“Here’s another one.”
Prysin turned the still-warm corpse of an alley cat over with the toe of his boot. The bite marks were obvious, gaping up at him from the midst of fur dark with blood. A fresh kill. The perpetrator had to be somewhere close by. Prysin thirsted for an explanation for the presence of such creatures in Misthalin.
“Over there!” Damian’s shout ignited a surge of excitement in Prysin. Eagerly he turned to see his friend forging deeper into the alley, going slow on account of the darkness. Prysin had advised against torches for fear of alerting their quarry to their presence. He had advised against raised voices for similar reasons.
“Quiet down, will you?” Prysin hurried to catch up to Damian. “We can’t lose him tonight. If we do, we become the hunted. We won’t see another week.”
Damian looked at him gravely. The long time Prysin had known him notwithstanding, Damian was a wild card. A fellow knight of Varrock and a dabbler in magic, Damian had a reckless and unscrupulous way about him that had gotten him into trouble before and was bound to do so again. “Sorry,” he said. It sounded decidedly insincere.
Damian pointed further down the alley. “He has pretty limited options,” he observed. “He’s effectively cornered. We won’t lose him.” And before Prysin could say “trap,” he had begun again to creep into the darkness. Prysin cursed to himself and followed.
He stopped at the first shadowy door he came to; Damian did not. Trusting the fool to be able to look after himself for a few seconds, Prysin drew his knife and moved to investigate the doorway.
He had not taken two steps when he heard Damian shout. Whirling about, he dashed in his friend’s direction before he had seen clearly what was happening. As a result, he bowled straight into a human figure and sent them both crashing to the ground.
A second was all that was needed to confirm that he had not tackled Damian; the figure began to writhe and snarl and landed a powerful blow to Prysin’s midsection. Prysin attempted to bring his knife around, but his opponent seemed to anticipate the action, and with inhuman speed sent the weapon soaring from his hand. Another blow to his stomach, this one much more powerful, sent Prysin flying backwards. He landed hard and found his breath would not come; desperately he tried to bring his limbs under his control while dizzy for lack of air.
“I’ve got her!”
Prysin finally managed to draw in a labored breath. He hadn’t been set upon; but of course that was because Damian had taken care of it. Thank Saradomin for Damian, and curse him to burn eternally with Zamorak. He heaved himself to his feet.
Damian was a few paces away, squared off against what appeared to be a woman, motionless against the alley wall. Seeing that Prysin was up, he said conversationally, “I’ve got her bound. Amateur stuff.”
Prysin was still focusing on returning his breathing to normal. “Good. Can she talk?” he said between sharp intakes of breath.
“You bet she can. Take a gander.”
Prysin did and received a shock; he was looking at a face he knew well. The Lady Sasa, come to Varrock’s court some months ago in the train of an ambassador from Asgarnia, scowled at him. Her fangs gleamed even in the darkness.
“I’d never have thought one so petty and simpering to be worthy of so much notice,” Damian remarked.
“It’s people like you she was aiming to fool with that disguise,” Prysin said, rather more sharply than he intended. Before Damian could retort, he asked, “Can you make her talk?”
“Certainly,” Damian said. “Only . . . you’d best not be mentioning that to anyone.”
“Just do it.”
“I will fight you as hard as I can,” Sasa snarled. Damian merely smiled and closed his eyes. Moments later, Sasa continued, “Lord Drakan could have use for you.”
“Not much of a fight,” Damian observed.
“She’s under your spell?”
Prysin stepped in close to Sasa. She regarded him coolly, not seeming the least perturbed to be under Damian’s influence. Either she wasn’t, or Damian had done a remarkable job. “Who is Lord Drakan?”
Sasa smiled and leaned forward, as if to confide in him a great secret. “He is the rightful Lord of these lands,” she said, almost gleefully.
“Is he like yourself? That is, a vampire?”
“Oh, he is much more than I,” she whispered. “Much more terrible. Much more magnificent. And his day is coming. He has told me so!” Her face lit up, and she bared her fangs in a parody of a smile.
“Laying it on a bit thick, isn’t she?” commented Damian.
“You sure you aren’t?” Prysin shot back. Damian did not deign to respond, so Prysin turned back to his interrogation. “What is he going to do?”
