I shot Christian a look. “He’s talking to you,” I told him.

He spoke at the same time, smirking, “He’s talking to you.” Christian stifled a laugh. “Jinx,” he said, under his breath, just like a ten year old. I turned my attention back to the strange man as he continued, as though we hadn’t rudely interrupted him.

“And I’ve seen that you have a particular talent for finding and killing things, but you might want to let me take point for this next bit.” He tipped an imaginary hat at us. “Corbin, vampire hunter, at your service.”

“Fuck,” I said succinctly.

“Shit on bloody shingles,” Christian swore.

We weren’t the only ones cursing. Soft and not so soft cursing could be heard from our strange little crew for several moments while we processed the information. If a vampire hunter wanted to take point, that could only mean one thing. He sensed vampires. I hated vampires. Everyone did. Everybody hated necros, too, but necros were easy, clean kills, for the most part. Vampire kills were never easy, and never clean. They rested in nests, and swarmed like insects the second any of the others in their Kiss were threatened. If it was a small Kiss, and you had a hunter with you, it was still usually a messy business, but larger groups of them just sucked, no matter how you planned it. Yes, I used the word sucked to describe vampires. So?

What was almost worse than the messy kills was the fact that you couldn’t just kill them on sight, like necros. The damned fair-minded druids, always wanting to give everyone a shot before they named them rogue, actually required the hunters to have a warrant that justified killing any of the monsters. Innocent until proven guilty, blah, blah, blah. Of course, that meant that humans died, usually a lot of them, before a vampire got the stake it deserved.

Vampires were a lot like witch-hags, in my mind, when it came to going rogue. It was always only a matter of time.

Corbin ignored all of the cursing, used to it, I was sure. He spoke into the tiny radio clipped to his chest. The radios had been issued to all of us, back at the meet-up point. They’d been silent since before the battle started, which was a good sign. You only used the radio during a fight like this when the shit hit the fan.

“We’ve got a vampire Kiss. Need permission to take it out.”

The response was quick and succinct. “You are cleared to take out any damned thing you find in there.”

Corbin’s eyebrows shot up into his messy bangs. “Is it my birthday or something?” he asked the crowd at large.

Christian shot me a smirk. “I like this one. He speaks our language.”

I had to agree. “He does seem like our kind of people.”

Corbin heard us. “Now, now, I’m not pretty enough for all that, but I’ll do my best to keep up.”

I smiled at him. He was quickly growing on me. “Give us the head count, and the plan, Mr. Personality.”

He sighed, growing slightly more serious and less sarcastic. “It’s not good.” He pointed to one of the larger buildings. It looked like a large house with a lot of windows. It was very out of place in the spartan compound. “They’re all in there. And there are too many of them for me to place.”

Another round of quiet cursing rocked the crowd. He waited patiently before continuing. “I would say we need backup, but I’m pretty sure that most of them are newborns, because every single one of the bastards is sleeping. And here’s the kicker.”

He paused for a dramatic moment, smiling a very grim smile. I knew he was good at his job, just by that smile. You earned a smile like that. It was a little scary. We were right about him. He was our kind of people.

“The Master is sleeping. I don’t understand it, given that it’s the middle of the night, but he is definitely dead asleep at the moment. That leaves us with two very unpleasant choices. We can try to stealth in there, quick and quiet, and take the master before slaughtering his flock. If they’re newborns, as I suspect, they’ll go down real easy, with their master dead. That’s option A.”

He let us process that, studying the crowd intently. “Option B is an almost guaranteed bloodbath, but with more favorable numbers for us. We risk losing our advantage to wait for some heavy druid backup, which will take god only knows how long. I’ll put it up for vote, but I’ll tell you now, I strongly favor option A, though I’ll need a few bloodthirsty volunteers for that one.” He looked at Christian and I as he said this. I wasn’t surprised that he’d meant us. We were more experienced, by far, than the rest of our little company.

“A sleeping Master is the best-case scenario when it comes to killing vamps, I can attest, but let’s vote on it. Raise your hand for option A.”

All but one raised their hand. The one was me. Ah, hell, I raised mine, too. Everyone looked at us as they voted, knowing that they were all as good as volunteering us. I sighed. I supposed I’d rather go get messy than watch the rest of them get sucked dry in a bloodbath later. Most of them were just humans, really, with a little supernatural talent thrown in. Christian and I were, at least, born pure Other, and hard as all hell to kill. Vampire hunters were born Other, as well, with blood no more human than Christian’s, and would be just as hard to take out.

“We’ll do it,” Christian told Corbin, without consulting me. He sounded way too chipper about it, too. I liked a good fight as much as he did, but hated messes more. Christian didn’t mind the messy so much. It had been awhile, but I could remember clearly the last time we’d gotten mixed up with vampires, and I sure as hell didn’t want a repeat performance. Of course, we hadn’t had a vampire hunter with us that time. It had just been Christian and I with some unfortunate humans, in the wrong place at the wrong time. We’d emerged from battle victorious, but we’d been bitten and stabbed and none of the humans had survived it, despite our best efforts, and that had been a small Kiss of the blood-suckers. The memory still pissed me off royally.

I sighed. There was really nothing else to be done. At least we wouldn’t be trying futilely to protect mortals, this time. I hoped. “Yeah, we will,” I finally agreed. “Let’s get to it, then. What’s the plan?”

Corbin gave me an almost fond smile. “You’re not at all what I expected. Guess I should know better than to listen to the rumors.”

That soured my mood. Of course he’d heard of me. I shouldn’t have been surprised, but the reminder of my spotty reputation was, as always, a mood killer.


Tags: R.K. Lilley Heretic Daughters Vampires
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