A gentle hand on her shoulder brought Jessie back to wakefulness. Her bare nipples sent chills through her body as they brushed against the silk pillows. She brushed some of her hair out of her face. She was still having a bit of trouble getting used to having silver hair at just under eighteen. She smiled as her eyes met those of her sister. Suzy's mind and soul had been freed of the evil of her former Master, an evil Vampire King named Cashon, by Kevin's humanity. Kevin's ability to gain power from those he Brings Across through the bite of the new apprentice as their new (or, in the case of newly-converted Vampires, renewed) feeding instinct took over, renewing the connection between them, had not gone unnoticed. However, Kevin had made it clear that he didn't want the powers of every Pretender race combined--those shadow-races who passed for and lived among humans--and the disadvantages they tended to come with.
Suzy kissed Jessie on the cheek and smiled. "Get dressed, sister. Kevin wants us ready to leave before noon."
"Where're we going?" Jessie asked, opening the closet and looking with dismay at the empty places on her shoe tree where there had once been high heels.
"We've got a big day ahead." Suzy replied. "Kevin has been cordially invited to meet with a powerful Vampire in Italy to discuss certain things. The meeting place is sacred to them; fighting is strictly prohibited, and that prohibition is enforced by Netherspirits."
"A meeting with a Vampire?" Jessie asked. "How powerful?" picking out a pair of blue jeans, a sweater that matched her eyes, and a pair of sneakers that matched her sweater. Her firm breasts needed no support, so she wore no bra. Suzy tossed her a pair of panties.
"Duke, we think." Suzy replied as she watched her sister dress. When Jessie asked no further questions, Suzy busied herself fixing Jessie's hair--not that either of them needed any enhancement of beauty. Since being Brought Across by Kevin, their bodies had reshaped themselves, transforming them into men's wet-dream fantasies to the Nth power. Their lovable, huggable curves seemed to hypnotize people as readily as their gaze, spiraling the eyes to their inevitable destination between their legs. In addition to the Vampiric super-sexuality, they had the Elven illusion of fragility which served to make them even more desirable. Such beauty was a powerful weapon and defense. An enemy couldn't kill you if he was too busy watching you move. Nevertheless, Suzy fussed with Jessie's hair for quite some time before eventually deciding that a ponytail was best--it kept the hair out of the eyes and didn't get messed up in the heat of battle.
Kevin walked in then, followed by Katarina and the former Vampire Princess, Jade. He drew Jessie into a warm embrace, then sent the others from the room.
"You look worried." Jessie said, running her fingers through his hair affectionately.
"The Vampire Community knows about us--more than I ever thought. That's why we're meeting with this Duke. Nobles and Royals have large personal armies, and that worries me. A lot." Jessie ran her fingers through Kevin's hair, which was starting to get long from being too busy to get it cut.
"So did Suzy." she said. "There may be some remnants of her army left."
"Nope." Kevin said. "By now they've been assimilated into other Vampires' armies, or simply eliminated." Kevin held Jessie for a while, lost in his own thoughts. Jessie wanted so much to make him feel better. She could sense his fear, his uncertainty, and his concern for the others, Jessie in particular. The accelerated thinking that came with her transformation kicked in, and she was formulating plans before she knew it, running possible scenarios through her mind.
We'll have time to think about it on the way, love. Kevin said into her mind.
"What time does the plane leave?" Jessie asked.
"I can't afford tickets." Kevin said sadly, shaking his head. "We haven't had hundreds of years to amass vast fortunes like the mainstream Vampires. We're going to have to provide our own transportation."
"You mean use our flying powers?" Jessie asked, nervously.
"Don't worry, Jessie, we'll help you." Kevin said.
Nothing Kevin had told her before takeoff could have prepared Jessie for the total exhilaration of really flying. She felt so free in the air, forcing the Earth away with the power of her will. The chill of upper-altitude winds made her nipples hard from more than just the odd arousal she felt. They flew in a V-formation, like geese, for many of the same reasons. Had there been a hurricane out over the ocean, they would have flown over it rather than risk being blown off course. Vampiric flight-adaptations would have allowed them to breathe the abbreviated air without ill effect. Jessie found herself wishing there had been a hurricane out there. Flying above the alabaster disc would have made for a great picture. She mentally scolded herself for being so selfish. It might be beautiful to someone who can overfly it, she thought, but to the people who have to stay down on the ground when it thrashes its way ashore wouldn't think it was so beautiful. Besides, she was getting to see the Vatican, and she didn't even have to pay airfare. They landed in Italy almost too soon for Jessie's taste. Suddenly she realized her ears and fingers were numb. A quick check in the mirror of her makeup compact showed that her lips were turning blue as well.
"We've got time for a hot lunch before the meeting." Kevin said, taking Jessie's shivering hands in his. His hands quickly began to glow, emanating a comforting warmth that eased her shivering. Jessie looked to the west and saw that sunset was near.
"Don't you mean supper?" she asked.
"It's lunch for us." Kevin told her.
Jessie felt a chill go up her spine as she looked at the rickety cottage in the moonlight. She could sense evil everywhere. The owls weren't helping any either. The door opened, and an Ogre stepped into view. These child-eaters were rare--but the disappearances they caused were not. This one was missing one of its three eyes.
"I believe we're expected." Kevin told the Ogre. The Ogre looked at the assembled group as though trying to match their images with pictures it'd been shown of "authorized" people. Finally it nodded and turned toward the back wall of the cottage. Jessie dared not look around. She kept her eyes focused on the slab of marble the Ogre was moving out of the way. Behind the slab was a door they would have to crawl on the filthy floor to get through. Jessie had been in worse positions, but never with an Ogre as gatekeeper. She'd always specialized in Vampires.
Once on the other side of the door, they encountered a snaggletooth human, rail thin, with bags under his eyes and a crazy grin on his face, carrying a torch. Kevin thought he looked like Renfield on crack.
"You Kevin Shadows?" the man asked. At Kevin's nod, the man shambled down the corridor. "This way!" he called. The Renfield moved like a windblown tumbleweed, but always seemed to know where he was going. Finally they left the main catacombs into a set of lower catacombs, where the walls were lined with skulls. The Vampire-hunters had a sense of being watched as they moved through these catacombs, and they knew they were in the domain of the Netherspirits. Jessie was trying not to look at the shelves where ancient skeletons lay, cobwebs covering them like burial shrouds. She did look at one she noticed that had fangs. Then she smiled. Dead Vampires always made her feel better.
"How'd this one die?" she asked.
"Don't know." the Renfield said. "Vampires don't like to talk about what kills them."
"Of course not." Jessie replied. The skull-lined catacombs ended, opening out on a rotunda the size of the Astrodome, lined with skulls as the lower catacombs had been. In alcoves along the wall stood the ancient, mummified bodies of Vampire druids, still in their ceremonial robes. Their skin was like parchment, and the dried remains of eyeballs sat in their sockets like crimson marbles. In the center of the rotunda was a seal showing in mosaic detail the symbol of the Vampire Community.
