Hunter and the Hunted
Joshua Olsen’s Cantrips & Catastrophies
A Magic: the Gathering Fan Fiction short story
Author’s note: Dear readers, the following was written as the sort of scene that you find in many action movies that introduce a bad-ass character. Imagine this piece as the literary equivalent to the scene in every Terminator movie where Arnie wipes out some poor biker blokes so he can acquire some clothing. As such, don’t expect any stunning philosophical discourses forthcoming. Do expect some good old fashioned carnage though. Enjoy.
Perimeter of Voldaren Manor, Stromkirk, Stensia Providence, Innistrad
The two vampire sentries standing guard at the gate initially thought nothing of a single solitary figure out in the pelting rain at midnight. This was Innistrad after all, and even apart from vampires there were plenty of creatures of the night. If anything, it was something to look at; the two-vampire guard team wouldn’t be relived for another few hours at least. But when the figure approached them through the rain, the mist parting to reveal its identity hidden under a shabby billowing cloak, the guards exchanged looks of relaxed interest. What was this decrepit peasant doing out at such an hour?
“Can we help you?” One of the guards said in a tone of barely-concealed disdain as the figure drew in close.
“I seek an audience with the count.” The cloaked figure rasped.
A grimace came over one of the guard’s flawless alabaster faces, his grip on his halberd tightening. “The Count isn’t seeing any one right now, there is a party going on at present. And even if there wasn’t, he still wouldn’t be seeing the likes of you, day or night.”
The hooded figure hesitated. “I must insist that I be permitted entry.”
The other guard stepped forward, a snarl on his face. This one clearly didn’t get it. “You’d best move along, human. Our palates are far less discerning than our master’s.” He placed a palm out, intent on pushing the peasant away.
Before he could connect, the hooded figure’s arm shot out with remarkable speed, grasping the guard around his helmet. The figure’s arm was huge and covered in scales like a snake’s; the hand almost covered the helm entirely. As the other guard looked on in shock, the grasped guard let go of his halberd, letting it clatter to the cobblestones as he reached up to try and break the grip with both his hands. Amazingly, he couldn’t.
“I’m not a human,” rumbled the figure, and began to squeeze.
The guard instantly began to scream and struggled much harder as the helm swiftly began to buckle under the pressure. Despite his heavy bronze helm and the vampire’s frantic struggles to break the grip, it took the hooded figure only five seconds to utterly crush the guard’s helm (and the guard’s head inside it) like a stale biscuit. The figure let go, and the dead vampire instantly fell to the ground. With a growl, the hooded figure took a step forward, towards the manor’s gate.
The remaining guard stepped to bar the figure’s path with a snarl, baring his pointed fangs in anger at his comrade’s death. Whoever this thing was, it had just earned itself a one-way trip to a shallow grave. Grasping his halberd in a two-handed grip, the guard stepped one pace forward, swinging the axe head in a controlled sideward’s chop. The figure swayed away from the attack, but not enough to stop the blade from landing a glancing blow to its shoulder area. But instead of an arc of blood, there was instead a grating sound, and the figure remained standing, leaving a deep gash through his cloak where the blade had punctured it.
With a snarl the figure lurched forward, the cloak rippling. It grabbed the vampire by both shoulders, picking him up and slamming him against the manor’s exterior wall hard enough to crack the stone. The guard struggled, like his partner before him instinctively dropping his weapon to try and break the grab. It was useless.
“Weak,” The figure spat in contempt.
Pulling them both away from the wall, the figure changed its grip, sliding the struggling vampire bodily into an underarm position as though the battle-armored guard weighed no more than a kitten.
“His strength must be enormous,” thought the guard in panic.
Grasping the vampire guard firmly, the figure rammed the vampire head first into the stone wall like he had a battering ram and was trying to break the wall down. The impact was unheard by any of the denizens of Stormkirk in their beds, as the heavy rain and crackle of thunder muffled the sound.
After the first impact the vampire gave a strident “NO!” after the second there was a gurgling “Please…..”, and after the third there was silence, as the vampire’s head had messily disappeared.
The figure dropped the twitching, now headless body carelessly onto the street, surveying the mess he had made of the guards. Feeling the large cut in his cloak with a clawed finger, the figure shrugged it off, revealing underneath a stocky well built Viashino, his Wurm-hide armor marked by a deep cut to in the shoulder.
