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Ties Of Blood Chapter 2 - The many roads ahead




Prelude

From the journal of Gilita Paragos.

4th April, written during the great struggle known as the Lion War.

It has been a week since we left Igros.

The journey overland was swift, as of yet we have not been attacked by either monster or bandit and for this we are thankful. Master Candon and Sir Kevin have spent much time discussing our next move, it seems we have many options available to us.

Me and Deis have only been privy to small snippets of conversation yet we have determined much, Sir Candon wishes to look for the man who was mentioned by the bandits in the wilderness (slain by Lugien, see page 12), yet the location of this man (Barnalby I believe his name was) is unknown. He may be the key to discovering more about the Zodiac stones (and in that regard may lead us to Ramza), this is the best option available at the moment.

Sir Kevin wishes for us to go undercover however, he wants to go on treasure hunting expeditions and explorations, he thinks that we can make a name for ourselves amongst the more unruly side of society, in this way we can gain contact with someone who can lead us to the traitor group led by Ramza, I doubt Sir Candon will take this option however, this would be a last resort in any case.

Deis has also ventured an idea, that we spread rumours of our group having a Zodiac, if the Beoulve or Agrias are in the area (as was last reported) then they would certainly seek us out, this is a good plan however both the masters wish to look for Barnalby first. Deis and I have become fast friends over the past week, perhaps it is because we are alike in our backgrounds and in our servitude to nobleman, regardless he is a fine warrior and I feel the better knowing that he, a Knight and a Holy Knight are my companions.

We entered the city of Gariland earlier today and it is certainly one of the most interesting places I have been, all manners of people walk the streets wearing some of the most exotic clothing I have ever seen, the marketplace was also a site of wonder, I have seen weapons of all shapes and sizes and many different kinds of armour, there was even a man willing to exchange items for animal pelts (a barbaric practise I think, yet it is not my place in this strange city to judge).

I am writing this in the ' Red Lion' inn, we are staying here the night and we begin our search tommorow, until then Sir Kevin insists on buying everyone drinks, I do not why he seems so happy, our quest is of a very serious nature, I will finish writing now and continue tommorow night.

Additional Note - For the sake of clarity, Sir Candon's black chocobo is a strong, fast and yet arrogant bird, he decided to name it after his grandmother ( the bird reminds him of her or so he says), so whenever I refer to the name Dona it means the chocobo.

....

Part 1 - Against the odds

"Will you stop writing for one moment and join in the toast" Kevin told Gilita as he wrote in his journal.

"I am done, now what are we toasting" Gilita said as he closed the book and placed it in his pack.

The four men sat at a small table in the Red Lion inn, all were dressed in their common clothes and kept their weapons hidden from sight, Kevin had just bought drinks all around (ale for Deis, Gilita and himself, water for Candon) and the mood in the room was happy.

"We are celebrating the beginning of our journey my good man, if we can get the traitor Ramza then we will be famous, songs will be sung around the land about us, so I propose a toast to us, cheers!" Kevin said as he knocked his mug into those of his companions, Candon however did not return his gesture.

"Keep your voice down Kevin, I would like our mission to remain a secret until we have a solid lead, do not get too excited over what we must do, Ramza Beoulve is a powerful warrior who has studied many forms of combat, alongside him is my sister who by all accounts still has her Holy powers, with them are a group of powerful warriors with no sense of honour and would not hesitate to cut us down if we threatend their master" Candon said as sipped from his drink.

Kevin sat down and took another swig from his mug, he pulled a few gold coins from his purse and put them on the tray of a passing waitress "Keep the drinks coming".

"I do not wish to get into a direct fight with this Beoulve, our best solution is to try and lure him out, if that fails then we can hire a group of swords for hire, I have the money to do so from my family, perhaps you can talk to your sister before we do anything rash?" Kevin said as he finished his drink, another three were brought.

Candon said nothing as he finished his water, he sat in thought as his companions drank more ale.

***********

The chocobos in the stable outside the inn were unused to the regal black that stood amongst them, Dona stood proudly as the yellow ones backed away and gave her room as she drank from a water bowl.

Then she felt something, a dark aura seemed to pass the stable, the other chocobos began to screech and run around wildly, Dona's training stopped her from overeacting as the smell of death passed the assembled birds.

The stable boy could not understand the reaction, he did what he could to calm them down, eventually giving them a bowl of Gyshal greens to the birds (which seemed to work), he had never seen anything like it.

Outside the stable a figure in black plate mail wrapped in robes walked past, he sniffed the air and wondered if he should dine on chocobo blood tonight, but he decided against it however, he needed to accelerate the healing caused by the Holy Knight's attack.

For that he would need human blood.

