Vampire Slayer Ferdie, Chapter three:
What, you mean the sudden, mindless panicking?
While his friends frantically searched the village for him, the missing bluebird was traveling a small but well-lit path (the hanging paper lanterns were ingenuous, he'd decided) that led away from Hallmar. He had no idea where he was going or what was ahead of him. Actually he wasn't even sure he was going in the right direction. Normally walking around a strange forest at night with who knew what lurking in the darkness was the sort of thing Ferdie only read about in books and usually the character doing it ended up as someone's dinner but he was on a mission of sorts, one driven by curiosity and a bit of empathy. He was trying to find Ravyn and having absolutely no luck. Granted he was look for a looking for a black mouse in the middle of a dark forest which might have explained his lack of success.
Okay, it's official, Ferdie muttered to himself, I have completely lost my mind. She probably didn't come this way. In fact, with my luck, she's probably already back in that creepy village. That's it, everyone's back at the inn, getting ready for bed while I wander around alone, in the woods, in the darkness, completely unarmed and probably looking like a tasty appetizer. What the heck am I doing?
A very good question, a voice said suddenly from above him.
Pure flight instinct kicked in and in roughly a nanosecond Ferdie was three-quarters of the way up the nearest tree. He paused for a second to slow his heart down and nearly fell off when he saw Ravyn. The black mouse was sitting casually on a nearby tree branch looking astonished. Ferdie smiled sheepishly, and unexpectedly, she starting laughing.
It's amazing how you do that, she finally said.
What, you mean the sudden, mindless panicking?
That won him more laughter. Actually I meant your tree climbing skills, but I suppose the other is also appropriate. Are you alright?
Yelping, he removed several splinters. Just fine, why do you ask?
She gave him a strange look (which he promptly returned but we won't go into that). You are an odd one, Master Ferdie. What are you doing out here?
Come on, I'm no weirder than your average cowardly paranoid paranormal scholar.
That got him another strange look.
So are you going to answer my question?
Why are you wandering around in one of the worst sections of the forest late at night, unarmed and probably looking quite appealing to the things lurking in these woods?
Figures, Ferdie muttered sourly until it dawned on him just why Ravyn was grinning what could only be described as evilly at him. Let me guess: I wasn't in any danger.
Not unless your deathly afraid of fluttermoths.
How big are they?
Ravyn's eyes widened slightly as she realized he was completely serious. I must admit I do not understand you, Master Ferdie.
Drop the master, please; it's too weird, especially when Hazel says it.
Ravyn started snickering again. Noticed that did you? Hazel's young enough for hero worship to set in.
Yeah, but why me? Unable to think of a response, she shrugged. Can we go back now? Not that I don't have a great view of dark, creepy shadows, but I think I may fall asleep soon.
Just follow the path back and you'll be fine. Honestly, there is nothing to fear in this part of the forest. The lanterns drive most creatures away.
Uh-huh. Ferdie didn't sound at all like he believed her. Aren't you coming back? We can walk back together, and you can defend me from the giant moths.
Why do I think you're being serious again? Ravyn shook her head. You will be quite fine, I assure you. Besides, I am not returning to the village until morning. I want to check the trail we will take to the bridge again.
Are you going to stay out here all night?
Don't you sleep?
I will sleep out here.
You don't have to, I'm sure there's plenty of room at the inn. They both paused. You just don't want to go back to the village.
Very perceptive of you Mas
Ferdie. It's better for everyone if I stay here in the forest. I'm accustomed to sleeping outdoors.
Because you're different?
I suppose different is one name for it, but yes. The Learned one told you about my past?
Yep, it's kinda cool.
Ravyn looked confused. Cool, she questioned.
Interesting, neat, amazing. It means stuff like that. Can you do things, any special abilities?
Why do you ask?
Ferdie shrugged. Just curious.
So you came looking for me because you are curious about me. Why?
Don't know, just wanted to find you. I wanted to ask you about uh
well, yourself. Like if you have any sort of special powers, can you do things these mundanes can't, do you drink blood that sort of thing.
