A Wylde Tale by T. J. Schaaf and Cal Westray
Chapter 15: Night of Blood
Thomas and I teleported back to Talladale. It was too easy, I thought to myself. My plan worked better than I expected. The twin tornadoes closed in on the bulk of the army, decimating hundreds of infantrymen. Thomas finished off the fire mage and his henchmen were eliminated. The others would be leaderless. All we had to do was return to Talladale and let the army deal with the clean up. Tonight would be the telling event, when the vampires and demon attack. However, I was only partially correct in my assessment.
Upon our return to Talladale, I wasn’t prepared for what awaited me. The army was locked in combat with the enemy: men and demons. The gypsy caravan was under attack by invaders that came in from another road. Buildings were set on fire and the street was littered with the bodies of townspeople who didn’t take shelter in the warehouses. My brethren, the gypsies, were fighting bravely, but there were too many to face. I drew my blade and charged, ignoring my own safety.
However, my heart sank when I saw the scene take shape before me, like a slow motion film. Moonscrye saw her brother, Alban, in danger from a demon’s attack from behind. I am certain that he thought she was safely tucked away. His face went white when he turned around and saw his sister blocking the attack with a small blade. Her sacrifice saved her brother’s life, but at the cost of her own. Thomas and I were too far away to stop it and even teleporting there couldn’t have stopped it, at least I keep telling myself that. I suppose I will convince myself of that someday. An instant later, I found myself there and I met Alban’s gaze. Realization sat in and his visage changed to something quite horrible to behold.
I called out “Cassandra, they killed Moonscrye!” I knew she would hear me through the amulet. She probably saw it through the pendant that Moonscrye wore. I heard no words from her, but I heard a terrible roar of anger that vibrated through me like full-volume bass. The sound reverberated like a sustained piano note, until there was silence again. I can only wonder how this force of men didn’t trigger any of Cassandra’s wards.
I covered Alban from attack, while he faced the demon that slew his sister. Alban hacked at him with surgical precision, eventually leaving the creature to collapse and die very slowly of many horrible cuts. The screams were terrible to behold as Alban poured the contents of a flask of brandy upon the fallen demon. Thomas tore at the demon’s soul and took it within himself. I had no pity whatsoever for this creature, only regret that I had nothing readily available that could intensify his pain. Besides, this was Alban’s justice, not mine. These invaders will pay and pay dearly for their trespass.
It was then that I noticed that the bracelet, I received from Moonscrye, lost its reddish hue. It went pale, cold, and lifeless - as its creator. I felt Alban’s grief and anger and I struck out at the invaders - demons and men alike. I have no idea how many men and demons I killed or how many injuries I sustained. I just killed and killed and killed. My blade and clothing was covered in the blood of the enemy and myself. How long it went on, I have no idea. Minutes? Hours? Time had no meaning, when nothing mattered except the killing. And no amount of killing helped ease the pain of losing Moonscrye.
I was growing tired and the number of our opposition was lessening, thank the Unicorn.
Military reinforcements were arriving and gave us the support we desperately needed. They finished off the remaining invading force. My arms felt like leaded weights. An eternity ago, I put away one of my blades and fought with only one, switching hands often. I was gratified to see that Alban and Thomas had survived this far, by my side. I made my way to Alban’s side and we embraced as brothers with no words to say.
The fires were put out and the bodies were collected. Slain townspeople were taken to the church for a proper and honorable burial. The invaders were taken by wagon to the edge of town. I would take care of their disposal myself. The bodies were dumped in a wide clearing. Weapons and valuables were taken as payment to the townspeople survivors. My wounds were cleaned and dressed. I’m sure that I’ve suffered worse injuries before, so I suppose I will live. The fatigue and stiffness will be with me for days.
The winds were calm and there was plenty of clearing around the pile of bodies. Then the bodies were doused in lantern oil. I motioned everyone back to a safe distance. I concentrated upon a spell that would suffice, and I released it. A fireball hit the pile of bodies and a plume of black smoke rose. The bodies burned quickly and soon there was nothing but ashes and embers. Satisfied, I turned from it and put my mind to the next battle before us.
