There were noises outside the castle. They were loud, they were violent, and they were the last thing Lindsay needed while sitting on top of a vampire bat. Was this another prank, or something much worse?
Lindsay shifted on the pail to keep her skirt from riding up. It was a good thing she was wearing flats, in case she needed to run. She could run like the wind if she had to; and jump, and climb. In fact she was remarkably good at sports, despite never having a passion for them.
Spike tapped at the walls of her aluminium prison. “Excuse me, miss? What did you say your name was again?”
The young woman relented. “Lindsay…”
“Miss Lindsay,” Spike chirped. “I understand that you fear for your person, but I have urgent business that I must attend to. Is there anything I can do to assure my good faith?”
She stared at the bricks in thought. Words were meaningless. For all she knew Spike would say anything to get free. Next she’d be promising treasure, jewels… immortality!
A smirk tickled the corner of her lip. Imagine, Lindsay the vampire, walking the Earth for a thousand years. She could travel the continents, party all night, learn all sorts of things; so long as she remembered her SPF one million.
Could it work? She wondered.
“Tell me what you need to do, and maybe I’ll consider letting you go,” Lindsay said.
Spike sighed. “If you must know, I’m seeking the scion of the Great Vampire King.”
“Wait, the scion? As in his descendant?”
Lindsay slid down so that she kneeled on the floor, but made sure that she was able to jump on top of the pail again if the bat tried anything. So help her, Spike aroused her curiosity.
“Well, yes,” she explained. “When the clock tower strikes midnight and evil returns to the world, my task is to seek out the scion of the Great Vampire King so that he, she, or they, can dispel it.”
The young woman shook her head. “The scion of the Great Vampire King,” she said. “Not the Great Vampire King himself.”
“He is… indefinitely indisposed,” Spike said.
This changed everything. Lindsay wasn’t sure how, but this was important. For all this time vampire royalty could have been walking among them! Such knowledge was more than her little heart could handle.
“So if you’ll just let me on my way-”
“No way,” Lindsay said. “I want you to tell me everything!”
“I’m afraid I don’t have time to-”
Spike would have agreed to her terms had fate given her the opportunity.
From the end of the corridor appeared a shambling creature whose not-quite-human shape was wrapped in bandages. It was like something from a horror movie.
Lindsay jumped back, heart racing. The bucket didn’t seem quite so important. A chatty bat was less dangerous than this… this… thing!
No sooner had the weight lifted than Spike burst from the pail, spreading her leather wings and flapping about the room. So taken was she by her freedom, that she almost failed to note the monster closing on them.
“A freakling! Here?”
Lindsay pressed her back to the wall. “A-a what?”
“An agent of Lord Nihilex,” Spike told her. “If that thing is here then evil truly has returned to this world!”
With unnatural swiftness, the monster trapped Lindsay in the corner. Its arms came down to tear the young woman limb from limb. Were it not for the vampire bat swooping over its face, her fate might have been sealed.
Spike flapped and clawed, tearing bandages from the freakling. It groaned and swatted, but could not throw her from its vision. Though she proved an effective distraction, and Spike’s were many, she left little if any mark upon the monster.
Lindsay heard the cry, but her legs were frozen. This was no prank, and each horror grew more terrible. Her heart beat so rapidly in her chest, that her breathing could barely keep pace. What could she do in the face of concentrated evil?
A chance swipe was all it took to send Spike colliding into the brick. She fell to the floor, dazed. Lindsay was alone with the freakling, and the creature set on her; she was the prey, it was a hunter.
Time slowed to a crawl those moments before oblivion. Lindsay’s eyes fixed open, determined to face the thing, no matter how gruesome. The freakling charged. It should have been the end of her.
From hidden depths, salvation came! A course of fire raced through her veins. All fear melted away, replaced by the burning drive to live! The young woman’s eyes were aglow with power beyond her knowing; a power that transformed her from the feet up.
With agility she’d never known, Lindsay bound three steps up the wall and vaulted over her attacker. She turned, and with the utmost grace landed, now standing outside the spot the freakling had her pinned. The danger was not over, but once more she followed the instinct to drive forward.
The conservative tour guide erupted with a kick that landed in the centre of the freakling’s chest. The impact drove it into the wall, shattering brick, and left the aberration a husk of what it was.
