Light-bearer
By
Chaz Lebel

In Homage to Bram Stoker

The cold, gray overcast above reflected the fell chill that pressed in upon her skin as Chelsea Anderson hastily ascended the stairs to the outdoor classroom 616, late for her appointment to see Mr. Lampir. He was a deathly-pale, reclusive introvert of a teacher, who seemed to live behind his curtain of long black, stringy hair, and on the occasion he did speak, his Romanian accent was muffled almost inaudibly by a thick scarf he wore around his mouth and neck; to hide an unsightly scar, he excused. He had only been teaching at Stoker High since the beginning of the semester, but had already been passed
off as "weird", and, "creepy" by the majority of the student body, mostly for mannerism, but especially for his unnaturally blue-eyes, almost as if they were artificial.

Chelsea rapped swiftly upon his door, which swung open instantaneously after her first few knocks. Odd, she noted, because Mr. Lampir was the only other person in the room, and he was currently seated at his desk at the other side of the room.

"Sorry I'm late Mr. Lampir!" Chelsea apologized.

" Think not of it, child." Said the teacher passively. " Come, have a seat."

Chelsea obediently sat at the front row desk to which Mr. Lampir gestured. He drew a stack of papers from his desk, pulled one, and set it upon her's.

"Allow me to remove my scarf so you may hear me better." He offered.

" Mr. Lampir, I've already taken this test." Said Chelsea after surveying the document that was laid
before her.

" I know," he said. Without his scarf, his voice sounded ominous, almost evil, thought Chelsea, " and
you failed by one point. I'd hate to have that ruin your grade, so I offer you a chance to make it up. Be
thankful, child, I don't offer this to everyone."

" Do I have enough time?" she asked.

Mr. Lampir leaned in close over her shoulder, almost uncomfortably close. His hot breath beat down
heavily upon her neck, as he got closer, closer. She had to force herself from convulsing when it hit her.
It was thick, and reeked heavily, an indescribable metallic stench, and his hand tightened
painfully around her shoulder.

" Trust me child, you've all the time in the world."

" Another one ?" Lucy asked, startled.

" Yeah," her friend Mina answered, " This time her name was Chelsea Anderson; the tenth girl to go
missing since the semester started."

The cafeteria of Stoker High was always abuzz with conversation, but theirs was by far the most
grim…

" The disappearances are kinda scary, I mean, we could be next." Lucy admitted.

" Disappearances?" came an unfamiliar voice, "What do you know of them?"

The two girls whirled to find a senior boy standing behind them, dressed in black head-to-toe, his face obscured by sunglasses and a closed trench coat collar, and long, sweeping white hair tied back into a thick ponytail that hung down to his belt. His voice was by no means threatening, in fact it strived for a friendly air, but for some reason it just couldn't manage it.

" No more than anyone else," Mina admitted innocently, " what's it to you?"

" Let's just say that I'm conducting an…independent investigation." He revealed, and spun to walk in the opposite direction, content to leave it at that.

" Think he knows something?" Lucy asked Mina, eyeing the dark stranger suspiciously.

"Wait!" Mina commanded.

The stranger stopped, and turned to face them slowly.

" Anyone of us could be targeted next!" Mina reasoned. "If you know anything you have to tell us!
And who are you anyway? "

" Call me…Al." said the mysterious darkling. "And as far as what I know, I know exactly who, or rather, what, is behind this, but you wouldn't believe me if I told you."

" What? If you know so much you have to tell us, or the police, or someone!"

" Fine," Al conceded calmly, " vampires."

" HUH? You're nuts!" Mina barked.

" Told you." said Al smugly, and turned and walked away.

" Attention grubbing little maggot, scaring us like that!" Mina begrudged.

" I dunno, maybe he has a point?" Lucy considered.

" Oh, you can't honestly tell me…"

" Well, think about it," Lucy reasoned, " they haven't found any of the bodies yet, no fingerprints or any drag marks if they were knocked out and kidnapped, and no blood if they were murdered. I suppose that if the bodies are still walking around, then…"

" Lucy, they don't even know where any of the crime scenes were! With your logic they might as well have ridden away on flying unicorns!"

" Jus' sayin'…" said Lucy sheepishly.

