The Hunter's Spear

John crouched behind a large tree and watched a figure walk down the road towards him. He smiled in anticipation as he thought of performing another robbery and possibly even getting to kill again. This was what he lived for: the thrill of the fight, the sensations of victory, and most of all, the satisfaction that came with pocketing his quarry's gold. That last part was the best, and was also the only reason he did what he did. The thrills and all that were good, but they just could not compare to watching those pieces of gold and silver slide their way into his pouch. And besides, the thrill had diminished since he had formed a gang to make sure that he would not get in harm's way unless it was absolutely necessary. Not that he was a pushover, far from it. He had yet to meet a man that could beat him in fight, but it did help to have five or six men with you when you want to do the really complicated heists. Granted, this did take a bit away from the final amount of loot he got, but it was usually worth it.

He looked around and surveyed his gang. They were scattered in various positions around the road, and the only reason he could see them now was because he had placed each of them himself. He had seven people altogether: six were humans and one was a Drakel, (a lizard-like humanoid that was exceptionally intelligent.) Of his men, four of them were at least passable with blades and two, the Drakel and a human named Bill, were quite proficient with them. The only one who was almost no good with any kind of bladed weapon besides a knife, was also the only woman present: John's sister, Krystal. No one cared about her weakness, though, because she was a better shot with a bow than anyone else any of them had even seen. Krystal was and always had been John's back up, and she had saved his life too many times for him to count. None of the others in the gang really trusted her, because if she did not like you she would shoot you in the back in the middle of the fight, but John knew that she would always be there for him in a jam. They had always helped each other and watched each other's backs, ever since their father and mother had been killed by orcs so long ago…

John shook his head to clear away the cobwebs from his mind. Now was no time to be getting nostalgic. The traveler was almost to his gang's position. He was close now; almost close enough for John to give the signal to attack. Just a few more seconds, but then he heard a twig snap off to the side as Ben shifted from one foot to another. Now, anywhere else, even if a snapping twig was heard it would have been ignored, but Darkovia Forest was not "anywhere else." The sound of that little twig snapping shot through the air and seemed like two swords clashing for all of the noise it made. John cursed silently as he saw the traveler jerk his head up and quickly identify the situation he was in. John sighed; there was nothing left to do except go for bluster or just kill him. He yelled the signal and everyone besides Krystal, who was there to make sure nothing unexpected happened, ran out onto the road and surrounded the traveler. John came out last for dramatic effect, and he made the most of it as he swaggered out of the cover of the forest with his ornate sword and shield in his hands. He grinned savagely and called out.

"Hail stranger. It seems that your choice to travel around Darkovia at night was a poor one this time. Give us all of your gold, weapons, and anything else you carry that could possibly be of value and we just might just let you live. Refuse, and I'm afraid we just might have to kill you and piss on your dead body after hanging it naked and upside-down on a cross for all to see." He had no intention of doing anything other than robbing this man, but he enjoyed being as imaginative and descriptive as he could just to drive in the point that this was, in fact, a robbery.

The traveler was wearing a large, brown cloak that covered all of his body with its folds and had a large hood that covered most of his face. He raised his head and looked at John, but with the hood over his face, John could not get a good look at him. He stared at John for a moment before he spoke.

"I think not friend. I have no desire to be robbed tonight."

John's grin disappeared. "Kill him."

The four passable fighters all lunged towards the traveler simultaneously and from different directions, while Bill and the Drakel stayed back to assess this stranger. As the bandits ran towards the traveler, he quickly cast of his brown cloak. Underneath it he had a black leather suit that seemed to be snug without being form-fitting. Without the hood over his face, John was finally able to see it in the full force of the bright moonlight. It was a nice face. It seemed handsome and a little soft, but that softness was tempered with more steel than he had seen in a long time. The traveler's hair was black and reached to just above his eyebrows. John wondered why he was dwelling on weird things like that and quickly shifted his gaze to the traveler's eyes. A quick, instinctive, burst of fear rolled down from his head to his feet and back up again as every hair he owned stood on its end. The traveler's eyes glowed a vibrant red in the moonlight. This was a vampire!

He could tell that the shock he felt was also present in the four that were charging the vampire. All four of them stopped and looked at each other long enough for the vampire to reach behind him and draw a wicked looking spear from his back. John cursed himself for not noticing but then wondered how he could have not noticed it. The shaft of the spear was six feet long, which seemed a little longer than the vampire was tall, and was black but had streaks of silver flowing up it like lightning. The blade had to have been at least a foot long and was ornately jagged. Its edges were serrated, and the tip was two different points with a small dip in between them. John assumed that this must be for catching swords or some similar battle function.

