A little background of Dr. Vortex, the closest thing I ever had to an arch enemy. I wouldn’t be Glimmer Girl if not for him, and I don’t mean it as a compliment. Through him my life was turned upside down, and me with it; robbed of autonomy, ripped apart by his technology, and left with a whopping case of PTSD I can’t talk about, except to my one friend.
I thanked the gods he was dead; so what was he doing in this accursed Abyssal Realm? Every inch of my body screamed to flee, but I knew that was impossible. There was no running from a man who could be everywhere at once.
Lindsay charged the enemy, and flipped her vampire-phone open.
“Soul awaken! Red Fang!”
She transformed – red vest, cape, and helmet like a bat – and sprinted at the ‘Great Vortex King’, undeterred by the growing number of steps materializing beneath her feet. The hero leaped into the air and came down, slashing with both hands, only to blip out of existence and reappear at my side.
Red Fang cursed under her breath. “You know this Vortex guy, right? How do we beat him?”
I stood frozen, locked in the nightmare of our first encounter. What others counted as victory only happened by chance. The odds of doing it again were about as slim as getting struck by lightning.
Clasping my arms, Red Fang shook me to reason. “Hey, Glimmer Girl. We’ve got this,” she said, but she didn’t know like I did. Her eyes flashed behind her visor. “This isn’t the enemy you remember. He’s an illusion created by the Abyssal Realm. It knows how to rattle you.”
She was probably right, and yet…
“I’ll do this on my own if I have to,” she said. “I won’t judge you. Sometimes the strong are the weak, and also need protecting; but I’d really appreciate a partner in this.”
“Always one for speeches,” the Great Vortex King remarked. “But what good are words when a situation calls for action?”
Red Fang balled her fists. Even through my own torment I could sense the storm of emotion in her.
“I may not be as strong without my friends,” she said, “but I’m still pretty tough! The blood of the Great Vampire King flows through me! You’re only an impostor!”
Except she wasn’t alone. We were two different heroes, together in the pits of despair. If she could be bigger than her fear, then so could I.
“There’s only one way to beat Dr. Vortex,” I told her. “You hit him, and you hit him, until he goes down for good!”
Burning with fury, I clutched Red Fang’s arm and pulled her up the stairs. A shift in momentum propelled her through the air toward our foe, who then blinked from her path. I lashed out across the stairwell, and struck the air he used to hide. The Great Vortex King stumbled to the carpet, just as Red Fang bounced off the wall. He had little time to jump before her claws impacted his chest.
Red Fang and Glimmer Girl; turns out we made a heck of a team.
Though the fight was far from over. With a wave of his hand gravity turned. The wall became the floor, and the floor and ceiling walls. Meanwhile the staircase twisted around the ever-expanding space as the hallway twirled into infinity. Every turn was impossible, but physics meant nothing in a place like this.
“You think you can defeat me in my own home?” the Great Vampire King bellowed.
I sneered. “What good are words when a situation calls for action?”
With a mighty leap Red Fang took to the air, found her footing on the ceiling and sprinted to her target. She jumped from point to point, so fast that Vortex could barely keep pace. That was my chance.
Photon energy burst from my fists and into the body of the so-called King. He cried, burning from the inside out, and spasmed while falling to his knees. There was no sense in holding back; he was, after all, an illusion.
Red Fang flew at the helpless king to land a finishing blow. He erupted into a ball of flame that rolled from the hero’s back, and when the fire died down only ash remained.
I blinked at the pathetic pile. He may have been an imposter, but defeating Dr. Vortex was beyond my wildest dreams.
“We did it!” Red Fang cheered.
I smiled a bewildered smile. “Yeah… we did!”
A slow, mocking clap drew our attention to the entrance where a half-faced monster wearing a partial mask delighted in the spectacle. This time it was Lindsay’s turn to tense; she pulled me back a safe distance.
“Well done, team! Well done!” the intruder hummed.
I loosened my shoulders for another fight. “This one of your nightmares?” I asked.
“This is no nightmare,” she said.
“She’s quite right,” the stranger mused. He drew a scimitar and swished it in the air. All who stepped into it were dog food waiting to happen. “My name is Fantom,” he said, “and I’m here to make sure you never escape.”
He laughed with the same dreaded aura as that monster in the cave. That was when I knew we were in for the fight of our lives.
Tanya Truman was ordinary in the sense that she had no adept abilities to speak of; but hers was a life touched by the supernatural. The first time was when her childhood friend, Kaira, was imbued with power that transformed her into Glimmer Girl, and the subsequent adventures they would have together. Then, against all expectations, she was summoned by a team of heroic vampires, Fang Force, to aid in their quest.
It was, in her words, so freaking cool!
She became lost in the halls of the Great Vampire King, with her neck craned up at the arches and stained glass. It was unlike any home she’d laid eyes upon; more like a cathedral from a bygone era, and older than she’d ever known a colonial structure to be.
“Can I ask you guys a question?”
Cassius hummed in the affirmative.
“This Great Vampire King of yours; that’s Dracula, right?”
Vincent frowned. “Who?”
“Vladimir Tepes,” Cassius told him. “He was popularised in fiction as the king of all vampires.”
“Of the unliving vampires, perhaps,” Vincent scoffed.
“So you’re not ‘unliving’ vampires?” Tanya asked.
Both of them laughed. “Do you think we’d be wandering the daytime if we were among the unliving?” Cassius said.
Tanya shrugged. “I was just wondering, because I’ve met the real Dracula. He wasn’t so bad a guy.”
“Well he’s of no relation to the old Master,” Cassius told her.
“Does he have a name,” Tanya asked, “or do you just call him ‘The Great Vampire King’?”
