Chapter II: Night Stalker, page 13Mature

He snapped his fingers once more, and the cage began its dreadfully slow descent to their doom. Rebecca didn't do anything, she couldn't. She was panting, gasping for breath, as it seemed her brain and her lungs had shut down so as not to witness her fate. Beside her, Sally had her face buried in her hands and was praying in sobs. This was how it would end. Locked in a cage, in some gruesome basement, devoured by rotten monsters... the priest's warm hands on her shoulders and his soft whispering in her ear roused her.

“It's not as desperate as it looks, Rebecca,” he said. “Trust me. You can save us out of this, because you are the Bearer. The Cross has chosen you, and Its power is infinite, all you have to do is believe in it, understand it, unleash it! Look at It, Rebecca. Look at the Cross. Concentrate on It. Feel Its energy inside you.”

Guided by his voice, she set her eyes on the artefact, wrapped in its silk cloth, in the vampire's hand. She felt she could touch it. Not with her fingers, but with her mind, she felt the warm silver, she felt the light it contained, she felt it. For a moment she thought she heard a soft voice, maybe a woman's voice... her mother's voice? She couldn't be sure, but the voice seemed to be coming from the silk cloth, calling her, comforting her, telling her everything would be fine... all she had to do... was believe. She lost herself in contemplation of the cloth, calling back to mind all the images the Cross had sent her, one stormy night in her bedroom, all those dreadful images she had immediately repressed, buried deep in her brain. Images of blood, fire and death, of all the battles and all the abominations the Cross had witnessed throughout the centuries. She remembered it. She wasn't herself. For a second she was a pious Roman general brandishing his sword at the barbarians. Then she was a noble crusader, raising his banner while his horse rushed through the desert to the Saracens. She was a captain, firing at an enemy ship in a restless sea. A gentleman standing proudly over the chaos of smoke and gunpowder of a battlefield in Europe. In the glimpse of a moment, she was all of the previous Bearers at once, and in the glimpse of a moment it was over, she was back in the cage, only this time she knew she could reach out and grab what was hers whenever she wanted. Now! The silk cloth suddenly burst in flames and the vampire, surprised, dropped it with a gasp. Immediately, the girl reach out and the Cross flew over the pit and landed in her palm. It was so hot it burned her skin, but still her fingers coiled around it and refused to let it go again. Overwhelmed, she screamed, and as she screamed, the Cross exploded in a flash of white divine light. She lost all sensations, and felt she was floating in a white void, until she felt the cold, hard stones under her, and the light receded.

She stood up, confused. They were out of the cage, or rather, there was no more cage, it seemed to have been disintegrated by the light, sending the three of them down to the bottom of the pit. So that meant, the ghouls! She looked around in panic, but all she could see of the cannibal monsters were four pathetic, hissing and moaning piles of burning flesh that soon became still piles of white ashes. Sally and the priest were by her side, as confused as she was, but they were safe. The two girls looked at each others, and forgetting the dread of their situation, they exchanged a smile.

“Rebecca, above! Watch out!” the priest shouted out, and the girl looked up to see one of the younger vampires jump off the hallway and down to her, his fangs and claws all out. Like she had done before, she raised the Cross in his direction and a ball of light struck him in the chest and flung him back in the hallway. Possessed by a confidence she never knew she was capable of, she leapt the seven feet of height effortlessly to land in the hallway and finish her enemy off. He was just standing back up. He bared his fangs and hissed threateningly. Unhinged, she brandished the Cross again and another ball of light struck the monster, flinging him back to the other end of the hallway. To the grinder. There was the horrid sound of pulverized bone and liquefied flesh, and Donnie, still descending to her doom, was the first witness to this gruesome scene and jerked in disgust. The other young vampire crept from his recess and tried to surprise her. He almost succeeded, but as he attempted to grab and bite her, she turned around swift as a cat and rammed the Cross into his open mouth. There was another light, this one brighter than the previous one, and instead of forming a ball to strike him, it grew in him and burned him to a crisp from the inside. Surprised by this unknown effect of her weapon, Rebecca fell on her butt and dusted the ashes out of her clothes as she stood back up. Donnie yelled again, and Rebecca realized she was yelling directly at her:

“Hey! Hey you, over there! I'm almost down, please hurry, please!”

The last vampire she killed had come out of a recess, so that must be where the switch or lever to operate the grinder was. She had to find it! But wait, two vampires gone... where was Moorcock?

As cunning as he was skilled, the vampire master materialized behind her like a ghost and wrapped his powerful hands around her delicate neck, making her drop the Cross in shock. “End of the line, little angel,” he whispered gleefully as he squeezed tighter and watched her struggle vainly. But his victory was a short one, as a heavy blow from the back surprised him and made him release his prey. He turned around, hissing, to face the priest who had managed to pull himself out of the pit.

“Stop the machine!” he roared at the girl. “I'll handle him!”

“Handle me?” the vampire gloated. “How candid of you, priest! Your stakes, your Holy water, your crucifixes, all your weapons were taken away from you, and you have the gall to face me?”

“I don't need weapons, Moorcock! I'll take care of scum like you with my bare hands.”

The vampire laughed, and charged. Summoning all the combat knowledge he gained from his military training, the priest managed to parry and counter-attack. It takes a human an incredible amount of courage, strength, and foolishness, to confront a vampire in hand-to-hand combat, even more so when it is a vampire as old and skilled as Moorcock. But Hubert Louis de Sainte Croix was a man of unwavering faith, and like all the mysteries that are only accepted by faith, he was holding. For how long he didn't know, but he was holding.

Meanwhile, Rebecca did as she was ordered, she grabbed the Cross and rushed to the recess to stop the machine. There she was! Three levers, all down! Confident, she grabbed them all at once and pulled them up... God were they tough! They didn't even move an inch! Desperate, she pushed as hard as she could, roaring and grinding her teeth in exhaustion. This couldn't be, they just couldn't right now because of a stupid stuck lever! Behind her, Moorcock, taking advantage of his superhuman reflexes, eventually subdued his opponent by twisting his arm. Victorious, he gloated as the priest fell to his knees, but to his greatest shock, Father de Sainte Croix spurred back up and delivered the heaviest hook he was capable of.

“Incredible!” Moorcock said, his confidence shaken, as he put a hand on his aching jaw. He was actually feeling pain. From a blow delivered by a human. “No human has ever managed to hurt me before!”

“Faith, my friend,” the priest answered, grinning. “Faith can move mountains. You don't understand yet, do you? A new Bearer has been chosen. You and your kind are bound to disappear. This is the end of your wretched race.”

“We shall see about that, priest.”

And on these words, he vanished in thin air. The priest barely had time to put his guard up that he re-appeared behind him and delivered a vicious blow to his head that brought him down. This wretched race, Father de Sainte Croix thought as he lay on his back, his vision blurred by the blood that leaked from his wounded head. Always so cunning... he was defenceless. The blow was too hard, it had stripped him of his strength. So he watched, helplessly, as his enemy bowed down to him, and raised his hand to deliver the finishing blow. Bless me, Father, he thought, for I have served You well. Saint Pierre, I am coming...

The End

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