Inching toward Christmas. The crazies are out in full force at all the stores and I really don't feel like facing society. Fortunately I have plenty of work to keep me busy with editing The Paladin. On that note...
I am still accepting beta reader applications. If you'd like to get a look at the full novel before it's published, this is your chance. Just send me a line through the Contact page.
And now, onto the next part of Wolves and Wild Roses.
"Is this really necessary?" she spat.
"Only so long as you resist me," he replied.
With a wave of his hand, the floor around her cracked and broke, skeletons clawing their way up from the open chasms. Sonia skirted backward, turning to rush for the door, but flames encircled the entire perimeter of the ballroom. She turned in time to dodge the first creature's attack, but the next ripped its bony hand across her raised arm, spilling her blood once more. Biting and scratching at her, they swarmed the hunter, but she managed to throw their light frames back with a few well placed kicks.
As the creatures closed back in, she seized a nearby standing candelabrum, spinning it like a staff and using the heavy base to crush the skull of one of her advancing adversaries. Spinning the makeshift weapon around, she stabbed the prongs into the next skeleton's rib cage, twisting and locking it in. Lifting the creature, she used it's body like a flail, slamming it into its cohorts.
She moved to finish the last standing creature when a disembodied arm seized her leg, causing her to stumble. She kicked it off in time for the advancing skeleton to push past her weapon and tackle her to the ground. It pummeled its fists into her chest and face repeatedly, the hunter shielding herself as best she could. Screaming, she caught the monster's arms and pulled her feet up, pressing against its chest. With a sick pop the arms pulled free and the skeleton reeled back across the floor. She kipped up to her feet, using one dismembered arm to knock the skeleton's skull loose, then turned to hurl the other at the vampire Pasha.
He laughed as the arm evaporated before him. Folding his arms he rose into the air, his smile still piercing the darkness. Sonia screamed as she rushed toward him, but a wall of flames erupted before her. She turned back, but more flames spread behind her, trapping her in place. The vampire roared with laughter as the ground beneath her glowed bright red. Feeling the heat well beneath her, she plucked another bottle of holy water from her belt and smashed it into the ground. The glowing subsided, but she could see the water begin to boil away. She cursed herself for having left her cloak in the grand hall as she looked for her exit. The chandelier? Too high for her chain. The curtains? Too far away.
She felt over her belt for more holy water, but she was out. Looking about she saw through the flames the writhing form of one of the skeletons, the candelabrum still buried in it's chest. Unraveling her chain, she shot it out, snaring the candelabrum and pulling it back to her. As the last bit of holy water beneath her boiled away, she jammed the makeshift pole into the floor and vaulted over the edge of the flames. Fire burst from the floor as she flew into the air, engulfing her for only a moment before she rolled clear. She screamed as she rolled and patted the flames out on her clothing, but her hair was too much to stop. With a flash of her dagger her long, beautiful braid fell to the ground, burning.
"Such a pity. Your hair was so beautiful," the vampire quipped.
"End this Pasha!"
"Your surrender is all that will end this."
Sonia roared, pulling loose her chain once more, twirling it through the air as she raced toward the creature. Pasha merely held his hand forward and the cracked chunks of the floor rose and flew at her. She slid under one, dodged to the side of the next, and leapt into the air, vaulting off the last and sending her barbed chain sailing through the creature before it disappeared, merely another illusion.
"You still haven't learned have you?" his voice echoed through the ballroom.
In a flash he was in front of her. Then gone. Then to her right. Vanished. Behind her. Disappeared. Over and over the vampire flashed in and out of her sight, dancing around her. She let loose her chain, striking at each glimpse of Pasha, looping the chain back to swing through the next, but it never met it's mark. After several tries and the long, odious laugh of the vampire taunting her, she pulled free her last vial of the red liquid, casting it straight into the air. The sound of glass shattering confirmed her suspicions and she looked up to see the red haired vampire engulfed in flames.
He flailed and cursed, crashing into a large balcony that hung over the far end of the ballroom, trying to rid himself of the flames. Sonia knew she would not have this opportunity again and raced toward him, climbing a nearby curtain to gain the elevation she needed. As Pasha tumbled into the balcony seating, she cast out her chain once more, lashing it around the guard rail that surrounded it. With a swing and a tug, she pulled herself up to the vampire's level. He rid himself of the distracting flames just as she stood up.
The pair stared at one another in silence for several seconds, Sonia panting and Pasha snarling. With a growl the vampire lunged at her, but she avoided the attack flipping over him as she opened a loop in her chain. She pulled it tight around his throat, but Pasha turned quickly. His powerful claws slashed at her, but she spun to the left, looping another section of chain around his neck. He pulled at the chain, but she took the opportunity to plant both feet into his chest and tighten the loop around his neck. He batted at her, but she spun to the right, once more looping another section around his neck.
"This... won't... stop me..." he growled.
"I'm not finished."
Gripping both ends of the chain tightly, she leapt over the edge of the balcony, pulling Pasha against the guardrail. Hands at his throat, and back curved over the edge, the vampire held his ground. Dangling from the chain, Sonia simply exhaled and released the barbed end of her chain. Though it took only a second or two, it felt like forever, as if Sonia were floating down from a cloud. The floor rushed to meet her as her chain dug into Pasha's neck, spinning and slicing through the flesh, topped off by the spiked barb at the end.
Sonia hit the floor and rolled to disperse her momentum, but it was still a hard landing. She gripped her right leg as she collapsed to the floor, her eyes drifting over to the severed head of the vampire. She collapsed back, wincing in pain as her injuries began to catch up with her. Had she actually done it? She groaned as she shifted herself, trying to get a closer look at the head. Had she actually managed to kill Pasha? The part of her that had traveled so far for answers was frustrated and sad, but there was another part, a significant part, that was suddenly relieved. She was free.
She smiled. Her smile turned to laughter, laughter that echoed through the ballroom, laughter that only ceased when a drop hit the hunter's forehead. Sonia froze, eyes opening slowly. She didn't need to touch the drop to know what it was, for as she stared up, the entire ceiling had become a rippling pool of blood. Her legs trembled as she followed the blood back to the wall and down to the balcony. Pasha's body twisted and convulsed as streams of blood stretched out from it, reaching out to coat the walls. Sonia fought up to her feet and scrambled to the door, but the wall of blood crashed down in front of her.
She turned to run, but the flood came from all directions. In seconds she was swept up in a river of crimson, struggling just to breathe. It surrounded her, gripped her, smothered her. She lashed out, but her attacks were futile. There was nothing left but surrender. She took one last breath before the room was completely filled and she began to sink to the bottom. Before darkness took her, a lone, deep voice echoed in her mind.
"You have done well, my pupil."
Keep your eyes open for my debut novel, The Paladin.