The Living Night:Part Four

By: Jack Conner

Part Four of a Vampire Series

(Vampire Thriller Book 4)





Chapter 1



It was many hours before Ruegger rose from the darkness, and when he did, it was slowly. His consciousness felt like smoke trying to rise through fissures in an ice ceiling. Beyond that ceiling the smoke would reform and congeal into himself again, but it couldn’t get through. Also, he had a splitting headache.

Slowly, when his consciousness had collected somewhat, he cracked an eye. Only one eye, he mused. The other had not yet grown back. Neither had his right forearm. The light, though dim, proved too much for him at first and he had to mash his eye against it.

Swaying.

He was lying down on rusted metal, and he swayed, ever so slightly. For a time, he wondered whether the perceived motion was real or a trick of his over-taxed mind, but eventually he realized the swaying was real. He almost felt like he was on a boat. He wished he was on a boat.

No. He knew where he was.

With a painful sigh, he ran his one hand over his body, poking at the many holes the Grife and the quasi-pterodactyls had dealt him. His wounds would’ve killed forty mortals. There were other, newer wounds not inflicted by the Grife or the parasitic birds. His Achilles’ tendons had been slashed, as well as the major arteries in his legs and arm. He felt at his throat, but that at least had been spared.

Death. He smelled the stink of it all about him. No, it wasn’t coming from him. He was in far too much pain to be dead.

Slowly, ever so slowly, he forced his eye open and propped himself into a sitting position. Pain jolted every movement. His vision was hazy, but he squinted hard and eventually could make out his surroundings.

He wished he’d just kept his damned eye shut.

He was in a cage, brittle and rusted and domed at the top to give it the appearance of a birdcage. Would that it were. Four human skeletons in various degrees of deterioration shared the cage with him. Except for their evil smiles, they offered little solace. In fact, two of them had lost their lower jaws and could not even offer him that.

The cage was just barely large enough to accommodate all of them, cramped by so many inhabitants that Ruegger felt a bit claustrophobic.

The cage dangled by a thick chain from the ceiling of a vast chamber. Ruegger peered out from behind his bars to see similar cages at varying heights throughout the room. Endless chains, rusted and creaking, hung like vines, some almost to the floor of the chamber itself. He strained his eye toward that floor, but all he could make out were a few shadowy shapes, some sitting still, looking up at his position, some moving about restlessly. He was at least two hundred feet off the floor.

His eye went to door of the big birdcage—and the lock. The door was closed. There was no lock.

Struggling against the pain, he heaved himself over to the exit, crushing one of the skeletons’ legs in the process, and pushed against it. The door refused to budge. He hadn’t expected it to; this was where the Sabo quenched its need for fear, and it would brook no escapes. Its magic—yes, Ruegger admitted—its magic kept the cage closed ... or open, if a human came clambering up to find shelter from the parasites here. By the number of human remains, Ruegger had to admit that the Sabo knew its business.

And now it was possessed by the Balaklava.

Idly, Ruegger wondered if he’d succeeded in killing Jagoda, but doubted it. Decapitation was probably too little an injury to bother that one. Jagoda had probably stood up shortly afterwards, found his head and placed it on top of his spouting neck. Or perhaps Junger had assisted him. The thought of a friendship between the two assassins was strange to consider. But, as Ruegger had little left to do but consider, he did, and found that their intimacy was not so unlike his and Kharker’s, at one point in time.

But where did Junger end and Jagoda begin, or vice versa? It was almost as if they were one being, even down to sharing each others’ thoughts. One soul, in two bodies—was it possible? Maybe. Probable? No. So, what then? More than brothers, more than lovers, more than simple kin. Ruegger puzzled over it for some time, but came up with no satisfactory answer.

He stayed in the cage for a long while; having no watch, he didn’t know how long, but he could sense the sun outside and knew it to be almost noon when, finally, the birdcage buckled suddenly and began to descend.

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