Become a Fan
Memoirs of a Shadow's Pawn
By Richard Raab
Saturday, December 07, 2002
Past - 1002 AD
Elihu stepped up to the door of the nondescript tavern, gazing up at the sign that hung over the door. The Dead Wolf. Nice name, he thought to himself. The sign swung in the breeze. A long dead wolf was painted upon the wood, with a raven on it's back pecking away at the wolf's decaying flesh. He felt a shudder pass over him along with the feeling that something important was about to happen..
Regardless he stepped inside. Elihu planned to stay for only a few nights before continuing his journey south. After procuring a room, he found a table near the back. Night fell as he passed the hours away drinking light booze and watching the locals. Whether any of them knew of Melthos or not he was uncertain.. but he would find out.
He was watching two guys at the bar when the woman came over to his table. Her name was Maya. Just Maya. She just wanted someone to talk to.. and she had a lot of questions. He had nothing better to do and the alcohol had loosened his tongue. The whole story came out.
The Shadow's Pawn. It was a name he had earned, not his given name. Elihu was, of course, his birth name. He rarely used it anymore. Elihu had discarded many things during his life, that name being just one such thing. He still held memories of his childhood, crisp as the day he lived them. The images of his father, beating his mother until she couldn’t walk, then his father turning to him. He remembered the pain of those massive hands against his tender young flesh. The pain was something you never forgot.
Years of pain. Finally he ran away. Food was short during that time. The taste of twigs and grass seemed to still linger in his throat to this day. He learned a lot during those months in the forest. Despite the constant fight for survival, he felt safe. The painful thoughts of the past were pushed back by his fixation on surviving. He was alone where no fists could find him. But like all things, it came to an end.
Hoofbeats echoed through the trees, signifying the passing of someone on horseback. He tried to run. It was a man. One carrying a sword and wearing a small amount of armor. He had long blond hair and thick, leathery looking skin. The boy ran as hard as he could but in his haste he became clumsy and fell, sliding down a gully. The man saw him go down and trotted over to investigate.
The knight got down from the horse and peered over the edge of the gully, seeing a boy lying at the bottom. Elihu was laying at the bottom, silent tears welling up in his eyes. His ankle was badly sprained.
"Boy! Are you alright?" The man yelled down to him.
Elihu looked up at the armored fellow. He didn't answer.
The knight eventually climbed down the gully and pulled Elihu's hand away, examining the ankle. "Looks like you twisted it good.. Come on. We'll find your parents."
The knight took him back home with him. He never did find Elihu's parents and that was how the boy wanted it. The knight let him live with him, becoming more of a father than his true father ever was.
Elihu paused, taking a drink. He cleared his throat and then continued, telling her about how the warlord Darkenon Melthos had swept down upon their village. His horde slaughtered the town's garrison mercilessly. As the knight who had become his father lay dying, the boy who was now a youth cursed Darkenon from his hiding place. He vowed to someday destroy Melthos.
He spent the remainder of his teenage years learning.. learning all about the warlord. When the village was razed, he moved to a nearby town. Much time was spent training, honing his skills. His prowess with a sword remained meager, but his ability to sneak became great and he found himself excelling with the short bladed weapons such as daggers and knives. He managed to mass together a fair amount of money performing jobs for one of the local guilds. He never told anyone his name and so they made up one for him. They called him the Shadow's Pawn, since he seemed to disappear into the shadows at will.
Much faster than he should have, Elihu grew into a man. His features filled out and became what many would call beautiful. His features were nice, though in a slightly feminine way. Thin and perfectly arched eyebrows stood over two of the darkest eyes one might ever see. His cheekbones were a little high and well defined, accented by his straight nose. A delicate, yet thin lipped mouth adorned his pale face. Thick, black hair cascaded half way down his back.
He grew taller than everyone around him, often gaining notice by how he towered over everyone else. This was sometimes a hindrance in his line of work, however his skill with stealth was great enough that it was easily overcome.
After a couple years he began to travel. He moved ever southward. There would be the remnants of villages every now and then, evidence of Melthos' past presence. It seemed the horde would simply hit a village every now and then as they moved south, looting and pillaging it.
During his travels, he would stop every so often and work for a while until he gained enough money to travel once again. Sometimes he would find a caravan, performing duties for them in exchange for food and a ride. The warlord and his horde were known almost everywhere, their marauding ways a legend wherever he went. He picked up little snippets of information now and then, clueing him into the horde's current movements. His survival drive that he cultivating in his youth still resided with him and even when he had no money he always knew he would be alright.
He sighed. "I'm going to have to be heading back out in a couple days here.. I'm getting pretty close to Melthos. The last village I found had been razed only a week earlier."
"Oh.." she muttered, sadly.
"Oh? What's wrong?" he asked, raising a brow.
"Well... I was hoping I could convince you to stay.." she said seductively, her eyes looking into his.
"Oh.. I.. uh.. well, maybe I could stay a little longer than planned.." he stuttered nervously. He had very little experience with women and thusly felt quite ackward when put in such a situation.
Suddenly she leaned forward as though to kiss him. Heat rising to his cheeks, he leaned in to meet the kiss, closing his eyes slowly.
Rather than feeling lips upon his own, he felt teeth sink into his neck. Throbbing pain swam through his head, quickly drowned out by a strange pleasure. His eyes popped wide open as she sucked at him. He could feel her taking his blood but he couldn't find it in his head to care. Darkness descended upon him as consciousness slowly faded. He collapsed into her arms, his skin pale as a sheet.
She smiled to herself, letting him fall out of her arms onto the floor. This one had been easy. Usually it took a little influencing to make them susceptible to her. The smile faded as she felt a strange force in the air pressing against her. Her head throbbed. A terrible feeling of guilt descended upon her. She felt it in her gut and in her head.
Looking down at the beautiful man, she knew that this was wrong. She didn't know why but this time it was wrong.. and she could tell that the horrible feeling would not go away unless she did something about it. Before she knew it, she found herself starting.
She crouched down upon the floor next to him. With a quick slash, she cleaved open her own skin. Blood welled up from the wound as she pressed her bleeding arm against his pale, lifeless lips. The vampiric blood dripped into his mouth and down his throat. It soaked into the flesh in his throat and, upon reaching his stomach it soaked into his dying bloodstream. The vampiric blood found what small traces of his own blood remained and mingled with it, soaking into his tissues and his heart.
His body suddenly jerked violently, his stomach and hips rising high into the air in a position only a contortionist would attempt. His eyes shot open, staring up at the ceiling in pain. She watched as he fell back to the floor, hitting the floorboards hard enough to knock the drink he had been sipping from off the table. He was writhing in agony, his back arching sharply as his chest rose from the floor once again. Horrible moans escaped his lips, turning several heads as the other patrons observed this horrible birth.
Dozens of eyes were on Elihu as he went through the horrible change. Mindlessly, he climbed to his knees. Blackness poured forth from his mouth as he vomited up bile and stomach acid. People gasped. Someone screamed. Several patrons were evacuating the tavern. Others had already gathered around, watching him with morbid interest.
Never had Maya seen such a sight. She stepped back, past the circle of people who had stood to watch. As he howled in pain, she ran for the door. She couldn't watch any longer.
Suddenly he jumped to his feet, staggering around. His dark eyes flicked back and forth, devoid of any sentience. Some of the people backed away, becoming frightened..
