207Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡxqO1O82IGE
Though the inhabitants of the village seemed to be going about their lives as normal, it was rather plain to anyone who bothered looking closely enough that the facade of normality was more than merely forced in the constant darting of their eyes to the sky to check the position of the sun and the quickening of their footsteps which increased in tempo the further the day fell to a fiery death. They were so preoccupied with the matter of impending darkness that no one seemed to notice the presence of the stranger amongst them aside the massive horse but it wasn’t all that long before a boy who appeared around the age of 12 ran out in front of him to, forcing him to stop or risk running him over.
The glaring child pointed accusingly up at him before yelling “It’s him! It’s him! The monster in the forest isn’t waiting for night anymore!”
Immediately all eyes turned to him, the flinty stone skin on unfriendliness doing well to hide the fear in their depths as the men reached for whatever weapon might be nearest them and the woman pulled their children in close. Beginning to feel almost threatened, Eros quickly raised his hands in a placating gesture.
“I am a Vampire Hunter, not a Vampire! I’ve heard the plight of your village and have come from quite far to speak to your leader.”
“If you were just a human, like us, there’s no way you would have been able to get over those rocks! Not with a horse!” Someone else yelled from the angry, rapidly growing crowd.
“I didn’t go over them, I moved them. A fairly trivial thing to do when one has the Rune of Earth at their disposal. Now,” a tone of unquestioning command had bled into his voice, one that was usually reserved for the direction of his soldiers on the field of battle, “take me to the leader of your village before nightfall, unless you’d rather that thing be allowed to continue running rampant through your streets.”
Low muttering passed through the crowd like wind through a copse of trees before it parted to allow him through. After casting aside the pitchfork that he’d grabbed one of the men lead him to a house towards the middle of the village and left him standing on the stoop.
His knock on the door was answered by an aged woman in a dull cotton dress, who stared at him for a few moments through squinted cataracted eyes before stepping back to allow him through the door.
“How can we help you, and just who are you?”
“I am the AshHand, and I’ve come to assist your village in dealing with the problem which has taken up residence in the nearby forest.” He informed her politely. “If I might ask your husband,” at least, that’s who he assumed the leader of the village was, “a few questions?” the way that the old woman seemed to smile down at him despite his dwarfing her by at least a foot made him think he’d gotten something wrong over the course of making such assumptions.
“Follow me.” She led him down a nearby hallway to a closed door. “He’s in here; be sure to knock before you enter.”
Eros nodded as she walked away before turning to the door and knocking.
“Come in, Slayer Lord.” The voice was stronger than he’d expected it to be and when he pushed the door open he quickly found out why. Sitting behind the desk was a young man who looked barely out of his teens. “Before you ask how I knew who you were I’ll tell you that I overheard; the walls are fairly thin.” Setting down his quill, he looked up at him with the slightest of smirks. “What’s with the face?”
Face? He quickly schooled his expression back into the neutral mask he reserved for when he was on the job. “I’m just a bit surprised. I’d thought you would be...older.”
“I have the feeling that we’ve both heard that one a good number more times than we would like to.” The other replied almost dryly. “My father died suddenly last fall, and I took his place. Forgive my rudeness, but what are you doing here? How did you even get here?”
Biting back a smart comment about riding a horse, Eros leaned back against the closed door and crossed his arms over his chest. “I’d just finished a hunt in the Eastern Carpathians and was leaving the village of Bielnja when I ran into a young woman who had smuggled herself away on a hay-cart,” he explained calmly. “Once she learned of who I was she explained your village’s plight and begged me to help you. From there, I took the road.”
“We don’t have the money to hire you, and even desperate as we admittedly are there’s not the slightest chance in the nine hells that we’d be able to raise it as the charges imposed by your ‘benevolent’ organization are ludicrous!”
“I didn’t plan on charging you.”
“Then there’s something else that you want here. What is it?”
The youth behind the desk sneered at him now. “Those like you always want something! There’s always an ulterior motive to be had, be you speaking of the soldiers of any king under the sun, your Order, or even the pious and all-mighty saving grace of the church! So I’ll ask you again, what is it that you want here Slayer?”
Eros’ brown eyes narrowed to cutting blades but the other man held his gaze unflinchingly. “If you must know, all that I want here is a declaration of war.”
If anything this answer seemed to off-balance his verbal opponent, and the warrior took great pleasure in watching him momentarily scramble in surprize but his recovery was disappointingly swift. “A declaration of war? Against who, the Vampires? I think that those blood-sucking Demons are already well aware of your Order’s ‘war’ against them!”
“They are, yes, but this is intended to make things personal. It’s high impact. Something which, I feel sure, will drive the Dark Mother out of hiding and onto the field of battle so that I might slay her and end this battle once and for all.”
“And just what makes this any different that your other battles? Any of the other Vampires that you’ve killed?”
“Because, if I am correct in my assumptions, the Demon plaguing your village isn’t just any Vampire but Lilith’s first-born son.” It came out as a low growl and this time the still seated man cowered. “After this, both the ‘Dark Lady’ and her six remaining children will tremble at the mere mention of my name! Now,” the step forward he took was punctuated by the shard sound of the metal heel colliding with the floorboards, “I know that he was watching me out on the path and that he’ll come looking for me tonight. So I’m going to need a room in your inn.”