“Going to do? It is already under way!” Sasa giggled girlishly. “Tiny cracks in the structures of men, waiting for a wedge to be driven into them. They are vast, they are intricate! Just waiting to be . . . exploited.” Sasa leaned in so close that Prysin started back. “The kingdoms of the west are dying flames, each one wavering before the oncoming storm . . . and when they are gone, the darkness will be absolute!”
Prysin made a decision. This creature had been among the court of Varrock for months; she said this Drakan’s time was soon; all evidence suggested that there was little time. He drew away from Sasa. “I’m leaving. It will be dawn soon; I’ll be gone by then.”
“Hey, wait a second!” protested Damian. “What do we do with her? And where are you even going?”
“See what more you can get out of her, and then make her forget. As for where I’m going, I’ll not tell you. But,” he grabbed Damian’s arm and looked him in the eyes, “you must not tell anyone either. Not even my father. You have no idea where I’ve gone, understand?”
“What? I can help—”
“No!” Prysin shook his friend roughly. “You can’t, and tell no one!” He had his own ideas where to look, and if Damian had shown him anything it was how easy it would be for those ideas to be compromised. “You keep an eye on her and the rest of the court, and keep silent.” He started for the alley mouth, lit faintly by the oncoming dawn. He turned back to see Damian still staring after him, with Sasa still bound by his magic.
“Remember, tell no one.”
Prysin found himself sitting across the table from another vampire woman, this one a light of hope against the onslaught of darkness he knew to be coming. Aestas Sol regarded him silently, thoughtfully, and a hint worriedly. She was rolling a glass orb about in her hands. She had gone to fetch that orb from the floor after letting him in, and had been holding much the same throughout Prysin’s tale.
“I know you somehow defeated Count Draynor,” Prysin said, leaning forward in appeal. “And if my suspicions are correct, we are soon going to be facing much, much more where he came from. Much worse.”
“Why should she help you on a whim?” said the young man beside her, rather aggressively. He had identified himself as Manny. “You could be totally wrong, and what does it have to do with us?”
“He’s not wrong,” Aestas said before Prysin could retort. She held up the orb. “This showed me. Lord Drakan. I saw him, talking about his plans. Plans for Gielinor.” She stared intensely at Prysin. “He talked about you. A knight of Varrock. He knows.”
Prysin did not stop to question the statement. He stood up sharply. “We need to leave as soon as possible.”
“Hey, wait—” Manny began.
“Leave?” Aestas cried. “He’s sending people here!”
The room fell silent. “Sending people . . . here?” Manny repeated.
“He’s after you,” Aestas said, nodding at Prysin. “And me, I suppose,” she added, looking troubled.
“Which is why we have to leave. Now,” Prysin urged.
“I can’t abandon the village to monsters!” Aestas cried. “I could help them!” She pulled from beneath her blouse a golden amulet. “This is what saved me from Count Draynor. This is what could save Draynor village!”
Prysin was intrigued by the amulet, but he was itching to act. “Aestas,” he said, as levelly as he could, “I cannot in good conscience remain here knowing that there are monsters of unknown strength coming on my account. The best good you could do is by leaving! You do not know for sure if you could survive an encounter with whatever is coming, and the village will likely not be bothered if you or I aren’t here. Drakan likely still wants secrecy. He will not risk harming anyone he does not have to and raising the alarm.”
“Go, Aestas,” Dr. Harlow said suddenly.
Everyone turned to the pudgy doctor, who had thus far been silent. He removed his glasses and began cleaning them, speaking to his hands rather than the rest of the room. “Prysin is right. You cannot risk staying here. Saradomin knows I don’t want any more harm to befall you than already has.”
“But what if he’s wrong?” asked Aestas quietly. Even as she rose from her seat, she looked down at the doctor and repeated, “What if he’s wrong?”
Dr. Harlow looked up and smiled sadly. “Why then, child, we’ll give them hell to pay.”
Aestas threw herself at him and hugged him fiercely. Prysin busied himself collecting his pack and averted his eyes. He looked up to find that Aestas had joined him. “Let’s go,” she said.
Prysin looked back at Harlow and Manny, who looked rather thunderstruck. He addressed the doctor. “Thank you for your understanding, my good man. Please, keep this a secret from anyone not in this room. Whatever you do, tell no one.”
With that, he strode from the house, Aestas close behind.