The ‘season finale’ of Two Hunters. At 2,800 words it’s long, sure, but it’s action packed and worth the read. I promise.
Warning: Some violent content, bu that should be expected.
Two Hunters Part 14, Resolution
They will all burn.
Nell’s boot crunched against the remnants of door man. What didn’t turn to ash had been left brittle and hollow. At certain temperatures, marrow betrayed the body. White hot flame relished using it as fuel, burning from the outside and within.
The smell of burning flesh had always disturbed Nell. No matter how inhuman a vampire may seem, they are simple advanced forms of human. Twisted by the dark necromantic arts into something more. But they still burned.
She twisted her foot against the ash, grinding the remnants of a femur to dust.
These monsters sought to feed on me, endlessly. They will all burn.
Nell strode deeper into the nest. This one had been three times as large as the first, likely a converted slaver’s den. Two came at her with blades at the ready, eyes filled with rage and bloodlust on their lips. No matter how thick the scent of burning flesh, the scent of Ambrosia had been stronger.
She raised her hands, sending out twin torrents of flame. The two vampires ignited like kindling, burning the instant the flame drew close. When it made contact, it tore their head and shoulders from them, and decorated the wall behind with a smear of ash.
Their remains continued their advance, but without the control of an intact brain, their swords swings fell wide and clattered against the stone floor. No blood spilt thanks to efficient cauterization. If they had felt anything, it had been regret for being stupid enough to attack.
Nell’s archwand sat against her back, lashed to a simple rope belt. She would not raise it against any of the minions. She had something special in mind for Helos.
Five steps past the remains of her welcoming committee, a another vampire leapt to catch her back. The attack had been brilliant. He waited under the guise of shadow and pounced with precision. His teeth sank into the back of her throat, drawing blood. His hands clung at her shoulders to pull her to her knees. He let out a victorious roar as he took his prize.
The venom of a vampire offered no risk of turning her, but she would still be susceptible to it’s paralysis. His jaw clenched against her and worked to push her forward, but hesitated for a brief moment.
Nell found strength in her legs, and stood. The vampire’s jaw gaped and relaxed against her back. Light poured from his eye sockets as flame began to cook him from the inside. She shoved him away, a trail of crimson trickling from his stained fangs, and ignited into a glorious blast.
A spray of ash pushed against her back, and did nothing but make it easier to stand.
They will all burn.
Nell raised a hand to her neck, calling forth flame and searing the wound against immense pain. Scar tissue manifested quickly leaving a ugly black streak amongst her array of previous wounds.
She closed her eyes, and considered her state of health. Trace amounts of blood lost. I can finish this.
Nell raised her hands and began to chant. A concentrated ball of flame appeared before her: Wisp’s kin. They would need to be her caution while she carried none.
In the middle of her chant three more vampires appeared in the hall and let out roars of defiance. In their moment of warning, Nell’s first Wisp charged and burst into a nova of heat. It lacked the intensity of her own, crafted spells, but it served to wreath horrified vampire in flames.
They struggled to manifest shadow to save themselves, to extinguish or run.
A second kin appeared, diving at the ignited vampires and shredding the flesh of a tender arm. The one at front lost the battle with the flame and it took their skull, burning through and leaving it to ruin. The vampire at the rear had managed a tactical retreat, but failed to prevent the flame from reaching their heart. The wisest of the three, struggled to contain the damage with limited success, and pushed away the flame in vital areas.
The third kin saw to the vanity of his actions, tearing through his skull like paper. With the three vampires dead, a fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh kin appeared and returned to Nell’s side, burning hot with a tempered blue hue.
The strain of seven maintained familiars, and the eighth watching over Culvir tugged at her. But the strain did not matter. What mattered, was Helos’ painful death.
“Go.” Nell raised a hand. Five of the flames flew down corridors seeking to end undeath’s taint. Without direct guidance they would likely do little more than irritate a skilled vampire, but all she needed was time.
The two kin left behind circled around her. One set to draw towards shadow and obliterate it, the other would serve support to mirror any of her active spells. Any vampire foolish enough to prioritize her capture would pay for his ill gotten life.
Two humans rushed her, wielding shovels. Entranced by the vampire, they had been innocent. But they were also in her way.
Nell focused, drawing a simple arcane pattern in the air. Two balls of flame launched at her assailants, catching them in their faces and burst. Their clothing, hair, and top layer of their skin decimated from the shoulder up.
Shill cries of pain filled the cramped halls as Nell maintained her momentum. The two unfortunate souls writhed, as their sanity returned with the pain of fire.
“That was your warning.” Nell pulled her archwand from her back and stepped into an open room. She raised a bare hand and began to chant, four vampires charged, three with blades readied and a fourth chanting a spell of shadow.
A meteor of flame erupted above the spell caster, smashing them into the ground before throbbing with treat. A second meteor slammed into their front ranks, killing one and wounding the other two. The first meteor burst, filling the room with light, and igniting the second. A wave of magma splashed past Nell parting to prevent her harm.
