Disclaimers: see Chapter 1
Annie sighed as she pulled the ATV up close to the mine entrance. Cerys' directions had been easy to follow, especially once she found the old road. Apparently someone in the past had the bright idea to mine for silver or gold or something. The mine hadn't produced anything except several long tunnels in the ground. Perfect for hiding vampires and demons during the day.
Add in the history of some old miner going crazy, killing two companions and eating them in the 1800s, it made a perfect portal gate between the realms.
The writer knew that if there were any vampires inside they would have heard her coming long before actually seeing her. Annie pulled the cowboy hat off and wiped her forehead.
With a determined grimace, she got off the ATV and went to the wagon behind it. She rapped gently on the large cardboard refrigerator box she had found in the storage shed for Cerys.
"You okay in there?"
"Yeah, uncomfortable, claustrophobic, irritable from lack of sleep, yeah – I'm peachy," a voice grumbled back.
"Hang in there, I'm going to check the mine entrance," Annie grinned and pulled out the shotgun from the wagon and a large flashlight. "Any advice about fighting these things in mines and caves?"
"Yeah, they can leap great distances and prefer hiding and attacking from behind," Cerys voice called from the box.
Annie lost her grin as she looked at the mine entrance.
Wooden gates had been put up when the mine was closed and most of the boards had either been broken away by vandals or rotted. It would be easy to get into the mine but that didn't make it any less eerie.
Annie went to the mine entrance and easily pulled several boards loose with one hand, the other hand held the shotgun ready. She couldn't tell if the tracks around the place were fresh because of the stones embedded in the dirt. The cobwebs and dust probably weren't any indication of vampires or lack of vampires either.
Annie kicked a few more boards loose and poked the flashlight carefully inside. Not seeing anything as far as the light could shine; she moved back to the wagon and looked at the refrigerator box with an exasperated look. It was one thing to get Cerys into the box at the cabin; it was another to get her out of the box and into the mine.
"How do we do this?" she asked the box. "There's an open area around the mine entrance of about twenty feet. I can get the box about ten feet away from the entrance."
"Okay, you brought a thick blanket?" Cerys asked from the box.
"Yes, a good old fashioned army blanket," Annie grinned.
"Pull the box up as close as you can, open the end up and I'll use the blanket to run to the shaft," Cerys instructed.
"All right," Annie moved to follow the Warder's instructions.
In only a few minutes the Vampire Warder was inside the cave with only a few muttered curses.
"Well that was about as weird as I'd like it to get," Cerys complained.
"You notice they never go into problems like this in horror novels?" Annie joined in on the complaining.
"We have company," Cerys growled, raising her sword in a classic defensive position while Annie raised the shotgun.
"Where's the portal?" Annie asked, shining the flashlight down the tunnel as far as it would go. Within sight of the beam were two separate shafts, one to the left and one to the right about twenty feet inside the main shaft.
"At the cross section there," Cerys pointed at the intersection of shafts.
"Okay, can you tell how many are here?"
"Not many, maybe three or four," the Vampire Warder responded, moving forward into the main shaft.
Annie ducked instinctively as a screech flashed through the enclosed space and Cerys sword slashed over her head. The writer began to cough as she was covered in dust as the vampire attacking them exploded.
"One down," Cerys grinned.
"I hate dust!" Annie growled, shining the light all around.
"Better than being covered in blood and having a headless corpse to try and explain to the authorities," the Warder continued to grin.
"Yeah, yeah, yeah," Annie grumbled and spun rapidly on her heels, firing as she turned to the tunnel on the left. A vampire howled in rage and pain as the female was thrown back five feet from the shotgun blast to her chest. Annie quickly closed the gap to its face and pulled the trigger.
Before she could bring the gun up, another vampire was on her. The vampire grabbed her by the throat and lifted the writer off her feet, the pain causing Annie to drop the shotgun and claw at the hand around her throat.
Annie could hear Cerys shouting and the Warder's cowboy boots pounding on the stone floor but it was becoming vague and distant as the writer began to lose consciousness.
"Come on," a voice insisted. "That's it."
Annie began coughing and sputtering as Cerys tried to help her sit up.
"Fuck, that hurt," Annie growled, her voice harsh from the choking.
"Yup, usually does," Cerys smiled softly, kneeling next to Annie as the writer sat against the wall. "Come on, I took your friend there out and I think that's the last of them."
"Then you guard the mine and I'll go outside and set up some surprises for anyone showing up tonight," Annie said as she used the stone wall to get up. "Any chance some of your cavalry will show up tonight?"
"Not likely, they should have been here last night," Cerys answered with a shrug and pulled Annie close, running her hands through the blonde hair and holding the writer's body tightly. "You worried me there for a moment."
"Me too," Annie whispered, melting into a long kiss.
"Better get moving, my Boy Scout," Cerys teased, pulling back out of the kiss.
"Always prepared," Annie grinned and headed outside to the wagon to prepare her surprises.
A few hours later Annie sat down against the wall of the main tunnel in Cerys' arms and closed her eyes.
Two days of hard work with little sleep were getting to the writer and she knew she was bordering on exhaustion. Being the mom of a seven year old boy had helped prepare Annie but her energy was giving out.
"Annie," Cerys said softly and the writer moaned quietly.
"Christ, I'm going to sleep for a week after this," Annie complained.
"I'll agree with that," Cerys laughed lightly. "What do you have planned for the vampires?"
"Well, tell me what to expect," Annie countered.
"At around 8 p.m. the portal opens and the first vampires come through, they are scouts. They prepare the portal gate for the Master magician to come through at midnight. The gates are open only for an hour. With this level of a Master coming through we can probably expect twenty vampires leaping through."
