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I sat on the counter and let my legs swing freely, the worn tips of my high-tops telling horror stories of the paths I had walked. My fingers drummed against my knee, feeling the holes in my jeans and the scarred skin beneath. The dank darkness around me made my nose wrinkle, but no longer sent shivers up my spine, like it had so long ago; in fact, it was almost more welcoming than the glaring sunlight hovering six feet above us.  

The voices in the other room began to rise, almost loud enough to become understandable. I rolled my eyes and fiddled with the knife strapped to my thigh, pulling it in and out of its sheath to make it click loudly. I really didn’t see the point of Dad going all secretive on me when we arrived at The Armory; it’s not like I didn’t know what he was doing. He was restocking bullets, researching spells, buying magical gear that rivaled the stuff they sold at Knockturn Alley. He always told me that the negotiations weren’t suitable for the ears of a young woman; I always retorted that he should say that after cursing the Kashi we were stalking from Hell to High Heaven.

Finally, the voices dropped again and footsteps echoed from the back room. I looked up as my father walked inside with a box in his hands, a grimy looking fellow close behind.

There was nothing, living or dead, animate or not, that I loved more than my father. He often complained about how I had gotten his face and my mother’s build, and that strong features on such a petite body made me look feral. I liked it, though; a strong jaw, high cheekbones, and a humble swagger was enough to make people want you and want to avoid you all at the same time. His hair, however, was close-cropped and bleach blonde, far from my own long black curls, and his eyes were brown while mine were an odd shade of blue-grey-green that I had never seen on a person before. His shoulders were broad and his muscles almost oversized, each step he took seeming to condemn the ground beneath his feet.

The man behind him was one whose habits I knew almost as well as my father’s. Arcell and I had a loudly-voiced agreement – I thought he was an ass as long as he was convinced I was a spoiled little bint. We uttered these opinions as often as we could without saying it outright, which, of course, was the reason why my father kept the two of us as far apart as possible.

“Hey Dad,” I said, picking a piece of lint off of my pants. “Find what you were looking for?”

He nodded and opened his mouth to say something when Arcell piped up, foul-tempered as always. “Get off of that counter, girl!” he squawked. “There is expensive merchandise beneath that glass!”

I rolled my eyes and dropped to the floor, tossing my rucksack over my shoulder. I was just stepping closer to my father when he added, “Shouldn’t you be in school?”

“Shouldn’t you be nagging someone who gives a shit?” I retorted, causing my father to scowl at me.

“Elaina!” he growled. “Apologize.”

“Tell him to mind his own business!”

“Now, Ella.”

I glowered and stared at the floor as I grudgingly muttered, “Sorry,” under my breath. Dad sighed and pressed his box into my hands, nodding to the short staircase almost hidden in the dark clutter in the corner of the room.

“Go up,” he said. “Wait outside. And take my cloak, for Christ’s sake.”

I turned and began to march towards the stairs, pausing only to pick up his heavy coat and shrug it on. I climbed the steps until I reached the thick metal door at its top, twisting the rusted knob and pushing out into the outside world.

The sun was just beginning to set over the small muggle village, its red light coloring everything a bloody shade. The cold October air bit at my flesh the way a playful animal would nip at my fingers – teasingly, testing its boundaries. I resisted the urge to shiver and reached back, flipping Dad’s hood over my eyes as I leaned against the building. I began to search his pockets, pulling out bubble gum wrappers and small, random items that seemed to have no apparent purpose. I dropped the papers into a trash bin and examined a black stone, absently moving it from hand to hand as I watched the street before me. It was empty, save for a stumbling drunkard and a mangy dog; the former ignored me completely while the latter sniffed in my direction for a few seconds before deciding that I wasn’t suitable for consumption. I grinned faintly as I turned my eyes to the sky, watching the sun disappear behind a wall of angry grey clouds.

The door beside me flew open, nearly colliding with my unsuspecting shoulder. I flinched back, my hand flying to my knife even though I knew who it was climbing out of the hole.

“Would it really kill you to behave yourself around Arcell?” My father asked as he appeared beside me, his heavy pack over his shoulder.

“Yes.”