**********

At this point in the evening Gilita had long since retired to bed, Kevin and Deis kept on drinking however (Candon remained awake to make sure they did not do anything stupid), they were both on their twelth pint!.

Deis finally collapsed on the table, being the younger and smaller of the two he had succumbed to the drink quicker, Kevin let out a drunken cry of celebration when he suddenly put his hand over his mouth, he was about to be sick.

"Get out and do it in the street!" the innkeeper shouted at Kevin "You better take him to bed lad." he told Candon, pointing at the semi-conscious Deis.

Candon opened the door and Kevin rushed into a nearby alley, Deis was then carried upstairs and put into his bed.

Kevin spent the next few minutes emptying his stomach on the side of the inn, after a short while he managed to stop, he wiped his mouth on a hanckerchief in his sleeve and stood up to go back in the inn.

"You better hand over your money nobleman, dont lie to us" Kevin heard a voice down the street, he thought it was adressed to him.

He looked out of the alley and saw five people further down the street, four were dressed alike in dark green leather armour, the fifth was a figure completly obscured by a long black robe he wore, the four appeared to be talking to the one.

The figure whispered something as a reply, Kevin couldnt quite work out what was being said, one of the men went white however, he clicked his fingers and pulled a sword from his belt.

One of the men at the side of the robed figure suddenly pulled a hammer from his sleeve and swung, a black mailed fist erupted from the robe and pointed at the man, a single bolt of black energy shot into the attacker and knocked him on his back.

The other three thieves attacked with whatever weapon was at hand, the robe was dropped from the man and their stood a man with ivory skin and long white hair dressed in black plate, the vampire Lugien.

Kevin recognised the description yet was too transfixed by the man's speed to call for help, he sat dumbfounded as the silver sword appeared in Lugiens hand and he proceeded to cut down his opponents with swift, accurate strikes.

Soon the only one alive was the one knocked back, Lugien lifted this man and said in a loud, inhuman voice "Where is the man I seek!".

The man didnt respond however, his fear had paralysed him, Lugien sighed as he realised he would have to find another informant, he then aimed his sword (aptly named Life Stealer) and plunged it into the heart of the man.

The man shuddered in pain, his body shriveling fast as the blood was drained away into the sword, the man quickly collapsed into ashes, Lugien let out a sigh of ecstasy as the blood rushed through his veins.

Six heavily armed men came around the corner, it was the night watch who heard the dying screams of the thieves, Lugien saw this and with the speed of a panther he leapt into the shadows and ran for his sanctuary.

Kevin managed to crawl back to the inn, Candon had just came downstairs with sword in hand (he also heard the screams), he looked at Kevin who's face had turned white.

"What happened, are you alright?". Candon asked.

"I just saw Lugien, he killed young men...for food" Kevin said this as his vision began to swim.

He fell to the floor unconscious, the last thing he remembered was Candon shouting "Lugien!" and leaping over him.

But Kevin was beyond the responses of worried tavern patrons, he wished he was back at his warm bed in Igros.

**********

Part 2 - Shaken courage

"So you say this man killed four men singlehandly, stabbed one through the heart to drain his blood and ran off into the night, in full plate mail?" the captain of the watch asked a much more sober Kevin.

He was sitting in the Red Lion a few hours after the incident had happened, Kevin was holding a cup of water with shaking hands as he recounted the attack, Candon stood watch over the door, fearing that Lugien may return.

"I know it sounds like madness, but I saw it happen, the way he just cut them without remorse, the last one being drained of his life, I did not imagine nor hallucinate this, it was simply too real" Kevin said as he looked to Candon for support.

"He is right officer, on the road to Igros I encountered the creature and I was in a much more sober state than my friend here, I only fought it off because of what I am" Candon said, watching the shadows beyond the window.

"What exactly are you, I know of so-called vampires from legend, who has the power to fight such things?" the officer asked.

Candon said nothing as he drew his sword from its scabbard, the familiar silver light flaring from the blade, he pointed it at the officer.

"My god, a Holy Knight!" the man said excitedly.

"You recognise the blade of my order, amongst my possesions you will find the armour and barbuta helm, but you know that only true knights can hold this blade" Candon said as he slid the sword back into its scabbard.

"Indeed, I have met a few travelling Holy Knights in my time, they certainly are the right people to fight a vampire, but pray tell why are you in this city?" the man asked.

"I am...hunting this vampire, Lugien is his name and he has caused a lot of trouble over the past few months, I am undercover trying to weed him out, my friend here was travelling with me and seems to have gotten his first glimpse of their evil power, it happens to a lot of people" Candon hated lying but realised that he needed to keep his mission secret, Lugien was the perfect cover.

"Fine, I will take your friends statement and spread the word, the watch will find this creature if he is still in the city, I would speak with you again of your mission, if you need my help in this matter then seek me out, I am Watchmaster Patrick" the man said as he bowed to Candon and left to talk with his men.