He leapt towards one of them with a speed that was wholly inhuman. The man yelped and jumped away but Elihu's hand caught his foot. The vampire yanked on the foot and the man slammed to the floor. His nose exploded in a spray of blood. Elihu took the man's lower leg and bent it in half, the sound of bone crunching and shattering echoed through the nearly empty tavern. The man's scream was cut off as the feral vampire's hand crushed his larynx like it was paper. Everyone made for the door, not turning back to watch as Shadow's Pawn tore at the man's body. The newborn vampire fed for the first time, alone in the tavern with the corpse.
Outside, Maya watched the people flee from the tavern. Some of them were screaming. She had never seen a vampire awaken as Elihu had. Why was he born unto such agony and bloodlust?
What had possessed her to do such a thing? She knew it in the back of her head.. knew that her actions had been influenced. The question was by who? Why? These thoughts and more passed through her head as she joined them, running from the tavern.
Within the next few nights, Elihu went through more changes. Many of his internal organs seemed to shift, combine with others or even whither away completely. Intense abdominal pains accompanied the changes and more than once he found himself vomiting up phlegm, bile and other liquids. At first he didn't know what had happened to him. It didn't take long, however, for him to figure out.
Finally, four nights after he had met Maya, he was forced to admit it to himself. No longer was he a human... he knew what he was. A vampire. One of the undead.
Over a few months time he learned much. Just as the legend claimed, he found that he could not endure sunlight. Even indirect sunlight was uncomfortable and resulted in severe skin rashes. He found himself trapped inside the tavern, unable to leave except at night. Even then he could only go out until the sun rose. Fire was a bane as well and he stayed well clear of the fireplace.
The feeding was the worst of all. Every few nights he felt a gnawing in his stomach. A new emotion had been birthed within his mind. A bestial urge, an amalgam of lust, hunger, rage and predatory instinct. The only way to satisfy the urge was to drink blood.
His mind, becoming sharper than it ever was during life, grew bored. To pass the time, he began testing the truth of the legends. After all, if he was going to be stuck this way for eternity, he had better find out everything he could.
His findings were perplexing. Plants did not wither at his touch and garlic still smelled the same to him. Water didn't seem to effect him either. However, he did find himself healing much faster. His senses were heightened to an extent as well. As the time went on, he found himself becoming increasingly troubled by the horrible acts he was forced to commit..
His eyes opened suddenly. It was night time. Elihu stepped out of the closet, grabbing his cloak from off the bed. He left his rented room and walked down the staircase to the main room of the tavern. The night was still young and likewise the place was still full. The hunger was there, even though he had just fed the night before.
He stepped away from the stairs, wading through the crowd dancing to some bard's music. The sound of a lyre echoed in his ears as he moved toward an empty table. Every day it seemed his senses were becoming more acute, his awareness of his surroundings greater. The shadows no longer held the mystery that they once did. He could see the few who hid there, watching. Even the strange creature hiding up in the rafters was apparent to him now.
His eyes caught sight of one fellow sitting at the bar. The man was downing a whole bottle of whiskey and his eyes glittered with drunkenness. Elihu nodded to himself. The hunger gnawed at him.. he knew what he needed.
As the drunken man stumbled out the door, Shadow silently followed. He walked along the trail into the woods as the man preceded him, singing loudly into the night. The man stumbled and fell, and that was when Elihu decided to attack.
The man suddenly found someone at his side, grabbing him. He swung his fist at the blurry shape feeling it hit something solid. He felt a stinging sensation in his arm. Within a few moments the sting became real pain dulled by a sense of contentment. Consciousness left him rather peacefully. Shadow left his corpse in the middle of the trail.
He walked back to the tavern, wiping off his mouth with the back of his hand. The man's blood flowed through his veins, becoming his blood. His power mingled and soaked into the blood, turning it into vampiric blood. A frown crossed his face as he thought to himself. He had not enjoyed the kill.
Over the next week, he killed no more. As his blood pool shrank, so did his strength. His skin became pale and his face gaunt. All his time was spent in the tavern, drinking a liquor called Bloodwine, which seemed to at least stave off his hunger. It didn't nourish him though, just allowed him to survive. His senses were dulled, no longer superhumanly sharp. The hunger gnawed at him constantly. He began to feel as though he was going to lose control.
Maya wandered into the tavern one night. She spotted him and frowned as she approached him. "You.. haven't been eating? Have you?" She looked upon him with slight worry.
"Not really.." he responded dryly. He wanted to hate her, but strangely felt himself unable.
"Why not?" she asked. "You need to feed to maintain your strength."
"It doesn't feel right to me." he looked up at her, a dullness in his eyes. "I don't like killing people."
She sighed. "You'll get over that.. soon.. Everyone goes through that at first."
Shadow shrugged. "It's like every time I kill, I lose a part of my humanity.."
"Stop that." Maya shook her head. "You have to remember. You are not human anymore. You are more. You are a vampire."
Darkenon Melthos laughed as the man fell. He brought his hammer around and swung it downward. It struck the man's back, crunching bones. Darkenon brought the hammer down again, this time fracturing the man's skull with a powerful blow. He roared victory into the air as his foe lay dead at his feet.
He bellowed, throwing the huge hammer down onto the ground.
Melthos reached down, pulling the battered golden crown off the man's smashed in head. The king had been a great fighter.. perhaps one of the greatest by human standards. He could not compete, however, with one of Darkenon's power. Darkenon's secret was hidden quite well, the secret which was key to his amazing fighting ability.
When he was a young boy, he had been wandering through the woods when he was attacked by a strange beast. The beast mauled him horribly. It even ate most of one of his legs. When he came to some time later, he found his wounds all closed, mysteriously. The leg was still missing from about the knee down however. He crawled home to his parents.
After he told them what had happened, his father jumped to some pretty wild conclusions. He figured that the animal had been a werebeast. There had been stories told of an animal that was a man recently. That had been what had attacked him, or that is what his father supposed anyway. Darkenon began to grow fearful when he saw the way his father looked at him in disgust, even fear. They had seen the healed wounds.. They knew what had happened to him out there.
That night as he lay in bed, he found that he could not sleep. Instead he lay awake, listening to everything. The stump itches horribly where it was mending and he found himself scratching it. His hearing seemed to be a lot better than usual, like his ears had been plugged up for weeks and finally came unplugged. He could hear his mother sleeping, her breathing as loud as the wind blowing through the trees.
He could hear his father's footsteps outside his room. He could smell the tension. Something was wrong. His door opened slowly as his father eased into his room. An axe was in his hand. Cautiously he crept up to his son's bed. Pulling back the sheets, he looked down at his boy. A boy that had become a monster.
Darkenon lay there, watching his father through squinted eyes, pretending to be asleep. Suddenly his father brought the axe into the air over his head. He swung it down, aiming to chop the boy's head off.
Darkenon leapt out of the bed with speed he had never had before, despite the injured leg. The axe hit the empty bed, breaking it. He moved towards the door, thinking to run away when suddenly rage clouded his mind. His father had intended to kill him! His eyes filled with a fierce gray color, differing greatly from his normal brown. He felt gums burning as his teeth lengthened, filling his mouth with jagged razor blade canines.
He rushed towards his father just as the man raised the axe to swing again. The axe hit his hand, cutting half of it neatly off. Despite the injury, he clamped his mouth around his fathers shoulder. Jaws clenched, crushing the bones in his shoulders into splinters. Blood filled Darkenon's mouth, serving only to further his descent into frenzy.
Hair bristled out of his empty pores, quickly covering his skin with a coat of black fur. Fur like a panther. Muscles stretched and skewed as his bones reformed themselves, joints shifting and changing with a wet meaty sound. His clothing became shreds as his body distorted into the form of a huge black cat. It was much larger than a normal panther. Saliva filled his mouth, which gaped open, revealing horribly sharp teeth. His father panicked, running as best he could out of the room.