" Look." Said Mina, trying to comfort her crestfallen friend, " I want these cases solved as much as anyone, but that doesn't mean we should buy into crackpot theories. I'm sorry, I yelled at you. How 'bout letting me make it up to you, Starbucks tonight?"

" I can't," Lucy confessed, " I have to help decorate the gymnasium for the dance next week."

" With the abductor on the loose? You're braver than I am."

" Yeah, well, if you can't be safe at school, then where?"

" It's starting to look good." Rachel said to Lucy, who held the ladder still for her as she climbed down from hanging ribbons. " We might be finished by tomorrow."

" I hope so." Lucy replied. " These late hours creep me out, ever since, well, you know…"

"Good point," said Rachel sullenly, " Let's call it a night. Everyone else has gone home already anyway."

" Burning the midnight oil, girls?" came an ominous foreign voice from behind them. They turned to find Mr. Lampir standing in the doorway behind them. " It's not safe to be out after dark these days…"

" You're one to talk, Mr. Lampir, you've been here after hours every night since you started!" said Rachel with a laugh.

" Just getting something out of the supply closet." He responded dismissively.

" Lucy turned to Rachel and whispered quietly: "I'll be right back, I just need to get some things from my locker."

" Goodbye Mr. Lampir!" Lucy called.

" Farewell, Child," he called back from inside the closet, "and be safe, for something wicked this way comes!"

" So I've heard." Lucy muttered to herself as she left the gymnasium.

It was a quick walk to her locker, her speed bolstered by the fact that she didn't want to stay any longer than she had to. She collected her things and hastened back to the gymnasium to assist in clean up for the night. A few feet short of the threshold, a loud thud rang through the empty hallways.

" Oh, what did she drop now?" Lucy whined as she hurried through.

She pushed through the doors to find the gym pitch-black, save for what little sterling moonlight trickled through the skylight. When her eyes adjusted, Mr. Lampir was nowhere to be found, but Rachel was collapsed in a dark mass upon the floor. In a panic, Lucy ran to her fallen friend, but
stopped short when she noticed a sable shadow stooping over her, a grotesque slurping sound emanating from its location.

Lucy's sneaker squeaked loudly upon the floor, causing the shadow to glance upward in surprise. She was horror-stricken, hypnotized by the creature's glowing, hellfire-red eyes, hatred and contempt flickering wildly behind the infernal crimson orbs. It rose to its feet, growing to its full ghastly proportions, a deathly moan-growl vibrated in the depths of its throat until it grew into a roar of full-fledged rage. It began to lurch forward, towards Lucy, arms outstretched, hands twisted into grotesque
talons. Its pace quickened, faster, faster, until it seemed to glide forward, the smoky black cloak it swathed itself in billowing fiercely behind it.

Her breath seemed to ice within her lungs, turning solid and refusing to flow any further. A cold wave rushed up her spine, intensifying into stinging pain as the demon drew nearer, pulling her deeper, deeper into the void, the vault of horrors that was its trance-inducing gaze.

With supreme mental fortitude and a desperate strain Lucy tore herself from the monstrosity's hellish stranglehold and ran, ran like lightning splitting an ebon stormscape, like a lamb fleeing the butcher.

She bolted through the gymnasium doors and threw the heavy doors shut to impede the beast, racing for an exit. A deep, satanic scream erupted from behind the doors, peaking at a deafening crescendo, and the doors were thrown asunder, propelled down the hall by some nameless, horrific force and crashing down to the floor mere inches behind Lucy. She paused naught to see behind her as the fiend resumed the unrelenting pursuit. She pounded down the hall as the devil followed
like a shadow, running desperately, but regardless it was approaching, gaining ground with every inch it
sped through the ether. Its wilting breath, thick with the rotten stench of fresh blood, wisped threateningly like a choking, ominous fog on the soft skin of the back of her neck. In the nick of time she plowed through the doors to the parking lot, out of the building, but the hellion was not to be intercepted. With a savage, umbral heave, the thing tossed the doors from their
hinges as easily as if they were made of cardboard, but the beast was too late. Lucy had already managed to scramble into her car, and was speeding away into the night.

"Where is he?" Lucy begged frantically.

"Where's who?" asked Mina concerned.

Mina hadn't even noticed Lucy's presence before she had assailed her the next day at school.

"Al! Do you know where he is? Please tell me!"