"It took thousands of years to build, and is the culmination of hundreds of thousands of years of planning and design." a shadowed figure said from the opposite entrance. The Renfield shambled over to his master, who handed him a bag of funny-looking mushrooms for his trouble. "Alec there is a human sensitive--a telepath, if you will. He's been so from birth, I'm afraid, and needs a little help to quiet the noise in his head."
"So he acts as your gopher, and in return you give him drugs." Kevin said. The Vampire Duke nodded.
"I'm glad you decided to accept my invitation." the Duke said. "I must say I was rather anxious to meet you before the Community decided you were too great a threat to be allowed to continue living." A human would see this person as a rather attractive man, perhaps in his twenties or thirties. A Pretender, however, could see him for what he truly was. A red-eyed demonic face peered out from behind the facade cast into mortal eyes, and an aura of evil surrounded him like a soap bubble. "My, but you're a powerful thing." he said. Indeed, Kevin's aura crackled about him like a flame, changing with his emotions. "Interesting. Not like a Vampire, not like an Elf, and most certainly not like a human. You seem to contain--and transcend--all three. His majesty Pirondael will be pleased."
"Who is Pirondael?" Kevin asked.
"The eldest Vampire of all." the Duke said with obvious reverence. "A King of the highest caliber. Pirondael is perhaps the most powerful Pretender of all. He has evolved beyond all known classes of Vampirism and has become something new entirely. His power is so great that he is said to be able to affect the heavens above."
"Sounds like quite a challenge." Kevin said.
"You have neither the skills nor the power to harm Pirondael." the Duke said. "Jealous Vampires have merged their personal armies and sent them against Pirondael, and he eliminated them with a gesture. Pirondael cannot be defeated. For he knows the Great Secret of the Vampires; the Secret of Ultimate Power." Kevin frowned. He didn't like being told that something couldn't be done.
"You said that I contain and transcend human, Elf and Vampire." Kevin said. "You should also know that I have defeated opponents more powerful than myself before, and I will do so again."
"You still don't get it, do you?" the Duke said with a malicious smile. "Well, far be it for me to let such a worthy foe dive into the River Styx without knowing what he's up against. His Majesty Pirondael's left talon is so large that it could not fit within the confines of this rotunda." If Kevin was frightened by this, he did not let it show. "Alec?" the Duke called. "Alec!" All assembled looked over to the corner where the sensitive had curled up to get his fix. The man's body now lay limp, the veins on his face outlined in a strange shade of bluish green.
So much for our guide. Kevin sent.
"Stupid, stupid, stupid." the Duke admonished himself. "I should have known he'd try to eat the whole bag. I suppose I'll have to take you to the surface myself." Jessie felt tense as they neared the end of the skull-lined catacombs. "By the way..." the Duke said as they passed the line of skulls marking the beginning of the Netherspirits' territory. "We are no longer within the jurisdiction of the Netherspirits." At that the Duke whirled, ready to attack.
"Why so we are." Jessie said. She was on him before he had completed his turn. They rolled along the floor from the momentum of her pounce, then the Duke threw her off, then returned his attention to the other four. None of them moved. The Duke had made a fatal error attacking five Pretenders, each more powerful than he, but Jessie wanted this one. The Duke gathered himself for a pounce, but Jessie was on him again, inflicting grievous wounds on the Vampire. A powerful kick sent the Duke flying into one of the ceiling supports. Pieces of wood fell behind him, but the ceiling did not give way. Jessie picked up one of the ancient beams, which had shattered as the Duke fell, and now had a sharp point to it. It was sturdy enough for what she had to do. Before the Duke knew what was happening, the wood shaft had penetrated his ribcage, piercing the heart and severing the spinal cord. The Duke was dust in seconds.
"I see you haven't lost your touch." Kevin told her, pulling her into an embrace which heightened the arousal which had arisen in Jessie during the battle. She was disappointed, however, when he merely kissed her. Now that they were out of the area protected by the Netherspirits, they could teleport into the cottage proper, where they found that the Ogre was not there. As they were about to leave, Kevin stopped short of the door, growling deep in his throat, fangs bared, eyes glowing red.
"He's out there." Jade whispered. The wooden outer wall creaked as the Ogre shifted its weight, listening and waiting for them to exit. Jessie was still excited from her last battle, and all-too-willing to go toe-to-toe with the Ogre.
"Steady, Jess." Kevin said. At his signal, the five of them teleported outside, surrounding the Ogre. Katarina got its attention, easily dancing out of the way of its grasping hands. A lightning spell from Kevin only served to anger the beast. Suzy and Jade combined their efforts to hypnotize it and subdue it, but were batted away without a second thought by the Ogre. As the thing was preparing to swat Katarina into next week, Jessie appeared on the thing's shoulders. She produced a silver dagger from somewhere on her person and stuck it in the Ogre's ear, then twisted it. The Ogre fell.
"Looks like we just found out how to kill Ogres." Jessie said with a smile.
"Well done, Jessie." Kevin said. "Now, I think we'd best get back to our own hemisphere." Because they were familiar with the place to which they were going, they were able to teleport, thus saving themselves a cold flight. The sun had set on Kevin's house an hour ago, and the attic loft was dark. Kevin clapped his hands, and several lamps, hooked up to The Clapper, came on.
"Kevin? Is that you?" called Kevin's adoptive mother.
"We're home." Kevin said simply.
"Dinner's on the table." Kevin's birth mother called. Kevin smiled, glad that his mothers were such good friends. The smells of fried chicken and its traditional side dishes floated through the space between the door and the floor, drawing snarls from the stomachs of the assembled Vampire-hunters. Kevin made the first move toward the door.
The ancient door creaked loudly as the Vampire entered.
"Your Majesty?" the Vampire called. Two glowing red eyes appeared, each the size of a medium-sized truck.
"Yes?" a powerful voice replied.
"The one called Kevin and his harem met with Duke Kebron, sire." the Vampire reported nervously. "Kebron informed the lad that he had no chance of defeating you, sire. He was killed by one of Kevin's apprentices, the one known as Jessie. The Ogre as well. It was a tough fight, however."
"Excellent." the voice said. "When one is serving bait, presentation is everything." The voice's owner began to laugh then, the glowing eyes closing in his mirth.
Kevin kept a wary eye on the populace as he walked down Keechi Street. Pretenders were in higher concentration here than anywhere else. He'd discovered this early on, and had made it a point to walk down this street at least once a week. On one side of the street, a Succubus, disguised as a whore, was conducting a "transaction" with a mortal. Kevin didn't bother to interfere. He could sense the thoughts and memories of the soon-to-be meal, and figured the world would be better off with one less of his kind. A Leprechaun rummaged through the dumpster, looking for cans to recycle so he could earn money to buy gold coins from the old Vampires who had amassed fortunes over centuries.
Kevin's sleeve brushed the shoulder of a Pyrotic, who was either very powerful or had been in possession of its current host for way too long. Smoke hovered around the man like a funeral shroud. Doubtless the human soul had already been burned away. Kevin slapped his sleeve to put out the small fire that had started at the point of contact.