"Why don't we just blow the mine and close the gate?"
"It takes a major magick spell to close a portal and that usually means the death of at least two willing Warders," Cerys explained.
"Okay, that's out, I want you around for awhile. How do we handle twenty vampires?" Annie demanded. "My tricks can probably handle a handful."
"They come through two or three at a time, we hopefully hold out as they cross and take them out. I'll take on the ones coming through the gate; you handle the ones coming from town."
"Deal. The sun is setting, isn't it?"
"Yes, they'll be here soon."
Annie leaned up and grabbed a quick kiss.
"Don't get killed on me," she ordered the Warder.
"Back at you," Cerys grinned as they got to their feet.
"We still need to discuss what happens after tonight," Annie growled.
"Annie, after tonight I'm probably gone," Cerys said softly, stopping the writer with a hand on the blonde's arm.
Annie shook the hand off. "We'll discuss that later," she said firmly.
The writer gritted her teeth and fought back the emotions attempting to overwhelm her and went outside the mine. It felt good to be out of the enclosed space. The night was clear and crisp and Annie zipped up her military field jacket.
Annie had already moved her supplies inside the mine and the ATV and wagon were now out of the way as well. She leaned against the stones and waited, checking her watch.
"Annie," Cerys said behind her, placing her hands on the smaller blonde's shoulders.
"No, I'm not discussing it until we're out of this," Annie snapped.
"I told you we shouldn't get involved," Cerys whispered.
"Yeah, you weren't saying that this morning," Annie grumbled.
"I know and I'm sorry," Cerys said softly. "I let my feelings get the better of me."
"Where does that leave us?" Annie demanded.
"If we're successful tonight I have to go back to my realm and let them know," Cerys tried to explain.
"So you drag me into this fight, get me to open up my heart to you and then leave? Do you come back or is this a one night stand thing?"
"Annie, I don't belong here," Cerys pleaded. "On this side I am a vampire, I have to drink blood to survive, I can't go out in the daylight, and I can't have a normal life. If we got together I could feed on you and others. I could spend years with you, watch you grow old, watch Travis grow up. I could watch you age while I don't. I'd then watch you die. Then what? Watch Travis grow old and die?"
"I'm sorry," Annie said softly.
"In my realm I could have a normal life," Cerys growled.
"You chose to be a warrior though," Annie pointed out.
"Yes and now I'm tired. This fight killed most of my family, turned my best friend into a demon and my mate is now a bloodsucking power hungry bitch," Cerys snapped. "I think I've earned a break."
"And a relationship with me isn't a break, right?"
"Get back to your portal, let's finish this," Annie growled. "I want to get back to Travis."
Cerys dropped her hands from Annie's shoulders and walked back towards the intersection of the tunnels. The Warder noticed Annie's dejected body language and cursed the fates once again.
Annie glanced at the moon and stars, trying to focus her mind on the task at hand but failing. She was more than attracted to Cerys but she also knew that part of it was the intensity of the last couple of days. Hell, she hadn't even found out if the Warder's name was Cerys or Cer as the other vampire had called her.
Annie kicked at a rock but snapped into focus again when she saw movement in the tree-line. The writer was glad that there was a full moon; it lit up the clearing around the mine entrance like twilight. Annie wished she was anywhere else tonight, especially taking Travis trick-or-treating. She really owed him for missing this night of fun.
She could see several vampires hesitating just outside the tree line and Annie decided to increase their attention. The writer struck a flare and lit up the night. The vampires growled, flashing their fangs and moved closer to the blonde. Annie grinned and tossed the flare at their feet. The gasoline soaked grass around the mine entrance went up in a ball of flames in a semi-circle.
Three vampires screamed for a full two minutes before exploding into dust.
Annie grinned and dropped to one knee and pulled up the long pole next to her. The vampire leaping over the fire for her neck discovered that the pole was sharp on one end, a good old fashioned lance that pierced his chest.
The writer saw five other vampires hesitating as the fire died down.
Two of them were females and Annie wondered if one was Cerys' ex. The writer was pretty convinced of the one's identity when the vampire pulled out a sword from her jacket. The other vampires were a combination of average Americans and street kids.
Annie resisted looking back down the mine tunnel as she heard the sounds of fighting and screams behind her. She kept her eyes on the vampires in front of her, shotgun at the ready.
Cerys growled at the sound of Annie moving outside the mine entrance and the growl deepened when she smelled the road flare flashing to life and igniting the gasoline. She couldn't miss the screams of the vampires dying in the flames either.
The Warder felt her body jerk and gritted her teeth. A moment later and she was thrown back ten feet down the main tunnel when the portal began to form in the center of the cross-section. The vampire shielded her eyes, jumped to her feet and forced her body to move closer to the center.
If Annie had looked inside the mine she would have been surprised to see the portal opening. It was almost like that science fiction show Cerys had seen on television before, something called Sliders, the show about portal jumpers. The main difference was this portal put out a lot of energy on both sides and getting near it without being dragged in was very difficult. It was like being close enough to a lightning strike to feel the discharge of energy but without getting zapped.
Cerys closed her eyes and raised her sword in a backhand position.
The familiar sound of the portal practically tossing someone through hit the vampire like a firecracker under someone's chair in math class. It was always startling; no matter how many times she heard it. Reacting from her training, Cerys slashed at shoulder height without opening her eyes.
A scream snapped her eyes open and she was in time to see one vampire explode into dust and the other stumbled forward grasping his slashed chest. Cerys grinned and stuck her foot out, tripping the vampire into the mine.
He managed to yell as he fell forward onto the stakes Annie had planted at an angle in the cave.