As the cloak fluttered down the empty rain slicked street, Arrkas Zek whispered a spell, causing thorny vines to burst from the nearby shrubbery and rend the heavy lock on the Manor’s gate into fragments of torn metal. Arrkas pushed the gate aside, leaving it wide open. Tail twitching from the cold, Arrkas started up the stone drive that led up to Voldaren Manor.
*** *** ***
The party was in full swing inside the Bloodhall. Vampires, in revealing clothes that defied Stensia’s chilly climate, swanned about the chamber their behavior a mixture of chatting, floating above the ground and swilling glasses of the finest vintage human blood the Voldaren’s had on tap. From a few rooms over a five string band played, the music gently wafting over to the party room to the clinking of glasses and gossip dishing.
This atmosphere of refined breeding and fine arts was abruptly ended when a thumping and crashing echoed along on the second floor balcony. One of the vampire higher-ups, floating several meters up in the air where it conversed with others of its kind, pointed to the balcony, surprise written over its heavily-made up features.
“My word! What is that….?”
As the others in the room turned to look, perhaps thinking it was the evening’s entertainment; a burly shape ran and launched itself off the second floor railing. Roaring incoherently, it crashed into the pointing vampire lady, and pushed her underneath its bulk as they fell. With a crunch that buckled floorboards the reptilian gatecrasher landed vampire-lady first on one of the human “blood banks” collared around the room, pulverizing the unlucky vampire and human under his hard impact. As the vampires throughout the room dropped their glasses in shock, Arrkas Zek straightened up from the gory crater. He spread his arms wide and eyed the nearby vampires with battle lust.
“COME ON! WHO WANTS TO GO FIRST!” he bellowed in challenge, goading them.
The vampires hissed in rage, lips pulled back and teeth bared like a pack of hungry wolves. Under all their trappings of finery and class, under all the silken clothes and elaborate titles, they were just as much an animal as Arrkas was. They just couldn’t accept it.
As one, the Vampires from all across the room rushed at him, arms outstretched and sharpened fingernails glinting.
“THAT’S RIGHT! IMPRESS ME!”
Arrkas waited till the last second, and spun around low, tail and fists whipping out. A dozen or so were bowled over with the wind taken out of them, and Arrkas plowed into the others still standing. A wide haymaker punch took out three vampires with the crack of bone, but gave another a chance to close in. The vampire unleashed three lightening-fast jabs, and Arrkas grunted. The fourth punch didn’t land as Arrkas grabbed the offending limb and bit through it with one snap of his crocodile-esque mouth, his razor teeth neatly snapping through bone. Pushing the screeching one-armed vampire away Arrkas snatched another in his hand, marveling at the ease with which he was able to snap the creature’s neck.
Arrkas had run into Vampires on many planes, they seemed to be one of the multiverse’s consistants, like Elves and Goblins. But of the many varieties he’d faced, the Innistrad breed had to be amongst the weakest. They had only double the strength of an ordinary human. Weak. Hardly worth the effort.
“It’s not the most worthy of hunts,” thought the big Viashino as he let one strike a solid blow to his jaw, just to keep things interesting. The uppercut did stagger him, and the vampire who had dealt it leapt forward, keen to press his advantage now that he mistakenly thought he had Arrkas reeling. “but there’s certainly something to be said for outlasting an entire hoard of combatants, of pitting the quality against the quantity. How many Innistrad Vampires is this Jund Viashino worth?” Arrkas mused as he sharply elbowed the advancing vampire dead on, a spray of blood arching past his smiling face. “40? 150? More even?”
Already the Bloodhall was living up to its name, littered with injured, unconscious, dead and dying, and yet more and more vampires surged into the room. God, he loved a challenge. Blood pumping, muscles brimming with energy, Arrkas roared as a Vampire Lordling flew at him, hovering at head height. The Lordling’s feet lashed out like vipers in a series of controlled kicks, forcing Arrkas to cross both his arms to block the worst of the onslaught. The Lordling’s speed was certainly greater than Arrkas’, the Viashino giving ground as he tried to find an opportunity to counter-attack. Arrkas chanced a glance behind him, seeing that he was being backed up against the manor’s wall. The glance cost him, as the Lordling finally penetrated Arrkas’ defense and cracked him around the head with a sweeping kick. The Lordling was too fast, his movements like quicksilver. He couldn’t keep up his defense, it wasn’t working anyway. So Arrkas fell back on a combat trick he had spent his life honing: “If you cannot hope to dodge a blow, grit your teeth and take it. Just make sure to hit the other guy back harder than he can hit you.”
