Book 4, Chapter 2
“We must get up there,” Belmont declared. Earth’s night sky loomed ominously over their position amidst the trees at the bottom of the mountain stronghold as John, Khawla, and the king discussed what lied next. The moon shone intensely, making the canopy of darkness an almost deep, purple hue of velvet. The air carried a chill that seemed to permeate every pore of their skin. The scent of dirt and despair painted their nostrils.
Khawla inquired, “John, is there a way to teleport us inside the stronghold so we can bypass the forces on the mountainside?”
“Lest we desire to be embedded in rock, I need to visualize the destination in order to transport us there, and I have no insight into the stronghold’s infrastructure or construction,” the priest answered.
“I would much prefer to climb instead of teleport for a third time today,” Belmont added. “Let us travel around the mountain to find a way to ascend.” The king perused their surroundings for a moment before spotting an indent in the mountainside which provided a straight shot to the top while giving cover. “There is where we shall begin our climb.”
As the trio approached the indent, John paused for a moment. “John?” Khawla inquisitively stated as she noticed the priest halt.
John’s staff illuminated lightly with magic as he drew a seal with the Star of David inside over the trio’s head using magical energy. Inside the spaces of the star, he inscribed the prayer:
One letter was scripted in its respective space. “So, they shall not be able to witness our ascent. It is temporary, but it is something.” As the inscribed seal was completed, the magical energy fell over the three heroes, creating a tingling feeling on their flesh.
“Are you trying to tickle me?” Khawla jokingly asked as the effects of the invisibility spell took place.
“You have to be able to feel to be tickled,” the priest facetiously quipped in return, prompting Khawla to playfully hit the priest. Then, he said, “The spell has taken. Let us go.”
Belmont, Khawla, and John climbed the mountain with the utmost dexterity and skill. The king, being a vampire, was able to scale the rock easily using his enhanced physical abilities. Khawla, benefitting from the magic and alchemy potions bestowed upon her by John, was doing the same. The priest, however, saw his proficiency born from spells.
The cold, hard rock pressed firmly against their palms as they continued up the mountainside clutching to every jutted stone and crevice that was able to be used for gripping or stepping, and it was unforgiving. Despite their accelerated skills, the slightest miscalculations saw them occasionally slip, creating heart-skipping moments.
To lighten the mood, John began conversing. “Don’t worry. If we fall, I can cast a floating spell which will suspend us in the air and prevent our deaths.”
“I feel all warm and fuzzy inside knowing John Damascene is our own life harness of magic,” Khawla replied.
Belmont chimed in, shifting gears in the discussion. “Speaking of feelings, Khawla, when we battled earlier and your blade struck me, it cut through my armor and injured me. The sensation was almost intolerable. I have never felt such pain from a weapon before. How is this so?”
Khawla continued to climb in silence. It was apparent she was harboring an internal debate on how to reply. After a moment of quiet, she answered, “My blades were forged and quenched with an alchemical solution designed to offset the pH balance of a vampire’s anatomy. The reaction creates a visceral burning sensation which sends vampire muscle and skin tissue into shock.”
Belmont paused. He was confounded. Never did he hear of such a substance. That was when a realization overcame him, prompting the king to look at John. “Priest…”
“I was going to tell you when we left to find Khawla, but I forgot when we were greeted by the massacre of her village,” John explained. “I developed it for Khawla amidst the recent, sharp rise in rogue vampire activity on Earth.”
“This is what you do with the ancient knowledge of my people that I have risked everything to share with you? Invent new ways to kill vampires?” Belmont jokingly retorted.
John felt a sense of relief hearing the playful tone in the king’s voice. “If it offers any consolation, her blades will be exceptionally effective against the enemies we are to face shortly.”
“It does, priest. Any advantage we can get is welcome.”
Khawla spoke again with a sense of freeness in her voice. “Since it is ok to share, I guess I should also tell you that my knives and throwing daggers were also forged and quenched in the same substance. Furthermore, John used an infinity prayer on my throwing knives. When I use one, another materializes instantly. I have a never-ending supply.”
