This is another excerpt from War of Nytefall: Loyalty. It’s one that I’m rather amused by even now because it sets an interesting tone. A rough slapstick comedy that shows up from time to time since the characters take advantage of being able to regenerate and having immortality. This isn’t much of a spoiler since I’ve explained what Dawn Fangs are capable of before. Still, the cut is there just in case.
Noticing that Clyde is barely moving even with the current, Mab throws a rock and watches it bounce off her friend’s head. He vanishes for a second and reappears next to the startled burglar, who is left wondering if she hit an illusion or not. Watching him move, she cannot shake the feeling that there is a bigger difference in him than she originally thought. A slight flicker of bloodlust repeatedly appears in his eyes, the sensation unlike the usual predatory aura that vampires give off when hungry. There is an eerie grace in Clyde’s steps, but it comes in stutters as if he is restraining himself. His footsteps switch between being silent and thudding, the effect seemingly ignored by the man himself. Mab reaches up to touch her shirt and finds tiny holes from her partner’s fingers, which also pierced her skin. As her friend cuts his hair short enough to tie into a comfortable ponytail, an idea pops into the burglar’s head and she opens her mouth to speak.
“I think I’ll ask you to help with this later because I don’t like it anymore,” Clyde states while holding out his hair. With a shrug, he slashes it off near the base of his skull and lets his remaining hair rise into a slight mess. “A deal is a deal. My plan was to use my execution as a distraction and make off with the Orb of Durag. You must have figured that out and know how everything went wrong. By all rights, I should be dead and I was probably a few seconds away from that fate. Those priests wouldn’t stop even as the ground swallowed us all. Everything is a blur as their magic stopped and I found myself healed. I’ll admit that I didn’t know what was going on at first. There were hundreds of people trapped with me and nobody’s magic worked except for my illusions. It was easy prey and a lot of rationing, but I must have still gone unfed for at least the last twenty years. For some reason, I couldn’t dig my way out without something dragging me back under or the earth collapsing around me. That is until those idiots made such a large hole. After that, I waited until I caught a familiar scent. Didn’t want to come out into a new world without someone I trust by my side.”
“Do you still trust me?” Mab asks with a crooked smile. Pulling out a comb, she beckons for her friend to lean forward and does her best to make him look presentable. “Not to point fingers, but you should have sent me a clear message or contacted Xavier. All of us talk about the old days and how we miss you, but it got too painful for the others to believe you were still alive. It became a distraction and a few of our younger friends got killed because they weren’t paying attention to the present. That’s why I stopped trying to convince the others to follow me. Too many members of our gang died listening to me before I learned my lesson.”
“What happened to Titus?”
“Xavier uses him and the Vengeance Hounds to go after holy threats.”
“Switches between training new turns and leading squads in battle.”
“Any word from Chas . . . you know who?”
“I assume she’s off somewhere with her legs wide open.”
“Where is this somewhere since I’m sure you know?”
“She has an establishment on the far side of the kingdom.”
“Is the old man still kicking?”
“Pretty sure that hermit is going to outlive us all.”
Clyde chuckles at the comment and moves away from Mab as his head feels like it is being squeezed. He falls to his knees as the sensation runs down his entire body, the nearby cauldron the only thing preventing him from collapsing into the mud. A banging in his ears causes them to bleed while his chest aches with every shallow breath. Feeling nauseous, Clyde presses on his stomach to help eject a spray of white foam and solid clots. The blast dissolves as soon as it hits the grass, which turns black and rots into the soil. Exhaling slowly, he gradually regains control of his body, but has trouble standing again.
“Let me give you a hand,” Mab says while taking him by the wrist. She immediately jumps back and lets her friend fall to the ground, her eyes wide with fear. “You have a pulse! What is going on here, Clyde? You can’t be human again after what I saw you do, but vampires don’t have heartbeats.”
“This is new to me too, so let’s keep it between us,” Clyde requests as he puts his fingers against his neck. He is about to gesture a spell to cover the unexpected change, but he finds that the trick appears with the merest thought. “Okay, I have it masked and we’ll get it checked out once we can visit Gregorio. I did say that things felt really weird down there, right? Well, I’m saying it now if that counts. Anyway, we don’t want to keep Xavier waiting. He might not be expecting me, but he’ll want to know where you are. I’d rather meet him on friendly terms than running into his men. What’s say we grab a bite and head out?”
Cocking her head to the side, Mab casually reaches out with growing claws and calmly tears open up her friend’s chest in one movement. “Yeah, it’s beating. Looks tasty, which is kind of gross to think about. I mean, I’ve seen vampire hearts before and they’re usually dull red with black veins. This reminds me of the time mine was nearly torn out by that troll and you had to hold it in while fighting since I was dismembered too.”
“Do you mind, Mab?” Clyde asks, smacking her hands away. Pushing his ribs and flesh together, he has his heart quickly pump blood through his veins and heals the wound faster than expected. “Looks like I can produce my own blood too. Probably explains why I haven’t been starving and pouncing on anything edible. That might change after I get more active and maybe this little wrinkle will go away too. We’ll have to stop on the way to Nyte since I need a new shirt now. Did you have to open me like a wardrobe?”
“Sorry, but now we’re even.”