"Interview with a Vampire... Slayer", part three


Juss Nuse was really confused. How the hell was he going to make all of this insanity into a decent book? Let alone a decent feature story for a magazine! None of it made sense. Not a damn bit. He had quit his job to research this CWAL group, and all he found was a beat up guy in a shabby fedora hat who told him stories out of an AD&D campaign, and none of it made a damn bit of sense.

"The origin of the slayers?" he asked, reaching for a fresh cigarette.

"Yeah." Was all GAVAL could say as he FLIPPed another sliver of oak off of the stake he was preparing. He had built up quite a pile of sharp weapons over the last several hours. Enough to arm a platoon of slayers.

"How is that possible? I thought you told me the other day on the phone that the slayers were started during the crusades? This... Kanduras... isnít even on Earth!"

"Ah know, Chause," said the weary Cajun, but de bes' part's comin' up." As Gaval got up and stretched, he made his way towards the window and glanced outside. It was dark now...but the rain hadn't stopped over Irvine. As Gaval watched a droplet of rain make its way down the window pane, lightning struck and lit up the slayer from the other side of the window.All Nuse could see was the outline of his interviewee as the lights in the room blinked.

Then there was a knock at the door. "Pizza's here!" said Juss Nuse as he sprung to his feet, putting out the cigarette he had just lit. He felt it ruined the taste of Italian pie, to smoke while eating it. Opening the door, Nuse spotted a young teen in a T-shirt and jeans under a delivery boy uniform holding a pie from `Mr. Pizza' in one hand, and a bill in the other.

"That'll be $10.99, sir. Would you like to try our `Mr. Pizza' Hot Wings for a modest $1.99 extra?" asked Dorg.

"Um...no thanks," replied the reporter.

"Dorg?" The slayer spoke up from a rainy window. "Is dat you?" Gaval walked up to the door and started to think of ways to make fun of Dorg's secret night time occupation. "Mercenary business not paying like it used to ah see! So DIS is how you been payin' all of CARV's bills!"

"Forget that!" squeaked Dorg. "What are you doing in some hotel room with another guy!? And why the hell did you leave your birthday party all of a sudden? Wait till I tell CWAL about this!"

"Wait! What did you say?!" exclaimed Nuse. Until now, he hadn't even been sure there was a CWAL and that Gaval was being honest with him about anything, but this pizza guy was confirming that the lunacy that Gaval had been speaking of for hours into a small tape recorder was true.

"I said the hot wings only cost an extra $1.99," said Dorg.

"No! After that, dammit! The thing about CWAL!"

"Oh...wait till I tell em I caught Gaval in a hotel room with some guy!" teased the leader of CARV/Mr. Pizza delivery boy.

"Dorg used ta be in CWAL, Juss." said Gaval, still snickering at Dorg's little `Mr. Pizza' beret and apron . "I need to sit down" said Nuse as Gaval took a polaroid of Dorg with a camera he swipped from Nuse's duffal bag.

"There," said the slayer. "You tell ANYONE about dis meeting of ours, and ah'll put the image of Dorg in a `Mr. Pizza' beret all over the internet. Got it, CARVer?!"

The visitor paused for a minute then answered with a resounding, "Fine. I gotta go. Sephroth is waiting in the 'Mr. Pizzamobile.' "

"Sephroth is workin' for `Mr. Pizza?!'" asked Gaval. In the room Nuse broke out a notebook and pencil. This story suddenly had become a lot more serious for him.

"It's probably some sort of evil plan, " responded Dorg as he headed out of the room. "Besides, he probably needed the work since he's not with Blizzard anymore."

"What?! Not wit Blizzard!" shouted the slayer. "Who's headin' security now!?" he yelled out of the hotel door.

"Shlonglor," smiled Dorg as the elevator door closed across the hall. Lightning crashed again, causing the lights to blink once again. A minute later, Gaval was sitting across the table from the reporter once again, dredging up memories of the recent past.

"The next morning, I awoke to memories of a night before that seemed like a dream." Juss Nuse began taking notes...

------

(Lothos told me that my eyes started glowing again, and that I passed out after murmuring something about the origin of the slayers. I knew damn well what it was I had witnessed that night, but it was no use trying to explain to Fjorxc, Sofielisk, Lothos, and Rachal, what kind of significance what I had just witnesses held. We decided collectively that since Lavag was so close after being spotted the night before, that we should try to track him down and get him secured before any more havoc was released upon this backwards, primitive, and dangerous world.)

(The road to Tristram)

Sofielisk: Verily, mine padded feet doth feel the ache of having walk/slithered these many miles in paw pumps!

Rachal: I'm surprised you made it this far in them. So, Gaval, what do we do once we find this guy, Lavag?

GAVAL: Here's the plan: First we kick his ass for being so evil. Then, you guys hold him while I kick his ass for being evil. Then I'll hold him while you each take turns kicking his ass for being so evil. Then after that, whoever wants seconds gets another shot, and finally, I get to kick his ass one more time, just in case we decide to break the Guinness ass-kicking record, and also because evil pisses me off and therefore totally sucks ass. Any questions?

Fjorxc: (raises hand)

Lothos: Geez, Forks, this isn't a classroom, what is it?!

Fjorxc: What do we do when we find this guy, Lavag?

(The group walks down the path after staring at Fjorxc for a minute.)

Fjorxc: (stands on the road and throws his arms up.) WHAT?!

------

Abadon stood upon the balcony of the highest tower of Dorado, the Kanduran City of Gold. Impervious to siege, and feared by many, especially after the rumors of the hundreds of thousands of Crimson Warriors who died trying to take down the walls of the stronghold in the recent weeks, Dorado was much more than a legend across this strange and mysterious world.

"I feel...." The being forged of pure hated took a deep breath and smelled the repugnant stench of death from the scores of rotting corpses piled outside of his city. ".... like pillaging something. Find me something to destroy, " ordered Abadon to Atlas who had just approached from behind.

"You're in an unusually chipper mood this morning, my lord," said Atlas.

"And why shouldn't I be, you insignificant whelp!? I'm more powerful than I've ever been. I have more minions at my beck and call than anyone on this wretched world. My army can't die because it's dead already. And to top it all off, more and more good turns to evil every day in this miserable kingdom. "Nothing significant stands against me, Atlas, so I ask you again, mortal: Why shouldn't I be... chipper... as you put it?"

"When you put it that way, my lord." Atlas thought it best he not comment on this topic any more and bowed in a subservient manner to shut the arrogant bastard up.

"As you may recall, Atlas, Tristram, our neighboring town to the north, would be nothing more than a blood soaked ruin of smoldering dwelling splinters and Crimson Empire corpses if you hadn't failed me in seizing the Holy Grail before that she-devil Xeiss got her unworthy hands on it." Atlas bit his lip. That comment REALLY pissed him off, but he remained calm and managed to keep a humble look about him. At least HE knew it wasn't his fault that Xeiss and her friends got to the Grail First.

"Yes, my lord," Atlas had found that those words were always a reliable sanctuary when Abadon was pushing his tolerance for abusive authority to its limits

"Well, since Tristram was fated to destruction anyway, why don't you take a platoon of demons and vampires, or whatever... and FINISH what you started."

"Just one platoon, sir?" asked Atlas. He knew well that Abadon had hundreds of thousands of undead and hell-risen minions at his disposal..

"Well, we do want SOME sport out of this little excursion, don't we? FUN, Atlas. I'm in the mood for FUN." Abadon was smiling. He was actually SMILING. Atlas didn't like this at all, but what could he do?

"Yes, my lord."

"Take Celes and Exile with you. It's time you mortals earned victory on your OWN for a change without my help. I mean, throw me a freaking bone here! I'm the boss... need the subordinates to pull some of the weight around here. Now get out! I have puppies to mutate."

"Yes, my lord. We shall leave at nightfall tomorrowl."

"Leave now. Do it before sunrise. I want the sting of this slap to burn on the face of Kanduras for a while... didn't I tell you to get out?"

"Yes, my lord." With those words, Atlas left the tower to cool off, and to organize the siege of Tristram.

