.

My first thought is to flee, call for Mom and Dad, get out as quick as I can. But part of me holds firm. An inner voice whispers in my ear, telling me to stay. This is your window to a life of wonders, it says. But be careful, it adds, as I move closer to the light. Windows open both ways.

As it says that, a shape presses through, out of the panel of light. A face. I'm too horrified to scream. It's a monster from my very worst nightmare. Pale red skin. A pair of dark red eyes. No nose. A small mouth. Sharp, grey teeth. As it leans farther forward into my bedroom, I see more of it and the horror intensifies. It doesn't have a heart! There's a hole in the left side of its chest, but where the heart should be are dozens of tiny, hissing snakes.

The monster frowns and stretches a hand towards me. I can see more than two arms—at least four or five. I want to pull away. Dive beneath my bed. Scream for help. But the voice that spoke to me a few seconds ago won't let me. It whispers quickly, words I can't follow. And I find myself standing firm, taking a step towards the panel of light and its emerging monster. I raise my right hand and watch the fingers curl into a fist. I can feel a strange tingling sensation, like pins and needles.

The monster stops. Its eyes narrow. It looks around my bedroom uncertainly. Then, slowly, smoothly, it withdraws, pulling back into the panel of light, vanishing gradually until only its red eyes remain, staring out at me from within the surrounding blueness, twin circles of an unspoken evil. Then they're gone too and I'm alone again, just me and the light.

I should be wailing for help, running for my life, cowering on the floor. But instead my fingers relax and my fist unclenches. I'm facing the panel of blue light, staring at it like a zombie fixed on a fresh human brain, distantly processing information. Normally the patches of light are transparent, but I can't see through this one. If I look around it, there's my bedroom wall, a chest of drawers, toys and socks scattered across the floor. But when I look directly at the light, all I see is blue.

The voice says something crazy to me. I know it's madness as soon as it speaks. I want to argue, roar at it, tell it to stuff itself. But, as scared and confused as I am, I can't disobey. I find my legs tensing. I know, with sick certainty, what's going to happen next. I open my mouth to scream, to try and stop it, but before I can, a force makes me step forward—after the monster, into the light.


NEXT thing I know, I'm on the floor of my bedroom, my baby brother Art cradled to my chest. Mom and Dad are shouting at me, crying, poking and clutching me. Dad gently takes Art from my arms. Mom crouches beside me and hugs me hard, weeping over my bald skull. She's moaning, calling my name over and over, asking where I've been, what happened, if I'm all right. Dad's staring at me like I've got two heads, only looking away to check on Art, his expression one of total bewilderment.

There's no panel of blue light. No monsters. And no memory of what happened when I stepped through after the snake-hearted creature.

I learn that I've been missing for several days. Mom and Dad thought I'd been kidnapped, or wandered out and got lost. The police have been searching for me. They put my photo in newspapers and questioned all the people who knew me. Mom and Dad were frantic. Mom keeps weeping, saying she thought I was dead, that she'd lost another of her babies. I don't like the way she refers to me as a baby, but this isn't the time to correct her!

I can't remember what happened. Up to the moment I took that step forward into the blue light—total recall. After that—nothing.

Mom and Dad don't believe me. They think I'm lying or in shock. They ply me with hot chocolate in our kitchen and quiz me ruthlessly, sometimes gently, sometimes harshly, neither of them in complete control of themselves. They pass Art back and forth, asking me questions about how he ended up with me. I guess he must have gone missing too, after I did.

"Can I hold Art?" I ask, during a brief lull in the questioning.

Mom passes him to me, watching us suspiciously, perhaps afraid we'll go missing again. I had a younger sister once —Annabella. She died when she was a baby. I can't remember much about her—I was only four. But I'll never forget Mom and Dad's tears, the misery, the loss I sensed in the air around me. I wasn't much more than a baby myself, but I knew something terrible had happened, and I could see how upset Mom and Dad were. I guess they never really got over that. It's only natural that they're more upset and worried now than most parents would be.

