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Stories from the Verse
Old Verses New
Chapter 31: Hastings 54
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"So, how do we find this vampire?"
Lauren almost laughed, but Sir Sagrimore was serious.
"Actually, I'm not yet certain. Several of those I've killed came for me; the rest I found by their connections to the ones I knew."
They rode in silence for a few minutes; her equipment was in the wagon driven by one of the knight's servants, and she sat astride a white rouncy. Living in the age of Camelot had given her opportunity to remember her riding skills, although she would have been very happy to have a car again.
"One thing we know," she said. "He will only travel at night, and he'll need some place to stay out of the sun in the daylight."
"That does help," Sir Sagrimore said. "Not many travel that way; it would seem strange to the innkeepers."
"Also, they don't eat cooked food. They don't eat food, really, at all, but suck blood from victims. But I'm not sure if that's entirely helpful. They don't have to kill the victims to feed, and often the victims are unaware that they have been attacked."
"Still, someone seeking lodging for the day and no meals is going to be remembered. It's a start."
With this information, Sir Sagrimore began questioning innkeepers and tavern owners and peasants, and before long they had several reports of a strange pale foreigner who traveled by night and stayed inside during the day. He was moving north and west; and he was not alone. As the trail faded as they moved farther from Camelot, Lauren realized that Horta had left the meager bits of civilization for the near trackless wilderness. It would be more difficult to follow him there, but they had to make the attempt. They took the road through the woods, hoping to find some clue. After a couple days of slow travel, Sagrimore halted.
"What's up?" Lauren asked; Sagrimore looked up. "No, I mean, why did you stop?
"There's someone or something watching us from the woods. It's very skillful, and I haven't gotten a good look at it, but it is definitely stalking us."
Lauren dismounted, and walked off the road in the direction indicated. There was someone there, well hidden in the shadows. She spoke. "I am Laurelyn Spellsbreath, apprentice to Merlin, defender of the children of Adam, enemy of the seed of Cain. Who watches?"
The man who appeared from among the trees could have been taken for a wild man or an aborigine; but Lauren had seen his kind before, and knew what he was.
"Child of Lilith, what do you seek?"
"Noble Sorceress, I mean no harm. You have entered the territory of my clan, and I am sent to watch. I know of Merlin, but your name is not known to me; and your companion wears the garments of our enemies."
"It is a sadness to me that there is such distrust between wolf and man. I have worked with the werewolves against the vampires, but it was in another time and place and you would not have heard of it. My companion is indeed a knight, a defender of men in a world which distrusts its best allies, but he is with me on a quest to seek and destroy a vampire who may have passed this way a short time before us."
"There were several vampires who passed through the wood four days ago, with a large party of ghouls and men. You must be formidable indeed if the few of you alone can challenge such a party."
Lauren frowned. If the wolves were afraid of these vampires on their own territory, she was almost certainly overmatched. "We were pursuing one," she said. "We were aware that he had someone traveling with him, but were unable to get a true report. Men cannot usually recognize vampires or ghouls as different from themselves, so all we knew was that Horta was not traveling alone."
"You seek Horta?"
"I oppose all vampires, and would kill any that I find. It is appointed to man to die once, but after that comes judgment. Vampires have died, and must face that judgment. However, at the moment Horta has revealed himself, and King Arthur Pendragon, ruler of the humans on this island, has ordered him brought to justice. I don't imagine he will come willingly, but the king will accept a report of his death. I'm surprised that wolves have allowed vampires to cross their territory."
"It was a strong group, and we were not certain whether it might be the advance of a larger force. When you were spotted, we needed to know whether you were its allies, pursuit, or merely others on the same path."
"Now you know. What will you do?"
"I only know what you say. It will be up to the pack mother what we do, and whether she believes you."
That made sense. Lauren shouldn't expect them to tell their plans to her; she might be an enemy.
"I am not certain, but I believe that Horta is not the leader of the group. He is known to be associated with one called Tubrok, who might be an antediluvian. I don't have any other information about them."
"An antediluvian? No wonder the pack mother has been so cautious. She is wise."
He was right; Merlin had been wary of engaging Tubrok directly, and by all reports he was the most powerful wizard of any time. It would be presumptuous of anyone to take Tubrok lightly.
"With your permission," she said, "we will follow them through your territory and seek an opportunity to catch our quarry when they have separated. Can you give us any information about their direction?"
"They are moving west and north, and are four days ahead of you moving swiftly by night; but they have been pushing to reach caves and barrows by daylight, and so taking a somewhat erratic course. If you keep to the road at your current pace, you might reach the human settlement known as Wandborough before them; we think that is where they are heading."
Wandborough–Bethany had called her Laurelyn of Wandborough, Mystic of the Western Woods, and now she was on her way to that place. Bethany wouldn't be born for almost a thousand years. Perhaps that boded well for her current errand. On the other hand, she was tracking and planning to kill a vampire whom she had already killed fifteen hundred years in the future. Could she kill him now? If she did, how would that change history, or at least her history? Had Horta not been alive in the future, she might not now be in the past. That, though, was a worry for another time. Right now catching the monster was foremost in her mind.
"Thank you." She bowed slightly, and he returned the gesture.
Sir Sagrimore was waiting on the road. "What was that about?" he asked.
"We're in werewolf country," she said, mounting her horse.
"That was a werewolf? And you let him live?"
"The wolves are the enemies of the vampires, and kin to us. As with all peoples who are different, there are misunderstandings and often ill feelings, but our cooperation with them will make the battle against the vampires easier. When you're fighting a war, Sir Sagrimore, it is wise not to make enemies of any who might be allies."
The knight stared at her. "So how have our allies," he spoke this word with a bit of sarcasm, "benefited us?"
"They have told us how to get ahead of our quarry." She spurred the horse forward.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with eight other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #86: Novel Conflicts. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter. It may contain spoilers of upcoming chapters.
As to the old stories that have long been here: