Archive | November, 2013

Ryders Story: Chapter Twenty Six

24 Nov

Chapter Twenty Six

“Head in the fight Kingston!” I quickly ducked the claws of the werewolf Jeremiah and I had pinned to a wall and switched my focus back to our task. Not that it mattered; there was no way it was getting loose on my watch, even if I was distracted. It was strong beast, but thankfully it was ‘wounded’, so that made it containable. “Ryan anytime now boy” the two of us rammed the struggling creature harder into the wall, while Ryan approached with his specially designed silver syringe. We all knew one of two things was going to happen, the creature was either going to die, slowly from silver poisoning or he would become a man again. The cure had been very successful last time; the man lasted four whole days before he died. Though Ryan assured us that he had the mixture just right this time and he was almost certain that death was no longer going to be a ‘side effect’ of the cure. He stabbed the oversized syringe into the creature’s heart and it howled an ungodly sound and then went lax in our grip. Jeremiah and I let go and it toppled to the ground. No sooner than it hit the ground, I was shoved hard in the shoulders. I stumbled only a step before I turned, glaring at Jeremiah.

“What is your problem man!” he threw his hands up in exasperation, his cheeks were flushed and sweat dampened his brow just below his hat, even though the weather had cooled substantially of late.

“My problem at this very moment is you friend, so you’d best back off, before I make you.” I had to do my very best to keep my fangs hidden where they should be. Though the biting pain on the inside of my lower lip told me I was not doing a very good job.

“I’ll back off when I’m good and ready son,” he punctuated that statement by stepping further into my space, which was foolish but sadly he was unaware of just how foolish, though in my current mood that might change. My temper had been wearing thin of late; much more than usual and that seemed to put me at odds with most of my companions. Ryan was about the only one I was yet to lose it at but that was merely because he was so hard to get angry at. He was just so very reasonable and that was frustrating in itself but somehow it made me more annoyed at myself, than at him. My little mental breakdown a year back had opened my eyes to how mortal my friends were and that how easy it would be for me to lose any one of them. This revaluation might have led me to ask the woman I loved to give her life for me, so that I would not have to fear losing her. If she became what I was, I would have no need to worry, but she had not liked that idea. True, she was more than friendly about her refusal and I know how wrong of me it was to ask that of her but I honestly could not watch another person I loved die, not again. I was sick of death, I was sick of mortality and I was sick of the constant worry. Knowing that death is something that could only be forced upon me was turning out to be a bigger curse than what I had become. My last salvation had been ruined when Ryan had given up his pursuit for a cure. He had managed to find a way to stop the turning process if the remedy was administered quickly enough, but he had found no cure for vampirism.

The steady rise and fall of the wolf’s chest slowed and the soft thudding in his chest followed suit. In an attempt to be the bigger man, I decided to ignore Jerry and inform Ryan that his latest test subject had died.

“Odd, he’s still transformed, usually they change back,” he knelt down next to the body while I stepped away from Jeremiah, who was now doing what he was meant to be and keeping lookout. The metal of the silver stake was cold against my already cool skin as I palmed it. I told myself that I did what I did because I was trying to exhibit caution, but deep down I knew that was only partly true. Without another thought I rammed the stake into the werewolf’s heart. Though stakes were primarily for defence against my own kind the silver ones worked just as well on any kind of shape changing creature. Its eyes flew wide and a low whine escaped its lips. As the ‘dead’ wolf died, again. The huge form shrunk with a series of sicking cracks and in only a matter of minutes there laid the body of a boy, naked as the day he was born. He would have been no older than seventeen. Ryan uttered a curse then a prayer, as he closed the boy’s wide eyes. I stared at the body knowing I should feel something, regret, sorrow, guilt, but I felt nothing; even when I looked to the faces of my companions and saw all those emotions and many more. Sad to say that of late, I had turned to old demons to help me cope with things I just did not want to deal with. Though they did not work as well as they once had, they filled the void I could feel in my chest. I knew without a shadow of a doubt that with each passing day I was losing more and more of my humanity. From a hunter’s stand point, I’d known it would happen; I had seen many vampires in my time and had noticed that the older they were the less human they seemed. But I had merely assumed I would be immune to that, though it seemed I wasn’t. The only good thing I could take from it, was that I still cared that it was happening and that my increasing lack of compassion, kindness and general human decency bothered me even if I was not compelled to changed it. I knew that soon there would come a day when I would cease caring, when it would seem foolish to have even done so in the first place, but that day had not yet come and as much as knowing it would pained me, I was still glad it hadn’t for the time being.

“Was that necessary, he could have reverted with time, now how will I know if it worked.” Ryan pulled my stake from the boy’s chest and examined the blood on the tip for god knows what. He didn’t seem annoyed nor did his tone convey the emotion his eyes hid, he was completely clinical. The scent of the blood from the fresh wound made the back of my throat burn. He was dead, which meant that even if I had felt the need to go ravenous, I could not drink it anyway but the smell of fresh blood was proving too much, I turned on my heel and started walking away from them.

“I assume you will deal with the clean-up,” I called over my shoulder as I put distance between myself and them, I heard a number of varying responses but I paid them no mind. I just kept walking. There had to be a bar, or saloon somewhere in the hick town because I intended to quench my thirsts, both of them.