"I doubt that highly" Candon said after the man left, he sat next to Kevin, both were alone in the inn (the inn keeper had left for bed after the watch took control of the incident), Kevin looked pale.

"Are you alright my friend, perhaps you should get some sleep?" Candon asked.

"He..moved..so..fast, how can we fight such a creature, such evil?" Kevin said as he sipped from his drink.

"Kevin, I have seen this creature fight also, why does its power shock you so, are you not a Knight of the realm, where is your courage?" Candon did not like taking the tough approach, but he did not want Kevin freezing if they were to fight the creature.

"I have seen men die, I have even slain monsters before when they would bother the farms outside of Igros, but this is different, men kill for honour and pride, monsters kill because they are little more than beasts, but Lugien was a well spoken man, who did not care what he was doing, he enjoyed it" Kevin put his head in his hands.

"Come my friend, you will feel better in the morning, now is the time to sleep" Candon said as he helped his friend stand.

Kevin did not seem to hear him, he was led upstairs and he climbed into his bed and fell asleep.

*********

"Lugien, he is here in the city!" Gilita asked, Candon had recounted the story to both he and Deis when they awoke.

They sat at the same table as the previous night, they were eating a hearty breakfast as Candon broke the news to the two squires, Kevin had yet to awaken.

"Who is this Lugien fellow?" Deis asked, only half interested in what was being said (his hangover taking precedence in his attention).

Candon explained to him about the road to Igros and to both about the night previous, as he finished Kevin was walking down the stairs.

"Good morning everyone, I see Candon has told you about last night" Kevin said as he ordered food for himself.

"Is this true sir, did you see a vampire?" Deis asked his master.

"Yes it is Deis, Iím sorry I reacted the way I did Candon, the last thing you need is me scared stiff of an enemy, I feel much better now" he said, a large plate of fried food was passed to him.

"Do not worry yourself Kevin, the only reason me and Gilita were not the same is because we are trained to fight such evil powers, I would hope we can make him pay for his crimes after we have dealt with Ramza" Candon said as finished his own meal.

"The question now is our next move, we are looking for this Barnalby fellow and we have no clue where to start, is their anything in your journal that can help Gilita?" Candon asked his squire.

Gilita fished the book out of his bag and placed it on the table, after quickly skimming through he shook his head.

They sat in silence and finished their breakfast, Kevin finally broke the silence with an idea.

"What if this Barnalby is a well known man, maybe he does his dodgy business on the side, if this is the case then we have something to barter with, I will ask the inn keeper if he knows him" Kevin said, the others nodded, it was the best idea they had.

Kevin approached the bar and called the inn keeper over, the others watched him talk for the next five minutes, the conversation ended with Kevin pressing a golden Gil coin into the mans hand, he walked back to the table.

"He was reluctant at first but I managed to squeeze it out of him, Barnalby is a legatimate Chemist who lives about an hour away, he gave me directions to his shop" Kevin said with a smile, he felt like his old self again.

"Finish up your meals everyone and gather your stuff, I will have the inn keeper mind our chocobo's for a little longer, I didnít think this would be so easy" Candon said, he went upstairs as they ate their breakfast.

If Barnalby was indeed a criminal then he may have men of his own, perhaps he was a crime lord or a former Death Corps, regardless Candon was not about to be caught in an ambush.

He pulled his armour from his pack, he would walk openly into the den of sin, as a Holy Knight.

************

' Shop Closed till further notice '

The sign faced the four men as they approached the Pharmacy, Candon began knocking loudly at the door, no one replied.

"Damn, how will we find Barnalby now!" Candon shouted, he hit the door one last time and turned to his companions, they were out of ideas.

"You say your looking for Barnalby?" a childís voice came from a nearby alley.

Kevin turned to see a small boy walk out of the darkness into the street, he couldnít have been more than nine years old.

"I would forget about it if I was you, he's went into hiding" the boy said casually.

"Hiding, is he still in the city?" Kevin asked.

"Not for me to say, he was running about in a right hurry yesterday, boarding up his shop and dragging a chest behind him, said he was being hunted by something or someone and needed to hide, told me to watch the shop to see who's asking for him" the boy said smiling.

"Can you contact him, can you tell him that people need to see him on a matter of importance?" Candon asked.

"That depends on why they want to see him, his business aint strictly closed if you know what I mean, if I was gonna speak to him then I would need something important to tell him" the boy said, pretending to look unconcerned.

"Tell him that we know the fate of three of his men who went to meet someone outside of Igros, we may know what is hunting and we are willing to pay for information" Kevin said, he threw a coin to the lad who caught it halfway.

"Fine then, Iíll speak to him but donít expect results, where should I meet you if I need to speak?" the boy asked.

