On a cold winter's night above the town of Massmede, two armored guards wait side by side, standing watch over the west wall of Lord Ironglave's castle. It can barely even be called a castle though as it is merely nothing more than a stone manse surrounded by a high wall and a shallow moat. The only way across is the drawbridge on the north side; normally left lowered as the guards rarely perceive a visible threat to the safety of the lord's family.
Of course Lord Ironglave has not set foot in his own castle in seventeen years, unless his undead spirit still roams. No, the only royal occupants remaining in the monastery happen to be the late lord's wife Lady Owleen and her young daughter, whom the public has never seen.
Lady Owleen was a mysterious woman who had come to Massmede almost sixty years ago. She was perceived as the most beautiful creature anyone in the town had ever seen. She had pale skin with flowing black hair and lips as red as blood. Every man was taken with her, especially Lord Ironglave.
She had graced the town with her presence for a mere day before the lord sent an entire entourage to present her with an invitation to his castle. At first she had denied him politely but after a few weeks living alone in a shabby room at the local inn she became visibly disturbed by something. Eventually she accepted the lord's invitation and moved into the castle as his personal concubine. A year later they were married and a year after that they had two sons.
Everyone in the town was overjoyed whenever they were blessed with the chance to meet either of the two beautiful children belonging to their lord and lady. They were the talk of the entire settlement that Lord Ironglave ruled over. Eventually though they both grew up and left the castle with the intention of traveling the world. Whether or not they ever returned was a source of much gossip in Massmede. Sometimes strange riders would come to the castle in the middle of the night to visit the lord and lady, but they never once came down to greet the townspeople.
Finally some seventeen years ago Lady Owleen gave birth to her last child, supposedly a daughter. Shortly afterward Lord Ironglave passed away and the doors to the castle had closed. Now the citizens of Massmede are hardly even aware that they ever had a lord. The guards that protect the castle never say anything about Lady Owleen or her daughter when they come down to drink at the tavern. There are rumors that they may have perished along with the lord and that the castle is actually empty.
"Stop it!" Narick shouts. "Stop telling me these stories, Druge. You know I don't like it." The younger of the two guards on the west side of the castle is easily the more gullible of the pair.
Druge, a man in his thirties with tangled hair and missing a good portion of his teeth, enjoys tormenting him with stories of the occupants of the castle they guard. "You've never actually seen the lady of the castle, have you?" he asks his younger companion with a toothless grin. Narick is a shorter man with blonde hair darkened by the sweat from wearing his helmet constantly. He gulps loudly while shaking his head. He won't need to wonder long though as he knows Druge is about to tell him.
"They say Lady Owleen is ageless," Druge begins. "She hasn't changed a bit in the sixty years she's lived in Massmede."
"That's impossible," Narick scoffs. "Someone would have noticed if an eighty year old woman looked like she were twenty."
"Maybe that's why she never leaves the castle," Druge suggests. "She doesn't want anyone to realize her secret."
"What secret?" Narick is confused.
"Isn't it obvious?" Druge whispers. "What sort of creature doesn't age?"
"I know you want me to say bloodsucker," Narick grumbles.
"Exactly." Druge snaps his fingers in front of Narick's face. "A bloodsucker is timeless. I've heard stories about some over a century old still looking like children."
"You're making this up." Narick covers the ear holes of his helmet. "There aren't any bloodsuckers left. When the gods granted men their power they were wiped out."
"You're referring to the demigods, aren't you?" Druge is still smiling. "While it is true that the demigods whom were granted power by our gods in the sky have done their best to eliminate all bloodsuckers in the world, they will never entirely succeed. Bloodsuckers are vile creatures who will persist, I guarantee it."
"I don't even know what a bloodsucker really is," Narick admits. "Aren't they some sort of fanged creature who looks like a human?"
"Worse than that; nothing with the power to stay young for generations simply by feeding off of a human's life force would dare choose to be hideous. Apparently they are all stunningly handsome or gorgeous simply because they can be."
"So they look prettier than normal humans," Narick tries to follow Druge's explanation.
"It's just part of the rumor." He shrugs. "I've never actually seen one in person meself."
"Then what makes you think there are any still alive?" Narick has become interested in the older man's tale.
"As you said before, the demigods used their unworldly powers to slay the majority of those creatures a long time ago. Nearly none survived."
"But you said some did," Narick reminds him. "How?"
"What is the one thing a demigod can not do?" Druge asks while brandishing his toothless grin again.
"Well I've heard that they are pretty much treated as equals amongst nobility. Once granted the power of a god they are worthy of upper-class life. And why shouldn't they be? If the gods believe them worthy of their power, who's to say they should not be treated like lords?"
