Seth and Aksel, Vampire Hunters?
Last month's excerpt from Heroes Book 5 followed the dymanic duo of Lady Andrella and Kalyn Rahn as they searched Ravenford for signs of vampires. As promised, this month we will continue the search from Seth and Aksel's perspective.
To briefly recap, Raina, the young druid from Bendenwood, showed up unexpectedly in Ravenford. She proceeded to tell a chilling tale of an undead outbreak in the nearby town of Twin Oaks. Though quelled, many folks died, and some vampires escaped. Raina tracked one of them to Ravenford, but lost the trail just outside of town. After a short deliberation, it was decided that they break up into two groups - one to sweep the town on the north side of the river, and the other on the south.
Raina led a party with Andrella, Kalyn, and Captain Gelpas through the south side of town. The druid swiftly picked up a trail that led to Falcon's Tavern on the water. There they made a chilling discovery - a coffin in the basement burst from the inside. To make matters worse, the coffin had been sitting there for nearly two weeks. The only logical conclusion was that another vampire had infiltrated the town. That meant the undead creature had a fortnight to kidnap townsfolk and either feast on them or turn them.
Meanwhile, Aksel and Seth swept the north side of town with Martan, Lieutenant Relkin, and the guard, Francis, in tow. At first they found nothing, but after a false alarm, Aksel sensed a faint trail that led across the river and up the hill in the direction of the temple. Let's join the intrepid duo now, in this month's blog entry, Seth and Aksel, Vampire Hunters!
Aksel led them down to the Raven River then west along the bank. They soon reached the east bridge. The little cleric continued to follow whatever trail he sensed up and over the bridge, then into the fields and up the hill on the other side.
Seth’s eyes narrowed as Aksel headed straight for the abbey at the top of the hill. “Knew it.”
“Knew what?” Relkin whispered.
Seth swiftly explained his suspicions about the Abbot. He repeated what Almax had told Donnie about Qualtan messing with the dark arts. He added how the Abbot was sequestered when Raina came looking for him.
Relkin’s expression hardened. “Well then, we will demand to see him on Lady Gracelynn’s authority.”
Yet Aksel held up a hand before they could enter the building. “Better safe than sorry.”
The little cleric weaved his hands in a familiar pattern, ending his spell with four words. “Magicae Circuli Contra Malum.”
The moment the magic released, a white circle engulfed all of them. Though the circle swiftly faded, Seth could still feel the magic radiating outward from where Aksel stood.
Aksel motioned them forward. “All right, that should keep us safe from any negative influences for a while.”
Relkin took the lead as they entered the abbey. A wizened old gentleman in white robes came through a side door to greet them. “May I be of assistance?”
Lieutenant Relkin halted in front of the old cleric. “We’re here to see the Abbot, Huorgan. Can you please notify him the Baroness wishes to speak with him?”
Huorgan’s expression grew anxious. He wrung his hands together as he replied. “Oh, I’m afraid that is out of the question. The Abbot is in a state of deep prayer. He cannot be disturbed at this time.”
Seth’s mouth twisted sideways. “Sure he is—just when the town is going to hell around him.”
The old cleric cast an eye at the halfling. “And just what do you mean by that, young man?”
Relkin grasped Huorgan firmly by the shoulders. “What he means is that the town is facing a dire emergency—one that only the most experienced of the clergy can help us with.”
The old man winced under Relkin’s firm grasp. The Lieutenant’s expression abruptly softened, and he let him go. “Forgive me, father, but it really is urgent.”
Huorgan brushed himself off, then nodded, his expression serene once more. “I understand, my son. Yet I cannot disturb the Abbot. You will need to do that yourself.”
The wizened gentlemen led them through an archway at the back of the foyer and into a long hall. Numerous doors lined the hallway. The old cleric pointed to the one at the very end. “That is the Abbot’s room. I suggest you knock before entering.”
With that, the old man left them alone. Relkin led the way down the hall.
Seth noted that Aksel remained firmly in the middle of the group. Seth could still feel the magic radiating off his friend. He silently hoped it would be enough if they came across any vampires.
Relkin stopped in front of Qualtan’s door and knocked. There was no answer. After a few moments, he called inside. “Abbot Qualtan?” There was still no answer. “Abbot Qualtan? The Baroness wishes to see you.”
The silence continued beyond the door. Relkin tried the handle, but it was locked.
“Maybe he’s not in there?” Francis offered.
“One way to find out.” Seth stepped forward, lock pick already in hand. A simple pin and tumbler mechanism, he had it unlocked in under ten seconds.
“Child’s play,” he murmured to himself.
A sudden crash came from beyond the door. It was followed by a guttural curse.
“Well that doesn’t sound very holy,” Seth noted wryly.
Relkin and Francis drew their swords, as Seth pushed the door open. The room beyond was dim, the last vestiges of the fading sunlight barely illuminating it. There was a single bed against one wall, a table with a single chair, and a desk opposite it. A tall bookshelf lay empty, its contents scattered across the floor.
