The Silver Shape Shifter
“Why are we here?” Row groans as Seamus finishes tethering their horse and carriage to a post next to the inn. They have just arrived in a small village only a few miles away from the capital of Lord Glasstien’s territory.
“Because we need to rest for a moment while I plan our next move,” he answers with a sigh.
“I thought we were going to Glass Gate,” Row whines. “I wanted to meet other bloodsuckers.”
“Do you really think other bloodsuckers care to meet you?” Seamus tries to disillusion her. “The way those forest dwelling ghouls worshiped you is not a common thing. In fact, they were rather strange people in general.”
“Don’t insult them,” Row snaps at him. “Look at this dress Noreen sewed for me. Isn't it beautiful?” She twirls around so he can see her outfit in its entirety; an ankle length dress with an overskirt and a bodice.
“It’s better than wearing boy’s clothing, I guess.” Seamus shrugs uninterestedly. He is more worried about where they will be spending the night than with what clothing his mistress chooses to wear. He is still merely clad in his shirt, trousers and tunic, along with a hooded cloak for hiding his face when he wishes.
As if to answer his concerns, a man in classic barkeep attire pokes his head out of the front doors of the inn at that very moment. “Excuse me, are you travelers?” he seems extremely excited.
“Um, yes…” Seamus does not know how to respond.
“Oh, thank the stars. I'm nearly going broke here looking for patrons. Will you need one room or two? Will you be staying for a night or a month? Can you pay up front?”
“Hold on, hold on,” Seamus tries to calm him down. “First off, how much is a room?”
“Well it’d normally be ten silver pieces a night but I'll let your lady friend stay for free if you share the room.”
“What a gracious offer,” Seamus mutters suspiciously. “Why exactly is business so lacking in these parts?”
“What, who said that?” the man is immediately flustered. “No, we have plenty of business. There’s no trouble around here, no sir. Not one tiny shred of…”
“Enough!” Seamus loses his patience. “Tell me what is happening here or I might just brave the journey to Glass Gate tonight!”
“Oh, if you’re heading to Glass Gate, you mind taking a message there for me?” the inn keeper squeaks.
“Depends on the message.” Seamus crosses his arms.
“If you could drop this letter into the box outside the Dust Pail Pub, I would be most obliged.”
“Let me see that.” Seamus grabs the letter from his hand. It is sealed shut with wax on the front, which has been stamped with a peculiar symbol. “What is this?” He hands it to Row so she can examine it.
“Oh no,” her expression is not a happy one.
“What, what is it?” Seamus pries.
“This seal belongs to the demigod Wan,” she explains. “This is a request for aid.”
“You’re damn right it is,” the man responds pompously. “We’re under plague here. There’s a thing with no form spiriting away all our women folk. During the past month at least ten men have lost their wives and daughters.”
“That’s disturbing news,” Seamus is immediately on guard. Though she is a bloodsucker, his mistress is first a lady and therefore a probable target if they choose to stay here. “I think it best we move on.” Seamus places a hand on Row’s shoulder. She does not move though. “Come on,” he hisses while trying to drag her.
“We can't,” she whispers.
“Why not? You wanted to go to Glass Gate, didn’t you? Well now you can.”
“We can't,” she repeats in an only slightly louder voice. “Wan is in Glass Gate.”
“What? That’s impossible,” Seamus scoffs. “Lord Glasstien absolutely despises demigods. A good portion of the citizens of his territory are made up of bloodsuckers. It’s almost like a haven for them.”
“Wan is there,” she raises her voice again.
“There are no demigods in Glass Gate,” Seamus spouts sternly.
“No, she’s right.” The innkeeper beams proudly. “If any demigod is in Glass Gate, it’ll be Wan.”
“Is there something you both know that I don’t?” Seamus stares at them in confusion.
“My mother has told me everything about the nine remaining demigod. Wan is the fifth most power after Ardine, Genlock, Lodar and Turok,” Row explains.
“That doesn't explain how he could be in Glass Gate,” Seamus continues being skeptical.
“Wan’s power is that of a shape shifter,” Row answers. “He can take any form he chooses. Lord Glasstien could have him thrown out a dozen times over and it would still do no good. He is known as the man of a thousand faces. His weapon is Arma Scov; a wire he can control at will with a razor’s edge.”
“Wow, your mother must have been quite the demigod fanatic,” the innkeeper is impressed. It is obvious he has no idea Lady Owleen was a bloodsucker on the run from the legendary nine.
“So what do we do now?” Seamus asks. “If we can't go to Glass Gate, then we’ll have to stay here.”
