“Father’s going to be mad.”
Vultera swallowed, hard. The two had searched for hours on end, combing all points of Crescent Valley, but to no avail. Their prey had slipped from their grasp.
Of course they could blame Fang Force for their failure – and likely would – but no excuse could temper Lord Nihilex’s legendary rage.
They pressed into the caves, hand in hand, ready to face the inevitable.
They could run, but to do so would only prolong the inevitable. Better to get it over and done with, and to suffer only a little before the end.
After a slow, dreadful march, the two came into the throne room, where Wiseman hunched in wait. He raised his head, but did not reveal the face under his hood.
“Vultera, Feareus,” he croaked. “Lord Nihilex has been expecting you.”
The siblings balked in the face of their father’s prospective rage, but ventured forth anyhow. An unseen force pressed their backs, driving them on.
Lord Nihilex sat high upon his throne, and leaned against his palm. For one so overcome with anger he was uncharacteristically still, almost expectant. Did he desire for them to plead?
Slowly, deliberately, Vultera and Feareus prostrated before him. They did so without their trademark desperation, braving whatever was to come.
“Lord Nihilex,” said the reptilian behemoth, “we return to you without Fantom.”
“We have failed you,” the abominable bird continued, her voice heavy. “Do with us as you will.”
The shadow conqueror considered them a moment, and shifted. His single, heavy eye pressed down, searching them for… something – nobody could say.
“I understand you encountered our enemies,” he said. “Fang Force,” he added, acid rolling from his tongue.
Both siblings nodded.
Lord Nihilex rose from the throne and plodded down the stairs.
“Tell me of the battle,” he commanded.
Vultera who found her words first. She squawked in a meek tone. “The traitor, Fantom, shamefully turned to humans for aid, and in turn, Fang Force,” she explained. “Feareus and I discovered them, engaged the enemy, but before we could complete our mission, Fantom made his escape. We broke away in favor of the original mission, but… he was gone.”
“A pity,” Lord Nihilex strolled between the pair. “Had you chosen to finish the fight you would have come home victorious.”
“But without Fantom,” Feareus said.
The shadow conqueror turned on his heel. “Forget Fantom! He’s a worm, unworthy of my attention! Or yours. You, my children, fought our immortal nemeses to a standstill, and when we redouble our forces, you’ll do so again!”
What was this feeling that burst from his father? Neither Feareus or Vultera could parse it.
“Rise, Vultera,” said Lord Nihilex, “and rise, Feareus; son and daughter of Queen Lacuna.”
Rather than oblivion, they fell into the embrace of a father for whom the love of his children was alien. Perhaps this was different; perhaps it was not ‘love’ of family, but pride in warriors who could carry his legacy.
“Together we will destroy Fang Force,” he said, “and herald a new world for our Queen!”
What a beautiful dream!
One of endless horror and torment. Both Vultera and Feareus stood tall, wallowing in the vision.
Finally, things were as they should be.
There was no joy in the clock tower that night.
Lindsay lingered by the window, thoughts lost among the lights of the city. The same dark cloud that hung over all of them. She’d try to cheer them up, steer them from her mood, but it was no use. No amount of distraction could pull her from the gloom; not checkers, cards, or video games.
So much of their worlds fell into her orbit. How could they not notice?
“But I’m fine,” Lindsay lied, with the same bubbly smile saved for tourists who tried her patience. Deny, deny, deny. Maybe if she said it enough it’d come true.
Fang Force parted for the night, left to their own devices.
At least by herself Lindsay could process all she couldn’t put into words. What a long and somber night that promised to be.
She closed her eyes, and in a flash she was back in that empty lot. Her blood froze, and her heart beat to the point of exhaustion. Pink Fang was there – Vincent – in her vision, standing still as the grave with a sharp object at his throat. One false move, a wrong word, and he was gone from the world.
The evening was warm, but Lindsay was cold. She hugged her arms tight until nails stung her flesh.
When would this horrible feeling pass?
“I need to talk to you,” Luther whispered, but not to her. She followed his silhouette’s movements across a modesty screen to another member of the brood.
“About Lindsay and I,” Vincent said.
She smiled, this time in earnest. For a brief moment she remembered how nice it was to be close to someone – to Vincent in particular, to share something that defied words.
“You don’t approve,” Vincent continued.
“She’s a young dhampir, practically human, barely of age,” Luther said.
“An adult dhampir,” said Vincent, “who can be trusted with her own wants and needs.”
“But compared to you and I, who are centuries upon centuries old…”
The words struck her like a hammer. Was that really how he saw her?
“I don’t know that you see her for who she is,” Vincent sighed. “Cassius struggles in not regarding her as ‘Master’; Drake… to tell the truth it’s impossible to know what Drake feels about anything; but you, Luther. You see her as a child?”
Luther faltered. “In a sense, but-”
“And not just any child,” Vincent told him, “but a great, great granddaughter of the Great Vampire King. Without that pedigree, you would not give her the time of day.”
Lindsay froze. Could it be true?
“Do you think so little of me?” Luther asked.
“Do you think so little of her?” Vincent retorted.
“Maybe he’s right,” Lindsay said.
Their conversation ground to a halt.
She climbed from her perch and into the open. Both vampires were wide eyed with shock. Perhaps they expected her to be offended.
“It feels like yesterday I was hanging with my friends, eating a Colossal Burger after school,” she said. “Then I’d come here.
“I’ve been a tour guide here since I was old enough to work. If I kept this job the rest of my life, I’d probably be happy.” She chuckled. “Mom wants me to have a ‘career’…”
Luther moved closer. “Lindsay…”
“No, let me finish,” she said, and forced another smile. “Nobody asked me if I wanted to be a part of Fang Force, but I didn’t run from it, either. There are people braver and smarter, and all around more qualified than I am, but I’m the only one who can do it. Nobody else is the scion of the Great Vampire King.
“And maybe I should be insulted if you think I’m just a kid, but that’s what I am. I guess I’m glad for that, especially when facing monsters and abyssal realms, and things that are just… too big!”
Funny. Sharing her feelings seemed heavier this time.
Lindsay wandered for the stairs.
Nobody said anything, but they didn’t have to.
It’s in the Abyssal Realm that the nightmares of children are given shape. Such a land was paradise in contrast to the living world.
In lieu of the void were countless other dangers; rain, wind, treacherous ground, to say nothing of the wild things that gnawed on each other for survival.
Fantom may have been an alien in this place, but desperation made it his home. There would be no going back to the cold and comfort of the darkness he was born to.
Such things did not exist did not exist in the human world, where the night was tainted by stars, and absolute zero poisoned by life.
Just the thought turned his stomach.
He soon found another bush in which to take refuge. None would disturb him there; especially not those six feet down and imprisoned within boxes.
Humans regarded their buried as ‘unliving’, despite what grew from and fed on them. Only their consciousness had passed. The mechanisms had stopped, not the life that comprised their bodies.
The irony was not lost on Fantom.
From dusk until dawn the night was alive, robbing the prince of the stillness of oblivion. How was he to heal without rest?
All through the hours his side throbbed, and would for some time to come. Healing was such gruelling work.
Through it all, one thought sustained him.
“Lord Nihilex will fall,” he rasped, “and Queen Lacunae will rise. All… hail… Queen Lacuna!”
End of Episode 7