The Thirteenth Lord
Chapter 4 - The Untouchable
Powerful, well-trained vampires patrolled the grounds. In the darkness, they were invisible to human eyes.
Lucifera stood motionless at the foot of the hill. A cool breeze shifted her hair and tattered dress. She made no physical effort to mask her location, but the vampires continued upon their set paths, oblivious to her presence.
“You do not see me.” The vampires could not hear her command, but they followed it the same. They may have been seasoned fighters, but Lucifera marveled at how unprepared they had been for one with her mental abilities.
She had been one of the strongest vampires in existence. Master Aldo Novafeltria stole her power with the help of a brainwashed priest and a cursed artifact, leaving her as weak as a newly turned vampire. Lucifera overcame Novafeltria, but most of her power died with him.
One gift he could not take from her was her mental ability. In life, she could read the thoughts of others and use that knowledge to influence them. As a vampire, she could plant thoughts and suggestions in the minds of humans and other vampires.
A black-clad vampire stopped a few paces from her and strained his eyes in her direction. This one seemed to have more mental toughness than the others.
Lucifera stepped closer to him. In a single motion, she drew her Japanese short sword and struck for his neck. He saw her when the blade passed through his flesh. His hand was still reaching for his machete when his head hit the ground.
The sound of the head bouncing on the grass was enough to shatter her spell. The remaining eleven vampires rushed toward her with blades drawn. She did something they did not expect: she smiled and rushed to the center of their group.
She stopped with her feet planted and sword held high above her head with both hands. The first vampire reached her and struck a powerful blow at her neck with his machete. She dodged his blow, using his own momentum to drive him off balance and then decapitated him.
The next vampire followed with a thrust toward her chest. She sidestepped his strike and drove her blade into his throat, twisting it, then ripping it through the top of his head. She continued the blow, swinging it over her head and decapitating the next vampire that attacked, cutting his silver machete in half.
The next two attackers rushed her from opposite directions. She leapt and drove the heel of her shoe into the eye socket of the one in front of her, then drove her sword into the heart of the one behind her. Ripping her shoe free, she landed on her feet between the two. The impaled vampire struggled but could not free himself from her blade. The half blinded vampire clumsily waved his machete.
She snatched the weapon from his hand and hit him with the blunt side of the machete’s blade on the throat, dragging him toward her as he covered his bloody eye. She bit into the side of his throat and devoured his blood.
The other advancing vampires stopped in their tracks.
“Is she feeding from him?” one asked.
“I thought only the masters did that when they took over another’s territory,” said another.
Lucifera ignored them and sucked down the last of the blood from her victim. She then released him and severed his head with his own machete. The other vampire struggled to remove her sword from his heart, but was too weak.
She turned to him and ripped into his throat. In seconds, she sucked him dry and twisted the blade of her sword, coring the heart from his chest and sending it raining to the ground in pieces.
The power Lucifera had taken from her victims’ blood coursed through her veins. The remaining five vampires regrouped several yards away.
Lucifera held her two blood-covered blades by her sides and stood straight and proper.
“I am one and you are five. It would seem the odds favor you,” she said.
The vampires exchanged glances and devised an unspoken strategy. Three of them rushed forward and attacked her from three different directions. The final two leapt through the air and struck at her from opposite sides.
Had the vampires been paying attention, they would have seen a smile cross her face. Instead, they saw her disappear. Twisting their perception was simple once she made eye contact with them and wormed her way inside their minds.
It was too late for them to stop their attacks. The three on the ground hit each other at the same time. An arm was severed. A vampire took a machete through the face. The third ground attacker was on the business end of a machete right in between his eyes.
The two vampires that attacked from above slammed into each other in midair. Lucifera stepped in and decapitated both of them with two quick blows. She grabbed the vampire with the severed arm and latched on to his bleeding appendage. He tried to fight her off, but his strength faded with each gulp as she devoured his blood.
The other two vampires removed their machetes from each other’s faces and tried in vain to follow her movements. Lucifera moved behind them and drained their blood. With all three writhing on the ground in blood-deprived weakness, she removed their heads with three quick blows of her sword and machete.
