“Bye mom, going to Amber’s to study!” Scott called before the door shut. Rebeca Havenbrook nodded and waved from her chair.
“Bye sweetie, have fun.” she said back, returning to her magazine. “He’s off to Amber’s again. That’s nice.”
“Hmph. That girl’s got him wrapped around her finger. He’s out practically every night.” Daniel Havenbrook grunted from the couch, eyes never leaving the TV.
“Well, did you honestly think he’s actually going over there to study?” she said wryly. They looked at each other and laughed.
The teenaged necromancer, meanwhile, was sprinting down the street as fast as he could, lungs burning and cursing his lateness.
“Hey!” Amber said and beckoned, coming along on her bike. “Good timing! Hop on, I’ll give you a lift.”
“Right!” Without pausing, Scott jumped onto the rear wheel, making Amber yelp and fight to keep balanced.
“What the hell Scott!” she snapped.
“No time for recriminations now, we’re running late! Tallyho!” Scott grinned, spirits undeterred as their breath fogged in the air, the sun sinking below the horizon and turning the sky a deep violet and indigo, punctuated by white stars.
“Ahh, glad you made it.” Leo waved to Kevin and Will as they arrived behind the school. “I’m sorry about this afternoon and Saturday night, but we had to determine whether or not you were a threat to the peace-loving citizens here.”
“Uh, ‘salright.” Kevin said, leaning back against the brick. “I probably would’ve done similar.”
“Still, my apologies.”
“Forget about it.” Will dismissed. Leo smiled and nodded, then returned to staring down the street waiting for the rest of the party. They all stood there awkwardly.
“Soooo…flaming sword, huh?” Will said after a moment, shifting about to keep warm.
“Yeah. Got it from a burning eye to uphold justice.” Leo answered.
“Huh. That’s…huh.” Will said, desperately hoping the others would get there soon so the small talk would end.
“Par for the course as of late, though.” Leo continued. “I must say I never quite expected my life to go in the direction it has. Still, it’s an adventure, right?” he chirped.
“Yeah, I guess.” Kevin said noncommittedly. Tires and spokes squealed to a stop, and Scott and Amber peeled around the corner.
“Yo. Sorry we’re late, had to get a couple things ready.” Scott said, patting his backpack.
“All right then. If everything’s ready, then let’s go.” Will said, starting off.
“Go? Go where?” Amber asked, making Will freeze and turn.
“That’s a good question. Where are we going, anyway?”
“I’m glad you asked.” Scott said, smirking. “Behold, the latest and greatest necro-detection invention!” Out of the backpack cam a pendulum on a string and a broken plastic mop handle. Everyone stared blankly at him, unimpressed. “Ehhh, everyone’s a critic. But watch what happens when I say the magic word. Skovasta.” He held up the pendulum, and it lit up bright green and pointed straight at Kevin.
“W-Why’s it pointing at me?” the vampire said, moving from side to side, the plastic jewel tracking him all the way.
“Because, my pulse-challenged friend, it is designed to detect any undead within the vicinity, basically the spell I used to suss you out, only I’ve managed to modify it so we only need to say the word and it points the dead out, instead of lighting ‘em up like a Christmas tree. Now how much would’ja pay?” the necromancer said smugly, as the group re-evaluated the prop in a new light. “But wait! There’s more!
“My original plan was to mark the location of any undead on a map of the town. Unfortunately, I couldn’t wrap my head around the formulas necessary to mark it on a cell phone, and the problems with finding a physical map…” Amber shuddered. “Let’s just say there were issues. And also unfortunately, I couldn’t make the range of the pendulum more than fifty feet or so.”
“Fifty feet, that’s not that much.” Leo said frowning, going over plans in his mind.
“What’re we supposed to do, drive around twirling that thing and hope we get lucky? I do have to get to bed at some point.” Will said. Scott rolled his eyes.
“Which is why I have necro-detection invention sensation number two!” He held up the broken mop handle. “Observe.” He set it on the ground, holding it up at the end. “Etsghat!” He let go, and the stick wobbled and fell over. “Bingo! Our quarry is…thataway!” he cried, pointing to the direction it fell.