Her heart slowed, but Lindsay still carried the flame in her chest. She turned to Spike as the little bat regained her senses, only to find her in awe.
“It’s… it’s you,” the little creature gasped.
Lindsay froze, just as surprised by the superhuman feat. Maybe, she thought, it was on account of the adrenaline rush. Deep down she knew it was more.
There was no mistaking what appeared in the crystal ball. Those eyes, burning like pokers, were the same to drive Lord Nihilex and his ilk from the Earth. Centuries later they remained fresh in his memory. Though banished in one form, the Great Vampire King lived on through his kin!
The dark ruler cast his goblet and its contents to one side of the main chamber and stormed to the other. Chilling waves cascaded his form. They merged with the vacuous shadows, and through them choked the life from every less-than-unholy-thing that dared to crawl so deep beneath the ground.
“This is impossible,” Lord Nihilex railed. “The Great Vampire King is no more! His spirit was sealed! It happened before my eye!”
Fantom exhaled. He cringed at every outburst, dreading the next. He turned to speak, but his swollen cheeks thought better of it. The role of whipping boy was not one the warrior aspired to.
“This changes everything,” Lord Nihilex muttered. “Send out the order. Turn the freaklings from the castle. We move on the town!”
Wiseman nodded solemnly, as was his duty. Though what reason held Fantom’s tongue gave way in protest.
“My Lord. The scion has yet to realize her power. An attack on the castle-”
“Do not speak to me again,” the stout ruler seethed. “Even in her current state, this newly revealed scion poses a threat.”
He picked up his goblet and poured more wine. He filled it until sour drops spilled over the rim. Lord Nihilex licked between his fingers and hummed.
“The Vampire King’s weakness has always been people. If the scion is anything like her ancestor, she will do everything in her power – even relinquish it – to see them safe.”
‘Safe,’ he mused, as though humanity would stay that way for long. When time came for darkness, all would suffer; and the Great Vampire King would not sacrifice to prevent it. What a fool! How the thought tickled him.
Lord Nihilex chuckled until bursting in riotous laughter. The night would be his, and all he had to do was break one feeble young woman.
For every one to fall, another freakling rose up. They lashed out, more often than not to meet a blow from the deft vampire warriors – but even their failure served a purpose. After gruelling minutes their enemies started to slow, and grunts of satisfaction were overtaken by sighs of exhaustion.
Luther landed a strike centre mass, sending one of the monsters flying with superhuman force. The freakling flew into its ilk, flailing like a bug turned on its back, and bowled a dozen more from their feet. It might have been satisfying had he time to celebrate. The freaklings multiplied, two by four by six.
“I was asleep so long,” Luther grunted between strikes, “I forgot how much I hate these things!”
Cassius snarled. “No doubt Lord Nihilex is testing the limits of our endurance. He will not have the satisfaction of finding them!”
The stern elder vampire (if only by a hair) struck low and moved through the swarm. The waves, relentless as they were, thinned along the perimeter, thanks in no small part to Cassius’s methodology. Yet his work was not yet done. The freaklings would not stop coming!
Until they did.
Fallen monsters dissolved into piles of dust and coated the asphalt outside the castle. A chill wind blew them toward oblivion, and as it did polluted the air with the smell of ash. The few who remained proved short work for the vampires, even in their current disheveled state.
Luther dared to grin, but thought better of it. “Is that all of them?”
Cassius sniffed the air. His expression soured. If only they were so fortunate. “There’s more, but they’re somewhere else.”
The scent led his gaze to the road, between the trees and toward the distant lights beneath the mountain. But why would Lord Nihilex strike there when the castle was a threat? A flash of realization startled his senses.
“They’ve shifted targets!”
Down the hillside, the shambling horde crossed the inner city limits of Crescent Valley. The ‘Welcome’ billboard was never intended for the restless unliving. Only a few short miles down the main strip was the end of the tree line, and from there a community of homes. Families. Children.
Luther clenched his fists and raced into the night. “They’re going after the humans!”
Lindsay couldn’t imagine a little bat having the strength to pull her anywhere, but pull her Spike did. She all but tripped over the stairs back into the dust-covered belfry which, thank the powers that be, now had light. Yet she was no more illuminated regarding the goings on around her, or inside her.
