A Random Short Story. (rated TVMA) ;)

Forgive the light details. I jotted this down in about 45 minutes for someone, and have decided to share it here. I don’t even have a title for it. Any ideas for one would be appreciated.

 

            The young woman, red hair pulled back from her face, pushed through the tavern’s double doors. She was dressed in dark leather armor and carried daggers on her back; a mated pair at her waist, and another set sticking above her shoulders. She strode though the smoky and crowded room, ignoring the smells of stale ale and unwashed bodies. As she walked by, a drunken patron reached for her. Without losing stride, she broke the outstretched wrist, never taking her eyes from the burly orc behind the bar.

“I’m told Dirge is here,” she said. Her voice was mellifluous.

“Never heard of him.” In contrast, his was coarse.

She slipped a hand into a pocket and slid a sliver coin across the counter. A swipe of a rag, and the coin vanished. The barman tilted his head towards the fire. A shadowy figure lounged by the flames. As she watched, a small ember flared. A pipe, or cheroot. The woman walked over without a glance back.

She reached the leather chair, and stopped in surprise. A shadow was there, moving as if it were a real person, mimicking the act of smoking. A thick hand gripped her by the hair and cold steel kissed the tender flesh of her throat.

“Why are you asking about me?” A heavy voice growled. It made the orc’s sound musical in comparison. The owner of the voice sniffed her neck. “Not a vampire, nor a thrall.” She was spun roughly.

She found herself staring up at a rugged, worn and weathered face. Skin the color of new leather with deep lines carved into it gave proof to a harsh life. Dark eyes danced across her face, analyzing her. Oiled black leather covered his wide frame. This must have been how he was able to sneak up on her.

“You are the vampire hunter known as Dirge?”

The blade at her throat wiggled, reminding her of its presence. “Answer my question.”

“My companions and I wish to hire you.” As she said this, she glanced down his torso, taking in the broadsword with the onyx grip and ruby pommel sheathed in gleaming silver. His eyes automatically followed hers and his estimation of her went up a notched when he saw the silver crystal blade pointed at his belly. He knew that weapon. “You recognize Killswitch, do you?”

“I do. It was my brother’s. How did you get it?”

“It was in the horde of a green dragon that we killed last autumn.”

Dirge sheathed his knife. “Who are you?”

“My name is Jennifer. How much will you charge us?”

He sat in the chair that had been occupied by the shadow. “That all depends on what you’d like to hire me for.”

She sat in the other chair. The vampire hunter lit his pipe and the pleasant tang of red weed filled the air. “We’d like you to teach us how to effectively combat vampires.”

“That is easy enough to do. When would you like to begin?” He crossed his ankles as he slouched further into the thick seat. “I warn you: I charge extra for rush jobs.”

“Immediately.”

He nodded. “Forty thousand sovereigns. Half upfront, the other half when I feel you’re ready to fight the parasites.”

“Done.”

Something about her tone intrigued Dirge. “Care to share why you have this urgent need to learn these tactics?”

“Vampires are planning on using my sister as a sacrifice to summon their eldest from his slumber.”

The hunter sat up. “I’ve not heard anything like this. How did you find out?”

Jennifer rose and paced to a window. She stared out at the snowy darkness. “While on a rescue mission for the Jarl of Windhaven, we managed to capture the ringleader. It turned out that she was a thrall. She asked me how I escaped Scarward Keep.” Dirge half rose from his seat. “Shortly afterwards, we learned the vampire’s plans, and determined to stop them.” Jennifer turned, and froze at the distress on the vampire hunter’s face.

“Did you say Scarward Keep?” he asked in a strangled voice.

“I did. Why?”

He traced his fingers along a wound that she could not see. “Long ago, the master of that place left his mark on me a few years back.” He motioned for her to follow. “I’m coming with you to the keep. Never mind the training fee. Most of your group won’t be coming back alive.”

 

***

            Outside, Jennifer waved towards a group lounging near five horses. An elf, half his head shaven, dressed in green and brown leather, bobbed his head causing metal in his ear to flash in the torchlight. He shouldered a long bow and a quiver of arrows and glided over. He was followed by a large half-orc in grey full plate mail. His head was shaven except for a blue-black topknot. The hilt of a great sword showed over one immense shoulder. The half-orc stepped fully into the light, showing a scar over where his left eye should have been. A pair of women approached in lockstep. One wore half-plate mail that gleamed. A holy symbol was etched in the breast-plate. Her helmet was carried loosely in her left hand. A mace hung at her hip and a large shield was slung over her right shoulder. Her brown hair was cut short. The other was clad in bluish-silver chain mail. Blonde hair was tied back in a braid. A well-worn book held in her hand proclaimed her to be a cleric. ‘Sword sisters,’ mused Dirge.