Cerys smirked and thought again that Annie was definitely more of an asset than they had figured. Not only was she an excellent writer and open to the reality of vampires, she was also a damned good fighter and tactical type.
The Warder growled and jumped over the stakes and listened for sounds of a battle outside. So far no gunshots and only the first set of screams. Cerys debated whether to check on Annie or not. She knew from past experience that it would be at least another five minutes before the next set of vampires came through the portal but she wasn't sure she could risk leaving either.
If they got caught between two sets of vampires it could turn out very badly and Cerys was determined to see Annie through this. The Warder hadn't counted on becoming attached to the human but she had.
The Vampire Warder cursed the Fates and whoever else had set the entire events into motion. The last thing she needed was to fall for someone, especially a human in this Realm. She was gone from home long enough to be very homesick for what family she had left.
Cerys missed the two suns and three moons of her realm. She especially missed walking in the daylight. Living in the human realm was a pain in the teeth, Cerys cursed. Being the good guy and having to arrange with someone to drink their blood was a major hassle that she wouldn't wish on most anyone. The natural instinct of the hunter craved the sport of stalking something, chasing and overpowering the prey and feeding until sated. You couldn't do that in this realm and be one of the good guys.
Cerys knew the temptation of the darkside and how easy it had been for her mate, her Arekla, to fall into that blood madness. Every Warder fought against it. They were warriors and soldiers, strong women accustomed to accomplishing things and being respected in their realm. Having to pay or beg someone for blood was humiliating for many of them.
Cerys wanted to hit something very badly, other than a vampire. She should be home on this sacred night. The Warder should be dancing around a bonfire celebrating the harvest with a mate, not here fighting vampires. She should be dancing and making out with her sister warriors, not waiting here in the dark for some damned gate to open so she could probably die.
The Vampire Warder definitely didn't need to fall in love with a human. She knew it to be a life of misery if she stayed in this realm. There was a reason vampires wore black, she thought bitterly, it reflected their moods.
Cerys leaped over the stakes and impaled the next vampire coming through the gate and rammed a stake through the chest of the other one. She quickly withdrew the sword and sliced the first one's head off.
The Warder turned again to listen for Annie's side of the battle.
Annie heard a couple of screams behind her and then nothing. The writer considered moving into the mine entrance but knew she had to keep the vampires on the outside from getting inside. Trapping Cerys and herself between two sets of vampires in a narrow tunnel did not appeal to the writer, unaware Cerys had been thinking the same thoughts.
It also wasn't amusing to watch the flames die down to nothing once all the grass in the semi circle burned out. To prevent a forest fire from spreading, the wood-wise writer had prepared a firebreak between the gas-soaked grass and the pine needles of the tree-line. Now the flames were dying and the vampires were going to have a clear shot at her.
Annie figured she might have a chance if they rushed her one at a time but not all of them at once, even with a couple of surprises she still had left up her sleeves.
The vampires began fanning out, their fangs gleaming in the moonlight.
Cerys ducked under the talons of one vampire and felt the claws of the other one rake her left ribs. She brought her hand back, hitting the second vampire in the face with the butt of her sword, knocking him off balance. Cerys blocked the first male's next slash with the sword, which took his arm off at the elbow. The vampire howled in pain and rage, realizing that her sword was coated with silver and could actually cause mortal wounds on his kind.
She kicked him backwards into the portal and heard him screaming as he disappeared into the silver and blue stream. The Warder slashed with a backhand motion and took the second vampire's head off.
The vampire grimaced as she grabbed at her ribs, feeling the bright red blood flowing over her hands. This was something else she just didn't need, she grumbled.
Annie resisted moving into the mine, she knew the vampires were trying to herd her into the dark tunnel. The writer was torn; logically she knew she stood a better chance of holding them off if she were inside the mouth of the tunnel. Anything popping its head in the entrance could be blown off and they couldn't rush it with all five of them at once. On the other hand, she didn't want to be trapped in that small dark space facing five vampires either.
One of the vampires, more anxious than the others, rushed at the writer with his claws extended and his fangs biting his lower lip in his excitement.
"You must be new," Annie muttered. "I bet you even lisp with those things in your mouth."
"Bitch!" he screamed.
She was right, he did lisp.
Instead of shooting him with the shotgun, which he expected and so pulled back at the last moment hoping to avoid the head shot, the writer dropped her hand to her side and brought up the wood axe between his legs, hard.
Not only did he lisp but he also screamed a high pitch scream that actually hurt the ears, Annie reflected as he fell to his knees.
Keeping an eye on the other four, Annie raised the shotgun and pulled the trigger, taking his head and putting him out of his misery.
The others moved closer.
Cerys decided to alter her methods and save her strength. The next two vampires that came through were met with a torch. The only real danger to the Warder vampire was when one rushed at her, determined to force her to join them in their fiery death. Cerys had leaped over the stakes just in time to avoid becoming a fiery torch herself.
After the fire had died down, the Warder stomped on the ashes out of anger. She really did hate it when someone got that close to killing her.
"Annie, are you okay?" Cerys finally couldn't resist finding out about the small blonde outside.
"Yeah, so far," the answer came down the tunnel. "How much longer?"
"Well, about another twenty minutes for this portal to close then we've got a couple of hours before it opens again," Cerys called.
"Terrific, I have to hold these bastards off for more than two hours?"
"Not alone, once this portal closes, I'll join you and we'll either finish them or run them off," Cerys called back.
"What does your ex look like?"
"What does your ex look like?" Annie called again.
"Lot like you, actually," Cerys shouted with a growl. "Long blonde hair, green eyes, wicked smile."
