Author's Note:

This is the accumulation of 4 "seasons" of the series Nightfall. If you haven't been reading, then I suggest you check them out first. At the very least, you should read the Final Season (#4) to be up to speed on what is happening--it has a nice little "story so far" at the beginning.

The story has been laced with references to many sci-fi and horror movies (a sort of tribute, if you will) and many characters have been named after a number of people that have given me their support since the story began (a huge Thanks to you all).

Though this story marks the end of the series Nightfall, it by no means marks the end of the world in which Nightfall takes place. There will be the occasional one-shot story in the future and, possibly, a sequel series (if enough people would really like to see it).

Now, with that said, on here is the final installment of the series Nightfall…

NIGHTFALL: OBLIVION

The caravan was an odd assortment of military vehicles, gathered from where ever they could be found or, when possible, repaired of the damage done to them during the vampire take over of the world. Most of the vehicles were for transportation only, but the group, a coalition of soldiers from the world over, had managed to gather more that a few vehicles of destruction.

Riding in a half-track that led the line of vehicles, Captain Byron Miller shouted into the radio "Say again, Mai."

"It's a slaughter," repeated the Sergeant. "With this darkness, the vamps are coming out of the woodwork! Strider just sent us the latest sat-scan of the area, but it's the last Intel that we're going to get. She said that they're prepping to bug out."

"What the hell's going on back there?"

"Apparently, Shannon wasn't dead. The vamps must have laid low for a while, but now they're attacking like never before. Strider says it's the same all over. The vamps have declared full out war on us."

Bartholomew must be worried, thought Miller. They must be close.

"Sir?" called Mai.

"What's the scan show us?"

"Confirms the last scan, that they were heading towards that mountain range, about half a click from our current location. Strider's pinpointed the entrance to within a hundred yards."

"ETA?"

"At our current speed, about half an hour."

"Let's make it an hour. Order the heavy hitters to the front," instructed Miller. "We might need them to clear a path."

"Rodger."

When contact had been lost with Solution Center, Miller had decided that it was time to worry about his own teams, and to hell with those that said they were the ones in charge.

Using a recently repaired SST, Miller had brought a group of thirty volunteers to Germany, landing at the Rhein-Main Air Force Base just west of Frankfurt. Miller, and his squad, had been more than a little surprised to find nearly four hundred personnel still at the base, all that was left of a population that at one time numbered more that twenty-six hundred.

The people of Rhein-Main had survived by isolating themselves from the other scattered groups of survivors, electing to hide their existence, living in sealed-off, underground sections of the base. It was a tactic that, once they convinced the vampires that they were gone, had allowed them to live the past six months unmolested.

After spending half a year in hiding, it was a great surprise that nearly all of the people of Rhein-Main would volunteer to add their number to the party seeking Bartholomew.

The biggest boost though, came from the amount of equipment that they had. The people of Rhein-Main may have hid from the vampires, but they hadn't led a life of total isolation. Captain Rachael Krammer, the ranking officer of the base, had often sent out teams for reclamation purposes, and they had managed to piece together an impressive fleet of vehicles.

Miller only hoped that it would be enough to stand against what ever forces that they would encounter at Bartholomew's lair.

"I hope you have some good news," said Professor Rein as Katt entered his office.

"News is often a double edged sword. Good or bad," she said, slipping into the padded chair before his desk. "We've managed to raise three of the ten bases that we were previously in contact with.

"Only three?"

"The vamps are over running everything. Commander Strider contacted us long enough to let us know that they were evacuating Robbins."

Rein laid his glasses on his desk and began rubbing his eyes, suddenly feeling very old, and very tired.

"She also told us that Captain Miller's team made contact with another military group in Germany, and that they're advancing on Bartholomew's lair. Hopefully, they'll be in time to help the others."

"And hopefully the others will be in time to save us all," whispered Rein, though not so quietly that Katt did not hear him.

"We have to have faith, Thomas," she counseled, reaching over the desk and placing a hand on his. "We both saw what Roy was able to do here, against the vampires."

"Roy is it now?" asked Rein, smiling at her like a father would his daughter. "I take it that you have feelings for him?"

"Yeah," she admitted, looking downward. "Yeah, I believe that I do. I mean, I only got to know him for a short time, but it was kind of like, I don't know, like we connected."

