VAMPIRE'S BANE

Blaze

A silent figure watched the park as the sky turned red and gold with the early evening. The face was almost always expressionless. Her skin was unnaturally pale from her habit of sleeping by day and walking by night.

Long ago she'd have had to hide her eyes, which were an unusually bright green, but in this modern day they were dismissed as tinted contact lenses. Auburn hair hung in a thick, tight braid to her hips. Only her mouth would have given her away as something supernatural. Her lips were bright and full, but her teeth were more like those of a cat than a human. Because of this, she never spoke to anyone unless she had to, and then she would turn her head away.

The spring air grew cold after the sun was gone and it wasn't any better for her being what she was. She pulled her black suede coat tighter around her and turned up the collar to block at least part of her face from the wind.

Unlike many of her kind, she had a very keen memory. Sometimes she'd curse it when she closed her eyes and saw the mortal faces of those whom she'd loved and lost over the years.

One thing she hated most was waiting, though time meant little to her, and that is precisely what she had to do that evening. Some old friends of hers had agreed to meet her, to help her with a problem. Being of a similar trade, they couldn't resist the opportunity.

After waiting another hour or so, she heard the familiar sound of motorcycles outside the park. The figure smiled to herself and stood from her bench.

Two men and a younger boy strode down the path in leather jackets, tight blue jeans, and dark glasses.

"Hawk!" called the figure in greeting with a wide smile, "It's been far too long, and you're late." She spoke to the oldest of them, who might have been taken for a man of twenty five. His hair was golden brown and hung to his shoulders in thick curls. His eyes were brown as well and always seemed to be smiling.

The second man was called Caligo. He looked a few years younger that Hawk. He had a broad chest and shoulders, hair just a shade lighter than black and dark grayish-blue eyes. He was usually quiet, speaking only when he felt it was necessary, though his face was thoughtful and very expressive. It was very easy to see what Caligo was thinking.

The third person was the youngest, about sixteen years old to the eye with messy, unkempt dark brown hair. Despite his young, reckless appearance, he was very bright and was always the one to offer a suggestion when they were in a fix. His name was Brant.

Hawk grinned at the woman, Blaze, you know me. I have been late for everything all my life. I'm only ever on time if I try to be late." He gave a slight chuckle and Brant laughed too.

"That's the truth," said the boy, "but the problem is it doesn't work if we try to be late just so that we can be on time…"

Caligo smiled broadly. He'd always had a charming smile and he knew it.

Blazed laughed at Hawk, "Is that what you call an excuse where you come from?" she shook her head.

The man nodded seriously. He paused a moment, "so what did you bring us all the way out here for? I hope this doesn't mean you found a tough one…" he said jokingly.

"I am sorry to bring the bad news, but…" she held up the morning's paper. It read:

THREE YOUNG WOMEN BRUTALLY MURDERED.

WITNESSES CLAIM KILLER TO BE SUPERHUMAN…

The picture below the headline showed the body of a young blonde, her neck pierced in two places about two inches apart.

I haven't been able to track him or find any information on him. He knows I'm trying to find him. He's afraid."

Caligo tilted his head and examined the photo. "Has anyone got a magnifying glass?" he asked.

Blaze glanced around on the ground and picked up a piece of curved glass. "That's the best I can do," she said shrugging.

Caligo didn't say anything and took the piece of glass, holding it up to the pictures. "Take a look, Hawk," he said, handing the make-shift instrument to his companion.

Hawk examined the pictures, "I don't see anything out of the ordinary," he said, "Except a very hungry vampire."

Brant's eye's were sharp and he saw what Caligo was getting at. "The footprints, Hawk. They're irregular and one foot's turned out. His leg is injured. He'll be easy to spot," he said.

Hawk gave half a smile, "Brant, you're still the sharpest tool in the shed."

A clever, proud smile crept over Brant's face.

Blaze broke the silence that hung for a moment in the air, "You boys are probably a little hungry. I know a good place near here…" she said

Caligo smiled and laughed, "Hawk's always hungry," he said, heading back to the shiny new Harley Davidson motorcycles.

"I'm not even going to ask how you got those," she stated, admiring the bikes.

"We hit a really big job. The bounty on the last one… well, let's just say that we'd never have to hunt another one if we didn't enjoy it so much," said Hawk.