The four men were hesitating now. They were obviously surprised to find out that their helpless victim was actually a vampire. They had all heard stories about vampires from their mothers or grandmothers way back before they had probably killed said matrons, and John was sure that, at that very moment, what their late mothers had told them was running back through their heads with remarkable clarity. They even looked like they might run, until John laughed out loud and let his smile reappear.

"Remember lads, vampires bleed just like the rest of us when you stab them. There are seven of us and only one of him. And besides, I'll be willing to bet my share of the loot that he is loaded with gold."

His arrogant proclamation and his reassuring words gave them courage, so all four of them once again lunged towards the vampire. The vampire let out a grin that flashed in the moonlight and in an instant he dropped down until his knees almost touched the ground. The swords flew over him and all of the bandits had to fight against their momentum in order to avoid stabbing each other and getting stabbed in turn. Then he gripped his spear with both hands, held it close to him, and swung it out in a vicious arc around him at their shins. They all tried to back up, but Weslie stumbled and fell to the ground. It was only when he tried to get back up that he noticed his feet and half of his shins were still standing. He started screaming.

Quickly reversing the momentum, the vampire thrust his spear out behind him at the chest of another one. Ben managed to bring his sword up and deflected the stab upwards, right into his neck. He fell wordlessly to the ground as blood began to flow from the jagged wound torn into his neck by the serrated edge of the spear. The remaining two, Mark and Frank, backed off and slowly began to circle the vampire as he spun around to slide the tip of his spear through Weslie's ribs, right below the nipple, and pierce his heart. Weslie gurgled a couple times and the vampire pulled the spear out with just as much grace as he had used to place it there, leaving only a small, bleeding line where the deathblow was struck.

At that moment, Mark and Frank were trying to get on opposite ends of the vampire so that they could enact some kind of pincer attack, but before they could really start coordinating their attack strategy, the vampire sprung towards Mark with super-human speed. Mark, a big, burly man, was just able to parry the vampire's sideways swing that was to his left side. What happened then dumbfounded John. The vampire used the connection his spear had with Mark's sword to spin back around the other way, while still in the air, and lay open Mark' stomach and intestines. As Mark fell to his knees, desperately trying to keep his guts inside his stomach cavity, Frank charged the vampire with his sword in both hands and raised above his head. The vampire, having just recovered after his landing, only got a fleeting glimpse of Frank as he slammed down with his sword.

That one glance was all he needed. He rolled to the side and was back up to his feet even as Frank's sword hit the ground where he had been only a moment before. Frank frantically brought his sword back up into a decent guard position but he was lifetimes too late. The vampire launched into a series of lightning-fast stabs. Each strike found its mark as Frank tried to block all of them, but was far too slow. For a moment, he just stood where he was, a hole was gouged into his chest, arm, and stomach. Then a wail slowly rose from his throat and burst from his lips as tears ran down his cheeks. His troubles were quickly ended when the vampire turned the blade of his spear in a quick circle above Frank's head, ending it by decapitating him.

The vampire stood, stabbed Mark in the same way he had killed Weslie, wiped his spear on a part of Weslie's shirt that was not bleeding, and turned to face John, Bill, and the Drakel.

"I would hate to waste your time. Who is next?"

Bill and the Drakel both growled and were about to converge on him when John held up his hand for them to stop. He had a self-satisfied smirk on his face.

"We don't need to fight this fool, Krystal can just take him out right here and now. Krystal, deal with this blood-sucking freak. Shoot him now!"

There was no response. No arrow burying itself into the vampire's chest, or even an acknowledgement. The vampire stared at him again with a hint of something that John could not describe in his eyes.

"I am afraid that it is far too late for that my friend. Did you think I had not noticed your friend from the beginning of our little skirmish? My pets took care of her. Now if we can just forget about that, can we get back to my previous question? Who is next?"

John's body went rigid, and for a moment the entire forest swirled in front of his eyes. His strength seemed to leave his limbs and he sagged against a tree. This could not be happening. Krystal was the only one he was able to enjoy the company of anymore. They had been together since childhood, and had made a pact to never die on one another. She could not be dead. She just could not be dead.

"Kill him!" John yelled as he staggered off towards Krystal's position.