“What? There’s no way that’s right!” Will said. He had nearly had it up to here with vampires, and magic, and anything else that kept him running around town on a cold November night. “It’s ridiculous! It just fell over, and you’re trying to get us searching in a random direction! If it weren’t for the light shows, I’d say you were trying to put one over on us.”
“Oh, am I?” Scott said brightly, smiling wildly, veins pulsing below his skin. Amber’s eyes went wide as she realized what Will had said.
“Scott…” she warned, remembering what happened the last time someone denied Scott’s necromancy.
“No no, it’s okay. Observe.” He took the stick, walked to another place, repeated the incantation and it fell again, in the same direction as last time. He repeated the process over and over, triangulating, and each time it pointed to the south side of Craven Falls. “How about that? It slices, it dices, it makes Julian fries.”
“Yeah, yeah.” Will muttered, conceding. “So she’s on the south side of town.”
“Presumably.” Scott said.
“So we should start the search there. We can triangulate as we get closer, but we should move while she’s still there. Let’s go.” They all started walking towards Will’s Hyundai.
“Hey hey hey, hold up! We’re taking my car?” he said, counting how many of them there were.
“Well, Amber and I are too young to drive,” Scott began.
“And my convertible’s still in the shop after it was attacked by daemons a couple weeks ago.” Leo said sheepishly.
“So yeah, you’re our only set of wheels right now.” Scott finished.
“Err…alright…but, it’s not the biggest, so you guys’ll have to squeeze in the back.”
“I call shotgun!” Scott cried and bolted around the car.
“Hey! Why do you get the front?” Kevin said. Usually that seat was his. Scott turned to him.
“Oh, then please explain how I’ll have enough leg room in the back to have a mop handle constantly falling over, or enough room to easily see who the pendulum points to.” he said, far too innocently.
“…just get in the car.” Kevin griped, unable to refute the logic. Scott snapped his fingers.
“Oh yeah, nearly forgot. You drink any blood today?”
“No yet, no. Why?”
The necromancer placed his hand on Kevin’s shoulder and intoned “Sekh.” Kevin gasped, feeling a heady rush of power surge through his body, making every cell tingle. The feeling was hard to describe. There was a sweetness to the sensation, with a tang similar to sourness as well. It felt more like a smoother lemony sensation than anything else.
“What was that? What did you do?” the vampire asked, feeling energized. A full meal and night’s sleep couldn’t have refreshed him more.
“I used a spell to fill you with necrotic energy,” Scott explained as Amber came over for her dose. “You’re dead, so the power of the dead gives you life. In a manner of speaking. As long as I top you up, you don’t need to drink blood. It’s fun, being the living battery charger.” he deadpanned.
“Really?” His tongue felt his teeth, elongating on their own. “But I still feel thirsty.” he said, the parched feeling in his throat dulled, but unsated. Scott shrugged.
“Nothing I can do about the psychological part of it, I guess. Vampires need blood, but they also instinctually desire it above all else, probably helps to overcome the resistance to eating the members of their former species. Think of it like an IV drip. You gonna be alright with that?” he said, his tone clear he’d better be.
“Yeah. I…I’ll manage.” Kevin said, resolving to make good on his words. “Let’s get this show on the road.”
The search had taken nearly an hour, but they were finally closing in. Scott had nearly made himself hoarse after using so many incantations, but now the pendulum was beginning to trigger when he used it as well.
“Alright. Skovasta.” The entire car watched as the pendulum quivered, then pointed nearly straight up to the right. “Huh?” Scott said.
“Hah. Knew it, it’s broken.” Will scoffed, and Scott smacked his shoulder.
“Never doubt the necro-detection invention.”
“You just like saying that, don’t you.” Amber said flatly.
“Whatever it’s called, I don’t think it’s busted.” Leo said, peering out the window. “Look.” He pointed up to a building, where a figure cloaked in shadow suddenly leapt from the third floor to the ground in an alleyway, and disappeared. It happened so fast if you weren’t paying attention, it would appear as if nothing happened.
