It’s worth noting that while exposure to sunlight is not fatal to the living vampire, it remains an irritant; particularly to Drake, who while asleep on a branch fell into the gradual shifting of sunlight through the leaves. He woke with a groan, and swatted at the rays.
“Who put the sun there?”
Deciding that he’d slept long enough, the leather-clad vampire dropped to the ground on all fours. He stretched and he yawned, readying himself for the few hours until his next scheduled nap.
“Suppose I should check on the others,” he muttered to nobody.
Drake shuffled through the backstreets. There wasn’t much to see.
Every so often he’d come across a yard where a child, too young to know better, smiled up to him. His smirks were closer to sneers. It had been hundreds of years since he was a child; too long to remember how they worked.
He discovered his teammates in an empty lot. They weren’t alone, however, as a man clutched what he could only assume was his daughter to his chest. All six were fixated on something by the far wall.
“Hey, guys! What’s…”
Drake froze. There, before them, was an abyssal general, propped on his sword, eye burning with hate. It wasn’t just any abyssal general, either.
“Fantom! That’s Fantom! He’s standing right there!”
“We can see that,” Vincent said, drolly.
“So why are we standing here? We can destroy him!”
The former general chuckled. “If that is to be my fate. Better to face my end at the hand of a worthy foe than my own pitiful excuse for a ‘family’…”
Lindsay signalled the others to stand down. “You mean Lord Nihilex did this to you?” she asked.
“Then it seems we have a common enemy,” Cassius considered aloud.
The villain spat. “I would sooner face oblivion than side with your like!”
The small human fought her father’s hold. “Please don’t fight,” she pleaded. “You’ll only get more hurt!” Tears welled in her eyes, with feelings too large for her small body.
By all the dark forces, Fantom could not face her. Perhaps his heart was not as cold as it once was.
Lindsay steeled herself. “Either come with us, or we end you where you stand,” she said.
“I’m for option B,” Drake said, pounding his palm.
How grim his plight for Fantom to consider such an offer. Imagine, a prince of the void making allies of the living! Yet it was not the first time survival made such impossible demands.
Fate quickened his choice when a large, heavy something fell from the sky. The heroes doubled back, giving it a wide berth. From the crater emerged a monster, with four arms and a forest of vipers twisting through its mane. A fearsome monstrosity if ever there was one.
It was joined by several birds twisted into a single body. It squawked and beat its wings with feathers that appeared to blink. She flashed her plumage, sickly caricature of a rainbow that it was, and snapped.
“Daddy, what is it?” Abigail gasped.
He had no answer.
“Give us Fantom and you may leave with your lives,” bellowed the larger of the pair. He flexed his arms, one set after the other, to demonstrate the tree-like girth of each.
Lindsay widened her stance. The others followed her lead.
“Fantom,” she said. “Have you made a decision?”
The abyssal prince hobbled into formation. “Only a fool would refuse an alliance, even a temporary one,” he said.
Vultera beat her wings. “I’ve never seen anything so pathetic!”
“Pathetic is bowing to one so fragile as your father,” Fantom spat. “He may have power, but he does not have the will to rule; nor the fortitude of character! With but a handful of words, he falls like a house made of sticks!”
What sweet blasphemy it was. For how many centuries had the prince stilled his tongue? Perhaps the alliance was worth it, if for no other reason than to speak the forbidden truth.
“For that,” Vultera screeched, “you will pay with your life!”
Fang Force – Lindsay, Cassius, Luther, Vincent and Drake – flipped their crucifones open and dialed six-six-six. They belted out the incantation, “Soul Awaken!” Vampire and dhampir gained bright uniforms, each bearing a cape as red as their leader.
They launched, determined to put the beasts down quickly. That was not to be.
Yellow Fang grappled with the larger, pitting his might against him, but leaving him open to a pair of fists. They struck like sledgehammers, colliding with his ribs. He rolled to the dirt, fighting for breath.
“I’ve got this!” Red Fang cried.
She landed a kick that should have knocked him back to the pavement, but was caught in a tangle of snakes around her leg. They tossed her across the lot, out of the grass and onto the sidewalk.
“Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow!”
Meanwhile, Blue and Green Fang pounced at the bird, eager to snatch her in their claws. Though Vultera evaded their attack with the utmost ease and took to the sky, leaving the pair to fumble.
She laughed, but did not realize that she’d been set up. It hardly mattered, though. Pink Fang, whose aerial prowess was the greatest of the team, jumped to latch onto the bird. Vultera, however, and knocked him to the ground with a pelting of razor-like feathers.
Pink Fang struck the earth without grace. Worse yet were the slices through his uniform. The feathers made short work of his armor.
Blue Fang and Green Fang plucked him from the ground.
“She’s tough,” Green Fang said.
Pink Fang winced. “We’re going to need a new strategy.”
A rain of feathers scattered on and around them, tearing through the vampires like rabid teeth. One by one they rolled onto their backs, nursing their cuts.
“How do we fight this?” Blue Fang asked.
They gathered in time for Vultera’s second wave. Yellow Fang threw his arms wide and braced. The others huddled behind his skin that became indestructible when tensed.
Though it would be for nought. Vultera screeched at an inhuman pitch, splitting their ears, bringing the heroes to their knees. No barrier, not even an indestructible one, could protect them.
Brother and sister laughed like naughty children, and pounded fists in solidarity.
“Guess we don’t know our own strength,” Feareus grunted.
“And Fang Force overestimated theirs,” Vultera remarked.
To think that less than a day before they were the lowliest of warriors, even in spite of their heritage. Now they were a force the likes of which none could have imagined.
The fretful father stumbled away, reeling with the knowledge that no heroes could protect him; worse, they couldn’t protect his daughter. He clung to her for dear life, though she fought him every step.
“We have to help my friend!” she cried.
Fantom clutched his side and seethed. Had she no sense of the danger they faced?
“I am not your friend,” he told her. “I am a monster – the bad kind of monster. Now, go!”
Dark power erupted from his palm. Though a small amount, it pained him to do so. However, it was enough to convince the humans – sweet as they were insipid – to flee the area.
Some might have considered it compassion on his part, but Fantom knew better. Humans on the battlefield presented a weakness his siblings could exploit. In pragmatic terms, the battle would be easier without their distraction.
Fang Force – such noble fools.
The prince turned. He knew his blade wouldn’t land, but that didn’t stop him as he charged at Vultera, set to run her through. His sword stopped short between the cradle of her feathers. They pinched like steel.
Feareus clasped the prince’s throat between finger and thumb. The remaining digits wrapped around Fantom’s torso. He squeezed, and in doing so opened the wounds on his step-brother’s side.
Purple dripped like juice from a crushed fruit. Did grapes know agony as Fantom did?
“I never dared to imagine a day like this,” Feareus mused. “Once it seemed impossible; a waste of mental space. What chance did Feareus have against his arrogant step-brother, Fantom?”
Vultera flapped with sick delight. “Do it, brother! Crush him!”
The scaled digits drew tight, wrenching Fantom of every ounce of strength. Wet sounds followed the snapping of bones, driving him further into a world of pain.
Feareus snarled, baring every tooth under his bone mask. “I’ve always hated you, Fantom. Our Mother gave you favor, but you never deserved it.”
The prince struggled in vain. He was numb. Perhaps, after thousands of years of unlife, this would be his end; by his own blood, no less.
He remembered the sentiment of his mother, the sleeping Queen Lacuna. Somehow, he’d hoped for something greater.
To be continued…