parts 28 and 29
The location that she had sensed turned out to be the lair of a pair of demons. She could never quite remember the name, but they looked rather like bipedal lizards a little taller than most men, with sharp teeth and wicked claws. Their scales were heavy enough to make it difficult to stab or slash at them – not impossible, but harder. Fortunately, they were one of many species of demons that only required sufficient physical trauma to kill them.
As she looked at the corpses, she wondered if their ancestors had been lizards that were changed to something closer to human, or if their ancestors had been humans changed towards lizard. Maybe it didn’t matter. Kendra was certain that it was a question that would never have occurred to her back in her own world. She would have simply considered them dangerous demons, slain them, and moved on.
Apparently, living at a school encouraged questions.
Sighing, Kendra continued her patrol. There would be vampires, who would be out hunting. Those vampires should be killed as soon as possible, for the safety of the humans and mutants who lived in this city. She would be especially alert for child-vampires, which were often devious and cunning, or used as bait to draw in sympathetic humans. The other thing to watch for would be a Master vampire, the sort who had the long range planning, ambition, and intelligence to go for more complicated plots – the sort that often tried to use magical artifacts, summon demons, or destroy the world.
The possibility of more allies would be a nice thing. Not that she doubted her skill, but it was always beneficial to have allies, people who could and would hunt where she couldn’t, who would continue hunting if she was killed.
It was too bad that very few people became any sort of hunter unless they were raised to it or lost someone dear to them to the demons and vampires. As helpful as it would be to have allies, even if only people her own age, as Buffy had Xander and Willow, she didn’t wish the pain of losing dear friends or family on anyone. Perhaps she should be grateful for Charles and his school. She had people that she could talk to about being the Slayer, and Dorothy Weaver would tend to her wounds. In some ways, that was more than she’d had before. Was she being greedy and demanding, always wanting more than she had?
As Kendra pondered if she was being unreasonable and greedy, she spotted a vampire. He blended tolerably well with the humans, and had a full backpack over his shoulders. He also looked like he was heading somewhere, moving at a fast, purposeful walk. Not hunting though, he ignored several people that looked like easy prey. That could only mean that he was up to something else, something more ominous than simple hunting.
Kendra began to follow the vampire. Whatever he was up to, she doubted that it was anything good. That made it her duty to thwart his plan. Regardless of whether she was being greedy in wanting people, Kendra knew about duty.
The vampire made his way to a cemetery, with tall mausoleums, reeking with the scent of decaying flowers and filled with the awful, itchy feeling that told Kendra that somewhere in this cemetery, at least one of the mausoleums was used as daylight shelter for vampires on a regular basis. The lair of the undead. She felt rather guilty at the thought that at least it was late enough that the whole nest of them wouldn’t still be here. That strong of a feeling meant either a very strong vampire or at least half a dozen more normal ones. She might be able to defeat six vampires in such confining quarters, if none of them were particularly skilled in fighting. But sometimes there were more than six vampires in a nest… and there was a limit to how many vampires a Slayer could fight at once and survive.
The vampire stopped in front of a tombstone, shrugging the backpack from his shoulders. Kendra pulled herself to the top of a mausoleum to watch, hoping to figure out what he was doing and – more importantly – if he had any assistants. He produced a cloth wrapped shape that turned out to be a large rectangle of deep red fabric wrapped around three tall candles, each looking about as thick as the vampire’s wrists, and as long as his forearms. The cloth was draped over the grave like a blanket, and the candles set at thirds along its length. Next to emerge from the backpack were two shallow metal bowls, looking like they might be brass or bronze… perhaps gold, but that would be expensive and difficult to acquire.
Another vampire arrived with a pouch, and knelt on the opposite side of the grave. He began pulling bundles of greenery from the pouch, carefully shredding the leaves into the bowls. He might have been chanting some sort of incantation, or perhaps merely repeating the directions for whatever it was that they were preparing to do over this grave. Once the leaves were shredded, the pocketknife that he’d used for that disappeared, replaced by a blade as long as the candles, looking like the handle was made from something’s antler.
The first vampire removed another wrapped shape from his backpack at the same time that a third vampire arrived, this one towing a struggling, bound fourth vampire that was hissing and snarling curses. The first vampire began unwrapping the shape to reveal a leather bound book, with an assortment of ribbons in various colors marking pages.
A ritual, in a cemetery, being conducted by vampires. One that looked to involve a blood sacrifice. Everything about this screamed trouble and danger. Kendra moved from her flat spying position to a crouch, drawing a stake and her own knife.
“Do stop swearing, Carlos. Your death will enable us to bring back the Great Lord of the Dead,” the first vampire demanded, looking at the book as he turned pages.
Kendra leapt towards the vampires, hoping that she could kill at least one on her landing, and wound if not kill a second before they recovered from the surprise. Her knife slashed across both the captive vampire and the one carrying him, though not enough to kill either one. The stake plunged into the heart of the one who’d prepared the greenery, though his knife caught the bottom of her ribs with a shallow slice. He burned into ash, and Kendra twisted, kicking at the wounded vampires in an effort to keep the vampire’s ashes from entering her wound.