"I feel like I'm in an episode of the X-Files." Jessie said, glancing backward.
"Why's that?" Kevin asked.
"Because we just walked by the Smoking Man." she replied. Kevin chuckled.
"He's going to have to change hosts soon." Kevin said. He turned into one of the small bars, one with wards over it so that mortals wouldn't want to go in. The shielding buzzed and became momentarily visible as it reacted with the human part of his DNA. He nodded to the Dwarf in the security booth and walked through the bead-curtained entry. Everyone in the bar was at least half Pretender.
"We don't want any trouble." the bartender said. His name was Tannin, an Elf with a friendly ear, provided you weren't bringing trouble.
"Neither do we." Kevin replied. "We wish to speak with Shin Tsu. We heard he was here."
"Upstairs." Tannin said. "Room 4."
"Thank you." Kevin said, tossing a gold coin onto the bar. He knocked on the door of room 4 and it opened on its own. The ancient Dragon sat in a corner of the spacious room in the form of an old Chinese gentleman--his true form would not have fit into any human dwelling. He turned his wizened eyes to his two visitors.
"I've been expecting you for quite some time, Kevin." Shin Tsu said.
"Then you know why I've come."
"Yes." Shin Tsu shifted, turning away from the window. "You seek advice on defeating Pirondael. You're not the first adventurers to get so noble a goal into your heads. Nor, I fear, will you be the last. Pirondael is the oldest of the Vampires, and he has gathered within himself the powers of the other Pretender races."
"And their weaknesses?" Kevin asked.
"Perhaps--not that you'll live long enough to find out." Shin Tsu said. "He has enough powers to eliminate anyone who dares enter his inner sanctum. And he lives in the center of a spiraling nest composed of a single corridor hundreds of miles long, lined on both sides by barracks packed to capacity with Vampires, Ghouls, and Skeletons. At the center of this nest is his chamber, a cavernous enclosure that, if filled with water, would hold more than Loch Ness and the Great Lakes combined. It gives him just enough room to stand and stretch when he needs to."
"Any idea where it is?" Kevin asked.
"Speak with the former Djinn." Shin Tsu said. "And before you ask how he may be defeated, bear in mind that Pirondael is at least as old as any living Dragon you could speak with since the slaying of the First Hundred. Pirondael has dealt with threats such as yourself before. Vampire hunters were overwhelmed in the corridors before I was born. Vampires who dare take nonhuman apprentices are killed long before they become a serious threat to Pirondael's power. You will have to speak with the Enforcers about him."
"Why would the Enforcers help me?" Kevin asked. "They're Vampires, after all. They keep the existence of Vampires from becoming common knowledge and enforce the Great Charade."
"The Enforcers are Vampires like koala are bears." Shin Tsu replied, using the tone of an adult chiding a child for calling a wolf a dog. "Enforcers do not have the Vampire's transforming venom. Their fangs are for ripping the throats out of those who violate the rules they set for the Vampire Community in the Beginning Time. Their powers are different as well. Enforcers travel as shadows, not as mist or in the forms of animals. Enforcers have greater mind-control powers than Vampires. They have the ability to fly at supersonic speed, to topple a building with a single punch, to fire beams of heat from their eyes, and to see through solid objects. And those powers are only what they let others see. There's a reason they have to hide their auras in shadow.
"Not only that, they wouldn't see anything wrong with ripping you to pieces if you tried to expose Vampires for what they are." Shin Tsu continued. "But they are not Vampires."
"And they don't like what Pirondael is doing?" Kevin asked.
"They don't like what Pirondael has DONE." Shin Tsu said. "He's made himself more powerful than they are. They can't do anything to stop him if he decides to leave that nest of his and take a stroll Godzilla style, or decides to harvest humans like cattle."
"Enemy of an enemy." Kevin muttered. "So how do I get in touch with a former Djinn and an Enforcer?"
"They will come to you." Shin Tsu replied.
Mike sighed to himself. Something wasn't right here, and he was having trouble figuring out what it was. He looked around at the sleeping forms of his harem-slaves. He'd been up for almost three nights straight worrying about this.
"Maybe I need a blowjob." he muttered to himself. "That usually helps me relax." With a thought, he woke Eden.
"How may I serve you, Master?" Eden said, her voice low and sultry, dripping with desire.
"You can start by giving me a blowjob." Mike said.
"Yes, Master." Eden said, joy going to her face at the thought of serving her Master. As she approached him, a sudden thought struck Mike.
"Wait." he said. She was on her knees before him, her mouth open, waiting to take him in her mouth. Mike put his hand on the side of her head and began to look through her mind, specifically at the controls he had inserted into her mind. As he looked, he began to see the problem. Eden's mind was so full of commands and controls and limitations that there was very little room for free will. Even most of her emotions had been blocked off. No wonder he had been driven to accumulate more new slaves. He'd gotten bored with the veritable robots his women had become, and had gone out looking for new flesh to conquer. His conscience began to nag at him, and he knew only one way to get it to shut up. With a thought, he disintegrated the command controls he'd given to Eden, liberating her mind. She blinked her eyes, and then her expression became self-reflective. When she looked up at him, her eyes were questioning.
"Is something wrong, Master?" she asked.
"Not with you." Mike said. "Not anymore. You don't have to call me Master if you don't want to. Just Mike will do. I'm sorry I locked away your free will like that." He looked over the naked sorceress kneeling before him, her enlarged breasts, hairless body except for that which grew on her head, the figure he'd altered so many times it was hard to remember what she'd looked like originally. "Good heavens, I've turned you into a sex toy." he said ruefully.
"It's okay." Eden said. "I like the way I look." She smiled. "Besides, I never have to worry about shaving."
"I'm going to free the others, okay?" Mike said. "It's time I started using my power right."
Within an hour he had removed the controls from the minds of the entire harem. Now he stood before them, every inch the unhappy penitent.
"Ladies, I'm sorry." he said. "I'm sorry I pounced on you like a predator, stealing you away from your families and altering you almost beyond recognition. Those of you who want to leave can leave. Anyone who still wants to stay meet me in the den. There's clothes for you all in the hall closet."
Mike shuffled off to the den, saddened by his own stupidity. Well, now what am I going to do? he asked himself. Maybe I could be a nonsurgical reconstructive specialist or something. Offer it as an outpatient service. Or maybe I could help people with irrational obsessions... He pondered his future as he dressed himself at the den closet. Several possibilities floated through his head. He felt Eden's familiar touch on his shoulder. Mike's arm snaked out, and he pulled her to him. She was wearing a pair of stretch pants and a T-shirt. He gazed longingly into her eyes as he ran his fingers through her hair. Slowly, gently, tenderly, he began to kiss her.
"I didn't expect anyone to stay." he said. "Not after...what I did."
"You're a teenager." Eden said. "You were acting as any teenager would, given your power."
"Power like this requires a little more growing up." Mike said. "I realize that now."
