Nothing To Hide: Chapter Twenty-Two of “The Crystal Ship”

The Blood-Skull rushes me. I can tell that most of it is reflex. Driven by the extreme pain and madness inflicted by its face being stripped from it. Its pain is also what flickers as light in its now empty sockets. More dead than alive, it strikes out at vibrations. Not sound. Or even sight.

I am probing it for any thought process. There is no intelligent thoughts. Just impulse. Driven by pain and shock.

I cut its head off. I watch it lie there and twitch like a dying cockroach. Then, the oddest thing. It grabs its head and throws it at me. I think quickly and both deflect and cause the head to explode.

I walk over and cut off the head of the Lamprey. It screams like something unearthly as it dies. Its tongue thrusts out searching for me. But I am out of its dying reach.

I watch the tongue open and see the tiny dripping fangs. Millions of them. And that horrid stench. I will never forget that. After it is dead, I put the body in one bag, the head in another. Time to hunt down Romanof.

This one is the elder. Not the younger. I had killed his grand-daughter and son. But now, I hunt him. He is the last of his family. His Russian trickery will not afford him any quarter.

Las Vegas, here I come. Romanof, I am coming for you. And I am coming fast. On silent wings.

***

I have battled through hordes of Snakes and Spiders. He is desperate to keep me from getting through. Makes me wonder how many of these damn things he has made. I don’t have time to think on it, though.

Suddenly, I am also faced with something unexpected. Skin Walkers!!! I have heard of these. Nasty monstrosities. Difficult to kill. Impossible to get free of if you are caught by one. and they tend to devour your soul and use your body once they catch you.

Not a good thing to fight. I am suddenly wishing I was elsewhere. Anywhere but here. And then, I clear my mind. I seek the lead Walker. I begin to burn a hole in its protective shell.

Suddenly, all five Walkers let out a scream of pain. That is good. They share a collective mind. Cause one pain, the rest also feel it.

Skin Walkers. Not the things of Native myth or legend. But a type of soul-sucking parasite. They burrow under the skin and attach to the spinal cord, taking control of your body after they have devoured your soul. Sort of creating the same equivalent as a zombie, but with a collective mind. A mind driven in the search for more souls to eat.

I set the lead Walker on fire. That fire soon devours all five. Their screeching cries will cause me nightmares for years to come. as they turn to ash, their host bodies crumble into dust.

I have even more reason not to sleep now. I take a few moments to write my assessment of each thing I have had to face. I fold the paper and go on toward Las Vegas. Sin City. How ironic it is that Romanof hid in that city.

I remember papa’s tales of Sin City. The gambling. The Dance shows. The prostitution. The high crime.

No wonder he never moved there. I wonder if Romanof moved in for the undead prostitutes. No matter. Evil is as evil does.

***

Las Vegas. It has taken me several days to get here. He has thrown everything he had at me. Snakes. Spiders. Crawlers.

Crawlers. Those nasty little things. Not even sure if there was any human semblance at all. Didn’t even look like a snake. Kind of nondescript.

But I have finally made it. I can sense Romanof here. I scan the vacant city. Well, almost vacant. I find his presence in the abandoned MGM Grand Hotel. How fitting. The most opulent and decadent of all gambling palaces for the most decadent and over the top Vampire lord. The most insane lord.

His remaining soldiers try vainly to keep me out of the city. Vampire and bleeder alike come from every door I approach. Only to be cut down.

They valiantly meet my onslaught. But their resistance is futile. Vampire heads go bouncing down sand-filled streets. Human body parts fall and the dying scream as their lifeblood oozes from hundreds of mortal wounds.

Bodies pile up in the street quickly. Living and undead alike. Las Vegas has fallen. Thousands die defending a lord who cares nothing for them. Many for a promise that was made without any intent to fulfill. As they fall, they realize that they had accepted empty promises as their reward.

I battle my way to the top floor of the MGM Grand. To the last man. And vampire. I kick in the door to the penthouse.

He sits upon a couch, surrounded by female vampires. All writhing like snakes around him. He looks up. “Come, child. Join the party. Become one of my lovers.” His thick Russian accent, like his arrogance, makes me sick. So self-important. Always seeing himself as God’s gift to women.

No matter. I stare at him. “Never.”

He smiles evilly. “Fine.” He motions to his snaky women. Get her! She must not be allowed to leave alive!”

I glare at him. “You really think your ladies will be able to take me? Especially since your warriors sure the hell couldn’t?”

The first rushes me. her head goes flying across the room. The second tries to get me from behind. I cut her off. Literally. One after the other, they fall. Until it is just me and him.

He frowns. “You really have become quite a nuisance. First, my granddaughter. Then my son. I did not flee here. I moved here. Might say that I retired. My son was already in control when you took Denver. And the rest of Colorado. But you Undergrounders. You never know when to quit. Do you?”

I smile. “I am no Undergrounder. I am Grigori. I am the Angel of Death. Your kind created me. Your kind now pays the price. Welcome to the Hell you have created.”

He rises and pulls the sword from the wall behind him. A massive Russian broadsword. For one so old, he sure looks young. But I find him repulsive despite his uncommon good looks. And flowing red hair that tells of his Rus heritage.

He smiles. “I was there when the Rus wandered down to the Black sea. I led them on many successful raids. And killed indiscriminately. I was born of the battle. What of you?”

I look at him. “IU was born of the war you and your master created. I have thrice beaten Vassare. And thrice beaten Friedrich. I took your counterpart in the Midwest. And his outposts. It was I who killed Kalkolides’ queen. And his concubines. And his heir. I took De Leonne. And his daughter.”

“No! Impossible! I will not believe it. No one is good enough with sword to kill him or his daughter!” He lunges at me. I dodge. And block.

Our battle rages for hours. His massive sword hammers at my strength and stamina. But my blades hold up. Then, I see my opening. My right sword slips into an opening and sinks deep into his chest.

He grins. “Do you think a blade to my innards will kill me? Even if you kill me, My disease lives on. The Spiders, Snakes, Lamprey, and Crawlers are all part of my disease. You see, my vampirism has mutated. Driven me mad. And infected all I have turned. In ways I could have never imagined possible.”

I smile despite myself. “Nope.” My left sword takes his head.

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