"And Father Cameron? Did he show an interest in returning those feelings?" asked Rein, now sounding a lot like her late father.

"I sort of got that impression, but he was rather preoccupied with every thing else."

"Yes, I imagine that he would be a little bit distracted by all that has apparently been asked of him."

"Some how I can't see me dating the savior of the world," she half laughed, slouching back into the chair.

"I pray that that is something that we both see, my dear," said Rein, hopefully.

"I still can't see half of them," whispered Trent, scrutinizing the surrounding walls of the main chamber. "Are you sure they're there?"

"They're there, Commander," answered Bill. "The ones you see standing out in the open aren't even half their number."

They were talking about Warriors, stationed through out the massive chamber, most of them 'tucked' into niches and corners that were hidden within deep shadows, created both by the odd architecture of the room and by the lack of ambient light.

A number of archways gave access to the chamber, and many Masters had been coming and going, obviously in search of the intruders, but the entire west side of the room was a solid wall, filled only with a mighty fireplace that was roaring with flames. Torches were placed here and there in a seemingly random pattern, and their pools of light failed to intersect with one another, leaving many areas in darkness.

The group was huddled near what could only be the main support column of the chamber, a pillar of stone and oak that was as round as an oil tanker, and which rose up into the darkness of the ceiling. Though he had not mentioned it to others, something about the ceiling made Bill feel uneasy--of course he was the only one of their group that could even see it--but he couldn't say why.

The chamber was mostly carved out stone, the fireplace and the archways being the only crafted work of it, but the ceiling didn't appear to look the same. It seemed almost as if it were made of some silken material, glistening ever so faintly, but it was so high up that he couldn't even be sure of that. The only thing he was certain of was that it wasn't stone.

"Are you sure that they can't hear us whispering?" asked Erin, nervously thumbing the safety of her Steyr on and off.

"Don't worry, there aren't enough of them that I can't mask us," reassured Bill.

Two groups of Masters entered the chamber just then, from opposite entrances, and as they met up, they stopped and began talking amongst themselves. One of them, the closest towards the group, kept casting looks in the direction of the 'masked' humans, his eyes narrowed and his face questioning, as if he were sensing them.

"They, on the other hand, may be a problem," said Bill. "The more that hang around here, the better the chance that they'll still sense us out. It's a lot, to block this many out from seeing us."

"You couldn't have pointed that out before you led us in here?" chastised Diane. "We're setting ducks here."

Roy crossed himself and began whispering a prayer, a sense of peace falling over the group. The tension that Bill had been feeling started to slip away as he saw the curious Master finally turn towards his comrades, ignoring the group completely.

"Thanks, Preach," said Bill.

Roy nodded, smiling, but continued praying, adding his own special power to the masking effort being made by Bill.

"So, now what? Are we just going to wait for the others to show up?" asked Diane.

"That's the idea," replied Bill, relaxing a bit as the Masters finally broke up back into their original groups and exited the main chamber. "Don't worry, they're on their way."

"That's not what I'm worried about," muttered Diane. It had been too soft for the others to hear, but it hadn't slipped by Bill, and he took her hand gently.

"He's a good fighter," offered Bill. "And he's with some of Dolph's people. I'm sure he'll be okay."

Diane nodded and smiled reassuringly at him, but he could see in her eyes that she didn't believe him. She wouldn't relax until she saw John safe and alive. "Thanks," she offered, squeezing his hand before letting it go, turning to try and act like she was keeping a watchful eye on their surroundings.

In that instant he felt something. It was a feeling of loss, and it nearly made him gasp. It wasn't Christine, he could still feel a connection with her, but he didn't know who, or what, it was.

Bill thought about sending out mental probes, but he was afraid that the Bartholomew would sense them and direct his Masters towards them. He dismissed trying to contact Christine for the same reason. For now, as much as he hated the thought, he would have to wait to find out what was happening with the others.

Wait nervously as if he were still mortal.

"What's wrong?" asked Christine, rushing to Dolph's side as he stumbled, nearly dropping to his knees. She grabbed him by the arm and held him up, looking at him with deep concern.

"They are all dead," whispered Dolph, his face a mask of anguish. "The last of my brethren are no more."

Christine hugged him, offering the only comfort that she could, her heart not knowing anything that she could say to him.

