Morning greeted us with a beautiful dawn; sun rising in the East without a cloud in the sky. After a simple breakfast, we began collapsing our tents. Once laying my bags and camping gear to the side, I stood looking out, taking in the breathtaking scenery.
“Morning.” I heard someone say and turning around, there stood Erik with messy bed hair.
“Morning.” I answered.
“Hey...everything alright?” he stepped closer, touching my shoulder.
“Yeah. I’m...fine.” I said, “I just, uh...didn’t get much sleep last night. Too much on my mind.”
“I didn’t get much sleep either. But are you sure you’re alright? After that nasty fall yesterday, I’m sure your muscles and back must be a wee bit sore.”
“Nothing a hot shower can’t fix.” I smiled.
“Mm...” he glanced over seeing my bags laying near by, “Hey, look...you took down your tent and you didn’t need help.”
“Very funny, Vamps.” I joked, “It was a lot easier taking it down.”
Thomas looked over noticing Marxus standing to the side talking with someone on a radio-phone.What was said, he didn’t know but seeing the expression on Marxus’ face, he didn’t like what he heard. Once ending the call, Marxus placed the phone in his pocket then examined the sky looking for Axeon’s cloaked figure.
Marxus catching me off guard, asked telepathically as he walked over picking up his bags,
“Little One, have you seen Axeon?”
“No.” I replied verbally as I avoided eye contact; still angry with him, “Why?”
“Because I haven’t seen him since last evening. It’s not like him to disappear.”
“Maybe he’s hunting.”
“If he were, he would have told me.”
“Well, then…there you go.”
“Enough! I sense something’s wrong and I suddenly feel pain in my left shoulder.” Marxus worried, as he held his right hand up to his left shoulder.
After examining the air hoping to see Axeon, he turned grabbing his sheathed sword.
“We must get going.” he ordered.
“Where?” Sarah asked, “Back to the cottage?”
“No, little Sarah.” he replied, “I’ve got to find my dear friend. He’s here. I know it but I don’t know where.”
“Your friend? Everyone’s here, so who are you talking about?” she questioned.
“You’ll see.” I mumbled.
She and the others wondered who he spoke of, but didn’t dare ask as we followed Marxus down the mountain; weapons in hand leaving our camping gear behind in the cave.
“Thomas...” Marxus urged as he turned, “I want you to take the others back to the cottage and wait for me there.”
“No!” I protested,“If you’re going to find him, then I’m coming too! Despite our differences at the moment. There’s no way in hell, you’re leaving us alone again!”
“I don’t know what she’s talking about, but I’m with her.” Erik added.
“Yeah...” Jonathan commented. “me too.”
Before Marxus could reply, we all heard deafening roars echoing from the distance. Where we didn’t know, but the others knew that whatever screamed sounded terribly hurt. I myself knew it was Axeon. Marxus said as he looked at all our faces then directly at me,
“Are you sure you want to stay with me? No matter what’s about to come?”
I looked around at everyone, who looked at me.
“We’re sure. We’re in this together.” I answered bravely.
“Very well.” he nodded. “I think you’re all ready enough.”
We followed him, higher up the mountain around to another view point. Taking twenty minutes, we approached a knoll in the mountainside overlooking a valley behind the peak. We crouched down, blending with the granite rock.
Large tents and open back pickup trucks were scattered, carrying what looked like hunting gear. A large catapult machine sat in the center of the valley where a camp was made, surrounding the most horrific sight. There laid Axeon, trapped beneath a steel electrified chain net, sending bolts of electricity with movement made. A generator buzzed nearby on one of the trucks, connected to the net.
Antagonizing Axeon with a long rod spear, stood a tall burly man with his back facing our direction, long black hair tied back, dressed in army fatigue and animal skins. We couldn’t hear too well from where we hid except for Jonathan and Erik, so we cautiously made our way to a closer viewpoint.
Axeon roared, trying to spit fire but didn’t have the strength as his head laid pinned to the ground, due from the weight of the chain netting. Deeply embedded in his left shoulder above his wing, was a large iron spear, limiting his movements, causing anguishing pain. How they trapped him was beyond us, but the catapult must have been what brought him down.
Twelve other men stood around on the other side of Axeon, poking him with spears tipped with dragon claws and teeth. How they got their hands on those, who knew? As they poked and prodded, they laughed watching as he bellowed heart breaking roars. We stared in awe feeling his pain, but for those who haven’t seen a dragon, were amazed.
Thomas’ eyes scanned the camp, counting out six tents belonging to thirty men; approximately holding up to six men each. They not only possessed spears and a catapult, but axes, maces, large rifles and hand guns, that laid in crates in the back of the trucks. Hunters. Marxus hated them. All they do is destroy and kill needlessly.
