In all the days of his near-endless existence, it was the closest Fantom had ever been to oblivion. Born from nothingness, he would soon return to it, crushed in the grip of his monstrous step-brother, whose hatred of him transcended realms.
It was pointless to resist. This fight found him knowing that he couldn’t win. At best the abyssal prince could reminisce on what was, what could have been, before the unlife was choked from him.
“Goodnight, Fantom,” Feareus snarled, “for the last time!”
“Not if I can help it!”
Red Fang launched into the monster’s back, planted her feet between his shoulders, and wrenched his chin. Her strength needn’t have to be greater; it was distraction enough for Feareus to loosen his hold.
The other heroes charged, tackling Feareus’ burly arms one at a time. They clung for all their lives as the monster threw them this way and that. Still they held tight, leaving Feareus little room to move.
“Get them off me!” he bellowed.
Vultera danced around them, searching for an opening. Fang Force were like ants, never sitting in one spot for very long, crawling all over her brother. What was she to do?
“I can’t,” she wailed. “Not without hitting you!”
Feareus roared. “I can take it!”
The abominable bird unfurled a torrent of feathered knives. They tore through his hide as much as the guardians straddling him.
Feareus fell to his knees. The pain was worth it to be free; though he did not realize until too late that his hands were suddenly empty.
“Over here,” Red Fang said.
The sight defied belief; Fantom, prince of the Abyssal Realm, standing with the heroes of the human world. Despite their wounds they carried themselves with pride, having wrested their quarry from the hands of a beast.
Fantom reclaimed his sword. “You should have left me to my destruction,” he spat.
Red Fang shook her head. “We don’t rejoice in destruction, Fantom; not even the destruction of our enemies.”
“Then you’re as sentimental as you are foolish,” he said.
“I’m sorry to interrupt,” Blue Fang said, “but there are better times for conversation.”
Feareus shrugged off the steely feathers embedded in his scales, and laughed; not just a chuckle, but a deep, riotous belly laugh that resonated from the depths.
“You are the fools,” the monster mused. “All I did was release my hand, and already you congratulate yourself. You didn’t even notice you’re down a man!”
Lindsay gasped. She scanned the team, starting with Fantom. Cassius stood beside her, Luther behind him; Drake was on her other side…
Vultera cackled as only one of her kind could. In her clutches, with two feathers crossed like scissors in front of his neck, was Pink Fang, not daring to move.
“You forgot that there were two of us,” Feareus declared. “That was your big mistake!”
“All I needed was a second for you to let your guard down,” Vultera squawked with glee.
Pink Fang pulled away from the blades as far as he could. “Everybody stay calm. Let’s not lose our heads.”
“You don’t get to make that joke!” Green Fang roared.
“We’ve only come for the traitor,” Vultera squawked. “Give him to us, and we will spare your friend in pink.”
Fang Force was eager; Lindsay not so much. Nothing turned her stomach like the trading of lives, even if she valued one over the other. She turned to Fantom. Was he worth defending? The others would say no, and yet…
“Even if you honored their bargain, they would not do the same,” Fantom told her.
“One of him is worth a thousand of you,” Blue Fang said.
Yellow Fang huffed, but agreed.
Under her mask Lindsay fretted. The decision fell to her, as it would have the Great Vampire King. What was right, and what was wrong? Perhaps it was more a question of what she could live with.
“You don’t make deals with monsters,” Pink Fang said. “I may not have a Master, but I’ve lived my life well if it’s in service to a friend!”
How could he say that?
“No!” Red Fang rattled her fists. “If I have to choose… then I choose my friend!”
Fantom twisted. How soon came the betrayal. Be it a temporary alliance, ones so noble as Fang Force could have at least seen the battle through.
Without a sword he only had his bare wits. That, he was convinced, would be enough – it had to be.
“You’ll never take me!” the abyssal prince raged.
“Yes, we will,” Yellow Fang said, matter of factly.
The vampire snatched Fantom by the scruff of the neck, and scooped him up with another hand. He launched the prince with inhuman strength.
Fantom soared through the air, and did not realize until the final moment that he careered toward his half-sister.
Vultera raised her wings to shield herself. The two abominations collided, allowing Pink Fang to duck and roll toward his teammates.
“What are you doing?” Feareus bellowed.
So taken was he by the chaos failed to notice Blue Fang and Green Fang moving in behind.
The vampires struck the back of his legs, clawing at the soft flesh, and bringing the goliath to his knees. A swat cleared them from Feareus’ path, but the wound would not allow him to rise again.
Only a short distance away, Vultera screeched. “I’ve got him! I’ve got him!”
She clung to Fantom’s feet as though her life depended on it.
The abyssal prince crawled through the dirt, and would slither if he had to in the name of freedom!
Like her brother, she too was lost in her desperation, and took no care for her surroundings; particularly the red boot which landed square on her tailbone. Vultera screeched in deafening pitch, shattering windows in proportion to her suffering.
She turned to her attacker, and found her talons empty. Where was Fantom? She beat Red Fang away, cursing the dhampir’s name.
“He’s gone!” she squawked.
Feareus allowed a moment of respite for his wounds. Reptilian flesh folded over the back of his legs, thicker than it was before, and with renewed vigor. He beat the ground with vengeful blows, daring the vampires to come again.
“Crush Fang Force!” he roared, frothing at the jowls.
“No!” Vultera said. “We’re to retrieve and destroy Fantom! Those were Father’s orders! Until Mother is revived, there is no will but his!”
The behemoth settled. She was right. He could not afford to lose himself when there was work to be done.
Red Fang lay in the grass, along with most other members of her team. She watched between the blades as the two monsters returned to their feet, unmarked.
Meanwhile she and hers were a mess of cuts.
“We’ll stop you,” she winced, only half believing it.
“Another time,” Vultera said, and launched into the air.
Feareus stepped through a mysterious crack, leaving a snap of cold in his wake. Just like that, they were gone.
Lindsay pulled off her helmet. The adrenaline cooled and her body remembered how much it was supposed to hurt.
Her teammates were exhausted, and worse. Who knew what bruises they tended beyond flesh?
It was a fight none would soon forget.
To be continued…