I wrapped my hand over the prostitute’s mouth in an effort to stop that infernal moaning. It made it feel too sleazy when they did that, to avoid pain and distress I had no other choice but to seduce them into an intoxicated loll. I took a long draw on my bottle of whiskey, relishing the burn that out matched the natural, unpleasant one. The skin under the tips of my fingers was smooth and warm; the woman in my lap was beautiful and remarkably sweet, considering her profession. Her skin was free of lines and blemishes that would come with time and her scent still held an innocence. She was new to this, so very new. Wisps of silky hair brushed my face, as it escaped its tie, in perfect brown ringlets. She was so soft, so sweet, so unlike what I was used to, which of course made her perfect. I shushed her as my lips met her throat. My fingers teased the soft pillows of her lips as they fell away from her mouth to ensure she was able to breathe sufficiently. I kissed the skin over the throbbing vein once, twice and deeper on the third; sucking at the skin a little so she wouldn’t find it odd when I did bite her. I let my elongated fangs graze the skin leaving scratches just deep enough to break the skin, but not enough to cause unpleasant pain. As soon as I was sure she had breathed in enough of the pheromone to dull her natural responses to a predator, I sank my fangs into her pale skin. Her back arched away from my body and the breasts that were already straining against the whale bone in her corset pushed into my hand. I brought my other arm across her stomach, careful not to tip out the overpriced whiskey in my hand. I let my other hand fall to her thigh which seemed to be just as bad with the way she was squirming and writhing in my hold. She wanted something I was not willing to give her, even though technically, I had paid for it. The urge did not last long and as I retracted my fangs and licked the area clean she fell all but limp in my arms. I laid her out on the bed and sufficiently rumpled my clothes for her mistress’s benefit. Not that it took much. I had lost my gun and my coat in a game of cards, which only confirmed my theory that I should not gamble whilst drinking and had already been in somewhat of a state from hunting when I had arrived. I took another long draw from the nearly empty bottle before reaching for my discarded hat. With a deep breath I dragged my nails down my face so deeply that I knew the scratches would not heal before I left. Just to be sure they didn’t, I pulled the holy water from my pocket and gave myself a facial cleansing. The water burned hotter than fire against the skin of my hands and face and I actually stumbled almost losing what was left of my drink. I now had a way to explain the blood on her dress if someone should ask and I would be sure that her madam saw my face before I left. I drank what was left of my whiskey while I waited for the effects of the holy water to wear off. They didn’t last long on skin which I was thankful for, it was just the initial pain that was got us. But on an open wound it would be days before it healed correctly. I paid the madam and assured her ‘I liked it rough’ just to cover my own tracks, the puncture wounds would heal within the hour and bruising on the neck was nothing new for a prostitute. I looked between the bar and the tables, then to my last tenner. Neither would bring me much more than temporary enjoyment and Nathaniel was already going to be onto me about the money I had wasted. I took a shot for the road and walked to the compound. I was mostly sober when I arrived, or should I say not nearly as drunk as I probably needed to be. I was met at the gate by an unlikely companion. Kelly stood, hands on her hips with an almost two year old Judas, playing in the dirt by her feet. Unlike his mother he smiled brightly when he saw me and stumbled forward to meet me. I scooped him up which was a mistake because I too stumbled in the process and a very angry Kelly snatched her son from my arms. The boy started to cry and she bounced him on her hip as I gave her a lazy smile. She did not return it.

“Who do you think you are Ryder Kingston? Running off in the middle of a hunt! Coming home hours later drunk and endangering my children. Quick frankly I’m sick of your attitude lately, we all are,” I rolled my eyes and moved to walk past her. “No. Don’t you walk away from me; I’m not done yet,”

“Kelly, go berate Jeremiah. What I do and how I act is none of your concern. You are not my wife,”

“And your damn well lucky that I’m not mister! Christine is a damned fool letting you carry on like you do. Oh and about that the two of you have been together since before I met you and you haven’t been man enough to make her your wife. For reasons unknown to me she loves you and you repay her by going out, getting drunk and sleeping with working girls. Don’t you even think of denying it, I was one, I know the look and girls talk Ryder. I have ears everywhere; it’s why I’m so good getting us information. I’ve heard things lately Ryder and I know you’re up to old tricks again, and hell I get it. You’re good looking and I’ve heard very good things about your skills in the bedroom. Hell, those few minutes we had together were damn near magical but it’s not going to last forever Ryder. Christine will wake up and realise she deserves better and you’ll be left with no one. Good looks and charm don’t last forever, one day you’ll wake up and everyone will be gone. You’ll be all alone and it will be too late to fix it. You get one shot at this Ryder, stop wasting yours,” her words cut deeper than I’m sure she intended to because they were true, totally true. Whether I changed or not, one day I would wake up to find myself all alone, missing people who are long gone, destined to watch everybody I love grow old and die. That thought alone was what had gotten me into the state I was but having it thrown in my face was more than I could handle. I like to think I wasn’t the type to go on a woman but I also wasn’t known for my pristine anger control and my temper snapped.

“And what makes you the damn expert on how I should live my life. Don’t you think I already know exactly what is going to happen? What do you think I see every time I reach the end of a whiskey bottle? You cannot see the future, no one can. But I have a pretty good idea what it’s going to be like. So what makes you think you know what is coming and what gives you the right throw it straight back in my face!?”

“I’ve seen it Ryder, a hundred times over. I know what happens to men like you. Life, it’s not kind Ryder and reality isn’t any kinder. I don’t want to see you end up like them Ryder. I know deep down you are a good man, you deserve better than what life has dealt you. But life doesn’t apologise if it gives us a shitty hand, it leaves it up to us to make the right calls. Don’t let people take those calls away from you Ryder but more importantly don’t take them from yourself.”

“You right life’s not fair and I did deserve better but my choice were taken from me long ago. I do the best I can with the hand I was dealt but sometimes that is not enough Kelly. Preach all you want about a better life but know it’s for nothing,”

“I’m only trying to help you Ryder!” I kept walking despite the fact that I knew she was following. “I have a feeling it didn’t though. Shit, Jerry!” I didn’t hear so much as sense Ryan fall into step with me. It was odd really; I always knew when he was around without even having any physical proof. I guess all those months I had spent drinking nothing but his blood has linked us in a way neither of us could have expected. I was not sure if he felt it but I had never mentioned it because I knew it would be the experiment of the century for him and I was done playing lab rat.

“I have this theory,”

“No,”

“I haven’t even told you what it is yet,” I knew he had stopped walking only because of the connection between us. I stopped as well a few metres from him and sighed.

“My answer is still no, Ryan. I’m sick of experiments, I’m sick of tests, I’m sick of theory’s and hypotheses and all those other things that you talk about, but most of all I’m sick of not understanding a word that comes out of your mouth. I assumed I would learn eventually but no, whenever you start talking I stare at you blankly and hope I do not miss the point. All while wanting to scream ‘SPEAK ENGLISH MAN!’ until you actually grasp the fact that I am not overly intelligent, a fact I only learnt when I met you, so no I do not care and I don’t want to hear it,” I took a deep breath, kind of shocked by what had actually come out of my mouth. The things I say astound even me sometimes. He blinked a few times then gave a small smile and pushed his glasses up his nose.

