Prologue: The Slayer's Story
Vampire slaying is nothing like you see on TV. People do not go running around cemeteries in the wee hours of the night, staking everything that moves. Especially not with wood. I mean, hello? Has anyone heard of splinters?
It's all actually really sophisticated these days. For one, we don't call ourselves "vampire hunters". We try not to use labels, but if we have to, we say "slayers," because we're not restricted to just vampires. But lately, our job has been mostly to keep the supernatural badasses of our budding little city in line. We kill the ones that misbehave and reward the good little creatures with cookies. Okay, I lied, we don't give them cookies, but we leave them alone and that's good enough for them.
It's a common mistake that all slayers are out to rid the world of vampires and whatnot. But we know when we're outnumbered. I mean, hey, if we thought we could get away with it, I'm sure we'd try, but centuries of hunting has taught us what we can and cannot get away with.
But the biggest lie that television feeds you is that anyone can pick up a gun and start kicking vampire ass. Well, I guess you could, but no one would take you seriously. Slayers are born into their power, and raised in small, almost clandestine communities where they are taught to kill. We aren't "superhuman" but our reflexes are just that much quicker, just that much stronger, just enough so that we can stand a chance.
And if you aren't born a slayer, then you are just a hunter- a human with some sort of personal vendetta and can be found a dime a dozen. While a blessed few are good at what they do, most don't last more than a month. Because the majority of them end up as a bitter meal for some vampire, we heavily discourage their existence.
But I am a slayer. My life is committed to slaying. And we would never make the same rookie mistakes hunters often fall prey to. First of all, we would never use a wooden stake when silver is so much more effective and is reusable. And we never- never- choose theatrics over practicality. For example, we wouldn't be caught dead holding a crossbow if there was a gun around.
Yet, here I was, holding an old, rusting crossbow. It wasn't mine, of course; I had snatched it from my attacker. But still, I clutched it in my hand, wondering why my attacker- a punk vamp maybe two years dead was attacking me with a crossbow of all things.
I mean, I had faced some pretty weird things, but this one took the cake. Seriously, a crossbow? I shook my head and chuckled. Where would he even get a hold of one of these things outside of a Renaissance fair?
The body at my feet started decomposing during my rather long- I'll admit- internal monologue and the smell drew me back to the present. I hadn't braced myself and the stench nearly knocked me off my feet. I stumbled back a few steps as I tried to keep down my dinner. A couple of deep breaths of brisk night air settled my stomach. I took one last breath and approached him again, this time breathing through my mouth. I had to retrieve my spike.
I bent down next to the body and damn near lost my stomach again. A body that had just gone through two years of decomp in thirty seconds did not smell good. I can promise you that.
Ick, I shuddered. I was going to take a nice long lemon shower when I got home.
One hand over my mouth, I gripped the railroad spike made specially out of silver- just for me- and tugged.
It came out with a nasty, wet squelch, and I ran back to where I had dropped my bag, gasping for air. I don't care how badass you think you are, decomp is enough to turn anyone into a big baby.
When I was finished dry-heaving onto the sidewalk, I grabbed a discarded paper bag from under the freeway and cleaned off my spike before tossing the hunk of metal into my duffel bag, along with the- groan- crossbow. But I could get at least fifty bucks for it, so I had to lug it around with me for the night.
I began the long trek back to my car, which had been left in a better part of town. I had chased that annoying little bugger for quite some time before he pulled that damned crossbow. He had seemed to think that for some reason, Middle Aged weapons suddenly sent shivers down our spines or something, I'm not really sure why…
The thought made me pause. Not the part where I had staked him, but the part where he had pulled out the crossbow. I could have sworn he had taken a shot at me. Somewhere in between the broken arm I gave him and the stake in the chest, he had shot me.
And sure enough, as I looked around, I spotted a broken arrow laying on the ground. A faint pain registered in my leg as I went to pick up the flimsy piece of wood.
"Huh," I said softly as I tossed the arrow into my bag. Where had the other half gone?
I stood on the sidewalk a good five minutes, looking around and wondering just where the hell the other half of the arrow could have gone to? As I shifted my weight from one leg to the other, a sharp pain answered my question.
I looked down to see a small hole in my jeans, about the middle of my thigh. The edge was dark with blood and clung to my leg. The rest of the mysterious arrow was sticking out from my thigh.
"Oh, crap," I muttered as the shock set in. I had been shot with an arrow. I had been shot with a freaking arrow! What the hell?
I stood dumbfounded for a minute before training kicked in as I fished through my bag for gauze and alcohol to patch it up. I wouldn't want to get blood in the car. My brother would kill me.
That's when the bottom of my bag vibrated.
Damn, I cursed at the bad timing. I did not want to go searching through a weapons bag for the flimsy thing I call a phone. I used to keep it in my back pocket as I hunted, but I quickly went through three phones before I realized that jeans weren't meant to hold those slippery little things as you ran across parking lots with a shotgun swinging at your side.
So I sucked it up and looked. By the time I had found it, it had stopped ringing. I looked at the caller ID, reading out "Ashleigh O'Neil" with an unsure sigh. Almost reluctantly, I hit the redial button.
"Hi, JoJo, whatcha doing, huh?" a bubbly voice squeaked excitedly, making the caller sound like she was six years old. The excitement in her voice sounded like she hadn't seen me in ages, though I had been at her house just hours ago. But… that was Ashleigh.
"What?" I asked, countering her cheerfulness with anger. I didn't mean to be rude, but seriously, when you're trying to get an arrow out of your leg, how cheery can you be?
"Movies?" She chirped in a tone that told me she would cry if I said "no."
I sighed and looked at my leg, then thought about the long walk back to my car lugging a twenty-pound bag. "Fine, Ash. Give me an hour, okay, maybe two?"
She squealed and hung up.
I rolled my eyes. How nice it must be not to be the part of the Leader's family and have all that extra time on their hands. I sighed and went back to tending to my leg. I could fix it enough to get through the night, then visit Ivy in the morning so she could heal it. But anyway you looked at it, this was going to be a long night.