He felt his heart drop when he heard it again. A feral growl and the soft tingling sensation of a suggestion. A vampire. He caught himself hoping there wasn’t a werewolf as well, when he remembered he was weaponless. He cursed his punishment mentally, his eyes glowing brighter. The alley wasn’t as dark anymore, and he could hear the girl and vampire even clearer. With his mouth opened in a half snarl, he started walking down the alley, looking for them.
He smelled the blood just before he saw them. She was naked, and bent against the wall; the vampire was holding her waist, pressed up behind her. They were standing in a pool of blood, and when the girl threw her head back and laughed, Xanthiilus saw her throat had been torn. He knew she was alive right now only because the vampire wasn’t done with her. A cold fury flooded Xanthiilus. He was weaponless, but he could not bear what this vampire was doing. He strode forward and stopped a few feet from the vampire. He spat onto the ground and raised his fists.
The vampire stopped and the girl groaned her dismay. Xanthiilus met the vampire’s gaze as he turned.
“Why hello!” the vampire cordially greeted Xan. “Would you care to join us? I’m sure my pet here wouldn’t mind.”
The girl moaned and tried pressing herself back against the vampire. He laughed lightly and patted her head, but turned to face Xanthiilus.
Xan was shaking with rage. This close he saw it was too late for the girl. The pain of failure felt hot against the fury he was quivering with.
The vampire smiled reassuringly at Xan. “It’s rude to ignore a person when they talk to you. Oh! But allow me to introduce…”
“You are no person!” Xanthiilus spat, his voice grating.
“…myself.” The vampire’s eyes narrowed, but his smile widened, showing canines stained red. “I am Greyloh, one of the thirteen Elders.”
Xanthiilus felt all emotion drain from him, and his eyes slowly dimmed. The Elders were the original vampires, and they were exceptionally powerful. Even the strongest willed human had no chance of resisting an Elder. There had been encounters with elder vampires amongst the order before. Few of Xan’s brothers had lived, but no vampire had yet died.
The girl’s laughter broke Xan from his emptiness. The vampire had returned his attention to the naked girl, and she was clearly enjoying it. Xan’s eyes flared with a radiant silver light, and he felt a cool resolve fill his being.
“After all you’ve done, let her finish dying in peace.”
The vampire spun around and grabbed Xanthiilus by the throat. “Why don’t you beg, so that after I’m done with her, I’ll kill you quickly?”
The voice was soft, seductive, and alluring. The suggestion tugged on Xan’s conscience almost painfully. He slowly reached up, and grabbed the vampire’s wrist. Xan pulled on it lightly, and moved Greyloh’s hand away from his throat.
Greyloh stared at him in disbelief. He regained his composure quickly. “Fine, if that won’t work, why don’t you finish pleasing the poor girl?”
Xanthiilus’ silver eyes were burning. “No.”
“How can you resist me?” Greyloh raged, his voice crashing off the walls of the dark alley.
Xan spat in Greyloh’s face. “Because you disgust me.”
Greyloh opened his mouth, his fangs elongating, letting a feral scream tear itself out. He lunged at Xan, swiping out with his clawed hands. The vampire smashed into the wall, sending broken stones and dust scattering. He spun around, a grey mist filling the alley.
Xanthiilus stepped out of the shadows he had quickly jumped into. “That’s all an Elder can do? How did you manage to kill so many of my brothers?” Xan quickly sidestepped as Greyloh lunged at him again.
The girl was lying on the ground, holding her throat and crying hoarsely. Greyloh’s attention had shifted, and his will was no longer keeping the girl alive.
“You only have the power to hurt and destroy. Power torn from humans.” Xan sped into Greyloh, hitting him square across the mouth with a solid fist. A long canine clattered to the pavement, and Greyloh staggered into the wall. “My power is given to me by nature, and I will do everything I can to stop you from hurting anyone else.” Xan’s eyes were blazing and his black hair streamed out behind him like smoky wings as he urged his fist to hit even harder and faster. It struck Greyloh in the mouth with such force, the stones in the wall behind the vampire’s head cracked.
