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Pickle has kindly kicked off a Fluff Competition (in both the Fantasy and 40K worlds) and, after reading his sign-up thread and having a bit of a think, I was struck by an idea. I liked said idea, and when I went to write it up it seemed quite easy to do. Which was a nice change from having to really bash at an idea to get it in to shape!
Anyway, the story is based on my Vampire Counts army; I have a rather substantial back story to this army (can probably find it on these forums if you search a bit, or PM me if you want a link), and I intend adding to it every now and again with more stories such as this, encounters with the characters leading my army.
Enough rambling though! On to the story itself - which is in the form of a letter, just for something different.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Dear Captain Rickard Hawthorn,
Allow me first to introduce myself. I am Walter Brayson, keeper of the Charleston Memorial Library in Gharlsburgh. I will not bore you with further details, but I wish to convey some very important information.
As you may know, our library has two sections. As well as serving the public, we keep a secondary catalogue of military information, so that commanders like your good self may draw on previous records and accounts to lead them to success against the enemies of our Empire.
I write to you now to convey some personal information, information which is not stored in our library.
I understand you have been tasked with hunting down the Vampire at the head of the Legion of the Cursed Serpent, as the army bearing the orange cobra banners has come to be known. It is with a heavy heart that I must confess that I may be responsible for much of the carnage this undead scourge has caused.
You see, I believe I have met the very Vampire that you hunt.
It was around four years ago now, although the memories remain distinctly clear in my mind. I was at the library as usual, late at night, collecting and cataloguing several new texts which had recently been brought to me.
Outside the night was cool but still. The moon was but a sliver in the sky. There was nothing remarkable about that night, nothing at all. I worked as I always did, recording the contents of each scroll, labelling them for future reference, then collecting an armful to place in the archives.
I was about to set down my candle to open the secured section of the archives when I received the fright of my life. A woman’s voice spoke to me from the darkness.
I spun at once, the candle in my hand spluttering as I turned but flaring to life as I found myself facing the woman. I intended to berate her harshly for disturbing me, for even being in the library, as we had closed hours ago. But what I saw stayed my tongue.
The first thing that struck me was her skin. Even in the warm glow of the candlelight her face was so very pale, like that of a terrified child. And, in truth, she did not seem much more than a child; despite her unhealthy pallor her face was flawless, her skin as smooth as the finest glass.
But if her skin was glass then her eyes were tempered steel, hard and cold, twin pools of darkness that seemed to swallow the light from my candle, to consume the very world around them. Almost as though everything she gazed upon was slowly drawn into that unnatural blackness.
It was an effort to take my eyes from hers, but I managed. I know not what fate would have befallen me if I had not. But as I pulled my gaze away, a glint of light arrested my sight.
It was her teeth. Her vicious, inch-long canines spat light back at me, menacing in the darkness. I knew then that she was a Vampire, and thought myself doomed.
I dropped my scrolls. The candle fell from my shaking hand as I stumbled back, but it never hit the floor; the Vampire darted forward and snared it before it could snuff itself on the ground. I realised later that she may well have saved those precious scrolls, as the falling candle could well have set them aflame. But at the time I was simply terrified by her speed, knowing full well that she would catch me in instants if I ran.
The door behind me was still locked, and I found myself pressed against the hard wood and cold metal, trying to distance myself from the creature before me. But she made no further move after straightening to face me once more. There was a hint of a smile on her face as she watched me carefully, and eventually I managed to calm my breath and peel myself away from the door.
An uneasy silence stretched between us as I continued to stare at her. Despite the fact that she was a Vampire, I found her… Well, frankly, she was one of the most beautiful creatures I had ever laid eyes upon. Her long, tawny brown hair framed her face and cascaded over her shoulders, left bare by the cut of her orange and black dress. The garment sat off her shoulders and low across her bust, the bodice clinging tightly to her petite frame. There were two large splits in her skirt as I had seen when she moved to catch the falling candle, and I could still see much of one of her long, elegant legs peering through the dark silk. My body yearned for her, yet my mind still recoiled in fear. She had the looks of an angel, though I knew a demon dwelt within.
