It was by no means a novel sight, but no matter how many times she saw it, Lindsay couldn’t help but wonder, ‘how can he sleep like that?’
On this occasion Drake was on the sofa, balanced precariously on its back like a much smaller creature. She watched the vampire slumber, face rested on his hands, and feet folded to keep from falling. It was like something a child would do!
So fascinated was Lindsay that she did not register Vincent creeping behind her.
“It’s the ‘cat’ familiar that gives him the power to sleep anywhere.”
Lindsay clasped her chest to keep her heart from leaping out. “Give a girl a little warning next time!”
Drake stirred, but only slightly. He could sleep through most things.
Vincent bowed his head in apology.
“What I don’t get is how he can sleep so much,” Lindsay said in a hushed tone.
Vincent swished toward his comrade, not bothering to soften the clacking of his boot, and leaned close to Drake. There was drool running from the corner of the vampire’s lip, and down the back of the polished leather seat!
“It’s his own silly fault,” Vincent mused. “If he didn’t spend so much time away from the castle, he wouldn’t be so depleted.”
“What does that have to do with anything?” Lindsay asked.
If it was a ridiculous question she didn’t know it; at least not until Vincent feigned scandal.
“It’s all to do with you, my dear,” Vincent explained.
“Me? How? Why?”
“You may not be our Master,” he continued, “but you are an incredibly powerful vampire – dhampir, rather – in your own right. Just by existing in your presence, we’re not only rejuvenated, but strengthened.”
Lindsay furrowed her brow. She knew that living vampires were different from unliving vampires; so much that they didn’t need to drink blood, and could eat the same food as humans. Yet in all the time they’d shared, Fang Force had never sought to inhale her breath to gather soul energy.
“I suppose that’s why none of you have tried to kiss me,” she said.
“Kiss you?” Vincent chuckled. “I suppose it’s because we’re sensitive to your… situation.”
The vampire shrugged. “One girl, four men, each taking turns such in an intimate experience.” Vincent leaned his elbows against a nearby counter coquettishly. “To tell you the truth, you never seemed like that kind of girl.”
She inched toward him like a woman taking a first step onto coals. “What gave you that idea?”
“Cassius and Luther,” he said.
Lindsay chuckled. Of course Cassius and Luther wouldn’t encourage feeding from her; they were her most loyal companions, and still regarded her as a ‘Master’. And why would they inhale her breath if they could draw on her presence?
She leaned beside the vampire, closer than a friend might. Somewhere between handsome and beautiful, beyond the bounds of male or female, Vincent balanced like some lithe forest creature.
“When you drink from a… from someone like me, do you become more powerful?”
Vincent’s eyes flared. “The most powerful.”
Lindsay bit her lip. “We’re going to need all the strength we can get to defeat Lord Nihilex…”
From there instinct took over. Lindsay closed her eyes, and fell, fell, fell. Not even Drake’s snoring could shake her trance. Her lips parted, anticipating the rush taking her body.
But it was not to be.
Luther roared at the top of his lungs. “What are you doing!”
In a blink, the real world pulled Lindsay upright. At the far end of the room, Cassius and Luther were in shock, jaws practically striking the ground.
“I was just… we were just… talking.”
“Yes,” Vincent said. “Talking.”
Cassius, despite the cracks in his otherwise stoic features, clasped Luther’s shoulder and guided him toward the stairs. “Come on. This is none of our business.”
“But… but he’s centuries older than her,” Luther stammered.
“And she’s a grown woman who can make her own decisions. Come on.”
But the moment had passed, and the magic was gone. Lindsay blushed and launched away from the counter. There was something, somewhere, that warranted her attention.
Vincent sighed. Easy come, easy go.
“Could you guys keep it down?” Drake murmured from his perch. “M’trying to sleep.”
What further rest he might have enjoyed was cut short by the massive bell over their heads. Its ear-splitting clang roused them with urgency, signalling the return of evil to Crescent Valley.
Fang Force sprinted for the door, with Drake lagging behind. Such was their duty.
All was quiet on the outskirts of suburbia, where the midday traffic was sparse. A subtle line through a park divided residences from a strip of stores with prices marked on star-shaped cut-outs. At that hour it was frequented by stay-at-home parents and the elderly.
When Fang Force arrived there were fewer still. Only a handful of cars occupied the grocery store lot. No civilians, no monsters, nothing.