“Ah. You’ve been drinking, well we’ll talking the morning, when you want a hangover cure,” he said and I had to resist the urge to bare my fangs at him in a snarl that would have made his ancestor’s soil themselves. I ground my aching teeth and tapped my foot so hard and fast I was surprised the earth didn’t tremble. “Anyway, good evening Ryder,” I watched him walk away to ensure that he did in fact leave and prayed to whoever was listing that I would not run into any other hunters before I reached my room and began my grovelling. Thankfully when I reached the door it wasn’t locked and since it was only just past sundown I figured there was no chance I was going to wake her. Catching her in a good mood would only improve my chances, as would showing up at a decent hour; being sober might have helped as well but two out of three was not too bad. Christine and I had fought this morning, over her involvement in our current werewolf hunt. She insisted she go, I insisted she not and well the rest was mostly yelling and stubborn pride. She had vowed to never forgive me when I’d left this morning but she’d had twelve hours to cool down, so I figured with a little grovelling and promises that I honestly did not intend to keep, I would be able to sleep in my own bed tonight as opposed to the stables.

I walked in to find Christine polishing one of my silver swords. Though that could be taken out of context if repeated, the action was a strange one. It was true I believed in maintaining one’s weapons but Christine was not a sword person. She said they were brutish and old fashioned, which made them my ideal weapon. Yes, my girl was a real charmer. She was more partial to daggers and throwing knives for hand to hand. There were two ways I could go about this and either had the potential to go horribly wrong. I could bring up the sword polishing to break the ice or I could start with an apology. I knew which one would probably be better.

“When I asked if you would polish my sword, this isn’t exactly what I had in mind,” yes, I know, I think it has been well and truly established that I never listen to myself. She looked up and my two hundred year old sword clattered to the floor. I reached out instinctively but it was of course too late. Trying to hide that extremely obvious move, I gave a small wave before stepping further into the room. As soon as her gaze met mine, the temperature in the room dropped ten degrees.

“Why did you run out of Jerry and Ryan?” I stared at her dumbfounded I had not expected that to be the first thing she asked. I spoke without hesitation. Since she knew my true nature, I did not have to lie. It was one of the few things that would never change.

“I had to,” my voice was pathetic, even to my own ears but thankfully Christine seemed to mad to notice.

“You had to? What was so important that it couldn’t wait?” I sighed knowing the truth would come out eventually. You would think after all these years the fact that I was a vampire would have gotten easier to handle when it came to the two of us but it hadn’t and as well-adjusted as Christine tried to be she was only human, it was something that she would never understand.

“Blood lust, love. Love that is what couldn’t wait. It is not something I can politely ask to hold off until I’m ready to deal with it. It comes on when it does and it has to be sated. I was seconds away from draining a dead werewolf in front of Ryan and Jeremiah and we all know what happens to vampires that ingest dead blood. Not to mention that fact that I very well might have turned on them. To quote your brother, I left to deal with a biological need,” she just stared at me like I had told her I’d gone off to boil kittens, though biting the neck of a prostitute is not exactly that much better.

“Ryder you know you can talk to me, right? I know I said to never speak to me again this morning, but if there is something going on with you, you can talk to me.” her voice was gentler than it had been in weeks and I honestly couldn’t respond. How could I tell the woman I loved that I was losing control, that the thought of spending eternity alone was turning me into a monster. I couldn’t, because even if deep down I knew it to be true, I was not ready to admit it, especially not to her. “Ryder?”

“I’m fine love; I’m just tired that’s all. It takes a great deal of effort to maintain the level of control I do. I just need a little time to recharge my batteries. I promise I will keep it civil and I’ll try not to run out on anymore hunts unless it is absolutely necessary. Okay?”

“No, you do what you need to Ryder. Run if you have to I’ll always be waiting when you get back,” I had to close my eyes against the stinging in them. It took all I had to stay upright as the crushing weigh of reality settled on my shoulders. I was not sure how long I could do this, but I wasn’t positive I could walk away, not again. I took a few quick steps forward and took her into my arms. She didn’t resist me in the slightest. I felt her fingers grasping at the shirt over my shoulder blades and her head came to rest on my shoulder. There was desperation in her actions and that did nothing to ease my sense of impending doom. It seemed I was not the only one who knew what was coming.
As was the case most nights I held her as she slept. Christine suffered with terrible night terrors. When I was younger the nuns in the orphanage told us that night terrors were caused by demons stealing our good memories while we slept. Though I now knew better; even back then I knew that it couldn’t be possible. One would first need good memories for the demons to take. But every night as I watched Christine’s silent screams, I knew the demons she faced in her dreams were quite real. It was yet another peril of the life we had chosen to lead. A soft knocking at the door drew my attention. It was well past three in the morning. All the children on the ranch were tucked into their beds and all their parents should have well and truly retired by now. Usually I was the only one ‘awake’ at this hour, so the knock at my door could only mean one thing. Trouble. I untangled myself with practiced ease and Christine did little but stir, as she curled back into the blankets that filled my absence. I had the distinct impression that they would be just slightly warmer than I though. In nothing but my undergarments I crept my way to the door and opened it just enough to see out. Jeremiah was standing there fully dressed, armed and ready for a fight. He looked up and what I saw in his eyes told me all I needed to know; absolute terror.

“Ryder we have a visitor. I think you are going to want to meet them.”

My Little Maggie

20 Nov

It’s been a few weeks since I have posted anything, which was not what I intended to do when starting this blog but I had a good reason.

