FIC: MC 35 Apr ’01 Haima (1/?)
Muscles straining, Blade darted forward, twisting his body to avoid his opponent’s right sword thrusting at his chest while parrying his adversary’s left blade with his own blade even as it flashed at his right knee.
Before he had time to counter-attack, his opponent had sprung back, a sardonic smile stretching his lean face. “I’d hoped for so much better from you, the legendary Blade. Most disappointing.”
“There were four of you when this fight began,” Blade responded as he inspected his opponent, “now there’s just you and me.” The twin-scimitar wielding vampire was tall and exuded a power that belied his gauntness. The chestnut-haired vampire’s locks were tied back in a shoulder-length pony-tail and the cool brown eyes that shone out of his chiselled features gave no hint to the sadist that lurked within.
Yet sadist he undoubtedly was. For three hundred years, Otieno had ruled North Africa’s demonic underground with an iron fist, gaining an almost unparalled reputation for ruthlessness and brutality in the process.
Blade had been hunting Otieno for three months and through five different countries. On several occasions he’d almost lost the trail, twice Otieno had left minions behind to trap him, but now Blade had him and it was going to end.
One way or another.
Blade scowled as he noted Otieno’s mocking gaze. He might have slain his rival’s henchmen, but not without cost. Sweat dripped off his burning muscles and into the multiple wounds he’d suffered during the skirmish. By contrast, Otieno was fresh and uninjured.
Blade’s scowl deepened. If he was to win this battle, it had to be quickly.
The thought had barely formed when his opponent charged him. Blade leaned back on his heel in a feigned retreat before sidestepping to his left and leaping into the wall, powering off into a spin-kick at his rival’s head.
The demon dropped into a crouch, right sword flashing up in an attempted impalement. Blade pulled his legs up, tucking himself into a ball as he sailed over the vampire to land behind his rival. The two of them spun to face one another, swords crashing together.
Out of the corner of his eye, Blade saw Otieno’s right scimitar arching up at his left hip. Blade countered with a side heel kick, slapping the attack away.
Fangs showing, Otieno bounded towards him. Changing tact, Blade threw his katana from left to right hand before driving his weapon’s point through his rival’s left foot and twisting. In the same second, he backhanded the demon across the face, the impact of his blow snapping Otieno’s head to the side; a half-second later and he’d released his grip on his katana, now encumbered hand dipping inside his jacket.
The vampire’s mouth opened in a scream. Before his opponent could either utter a protesting syllable, Blade yanked his hand out of his jacket and slammed his stake into the demon’s heart. Otieno’s eyes widened with shock. “You can’t kill me!”
“Oh really?” Blade smirked as the master vampire exploded into dust. “Funny, I thought I already had.”
* * *
Douleur strode into the castle’s underground chamber. He was unable to prevent his customary shiver as he looked around the vast hall, lit by a flickering brazier sat in the centre of its ground. It was simply enough set out, a bare walled room with eleven podiums set in a circle, the room itself occupied by less than ten other people of differing ages, races, and sexes stood around in small groups, talking in mutters.
An unimposing room for such an august gathering. He and his nine fellow demons were The Blood Assembly, the vampire world’s ruling body. Most minor vampires, the likes of Angelus and his cretinous ilk, were unaware of their existence, but with the exception of the now thankfully deceased Dracula all either unknowingly or knowingly obeyed their edicts and paid tribute to them.
One of the vampires, a tiny line-faced Latino female who’d been turned in her late forties, turned at his entrance and nodded. “The last of our number has arrived. Take your places.”
Such was the authority in the Latino’s tone the other vampires immediately broke off from their conversations and hurried to the podiums filling all but one. Once they were in position, the Latino spoke again. “This meeting of The Blood Assembly is in session. Paura representing the South American Collective, present.”
The massive ebony-skinned man to the Latino’s right spoke. “Fonda representing the South African Conglomerate, present.”
Next up was a short, pasty-skinned man with grey eyes dressed in a matching suit. “Cleaver,” his laconic drawl immediately identified him as a resident of the lone star state, “representing the North American Bloc, present.”
Next was a chubby Latino with a handlebar moustache and beady black eyes. “Arma representing the Central American section, present.”
A towering Samoan with a physique seemingly carved out of granite was the next to speak, his voice a rasp as if in life he’d suffered a throat injury of some description. “Bull speaking for the Pacific Organisation.”
Next was a chestnut-haired, curvy Slavic beauty, her grating voice in stark contrast to her comeliness. “Neci for the East European Network, here.”
A tiny Oriental woman spoke next. “Jun, speaking for the East Asian Cartel, present.”
Douleur started as he realised it was his turn. “Douleur, speaking for the West European Organisation.”
A tall and intensely obese Oriental followed him. “Sheng, present and speaking for West Asia.”
A craggy-faced, stoop-shouldered vampire finished the introductions. “Aguda for the Mediterranean Cartel.”
The roll call over, Paura as the oldest of those gathered took control of the meeting. “As you are all aware, one of our number is missing.” Everyone instinctively turned then flinched away from the empty podium. For the immortal, death was not only doubly mysterious but truly terrifying. “Just over a week ago, Blade slayed Otieno in Morocco,” Paura paused. “Three years ago he killed Cleaver’s predecessor in Montreal. Five years before that he slayed Aguda’s predecessor and this group’s previous leader in Lisbon. He has done this group great damage and it is beyond time he was eliminated.”
“No one here denies that Blade deserves to die for his many crimes against our people,” rumbled Fonda. “He is indeed a thorn in our collective side. But perhaps we would be better served in turning our attention to one of the others who hunt us – Hellboy and Spawn are both more powerful than Blade. And this newly-formed Mithras Brotherhood continues to grow, spreading its insidious tentacles. Surely these are greater threats?”
“Greater threats perhaps,” Paura replied, “but Blade is the more immediate, more constant danger. Of the four, only he hunts us exclusively. The others have other concerns, only occasionally crossing our path. Blade on the other hand remorselessly hunts the brethren of the night. As long as The Blood Assembly operates in the shadows, the others will only cause us occasional trouble, but even without direct knowledge of our existence Blade will continue to be a constant pest.”