"The Red Lion inn, the only room on the second floor, we will be there tonight" Candon said, the boy turned and ran back into the alley.

The group departed and left for the inn, Gilita wrote his notes whilst the others spoke, occasionally asking for quotes.

"Do you think that boy is going to come looking for us?" Deis asked.

"Hardly, more likely a group of well armed theives, they know we have gold and its easier to kill than comply" Kevin said nonchalontly.

"I have come to the same conclusion" Candon said, also not concerned.

"Then why did you make a deal with him, arenít you afraid" Deis asked, suddenly troubled.

"Well things are tough because of the war, even if Barnalby is powerful then he isnít likely to have too many strong men, if assasins come for us then we will be ready" Kevin said.

"It would also give him a chance to narrow down the people hunting him, or wiping them out altogether if he's lucky" Gilita piped in as he wrote.

"A cowardly rabble will not last long against us, chances are that one will know where Barnalby is located, I doubt that any theif would like to face the legendary wrath of a Holy Knight" Candon said with a smile, glad that Kevin also considered this.

"So tonight we wait in armour for our prey, make sure you all rest up before we do" Kevin said as he relaxed in his chair.

Both Gilita and Deis looked at each other, half glad and half terrified to have such masters.

***********

Part 3 - A late visit

A lone figure dashed and leapt from building to building, dressed in black he was hard to spot in the dark night, he was a member of a gang of theives owned by the current recluse known as Barnalby and his appointment tonight was with a group of strangers asking questions that they shouldnít.

His target loomed ahead, the only inn called 'Red Lion' in Gariland, he opened a small pack from his shoulder and pulled a rope (with attached grappling hook) from within, he then scouted out the second floor window, the curtain was pulled across obscuring his view inside the room.

With a spin and flick of his wrist the rope was thrown on the roof of the Red Lion, when it caught the edge the thief dropped the rest of it so it hung down the side of the building, he grabbed on to the drain pipe of the house he was on and slid down it.

He quickly darted to an alley, two members of the watch with burning torches walked past, the thief had noticed that they were extra vigilant tonight, perhaps it was due to the rumours of a vampire within the city (something he doubted highly). When the coast was clear he ran to the side of the Red Lion, the rope still hanging from the side and halfway up was the window.

He tested to make sure the rope was strudy enough to hold his weight, with the hands of a professional he climbed the rope up to the window, with one hand he slowly lifted the closed glass halfway, brushing aside the curtain to reveal only darkness in the room ahead.

With a smile he lifted his legs and slid silently into the room, no one was better than him at this, never had he been caught.

Those were his thoughts moments before a silver light flashed in front of his eyes and rough hands threw him against the wall.

"Deis bind him!" a shout came from the silver light, rough hands held the thief's arms behind his back, the light was in front of him now.

"Who sent you thief and do not lie to me, you have invaded the sanctuary of Ajora and no evil creature has ever left alive, speak now the truth or face the wrath of a Holy One!" the light flared to reveal a man in silver armour holding a sword that held the light.

The thief cowered on the floor, Deis dragged him back up to his feet and made him face Candon, Kevin and Gilita waited behind the door with weapons in hand, they delayed however for Candon to finish his intimidation.

"Face me coward, if not then face your doom and the hell that waits beyond it, tell me of your master!" Candon's sword grew brighter, he placed it at the thief's throat.

"I serve no one, I work alone cos theirs more money" the theif spoke with tears in his eyes.

"Liar, I know of the guilds in this city and they do not tolerate loners, you either join or are killed, besides that you have too much information to work alone!" Candon pressed the tip into his throat, a sinlge drop of blood slid down his chest.

"I know nothing, I always do the inns, only rich people stay here, I didnít think..." the thief tried to mumble any excuse to get him out of this situation.

"Lies, you have spoken with the boy and Barnalby sent you, there is no other way you would have known that the window was unlocked, you obviously have nothing to tell us" Candon pulled his sword back and then raised it above his head.

"If you do not tell me where Barnalby is" Candon said matter of factly "I will kill you".

"No, I can tell you where the boss is hiding, please donít kill me, Iím not a sinner, I just do it to survive" the thief said crying.

Candon smiled, his ruse had worked, he kept the blade to the theifs throat "Where?".

"In the sewers, he reckons its in a place that only our gang and the rats know of, were hiding there cos someoneís after the boss, they killed some of us already" the thief quickly gave his information.

Kevin and Gilita then entered, they also aimed their weapons at the thief, Deis tightened his grip.

"Where in the sewers?" Candon asked.

"I canít give you directions, itís like a maze, only someone who has been the way many times can remember it, itís part of our gangs initiation to find your way through" the thief said, averting his eyes.