"There are things hunting us other than the Masters and that black mass," he said, his voice tinged with revulsion. "Things that can scent us out."

"Come on, we have to get to the others," she said, sternly, urging him forward.

John fired behind him as he ran, cursing as most of his shots went wild, barely hitting any of the creatures swarming after him. Whatever the things were, he was certain that they had once been human, what remained of their forms telling his frantic mind that grisly fact.

The creatures were humanoid in shape, but very little else connected them to the humanity that they were once a part of. Their forms were devoid of an outer layer of skin, their bodies nothing more than a skeletal frame wrapped in layers of glistening muscle. Their skull-like heads were absent of facial features, two thin slits where a nose would normally be, their eyes black orbs that blended into the slick redness that coated their cranium, almost seeming like a sheen of blood.

More sickening than their appearance was their mouths. Something had been done to their jaws, allowing them to open wider, like that of a snake. When they had first attacked the few remaining survivors, John had seen one of them completely engulf the head of one of the Holy Vamps, biting it off with a sickening crunch.

As morbid as the thought was, John was actually glad that they had once been human, their speed about equal to his. If not for the fact that they had surprised the few survivors, John doubted that they would have been able to kill the Holy Vamps so easily.

He was also thankful that he had been trailing them slightly; unable to keep up with them even though they had been holding back somewhat.

Taking advantage of being in a semi-straight section of tunnel, John spun around to jog backwards, and delivered three well-aimed shots with the Steyr. Each thunderous boom of the gun was followed by one of the Skinners meeting its demise in near explosion-like fashion.

John felt the bile crawling at the back of his throat as he saw a number of the Skinners stop in their pursuit of him to devour the remains of their fallen kin.

Turning around, John poured on all the speed that he could, hoping that he could outdistance the creatures. Rounding a bend, John came to an abrupt stop as he slammed into what felt like a solid wall, the force of the impact bouncing him backwards to the ground.

Groaning, shaking his head to try and clear it of the white spots floating before his eyes, John looked up to see a quartet of Masters blocking the passageway.

Timms felt…different. It was similar to how he had felt when he had been 'initiated', but it did not have the same peacefulness to it that he had experienced then. He felt more alert, more aware of what was going on around him, even more so than his Lycanthrope-senses had revealed to him, but it also had an edge to it.

An anger.

A hatred.

A lust for…blood.

"This is quite interesting," mulled Bartholomew, slowly circling Timms, aware that the man was awake. "I sense that you have joined us, yet…you have not died."

Rolling over slowly, Timms stared at Bartholomew, strangely finding his feelings of hatred for the being shifting towards ones of reverence. He tried to remember how he had wanted to rip the Vampire Lord apart, but instead he could think of nothing but of how he should worship Bartholomew for the God that he was.

"Most perplexing," commented Bartholomew, squatting down and looking into Timms' eyes. "I would hazard a guess that your power is similar to that of a Halfling. You are a part of our linage, yet you are also your own man."

"My Lord?" asked Timms, unsure. His emotions and desires were a tormented swirl of confliction,

Bartholomew smiled.

"This is damn strange," muttered Miller, studying the mountainside through high-powered binoculars. "You see the entrance?"

"Clear as day," confirmed Mai, her own HPB's showing her the black mouth of the entrance way, bathed in the green glow customary to night-vision equipment.

"Know what's wrong with this picture?"

"No guards," answered Mai.

"I don't like this, Mai. Either Bartholomew's not worried about us in the least, or…."

"Or he's busy with the others?" postulated Mai.

Miller began sliding back from their vantage point on a small rise surrounded by trees, waiting until he was sure that there was no chance he would be spotted from any unseen guards before rising and making his way back towards the troops.

"What are we going to do?" asked Mai, keeping a carefully eye on the surrounding forest.

"We're going to contact Krammer, back at Rhein-Main, and give her the codes to Bright Star. I want an updated scan of the area. If our guys are in there, Bright Star's systems will be able to detect them."

"And if they're not?" asked Mai, worried that they may have already been too late.

"Then we nuke the damn mountain."

"Now what do we do, Brianiac?" asked Diane, in a hushed voice.

Dozens of creatures continually roamed through the chamber, either Masters or creations of Bartholomew, and it was through the combined efforts of Roy and Bill that the group had so far remained undetected.