“Well, shucks,” Cleaver spoke up, “what you’re saying makes a whole heap of sense. But what are we gonna do? There ain’t a vampire with a lick of smarts who’d willingly go against that SOB.”
“No vampire today would dare take on Blade,” Paura conceded before smirking. “But what of a vampire from yesterday?”
“Who do you suggest? Dracula? Bathory? Aswid? Nosferatu? Sekhmet? Lillith?” Sheng scoffed. “In case you haven’t noticed, the old ones have all been dusted.”
Paura’s smirk widened. “Haima wasn’t.”
The room erupted into a rowdy commotion but Douleur was too shocked to join the clamour. Haima’s original identity was long lost in the annals of time. But it was known that the human had been one of the commanders of the accursed armies that had been responsible for overthrowing the Old Ones’ righteous rule.
Once turned, Haima had immediately killed his sire, himself a seven century old vampire with a bloody reputation by the name of Re’em. That accomplished, Haima had immediately embarked on a four thousand year rampage of carnage and murder that had devastated nations and torn empires asunder. No vampire had ever lived so long or butchered so many. But eventually he’d fallen prey to a gathering of white wizards who’d banished him to an unknown dimension.
“And how would we control a beast like Haima?” Bull demanded, hard eyes fixed on Paura. “You’re the oldest of us, but even you are not even a sixth his age. He would laugh at the thought of obeying such as us!”
There was the warmth of an iceberg in Paura’s answering smile. “There are ten of us, all mighty vampires. Besides,” the Blood Assembly Elder’s smirk widened, “the spell to recall Haima will compel him to hunt down our enemy. The only question is,” the vampires stared challengingly around the hall, “how do you vote?”
FIC: MC 35 Apr ’01 Haima (2/?)
What Is Now Syria, Thousands Of Years Ago
Haima snarled his victory as he bounded towards the slaughtered village’s last survivor. Teeth bared in a scared grimace, the villager, a tall powerfully-built man, raised his sickle, sun glinting off its rusting metal. Before the man had chance to bring his makeshift weapon down, Haima was inside his guard, feet scuffling up the dust. One hand grabbed the wrist of the hand wielding the farm implement.
“Gaaaah!” the villager screamed when Haima squeezed, his awesome power snapping the man’s wrist like a twig. Haima took a second to savour the terror in his victim’s eyes. And then he plunged his fangs into the villager’s thick neck, biting deep. Hot blood bubbled into his mouth, filling him with ecstasy as his adversary struggled vainly against him. His ears filled with the man’s slowing heartbeat as he slumped against him. The moment he’d drunk his fill, he dropped the involuntarily twitching corpse on the blood-soaked, sandy ground.
Haima smiled as he looked around the village. All the wooden huts that had once been homes. All the corpses that had once been people. What a thrill to know it had been him who’d destroyed it all.
Little remained of the once idyllic hamlet. Smoke clogged the air from a myriad of scattered fires throughout the devastated settlement. Many of the wooden shacks had been flattened to kindling during his murderous rampage. The corpses of the villagers lay sprawled throughout it, their lifeless eyes staring up at the soot-filled sky.
Haima stiffened, hairs prickling on the back of his neck. He shot furtive glances left and right but even with his enhanced vision, he couldn’t see the threat he knew with stomach-hollowing certainty was approaching.
Even as a human, Haima had rarely if ever felt fear, but he felt it now, a churning stomach, dry mouth, and sweaty brow all afflicting him. Fists tightly clenched, he reached down and drew his swords, scabbards hissing. “Come out,” he demanded, grateful that his ice-cold tone concealed his trepidation, “I have little time for games and even less for those who wish to play them.”
“As you wish,” a beyond ancient voice rattled out. Before Haima had time to blink, eight white-robed figures appeared in a surrounding circle, their faces filled with grim foreboding. “Your crimes are beyond count,” continued the speaker, a pudgy bald man with penetrating brown eyes and a careworn face. “And it is long past time you faced final judgement for them.”
“You?” It was an effort but Haima managed a sneer. “I have massacred armies and lain waste to whole cities. And you conjurers think to bring me to account?”
“We are no mere tricksters,” the magician’s voice remained untroubled, but he spoke with an added note of pride. “We are The Esteemed Octagon.”
The Esteemed Octagon. A cold thrill ran through Haima. The Esteemed Octagon were the world’s most powerful white magic coven, its members coming from throughout the world, irrespective of wars or politics, and only invited to join upon the death of a pre-existing member. They were renowned throughout the world, their name a by-word for wisdom, justice, and power.
Still, Haima managed another sneer, he would not go down without a fight. His hands shot down to his waist, swords drawn and flung at the magicians to his left and right in a half-second. He hoped with two of their number dead, the remaining mages would be distracted long enough for him to kill them.
He gasped when his swords flew about a foot before reversing direction and flying hilt-first back into his hands. “We know well the reputation of your blades and do not intend to give you opportunity to use them,” the head mage reprimanded.
“I’ll kill every single one of you, your families, your friends, everyone from your villages,” Haima promised through gritted teeth, muscles straining as he tried and failed to move.
All of the mages blanched at his coldly delivered threat. First to recover was their spokesman and evident leader. “And how will you do this from another dimension?” Haima directed a glare at the head mage even as he continued his futile attempts at movement. He knew if one of them just got within arm’s reach, he’d somehow be able to free himself, but if they magically banished him even that slight opportunity would be stolen from him.
Haima howled in outrage as his captors started to chant. He’d never heard the language they used. Even so, he could tell the words were ancient, seeped in power, and possibly demonic in origin. His howls turned to a tortured scream as a black vortex appeared around him, ripping him from the plane of existence and plunging him into another.
* * *
Paura hid a smile as The Black Dawn, the highest vampire magical cult, strode in and stepped into the circle of podiums, linking hands and creating a circle of their own. Recalling Haima from his magically-imposed exile was a stroke of inspired genius. Not only would Haima rid The Blood Assembly of its greatest enemy, but also she had secret plans to use the 40 century old killer to eliminate her fellow Blood Assembly leaders leaving her in sole control.
