Ralon is using a chestplate ripped from one suit of armor to bash in the visor of another he's got pinned. You slip over. A shriveled monk in a very dusty cassock grins at you. it's coming closer. You edge away and it picks up into a run.\n\nMisha leapfrogs over the head of a hellhound, lands next to you, and rips open the stomach of that monster. It's guts fall to the ground like an unpleasant pile of udon noodles.\n\nShe crouches over it, ripping chunks out as she finishes it off. Her left arm doesn't seem to move right and you see a gigantic snake fang sticking from under her shoulder blade. Black, rotting ooze is beading up and splashing in the dust.\n\nNot much you can do about it now.\n\n[[J1]]\n\nThere - the dagger is just ahead-\n
"Spare the humans. Me, Danny, and Misha." If you can get in good with her maybe you can wrangle another cure, or convince her to do something to keep your roommates alive ...\n\nShe cackles. "The humans? What an idea. You must prove you're worthy of serving me ... and you have a long way to go."\nShe turns back to the battle.\n\nFuck this.\n\nWhy exactly do these vampires keep discounting you? She's showing you her back. Now, you don't see anything around to stick into that back, but you're close enough that you can do something to ruin her good time.\n\n[[I7]]\n\nYou're going to find some way to mess up her battle frenzy spell. \n
You rush into the hall. Your foot hits the dust - and something else. You tumble facedown and curl up, pinching the bridge of your bloody nose. You look back and see your foot is caught in a snare of fine wire.\n\nAll that thrashing has blown some of the dust up. you choke on it as it seems to flood your nose and eyes - and you blink furiously, coughing, tears running down your dirty cheeks, and see bones lying on the floor. Charred human bones.\n\n"Is this for me?" that sweet, high voice whispers. You can't see anything, but you feel small hands, cobwebs, the rasp of scratchy lace brush against your skin. - and keeps sinking. You shriek, and then choke as you drop into the dust and fall deeper. IT gets into your eyes and mouth, up your nose. You draw in half a breath and scream, strangled. \n\n"Tribute," it whispers. "So tasty. So afraid."\n\nThe dust blows higher, and you can't breathe, you can’t-\nSomething snags your ankle and pulls you back into the first room. It's Ralon. He taps you on the back, the casual force enough to make your ribs creak. You cough out lungfuls of that noxious dust.\n\n"What did I tell you about wandering off?"\n\n"Nothing," you rasp out. "It never came up."\n\n"I guess I thought it went without saying." He spits in his palm and wipes some of the dust from your face. "Hurry up, now that she's had a taste she'll come for more."\n\nHe slips away into the left hand chamber, leaving you alone again.\n\n[[H1]]\n\nInto the crypts ... here there be monsters.\n
"Hello?" That's always a good place to start.\n\n"Tasty, tender vittles ..." it mutters.\n\n"We're here to visit the old mistress."\n\n"Soft, wet, breath stilling ..."\n\nThis isn't going very well. "I suppose the secret entrance to her lair is down this way?"\n\n"Tongues. Rectums. Fingernails."\n\nRalon grabs your elbow. "Don't worry about the dragger. He won't try anything unless you're too hurt to fight."\n\nYou don't feel good about turning your unguarded back to that thing, but Ralon has a firm hold of you and is propelling you along, toward that dark archway. You look over your shoulder and the monk's hazed-over eyes seem to fix on you. It grins and shuffles, slowly, after you.\n\nWhen you look forward, you see some kind of light in the darkness. There's something in there, and it's moving.\n\n[[F18]]\n\nOn to the next room ...\n
Ralon paces by, shaking out his fists and popping his knuckles. He's drenched in blood, only some of it his.\n\n"I can't believe it's gone. This is bad, I really needed that dagger to kill her. And I know Matthias will find some way to blame me for this. Bet on it."\n\nOf on the other side of the room, a hush falls. You look over and see that Matthias and Danny have managed to kill most of the creatures piling up on them. There's not much time left ...\n\nHe takes a deep breath, shrugs and rolls his head to loosen up his muscles. "Whatever. We'll take the hag down another way. Everyone dies." He glares in the direction of his Maker, who is levitating halfway to the ceiling, her pink nightgown ripping in the wind she has conjured. "Everyone."\n\nMisha slips off one of her leather gauntlets, a vital part of her rock concert outfit, and passes it to you behind Ralon's back. You slide the dagger from your sleeve, put it in the makeshift scabbard, and tuck it under your armpit into the waistband of your skirt. You pull the too-big shirt over it; the extra cloth hides the slight bulge.\n\nFinally. You have a magical weapon to use on these magical monsters. Time to go kill a vampire, and save Misha and Danny..\n\n[[L1]]\n\nDeeper into the crypts...
You wake up. It's sunset. Your phone is blinking - it's a text from Danny. He's gone to a local museum, which is showcasing ancient Roman weapons on loan from a dig site in Eastern Europe. He invites you to come along. History class is one of the few courses you enjoyed. The pictures he forwarded from the museum's brochure look amazing. Silver crowns, jeweled scepters, gilded books, Damascene weaponry, so so many things small enough to fit into your purse. Coincidentally, of course. You would love to get a look at one of the artifacts. Maybe more than just a look ...\n\nNo! You won't go back to your bad old ways. No thieving in Scotland.\n\nAt any rate, since it's opening night of the exhibit there will probably be free appetizers and maybe even champagne ...\n\nMisha is also out. She wrote on your arm - in indelible sharpie because she's a bitch - the following invitation:\n\n'HEY SKANK, GONE TO DEADFALLS CONCERT, GREENE STREET, BE THERE OR FUCK YOU!'\n\nNow, you never got into the whole Metal lifestyle but you like the Deadfalls' music. Hmm, an evening cruising hot guys, getting into trouble with Misha, hopefully not landing in jail or catching any STDs, and there would definitely be booze ... at concert prices. That would take a bite out of our budget.\n\n[[A1]]\nGet shitfaced with Misha?\n\n[[B1]]\nJoin Danny, and see how serious the museum is about it's 'look but don't touch' policy?\n
Blood on the Heather\n
There. You can here something off, something cutting over the screams and hissing and the wet sound of blood spraying the walls. You hear ... a howl. Like a wolf, only deeper. Every hair on your body stands up. \n\nThat sound's coming from the left, down the hallway and around the corner, where the front doors are.\n\nMatthias tenses. "Leave. To the right. There's a doorway to the parking lot."\n\n"Don't bail now! There's vampires everywhere!"\n\n"I am sorry, but a far greater threat awaits my attention. My mortal enemy ..." \n\nHe kisses the blade of the dagger and darts to the left. His coat flares with the speed he's running at, and then he's gone. Abandoning you in all this chaos.\n\nDanny's somewhere in this mess, but you could you ever find him? It's suicide to stick around here.\n\nYou edge for the parking lot exit. There's a lot of bodies in front of it, looks like people were really piling up. The door is hanging at an angle off one hinge. You pause, listening for danger outside-\n\nOne of the vampires on the ground, which you'd assumed was dead, shifts. A cold hand wraps around your ankle. Shrieking, you jump back, slip on a swath of blood, and slam your head into the wall and everything goes black. Your life flashes in front of your eyes. So many regrets, most of them in the last ten minutes ... how did you end up like this?\n\nYou wake up. That's a nice surprise. You take all that other stuff back, you regret nothing. I\n\nThe vampire that had grabbed you is well and truly dead now, rotting away. That's quite a mess; you feel sorry for whoever has to clean up after tonight.\n\nIt's gotten pretty quiet and you wonder how long you were out ... but you've gotten a second chance to save your own life, and you're taking it. You open the door a crack and see Matthias out there. He's pacing impatiently.\n\nDanny's there too. He's soaked with sweat, slumped against a car, holding his bandaged hand against his stomach. "Matthias, face it. Ralon escaped. We have to do the same."\n\nMatthias grimaces and nods reluctantly. "I recognize your smell," he calls out. "Join us, human."\n\n[[B27]]\nYou join the nice friendly vampire in the deserted parking lot.\n
Ralon parks his van on the outskirts of Nathair, a small, quaint village whose only businesses seemed to be pubs and kitschy tourist shops. He drums his fingers on the steering wheel and stares thoughtfully down the road.\n\nIn the grey predawn light, you can just make out the single tower and blocky grey main building of castle peeking up over the forest that covers the hills alongside Loch Nathair.\n\n"There it is. Cailleach Castle. Where the hag lives." \n\n"I didn't think it would be so small," you drawl out, crumpling up your soda can. You throw it behind you. It bounces off one of the vamp's heads.\n\nThey hiss, but it's half-hearted. They'd kept going berserk at the smell of blood in such short quarters, kept trying to bite each other. About half an hour ago Ralon had stopped at a car wash a couple towns back and ordered them to stand through a cycle. They cleaned up, but apparently even the half-undead find it miserable to be huddled up, soaking wet. At least they weren't as active as before.\n\n"Heh. The family that humans believe owns it couldn't afford to restore much. They live in this section by the road. Most of the castle is in ruins on that hill overlooking the loch. It 'burned down' in the eighteen hundreds."\n\n"What's with the air quotes?"\n\n"Humans say there was a fire ... vampires know that my Maker pissed off her witch allies, and there was a magical battle that destroyed the place. Except for the crypts where She lives."\n\n"Magic. Evil spells and stuff?"\n\n"Dark wards, spectral guards, that kind of stuff. Fucking witches, always with their hidden fees." He licks his lips nervously. "Getting in won't be easy."\n\n"Something tells me we can't just walk through the front door and ask for her."\n\n"Yeah. Forget about the castle, the woods, the tour groups. She lives in the crypts deep under the castle. That's where we gotta go. As far as I know, there's two ways in. There owners turned their section of the dungeons into a wine cellar ... there was a secret entrance to the crypts in there. We just have to break into the building. But my Maker watches out for her territory so she may have wards up everywhere."\n\n"The other way in?"\n\n"There's a well in one of the gardens ... or is it the hedge maze? Anyway, it's on the official tour. Unfortunately there's a birdwatcher's tour group that comes through Saturday mornings ..." A bus drives by and makes the turn toward the castle. "And there they are. Normally I wouldn't have a problem just carving my way through these sheeple, but my Maker hates when her prey get scared off and I gotta stay on her good side. For now. Okay, we'll go in through the manor."\n\nHe tools down the road.\n\n"You know an awful lot about this place ... do you spend a lot of time with your maker?"\n\n"HA! Fuck no! But when I heard Matthias had come back here I dropped by the village to keep the place under surveillance in case he tried to cosy up to our maker, turn her against me. Then I saw that article in the papers about that fucking dagger, and I knew he had a different game in mind."\n\nHe parks in the lot, pays the sleepy eyed attendant with some red-stained cash, and heads for the owner's private drive, which is around the side of the twelve foot privacy wall that encircles the manor.\n\n[[F2]]\n\nLooks like you're stuck with Ralon the superstrong vampire and his bloodthirsty minions. At least for now. \n
"Minions. Tear that gate down. I'll take care of the glass eyes." Ralon takes off in a blur of speed. You hear a wssshhh and see one of the security cameras aimed at the private, owners' entrance explode when a super speed rock hits it. The second one goes down the same way.\n\nThe vamps surge against the gate, hissing eagerly, wrestling with each other and stepping on each other in their haste to obey their maker. Misha climbs over the others' heads and jumps to the far side. She pushes and the others pull and the iron gate falls to the ground.\n\nThe vamps crawl out from under it and shake themselves off. Ralon waves you in first. He glances around the corner of the wall at that tour group of birdwatchers. "Fucking sheeple, I’d love to have a bite of them." He scowls and joins you.\n\nYou look at your first real-life castle. There's a tower in the back, the walled-in lawn and circular driveway with a Benz parked by the front door, and the main house, a fairly ugly blocky structure. It’s three stories of grey stone with ivy growing halfway up. One of the windows on the second story is open and you can hear faint music. \n\nRalon pulls you close and asks, "Do we climb through the window like somebody's dirty little secret? Or do we just go through the front door?"\n\n[[F3]]\n\nDo you feel up to bluffing your way in through the front door?\n\n\n[[F4]]\n\nWould you rather creep through the window, assuming you can climb to it?\n
You walk up the four broad steps to the front door and hesitate. The doorknob is shaped like a snake swallowing its own tail. There's two red jewels - or more likely, pieces of red glass- winking from the snake's eyes. You don't feel good about touching it.\n\nRalon slaps his hand over the door buzzer and keeps leaning his weight on it. You hear distant chiming music deep within the castle.\n\nAn older man in a black-pants-red-shirt uniform opens the door and greets you with a wide, plastic smile. "May I help you?"\n\n"We're coming in," Ralon explains.\n\nThe smile stays fixed on the servant's face as he looks over the group of you. You're in the ill-fitting maid uniform, Ralon's wearing a 'shirt' he made by tearing neck and arm holes in a pillowcase, so people would stop pointing and staring at the bandages in his chest, and the six vampires are in various combinations of wet, scuffed leather and wet, badly ripped concert tees.\n\n"Wonderful," he said. "We've been expecting you. Always nice to work with prompt professionals."\n\nHe holds the door open so everyone can shuffle in. You have a second to look around. This entrance hall is dark woods, dim electrical lights behind yellowed glass set in the walls, and a series of nondescript doors set farther down the room.\n\n"The young master is going to be so pleased to see his favorite band play at his surprise birthday party," the servant continues. "You don't exactly look like the album photo I saw, but I suppose those are always airbrushed."\n\nRalon cracks his knuckles. You know that look in his eye.\n\n[[F5]]\n\nAre you going to step out of Ralon's way and let him silence this man ... although the way he does it usually isn't very quiet?\n\n[[F6]]\n\nAre you going to step in and play along with being in a band that's so unsuccessful they have to degrade themselves by playing birthday party gigs?\n
"Maybe the window ... but how will we get in?" You're not exactly the most athletic girl.\n\n"You go in first and scout around, anyone in there's less likely to freak out about a human trespasser."\n\n"But-"\n\n"Start climbing before I have to motivate you."\n\nYou look around, see at least three minions staring hungrily at your throat, and decide you feel motivated enough.\nThere are all those vines growing in the side of the building. You take off your pumps and hook the heels through your belt, and start climbing. Ralon leans against the wall, looking shamelessly up your skirt. Good thing you put on that pair of second=hand underwear.\n\nYou climb in through the window and see a room painted an unpleasant moldery beige with uninspired brown grapevines crawling along under the ceiling molding. A teenaged girl with a pair of huge, thick granny-style glasses is banging enthusiastically on the piano, bent almost double over the keys. You're not sure if it's a classical piece or some really unfortunate jazz. A teenaged boy in a crumpled, wine-splashed suit is sitting at the couch, back to the window, nodding along to that sorry excuse for music. You creep to the side and see his eyes are closed and he has a pair of flesh toned ear buds leading to a music player he's half-hidden in one pocket.\n\nYou go back to the window and wave the vampires in. Ralon clears it effortlessly, his muscles rippling like a panther's. The vamps scrabble up after him, tearing vines loose and leaving gouges in the windowsill.\n\nRalon looks around the room and points to a dumbwaiter set in the wall by the open drinks cabinet. He also points out a hallway leading down from this room, and a curtained and fairly dark adjoining room where you see the shine of something metal. Maybe gold ...\n\nHe raises an eyebrow and you realize it's lady's choice.\n\n[[F7]]\n\nThe dumbwaiter looks like a fun roller coaster ride.\n\n[[F8]]\n\nThat hallway could lead to stairs down; after all, you are looking for a wine cellar. \n\n[[F9]] \n\nOoh, shiny things in dark rooms ...\n
Surprisingly enough, Ralon shows a little self-restraint. He reaches out and neatly snaps the servant's neck. \n\n"Back," he snarls at his minions. "You'll feed later. We don't have time for this, and I just hosed you guys off." He glances around sharply. "Something's wrong. I'm gonna investigate." He points at you. "Hide the body." He does that blur-of-speed thing again.\n\nOh, that's nice. The big bad vampire that can bench-press a car is leaving you to drag this poor bastard around. You look over the room again. On closer inspection you spot a row of coats hanging from hooks on the wall near the front door. There's also a small, low table with a pile of unread letters stacked on it. Neither one will hide the body.\n\n"Fuuuuuuck," you whisper. You grab the servant's body under the armpits and start dragging it along the floor toward the doors into the rest of the house. Maybe one of them leads to a linen cabinet or rarely-used toilet or something ...\n\nYou make the mistake of glancing down and see the servant is dead, but he's still smiling. God, this place is so creepy.\n\nYou smell sulfur. You hear ... animal footsteps pattering on the floor, claws clicking against the tile. You drop your burden and spin around and a - a half-transparent dog or wolf or some kind of black nightmare of muscle and teeth leaps onto you, knocking you flat. It closes its jaws on your neck and shakes its head, ripping out your throat.\n\nRalon appears ... and disappears as your vision goes black. The last think you hear is him shout "Fuck, the Maker's released her hellhounds! C'mon, minions, let's rumble!"\n\nYou have DIED.\n\n[[F1]]\nRestart the chapter?\n\n\n[[1]]\nRestart from the beginning?
Matthias looks around sharply. You're in a little island of peace, since most of the Mistress's simulacra that were attacking you have been killed, but a busy fight rages in the other side of the room. Sometimes you see Ralon or Misha before they leap back into the fray.\n\nIf you name one of the simulacra, he'll just search the bodies and find out there's no dagger ...\n\n"It was a huge cat, like a panther.," you invent. "It was made out of shadows and it melted into being, caught the dagger in its teeth, and vanished. Maybe a witch's cat or something."\n\n"Is that what kind of creature serves witches?" Danny's eyes are fire bright with the excitement of learning something new ... and with the fever that's killing him.\n\nMatthias cups a hand over his mouth and frowns, troubled. "I have never heard of such a thing ... but I have nothing to do with witches. Or other supernatural beings. Unlike my Maker, most of the vampires I have hunted do not ally with magical creatures and constructs so I have had little experience fighting them." He looks around and shrugs, helplessly. "A shadow cat thief. I will have to note that in my journal."\n\n[[K7]]\n\nWow, did that half baked story actually work?\n
"That's us," you say quickly. You grab Ralon's arm, pretending to hold him close as everyone follows the servant down the hall. Not that you're strong enough to actually hold him back if he goes berserk ...\n\nHe slants you a dark look and doesn't say anything.\n"We're just so happy to help make the birthday vision come true," you go on, drawing on the deep well of ass-kissing bullshit you developed during a summer job assisting a wedding caterer. \n\nTalk about degrading jobs...\n\nThe servant nods as he leads you past a staircase angling down to some lower floor. "Yes, it's going to be such a lovely, whimsical evening. Magical."\n\nYou feel Ralon's arm tense. You hang on tighter.\nThe servant stops at a door that seems to cringe under a nude painting of a very large woman, reclining on a couch and surrounded by at least a dozen very small dogs. \n\n"Just check in with our major domo, she's coordinating this and she'll tell you where to set up." He smiles at you - actually, you realize he hasn't stopped smiling this whole time - and walks off through another door. You briefly glimpse shining copper pans and a gas range before the door swings shut and you're alone here.\n\nRalon looks a lot more rattled than you'd expected. Granted, that guy was creepy, but c'mon. He's a mass murdering vampire with super strength and speed. What's he got to worry about?\n\nOne thing you do know is, things tend to get messy when Ralon flies off the handle. Maybe you should guide him away from here, before the blood starts flying and you're out another outfit?\n\n[[F10]]\n\nAre you going to stick to your admittedly flimsy cover story, and sign in as a band with the major d?\n\n[[F11]]\n\nAre you going to get out before your flimsy cover story falls apart, in this case by ducking down that staircase?\n
You arm yourself with a lost hubcap you find in the gutter and wait with Danny for Matthias to bring the car around. You know you have to stay alert - apparently Scotland has more evil vampires running around than it has rats - but every time you look at Danny he looks paler, weaker, closer to death. \n\nMatthias pulls up in a miserable, rusted hooptie. There's half a ripped parking ticket under his windshield wiper and the engine is making an irregular thumping noise. \n\nYou toss aside the hubcap and shake your head, disgusted.\n\n"Really? You think this will outrun the vampires?"\n\n"If they catch us, so much the better. I thirst to for Ralon's ash on my fingers-"\n\nYou roll your eyes and help Danny crawl into the backseat. \n\n"You do that, but first drop us at the nearest hospital, veterinarian, or pharmacy. We'll take it from there."\n\n"No. Impossible."\n\nFunny. You'd almost let your guard down around him. "Excuse me?" You're pretty tired of getting pushed around by these vampires. Where did you put that hubcap?\n\n"I've known Ralon for centuries."\n\n"So? Please don't start with another rant and vowing revenge and all that."\n\nHe glares. "Ralon disposes of humans on a moment's whim. He could have killed you when you were no use as a shield ... but he didn't. How unusual. I fear he has fixated on you. He has your scent now, and it is only a matter of time before he comes for you. Perhaps he will turn you into another of those miserable, doomed wretches he calls minions. Perhaps he will keep you as a human pet, though you will not last long. You are safer with me."\n\n"It doesn't look that way from where I'm standing."\n\nHe grabs your arm and hauls you to the back of the car. "I will not allow you to cast your life aside so recklessly!" He pops open the trunk.\n\n"Are you kidding me?"\n\nHe isn't. He stuffs you into the trunk. "This will keep your scent from leading him to my lair." You flip him off as he slams the lid closed.\n\nDuring the short, uncomfortable drive that follows, you look for (and fail to find) an emergency lever to open the trunk, a tire iron to use as a weapon, or a bottle of gin to numb the physical and emotional pain. Hey, a girl can dream!\n\nIn the end, all you can do is wait ...\n\n... until the car stops and Matthias opens the trunk.\n\n"Come into my lair," he says, poker faced.\n\n[[C1]]\nYou're concerned about what you'll find, but Matthias keeps a tight grip on your clothes as he hauls you out of the trunk and toward the big concrete warehouse.
The parking lot looks like a bunch of hooligans struck. Cars dented, windows smashed, cars tipped over, blood everywhere, cars on fire ... Matthias leads you and Danny to one of a battered, rusted four-door car that's parked diagonally across two handicapped spaces. He scowls at the parking tickets tucked under the windshield wipers and tosses them aside.\n\nHe takes a deep breath and looks around, eyes peering at every shadow and every piece of cover in the lot. \n\n"Easy there. You can kill this Ralon later. If you have to."\n\n"It must be done. Who knows how many human lives have been lost thanks to that monster's centuries of slaughter, of transforming feral vampires doomed to die after they kill still more?" He taps his fingers on the roof of his car and a muscle in his jaw twitches. "I wounded him. The dagger should have landed a lethal blow, but I did so want to finish this tonight."\n\nHe shakes his head and gets into the car.\n\nYou slide into the passenger seat and Danny stretches out in the back, breathing heavily.\n\n"What happened to your neck?" There's a black, seeping bite mark on it.\n\n"Ralon poisoned me."\n"Do vampires have to worry about poison?"\n\n"This one will likely kill me."\n\nOkay ... "I don't mean to be rude, but you can drop us off at any street corner. Any one. How about this one?"\n\n"It is far too late for that. Ralon occasionally develops an ... unwholesome interest in a human. I fear he has chosen you."\n\n"Why do you think so?"\n\nWhen he fled after I wounded him, he came across you, unconscious in the hall. And he let you live. That is ... extremely unusual. He knows your scent now, and can use that to hunt you like a wolf hunts a hart."\n\nRight. "So where are we going?"\n\n"We must retire to my lair and I will recover as much as I can and decide on the next move."\n\nYou always did want to see a vampire's lair.\n\nHe pulls down a side street lined with grey industrial buildings and stops in front of a large concrete structure at the end. "Welcome to my home."\n\n[[C1]]\nThis should be good. \n
"Let's put this behind us, and get out of here," you say with a bright smile. \n\nMatthias nods and begins to pace. He touches the wound on his neck and winces. "Ralon will return with what remains of his pack once he's finished feeding outside. Escape will be tricky ..." He rips the sleeve off the jacket of a dead human and uses that to clean his dagger as he walks slowly down the hall. "Come," he orders you. \n\nYou pull a letter opener from the fist of a fallen caterer and sidle up to Matthias.\n\n"I've been wondering ..."\n\nHe pauses and turns to look at you. "Yes?"\n\n"What the hell you vampires get off, taking your duel out on all the humans around you?!" You slam the letter opener into his chest. Unfortunately, it's quite dull and only pierces a few inches. \n\nHe hisses, eyes flaring red again, and his fist lashes out. Even injured and weakened, Matthias is strong enough to snap your neck with one blow.\n\nYou crumple to the ground. Matthias stares down at you, then looks up again, his eyebrows shooting up. in the distance, you think you can hear Danny's voice. But that's not possible. Is it?\n\nThere's a rushing in your ears and everything goes dark.\n\nYou have DIED.\n\n[[1]]\nTry again?
"Ralon will storm this building again as soon as he finishes with his snack outside ... we must get out of this deathtrap and regroup," Matthias says. He's massaging the bite on his neck, his voice tight with pain. You see black oozing up between his fingers from the wound.\n\nFuck this. \n\nYou take off down the hallway, the opposite direction of Ralon and Matthias, as fast as you can without slipping in the blood and random patches of intestines and blood-slick exhibit programmes. Up ahead there's a vampire writhing on the ground, snatching at your ankles as you streak past, moaning and choking out black, horrible fluids. \n\nMatthias darts in front of you and you bounce off him and stumble backwards. "Do you really think you have a chance against the starving, blood-crazed vampires that riddle this building? Don't take the precious gift of human life so lightly." He grabs your wrist and drags you back to the front door.\n\nDanny is sitting up against the wall. He glances at you, eyes focused and face dripping with sweat. \n\n"Come," Matthias says as he walks out.\n\nDanny nods and struggles to his feet, limping after you.\n\n"What happened to him?" Last you saw he was dying.\n\n"I ground the edge from his pain, though the trick will not last long. Let us retreat and plan the next move."\n\n'Us'? You don't remember agreeing to ally with him, but you're in no position to argue.\n\n[[B28]]\nAt long last, you've made it out the front door.\n
"Sure. Don't let it happen again." You press your hand to your throat and hope the vampire hasn't given you any VDs.\n\nMatthias frowns down at his broken dagger and bends to wipe the blade on the once-white vest of a caterer who had died with a letter opener in his hand. "I fear Ralon will return once he has drained another victim. The museum is a trap; we need to break free of it."\n\nNot that Danny is in any shape to run off - wait. Danny.\n\nYou look over and see him lying there, still as a piece of roadkill.\n\n[[B19]]\nYou run to his side\n\n
No point going out the front, that's where that fucking master vampire went. You turn and run like the wind for the back door. Thank god you wore sensible shoes! \n\nYou rush down the hallway, sidestepping the occasional vamp that reaches for you. There's something wrong with these guys ... they're crawling along the ground, moaning, almost like they're in pain. One chokes and vomits something black and horrible. You don't have time to debate it; Danny's counting on you.\n\nIt turns out not all the larval vampires are in such bad shape. You spot two vamps by the back door. One rushes at you and you snap kick him in the teeth. He falls back, hissing. The other tries to flank you and you drop your weight and drive an elbow into his ribs. That was a lot less effective. It twists your wrists behind your back, holding on with bruising force. The other grabs your leg. You scream. \n\n"I have lost my patience with this!" Matthias hisses. He pulls the one behind you away, rips its head of, and gives the same treatment to the second vamp. \n\n"Danny?" His eyes are glazed, his skin clammy and sweaty, but he's standing right there, leaning against the wall. "You aren't dead?"\n\n"I took his pain, for now. We must flee to the safety of my lair and plan our next move."\n\n[[B28]]\nYou help Danny limp out the back door.
You rush out through terrify window, see Ralon slumped against terrify hood of a car that's sideways in terrify street, engine still running, front door torn off. Ralon is bent over a human he's pinned to terrify car's hood. Terrify human is limp, blood running down terrify grooves of terrify car. Ralon is shaking, feeding greedily. HE doesn't react as you walk closer.\n\nYou look down and see part of terrify window frame twisted at your feet. It's jagged metal, but you reach down and pull of a forearm-long piece. Terrify twisted metal bites into your fingers ... like you care.\n\nYou walk up behind him and he twitches, lifts up from his victim but doesn’t look over at you. "Hang on, kitty, I'll get to you next."\n\n"Leave her alone," Matthias says. He's leaning against the doorframe, dagger loose in his fist. "We aren't finished."\n\nRalon hisses and blurs away into the night, his remaining feral vampires chasing after him.\n"Come."\n\n"I can't. I've gotta get my friend to a doctor."\n\n"The man you were kneeling by? I have stabilized him. We must flee before Ralon feeds and comes back with his strength renewed."\n\n[[B28]]\nThat's an excellent point ...\n
You touch Danny's throat and feel a heartbeat. You're terrified by how fast it is but at least it's still beating. You crouch beside him, sweep your fingers through his mouth to be sure the airway is clear, and then tip his head back a little and breathe into his lungs.\n\nNothing. You pinch his nose close and try again. His chest rises, and he kicks out weakly and gasp for breath.\n\n"Come on," you tell him. "Get up, we can't stay here."\n\nYou shriek as a vampire rushes at you, throwing you through the plate glass window. You roll to a stop in the street, staring up at the few stars visible in the light-polluted sky. terrify vamp's face fills your vision before he ducks down. You feel his teeth slice through your neck and terrify stars overhead blur and go out. \n\nYou have DIED.\n\n[[Start]]\nTry again?
You look around frantically - no stakes. Shit. But wait - there's a fire extinguisher on the floor behind the ticket counter! You grab it. Damn this is heavy.\n\nThe two vampires are on Matthias. He staggers against the wall, struggling weakly. He doesn't look good - something is really wrong with him.\nMaybe you should use the fire extinguisher on ... \n\nWhat are you thinking? Of course the undead won't be stopped by a cloud of CO2! \n\nSo you use the fire extinguisher another way and bash the nearest vamp in the head with it. The impact jars up along your arms and the canister's too heavy; you can't keep a grip on it. You drop the extinguisher. Matthias slashes at the stunned vamp and gets it on the cheek, just a light scratch, nothing special. It hisses and you dance away as it goes up in flames. \n\nThere's another fireball as Matthias dispenses with the second vamp. You walk through the falling cloud of ash and see him sway and shut his eyes. You drape his arm over your shoulders to help him limp out of there. He's all-too-pale, lips blue-tinged, a weight going limp against you.\n\nSuddenly his eyes snap open and he crushes you close. You feel his cold breath on your throat, and then a burning pain as his fangs sink in. You scream - mostly in anger - and struggle. He shudders and you hear sickening, wet noises as he swallows your blood. In desperation, you claw at the side of his neck, hooking your fingers into his wound.\n\nMatthias hisses and releases you. His eyes glitter red ... and then fade into his normal green. He wipes his mouth and grimaces at the red on his fingers. \n\n"My deepest apologies. I rarely feed from humans, and in my current state, with you smelling alive and bloody ... I was overcome."\n\n[[B24]]\nDo you forgive him? Or pretend to, at least until he can help you get to safety?\n\n[[B25]]\nIt's possible you're better off as a free agent than trying to ally with this bloodsucker. Maybe you should just run ...\n\n[[B26]]\nUnbelievable. This is the thanks you get for trying to help him? Maybe you want to say 'you're welcome' with something pointy.\n\n
You rifle through the buffet table. There aren't exactly many options in sight ... for god's sake, even the butter knives by the cheese plate are made of dull plastic! Freaking UK ban on weapons, what's wrong with these people ... But wait ... salvation is at hand! You arm yourself with a kebab skewer, pulling off the stringy meat and grease-soaked onions as you shoulder your way into the men's room.\n\nIt's actually a pretty nice place in here. No graffiti, no pools of drying urine, no used condoms stuck to the mirror. There is a fair amount of blood, though. You step over the twitching body of an older gentleman whose throat has been ripped out. The door to the rearmost toilet, the handicapped stall, bent and hanging from one hinge. You pick your way down there, praying it's Danny fighting for his life instead of the other explanation for the grunting, thumping noises.\n\nOh goodie, it's your lucky day! Danny is crushed into the corner, holding one of the security guards back with all his strength. Which isn't much on a good day, he never works out. \n\nYou get closer and see this guard has pasty white skin, long yellowed nails, and even longer ... fangs.\n\n"Stop staring and help me!" Danny chokes out\n\nYou grab the skewer firmly, take a deep breath, and sink it into the monster's back. It hisses like a furious snake and staggers backwards. You jump out of the way as it crashes into the row of urinals that faces the toilets. \n\nFlames rise around the skewer, spreading over its uniform. It gives one more shriek, the howl of a damned creature falling into bottomless darkness, and burns to a crisp of ash.\n\nThe fire alarm in the men's room goes off. The 'no smoking, please' sign over the doorway starts blinking.\n\n"I think that was a vampire," you tell Danny.\n\n"Apparently." He straightens his glasses, then his coat. "Oh, for Christ’s sake." He pulls out of his pocket a handful of smashed pens and pencils. Ink runs down the front of his shirt. You guess the pocket protector hadn't done a very good job.\n\nThere’s more screaming outside. You want to get out of here, but the only window is too small to fit through, too high to even reach. The only way out is back into the main hall ... where you hear more screams, shouts, and other, more inhuman noises.\n\nYou take Danny's hand and slip out the door.\n\n[[B8]]\nWhat you see is worse than you'd expected ...\n
You barge into the men's room. It's cleaner than you'd expected ... except for the dead man on the ground. You slip in the blood spreading out from his body - damned flats with no tread on the soles! - and run down the line of stalls to the last one, whose door hangs open at an angle from one hinge. Please, you tink to yourself, please let Danny be under attack here, instead of grunting ... in the men’s room ... with some stranger. You remember what you saw in the men's room in Tijuana. That was unforgettable.\n\nOh good, he is under attack! By a freak cosplayer taking things too far. A security guard with white skin and long fangs, blood running down his chin. Poor Danny is barely able to hold him off from ... whatever the guard was trying to do.\n\nYou leap on his back, try to get him in a choke hold. "Shit!" You let go when you feel now unnaturally, deathly-cold his skin is. \n\nThe creature grabs Danny by the hair and pulls his head to the side, exposing the line of his throat. "Damn it, help me!" Danny shouts.\n\nYou smack the guard on the back of its head. "Hey, bitch! Over here!" \n\nIt lets Danny go and turns to you, eyes wide and sanity gone. \n\n"Yeah, that's right," you continue. You pull down the neckline of your sheath a little and tilt your head back. "Tasty snack right here, no axe body spray on me. Bet you'd like a taste of this!"\n\nIt groans and steps closer to you. Behind its back, you see Danny fumble around in his shirt pocket. He comes out with a pencil, walks up to the monster, and stakes it through the chest. \n\nThe vampire howls and whirls around, fire rising from the makeshift stake in its back like a roman candle. Danny rushes out of the space and the two of you brace the stall door closed. There's an impact against it, another howl, and then a whoooooossshhhhh. Ash sifts under the stall door, settling over your shoes. When you peek in, the room is empty except for a plume of ash that is sucked out and stings your eyes.\n\n"Wow. A real live vampire."\n\nDanny shakes his head. "I wish. If we could have captured this one alive, it would be worth a fortune to the right lab." \n\nYou cock your head, listening to the rising screams and roars in the museum hall just beyond the door. "I think we'll get a second chance."\n\nDanny takes your hand and leads the way out. You take a deep breath, bracing yourself for what's to come.\n\n[[B8]]\nYou step out into more trouble than you could have prepared for ...\n
You press against the wall to the side of the doorway and carefully peer around it. There's something moving in the dimness of the room beyond. It looks like one of the security guards. He's walking hunched over, breathing heavily. Pervert.\n\nHe pauses and throws his head back, sniffing the air like a dog. Slowly, he turns to face you. You see he's horrifically pale, his eyes gleam red like an animal's and they seem to fix on where you're hiding. You should duck back but you're staring, frozen in horrified fascination. The guard opens his mouth, grinning wide like a snake about to devour bigger prey ... and his teeth change. Two long, gleaming fangs drop into view and you know for sure you aren't tripping because you went with Danny, not Misha, and Danny doesn't slip drugs into your coke for fun.\n\nSince you know you aren't hallucinating, it can only follow that this is a vampire. And it's spotted you.\n\nA young woman in sky high stilettos and a glittery sequined minidress scrambles into the room from the stairwell. Screaming. Her blonde hair is coming down from a french twist, and she's got blood spattered across her face and bony chest.\n\nShe stumbles into the room, off balance because one of her stilettoes has a broken heel, and falls to her knees. The vampire guard whips around and rushes for her. She screams again and kicks out, but he is too fast, too strong. He lifts her and slams her into the floor and the screaming stops. \n\nYou cover your mouth and swallow back down the energy drink you chugged on the way here. You can clearly hear your fast gasping and the wet sounds as the vampire tears into that woman.\n\nHe'll finish with her soon, and you are a happy meal sitting all unguarded and alone in this room. You need to get out of here! Oh goody, there's the emergency exit. You run over to it. \n\nWhat th- it's locked?! This is a shocking violation of fire codes! You're going to give customer service an earful, assuming you or anyone else in this building survives!\n\nLooks like the only way out is through the room with the vampire in it. You'd better find something to arm yourself with, fast. But what to look for?\n\n[[B9]]\nThat dagger can make people explode, so maybe the other things in the exhibit will, too.\n\n[[B10]]\nOn the other hand, a stake is traditional in these situations (or so the 1001 schlocky vampire movies you've seen would claim). Maybe you should look for one of them? \n
You follow hot on Matthias's heels. He stops abruptly and you run into his back, accidentally shoving him headfirst down the stairs. Two vampires are there, savagely tearing into ... someone in a badly ripped suit. You don't look too closely. The vampires look up at Matthias on the stairs and lunge for him. \n\nYou grab Matthias by the ankle - it would be a fucking tragedy if the dagger fell into the wrong hands, meaning anyone's hands but your own! But you're a short, slim girl and you just don't have the upper body strength to drag him way. \n\nShoulda joined Misha at the exercise center, but boxing's not your thing ...\n\nYou back off, not wanting to see Matthias get eaten but not wanting to lose sight of what happened to that dagger. \n\nFlips backwards into a crouch and stabs the nearest vampire through an eye. The vamp sucks in a shocked breath and SSSSSSSWHOOOOOOSHHHHH! Gone in a puff of smoke.\n\nYou'll have to keep that in mind. Matthias plays dirty, plays dead. You like that in a man.\n\nThe other vampire hisses, eyes wide and crazed, and runs upstairs. You notice someone has scratched its face, and something like black pus is dripping from the wounds. Matthias chases after it and throws it into a glass display case.\n\nYou see a blonde girl in a sequined dress and stilettoes run up the stairs, a female vampire with bleached blonde hair teased high chasing close behind. The vamp grabs her as she runs by and sinks its fangs into her thigh. She shrieks, kicks it in the goodies and the vamp tumbles down the stairs to the bottom. The blonde limps toward you with a broken heel to her shoe.\n\n"Come on." You offer her a hand. She punches you in the teeth - good thing she wasn't wearing rings! - and shoves you aside as she rushes into the first of the upper exhibit rooms.\n\nYou see a vamp climb up the outer wall and vault, silently, over the balcony. If your lip wasn't freshly split, you might have felt like warning her.\n\nYou turn your back on the cut-off screams and wet chewing noises.\n\nMatthias has grabbed the other vampire by the throat and grinds him into the shattered glass case. "Where is your master's lair? Tell me, you pestilent creature, and I will end your suffering." \n\nNo answer. Matthias snarls even more deeply. "I've heard the rot is agony. Maybe you think you can't suffer more, but I assure you, I am inventive."\n\nLet's see, one vamp here feeding off a bitch (though the blonde is so bony you doubt she has much blood to drink), and one vigilante with a magic knife. That sounds like your cue to leave. You look down the stairwell and see the blonde vamp is coming up it with a friend. The new one has honest to god spiked piercings coming from his eyebrows, and a snake tattooed on his face. He's got a crossbow, maybe from one of the exhibits downstairs, and it looks like he's loading a bolt.\n\n\n[[B11]]\nShould you warn Matthias to hurry up and take care of business?\n\n[[B12]]\nOr should you sell Matthias out to these vamps and sneak off while they rip him up?\n
The museum used to be a court house, before that a train station, and has been minimally retrofitted since then. It gives you unpleasant flashbacks to your past. Luckily most of that past happened before you could be tried as an adult! There's no reason to be nervous!\n\nIt's a beautiful place, marble walls and steel beams holding up the roof, statuary set here and there. There is one long entrance hall, with tickets by the front door that leads to the street, and a gift shop by the door to the parking lot. You the hallway stretches all two floors up to the roof and you can see the open balconies of the upper floor from where you stand.\n\nWell, now you've finished casing the joint - no, admiring the architecture - while your credit card is processed. You step away form the girl at the ticket counter, putting the little sticker that proves you paid for entrance on the front of your nondescript white blazer (reversible, flower-patterned inside), which coordinates with a pale grey sheath and dark grey flats. In your purse you have a tightly wadded long skirt and a pair of big flashy yellow sunglasses. Just in case you feel the need to have another identity with little warning.\n\nSo, you take a programme from the man by the ticket counter and glance through it. First floor, jewelry, looks interesting. Oh, they have a rare earths exhibit, how natural history! However, the meteorite would be worth a fair amount to the right collector.\n\nBla bla paintings, a Renoir, interesting, bla bla sculptures- there! The 'Roman treasures' exhibit is up on the second floor. You've got to get a look at this. There's a lot of people here, which could be an advantage to distract suspicion from you ... \n\nYou peek over the edge of the programme at the guards. There are a lot of them milling around the place. Maybe you should keep your plans modest, just enjoy the buffet that's down the hall and keep a low profile. No need to burn the candle at both ends, you have two weeks here before flying back.\n\nHm. You look closer. There are ... a whole lot. A dozen? Twelve security guards that just came in by the service entrance. They look pretty rough, too. More tattoos than you're used to seeing on the gainfully employed. Maybe it's a Scottish thing?\n\nMaybe something else is going on.\n\nYour phone buzzes. It's a text from Danny. It says: SAW DRUID EXHIBIT. WHAT AN OUTRAGE. HAD TO TRACK DOWN PROVISIONS. FIND ME, FIRST FLOOR.\nDanny in an outrage is about the most entertainment you have without paying for it ... on the other hand you see something interesting stirring upstairs; people are wandering out and it looks like someone's setting up a security rope. \n\n[[B2]]\nTrack Danny down, and enjoy the fireworks?\n\n[[B3]]\nSurely one little peek at what's going on upstairs won't hurt ...\n
You head down the hall. There on your left is the gift shop. It's separated from the rest of the museum by a wall of full-length windows, and you peek in as you walk by. It seems full of kitschy crap, with customers edging sideways among the overstuffed tables and display shelves. You spot books, candlesticks, keychains, 'genuine Highland tartans' in pink and teal, and what looks like a whole lot of secondhand Egyptian memorabilia. Weird. \n\nAh. You smell food! You hurry on and elbow people out of your way to get to the buffet table. Eagerly you seize a paper plate and see...\n\nWhat the hell is this sorry excuse for a spread? Dry squares of toast? Tomatoes, cut in half and fried on the cut sides? That's ... bizarre. There's some sausage so at least that looks edible. A stack of battered and deep fried sandwiches - you hurry on. Kebabs on skewers ... you grab a couple, add some potato chips to your plate and a single slightly bruised apple, and squint at a sinister dark brown lump that vaguely resembles fruitcake.\n\n"It's black pudding," Danny says behind you. He's wearing a casual suit, bow tie, and pocket protector with several pens and pencils. He's holding two styrofoam cups of some kind of fruit punch.\n\n"Ohhhh man. I didn't think that was real, like a real thing that people still eat nowadays."\n\n"It gets worse." Danny leans closer and whispers, "There was haggis, but people cleaned that up fast. I mean, it was gone within a minute of hitting the table."\n"Did you try some?" \n\n"I feel sick." He passes you one of the cups, takes a swig off his, and shudders. "I am sickened," his voice rises, "and outraged by the condition of the druid exhibition display!" He pulls a small flask from one of his suit coat's inner pockets and doctors up your glass, then his own. \n"What have they done?"\n\nHe scowls at the punch and tosses it aside. It sprays a large woman in a tight white dress. She gasps and makes a beeline for security. "These cheap bastards are keeping the druid exhibit, which includes delicate textiles, wooden carvings, and even pieces of vellum - in an argon-infused atmosphere in the case! Not helium! Cutting corners like that will degrade the materials in no time, but do they care? Apparently not!" He pulls out his flask again and chugs straight from it. "It gets worse! I was looking at that sacrificial dagger - you know, the gorgeous one?"\n\n"Um, let me see ... yes, I think I remember seeing it when I glanced at the catalogue." You take the flask from him. It won't do to let him get too worked up this early in the evening, not when you have plans you'd love to pull off.\n\nOf to the side, you see the security shove the woman in the stained dress aside, brusquely. She turns her nose up and storms away. That's some great customer service in action.\n\n"Well, I got a closer look at it, due to them keeping the lights so bright in there, and that radiation is no good for the artifacts either. And I saw ..." his voice drops, "fingerprints. Fingerprints! Who the hell handled that thing? Who would leave their body oils on it, etching away that gorgeous relic like acid?"\n\n"Oh no." He's a man on the edge, and you know it would only take one more little nudge to push him over. "That's awful, but what can we do?"\n\nDanny flails, sputtering. "What - what can we do? You're asking me this? You're actually saying that, just dismissing everything?! I'll tell you what we can do." He looks around wildly, ruffles his hair (he looks a little like Einstein at this point), and slowly turns to stare up the galley, up at the second floor. "We're going to give those artifacts a new home. Yes," he muses. "We can take much better care of them. You and I can slip away with them, just like the old days ..."\n\nBingo. You smirk, satisfied. Danny is dependable, if not always predictable. "You still remember our old routines? I think we can pull off a 'monkey in the subway' here, no problem."\nHe taps his chin. "But where will we get so many balloons, at this time of night?"\n\nYou shrug. "Condom machine in the men's room?"\n\n"Brilliant." Danny hurries into the men's room. \n\nYou hear someone scream. It seems to be coming from the ... security entrance? Then two more people screaming. You aren't tall enough to see over people's heads.\n\nIn the men's room, you hear Danny shout in fear, and the sound of something smashing.\n\n[[B4]]\nAre you going to look for something to arm yourself with, and then bust into the men's room to help Danny?\n\n[[B5]]\nOr maybe you think there's no time to waste, so you'll go in the men's room now and improvise when you see what you're dealing with?\n\n
You climb the stairs, working against a crowd of disappointed people going the other way.\n\nAn extremely old man whose beard is bigger than his chest and who leans on a cane catches your arm. "Exhibit's closed for a quarter hour, lassie. Something' about checking th' humidity levels."\n\n"I'm just going to take one little peek," you promise him. \n\nYou make your way up to the top of the stairs and step into the second floor. The lights here are dimmer and set into the wall with diffuser panels of frosted glass in front. It makes each large exhibit room look cavernous, shadowy in the middle with golden glowing walls.\n\nYou walk by the few stragglers in the first room and peer into the doorway of the second. Someone's blocked the way off with a velvet rope between two moveable poles. Aww, they even hung a 'no entry' sign. That's cute. Even cuter that everybody's obeying it! \n\nYou look over your shoulder. Not a security guard in sight. As soon as the woman in buttoned fur coat (who has obviously smuggled in her teacup sized dog, it keeps yipping) turns her back, you climb over the rope and slip out of sight of the doorway.\n\nThis room has big glassed-in exhibit boxes lining the walls, and several freestanding ones in the center of the room. You walk by the box of jewelry, taken from Viking burials from one of the many, many times the Scandinavians landed in Scotland and got their rape, pillage, and burn on. \n\nNot in modern times, of course ...\n\nIt's disappointing to think that you haven't brought the right equipment for a job like this, but you can at least get a look at the famous druid artifacts, right?\n\nSMASH.\n\nYou freeze and listen to the sound of glass tinkling to the floor. That's weird, shouldn't the alarms be going off?\n\nCuriosity gets the better of you, and you sneak forward.\n\n"I can hear you," a man says.\n\nYou see a guy standing there in a long tweed coat. He's slim, you can tell even the bulk of that coat and his suit. His long black hair curls over his shoulders and you see, form his profile, he has a scar across his crooked nose.\n\nHe's rummaging through the glass case, pulling out rings, an offering bowl, beads, and tossing them carelessly to the ground. \n\nYou don't approve of littering, so you walk up and put some of the valuable-looking items in your purse. no doubt to give to the authorities ...\n\nHe pauses and turns to look at you. He has deep grey green eyes and at this angle you can see a scar high up on his neck, almost as if someone has tried to cut his throat. "You're quite a confident girl." \n\n"Are you telling me I can't have these, handsome?" You inhale, wishing you had more of a cleavage to point at him, and toss aside the antique sandal you'd been considering. That one can't be worth much.\n"My name is Matthias. And I'm telling you, this is mine," he breathes, holding up his find. It's the sacrificial dagger, one of the prize items in the collection. It's gorgeous, electrum plated, inscribed with runes. Wide bladed, hefty, and worth at least as much as its weight in gold. Your mouth waters at the sight of it.\n\nBut you need to get your strategies straight, this is not the time or place to fight him for it. You start to edge away. If you can track down Danny, maybe he's come equipped with something helpful. Then the two of you can jump this guy in the parking lot-\n\nDownstairs, people start screaming. You turn and rush for the exit. Matthias suddenly appears, blocking the doorway. Fuck, how did he move that fast?\n\nHe shoves you back. "Stay put, you don't want to get tangled up with all of this." And he vanishes. \n\nYou rush over to the velvet rope just in time to see him stab a security guard with the dagger. There's a hissing noise, like meat dropped in hot oil, and the guard explodes in a fireball of swirling blue white flames, that almost immediately turn into a cloud of ash. You're staring, openmouthed, as the ash settles. There's no sign of Matthias. \n \nFuck.\n\nYou rub the goose bumps on your arms. It's dark and lonely in here, and the screams downstairs have gotten louder ... almost as if whoever's making the racket is working their way upstairs. Decision time.\n\n[[B6]]\nThe man said to stay put, and that seems like a solid plan. You're sure Danny will be fine. Perfectly fine, just as fine as you are up here.\n\n[[B7]]\nOr maybe you should try to stick close to the weirdo? He does have a kick-ass weapon. \n
Matthias looks around one more time, kicking at the dusty floor as if that will make the dagger reappear. He sighs. \n"Very well. We cannot leave the path we have set on ... let us go confront the Maker. Perhaps justice will lead us to victory."\n\nAwesome, you got away with it! You flash Danny a thumbs up behind Matthias's back. \n\nHe rolls his eyes. "Your face is bloody." He gives you a handkerchief and glances pointedly at your sleeve. \n\nJust what you needed. You wrap the dagger and slide it down your side and tuck it into the waistband of the skirt. The shirt, several sizes too big, drapes inconspicuously over it.\n\nYou've got a weapon, you’ve got a vampire to use against her, it's time to take her down and get those cures!\n\n[[L1]]\n\nWho's afraid of a little darkness?
