Sacrificing their mortal forms in the name of justice, the familiars of Fang Force transformed into the greatest living weapons the world had ever seen. Once lost to the ages, their return should have been cause for celebration. However, the five great machines – Red Bat, Blue Wolf, Yellow Beetle, Pink Spider and Green Mountain Lion – had come as enemies, set to destroy the former home of the Great Vampire King.
Lindsay watched, helpless and in awe, as the first of the constructs came down on the castle bricks. Claws like steel collided with the walls, only to bounce back, repelled in equal force by an incandescent purple barrier.
“The old Master’s protection spell is as strong as ever,” Luther said, “but it won’t last very long!”
“Then we end this before it goes any further,” Cassius added with grim determination.
Lindsay locked her gaze on Vincent and Drake, whose victory seemed assured. Not until the final blow, she decided, and removed the crucifone from her jacket.
“With me, boys,” she said.
The three pressed the numbers 6-6-6 into the dial pad, and together they recited the incantation; “Soul Awaken!”
Storm clouds encircled the trio, replacing their everyday clothes with the uniform of their ilk. Gold trim vests wrapped around their black tights in red, blue, and yellow, along with boots, gloves and helmets in matching colors. All three bore a red shoulder cape as a mark of their allegiance, together with the sigil of their familiar; the bat, the wolf, and the beetle.
The Red Fang, once Lindsay, stepped forward. On their last meeting she’d shied from their former allies, but as leader it was time to make a stand. “I’ll tell you this once,” she declared. “Stop, or we’ll make you stop.”
Against the five behemoth machines pounding at the castle her words meant very little. Vincent tittered and Drake sneered. What bold talk from someone on the losing side.
“Lindsay, isn’t it?” Vincent asked. “What makes you think we’ll do as you say?”
“Because even though we’ve never properly met, you and I are friends,” she said, “and you know this isn’t right!”
What a curious answer. Drake might have laughed, but Vincent gave the thought some consideration. Did she really consider them to be allies? It seemed foolish of her to put faith in them because of past association, and yet…
Any thoughts he had were banished when Blue Fang pleaded with her. “You could finish this here and now,” he said. “All vampires are compelled to obey your word. Please, Lindsay! Use your power! Just this once!”
She peered through her visor toward Vincent, who watched with vested interest. This, she knew, was a defining moment.
“No,” she said. “I won’t command someone to act against their will, even if they’re wrong!”
What a rare quality, Vincent thought. If only the old Master had her fortitude.
Drake, however, was not so easily swayed, and all but ripped his crucifone from his jacket pocket. The time for battle was upon them, and Vincent followed suit. They dialed the numbers 6-6-6, and recited the incantation.
The wind came down, just as it had for their counterparts, and transformed them into their guardian states. One bore the sigil of the spider and the other the mountain lion. As free vampires neither wore a cape, nor would their pride allow them to. With the ritual complete the pair flashed their claws, ready to do battle.
“You’ve no excuse now,” Vultera screeched. “Destroy them! Leave no-one standing!”
“We don’t follow commands from you or anyone else,” Pink Fang said.
The harpy raised her talons. “Watch the way you speak to me, wretched spider, or Lord Nihilex will be most displeased.” As though wounds to the shadow conqueror’s pride were in any way their concern.
Pink Fang and Green Fang charged, just as the familiars did upon the castle. The conflict played out in small scale and large, with two vampires dividing their opponents to opposite sides of the field. Launching over their heads the spider guardian lured the Yellow Fang into his corner, with Red Fang offering support in lieu of a damaged arm.
Meanwhile, Green and Blue Fangs came in low and circled one another, never breaking their gaze. Even with the castle under siege they did not waver, and searched one another for an opening to strike.
“I’ll remember you fondly as a brother,” Blue Fang said. “Perhaps when you’re gone I can forgive what you’ve become.”
“Save your pity,” Green Fang seethed, and threw himself into the arena. The two locked claws and pressed until they were nose to nose. First to falter was slated for defeat, no matter his resolve.
With only one good arm to serve him, Yellow Fang was at half speed, making it a simple matter for Pink Fang to dance around him. Where he fell short Red Fang struck, but she still lacked the experience to anticipate either of their movements.
“This would be funny if it weren’t so pathetic,” Pink Fang said.
Yellow Fang threw all of his momentum into a single punch, though it landed far too late. However, it left a significant impact on the asphalt. “Stand still and fight me with honor!” he grunted.
For her part, Lindsay kept in time with the spider, with her kicks meeting his blocks. She was far from equal to Pink Fang, who had centuries on her with which to hone his craft. His tittering confirmed what she already knew; he was toying with them.
“Your stance pales in comparison to the Great Vampire King, and still you wear the title of ‘Red Fang’? I would be insulted were he still my Master!” Pink Fang twirled over their heads. It seemed he wasn’t trying to hit them at all.
With his endurance waning, Yellow Fang collapsed to his knees. The fight was as good as lost, with only one course of action remaining.