Darkenon slipped out of the room like liquid shadow. He stalked his father, letting the man stay just ahead of him.. playing with him. His mind was clearer than it had ever been. He knew his purpose. Kill the prey. It was perfectly sensible. His father was weaker than him, so therefore he should die.
The man finally collapsed in front of the fireplace, fainting from blood loss and shock. Human flesh tasted delicious to him. Almost like pork. His mother stepped out into the room, awakened by the noise. He looked up at her with his fiercely gray eyes. Muscles tensed as he readied to leap through the air. Before she knew what was going on, the huge cat was upon her, ripping at her.
He remembered that bloody night well. It often served as inspiration for him before a battle. He reflected back upon that time right now as his horde prepared to move towards their next target: A castle called Darkshade.
Darkshade was a huge castle. It rose out of the forest, stretching into the sky for almost forever. No one knew who built it.. no one knew who owned it either. Supposedly it was full of riches and incidentally also full of dragons. About 15 miles away was the tavern, where Shadow's Pawn was just rising for the night.
He sat at a table, sipping blood from a flask that someone had given him. Listening in on conversations was pretty much the only thing he had to pass the time. He sipped a bit more blood, feeling rather bored when his superhuman ears picked up a snippet of conversation.
".. Darkenon Melthos.. "
That was all he caught. He turned to see who had spoken that name. It was some mercenary talking away with another merc. His brow raised as he listened more intently.
"... Darkshade. We expect them to attack the place sometime tomorrow."
"Why isn't anyone trying to stop them from getting there?"
"You kidding? That would be suicide! At least in Darkshade we would have some sort of fortification..."
"Yeah, I see your point.. Melthos is one merciless son of a bitch.." the merc snorted.
Shadow was stunned. The thing he had hunted most of his life was suddenly thrown down right into his lap. He rose from his seat, approaching the mercenaries.
"Um.. excuse me?" he mumbled timidly.
The mercenaries turned, favoring him with a disdainful look.
"Yes?" one of them replied. "What is it?"
"This Darkshade place.. I was wondering if you could tell me where it is." He asked them solemnly.
"Why everyone knows where that is! It is north. Not even an hour ride on horseback. Maybe two or three if you walk." They dismissed him as though that were the stupidest question they had ever heard.
Shadow turned away from them, thinking to himself. The sun had set only a few hours ago... he could probably make it there and find a place to hide from the sun before dawn. It was worth the risk.
He stepped outside, jogging down the trail that wound northward through the forest.
Elihu stared up in awe at the enormous castle. The huge bricks that made up it's walls were pitted and pock marked. In the moonlight, the rock looked more ancient than the earth itself. Gigantic trees stood all around the castle, towering up into the sky. Their trunks were so high that he couldn't see the tops. The whole entire castle appeared to him as though it had been built for a race of beings that were very much larger than any human.
The entrance was a door stretching a good forty feet upwards. It was built from gigantic planks of wood that must have been hewn from trees that were thousands of years old. A gigantic ring of iron hung on the door.. but there was no way that anyone could pull the door open.
Luckily, someone had chiseled a hole in the wall near the huge entryway to form a smaller opening. This door was barely higher than Elihu was tall and he had no trouble opening this portal. As he slipped inside, he could see dozens of footprints in the dirt.
Now that he was inside he was safe.. well, safe from the sun anyway. He wandered the cavernous halls for a couple hours trying to find nice little nook or hole that he could squeeze into for the day. Eventually he found one. A small passageway which was cut into the wall, going in a good 7 feet. He slid in and lay prone to fit, but it would serve to hide him during the day when he would be vulnerable to attack.
As the sun rose into the sky, his consciousness left him.
That night, he awoke to a horrendous thunder. Strange colored light shone on the walls of his hiding place. Different colors reflected against the stone. He crawled out of the hole carefully.
There was fighting everywhere! Knights in armor fighting barbarians that wielded hammers and maces. Robed men cast spells, sending fireballs and such flaring against the barbarians.. and strangely enough, dragons lurked behind the lines, every now and then crushing barbarians and knights alike with a swipe of its huge tail.
The shadows were sparse and barely large enough to conceal him as he
Elihu sneaked past the fighting as best he could, searching for the man who's face he knew as well as his own. Darkenon Melthos. His scarlet cloak brushed the floor, sending puffs of dust into the air. The roar of fighting died off into the distance as he walked, following only his gut feeling. Vampiric senses guided him through dark corridors only dimly lit by the glow of spell blasts in the distance.
He was about to turn back and go a different way when he heard the voice. That dark, horribly deep voice. It was Melthos.
"Heheh.. Those pathetic knights are falling faster than flies. The only trouble we might have is from the dragons. I don't know whose side they are on.." Darkenon chuckled.
"They don't seem to want either of us here.. I really don't know what we should do with them.." the other man spoke.
"Bah.. destroy them. Bring in the reavers. They'll take care of the dragons." Melthos decided.
Shadow eased up to the doorway, peering inside. The room was lit by candle light as two men, one rather diminutive, the other huge and commanding. The two of them seemed to be going over some plans. They each had several scrolls which the smaller man pointed at over and over.
"If we bring in the reavers.. we risk losing the very thing we came here for.." the man explained.
"Who cares? As long as we win.." Melthos laughed. "Now go on... I want them here in an hour."
The little man frowned, stalking out of the room. Shadow pressed up against the wall, trying to escape notice. The small man just walked right past him.
"Aah... the scent of war. A treat to my senses.." Melthos muttered to himself. He turned towards the door, paused, and finally said: "You can come out now, vampire.."
Fear gripped Elihu's mind. How had he known? As a mortal, his stealth skills had been almost great enough to seem superhuman. Contracting vampirism had only enhanced those skills. Well.. might as well come out now, he thought.
"How.. how did you know?.." Shadow's Pawn asked.
Darkenon looked at him. Fierce gray eyes scrutinized Shadow. He could feel the power flowing off the man in waves, crashing against him as he stood there. This was not a man.. he was something else.
"I could smell you, like a year old corpse." He chuckled. "So why have you come here? To kill me?" He laughed to himself. "You're welcome to try. Many have before.. You won't succeed." He reached for his hammer, slowly rising from his seat.
Shadow stepped forward. "I think you may be surprised.. I've been chasing you my whole life. I've been planning this moment for 10 years."
"Oh? Really? You'd be surprised how often I hear the same thing.. You may think you are something special, or that you have a noble cause or something.. But you are just cow dung. I've seen ones just like you, better than you even come to me and say the same thing. I always cut them down.." He grinned. "So.. what did I do to earn this honor from you?"
Shadow glared at the huge man. "You killed my father. Rook Grawunder."
"That name means nothing to me. I've killed a lot of fathers. Look, I'm in a good mood, so I will give you a choice right now. You can walk out of here and go back to your little home and I will forget all about you.. or you can stay here and die."
Elihu didn't move. Several seconds went by. Still the roar of battle continued in the background. He hadn't planned on an actual confrontation, just a mere assassination, but this was not a chance he could pass up.
"Alright.. I guess you made your decision." Darkenon shook his head.
Shadow narrowed his eyes, glaring at the man he hated more than anything. Suddenly the man disappeared from his sight. Shadow raised his brows. He stepped forward thinking 'what the hell?' Then it hit him from behind, shoving him sprawling to the stone floor. He felt wetness. Blood flowed out of his head, matting his long black hair. The blow had been extremely powerful, and he felt his consciousness ebb. He had no idea how long he laid there.