“These are my companions,” Jennifer said. “This is Rohir Mandrane.” She gestured to the elf. “Gromm.” A wave to the half-orc. “Leigh Grimbane the Pure.” This time the short-haired woman was indicated. “And Astred Blake.” She placed her hand on the vampire slayer’s shoulder. “Everyone, this is Dirge the vampire hunter.”

Leigh said, “How did you get the name Dirge?”

His head dipped, then his left eyebrow rose. “Banshee was already taken.”

Astred laughed. “Good one.”

Leigh scratched her head. “I don’t get it.”

“A dirge is a funerary song expressing mourning in commemoration of the dead. In some cultures, it is the last thing the dead hear in this world,” Gromm said. “A banshee is a female ghost who’s wail is the last thing her victims hear.”

“Is that why you call yourself Dirge?” Leigh said.

Rohir snorted and turned away. Dirge chuckled. “No. I usually call myself me, I, or myself.”

“Asshole,” Astred said under her breath.

Leigh bit her lip. “Jen? Help me out here?”

The vampire hunter placed a big hand on the close-cropped head of the woman. “I’m going to have an easy time training you, Leigh.”

“Wait, what?” said Gromm. “How is that possible?”

“Hey,” Leigh said.

“It’s possible because she’s going to be willing to follow my instructions to the letter, and not assume she knows what I’m intending before I say it.” Leigh beamed. Gromm narrowed his eyes. “Come, the night is short. Let’s begin your training, eh?”

***

            A week later, the party arrayed themselves outside the perimeter of the castle walls. The pallid sun tried weakly to shine through the clods before giving it up as a hopeless task. Shadowy figures could barely be seen wandering the ramparts in the dim daylight. A chill wind blew from the north, bringing the scent of a coming snow storm.

“What-” Rohir said.

Jennifer clamped her hand over his mouth. She leaned over. “Werewolves have excellent hearing. Even better than that of elves.” Her lips grazed his ear as her whispered words warmed it.

Dirge cast his hand in the air, sending what appeared to be dust into the wind. He looked at his students. “Keep out of sight. I’m going up to that ridge.” He pointed to the mountain they’d just descended. Jennifer’s eyes went wide, and she motioned frantically for him to be quiet. “Relax, girl. I cast a spell of silence.”

She sagged as if a weight had been removed from her shoulders.

“Why are you going back to the cliff?” Astred said.

“I’m going to reach out and touch some lycanthropes. We are downwind of them, so along as you all keep low, you won’t be found.”

“How will you reach them from back there?” Gromm said.

The vampire hunter took a pack from his horse. He spread it out on the ground and unrolled a collection of odd objects. The party watched in awe as the assortment of metal and wood slid together with a series of clicks. The finished thing was about 4 feet long, had a dark metal tube in the front, and a strange wood block at the end. Two metal legs extended from a little past the middle of it. A cylinder was affixed to the top as Dirge held it. He attached a box to the bottom somehow, and using a strap, slung it over his shoulder like a bow.

“Remington M24,” he said. He pulled one more strange item from the pack, and handed it to Jennifer. “Hold the small holes up to your eyes, and look towards the werewolves.” She did and gasped. They were suddenly close. “These are binoculars. They allow you to see things that are far away as if up close. The wolves don’t know you can see them. I will return after I’ve disposed of the vampire’s bodyguards.” Dirge mounted his horse and rode off, disappearing into the gloom.

 

***

An hour passed. Taking turns with the binoculars had worn thin some time ago. Leigh watched the distant werewolves at Jennifer’s insistence. A crimson spray of blood flew from one’s head and it collapsed. Seconds later, a crack, like far away thunder, echoed. A wolf ran over to its fallen companion. Blood erupted, and this one fell also. Again, a couple heartbeats passed, and the sharp report came.

“Jen! Look at this!”

The red-haired woman rose from the log where she sharpened her blades and took the offered binoculars. She trained them on the keep in time to see a werewolf drop where it stood. Once more, the noise arrived. “I guess it’s not thunder after all.”

“What do you think that Remington M-24 is?” Gromm said.

“I think it’s a gun,” Leigh said. The others looked at her, surprise written on their faces. “It looks like one I saw in a picture book when I was a girl.”

“What is a gun?” Jennifer said.

Leigh shrugged. “Magic?”

