The story so far:
“Give me your weapons,” Bies stood facing Ludmilla, Leopold’s castle loomed a hundred yards away. Ludmilla leaned on the horse, she was pale and weak, but she still managed a snarl at Bies’ order. Bies merely stood before her, hands outstretched, waiting. Ludmilla hung her head and handed over her blades. Bies hid her weapons in his clothes and handed Ludmilla a long coat. She put it on and hid the bomb in an inside pocket before offering her hands to Bies. He gently turned Ludmilla around. The bite on the back of her neck had almost healed, not a good sign. He tied her hands together.
“Will you be able to free yourself from that?” he asked, noting that she was putting most of her weight on him. She wriggled her hands in the knots.
“Yes, I’ll be fine.”
“You know the story?”
“You wounded me and it’s become infected, I know.” Ludmilla’s face was grim, but her mind was beginning to clear. The swirling thoughts of before were separating themselves into two. Each thought conflicting wildly with the other. Each tearing at her barely beating heart. Kill Leopold. Serve Leopold.
Only the box, pressing against her inner thigh, was keeping her duty, her true purpose from fleeing her mind completely. Only that… and Bies. She sensed something about him now that she hadn’t before. It was if she could smell it on him, but still not used to her vampire senses, she didn’t quite know how to place it. Was it tenderness? Was it lust? Ludmilla didn’t know, but there was something. He wanted to help her, but why? It was more than money at this point.
“You’ll have to ride over the saddle.” Bies said it almost apologetically and Ludmilla didn’t miss it. She shrugged her shoulders at him as Micca flashed through her mind. He was a good man, more subservient than anything. He did what she told him to do and his bravery came from that, from obedience. But he didn’t matter now, did he? She was as good as dead, and that’s just how she wanted it. She would never be the abomination Leopold was. Never. Bies heaved her over his saddle and took the reins, he’d cover the distance on foot, leading the horse in case of spies.
As they approached the gates to the castle, they swung open, creaking and groaning under their own weight. Ludmilla, could see nothing except the ground, but she heard that awful moan and for a split second, felt like she was home. Bies noted the guards posted beyond the gate. Leopold never had guards outside the castle. If he felt any inward unease, it never crossed his face. Had Leopold been warned? He knew Ludmilla was not yet psychically linked to Leopold, but perhaps the Vampire Lord worried that the Hunter’s Hunted would follow Bies and his captive. It was feasible, although unlike the brash and over-confident Leopold to think so strategically. The guards took his horse. Bies heaved Ludmilla, pretending to be unconscious, over his shoulder.
Bies walked down a corridor with high, buttressed ceilings, vampire guards watched him silently as he stepped effortlessly with his burden. Bies was walking into a trap, and he knew it. Leopold’s troop was never anything but a rowdy and debauched band of bloodthirsty thugs. Something was very wrong. Bies threw his earlier strategy out the window. His goal was to destroy Leopold and save Ludmilla. But his plan meant nothing now, he’d have to think on his feet. He sensed he could still count on Ludmilla, though she was fading fast. There was hope for her though. Bies had heard rumors, during his travels.. but his thoughts were interrupted.
“Bies,” Leopold cooed from his ornately carved mahogany throne, “tell me you didn’t kill her? I had rather hoped to do that myself.”
“Tell me, Leopold, why all your little soldiers are being such good boys and girls tonight? Last time I was here they could barely stand they were all so drunk. And tonight,” Bies waved his hand to indicate the vampires, standing at attention along the great hall.
“Ludmilla’s reputation is quite nasty. We didn’t want any surprises. Tell me, is she…” Leopold leaned forward in his seat, long fingernails clawing at the air.
“She’s injured and it’s infected. Couldn’t be helped.”
“Bring her to me.”
“Where is the money you promised me?”
“All in good time, bring me the girl.”
