Bleeders: Chapter Sixteen Of “Bounty Hunter”

The only thing worse than vampires are their familiars. Mercenaries willing to trade their lives and service for supposed immortality. Blind human fools. In the past, they were everywhere. Law enforcement. Medical. Politics.

They were granted power in nearly every area of life. Every profession. In return, they were to follow and monitor every person or being not under the power of the vampires. Now, they form the rank and file of the armies of the main houses. Or at least their generals.

They have no clue that they are now only tools. The promises their overlords make are empty. Not intended to be kept. As those promises always were.

All are fools. They protect vain and selfish lords. The lords of chaos. But I am coming. I ride the wind. I strike even the bleeders and the fools.

And those who remain alive will see that even a vampire can die. But I don’t intend to leave any alive. Not intentionally. Master and puppets will all die.

I have heard that Dahner has large slave breeding pens where he keeps his blood slaves. If this is true, I shall free them and send them toward the safety of the missions. Then, I will punish his bleeders. And his vampire soldiers.

When I am through, I will destroy their master and his family. I will open a great wound in the Nation’s underbelly. I will expose them for the snakes they really are. But all in good time.

I forge onward in my journey to destroy Dahner. Johan Dahner dates to about the 1500s. If my information is correct. He was a Hessian lord who was known for his cruelty. And his fealty to the devil.

According to legend, he held daily executions just for sport. But he made one mistake. He attempted to execute a vampire who promptly bit him. The disease made him hideous and he hid away.

I guess I will get to find out. And I will learn if he has any heirs. Or a wife. But if he is hideous, then I doubt anyone would have him.

But first. I will deal with the bleeders. The familiars. Those misguided souls.

***

As dawn breaks, I see the faint outline of Dahner’s parapets. I have been walking for days. Without stopping. It would have been hard to keep up with me if one was following. But I have been followed. And, apparently, reported.

No matter. I stop. And wait. Soon enough, I hear the shuffling of tired feet. A bleeder.

He stumbles into me, not realizing I had stopped. I move too quickly for him to avoid me. And pin him against a tree. I disarm him.

“How long have you been following me? And who do you work for?” I press just hard enough to pin him. But not to cut his breathing.

“I-I don’t know what you mean!” He must think I am stupid.

“Do not lie.” I glare at him. “I know you are working for someone. You smell like a familiar. You have their scent on you.”

“Alright! Alright!” Typical human coward. “I am Dahner’s! He said I should bring you in. If I did, he would make me his lieutenant.”

“And you believed him. Typical greedy little human. You think it is all fun and games being a vampire? What happens when the humans run out because of your stupidity? The pens will encourage inbreeding. And inbreeding usually leads to extinction. Or don’t your brilliant overlords realize that?” I stare him down. “And besides. He should have warned you that I am also a vampire. And that I am more likely just to kill you than allow you to do whatever it is he wants of you.”

There is sheer terror in his eyes. “You’re going to kill me?”

“No. I want you to take a message to your precious commander. Tell him I am coming. And I am bringing Hell’s Judgment with me.”

“But he’ll kill me if I go back empty handed!” He is frantic. “What am I going to do?”

“Would you rather die at his hands? Or mine?” I am still glaring at him. “What if I send you back with no hands?”

I release him. He falls to the ground. I watch him run toward the fortress, staggering. He disappears in its shadow.

***

The human defenders of Dahner’s Guard fall swiftly. The lack of vampires in their ranks make them all too easy to kill. From the parapets, I look down at the parade grounds. I see the pens. The guards are cruel. They are toying with a female slave.

I whistle. One looks up in my direction. I raise my crossbow and fire. Before the second can raise the alarm, I have already reloaded and fired. Of course, raising the alarm would have brought him no aid. Nor would it have caused any men to come running from the doors along the upper walls. I have blockaded them all. Sealed them. I have even lacquered them with heavy pitch.

I drop to the catwalk. Then to the parade grounds. I seal the garrison and the armory doors. Barring them shut. And lacquering them with pitch as well. Not one window in either building is big enough for a man to fit through. I smile.

I grab a torch and light the buildings on fire. As well as the walls. a great bonfire rises into the morning air. Thank you, Vlad Tempes. You are such an inspiration this morning.

I go to the slave pens and break the chains. I look at the stunned slave girl. “Get everyone out of here before the whole place is engulfed.” I motion to the gate which is still untouched by flames. “Go!”

“What about you”” She stalls needlessly.

“I will be fine. I have one more task. Then I will join you outside the fortress walls. Perhaps I will be able to find you something better to wear inside the great hall. Now go!”

She nods and rounds up all the slaves. They follow her through the open gates. For the first time since the fall of man, they know freedom. I turn and head for the great hall.

I enter cautiously and go straight to the throne. I see the bleeder lying on the floor. I also see Dahner. I approach him slowly.

“Oh, don’t worry.” He still hasn’t turned to face me. “The familiar is still alive. And he did his job perfectly. He led you here.”

“You really are delusional. Aren’t you?” I am being sarcastic. “You really think I was led here?”

He finally turns. “Yes. Or else, you wouldn’t be here.” he motions to the bleeder. The man jumps up and rushes at me. I instinctively draw my knife and throw it. The bleeder is caught midstride and falls. “Good aim. Now let us see how you fair against a true swordsman and a great general.” He grabs up a pair of rapiers and makes his way to where I am standing. man, he’s ugly!

I draw my swords as he approaches. “A side effect of the change?” I motion to his face.

“No. Of countless battles and wars. Before the change.” He grins. “En garde!”

I raise my eyebrow. “A Hessian that speaks French?” I am goading.

“I have served in many armies for many kings. I have won many medals for many valiant deeds.” He is very proud.

“And yet murdered thousands on whims. As sport.” I frown.

“Da, Frauliene. And have tasted the blood of countless more! I am much more than you!” He is dancing around like a baboon.

“I doubt that.” I make the first move.

The battle rages for at least an hour. I grow tired and make the move that ends it. He doesn’t see my right sword coming in at his neck. I remove his cloak and wrap his head in it. I tie the cloak shut.

I go over to the bleeder and check him. Good. Still alive. “Get up.” I pull him to his feet.

“What are you doing?” he realizes that I am tying the makeshift bag to his back. as I do so, I patch his wounds.

“I am sending you with a message. I want you to take your master’s head to Tobler. Tell him that Hell is on its way.” I smile at him. “Now go.”

He doesn’t have to be told twice. He leads me directly to the hidden exit. It divides deeper in and he goes to the left and I remain going straight. I emerge near the small group of slaves.

I point north. Across the wastes. “Head that direction. Then turn back to the west. Head for the missions. They will give you sanctuary.”

They nod and head the direction I pointed. I watch them go. I hope they make it to the missions. I turn back to the fortress. I can hear the dying screams of every bleeder trapped in the buildings and walls. I hated to do it, but bleeders are worthless among other humans. Always trying to lead them to other vampires. Always thinking this walking Hell is worth kissing ass for. I turn and head west. Next stop, Faladay. Ah, an Irishman. I think.

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