Bill had been able to mask them while they had traversed the passageways of the lair, encountering only small search parties, but here, in the nexus of the lair, with so many beings constantly coming and going, Roy had had to lend a hand in masking their presence, whispering words of prayer.

"We keep waiting," answered Bill, through clenched teeth. They had been 'hiding' in the main chamber for nearly an hour now, and the strain was beginning to take its toll on him, the constant concentration wearing down his mental reserves.

"Where are they?" asked Trent, voicing the concern that a number of them were feeling over how long they had been waiting.

The question was forgotten as Erin pointed out an approaching group of Masters, the team having to move out of their way to keep from being 'run into'.

Being basically invisible had its drawbacks too.

"I can't risk diverting my energies to try and contact Christine," whispered Bill, once the Masters had passed. "There's too many of the bastards moving through here. They might pick up on it."

"I thought you had the power of a Lord?" quipped Diane.

"I do," hissed Bill. "But, not their Lord."

"Yeah, that does us a lot of good," she muttered.

Bill rolled his eyes and held his tongue. He was trying to be understanding, aware that she, and the others, must be scared as hell to be standing in the middle of Vampire Central, but it wasn't easy. He wasn't about to admit it, but he was wondering where in the hell Christine and Dolph were, too.

Something black dropped from above, barely seen by Bill out of the corner of his eye, and dismissed his thoughts as he turned to see what it was.

The thing was roughly the size of a large dog, a black ball of prickly hair and legs, and it had dropped onto Donovan, knocking him to the floor.

Resembling a spider, the thing reared back on its eight legs, the many mandibles surrounding its mouth spreading open in preparation to sink its numerous fangs into the man's head.

Erin unleashed a short burst from her Steyr before Bill could voice his protest, the powerful slugs decimating the creature and spraying it across the floor in a gory splash of blood and flesh.

All movement within the main chamber came to a sudden halt.

Roy's concentration had been broken by the sudden attack, and Erin's retaliation, and Bill's masking wasn't strong enough in the midst of so many to keep their presence hidden.

The group was visible to all.

Warriors, which had been standing silently in the multitude of corners and niches of the main chamber, came to life, striding purposely towards the group.

"Now would be a good time to get your cross out, Preach," said Bill, hearing the mental call of the Masters to the rest of their kind, and to Bartholomew.

The Masters became blurs as they launched themselves at the group, the humans finding it impossible to hit the creatures, even with the Steyrs.

"Take out the Warriors," yelled Bill, becoming a splash of movement himself as he tried to stop the Masters.

"Mother of God," exclaimed Roy, watching as blur of movement suddenly came to a halt, the Master grimacing in pain before bursting apart in a flash of flame and a cloud of ash, a stake delivered to his heart by Bill.

The thunderous booms of the Steyrs echoed through out the chamber as Trent, Erin, Donovan, and Diane began opening up on the Warriors, the 5.56 mm rounds blowing sections of the creatures away.

Two more Masters, mere inches away from Diane and Trent, staggered into view, their forms crumbling apart as Bill flashed by, smiling at the Preacher and yelling "dust them already!"

Roy was reaching for his cross, in his pocket, as another Master dropped to normal speed right in front of him, blood spilling from its mouth as it groped at the stake sticking from its chest. Roy held a shielding arm up as the creature exploded, its dust pelting him, the heat of its demise washing over him.

Three blurs collided just short of the group, and Bill slammed into the floor, wrestling with one Master as the second one materialized before Roy.

Roy was pulling his cross from his pocket as the Master lashed out at him, delivering a powerful backhanded blow that sent the Preacher flying backwards, his cross spinning from him.

The Master that had struck Roy was turning its head, to investigate the clicking sound it had heard, when Diane pulled the trigger of her Steyr. The blast obliterated the Master's head completely, its body blowing apart in a cloud that sprayed her with dust and echor.

"Help Roy!" yelled Bill, finally dusting the Master that he had been fighting with; only to have three more take its place.

Trent let out a grunt as something slammed into his back, knocking him to the ground, and he rolled over to find himself staring at the lifeless form of Donovan, the man's entire face caved in from the powerful strike of one of the Warriors.

Rolling onto his back, Trent looked up at the Warrior that had killed Donovan, the creature glaring at him with its expressionless face of dead flesh. Trent brought his Steyr up and pulled the trigger, hoping to at least topple the creature.