There's a small group of well-dressed bourgeoisie who have tipped the corner buffet table on its side and are trying to hide behind it. It hasn't occurred to any of them to use the kebab skewers at hand on the circling vamps. One portly man in a gore-stained shirt makes a brave attempt to beat a vamp's head in with the empty punch bowl ... before getting dragged over the dubious safety of the table by four vamps, who fall on him like wild dogs on a hunk of kobe beef. \n\nYou spot a two teenagers, one in an obnoxiously retro polka dot poodle skirt, the other in pancake makeup and her hair teased into a ratty beehive. Poodle skirt leads the way to the rear fire exit, slips out, and locks the door behind her. What a coward. Beehive shoves at the latch and curses. She turns and runs back down the hall. A beefy vamp with quite a potbelly chases her. He snaps his teeth at you two as he passes.\n\nDanny holds you close. "Misha invited me to that concert," he says. "I’m beginning to think I should have taken her up on it."\n\n"Too late now." You edge down the hall. "Let's try the gift shop, maybe they've got some replica knives, or something else useful." \n\nThe lights of the gift shop are off. You hesitate, wondering if entering is a good idea. Probably not. \n\n"Aaaooooooww."\n\nYou and Danny freeze.\n\n"Was that ... a wolf howling?"\n\nOkay! You shoulder the glass door open and edge inside. It's dark in here. You fumble the lights on. Someone slams a vase over your head. The ceramic smashes and you collapse.\n\nDanny grapples with a woman in a fur coat. "Control yourself, madam! We're humans, too!"\n\n"Get out!" She shrieks. "You'll lure them in here. I can't die until I've paid off my Lexus!"\n\nYou stagger to your feet, seize her by the hair, and throw her into the hallway. Luckily, a vampire is there to catch her.\n\nShe whimpers, cowering in fear as the vamp sniffs her with interest. She reaches into her fur coat and pulls out a teacup dog. Which she offers to the vamp.\n\nYou shake your head in disgust.\n\nThe vamp picks up the dog, looks at it with disdain, and drops it. He chooses the meatier prey, throwing the woman to the ground, crouches over her, and rips his long, shiny fangs into her wrists.\n\nThe dog whimpers and runs in to the gift shop, diving under the display tables.\n\nDanny is slowly and neatly picking through the bookshelves.\n\n"Focus. We've gotta hurry," you remind him.\n\n"Oh, an illustrated guide to pre-bronze age Irish sites ... " he mumbles.\n\nYou roll your eyes, tear from the wall a long narrow Japanese print in a mice bamboo frame, and smash it. Voila, two stakes. You shove one into Danny's hand, take the other, and leave the shop. \n\nThere's an evil-looking duo of vamps by the door to the parking lot. They look almost like they're guarding it, their eyes a little saner, a little clearer. They turn their heads and spot you, bodies tensing like a dog scenting an opened can of food. But these well-trained animals don't spring for you. You ... might be able to attack them, work around them, hell you may be able to talk to them.\nOr maybe that's a terrible idea. Just beyond them is the door to the security room, where if you can force your way in, and if it hasn't been totally overrun by bloodsucking security guards, you might be able to get some better weapons.\n\n\n[[B13]]\nTwo humans, two stakes, two vamps ... you're getting into the parking lot whether it's around or through the guards.\n\n[[B14]]\nIt would really be helpful to have a giant cricket bat, sock stuffed with batteries, expired haggis, or whatever the hell people in the UK are legally allowed to defend themselves with. So maybe the security room?\n
The necklaces and rings you picked up probably won't do much unless they act like grenades when thrown ... \n\nYou paw through the box. Broken bowl, no ... Polished mirror, oh nice, it's silver and accidentally dropping into your purse, but also useless ...\n\nYou hear footsteps behind you, and a feral hiss. Shit! Shit! You fumble with the display case and gash your palms on the glass. What about this engraved ladle, it's got a long metal handle?\n\nThe vamp rushes at you, you hear the footsteps coming and turn and stab it. The handle sinks through its chest like a hot knife through rotting fruit ...\n\nAnd nothing happens. Come to think of it, none of those 1001 schlocky vampire films featured an iron stake. \n\nIsn't iron what you use against evil elves or some such? You wish you could ask Danny, he would know for sure. But you won't be asking him anything, because this vampire has ripped your throat open. Your blood sprays out, arterial red, and everything goes dark.\n\nYou have DIED.\n\n[[1]]\nTry again?
Matthias holds you up so you can barely stand on tiptoe. He pats you down one-handed, which you know from experience is a very inefficient way to search someone. However, the dagger isn't exactly well hidden and he finds it.\n\nHe releases you, his face set in grim lines of grave disappointment. "How foolish and impulsive, I expected more judgment from you." He slides the dagger into the scabbard under his coat. "Do you not understand how dangerous this item is? Even one such as I fears its predatory-"\n\nBla bla bla. You're not one to dwell too long on your failures so you tune the lecture out. The fight at the far end is dying down and you're getting an uneasy feeling, the same one that comes over you when you're partying at a friend’s and there's a sense of impending doom, that the cops are about to raid the place and arrest people. This sense of 'get out now'.\n\n"I hope you understand your mistake," he finishes.\n\n"I do, and I am so sorry." You manage to keep the sarcasm down to level one. You're proud of yourself. \n\nDanny bites his lip on a smile. Matthias nods gravely. "Well. Let us finish this unpleasant drama."\n\nYou perk up. Time to go kill a vampire and save your friends!\n\n[[L2]]\n\nThrough the passage.
Ralon shoves you face first into the wall, not hard enough to break your nose. Misha hisses and darts at him and he bats her away. He kicks your legs wider and frisks you. He lacks the impersonal technique of the police friskings you've gotten in your wild teenage years, but he does find the blade.\n\n"Tsk tsk." He flicks his index finger against your head. \n\nYou rub the sore spot. It's going to leave quite an egg-shaped bruise. Ralon wraps the dagger in a scrap of shirt he'd ripped from one of the gravediggers and stuffs it into the back of his jeans like it's a gun. "Alright. Let's go for my fucking maker."\n\n"And save my friends," you remind him. He has a bad habit of forgetting that it's not just his ass on the line.\n\nHe clicks his tongue at you and Misha and sets off.\n\nIt's pretty disappointing to lose the dagger, but hey, you've fought a lot of vamps before with makeshift weapons. This might work out just as well.\n\n[[L2]]\n\nTime to run.
L18\n"Here!" you shout at Matthias. \n\n\nMatthias is making his way down by leaning against the wall. He's battered, multiple bites taken out of his once-very-sharp suit, and is holding his ribs like they hurt. \n\n\nNo matter how they ache, he is able to blur forward and snatch it from the air, centimeters ahead of Sadora. She falls back, crying out.\n\n\n"FUCK NO!!!" Ralon cries.\n\n\nYou throw the heart and Matthias snatches it out of the air and shoves it under his shirt. There's a wet, crunching noise and blood rushes from Matthias's eyes, a few trickles from his nose. He wipes at his face and looks around, eyes going red, pupils swelled huge.\n\n\n"At last," he says. His face is radiant with the first true happiness you've seen on it. "Thank you, my dear."\n\n\nSadora appears. She gapes at him. Her mouth twitches down at the corners, tears filling her eyes ... and then the emotion shifts. "Well ... " the Maker arches her eyebrows and smirks. "Not how I envisioned it, but you did win the contest. Congratulations, my beloved." She held her arms open to him. "Come to me, let us embrace our eternal life together."\n\n\nMatthew takes her into his arms, holding tightly. He looks at you over her shoulder and winks. \n\n\nHe reaches into his pocket, pulls out a stake that appears to be a broken chair leg, and plunges it through her heart. She falls back, shrieking, though her cries sound more outraged than pained. \n\n\nThat changes when Matthias reaches into the new hole in her back and tears out her heart. It is as ugly as the one that was in the jar, writhing, tentacled, something to linger in your nightmares.\n\n\nHe crushes it in his hand. There's a wet crunching noise, and when he opens his fingers only pulp falls out.\n\n\n"Nooooo!" Now it's our turn to cry out because there goes your last chance of a cure, to cure at least one of your friends. \n\n\nRalon staggers over to the other side of the burning Maker. He stares at Matthias. "Wow. I really didn't think you had the balls to go through with it." He crouches and sifts some of her ashes through his fingers. "You've changed since we were together. Gotten more ruthless." He looks up and smiles. \n\n\n"You have no idea." Matthias offers him a hand up.\n\n\nRalon takes it.\n\n\nMatthias tugs him closer. Ralon grins. HIs grin changes to a rictus of shock as Matthias shoves his hand through the other vamp's chest and punches out the other side, destroying his heart.\n\n\nHe keeps his hand there, holding his former lover’s body aloft as it explodes in a jet fuel rush of blue fire, gone in a second.\n\n\n"Well," he says. His eyes are sad. He brushes ash from his palms.\n\n\n"Please," you tell him. "You owe me. Please do something to save my friends."\n\n\nMatthias nods. You lead him back up to where Danny and Misha rest, barely alive. He reaches down and snaps Danny's neck.\n\n\nYou bend to the side and vomit.\n\n\n"I regret that I must do this," he says to you. "I owe you such a debt, but I cannot repay you like this. I have vowed to wipe out the vampiric pestilence. I cannot add to their numbers, just as you cannot know how a fallen vampire suffers. Every one of the strengths I had was outnumbered by the pain, the emptiness. It eats away until nothing you were is left, and all you can hope for is to one day ... stop." He walks over to Misha and looks down at her. "I wasn't always like this. I used to be a good man. Being a vampire changed that."\n\n\nHe kills her as well, and then escorts you from the castle. By noon you are checked into another motel and he is sleeping.\n\n\nYou go outside 'to buy a soft drink', make a stake from the holly bush growing outside the check-in office, and try to stake him.\n\n\nIt doesn't work. Do Master vampires ever sleep? Do they just sense when they're in danger and wake up? Not that it matters ... He pins you against the chintzy polka dotted bedspread and forces you to look into his eyes. The vampiric glamour flows over you like a comforting grey wave. Your emotions cloud over and part of you ... goes away.\n\n\nMatthias takes you with him as he crosses the globe, hunting down every vampire he can find. He is a relentless hunter, surprisingly decent company after a good kill. You don't fight to get free. He seems ... lonely. Despite his clear purpose in life, 'kill all vampires, then myself', he seems adrift. You are too, what you wanted in life is out of reach forever. And hey, you always wanted to travel.\n\n\nYou see the world and help him kill, visit museums and the theater with him and help him kill, research and train for combat and even more killing. Years pass and your former life as an ordinary human, as a college student with hopes and dreams, fades away. Matthias's dream keeps you going. \n\n\nYou work out, develop and build new weapons, and get quite good at taking down larval vamps and even revenants. Once in a while, you point out that if you were stronger, for example if you were a vampire, then you could be even more help to his cause. It doesn't matter if you are joking or if, deep down, you want it. He always refuses.\n\n\nOnly Matthias has the strength to kill another Maker, but you help there too. He likes to use you as bait, to draw the Makers out. There's something about your fresh, vitally alive smell and your sarcastic insults that tickles their taste buds ...\n\n\nOne day, he finally tracks down an elusive duo of Makers who refuse to set down roots and make a lair like all the other sensible, easily located vamps you've fought. While he's distracted dismembering one of them, the other comes after you. She snaps your hydraulic crossbow in half, outruns your getaway car - a Maserati - and punches through the front windshield, tearing you out.\n\n\nMatthias gets there in time to kill the Maker before she vanishes again, but it's too late for you. He calls an ambulance and holds your broken body in his arms. He rocks you, like a child, and you watch the vampire ashes drift off in the breeze, throwing the just-risen moon into shadow. The last thing you feel is Matthias, pressing a kiss to your forehead. \n\n\nTHE END\n\n[[L2]]\nRestart the chapter?\n\n\n[[1]]\nRestart from the beginning?
You slip off and edge around the perimeter of the room toward the door out. Matthias is distracted, eyes wide and glowing as he apparently tries the ultimate whammy on the now-struggling butler.\n\n"Little rat, running for the walls ..." the Maker's voice seems to come from all around you, and it drops chills down your spine. "Catch me this rodent ..."\n\nAn eight foot monster in rags, armed with a five-foot-bladed scythe, lumbers for you. You walk up to it, slip your magical monster mashing dagger from your sleeve and as fast as you can stab at it. \n\nThe creature blurs aside. Damn that thing is fast. And it looks a lot stronger than you. You've gotta end this fight soon. You rush forth with a battle cry.\n\nThis creature may not have a magical weapon, but unfortunately, it's normal-powered weapon has a much longer reach than your little dagger. It blurs aside again and slashes your throat open as you run by.\n\nYou collapse like a dropped ragdoll. \n\nThe monster walks up, pulls the dagger from your spasming hand, and cocks its head curiously. It leans the scythe against the wall and tests the dagger's blade against its thumb.\n\nYou get the satisfaction of seeing it jerk, mouth opening in a soundless shriek, and then it falls in a column of flame and dies.\n\nYou follow soon after.\n\nYou have DIED.\n\n[[K1]]\n\nRestart the chapter?\n\n\n[[1]]\nRestart from the beginning?
You fumble the dagger of its hiding spot. The handle fits in your palm like they were meant to be together. You twist a little, getting a better angle.\n\nSadora moans in pleasure, drinking harder. \n\nSpots are dancing across your vision. You hope you still have the strength for this! You aim and shove it up in one brutal blow.\n\nGasping. She's gasping for breath. She staggers back, clutching at the handle of the dagger, her fingers as weak as moths against a window. She drops to the ground and arches, every muscle tightening. Blue flame rises from the handle of the dagger and races down her body. She is still thrashing as the fire consumes her. \n\nHer ash rises like a geyser, mixes with the rain pattering down from the ceiling, and falls again as droplets of mud.\n\nYou pick up the dagger. Something else is in the mud used to be the vampire. It's a tiny pool of blue liquid. Is that the cure? You can't risk it washing away. You touch it and the liquid crawls up along your skin and pools in your palm.\n\nQuick. Faster. There's still time.\n\nYou lift the lid of the jar and toss it aside - it cracks against the floor. Inside is a creature straight from your nightmares, heart shaped, tentacles wriggling in its little bath of congealing blood. This is the kind of monster Sadora carried inside herself.\n\nThe heart's tentacles move faster, splashing in the blood as if it feels danger coming. You stab it with the dagger, spearing it neatly and pulling it out. It shudders and burns, and the cure drips out.\n\nYou hold these precious fluids in your palms and return to Misha and Danny. \n\nMisha is closer. The second you pour it between her lips she coughs and stirs, her skin getting a healthy, human color. \n\nYou give the other cure to Danny. He jerks awake, burns and wounds melting away like they had never been. He sits cautiously, then with growing confidence stands up, slumped against the wall, and rubs his face. Misha walks in a tight circle, her face flushed. "I feel great," she says.\n\n\n"Yeah, right." You laugh at her. The two of them had looked like death just seconds before. No way could they 'feel great'.\n\n\nDanny takes off his glasses, squints at the far wall, and then tosses them aside. "I don't need these anymore."\n\n\n"Really? The cure fixed your shitty eyesight?"\n\n\n"Oh, more than that." Misha cracks her knuckles. "I feel like I could kick a rhino's ass."\n\n\nDanny nods. He turns and punches the nearby door, the motion so fast his arm is a blur ... and his fist goes right through the six inch plank.\n\n\nMisha turns, kicking at one of the stalagmites. It crumbles, rock scattering across the floor. A few pieces bounce off her. She laughs.\n\n\n"Fuck," You say. "That's pretty excellent." You kind of wish you'd taken one of the cures. \n\n\nRalon limps over to the pile of ash that used to be his maker and nudges it with his combat boot.\n\n\n"Don't tell me you miss her," you say.\n\n\nHe shrugs, eyes hooded. "Centuries. I knew her centuries, owed her my life. And now ... now there's no hope for better. I will always be half a vampire, I'll never make another one that can live." He looks over his shoulder and smirks unpleasantly at Matthias. "And no hearts for you, either! There goes your plan to be the biggest baddest vampkiller around."\n\n\nMatthias grimaces. "I may not get a maker’s heart, I may never be able to kill the makers and permanently end the undead pestilence, but I can kill other, lesser vampires and their miserable spawn. And so I shall."\n\n\n"Oh, another threat?" Ralon cracks his knuckles and licks his lower lip. "I like it when you get all aggressive like that."\n\n\nMatthias snarls and rushes at him. \n\n\nDanny and Misha pick up stakes from the shattered piano nearby. They catch your eye, waiting for your signal.\n\n\nThese two bastards almost killed your best friends, and they seem to think forgotten all about it.\n\n\n[[L16]]\n\nMaybe it's time to let it go. You can move on?\n\n\n[[L17]]\n\nOr do you wanna show them the reason why they should respect the little guys?
In the last day you've seen your fair share of freaky monsters, but this is worse than all of them combined.\n\nThere’s something in there, vaguely shaped like an octopus, half covered in congealing blood. As you watch, it contracts and expands. It's throbbing, beating like a real heart.\n\nThe tentacles rise and slip against the sides of the jar. They're reaching for you. The heart seems to slurp in hunger ... or maybe that's the sound of it squishing against the blood as it writhes around.\n\n"Don't," Sadora says calmly. "Touch it, and I will turn you so I can skin you over and over again, for all eternity."\n\nMatthias and Ralon are sneaking up behind her. She doesn't react, her eyes fixed on yours, burning with hatred and more than a trace of fear.\n\nWhat are you going to do?\n\n[[L18]]\n\nToss the heart to Matthias?\n\n[[L19]]\n\nToss heart to Ralon?\n\n[[L20]]\n\nKeep it for yourself?
You shake your head slightly at them and wiggle a thumb toward the door. Misha rolls her eyes, Danny shrugs, and they walk away.\n\n"My hatred for you is eternal, but you won't live past the day!" Matthias shouts. He's grabbed the taller vampire in a choke hold.\n\n\n"Ooh, do you promise?" Ralon asks sarcastically. He flips Matthias over his shoulder, throws him into the ground, and kicks him in the ribs. "Where would you be without me to fight? Our feud is the only reason you or I bother to get up in the evening."\n\n\n"So you admit it? You lack the will to kill me," Matthias taunted him.\n\n\nHe shook his head. "Will you give it a rest? Always with that fuckin 'pride. Why don't you admit you'd miss me if I was gone."\n\n\n"You're delusional." \n\n\n"Not that I'd ever leave you. Ever."\n\n\n"One day, you will roast in hell alone while I-"\n\n\n"Oh please, like you wouldn't follow me soon enough. You wouldn't know what to do with a life without me."\n\n\nA muscle jumped in Matthias's jaw. "Silence."\n\n\nRalon bent over him. "Make me," he hissed.\n\n\nMatthias jerked him to the ground and kissed him. \n \n\nRalon moaned and popped the button of his jeans. He nibbled Matthias's throat. The other vamp threw his head back and gasped.\n\n\nYou are staring, slack jawed, as the two 'lifelong enemies' writhe together on the ground sprinkled with their maker's ashes. They make up, they break up, you can't keep up with their mood swings. This is worse than a soap opera!\n\n\n"Seriously?" You nudge them with your sneaker. "You're just gonna make out a little, get some couples therapy, and it's all over? The eternity-long vendetta is forgiven?"\n\n\n"Yes," Matthias gasps. "We need therapy. We need more respect, and you," he pulls Ralon's hair, "You must curb your bloodlust."\n\n\n"Yeah yeah. I'll be good ... if you convince me. Now put that mouth to work."\n\n\nDanny watches appreciatively as Matthew strips of his shirt. "Are we sure nobody has a camera phone?"\n\n\n"Can we go?" Misha asks. "I need the biggest joint in the world. I need a fucking cigar of weed."\n\n\nYou nod. The three of you leave. As you walk out, you shout at the vampires, "You two are pathetic! Christ. Get your lives together, stop taking your relationship problems out on humanity, and stay the fuck away from us!"\n\n\nAs soon as you clear the castle you take a deep breath of the sweet air of freedom. You made it through, and kept your human life. "High five, everybody!"\n\n\nYou cut your vacation short after a week. First, because you do not find a weed cigar. More importantly, bicycling around Inverness and a quick boat ride to Orkney Island don't really thrill you after what happened that day. Your heart's not in it, so you go home. Back in the States you get matching 'CERTIFIABLE BADASS' tattoos, buy an epic amount of liqueur, and try to blot out that night. \n\n\nYour friends use their strength and speed for party tricks only, winning bar wagers and so on. After a few months, their super powers fade and the three of you are ordinary humans again. Your bond is closer than ever as you work through college and embrace the rest of your lives.\n\n\nSometimes you see photos of Matthias and Ralon, hand in hand, in the tabloids. MYSTERY MILLIONAIRES ON WORLD TOUR, things like that. You keep an eye out for mention of unexplained bloodbaths, bodies drained ... there are stories if you know where to look, but you don't see anything that seems connected to them.\n\n\nThe world is a dark, blood-soaked place, but you're human again. So are your friends. You've had enough of this supernatural crap and are sticking to the land of the living. You're reasonably happy like this, and damned sure you'll live longer now that you've turned your back on the dark.\n\n\nTHE END\n\n[[L1]]\nRestart the chapter?\n\n\n[[1]]\nRestart from the beginning?\n
Matthias's face darkens. "Who?"\n\nYou point at the butler, who's standing at regal attention watching the battle proceed. He glances over when you point, gives you a supercilious little smile, and looks away. He even sticks his nose in the air. It's perfect.\n\n"I will handle this," Matthew growls. He walks over, coat flaring out dramatically. He grabs the butler by the face, his eyes flare red. "Release your will to me ..." you hear him order.\n\nThe glamour doesn't seem to be working ... the butler frowns, offended, and tries to shrug him off. Matthias holds him tighter and tries again.\n\nYou're not sure he'll be able to glamour this guy. Maybe the Maker's vampire whammy is stronger? But if he succeeds, or if he loses his temper and kills the butler and searches the corpse, then the gig is up.\n\nRalon's brawl is blocking the exit door but there is that passage half-hidden behind the Japanese prints ...\n\nOn the other hand, if you can pull this theft off you'll be armed with an awesome vamp killing weapon, and have another vamp as an ally...\n\n[[K5]]\n\nAre you going to take off?\n\n[[K7]]\n\nOr will you stay put and hope for the best?\n
"Hello." You try to slide your hand inconspicuously under your shirt, slip the dagger free, and press it your thigh. You straighten and turn your body in an attempt to hide the blade from her. \n\nThere's silence behind you. Maybe the vampires have stopped fighting and are going to jump in and save the day. Or maybe they've killed each other and it's all up to you. \n\nYou lick your dry lips. "Have I got a deal for you!"\n\n"I think not," she hisses. \n\nYour hand feels lighter. The dagger is gone! Oh there it is ... clutched tightly in her clawed hand. It must be nice to have that super speed.\n\nShe plucks from your chest your still beating heart. The last thing you see before as you drop to the earth is Sadora tipping her head back and squeeze it, draining your blood directly into her fanged maw.\n\nYou have DIED.\n\n[[L1]]\nRestart the chapter?\n\n\n[[1]]\nRestart from the beginning?
Here goes nothing. You pick up some aerodynamic looking rocks, draw your arm back, visualize them hitting the target, and let them fly. \n\nThey patter against the gong. Before they have even fallen to the ground, the maker is on you. Seems that with her enhanced vampire sight, she could see the gravel flying and where it came from.\n\nShe sinks all those teeth into you. You're drained in less than half a minute. \n\n\nYou have DIED.\n\n[[L2]]\nRestart the chapter?\n\n\n[[1]]\nRestart from the beginning?
You sneak to the library and poke around. The books are so rotten and wet you can't even open them, but you find some scrolls in slightly better shape. You return to the brazier, unroll several scrolls and drop them in. A dark, thick grey smoke rises.\n\nBack at the arbor, you crouch down and wait. It doesn't take long. You feel the air currents shift as Sadora abandons her post to investigate.\n\nShe keens in rage at this desecration of her scroll collection. The eerie, wavering sound spurs you out of hiding. You dash up and grab the clay jar.\n\nIncredible. There it is, the key to everything.\n\n[[L15]]\n\nYou lift the lid and see...\n
You snatch up the dagger and slide it up your sleeve. It will stay in place as long as you keep your arm pressed against your hip. Misha watches you and smirks. It's nice to see her personality coming back, but not nice to see the black rot slowly spreading along her skin. Every time you glance back at her it's gone a little farther ...\n\nRalon tosses one of the creatures in the air and on its way down cracks its back over his knee. \n\n"Shit!" He blurs over and scrabbles on the floor, patting the dust as if the blade will magically reappear. "What happened to it? I need that dagger!" He looks at Misha.\n\nShe picks a strand of something red from around one of her fangs and shrugs. \n\nIt's nice to have her backing you up, but she can't help you beyond this ... how are you going to keep hold of the dagger? You need some alibi for how it vanished.\n\n[[J2]]\n\nBlame it on mysterious magic!\n\n[[J3]]\n\nBlame one of the Maker's creations! \n\n[[J4]]\n\nBlame a human servant!\n
"It was sucked into the wall over there by magic." You point at some runes carved into the crypt's wall low down by the floor. You have some more material prepped to pad out the lie, but you don't need it.\n\n"Wh-noooo!" Ralon rushes over and pummels the wall. You block your ears as the sharp crack of flesh against stone echoes out. "Give it back!" He kicks the runes, his steel toed boots bouncing. He whips around and points at the Maker. "God damn you, devil woman!"\n\nShe cackles with laughter. The sound seems to be coming from all around you ...\n\nRalon slumps against the wall and licks blood off his spilt knuckles. "I hate magic, I hate it. Her and those runes ... I wish I never had to go near them."\n\n[[J6]]\n\nIt sounds like you convinced him.\n
"A monster took it, and slipped away. IT was moving too fast for me to stop." Ralon squints at you. You hurry to pad your story out. "It was about six feet long, shaped kind of like a cat. Maybe a witch's magical cat. It was made out of shadows."\n\n"Or made out of bullshit," he interrupts.\n\n"Um..."\n\n"I've been around witches, and their cats don't look like that. In fact, I've rubbed elbows with a pretty big cross section of magical creatures, and a bunch of the Mistress's creations. None of them are like that. 'Made of shadows'? What are you up to?"\n\nHe blurs up behind you and lays a cold hand on your shoulder. \n\n[[J7]]\n\nThis isn't going well.\n
"If there's a secret torture room around here then it probably won't be in that tower. Let's poke around the other ruins."\n\nDanny slips behind some buttresses. You hear him puking and wince in sympathy. Matthias ghosts to the far side of the building.\n\nYou climb over the chain with a sign saying 'WARNING FALLING ROCK NO ENTRY' and edge along the wall, where a narrow ring of flooring has yet to collapse. You look down inside the hall. It's hard to tell for sure, given the shadows are deep and there's a lot of rubble, but you don't exactly see an Oubliette.\n\nWait -there's bones down in one of the rooms! You lean forward, squinting in the haze - oh. Just a dead sheep. No humans, no vampires, how disappointing.\n\nA section of the floor tilts sharply under you. You gasp and rush for the next section as the floor back there gives way. You can barely keeping your balance. This is ridiculous, your teetery heels are no good for scrambling around the ruins like a crime fighting archaeologist of some sort. \n\nThere's a tall, narrow window overlooking the loch that you, being so skinny, can probably squeeze out through...\n\nTo hell with this. You looked, you saw nothing. Matthias can climb down and risk his life and ankles if he's so eager to search the place in depth.\n\nYou slither out through the window. This section of the hill is steep, the grass slick with dew, and the walls are leaning over your head at an unpleasant angle. YOU pick your way along slowly-\n\nNot slowly enough. YOU slip, breaking a nail as you try to scrabble on the wall for support. YOU scream and roll down the hill. And the rest of the wall, the two story tall wall of stone, chooses this moment to end things and crash down on top of you.\n\nYou have DIED.\n\n[[E1]]\nRestart the chapter?\n\n\n[[1]]\nRestart from the beginning?
