|© Claudia McKinney http://phatpuppyart.com|
“Once you were my most loyal disciple.” Pope Aquinus’ face swelled and cracked. “That was before witnessing The Almighty, and taking his heavenly form.” Red scales swept over his arms and legs. “Why did you turn against us, Vangelica?”
Three guards rushed the overlook. “Kill her!” one shouted.
The assassin ducked as the first swung, tossing him over the balcony, and seizing his sword. She rolled aside as the last two guards buried their blades into the stone rail, and snipped off their heads before they could turn. As she sprung off their corpses, and glided in the air, a ball and chain whipped around her leg, yanking her back to the stone walk.
“Foolish pet.” Aquinus’ iron boot crushed down. “What have you brought to my door?” Blue flames smoldered from his eyes.
Lightening struck the shore, illuminating the lake. Scores of small, wooden boats drifted towards the island. Vampire footmen treaded the dark waters, clinging to knotted lines extending from the rowboats. As they drew closer, something grazed the vessels below.
The pontiff spotted the legions on the far shore. “Is that all you could muster?” he sneered. “In your haste, you have committed a grave error. Even after you left, the serpent continued revealing itself to us. When put to the test, the old teachings faltered; we had little choice but to burn the elder scrolls, and begin anew.
“Such is the cost of revelation.” Rain began to fall. “You would have served your master well by familiarizing yourself with the gospel; there you would have learned of The Sighting and Recantation. Quorra is not a creature of fire, but of water, and we have filled the lake with her image.”
Crimson serpents leapt out of the water, sinking their fangs into the vampires’ pale flesh, and smashing their boats as they struggled.
“They feed until they burst, but even that does not kill them,” said Pope Aquinus. “I’m afraid your advance party did not fare better, taking the bait of the fake wall. Do you understand now why the outer curtain was so lightly defended? Had Ruminus spared a sliver of moonlight, you would have seen the serpents spilling over the side as you passed over. Instead, they entombed themselves with their own incompetence. With the lake and shore impassible, your army does little but entertain our hunger.”
Blood pooled around Vangelica’s leg as she struggled to rip herself free.
“I still love you, Vangelica, even though you betrayed me. You saved me from myself, and for that, I am grateful.” He removed his heel from her chest, and dropped the flail.
The winged vampire uncoiled the jagged chain from her leg, but did not run. She tucked her golden locks back in her veil and studied the holy man.
“As The Almighty’s supreme vessel, I’ve a good idea of the venom coursing through your veins. It’s time to purge the source. Leave now, and do not return.” The pontiff turned his back to her.
Tears streamed down Vangelica’s coral eyes, lost in the downpour. She turned and took flight, never looking back.
“I know you, Ruminus…never straying far from the comfort of your elite six,” Pope Aquinus turned to the lake. “Come forth, godslayer, and let’s test the bedrock of your faith.”
White blades of light pierced the night as he rushed forward, and dove off the balcony.