“Oh yes, yes you will.” The innkeeper nods enthusiastically. “You might need this.” He pulls a shard of glass from the pocket of his apron and hands it to Row. “All the pretty girls in town have taken to cutting their faces so the spirits won't want them.”
“Are you serious?” Row’s eyes widen.
“It’s merely a choice they have made.” The man shrugs. “Keep that with you, just in case.”
“Is it just me or are human’s just plain crazy?” Row whispers to Seamus.
“A situation like this is bound to cause some form of hysteria. There’s no need for you to worry though; even if you cut your face, it would not leave a scar.”
“I'm not talking about me, I'm talking about them. What lengths will humans not go to?”
“None.” Seamus shakes his head. “We are survivors.”
“Just giving up would make things so much easier,” Row moans as the innkeeper leads them up into the building and up the stairs to their room. It is small with a slanted roof but it has a window, which faces the town square, allowing Seamus to keep an eye on his horse.
“Oh, don’t worry, I'll feed and water her for you,” the innkeeper assures him.
“Thank you.” Seamus hands him ten silver pieces and a few extra coppers ones as gratitude.
“So we’re just going to sit in this room until dawn?” Row asks when the man has left them alone.
“I don’t see an alternative. You’re the one who’s too scared to go to Glass Gate now. I'll just have to find another town nearby. We’ll travel from village to village during the day and rest at night.”
“What about the spirits?” she asks in a playful voice. “Aren't you afraid they will come to take your mistress away from you?”
“You could always cut your face if you wanted,” Seamus plays along.
“You know, it won't heal,” she informs him.
“Huh, what do you mean?” He raises an eyebrow.
“It won't heal unless I feed on you,” she answers.
“I forgot about that,” he sighs. “I don’t very much like it when you bite me.”
“Well too bad. It’s your responsibility now that Champaign is gone; like it or not,” she is unnecessarily stern. He nods to show he understands. He has no idea why but he has no intention of disobeying his mistress.
“Seamus, wake up.” Row taps her servant’s cheek repeatedly.
When he finally sits up, he realizes that she is on top of him, straddling his chest. “What is it?” he asks with a yawn. “Are you hungry? Do you need to feed?”
“No, look.” She directs his attention to the window. By the light of a street lamp outside he can see a shadowy figure standing in the town square.
“What the…?” He stands up, letting Row topple onto the bed.
“It’s not a spirit,” Row informs him. “Well, I don’t think it is. I can sense its presence.”
“You can do that?” Seamus is surprised.
“It’s more like a sense of its life force. I can feel the energy I would normally siphon from it. My guess is that it can sense me too.”
“That’s not good.” Seamus peeks out the window again. He almost falls backwards in shock as he realizes the shadow is staring directly at him. He can even see a pair of silvery gray eyes glowing in the dark.
“What? What is it?” Row pushes on his back to keep him upright.
“It saw me,” Seamus gasps.
“What do you mean?” Row pokes her head above the sill. She can see the shadow slowly walking towards the inn. “What do we do?” she whimpers.
“First we find out what it is and if we can kill it.” Seamus grabs his sword and slings the scabbard belt over his shoulder before opening the window. The creature is still sauntering towards them. “Who are you?” Seamus shouts while stepping out onto the slanted roof of the inn.
He can see the face of the shadow better now. It is rough and covered in patches of dust and dirt but there is not a single scratch on it. The absence of facial hair is the next thing to catch Seamus’s attention. There is not even the slightest amount of stubble. It is as if the hairs simply fell out. His actual hair on the other hand is much longer. It is stringy and dark with sweat. Altogether he looks like he just stepped out of the forest, with a dark robe covered in dirt to match his face.
“Who are you?” Seamus shouts again while leaping off the roof and tumbling to break his fall. When he stands back up, he is a mere ten paces away from the shadow. “What do you want from us?” He draws his sword.
A sudden pain in his chest causes him to falter though. It is a burning sensation which he can feel on his skin. It rises and fades in waves, almost like he can feel the shadow’s heartbeat. “You,” he points a shaky finger at the man before him. “Are you… Wan,” he whispers.
The man does not answer. Nor does he move. He seems to be eyeing Seamus up and down with his silvery stare. How the seventeen year old can tell that he is Wan the demigod is beyond him. Perhaps part of Lodar's power is speaking to him. “Why have you come here, Wan?” Seamus deepens his voice, trying to sound less afraid.