"..is a shame. But I did give you a choice." Darkenon stood above him, his hammer in his hand.
He smiled, black lips spreading to reveal horribly pointed teeth. The hammer came down.
Minutes later they arrived. The Reavers. Screaming like a million banshees, a few dozen of the strange werebeasts flew through the air, swarming upon the castle like a hive of killer bees. More dragons came out of their hiding places to protect their home. The battle was so intense that patrons at the tavern could see the blasts all the way at the silver blade.
As the sun rose, Darkshade lay in ruins. Bodies were scattered everywhere. Werebeasts, mages.. even a few dragons lay dead on the ground rotting. Many came to sift through the ruins of Darkshade, looking for anything valuable. Everyone has their idea of what is valuable... For most treasure or weaponry.. but for some other things are more valuable. Like bodies for instance.
No one knew who the man was who dragged the body out the ruins. It didn't seem a really important find. The body was of a tall male.. skinny with long black hair. It looked like it had been dead for a while. The man disappeared into the woods with his find shortly thereafter.
Elihu awoke to rain. It was daytime, but cloudy. He was laying on his back in the middle of a clearing. As he climbed to his feet, he looked upon the woods with a different set of eyes. It felt as though the lenses of his eyes were foggy. He didn't know what had happened to him. His head seemed all fuzzy, like it was stuffed with cotton.
He looked down at the ground. It was painted with blood. Formed into some strange symbols that he knew nothing about. Looking around he saw nothing. Nothing but grass and trees. As he walked numbly into the woods, he tried to remember..
He vaguely recalled Darkshade. There was someone there.. someone important.. but he couldn't remember who it was.
Gods. What had happened to him? He walked blindly through the woods, feeling somewhere between life and unlife. It was as though he had been wrapped in a thick blanket that insulated him from any sensation. Everything was dulled.
He managed to find the path to a nearby tavern and decided to follow it. No harm in heading there. Not like he had anywhere else to go now..
He reached the tavern in less than an hour. He recognized it as the Silver Blade, a place he went to occasionally.
The sky was already growing dark. The rain continued to fall, turning dirt to mud. Milky blue eyes looked to the sky. He pushed the door open, standing in the doorway as his eyes adjusted to the low level of light.
His eyes didn’t seem to want to work, and instead of adjusting to the dim light he found himself squinting to see. As he glanced around, his vision began to blur. 'Ugh.. my stomach..' he thought to himself. Maya was there, sitting at a table near the fireplace alone. He did not want to see her.
The floor creaked as he strode across the room to the bar.
"Hello there, Shadow's Pawn.." A middle aged man bellowed.
The man was encased in dark red plate mail, with a large claymore slung over his back. His long brown hair fell halfway down his back. Brown eyes peered out from inside his helmet.
"You look like crap." The man nodded, rocking in his stool.
"Yeah. Thanks for letting me know, Ty. You don't even want to know what I've been through..." Elihu muttered.
Tyralor looked at his bottle of booze. "Aah.. bottle is still full. Looks like I got time for your story. Please tell."
Elihu groaned as he climbed onto a stool next to Tyralor.
"I don't know what has happened to me, Ty..." he explained. "It's like I'm sick or something."
"Er.. I thought you.. uh.. didn't get sick." Tyralor replied, lofting a brow.
Elihu frowned. "This is more than just a sickness."
He looked down at his hands. The flesh that once was simply pale now tinged with the gray color of decay. He looked up at Tyralor. His milky eyes stared out of their sockets lifelessly, unable to show the distress their owner felt.
"I think I might be dead.." he muttered.
Tyralor took a drink from his mug. "Well you sure as hell look like it."
Shadow's Pawn turned, looking into the mirror behind the bar. His eyes widened. The skin on his face was colorless and dark with rot, stretched over a skull that seemed devoid of muscle. His bones stood out upon the mottled flesh. His hair hung from his head like weeds out of dying soil.
"You've got the mark of necromancy upon you." A stranger said, approaching.
"Who the hell are you?" Tyralor belched, gulping down more booze.
The stranger pushed back the hood of his blue cloak. A dark skinned face regarded the two.
"I'm afraid you are a zombie, friend." The dark man nodded.
Shadow frowned. "That is impossible. Everyone knows vampires cannot be raised as zombies after their final death! They decay too quickly."
The dark man furrowed his brow. "A vampire, eh? There is some powerful necromancy surrounding you.. I'm not completely familiar with it, but my best guess would be that you never actually died.."
Shadow kicked over a stool as he stood up and stalked away towards the fireplace. "Well that really helps me now doesn't it!!" he bellowed.
People turned their heads, glancing at him as he overreacted. The fire was uncomfortable, much more so than usual. He walked back towards the bar. "What the hell am I supposed to do now?!!" he raised his hands. "I stink, I'm rotting and I'm losing my vision."
Maya looked sidelong at him. Did he even know she was there? She wondered to herself. Should she approach him? Slowly she rose out of her seat and walked to him.
"Shadow?..." she spoke up, timidly.
"Yeah, what is it?!" he turned, sounding annoyed. "Oh.. Maya. Uh, hi..."
"I heard you talking. Is there anything I can do?" she asked.
"I don't know. I don't even remember anything about how this happened to me!" he growled, sitting back down at the bar.
"Well.. where do you remember being at last?" she wondered as she sat down next to him.
"I was at Darkshade.. " Shadow replied. "I was there to fight someone, I think."
"Darkshade is in ruins. It was destroyed several days ago." The dark man said.
"Yeah, everyone was there searching the ruins for anything valuable." Maya added.
"I heard some guy stole a body from the ruins." Tyralor said, taking a drink from his mug. "What kind of a pervert would steal a body, is what I'd like to know."
"A necromancer." The dark man quickly answered.
Shadow's eyes widened. "Is it possible?"
Tyralor took another drink. "Is what possible? What're you talking about?"
"Idiot. Obviously a necromancer took his body from the ruins, then raised him as a zombie somehow." The dark man said, disgustedly.
Shadow sat there, his thoughts racing. "So.. how do I find this necromancer?"
The dark man shook his head as though he were dealing with children. "You are HIS zombie. If he or she entered this room, you would know. I've never heard of vampires becoming zombies... but I am fairly certain the same rules would apply as do with all other zombies."
"In other words I have to wait for this necromancer to show up? And what in the meantime, do I just sit here and rot?" Shadow grumbled.
The dark man shrugged. "Do whatever you wish."
Weeks passed and the necromancer never showed up. Shadow's Pawn began to lose what little hope he had left. He never left the tavern. As his eyes rotted and his vision grew milky dim, it became too dangerous for him to leave anyway. Instead he remained a gruesome fixture of the tavern, his decaying visage always there to turn the stomach of the commoners and knights who frequented the pub.
Tyralor quit coming after a few days and after a while, even Maya failed to stop by. Finally the night came when he found himself sitting alone in front of the fire. The heat radiating from the hearth brought a sense of pain to him, but by then his nerves were so decayed that he rarely felt pain and it had become a luxury.
He sat there in front of the fire considering suicide. All he would have to do would be to climb into the fireplace and burn to death. The pain would not be that great, he was certain of that much. When his courage was built up enough that he might actually attempt it, he felt the tug.
A great surge of energy and a pulling inside brought him to his senses. He blinked, his single remaining eye unable to see more than a few feet in front of him. Something was drawing him towards the doorway, but he did not know what. All he knew was that the pull was undeniable. There was no way he could have refused to go over there.