 

***

Near midday, Dirge rode up. A fire burned, cooking the carcass of a deer. He dismounted and beckoned the others around. “We’ve got about four hours of daylight left, so eat quickly. It wouldn’t do to be caught by those parasites.”

“Do you have any idea how many vampires are inside?” said Leigh.

“Based on the number of bodyguards, I’d say it’s an elite nest. Probably about twenty to thirty.”

“Well, shit,” said Gromm. “That’s gonna suck.”

“Pun intended?” said Dirge.

“Huh?”

“Never mind. Where is Jennifer?”

A nearby tree rustled, twigs and leaves falling. The lady in question dropped out, and landed in a crouch. “You want me?” The vampire hunter gave her a big grin, causing heat to rise to her cheeks. “Um…”

“Let’s eat, and then mount up. We’ve got a hell of a chore in front of us.”

“Right.”

She turned away, lightly scratching the scab at the side of her neck. Part of it flecked away. A small rivulet of blood tricked down. She glanced at the crimson on her fingers.

 

***

Jennifer lowered her blades in surrender. No one had ever pushed her like this before. It was arousing.

“I want you,” she said.

Dirge sheathed his sword. “Alright.”

Her eyebrows went up. “That’s it?”

He gave a wicked grin. “Of course. I enjoy ruining women for other men.”

She tilted her head. “Good, or bad?”

“When you wake, you tell me. If, that is, you are able to stop grinning long enough to.”

That quiet assurance sent a frission of heat to her belly, and she felt herself go damp. “You’re pretty cocky.”

He unbuckled his sword, and laid it on the end table next to the bed. “No. I know what I’m talking about.”

She unbuckled the daggers at her back, and put them on the dresser. She turned back, and unfastened the straps of her jerkin. “Prove it.”

The vampire hunter crossed the room in a single stride, and with a few deft movements of his fingers, finished undressing her. He stepped back and allowed his eyes to run over her body. He noted the diamond-shaped scar where someone stabbed her with a short sword, the jagged scar where something with claws had ripped at her belly, the otherwise smooth and creamy skin, her defined muscles, the luscious curve of her hips, and the red curls over her pubis. “Delightful,” he murmured.

Dirge scooped her into his arms and carried her to his bed where he gently lay her down. He sat on the side, and took a few minutes to look her exquisite form over.

She squirmed, and a flush crept along her neck and cheeks. “Why are you staring at me like that?”

“I’ve never seen a more beautiful woman in my life.”

She sat up, and tried to slip off the bed. “Maybe this isn’t such a good idea after all.”

“Why not?”

“Because.”

He took her wrists in his large hangs, preventing her from rising. “Because isn’t an answer, it’s a word.” He pulled her back down, and trailed his fingertips down her body, eliciting a shiver.

She closed her hazel eyes. “I’ve not been told I’m beautiful except when being mocked.”

“Jennifer.”

“What?”

“Look at me, please.” Reluctantly, she opened them. Moisture, from shame, made them glint in the candlelight. “The only thing you heard in my voice was reverence,” he said softly. “You really are the most beautiful woman I have ever seen.”

“What about my scars?”

Dirge took in her face. She refused to meet his eyes. Her brow was furrowed, and she seemed to be trying to melt through the bed. “Jennifer. Look at me, please.” He locked her gaze with his. “All of you is beautiful. Let me show you?”

She swallowed hard, then nodded, again closing her eyes. “Alright.” Her nose wrinkled adorably.

He decided not to push her to watch him. Both her wrists were linked together in his hand, and raised above her head. His other hand skimmed over her cheek. The smooth softness of her skin fascinated him. Feathery kisses followed his touch. She tried hard to not respond, but these sensations were new.

His fingernails barely scraped her skin, raising more goose bumps, as they went down the side of her neck to the upper curve of her breasts. When his lips followed, she moaned. His teeth lightly scored her flesh. She trembled. His tongue, soft and damp, traced her same path, setting her on fire. Her lips parted, then the lower one was captured between her teeth.

The same pattern was followed over her breast. First his fingertips trailed over the lushness of her boob, then feather soft kisses came after. Teeth lightly followed the tender scrape of fingernails, and ended with a soft lick of his tongue. ‘Stop teasing me, please.’

His hot, wet mouth closed over her erect nipple and lightly suckled it. Her heart nearly leaped out of her chest. She cried his name as the building heat exploded through her body in an inferno of passion. He pulled back and blew cool air over her nipple. She pulled hard, trying to free her hand, to push his wonderful mouth back to her breast. His mouth returned to her chest, but she was slightly distracted by his fingers gliding over her belly, going further south, and ‘Yes!’, his fingers grazed her vulva. Her hips came up to meet his touch.