"Of course they are not real lords," Druge reminds him. "A demigod is not exempt from the rule of a true lord. If a lord banished a demigod from his settlement he would have to obey."
"Are you saying a demigod can not enter a lord's domain without permission?" Narick is starting to catch on.
"Precisely." Druge nods. "So, with this in mind, where is the safest place for a bloodsucker to hide when being pursued by a demigod?"
"Oh, I've got it." Narick snaps his fingers proudly. "In a lord's castle."
"Which is exactly where our Lady Owleen has taken refuge for the past sixty years, all the while without even aging a day," Druge finishes explaining his conspiracy theory.
"That's quite the accusation there, Druge," Narick remains skeptical. "You could be hung simply for suggesting that."
"Which is exactly why demigods are forced to let these 'royal bloodsuckers' hide for centuries unchallenged," Druge has more suspicions to spread apparently.
"Demigods live that long, do they?" Narick asks curiously.
"A demigod is as ageless as a bloodsucker," Druge informs him. "The only way they are ever going to wipe out the bloodsuckers entirely is by waiting until someone like Lady Owleen slips up and reveals her true nature; then no one will stand in their way when it is time to attack."
"All of this is rather hard to wrap one's head around." Narick's mouth twists into a frown as he tries to process everything he has just heard. "It's an interesting story to be sure. Is there a particular reason you chose to share it with me?" Narick asks while retrieving a canteen of grog from his satchel. It is the best way to keep warm on a night like this.
"Simple, I needed you distracted for a good while," Druge admits.
"What?" Narick drops the canteen in the grass. He reaches for the horn on his belt but Druge is faster, slicing the leather strap that holds it and flinging it into the moat with his sword. "You've betrayed our lady," Narick gasps.
"Our lady is a filthy bloodsucker," Druge spits back.
"I can't believe it; I don't." Narick shakes his head.
"It's too late now," Druge laughs. "She'll be joining her husband in the after life any minute now; if bloodsuckers even go there that is."
"I'm sorry dear friend," Narick apologizes before drawing his sword. "You leave me no choice."
"You really think you can best me at sword, boy?" Druge continues to laugh. "I'll skin ye alive."
"I will protect my lady," Narick breaths out while holding the sword vertically in front of his face, praying for the support of the royals he defends. Druge does not wait though. He strikes the younger man's sword near the hilt, trying to knock it away from him. Narick's grip is strong though. He rears back while taking a defensive stance. Druge strikes again, this time aiming for his foremost knee. The blade glances off of the young guard's chain mail, doing no actual damage.
"You're old," Narick taunts the toothless man.
"I'm still a better fighter than you," he spits angrily.
"Who paid you to betray your lady?" Narick demands while finally striking back.
Druge leans left to dodge before answering. "I'm not doing this for the money. I'm trying to keep those wretched creatures from multiplying."
"You don't even know if our lady is a bloodsucker," Narick argues.
"I've seen her; out of the corner of me eye, I've seen the devil woman walking in the castle. She is in there with a little girl; can't be more than twelve. But who is the father? Lord Ironglave's been dead for nearly two decades. Nope, there is only one explanation; the child is a bloodsucker too. She's seventeen years old with the face of a baby, I'm sure of it."
"You're mad," Narick refuses to believe him. His next swing nearly takes Druge's head from his shoulders but the sly old man is able to duck just in time. "You're playing with me," Narick realizes.
"Took you long enough to realize it," Druge cackles. "They should be at the drawbridge by now."
"Who?" Narick shouts. "Who are you working for?"
"Only the greatest man I have ever met. You would do whatever he said too if you met him."
"You're talking about a demigod, aren't you?" Narick surmises. "Who? Which one is it?"
"It's not hard to figure out, is it? There are only nine of them left after all."
"One of the nine," Narick whispers to himself as he dodges another slice from Druge's sword. Under normal circumstances he would give anything to meet one of the nine remaining demigods in the world. Of course defending his mistress is far more important at the moment.
"Keep your mind clear." Druge manages to land another blow. As before the young guard's chain mail protects his chest but just barely. Druge was right, Narick is no match for him.
As the guards continue their scuffle on the west side of the castle, four robed figures approach from the north. The two men standing watch over the drawbridge are immediately aware of the threat. They draw their swords in time to block the advances of two of the robed men. As their dark hoods fall down the guards are shocked to see what appears to be the same man twice. The only difference is a slightly longer beard on one of them. "Brothers," the left guard, Token, realizes it first.
"They must be the famous bounty hunter brothers, Amon and Grange," the other guard, Rahn, surmises.
