Lord Of Blood

Prologue

Varakash Morhkur, Scion of Abhorash, Blood Dragon, held his sword against the Slayer's neck. Anger and defiance burned in the Slayer's eyes, but Varakash could taste his underlying fear, the same fear that all mortals, no matter how long-lived, shared.

"You are defeated, Slayer," Varakash said, softly.

The Slayer gritted his teeth. "So be it, Vampire. I go to my death with honour."

Varakash tilted his head at this. It was rare to find one among the mortal races possessed of such grace in defeat. "You do not beg, nor make pleas for mercy." It was not a question.

The Dwarf grimaced, his throat working against the cold steel of the Vampire's sword. "I am a Slayer. I do not fear my death."

"Interesting…" said Varakash, almost to himself. "You are the first mortal I have yet found who has not begged for met to spare his life, Dwarf. And your skills in the arts of combat are prodigious."

Varakash lifted his sword away from the Dwarf. "You may return to your Hold, Slayer. You have earned your life today. Leave now, and you may keep it."

The Dwarf rubbed at his throat where the Vampire's sword had drawn blood. Varakash felt his infernal hunger rise, and crushed it ruthlessly. He would not give in to the thirst that he hated so much, that he had fought against since the day he had been cursed with unlife.

The Slayer spat. "I need no Undead abomination to give me my life, Vampire. All I desire is a warrior's death." His fingers twitched as his hand edged towards his broad-bladed axe, lying on the ground beside him.

Varakash turned from the Dwarf, walking slowly down the mountain trail. "Return here in one year, Slayer, and you and I will have our reckoning. There, you may find your death."

The Dwarf did not reply, and Varakash had taken another half-dozen steps before he heard the whisper of the Dwarf's axe cutting through the air. The vampire turned with inhuman speed, and his sword flashed out to block the Slayer's descending axe. Varakash could see the Slayer's muscles straining as he tried to complete his strike, but the Vampire was by far the stronger of the two, and his sword held the axe immovably.

"I gave you your life, Dwarf," Varakash said calmly, "do you refuse it?"

The Dwarf spat. "I will not allow you to escape, monster! By Grugni, I swear I will cleanse the world of your filth!"

Varakash lashed out with one silver-armoured boot, a gleaming blur faster than the eye could follow, and kicked the Dwarf in the chest, sending him flying backwards. The Dwarf thudded heavily into the rocks lining the trail.

"You will have your chance, Slayer, one year from now. Such an honour is bestowed only upon my finest opponents, a second chance to earn their lives. Or," he added, as an afterthought, "their deaths. You cannot defeat me now, Slayer. Spend your year wisely, and hope that you will have improved enough when we next meet."

The Dwarf raised his head sluggishly, obviously disorientated from the sudden blow. He grasped for his axe, but it lay meters away from him, beside the Vampire's feet.

By the time he was recovered enough to stand, Varakash Morkhur, Scion of Abhorash, Blood Dragon, was long gone, disappeared into the mist that shrouded the mountains.