"Does she also have a mean sword hand?"
"All Warders do," Cerys confirmed, realizing her worst fears were true.
"I think your ex is out here," Annie called.
"I figured from your questions," Cerys shouted back and resisted slamming her hand into the stone wall. One, she couldn't break the stone, even with her increased strength in this realm; two, breaking her hand this early in the evening would be counter-productive; three, she really wanted to save that anger for the Master. "Kill her!"
"If I get a good shot," Annie agreed.
Cerys took out the next two vampires by shining a bright flashlight in their eyes when they crossed. Both of them rushed at her and impaled themselves on the stakes. This gave her the opportunity to rest and be able to rip her over-shirt into strips, which she used to bind the slashes under her ripped t-shirt.
"I liked that shirt, damnit," she muttered. "One more thing you'll pay for, Father."
Annie was getting tired; this heightened state of alert was draining. Watching the four vampires move closer and then backing off, semi-circling her, always making her watch their every move. She knew they were trying to wear her down and it was working.
"Annie?" she heard Cerys call.
"Still alive?" the Warder asked.
"Dumb question if I'm answering you, isn't it?" the writer grinned.
"Anyone ever tell you that you're a smart ass?" the vampire countered.
"Yup! My parents just before they threw me out," Annie smiled, her eyes shifting in the darkness.
"I like that warped sense of humor, by the way," Cerys shouted.
"Good, because I don't intend to change it, even for you, good looking," Annie smirked and watched the female she suspected of being Cerys' ex. The vampire's face became one of intense rage.
Instead of rushing her, like Annie was hoping for, Arekla disappeared into the darkness to Annie's left.
The writer frowned and wondered if she should call for Cerys' help.
"One more set and the portal should close and I'll be out there," Cerys called to her and Annie decided to wait.
Cerys had a harder time taking out the last two male vampires crossing over. They were prepared with swords of their own which were already drawn. The Warder had been driven back onto her own stakes and had made a desperate leap over the deadly pieces of wood but had caught her calf on one and crashed heavily on the other side.
The two male vampires grinned and leaped easily over the stakes, landing on either side of the Warder. Cerys thrust her sword up, holding the pointed end with her left hand as she braced the sword against the blow from both their swords at the same time.
Cerys knew she had an advantage in that she was accustomed to being a vampire in this realm and the newly crossed males weren't yet. She also knew her strength and knew how to use her vampire skills.
On their side was their fresh strength, the fact they weren't injured, both knew how to sword fight, and there were two of them.
Cerys shoved their swords back and sent both of them into the sides of the tunnel walls and leaped to her feet. She leaned heavily on one leg and glanced down at the bleeding calf of her injured left one and shrugged it off.
Just as the Warder had counted on, both vampires hoped to take advantage of her injured leg and rushed her with swords extended, intent on impaling her. Cerys intentionally fell forward as the vampires met in the center of the tunnel.
The Warder rolled over and laughed at the expressions of surprise on each vampire as they realized they had impaled each other with the swords. Cerys struck out with her own sword, first one direction and then the other, cutting their legs and causing both of them to fall backwards, each clutching the other's sword in his chest.
Cerys crawled to her hands and knees and leaned over to slice first one head off and then in the other direction for the second head.
She was tired.
Remembering Annie holding off at least four vampires outside, Cerys got to her feet and grabbed one of the long stakes from the earth, along with her sword, as she headed for the mouth of the tunnel.
The Warder felt a chill pass over her body when she stepped into the moonlight and there was no sign of Annie or the vampires.
After five minutes of yelling for Annie, Cerys gave up. She didn't dare let the entrance of the mine out of her sight and that had limited her search for the small blonde.
Cerys found the shotgun lying on the ground next to where Annie had been, along with flares, several stakes, and a military backpack.
The Warder paced restlessly in front of the mine, a growl in her throat and saber in her hand. Cerys picked up the shotgun with her other hand and continued pacing.
Cerys growled when she saw movement in the tree line directly in front of her. She kept the shotgun resting over her shoulder and appeared unconcerned.
Arekla walked slowly into the moonlight, keeping far enough back from where the shotgun really wasn't a threat to the vampire.
"Okay, where's Annie?" Cerys growled.
"Her name is even like mine," Arekla taunted and made an exaggerated show of appearing to think about the question. "Gee, do you want to do this like some bad horror movie? It's simple, you leave the portal alone and you get your playmate."
"You already know the answer to that," Cerys frowned. "Even if you kill her, the answer is no."
"Oh, I don't plan on killing her, my sweet," Arekla grinned, revealing her fangs. "I'm going to turn her for you. How will that feel, two of us in the service of a Dark Master?"
"Look, I'm not going to play your game," Cerys said wearily. "The answer will always be no. I'll hold true to my vows."
"Why?" Arekla demanded. "Your family is dead or turned into demons and hunted in our land, your vows demand that you kill me now, is it worth it? Join me and hunt with me! We can take that little blonde of yours, turn her and have endless nights of pleasure with her. Join the real winner in this fight."
"No, humans deserve better than to be hunted like wild game in the forest," Cerys countered.
"Why?" Arekla grinned back. "We're faster, we're stronger and we need their blood, why not hunt them instead of begging for it? Then we can return to our realm and be assured power and riches."
"No, the answer is simple," Cerys growled.
"Then she becomes one of us," Arekla lost her smirk and glanced back into the woods. A moment later two male vampires moved into the light, dragging Annie between them by her arms.
The only betrayal of emotion on the Warder's face was a twitching jaw muscle. Annie's head was dropped forward and Cerys figured the writer was either dead or unconscious.