Last week I lost my first pet. Now being twenty two you would think by now I would have lost at least one but I was lucky in the fact that my pets have been with me most of my life which made losing her so much harder. So last week on Wednesday I had to put down my baby girl Maggie 😦

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Now I know I was lucky in a way, I got to spend eleven lovely years with her as my best friend but I wasn’t nowhere near ready to say goodbye and I think it was one of the hardest thing I have ever had to do. We grew up together and as a kid your pets are your whole world. Out of every one in my family I was the only one that could get her to come out of hiding at bath time, the one who taught her all the tricks she knew and the only one that didn’t care that she had the compulsive need to lick you constantly. She had always been there for me when I was sad and I could always rely on her cuddles when I cried.  It was like losing a family member and even now almost a week later I still walk outside expecting her to run up and meet me at the door for a hug.  Its funny the things you miss about pets, it’s probably the things that used to annoy me most when she was still alive. I miss her barking at ungodly hours of the morning because someone walked past the house. I miss how she used to chase mice then keep them in her bed like they were her babies, even if she had accidentally killed them while catching them.  I miss the way she used to always climb into my lap for hugs every time I would sit down on the deck and how she would bully the boys into getting her own way.

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People keep telling me that it’s okay she was just a dog but to me she was so much more than that. She would listen to me when no one else would; she loved me even after I told her off. She made me feel better when I didn’t think anything thing else could and I loved her for it. It’s the kind of unconditional love that you can only get from family. Though I’m sure it will get easier as time goes on but right now it’s hard and there won’t be a day that goes by that I won’t miss her in some small way. Maybe one of the worst things now is thay Woof and Titan seem lost with out her and if there was ever any doubt about it I can assure you dogs do grieve. It took two days before either of them would even eat their dinner without her.  Titan, though almost three times her size, is taking her absence the hardest. He wasn’t quite old enough to be taken from his mum when we got him and Maggie had always treated him like he was her puppy, no matter how big he’d gotten.
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He’d smelt her on me, then moved everything in and around her bed looking for her. he’d even gone as far as dragging her kennel away from the wall to check behind it just in case. I’m not sure he understands and it’s almost just as hard to watch him mope around as it was to see Maggie suffering.  So i Guess he will miss her as much as I will 😥

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So consider this my tribute to one of the best friends i will ever have.

Goodbye my baby girl, I love you and I miss you more than I even imagined I could.

Ryder’s Story: Chapter Twenty Five

17 Nov

Chapter twenty five

 

I tackled Dwight; the two of us hit the ground hard. When I looked up again the air around us was filled with black, blue and purple smoke. I helped Dwight to his feet and we stood silently, staring around at the carnage, we were not the only ones. Most of the town had come running and they were all staring at the crumbled remains of the barricade. I broke the silence when I whistled for Mutt, fearing the worst for my canine companion. His response was a low growl, as he bolted to my side and crouched on his haunches, staring at the huge Zombie horde that stood motionless in place of the town’s barricade. As the smoke cleared the sheer size of the group became clear, there must have been a couple of hundred of the creatures standing motionless among the carnage. Floating above them on a glowing cloud of dark magic was a man whom I could only assume was the Shadow Man. He was dark skinned and his clothes were primitive. He had small bones acting as piercings in various parts of his face and his hair was long and tied in many small braids. His teeth were straight and white; the smile he wore was one of pure malice. Ryan and Cassadee had emerged from the gaol, behind me and I could see Christine and the witch by the doctor’s office. Alexander’s huge form stood out from the crowd that was gathered, many townsfolk almost cowering behind him, he was armed and ready. Dwight was brandishing his shotgun and Christine appeared to have my sword. Even Ryan and Cassadee were prepared with a set of six shooters that would probably be of little use among this crowd. Thankfully, I had been paranoid enough to keep the Fairy prince’s dagger on me; I drew it from its sheath and fell into a fighting stance.  We were unprepared but we all knew our roles, we had discussed them and yes this would take some improvising but this was our only shot. God help us if we botched it. The eerie silence was broken by a menacing laugh as the Shadow Man’s dark eyes were fixed intently on mine.  One shot.

 

“I hear that you were looking for me fair one,” his accent was thick, thicker even than the witch’s, almost making it difficult to understand his words. Though thanks to magical assistance, he could have been speaking another language and I still would have been able to figure it out. His question was clearly directed to me, so I stepped up to play my part. This was going to hurt, I was sure of it. I shot a quick look to Christine, I wish it had been one of love, because if I made a blunder there was a good chance that the group of zombies would tear me limb from limb but I had to make sure that she was with me on this, thankfully she was.

 

“Indeed I was Shadow Man. I am Ryder Kingston, and I think it is time the two of us talked about these creatures you have summoned,”

 

“Talk? Ha!” his laugh seemed to echo in the chilling silence. Each of his words seemed to float around me; lulling the fire to fight within me. The feeling worried me and I feared that the knife would not be enough to stop him from using me as a weapon. I pushed away that doubt, it was something we had planned for; I was not afraid to die and would willingly do so before allowing myself to be used like that again. True to my nature I decided to forgo the talking but sadly it seemed the Shadow Man had the same idea I did. I threw off my coat and charged. The zombies went wild spilling into the town centre, whilst the Shadow Man calmly floated where he was. That was bad; he needed to be down on our level. I could probably pull off the mid-air fighting, but I would be the only one, even then it would not be for long. Doing the only thing I could think of, I leaped into the air. I would just have to take the fight to him. Landing unsteadily on the shoulder of a Zombie I ran, now when I say ran, I actually mean I moved at a sort of, stumbling hop. It was not as easy as I assumed to do but thankfully the spontaneity of the move seemed to take him by surprise. My tackle was weak by my standards, but being stronger than your average human man we went down, harder than necessary. The creatures parted as we hit the ground, keeping a good distance from us as I attempted to pin him. Really, I should have seen it coming, but before I knew what hit me, I was flying through the air, in agonizing pain. I hit what was left of the barricade, hard and was immediately surrounded by zombies; they proceeded to attack, ripping flesh from my bones. I had no idea how I was going to explain that away, if I survived that is. Suddenly all the biting stopped and the rotting, stinking corpses, that were only a few seconds ago eating my face, backed away. The deep menacing laugh sounded close by. It was then I realised I had curled into the foetal position, with a groan I straightened. Oh damn, that was so going to hurt in the morning. I dragged myself to my feet to find the zombies studiously ignoring me in favour of mauling the townsfolk.  On the downside of that, I was now standing face to face with the Shadow Man, which undoubtedly meant more pain for me, long drawn out pain and suffering, thanks to vampiric resilience. Pain not pending, I had done my part keeping the Shadow Man thoroughly distracted, breaking every bone in my body, repeatedly. As if on cue I went flying again. This time I didn’t even try to pick myself up, he so generously decided to do it for me, grabbing me by the throat and lifting me up off the ground. Choking, even though I did not even need to breathe, I clawed at his hands. I’m not usually one to panic but when I felt the cold bite of his magic trying it’s damnedest to overtake my mind, I might have indulged, just a little.