The grey mist started to recede as Xanthiilus took a hold of Greyloh’s head. With the image of the broken, dying, and naked girl burned forever into his mind, he gripped Greyloh’s head as hard as he could and pulled. Power teased Xan’s hair, his eyes closed. An earsplitting crack echoed throughout the alley, and Xan fell to his knees. He let his hands relax, and the two halves of Greyloh’s skull clattered to the walkway. Xan had looked up into the star-filled sky, and tears had streamed silently down his face. It was the first vampire that had ever been killed, and it was an Elder. He had killed it with his bare hands, but sorrow let itself drip out of his eyes. She had died, and he hadn’t been able to save her.
Xanthiilus slowly woke to the soft, warm form of Saleena’s nakedness pressed against him. He turned to look into her face, a soft smile playing at the edges of her lips. The faint moonlight drifting its way through the skylight in the warehouse that was their home hugged her body, showing the gleaming curves of her brown skin. Her green eyes were deep and clearly etched with concern. It was easy to read her; he had spent several thousand years with her.
“I don’t want to lose you,” he whispered into her hair.
Saleena held him tighter. “Dream of her again?” Her voice was a soothing breeze wafting through trees. “It wasn’t your fault.”
“All this power and it’s just not enough.” Tears struggled from his eyes. Xan blinked, and kept his eyes shut, eyelashes glittering with small droplets of water.
Saleena gently kissed his eyes. “You killed an Elder vampire. That says a lot about your power, Xan.”
Xanthiilus slowly opened his eyes and looked over her. The oak floor was bathed in the same moonlight that was so wonderfully caressing Saleena’s body. He looked to the open doorway that leads into her forest. The same moonlight that softly cradled Saleena drifted through the skylights above her forest, caressing the trees. It was peaceful, not a leaf was stirring tonight, and it looked darkly alluring, the trees playing in the shadows. A soft smile touched his lips. He knew that a dryad’s forest would mirror the dryad’s thoughts occasionally. His thoughts were quickly brought back to bed as Saleena pressed her bare chest against his. He looked down into her eyes. Her lips parted, reflecting the playfulness that was gleaming in her eyes.
“Your lord was none too pleased having learned the initiate he had punished had killed an Elder. Barehanded. What was it you were punished for again?”
Xan smiled, slightly. “I had told him that we should take a more proactive role in protecting humanity. What we had done could scarcely be considered protection. We waited for an attack, and then we hunted the creature. Vampires were usually avoided. I had said we should turn the tables, hunt the creatures of darkness actively, before they had a chance to attack.”
“Actually save people from being killed.”
“Yeah. But I failed my own ambitions…”
“No!” Saleena scolded. She put a finger to Xanthiilus’ lips to keep him from speaking. “You acted out of defense of a human being. You tried to save her, and you fought to protect her, even at the cost of your own safety. That is exactly what your aims were!”
“I suppose. But I’ve still failed to save lives after that. There are so many…”
Saleena cut him off sharply with a kiss as she slid on top of him. “You were the first one of your order to fight for humanity. That makes everything you’ve done a success. You didn’t simply hunt the creatures; you fought them in order to protect people. You’re fighting a war, Xan. There are casualties, but there are far less because you are fighting for them. Now shut up, you know I’m right.”
Xan smiled and kissed her, sliding his hands slowly up her legs. “Hard to argue with that.”
Xanthiilus kneeled on top of the building. He took a slow drag of his cigarette and held the smoke in his lungs for a moment. It was dusk and he was on the top of an old apartment building. The bricks were faded and the rusted fire escapes were missing a few stairs here and there. It was starting to get colder. He took another drag from his cigarette and looked at the horizon. There would be snow soon. After he had killed the vampire at the Halloween party, the world of darkness had quieted down a bit. For some reason, it always did when a vampire died. There had been a brief encounter with a lesser demon, but the demon had proven to be a very undemanding fight. During the past few nights, however, Xanthiilus and Saleena had felt increasing activity. Xanthiilus had traced the source to this apartment building, but he had seen nothing yet. Saleena was back at home, and Xan slowly pushed the worry he felt about leaving her alone out of his mind. He had to remain completely focused, especially since he didn’t yet know what he was up against.
“Out again?” Xanthiilus said in despair as he searched his cloak for another cigarette. “Maybe I should quit.”
Just as the sun drifted below the horizon and shrouded the city in darkness, a flash of white streaked passed Xan and into the apartment. In a rush of black, Xanthiilus leapt off the building after it.