Cerys growled and pulled the shotgun into a semi-ready position but she didn't move from her location.
"Last chance, Cerys," Arekla taunted and pulled Annie's head up by her hair.
The Warder resisted moaning at the sight of the black eye, cut lip, bloody nose and especially over the fang marks on the writer's neck.
"Won't take much to kill her, I already had the pleasure of tasting her," Arekla taunted.
Cerys' eyes narrowed and she hesitated. After a moment the Warder dropped the shotgun and sheathed the saber in her belt.
"Let her go," Cerys said flatly.
"No, we keep her until the Master comes across and then we'll let her go," Arekla countered. "She'll be our insurance."
Cerys pulled the saber out and dropped it next to the shotgun. She walked slowly across the burned grass towards her ex. The Warder looked deep into the yellow eyes of the woman she had mated and taken vows with and saw nothing of her former lover. In place of her beloved Arekla was only a shell filled with hatred and power lust.
"Let her go," Cerys said softly as she got within ten feet of the vampires.
"I don't think so, Cerys," Arekla said easily, letting Annie's head drop down. "I think that you and I should…"
Before the tainted vampire could finish, Cerys pulled a Glock automatic pistol from behind her back and dropped into a firing stance. The two male vampires flew backwards from two shots in their foreheads, dropping Annie to the ground.
Cerys moved the pistol slightly and pumped four rounds into Arekla's heart, sending the female vampire flying back. The Warder grabbed Annie, threw the writer over her shoulder and dashed back to the entrance of the mine.
Cerys dropped the unconscious writer just inside the tunnel and turned, firing her pistol at the same time, hitting the male vampires again as they ran after her. They fell for the second time and slowly rose to their hands and knees, shaking their heads.
From past experience, Cerys knew that a silver bullet in the head hurt like hell and scrambled your brains for a bit. With four silver bullets in the heart, Arekla's wounds just might be fatal but Cerys couldn't be sure.
The Warder bent down during her dash towards the vampires and grabbed up her sword and quickly decapitated the male vampires before they could recover from the gunshots.
Cerys turned back to the mine entrance and knelt down next to Annie and drew the writer into her arms. The Warder quickly checked the blonde's pulse and found it rapid and erratic but strong and the fang marks looked like they would heal well.
"Come on, Annie," Cerys urged, lightly shaking the young woman. "Come on, lover. Don't do this to me."
Annie moaned and then whimpered.
"Come on, that's it. Come on back," Cerys urged, gently rocking the blonde in her arms.
Annie opened her green eyes slowly and jerked as she woke up. Cerys held the writer close and repeated comforting words over and over until Annie blinked and stopped fighting.
"Cerys?" the writer whispered, her voice harsh.
"Yeah, it's me," the vampire nodded, fighting back tears of relief.
"I'm sorry," Annie said weakly as she began to cry softly.
"What happened, my Boy Scout?"
"I was watching the vampires and your ex disappeared," Annie answered. "Next thing I knew what's-her-name was jumping me from above and the other vampires attacked me."
"She must have climbed up the rock face; we're good at that," Cerys commented with a rueful smile.
"They dragged me into the woods and…she had her paws all over me and was teasing me about being with you," Annie wept. "She kept telling me I was just a poor substitute for her. Then she bit me."
Cerys gritted her teeth and clenched her muscles as she struggled not to let Annie see how upset she was. The Warder growled and silently vowed to take Arekla's head herself.
"She'd pull back and ask if I was enjoying it," Annie's crying became harder and Cerys held her tighter and continued to rock the small woman in her arms. "I…did like it. She knew it and…she laughed at me and bit me again."
"Damn her!" Cerys growled. "I'm sorry, Annie. I shouldn't have gotten you into this."
The Warder held Annie close while watching the mine entrance. Next to the two women were Cerys' sword and the shotgun. She didn't think Arekla would be back until closer to time for the Master to cross over but the Warder wasn't taking any chances, especially not now. Annie's life was too important.
Cerys let Annie drift back into sleep when the writer's weeping subsided into tears and then into light whimpers. The Warder looked at her watch and waited patiently as she pulled her jacket off and wrapped Annie in it.
The Warder was worried; Annie had lost blood two nights in a row and had very little sleep during the last 48 hours. What the writer needed was several days of rest, lots of liquids and plenty of food to build up her strength and blood again. What she was likely to get was another long night of fighting.
Annie moaned in her sleep and Cerys whispered reassuring words to the writer and waited until a half hour before midnight before waking the small blonde.
Cerys lightly shook the writer until Annie reluctantly opened her eyes.
"I need to get you into one of the other tunnels and get ready for the Master," Cerys explained.
"I'm standing with you," Annie muttered and struggled to sit up with Cerys' help.
"You can't even stand," Cerys smirked at the smaller woman.
"Then prop me against the wall with the shotgun or a torch," Annie growled as she tried to focus her eyes. "You can't keep an eye on me and face the Master at the same time."
"What the hell am I going to do with you?" Cerys laughed as she crossed her arms over her chest.
"Well, my idea is to keep you after tonight, but we'll discuss that part later," Annie mumbled.
"Goddamnit!" Cerys cursed and got to her feet. "We don't have time to discuss it! When we finish the Master off, I'm going through the portal before it closes."
Annie's green eyes flashed with pain and anger at the vampire's words.
"Just like that?" she demanded. "We go through hell and back and you dive out before we have a chance to talk?"
"I'm on a damned time limit here!" Cerys snapped. "I've been here almost a year. If I don't leave tonight then I'm stuck here. If I want to see my homeland again and have any kind of normal life, I have to leave tonight."
"This sucks," Annie grumbled.