Clumsily, with almost no coordination, he rose to his feet. The dozen or so tables that the tavern owned seemed to have multiplied into several dozen, all placed directly in his path as he bumped and stumbled towards the center of the tugging feeling.
"Woah.. hold it there, child." he heard a distant voice say. "I'm right here.."
He felt arms hold him affectionately, almost an embrace.
"Who are you?" Elihu asked, seeing the blurry outline of the man.
"Don't worry. I'm here now. You're in pretty bad shape.." he patted Shadow sympathetically. "Do not worry my child.. I will fix you up."
Shadow felt a strange contentment, an ease of his worries. The man pushed something into his hand. A flask.
"Drink that, young one. It will help."
His name was Antarius, he explained. That was about the extant of his explanation. What he didn't tell Shadow was that for some reason unknown to Antarius, the man had an interest in Shadow's Pawn from the moment he saw the vampire sneaking through Darkshade. Suddenly the battle that the necromancer was a participant in seemed meaningless. Antarius found himself compelled to follow the vampire as he skulked through the darkness and found his way to the horrible warlord Melthos. Perhaps it was his natural attunement with the realm of the dead.. Antarius had his doubts though. It felt as though something had influenced his thoughts and this really troubled him. Being a powerful sorcerer of strong will, he should not have been influenced so irrevocably.
When he saw Melthos strike the mortal blow, he knew that he must intervene. A simple incantation bound the vampire's soul.. or at least whatever served as his soul, to the dying body. This kept it from decaying as quickly as a normal vampire's body would.. it also kept the body safe until Antarius could get to it. Melthos looked up from the kill, his cold gaze searching for the presence he felt.
Luckily, Antarius slipped away before Melthos could find him.
In the morning, Antarius joined the multitude who were sifting through the ruins. The castle had been completely decimated, reduced to scattered piles of stone and wood. There were corpses everywhere. Peasants and other people of low station ransacked the ruins, taking valuables from the dead bodies and anything else they could find. Antarius, however, was after something else entirely.
The overwhelming amount of dead around him played with his senses, however, and he found himself unable to mentally lock on to specific corpses. Without his magics to guide him to the body, he wasn't sure how he would find it.. but luck was on his side, apparently.
He stalked through the ruin, picking his way through completely at random. Finally he picked a spot, moving rocks and planks away. Not more than a few feet under, he found the body. It was the same vampire that he had followed the night before. Antarius wasn't an overly superstitious man, but he knew when something was more than coincidence. Since he had been awakened to the mutability of reality around him, life had taken on a certain bizarre quality. Sometimes things would happen that shouldn't have been happening to him. Usually they ended up being part of some greater whole, the loose ends of a long threaded plot. He always found himself drawn into the drama of whatever was happening, despite his best attempts to stay out of it. He had the feeling that this was happening yet again to him.
What could be so important about this nearly dead vampire? Antarius didn't know the answer to that question. What he did know was that there was no way he could leave the body here to die a final death.
So he dragged the body out of the ruins and took it into the woods. He would have to hurry with the ritual before the effects of his incantation faded and the body truly died.
After a few hours, he found an appropriate locale. The field was rimmed by trees but the vegetation inside hadn't grown very high. He placed the body in the center, pulled his ceremonial dagger from its sheath and began to recite arcane words. The blade of the dagger cleaved his skin easily as he slid it down his forearm. Blood dripped from his arm to the ground, staining the grass and weeds that grew there.
As the sun rose to the height of the sky, he continued to the ritual, completely absorbed in the actions he had to perform.. the words came from his mouth flawlessly, out of their own volition.
Finally, as the last symbol was painted, the last word said, Antarius opened up his inner eye. He sat down cross-legged in front of the body. Through the inner eye, he could see the vampire's spirit and its tenuous hold upon the body. The spirit was a multitude of black fragments, borrowed fragments of other's souls some believed. It didn't matter to Antarius. He knew what he must do. His own spirit spilled out of his body, reaching for the vampire's own soul.
Under the influence of his psychic form, the fragmented spirit began to shrink, compressing in on itself. The fragments were joining together into a solid entity. Antarius worked methodically, fusing each shattered portion to the whole that was slowly taking shape... and soon it was complete. The vampire's soul was no longer fragments of spiritual matter but instead one complete and whole being.
The next part was easy. Antarius sank back into his own body, rising to his feet as he regained awareness of his limbs. He walked around the body, chanting in a language that was almost Germanic.
It was merely a resurrection spell, three short quatrains. Antarius had raised multitudes of zombies in his time and this time was not much different. Once the last words left his lips, he reopened the wound on his arm and splashed blood across the body.
As the corpse began to stir with the first signs of life, Antarius scurried off into the woods, leaving the newly made zombie to fend for itself.
Antarius took Shadow home with him that night.. and a few hours after they met, they were sitting in chairs in front of a fireplace.
"So what happened to me, Antarius?" Shadow asked.
The necromancer sighed, calling the memories forth as he began to relate them. "You were fatally wounded. I managed to weave a spell that prevented your corpse from decaying - as vampire corpses are wont to do after final death."
He took a drink from the herbal concoction he held in his hand. "Once morning came, I took your body from the ruins and set about to repair it. Now, when someone dies, their soul is shattered into fragments. As far as my research tells me, anyway, and each portion goes on to whatever place it is supposed to. Interestingly enough, all vampires have souls composed of a mass of fragments."
Antarius cleared his throat, then took another drink and swallowed it. "Some alchemists I know theorize that those fragments that make up a vampiric soul are actually bits and pieces stolen from others when they take their blood. They believe that vampires have no soul of their own.. but of course the body does need a soul to survive, and so they must spend their lives stealing those bits and pieces of spirit from others."
Shrugging, he set the mug aside. "I do not know of the validity of those theories.. but regardless, your soul was a flurry of fragments. Combining spiritual essence, or quintessence is a relatively simple thing. I fused all those fragments of your soul into one whole.. And then I raised you as I would a zombie."
Shadow frowned. "So.. what does that mean then?"
Antarius grinned. "It means that you can reclaim what you were. To resurrect a person, you must keep their soul bound to their body. When you raise them from the dead, the soul will sink back into the body.. from there, they can become what they once were."
"You're saying I can become human again?!" Shadow asked, excitedly.
Antarius shook his head. "Unfortunately no. Your body was altered in ways I cannot explain when you were changed. You can become completely vampiric again, however, I assure you. Try to let your fangs come. You'll see. You are still what you are, just not completely."
Shadow felt them slide down, their tips horribly sharp. "You're right. Well what do I have to do?"
Antarius rose from his seat, walking over to the fireplace. He picked up a stick and held it in the flames. Once it ignited, he turned to the candles lined up upon the mantle and lit them each, from left to right.
"We start right now. You are changed now, my child, by the resurrection. No longer will the blood of mortals sustain you. This is the curse that all who come back from death bear upon themselves. Even a mortal brought back to life must from that day forward feed upon his brethren.. and so you must also from this day on feed upon yours." Antarius took up one of the candles, a black one, and walked over to where Shadow was seated.
He placed the candle on the small table next to Shadow's chair. "Now, you will be weak for quite some time and no match for any vampire.. so I must give you what gifts I can."
The necromancer pulled a pouch from between the legs of the table and reached into the bag. His hand came out clutching a twist of herb. Shadow wasn't sure what plant it was, but as Antarius burned it in the flame of the candle a thick aroma filled the room.
"With this ritual, I will bind your soul more solidly to your body... increasing your physical fortitude. Total awareness of your body, so that if you bear any wound, you will always know where and how severe. You would still even still be able to feel a severed hand.."