------

(The forest, halfway between Dorado and Tristram)

"It's funny, " CABAL's sister Gabriella said to him, "I don't feel any different. What is it that they did to us?" CABAL chuckled. Being the leader of the group meant that he was the only one who really understood what was going with these nine brave souls as of late. It was his job to teach them about their newly constructed bodies and how to use them, though admittedly he had as little experience with the transformation as any of the slayers around him.

"It's okay, sister, " he said in a reassuring tone. "All of you, please, come and sit so that I might shed some light on what's become of us." The Nine Souls of the Luminant Genesis gathered, without saying a word, around their new leader; a blacksmith from the ruined town of Westmarch. CABAL took a deep breath and let the words that were implanted into his soul flow forth so that the group might be sealed not only through divine means, but through the rapport that any team of warriors should share. "Friends.... what has happened to us is nothing more than a miracle. The supreme being... the Divinity... who has remained silent, yet aware of the horrors Kanduras has faced throughout history, has decided to take action."

CABAL walked over to an old tree stump and put a leg up on it, resting a hand on his knee. "The balance between good and evil has always existed. It's a battle that's not meant to produce a victor. Good and evil exist for a purpose, and neither can exist without the other. Evil... sin... exists so that man might be put to the test. All of us... every being... is given a gift at birth. Can you tell me that gift, Kendal?"

"Choices, uncle?" questioned the blind youth. "Is it the right to choose between good and evil?"

"That's right, boy." CABAL turned to face the Ogre standing next to him and looked Saxal in the eye. "Free will. We all have it. People talk about being born into a life of hardship. People make excuses for their actions that mythical things like fate and destiny led them to the paths they tread upon, but it's all ox dung. Free will, my friends. WE choose our own paths. WE determine our destiny. Sure, there are exceptions, for example when the gods intervene, much like our god has done these past few days with us, but everyone born naturally into the world has the gift of consciousness. A little piece of the Divinity in our hearts that allows us to tell the difference between good and evil. And THAT.... is why the battle between good and evil shall always rage on... as long as some of us choose to take the long-hard road of righteousness in the interest of living an eternal life of peace and bliss with the Divinity, and other take the easy road of frivolity and chaos because they don't understand or don't fear the agony that awaits them in the coming life."

"My friends, " continued the blacksmith, "That balance has been upset. And in doing so, it has upset the Divinity himself. He has chosen to take action and we are to be his weapons in restoring the balance."

"CABAL... please... what has happened to us? How have we been `rebuilt'?" The sorceress Karvalle wrapped her cloak around her. "I almost feel violated, and it would be easier to cope with this if I knew what has happened."

"Karvalle, if indeed you were violated, it was in the most grand and justified way. Your blood," CABAL turned to look at the rest of the group, "...our blood, essentially, has been merged with our souls... and the living essence of the Divinity himself. What you felt last night... what we ALL felt... was our very blood boiling in response to its exposure to the Light of God. And when that light dimmed itself to a tolerable level, we had all been changed."

"But in what way? " asked Gavin the Monk. "How has our righteous father made us into his good hands?" CABAL sat down on the stump, as though it was trying his patience to explain something that was now so simple to him.

"For this night on, friends, our blood, and the blood of our ancestors is more just, pure, and noble than the blood of all else who tread upon this sorrowful world. That blood, through the transformation we experienced, will give us the ability to topple even the worst agents of evil, when that evil is near. Allow me to make it clearer. If an agent of Diablo or Abadon who was evil enough, were to walk into this clearing-" CABAL got up and walked over to the blind boy, Kendal, "-this boy, like all of us, would undergo a quick, yet painful physical transformation, that would allow him to spring forth with concentrated life-force and beat down upon the head of such agents of evil with any one of these trees!"

"I can already do that!" replied the ogre with a smile. Cabal grinned at the ogre.

"You, my large friend, would be able to do the same with turret from the walls of Dorado itself!" The group's eyes grew large as they glanced at each other. This was a lot to accept for anyone. Saxal just looked down at his hands and made two large fists.

"So, it makes us strong?" reiterated Gamble.

"Not only that. This surge of power will give us each the speed of a puma. Eyes sharper than those of the hawk. Ears keener than the wolf," recited CABAL as though he were reading all of this knowledge from some invisible text in his mind.

"Yeah..." said the boy, Kendal. "For the first time since we lost our homes, I thought that I could see something last night... during the ritual..."

"That ritual was the gathering of the Nine Souls of the Luminant Genesis, and what you experienced, was your own special power, Kendal." Once again the slayers stared at CABAL, then looked at each other. "Yes... each of you will experience both a shared set of abilities, as well as unique ones that will later manifest themselves."

"CABAL," asked Gabrina. His sister walked towards him and looked him in the eye. "How do you know all of this?"

The head slayer paused for a moment and looked up at the clouds. "I think.... God told me."

------

If the sight of such filthy creatures wasn't enough to lead one to vomiting the smell alone would easily do so. And once an unfortunate mortal would recover from said regurgitating spree, fear would easily take such an unfortunate person to places within their own minds that they would have never in their worst nightmares imaged.

Thus was the small platoon of undead lead by Atlas, Exile, and Celes. Marching without rhyme or reason, but with only a single direction keeping them on a steady path. Amongst the dead who's bodies Abadon was using as his puppets were victims of the fall of Westmarch, random refugees who's bodies were left over from vampire raids, and some of the in-tact bodies remaining from the failed Crimson Siege of Dorado. Together they moved forward, unrelenting, in a sickening dance of gore and wickedness.

Towards the back of the small army were demons of various shape and size. They all did have one thing in common - a nasty temperament. Woe be to any and all who come across this unholy army... unless said path-crossers are holy themselves!

"Curse this whole situation. The three of us could easily have walked into Tristram and taken it out before these marionettes ever even got halfway there." Exile backslapped one of the zombies near him across the jaw. The creature just continued to move forward, either unaware, or uncaring of the assault it had just received.

Celes looked down for a second at the jawbone that had just landed on her boot. "Let's just do this and get back home. It's a simple task and will earn us favor with Abadon."

Atlas trudged forward, bringing up the rear with both axes in hand, ready to strike down anything to alleviate the anger that was welling up inside him as of late, even if it had to be the demon who almost drooled on his ax hilt a second ago.

------

It was a sight to behold. LAVAG had never seen more than one undead gathered in one place. He had dabbled in necromancy before, to aid his own power, but this group was MOST impressive. The Rush had set in about minutes ago as LAVAG homed in on this wicked gathering that was marching through the forest to some unknown destination. "This...place...." LAVAG whispered to himself, as his eyes glowed a crimson glow in the night from the Rush that these evil minions of some unknown master were creating, "...has much potential." Never had the turned slayer seen such an extreme of Light and Darkness in one place...and all this in just a few days!

If indeed these undead forces were evil personified, what happened next must have been poetry in motion. In a swift blur of Cobalt blue light, several shapes emerged from the woods and descended upon the abomination of Abadon's forces. LAVAG was intrigued and found himself a comfortable spot to watch once again, the wonders of Kanduras.

-------

"WIIICCCKKKEEEDDD!!!"

"NAAAUUGGGHHTTTYYY!!!"

"NE'ERDOWELLS!"

"INAUSPICIOUS!!!!"

"RAPSCALLIONS!!!!"

The battle cry of the newborn slayers (which still needed a little refining) echoed throughout the forest, breaking the silence and providing a stage for the conflict to come. Leaping onto the scene, a group of unlikely companions pounded upon the forces of Abadon. Buffal, the Slayer Peasant, hesitated for a moment. He couldn't believe he was supposed to go up against the same wicked forces that he had run away from all his life. The hesitation lasted only for a moment though. Upon seeing his fellow plebian, Gamble, tear apart the rib-cage of a skeleton with his pitchfork, Buffal would hesitate no more. Rushing into battle he headed straight for the largest demon of the group, his eyes spewing forth the powers of the Rush in an icy blue glow.