I bounce Art up and down on my knee, cooing to him, telling him everything's OK. "You're my little brother. I'll look after you. It's fine." He doesn't take much notice. He looks more sleepy than afraid. Too young to catch the bad vibes.

Mom and Dad stare at each other wordlessly, then leave us alone for a while, going out into the hallway to discuss the situation. They don't shut the door behind them, and call out to me whenever I stop talking to Art, making sure we're still here.

They let me go to bed at one in the morning. Their faces are strained and red. Mom tucks me in and lets Art sleep beside me. She rubs his face tenderly as she pulls the blanket up around him. Starts to cry again. Dad tugs her away, kisses me, then takes Mom back to their bedroom, leaving me and Art to sleep.

I wake in the middle of the night. Mom and Dad are arguing. I don't know about what. Mom's saying, "Let's give it a few days. Watch. Wait. If nobody says anything, or looks for him . . ."

Dad shouts, "You're crazy! We can't! It's wrong! What if the police . . . ?"

I drift back to sleep.

Morning. More questions. Mom sits Art on her lap and feeds him, smiling and laughing wildly every time he gurgles at her. It's a good thing I'm not jealous of my little brother, as she hardly notices I'm here.

Dad's upset. He keeps glaring at Mom and Art. Throws more questions at me. Tries to help me unlock my memories. Asks me to take him through the night I vanished, step by step. I tell him I was in my bedroom, I was playing, and that's all I remember. I don't mention the lights or the monster. The inner voice that spoke to me that night tells me not to. Says I'd only get into more trouble if I told the truth.

"Did you go to bed?" Dad asks.


"Did someone come into the room?"


"Was there somebody at the window?"

A pause while I think back. "No."

"What about . . . Art? Can you remember where . . . how you got him?" "


He curses and tugs at his hair with both hands. Looks at Mom and Art again. Mom stares back at him sternly, holding Art against her like a shield. I don't know what her look means, but I'm glad she's not looking at me that way—her eyes are scary!

Dad phones the police and they come over. He sits with me while they ask lots of questions. Mom stays in their bedroom with Art. Dad said there was no need to talk about Art with the police. It would only complicate things. Since Art's too young to tell them anything, they want to focus on what happened to me.

I tell the police the same things I told Mom and Dad. The police are nice. They talk softly, make jokes, tell me stories about other kids who were lost or kidnapped. They want to know if I remember anything, even the smallest detail, but my mind is a complete blank. I keep apologizing for not being able to tell them anything more, but they don't lose patience. They're much calmer than Mom and Dad.

I don't go back to school. Mom and Dad keep me in. Won't even let me go out to the park. Things feel strange and awkward. It's like when Annabella died. Lots of crying, sorrow and uncertainty. But it's different. There's fear too. Mom's especially edgy. Hardly lets go of Art. Snaps at Dad a lot of the time. I often find her shaking and crying when she doesn't think I'll notice.

Days pass. The police come back, but they're not too worried. The most important thing is that I'm safe and back home. They recommend a good psychiatrist to Dad, and suggest he takes me to see her, to try and figure out what happened to me. Dad says he will, but I remember what Mom was like when Miss Tyacke suggested a psychiatrist all those years ago. I'm sure I won't be going for counseling.

That night they have a huge fight. Mom's screaming and cursing. I'm in my room with Art. They think we can't hear them, but we can. I'm scared. I even cry a bit, holding Art tightly, not sure why they're behaving this way. Art's not bothered. He gurgles happily in my arms and tries biting a hole through the new bib that Dad bought yesterday.

Mom yells, "We've been given a second chance! I don't care how it happened or who gets hurt! I'm not going to suffer the loss of a child again!"

I can't hear Dad's reply, but it seems to do the trick. Mom doesn't shout after that, though I hear her crying later. I hear Dad crying too.

