The Roserote

This is a new draft of a story that I composed several months ago. The original purpose was to enhance my descriptive abilities, but to some degree this hampered the flow of the story. Thus, you won’t be seeing quite so much description. I hope you enjoy this piece!

Woron hurried down the road, his boots stepping in roadside puddles, his cloak soaking in the rain and billowing behind him in the wind. No one glanced at him as he stopped in front of a large building, unseen candles and fireplaces illuminating the windows, with a large sign over the door, depicting a well-drawn image of the building’s name: The Wheezing Stoat.

He entered, water cascading onto the floor while he closed the door behind him. Despite the damp condition of his cloak, he declined to lower his hood out of his fierce desire to keep his anonymity, especially in this region, with what he was carrying.

He still couldn’t believe he had managed to steal it. He, Celer Woron, had managed to steal the Roserote, the stone of legendary powers, from the vaults of the emperor himself. Once he got out of the country, he would be able to do whatever he wanted. Nations would go to war for the power of the stone. Granted, Woron didn’t know what those powers were, but he knew where to find those who did, and that was all that mattered to him.

The tavern was full of people halted by the rainstorm outside. The bartender was operating from the axis of the bar against the left wall, incessantly walking between it and the myriad of tables populating the room. Woron made his way through the crowds to a vacant table in the corner. He drew up a chair and sat down, facing the wall, which glowed red in the flickering firelight. After several moments, the bartender arrived at his table, asking if he desired something to drink. Woron assented.

A short time later, he continued to brood, solitary amidst the noise of the tavern, every so often raising the silvery mug to his lips and sipping slowly, trying to act calm, despite the raging excitement of his acquisition burning in his chest.

Abruptly, however, he felt a strong hand clenching his shoulder. Woron’s muscles tensed as his mind fought to exert that stoic calmness over him. This not very successful, seeing as this new presence was probably the one looking for him, and the thing that he had recently taken possession of. He silently cursed himself for being caught so soon.

“Celer Woron,” said a deep, imperial voice behind him. “Give it up, or we’ll be required to use force.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Woron replied.

The hand on his shoulder hoisted him to his feet and twisted him around. Facing him were four grim warriors, bounty hunters more than likely, their eyes boring into his own. Woron’s mind raced to recognize any of them.

“Hand it over,” repeated the man holding him, his free hand resting on the hilt of a sword.

“Hand over what?”

The soldier ripped off his hood, revealing his care-worn face to the other mercenaries. Their eyes flashed in recognition, and Woron cursed the day he had ever been imprisoned long enough for the imperials to get a sketch of his face.

“You know what we’re here for: the Roserote. Hand it over.”

Woron’s eyes darted around the room, searching for an escape route. He couldn’t stall much longer. It was only a matter of time before these men decided to kill him and search his bleeding corpse for the stone.

“No,” he said, pushing the man’s hand off his shoulder.

The mercenary took a step back, hand gripping his sword all the more tightly. Woron’s hand flew to his own sword.

“And I wouldn’t suggest trying to take it,” he continued. “If you know who I am, then you should know what I’m capable of.”

“Yes, thievery and parlor tricks,” replied the other, tensing and taking an intimidating posture. “I really doubt you could take on four well-trained soldiers at once.”

“But we don’t need to find out whether I can. You could just clear out.” Woron tensed as he anticipated a fight.

“I don’t think so.” The mercenaries drew their swords, pushing aside tables to clear space for themselves. Around them, the other tavern guests quickly backed away, trying to avoid the sudden brawl that was about to ensue. Woron toppled his chair as he drew his sword.

The first soldier, embracing Woron’s challenge, pointed his sword tip at him and thrust. Woron stepped to the side, parrying the bounty hunter’s blade by forcing it up. He grabbed his opponent’s sword handle with his free hand, and pushed it at the mercenary, sending the soldier stumbling back.

