Dark Paths Ch. 09bySadieRose©
DARK PATHS – BY SADIE ROSE BERMINGHAM & BELLORA QUINN © 2008/9
Ladies and Gentlemen of the audience, our story is nearing its finale. Again, we would like to give our congratulations and thanks to everyone who has stuck with us this far, through the darkness and the violence in hope of a bit more hot sex. Our protagonists would like to point out that it's quite difficult to have hot sex when you're hurt and exhausted, but they're working on it! But I digress... Lagrado is coming and outside the darkness is falling. I think it's safe to say that there's going to be a fair amount of violence and gory retribution in this chapter too but there will be a conclusion of sorts as well. We both sincerely hope that you all enjoy it and find it worth waiting for.
As usual, the characters and events of this story are the intellectual property of Sadie & Bellora. Please do not reproduce or redistribute this material in any form without first asking our permission. For one, it's polite and we like politeness. And for another, we'll get very tetchy on yo asses if you don't... and you really don't want that to happen. xx S&B
And so, without further ado...
CHAPTER NINE – TO THE GRAVE
Cole Lagrado did not trust Yiannis. He had not liked the fact that the Elder vampire would not tell him where Dominic Warren was hiding, and he did not believe for a moment that Yiannis did not know. In fact, he was almost certain that he would find the mortal mage with Elian Iannopoulos. Consequently he arrived early for their appointment and brought a dozen of his vampires with him. They separated quickly once inside the building where Iannopoulos had his apartment, dividing up all possible routes to the ground floor; elevators, service hoists, and stairs. Each was remarkably clean of surveillance, which only served to make Cole even more suspicious. Something did not smell right.
At the top floor he paused and turned to his lieutenant, Steffen.
"Wait here," he said, posting an enforcer at the elevator to make sure it stayed clear.
He did not wait for an invitation to enter the apartment. The main door was kicked open, splintering on its hinges as his people poured into the suite.
The curtains in the open plan apartment were all drawn (conveniently hiding the damage... and the snipers lurking behind them) and Elian Iannopoulos looked up from his apparently casual pose on the lounger as his uninvited guests burst into the room.
"Coelho," he remarked smoothly. "What a surprise. You could have called up and I would have come downstairs to greet you."
Behind one set of curtains, Mersen crouched with Chavez at his side, both squinting down the sights of their rifles through chinks in the curtains. Clay and Rayne were poised behind the other curtain, the big black armed with a pair of hand guns and Rayne gripping a rifle in both hands to try and stop them shaking. He was painfully conscious of the fact that he had never shot anyone in cold blood before. Ripped them apart, yes, but not like this.
Hanging from a belt that he had purloined from Chavez before they split up was another ingenious little toy, one that he preferred by far. It looked like a glue-gun but was loaded with a hollow needle filled with acid. Mersen had assured him that, injected into the base of the skull at close range it would melt the head of a vampire faster than he could heal it. Rayne could think of quite a few Undead that he'd love to test the theory out on right now.
He knew that Jabez was out there somewhere, lurking almost silently in the shadows, waiting to pounce. The warning to be careful what he aimed for was a serious one. Now hunger was forgotten as they assessed the very real and present danger. There were at least six vampires in the room, spreading out, feeling for trouble. Cole Lagrado made seven and from the commotion they had heard lower down as the vampires made their way to the penthouse, there were probably more circulating in other parts of the building.
He saw one of the wary creatures circle too close to the curtain hiding Mers and Chavez and suddenly an explosion rent the stillness of the room and the vampire's scream was cut off as his skull exploded in flames.
Even the stoical Clay turned a little paler under his gleaming blue-black skin.
"Effective!" Rayne conceded almost soundlessly. And then he had one in his sights and he closed his eyes and pulled the trigger as all hell broke loose in the room.
Gunfire was suddenly returned, the heavy curtains were ripped down from their moorings. Cole Lagrado ignored the assassins for now, in favour of the smug Ancient. His weapon came to hand and he took aim at Elian with a snarl of hatred on his face.
As he did so a long low growl echoed his own and something roughly the shape of a white panther and the size and weight of a Hummer sprang from the shadows with jaws and talons fully extended. It dropped onto Lagrado like a hawk onto prey, ripping into the vampire with savage hatred.
