Book 3, Page2
“What just occurred?” the king queried of the priest.
John answered, “I transported us to Khawla’s village. Much gentler than the Frikian-Earth portal, right?”
Feeling the effects, Belmont replied, “A warning to prepare me would have been nice.”
“Come. Khawla is this way. We must be mindful, though, as Byzantine soldiers are common through this area these days with Emperor Constantine’s militia migrating towards Rome for war. The villagers will not know what to make of your kind strolling into their town, either. Therefore, I will cast an invisibility spell to conceal your presence.”
As John prepared to say another prayer, Belmont stopped him. “My vampire eyes are showing me there is no need for your incantations, priest.”
Perplexed, and not able to see in the dark at such distances like Belmont, John asked, “What do you mean?”
“It appears what we shall be greeted by tonight is morbid silence.” As Belmont and John crossed the edge of the village, the priest realized what the king was referring to. Dead bodies were strewn everywhere. The town and all its villagers had been brutally slain.
Blood soaked the dirt and grass before them. Infernos on the last stages of their fiery rampage flickered all over the buildings and homes. Death permeated the night, dominating all their senses. “Evil surely is upon these lands,” John said.
“Yes, but what form of evil?” Belmont asked in return.
Suddenly, the priest froze. Intense worry seized him. “Oh no. Khawla!” John instantly hurried off into the village. Belmont delayed following, though, for he made an incredibly keen and peculiar assessment. All the bodies were decapitated. The king proceeded to move to investigate further, and when John noticed he was alone in his expeditious dash to Khawla’s home, he stopped and inquired, “Belmont, what are you doing? We need to find Khawla!”
“Go,” the king replied, “I will be there in a moment.” John was confused, but he progressed forward anyway.
Belmont knelt over one of the dead bodies, and upon closer examination he realized the neck regions, both on the severed heads and the torsos, displayed remnants of bite marks. It was the rogue vampires who were responsible for the massacre. They fed on the villagers, and to hide the evidence of their blood feasting, they chopped the heads off their victims with what looked like a dull blade at the bite mark to mask their gluttonous activity. A normal person would not have noticed this; they most likely would have deduced animals had nibbled at the flesh, or the rough cut would have been the cause of the torn flesh. A vampire’s bite is indistinguishable to another vampire, though, and Belmont could not mistake the evidence before him. Then, as the confirmation settled in his mind, Belmont lined up the severed head closest by with its matching body, piecing together a vampire bite mark with ultimate clarity.
The king moved to find John in order to share his findings, and as he moved through the village, he noticed the aftermath of the massacre was not as chaotic as he initially expected. The placement of the fires, the greater extent of the damage being pinpointed near certain strategic areas in the village, all revealed what occurred was a strategic attack. This greatly concerned the king, for it appeared the rogue vampires on Earth committing the illegal hunting and trafficking of humans were more than organized smugglers with voracious appetites. They were a deadly militia with advanced experienced. Furthermore, certain groups of bodies were lined up in an orderly fashion – the rogue vampires made families watch as their loved ones were devoured. Sadism was an additional trait of the Frikian enemy plaguing Earth, and more cause for extreme concern.
Meanwhile, John found Khawla’s home and smashed through her burnt door with a burst of magic from his staff. When the flash of light subsided, he witnessed a heartbreaking sight. The Arab warrior was on the ground, kneeling while holding a lifeless body in her arms. The deceased woman had her throat mangled. “Khawla… It is John. Are you…?”
“They killed her.” Khawla’s voice cracked, riddled with sorrow. “They killed them all.”
“Who? Who did this?” the priest animatedly inquired.
Khawla slowly turned to John. Her face was soaked with tears. “I left yesterday to hunt – to get us dinner – and when I returned, I found my village in flames. Everyone was dead. The love of my life, she’s…”
John moved next to Khawla and placed his arm around her. His consoling touch ignited a burst of sobbing tears from the warrior once more. “I am deeply sorry, my friend.”
“When I found her, I kept asking myself how I might be able to save her. Then, I thought about you. I know your insistence on never using certain types of magic, but maybe…”
John embraced her tighter and interjected, “You know necromancy is forbidden, Khawla. Once we pass, our bodies are no longer vessels for our spirits. Our souls have been claimed. If they are in Heaven, bringing them back means they will be marked by God for immediate retrieval by the angels, and their spirit will be damned upon their prompt return to the afterlife. No force or being in existence can prevent this. And if their final destination is in Limbo or Hell, even a practitioner who successfully locates the spirit of the deceased amongst the innumerable entities in those places cannot conjure only the targeted spiritual energy. It is impossible. To those who dwell beyond the world of the living, necromancy magic is a massive beacon of light and energy. Anything within proximity during the spell’s duration attaches itself to the spirit being conjured, and all that energy is transferred into the dead body. They are never reanimated as the same person they were before. They become a legion – a being possessed by numerous spirits, and no amount of magic or exorcisms can sort through the new spiritual creation to rid the body of all but the one intended to be resurrected.”