This, however, allowed the other three to attack, especially now that the area was sufficiently emptied of the relaxers and drinkers who had fled for fear of being accidentally hurt in the fight. Woron blocked the blades of the first two, but the third wasn’t quite carrying a blade – rather a large battleax, that nearly split the table Woron stood in front of.

Now the first soldier returned to the fight. Despite his apparent success, he was only able to keep them off him – there was no room to make any aggressive moves. Granted, if he could fight them each one on one, he might stand a better chance, but while this room was too small for all four of them to attack him at once, it was also too big for him to choose his opponents.

It was shortly after he had punched one of the swordsmen, sending him tumbling to the side, that he felt the jab at his back and fell forward onto the floor. He quickly rolled over to get up again, but found that impossible when he saw the first soldier’s blade hovering over his chest. Soon the other three had joined in surrounding him. Woron dropped his sword in surrender.

“It’s over,” said the mercenary calmly. “Give it up.”

“Just who are you planning to take it to?” Woron asked, only his lips moving.

“To Casecatho, Lord of the Dreimer Wastes,” he replied. He gestured to one of the other mercenaries. “Take the stone.”

The man crouched over Woron, searching his pockets. It wasn’t long before he took out a small orb, wrapped in brown paper, from Woron’s breast pocket.

“This is a mistake,” Woron pleaded, knowing exactly what Casecatho terrible things would try to do with the stone. “It doesn’t belong there.”

“I don’t really care,” replied the first mercenary. He took the package from the other soldier, opening it up to reveal the red orb inside. He dropped it in his own pocket and sheathed his sword, gesturing to the others to do the same.

“Let’s go.” The bounty hunters turned, with a swish of their cloaks, walking purposefully to the door. They passed out of the tavern, amidst the silence of the inhabitants, while Woron watched them disappear into the night, unmoved from his place on the floor.

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The Usurper

The alternative title for this is “Life Debt”. Yes, I used a line from Phantom Menace. No, it doesn’t make that movie any less bad (especially since that particular life debt never went anywhere). But still, what if it had? What does a good ‘life debt’ look like? Enjoy!

Sir Arano Ensremeso gazed around the area at the sudden cry he had heard, just out of sight. Hearing it again, he turned the reins and spurred his horse, ready to step in to help whoever it was that needed aid. His horse leapt to the top of a crop of rocks, and he looked down into a small valley, where seven brigands were accosting some nobleman. He had fallen to the ground, a nasty wound on his head, and his aggressors were discussing what to do with him.

“Let’s just kill him and loot him,” one suggested. “And be done with the whole thing.”

“I don’t think so!” declared Arano. “Release the man, or else I shall visit upon you cold death.”

The scoundrels looked up at him surprise. A couple of them started laughing.

“What are you going to do about us?” another asked defiantly.

Arano drew his sword. “This is Vorise, my magic sword. When it swings, it sends great gusts of air. You will not survive it!”

With that, he spurred his horse, and leapt down the cliff into the brigands, swinging his weapon. True to his word, blasts of wind issued from the blade, knocking Arano’s enemies into the air, or else against the rocks. In just a few moments, the entire band was unconscious, leaving the nobleman on the ground, staring blinking up at him. Arano dismounted, helping the man to his feet.

“Are you alright, sir?”

“I’m…fine,” the nobleman said breathlessly. “Thank you. I think you saved my life.”

“Don’t mention it! And don’t bother with payment. All I need is to see justice done!”

He helped the man onto one of the brigand’s horses, before mounting his own horse and riding down the road, back on his original route, toward the city of Meste, capitol of the Kingdom of Lintelen. There, Arano was a knight of the realm, and was there by request of the king.

* * *

“I have called you all here,” the king began. “To answer a threat that is stirring within this nation, yes, perhaps even within these walls. I fear that this realm is in danger of traitors, who would cut off the head and put their own in its place. This must not be! Therefore, I command you, urge you, to find this insurrection, and bring it to swift justice!”

