I was tempted to introduce Lost right away, but I think I’m going to save that for next week. This one makes for a great build up. Windemere is a pretty dangerous place if you’re not careful.
Trudging through the forest, the surviving raiders grab whatever animals they can find and leave a trail of corpses in their wake. Very few sizeable creatures can be found, so the starving predators end up wasting more energy than they gain chasing squirrels and rabbits. Lacking night cloaks, the defeated warriors are weakened by the sun and struggle to continue walking in the direction of Nyte. Those who lag behind are left to fend for themselves and eventually disappear from view. Several let their hunger get the best of them and attempt to feast on a bear or dread boar, which results in a violent mauling that they are unable to recover from. Any who survive such encounters are either mercy killed by the rest of the pack or abandoned. By the time the sun begins to sink below the horizon, there are only ten vampires left and they are nearing the end of their self-control. The smell of prey mixed with chimney smoke draws them to the top of a hill and they stare hungrily at a small farm. With a rumbling growl, the starving pack stays low and makes their way towards the unsuspecting mortals.
Halfway to their target, those in the lead sense that something is wrong. Looking over their shoulder, they realize that three of their number have disappeared. Rustling bushes cause them to stop, but all they see is a bunny hop out with leaves in its mouth. Ignoring the rodent, the pack prepares to go back on the hunt until a blur rushes across their vision and another vampire vanishes. This time, the severed feet of their friend remain where he was standing, the ankles eerily hollowed out as if the rest of the body was simply popped off the joints. Still weakened by the setting sun, the warriors gather into a circle and scan the forest for their attackers. With a yelp, one of them is yanked into the ground, which has become muddy around her feet and hardens as soon as she is out of sight. Two more vampires gasp in pain when curved stakes explode from below to keep them in place and noose-like vines drop down to catch them by the neck. Instead of pulling, the strange plants drain the pair of all their blood and moisture until they explode into curtains of drifting dust.
Fearing for their lives, the three survivors sprint towards the farm in the hopes of getting help from the mortals. They are within sight of the barn when a lightning bolt comes from the sky and turns the slowest one into ashes. One of the other vampires stumbles at the sight of the unexpected death and screams as he falls over the edge of a cliff. The man screams at the top of his lungs, his mind filled with the sensation of plummeting into a gaping abyss that reaches up to infect his body with slithering tendrils. Unable to see through the visceral illusion, he tears at his flesh until he manages to rip off his own head. The lone survivor bolts away as fast as he can, the dwindling sunlight allowing him to regain his strength. He is within reach of the barn door when he sees that the mortals are frozen on their porch. The moment of hesitation is enough for an unseen enemy to strike the vampire in the back with a ball of sunlight that leaves him squirming and gasping on the ground.
“We put the tasty ones to sleep,” a young man says as he emerges from a tree that stands next to the barn. His body resembles mossy bark until he rips it off to reveal dark brown skin and a shock of beautiful blue hair. “My name is Eighty and I have a question. We’re looking for someone and think they’re around here. They’re very good at hiding and disguising themselves, so it’s been a difficult journey. Are you Lost?”
“I don’t understand the question,” the vampire whimpers as more of his attackers come out of the nearby woods. Their beating hearts echo in his ears, revealing that they are Dawn Fangs, but he senses that they are different from the others he has encountered. “My loyalty is always to Lord Xavier Tempest of Nyte. Whatever nasty trick your creator is trying to play won’t work on me.”
“This one isn’t Lost,” an orc with leopard spots grumbles. Picking the prisoner up by the leg, the creature’s perpendicular ears wiggle in delight. “I want to see how many strips I can make out of this one. The last one was fifty. I think I can do more. Can I kill him? Please let me do it, Eighty.”
“Everyone gets to take a strip because we’re all hungry,” their leader declares before sniffing the dangling vampire. His nose wrinkles and he nearly vomits, a blinding light briefly appearing in his mouth. “This thing smells terrible. Maybe eating the last one is why so many of us got sick. They are nothing more than walking corpses after all. I’m going to ask it a different question.”
“Please let me go and-” the vampire begs, his skin mysteriously burning.
The Dawn Fang calling himself Eighty crouches and stares into the man’s eyes before whispering, “Tell us what we want and you can go. Where . . . is . . . Lost?”