"They have traveled the world ridding towns like ours of bloodsuckers," Token recalls. "What are they doing here? I thought they were traveling with the great demigod, Turok."
"Did someone say my name?" the tallest of the robed figures lowers his hood, revealing a square jawed face with neck length brown hair in braids and a scar through his right eyebrow.
"Turok," the guards gasps in unison. "What brings you to Massmede?"
"Isn't it obvious? I've come to slay a bloodsucker." He lifts his large double sided axe off his back and swings it down at the ground, chopping several stalks of grass to prove how sharp it is.
"Arma Tua," Rahn recognizes the famous weapon. It is the symbol of Turok, the man who has slain a thousand bloodsuckers and lived for two hundred years.
"Do you want to taste my blade, or will you kneel before your god?" Turok gives them a choice.
"He thinks he's a god," Token whispers to his companion. "Oh how power changes good men."
"We will not kneel to fake gods," Rahn announces proudly.
"Somehow I knew you'd say that," Turok shakes his head. "Amon, Grange, deal with them."
Amon is the older of the two brothers with a battle worn face and a cracked sword to match. He takes the guard on the left, slicing upward and forcing Token back onto the drawbridge. Grange stabs his larger broad sword into the ground where Rahn stood seconds ago. The guard is light on his feet, choosing to flee rather than face certain death. "You coward," Token shouts at him. He raises his sword in front of his chest just in time as Amon smashes his dented blade against it.
The lighter guard is thrown from the drawbridge into the moat by the sheer force of Amon's attack. "Well that was almost too easy," the older brother sighs.
"At least yours didn't run away like a coward." Grange gestures to Rahn as he finally stops running. He is a good distance from the four robed figures now. He keels over as he pants for breath before managing to clasp the horn on his belt and sound the alarm. It is almost too weak to be heard due to his wheezing but it is enough. Soon the rest of the guards are swarming from the walls of the castle.
"Kalina, you're up!" Turok shouts at his final disciple. The skinniest and shortest of the robed figures is in fact a woman, with long flowing locks of dark hair, some braided some not. She takes a position on the drawbridge next to Amon before placing her hands on her chest and starting to chant. The two bounty hunter brothers take defensive stances as they prepare to be ambushed by the many guards on the walls.
Kalina's chant lasts a good three minutes as her three companions use their weapons to deflect several metal arrows being launched from crossbow wielders on the walls. When she is finished she drops to her knees, slamming her hands, which are now glowing bright blue, onto the drawbridge. Immediately the water in the moat below starts to glow as well. The guards gasp in awe as it rises up on either side of the drawbridge like a veil. It moves with the motions of Kalina's eyes and hands as she silently directs it.
Soon she has formed a wall of water in front of the drawbridge and alongside it, all the way into the courtyard of the castle. The guards quickly resume their barrage of arrows only to find them unable to penetrate the watery shield. "Good work." Turok pats her on the shoulder before dashing down the tunnel of water, through the front gate of the castle and into the courtyard. Amon and Grange each nod to Kalina before giving chase. It is now up to her alone to make sure they are uninterrupted.
"So what made you decide it was finally time to hunt down Lady Owleen?" Grange asks as he catches up to Turok just as he is entering the main monastery.
"What do you mean?" Turok mumbles while peeking around the corner of the first hall they come across.
"I'm curious too," Amon admits. "You say you've known about this bloodsucker for a good while now. Apparently she took refuge here knowing you could not trespass in Lord Ironglave's domain."
"Exactly what most bloodsuckers are doing these days," Turok sighs. "I can name at least a dozen lords I know who are unknowingly harboring bloodsuckers; the pathetic fools."
"Again, why are you only just now choosing to come after Lady Owleen?" Grange pries. "Lord Ironglave has been dead for quite some time."
Turok takes a deep breath before beginning a long explanation. "A few years ago I came across a strangely unique bloodsucker named Corvic. He claimed to be of noble decent; the son of the late Lord Ironglave."
"That means Lady Owleen reproduced with a human," Amon realizes.
"Exactly." Turok nods. "It is not uncommon for a bloodsucker to seduce a human in order to create more vile creatures though. What disturbed me was the power this particular abomination held. He wasn't simply a bloodsucker; he was a royal bloodsucker."
"What exactly is a royal bloodsucker?" Grange is still confused. He has never been that good at thinking.
"When descendent from someone noble, bloodsuckers seem to gain rank and power in their own click," Turok explains. "Corvic had his own platoon of followers made up of normal bloodsuckers, ghouls and even humans."
"Oh I hate ghouls." Grange shudders. "They are so damn creepy."
"Which ones?" his brother asks. "I think the animal ones are kinda cute."