"Well, I hope you don't grow up so much you forget how to have fun." Eden said with a chuckle. She hopped into his arms and kissed him passionately.
"Aye 'ope you bought enough for us!" a familiar-sounding voice said. Mike looked over at the entrance to the den and found Liza, the Australian he had enslaved in Egypt, and Kaci, who had sworn herself to his control in a gym in front of several other young women and girls. Chi, another young woman he had nabbed in the gym, came in behind them, and the three females wrapped their arms around the man they had called Master for seven months. Iris, whose life before Mike had been a never-ending cycle of depression, entered hurriedly, rushing to join the embrace.
"Sorry, I was in the bathroom." Iris said.
Kevin sat at one of the restaurant's corner booths, nursing an ice cream sundae. The place mat in front of him read "Waffle House," but they served a heck of a lot more than waffles here. Kevin's ice cream was almost melted enough to drink. He had sensed the Djinn-turned-human an hour ago, and had sensed her destination. She was one of a party of six who sat at a table not too far away from his booth. The human male with her had the faint aura of a man who had wished for power on a Djinn. His Pretender sight assigned it as a pale blue corona. His quarry, however, was the pretty young creature wearing her hair in a waterfall ponytail, who smelled of Djinn magic (he instinctively knew that smell), yet had the close-fitting bluish-gold aura of a human mage. Finally, the party at the table next to her party began to stack their dishes in preparation for leaving. Kevin drank the last of his sundae and left a tip for the waitress. As the other party departed, Kevin took one of the vacant seats and scooted the back up to one of the unused corners, sitting in it ass-backward and smiling genially.
"Hi, there." he said. "I'm Kevin Shadows. I was told to speak with a former Djinn. Hope you don't mind."
"You'll have to ask Eden." the man at the table said. "If she doesn't want to talk..."
"It's okay, Mike." Eden said. She turned to Kevin. "You have a strange aura, Mr. Shadows. I've never seen one like it before."
"Call me Kevin." Kevin replied. True, to the eyes of someone with power, be they Pretender or mage, he looked like he was on fire, but he'd never heard his aura called "strange" before.
"Who sent you?" Eden asked.
"A Dragon by the name of Shin Tsu." Kevin replied.
"Shin Tsu." Eden muttered, as though it sounded familiar. "OH! Shin Tsu! I met him once...four thousand, eight hundred years ago. How's he been?"
"I didn't stick around for small talk." Kevin said. "I asked him where the entrance to Pirondael's den was, and he told me to `ask the former Djinn.'"
"Pirondael?" Eden asked, paling. "Did you say Pirondael?" Kevin nodded, preparing himself to comfort this young (for a Djinn) woman if he had to. "I remember Pirondael. He was my Master for a time. I still have nightmares about what he made me do when the prince of Atlantis pissed him off."
"I'll make sure to tell him you said `hi' just before I kill him." Kevin said.
"You've got a good heart, Kevin, and a powerful aura, but there's no way you're going to beat Pirondael by yourself." Eden said.
"I'll find a way--and who said I'd be doing it alone?"
"Right." Eden said. "Okay, here goes." Eden began muttering a series of harsh syllables, which could only be heard, but never retained in the memory. An image of the world appeared above the table, spinning to show the Eastern Hemisphere, then it began to focus on areas closer and closer to the destination she'd asked for. It settled on Greece and continued to descend, focusing on a little town roughly ten miles south of Athens, surrounded by forest and made almost inaccessible by bluffs on all sides. A circle of green flame surrounded a black cathedral. "This is a village most humans don't know about. A village built by Vampires for Vampires. The Black Cathedral is where their putrid rituals are performed. The entrance to Pirondael's lair lies behind that putrid pulpit." Kevin glanced at the illusion hovering over the table.
"The spell didn't show that." Kevin said. "How do you know that?"
"Because I built it. On a wish from that vile, evil old fag." She slammed a fist down on the table. "When you kill Pirondael, I'd appreciate it if you'd blow that vile mockery of a church straight to Hell."
"You got it." Kevin said. Eden dismissed her illusion. Kevin paid his check and theirs and left.
"Are you okay, Eden?" Mike asked.
"I hope that guy really can kill Pirondael." Eden said, a tear coming to her eye. "I really do."
Kevin had been watching the female Vampire for over an hour. Clearly she was in dire need, yet she was actually fleeing the humans who tried to help her. Her fangs were fully extended, most likely because of the bloodhunger, and she had the look of a starveling in her eyes. Kevin had never heard of Vampires willingly starving themselves. Granted, there were the repentants who did not drink from humans, but some local butcher shops run by Pretenders or human sensitives could feed their need with blood from other mammal species. Perhaps this one didn't know she had an alternative. This was definitely worth investigating. Kevin launched himself into the air in a mighty leap, curling into a ball at the height of his arc, and landed expertly behind the Vampire. She whirled. Her aura was weak because of her starvation. It was difficult to tell what level she was.
"Go away!" she cried. "I don't want to...AAAAAAUGH!" She doubled over in pain. The hunger pangs were becoming too much to bear. He put one hand on her wrist. In her current state, she wouldn't last ten seconds against a derelict Omega. He pictured a familiar scene in his mind, and in less time than it took to blink, they were in the back room of a slaughterhouse/butcher shop Kevin knew.
"Vinnie!" he called. An Italian gentleman in a bloodstained apron appeared.
"'Ey!" Vinnie called, smiling in his most friendly manner. "How's it goin' Kev!"
"Watch the kid." Kevin warned. "She's been starving herself."
"Repentant?" Vinnie asked, keeping his distance from the starveling.
"I think so."
"Got it. One `Hunger Buster', extra rare. This way." Vinnie began walking toward the killing floor, where cattle were slaughtered to provide the freshest beef--and blood for Vampires whose conscience would not let them drink from humans. Kevin picked up the weakened Vampiress and put her over his shoulder in what his mother had always termed a "fireman's carry." When he arrived, Vinnie had already chosen a nice (and expensive) specimen, and restrained it so it couldn't move. Kevin looked the bovine over. He could smell the strength in its blood, and knew this was going to cost him plenty. Good thing he could afford it, thanks to some recent kills among the cream of the Vampiric crop. The Vampiress on his shoulder stirred slightly. The bull shifted--or rather, tried to--anxiously.
"Will eight thousand do?" Kevin asked, extending a fat wad of bills to the Italian. He hated having to part with this much money, but at least since he had learned to locate Vampires with large fortune in gold just lying around (and killed him), he had enough cash to afford it.
"Of course." Vinnie said, accepting the cash. Kevin put the Vampiress on the floor, within reach of the bull. Kevin could see hunger warring with revulsion in her eyes.