Flame is my trusted friend, never would it betray me.
Ten, then twenty figures stood on either side of her. Human or vampire, she could not be sure, but they had been sufficiently blocked. There would be no distractions regarding her vengeance. Helos would die by her flames. What happened after that, didn’t matter.
Two figures stood ahead. She recognized them, expected them. Sonnie had made good on his end of the bargain. The layout had been just as he said.
“Nell. Change of plans.” Sonnie said, wagging a finger.
“What?” Nell hissed.
“This isn’t happening. We’re getting the hell out of here.” Sonnie jabbed a thumb at Jamgled. “We’ll explain when we get out of here.”
“Where is he?” Nell said, her tone icy. A distant explosion rocked the halls. One of her kin had been lost.
“It can’t be helped.” Jamgled frowned. “Helos is outta our league. We need to clean up here and get out.”
“He’s ahead then.” Nell narrowed her eyes. “That’s what you’re saying? Then run. I’ll finish this where you would not.”
“Listen to me.” Sonnie raised a hand to point at her. “You’re leaving or Culvir dies.”
“Then kill him. That would be on you. Then when I’m done with Helos. I’ll come for you.” Nell said, one of her kin danced in front of her, ready to burst.
“Fine. It was a bluff but…” Sonnie backed down, raising his arms. “…you need to know why–”
“Helos is a Lich.” Nell said, shaking her head. “I know. And I’m well aware I can’t kill him.”
“Then why the hell aren’t you listening?” Jamgled raised her swords against two vampires as they broke through the wall of flame. Her fist swing cleaved into a skull, the second a heart. A practiced twist, freeing her weapons, and Jamgled turned her attention back to Nell.
“I can seal him,” Nell said, “I’ll die in the mean time but–”
“You’ll do no such thing.” Culvir stepped into the hall, his dagger Silverdark coated in blood.
“What are you doing here?” Nell tensed.
“Ignoring your ‘orders’. Last time I checked. I still out rank you.” Culvir smirked.
“Finally. Maybe you can talk some sense–”
“No can do. We’re killing us a Lich.” Culvir wagged a finger. “Risky endeavor, but we have all the cards. You mind helping us take out the trash first?”
“If I must.” Nell closed her eyes and sat placing her archwand across her lap. “I’ll need some cover.”
“I can handle that.” Sonnie raised his fists.
“Now you’re talking my language!” Jamgled flicked her swords free of blood.
Sonnie, Jamgled and Culvir stood around Nell, acting as living Bastions against the vampiric onslaught as the carnage of her meteors dimmed. The two remaining swirled about her gathering latent energies from nearby flames.
The first to approach charged at Sonnie, mistaking him for a common practitioner of the light. Healing had never been his forte. Instead, it had been the acute delegation of pain. The vampire’s strike, a clumsy swing of a short sword met a light infused fist, flinging the blade away like dull cutlery. Sonnie’s momentum undaunted, his strike splintered back the vampire’s hand unnaturally.
Bones snapped like try twigs and their own fingers folded back and added impromptu spikes to his punch. The vampire fell to shock as their own fingers lodged into the flesh of their face. A flash of light erupted and they were flung against the wall, being systematically grinded against the wall by a wave of kinetic force.
Jamgled’s blades drank the blood of living and dead like. Two thugs entranced by the vampire’s spell took slashes to the shoulder, falling victim to the venom laced blades. The vampires took their doses in their eye-sockets.
Despite being slowed from his wounds, Culvir’s motions were deadly accurate. No excess motion, only swift and efficient kills. His attack of choice involved the intimate introduction of Silver Dark to the throat. But after each kill, his eyes fell back to Nell, ensuring not even a drop of blood touched her.
“It’s done.” Nell stood and opened her eyes. She turned on her heels and started down the hall towards Helos.
The ground shook beneath them, and the two kin of Wisp settled between her protectors. They closed together, forming a line before the doorway. Flame erupted as a great cage. In front of them.
“Ah… so? This is safe right?” Jamgled twirled her swords.
“For you, yes.” Nell sighed. “There probably won’t be any survivors though.”
The cage of flame erupted and an array of flames burst forth. The air thinned as oxygen fed the flames aggressively. Her three protectors coughed gently against the change in atmosphere. Nell held a hand in front of her face, reserving just enough for what needed to be done.
A second torrent of flame erupted between them. Tearing down stone and wood from above.
“Nell? Damn it! Don’t do this!” Culvir struggled to maintain consciousness.
“Ha… well played…” Sonnie smirked, then fell face first onto the rubble, unconscious.
Jamgled winced against the haze of flame drawing in a slow deliberate breath. The last thing Nell saw, a simple nod between Culvir and Jamgled.
I don’t have much time before they ruin everything.
Nell pushed into the hall, struggling against the stale air.
