To say that Cassius was stupefied was something of an understatement. Humans, in his experience, were afraid of vampires. A certain number even came to the castle to stoke that fear. However, when faced with the subject of their anxiety, they utterly failed to react. To what end! How, Cassius wondered, did a little old man evoke more fright than a legitimate vampire such as himself?
He continued to boggle as he scaled the steps of the belfry, only to be shaken from his reverie by a pair of arms encapsulating him at waist level. Cassius blinked before realizing they belonged to Lindsay, and that she was in something of a state. She clung to him, and though it did not come naturally to him, the vampire thought it best to stroke her back.
“Is everything alright?” he asked.
Lindsay pressed her face deep into his costume. “I’m so sorry for not realizing before!”
The vampire turned to his other companions, who appeared sheepish in their amusement. It seemed he was the last to be in on the joke.
“For not realizing what?” he asked, and cradled the back of her neck as though she wee a child. How strange that one he’d called ‘Master’ should seek comfort in this way, and from him of all people.
The young woman pulled away and fixed her eyes shut, barely able to face him. “It’s hard enough waking up in a brand new century,” she said. “I didn’t stop to think about what you’d left behind. Friends, family…”
What words he had fell short. From where did this sentiment stem? Cassius pulled away and ran his hands down her shoulders.
“Your heart is filled to the brim with compassion, and I’m thankful for that,” he said, “but please don’t grieve on our account. What we have sacrificed was given freely, and I for one am content to leave it in the past.”
Lindsay frowned. “So you’re saying you never get sad about that kind of thing?”
“Perhaps one day,” Cassius said, “when our duty is done and we’ve the time for such thoughts. There are more pressing matters to dwell on here in the present day.”
Casting her notice to Luther, she saw him shaking his head, disappointed but not at all surprised. Was this level of stoicism normal for Cassius, or for anyone? It seemed difficult to believe, but what other choice did she have than to respect it.
What was a quiet afternoon shattered when the clapper struck the tower bell. A cacophony of sound rattled their bones, just as it had the night Lord Nihilex emerged from the Abyssal Real. Lindsay clasped her hands over her ears, and searched the others’ faces for an answer.
With a press of her tiny foot, Spike turned the chalkboard in the center of the room so that it revealed a topographical map of Crescent Valley. She hopped down and snatched a chain between her teeth, dangling a pendulum toward it. Moments later, it swayed toward the likeness of town square, and lingered as if pointing.
“What’s going on?” Lindsay called over the din.
Luther took her by the hand. “Evil,” he said.
Before the twelfth ring struck Lindsay and her vampire companions were caught in a plume of smoke. The room vanished, and when the smoke cleared they were standing on the steps of city hall. The bells, which only a moment ago racked her ears, became in an instant an echo in the mountains.
“A little warning, Spike?” Lindsay huffed.
The streets outside of City Hall, the beating heart of the city, were empty. Why? How? Of all the questions dancing on her tongue, only one made it past the young woman’s lips. “Where the heck is everyone?”
Cass gestured toward the answer. On the other side of the intersection were creatures – freaklings – huddled together and sealing the roads. As a collective they stared, but none dared to make a first move.
Lindsay removed the crucifone from her pocket with a sigh and flipped it open. “Alright, team. You know what time it is.”
She stopped when the mass inched back, wary not to make any sudden movements. If she didn’t know any better Lindsay could have sworn they were prepared to run.
“What is it?” Luther asked.
Lindsay’s face contorted. “I don’t think they’re here to fight us.”
“They’re not,” a voice told her, “and neither are we; though you may leave us little choice.”
She turned before the others, who were for a moment frozen, like they’d heard a ghost. Both Cassius and Luther stiffened. Were vampires afraid of ghosts?
Though it was no specter who haunted them, but a pair of men positioned in front of the building. One appeared tall and lithe with gravity-defying hair and a flair for fashion; the other had heavy eyes, and buried his hands in the pockets of his leather jacket.
“And who are you supposed to be?” Lindsay snapped. Fang Force answered for her.
“Drake,” gasped Luther.
“Vincent,” growled Cassius.
The taller of the pair danced and clapped his hands. “My brothers! How good of you to recognize us after all these years!”