Arano stood within the ranks of knights assembled in the great hall of the palace, attentive to the words of the monarch speaking from his throne, all the while contemplating who would ever be so dishonorable as to start a coup such as the king described. However, his thoughts were interrupted when a voice shouted from the back of the hall.

“That would all be well, if the insurrection didn’t find you first!”

The knights turned, to see no less than an army assembled outside the gates of the palace. And there, at its head, was the very nobleman Arano had rescued not a day ago, wielding a wicked wooden staff in one hand.

“What is the meaning of this?” demanded the king.

“We are the insurrection, the rebels, the usurpers – whatever demeaning terms you have for us. Do you know what this is?”

The nobleman held forth the staff in his hand. At its head, a large gem glowed red.

“Is that not the Staff of Ruisten?” asked the king.

“This is power,” continued the nobleman, as if the king had not spoken. “And a way to obtain more of it. And that is how I intend to use it. This nation is mine!”

With that, he pointed the staff at the nearest night, sending a great red blast that knocked the knight off his feet, to land several feet away, dead. And then the army charged in. Arano drew his sword with the other knights, rushing to fight off the incoming rebels. The trouble was that they weren’t a mindless rabble of peasants, but rather a trained force of mercenaries – experts in killing. Additionally, the nobleman’s staff was easily picking off the knights one by one.

Fortunately, many of the knights, Arano included, possessed magical weaponry, giving them an equal footing against their opponents. If they had had the gate, not even the leader of the insurrection would have been able to get through; but as they didn’t, the battle spread all over the hall, the usurper walking up the center toward the king, only pausing to blast some unfortunate knight out of his way.

About halfway through his stroll toward the king, Arano leapt in the way, sword at the ready. The nobleman looked at him, and a look of surprise on his face told the knight that the man recognized him. The usurper laughed.

“This must be quite a shock to you,” he said. “Realizing I’m the man you rescued yesterday! I bet you’re reconsidering your decision then!”

“It’s never wrong to save a life,” replied Arano. “Whoever it may belong to.”

“Quite an irony, isn’t it? You saved my life, now I’m going to kill you.” He sent a blast of red lightning at Arano, who deflected it with a swipe of his powerful sword.

“I don’t think it works that way. You see, you’re indebted to me! You owe me your life!” Arano marched forward, thrusting his sword. The nobleman just barely got out of the way before the gust of wind rushed past him.

“Only if we both live by your code of honor, and I do not.” Another blast rocketed out of the staff, and Arano rolled over the floor to avoid it.

“I think you misunderstand,” said Arano as he again slashed with Vorise at the usurper. “A life debt isn’t part of some human code of honor! It’s part of the Law of God, etched into the very core of magic and human mind!”

“Bah!” The two of them were now within arm’s reach, dancing around each other as they swung at each other, avoiding each fatal blow by inches. Around them, the battle still raged, a line drawn somewhere around the center of the hall, where the few remaining knights fought desperately against the ruthless mercenaries atop corpses of soldiers of both sides alike.

At last, though, a blast from the usurper successfully knocked away Vorise from Arano’s grip, leaving the knight defenseless.

“Let’s test this theory of yours,” the nobleman said cruelly as he pointed his staff at the knight.

The red lightning erupted from the staff, blasting into Arano, sending him flying back. However, as he flew back, he was also vaguely aware that the lightning, after hitting him, had ricocheted back, crashing into the usurper himself.

Arano got groggily to his feet, shaken by the blow delivered by the nobleman. There he lay, dead, sprawled out on the floor. Somewhere out of his range of focus, the knight was aware of imperial soldiers rushing into the hall, engaging the mercenaries and rounding them up with the remaining knights. But Arano just walked to the staff, taking it up in his hand.

He turned, to see the king standing beside him, hand on his shoulder. The king had a worried expression, as though unsure what Arano would do. Well, Arano knew what to do. He took the staff in both hands and snapped it over his knee.

