The young vampire snorted a laugh as he looked to the others of the clutch. “Look at this,” he said with a laugh as he wiped blood from his lips. “We have a regular gunslinger in our midst.” He turned to face Shani once again. “I suppose you happen to be the fasted gun this side of the Mississippi, too.”
“Hell no,” Shani said with a smirk as she seemed to rock back and forth on the heels of her boots. “I’m the best dang gunslinger this here country ever seen. ‘R will ever see.” As an added exclamation point, she quickly drew pistols and started firing. Normally against the vampires, there would have been no effect, but these were taken by surprise by the silver bullets that ripped through the air toward them.
As Shani fired, Pania steeled herself and plunged forward, moving to stand at Shani’s back. Pania wasn’t as good a gunslinger as Shani was, but she was no slouch either. Her timing was impeccable. Just as Shani had run out of bullets, Pania began firing, allowing the lithe gunslinger time to reload. As soon as Shani was ready, Pania would be reloading her own. The vampires slowed down a great deal with each hit, the poison of the silver working its way through their bodies and slowing them down to a crawl.
One vampire drew to close to Pania, and she lashed out with a roundhouse, landing her boot square in the vampire’s chest and knocking him back and off his balance slightly. This was followed with the report of her Smith and Wesson point blank at the vampire’s head.
“Stakin’ time,” Shani called out as she continued to fire. The small village had prepared them well, right down to some of the innovative weapons they themselves had managed to create. Which included the stake-bracers. A quick release on the bracers launched a stake out of a small sheath, shooting it out toward its target at a velocity much like a crossbow bolt. Shani was the first to demonstrate this as one vampire tried draping his arms around her. The stake shot out from the device attached to her wrist and drove itself through the creature’s chest. It lurched back slightly, then fell over as it’s body began to disintegrate into nothing.
Pania picked up the pace as she took out another vampire, using high kicks to distract it as she positioned herself to thrust a stake through the creature’s heart. A second one felt the sting of a stake as it tried to advance, but the elven bard was too fast for it, it’s body slowed by the silver poison’s effect on it’s system. A fourth one dropped as Shani let a stake fly point blank into it’s chest. And then there was only one.
“Cut an’ run ‘r fight an’ die,” Shani suggested to the lone vampire with a grin. “Choice is yers, either way y’all gonna be dead by dawn, I wager.” The vampire looked between Shani and Pania, hissing angrily, then bolted for the door. Shani moved quickly, cartwheeling over a chair and grabbing a stake out of an already dead vampire. As her feet landed she drove the stake through the vampire’s back, letting the force of her body’s momentum carry through and push the stake home. The vampire hissed in rage and pain as his body began to become more lifeless than it had before.
The five were dead, and Shani and Pania hadn’t taken a scratch. This was almost too easy. Pania approached the couple cowering in the corner. “Ye alright?” she asked, knowing the answer as soon as she had spoken the words. They were physically fine, but mentally, it would take a while to forget. The woman just looked at Pania, her eyes wide with fright. Pania looked around the room for a moment, as Shani gathered the bodies of the fallen. She’d start the vampire bonfire soon enough.
“Here,” the elven gunslinger called out as she tossed a pair of stakes to Pania. The bard caught them easily and reloaded her bracers, then her pistols as she continued to look around the room. It was an old kitchen, and it seemed as though not much had been updated. Even the tapestries and mirrors on the walls looked well aged.
Well aged, but the mirrors still worked well enough. Pania stopped as she studied the mirror she spied carefully. “Odd ‘ow a buncha vampires would keep these thin’s, aye,” she commented as she continued to stare at the reflection. In the mirror, she could see a good portion of the room. Including the woman who remained on the floor.
But not the man.
Her ears perked up slightly and she twirled fast and hard, a stake already in her hand. It caught solid in the chest of the vampire, taking him completely by surprise. Pania looked into the vampire’s eyes and smirked as his form began to wither. “Elven ears, lad,” she explained easily to the creature. “E’en with ye preternatural abilities, I can still ‘ear a boot scuff on the stone floor.” She planted a boot in his chest and pushed back, sending the creature crashing to the ground. Pania looked over to the woman and sighed. Before they had a chance to act, the vampire had fed from her, killing her quickly. “She ne’er e’en ‘ad a chance ta scream.”
“Hate ta say it,” Shani commented as she dragged the last body onto the pile. “But I’d rather not be draggin’ victims ‘long with us. I hate thet she died, but she’s prolly in a better place now. Ain’t no one able ta walk ‘way from a scene like this an’ be able ta act normal ever ‘gain.” Pania only nodded. It was heartless, but it was true. The elven bard just watched as Shani lit a match and tossed it onto the pile of bodies. It was amazing how quickly the lit on fire, like kindling in a freshly dug fire pit. Pania’s eyes studied the room again, until something caught her eye.
A piece of parchment lay by a wood burning stove. Nothing really out of the ordinary, but it had writing on it. Writing that Pania recognized. She bent down to pick it up, covering her nose and mouth as the flames licked higher. Shani grabbed her arm and lead her out of the room into the adjacent hallway. This afforded Pania time to study the parchment closer.