"The crackpot?" Mina asked, confused. " I haven't seen him since yesterday. Why?"

"You don't understand," Lucy pleaded, "I saw…it…" Lucy began to convulse, to shake horribly.

"What?" Mina implored. "What did you see? Tell me!"

Lucy laid her head on Mina's shoulder and trembled like a beaten puppy. "Find him." Lucy pleaded softly, almost sobbing. "Please."

Mina raced to the cafeteria; she didn't know where else he'd be. She shoved through the doors and
scouted hopefully for a flash of white hair that would distinguish him from the huddled masses. She found him sitting alone at a table in the corner.

"Hey! Screwball!" She called as she neared.

Her vague summons turned more than a few heads, but Al knew whom she was referring to.

"You rang, milady?" he answered callously.

"I don't know why, but you're coming with me." Mina demanded.

"Something wrong?"

"Listen, my friend out there's catatonic, and for some reason she's asking for you. She won't tell me what's wrong, so even though I think you're crazy, I need your help."

" I don't know what help I can render," Al said, concerned, but please, hasten, take me to her!"

Mina led Al out into the hall where Lucy quivered, hunkered down in a corner.

"Dear girl!" asked Al, aghast, "what in God's name…?"

"Lucy," Mina asked, "do you want me to stay with you?"

Lucy shook her head.

"Alright," Mina allowed, "then I'll be in the cafeteria until you need me."

Mina disappeared regretfully across the threshold and out of the hall.

"What's happened to you, luv?" Asked Al gravely.

Lucy erupted into colossal tears as she began to explain. "Al, I…I think you were right." she stammered. "I saw something last night, that I don't think I'll ever forget, no matter how badly I want to…"

Al reached out gently to catch a falling tear as it streamed down her smooth, glossy cheek.

"It was …horrible." she continued. She seemed to phase into a dream-like state as she described the
beast. "It sorta…flew after me, with long claws, and those eyes, those horrid, livid eyes, like the devil
himself…" She returned to shuddering anxiously. "It attacked Rachel last night, I, I wanted to help her so
badly, but I couldn't move…like my blood froze in my veins. I haven't seen her since." She exploded suddenly again into mourning sobs.

A crowd was beginning to gather now, either bored with the doldrums of life and seeking entertainment, genuinely concerned, or both, and it was beginning to make Al's hair stand on end.

Al leaned in close and whispered to the fragile girl in a sweet, comforting tone, but once again it
belied something deeper… "Hear me child, it is unsafe to discuss such matters out in the open." he said. "Is there nowhere we can speak in private, away from prying eyes?"

Lucy thought for a moment, forcing herself to penetrate the dense fog that clouded her mind.

"There's an abandoned Fine Arts building on the east side of the campus." She explained. "It was supposed to be torn down long ago, but the school never had the budget to go through with it. No one
can see or hear us there."

"Excellent," said Al softly, "Meet me there tonight, and tell no one what you saw until you do."

Al leaned in close and clutched the poor child to his chest in a comforting embrace.

"I tell you child, nay, swear it here and now, I will guide you. In darkness, bearing light, you need fear no longer."

"I want to know what you said to Lucy!" Mina demanded when she found Al once again in the lunchroom the next morning at school.

"Milady, I know not what you mean." Al said innocently, but yet again his voice bore a taint.

"Cram it!" she raged. "Give the 14th century dialect a rest would ya? Now listen, I spent all
night trying to reach Lucy last night. She didn't answer a single phone call, and now she's not at school today! The last time I saw her, she was with you. Now, it's no secret that I don't trust you, so I don't want double talk or weird-ass British idioms, spit it out, what happened?"

"I had her meet me at the condemned Fine Arts building last night so I could absolve her of her
plight." Al explained. "That's the extent of it."

"The Fine Arts building?"

Corey Ellis and Jerome Walker were the school's token jocks. They ate, slept, and breathed football, so nothing seemed more natural to them than spending every semblance of free time tossing pigskin back and forth. This lunchtime, the leathery brown projectile sailed back and forth across the expanse of the school's eastern parking lot.

"Go long!" Corey commanded, hurtling the football into the air.

As it sailed Jerome zeroed in on the ball. It was his whole world now, there was nothing left, but the ball. He leapt desperately to reach it, and in his negligence, he plowed into a boarded-up window of the condemned Fine-Arts building, sailing through it into the dusty air behind it.