But that was for another day. First there was Blade to attend to. Paura settled down to watch The Black Dawn practice their magical arts.
After their leader had carefully drawn an intricate pentagram in virgin blood, the demon took his place back in the surrounding circle. The cowled vampire mages lowered their heads and began to chant. Paura’s blood congealed at the eerie chants. She might be a creature of magic, but she still hated magic and this was by far the most powerful ritual she’d ever had the misfortune to observe.
The temperature dropped several degrees as a mini black typhoon appeared dead centre of the pentagram. Paura was grateful of her lack of need for oxygen as the increasingly rapid typhoon sucked the air out of the room and its screeching filled her ears.
And just as suddenly as it appeared the typhoon was gone. In its place stood a man. He was of average height, but with the sinew-rippling physique of a world-class athlete. His face seemed chiselled from stone, his greying hair brushed back off his face and tied into a pony-tail. His repeatedly broken nose was squashed flat against his face and while his left eye was obscured by a black patch, his right eye stared imperiously around the room.
The soldier was dressed in a knee-length leather scaled hauberk and chain mail breeches. Around his trim waist he wore a leather belt with two short swords, their brass hilts pointing forward.
Paura trembled. The aura surrounding the powerfully-built legend was terrifying. No vampire, not even her long-dead sire, had filled her with such dread. Suddenly Paura was far from sure they’d done the right thing.
* * *
Haima stared around, momentarily disconcerted. The last thing he remembered was his banishment and now he was in some sort of underground chamber encircled by lesser-powered vampires. It seemed as if only a second had passed, but some instinct told him it was infinitely longer.
He opened his mouth to demand some answers. His eye widened as he realised he was speaking in a tongue that was both completely foreign and yet utterly understandable to him. “Where am I? Who are you? Why am I here?”
His gruff, commanding tone caused his ‘hosts’ to flinch, but then even when he’d been human there’d been few who’d been able to resist the combination of his reputation and voice’s power. After a few seconds a tiny grey-haired woman stepped forward and began to talk.
Haima ran through a whole gauntlet of emotions as he listened to the woman. Astonishment that so much time had passed. Fury that he’d never have chance to avenge himself on his captors. Fascination with the task his benefactors had freed him to complete. And finally amusement that these weaklings thought they could command one such as he.
A most foolish misconception and one that these lesser demons had to be disabused of. The moment the younger vampire had finished speaking Haima moved, hands dropping to his swords. Minutes later and he was walking out, leaving a room filled with dust behind. “I hope Blade is a greater challenge,” he mused. “’Tis a century of lifetimes since I had a proper fight.”
FIC: MC 35 Apr ’01 Haima (3/?)
“I think it’s wicked you asked for our help!”
Blade raised an eyebrow at the Slayer’s uncharacteristic enthusiasm. “Taking on a vampire cult and getting out the sacrifices alive is impossible for one man. Even if the one’s me.”
“Well I’ve got your back!” the Slayer enthused. “You can count on me!”
“You do realise your boyfriend’s in the car with you?” an extremely disgruntled sounding Xander asked.
”Yeah, ‘bout that,” the Slayer sounded unfazed by her boy-friend’s irritation. “I read an article in one of Tara’s magazines-.”
“Leave me out of this,” protested the witch in a mutter.
“Where,” the Slayer continued, untroubled by the interruption, “couples make a list of people it was okay for their partners to cheat with -.”
“I can’t believe I’m hearing this,” Kennedy grumbled.
”Join the club,” Xander grunted.
“Of course,” Blade shook his head as the Slayer still continued, “Tara and Kennedy would be on X’s list.”
“Hello, lesbian,” Kennedy snapped.
“Well I’m X’s perfect woman,” the curvy Bostonian blithely replied. “After me every woman he picks is bound to have a LITTLE flaw. But,” the raven-haired teen turned to him and beamed, “you’d definitely be top of my list!”
“Oh wow,” Tara whispered, voice filled with shock and awe.
“She’s such a groupie.”
Mouth agape, Blade stared at the brunette beauty for a while before finding his tongue. Thankfully not down her throat. “I’m intrigued, enticed, and terrified by the prospect,” he admitted.
”Yeah,” Xander grunted, “welcome to my world.”
“Yeah,” Faith tossed her boyfriend a scornful look, “and you weren’t drooling at Lara and Phoebe last time you saw them!”
Feeling his stoic reserve begin to crumble in the face of the heroic but utterly insane youngsters’ increasing banter, Blade hid a smile. Save the world, this lot? They were all doomed.
* * *
Faith stared out of the alley mouth and across the road to the derelict duplex complete with cracked windows and crumbling brickwork. The building was in a run-down area of St. Cloud, an area populated by winos, tramps, and petty crooks. Just the sort of people the police wouldn’t care if they went missing and just the place the pigs wouldn’t bother patrolling. A perfect breeding place for vamps.
Pulling her head back, she looked inquiringly at the African-American vampire hunter. “How long have the vamps had these people?”
The muscleman hesitated before replying. “Five days.”
“Five days? Shit,” Faith shook her head and spat on the grime covered ground, “they’ll be long dead.”
“No,” Blade shook his head, apparently unworried by her disgust, “they won’t. They’re Children Of The Moon.”
Faith stared at the veteran hunter. “Say what?”
“Children Of The Moon,” Faith looked towards Tara, “were formed by a vampire turned on the rise of a full moon two hundred years ago. For some reason Lune believes he’s at the strongest every new moon. Three weeks a month, he’s like a normal vampire, hunting and killing, but he only turns people on the full moon, and the fourth week, he and his family fast until the full moon, and then feed, believing that their victims’ blood is at its strongest then.”
“Damn, vamps are wicked weird,” Faith shook her head again.
“You want to try meeting a Slayer,” Blade muttered. “Oh wait, too late.”
Faith shot the black man a hard look. “But the vamps have had these hostages for five days,” Xander commented. “They might not have killed them, but god knows what else they’ve done.”
“They won’t have done anything,” Blade reassured them. “Lune believes torturing the sacrifice weakens and pollutes the blood. They’ll be scared, hungry, and battered from their capture, but relatively unhurt until midnight.”