“Got ‘em!” Scott exclaimed. “C’mon, she’s turning onto Nostromo Boulevard, that’s the only way that leads out of there.”
“Roger.” Will turned at the next right, Scott chanting the incantation again and again to keep the pendulum pointed at her. The others steeled themselves for battle. Leo thumbed his charm bracelet, Amber cracked her knuckles, and Kevin donned his mask.
“Alright. Kevin, I want you to ambush her, you’ve got the best chance of that. Make enough of a distraction so that Amber can grab and hold her, at least until I can get my sword to her throat. Sound good?” Leo said commandingly. Both the ghoul and vampire nodded. “All right, we have a plan of attack. Let’s make sure everyone comes home in one piece, yeah?”
“I’ve got heavy-duty suture thread, it’ll be fine.” Scott said from the front seat.
“Let’s make sure everyone comes home in one piece, yeah?” Leo repeated, a little more desperate.
They followed the vampire for another twenty minutes, leaving Craven Falls proper and eventually coming to an old, abandoned, frequently vandalized mall near the highway.
“She’s in there?” Kevin asked, looking the place over with trepidation. “Where are we? I’ve never heard of this place before.”
“It’s the old Kruger outlet mall.” Scott answered, checking over his backpack. “They built it soon after the highway, hoping to attract their business form there. Unfortunately, the place was too out of the way for locals and most out of towners come into Craven Falls on business outside of tourist season, and those generally don’t wanna shop in a mall. When you add in the competition from the Voorhees mall and the decline of malls across the country means it folded in like six months. I did some skulking around here last summer, looking for ghosts.”
“Huh. Well, you’ll have to be our guide then.” Kevin said.
“I should warn you now, the place’s kinda dilapidated. It’s got a couple holes in the roof, and it can be dangerous.”
“Not as dangerous as who else is in there, though.” Kevin said darkly. This was it, the woman who’d turned him into a creature of the night was close at hand. Doing what, who knew; but this was their chance to finally cure him.
Will pulled into the parking lot, into a space at the far end.
“So she won’t know we’re coming.” he explained. “Plus, I came prepared.” He pulled out a clove of garlic, a wooden stake, and a hammer out of his backpack with a grin. “I’m ready.” Kevin made a face.
“That garlic’ll alert her before we get close. Vampires can’t stand garlic and other strong odors because their sense of smell is so extreme. Right?” Scott asked Kevin, who nodded, trying not to gag. “Toss it.”
“Alright, alright.” Will threw it out the window before they all piled out, creeping their way to the glass doors as stealthily as they could.
“Kevin, go first.” Leo whispered softly, and Kevin nodded. He had the best chance of not being seen, and had the sharpest senses out of all of them. He was about to head through the door when Amber stopped him. She shook her head and pointed to the bottom half, which had been kicked in and had glass strewn about the floor. Kevin nodded and opened the other one. After ushering the rest of them inside, Kevin took the lead and practically disappeared. Scott was tempted to use his pendulum to find him.
“Stay close, and stay low. If you have any lights, don’t use them yet. Turn them on when we strike, the more disoriented she is the better. Try to stay close to Amber, she can see better than us.” Leo whispered. Scott nodded and pulled out a flashlight, at the ready. Will raised his stake and hammer in shaking hands. What was he doing here? He was just an ordinary guy, not a vampire hunter. He wasn’t any kind of vampire or ghoul, and he certainly didn’t know any magic or have a flaming sword. He glanced at the others, squinting in the faint moonlight. They looked nervous, tense, but also determined. How could they be so calm? It finally hit him that he could die on this mission.
They made their way past long dark stores and an empty fountain, tagged with all manner of graffiti. Amber shivered; it was very dark and very silent, like a tomb. She slowly stepped forward, and jumped immediately back suppressing a scream, as a rat ran over her foot. It stopped, turning back to them with glowing eyes, and chittered madly.
“Shoo.” Scott tossed a piece of broken plastic at it, and it bolted off. He frowned. The air had a heavy, warm, uncomfortable oppressiveness to it, different from the last time he’d been here. Last time the place had been foreboding and creepy, and he’d felt right at home. This time, the old Kruger mall felt…uneasy.