“Cassius is right,” he said. “You can stop this with a single command!”
She plowed into her opponent with unrelenting force. It didn’t matter if he laughed, or if this was a game to him; she intended to win. Perhaps she was a fool not using the power granted by heritage, but it was more than pride holding her back. What good was victory if it came at the cost of freedom?
Tired of the dead heat, Green Fang turned and launched toward his would-be leader. He was hardly a thought in Red Fang’s mind; likely she thought the mountain lion could be handled by her companion in blue. That hubris left her open to an attack. From behind, Green Fang planted Red Fang face first in the dirt.
“Not so tough now, are you?” Green Fang said.
Pink Fang scoffed. “Do you really think that was appropriate?”
The other two charged in defense, but stopped when they saw Lindsay at the mercy of the other fangs. Blue Fang crouched, though the others weren’t about to let him attack. Green Fang placed a boot on the young woman’s back and pressed his weight down.
“Don’t be a fool, Cassius,” Pink Fang said. “We have the upper hand.”
Rage and despair boiled like a sour cocktail in the wolf’s heart. He promised then and there to avenge the Red Fang, even if it meant following his former brothers to the end of the world.
Vultera flapped her wings and came down. She leaned toward the young woman and tapped her talons on her helmet. “Now’s your chance! Finish her!”
“Why are you still here?” Green Fang said.
The harpy turned up her beak at him. “Remember what you agreed,” she squawked. “You promised Lord Nihilex that you would destroy Fang Force!”
Pink Fang pursed his lips under the mask. “On our terms, vulture. Not yours. Just look at what we’ve wrought!”
He gestured to the castle, and to the five great familiars pummeling on its walls. The barrier sizzled and whined, and bent under the incredible weight set against it.
“Don’t toy with us, spider,” Vultera screeched.
By that point Feareus had more than his fill of sitting on the sidelines. Spoiled as he was, the giant had a natural strength that served him well. He charged at the fallen Red Fang and cried, “enough of this!” With all his might the monster’s foot fell, but stopped short when an opposing force landed in the centre of his chest.
Green Fang lorded over the stunned monster, claws bared. “You don’t tell us what to do! And you don’t finish our battles for us. This has been your final warning.”
The harpy tended to her brother. “You insolent-”
No sooner had she opened her mouth than Pink Fang gestured toward the sky, and the five great beasts soothed. They backed away from the castle, still largely undamaged from the assault, and eased to the ground with a thud. What was once destruction incarnate sat as impressive monuments to the spirit of Fang Force.
“You can tell Lord Nihilex he can fight his own battles,” Pink Fang said.
Feareus seethed. “This isn’t the end… I promise you that…”
With strength unnatural for a bird, even one the size of a woman, Vultera lifted her brother’s monstrous proportions from the ground and into a nearby portal. Darkness swallowed them both, removing the shadow conqueror’s offspring from the battlefield.
Red Fang pulled herself from the ground, and when they dared move close enough was joined by her two charges. They pulled her to her feet and fussed over her, checking for wounds. Lindsay, however, had other things on her mind.
“Thank you,” she said.
Green Fang tightened his fists. “Do you think this battle is over? This is only half-time!”
It was then that the unexpected happened. The Red Fang launched herself, not in an attack, but to throw her arms around the cat the way she would a long lost sibling. From under her mask echoed the sound of weeping, and the young woman gripped tighter.
“I’m sorry that he hurt you,” Lindsay said. “He asked something of you that he never should have, and you’ve been suffering ever since. That wasn’t right. You deserved better.”
Green Fang’s arms fell limp to his sides. What feeling came over him? It was not rage.
Just then the bells in the tower tolled. The sound resonated in their chests. All looked up to witness the minute hand strike midnight, marking evil’s return to Crescent Valley. As though one fight wasn’t enough for that day.
From the highest window fluttered a little purple bat who landed squarely in the middle of the five guardians. Spike smiled with apprehension, and scratched the back of her head.
“Erm, I’m sorry to interrupt, Miss Lindsay,” she said, “but there’s a rather large battalion of freaklings attacking innocents in the park. I’d recommend making your way there, spit spot!”
“‘Lindsay’ is busy,” Green Fang said.
Pink Fang nodded in agreement. “Right now she’s defending the castle.”
“From us,” Green Fang added for effect.
It should have been a difficult decision, but for Lindsay nothing could be clearer. “You can have the castle if you want. Do with it what you please.”
All four vampires, both friend and foe alike, balked at her words.
“There are freaklings in the city, and they’re hurting people,” she said. “As Fang Force we are sworn to fight evil and protect the innocent. If that means some stupid castle gets knocked down – even a castle as cool as this one – then so be it!”
The thought of leaving their home vulnerable was for a time unthinkable, but in their hearts both Cassius and Luther knew her to be right. Human life was more valuable than brick and mortar. The old Master would have said so himself.
So Red Fang started for the city, with Yellow Fang and Blue Fang stealing a moment to consider their kin. The castle was at their mercy. Was this the last they’d see of their home?