“That makes things easier,” Xander commented. “How many vamps and hostages?”
“It’s a family of five, mom, dad, three kids under eight,” Blade reported. Faith groaned, kids that young were unlikely to stay quiet through any rescue, so stealth was out of the question. “And between ten to a dozen vamps, all except for Lune under a century old.”
“What’s the building layout?”
Blade scowled at Xander’s question. “I don’t know,” the demon hunter dourly admitted. “I scoped out the outside of the building but haven’t been able to get in.”
“So we don’t know where the prisoners are?” Faith asked. Blade shook his head. Faith threw her hands into the air. “Could this be any more complicated?”
Xander chuckled. “Have you been splurging on Friends’ episodes, Chandler?”
Faith flipped her boy-friend the bird while continuing to stare at Blade. “How we gonna play this?”
“There’s three entrances to the duplex. I’ll take the sky-light, Faith can take the back, Xander, you, Tara, and Kennedy take the front. The entrances aren’t alarmed, but it’s daylight, the vamps will be inside. Faith and I will handle them, while the rest of you concentrate on finding and getting the hostages out.”
“See!” Faith enthused. “This is why I love working with this guy, he’s a genius!”
“And such a laugh at social gatherings,” Xander muttered.
* * *
After a quick look left and right to check there wasn’t any watching eyes, Blade ghosted effortlessly up the building’s drainpipe, reaching the flat roof in seconds. Snatching a hold of the edge, he eased himself over, dropping gently onto the stone.
The wind whistling in his ears, Blade stalked over to the edge of the smoky-glass skylight. Taking out his glass-cutter, he expertly removed a pane and peered into the room below. Reassured there wasn’t anyone in the dirty room, he quickly fixed a grappling hook to the skylight ledge, wincing slightly at the rotting wood. He only hoped the wood would be strong enough to hold him just the once. Tossing the rope inside, he opened his cell and quickly whispered a message. “I’m going in.”
* * *
“K,” Faith replied before beginning to manipulate the back door lock. After a few seconds she heard a satisfying click. “Yeah,” she smirked. “I still got it.”
* * *
“Okay,” Xander nodded at Blade’s message. He turned to his companions, an unarmed Tara, over recent weeks she’d begun to grow confident enough in her magical abilities to disavow mundane weapons, and a mini-uzi toting Kennedy, single-headed ax and short sword scabbarded to her belt.
She was taking to the Xena lifestyle very well. Xander smiled. “Are you ready?” Both girls nodded. “Great,” Xander placed C4 on the door hinges and handle before stepping back. “Cover your ears.” Xander pressed down on his remote detonator.
A boom thundered in his ears and the door flew inwards, crashing down on the hall’s threadbare carpet, dust settling around it. As he led his companions into the hall, Xander glanced around their run-down surroundings. Peeling sky-blue paper hung off plaster cracked walls and mould clung persistently to the faded grey ceiling. A cracked photo of a family lay on the ground.
Anger and sadness surged through Xander. Once this house had had people living it, people who doubtless didn’t have much, but they’d had one another until something, poverty, crime, maybe even the vampires themselves had destroyed them. Suddenly the two doors ahead crashed open, vampires swarming in. And then Blade dived off the first floor landing onto the vampires and Faith glided out behind the demons.
And then the fight was on.
FIC: MC 35 Apr ’01 Haima (4/?)
Faith’s stake crashed into the nearest vampire’s back. Another demon spun on its heel and lunged at her through the exploding dust, but Faith slowed its charge with a hell to the knee.
“Bitch!” the demon snarled as it crashed a backhand into her face. Blood filling her mouth and head ringing with the impact, Faith resisted the urge to retreat. Instead she lunged back into the attack, blocking a right cross on her shoulder as she attempted a stake to the heart only for her wily opponent to twist away, taking the stake on its shoulder, blood vomiting out of its wound.
“Shit!” Pain blazed through her scalp when the vampire grabbed her by her chestnut locks and shoved her facefirst into the wall to her left. Teeth bared in an angry grimace, Faith swung her leg back, the back of her foot crashing into the demon’s hip.
”You bitch!” the instant the vampire released her grip, Faith spun around and stamped down on her rival’s foot. The moment the vampire’s mouth began to open in a shocked shriek, Faith lifted her foot off the demon’s, and slammed her heel into the vampire’s inner right ankle.
The air rang to the crack of shattering bone, the off-balance demon plunging to the ground like a stone. Before her opponent had chance to react or recover, Faith had slammed her stake home.
Straightening, Faith smirked as she realised the fight was over and none of her friends were hurt. “Any sign of the captives?” Xander asked.
”They’re not on the top floor,” Blade reported.
”I didn’t see any sign,” Faith added, “but there’s a cellar trapdoor in the kitchen two rooms back.”
“Okay,” Xander glanced up at the sound of running footsteps above them. “You hold them off, we’ll go investigate.”
“Works for me,” Faith agreed as she hefted her stake.
* * *
“So glad you approve,” Xander muttered as he led Tara and Kennedy out of the hall and into a narrow, dimly-lit passageway that was uncomfortably perfect for ambushes. Stopping at the door to his right, Xander kicked it open and peered inside to find a room filled with threadbare furniture and boarded up windows, the cards lying on the scratched table suggesting the vampires they’d defeated had been here. “Not here.” They continued down the passageway, coming to another door. “Cover me!” He ordered before kicking the door open.
It was another empty room, one with a back door leading to the street, and a brass-ringed trap door set in the middle of the floor. “Ken,” He looked towards the brunette potential, “point your uzi into the opening.”
“Okay,” a grim look on her face, the potential took up a position at the opposite side of the trapdoor and nodded. “Ready.”
Xander grimaced as he flung the door open, a waft of stale air rising up from the darkened opening hitting him square in the face. He only hoped there weren’t any vampires in the basement to be alerted by the opening creak.
When nothing foul and demonic erupted out of the dingy hole, Xander looked to Tara. “Some light , please?”
The witch nodded. “Illuminate.”