Slowly the shadow begins to move again, first shuffling then striding towards Seamus. He comes to a stop a mere yard in front of him, tilting his head oddly as he continues to examine his face. He starts to sniff the air between them, similarly to the way Row sometimes does. “Bloodsucker,” he finally speaks in a hoarse whisper.
“He knows, he knows, he knows!” Row squeals from the roof of the inn where she is still hiding. “He knows who we are!”
Instinctively Seamus raises his sword, driving the tip toward the shadow’s face. The man does nothing to avoid it, letting it pierce his right eye, stabbing all the way to the back of his skull. “What the…?” Seamus steps back in shock, pulling the blade out in the process. He had expected at least some sort of resistance.
“Is that it? Did you kill him?” Row is hopeful.
Suddenly an earsplitting scream fills the air as the man covers his eye with his hand. “You stabbed me!” He roars at Seamus. “You actually stabbed me in the eye!”
“What’s going on? Why isn’t he dead?” Seamus asks Row.
“I don’t know.” She starts to shiver while covering her ears and crouching down.
Slowly the hole in the shadow’s silver eye starts to close, eventually disappearing entirely. “No way.” Seamus shakes his head. “Can he do that? Can he heal himself?”
“Theoretically, he can control his form at all times,” Row reminds him. “If he doesn’t want to have a hole in his eye then he can simply close it.”
“But he shouldn’t even be alive to do that,” Seamus argues. “Can a demigod survive a blow to the head like that?”
“I believe Genlock could,” Row answers, “just barely.”
“But he’s not even fazed.” Seamus gestures at the shadow who is staring at him like nothing has happened. “What could survive that without even flinching?”
“I could,” Row’s response is calm and immediate.
Seamus’s eyes widen as the answer dawns on him. “He’s a bloodsucker,” he whispers to himself. “Wan is a bloodsucker with the power of a demigod.”
“Maybe he killed Wan and stole it from him,” Row surmises.
“Can a bloodsucker do that?” Seamus is in disbelief.
“If he touched the rapture like you did then he inherited the power. It’s as simple as that,” Row explains.
The shadow is not listening to the pair in the slightest as they debate his origin. Instead his glowing silver eyes are darting around, pausing every few moments as he takes in his surroundings. He seems almost uninterested in Seamus or Row. He actually starts to walk past Seamus after spotting something more interesting at the end of one of the streets that leads away from the town square.
“Hey, where are you going?” Seamus tries to grab his shoulder. The shadow clasps onto his arm and yanks downward, flipping him over his shoulder and dropping him on the ground on his back. Seamus groans while rolling to the side just as the shadow attempts to stomp on his face with his boots.
As soon as he is a good distance away though the shadow begins to ignore him again, heading down his chosen street without looking back. “What is he doing?” Seamus asks Row.
“How should I know?” She shrugs. “Maybe he sees something we can't. He can transform his eyes into that of an owl or a hawk, you know. He can probably even see in the dark right now.”
“What does he see; something worth letting a bloodsucker and her servant pass him by?”
“You’re still thinking as if he were a demigod. This is not Wan,” she reminds him. “He is not duty bound to hunt us. In fact, most bloodsuckers simply ignore each other unless fighting over prey.”
“So he’s not going to do anything to us as long as we stay out of his way? That’s brilliant.” Seamus is suddenly relieved.
“In some sense, we’re not that different from him,” Row realizes. “We killed a demigod and stole his power too. We’re the same.”
“Are you suggesting we try to get along with this guy; maybe travel with him for safety or something?” Seamus’s eyes narrow. He does not like the idea of keeping a second bloodsucker as company.
“I wasn’t going to suggest anything like that. I was simply…” her response is cut short by a shrill scream emanating from the direction the shadow vanished in.
“On second thought, he may simply be ignoring me because I'm not a girl,” Seamus recalls the innkeeper’s tale of pretty women going missing in the town.
“You think he’s the one spiriting them away?” Row quickly catches on.
“It would make sense. Shall we see for ourselves?” Seamus offers his hand to Row so he can escort her down the street. She nods slowly, despite appearing quite uncertain, perhaps even scared.
At the end of the street, Seamus and Row enter upon a fearful sight; a young woman collapsed on the ground bleeding from the neck. There is a basket of bread a few feet away where she must have dropped it. The shadow is kneeling down over the woman, licking blood from his lips. “That’s better,” he whispers in his horse voice. “Fixing me eye took more out of me than I thoughts. Now it’s time for payback.”
“For what?” Seamus jerks his head back in fear.
“You didn’t think I was going to let that slide, did ya?” The shadow’s eyes flare as he speaks.