"You okay?" asked Corey as he came running up.

"Yeah, takes a lot more than that to hurt me." Jerome admitted.

"C'mon, man," Corey urged," We shouldn't be in
here."

"Hold on," Jerome said, "I've never been in here, I wanna look around."

"We could get kicked off the team for this!"

"Don't be an idiot, look, there's some'n' over there."

Jerome spied a rigid bundle bound thickly in a dark black curtain. He crept forward, towards it, eager to see what lay beneath. He took hold of a corner and pulled, in the name of satiating his curiosity, and his face contorted in horror.

A deep scream echoed across campus.

"What was that?" Al asked in earnest surprise.

"That came from the eastern lot." Mina answered. "It sounded like a scream."

She eyed Al suspiciously.

"Well I didn't do it!" Al defended.

Taking charge instinctively, Mina rushed out the lunchroom door to the eastern lot, Al following closely behind. They saw them together, two panicking figures standing nervously beside a large hole in the boards of the abandoned structure. They ran towards them to investigate, Mina made a b-line, Al ducked from shadow to shadow, from tree to tree, all the way to the Fine Arts building, almost avoiding the sun.

They arrived at the same time, though Al took the longer route he was inhumanly quick.

"What happened here?" Mina interrogated.

"Th-there's a dea-dead body in there!" Jerome stammered.

"What?" Mina yelped.

"Dude we gotta tell Coach about this!" Corey panicked.
"We gotta call the cops first, or something, or else we'll get blamed." Jerome reasoned.

Al turned his back to Mina and called the attention of the two football players to him. For the first time, he pulled down his sunglasses, invisible to Mina. The two jocks seemed startled at first, but seemed to relax as they looked into his eyes.

"You saw nothing here, do you hear me? Nothing." He cooed, a haunting undertone in his voice.

The two jocks nodded emptily and peacefully walked away.

Al slipped his shades back on and followed Mina into the building. Dust and decay choked the air and danced in the form of shifting particles in the beams of light that managed to trickle in through the slats of wood that barred the doors and windows. Mina had to strain to adjust her eyes to the fell pitch inside, whereas Al, despite the darkness, made no attempt to remove his glasses.

"There is something over there." Mina called. "Did you see anything here last night?"

"No," the gentleman replied, "unless it has occurred since."

A body, piled in the corner, half cloaked in a makeshift funeral shroud. It lay there motionless;
flies, beetles, and other carrion scavengers hovered around it, mingling with the fumes of the stench of
dried blood that rose from it. Mina and Al neared it, unable to confirm the identity of the unfortunate soul at this distance through the umbra. Mina kneeled and waved away the cloud of pests, getting the answer she so desperately wanted.

"Oh, god!" Mina cried, tears welling in her eyes.

"Lucy…" Al whispered.

There was no mistake, her golden hair, soiled and stringy, her supple neck, ruined with dry, caked
blood, her smooth sun-worshipping skin a white pall, her once ruby-lips, now parched and black. It was
Lucy, and yet, it was not. A memory contorted into a nightmare.

"Al, what the hell happened last night?" Mina demanded through gritted teeth.

"Isn't it obvious?" Al asked solemnly.

He gingerly placed his hand on Lucy's chin, the way a father would stroke his sleeping daughter's cheek, and turned her head so that Mina could see the other side of her neck. Two deep puncture wounds dug their way deep down into her soft, lithe skin, thick blood matted around them.

"She must've been attacked just after we spoke. I doubt such a creature would be eager for witnesses." He continued. "Do you see now what I'm up against?"

"What you're up against?" Mina yelled, outraged. "You were last seen with her! How do I know you
didn't hurt her like this just to make people believe your crackpot theories!"

"Hurt her? You have no idea what you say." Al responded coldly. "She came to me in a time of great need and I liberated her. What reason would I have to 'hurt her'?"

Mina collapsed to the ground, tears gushing from her eyes. Al clasped his arms around her and embraced her tightly.

"Remember, there is an afterlife, child." He whispered gently. "Death too, like life, is finite.

"I'm sorry." Mina whimpered.

"For what?"

"I didn't listen, and this happened."

"I told you that you wouldn't believe me."