“That’s enough of that.”

Next week: werewolves!

Amatorium Awry

I thought this was rather…interesting. I’m considering writing some more stories about this character, so be sure to tell me if you’d be interested. Enjoy!

Ana Valensa paused as she came up to the bridge that was the entrance to the impressive castle before her. She dug her heels into her steed, a large horse carrying her and her things. She made her way across the bridge and through the courtyard, until, arriving at the citadel, she was halted by a pair of guards, standing on either side of the great doorway.

“Miss,” said one. “What is your business here?”

“Your lord sent for me. Inform him that Ana Valensa has arrived.”

The guard hurried into the citadel, coming out several minutes later to inform her that Lord Niruso would see her. She dismounted, handing the reins to a guard, before following the other inside. They passed through the great hall, walked up a flight of stairs and through a few corridors, finally halting in front of a rich, mahogany door, which Ana guessed to be the entrance to the lord’s chambers.

The guard knocked, and a voice from inside beckoned them in. Entering, Ana saw several people facing her – servants and attendants and, in the center, the Lord and Lady Niruso. They frowned as she entered, and she frowned back, confused at their reaction to her.

“Who are you?” the Lady asked.

“Ana Valensa. Were you expecting someone else?”

“Yes,” said the lord warily. “Have you heard of the wizard Laro Valensa?”

“He’s my father. But he doesn’t make house calls. I do. Anyway, how may I be of service?”

Lord Niruso stepped forward.

“In a couple days, we will be visited by an entourage from Lord Edoma. Coming in this entourage will be Edoma’s son, Tarrano, who is betrothed to my daughter Yivella. Unfortunately, she will have none of him. I’ve talked to her on several occasions about it, but she remains stubborn.”

“Have they met before? Is there someone else she loves?”

“I don’t think she loves anyone. They have met much throughout their lives – we are close friends with the Edomas.”

“I see. What would you like me to do about it?”

“We want you to make a love potion for our daughter. And then slip we’ll slip it in her drink during the banquet when the Edomas arrive.”

Ana pursed her lips. This hadn’t been the solution she had anticipated. And it wasn’t a particularly good solution, either.

“Are you sure? Love potions are terribly unreliable. I mean -”

“We’re quite sure,” interjected Lady Niruso.

“Alright.” Ana shrugged. “Then I’ll need a few materials.”

* * *

Ana sat in a guest chamber, at a table containing the ingredients needed for the potion. She was engaged in delicately measuring out a certain herb into the main concoction, when she heard a knock on her door.

“Come in.”

Heavy footsteps sounded behind her, and she briefly set down her vials to see her visitor.

“I don’t believe I know you,” she told the large, commanding man before her.

“I am Chancellor Oremso. I was curious about your work, and about you.”

“Really?” Ana turned back to her vials and ingredients, measuring things out as the chancellor continued to speak to her.

“I’d heard of your father, and his successes, and I was rather surprised when I learned his daughter was here, rather than himself.”

“You shouldn’t be. He hasn’t left that tower of his in nearly twenty years.”

“Not once? But still, why would you be here? It’s unusual for a woman to be traveling around, solving people’s problems.”

“Well, certainly. But I have skills that people want and need, as your lord as shown, and people are often willing to overlook certain…peculiarities…to have their issues solved, especially when it’s a matter of life or death. Hand me that bit of copper there.”

He gave her the small chunk of shining copper, of which she broke of a miniscule portion, and then crushed that crumb, sweeping the remnants into the primary vial, stirring to dissolve it into the potion.

“Copper?” asked Oremso.

“It’s symbolic. One of the alchemical elements to this.”

“I see. Will the potion make Lady Yivella fall in love with Tarrano Edoma?”

“Sort of. The first attractive face that the drinker sees will be the one that the drinker falls in love with. More importantly, it only creates an infatuation, which is very short and shallow.”