Bill yelled out a battle cry and charged the vampire, and the Drakel, thinking this to be the most sensible option, quickly followed after him. The vampire prepared himself for them and once they reached him the three of them became embroiled in a battle that might have been fun to watch had John not just heard that his sister and only companion had been killed. As it was, he paid no attention to the melee and kept walking towards Krystal's position. He had to see for himself whether what the vampire was saying was true or not.

He passed off of the badly tiled road and into the forest that blanketed the hills all around. He worked his way through the underbrush, feeling like his arms were lead with his sword and shield still in them, and finally came to where Krystal lay. He gasped. The noise made the countless bats that lay around her, sucking the very last dregs of her blood from her veins, scream in terror and fly off in a panic. One flew at him, its fangs open wide, but even in his distraught frame of mind he still sliced off its head once it was within range of him. The others all landed on various branches that were close enough for them to still see him part far away from his blade.

When he looked back at his sister he stopped caring about all of the little bats. She lay on the ground with her bow still in one hand; an arrow was notched to the string. Her mouth was opened wide in what must have been a silent scream of terror and her eyes were open wider than he thought was possible. There were eight little holes around her mouth, four on the top lip, and four on the bottom, and he realized why no one had heard her scream. Two of the bats had bit her in her mouth and kept it shut while the others stuck themselves onto her body and stole all of her blood. He continued to stare, taking in her completely white skin and all of the tiny holes that covered her body. There was no blood on her wounds or on the ground around her either. It seemed that the bats had done their job well. For just a moment John fell to his knees and a deep despair overflowed from his soul and enveloped him, but then he gritted his teeth and gripped his sword even harder. Even as tears filled around the bottom of his eyes, he swore right then and there that this vampire was going to die by his sword.

John stood up and ran back to the three-man melee that still raged back on the road and was surprised to find that the vampire was not only still alive, but that he was holding his own against Bill and the Drakel. Now, John knew very little about either Bill or the Drakel other than that Bill was once a gladiator and that his left forearm had been cut off right below the elbow at one point and that it had also been replaced by a metal one. He put said forearm to good use in every one of his fight by using it as a shield, club, or even to reinforce his sword from time to time. Bill had been the first man John hired to help him, and the two of them almost had what could be considered as a friendship. Basically, that meant that they would still kill each other, but only if they were getting paid for it. He knew almost nothing about the Drakel, not even its name. It had just walked up to him one day and offered to join his group. The only thing he had learned about it since then was that it was an extremely good fighter, amazingly intelligent, and held a healthy disdain for anything it could beat in a fight.

The vampire was definitely having a hard time of it now. Bill and the Drakel constantly attacked him, so he could do nothing except to block and evade, and this was getting harder and harder as the two of them warmed up to his blocking styles and also to each other's attacking styles. He still kept dodging and parrying, however, until he saw his opportunity. As Bill attacked low and the Drakel swung at his face, he hopped into the air slightly and twisted until he was almost parallel to the ground, making both attacks miss him, and struck out at Bill with his spear and at the Drakel with his boots. Bill was able to throw himself backwards and slammed his metal forearm down on the spear, but the Drakel took the full force of the vampire's boots in its chest and was thrown back several feet to land on its back with a loud crack. The Drakel groaned in pain but for a moment, its limbs had lost the power to move.

The vampire landed in a crouching position and leapt towards Bill, who had just recovered as well, with the same move he had used against Mark. Bill twisted his right wrist and smacked the spear's tip away from his side with his sword and an almost contemptuous chuckle. Once again, the vampire used the blades to push himself around in mid-air and swung back around the other way to slice at Bill's stomach. Bill, having seen the attack earlier, just dropped his shoulder down and let his metal forearm block for his stomach. There was a resounding clang and for the first time the vampire's attack failed. Bill smiled and slashed out with his sword. The vampire's ducked under this and retaliated, but this also was blocked. Now Bill just looked smug.

" Well, well, well, it seems like the big, bad, vampire can't seem ta' get through my handy little metal arm to land a hit now can he?"

The vampire smiled back. The smile seemed genuine, which made it all the more mocking. "Yes, I complement you on the good use of that arm. I suppose I will just have to do something about that."

