The twilight was queer indeed; a blood red moon that seemed as if to bleed into the sky, leaving it congealed in the dusk. For a vampire hunter, this was expected. Whenever the sky was a blood-red, it meant trouble.
Up the mountain he went, his face scarred and cracked, a peculiar saw-like weapon on his back. Wolves howled somewhere in the distance. A fine welcome this is, thought the hunter.
He, as a poor contractor seeking work hunting vampires and lycans, had learned of a coven of the freaks that had sought refuge in a mountaintop retreat, a great bastion that once was home to the ruling count of the vale, now usurped by bloodsuckers and monsters of the night.
He had been promised a bag of gold, a horse (though rather sickly-looking), a local harlot to keep him company on the road, and a morsel of food by the peasants of some local hovel town, not too far from the mountain's bastion retreat. He had liked the look of the wench, and had given her a sickening smile of approval. Her hair was black as coal, her breasts modest, her flitting eyes beautiful yet fearful. Fuck your gold and gruel, I would be happy with just her, he had thought.
Though the sky was previously red, it was now black as the night swept over the land of Drazcroll. The hunter stood outside the closed portcullis, awaiting some form of welcome. "Hurry up, you bastard usurpers, I don’t have all day!" he called cockily.
Some form of creature emerged from the shadows of the forecourt, shuffling its way toward the gate, grunting and snarling, sometimes sounding pained.
The creature appeared at the door, more were-dog than werewolf. He stood on his hind legs but appeared to struggle to do so. His ears were floppy like a cocker spaniel's. "Be gone, human!" it growled, trying to sound more threatening than it was. "Lest you wish to be tonight's main course."
"I'm afraid I taste quite awful, I can assure you. Worse things than you have tried to have me as a feast," said the hunter, rather unperturbed. "Fetch your master, if you would be so kind. I know vampires are smarter than people realize, and I am one who does. I studied vampires, studied them since I was a child, and I wish to make an arrangement with the one who has usurped this bastion. Hurry now, it's frightfully cold out here."
The dog-creature growled in protest, but seemed to prefer this vampire hunter's persona more than the other would-be hunters that had tried to raid the bastion before … and failed. In fact, he seemed genuine. Men feared vampires. They were clever and cunning, wise yet dangerous, not to be taken lightly. The creature shuffled slowly away, back into the shadows of the castle. The hunter stood shaking for the cold.
The portcullis was raised suddenly, pulled open by some unknown force. Magic? The hunter was intrigued. Definitely dealing with vampires, then.
The hunter passed the threshold quickly, so as not to be squashed as the gate thundered down behind him, and made his way to the entrance. As he wandered through the forecourt, he could hear ghostly whispers all around him. Either a threat or a way to deter the fearful and ignorant into fleeing for their lives, the hunter thought.
Inside, the castle was indeed an impressive sight; it was almost homely. "This way," said a chillingly distant voice from somewhere … or nowhere.
The hunter followed, still unperturbed by the ghostly sounds that littered the air of the castle. Shut up, will you?! the hunter wanted to scream; he knew this was a vampire's way of using fear as a security measure. He continued to wander the halls to where the voice called him.
Sat in a grand and luxurious solar with a roaring fire at the hearth was a powdered and wigged man, dressed in all kinds of finery, though his eyes and blood-red lips gave away something else, something hidden but not hidden enough. He sat crossed legged in a snug little chair reading a book of some forgotten age, a large ponderous tome. The hunter stopped at the threshold of the door, barely visible save for the candle and lantern light of the solar. The powdered man lowered his book … and smiled.
The hunter removed his saw-like weapon, not to initiate combat, but to simply place it against the wall; the hunter was ready to talk.
"Greetings to you, strange one," said the creature, casting aside his book to the floor, gaily leaping up from his seat. The creature acted in some extravagant and theatrical way, clasping his hands together as if pleased to meet this ragged man's acquaintance. "Welcome to my home. I'd offer you a drink, but I doubt you'd like what I have to offer."
"This ain't your home, kid …"
"Kid?" The vampire sounded disgusted.
"You're a young vampire, I can see, still trying to come to grips with your new necessity. You don’t like the idea of being a creature of the night, do you? Don't like being a hellspawn demon? No, you want to be somebody, don’t you? Why else would you slay the master of the bastion and threaten the peasants down in their little dirt villages? You want to play at being in power. Perhaps you never got the chance when you were still human."
The vampire giggled a girlish titter. "Darling," he said flamboyantly, "I fear I have no idea what you mean. I am a gentleman, a gentleman of this abode. And you're my guest. Sure I can't offer you anything?"
"I'm good, thank you," the hunter insisted.
"Why, darling, you look famished. You're almost as skinny as I am. But I like to think I look better. Tell me, do you like my attire? Gorgeous, isn't it?"
"Stunning," said the hunter facetiously.
"Now, here's a queer situation - a vampire hunter and a vampire nattering away with an almost kindly, gentlemanly approach. Almost seems like a bad joke, if you were to ask me, dear fellow." The vampire hummed and spun, snatching up a wine flagon and a golden chalice, and filled it up with what was undoubtedly blood. "A queer smell lingers in the air with you, dear hunter. I know I have a knack for smelling the blood of humans, but I smell human blood that is old on you. Were you in some frightful brawl or something recently, or perhaps you kill humans as well as vampires?"
"Only when I have to," said the hunter.
The gentlemanly vampire tittered again. "But why, though? Is it for self-defense, or something else, perchance? That old blood on your skin, hmmm, yes, very interesting, I smell fear in that blood."
"Quite the nose you have," the hunter grinned.
The vampire spun, his tailcoat following him. "Got it! You eat humans, don’t you?"
"I try not to make a habit of it. I do it only when I need to."
"So, a vampire who feasts on the blood of humans meets a human who shares my taste for blood," the vampire chuckled, sipping his blood drunkenly.
"I don’t eat blood, only flesh. Blood doesn't sit well on the stomach for us humans."
"Darling, I'm starting to find you most fascinating … I'd even say I might like you."
The hunter grinned sickeningly.
"Now, tell me, darling," said the vampire, "what is it you want of me?"
The hunter took a few steps forward, now face to face with the creature of the night. "I want to make a deal with you, dear host."
To be continued.