“Oh, this is good,” Row gulps while cowering behind Seamus.
“Perhaps we can work this out,” Seamus decides to try speaking first this time. “I didn’t realize who you were when I attacked you. I was confused. I had this overwhelming sense that you were Wan and…”
“And I believed you were Lodar,” the shadow informs him, “how peculiar. I hold the memories of Wan, you see. I remember things about Lodar. I…”
As the shadow continues ranting about how he can recognize the power Seamus has stolen a different sound drowns him out. “What a pathetic fool,” the eerily close voice of Lodar startles Seamus.
“Huh, what, where?” Seamus starts to panic.
“Ah, can you finally hear me?” a transparent figure appears in front of Seamus, directly beside the shadow.
“You, you, you…” Seamus points at him while stuttering. “But that’s impossible. You’re…”
“Dead?” the golden armored demigod answers for him. “To put it simply, yes, my body has perished. I however have imbedded myself deep into your mind. With the power of the Golden Clairvoyance and a little help from Arma Venture, I can manifest myself in front of you.”
“Wait, you’ve been following me this entire time?” Seamus asks.
“I'm not following anyone. I am a part of you now. My mind and memories exist within you. This happens every time a mere mortal inherits a demigod’s power. Interestingly enough Arma Venture has allowed me to take on a separate nonphysical form in order to communicate with you directly.”
“So why have you chosen this moment to appear?” Seamus is curious. Just as Lodar is about to answer, a long thin wire springs out from the shadow’s sleeve, wrapping itself around Seamus’s neck and pulling him to the ground painfully.
“Ah, there we are; Arma Scov,” Lodar seems impressed. Seamus reaches a shaky hand out to him while prying at his throat with his other one. “Do you expect me to help you?” Lodar leers at him.
“What are you gawking at?” the shadow can tell that he does not have Seamus’s attention. “Look at me while I kill you,” he demands.
Seamus wraps part of the wire around his arm and tugs as hard as he can, trying to rip it out of the shadow’s hand. It is too long though. He now has enough length to slip it off over his head at least. He starts to gasp and wheeze as soon as he has freed himself. “Pathetic,” Lodar scoffs. “What kind of simpleton has inherited my power? It would do you better to just give up and die. Let the rapture reclaim what you stole.”
“Get out of my head,” Seamus coughs at him.
“Who are you talking to?” the shadow is only becoming more annoyed.
“Yeah Seamus, who are you talking to?” Row is suddenly concerned as well.
Seamus has no chance to answer as the shadow pulls on the wire, dragging him forward by his wrist where it is still coiled. It digs into his flesh, drawing blood and grunts of pain. He stabs his sword into the ground with his free hand to keep himself from being pulled too far but it only serves to tighten the grip of the wire, which is continuing to wind its way around his arm, almost as if it has a mind of its own.
“Remember, Arma Scov was made specially for Wan,” Row shouts at him. “It can almost change its shape just like him.”
“It what?” Seamus is startled. He does not have to wait long to see the weapon at work though. It continues to wrap itself around his arm and eventually his entire hand, coating him like some sort of armor, all the while squeezing his flesh horribly. He almost feels as if it is trying to crush his bones. Without any alternative, Seamus resorts to sliding the blade of his own sword underneath the wire like a wedge.
He can feel the edge of his blade slicing his arm but he ignores the pain. Eventually he is able to remove his hand from the mess of wires. It is now colored red though, dripping with his own blood. The shadow is taken aback for a moment, surprised by the seventeen year old’s determination. He is severely punished for his lack of concentration by Seamus who flings his sword upward from the ground, slicing his face in half.
The shadow stumbles backwards while screaming in agony, clutching his bleeding face. It is a much more difficult wound to erase than the punctured eye but he still manages. Starting from the bottom of his chin, the wound slowly fades until his face is once again whole. “You’re going to pay for that,” he growls.
“Oh, how wonderful,” Lodar’s voice is still wringing in Seamus’s ears.
“Go away.” He swings his sword at the transparent figure.
“I'm going to enjoy devouring you,” the shadow hisses at him. Seamus watches in awe as his jaw starts to extend past that of a normal human until his face has completely changed shape. Soon his body has transformed as well. He has taken the form of a great mountain panther, posed to strike at the distracted seventeen year old.
Seamus attempts to duck as the panther pounces on him but his shoulder is caught by the creature’s sharp teeth, which drag him to the ground. He can feel the large cat’s fangs scraping against the bones in his arm, dislocating it from the socket. Row covers her mouth to keep from screaming as she watches his arm dangle limply at his side.