“That could be dangerous. Can’t you make a more lasting love?”

“If I could, I’d be richer than a king. No – that’s impossible. That involves the whole part of a person’s being, while a love potion only needs to tamper with a person’s body. Even so, you’re right, it is dangerous. I’ve heard of it unseating entire kingdoms before. That’s why I hate making these potions.”

“Then why did you acquiesce to Niruso’s request?”

Ana did not answer. Instead, she said, “What’s the Edomas’ stance on the betrothal? What it the marriage supposed to accomplish?”

“It’s just a friendly gesture of alliance.”

“But aren’t they already friends, and allies?”

“Yes, but this makes it a little more…solid. Why? Are you planning something?”

“Don’t worry. You’ll see it in time.”

* * *

The next day, the entourage from the Edomas arrived. At the banquet, Lord Niruso sat in his high seat in the center, with Lord Edoma on his right, Lady Niruso on the left, Ana further down beside the chancellor, with Yivella and Tarrano opposite, side by side. Ana noticed the two interacted little, and when they did, it was Tarrano who initiated.

But while she kept one eye on the two betrothed, she also kept one eye on Niruso. Watched him take the first gulp of his drink, so much so that she missed as she reached for her own goblet. Knocking it off the table, with a clatter. Grabbing his attention. She tried to turn her face away, but she knew it was too late.

Beside her, the chancellor seemed to have noticed all this as well.

“You were right about dangerous,” he whispered. “Now, this is all fine and well, but what about Yivella and Tarrano?”

“Does he seem interested in her?” she asked, not daring to look past Niruso.

“I think so. It’s hard to tell.”

“Good. Then at least that part of the plan will work.”

“What part?”

Ana took a careful look over at the two betrothed. “I need you to gather a hair from each of them, and bring them up to my chamber. There should be a purple vial, and instructions on the table, should I be unable to get to them in time.”

“Very well.”

“Thank you.”

* * *

Ana walked quickly through the corridors to her chambers, trying to avoid the footsteps approaching her, and who they heralded.

“Ana! Ana Valensa!” said his voice. “Stop, please!”

She halted, rolling her eyes.

“Will you walk with me?” his voice continued.

She wanted to say no, but it seemed more of a command when her arm was seized and they began walking toward a lonely corner of the citadel. Only now did she turn to look at the man beside her, Lord Niruso, who gazed back at her as though she were some beautiful diamond, and spoke making comparisons as such to her features.

All the way, Ana’s heart beat like some crazed drummer. And that was nothing compared to when they finally reached a secluded corner, and Niruso thrust her against the wall. He made some speech about Ana’s beauty, which she hardly listened to, more focused on a way out, and if he could run faster than her. In the end, though, his speech ended before she decided anything.

“Oh, glorious goddess!” he proclaimed, pressing forward and kissing her.

“Bared!” a voice suddenly screeched. “Guards!”

Niruso parted from Ana, who collapsed from the shock of the kiss and the scream. Glancing up, she saw it was none other than Lady Niruso. She was only vaguely aware as the two argued, apparently over her, while the guards appeared, confused, behind the Lady.

“And what do you think you were doing?” she demanded of Ana. “Did you give my husband your potion on purpose? Did you mean for him to fall for you?”

“Yes and no,” replied Ana weakly. “I didn’t want him to fall for me.”

“Right! Do you realize what you’ve done to him?”

“Only what you would have had me do to your daughter.”

* * *

Ana spent that night in the dungeons. She probably deserved it. Probably worse, even. The chancellor finally released her the next morning, only for Ana to come face to face with Yivella and Tarrano.

“We heard about what you did,” Yivella said. “Thanks for not using love potion on me.”

“You’re welcome. Are you three breaking me out?”

“Sort of,” said Tarrano. “But I don’t think Lady Niruso planned to keep you in much longer than now.”