Xander blinked when the hole suddenly brightened, revealing a railing-less series of stone steps leading into a dusty floored room. “Tara,” he grinned at the honey-blonde, “you’re a handy lady to have around.” Smiling to himself at the blonde’s sudden deep blush, he straightened and stared down the stairs, his companions following behind and his gun muzzle leading the way.
Xander’s eyes snapped to the basement’s left corner. His heart tightened as he saw the man, woman, and three kids collared and leashed to the radiator. “Please,” croaked the stubble-faced, ragged-clothed man, his eyes wild with desperation, “help us.”
“Don’t worry,” Xander soothed as he pulled a pair of bolt-cutters out of The Always Pocket. “We’ll have you out of here soon.”
“There’s monsters,” sobbed the family’s mother, a chubby mousey-haired woman. “They said they’d kill us all!”
”Don’t worry,” Xander forced a smile as he cut through the tethering chains. “We’ve got friends dealing with them. Let’s concentrate on getting you and your kids out of here. Tara, Kennedy, grab the children, I’ll lead us out of the back.”
“We’ve already got them.”
Xander glanced towards the witch, his smile becoming genuine at the sight that greeted him. Kennedy was grumpily holding onto a teary-eyed eight year boy’s hand while Tara was effortlessly cradling the two under fives. Kennedy returned his smile with a glare. “What’s so funny?”
“Nothing at all,” he replied, forcing his face to straighten. “Just thinking that one day you’ll make some lucky lesbian a beautiful wife and mother.”
“Beats me why Saturday Night Live never booked you,” the potential snapped.
* * *
Blade tensed as the five vampires charged down the stairs and at them, led by a tall, gaunt man with flowing golden hair and lifeless emerald eyes. He had to be Lune, Blade could sense the demon’s powerful aura. “Take the others Slayer, he’s mine!”
Even as he roared his order, Blade sprang forward, his katana arcing towards the vamp’s neck. Impact reverberated down his arm when Lune blocked his attack just inches from his target before retaliating with a lunge at Blade.
Blade slapped the attack aside with a leather gloved hand before attempting a reserve cut at his opponent’s knees. The demon surged into the air, pulling its legs up into its chest before powering boots-first at him.
Pain crashed through his chest, lifting him from his feet and flinging him into mid-air. Twisting in mid-flight, Blade landed in a crouch, just in time to swing his sword up to parry an attempted skull cleaving. Lips parted in a scowl, Lune pulled his sword back for an attempted skewering. Blade leaned backwards at the waist, his opponent’s weapon impaling the air above him.
Before his adversary had chance to press his advantage, Blade straightened and butted the demon full in the face, thick neck muscles powering the crunching strike. “Ahhhhh!” Blood dripping down its ruined face, the demon stumbled backwards.
The moment Lune was at optimum range, Blade lunged forward. Placing the majority of weight on his lead foot, he swung his sword at his rival’s throat.
And once again he was parried just inches from his goal. The vampire retaliated instantly with a skewering thrust to the abdomen that Blade had to back flip out of the range of. “You’re good,” Blade commented as he landed. “I’m better.” Teeth bared, he charged back into the fight. Ducking smoothly under the demon’s attack, he thrust his katana deep into Lune’s left thigh.
“Ahh!” the vampire snarled before crashing a left into Blade’s mouth.
A bitter, salty taste filled Blade’s mouth as he leaped forward to finish off the wounded monster. Once again the demon managed to block his sword slash, but this time the creature failed to note the stake he’d drawn until he’d slammed it into the creature’s chest. “But,” he smiled at the creature, “as I said, I’m better.”
The moment the demon had exploded into dust, Blade spun to face the Slayer. “Man!” the curvy Bostonian’s eyes were luminous with excitement. “That was a real party! And the fake with the stake! Wicked cool!”
“Thanks.” Blade nodded uncertainly at the raven-tressed beauty. There weren’t many people who could unsettle him, but the intoxicating Bostonian with raging hormones, an apparent crush, and an extremely dangerous billionaire for a boyfriend was high on the short list.
“Yes,” a cool voice accompanied by the sound of sarcastic clapping came from the entrance behind. “You’re all I hoped for and so much more.”
FIC: MC 35 Apr ’01 Haima (5/7)
“Fuck.” Faith whispered, knees almost buckling beneath her and heart thumping fit to burst out of her chest.
The medium-sized man was a vampire, a vampire whose power dwarfed that of Kaktosis by a factor of five or six. And yet, the mother-fucker had just strolled in from the sunlight, like a tourist working on his tan.
“Yes,” the vampire nodded, striding further into the room with an easy, relaxed gait. “You’re all I’ve heard and so much more, Blade. A real challenge. And,” Faith’s skin crawled when the demon turned his suddenly lecherous gaze on her, “you’ve even supplied the after-fight festivities.”
* * *
“What are those creatures?”
Xander closed his eyes as the family’s mother wailed. And wailed. With the occasional shriek thrown in for good measure. After just five minutes of her, his sympathies were definitely veering towards the vampires. “Don’t worry about it,” he half-heartedly soothed, knowing full well she wasn’t going to listen. “Just go home and be more careful in the future. Whatever you do, don’t go to the police about this. They’ll only lock you up.”
”Xander,” he turned to face a worried looking Tara. “I can’t get through to Faith on my cell. And there’s something bad here, something real powerful.”
“Okay,” Xander glanced over his shoulder and back at the run-down duplex. “We best go back in.”
* * *
Haima smiled as he looked from the black man to the curvy beauty. The black man reminded him of the warriors his human host had fought alongside – indomitably confident, capable, and strong. But his companion was something else entirely, a woman with the sultry beauty of a princess, but mixed with the feistiness of the sword sisters he’d once marched with.
And it had been so long since he’d heard a beauty’s whimper, seen the hope die in her eyes, smelt her fear.
* * *
Faith joined Blade in darting towards the mystery vampire. They moved with all the speed their supernaturally enhanced bodies could muster but the demon was even quicker, his leap across the room making them seem in slow motion. The vampire’s twin blades seemed to leap into his hands. Faith grimaced as the demon parried her and Blade’s simultaneous attacks, the force of their colliding blades crashing through every one of her bones. His smile still firmly in place, the vampire struck back with a pair of disembowelling stabs. Faith twisted at the waist, the short sword sliding past her belly.