She escaped his embrace and begged softly between sobs. "Tell me…"

"What?"

"Everything, tell me what's happening. Why is all this happening now?"

Al sighed deeply as he searched for a way to reply. "Forgive the absurd metaphor, milady, despite the
gravity of the situation." He apologized. "Do you ever eat meat?"

"What? What does that…"

"Yes or no?"

"Yes."

"Alright," Al said, "now suppose one day, bovine rose up in revolution, and began slaughtering humans, simply for using them for sustenance. What do you think would be the best way to protect your race and your people?"

"Kill the cows first." She said simply.

"Exactly." Al confirmed gravely. "Over a millennia of persecution, and passing the vampire race off as a plague, humanity is in the midst of a holocaust, though it has not yet exploded into a full blown war. The first thing you must understand about vampires is that even though their race inhabits many nations, they still hold their own government. After thousands of years of his people being slain by vampire hunters and religious militants, their 'king', as I suppose you'd refer to him, has decreed that the only way to protect his people is to purge humanity from the earth like a virus. So he has sent scouts to amass a standing army in every nation to herald the annihilation. It is my mission to locate those scouts. Due to the rash of disappearances from your school, I believe that one may be operating here."

"But why women?" Mina asked. "And why a high school? Surely an army of eighteen-year-old girls can't be what they want. It's cowardice is what it is!"

"Cowardice? It's strategy!" Al announced. "To attack a man is to gain a single soldier, but a lone succubus can seduce as many as twenty or thirty a week! And a high school gives the scout power. If he
holds a position of power, he can arrange to have his targets come to him, at a time and place of his liking."

"What can I do to help?" Mina asked sternly, confidently, motivated. "How can I help find the
scout?"

"As I just said, I believe the scout holds a position of authority in the school." Al explained. "Have there been any changes in the faculty, recently?"

"We had a bunch of new teachers when the new semester started," Mina answered, "That's all I can
think of."

"New teachers?" Al considered. "Maybe the girls have a single instructor in common, is there any
way you could get me their dockets?"

"I have a friend that works for yearbook, if their schedules are still on file, you'll have them."

"Thank you, Miss Mina," Al said politely, "You've done us a great service."

"Let's get out of here." Mina pleaded, wiping away the remainder of her tears.

"As you wish, milady."

They covered the fallen girl with the curtain, at last releasing her to beyond. Al began to stalk out of the building, with Mina following close behind. Suddenly, Mina froze.

"Mina?"

"Al…" she said, her eyes blazing with panic rising in her voice, "I can't move…"

"….." came a hoarse whisper from below.

Neither moved, only Al dared look down to see a
pale white hand jutting out from beneath the curtain,
grasping Mina's ankle.

"…."
The voice continued, "
aaaaaaaaawaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay….Staaaay awaaaaay…"

The makeshift funeral shroud stirred, and the body beneath it rose up behind Mina, slowly from the
floor, lurching jerkily upward against gravity, until finally it balanced on its feet, and the shroud fell from Lucy, it cascaded off her face and shoulders like an umbral waterfall. Mina was frozen still, her face locked in a contortion of horror as the creature behind her stood. Lucy was now standing directly behind her, her lips a hair's breadth from Mina's ear, her breath hot and rank with the stench of death, and long, gleaming fangs that reflected what little light entered the room.

"Mina, stay away…" she whispered, "…from him."

A synapse flared within Mina, with a single shock-like movement she quickly and unbalancedly
staggered away, to Al for protection.

"NO, MINA!" Lucy yelled, her voice returning to her. "He is evil, he is the devil! Look what he's
done to me!"

"Al, what's she talking about?" said Mina her voice shaking.

"When these things happen, who's truly to blame?" Al asked with a remorseful tone. "The vampire, or the hunter that failed to stop him?"

"LIAR!" Lucy screeched. "YOU'VE CORRUPTED HER!"

The enraged corpse lunged, her speed and power magnified hellishly by the black beyond, she sailed
across the room at Al. He wrapped his arms around the trembling Mina and tossed them both to the side, Lucy gliding past them and landing with a demonic snarl, and inferno-red eyes
that cast daggers at Al.

"Stay here," Al whispered, "It's me she wants, I'll try to lead her away."