She nodded. "I should have joined you guys a long time ago…"

Hawk motioned for her to climb on behind him. He turned on the engine and listened to the loud purr of it. "Beautiful," he shouted above the engine, which roared as he accelerated.

Caligo and Brant followed and Blazed motion to Hawk when to turn right or left and after a while, they arrived at an old building which looked like it should have been torn down a long time ago. The windows had round holes in them that would indicate gunfire, the lock on the door was cut out and the lighting inside was dim and sparse. The whole street looked that. It was one of those parts of a town where one would expect to see bums walking around, mumbling to themselves and no upper class people at all.

Hawk killed the engine and kicked the stand down. Blaze watched their expressions with amusement as they looked at the building, holding back outbursts of laughter. Their faces twisted into looks of astonishment and utter confusion. Hawk cocked an eyebrow, "You sure this is right?" he asked her, knowing that it was. Blaze always did have peculiar tastes, but this was unusual even for her.

"Only the best ever come here," she said, walking through the door. When the door shut behind her, she shivered, as if from cold and the back of her skin-tight shirt ripped loudly and huge, black, leathery wings appeared on her back, "Much better," she sighed.

Many faces turned toward her, but they weren't expressions of astonishment, but instead, the people inside nodded politely. Some rose from their chairs and bowed as she passed. She smiled at everyone she walked by and they all seemed to know her by name. A hand reached up above the many heads in the pub and beckoned to her. She smiled as if something deeply pleased her and she went over to the person who would have her attention. She sat down across from him, waiting for what he had to tell her.

Hawk, Caligo and Brant came in the door and it was they who received curious glances and surprises faces as they followed Blaze. Most of the customers there were just as unusual to the eye as Blaze was, if not more so. They were the only ones there who were human, immortal even as they were…

Blaze looked over the man across from her. He was like her… cat-like teeth, dark, blood-red wings and glowing yellow eyes. His hair was pale and long, held back from his face with a leather headband tied around his forehead.

She smiled prettily, "You're still your gorgeous self," she said, pausing a moment as Hawk and his companions sat down around the table, from which one leg was missing and in it's place had bee, fixed a long, wooden stake. "These are the hunters I was telling you about," she said at length, "Hawk, Caligo, Brant, this is Jaguar, but most call him Jag" She said, gesturing to each as she said their names.

The man nodded politely to each of them as they were introduced and looked back at Blaze, "You've been gone a long time," he said, "Some of us were beginning to wonder if you even would come back. And judging by the fact that you've actually had to ask for help, things didn't go too well for you, did they?"

"I tracked him all the way to the Himalayas, Jag. I lost him somewhere in Tibet in a blizzard. Not one of us who's ever lived could track a vampire through those conditions," Blaze replied.

A waitress with blue scaly skin and a long whip-like tail came to the table carrying five dishes and drinks for everyone.

"Jag is a psychic," explained Blaze, "He knew before we got here what we all wanted."

"I am not a psychic, my dear," he said, picking up his for and knife, "at least not a very powerful one. They were thinking about what they wanted to eat on the way here and I took the liberty of ordering."

Blaze looked at the beautiful, bloody, warm, fresh, raw piece of steak in front of her for a moment before picking it up in her hands and biting off a large piece of it.

Hawk looked at her in astonishment, "That's hardly lady-like," he said with a chuckle.

Blaze pointed at herself with the knife that had until that moment lain beside her plate. "Demon," she said, "not lady," she said, making her point quite clear.

Jag waited as the others finished their food and looked at Blaze thoughtfully.

Blaze wiped the blood from her lips with a paper napkin. "I really needed that, Jag. Thanks a million over," she sighed. "Nobody knows what the word 'raw' means anywhere else but here…"

Jag smiled and laughed. His laughter was like thunder. He was much older than Blaze. He had qualities she wasn't old enough to have yet. All the slayers loved him and revered him. He was simply the best there was, though he seldom hunted anymore. He said that it had simply ceased to be challenging. He would make his kill in less than two days and refuse the bounty on it, or more usually, gave it to Blaze, who spent a lot of money traveling. She preferred to travel as mortals did. It was slower, and far more interesting. "Blaze, my precious one," he endeared her, "Are you sure you don't want my help on this one. Chances are, after he's seen your skill, he won't be alone, and he'll be armed with more than his teeth."

Hawk didn't show it, but he was more than a little jealous of how Jag spoke to Blaze. He bit his tongue and looked at his companions, who, coincidentally, were looking at him, to see how he would react to Jag's words.

