We have taken to traveling at night as well as day. we make good time. I marvel at the Grigoris’ lack of need to eat. It is unsettling. Not at all easy to get used to.
I guess that is a side effect of being immortal. You don’t need to eat. If I could find their secret, I could use it to control this unbearable thirst. This uncontrollable hunger.
I hate having the disease of vampirism in my blood. It makes me need to feed. At some point. Sometimes weeks, sometimes mere days. Or hours. It just depends. The older I get, the more I need to feed.
So I have decided to act as scout. It gives me opportunity to feed. As often as I need.
Rabbits and squirrels are easy enough to catch. So are strays. Dogs. Cats. I stay away from the small rodents. Not enough to slake my thirst.
I carry a cup and a knife for this purpose alone. Once I catch the animal, I slit its throat and bleed it dry. This way, I can safely dispose of the carcass.
I make quick work of the blood, drinking it as fast as possible. After I am done, I return to the group. I am sure, though, that my doings have not gone unnoticed by at least a couple of my companions. Yet they say nothing.
I believe they tolerate it because I am a necessary evil. They believe me to be some promised child. A prophecy come true. I never liked prophecies. Or religious junk. Always got in the way.
I’m not saying it isn’t important. I’m just saying that it has its place. Just not in my life.
I have a mission. And that is to find and destroy the Sabbath Stones. But first, I need to get these shape shifters to the missions. Along with the refugees.
A noise in the bushes rouses me from my thoughts. A rustling. I turn to look and find a ghoul running straight at me. Almost as if it doesn’t really see me.
“What the?!?–” The words escape my lips before I have time to stop them. A reflex. A reaction to being startled.
“Come back here, ya bloody ghoul!” a voice yells somewhere to the right. A male voice.
Instinctively, my blade leaves its scabbard, cleaving the unfortunate ghoul in half. Another swipe and its head goes bouncing merrily away. I stand in awe of my reaction. My motions had been fluid. Reactionary. Defensive.
I look in the direction from whence the ghoul had appeared. And from whence the voice had also come. Who was pursuing this ghoul and why? Most ghouls aren’t afraid of anything, let alone a hunter. So why was this one so afraid?
A man with a giant hammer appears out of the dark. “Seen a sentient ghoul around here anywheres?” He eyes me suspiciously. I look down at the dead body near my feet. His gaze follows my own. “Oh. Well, too bad.”
“Why?” I look at him. “What do you mean?”
He shrugs. “That ghoul was going to tell me what I wanted to know. He knew something I needed to know. Now, thanks to you, I will never know.”
I smile. “You don’t know that.”
He sighs. “And where am I going to find another sentient ghoul?” He puts his hands on his hips. “Suppose you tell me that?”
I shrug. “There are others. You just gotta know where to look for them.”
He eyes me again. “You sound as if you know something.”
I smile. “I have fought ghouls before. I also know that you have to be careful. Shadow Kin like to possess ghouls and zombies and make them impossible to kill. They also like to make them talk.”
He lets his hands fall. “You a hunter?”
I nod. “Yes.”
He smiles. “Got a name?”
I look away. “Cris.”
He presses. “Got a last name?”
I shake my head. “No. I am just Cris.”
“He nods. “Ever cross paths with a hunter called Battle Axe?”
I shake my head again. “No. Been north.”
He is clearly shocked. “North? What was there?”
I glance at him. “The Grigori.”
He is even more shocked. “You mean they still live? I thought they were a myth! Did you find them?”
I nod. “Yes.” I change the subject. “Why are you looking for this–Battle Axe character?”
He smiles. “Seems he disappeared suspiciously before the fall of Savanna and Mobile. Want to ask him what part he played in the fall of those cities…if any.”
I turn away again. “Oh.”
“Where you headed?” He is insistent.
I remain with my back to him. “I’m taking a small unit of soldiers and some refugees to the missions.”
“Can I tag along? I need to talk to the brothers.” He pauses. “Besides. you could use another pair of eyes on the way.”
“Sure. Why not?” I smile despite myself. “Just try to keep up. am in a hurry to return to the group. can’t afford to be away too long. especially with ghouls in the area.”
“Fair enough.” He chuckles to himself.
I find the group where I had left it. Naeraeus gives me an odd look as he sees my tag-along. “Bringing in strays?”
I smile. “He’s OK. He’s a hunter.”
“Oh, I see. And are you truly sure he is safe? How do you know he’s not a plant?”
It takes me a minute to realize what he is asking. “Because he was chasing a sentient ghoul.”
Naeraeus smiles. “I wouldn’t be too quick to dismiss the idea that he could be a plant, but it is your call.”
His words will haunt me the rest of the night. I just know I will continuously look over at our new member until dawn.
He comes over to where I am. “The name’s War Hammer. At least, that is what most people call me. Khali sent me to hunt down a man, a rogue hunter, known only as Battle Axe. He is wanted for assaulting women in Savanna and Mobile. Khali thought he might even be responsible for the fall of those cities.” he looks over at me. “Hey. You don’t have to believe me. And I don’t blame you if you don’t. Just know that we are on the same side.”
I look over at him. “So what happened in Savanna and Mobile?”
He shakes his head in sorrow. “It was horrible. four million people, human and changelings, massacred. Slaughtered without remorse. Without mercy.”
I look him in the eye. “Can I do something?”
He eyes me warily. “I-I guess. What is it, Kid?”
I gently touch his forehead. “I want to read your memories. Just a little trick I learned a while back. Don’t worry.”
He nods, still unsure, but allows me to touch his forehead. In a flash, I am transported into his head. Around me flashes different memories. Yesterday. Last week. A month ago. I let them go by until I find what I am looking for.
What I find is horrible. I watch him enter the town as the massacre is taking place. He is fighting against the vampire hordes, but with meager success. For some reason, the vampires flee from him. But not before they have killed almost everyone in the city. There is blood everywhere. The inhabitants didn’t stand a chance. The army was obliterated.
The scene changes. Now he stands in Mobile. This time, he is too late. A dark figure approaches him. “Hammer.” The voice is a hissing whisper. The eyes glow from beneath a hood of black. Khali. She is legendary. Both as a hunter and as a warrior.
His reply is quick. Almost frightened. “Khali.”
“Battle Axe must be found. He must be brought back to answer for what he has done.” She continues in her raspy whisper. “Even if he was not responsible for these massacres, he is guilty of several assaults.”
“Assaults?” Hammer seems confused.
“Rape, Hammer, he raped several women here!” Khali almost screams the response.
I feel his mental shudder. “Damn.” He breathes his disbelief. “And you believe he betrayed the cities to bury his indiscretions. And I am tempted to agree. Both cities had to be betrayed by someone pretending to be an ally. And anyone who would rape women in cities they were supposed to be protecting would also be the type to betray those cities. But was he acting alone? That is the question.”
“Yes, indeed.” Khali agreed.
I shudder and suddenly am back outside his mind. “Oh God!”