Ravyn raised an eyebrow. Well if I did, you do realize you would be in danger right now?
A little nervous, Ferdie nodded.
Fortunately for you, I do not. Nor can I control the minds of others. My hearing is very sensitive though, as well as my sense of smell.
What about eyesight? How well can you see?
Even without the light from the lanterns I could see you perfectly.
Amazing. What else?
I may be stronger than most
mundanes. Faster too.
Cool. And sunlight obviously doesn't bother you. The blood thing is kind of weird though, most daywalkers I've read about still crave blood.
That's what you are, at least in my world. Daywalkers aren't technically vampires, but they aren't normal either.
Normal. I would like to know what it is like to be normal.
I wouldn't. It sounds really boring. Normal people lead dull, safe lives, no adventure of any kind. Okay, so the last part doesn't sound too bad. Normal people probably don't get dragged into outer space. *That* must be nice.
Long story. Okay, so we've got superior strength, speed, and senses. Plus the whole sunlight thing. I should have brought my notebook.
May I ask why you continue to mention sunlight?
Vampires can't stand sunlight, that's why they usually sleep during the day.
Perhaps the vampires in *your* world do, but here this is not true. While most fiends, including vampires, avoid direct sunlight for various reasons, most venture out during the day. Sometimes when the sun is at its peak they withdraw, and they prefer the night.
Easier to move around under the cover of darkness?
Perhaps, but I think it is because they are used to it. On the other side of the barrier it is always nighttime; I think it has always been that way. I remember there were fiends that dreamed of seeing the sun, even if it killed them. Just to feel the warmth of it again. Frowning, Ravyn fell silent and Ferdie cleared his throat.
Does it Does it ever bother you? You know, because they are your people too?
You mean because I help the mundanes against them? No. Fiends aren't my 'people' anymore than mundanes. Neither side willingly lays claim to me. You see, the fiends would prefer it if I did not exist; I provide a connection between them and their food. They do not like that. As for the mundanes, there are some who feel the same that I shouldn't exist but they are not foolish enough to try anything. Others just ignore me; it is easier to pretend I do not exist. Then there are some, like the one you call Professor, who treat me with kindness.
I don't think I'd call that kindness, Ferdie muttered silently. How come you don't call the owl by his real name?
The title I use is one of respect. Besides, I could never refer to him that way, it is forbidden. Just as I do not call you by your true name.
Why is it forbidden?
For a fiend, names give power. When I spoke to the wren, I used her full name; it gave me power over her to control her.
Yeah, but you said you can't control minds, so why does it matter?
A name is still powerful, because it shows who a person is. Every fiend knows this, and the rule applies even to myself. That is why you must never tell anyone your real name.
Trust me, *that* won't be a problem, Ferdie assured her.
With a smile, Ravyn looked up at the sky. It grows cloudy, you should return to the village now. Ferdie!
She screamed right as something rammed him from behind, knocking him from the tree.
Any sign of the idiot? an extremely pissed Ferdia called to Iiwi, who was circling above the town, looking for the missing member of their group.
Nope, Iiwi yelled back. It's starting to get cloudy, I think a storm is coming. We may have to stop looking soon.
No! Hazel popped out of an alley. We must keep searching. Master Ferdie could be in terrible danger.
If that was true we would have heard him by now, Bob shouted. Or seen some sort of blue missile streak by. When Ferdie's in trouble, everything in a five mile radius knows it.
One by one, they gathered back at the entrance to the inn. I wonder why it's called the Belching Dragon Inn, the yellow kiwi remarked, looking up as he did. Hey Professor, what are those black things?
The Professor glanced upward just as all the paper lanterns went out, drowning the village in darkness. Dark clouds had obscured the moons, blocking all but a faint glimmer of light. Then the screams started as the villages panicked, many fleeing blindly in terror from the barely visible shapes descending on them from the sky. Night ghouls, the Professor shouted. Giant, mindless creatures that feed on flesh. Stay still, everyone. They can only see in darkness, but not well, and as long as they don't sense movement, they won't attack.