"I thought they were cute too… when they weren't monsters of darkness!" Turok spits angrily. Amon and Grange fall quiet as they continue to check each random door they pass in the long hall. It makes sense that Turok would be upset; after all he has been fighting the endless battle against the ghouls for over a century. Unlike bloodsuckers who can only reproduce by seducing a human or simply copulating with another bloodsucker, ghouls are much more sinister in origin.
A ghoul can be defined as the hollow husk that remains when a person or animal is drained of all of its life-force by a bloodsucker or another ghoul. Around the same time the demigods first gained their power to fight and slay bloodsuckers, there was a sudden rise in the population of ghouls. Bloodsuckers who had always been careful not to overfeed on most of their victims had started becoming sloppy and sometimes binge eating.
The result was a flood of people and animals transforming into ghouls and doing the same to anyone they could find. Soon the woods between villages were filled with the dangerous creatures, which only seem to hunt at night.
To this day is unwise to travel between towns alone or on foot. The best way to stay safe is to never embark on a journey that will not end before nightfall. The exception is for people like Amon and Grange or Turok who can defend themselves against ghoul attacks. Of course no matter how many of them they kill, there always seem to be more.
"Hey, I found something," Grange calls to his brother after peeking into yet another room in the long stone hallway.
"Let me see." Amon pushes his way through the door. "It looks like a bedroom. What's so interesting about this?"
"Look there." Grange directs his attention to a wooden cross at the foot of the rag bed. It is a stand meant to support a knight's armor.
"So?" Amon still does not understand his brother.
"It's empty," Grange hisses at him. "There is no armor here."
"We might have company," Turok puts the pieces together before Amon can.
"Big deal," Amon scoffs. "I can handle a measly guard."
"This will be a fully trained knight," Turok warns him. "You best let me handle this."
"You always take the big fish," Amon grumbles. "I want to see some action tonight."
"We're not here for action; we're here to slay a bloodsucker before she has the chance to create more royal decedents," Turok snaps at him.
"Oh, is that what we're doing?" Grange finally catches on. "You weren't very clear."
"How was he not clear?" Amon is annoyed by his brother's slowness. "He said Corvic was stronger than most bloodsuckers and a natural leader of ghouls to boot. Obviously we can't have Lady Owleen spitting out more of these things. That's just asking for a new race of supercharged bloodsuckers."
"But Lord Ironglave is dead," Grange reminds him. "How is she supposed to make more?"
"If what that toothless guard told me is true, then she already has another royal offspring with her," Turok informs him. "We have to kill this one before she grows up to be just like her brother."
"And we get to fight a knight while we're at it," Amon chuckles as he opens the next door.
"That's right." There is a woman clad in shiny armor waiting directly in front of him. He is barely able to raise his arms defensibly before she has struck him with a long spear.
"Brother!" Grange shouts as he catches him. "Are you alright?"
"That caught me off guard," he groans while rubbing his forearm which is now dripping blood from a long gash made by the tip of the shiny spear.
"Who are you people?" the knight demands. She is rather tall for a woman and obviously muscular enough to move quickly under her heavy armor. Her hair is tied back in a tight bun to keep it out of her face and there is not a single hint of makeup to make her look more feminine.
"Why hello there." Turok bows to his new opponent. "You must be the filthy bloodsucker's personal slave."
"If you are referring to my mistress, then yes; I am my lady's obedient servant," the knight responds with pride.
"Do you know what you are protecting?" Turok is visibly disgusted with her. "She is an abomination."
"My lady is beautiful and vibrant," the knight disagrees with him. "I will serve her until my death." She brings her spear down toward Turok without warning.
"While I admire your loyalty, I must condemn your life because of it," Turok almost seems sad. "I do hate destroying well trained warriors like yourself."
"I need none of your pity." The knight launches the spear forward again, barely holding onto the end so as to extend the distance it can reach. Turok easily deflects it with his axe though. The knight falters while trying to keep hold of her weapon. Eventually she recovers though and starts attacking Turok again.
"Boys, she's trying to drive us away from that room," Turok realizes. "There must be something worth protecting inside."
"We're on it, boss," Amon shouts while climbing to his feet again.
"Oh, I thought you were dead," the knight mocks him.
"It takes more than that to kill me," he laughs.
"I shall increase my efforts then," she responds in a monotone. She does not appear bored with the fight, only focused. She expends no energy conversing, just attacking.
"Come here brave knight," Turok mutters as he draws her away from the large oak door. She is reluctant to follow him but eventually gives in. She knows Turok is the leader and the most dangerous.
"Hello? Anyone there?" Amon whispers as he peeks his head into the room. He immediately falls backwards just as a blade slices the air where his head was a moment ago.
