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post #39 of (permalink) Old 05-26-12, 03:38 AM
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Night Rain
(1,036 words)

A brilliant flash of light brightened the pitch-black night, but just for a moment. The rain slowed to a mere drizzle, still hard enough to limit Karl’s vision to a few feet.

“Are you sure Richter? Are you sure it is here?” he said.
“Yes Karl. I just need to find it.”

Karl Bader was a Holy Witch Hunter tasked with smiting the evil foes of the Empire. Tonight would end a decades long hunt for the Vampire Malhund.

“Here it is!”

Lifting his lantern towards Richter’s voice. The light was too feeble to reach his acolyte’s position.

“Where are you?”
“Behind the crypt master.”

They were in an ancient Garden of Morr, long since overgrown and abandoned. Karl stepped gingerly on the sodden soil hoping against hope that his feet would not break through an ancient tomb. Stepping around the decrepit tomb he found himself sheltered from the cold rain.

“A portico for a tomb? Malhund has a sick sense of humor,” Richter spat.
“So this is where he has sheltered all these years. Are you ready?” Karl asked.
“Always Karl.”

He held up his blessed blade twisting the holy steel so it flashed in the lantern light. Rainwater ran down the blade and dripped from the hilt.

Karl held a similar blade. Both had been blessed by the Archlector himself. Across his chest was a bandoleer of sharpened stakes. Oak from a hanging tree. A cross bandoleer held a dozen vials of holy water and oil in leather sleeves. A small hammer adorned with the icon of Magnus completed his ensemble.

Laying his sword and lantern on a cracked stone Karl shrugged off his dripping oilskin and hung it from a corroded sconce.

“Into the breach?” Karl asked.
“For Sigmar and Empire,” Richter oathed.

The door to this tomb had long since disappeared, leaving a dark void that led into the clutching earth. Holding the lantern aloft Karl stepped into the tomb.

The base of the stairs opened into a large crypt. A central plinth was empty though the wall niches still held moldering remains. Across from the stairs a low tunnel gaped with evil omen. Crouching down Karl looked back at Richter then shrugged and dropped to his hands and knees. Karl looked up at the ceiling before crawling into the low tunnel. Steady droplets fell from cracks in the crypt ceiling. Underground rain.

The tunnel twisted and turned, carved from the cold earth. Gouges and marks in the tunnel looked enough like claw and finger marks that Karl didn’t even look closer to check.

The dripping water had slowed, but didn’t cease entirely. Even a hundred or more feet underground the water fell. “How long does this tunnel go?” Karl murmured.

As soon as he did he almost fell out of the shaft. The tunnel opened into a much larger chamber.

“Careful now. We’re in his lair,” Karl whispered.

Dropping out of the narrow tunnel, the two witch hunters stretched their cramped muscles. Opening the hoods on his lantern Karl held it high to illuminate the chamber.

It was a natural cave, the floors and wall closest to them were worn stone. Water dripped here, too. The drenching rain leaking through soil and stone to wet the witch hunters still.

“For the love of Sigmar,” Karl complained and turned the lantern to light the ceiling.

As he did he had a strange thought. This rain was warm and salty. “Dear Sigmar no…” he started.

The beam of light spilling from the lantern lit the ceiling and made Karl’s horror real. Across the entirety of the cavern ceiling were impaled corpses. Large nails and spiked chains held the recently dead in place.

Not recently dead. Still alive.

Puncture wounds covered the flesh ceiling, droplets of blood falling like rain.

“Master…” Richter started. He stood transfixed by the horrible visage above them.

A growl somewhere between feral beast and deranged man rumbled low and threatening across the cavern. Not a cave, a tomb. This place was an extension of the mausoleum behind them.

“Show yourself fiend!” Karl shouted.

The lantern light strove to illuminated movement deep in the shadows. It was so fast. Just a flash from a shadow to a shadow.

The growl rumbled louder, deeper and more threatening. Again the thing flitted from shadow to shadow. “Sigmar help us, we thy servants of light…” Richter started to pray.

“Steady my friend. This monster can be destroyed.”

Shadow to shadow. Closer now.

Karl wiped blood from his eyes with the back of his hand. Salty and sticky blood.

Kneeling he set his lantern down and pulled two oil vials from his bandoleer. Each vial had a small wick instead of a stopper. Holding a vial through the lantern shutters he lit the vial and watched the oil-soaked wick sputter. Hurling the vial across the cavern it smashed against something solid and a flare of burning oil spread.

Lighting and throwing the second vial left another circle flame.

The Malhund was visible now. Flickering flames cast the monster in terrible shadow.

He flashed across the cavern towards Richter moving as fast as the eye could follow.

He didn’t even have time to raise his blade. Malhund struck him a lethal blow and rebounded from the wall and shot back behind the flames.

“Richter!” Karl screamed.

Richter turned to look at his master, sword slipping from his fingers to clatter on the stone floor.

“Karl…” he mouthed and fell dead, his throat a ruin, blood bubbling from a gaping chest wound.

Karl flung his lantern and chased the vampire, a wordless howl on his lips.

Hunter met prey in a crash of undead flesh and blessed steel. Karl’s blade bit deep into the shoulder of the beast before he was hurled sideways. Blinding pain over took him crushing his righteous rage and his vision faded to darkness.

Sometime later Karl drifted back to consciousness. Terrible, piercing pain wracked his body. Something felt wrong. Where was he? “Malhund!” he remembered. The pain. Unconsciousness. Turning his head he saw the spikes through his hands and arms. Cuts and punctures covered his exposed flesh, blood oozing out and dripping to the blood slick floor before.

Warm and salty.

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