As much as she enjoyed the battle, Lucifera knew that she would have been able to kill them all before they discovered her if she still had her former power. A bleeding gash on her right shoulder and a fresh collection of bruises were painful reminders that she was far from invincible.
She strolled around the outside of the lavish mansion. Her wolf awaited her by the front door. He looked up and smiled as she rounded the corner.
She allowed herself a brief glimmer of hope. Perhaps his mind was healing. A glance up at the night sky killed that thought. The moon was hidden behind a thick layer of clouds. Otherwise, he might have been trying to tear out her heart.
“Took your sweet time, I see,” he said.
“When one feeds, it is impolite to do so hastily,” she replied.
He shrugged and stood, ignoring the muted gurgles coming from the injured vampire at his feet. “Did these guys seem kind of weak to you for a vampire lord’s servants?”
“They were here for appearance alone. Agnes the Untouchable has little need for servants to fight her battles.” She motioned toward the front door. “We should greet her properly.”
He nodded, then kicked the door. It crashed inward, falling off the hinges.
“Why do they call her the Untouchable?”
“Because she has mastered each of the three states achievable by only the most powerful of vampires: shadow, mist, and smoke. She cannot be touched, but she can and will attack.”
Mickey stepped inside the house. The front door opened to a huge foyer in the middle of which stood a long, mahogany stairway that extended to the third floor and a single door.
“Smoke, huh?” he said. “I only saw you turn into shadow back when…” He did not finish the thought, but he didn’t have to.
Back when she was powerful. Back when she wasn’t weak. Back when she was his better.
“Smoke and mist are rather vulgar,” she replied as though the sentiment hadn’t stung. “I prefer the shadow form. It is graceful and elegant.”
“Okay. She turns into wispy elegant shadows and stinky, vulgar smoke and mist and attacks us but we can’t hit her back.”
“That is accurate.”
“Figures.” Mickey closed his eyes and sniffed the air. “There’s only one other vampire in this place, and she’s up those stairs.” He took a step toward the staircase, but Lucifera placed a hand on his arm.
His gaze fixed on her hand. She wanted him to look her in the eye, but she knew he couldn’t. Not after what had happened.
“Mickey, you need to shift for this fight. It will take your full power to defeat Agnes.”
“You must be confused. I’m the crazy one, not you. Don’t you remember what happened the last time I shifted around you? I almost—”
“But you did not. I live.”
“Barely,” he growled.
“Clouds obscure the moon tonight. You will have more control. Direct your rage at our enemy.”
“You got a plan on how to fight a vampire lord we can’t even touch?”
“Care to share it?”
She smiled. “No.”
For an instant, his eyes met hers and a smile flashed across his face. He grabbed her hand and hastily kissed it. He released her hand and leapt up the first ten steps of the long staircase.
“Stay behind me until I see her.” His words were already deep and guttural and mixed with the snarl of the beast.
Black fur shot down his bare arms. His shoulders swelled and contorted as bones broke and remade themselves longer and thicker. He kicked the stairs as his feet morphed into massive clawed paws. With a roar, he ripped away the remnants of his tattered pants, revealing a bushy black tail. The werewolf stood to its full seven and a half foot height and howled.
Lucifera waited at the bottom of the stairs with sword in hand.
The monster slowly turned its head back to look at her. There was no recognition in the two glowing crimson eyes.
She gripped the sword a little tighter.
The beast sniffed and cocked its head to the side. Then it turned back and climbed the stairs. Lucifera knew it lusted for battle, and the more powerful opponent was waiting for them behind the door.
Lucifera rushed after him. Though she had lost much of her strength, she still had her supernatural speed. When the beast crashed through the door, she was right behind him.
The door exploded into the night air. A lush green garden with white marble columns and exotic plants covered the top of the house. It had been invisible from the grounds below.
A tall, thin woman stood at the edge gazing at the clouded skies. Her black trench coat and black leather attire had no place in the Chihuahua Dessert.
“I knew you’d come for me first, Lucifera.” She kept looking out over the balcony as she spoke.
She turned to Lucifera, revealing the face of a woman barely out of her teens. “Yes. You are so very predictable.”
“Perhaps you are right, Agnes. Let us ask him.” Lucifera turned to the snarling werewolf. “Do you find me predictable?”