"What was that?" Grange is astounded.
"She's in there." Amon is grinning ear to ear as he brandishes his chipped blade. Grange stands back and watches as he charges into the room, barely avoiding getting sliced by the thin sword again. When he turns around he can see the woman holding the weapon. She is hiding behind the door, having been waiting to behead anyone trying to enter. "Oh Lady Owleen?" he calls to her in a soft taunting voice.
"Stay back," she spits while pointing her thin sword at him in fear. It can barely even be called a sword though as it seems to have been cast purely for decoration.
"Wow, the rumors are true." He eyes her up and down. "You really are as spry as a twenty year old, aren't you? Hard to believe you had your first child sixty years ago."
"I don't know what you're talking," the woman seems to be playing dumb. She sweeps her long black hair out of her eyes as she sizes up the invader.
"Are you thinking of sucking my life out?" he asks cautiously. "Stronger creatures than you have tried."
"I honestly do not know what you are talking about," she scoffs.
"Give it up, Lady Owleen, we know exactly who you are."
"Brother, what's going on?" Grange finally peeks his head into the room.
"Don't!" Amon shouts as Owleen swings her blade down against his neck. He lets himself go limp, allowing it to pushing him down to the floor with it. Luckily the decorative blade has no edge and is barely able to make more than a small cut on his neck. "God, do you know how stupid that was?' Amon sighs with relief. "You're damn lucky to be alive."
"Oh quit griping." Grange stands up, knocking the blade out of Lady Owleen's hand as he goes.
"Oh dear," she gasps as he pulls her into a headlock. "Hey Turok, we got her," he calls into the hall. When there is no response he peeks outside again, only to pull his head back in just in time to avoid the knight's spear piercing his eye like a javelin. She comes tumbling into the room a moment later and retrieves it from the floor while rising to her feet. She glances back and forth between the two brothers, unsure which one to point it at.
"I wouldn't do anything hasty if I were you." Grange lifts Lady Owleen off her feet by her neck.
"What are you waiting for, kill her already!" Turok shouts while entering the room at an all out sprint, charging toward the knight. She lifts her spear in preparation to block but strangely his axe passes straight trough it as if it were made of air. Next it permeates her armor the exact same way. The knight is knocked backwards against a large cabinet in the corner of the room. Blood is spilling out of the spaces in her armor despite the fact that it itself is undamaged.
"What, what was that?" she groans.
"Arma Tua," Lady Owleen whispers.
"Ah, you recognize it." Turok brandishes his large butterfly shaped axe proudly.
"Always fun to see the boss pull that trick on a new person," Grange laughs in Lady Owleen's ear.
"You monsters," she spits angrily.
"We're monsters?" Turok's eyes narrow angrily. "You suck people's life out to sustain yourself. Who do you feed on in this lonely castle anyway?"
"Champ…" Lady Owleen chokes on her words.
"What? Speak up?" Grange turns his ear toward her so he can hear better.
"Champaign," she manages to answer despite the pressure he is applying to her throat.
"Champaign?" Grange raises an eyebrow. "What on earth is a Champaign?"
"Me." The knight spits out a mouthful of blood while standing back up, brandishing her spear again.
"It's not going to work," Amon taunts her.
"Yeah, nothing can block Arma Tua," Grange joins in laughing. The knight, whose name they now know is Champaign, looks extremely confused. Her eyes dart back and forth between the brothers as she tries to understand what they mean.
"Let me enlighten you on what Arma Tua is," Turok raises his voice above his henchmen. "When I received the power of a god, I was bestowed with a weapon to match. My Arma holds the property of spirit. You could say it phases through anything I want it to. Your weapon, your armor, they're all useless against Arma Tua. I can destroy you from the inside and there's nothing you can do."
Champaign's eyes widen as she realizes her predicament. There is no way she can face such a terrifying weapon. The blood from her mouth has started to seep down her chin. She looks to her mistress with pleading eyes, begging for instructions. "It's okay, Champaign," Lady Owleen wheezes. "It's over, we've lost."
"You're damn right you lost," Amon cheers.
"Not yet." Turok holds up his hand. "Where is the little one?" he directs his question at Lady Owleen.
"Who?" she is still trying to play dumb.
"The child!" Grange shouts while slamming her head against the door jamb. "Where is the new royal bloodsucker you created?" Champaign's eyes widen with concern but she has no way to defend her mistress. If she raises another hand against these men they will not hesitate to kill her. Aiding a bloodsucker is a crime just as bad a being one in the eyes of a demigod.
"Champaign." Lady Owleen reaches a shaky hand up toward her servant.