I managed once more to tear my gaze from her and finally found my tongue, asking her what it was that she wanted.
She smiled, setting down the candle and telling me that there were several scrolls within the secured library that she wished to borrow. When I expressed my scepticism that they would ever be returned she gave a brief laugh, pointing out the fact that she would hardly be welcomed back to the city, or the library, and that it would indeed be difficult for her to return what she borrowed.
I knew she planned to steal these scrolls, and I told her I would not help her, though I admit to being terrified regarding her response. I thought she would kill me then and there, but instead she gave a small sigh.
She asked me if there was any benefit in my refusal to assist her, and when it was clear that I was confused she explained. She said that she could kill me, but then she would have to search the library herself, wasting time and risking discovery. She could force me to do her will, though she revealed that, at present, the effort required to do so often unsettled her and she was reluctant to use such methods. But, she concluded, if I was to help her find what she wanted, she could be gone in a few minutes and would never have cause to trouble me again.
I could see her point, but I was still reluctant to help her. I was sure it would bring me no end of trouble with the Priests of Sigmar, and told her as such, but again she shrugged. All I had to do, she told me, was be as honest as possible. She reminded me that I would know exactly what she took, and that as soon as she was gone I was free to report her to the town guard. I was surprised that she was so nonchalant about having the authorities alerted, but once more she simply shrugged, telling me she was reasonably confident she could escape detection without too much trouble.
As I struggled with my conscience she fixed me with a… Well, it was not a glare, as such. She was smiling as she looked at me, but with those dark eyes and vicious teeth it was impossible for her smile to appear friendly. But I think she was trying to be kindly as she asked me if I had come to a decision.
I still do not know if what I did was weak. Many friends and associates have told me I did the right thing by choosing to willingly help her, but after having seen what she and her legion have done both here and abroad, I cannot help but think I should have tried to stop her. I have no doubt I would have failed, for I am but an old man, and she a Vampire… but still I feel I should have tried.
Regardless, what is done is done. I helped her. I took her into the library and guided her to the scrolls for which she asked. I gave her a chest to carry the scrolls in; despite the fact she was stealing them, I wanted to ensure they were not damaged.
I noticed, through my fear, that she was clearly fascinated by the archives. Several times I saw her staring in wonder, gliding her hand over the shelves. There was an obsession within her, I am sure; an obsession with knowledge and with learning.
After she had what she needed she thanked me and, curtsying elegantly, touched her lips to the back of my hand. I felt the cold touch of her teeth, but she drew no blood.
Instead, she turned on her heel and fled. She was gone, long gone, before I even had a chance to catch my breath.
I informed the guard as soon as I could, but despite hours of rigorous searching and a noticeable increase in patrols in the following weeks, there was no sign of the Vampire. She was gone.
I made a full list of the items she took, and studied duplicates of these items personally in an attempt to ascertain what she could have wanted. I have attached my original notes so that you may study them at your leisure, but I shall repeat my conclusion here for your convenience.
I believe that she was simply researching. Some of the texts she took would be highly useful to a sorcerer of some persuasion, so it appears she is trying to further her knowledge in this area. But she also took maps, copies of military registrars, and one or two historical documents. The military records I understand; they would give her an indication of our forces, and what she would need to counter them. But as to the other documents… She could be searching for something, for some ancient treasure or precious artefact, but this could just be speculation on my part. To this day I am still unsure what purpose she had in mind for everything that she took.