It would have been a simple matter to tear down the castle of the Great Vampire King; to rend its gates asunder, and pummel the bricks into dust. For decades stacked upon centuries, Vincent and Drake sustained each other on dreams of revenge, but the reality of it fell short. What was the point in destroying a castle with nobody to defend it? Where was the satisfaction when nobody was present to mourn?
Piqued by a mutual curiosity, both Pink Fang and Green Fang followed their foes into the city, and chose a perch looking down on the park. There they saw freaklings by the dozen storming through the open, chasing men, women and children alike with long, shuffling steps. What horrors they would inflict upon them; horrors of mind and body the two had witnessed a thousand times.
After all these years the thought continued to turn their stomachs, though now it churned with guilt.
Green Fang could no longer bear to look. “What were we thinking? Allying ourselves with these… these…“
“Monsters,” Pink Fang said. “Our thoughts were of revenge, and so long as we had that we would swallow anything; even an injustice such as this.”
The other vampire clutched himself, as though he would fall apart at any moment. “We were so lost in our own suffering that we lost sight of everything else!”
Though he shied away the sound, screams haunted the Green Fang, not only from the present by from the distant past. They would stay with him until the end of time, and so long as he had the power to act, he would.
Pink Fang placed a hand on his shoulder. “We are free vampires. We serve no-one; not even our own pain,” he said.
For the better part of their immortal lives, Drake and Vincent acted as they desired, and at present their desire was to vanquish evil. They launched into the air, no longer spectators, into the throng of freaklings. Claws and boots collided with the unliving minions, reducing them to piles of dust. Though it had been centuries, the gratification of meting justice remained fresh.
Soon the pair stood side by side with Fang Force, fending back the tide of freaklings from fleeing innocents. Were it not for their combined efforts the park would be overrun, and bystanders the inevitable victims.
Yellow Fang swatted awkwardly, but with incredible power, using his good arm. He stopped, having bowled a circle of freaklings away, and smiled under his helmet.
“Good of you to join us!”
“We fight alone and for our own reasons,” Green Fang said, and slashed at the midsection of a half dozen monsters. They fell like dominos, and dissipated into nothingness.
A low sweeping kick brought a pair of freaklings down. Pink Fang twisted into a front flip and delivered a punch and a kick on each of them, annihilating the pair. “We fight because we want to; not because we serve a master,” he said.
Yellow Fang chuckled. “Then we’re the same. Lindsay has refused the role of ‘Master’, so we fight by her side as friends.”
“He lies,” Green Fang said.
“He’s not lying,” Pink Fang said. “Don’t you see? She could have stopped us with her power to command vampires, but she didn’t. She could have halted Blue Fang in his tracks, but she didn’t. This girl, Lindsay, understands the cost of her power better than the old Master.”
Green Fang paused between blows. “Then she’s not like the old Master at all!”
The battle continued, side by side with Yellow Fang. An age that was lost to them had come alive again, and the guardians worked in time like a well oiled machine. They couldn’t help but smile. In spite of their differences, the feelings that connected them ran deep.
Over the bridge, the three came to where Red Fang and Blue Fang were surrounded. The odds appeared against them, but only on the surface, as the two made short work of the freakling forces.
Blue Fang stopped at the sight of his brothers. His heart seized in his chest. Cold adrenaline coursed through his veins, but Lindsay gestured him back with a hand.
“Wait,” she said.
Pink Fang raised his hands and sauntered toward their leader. “We come as allies,” he said, “and as friends, if you’ll have us.” He offered a hand to Red Fang, and invited her to take it.
She did, readily. Not even her mask could contain the joyous smile beneath. It was the same with Luther; Cassius less so.
Lindsay offered her hand to Green Fang, who approached with hesitation. Eventually he took it, and shook.
“Know this,” he said. “We are not servants.”
Red Fang beamed. “I don’t want servants, but I’ll be glad to have you as friends.”
She turned to Blue Fang, who was the last to forgive. All eyes followed suit, causing the vampire to fold his arms and turn away.
“Maybe,” he started, “maybe… I was overreacting…“
It was Pink Fang who approached him, and offered a hand in earnest. Cassius considered it for a moment, and swallowed his pride long enough to accept.
Under his mask a joyous tear ran down Vincent’s cheek. “Apology accepted… brother.”
For the first time in centuries the four vampires were united; this time without a Master to bind them, but the promise of lasting camaraderie. It was a promise made manifest by the sudden appearance of red half-capes over the shoulders of Pink Fang and Green Fang. The two jumped.
“I told you I’m not a servant,” Drake huffed.
Lindsay thought about it for a moment. “No, it’s not a servant’s cape. It’s more like a… a friendship cape! You know, like a friendship bracelet, except a cape.”
He boggled. “A… friendship cape?”
Pink Fang chuckled, longer and heartier than he had in a long while. “A friendship cape,” he said. “I like that!”
And so, united, Fang Force returned to battle to vanquish the last of the freaklings; in the name of peace, honor, and even friendship.
To be continued…