Kevin melted out of the darkness, finger to his lips.
“I scouted ahead, but I don’t think there’s anything here. I didn’t see anything unusual, at least. But I think I heard sounds coming from the food court upstairs.” Scott’s face hardened as he absorbed the information, pulling out the pendulum and huddling the others to hide the light.
“Skovasta.” The pendulum swung around in his hand, then shot straight up at the ceiling. “Let’s go.” he muttered, and they crept to the defunct escalator, the quiet atmosphere urging them to make as little noise as possible.
Kevin was the first up the rubber steps, creeping as close to the ground as he could. The others saw him freeze at the top, glance around, and quickly crawl over behind an overturned table. He peered around the side, then beckoned them forward. When the rest of the group got closer, the shouting started.
When all of them were safely behind the table, peering around they could see a beautiful dark –haired woman arguing with another group of people, all dressed in long coats with hoods.
“…please, Gregor! It’s not too late! Please, just tell me what’s happening here, so I can understand. I could even help you if you want!” The man she was speaking to, presumably Gregor, stood as still as a statue, his burly arms folded and glaring at her. He was the only one with his hood down.
“Go home, Genevieve.” he said in a polished but thick Eastern European accent. “Go back to your peaceful days. This is a new country, it has nothing to do with you.”
“This is where I grew up, you dunce! And anything that has to do with the clan has to do with me! You…you’re the one that taught me that, don’t you remember? P-Please…I just want to know what’s going on.” she begged, sniffling and tearing up. Gregor huffed and turned his back.
“Go away. This country is ours now. That fool Harvaste can stew in his old castle for the rest of time for all I care. He owns everything there, but now it is our turn to be the masters.”
“B-But Gregor!” she protested, unsure of what to do next.
“I think we might have stumbled upon some kind of international vampire territory dispute.” Scott whispered, as it was apparent the others were too engrossed in the argument to pay attention to them.
“Please, just come back. If you just explain what’s going on, how you truly feel, I’m sure Master Harvaste will-” She started to reach out to Gregor, but he growled, his eyes flaring red. He turned and smacked her across the face, knocking Genevieve down. When she tried to get up, he stomped his boot on her hand, making her whimper. The observers shifted uneasily, and Kevin grit his teeth.
“Never suggest to go back to that dictator again.” he spat, figuratively and literally. “We have cut all ties with the European vampires. Now they, and you, are nothing but enemies, to be ground into dust before us.”
“Now now, let’s not be hasty.” another vampire spoke up. “I commend your zeal, Gregor, but to dismiss…her…” He licked his lips lecherously. “…is to deny ourselves of a potentially valuable resource. Wouldn’t it be better to, instead of being enemies, making her into a friend?” Gregor snorted.
“Very well. Bite her and be done with it. My loyalty is pure.” He turned back to Genevieve, writhing on the ground. “Be thankful, bitch. We’re giving you exactly what you wanted. Although, it would be easier if you were unconscious.” Her eyes widened as his boot rose to stomp on her face.
All eyes turned to Nightfang, posing heroically on a table. “No matter what she may have done, I cannot allow this to continue! Cease and back away at once, or face the hero of the night!” he commanded.
“No no no no no no…”Scott muttered, hand firmly planted on his forehead.
“What is this? Who are you?” Gregor demanded.
“It is I, the hero Nightfang! Let evil and injustice beware, for I stalk the night! My fangs of righteousness will pierce the neck of corruption!” he declared. Gregor, Genevieve, and the others blinked and paused. Gregor looked around for the hidden camera, then remembered he wouldn’t show up on it.
“You…are a vampire?” he asked, eyebrow raised incredulously.
“Freshly bitten! And a superhero! Now let her go, or face my wrath!” Genevieve stared at him, not comprehending at first, but her eyes slowly widened in horror as she remembered last Thursday.
“Oh god, I thought that was a dream…” she muttered. Gregor threw back his head and laughed.
“I see, I see! A little runt, Genevieve? That is who you gift?” he said, guffawing.
“It…it was an accident.” she mumbled, face red.