By this time, Shani took note of what Pania had found. “Whatcha got?”
“Foun’ this on the floor,” Pania said in a slow voice as she furrowed her brow. “An’ this mean we’re no’ the only wanderers.” Shani gave the elven bard a perplexed look, forcing Pania to explain. “’S written in elven.” The confusion was replaced with shock as Shani slide beside Pania to take a closer look. “Look like it taken from a journal,” Pania stated.
Indeed it was.
My needs are met on this plane, it would seem I have found a place worthy of my attention. No mages or knights to attempt to take me down. These humans are so easily fooled. Only the rare few know of my true nature, my true goals. Those usually find themselves turned, if worthy enough, to add to my army. When the time is right, I will indeed have my army, and we shall return home, using the portal. Unfortunate that the portal also happens to be the one thing to bind and trap me. Perhaps it is a good thing no one on this plane can read elven.
“So,” Shani said with a snort of a laugh. “Dealin’ with an elven vampire. Jist great.” She sighed as she looked to the tapestries on the walls. “Guess we jist gotta find this bindin’ portal ‘en.”
“There’s more,” Pania said pointing to the parchment. “Seem tha’ this vampire ‘as put it in a chamber, uses it like it’s own private study an’ bed chambers. We jus’ ‘ave ta find the room, an’ then we find the text o’ the ritual.”
“Figger this vampire’d keep thet information close at hand,” Shani replied, sounding more like a question than an actual statement.
“It’s worth a shot,” Pania said with a shrug as she continued to study the parchment. The writing was very familiar in a way, Pania furrowed her brow as she continued to look over it. “I think I know this.” She looked to Shani, her brow furrowed slightly. “Coupla nigh’s ‘go, I ‘ad this strange dream. A woman kept comin’ ta me, callin’ out ta me. I kept seein’ pages from a book.” She held up the parchment so Shani could see it clearly. “All wit’ this ‘and writin’.”
“Female elven vampire. Jist great. This here world brings ’bout some o’ the worst o’ our world, don’t it?” The question was rhetorical, the lithe gunslinger expecting no reply as she looked about the hallway they had stepped into. Shani let out a long sigh before she spoke. “So what’s the plan ‘en?”
“Plan?” Pania replied as she quickly stuffed the parchment into her duster coat. “We find this text fer the ritual an’ bind ‘er. Failin’ tha’…” Pania said with a shrug as she checked her pistols again.
Shani followed suit, replacing spent cartridges, as she completed Pania’s unfinished sentence. “Then we jist kill the bitch.”
For ten miles, they never said a word. The sun slowly sunk toward the horizon as they let the horses plod along lazily. The trees seemed to become dead and lifeless as they drew closer and closer to their destination. As late afternoon creeped up, the mist began to form. Still, they pushed on.
Afternoon turned to evening, and the sky became a deathly black, as it was suddenly filled with clouds. There was a foreboding feeling that settled in. The air grew cooler, and lightning began to strike, as sharp bolts thundered from the heavens, making the area bright for a brief second before plunging the elven gunslingers into darkness yet again. They were certain they were getting closer as Pania looked to Shani, each giving the other a look of reassurance.
And then they saw it.
A bolt of lightning struck a tree not thirty yards from their location, the air become acrid and the roar of the thunder nearly deafening. As the area became brightly lit for a brief moment, the ominous shape of the castle revealed itself, looming high above them in the darkness like some vulture watching over it’s prey.
“Best make camp,” Shani suggested as she looked for a secure spot. She began to guide her horse toward a clearing just off the road when Pania stopped her.
“No’ there,” she cautioned.
Shani looked back to the elven bard as she furrowed her brow. “Why not, it’s already cleared out.”
Pania studied the area, knowing exactly why that clearing was so pristine. “B’cause tha’s a trap,” Pania simply said. “They made it, ta entice travelers ta rest, an’ they’d be able ta take their prey.” She looked around the area, and found a small path that lead to an opening in the trees. They moved the horses to it and found it wasn’t as clean as the other, but it would do. “We can leave the ‘orses ‘ere,” Pania suggested. “Ge’ ‘em in the mornin’ when we done.”
“If…” Shani started.
“No’ thinkin’ ‘bou’ tha’,” Pania said quickly, interrupting any negative thoughts from Shani. “Fer the sake o’ the village, we cannu fail. We’re goin’ back after this is done.”
“Either ta celebrate,” Shani offered. “’R b’cause we been turned.”
It’s spires seemed to reach into the sky, as granite gargoyles watched any and all who would approach the tall wooden gate. The stone that made the castle walls looked ancient, as brambles and vines creeped along it’s surface. The blackened windows looked like hollow eyes in a decaying skull. The towers along the wall held the only light, as flames in sconces lapped hungrily in the night air. And the air grew even colder.
The pair of elves studied the wall for a moment, searching for an easy entrance to slip into unnoticed. It didn’t take long as they found a break in the wall. A suspiciously convenient break in the wall, mind you. Shani looked to Pania with some skepticism. “Whyn’t they jist put a sign up thet says ‘Imminent doom, this way.’”