Blaze showed her teeth in a smile that looked more like a cat hissing than a person smiling. "Jag, I've been doing this for nearly as long as you did before you retired. I understand that it's not going to be an easy fight," she paused a moment, "I think he's an ancient, much older than me or even you, Jag. He's no wimp either. He gave me a nice deep scar for my collection. This is going to be fun…" she said. As she said the last few words an almost malicious smile danced on her lips and laughed to herself as if the thought of hunting again pleased her deeply.

"Even so, I'd like a word with you, Blaze. Come with me. Your friends can wait for you in my lounge." Jag looked dead serious. This wasn't the time to argue with him.

Hawk was hardly disappointed by the privilege, yet some part of him disagreed. The green monster of jealousy came out in his eyes and his eyebrows came together. He didn't let it show any further in his face and nodded his head.

Blaze followed him up to his room. He owned the guild and had a residence at all the locations around the globe. The cushions on the sofas were all covered in velvet and the table was laden with two crystal glasses and a bowl of fresh fruits. He sat down on one side of the room and motioned for her to sit across from him. She waited and watched him. He had brought her back from the point of death any number of times and cared for her as a daughter, and admired her as a woman.

He looked at her for a moment. Finally, he shattered the silence that hovered over them. "Blaze, I won't even begin to try to explain how I love you. You know that already. But what I have to say doesn't relate to that. You are underestimating you're opponent seriously. He is no ordinary vampire. He has demon blood. He has been feeding selectively for many years. Each full moon he strikes down one of our kind and with their blood, takes their power. I confess that I doubt your ability to defeat your prey this time." He paused again. Blaze didn't speak. She respected his word and knew that he never spoke anything but the truth. "He will not spare your life if he gets the chance to take it. You would die slowly in agony. That would torture me, my dear, more than any machine in existence. Please take my word and let someone older handle this. You are strong, that is something none of us will doubt, but not the strongest there is, Blaze. Let it go. The bounty isn't worth risking your life that far." His face was grave.

"I understand," said Blaze, "But if I don't hunt him down tonight, more lives will be lost than one. He will kill until one of us slays him. I'm the only one who will at the moment. Someone older will be someone with reputation. They will want more money… money that we don't have. I'm going with Hawk, Caligo, and Brant. They are human, but hardly any less competent than me. I won't be killed either. I can't see that happening. It's going to turn out all right. Just a couple more scars; what's that to any of us?"

Jag gave her a fond smile, "I didn't think I would change your mind, Blaze. I only hoped to make you a little more cautious. You're far too reckless for your own good."

Blaze smiled back in such a way that she looked intriguingly human. Jag stood and sat down beside her. "I know your companions are waiting for you, Blaze, but I only want a moment more," he said, putting an arm around her shoulder.

She knew what he was getting at, "A goodbye kiss?" she laughed at him and kissed him gently.

"You know me too well, my dear," he said, smiling. Blaze stood up and went to the door, turning back to him and waving.

Hawk stood up as she entered the room, as was his habit. He'd been raised as a gentleman and it stuck.

"Let's go, boys!" she said excitedly, her eyes lighting up with the thought of hunting.

Hawk and Caligo, and Brant seemed a little confused and followed Blaze to their bikes. "Where exactly are we going?" asked Caligo, not without showing some annoyance.

Blaze shrugged her shoulders, "Well," she said, "I'll tell you the moment I find out."

Hawk laughed as Blaze said this, "It's always a surprise with you, Blaze." He mounted his motorcycle and let the engine roar as Caligo and Brant kicked the stands back on their bikes and they sped off through the streets. Blaze closed her eyes and searched with her mind's eye for her prey. She knew it wouldn't be hard. His aura was already familiar to her and it would only be a matter of time before she found what she was looking for.

"Stop!" she shouted and leapt off the bike before it had fully stopped, "Keep close," she said, looking in to the shadows of the unlit alleyway they'd found themselves in, "He's really close and he can see me by the sound of his heartbeat."

Brant's eye's went wide, "Uh, Blaze…" he began, "You do realize that hearing someone's heartbeat that you can't see is unusual even for your type, don't you?" he ventured.

Blaze nodded without looking at him. Her heart was racing and she knew her opponent could feel it. "Come on…" she muttered, growing impatient, "Why are you hiding? I have already found you! FACE ME!" she shouted.