“Well, after giving the potion to her husband…”

“Yes,” muttered Yivella. “I’m not too appreciative of that.”

“Speaking of appreciative – I made a potion upstairs, which, if given to a bird, will allow it to always find you two, and thus you can relay messages back and forth. You know, if you want to work at this relationship. Although, you may want to talk to your parents, since they seem to be ready for a wedding a lot sooner than you two.”

“Well…thanks.” Yivella curtsied, and hurried off up to sunnier floors.

“There’s just one problem,” said Tarrano. “I can’t write to save my life.”

Fear and Ascension, a short story

Sorry I haven’t been posting in a while; life’s been happening, what with college and all. This is a piece inspired by Harry Potter – not necessarily by what Harry Potter is about, but by what literary analysts like John Granger have said about it, about that series’s structure. That being said, I hope you feel no obligation to research all that to enjoy this. Now, here’s a vampire done right.

Tom crouched in the corner of the basement, cowering in fear in the house he had foolishly stopped by for the night. But he had had no other choice, his car having broken down during a rainstorm. He had discovered his host to be a vampire, and after the subsequent chase, found himself down near the furnace, hoping the vampire wouldn’t be able to find him. But this was a rather futile hope. The mansion was only so big, and the vampire probably had some way of tracking him – probably by smelling his blood.

As if to stress this point, the door to the basement creaked, signaling the entrance of its demonic master, whose heavy footsteps now echoed down the stairs. Tom reached to his right beside the furnace, taking hold of the lead pipe that lay there, a scrap perhaps from the very construction of the house, desperate for anything that might be a weapon in his current situation.

“Where are you hiding, Tom?” the vampire hissed into the darkness. “Well, I’ll find you shortly. You know I can smell you! There’s no escape, even though you did find a good spot to evade me!”

His voice drew nearer, until Tom finally sensed him, standing over him. The vampire crouched, and Tom felt his eyes on him, boring into his soul. It was the only opportunity he would get. He swung the pipe with all his might, smashing it into the unseen face of his demonic host. Blessed physics sent the monster reeling, but his demonic nature had him back on his feet in a moment. It was enough, though, for Tom to pelt past him and up the stairs. He slammed the door behind him as he ran, the vampire’s voice chasing him.

“There’s nowhere you can go I won’t find you!”

Tom sped through the enormous house, anxious to put as much distance between himself and his host as he could. He briefly wondered if it were best to just leave the mansion, but he was sure the vampire would continue to pursue him at this point. Of course, that was assuming he remembered where the entrance to the house was, and he was finding it painfully easy to get lost inside the mansion.

After several minutes of panicked flight, Tom found himself in the dark dining room. Pewter dishes and glimmering silverware lined the large table in the center. Tom walked across the room, toward the door on the opposite wall. Before he reached it, though, he heard a voice behind him.

“Nice, isn’t it? All just in case I have friends over. A beautiful occasion.”

Tom twisted around to glare at the vampire. He picked up one of the pewter dishes and tossed it at the monster, who dodged it easily, ascending the table to pounce at Tom. Tom leapt aside, snatching a pair of silver knives from the table and facing his host. The vampire thrust his clawed hands at Tom, who parried with a knife, backing away along the table as the beast continued his assault.

They reached the end of the table, and soon Tom’s back was against the wall. The vampire pounced, and Tom found it wasn’t a wall, but a door, as he went flying out of the dining room, landing against an earthy floor, before rolling over to try to gain advantage over his foe, who clutched him like a long-lost sibling. Tom’s knives had been lost from the shock of being flung through a door. The pair of combatants rolled through the dirt, struggling for supremacy, Tom barely keeping the vampire’s claws and fangs from his throat. He managed to toss the vampire away from him, and scrambled to his feet to face his opponent, but only to find him preoccupied.