He shook his head and rolled his eyes, scratching at his scalp as his forehead puckered. “He’s an old friend, Ella.”

“He’s also a jerk. I pull my weight and he acts like I don’t!”

“But I know that you do, so why does his opinion matter?”

I scowled at the ground, avoiding his insistent gaze while pretending to tighten the strap off my bag. “It doesn’t! I just don’t like how much of a bas-“

“Elaina!”

“- uh, meanie he is.”

My edit was enough to make my dad grin and I knew I was out of hot water. I finally looked up, rattling the box he had given me under his nose.

“So what took an hour and a half of negotiation?” I asked as he snatched the container from my fingertips. “It had better be something good.”

“Oh, it is.” Dad’s face lit up in an odd way, like a little kid asked about some project that he was dying to explain. He struggled for a moment to get everything balanced, then, with an air of false grandeur, he opened the lid and displayed the contents to me.

My face fell as I surveyed the tangled mass of string and beads, my hand twitching as I almost reached for the items. “Rosary beads?” I asked slowly, trying to hide my disappointment. “I know we’ve been dealing with a lot of demonic stuff, but I didn’t know you were going to go all Born-Again Christian on me.”

He laughed lightly, shaking his head. “You might want to use your powers of observation a little bit more, sweetheart,” he said.

I frowned and leaned forward, squinting in the lack of light. My fingers finally rose to brush against the dusty surface of the beads, feeling the oddly fragile glass beneath my hand. Slowly, I gripped a strand of the beads and pulled it from the others, letting the setting sun strike it with as much light as possible. The small spheres were a deep red color, almost too large for prayer beads, and had a sinister feel to them. My first instinct was to drop the string and take several steps back, but I denied myself the pleasure of fleeing and continued to hold on as I met my father’s still slightly teasing gaze.

“These beads… they’re made of blood, aren’t they?” I asked.

He nodded approvingly. “Not just any blood – werewolf blood. Seeing as our old supply was… diminished.”

I flushed, remembering exactly what happened to the old vials of blood that we had been packing around for the longest time. “Why do we need dog blood?” I asked, trying to divert the memory. “Are we baiting vampires sometime soon?”

“Tonight.”

Finally, I released the beads, crossing my arms over my chest. “Thanks for the heads-up!” I snapped.

Dad grinned again. “Why? Did you have plans for the evening?”

I scowled darkly. “Well, no, but I like to have some time to plan before we hunt things that can think for themselves instead of just prowling after animals. Bloodsuckers are the worst, too – total creepers, the lot of them!”

He nodded and reached into his pocket, pulling out a small roll of parchment and handing it to me. I unfurled it and examined the slanted, hasty script covering its surface.

“Schull Ireland, eh?” I asked lightly.

“Yep. Just one vampire tonight – he’s hiding out in a wizard church.”

“Oh, the irony.”

Dad ignored me, continuing to recite the information I held in my hands. “He’s already taken three people – all women, and all of their bodies found outside the building when the sun came up.”

“Why are we just now getting to it? Usually we tackle things like this right when they pop up.”

“I didn’t want to walk in there unprepared.” Dad reached into his box and pulled out a string of the bloody beads, draping it over my neck. “Without bait, I would be very uncomfortable with going after this thing. Besides,” another slight smile, “it’s a full moon tonight.”

I felt a scowl weighing down the corners of my mouth as I crossed my arms over my chest. “Why do I not like the way this is going?” I asked.

Dad just laughed and held out his hand, his calluses like tiny hills all over his skin. “Come on, Elaina,” he said as, grudgingly, I took his hand. “We have a monster to hunt down.”

 

It was raining, the small droplets plummeting from the sky high above and peppering the top of my head. I resisted the tremors that attempted to wrack my frame, one hand clutching the beads my father had given me while the other stroked the knives encircling my thigh. My mouth silently formed the words to the long list of spells that were useful against bloodsuckers – charms of fire and burning, of paralysis and freezing, of death and destruction.

I glanced around nervously, the darkness around me omnipotent and crippling. The loss of my sight was both a curse and a blessing – while now I was blind, I could hear everything. Including the loud clattering echoing from the open door somewhere in front of me. I was itching to move, to stalk through the hallways of the church and find the creature that was currently beginning to drain yet another girl of her life – just standing there doing nothing was making me antsy.