Bill growled and stabbed out. The vampire spun his spear perpendicularly to the ground and batted the blow far to the side, too far. As Bill staggered, because he kept his hold on his sword, the vampire let go of the spear with one hand and sliced at his stomach again. Bill readied his arm even as he regained his posture and for a moment he wondered why the vampire was being so repetitive. He found out why too late when, at the last second, the vampire lifted his arm and flicked his wrist downward. In one quick motion Bill's entire arm past his biceps was gone. Red filled Bill's sight as his metal forearm clanged to the ground, and he took several steps back. His arm did not hurt yet, but he knew that he had precious little time before the shock ceased and the pain would become unbearable. This was just like that last time his arm had been cut off. He just had to compose himself and attack before he became useless.

Summoning all of his remaining strength, he charged the vampire and swung with his remaining arm. Despite all of his thoughts, however, it was a slow, clumsy strike, and the vampire easily ducked under it before shoving his spear up and piercing Bill through the jaw, mouth, and finally through his brain. When the spear finished, the two points could just barely be seen coming out of the top of his head. Bill had no time for a reaction before he died and slumped to the ground.

The vampire placed his boot on Bill's chest in an effort to yank out his spear, but before he could he heard the Drakel, who had just recovered, charging towards him. He just barely managed to jump to the side as it swung down viscously. The vampire rolled once before getting his feet under him and springing back up. The Drakel, thinking the vampire was unarmed, yanked its sword out of Bill's chest and charged after him with wild abandon. When it got to him it slashed downwards again. He rolled to the side and, when it slashed down at him again, checked himself to roll back the other way. It slashed horizontally and he threw himself back. This time, however, when he recovered himself the Drakel was above him. It allowed itself a small smile of victory and slashed down one last time. There was a resounding clash as metal met metal and the Drakel gaped at the vampire, who now held a sword in his hands. He had apparently been carrying it the entire fight. The vampire pushed off the Drakel's sword and slashed out, with the sword in his right hand. The Drakel fall back and put itself in a fighting stance. It was no fool and had only fought wildly earlier because it had believed its prey was unarmed.

"Where do you keep all of thessse weaponsssss?" It asked the vampire. Since Drakels were not built to speak our language John noticed that they always had a bit of a lisssp.

"I am sure you would like to know, however, I have no time to be telling my secrets to a lizard." The vampire was coldly formal now.

They circled each other. Both of them were daring the other to attack. John watched them for a bit before taking a step forward.

"Look, this whole 'honorable duel' thing, or whatever, is really getting on my nerves. I'm joining this battle."

"No!" The Drakel was adamant; "I will dessstroy thisss pathetic vampire myssself, bosss."

John knew better than to get in the Drakel's way when it was like this. He sighed again and leaned back against a tree. Maybe the Drakel would kill it, but if it did not, he could always just finish it off himself. One thing he was sure of, though, and that was that, no matter who it was that did it, that vampire was going to die tonight.

As they circled for a bit more, the Drakel studied the vampire's sword. It was made from a very strange metal, one that was either black or a very dark shade of gray. There were runes etched into the sides of it that were of a language the Drakel could not understand. This was saying something, Drakels are known for the pride they take in knowing every living language and many dead ones, and he had been lauded for his linguistic capabilities in his home city before he had been exiled. It was a sword of normal shape and looked like it could be used with two hands, but the vampire was only using one. The hand guard was made of the same material as the sword but was, surprisingly, not ornate. There was just enough in it to provide full protection, but that was all. The handle also seemed able to be used comfortably with either one or two hands.

The Drakel broke their little waiting game first. It lashed out with a quick, searching jab, that the vampire swiftly blocked before slashing down. The Drakel dodged to the side, and as it did, it threw out its sword in a strike that relied on its body's movement rather than its arm's movement. Instead of blocking this time, the vampire leapt to the side along with the Drakel, beating the strength of the attack, and twisted his body to the side, sending his sword out with his right hand to get as much extension as he could on his strike. The Drakel saw the jab coming just in time and slammed its feet into the ground with enough force to stop its sideways movement and send it flying straight backwards, but it was still too slow to fully evade the strike. The tip of the sword gouged into its breastplate and just barely pierced its flesh. It was a negligible wound but a wound none-the-less, and it was also bleeding.