"Yes, I agree," Cerys muttered.
"Can you come back?" Annie asked softly, hope brightening her eyes.
Cerys hesitated and closed her eyes. After a moment she moaned and pulled Annie up to her feet and into the arms of the Warder.
"Yes, the next portal is at the end of December," the vampire whispered and kissed Annie, letting all of her emotions flow into the kiss. Cerys thought her knees would go weak when she heard Annie moan in arousal.
Cerys pulled back, reluctantly.
"What other goodies did you have planned for my cousins?"
"How about a couple of pipe bombs?" Annie grinned.
"You are telling me that you made pipe bombs?" Cerys demanded, her eyebrows raised with an incredulous look.
"You slip into that formal way of speaking when you're surprised or nervous," Annie grinned. "Yeah, a few shotgun shells, some cotton balls, a few other ingredients and some old pipe from the outdated water pipes in the barn; you've got pipe bombs."
Cerys shook her head. "Alright, we take on whatever comes through, defeat the Master and then you blow the entrance to this place once I'm through the gate. How's that for a plan?"
"I'm still upset about the last part but the rest of it sounds good," Annie grumbled.
"Then let's get you set up behind the stakes by the gate. Anything jumps over them, you take them out," Cerys said and helped the writer down the tunnel. "I'll get your backpack in a minute. I take it the pipes and shotgun shells are in there?"
"Yes, ready to go. I've got my dependable Zippo lighter," Annie smiled as Cerys leaned her against the stone wall and the writer slid down to the stone floor.
Cerys shook her head with an amused expression as she turned back towards the entrance and reached for the backpack.
Cerys heard Annie gasp when the energy began to spark inside the cross section of the tunnels, signaling the beginning of the portal opening.
Cerys closed her eyes and picked up one of Annie's lances.
"Annie, no matter what happens, I do want to come back to you," Cerys called.
"You'd better damn it or I'll find a way to come to you!" Annie growled and lifted her shotgun; lighter in her lap.
"How many vampires will come through before the Master?" Annie yelled.
"This time the portal opens wide!" Cerys shouted back over the electrical discharge building up. "A handful all at once, the Master, and then some more minor vampires."
"Terrific, who the hell makes up these rules?" Annie complained and Cerys couldn't help but laugh. She definitely understood the irritation.
Annie, having missed the exciting fireworks of the first gate, cried out as the portal opened. She quickly turned her head and raised the shotgun.
It was obvious that the vampires on the other side knew they were headed into trouble because when the next four of them came dashing through the portal, they were armed and ready.
Two of the vampires had small spears, about the size of Roman lances and the other two had long swords. The two with the lances attacked immediately and Cerys grinned at the challenge. Fighting four armed vampires in a fairly narrow mine tunnel was not amusing.
Cerys was able to parry one spear but only slightly turned the other one and felt it scrape along her already wounded ribs. The warrior growled and ducked a sword strike aimed at her head and struck downward with her sword, slicing one spear in half and knocking the other one aside.
The vampires crowded her and the Warder growled as she put her back to the wall. She slashed out viciously with her short sword under the guard of one of the vampires armed with a lance and forced him into one of the vampires with a sword. That vampire stumbled backwards and tripped over his own feet, falling onto the stakes Annie had set up and then crumbled into dust. The vampire with the broken spear glanced over and started to yell a warning as he took in the sight of Annie on the other side of the stakes but he never got the sound out. His cry was drowned out by the sound of a shotgun blast and, before his ears stopped ringing, he had exploded into dust as Annie's shot took off his head.
The two remaining vampires howled with rage and rushed Cerys.
The vampire parried the spear thrust but wasn't fast enough to avoid the sword strike and growled as the blade sank into her left shoulder. Cerys slashed out with her own sword and stabbed the vampire in the chest and he let go of his sword.
Cerys surprised both opponents by pulling the sword out of her shoulder and turned the motion into an attack, slashing at both vampires with a sword in each hand.
The vampires fell back from her assault and Cerys followed through with their confusion by rolling under the spear of one vampire and slashing out, cutting his legs almost in half and slashing across his abdomen. The vampire screamed and fell forward to his knees. Cerys followed through with a slash with one sword, taking his head off before he could even finish falling on his face. The other sword struck deep into the chest of the unarmed vampire.
Cerys held him pinned with his own weapon and struck off his head with the other sword.
Annie grinned as Cerys walked around the stakes and slid down the wall to sit next to her on the cold stones.
The writer lost her grin and started to turn and check out Cerys' wounds but the vampire smacked Annie's hands away.
"Don't worry about it," the vampire growled.
"You're hurt!" Annie protested.
"And there's nothing that can be done about it," Cerys countered. "The bleeding will stop in a moment."
"Do you need more blood?" Annie asked softly.
"Maybe," Cerys said reluctantly. "But not from you. You've been drained two nights in a row and haven't had a lot of sleep, your body won't take another feeding. A few more feedings and you'll be well on the way of turning into a vampire."
"Cerys," Annie started to argue and the Warder shook her head firmly.
"No, end of discussion!" Cerys growled.
Annie's jaw tightened and Cerys smiled at the flash in Annie's green eyes.
"You seem to like ending our discussions when it suits you," Annie snapped. "How about my feelings or thoughts on some of these matters? Are you just naturally a jerk or do you work at it?"
Cerys surprised the writer by laughing.
"Jeannie warned me about you having a stubborn streak," Cerys smiled, her stern face relaxing a bit. "I'm sorry. You are right; I tend to take charge of things. I'm a warrior, a soldier, and you're a writer. I deal with action, you deal with emotions."