And then an elbow crashed into the side of her head. Dazed, she stumbled to one knee.
After a second shaking her head clear, Faith rose. Seeing the demon had his back to her as he battled Blade, she glided up behind him, screw that fair fighting crap that was for the books, sword readied for a decapitating attack.
”Oooof!” The air exploded from her lungs when the vampire back-heel kicked her in the chest. Eyes watering from the pain, Faith flew into the air and into the wall behind her, hitting the plaster and brick wall with enough force to carry her through it and into the room beyond.
The back of her head crashing off the room’s wooden table was the last thing she knew before unconsciousness took her.
* * *
Blade reluctantly gave way before his remorseless attacker. Never before had he faced a vampire with such punishing power. And never had he expected to see a vampire who could take Faith out of the game with such contemptuous ease.
“Come now Blade,” the nameless vampire sneered at him. “In the weeks I’ve been tracking you, I’ve heard so much, I expected far better.”
“Expect this!” he growled, the vampire part of his heritage causing a bestial snarl to escape his lips. Spinning on his heel, he snapped a kick at his opponent’s flat midsection.
His attack bounced off the demon’s stomach like it was nothing and his attacker responded with a backhand that knocked him into the wall. “Has this world no challenges?” the rampaging demon raged, his sword flashing in for a heart-impaling strike.
“Oh,” Blade wriggled eel-like away from the attack, his own
sword hissing at his opponent’s head, “you’ll find the odd fight!”
“That is all,” the demon leaned away from his assault, “I crave!”
Lights exploded in Blade’s eyes as his opponent cannoned a left into his jaw. Bones crumpled under the crunching impact, leaving him slumped against the wall, blood leaking down his face as he struggled to stand.
“However,” the vampire strolled towards him. “It is evident that you will not be the challenge I require.”
Blade didn’t answer with words, he wasn’t physically capable of speaking. Instead he allowed his buckling legs to fold beneath him and dropped into a forward roll across the dust-laden carpet. The moment he was level with the demon, he thrust his katana deep into the monster’s leg.
A pained grunt was the demon’s only response before spinning around and catching him with a clubbing backhand to the forehead.
His equilibrium completely destroyed, Blade crashed to the ground, sword bouncing across the dirty carpet. Heart pounding and body battered beyond measure, he tried to roll towards his weapon only for the demon to kick it away and him in the ribs, cracking two. “And so, the legend of Blade ends at the hands of Haima.”
“You know, we have this saying about chickens and counting them.”
* * *
Xander’s blood thundered as he spoke, the sight of his battered girl-friend as always sending him into a homicidal rage. Raising his hastily re-loaded Desert Eagles, he sent round after round into the demon.
Or at least tried to.
The demon moved with the speed of a striking cobra, somehow sliding effortlessly away from his murderously intended attack until it was by his side. Xander gasped when the demon grabbed him by his throat, steel-cord fingers crushing his larynx. “Today’s weapons are so efficient aren’t they?” commented the mystery vamp. “And yet you still have to be able to hit -.”
Xander grunted as he hit the ground, the death grip around his threat suddenly released at Tara’s ear-bleeding scream. His eyes widened at the sight of the furious looking vampire stood in the middle of the street in broad daylight, smoke smouldering off his broad shoulders as he glared at them. “That’s not normal,” Xander rasped, throat still aching from the demon’s attack.
The vampire started towards them. Suddenly its head snapped to the left, a second later and an 18 wheeler hit it. “I say we grab them,” Xander glanced towards Blade and Faith, “and come up with a plan. Fast.”
FIC: MC 35 Apr ’01 Haima (6/7)
“But you’re sure it’s a vamp?”
“Damn it, X!” Faith scowled at her pacing boyfriend even as she pressed a bag of frozen peas to the left side of her head. “I know what a vampire is! Slayer,” she used her free hand to point at herself for extra emphasis, “remember?”
Not that she’d been doing much in the way of Slaying, she grudgingly admitted. The bastard had well and truly kicked her hot little ass. The only consolation, and it was a scant one, was that Blade had done little better.
“Okay, okay,” Xander raised his hands in apparent surrender. “I’m sorry, it’s just Tara tossed him out in the light and he got nothing more than a little smoke damage.”
“Yeah,” Faith nodded grudgingly. “So you said, but I was unconscious so I didn’t see that shit. How in the hell is that possible?”
“Um,” Tara raised a typically tentative hand. “I’ve read some treatises by Watchers theorising that very old vampires might have some resistance to sunlight, fire, and religious artefacts.”
“Book girl strikes again,” Faith nodded towards her sis then winced as pain shot through her head. “And it makes sense too. When I fought Kaktosis, I had to use a big-ass support beam to stake the bastard.”
“But this vamp had resistance to sunlight,” Kennedy butted
in. Kinda rude of the brat to butt in when the adults were talkin’, but that
was Kennedy all over. “Wouldn’t that mean he was even older than Kaktosis?”
Faith raised an eyebrow, kid had a point though. “He didn’t have a bat face or cloven hooves though,” she pointed out.
“Let’s worry about that later,” Xander commented. “We need to be more concerned with finding out more about the vampire. Who is he? What’s his rep? Where does he come from? How does he work? What was he before he was turned?”
“I’ve got a name,” Blade commented. Faith briefly hated her idol for his speed of healing. Her head still throbbed with the impact of her collision with the wall. By contrast Blade looked like he’d been in a play-fight with a fifth grader. “He said it was,” the African-American’s forehead briefly creased in concentration then smoothed out, “Haima.”
Xander looked inquiringly at Tara. The witch nodded before the Sunnydaler had chance to open his mouth. “Haima? Give me the laptop.” Xander wordlessly passed the computer over. The witch smiled. “Thanks.”
A couple of minutes later and there was a beep. “Ooooh, we’ve got a match. Haima was a dawn of time sort of vampire, human host unknown. He was known by a number of aliases – “Devastator of Empires’, ‘The Bloody Swathe’, ‘Crusher Of Cities’, and ‘Extinguisher of Hope’.”
“Extinguisher of Hope? I met him at a party once, man, what a drag.”