There were a few hours remaining until darkness. After getting things coordinated with the military and remaining townspeople, I quickly ate my fill then fell asleep in my lounge chair outside. Just for a short while, I kept telling myself. My sleep was disturbed by my dreams replaying the death of Moonscrye over and over. I was always just out of reach to prevent it.
I was grateful to be awakened by a runner, with a message from Captain Willows. Evening was descending and he wanted everyone ready. I thanked the runner and sent him along. I activated the amulet. “Miss Katt? How are you doing?”
“Good evening, Wylde. Much better than you, I’m sure. Sorry about Moonscrye.”
“Thanks, my dear. I am too. Thanks for guarding the townspeople. Give me a shout if things get out of control in the warehouses. I will be just outside, somewhere. Keep as much of that vampire gear that Thomas made nearby. Remember that they are stronger than they appear, ‘much’ stronger. Don’t let them get close enough to fight cheek by jowl with you.”
“Thanks, Wylde. I can assure you that their cheek will get nowhere near my jowl.”
“Good girl. Blessings of the Unicorn be upon you.”
“Give ‘em Hell, Jack.”
“I plan to. Later.” I close contact and do one last check with the military. Torches are set up all around the perimeter and the roads of Talladale, to give us the best chance in seeing anything. The guard is ready and posted in threes. Most are wearing the gear that Thomas designed to defend against and attack vampires.
We are also aware that there may be other creatures of the evening. Of what kind, we don’t know. I try not to dwell upon that. Yet, what troubles me the most is, I haven’t heard from Cassandra since Moonscrye’s death. I tried to contact her with the amulet, but she hasn’t responded. I have no idea what she may be up to. I don’t know if she needs our help, but we sure need hers.
I turn to the sound of the familiar voice. “Brother, Alban! Nus a Dhalyon dhuilsha.” [The blessing of God on you.]
“And you as well. Can we talk?”
“Certainly, brother. You could accompany me as I patrol. I can’t think of anyone I would rather have, to fight alongside.”
“I would be honored.”
“Excellent. Now, Alban, before you begin, I want to apologize for not being able to save Moonscrye. It has been weighing heavily on my heart.”
“Nonsense! I was ‘there’ and I was unable to prevent it. I locked her in her wagon and I thought she was safely tucked away. She can pick any lock I can and she is too strong willed to be told what to do. She is, was, in charge.”
“That’s the rub, my friend. You are in charge of the caravan, now. You also have to train your abilities to be up for the challenge. Your people are depending upon you now.”
“Yes, that is it. I constantly questioned Moonscrye’s decisions. Now that she is gone, I will question my own.”
“I noticed when I met you, that you have a problem with authority figures. Ironic, isn’t it?”
Alban chuckled. “Yes, but I fear I will do a poor job and make too many mistakes.”
“Your father will support you in any decision you make. Ask his counsel. That’s what fathers are for. They also appreciate being asked for advice. How is Aldis, anyway?”
“He shut himself in his wagon and won’t speak to anyone.I’m sure he blames me, as I do.”
“Neither of you should. Moonscrye knew what she was doing. Don’t question her sacrifice, she expected you to care for and lead the caravan. It was her last decision and she made it out of love. You would have done the same for her. Aldis knows that as do you and I.”
“Of course. But it is hard, so hard.”
“I know, Alban, I know. But you have others who share your loss and your desire to go on.”
“Thanks. How do things look for our battle tonight?”
“I think we will survive. I think we will defeat our foes. What does your talent tell you?”
“I’m afraid to use it. I haven’t done such a good job with it so far.”
“Nonsense, just follow Moonscrye’s teachings. Use the gift with an objective eye. See the details and the facts presented in the visions, just don’t let your biases color your perceptions. Your and Moonscrye’s interpretation did give us the idea to change the color of the military’s uniforms. The enemy was using uniforms similar to our military, to confuse us. That gave us the advantage we needed. Don’t discount your gift, just use it as your sister taught you.”
“I will. Perhaps I should do a quick viewing, while there is time.”