Vincent shrugged. “He doesn’t need a name,” he said. “The Great Vampire King simply was who he was.”
The two vampires lead her up the many stairs and to the tallest spire, home to the frozen clock overlooking Crescent Valley. Inside the belfry were open books spread over the floor. Looming over them was what Tanya determined was a skater boy with a yellow flannel shirt tied around his waist, and a harsh looking punk with a green leather jacket.
Both turned as she entered, jumped to their feet, and bowed. Tanya straightened herself, unaccustomed to being regarded as a ‘lady’, which she only sort of was by her reckoning.
“I’m Luther,” said the skater.
“And I’m Drake,” said the punk.
“Cool. Hi. Um, my name is Tanya,” she said. “I’m Kaira’s friend.” It wasn’t until she saw their looks of confusion that she realized her error. “I mean Glimmer Girl! I’m Glimmer Girl’s friend!”
Vincent laughed. “I suppose it doesn’t matter. We know where she goes to school, and who her friends are. It wouldn’t have been much effort to learn other details of her identity.”
“No, but it’s the principle of the thing,” Tanya said.
“Now that we’re all here we can begin the ritual!”
Tanya jumped when she saw who the sophisticated English accent belonged to. Of all the things that she’d seen, she never expected to see a small, talking bat with purple fur fly across the room with a book in her claws.
The creature landed with less dignity than she would have liked, and flipped the tome open. It was then she realized that she was the subject of some attention, and that explanations were required.
“You must be Tanya,” she said. “My name is Spike. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
Tanya blinked and said nothing.
“Erm, rest assured, I don’t bite,” Spike explained. “Nor do I drink blood. I’m rather partial to fruit myself. My diet consists of-”
“You are the cutest thing I’ve ever seen,” Tanya said, then thought twice. “I’m sorry! Is it rude of me to say that?”
The little bat flushed with delight and let out a tiny squeak.
“Can I hold her?” Tanya asked the vampires, then thought to ask the little bat herself. “Can I hold you?”
“Of course you can!” Spike chirped, and latched onto Tanya’s sleeve. Such attention was heavenly, especially when the young woman scratched between her ears.
Luther chuckled. “I think Spike would be happy to join forces more often.”
A sudden wind blew outside the tower. Rocks and twigs thudded against the outer side of the clock face with unnatural savagery. Drake ran toward it, opened a window panel and peered outside. What he saw gave cause to look twice.
“You need to see this,” he said.
What they saw puzzled them. On the ground were three figures marching toward the castle; one a golem made of dirt and rock, the second a clown with boxing gloves, and the third a shirtless man juggling flames.
The pyromancer half-laughed, half-sang, “This is why they call me Mr. Fahrenheit!”
Cassius started for the stairs. “This makes no sense,” he said. “There should have been some warning. The bell tolls when evil approaches!”
“They aren’t from the Abyssal Realm! That’s why the clock didn’t sound!” Spike cried.
Tanya pressed her head through the panel. She drew back inside, pale as a sheet. “I know these guys. They’re called the Society of Sin, and if you let them they’ll obliterate this castle and everyone in it.”
Cassius, Luther, Vincent and Drake steeled themselves. This time they faced a new kind of foe.
Fantom moved with the grace of a ballet dancer. He twirled around every thrust, lunge and parry with ease, and performed cartwheels through the hail of blasts. The Great Vortex King’s castle was for him a grand stage through which Red Fang and I stumbled.
We doubled back toward the foyer, but landed on the outskirts of the courtyard. Gods, I hated this place.
“What can you tell me about Fantom?”.
“He nearly beat us the last time we fought,” she said.
“And you’re sure he’s not an illusion?” I asked. “I still remember that motivational speech if you need me to recite it back to you.”
Lindsay smirked under the mask. “Thanks. Don’t forget it.”
A shockwave blew through the hall, knocking us from our feet. Fantom charged before Red Fang regained herself. I found balance in the sky, just in time to blast that monster in the chest, dead center. That bought us a few extra seconds.
“You’ll never beat him at close range,” I said. “Don’t worry. I got this.”
The Abyssal Realm was its own kind of hell, but I had one of my own raging inside. It ripped through my palms as exploding photons tearing through metal and brick. Fantom weaved between them at first, before stumbling on the debris. He landed face first into a wall of energy.
I hit him with everything I had, blasting the smoke until nothing was left. He was a creature of darkness, and I was a being of light. Monsters like him were beyond redemption; they were the incarnation of evil.
When all was quiet I fell to my knees. The dust cleared and settled. Surely that was enough.
Red Fang rose to her feet, stupefied. “I… I think you did it!”
Gods, I hoped so.
She inched toward the dessicated brick and turned the remains with her foot. It seemed there was nothing left of our foe.
I was beyond exhausted when I saw him, and Red Fang’s back was turned. Fantom rose from the dust and raised his scimitar high.
By reflex I flew into the path of the blade. It tore from my torso to chest, sending droplets of light scattering to the wind. On any other day it would sound worse than it was; as Glimmer Girl my body reconstitutes in seconds, but something about that sword…
I struck the ground, hard. My arms and legs shook without control. The gash didn’t close the way it should. Darkness sealed the wound, and pressed into my veins. The cold of shadow swallowed the warmth of light.
Red Fang held me in her arms. “Glimmer Girl!”
“What… what did…”
“They say one ray of light is enough to dispel the darkness,” Fantom said, “but in a world of darkness that light is easily lost. So what do you do, Glimmer Girl, when shadow consumes you from within?”
Lost far from home I let my guard down, and was paying for it with my life.
To be continued…