"Then you will lead us now, you will be bound and gagged until we reach the sewer, if you do anything that seems even remotly like a call to any guards waiting then I will run you through with my blade" Candon grabbed the thiefís face and made him look him in the eyes to show that he was serious.

The thief only nodded, he didnít want to risk angering the Holy One.

"But what about the watch, their gonna try and stop us" Kevin whispered to Candon.

"Leave that to me" Candon smiled, he sheathed his sword and explained his plan, then he left the room and went outside into the cold night air.

*********

"I will make it happen, if it helps find this vampire then the watch will not see you, I only wish you would accept my offer of help" Watchmaster Patrick told Candon in his office.

Candon had came to him late at night with a most peculiar request, that he and his companions walk the city streets with a bound man unnoticed, he explained that his hostage would lead him to man who could help him find Lugien.

"That is very kind officer, however too many men would attract attention, I would need the advantage of surprise for my small squad to deal with a vampire, anything less and its my own head" Candon shook the Watchmasterís hand and stepped back into the night.

A few minutes past and Patrick wrote a small note and asked one of his aides to spread the word to all officers on and off duty, he then wrapped himself in his cloak and strapped a sword to his belt.

If trouble was happening in his city then he would be there with men at his side, war was bad enough without enemies within the the gates.

********

Lead by the bound and gagged thief the four made their way through the city, whenever a member of the watch approached he nodded at Candon and turned away.

They finally made their way to a large drainage grid, Kevin prised it up with his sword and they all climbed down into the darkness of the sewers, Gilita went last and he shut the grid behind them, they stood at an underground crossroads.

Candon pulled the gag off the thief and placed his blade at his throat, it shone with a light that illuminated the area, all noticed several crossbow bolts stuck in the walls around them.

"A battle has been fought here" Kevin pointed out with weapon in hand "If you have led us into an ambush...".

"No, this was major crossing for a few of the gangs, fights sometimes happen here, but its unusual for there to be no bodies" the thief said.

He pointed down one of the passages "That way!".

Moving slowly through the muck they came to more crossroads, Candon's sword lighting the way, they went through many different passages for what seemed like hours, the four were starting to get nervous.

"Almost there, this is the reason why I couldnít give you directions, you would have surely been lost" the thief said, hoping to gain some leverage between himself and the Holy Knight.

"Quiet!" Gilita said suddenly.

All stopped, the sound of dripping water echoing all around them, Gilita pulled out his gun and pointed it behind the group.

"I think we are being followed" he said quietly.

They waited for a little longer, when nothing was apparantly happening they walked further into the darkness.

"It's just round this corner, thereís a metal door a little further down, maybe I should just tell them your coming, if they see you then they might shoot on sight?" the thief asked.

Candon did not reply, he spun and punched the man in the stomach, knocking him unconscious.

"Fat chance, first chance he would get he would betray our position, better he sleeps here, his men will know we forced him and may not take his life" Candon said as he pulled his sheild from his shoulder.

The others were uncomfortable with this comment, it seemed rather callous for a Holy Knight.

They said nothing as they moved around the corner slowly, the metal door was there yet it was open, something was pouring out from underneath it.

Blood

With weapons in hand they moved slowly forward, when they reached the door Candon opened it slowly.

Two bodies, young men with crossbows in their hand's, killed by one razor thin sword strike through the throat.

"Lugien!" Kevin and Candon said aloud, they moved on slowly.

Further in was the same, lots of men and women had been cut down in cold blood with efficiency, each room held the same grisly sight.

Then a voice came from a room with a shattered wooden door, it was Lugien.

"Your guild fought valiently Barnalby but they were no match, tell me what you know of the Zodiac stones" Lugien said from within the room.

Candon rushed forward and smashed through the remains of the door, the others quickly followed him into the room.

Lugien stood in the center, four dead men lay around him in a haphazard manner, in front of him (sat against the wall) was a stout man in black robes, he was breathing heavily.

"You will pay for this demon!" Candon shouted as he crashed into the room, Lugien looked at him with alarm.

"I will not let you interfere in this Holy Knight, I will slay you myself" Lugienís blade appeared in his hand.

Kevin, Deis and Gilita came in then, Lugien smiled as he realised the odds were against him, with a backhand strike he knocked out Barnalby and said a single word in the language of magic.

A circle of darkness appeared at his feet, Candon charged but was knocked back by the energy, Lugien raised his hands and began to chant.

"To those who died by my blade
And to my life were fed
Let their spirits fade
To walk as my undead"

From the circle several dark beams shot and entered the bodies of those killed by Lugien, energy flowed throughout the guild hall as Lugien's power erupted from him.

The darkness faded and Candon was back on his feet "Your fancy light show does not impress me monster" he spat.

"Oh it will, for you see I have tilted the odds somewhat in my favour" Lugien said smiling.