"What the fuck was that?" Clay exhaled, taking a pop at another vamp that got too close to the alcove where he and Rayne were holed up.
"Go Daddy!" Rayne Wylde said with a cold, fanged smile.
On the far side of the room a vampiress pounced, shifting shape as she went for Jabez Everman's thrashing panther form. Mersen's rifle moved with her and she exploded into flames before she even reached the fight down on the floor.
Elian watched the battle with a dispassionate eye, carefully staying out of the line of fire. The tide had not yet turned one way or the other, and yet when he saw the gun barrel levelled at Rayne Wylde with a clear shot he found himself moving. He hit the gun hand as the shot was fired, the bullet lodging just north of Rayne's head instead of right between his eyes. Perhaps it was merely the heat of the battle but he found it rather satisfying as he broke the neck of Coelho's man and dropped him to the ground.
Briefly, the young English vampire's pale eyes met his own in a moment of silent acknowledgement. The room was a scene of total destruction. Smoke blew on the breeze from the shattered windows. Clay, grim-faced and solemn, put a terminal bullet in the skull of the creature Elian had felled but he too fought shy of raising his weapons against the Ancient.
In the centre of the room, beyond the foot of the bed, Jabez and Lagrado rolled and snarled in a tangle of powerful limbs, talons and fangs. Both Vampires had shifted now, Coelho's form that of a huge grey wolf, certainly larger than any found in nature. The white panther was stalking him, bloodied jaws gaping in a feral snarl, all four paws stained red with the gore of his opponent. But he was rent and bleeding himself, his handsome hide torn in the fight.
Mersen manoeuvred around them seeking a clean shot that would not also wipe out his boss. Chavez stuck to him like glue, guarding the Irishman's back determinedly. They had already wiped out at least five of Lagrado's vanguard and a couple had retreated seeing that things were going badly. The Hispanic youth was taking potshots at one who had shifted into a form that resembled a cross between a wildcat and a pterodactyl. She kept on dive-bombing them from the relative safety of the vaulted ceiling until Mersen lost patience with her and with Chavez for wasting expensive ammunition and swung his barrel high to fell her with two deadly shots to the head and back.
Lagrado took that moment to charge, but it was a desperate strike. What had seemed a more than ample reconnaissance group had been reduced to dust around him with alarming speed. His jaws locked onto flesh and he shook his head, ripping and tearing, trying for maximum damage. He felt the other beast bite down on him as well, only Everman's fangs had found the more vital area of his throat. No, he did not need to breathe, even in this form, but having his throat ripped out would severely hinder him.
He held on for one reason. Another powerful wolf was about to leap on the great cat's back. If he got hold of the back of the neck he might snap it, that would at the very least force Jabez Everman back into human form.
The second wolf did not get the opportunity to try for glory however. Elian caught the beast mid leap, hurling it across the room where the violence of its impact with the formerly immaculate cream coloured wall sent it quivering into the shadows with its tail between its legs.
"No... no..." he scolded. "No ganging up! Lagrado holds this city on his own, or he dies."
"Why can't you do stuff like that?" Clay asked Rayne, more bemused than afraid by this point.
The little English vampire laughed breathlessly, leaning against Clay's broad back to reload his weapon. "Who says I can't? Do you feel safer now?"
His companion looked dubiously at him. But then they were under attack again as the second wolf, frustrated at being thwarted decided to go for easier meat. It sprang and brought the mortal down. Clay struggled to force one of his handguns between the creature's jaws to stop it snapping at his neck. As they rolled together on the floor, Rayne discarded the rifle altogether as too clumsy for the task and snatched the modified hypodermic from his belt. He waited until the wolf rolled to a crouch over its struggling quarry and came in from behind whilst it was demolishing Clay's gun between powerful jaws.
The needle punched into the back of its neck just beneath the cranium. For a moment nothing happened and Rayne was just scrabbling backwards on his arse, reaching for the rifle again when the wolf began to jerk spasmodically. It's jaws flexed and it drooled a bloody mass of gore and saliva then began to shrink before their eyes. The fur contracted around slowly melting muscle and skin. It's eyes rolled frantically in it's head as it uttered a long, strangled howl of anguish and then the head itself began to disintegrate, falling in on itself and collapsing onto the struggling body of its astonished victim.