The Steyr clicked empty.

"Fuck," cursed Trent.

The Warrior slammed down one of its massive feet, smashing Trent's head with a sickening crunch, the man's skull popping like a ripened melon.

Diane cast a glance back as she raced towards Roy, fighting the urge to vomit as she saw what had become of Trent, Erin screaming as she blasted round after round into the Warrior that had killed her friend.

A second Warrior was approaching Erin from behind, and Diane halted, spinning around to take a bead on the creature. She managed to squeeze off one shot, taking off a good portion of the top of the Warrior's head, before something slammed into the side of her face, sending her sprawling to the floor.

Her gun having clattered out of her reach, Diane groggily looked up, expecting to see a Master about to rip into her. What she saw she was someone that she had never expected to see again.

"Hi, Di," said Neva, squatting down to straddle Diane's chest, holding her to the ground.

Bill managed to get a firm grip on one of the Masters he was struggling with, and he swung the vampire around, using him to knock the other two aside, momentarily freeing himself. He turned and prepared to leap to Roy's aid when he was suddenly smashed into from behind, the thing hitting him more powerful than any of the Masters he had so far faced.

Slamming into one of the pillars of the room, Bill dropped to the ground, dazed. The one that had attacked him was a blur, moving in and lifting him up by his neck in the blink of an eye, Bill barely cognate enough to recognize that his attacker was Timms.

Spinning around, Timms tossed Bill into another of the support columns, nearly thirty feet away. Bill hit the oak and stone pillar with a resounding thud, his head cracking against the rock surface with such force as to nearly split his skull open, and blazing hot stars of white erupted before his vision.

"I don't think that you'll be needing this," said Bartholomew, having suddenly appeared, as he bent and picked up Roy's cross.

Roy gaped as Bartholomew crumbled up the cross as if it were nothing but tin foil.

Erin was thrown roughly to the ground, next to the unconscious John, her weapon snapped in half by the Master that had overpowered her.

From across the chamber came four more Masters, dragging with them the unconscious form of John. They advanced to the captured group and dropped the man to the floor, Neva laughing as Diane tried vainly to free herself.

"This is your pathetic little group?" mused Bartholomew, slowly circling the captured team, but keeping his eyes locked with Roy's. "Perhaps I overestimated the threat that you posed."

"Then why don't you try taking me on yourself?" demanded Roy, rising to unsteady feet.

"Without your little trinket?" chortled Bartholomew. "I need no such item to slaughter you, Preacher."

Timms took advantage of Bill's dazed condition by grapping a handful of his hair and slamming his head repeatedly into the floor, blood pouring from his broken nose and his mouth.

"I think he has had enough, Zachary," commanded Bartholomew.

"No. He hasn't," snarled Timms, continuing his assault on Bill.

With a painful sounding crack, Timms was suddenly tumbling through the air, struck once by Bartholomew, not a single being having even seen the Vampire Lord move or strike.

"I will consider that insolence a hold over from your lycanthropic nature," hissed Bartholomew. "This one time. Do not disregard me again, or I shall kill you as surely as we once nearly wiped out you kind!"

Timms glared at Bartholomew, struggling to hold back the feelings of hatred that were attempting to resurface. The way that Bartholomew had spoken of his kind conveyed how the Vampire Lord truly felt of Lycanthropes, and how he must feel about Timms, despite his turning.

"I was talking to you, shithead!" yelled Roy, taking a wobbly step towards Bartholomew.

Bartholomew regarded Roy with a bemused expression.

Is this what you want, Timms? asked Bill, speaking directly into Timms' mind. Is that what you want ruling over our world.

Timms growled lowly.

"I asked you why you won't take me on yourself, damn it!" shouted Roy, standing defiantly.

"I believe it is a mortal custom," started Bartholomew, slowly approaching Roy, "to grant a dying man his last wish."

Those present would have sworn that Bartholomew had never moved a step closer to Roy, that there was no way that he could have done what he did and returned to his previous position with out the slightest indication that he had moved, but moved he surely had.

Grunting as the air was forced from his lungs, pain firing through his side, an indication of broken--or shattered--ribs, Roy was suddenly flying backwards through the air, hitting the floor twenty feet from where he had previously been standing.