Al snapped to his feet and broke into a run, flying towards and up the corroding stairs. The specter followed him like a hound, racing after his heels, a snarl of bloodlust erupting into a roar. He achieved the second floor and bolted down the hallway, darting into the nearest classroom. It was an ancient Art room, the countless years of dust almost completely blotting out long-since forgotten paint stains upon the counters. The door slammed shut behind him, but seconds later, it was tossed from its hinges with a rip like pages torn from a book. Lucy stood there, filling the empty doorway. She advanced slowly, like a cat cornering a mouse, backing Al against a wall of boarded up windows.

"DEMON!" she rasped. "You won't have her too, she won't succumb to your lies as I did."

"Lucy!" Al yelled, desperately trying to get through to her. "I tried to protect you, I tried to
save you, why can't you see that?"

"SAVE ME?" she screamed. Al's reasoning only seemed to pour gasoline on her hellfire. "SAVE ME?
You've no idea what it means to 'save' anyone! Monsters like you need to be ripped apart limb from
limb! Thank whatever god you heathens worship that it is me who will send you back to Hell instead!"

Al was back against the wall now, between two windows, trapped by his vengeful foe.

"Calm yourself, child," Al pleaded, "I am not a demon, and neither are you!"

"DIE!"

"Lucy…!"

"MONSTER!"

"No…" said Al, his patience at its end, "…a monster is a creature that will not listen to reason.
And as you yourself said, MONSTERS NEED TO DIE!"

With a desperate surge of strength, Al sent both his fists into the decomposing boards that sealed the
windows on either side of him, knocking them free. Sunlight surged into the room, around Al's black-gloved hands, and the twin beams rushed in to converge on Lucy. The vampire shrieked horribly in pain as her skin slowly began to blacken and flake, then fall to the ground in a heap of ash as the afternoon sun burned her alive. Fire began to erupt upon the surface of her charred skin and soon sheets of black ash cascaded off of her in waves. Her charcoal-black skeleton collapsed into the pile of slag, and soon that too receded into dust as well.

Mina knelt there in the doorway, sobbing openly at what had become of her friend.

"I'm sorry," Al condoled, true remorse in his voice, "there was no other way."

Mina did not speak, nor did she take her eyes from the remains of her fallen friend, she just sat, weeping torrents.

Al approached, and gently placed his knuckle under her chin to lift her gaze to meet his own.

"Help me put an end to this." He pleaded.

The cataclysm of her friend only hardened Mina's resolve. She was now determined to break the vicious cycle of tragedy and torment. She arranged to meet Al in the school library at lunch the next day to give him the schedules he requested.

She sat there at the library, searching the Internet desperately for any clue, or indication of what she and Al might be up against.

"Studying, right Miss Mina?" came a voice jokingly from behind her.

"Oh, Mr. Lampir, good afternoon." Mina greeted.

"My child," said Mr. Lampir, "I wonder if you wouldn't mind seeing me in my room today to speak about the test you took yesterday."

"Yes sir," she said politely, "just allow me to meet someone quickly, and I'll be right over."

"Excellent." Mr. Lampir said. "I shall await you eagerly."

A few moments after Mr. Lampir left, another visitor greeted Mina.

"Who was that?" asked Al.

"Mr. Lampir," Mina answered, "he's a Senior Math teacher."

"Mister…Lampir…?" Al echoed slowly. "What are you doing?"

"Searching the net." She replied. "This morning I realized that I had no idea what I was about to fight here, so I went online, trying to find information, but so far I've only found legends and lore. Count Baroke, who demanded virgin sacrifices unto him in exchange for not raiding a nearby village. Alastor, a demon who, during a war, snuck into the enemy encampment at night and drained the entire army of blood before daybreak. Samael, the Butcher, who slaughtered an entire royal line. Nothing substantial."

"Humanity is ungodly swift in demonizing what it doesn't understand," Al explained, "and as such, most of these legends are drivel. If there ever was any truth to them they've been blown so horrendously out of proportion that now they're mere fairy tales used to frighten little children. If you need any proof of this, look no further than the story of Lucifer. Nothing more in human mythology has ever been more entwined and aligned with evil and darkness, yet, in a true display of oxymoron-ism, in Latin, the name Lucifer means 'Light-Bearer'. And lest we forget that Lucifer was an Archangel, supposedly one of the most pure-hearted and valiant creatures God can create. For instance, the Alastor in that legend wasn't a 'demon' either. He was a vampire prince that was simply trying to protect his people from invading Romans. Yet history gives him the name 'Prince of Hellspawn', and portrays him as a monster who cowardly lead a band of soldiers to slaughter defenseless men in their sleep."

