December 18 at 12:00 AM
Photo by Laurie Williams
Rain poured down, a trickle at first, and then in sheets, pummeling the seaside town.
"Wet season again," Simon hollered, throwing a hat over his head, and gripping it tight.
Unfazed by the flurry, the hunter sat atop his horse, taking the brunt of the cloudburst. A young girl ran into the street, catching raindrops in her mouth. Lawson winced, unsure of what he saw.
"You all right?" Simon asked.
Ever a man of few words, Lawson simply nodded.
"This way," Simon grinned, pushing through the downpour.
Lawson rubbed his temple. He had been saddled far too long, no other way to explain it. The little girl...had she snatched rainwater...or was it blood? He peered over again, watching her bathe in the crimson essence, giggling and swallowing every drop. He took note of himself, merely drenched, but devoid of the murderous cast. The hunter's eyes crept back a third time as she scampered inside, wet but untainted.
Although on foot, Simon kept up a maddening pace. "Come along, now." He scurried ahead.
In Vissorouy, vampires exuded a healthier shade, as evidenced by Simon's vivacious demeanor. His face was full and flush, unlike the pallid hues from Lawson's past. Residents of Vissorouy conveyed affluence rather than plague, exhibiting a level of sophistication Lawson had not yet seen.
Taurus clopped along, slipping further behind. Simon did not slow, striding up the cobblestone. "Not much farther," his voice echoed.
The street dipped, and then rose sharply; drab two story dwellings on either side, placed one after another like tombstones. Lawson expected a corpse or two, perhaps even a vampire feeding on dead carrion, yet there were none.
As he lost sight of the guide, his hand gravitated back to his bow. Eyes sharpened around him as he strolled into the upscale part of town. Buildings soared three stories and higher; delicate stucco trim replacing the daub finish of the street before.
Lawson was not about to run his steed any harder. A four-day journey had been done in three. Neither truly had adequate sleep, and he doubted he would see any for a while longer.
But Lord Vangley's letter had moved him, and kept him pressing forward. Trust did not come easy for Lawson, and Vangley's provocative words left him skeptical. Still if the enigmatic vampire could follow through with his promise...Lawson dared not get ahead of himself.
He rounded the corner, his eyes following the roofline, and missing the spectacle before him. He held his crossbow close and ready until he was certain an attack was not imminent. His eyes wandered down to the fountain where four bronze angels played, frozen in a timeless dance. He could not tell whether they were friendly or fallen, and surmised by the town's context they were a mixture of each.
Beyond the fountain, the Vangley mansion towered, rising four massive stories, its orange brick façade and crème décor sparkling in the waning deluge. Cobblestone gave way to moist grass as Lawson trotted into the courtyard.
A wall of men in burgundy waistcoats halted his advance.
"A stable lies just around the bend," said Simon. "These gentlemen are here to take your horse...as well as your arms."
Lawson tightened his finger around the trigger. "Is that so?"