"In case you hadn't noticed, I think I've been holding my own with the soldier part," Annie growled, trying not to let her hurt feelings show but failing.
"Yes, you have saved all of us the last couple of days. I couldn't have gotten this far without you," Cerys agreed, gently stroking Annie's cheek. "Annie, you are amazing and I'm sorry for getting you into this."
"I'm not," Annie said firmly. "It's a fight that not many know about. It's important and I can help, probably on several levels. It also meant I got to meet you."
"Is that a plus or minus?" Cerys teased lightly.
"I'm still debating that one," Annie countered the teasing. "You opened up my heart and definitely rekindled my sexual lust, which I thought was on permanent vacation. You're also leaving at the worst possible time for a beginning relationship."
"I will try and get back," Cerys said slowly.
"Why?" Annie asked bluntly.
"What? What do you mean?" Cerys whispered in a shocked voice. "Don't you want me to come back?"
"Yes, very much so," Annie responded. "I need to know why though. You said you can't stay here as a vampire because it offers you no life. In your realm you have a life, you said. A normal life. Why come back here as a vampire?"
"I guess that's a fair question," Cerys frowned. "I hadn't thought about it much, actually. I need to get back to take care of some family matters and to ensure that I'm not stuck here forever as a vampire but I also want to be with you. That means coming back at the next gate."
"As a vampire," Annie pushed. "Is that the life you want or are you going to leave me every year to recharge yourself in your realm or what?"
"Damn, why the hell do you have to be so logical now?" Cerys snapped.
"Name a better time," Annie challenged.
"Not right now, the gate is about to go again," Cerys growled and crawled to her feet with Annie standing up a moment later beside her on shaky knees.
Annie fired the shotgun almost blindly at the portal as shadowy figures blended into the light and became more solid.
Cerys grabbed her suddenly and threw the writer backwards. Annie managed to shout in protest and then screamed as the mine tunnel exploded into light.
Annie moaned and turned over and glanced back towards the portal. The writer felt her entire body go cold.
It was easy to tell the Master from the other minor vampires. This vampire was huge and reminded Annie of a football player rather then Tom Cruise or Brad Pitt. He also looked like something out of a nightmare.
He had sandy brown hair but that seemed the only thing normal about him. The vampire had yellow eyes, a mouth full of fangs, the canines being longer than the other sharp pointed teeth, and long claws instead of fingernails. Along the forehead were ridges which reminded Annie of a mixture between the old Nosferatu movie and a Klingon from the new Star Trek television show.
The vampires around him also had the ridged dome look which was really disturbing to look at, Annie decided.
The Master was standing in front of the stakes with four vampires on either side of him and he was grinning at the writer.
"How thoughtful," he purred, his voice sounding like something grating over broken glass. "A snack in the New World."
Annie would have loved to come up with a clever retort and proceed in telling him to kiss her ass but the writer felt something she hadn't except when Arekla was about to sink her fangs into Annie's neck: fear.
The writer turned and found Cerys shaking her head, stunned by the explosion of energy in the tunnel as well.
With a burst of adrenaline, Annie jumped to her feet and grabbed at Cerys' shirt as the Master's laugh filled her with urgency and fear. She managed to half pull and half drag Cerys to her feet and began pulling the Warder down the mine tunnel towards the entrance, grabbing one of the swords as they went.
Annie heard the Master laughing and the sound of breaking wood. The writer realized he was wading through the stakes without being bothered by them, merely breaking them with his hands and feet like they were straw.
"Cerys, talk to me, how the fuck do we take him out?" Annie demanded.
"Only way is to stake him, take his head and burn the body," Cerys mumbled.
"What?" Annie shouted as she dropped the taller woman and backpack at the entrance. She shoved the sword into Cerys hand and turned to face the mine.
"There is no way either of us can take him!" she growled.
"I know. I'm going back in there and you're going to throw a couple of those pipe bombs in and seal the mine. I've checked the place out, there's only one way in that hasn't been sealed," Cerys said, trying to get to her feet.
"No way! Sacrificing yourself is not part of the plan!"
Cerys reached in her jacket and pulled out a small notebook and handed it to Annie.
"Don't lose that, it has the numbers you'll need when you get back to town tomorrow," Cerys instructed. "I'm going to try and get past the Master with a pipe bomb and blow the mine behind him. I'll dive through the portal just before the explosion. That's your signal to blow the mine on this end."
"He'll kill you before you get to the portal," Annie protested.
"No, he'll probably throw me through the portal himself if he thinks I'm dying," Cerys grinned. "He's waiting now for me to attack him and his vampires."
"Why would he throw you through the portal?"
"As an example to our people on the other side," Cerys shrugged. "It would show his power and his ruthlessness. Being willing to kill his own daughter to gain power would be a major example to the people and a blow to the resistance."
"Daughter?" Annie whispered as Cerys avoided her eyes.
"That's one reason I have to go back, I need to find out what he did to my mother and brother," Cerys explained.
"Oh God, Cerys, I'm sorry," Annie muttered.
The Warder grabbed the writer and embraced her, kissing her passionately.
"Go to Jeannie, she's part of this," Cerys whispered, holding tightly to Annie. "She knows where the closest portal is, I'm going to try and come back on December 22nd."
"For me?" Annie asked.
"Mostly," Cerys admitted. "To take care of this bastard too, I'll be stronger then and with a couple of other Warders with me. Annie, I can't stay long in this realm without risking permanently becoming a vampire."
"Then take me and Travis with you, we can adapt," Annie countered.
"Humans can't cross over, remember? The effects are disastrous," Cerys said slowly.
"How disastrous?" Annie pushed. "How hellish can it be?"