"I bet from above, we'll be able to spot the Oubliette." You nod at the tower.\n\n"Excellent. Go on."\n\nYou stare at Matthias. "Why do I have to go up there? You're the immortal vampire."\n\n"Your slighter weight is less likely to bring it down, which would attract undesirable attention to us."\n\nHe swings open the iron-barred safety door that supposedly blocks the entrance to the tower. The padlock has been cut and it moves easily. A stone as big as your head falls as it comes free. You cringe. \n\nThe tower doesn't collapse on top of you. Yet.\n\nYOU step inside and start making your way up the uneven spiral staircase that runs along the tower. Every step makes you cringe, and a couple of the stones sink an inch or two when you tread on them, but finally you reach platform of the upper floor, which now makes the roof. \nThere's a teenage couple making out up there, no doubt excited by the life threatening journey to the top. The girl on her back gives you a friendly smile; the boy on top of her ignores you.\n\nYou look over the side, wave to Matthias and Danny so they know you're still alive, and search for the Oubliette. \n\nUnfortunately, from up here you can see down into the ruined castle hall, and it's clearly not there. The three cellars are totally visible thanks to the floor caving in. The grounds around here are equally disappointing. No black pits, no sign of fresh bodies, nothing. This area seems to be a dead end.\n\nFrom your vantage on the tower you can peek over the privacy fence of the restored castle. There's an older woman with curly hair directing a couple servants who are setting up party balloons and dragging into place a long table. Looks like they're getting ready for a nice, normal, innocent birthday party. Poor bastards, totally blind to the evil lurking underground...\n\n"Condom?" the girl whispers to her boy friend.\n\n"I lost mine." He fumbles with the zipper of her jeans.\n\n"It's sticking out of your back pocket," you point out.\n\n"Thanks, love!" the girl says brightly.\n\nHer boyfriend gives you a dark look as he pulls the rubber out.\nAh, you remember being so young and reckless...\n\nYou head back down the stairs and give Matthias and Danny the bad news. "I don't see anything like an Oubliette here. Or a blight. We'll need to try one of the other places."\n\nMatthias looks around thoughtfully.\n\n[[E3]]\n\nWould you like to send the crazy train downhill to the woods? \n\n[[E5]]\n\nOr would you like to explore and probably desecrate the standing stones on the hill? \n
"I think we should check out the standing stones. That's where I'd leave put a blight and Oubliette and evil minions. And stuff."\n\n"Really." Matthias doesn't look convinced.\n\n"It's a site of natural power, and humans will be curious about that ancient relic and approach. That's a built-in stream of prey." Danny points out.\n\nThis argument reaches him. Ah, the secret verbal shortcuts of the nerds. \nThe three of you pass by the ruined castle, hop a low stone fence, and end up in a grassy field, eaten bald in places and dotted with sheep. And sheep poop. You're thrilled to be walking around here in heels.\nThere's a shepherd's hut to the right. It's a pretty miserable affair made out of blocks of sod with a corrugated metal roof on top, weighed down with rocks. A skinny man with a large gut, which you can clearly see as he's only wearing a pair of boxers, is sitting in a folding chair next to the hut. He's surrounded by a dozen empty beer cans. He's out cold, snoring, but still manages to cradle a can to his chest. \n\nYou'd think he would need more layers in the dawn chill, but apparently he's hairy enough, and drunk enough, not to feel the cold.\n\nAfter a brief glance into the hut - no ancient torture chambers in there - you cross the field.\n\nThe sheep baa at you and continue chewing. You spot several that are lying down, apparently asleep, and still chewing. One odd thing, you notice, this field has been heavily walked over and pooped on, but there's no sign of sheepy evidence in or around a dark hollow near the edge of the hill. The grass there is dead, and you see a slick of water shine in the sunrise. It's almost like the sheep are avoiding that place ...\nFarther along the hill, you see the circle of standing stones sticking at the sky like white, dull teeth.\n\n[[E10]]\n\nNot to buy into all this mystical mumbo jumbo that even Matthias admits may be bull, but that dark hollow looks a little blighted...\n\n[[E11]]\n\nOn the other hand, you did come all this way to investigate the standing stones, and they are right over there ...\n
"The castle ruins sound like a good bet."\n\nMatthias and Danny agree, and you set off. According to the helpful tourist's information sign you pass by, Cailleach castle used to be massive and impressive-looking. Then it exploded. The leading theories were that natural gas seeped into the cellars and was set off by a candle, or that someone was experimenting with alchemy and created something unstable like dynamite. The explosion led to the castle burning down. Years later some of the ruins were raided to build stone fences in nearby village, then more stones were scooped up to save costs as the lower castle was restored. Basically, most of Cailleach Castle isn't there anymore. Good news! It'll be less work to search. \n\nYou make it to the castle without being attacked by any undead monstrosities and survey the ruins. The main hall is teetering on the edge of a hill overlooking the forest and beyond that, Lake Nathair. In fact, that outer wall facing the Loch is leaning over forty degrees like it's planning to commit suicide diving down the ill. The hall itself has largely fallen to rubble, huge sections of the floor having collapsed into the underground chambers. Some of the buttresses are still intact. They cut across the dawn sky like the ribs of a huge dead animal. The tower that stands more inland, closer to the restored castle, is more or less vertical although you see sections of the wall don't look reassuringly intact. \n\n[[E8]]\n\nAre you going up the tower, to get a bird's eye view of the situation?\n\n[[E9]]\n\nAre you going to poke around the crumbling main hall?\n\n
The Witch's Tree is even creepier than you'd expected. It's an ancient, huge trunk, all that's left of the tree that once stood there. It sheared off a dozen feet from the ground, revealing the tree was hollow inside. It's streaked in and out with lines of charcoal - The little tourist information sign says it was destroyed by lightning.\n\nSomeone has tied a bunch of once-white ribbons around it, and left them there for you'd guess several months. They whip in the rising breeze like serpents.\n\nYou look inside the tree. No Oubliette. Danny slumps against the trunk, face pale, struggling to catch his breath.\n\nYou look around the area. Nothing ...\n\nHm. The bushes over there have been disturbed. You walk closer and see a pair drag marks in the dirt. They're about a foot apart, dragging steadily deeper into the forest. You find a shoe caught on a tree root next to those marks. There's a trace of blood at the ankle.\n\n[[E14]]\n\nYou may have found a lead. Lucky you.\n
The trail that you're following leads to a lusher cove, with tall, jewel-green ferns and moss that oozes moisture when you step on it. The fog rises and gets thicker. You push on, listening Danny move from tree to tree, leaning on them for balance, breathing harsh - he's in bad shape. Even creepier, you don't hear Matthias but when you look back he's always bring up the rear, sliding through the soupy fog like a knife.\n\nYou step in mud and fly forward. "Shit!"\n\nMatthias catches you at the last second and pulls you back before you go face first into the tiny, smelly stream that cuts across the walking path. It's an awful shade of brackish brown and reeking of urine. This must be blackwater.\n\nDidn't that sign mention 'fishing'? You wouldn't eat a fish that came from here.\n\nYou hear something, distorted as it echoes along the valley. A wolf howling? \n\nNo, it's a woman screaming. And another sound, like dry leaves still on a tree, clattering in the wind.\n\n"Excellent!" Matthias's eyes are fierce. "They set off one of the snares. Let's go, before they're dragged away and the tracks obscured." He ghosts uphill along a footpath that follows the course of Blackwater.\n\n"C'mon Danny!" Is the fog getting even thicker? You don't want to be left alone out here. You grab his arm and help him limp uphill after your vampire ... ally.\n\nYou find Matthias has in a choke hold a very short, very old man whose skin has an odd grey cast like wet newspaper. "Where is your mistress? Tell me, and you will not suffer long," Matthias says.\n\nThe man opens his mouth and his tongue is dried up like a raisin, and you hear that leaf-ruffling sound again. The earth seems to move, rising up in two lumps, the ground cracking ... and two more of these old men crawl out. \n\nYou look around desperately for a weapon - and spot the two hikers from before. The man is slumped against the tree, breathing hard, a faintly blue tinge to his lips. The woman is desperately riffling through their backpacks, throwing sandwiches and extra socks around carelessly. "Oh God not this again," she snarls. "Every time we come here on holiday-"\n\n"What are the odds?" The guy wheezes in a breath.\n\nThe woman shouts happily and pulls out a hand carved stake, about eighteen inches long, with a leather wrapped handle and a carrying strap. Right now, you think it's the most gorgeous thing you've ever seen.\n\nThe two newcomer creatures rush at her. She yelps and plunges her stake ... through the shoulder of one of them. It bares a mouthful of broken brown teeth and the two of them throw her to the ground and start tying her wrists with a length of rough cord.\n\nHer companion, wheezing heavily, starts crawling away.\n\n[[E12]]\n\nIt would be great to have that stake, so you could defend yourself instead of having to rely on Matthias ... who is still faffing around with the one he's got by the neck.\n\n[[E13]]\n\nIt would also be great to take this opportunity to work on your cardiovascular health, and leave this area at high speed.\n
Matthias pulls into a parking lot by the trailhead for the Lake Nathair and Cailleach Castle Loop. "Ralon has enhanced his venom with dark magics ... I must boost my strength before I dare proceed." He pulls out a carton from a fast food place and starts eating the black, congealing blood with a spoon.\n\n"Why don't you just feed from a human? Not that I'm volunteering," you say quickly. "Look, there's a guy walking his dog." In the grey predawn light, you can see the guy coming down the path is a frail-looking five feet and the dog's a chihuahua, but surely that's better than the crap he's eating.\n\nMatthias shakes his head. "I do not feed from the living. I may be a monster but I need not act like one."\n\n"But seriously, blood from a grease burger joint?" Once he'd reached the charming, tourist-trap village of Nathair, he'd slowed as he passed the pubs, the teenagers huddled by the bus stop, the shops crowded with brightly painted, badly made tourist crap ... and rolled into the drive through window for a local burger place. You would have appreciated a breakfast sausage or something, but Matthias was there on his own mission. He'd glamoured the man there to scrape up the excess blood at the bottom of the 'draining pan'. That image has been enough to make you seriously consider going vegetarian.\n\n"This is what I deserve." He scrapes up another spoon and grimaces at it. "Each moment I suffer is one less torment for the afterlife. Although this is unpleasantly oily." He pulls out a band-aid that was clinging to the side of the carton, sighs, and flicks it out the window.\nFine. Far be it from you to talk him out of this martyrdom. "So, where's the castle?"\n\nHe waves past the village. Loch Nathair is a dark, winding line to your right, twisting among the hills like a black wound. Probably gorgeous in the day, though. Up ahead you see a single tower and a multi-story stone building at the end of a driveway. "Wh-that's it?"\n\n"That's the restored section of the castle. The human family that currently own it live there. According to the internet, there's also a tour of the public areas and organized birdwatching- ah, here they come." \nYou see a bus drive up the access road and park at the top of the hill outside the castle's privacy fence.\n\nMatthias puts away his fast food bag and continues. "The hag lives in crypts below the castle, but unfortunately they are difficult to access. Cailleach Castle was destroyed centuries ago in a brief war my maker had with her once-allies, a coven of witches. The ruins of the castle extend along the hill to overlook the Loch, and there are scattered outbuildings in the woods. I have not been to see her in decades, but I recall there was an Oubliette where her victims would be thrown. She must have had some way to reach those victims, therefore it is an access point. The oubliette is somewhere in the forest by the Loch. "\n\n"And what is that?"\n\n"An ancient method of torture in which one's victim is sealed in a tower, well, or secret chamber and left to die."\n\n"Charming." And he wants to go inside one. Willingly. And ... wait for the evil vampire Maker to collect her prey? "Isn't there another way in?"\n\n"Hm. I heard rumor of a well, somewhere in the gardens or perhaps the maze ... but we cannot attempt it. Those innocents-" he waves at the people filing off the bus, "would be imperiled. And they might get in our way, which would drive me to an unfortunate choice."\n\n"Hypnotize them?"\n\n"Of course not. I cannot waste my hard-gotten potency on so many people. I would have to kill them. Quickly and humanely."\n\nYou really, really don't want to have to go through the torture chamber. "But you could use your glamour on them, and then drink from a couple to top up the ol' gas can... "\n\n"Impossible. That would be quite evil."\n\nYou shake your head and follow him out of the car. He sets off at a quick pace and you linger behind as Danny stumbles after him.\n\n[[E2]]\n\nAccording to the plastic tourist information sign, 'Old Fallen Cailleach' is less than a kilometer ahead. \n
\nYou point at the woods. "Oh look, I think I see some blight over there!" \nMatthias raises an eyebrow. "Really?"\n\nNope. "Sure! Let's investigate." You march along the trail. The trees at this latitude may be shorter than you're used to, but they put up a dense cover. Since the sun isn't up yet, it's just as dark and creepy as you'd expected.\n\nA slow, icy breeze seems to curl up from the Loch itself, and fog starts to thicken along the ground. You keep an eye out for a sturdy branch you could turn into a stake.\n\nA few hundred feet in, you come across two hikers. They have small backpacks on and are bundled up in matching orange windbreakers against the cold. They're staring at a worn-out tourist info sign at a fork in the path and muttering to each other. When you come up they give you the most suspicious looks, and take off, off-trail, into the forest.\nYou take your own look at the sign. Many of the words carved into it have worn away in the years. You make out an arrow pointing left and the words "Legends call it blackwater --- fishing --- hazardous - fun for the whole family!." There's also an arrow pointing right. "Fire decimated --- witch's tree --- celebrations such as weddings."\n\n[[E6]]\n\nWant to go left and check out blackwater?\n\n[[E7]]\n\nWant to go right and check out the witch's tree? \n
E2\n"I wish I'd brought my camera," Danny says. \n\nYou look around the area. It is beautiful, and this may be the one and only castle you get to see before you die. \n\n"What about the one in your phone?"\n\n"Smashed in the museum." He sighs and pulls out that notebook, thumbing rapidly through the pages. "I wish I could document this."\n\n"Yeah, we could probably sell some sick photos to the tabloids for a nice wad of cash ... "\n\n"I meant document for my personal library." His voice is dry.\n\n"Cash, Danny. That little thing that keeps us in tuition, pizza, and beer."\n\n"Details."\n\nMatthias interrupts. "There are quite a few magical traps in the woods, mostly snares to disorient humans, and draw my maker's creatures when the prey is easily handled. We shall need to move carefully ... fortunately, there are quite a few hikers, fishermen, and tourists wandering the area. They will draw a great deal of attention away from us."\n\n"So when we do run across some of these undead monsters, they'll be well fed and strong off these other victims. Oh goody!"\n\nDanny elbows you. You take the hint and shut up.\n\nMatthias glances over the notebook page Danny dog-eared and nods. "The witches that turned on my maker became desperate when the battle turned against them, and they resorted to a blight spell. The spell of course did not kill my maker, but it does linger over the exits from her lair. If we can find those remaining traces, we will find the entrance to the crypt."\n\n"So what exactly does a blight spell look like?"\n\n"I've never encountered one, only heard the legends. The land itself grows sick, unnatural ... predatory."\n\n"That's really helpful." You dodge Danny's elbow. "Where do we start?"\n\nMatthias gestures to your left, where the forest sweeps down off the hill Cailleach Castle sits on and eventually fetches against the water. "The walking trail was diverted away from beside the Loch in this area ... perhaps to draw mistress's prey closer to her lair's entrance." He gestures atop the hill, where you see a ruined tower and several walls of the old tall leaning like they are about to dive down the hill. "It is possible the Oubliette was built into the castle itself. Alternatively, the next hill beyond may now be a pasture overrun with sheep, but it also contains standing stones. I know my maker learned much of her magic from the old religion, and perhaps her abilities are still tied to these relics."\n\nHe runs his hand over his jaw and paces in a slow circle. You get the feeling you'd better jump in and make a choice, fast. His so-called 'plan' doesn't have a lot of consideration for your or Danny's well-being. \n\n[[E3]]\n\nWould you like to investigate the Loch trail and the dark, haunted-looking forest? \n\n[[E4]]\n\nWould you like to check out the creepy, skeletal castle? \n\n[[E5]]\n\nWould you like to check out the field of innocent-looking but no doubt murderous sheep, and the one hundred percent not evil standing stones?\n
"Take it!" you shout. You toss it to Ralon. He's streaked with blood and limping but still fast enough to grab it, in a flying leap, just ahead of Sadora.\n\n\nThe Maker gasps and backs of.\n\n\n"NOOOOOOO!!!!" Matthias wails. \n\n\nRalon roars with joy, tears his shirt open and you throw the heart at his chest. It hits him and burrows under the skin and you watch in sick fascination as it burrows under the corded muscles, rearranges his rubs.\n\n\nHe chokes out a spray of blood and wipes his lips. His eyes gleam red.\n\n\n"Thanks, pet." \n\n\nMatthias pulls a stake - possibly a broken chair leg - from his coat and rushes forward in a blur of motion. \n\n\nRalon turns and tears his chest open, crushes his heart, in one smooth motion so fast you can't follow it. One moment he's standing there wiping his face, the next he has killed Matthias.\n\n\nHe drops the heart and stumbles backwards. Blood trickles off his hands. Slowly, he raises them and licks his old lover's last essence off his fingers as he watches the man burn.\n\n\n"Uh, are you okay?"\n\n\nRalon scrubs the sole of his combat boot over the dunes of ash that used to be Matthias. He shakes his head, eyes wide, helplessly.\n\n\n"I thought you wanted him dead?" If not, he could get angry reeeeeaaaallly fast. And you're the one standing closest to him. You've seen him lose his shit before and it never ends well for the humans around him.\n\n\n"I did. I do." He shakes his head and frowns. "I did." He swallows. "It's ... over."\n\n\n"What is this?" Sadora appears. She looks from the empty jar to the still-healing hole in Ralon's chest. "You bastard." Her eyes narrow into malevolent slits ... and then she bursts into high pitched, trilling laughter. "Well done! I see the better man won. I am so glad to see an end to the fighting. Now you and I can be together, for all eternity." She holds her hands out to him, offering an embrace.\n\n\nHe spits venom at her. \n\n\nShe scowls and backs away, brushing at the new stains on her pink negligee.\n\n\n"I'm sick of all the games and double talk. I need to less time with you, and more with honest people. No holds barred people. People like ... her." He points at you.\n\n\n"Humans don't last very long," she says softly. "You'll return to me soon enough." You don't like the hostile look in her eyes as she looks at you. You step behind Ralon.\n\n\nHe grabs you around the waist and rushes you out, killing the few simulacra that dare to get in his way.\n\n\n"Wait!"\n\n\n"Stop struggling, I have to take you with me or she'll kill you for sure.\n\n\n"But what about my friends?"\n\n\n"What? Oh, yeah. I'll turn them. Only way to keep 'em alive. But I gotta feed first. I've got a fire in my gut, and right now you're the only human around. You picking up what I’m putting down?"\n\n\n"Let's get you to the village," you say nervously.\n\n\nRalon grins.\n\n\nOne village and one day later, he comes out of his bloodlust. It's too late for your friends. You cry and scream, and try to stake him. He looks annoyed and apologizes. Not good enough. You wait until he's sleeping in the day and come up with another stake.\n\n\nHe snaps awake, knocks the stake from your hands, and glamours you. \n\n\nIt all goes hazy ... you remember what he did, all the feeling has been erased from that memory. You forgive him soon enough. What choice do you have? They're gone, and his Maker keeps sending you threatening messages in vague terms that are even scarier than if she'd come out and said 'I’m going to eat your liver, out of your body, as you watch and scream.'\n\n\nA girl's gotta have her priorities, and your number one goal is honoring Danny's last coherent words and staying alive ... in one form or another.\n\n\nIt would be a lot easier to stay alive if you were a vampire. Ralon's a master now, he could turn you into lower vamp like he was. It didn't seem so bad. But he refuses. Says he prefers when you smell like a living animal instead of a dead one. Secretly, you suspect he's worried you'll try to kill him again if you ever become a strong enough vampire to shrug off the glamour. You probably couldn’t kill a Maker but you're sure you could cause him a lot of pain ... \n\n\nHe promises to turn you if you ever get really sick or hurt, or when you start to 'get fat and ugly and old', as he puts it. You stick close to him, help lure victims for him to feed on so he doesn't get too peckish when there's just you around, and bide your time.\n\n\nA few years pass. Ralon gets increasingly distracted. He claims Glasgow and the surrounding area as 'his territory', and obsessively patrols the borders of it. He and his Maker argue over territory quite a lot. The magic entrapping Sadora weakens and one year she is able to go aboveground within the confines of the castle property. Soon she'll be able to escape, and Ralon obsesses over her coming to 'poach his property'. The arguments between them grow ugly. You wonder if it's something to do with them being two Makers now, unable to live close to each other. Or maybe it's their foul personalities ....\n\n\nIt comes around the time when the Maker embraced Ralon, his six hundredth (or is it seven hundredth? eight? you forget) birthday. Ralon and you go back to the castle to enjoy a birthday party ... but you don't enjoy it long. \n\n\nRalon and Sadora get into a tremendous argument over (what else?) territory. He storms out, leaving you to drag to the trunk of his Lamborghini Diablo the bloody, nubile 'birthday cake' his maker had kidnapped for him.\n\n\nYou shove the woman in and slam the trunk closed, and feel cold breath on your neck.\n\n\n"What are you doing?" you ask, your voice shaking.\n\n\n"Teaching my boy about respect," she spits out.\n\n\nShe tears into you and leaves you bleeding on the hood of the Diablo. Ralon comes back in a quarter of an hour and finds you like that. Immediately, he tears open his wrist and presses it to your mouth. \n\n\n"My pet, no, not my pet, c'mon kitten, drink from me. I'll make this all better, take better care of you. Please, pet. Not you, too. Don't leave me alone." \n\n\nBut you're too weak, too far gone. The last thing you see is the Maker walking up, smiling beatifically.\n\n\nRalon turns and you hear the wolf howl, that sound you hadn't heard in years. He rushes for her. Maybe he manages to kill her. Maybe they kill each other. You can't hold onto life long enough to find out.\n\n\nTHE END\n\n[[L2]]\nRestart the chapter?\n\n\n[[1]]\nRestart from the beginning?
"Missssstresssss, there is no sign of them."\n\nShe sighs deeply and hugs you from behind, breathing over your neck. "Did you split up into pairs to cover all the hallways and rooms?"\n\n"Uhhhhhh." Its voice sounds like the last dregs of water draining through a half clogged sewer pipe.\n\n"So you administered this search by staying in one large, noisy, easily-avoided phalanx?" She grabs your wrists and starts fondling your skin over the pulse points. That's just great.\n\n"Yesssssss?"\n\n"Get out of my sight. Search again." \n\nThe monster bows and backs out of the room.\n\n"Morons. Buffoons. But that's what comes of animating beings from the bits and pieces I have lying around here." She breathes your scent in. "It's been so long since I've had a daughter. Perhaps ..." She lets you go. "Stay near me, my pet. If you run, I'll catch you." She smiles sweetly, fangs peeking out.\n\n"Super great." \n\nShe walks into her little Zen garden, and you notice she doesn't leave footprints behind. She picks up the vessel of blood from under her little 'tribute' and carries it up to her throne.\n\nSince you've already put her in a good mood with your awesome entertainment skills, maybe you should take this opportunity to learn something about ...\n\n[[H11]]\n\n... why she has all these dangerous but not too bright magical constructs here, instead of turning some of these tributes into vampire minions? \n\n[[H12]]\n\n... what is 'the cure' and how can you get a dose or four?\n\n[[H13]]\n\n... her history with Matthias and Ralon?\n
The maker raises the bowl to her mouth. You hear slurping, suckling noises.\n\n"So I notice there aren't any vampires here except for you ... do you just prefer the company of other magical monsters?"\nShe rests the bowl of blood in her lap, wipes her mouth, and licks her fingers. \n\n"I must make do with my simulacra as servants, and what little amusement I can extract from the glamoured humans that live overhead. My darling boys have vowed to kill anyone else I turn ... and they have. I enjoyed it the first few times, the way they came running from the farthest corners of the world to destroy my new creation before I could get attached and give the new one the other true vampire heart. But after a while the appeal faded." Her voice starts to rise. "It simply became annoying to lose such talented, strong, witty people I handpicked and lured here with all my guile, to lose them before I have the chance to break them personally!" \n\nYou flinch and judge the distance to the door.\n\nShe takes a deep breath and leans back, body tense as a coiled snake just waiting for its prey to approach. "I have made do with so little for so long. Tonight my loneliness will end."\n\n[[H12]]\n\nMaybe she'll give you a hint about the cure?\n\n[[H13]]\n\nShe seems willing to dish the dirt about Matthias, Ralon, and her history with them.\n\n[[H14]]\n\nShe's already brought up the 'true vampire heart', maybe she'll tell you more.\n
"Is vampirism a two way street?"\n\n"Whatever do you mean?" She stirs her index finger through the blood in the vessel. You can see it's just starting to congeal around the edges. She sucks her finger clean.\n\n"If someone's turned into a vampire, can they be changed back? Can they be cured if they're still transforming?"\n\n"The sacred blood of a true vampire heart can do many things."\n\n"So a blood infusion can reverse the process?"\n\nShe smiles enigmatically and leans back. Her bare feet move against the floor restlessly, like a dance. "You've learned a lot in the brief time you've known my sons."\n\n"Why would you think I haven't been with them for long?" Has she been spying on them this whole time?\n\n"Because you're still alive. A curious, lively little wren, gleaning what knowledge she can."\n\n"I learned Matthias has a dagger that's been charmed with vampiric magic. I know it drains life away."\n\nShe rolls her head against the seat and laughs softly. "Ah, Matthias won the dagger, how petulant Ralon must have been. Yes, a true vampire heart was sacrificed to make that relic. Such a waste ... but a useful tool. A vampire's hunger in the shape of a blade... my, the older ones were creative."\n\nYou think quickly. "So a blood infusion from a true vampire heart could heal the wounds the dagger leaves?"\n\n"You seem very interested in how to undo the natural order of things. Vampires kill, humans die. The Heart lives, the mortal dies. The heartblood kills the mortal blood and transforms the host. And you seek to reverse that process. Easier to turn the red blood blue. You have no means to destroy something so ancient and potent as a true vampire heart." Her eyes flash red for an instant. "Don't get above yourself, little pet."\n\n[[H11]]\n\nMaybe change the subject and ask why she didn't create other vampires to serve her?\n\n[[H13]]\n\nYou can nose around to learn some more of her past with Matthias and Ralon.\n\n[[H14]]\n\nAt the risk of setting her off, you can ask for more information about true vampire hearts.\n
"It sounds like you, Ralon, and Matthias have been at this dance for a long time."\n\nShe scowls and her nails grow to claws that rasp against the sides of the bowl of blood she is clutching. "Them. Yes. They have tested my patience. Many times. I have thought about killing them so many times." Her hands shift back to normal and she smiles dreamily, her eyes sparkling with joy. "I've never had so much fun breaking someone. It's fascinating to watch how they keep one another strong even as they tear each other apart."\n\n"That's a great way to spend your time." You manage not to roll your eyes.\n\n"Oh yes. I knew they would be entertaining from the first night I saw them. My creatures intercepted the carriage they were riding across the moors and trussed them up. They began slaughtering everyone, starting with the servants. Ralon fought like a wild animal, even as my Bleeder worked down the line and other humans would have lost hope and broken. So willful." She rubs her small, fine-boned hands together, gloating. "Matthias guessed what I was despite having never heard of my kind. Brilliant. He asked me to change him, to make him beyond the power of death, and he tickled my fancy so I agreed." She grimaces and her eyes fill with a sheen of tears. "How I came to regret that..."\n\n"And what about Ralon?" \n\nShe blinks and her face warms into that gleeful expression that makes your skin creep. "Ralon asked for it as well. He wanted to be strong enough to defend them both from the bloodthirsty depredations of the church inquisitors. I knew, with the right application of pressure, I could break that partnership. In the end I didn't have to do a thing. Matthias turned on his kind and his own nature, becoming a fanatic every bit as pitiless in his bloodthirst as the church they had fled from." She starts to laugh. "It was so funny, the look on Ralon's face when he realized his beloved had become a fanatic just as pitiless as the Church they had fled from."\n\n"Good stuff. Better than watching a soap opera." What the hell is with these vampires and their pathetically unglamorous hobbies? This is really disillusioning.\n\n[[H11]]\n\nAre you going to ask why she doesn't have any other vampires around to torture?\n\n[[H12]]\n\nAre you going to ask her about a cure to vampirism and vampire daggers?\n\n[[H14]]\n\nAre you going to ask her to be a little more specific about true vampire hearts?\n
"I don't understand ..." You play a little dumb to goad her into explaining. "So a true vampire heart isn't a euphemism for a really old and powerful vampire that has evolved into a Maker? The heart is an actual, physical thing?"\n\n"Physical and mystical." She leaves her throne, crouches to the right of it, and slides two fingers into a chip in one of the paving stones. That chip turns out to be a finger hold that lets her pull the stone plate off. \n\n"So how does it turn someone into a Maker?"\n\nShe sets the stone aside. "Start with something beyond human understanding. Graft it into a lowly human or wretched fallen vampire and watch it transform the sacrificial host. It gives a life beyond death, and can gift life to the dying."\n\n"So an infusion of blood from a true vampire can save someone who's dying?"\n\n"No, an infusion can boost the strength of one already made vampire, give them the potency to fight off their demise. For one still alive, or somewhat alive, you need the dregs of blood from a dying Heart to restore them. If you have the means to sacrifice it." She chuckles. "There is little in this world that can damage something so glorious."\n\nYou are reluctant to go near her, even though rationally, you know she can kill you no matter what corner of the room you're standing in. You swallow and force yourself to walk close enough to peek into the hidden compartment in the floor.\n\nThere is a clay jar about two feet long and nine inches across. It has an odd lid, a ceramic disc with runes carved into it and a hole the size of a small fist in the middle.\nThe Maker glances at you and smiles. "Like all organs, it is sustained with blood. My treasure gets fed weekly, just as I do. From the local hospital, senior activity center, tourists, hikers, schoolchildren visiting on an educational outing ... I have kept it alive, I have thrived, despite the ignoble bondage the witches left me in." \n\nShe pours blood through the hole until the fluid reaches the top of the jar. You watch as the blood level slowly but steadily sinks. "Feed, my dear," she croons, tapping her nails against that lid. \n\nYour heart is racing. You've seen some weird shit in the last twenty four hours but this is something else. "Is that it? The heart? The heart's in there?" You hear a note of hysteria in your voice. \n\nSomething moves, stirring up the surface of the remaining blood before sinking down again. \n\n"What - how many hearts do you have in there?"\n\n"Just one. There are too few of us left in the world, and each heart is precious. Each heart deserves only the best as a host. In my lifetime I have seen many candidates, and they all proved unworthy. Speaking of my sons," she straightens and replaces the paving stone, "Let us see why my lack witted servants haven't returned from their latest search. Pet, fetch me my parasol." She gestures at the Japanese hanging on the left.\n\nYou reach behind it and pull out a traditional-style Japanese parasol. It has a gorgeous moon-in-cloudy-skies print on the paper shade, as well as a bamboo handle and spokes. The tip of the parasol looks passably sharp.\n\n[[H15]]\n\nAre you going to take a chance and try to stake her with this handy weapon? \n\n[[H16]]\n\nWould you like to wait on that staking until a little later?\n
"Wow! Look over there!" You point at the far doorway. She pauses in the middle of adjusting her pink robe and squints.\n\nYou grip the curved handle tightly, wishing your palms weren't so sweaty. You draw the parasol back and ram it home ...\n\nIt passes through empty air. She vanishes. How the hell are you supposed to kill something that fast?! \n\nShe reappears in front of you before you finished swinging the parasol, and backhands you. \n\nCrack!\n\nYou fall at her feet.\n\nThe crack echoes in the air, the sound of your neck snapping. She nudges you with her dusty bare foot, pouts, and takes her parasol back. The last thing you see is her walking out.\n\nYou have DIED.\n\n[[H1]]\nRestart the chapter?\n\n[[1]]\nRestart from the beginning?
She walks out, keeping to a reasonable, human pace as she leads down the hallway to another large room. This one is a three story high hall connecting a warren of multiple alcoves, roughly hewn chambers, and burrow-like tunnels at every height. You look up and even the roof is pitted. More of those ghostly tattered cloths are drifting around up there; as you watch, one of them curls up in the roof pit. It looks like its nesting.\n\nSo this is where her creations sleep. You look around, estimating at least a hundred alcoves connect through here. Even if the monsters aren't willing to have roommates, that is really bad odds for your escape plan.\n\nNot that you have an escape plan.\n\nShe draws herself up, looking every inch a queen despite wearing a nightgown and no shoes. "Where is the phalanx?" she snaps.\n\nA bent creature in a monk's robe hobbles over. It's missing a leg and leans on a walking stick. "They came by once, searching. I smelled them in here. One of them set foot in my lair. There is a footprint in my soft comfortable dust! I must have justice."\n\n"Silence, you crawling maggot!" She takes a deep breath. "Boys," she calls out, her voice ringing and clear. Oddly enough, she doesn't echo. "My boys, I have your pets. Ralon, I smell your blood in the girl. Matthias, I sense your glamour clouding the boy's mind. You'd best come out and collect them." She pauses a moment. "The twins are hungry."\n\nShe turns and walks back. You are no fool to stand around the hall of irate supernatural beasties, especially since you've killed at least one of their number. You follow her.\n\nShe reenters the room with the Zen garden and the unspeakably creepy jar of blood and pauses. She turns in a slow circle, spinning her parasol. "Pet, I grow bored."\n\nYou're running low on talents, but you can give it a shot. You're trying to decide between sharing the amusing story of what happened when your parents forgot you at the mall the first time, or your very bad impression of Christopher Walken.\n\n"Dearest maker!" \n\nYou know that voice. It's Matthias! He walks in, hands in his pockets, looking so cool and confident he must have a plan to save the day!\n\nRalon pauses in the doorway and kicks a metal armored helmet into the room. It rolls to a stop at her feet and you notice it looks exactly like one of the heads of that phalanx she sent out to find them ...\n\nHow diplomatic.\n\nBut the old mistress looks amused.\n\n[[I1]]\n\nLet the games begin.\n
You walk through, feeling a cold sensation rushing over your skin - and it's like someone turned on a light switch. \n\nYou're in a small, dome-roofed chamber. The walls are rough carved rock, and the floor is worn cobblestones with an odd brown mud between them. You crouch down and touch it, and it grows wet, glistens red. Blood, of course. Old blood in the gaps between each stone, blood that leads in a trail from where you came to the double archway in front. \n\nThe remaining minions come in after you in a sudden rush. Two of them have fresh, bleeding slices on their faces. It looks like something tried to scratch out their eyes ...\nThe wall behind you seals, the sand rising into the air and reforming into stones.\n\n"Tribute," something whispers. It's a high, soft voice, a young woman's or maybe a child's. Those grey gossamer strands you saw before in the wine cellar drop from the ceiling and trail over your skin like fingers. They move past you and descend on the feral vampires, wrapping them like mummies and dragging them into the void. One grabs Misha- Ralon drags her back, the gossamer rips and that monster flees. \n\nRalon and Misha hurry through the leftmost archway, leaving you with these ... ghosts? Something even worse?\n\nBeyond the vampire, you see figures in rotting clothes rise up from where they were slumped to the ground. That must be the start of the crypts. \n\nThe archway to the right leads to a long, empty hallway with a dusty floor. \n\n[[H1]]\n\nAre you going to stick with Ralon?\n\n[[F21]]\n\nAre you going to set off solo down the empty hall?\n
Ralon's turned back to the door, running his hands softly over the claw marks. He's got his fingers spread and seems to be measuring, or comparing hand sizes or something.\nWhatever. You can handle this! You sneak over to the nearest box of stored crap. Old leather volume of photos ... cast iron pans ... waitaminute. \n\nYou pull out an ancient blade from a ceiling fan. The thinner wood of the blade itself has mostly rotted away but the thick, polished wood spine running to the attachment bracket looks sharp and totally stakeworthy. \n\nYou walk up behind the dead monk and clear your throat. It doesn't respond. Well, that's fine. You're sure you can find the heart from this angle. You draw back and ram the tip of the fan blade in. \n\n"Wh-no!" Ralon shouts.\n\nToo late. The wood parts through the rotten cassock and pierces this thing's chest. It shudders and falls to the floor. It's body flops and heaves. You back away as it throws its head back, jaw gaping horribly. A viper squirms free of its mouth and slithers under a fainting couch.\n\nYou hear throaty laughter, and something dark rushes out from that far archway, a cyclone of shadows made solid. They crash over your heads like a wave ... and when they recede, the larval vampire standing next to Misha is gone.\nShe leans over and roughly shakes ash from her blonde hair.\n\n"Sorry," you whisper.\n\nRalon shrugs. "She's had her retaliation. We should be able to go on, now."\n\nWhat's left of your little crack raiding squad pushes forward. As you pass under the archway, you see what looks like a faintly glowing figure, beckoning you close.\n\n[[F18]]\n\nInto the next chamber ...\n
The flame of Ralon's lighter picks out hundreds of gleaming wine bottles stacked against the walls. They wink back at you like a thousand eyes. You take a few steps in and spot what looks like brewing kits stacked in one of the tiny, adjoining rooms. The open doors to those rooms are iron bars. You peer in a little closer and see chains and manacles hanging from the wall. Someone has used those manacles to hold the giant glass brewing bottles upright. \nWhich way? The crazed gibbering, or the faint shifting glow?\n\n"Shhhh," Ralon directs at his minions.\n\nThey bare their teeth. \n\nHe points at them and glares sternly. One by one, they stop hissing.\n\n"Come on," he whispers to you. He strides toward that faint glow.\n\nYou look over your shoulder, hearing that unpleasant muttering coming closer.\n\nRalon shushes his spawn, pointing and glaring sternly until they all stop hissing.\n\nRalon comes to the far wall and that glow melts back, seeping through the stones like rain in parched dirt. He frowns thoughtfully and finally bites into the meat of his palm and presses his bloody hand against the wall.\n\nThe bricks crumble to sand, revealing another archway into a pitch-black chamber. Ralon walks through, and the second his heels cross the threshold he vanishes.\n\nYou strain your eyes but can't make him out. You look back. There are the minions, looking hungry. There's the cellars that you have no idea how to get out of. Somewhere in there, is something that's gibbering and starting to chuckle as it draws closer.\n\n[[F18]]\n\nYou step into the void.\n
You slip through the door. \n\n"Hst!" Ralon whispers.\n\nYou wave him off. Just a minute, juuuuust one little minute. You walk over to the vanity and lift a choker, a two inch sparkler. Oh, baby, come to mama. You feel the unmistakable deep, warm glow of real gold, and those are diamonds, no mistaking it, that pitiless Arctic shine.\n\n"What are you doing?" a woman snaps behind you.\n\nYou spin around, holding tight to the necklace. Someone's just come from a small, adjoining room. Steam curls around her. This woman's in her forties or later, it's hard to tell since she's so gaunt. Her collarbones and shoulder blades poke out skeletally.\n\nRalon walks in. The woman sees him, screams, and scratches her upper arm - where you see a brand in the shape of a twisting snake.\n\nIn the distant corner of the house, something howls.\n"Great," he snarls. He reaches out and rips her chest open. The woman collapses, a lagoon of blood sinking into the peach-toned carpet. "Get ready," he shouts, "here come the hellhounds!"\n\n"What? Hellhounds?!"\n\n"It's my Maker's magic." He grabs you by the wrist, starts to drag you back into the hall-\n\nThree huge, spectral hounds lungs at him, knocking him into the room. You fall backward, the necklace flies from your hand - it trails through the dark like a shooting star, before hitting the far wall and dropping behind the vanity.\n\nRalon gets to his feet, only to be dragged down again by the throat. You hear a fight outside, but one of his minions - a tall biker with muscles and an expansive gut - comes in and tries to drag those things off his master. He's gutted for his trouble.\n\nVampire ash floats down like confetti. \n\n[[F15]]\n\nAre you going to look for something to arm yourself with? \n\n[[F16]]\n\nAre you going to take off for the stairs while these vampires distract the hellhounds? \n
You hold firmly onto Ralon and drag him through the door. A woman with a lined, leather face and iron-grey hair crimped in tight curls is standing beside a desk. She has a pistol in a holster at her belt, and she's using a box cutter to trim shreds of fondant off of a white and blue cake.\nYou dip into the well and come up with another bucket of bullshit. "Good morning, Ma'am."\n\n"That's Alberta Knells."\n\n"Good morning, Miss Knells! We're the-"\n\nShe snorts. "You're the band?"\n\n"That's right, we've come to-"\n\n"No."\n\n"No?"\n\n"You are most definitely not 'The Happy Clappy Clubhouse'."\nWell, when she puts it like that ... \n\nBut she seems like a pretty cool human being, and you're guessing Ralon is seconds away from offing her.\n\nYou take one more shot at averting slaughter. "The servant at the door ID'd us, I could call him-"\n\n"Edgar has been hypnotized and his sense of reality manipulated until his brain is as intact as a wedge of Swiss cheese," she says icily. She steps back, looks over the cake, and nods. Apparently it's square enough for her now.\n\nShe pulls the pistol from her belt and levels it at you. "Now, why don't you- Master Ralon?" She puts the gun away and pulls a wallet from her back pocket. She flips it open and you see she has two little rectangular photos tucked away where most people would carry their driver's license or credit card. They're photos of Ralon and Matthias. \n\n"Well." She looks between the photo and the vampire at your side. "One of the old mistress's prodigal sons has returned. I'll take you to her if you and your ..." she curls her lip at the larval vamps that are currently trying to circle the table and sneak behind her- "your attaches behave with decorum. Or I'll unleash the hounds and you can wait for the old mistress to contact you at her leisure."\n\n"I'll be good," Ralon purrs, giving her a sultry look.\n\nYou note he doesn't make any promises for his minions, which is probably smart.\n\nThe woman snorts and pulls an oddly shaped key from her pocket. It's a flat, wide strip of metal, with a hole at one end for the keyring to slide through, and at the other end a sequence of small holes ... you realize they resemble the eyes and gaping mouth of a skull.\n\nShe slides her key in between two wooden panels and the wall opens, revealing a secret staircase down. It's small enough Ralon has to shuffle down sideways as he follows you. The minions trail after you both.\n\nDown at the bottom, she stops at a closet-sized room. She uses the key again, this time between two bricks in the wall, and that section slides back to reveal ... a fucking dark, dismal cellar. With an odd mote of light to one side. You almost think you can hear a distant, muttering voice ... but then again, you could be paranoid. \n\nWhat's that they say, it's not paranoia if they really are out to get you?\n\n[[F14]]\n\nYou could try to pump this woman for information? \n\n[[F12]]\n\nOf course you do have bigger problems than gossiping with her ... maybe you just want to push ahead.\n
You swing open the door to the staircase spiraling down.\n\n"Wait." Ralon hauls you back and rushes down first. \n\nYou straighten your blouse and follow him. He's paused halfway down, running his fingers through a faint drifting of ash on the steps. \n\n"Is that vampire dust?"\n\n"Dunno. It could be Matthias. That motherfucking bastard - always getting one ahead-" he rubs it between his fingers. "I'm just not sure." He raises a handful nose, hesitates, and holds it to the nearest minion - a tall broad-shouldered man whose gut is straining his leather biker vest. "Snort this and tell me what you smell."\n\nThe man does so. He sucks in a shocked breath, pale skin turning grey ... and suddenly bursts into smoke and ash.\n\n"Fuck!" You squeeze around Ralon, getting a little space from that disaster. You look back up and see that the first drifting of ash has vanished, like it never existed. Now there's a new pile, and you're betting this one is real.\n\n"A magical trap," Ralon grits out. "The hag gets more paranoid every time I visit." He shakes his head and gestures for you to go out through the weathered wooden door at the bottom of the stairs.\n\nYou swing it open and notice scratch marks on the inside ... and no inner doorknob. Even worse, your eyes start adjusting to the deep gloom of the cellars and you make out a faint, grey figure ... there's a man about a dozen feet away. He's standing with his back to the door and muttering.\nBefore you can rethink this approach, Ralon shoves you into the room and the merry band of vamps follows.\n\n[[F17]]\n\nTime to try out those people skills!\n
You sprint to the head of the stairs, the sound of the fight ringing in your ears. You work your way down the spiral staircase. IT was built in medieval times, the steps so tiny, the stone worn concave from generations of footprints.\n\nHalfway down, you see vampire dust drifting by your ankles. You gasp and fumble. Damn those pumps! You never could get the hang of heels!\n\nYou trip, and tumble ankles-over-head down the stairs. There's a searing pain in your neck, and then nothing, a numbness like you were plunged into ice cold water from the throat down.\n\nYour broken body rolls to a stop against the wooden door at the bottom. You can't breathe, glittering darkness filling your vision. \n\nThe door opens and you see ... some half-rotted thing with fangs, wearing a monk's cassock, swing it open. It looks down at you, then grabs you by the ankles and drags you into the dark. As the door swings shut behind you, you see the inside of it is marred with scratches where the doorknob should have been...\n\nYou have DIED.\n\n[[F1]]\nRestart the chapter?\n\n\n[[1]]\nRestart from the beginning?