What about the villagers, Ferdia snarled, right as Squeaks instructed them to relight the paper lanterns.
We can't, Hazel whispered, voice shaking with fear. The screams were getting worse. Magic makes them work, a spell that causes a reaction between the three crystal types inside the paper. Someone must have cancelled the spells so the ghouls could attack. They hate light.
Then light we will give them. With a low hum, Beak's lightsaber lit up, revealing three of the hideous deformed creatures, slowly creeping up on them. All three hissed in pain, throwing bat like wings up to shield them from the cursed light.
Squeaks, can you get to our packs and grab the flashlights, Ferdia asked as she pulled out her mini flashlight and aimed it at the now cowering beasts. With a nod, Squeaks dove into the inn. Professor, how do we get rid of these things?
We'll have to kill them, otherwise they won't stop attacking, he replied. They only know to feed so as long as it is dark they will feast. If we kill enough of them, the rest *might* flee. I do not know if they understand what fear is, they are very primitive creatures.
How do we kill them? Iiwi demanded.
Fire. They cannot abide the heat; their hides are far too thick to withstand extreme temperatures. Also the glare from the flames blinds them. However do not allow them to take flight; they are extraordinarily fast and agile in the air. They are more vulnerable on the ground.
Hazel, can you spread the word to the villagers? Tell them to start lighting fires, burn everything they can. Even if they can set these things on fire maybe the flames will drive them away. Ferdia accepted a flashlight from Squeaks who suddenly appeared next to her. Be careful, she told the cat. Take one of these. Hit the button and the light appears.
Squeaks distributed the remaining flashlights, including a high-powered spotter light Ferdie had insisted on bringing. It turned out to be quite handy when aimed into the night sky; those ghouls still circling above the village were instantly blinded and crashed into each other or the ground. However, they were running, in fact the illumination seemed to drive them into frenzy. Small bonfires began popping up around the village as terrified natives set fire to anything that would burn. The glow seemed to hold the night ghouls off, but they still lurked in whatever shadows they could find, snapping at any bit of tasty flesh.
Iiwi and Bob quickly constructed torches from wood scavenged from the inn and distributed them among the small crowd gathering by the inn. Squeaks introduced the natives to a wonderful invention called lighter fluid, and the Professor produced a similar substance, which turned out to be a type of cooking oil in their world. Thus armed, Ferdia began outlining a plan to get rid of their attackers, dividing the crowd into small groups clustered at certain sections so they could herd the beasts into one spot.
All right, Ferdia called to the assembled group, torch in one hand, flashlight in the other, and a very pissed gleam in her eye. It's time to hunt ghouls.
While the village was being attacked, Ferdie was fleeing for his life through the woods. The bruised and battered bluebird was running blind, his only thought escaping the giant pterodactyls that seemed to be hunting him. He'd left the lit path a long time ago, convinced he'd be safer in the darkness, only the creatures were still after him. He spotted the shadow of one just above the tree line and, whimpering, he sped up determined to find a place to hide. But the only thing around him seemed to be trees, trees, and more trees. Trees weren't exactly a good hiding place form something that could fly.
Come on, come on, he said to himself, there has to be a cave or a mountain, or even a cliff somewhere around here. He had reached the point of desperation where he'd take just about anything. Behind him he thought he heard a whoosh, like the sound of something catching fire and he ran faster. He had no desire to be a crispy critter if those things breathed fire.
Trust me when I say Luck is an extremely fickle and perverse individual. Contrary to popular belief, *his* warped sense of humor is not random; he has certain favorites whom he checks up on occasionally, just to make sure they haven't forgotten him. Ferdie is most definitely one of those favorites. For example, just as Ferdie wished for a hiding place of some type, he found one in the form of a sudden cliff. Unfortunately for our spineless hero, he found it by running straight off it.
In true cartoon fashion, he hung suspended in the air for a moment, legs and lungs to working then he plummeted swiftly downward. Arms flapping, Ferdie prayed for a miracle. To his immense astonishment instead off plunging to his death, suddenly he was flying.