"I'm here mistress." The knight bows her head. "What will you ask of me?"
"Protect Row," she pleads. "Take her far away from here. Never let these men lay a hand on her."
"Row? Is that your little monster's name?" Grange asks while leering at her.
"She's my daughter," she spits back.
"She's an abomination, just like you," he laughs in her face.
"I'll do it, mistress," Champaign promises.
"You'll do nothing of the sort." Amon lifts his cracked sword to point at her face. "Take me to her."
"Go to hell." Champaign spits blood at him.
"Why you little…!" he is livid with anger.
"Run!" Lady Owleen shouts at her servant before twisting her head in an inhuman direction in order to slither out of Grange's chokehold. Instinctively he reaches for his sword but she is faster, sinking a pair of shiny white fangs into his neck.
"Oh hell," Turok groans as her eyes begin to glow red. "Now you've gone and done it." His own eyes are a gleaming green, just like the robe he is wearing. He swings his axe at her but she is moving impossibly fast now. A bloodsucker that has recently fed is almost ten times as strong.
"Grange!" Amon shouts as he runs to help his brother, who is now convulsing and bleeding from the neck. Champaign takes this chance to escape, darting out of the room as fast as she can with her injury.
"Go," Grange manages to choke out a single word. Amon nods before stumbling to his feet and rushing after the knight. He knows that finding this so called royal bloodsucker is more important than either of their lives.
Luckily Champaign is leaving a trail of blood in her wake. He easily follows it down the stone hallway until he comes to a similar room, equally as big with a blue door instead of red. "Hello?" He peeks his head inside. Again he falls backwards just in time to avoid getting hit, this time with a log of charred wood from a fireplace rather than a dull blade. Champaign is waiting behind the door clutching her stomach and breathing heavily. "Give up," he offers her one last chance as he stands up.
"Never," she groans as she drops the wood at her feet to hold her stomach with both hands, making a clattering sound.
"You're one tough soldier, I'll give you that," he wheezes while trying to catch his breath. She starts to shiver as he raises his chipped sword in one hand. "Any last words?" he asks with a smirk.
"Will god forgive me?" she says something ominous while grabbing the end of his sword with her armored gauntlets and snapping it off with some difficulty.
Amon's eyes widen as she plunges his own blade into his chest. As he falls to his knees his tongue darts out from his mouth, trying to say something. "You have drawn the wrath of god," he whispers his last words before falling on his face.
She breathes a sigh of relief as she collapses on the floor next to him. It quickly dissolves into sobbing though. She has just killed the companion of a demigod, the second most heinous crime committable next to killing a demigod himself; all in the name of protecting a bloodsucker.
It feels unreal to her. She is human yet she has chosen to defend a soul devouring creature instead. She can't remember the first time she ever let Lady Owleen feed on her but it only became more and more frequent during her service as a knight.
How she had ended up as a knight in the service of a bloodsucker was simple enough. It was her father's job to protect Lord Ironglave before her. There was never any doubt in her mind that she would continue his legacy, not even after learning the gruesome truth of her mistress's true nature. She vowed to protect her with her life, and that is what she has done.
"Is it safe to come out yet?" the soft voice of Lady Owleen's daughter emanates from the cabinet in the corner of the room.
"It's safe, Row," Champaign breathes out. Immediately the doors burst open as the tiny girl rushes to the aid of her savior. Despite being the age of seventeen, Row holds the appearance of a ten year old child. Like most bloodsuckers she is ageless and will never grow old. As such it is not surprising that her rate of growth is off compared to that of a normal human's.
Her hair is dark like her mother's with an auburn tinge from her father and her skin is smooth and pale. She also seems to have inherited her mother's beauty with sparkling red eyes and soft pink lips. Champaign can't help but liken her to a porcelain doll. "Are you okay?" the young girl touches the knight's stomach where her blood is seeping through the spaces in her armor.
"I don't know," Champaign admits while ripping her chest plate off to check her wound. "That Arma Tua is something else."
"Here, let me help you." Row sinks her shiny white fangs into Champaign's neck. The knight moans in pain as she feels the young bloodsucker transferring part of her own life into her. Immediately she starts to feel warmer as her blood loss slows. The wound on her stomach starts to close itself off and the color starts to return to her face.
"Thank you." She touches the young girl's face.
"Where is Mommy?" Row asks with a hopeful expression. "Is she alright?"
"I hope so." Champaign rises to her feet slowly.
"She needs us," Row spouts quickly. "We should go to her."
"Yes," Champaign agrees. She is feeling a lot better now; maybe even well enough to fight Turok again.