Belmont responded, “John Damascene, our living life harness. And now also, John Damascene, our own St. Nicholas – magical patron saint of gift giving.” The trio burst into laughter, muffling their chuckles to a minimum. The king adopted a more serious tone next. “A never-ending supply of vampire killing weapons will certainly be needed for the journey ahead. We are lucky to have them, and we are lucky to have you, Khawla.” The king and the warrior shared a gaze of acknowledgement for a moment, and then the heroes continued up the mountain.
Once they reached a secluded area near the entrance into the stronghold, the trio hid and assessed the situation. “There’s no way to sneak past them. We are going to have to fight our way inside.”
“One moment,” Belmont requested.
John looked at the king as Belmont stoically observed the dreadful sight of the rogue vampires driving and abusing their human cattle. The priest knew him better than almost anyone and recognized something was amiss in the king. “Belmont, what is it?”
As the priest and Khawla looked at him with attentiveness, Belmont answered, “When we emerge to attack, nothing will ever be the same. I will never be the same. Earth and Friki, humans and vampires, the connection will forever be changed. The tides of destiny have long been washed ashore, but there will be no turning back, and we may already be too late.” Khawla and John glance at one another. Neither knew exactly where Belmont’s train of thought was leading, until… “I am still their king. Maybe diplomacy can…”
Khawla grabbed the king gently, but firmly, and looked him deeply in his eyes, “You promised me blood, Belmont.”
“King,” John interjected, “I understand your sudden hesitation. May we not forget, though, the carnage this clan has caused on Friki and on Earth; the carnage and death they have plagued both worlds and its inhabitants with. Vampires are not monsters in the night. Your kind are beautiful, powerful, and capable of remarkable feats. Yet, if there is one thing I have learned, just as humans have with power, vampires have an insatiable thirst for blood, and before us is irrefutable proof of the lengths they are willing to go to satiate that thirst knowing it can never be quenched, only appeased.”
Belmont stared ahead while processing John’s thoughts. He knew the priest was right. “I cannot deny your words, my friend. I just… I fear that in doing what needs to be done – slaughtering every one of these traitors – I will be killing the part of myself that has strived to protect every Frikian under my rule; the part of me that makes me who I am. What do we do when the cost of waging war is one’s soul?”
Khawla fervently replied, “That cost has already been paid by others on your behalf.” The warrior glared at the rogue vampires. “The love of my life paid that cost with her own. My village paid that cost. You owe them, Belmont. We both do. I should have been there to protect them. You should have been able to prevent all of this from coming to pass as Friki’s king. Undoubtedly, those thoughts will haunt us for the rest of our days. Now is not the time to lament on such things, though. Now is the time to repay the debt you and I have incurred to those who paid the cost with their lives. For, if we don’t act…”
“There exists no fallacy in your words either, Khawla,” Belmont interjected as he joined her in glaring at the enemy. “I have failed Friki and all its inhabitants once, and if we don’t act by doing what needs to be done now, I will fail them again. That is something I refuse to do, and if I must lose a part of myself in the process, so be it. Sacrifice is the greatest burden, and the greatest privilege, of being a king.”
Khawla once again placed her hand on Belmont, this time in an understanding and supportive manner. John joined her hand on the king by placing his atop the warrior’s, and the three shared a moment of recognition and community. Then, the invisibility prayer dispersed as they felt a tingling sensation on their skin again. Belmont declared, “Let us begin to repay that debt, my friends.”
“Hurry up, bags!” As a rogue vampire overseer referred to the humans as sacks of blood for consumption, he whipped them vigorously, splashing blood off their backs into the frigid night sky. The soaked whip returned to the vampire and dripped crimson liquid on his hand as he brought the leather to his mouth to lick it. The sound of the bloody material sliding against his palm resonated in his ears as he relished in the moment. “The taste…”
Before the vampire could finish his sentence, though, a throwing knife pierced the whip, his tongue, and exited the back of his head! A gaping hole was left in the vampire’s skull, as his brains slowly oozed out of the opening. The force of the impact exploded everything in his cranium, shocking all the other rogue vampires.
“STOP!” one vampire shouted. The humans all fell to the ground and screamed at the sight before them. “INTRUDERS!”