Antarius muttered some strange words that sounded familiar, yet also quite alien to Shadow. He could feel each word, as though it vibrated through his body. As the last word was spoke, a brilliant light flashed in Shadow's vision.. and then everything went black.
He had no idea when it was that he had reawaken, but Antarius was there, chanting once again. When the necromancer noticed that Shadow was awake once again, he rose to his feet. His hand reached out for Shadow and the zombie took it.
"Now we reclaim your life.." Antarius told him, blowing out the candles quickly and then leading Shadow outside.
It was night time still, a half moon shining in the sky. Shadow felt the cold air against his skin. Strangely, he could feel every inch of his skin as though he was brushing his fingers against it. The decay that had set in over the weeks was apparent to him as well. The feeling that told him that it was decay was just too strange for him to explain, but it was there.
Antarius walked down the road, passing the other few houses that were near his. The hard caked mud had frozen during the night and crumbled with each step. Steadily, they made their way into the woods.
"Where are we headed, Antarius?" Shadow asked.
Antarius scanned the woods slowly. "I can sense the dead, Shadow, and the near dead as well.. There is a vampire out in these woods. He is near."
As though in reply to the necromancer's statement, Shadow heard a rustling out in the brush. They both crept off the path as quietly as they could, moving past trees and bushes as they followed the noise.
Suddenly a figure dropped out of the trees, landing in front of them. Gleaming eyes and the glint of fang told them that this was their quarry.
"You two mortals have made a mistake entering my woods.." the vampire roared. It was impossible to tell if it was male or female. The being was entirely too animalistic to make that determination. It was thin of form and covered in long fur. The face bulged as though a muzzle was growing there and was framed by long, wavy hair.
Antarius raised his hands, his fingers clawing through the air in the shape of some arcane symbols. The vampire looked down at it's arm as the skin turned black and began to sag.
It looked back up at Antarius. "What have you done?!" And it backhanded the necromancer.
Antarius fell back against a tree, striking his head. He slid to the ground with a groan. Shadow frowned deeply. As he turned to the vampire, he felt his arms becoming lighter. He swung his fist at the vampire, striking it's jaw. The vampire stumbled back a few feet, a trail of blood running from it's lips.
Antarius, still on the ground, muttered a few lines. The vampire moved to take a step towards Shadow but it's knee bent wrong and it fell to the ground. Shadow jumped on the fallen foe right away, finding strength entering his decay stricken body. He bit at the vampire, his teeth ripping away flesh as his fingernails simultaneously cleaved skin.
Finally he found a thick blood vessel in the vampires arm and he began to suck, swallowing pints of blood. He drained the vampire down to it's very hearts blood, feeling the power that flowed into his own veins.
He closed his eyes, feeling the ecstasy of the feeding. It was unlike anything he had ever experienced before.. and with the potent blood flowing through his body, he could feel the damage already beginning to heal.
Shadow helped Antarius to his feet. "Are you okay, Antarius?"
Antarius nodded, looking over the rotting corpse of the dead vampire. Within a few more moments, it would only be dust and a few bones.
"You drained him completely, down to his very hearts blood?" Antarius raised his brows.
Shadow looked down at his hands, the skin starting to lose the blackness of decay. "Yes, I took all of his blood."
"Good.. now we have to hurry back to my house. You are quickly becoming completely vampiric once more. The sun will be devastating to you." Antarius warned, starting off towards the path.
Shadow looked up at the half moon in the sky. Antarius had left two weeks ago for a nearby town. When Shadow had wanted to come, he declined.
“I’ve got some affairs to put in order.. and I think you do as well.” Antarius had said.
So here he was, walking up to the Silver Blade Tavern. He didn’t know why he came back here. Maybe to see if one of his friends was around.. or maybe to see Maya if she happened to be here tonight.
Whatever the reason, he stepped up to the door, his hand grasping the black door knob. After a moments pause, he turned the knob and went inside.
When he sat down at the bar, not more than a minute had passed before he heard a voice call out to him.
He turned to see a strange man seated only a couple stools down from him. The irises of the stranger’s eyes were a strange yellow color that reminded Shadow of some large cat. A leopard or lion maybe. “You’re name is Shadow, right?” The man asked.
Shadow’s eyes narrowed. Who was this man? “Some people know me as such. Who are you?”
The stranger shrugged. “My name is Ulfric. Anyway, I couldn’t help but notice that you are looking different tonight..”
Shadow raised a thin brow. “What do you mean?”
“A few weeks ago, I saw you in here. You looked like you were wasting away or something. Now, tonight, you look relatively normal.”
“A very astute observation.” Shadow said.
The man, Ulfric, moved down to the seat next to Shadow. “So what happened? I mean how come you were all rotted and now you aren’t?”
“Why do you want to know?” Shadow asked, suspicion apparent in his voice.
Ulfric shrugged. “Well I heard you mention Darkshade before. Some of my friends fought there. Some of them died.. I thought maybe you might know some of them.”
“I knew none of your friends. I was in Darkshade for one reason and only that one reason..” Shadow said.
“Oh.. well what were you doing there then?” Ulfric wondered.
“I was there to destroy Melthos.”
“Melthos? I’ve heard about him. He’s supposedly a nasty bastard.” Ulfric said before taking a sip from his beer. “I heard he got out of Darkshade relatively intact.”
Shadow’s expression darkened. “Yes. Unfortunately he managed to elude my grasp.”
“So what’s so bad about him? All I’ve heard is that he is some evil warlord who somehow built an army.” Ulfric asked.
Shadow began to explain. “He is a shapeshifter. Specifically, a werepanther. Basically, what a werepanther is, is-“
“Hey, you don’t have to explain what a werebeast is to me, Shadow.” Ulfric interjected.
Of course. Why hadn’t he seen it before? Those strange eyes were not human in the least. Shadow scrutinized the man, looking at the talon tipped fingers, the pointy teeth. “I suppose I should have recognized your animalistic features as such. Perhaps you might consider being more discreet if you wish to survive. Not too many people care for shapeshifters, especially right now.” Shadow told him.
“Uh.. yeah, thanks for the advice.. but you might want to take that to heart yourself, friend.” Ulfric smirked.
“What do you mean?” Shadow raised a brow.
“Well, for instance.. you haven’t had a drink since you’ve been here. I’ve also noticed that you aren’t breathing regularly or blinking your eyes as often as a person should.” Ulfric explained. “Also, that whole thing where you showed up here rotting really threw doubt as to your humanity. So what are you? A zombie? A vampire or something?”
Shadow shrugged. This one was more perceptive than he seemed. Perhaps he shouldn’t be discounted so quickly. “I am a mortal just like you.”
“Nice answer..” Ulfric chuckled. He looked passed Shadow suddenly. “Hey, nice talking with you, but I’ve got to get going.”
Shadow nodded. “Perhaps we’ll meet up again.”
Ulfric nodded. “Maybe.”
Shadow watched the man go over to the stairs, meeting a woman as she descended. They hugged one another, talked for a few moments and then left.
He looked around, but didn’t spot anyone he knew. What he really wanted to do was go to Antarius’ place. Maybe the necromancer would have returned..
Shadow approached the tiny shack where the necromancer made his home. No light shown in the window, but Shadow figured that maybe he was asleep. Still, he could not deny the foreboding he felt growing in his gut. Hurriedly, he approached the shack door.
"Antarius!" he called out as he burst inside.