Something stirred under the pile of books. Seth’s eyes went wide as a small creature emerged from beneath the mound. It had red-scales, tiny horns, small wings, and a long barbed-end tail. The creature turned toward them with a wicked grin.
“What is that thing?” Francis asked, his voice filled with trepidation.
Aksel’s tone was one of disgust. “It’s an imp.”
Imps were small devils. They were not physically strong, but they were extremely clever. Imps typically preyed on weak minded mortals, leading them down the path to darkness through trickery and deceit.
Seth eyed the creature warily. Qualtan’s straying from the light suddenly made a whole lot more sense.
The little devil snarled at them, baring a row of deadly looking teeth. Abruptly it rushed them.
Seth automatically fell into a crouch, a knife appearing in his hand. Yet when the creature got within ten feet of them, it suddenly bounced back as if hitting an invisible wall.
Aksel’s circle of protection worked!
With the realization that the imp could not touch them, Francis and Relkin stepped forward with readied swords.
“Sick ‘em, Francis!” Seth cried, cheering on the emboldened guard.
Francis swung at the imp, but his sword merely bounced off its tough scales. Relkin followed suit, but with the same result.
They had reached an impasse. Apparently neither side could hurt the other. The imp stood back and hissed something at them in its hellish tongue. It then picked up the lone chair and flung it at one of the windows.
The chair smashed through the glass shattering it into a thousand pieces. With a few flaps of its tiny wings, the imp lifted into the air and shot toward the now open window.
“It’s getting away!” Francis cried. In a sudden fit of bravado, the guard rushed across the room after the creature.
Everyone else followed, but before they could reach the imp, it flew through the window and into the open air beyond. Yet just when all appeared lost, a bright white beam lanced past them and struck the creature with deadly accuracy.
The imp let out a horrific cry that sent chills up Seth’s spine, before falling out of the air. The creature slammed into the ground below and lay there unmoving.
Seth cast a quick glance back over his shoulder. Aksel stood there, hand still raised, a look of triumph on his face.
Seth gave his friend a quick nod. “Nice shot.”
The halfling then vaulted out the window. Aksel and the others swiftly followed, then the four of them closed on the downed creature. As they drew within a few yards, they all slowed down, weapons at the ready.
The imp had not moved. It lay sprawled in an awkward position on the ground, its red eyes lifeless as it stared up at the heavens.
Seth watched warily as Aksel ran his hands a few feet over the body. After a few moments, the gnome cleric let out a sigh. “It’s dead.”
“What’s dead?” A familiar voice called out from down the hill.
Seth turned to see Kalyn, Andrella, Raina, Gelpas, and a guard he didn’t know hurrying toward them.
“An imp,” Aksel responded, pointing to the body upon the ground.
The others all gathered around. Raina stared at the creature with obvious revulsion. “Where in Thac did you find that thing?”
Aksel quickly recounted the trail that led them to the abbey, and the surprise ‘guest’ they found in Qualtan’s quarters.
Kalyn lips curved into a lopsided smile. “That itty bitty thing gave ya that much trouble?”
Seth fixed her with a dark stare. “Go ahead. See how far shooting those little sticks of yours gets you against devils and vampires.”
Kalyn glared back at him, but Andrella stepped in before anything else could be said. “Was there any sign of Abbot Qualtan?”
Seth turned his gaze to the young lady. Mixed emotions played across her face. He hadn’t realized till that moment that Andrella cared for the older cleric. Seth guessed it sort of made sense. Qualtan was probably like an uncle to her.
“We didn’t get a chance to search the room thoroughly, your ladyship, but Qualtan was definitely not there,” Relkin reported.
Andrella tapped the side of her mouth with a finger. “Well then let’s go back and search it. Perhaps we’ll find some clue to Qualtan’s whereabouts.”
Aksel stared down at the tiny corpse on the ground between them. “If you don’t mind, I’d like to take care of the body first.”
Andrella glanced at him. “What do you suggest?”
Aksel pursed his lips together. “Burning it should work.”
A slight smile formed across Andrella’s lips. “Then that is what we shall do.”
Seth watched with fascination as the young monarch pointed a finger at the imp’s body and spoke two words that he had to date only heard from Glo. “Radius Ardens.”
A red-hot beam lanced from her fingertips and connected with the small body a few feet in front of her. They all stepped back as sparks flew everywhere. Abruptly the body burst into flames.
Andrella gazed around with an expression of satisfaction. “Will that do?”
Aksel gave her an appreciative nod. “Yes, that will do quite nicely.”
“Well then, shall we?”
Seth fell in next to Aksel as Andrella led them all back to the abbey. His voice dropped to a whisper. “Don’t look now, but I think we have two pyromaniacs on our hands.”
Aksel nearly choked. “I’m not sure the world is quite ready for that.”