The four dead men around Lugien began to stir, they stood and lifted their swords once more, Lugien pointed his sword at Candon.

"Slay them, but only wound the Holy Knight, it will give me great pleasure to break his soul!" Lugien shouted to his undead servants, combat had begun.

***********

Part 4 - Outnumbered

The battlelines had been drawn, Deis gripped his battle axe tight (he had never witnessed Lugien's power), Gilita dropped his free hand into a pouch at his side containing several different potions (ready to be applied to wounded comrades), Kevin swung his mythral longsword to test its weight and keep the undead at bay, he wanted to attack Lugien but realised that Candon would be much better at dealing with him.

As if as one Lugien and Candon charged forward, the Life Stealer sword crashing against Candon's shield, the silver sword of the Holy Knight flared brighter than ever as it sought to strike the vampire.

The four undead soldiers ambled towards the remaining three combatents, Kevin and Deis moved to defend Gilita who aimed his gun at the first enemy and fired a mythral bullet into its eye.

It didnít seem to notice, the first approaching enemy swung its sword wildly at Deis, with a deft twist of his axe he caught the blow, he wished he hadn't as he felt the unnatural strength behind the blow knock him back. What these creatures lacked in speed they made up for in strength.

Kevin noticed this and focused on the weapon of his opponent, he remembered a technique taught to Knights during their training, each sword had a weakness that could be exploited, he noticed that the blade of this undead's sword was only halfway connected to the hilt.

With a cry of strength he swung his sword at this weak point, with a cracking sound that echoed throughout the guild the blade broke, shards showered all nearby.

This act made him lose focus on his second enemy however, a second sword flew at his face, with last moment concentration he moved his shoulder to deflect this attack, although succesful the blow nearly broke his shoulder, he was forced to use his sword one-handed.

Gilita panicked as he fired more shots at the enemy, he then pulled a bottle of blue liquid from his pack and took off the stopper, he dragged Kevin back from the enemy and forced the drink down his throat.

Candon and Lugien fought hard to strike each other, Life Stealer kept on bouncing off armour while Light Bringer missed its more swift target, both eventually stepped back and reverted to more powerful weapons.

"Preservation of Life and Cause of Destruction, Stasis Blade!" Candon shouted as he pointed his sword at Lugien.

"The center of Nova, Kossuth Demon Rage" Lugien chanted, his eyes glowing red.

Several bolts of ice appeared around Light Bringer, with a shout they shot towards Lugien.

Orbs of fire burst into being around Lugien, they intercepted the frozen missiles and both attacks fizzled out in the center.

"You have tried that attack once before Holy Knight, this time you will not surprise me, not with my mastery of magic" Lugien gloated as he began another spell.

********

Deis was outmatched, he was too busy defending against his enemies to attack, with his companions as sorely pressed as he was he thought the battle lost.

Kevin felt the healing potion flow through his body and repair his shoulder, within moments it felt normal, hefting his sword in two hands he focused on the weapon of the second undead, it had a similar weakness to the first.

Gilita could see his plan, if the enemies lost their weapons then they could not defend themselves, Gilita then decided to fire at Deis's enemies, hoping to take some of the pressure of him.

A loud crashing sound erupted once again from the broken weapon of Kevin's enemy, with a smile he faced two unarmed opponents, they vainly tried to claw at his face as his mythral blade began to carve them limb from limb.

*******

Lugien began a second spell chant as Candon caught his breath, keeping up with Lugien in his heavy armour and using his powers took a toll on him.

"Thunder that exists only in the heavens, Mjolnir Strike Attack!" Lugien shouted, his voice taking a peculiar tone.

He pointed his free hand at the Holy Knight, mist appeared around the vampire as a single bolt of lightning flew from his hand.

Candon dogded at the absolute last second, the blast only slightly struck his shoulder yet this was enough, electricity flowed through his body, dropping him to one knee.

Lugien smiled as he lifted his blade, he would feed a little before he finished off the Holy Knights friends.

********

Kevin's blade took the head from the second undead, he turned to strike down one of the monsters fighting Deis, without the distraction of two enemies Deis made short work of his last opponent.

With that they all faced Lugien who was approaching a wounded Candon, Gilita's gun fired two shots at the monster who was about to attack his friend, these bullets struck the chestplate of Lugien's armour and bounced harmlessly to the floor.

Kevin and Deis charged as one, although Kevin was ranked higher there was only a few years between them, both had trained and fought together before, as a team they had never been beaten.

Lugien stepped back from Candon, not wishing to harm his food during the combat, facing off against the twin combatents he used some of the blood he drank from the guild to increase his speed, something he found he could not do when fighting Candon.

Deis led the charge with a strike from his axe, Lugien didnít seem concerned as his sword caught it halfway, Kevin charged forward shoulder first, hoping to knock over his opponent.

