“So what do you plan on doing once you find him?” I look away, a tear in my eye.
“I have to play the part of an ally.” He looks at me coldly, but not without compassion. The coldness isn’t directed toward me, but at his intended target. “I have to act as if I am his friend. Eventually, I have to lead him back south. Lure him to his fate.”
“And go against all that you believe in.” I finish his thought.
He nods. “Yes. You’re very perceptive.”
I smile reassuringly. “Thank you. I hope you find him before I do.”
He looks surprised. “Why?”
My face grows serious. “I’ll kill him without a thought.” I change the subject. “Well, we need to head for the missions. We’ve wasted enough time.”
“You’re cold. You know that, don’t you?” He is serious.
“It has kept me alive this long. Keeps me from making mistakes. Love no one, have no one to lose.” My response makes him shiver.
“But yet you care about what happened in Savanna and Mobile.” He nods. He knows his assertion is true. “Odd for someone who claims not to feel.”
“I knew people in those cities.” I glare at him. “I was responsible for their being freed in the first place. I was responsible for their safety. That is all.”
“Say what you will.” he is blunt with me. “You love whether you want to admit it or not. If you didn’t, you would be no better than those you hunt. Caring shows you love.”
Damn him. I know he is right. I can deny all I want. I do love. I love humanity. I loved those who died in Savanna and Mobile. I loved McCall and Truva, even though I knew they were uninterested in women and saw me as a daughter.
“So what am I, then?” I challenge him.
“I don’t know.” At least he admits it.
“Do you know what I was doing when you ran into me?” I am direct.
“Scouting. Maybe hunting.” He presumes too much.
“No. I was feeding.” I look over at him to see his reaction.
He is surprised. “Really.” It is more of a statement.
I nod. “I suffer from their thirst. their hunger.Yet I am not one of them.”
“I figured you were something different by the way you moved. So quick. So nimble. So deadly.” He smiles. “Remind me not to battle you.”
“Why would you want to do so?” I look at the ground.
“I don’t. It was–never mind. I was just trying to get you to smile. We’re allies. I don’t care what you were doing when we ran into each other. All I care about is that we can offer each other our aid. I can help guard the refugees while you scout and you can lead me toward my destination…even if you aren’t headed exactly the same place. When it is time for me to part, I will slip away from the group. Good enough?”
I nod. “Good enough.”
“That’s better.” He grins. “And maybe someday, we will be able to join forces. When I don’t have to do something I really don’t want to do.”
I smile back. “Perhaps.”
Dark as fallen. Hammer and I slip away from the group to scout. I kind of like him. He seems…different. He is not put off by my vampirism. Rather, he seems to be interested in why I do what I do. The chalice, the knife, the care taken not to infect the animals I drain.
He has come along in an attempt to find another sentient ghoul. I hope he does. We need to know where Axe is. Moreover, he needs to know. I want to know so that I can avoid him. I just hope Hammer doesn’t breathe a word about my group when he finds the asshole.
No matter. Between feedings, I find we have a more immediate danger approaching. Shadow Kin. Damn.
I look over at War Hammer. “Have you ever dealt with Shadow Kin?”
He looks over at me, worried. “No. What are they?”
“Living shadows. Demons. Takers of souls.” I look over at him. “They obey my cousin and her benefactor.”
“Manifestations of every fear of man.” he nods. “Who is your cousin? Who is her benefactor?”
“She is called Lilith. She is the consort of the one they call Witch Doctor.” I see fear overtake him. “Do not worry. Shadow Kin are not all that powerful. They are only a means in measuring how strong an opponent is. If you are weak, they destroy you. If you are strong, you defeat them easily.”
“That makes me feel so much better.” His sarcasm is not lost on me.
“You afraid you aren’t strong enough?” I try not to giggle.
“No.” He is adamant. “But you still haven’t told me how to kill them.”
“You don’t.” Like shadows, they are without real substance. They are simply spells cast to make shadows live, if you can call black magic life. You simply face them and use your inner light.”
“Inner light?” He is unsure.
“Positive energy. The power of truth. Whatever you want to call it.” I am struggling now to keep from bursting into laughter. If you remember that they are just shadows and find ways to cast light upon them, they tend to vanish. cut them with a sword and they divide into more than one. Light, no matter what form, is the only way to defeat them.”
He puts down his haversack and searches through it. Suddenly, he pulls out a couple industrial flashlights. Something similar to handheld flood lamps. “You mean something like this?”
I smile and nod. “Now you get the picture. A little something I learned as a child.”
He grins. “Bring ’em on!” he flips the switch on one and hands it to me. The other, he turns on but keeps for himself.
in mere seconds, we are surrounded by their darkness. It is almost too much for the lamps to compensate for. Lilith is getting stronger. More daring. Or are these from Witch Doctor?
“Alakthos Molodo Kolbidos Remna Crithacht Minori.” The strange words almost seem as if the wind carries them forth from nowhere. Yet, out of the darkness, my shape shifting companions appear. The Shadow Kin vanish as the words surround us.