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A Bad Joke (3)

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The hunter's hand gripped his saw blade, preparing himself for an attack.

 

The creature had lunged out from the darkness, all teeth and claws … but somehow he was deterred. It was not the fear of the hunter; this creature seemed as fearless as the hunter was. He was curious to why another vampire was traveling so casually alongside a human, prey. "Curious scent, this," said the vampire, sniffing the air.

 

He's an old vycan, this one, the hunter noted. Old vampires were all the more dangerous than the whelp or fledgling vampire. The older a vampire got the more ravenous they became, the hunter knew. They were stronger, more ferocious, more intelligent … and less human-looking; they would begin to take on a form of their own.

 

This one was tall and skinny, but the hunter knew better than to underestimate him by simply judging his build. His face was more like that of a wildcat than a human; Skin pale as snow, eyes like a wolf's, and claws like bird talons, sharp and long fingers. "Curious," said the beast, his voice deep and whispery, inhuman. "One would assume that I've caught you on a nightly hunt. Sorry to have interrupted." He did not sound in the least bit sorry, and his evil smile confirmed it.

 

The hunter's undead companion remained incredulously unstirred; he wasn't one for fighting, even in un-life, and there was no way he would come to blows with this other, older vampire. Guess I'm going to have to kill him all by my lonesome, then, the hunter realized.

 

The cold bit all around him; this night was already proving the night would be a hard one, and killing an old vycan was hard work, especially just on your own. "Nice looking stick you have there, human," said the old. "Be careful, now, you might prick me with it."

 

"I intend on doing more than pricking you, demon. I plan on sawing your damn head off. Best way to kill a vampire, I've found."

 

The old chuckled, bared his brilliant white teeth, sharp as razors. "Cocky. I like that." He looked to Vassaquin, who looked almost shaky. "And what about you, brother of the night? Are you going to join me in feasting on this walking meal, or are you making friends with the human cattle now?" He chuckled again.

 

The hunter gestured to the beast, undeterred by the vycan. "Vassaquin, is this the one who turned you?"

 

"Indeed so, darling," said the powdered vampire, placing his hands on the hunter's shoulders, cowering behind him. "Oh my, he's as monstrous as I remember. Frightfully gruesome fellow, is he not, dear?"

 

"Please get your hands off of me," the hunter insisted, and Vassaquin obliged.

 

"Vassaquin?" The elder sounded intrigued. "Is it so? Could you really be that pansy little powdered princess that I was sent to feast on?"

 

"Sent?" The hunter was curious at that, and raised an eyebrow.

 

"Oh strike him, darling, rather brutishly, if you would. He should be shunned for saying such slanderous things about oneself."

 

The hunter turned to Vassaquin. "Just … let me handle this, if you don’t mind."

 

"Yes, it's true, whelp. I turned you because I was ordered to. By your own father, for that matter."

 

Vassaquin gasped flamboyantly, covering his mouth with both hands. "Balderdash, I say. Balderdash and piffle at such words!"

 

"Careful, Vassaquin. You might offend him with such beastly words," the hunter japed.

 

"Oh, how wonderful," said the elder, circling the two travelers like a tiger. "Come for revenge, have you? It's your own father who ordered your death. I found him on this very trail, wandering home from a game hunt of sorts. 'No!' he pleaded me. 'No, don’t. Please, spare my life, spare it and I shall give you my son, my only son, if only you spare mine. I can tell you where to find him, and there shall be others too for you to feast on'. And, oh, how true to his word he was. He told me how ashamed of you he was, how you visited buggery brothels at night. And what a find it was. So much flesh to tear apart, so much blood to feast upon. Tell me, how does it feel to be thrown under the wagon by your own flesh and blood, Vassaquin?"

 

Vassaquin would have wept at hearing this, but vampires could not cry. However, his heart sank when he heard this fiend speak, and somehow he knew it all to be true. Father really did never care for me, he thought.

 

"Enough chitchat," the hunter hissed. "I got a job to do here. Vassaquin, stay out of our way." Vassaquin fled behind a tree and poked his head round to watch as the two began their combat.

 

A roar, then a lash came from the elder vampire, and the hunter parried, spinning away from the creature. His saw blade slashed with an up-thrust, tearing flesh from the elder's arm. He shrieked in agony, almost loud and high enough to smash glass. He sniffed his wound. "Garlic? Seriously? You coat your blade in garlic?"

 

"I would coat it in raspberry sauce if it aided me in killing vampires," the hunter said with a smile.

 

The duel continued. The elder was now in a fury, his attacks hard and fast, and the hunter just managed to parry every one of them. Vassaquin winched at every strike, and the hunter appeared to be struggling. A slash across the elder's knees just managed to temporarily disorientate the vampire, and that was when the hunter seized his chance. He hacked downward, slicing an arm off the elder. The vampire lashed at him with his other clawed hand, but the hunter dodged with a spin, taking that chance to slice off the other hand.

