Fantasticoe -- 2012
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He Who Fights With Monsters

Luke Winkelman

            Marcus peered from the deep shadow of the oak forest at the apparently abandoned two story manor, itself outlined in moonlight and shadow in the rough clearing before him. The forest was reclaiming that clearing, and the worn path through the rising brush and weeds indicated that the crumbling building was not really empty.

            "This is the place," he thought. He believed he was ready to take the step that would change everything or kill him. There was reason to fear, but he told himself he was not afraid. The list of slain vampires credited to him during his twenty years with the order of True Dawn was too long to bother counting. The motto of the order calmed him though, and he repeated it, silently.

“My armor shall protect me, my black robes shall hide me, my weapons shall smite down my enemies, and my immortal foes shall die.”

With that his fears were shattered. He ventured onward to the ruined manor with courage in his heart, a short sword on his back, and a .44 magnum at his side.

Marcus entered the manor grounds. The first door he came upon led him into a small sitting room. Two pairs of chairs sat on opposite sides of the wall, otherwise the room was bare. He took great care to avoid any surprise attacks as he moved forward. Marcus soon found himself in the dining room. He made his way to the long oak table in the center of the room and saw the remnants of a horrible feast. The plates had a pinkish hue, stained forever with the blood of men. Small droplets of gore pooled at the bottom of the wine glasses. The bones of the fallen littered the table and the floor, picked clean, except for the few bits of human meat still stuck to the sides. Marcus was disgusted at such a grisly sight, but also somewhat relieved to know that this was the place he was searching for.  He observed the remnants of this gruesome feast some more, unaware of the beast nearby.

The vampire descended over a railing on the second floor balcony, lacking subtlety. Marcus would have to have been deaf to not hear the vampire crash into the ground. He turned to face it and said, “Where is the lord of the manor?”

The vampire ignored his question and made its way towards Marcus, moving with both speed and grace. He glided across the floor, zigzagging to avoid the hunter. However, it was to no avail. Marcus lifted up his magnum, held it tightly in his hand, aimed the shot, and pulled the trigger. The bullet hit the creature in the center of its skull. Bits of brain splattered from the monster’s head. The creature fell to the floor, while viscous red gore poured freely from the gaping wound. Neither man nor beast could have survived a shot to the head from a gun as powerful as the .44 magnum.

Marcus passed his fallen foe, now a headless corpse, with its gray skin that was even more leathery than his own black armor. He knew that the thing on the floor was no longer human. Marcus felt nothing for this beast’s demise and continued onward in his search for the lord of the manor. 

He passed down a corridor, where he was met by another one of the beasts. This creature had no wide open spaces to exploit, and he tried to rush Marcus. The noise of the powerful hand cannon rang throughout the halls and this vampire was dealt a swifter death than the first. Marcus was glad that this time his hollow points didn’t cause the vampire’s head to explode. He would hate to have his boots ruined. Marcus stepped over his fallen foe and ventured onward. He passed through a door leading to the courtyard, an empty field of stone.

Three doors connected the courtyard to the rest of the house. To his left there was a door much larger and grander than the other two, no doubt that the lord of the manor was waiting beyond it. Opposite him was a door symmetrical to the one he just exited. The moment he closed the door behind him, the door in front opened ever so slightly, not more than a crack, but it opened nonetheless. “Was it the wind?” Marcus thought to himself. It still moved ever so slightly, until he could see a small sliver of darkness within. Sweat trickled down his forehead and he clenched his gun tighter than he ever had before. When he took a nervous step forward, the door swung open with such force that it was almost ripped off at its hinges. A vampire lunged outside in a savage fury.

Adrenaline rushed through Marcus’s blood.  There was no thought, only action.  He fired the magnum at the vampire. Luckily, the bullet hit the monster dead center. It did not kill the vampire instantly, like it did to the other two, though its sternum cracked and its lungs began to fill with blood. The beast was in considerable pain, grasping for air, trying to hold onto dear life. He saw its gray flesh start to move around the wound, mending the huge hole in the vampire’s chest. Marcus did not want to give this creature the chance to regenerate. He took three carefully calculated steps towards the beast. Marcus now stood less than a foot away from the creature. He raised his gun and executed the monster by firing a round into its skull. Bits of bone flew everywhere, and a good deal of its gore now covered Marcus’s armor.