A tall, strong silhouette appeared form the direction they'd come, blocking the only practical way out of the alley. He, for the figure was definitely masculine, advanced slowly, his movements quick and careful, much like Blaze's. "I haven't been hiding. I followed you here," he said, his voice sounding like a whisper, yet much louder, almost echoing.

Blaze was not disturbed. "So you were afraid? Thought you'd wait until we were in a good spot before showing yourself?" she taunted.

He smirked at Blaze's comment, "Well, I can't say that I don't know your reputa-tion, Blaze. You have beaten many vampires stronger than me. I won't deny that I was cautious."

Hawk kicked the stand down on his bike noisily, as if to tell the vampire that Blaze was not alone. Brant and Caligo did likewise and moved out of the shadows, drawing their weapons as they did.

"The rest of your admirers?" jeered the vampire, "How interesting…" he screeched a hoarse, dry laugh and tossed his long jacket to the side on the ground, coming closer, his face becoming visible in the faint light of the moon, which was more than enough for the four of them to see in.

Blaze didn't grace her opponent with an answer, but drew the stake that hung at her side, coming within striking range, "I came for the bounty on your head," she finally said, "I don't have time to talk. I have people to meet, vampires to kill, and mullah to collect for them."

The vampire seemed undisturbed, "I'm sure you realize that I am not unprepared for you. I'm sure you have noticed that I have been quite… hungry lately."

A sly smile crept over the demon's face. "I'm sure demon blood sounds appetizing, but I ought to warn you that it can have a dreadful after-flavor."

The vampire disappeared from in front of Blaze and appeared at her back. She didn't move and kicked back hard at his shins, sending him flying backwards onto the ground. "Keep in mind that I have abilities that other hunters don't!" she said as she turned round to see her enemy rise from the ground, seemingly unhurt.

He rose and grinned at her, revealing his elongated eye teeth, beckoning to her.

Blaze looked back at Hawk, Caligo and Brant questioningly. Her companions responded by standing close by her back, "Don't worry," said Hawk, "If he lays one finger on you, I'll blow a hole through it!"

"We're behind you too, Blaze," said Caligo, speaking for both himself and Brant. Brant pulled out a long whip and cracked it loudly in confirmation.

The vampire pulled out a powerful handgun and squeezed the trigger quickly, sending the round flying inches past Blaze's head.

"The next one won't miss. This is your last chance, amateur. Turn around, and walk away if you want to cling to whatever you choose to call your existence. You know my strength, Blaze. You know that I can and will defeat you. What will you do when you become that which you hate most?" he said, drawing boldly within range of the stake, putting his finger to one of the freshly sharpened barbs. Brant cracked his whip again and the vampire drew his hand away as he felt the whip's bite.

Caligo, armed with a crossbow and silver bolts, fired a round at the vampire, landing his bolt deep in the vampire's upper arm. The vampire frantically pulled the bolt out, as if the touch of the metal burned his flesh, and he dropped it smoking on the ground.

"Don't like silver?" asked Caligo, tauntingly.

The vampire didn't answer and fired a shot at Caligo, who managed to dodge the full blow, the bullet grazing his shoulder. He gritted his teeth and hissed with the pain, rushing his hand to the wound. Hawk was beginning to lose his temper, and it showed in his face as he pulled out a pair of bladed iron knuckles and advanced on the vampire, knocking the gun from his hand, and letting the blades slice his opponent's arm. Black, steaming blood poured from the wound, but seemed to have little effect on the being.

Blaze glanced around at her companions, and noticed something wasn't right. The cold feeing ran down her spine, as it always did when there were unseen immortals nearby. "You didn't come alone either, I see," she commented as she caught a glimpse of several shadowed faces.

The vampire seemed angered by her comment and the figures came out of their hiding places, each of them armed with the same sort of gun. "Each of those guns is loaded with liquid nitrogen, Blaze. Do you know what that would do to someone like you?"

Blaze didn't and she knew that he realized it, "It would kill me I'm sure," she said, turning her head to look at her companions.

"The liquid nitrogen would go straight into your bloodstream and slowly turn your demon flesh to ice. You would literally freeze from the inside out," he said, pulling out a bare round from his pocket and showing it to her.

Hawk already didn't like the sound of this, and Brant caught the idea fast. His whip struck out at the hands of the other vampires and the guns clattered to the ground next to his feet one by one.