"What in Diablo's name?!" cried Exile as the new slayers descended upon his evil forces with a vengeance. "Form ranks. End this conflict NOW! Take it to them, for Abadon!" But even as Exile shouted his orders, the undead legions around him were falling like stalks of wheat in a harvest, at the slayers worked their way closer and closer to the middle of the army where Exile, Atlas, and Celes were standing.

"Back to hell with you!" shouted Gavin as his walking stick tore off the arm of a zombie that was attempting to strangle him. Then with the other hand he smashed a bottle of Holy Water into the exposed skull of the walking corpse. It would walk the world no more.

Kendal was completely surrounded by living skeletons and ghouls. He knew this. Despite his handicap, the boy felt where the minions of evil were even better than his companions could see them. In a feat of acrobatics never before seen in Kanduras, the boy jumped up and onto the shoulders of a Zombie, knocking its head off with the butt of his dagger. Then he leaped towards a tree limb and grabbing it with his hands, swung towards a skeleton, kicking it into another with both feet with enough force to crush both wretched beings. Performing a somersault and landing on his feet, the boy was assaulted by another zombie and skeleton, both wearing the black armor of the Crimson Empire. Dropping to his left knee, Kendal kicked the legs out from both of the undead then jumped up onto zombie shoving a sharp piece of oak into its rotted brain and taking the entire head off with it. As the skeleton slashed at the boy with a rusty sword, Kendal ducked out of the way, stumbling to the ground. As he gasped, knowing he had left himself vulnerable, the ground shook. There, standing on a pile of crushed bones was the ogre, Saxal. Though the boy couldn't see it, Saxal winked at him and unsheathed his large ax, turning around to find another minion of evil to vanquish.

Karvalle had just unleashed a Holy Bolt Spell, taking out three zombies in one blast from her magical staff when Celes jumped out of a shadow and pinned her down. "Your blood will serve as a satisfying appetizer before I rip your friends' throats out, stranger."

As Celes dug her claws into Karvalle's arm and opened wide to bite into the sorceress' neck, Karvalle was struck with an instinctive urge. "Remember it was a SLAYER who left you this scar, wench!" Swiftly placing her hand on the forehead of the she-vampire, Karvalle unleashed a power she never knew she had, burning the image of a crucifix onto Celes' beautiful face.

"AAAHHHH!" shrieked the undead woman, who recoiled back in pain as Karvalle jumped to her feet to defend herself from an oncoming demon. CABAL, having just toppled the skeleton of a Tristranian merchant, started to move to help Karvalle, but realized she could well handle herself. Instinctively raising his war hammer, the blacksmith leader of the new slayers moved on to pick some other prey of the damned. Thus went the battle. With hardly a scratch befalling any of the slayers, it soon came down to just a handful of the platoon of evil who's orders previously had been to destroy Tristram. Now, survival alone had taken precedence.

"All is lost, Exile!" cried Celes. "These fiends fight as though they had nothing else to live for. I've taken a stake through the thigh and that's where I draw the line." With those words, Celes, eyes tearing from the pain of the new scar on her forehead, took the form of a green vapor and began to drift off into the woods while escape was still a possibility.

"Nooo! Don't you DARE retreat! We are the forces of Abadon! Retreat is a forbidden word!"

As a large demon slumped down at Atlas' feet, he took flight. "If Abadon wants us to do his bidding, perhaps he should send us with less incompetent forces! Where Celes goes, I go."

As Atlas disappeared into the woods, Exile turned to face his foes with the remnants of the small platoon Abadon sent him with. What he saw was nine angry slayers, each pointing a weapon of some kind at him. Dropping his sword, Exile knew that he had been beat.

------ (Sunrise)

(Hot on the trail of LAVAG we arrived upon the scene of something VERY peculiar. It looked as though a small battle had taken place, but all of the dead seemed to be on the same side. It was one hell of a one-sided fight, I thought! Corpses, most long dead, were scattered about the area, with fresher demon bodies scattered about as well. The funk was... well... funky. Kinda smelled like Talruum's room right after he's opened his jar to air himself out.... like rotten grass laced with cat droppings.)

Sofielisk: Be I the only one who smellith ye territorial markings of another feline?!

Fjorxc: Smells like cat turds and mangled baby ducks.... look at these bodies, they've been here for weeks.

Lothos: Nope. I know the smell of undead. These things were undead.

Rachal: Check out these big guys. They aren't decaying at all. (pinches nose) Undead? Like night of the living dead? Ya know, if I weren't in Pre-med, this would REALLY gross me out.

GAVAL: Undead.... the reanimated corpses of the dead. Skeletons, Ghouls, Vampires.... (Bends over the corpse of a demon) Hey, look at this.

(It was unmistakable. I knew what I had seen the night before, and now, another clue. Another sign as to the reasons behind my being sent to Kanduras in the first place. It was a runed stake shoved right through the Demon's pancreas. Could there be any error?)

Lothos: Hey! It's a monster Pancreaskabob! Light up a fire, Sofie! Dinner's on!

Sofielisk: Thou art a sexist pig, Lothos. Light thine own fire! I be not thy serving wench!

Fjorxc: Medium rare please, with a touch of Basil.

GAVAL: I'll take mine with Tobasco.... (looks around at the carefully dismissed corpses) You know, they really did a good job here.... heads cut off of the damned, hearts cut out and burned.... these guys are good. We HAVE to meet them after we find LAVAG.

Rachal: (frowning) Can't you guys kill a chicken or something? You're roasting demon ass.... I mean...that can't be good for your stomach....

Fjorxc: Demon gives me gas. Fair warning. (smiles wickedly)

GAVAL: EVAAAL!! Gas pisses me off. Stay away from the campfire.

Fjorcx: It'll be cool! I can do a Fluffy impression...sounds just like a chainsaw!

Sofielisk: NAAAY!

Everyone else: NOOOO!

(For us, it would be yet another peaceful day in Kanduras. As I slept I had a nightmare. I dreamt I was part of my favorite band, "311." It was set in the past when they were playing their first gig, and the show didn't go very well. They kept messing up the songs and the crowd began booing them, and came close to getting up on stage and attacking them. I knew how the songs were supposed to go, so I jumped up on stage with a guitar and sort of jumped in with them, providing them with a pattern to play to. Immediately, they joined in on my groove and we all had the music sounding perfect. Not only did it keep the crowd at bay, but it actually drove them back to their seats where they moshed to our music happily. Then Godzilla showed up and ate the stage with us on it. Weird dream. I'm still trying to figure parts of it out!)

------

"I can figure it out," exclaimed Juss Nuse as he got up from the hotel chair. "That dragon you saw when you first arrived on Kanduras would show up and eat all of your friends, right?" The reporter was so into Gaval's story that he'd almost forgot to take notes the last 30 minutes or so. Good thing he had a tape recorder going!

"Um...no," said the slayer. He gave Nuse a weird look and finished the last slice of Pizza. "It was a little dif'rent from dat. More complicated, Chause." An annoying beeping suddenly broke the quiet, smoky atmosphere that Nuse and Gaval had created. Both of them looked down at their waists at the same time trying to figure out which of them was being paged. It was the slayer. "Shoot. Maggott's pagin' me. Probably needs me to take a look at his broken microphone. Either dat or Frugal's caught in the toilet again. Ah'm gonna have to finish dis up quick on de way. Gimme a ride to CWAL HQ, will ya?"

Juss put out his cigarette, grabbed a bread stick and followed the slayer out of the room, throwing a jacket around himself. It looked like it was going to rain a bit more in Irvine. As he grabbed his laptop computer that was on the hotel dresser table, a small spark shot out of the monitor. "Yow!" cried the reporter as he recoiled a bit.

"Mus' be the storm. Hope your motherboard din' get fried. Storms are evil. Ah been meanin' to have a chat wit God about that one..." Nuse turned to Gaval with a surprised look on his face.

"God?" he asked. After the visit from Dorg, Nuse was ready to believe anything his interviewee told him.

Gaval snickered a bit and replied, "Jus' pullin' yer chain. Come on. The Beard Maggott awaits." Nuse slowly reached for his laptop, and when he was satisfied that it was safe, he removed it from the phone jack, and followed Gaval out of the room.