"I honestly couldn't give a damn about these legends or humanity's perspective." Mina muttered.
"All I want is to make sure that innocent people never suffer like that again."

"Oh, I assure you," Al said honestly, "help me and the condemnation of the innocent shall never occur
again. Were you able to find those schedules?"

Mina reached into her bag and withdrew a stack of papers."

"Here," she said handing them to Al, "this should be all of them, just when you find the bastard that did this, come get me so we can tear him apart together." A small, dark nihilistic chuckle escaped
her throat. "To think, earlier this week I was damning you as a lunatic and now I've actually started
carrying this for protection. It was my grandmother's."

Mina reached into her purse and extracted a small golden crucifix hanging from a long chain. She held it up for Al to see, the light reflecting off of it like a morning star.

"The legend of the crucifix is simply more folklore. It affords you no protection. You're better off getting rid of it lest you resort to folly in a time of need."

"Well," Mina replied, "I just think that –"

"I SAID THROW IT AWAY!" Al yelled.

Mina recoiled, scared, and the entire library turned to look at the purveyor of the screech.

"Milady, I'm so sorry!" Al scrambled. "Forgive me, that was ungentlemanly, I-"

"No, no, it's alright, I understand." said Mina smiling sweetly. "It's a stressful time for all of us. Listen, just focus on finding whoever did this. I have to go somewhere, but when you find out, tell
me."

Mina rose to exit the library, and Al took the schedules to a nearby table to inspect them.

A cold chill enveloped Mina as she ascended the stairs to room 616, but she shook it off with the thought that she'd soon be warm inside Mr. Lampir's classroom. She knocked gingerly upon the door, her knuckles aching from the cold sting of the air.

The door swung open almost as quickly. Mr. Lampir stood against the back wall.

"Ah, at last." he said. "Enter child…"

* * * * * *
Al arranged the schedules on the table before him, intent on finding a common thread. He studied the first schedule, Chelsea Anderson: Period 1, Annalise, V. English 4. Period 2, Roberto, R.
Government. Period 3, Lampir, V. Calculus. Period 4, Arin, M. Choir. Period 5, Ariel, S. Art. Period 6, Mana, N. Advanced Chemistry.

The second schedule, Rachel Naya: Period 1, Lampir, V. Calculus, Period 2, Anya, C. Economics,
Period 3, Varia, M. Astronomy. Period 4, Wexler, X. Volleyball. Period 5, Analise, V. English 4. Period
6, Kanan, L. Track.

Hmm, both Lampir and Analise.

Third schedule, Carona M.: Period 1, Alva, N. English. Period 2, Lampir, V. Calculus.
Period 3, Anba, K. Anatomy. Period 4, Guiver, D. Gymnastics. Period 5, Kunna, A. Dance. Period 6,
Ilvin, J. Government.

"That's the third one." Al realized. His eyes darted from paper to paper excitedly. Lampir, Lampir on every one. There was no doubt anymore. As a teacher, he automatically had his victims trust, and it would be child's play for him to lure them there before school, after school, or…

"During lunch…Oh, God!"

"I…don't understand, Mr. Lampir, I've already taken this test." said Mina.

"Yes, and I'm allowing you to retake it." explained Mr. Lampir. "I was quite disappointed indeed at your score, and I know you can do better. Be thankful, my child, for I don't allow this opportunity to everyone. Here, allow me to remove my scarf so that you may hear me better."

Over Mina's shoulder, Mr. Lampir unwound his scarf and let it spiral serpent-like to the ground.

"But, I studied for this for a week Mr. Lampir!" she argued. "I know I pas-"

Mina looked up to see Mr. Lampir's face contorted into a vicious snarl, hideous black lips curling up over long, ghastly fangs. He snapped forward like a viper, lunging for her neck, a craven bloodlust alight in his eyes.

In reflex, she panicked and swung, knocking the monster's face away as hard as possible. Two blue colored contacts leapt from his face and clattered against the wall from the impact. He now leered down at his prey with crimson eyes of a soul long condemned.