Tara shot her one of her ‘this is important, please pay attention Faith’ looks before continuing. “It’s said he lived to be four thousand years old.” Faith whistled under her breath. Even allowing for hype that was a scary number. “And during that time he gained a fearsome reputation for sadism, genocide, and unequalled battlefield skills. He killed human champion after champion, rival vampire masters, demons, mages, anything and anyone who crossed his path. But then the world’s most powerful coven of white magicians, ‘The Esteemed Octagon’ caught up and banished him to another dimension. Oh there’s a picture of him.”
Everyone crowded around the laptop for a look. “Oh, god,” there was an age of suffering in Xander’s voice. Faith joined the others in staring at her dazed-looking boyfriend. “I know who he is.”
“How’s that possible hon?” Faith asked, her voice far softer than normal in the face of her honey’s obvious distress. “Tara said he’s a dawn of time dude?”
“He was Mithras’ best friend and closest ally,” Xander mumbled dazedly. “He’s Ares, the man the Greeks remember as the god of war.”
* * *
Xander slumped onto a seat by the door. “Ares was one of the pit-fighters who escaped with Mithras. They were the first to agree to fight by his side against the Old Ones. Before Minerva and the Sword Sisters. Before Ull and the Hyboran Battle-Dukes. Before Hades and his bandit army. Before the Cel Justice Knights or the Gael tribesmen. Before the dwarves and elves. Even before Thor and the Nordvik fleetsmen.”
Xander paused, face creasing in sorrow lines as he dwelt on memories that weren’t truly his. “There were just over a dozen pit fighters who survived the escape. They formed my- Mithras’ closest counsels and all became legends.” Faith’s skin crawled at Xander’s almost wistful tone. Just how much of Mithras was inside her man? “But of them all, Ares shone the brightest. He killed the most demons, won the most battles, had the most songs sung about him. Only Mithras was lauded more.”
Faith figured it was down to her to break the shocked silence that followed her man’s pronouncement. What with her having a big mouth and everything. “K,” she started, “so you-, Mithras knew this mother before he was turned. At least that gives us an in. Tell us about the vamp who turned him?”
Xander shook his head. “I don’t know. After the war, a half dozen of the original pit fighters still lived. Mithras and his wife were sorta press-ganged into ruling the world.” Faith raised an eyebrow, ‘least that explained her boy-toy’s hulking ego. “Ares on the other hand took on the task of hunting down the last of the Old Ones’ major allies.” Xand chuckled hollowly. “Mithras was more than a little jealous.” Her boyfriend’s face sobered. “Despite Mithras taking the safer of the two lifestyles, he died first. Eighteen years after their coronation, Mithras and his wife were assassinated.”
“Right,” Faith said, deflated by Xander’s revelation that he didn’t have any inside information on what they were facing.
“But,” Xander hesitated, a ton of emotions flickering through his eyes, “I know how to kill him.”
“Really?” Faith said. “Do share, ‘cause short of stealing a nuclear warhead I don’t see how.”
“When Ares decided he wanted to hunt down the last of the Old Ones’ supporters, Mithras,” Xander’s eyes darkened, “decreed that Ares should have the finest weapons available. Ares favoured twin short swords so Mithras paid for the finest metal to be transported to the world’s most renowned blacksmith to be made into a pair of short swords. Once the swords were finished, he had them blessed by the world’s most learned priests and enchanted by the world’s greatest wizards. And in those days, when magic was at its freshest, most powerful, there were many truly great enchanters.” Xander paused. “When all this was done, the swords were given to Ares at a huge ceremony attended by the world’s leaders. These weapons were created with the ability to kill any magical creature, no matter their strengths or weaknesses.”
FIC: MC 35 Apr ’01 Haima (7/7)
“All we have to do is take Haima’s weapons off him and decapitate him?” Faith paused. “The guy who single-handedly kicked all our asses? That guy?”
“That’s the one,” Xander confirmed.
“Jesus!” Faith threw her hands up.
Blade smirked. “Well at least we know he’ll be coming here. He seemed real interested in killing me.”
“Yeah,” Faith arched an eyebrow. “We noticed that too. He seemed kinda stalkerish.”
“Anyone else think, massive ‘Cape Fear’ fan?” Everyone looked towards Kennedy. “What?” the potential defended. “Am I the only one who can’t come out with pop culture references?”
Faith shook her head. “Anyhow, how do we play this?”
“You kids get out of town.” Blade stood. “This vamp’s after me. This isn’t your prob-.”
“Problem?” Faith interrupted, eyes blazing as ferociously as her hair-trigger temper. “Hello.” She poked herself in her chest. “Vampire Slayer! As in Slayer of vampires. Of course it’s our fucking problem!”
“Besides,” Xander added. “Ares was a hunter, always looking for new challenges. There weren’t Slayers until long after Haima had been banished. Faith’s abilities are sure to have intrigued him.”
“Intrigued him? He concussed me,” Faith muttered. It didn’t seem fair.
“So we’re targets too,” Faith finished.
“’Sides,” Faith added. “Rule one is you don’t run out on people. Even if they’re stuck-up bad ass hunters who think they can kick the world on their own!”
Blade smirked. “Seems someone’s over their crush.” Faith’s mouth opened and closed without any sound escaping. It wasn’t a crush, just a honest admiration for a pretty fine demon hunter. ‘Course it helped said hunter was wrapped in a mouth-watering package of chiselled from ebony muscle, but that was ‘sides the point.
As fast as Blade’s smirk had appeared it was gone, leaving Blade with his usual stoic expression. “You,” Blade looked towards Xander, “got any ideas how to play this, kid?”
The Sunnydale native shuffled uncomfortably under the vampire bogey-man’s stare before nodding. “Um yeah. I do actually,” Faith’s boy-friend nodded again before continuing. “You,” Xander gestured towards the powerfully-built hybrid, “gave me the idea. We make Haima think we’ve run, leaving you alone. Then when he comes after you, we ambush him.”
“Well it has the advantage of simplicity,” Kennedy commented doubtfully.
“Look at the source, are you surprised?” Faith muttered before raising her voice. “What if he brings reinforcements?”
