Chapter 7: A message for all.

Only Anthony, the vampire girl, and I remained in the room.

She shot me a peculiar look, her eyes shadowed with mystery. Meanwhile, Anthony regarded her with a similar ambiguity. Sandwiched between their silent exchange, I felt like a bystander caught in a private standoff.

Desperate to break the tension, I ventured, “What’s our plan? We might have a potential lead on your sister, but nothing’s certain.”

Anthony, taking a moment to gather his thoughts, responded, “plan? I’ve been piecing something together.” He approached a table where a city map was sprawled out. “These locations,” he indicated, “are where the beast’s victims were found. It seems to form a pattern, almost like a circle.”

I leaned in, studying the marked areas. “It’s a vast region. How do we intend to search it all?”

Drawing a route on the map with his finger, Anthony explained, “We’ll move in coordinated sweeps, like this. If any of us come across something significant, the signal will be a fireball shot into the sky. And remember,” he added with emphasis, glancing specifically at me, “do not confront the creature by yourself. We don’t know its capabilities.”

Letitia, the vampire girl, interjected with a hint of defiance, “I’ll conduct my search alone.” Without waiting for a response, she gracefully exited the commander’s room.

Anthony let out a small sigh, turning to me. “It seems it’s just us again. We should get moving.”

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Exiting the room, the stark emptiness of the fort was immediately noticeable. Only a handful of guards patrolled the vast corridors, a stark contrast to the bustle from just a short while ago. “The sounds of battle have quieted,” I observed, trying to make sense of the sudden change.

As we traversed the fort’s hallways, snippets of conversation from the few remaining guards suggested the rebel situation might not be as dire as initially perceived. “I’ve heard some say they’re merely farmers, lacking real combat experience,” I remarked, sharing the bits of information I’d gathered.

Exiting the fort, the desolation of the city was palpable. Apart from scattered groups of knights and guards, the streets were eerily vacant. The occasional sight of rebel casualties and an unsettling smoky aroma painted a grim picture.

“Something’s burning in the distance,” I commented, noticing a faint haze hanging in the air.

Eager for a better view, we deftly navigated the city’s rooftops. As we moved, the haze grew denser, and the distant murmurs of the subdued rebellion became more pronounced.

“Do you recognize that scent?” I inquired, the unmistakable odor of charred flesh growing stronger.

Anthony grimacing, replied, “It’s hard to ignore.” He pointed towards a distant illumination, its glow stark against the night.

Our pursuit of the scent led us to a vast plaza, its center dominated by a roaring fire. Knights and guards encircled the blaze, some in apparent celebration. But as I focused, a horrifying realization dawned: they weren’t just burning wood. The pyre was stacked with dozens of bodies.

Not far from the celebrating knights, a few older women stood apart, their faces etched with grief as they wept and pleaded for the burning to cease.

Inwardly, I sought Roger’s input on this gruesome scene, but he remained silent as if choosing to distance himself from the horror. Concerned, I probed, ‘Roger? Are you there?’ But he offered no response.

Anthony’s voice, heavy with disgust, broke through my thoughts. “This is precisely why my family has chosen to hunt monsters for generations rather than align with the military.”

Surveying the scene, I spotted a familiar figure — the knight commander. He wasn’t partaking in the festivities. Instead, he stood apart, his gaze fixed on the flames, his face betraying no emotion.

Feeling the scene’s weight before us, Anthony murmured, “We should move on. This smell is unbearable.” His fingers instinctively moved to cover his nose, trying to block out the intense aroma.

Seeking clarity amidst the chaos, I asked him, “Considering your knowledge of vampires, are they drawn to such scents?”

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Shaking his head, Anthony replied, “No, to a vampire, this wouldn’t be appetizing at all.”

As we continued our journey through the city, the aftermath of the rebellion was evident at every turn. The fallen rebels, who seemed ill-equipped for battle, lay strewn about the streets. “These individuals must’ve been lied to,” I mused aloud. “The mere fact that they dared challenge the Empire, especially its supernatural elements, suggests a more problematic force at play.”

Anthony nodded in agreement. “Definitely. Their audacity implies there’s someone powerful pulling the strings.”

Eventually, we reached the designated search area on our map, only to find it swarming with knights and guards. “How can the creature remain hidden with so many searching for it?” Anthony wondered.

Suddenly, a faint whisper echoed in my mind, ‘Help!’ The plea was desperate, chilling.

I turned to Anthony, “Did you hear that? A cry for help?”

He looked at me, puzzled. “I heard nothing.”

But the pleas persisted, growing louder. Drawn to them, I motioned for Anthony to follow. “Trust me. I hear something.”

The intensity of the whispers increased, each cry echoing with desperation and fear. Guided by the sounds, I approached an old plaza dominated by a small chapel in its center.

“I’m telling you, the screams are coming from that direction,” I insisted, pointing towards the chapel.

Anthony, sounding skeptical, replied, “That is a chapel for sacrifices.”

Undeterred, I approached the religious building, the cries growing more pronounced. “I don’t care about any god, ok? Also, I can hear them, clear as day.”

The desperate voice continued, ‘Help! Please!’

Drawing closer to the small building, the chilling truth slowly began to unravel…

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