"Marrow, marrowbones, wet iron, taste it, dripping, dripping down, sluicing, come down little ones, come to the abattoir," the thing mutters.\n\nYou love the atmosphere of this place. It's as bad as the basement fitness center of your university.\n\nRalon's looking around warily, fangs peeking out and his eyes gleaming red in the poor light here. You can't blame him for being alert, this place is lousy with mystical traps and weird, undead creatures.\n\nYou look around, spotting the dark hulking shapes of stored furniture. Some of it's under slip covers and sheets, some left to be piled in dust and tangled in cobwebs. The ceiling is oozing with moisture, and everything smells like damp earth and mold.\n\nThe shadows of the far wall get darker in the center ... you'd guess it's an archway to a deeper room. First, you have to figure out a way past this thing.\n\n[[F19]]\n\nOne less monster can only turn the odds in your favor. There's plenty of stuff around here, surely something is arm-length and pointy.\n\n[[F20]]\n\nOr you can try a little of the ol' politesse and introduce yourself to it. After all, this thing has proved it can speak. Not that you like the topic of conversation, but still ...\n
"So you know all about the old Mistress's ... special diet?"\n\n"It's rather hard to miss the fact that I serve a vampire, since I help dispose of bodies."\n\n"Oh."\n\n"I also lure expendable people down to the cellar to satisfy her twin thirsts..." Alberta smiles at you, a cold light in her eye.\n\n"People like me?"\n\n"Well, that depends on how convincing the prodigal son is, in earning her forgiveness. And whether he'll bother to defend you at all."\n\nRalon, lurking behind you, says noting. You swallow and change the subject. "So how did you get into this business?"\n\nShe sighs and says in an impatient flood of words, "I came here on holiday when I was a teenager, and the old staff saw my potential. I was sent into the deep darks and met the old Mistress, and she ... appreciated my nerve and pragmatism. So I vowed loyalty, got this to enforce it," here she pulls back the neck of her shirt, revealing a scar, a brand shaped like a twisting snake, "and was trained to attend her, as well as support the noble family that lives aboveground."\n\n"It doesn't bother her to have them living here?" \n\n"Oh, no. They’re distant descendants of her, so I suppose she may feel some kind of passing affection for that inbred lot. More importantly, they are useful in disguising her presence here, and she harvests their blood for certain magics."\n\n"So they don't mind-"\n\n"They belong to her, every one, body and soul and blood. Always, the blood. Now I need to get back under the sun and finish planning the young master's party."\n\nShe grabs your arm tightly and shoves you through the open door. Ralon blurs in after you, catches you before you can hit the cobblestones and sets you upright. His minions trail in after, a few 'encouraged' when Alberta boots them in the backside. She slams the door shut.\n\n[[F12]]\n\nWow, it's dark and creepy in here. \n
You look desperately around the room for something you can repurpose into a weapon. There's the vanity - but isn't a broken mirror bad luck? What if there's some kind of weird vampire magic on it, too? There's a fireplace - no poker, just a flimsy looking little shovel for scooping out ashes. Closet - curtains - unmade bed - fuck!\n\nRalon manages to get a tight grasp on one of the three howling, struggling hounds. He snaps its neck and flings the body aside. He bites another on the throat and immediately lets go, spitting out a mouthful of blood that turns immediately to oily black smoke. That hound grabs the collar of his makeshift shirt and drags him to the floor, the third circling around trying to fasten onto his Achilles tendons.\n\nYou shove past that mess and back into the hallway. The vamps are wrestling with another hellhound. This one is bigger than the others, a dark red instead of black. It's wearing a collar studded with razor blades. It snaps at you, hackles rising.\n\nMisha pushes in front of you and punches it in the teeth and throat. The hound staggers back a step and shakes its head. Misha grimaces and shakes her fist - you see her knuckles and back of her fingers are lacerated from that collar.\n\nThe hound growls, a deep bass rumble that you feel vibrating up through the floor. It's almost like the house itself is getting angry -\n\nThat's crazy talk. You shake yourself out of it and look around wildly.\n\nThere - above the unattractive pineapple-shaped lamp that half-illuminates this hallway, you see a huge rack of antlers mounted to a wooden plate on the wall. You scramble atop the little table, accidentally kicking the lamp down and smashing it. You grab for the antlers and realize they're wooden, some kind of tacky wooden replica.\n\nYou hang your weight from them and they fall. The weight's too much and you tumble to the ground on top of them, knocking out your breath.\n\nThere’s another growl and you hear that demon hound scratching at the wooden flooring, rushing for you. You see Misha grab it around the neck, blood rushing down her arm where she holds it. She stands up, showing you the hound's belly. You lift the replica antlers and stake it through the chest.\n\nThe hound shivers oddly, skin seeming to shrink and melt tightly against its bones. It goes limp, eye sockets empty.\n\nShe drops it and massages her arm. You can see bone glinting through the wounds, and a few traces of black mixing with her red blood. As you watch, the wounds start to heal.\n\n"Whew!" Ralon walks out, bloodied and battered. In the room you see the three limp bodies of the hellhounds. As you watch, they grow more and more transparent, literally melting away like nighttime frost in morning sunlight.\n\n"Knowing the hag, there's more on the way," he says.\nGreat.\n\nHe grabs you by the arm and everyone hustles down the spiral staircase. You go down several floors, and then it ends at a creepy, worn wooden door.\n\nOverhead, something howls.\n\n"Jesus shit, give it a rest," Ralon mutters. He shoves you and the vamps into the room and shuts the door in a hurry.\nHe sparks his lighter and you see the inside of the door has claw marks and no doorknob. You're trapped down here now. Just you, and these bloodthirsty vampires ...\nand whatever that thing standing with its back to the door is. Something in ragged robes, muttering to itself.\n\n[[F17]]\n\nWell, you were hoping to find the cellars. This isn't what you expected, though.\n
You grab that blade and slide it up your sleeve. Danny's eyes widen but before he can say anything, Matthias groans and comes to. It must be nice to have that vampire healing and just shrug off a broken skull.\n\n"What..." he takes a deep breath, pale skin tinged with a wash of green. He swallows twice. "What happened to the dagger? I dropped it." He turns in a circle, inspecting the area. The nausea-green fades and his eyes sharpen. "It's gone! Where is it?"\n\nDanny crosses his arms and looks away. Looks like he won't rat you out, but you're on your own here. You need some kind of cover story so Matthias will give up on the dagger and let you keep it.\n\nYou lick your dry lips and tell him-\n\n[[K2]]\n\n"Magic did it. Some kind of evil spell."\n\n[[K3]]\n\n"A monster came out of the shadows and grabbed it. Sorry."\n\n[[K4]]\n\n"One of the servants took it while we lying on the ground stunned."\n
Humor is the balm of kings. OR something. You might not be remembering that quote right...\n\nYou take a minute, think it through, and give her your best effort.\n\n"There once was a vamp from Dublin\nWho feared he would die a virgin,\nHe flirted with a nun\nand the two had some fun\n'Til her order found out and staked him."\n\nShe smirks. Then she blinks and touches the corner of her mouth. "I'd almost forgotten what that feels like. You are an diverting little morsel, if dimwitted. I think I will leave you alive. For now."\n\nWhat a relief.\n\nA pair of the armored guards come into the room. "A moment of your time, old mistressss."\n\nShe pulls you close, running her hands over your arms like you're a favored dog.\n\n[[H10]]\n\nBetter play along.\n
You crawl into the dumbwaiter and wave for someone to join you down ... and something snaps. You scream as you're briefly in freefall, before you smack into the bottom as something stops it from dropping.\n\n"You dead yet?" Ralon calls out.\n\nYou wipe your bloody nose. "No. What happened?"\n\n"Dumbwaiter rope broke. That's bad construction. Hang on.\nHe lowers you down and you crouch on the floor of the dumbwaiter, staring out into what should be pitch darkness. But oh, it's not. There's something glowing faintly, something moving like silk in water, to your left. To the right, you hear distant muttering.\n\nYou blink quickly, trying to hurry up the night vision. You can faintly see dark blocky shapes in the edges of the room, long-stored piles of furniture.\n\n"Coming through!" Ralon calls out. \n\nYou dive forward and hear a heavy thump as something hits the dumbwaiter. The rotten wood comes apart, splinters hitting you. You brush impatiently at them, feeling your own slippery blood smearing down your arm.\n\n"Shit, ow!" You hear a metallic thunggggg. "Fucking pully hit me."\n\nBut you have bigger problems. There's arms around you, feeling like old leather and dry sticks. You scream and claw for the eyes - and your fingers hook into empty sockets of bone. You shriek again as it lifts you and throws you into the shattered dumbwaiter. \n\nThat thing - you feel the air move as it comes at you again. You grab a forearm-long splinter of wood and jab out wildly -\n\nIt makes a sound like air rushing from a subway tunnel and collapses atop you.\n\nRalon shoves aside enough of the debris that he can get in with you. He flicks on his lighter and you see something, it looks like a half-finished mummy, lying atop you.\nThe muttering you heard is drawing closer, and you hear the sound of something dragging.\n\n"Right." Ralon grabs the mummy and chucks it into the dark like a pile of rags. "Pick up the pace." He hauls you to the left, toward that weird spectral shape in the darkness.\n\n[[F12]]\n\nHow much worse could it be? You're about to find out.\n
Just as you half suspected, it's Matthias and Ralon. They're fighting like two dogs let loose - snapping fangs, throwing each other into the walls which sends the cracked jars stored in this room to the floor in the noisiest possible way, trying to gouge open the belly -\n\n"Guys! Stop it!" you hiss out. \n\nThey don't seem to hear you.\n\n"Whatever happened to all those people unfortunate enough to become your minions? Have you really gotten all but one of them killed? But I suppose that is your modus operandi."\n\nRalon spits something black at him, and Matthias dodges just in time. He rips off Ralon's makeshift shirt and punches him in over the bandage on his stomach. "It's just a matter of time before the last one you turned gives up her life. Like everyone else you've gotten close to, cold and dead. From your own hands when your bloodlust takes hold, or dead by your massive list of enemies including three different bands of hunters ... or dead from the weak, tainted blood you forced upon her. You're not worthy of a companion."\n\nThe overly dramatic trash talk seems to strike a nerve. Ralon grabs one of the smashed jars on the floor and slits Matthias's throat with it. Matthias blurs away, holding his throat together. "Fuck you! Fuck you twice! At least I have fun, and I keep my people around as long as they last, to the bitter end. I don't leave them behind in Madrid while I'm off worshipping at the shrine of Kill-my-own-kind! Yeah, I know all about that Benedictine monk you recruited last century. The two of you were so close, not that I'm jealous!" He rushes Matthias and gets thrown headfirst into the passageway you're standing in - you and Danny duck as he sails by. He picks him up and snarls, "God forbid you commit to someone in bad times as well as the good! You abandoned him and the vampires you were hunting tore him to pieces."\n\nYou try to break up this party before any more hurt feelings lead to dead bodies. "You'll bring the monsters down on us. Thousands of monsters. Let's focus on the bigger issues!"\n\nIt doesn't do any good.\n\n"I'll get cured," Matthias says, eyes wild, "Then I’ll leave you here to bleed and die like the lowliest of prey, and I will never waste another thought on you again!"\n\n"You think so? I'm getting the cure off her, and I'm walking out and I'm keeping all the pet humans. That's right, I'm not leaving you one. I've got a van, so I've got plenty room for them."\n\nMatthias turns dark red with rage. He pulls out the broken dagger from the sheath he'd hidden, strapped to his chest.\nRalon's eyes widen and he grabs Danny from behind, locking that arm around his throat. "Go ahead, if you're willing to put your little pet here at risk." He pats Danny's chest. "Aww, he's got a notebook on him. You are two of a kind."\n\nMatthias slips the dagger away and hauls Misha over by the hair. She's strong, but no match for him as he pins her arms to her chest, and grabs her jaw to keep her from biting. "All it would take is one twist." \n\nYou really need to do something.\n\n[[H3]]\n\nYou can try a calm, reasonable argument. It may at least work on Matthias since he seems the more logical of the two. \n\n[[H4]]\n\nYou can try to work the emotional angle. Ralon is ruled by his emotions. Granted they're usually about bloodlust and a hunger for violence, but still ...\n
"Okay, let's try to focus on your priorities.." You circle around beside Matthias and step on his foot. He looks away from the staring contest with Ralon. "There's five of us in this room, including three vampires. If we work together we can get what we need from your maker, and then we take this bitch down and escape. Doesn't that sound better than getting massacred by all these weird monsters?"\n\nMatthias gives you a stonefaced look, but he is listening.\n\n"There's plenty of time to kill each other once we're aboveground. Or, I'm just sayin', you could let the past go and live a nice long life doing whatever you wanna do. Travel, party, kill evil vampires if you have to, get a pimped out car and a halfway decent lair. Just think, no more squatting in a miserable shack."\n\n"I wish I could," Ralon says. "I feel my maker's pull every minute of every day, she's got a fucking leash on me every since I drank her blood. When I run from her, she has the power. When she pulls me back to Scotland again and again, she has even more power."\n\n"The magic binding her is weakening." Matthias's fangs retract and his eyes go from red to his normal hazy green. "Before too long, she will escape and run unchecked through Europe. I suspect her first priority will be to kill us, in retribution for all the ways we have disappointed her. I cannot bear to think of dying when I have done so little to combat the vampiric plague." He licks his lips. "Even worse, I fear she will use her influence to change me into the beast I once was."\n\n"So we have some common ground," you point out.\nMatthias drops Misha and Ralon walks into the room, releasing Danny\n\n"A temporary alliance." The vampires shake hands\n\n[[H5]]\n\nNow that everyone's finally acting like adults, it's time to come up with a plan!\n
You walk into a round room, a meeting point where a half dozen hallways connect like spokes of a wheel. The walls are rough-cut stone blocks, and there is a single, thick pillar in the center that joins the crest of the dome roof. It's lit by a few candles on the ground, set atop human skulls. The bones look very old, mottled grey and brown and cracking with age. The tiles underfoot are scattered with a fine layer of dust which puffs up around your ankles as you walk farther in.\n\nIn the passage to your right, you hear whispering... You sneak over to the door, and the dust muffles your footsteps. You lean against the wall and listen.\n\n"The Maker is trapped here by witch magic. I think we're trapped here as well, but if we can kill her maybe we'll be able to escape-" the voice chokes off.\n\nYou hear a faint growl. You peek around the edge of the door and see, silhouetted in the light pouring from the far room, Danny. He is wet and shivering, leaning against the wall and trying to muffle a coughing fit in his sleeve.\n\nMisha is staring at him, red eyes flicking from his face to the doorway where you are half-hidden. \n\nYou join them, and see that Misha has black lines tracing out her veins. The rot is spreading.\n\n"Won't the curse drop if we manage to kill her?" You’re whispering too.\n\n"Hopefully."\n\n"Th’ss her terr'tory," Misha slurs out. She looks over her shouldre, eyes wide. "Hun'ing"\n\n"Hunting? She's hunting us?" Not a surprise, but it is bad news.\n\nMisha bares her fangs and rubs her upper chest, over her heart. Her face is tight with pain.\n\n"If the Maker has been trapped here this long," Danny points out, "then she'll know every stone in the place, every current of air. It's just a matter of time before she notices something’s off and starts hunting us for sport."\n\n"You!" Someone growls, the sound echoing, distorted, down the hallway.\n\n"YOU-" That voice chokes off and you hear the sounds of a fight, flesh impacting stone.\n\nThey aren't being very discreet. \n\n[[H2]]\n\nYou edge down the passage to the well-lit room at the far end.\n
The three of you follow your captors down a set of curved hallways. There are deep shelves carved into the earth here, each one empty.\n\n"Usually, bodies are stored in those," Danny explains.\nAnd now they’re all empty. You try not to think what happened to the corpses.\n\nYou are led to the largest chamber yet. It has alcoves between the pillars holding up the roof, dead flowers and arrangements of bones in said alcoves. There is a round table weighted with candelabras in the middle of the floor. The roof's painted a delicate fresco of blue sky and fluffy clouds and cherubs playing flutes and so forth. There's a dais with a delicate-looking wrought-iron chair with cushions embroidered with scenes of cranes hunting fish. Two scrolls flank the odd little throne; they look like traditional Japanese prints of storm-tossed waves and a bamboo forest. The maker must be a fan of Japanese culture as there's a gravel Zen garden. A dead man in boxers is hanging from his ankles above the garden, blood running from his cut throat into a bowl on the ground.\n\n"Misssstresssss! Tributesssss!"\n\nOne of the Japanese hangings is swept aside and you get your first look at Matthias and Ralon's Maker. She's ballerina-thin, maybe five feet tall, with unreal paperwhite skin, china blue eyes, and long black hair that gleams like the fur of an animal as it trails over her pink robe. A matching pink negligee is peeking out from under it.\n\nShe sniffs the air raises her eyebrows. "You consider these things a fitting tribute?"\n\nBy this time you've gotten used to vampires blurring with speed. She's even faster. She just ... appears next to the armored monster that had spoken. "Idiot." She backhands it, and its armored head rolls off. One of the others picks the head up and sticks it back on.\n\nShe sniffs again and points at Danny. "Mortally wounded, his life-force almost completely drained away." She points at Misha. "This one is clearly rotting, her body filled with blood too weak to complete the transition. They both reek of death." She sniffs again and points to you. "This one may suffice. Take those others to the cells, maybe the twins will be able to stomach them."\n\nMisha and Danny are dragged away. You're all alone with the Maker. She catches your chin and breathes in again, her lovely face distorting as fangs peek out. "You reek of life, and of my defiant sons. It seems they have finally come back to their Maker's empty arms ... Minions! Do fetch me the two vampires!" She hesitates, listening to something you can't catch, and smiles with satisfaction.\n\nThat throws a wrench into their plans. Of course, from what you've seen Ralon and Matthias are pretty bad in the planning department so this may not make a big difference in the final outcome. \n\nThe Maker lets you go and walks backwards to pose, regal as a queen on a throne, in that chair. "Yet you are still alive ... you must have done something to catch their attention. Well, little pet? Show me your trick." \n\nSince the alternative to performing for her amusement is apparently getting strung up like that guy in the boxers, you'd better think of something. \n\n[[H7]]\n\nSpontaneous haiku?\n\n[[H8]]\n\nFunny limerick?\n\n[[H9]]\n\nSexy dance?\n
Alright, you should have paid more attention to World Lit, but you think you can wing it. The haiku format is five syllables, then seven, then five. The poems go on and on about moonlight, and candle flames, and monks saving people ...\n\nYou clear your throat.\n\n"The Maker's face rises\nAbove the Scottish Moors\nLike a bone-white moon."\n\nHer eyes narrow. Thoughtful? Angry?\n\nYou push on. She likes killing people, right? You can work with that and play to her ego.\n\n"Vampires are beyond\nAll discrimination\nSince all blood is red."\n\nCrap, how many syllables was that? Her hands tighten on the arms of that chair. Are you losing her? You'd better come up with another one.\n\n"It must be so great\nTo be a Maker and nev-" seven syllables!\n"-Er have to kiss ass."\n\nShe stands. "This is a grave insult to the ancient and beautiful art form of the haiku! How dare you inflict such incompetently metered poetry on me!" \n\nShe's gone. Something strikes you in the back and you go numb with shock. You look down and see her hand sticking out of your chest, your still-beating heart clutched in it. It's a cold comfort, but at least you didn't get hung upside down next to the dead guy.\n\nYou have DIED.\n\n[[H1]]\nRestart the chapter?\n\n\n[[1]]\nRestart from the beginning?
"Guys. Let's use our words instead of our fangs." Ralon ignores you. He drops his fangs and drags them over Danny's throat, goading Matthias. \n\nMatthias's eyes widen in outrage and he tips Misha's head farther back.\n\n"Hey!" You toss a shard of pottery at Ralon; it bounces off his head. You pull up some of the court-appointed-psychologist-speak you heard too much of in your teenage years. "I hear you saying that you feel Matthias has grown and changed into someone very different from the man you used to know."\n\n"A fucking fanatic," he spits out. "A square with your soul as dead as your dick. What's the point in living forever if you won't live at all?"\n\nYikes. "Now, Matthias, I'm hearing you say-"\n\nMatthias's eyes are wide with offense. "As opposed to wallowing in every cruel excess, every perversion, trying to make numbed nerves feel again? You waste those innocent humans' lives, and you waste your time. As long as we are fallen vampires, as long as we lack a true vampire heart, we will be burdened with blunted emotions."\n\n"What a bunch of bullshit. All this holier-than-thou spouting about how you don't like it when I kill people, when I rip up relics of the past, but I know what your real problem with me is. You're pissed off that I told your family about us. It's not like you gave me a choice. You were going to marry that boring little wannabe nun they had picked out. You're angry that I gave your fucking parents the truth, and you're even angrier that your little sister died while we were away in England letting the heat die down."\n\n"W-Marie? NO, I rarely-"\n\n"Oh really? She was tortured by the church for helping us escape, and you don't think about her?"\n\n"I wish I could grieve as a human would, mourn as she deserves ... but my numbed heart will not cooperate. She is in my thoughts, now and again, but not in my heart."\n"Every century you show up with another girl who looks like her, acts like her. You rub it in my face, that what I started ended so badly. Maybe it's your fucked up vampire emotions that you won't let the past go."\n\nYou interrupt. "This is why you guys should work together. Your maker has another true vampire heart, right? Let's have some teamwork, kill her, and take it off her. You'll solve all your problems, work on your issues. Killing her is the healthy choice." \n\nRalon drums his fingers against Danny's chest and frowns. "The hag has been dangling that heart between us since she made us. It would be nice to see her get hers'."\n\n"To finally evolve, instead of trapped, half dead and half on the other side." Matthias continues.\n\nThey release their hostages and shake hands. "Looks like we've got an alliance of opportunity.\n\n[[H5]]\n\nAww, they're growing as people ...\n
"It will take a cunning strategy to vanquish her." Matthias gingerly feels the wound at his neck. "We have little time to manipulate her into giving us the cure."\n\n"And then we need to kill her which won't be easy. She's faster and stronger than us, and her vampire heart's gonna put up a fight. We need to hit her when she's off her game. Some time when she's really distracted .... maybe when she's feeding."\n\nWhat exactly does he mean, her heart is going to fight? \n"Our greatest advantage is that she may know some unexpected prey has been sent to her catacombs, but she doesn't know about you and I." Matthias waves at Ralon. "If she did, she would have greeted us personally."\n\n"So let's use that to our advantage. Make a distraction, get the drop on her while she's dealing with it, and force her to cure us."\n\n"Then we dispatch the hag and if we both survive, we divide custody of the humans. Assuming any of them are still alive."\n\n"Now wait a minute-"\n\nThe vampires ignore you. "Hey, I've got a great idea-" \nThey both freeze. Matthias holds a finger to his lips and they both tilt their heads, listening to something you can't hear. Misha twitches and crowds closer to you and Danny.\n\nThe two vampires blur away, abandoning you. Bastards. A heartbeat later, six creatures in rusted chainmail appear. They’re armed with bloodstained maces. One looks at you and cackles. "The old mistress will be pleased to have more tributes ... come with us willingly, little mammals. It will hurt less this way."\n\n[[H6]]\n\nNow that's an invitation you can't refuse.\n
Tia Orisney
You rinse off quickly and leave the shower running as you towel dry. The maid's uniform is lying on the ground. You prod at it and see Ralon even stripped off her underwear. And there's a pair of black pumps.\nFuck this. Fuck him too. You'd rather run off in a towel. Even flashing your ass in the Scottish wind is better than wearing a dead woman's clothes.\n\nYou stand atop the cracked sink, which groans under your weight. You reach up to that narrow window and push. Nothing. You push harder. Nothing.\n\nOh wait, there's a latch.\n\n"Hurry up!" Ralon shouts from the other room.\n\nYou send the bird in that vague direction and wiggle with the latch. It feels like someone painted over it when they repainted the wall. You twist and it suddenly gives way and the window pops open.\n\nWow, that's not a lot of space. You look it over, biting your lip. Then you raise both arms, grab the edges of the window, and try to pull up.\nYour biceps ache. You probably should have spent more time with Misha at the gym, instead of slacking off and getting baked on medical marijuana with Danny. But you finally force your shaking muscles to lift you up. You slide your head through and awkwardly get your elbows up. \nThere goes your towel, along with your dignity. Super. Still, better to be running around at night buck naked (which has happened to you more than twice before), than staying at Murder Mansion with these lunatics. You wiggle forward.\n\nUnbelievably, you can't get your chest through. You've always been so flat, and your girls are getting crushed, and they just aren't -\n\n"AAAAAAA!"\n\nRalon grabs your ankle and hauls you back in. You split your lip against the window frame as you go down. You fall on your ass with a thwack and cross your legs, covering your boobs with your hands.\nHe's smiling. Doesn't look too angry. Weirdo.\n\n"Oh, you are fun." He shakes a finger at you. "Naughty kitty. Get dressed."\n\n"Turn around."\n\n"Fool me once..."\n\nYou sigh and get dressed. He's a vampire. Do vampires even have sex? Hollywood movies haven't given you a clear message, but you're sure there's no reason to be embarrassed. Nope. None at all.\n\nYou pull on the last of the too-loose uniform and can finally bring yourself to make eye contact.\n\n"Okay, let's go." He grabs you by the hair and marches you out of the room. NO sign of the maid... or what's left of her.\n\nOh wait, there she is. The vampire minions are stuffing her into the laundry cart outside the door.\n\nRalon clicks his tongue at them and they climb into the van. He hands you the soda and sandwich and starts driving. "Better refuel now, we've got a ways to go."\n\n[[F1]]\n\nOn to the evil haunted castle!\n
You hurry down the hallway, past the occasional 'family photo' which melts into 'family daguerreotypes' and farther away, you spot 'family portraits in oil.' these people are a pretty grim looking bunch, mostly with olive skin, dark hair, and blue eyes. Of course, if you'd grown up in a castle haunted by an evil vampire you might not have much to smile about, either.\n\nRalon's trailing behind you slightly. He's watching the floors, ceilings, baring his teeth at an inoffensive looking lamp on a stand ... paranoid, much?\n\nOne of the doors you pass by is open a crack and you see a chintzy woman's bedroom, amber wallpaper covered in an explosion of tacky tea roses ... and there's a vanity with an oval mirror. Atop that vanity, you see a whole lotta bling. You can't tell from this distance, but a family rich enough to live in a fucking castle surely is not sporting any cheap-ass cubic zirconium necklaces.\n\n[[F13]]\n\nGive into temptation and do a quick grab and dash? \n\n[[F11]]\nKeep your eyes on the prize and continue to the staircase at the end of the hallway?\n
"So, I've been thinking about how to adjust my plan."\n\n"Thinking? That's a first." Probably not smart to say it out loud, but he looks smaller, almost harmless, when he's all wet and shirtless.\n\n"Shuddup. See, in my first plan I turn a bunch of disposable soldier-"\n\n"Including my friend Misha." Can't let him forget about that.\n\n"Right, sure. Misha. And we get the jump on Matthias before he can get a hold of that dagger. This didn't work out too well. He's got the dagger, used it on me and I'm dying, though I poisoned him so I guess he's going down with me. And that bastard's finally given in and glamoured himself an ally. Not that I'm worried about a squashy little human who's dying from the hungry magic of the dagger-"\n\nYou don't want him to think your other friend's an easy target to just be disposed of. "Danny's smart. You might be surprised how much damage he can do." \n\nRalon bares his fangs at you. You lean away and take the hint, biting your tongue. \n\n"Right," he growls. "The plan. I gotta get some replacement juice from my maker. She's a true blooded vampire, not a hybrid, and her blood can beat this magic back . But the time's ticking. She's always had a kinda fatal attraction to Matthias. Wouldn't kill him, even after he tried to stake her. If he gets to her first, he might be able to talk her out of saving me, too. So we gotta hustle to the castle she haunts."\n\n"We?" IT's been a long, tiring night, and you recently quit your meds. Maybe that's why you keep talking back. You really should smile, lie, and get the fuck out of here as soon as you can ... but your mouth runs away from you again. "Why the fuck should I help you at all?"\n\n"Because you're hung up on your friends. You can't face that they're doomed to die ... and maybe they aren't," he purrs, his voice a dark hypnotic threat. "Maybe you can talk my maker into changing them. Maybe she knows a cure; after all, she's been allies with witch families for centuries. She loves to keep secrets, but she also loves to show off so you could possibly goad her into saving them. Or maybe Matthias has a cure since he's an egghead always buried in an arcane tome... you just might have luck getting a straight answer from that coy bastard." He licks his fangs and grins. "Or you can sit back and watch your friends die ... but I don't think you're the type to give up hope that easily. You're stupid that way. Just like I used to be."\n\nHe does have a good point. \n\nYou frown and try to think . This whole situation just doesn't make sense. Why hasn't he eaten you yet? Why is he, in a roundabout way, asking you to come along? \n\n"Why am I here? You've obviously got some kind of plan for me."\n\nRalon shrugs. "Why do you think? I could want you around to distract Matthias. I mean he always has had a soft spot for pretty petite brunettes who look kind of like his long-lost sister ... Or maybe I just want to pack a snack." He walks over and pulls you to your feet. "Maybe I think you're one of the strong ones, and I wanna turn you as soon as I'm a maker and can turn vampires who will survive. There's only one way you'll find out."\n\nAgain, he's asking. You get a feeling he won't keep asking forever, and you don't want to be killed or spend the rest of the night locked in the trunk of a car. It looks like you're travelling with him ... for the time being.\n\n[[D11]]\n\nIt looks like he doesn’t think you're much threat, since he's willing to let you run around on foot. Maybe he's cocky enough that he'll let you arm yourself ... with a shiv made from that broken magical dagger?\n\n[[D12]]\n\nOn the other hand, you may have pushed your luck enough. Maybe you should drop it and pretend to do things his way.\n
"You know, buddy, I have a much better chance of surviving long enough to fit into your plans - whatever they are - if I was armed."\n\n"Uh-huh. You want me to get you a cricket bat or something?"\n\n"I've watched a lot of prison dramas. I'm pretty sure I could turn that dagger shard into a shiv ..."\n\nHe throws his head back and laughs. "Yeah. You've got a grudge, so I'll give you a dagger that can kill me. Sure."\n\nYou hug yourself so you look smaller and widen your eyes in your most innocent expression. "It's not like I could ever hurt you. You're so strong."\n\n"Even kittens can bite their master. Forget it."\n\nFine. You'll try logic. God help you. "Look around. Look at these things." You point at the larval vamps in the room. Crouching, hissing, snapping at each other, licking blood from their own bodies. One of them's even perched on top of the TV. They're all staring. Staring at you like a dog at an unguarded steak. "These things keep attacking me. I need something to defend myself."\n\nHe's gone. \n\nHe's behind you, hands like iron bands holding you close. You feel his slick teeth rubbing against your throat as he breathes against your skin, "Don't you trust me to keep you whole ... at least for now?"\n\nYou shudder.\n\nHe laughs and lets you go. \n\n[[D12]]\n\nOkay, no need to get bummed out. Even chess masters make a bad move now and then ...\n
"Go get a shower. You smell too tempting, reeking of anger and slathered in blood." Ralon sits against the headboard and picks up the phone. "I'm getting us room service, you need anything?"\n\n"A sandwich and a soft drink," you snap. You go into the bathroom and start peeling your clothes off. It seems like a waste of time to get clean and put this outfit back on. You're depressed to think of the dry cleaning bill. If you live long enough for that ...\n\nThere's a knock at the door. Ralon swings it open, grabs the maid, and throws her onto the bed. "Shh," he says. "Don't fight. I'll enjoy it too much."\n\nOh. Right. 'Room service' for everyone. You hurry into the shower stall and turn on the spray. The sound of rushing water doesn't cover up the screams ... but they don't last long.\n\n[[D13]]\n\nGreat. Hopefully this will take the edge off their bloodlust so they leave you alone.\n\n[[D14]]\n\nOn the other hand, there is that little window high up the wall. It's so nice to stay in a motel that's fire-codes compliant ...\n
You rinse off as best as you can, working with what's left of the tiny bottle of body wash. Ralon has selfishly finished off the complementary hotel shampoo and conditioner, so you have to make do with the other two bottles. You rub body lotion into your hair and hope that bastard enjoys smelling like cheap floral perfume. \n\nWhen you step out of the shower stall, you see the maid's outfit, a dark skirt and blouse with a utilitarian looking apron with pockets, lying on the floor. You poke it with your toe and yep, he also stripped off the poor woman's bra and panties. You're flat enough you don't need the bra ... the skirt is short enough you probably need the panties ...\n\n"Dude-"\n\n"Don't start," he shouts. "Just put em on. Or come out in your towel. I don't care."\n\n"What about-"\n\n"I got rid of 'em. The blood's too much temptation for my minions. \nYou shake your head and get dressed. The uniform is about as saggy and polyester-scratchy as you thought. The lace panties are damp - you tell yourself it's your own damn from the shower, and not some other, more awful interpretation. Oddly enough, she wears about your shoe size. You pull on the black pumps - seriously, what kind of maid wears heels on the job? - and go out.\n\n"Oh, nice," Ralon laughs. He grabs you firmly by the nape of the neck and marches you out of the hotel room. The minion vampires trail after you like obedient dogs. You walk by the maid's cart and see her body's been stuffed in, the legs sticking out over the side. \n\nRalon loads everyone into the back of his van, tosses you the sandwich and soda, and starts the engine. "Settle in, we've got a ways to drive."\n\n[[F1]]\n\nA haunted castle. That should be cool, right?\n
You edge down the hall, looking for Matthias ... or whatever's left of him. It's a long shot, but you would love, love, love to get your hands on that magic knife. \n\nYou hear the sounds of a battle, the sizzle and whooooosh of a vampire going up. The brief blue-hot fireball throws shadows against the far wall. A weird silence falls. You don't hear any more screaming ... maybe all the nearby humans have died. Except for you.\n\nThe thought hits you that this entire plan wasn't a very good idea. Like that's ever stopped you before. You press to the wall and peek around the corner. \n\nMatthias is standing facing a semicircle of larval vampires. He has the knife out, and the vamps are standing well back. They are staring, not at him, but a man by the front doors. You can't see the figure very well, but you get a glimpse of pasty white skin. Another vampire. A different one. One the others watch like hounds waiting for their master's signal.\n\n"Well well well," the mystery vampire says. "One of the little rabbits seems to be running the wrong way. Come out and let me get a look at you." There's a pause. You hold your breath. "Or I'll let my dogs loose."\n\nYou're in flats, good. You're nowhere near a door out, not so good. Even worse, you get the distinct idea these rabid vampires could slip their leashes at any moment. It's probably better to cooperate ... for now. \n\n[[B18]]\nYou bite your lip and walk out to meet the man that holds the leashes.\n
Blood on the Heather\nby Tia Orisney\n\nIT BEGINS ...\n\nYou scraped through your first year of college, and now it's summer and time to relax after so much hard work … drinking. Oh, and sometimes you went to class. You managed not to flunk your classes, so it's time to celebrate that miracle!\n\nYou pool your money with your friendly roommates Misha and Danny, and the three of you plan a fantastic trip across Scotland. This is going to be the trip of a lifetime, nothing but good clean fun - or so you told your parents, when you called to explain how you were't going to the family reunion in Fargo. \n\nAfter a pleasant nine hour plane ride in Economy, wedged between a fat farting man and a woman with a screaming, food-caked baby in her lap, you set foot on Scottish soil! The sun is shining, which is a surprise, and the air smells like ... fried food. Lots of fried food.\n\nNow, to find your hotel.\n\n"Hi," you say to a tall, wide, darkhaired man. Man, this is a big guy. You look short and skinny next to pretty much everyone you meet, but you aren't used to having to crane your neck so car to look in someone's eyes. "We're looking for the Whiteshoal Inn?"\n\nHe opens his mouth... and says something. You watch a lot of BBC America, but you've never heard an accent like that. He might not even be speaking English. Where's the 'subtitle' button for real life?\n\nYou smile, nod, and the three of you try again.\n\nMisha lowers the zipper of her hoodie, and boobs - a lot of tattooed boobs - start to spill out. She struts up to another man like tall, strong, and cut Amazon. "Yo," she grabs his arm which is more than you would have, the guy is wearing tattered pajama bottoms and a grey sweater with cigarette burns. "We need to find the Whiteshoal Inn."\n\n"Damn you, lassie, damn you to hell!" He spits at her.\n\nMisha gets this a lot from her Holy Roller family in Kansas, so she dodges without a problem. \n\nThe man finishes off his bottle of scotch, smashes it in the street, and staggers away. This is your kind of town.\n\nDanny's turn. Maybe he'll have more luck. He smooths back his dark hair - it's been growing out since he was too busy with finals, especially Ancient Latin, to get a cut. He straightens his poorly-fitting business-casual outfit and walks up to the next man you find. This guy is wearing a kilt that barely covers half his thighs.\n\n"Excuse me," Danny says politely.\n\nThe man reaches under his kilt and adjusts his package. "Oh, I do excuse you. Any way you like." He wiggled his eyebrows.\n\nThe three of you get out of there.\n\nDanny pulls out his phone. "This is ridiculous. I was trying to avoid roaming charges, but I guess I'll have to use my GPS app." In a minute, the three of you are off. Good old dependable, organized Danny.\n\nHe leads you to the hotel, where you wash the economy class stink off and collapse in bed. This is no way to live it up, but your body's been weakened with three weeks of finals and partying, and you don't have the strength to fight jet lag. \n\n[[1]]\n\nA few hours later...
The door to the security room turns out to be unlocked, slightly ajar. Your only advantage is the element of surprise, and having armed backup.\n\n"Alright, Danny, I'll go in first and -"\n\nHe's not listening. He's staring down the hallway at the knot of vampires stumbling over the freshly dead bodies of their prey in their haste to get at the living ones. Someone in there is howling again. \n\n"Incredible," he says softly. His voice rises. "Outrageous!"\nThat's not helping your element of surprise. "What's wrong?"\n\n"Do you see that? I - there it is again! Someone stole the druid dagger! The one I was going to liberate!!"\n\n"Okay, calm down." Jesus, he's turning purple with rage. Is he off his meds again? He's a pretty delicate flower who needs to ramp down gently. Not like you. You went cold turkey with no side effects whatsoever. I mean, you clearly have your life together.\n\n"Get the heavy artillery and come find me," he snarls. He runs down the hall toward the maelstrom at its end.\n\n"Shit!" You kick the security door open and charge in, stake raised in the air. You're so pissed it would take a second army of vamps to stop you.\n\nYou trip over a nude body and fall face first into a second one. Thankfully the second guy was wearing boxers ... since that's the area you drop into ...\n\nNot so thankfully, you see you broke the stake when you fell.\n\nYou struggle to your feet and look around. There's corpses stacked like firewood at the far end, throats and wrists torn out, the occasional bite mark on a thigh. They've been stripped, you guess that's where the vamps got all those uniforms. The lockers have been busted open - metal doors that have claw and fist marks imbedded in them. The security monitors are not visible behind a thick spray of drying, brown blood. Even the coffee machine has been smashed.\n\nThere's nothing for you here. You curse and head back into the hall.\n\nYou edge your way down, hearing weird noises. \n\nSSSSSSSSSSHHH. A weird sizzle, and a blink-and-you'll-miss-it flare of blue light. One less vamp, it seems. \n\nA hush falls. What happened to all the screams? Is everybody dead?\n\nYou press against the wall and peek around the corner. No sign of Danny. Instead, you see the vamps in a circle, staring intently at two figures in front of the door.\n\nA voice you haven't heard before says, "How interesting. All those humans running and hiding, just like little rabbits. And one human that's coming closer. Come out, tasty thing. Or I'll send my dogs to fetch you."\n\n[[B18]]\nWell, since he asked politely...\n
You go down the hallway, following the wet, sickening noises of vampires on the hunt. There's a real mess going down in the corner, vampires versus some humans. No sign of Danny, and he's pretty tall, the lucky bastard.\n\nA shirtless vamp with a tribal tattoo across his chest looks you up and down and grins.\n\n"Oh, hell no. Down, boy." \n\nThe vamp does not, in fact, back down. He stalks forward. You back away, slowly. He speeds up. You jerk backwards, hit the wall. The vampire braces his hands on the wall around you, pinning you in place as he leers at your exposed throat. Your heart races faster, and you wonder if he can hear it, like a dinner bell welcoming him to feed on you.\n\nThe door to the men's room swings open, banging against the wall, and Danny bursts out of it. He's smeared with blood, most of it weirdly black, and his sleeves are dusted with ash. \n\nThe vampire looks over at him and hisses. Danny punches it in the teeth, and you kick it in the crotch. The rack maneuver doesn't seem to do much but the vamp does lose his balance. He doubles over, cupping a hand over his mouth and moaning. \n\nDanny seizes him by the belt, and you grab the vamp's legs and the two of you shove it into the men's room. Danny pulls out of his inner pocket a bump key, shoves it into the lock, turns the lock halfway and breaks the key off. \n\nThe door is jammed. You and Danny slump against the wall, listening to the vamp try to batter its way out. \n\n[[B8]]\nYou take a minute to regroup and assess your situation.\n
"He's over here!" you shout down the hall. The vamps spot you, sniff the air, and rush up. Damn, these things are fast. You blink, and they're a foot away.\n\nWith a shaking hand, you point at Matthias. They look over at him. He snarls and stabs the vamp he pinned. The two in front of you cower backwards at the rush of flames.\n\nMatthias throws you aside; you hit the ground hard and lie there stunned. you see Matthias tackle the vamp with the crossbow. The vamp shoots him and Matthias doesn't flinch as the crossbow punches through his forearm. What the hell is this guy?\n\nUnfortunately, the other vampire in the room has lost interest in the blonde. He grabs you, tears open the front of your sheath, and bites like a pitbull devouring prey. You feel your ribs cave in, tearing through your heart. \n\nYou have DIED.\n\n[[1]]\nTry again?