The Drakel's eyes went red for a moment and it lunged forward with its sword pointed right at the vampire's chest. The vampire swung his sword down and smacked the attack away. The two of them looked at each other for a moment before both of them spun to their right, grabbed the handles of their swords with both hands, and smashed their swords together at the end of their spins. Instead of moving to another attack, they both kept their swords together. Their muscles strained as the two swords dragged against each other in their efforts to subdue and overpower one another. They stood there and eyed each other for several seconds as neither moved, but then, ever so slowly, the vampire's sword moved closer to the Drakel and the Drakel's sword began to buckle underneath it. A look of panic momentarily shot across the Drakel's face but it was quickly replaced by a twisted grin as it bared its many fangs to the moonlight. While still keeping its arms strained in its ever-worsening struggle, it spoke out in its strange language.

"Ssslythrin Lathna."

Its sword began humming and a look of curiosity etched itself on the vampire's face. This look soon turned to one of extreme agony as lightning erupted from the hilt of the Drakel's sword, ran up its length, and spread from its sword to the vampire's sword, and then to the vampire. He jerked around for a few moments before crumpling onto the ground, twitching for a few seconds, and finally falling still. The Drakel walked up to the corpse, and savagely kicked it several times. Once it was sure that the vampire was in fact dead, it looked back at John and grinned again.

"Well done, wasss it not bosss?"

John grinned back and even clapped once, although he did regret not being able to kill the vampire himself. "Indeed, it was very well done. Search his pockets and I suppose we'll split it fifty-fifty."

The Drakel was pleased by this and even hissed a bit as it kicked the vampire over onto his back, straightened out his limbs, and began to search through his pockets, pouches, and whatever else he had. It soon found out why they had not seen his weapons until he pulled them out. He had a sheath about a foot long on his back and another about half a foot long at his waist but still behind him. Both were open on one side but closed on the other and, upon closer inspection, it found out that whatever you put into them disappeared until a certain length. So about only another foot of the spear's shaft and only the handle of the sword actually showed while they were put away.

"That's intelligent," John mused.

In addition, the Drakel found a knife about a foot long inside a normal sheath, and a small throwing knife inside one of his boots. It also found ten thousand-gold pieces inside his pouch, which was a handsome sum. It was actually enough to reform his group and still have a bit left over. It found nothing else of interest until it unbuttoned the vampire's leather overshirt and found that he was wearing a silver necklace with a silver cross at the end of it around his neck.

"Fancy a vampire wearing a cross around," John mused again. "I suppose he kept it between his over and inner shirt so that it wouldn't burn him to death. You can have that if you wish. I'm sure it will fetch a nice price at Amityvale."

The Drakel grinned again and grabbed the necklace. As it was about to rip it off, though, a hand wrapped itself around the Drakel's wrist and the vampire's eyes flew open.

"Aww, sssh-" Was all the Drakel was able to get out before the vampire's boot connected with its breastplate and threw it back. It landed on its feet and scrambled to get its sword back as the vampire did the same. It got its first, however, because it had taken his weapons and thrown them about ten feet behind them when it was searching him. It stayed between his weapons and him and held its sword out in front of it.

"How are you alive?" It queried.

"I am a vampire little lizard, how could I be killed by electricity?"

"Well, regardlesss, give yourssself up to usss. You have no weaponsss and there are two of usss. You have no chance."

He did not reply but tweaked his head to the side. The Drakel saw something flying at it from the corner of its eye and turned to see an over-sized bat speeding towards it. It swung around and sliced the bat in two before turning back around and resuming its original position. The whole move was performed with stunning grace and precision and could not have taken more than a second, but when it came back the vampire was nowhere to be seen. It looked around swiftly but saw nothing.

"Above you!" John yelled as fast and loud as he could.

The Drakel looked up in time to see the vampire come down and chop it in the side of the neck. The Drakel listed to the side as pain was sent down its spine but in another second it was recovered and was about to turn around when it suddenly lost all feeling in its legs. It wondered what was wrong but as it turned its head around it saw the vampire with his sword stuck halfway into its body. Its armor was well made, and as such, the vampire was not able to fully cut it in half, but its spine was severed and it felt nothing when the vampire ripped his sword out to the side and pierced through the back of its heart. He ripped his sword out once more as it fell to the ground, like all of the others before it, and began to walk towards John, his sword by his side.

John looked on dumbfounded as it finally dawned on him that his entire group had just been killed off. He looked at Bill's pierced head, the two holes in the Drakel's breastplate, and finally, the menacing vampire that was walking towards him. This thing had to be the strongest fighter he had ever even seen. For one panic-filled second he thought about running away, but then he pictured Krystal lying on the ground with dozens of little bite marks all over her body. He remembered his pledge to his father right before his father died that he would protect his sister with his life or that he would never allow her to die without recompense. John looked at the vampire and his mind spun as he calculated everything he would need.