“Let’s return to your wagon. I will wait outside as you do.”
We return to his wagon. He enters as I wait outside and keep watch. In a few moments, he comes outside in a panic. “Wylde, we must go to the warehouses! There will be a fire!”
“Tell me about it on the way there.” We waste no time and run to the warehouses. On the way, I activate the amulet. “Miss Katt! There will be a fire at the warehouses. Notify the guards to be alert for an attack. Alban and I are on our way there.”
We run faster and I scan the area for potential threats. There are guards surrounding the warehouses and the torches are still in place. I detect nothing unusual and there are no fires, so far.
He describes his vision to me. “The vampires attacked. Some soldiers were falling prey to their blood feast. Others fended them off with the devices designed by your young friend, Thomas. Then, emerging from the nearby forest, there was a monstrous creature that dwarfed the blood drinkers. It was a dragon, bronze in color and nearly 15 feet long. It breathed orange fire at the vampires, incinerating them before they could react. The dragon’s flames spread out and hit the first warehouse. It caught fire quickly and anyone still inside will be trapped.”
“Alban, we still have time then.” He points out the warehouse that was in his vision. I tell the guards to have the building evacuated and have the people moved to the other buildings. I activate the amulet. “Miss Katt, you’re needed! The warehouse closest to the caravan will be hit by flames shortly. We need to evacuate it.”
“Wylde, you would have to pick the one ‘I’ am in.”
“Good, then get the people out of there quickly and have them moved to the other warehouses. Now! It could happen any moment!”
People are pouring out of the warehouse in a panic. The guards direct them to another warehouse. Soon they are relocated and the guards are at their stations again. Creatures begin to pour out of the woods as the vampires begin their attack. We fight them off as well as possible, certain that all our forces will be engaged in pitched combat.
A bronze dragon breaks through the forest and into the clearing. It breathes orange flames, incinerating the vampires. Its attack avoids our men. This beast is on our side? Not looking a gift horse in the mouth, I keep fighting as the dragon flames vampires and catches vampires in its powerful talons. The warehouse is hit with a blast of orange flame, as Alban described. My attention is caught by something strange about the dragon. It is wearing a medallion, similar to the one that Cassandra made for us. I activate my amulet. “Cassandra?”
I hear it in my mind, instead of my ears. “Yes, Wylde, it is me in my true form. As you would say, the cavalry is here.”
“You are a sight for sore eyes. But please don’t flame anymore warehouses, the villagers are in them. We just vacated that one, knowing you would hit it.”
“How did you know which one I would hit?”
“Alban saw it. I think he will do just fine, if you take him under your wing for the proper training. Pardon the pun.”
“I see. We will have lots to talk about later. For now, there are vampires to slay and it is a long time until dawn.”
“Thanks for coming to the rescue. I look forward to our chat.”
So, we fought vampires, they died by the score and we died by the score. Anyone that fell was flamed by Cassandra - vampires and men alike. The victims would become vampires over time and incineration will prevent it. I keep fireball spells handy, in case they are needed.
All night long we fought to protect the warehouses that contained the population of Talladale.
After a long night, the number of vampires dwindled to only a few. The dawn finally came and the battle was over. Cassandra tracked down the last of the vampires and killed the last ones where they hid to sleep for the day.
After a few short hours of daylight, she was satisfied that the last one was destroyed. She informed me that she was returning to Dragon’s Peak to renew her magical energies. I was welcome to join her later.
The guard was organized to determine the extent of the casualties. We lost fifty military and dozens of civilians during the initial attack. We lost over half of the military and a handful of civilians during the vampire attack. On the brighter side, Alban’s vision saved the lives of over a hundred civilians from a fiery death, including Miss Katt. The town will survive after all. The invasion is over. Colonel Wynne sent scouts out to scour the area to round up any human stragglers. We don’t want any to get away to inform the enemy of the situation.
Miss Katt joins me outside my wagon. We congratulate each other on a job well done and decide it is time to catch up on some sleep. As I said earlier, she has her own room. First, we decide that a trip to the bath house is in order. I want to wash off years of blood, sweat, and dirt. The hot bath feels wonderful and soon we return to my wagon, ready for a long sleep.