The warrior continued to sob, but she understood. “I know, John. I just… I am desperate to get her back. We had our whole life ahead of us.”
“Who did this, Khawla?”
She paused for a moment to gather herself while weeping and answered. “At first I thought it might have been Byzantine soldiers who located me and decided to destroy the village to punish the people for harboring an enemy of the empire. Then, I thought it might be members of my Muslim militia who tracked me down and murdered the villagers for being infidels aiding a deserter. Alas, when I found my love and saw her neck chewed apart, I knew it was the supernatural creatures spoken about across the lands; the ones you have warned me about.”
John’s mind instantly thought of why they had come to her home. However, before he could ease word about Belmont to Khawla, the king walked through the door. When the warrior noticed him, she recognized he was not human but vampire and leapt to her feet towards her weapons. A savage rage filled her; a fact not lost on the priest who tried to intercede. However, he was knocked to the side by the incredible speed of Khawla. The warrior attacked Belmont!
She uttered no words. She offered no explanation. Khawla only advanced on the king with ferocity. The blades on her two-sided sword were curved. The other sword she wielded had a curved blade and a curved pommel on the hilt, as well. Both were incredibly sharp with armor-penetrating tips and edges, and the metal gleamed with distinct, minute patterns covering the entirety of the blades, signifying a damascus pattern of superb craftsmanship. By all accounts, the weapons utilized by Khawla were as magnificent and deadly as their demigod wielder.
Belmont was caught off-guard by the warrior’s advancement, not expecting to be received as a hostile. Thus, Khawla’s blade was able to glide across the king’s face drawing blood. The wound instantly burned with intensity, causing Belmont to feel pain as he never felt before. There was no moment to process the anguishing sensation, though, for Khawla commenced her vicious attack with the greatest of murderous intentions. Thus, the king deflected the subsequent strikes with his shield while repositioning himself and drawing his own sword. It was his turn to attack.
Belmont advanced with a flurry of his strikes, which were met by adept defense from the warrior. However, his elite maneuvering within the confined space of Khawla’s home quickly provided him an edge. The king moved to capitalize on his positioning. Alas, the warrior was able to utilize her own supernatural speed and agility to evade the attempts to disarm her. Belmont instantly realized he would need to dig deep to achieve his goal as the two engaged in extreme combat. Yet, no matter the level Belmont increased his efforts to, Khawla was able to successfully elevate her performance with him.
John watched on in amazement, as he never saw two combatants of their skill with their phenomenal gifts face one another. A part of him was also terrified, for he knew if he interceded to stop them his efforts could easily be mistimed, meaning death for one of them at the hand of the other. He was helpless.
Sword. Shield. Block.
Sword. Sword. Counterattack.
Khawla pressed further with more strikes. CLASH! Their blades rang loudly through the night sky. Lethal mastery was before the king unlike anything he faced in his entire life. Of all the vampires, werewolves, humans, and monsters he battled, none were as perfectly trained or formidable as Khawla. The threat to his life was superior to that of any prior combat experience. He knew he must remain incredibly focused and execute with perfection.
However, the king began feeling the same sensation from when he almost blacked out against the megathirio at the aima reservoir. Belmont panicked inside. Khawla’s attacks were only increasing in strength and speed, yet he began to feel weaker and disoriented. The warrior sensed this, which emboldened her to finish him. In a flash, Khawla was able to land devastating, rapid strikes on Belmont with her swords, slicing through his armor and gashing his flesh open. He roared in pain as the wounds burned and crippled him, forcing the king to stumble as the warrior moved in for the kill!
“Khawla, no!” John yelled.
Belmont’s vision became darker. He faded in and out as he buckled to a knee while the warrior descended upon him. Khawla was lowering both of her swords down towards his neck, and as she did, he felt his entire body become paralyzed. Once more, the king anticipated his end was at hand, until…
Time stood still as Khawla seemed to move in slow motion. Belmont’s body surged with power, making him feel indestructible and more powerful than ever. The pain ravaging his body ceased, and in a burst of speed faster than light itself, Belmont was standing on the other side of Khawla with his sword extended to his side and his shield in perfect defensive position. Thunder cracked in the sky as a storm erupted instantly. Lightning blasted all around the home. Then, a second later, loud clanging noises followed the storm’s greeting. The fight was over.
Khawla’s swords continued to rattle on the floor near her feet. She was motionless and confounded. The warrior could not fathom how she was disarmed with such ease faster than the blink of an eye while exercising her demigod strength and speed. John, too, was startled and dumbfounded all at once. Belmont had seemingly transported 10 feet without moving a muscle, as if he disappeared and reappeared instantaneously. It was then the priest observed the runes on his staff were illuminated with magical light. John glanced at his staff and then at Belmont, and a deep curiosity commanded his conscious. The moment was interrupted by the king’s declaration, though. “Khawla bint Al-Azwar, I mean you no harm!”