Clay slapped the cascade of melting fur and flesh off his burly chest with a disgusted oath. He rolled clear and threw up at once, shaking his head furiously as if he could get the sight out of his mind that way.
"Eww!" Rayne said in a small voice, not sure if he was appalled or impressed by the effectiveness of this new toy.
Blood poured in a fountain down the chest of the grey wolf that was Cole Lagrado; poured so heavily he was losing the energy it took to stay in this form. He was forced back into his human body, still being mauled by the white cat. His hand clawed ineffectively at the beast as he thrashed under its greater weight. The cat's head pulled back and took the entire front half of his throat with it.
Cole's body spasmed, arcing in a bow on the floor. He aged a hundred years in the space of just a few moments. Now it was not simply a fight between him and the other vampire, he had to fight his own body that threatened to cast him into a state of torpor in order to begin the regeneration process. With a startling realisation he saw that he was beaten. He had lost everything. The world greyed and then turned black. His shrivelled body lay still and unmoving, even the brightly coloured gore drying and turning to dust.
There was a single vampire left from Cole Lagrado's contingent. He now threw himself to the floor with his hands raise for mercy, pleading; "Don't kill me, don't kill me..."
As the panther slowly shifted back to human form too, Mersen moved to cover him, pulling the Ancient's long coat around his blood soaked shoulders. Jabez knelt for a while with his hands on the slowly withering body of his vanquished opponent, head down, long white hair streaked with crimson blooms. Chavez, who was taking his role as Mersen's lieutenant very seriously, stood over the cowering survivor and probed the back of his skull with the muzzle of his rifle to make sure that he understood his situation perfectly.
As Clay picked himself up and dusted bits of melted vampire off his clothing, his cellphone began to play Kylie's 'Can't Get You Out Of My Head' and he answered it quickly, looking embarrassed as the others rolled their eyes.
"How many came with you?" Mersen was asking their captive as Rayne sat down on the edge of the bed and put his head in his hands, exhaustion and hunger finally beginning to blur his vision.
"He did what?" Clay barked into the cell at the same time. "Where's the bastard taken him?"
At once Rayne's head came up again. He knew without asking that the big man was talking about Xav. His shields crumbled and as he began to calculate who was missing from Cole Lagrado's closest followers a cold sense of dread filled him at once. Where was Steffen? Surely a creature who loved to inflict pain the way Steffen did would be here tonight?
"What's happened? Where are they?" he demanded as Clay closed the call, looking stunned, and relayed PJ's news.
Elian Iannopoulous eyed the cowering vampire, then glanced at Rayne.
"Steffen has the boy then? How interesting." He turned his head slightly. "He must be very desperate, or perhaps he just wants to make his last victim count." A little pause, and then he twisted the knife. "Maybe you should have let the whore stay here after all."
Rayne didn't bother with personal remonstrations this time. He went for Elian with his fangs bared. After the last few days that was a jibe too far and he was not going to stand here and take it. He was just sorry that he had blown the acid dart on another vampire or it would have been in the smug Ancient's right ear by now. Let Iannopoulos wipe the floor with him, he was past caring.
He went for the throat, eyes blazing.
Elian caught Rayne about the neck, jerking him right off his feet. One hand slid up his back and lodged in his hair keeping the smaller vampire from biting him. It did not stop Rayne trying and he snapped and clawed at Yiannis for almost a minute like a little dog held in the air by it's owner but still trying to fight.
"Tch... no control at all. Is this your way of begging me to go and rescue him for you? It's rather lacking in finesse, if you ask me." Mindful that Jabez was still watching intently Elian did not throw the fledgling across the room, but he was sorely tempted. "You're wasting time. How long do you think it will take Steffen to feel safe enough to stop? And do you really think he will simply sit idle and wait when he has such a pretty diversion at hand?"
He finally shoved Rayne away, hard, but not hard enough to cause damage. Clay caught the younger vampire before he fell but held onto him not wanting to see him throw himself at Elian again. He suspected that the Ancient might not be so tolerant a second time.
"Your blood tie is strong enough, go and find him." Elian invited, exasperated.