The monster ignored the question, instead stepping forward to roar a challenge at the youthful-looking master vampire, Agnes.
She turned away and frowned. “Oh God. They said you had a werewolf, but hearsay and seeing it with one’s own eyes are two different things. That is so very revolting.”
Mickey leapt toward her, his massive claws reaching for her thin neck. Instead of dodging the oncoming attack, Agnes stepped toward the werewolf.
The werewolf let out a satisfied growl as his momentum carried him into her. Claws pushed into her throat. Then they pushed through the other side. The werewolf’s face passed directly through Agnes’s face. Every part of her he touched became a dark mist.
The werewolf passed through her and landed on the ground in a crouch. Behind him, the dark mist gathered and reformed into Agnes.
“That was so very pathetic,” she chided. “Allow me to show you how a true vampire lord fights.” Throughout the entire exchange, Agnes kept her hands hidden at her sides. Now, she held them up for all to see. An unnatural, four-inch-long black talon protruded from the top of each finger.
Her form shook, then exploded into a dark gray mass of smoke. The mass enveloped the werewolf, who slashed repeatedly at the substance to no effect.
Agnes cackled with delight in between the werewolf’s savage strikes. Her own claws took form and slashed at the monster’s throat and chest. The slashes continued as the werewolf’s berserk attacks grew even more unfocused and wild. Blood from the various wounds dripped down his body. She kept up the vicious attack for a full minute.
Her smoky form swirled around the werewolf and her disappearing and reappearing hands struck him from every angle. As she prepared to land another blow on the werewolf, a bloody hand caught her intangible wrist and held her in place.
Agnes’s body reformed into its original shape and she glared at her arm. A smiling Lucifera gripped her wrist.
“Do you still find me predictable?” Lucifera asked.
Agnes screamed in fury.
The werewolf raked claws covered with his own blood down Agnes’s back, tearing four thick gashes through her coat and the flesh beneath.
She screamed again, this time in pain, and ripped her arm free from Lucifera’s grasp. “I am untouchable!”
“Are you?” Lucifera asked.
The werewolf lunged at her again. This time, Agnes was prepared. She grasped one of his outstretched hands and used her supernatural strength and his own momentum to throw him over the edge of the balcony and into the rocks three stories below.
“They say fighting the mighty Lucifera and her werewolf together is a sure death sentence. I won’t make that mistake twice.”
Lucifera smiled and offered no reply.
Agnes became a swirling cloud of black smoke and moved toward Lucifera. “I don’t know how you were able to touch me, but it won’t happen again. I will kill you now.”
Lucifera delivered a lightning fast punch to the center of the swirling cloud. Agnes reformed and landed on her back clutching her bloodied face.
She scrambled backward on the floor as Lucifera stalked toward her. “How?”
Lucifera held up her left hand. It was covered in Mickey’s blood.
Fear crept into Agnes’s face as Lucifera approached.
“When was the last time you were struck, Agnes?”
“You know damned well, you bitch. Before I took the first seat.”
“And who was it that delivered the blow?”
“You,” she whispered. Then she dissipated into smoke and drifted to the edge of the roof.
Lucifera wiped her bloody hand on the blade of her sword and thrust it into the smoke.
Agnes reformed and looked down at her chest to find Lucifera’s blade protruding from her heart.
“I take back what I said,” she gasped, “about you being predictable.”
Lucifera twisted the sword and jerked it to the right, cutting Agnes’s heart into three pieces.
She fell to her knees, paralyzed but still conscious. Lucifera left the sword embedded in her back and knelt behind her, brushing the blonde hair off the side of her neck.
“I am far more valuable to you alive,” Agnes groaned. “I know what awaits you. Ruprecht is coming. He knows what lies in your vault.”
“I am aware that your maker follows the breadcrumb trail I have left behind. You have, however, piqued my interest. How would Ruprecht know of the contents of my vault?”
Lucifera bit into her throat with white, razor sharp fangs. Agnes may have been the weakest of the vampire lords, but Lucifera grew drunk from the power in her blood. She put her arms around Agnes, embracing her as she drank.
The vampire’s memories poured into her. She observed with mild interest the training she had received from Ruprecht the Horror in the art of becoming shadow, smoke, and mist. The faces of countless victims passed by. Her quick ascension to lord status followed suit. Just before Lucifera finished draining her blood, a familiar face appeared.