"It's okay." Kevin said. "He's already bought and paid for." Trembling, the starveling touched the bull's neck. Again it tried to shift. Kevin could tell she could feel its pulse racing under her fingers. Finally her willpower broke and she dove, sinking her fangs into the beast's flesh. She drank, gulping the gushing blood down, getting as much on her as in her. Someone shoved past Kevin, and started guzzling down what was left when the young Vampiress finished. Kevin connected with the starveling telepathically, helping her fight down a wave of nausea when she thought of drinking blood again and again for the rest of a very, very long life. When he looked in her eyes, he saw the primal satisfaction of one who had just eaten, and self-disgust and revulsion that she could take such pleasure in the death of an animal.
"Mmmm...fresh cattle-blood." cooed the invader. Kevin glared at her--yet another of Kevin's Vampiric acquaintances, and another repentant who hated the thought of drinking from humans.
"Sonja, how nice to see you again." Kevin said.
"Mm-hmm. Hi, Kev." Sonja said, licking her lips and running her tongue over her fangs.
"Guess what, Sonja, you've just volunteered to become this young lady's caretaker." Kevin said with a wry grin.
"You're kidding!" Sonja exclaimed, glancing at the other Vampiress, then back at Kevin, an almost pleading expression in her eyes.
"Considering what I paid for that bull, I'd say you drank about two thousand dollars worth of fresh blood there. That ought to be enough to cover tuition." Kevin picked up a stake and stabbed it into the heart of the bull, then broke its neck, to ensure that the Vampiresses' venom would not transform it. Animal-Vampires were always a pain to get rid of. "My guess is she's a complete rookie." Kevin said. "Probably doesn't know anything at all about Pretenders. You'll have to teach her the facts of life, and how to hunt and avoid being hunted."
"Okay, fine." Sonja said. "You've got yourself a deal."
"Good." Kevin said. "Now, you two clean yourselves up."
"She's a Delta." Sonja muttered. Kevin looked at the sobbing young Vampiress. With the bull's blood running through her, her aura had begun to glow as strength returned. He smiled. Sonja had been a Delta when he'd first met her, herself a repentant sick of killing humans. She had been a Vampire for only a short time--eight and a half months. He had brought her to Vinnie, who had supplied her with several bottles of cow's blood, opened an account for her so she didn't have to pay in cash every time, and become one of her best friends. She had begun hunting other Vampires, and the killing had made her strong. She had evolved to a Beta in short order, then an Alpha, and was on her way to the next classification. Her aura had begun to advertise "Big-Time Predator" in large letters, so she had begun to make use of human bait--willing Judas goats. She'd be a good teacher.
"What's your name?" Kevin asked the young Delta.
"Jubilation." she said. "Jubilation Hamilton." She sighed unhappily. "Figures." she muttered. "Just when I get out of the psych ward, I up and get bit."
"It happens." Kevin told her. "Sonja here is going to teach you the facts of life, including how to survive among Vampires and other Pretenders--and how to hunt them down for what they did to you."
"You're not even going to ask why I was in the psych ward?" Jubilation asked.
"Okay, I'll bite. Why?"
"Multiple Personality Disorder." Jubilation replied. "Trouble is, I'm not the original personality. I wiped out the other two. But I had to pull some strings on my hypnotherapist before they'd let me go."
"What do you mean `pull some strings?'" Kevin asked.
"I turned the tables on him." she said with a grin. "I hypnotized HIM. Too bad I couldn't get him to go all the way with me, though. I've got one of those itchy cunnies that just HAS to draw attention to itself at every opportunity." To Kevin's surprise, Sonja's eyes lit up. Well, any bisexual tendencies she may have were none of his business.
"Well, you to had better get to know one another, and I hope you become friends, because you're going to be together for a while." Kevin said, disappearing. Vinnie was gone too.
"Alone at last." Sonja said. She began licking the caked blood off Jubilation's breasts, neck and face. "Now, sugar, let's see what we can do about that itchy cunt of yours."
Mike turned the wheel fiercely as yet another Vampire landed in front of the car. The Vampire sank its clawed hands into the fiberglass sides as he screeched by. A lightning spell from Eden set the Vampire rolling on the road, burning and screaming.
"One down, thousands to go." Eden muttered. They swarmed about the vehicle. Some flew, dropping things into their path--big things which no mere human could lift, unless they had been blessed by a Genie--or Djinn, as that weird white-haired guy had called them. The other women cowered in the back, sobbing in terror, leaving Mike and Eden to contend with the beasts who seemed intent on their destruction.
A brilliant flash of light blinded Mike, and he slammed on the brakes to avoid hitting anything. He covered his eyes. He felt like he'd just come back from a month at the beach, having run out of sunscreen the first day. When he opened his eyes and looked in the rear view mirror, he found a vicious sunburn all over his face and neck.
"You okay?" someone asked beside him. Mike turned and found that white-haired guy--what was his name?--Kevin.
"You?" Mike demanded. "What are YOU doing here?"
"I'm a Vampire hunter." Kevin said. "It's in the job description. Any idea why they were swarming you?"
"Didn't stop to ask 'em." Mike replied. "Where are they?"
"I roasted them." Kevin replied. "Let me help you with that sunburn." With that, he chanted a quick poem under his breath, and Mike suddenly felt as though he'd spent a year soaking in aloe vera.
"What'd you do, create a new sun?" Mike asked.
"Sort of." Kevin replied. "It was the only way I could think of to kill that many Vampires without hurting you in any permanent way."
"Thanks." Mike said, his tone more gentle now. "And I'm glad you offed those bloodsuckers." He smiled then. "I've heard they're a real pain in the neck, and I don't think I want to find out the truth of that." At the words "pain in the neck" he had used a cheesy Count Dracula accent. Kevin chuckled.
"By the way..." Kevin began as he helped Mike and his harem from the car, "...what did you wish for?"
"Huh?" Mike asked.
"You made a wish on your Djinn that gave you some kind of power. It's changed your aura."
"Oh. I control humans' minds and bodies." Mike replied.
"Minds AND bodies?" Kevin asked.
"Yep." Mike said. At a gesture from him, Eden appeared at his side. He used his power to change her body just a little, but noticeably. He then returned her to the way he'd had her.
"It was kind of an accidental wish. We can talk about it on the way to wherever we're going. I've got a feeling it's going to be a long walk."
Keechi Street was never pretty, by any stretch of the imagination, but it came the closest at night, and only when seen from above, where the smells of garbage and filth of the living and nonliving kinds gave way to the smell of the breeze coming in off the lake, which was only marginally polluted.
"Okay, let me get this straight." Mike said. "Your mother is half human, half Elf, your father was half human, half Vampire."
"Yes." Kevin replied.
"So you considered yourself a hybrid, more human than anything else, but with some nifty powers."
"Doin' good, Mike." Kevin replied.
"Then this other Vampire bites you on the neck, and you call down the power of Avalon to stop yourself from becoming his apprentice, and somehow that made you more than the sum of your parts?"