At last her hands were freed! She reached for him, but he had slid further down the bed. ‘Where is he goi-’

Her mind went blank as his tongue slipped over her mound. He then slid it down the left side of her sex, and dragged it back up. His glacial pace was maddening. Her fingers found, and knotted in his hair. Her legs wrapped around his neck, giving him greater access to her. His magical tongue next traveled down the other side of her. The fire inside her raged, demanding to be freed. Instead, his talented mouth moved to her thigh. She wanted to scream, she was so close to climax.

He nibbled along her inner thigh, then kissed the nibbled area. Then, his tongue traced the same path his lips and teeth had traveled. She panted. His attentions had her feeling feverish.

“Dirge.”

“Hmm?”

“What are you doing to me?”

He chuckled at her panted question and raised his head. He locked eyes with her, then slipped a finger inside her. “This.” Her eyes rolled back in her head as her back came off the bed. He grinned, and licked the center of her heat, eliciting a drawn out moan.

The vampire hunter grinned again. He paid close attention to the sounds she was making. Each time her noises indicated she was about to go over the edge, he altered his movements, or licked another place on her, denying her release.

“Please,” she begged.

“Please what?” he said.

“Let me.”

“Let you what?”

“Come.”

Another smile spread across his face. “Put it all together for me.”

“Please, let me come?”

“Not yet.” He gave a wicked chuckle, then moved further down her body. She wanted to scream. “No coming without permission, either, Jennifer.”

What?”

“You have to wait for my permission before you have an orgasm.”

Why?”

“Because of how sweet it will be. Trust me. Just enjoy what I’m doing to you.”

“You’re driving me crazy.”

“That’s the plan.”

She looked down her body. “That’s mean.”

“So am I.” He gave her a gentle nip behind her knee.

That sent another rush of heat to her center. That was unexpected. ‘What else on me is sensitive like this?’

He continued on his way down her body, licking, nibbling, caressing, and kissing. After spending a few minutes suckling on her toes, which initially tickled, but then felt amazing, he made her turn over to her belly. He began to slide his fingers over her muscles, pausing every so often to add a bit of pressure to select muscles, utterly relaxing her. Her eyes grew heavy and her breathing slowed, and grew deeper. His fingers stopped kneading her thighs, and moved in between. He traced her sex from behind, causing her breath to shorten again.

When she was wet enough, he slipped two of his fingers into her. From behind. She moaned at the new sensation. And then he gently pressed down with the two inside her. Lightning went off behind her eyes and she squealed. She then sank further into the bed. He scraped his nails over her back, then withdrew his fingers from inside her.

She turned to her back at his direction, and gazed deeply into his eyes. They were even darker than they had been earlier. He rose from the bed in a single smooth motion, and stripped his clothing off. She sat up, and took his hardness in her hand. The pattern of callouses and smoothness on her hand caused him to moan. She smiled and pulled him down beside her. She rose up on her knees. “My turn.”

“As you wish.” The roughness of his voice delighted her. She was no inexperienced farmer’s girl, but Dirge had shown her things she’d never experienced before.

She slid her hands over his rough chest, noting he was covered in even more scars than she. Puckered craters on his chest indicated he’d been tortured in the past. She’d seen too many of the scars from hot pokers before. She lightly traced them with her fingers, then impulsively dipped her head, and ran the tip of her tongue over the marred flesh. His gasp told her he enjoyed that. She trailed her tongue over a set of crisscrossed scars over his abdomen, wondering how he got them. She went lower on his body, using his sounds to guide her movements. She reached behind her and drug her fingernails over his erection, grinning at his groan. She reach his hip, and paused at an odd-shaped scar. It looked like a, “Gods, Dirge. Did someone bite you?”

He rose up and flipped her to her back. He held himself above her, and placed his knee above her thighs. She willingly parted her legs and waited for his response. “Do you want me to answer that, or do you want me to do this?”

She forgot her question when he slid into her. Her hips came up to meet his. He nibbled her neck, and slowly withdrew about halfway, then slammed in. Her legs wrapped around his hips and he pulled back a bit again, faster this time. He thrust into her slowly. She moaned and wrapped her arms around his neck. He then kissed her for the first time.

Their tongues swirled and played. His thrusting picked up speed. She pulled away from the kiss to breath. Her legs held him tight, as did her arms. He lowered his head and whispered, “I want you to come for me.”

“Huh?” Her question was gasped out.

