[In which werewolf does battle with vampire!!!]
My intent had been to destroy myself, or to see myself destroyed, and in that I failed. I still lived the following morning, though the beast had been sore tested.
A group of Marmorcan soldiers had escorted me to the sacrificial site, the shrine of the vrykolakas, several miles removed from the village, located deep in a thicket. A square box fashioned of cut stone with one rectangular opening—it had no door—it could have held no more than four or five men at one time. Inside, sitting in the middle of the room on the smooth dirt floor, a crude bench offered the only place of rest for the prospective victim. A little pole, a smaller version of the post to which I had been collared, rose from the center of the floor, and to this had been affixed a thick metallic ring. I could well imagine the terror of all the young women who had been brought here, chained to that ring and left, all alone, to await their deaths.
If I had my way, no more innocent victims would die.
The setting sun, unseen, cast a bloody illumination through the forest, the final light of the day scattered by the twisting boles of the trees, darkness drawing near.
“Chain me,” I told the men. “If the vrykolakas comes tonight…”
“It will come,” one of the men answered. “It is never far away. It can smell fresh blood.”
I could smell it too. Blood, though not fresh. The tiny crypt stank of it, blood and decay, a place of death if ever I had seen one. I thought of the abandoned temple of Lycanon, high atop its mountain in Arcadia, where primitive men had offered up their own blood sacrifices to ancient and cruel gods. Now in ruins, Lycanon’s temple had been far grander, far larger than this squat little building. Though I had never seen it with my own eyes, had never dared climb to that haunted peak, I had heard stories. It was said that no man cast a shadow there on that unhallowed spot. I could well believe it. The shadow, the reflection of a man’s soul, swallowed up by the malignancy in the soil, in the very air.
The shrine to the vrykolakas carried the same taint. Though the woods in all their fecundity grew to within a few feet of the structure—tall trees with their heads high above; younger ones on their skinny trunks; curling, crawling vines; moss on the exposed rocks and the bark of the old trees, alive and green; thorny, leafy undergrowth—nothing grew upon the shrine itself, or on the black dirt surrounding it. The buzzing gnats in the air, I noticed, avoided it as well.
“If you can do this thing,” one of my escorts said, “you will be counted a hero to our people. Your place among us will be assured.”
“I am no one’s hero,” I said. “Now chain me up.”
I went inside and sat down on the little bench. The Marmorcan soldiers fastened a shackle to my ankle. This they did at my instruction. I knew, should the transformation come upon me before the vrykolakas found me, there would be nothing to keep me, in my beast form, from simply leaving. I did not know if the chain would hold the beast. I hoped it would hold it for long enough.
Should the chain handicap me in the coming struggle—and that there would a struggle ensue I had no doubt, should the vampire and the Doghead encounter one another, for it is a peculiarity of the creatures spawned of darkness that they cannot get along. I and I alone had managed to get the Dogheads of my village to cooperate, and this I had accomplished one time out of hundreds, thousands of nights. At all other times were we snarling and snapping at one another, fighting outright on occasion. We creatures of Lucifer’s thrall are all too consumed with aggression to coexist in peace. Also, the vrykolakas would be expecting a nubile female victim and would of a surety be disappointed, and cross because of it, whereas I, the beast, would be enraged at being chained.
And should that chain handicap me in the coming fight, I did not care. I wanted to die, you must remember.
I sat there in the crypt as darkness filled it. I waited. I could do nothing else.
The vampire came before the change had overtaken me.