The next morning, Dad calls me into his study. He has Art on one knee, a picture of Annabella on his other. He's looking from Art to the picture and back again, chewing his lower lip. He looks up when I enter and smiles—a thin, shaky smile. Tells me we're leaving. Immediately, this very night.

"We're going on a vacation?" I ask, excited.

"No. We're moving." Art tugs at Dad's left ear. Dad ducks his head and chuckles at Art. "Your mom doesn't like it here anymore," Dad says quietly, not looking at me directly. "Annabella died here. You went missing. Art . . . well, she doesn't want anything else to happen. To Art or to you. She wants to go somewhere safer. To be honest, I do too. I'm sick of city life."

"But what about school?" It's the first question to pop into my head.

"The hell with it," Dad laughs. "You don't like it that much, do you?"

"Well . . . no . . . but it's my school."

"We'll find you another." He fixes Art in his left arm, then extends his right and pulls me in close. "I know you haven't been happy here. Mom and I have been thinking about it. We're going to move to a place we know, a village called Paskinston. The children will be very different there. Nicer than city kids. We think you'll be happier, maybe make some friends. And you'll be safe. We all will. How does that sound?"

"Good. I guess. But . . ." I shrug.

"It's for the best, Kernel," Dad says, and hugs me tight. Art laughs and hugs me too, and that's when I feel sure that Dad's right. Everything's going to be better now.

My last glimpse of the city is when I get into our car late that night. I don't know why we don't wait until morning —Dad hates driving at night—but I haven't had time to ask. It's been a rush, packing bags, going through all of my toys, books, comics, clothes, records, choosing what to bring and what to leave behind. Dad says we'll get the rest of our belongings sent later, but I don't want to leave anything precious behind, just in case. I bombed all of the planes in my bedroom at nine o'clock. Mom and Dad helped me. We destroyed them completely. It was cool! Even Mom enjoyed it.

As we're getting into the car, Dad asks if I want to play a game with Art, to keep him quiet. I say sure. So he makes me sit on the floor behind Mom's seat, with Art between my legs, and he drapes a blanket over us. "Pretend Art and you are fugitives. You're a pair of vicious, wanted criminals, and we're sneaking you out of the city. There are roadblocks, so you have to hide and be quiet. If you're found, you'll be sent to prison."

"Children don't get sent to prison!" I snort.

"They do in this game." Dad laughs.

I know it's just a way for Mom and Dad to keep Art—and me—quiet for some of the journey. But part of me thinks it's real. The fact that we're leaving so quickly, at night, in secrecy. . . . I hold Art tight in my arms and whisper for him to be quiet, afraid we'll be caught by whoever's after us. I feel like crying, but that's because we're leaving home. I've never lived anywhere else. It's scary.

Mom checks that Art and I are OK before settling in. She lifts the cover of the blanket and peers in at us. We're parked close to a street light, so I can see her face pretty well. She looks worried—maybe she's sad to be leaving our old home, like me.

"Take care of your brother," she says softly, stroking Art's left cheek. He gazes at her quietly. "Protect him," Mom says, her voice cracking. Then she kisses my forehead, replaces the blanket, and we set off, leaving behind everything I've ever known.


PASKINSTON'S a sleepy place, with a couple of tiny shops, a crumbling old school, a stumpy, ugly, modern church, and not much else. It's in the middle of nowhere, miles away from any town or city. Electricity cuts are common. Television and radio reception are poor. Cars are mostly ancient wrecks. The sort of place where you expect to find loads of old people, but in fact most of the villagers are youngish parents and their children.

We've been here almost a year. It's not a bad place to live. Quiet and clean. Lots of open space around the village. No pollution or crime, and people are very relaxed and friendly. A few commute to cities or towns, but most work locally. Quite a few are craftspeople and artists. We don't get many tourists in Paskinston, but our artisans (as Dad calls them) supply a lot of tourist shops around the country. Musical instruments are the village's specialty, traditionally carved, lovingly created and packaged, then expensively priced!