Tom was standing in a garden, on the east side of the mansion. Far on the horizon, the red sun was rising, and it was at this that the vampire blanched, and fled, into his house to find some dark corner where he might wait out the day. Tom marveled at the miracle of this dawn, and that he must have spent more time in the mansion than he knew.

But now he was free. He could leave this accursed place, and turn his back on it forever. He began walking, toward the sunrise, toward salvation.

He paused. The vampire would still be here, no doubt to ensnare the next hapless soul that passed his way. He tried to tell himself he didn’t care, that it wasn’t his business, and at any rate it wasn’t worth risking his life all over again just to maybe kill the vampire.

That little voice spoke again. What was it called? A conscience? It told him that it was worth it. That it was his business, and that, no matter what the outcome, he couldn’t sit idly by while this vampire continued to victimize the innocent. Tom sighed.

He turned back toward the house. The voice was right. Especially because it was now the perfect opportunity to kill the vampire. Even now, he was probably hurrying back to his coffin, or wherever he hid from the sun. Tom just needed a weapon to kill him.

Tom began walking again, back toward the house, back into the dining room, toward grim battle and an uncertain outcome.

He gazed around the dining room, and its ruined table – the results of Tom’s fight, and the vampire’s flight to his most secret chamber. What he really needed was a weapon. Silverware, pewter dishes, and lead pipes had proved ineffective. He needed a greater weapon to slay his enemy.

He made his way through the dining room, checking the other walls. The sun now provided him with a little light, and he now saw a single door on each of the walls. One was wide open, where he had first entered. The other two he tried, one containing a closet, the other the kitchen. He decided to try there.

Inside, the kitchen was rather empty. Tom wasn’t surprised. After all, what would a vampire need with a kitchen? It was probably just a place to bleed his victims. However, on the counter, several golden goblets reflected the new sunlight. Tom realized how thirsty he was, since it had been a long, terrifying night. He took a cup to the sink, where he filled it with water and drank. It refreshed him, reinforcing his conviction to slay the vampire. He looked around, and found an odd brass steak knife.

“It’s not much, but it’ll have to do,” he told himself.

He picked it up as he left the kitchen, ready and almost eager to face the vampire. He wondered if the steak knife really would do the trick, but figured if not, he could always try decapitation.

It was still easy to get lost in the mansion. This time, though, he had a more specific destination in mind, rather than just anywhere the vampire wasn’t. As a result, it was harder to find, although Tom had a general idea that he needed to go to the top floor or perhaps the attic. Unfortunately, the top floor was a big place, and he began to get rather impatient searching it.

“Why can’t I find him?” he growled.

As he said this, he passed a huge suit of armor. Tom looked at it briefly. In its right hand, it carried a huge spear, with a thick, menacing iron head. Beside it, the steak knife looked downright comical. He was absolutely sure it would get the job done. Taking the spear, he also saw that there was a door, previously unnoticed, beside the armor. In fact, looking at the scene, Tom would have guessed that the armor was supposed to be in front of the door, which seemed nearly invisible against the wall, and that the only reason he could see it was the vampire’s haste to return to his lair. He opened the door, looking in to find that his guess was right.

“So this is where you’re hiding,” Tom said to the glaring figure on the opposite side of the room. “It took me a while to find you, especially since this is so clever a spot.”

The vampire said nothing as Tom entered the room, the spear in his hands and the knife on his belt. The room lay in darkness, and the beast himself stood in a black coffin. It was warm, and dry, which Tom guessed to be part of the preferred atmosphere for the room.

The vampire crouched, and Tom raised his spear. They pounced at once another like tigers ready for fierce combat, each letting out roars of fury. The vampire hissed, and Tom let out all his fear and fury in a single roar. The iron point pierced the monster’s flesh, sending a shudder through Tom’s arm, and adding the sound of breaking skin to the desperate chorus. And in a moment, it was over, as red blood soaked the floor, and a fanged mouth kissed it, but would never taste it.