“Oh my, that does look bad,” Lodar clicks his tongue.
“If you’re not going to leave, then can you at least help me?” Seamus asks hopefully. “You must know how to fight Wan.”
“Perhaps,” Lodar shrugs uninterestingly. “Then again, why would I help the likes of you?”
“Like it or not, I am your new master,” Seamus tries to sound authoritative. “If I die, then what happens to you?”
“I don’t really care,” Lodar scoffs. “I'm already dead. Threatening me won't help.”
“What about Wan?” Seamus tries to guilt him. “Don’t you want revenge for your fellow demigod? This is the bloodsucker that killed him and assumed his identity.”
“Oh this terrible creature has done far worse than that,” Lodar laughs. “You’ve realized it already. He is the one kidnapping pretty girls and feasting on their life force, among other things; the very reason the town was asking for Wan in the first place.”
“And you still won't help me?” Seamus grunts while wrenching his arm out of the panther’s mouth.
“I'll have to confer with my colleague first.” Lodar waves his hand ominously at the empty space next to the panther. Seamus watches with interest as he draws something out of the creature, another transparent form just like himself. “Ah, here we are, this is Wan.” Lodar makes a presenting gesture at the silvery figure he has just summoned. He has long hair and a beardless face, just like the shadow did before its transformation.
“Lodar?” The silver figure blinks in confusion. “Lodar, what is the meaning of this?”
“It’s aright, old friend. Rest easy now.” Lodar pats his shoulder, something he is able to do since they are both equally nonphysical.
“Where am I, Lodar?” Wan is still disoriented.
“I think the name of this town is Quess.” Lodar glances at a rickety sign hanging above the main street.
“I can't remember how I got here,” Wan groans. “I was hunting bloodsuckers in Glass Gate when I stumbled upon a den of them…”
“That must have been years ago,” Lodar interrupts him. “I'm sorry, old friend, but you’ve been dead for quite some time. Normally your memories would be scattered inside the mind of your inheritor but I have drawn you out with Arma Venture.”
“Why would you do that?” Wan grabs his head in panic. “I was enjoying my afterlife in blissful ignorance. Look at that disgusting creature. How am I supposed to continue existing knowing that thing is in control of my powers?”
“Calm down. Jeez, I figured you’d leave well enough alone. I drew you out so you could come to terms with your demise and tell this boy that his revenge conquest is for not.”
“For not?” Wan’s eyes widen in disbelief. “Are you telling me that none of the nine are planning on avenging me? Is no one else on their way?”
“Look at me, Wan.” Lodar shakes him by the shoulders. “I'm just like you now; my days among the living have ended. All I have left is what you see before you.”
“Are you telling me that two of the nine have fallen?” Wan gawks at him stupidly.
“Excuse me, could we get back to the current problem?” Seamus interrupts them.
“Oh, you mean your inevitable demise?” Lodar rolls his eyes.
“Who is that?” Wan takes an immediate interest in the young man before him.
“That is the new Golden Clairvoyance,” Lodar grumbles.
“Oh what wondrous news,” Wan cheers happily. “He can fight this monstrosity to the death and avenge me.”
“He’s far too green for such an undertaking,” Lodar disagrees, “besides, this one’s a sympathizer.” He gestures to Row who is now cowering behind a barrel next to the bakery where the woman the shadow fed on is lying.
“He what?” Wan’s eyes pop as he stares at the young bloodsucker. “My, what a beautifully disgusting creature. Lodar, have you not trained him to avoid falling prey to such trickery.”
“I'm afraid he was under her spell long before inheriting the Golden Clairvoyance,” Lodar defends himself.
“Can one of you please tell me how to kill a bloodsucker with the power of a demigod?” Seamus shouts while rolling to the side to avoid getting slashed by the panther’s claws.
“Impossible,” Lodar scoffs. “With the power of the Silver Shape Shifter, he can heal practically any wound, even eventually fatal ones. Your only option is to kill him in one blow; an impossible feat when facing a bloodsucker who has just fed.”
“Stop discouraging him.” Wan slaps Lodar's arm. “You could help him control Arma Venture and defeat the shape shifter.”
“Arma Venture will be powerless against a demigod. I know this is hard for you to accept, but our time has ended,” Lodar responds condescendingly. “The best we can do is help our individual inheritors in their efforts to kill each other. Hopefully this skirmish will end with the demise of both.”
Wan stares at Lodar for a long time before responding. “Fine.” He hangs his head in defeat. “I shall see you again in the heavens after the rapture, old friend.” The silver form of Wan dissipates as he returns to his host.
