Eli and I trotted at a quick pace and were soon in front of the Welcome Center. The sun was going down, and Eli sniffed the air and said, “Marcus. Stop.”
“Shhh, be quiet.”
“What is it, Eli? More bandits?”
“What do you mean ‘worse’?”
Eli sniffed again and whispered, “Vamps.”
Confused and stunned, I said, “Wha… vampires? Eli, are you kidding me?”
“No, Marcus. This is going to get interesting.”
Trying to absorb what Eli had just told me, I looked at the Welcome Center and said, “Let’s go. Let's get inside.”
I started to rush towards the Welcome Center’s door when Eli grabbed my arm and said, “Son, what are you crazy? You’re safer out here?”
Frustrated and angry I shook Eli’s grasp free and pointed at him and said, “Listen to me old man, you’re starting to piss me off. You’re not making any sense. First you say we have to go to the Welcome Center and then you say there are vampires outside and now you don’t want us to go in. Make up your mind.”
“You really have no idea, do you, friend?”
“Whatever, old man, I’m going in.”
I had turned my back to Eli and started to walk towards the Welcome Center.
I was now very annoyed and yelled, “WHAT?”
I spun around to my right and saw a blade twirling towards me. I heeded Eli’s warning, and in a single motion, my ducking spin turned my vision upward as I saw the blade ripping through the throat of a creature. Inertia guided the creature’s body as it flopped through the air and crashed to the ground. Its severed head rolled a few feet from its body while a pool of blood filled the gap. I looked at Eli and said, “What in God’s name was that?”
He looked at me and said, “Watch your mouth. I don’t tolerate that type of language. Besides, vamps aren’t of God.”
Eli sniffed the air again and said, “Grab my blade and get over here.”
I picked the bloodied blade off the ground and rushed to Eli’s side. I handed him his sword and he told me to take off my pack and ready my swords. I dropped everything I was carrying and unsheathed my swords. Bellowing screeches came from the shadows in all directions. Eli and I put our backs to each other, and he turned to talk to me saying, “These ain’t the vamps you’ve read about or seen in movies. They ain’t pretty. They ain’t nice. And, they ain’t charming. Luckily, they ain’t immortal either. Aim for the head, throat, or heart… get ‘em in the leg as well to slow them down to get a kill shot. Watch the claws. Be careful, they’re quick, strong, and silent… and they can jump and climb. Trust your instincts, and try to anticipate. Vamps want one thing… blood. Makes them kinda stupid and easy to figure out. Got it?”
I whispered, “Yeah.”
More screeches and bellows flooded my ears, and then flashes of black flesh and white teeth filled night. I impaled a vampire with my katana in my left hand. With a reverse grip on my wakisashi in my right hand, I pulled my blade across its neck; decapitating it. In one fluid motion, I circled the wakisashi back around and drove it through a leaping vampire’s collar bone down to its heart. It landed on me and knocked me to the ground.
Eli swung his blade upwards, halving the upper torso of a charging vampire. He followed with an inside cross body swing and then with an outside cross body swing. One and a half vampire heads flew in the air as Eli’s blade came down on another vampire splitting it down the middle.
I was standing by this time and caught a vampire mid stride in the leg with my katana. While the creature was airborne, I drove my wakisashi downward through its heart to the ground. I followed with a spinning elbow to the jaw of a rushing vampire and slid my wakisashi under my arm into its heart.
Eli’s blade was flashing in all directions as pieces of vampires littered the air and ground around him. I followed suit and was continually moving and swinging my blades in every direction. It seemed with every one of our swings we were taking a vampire’s life. This did not thwart their onslaught, and they continued to pour out of the shadows.
I heard a movement that I did not recognize. By this time, I knew the sounds of the vampires, but this sound was something wholly different. And then, there was a blood curdling howl. My eyes turned to see something moving towards us. It moved so quickly that I could not react. It leaped in the air and soared above my head. I was blinded for a second as the blood washed over my head. I saw two vampire halves fall at my feet. I looked at this beast and could not believe what I was seeing.
It was a wolf-like man. It was covered in fur and muscular and lean. It had a long snout, large teeth and fangs, and five razor-like claws on each hand. It also wore a tatter pair of jeans.