 

“I do not know how you block my magic old one but know I can feel it slowly working its way past whatever defences you have.” The sting of his magic was cold, not at all like the burn I had felt so many times before and he was right, I could feel it snaking it was into my body. “I have already managed to stop you from healing, but it seems for now that will have to do.”

 

“Wow” my voice was little more than a breathy grunt, as I pulled my head back and head butted him. I had little hope that it would work but much to my surprise he dropped me and stumbled back. The creatures stopped attacking, appearing dazed. He clearly wasn’t expecting that either. Everyone took advantage of the momentary lull, while I used it to take stock of the injuries that weren’t healing. I had a few vital chunks missing, the majority of my right calf and a good portion of my shoulder. Not fatal by any means but they would slow me down immensely, I rolled my good shoulder to ensure that it was still working properly  and waited for the Shadow Man to right himself. “That’s a grand old trick that but sadly you are dealing with a masochist friend, so bring it on, in fact I insist” I growled. He snarled at me as he straightened, his teeth bared as if he intended to use them. I had the vague notion that it was an odd thing for a human to do but the thought was fleeting, as among the fray I saw Ryan brandishing my sword. That was not part of the plan; he was not meant to have it. I watched him cut down creature after creature on his path toward us. No, this wasn’t right, the Shadow Man was not weakened yet, Ryan stood no chance if he was to face him. I looked around, which in hind sight was rather foolish and noticed a few things at once. The first was Christine and Daphne, who were quickly making their way toward the clearing the two us stood in. The second was that Dwight was also closing fast, a foolishly determined expression on his face. The final thing took me by complete surprise. Once again I was knocked flying but in the midst of my most recent in air venture, I was left wondering what it was lunging at the throat of Shadow Man. The following series of events happened in only a few seconds but as I hit the ground and scrambled to right myself, I could do little but scream. Mutt, my loyal faithful dog latched onto the Shadow Man’s shoulder with a savage growl, I focused on that sound, it seemed to be the only thing I could hear. The Shadow Man blanched, cried out and took hold of my animal ripping him away. His grasped poor Mutt by the throat and even over the deafening sounds of battle, the only thing I could hear as the Shadow Man broke my dog’s neck, was his final strangled yelp. It was like watching part of me being taken from myself and the pain I felt was almost that of losing a child. I fell to my knees staring at the body of the most faithful friend I had ever had. A scream ripped from my throat, I have no idea what I yelled or if I had said any words at all but I didn’t care. All I could see was my dog’s body lying still by the Shadow Man’s feet. I lunged to my feet, blinded by rage. Kill. It was the single word that my mind could offer and I flipped into full vampire mode without even realising. My fangs punched into my mouth, tearing at my lips and puncturing my gums as I ground my teeth. My hand clawed but did not morph as they had when I had been high on elven blood. I was crouched, like an animal ready to attack. A roar ripped from my throat and I advanced, only to be once again stopped in my tracks. Time was still at a crawl and I saw it all happening, as though in slow motion almost before it transpired.  Dwight was driving a knife in an arc toward the Shadow Man, who was slowly turning toward him hand at the ready. Daphne was suspended in the air diving for Dwight trying to intercept the Shadow Man’s imminent attack. Behind them, coming from different sides through the slowly snapping creatures Ryan and Christine moved a full run clearly wanting to stop what was transpiring. As if it was a band that had been pulled too tight time seemed to go into hyper drive to make amends for the suspended state of the last few moments. I threw out an arm but as fast as I was there was no stopping what I knew would happen.  The Shadow Man whirled and drove a hand straight into Daphne’s chest cavity, just as the force of her body sent Dwight to the ground.  Her eyes widened in shock and she stared down at the hand that was no doubt at this very moment clasping her heart. She threw her head back in a silent scream and light, as silver as the reflection of the moon on a clear lake, exploded from her enveloping first her and the Shadow Man, then the rest of us. The magic forced me to knees, my fangs sliding away and my body submitting to it’s command. As suddenly as it had started it ceased and I lifted my head to see Ryan standing behind the pair, my blessed silver broad sword driven right through both bodies. The Shadow Man looked stunned for a second but that was all he got because Ryan ripped the sword free before swinging it in a mighty arc removing his head at the shoulders in a bloody spray.  Both bodies crumpled to the ground. Dwight crawled slowly toward Daphne, pulling her bloody corpse into his arms. I grew weaker and weaker with every second as I looked around at the now lifeless corpses that littered the ground. Her final act on this earth was to do as she had promised, to help us defeat the Shadow Man; maybe I had been wrong about her all along. I heard Ryan and Christine’s voices, though they sounded as if they were far off in the distance but I knew as soon as one of them took a knee beside me and draped a coat over the worst of my injuries that it was me who was far away. The final thing I saw before the magic took me was Jeremiah and Edward leaping off their panting horses and moving toward us at a dead run.