Spike broke her hold and dived into a stack of crates. Straw flew in clumps as she dug through the pile, as did a flurry of antiques that would have served well in the castle. Candelabras, old books, even a bronze statuette were cast aside in the little bat’s search, until she found what she was looking for.
The curious tour guide peered into the crate. “What is it?”
Popping out from the straw, the little bat offered an ornate chest to Lindsay. It was hard wood with gold trim, and polished in a deep, cool shade of red. Spike held it above her head and encouraged the young woman to take it.
Linsday studied the box which fit comfortably between her hands. No sooner had she touched it than she was overcome. A surge ran up her arms. Had she not known better Lindsay could have sworn that the swirls on the wood pattern were rushing across the box. Warmth permeated her hands, as did the quakes from inside the box; almost as if it had a heart beat.
“Open it,” the little bat said.
Against her better judgement Lindsay did just that, flipping open the clasp and revealing the velvet insides of the box. Tucked in the middle was a device; what appeared to be a compact, almost like a cell phone. On its bright crimson exterior was a gilded cross, similar to the kind seen in a church.
She cradled it in her palm. “What is this?”
Spike bounced and flapped her wings. “Why, Miss Lindsay! It’s a crucifone!”
The young woman shook her head. “What’s a ‘crucifone’?”
“Yes, it has a confusing name,” Spike said. “Centuries ago, our Master devised an invention capable of communicating over long distances. The ‘phone’ aspect borrows from a Greek word meaning ‘voice’ or ‘sound’-”
“I know what a phone is,” Lindsay told her, “but why is this one special? And why are you giving it to me?”
The little bat puffed with pride. “Well, this crucifone is one of five, crafted by Great Vampire King to summon the power of his Fang Force. As his heir, you will need his crucifone in the upcoming battle with-”
Lindsay fell back into a nearby chair, her face pale. “Stop. Rewind. What’s this about being an heir to the Great Vampire King?”
“You are just that, Miss Lindsay,” Spike informed her with a smile. “You are the latest in his bloodline. It falls to you to lead his Fang Force into battle.”
Two large, but very opposing thoughts crossed the threshold of Lindsay’s thoughts, and both threatened to explode across the room. The first centred around how cool it was to be related to the Great Vampire King! The second decided that it was impossible; that people like her did not become the subject of supernatural prophecies.
“My Mom works in a shop,” Lindsay said.
Spike nodded. “And her father was an army colonel, and his mother was a nurse, whose mother was a seamstress, et cetera, et cetera, whose father was the Great Vampire King!”
The young woman frowned. “How do you know all this?”
“Because I saw it in your eyes, Miss Lindsay. It’s genetic memory; one of the gifts passed down by your ancestors. Your blood remembers. Search inside yourself, and you’ll know I’m speaking the truth.”
She had to admit, against all reason it sounded right; and there were too many weird goings on to doubt her.
“So I’m a vampire,” Lindsay said.
“Technically a dhampir,” Spike said, “but close enough.”
Lindsay considered the weight of this device – the crucifone – against the weight that hung in her chest. She’d had fantasies like this, but the reality carried responsibility she couldn’t otherwise imagine. Regardless, it was not one she would flee from. Lindsay grinned from ear to ear.
“So where do we start?”
As if to answer the crucifone rang with a bell tone. Lindsay looked to her companion, who in turn encouraged her to answer. She flipped it open to reveal a dial pad with sculpted numbers, and an earpiece shaped like the mouth of a trumpet. Setting it down, both she and Spike leaned close to the device.
A man’s voice undulated from the other end. “Spike? Is that you? You sound… different.”
“No, my name is Lindsay,” she said. “I… think you have a wrong number?” She shrugged at Spike, who frowned and shook her head.
“Who is that?” asked another male voice, but was overtaken by the first.
“I’m sorry, but I don’t have time for this. Whoever you are, please tell Spike that Lord Nihilex is moving toward the town. He’s going to attack civilians to draw out the scion.”
Lindsay jumped from her seat. “What? No! That can’t be right!” By then it was too late. The connection ended, and now a ‘great evil’ would hurt others to get to her. This, she decided, wouldn’t stand.
The young woman snapped the crucifone closed and steeled herself. She turned to Spike. “What do I need to know to fight these guys?”
To be continued…