February 21 at 12:00 PM
Photo courtesy of Thomas van den Berg
Lord Vangley could not help himself as he sent the young commanders to their deaths. "Vissorouy breeds the finest soldiers. Farron and Alain are promising youths, always have been since their fathers took them on the hunt. Today they lead a humble army; tomorrow they shall have kingdoms of their own."
"Then they shall do so without the tools of war," said counsel.
"The corpses that litter the battlefield, is it because of the sword or stratagem?"
"Both," said Lawson. "So you send out your army, half-strength."
"This is a vigil, Lawson. Enura is but one."
"Among vampires, there is no such thing as vigil. And this one that haunts you, drives you to mortal counsel."
Lord Vangley chuckled at Lawson's biting words. He surmised that he might have to kill the prick after all. He bragged on and on about the tactical advantage of tree bounding, and that no army, no matter its size, dare take Vissorouy by forest.
As cries came over the hill, the elder's cheer melted to genuine concern. He pressed forward to get a better look as a barrage of needles cut down the fleeing battalion. He caught one of the men as he crumbled, quills covering the length of his body.
Laurent pushed his father aside as more arced down, embedding in the tree next to him. "Father, we must seek safer ground."
The elder looked up as thorny brambles spun through the forest, snapping up men as they fled.
"Fire kills brambles," Lawson said coldly, scooping up a sprig, and igniting it.
The elder's face darkened. He pushed Laurent aside, and stormed off.
Laurent froze, conflicted, unsure whether to follow or remain. He brushed his raven locks aside, shedding the confusion, and stood his ground.
The hunter spread the torch over dry leaves and twigs, creating a wall of fire. As he nodded to Laurent, a cruel hand swung down and walloped the hunter. Lawson bounced off a tree, and fell to his stomach. He raked his fingers over the torch as the wickwood snatched him up. As the creature forced the hunter to its mouth, Lawson inserted the torch. Flames flared up the tree, igniting the branches. Neighbors cowered, fearful of the firelight.
Though the fruitless timber now ablaze, it continued crushing down. Laurent grabbed a burning stem, and cast it over the roots. Finally the wickwood eased its misshapen fingers, dropping the hunter free.
"No, Lawson," said Laurent, helping him to his feet. "Our most useful tool is community."