"She's dead." He was trying to buy time. It worked. The vampire stopped and looked at him.

"Who is?"

"Krystal, my sister. You killed her and now I am alone in this world." John reached behind him and grabbed a small vial with his shield hand.

For a moment, it actually looked like the vampire was saddened by this new, but then that steel entered his eyes again. "If you do not wish to lose your loved ones, do not place them in harms way."

John yelled and charged the vampire with his sword held above his head. He started swinging haphazardly once he reached the vampire, but kept his shield next to his body. He was hoping that the vampire assumed he was emotionally distraught, and his ploy paid off. The vampire seemed content to just evade his sweeping attacks for a bit, and John thought it was laughable just how much the vampire underestimated him at that moment. Still, he kept on swinging wildly, just waiting for that one point when the vampire's arrogance would be at its peak. There it was! He was swinging back down diagonally after having swung upwards. The vampire smiled and just dropped his head back, making the sword pass mere inches away from his throat. John was smiling now. He shot out his shield hand and threw the vial of holy water he had been holding at almost point-blank range.

The vampire's eyes widened as he recognized just what was inside that little glass canister and John let out an exultant yell. His happiness was premature and short lived, though, for at the last possible second the vampire tried to dodge and, using more speed than seemed possible to John, he succeeded in moving the majority of his face out of the way. He still screamed in agony when the glass vial hit his right cheek and burst, spewing holy water all along the right side of his face, but he was still alive. Almost instantly after the holy water touched him his flesh began to dissolve and disintegrate.

The vampire threw himself back but John had no intention of letting him get any reprieve to gather his wits. He charged towards him and swung down with all of his might. What happened next was all a blur to John. All he saw was his sword being blocked, and then he was looking up at the moon and stars. He staggered backwards before he looked back down to see the vampire complete his flip-kick and rise from the ground. Then the pain set in. John's entire head burned with pain and his jaw felt like it was about to fall off. He just hoped he had not lost any teeth. As he reeled in pain, though, he looked at the vampire and saw that his entire right cheek and his right ear were gone. The holy water had stopped peeling away at his flesh, but the effects of it were obvious. He also had a long gash along his right forearm where he had pressed it against John's sword while he did the flip.

'Well, if he can fight through something like that, then I most certainly can.' John winced but still kept his composure.

They paced off now, just like the Drakel had. Unlike the Drakel, though, John was very worried. He knew that he could not get that trick of his to work again, even though he still had a couple of vials left, and what was worse was that the vampire no longer underestimated him. This basically meant that he had no choice except to win this fight semi-fairly. The mere thought of this concept left a bad taste in his mouth, But any thoughts quickly left him as the vampire charged at him and shot out a lightning-quick jab. John blocked it and they set out into a quick skirmish. The exchange of blows could not have been longer than ten seconds, but in that time John realized that there was no way he could win this with conventional fighting. His realization was further reinforced by the vampire swatting his sword to the side and kicking him full in the chest. His breath left him faster than his last girlfriend and, once again, he fell backwards as the vampire followed his vicious kick with a thrust. John, even without his breath, was still able to turn his body over, plant his shield on the ground, and spin back around to barely slice the vampire in his side. Before the vampire could retaliate John disengaged himself and jumped out of his range. The vampire seemed as if he was ready to pursue but then he grunted and looked down at the small cut in his side as it grew into a hole in his muscles. His skin shriveled away and wafted out in the wind. He looked back at John.

"Yea, when this sword was forged, it was constantly cooled in holy water. So now it's pretty much saturated with the stuff. I never expected to see a vampire this far north, but I made sure to be ready if I ever did," John taunted.

The vampire made no reply except to calmly walk back to his pile of weapons and pick up his spear. He faced John and threw it. It flew a perfect arc and headed straight at his chest. John lifted his shield but just as he did he noticed his mistake. He should have dodged. The spear clanged against his shield with great force but was deflected. When he brought his shield down, however, his fears were confirmed. The vampire had thrown his small knife and was charging with his sword. John was forced to try to deflect the knife with his sword and, when that was successful, throw his hips back when the vampire sliced at them. He just barely managed to avoid having his bowels aired out like mark had, but on the other hand, this position gave him a perfect shot at the vampire's outstretched arm. He brought his sword back and hacked down again, but the vampire had anticipated this and spun to his left, giving plenty of force to a chop that was like the one the he had exchanged with the Drakel. John knew better than to do the same thing that the Drakel had done, and he prepared to take the attack on his shield.