"Okay." You take a tighter grip on your makeshift stake, wincing as bits of glass still left in the frame cut into your palm. "Together, on three."\n\nDanny's turned around and is staring down the hall toward the entrance. There's a lot of dead humans on the ground, a lot of dying humans pinned to the walls, a lot of vamps in that area - some in security uniforms and some dressed like every heavy metal fan everywhere, band t shirts and black jeans or fishnets or whatever.\n\nYou hear something sizzle, and there's a flare of light that throws everything in a blue-white glow for a split second before going out. Sounds like one less vamp for you to worry about.\n\n"Danny, my man. You've gotta focus for me." Is he off his meds? You stopped taking those little white pills when it became clear the damned things were cramping your style. But Danny is always so careful with his schedules. Danny obeys the doctor's prescription pad. \n\nDanny is not focusing. "There!" He points down the hall. "Do you see that?!"\n\n"What?" You see a sickening slaughter going down, a lot of blood, bla bla bla.\n\n"Someone has looted the druid dagger! The one I wanted to liberate!"\n\nUh-oh. "Yeah, that sucks like the rest of our evening. Let it go."\n\n"I see him again." He takes a slow step away form you, then another, picking up speed. "I'm going to get that dagger. You appropriate a getaway car."\n\n"You can't be serious!" you shout after him. But he is serious. He sprints straight into the mess of people.\n\nHe's dangerously close to a berserk, absolutely bloodsoaked, heavily muscled vampire with blonde hair and an 'R' tattooed on his shoulder. \n\n"Ralon!" a man shouts at him. "Your reign of horror ends tonight!"\n\n"You think that dagger can stop me?!"\n\nThat's your cue to leave. Danny will catch up. You reach for the door - it's hanging crookedly on the hinges - and one of the vampires on the floor that you thought was dead grabs your ankle and trips you. You go headfirst into the wall, cursing your bad choices on the way down. It all goes dark.\n\nYou come to. That's a surprise, you were so sure you were a goner. The vamp that had tripped you is dead; it must have been on it's last, crawling attempt at murder. \n\nIt's quieter now. How long were you out? But it's not too late to flee. You open the door a crack. Danny's out there! He looks sick and has a bandage over his palm. "Matthias," he says, his voice slurred, "Ralon is gone. We've gotta get out of here."\n\nMatthias scowls, flashing his fangs. He's thin as a wire, wearing a blood splattered suit that sets off his dark hair and grey-green eyes nicely. He has a black, awful looking wound on his neck. He points at the door where you're lurking. "Come out and join us, human."\n\n[[B27]]\nYou come out and join the party.\n
The nearby exhibits have nothing that looks like a stake. You're about to panic and just run for it when you spot a wooden chair by the roman jewelry display. Thank god for lazy security guards needing to rest their feet! \n\nYou pick it up, examine it. It's one of those incredibly poorly constructed, ten dollar wonder, folding chairs that you have broken your fair share of by trying to stand on when you're trying to reach Danny's ten-year-old scotch, hidden on the top shelf of the pantry. \n\nOh, poor gullible Danny, believing having the booze eight feet up would keep you from it ...\n\nThis chair isn't any better made than the others. You swing it hard against the wall and it smashes into bits, leaving you with two usable stakes. \n\nThat's what mama's talking about. You head to the door, and the vampire's ... gone.\n\nHuh. Disappointing. You walk toward the still-twitching body of the blonde and decide not to frisk it. No time to waste, and her dress was too tight to be hiding a wallet, anyway.\n\nThe vampire grabs you from behind. Shit, you hate it when the smarter perverts get sneaky. You flail but can't get free. The vamp tears your purse off and throws it out of sight. Suddenly, your anger overpowers your fear. You scratch at the vamp's eyes, and it flinches back. You've got just enough leverage to shove the stake into its abdomen, tip aimed upward.\n\nThe vamp squeals and falls backwards. Blood shoots out from the wound like red water through a high-pressure hose, spattering your white blazer with a brand-new Pollock print. \n\nYou remind yourself your jacket's reversible, walk up to the thrashing vamp, and kick the bottom of the stake. The wood bruises your foot through your flats but you manage to shove it through the vampire's heart. \n\nIt arches its back and smoke rushes from it's open mouth, fire licks up from the stake, and it burns. It's a slower death than Matthias's stolen knife, but it does the trick.\n\nYou clutch your stake close had hurry to the staircase. There's three more bodies here, already eaten, and fresh ash drifting in the air. Downstairs, you see more people running, more vampires leaping. Unfortunately, that's where you have to go. \n\nYou reach the bottom of the stairs, grip your last stake tightly, and look around. \n\nTo your right is the end of the hall with the buffet table, where Danny said he'd be. You see at least half a dozen of the vampires in security uniforms, hunting. You remember from the programme map that wing also has the gift shop, and a doorway to the parking lot. \n\nTo your left you hear that unmistakable sizzle of Matthias's knife in action - it sounds like there's a big brawl just pass where the hall turns a corner. Unfortunately, that's also the way to the front doors. \n\n[[B15]]\nThis seems like a good time to team up with Danny. Strength in numbers, right?\n\n[[B16]]\nOtherwise, Matthias seemed at least a little concerned with your safety. He might be willing to do you a solid and clear a path to the front door.\n
"Two vampires, incoming," you hiss at Matthias as you duck for safety behind a display of medieval armor.\n\nHe casually stabs the vamp he was interrogating through the eye. The vamp goes up in a blaze and the other two flinch away, shielding their faces.\n\nUh oh. Something grabs your legs and pulls you down. It's the vampire that was feeding on the blonde - guess she wasn't a juicy satisfying meal so it's moving to the next human. It gives a guttural growl, blood and tendons hanging from its jaws, snaps at you. You struggle to throw it off, fumbling around you, looking for anything that could be a weapon.\n\nMatthias is standing over you. He's suddenly just there - how the hell can he move this fast? He pulls the vamp off and breaks its back over his knee. He tosses it aside, grimaces at the globs of sticky black rot staining the leg of his pants, and turns back to the pierced guy and the bottle blonde.\n\nThe man with the piercings fires the crossbow. You gasp - but no, Matthias didn't get it in his chest. He'd caught the crossbow bolt the hard way - through his forearm. He pulls it out, throws the bolt aside, and lunges for the vamps. \n\nMama didn't raise a fool. You scramble to your feet and arm yourself with the bolt. None too soon - the blonde has gotten past Matthias and you turn in the nick of time and stake her.\n\nShe drops and you step over her death rattle, looking in the hallway. No sign of the bruiser, just a cloud of ash and a handful of metal studs tinkling as they rolled down the staircase. \n\nMatthias brushes ash off the front of his tweed coat, pretty much an empty gesture since he's caked with that and worse by now. He offers you his arm and you walk down the staircase.\n\nAt the bottom of the staircase, Matthias freezes and cocks his head.\n\n[[B17]]\nYou listen, and you hear something weird even by this night's standards ...
"What do you think, Matthias?" The vamp by the door calls out. "Maybe you want to sit down with me, share a meal, and pretend to talk about our vendetta like civilized monsters." \n\n"Leave her alone, Ralon. You have bigger problems. Me." Matthias brandishes his dagger, wiggling it so the light of the overhead chandelier dances off the blade.\n\nYou step over the mangled human bodies, and between the waiting vampires. They shudder as you walk by but hold position, eyes fixed on Ralon.\n\nRalon and Matthias are as different as night and day, and yet ...\n\nRalon is taller, body ropy with muscle instead of Matthias's trim and slim frame. He's wearing a ripped, sleeveless shirt and low slung black jeans instead of a neat suit. He's tattooed with an 'R' on his shoulder instead of Matthias's perfect porcelain skin. \n\nSomething's off. Something's niggling at the corner of your mind, and you can't tell what. Ralon's got crazy man's eyes, blue-white like a wolf, and if you squint under all the blood and ash matting his hair, you'd guess it was blond. And his skin, like all the vampire's, is pale as death. White as Matthias's, actually ...\n\nHe's dancing on the balls of his feet, twitching with manic energy. You really wish you had a canister of mace, to treat him with. Too bad it got confiscated at Heathrow airport.\n\n"Here she comes," he crows. He looks you up and down. "There's not much to you, now is there?" \n\nYou blink, and he's just there, in front of you. He grabs the collar of your sheath and pulls you closer. "You smell fantastic." He wiggles his eyebrows.\n\n"Please respect my personal space," you manage. Oh god, now you sound like Danny.\n\nThe vampire laughs and backs up a step. "Oh, Matthias. Sometimes if I squint, I can almost understand what you see in them. Especially this one. And then I turn around and they're just so many cattle, wandering around, wasting their lives. Eating, fucking, dying."\n\n"Some of them are extraordinary," Matthias said softly. "They manage things we cannot. For instance, they recovered this, just in time for me to stop your latest atrocity." He turns the dagger so it shines in the light.\n\n"Drama queen. This is just the latest move in our little game of survival. I knew, when I saw that article in the papers, that you'd come for the dagger. So I raised a little army. Go ahead and kill my spawn. I can make more. Humans are everywhere in this decade, they're crawling like rats."\n\n"Why don't you let the girl leave, send those poor creatures you've doomed to die quietly, and you and I can settle this in the old way."\n\n"A duel? No, I prefer the older way. Remember the Thirty Years' War? Rival lords used to slaughter each other's villages to make a point. It's no different these nights. Villages tend to be ten thousand or more people, so it will take me a little longer-"\n\nMatthias snarls, and his canines extend into two fangs.\n\nYou can't say you're surprised. Just disappointed. Because now you don't have any allies here to trust.\n\n"So you wanna play rough? I'm game. Grab her-" he says to his minions.\n\nYou flinch and try to run, but it's too late. A vampire grabs your arms, pins them behind your back. Your skin crawls at their ice-cold flesh, the bloodreeking breath puffing against your cheek.\n\nUnder the smell of blood, you think you recognize that perfume. You roll your head back and see ...\n\nMisha. A wound a her neck and dry blood flaking off her skin. Her eyes, as red as any of the other feral vampire, dart back and forth between Ralon and his rival.\n\nMatthias grimaces, a muscle jumping in his cheek.\n\n"Surrender to me," Ralon says, "and I'll let the girl live. I'll let her walk out the front door without a mark on her. Or I' can have my minions rip her to a thousand screaming pieces."\n\n"No," Matthias said softly.\n"Oh really?" Ralon raises his eyebrows. "And yo u claim to love humans so."\n\n"Her death is regrettable, but for the best cause. That would be me, carving out your black, withered heart."\n\n"Guys?" you put in. "I don't want to be part of this cause."\n\nRalon smirks at you. "Too late for that, pet. Now, Matthias, show me what you've got. But I warn you, I've got a little surprise for-"\n\nMatthias buries the dagger to the hilt in Ralon's stomach. Ralon coughs up a spray of blood and staggers away, and the tip of the dagger breaks off. The closer vampires rush forward, fall to their knees licking it off the floor.\n\n"Little help here," you say.\n\nMatthias doesn’t seem to hear you. He clears the distance to Ralon in one leap and straddles him, raising the dagger for another blow. Ralon writhes like a snake and shoves his fingers into Matthias's shoulders, literally into the flesh, digging in with red fore dripping over his wrists, and he bites Matthias on the meat where neck meets shoulder and the vampire tears away, clutching the wound. You see something black spreading along his veins.\n\n"Minions!" Ralon gags on blood and tries again. "Attack!"\n\nDanny scrabbles to his feet and points at the front door. "Run for it!" he shouts at you. You dash, slipping in lagoons of blood, for the supposed safety of the doorway.\n\nRalon is wheezing, shaking, and you see something like fear in his eyes. He looks at Danny, eyes fixing on his jugular. Danny changes direction and gets to Matthias's side. HE tries to snatch the dagger, and then falls back screaming and clutching his bloody palm to his stomach.\n\nRalon staggers outside, rushing through the glass. Misha follows with a half dozen minions, the other vampires circle closer, hunger in their faces.\n\nThe front door's off limits now, so you come back and drop to your knees by Danny who is convulsing on the ground, gasping for breath. His skin is turning grey.\n\nBehind you, the larval vampires are rushing at Matthias. He's sweating blood, disoriented. He lashes out with the dagger, stabs the nearest vamps. Some of the others flee back down the hall. Two continue at him.\n \n[[B19]]\nAre you going to try to help Danny, if there's anything that can be done? \n\n[[B20]]\nMaybe you should go to Matthias, help him in the hopes he'll protect you ... or at least get close enough to liberate that what's left of the dagger.\n
You drop to your knees by Danny. You pry his fingers open and look at the wound on his hand - it doesn't look deep but the cut edges are black. \n\nDanny's thrashing is getting weaker, his eyes glazed with horror. You put your hand near his mouth and nose but can't feel if he's breathing. \n\nBehind you, you hear scrabbling noises and footsteps. The other vampires are coming, and you know from experience trying to pull Danny out of various frat parties that you aren't strong enough to lift him without help.\n\n[[B21]]\nDo you want to try CPR?\n\n[[B22]]\nDo you want to find a stake, catch up to Ralon, and give Danny some company on his way to hell?\n\n[[B23]]\nDo you want to steal a car and find some way to drag Danny into it?\n
You shove the heart down your neckline and it immediately lets go of your wrist and burrows down, between your breasts, under your bra. You feel a single moment of tearing pain and scream in shock, falling to your knees-\n\n\nThe pain stops. You feel heat instead, spreading through your body. You look down, see blood drizzling down from the new hole in your chest. Then it seems to turn darker red, thickening like chocolate syrup, before it stops falling.\n\n\nYou writhe in pleasure. Every beat of the new heart is so much stronger than your old, human one. Your body rings like a bell to it.\n\n\n"How dare you?" Sadora's voice is so calm. A human would have been terrified of that composed tone, so different from the rage one expects. \n\n\nYou aren't human anymore. You walk over to her and pull down the neckline of your blouse, showing her the heart that's burrowed into your chest. \n\n\nHer too-still expression cracks for just an instant. With your extraordinarily enhanced senses you see the details a human or a lesser vampire would miss, the milliseconds of her eyes widening and unfocusing, her body drawing back as she unconsciously tenses up to attack you. But she's distracted, disoriented with grief, and you've never felt better.\n\n\nYou reach into her chest and pluck out her heart. \n\n\nShe thrashes and arches her back as if her spine is breaking. Her rib cage splits open, skin peeling back and ribs spreading wide like the slices of an orange. Black, bubbling ichor drips from her and then she bursts into flame, then turns to a plume of ash that drifts in the mysterious air currents that wind through the catacombs. \n\n\n\nYou take a few steps back and look at the creature in your hands. There it is. A true Vampire Heart. It holds a cure for one of your friends ... or the key to so much power for one lucky companion. But how, how can you choose between them?\n\n\nThe clay jar you just opened is ready at your feet. You drop the new heart in and close it.\n\n\n"What have you done?" Matthias whispers. \n\n\nHe's frozen, staring at you, ignoring the water lapping at his thighs, covered in a scum of suspended vampire ash. \n\n\nMatthias is heedless of the mess. He stares at you, lost, betrayed. "Abomination," he whispers. He swallows and blinks rapidly. "How could you sacrifice your humanity, your precious life, like this." He sucks in a deep breath and reaches into his pocket. "Abomination," he says again, voice steadier.\n\n\nThe heart that is in you has gorged on your blood and is strong, stronger that Matthias's. You can hear his still weakened, only half healed heart beating erratically. You see the way his hand shakes as he - seemingly in slow motion- raises his stake. \n\n\nHe is weak. He is still tainted with traces of venom. You could embrace him close, use your potent heart blood to speed his healing. You could put him in your power. \n\n\nBut you won't.\n\n\nYou smile, flashing your new fangs. And you dart around him. He is fast but you are a Maker, you were reborn to be faster, and you drag his head backwards, down onto your shoulder. You are much shorter than him and pulling his head down bares his neck, a tempting arch of smooth white skin. \n\n\nYou rip his throat open, tearing out part of his spine in the process. Blood fountains up, high enough to hit the ceiling a dozen feet up. You reach into his chest, pull out that half-withered excuse for a heart, and stand there, watching him burn.\n\n\n"Bitch," Ralon says.\n\n\nYou turn and look at him. "Oh really? You've hated Matthias, fought him for years. So you're welcome." Jesus. You did what he wasn't able to, and this is the thanks you get.\n\n\nRalon flashes his teeth. It is not a smile. He walks closer and wipes his fingers over your chin, then sucks them in his mouth. Tasting the last essence of his on-again-off-again lover.\n\n\n"He was mine. Mine to kill, or not, as I please." Ralon feints a blow for your throat and your blood kicks in again and he's so slow, you have all the time in the world to notice his other hand sneaking forward in a crushing blow aimed for your chest. You feel your inhuman heart curl to the side as if it feels the blow coming and is trying to avoid it. It's child's play to dodge around and rip his arm off. Then you take his heart out too, and let his ashes mix with Matthias's. Those two are together for the final time, for eternity. \n\n\nYou turn to Misha and Danny. There's no time to waste, and you have work to do. You swore you would save them both ... so different, but utterly loyal to you. You have a little gift for them. \n\n\nYou turn them into vampires, as the only way to save their lives, and keep the other heart close as you leave the damn castle, never to return. Misha and Danny take quite well to being vampires, after a few ... early issues that you smooth over with your more powerful glamour. They are much unhappier when you explain why you will never give them the Heart, but you know one day they will adjust to it. You love them equally and refuse to play favorites. \n\n\nLove. Yes, you do. Your heart swells with emotions, dark and bitter and intense, and the only pure thing left in your new life of blood-soaked hedonism is your bond with those two.\n\n\nThe three of you are happy for over a decade. You fight and hunt and go to all the best parties and do as you please, go where you please. Other vampires learn to avoid you when you come near, and that suits you just fine. You feel a dark, gloating, greedy joy as you dream of an eternity together. Your human life, your dreams of college and a career, fade into the distance.\n\n\nOne summer, you go to Russia. The place is lousy with vampire hunters. They're a constant nuisance. You think this is the same organization that has been following you from Paris, from Johannesburg, from cities before that. It's probably because of some ... rash decisions you made while looking for a good time, but what of it? The three of you are invincible.\n\n\nUnfortunately, vampires are not the only supernatural creatures in the world. You're reminded of that the hard way, when you wake up one sunset and can’t move.\n\n\nDanny pulls your eyelids back and leans into your field of vision. \n\n\n"Now, don't glare. This will only take a minute."\n\n\nYou can barely see Misha out of the corner of your eye. She cuts open your shirt. "You didn't leave us a choice. Expecting us to live in this miserable pain. You won't give us the heart so now we have to take it. And yours, too."\n\n\n"It's completely logical, if you think about it," Danny says, brushing your hair from your face. "The witch who sold us this paralytic potion explained how to remove your heart without killing you. I'll get one, and Misha will get the other, and you'll still be a vampire. Just ... lesser. Like we are now."\n\n\n"You brought this on yourself," Misha says, lifting the broken dagger you still carry. "Those hunters almost got us in Paris. One Maker isn't enough to hold them back forever. But now there will be two Makers, and we'll take care of you."\n\n\n"Of course we will," Danny said. He pats your cheek. "We love you, and the three of us are going to be very, very happy."\n\n\nMisha plunges the knife into your chest. They rip out your heart and put a sack of herbs in the cavity, just like the witch instructed.\n\n\nThe witch lied to them.\n\n\nYou can't even scream, as all your warmth, all your vitality drains away. Flames start at your fingers and toes, racing along your body. Misha howls in loss and rage and throws water over you, but it turns to steam before it can hit the flames. Danny, face white with horror, tries to shove the heart back in, but it clings to his hands. \n\n\nYou always believed it was better to burn out than to fade away, and you get your wish. With your last thought you hope Danny and Misha avenge you, kill that witch in the bloodiest way they can revise. But you’re disappointed you won't be around to see it.\n\n\nTHE END \n\n[[L2]]\nRestart the chapter?\n\n\n[[1]]\nRestart from the beginning?
You sense you'll need to walk softly to persuade Matthias. "Danny may be the smartest person I've ever known. He loves history and art and math and world war II weaponry ..." You touch Matthias on the arm. "He's always willing be the designated driver, or to help clean up the day after a big party. And he's gay, but not annoyingly obsessed with fashion and dancing to House music in sequined shorts."\n\n"... I'm sorry for your loss?" he raises his eyebrow.\n\n"My point is, Danny would make a really awesome minion for you. You could talk to him about artifacts and research in libraries for days and all that nerdy stuff, he'd be really useful to have around. That is, if he were a vampire minion ..."\n"Ah." He clasps your hand. "I never like to disappoint a young lady, but I have vowed never to increase the numbers of this accursed plague on humanity. And even if I were to break my vow, I would be doing your friend no favors. He would die within days as a larval vampire. Is it better to rot from within than for one's heart to stop?"\n\nPut that way ...\n\n[[C5]]\nMaybe you should get some more intel on the real deal between Ralon and Matthias?\n\n[[C6]]\nDanny's not the only friend in peril. Matthias may know something about what happened to Misha.\n\n[[C10]]\nEnough chitchat, time to come up with a plan for action!`\n
"Okay. I've had it." You grab the lapels of Danny's jacket and pull him to his feet. "I can't believe I'm the voice of sanity and good judgement here, but you've let the ball drop." Danny blinks, seeming to look right through you. "I'm dragging your ass to a hospital. I probably need help too, god knows what kind of hepatitis I got from all the blood flying around. Fuck it, meds for everyone!"\n\nYou hear Matthias stir and spin around, pointing at him. "And you! Your problems are not my problems. Go head and have your vampire war, what do I care?! Fuck off and leave us the fuck alone, or I'll ..." you have no weapons, no useful combat training ... "I'll teach you something about regret. Don't underestimate me, I'm big trouble in a small package!" You start shoving Danny toward the door, afraid to take your eyes off Matthias for a second.\n\n"Stop it," Danny says. HIS voice is weirdly emotionless, the words slurring a little. "I'm dying. I know it. If this is my time, I want to die pursuing knowledge. This branch, supernatural creatures, it's fascinating." His voice gets a little stronger. "It's too bad I won't live long enough to get a research paper out of it, but there's nowhere I'd rather be."\n\nShit. That sounds like the old Danny. He's still in there, and he wants this.\n\nYou let him go.\n\n[[C10]]\nForgiven and forgotten? Hell no! You want some revenge on the fucking vampires that have torn your life apart. But it's going to take some airtight planning to pull this off ...\n
You glance nervously over at Matthias. He's preoccupied with his wound, but you have no doubt he will be able to hear everything you say, and get to you and Danny in the blink of an eye.\n\nYou ease over to your friend, leaning against the bookshelves and watching him. \n\n"Some party, huh?"\n\nDanny doesn't respond.\n"Listen, I know things seem pretty severe, but we've gotten out of worse trouble." Much worse trouble. FBI knocking at your parents' door asking about a mysterious explosion in an empty construction site, level of trouble. "Hey, you with me?" You nudge his ankle. \n\nDanny looks up for the first time. His eyes focus on you briefly, then he goes back to his book.\n\nYou look at Matthias. "What's wrong with him?" He wasn't like that at the Museum. I mean, he was screaming in pain, and then the next time you see him, the lights are on and nobody's home.\n\n"I hypnotized him to take away the pain. I had to use a heavy hand with my ability as he was in such agony. It has a ... diminishing effect on the mind. He can hear you, understand you, but is unlikely to care."\n\n"But temporary, right? You take the hypnosis off and he's back to normal?"\n\n"Yes. But then he'll die screaming instead of die at peace."\n\nYou're a little tired of this guy's attitude, and more than a little tired of all these fucking vampires and their schemes and general fucked up behavior.\n\n[[C7]]\nDo you want to ask Danny what he wants to do?\n\n[[C8]]\nOr do you want to take charge of this situation and drag him to a hospital?\n
Matthias peels his shirt off and begins tearing it into strips. You sit on his yoga mat and watch. \n\n"Shouldn't that have healed by now?" \n\nHe nods. "This is no ordinary wound. Ralon has grown bold and extremely dangerous." He presses a wad of cloth to the seeping wound on his neck and frowns, idly watching a moth circle the light. He looks older than before, his mouth set in grim lines.\n\nIs this the look of a vampire with its guard down? Now may be a good time to satisfy your curiosity about ...\n\n[[C4]]\n... what happened to Danny.\n\n[[C5]]\n... the bad blood between Matthias and Ralon.\n\n[[C6]]\n...what Ralon did to Misha.\n
Well, well, well. You were hoping Matthias lived in a crypt, or a gorgeous Victorian-era mansion, maybe a castle ...\n\nYou weren't picturing this.\n\nDanny groans and leans harder against your shoulder as you help him stumble down the line of rent-a-storage rooms. Matthias, up ahead, pulls a key from a chain attached to his belt and unlocks one of the units. He rolls the door up into the roof and flicks the light switch.\n\n"What a dump," you point out, in case he hadn't noticed.\n\nHe nods. "It's adequate," he says grimly.\n\nYou lead Danny into this incredibly depressing living space. There's a ten-gallon bag with a hose and showerhead attachment hanging in one corner over a plastic basin. You assume that's his makeshift shower. There is also a yoga mat with a pillow in the other corner. Next to it is a couple shopping bags from a higher-end men's clothing store. To one side of the door is an ice cooler, and the opposite wall is half hidden behind a makeshift bookcase of wooden planks on concrete blocks. The planks are bowed under the weight of hundreds of ancient, dusty books. Some of them look like they're leather bound and gilt-edged, real medieval stuff.\n\nDanny perks up. "Wow," he breathes. He slides to his knees in front of the bookcase and runs his hands over the spines of the tomes there.\n\nYou feel something in your chest unclench. Danny can't be in that bad of shape if he can still nerdgasm all over a personal library.\n\nMatthias pulls the door down, grimacing at the exertion. He strips off his coat and sweater. He's wearing a bulletproof vest over a once-white shirt. He sighs and unbuckles the vest, dropping it to the ground. The wound on his neck looks pretty ugly.\n\n[[C2]]\nAre you going to help him bandage up?\n\n[[C3]]\nMaybe you want a chance to talk with Danny?\n
"Danny." You hold his face in both hands, and force him to make eye contact. "Give me a hint here. What do you want do to? I'll help you with anything." \n\nHe blinks slowly. "I ... want to stay by Matthias. He's keeping the pain back. You ... you don't know what it was like. I don't think I can survive going through that again. And ... I want to see, to learn as much as I can in the time I have left." He's breathing a little more heavily, as if this much thinking was as hard for him as running a mile. "What do you want?"\n\nRalon has directly and indirectly hurt both of your best friends. They probably won't survive the weekend, much less your awesome Scottish vacation. "I want to kill that fucking vampire that did this."\n\nDanny nods slowly. The corner of his mouth twitches up. "Yessss ... let's do that."\n\n[[C10]]\nIt won't be easy. You'll need to come up with a plan.\n
"So, about Ralon's minions ..."\n\n"Mm?" Matthias lifts up the bandage, grimaces at the black ooze that has soaked into it, and presses a new wad of cloth over his wounded neck.\n\n"I recognized one of them. It's Misha, one of my best friends."\n\n"Then fate has dealt you a double tragedy this night. She is bound to die before long."\n\n"But why?" You think back to that vampire you saw rot to death. "You're a vampire, so is Ralon. The two of you have survived centuries. What's so different about Misha?"\n\n"Ralon and I are Fallen Vampires, which is a term for those turned by a Maker, or High Vampire, but not transformed completely into a new creature. That final transformation happens when a vampire possesses a True Vampire Heart, but our Maker chose not to give either of us one. We have many advantages over humans, the most important being our theoretical immortality. Because our veins pulse with blood from one of the sources of vampirism, we are stronger than the death that has seeped into every cell. That is how we can last for so long; death itself is stopped by heartblood."\n\n"But Ralon gave Misha some of his blood, right? I mean, isn't that how vampires are made?"\n\n"Yes. Unfortunately, Fallen vampires are still half-human, still limited. When we turn someone, we cannot pass on potent enough blood to keep our victims alive ... in the sense that any vampire is 'alive'. Death sweeps along every cell, and these larval vampires sense they are too weak to fight it off. They go berserk with bloodlust, but no matter that they drain ten or a hundred humans, they will not stave off death for long. They rot from within, in mere hours to a few days."\n\n"Jesus Christ. So Ralon did this, knowing these vampires all have an expiration date?"\n\n"Yes. Just another depravity I have added to his list of crimes."\n\n"Isn't there something we can do to help her?"\n"Perhaps. I will have to think on this matter."\n\n[[C4]]\nDo you want to ask what happened to Danny?\n\n[[C5]]\nMaybe you want the real deal on the grudge between Matthias and Ralon?\n\n[[C10]]\nYou need a plan to get out of this situation!\n
"So let me get this straight," you begin. "Ralon raised an army to try to kill you, and you stole an ancient, magic dagger to kill him."\n"Yes."\n\n"Why? I mean, the world's a big place. Why not accept the hatred, stake out a continent each, and just avoid each other? Move on with your afterlife?" \n\n"I tried ... but I was haunted by the memory of the man he used to be. A good man, albeit impulsive, with a cruel streak of humor. He was dearest to me, and then he fell so far. There's no going back from what he's done."\n\nHis voice is thick with regret. You frown at him. "So the two of you were lovers?"\n\n"Oh yes. For a century." He looks at your face and smiles briefly. "I do like this modern era. No need to fetch the smelling salts after telling you this secret."\n\n"I've got bigger problems than your romantic life." Actually, his ex really was the biggest problem in your life right now... "It's hard to picture the two of you together. He's, um, really different from you."\n\n"I am a monster that strives to be a man. He is a monster that wallows in the violence and bloodlust. Worse than an animal," Matthias spits out. "It sickens me to see this creature wearing his face. And I - I am not so different. I fight the bloodlust every day, and I don't always overcome it."\n\nWhoa. "Sounds like you want to kill him ... because you're afraid of becoming something like him? And once you do, you think you'll be at peace?" You wish you'd paid more attention to Psychology 101.\n\n"There is no peace until I am dead, along with every other accursed bloodsucker I can drag with me." \n\nRight, touchy subject. Time to move on.\n\n[[C4]]\nWant to talk about Danny?\n\n[[C6]]\nMaybe you need to ask about Misha?\n\n[[C10]]\nIt's time to stop fucking around and come up with a plan. \n
You point at Danny, who's pale, sweating, but still strong enough to wrestle down from the shelves a two-foot-wide medieval tome of some kind. His hands are shaking as he carefully traces the edges of the pages.\n\n"What's wrong with him? I know he got nicked by that dagger, but he didn't burst into flames or anything ..."\n\n"He is dying," Matthias says softly. "I don't fully understand the arcane specifics, but that dagger was long ago imbued with the blood of a High Vampire Heart, and now it has vampiric qualities. It strips life force away. Minions like the ones Ralon brought to his side have so little life force that any blow from the dagger is instantly fatal. Humans are more robust, but they, too, will die within one to three days. They weaken, they lose their sanity, and finally their hearts stop."\n\n"How long does Danny have?"\n\n"He's sickening quickly. I hypnotized him to take the agony away but I can hear his heart straining." Matthias sniffs the air and his eyes briefly flash red. "I can smell the suffering in his sweat. I would say ... thirty six hours, at most."\n\n"Can't a doctor-"\n\n"He is stricken by magic. Science will not help him."\n\nYou look over, a little uncomfortable to be discussing this in front of him, but Danny's lost in his own little world, cradling the books he's piling in his lap. His eyes are glazed.\n\n[[C9]]\nSo Danny's dying. That's a bummer. But you've noticed quite a few undead running around ... maybe Danny should join their ranks, with a little help from Matthias?\n\n[[C5]]\nOr would you rather know more about all the bad blood between Ralon and Matthias?\n\n[[C6]]\nMaybe you're worried about what happened to Misha?\n\n[[C10]]\nScrew this, it's time to make a plan!\n
You mouth 'waste them' at Misha and Danny and sit back to enjoy the show. \n\n\n"My hatred for you will never die, but you shall!" Matthias shouts. He's behind Ralon, having grabbed the taller vamp in a choke hold.\n\n\n"Promises, promises," Ralon grits. He throws Matthias over his shoulder, slamming him into the ground with real force. "You'd be lost without me. Our vendetta is the only reason either of us gets up in the morning."\n\n\nHe seems to have a nice villainous rant geared up, but it cuts off. You savor the look of uncomprehending shock on his face as Misha stakes him.\n\n\nMatthias leans back on his elbows and stares expressionlessly as his former lover goes up in flames. He turns his face up to the ash falling in the air, and closes his eyes.\n\n\nYou toss Danny a stake, and he rams it into Matthias’s chest. The bereaved vampire doesn’t twitch as the fire consumes him. You wonder, idly, if he'd heard Danny coming up. Maybe he'd wanted to die. Maybe Ralon was right, without the hatred there was no reason to go on.\n\n\nMisha, Danny, and you share a group hug over the ashes of those three dead vamps. It's been a hell of a day, and most people would take the first flight back to the United States, back to your normal lives. But these last three kills changed something in you. Beer pong will never be enough again, to hell with history class ... you've got the bloodlust now. Not a vampire's thirst. You've changed into a more dangerous predator.\n\n\nYou're hunters now, and you know you were born to kill these motherfuckers.\n\n\nDanny's research pinpoints a maker in Reykjavik. Between the three of you, it's easy to juice this one. You take the cure this time and join Misha and Danny as an equal partner in your triad of terror. After a few glorious months of murder and mayhem, you find the effects of the doses are fading. You get some info from a coven of witches, and some cool magical tattoos that help you kill their ancestral enemies ... then you track down more makers, juice them. The three of you are a rock solid team and hey, there are a lot of vamps in the world. \n\n\nYou revel in your new lives. Permanently healthy, recovering quickly, strong and fast and keen senses, and as long as the heart blood keeps coming, you don't age. All the advantages of being a vampire without the compulsion to kill. Well, you do love killing. And you crave the cure ... it's different from a vampire's bloodlust, okay? You have more refined tastes than the leeches. \n\n\nThis won't last forever. Someday your luck will turn, someday one of you will make a mistake, hell, maybe a Maker will get a one-in-a-million shot in and finish you. Eventually you'll run out of hearts to hunt and the crazy train will run to ground but you remind yourself that nothing lasts forever, and you're having one hell of a ride.\n\n\nTHE END.\n\n[[L1]]\nRestart the chapter?\n\n\n[[1]]\nRestart from the beginning?\n
The creature stops shambling just outside the screaming wall, cocks its head, and stares at you. It grins, showing toothless gums.\n\n"Leave her be," Matthias says. He hisses, fangs descending and eyes growing red.\n\nThe creature chuckles, an awful echoing sound. It blurs forward and slashes the air with that huge blade. Matthias gasps and dodges, barely fast enough to avoid the blow. A few severed shreds of his coat drift in the air.\n\nYou turn around in a fast circle, looking for a weapon, an angle. There's nothing.\n\nMatthias dances across the surface of the water, trying to flank the monster. it hesitates, tilting its head. That scythe swings out again, and Matthias dives backwards. A line of red spreads across the waist of his shirt.\n\nYOU aren't completely confident that he'll get you out of here alive, but things are going to be a lot worse if he bites it. You grab a handful of gravel and lob it at the monster. It glances in your direction and ... not much else happens. \n\nMatthias tackles it, rips the hood off, and gets thrown into the wall with enough force the cavern echoes. He slumps over, blood trickling from the back of his neck. \n\nCRACK!\n\nOne of the stalactites breaks from the ceiling and he rolls out of the way as it shatters against the path. The monster raises its scythe, ready to stab.\n\nDanny rushes behind it, snatches up the edge of its robe, and tries to pull it off balance. The monster's strike misses and the head of the scythe breaks of against the ground.\n\nThere, just the opportunity you were looking for! YOU twist the wooden handle down, it pops free of the monster's thumb and fingers. In one swift move you draw back and ram what's left of the scythe through its chest.\n\nThe creature's last breath rattles in its throat and the handle crumbles to fine sawdust as the creature starts to char and smoke. \n\n"Well done." Matthias straightens, grimacing. "I underestimated that creature's power. I'm not sure I could have prevailed without your aid. Come, my allies." He blurs into the archway, Danny following at his heels obediently.\n\n[[H1]]\n\nYOU feel so pumped by this victory, you're ready to march through the creepy screaming-man doorway!\n
You grab Danny's arm and back away from the monster. Its fixes its eyes on you and snarls, showing vile, toothless gums.\n\n"Let them alone, you need to worry about me," Matthias snarls. He rushes at the monster in a blur of motion ... and it blurs behind him and strikes him across the back. Matthias flies through the air, crashing into the far wall. Blood trails down a slit carved in the back of his suit jacket.\n\n"We've gotta go!"\n\n"Where?" Danny replies.\n\nYou look around wildly. The cavern is as sparse as ever, no secret rescue rooms appearing in the nick of time. You pull Danny down to the end of the path and peer at the stairs that descend under the dark, cold water. \nGiven the monsters are coming out of the woodworks now, you're not sure what you'll find down there. But it has to be better than this.\nMatthias howls. You look back in time to see the monster throw him to the ground. It swings the scythe fast enough you can hear wind whistling over the steel, and stabs him through the chest. Blood fountains up around the blade. Oh damn. You wish you could go back and frisk his body for that magic dagger, but there's no way you'd pull it off.\n\nAs he writhes, gravely injured, Matthias lashes out and manages to throw the monster across the room ... and into the pool you and Danny are knee deep in.\n\nIt snarls and rushes up the steps, knocking you aside. Your head bounces off the steps and your body stops responding to you. You slide down into the black water. Danny calls your name and tries to catch your sleeve but he is too injured, too week to save you. Water rushes into your lungs, replacing the sweet air, and everything goes black.\n\nYou have DIED.\n\n[[E1]]\nRestart the chapter?\n\n\n[[1]]\nRestart from the beginning?
You turn and run. Ralon's blocking the exit door, but there's that passage behind the Japanese screens by the throne -\n\nYou streak by Matthias, who's grappling with a huge creature armed with a scythe. He tears its chest open and throws the thrashing, dying creature aside. It falls right in your path. You dodge, lose your balance-\n\nThe blade twists when you hit the ground, and slices into your arm. \n\nPain. Agony like you've never known. It washes through you like a wave of lava. You hear your agonized screams, but all you can feel, all you can think about is the feeling of invisible claws gripping your flesh and ripping your life-force away as the dark magic of the dagger feeds again.\n\nThe monsters in the area are attracted to the sound of wounded prey. You don't suffer long.\n\nYou have DIED.\n\n[[J1]]\nRestart the chapter?\n\n\n[[1]]\nRestart from the beginning?
All right. It's too bad Misha isn't here, since she's done her share of sexy dancing at clubs. But you watch music videos, you've seen movies on cable. You can pull this off. \nYou close your eyes and try to visualize some sexy music. All that comes up in your memory is Deadfalls' 'Ode to the beautiful backstabbing bitch I married.' You've never known what the lyrics are - it's five minutes of the lead singer roaring his best death-metal rumble into the microphone- but it has a pretty good baseline.\n\n"Get ready!" you warn her.\n\nShe arches her thin, inky brows.\n\nYou start off by twisting enthusiastically through the torso and pumping your arms. It remind you of being on the elliptical at the school gym ... that's not sexy. You should stop. You switch to wiggling in a circle, pretending you've got a hula hoop around your waist. And you almost lose your balance in those damn heels. You try to shimmy but you weren't blessed with enough chest to shake at her. \n\n"Whoo yeah!" Maybe if you shout loudly enough, she won't notice that you're a horrible dancer ...\n\nYou turn around and try twerking ... but your small, moderately flat booty is not cooperating. "Oh baby!" You attempt to bump and grind, and almost topple over again. Maybe you should lose the fucking shoes ... but then your bare skin would touch the floor. There's no telling what's been on that floor.\n\nYou face her again. She has frozen in place, her eyes wide. You put your hands behind your head and gyrate, touch your hips and gyrate, hug yourself and gyrate - ohfuckno, that's the Macarena! The least sexy of the Latin dances! \n\nFor the big finale, you pull out a couple sweet disco moves, pointing between ceiling and floor with some hip thrusts thrown in. Your skirt has ridden up and given that she's sitting down, you're pretty sure she can see your panties. Who knows, that may tip the balance in your favor. \n\nYou back toward her, popping your petite butt in her direction, then spin around and fall to your knees, trying to rip your shirt open. Maybe if she sees boobs she won't kill you...\n\nExcept the shirt doesn't cooperate. You can't rip off even one button. \n\n"WHOOOOOooo!" You slump to the ground and hold your hands up in devil horns. If you've gotta die, you want to go out in style.\n\n"Well." Her voice quivers slightly. "That was quite a spectacle." She chuckles. "High marks for enthusiasm, absolutely dreadful execution." \n\nYou nod. There's no way to defend that dance.\n\nShe appears next to you, pulls you to your feet and combs her fingers through your hair. "We'll have to work on that."\n\nWhoo hoo! You've lived to die another day. Or sooner!\n\nA pair of guards comes into the room. "Old Mistresssss, may we beg a minute of your time?"\n\nShe sighs and turns to face them. She keeps petting you like you're a favored dog.\n\n[[H10]]\n\nIt could be worse. You grin and bear it.\n
Dying burns. The pain takes you over, strips your sanity ... and then it's swept away in a line of ice that runs down your throat. The Maker's blood changes you, freezes something deep inside. \n\n\nYour empty. Your chest feels hollow. You open your eyes to your first night as a vampire and realize ... something's missing. Something's incomplete. That's the only pain you feel anymore, and it consumes you. You force it deep down, try to focus on something else. You open your eyes and sit up.\n\n\n"There's my brave little girl," your Maker whispers. Her radiant smile fills your whole world; you shudder at the emotion, the overwhelming desire to keep her approval, to please her ... your heart burns with cold fire, with the desire to follow every order. She gently wipes the blood from your mouth with the tattered hem of her nightgown. "This evening was so disappointing until I made you. Your brothers have not behaved but I shall give them another chance. Help me throw them out?"\n\n\nChild's play. With the heady strength surging in your veins, you have no trouble pinning Matthias, who is debilitated by the wounds of his latest fight with Ralon. You hold him until your Maker creates some new, potent simulacra to toss him out. She sics hellhounds on Ralon. You watch them chase him from the catacombs ... weakened, he barely outruns them. Now that's almost funny. You smirk as your Maker gives Matthias the same treatment, but it is a reflex; your emotions are dulled, closed in a layer of black ice.\n\n\nYou friends die that dawn, and you barely notice. In life, you missed goldfish more than you miss them. It doesn't matter, nothing matters but your Maker. She gave you half a gift and if you can somehow please her enough ... maybe she will give you more. The heart, the True Vampire Heart - that's what you crave. That's what will make you whole again.\n\n\nYears pass. You dare not leave your Maker's side. You're weakened without a true Heart, always half crazed with thirst, unable to think clearly. Many of the victims you lure in from the neighboring hiking paths and villages are killed to feed the second heart ... the one denied you. You get the dregs from their bodies, and it isn't enough, but you can't disappoint your Maker so you drink it and survive. Barely.\n\n\nOne night in the spring finds you waiting outside a pub. You'd slipped a note into the pocket of a likely looking idiot. He's drunk and well over six feet of muscle ... you think he must have a lot of blood, more than enough for your Maker and the second heart. Maybe enough for a proper meal, instead of just a taste ...\n\n\n"Hey, beautiful, wanna go Dutch on the next meal?"\n\n\nIt's Ralon. You raise an eyebrow at him. "Forget it."\n\n\n"Aww c'mon. I saw you in there, working on that guy. Big man like that's got more than enough for us to share."\n\n\nYour eye twitches. Half the blood, half ... you've never once fed that deeply. It must be nice ... but no, Maker gave her orders. "No can do."\n\n\nMatthias steps around the corner. "I know the three of us parted on bad terms, but can't we break bread, as it were? Eternity is too long to nurse a grudge."\n\n\n"So you two have made up now?" My oh my, unlife does move around in circles.\n\n\n"We found some common ground." Matthias rests his hand on your shoulder. "Please. Let us share him, and then Ralon and I will help you hunt another for our Maker."\n\n\n"She ... it's forbidden. I don't feed, unless it's from a body she gives me." The orders were clear. Deep down, you wish you had the strength of will to defy her. But that part was frozen with the rest of your emotions, far out of reach.\n\n\nRalon leaned close and breathed in your ear, "It'll be our dirty little secret."\n\n\n"I can't. I can't."\n\n\nMatthias suddenly grabs you and pins your arms behind your back. You're strong as a vampire, but this time around' he's well fed and overpowers you easily. You hiss at him.\n\n\nHe sighs. "You were right, Ralon. She's completely in thrall."\n\n\nRalon shrugs. "Told ya." He cups your cheek. "Our maker's kept you under the wing for twelve years. Matthias and I got ... five? Then she got bored, told us to kill each other for her amusement and she'd consider just maybe handing over the heart ... and the bitch threw us out. I think she's got a soft spot for you."\n\n\nHe reaches into his bomber jacket and pulls out a stake.\n\n\n"You can't be serious. I haven't done anything to either of you!"\n\n\n"Yet." Matthew tightens his grip on your wrists. "But our maker cares about you, too much. We think you're her favorite, and it's only a matter of time before she gives you the heart. Then we'll be trapped like this, half human and half something else, denied our dreams forever. It's unacceptable."\n\n\nYour dead heart beats a little faster. You've almost earned the heart, almost - but then your eyes fall on the stake. "So what is this, you guys are afraid of a little competition? You're jealous?" It's so ridiculous. This is the reason they set aside their centuries-long vendetta - to kill you?!\n\n\n"Sorry, beautiful. I like you, so does he though he won't admit it. But eternity is too long to live without the hope of a better life. You've gotta go."\n\n\nHe plunges the stake into your chest. You choke out blood, a vast gush of it, which spatters Ralon's face in red. Matthias cradles you in his arms as you shudder. The ice that's encased your heart melts and you feel, for the first time in years ... absolute terror. Just before the flames eat you away, you see Ralon lick your blood from his lips.\n\n\nTHE END\n\n[[L1]]\nRestart the chapter?\n\n\n[[1]]\nRestart from the beginning?\n\n\n
You pull out one of the planks and a handy stake splits off. You slip behind Matthias, who has subdued one of the vamps and is in the process of ripping the head off the other.\n\nYou plunge the stake in his back ... and the wood snaps in half! He must be wearing some kind of body armor!\n\nHe decapitates the vamp he was grappling with and whips around. He's apparenlty had too much today, and his control is hanging by a thread. Now, a broken thread.\n\nHe gives you the same treatment as the last vamp, and leaves yoru heads in a pile.\n\nYou have DIED.\n\n[[Start]]\nTry again?