“How amusing! Run along little bloodling, we have no use of you here. Unless…” he sniffed the air and listened hard. “The others behind the table would like to come out and play as well?”
“Scatter!” Leo shouted, blood ice cold with fright. He had found them so easily. His sword sprang into his hand as they shot out, only to discover the rest of the vampire surrounding them. “Stand aside!” Leo commanded, swinging his sword, the blade catching fire. The vampires’ eyes went wide and they recoiled, breaking off to divide and conquer. Chaos reigned as the fight began.
“Nnnnnnggghhhhh!” Amber grunted as she wrestled with another one, each trying to knock the other over. ‘Why is he so strong? I should be able to do more than this!’ she wondered, slowly giving ground to her opponent’s superior might. Kevin was having a hard time as well. He jumped and spun, flinging his legs out to catch vampires in the face and hands, trying to create a one-man barrier around Will, curled up in a ball and whimpering. The sight of the masked vampire desperately trying to protect his friend was so amusing, the ones surrounding him let it happen, toying with him, watching him grow more sluggish with each leap, yet no less determined.
“Guys, guys, we don’t have to do this,” Scott said nervously, hands up and backing away from the two large vampires menacing him. “C-Can’t we just talk this out?”
“No. We cannot.” One said, cracking his knuckles with a grin.
“Vhy did such a cowvard come here in de first place?” the other sneered.
“Oh well.” Scott sighed. “So much for talking it out. Rosencrantz! Guildenstern! Attack!” He flung his arms out at them, and from his sleeves flew two zombie rats, clinging to the vampire’s faces chittering and biting. As they screamed in revulsion and tried to get them off, Scott slung his backpack down to the floor.
“Arrg! Pest!” One of them savagely ripped the rat off his face and crushed it, then helped get the other off his comrade. “Now, boy-” They turned to face their quarry, only to find Scott kneeling over his backpack grinning.
“Awnos, todeths, calibos hun! Awnos, todeths, calibos hun! Awnos, todeths, calibos hun! Awnos, todeths, calibos hun!” he chanted, reaching into his bag.
“Get him!” The vampires sprang forward, and…BAM!
The vampires were blasted back by a foul wind and everyone stared at the toxic emerald lightshow. Bolts of necrotic energy played up and down his body as bones slid out of the bag and crawled up his body. Ribs, shins, tibia, femurs, spines. His legs were encased in bone, then torso, and they shot down his arms, two dog skulls serving as pauldrons on his shoulders. The final piece ratcheted up his back, an animal skull like a tiger’s to clamp down on his head. A ribbon of black fur trailed from the skull, its eye sockets brimming with an eerie green light. He was encased and protected by a suit of bone, armor made from both human and animal remains. Scott threw out his arms and leaned back to yell as loud as he could, then stepped forward to pose dramatically, grinning.
“Step forward if you want a taste of my Death Armor!” he growled, and the vampires he was facing both took a step back.
“Dude that’s so wicked!” Kevin gushed, his fight momentarily paused. “That was like the Iron Man suit!”
“Where do you think I got the idea?” Scott grinned.
“Focus, please!” Leo called out, trying to keep three more at bay. They were managing to hold their own for now, but the vampires were toying with them, and he was growing tired.
“Finish them you fools!” Gregor ordered, then unclipped a walkie-talkie from his belt and barked into it. Leo froze in horror as he heard the thudding of more boots up the stairs.
“Guys, we have to go, now!”
“Don’t let them-” Gregor felt a hand grab his ankle.
“P-Please.” Genevieve said weakly. “Don’t let this go any further than it already has.” She begged.
“You-!” He hauled her up by her throat, eyes burning with rage. “You brought these intruders here! How many more are there? Who are you working with!?”
“Let her go!” Kevin said, but he was too far away to help. The armored necromancer however, wasn’t.
“Gonna haveta ask you to put the lady down. Or else.” he said coldly. Gregor glanced at him, then at the crumpled vampires behind him.
“Pathetic fool, make me.” he sneered, confidant in his strength. Scott shrugged.
“Okay.” He flexed his arm and the razor-sharp bone claws popped out his forearm piece. He brought the blade down on the vampire’s wrist, making him howl and let go.