“She’s mine until I’m paid for her.” Bies hadn’t moved, hadn’t shifted the weight on his shoulders at all during the meeting, and he stood now, immovable and solid. Leopold sighed, but a slight grin crossed his face as he nodded to a young vampire to his right
“Khatan, give Bies what he deserves.” The vampire immediately disappeared through a door. Bies caught Leopold’s smile. He knew what it meant. He stood, stolid and strong, Ludmilla’s heartbeat was getting fainter, this needed to be over with quickly and Bies had a feeling, it was just about to start.
The vampire reappeared through the door, hurtled a knife at Bies and ran to attack. Bies threw Ludmilla off his shoulders toward Leopold. She twisted her strong body expertly in the air and landed on her feet, right in front of the Vampire Lord. He smiled as he looked into her eyes. The rope around her hands was already gone.
“Oh, my sweet. Khatan told me you’d been bitten. I had hoped it so. There could be no greater torture for you.” He ran cold fingers down her pale face. Ludmilla closed her eyes, she could hear the battle raging behind her as Bies fought off more vampires than he could ever hope to kill. She breathed in the smell of the undead, it felt good.
“Ludmilla,” Bies yelled behind her. Her eyes snapped open, with one quick motion she pulled the bomb from her coat and shoved in Leopold’s mouth, breaking his fangs with the force and tearing the flesh of his cheeks. She felt Bies grab her from behind.
“No!” She yelled, struggling against his grip. She had to die here. Bies carried her through the door to the right of the throne and sprinted down the small, adjoining corridor. The concussion knocked Bies off his feet, tossing them both to the ground like dolls. Bies held her to the ground, shielding her from stone and debris knocked loose from the walls.
“Bies! What are you doing? Let me go! I can’t live like this.” As Ludmilla struggled against his grip, she noticed her strength coming back to her. She felt Bies’ strong arms around her and smelled his wet, claylike smell.
“Ludmilla quiet!” Bies put a hand over her mouth. He listened for any noise. But Ludmilla noticed him looking at her strangely, almost expectantly. She stopped struggling and took a deep breath. She felt much stronger now, and more… like herself. The corridor was quiet.
“Bies?” her voice sounded much weaker than she would have liked, but there was something he wasn’t telling her, she could see it.
“Ludmilla, I have traveled all over. I have seen and heard a great many things. When I was in the land of Hal I heard the story of a vampire lord, like Leopold, who had turned thousands of humans into vampires. One brave soul destroyed him and all the vampires turned back into humans. The source of their sickness was dead, and the sickness died within them, leaving them whole again.”
“You mean,” Tears filled Ludmilla’s eyes. She’d never felt stronger and weaker all in the same moment. She looked into the eyes of the homunculus, still cradling her in his arms and let the tears stream down her face, “You saved me?” Bies pulled her to him, her lips parting to accept his, his hard, insensitive body feeling for the first time in a hundred years. His huge hands toyed with the leather ties on her bodice as she kissed him ravenously. Pressed against him, Ludmilla could feel the power Bies’ creator had endowed him with and smiled, aching suddenly to be anywhere but a dusty vampire’s hall. Bies groaned at her touch.
“Ludmilla!” A shout echoed through the decimated hall.
“Gundrula!” Ludmilla whispered. Bies, not entirely pleased with the interruption got to his feet, pulling Ludmilla up with him. They picked their way back down the corridor and out into the hall where Gundrula and the remaining Hunter’s Hunted helped the stunned and confused humans, those of Leopold’s legion who had survived the blast, to their feet.
“Ludmilla!” Gundrula held her arms out to the dark haired beauty.
“I’m sorry, Ludmilla, he gave his life for the cause. He was brave to the end.” Gundrula squeezed Ludmilla’s hand, but Ludmilla just smiled. She’d had known in her heart Micca was dead, but a strange new love had taken his place. She turned to look at his hard, chiseled visage as he helped clear rubble from survivors and thought she saw a smile play across his lips.
“Gundrula, look,” Ludmilla whispered and pointed to Leopold’s throne. His body, barely recognizable, was bathed in sunlight streaming down on him through a hole blown in the ceiling, “we did it.” Both women laughed and held each other in a warm embrace as sunlight filled the old vampire’s hall.