The atmosphere in the small, stone room was grim and tense. The candles in their holders and the fire in its hearth cast shadows on the two silent diners. They sat at a rough, wooden table, the only furnishing in the room. In front of each of the two men were an empty plate and a wine glass. A pitcher of wine sat in the middle of the table, ready to fill their glass if they were discovered to be empty.
One of the two men, an elderly, gray haired, grizzled looking gentleman, placed his fork silently onto his plate and sighed, gazing into the fire across the room.
"I believe you called on me for business purposes, not only to enjoy the cuisine I can provide, Father Clement." H said calmly to the priest across from him.
Giving a quick nod in response, the priest began to speak. "Lord Borieal, the church, as well as the state, has given your establishment every fund it possibly can. We've put our trust in you and up to this point you have proven yourself to be trustworthy." He paused to take a breath before continuing. "However, this time the situation seems to be completely and utterly out of hand. There have been five attacks already just this week and all of them have proved fatal! Theodore, this vampire is dangerous! Why haven't you slain him already?"
Lord Theodore Borieal sighed, bringing a hand to his temples. Of course this was why Father Clement had called on him. They were paying the Establishment to slay vampires, yet one was currently hunting untroubled in the streets of London. London of all places! The very city his establishment was located!
"Father," Lord Borieal began, his tone tired. "We are working to slay this vampire. I had a team of slayers hunt him only three nights before."
"And?" Father Clement prompted. "What happened? Why isn't this vampire dead?"
"Out of the five slayers I sent out, only two returned. The other three were killed. This vampire is one to be reckoned with, Father."
"I am sorry for your losses," the priest replied curtly, "But Theodore, this vampire must be slain, and soon! Five victims in one week! The people of the city are becoming anxious. They want results. They want to know they are safe when they go to sleep!" He sighed. "Did your two surviving hunters at least return with information on this vampire?"
"They did." Lord Borieal admitted. "We now know the vampire's name. He called himself Lord Ambroise."
There was a silence as Father Clement waited for the lord to continue. Then he scoffed. "That's all your slayers were able to find out? Lord Borieal, if your slayers are so incompetent that they cannot learn any more than the vampire's name that they hunt, perhaps we should cut your funding!"
Lord Borieal stood up quickly, his ancient frame adopting a surprisingly strong stance. "No!" he said, fixing his suddenly cold eyes on the priest. "If you cut our funding you will find that my slayers are much more precious than you believe they are now. We will no longer have the resources that we need to travel to the towns that require our service or even acquire our weapons. The whole country of England will become over run with vampires and you will realize that you have a much bigger problem than just one unusually powerful vampire."
"Is that a threat, Lord Borieal?" Father Clement asked, forebodingly.
"No." he replied, sinking back into his chair. "It is merely a warning."
The priest nodded reluctantly and took a sip of his wine. "Very well." He said. "Then kindly tell me of your latest plan to slay this vampire. I assume you have one."
"Perhaps you yourself will slay the vampire?" Father Clement guessed. "Your skills in slaying are unrivaled after all. And if the people hear that you are on the vampire's trail, then I'm sure that they will feel much safer."
"Me?" the lord questioned, raising an eyebrow. "Out of the question. Do you see me sitting before you? Do you see what I have become? Yes, in my time I was the best slayer, but now I'm old. Much too old to be chasing after an undead monster. There is no doubt in my mind that I would be killed less than an hour into the hunt."
Father Clement's expression became one of irritation. He was well aware of the effects of aging. He himself was beginning to hear the creaks of stiff joints in the morning. But Lord Borieal had been the best. Surely he could still slay one single vampire by himself! Or it did not even have to be by himself! The people simply needed to see his face to be reassured.
"Then what do you suggest we do?" Father Clement asked, his expression carrying into his tone.
Lord Borieal smiled, pressing his thin lips together. However, the smile did not carry into his eyes.
"I believe there is a slayer you should meet, Father Clement."
The Borieal Establishment was in simple terms, a university for vampire slayers. Children as young as five were sent to the Establishment by their parents to learn the skills of a slayer. From there they spent years studying fighting and weapon skills, studying vampire lore, and observing the real slayers that called the Establishment home.
The Borieal Establishment was also Elsandra Enderson's home.
Elsandra lay on her bed, turning the pages of a battered, leather bound book. She paused occasionally to look at an illustration, but she was not reading the story this evening. She didn't need to. The pictures were enough to bring the familiar words flooding back into her head.
"And then the knight drew his sword and prepared to do battle with the dragon." Elsandra recited quietly to herself, admiring the picture that depicted that line.