Misha looks pretty rough. SHe's got vamp bites on her neck, blood running from her wrists, and a stake in her hands. She walks up behind Matthias.\n\n"Hi," she says. She smiles, showing a lot of teeth.\n\nMatthias turns around and blinks at her. \n\n"Yo, girl. This guy bothering you?" she asks you.\n\n"No, he's ..." you don't want to insult the guy, so instead of saying 'a psychopath', you go with, "he's okay."\n\nMatthias looks in the directon Ralon fled to. \n\nMisha shoves the stake into his chest. It snaps against his body armor, or whatever he has under there.\n\n"Oh shit," she mutters.\n\nMatthias's eyes widen and he roars and grabs her by the neck, pulls her close and grazes his teeth over his neck.\n\nShit!\n\nHe shudders and, moving slowly and stiffly, thrusts her away. Misha chokes for air and staggers away, getting lost in the knot of people running about. \n\n"I- my apologies. My instincts are getting the better of me."\n\n[[A24]]\nFuck, you'd better run and hope you live to fight another day!\n\n[[A25]]\nWell, she did attack him for no particular reason ... maybe you should let byegones be byegones?\n\n[[A26]]\nTime to teach him a little something about revenge, American style. You see the nearest tent was equipped with a little camp stove, and that flame's still burning.\n\n
You hurry over to Ralon's side. He leans his weight against you and tries to pull out the shard of dagger. When he touches the blade, his fingers sizzle. \n\nHe hisses with pain. "Better leave it for now." \n\nHe sighs and rubs his hand down your arm. Maybe for comfort. Or maybe he's hungry. And you're uncomfortably aware of being the only human in snacking range. \n\nA larval vamp, his skin literally swollen with blood, rises from the nearby feast of two schoolgirls in kilts and stalks closer. \n\n"I told you to kill that man," Ralon slurrs, pointing in Matthias's direction. He staggers for the wall and reaches out, swats at it. Planks splinter and come loose.\n\nYou hear, distantly, one of the vamps cry out and go silent.\n\nThe swollen one keeps coming. \n\n"For fuck's sake," you shout at it. You grab one of the splinters and stake it. \n\n"Good kitty," Ralon says. He pats you, distracted, on the head.\nAnother vampire comes up and your heart sinks. Long, curly blonde hair, now red with blood ... it's Misha. She's got a fresh bite mark seeping red down her neck, and her eyes have gone feral-vampire-red. \n\n"What is this? Did you do that?"\n\nHe glances where you're pointing. "Stacks? Yeah, I turned her. She seemed like she'd make a minion who can handle herself."\n\n"You bastard."\n\n"Sonofabitch," Ralon whispers. He's ignoring you and glaring down the battlefield. \n\nMatthias is there, straightening his coat. He holds the broken dagger up like a trophy. Danny is there too - how on earth did he get here? He doesn't look good, even paler than his usual pasty self, eyes glazed. You wave at him and he looks right through you. He supports Matthias as they back away.\n\nRalon growls as they slip out of sight.\n\nAnd that's it. You're done with this. You turn to run, make it three steps - and a cold hand closes like a vice around the back of your neck.\n\n"Where are you off too?" Ralon asks, his cold, blood-reeking breath curling against your cheek. "I like to have someone to talk to when I'm planning revenge."\n\n[[A27]]\nWell, it's not like you have much choice right now.\n
You flip Ralon off, and he huffs a laugh, them grimaces like that hurt. Good. You look around for a weapon to use, to help Matthias ...\n\nAnd see him rip the heads off the two vamps with a roar of fury. He's frothing at the mouth and his eyes are wild.\n\nUh, maybe you made a mistake ... but when you look over your shoulder, Ralon is gone. All you see is a pool of blood where he had stood. \n\nWell, you'd better make the best of this. "Wow, you are really good at killing these things."\n\nHe takes a deep breath, pulls out a handkerchief and wipes his fingers. "Centures of practice." He looks you up and down, speculatively. His eye is twitching, fangs still out. "You have a lot of composure."\n\n"Natural talent." \n\n"It's hard to believe a woman like yourself would have dealings with such and animal as Ralon."\n\n"He's not an easy guy to say no to."\n\n"Is that all it was? You were his hostage?"\n\n"Um, sure."\n\nHe frowns. "Well, I'd best escort you away from here. This is no place for a lady."\n\n[[A21]]\nAmazingly, you see Misha walk up behind him. Excellent, he can escort you both!\n\n
You take off as fast as you can stagger. Which is not fast. You took quite a blow to the head, and the shock is setting in. I mean, you've been through some heavy shit in your quest for a good time with Misha, but this takes the cake.\n\nIt's really no surprise that Ralon is able to catch you. \n\nOh no. \n\nMisha's trailing after him, a seeping bite mark on her neck, eyes red and crazed. \n\nRalon twists your arm behind your back.\n\n"Walk."\n\n[[A27]]\nThe three of you are going for a little stroll...\n
"Okay, everybody calm down." \n\nMatthias smooths his hair out of his face. It stays in place thanks to the thick layer of blood and dust sprayed over him. "Quite sensible. Come with me, we have much to discuss, and plans to lay..." The two of you walk around fallen bodies and a smashed port-a-john that had somehow ended up here. Matthias holds a hand up for silence and sneaks to the corner of the fence, peeking around it. He freezes, staring at the path to the exit. "Oh. How unfortunate."\n\nYou take a look. The remaining vampires are gathering there in a pack. Ralon is there is well, waving his hands, lecturing them about something. \n\n"This requires discretion ... I am not strong enough to outrun Ralon while carrying a human. I will lay another trail to distract them. Make your way to the street running along the north side of the concert grounds, and Daniel and I will pick you up in my vehicle." \n\nHe bails on you, blurs away and is gone before you can respond. That's just great.\n\nBut wait, it gets better! Ralon stalks around the corner, spots you, and grins toothily. "There she is!" He grabs your arm and looks around. "Now, what about the man with the big, bad magical dagger?"\n\nYou shrug. "He could be anywhere." It's technically true.\n\n"He's hurt bad ... he can't have gone far." Ralon hauls you toward the exit, and all the feral vamps waiting there for him. Your heart sinks- Misha is there, a bloody wound on her neck. Now she's just like the other bloodsuckers.\n\n[[A28]]\n\nTime to go.
"I need a minute. I think i'm going to be sick." You stumble over to the tent and bend at the waist, gagging. \n\nMatthias sighs and looks away. \n\nYou take that opportunity to grab the stove and throw it at him. It strikes his coat, which starts to burn ... but not fast enough.\n\nMatthias howls, strips off his coat, and turns to you.\n\nStrangely, he doesn't bite your throat, wrists, thighs, or any other veiny areas. He snaps your neck. You wonder why ... before it all goes dark.\n\nYou have DIED.\n\n[[1]]\nTry again?
Ralon marches you past the bodies on the grount, clicking his tongue at the couple remaining vamps along the way. The odds keep getting worse and you shudder, but there's no way you can struggle free of his strength.\n\nThere's a few more new vampires lurking by the entrance; they wait in a semicircle near the parking lot. Ralon drops you off with them. They're milling around like highstrung animals, jerking at every noise, stopping every so often to sniff the air. Most of them seem well beyond any kind of speech. They all start to edge closer, hungry eyes on you.\n\n"Don't bite her, that's an order. You've had enough humans tonight." Ralon sounds distracted. He pulls a pair of keys from his pocket. "Stacks, hold onto her while I get us a ride." \n\nMisha sidles over. She looks even worse up close ... blood smeared all over her face and neck, down the unnatural white of her skin and into her ample cleavage that is barely held in her favorite laceup leather vest, and her eyes are rabid red like the others here. \n\nSHe grabs your arm tightly and sniffs at your shoulder.\n\n"Misha, it's me," you whisper.\n\nShe tilts her head and licks her fangs. You look in her eyes and ... nobody's home.\n\nYou have no chance of breaking free of this lot, so you huddle up, wishing you were warmer but you are after all soaking wet with blood, and wait.\n\nOne of the nearby vamps, a teenager with a blue mohawk, staggers and doubles over, hacking up black-streaked blood. You see more of hte inky slime stuff run from his eyes and ears. He clutches at the nearest vamp, an older man with a huge moustache. Moustache man shoves him aside and the mohawk crumples against the overflowing dumpsters near the entrance, retches once more, and curls up. He dies right in front of you.\n\nThere's something seriously wrong with these things.\n\nRalon drives up in a beat-up van that says 'Ee-zee Plumb-r' on the side. He hops out and goes straight to you, roughly pushes your sleves up, your neckline down, runs his calloused fingers over your largely unbroken skin. \n\n"So I see nobody chewed on the toy. Just like I ordered." His smirk fades and he looks almost regretful. "You are an obedient batch." The two vamps he sent out return. "Any sign of him or his gamoured minion? Smell anything?" \n\nA vamp hisses at him. \n\nHe shrugs and swings you around, holding you tightly from behind in a parody of a boyfriend's embrace. "Oh Matthias, I have a helpless litle human right here. She's ever so warm and brave and alive. But that can change any second."\n\nYou stand there, listening to the silence. Nothing. Off in the distance, faintly, a siren starts up.\n\n"Hm. Well, it was worth a shot. I thought the way you look, the way he watched you, maybe you meant something." He purrs into your ear, "Maybe I was wrong and you really are just another bag of meat."\n\nTHis bastard has helped kill one of your best friends, and you won't give him the satisfaction of begging. "Go fuck yourself." You square your chin and wait for the attack.\n\nRalon laughs and lets you go. "Not tonight. C'mon." \n\nHe rolls open the side door, whistles and points. His pack of larval vampires crawl in and settle down inside, their eyes reflecting the light in nightmare red sparks in the darkness. \n\nHe rolls the door shut firmly, shoves you into the passenger seat up front, and takes off.\n\n"You're crashing with me tonight." He smirks.\n\n[[D1]]\nYou've never seen a vampire's lair before ... but how bad, realistically, could it be? Uh, maybe you don't want to know the answer to that.\n
Ralon hauls you past the bodies that scatter the area like driftwood after a storm. "So, you were getting cosy with him. Did he promise to take care of you? Did he say he'd make all the evil beasties go away?"\n\nHe didn't promise a damn thing. He implied he would include you in your little revenge plot, and even that fell through. "He's gone. Let it go."\n\n"Aww, poor little pet left all alone." He sounds jealous, of all things.\n\n"I was doing what I had to for survival. Let it go."\n\n"Hm." \n\nYou make it past the entrance gate and Ralon whistles, calling his remaining vampires into the parking lot. He stops and takes a minute with eyes closed, scenting the air.\n\nOne ofthe nearby vamps, a teenager who was trying to rock both blue hair and a mohawk, is alsy having a rough night. You watch when he starts swaying. He doubles over and coughs out red and black blood. It's running form his eyes, nose, ears, mouth ... you can't take your eyes off him as another vamp growls and shoves him away. Mohawk falls against the outer brick wall of teh museum, curls up, and dies. What on earth is wrong with these things?\n\n"I'll tell you this once, no biting or I'll rip something off you that you'll miss." Ralon reaches into his bloodstained jeans and pulls out a pair of keys. "Stacks, you keep an eye on her while I get the van."\n\nMisha sidles over. You get a closer look at her and feel vomit in your throat. She looks like a nightmare, splashed in blood that's drying into black stripes, but under the tattooes and the too-white skin and all that gore is one of your best friends. Misha has to be down in there somewhere.\n\nShe grabs yoru arm, sniffs your hair, and glares at the other vampires. THey flinch back.\n\n"Misha," you whisper, "Say something."\n\nShe doesn't even look at you. She hisses at one vamp with a handlebar moustache. Her fangs are long, and dripping red. Handlebar crouhces and edges away. \n\nYou spend a few minutes huddled against your chill in a private pity party as you brood over how life could have, should have, gone differently. This was supposed to be the greatest vacation ever, not this bottomless pit of suck. Your friends? Bitten and enslaved. Your concert-going outfit? Probably ruined. That sweet concert you were lucky to score tickets for? Definitely ruined, and it will be a while before Deadfall plays again since most of the band died. How are they going to find another singer of that calibre ...\n\nA van that says 'Ee-zee Plumb-r' on the side pulls up. Ralon pops out.\n\n"ANy trouble, kitty?" he asks you. "Anybody get a little fresh, maybe take a bite or two?"\n\n"No," you say tightly.\n\n"Good minions. Obedient, loyal minions." His smile turns down at one corner. he takes a deep breath and looks around. "Matthias! Look who I've dug up!" Ralon grabs you by the nape of your neck ahd walks you in a semicircle, showing you off like a prizewinning fish he'd cuaght. "She's so brave, so alive... for now. Come out with your new glamoured servant and I'll be too distracted to kill her!"\n\nNothing. Just silence and, in the distance, sirens. Finally, somebody called the cops. Not that they'll get here in time for you.\n\n"Eh, worth a shot. Maybe he'd rather stick with his new ... ally." Ralon lets you go, trailing a hand down your shoulder. "Looks like I get to keep you around for entertainment."\n\nThere's only so much shit you can take from these fucking vampires, especially when they have already done something to yoru friends. "Screw you with a broken bottle."\n\nProbably shouldn't have said that. You tense, expecting an attack. Instead, he laughs. "Nice. What a reckless little girl." He glances around and asks his vamps, "You smell anyone? You hear Matthias or his glamoured human?"\n\nThey shift uneasily. Ralon shrugs, then winces and touches the wound in his side. "Eh. It was a long shot.\n\nRalon opens the side door, whistles and points. THe vampis pile in nad settle down, crouching like animals, eyes glinting red in the darkness. He rolls the door shut in their faces and hoists you into the passenger seat.\n\n"So ..." He smirks and starts the engine. "Ready to see how we kick back on the dark side?"\n\nConsidering everything that's happened so far, that sounds like a bad idea. Not that you have much choice. \n\n[[D1]]\nAfter what's happened so far, how bad could the vampire's lair be?\n
Ralon leads the way through the door. You have a split second to look around and see -\n\nA middle-aged man in wireframe glasses and a kilt. He's holding that shining thing you'd spotted earlier. It's an antique blunderbuss that he's fiddling with. \n\nRalon flashes his fangs and crouches. The man gasps, eyes comically wide behind his glasses. He jerks up the blunderbuss and pulls the trigger.\n\nYou seem to remember, from some historical documentary Danny made you sit through, that antique guns are horribly inaccurate. This one's no better. It misses Ralon entirely - and hits you in the chest.\n\nRalon springs on the man and twists his head half off. You fold over, agony spreading outward as fast as your blood fountains in the air. The last thing you see is the feral vampires swarming over you, eyes eager and dark with bloodlust.\n\nYou have DIED.\n\n[[F1]]\nRestart the chapter?\n\n\n[[1]]\nRestart from the beginning?
The instant everyone is inside, the mausoleum's door snaps shut. You see something you'd missed before - there's no doorknob on the inside. There are scars in the wood like someone used fingernails and some kind of lever to try to get the door open. YOU assume they failed.\n\nThe light through the stained glass windows dims until you can barely see the outlines of the boys. \n\n"The floor's changing," Matthias says.\n\n"Oh god no," you say sarcastically. You'll start panicking if or more accurately when a horde of animated skeletons attacks. \n\n"Why are my feet wet?" water is lapping against your shoes and you can smell the faintly murky scent of the Loch. "Oh god, are we going to drown?" Maybe you do have a little panic left over.\n\n"The floor is flooding." You hear Matthias splash and vaguely see him bend down and straighten. "There's an underwater passage here and water is spilling over from it."\n\n"The room's trying to drown us! Do you vampires eat from dead bodies?!"\n\n"No. Vampires don't." \n\nYou don't like the way he said that.\n\n"I think we have a small window of opportunity before something comes for us," he continues.\n\n"What's coming?"\n\n"Something aquatic that Maker will dispatch to fetch her prey. I suspect the only reason we haven't been attacked already is that this was an attack of opportunity, instead of a coordinated effort by her minions to drive the hapless humans into the trap."\n\nThat's bad news. There is literally no furniture to hide behind, nothing to make into a weapon unless the 'something aquatic' is for some reason killed by flying urns. You can't stay here-\n\nOh hell. "You want us to dive into that creepy underwater passage and hope we don't drown before we reach the other side."\n\nMatthias grabs your arm. Damn. He managed to cross the room, in ankle deep water, without making a sound.\n\n"Don’t' worry, little humans." You see he has dragged Danny close. "I will help when your strength fails. Breathe in."\n\nYou suck in a breath and he shoves you and Danny under the surface, and keeps shoving until the dim red glow of the mausoleum vanishes behind you. He releases you and you flail as you struggle to swim along this passage. It's narrow enough you bash your elbows against the walls, or Danny, several times. Just when you think your lungs will give out and you'll have to breathe in, even though you know there's no air and that would be suicide -\n\nMatthias shoves you in the back, and you exhale in shock and are propelled the last few feet to the surface in an explosion of bubbles.\nYou bash your knees on a staircase that leads into the water and crawl the few feet up to the top.\n\n"Ssssh," Matthias whispers to Danny. He's holding the human close and staring into his eyes. "Let the pain fall away. Let it drift from your mind."\n\nHe lifts Danny up and sets him on the top step. Danny rubs his temples and moans. He's bedraggled and shivering uncontrollably.\nYou look around the enormous underground cavern you've swum into. It's lit, faintly, by these glowing things that resemble tatters of cloth which wind in random patterns around the stalactites. The stairs you are on connect to a pathway of smooth paving stones, which leads past the pebbly shore and the surface of the underground lake that takes up half the cavern. That path leads through a far wall, which has a massive, screaming face carved into it. The mouth forms the archway to whatever lies beyond.\n\nA distant thrummmmm cuts through the air, the tone making your skin crawl.\n\n"It's an alarm," Matthias hisses. "Something's been alerted to us. Something's coming to fetch the animals for its mistress."\n\nThe eyes of that carved face light up red as candles in them ignite. They cast a malevolent light on an eight foot monster that shambles through the mouth and heads down the path toward you. It looks kind of like an unwrapped mummy in leather armor, and it's armed with a scythe with a five foot blade.\n\n"This will be challenging," Matthias says. He looks intimidated. \n\n[[E20]]\n\nSurely Matthias can handle this thing, with you and Danny playing backup?\n\n[[E21]]\n\nYou're not that confident Matthias will help the two of you, when he can use that superspeed to go around it and leave the humans behind as a distraction. Maybe you should take the initiative and flee the room, while Matthias deals with that thing?\n
Something wraps around our ankles, It feels like a strip of cloth or something. the Oubliette fills with a diffuse light and you look down and see there's something in the water. You kick out, trying to dislodge the cloth and it suddenly pulls tight around your legs. \n\nYou're dragged under the water. You curl up and try to unwrap what's caught you and the cloth slithers around your wrists too, pulling you deeper as even the faint light from the mouth of the oubliette goes out. \nThe currents move against your face - you're going sideways - and then suddenly you break the surface and whatever had you lets go.\n\nYour lungs are burning and you're so weak you have to crawl up the gravel shore. You collapse facedown, gag and cough up a mouthful of water and a little bit of hamburger, and finally look around. \nMore of those glowing, tattered things are drifting among the stalactites overhead and their light is giving enough of a glow that you can make out simple shapes. \n\nYou're in a vast cavern underground. Here there's a lake that seems to disappear under the wall behind you. You crawl forward off the gravel shore and onto smooth, tightly-fitting paving stones. There's a path running down the center of the cavern ... it leads between what might be a staircase (you see two creepy looking statues over there but can't tell the details) and a wall cutting across the cavern from floor to roof. The wall is carved to resemble a giant, screaming face, and the archway into whatever lies beyond is, of course, through the mouth.\n\nThe eyes of that face suddenly glow red. There are candles set high in the walls and they've burst into flames.\n\nYou pull off your shoes, the pointy heels your only weapon, and get to your feet. Something is coming. You can see the shape moving through that screaming mouth, and you make out the silvery gleam of metal in its hands.\n\nThere’s a splashing behind you form the pool where you emerge. You scream - and stop screaming when you recognize Matthias and Danny. Matthias manages to look brooding and composed despite the fact that his long hair is matted with weeds and his once very sharp suit is sopping wet and shapeless. Danny looks like a miserable sheepdog that's gotten a bath and hasn't been towelled off.\n\nYou slip your shoes back on. "Sorry. Get up here, quick." They didn't leave you to die, eaten by monsters in an Oubliette. you're a little choked up. You shouldn’t have doubted them.\n\n"What is that?" Danny asks.\n\nOh right. Monsters at twelve o'clock. YOU look back and see it's a mummified creature in leather armor. With a scythe.\n"That is a flaw in the plan," Matthais says. His voice is soft and uncertain. "The earth simulacrum that placed you in the Oubliette must have sent a warning down below, for them to expect fresh prey. Mistress has dispatched something to bring her the animals."\n\nThis is the first time you've heard real fear in his voice. If Matthias doesn't feel confident ... And that thing has straightened now that it has cleared the doorway. It must be seven or eight feet tall, arms inhumanly long, and it carries one of the biggest blades you've ever seen. That blade is at least five feet across.\n\n[[E20]]\n\nTwo humans and a vampire should be able to kill one of whatever it is. Right? You'll stay for the fight.\n\n[[E21]]\n\nTwo humans and a vampire without weapons don't have much chance of killing whatever it is. It's time to strategically reposition yourself somewhere far, far away.\n
You climb to the top of the hill and take a second to enjoy the beauty of this old treasure. The standing stones shimmer white, burning against the red-orange sky that signals the coming of sunrise. You haven't seen stone like this anywhere in Scotland and wonder how many miles it was dragged here. Of course, evil things tend to come in pretty packages. You notice each rock has been carved with well-worn runic symbols.\n\n"Human-trapping spell?" You ask Matthias and Danny. "Evil vampire baiting spell? Gravestones?"\n\nMatthias glances over them. "My runic is rusty, but these appear to be the names of constellations."\n\nOh. Darn it. You wander through the standing stones and kick a couple to be sure, but there's no sign of secret underground chambers. \nThe three of you turn back to the shepherd's cabin.\n\n"What happened to that drunk guy in front?" you ask.\n\nMatthias throws an arm out, stopping you and Danny. "I smell grave dirt."\n\nWhat? "Okay..."\n\nHe points to the right. "I hear something there. Come, and be quiet." Matthias leads the way to behind some boulders, where you can peek out and look down the hill.\n\nThe lager fan is still unconscious, and he's being dragged by some kind of bent figure in a hooded cloak. The hooded thing hauls him down the hill to where a lone standing stone has been placed near the treeline. It grunts like an animal in effort as it heaves the human to the foot of the standing stone ... and instead of striking grass, the unfortunate man drops right through it, the earth melting away like a dream. The hooded creature turns, puts its palms against the hillside, and sinks into it and vanishes.\n\nYou stare at the round, deep hole the human had been thrown into. "I guess we found our oubliette." As you speak, the false grass grows back over it. \n\n"Mm." Matthias doesn't sound happy. \n\nYou hear an odd squeaking sound and look over, catching him grinding his teeth.\n\n"Problem?" As far as you can tell, it's time to break out the climbing gear and rappel down. It's a simple plan. Not a good one, but simple. \n\n"I know of that cantrip. It must be activated - or rather, deactivated, to allow someone through."\n\n"So we need to trigger the secret door before it will open. Shouldn't be an issue since you know that magic."\n\n"I know OF the cantrip. My own magical ability is close to nonexistent."\n\n"Bummer. What are we going to do now?"\n\n"I have an idea," he says softly.\n\n[[E15]]\n\nUh oh. This sounds like the start of another terrible plan. \n
You walk over to the hollow. It looks like some kind of spring, which has since been tainted with a whole lotta earth and sheep excrement - solid and liquid. But there is that odd little detail that no sheep apparently goes near it ...\n\n"This doesn't look like a torture chamber," you point out.\n"It may be an old blight, one whose power is nearly faded. The Oubliette may be disguised, somehow." Matthias doesn't exactly sound very gung-ho about it.\n\nIf you want something done right ...\n\nYou march over to the edge of the hollow and throw some pebbles in. The Loch Ness monster doesn't rise out of the murk to eat them, which is a plus. You creep up to the edge and lean over, peering into the dark brown depths. Nothing lunges up and rips out your throat. If this spring didn't stink so badly, you'd find this a refreshing change.\n\n"Nothing," you call out, turning back toward them. "Not a thing here but-"\n\nYour heel slips in the mud and you stagger back a step. The hollow had looked like a shallow, unpleasant puddle. You could have sworn it was less than a foot deep. But you fall backwards and hit the surface and keep going down. \n\nScreaming, you flail around, feeling roots too slick to grasp, mud to thick to see through and too thin to swim through. Some force has you, like a great hand on your chest shoving you deeper, deeper into oblivion.\n\nYou have DIED.\n\n[[E1]]\nRestart the chapter?\n\n\n[[1]]\nRestart from the beginning?
"Let's clear out while we still can," you tell Danny. "God damn it, put that fucking notebook away!" He stuffs it into his jacket, you drag his arm across your shoulders and the two of you stumble up the hill, away from that mess. \n\n"What about-"\n\n"Matthias is a big boy, he'll be fine."\n\nIt's not easy to run on wet, uneven ground in these heels. You miss your steel toed concert boots. Those would be awesome here.\n\nMore leaf-clattering sounds. Two more lumps rise from the ground, not a dozen feet away. You push Danny faster. You're almost at the edge of the trees, up ahead smells like a pasture. You’ll be able to go faster on the flat, grassy ground.\n\nDanny makes it another hundred yards, and then his legs give out.\n\n"Come on come on come on!"\n\n"I can't. I - Matthias's glamour helps, but it hurt too much. My body's breaking down."\n\nYou bite your lip. And then you get an idea. "Climb up this tree." You push him over to a twisted old oak with thick branches and try to push him up it.\n\nHe takes a deep breath and gets about six feet off the ground. "What if they can climb too?"\n\n"No worries, I'll lure them away!" \n\n"Wh-no!"\n\nYou ignore Danny and wave at the two pursuing monsters. Their beady black eyes fix on you and they break into a run. They're a lot faster than you'd thought but you think you have a shot at outrunning them now that you aren't dealing with Danny's weight. You rush up the hill. One stays close on your heels, the other cuts to your left. You angle right to avoid it. UP ahead you see the edge of the trees and there, silhouetted in the dawn light, the standing stones. There's another just ahead, just beyond the treeline, resting in a hollow below the crown of the hill.\nMan, those things are fast. You try to think positively, after all, they haven’t caught you yet.\n\nCome to think about it, that's a little strange. It's almost like they’re herding you somewhere.\n\nYou set foot in the hollow by the standing stone and the grassy ground that looked so solid turns to fog. You shriek as you plunge down, down a dark shaft cut into the earth itself. You crash headfirst into the deep standing water at the bottom of it. The shock of cold stiffens every muscle, and you have to fight to get back to the surface.\n\nYou look up, up, up to the tiny circle of light at the top. As you watch, a translucent screen of illusory grass grows back over the top.\n\nThe Oubliette. You’ve found it.\n\nYou tread water, trying to regain your breath so you can scream for help. Something under the surface brushes against your ankle.\n\n[[E18]]\n\nThat can't be good...\n
"We've gotta make a stand," you warn Danny. \n\nNo answer. Is he being hauled off by one of those things?\n\nOh. He's leaning against a tree, flipping through his notebook. "God dammit Danny!" Not the time to be working on his journal.\n\nYou rush at the monster with the stake in his shoulder. That whole arm is hanging limp, so he should be the easiest on to defeat. You jump on his back, trying to claw his eyes out.\n\nHis body is corded with weird rings of muscle. He whips around like a snake and pins you to a nearby tree. Those fingers may be thin as popsicle sticks but they bite into your throat like wires.\n\nYou grab it by the neck, trying to push it back. it opens its mouth, that tongue starts to move-\n\n"Hit it in the jaw!" Danny calls out.\n\nYou ball up a fist and give it a blow Misha would be proud of. The jawbone folds inward like cardboard. It's eyes bulge with panic and it staggers back. You grab the head of the stake and pull it out. Boy, that wrapped handle is comfortable. What balance! What a sharp point!\nYou shove it into the creature's chest, through the heart, grateful for all the practice you've been getting in fighting weird things.\n\nIt falls backwards, skin splitting as it falls apart midair into squarish chunks of wood, like a rotting tree. The stake does the same.\n\nThe other monsters stare at you, frozen. You see in their eyes something you haven't gotten enough of since this mess started ... respect. They turn and dive for the pits they dug out of. The one Matthias holds struggles wildly and manages to writhe its way free.\n\nMatthias sighs and rips its head off. It, also, comes apart.\n\n"Well, this was a waste of time," he says, irritated.\n\nThe remaining hiker, hands tied behind her back, scrambles up and runs off through the woods. No sign of her companion ... but you're sure he's fine. Just positive.\n\nDanny speaks up, his voice strained. "According to these notes, the stump people can only move in places where the oaks they are carved from have set roots. They popped out here, to drag victims to the crypt entrance..."\n\nYou finish his thought. "So that entrance has to be close by. Somewhere near an oak tree."\n\n[[E14]]\n\nYou search the area. \n
"Go back to the shepherd's hut and pretend to faint."\n\nIt's even worse than you'd expected. "That's the new plan?" \n\n"Just go there and come over with vapors. One of those earthen beings will drag you to the Oubliette and I - and Daniel - will accost it after it deactivates the cantrip."\n\n"First of all, modern girls don't faint from vapors." You're not going to confuse him by getting into the fine details of huffing chemicals. "Second, I don't wanna get tossed into an Oubliette and break my neck and die. Third, I don't think I trust you since you have such a terrible track record for looking out for the innocent humans around you. That bloodlust kicks in and bam, my friend's been cursed by a magical knife."\n\n"Do not fear. I should have mentioned this earlier, but my mistress greatly prefers her prey to be alive. I am not sure she can even feed from the recently dead, although their blood is useful for certain dark rituals."\nYou cut him off before he can offer any other 'helpful' little details. "Fine. I'll do it." Otherwise he'll just force Danny to be the bait. You hate watching him abuse that hold he has over one of your best friends, and you definitely don't think said best friend is in any shape to defend himself when shit goes south.\n\n"Wow-ee, I am so wasted," you call out as you stagger toward the shepherd's hut. "Look, free beer! Whoo!" All that practice in college is giving you some material. Maybe you can pull this off. You flop into the folding chair, take a swig from one of the bottles, choke, and spit out a cigarette. "Oh man." Back in character! "I'm jus' gonna take a little nap," you slur out. You let your eyes drift closed. The last thing you see is Danny peeking out from the boulders, shaking his head.\n\nEveryone's a critic. It's not like you took acting classes.\n\nAnyway, your half assed best is good enough for this job. YOU hear an odd tearing sound and peek through your lashes and yes, that is the hooded monster. It approaches as cautiously as a feral cat that wants the treat being held out, but more than half expects to get kicked for its trouble.\n\nYou hold still as it snuffles at your skin, then you clench your jaw as it eases cold, gritty fingers around your ankles.\n\nIt begins to drag you down the hillside, slowly at first, then growing bolder as you stay limp. Your skirt is dragged up around your torso, and you don't dare break character to push it back in place. Good thing you’re wearing reasonably clean panties. Hopefully it isn't looking.\nIt pauses and you peek again, see the standing stone, check. It grabs your ankle with one hand, grabs a handful of your shirt with the other.\n\nWait, where is Matthias? That bastard!\n\nWind over your skin. You're airborne, and then plunging down the oubliette, skinning your knees on the walls as you tumble into the dark. Down, and then instead of crunching to the earth you plunge into a deep pit of ice-cold, inky-black water at the bottom.\n\nYou fight your way to the surface and struggle to breathe. High above you see the little circle of the top of the oubliette. Is that a head looking down? Is it Danny or Matthias? You blink the water from your stinging eyes. You draw a breath to call for help - and scream when something brushes against your ankle. \n\n[[E18]]\n\nHere it comes!\n
You can't help but feel a little paranoid as you search through the woods. If you aren't watching every spot of ground you put your feet, wondering when zombie hands will burst through and grab you, then you're watching the sky waiting for an attack of vampire bats, and watching the trees for any creepy wooden dolls or evil runes. This is no way to live, and the stress, layered atop low blood sugar, is getting on your nerves.\nYou hear sheep baa-ing and look uphill, expecting any second to be attacked by bloodthirsty herd animals. Instead, you circle around a tree and smack straight into a stone pillar.\n\n"Jesus," you mutter, wiping blood of your chin. Your split lip hurts.\n"Here it is," Matthias intones. "A doorway to the hag, the heart of evil."\n"This thing?" It's a stone pillar, not a gateway to Hell. It's smooth and pale as ivory, the top and bottom carved with skeletal animals writhing with humans. In the brightening dawn you can just make out the skeleton of a lion ripping the skull off a peasant that's tilling a field.\nOkay, so maybe it is evil. But this can't be the Oubliette. There's no building here. There's no foundation or any sign a building was ever here. It's one pillar standing in the forest. \n\nYou knock against the stone. It isn't even hollow.\n\n"An illusion," Matthias explains. He walks quickly around it, hands in front of him like a man feeling his way through a dark room. He makes a circuit without hitting any invisible walls. "Or not. Perhaps a more potent magic. A room that melts in and out of existence according to mystical whims.\n\nDanny flips open that damn notebook. Matthias ignores him, muttering to herself. "We do not have the proper cantrip to make the room appear. But the purpose of it is to draw in prey, so if we make ourselves appear more tempting, appear to be vulnerable prey ripe for harvesting, then the magic may activate."\n\n"I'm afraid to ask..."\n\n"A blood sacrifice." He looks at your face and smiles slightly. "Do not be afraid. A few drops from you, smeared on the pillar, should suffice."\n"Or we can manipulate the secondary function of the magic," Danny interrupts. \n\nYou blink at him\n\n"I recognize the runes on the base of the pillar." He points, and you notice them for the first time. "They're similar to this record of the Abattoir of Gibraltar, which functioned on the doubt of the people it hunted. The greater their doubt, the more power they gave it over them, and the stronger its magic, including manifestation magic, became."\nMatthias looks as lost as you feel. "The Abattoir of Gibraltar would appear, beckoning sailors. They would vanish along with it."\n\n"Yes, it's clearly a function of-"\n\n"Stop." Danny will ramble on for an hour unless someone shuts him up. "You know another way in, a way that doesn't involve me cutting myself? Let's hear it."\n\n"I can't tell you, due to nature of the secondary function-"\n\n"Then how do we get in?"\n\nHe tucks the notebook back into his coat. "You'll have to trust me."\n\n[[E16]]\n\nYou're gunning for a couple evil vampires, it was inevitable you'd have to open a vein.\n\n[[E17]]\n\nDanny has his flaws, but he is one of the smartest people you know. So maybe he has unravelled the secret access code for this crypt entrance.\n
"Okay. Impress me."\n\nDanny takes you by the shoulders and turns you so your back's to the pillar. "Have you given any thought to what happens when we find the Maker?"\n\n"I've tried not to." \n\n"You're afraid it won't end well? Me, too." He nudges you a few inches to the side, then draws you a little farther from the pillar. You think. You've lost track of it. "I think if we're lucky, something will break our necks before we get to her."\n\nYour heart's starting to race and you feel a cold sweat running down your back. "Don't talk like that. I'll get you out of this."\n\n"You can't even protect yourself from those things." He glances at the fresh bruises on your neck, courtesy of last night's vampire attack. "They're going to eat you alive."\n\n"Stop it." \n\n"Scared?"\n\n"Of course I am."\n\nHe shoves you backwards. You scream as you plummet backwards, and a building shimmers into being around you. You hit a door and it flies open dumping you on your butt inside the mystery room.\n\nYou swallow your next scream back, trying to lock the fear back into the deepest part of your mind. As a distraction from that, you look around . You're sitting on a gorgeous parquet floor that shines with red-gold light thanks to the dawn that filters through crimson stained glass windows. There's an odd smell in the air, incense and a faint whiff of rotting flesh.\nThe wall behind you has shelves cut into it, and those are crowded with urns. This can't be an Oubliette.\n\n"A mausoleum," Matthias says in soft wonder. He pulls you to your feet and walks slowly around the perimeter of the room. "I've never heard of such a thing, but how my maker loves her lies, her gifts with the poison hidden within the treasure." He turns in a slow circle, and his eyes narrow. "She may not have her old strength, but she is craftier than ever."\n\n"The magic is hungry, and when it sensed your fear and vulnerability it activated," Danny explains.\n\n"That was a dirty trick." You'd be proud of him if he hadn't used it against you. "Get in here before something pops out of the ground and eats you."\n\n[[E19]]\n\nHe joins you in the cannibalistic mausoleum.\n
"Just get it over with." You hold your hand out. Matthias seizes your wrist, you see a flash of teeth, and he bites into the meat of your palm.\n\nWhatever. You've had worse.\n\nHe leans back, wiping his bloody lips off on an handkerchief Danny provides, and waits a moment. Blood starts to pool slowly in your hand.\n\n"Touch the pillar," he tells you.\n\nYou press your hand to it, leaving behind a smeared red palmprint. The building shimmers into place. It's a small square structure with a plain black door, and red and gold stained glass windows to either side of the entrance. You reach out and cautiously turn the handle. The metal slips in your bloody grip, and then the blood is absorbed in and the door swings open.\n\nYou look into an empty room. The floor is gorgeous parquet, and the stained glass windows make the red-orange dawn light even warmer and more inviting. The far wall has shelves cut into it, and the shelves are crowded with urns. The room smells faintly of incense and rotting meat.\n\n"This is the Oubliette?"\n\nMatthias shakes his head. "No, this is a mausoleum. I've never seen the like ... but then, it was created to ensnare the living so small wonder it never appeared for me. He reaches out and touches the stone, and his eyes narrow. "Clever. How the hag loves her tricks."\n\nThe boys step inside the building.\n\n[[E19]]\n\nYou went to all this trouble, so you might as well go join them.\n
"Since you're the badass vampire, super fast, strong, fangs, the whole nine yards ... I was thinking you should give the dagger to me. For self defense."\n\nHe shakes his head. "I need it."\n\n"And I need not to get blood sucked from my veins. I need to not get ripped up by feral vampires. i need to live, and help my friends survive this."\n\n"Need I remind you, this dagger is lethal to anyone it scratches? One mistake, one nick, and you'll end up like your friend, here. Also, if we run into Ralon he'll snap your neck and take the dagger off your corpse."\n\n"I didn't do too badly in the museum."\n\nMatthias vanishes.\n\nThen you feel his breath on the back of your neck, and cold metal touching your sternum. You look down and he's grasping the scabbard of the dagger, pressing the hilt of it against you. "Your courage does you credit, but unless you are extraordinarily lucky and catch Ralon in a moment of distraction or weakness, you will die. He is too fast for you. Our maker, faster still." \n\nMatthias releases you. "She is the true danger we face ... I have thirsted for her death for centuries, but as a fully transformed vampire she is simply too powerful, too fast and canny to be killed by the likes of me. This dagger is our only chance to survive her wrath when she discovers we have come to betray and slay her."\n\nWell, when he puts it like that ...\n\nYou force a smile. "So, are we ready to go?" \n\n"We have done all the preparations we can under such short order." Matthias grabs a few bags of what you hope is animal's blood from the cooler in the corner, and doesn't see you roll your eyes. Danny closes his notebook. The three of you return to the car. \n\n[[E1]]\nAt last, you get to see the Scottish countryside!\n
"What do you think are our chances of pulling this off?"\n\nMatthias looks pensive. "The odds are not in our favor ... but I find myself ashamed in the face of your courage, your loyalty to friends. You give me strength of spirit. Perhaps I shall prevail tonight. Perhaps I shall gain the true vampire heart, and slay my maker and Ralon, cleansing humanity of a small portion of the plague that-"\n\nHe rambles on. You shake your head slightly. It's just as you thought - this is aaaaaaaalllll about him, not one mention of keeping Danny alive or fighting beside you as an ally. Sounds like he sees you as a rabbit's foot or something, and just as disposable. \n\nThese vampires are going to learn they’ve fucked with the wrong human. You're going to use him to get into the camp, use him as a shield, or distraction, from whatever enemies you run across, and when you get your hands on the cures you may even be in a good mood and decide to take him along as you get the fuck out of there.\n\nYou paste on a bright smile. "Okay, I'm dressed and ready to play!"\n\nDanny looks disappointed and reluctantly closes his notebook.\n\n"Excellent." Matthias gets a few bags of blood - hopefully animal's blood - out of the cooler in the corner, and the three of you return to the car. \n\n[[E1]]\nWell this vacation sucks, but at least you get to do some sightseeing!\n