"The body dies and the human becomes a zombie," Cerys whispered, avoiding Annie's green eyes. "To survive they eat corpses."
Annie turned even paler than she had been from the blood loss.
"Well, I think…uh, that's not…" she stammered. "I don't think that would be a good diet for Travis," she whispered and Cerys hugged her tightly.
"I will be back, listen for my explosion," Cerys instructed and released the writer. The Warder rummaged through Annie's backpack and grabbed one of the pipe bombs. "If you don't hear an explosion in 10 minutes, blow this end of the mine anyway."
"With you still in there?" Annie frowned.
"Yes, this is important, Annie," Cerys said firmly. "He cannot get out of that mine, do you understand?"
"Yes, alright, fine!" Annie snapped. "How are you going to convince him you're dying?"
"The old fashioned way," Cerys smirked and lifted her sword up. "Take a few good hits, call him 'Daddy' and hope he tosses me through."
"That is one screwed up plan, Cerys," Annie complained.
"Yup, not like a novel or a movie, is it? Not so clean and concise."
"To hell with that, I want you alive, damnit!"
"Just be at the next gate on the Solstice," Cerys said and leaned down for another kiss. She was gone into the darkness of the mine before Annie could protest.
Cerys knew she was facing impossible odds and the plan was insane. She hadn't seen her father in five years, not since she was recruited by the Resistance to fight his growing darkside power.
Of course Cerys knew about his atrocities and his growing power, she had seen some of his victims in the town square. Some of them had been hanged but most of them had been burned alive.
The Warder heard that her father, Albrecht, had threatened to have her limbs ripped from her body before killing her when he learned she was a Warder.
Now she was facing him at the peak of his power, as a Mage Vampire. Cerys had to admit to herself that she was worried and more than a little scared. Not only for herself but for the rest of the world, especially Annie standing right outside the mine entrance.
Cerys squatted down just inside the mine entrance, her sharp senses pointing out another trick of Annie's. She watched the inner mine as her hands sought out the plastic gas container. The Warder quickly felt around and discovered that Annie already had primed the container with a piece of cloth stuffed in the mouth.
Cerys grabbed one of the road flares and struck it, filling a large portion of the mine with an eerie light.
The Warder picked up the gas container and sword, all in one hand with the flare in the other.
The female vampire grinned when she saw four of the vampires slowly approaching, attempting to stick to the shadows along the mine wall. Cerys lit the gas soaked rag in the gas container and threw it.
Cerys' grin widened when the container broke open, spreading ignited gasoline everywhere and the flames quickly dashed up the legs of three of the vampires. They began dancing around and shouting; finally the shouting turned to screams.
The fourth vampire jumped out of the way and stumbled Cerys way. While he was distracted by the death of his fellow vampires, Cerys leaped forward and took his head.
The Warder waited and the flames died quickly. She leaped over the remaining flames and met two more vampires, sword to sword. Cerys yelled and kicked one in the groin and the other managed to duck under her sword slash and get a glancing slash in on her left leg. She threw herself forward under his guard and brought her sword up, driving the short metal through the vampire's jaw and through the top of his head.
Cerys grabbed his belt and pulled him around in time to use his body as a shield as the remaining three vampires attacked. She pulled her sword out and threw him at his companions. Instead of taking time to take his head or attack the others, the Warder shoulder-rolled forward, knocking the three of them down.
Cerys bounded to her feet to face the Master, her father.
Annie paced restlessly in front of the entrance, lighter at the ready and two pipe bombs in hand. Just inside the mine entrance were several more. The general plan was to light the two in her hand, toss them inside and let them explode the others, sealing the mine.
The writer muttered curses at every living thing she could think of. Her editor for being involved, Cerys for pulling her into this mess and making her love the vampire, the vampires themselves for existing, and especially Cerys' father for being the pain in the ass he was.
She listened closely at the mine entrance.
Cerys knew her father was waiting for her to talk to him, to reproach him or try and reason with him. It would have been natural and expected.
The Warder was known as a fantastic warrior because she rarely did the expected and she followed that philosophy again. She reversed the sword in her hand and thrust backwards, impaling a vampire attempting to attack her from behind. Cerys knew it wouldn't kill him but it would slow him down.
Then Cerys pulled the sword out of the vampire and walked casually up to the Master. Her father smirked at her as the female vampire looked up into his yellow eyes.
"Yes, daughter?" he taunted, running one of his claws along her jaw.
Instead of attempting to reason with him or confront him, Cerys pulled a Glock pistol from behind her back and held it under his chin, pulling the trigger nine times, sending him flying backwards to land heavily on the mine floor.
Cerys pulled the pipe bomb from her belt and lit the fuse as she leaped over his stunned form. The Warder glanced back towards the mine entrance and saw the three vampires starting towards her.
"Annie, hold on," she whispered. "I'll be back."
The Warder dropped the pipe bomb and dove into the portal.
Annie heard the explosion and lit the fuse on the two pipe bombs in her hand and tossed them inside the entrance. The writer quickly turned and ran alongside the mine rock face, heading back down the road towards where she had stashed the ATV.
The writer wiped tears away from her face as explosions ripped the mountainside.
"Cerys," she mumbled and leaned heavily against the ATV.
After a few moments, Annie composed herself and started the motorcycle-type vehicle to slowly begin to work her way back down the trail, back to town and her son.
Tomorrow she would begin her battle against the vampires on this side of the Realms and wait for Cerys' return.
Unknown to Annie, yellow eyes watched her from the woods, clutching at the wounds still seeping dark blood.
"Your Warder might be gone, but I'm not," the figure whispered and laughed a chilling maniacal laugh.