As they closed the door, a pair of dark, glowing red eyes peered out from underneath a hotel bed. He wouldn't be the first little demon to come out of someone's computer this week and he wouldn't be the last.

"Interview with a Vampire... Slayer", part four


As the unlikely pair jumped into Juss Nuse's '93 Isuzu Trooper the reporter asked GAVAL, "How far is it to CWAL HQ?"

"Not far, Chause," responded GAVAL with a smile. Nuse just made a confused face and started up the Trooper.

Though it often caused confusion in Juss Nuse's mind, GAVAL called him that all the time. For GAVAL it was sort of a pet name for anyone or anything. "Chause" was a word often used by the Cajuns for "you," or "him" or "that guy", or "whoever." Sometimes it meant the lowly and disrespected part of the community, much like most of the other members of the Ambiguous Slayer's Guild. They were the poor lower-class trash of the modern world. Chauses indeed! Today's slayers, in order to disappear into the world and not go too noticed, took upon the roles of rednecks and farmers, chimneysweeps, and street urchins. In a world that had grown so small due to amazing leaps in the communication superhighway, such precautionary measures of subterfuge were necessary to preserve the slayer legacy that had been protecting the innocents of the world century after century.

"So you guys couldn't find any trace of the new slayers of Kanduras?" asked Nuse as he pulled out of the hotel parking lot.

"Right," answered Gaval. "Dey had taken care to eliminate all possibility of de undead from returning, and even severed de heads of the demons dey had slain even dough it wasn't necessary. It was sorta a slap in the face of Abadon that dey wanted. They were goin' after him and that little skirmish in de woods was jus' an appetizer. All we could do was try to catch up to 'em and hope to find Lavag in de process before he screwed dese people up any more dan dey already were. Kanduras was a wretched place, Juss. Wouldn't want to ever live dere...."

------

Dorado.

Sunrise.

In a darkened part of the castle, protected from the deadly sunlight that threatens most nosferatu, Celes and Atlas stood, heads sunken, waiting for Abadon to painfully end their lives due to their failure to even reach Tristram. There was no where to run from a being like Abadon, and their former allies, the heroes, would never take them back. It was only a matter of time for them.

The door to their makeshift crypt creaked open as the air grew chill. Abadon was approaching. Celes and Atlas hung their heads even lower. This would make it easier for Abadon to decapitate them, if he saw fit.

"Look at me... I said LOOK AT ME!"

The vampires looked up, anticipating that perhaps Abadon wanted to see the look in their eyes before he took their undead lives.

"Stop cowering like children. You are vampires. Lords of the night. Have some self-worth for a change! Did you really think I wasn't expecting for you to run into those.... those slayers?" Abadon cackled gleefully.

Atlas and Celes looked at one another, half-relieved and half-terrified. "My lord?" asked Celes.

"I have been aware of those beings of light for days now. There was a disturbance in the ethereal plane 2 nights ago. One that could only be caused by the presence of a god in Kanduras. A god of light. Divine intervention is part of my destiny as the lord of hatred. That time has finally come. All the signs were in place, my children. The fall of 200,000 Crimson Empire warriors, former "heroes" like you turning to my side, the destruction of Westmarch and most of its paladins, the Holy Grail reappearing.... and then two night ago, a being of light crossing into this plane to do Diablo knows what."

"You sent us to find out what the god of light was up to? You sent us up against the Divinity?" asked Atlas. It was hard to keep his anger at bay. He was almost sacrificed against something he couldn't possibly defeat.

"Of coarse, worm. And mind your tone with me! You vampires are a geld a hundred. Your usefulness to me is that you've seen these creatures in battle; both of you." Abadon turned to Celes and rubbed a long-twisted fingernail against her cheek. "TELL ME WHAT YOU KNOW!" Abadon gritted his teeth and slammed a large, demonic-looking hand into Celes' face, wrapping bony and clawed fingers completely around her head.

"What are you---" Atlas tried to move to help Celes, but was just as quickly grasped in the head and slammed into a coffin by Abadon's other hand, his head surrounded in evil, scaly flesh. Dignity hadn't a chance in the presence of Abadon.

"I WILL FEEL WHAT YOU FELT. YOUR MIND IS MY MIND! YOUR THOUGHTS ARE MY THOUGHTS!" For a minute, Abadon looked around the room as though he were seeing things that weren't there, then his eyes grew large. Few things ever surprised Abadon, but as his pupils dilated, and his jaw dropped, this being of utter hatred looked shocked. He quickly released the two vampires as they fell to the floor, unconscious. "...I see...." said Abadon in an almost whisper. Mustering the strength, the demon lord called out, "Yggsdrasil, I summon thee!"

As a winged demon appeared in a vaporous haze and nodded at Abadon as the Lord of Hate barked out orders in a putrid, raspy voice. "Go forth and summon Vlad. Tell him to bring every vampire within his reach to me tonight. We must rescue Exile and dispose of these "Evil Slayers" without haste... and get these two into their coffins. We're going to need them tonight. I will be resting in my private chamber if I am needed."

As he headed up the stairs, back into the realm of daylight, Abadon knew well that they would be needed. These slayers move about in the daylight and are completely unpredictable. They wouldn't dare assault Dorado, but he knew he should be prepared for anything. The power that these creatures wielded was immense if they were to realize their full potential. That could not be allowed to happen.

------

"Your souls will rot in limbo for this, mortals!," cried Exile as he struggled against his binds.

"Someone gag that wretch," said Gabrina, then she glared at the angry eyes that Exile was giving her and sighed, "nevermind. I'll do it myself." As she squatted down next to Exile and got right up to his face, she pinched him on the cheek and teased him a bit saying, "you really shouldn't speak with such a potty mouth, thing of evil. You might wind up with a sharp stake where the sun never shines." As she smiled wickedly, Exile opened his mouth to curse her once again as she stuffed it full of dry burlap. "That ought to shut him up."

"That fight..." smiled Buffal the vampire slayer as he yawned and stretched "...was amazing. It was as though my spear became an extension of my arm!"

"You'd do better to cut off the head of that spear and sharpen the wood, Buffal," said CABAL. "Or perhaps to coat the tip of it in silver, for such objects of purity cause great fear amongst the minions of evil." He paused for a second, still not believing the things that just popped into his mind, like what he had just said Then adjusting his tunic, CABAL walked up to the large peasant. "When in the presence of evil, physical perfection is your domain. Purity of heart was only the first step in our being rebuilt as agents of the Divine. You'll find more and more things about yourself as we are tested in battle, but be wary. The challenges will grow exceedingly difficult."

"I've never been taught the spells I used last night. This is extraordinary," said the fair sorceress Karvalle. "I'll never have to run from the wicked again."

"As long as we stand together, nothing can topple us. Our strength comes not only from within, but from one another," said CABAL as he placed his hand on Karvalle and Gamble's shoulder. "One might say we're family now. Brothers and sisters bound by the new blood that gives us our power."

"And if the minions of power try to take that blood away from us?" asked Gavin, the monk.

"Poison," smiled CABAL. "T'would be a bane of the worst kind for any creature of evil attempting to get near our blood."

"Then we are invincible!" shouted Guhval, as he unsheathed his sword and pointed it at the sky with a shiny gauntlet.

"No," frowned the slayer premier. "Even with this power, we must be cautious. Evil has a way of getting through any defense and overconfidence can be our undoing."

"I'm not afraid!" retorted the knight as he sneered and struck a tree, imbedding the blade of his silver sword into the trunk. CABAL looked him in the eye and said, "You will be. You WILL be."

------

(A few hours earlier before sunrise.)

LAVAG wasn't going to let them get away this time. He'd been on the run for a long time, but now he knew where to go. Trailing the fleeing vampires from the site of their defeat, he jumped from tree to tree hot on the trails of Celes and Atlas as they approached Dorado. Keeping pace was easy for him, considering that as long as he stayed close enough, the Rush gave him the proportionate strength and speed of any vampire.