The Vampire hissed with glee as it launched a low kick, dropping a few centimeters to make sure it ducked below his foe’s blocking arms, and this time Arrkas took it without retort, huffing as air left his lungs but nevertheless reaching out and seizing the Lordling’s leg. “ENOUGH!” he raged, swinging the Lordling through the air by the foot and slamming it into the wall like it was a bat. The resulting snap told him that that combatant would not be getting up, perhaps ever again.
After the example he’d made of the Lording Arrkas wouldn’t have been surprised if the Vampires had fled Voldaren Manor for their lives yet, but it was not to be. No less than four Vampires closed in on Arrkas as one, using the combined momentum from their charge to force the Viashino up against the wall, pinning his arms back.
“Quick, finish the beast off! Now, while we have him!” called one Vampire.
While the two burly males each kept an arm pinned with both their own, the two females moved in for the kill: one producing a jeweled dagger, the other using her sharpened finger nails. Growling, Arrkas headbutted one as she closed in, pitching her backwards with a smashed nose. The arm holders redoubled their efforts to immobilize Arrkas, pushing his arms back against the wall as hard as they could. The female with the sharpened nails lunged in, and Arrkas stopped trying to free his arms. Trusting to the strength of the vampires holding him, he launched his legs up, snapping them around the female vampire’s midsection and drawing her in. With a flex of his powerful leg muscles, honed by rigorous workouts just for such an unlikely occasion, Arrkas snapped her spine. The look of shock on her face, frozen in the moment of death, was something he’d remember for some time.
But Arrkas didn’t have time for that right now, he had to get the two vampires off him, before more came in to take advantage of his grappled position. Turning his head to look at one struggling vampire Arrkas drew in a great lungful of air. The vampire grinned.
“What are you going to do? Blow on me?” he smirked.
Arrkas bellowed, releasing a primal roar primarily intended to generate noise right next to the vampire’s head. The vampire screamed in pain, his hands flying up to cover his now bleeding ears. Vampires had superhuman hearing, but such sharpened senses were vulnerable to being overloaded, a fact Arrkas knew from countless hunts. One arm now free, Arrkas ignored the deafened Vampire stumbling around and grabbed the remaining Vampire by the neck, spinning once and using the momentum to throw him bodily into a nearby fireplace. The vampire’s fine silk garments caught ablaze in an instant, and the vampire’s writhing form disappeared in a ball of fire.
The deafened vampire was stumbling around, trying to quell the ringing in his head. Like a shell-shocked soldier he gave no thought to his surroundings until he felt Arrkas’ huge presence looming up behind him. The vampire turned to face the threat only to receive a knee to the gut, knocking all the wind out of him. Thus winded, he was unable to dodge as Arrkas’ tail swiped out, sweeping his legs out from under him and sending him crashing to the carpeted floor. “One all-natural remedy for an earache, coming up leech,” chuckled Arrkas to himself, and he stomped hard, collapsing the vampire’s cranium like a dried out bug.
The room was finally empty of vampires. Well, living ones at any rate. Arrkas cracked his neck, taking stock of his body. He couldn’t feel anything of concern, though he’d have bruises the next day. Putting a hand into his cavernous mouth, Arrkas felt around gingerly. A second later with a slight grunt of discomfort, he’d snapped off three teeth loosened in the fight. He’d grow new ones in a few days.
Arrkas looked around, scanning to see if there was anything he could use as a weapon. Fighting bare-knuckle against these vermin was fun and all, but Arrkas knew the Count would be a far greater challenge. He needed something that would complement his reach, but which would shatter into a good sharp point after a few solid swings…..there! One of the lavishly ornate chairs had splintered during in the fight, and an off table leg lay apart from the rest, one end reduced to a wicked point. It would make for a fine stake. Arrkas stomped over to the chair, reached over and picked up the leg. Good, it was heavy and solid, well weighted for swinging and……