Lucifera released Agnes from the embrace and removed her sword, shoving her to the floor. “Stanislaus?”
Agnes struggled to push herself up, but she lacked the strength and collapsed onto her back. “You can’t be angry about that. It has been centuries.”
Green fire burned in her eyes as Lucifera swung her sword and lopped Agnes’s head off.
The door to the roof crashed open again. A bloody, furious werewolf burst forth.
“Wolf,” she said, “it is over.”
The werewolf stalked over and sniffed the decapitated body. The beast stood and held its nose high, sniffing the night air. Its eyes turned to Lucifera’s sword. It sniffed again. Then it growled.
“Yes, your blood is on the blade, but it was Agnes’s talons that wounded you. Shift back, my wolf. We have a long journey ahead of us and we need to speak before we go.”
It took a step toward her and crouched down with claws and fangs bared.
Lucifera looked up. The moon was visible through a break in the clouds. “Most inconvenient,” she said.
The werewolf leapt toward her with claws outstretched.
She grasped one of its claws and pressed the blade of the sword under its jaw line as it slammed her against the wall.
“Wolf,” she said, “it is finished. Come back to me.”
The werewolf snarled and snapped its jaws an inch from her face. Its strength was too much for her.
“Mickey … please.”
At that instant, the moon returned behind the cover of clouds and some of the red fire in the werewolf’s eyes faded. It looked down and saw its left claws buried in the flesh of her arm. The monster whined and stepped back, releasing the vampire.
He let out a howl as his form shrank. Fur receded. Bones cracked and muscle ripped as he returned to his human shape.
He stood naked before her with his eyes wide and hand outstretched toward her injured arm. “Lucifera,” he said.
“I am fine, wolf.”
“I would have killed you.”
“Do you really believe I am so easy to kill?”
He reached up and stroked the side of her cheek. Lucifera closed her eyes for a moment. It was the first time he had touched her like that in weeks.
He withdrew his hand and headed down the stairs. “I gotta find some clothes.”
Lucifera looked down and picked up Agnes’s head. She considered coring out her eyes with the sword for good measure but decided against it. There was no need to be petty. She tossed the head over the side of the roof and followed Mickey down the stairs.
Mickey found a pair of jeans his size and a new pair of boots. He tossed on a tank top and retrieved his ancient leather jacket from the coffin he had left outside the front gate.
“Do you still have your cell phone?” she asked.
“I want you to call your old friend, Richaud. Tell him we need a favor.”
Mickey grimaced. “Richaud? I already owe him too much. Do you know what he does when someone owes him and doesn’t pay their debt right away? He has me repay a little bit of my debt by ripping them to tiny pieces.” The werewolf stroked a sideburn, deep in thought. “I wonder who he calls when I’m not around?”
“There will be no issues with Richaud,” Lucifera said. “Tell him we require transportation to Los Angeles. Also, he will go to the Romana Tower and assist Nash. The other lords will make a move against it soon. Then, he is to consider all your debts forgiven. If he will do these things, tell him his debt to me is repaid and he can have what he desires from my vault.”
“He owes you?”
Mickey shrugged and dialed the number for Richaud.
He stepped away from Lucifera and pressed the phone against his ear. “Hey, Richaud. What’s shaking?”
The voice on the other end was barely audible, but Lucifera heard him laugh before reminding Mickey of his obligations.
“Yeah, about that. I got a counter offer for you. Send somebody to pick me and Lucy up in Espada, Mexico and give us a ride to LA. You take your happy French ass to the Romana Tower and help a vampire named Nash defend the place until we get there. Wipe my slate clean. In return,” Mickey took a deep breath, “Lucy says your debt to her is repaid and you can have, uh, that thing you want from her vault.”
The voice spoke two more sentences and hung up. Mickey turned back to Lucifera looking more confused than usual. “He said it’s a deal. Someone will find us tomorrow afternoon in Espada.”
“Good,” Lucifera said. “Nash will still need assistance. Perhaps you should also call your cousin Lily. I like her.”
“The feeling ain’t mutual. Why would Lily help you?”