Then, a thought entered his mind. It seemed crazy, but crazy was the only thing that would save him right now. He pointed the tip of his sword down, and crossed it over his body. His block just barely worked and really only succeeded in halting most of the forward momentum from the strike. That was all he had wanted it to do. He spun to his left, towards the vampire's sword, bent his knees down until he was looking at the vampire's waist, and finished the spin by slamming his shield into the back of the vampire's left leg. This forced the vampire to put all of his weight onto his left leg as he stumbled, putting him in the perfect position for John's sword which was swiftly following his shield on its way towards that same leg.

'Got you!' John exulted.

But then something happened he had not accounted for. With his other leg bent and his left leg his only support, the vampire lifted his foot up and slammed it down on John's sword as it passed by. John gasped in amazement and the vampire swiftly stabbed his sword into John's hand, pinning it to the ground, before grabbing John by the neck with his other hand, lifting him up, and slamming him against a tree. John cursed as his hand tore free from the sword the worst way possible and again when the small breath he had just gotten back was sent back out of him as his back smashed into the tree. It was at that moment, while looking the vampire in the eyes, that John realized the vampire had not just expected him to use that very unorthodox move, he had counted on it. And John had fallen for it.

"How, how'd you do that?"

"I am a vampire."

"Heh, I figured that part out by now. I meant to say: how could you possibly lift your foot while it was the only thing keeping you up?"

"I put my sword in the ground and pushed myself up."

"That's impossible."

"Of course."

John tried to grab another vial of holy water but the vampire pinned his other hand to the tree with his sword.

"I think not friend."

"Yea, that's smart I guess. I did make you rather ugly didn't I?"

"Yes, yes you did. Although next time you decide to rob a poor, defenseless traveler, make sure you get the 'poor, defenseless' part right."

"W-Who are you."

"If you really want to know, I am Damian, a second class vampire. And what is your name?"

John was surprised by this small bit of civility, maybe he could still live through this. "John Thornstroke. I'm a bandit, or rather, I suppose I used to be a bandit. Now I think I'm dead."

"An astute observation. Now why, John, did you decide to become a bandit and have your sister join you?"

Somehow, John realized that the answer to this question would determine whether he died or lived today. "I started to keep my wife and five children fed—." He was cut off by Damian's hand closing on his throat for just a second. He gagged when Damian relaxed his iron-hard grip.

"Do not lie to me now, John. This could very well be the last minute you spend alive in this world. You should at least spend it being very, very truthful with me."

"Fine," a dangerous gleam entered John's eyes. "I became a bandit because I love the thrill of fighting and I was discharged from the army after I disobeyed an order from my general. He told me to attack the village my sister was living in. After that, I ran to get her and we fled the village before it was destroyed. I decided to become a bandit and she would not be persuaded to leave me so I had to let her become one too. I made her the archer so that she'd never be hurt, but doing something like that obviously just isn't enough anymore now is it?"

"Obviously. Do you have any final requests?"

"Unless you can somehow bring my sister back, I have none, besides that you finish me quick."

"Unfortunately, I can do neither of those things. I am truly sorry for this turn of events John, but there seems to be nothing I can do for you now."

"I guess not." John closed his eyes and gasped when he felt his throat being ripped into and all of his blood being redirected towards that spot in his body. At first he felt tingles all over him, then he started losing feeling in his limbs and his heart began to beat faster and faster as more and more blood was demanded from it. In another minute, his heart collapsed and John felt searing pain before he blacked out.

If he had still been able to see, John would have seen Damian's cheek, ear, and side flow and flesh out with new muscles and skin until it seemed like nothing ever happened to him. He would also have seen Damian go up to each of the members in his gang, take their swords and sheaths, and put them in a bag he had made out of the rest of Weslie's shirt. He would also have seen Damian go off into the forest and return with his sister's bow and arrows before putting them into the bag, taking back his own weapons, swinging the bag over his shoulder, and walking back down the road. He walked deeper into the forest of Darkovia and left those eight where they lay. As he walked away, countless bats burst from their hiding places and descended upon the rest of the corpses. They squealed in excitement as they licked up the cooled blood on the ground or just took it directly from the bodies themselves. John might have seen all of this, but he was far beyond caring now.