I hope my notes will prove useful, Captain Hawthorn. I hope they will give you an edge should you feel the need to confront this Vampire. But please, be mindful of my encounter. She was not interested in my death, Captain. She was not interested in exerting her will over mine. She simply sought knowledge, with the passion and zeal of a true scholar. True, her army has of late become a constant thorn in the Empire’s side, at least in this region, but I believe this Vampire can be reasoned with, good sir. She is not like the obsessive, power-crazed Vampires that have savaged our lands in the past; she is obsessed by knowledge, though clearly willing to march against our armies in her search for it. As such, there may be a way to counter her that does not involve sacrificing our brave sons to the horrors of war. Must so many die to protect a few scrolls or an ancient, unused artefact?
As a humble servant of the Empire, as heretical as it may sound, I beg you to at least consider the option of a truce. If this Vampire is given what she wants, I am sure she will scurry away to her stronghold once more to delve further into her studies, and our nation will be spared her attention for a few more years yet.
Regardless of your course of action though, I wish you the best of luck in your campaign. May the blessing of Sigmar be upon you!
Your faithful servant,
Very, very good. Great job with both the idea and the presentation - very well done. It reminds me of a book I read, a rather recent one about dracula - can't remember the name of it - but once again, very well done.
Dovie'andi se tovya sagain (It's time to roll the dice)- Mattrim Cauthon
I enjoyed this story. Though I felt it could be (and should be) expanded more, I understand you were restrained by those 2000 words.
I'm actually pretty sure this is the first time I've seen warhammer fantasy fiction written in epistolary format, so that was pretty cool.
But I certainly think this should be expanded in more letters.
I do like your writing style though, it's very clean and easy to read. Great job.
It was a very interesting style you chose there.
I would add something at the end regarding the fate of Walter with your 52 words, but if you want to keep the reader guessing then that's your call.
Great story though .
Observation: Why's everyone writing about Vampires?
Thanks for all the feedback - and compliments!
Aside from new-army fever, maybe it's something to do with the openness of the Vampire backstory. Beast, Sorcerer, Warrior, Noble, your vampire can come from anywhere (generally) and do anything, so there's a lot of scope to work within.
I know you could make similar claims about many other races, but... well, it's like Batman or something. Do you really need an excuse?
(Sorry, I saw Batman: Gotham Knight at an anime film screening last night. Also saw Appleseed: Ex Machina, hence the awesome cyborg in my avatar...)
lol, I never accused anyone of bandwagon jumping. It's just interesting that all the entries so far involve Vampires.
Anyways, I would have guessed that your librarian gor impaled or something for such a heretical notion. But that's me.
Maybe. Though, to be honest, if they were going to do something nasty to him because of his dealings with a Vampire, I thought they would have done it immediately after he reported the vampire. And then said he'd helped them.
People trust librarians, though, don't they?. Maybe. I don't really know how he'd be treated in the Fantasy world, so I didn't really think about it.
Probably, in all likelyhood, he would come under some suspicion from Witch Hunters and the like should the recipient of this letter ever report it. But, given our good Captain is probably more worried about catching/stopping this Vampire, I'm guessing he'll overlook the fact that the Librarian's point of view could be considered heretical.
What can I say? I like happy endings...
What a coward! Burn him!
I agree with AFG though, chances are the librarian is going to find himself at the wrong end of a witch hunter's mob.
I liked the story. It had a very personal feel in the way your wrote it. If you write any stories in the future for it, I would like to see some personalities flushed out more for the vampire and Captain Hawthorne.
I have to say though, that you hit it right on the nail as to why I chose to do a vamp story. Vampires can be beasts, nobles, etc. It's why I chose them for my army.
I am heading off to the Peace Corps. It is bery likely I will not be back. Good luck to all of you endeavors.
Yeah, Vamps can make for good stories.
Either way MRC, it's your call what happens to the librarian. If you want him rewarded for passing on information, or killed in a gruesome manner (or hinted thereof), or even if you want the matter left alone to keep the reader guessing or whatever reason, it's up to you.
ED: I really should get to finishing mine...
I think I'll just leave it for people to guess. Less work for me!
Who knows, though? Maybe after this competition is over I can come back to this with some fresh ideas. Or at least an epilogue, or something of that ilk.