Blaze could hardly stand what the other hunters were doing. This was her fight. She began to wonder why she'd asked for their help at all. They were going to get hurt in her fight. She let her wings rip through her shirt once again and she lifted herself into the air and onto the narrow ledge of a building. "Just you and me," she said to her enemy, "Your men leave, and so do my friends."

He grinned, and appeared on the ledge in front of Blaze, "Agreed," he said. The other vampires disappeared and Hawk, Caligo, and Brant looked up at Blaze helplessly. Hawk's usually smiling face clouded over with concern. He didn't have to have heard what Jag had told her to know that this vampire was more that Blaze's match. Blaze knew it too. He could see it in her face, even from where he stood.

Brant let the end of his whip wind around the bar of one of the windows in the building and got ready to climb up, but Hawk grabbed his hand before he could put it over the other. "My boy, you have no idea what Blaze is capable of. If she wants to fight this out herself, she'll fight it out herself, no matter what she has to do. Her conscience doesn't work like ours."

Blaze held her stake tight in hand. Watching the vampire's every move. He didn't attack. "No weapons. If you beat me hand to hand, I forfeit," he said, grinning.

Blaze knew that he would cheat her in the end, but there was no other way. "Very well…" she let her stake fall to the asphalt below and held her hands in front of her in a defensive stance, her feet off the ledge, and her wings flapping rapidly to keep her suspended in the air.

Hawk shook his head as he saw the stake fall. "She's lost it…" he whispered to himself.

Caligo didn't reply but shook his head doubtfully, looking up at Blaze. One could not fight a vampire hand to hand. It was impossible.

Blaze's opponent grinned at her and struck a blow at her head, which she artfully dodged without difficulty, and she brought her hand down on his outstretched arm as hard as she could.

The vampire drew his arm back quickly and floated back a distance before he attacked again and struck her chest with his foot. Blaze flew back with the impact and coughed to get her breath back, but she recovered quickly and attacked him with more force, raising her foot to his jawbone and snapping his head to the side. The jawbone cracked as the blow struck him and he put his hand to it.

"F B!!" he spat at her and she grinned.

"Still feel pain, child?" she jeered, "Too bad… this isn't going to be fun, then is it?" she taunted him further as he stood there, holding his face.

The vampire retaliated with a similar attack and struck her face on the other side. Blaze took the blow and her head was snapped sideways as well, her neck cracking violently, but her bone was unharmed, though her face reddened, "You have to remember," she began again, "I don't feel pain the same way you do…" she said with a grin.

The vampire didn't wait a second before he attacked again, striking at her face with his fist and hitting her nose.

Blaze turned her head as he hit and winced, "Okay, now that hurt…" she said and she wiped blood from it as it ran down over her lips.

He drew a weapon from hidden in his boot; a small handgun, and he pointed it at her, a sly grin creeping over her face, "You should never have come here. You are inferior!" his finger came round over the trigger and tightened. As blaze saw it she dove for the ground, ducking behind Hawk's motorcycle and jumped as the bullet struck the metal milliseconds afterward. Hawk tossed her a stake and she came out in the open again and flew up again, the sake in her hand.

"You can't fight me with that now," he said as if he thought she was absolutely insane, and his finger tightened over the trigger again. Blaze didn't move and the bullet struck. Blood was spattered on the wall and dripped to the ground in the seconds that she hovered there, and she fell. Her body hit the pavement with a horrible dull smack and she lay still. The vampire dropped down to the pavement and stood over her, bending down to take her blood, as he had of all the others. His fangs touched her throats and pressed down. He stopped suddenly, frozen absolutely still, his eyes wide as he knelt there.

Hawk shook his head in disbelief and his companions were just as astonished. Blaze had fallen, actually fallen right in front of their eyes. Something happened then that the other two never thought was possible. As Hawk looked at Blaze's body, a tear formed in his eye and fell.

A strong hand shoved him over sideways and drew the stake out again as the vampire turned to dust, "You're inferior," she said quietly and stood up slowly, her right wing dripping blood, "Damn, those bullets of his sting…' she hissed as she ran her hand over the hole it hand made in her wing.

Hawk cursed and tried to hide the look on his face.

"Aww, a tear for me, Hawk? I never would have guessed it would be from you…" she said and she kissed his cheek lightly.

Hawk stared at her still, speechless, as were Brant and Caligo. Blaze walked right passed him and got on his bike, started the engine and left them all standing there in the dark.