Right there, on the floor, lay the necromancer. A knife stuck out of his back as he lay face down in a dried pool of blood. From the smell, it seemed the man had been dead at least a day.
Shadow fell to his knees beside the necromancer's corpse. Tears stung his eyes. He collapsed to the floor, sobbing silently, the bond between them forcefully shattered by some unknown hand.
He left the shack behind, disappearing into the darkness of night. Anger boiled inside of him. His dark side was surfacing. He could feel it. Without even realizing it, he was moving along the edge of the road, lurking in the shadows like a predator. His fangs had slid down too, without his willing it.
His senses had sharpened far beyond anything human.. and with his superhuman hearing, he heard a commotion up ahead on the trail. Shadow felt the dark part in him urging him to investigate, hoping to get the opportunity to kill something. In his head, he saw himself stumbling upon a group of raiders attacking a caravan. He slaughtered each of the raiders, one by one, and drank their blood.
Alas, it was not raiders that he found up ahead, but simply a man and a woman being attacked by some strange creature. His eyes narrowed as he studied the entity. It was a strange blue colored beast. As Shadow approached the fight, the beast suddenly dispersed into a mist.
He had no idea what this thing was, nor had he heard of anything like it.. but as he looked to the two being attacked, he recognized the fellow as Ulfric. The man he had spoken with just earlier that night.
He needed no further excuse. As the creature coalesced into a humanoid form, Shadow was upon it. He knocked the creature aside, then leapt back.
The creature rose forth, puzzled by the blow. It didn’t even see Shadow. That was good, he decided. That meant it probably wasn’t some overly powerful spirit or some such. Spirits typically knew exactly where you were at all times regardless of any attempts to stay hidden.
Ulfric hadn’t seen him either. The wild man was watching the entity as it moved toward him. He moved to attack but the monster became a mist and engulfed the wild man.
“No!” The woman cried out.
She waved her hands through the air and not a moment later, Shadow felt a strong gust of wind blowing down the trail. He nodded to himself. It was a good idea.. perhaps this creature would be effected somehow. But then he saw that it was not. The fog around Ulfric wasn’t moved by the wind in the least.
The mist finally released Ulfric, condensing into a humanoid shape right in front of the wild man. The shape it took resembled Ulfric nearly perfectly, although the skin was still colored blue.
Enough of this foolishness, Shadow decided. He rushed toward the creature, forsaking stealth for speed. Ulfric and the woman both saw him just as he threw a fist at the back of the entity’s head.
The creature cried out in pain as Shadow struck it, though the punch barely moved it. It turned around lightning quick.
This isn’t good.. Shadow told himself. The dark part of him was becoming agitated. It wanted death and blood now! His head swam as the dark half started to take control..
The creature swung it’s arm, slashing at Shadow. He watched it as though in slow motion, stepping to the side as the arm moved through empty air, missing him completely. He looked passed the creature, seeing Ulfric flying through the air slowly, before landing on the thing’s back.
They struggled briefly as Shadow regained his senses. Everything sped back up to normal, the two Ulfric’s struggling. Shadow looked up just in time to see the creature standing over the real Ulfric, his blood on it’s claws.
Ulfric climbed to his feet just in time for the entity to disperse into a fog again. It surrounded him, choking him.. then just faded away.
“Where did it go?” Ulfric looked to the woman.
Shadow stepped forward, puzzled. “It was smothering you, then faded into nothingness. Strange.”
The woman examined Ulfric’s wounds, making a few comments.
“Do you know what that creature was?” Shadow asked.
Ulfric shrugged. “It attacked me before. I don’t know what it is but it seems bent on my destruction for some reason.”
Shadow nodded, then turned to walk away.
“Hey, what are you doing out here anyway?” Ulfric asked.
Shadow turned back toward them. “I was investigating something. I happened to see you battling that thing and thought that you might appreciate some assistance.”
Ulfric nodded. “Oh, hey, have you met Rayvnn here?”
Shadow shook his head. “It is a pleasure.” He gave a mere suggestion of a bow. “Are you traveling somewhere?”
The woman nodded. “We are going north, to Dunswick.”
Shadow raised a brow. “Dunswick? I know that town. When you arrive, make sure you visit the Dead Wolf tavern. There is a man there named Sevarus who can help you out with anything you might need. Let him know I directed you there.”
“Thanks Shadow.” Ulfric smiled.
Shadow nodded, turning away as he headed down the trail.
“Hey Shadow, maybe I’ll share a drink with you sometime.” Ulfric called out to him.
Shadow glanced over his shoulder. “Count on it.” Then left them behind.
A short while later, he reached the Silver Blade tavern. Though it was only a few hours from dawn, the pub was still bustling.
He waded through the vagrants and drunks, moving toward the back of the tavern. He had to turn down several conversations and propositions before he managed to reach an empty table. Once he was seated, however, no one seemed to notice him any longer. He looked around, letting his gaze roam. With a little bit of concentration, he could discern nearly all the conversation going on in the main room of the tavern. He didn’t actually perceive every word, but instead listened for certain words that would catch his attention.
Finally he heard the word he was looking for. Necromancer. He looked toward the man who had spoken the word. It was a fighter of some sort, donned in crude leather body armor. He was absolutely filthy and had a second or possible third hand short sword on his hip. The blade wasn’t even in a scabbard.
The man was talking to another man in similar dress. Shadow listened as the first man spoke. “That’s right, Josiah, I killed him. Stabbed the damn death monger in the back. He’s burning in hell right now.”
The other man, Josiah, had his back to Shadow, but he imagined the expression of glee on the man’s face. “Great Kurd. Did you tell Garbad yet?”
Kurd shook his head. “I’m going to once he gets back. They went out killing some rot. Probably be back soon.”
As if on cue, the door to the tavern opened. A group of men came in, all in similar states of filth as Kurd. Some of them were apparently rich enough to afford the same kind of armor that Kurd and Josiah wore, but others only had tunics to protect their bodies.
One amongst them stood out, however. He was obviously the leader. The man was easily a head taller than the rest of them. He was even a little taller than Shadow. This man was not the epitome of filth, as the others were. The man was instead rather clean, aside from the blood and other stains earned in whatever battle they had just engaged in. Likewise, he wore fine plate armor that had a mirror like sheen. An ornate axe was strapped to his back. This, Shadow deduced, must be Garbad.
The men dragged a body into the middle of the room, pushing tables out of their way as they spread the body out for display. The body was limp and yielding as they rolled it over. It was a young man, probably about 15 years old. He looked like any other peasant boy, except for the wooden stake sticking out of it’s chest. A vampire.
The patrons of the tavern all stepped away from the men and their captive, obviously terrified that an actual vampire was in their tavern.
Garbad stepped forward. “Fear not, my brothers and sisters.. this foul spawn of the devil cannot harm any one of you.”
He reached down and pulled the stake from the vampire’s chest. The body immediately became animated, the vampire looking around, then up at Garbad. Shadow could see the fear on the boy’s face.
Garbad placed a boot on the vampire’s chest, pushing him back down to the floor. “We’re going to send you back to hell, leech.”
The large man took the axe from his back. He lifted it over his head as the terrified vampire watched, knowing what was coming.
Why didn’t the vampire try to save itself? Shadow wondered to himself.
“These vampires are not invulnerable demons! You can protect yourselves!” Garbad told the people. “Watch.”
He swung the axe down, taking off the vampire’s head. No blood came out of the body. Now Shadow knew why it took no action. The vampire had little or no blood left. No fuel for the fire, he thought to himself.