Lindsay narrowed her eyes at them. They were just like the figures in the drawing, only their attire was decidedly more modern.
“You’re the Great Vampire King’s other followers,” she said.
“Former followers,” Vincent replied coolly.
His companion, however, had no such composure. “Speak that name again and we’ll make sure you regret it! He’s no Master of ours; not anymore! After we’ve delivered recompense we will be free vampires, once and for all!”
That it was Cassius who snapped took Lindsay off guard. “How can you say that?” he roared. “He was our Master! He showed us kindness when nobody else did!”
“Easy for you to say,” Vincent said. “The two of you were his most loved. We, on the other hand, were the fodder he dragged with him into the Abyssal Realm.”
Luther was beside himself. “How can you say that? We drew lots together! It could have been any of us!”
“Then it’s coincidence that the two favorites were charged with guarding the castle,” Drake jeered.
Cassius did not hesitate to answer. “Coincidence or not, things happened as they did. I can’t imagine what you’ve suffered, but to stand there and insult the Master in the presence of his descendant is inexcusable!”
Lindsay jumped. “Why are you dragging me into this?”
The vampire reigned his temper. He had overstepped his bounds.
“We have no qualms with the scion,” Vincent said. “Not unless she gets in our way.” He gestured to her with a smile. “Hello, dear. A pleasure to meet you, I’m sure.”
Luther grabbed his cohort by the lapels, but could not sway Cassius’s gaze. “Why are you doing this?” he pleaded. “They’re our kin!” He peered up the stairs and opened his arms wide. “Drake! Vincent! A lot has happened, I know, but we can make this right.”
“Please listen to him,” Lindsay said. “Come back to the castle with us. We have tea and cake and… and we can order in. I know a great Indian place that delivers!”
“Is that an order, scion?” Drake pressed.
Lindsay shook her head. “No. It’s an invitation. Please?”
The taller of the vampires ran his fingers through the fur of his collar. “Lovely as that is, I’m afraid it’s not possible,” he said. “You see, come this time tomorrow there will no longer be a castle to return to.”
Cassius snapped again. “And what do you mean by that?”
A wry smile curled the corners of Vincent’s lips. “It’s as I say. Both Drake and myself remain in command of the Great Vampire King’s ultimate weapon. What better way to repay him than to turn it against his former home?”
The three heroes stopped short. Though it was the first Lindsay had heard of an ultimate weapon she had no doubt of its existence, especially given the pause of her teammates.
“We’ve no wish to hurt anyone,” Drake told them flatly, “which is why we’re giving you twenty-four hours to evacuate.”
It was something from a nightmare; a fateful reunion tainted by hatred. Cassius’s face was as stone, though Luther fell over himself with grief. How could they make it better?
“I won’t let you do this,” Cassius said.
Vincent sneered. “I dare any of you to stop us.”
The two vampires reached into their pockets and removed their own personal crucifones, identical to those possessed by Lindsay, Cassius and Luther. They flipped the pads open and dialled the numbers 6-6-6. As one they spoke the incantation.
“Pink Fang!” said Vincent.
“Green Fang!” said Drake.
Just as it happened to Fang Force, so it did for them. From the ether emerged a storm of clouds that wrapped around their bodies, swirling until they changed into their guardian form. The two wore uniform black under their vests, gloves and boots. Vincent, dressed in pink, wore a helmet with many eyes like a spider, while Drake in green wore a helmet with the downturned ears of a mountain cat. Neither wore a cape, for they had no loyalty to offer anyone but themselves.
“Well?” Green Fang spat. “What do you have to say for yourselves?”
While often the mark of composure, even one such as Cassius had his limits. A raging torrent exploded from beneath still waters, and hurtled him up the steps. He snatched the crucifone from his pocket, and dialled the numbers 6-6-6.
“Soul Awaken! Blue Fang!”
The storm took him as it took the others, and Cassius was transformed into a guardian with the avatar of the wolf. Like the wolf he would protect his pack to the bitter end; even against those who were lost to him.
Lindsay watched in horror as fang clashed against fang, and a family turned on itself. Someone had to stop the madness!
To be continued…