He thrust faster, and harder inside her. “I want you to come for me. Right now.”

His words sent a shock of pleasure through her, adding more fuel to the inferno within. He reached between them and brushed his thumb over the stiff nub at the center of her sex. The roughness of his calloused digit sent her over the edge.

All her muscles tightened and then released abruptly as pleasure swept through her. Her limbs fell from his body. He remained still, watching the pink fade slowly from her features. Her eyes fluttered open and a smile spread over her face. Still watching her, he resumed moving in and out. Her jaw dropped and her eyes widened. Soon the heat rose through her again.

“Want to try something different?”

“More different? How so?”

He slid out of her, causing her to moan in protest. He then guided her over to her belly, and up on her hands and knees. He slid into her once more, somehow, ending deeper inside her.

“Oohh!”

He grinned as his hands gripped her hips. His body slapped hard and fast against her rump. She was lost in a sea of new, wonderful sensations. It had never crossed her mind that sex could be done this way, or for so long. She gasped with unexpected pleasure as he gathered her hair in one hand and gently tugged on it. The pleasure/pain shot from her head down to where they were joined. His finger found that sensitive nub again. She cried out, and collapsed, hugging the pillow. He followed her down without missing a beat and stretched over her. The sensation of his hard belly against her back as his hardness rocketed in and out of her sent her over the edge again. This time, he didn’t stop. Instead, he increased his movements, sending her immediately over the edge again.

Sweat rolled over their bodies as he pounded away. He used his grip on her hair to tug her head to the left. He brushed his lips over her ear. “I’m going to come, Baby Girl,” he whispered.

His swelling within her pushed her close to the edge again. He gave a last thrust into her, and bit her neck extremely hard as he erupted within her. The teeth on her neck coupled with his spurting into her womb made her orgasm harder than she had all night.

After they lay together in the darkness, as his hands wandered over her, soothing where they’d previously aroused, she touched the place he’d bitten, wanting to know how hard he’d bitten her. She jerked her head away from the sharp sting. With greater care this time, she once more touched her bite. She felt wetness. Brow furrowing, she brought her fingers to her nose. The familiar copper tang of blood flooded her nose. ‘Damn. He bit me hard!’ For some reason, this sent a tingle down her belly. She ignored it, and pushed her back against Dirge’s hard chest.

 

***

The party entered the keep by the main gate. The smell of damp, sour earth, and rotting meat hit them like a fist. The great hall was filled with drifting zombies. When the undying creatures detected the warms of Jennifer’s group, they shuffled to attack.

“We seem to be expected,” Jennifer said, cutting a rotting zombie to ribbons.

“I would wager you are correct.” Dirge slammed a zombie that stumbled too close face first into the floor. Its skull cracked like an egg.

Astred raised her clenched fist, and a burst of brilliant light shone from it. A wave of the zombies burst apart. “Back to the Abyss with you, wretched creatures. In Ra’s name, I command it!”

Leigh swung her mace in wide, controlled arcs, splattering undead brains left and right. Her shield protected Her side, and was sometimes used to decapitate her attackers. Gromm slung his great sword around as if it were a broad sword. A swath of the zombies dropped with the first swing, then he switched hands as he spun, and carved up another group. Rohir stood near the portcullis, whistling as he fired arrows through zombie skulls. Dirge pounded zombies into the ground, gripping their heads, and slamming them with terrific force.

“Do you not like zombies, Dirge?”

“Their existence is an offense to me, Leigh.” He grabbed on that was about to grab her from behind, and flung it into another oncoming group. “Be aware!”

“Right, sorry.” She cringed as if in anticipation of a swat to the back of her head.

He looked to see how the others were doing and noticed Astred being pressed backwards. “Astred, what are you doing?”

His shout caused her to look from her book. “I’m loo- Guh!” Blood flew from her mouth as her body jerked and twitched. She fell, her back turned to a pin cushion by the arrow trap.

“Nooooo! Astred!” Leigh charged through the swarm of zombies, her mace hammering down the undead in huge swaths.

“Leigh, Watch out!” Gromm’s shout came too late. The short haired woman with the quick laugh, dropped from sight with a scream as the floor disappeared beneath her.

“No one move!”

“Go to the Abyss, Dirge! I must help my friends.”

“Jennifer, you don’t know what other traps are in here. Don’t run off recklessly!” A cold decayed hand fell on his neck. In a blink, Dirge whirled and gripped the zombie by the throat. An arrow grew from its temple. He glanced at the elf, and nodded thanks. The dead again corpse dropped without care as his eyes flew around the room. The half-orc knelt at the edge of the pit, shoulders slumped and heaving. “Regroup. Gromm, grieve later.” The huge warrior whipped his head around with a snarl. “Save it for the parasites. They took Leigh, and Astred.” Dirge dropped his head. “I should have thought to scout the interior before we came in.”