 

As usually happened, I awoke sometime later, feeling dazed and not at all connected to my body. That of course was not unusual after I had been hit with a necromancer’s magic. Something I was having far too much experience with, that’s was for sure. It took a few tries to regain enough control to reach down to find the furry head of… I froze my hand hovering above my own thigh as my memory kicked in. I bolted upright and looked toward the end of the cot, only to find it empty. Knowing it was foolish I checked the floor beside me only to find that barren as well, with the exception of my boots.  No! It could not be true, it just couldn’t. I was not ready for this, not yet. My eyes searched the room blindly, seeking something I knew I wouldn’t find.  All the energy I had had fell away and I slumped into myself, my head falling into my hands. My chest ached in an all too familiar way. I registered a female voice but it was as if I was surrounded by a haze. Centuries of heartache and loss a mere inch from the surface, threatening to break free; threatening to break me.  Gentle hands fell onto my shoulders. First the right, then the left and I didn’t push them away. Nor did I acknowledge them in the slightest. I was too busy trying to hold together the mess that was my mind. I had lost so much over the years; hurt so many, done so much I regretted. The only way I was able to get through each day was by pushing it all down locking it away, in a place I never needed to go. I was not equipped to handle the emotion I had hidden for so long; last time my dam had burst I had slipped into to insanity and had only regained it because I had been compelled to do so. As the soft touch turned into an embrace all my years of loss, all the pain I had ever felt, all the heartbreak I had ever experienced, everything burst to the fore front of my mind. Blood red tears slipped from my eyes, the silent sorrow soon progressed into body wracking sobs. All because someone had killed my first love, because someone had slaughtered my wife and children, because someone had ripped me from the one place I could have been truly happy and finally because someone had killed my dog.

 

By the time the others were ready to start the trek back to Nathanial’s ranch, I was feeling at least semi sane, the pain was still there but it think I was doing well hiding it, for the most part anyway. A couple of new companions accompanied us back to the ranch. It seemed Dwight had decided to take me up on my offer to join our campaign and Cassadee decided that she couldn’t allow her brother to pursue such a thing without her. In actual fact I think her decision had more to do with a certain tall, blonde doctor than anything else. Said doctor was equally agreeable with the plan and I was glad Ryan had finally found someone that could not only handle his quirks but embraced them. Life continued as usual for us and so began the hunting families of the modern day.  Nine months later our young Ryan found himself a father to a beautiful baby boy, a surprise we all welcomed. Everything was going well, though my relationship with Jeremiah was becoming strained. He seemed suspicious; comments about my appearance once made in jest were now starting to resemble accusations and to top it off it appeared that the Old West was rather rapidly developing a demon problem.

 

Ryder’s Story: Chapter Twenty Four

1 Nov

Chapter Twenty Four

 

The red headed man rushed up to us as we exited the building. We had been introduced but I could not remember his name, not that it bothered me. He looked to the witch’s face, then to my hand on her arm. “Daphne, what are you doing here?” he asked, confusion in his voice.

 

“Where is the gaol?’ I demanded, meeting his hard stare; he pointed toward another building and without a word I shoved Daphne toward it; she stumbled but stayed on her feet. He followed which was irritating, but there was nothing I could do about that. It wasn’t difficult to find the cell Cassadee was in, the three of us stopped just outside. She was lying on the cement floor, shaking uncontrollably. The bite on her arm was a mess; the skin had started to rot and infection streamed from the gash. Her skin was tinged grey and slick with sweat; she looked as though she’d caught the plague. She moaned the sound fading to a pained whimper. If it wasn’t for the fact I could hear her heart beating, I would have already thought she had become one of those things. “Unlock the door!” I ordered the red headed man. He stood frozen, staring at the poor girl lying on the floor and stammered something unintelligible which only served to increase my irritation. “Do it. Now!”  He man jumped, startled by my outburst. Daphne put her hand on the man’s arm as he stared at me wide eyed.

 

“It’s ok Dwight, open it,” he nodded and pulled a ring of keys from his pocket. Despite the momentary lapse, I got the impression that Dwight was in charge around here. He opened the door and Daphne walked in. She knelt beside Cassadee and the sounds she made showed how unsure she was. She looked to me and I’m sure my expression told her what was going to happen if she didn’t heal the poor girl. “I cannot promise this will work, it is not what I am good at,”

 

“Try” I snapped, crossing my arms over my chest. I knew exactly what she was good at, I had firsthand experience. She took a deep breath and the hum of magic filled the room, along with that fiery scent that most magic had. This was some kind of protection magic that much I was sure of; it did not feel all-consuming or evil and I could only assume that was a good sign. Daphne laid a hand on the other woman’s body, she shuddered and Cassadee started to convulse. Dwight rushed into the cell; he had tears in his eyes as he begged her not to turn into one of those things. She finally stilled and Daphne looked toward me.

 

“It’s done,” out of nowhere Dwight threw his arms around Daphne, thanking the heavens and her. He glanced at me, nodding his thanks. It was curious; clearly the pair had some kind of relationship other than mere acquaintances. I unfolded my arms; now that it was done I felt the intimidation routine may have been unjustified. True one of the women in front of me was capable of taking away my free will but, anger aside I wanted to believe Christine when she said it was a miss understanding.

 

I left them to their hugging and praying and walked outside. Mutt met me by the door and I leant down to pat his head. Ryan was leaning against the doctor’s office, a cigarette hanging lit from his mouth. Christine stood in front of him a hand on his shoulder. Looking at the siblings you would automatically assume they were twins, though Ryan was taller; he was in fact two years younger than his ‘little sister’ as he called her. The pair looked remarkably similar. I had always seen them as an unbreakable force, if you messed with one you faced the other’s wrath and somehow, over time, I had entered that equation. Both, despite what I was, the pair had shown me nothing but undying loyalty, a loyalty that I would return in an instant. The two had become family and that thought made me smile; it had been so long since I’d had family. I walked toward them slowly, not wanting to surprise them, since they seemed deep in conversation. Christine looked up; her worried eyes met mine across the distance. Mutt let out a low growl, at my side; then a hand wrapped around my bicep and I was spun around, to face an unfeasibly big man. I had to look up to meet his gun metal grey eyes. His dark hair, which was a similar length to my own, was hidden by a bowler hat and he had on what I would describe as a poor man’s suit. The jacket and pants were made of cheap material and the waistcoat some kind of hide. The width of his shoulders was almost double that of my own and he was muscular, though at the same time hefty, his large stomach straining the buttons on the hide vest. His face was hard, though it might have been considered handsome under different circumstances. I found myself actually taking a step back from the giant of a man; which was absurd, but frankly unavoidable. He stared down at me; I could not help but think he seemed familiar, though I could not recall ever meeting the man before.