Dad's got a job painting instruments. It doesn't pay very well, but you don't need much money in Paskinston. He's happier than he ever was in the city, finally able to call himself a real artist. Mom helps out kids with learning problems, and does some teaching in the school when one of the regular teachers is sick. She's happy too, the happiest I've seen her since Annabella died.

Mom and Dad never talk about the time Art and I went missing. It's a forbidden subject. If I ever bring it up, they change the topic immediately. Once, when I pressed, Mom snapped at me, swore, and told me never to mention it again.

And me? Well, I'm OK. Dad was right. The kids here are nicer than in the city. They chat with me at school, include me in their games, invite me to their houses to read and play, take me on day trips into the local countryside on weekends. Nobody bullies me, says nasty things to me or tries to make me feel like I'm a freak. (Of course, it helps that I don't mention the secret patches of light!)

But I still don't fit in. I feel out of place. It's hard to talk freely, to join in, to behave naturally. I always feel as though I'm acting. Most of the kids in Paskinston were born here or moved here when they were very young. This is the only world they know, and they believe it's perfect.

I don't agree. While I'm certainly happier now than I was in the city, I miss the movie theaters and museums. Except for not having any friends, I liked being part of a big city, where there was always something new to see or do. The village is nice, but it's a bit boring. And although the kids are nicer to me, I still haven't made any real friends.

But it's not that important, because I'm not miserable anymore. I'm not sure why, but I don't feel lonely these days. I'm happy just to be with Mom, Dad and Art. Especially Art. He might only be a baby, but I love dragging him around with me, explaining the world to him, telling him about books, television and life, trying to teach him to speak. He should have started by now, but so far not a word. Dad and Mom don't mind. They say Einstein was older than Art is before he spoke. But I don't think Art's an Einstein—he likes tugging ears, biting people and burping too much to be a genius!

Art's all I really need from the world right now. He keeps me company better than any friend ever could. As Dad once said when I was lonely and he was trying to cheer me up, "Who needs friends when you have family?"

To get to school, I have to pass the witch's house.

The "witch" is Mrs. Egin. There are thirty-seven families and six single people in Paskinston, and everyone's on friendly terms with everybody else. There's a real sense of community. They all take an interest in and see a lot of each other, chat amongst themselves when they meet in the street or at church, hold big parties every few months that everyone attends.

Except Mrs. Egin. She lives by herself in a dirty old house and almost never has anything to say to anybody. She comes out for a long walk every day, and to draw water from the well. (There's running water in Paskinston, but Mrs. Egin and a few others prefer to get theirs from an old well in the center of the village.) But otherwise we rarely see her. She spends most of her time indoors, behind thick curtains, doing whatever it is that witches do.

I'm sure she's not really a witch, but all the kids call her the Pricklish Witch of Paskinston. Some of the adults do too!

There isn't a real school in Paskinston, just a converted stable that's being used as a school until the villagers manage to build a proper one. There are three teachers (two are volunteers), crappy old desks, wobbly chairs, a few tired blackboards, and nothing else except the ancient toilets out back. A big change from my school in the city!

The school's down the street and around the corner to the left from where we live. To get there, I walk past Mrs. Egin's house. I could go the opposite way and circle around the backs of the houses if I wanted. But Mrs. Egin has never done anything bad to me. She hasn't even spoken to me in the year that I've lived here. She doesn't frighten me.


On Sale
Apr 1, 2007
Page Count
256 pages

Darren Shan

About the Author

Darren Shan is the bestselling author of the young adult series Cirque Du Freak, The Demonata, and the Saga of Larten Crepsley series, as well as the stand-alone book The Thin Executioner. His books have sold over 25 million copies worldwide. Shan divides his time between his homes in Ireland and London.

Learn more about this author