The Buccaneer Chronicles:
By Karen Dunn (Despite Interference by Keith Dunn, Andy Simpkins, Adam J Purcell and Tony Gallichan)
Chapter Eighteen - The Calm
“Mac and Cre’at have been gone for a day and the rest of us have nothing to do but wait. It’s driving me crazy. The barrier is holding, like a shimmer of gold cutting through the forest and those creatures are prowling on the other side, watching us. We have to be alert because if the force field fails they’ll be on us in a flash - and this time there are too many for us to take.
Rafe and the slayers have been teaching the townsfolk some basic moves so they can hold their own if it comes to a fight. Rafe and the slayers - sounds like a pop group. Speaking of…Blanche has been following Marco round like a groupie. He’s stuck to his duties and sort of ignored her - but every time he has a break they disappear behind the inn - and when his break’s over he looks smug and she looks, well, ruffled, for want of another word. He’s a good kid but I still want to thump him.”
Colin jumped and snapped to attention as something nudged his shoulder - only to find Rafe grinning at him.
The slayer nodded at Blanche and Marco as the pair giggled conspiratorially over a mug of mead, huddled close against the cold, “They’re doing it to annoy you, you know.”
Colin snorted, “You think?”
Rafe shrugged, “Well mostly. You’re too easy to read. I think Marco has decided a punch on the nose would be the best thing you could do to him.”
“War wounds, and all that. Women love a wounded soldier.”
Colin stamped his feet, watching mini avalanches of snow slide from his shoes, “I think she’s going to stay here.”
“I think you’re right.”
“It’s just so far from home…”
Rafe placed a hand on his shoulder and looked at him, all joking forgotten, “We’ll take care of her. She’ll be family.”
The soldier flashed a half smile at his new friend, “I know you will. But she’s my family too and I worry about her. I’ve lost her too many times before and once we leave here there’s no turning back.”
What ever Rafe may have been about to say was lost as a shout went up from one of the lookouts and Macfadyan dashed from the forest, Cre’at bobbing along behind him.
The Timelord was cradling a holdall in the crook of one arm and smiling in a self-satisfied way that failed to put Colin at ease.
They followed him into the Kings Cruelty where he showed the bag to one and all with a flourish and dumped it onto a splinterwood table, “You did it?”
Macfadyan nodded, “There’s enough serum here to…well, there’s enough. All we need to do now is load up Cre’at, drop the shield and step aside.”
Rafe slapped the Timelord on the shoulder, “Nice work!”
He turned to Marco and Colin, “OK, we’ll need to be ready to keep the vamps distracted while Metal Head does his thing. Marco, get everyone who is confident enough to fight into the town square - the rest should stay indoors until it’s over, I want you to stay here and make sure everyone knows what they’re doing.”
The young slayer nodded and grinned, his chest swelling with pride, “I can do that.”
Rafe nodded, “I know you can.”
Colin stepped in, “The rest of us will be going for Stackmore. I doubt there will be many guarding him - they’re too hungry for the kill.”
Rafe nodded and drew a shuddering breath, “I can’t believe it’s almost over.”
Macfadyan snorted, “We’re going to confront the most powerful and ancient creature on this planet - it’s not over by a long chalk.”
Reaching into the bag he drew out a gun metal grey container about the size of a cannonball and held it up, “Cre’at. You ready?”
The Sot'm pootled towards him, * I am ready. *
“Then open up and say ‘ah!’”
* Ah? *
“Just take the serum.”
A small panel opened with a hum in the side of the little creature and Macfadyan slotted the globe of serum into place, “All done. I suggest you wait at the force shield. Once it’s down you can start shooting.”
* Understood. *
“Well go on, then.”
Cre’at regarded Macfadyan for the briefest of moments before pootling towards the door only to pause as Blanche called out to him, “Good luck, Metal Head.”
* Luck is but a fantasy dreamed up by bookmakers to allow them to steal without going to prison. *
Blanche grinned, “Whatever. Just be careful, OK?”
