Thoughts of how surprisingly easy it had been to convince Gideon to let him venture alone into harm's way passed through Corbin's mind as he wandered slowly through the old steel refinery. No one was overly fond of the idea, especially Amanda who had vehemently objected, but another morphing example of how he could now command the power of his gift at will played strongly to the favor of Corbin's selfless decision.
Not wanting to spook Gallus away with more than Corbin's presence was key to the success of the plan, but Gideon devised a scenario where help wouldn't be too far away. All that was needed after that was for Richie to put in a call to Gallus, to make sure he would be at the refinery to claim his prize. With no more persuasion than a hard, reminding stare from Corbin's glowing purple eyes that sent trembling fear into Richie's limbs, he eagerly made the call to Gallus as he recalled images of the terrifying beast lurking behind those same eyes. Once the call ended, he became a screaming meal for Gideon and Amanda.
Corbin paused when he reached the inner depths of the decaying refinery. The long abandoned facility was eerily calm in the cool night air. The massive vats, rising pipelines, and complex steel structures forming catwalks and storage tanks all around him would have been little more than looming shadows in the night to any normal person, but he saw everything clearly with the aid of his gift. If Gallus or any of his feral servants were near, the refinery was keeping their location a secret.
Corbin took a look behind him, off in the far distance where he'd parked his shiny red coupe near a suitable entrance to the refinery. The car had shrank significantly from the distance which grew with each step. If Gallus was close then surely he was past the point of no return now. He looked back to what lay before him, examining the corroded maze of structures around him with caution, then he proceeded with a bold stride. Being cocked and ready to change into his alternate form at a moment's notice, he had to consciously steady himself as he went on.
After he had taken a few steps his attention was snatched upward where a sudden clinking sound from the overhead iron beams pierced the silence. High above him in the lofty ceiling a large steel cage fell at a frightening speed that left him with little time to react. All he could do was instinctively draw himself in to protect his body as the heavy cage landed around him with a thunderous collision against the concrete floor. The deafening roar from the impact echoed throughout the desolate refinery as clouds of dust exploded from the floor around the cage and filled the air.
Corbin uncoiled himself, coughing from the dust which he tried to wave away from his face. He squinted to see through the slowly dissipating clouds as several hunched, shadowy figures crawled out from various holes and nooks within the refinery to quickly converge on the cage. Vampires with the same drooling, feral dispositions as the ones who had attacked him at the manor quickly surrounded the cage. Only their clothes reminded Corbin that they had once been human, all other traces of humanity were lost behind bony claws and twisted, snarling faces hungry for blood.
The grotesque creatures stared hungrily at Corbin for a few moments before hastily setting to work at securing the cage to the floor with massive chains which they drew out from hidden locations. They hooked the chains to sturdy metal loops welded securely at the four corners of the cage's top, then stretched them tightly over to four tie-down loops anchored to the concrete floor by large steel plates and oversized bolts. Once their work was complete, they gathered again around the cage, circling it with depraved growls and gnashing fangs as Corbin eyed them closely while he turned slowly within the cage.
Suddenly, without any noticable reason, the creatures perked up as if alerted to something dangerous, something feared. They frantically exchanged confirming glances, then scurried quickly away, disappearing again into the complex confines of the refinery. Corbin watched curiously as they scampered off, but his attention was immediately brought around to the sound of approaching footsteps. He watched with great interest as a youthful figure rubbing a jewel-encrusted amulet which hung around his neck from a metal chain sauntered up to the cage with a triumphant grin.
Corbin stepped close to the bars of his cage to gain a better view of the pale youth who now stood just out of arms reach from the cage. He gripped the bars with both hands as he peered through them at Gallus with a hard glare, reminding himself that the teenage appearance of his captor belied a true age of more than nine centuries.
"There's no use in testing those bars," Gallus stated as his eyes wandered briefly to Corbin's hold on the bars. "They're made from the strongest alloys on this planet, and were intended for a certain vampire we both know; but they're quite capable of keeping you contained. Even the other you."
Corbin scoffed at Gallus' claim in his mind, but kept his expression blank with seriousness as he kept his eyes trained on Gallus, who dared to step just a little closer to the cage. "What are you?" Gallus asked with a genuine curiosity for the answer.
"Your end, if you continue to threaten my family," Corbin vowed in an absolute tone.
Gallus chuckled aloud at Corbin's words, seemingly amused at his brazen threat from behind bars. "I see Lanorra likes her men with a foolish sense of humor in these modern times," he remarked.
"I'm not joking Gallus. I came to offer you this one chance to leave in peace," Corbin stated.