Blood from the wounded vampires sprayed over the ritual, blending with the fabric, spattering over the candles that lit with a sullen yellow light. Rather than attempting to fight, the one with the book scuttled backwards, beginning to hiss out strange words in a language that Kendra couldn’t identify. Regardless, the words sent a chill down her spine, promising evil and disaster.
It didn’t take long before Kendra killed the two injured vampires. More blood and ashes fell on the ritual cloth from the fight. Disturbingly, the last vampire kept hissing those awful words as she killed his associates and intended sacrifice.
The candles were burning a bright yellow, and had a strange scent to them. It reminded Kendra a bit of cooking meat.
Kendra charged at the hissing vampire with her knife, wanting to kill him before he finished his ritual. While she didn’t know what exactly was supposed to happen, anything that included the mention of bringing back and dead was trouble. The way that the vampire was attempting to finish the ritual over escaping didn’t reassure her at all.
After what felt like too long, Kendra managed to kick the book out of his arms, and slashed across his chest. When the vampire staggered back, she was able to bring her knife back and sever his head from his shoulders.
At last, those awful words were stopped. The ritual interrupted – she hoped. Now she had to properly clean up the site.
Using her knife, Kendra chopped at the wicks of the candles, reluctant to touch them. She felt much better when the nasty yellow light was gone. She wrapped the book back in the dark fabric before returning it to the backpack. Reluctantly, she dropped the greasy feeling candles into the backpack as well, followed by the knife that the vampires had brought. Looking at the red fabric, she estimated its dimensions and cut off a little swatch at the corner before leaving the cemetery.
She was done for tonight. Best to get this book locked up away from any more monsters as quickly as possible. Then maybe she could start looking for someone who could figure out what the book was and if it needed to be destroyed.
End part 28.
Kendra returned to the school, and by midnight, the backpack containing the grimoire, the greasy candles, and the knife were locked in a safe. As soon as she was certain that the students wouldn’t accidentally get their hands on any of it, and nobody would be able to steal it without putting in enough effort that someone should be alerted, she went to wash her hands. Touching those things left her feeling inexplicably soiled.
Maybe not quite inexplicably. She was certain that the ritual had been evil magic. Very, very evil.
She decided not to go back out that night. The lizard-demons and interrupting that ritual and slaying the vampires involved was enough. Kendra went to bed, planning to look for a few extra vampires tomorrow night to make up for turning in early tonight. As she drifted to sleep, she found herself thinking that she really needed a capable Watcher, or perhaps a skilled magic user…
Several people, including Charles, were quite surprised to see Kendra at breakfast. Ms. Weaver seemed to take that as a good sign that Kendra probably hadn’t picked up any serious injuries last night. Jean and Misty had both beamed at her and settled to sit on either side of Kendra.
“Can we work a little more on meditation after breakfast, Miss Kendra?” Jean asked.
Misty looked hopeful, though with a mouth full of eggs, she didn’t say anything.
“If you would like to do so, then we could practice it for a while,” Kendra agreed. “As I have mentioned, it is a very useful skill to have, and could be very beneficial to you both.”
After they’d finished their breakfast, Kendra gathered some whole fruits to take with them. Meditation could be tiring at first, even if it did look like ‘just sitting there like a lump’, as she’d once described it to Mr. Zabuto. The girls might appreciate the snack by the time they were finished with today’s lesson.
By the time Kendra was done with their lesson, both girls looked tired. Handing each of them a piece of fruit, she gave a smile, “You are making good progress. I have a small assignment for each of you. Misty, I want you to start trying to notice the smaller details of people. Little things like freckles and scars, the way that they part their hair. If they keep their fingernails neatly trimmed and clean. Jean, I want you to try to identify when someone is near you with your mind, not by your eyes or your ears. I am not asking you to look into their t’houghts, but to be aware of their presence.”
“Sounds tricky,” Jean murmured, nibbling at her apple.
“But good practice. Especially if it gets you into the habit of noticing people. Wouldn’t it be hard for people to hide from you if you can feel their minds?” Misty added.
“But why… wait, does this go back to I might need to defend someone else someday? Or defend myself from stupid people who get angry just because I’m different?” Jean’s nose wrinkled as if she’d smelled something unwelcome.
“Very much so,” Kendra agreed. “You would also, in time, be able to know if the person hiding over there is planning to attack you, is afraid, or perhaps just does not have a proper home.”
“I guess that makes sense,” Jean admitted.
“Do you think it’ll work? The whole better, happier future thing, where humans and mutants all get along?” Misty was rubbing her thumb over the scales on the side of her finger.
“I think, given enough time and people working to make that better future, that it can happen. But it will not be tomorrow, and it will not be easy. It will involve much effort, and persuading people to change their minds and habits, and there will probably be fighting and suffering before it happens. But there was opposition to granting women the right to vote, and it came to be. Not overnight, and not easily, but wit’ enough effort, great changes can be made,” Kendra offered. “Will you be ready to work towards that goal?”
“Something like that will take a lot of people working in different places and ways,” Misty murmured.
“People with good memories and an eye for details,” Jean added, tossing her apple core towards the lake.
“You are both correct,” Kendra smiled at them. “Now, if I recall, you have homework for your other classes to work on, do you not?”
With sighs and grumbles, the girls headed back towards the mansion. Perhaps they’d even work on those homework assignments that Kendra knew they had been given.
End part 29.