"Stop it!" screamed Diane, bringing a strike from Neva that left four deep gashes in her cheek, and blood trickling from her mouth.

Remember how you felt when you became a Lycanthrope, Zachary? asked Bill. You said you felt different, that you felt at peace. Do you still feel that way, with Bartholomew lording of you?

Bill could sense the turmoil that Timms was feeling, the confliction of his two natures, and he could 'see' Timms' thoughts, his memories of the other members of The Pack, and how they had welcomed him. He saw other, darker memories, he helped push one of those to the forefront, igniting Timms' buried rage.

In his mind, Timms saw Vivian cut down by the silver swords of the Masters, the same way that they had slaughtered the other members of his family, and his hatred boiled to the surface, initiating the familiar change that he had never thought he would feel again.

Timms rose and unleashed a howl of torment that was deafening to all except for Bartholomew.

The Vampire Lord turned, looking at Timms with contempt, and he issued a mental command to his Masters, directing them to kill the towering Lycanthrope.

Only those that had seen Timms in his werewolf form before knew that he was different this time. He was far taller than before, at least a foot taller than any of the Warriors in the chamber, and he was rippling with muscles that caused many of the Masters pause.

"He is but a Lycanthrope!" roared Bartholomew. "There kind has never been a match for yours! Kill him. Now!"

Timms was now far more than either a Lycanthrope or a vampire.

The form shifting power of his vampire-side allowed Timms to lengthen his claws; to reinforce them; to turn them into stake-like appendages of his own body.

As the Masters attacked, becoming blurred images of movement, so did Timms, and it was quickly evident which breed was the faster.

Masters dusted away left and right, their black hearts pierced by Timms' powerful claws, or their heads slashed from their bodies, and Bartholomew sneered in annoyance at their failure to kill what he considered an inferior creature.

Bill launched himself from the floor in the same instant that Bartholomew moved, and he slammed into the Vampire Lord, the two of them tumbling across the rock floor as they viscously fought each other. The two slammed into one of the massive support columns, actually breaking off bits of the stone and causing dust to drift down from it, and they spun away from each other, both landing on their feet, facing each other, with only a few feet between them.

A brown streak shot by Diane and the others, and the Masters that had been guarding them screamed out in pain, their bodies blowing apart in clouds of dust even as they dropped to their knees.

Neva hissed at their attacker and was knocked from Diane, Timms unable to kill her, even in his new form. He leapt to where she had fallen and delivered a solid punch to her jaw that knocked her clean out.

"Don't harm her," Timms growled, turning to the humans.

He was gone before either Diane or Erin could say a word, becoming a blur once again as he battled the remaining Masters.

Erin grabbed up the Steyr that had been Diane's and opened fire on the remaining Warriors, the creatures having been standing eerily still, awaiting direction from Bartholomew. The powerful weapon made short work of the creatures, as immobile as they were, but other things began arriving to take their place.

Diane scrambled over to John and lifted him up, hugging him tightly as she cried, begging for him to be okay. He made a small groaning sound, and Diane half laughed through her choked sobs, smiling widely as his eyes fluttered open.

"I thought I'd lost you," she gushed.

John looked up at her, and Diane's soul froze in terror as she saw the redness to his eyes. Then she saw the blood stains on the collar of his shirt, and the bite marks on his neck. And when he smiled at her, his lengthened incisors glistening, she screamed like never before.

"Look at this," said Miller, pointing to the lightened area on the satellite scan that Krammer had just transmitted to them. "This whole section of the mountain is hollowed."

"What are those?" asked Lieutenant Rose, drawing a finger along light colored lines branching off of the hollowed area.

"Tunnels," said Mai. "They branch off this area and run through the whole place. There're hundreds of smaller chambers, probably rooms, but that spot…it's got to be something special."

"And it's just under the surface of the mountain," continued Miller. He tapped an area in the center of hallowed area, where several dark spots were. "Those are heat signatures. Those are the people we're here to help."

"There're miles of tunnels," commented Rose. "And they way they criss-cross on the map, we can't determine a quick route to that chamber."

"We going to be a little more direct than that," said Miller, looking about at the personnel in the mobile command center. "It's going to be dawn soon, and I want to use that to our advantage."

The others looked at him expectantly.

"Mai, assemble all of the demolition people we've got, and tell them to get their asses in gear. In half an hour, when sunrise hits, we're going to blow a hole in the side Bartholomew's damn mountain."

