Before he saw the shadow upon him, something plucked Lawson from the ground. He looked up and gasped, dangling from the vampire’s outstretched hand. Talmot in turn wavered in Essinger’s grasp, who held fast to one of the whipping tendrils. “We shall ferry you to the blossom, where you can unleash your wrath,” said the Muslim.
Scores of dismembered bodies flashed by. Lawson’s stomach plummeted as Essinger released the vine, and latched onto another racing by.
“How many arrows remain in your arsenal?” Talmot asked.
“Then we shall pass her over to maximize our contempt. Impervious she is to swords and arrows, but perhaps you can be more persuasive.”
As they glided through the air, the hellflower turned and scorched them with its fiery breath. The vine snapped, dumping the trio into a pile of mangled corpses.
“Never have I seen so many vampires felled at once, even by my own hands.” Lawson tossed severed heads and limbs aside. “Yet I am struck by a sadness that I have not felt since the hunt began.” He fled the blast.
A spiderroot scattered over the carnage, cutting off his advance. Talmot and Essinger leapt forward, unsheathing their swords, and chopping it to bits.
“She cowers inside.” Talmot flipped it over, and ripped out its heart.
“How certain are you?” Lawson asked.
“As certain as I can be.” The vampire took a bite, and spit it out. “Besides, where else would she be hiding?” Talmot pushed him aside as a crypt rein speared down. “We must keep moving if we hope to defeat her.”
“No, this is our best opportunity.” Essinger pulled counsel closer when the scythe failed to extract itself. The crusader grabbed a bony column and nodded.
Talmot sliced the line, sending the two skywards. “My prayers go with you, brothers.”
The world flashed by like a dream, the stage illuminating, no shadow too deep. Lawson spotted her watchful eyes in the flower below, colorless hollows that would not be soon forgotten. Unsure how much of himself reflected back at that moment, he hesitated to commit his final arrow.
“Slay her now, Lawson. For Vissorouy,” Essinger urged.
“For Vissorouy.” Lawson nodded, and pulled the trigger.
The creature recoiled into the bud as it snapped shut; but the hunter’s uncanny delivery allowed the silver arrow to sneak through. It slipped inside and detonated, blasting petals from the stem, and forcing its master onto the crimson stage. Her refuge in shambles, the translucent ovule rose, towering over the vampire legions. She was tall and slender, tresses of transparent flesh draped over her like a dress. The ovule stepped forward, and reclaimed her arm from the tainted soil before her. She pressed it against her shoulder, strumming her lithe fingers until it was firmly reattached.
Though her attention diverted, she was no less deadly. Her cruel stinger impaled vampires as they pounced. The barbed tail rose over her willowy frame, making her appear even taller.
She knocked Talmot aside as he buried his blade into her neck. “Are you still in need of the lesson?” She yanked the blade from her throat, and tossed it into the fire. “Impervious I am to earthly designs. Come closer, I beg you.”
Lawson rose from the carnage, watching the last of the bony tendrils sag before him. “From pile to pile I wander, no end in sight.”
“A merry time indeed.” Essinger grinned.
The hunter tossed his bow aside in disgust. If only he had been spared another hour, he could have forged the killing blow. Still he felt a burden lift from the land, noting the spiderwood wilting around him. “Her magic has faltered.” He rushed forward. “Culverins!” he shouted.
But Lord Vangley had already arrived at the same conclusion. His legions hauled the cannons into range, and uncorked the barrels. “I collected your stones for you, Enura. Now choke them down.” He signaled.
The culverins fired as one, blasting the wicked one asunder. The army took cover as the green stones obliterated what was left of the old manor and the forest around them. Fragments flickered and went out, surrendering their magical potential.
The ovule’s head rolled to the elder’s feet. “Checkmate.” Lord Vangley stabbed down with his canesword. Her pale face bubbled over, steaming in the moonlight, and dissipating in a cloud of vapor.
“We have won the night!” Talmot embraced Essinger with his one good hand.
The patriarch raised his sword. “Victory,” he said softly. Vampires cheered and mobbed the visionary.
“Well done, my lord.” Olivia bowed slightly.
But the hunter lingered on the battlefield. “What have we truly accomplished?” He scratched his chin.