"Seems that way." Kevin replied. "A Vampire's aura is kind of a puke-colored soap-bubble when they get really powerful and start feeding on human evil. If they become repentant and refuse to feed on human blood, their aura starts looking more like John Deere green than puke green. If the repentants become Vampire hunters, they start getting a more reddish aura, shaped kinda like this:" He pulled seemingly from nowhere a sheet of paper, a thin square of refrigerator magnet about the size of the piece of paper, a pair of scissors, and a box of iron filings. He used the scissors to cut the magnet into the shape of a human body, then put the magnetic side against the piece of paper. He poured iron filings all over the paper. The result was a hairy-looking humanoid shape surrounded by fuzzy lines.
"Cool." Mike said.
"Elves have an aura like a silver flame." Kevin continued. "Humans rarely have much of an aura, unless they have Mage power."
"Okay, could you explain that whole Vampire hierarchy thing again?" Mike asked. Kevin sighed. He guessed he shouldn't expect him to be able to hold all this new information in his head, especially after only one night. He caught movement in the alley below and held up his hand for silence. Mike gripped the stakes Jessie had made for him and approached the ledge. A Vampire was pulling a squirming woman into the alley.
"Epsilon class." Kevin said. "That means it can barely fly, and it's probably not too skilled at transformations. He's got a hostage, though, so we have to be careful."
"Gotcha." Mike replied. Kevin jumped from the roof with all the care of a kid riding his bike off the curb. As he landed, the Epsilon whirled. Kevin guarded the only entrance to the alley. The Epsilon knew it was at a disadvantage. It bared its fangs and prepared to bite the woman. Kevin made a fireball in his hand and its light caused the Epsilon to cover its eyes, giving the woman her chance to escape. She dashed past Kevin and out onto the street, screaming and babbling. With the hostage gone, Mike dove off the building and landed squarely on top of the Vampire--only to bounce back without really hurting it. It whirled, fangs bared, saliva dripping from its fangs. Its eyes glowed an evil red. Mike rose to his feet and hurled one of the stakes. The Epsilon dodged aside and the stake splintered on the pavement. It pounced, and only the quickest thinking Mike had ever done saved him from being pinned by the bloodsucker. He managed to gain the upper hand, squatting on top of the thrashing Vampire. He increased his strength beyond normal human proportions and shoved a fist into the Vampire's face, shattering the fangs and most of the normal teeth. While the Vampire held his mouth in agony, Mike got it through the heart with the stake. Suddenly Kevin's hand was there, shoving it farther in. The Vampire turned to dust under Mike's weight.
"You're supposed to jam it through their heart AND sever the spinal cord." Kevin said.
"Thanks." Mike said.
"Still, you're not bad for a rookie." Kevin said. "Usually someone with your experience can barely handle a Sigma."
"Thanks again." Mike said.
"I apologize in advance for the ride. Teleporting is never pleasant for my passengers, but we do have a hysterical woman to calm." Kevin grabbed Mike by the arm, and they were gone.
The sudden change in air pressure alerted Kevin to the stake descending toward his back. His reflexes were quick. He was on his feet and across the room before the stake had time to move an extra millimeter. It thunked into the wall in front of where he had been sitting. Another flew toward his chest. Again he dodged. Stakes flew all over the place, wherever he dodged, and seemed to be coming from a whirling dervish of a warrior who had taken the most strategically advantageous position in the whole room--the center of the room, from which the warrior could block any retreat he attempted within the physical world.
Kevin teleported, transmuting his skin to diamond in mid transit, then backhanded the warrior to the floor. He was not surprised that the warrior was a female, or even that her facial features were as much feline as human. What did surprise him was the set of fangs that greeted him when the Enforcer snarled at him. She had a whole mouthful of fangs that startled Kevin, causing him to cover his throat reflexively.
The Enforcer pounced, and Kevin barely managed to get out of the way. She left clawmarks in his diamond-encrusted chest as she whizzed by. Kevin stared at the wound in shock almost long enough to allow the Enforcer to get the drop on him again. She pounced once more, but Kevin was able to teleport again. When he reappeared, he grabbed the Enforcer's wrists from behind.
"You're shocking." he said softly. "That's not a nice thing to do to a nice guy like me." Suddenly the Enforcer was nothing more substantial than a shadow. When she rematerialized, she quickly and efficiently sent Kevin sprawling. "Are you the one I was told to expect?" Kevin asked. A pantherlike snarl was his only reply.
Kevin knew he had to think quickly if he was going to survive. He said his sun-poem more quickly than he ever had before, kenning himself a pair of sunglasses in the process. The Enforcer roared in pain, then disappeared into her own shadow. She wasn't gone. Not by a long shot. Kevin could still feel her Presence, like a crimson cloud of rage. He dissipated his mini-sun and shades, and repaired his slashed chest. A quick quarantine spell would ensure that nothing entered or left his room.
"I can't see you, but I know you're there." he said. "I don't want to fight you. We have the same enemy. We both agree Pirondael has to be stopped." No response, except for a shift in the feeling of anger. "I bet you're angry that I spoke with the Djinn-altered human about Vampires." He sensed the Enforcer shifting again, and sensed a feeling of affirmation from...well, wherever she was hiding. "He has agreed to help us destroy Pirondael. You know as well as I that I can't stop this guy alone. I need help, and if that means reaching out to humans, other Pretenders, or Captain James T. Kirk, then so be it." Kevin sensed a creeping uncertainty intruding on the Enforcer's anger, but the anger remained. "Why don't you come out?" Kevin asked. "It would be so much easier for us to discuss this like civilized Pretenders if you did." No response. "You know, if I wanted to, I could mutter a quick spell and cast light everywhere, banishing whatever shadow you're hiding in and leaving you none to retreat to. But I won't." He dissipated his quarantine with a gesture. "If you're willing to give alliance a shot, then show yourself. If not, you can leave and come back with a whole army of Enforcers." That second option chilled Kevin to the bone. "The choice is yours." There was no response for quite some time. The moon shone through the window before he heard the Enforcer's pantherlike growl once again. She stood before him, arms crossed before her, distrust in her eyes.
"That's more like it." Kevin said. "Let me make sure we're not overheard." With that, he replaced his wards against eavesdropping, psychic leakage and unauthorized entry.
"You are a strange person, Kevin Shadows." the Enforcer said, her myriad teeth not slurring her speech in any way. "I see aspects of human, Elf and Vampire in your aura, and yet there is also something unique about you...something unlike anything I have ever seen."
"Something containing and transcending all three species?" Kevin asked. The Enforcer nodded. "A Transcendent, then. It sounds so much better than many of the other names I could come up with. But we were going to discuss Pirondael." Kevin said. "He doesn't have Enforcer powers, does he?"
"No." the Enforcer replied. "And he cannot see us. We have many operatives within his nest. The problem is we do not have the power to harm him. The second problem is, he has taken aspects of Dragon into himself among many other kinds of Pretenders. Dragons are immune to mind control. We can exert no hold over him."
"But he is a Vampire." Kevin muttered, thinking. "Vampires bite humans, humans become Vampires, but Vampires do not become any more human. Why?"
"What does that have to do with anything?" the Enforcer demanded.
"I don't know." Kevin replied. "Not yet, anyway. Let's see...Suzy said my humanity helped free her from the Vampiric evil within her. Maybe that has something to do with it."