The man at my side cleared his throat, making me jump. Pastor Statis was the typical holy man, with his black clothing broken only by a white slash at his neck and a silver cross hanging around his sternum. He was clutching a bible in both hands, like it was all he could do to not read from it; when Dad and I arrived, he had been reciting from one of the many sections it contained. After Dad disappeared, he had started at it again until I told him that if he didn’t stop I would take it away from him.

There was something pathetic and oddly satisfying about a sixty-something year-old-man bowing to the will of a girl of sixteen.

“Perhaps something has happened to your father?” he said slowly in the famous Irish brogue, as if he feared my wrath.

I turned to glare at him, barely seeing his pale face in the little light we had. “Nothing has happened,” I said sternly, like a teacher reprimanding a naughty student. “My father has been gone longer than this before, and he will undoubtedly do it again. Many more preparations are necessary for the eradication of a vampire than you believe, Father.”

Those ‘preparations’ included a bottle of Jack Daniel’s and nearly an hour of staring at the dog tags that were my mother’s before she died. Very rarely was I allowed to be present at these times, mostly because bars scowled upon underage females entering the premises.

“Of course. I should have guessed.”

I tuned back to watching the night, waiting for my father’s sign. I reached into my pocket and pulled out a packet of chewing gum, unwrapping a vibrant green piece and shoving it into my mouth. It was a relief to give my jaw something to do other than mouth spells, the spicy mint flavor a good distraction.  

The minutes trickled by, filled only with the sound of my teeth clicking together and my fingers drumming on my knives. The pastor began to flip through his bible, in spite of the lack of lighting and the blowing rain. The clattering from the church began to lessen, making the hair on the back of my neck stand up as my imagination kicked in, images of the poor victim rising to the front of my mind. Dad and I had walked into all sorts of gory scenes – a Serra staining the water of the ocean black as it feasted upon the flesh of oblivious beach-goers; a Donestre, coated in blood, trying to coax us into a sense of comfort; a Vulpangue gnawing on the leg of a child – but somehow vampires made the worst. Maybe it was because of how human they looked – a person drenched in another person’s blood.

Every thought in my head was brushed away as, somewhere in the distance, a bright white light flared. I let my pack slide from my shoulders, shoving it into the pastor’s stomach. “Hold that until I get back.”

“Miss Riley!” he exclaimed. “Surely you jest! Your father is sending you in there? Alone?”

I turned my cold glare on him, whispering a charm under my breath. Each fingertip on my left hand burst into illumination, cold, harsh light making the world visible to us once more. The bleak hilltop we stood in was blank, adorned only by a few low-lying shrubs and the small chapel that was my main concern. “Father, I have seen things that would make you never wish to sleep again. I have walked the dark paths with beasts from your deepest nightmares and beyond. You have lived four times my years, but I have more experience in these areas than you will ever possibly grasp. Your concern, while flattering, is nothing more than a hindrance.”

With that, I spun around and marched through the ever-unpleasant slush, my fingertips lighting my way. Wandless magic was something I had been blessed with since birth; in fact, wands did nothing but annoy me. Dad said that I had several generations of powerful magic users to thank for my ability, but I wasn’t quite sure of that.

I reached the church doors, pressing against the wall and taking a deep breath. A large crash echoed out of the house of worship, making me stiffen and finally duck inside.

It smelled like dust and age, scents that made me wrinkle my nose and want a shower. Slowly, I crept through the small entry hallway, finally entering the lofty central room.

Every pew, it seemed, had been shattered into a million splinters, the remaining boards lying on the ground. The chandelier had been extinguished and was hanging by a rusted chain, and the two stained glass windows that had been in the far wall were nothing but shards in a frame. In the very front of the church, where the priest would usually stand to give his sermon, was a large, misshapen figure.

I reached into my pocket and pulled out the blood-made beads, running my thumb over the red balls. My teeth sank into my lip as, with a grunt of effort, I pinched the beads so hard several shattered, coating my hand with cold werewolf blood.