Row drags her out of the room with the blue door and back down the hall toward the red one. She stops in her tracks though when she notices Grange leaning again it. He looks positively ill with sunken in eyes and pale skin. He has one hand clamped to the side of his neck and he is groaning in pain. "You." His eyes start to focus when he notices them. "Where is Amon? Where is my brother?"
"He's dead," Champaign answers honestly. "I killed him."
"Wha…?" Grange's mouth hangs open in disbelief. A smile spreads across his face as he starts to laugh but it only lasts a moment. "You're joking," he still doesn't believe her. "No one can kill Amon. He's an even better fighter than me."
"Then I guess you better not try to stop me." Champaign moves to walk past him.
His arm shoots up to grab her sleeve though. "You're joking, right?" His eyes are filled with fear. "He can't be dead."
"I'm sorry." She shakes her arm free before brushing past him. He slowly leans over until he is lying on his side, sobbing quietly into the stone floor.
Inside the room Champaign is met with the sight of an all out battle. Turok is standing in the center of the room, swinging his axe wildly as Lady Owleen darts from one side of the room to the other, sometimes running up the walls like a spider or leaping onto the ceiling like a frog and dangling like a bat. Her fangs are still showing, dripping with Grange's blood and her own saliva. Her eyes are even redder than before and she seems completely feral.
"What's wrong with her?" Row gasps. She has seen her mother feed on Champaign many times but nothing like this has ever happened. She must have practically drained Grange dry. It would not be surprising if he soon shriveled into the form of a ghoul. "We need to help her!" Row screams as Turok's axe collides with her shoulder, slicing into it cleanly until it reaches the bone.
"You're welcome to come and share her fate," Turok offers in a mocking tone. "It'll be like a two for one deal." At that moment his axe tears into Lady Owleen's side, exposing her intestines.
"There's nothing we can do," Champaign realizes. All of her confidence from Row's bite has faded. Why she ever thought she could stand up to a demigod is beyond her. If Lady Owleen is losing then she definitely stands no chance. "We have to go." She places her hands on Row's shoulders.
"No, I'm not leaving her." She starts to squirm.
"I promised her I'd keep you safe," Champaign shouts while dragging her toward the door.
"Mommy!" Row starts to sob. The feral creature before her is unable to even respond though as she continues to leap around the room, avoiding Turok as best she can. His speed is almost able to match hers though and any wound she inflicts on him seems minuscule.
"This is what a demigod is," Champaign mutters to herself as she lifts Row off her feet in order to carry her. She continues to scream and cry for her mother as they pass Grange again on their way down the hall. It is a slow trek to the end with the extra weight of the wailing child but Champaign is still slightly invigorated by the bloodsucker's bite. She has enough strength to carry Row all the way to the front of the manse and out into the courtyard.
Her jaw drops when she sees the tunnel of water in front of her though. The guards on the walls have run out of arrows to fire at it and are now attacking with their swords, only to have Kalina direct jets of water out like spears, stabbing those that are too slow to avoid them. Champaign almost drops Row as her exhaustion comes flooding back. Even at full strength she is unsure if she could face a full-fledged sorcerer.
"And who might you be?" Kalina becomes aware of her new audience as soon as Champaign steps onto the drawbridge.
"I…" she sputters nervously while setting Row down to rest her arms.
Kalina starts to sniff the air between them. A menacing smile spreads across her face as she recognizes the scent. "Bloodsucker," she whispers.
"Stop right there." Champaign moves to stand between her and Row. "Not one step closer," she warns.
"Or what?" Kalina scoffs. "You seem dead on your feet."
"What about you?" Champaign counters. "How long have you been creating this barrier? How much mana have you used?"
"I still have enough to finish you," Kalina hisses as the spears of water start shooting inward rather than out. Champaign barely manages to dodge them as she falls backwards onto the wooden drawbridge beneath her. "Pathetic," Kalina laughs.
"You're sluggish," Champaign mocks her while struggling back to her feet slowly. "You really are straining yourself, aren't you?"
"Be quiet," she spits. "I don't want to hear anything from a woman who defends bloodsuckers."
"I swore an oath to protect my lady," Champaign responds confidently.
"You will fail to uphold that oath and then you will die," Kalina assures her.
"You can't fight me," Champaign remains confident. "You don't have enough mana left to attack me and keep your barrier up at the same time."
"Maybe I'll just drop it and destroy you instead," Kalina tries to threaten her.
"If you lower that barrier then all of those guards out there get in. You'll be dead within minutes," Champaign responds calmly. "Let me pass and we both live."
Kalina's eyes flare dangerously as Champaign drags Row past her, keeping to the absolute edge of the drawbridge. "This isn't over," she spits. "Mark my words, bloodsucker sympathizer, you will pay for your crimes."