 

“Afternoon good sir,” I said, halting my retreat. I hated how unsure my voice sounded but, it seemed, even a vampire could be intimidated by sheer size. His stare didn’t change and when he spoke his voice was strangely, friendly.

 

“Y’all are the monster hunters my father sent?” he glanced over my shoulder, so I did the same. I caught a glimpse of Christine behind me and I could only guess Ryan stood off to my other side. My guess was confirmed when Ryan spoke, his deep voice taking on the hard edge he used when he felt threatened.

 

“You must be Alexander. It’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance,” Ryan stepped forward and held out a hand. I was starting to think the man had no self-preservation instincts at all. The other man took his hand and much to my surprise he didn’t crush it in his huge palm as part of me had expected.  I could see the resemblance to his father now that I knew what the familiarity was and I wondered idly why this was the first time we were meeting. To avoid looking like the coward that I was inevitably being I held out my hand, after he released Ryan’s and introduced myself. Christine was next, when he bent at the waist and kissed the back of her hand, a small part of me wanted to rips his head off for daring to lay his lips on my Christine. Alas, as usual my more rational side informed me how tedious a task that would be, but I guess more importantly that it would not be considered a normal reaction.  He spoke quickly, telling another tale of how things had transpired and how he, being the mayor had to do what was best for his town and had put up the barricade. Dwight, whom I had assumed was in charge around here, was merely the sheriff and I had to respect the man’s sense of duty. When he was done talking, he left and it was Christine’s turn to drag me away, by the arm. Ryan followed behind us in silence. That dark haunted look was still washing his features out. I hated to see it, as far as I knew the woman would be fine and as soon as I was sure of that, I would get the information I needed to put an end to this plague.

 

I waited, watching Christine. I knew she was going to have something to say about me going all alpha vampire on the witch but I had no choice, I had to ensure she would do as I wanted. Asking nicely would have gotten me nowhere!  Moaning, groaning, growling and grunting filled the air, it was a strange ambient noise that was rather easy to get used to. It was also a good indicator that we hadn’t gotten all of the zombies, there were still more and as long as they were around they would keep multiplying.

 

“I’m not ok with how you handled that situation, but I know what you did, you did for my brother so as much as I want to be mad about it, I can’t. I said the same thing to him; I can’t really believe I had to. We are hunters, not barbarians. We fix our problems civilly. We do not set dangerous magical creatures loose on people and we do not use our supernatural powers to intimidate people who have already agreed to help us. I understand your frustration but what you didn’t know was the south has a very big vampire problem; Daphne thought we were with them. They refused to help and there are only a handful of people with Daphne’s kind of magic. Daphne told me of a shadow man who lives in the swamp; he alone has the power to cook something like this up. He uses a magic I’m not familiar with, Voodoo I think she said it was called but that doesn’t matter, she also told me that if we can get her close enough to this shadow man she can block his magic with her own. It will be a very small window and we will only get the one shot at this. Daphne will need a day or so to recover from healing Cassadee, the barricade is holding steady and the influx of those creatures is slow thanks to our cull, all we need to do for now is hold down the fort, the rest just needs time,”  I nodded

 

“Excuse me? one of you is a doctor correct? We need you to treat Cas” Dwight’s voice cut off my response. I was starting to tire of magically enhanced humans, I’d never been overly fond of surprises and these ones in particular just seem to enjoy sneaking up on me.

 

“Yes I am,” Ryan replied, stomping out the half smoked hand rolled. I stared at him. I happened to think that him being alone with the woman that just hours ago he tried to kill, was a notoriously bad idea. But voicing my doubts meant I would have to admit to the assembled group what he had done and the reason behind it; which would make his initial actions redundant. So I kept quiet; as much as I wanted to I couldn’t honestly say Ryan wouldn’t hurt her further. Ryan never really did do what was expected. I was going to have to keep an eye on him, preferably without him knowing, less messy that way. My gaze followed Ryan and Dwight as they walked off together. I considered following but there was no way I was leaving if Christine still wanted to talk and if I tried there was no way to know what she might do, no doubt that too could get messy.

 

“Yes that is a sound plan,” I muttered, finally responding to what she had said. Though the fact I wasn’t even looking at her, made it obvious that my attention was elsewhere.

 

“Seeing how you are clearly done listening, I will keep an eye on our witch. If she is lying I’ll find out.  Later when your head is in it, we need to talk,” my attention snapped back to her at those dreaded four words.

 

“My head’s in it. We can talk now.” She smiled, clasping my hand, before stretching up on her toes and planting a soft kiss on my lips. I was surprised; she never really did anything like that in the open. She was a very private person and the only reason the other hunters knew we were dating at all was that she considered them family and felt no need to hide around them. I felt a smile form on my lips; it was an expression I had not worn in so long that it felt unnatural.

 

“Don’t sound so worried Ryder; I was just thinking that the two of us never really talk much. We should change that,” I stared at her, wondering what had happened in the time I was unconscious. I was all for not talking, in some ways it suited me fine but I would do anything she wanted and she had to know that. Taking a risk, I snaked my arms around her and pulled her close, leaning down for a proper kiss. She didn’t resist me or even try and pull away before I was ready to let her go, as she usually did.  I pulled away a little so I could take her in; my mouth moved of its own accord; my thoughts turning to words without my conscious permission.

 

“I love you Chrissy,” Christina stared up at me, looking almost as shocked as I felt for actually saying it. It wasn’t like it was recent news. I had loved her longer than she had probably loved me. I couldn’t say what it was but thanks to that witch something had changed between the two of us. There was a closeness we had been missing in our relationship. If it turned out that we didn’t end up having to kill the witch, I would have to thank her. She leaned up and our lips locked again in a slow tender embrace. The moment lasted for an eternity, yet far too quickly she pulled away.

 

“I love you to Ryder. Now go keep an eye on my brother, I know you’re dying to,” the smile that split my face was a bright one and for once I didn’t have to fake a single thing about it. It was genuine.

 

“I think that ship has well and truly sailed love,” I replied on a laugh before I turned and jogged back toward the gaol.