"I said I don't know." Kevin replied. "All I know right now is that if we hope to win against Pirondael, we have to cooperate."
"I will relay your proposal to the Enforcers' Council." the Enforcer said. "If they decide that a cooperative venture is an acceptable measure, then we will speak further. If they order me to kill you..."
"You will kill me." Kevin finished. As the Enforcer turned to go, a thought occurred to Kevin. "Wait!" he called.
"What is it?" the Enforcer demanded.
"Pirondael has spies everywhere. Those spies watch my aura and judge the threat I pose to Pirondael's empire. But he can't see you. If you guys could help me hide my aura, it might give me some extra time."
"We will consider what you have said." was all the Enforcer said before vanishing. Kevin released the shudder he'd been holding since she had slashed his diamond-armored chest. Remembering that, he returned his skin to normal. Then he turned and headed for the bathroom, a shiver traveling up his spine.
"Master?" the Skeleton asked. Two enormous, glowing, red eyes appeared in the darkness.
"The Shadows boy, sir." the Skeleton began. "He sat in his room for almost four hours with his wards down."
"Strange." Pirondael said.
"He engaged in battle with an Enforcer, Master."
"An Enforcer?" Pirondael asked. "What could possibly be the purpose of that?"
"I don't know, sir. But after the battle they sat down and talked."
"Damn, but he's clever!" Pirondael exclaimed. "We shall have to accelerate the operation."
Kevin awoke with a groan. He hurt in places he didn't even know he had. When he opened his eyes, his darksight told him he was in the deepest trouble a Vampire hunter could be in. The walls of the cavernous enclosure stretched up farther than his darksight could see. His energy-sense told him that an antiteleportation crystal was embedded in the keystone of the domed ceiling. Myriad voices chuckled to themselves around him. The entrance to this pit of doom was behind him, blocked by something big, hot and scaly. Kevin guessed this was Pirondael's tail. He followed the tail with his darksight. The skinny video game addict within him said that if this were a game, Pirondael's body would be the entire final level. Hidden in crevasses on Pirondael's body were Vampires of every classification, all waiting for the chance to kill Kevin. Myriad appendages sprouted from the Vampire Emperor's body, armed with scythelike claws, or other nasties. Four main appendages rested beneath the behemoth. Two glowing, red eyes appeared before him.
"Good evening, Kevin." Pirondael said pleasantly. "Welcome to the end."
Jade materialized in the living room, paler than Jessie had ever seen her.
"Jade? What's wrong?" she asked.
"They got him!" Jade replied, almost hysterical.
"Who has got him?" Jessie asked, projecting calm into the young Vampiress's mind.
"The Vampires." Jade replied.
"What happened?" Jessie asked, trying to remain calm herself.
"We were walking down Keechi, when Kevin spotted a Ghoul. Kevin decided to follow it, but with stealth. We headed up to the roof and ended up in the middle of a swarm of them. There were just so many of them. Every time we got rid of one, another one jumped onto the roof to take his place. They didn't seem to be paying attention to me at all, except to get me away from him. They shoved me off the roof. When I woke up, they were gone."
Shit! Jessie thought. They found out about his meeting with the Enforcer! "Come on, Jade." she said. "We need to get the others. Find Kevin's little, black book and start making calls to Kevin's friends. We're going to need all the help we can get."
"His Majesty Pirondael, I presume." Kevin said.
"Very good." Pirondael said. "You're a bright young man, Kevin. My only beef is your insistence on killing Vampires."
"And meeting with Enforcers?" Kevin asked.
"Touche." Pirondael said, his voice turning slightly colder. "Yes, I'm afraid if the Enforcers found such powerful allies as yourself, it would be most...inconvenient for me." Kevin made a small gesture, sawing his forefinger against his thumbnail. "What's that?" Pirondael asked.
"The world's smallest violin playing `My Heart Bleeds Peanut Butter For You.'" Kevin replied with a smirk. Pirondael laughed.
"I haven't heard that one before." he said, chuckling. "Perhaps I've been hiding in this hole too long. However, there is one small matter I need to take care of first."
"You consider me a small matter?" Kevin asked.
"You ARE small, young man." Pirondael said. "And so is an acorn, which, if allowed to take root, grows into quite a large tree."
"And you think I could become a major threat?" Kevin asked.
"If you lived long enough, yes." Pirondael replied. "There is, however, another, less violent solution."
"Let me guess, you want me to join you, become your apprentice, and maybe even show you how I came to transcend Pretender boundaries."
"To be blunt, yes." Pirondael said. "Think of it, Kevin. The power you have now, it's nothing compared with what I'm offering you. For you see, I know the secret to Ultimate Power."
"You mean aside from taking Pretender apprentices and then killing them so they don't become competition for you later on?"
"Doing that, someone could become quite powerful indeed, yes. But that will not bring Ultimate Power." Pirondael said. "To become Ultimately Powerful, you have to give yourself entirely to evil. Become one with it. Feed on it."
"So the Devil owns you?" Kevin asked.
"No." Pirondael said. "Every dark thought, every malevolent act, every corrupt endeavor feeds my power, makes me stronger."
"So you're asking me to give up my humanity."
"Yes." Pirondael said. "And in exchange for that..."
"I got news for you, Your Big-And-Tallness, my humanity is a very important part of being a Transcendent." Kevin said. "If I gave it up, I'd be no better than you." Pirondael's eyes narrowed. "Besides, it's not like I haven't heard that sales pitch repeated over and over again in every good-versus-evil movie I've ever seen. Do the words Darth Vader hold any meaning for you?"
"I see." Pirondael snarled. "Is that your final answer?"
"Damn right, you Regis wanna-be."
"So be it."
The Black Cathedral loomed large and forbidding in the nighttime shadows. The moon's light was pale and timid, as though it too were afraid of the evil which lay within. Mike had turned himself into a combat-ready superhuman. Eden clutched a spellbook in one hand and a mage-focus crystal in her right. Kevin's apprentices glanced at each other nervously. The repentant Vampires who comprised the rest of the impromptu strike team did likewise. Jessie ran up to the Cathedral and kicked in the door. An entire congregation of Vampires awaited them on the other side of the door.
"Your harem has come to your rescue." Pirondael said. "Too bad they're too late to save you. It would take hours for them to traverse the corridors, even if the halls WEREN'T swarming with my servants."
"You're so quick to write me off as a corpse who just doesn't know it yet." Kevin said. "I'm not going to let you kill me without a fight."
"Such noble nonsense." Pirondael gave the barest hint of a telepathic signal, and the Vampires, Ghouls, and Skeletons who filled the spaces in the chamber not already filled by Pirondael began to converge on Kevin's position. Well, Kevin knew how to handle Vampires. As quickly as ever, he summoned the comma-sized sun. In a flashbulb of infrared and ultraviolet as well as visible light, Vampires from Omega to Royal were vaporized. Those Ghouls who still had some flesh to them were badly sunburned. Vampires continued to emerge from their hiding places within Pirondael's scales and behind his body. Pirondael had been momentarily blinded, but would recover soon. Kevin knew he was in for the fight of his life.