Jennifer knew if she hadn’t stepped over to speak privately with him, no one would have heard his words, or the despair in them. “Dirge,” she said softly. “Don’t blame yourself. Focus on the parasites, remember?”

“Do as I say, not as I do?”

She smiled. “Nope, nope. That’s not going to work for me.”

He attempted to return her smile, but failed. He shook his head, and started to turn away. He paused, mid-motion, then spun back, and kissed her firmly. “Thank you, Rishka.”

“What does that mean?”

“I’ll tell you when we’re finished. I promise.”

“I look forward to it.”

Gromm rose, and strode for the door near a plain wooden throne at the top of a dais. “I’m going to kill them all. Wait for me, Leigh.”

“Gromm! Wait!”

A roaring crackle, and the half-orc began to dance, screaming, his hand locked on the door. Smoke rose from him as the sickly sweet odor of cooking flesh filled the air. Occasional flashes of his skeletal system could be seen as electricity ripped through him. An arrow thudded into the back of his head, and the screaming mercifully cut off.

Rohir stepped beside Dirge. “We are going to kill them all.”

“Indeed.”

The elf nodded. “Lead the way vampire hunter.”

 

***

Hours later, they were deep in the bowels of the castle. All three of them were covered in black gore from hammering stakes into twenty-three vampire hearts. Rough cut stone, covered with lichen and moisture, showed how far into the earth they had traveled. A faint breeze brought the odor of stagnant water, decayed blood, and corruption to their noses. An iron gate barred them from what they hoped was the final vampire in the place. The master. At Rohir’s insistence, Dirge had checked every few feet for traps.

As they carefully approached, the gate lowered into the floor. The vampire hunter looked at his companions, brow furrowed. They shrugged at him, and he returned the gesture. Jennifer’s eyes widened when Dirge drew his sword from his sheathe. She swallowed when she realized that at the other end of the onyx grip and ruby pommel was a green tinged crystal blade. She handed him Killswitch without hesitation when he held his hand out. “Killswitch, Engage,” he whispered, touching the two together.

The silvery crystal seemed to flow and meld with the green tinged. As the colors joined, a brilliant viridian glow illuminated the tunnel. Dirge pulled the blades apart. Both had taken on the color of the other: a silvery green was the color of each blade. A spark leaped between the two. The short sword at his waist, pointed forward, and the brother held above his head, Dirge turned his body side on, and stepped with care into the newly opened door. Jennifer followed, the daggers at her shoulders in her hands, in a similar stance. The familiar creak of yew assured them Rohir had an arrow drawn.

The room was more of a cavern, roughly shaped. Here and there, stalagmites, and stalactites. Their pretty colors almost distracted from the rest of the décor. Scum covered the surface of a wide, shallow pool of bubbling stagnant water. An iron sarcophagus stood upright next to a blackened altar. An unconscious woman lay bound to the top of it. An ancient stone effigy of a man towered over the scene.

“Longinus.” A throbbing vein in the side of his neck, and the bulge of his forearm muscles were the only sign of the intense hatred Dirge was feeling. He lurched across the water, then stumbled, an arrow growing from his back. He went to his knees as another sprouted from the back of his thigh.

Jennifer whirled at the first twang of Rohir’s bow. He aimed at her. She dropped into a crouch, ready to leap at him.

“Don’t. This is an ironwood bow. My arrows travel at four hundred fifty feet per second.”

She growled at him. The elf smiled, showing his small fangs. “You’re a vampire? How? You were walking around in sunlight!

He sighed. “No. Not a vampire. Yet. I’m a dhampir.”

“What?”

“He’s not a real vampire, but a wanna be.”

Jennifer turned at Dirge’s words. “You’re okay!”

Dirge flashed a smile, but didn’t take his eyes off the elf. She looked back to the man that had been a dear friend.

“How dare you.” Rohir’s upper lip curled. “I’m going to enjoy watching my master devour you. But first, I’m going to watch as he raises the great Longinus. Look!” The elf pointed to the altar.

Dirge didn’t move. Jennifer turned to the altar, alarm on her face. Behind the vampire hunter, a huge shadow rose.

“Dirge, watch out!”

Before she could do anything, the vampire grabbed him, yanked his head to the side, and sank his fangs into the hunter. Almost instantly, the undead monster thrust the human away, gagging and spitting.