Approaching the castle, LAVAG paused for a minute to mark his bearings, then realized that the cliff he thought he was hiding under wasn't a cliff at all. "Whoa..." gasped the evil twin of GAVAL. There, looming over him at some impossible to gauge height was the outer wall of the "city of gold" itself, Dorado. Though LAVAG knew nothing of Dorado except that it was a haven for the evil in this godforsaken land, one thing was certain: It was absolutely immense. The forest outside of the castle had been so thick that he never even saw it coming. The thing had to have been at least 300 yards tall and at least thrice that in width. As the sun began to rise, the drawbridge of the castle began to slowly raise itself. Too late to attempt entrance, and with those vampires out of range, LAV would never be able to scale those walls. Looks like he'd be spending the day in the woods. With those thoughts, the dark figure sunk into the woods in seek of nourishment as he screwed his silencer back into his pistol.

------

As the night approached, LAVAG noticed dark shapes approaching from every angle. Some appeared as shadows, some as mist; others looked like wolves. As the Rush took LAVAG once again, he cringed in pain and bit his lip as not to reveal his concealment amongst the huge hollowed tree trunk that he had made his bed for the day. They were vampires; nosferatu. Soulless creatures of the night, made immortal in exchange for their soul. Blood hunters by night and helpless corpses by day, the creatures ruled the land Khanduras and its surrounding area in the light of the moon and in the shadows of twilight. Peering into the darkness, LAVAG listened carefully with his Rush-enhanced ears to the conversation that was to follow.

After taking solid form, a figure in long, dark hair stepped forward from the group. Vlad gazed forward with blood red eyes as the drawbridge opened once more for the evenings activities. Reaching its resting spot with a loud thud, a cloud of dust was stirred up from the ground, which hadn't received rain in days. Through the cloud, several dark figures could be seen, two of them in the forefront with eyes glowing in the darkness.

"Good evening, Vlad," called the female voice.

"It is always pleasant to be in your company, Celes," came the reply. The first thing Vlad noticed was a scarf tied around Celes' forehead. As he took her hand, he noticed the frowning Atlas emerging from the dust cloud. "And I see you've brought your little guard dog with you."

Drawing an ax and gently pushing Celes back the already enangered Atlas growled, "give me one good reason not to send you to hell right where you stand?"

Smiling wickedly and egging Atlas on Vlad simply waved an arm as 25 blood-thirsty nosferatu emerged from the shadows into the moonlight. "I'll give you two dozen reasons, Atty."

"Do I pay you to threaten my minions, Vlad?" The group turned around to see all of the dust scatter as if the very particles of filth feared the looming figure walking across the drawbridge.

LAVAG, in awe of the largest vampire pack he had ever seen turned his attention also to the creature who the group of undead were now surrounding. Scurrying out of the hollow trunk and up into a large oak, LAVAG realized he was looking at evil that had brought about the creation of this world's slayers...Abadon.

"Of coarse not, my lord. I was just admiring the beauty of this one." Glancing at Celes, Vlad again took notice of the scarf covering her beautiful forehead.

"I've had better days," scowled Celes as she ignored the compliment.

"Do you know why you are here, Vlad?" asked the Lord of Hate.

"Yggdrasill was not specific, my lord, but we are ever at your beck and call...provided you have what we want."

"I would think, Vlad, that easy prey would make your pack lazy and fat, but if that is what you desire, bring them out, Atlas." Atlas gazed at Vlad, still clutching his ax, his claws digging into the wood of its hilt. "NOW!" scolded Abadon. As Atlas slowly turned and headed into Dorado Abadon moved closer to Vlad and Celes. I have someone I want you to deal with. There is a group of pesky heroes lurking about in the woods blocking the pass into Tristram.

"Shin Hikaru's group? I've told you we don't want to get involved with th-"

"No. This is a new group. They ambushed a small party of mine and took Exile captive. I want Exile back. And I want these heroes dead. Tonight. Do I make myself clear?" As Atlas dragged three tied up peasant men across the drawbridge, Vlad answered.

"A small group of mortals will pose no problem for my pack. We shall depart as soon as we feast....."

"Very well. Three more healthy males shall be made available once you've brought me nine heads." Vlad gawked at Atlas for a minute and then picked up a peasant by the hair and staired into its eyes eagerly. The helpless prey stopped struggling and hung limp, entranced by Vlad's evil power. "Oh, and Vlad," cautioned Abadon, "These mortals....they call themselves "slayers" like the paladins of old Westmarch. They claim they're specially skilled against the collective undead of Khanduras. I'm sure this will pose no threat to you, but I want you to take Celes and Atlas with you. Think of them as my liaisons making sure you fulfill your part of the bargain."

"As you wish, Abadon," replied the dark leader of the vampire pack. Before the words left his mouth, Abadon was gone and six demons were standing outside the gates of Dorado in their usual guarding post for the evening. Immediately the feast ensued as 25 greedy undead fought over the sweet gorish nectar that was their sustenance.

------

Lothos: (squatting down and pointing south)I'm thinking Lavag went this way.

GAVAL: (squatting) Great! How do you know?

Lothos: Well, I rolled a pair of 10's against my Tracking skill, see? Red's high.

Fjorxc: (Looking over their heads) Hey, a 15..that's pretty good! What's your Tracking skill at?

Lothos: 73%. I nailed it, so I says he went south.

GAVAL: Well, I could consult the Oracle to make sure, so we don't get thrown off track! I still have like 50 PPE after that battle with the drunken dwarvish mage pygmy necromancers.

(Sofielisk looks up and raises an eyebrow.)

Lothos: Yeah, but the arch lich giraffe casted "negate magic" on you, remember? So you lose 10 PPE each hour unless you can find a ley-line Nexus to recuperate.

GAVAL: Aw, cripes. I forgot about that. I guess we'll have to trust your skills. (Looks up at Fjorxc) Hey, can I repair my armor? I'm low on SDC.

Fjorcx: Well, do you have the "weld plate armor without a welding torch" skill? You'd have to roll against that and see...but wait, you don't have time, because you just got attacked by 6 naked Santa Clauses wielding sharpened ostrich feathers. Roll initiative....

Rachal: (to Sofie) Just what the hell are they doing?

Sofie: Methinks they playith ye role playing game in simulation of yon treacherous adventures ahead.

Rachal: Yeah, but we never fought any dwarvish pygmy necromancers!

Lothos: (looks up) Eh! It's funner this way!

Rachal: Lothos, do you even tracking skills in real life?!

Lothos: ....well...no...but I rode on a train once!

Fjorxc: (snickers)

Rachal: That does it. I'm heading this way. I saw a castle or something to the south when we were on that bluff earlier today. I'm guessing Lavag went that way.

Sofielisk: Waitith thee for me, Rachal!

GAVAL: Guess we should follow the chicks.

Fjorcx: Hey, I'm tired of G.M.ing. Next time one of you guys have to. I wanna play my Immature Mutant Samurai Slug character.

(And so we headed off into the woods hoping to run into either Lavag or the group of slayers who could help us find him.)

------

"Don't you think it was a little, I dunno....silly? To be playing D&D in the woods with all that bad stuff floating around?" asked Nuse.

"Nah, " replied GAVAL as he adjusted his seat belt. "Take the next exit." As Juss Nuse turned off of the highway and towards downtown Irvine GAVAL continued. "We were practically livin in a D&D worl' anyway. No sense in not bein' prepared, plus it helped us to eventually find Lavag."

"Sounds more to me like SHE helped you find Lavag," smiled Juss.

"Well, Rachal Hollis turned out to be quite a resourceful girl," said GAVAL. "She turned out to be right, Lavag did head towards dat big castle to de south, as did everyone else aroun' there. An it didn't take to long for us to all run into each other as we woke up once again dat night to de soun' of a fight taking place. But dis' time ah wasn't messin' around. Ah knew what ah had to do and got everyone up as we dashed through de woods towards the scene of the fight with all the speed we could muster. Turn lef' here."

------

(The sight was unbelievable. The nine slayers were going head on into battle with at least 2 dozen blood suckers. The Rush took me for the second time in two days.)

GAVAL: nnnnnooOOOOOOOO!!!! AAHHHHH!!!! EVAAAALLLL!!!!!