He did not even have time to wipe up the mess from his third kill, when two more vampires made their way through the largest and grandest door in the courtyard. The creatures set upon him with their monstrous speed. Marcus holstered his gun, knowing that the two bullets remaining in the chamber of his magnum would most likely be insufficient to stop these monsters. Instead, he drew the short blade from the sheath on his back.

He flipped the switch located on the end of the handle, and the sword began to shimmer with a violent white light. Marcus swung his blade at one of the creatures who had dared to venture too close to him. The blade lit up in a marvelous fury, scorching the beast’s leathery, gray skin, and casting a blinding light on the other vampire present.

The blinded vampire began to swing its claws wildly at Marcus. His feet were nimble and he was able to dodge every swipe, mocking the creature while he did it, until the monster reached the apex of its anger. It lunged its arm at Marcus, trying to grab the elusive hunter.

Marcus side stepped to the monster’s vulnerable side and he cleaved the head off with one clean cut. Its body fell forward while the head flew in the opposite direction.

The first vampire that had tasted the power of his blade still laid on the ground in great grief and agony. Marcus powered down his blade and drove it through the monster’s neck, silencing it once and for all. Marcus was now ready to make his way to the lord of the castle.

He began to walk away from the carnage in the courtyard, when the echoes of a sniper rifle rung through the still night air. It pierced the armor on the hunter’s torso, exposing the soft flesh beneath.

Marcus stood bleeding, his hand clenching his side. The bullet failed to cause a fatal injury. It merely grazed the left side of his torso, but his wounds still needed to be tended to as soon as possible. He needed to escape from the shooter, a vampire that stood on the second floor balcony above the courtyard. Marcus fired the remaining two rounds in his gun at the unknown shooter. They missed, but they gave him enough time to enter the manor before he had to face another shot from the stranger’s high power rifle.

Marcus made his way back into the house through the nearest passage, even though it was unfamiliar to him. Once inside, he managed to bandage his wounds with the few first aid supplies he had brought with him. Gauze and medical tape were all he needed this time. He also took the time to reload his gun for the imminent battle approaching.

He ventured down the unfamiliar corridor, wary of the mysterious shooter, or any other vampire that might still be here. Then, his concerns shifted to the growing darkness. Each step plunged him deeper into the abyss, until he was forced to take out his shining sword to light the way.

Bitterly he thought, “The light is starting to fade and it only has enough energy left for two or three more strikes. If I have to keep using it as a torch, then the sword won’t even have enough power for one more strike.”

He eventually came upon a heavy iron door, which lead into the castle’s armory. Even Marcus was awestruck when he saw the room. It was over a hundred feet long forty feet wide, and two stories tall. Hundreds, if not thousands of weapons lined the walls. Blades, blunt weapons, bows, and firearms of all different sizes and designs from different eras filled the room. In the room, there stood full suits of armor as well.  Marcus picked up one of the guns in hopes that it could help in him in his upcoming battle. He tried to fire it, but it was empty, they all were.

“Well, no great loss,” Marcus thought. There was not a single gun there that had more stopping power than his .44 magnum anyways.  His discovery was soon interrupted when the mysterious shooter made his way into the room.

            The vampire now stood on the second floor. The creature looked different from any vampire Marcus had ever seen before. His skin had the common grayish color of his race, but on him it was barely noticeable. His visage was more like a man’s, rather than a monster’s. Marcus fled behind a pillar at the sight of this man. The pillar offered him protection, both from the vampire’s weapons and sight. Marcus’s black cloak shrouded him, and the hunter became one with the darkness.

The vampire began to speak, “Do you think that you can hide from me? Do you think the darkness will shield you?  I am the knight of night. I have gazed long into the abyss. Do you really think I can’t see you, especially on such a moonlit night like this? Now tell me! From what pitiful order do you hale hunter? What foul human has sent you to brave an assault on this manor?”