“Are you ready?” Lodar turns his attention back to Seamus, who is still struggling to avoid being bitten or scratched by the panther, a difficult task with the use of only one arm.
“You mean to get me killed,” Seamus spits at the spirit angrily.
“Consider this my revenge.” Lodar smirks as he fades from sight.
Seamus’s eyes begin to glow a bright yellow as the deceased demigod assumes control of his body. “You there; bloodsucker, fetch me my Arma,” Seamus shouts at Row. She quickly darts from her hiding place down the street, back toward the town square and the inn.
Seamus follows close behind, drawing the panther after him. Row leaps onto the roof of the inn and dives through the open window of their room in search of the wreath of antlers she took from Lodar’s corpse. “What are you planning to do?” Seamus manages to say something despite not having control of his own body.
“Arma Venture is a powerful talisman constructed for me by the wisest mystic in existence two hundred years ago,” Lodar answers using Seamus’s voice. “When I first gained the Golden Clairvoyance I knew no ordinary weapon would suffice. Arma Venture is a part of me; an extension of my mind. With it I can dominate the mind of any who are beneath me, mostly humans, animals and ghouls.”
“Who are you talking to?” the panther shifts back into human form just so it can speak again.
“Seamus, here!” Row’s voice rings through the air as she tosses the antler wreath from the roof of the inn. Seamus’s uninjured arm extends to catch it with ease. The shadow seems visibly annoyed at not having his question answered. His form shifts again as he dives at Seamus. This time he takes the shape of a large growling dog, with foam dripping from his teeth.
“Here we go,” Seamus laughs in an eerie tone, the same way Lodar always does. Suddenly all of the doors to the surrounding houses open up, revealing entranced villagers marching forward like brainless soldiers.
“Seamus, what are you doing?” Row shouts from the rooftop of the inn. “You can't use these people to attack a bloodsucker!”
“Oh don’t act so high and mighty,” Seamus spits at her. “It’s not like you care what happens to these people. Your late shining knight killed dozens of villagers without the slightest hint of remorse, all for you.”
Row’s eyes fill with tears at the mention of Champaign. “Don’t you dare talk about her!” she growls at Seamus.
“You don’t have emotions,” he continues to demean her. “You’re simply trying to emulate human behavior. In truth, all you care about is surviving and feeding.” At this moment the dog prepares to bite Seamus’s leg, only to have its teeth sink into the flesh of a random villager instead. “That’s right, my puppet; you exist to protect me,” Seamus mutters as he directs the rest of the villagers to converge on the dog.
The creature starts to whimper and whine as it dodges attacks from the entranced people, carrying kitchen knives, pitchforks, table legs, ice picks and anything else they managed to grab before leaving their homes. After being clubbed and stabbed nearly a dozen times, the dog manages to shift into the form of a snake, healing all of its wounds in the process. It then proceeds to slither around the legs of the slow moving villagers, biting each one as it goes.
“Stop it!” Row shouts while leaping off the roof and landing only a few paces behind Seamus. “I don’t want a repeat of what happened in Bos Stad. Please, just stop,” she begs.
“Just try to make me,” Seamus cackles evilly. Without thinking twice the young bloodsucker leaps onto his back, slicing into his neck with her fangs. “What the…?” he is utterly shocked. He had not expected her to turn against him so easily. Slowly the yellow glow fades from his eyes, only to reappear in Row’s. It mixes with her normal red, making for a fearful orange.
All of the villagers fall to the ground as soon as Arma Venture’s control ends. The snake quickly shifts back into the form of a man with glowing silver eyes, preparing to greet its new opponent. “So now there are two of us,” he whispers as he eyes Row up and down. Having just drained Lodar’s power into herself, she is basically the same thing; a bloodsucker with the abilities of a demigod. “Let’s see who is stronger!” The shadow darts toward her with speed reminding her of her late mother, Lady Owleen.
This only serves to anger her more as she sprints away, kicking up a cloud of dust in her wake as she skids along the ground. As she is smaller and more nimble, she is still faster than the shadow. She forces him to chase her in a circle around the town square until she leaps onto a lamp post, taking a waiting stance.
The shadow’s hands turn into fearsome paws which he uses to slash the pole straight through. Row lands on her feat but is immediately tackled onto her back. She uses her legs to kick the shadow off but he quickly scampers back. He is larger and therefore stronger than she is. She kicks him in the stomach and chest repeatedly, breaking several of his ribs which simply heal themselves a moment later.