Outraged, Marxus removed his sword from its sheath and ordered as he turned to us,
“Ready your weapons!”
“Marxus...stop.” I replied, “I know this is hard for you to see as it is for me, but can we really take on thirty men with guns and other weaponry with just the handful of us? Except for Thomas and Anthony, everyone else here are still in training.”
“She’s right Marxus.” Anthony added, “Don’t let your emotions get the best of you. If their catapult brought down your dragon…imagine what they may have for us. These young ones are still inexperienced. They could easily be killed!”
Remaining silent knowing Anthony and I were right, Marxus laid his sword down, holding his head low. Remembering we had left our bags back in the cave, Marxus turned overlooking the scene below once more.
Patrolling the camp, were extra men examining their inventory and supplies, leaving the remaining men checking the perimeter.
Removing a small boot knife from his boot, Thomas drew a diagram in the dirt of the camp below; marking everything with an X as its location. Marxus studied the diagram intensely then looked up at Erik and Jonathan, bluntly giving the following orders,
“You two...I need you to go down into the valley and eliminate the men closer to the mountain wall, so you can make your presence known. Unfortunately, my bond with Axeon is weakening, making my strength limited. So, you’re all going to have to do this alone. Without me.”
“OF COURSE.” Nathan thought.
“Are you serious!?” Sarah protested, “There’s no way we’re doing this by ourselves!”
“Sarah, please...I’m not in the mood to argue with you.” Marxus answered.
“Why us?” Jonathan questioned.
“Because you’re able to use your abilities in both speed and strength, unseen nor heard. Especially you Erik. Your training with your father.” Marxus argued, “Plus, it will reduce their numbers, allowing the rest of you to go in.”
Jonathan looked over at Erik, who shrugged his shoulders. Nothing more was said as they removed their coats, rolling up their jacket sleeves. Holding their weapons in hand, they glanced around at our group with worried expressions. Sarah pleaded with Jonathan not to go, holding onto him but he gently pushed her away, telling her that this was something they needed to do. Erik watched as I stepped closer to him, saying nothing. I whispered to him that he needed to be careful because I wasn’t about to give him anymore blood. He chuckled as he shook his head then turned away.
We watched as they dramatically jumped off the ledge, teleporting from mid-air. Reappearing down below, they hid behind trucks and boulders closer to the wall. Jonathan and Erik spread out in opposite directions, planning their attacks. They cautiously examined the area deciding to make their move while the men nearby had their back facing them.
Loud heavy metal music played over speakers from their vehicles and radios from inside the tents, masking the sounds of the oncoming struggle.
Jonathan; expert in the art of dagger throwing, threw blade-after-blade with precision and speed targeting the men closest to him; never missing. He aimed specifically at vulnerable areas behind the neck or temples, as well as the head, penetrating their brain, killing instantly.
Erik whistled from his hiding place, attracting the attention of six men standing nearby on the other side of the camp. Growing closer to the whistles, the men loaded their guns holding them; ready to fire as they approached. Erik holding his sword firmly, watched as their shadows along the ground grew closer. He backed away continuing the whistles, drawing them away from the sight of the other men and for a moment, he utilized his version of a vampire Creed tactic.
Before they were able to react or alert the others, Erik, knowing the fighting techniques of Tai-Chi, broke four necks then decapitated the other two, with one clean swift cut of his blade. He stared down at the ground; blood splattered on his face, releasing faint hisses of aggression. After wiping the blade of his sword on the dead’s clothing, Erik sheathed it and laying it down, he then dragged the bodies toward one of the trucks, throwing them in the back with the others Jonathan had added. They covered them with tarps, glanced around once more making sure no evidence of their presence was found. Retrieving his sword, Erik and Jonathan covered their footprints, hiding signs of their scuffle. Jonathan and Erik returned, covered in blood, but unharmed.
Marxus growing weaker, begged us to move forward down into the valley. Before our descent down, Marxus mentioned that if he’s to gather enough strength, he’d join us, but there were no promises. Reluctantly, we removed our coats, grabbed our weapons then treaded carefully down the jagged rock. Zanz, a resourceful hound, found niches in the walls, using them as steps until he landed roughly on his feet. We too, hid behind the trucks and boulders; waiting.
Thirty minutes later, the men strolled around patrolling the camp, wondering where the rest of their men had disappeared to, wondering why their specific chores weren’t being done. Calling out their names and receiving no answer, they became alarmed. Signaling each other, they too spread out; four men in opposite directions. Veering around the trucks, they found nothing until one spotted a smudge of blood on a tarp, covering the bed of one of their trucks. Pulling it back, there were the men, lifeless; throats slashed and heads cleanly removed from their shoulders. Alerted of intruders in their camp, the hunters backed away informing the others.
“Intruders! We have intruders!” they warned.