I knew the scent of its enemy was drifting towards the vampire and that I had, at most, fifteen seconds to move. I spun on my heel and pressed my palm against the wall, sprinting back out into the night and leaving a long streak of blood behind me.

I hated being bait. With the fiery passion of a thousand suns, I hated being bait.

My father was standing just outside the church, his hand on his wand and a focused scowl on his lips. The moment I appeared, he stiffened and raised his wand, waving me behind him. I ducked to the ground, kneeling in the slop and wiping my hands off on the grass. Then, I whispered my light-spell again, making my fingertips explode in illumination.

The vampire burst out of the church, roaring furiously as the scent of its enemy. Blindly, it began to charge, rushing into our small, pale circle of light.

My scientific mind took over at that point, blocking the fear that began swirling in my chest. The vampire was male, black-eyed and fair haired. He had the build of a runner, and the speed to match – he was darting quicker than I could follow, cutting into our defenses before I could blink.

Ineto!” my father yelled, giving his wand the slightest flick. There an upsurge of fire that shot directly into the bloodsucker’s face, folding around his head like a blanket. The creature fell back into the mud, splashing around for a split second before he was back on his feet. He roared in rebellion, his hair smoking and his face a painful flush.

I began to move, rising from my crouch in the murk and starting to lunge after the beast. But as my hands rose to my shoulder’s height, my dad yelled, “STAY ELAINA!”

I shot him a glare that he didn’t see as he sprinted out of my orb of light, vanishing in the darkness as if he had never been there at all. I growled a curse and listened to the groans and screams and thumps, trying to see through the black and help. Finally, I let out huff and said, “Lucmagniroc!”

My lighted fingertips suddenly flared with renewed brilliance, throwing my field of vision forward another dozen yards in every direction. My dad and the vampire reappeared, but the sight was enough to make my heart stop.

Because my dad was on the ground, the vampire crouched over him like some bird of prey.

Did I mention that the vamp’s fangs were inches from my father’s jugular?

I didn’t hesitate in flipping the bloody rosary beads into my hand, squeezing them so hard that half of them shattered. The werewolf’s blood poured from my hands, hitting the ground in a series of thumps.

In spite of the nearness of human blood, the vampire turned towards me and let out a scream of rage. His jaw seemed to dislocate from the rest of his skull as he leaped from my father’s abdomen, his claws reaching for me.

Before I could say a spell or even let out a scream the creature was on me, driving me into the mud with a loud squelch. Grime and water flew through the air, half blinding me as the vampire sunk his iron-like teeth into my bloody forearm.

Pain launched through my arm as the vampire began to pull away, taking a chunk of my flesh with him. I let a hiss, allowing years of training to take over my body. My free hand rose up and buried itself in the creature’s chest, his chill and lack of heartbeat disconcerting. He was just returning for a second bite out of my arm when I yelled, “Termicaust!”

Fire, so extreme that it was blue, began rolling in my palm, tight against the vampire’s chest. He let out a scream so brutal and animalistic that it created gooseflesh on my arms and down my neck, trying to pull away from me. It was too late for the vampire, however, as the flames grew in heat and size, abruptly engulfing his entire body as quickly as if he was made out the solid form of gasoline.

Then, as quickly as it had begun, it was over, and I was lying on the ground, wearing a layer of grey ashes. I groaned and struggled to my feet, my entire backside a layer of mud and my front nothing but soot. My father watched me with an arched eyebrow as I tried to dust myself off, only succeeding in grinding the mess deeper into my clothes. He was about to say something when we heard a gasp from behind us. Both of us flinched, expecting the worst, but only found Father Statis standing in the outskirts of our vision. He took one look at me and immediately crossed himself, chanting some prayer that sounded Latin.

My father, ever the gentlemen, walked forward and wrapped his buff arm around the man’s scrawny shoulders. “So, Father, how much did we decide to be our pay again?”

Father Statis stopped in mid-prayer to stare blankly at my dad before turning to me. “May God have mercy on you, child,” he said, shaking his head. He then reached into his pocket and pulled out a heavy sack of coins, passing them to my father before swiftly retreating from under the man’s arm. “May God have mercy on you both.”

E/N: So... what did you think? Leave a review and let me know? Pretty please with whatever you want on top?
 
 
 

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