Vampire Captives: Chapter 1
Werewolves were vampires’ worst enemy.
The Scheng general snarled at me and spittle dripped down his soaked muzzle. I circled him slowly, noting the corpses at my feet so I wouldn’t trip, as he watched my every move with eyes glowing moonlight blue. The wisps of moonlight dancing around his body were like unpredictable flames, though they didn’t burn. He would be formidable.
He had killed many this battle, shown by the rust color of dried blood and the deep red of new blood matting his once-gray fur coat. His mouth was so red one could have assumed his jaw had been sliced, but none of that blood was his. The smell of it was borderline rotten with a savory undertone: vampire blood. I had no idea how much moonlight he had, but he was gigantic, meaning he had to have a fair amount to maintain the size; from his withers, he stood a couple of feet higher than the top of my head.
“I’ve never had the honor of taking down a Scheng general on my own,” I said, because it was arguably impossible when they were filled with moonlight, and adjusted my hold on my aassu. Their curved silver blades glinted in the werewolf’s moonlight as he powered up. The moonlight tendrils blazed brighter and coiled around him as if to burst.
I darted to the side when he lunged for me. The impact his hind legs left on the already-ruined grassland broke it apart. The sensation, bits of earth moving, registered in the soles of my feet and in my hands when I tapped the ground with fortified boots and slid onto my hip. The werewolf snapped at my cloak, catching my hood in sharp teeth as it flew off my head.
This bastard was fast too—not that I had expected anything less.
I dropped out of my cloak before he could smash me into the ground with a mighty shake of his lupine head. As he threw my blood-soaked cloak to the wind, I darted behind it, using its fluttering shape to hide my form. It worked well enough. He lost sight of where I was, so I leapt onto the werewolf’s back without incident and promptly jammed my aassu into his neck. He flailed wildly and healed what he could with moonlight, but my aassu were buried too deep and my grip was firm. I saw my opening and dove in. My fangs met fur first. Then flesh. I sunk my teeth in as far as they would go and injected my venom.
The werewolf stalled. He gurgled a pathetic yip as I drank his blood, sweet with a citrus pinch. Moonlight-infused blood was the most powerful blood I’d ever tasted—aside from the condensed blood stored inside the vials attached to my combat belt. My body was extremely efficient, so I immediately digested the blood and felt energy ripple through me as my body absorbed its nutrients. My arms bulged, muscles expanding. Then I withdrew my teeth. I ripped my blades through his neck, firm flesh and bone, with some effort, and it wasn’t enough. My blades were too short to sever his head.
Moonlight exploded around me, washing all visible light blue. The werewolf’s neck reattached at a ridiculous speed. I flung myself off his back, but he whipped his head around and caught my leg in his teeth. I grimaced as the lethal weapons cut easily through my armor to my flesh. Then he slammed me into the earth. Crackling filled my ears as I was buried several feet deep. The strength I’d received by drinking the werewolf’s blood vanished in record time as it healed what it could of my broken bones. It left me exhausted, defenseless.
I gasped for air and blinked, expecting the werewolf’s jaws to clamp down around my throat and finish me, but he could barely stand. He wobbled to the side as if suffering from a blow to the head. And he was considerably smaller than before, no larger than an ordinary wolf.
I couldn’t feel my hands, but I knew I needed to let my aassu go. I succeeded. My brain was still sending signals to my body. I watched my hands and willed them toward my combat belt. I found a vial, fumbled with the metal cork, and brought the condensed blood to my lips. The amount inside equaled one swallow. Feeling returned to my limbs, sharp with pain before it was replaced with healing and enhancements. However, I still couldn’t move.
I needed more.
Grabbing another vial, I briefly considered the possibility of aftereffects or rejection, but I needed more or I was dead. I had trained endlessly for this. I could do it.
