February 22 at 12:00 AM
Photo courtesy of Neal Stammers
Lawson skulked the sinuous path, down to the shores of Vissorouy. Lord Vangley directed Laurent to spare some distance as they followed the hunter back to the estate. Lawson wandered the streets, lost in thought, the entire town now aware of his exploits.
He entered the stable, and rubbed his horse's snout, pressing his head up against it. "Taurus, how have you fared in my absence?"
The horse snorted, shaking free of the embrace.
As he turned, Vangley stood with the town draped from his shoulders, arms crossed. The elder said nothing, exploring the grooves of his empty sheath.
"What is she? Some kind of half breed?" said a vampire.
"Full breed, full predator." Lawson took out a pipe. "But she is not a vampire; she is something new. Enura inspires the forest; her army now larger than yours."
The hunter stepped forward. "Gentlemen, recklessly we cannot proceed. Entice ruin, and it shall find us. Abandon physical confrontation for now, and proceed cautiously, diplomacy as your only sword. You cannot slay her by conventional means, nor should you try."
"Then what shall we do? Let her slaughter us?" said another.
"To unravel Enura, we must pursue a course equally unorthodox." He lit the pipe. "What do we know thus far? We know she does not cower in shadows; bathing in sunlight without fear of being scalded. She is deadly to the touch, but only to your kin. Lack of sleep does not diminish her spirit, and her thirst for blood is legendary.
"From these scant pieces, we can deduce two parallel courses outright. First, all animate creatures require sleep; such is the law of earthbound creatures. Enura will eventually tire, and when she does, she will need rest equitable to all that has been expended. Likely she will sleep weeks, perhaps months, before she is revitalized. Outlasting her is our primary goal, for if we do, we can discover a means to expel her.
"Second," Lawson took a puff, and blew it in the air, "her insatiable appetite for blood will be her undoing."
Taurus whipped its tail, brooming its master away.
"Gluttony is her cross to bear, and we shall crucify her on it. Blood is not water; it is a spawning ground for disease, one that can prove fatal to a host. Vissorouy her new home, new maladies await. Is she immune to all? No creature can say for sure. So blood must exist that poisons her. Since she naturally prefers vampires, I believe the answer lies in your mortal brethren."
"Spoken like a true vampire hunter," Vangley quipped.
Lawson offered his pipe, and took another puff. "What we know thus far about her attacks on humans is that they have been limited. Differences in body chemistry could explain the blistering you've described. Enlightened brethren, you must weigh heavily on your mortal allies at this time, and I will be able to tell you more after the morrow. Above all these ramblings, above all this conjecture," he smirked at Laurent, "I shall crack the riddle no one has been able to unravel." He scanned over each of their faces. "What is it she truly seeks?"
The town nodded, a brief admission taking the hunter by surprise.
"To go out at night, among a legion of vampire, armed with only your wits, takes courage," Talmot stepped forward, his limb heavily bandaged. "It is an honor." He offered his one good hand.
"Yes, an honor," Essinger offered his as well.
The elder finally shook his head. "An honor indeed." Lord Vangley smiled, and took Lawson's hand in his.