* I shall. *
Rafe watched the little Sot'm vanish into the forest, “OK, Marco, get out there and rally the troops. The rest of us will head for the Ship, lower the shield and then go for Stackmore with Mac.”
Macfadyan snorted, “I can manage perfectly well with just Colin and Blanche.”
Rafe glowered, “We’ve got your back, whether you like it or not.”
“Besides,” Blanche piped up, “I’m staying here to help Marco.”
Macfadyan turned on her, “You are not!”
“Oh, don’t you start! We can keep our hands off each other long enough to do our jobs.”
Colin stepped in front of the Timelord, “She’s probably safer here, Mac. Cre’at will look out for her.” He glanced at Marco, who had stepped closer to Blanche, “She’s got plenty of protectors.”
Macfadyan looked like he was going to protest further before scowling at his companions, “Fine. Do what you like.” And he stormed out of the pub.
Blanche grinned at Colin, “You’d better get after him, soldier boy.”
He pulled her into a hug, “You be careful, OK. No heroics.”
“As if I would.”
With a brief nod to Marco, Colin dashed from the Kings Cruelty with Rafe and Conor hot on his heels.
Blanche took Marco’s hand and squeezed.
“Watching Marco speaking to the townspeople I know I’ve made the right decision. He’s strong and kind and he’s making them feel confident and safe even though most of them have never had to fight and have spent their lives cowering in fear from vampire stories they’ve been told since they were kids.
“Colin said ‘no heroics’ and I think - just this once - I’ll pay attention to him. Oh, I’m not saying I’ll hide from the battle - that would be cowardly - but I’ll be aware of my surroundings and conscious of my opponents’ strengths…I think that’s how it goes. Colin tried to teach me some of his basic training once. I think I annoyed him by giggling and saying ‘sir, yes, sir!’ every time he spoke. Now I wish I’d listened. Marco has all these people to look out for and I don’t want to get in his way.
“I know Colin and Mac will do their part - and Mac really came through with this serum - but I’m worried we’ll let them down and they’ll come back to a village of corpses and Cre’at firing an empty gun.
“That ball of serum seemed really small - and we’ve got no idea how many of those vampires there are.
“I hope it’ll be enough - I plan to spend the rest of my life here. I can’t do that if I’m dead.”
Blanche watched with a small smile as Marco made his way from man to man, woman to woman, checking they knew what to do and inspecting the collection of farming tools that would have to pass for weapons.
His mop fringe kept flopping into his face, making her smile as he brushed it aside with a scowl before breaking into a goofy grin as he crunched through the snow to be with her.
“I need a haircut,” he said as he drew her into a hug.
“Don’t you bloody dare!”
They stood in silence for a while, watching their ragtag army whisper to each other in nervous voices, hugging scythes and hoes and shovels close to their chests as they peered into the surrounding trees with frightened eyes.
“Do you think we’ll make it?”
Marco gazed down at her “Of course. I’ve made plans that will only work if Stackmore dies and we live, so we have to make it.”
Blanche chuckled, “That’s all right then.”
Stepping away from her, the slayer drew a dagger from his belt, flipped it over and handed it to her, “Take this. We’ll cure as many as we can but if it comes to it, aim for the throat.”
“I thought it was the heart.”
“Sod that. A knife through the heart will kill them sure enough but they’re dying instinct is to take you with them. Stab them in the throat and they’ll grab the wound - and you’ll be running.”
Blanche hefted the weapon in her hand, “But what about you?”
Marco had no time to respond. With a squeal of servos and an explosion of leaves, Cre’at burst from the trees, firing a serum dart behind him.
* Alert! *
The creature that crashed to the ground, a dart embedded in its throat, looked barely human. It’s skin was pallid, it’s black eyes like coals in its reddened sockets and its clothes hung from its bones in tatters.
Blanche had no time to check whether the creature would react to the serum as Marco gave her a warning shove and bellowed, “At arms!” as a flood of vampire erupted from the trees.