Belmont wore an aggressive articulation on his face. His breathing was heavy, exposing his vampire teeth. However, he also expressed a hint of bewilderment. Not just from the unexpected attack from the warrior, but as before when he lost control and slayed the megathirio, the king did not know what emerged inside of him enabling his unprecedented maneuvers. All he understood was he had been pushed beyond his limit, he was healed, and it took mysterious, involuntary abilities to defeat the warrior by disarming her swords without inflicting injury.
Sensing a chance to deescalate the combative tension, John spoke with fervor. “Khawla, please! This is King Belmont Rathegalia. Ruler of Friki. He is an ally and my close friend. The king has come to help us rid our planet of those who did this to your village.”
The warrior remained in a defensive posture, but she eased her stance as the priest’s words registered in her mind. Her eyes remained fixed on Belmont while speaking, “You know who they are? You know who did this?”
Belmont glanced at John for a brief second before connecting gazes with Khawla and answering, “I am not certain of their specific identities, but they are from my home world. They are my kind, and as their ruler it is my responsibility to bring them to justice, to stop them from terrorizing mankind.”
“Why should I trust you?” the warrior queried. “You are one of them.”
“They are wreaking havoc on Friki, causing chaos as they are here on Earth. If you do not believe my intentions for humas and your world are righteous, you can be certain I have as much personal interest in, and will gain as much benefit from, stopping the rouge vampires for my planet and people.”
John spoke next. “Khawla, please…”
The warrior looked at the priest, and then at her slain soul mate lying dead on the ground. Her demeanor softened at the sight. However, it was quickly steeled again before addressing Belmont. “I am going to pick up my swords now and put them to the side. I would love it if you would do the same.” She slowly hunched over to grab her weapons before placing them on the table next to her. As she did, Belmont sheathed his sword and lowered his shield. Then, both stood at ease. “Any chance you can put those weapons in your mouth away, too?” Khawla quipped to the king nodding toward his vampire teeth. This drew a slight smirk from the king.
The priest began explaining, “I’ve told you about the demons who stalk the night and their origins, and how there has been an agreement between our worlds for eons. Well, a rogue faction of vampires has established a stronghold here on Earth, and they are capturing humans in droves and trafficking them to Friki. The unsanctioned influx of people has completely thrown Belmont’s society into turmoil. Violence and upheaval have flooded their streets.”
Belmont added, “That is not all. I witnessed a shadowy clan of vampires traveling in secret on my world, and they dawned a mysterious sigil I cannot identify or find any record of in my archives. Yet, John has seen the rogue vampires here wearing the same symbol. They have seemingly arisen from the darkness, and I believe their emergence on both worlds is no coincidence; they must be tied to the illegal human trafficking.”
“Please forgive me but delineating between illegal and legal human trafficking will be impossible for me,” the warrior admitted.
“Understood,” Belmont replied, “which is why I also want to inform you my other imperative objective is to cease the consumption of human blood by all on Friki, joining our worlds together peacefully in a bond of partnership.”
John said, “Belmont has found a substance that is native to his world and can replace human blood.”
“Then, why has the blood consumption not stopped already?” Khawla asked.
“I have only recently discovered the substance,” the king explained, “and I believe its difficulty to find is somehow connected to these rogue vampires, as well.”
Khawla shifted her stance as she processed the information being shared with her. Then, she said, “Sounds like all of our problems will be solved by taking out these monsters.”
“Yes, my friend. It all ends when we defeat them,” John retorted.
Belmont then stepped toward Khawla slowly, a gesture which caused her to step back. The king gently raised his hand to communicate once more he is an ally and means no harm. The warrior relaxed again, after which Belmont expressed, “I know as king of Friki and ruler of all its inhabitants, I must make amends for every transgression inflicted on Earth that has happened during my reign. I will do this, Khawla, and I will help you avenge the loss of your loved one. Or I will die trying. This, I promise you.”
The warrior felt the king’s conviction deep in her spirit, and she knew he spoke with honesty. Belmont wanted to destroy the rogue vampires as much as she did, and she was convinced they would truly be aligned as one unit. Khawla knew the king was righteous, just, and worthy not only of her trust but her unwavering commitment. She also began to feel remorseful for her unprovoked attack on Belmont. When these sentiments welled over inside of her, she relayed her thoughts. “I apologize for attacking you, and I will commit my swords to your cause as it is now mine, as well.” Khawla then walked over to the body of her deceased love and knelt again. She kissed her hand and placed it on the woman’s head. “I will get those who did this to you, my love. I swear it to you now with Allah as my witness. They will all die.”