“Ares was an independent minded man, he trusted few people,” Xander replied. “And according to the records, Haima worked alone, never making a single childe.”
“W…we still have to defeat him,” Tara pointed out. “Even on his own he blitzed us.”
As an assessment it was harsh but accurate. “Either we run or fight,” Faith pointed out. “And I say we’re all fighters.”
* * *
Haima chuckled as he watched Blade glide through the derelict industrial park. The hunter was exceptional, perhaps even the equal of the human him. But he was far from human anymore.
But Blade was an interesting test nonetheless. And Blade’s companions shadowing his every movement too, Haima smiled, they would provide entertainment.
Deciding it was past time to make his presence known, Haima stepped to the edge of the building roof and stepped off. Cold night air whistled around as he plunged to the ground. He hit the tarmac in a crouch before starting through the darkness-shrouded alley, its down and out occupants backing away from him, their fetid stenches offending his sensibilities. Reaching the alley’s mouth, he stepped out into the intersection. “Perhaps you could invite your friends to join us?” he suggested.
* * *
Blade chilled at the vampire’s calmly spoken words. The trap had failed.
“Ain’t you the smart one?” Faith’s jaunty voice pre-empted
her stepping out of the shadows behind the demon by a half-second, the Slayer
flanked by the brunette potential and shy-eyed witch. Xander wordlessly stepped
out from the left. “A regular mastermind.”
“My dear,” Haima practically purred. “Your friends and you are about to find just how-.” Suddenly a gust of wind picked up the demon and flung him into the wall with enough force to crack the dirty-grey bricks behind. “A witch!” the demon barked a laugh as he leapt to his feet, swords drawn. “It is too long since I fed on such rich blood!”
“Feed on this!” Xander’s hands came up, his trenchcoat slipping aside to reveal a midnight black Mossberg 590.
The black garbed demon swayed away from the first shotgun blast, the weapon’s firing illuminating the night and obliterating its tense silence. But the second blast caught Haima full in the chest, spinning him around like a fell bowling pin before knocking him to the refuse strewn ground.
But in an instant the demon was up and racing towards Xander at an unmatchable speed. Before the young man or any of them had chance to react, Haima had his weapon by the barrel and twisted out of the human’s hand. In the same micro-second, Haima had the youth by his throat, Xander’s retaliatory kick knocked aside on the demon’s thigh.
And then the teen was airborne, flung into the wall. The Slayer let out a lioness’ outraged cry before darting forward.
Blade saw the flash of the demon’s fangs as it smiled before shooting out a kick. The raven-tressed warrior slid inside the attack before smashing a stake home only for the wood to splinter on impact. The gorgeous brunette barely had time to register her failure before receiving a thudding backhand to the face.
Even as the Slayer buckled to her knees, Blade joined a recovered Xander in rushing the vampire from opposite directions. Haima dripped into a crouch, swords flashing out. Blade responded with a kick that deflected the demon’s attack without managing to tear the weapon from his grip. At the same time Xander grabbed hold of the demon’s other wrist and attempted to yank Haima’s blade from him.
The demon responded with a contemptuous flex of his arm that sent Xander crashing back down. The undaunted youth hit the ground on his shoulder and rolled back up. Blade joined the young man in charging the demon again.
Haima twisted to the left, snatched hold of him by the seat of his pants and collar before twisting at the waist and throwing him towards Xander. He barely had time to see the youth’s shocked expression before slamming into him, the impact taking them both down to the wet-slicked ground.
* * *
“Time to get your ass kicked!”
“Foolish girl!” Haima grunted and spun around as the girl’s foot collided between his shoulder-blades. The Slayer glided beneath his retaliatory thrust kick to the face and countered by hooking an arm around his out-stretched leg and standing.
The moment he was pulled from his feet, Haima kicked out with his free leg, his boot smashing into the Slayer’s ample bosom. The raven-tressed beauty winced before falling into the wall opposite. The pair of them reached their feet and sprang at one another at the same time.
* * *
The coal-eyed girl dropped into a slide, taking her under his viciously delivered left reverse-hand slash. Tensing his legs muscles, he bounded into the air, knees tucked into his chest as he allowed the flowing-haired beauty to slide beneath him.
Upon landing stood astride the American, he brought his right blade down in an attempted skull-cleaving. His eyes widened when a sword came out of nowhere to block him. His eyes snapped to the left.
Stood there was the smaller, pouty-lipped brunette, a stubborn look on her face. “Bitch!” he snarled before disdainfully elbowing the girl in the face, his attack lifting his opponent from her feet and propelling her rag-doll like through the air.
“Oooof.” His eyes crossed and crotch exploded in pain when the Slayer kicked him in the balls. “Bitch!” Temper blazing, he dropped his left sword, grabbed the Slayer by her lustrous locks, yanked her to her feet and threw her face-first into the wall, the girl sliding down it to lie on the ground. “You will pay for that in screams!”
“You have fallen far since we last clasped hands in friendship, Ares.”
Haima stopped, a thunderbolt striking him at the strange and yet so familiar voice. Discarded sword forgotten, he slowly turned to face the dishevelled utterer, disbelieving gaze fixed on the young man. “Mithras? But how can it be?”
“Asshole, I’m no one’s bitch.” Haima half-turned to see the bloody-faced Slayer slide his own blade into his throat. His last thought before exploding into dust was he’d never know what had happened to Mithras.
* * *
Kennedy released her grip on the handle to their rental’s bathroom and turned to face the advancing woman. “Yes Faith?” She briefly and uncharitably savoured the blossoming crimson in the normally unflustered Slayer’s high cheeks. “How can I help you?” The Slayer’s cheeks reddened still furthered as she muttered under her breath. “Sorry.” Kennedy was unable to prevent a smile. “I haven’t Slayer hearing, you’ll have to speak up.”
The Slayer’s eyes hardened to obsidian “I said thanks for you know.”
Kennedy affected a confused expression. “For what?”
“For,” the Slayer forced a smile, “saving my life alright!”
“My pleasure.” Kennedy broke into a smile as her rival stormed off. “There was no part of that, that wasn’t fun.”
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