Another throwing knife impaled the throat of a rogue vampire. Two more. Three more. Throwing knives began felling rogue vampires in bunches! And before they knew it, Belmont, Khawla and John were in full attack mode!
Chaos erupted on the mountainside path. The rogue vampire soldiers immediately took out their weapons and charged while the overseers fell into emergency protocol and began to herd and secure the humans so their ranks could form battle formations. The enemy was incredibly well trained, disciplined, and prepared for action.
Arrows emerged from the path. As they approached, John said a prayer that catapulted him in the air while surrounding him with an energy field which blocked the arrows. Khawla and Belmont moved with supernatural speed, weaving in and out of the arrows’ paths. Their maneuvers were slick as morning dew rolling down the leaf of a tree. Fluidity defined their movements, as every duck, sidestep, spin, bob, and weave were executed flawlessly as the two heroes crossed paths, remaining impossible to target. Finally, at the frontline of the rogue vampires, untouched and unscathed by the projectiles as the last whizzing noise exited their ears, Belmont and Khawla attacked.
BOOM! The king unleashed his shield attack on the first rogue, exploding the front side of his body on contact, sending his tattered corpse flying. Sword maneuvers followed, striking in, out, and across enemies with ease. The sound of punctured flesh and broken bones riddled the sky, as the dirt beneath their feet crunched and rocks fell off the mountainside due to the seismic nature of the king’s powerful onslaught catapulting vampire bodies into the surrounding rock.
“AAAARRRRGH!” Screams of unbridled pain and agony emanated from all around Khawla. Her special swords were a blur to the rogue vampires. One moment they were using their vampire vision to track her accelerated movements, and the next blood was spraying from their severed jugulars. Decapitated heads slammed into the ground and rolled by the feet of other vampires. Vicious kicks broke skeletons, puncturing internal organs, and sent them flying through the skin and out of their bodies. The enemy rapidly approached the warrior only to become mutilated and fall dead at her feet.
The deafening sound of metal on metal rang through the surroundings, causing the humans to jolt back and forth as the noise startled them greatly. They desperately moved to cover their ears while burying their faces in their arms. The gruesome sight of the rogues getting slayed was too much, even though the victims were their captors and enslavers.
John landed in a crowd of enemies and immediately brandished his staff. The metal was infused with magical energy, bursting enemies’ body parts on impact, as John continued to pray loudly.
This religious enchantment fortified his weapon, strengthening its attacks while ensuring it struck his targets. Heads, arms, and legs continued to explode, the blood instantly evaporating in the magical energy encompassing the staff and John, as the priest attacked and counterattacked. Occasionally, he would be struck by a blade of the enemy. When he was, he instantly prayed.
This would instantly stop his bleeding and heal his wounds, a sight which struck fear into the hearts of the rogue vampires.
“He’s… he’s a dark practitioner!” vampires yelled during battle. Thus, a large group immediately banded together to advance on John; they moved to swarm him in an attempt to take him out and rid the use of magic from the battle.
Seeing the approaching mob, John became alarmed.
His prayer was an enchantment to strike fear from his mind and heart. Though a formidable warrior, John was nowhere near as seasoned, or battle hardened, as Belmont and Khawla were. Facing the rogue vampires was more than challenging for him, and after his early success eliminated many enemies, witnessing the swarm of rogues approaching worried him greatly. Nevertheless, he stood his ground. “Come on!” he yelled as he fixed his position to defend himself. Then, as he parried the first sword attack and struck a counter that blasted a whole through the rogue vampire’s chest, he witnessed another blade coming at him from the side. John instantly realized he would not be able to block or avoid the strike. His end was at hand! Until…
CLANG! One of Khawla’s throwing knives hit the blade making the kill strike, saving the priest! John backpedaled in full defense mode, and as he did, Khawla sprinted into the fray, striking down the enemies in the mob. Her blades sizzled as they lacerated and chopped off limbs and flesh, sending the vampires to their deaths. The group continued to forge on, though, without hesitation, as they were determined to rid the heroes of their magical ally. Realizing this, the warrior called out, “BELMONT!”