            Marcus did not want to say anything for fear of giving away his position, but he spoke nonetheless. “I am from the Order of True Dawn,”

            “The Order of True Dawn, I suspected as much. Especially after seeing you swing around that shining sword. A sword of the sun if I’m not mistaken, a truly interesting piece of technology, but know that this is not the first time I have seen one of your solar powered swords. Nor is this the first time that I have had to deal with a member of your pitiful order.”

The vampire moved quickly on the second floor. He picked up a broken blade from its hangings on the wall, and chucked it near Marcus’s hiding spot. The broken sword pierced the wall behind him and Marcus knew without a doubt that this was another sword of the sun. The intricate machinery and design of the hilt made that abundantly clear. 

            Fear filled the heart of the hunter, but he soon regained himself. Then Marcus said, “I see that you’re not lying. I don’t underestimate your strength. The fact that you speak to me now, the fact that you have not fallen into a lowly beast like the others makes me know that you are still a man. Now let me ask you a question. Are you the lord of this manor?”

            “I am afraid to tell you that I am not the lord of this manor, nor does it have any lord to begin with. The ruler of this place is the magnanimous Lady Fairfax. I am Izmir, her champion and sole thrall.”

            Marcus demanded, “Take me to this Lady Fairfax!”

            “No,” Izmir’s words cut sharply, “You shall never meet my lady. You do not deserve to meet her, and you will not because I am going to kill you here and now.”

            Izmir descended over the railing on the second floor. He touched the ground almost weightless. Marcus scarcely heard the sound of his feet touch the floor.

In a flash, Izmir made his way behind the pillars where Marcus was hiding. He raised his powerful rifle, but Marcus was waiting for him with his .44 magnum. Shots from both guns rang through the air. Izmir dodged with his monstrous speed, but his movement caused his rifle to miss its mark.

 Izmir tried to shoot him again but the result was the same as before. Then, he threw his weapon to the second floor, realizing its uselessness. He quickly rearmed himself by picking up a set of maces that lined the armory walls, and then took off after Marcus.

            Izmir took off a top speeds travelling in a zigzag pattern just like the first vampire that sought to kill Marcus, but this time the challenge and the danger was much greater. Izmir moved at speeds nearly ten times faster than the normal vampires. Marcus raised the magnum and aimed the shot as best as he could, but Izmir was too quick and the bullet missed him completely. Izmir now stood inches away.

            Marcus fired a second shot, just as the vampire was preparing to strike. The bullet hit the shoulder of his striking arm. Izmir recoiled in pain, but his attack still made contact and sent Marcus flying through the air. Several suits of steel armor dismantled as he flew. He crashed into four sets of them before he was able to stop. Marcus screamed out in pain. A gigantic bruise began to form under his armor. Spots of dark purple began to show through the tears in the hunter’s armor.

            Marcus laid on the ground in agony. He saw Izmir approach. The vampire walked briskly towards him. “He thinks this fight is over. I’ll show him”, thought Marcus, “but how? Nearly half of his shoulder was blown away when I shot him, but now it is as good new. I need to stop his regenerative powers. I need to hit him with the sword of the sun.” Inspiration came and he laid in wait to execute his plan. Izmir stood over the downed Marcus hoping to deal the finishing blow. He was too focused on killing the hunter that he did not see Marcus pull out his sword.

Izmir was in reach when Marcus thrust the sword of the sun upward. The blade powered on, light and electricity poured out from the blade, and half a second later a deep cut came upward from Izmir’s left thigh to his navel.  His plan worked. Marcus swung his blade hoping to deal a second blow, but it cut through empty air. Izmir was forced to momentarily retreat. The vampire’s regenerative powers did not work this time. However, this was not the end. Izmir was much stronger than the common lot of vampires that came before him. He could still fight.

            Marcus raised his magnum at the now weakened monster before him and let out a powerful shot. Izmir tried to dodge the blast by jumping in the air, but his legs were still numb from the sword strike. He was not quick enough to avoid it. The shot hit, and his right kneecap shattered.

Izmir made one final lunge at Marcus, with broken legs and severely decreased speed. When Izmir came in range, Marcus saw his opportunity to strike and viciously slashed at his enemy. The blade cut deep in the vampire’s stomach. Izmir’s decaying vampire intestines began to fall outside of his body. The monster held them in his arms, desperately trying to keep himself together, but the blood continued to ooze, and his wounds didn’t heal. There was nothing left for Izmir to do, so he screamed and cried in agony.