As the patrons cheered Garbad for killing the vampire, Shadow decided to make a discreet exit. The dark part of him told him to kill them all, but he knew better than to fool himself. He couldn’t take on all of these people at once and survive. No, not all at once..
As the days passed, more vampires were killed. Rumors spread that even a few ancients had been slain by the guild. Shadow couldn’t fathom how a group of mortal men could have destroyed an ancient. The only explanation was that the person behind it had a keen knowledge of vampire’s strengths and weaknesses.
Though the situation seemed grim, Shadow remained determined. The dark part within him urged him to just slaughter the whole group of slayers, but he told it to just remain patient.
Garbad had arrived an hour ago. Shadow studied him for a while as the slayer drank. Who was he? What was his purpose here?
Shadow willed his blood to his skin, giving it a flush of color that made him look a little more alive. His guise would have to be flawless if he was going to fool them for long.
"Garbad? The slayer?" he asked, approaching the man.
The large man turned in his stool, setting his mug down on the bar. "Yes, I am Garbad... can I help you?"
Shadow climbed onto a stool next to the man. "I'm interested in becoming a slayer..."
Garbad took a gulp from the mug, the smell of beer assaulted Shadow's nose. "Hey, have a drink." He waved at the bartender. "Ah.. so you want to slay some vamps? May I ask of you why?"
Shadow shrugged as he accepted the mug the bartender offered him. "When I was young, my mother and father were both murdered by vampires. I was left to fend for myself in the forest at only eight years of age.. " He feigned remembered anger quite convincingly.
"Really?" the large man pushed the mug forward for the bartender to refill. "How did you manage to survive?"
"For the first couple weeks, all I could manage to eat was grass, berries.. twigs.." he shrugged, "Finally, I managed to kill a rabbit.. I survived anyway I could. Eventually, after some months, a soldier from a nearby fighting guild found me and was good enough to take me in.."
Garbad nodded understanding.
"I still harbor hatred for the vampires.. I've slain two before myself. Their fangs now adorn the crest above my fireplace." Shadow added.
Garbad was eating it up. Shadow even remembered to blink and breath regularly.
"Aye... I feel the same, brother. You'll find that many of us share similar stories among our group." He smiled sympathetically at Shadow. "If you'd like.. I'm sending out my friend Ghayson to slay a vamp tonight, you could accompany him. Or you could come with the rest of us. We will be attacking a whole nest of the blood suckers held up in a cave. It's your choice."
Shadow grinned, a glint in his eye. "I'm unsure if I'm ready to help in that large of an undertaking... but I'd be pleased to help your friend slay that lone vampire."
"And I'm sure that Ghayson would be glad to have you.." The man nodded. "In fact, here he comes right now.."
They both watched as Ghayson walked toward them, the scent of the night air still on him. Ghayson wasn’t nearly as filthy as the other men from the group. He had chain mail rather than cheap leather armor and a claymore that must have been in his family for generations. A shock of blond hair trimmed short stuck out under the skullcap that Ghayson wore.
"Ghayson.. I'd like you to meet.. uh, I'm sorry, I forgot to ask your name, my friend." Garbad said.
"I'm Elihu. Nice to meet you, Ghayson.. I look forward to slaying many vampires with you." Shadow extended his hand.
Ghayson shook his hand firmly, his bright blue eyes staring into Shadow’s own dark eyes.
"Elihu here wants to join us.. I'm sure he'll tell you all about his story on your way to your hunt tonight.." Garbad smacked Ghayson on the back. "Now, you two come back alive, right?"
Garbad leaned over to whisper into Ghayson’s ear. “He looks pretty scrawny, so I won’t be too angry if he doesn’t return with you.”
Shadow heard them perfectly well, but pretended not to.
“Well let’s get going then, Elihu.” Ghayson said, as he moved toward the door.
Ghayson raised the sword as his gaze shot back and forth. "Where are you, filthy vampire?"
The vampire stepped forward, the wounds that Ghayson had inflicted nearly closed. He grinned. "You are going to die, mortal."
Shadow stepped back, hiding in the darkness.
The vampire leapt forth, knocking the sword away as Ghayson swung it through the air. He grabbed the slayer by the throat. "Say goodbye to whatever gods you worship."
"Elihu, help.." Ghayson gasped. "Elihu!"
Shadow jumped out of the darkness, crashing into the vampire. Both the vampire and Ghayson went crashing to the ground. The vampire jumped to his feet immediately, turning to Shadow.
"Stupid cow. I'm going to make your death slow and painful." The vampire growled as he rushed Shadow.
As the vampire came to him, Shadow threw his fist into the vampire's face. The vampire flew back several feet, hitting a tree. It laid there, stunned by the powerful blow.
"I'm afraid you are mistaken." Shadow said.
Ghayson climbed to his feet. "Elihu.. how the hell did you do that?"
Shadow shook his head at Ghayson. He approached the vampire, lifting him from the ground. Turning his face so that Ghayson could see, he let his fangs come down, then plunged them into the vampire's neck.
Ghayson's eyes went wide. He grabbed his sword and started to run.
Shadow drained the vampire's blood, down to the last drop. He closed his eyes as he felt the vampire's essence mingling with his own. Still high from the feeding, he tossed the body aside even as it was already turning to dust.
Ghayson was almost back to the trail when Shadow came out from behind a tree, stepping right in front of Ghayson. The slayer skidded to a halt, slipping on the dew wetted leaves.
"Elihu.. no, please.." Ghayson begged.
Shadow grinned. He backhanded the slayer, sending Ghayson sprawling to the ground where he lay unconscious. Shadow looked down at Ghayson.
"Well. Here we go." Shadow said to himself as he crouched down next to the fallen slayer.
He lifted Ghayson's arm and sunk his teeth into the soft flesh of his wrist. Blood spurted out with each heartbeat. Shadow grimaced as he drank the nearly flavorless human blood. Compared to the vampire's blood, this stuff tasted like cow urine. He could feel the man's heart beginning to slow as he was ensanguined.
Finally he dropped Ghayson's arm. With one deft move, he rolled up his sleeve and slashed open his own wrist. Shadow pressed it against Ghayson's mouth, concentrating as he willed the blood to come out, dripping into the slayer's mouth.
Ghayson's eyes shot open, bloodshot and wild looking. The slayer leapt to his feet, gaze shifting back and forth. He opened his mouth as though to speak but only a snarl escaped his throat.
Shadow looked back at the horizon and the brightening sky. The sun was coming up. There was no time to reach shelter, but that wasn't a big deal for him. He turned back to Ghayson and found the vampire was gone.
It only took him a few moments to find the slayer. The feral vampire had caught a wild dog and was feeding on it.
Shadow shook his head. "Ghayson, we don't have time for this. The sun is almost up."
Ghayson looked up at Shadow. His eyes gained a modicum of intelligence now that he had fed. "What?"
"The sun." Shadow repeated, pointing at the horizon.
Ghayson's gaze followed Shadow's finger, spotting the orb just now barely peeking over the horizon. Fear filled his eyes as something inside him screamed to get away, fast.
Shadow jumped on him before he could move and they both sank into the soil, disappearing from view.
More later, I promise!
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|Reviewed by Nickolaus Pacione
|I can definately see some J.R.R. Tolkien in this one, it is looking good. Keep it up -- you'd like some of the other titles I have. Two vampire stories -- one is Among Shadows and the other is Bloodletting. Ron Dondiego gave his seal of approval these. In your horror titles I can see an H.P. Lovecraft feel going there -- keep it up. If you are looking to also showcase your work -- go to http://writersmuse.diary-x.com. If you need help with html coding -- give me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org|