“It’s no use,” he hisses in his hoarse voice. “As long as I have life force, I am invincible.”
“Then I'll just have to break you over and over again until you run out,” Row growls while wrenching one of his arms out of its socket.
The howl of pain that follows is short lived as the shadow quickly repairs the damage. “With so many tasty meals lying around, you’ll run out of energy before I do,” he snickers.
“I won't give you time to feed.” She digs her steel fingernails into his face and pulls his head to her chest before promptly snapping his neck. For a split second his eyes begin to gloss over as death almost takes him but it is not enough. Somehow he manages to repair his broken spine just before his life fades. “Impossible.” Row’s eyes are wide in disbelief. She keeps a tight hold on his head though, making sure he can’t escape.
“If you won't let go of me, then I'll just have to feed on you,” he growls while digging his fangs into her chest. Row can immediately feel her strength fading. She has no time to push him away. Her only option is to respond in kind, sinking her teeth into the side of his face and drawing energy back from him.
Seamus has only just managed to pull himself to his feet, and the sight before him astounds him. He is watching two bloodsuckers rolling around on the ground in a tug-of-war over each other’s very life force. “This is no good.” He can hear Lodar’s voice in the back of his mind again. “Both of them are equally powerful right now, except for the fact that he started feeding first. She’s lost this fight. He’ll finish her off shortly.”
“Not if I can help it.” Seamus picks up his discarded broad sword with his good arm. He moves to tower over the wrestling pair, preparing to stab the shadow through as soon as he finds an opening to avoid hitting Row as well. Something odd is happening though. Row’s red orange eyes are now changing again, growing lighter as silver enters the mix. “What is this?” Seamus whispers in amazement.
“She’s winning,” Lodar is equally as shocked. “Who is this child bloodsucker? Where is she from?”
“I don’t know.” Seamus shrugs. “I can't remember anything except that I am her servant.”
“Oh yes, your memories. That was my doing, I'm afraid,” Lodar recalls. “Oh well, nothing we can do about that.”
“There isn’t?” Seamus appears slightly disappointed. He has no idea who he was so he has no reason to miss his memories but it still might have been nice if Lodar could have helped him.
“My best guess is that this bloodsucker is of royal decent,” Lodar continues to mutter to himself.
“Royal?” Seamus is intrigued.
“She must have been born of a bloodsucker and a noble. Every lord in this nation was a descendent of the great ruler King Doryan. He conquered all of this land over three centuries ago. Some say he was a fallen god; cast out of the heavens for intervening in affairs of the world below.”
“That’s laughable,” Seamus scoffs. “The rest of the gods are still intervening. That’s what demigods are, after all.”
“Everything known about demigods is pure speculation,” Lodar reminds him. “We can only assume that one hundred people were given the chance to better humanity by the gods over two centuries ago. The wide variety of powers we inherited makes me wonder how many different gods were involved. It may even have been a hundred of them as well. Either way, they have chosen not to interfere since, leaving us to our own devices and retrieving the given power via the rapture when we fall.”
“Except when another human intervenes,” Seamus whispers while removing the wreath from his head.
“Except when another human intervenes,” Lodar repeats.
“But that doesn’t explain why you believe Row is of royal decent,” Seamus is still confused.
“The one person a demigod can not disobey is a lord,” Lodar informs him. “As descendents of the fallen god Doryan, they carry heavenly blood. It makes them stronger, with a divine right to rule. Bloodsuckers who are born from a lord are more powerful than normal ones. It’s a whole new breed of sick creatures.”
At that moment, Row finally manages to push the shadow off of her, having drained enough of its life force to weaken its regenerative abilities. It is nothing more than a hollow husk now. “That was disgusting,” she groans while spitting on the ground. “I'm not one for cannibalism.”
“Is he… dead?” Seamus asks while poking the body with his sword.
“Oh dear, your arm, let me heal you.” Row touches his dangling appendage. Instinctively he moves away though. “What’s wrong?” She stares up at him with her bright mixed orange and silver eyes.
“I need to finish him off,” Seamus answers while turning his head. He doesn’t want to look at the blood pouring from her mouth right now.
“I understand.” She backs away. “Make it quick.” Seamus raises his sword in the air and lets it fall with the weight of his weary body. The shadow barely flinches as the blade severs his spine. “Alright, now back away,” Row warns him.
“I… I can't move.” Seamus’s eyes are wide in fear.
“What do you mean?” Row tries to pull on his sleeve.
“I'm not in control of my body anymore. Lodar, what are you doing?” He knows that this is the demigod’s doing.