 

The elder roared and screeched, now ultimately unarmed and unable to fight back. The saw dug into the side of the elder's neck, and the hunter began to hack away, blood squirting and pouring from the vampire. As he sawed and sawed, the hunter was soaked from head to toe in his enemy's blood; he did the best he could to keep it from his eyes.

 

Eventually, the head gave way, and thudded upon the ground.

 

"Darling, you're a mess!" Vassaquin noted, coming out from behind cover. "Is that it, darling, did you do it? Am I cured now?"

 

Looking upward, the hunter shook his head. "Afraid I may have lied to you, Vassaquin," he said as the orange glow of the dawn cracked through the darkness. "There is no cure for tainted blood, like the blood you have."

 

"I don't … I don’t understand."

 

The hunter shook some of the blood off himself, placing the saw blade on the ground. "I needed his head, literally. His name was Ashador. Someone paid me to kill him. That's why I needed you, Vassaquin. Besides, once that sun comes out, there's no way you will live to see the morrow. Not properly, anyway."

 

There was a subtle sadness when Vassaquin spoke. "You mean … I'm going to die … regardless?"

 

"Afraid so. At least I avenged you, before you died, and at least you got to see the one who wronged you get his just reward."

 

"You lied, darling. How could you lie to me? I thought you were helping me. I would have done as you asked, you know."

 

"I believe you would."

 

"The villagers - they didn’t ask you to do this, did they? They never did complain about me."

 

"I'm sure they do, Vassaquin. They're just too terrified of you to do anything about it, and no doubt they would be too poor to pay a vampire hunter. My reward was better than anything they would have had to offer."

 

The sky was lighting, and Vassaquin felt queer. "Who paid you to kill this Ashador?" he asked, sadly.

 

Still covered in blood and tissue, the hunter looked up at Vassaquin. He saw the sun rising in the sky and knew that soon the young vampire would turn to stone any minute now.

 

"Darling, tell me. Tell me who paid you. At least tell me that."

 

The hunter paused a moment, pondering. "Your father," he said finally.

 

Vassaquin looked ready to cry, though he knew he couldn’t. "But … but … he hated me. He has always hated me, ever since he found out what I was, about the buggery and that."

 

"He loved you. He told me so himself. He felt distraught that he was cowardly enough to sentence his own son in order to save his own life. He knew you would have become a vampire, and he urged me to spare you, but I needed you so I could find your malefactor, dear host."

 

"I feel strange, dear," said Vassaquin, as the sunlight begun to gleam through the trees.

 

"The sun - it kills vampires. Don’t be afeared, it won't hurt. I've heard it's more like a feeling of pins-and-needles."

 

Vassaquin began to chuckle softly. "Ha! It almost … it almost tickles," and after that, Vassaquin would never speak again; his whole body was eventually turned to stone.

 

Bryus awoke to find the early morning sun beaming through the window. But that was not what had woken him. The sound of stone scraping against stone broke the still, quiet birdsongs in the background. He dragged himself sleepily from the bed of his chamber and approached the window. When he looked out he saw the vampire hunter dragging what looked like some form of statue behind him as he approached the manor.

 

Bryus met him outside. "Good hunter, you have returned. I trust our arrangement has been met."

 

"It has." The hunter pulled the decapitated head of Ashador from a sack, still bloodied and monstrous, and threw it to Bryus' feet.

 

"Yes!" said Bryus, both startled and intrigued. "That's him! I recognize him, the fiend who turned my son." He looked up at the hunter. "My, what a mess you are."

 

The hunter shrugged dismissively, covered in monster's blood, now dry. "It's all a part of the job. You have my price?"

 

Bryus paid him in gold … and quite a weighty bag at that. "What's this, now?"

 

The hunter awkwardly turned the statue around, to show Bryus what this was. His breath caught in his throat. "Hope you recognize him. He's at rest now."

 

Bryus was speechless at first. "He looks so … peaceful. He almost looks like … well, himself. I thought he would look more grotesque as a vampire, but it's not as bad as that."

 

"I thought you might want him back, here at home, where he belongs."

 

Vassaquin's father was lost in sadness. "Perhaps he'll find some peace here. Thank you, hunter, you didn’t need to bring him back, yet you did so anyway. I feared you might slay him too."

 

"He was more use to me alive … of sorts," said the hunter, vacantly. He saw Bryus place a hand on the stone shell of his son, a sense of longing panging within him. "Will you bury him, have a funeral?"

 

"No," said Bryus, sadly. "I prefer him to be here with me. I want to see him every day until the day I die."

 

"As a reminder of how you loved him?" the hunter asked.

 

"No. As a reminder of how I failed as a father," said Bryus, tears flowing down his cheeks.

 

The End.

 

 

 

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