Matthias turns his back on your fuming. "Come," Matthias orders Danny. He hands over another change of clothes. They're close enough to the same size, although Danny's narrower in the shoulders.\n\n"Got anything for me?" After all, you are as soaked in blood as Matthias. Your tights are glued to your legs with it. The blood is flaking of your skin. It's like the world's nastiest mud bath, real Anne of Bathory stuff here.\n\nMatthias looks you over. "That is a problem. You reek of blood, pain, and death ... it will draw unpleasant attention from our Maker's entourage." He rolls up the door and walks to the next unit. He pulls the padlock off that door and walks in.\n\nYou peek around the corner and see ... a dungeon. Specifically, a sex dungeon. Black cloth draping the walls, leather-topped furniture, a whole line of crops, whips, and other spanky-panky items on the walls, masks, threatening boxes off to the side ... okay, cardboard boxes. But you're sure there's something disturbing and battery-powered inside them.\n\nMatthias opens a dresser in the back, rifles past some black lacy things, some wet-shiny vinyl outfits, and pulls out ... a french maid uniform. The costume, not the genuine article.\n\n"Aw, not that one!"\n\nHe narrows his eyes and pulls out a crotchless latex catsuit with strategically placed holes over the nipples. He holds it up for you to see.\n\n"Fine. Give me the maid's outfit. How did you even know this was here?"\n\nHe hands you the change of clothes and shuts the door again. "The woman who owns this unit brings her ... companions. They are not discreet about what they do. The sound carries extraordinarily well through the metal walls."\n\nYou clean up at the shower and change into the outfit. You'd been a little worried about one of the guys getting an eyeful, but they’re totally absorbed in poring over some mystical tomes. Matthias pulls out one book after another, muttering explanations and pointing at arcane symbols and illustrations. Danny has pulled out a little notebook and is scribbling away.\n\nNerds. \n\nAfter a moment of debate, you decide to add the thigh high stockings. But you're keeping your original underwear on ... they're only a little bloodstained. There's no telling what kind of stains the maid outfit's underwear has. \n\n[[C12]]\nAre there a couple things you need to clarify about Matthias's so-called 'plan'?\n\n[[C13]]\nThat's a weak plan for a bad situation. You'd feel a lot more confident about surviving the night if you were armed with, say, a vampire-slaying dagger...\n\n[[C14]]\nDanny is in the worst shape of the three of you. Can't fight, can't run, can't smart-mouth his way out of situations ... maybe he should get the dagger?\n
You think the boys need something of a reality check. "Ralon pretty much kicked our asses. Your magic knife didn't seem to make much difference in the big picture. Maybe we should actually come up with some kind of plan for our next move?"\n\nMatthias turns on his makeshift shower and rinses off the worst of the blood streaking his hands and throat. "Yes. Time is of the essence ... Ralon and I have injuries that can only be cured by a transfusion from our maker. If we can convince her of it." He narrowed his eyes. "That serpent is even now rushing with his minions to the castle where she resides. Ralon has always shared her outlook on undeath, and her appetites ... I fear if he gets to her first, he will influence her so that she refuses to aid me. I cannot allow him to win, not like this, a slow death of attrition."\n\n"And what about my friends? What about Misha and Danny?" He seems to have forgotten it's not just his life on the line.\n\n"I have heard rumors of a cure, but never paid much heed to them."\n\n"You're not interested in becoming human? Too much of a crimp on your revenge scheme?"\n\n"The cure supposedly only works on those half alive. I am beyond that, but your friends are not yet. Daniel remains human as the dagger drains his life force away, and Misha is technically still being transformed into vampire ... the process will eventually fail her, and she will rot."\n\n"Does Ralon know what the cure is? Or how to make it?"\n\n"I doubt he attends to such trivia. If anyone knows, it would be our Maker. Now, whether she is willing to share her knowledge, i know not ... she is capricious and unpredictable. Still, we must try." He rummages through the bags of clothes and begins pulling on a new outfit. "The three of us will journey to the castle where she keeps her lair. We shall slip in. I will convince her to cure me, and then attempt to learn how to cure your friends ... then I shall kill her and Ralon, if he's survived that long."\n\nWhat the- "That's your plan?"\n\n"Correct," he says, icily. \n\n"No equipment, no maps, no other weapons," his expression keeps darkening, but you can't hold the rant back, "no discussing combat strategy, no calling in allies you've made in centuries of existence, no specialized vampire-proof neck guards, no-"\n\n"There is no time," he snaps. "In any case, I have a library of arcane knowledge culled from human archives - some of it may even be true."\n\n"Useful arcane knowledge?"\n\nHe flushes slightly. "Anything is possible."\n\n[[C11]]\nOh, or the love of ...\n
"Danny's a sitting duck like this. I think he should get the dagger."\n\nMatthias shakes his head. "He smells weak-"\n\n"Which is my point. I can run and fight, you can carve your way through whoever we find ... what about him?" That bastard better not say something like 'he's a dead man anyway' or you'll have to improvise a stake out of ... \n\nCome to think of it, there's almost nothing wooden in this room. Someone has issues. Which you'd already figured out when you walked in here.\n\n"He reeks of weakness, death. A sufficiently crazed and desperate vampire might ignore how unappetizing he smells and attack him, but most will go for the more tempting target." He looks pointedly at you.\n\n"Great." You really wish you had some badass fangproof armor. "Do crosses work against vampires?" Not that you're religious, but you could always break into a church on the way to the rendevous and steal one ...\n\n"No. Ridiculous superstition to comfort the peasants." Matthias shuts his book. Danny tucks his notebook inside his pocket.\n\nYou smile grimly. "Okay, let's go!" \n\nMatthias snags a couple bags of what might be animal's blood - you prefer to think of it like that - from the cooler in the corner. Now that he's grabbed a little snack, the three of you walk back to the car. \n\n[[E1]]\nThere aren't many castles in the States, and this one's haunted with a murderous vampire! This should be fun.\n
Ooh, what luck! You find a pair of broken drumsticks in the garbage can!\n\nYou stake the closest larval vamp, praying Hollywood hasn't lied to you about this. The vampire squeals and thrashes, struggling to reach the wood sticking from his back. The stake smoulders and flames lick up from this vamp's jean jacket. You stare. It's even better than in the movies.\n\nHands grip your ankle! You look down and see another crawler has reached you. This one isn't looking so good. There's something translucent about the skin on her bare shoulders. As you watch, her skin splits and foul, rotten-smelling black oozes out. She worries at your leather boot, her hands gripping hard. You stake her too.\n\nThe vampires go up like dry paper in a fireplace, and the others shrink back from the flaring flames. All too soon their bodies are drifting away in the wind as fine, powdery ash.\n\nThe larval vamps lose their fear and come after you. Uh, it's time to go.\n\nYou take a minute to kick yourself for not saving one of the stakes, because from the screaming and roaring and smashing noises beyond the line of port-a-johns, it sounds like you're stepping out into a vampocalypse out there.\n\nIt's chaos, vampires on humans, metal head on goth, and here you are, a free agent. You see Ralon on the empty stage ... and then Ralon roars and in a blur of motion rushes across the field to confront a well dressed, vampiric-looking man who's waving a Roman dagger of all things.\n\nWhich means the stage is the only 100% vamp free area here ...\n\n[[A18]]\nNo sense in wasting time. You edge around the field, dodging the odd vamp, and clamber onto the hastily built wooden platform. There, you see -\n
This thing is drooling, and its breath smells like rotting meat. You struggle. It's got your hair, the collar of your jacket, and is trying to turn you.\n\nMisha kicks it in the kidneys and it gags. Black, rotting ooze shoots from its mouth and runs over your skin.\n\n"Shit!" You see it's wearing a necklace, a thin gold chaion. You grab the chain and pull upward, hard, dragging the metal towards the back of its spine. THe vampire's skin parts like jello and more blood, with streaks of that black stuff, pour out of the wound.\n\nYou squirm out from under it as it clutches its throat, trying to hold its own fluids inside. Beyond that vampire, you see a host more. Some of them look like they did at the start of the attack, pale and inhumanly fast and savage. You spot two or three that seem to be rotting, just like this one.\n\n[[A17]]\nHere they come. You'd better run. Good luck!\n
At least half a dozen vampires are closing fast. You rush into shantytown, dodging around tents. Misha trips over a drunk stretched out in the grass; you grab her arm and keep her on her feet.\n\nSome of the vamps stop to eat that guy. He wasn't too drunk to wake up when they tear into his flesh. Blood fountains up and spatters the near wall.\n\nBad shit must be going down on the stage, because Deadfalls suddenly quits playing. The automated lights keep flaring in random patterns across the concert field. People are going nuts ... the ones that are still alive, still human. They rush for the exit same as you and Misha. They stumble over tents, upending them. They fistfight each other in the struggle to get ahead. And behind, among them, are the vampires.\n\nYou lose track of your friend in the chaos, but you aren't too worried. She's pretty good at taking care of herself. \n\nYou dodging out of the way of an older man in blacked out, steampunk style goggles. You trip and slam your head into a kneehigh beer keg and try to regain your feet. Your legs are weak and your vision blurs. \n\nThe man in the goggles has pulled a pole from one of the tents and runs forward, shouting, and stakes one of the vamps coming at him. \n\nIt ... doesn't work. He goes down, screaming.\n\nThe vamp throws his head back, fangs flashing in the spotlight - and screeches. A thin line of blood appears on his cheek, and blue flames hiss like flashfire across his body. In the space of two fast heartbeats, the vamp has burned to dust.\n\nAnother vampire stands there. He is medium height and slim, with long black hair that curles at his shoulders and deep grey-green eyes. There is a scar across his nose; whatever made that mark broke cartilage and now his nose is crooked. There is another scar on his neck, just below his jaw ... as if someone had tried to cut his throat. He's smartly dressed in a kneelength tweed coat and a suit, both of them caked in bloodsoaked ash.\n\nHe's holding a wide bladed Roman dagger. He turnes and slashes at the pierced and tattoed vamp rushing for him. The tip of his dagger just barely catches the other vamp across the collarbone -\n\nSSSSSSSS. \n\nThis one dies as fast as the other.\n\nSomeone, something roars in fury. There's a vampire standing on stage ... though he doesn't for long. In a blur of motion he's crossed the concert field and is standing ten feet away from the man in the coat.\n\n"Too late, Matthias," the newcomer sneers. His wolfpale eyes glint in the light.\n\nThe man in the coat fingers the blade of his dagger and tilts his head, deceptively relaxed. "Now, now Ralon. You know we have all the time in the world to ... settle this. And I have retrieved a weapon that can dispatch you." He halfp-turns, keeping an eye on Ralon, and shouts over his shoulder, "Daniel, bring up the car. This won't take long."\n\nThat nake makes a cold shock run through yuou. You squint and sonofabitch, Danny is there by a collapsed section of fence. He looks awful, like he'd run two allnighters on not enough caffeine. He ducks through it and disappears before you can say anything.\n\nRalon growls, the bass rumble dragging your attention back to the fight. He's grinning savagely. He looks like a pretty rough sort, the kind Misha might flirt with. He's slicked with blood from his blond hair to his sleeveless shirt to his mudcaked combat boots. There's an 'R' tattoed on one of his muscled shoulders. He looks half-starved, strong, and dangeorus.\n\n"Have you seen how many humans live here now? There's a neverending supply of them for my army. I don't even need to worry about their expiration date anymore. I'll just keep turning them, and keep coming for you. Your nights are numbered."\n\n"Humans come and go, but my patience is ceaseless. Your discipline is not. All I need to do is wait for you to get sloppy. It won't take long."\n\nHe lashed the blade out. Ralon dodges and grabs you, holding you up as a shield. "Now now, I know you have a soft spot for the little kitties like this one. You wouldn't risk harming a young woman, would you?" He turns and breathes in your hair. "Nice little thing like this..."\n\nMatthias tightened his lips and lashes out, right for your stomach. Ralon dropped you as he fled back a few meters.\n\n"Haha, I guess I was wrong." He winks at you.\n\nYou decide it's time to get out of here. You stagger to yoru feet.\n\nRalon spits something black at Matthias which he is not able to dodge. \n\nMatthias falters, dropping to one knee. Ralon is suddenly on his back, on top of him, biting savagely at the side of his neck. You see even omre black start to spread through Matthias's veins, pulsing down. Matthias stabs backwards, randomly, catching Ralon in the ribs. Ralon howls and twists away. The dagger cracks and you see the tip of it sticking out of Ralon's chest. Blood gushes down, pattering on the ground.\n\nRalon wheezes with laughter. He claps, slowly. Every remaining vamp in the area looks up, staring at him, shaking with tension like hunting dogs hearing their master's whistle.\n\n"Kill him, my spawn!" Ralon turns and runs away in a blur of speed.\n\nThe two larval vampires nearest take advantage of Matthias's weakness and pile onto him.\n\nNearby you see a few planks of the fence have been broken. You could probably pull some splintered pieces off ...\n\n[[A19]]\nAre you going to help Matthias, and hope he's in the mood to help you get away?\n\n[[A20]]\nMatthias seems even more dangerous than the other vampires crawling over this place. Taking him out of the picture might be a smart move. \n
Ralon loops his arm around your shoulders and keeps you tight at his side as you walk toward the flashing lights of the stage. The first wave of larval vampires hits the crowd, who start screaming.\n\nOne vamp, with giblets of flesh caught in his teeth, looks up form the body he was savaging and edges closer to you. \n\n"No. Not for you," Ralon said.\n\nThe vampire looked from you to its maker. Its eyes were glazed, pupils blown. \n\nRalon pulled you closer and sniffed your hair. He didn't seem at all worried.\n\nThe vamp licked its lips, tensed, and rushed at you.\n\nRalon kicks it in the face. Teeth fly. The vamp whines and curles up. You see black, rotting liquid running alongside streams of blood from his shattered jaw. The smell makes you gag.\n\nA woman from the beer tent runs by, screaming, armed with a garbage can lid. The vamp on the ground lashes out like a snake, sinks his teeth into her calf, and drags her down.\n\nTwo more join him. The woman doesn't scream for long.\n\nRalon pushes you closer to the stage, where the slaughter hadn't yet reached. The band was looking over the crowd, worried, but hadn't stopped playing. Life as usual.\n\nNo, better than usual. You got a good view for the first time in your life, because Ralon would pick up and throw anyone in your way. He did this twice, and the third time, the six and a half foot beared guy in front of you gave you and Ralon a look of respect and edged away on his own.\n\nYou reach the stage. Ralon grabs a beer from another dancer and finishes it off, throwing the bottle at the stage. Deadfalls stops playing. Ralon jumps up onto the stage, pulls you after him. He hisses at the band. The guitarists clutch their instruments and run for the exit. The drummer takes a running leap at the fence behind the stage, snags the top, and two vamps grab his leg and drag him down to his death. The singer picks up his mic stand, pointing it at Ralon like a spear. \n\nRalon laughs, snatches up the stand in a blurred-fast motion, and rams the pole through the singer's heart. Blood fountains across the stage. You step back on instinct alone; it's not like your boots could get any bloodier or filthier.\n\nShit, you think to yourself. Misha is going to be pissed about this, she'd jerk off every night to her lifesize poster of Deadfalls' singer.\n\nRalon turned around and surveyed the crowd, which was looking a lot thinner. "Look at this. Five minutes, and they're mowing the humans down. Now this is more like it," he crows. "Good strong cattle make a good, strong army."\n\nThere's a sound, like meat sizzling on a grill. \n\nHe freezes and cocks his head. A hush falls, cut only by the fading screams of dying humans. \n\nThen, you hear it again. SSSSSSSS. You look over and see one of the larval vamps stagger, clutching a bloody gash on its arm. Blue-white fire flares across the vamp's body and it turns to ash as fast as a candle blowing out.\n\nThe ash falls through the air, and you see a well-dressed man is standing there, holding a wide-bladed bronze dagger. It looks like a Roman design.\n\nRalon roars in fury. In a blur of motion, he crosses the field and confronts the new man, stoppign a dozen feet away from him.\n\n[[A18]]\nHm. Maybe you should let these two boys work on their differences while you sidle out of the line of fire.\n
"Let's do this." \n\nMisha nods and grins.\n\nYou tighten your grip on the neck of the bottle. An edge of glass catches your finger and you wince.\n\nThe vampire hesitates, looking over at your bleeding hand. He sniffs the air. HIs eyes are glazed, the kind of look you only see in the worst of Misha's junky boyfriends.\n\nThe vampire gathers his legs under himself, shifting his weight like a cat about to spring. You don't wait for it - you smash the bottle across his face.\n\nCuts open up in his skin and blood splashes the mud. He howles and is on you in a second.\n\n"Shit! Misha, help!"\n\nShe stabs him in the back with the broken neck of the guitar. He growls, lips skinning back form his fangs like a wild dog, and lunges for your neck.\n\nWith all your strength, you force him from your throat. Misha pulls the guitar out, braces her feet, and rams it into his abdomen at an angle. The wooden fffffret? goes through his heart.\n\nThe vampire gapes and thrashes on top of you. HIs clammy, cold flesh suddenly gets warm. That's not good.\n\nMisha pulls him off and yelps. Flames are licking up under the collar of his leather jacket. He thrashes again, the fire rises, and you see ash spreadind and drifting in the air, rising in the currents of the flames.\n\nBeyond the fire, you see the beer tent girl. She'd run off, abandoning you two ... but she hadn't made it far. It was too late for her, but the two of you were still alive and kicking.\n\n"Let's get out of here," You tell Misha.\n\n"I'm not gonna object."\n\n[[A14]]\nUnfortunately, something heavy tackles you from behind. \n
You grab Ralon's arms for support, take a deep breath, and drive your knee into his groin!\n\nUh, that was the theory. You bruise your thigh against him. He's got a package, but he doesn't even flinch at the hit.\n\nHe pulls back and chuckles. "Well, maybe you do have a little spirit. I think I'll keep you alive for now, see if you'll make a good pet."\n\nRalon bites the pad of his thumb and smears the blood over your neck. The pain fades, the blood stops dripping. You touch your throat and realize the skin is whole again.\n\n"Alright, boys." He bites his wrists and holds them out to the crowd. "Come and get it. You're gonna love this." \n\n[[A13]]\nYou back off until you hit the fence, and watch this go down.\n
The metal fans crowd around Ralon. There's a crazed look in their eyes that you've never seen before, and you've been to some wild parties. \n\nThe men, and occasional woman, shove and climb over each other in their haste to get at his blood. The ones that do, drink from it. Almost immediately they stagger back, fall to their knees and vomit it up. And keep vomiting, more blood than they drank, more and more. Their skin goes white, their eyes gleam red, and their canines elongate into ... fangs.\n\n"Thirsty? I know you are," Ralon gloats. "Can you smell the people out there? So many humans, in such a small space? You know what to do."\n\nHis new vampires start climbing to their feet. The ones that are steadier on their legs run out toward the stage and you hear the screaming start. \n\nRalon strides out after them. He looks over his shoulder at you and clicks his fingers. "Come on, kitty. Show's about to start." \n\nThe other vamps - about half of them - look weaker. They are crawling or in some cases squirming through the dirt, hissing, sanity lost. Some of them are trying to make their way after Ralon. The others ... are crawling over to you.\n\n[[A15]]\nHm. You're outnumbered in this situation. Maybe you should look in the nearby garbage can for something you can use to stake these bastards?\n\n[[A16]]\nOn the other hand, Ralon did say he wanted to make you a pet. Maybe he's the type to protect his pets ... maybe you should stick close to him?\n
You grab Misha's arm and pull her away. \n\n"Fuck, come on! We can do this!"\n\nYou shake yoru head and keep running. Behind you, the beer girl screeches, and then her voice cuts out. There's a sickening wet tearing sound. You don't look back.\n\n"Shit," Misha mutters. "And she was really hot, too."\n\n"Sorry to be a twatblock." You aren't. Beer girl served an important purpose - a nice bloody distraction while you and your friend get to safety.\n\n"I hate to say it ... ," Misha pants as you push through the milling crowd, "You know I hate cultural crap, but maybe we shoulda gone with Danny."\n\n"The exhibit closes, what, at midnight? We've got time."\n\n[[A17]]\nOr do you? You hear footsteps coming up fast. Something hisses. You look over your shoulder and see a whole lot of trouble coming your way.\n
Misha and Danny follow the vampires in. They're wearing iron collars with broken, dangling chains but don't look much the worse for wear. \n\n"Isn't this nice? The whole family, together again." The Maker puts two fingers to her mouth and whistles ... the whistle seems to disappear. "I’ve summoned a few of my human servants." A butler walks in from behind the rightmost Japanese print. He's carrying a silver tray with a glass pitcher of some thick, red liquid. "Here's refreshments, if we have a pleasant chat. Oh good, here are my gravediggers." A collection of six middle aged and older men come in. They're all wearing worn jeans and dirt-stained wifebeaters or t-shirts. "You lot, wait by the door. We may need your services if this day ends like the last time we three were together."\n\n"Sadora, you are lovelier than ever." Matthias's smile doesn't reach his eyes. He kneels at her feet and takes her hand. She dances her fingertips over the unleashed bite on his neck. Matthias leans in to kiss her fingers. He freezes before his lips touch her.\n\n"Oh yes, I was just squeezing some fresh, hot blood for us to enjoy."\n\nHis left eye twitches. "From that mortal?" He gestures at the guy dangling above the Zen garden.\n\n"And a homeless teenager my people found last night. Little fool thought she'd be safe, sleeping in the ruins..."\n\nMatthias turns purple and straightens to his full height. The maker- Sadora - smiles and looks at him through her lashes. \n\nRalon saunters over and throws an arm around his shoulders, physically pulling him away. "Thanks, we appreciate it. We're pretty thirsty after such a long ride here."\n\n"Life threatening wounds do tend to whet the appetite." She trails her finger down his rippling abdomen and circles around the bandage on his gut. "I suppose you'd like me to do something about that, hmm? A little appetizer of the mother blood, before we get to the real debate - do I chain you in my kennel or on my bed?"\n\n"What?!" he roars.\n\n"I remember those first few years after I turned you. Do you really think you've grown strong enough to resist my influence, when your body is swimming with more of my blood?"\n\n"I'll drain you into a kiddie pool and swim through that!" Ralon roars.\n\n"Vile demon, your reign of terror on the noble Scots ends today!"\n\nYou shake your head. They just couldn't keep it together for one minute ...\n\nMatthias goes high, grabbing her wrists. Ralon goes low, tackling her around the waist. \n\nShe blinks behind them, grabbing them by the hair and jerking backwards, neatly snapping their necks.\n\nThe next blink, she is seated at her throne. "Fools. As soon as I knew you were here, used my magic to listen. I heard all about your plot to get the cure and kill me. Haven't you learned anything in your afterlife? First you kill ... each other. Then I grant a second chance at unlife ... to one of you." She holds up a single stoppered phial of blood. "Let the grand game begin!" She slips it back into the pocket of her robe. From your angle, you can catch a glimpse of a second phial. \n\nMatthias and Ralon twitch, arms and legs spasming as their spinal cords heal. They stand and glare at her, making no move to kill each other.\n\n"I am surprised. I thought there was nothing you two hated more than each other... Minions! Come to me!"\n\nDozens of archways shimmer into existence and creatures come boiling in ... all manner of weird, animated monsters. Giant hell hounds, tall monsters with scythes, creatures of wood and stone, mummified monks and moving armors ... and a snake. The biggest snake you've ever seen or heard of, so huge even cows would be in danger around it.\n\n"Now kill," she purrs. \n\nMatthias and Danny rush away from the horde, making a stand by the Zen garden which is rapidly turning into a non-peaceful place.\n\nRalon and Misha run for the doorway, tag teaming each other in the entrance to the hall. They soon vanish from sight in a teeming mass of attacking monsters.\n\n"Want to see a trick?" Sadora asks you. She gestures at the table of candles and the flames separate from the wicks, rise up into a ball which turns into a roaring line of fire. This flame monster takes a lazy circle in the air and floats over toward Danny and Matthias.\n\n"Don't-"\n\n"Grow a spine, there's more to come." She stands, holds her arms out into a T, and her veins rip open. Blood spurts out of her, her body seems to shrink, withering down like a deflating balloon. The blood hits the ground and writhes outward like tentacles, touching minions in the battlefield. Everyone it touches roars and attacks with berserk fury.\n\n"You disapprove." She grins ... or maybe her face is withering into a rictus. "Who would you have me spare my full wrath?"\n\n[[I2]]\n\nMatthias.\n\n[[I3]]\n\nRalon.\n\n[[I4]]\n\nThe humans.\n
"Let Ralon live." He's stronger and a better fighter. He's got the best chance of clearing this place of monsters so you and your friends can get out of here."\n\n"Hmm." She taps her chin theatrically. You get a bad feeling that she won't play along.\n\nThe battling minions have been shouting for a while now, but the knot of them attacking Ralon suddenly scream in shock and horror. They fall back and you see that giant snake thrashing on the ground, dying. Ralon is trying to grab something metal that is buried in the back of its neck ... you think it might be the chip broken from the vampiric dagger.\n\nSadora gasps. "My pet! The bigger twin! That was part of a matching set!" Her voice rises on every word. She throws her right hand out and the tentacles of blood slither over to the minions that had backed away from the serpent's death rattle. they shudder as her magical influence hits them and attack again.\n\nSomething explodes to the left, near the Zen garden. You see Matthias's vampiric dagger fly through the air and land maybe twenty feet from Ralon. The vampire is busy tearing animated suits of armor apart, but he'll see it soon.\n\n[[I5]]\n\nAre you going to risk trying to take that dagger?\n\n[[I7]]\n\nMaybe you should stay here and try to disrupt the maker's magic?\n
"Spare Matthias." He's the most likely to help you save your friends, and get the three of you out of here. \n\n"Oh?" Her face twists into a cruel smile. She gestures with her left hand and the blood diverts toward the battle he is raging with the monsters and the animated wall of flame.\n\nWhat a bitch. \n\nMatthias shouts something, his words lost in the general chaos. Danny dodges around a monk armed with a spiked club, circles the gravel Zen garden, and waves his arms at the floating fireball. \n\nIt seems to shrink and tighten, like a cat crouching ready to pounce. Then it explodes down in a tornado of white hot flames, barreling toward him. Matthias blurs him out of the way just in time.\n\nThe burning creature strikes the Zen garden, there's a flare of red and blue magic, and the fireball explodes.\n\nYou blink the black spots from your eyes and see a few fleeing, crispy monsters, a lot of dead, crispier monsters in that area, and Matthias and Danny on the floor out cold.\n\nThe vampiric dagger is lying on the floor near Matthias.\n\n[[I6]]\n\nThis is your chance to try to steal that weapon.\n\n[[I7]]\n\nYou can also take this opportunity to do something to disrupt Sadora's magic.\n
You pull a shard of wood from one of the planks and go after the nearest larval vamp. Congratulations, you hit the sweet spot on the first try! You're showing some natural talent for this. \n\nTHe vamp goes up in a nice, showly little fireball. \n\nMatthias finishes off his opponent by twisting off its head. He looks at you speculatively as he tosses the head aside. "You seem quite ... capable."\n\n"Thanks. I try."\n\nOne eye is twitching, and his fangs are still down, but despite looking like a man on the edge he says politely, "Well, I'd best escort you away from here. This is no place for a lady."\n\nYou see someone walk up behind him.\n\n[[A21]]\nOh good, here comes Misha. You'd worried about her.\n\n
This is an incredible bloodbath. This is worse than when your second favorite Industrial Metal band crashed that children's party and went after the clowns. You really could use a weapon ...\n\nLooking around you see: noting but your own bad luck. Unless you want to throw the drumkit at someone. Or the woman's thong you see lying on the stage. No, wait, that's a man's speedo.\n\nFine. You don't need this crap to get out of here. \n\nA weird, waiting silence has spread through the dance field as you cautiously edge toward the exit ... which is unfortunately close to Ralon and the other one. The silence does not extend to the shantytown of tents; that place is utter chaos of the few survivors pouring out, and vamps picking off any stragglers they can catch. But the straggler vamps are, for now, giving a wide berth to the newcomer with the dagger.\n\nYou get a better look at the new guy as you walk closer. Medium height, slim build you would guess, but he is wearing a heavy kneelength tweed coat and a suit, both caked in blood and spotted with ash. He has long black hair that curles at his shoulders and haunting grey-green eyes. His nose has been broken at some point, now it's crooked with a scar crossing it. He has another scar just below his jaw, as if someone has tried to cut his throat. \n\n"Too late, Matthias," Ralon sneeers\n\nMatthias fingers the blade of his dagger and shrugs. "Now, now Ralon. It's never too late to settle this like gentlemen used to... with this lovely, antique blade I recently acquired. Daniel! Go fetch the car, this will be done in a moment."\n\nWhat? No, that can't be-\n\nYou spot Danny scuttling through a section of the fence that has caved outward. He looks rough; even from this distance you can see his hands shake. He vanishes before you can call his name.\n\nRalon snarls. His eyes are bright with excitement. "Have you seen the humans crawling around here?" He turns his head slightly and you get the feeling he's listening as you walk closer. "There's a neverending supply of them for my army. No problems when I need to replace someone when he expires. I'll just keep turning them, and keep coming for you. Just a matter of time."\n\n"Humans come and go, but my patience is limitless. You are an undisciplined savage and all I need to do is wait for one ... fatal ... mistake." \n\nMatthias's dagger flickers out in a wide, viper-fast arc. Ralon dodges back and grabs you, holding you up like a shield. "Now now, you wouldn't want to hurt my new pet, would you? Such a sweet, soft little kitty." He sniffs your hair again. \n\nMatthias's face sets like stone. He slashes at your stomach. Ralon drops you and the knife whizzes by, through the empty air where he used to stand.\n\n"Haha, I see you've toughened up a little." Ralon grins at him, then turns and winks at you.\n\nMatthias offers you a hand. you take it. He glances down at you, meets your eyes -\n\nRalon takes advantage. He spits something black at Matthias, twists aside but still is stuck with it. He staggers back and Ralon leaps on him, biting savagely into his neck. More black starts to spread through Matthias's veins, pulsing on its way down.\n\nMatthias flails and stabs Ralon between the ribs. Ralon howls and twists away and the tip of the dagger breaks off in his chest. Fresh blood spatters his shirt, Matthias's sleeve. \n\nRalon zips back a few meters. He claps his hands and the vampires in the area look up from thier grisly meals, eyes fixed on him like hunting dogs on a whistling master.\n\n"Kill him, my spawn!" The vampire pile onto Matthias. Ralon staggers back, too hurt apparently to zip around. He clicks his fingers for you. \n\n[[A22]]\nShould you stick with Ralon? \n\n[[A23]]\nRalon's death count is much, much higher than Matthias's. Maybe you should check out what the less murderous side is like...\n
You don't know anything about magic runes or creating monsters out of trash lying around the catacombs you live in, but you think you can do something about the blood Sadora is using to juice up her minions. You go to the butler.\n\n"Can I have that pitcher of blood?"\n\n"No. This is reserved for your mistress and any she deigns to-"\n\nYou kick him in the crotch. Your high heel sinks into something squashy. God it feels good to finally be up against something that can be hurt when its racked. \n\nThe butler makes a high pitched squeaking sound, kind of like a dog's rubber chew toy, and folds over before dropping to the ground. You're ready for it and catch the pitcher of blood before it smashes.\n\nYou toss the blood away - why throw it over Sadora? It would probably just make her stronger, or she'd enjoy it or something. Then you take the empty pitcher and shove those little dunes of dust that have gathered by the walls in until it's full.\n\nThe maker is cackling again; you're pretty tired of that sound. You toss your dust into the streams of blood. The ruby-red soaks the dust in and muddles with brown streaks. The tentacles writhe like they're in pain and retract into her. She screams and topples back into the throne.\nThe battle is turning, minions fleeing back through the tunnels they came from. \n\nSadora growls, a deep bass sound that seems impossible from someone so dainty. You feel the stones vibrate under your feet. She writhes in her chair and changes, transforming into something ... inhuman. You see a mouthful of fangs and red, bleeding eyes, and you take off for the relative safety of your allies.\n\nMatthias is leading the retreat through the Japanese print behind her throne. "Hurry, run for your very life!"\n\nNo shit. You race after them. As the curtain drops closed, you look over your shoulder and see the Maker reach down to the floor. She pulls out the jar she'd stored next to her throne. "Come, my dearest. Let's eat them all."\n\n[[L1]]\n\nYou run faster, plunging down the coal-black passage, trusting that wherever you end up will be safer than what's behind you. \n
You duck and weave on your way toward the dagger. What remains of the pack of hellhounds is packing back and forth, baying with excitement. They're working up their courage for another attack ...\n\nThey spot you and pace closer. You grab a nearby, flaming shred of cloth armor and wave it like a flag at a bull. The dogs yip and dance away. You've bought yourself some time.\n\nYou step over Danny's limp body. He's still breathing and there are purplish runes burned into one of his forearms. He groans and Matthias starts to twitch. They're coming to.\n\nNo time to waste.\n\n[[K1]]\n\nYou spot the dagger, reach for it- \n
You pay the man at the gate and walk past the fence into the concert venue. It looks like they rented some farmer's field for this. You're on the edge of town, having wlaked past a long row of generally rusty, taped-together cars parked alongside the road. Some of them are parked sticking nosefirst into the hedges - that can't be good for the engine.\n\nYou straighten your Deadfalls t-shirt, adjust your leather pants, and pick your way through the 'complementary campground' set up on the path to the concert stage. It's preetty full alread, tents packed in tight. There's a lot of glass underfoot, good thing you brought your thicksoled rocker boots. They also protect you from whole lot of vomit, some streaming from the occasional Deadfalls fan blacked out in the grass. You see one man's wallet being removed by random strangers (or more likely the friends he came with).\n\nAh, Metal concerts. Unforgettable.\n\nBut where is Misha? She never takes her phone to these things - claims there isn't enough space in her leather bustier, thanks to her girls taking up all the real estate. \n\nOh look, some one spraypainted the inside of the wooden fence. The red paint is fresh enough it's still dripping. 'RAGE AGAINST THE MAN, RALLY THIS WAY' and a spray painted hand pointing a finger toward the line of port-a-johns. It's not pointing an index finger, either.\n\nThat looks like the kind of place Misha might go ... and you're curious about it yourself.\n\nOn the other hand, Deadfalls is about to start and Misha is so obsessed she keeps saving money to get a band logo tattoo. Money she invariably blows on tequila before she's saved much up. But enough about her bad money management, she may be in the crowd that's surging for the stage. You'd better decide soon, the floodlights are flaring over the stage and music has started playing.\n\n[[A2]]\nWant to vent some of your own Rage against the Man?\n\n[[A3]]\nWant to try your luck with the crowd of Deadfalls fans?\n
You hurry to grab a beer from the tent. Overpriced crap, 10 pounds for 12 ounces, ridiculous. You pay it anyway and turn to the stage. Misha is out there somewhere in the first one or two layers of fans, crowding next to the stage.\n\nYou drink half the beer for liquid bracing, hold your glass close, and start pushing through the jumping thrashing slamdancing crowdsurfing fans. The lights flicher, the music pounds, and you think you can see Misha just up ahead. This is one of those days you're glad you're short and small ... you squeeze between bigger metalheads without much trouble, working your way closer, closer.\n\nScreams cut through the throbbing music and the lead singer falters before getting back into rhythm. You look behind yourself.\n\nThe crowd swirls in confusion. You get hit in the head by a crowdsurfer coming from behind youu; he drops a few feet later and you don't see what happens to him. What yo ucan see, what you can hardly believe, is:\n\nTweakers?\n\nWhite-skinned, red eyed people, howling like animals, rushing at the outskirts of the crowd and dragging people down. Blood is flying. One of these freaks looks up, jaws gaping, and you see blood and gore and two long fangs.\n\nSo, worse than tweakers. Vampires. \n\nAnother pale man walks behind them. He has bloodstreaked blond hair to go with his sleeveless, bloodsplashed shirt. HIs eyes are wolf-pale blue, except when they glint red in the darkness between strobelights. There's an 'R' tattoed on one of his shoulders and his body's hard with ropy muscles. \n\nHe grins, a flash of white and too-long canines like a shark seeing a school of fish. "Remember," he calls out, "You're bound to Ralon. Go on, FEED!"\n\nThis would be a great time to have a revolver. Too bad you had to leave your's in the States. Here you are, your only weapon a half-empty cup of beer.\n\nSomeone slaps you on the ass. You turn and see Misha run by. "Come on, bitch. Time to book it."\n\nShe's fully armed with a broken guitar and a broken bottle. \n\n[[A6]]\nThere's two of you ... Misha has two weapons ... friends should share with each other. You run after her.\n\n[[A7]]\nMaaaybe you should find some place to lay low, while Misha takes care of things.\n
You step behind the line of latrines - they smell fantastic! - and come across the rally. A tall guy is standing on an overturned port-a-john like it's his own personal stage. You hear someone inside the john calling for help, but no one else seems to notice that, or the nasty chemical-blue puddle that is slowly spreading out.\n\nThe guy paces back and forth like a rabid dog that thinks it just might be able to scale the yard's fence and get at the postman. He's got wolf-pale blue eyes and bloodstreaked blond hair. He's wearing black jeans and a bloodspattered dark shirt with the sleeves ripped off to show off his arms. They're like the rest of him, thick with muscle that stands out like ropes because he's got no body fat whatsoever. One shoulder has an 'R' tattooed onto it. His jaw stands out like a hatchet. \n\n"Motherfuckers!"\n\n"Yeah!" the crowd answers.\n\n"You tired of taking shit?"\n\n"Yeah!"\n\n"Maybe you wanna be the ones giving out the shit?!"\n\n"Yeah!!"\n\n"But if you wanna cut some bitches up, you gotta have a weapon, right? So I've got some shit on me, I'll give it to you for free! And you'll never be the same!"\n\nThe crowd cheers. They seem ... a lot more sober than the people in the campground. You edge back a little. They ignore you.\n\nMakes sense. You're a short girl with mousy brown hair. People have ignored you for your whole life. Your own family has left you behind in the supermarket no less than six times as you were growing up. You're easy to miss.\n\nSometimes you do get tired of taking shit.\n\n[[A4]] \nVolunteer for some of his good shit? I mean, what's the worst that could happen?\n\n[[A5]]\nNot your scene. In fact, too rough of a scene for Misha. You think you still have time to find her by the stage.\n
You hurry away. No need to go through the looking glass this early in your vacation, right? \n\nYou miss the first song when you get sidetracked by the line to buy beer. Ten pounds for a 12 ounce glass. Robbery. \n\nHolding your glass protectively close, you start pushing through the jumping, thrashing, slamdancing, crowdsurfing fans. The lights flicker in your eyes but you think you can see your taller friend just ahead. Just keep pushing, you're small and can squeeze between people. Just a little more...\n\nSomething cuts through the pounding drums, gnashing chords, and gutteral lyrics of Deadfalls.\n\nScreams. From behind you.\n\nTHe crowd swirls in confusion. A crowdsurfer gets dropped and someone pulls him to his feet before he's trampled. You edge away, and look to the corner past the beer line, where the port-a-johns are.\n\nIt's see the guys from the rally, except they've changed. They howl like animals, like wolves. They have fangs, and their eyes reflect the stage lights in red gleams, and you see blood running from their mouths.\n\nThe man behind them, the guy with the R. on his shirt, gestures at the moshing crowd. "Remember, you're bound to Ralon. Go one, FEED!"\n\nOh, the shit's getting real and you're armed with a half-empty plastic cup of beer! Time to go!\n\nYou turn and see Misha run past you. She's carrying a broken guitar in one hand, a broken bottle in the other. \n\n[[A9]]\nThat's a woman with a plan you can get behind. You run after her; she is immediately swallowed up by the crowd but you hear her voice ... and she sounds angry.\n
A4\n"I want some," you call out. Your voice pierces through all the gruff cheering. Sometimes it's good to be a girl.\n\n"You? You?" A guy wearing a bullet belt, as well as feathery brown hair straight from the 80s, grabs your arm. "Get lost."\n\n"Bring her here," the man with the good shit calls out.\n\nYou're dragged before the crowd and pulled atop the portajohn. The guy inside keeps kicking at the side.\n\n"You look a little underfed, kitty. But hey, who am I to say no to a cute little girl?" He grabs you, cups your jaw with a cold, cold hand, and turns yoru face to the side. \n\nHe grins and you don't spot the infamous bad Scottish teeth (which you haven't seen much of, actually). No, you see two long fangs. Wider than a snake's.\n\nYou'd always thought vampires were a big myth, but the evidence is right here. And you've offered yourself to him.\n\n"Don't worry. Ralon's got you."\n\nHe sinks his teeth into yoru neck. It's a paralyzing pain, so searing and intense you can barely breathe, much less scream. Was this the 'shit' he was offering everyone? Is this supposed to make you stronger?\n\nYou're breathless and your head starts to pound. Surely he wouldn't kill you, right here in front of these witnesses ... oh wait, they saw his fangs, and they didn't do anything to stop him. These sad bastards are so desperate for a dealer they'll even tolerate one of the undead. You're on your own with this.\n\n[[A8]] \nStay limp and wait for him to get bored? Hey, that's what they say about bear attacks.\n\n[[A10]]\nFight back!\n
You don't exactly have a lot of options for hiding places ... but there is a large recycling bin marked 'plastic only' near the beer tent. Maybe you can turn it over and hide underneath?\n\nYou flip it, and it falls with a clang. You look around. None of the vampires seem to have noticed. You take a deep breath, scoop out the crushed plastic beer cups, used condoms, and shredded, dirty clothes in the recycling bin, crouch down, and manage to get it over your head.\n\nUnfortunately, a few of the crazed larval vampires had been attracted to the noise. They tip the bin on its side, drag you out, and attack.\n\nYou're pretty small, and there are four of them. It doesn't take long.\n\nYou have DIED.\n\n[[1]]\nTry again?