I drank the second vial, and the boost consumed me. My body screamed with energy, power. My muscles threatened to burst through the leather of my armor and my veins rose on my skin like overflowing inky-black rivers. I reclaimed my aassu, and launched myself out of the shallow hole just as the werewolf had regained his wits. I stopped at fifteen feet in the air and came crashing back down. The Scheng general leapt for me, jaws snapping. I dropped an aassu, caught the werewolf’s bottom jaw with my free hand, and pierced the top of his muzzle with my other aassu. The curved blade cut all the way down, through his moist tongue and tough chin, with ease, as if he didn’t have bones. Several of those bones shattered when we hit the ground. Dust, grass, and the debris of war blew out from us in an angry cloud.
A whimpered growl squeaked out of the Scheng general’s throat as I yanked free my blade just to stab it through his chest and into his beating heart. The persistent muscle beat so loudly it consumed the pommel of my aassu, but the werewolf didn’t fight. He was out of moonlight and therefore dead. I reclaimed my aassu and flicked the gore away.
The Scheng general began to shift, ruined bones creaking and rearranging. With the last of his strength, he resumed a disfigured version of his base form. A werewolf’s base form was no different from a human, though a werewolf was often much larger and stronger. However, with no moonlight, a werewolf was no match for a vampire. This one’s elbows and knees were bent the wrong way, sinew-draped bones protruding.
“Little rat.” He panted. “Soon all of your lunalite will be ours.” He showed his teeth, smeared with blood; the curve of his lips meant he was smiling. Of course he was. Schengs lived for war.
Finally, the werewolf’s brown eyes lost their luster as his last breath halted in his concave lungs.
“Stupid dog,” I said. “We have no lunalite. You might try Howling Sky next time.”
The Schengs would keep coming until they were exterminated or until they somehow managed to conquer Silver Hollow regardless of lunalite. I wasn’t sure what the rare mineral was or where it came from, but I knew Howling Sky bathed in it and that all werewolves seemed to covet it. The Schengs’ minuscule brains were hooked on some rumor or lie that Silver Hollow was rich with it. We had many resources, minerals and metals. But we didn’t have lunalite. Werewolves were terribly dense, and the Schengs were no exception.
For eighty-seven years Silver Hollow and the Schengs had been at war. This was because eighty-seven years ago the Schengs stormed and claimed Jade Spring, an originally, and rightfully, vampire kingdom and a fond ally of Silver Hollow. Fortunately, most of the Jade Spring vampires were able to find refuge with us in Silver Hollow. Unfortunately, Schengs still ruled Jade Spring. The Schengs, werewolf marauders, were notorious for their brutality; they leveled kingdoms. They took what they wanted and never stayed in one place for too long—until they met their match with Silver Hollow. They couldn’t destroy us, so they were stuck here. As were we. For now.
I ignored the ache in my hands and arms, reclaimed my tossed aassu, and sheathed both swords through my trembling. I missed the first attempt and almost stabbed myself.
My body burned with a fire not unlike roasting in sunlight. My veins threatened to eat their way out of my flesh. I had digested all of the condensed blood I’d swallowed, and now my body demanded I fight or bleed to expend the excess energy or it would tear itself apart before reaching the cooldown. Because my body was so efficient, it didn’t often produce waste. Almost every drop of blood I drank was converted to energy. In an ideal world, that was how all vampire bodies would work, but even I had had to train myself to this point.
I took a quick survey of the nearly deserted battlefield. Nothing but scraps and the dead were nearby. I was safe. So, I settled my gaze on the werewolf carcass before me. I rammed my fists into it. I beat the werewolf’s meat until it was fully tenderized, until his blood squirted into my eyes, stinging.
Left panting, but no longer burning with the boost, I wiped the offending blood from my eyes. I reclaimed my cloak and donned it in time for the sun to rise. Sunlight hit uncovered vampire carcasses, which sizzled and steamed before settling on ash that scattered with the first breeze. As an extra precaution, I raised my dark gray mask over my mouth and nose.
The cooldown hit, and the resulting soreness of surpassing my natural blood-consumption limit settled deep inside of my bones and muscles. My body was in a state of chaos thanks to it.