They stopped and scanned the area. Cars ran by without fuss, and sparrows picked between the pebbles.
Lindsay frowned. “Did we just get called out for nothing?”
“It’s never ‘nothing’,” Cassius said. “The monster may be hiding.”
“Be ready for anything,” Vincent hummed.
Luther rolled his eyes. ‘So be ready for anything,’ he mimicked without words. He only stopped because Lindsay caught him. Now was not the time to squabble.
“Then we search the area,” she decided aloud.
But there was nothing out of the ordinary. Old mailboxes remained stationery and hollow, vacant stores were barren save for letters to ‘the resident’ slid under the door, and the hedges by the storefront were in desperate need of pruning.
Though the five were decidedly there for justice, the mundanity of suburbia was not the evil they’d come for.
Drake shrugged. “Maybe it was a false alarm.”
“I don’t want to take the chance,” Lindsay said.
Luther flipped open his crucifone. “Spike, are you sure we’re in the right place?”
“The readings don’t lie, sir,” the little bat squeaked. “There’s a high concentration of Abyssal Realm energy right where you’re standing. More than I’ve seen in centuries!”
“Perhaps they’re playing hide and seek,” Vincent said.
“Don’t,” Luther said, fists trembling at his side.
Cassius stepped between the pair. “Save it for after the mission,” he said.
Drake yawned. “My adrenaline is wearing off, guys. If we don’t see any action soon I’m going to find a place to nap.”
“Maybe we should ask someone,” Lindsay said to nobody in particular.
She jogged to the far end of the lot, where a construction company were working on the frame of a tenement building next door. Lindsay waved her arms through the mesh fence.
A rugged man in flannel and a hard hat poked his head over the ledge. “You talkin’ to me, lady?”
Lindsay nodded. “Have you seen anything dangerous around here?”
The worker thought about it for a moment, and scratched his chin. Suddenly, his face lit up.
“Yeah! Yeah, I have!”
Lindsay pumped her fist. Just what she was hoping for!
“One of my guys doesn’t have a high viz vest,” he said, then reeled to the others. “Hey, Trevor! Where’s your vest, man?”
The hero deflated. Score one for workplace safety, she supposed, but still no sign of monsters.
“We should patrol on foot,” Cassius said.
Drake slumped. “Please, anything but foot patrol.”
“We can’t just walk away,” Lindsay said. “Something bad is happening, even if we can’t see it. Until we work out what it is, we can’t leave.”
Instead of storming castle gates, Fang Force wandered between the avenues of the mall, veering away from baby carriages and slashed prices. Evil was right under their noses, but where?
There comes a time when even the most shrill scream becomes mundane. As the Bard once said, ‘custom hath made it the property of easiness.’ Were Lord Nihilex were ever to be disturbed by the sounds of suffering, it would be on account of the volume.
Most days such an annoyance would be exterminated without a second thought. However, on this day it was a reminder of what sentiment produced; weak children, with a pedigree undeserved! Pain was the greatest gift he could give them, for in the end they would either be broken, or reshaped into offspring their Queen could be proud of.
Silence fell. Whether it had been hours or longer was difficult to determine. The suddenness of it was deafening.
He marched to the throne room, arms swinging and tentacles flailing. What was the fate of his offspring?
Wiseman awaited his arrival.
“Well?” he demanded. “Where are they?”
The sage gestured toward the throne, where two figures prostrated. They passed a resemblance to the former selves, but were now imbued with traits both once lacked; strength, confidence, and a hunger for destruction. It burned in their eyes like a thousand battlefields, ignited in them by the sorcerer’s tonic.
“May I present, my Lord,” Wiseman rasped, “your daughter, Vultera.”
The first unfurled all six pairs of wings. Their span reached from one side of the room to the other, and seethed with cold and darkness. On her feathers were countless eyes; more than decoration, they blinked and drank the room.
Wiseman continued. “And your son, Feareus.”
The second flexed mighty, reptilian arms. Another vestigial pair with shining claws protruded from his torso. A bone mask concealed his features, and from the cavities slithered numerous vipers. Woe betide any who dared cross such a creature.
Together they appeared an impenetrable wall of force, more formidable than any general from the Abyssal Realm. More formidable, perhaps, than the traitorous Fantom.
For once Lord Nihilex was without words.
“Perhaps you may yet prove yourselves worthy to be called my children,” he mused.
To be continued…