Lothos: Hey! Where are you going?!

GAVAL: (eyes glowing) They're badly outnumbered! We have to help! EVAAAALLL!!!!

Lothos: Oh, hell, I've been looking for an excuse to mix it up anyway....Evaaaaaalll!!!!

Fjorxc: (Hands a pistol to Rachal) Here, go kill some bad guys. Eviiiiiiilll!!!! (Runs into the fight)

Sofielisk: Well, we can't very well let them be slain! They need a woman's protection! Evaaaahhhlll!!!!! (Slither-trots off)

Rachal: (stares at the pistol for a second, then tucks her hair into her cap and turns it backwards.) Evil. Yadda yadda.... (pulls back trigger and walks into the fray.)

------

"LET THEM HEAR YOU, Slayers! YYYAAAARRRR!!!!!"cried CABAL as his forces met the line of vampires who had blocked their path and threatened their lives.

"Let no evil stand before us!" cried Gavin as he loaded a sling with a vial of holy water.

"NAAAUUGGGHHHTTTTYYYY!!!!!" Shouted Gamble.

As claws clanged against stakes Buffal looked across to his peasant friend and made a face. "You know, that just doesn't sound right." Buffal ducked under a deadly set of fangs and bashed in a vampires head.

"You're right. We need a better battle cry. How about, BAAAAAD!" replied Gamble while grappling with a drooling she-vampire.

"Or, NAAASSTY!" replied Buffal.

"EVAAAAAALLLLL!!!!!" came a cry from behind them.

"HEY! I like that!" said the two peasant vampire slayers. They turned around to see a young man in a leather jacket and a wide brimmed hat cracking his whip and assuming a defensive stance, his eyes glowing a bright cobalt blue.

"Thank you!" replied GAVAL. Now let's bust some baddies! "EVAAAALLL!!!"

"EVAAAAAL!" shouted the slayers, and the battle was on.

Again, showcasing poetry in motion the front line of slayers redoubled their efforts on the formidable evil that was opposing them. Guhval, taking point, jumped bravely into the fray just seconds before the rest of his friends. Having never fought the vampire, he quickly learned that speed, even when matched with a vampire, is a crucial factor in combat. With a lightning-fast attack, the she vampire known to Vlad's pack as Insatia backslapped a silver sword right out of Guhval's hands and kicked him into Gamble the vampire slayer, leaving the both of them slammed against a tree and dazed.

Staring at the two slayers dazed at his feet, GAVAL was overwhelmed with anger and charged into the fray cursing the hell-spawned bloodsuckers and their mothers along with them. As he jumped onto Saxal's shoulders and flipped into the group landing on the back of Vlad himself, the violence took an immeasurable turn towards intense.

"My god," shouted Gabrina to Karvalle as she slammed her fist into the guy of a rather slinder-looking creature with pointed ears, "They move faster than anything I've ever seen!"

"This is why we never went out at night!" replied Karvalle as she put up a mana shield just in time to fend off the fangs of a hungry male vampire wearing an eye patch. "Get back, you bastard! Get OFF of me!" Lunging at the one-eyed undead with her staff, Karvalle felt another vampire attempt to penetrate her mana shield from behind. "We need to bring these things down NOW! Even up the numbers!" With those words, she sipped a small vial of mana potion to keep up her ethereal strength.

"Why won't they DIE!" cried Gabrina as the slender nosferatu from a broken jaw-inducing punch and leapt upon her again.

"Use your stakes woman!" cried the monk Gavin as he shouldered his way through three vampires poised at him, thus bringing the three slayers to a closer fighting proximity, all of them back-to-back. "Go for their hearts if you can't take their heads!" Gavin stared at the three vampires as they approached. "BACK! Back I say!" he cried as he boldly produced the holy symbol of the Divinity and envoked his god's name. "Back in the name of God almighty! I am the Lord's hand and you are bound for HELL!"

"Look at that, Buffal!" cried CABAL as he turned his attention to Gavin. "He's turned them back!" Unfortunately for the blacksmith, this moment was long enough for an oafish barbarian vampire to grab CABAL's arms and pin them behind him. "By the light, you'll pay for that, fiend!" shouted CABAL as he struggled against the creatures supernatural strength, eyes glowing fiercely in a purple hue. "Buffal!"

Looking across at his mentor, the peasant slayer knew that he was cut off from CABAL by the she vampire that he was attempting to impale with his spear. "I'm trying!" he cried, as his cheek was cut by the thing's sharp claws.

"ARGHHH!" screamed CABAL as his left arm cracked from the intense pressure being exerted, the light in his eyes dimming for a brief instant. He knew he had to do something. Each of the slayers was already tangling with at least 2 angry vampires.

"Let's see how the blood of a failed god-servant tastes!" cried the barbarian as he sunk his fangs into CABAL's neck. Instantly the creature recoil in agony, his throat dissolving with the enlightened blood of a slayer burning through the vampire's evil jugular and spilling out onto the battle-trampled grass through holes in his throat. The look on the vampire's face was first one of agony, then of peaceful release as he was freed from the damnation of being undead. Then his face melted away leaving a clean skeleton in clothing behind him.

CABAL could only stare at what his blood had done to the creature while clasping his shoulder. Then, wrapping a cloth around his neck and reaching for his warhammer, the slayer ran into battle, determined to slay more of the abominations with his good arm. "EVAAAALLL!!!"

It didn't take long for Fjorxc and Rachal to realize they were out of their league.

"Dammit! I just pumped an entire clip into that thing and it's still coming!" cried Rachal as she along with Fjorxc backed away from an angry vampire peasant who was advancing on them as the wounds in his torso closed up.

"We need to immobilize this thing," grumbled Fjorxc as he lowered his Walther PPK. Unloading three rounds, then re-aiming and unloading three more did the trick. He had taken out the vampire's kneecaps. "Not so bad now, huh!" cried Fjorxc as he kicked the creature in the head. With cat-like reflexes the vampire caught the leg of Fjorxc's pants and dragged him down, going after his jugular. "AHHH!!!! OKAY! YOU BAD, YOU BAD! HELP!"

"Get off of him!" cried Rachal as she tried to reload the pistol Fjorxc had given her. Then, leaning over the creature and trying to pull it off of Fjorxc who was writhing frantically, Rachal's scapula medal dangled out of her shirt on a gold chain. The creature was turned instantly, which was a long enough pause for Lothos to show up and Death-Blossom the creature into oblivion.

"More fun than chocolate cake," smiled Lothos as he helped his friends up.

"Vampires piss me off," said Fjorxc as he gazed down into the clearing at the ensuing chaos. "Where's Gaval and Sofie?"

"They're down there," said Rachal as she wiped her brow and scanned the battleground. "Look at this. It's horrible. How can this kind of crap happen?"

"I'm used to it" responded the hairy Death Knight. "Hey Fjorxc, vamps are 5 points, he she-vamps are 10 points, and those nicely dressed vamps are 20 points. Okay?"

"Who gets the points for the one we just took out?" asked Fjorxc as they ran down into the fray.

"I'll rock paper scissors you for them!" said Lothos as they left Rachal's earshot.

"Great. Alone and no ammo in this living nightmare," said the med-student as she looked down at the dead vampire. Behind her a pair of eyes gleamed in the darkness.

-------

I was in heaven. While jumping in and out of groups of vampires, I was staking things left and right. A stake through the pancreas here, through the spleen there, through the kidneys here, through the heart there. No vital organ was safe for the area's undead. Cracking my whip and cutting the face of Vlad, I finally managed to get the creature's attention.

"No mortal touches Vlad, human." he said. "You shall be my desert after I finish off your girlfriend." As he gestured behind him I glanced over at one of the female slayers who had fallen to a vampire with a broken jaw. As she scrambled for one of the stakes tied to her belt, Vlad stepped in the way and impeded my view.

"Get out of my way, thing," I growled. I could feel my eyes pulsing as the Rush raged to an even more intense state.

"Make me," teased Vlad. The female slayer's hands were pinned behind her by the glass-jawed creature who was holding her down and watching Vlad. Vlad gestured towards me saying that he wanted me to attack him.