I did it, he crowed, I'm flying! Wait a minute, I can't fly.
Abruptly he realized someone or something was holding him around the waist. Swallowing heard, he slowly looked up and almost had a heart attack. Ravyn, he finally managed to say.
The black mouse nodded sheepishly at him. Did I forget to mention this ability?
You've got wings!? Sure enough, the customary crimson cloak was gone and black, oddly feathered, wings extended from her back, keeping them aloft as they soared through the air. What happened to the overgrown pterodactyl thingies?
The night ghouls?
Yeah, I guess.
Do not worry, I dispatched them. But we have to return to the village as quickly as possible. Night ghouls are pack creatures; two of them would not come out hunting alone, especially near light. I suspect someone drove them out of their caves and sent them after our group. The rest are probably attacking the village.
They live in caves?
And they hate light?
Yes, they see better in complete darkness.
Figures. You know, your world is completely screwed up.
She glanced quizzically down at him, then shrugged, banking right so they flew back in the opposite direction. Below them, Ferdie though he spotted the remains of a recently destroyed bridge.
The fight was basically over when they reached the village. The paper lanterns had finally been restored, casting brilliant light through the streets and several bonfires were still burning, exhausted but triumphant villagers gathered around them to enjoy the warmth. A team had been formed to haul away the ghoul carcasses and a clean up crew was already at work, restoring the village to its former pristine condition. Ferdie and Ravyn found the rest of his friends back in the village square speaking with most of the village council on ways to defend themselves if the ghouls came back. Ferdia's first reaction upon seeing her brother was to smack him upside the head.
Ow, Ferdie yelped, backing away from her. What was that for?
Do you have any idea how worried we were, Ferdia growled. No one could find you anywhere and then those disgusting things attacked the village! For all we knew, you'd been turned into ghoul snack food.
I was in the forest, Ferdie replied, still maintaining a safe distance. I was fine; I had Ravyn around to protect me.
Before *anyone* could respond to that statement, especially Bob, whose mind had sunk straight to the gutter, Hazel shrieked Master Ferdie and flung herself at the paranoid bluebird. Only finally honed survival instinct saved him from being crushed as he dove behind Ravyn. The calico looked shocked for a second before leveling a malevolent glare at the poor mouse currently trying to get Ferdie to let go of her cloak.
I knew I had chosen correctly, the Professor announced. Master Ferdie, your companions here just saved this entire village from terrible fiendish creatures. Without their bravery and quick thinking, we would surely have been doomed. There is no doubt; you are most definitely the Slayer.
It was also our presence here that put the villagers in danger, Squeaks replied. These night ghouls attacked because we were here, correct? The owl nodded. Somehow the Master Vampire knows where we are. We should leave as soon as possible, so we don't endanger them further.
Yes, I fear you are correct. We will leave for the base camp at first light. There is a less direct route that we may follow to reach the footbridge.
That may be a problem, Ravyn said as she successfully pried Ferdie loose. Something has destroyed the bridge; there is no way to cross the canyon now. We will have to go around.
How long will that take? Iiwi asked.
Several days, the Professor replied, frowning. Far too long. In addition, much of that is open country, too dangerous to cross if that fiend is aware of our movements.
Forgive me for interrupting, one of the council, a grackle, spoke up. There is another way to cross the canyon. An old rope bridge still exists about fifty clicks northeast of the footbridge. You could cross there and go a little further up to where the ferry runs. That'll take you downstream faster to this camp.
Thank you Friend Robin, the Professor bowed formally. This knowledge will be of great use to us.
Just be careful when you leave the bridge, you'll be near hasenpfeffer country. Those are right devious creatures.
We will be watchful. Now I believe we should all seek our beds. Even with the shortcut we have graciously been provided with, there is still a long journey before us.
Worn out, and a bit singed, they returned to the inn. Along the way Bob, curiosity getting the better of him, asked what hasenpfeffer were. The Professor was only too willing to explain in detail.
Evil hentai rabbits!?!
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