"The entrance is behind the pulpit." Eden said as magical lightning from her hand struck down the last of the Vampires in the church. She pulled open the trap door and gazed down into the darkness.
"I'll go first." Jessie said. "I know Kevin's sun-spell. I can flash a bunch of the Vampires out of existence before they have a chance to provide resistance. It's the Ghouls and Skeletons we have to worry about."
"All right." Eden said.
"Wait for my signal." Jessie said. She dove down into the darkness. Seconds passed like minutes. A blinding flash, followed by agonized screams rose from the corridor below.
"Now!" Jessie called from below. The rest of the warriors dove into the trap door and began fighting the Ghouls and Skeletons, and whatever Vampires were not within range of the false sun.
Fire and ice flew like shuriken from the hands of an insane ninja. Servants of Pirondael fell like targets in a shooting gallery. And still they kept coming. Kevin manifested a sword out of pure magical energy and began hacking at anything that moved, bisecting Ghouls and Vampires, shattering Skeletons, and occasionally scratching Pirondael's scales when he twitched.
"Getting desperate already?" Pirondael taunted. Kevin channeled his rage into the battle. He knew he hadn't the strength for verbal fencing. A thought occurred to him. He took to the air. Several Vampires followed him up. He manifested a second blade and spun like the blades of a blender, then began spinning on a different axis while he did that. His blades became beams of death which vaporized anything they touched. Kevin fell to the ground, dizzy beyond belief. The sound of clapping reached his ears as Kevin muttered a quick recovery spell.
"Bravo!" Pirondael said. "Bravo!" He laughed then. "Well played. You've eliminated all the servants I had in the room. If it's any consolation, you've just killed more Vampires in one evening than any other Vampire hunter has killed in their entire life. I shall have to call Guinness."
"Consolation?" Kevin snarled. "You can KEEP your fucking consolation, demon."
"My, my, such language." Pirondael said with mock sincerity. "I'm going to have to teach you some manners." He lunged, enormous tusks bared, smoke issuing from his mouth.
Mike seemed invincible. He had turned his hands into blades and was spinning down the hall, shredding revenants as he went. Vampires filled one barracks to the right. Nothing but Vampires. Jessie signaled for the repentants to step back as she fried the baddies. When the Vampires were all ashes, she dashed into the barracks.
"What are you doing?" Suzy called.
"The chamber's on the other side of this wall. I can sense Kevin in there."
"How does that help us?" Suzy asked.
"Use your head, sister." Jessie said. "You were always the smart one in the family." A sudden light lit Suzy's face as she realized what Jessie was thinking.
Pirondael lunged for Kevin once again, fangs which more appropriately would bear the description of "tusks" dripping with saliva and venom. Kevin leaped, fusing his two blades into one long sword. He slashed diagonally, taking out the monster's left eye and cutting deeply into the bridge of his nose. He found purchase on the scaly face as Pirondael cried out in pain, and pushed off with all the considerable strength in his legs, barely avoiding the talon that ascended to cover the violated eye.
"AAAAAAAAAAAAAHH! MY EYE! DAMN YOU! DAMN YOU TO HELL!!" Pirondael roared. He lashed out with his free talon, with his tail, his bladed wings, and all the numerous appendages along his grotesque body. One of the side walls exploded, distracting Kevin long enough for Pirondael to bat him into the wall.
"Kevin!" Jessie cried. Kevin's apprentices and his friends poured into the chamber then, distracting Pirondael. Jessie was at Kevin's side as quickly as she could be with her teleportation power blocked. "Don't try to move." she said.
"You don't have to worry about that." Kevin muttered. "I don't think I could lift my arms right now if I wanted to." Kevin again turned his attention to the battle. "When did the Enforcers show up?" he asked.
"Enforcers?" Jessie asked, turning her head. The chamber was swarming with them. They were attacking Pirondael. Several of them swarmed on his face. Others did their best to hold down or sever limbs.
"Get us out of here!" Kevin said. Jessie nodded, lifting Kevin in a fireman's carry.
"We have what we came for!" Jessie said as she leaped for the opening. Enforcers kept the servants of Pirondael at bay. Jessie wasted no time with greetings. She ran as fast as her powerful legs would take her.
Kevin lay on the bed, utterly exhausted. Pirondael would be really cheesed off now. He wasn't sure if he could survive another fight like that.
"Kevin?" someone said. "Kevin, wake up." Kevin opened his eyes to find the Enforcer he'd spoken with standing over him. "The Enforcers Council has agreed to an alliance. As a token of good will, one of us is to become your next apprentice."
"Who?" Kevin asked.
"I have volunteered for that assignment." she said, almost sheepishly. "You are the most worthy opponent I have ever faced, and the kindest soul I have ever met. My name is Moonseed. Please say you'll accept."
"Well," Kevin began, "I like your resume." Moonseed smiled.
Kevin looked at himself in a mirror. He didn't look any different than he always had, except that his ears had a more pronounced point to them. He felt different, however. His aura, once so prominent (and damning when around Vampires), now lay just underneath the surface, hidden by Enforcer stealth powers.
"Kevin?" Jessie called, knocking on the inside of the door as she said it. "Kevin? There's someone here to see you."
"Who is it?" he asked. He gasped as Renee and Tina entered. He turned around. "Come in." he said. He gestured them toward two other chairs in the room, and they quickly sat down. Jessie left them in privacy.
"Wow, Kev, you look different." Tina said. "You let your hair grow."
"Okay, so I've been too busy for a haircut." Kevin said. "I suppose the school will make me get one when I start up again next week."
"Kevin, we've spoken with Jessie." Renee said. "We know about the battle. We want to help."
"You do realize what helping me entails, don't you?" Kevin asked. They both nodded.
"You don't realize how addictive Vampire semen is, Kevin." Tina said. "It was real nice of you to let us go, considering what you knew--and didn't know. But Renee and I have been in severe withdrawal since then. We need you, Kevin. We need to be with you." As Kevin thought, they suddenly began removing their clothes. They'd been working out. Their lithe young bodies were quite tempting indeed. His fangs began to itch as they approached him. They'd showered before they'd come, making absolutely sure to clean off their necks. The itch in his fangs grew more insistent. But first he would take care of another discomfort.
"Your Majesty? Your Majesty, are you all right?"
"I will heal." Pirondael said. The eye socket Kevin had slashed was oozing a jellylike substance that had once been an eye, but already the new one was growing in, already the size of a bowling ball.
"Sire, we checked out the Shadows place. It's empty. We've been searching for the boy's aura, but we can't find it. He's vanished."
"This is getting out of hand. Find Kevin; spare no effort to destroy him, and report to me when he is dead. Take no chances."
"Yes, Sire." The Vampire withdrew.
"You will rue this night, Kevin Shadows." Pirondael vowed. "So swears Pirondael."