Dirge rolled to his feet, blood gushing from the wounds on his neck. He leered at the vampire crouched before them, vomiting steaming, bloody froth. “Avery. Former king of the elves. How are you feeling?”

Glowing red eyes glared back. Shaking hands wiped blood from trembling lips. “I’m going to kill you, fampir helwyr.”

Dirge laughed. “I’m Dirge Silverblood.”

Eyes wide, Avery stumbled backwards. “That’s not possible. We killed you all.”

The smile vanished. His eyes went hard. His large hangs clenched and released. Clenched and released. “Not all of us.”

Jennifer swallowed hard. She looked back and forth between vampire, and vampire hunter, the dhampir forgotten. She edged over to the dropped blades.

A scream erupted from behind them. All whirled to the altar. Rohir raised a knife, and plunged it into the girl’s exposed belly. She cried out in agony, blood spewing from her lips, staining her teeth.

“Noooo!” Jennifer screamed.

Crimson light shot from the gaping wound and hit the moon. It slowly turned scarlet. The red stained moonlight spread across chamber. Jennifer raced to the altar. Rohir jumped in front of her, intending to stop her. He drew his short swords from their scabbards. Without missing a step, she punched the elf in his throat, crushing his windpipe. The dhampir collapsed, gagging, and gasping for air. Frantic, she tore the ceremonial knife from her sister’s belly.

“No, Linden,” Jennifer said brokenly, tears dripping onto her body.

The sound of stone breaking and fragments striking her reminded her of the battle going on. She looked up in time to see Avery stab Dirge through the stomach, hard, spinning the vampire hunter around. Her jaw dropped as he met her gaze and winked. He gripped the hilt of the sword in his middle and slowly pulled it out.

He turned to the vampire, and beckoned for it to continue the fight. He paused, seeming to size up his opponent. Dirge doubled over in pain. His arms out to the sides, his torso began to twist from side to side. Hair began to sprouted over his exposed arms, and flowed down his back as his clothes ripped from his expanding body. His fingers elongated and thick, black talons sprouted from the tips. His body began to elongate, his muscles stretching and growing bigger. His feet extended, and narrowed, the toes, capped with long black claws, ripped out his boots. With sickening pops, his knees snapped and reversed like a dogs.

Longer, heavily muscled arms stretched to either side, shoulder height. His head tilted back, his mouth stretching and lengthening, merging with his nose until a teeth filled muzzle pointed at the cavern ceiling. Growls filled the air, as where a man stood, a werewolf now reared, snarling. The beast roared at the vampire and lunged at him. The vampire hissed, fangs becoming more pronounced. He lunged for the werewolf.

The two ripped and tore at each other. Fur and blood flew as claws sliced through flesh. The werewolf ended up on top of the vampire. Black claws flashed in the dimness as he ripped at his enemy. Left, right, left, right. Blood and gobbets of flesh flew. Avery managed to throw Dirge off him and rolled to his feet.

He had Rohir’s bow and an arrow nocked. As the werewolf came back up, the vampire loosed the arrow. It whistled through the air an plunged into the lycanthrope’s eye with a sickening squish. His head snapped back, and he gave a mournful cry as he sank to his knees.

Avery straightened the rags of his clothing, then discarded the remains of his shirt. He cast aside the bow and stalked towards Jennifer. His wounds closed as he approached. She gently laid her sister’s head to the altar and backed away. The vampire followed her around the platform. The moonlight was nearly to the sarcophagus which started to shake.

Avery licked his lips as he watched Jennifer back away. “You look so tasty.”

“I’m not really. I’d gag you.” She backed though the water, raising a horrible stench.

“You wasted a useful servant. You must pay for that.”

“Would you bill me?”

“Jokes. Is that all you have left?” His voice was filled with contempt. A groaning crash caught his attention. He spun. Dirge lay against the fallen sarcophagus, panting. “What have you done?”

Jennifer lunged for Killswitch and Engage. The vampire turned back. The short sword was waist level, pointed forward at him, the broad sword above her head. Her body was side on. “Sorry, but Dirge was merely the distraction. I did not intend for him to weaken you at all. The fact that he did is merely a bonus.” She gave a death’s head grin. “You’ve always been my goal.”

“Cocky little bird. I like that.” He flew across the room.

She tried to dodge, but was tripped up. She fell to her knees, and saw Rohir had her ankle. The blade flashed, and the elf’s severed head rolled down the steps. Avery pulled her up and peeled the blade from her hands while holding her in the air. As he cast them away, she kicked him in the throat, causing him to loosen his grip. She back flipped through the air. She landed, and her ankle buckled. She fell. Before she could get up, the vampire was there.

