In The Dark: Chapter Twenty Of “Bounty Hunter”

I stand face-to-face with Friedrich. I shake my head. “They entrust you with a city?”

He has a stupefied grin on his face. “Of course, my dear. I am one of Jason’s favorites. And I deserve to rule.” He begins with his strange maniacal giggle. Not what I would call much of a manly laugh.

But then again, he isn’t much of a man. Or a vampire. He has run from every battle we have fought. He has also lost a limb in every battle.

I look at him. “You know you will have to stand and fight sooner or later don’t you?”

“I prefer later.” He is still giggling.

“So you’re just going to run again, Huh?” I smile.

“Not until I see if I can best you.” He becomes serious.

“Then quit giggling like a little schoolgirl and fight already.” I grin.

My swords flash at the ready as soon as I see him go for his. He lunges. I dodge and block. he retreats. I reset. He parries. I block.

I find an opening and make my move. His sword arm falls to the ground. He howls in pain. He grabs his sword and runs. Again.

With a puff of smoke, he is gone. The coward. I shake my head. Turning, I leave the empty fortress. Setting it on fire as I go.

I turn briefly to see the walls crumble to ash and dust. Odd. None of the other fortresses had done this. Why is this one doing so? And so quickly.

But the bleeders have all fought to the death. No surrender. No quarter. So we have no mercy.

I wonder how many times I will have to endure Friedrich. How many battles will we fight before he is forced to stand and fight? His running irritates me. Makes me detest him.

***

We’re moving on Kansas City now. From there, we will turn south. From what I have heard, the Underground intends to regain lost territory in Oklahoma and Arkansas. Then turn north into Missouri.

If we can strengthen this region, we can cause the vampire power to be divided. And this will make it easier to defeat them. Drive a wedge in their center. Make them rely upon their own.

Not a bad idea. I remember it from a history lesson Truva gave me. The Unionist armies had done the same to the Confederate armies. Went right up the Mississippi River.

But they used a navy. We have no such luxury. We don’t have boats. Or cannons. Or anything that could do as much damage.

We only have a handful of guns. Crossbows. Long bows. Swords. Knives. Slingshots. Catapults.

Primitive. Yet effective. And the pounding we give the enemy makes them long for an end. But this seems to have no end.

***

Kansas City. The once proud city no lies mostly in ruin. Broken overpasses. Shattered skyscrapers. Mere skeletons of the great landmarks they once were.

The first city we have entered where they meet us with an army of vampires. Not bleeders. Well-trained vampires. But not nearly well enough.

I am still able to forge ahead. And I head for the fortress at the edge of town. It sits upon the very border of the wastes. Dark. Formidable.

But easy enough to enter. And to slaughter its defenders. But they still offer a challenge. Enough to satisfy the bloodlust I feel growing within me.

I enter the great hall. He stands silent. Nameless. Ageless.

Older than Dracul himself. Not Arrus. Not Marus. None of the great vampire warriors of old. But older.

Yet still enslaved to the power of Kalkolides. “I have been waiting for you.” He never turns to face me.

“Aren’t you going to do battle?” I am surprised.

“No.” He is direct. “I will let you execute me. I tire of being his slave. He toys with us just as he toys with the humans and other creatures of intelligence. I am tired of it. And the power of the Stones has consumed him.”

“Can’t any of your own stand against him?” I look at his back.

“And what?”

“And destroy him.” I coax.

He lets loose a shaky laughter. “You cannot destroy him without destroying the Stones. None of us have the power to destroy the Stones. Not even me. They were never meant to be united. But he went against nature. And God.”

“I would rather we fight.” I press him hard.

“No. I do not want to kill the Chosen One. You were chosen to set everything right. I cannot go against heavenly mandates. If I were to fight you, I would kill you. Please. trust me on this. You must execute me. Take me out of play.”

I swing my sword. His head falls to the floor behind his body. His body falls forward. My victory is empty. His has a double meaning. The thought makes me angry.

But there is nothing I can do. It was what he wanted. And I granted his wish. Half-heartedly. Now, I make my way out. Setting it all on fire as I go.

***

The Underground have remained in Kansas City to set up a new government. I part company for a while. I will let them take on Oklahoma and Arkansas. I am going to move east for a while. I need to go back to the bayou. Pay my respects.

I have had enough of working with others for a while. No more allies. No more partners. No more friends.

From now on, I walk alone. I fight alone. I finish my mission alone. No exceptions. At least for a while.

After I pay respects, I will head to the missions. Check in on Cyanne. I hope she made it. Alive.

But while I am in the bayou, I will work on this telepathy. I need to grow stronger in its use. Grow to master it. I can’t afford to hurt innocents with it. Or worse.

I need to become one with it. Perhaps I can do so. Away from others. Just as long as it doesn’t draw any attention.

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