Lugien sidestepped as Kevin charged past Lugien, just about managing to keep his balance he spun and faced his enemy.

Deis pulled back his axe and swung it low, trying to keep Lugien off guard, with a flick of his wrist the vampireís sword caught the axe blade again.

Lugien's hand shot out and smashed into Deis's face, breaking his nose and knocking him back as he gasped for air through the blood flowing out of his nose.

Kevin's rage was complete, his sword struck against Lugien's arm as he tried to strike his weapon, the armour took the blow and it didnít seem to bother the vampire.

With a hungry stare he looked at Kevin, his sword shot out and sank into his chest, piercing his ribs yet not cutting the heart, Lugien wished to feed but wanted to keep the man alive, he would serve him better as a servant then as a corpse.

*****************

While Deis and Kevin fought valiantly against the powerful enemy Gilita fished a green bottle out of his bag, a potion slightly more potent than usual but it may just be what Candon needed to get him back up.

"Candon catch this!" Gilita shouted as he threw the bottle.

Candon only half realised what he was doing, the pain made it hard to focus, yet he knew somewhere in his mind that he was supposed to drink what he had caught, he had to drink...

He forced the green liquid down his throat and he immediatly felt better, mystical herbs and master alchemy made his body heal back to health in a matter of seconds, the burn wounds from the lightning spell still bothered him however.

He looked up as Lugien's sword sank into Kevin's chest, Candon felt a rage he never felt before, he could feel his power rising as his enemy fed from his friend, he could feel something in his mind, a voice.

"Strike your enemy, use the second rite" the strange ghostly voice told him.

"But I do not know the second rite" he said in his mind.

"I will teach you the words, now hurry" the voice said quickly.

********

The silver blade of Life Stealer changed colour from silver to red as blood flowed through its blade to the pommel and ending at its weilder, Lugien sighed as the power flowed through him once more.

"NOOOOOO!" a cry came from behind him, Deis's axe smashed into Lugien's shoulder, crushing his shoulder and making him lose his grip on Life Stealer.

He had not expected the human to recover so quickly, he cursed the hunger that caused him to feed so often, he grabbed back on to Life Stealer and pulled it from Kevin who sank to the floor.

Deis lifted his axe for a second strike, Lugien's anger made him strike him in the face with his open palm. Deis fell to the floor as the world swam around him.

Lugien cursed again when he looked at his shattered arm, his blowd flowed to the wounded area and began to knit together broken bone and sinew, he looked up to see that the Holy Knight was back on his feet.

"Wrath of the god flow through your servant, Split Blade!" Candon shouted, holy energy flowing around him.

Twin beams of light shot from his eyes, both struck into Lugien and burned twin holes in his chest, his screams of agony could be heard from far away as the pure light seared his flesh.

Lugien fell to the floor, the pain was causing him to pass out, only his willpower stopped this as stood once more, the Holy Knight was charging once more.

He had one chance, his blade was placed on the back of Kevin's neck, Candon hesitated and stopped.

"You...fight...valiantly...Holy Knight...but...if...you...take...one...more...step...I...will...kill....him" Lugien said with heavy breaths, all his blood was desperatly trying to heal the twin wounds in his chest.

Candon stopped, using his new attack had taken its toll on him, he fell to one knee as the adreniline faded from his system.

It was then that a cry came behind Lugien, Barnarlby had awoken and was backed up against the wall, Lugien smiled.

"It is your lucky day commoner scum, if you tell me where the stone I seek is then I will let you live" Lugien said with a chilling certainty in his voice.

Barnalby took a few moments to catch his breath, Lugien growled as he licked his sharp teeth, Barnalby panicked.

"B-B-Bethla Garrison, held by a mage called Denser" Barnalby stuttered in fear.

Lugien smiled, he lifted his sword from Kevin's neck and threw it into the chest of Barnalby, with a final cry Barnalbys blood was drained from his heart intio the sword.

"That was so you could not question him further" Lugien said matter of factly, the sword shone with a red light and shot from Barnalby's chest back to Lugiens hand.

"Now we finish what we started" Lugien pointed his sword at Candon, the wounds on his chest slowly closing as the fresh blood from the sword entered Lugien's system.

Candon lifted his sword and shield, he knew he had little chance of killing him but was determined to die trying.

It was then a crossbow bolt shot into the room and into Lugien's neck, being a normal weapon it did not harm him much, yet it made all turn to the door to see what had shot it.

Gilita pulled some more bottles from his bag, hoping to get to Kevin and Deis in the confusion, he edged around the room as several figures entered the room.

Watchmaster Patrick and several members of the guard stood with crossbows, they spread around the room and took aim at the vampire, Lugien cursed this development, in his wounded state he could not fight so many enemies.