"I know," Champaign mutters to herself as she finally makes it past Kalina. The sorcerer continues to glare at her as she picks up Row and sprints toward the end of the tunnel. When she reaches it though she realizes that it is also blocked by the water barrier. "Hey, open it!" she shouts at Kalina.
"Like yell," she snorts at her. Champaign's jaw drops in disbelief for a moment but she quickly recovers. She reaches out a hand to touch the water but rears back almost instantly. It is moving fast enough to cause her pain as it brushes against her skin. There is no way she can make it through unharmed.
"What should I do, what should I do," she starts to moan repeatedly.
"Champaign, it's okay," Row tries to calm her. "It'll be alright. Just trust me."
"Huh?" Champaign is confused for a moment before she realizes what Row means. "Are you sure?" she asks in a pleading voice. She is not looking forward to what she is about to do.
"I promise." Row nods.
"God damn it." Champaign winces as she wraps her arms around Row before charging through the water. She starts to rise off her feet as the current pushes her up. She makes it to the other side before she is more than ten feet off the ground though. She screams as she comes crashing down, armor and all. She starts to moan again as tears spring to her eyes. The wound on her stomach has reopened and her face is red from where the water licked her flesh.
"Hold on." Row quickly bites her neck again, transferring more of her own life into her loyal servant. Champaign swallows her tears as she manages to sit up.
"Sir!" One of the guards originally trapped outside rushes to help her up.
"What happened here, Token?" she demands in a frantic voice.
"We don't know," he admits. "We were unprepared for this. There was no way we were going to be able to stop a demigod. I don't even know why Turok would come here."
"I have an idea." A younger guard steps forward.
"Narick, do not speak out of turn," Token scolds him.
"But I saw it with my own eyes." He points at Row. "I didn't believe Druge when he said it but it's true, isn't it. She just bit you, didn't she?"
"Yeah, she did," Token agrees.
"Who is she?" Narick demands. "Is she the princess? Is she Lord Ironglave's daughter? Why is she so young then? She's a bloodsucker, isn't she?"
Champaign's eyes widen in panic as she backs away. "Answer the question, captain." Token is glaring at her as well now.
"Who were we defending?" the other guards quickly join in.
"Are we aiding a bloodsucker?"
"Is Turok going to sentence us to death for this?"
"Answer the question, captain!"
"Answer the question." Soon they are all shouting the same thing. Champaign grabs her head while groaning.
"I can't believe it." Token shakes his head at her disappointedly. "I looked up to you, captain. I trusted you."
"She's our lady," Champaign tries to remind him. "We swore an oath."
"I never swore to protect no bloodsucker," Narick disagrees.
"What do we do now?" Token asks.
"We present the demigod with his prize and ask for his forgiveness," Narick suggests. The rest of the guards erupt in agreement. Champaign can't believe her ears. How can they betray their mistress so easily?
"I'm scared," Row whispers as the guards grab her arms and bind her wrists with leather straps.
Champaign takes a deep breath as she contemplates whether or not to act. She already knows what she is going to do though; abandoning her oath was never even an option. "Let her go." She shouts while pulling Narick's blade from his scabbard. The startled guard looks almost terrified at the sight of his own blade.
"Hold on there, captain." Token quickly draws his sword as well.
"I said let her go." Champaign pulls Row towards herself.
"You're not seriously going to defend her, are you?" Token pleads with her.
"We swore an oath," she whispers one more time.
"Men, are you with me?" Token asks the rest of the guards. He receives a thunderous shout in response. "Men, kill the captain," he gives the order. Champaign has no time to move as Token lunges at her. His sword meets the flesh of a different person though.
"Narick!" she shouts as the blade pokes through the young man's chest.
"I'm sorry," he groans before slumping over. He seems to be talking to neither Token nor Champaign though. The knight does not waste the time he has given her though. She spins around in the opposite direction of the castle and yanks Row behind her by the arm. Token leads the guards as they charge after her, trampling Narick's body without remorse.
As she rounds the side of the castle, heading for the path that leads down to the village of Massmede, she notices someone slumped up against the wall, obviously dead. From the guard post he is stationed at and due to his absence at the drawbridge she can guess that he is Druge. Looking down at the blade in her hand she can see the dried blood.
Now she knows who Narick was apologizing to. In order to keep his oath he had blindly killed his own guard duty partner. She can not be sure if he blocked Token's blade to protect her and his oath one last time or if he simply wanted to die to make amends for killing Druge. Either way he saved her life and she is grateful. She is still alive; still able to keep her promise, still able to protect Row. After all, her oath is the only thing that matters anymore.