The balcony was quite impossible to detect from the ground floor of the main chamber, but it circled three-quarters of the room, with only one entrance to it, directly in the center.

Christine and Dolph stood there now, looking down on the battle raging below them.

A scream cried through out the chamber, and the two looked down to see Diane struggling with John, and they both knew that he was no longer human. If not for the fact that he was newly turned, he would have quickly overpowered Diane and drained her, but as it was, she stood some small chance.

Christine leapt to the top of the natural stone railing that was part of the balcony and pushed off from it, aiming herself at John's back, allowing her wings to morph out so that she could glide down on him.

Dolph looked at the Golden Crucifix he held, wish that it had been destined for use by others than mortals, and then firmly tucked it into his belt before leaping over the side of the balcony.

"I hate jumping from heights," he quipped as he fell.

Dolph hit the ground, hard, bending his knees slightly to absorb the shock, and then he took off towards Roy, his own form one of the many streaks of movement flashing through the chamber.

***

Bill struck out at Bartholomew but the Vampire Lord easily deflected it, and then spun around, delivering a powerful roundabout kick that sent Bill careening into an ancient oak table. The wood shattered as Bill impacted with it, collapsing into a pile of rubble with him at its center, unconscious.

***

Diane squeezed her eyes shut, screaming as she fought to hold John off; her heart skipped a beat as she felt his cold saliva drip onto her neck.

There was a rush of wind and suddenly John was gone from her, Diane casting about wildly, wondering what had happened. Turning over, she saw Christine pinning John to the floor with one hand, her other one holding a stake.

"Don't!" cried Diane, scrambling to her feet. "Father Aberon! He can cure him, back at the Clinic!"

Christine hesitated for a moment, holding John in place with no effort, and she sadly shook her head. "When we kill Bartholomew, he'll die anyways, Diane."

Diane tried to say something but her mouth only moved silently. She knew that Christine was right, but that thought was staying buried at the back of her mind.

"It's better this way," said Christine, plunging the stake into John's chest.

He managed to let out one gurgled cry of pain before crumbling away into dust and echor.

***

Timms slammed to the ground, the air violent forced from his lungs, and he snapped at the Masters that had pinned him, two on either arm and two on his legs. He snarled at them in rage, suddenly growing silent as another Master stepped up to him, this one holding one of the silver swords that had been used against his family.

Kyle raised the sword, both hands wrapped around the hilt, ready to slam it down into Timms' chest.

***

Dolph helped Roy to his feet, pulling the Golden Crucifix from his belt and handing it to the Preacher.

Roy looked at it through a swollen face, his one eye already black and blue, and blood trickling down the side of his head. He smiled, and laughed weakly, nodding his thanks to Dolph.

Dolph's smile became a grimace of pain as a shaft of black suddenly protruded from his chest, his body flashing away into a cloud of dust that revealed the rippling form of the black mass.

***

Erin ejected another spent clip and quickly slapped a fresh one home, pulling back the firing bolt and sighting her weapon on the Master raising a sword against Timms.

As she started to squeeze the trigger, the Master raising the sword higher, something fell on her from above, causing her shot to go wide and knocking her to the ground.

Pain tore through her shoulder as something bit into her, and her blood suddenly felt as if it were on fire.

Rolling over, Erin knocked her attacker from her, and through blurry eyes she saw another of spider-things that had attacked Donovan. Just before she passed out, she saw the thing recoil as Diane shot it repeatedly.

***

"Now!" ordered Miller, as the first rays of dawn began caressing the side of the mountain that was Bartholomew's lair.

***

"NO!" screamed Roy, thrusting the Golden Crucifix forward like a knife.

The Relic sliced into the thick hide of the black mass, and a blinding white light poured from where the metal met with dark flesh. The black mass screamed with a hundred different voices as it was engulfed by the white light, the glow growing to a blinding intensity.

The light vanished like an inverted flash, and the black mass was nothing but a pillar of ash, crumbling as Roy pulled the Relic free of it.

***

Every being in the main chamber came to a standstill as a deep rumbling rolled over them, the very floor quivering as if some might beast had landed a foot fall.