Mina squirmed out of her chair and fell to the floor, locked in the horrid creature's stare.

"It was you…you're the thing that attacked Lucy!" Mina realized, scrambling to her feet.

"Lucy? What are you talking about?" said the ghoul.

"Is that how it is with you monsters?" Mina demanded. "You feed indiscriminately, no regard for your victims' humanity, or soul, or even their names? You creatures make me sick!"

"Quite a masochistic thing to say, child, knowing you'll be one of us within the hour. Don't worry;
it's not so bad once the fangs are in. In fact, it's almost relaxing. A sort of sleepy sensation overtakes
you as your blood flows out. It's nowhere near as brutal as you humans seem to believe."

"I won't become your pawn!"

"That was never your choice to make." Mr. Lampir said hauntingly. "Why does your species always seek to control everything? And as soon as you're not dominant, you seek to destroy anything that threatens your dominion. Tell me child, which race is truly sickening? Who is the true monster in this scenario?"

Mina searched frantically for the gold cross in her purse, but Mr. Lampir pounced too quickly, pinning Mina to the ground and sending the cross skittering away towards the door. She was trapped in the vampire's hellish gaze now. Like locking sight with a cobra, she saw her own demise and damnation reflected in its maleficent eyes.

"Now stop fighting, and let go," Mr. Lampir whispered in her ear, "for now I give you onto infinity…"

The classroom door swung open swiftly, and Al stood in its frame, the sunlight sheen on his black garb, cloaking him in a dark-angelic light like a black knight defying the gloom. Mr. Lampir snarled and threw himself from Mina in pain and surprise as stray streaks of light reflected off of Al's coat into his face.

Seeing the shimmering crucifix, Al snatched it from the floor, and presented it to the demon. The monster recoiled at the sight of the relic, paralyzed, pain searing through his entire body. Seizing the opportunity, Al found a long wooden teacher's pointer situated on Mr. Lampir's desk. With a quick grab and a mighty heave, Al drove the stake through the devil's chest. The creature shrieked horribly and collapsed to the floor, writhing in agony.

"Miss Mina, you are unharmed?" asked Al.

"Yeah," she said, shaken but not hurt. "is it over?"

Al composed himself and presented himself to Mina formally.

"My dear, please leave and allow me to dispose of the body." Al pleaded. "It is not a ritual fit for a
lady's eyes."

Mina obliged her savior, and took her leave, closing the door behind her. As the door closed behind her, Al angrily threw the crucifix to the floor, and ripped his black glove off in disgust. Below, a charred black, cross-shaped burn marred his white skin where he held the idol.

Lampir reached up and forcefully wrenched the makeshift stake from the center of his chest, two inches away from his heart. Al calmly removed his trench coat and laid it upon Mr. Lampir's desk, then removed his sunglasses so that he may stare down at the pathetic soul before him with the full effect of his sanguine-red eyes.

"You've gotten sloppy, 'Vlad,' nice fake name, by the way." Al sneered sardonically, his long white fangs glinting in the light as he spoke. " I'm losing my patience, and Father's not far behind me!"

The demon that called itself Vlad Lampir fell to his knees and threw himself upon the mercy of his enraged liege.

"Prince Alastor, please forgive me, I-"

"Shut up!" Alastor commanded. "Quit your sniveling and try not to be a blight upon me next time! If I were going to kill you I'd have staked you when I had the chance! You may be useless but you're still my vassal." The dark prince continued, now in a benevolent tone having vented his frustration. "You don't understand what we're trying to do. We're fighting for our survival, for our people, for our world. The humans slaughter us in droves, simply for trying to survive, and they have the nerve to call us monsters. This is our only chance. The proud race that looks to me for protection has no hope of salvation if we fail."

"And what of my mission now, my lord?" 'Vlad' asked shamefully.

"Relax, I've managed to clean up your mess." Prince Alastor assured him. "And the witness you left."

"And the girl?"

"I'll bring her into our family myself when the time is right. She is far too noble and good of a woman to be aligned with such a maleficent race."

Alastor reached out a hand and helped his servant to his feet.

"I swore to our race long ago, I shall be the light-bearer, delivering us from the dark age of
persecution. We will live in fear no more…"