Smiling, she pushed some of her midnight black curls away from her face and flipped to the next page. A green dragon with large leathery wings was standing between the knight and a dark, ominous cave. Behind the dragon, there was a beautiful, blond princess standing just inside the cave's opening. Her expression was one of terror. Her love was about to fight a dragon with the intentions of rescuing her!
There was a knock at the door.
"Miss Elsandra?" the nervous voice of a teenage boy
Finding her fairytale interrupted, Elsandra scowled and her dark eyes turned to the door. "What?" she snapped back. Elsandra sat up, pushing a few curls back into place and straightening her dress.
"Um. Ah," the boy said, sounding even more nervous than before. "LordBoriealwantstoseeyouinhisdiningroom." he finally spat out.
Used to this type of behavior from the younger students, Elsandra sighed and rolled her eyes. "I'm on my way." She answered, her voice more controlled than before. She sounded almost bored as she said, "You may go and tell my uncle that I am coming or whatever you're supposed to do next."
"Yes Miss!" came the reply. It was immediately followed by the sound of running feet.
Elsandra found her shoes-- fine black leather boots-- next to her bed and slipped them on before walking over to her floor length mirror. The ankle length dress that she wore was burnt orange in color and simple in design. It wasn't created to impress, but merely to be comfortable. And Elsandra was indeed comfortable in it.
Pulling one of the puffed sleeves short sleeves back into its correct position, she deemed herself presentable and walked out of her apartment, heading towards her uncle's dining room.
"Elsandra?" Father Clement repeated, frowning. "Do you mean your late sister's orphan, Lady Elsandra Enderson?"
"Yes." Lord Borieal replied. He sipped his wine casually. "She is my ward."
The priests eyes went wide in shock. "You put her through your school to become a vampire slayer?" he asked in surprise. "Elsandra Enderson, who is not only a girl, but a future addition to the royal court?"
"I did not put her through my school." Lord Borieal said calmly. "I trained her myself. She became a ranking slayer last year and if I do say so, she is one of our best here at the establishment. I intend to make her my successor when I retire."
"You can't be serious!" Father Clement exclaimed, staring at Lord Borieal with unabashed astonishment now. "She is a girl!"
"She is one of my best slayers."
"How old is she?"
Lord Borieal took another sip of his wine and smiled slightly. "Seventeen, just this week."
"Then she is but a child!" Father Clement insisted. "You can't be serious sending her out to fight this vampire! You know the victim reports even better than I do! Every victim the vampire has taken has been-"
"Yes," The lord said, cutting him off. "Yes. All five victims have been young, attractive women. That is exactly why I am sending Elsandra after this Lord Ambroise. If I do say so myself, Elsandra has become a beautiful young woman, just like Lord Ambroise's other victims. The vampire will surely seek her out and then she will be able to dispose of the nuisance quickly. I doubt he will be expecting that a woman could be a slayer."
"But the vampire will be attacking her as well." Father Clement pointed out, his frown returning.
"Every vampire slayer is attacked on a hunt." Lord Borieal replied. "That is why they are trained to survive them."
"But Miss Elsandra-"
Lord Borieal began to speak again before Father Clement could finish his thought. "My ward is perfectly capable of dealing with this vampire. She has every weapon she could ever need at her disposal. Knives, arrows, bullets… All coated in silver, mind you. And Elsandra never leaves her room without her mother's cross. I believe you know the one I am talking about. It was blessed by the pope as you know."
"I have no doubt in my mind that Elsandra is capable of completing this hunt." The lord said firmly.
Lord Borieal stared resolutely at Father Clement as if the look on his face could convince the priest.
There was a knock at the door.
"Come in." Lord Borieal called, turning his attention to the door.
It opened and Elsandra walked in. "You sent for me, Uncle?" she asked, looking from him to the priest and back calmly.
"Yes." Her uncle said, the slight smile returning to his face. "I was just telling the good father how I want to send you out to slay the vampire we have been having trouble with lately."
Elsandra gasped in excitement. "Really?" she asked, grinning. "The one that's been attacking in London? Lord Ambroise?"
Lord Borieal nodded. "That's the one."
"Oh, thank you!" Elsandra exclaimed excitedly, clapping her hands together and jumping up and down once eagerly in spite of herself.
"You will leave for the hunt tonight." Her uncle told her. "Now go and prepare yourself."
"Yes, of course." Elsandra said, recollecting herself. She gave Lord Borieal a confident smile. "Lord Ambroise will be slain before the night's over, I promise."
With that said, Elsandra left the room, closing the door quietly behind her.
Lord Borieal chuckled, shaking his head good naturedly. Father Clement was still frowning.
"It does not seem right to send such a young person-- a girl for that matter, into such danger. I still do not like this."
"This is not the first time Elsandra had been on a hunt." Lord Borieal answered, turning his attention back to the priest. "She is a Class A hunter and has slain five vampires just as powerful as this one without any help from her elders. It would not seem right to send anyone besides Elsandra into this hunt now."