It bit and clawed its way through the vampires more easily than either of our blades. Soon, the vampires hissed and screamed at the three of us and retreated back into the night.
The wolf-man turned to Eli and me, and I peered into its yellow eyes. It was strange. I could see something very “human” about it.
Huffing and out of breath Eli said, “Thank… you… thank God for you… Lawrence… thank you.”
The wolf-man spoke, “Eli, are you all right? When I heard the vamps, I feared the worst and got here as quickly as I could.”
Eli said, “Yeah… I think we’re fine. Praise God you were near us. We wouldn’t have made it.”
The wolf-man nodded and said, “Of course, friend,” he looked at me and said, “Who is this?”
Eli pointed at me and said, “Marcus. Just Marcus. He didn’t give me a last name. God has appointed me his guardian.”
I blinked at Eli and gave him a strange look. Eli looked at me and continued, “Marcus, this is Lawrence Talbot. He suffers from lycanthropy.”
“Obviously.” I said.
Lawrence walked towards me and smiled and said, “I am different from what you may have learned about werewolves in movies.”
I raised my brow and said, “How so?”
Eli said, “In movies and books, the person is controlled by the disease.”
Lawrence finished by saying, “But in the real world, the person controls the disease.”
At this, Lawrence transformed back into a human before my eyes. The transformation was a bit awkward, but in a weird way, it wasn’t strange and only lasted a few seconds.
Lawrence turned to Eli and said, “As long as I’ve known you, your God has always been right. I too will serve your God – for now – and protect Marcus. A friend of yours will always be a friend of mine.”
Eli smiled and said, “I was hoping you would say that. Now, you can’t change your mind when I tell you we’re going into the Welcome Center.”
“You’ve lost your bloody mind, Eli. Why do we need to go there?”
“Don’t know. Marcus’ map says we need to.”
Lawrence turned to me with an inquisitive look. I shrugged and said, “Watcher wants me there.”
Lawrence shook his head and said, “Bloody Watcher. I hate him. This whole world is fun and games for him. He thinks we exist for his entertainment.”
Lawrence paused for a second and continued, “Eli, did you hear what he did to Conan?”
“Well, you know Conan. He refused to be ruled or follow rules. And, you know Watcher. Watcher wanted Conan… for whatever reason, I don’t know. He wanted him to guard part of the realm. Conan, of course, refused and tried to kill Watcher. Watcher ripped off his arms and legs, pulled his jaw apart and stretched out his body, and ripped out his brain… and then he turned him into a giant armor-plated snake. Conan was mindless and Watcher forced him into being the guardian of the forest. Poor Conan. He deserved better.”
My mouth dropped and my eyes became wide. Eli noticed this and asked, “Marcus what is it?”
I hesitated and said, “I… I… I killed him. Yesterday. He attacked me, and I killed him. That’s when Watcher appeared to me and told me to go to the Hospital. He took Conan’s body there. I don’t know why… but he told me he didn’t want it to go to waste.”
Eli and Lawrence both stared at me. Lawrence shook his head and said, “Impossible. No one besides Watcher could kill Conan much less Conan as a Guardian.”
“Lawrence, he’s telling the truth.”
“Eli, how do you know that?”
“Because, I can hear his heart. I can hear when someone is lying. God told me there was something special about him. And, that’s why He sent us to protect him.”
Lawrence snarled and glared at me, “Fine. Eli, I trust you, but I’m keeping my eye on this guy.”
Eli chuckled and said, “Now Lawrence, I thought you said he was a friend?”
Lawrence snorted, “I change.”
Eli burst into laughter and said, “HA! Nice one, Larry.”
Eli calling Lawrence “Larry” caused me to snicker and Lawrence to snap his head toward Eli and say, “Don’t bloody call me Larry. You know I hate that.”
Eli just smiled and put his arm around Lawrence’s neck. They both laughed.
Eli and I still had our blades drawn, so we cleaned them, sheathed them, and I picked up my pack and belongings. Lawrence cleaned the blood from his body as best he could, and then all three of us turned towards the doors of the Welcome Center.