Removing his sword from the throat of an enemy, he used his supernatural quickness to turn to Khawla while extending his weapon, cutting off the heads of three rogues who had made the mistake of trying to surround the king. He immediately noticed John in dire straits, and without hesitation he launched himself forward with his blinding vampire speed. The enemy used their own advanced abilities to stay with the king, tracking his movements to intercept him. Belmont deflected arrows and sword strikes on the way, not spending a millisecond to counter, as he knew John was in trouble. Thus, he advanced without being deterred as an unstoppable blocking machine. Finally, when he reached John’s location he yelled out, “PRIEST!”
John sensed Belmont coming in blazing hot, so he used an energy burst from the bottom of his staff to propel himself backwards, creating instant distance between him and the front of the mob. That is when Belmont raised his shield and held it sideways. The long, horizontal barrier led his charge, as he rammed into the entire front of the group in the blink of an eye, smashing the enemies into the side of the mountain. Most of the vampires’ bodies exploded into clouds of blood-soaked bone and entrail dust. The lower halves of their bodies beneath the shield still in-tact toppled to the ground. Next, without a second thought, Belmont yanked his shield which was embedded in the mountainside and turned to immediately re-engage in battle.
Khawla slid underneath a sword strike while running at two enemies, holding her double-sided blade in front of her. It ran through the midriffs of the vampires on both sides, chopping them in half at the waist. Blood splashed on her back as she passed by before springing to her feet. Swiping and thrusting with both of her swords, the curved blades of her Arabic weapons continued to open the flesh of the rogue vampires, spiraling their bodies into immediate shock and torment seconds before their lives passed. Just as easy as she would wield her swords, though, she would also sheath her short one to free a hand to launch a wave of throwing knives. They passed through the torsos of the enemies like a stone being thrown into water, forcefully splashing into the surface before sending streams of liquid everywhere.
John continued to battle ferociously. With relief provided from Khawla’s and Belmont’s assistance, he was able to gather himself and press forward. He launched magical bursts of energy into the crowds of rogue vampires, blowing up two and three enemies at a time. The prayer he enchanted his staff with virtually guaranteed a bullseye hit with every shot, maximizing the lethal damage done.
Consequently, another large group of rogue vampires advanced on him. They were set on eliminating John, for no matter how superior Belmont and Khawla were as combatants, no matter how many more of the rogue vampires the two killed, John’s magic was viewed by the enemy as the gravest threat. Their top priority was killing him, reflected in the non-stop assault sent his way. This caused John to dig deep into his archives, resorting to a much rarer, yet, immensely more powerful prayer. Since he would need a few seconds to invoke it, he elevated himself above the crowd with another burst of magic from the bottom of his staff. Then, as he ascended he prayed:
As John finished his prayer and began his descent, he lifted his staff high above his head to gain momentum for a strike. Finally, as he came down upon the large group of vampires, he shouted the final word of the prayer. “AMEN!” As he landed, the staff impaled the rock path beneath them, and an enormous burst of energy erupted from the ground! The waves of pulsating magic tore through the crowd, incinerating the rogue vampires before it contacted their bodies. A moment of awe and silence overcame the battle, as some yards away Belmont and Khawla noticed the immediate area was clear of enemies.
The warrior looked around ensuring the area was clear before turning to John and saying, “You couldn’t have led with that?”
Belmont approached her, as did the priest, and John replied sarcastically while catching his breath, “And forgo all the excitement of battle? I thought you lived for this?” Khawla chuckled and smiled in reply while lightly punching John on the shoulder. “Besides,” John continued, “It requires a massive amount of energy to conjure and control that prayer. It is essentially a one-shot deal.”
Belmont did not participate in the moment of facetious brevity, though. “There. Down at the bottom of the mountain. The remaining rouge vampires are approaching. We are not done.”
“Let them come. They have not even begun to repay the debt they owe,” Khawla vigorously replied.
John added, “We should free as many of these humans as we can so they can help unbind the others, enabling them to escape.”
