The Drakthos

By Kammy Gaffney




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Natalie was hanging her laundry out on the line, when she heard the fast-moving truck speeding down the dirt fire lane in front of her house, heading towards town. She raised a hand to her eyes, and squinted. There was quite a bit of whooping, and a beige and brown pickup roared by, the truck bed filled with a crowd of very familiar faces.

"What the hell?"

Something was following, flying through the air like a kite, tied behind the truck. Natalie frowned; she couldn't quite make it out, not with the glare and the distance.

Mitch stuck his head out the passenger-side window, nearly losing his baseball cap in the process. "Hey, Natalie, we caught ourselves the Jersey Devil! C'mon down and celebrate!"

Completely astonished, Natalie stared down the road long after the truck full of men was gone. "The Jersey Devil? Uh-huh, right. I wonder what it is those drunken fools really caught." She bent down and returned to her task, with a grin. "Probably caught themselves a rabid raccoon... I can't imagine grown men believing in faerie stories like that." And then she stopped. Blinked. "Oh, no... Rhaegal..." She ran to get her keys. "Oh god... Oh shit... Where the fuck are my keys!?"

She started her own truck, a few minutes later, and raced down the dirt fire lane that led down to the main road, winding between the pines, driving the truck as fast as she dared, desperately hoping that nothing was in her path. Deer were common here. As she swung around another narrow bend, tires squealing, a dark shadow swept over the road ahead of her. She glanced up, expecting to see a low-flying turkey buzzard - and damn near ran off the road. She managed to bring the truck to a stop, and climbed out, as the vampire dropped lightly to earth in front of her, sword drawn, his face as dark as a pending thunderstorm. This is what the Angel of Death must look like, Natalie thought, relieved, shaken, and awed in turns. "Rhaegal. Oh thank god, I thought..."

"Who has my son?" the Drakthos demanded.

Natalie blinked. "Your son is missing?"

Rhaegal drew back his sword, and Natalie realized that she was in a rather perilous situation.

"I-I s-saw something... Mitch, and the guys... they were dragging something behind their truck... they said they'd caught the Jersey Devil."

"Where did they go?"

"Towards town. I-I think they're heading to the bar. They gotta be there by now... they passed by maybe twenty minutes ago."

Rhaegal nodded, and with a powerful flap of his wings, he launched himself into the air, sending dust flying in every different direction, making Natalie's eyes water. Natalie stared up after him for a moment, until the pines cut off her field of vision. Then she ran back to her truck, and jumped in. She slammed her foot down on the accelerator, and the truck's engine roared, tires spinning, and she sped down the road, in hot pursuit.

* * * * *

Mitch brought his truck to a sliding stop in the sandy lot in front of the bar. Everyone jumped out, and hurried over to investigate their prey.

"Well, ain't that something? He's still alive! Tough little bastard, ain't he?"

"What do you want? He's a demon, right?"

"I guess that's true. So now what do we do with 'im?"

"We gotta wait until that guy comes back with our reward!"

"We gotta find a safe place to keep him."

"I gotta storm cellar!"

"We could just kill 'im and stick 'im in the freezer. That's just as good."

"How do ya kill a demon?"

"Stake through the heart?"

"That's a vampire, you idiot!"

"It could work!"

"Heh, that'd work on just about anything, I guess - doesn't even have to be wooden."

"Shut-up, Mitch! I say you probably gotta chop off his head."

"Anybody got an axe handy?"

"I got one at home."

"Yeah, so do I, Andy, but doesn't do us any good here, dumbass!"

"Gotta be an axe around here somewhere!"

"Well now hold on - I still think the papers would pay us better if he was still alive."

"That's what I think, too!"

"I think we should take a vote! What do you say - Phil? Mitch? Andy?"

"I'm with Tom - I think we should keep him alive, and see who gives us the best offer, that strange Diamond guy, or the press."

"Well, then, let's get him inside."

Davy regained consciousness inside the cool dimness of bar cellar. Paul, the bar owner/manager/bartender was keeping a wary distance, along with most of the others, but one man was standing only a few feet away, staring down at him, the tall, lean human with the baseball cap and the stubble. Davy briefly considered striking at him with one of his wings, but knew it to be a hopeless gesture. He simply didn't have the strength to do any damage. He'd done his best to keep up, flying behind the truck as fast as he could, despite his injuries. But in the end, he couldn't manage it; he was dragged the last quarter-mile of the trip. He'd lost most of his clothing and his bare skin was badly abraded. A slow tear ran a track through the mask of dust that covered his face, as he turned huge blue eyes toward the rest of his tormentors. Then he turned his frightened, pleading gaze back to the man looming over him.