The western side of the chamber sudden collapsed in a cascade of dirt, rock, and dust, and sunlight filtered into the chamber. Golden rays of light shown through twirling clouds of dust, the remaining Masters raising their arms in vain attempts to block the purifying rays from their sight.

As if one, the Masters began bursting into flames, jets of greenish-fire erupting from all over their bodies. In just a few seconds they had all perished, their Broods the world over dying with them.

The survivors began to stir, many of them having been knocked to the floor by the shock wave of the explosion, and they looked about in confusion, bewildered by what had happened.

Christine was at Bill's side, helping him up, and he smiled at her weakly.

"I can't leave you alone for a minute," she said, teasingly.

"Did you happen to get the plate number of that truck?" asked Bill, laughing then groaning as pain flared up in his side.

Timms looked to the sword swaying next to him, its blade buried slightly into the stone from where Kyle had dropped it as the explosion had destroyed the fall wall, and he thought himself incredibly lucky.

Roy walked dazedly to Diane, who turned to him with tears streaming down her face, and he wrapped his arms around her, holding her tightly.

Shadows began appearing at the rim of the blasted hole, moving about carefully, and ropes began dropping into chamber. Erin was unable to make out who any of the people were, but she did catch glimpses of military insignias on the uniforms, bringing a smile to her face.

"Hey!" called Timms, drawing the attention of the others. He was standing in the center of the chamber, next to black, bulbous object that had not been there before. Its hide was thick, with a texture like leather, and it glistened with a red moistness. "What the hell is this?"

The blackness split apart with a slurping sound, spreading out to reveal that they were immense wings, and that they had been wrapped around the body of Bartholomew.

The Vampire Lord's skin was now entirely black, looking like burnt meat, and bellowed in rage, twisting about and lashing out at Timms. The startled Timms was unable to avoid the blow, and he was sent hurtling through the air to slam into the far wall.

"Christ, can't he fucking die?" exclaimed Bill.

Roy positioned himself in front of Diane, holding the Golden Crucifix out before him, and he began reciting a prayer.

Bartholomew scowled at Roy through eyes that were pure red, his blackened flesh crackling as he moved slowly towards the Preacher, and he began chuckling.

"It will take more than your faith to destroy me, Preacher," laughed Bartholomew, his mouth red and dripping of blood. "I. Am. A. God."

"Maybe," said Roy, taking a step to meet the advancing Bartholomew.

Bartholomew roared in hatred, his wings spreading fully open, and he flexed his taloned hands in challenge.

"But you sure as shit ain't my God!" yelled Roy, lunging forward and stabbing the Golden Crucifix into Bartholomew's chest.

Bartholomew's skin began to crack, parting with glowing red lines as it blackened and burned even more than it had been, bits of it flaking off and floating from like ash on the wind.

The explosion was of pure force, but it was without heat or flame, it was merely the release of otherworldly energy. It slammed into Roy and others, knocking them several yards back, and it continued to expand from Bartholomew in diminishing waves of intensity.

As the last visages of Bartholomew burnt away, an immense form rose up from his destroyed body, towering so tall as to threaten smashing through the ceiling of the vast hall.

The form was a black, bulbous thing with a mass of whipping tentacles hanging from its sides, twirling about wildly. It did not have an actual head, but the top of its form was covered with hundreds of blood-red eyes, all of them seemingly locked on the cowering forms of Roy and Christine.

The side of the creature split apart to reveal that it was a maw of gigantic proportions, emitting a screech the ripped through the very foundations of the mountain, raining shattered pieces of rock down through the chamber.

Then the thing was gone, its cry fading like a distant echo, and a heavy silence filled the air.

"God, even had to die spectacularly," said Bill, slowly rising from where the blast had knocked him.

Rising from where Bartholomew had knocked him, Timms stumbled towards the collapsed section of the outer wall, dropping to his knees next to a pile of rubble that he began digging through. Even though he was in deep shadows, the others could see that he had uncovered Neva, and that he was cradling her unconscious form.

"Don't hurt her," he said, looking up to the soldiers that were rappelling down through the opening. "We can save her."

"I'm way too old for this shit," muttered Roy as Diane helped him up.

"Is it over?" she asked him, looking nervously about the ruins of the chamber.

"I sure as hell hope so," griped Roy. "I need a fucking beer."

The others looked at him in stunned silence for a few moments before breaking out in wide grins and laughter.

End