"You are the master vampire," I replied "If I slay you, the other undead creatures in your pack will be set free. Perhaps you SHOULD stay in my way, abomination." I grinned slyly as I advanced towards Vlad. The vampire's eyes widened as he realized his intimidation tactic had failed. All he could do was dodge my attacks and parry the series of blows that followed in rapid succession.

------

Kendall loved the embrace of the Rush. The blind youth could not only see when his power manifested. He could feel everything around him. The rank breath from the vampire pack, Karvalle's perfumed oil, the leather in GAVAL's jacket, the pollen in the trees; all of it was at his notice. Never had a human been so alert of his surroundings. Crawling between the legs of a vampire gypsy, the boy managed to stab the creature in the back with a silver dagger, distracting it enough for him to divert his attention to the vampire's brother who was jumping out of a tree to join the attack. The creature barely looked human as it had assumed a more wolf-like appearance to increase it's attack potential. It's frightening aura scared the boy enough to keep him still for an instant. That's the only instant the undead creature needed as he dug his claws into the boy's stomach.

Guhval didn't need a sword to deal with these creatures. He realized that as he picked up Instia the vampire and slammed her into a tree as hard as he could breaking her neck. "You just won't quit, will you?!" asked the enraged knight as he watched Insatia try to claw at him and regain her balance from the ground. "Out of my sight!" shouted the slayer as he picked up his sword and took Insatia's head, kicking it into the woods. "Are you okay Gamble?" asked the knight.

No answer would come. As Guhval looked across at his comrad, he saw Gamble's body broken over a stump, splinters poking through his skin and his pitchfork shoved into his neck.

"I don't know where you came from, but you can't be allowed to walk all over Abadon like this," said Atlas as he stepped out of the darkness. "Face me in combat or suffer the fate of your friend here, and let's hope that you can give me a better fight than this peasant did." The vampire Atlas drew his ax and moved towards Guhval gracefully and swiftly almost as if he were floating.

Guhval was no longer able to speak. He was rage. He was vengeance. He was pure unbridled slayer hatred.

------

I knew that hatred for a slayer was nothing like hatred for a Jedi, like on "Star Wars." Hatred might make a slayer a little more careless, but the anger it comes with makes them stronger. This was something vampires couldn't do. Vampires needed blood to make them stronger, or a thirst for blood that had gone deprived and made them frenzy. I knew as I faced Vlad, in a fight for the female slayer's life, that if I could stay angry enough, and that if the other slayers got angry enough, we might just have a chance to win this battle. But what would be the cost?

I must have thrown 20 blows Vlad's way as he blocked each one. I couldn't touch him. Damn, was he fast. I knew that if I didn't finish him soon, the other vampires would take me from behind. These slayers couldn't possibly be keeping all of these guys busy. I threw another set of blows, as many as I could before I had to catch my breath. Was it 20...30 blows? Some to the knees, some to the head, other's to the neck. I couldn't even draw blood. As I backed up to catch my breath, I saw Vlad flinch for the first time that night. He seemed relieved that I had backed off and rubbed his forearms.

Hell, if he was willing to show pain, I was too, as I massaged my shins. It reminded me of a Jackie Chan movie. I cracked my knuckles, assumed a fighting stance, and waved at Vlad to come at me again. His little break was over. He wasted no time and leapt at me. He freaking flew right into me. Too late to dodge, so I rolled with the blow. As I tried to breath and realized I couldn't, it was evident that he had knocked the wind out of me. It was over, I couldn't move. God help me, I couldn't move.....

------

Somehow amidst the chaos Karvalle found herself in an isolated part of the battleground licking her wounds. She had done well in the last few minutes, taking out five of her enemies with a combination of fire spells and holy wards, but her mana was gone now, and she was out of mana potions.

"Hello again, bitch." It was a woman's voice from within the shadows. Celes walked forward and bathed herself in the moonlight. "I've been waiting for the opportunity to strangle you with this all night." Removing the scarf that covered her forehead, an ugly scar in the shape of a crucafix emerged. "I know you're weak and can hardly defend yourself now. I also know that I can't have your blood. I know from watching exactly what you're capable of. Defend yourself."

Using the last of her magic, Karvalle healed her injuries and spun her Staff of Holy Bolt around in front of her. "Come on, ugly. You could use another tatoo on that backside of yours."

Crying out in anguish as the slayer's stubbornness Celes leapt across the clearing onto a tree and then rebounded back at Karvalle. The slayer plunged her staff into the vampire's stomach and poled her up and over herself, landing Celes on a pile of leaves. As she cursed herself for not having bought a staff with bladed ends, Karvalle pointed the stave at Celes and unleashed it's last two charges.

Celes got up in time to dodge the first holy bolt, but was struck with the second one as Karvalle anticipated her move. Shaken but not taken, Celes stood up slowly and took a deep breath as she faded into the darkness.

"Come back here!" shouted Karvalle as she looked around for her undead opponant. It was too late for Karvalle to notice the mist that had surrounded her neck as Celes rematerialzed with her hands around Karvalle's neck. The sorceress fell to her knees as her neck was crushed tighter and tighter by a scarf. She tried to remove Celes' hands as the two screamed in angst, but the vampire was too strong. As the two scarred women stared at each other contesting their brute strength a figure shot out of the woods and took Celes' legs right out from under her.

Licking her claws that had sunk deep into Celes' waist Sofielisk `tsk'ed at the vampire and purred out a hearty, "Thou art defeated." Celes glanced up for a second in disbelief and then passed out.

Catching her breath and rubbing her neck, Karvalle glanced over at the catalisk and wheezed out a "Thank you."

"T'was nothing. Since lackith we the means of disposing of an undead creature, let us drag ye undead back to thine friends so that we might slay it properly."

"I'm pretty sure I can keep her vampirism dormant magically until we get her back to the others," said Karvalle as the two dragged Celes body behind them.

------

Gavin, Buffal, and CABAL had caught up with each other and realized that the vampire's numbers were finally dwindling. Though battered and bruised, they were able to form a triangle of death for all of the vampires in the area, properly excorcising, beating, and smashing the evil out of the area.

"Saxal needs our help," said Buffal who had been trying to reach his friend all day.

"And Gabrina's down," voiced a concerned CABAL.

"Fear not, brother," consouled the monk Gavin. "Your sister is under the watchful eye of that OTHER slayer."

"Can we trust him?" asked the peasant, Buffal as he watched GAVAL get tackled by Vlad.

"YES," replied CABAL as he smashed the skull of a short nosferatu and winced at the pain in his arm. "He is....legitimate. I'm going to find my nephew. You two help Saxal and try to find Karvalle," said the blacksmith. "And be alert! I've seen at least two other strangers running around who weren't with the vampires but might be dangerous."

------

Guhval struggled to hold back the grief that was overwhelming him as he glanced once more at the body of Gamble. This wasn't supposed to happen. God was supposed to protect them.

Through the slayer-knight's helmet, Atlas could see two glowing magenta-colored eyes. They put out a light that emblazoned the vampire's armor and reflected off of the blade of his ax. "An easier target," thought the vampire to himself.

As blade met ax and sparks flew in such an abundance that the dry grass and trees of the area caught ablaze, the fight was on. The blows were thrown in series of threes as the two warriors felt each other's fighting style out, parrying with their weapons and dinging strikes off of each other's armor. Atlas sliced with his ax as Guhval ducked then uppercutted the vampire with a gauntlet fist. These two were not men of words. Both were dealing with inner demons. For Atlas it was the frustration of having to unquestionably be the pawn of a creature like Abadon. For Guhval, it was the inrivaled anger that came from seeing so many of his comerads fall to the hands of evil like this pack of vampires.

Faking out the slayer, Atlas acted as though he were going to kick Guhval, then swing the flat of his blade across the knight's helmet, knocking it off. The face of Atlas' enemy was that of sheer hatred. It reminded him of Abadon. If fueled his anger as he sliced down at Guhval's leg in attempts to sever it.

