February 26 at 11:00 PM
Photo courtesy of Cherie Wren
Shafts of light slipped through the cracks of the boarded window, coaxing the hunter from his sleep. He removed The Conquest of Massadin from his chest, and considered its parting wisdom. "Defenses," he uttered.
Lawson stood, and wandered a few rows back. "Laurent?" he called. "Laurent, please wake." He shook the broken pew.
The vampire did not rise, not even when Taurus licked his pale face.
"We must leave at once, Laurent."
The vampire cracked open his eyes. "I dreamt of a goddess kissing my brow, but as often the case, she turned out to be a horse." He brushed the long, black locks from his face.
Taurus bowed its head, and sneezed.
"I also dreamt a waterfall washing over me. Might it have been?" He sniffed his clothes.
"Come, we must see to the town's defenses." The hunter stepped towards the door.
"Lawson, it is day. I cannot come with you." Laurent rested his head back on the pew.
"Would you trust me alone?" Lawson asked.
Laurent pondered for a moment, and then got to his feet. "I shall grab my cloak."
Despite the loss of able hands, construction of the Black Swan continued at a rapid pace. Lawson could not believe his eyes when he opened the chapel door, and caught sight of the workers framing the successor. As he walked through Town Square, Laurent kept to the shade, black hood and scarf concealing his face, caramel eyes piercing out.
The hunter walked through the middle of the street, tugging Taurus along. He slipped a lens from his pocket and gazed into it, spying the hilltop. Though apart from its assembly, the eyepiece still offered a hint of the mist threading in and out of the trees above.
"The brambles could enter the city at any time, and with mist as cover, shatter Vissorouy before she discovered herself in pieces."
"Not if we torch the forest first." Laurent relaxed on a nearby porch.
"You saw what lingers there; we cannot presume it will be any easier burning it down." Taurus towed Lawson to the shade. "And we cannot claim advantage if Enura guesses our next move."
The young vampire languished; sweat falling from his clothes as he leaned against a post.
"Suppose we do get lucky, and burn down every last tree. What then?" Lawson slipped the tool back in his pocket. "Do you expect her familiars to dawdle while we burn them to a crisp? More likely, they will arrive at our door, slipping through Vissorouy's scant defenses."
"If we slay her, none are necessary," Laurent replied.
"By equal sentiment, no longer shall we need to torch the forest. But if we do engage that course, countermeasures must be in place if the plan unravels."
A carriage rolled up, and a bald man with rough edges jumped out. He limped around back, and peeled back a sheet, exposing a stack of wooden crates. He hobbled into the store, and a moment later returned with a barrel hoisted over his shoulder. Lawson smelled the strong scent of sulfur as he doddered by, and eased the barrel onto the cart.
"Excuse me sir, is that gun powder?" Lawson asked.
"Aye." The man wiped sweat from his brow.
"Perchance, is it bound for Lord Vangley?"
"Indeed, vampire hunter. For the bonfire you're setting tonight," he grinned.
"Very well, thank you."
Lawson watched the man drape the sheet back over the explosives, and wobble along in the carriage.
"Good news, Laurent. No longer will we be sleeping in the chapel."
"Fancy that." The vampire stood.
"Your offer for lodging at the estate house is accepted. Someone needs to keep an eye on the forest, and spy on her from the appropriate angle." Lawson fidgeted with the Galilean in his pocket. "But first, I shall need a word with your father."