The challenge was nearly enough to make his opponent rise. Rayne closed his eyes and both Ancients felt the shimmer of energy in the room as he reached for the level of consciousness that would let him shift his form. Jabez was on his feet in an instant, catching his fledgling by the chin and lifting his head.
Rayne shuddered and opened his eyes, but there was no fight in them, he was just too tired. The energy diffused and he slumped into his mentor's bloody arms shaking his head.
"Little fool!" Jabez said in a grim tone, but his expression told another story. There was a weary tenderness in his eyes as he looked down on his sole surviving Fledge. "Do you think I came all this
way to see you die in your motley bird form on some godforsaken roadside?"
Elian looked at Rayne and his Sire and knew that he was asking the impossible. Oh, the Fledge might be able to track Xavier still, but not in time. If Rayne had fed before now things might have been different but Elian hadn't let him... or rather, the Elder had given him an impossible choice to make. And so... Elian sighed heavily.
"Fine, I will retrieve the boy then."
Elian Iannopoulos had quite possibility the smoothest transformation process of any vampire. There was no awkward rearranging of limbs, no melting down and reforming, it seemed as if he simply flowed from one form into another like water from a pitcher to a glass. In the few strides that took him from his living room to the balcony he shifted from human form into a large snowy owl without pause and without any hesitation between walking and flying.
The beautiful bird of prey did not look back as it soared through the broken window, over the edge of the balcony and off into the night. The owl used little effort in its flight; large silent wings carried it along on eddies and currents of night air. He drifted over the city and out across the bay, shunning the harsh cries of the curious gulls that came close but not close enough to run the gauntlet of his fearsome talons. His wings carried him higher into a quieter, hillside area, following instinct and the soft pull of the boy he sought.
Beyond the ruined people-carrier, in the smoke-filled basement, Dominic Warren scrambled from vehicle to vehicle to reach PJ where he lay on the concrete floor, groaning and cursing alternately. Lord Warren was bleeding from the blow to his head and also from a nasty looking bite mark on his neck, but he managed to get to his feet now as the stolen SUV screeched out of the basement carpark.
"Fuck!" he swore with more feeling than the other man had ever heard from him. "I think he's got the kid."
"What do we do?" PJ had managed to pull himself to his knees but he was hurt and Dominic was torn between hotwiring a car and going after the boy, or getting him out of here. Either response meant leaving Jabez and the others to get away on their own, which had not been the plan. Furthermore, the rest of their arsenal was in the trunk of that hijacked vehicle.
"Come on," the Englishman said determinedly, crouching to help PJ to his feet. "Where's your gun?"
Paddy pointed back towards the spot where the SUV had been idling moments before. His rifle had skidded under a parked BMW and Dom grabbed it now and used the butt to smash the driver's side window.
"What the f...?" PJ exclaimed. "You can't do that, man!"
"I just did," Dominic was already in the car and had half the dash in pieces as he picked his way through the security wiring. "Get in!" he ordered as the 3.6 litre engine growled into life. "Oh for fuck's sake, Patrick! This is the 21st century, the owner's probably got more insurance than British Airways!"
Steffen kept the rifle pointed at Xavier and drove with the other hand. The boy had put his seatbelt on and sat white knuckled as Steffen pushed the powerful SUV to greater and greater speeds, forcing it to the very limits of it's ability. Xavier clenched his teeth and had to squeeze his eyes shut as they took a hairpin turn fast enough that he was sure they were going to roll.
"If you wanted to keep me alive for some reason it's not going to work if you wreck."
"Who says I want you alive?"
"Well, you haven't killed me yet." Xavier pointed out, more blandly than he felt.
"Yet... indeed." Steffen said. "Your friends have killed Lagrado."
That was news to him but Xavier found no time for exultation.
"Is Rayne alright?" He asked it before he could stop himself.
"I do not know, nor do I care." Steffen sneered.
"Let me go. All they wanted was Lagrado dead. If you just disappear no one will go after you."
Steffen gave a short bark of bitter laughter. "The new Master of the city will not allow the previous Master's associates to live. You are my bargaining chip."
"You are a complete idiot, do you know that?!" Xavier snapped, and tried not to shriek like a girl when they clipped the front end of a parked car and barrelled through an intersection on a red light. "If you just let me go they won't come after you. You keep me and they will hunt you down and kill you just like Lagrado."