Guhval knew well that even plate armor could not stop a creature that strong. Digging his silver sword into the ground right in front of the wide ax blade, the slayer stopped the huge blade from taking his leg, but the cost was high. His sword, maleable as it was because of the silver in its alloy, had bent in towards Guhval's leg, almost crushing it instead of slicing it. Bent sword. Not good. Rolling out of the compromising position and leaping to his feet, Guhval took a last look at his sword. He knew that it would do him little good now, and threw it at Atlas, distracting the barbarian vampire enough to charge him with the speed the Rush had given him.

The two warriors smashed into a young tree, breaking it and sending it to splinters. As they got buried in its limbs, the two warriors cursed and swore at each other, separated and without weapons. Unable to find each other before a new enemy could find them, their battle was over for now.

------

As my head fell as I gasped for breath, my breadbasket constricting involuntarily, I knew that I was in big trouble. There wasn't an available friend in sight and Vlad knew it. He was ready to take my head with some sort of archane magic that he started to weave while I was heaving for breath. Vlad was standing on my whip that had fallen off of my belt when he jumped on me.

Since I couldn't breath, I just decided to pretend I was holding my breath, and with all the strength of the Rush I pulled on that whip as high as I could. It not only wrapped around his leg, but it took the limb right out from under Vlad. This gave me time to roll out and gasp for air a bit as I threw a stake or two in his general direction. I knew he was too quick to hit with them, but at least it allowed me to recover a bit and more importantly he lost his spell concentration. Vlad looked angry and drew his sword. "You ARE a formidable opponent for a mortal. Not the best I've ever seen," he taunted, "but decent."

I didn't need this. I didn't need for something already so vile and insulting to nature to be insulting the skills I had worked a life time to build. With a flick of my wrist I cracked the whip, aiming for his sword, sending two swift motions towards him. The first one was to get his attention, which it did. He immediately swung the sword around and cut off 2 feet at the end of the whip. What he didn't see what the second motion which looped around the hilt of his sword as I took a leap forward (finally catching my breath) to make up for the distance he had cut off of my whip. Giving the sword a quick yank I pulled at the weapon, hoping to disarm the vampire. Vlad was strong, however, and instead of taking the weapon, he held on and i actually pulled his entire body towards my. Ducking under the vampire, he flew over me and almost smashed into a tree, if it hadn't been for that thicket that stopped him.

Vlad got up, bleeding in about a hundred tiny cuts from the razor sharp brush, and tried to regain his composure. I knew that I had to stay in close quarters with him or he might cast some sort of spell that could end this fight in a hurry, so I stretched a length of whip before me and leapt at him, essentially cloths-lining the creature at the neck with a Rush driven dash of about 45 miles per hour. As we flew backwards into a tree I noticed that vampire still had his sword. With enough force to bring down the tree and any other limb unfortunate to get in its way, he swung at my head, cutting off the edge of the brim of my hat. Bastard.... No time to react, though...that sword was coming at me from every direction and I had nothing to parry with. I ducked, dodged, and leapt to the limit of my abilities trying to evade the frenzied beast.

Time to break out the secret weapon, I thought to myself, as I wielded the only weapon I still had on my person. A vibro-steel coated stake with catholic runes. As the thing hummed to life, I placed the palm of my right had at the base of the stake, holding it with my left, and continued to dodge Vlad's sword attacks. One of the sword strikes cut my left fore arm. "Time to end this," I murmured as I timed my blow to occur right between two of those sword strikes. The stake drove itself right into his 2nd and 3rd ribs, just missing the things heart. I had time to pound it with a gavel once as he recoiled in agony, but it wasn't enough to finish him. Vlad dropped his sword and sunk back into the shadows with my freaking stake! DAMMIT!

I turned to help the female slayer who had been pinned down, only to find her dusting herself off, a burning skeleton laying on the ground beside her with a burning stake protruding from it's ribcage.

"Nice timing, hero." She said sarcastically. As I walked over to introduce myself, I noticed her eyes...sure, they were a beautiful shade of green, but the important thing is that they weren't glowing. Neither were mine. That meant that all of the undead in this area had either fled or been vanquished. She seemed to know what I was thinking and ran off to see if her friends were ok.

-------

As Saxal, Buffal, and Gavin piled the bodies of the slain for burning and said prayers over them, Fjorxc and Lothos were explaining in their own way who they were. The slayers didn't seem too interested as they carried the body of their slain comerade Gamble. Shortly after, Karvalle and Sofielisk arrived with Celes' unconscious body in tow. Karvalle immediatly dropped Celes and ran to Gamble's body to see if she could do something for him. It was far too late. Guhval arrived just in time to see Karvalle burst into tears as she realized how close to death they had all come. Then came Gabrina and GAVAL. The first thing Gabrina asked upon seeing Gamble's broken body was, "Kendal! Has anyone seen Kendal?! Where is my son?!"

"It's okay," said the stranger GAVAL. He's a slayer, and he can hold his own. I'm sure he's fine.

"Help me..." came the reply, as CABAL approached from a distance, holding a body over his shoulder; the blacksmith's left arm hanging limp against his side.

Gabrina didn't have the courage to ask CABAL the burning question that was eating her inside. Gavin could see this, so he asked, "Is he..."

"He's gone," replied CABAL as he handed the body to Saxal, no longer strong enough to lay the boy to the ground. "Gone up to meet the Divinity in Heaven as he and all of us are promised for having allowed Azrealla to change us into what we are. Listen, I know you're all hurt and grief-striken by what we've been through, but we have got to keep our heads. There could be more of these abominations lurking about. We allowed ourselves to be the victims of an ambush but I assure you all, this isn't over yet. "

"You're right," came a voice from the night in seemingly every direction. "I watched you all as you cut my vampires down. I know now where you get your power."

Abadon stepped out of the woods. "...and I've taken measure to assure that no undead creature is anywhere near this vicinity anymore. You've been cut off. Your powers are useless here now, and your god cannot help you. You've been a thorn in my side for long enough, I think. It's time someone showed you the true nature of your mortality."

At that moment, dozens of living, breathing demons began lurking out of the woods. Their repulsive odor overcoming even the acrid stench of the fallen vampires in the area. Ygdrassill, the winged demon, took his place near his master.

"EVAAAAL!" cried GAVAL as he drew his whip and backed away.

"Yes, evil... " said Abadon, "But not the kind of evil that makes you slayers so strong." Abadon glanced over at CABAL who was drawing his war hammer. "You are nothing but a man, now. I shall tell my minions to be merciful in their attacks if you return to me Exile and Celes. They are valuable...employees."

"Why should we?" replied CABAL. "Why don't we just see how this last battle turns out. I'm ready for my shot at you, you filthy yellow cur."

"Why?" said LAVAG as he walked onto the scene carrying Rachal, tied and gagged, over his shoulder. "Why don't you ask your friend here?"

"YOU!" shouted Lothos.

"Rachal!" cried Sofielisk.

"You're the one who told Abadon our weakness!" cried GAVAL. "EVAAALLL! AAHHHH!!!!!" screamed GAVAL as he ran around in circles throwing his arms up in the air.

"Brilliant deductive work, GAVAL," murmered LAVAG as he rudely dropped Rachal to the ground and pointed a pistol to her head. "I've asked them to save you for me. I would have....words...with you."

"But first," smirked Abadon as he began backing out of the front lines of the battle about to happen, "You get to watch my little friends here make short work of the Divinity's great slayers. I'd like to say it's been nice knowing you mortals...but it hasn't!" The Lord of Hate cackled wickedly as he motioned for his "friends" to carry out their mission.

" `Mwa-ha-ha,' indeed." Said Fjorxc as he checked his clip and popped it into the handle of his pistol. "Evil's the same no matter where we go."

CABAL glanced desperately at Karvalle as he backed up. "Can you drop the spell you put on Celes to negate her vampirism? We could really use a vampire about now!"

"The spell lasts for several hours," sighed Karvalle as she wiped a bloodshot blue eye with her robe sleeve. "Non-negatable."

Guhval and Karvalle looked at each other and then at the approaching demons and prepared to die