Condensed blood wasn’t easy to digest because drinking past one’s natural limit alone usually resulted in vomiting, but if condensed blood was successfully digested, a vampire’s body gained unrivaled power, a boost. That unrivaled power changed the body in unnatural ways. The hard part then came after the boost was expended, during the cooldown. The body had to reconcile and reclaim its natural state, or it broke. Completely. The soreness I was experiencing would get worse before it got better, but it was fine. I had trained for this.
This will all be worth it.
The body count, including the remaining armor and cloaks of those burned to ash, revealed more werewolves than vampires had been killed today. The standstill was over. For the third time in a row, Silver Hollow was the clear victor. Silver Hollow would win the war, and the Schengs would be no more. The vampires the Schengs chased out of Jade Spring would return, and then together Silver Hollow and Jade Spring would continue in the biggest war of them all: the Prime War. Every war, every battle, was simply a piece of what made up the ultimate war. Silver Hollow’s long-standing battle with the Schengs was no different.
If you survived, you continued the game. Not all vampires were allies, but it was thought that once a single species of the three—vampires, werewolves, and humans—eliminated the other two, the Prime War would come to an end. I knew vampires would prevail. We were the superior species after all. Werewolves and humans were nothing but a nuisance.
Sunlight warmed my white cloak, but it didn’t penetrate. Along with the tightly woven material, the blackout paste used to treat my cloak blocked out the harmful rays; blackout paste also made it relatively easy to remove bloodstains from white.
I did another quick sweep to make sure there were no injured vampires in need of assistance. Then engines overpowered the quiet. Figures in the distance moved along the flat plain providing good visibility and bad coverage, but my eyes caught on a little patch of white blowing in the wind. I carefully stepped over bodies to avoid stumbling in my weakened state as I ambled over to it.
It was a cloak like mine, held down by the body wearing it. She was on her stomach, hood covering her head, so I couldn’t tell who she was. Though, the cloak meant she was part of my team, White Team. I dropped to my knees, landing so heavily they popped, and rolled her over. I held her hood over her face to protect her from the sunlight and peeked at the shadow cast underneath. Vacant green eyes stared up at me. Her nearly translucent skin had taken on the dark red of the blood rotting inside of her. The pungent smell of her wounds wafted in the air, marinating with all the other corpses’ smells.
“Tuel,” I whispered. Uttering her name made my heart jump, as if it produced a direct line of electricity. I blamed the cooldown. The painful throbbing in my chest increased with each beat of my heart. It worsened my every ache.
When had she been killed? If a slayer was down, perhaps this battle wasn’t as fruitful as I had thought. We were the best of the best from Silver Hollow.
I pressed my finger into my ear to activate audio transmission with my commsbud. “White Team, do you copy?”
No one answered, meaning I was either out of range, or our temporary tech fields had been destroyed. My eyes locked onto the single-coil badge pinned to Tuel’s collar.
If I had taken that little piece of silver and nothing else, this story might not have happened.
I closed Tuel’s eyes, pulled up her mask, and tugged her hood down as far as it would go. Then, ignoring the shots of pain screaming through my body, I lifted her into my arms as I stood. Fire raced down my legs, but I pushed the sensation aside. I could ignore every unpleasant sensation—except for the one in my chest.
I glanced over my shoulder as a red-cloaked vampire joined me. The golden hem of her cloak showed its origin, neither Silver Hollow nor Jade Spring. She was a guest from Crimson Caves and White Team’s problem.
“Gala,” I replied, and I kept walking, toward the vehicles and figures who turned out to be more warriors from Silver Hollow. There were Silver Hollow scavengers as well. The scavengers wielded metal canisters and tubes to suck up and store whatever good werewolf blood remained after the battle. There were no Schengs among the living, another sign that Silver Hollow had won this battle. I thought it a paltry compensation for the loss of a slayer.
We needed to end this war.