“Do it, John. Khawla and I will hold off the remaining enemies,” Belmont responded. Thus, the priest began using the magic from his staff to undo the locks on the chains binding the nearby humans to one another. Once free, they hesitated to move, though, as they were still terrified by the murderous massacre they just witnessed. Though it was on their behalf, the people realized Belmont was a vampire; an extremely powerful vampire unlike what they had seen or experienced. Noticing their trepidation, Belmont spoke, “I am the king of vampires, and I have come to end the atrocities committed against your kind. Those who captured and tortured you are not under my directive, and they will be purged from your world.”
The humans appeared at ease but were still captivated by nervousness and fear. Therefore, John stepped forward to speak. Khawla, however, impeded him. “The magic staff is probably just as scary and confusing to them as hearing from the king of vampires. Allow me.” She removed one side of her facial covering to reveal her face. “I am human, as you are. You have no need to worry. We want to protect you. Please, use this opportunity to free the others and flea from this dreadful place.”
One of the humans worked up the courage to reply with an inquiry. “You say you are human, but you move as the king of vampires does. We witnessed it with our own eyes. How can a human being perform such feats?”
Noticing the approaching rogue vampires were closing in on them, she answered with urgency. “It is a long story. Rest assured, though, we mean you no harm.”
The voice of a strong person emerged from the group of human captives. Her face beheld an expression of confidence, and her voice was firm and steadfast. “Who are we to question these people? Vampire or human, they have saved our lives. It is now on us to save the rest of us from this mountain. Let us go, everyone. Now.”
There was no hesitation after the matriarch spoke. The humans all helped one another stand. Grabbing nearby sets of keys on the ground from the fallen vampires, they then began to unlock more chains. The matriarch locked eyes with Belmont and nodded her head in appreciation for saving them, and he returned the gesture. However, their moment of kinship was interrupted abruptly.
“Belmont!” Khawla yelled out to the king.
“We still have a moment before the approaching vampires arrive on our posit…” The king suddenly realized the warrior was not concerned with the rogue vampires he spotted earlier, though, for the heroes could see through the stronghold entrance a massive group of reinforcements was approaching in the far distance.
“Lord, help us,” John exclaimed.
Belmont quickly turned to the matriarch. “Get your people out of here now.”
The woman bent over and grabbed a blood-soaked sword off the ground. Then, she turned to the group of humans. “All who are capable, trained or not, pick up a weapon. We must fight our way off this mountain to freedom.”
“There is no way we can defeat the vampires approaching from the base of the mountain! They will slaughter us!” a terrified human said.
The matriarch firmly replied, “They took us whilst we slept in our homes with our families. We did not have a chance to fight back then, but we do now, and it is better to die fighting than to live as cattle. Now, move!” Her words were met with much fervor and vigor as the humans grabbed swords and knives from the ground and ran forward, guiding the few remaining scared humans to the freedom they were too afraid to fight for.
Belmont, John, and Khawla watched in admiration as the humans came together to fight for their lives while freeing one another, but the moment of revelry was short lived as there was a more pressing situation at hand. “We were able defeat the huge group before, but with the vampires from the bottom of the mountain and the size of the squadron of reinforcements headed our way, we won’t stand a chance,” Khawla stated.
“Are you sure that last spell is a one-shot deal?” Belmont inquired to the priest.
“I am,” John replied.
Khawla responded, “Well, that’s great…”
The rogue vampires continued to move in on the heroes’ position rapidly. The ground was shaking from the force of the enemies’ running, and the trio could feel the growing vibrations beneath their feet. “There is another prayer, though…” John mentioned reluctantly.
“Is this even a question?” Khawla asked rhetorically. “Use it!”
“The last prayer took a toll on my spirit,” John informed them. “To use this other one, it will require even more mastery and energy. If I were to use it now, there would be no way for me to control its power. I could collapse the mountain and kill everyone on it, including the three of us.”
Belmont looked down the path at the rogue vampires fighting the humans as they freed one another and ran by them in a frenzy. The people were getting massacred. “The humans are being decimated. They will not survive this if you do not try. We must take out the reinforcements so we can go help the humans escape.”
“The prayer will take a while to conjure,” John replied. “Go. I will fly above us to that high ledge and begin while you help the humans down the path.”
“You can do this, friend. I have faith in you,” Khawla confidently told the priest. Then, she and Belmont charged down the mountain to aid the humans’ escape with the reinforcements in pursuit of them.