Chapter 25

Peace indeed, she is awoken by the whisper of boots, swift as the justice of God upon the battlements, the air is heavy with the scent of the grave, Death Dealers.

She closes her eyes and listens closely, out in the snow they creep ever nearer like a plague, she can hear her Lycan brothers they are readying themselves; the sound of bones shattering the night and the tearing of skin calls to her, the wolf crawls beneath her snow white nightgown.

She falls to her knees as the window opens, her heart threatens to choke her, she is at her most vulnerable whilst the beast breaks the shackles of her mortal body.

They will come with silver and fire.

The window is forced open, a figure all but concealed by the shadows peers into the chamber, and drops softly to the flagstones.

The white wolf rises to meet him, a monstrous creature with eyes like twin stars; he raises his sword and strikes, the beast howls in rage and pain, the silver is the Vampire's guardian against his feral foe.

Behind him the Death Dealers have already hurried on, their leader, Kraven, has laid their plans with agonizing care and there is not a moment to lose.

The Lycan and the Vampire circle each other slow, cautious, each half afraid of the other, he of those fangs that glitter like pearl and she of a sword of silver, she turns and tears away, he blinks for a moment and then gives chase with an enraged cry, sword raised.

Everywhere there is the sound of death, cries and screams too pitiful to withstand, he finds a comrade fallen, his body torn apart and savaged most cruelly.

His boots are wet with blood, where is the cursed beast?

He rounds the corner at the end of the corridor; bodies lie cut down like wheat at the harvest, their armor black as obsidian glimmers like midnight waters, blood as red as wine soaks the walls and floor, for the first time in a hundred years his cold, dead heart is caressed by the most mortal of all emotions…fear.

He closes his eyes and for a moment he thinks to flee this place.

To run and never look back.

Viktor would execute him for such cowardice; he has no choice but to go on.

The amber light from the flaming torches lights his path, he descends the stone steps cautiously, listening for the slightest sound.

Nothing.

He spies the door of the great hall, and there in the opening he sees Kraven!

They have taken the castle!

He rushes forward and throws wide the doors, as Kraven finishes what he had begun to say, "I shall keep my end of our bargain, Lucian. I shall be the only survivor." He turns to the Death Dealer and stretches forth his hand, the lesser vampire looks down, as long, icy fingers force their way beneath his skin, as his heart is torn, still beating, from his chest.

Kraven turns back to the Lycan master and his horde, "And now to your end of this. I must have proof of your…death."

He tries to keep his eyes from the bodies of his vampire brothers, he is blessed indeed that the Lycan's thirst for blood is matched only by their lust for vengeance.

The deal is simple enough, the Death Dealers are all dead but Kraven, he will claim the glory as the only survivor; and the slayer of Lucian

In return he will help hide Lucian and his men…and woman's continued existence from the Coven, and then; when the hour is right and proper, Lucian will destroy Viktor.

His cold eyes hold the foul creature's gaze, this dog will be of use to him.

Lucian turns to Erzsebet and hands her the knife from his side, she shakes her head and a hurried whisper passes between them, she sighs and nods, he strips his shirt and holds out his arm to her, the brand of Viktor stands out cruelly against the pale skin, Kraven watches the woman raise the dagger and press it down, blood fills the air and pulls at the vampire's stomach, but the blood is cursed, impure: it would probably poison him anyway.

The woman holds a shred of raw, bloody flesh, the mark hangs in the air before the Death dealer, he reaches out and snatches it from her.

Out in the snow and the moonshine the raven-haired vampire mounts his horse and glances back at the castle, a sneer touches his lips.

A hero's welcome awaits him.