Their Captain shouted out in a rough Scottish voice as he approached,
“What’s the problem, eh!? One of you lose your heads again!?
“Indeed Armiforde, Sir. Some have, in a literal manner.” one answered, explaining the situation.
I carefully peeked my head over the boulder, studying this man’s appearance as he reached for a large axe, embedded in an old tree stump. Tall, burly build with scraggly black hair tied back with strands hanging in his face and un-brushed beard. He ordered men to stand guard near Axeon while the rest gathered around him.
Thomas and Anthony looked at each other then turned, glancing back at all of us. Looking over my shoulder up toward the mountain, I could see Marxus’ head peeking over. Zanz caught a strange scent then began releasing low growls of aggression. At times, I had to hold his snout with my bare hands, keeping him from releasing howls.
“I know you’re here!” Armiforde shouted; axe resting on his shoulder, “Reveal yourself now and we might spare your life!”
Slowly one-by-one, we all stepped from our places, spreading out in a straight line across their path; weapons in hand. Thomas and Anthony took their place in front.
“My, my, my...what do we have here, gentlemen!? Five pretty boys and two very, very pretty young women.” Armiforde observed smugly eyeing us all up and down as if showing interest then glanced down at Zanz, “Oh, look at that!” he pointed his axe, “A wolf! Haven’t seen them in ages! Your teeth will look nice hanging around my neck and your black fur around my shoulders.”
Zanz growled, revealing his sharp teeth as he stood alongside me.
“That dragon doesn’t belong to you!” Thomas ordered as he pointed in Axeon’s direction with the tip of his sword, “Release him at once!”
“I’m sorry!?” Armiforde mocked as he held his hand to his ear, “Doesn’t belong to me!?” then he glanced over his shoulder at Axeon, “Well, I don’t think he belongs to you either since I see no mark of ownership branded anywhere on him. So...can you prove to me he’s yours? If not, you’re wasting your time! And mine!”
“It’s what’s in the heart that makes something or someone your own! A tattoo or brand isn’t needed but then again, you probably wouldn’t understand!” Marxus yelled in authority as he appeared behind us, regaining his strength once again; walking toward Thomas and Anthony, “Now I shall be the one who commands. Release my dragon at once!”
Armiforde and his men glared at Marxus then all shared in a round of laughter, mocking Marxus’ position, authority and appearance.
Erik and Jonathan caught the scent all too familiar to vampires, as a slight breeze blew through the valley. Lycanthropes. Nathan leered at them as he spat at the vampires feet.
Armiforde stood looking at his men with a smug smile, then turned facing us introducing himself.
“I don’t care what your name is, or who you are! I’m only here for my friend. Now, I won’t ask again...release my dragon, or you’ll pay the consequences!” Marxus interrupted in a loud and powerful, though still weakened voice.
“Consequences, you say? Let me tell you something, old man. I’ve had a bad few days and you’re just making it worse. The town back there…” as he waved his left hand out toward the distance, “was destroyed and it was a shame too because we had some excellent business there. And guess what!? The entire town was burned to the ground and not just of ordinary fire. This beauty here…” he turned, gesturing toward Axeon, “I’m guessing was the cause of their destruction so I think he’s fair payment for all the trouble I’ve had to deal with. Now, we’re just Hunters out doing our thing, when we came across this magnificent creature while it hunted on our land. It has no name or mark on it, and will definitely catch a pretty good price on the market...especially alive. Perhaps we could come to some kind of deal, where you go your way; lives intact and I’ll go my way with my men and our prize...including those two pretty young women, along with the handsome red haired young man and his raven haired friend alongside him.” and seeing blood smeared around their chins and upper necks he continued, “And they’re young Bloodsuckers too. Must be our lucky day after all, eh boys? Imagine what their blood is worth on the black market. And I know some men who would love their company. If you know what I mean!”
Wanting so badly to say something knowing exactly what this asshole meant by his comment, I knew now wasn’t the right time for it, so I kept my mouth shut.
“So you’re telling me, you piece of scum...for me and my group here...” Marxus gestured back at us, “to just turn around and cowardly walk away with our tails between our legs, forgetting we encountered you and that you captured my dragon; leaving him here for you to butcher? And also too, turn over to you my girls, and two young men whom you sickly fancy? Just like that, huh? Hmm...very tempting I may say especially since my kids have been through enough already...but the answer is NO! That’s not going to happen anytime soon. So maybe this will convince you just a bit.”
Manifesting a blue wizard’s flame in his left hand, he threw it, landing far from Armiforde’s feet as if Marxus didn′t put much effort into his throw or deliberately meant to miss as a warning. Armiforde and the rest of his men took steps back, startled. After gaining their composure, they bravely stepped forward. Marxus again threw a few more fire blasts, missing their target. Turning to us,he held his sword outward, ordering us to charge forward.