Father Clement sighed and took a sip of wine before pushing his chair back and standing up. "Theodore," he said seriously. "I trust your judgment, really I do. But please think this over. It does not bode well with me."
"You have already said that, Father." Lord Borieal replied, his tone cool. He stood up as well.
"It has never hurt a man to hear a warning twice." Father Clement said simply.
Elsandra strode down the hallways of the establishment, practically at a run. Students, slayers, and servants alike hurried to get out of her path as she rushed by. Elsandra's eyes were ablaze with the anticipation of the night's job. It had been almost three months since she had gone on her last hunt. And now her uncle was trusting her, and only her, no one else, with an important mission. Elsandra would not let him down!
She turned a corner and found herself face to face with a group of four boys she had never seen before. Seeing that Elsandra had grown up in the establishment and the boys looked relatively young, all of them were around twelve; they must have been new students.
"Get out of my way," Elsandra told them, waving her hand in a dismissing manner. "You're blocking the hallway. I have to get through."
"Why should we listen to you?" the oldest asked, sneering. He looked around thirteen and if his clothes were an indication of anything, he came from a wealthy family. "You're a girl and therefore you don't belong here. Now listen to me. You're here to see one of the older students aren't you? Well, they're not allowed to have female visitors in their rooms. Get out of here before we call someone. They don't take kindly to intruders here, you know."
A chorus of 'yeah's came from the other three boys.
Elsandra narrowed her eyes, glaring at them. There was no doubt now, these were new students. And they had the guts to accuse Elsandra of having less than honorable intentions. "I do not take orders from beginner students such as yourselves, nor anyone else here that you could call." She informed them, her tone cold and threatening.
"Oh yeah?" another boy challenged. This one looked to be about eleven. "Our teacher is a Class B slayer. When a Class B slayer tells you to do something, you do it."
"Not if you're a Class A slayer, now get out of my way." Elsandra retorted. She took a step forward, intending to push past the little brats, but the third boy stepped in front of her.
He snorted. "Well, yeah, but there's barely any of those and you're definitely not one of them. You're a girl. They don't teach girls here! You can't even find any Class J slayers that are girls!" The boys laughed and hollered their agreements.
"There aren't any Class J slayers that are girls." Elsandra agreed, turning her glare to the third boy. He stopped laughing immediately and swallowed nervously. "There aren't any girls in the Establishment school. You're right about that too. There never has been. But there's still a girl slayer in the Establishment and she's a Class A slayer. And guess what?" she paused for a moment. "She happens to be me. Now move it."
The last boy, who also seemed to be the youngest, gazed at Elsandra in amazement. "Are you Elsandra Enderson then?" he asked, his voice quiet and shy.
"Yeah." She replied with a nod. "That's me. Now I'll ask for the last time." Elsandra looked back at the other three boys. "Will. You. Get. Out. Of. My. Way."
They quickly moved to the side of the hallway, gaping at her in wonder.
Elsandra continued towards her room, smirking. And people had told her reputations were hard to maintain.
A half an hour later, Elsandra was once again hurrying down the hallways of the Establishment, this time on her way to the back entrance.
While getting ready, she had changed into a much more elegant black dress and pulled her hair into a quick, sloppy bun using a piece of black satin ribbon and a few hairpins. Plenty of black curly tendrils had already slipped out of their binding, but the ribbon and pins was still doing their job for the most part and they would continue to do so until Elsandra pulled them out. A silver revolver and dagger, Elsandra's most prized slaying weapons, hung from a leather belt at Elsandra's hip. She held a black cloak in her arms. It was much too warm to put it on inside, but she would want it once she left the building.
The sun had set more than an hour before and Elsandra was ready to start the hunt. The sooner she found and defeated the vampire, the sooner she would get her thrill, and more importantly, the sooner the people of London would be safe.
"Elsandra!" some shouted from behind her. "Elsandra! Wait up!"
Elsandra paused a moment and turned to look behind her before continuing down the hall.
"Hello Mark." She said, her voice taking on a polite air.
"Hello." The young man named Mark replied. Catching up to her, he slowed so that he was walking besides Elsandra. "You going on a hunt?"
Elsandra nodded. "I am."
Groping in her cloak for a moment, she pulled a piece of black velvet out and began tucking it into her belt, hiding her weapons from view. Elsandra wanted the vampire to view her as a potential victim. She didn't need him guessing her objectives before the ideal moment.
"Which vampire?" Mark asked conversationally. He watched her pull at the velvet until the weapons were completely hidden and the draped cloth resembled a belt pouch. They had both been taught to do this trick, but Elsandra was admittedly much more skilled at it than Mark was. "The one that's been plaguing Norwich?"