Marcus raised his gun and his last bullet flew through Izmir’s skull. A great wound opened up. The top of his skull was gone and bits of his brain splashed on the ground, yet Izmir still lived. Marcus saw him struggle desperately for life, and then he saw the diminishing light coming from his sword of the sun.

Raising his blade, he said, “Izmir, you are truly a fantastic warrior worthy of honor. I shall never forget you or our battle. Goodbye.” Thus the blade swung down. Light disappeared from the sword of the sun. In time, light would return to it once more, but light would return to Izmir no longer.

The final strike was quick and clean. His head was separated from his body; Izmir did not have to suffer long.

Once the battle was completed, Marcus sheathed his sword, reloaded his gun, and set out. He made his way back to the courtyard and entered through the largest set of doors that he had yet to enter. The grand passage lead to him what appeared to be the throne room, but he could not say for certain because the room was in the most ruined part of the manor. Large gaping holes dotted the ceiling. Parts of the room were illuminated by the pale moonlight. The rest of it was pitch black. On the opposite side of the door, there were twin staircases that lead to a single opening, probably towards the master bedroom. Marcus raised his gun and fired a round in the air, hoping to gain the attention of the lady inside.

A voice responded to him in the darkness. “Why have you come here, foolish human? Do you think that you can challenge me?”

Marcus replied, “I have not come here to challenge you. I have come to ask you a favor.”

The lady replied with astonished disbelief, “What nonsense is this? You come into my home, attack my guests, and kill my champion. Then you have the nerve to ask me for a favor.”

“Yes, I have every right to ask this favor from you, for I have lived for this day. My purpose in life was to meet you.” The lady was startled at this confession and out of pure, genuine curiosity she was willing to hear this man’s request.

            Marcus continued, “I have searched the world for nearly two decades in order to find one of the great and legendary vampires of old, so that they might make me one of their own. I know that the quality of a vampire is determined by the strength of the vampire that turns them. Only the most powerful and ancient vampires will have the privilege of adding me to their race.”

            “Why would a vampire hunter like you want to become one of the creatures that he hunts?”

            Marcus ran his fingers across the sniper rifle wound at his side. He held his blood drenched fingers out into the darkness and said, “Finite. Mortal. Temporary. These are the words that describe human beings. These are the words that describe my pitiful race. I have sought the power of vampires to escape from my fate as a human and gain immortality. I became a vampire hunter in hopes of finding a great and powerful vampire like you. The orders are the best at locating members of your race. I knew that if I stayed with them long enough, they would eventually lead me to you. I killed your kin to grow strong, strong enough that you might freely accept me as one of your own when the time came.”

            The figure of a woman came out of the darkness into the light. She was by far the most beautiful woman that Marcus had ever seen. She had flawless pale skin, long jet black hair that curled near the ends, eyes of a shimmering blue, and lips dyed the purest of reds. He admired her beauty, gazing at her, lost in a trance.

            The lady did not stay for long. In a second she moved from one end of the room to the other. She transformed into her true, monstrous form. Her pale white skin turned dark gray, almost black, her black hair turned silver, and all of her teeth became long and sharp like a shark’s. The queen of the night rested the edge of her terrible claws on Marcus’s neck. Marcus still held the magnum in his right hand, but the weapon was useless now. She could rip his throat out long before he would be able to shoot her. His life was in her hands and both of them knew it.

The lady measured the heartbeat of the man before her, and she witnessed something on that day that truly astounded her beyond all belief. This man could die at any moment, and had seen the lady in her most terrible form, but his courage did not falter. Not even the rhythmic beatings of his heart changed in the slightest. He was totally and completely free from fear.

The lady admired the courage and resolve of this man. She plunged her teeth into Marcus’s neck, and drained him till he was half dead. Then she opened his mouth and poured some of her own blood inside saying, “Take this blood, noble one. I shall grant your lifelong ambition. I shall give you the immortality you so desire. All that I ask is that you stay by my side and serve me as my champion.”

Three days later, Marcus rose, no longer a man, yet not fully a beast. He felt the great power surge through his veins, and he was ready to face the eternity ahead of him.