I just need to end this. My life to end the threat of a Lich… that’s a fair trade. I…
Her mind throbbed, doubt poured into her thoughts.
What if I’m not strong enough… what if I only waste my life… what if my fail-safe just kills them….? What if you killed those innocent people, controlled by vampires. Failure. Murderer.
Nell raised a hand to her head. Sonnie’s enchantment, whatever he claimed to do to fix her doubts, left her. Her hesitation crept about and threatened to crush her from the inside. She fell to her knees as Helos stepped into view. The bottom of his jaw, gone. A tear through his body exposing the spectral composition of a High Lich.
I can’t do this. This is how I die…
Helos approached, hand extended. The touch of a lich could be fatal. Their manner of feasting transcended her meager resistances as Ambrosia.
A familiar blade punched through his flesh, and Helos roared in pain. Black ooze ran from his hand, real pain twisted the intact portion of his flesh.
“Vampire Lord? Lich? Doesn’t really matter much if you’re appropriately equipped.” Culvir’s voice punched through the fog of her thoughts. His dagger yanked away taking black blood and tattered fragments of his corporeal being.”
Culvir twirled his dagger in one hand. He wore a new pair of Sunglasses she didn’t recognize.
“Fool me once Nell, shame on you. Fool me twice? I don’t think so.” Culvir smirked and tossed her a flask.
“What’s…” She shook it.
“Vintage. Three Hundred Year . ” Culvir wagged a finger.
“The good shit.” Jamgled stepped behind him. “Liquid courage.”
“We can drink the rest when we celebrate the victory.” Culvir charged forward, pushing past Nell and driving his dagger towards Helos.
“Amusing.” Helos chuckled, parrying Culvir’s strikes with shadow. “You fight even knowing my invincibility?”
“Oh I know all too well I can’t finish you off here. But I’m gonna enjoy killing you at least once.”
“Not if I don’t beat you to it!” Jamgled swung at Helos’ back. The Lich caught the strike as it pierced the first inch of his being.
“I had almost forgotten what pain felt like.” Helos shook his head, the wispy form of his skeletal image wavered.
Nell stood, drained the flask in one pull and tossed it aside. The alcohol plunged into her thoughts and stabilized her doubts. Clarity had been reclaimed. She raised her archwand and began to chant.
“This is why we let you live you know… you never cease to amaze.” Helos tensed, dark energy flared about him forcing Culvir and Jamgled to retreat. Culvir winced in pain, letting his dagger rest on the ground for a time. The thin air began to take its toll.
“I really hate it when they gloat.” Jamgled coughed.
Culvir nodded in agreement.
“It’s a shame. You would have served us well. I will mourn your loss.” Helos shrugged raising a hand towards Culvir. “Unless you changed your mind of joining us?”
“What do you think?” Culvir smirked.
“Goodbye. Mr. Silverdark. It has been a pleasu–” A wave of flame erupted about Helos, forming a stark contrast of his skeletal form. He looked over at Nell, confused. “Why would you do that? Your flame cannot hurt me.”
“I know you can feel it though.” Nell said, teetering at the edge of consciousness, one eyes closed. “I poured my all into that one.”
“Why?” Helos chuckled.
“I promised myself… you’d burn.”
Culvir charged forward plunging his dagger into Helos’ stomach. He Looked down, befuddled, the act stuck him as so harmless it had been laughable. In that moment, the flames condensed into Silverdark, infusing the blade with every ounce of her flames rage.
The dagger’s worth had been simple. The blade manifested mortal pain upon the undead. That much pain, that much heat focused into one point… could bring even a Lich to his knees. Helos screamed in agony. His skeletal form burst at its center, and his grip on his being evaporated.
This terror of death abolished his ‘life’ as his Lich form, forcing him to retreat to the source of his soul. Wherever that may be.
Nell fell forward, spent, the day had been won, for a cost.
Her body stopped. Jamgled held her up by the shoulder. Her vision blurred and she could feel herself slipping into real slumber.
How long has it been since I slept?
Nell sat in a room, surrounded by white. She had pushed too hard. Being an Ambrosia granted protection, even power, but if she ever truly slept. She risked slipping into death. She had to settle for restless dream filled sleep that kept her mind alert, or she risked ceasing to be.
Now. She had made that error. For what? Revenge? Rubbing salt in a wound? Was that worth dying for?
Nothing surrounded her. She floated in absent space. Serenity. Rest. Heaven. Hell. It didn’t matter.
A hand touched her shoulder, familiar yet foreign. A single squeeze motivated her to look in a place where there should be nothing. Instead, Culvir sat and watched with a scowl.
“You’re not allowed to die. Not until you apologize,” he said.
“Apologize? For what?” Nell said, her mind struggling against the haze of confusion.
“Pretending to break my heart.” Culvir’s hard expression turned to a smile.
Nell slept. For the first time, in a long time.