“For the same reason the vampire lords will move against my tower. Lily wishes to prevent anyone from finding and using the tomb of Dracula. In my vault on the thirteenth floor, I possess the journal of Dracula. She is welcome to it.”
“Wait, does that mean you lied all that time when everybody thought they found the tomb a while back?”
“There was no need to lie. No one asked me if I knew where Dracula was.” Her smile grew. “I do.”
* * * * *
Two hours later, Ruprecht the horror strode into Agnes’s estate like Odysseus returning from his journey. The house had been his gift to her.
Two dozen dead vampires littered the grounds. Ruprecht had never seen the use in having guards. They caused more bother when they died, leaving a mess to be cleaned up.
Agnes’s head had been sitting in the grass when he arrived. He had hoped his creation would survive, but these things happened. What he found troubling was that there was no sign how Lucifera had done it.
A few paces away on the front porch, a lone survivor twitched and bled with a broken neck. Ruprecht knelt down by the vampire.
“Do you know who I am?” he asked.
Carlos stared wide-eyed at him, unable to speak or move from his injuries.
“I am Ruprecht, soon to be the thirteenth vampire lord. I am Agnes’s maker. Her minions did you the disservice of incomplete vampirization.” He shook his head. “Dreadful. It’s like they wanted you to die at the first hint of trouble. That or they were too weak to turn you properly.”
Ruprecht snapped his fingers. A trickle of blood trailed down his hand. He held his dripping index finger over Carlos’s mouth. A few drops of blood landed on his lips.
Carlos licked away the blood and Ruprecht replaced it with three more drops.
The young vampire’s broken jaw reset with a wet pop and his neck returned to a natural angle with an even louder pop.
“Jesus H., man,” he gasped. “You’ve got to give me more.”
“In good time, my son. For now, keep your lips closed tight and let me pontificate.” Ruprecht stood and glanced around the front of the house. “From the stench coming from inside the house, I wager that the werewolf shifted in there.”
“I—” Before Carlos could complete the thought, a glare from Ruprecht silenced him.
“Lucifera’s handiwork is all over the area out back. If one is of a weak mind or has had the misfortune to lose some of his blood to her, she will play with their thoughts, then destroy their body.”
He picked up Agnes’s head and caressed her cheek. “I knew she might defeat my Agnes, but I did not think she would kill her. It’s possible that I am wrong about her intentions.” He kissed the head on the lips, then tossed it aside. “You know what distresses me, Carlos?”
Carlos shook his head.
“What distresses me is that I cannot tell how she did it. I figured Lucifera would use holy water to fight Agnes, but she didn’t. She didn’t use fire to force her to become corporeal either.” He turned back to Carlos. “I don’t suppose you saw anything did you?”
The vampire shook his head again. “No, man. I heard that werewolf roar from the roof. There was a struggle, then it landed on the ground over there. While it was heading back up to the roof, I felt Agnes die.”
“Curiouser and curiouser. So the beast did not do it either. Lucifera found a way. She’s always been annoying like that.”
Carlos stood and flexed his arms and legs with a smile. “Shit. I feel like a million bucks.”
“I know. Play your cards right and I might make you a vampire lord yourself when this is over, my son.”
“Whoa. You can do that?”
“If things go the way I expect, then I can and will do just that, as it will be within my power and authority.”
Ruprecht closed his eyes and reached out with his mind, searching for Lucifera. He felt her power a few miles to the east. He reeled in his own power so she did not sense him.
“They are close, but there is no need to rush this. Lucifera must be allowed to play her part. I don’t want to move prematurely.” He patted Carlos on the shoulder. “Come on, then. Let me show you to the master crypt. We’ll need a good day’s sleep before we set out.”
Carlos followed him through the broken front door. “Hey, Ruprecht, I gotta ask, why do they call you the horror?”
Ruprecht spun around with a smile and outstretched his arms. “Good show, my son. I thought you’d never ask.” He rose from the floor and a thick black seam appeared in the air behind him. “Tell me, Carlos: What do you fear the most?”Ruprecht spun around with a smile and outstretched his arms. “Good show, my son. I thought you’d never ask.” He rose from the floor and a thick black seam appeared in the air behind him. “Tell me, Carlos: What do you fear the most?”