"Aim for the heart men" Patrick shouted as he reloaded his own weapon.

"That will not be neccesary gentlemen, I assure you that the crossbows will not harm me" Lugien said smugly.

Several bolts shot into his chest, he sighed and faced Candon.

"I am leaving now, know this Holy Knight for I will say it only once, if you follow me to Bethla Garrison then I will slay you, when I have the Holy Stone I will have concerns other than you, so consider yourself fortunate and do not follow me into the night" Lugien said, his body started to fade.

"No, do not flee creature, I will hunt you to the ends of the earth, I will make you pay for your crimes!" Candon shouted as he charged at the fading image.

"If that is your path then in Bethla Garrison we will meet again..."Lugien said as he finally faded, his body becoming incoperal as he fled back to his sanctuary.

Candon kneeled in front of the spot where Lugien dissapeared, with a curse he struck the floor.

Gilita and the watch began to attend to Deis and Kevin, Watchmaster Patrick helped Candon up from the floor.

"Look happier lad, we won" he said with a half smile.

"Why are you here, I told you...?" Candon asked, he felt his body fail him however as he sank back to one knee,

"This isnít the time or place to explain lad, follow us to a temple, you need your wounds looking at" Patrick said, lifting Candon back up and half carrying him out of the room.

The survivors and the wounded left the battlesite, all that remained was spilt blood.

Epilogue

In the white stone temple of Ajora the four companions were taken, Kevin had been rushed to the high priest for immediate treatment, Deis and Candon were taken to the main healers of the temple to care for their wounds.

Gilita did what he could to help, his medical skills more useful outside of combat than inside, Watchmaster Patrick stayed with Candon as a preist treated the burns he had recieved from Lugien's lightning spell.

"Why did you follow us, I told you not to?" Candon asked the Watchmaster.

"I couldnít let you and your friends take on a vampire without backup, I thought you would be more thankful for our help" Patrick said.

"I am, but perhaps if you did not arrive then Lugien would not have ran away" Candon said with regret.

"He would have ran away if you gained an advantage anyway" Patrick said with a smile "at least this way you and your friends are safe"

"Your probably right" Candon winced as his armour was taken off, exposing his wounds.

"I need you to do me a favour, how fast can you send word to Bethla Garrison?" Candon asked.

"I donít know, I'll look into it, why?" Patrick asked.

"That is where Lugien is heading, I need to get a message to a man named Denser" Candon said.

"Thatís a tall order son, Goltana holds that place, I donít think the enemy is gonna listen to a warning sent by a Hokuten" Patrick said doubtfully.

Candon swore, he would have to cut off Lugien before he got there.

A member of the watch entered, he whispered something to Patrick who cursed "I have to go lads, I'll come back tommorow if I have the time, I'll find out about that message as well".

Watchmaster Patrick left, Candon was glad for the quiet as he made his plans.

"How long before I will be well enough to travel?" Candon asked the healer treating him.

"Most of your wounds are not life threating, you can leave tommorow, but your friends are another matter" the Healer said.

"Of course, how are my two friends doing?" Candon asked.

"One of them has a few minor wounds and is concussed, he will probably be ready to leave in a day or two, the other however is a different story, he lost a lot of blood and will not be ready to travel for at least a week" the Healer said.

"Damn, we need to leave as soon as possible, maybe we should leave Deis and Kevin behind?" Candon asked Gilita who had brought supplies into the room.

Gilita thought for a moment, he began to wrap Candonís arm in bandages as he considered what they should do, he was the only unwounded member of the party and as such had the clearest mind.

"I think we should wait for master Kevin" Gilita finally said.

"Why do you say this, Lugien will gain too much ground if we wait a week, we could never make up the distance?" Candon asked.

"That is not neccesarily true sir, from what we have seen of him I can conclude that the old myth about sunlight is true, three times we have met him and three times they have been at night, do not forget that although we took the long route through Igros we both reached Barnably at the same time" Gilita said.

Candon nodded "I see what you mean, but a week is still long a time".

"But what choice do we have, if itís just the two of us then we stand no chance of beating him, it will also take a long time to organise mercenaries or send word to Bethla, I think our best bet is to wait for Kevin and Deis and maybe hire some men, next time I donít think we'll be so lucky" Gilita said.

Candon thought about this "Perhaps you are right, I will think of something, be sure to write what has happened here and what we have said in your journal, if we do leave then we can leave a message for Kevin and Deis if they wish to follow".

Gilita nodded, while the healer used his holy magic to sew together Candon's wounds Gilita pulled out his journal.


6th, written during the great struggle known as the Lion War.

We have once again fought the vampire Lugien, but now we have a lead on the Zodiac's, it began the evening after we met the young boy.....




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