A6\n"Wait!" You call after her.\n\n"Move that ass, bitch!"\n\nJesus. She could at least give you one of her weapons ...\n\nYou spot a dead, bloodied man with spiked hair. He's got on his hand spiked knuclke dusters. It obviously hadn't helped him much but hey, couldn't hurt.\n\nYou crouch by his body and tug at the weapon.\n\nSomeone hisses. You feel cold breath on the back of your neck. You pull the brass knuckless of the banger and smack them wildly behind you. You catch the larval vampire in the jugular and it falls, hissing, blood trickling.\n\nNo time for this shit. You scramble to your feet and take off in the direction you saw Misha running.\n\n[[A9]]\nYou can hear her voice, just up ahead. And she doesn't sound happy.\n
"Hey! I'm talking to you! Get off her, fuckhole!"\n\nThe vampire Misha's shouting at doesn't look up from the human girl he's wrestling in the mud with.\n\nWait a minute, you recognize her black-to-platinum ombre hair. It's the girl working the beer tent. The one who rolled her eyes when you asked if drinks were really, honestly 10 pounds a glass.\n\nShe doesn't look so smug right now. She's putting up a pretty good fight, but the tall, beer-gutsy vampire on top of her is winning. He looks distracted, though. \n\nMisha's got that look in her eye, the same one she had when she knocked out one of her ex's teeth. She passes you the broken bottle and lifts her guitar nnnnneck like a stake.\n\nYou bite your lip. You've worked yoru way to the edge of the main area, up ahead is the shantytown of tents and you are so close to the way out, you can actually see the gate ...\n\n[[A11]]\nHelp Misha live the dream. The vampire hunter dream.\n\n[[A12]]\nAs the voice of reason, you decide to grab her and run for it.\n
Ralon holds you tighter as your strength gives way. His arms tighten like a vice, leaving bruises on your skin - he shakes his head, worrying at your neck like a dog with a hunk of meat. More blood flows, dripping down your chest. He pulls back with a groan.\n\n"Oh, that's good. Sweet." He drops you at his feat and steps over your body, over the blood spreading across the plastic. In your darkening vision, you dimly see him bit his own wrists. "Come here, boys. You're gonna love this, and when the hunger takes hold of you, I've got a little treat to whet the appetite."\n\nThe guys crowd closer, reach for Ralon's wrists. Thankfully, you black out before they get to you.\n\nYou have DIED.\n\n[[1]]\nTry again?
You edge down toward the statues, moving low, careful to always keep one between you and her. She is prowling back and forth, and you try to time moving to when she's at the far end of the room. You travel slow and steady ... if she senses you sneaking down it will probably set her off big time. \n\nWhere the hell is that distraction? You crouch behind a replica Antebellum dress. Hell, it might even be an original. \n\nSomething uphill crashes. More crashing. You look over and see at least a hundred antique Chinese statues rolling down the hall right towards you. Those idiots!\n\nSadora hisses and rushes toward the archaeological carnage. You dive under the hoop skirt to hide from her, and a statue strikes the dummy and sweeps it, the dress, and you into the pool of water.\n\nYou're trapped, the weight of statue and bulk of cloth holding you tighter than a fist. As your lungs fill with air, you spend your last thought hoping that Matthias and Ralon join you in hell.\n\nYou have DIED.\n\n[[L2]]\nRestart the chapter?\n\n\n[[1]]\nRestart from the beginning?
Matthias joins you. "Thank you for the distraction, very clever."\n\n"So you have the phials?"\n\n"I do. Ralon stayed behind to keep her distracted - I last heard him fleeing into the rotting woods. He pulls a the phials of cure out of his jacket pocket and you watch in horrified fascination as the blood rises up the edge of the glass like it has a mind of its own. He deftly twists the stopper out and swallows the red liquid.\n\n"Mmmrrr," he groans, covering his mouth.\n\n"Everything all right?" Oh god, is it cursed blood? Is Matthias going to lose his tenuous grip on humanity and lash out at the people around him?\n\n"No. Yes." He swallows twice. "I had forgotten how potent this was." he takes a deep breath. "I think I will hold onto this phial until we have escaped, to encourage Ralon to behave."\n\nRalon growls, having heard everything. He dives under the table and they kick, bite, claw at each other. Blood flies. The table thumps and rattles. You crawl backwards.\n\nThe superfast wrestling match doesn't end in Matthias's favor. Ralon gets the phial from him, bites the glass off and spits it aside, and takes the cure.\n\nHe wipes his mouth and tosses the phial aside. "I knew you'd stab me in the back sooner or later. Guess what? I think I can handle our Maker without any help from you."\n\nAnd the alliance is done. What a surprise.\n\nMatthias grabs him by the hair, hammering his face into the floor, and you turn your back on those bastards and crawl out from under the table. Let them bring the Maker down. You'll be on the other side of the room, with the dagger, taking care of business.\n\nYou freeze at the edge of the table. The evil, unnaturally still water at the end of the hall is still rising, and there no sign of the Maker.\n\nYou look around cautiously and spot her at the top. She's petting that clay jar, and she looks awful. All her teeth are fanged, which you can see as she snarls hungrily and looks down the length of the room. Those wickedly curved teeth drip with venom and her eyes go a solid red with no pupil. Her veins stand out, dark blue against that incredible, porcelain skin.\n\nShe gives the jar one final caress and sets it down next to a gorgeous statue of an snarling lion. Then she goes back to pacing.\n\nWhoever has the jar has the power. You could use a little of that influence to save one of your friends, to lay down the law on these vampires, to change the whole battle. You bite down on your lip and think fast. How are you going to get your hands on that jar?\n\nThere's no help for it, you've gotta get a closer look at the situation. You crawl out from under the table and keep crawling until you're behind a piano that has a collapsed leg. You listen - nothing. That could be good news, right?\n\nYou take a deep breath and peek out around the side.\n\nSadora is right there. \n\nFuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.\n\nShe rubs her hands together, her long claws clicking against one another. She grins, and you get a much closer look than you ever wanted at that maw of fangs.\n\n[[L9]]\n\nDo you want to try talking your way out of this?\n\n[[L10]]\n\nMaybe it's time to use the vampiric dagger?
You tiptoe over to the car and pull on the handle slowly. It eases open without a hitch - and why would she lock it? Nobody would steal from her. \n\nUntil now.\n\nYou smirk and take off the parking brake and put it in neutral. Then you slip out and kick the bricks loose.\n\nThe car crawls down the hill picking up speed and knocking aside globes, smashing vases, flattening and rolling right over a harp as it goes down.\n\nYou duck back out of sight.\n\n"NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!" the maker wails. \n\nThe sound is music to your ears.\n\n[[L7]]\n\nYou crawl under the table and wait for the vampires to return, assuming either survived.\n
You tiptoe toward the mirrors and wait, breathlessly, for the wonder vamps to do their big distraction. You peer around and spot them slipping into a 12 by 12 group of antique Chinese clay statues. They put their backs into it and the first row topples, hits the next, and they roll down the cavern like dominoes.\n\nSadora screams with inhuman rage and rushes at them, leaping over the tumbling clay. You duck into the ever-shifting maze of dangling mirrors. You've gotta be quiet, not let them hit you or bang against each other. Right now you're guessing she's so angry with her vampires that a human like you doesn't register as worth actively hunting ... but all that could change if she hears you approach the phials.\n\nThe mirrors reflect back your pale, tense face. You tiptoe forward, crouch to let a big spinning oval mirror pass by overhead, and then turn sideways and slip past a ten foot rectangular one that's heavily distorted.\n\nThere’s the robe. You grab the phials. The blood in them rises and shoves against the stoppers when it senses you near. You shudder and, reluctantly, carry them back up the hill. \n\n[[L8]]\n\nHopefully at least one of the boys survived to take the heart blood.\n
You stumble over your own feet as you rush through the dark, using all your strength to keep your legs moving through the exhaustion. You drop to your knees when you burst into the next chamber. It's a massive cavernous room that has somehow been tipped on its side. Water drips from the crooked stalactites, glittering like rain in the weak light of the huge overhead candle-lit gilt chandelier. The floor space is crowded with a hoarder's paradise of old furniture, older statues, curios, stalagmites, and dead and dying plants. \n\n"Come," Matthias says, giving you a hand up. Ralon is up ahead, holding Danny and Misha by the waist as they hurry along the chamber. \n\nYou feel really exposed despite being in a room packed with so many things. You look up ahead and see a massive wooden table, round, about twenty feet across. There's a ring of mismatched chairs about it. That thing looks heavy enough to give even her trouble to flip over. "Under here!" \n\nEveryone crawls underneath, to the very center. The vampires look out, eyes glinting in the light. You help Danny take off his coat and stuff it under his head. He lies there, moaning softly and cradling his magic=burnt arm, until Matthias reaches out absently and hits him with another glamour. Misha curls into a ball against Danny's side, her injured shoulder glinting with blood and worse. She's been smelling of rot for a while, and now the smell's getting stronger.\n\n"Just a little longer. Stay with me."\n\nMisha heaves for breath. Danny reaches out and squeezes your fingers. His voice is giddy and slurred. "Don't worry about us. Get out of here alive. Thas' all I want anymore..." He trails off and his hand goes limp. \n\nYou can still find a pulse. Misha is still kicking. You don't have a dagger, a plan, or even one ally you trust, but you'll find a way to save them or there will be hell to pay. \n\n"So!" You turn to the vamps, ready to give them a piece of your mind.\n\n"Sh." Matthias holds his hand over your mouth and listens. He bares his teeth in frustration. "She's here' and she's released a spell."\n\n"What kind of spell?" You ask from morbid curiosity; so far, all the kinds have been bad.\n\n"Long ago a coven of witches tried to kill her. The blight failed, so they unleashed their most potent magic- a spell that would flood the catacombs, destabilize them, and cause them to collapse. The spell is centered here, in the Dark Garden, writ in the walls in indelible runes. All her mystical art could barely contain it ... and now she is relaxing her wards."\n\nA thin trickle of water slides over your palms as you kneel under the table, and you can hear water dripping faster from the stalactites. The air is thick with the smell of murk and rotting vegetation, the scent of Lake Nathair. "She's flooding the cavern?"\n\n"Indeed. She will flush us out, let the waters sweep us into the final embrace of her arms as she waits downhill. We must act soon."\n\nYou crawl to the edge of the table, peek around a rocking chair whose woven-rope seat has rotten through, and look around. In the wall nearby, the one sloping downward, you see a small wooden door that sits slightly ajar. At the bottom of the hill you see Sadora. She's stripping off her robe, and hangs it on a statue of Medusa battling Perseus. As you watch, trails of blood run from her eyes and drip into the waters at her ankles which are starting to churn as the current flows faster and they rise. When her blood touches the surface it goes still as a mirror.\n\nShe gestures in a rough circle at the walls and her mouth moves silently in another incantation.\n\n"There's a door right here," you whisper. \n\n"Yeah," Ralon answers. "I think that will take us up and into another entrance to the wine cellar, assuming she hasn't had it bricked over."\nSounds great. "If we hurry-"\n\nWith a snap of magic like a rubber band against your skin, the spell the Maker was casting rocks through the cavern. The door ahead melts away leaving smooth stone behind.\n\n"Shit! She's sealed us in." You crawl back to the others.\n\n"We must make our stand here," Matthias says. "My strength is ... at low ebb. Yours," he nods at Ralon, "is likely the same. I have lost the dagger ... perhaps you were fortunate enough to pick it up, and just happened to forget to return it?"\n\n"What-you lost the-damn it, Matthias! I don't have it!"\n\nWell, you know for sure you don't have it. One of them is lying, or maybe it fell out while they were running, or fighting. "Whatever. Shit happens, move on." \n\nMatthias nods. "We must get that phial of our Maker's blood, and somehow bleed her of even more. This is a considerable task as she is actively casting magic and her blood is no doubt weaponized -"\n\nDanny would have been fascinated. You aren't Danny. "She lied to you," you interrupt his speech. "There's two phials. We just need to grab one."\n\n"Ah. Well, that is a small ray of hope in this darkness."\n\nRalon nods. "My girl Misha and your Danny aren't any good like this, but we've got one human in fighting shape. We've gotta split up, someone steal the blood while someone else distracts her."\n\n"I'll steal it." You're good at snitching small, valuable objects. And you're sick of being the bait; let them try it this time.\n\n"Right." Ralon and Matthias start crawling out toward the center of the room. "Get close and wait for our signal. Things will start exploding."\nHe's probably not joking.\n\nYou crawl to the edge of the table and survey the scene. You need to pick the right path to approach the statue, some place with enough cover but not so crowded you can't move quickly. After another quick peek, you see two options that lead up to the Medusa. There's what you will charitably call a 'modern art display' of different sized mirrors dangling from the ceiling on chains. They might make a good cover. On the other hand, the Medusa isn't the only statue she's got to display her clothes. There's a miniature wardrobe down there on marble and bronze figures, mixed in with the occasional plastic dummy. Some of the costumes on them are really bulky ... a petite girl like you could hide among them.\n\n[[L5]]\n\nInto the path of mirrors.\n\n[[L6]]\n\nYou're going to try the statues path.\n
No time like the present. You sneak over to the totem poles, glance around to make sure the Maker hasn't seen you, and give one a little shove.\n\nNothing. \n\nYou shove harder. Damn, those are really on there?\n\nYou go downhill and try to push it. Finally, one of the skulls high up wobbles.\n\nIt rolls from its perch and clatters to the ground. You turn to run, and another skull beans you. You drop to your knees. The bone fall faster, pummeling you, knocking you senseless so you can only lie there, staring at the ceiling. \n\nThen the other two pillars fall apart. Tons of bones and the bricks she used to stabilize it drop right on top of you.\n\nYou have DIED.\n\n[[L1]]\nRestart the chapter?\n\n\n[[1]]\nRestart from the beginning?
You can't take the time to get your breath back, and you force yourself to run faster. There's an archway up ahead, there's light!\n\nYou burst out into the next room and fall on your face. What th- the whole cavern is tilted about ten degrees, the bedrock floor angling down to the right. It wasn't always like this, the stalactites and stalagmites are at ninety degrees to the floor up until their very tips, where the new growth shows them bending...\n\nEverything is wet. The water drips continuously, the air reeks of rotting-weeds-and-ozone, that is, Loch Nathair. The gilt chandelier hanging at an angle from the middle of the chamber and casting the dim light of a sun behind clouds is glistening with water. \n\nThe room itself is set with a strange mishmash of statues, curios, and dead or dying plants in pots. \n\n"Hst!"\n\nYou scramble after Ralon. Matthias is supporting Misha and Danny as the five of you try to simultaneously tiptoe and run. \n\n"This way," you whisper, pointing to the uphill left corner. There's a miniature library set up here, a miniature maze of twelve-foot wooden shelve creaking under the weight of rotting books that obviously haven't been touched in a while. It looks at least vaguely defensible. Everyone files in and you discover in the middle of the shelves there is an embroidered fainting couch. All the colors have gone grey and the cushions sopping wet. \n\nMatthias lays Danny on the couch; he clutches his forearm and groans. Matthias shushes him with another glamour whammy and he goes limp, eyes glazed. Misha crawls onto the other end of the couch and curls into a miserable ball. She's wheezing, and you can hear a bubbling sound every time she exhales. \n\nYou pat their shoulders. "Hang in there just a little longer." \n\nMisha shudders and a thin line of black ooze runs from her mouth.\n\nDanny smiles; his eyes seem to look right through you. \n"It's okay. You tried. Just get out of here alive."\n\nNot a bad sentiment, and you do have your secret weapon - that dagger - so just maybe you can pull it off. But you aren't willing to give up just yet. You aren't ready to lose them.\n\n"Look at them!" You hiss the words at the vampires. "We have to do something now!"\n\nRalon nods. "We're at the end of the line. The water's rising."\n\nNow that he mentions it, you hear the water dripping faster from the ceiling. When you look down, you see trickles of wet running across the floor that you don't think were there before. "What is this?"\n\n"The coven that tried to kill Sadora had a spell up to flood the catacombs, and then collapse them. Even she couldn't survive that. The spell started here, in the Dark Garden, and she was barely able to hold it back. Looks like she's so angry she'll relax the wards, let the flood flush us out and sweep us to her. She'll be waiting for us downhill."\n\nYou sneak to the edge of the bookshelves and peek down the side. There's a two-story-tall archway in the middle of the 'uphill' wall. You don't see anything lurking in there ... \n\nNow that Ralon's mentioned it, you can see two sets of runes scattered on the roof, the walls, even the floor. Each rune scorched into the stone has another, meticulously chiseled in, next to it.\n\nFarther down the hall, you see Sadora just as Ralon predicted. She's pacing back and forth, blood running from her eyes. She takes a minute to slip off her robe and tie it over a statue of Medusa versus Perseus. She reaches into the water pooling over her ankles and splashes it over her face ... the water tinges red as her blood mixes with it and instead of splashing, it goes still as a sheet of glass. She throws her head back, holds up her palms, and her mouth moves in a silent chant. That can't be good. A day like today can make you paranoid about everything.\n\nYou go back to the others and tell them what you saw. "We can't stay here. I think we should make a run for the door at the top of the 'hill'."\n\nMatthias nods slowly. "That tunnel leads to the warrens, which should be only lightly guarded since we have killed most of the simulacra and tamed monsters. If-"\nA spell rushes through the chamber like the aftermath of thunder and you see the door vanish.\n\nMatthias closes his eyes. "She has sealed us in. It seems this is our battleground."\n\n"Okay." Ralon squeezes his shoulder. "I'm running pretty low on blood, you're probably even worse, but at least we have the dagger-"\n\n"I've lost it."\n\nRalon's eyes bulge. He's speechless.\n\nYou keep your mouth shut and your pokerface on.\n"Moving along," Matthias continues, "We must gain the cure from our maker, and somehow extract more of her accursed blood-"\n\n"There's two cures," you point out. "She's got them in the pocket of her robe, which she left on a statue down there."\n\n"Then there is hope. Misha and Daniel are beyond aiding us, but you are still reasonably healthy. Someone needs to distract her while another party steals the cures."\n\n"I'll be the distraction." You've got the knife, so you feel up to the challenge. But how will you pull this off?\n\nYou peek around the corner and see, by the far wall, a trio pretty creepy totem poles made out of carefully stacked bones. They look like they're barely holding in balance ...\n\nOn the other hand, the middle of the hall is graced by an older-looking Aston Martin held in place by bricks in front of the wheels. The Maker probably loves it a lot and would be very distracted if something were to happen to that gorgeous machine.\n\n[[L3]]\n\nAre you going after the totem poles?\n\n[[L4]]\n\nWould you like to take your rage out on the Aston Martin? \n
"One of the maker's servants scooped it up while you were busy."\n\n"Is that so?"\n\n"Yes. One of those guys." You point at the gravediggers who haven't moved from their seats by the door, despite the chaos of the fight.\n\n"Really? Really?!" He roars. You cringe. He turns away from you and marches over to the diggers. "What the hell makes you think you can steal from me, you miserable sacks of blood?!" He bares fangs. The gravediggers scatter toward the door. He starts tearing into them.\n\nYou still haven't gotten used to the sound of ripping flesh and the screams of the dying. You turn away and rub a nervous hand over the dagger.\n\nHe's in a really bad mood over this. Maybe you should split before he gets back? \n\nOn the other hand, he won't believe the gravediggers if they swear they don't have the dagger. There's no proof. Maybe you can stick this out.\n\n[[J5]]\n\nDo you want to run while the running's good?\n\n[[J6]]\n\nAre you going to keep cool as ice?\n
"Magic," he breathes out. "What magic? An incantation she inflicted on you? Some charm dropped on the dagger itself?"\n\nYou glance around quickly, looking for inspiration. "The wall over there-" you point at some runes carved about a foot off the floor -"it shimmered and the dagger sank into it and disappeared."\n\nDanny puts a palm over his face.\n\nMatthias looks at the wall. His eyes move side to side ... as if he's reading the runes. \n\n"These magical runes, a passive ward put up to keep the chamber from flooding with the waters of Loch Nathair, somehow ... ate the dagger? Is that your story?"\n\nUh-oh.\n\nMatthias blurs in front of you and grabs your throat firmly, though not hard enough to choke off your air. "What game are you playing?"\n\n[[K6]]\n\nDamn it. It was worth a try...\n
You hurry back and sneak under the table again. No change in Misha and Danny. \n\nA few second later Ralon slides under. "That was close. She almost got me - Matthias had to split up. He's off trying to lose her in that stand of rotting trees. You got the juice?"\n\nYou nod.\n\n"Cool. Gimme." He spears one of the stoppers on a fang, pulls it free, and swallows the blood. A shudder runs through his body, he bites his fist, and then goes limp. "Oh that's good. I'd forgotten how good."\n\n"So you're back to normal?"\n\n"Getting there. It'll take me a little while to heal." He snatches up the other phial. "I think I'll hang onto this for now. I don't want Matthias to remember his vow to kill all vampires with his usual bad timing."\n\n"Oh really?"\n\nOf course it's Matthias. He slithers under the table and the two vampires roll around like fighting cats, slamming against the wood above head, hissing, wrestling for that last phial.\n\nMatthias manages to grab the glass tube and drains it. Ralon slumps down and sighs.\n\n"You honorless dog," Matthias whispers. "I blame my dying fevers for even being delusional enough to ally with you. I won't make that mistake again."\n\n"Bring it."\n\nThat marks the end of their little alliance. The go back at it like attack dogs. \n\nYou crawl out, shaking your head, disgusted. Those two need to grow up, but you can be the adult and handle business here. No fangs, no dagger, no problems!\n\nFirst priority is leaving here so when they inevitably attract the Maker's attention, you're somewhere else. You crawl along the floor to underneath a rose arbor. It's set up on a pad of gravel to anchor the trellis. The roses are freshly dead, a lot of blackened leaves still clinging, and it makes a decent screen. You peer around cautiously. \n\nThe water down below continues to rise and is unnaturally still. Sadora isn't in it anymore.\n\nYour heart leaps in your throat and you look around frantically. You spot her, too close for comfort, pacing at the top of the room. She has that jar which she caresses, idly tracing the runes carved into it. She's got a mouthful of fangs dripping with poison - that's new - and her eyes are solid red, her veins a dark blue against her translucent-looking skin. \n\nAs you watch, she sets the jar down next to a carved statue of a snarling lion and resumes pacing, waiting, watching.\n\nYou need to steal that heart. It is literally your only bargaining chip, but if you can get your hands on it you still have a chance. But how? She's so much faster ... you need to draw her away.\n\nThere's a gong at the far edge of the room. You could throw some gravel at it and make a dash for the heart when she investigates.\n\nOn the other hand, you see a brazier nearby with coals smoldering in it. It does nothing to take away the chill of the room but it does give you an idea. You look at the faint smoke rising, look at the book shelves loaded with all those tomes and scrolls that are just downhill. Could it work?\n\n[[L11]]\n\nAre you going to ring the gong?\n\n[[L12]]\n\nAre you going to burn some ancient tomes?
"Ralon and Matthias are under the giant round table." You rat them out without blinking an eye ... those two have a better chance of surviving her attack, and if she's off using them as a chew toy then you're free to grab that clay jar, right?\n\nShe glares over your shoulder. You glance back and see Matthias and Ralon, who apparently heard you, diving for cover elsewhere in the room. Matthias's face is tight with dismay and Ralon flips you off as he goes.\n\n"Oh. You are fun." She grabs your shoulders and pins you against the piano, which creaks dangerously at your slight weight. "I don't like living alone, no one around to break. Since I'm about to lose my sons ..."\n\nShe bites her wrist open, that supernatural blood running down her arm in tendrils. Then she sinks her teeth into your neck. Your body starts going numb immediately and a cold clarity washes over your mind.\n\nIf you let her finish the job, you'll have power no one can take away on a whim. Maybe this you'll have some supernatural gift that will save Danny and Misha, since apparently none of the other vampires can be bothered to try...\n\nOn the other hand, she seems really distracted right now, and you still have that dagger. \n\n[[L13]]\n\nAre you going to give into your darkest temptation, and let Sadora turn you into a vampire?\n\n[[L14]]\n\nOr are you going to try to carve out her heart, as she richly deserves?\n
You reach out, easing an arm around Misha's shoulders. "Okay. It's gonna be okay. You come with me. I'll help you get some blood -"From a hospital? Butcher shop? Troll around town looking for somebody the world's better off without? You'll worry about those details later. "I'll get you fixed up, you help me rescue Danny, and we'll figure out what to do next." You gradually increase the pressure, trying to pull her up. \n\nThis mystical crap is way, way above your head but Danny's brilliant, and into weird stuff like crop circles and alchemy. Danny might have some ideas.\n\nMisha suddenly twists free and hisses at you. Her eyes are dilated, red-ringed. You hear the shower cut off- there's no time to fuck around. You take a deep breath, trying to nerve yourself, grab her wrists, and haul her to her feet.\n\nShe flashes her fangs again and twists her hands so now she's grabbing your wrists. The world blurs and tilts and you’re thrown into the bed. You struggle to force air back into your lungs. She's crouched over you and pinning you down. She twists your head to the side and you feel cool breath against your skin. You shudder, expecting to feel her rip into your throat. Any second, any -\n\nOh.\n\nMisha licks a stripe down your skin. Then she leans away. That's it? Really?\n\nA vamp, a pretty goth girl, has crept up. She pushes your skirt up your thighs, baring the vein, and you see her fangs flash.\n\n"Shit," you choke out. Where the hell is Ralon when you need him?\n\nMisha twists off you and backhands the goth. She falls to the ground, blood dripping from her mouth, and crawls back. \n\n"Bloody Mary mother of Goddamn," Ralon roars as he walks out. "I leave you horrible bastards alone for a couple minutes-" He breaks off and points at the vamps cowering in the corner between door and TV. "Bad!" He points at Misha, who dropped to a crouch when he started shouting, but doesn't back off. "Good!"\n\nHe sighs, running a hand over his freshly-washed hair, and leans against the far wall. You sit up and eye him.\n\n"Okay, sweet little thing, let's talk."\n\n[[D10]]\n\nThat sounds better than the alternative.\n
This is pointless. Any other day of the year, Misha would have your back. Not today. But that's fine. She taught you a lot about kicking ass and taking names. You need a stake, stat!\n\nYou push off from the bed and look around the room. The frame itself is really solid looking, if pretty worn and scratched. Ditto for the table the TV is resting on. Picture frame ... looks like metal over a paper print of a generic nuclear family, smiling vacantly. Man, they went all out decorating this place. \n\nThe chair looked ... possibly breakable. \n\nWait - THE CURTAIN ROD! Is that a cheap unpolished wooden dowel? Yessssss!\n\nYou stand on top of the chair - damn those short-people genetics your parents passed on! - and lift the rod off. You tilt it and the curtains slide off.\n\nA vampire pulls you off and you feel an instant of wet, rotting breath against your face. Then Misha, in a blonde blur, tackles the guy a nd you hear then hissing and fighting in the corner.\n\n"What the hell is that?" Ralon roars. You hear the shower shut off. You scramble to your knees and shove against the middle of the shower curtain. IT cracks but doesn't completely break through. You struggle to fold it into a V, and the damn wood keeps splitting and splintering but nothing resembling a stake. Shit!\n\nRalon comes in and kicks one of the tussling vamps in the head. Misha dodges his next kick, vaulting over the bed and peering over from the far side.\n\nThe curtain rod finally separates with a dull pop, only matched by how dull the broken edge looks. \n\nRalon reaches over your shoulder and takes your makeshift weapon from your hands. "Bad girl." He smacks you lightly on the butt with the wooden dowl, then tosses it away. He shoves you onto the bed, leans against the far wall, and says, "Right. Now that we're done with the silly games, let's talk about the real game."\n\n[[D10]]\n\nSince you're disarmed and without any allies, you guess you can make the time to listen to him. \n
"Matthias had a little help back there ..."\n\n"Yeah, I saw him. Geek in a suit."\n\n"That's my friend Danny. He was ... " you flash back to the lost look in his eyes. "He was acting weird. He'd been hurt, somehow. Do you think Matthias did something to him?"\n\nRalon wets a towel in the sink and swipes at the blood seeping from his wound and drying on his skin. He looks thoughtful. "He reeked of dying, but Matthias has never, ever tried to turn a human. I'd guess he got cut by that dagger, and now he's dying. That dagger hurt me like an everloving son of a bitch, but your Danny seemed pretty coherent, so I'd guess Matthias hypnotized him and took him along. Weird, since he usually doesn't keep pets."\n\nYou don't like Ralon's habit of calling humans 'pets', but it's probably better than 'prey'. You decide to let it go. "The dagger is killing him?"\n\n"It's a sacrificial dagger. It needs to be fed."\n\n"Jesus, so that thing is alive?" \n\nRalon glances at the well=wrapped bundle. It isn't moving and you wonder if you'd imagined that ... pulse that seemed to run from it when you were holding it. He shakes his head. "I dunno. Never paid much attention to this mystical crap. That's Matthias's area."\n\n"Danny has always been into chemistry, alchemy, metaphysics..."\n\n"Heh. Those two sound like they'll be so happy together." \n\nHe sounds ... jealous. You blink at him.\n\n"But they won't be happy for long," Ralon purrs. "That dagger will eat his life force, eat his sanity, stop his heart."\n\n"So nothing can cure the sacrificial magic? What about a doctor?"\n\n"Ha. Doctors are useless. And I don't know of any magic that could help him ... even if Matthias broke his precious little vows and tried to turn him, it wouldn't help. Your friend's a dead man walking. Just like the rest of us." He smirks in the mirror. \n\nYou're not so sure about that, but you're not going to argue with the bloodthirsty mass=murdering vampire that's kidnapped you.\n\n[[D4]]\n\nYou could ask what happened to Misha ...\n\n[[D5]]\n\nYou could get the gossip about this big hatred between Ralon and Danny ...\n\n[[D10]]\n\nYou could cut this crap and ask Ralon what his next move is.\n
"So I guess the concert wasn't as awesome as you expected. Sorry. I know you were pumped when you scored those tickets." Nothing. You edge closer to her, steel your nerves, and rub her back. She's still shaking. "Sorry about your favourite band getting slaughtered. But hey, that autographed album is going to be worth a lot more now. If you feel like auctioning it off." \n\nShe turns her head, eyes fixed on your pulse. It's probably too late to push her away and back off, in fact that sounds like it would trigger some kind of hunting instinct. You push on. "Listen, I need you to keep it together for me, okay? This is just like that time you dropped some bad acid. Just stay cool and we'll get through it." Her eyes flicker to yours', and then away, roving over the other vamps in the room. A pair, one tall and skeletal and the other a pretty goth girl, are creeping closer, staring hungrily at you. Misha bares her teeth at them and they flinch away.\n\nYou wish she'd say something. She has crazy eyes, but the way she's acting ... you wish you knew for sure if your friend was still down in there.\n\nIt's hard to admit, but maybe you don't know her as well as you always thought. Shouldn't you be able to tell, just by looking, if she's okay or gone for good?\n\nBut you do know Misha always likes to go to concerts prepared. Meaning, smuggling a weapon or three in, just in case some headbanger comes after her. It would be really nice if you, the soft squishy human in this little mix, had one of those weapons ...\n\nYou reach into the pockets of her jacket, slowly, watching her carefully. She doesn't react as you pull out...\n\nA bloodstained concert ticket, and a dental dam in its little wrapper.\nGreat, that'll save the day.\n\n"Having fun?" Ralon's at the doorway, freshly showered and shirtless.\nYou jump, dropping what you'd taken off Misha. He glances down and you have the uncomfortable feeling he can read 'easy greasy dental dam' on the plastic cover.\n\nHe walks in, smirks at you, and leans against the wall by the door. "So. Let's talk."\n\n[[D10]]\n\nYes. Let's encourage the vampire to use his words instead of his fangs.\n
"You turned one of my friends." You try to sound calm; right now, you need answers.\n\n"Oh?" He glances out the door. Only two women survived the big fight. "Stacks or the goth?"\n\n"Stacks. And her name's Misha."\n\n"Huh." He goes back to bandaging himself. "Sorry about that."\n\n"Why is she like this? I mean, she's so out of control, like an animal. Nothing like you."\n\n"Nobody's like me." He smirks.\n\nYou roll your eyes. \n\nHe smiles wider, and you see a hint of fang. "I was turned by the real deal, a full vampire with a True Vampire Heart. I'm half-blooded ... she gave me enough of her blood to keep me going, but I don't have enough juice in my blood to bring anyone over with me."\n\n"But," you wave at the vampires crowding the other room, "fangs, bloodthirsty, super fast and strong. Aren't they vampires too?"\n\n"They're still turning. It takes a couple days. But the vampire blood in them isn't strong enough, and they won't make it out the other side."\nYou think back to the fight you watched. "So they're all rotting alive."\n\n"Yeah." He turns on the shower, adjusts the water temperature, and steps under the spray in his jeans. \n\nOh no. He doesn't get to change the subject this easily. "And the people you turn always end up like this?"\n\nHe doesn't have a problem hearing you over the water. He cocks his head and shrugs. "I've tried picking the strongest, healthiest people I could find. I've tried turning them when I'm bloated with blood. I've talked to witches, looking for a spell or potion. They always turn out the same."\n\n"How-" No, you're not going to be a cliche and ask 'how can he do this'. You already know. He's an arrogant, murderous vampire with no soul. That's how. "Why her?"\n\n"I was hurt and hungry. She was there. And I could see how strong she was, how brave." He steps out of the shower and leans against the doorway, towelling his hair, looking at Misha. She's sitting on the edge of the bed, her eyes flicking between you and him. "Loyal," he continues. For a moment his mouth turns down at the corners and his eyes are sad. "Strong people last longer during the transformation, and I need strong minions to defend me, and distract Matthias while I kill him. It seemed like a good idea at the time."\n\n"Th- really? That's the best you can do? All these people are going to die and you-"\n\nHe grabs you by the throat and shakes you. "Everybody dies. It's just a question of when. You'd better make peace with your friend before she loses it and has to be put down, or she drops dead." \n\nHe lets you go and turns back to the mirror, fiddling with his bandages.\n\n"So nothing can help Misha?"\n\n"There's nothing I can do."\n\nHm. That's not quite the same thing.\n\n[[D5]]\n\nMaybe you want to know what's the beef between Ralon and Matthias ... it sounds like a juicy story.\n\n[[D6]]\n\nSo you want to ask what happened to Danny?\n\n[[D10]]\n\nYou need to learn the big-picture plan of what's happening next.\n
"Don't you think turning an army to fight one man is a little bit of overkill? Why not just let it go and stop wasting your eternal life on this crap?"\n\nRalon frowns at his hands- there's dry blood under the nails and in his cuticles. He goes to the sink and starts scrubbing. "Why the fuck should I let him go?"\n\nActually, you said 'let it go' ...\n\n"Why the fuck should I let him turn his back on me like this? He's not just giving the finger to what we are, vampires, the superior species ... he's spitting in the face of what we were to each other. Fucker," he snarls.\n\nUh, whoa. What? "Were you in love or something? Because the two of you seem like ... really different people." On the surface. But Matthias sure didn't have a problem carving a bloody path through that brawl.\n"You know what they say, opposites attract." Ralon splashes water in his face and rubs at some dry blood behind his ear. "He seduced me, then he was perfectly happy to go travelling Europe on my fortune when his family found out and tried to have him burned alive - this was back when we were humans. And I was glad to. I wanted him all to myself. And once he got what he wanted from me, from our Maker ... then he changed. Wouldn't share blood with me. Wouldn't hunt with me. Turned into one of them, those judgmental religious motherfuckers that had hunted us for centuries." Ralon clenches his hands on the side of the sink. His shoulders are shaking.\n\n"Oh..."\n\n"What a hypocrite. I never thought he'd turn out like this. Never. HE was always interested in the arcane, always relentless when he put his mind to something. And now he's hunting me, and he use to know me, and he's always a move or two ahead. He got to that fucking dagger first, didn't he?" The sink cracks. Ralon snarls, lets go, and shuts off the water with sharp, impatient movements. "So yeah, I need a fucking army because Matthias is just that dangerous. He's crossed the line and now, this is the endgame. The end of us, and with a little luck I won't follow him into hell just yet."\n\nHis eye is twitching, and this is a very small space, and you don't have a stake. Maybe it's time to change the subject.\n\n[[D4]]\n\nDo you need to ask about Misha?\n\n[[D6]]\n\nMaybe you can learn what happened to Danny?\n\n[[D10]]\n\nSounds like you need to come up with a battle plan for dealing with Matthias ...\n
You flip down the toilet lid and sit on it, watching Ralon poke gingerly around the edge of the broken dagger in his chest. \n\n"Shouldn't you pull that out?"\n\nHe stares at his wound and swallows. "Here." He tosses you a hand towel. "Wrap that around your fingers and get it. Careful, don't cut yourself."\n\nYou wrap up and reach into his wound. "This is going to hurt," you warn him.\n\n"Anything worth doing hurts."\n\nYou reach into his abdomen. Blood oozes around your fingers, at least ten degrees chillier than it should have been. Ralon clenches his jaw and you hear him grind his teeth. You manage to work your fingertips behind the blade and pull it out. \n\nThe metal seems to shift in your palm - you can feel it pulsing even through the towel. \n\nRalon snatches the bloody towel from you. He folds it tightly and carefully.\n\nHis side is still bleeding. "Shouldn't that be healing by now? Don't vampires heal really quickly?"\n\n"We usually do. But as you've seen, this is no ordinary dagger." He rips a leg off his jeans and slides the bundle into it. "It's like a vampire in metal, snatches the life of anyone it tastes. I have to be careful, another cut from this would probably kill me on the spot."\n\n"But it's okay for me to grab this deadly weapon?"\n\n"Don't you like being a useful little pet? Instead of just a portable snack?"\n\nThat does sound better. \n\nYou watch Ralon shred the pillowcase and start bandaging his side. He seems to be in a pretty good mood and not too bloodthirsty. This might be a good time to get some answers from him.\n\n[[D4]]\n\nDo you want to ask what's happening to Misha?\n\n[[D5]]\n\nWould you like to hear the dirty details of his grudge with Matthias?\n\n[[D6]]\n\nMaybe he knows what's wrong with Danny ...\n
You sit down on the bed next to Misha. She's sitting rigidly, her shoulders shaking like a dog waiting outside a shop for its master. Her blonde, curly hair is wildly tangled. You push it back form her face, spotting shiny pink marks on her neck where she'd been bitten. \n\n"Misha? Can you hear me?"\n\nShe glances at you. Her eyes are red, with dark circles under them. There's nothing human in them, no sign she understand you. \nFuck.\n\nA vampire with bright red hair in dreadlocks creeps up and grabs your ankle. \n\n"Fuck off!" You try to kick it away. He hisses and tightens his grip on your leg. You feel your skin bruise.\n\nMisha reaches down, grabs his dreads and the point of his chin, and snaps his neck. The vampire falls, thrashing, and black oozes from its mouth.\n\n"Wow. Thanks!" That super strength would be handy the next time you have to ride the subway at two AM. Probably not worth the cost, though ...\n\nShe doesn't answer.\n\n[[D7]]\n\nMaybe you can coax her to talk if you keep trying.\n\n[[D8]]\n\nMaybe you should grab her and make a break for it while Ralon's distracted.\n\n[[D9]]\n\nMaybe you should arm yourself with something. While Ralon's distracted.\n
You expected a 'vampire rock star' to live in an utterly trashed penthouse suite, maybe the back of a goth club, or a crypt ... \n\nReal life, as usual, is pretty disappointing.\n\n"You," Ralon points at you, "Come with me. Don't trust the minions around you." He turns around and shouts into the back. "Sit, stay, and DON'T EAT EACH OTHER!"\n\nThey hiss and cower.\n\nYou hop out into the parking lot of the Inn-R-City Motel, which ironically next to a railway line and nowhere near the inner part of any city or town. It's a depressing, one-floor strip of rooms with a guest check-in area near the road. The sign is blinking 'vac_ncy'. \n\n"Dude, what the hell? We're staying here?" You follow Ralon in.\n\nHe rings the bell. "What'd you expect? A five star spa?"\n\nWell, sort of ...\n\nHe reads your expression and snickers. "Sounds good, all those tasty health-conscious upper class bastards wandering around. Maybe a nice hot tub to take the chill off my bones. But not now. Matthias has that damned dagger, and he's gunning for me. Gotta lie low, replenish the fluids, come up with my next move." \n\nThe clerk stares at the two of you, eyes lingering on the dry blood caking your clothes. Ralon leans closer, catches his eyes. "We already filled out your forms. Give us a key."\n\nThe other man swallows, pupils huge, and hands over a room key. \n"All you remember is an older couple, stopping for the night. Right?"\n\n"Okay," the clerk says softly. He looks lost.\n\nRalon winks at you and heads out.\n\n"Wow. So you can do that with everybody?"\n\n"It works on most people. Easier just to kill 'em, but we're playing nice for now." He collects his vamps from the van and opens up room 8.\nThe single overhead bulb throws the room in a dingy yellow light. There's one bed with an ancient, patched comforter, a black and white TV on a battered wooden stand, an ironing board leaning against the wall, and ... the bathroom. The sink and tub are streaked with rust stains.\n\n"Wow, this is great."\n\n"Shuddup. All of you," he tells his new spawn, "Sit down, no biting. And don't lie on the bed! You'll get blood everywhere." Ralon grabs a pillow from the bed, walks into the bathroom and peels off his jacket. He looks at the still-bleeding wound in his gut and curses.\n\nMisha, you notice, glares at him and sits on the edge of the bed.\n\n[[D2]]\n\nDo you want to help Ralon clean up, and maybe get some answers to what's going on?\n\n[[D3]]\n\nOr do you want to wait with the other vamps, and maybe talk to Misha?