He dragged her upright again and pulled her head to the side, exposing her neck. Pain ripped through Jennifer as fire tore at her side, just above her hip. The vampire dropped her, and kicked at something she couldn’t see. The pain caused her to fall again. She placed a shaking hand to her side, and slowly looked down. Ragged teeth marks bled in a semi-circle though her leather jerkin.

Warmth spread up her arm. She glanced down and saw the moonbeam on her forearm. It looked solid. Idly she wondered if she could touch it. She reached, and discovered to her delight that the moon light flowed through her fingers like molasses, only warm. She scooped more into her arms, coming further into the moon’s glow. More warmth flooded her body. Jennifer rolled her head back, and moaned. It was like the light was making love to her. Her eyes closed as she realized the moon sang to her. She stepped fully into the light and felt stronger. She stretched like a cat, luxuriating in the sensations.

Something made her open her eyes. The moon seemed so much bigger and brighter. It called to her. Her blood raced. Her breathing increased as her heart rate went up. She rose up on her tiptoes, reaching for the moon. Her mouth dried. She noticed she could hear the shush and whush of her blood flowing though her veins. Then, she caught scent of corrupt decay. She could taste vileness. Vampire.

Her nostrils flared. Her hand clenched so hard her knuckles popped and her tendons creaked. She tore at the moonlight, suddenly hating it. It clung to her skin. Enraged, she tore at it. Chunks of her skin were torn away, revealing golden fur underneath. There was a pounding in her ears. She gripped her head and screamed. It turned to a howl as the loathsome, yet delightful, moonlight turned her skull to tallow. Her skull flattened, her mouth growing longer, and more pointed as her palate merged with her nose becoming a muzzle. Her teeth grew into fangs. Her muscles stretched painfully, tearing as they filled out and became larger, infused with the moon. Her joints popped and tendons creaked as both grew. Her thighs, bulging, ripped through her leather armor. She ripped at the remains of it with razor sharp claws. Her feet elongated, tearing though her boots. She threw her head back and roared her rage at the moon.

A hiss caught her attention. She whipped her head around. Vampire. Where. There. Kill. A vampire stood on the dais near another wolf. It wore tattered trousers. Blood flowed from its mouth. She tore across the cavern, claws ripping the stone beneath. The vampire met her partway. Its claws ripped into her, enraging her further. She slapped at the vampire, sending it on a short flight which terminated at a stalagmite. The mineral column exploded from the impact. She crossed to the vampire in a bound and slapped it into the cavern wall. It hissed at her again, and picked up glowing things. The sight of them made her angrier. Her heartbeat raced, nearly exploding out of her chest. She roared and leaped to attack again. The glowing things flashed, and burning erupted in her belly. She roared in pain and rage. A clawed hand slapped out and the vampire’s head flew through the air. It hit another wall, and burst into a cloud of dust. The body before her collapsed, and decayed into a pile of dust.

She turned, looking for more to destroy. The sight of a human on the dais made her blood boil. She raced over to rip it apart. The moon slowed her, sending soothing warmth through her body. She walked on all fours to the top of the platform and stalked up to the human laying there, blood flowing from wounds. Its scent was familiar. Father. Mate? Dying. Her long, tubular tongue crept out and lapped at the wooden shaft sticking out of his eye socket. The other eye opened and looked at her. His mouth opened and soothing sounds came out.

“Rishka. I’m sorry for what I’ve condemned you to.”

Soft hands caressed the dying man’s cheek. A familiar warm body her him close to it. He looked down her wonderful nude body. Her scars had faded, replaced by new flesh. His head was cradled in loving arms. Tears fell from his eyes. Clear ones from the right, pink ones from his ruined one.

“You’ve not condemned me to anything. You enabled me to get my revenge.”

He looked up at her, but her lovely featured were blurry. Blackness hovered near the edges of his vision. Her scent, honeysuckle and jasmine filled his nose. He drew it in deep, closing his eye as he did. “Darling, help me to the moonlight? I want to see the moon one more time.”

“Of course, my love.” Tears fell on his face. One touched his lips, leaving a taste of salt and warmth. For some reason, he felt cold. He shivered. “Here you are, Dirge.”

He opened his eye, basking in the warmth of the moonbeam. Dark, course hair slowly sprouted along his bare forearms and rippled across his chest. The fur spread to his belly and slowed. She held him tighter. Don’t cry, Rish-

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