“This is the way it has to be,” Lodar’s voice is stern.
“No, I don’t want to do this.” Seamus shakes his head.
“Move away!” Row screams at him.
“Two of the nine have fallen,” Seamus’s voice changes as Lodar takes control of him again. “I need to protect the demigods at all cost. This is the only way I know how.”
Row’s eyes are flooding with tears again as she shuffles backwards. There is nothing she can do to help Seamus and she refuses to be caught in the rapture herself. Her gaze is transfixed as the silver cylinder of light falls from the sky and encompasses the shadow and Seamus entirely. As soon as the glow has transferred to Seamus’s eyes, he begins to scream at the top of his lungs.
Row watches in horror as boils begin to form on his skin, growing large and larger and eventually bursting in a spray of blood. His cheeks start to melt, exposing the bone underneath and his teeth. He is now covered in large burns, spanning his entire body. “What’s going on?” Row screams.
“This is the rapture,” Lodar manages to halt Seamus’s screaming to answer. “He has gained everything that was Wan; his powers, his past.”
“What do you mean?” Row takes a shaky step toward Seamus.
“Wan was burned in a fire when he was ten. He spent the next six years of his life in a constant state of agony until he was blessed with the power of the Silver Shape Shifter.”
“His power is what’s doing this?” Row gasps.
“He is reliving the memory of Wan’s injury and the power is making his body experience it as well,” Lodar continues to explain
“But why? This didn’t happen when he inherited your power,” Row recalls.
“This time is different. Normally the memories of the previous demigod stay dormant and scattered. This time, he is holding Arma Venture. Everything is crystal clear. He is reliving every detail of Wan’s life.”
“So it’s your fault.” Row’s eyes narrow angrily.
“If you want to assign blame, then remember who killed me,” Lodar remains spiteful. Row grows silent. She continues to watch as Seamus twists in agony. There is nothing she can do.
Finally Seamus falls to the ground unconscious as the silver light retreats into the sky. Row rushes to lift him up. The burns on his body have vanished, as have the wounds on his mangled arm. He is completely healed. Row drags him to the font of the inn where she finds the door slightly ajar. The innkeeper is peeking out with a look of fear on his face. “Is it dead?” he asks in a terrified whisper. “Did you destroy the spirit who has been plaguing our town?”
“Yes.” Row nods. “Please help me.”
“Of course, of course.” He lifts Seamus onto his shoulder and carries him back up to their room. “I and the rest of the town are truly grateful to you both.” Row does not respond. She simply waits for him to lay Seamus down on the bed before leaving the room. She lies down next to him and presses her face into his chest, feeling the warmth of his body and hoping she is able to comfort him in the slightest. He remains fast asleep though, not making a single sound.
Unknown to Row, the spiritual form of Lodar has appeared again. He is pacing around the room, biting his fist and muttering words of concern. Eventually he waves his hand at Seamus and draws the silver form of Wan out as well. “What happened?” the younger demigod groans.
“You lost,” Lodar answers honestly.
“I see.” Wan smiles at Seamus. “I suppose he is my new master. Is he that bad, Lodar? Perhaps this is a good thing.”
“Oh, it’s a very good thing. I have found something to curb my boredom.”
“Oh dear,” Wan groans. “Please tell me you did not do this for reasons as petty as that. I would not wish the pain I have suffered onto my worst enemy, and yet you have forced this young man to feel the pain of my past for the mere prospect of curbing boredom? What are we if not century old sadists, Lodar?”
“I have no idea.” Lodar shrugs. “All I know is that this pair intrigues me. The little one is a princess bloodsucker.”
“Are you sure?” Wan’s eyes light up with interest. “I thought they were merely a myth; a product of Turok’s overactive imagination.”
“They may have been when he first brought up his concerns, but they’re real now. They exist.”
“What will you do?” Wan’s eyes narrow.
“If I were still alive, I would obviously kill or capture her in order to gain the prestige and valor that would come with it.”
“But…” Wan is still glaring at him with suspicion.
“But I'm not alive,” Lodar reminds him. “I have no desire to gain prestige anymore. Right now I want to watch this princess and see what she does with her life.”
“A very good response.” Wan nods approvingly. “If you’ll excuse me now, I would like to retire. I leave these two in your capable hands, Lodar.”“Of course, old friend.” Lodar bows before waving his hand again, sending Wan back to the depths of Seamus’s mind. It is none of the Silver Shape Shifter’s concern what happens to Seamus and Row now. He will not call on him again without good reason.