The Dark Hunter

Just Outside London, England, 1725

The Crowned Eagles' stronghold was home to beautiful towers adjoined to a massive castle which was the meeting place and residence for most members. It had been built ages ago, and adopted by the Order's founders with several new additions about one hundred fifty years previous. The four towers, as well as the wall of the castle to each side of the large wooden double doors which served as the main entrance, all sported a red banner with the figure of the Paladin grasping the Devil's severed head in victory.

The Paladin was the commonly-used name within the order to refer to the semi-mythic figure depicted on the banner of the Crowned Eagles. The Paladin was seen as the ultimate warrior who would finally - permanently - put down the undead and any other demons which walked the earth. Of course, this figure was always expected to be a member of the Crowned Eagles. That was accepted as a universal fact by those within the Order. It was never considered that the Paladin should be an outsider.

Within the walls of the castle lay a central courtyard, often used as a sparring area by members of the Order. Two men stood in the courtyard, dueling with sabres.

"Your technique is still sloppy, Christopher," one man barked. "You must improve your defense, if you wish to prove victorious." The man thrust his sword at his opponent's gut, and the other man leaped backwards just in time to avoid contact with the blade. The first man wore a dark overcoat and pants, with a pair of leather boots and gloves and a black hat on his head.

Christopher, in a bout of playfulness, swung his blade upward and tapped the tip of his sword against his opponent's hat, knocking it off his head. Christopher wore a black jacket and brown pants with leather boots and gloves made of a coarse black fabric.

The first man parried Christopher's follow-up thrust with a quick snap of the wrist before jumping in the direction of his fallen hat, snatching it up off the grass of the courtyard and replacing it upon his head. He then parried another blow from Christopher's sabre and made several offensive moves of his own before swinging his blade upward and placing the tip against Christopher's chest.

"You see," William Johnson said to his long-time friend, "sloppy."

"Alright," Christopher responded, "you win... again."

William nodded and patted Christopher on the shoulder as he sheathed his sword and began to walk away from the sparring ground.

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The howls of the dogs echoed through the wilderness as William strode through the forest. Soon, his ears began to meet with the agonized shrieks of undead being attacked by his hounds. The Hounds' Trek appeared to be a success yet again. Good; he had worked very hard interrogating that vampire for the location of the rest of her coven.

Then, suddenly, a yelp of anguish rang out. William's eyes widened, and he drew his flintlock as he broke into a sprint to find the distressed animal. When he found the beast crouched over the formerly-majestic doberman, William didn't even flinch as he pulled the trigger and knocked the bloodsucking fiend flat on its back. William drew an eighteen-inch-long wooden stake from inside his coat. The stake had ornately-carved grooves and a smooth grip about three inches from its base. William drew the stake out of its leather case, shoved his boot down against the vampire's chest to pin it down, and drove his stake deep into the monster's icy heart.

The rest of the hunt was relatively uneventful; in the end, the Crowned Eagles had eliminated yet another undead threat from the world with no more than one casualty.

The End

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