“Wretch!” Gregor thrust a kick into Scott’s chest. He tried to brace himself, but Scott was sent flying back into the far wall hard enough to crack it. He looked down, chest on fire, to see his bone chestplate broken.
“O-Oh…crap.” he mumbled. “Ahhhkonasht.” It was a small spell, a diagnostic used to determine the state of bones, normally used to determine the condition of a corpse. However, he found it could be used on living bones as well. It seemed the ribs, though severely bruised and cracked, weren’t broken. Yet.
“Scott!” Amber cried, managing to kick and throw her assailant off and rush to his side.
“Not good.” Leo muttered, as twenty more vampires emerged from the escalator, leaping and crawling on the walls, promising death.
“We’re all gonna die!” Will wailed. Gregor stomped over to Scott, Amber interposing herself between them.
“Move, little girl.” he growled.
“Over my undead body.” she spat.
“Rrrah!” He brought his hand down to chop at her-and was surprised when the arm she raised to block wasn’t smashed in half. “Oh ho?” You’re stronger than you look, little girl.”
“Stronger than you.” Amber hissed through gritted teeth, her arm throbbing in pain. She raised her hands to punch him.
“I think not.” Gregor backhanded her aside, crumpling her to the ground, and stood over Scott menacingly.
‘How is he so strong? Even accounting for the size and experience difference, Amber’s power should be on par with this guys’. Something’s not right.’ his mind raced.
“You cut me. That was something that you should not have done.” Gregor said, raising his arms to smash Scott into the concrete. Scott, gasping desperately for breath, screwed his eyes shut and tried to think quickly. Gregor’s fists came down.
“No!” Amber rose up and grabbed his wrists, the force from the blow making her buckle and cracking the floor under her feet, but she held. “S-Scott! Help! Get up!”
“Right!” His eyes snapped open. “This was going to hurt. “Arise! Aaargh!” His armor, normally controlled by the movements of his body, was still an amalgamation of reanimated parts, and could still move under their own power, regardless of any passengers. Scott sat in the middle of it, ribs on fire as the armor moved his body like a puppet. “Claws to face!” The bones responded, ready to spring at Gregor, still held by Amber.
“Impudent wench!” With a shrill, unearthly howl, Gregor’s mouth elongated and stretched, writhing like a snake, moving to bite down on Amber’s shoulder.
“YAAAHHHHH!” she screamed.
“Jesus Christ!” Genevieve said, wide-eyed with terror and disbelief. With a burst of desperate strength, Amber managed to fling him away before his mouth, now every tooth a fang, struck home.
“Ggggggrrrrsssshhhhhhssss.” the creature, formerly Gregor hissed as the transformation commenced. His legs swelled up and grew, gaining an extra knee joint and settling into a low crouch. Thick, black, hooked spikes erupted form his shins and calves. He fell to all fours, or all sixes as he sprouted another pair of ten-fingered arms from his ribs. His back glistened as his torso widened and sickly, dark red scales emerged to cover it. His shoulders grew and nearly enveloped his neck as his nose flattened into his stretching mouth, hooting and jabbing the air like an obscene proboscis. He glared at them with baleful red eyes, still all too unchanged from how they were before.
“Holy hell.” Scott said breathlessly, making the suit take a step back.
“Uh, guys...” Leo whimpered. They looked away to see all the other vampires, including the reinforcements on the walls, transform into similar creatures and surround them. “We’re-” he gulped. “-in trouble.”
“We’re all gonna dieeeee!” Will reiterated.
“Not necessarily.” The words, though spoken calmly and at normal volume, cut through the gibbering chaos like a knife. Instantly, the vampire creatures fell silent and unmoving, an eerie calm descending upon the abandoned mall. As one, they turned to a specific spot in the air and prostrated themselves, laying their faces upon the gringy floor.
"W-What's going on? W-What's happening?" Kevin asked nervously, twitching back and forth.
"Me." There was a shimmering white light in the air, and from it strode a tall, dark-haired young man in a sharp charcoal-grey suit, smiling confidently and hands in his pockets, standing on nothing. "I am happening."