Pania studied the narrow arched windows above them, as the flames from several candles made the shadows dance against the walls. “Cannu use the grapple lines,” she stated with a touch of disappointment. “Windows’ve gotta be three stories up.” She looked back over to the felled wall and then back to Shani.
“Could scope out fer a door,” the lithe elf offered. “Maybe git lucky.”
“With our luck we’ll pop inta the kitchen durin’ the nightly vampire feast,” Pania said with a snort. “An’ knockin’s outta the question. Wha’ do we say? ‘Greetin’s. We from the elven word an’ we’ve go’ some readin’ material fer ye.’” Shani snorted a laugh at the comment, then took a quick look inside. There was no monstrous hands that reached out to grab her, rending her limb from limb, so it must have been safe. “Well, ‘least we arna ‘bou’ ta ge’ killed goin’ in.”
“Nah, they leavin’ thet fer when we git further inside.” They both entered with care and caution, eyes wide on the lookout for any bloodsuckers that might be within reach. The crack lead into a long hallway, which appeared to be for servants. Obviously, this castle was at one time in use before it was infected with vampires. Ragged tapestries hung from the walls, depicting battles from long ago. Faded paintings depicted people long since dead. Possibly the former family that occupied this castle. Perhaps, they were now the vampires. “No way this place jist been built here,” Shani suggested. “Figger there’s some kinda magic at work. Place look like somethin’ I seen ’bout Europe in the back o’ the newspaper.”
“It definitely lacks a frontier feel ta it,” Pania said with agreement. The flames of the torches that lined the walls danced as the breeze passed over them, adding to the already uneasy feeling about the place. It was all too quiet, no sounds of people, even muffled. Only their footfalls gently echoes throughout the hallway, forcing them to move slower so they would not rouse the creatures that may have taken residence here.
Times like this was often when the beast would strike. Or at least send it’s minions.
“I don’t recall asking if someone would deliver food to us tonight,” the husky voice sounded in the hallway, causing Shani and Pania to stop literally in their tracks. No one else was in the hallway, but they both could feel a presence. Their eyes gradually explored the area, hoping they might see some evidence of their stalker. It came soon enough.
The mist that seemed to slip into the building began to swirl, gently at first, then rising into the air, and finally, taking form. Before them stood a handsome looking man, dressed casually in a frilled tunic, tight cotton slacks and knee high black jack boots. He leaned lazily on the rapier he held. “I suppose now is the time when you two will scream and start to run,” he said with a sickening smile as his fangs dripped from a fresh feed. “I had hoped dessert would be along shortly. So few people travel this road. Go ahead, run. You’ll only make the drink that much sweeter.”
Pania and Shani looked to each other for a moment. The elven bard rolled her eyes and shook her head as Shani looked back to the vampire. “Ya must be a youngun.” Like a signal, both gunslingers drew their pistols and fired, repeatedly. They had perfect aim, the vampire had smuggly placed himself only a few paces away them. Each bullet ripped into him, and he felt it. All too late, he realized these two were more than prepared. He crumpled to the ground as he felt his body stiffening.
The elves slowly stepped forward, Pania placed a boot on the vampire’s shoulder as she aimed her Smith and Wesson at his head. “Ye shouldna be so cocky, lad,” she said as she pulled back the trigger of the pistol, sending the vampire sprawling on the floor. Pania removed a wooden stake from her belt and tossed it to Shani who caught it expertly.
The lithe gunslinger knelt beside the vampire and spoke in a hushed tone as his body stiffened more. “Next time, don’t git so uppity with new folks, huh.” Shani rested her arm on her knee as she considered this statement, gently twirling the stake as she did so. “I guess thet ain’t really gonna matter now, is it.” She looked back to the vampire, who almost appeared to be pleading with his eyes for them to let him go. Shani shrugged, and then she struck. The stake went through his chest easily, and whatever undeath was in him slowly ebbed to nothing.
Shani stood fully as Pania completed the kill, making certain that his body would burn completely. The bard looked to Shani and sighed. “Better ‘ope we’ve no’ go’ an army ta deal with.” Shani just nodded, as a sudden noise caught her attention. It sounded very much like…
The two elves slowly passed through a side door, as quiet as they could, and looked into the room. They then realized that they could have made as much noise as they wanted. The five vampires were too busy ravaging their current victims. Off in one corner, a man was protecting a woman, who was crying, tears of maddness and shrieks of terror.
Shani took a deep breath and steeled herself. Pania used the anger that welled up inside of her as an advantage. “Looks like we coulda made as much noise as we wanted ta,” Pania offered with a disgusted look on her face.
“Yeah,” Shani agreed with a sigh as she checked her pistol, reloading the spent bullets with fresh ones. The spun the chamber closed and twirled the pistols easily in her hands, finally cocking the hammers back. “Good thing thet they called in the exterminators,” she said in a dry tone. “B’cause, we gots a regular infestation on our hands.”