The amused expression on Gallus dissolved quickly into an infuriated scowl. "In case you haven't noticed son of Allender, I'm the one in charge here! Your threats mean nothing to me!"
Corbin smirked at having flustered his captor.
Gallus raised a clenched fist at Corbin. "I'll do whatever it takes to make Lanorra suffer. If that means bleeding her loved ones dry as she watches, then so be it!" he spat angrily.
Corbin's smirk faded instantly at the intent of Gallus' seething rant. The rise in concern for those he held dear summoned the power of his gift, but he held it just beneath the surface, hoping to learn the secret of Gallus' control over the feral creatures he commanded before making his move.
Gallus calmly composed himself after a brief, animated round of pacing back and forth near the cage while Corbin kept silent. The temperamental vampire hid his anger away behind a neutral expression, then turned back with a pleased grin at Corbin. "I'm sure it wasn't too difficult to make Richie talk. That is why I chose him you see, I knew he'd squeal as soon as his clumsy attempt was foiled," he revealed.
Corbin couldn't help but let a noticable look of surprise seep into his features, causing Gallus' grin to spread.
"Yes, that's right Corbin. I wanted Richie to fail, so that he could lead someone here." Gallus followed his words with a slightly disappointed frown. "I'd hoped though, for Lanorra and perhaps Gideon. This place was my back-up plan for them afterall, if my attack at the manor failed."
Gallus turned his back to Corbin and sighed impatiently. "All I want Corbin, is Lanorra. Help me capture her and I'll be on my way. No one else has to get hurt. Your family will never have to be concerned about me again," he offered.
Corbin glared hard into Gallus' backside as he gripped the bars of his cage. "Never," he vowed strongly in a low voice to keep his urge to rip through the cage at bay.
Gallus slumped his shoulders in disappointment, then turned to face Corbin with a puzzled look on his youthful face. "Does she really mean that much to you? Are you willing to risk your family for a creature who would gladly abandon you if it means saving her own hide?"
Corbin's resolute silence answered for him, and Gallus sighed again, unable to comprehend how a being he despised so completely could be loved so strongly by anyone.
"Well, if you can't be persuaded to help me then maybe someone else in your beloved family can," Gallus implied as he began pacing slowly near the cage, clasping his hands behind his back as if thinking of a new plan. He stopped and turned his head over his shoulder with a taunting glint in his gray eyes at Corbin.
"Maybe that sweet little sister of yours. Lydia, I believe her name is. I'm sure that with the...proper persuasion she will do whatever I ask," he prodded, grinning wickedly.
Corbin tensed as his grip on the bars tightened angrily. Suppressing the urge to tear at Gallus with the power of his gift became harder than he'd expected following the inciting comments of his captor, but he kept his overall demeanor as calm as he could.
"Tell me...," Gallus started as he closed in on the cage, stopping in front of Corbin with a perverse expression as foul as any Corbin had ever seen. "Does she have a secret like you? No, wait. Don't spoil it for me. I don't wish to deprive myself of the pleasure of making her mine completely, secrets and all."
The boyish vampire spun away from Corbin with a fiendish laugh and started off away from the cage, but a slowly growing vibration under his feet made him pause a few steps away. He turned to see Corbin grasping the bars so tightly with trembling rage that the sturdy enclosure around him was beginning to dance slowly across the concrete floor, causing the four massive chains at each corner to vibrate as his surging anger resonated through them and into the floor where they were secured. Corbin's purple eyes were ablaze, and the veins in his neck and hands bulged with fury.
Gallus flitted back over to the cage, wagging his index finger in disapproval at Corbin while he took hold of the amulet around his neck with his other hand. "No, no Corbin...," he mockingly scolded,"...You wouldn't want me to have to summon my loyal servants would you? Afterall, I have far greater numbers than what I revealed at your home."
Corbin looked at the amulet as Gallus spoke and it's purpose dawned on him. The amulet was somehow the source of Gallus' power over the feral vampires. Gallus noticed Corbin's locked stare on the glimmering amulet he held. He smiled triumphantly to himself, then toyed with the amulet by turning it in his hand."That's right Corbin. This amulet allows me to control any vampire turned by my bite. You and your sisters will know how that feels soon enough."
Corbin's flaring eyes cut sharply upward from the amulet to meet the callous arrogance in Gallus' stare. The overconfident vampire grinned wickedly at the helplessness forced on his captive by the cage, but a knowing grin slipped across Corbin's face and revealed rows of emerging fangs when he opened the smile. Gallus shrank away from the cage as he witnessed Corbin's body expand into the clothes-shredding bulk of the beastly Protector which filled the cage with fur-covered wrath.