"No, the one who's been killing in London this week." She answered.
Mark's green eyes went wide. "Wow." He said, running a hand through his brown hair absently. "Didn't it kill three slayers two days ago?"
"It did." Elsandra agreed.
They walked together in silence for a minute. Mark occasionally glanced over at the girl next to him. She looked determined. And knowing Elsandra, she was probably even more determined than she looked.
Elsandra and Mark had known each other for years. They had played together as students at the Establishment and shared common backgrounds. Both of their parents had been killed by vampires. And, as the years had gone by, Mark had begun to feel more than just friendly feelings towards his childhood friend.
"You are going with a group, aren't you?" Mark asked suddenly. Although Elsandra had gone on hunts alone before, he hoped she was going with a group for this one.
Elsandra shook her head and looked over at Mark. "No, I'm not. It's just me."
"But the vampire's killed three slayers already!" the young man insisted, sounding alarmed.
"The three who were killed were Class D's." Elsandra explained patiently. "The two that got away, apparently after injuring the vampire, if they were telling the truth, were a Class C and a B. I rank higher than the survivors. I have nothing to worry about."
"But shouldn't you at least go with a back up?" Mark asked. "Just in case something happens?"
"No." she replied quickly and firmly. "I want the vampire to think I'm easy game. I have to be alone."
"I don't have to be with you." Mark continued. He sounded almost desperate now. "I could watch from a distance."
"Elsandra." He said sighing.
They stopped, arriving at the back-- Elsandra's destination.
Elsandra turned to face Mark and put her hands on her hips. "What?" she asked, a slight scowl on her face. "You know I can take care of myself probably better than anyone else in the Establishment."
"You're my best friend," Mark explained, smiling feebly. The expression in his eyes looked pained. "This vampire's already killed three people I know. I don't want to see you get hurt, okay?"
Elsandra sighed as well and her scowl softened into a small grin. "Alright," She said, removing her hands from her hips and folding them over her chest. "You can come find me if I'm not back by three o'clock and if I'm still fighting you can join me. If I'm just cleaning up then you have to help me. Do we have a deal?"
Mark smiled for real this time and nodded. "Deal." He stuck out his hand and Elsandra took it, giving it a firm shake.
Pulling on her cloak, Elsandra opened the door and slipped out into the night.
Nicolas Ambroise strolled down the dark streets of London, his face flashing paper white in the dim light of the occasional street lamp. With his long black hair pulled back into a horsetail and his dark clothing blending with the night, he seemed to merge with the shadows, passing by the few people were still out at this time of night unnoticed.
Stopping for a moment, Nicolas leaned against the building he had been passing. Nicolas knew the Establishment had sent a hunter to slay him tonight. Usually Nicolas was not one for violence. The first hunt had taken him by surprise and he had found no pleasure in killing the three slayers. It had simply been self-defense.
However, he did know of tonight's hunt. Usually Nicolas would have used this knowledge to keep himself safe. He would have stayed in his manor, out of harm's way. He had no real need to venture into the city. The victims he had already taken would sustain him for nearly a month.
But something about tonight's hunt had caught Nicolas's interest. Lord Borieal, the old man who ran the slaying Establishment, had chosen to send out one slayer. A female slayer. Elsandra Enderson
Nicolas smirked. A female slayer. The world was full of strange things these days.
Straightening up, Nicolas continued on his way down the street. He was going to find this slayer
Elsandra turned into an alley and sat down on a crate. Pulling her hood over her face she waited. The vampire would come to her soon.
Nicolas could smell the flowery scent of female human blood almost a block before he came to the alley. It was nearly ten o'clock now. The woman he smelled was either a prostitute or his hunter. No respectable woman was out of doors at this hour.
Letting a smirk appear on his face, Nicolas continued towards the scent, his anticipation rising as the smell became stronger.
Finally he was standing at the mouth of the alley. He silently surveyed it. The buildings that had created the alley went a considerable way up, probably near to six stories. The alley itself did not go all the way through to the next street. Instead, there was a brick wall at the end.
It was only then that Nicolas turned his attention to the crates that were piled in the alley, only a few feet away, or rather, what was on top of the closest stack. To any human it would have looked like a pile of black cloth. But Nicolas's eyes were much more powerful than a human's. He easily saw the soft, dark texture of the black velvet. And he easily smelled the tantalizing scent of human blood coming from underneath the material.
Nicolas walked into the alley, stopping in front of the velvet clad woman. He could hear her slow, steady breath, but yet she did not move.
Nicolas smiled coldly. This was no whore. This was his hunter.
He silently extended a hand to pull the hunter's hood back so that he could see her face. But before Nicolas could even touch the velvet, a hand shot out of the folds and she did it herself.