"Don't look that thing in the eyes, Mitch, he could probably possess ya. Send your soul straight to hell, he will."

"Is that right?" Mitch gave a sour, gin-scented, grin. "Well, what if I jess poke 'em out of his head, then?" He pulled something from his pocket, and there was a faint click. The sun flashed on metal, as Mitch squatted down next to Davy, and slowly brandished his pocketknife in front of the boy's eyes.

* * * * *

Rhaegal landed right smack in the middle of the parking lot, sword in hand. He made absolutely no attempt to disguise himself, just strode across the dusty lot, and walked right up to the door and kicked it open. Heads snapped around, and eyes widened. Paul the bar owner crossed himself; nobody else moved.

"Where is my son?"

Nobody said a word.

Rhaegal raised his sword, and all eyes flew towards the gleaming, razor-edged steel. "I asked a question. I will have an answer. Where is he?"

Phil raised a shaking hand, and pointed to a door at the end of the bar. "In the b-basement?"

Rhaegal nodded tersely, walked to the door, and flung it open. "Adavidarian?" There was a long silence, during which the hairs on everyone's necks stood slowly on end, as they looked at the expression on the Drakthos' face. And then, out of the darkness, a single small whimper. There was a collective sigh of relief. "Hold on, Adavidarian. I am coming." The vampire's gaze swept over the them, meeting their collective gaze, and he bared his fangs. "I recommend that none of you move. You may all yet escape with your lives." He turned and ducked, heading down the basement stairs, as the men stood frozen, helpless, unable to so much as stir a finger, eyes wide with terror.

"Adavidarian? Where are you, child? Can you speak?" He heard the whimper again, so faint that even his keen sense of hearing barely registered it. Rhaegal stepped around a stack of cartons, piled nearly to the ceiling - and then he saw his son, in the dim light of a single dusty bulb, and he groaned.

Davy was battered almost beyond recognition. Dressed only in rags and dust, the edges of his wings torn to shreds. And worse... there were only two dark, gaping holes were his eyes had been, spilling tears of blood down his dust-caked cheeks.

"Oh, gods.... Adavidarian... what have those monsters done to you?" Rhaegal's dropped to his knees before the boy, and ripped off the duct tape that bound his wrists and ankles. "They will pay for this, I swear it, with my dying breath, I'll make them pay..." He pulled his son close, cradling him to his chest, and Davy still unresponsive, numb, his body limp in his arms, just on the edge of consciousness. Rhaegal rose and turned, his face twisted with rage and grief.

"I know you.... you're the stranger that came in here last night. I knew there was something not right about you." Mitch stepped out of the shadows, and spat on the ground. He was carrying a double-barreled shotgun, and it was aimed at Rhaegal's heart. Davy moaned softly, hearing Mitch's voice, and Rhaegal held him tighter.

"It's okay, little one... it's okay... shhh...."

"You're not leavin' here, demon."

"I am no demon. But I would question the parentage of one who would do this to a helpless child."

"The demon-brat's a murderer, and he's stayin' here. He's worth a pretty penny to someone."

Rhaegal's mouth twitched into a snarl. "You were selling him to someone? Who?"

"A guy. Or maybe someone else. I think me and the boys were planning on giving him up to the highest bidder. Now why don't you go over there and sit down with him? Maybe if you're lucky, you can both go as a set."

Rhaegal shrugged. He could not charm this human monster, not with his son pressed against his chest. "Very well. I see I have little choice." He turned his back, and carefully set Davy down, leaning him against the wall. The boy whimpered softly, and clutched at his shirt.

"Don't worry... I'm not leaving you... just be still." Rhaegal gently stroked the boy's hair for a moment. He heard Mitch take a step nearer. Then faster than the eye could follow, and totally without warning, Rhaegal's wing flashed out, and struck him brutally hard. The gun went off, discharging its shots harmlessly above Rhaegal's head. Mitch was flung back against the cartons. He bounced off of them, and staggered forward, hands out, and right into Rhaegal's chest.

The vampire snarled. He seized the man's head in one hand, his shoulder in the other, and gave one good hard twist. There was a snapping sound, and Mitch collapsed to the ground, limbs twitching. Rhaegal picked up his son and headed up the stairs. He supposed, in afterthought, that the wisest thing would have been to leave the boy there, and return for him after he dealt with the men upstairs. But the men would be freed from their trance the minute the killing started, and he simply could not leave his son alone, whimpering in the dark. What if he failed to win through? They would have his child. No, he would make a run for it. The fates would decide.


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The Drakthos © 2001 by KL Gaffney

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