 

As expected the next few days were uneventful, sometimes I passed time by killing zombies though that was losing its appeal. I had no doubt in bigger numbers these violent creatures could cause some serious damage but our culling had left them manageable. Though I will admit these newer ones were faster and stronger than the first wave we had faced. Daphne told everyone I was a warlock, an English version of their shadow man. It was a plausible enough excuse for my abilities and most people seemed to buy it.  Cassadee was recovering very well, despite the fact she was still locked up. We had no idea if there would be repercussions because of her coming back from that and obviously there were not any other cases to compare hers to. Ryan in his remorse spent most of his time caring for the woman and not doing much to help us find the shadow man. Truthfully, neither was I. I was the last ‘person’ that should be walking up to a necromancer of that power. If something happened to my pendant this town would have a far worse problem than the zombies and it would be me. I found it strange that Daphne of all people didn’t understand the local vampires desire to have nothing to do with this mess; she was after all a necromancer, one who knew her particular skills with magic could control our kind. But after she figured out that I was not one of the local blood suckers, their presence in this part of the swamp done nothing to hinder our plans. We were not here for them though, and from what we could tell they caused little trouble, Alexander was already handling them himself. Which it seemed he had been doing long before his father joined our motley crew.

 

Never the less, they were a problem for another time. In fact, we were facing a problem far bigger than any of us could have imagined. Ryan was falling for our Zombie doctor.  Which was obvious to us all expect to him and the doctor in question. I stood alone in an adjoining room, as I usually did and just kept an eye on the situation. I had stopped worrying that Ryan would make another attempt on her life about the time I had noticed ‘the look’ in his eye. He liked her, really liked her, not that he would ever admit it. I was sure he probably had no idea how to deal with the whole thing.  Because as far as Christine knew this was the first woman she’d seen her brother show any interest in. She had once told me she was almost sure his interests lay elsewhere, this being the reason he had warmed up to me so quickly; as amusing as that was, I did not believe it in the slightest. It was surely something I would have noticed.

 

“So he only drinks your blood?” Cassadee asked her deep voice back to normal once again. This was actually the first time the subject of my being a vampire had come up. Which was what had gotten her into this mess in the first place.

 

“Yes, there were too may unknown variables; I needed him on a controlled substance. It is only small amounts daily. Larger quantities, should I need to study his blood work, but they sustain him longer, so there is little risk in providing what he needs,”  Ryan’s voice was, as usual, matter of fact. I was getting bored by all the science talk. It was almost what I imagined school to be like. So much learning, I knew enough, thank you very much, without having to hear all this babble. It was nearly enough for me to contemplate abandoning my post sometimes, though I had made a promise to both Christine and Dwight, also truthfully I didn’t have much else to do. Mutt was asleep, curled up by my feet and part of me really wanted to join him.

 

“And he doesn’t mind?”

 

“Well, yes he minds, he objected at first but I helped him to reconsider,”

 

“My brother was the same about capturing those creatures for me. I’d convinced him I was in no harm while studying them; I assume he won’t be providing me with more,” her voice was sad and Ryan’s response was a long time coming. I knew without even having to see him what he was about to do and I nearly blew my cover to stop him but when he spoke I froze mid step. The regret in his soft voice was nothing I had ever heard before. His voice held so much anguish, that it hardly sounded like the Ryan I knew.

 

“Cas, I have a confession to make” there was another long pause and it was Cassadee that broke the silence.

 

“You loosened the straps?” it was at once a question and a statement, as if she was seeking conformation of something she already knew. But he didn’t give it to her. Not audibly at least. I was left wishing I could see through walls.

 

“How did you know?”

 

“You did it to protect your brother-in-law, I understand he’s family. I would have done the same thing if you were endangering Dwight. Family is more than blood, there are too few out there that truly understand that. I’m not saying it was rational but the way you chose to do it suggests you did not want to hurt me, not really. There were many far easier ways to kill in my lab alone and that was an uncertainty.”

 

“I’m sorry. Cas I truly am. I should have asked what you planned to do with your findings rather than act illogically. I know I am not good with people and honestly I am even worse with emotion. I brush it off so often, that I tend to act before thinking when I’m overcome by it, I have not learnt proper coping methods as of yet.”

 

“I know I should be but I am not mad at you Ryan. Because I understand completely, no matter how illogical it seems. You were protecting your own, I respect that,”

 

“You are an amazing woman Cassadee. Truly astounding,” there was no response to that and it was quiet for a while. There was only the sound of breathing and, wait, hello! My curiosity got the better of me and I snuck a peek and promptly wished I had not. A soft moan punctuated my retreat and I all but ran from the building to give them some privacy. Good for you Ryan.  Having to abandon my post as a necessity didn’t seem like a failure of duty and despite the fact I may never get those images erased from my mind, I found myself smiling. What can I say, deep, deep down I was a hopeless romantic. Despite knowing better I was all for true love and love at first sight. I had experienced them both; making it hard not to believe in them.  What was funny was Ryan didn’t believe in either, so their relationship might prove worrisome.   I leant up against the building I had just exited, I truly had nothing better to do and did not particularly feel like spending time with that witch. Dwight joined me about five minutes later and we talked about what it was like to do what the Peterson’s and I did for a living. Recruiting was not really my main goal but I found the offer to join us leaving my mouth without hesitation. He looked taken aback for a second before nodding.

 

“Thanks, I’ll keep that in mind,” he said almost shyly, I gave him a reassuring smile.

 

“Please do. We don’t have a sheriff in our crew yet… and if you do decided to take me up on my offer and come face to face with a loud mouth group of outlaws, do try to keep an open mind,” he returned my smile and laughed. Sadly I figured he thought I was joking, well surprises aren’t always a bad thing. Dwight was an alright young man and he was easy to get along with. He was one of those men who could turn anything into an interesting conversation. We continued talking while Mutt chased various insects, leaves and other, often invisible, items. Finally our conversation drifted back to the reason we were here. I assured him we had everything under control, our plan was in motion and everything was going to be fine.  No sooner had the words left my mouth, the barricade exploded in a shower of shrapnel and a huge piece of it was flying right toward us.