Sleep comes quickly and totally, I welcome its warm and soft embrace.
A dream comes gently, stirring me to semi-awareness. I see a vision of Cassandra in her human form. Inviting and pleasing to the senses. In my bed clothes, I am standing in the fairy ring of Dragon’s Peak. How I got here, I don’t know.
“Wylde, thank you.”
“For what, Cassandra?”
“For not finding my true form revolting, for giving me what I desired most, for fulfilling your destiny, and caring for and saving my people - our people. And for guiding Alban for his position as Moonscrye’s replacement.”
“I don’t fully understand.”
“I know. It’s time to explain. First, I will remove the blocks that caused your amnesia - giving you your true memories back. I only have power to affect your memory within my world. Also, the blocks to Pattern and Trump will be temporarily removed. Your lady friend, Miss Katt nearly ruined things for me. But your sense of honor was stronger than I thought and our world was truly important to you. That is what I wanted of you. That, and something more.”
I feel the blocks removed and memories that were lost to me, return to my calling. I feel the rush of power as the Pattern responds to my summons, I am whole again! “Thank you, Cassandra. It was you that re-routed me here and took my memories.” A statement of fact.
“Yes. I felt that it had to be done, I hope you can forgive me. I saw the events that would develop and the certainty of one, such as yourself, entering my world. I needed one of the blood of Amber to infuse this world, to make it more real. More real than I have already made it. I needed one of your blood to stay and strengthen it. You are no longer needed to stay with me.”
“You need not apologize, but it is appreciated. How did you make this Shadow more real?”
“Isn’t it obvious? I carry your children. They will stay with me and strengthen my world. One day, when they mature, they will journey to Amber to claim their birthright.”
“Children?” The full import of her words hits hard. That is what Moonscrye was hinting at, she has what she wanted. “When? How many?” I’m going to be a father!
“In a few months. A clutch the size of a dozen, or as few as a half dozen. The eggs will hatch months later. I am not absolutely sure, this will be my first clutch.”
My legs nearly give out. “Hatch?”
“Steed, I am a bronze were-dragon. A shape-shifter. My parents created this Shadow centuries ago. My father is a human named Remus who came from another Shadow like yourself. His alternate form is that of a dragon. The humans develop as I or we decide. My children will be born dragons, I will teach them to establish their human forms. They will be quite beautiful children.”
“I think I understand.”
“You will soon be on your way back to your Shadow and this world will be blocked to you. Pattern and Trumps will not reach us, unless I desire it. When our children mature, I will have them contact you by your Trump.” She motions with her hand and one of my Trumps appear in it, a magical sleight of hand trick. “Greet them warmly, for they will be eager to meet their father. I cannot join them, for I will not leave my realm.”
“Will I be welcome here someday?”
“When our children are welcome in Amber, you will be welcome here again. Eventually, I hope that you will be the ambassador between Amber and Stralanth.”
“Very well. You already have one of my Trumps. When they call me, I will welcome them and guide them as my uncle and mother guided me.”
“I ask no other boon of you. And I can promise you that they will grow to love their father, as they love this realm and its people.”
“A word of caution, Cassandra, the children should be wary of others of my family. Some may see the children as mere tools to further their own goals. I loathe the idea that my children may be used in such a manner. If I am no longer alive when they are ready, have them petition the king of Amber and ask my uncle Gérard to sponsor them. They will have my blessing.”
“Thank you, Prince of Amber. I regret my actions and wish that there was another way. I am quite fond of you.”
“I am fond of you, too.”
“You can leave when you wish. I do not expect to see you again. I will be preparing the chamber for my clutch of eggs. Look at the bright side, you and Tabitha have gained something from this world.”
“Remember your training in magic and find your own ley lines in Shadow. Power beyond Pattern, power beyond Trump. Remember me, your children, and the people of this world.”
“I will. Nus a Dhalyon dhuilsha.” [The blessing of God on you.]
“And you, gifan magi.”
I return to bed and sleep, remembering everything. In the morning, we will say our good-byes.