Changing of the Guard
It was a scrawny old man that moved quickly down the unpaved
road, his graying hair in tattered tufts, his watery blue eyes
magnified beyond normal appearance behind the thick spectacles
that insisted upon sliding continuously down his beaked nose and
which he had to constantly push up with a withered hand.
The morning was a somber one, the clouds overhead a swirling
gray, blocking out the bright friendliness of the sun. The fog
was thick, so thick to where he could barely see a few feet ahead
of him and the rain was already beginning to fall in the small
land known as Wales.
The man, his moth eaten cloak flapping around his ankles, had
begun to run now, moving hastily, weaving in and out of the
people and carts that rolled by. His breath was coming in sharp,
painful gasps, but he hurried on. On his person, a gold chain
jiggled, the only testament to his great wealth.
If one looked closely enough, his discomfort would be more than
clear as he turned a street corner to step more into the slums
and back alleys. His eyes widened as he caught sight of the
lepers begging in the street and the whores that called to him as
he hurried by. "Riffraff," he said nervously, but not too loud.
He remembered what the destitution was like, the sense of
hopelessness, but he did not like to be reminded.
After a time, he came to the house he sought, a decaying one
story structure, the only part new about it being the gleaming
red door at its front.
As red as blood, the old man thought and shivered. For a second,
a small moment of time, he considered merely turning around and
going back home, but then the memory of his wife's agonized
shrieks filled his ears, pushing his heart up to his throat, and
a sudden surge of courage filled him, and he stepped confidently
forward, raising a fist to knock upon the door--
It opened slowly with an ominous creak, revealing nothing but
darkness, and just like that, his new found courage passed away
from him. His tongue slid out to wet his cracked and shaking
lips. He took a step.
"Nicholas?" he called hoarsely. "Is that you?" Silence and a cold
chill greeted him. "Nicholas!" He took another step, crossing the
threshold, and the door slammed shut behind him. He jumped with a
frightened squeak, his fingers twisting together.
In a sudden roar, a fireplace on the other side of the room
crackled to life, revealing dark wooden floors, a closed window
framed by torn purple curtains--and a blue armchair, already
occupied by the very person he sought.
This man was the exact opposite of his visitor, and as he slowly
rose to his feet, it was more than clear why.
Everything about him was disconcerting. His hair was a flaming
red, straight and thick, falling into light brown eyes that were
a chilling cold, still and intense. His jaw line was sharp and
angular, his face pale yet devastatingly handsome, and when he
smiled, white teeth gleamed, although there was no humor in it.
He stood tall and muscular, chest wide, arms thick. Hanging from
his neck on a shining, silver chain was a curved knife, its hilt
a turquoise blue. But even more disconcerting was the fact that
this man looked no more than twenty years old, but he and the old
man's great-great grandfather had played together as children.
"Henry," the young man now spoke, his voice deep, and Henry
winced a little at the pure beauty of it, although he could
listen to it forever. "What a pleasant surprise."
"Nicholas," Henry greeted with a stiff nod. "You look well."
"I would say the same about you, but I make it a habit not to
lie," Nicholas replied smoothly, gracefully walking over to a
small cabinet on the opposite side of the room, muscles rippling
"Yes, please," Henry accepted cautiously, watching as Nicholas
retrieved two small cups from a shelf. "Thank-you."
"I was expecting you," Nicholas said after a time, waving a large
hand casually over the glasses and Henry was not in the least
surprised when they both began steaming from the hot liquid
inside. He turned swiftly to hand Henry his drink, eyes probing
yet emotionless. "I heard about Elizabeth."
Henry's eyes began to water and his nose turned red. "That's why
I came, Nicholas. Elizabeth has been in labor for two days and
they're considering cutting her open. The baby is in danger. She
might die!" he shouted, annoyed that the other man seemed not at
all affected by this news.
"That's what you get for trying to have a child in your old age,"
Nicholas replied smoothly. "How old are you? Fifty? Sixty?"
"Fifty-four, but that's not the point!" Henry set his cup
carefully on the small table beside him. "Nicholas, you must save
Nicholas sat back down in his armchair, taking a quaint sip of
his tea, his eyes closing leisurely. "This is quite delicious,
"Damn you!" Henry spat, voice trembling. "I need you!"
Nicholas began to laugh. "So you curse me and ask for my help in
the same sentence!"
"She is dying." Henry ripped off the gold chain on his person,
throwing it at Nicholas' feet. "A long time ago, you gave me that
with a promise that if I ever needed anything, you would aid me.
Out of love for my great-great grandfather, you have been a
friend to me. Before this moment, I have never asked you for
anything. I have built up my fortune, I have lived well. But in
this, I cannot be independent. I cannot."
Nicholas stared at him calmly for a few minutes and Henry stared
right back, feeling oddly sick. Then, he smiled. "Well said,
Henry. Perhaps you are right."
The old man sighed with relief. "Thank-you, Nicholas."
"Do not thank me, Henry, because you will not to after I am
done!" He said it harshly, eyes flashing. "Your wife I cannot
help. She is too far gone. I am sorry."
Henry's mouth gaped open in shock. "How do you know that? You
have not even--"
"She is carrying your son," Nicholas cut him short.
"Congratulations." His brown eyes had begun to glow brightly.
"A son," Henry muttered in disbelief. "A son." He smiled. "Thanks
be to God."
"Yes, a son. I can save him, he clings to life stubbornly, even
as we speak." Nicholas stood once again, towering over his
friend. "Henry, you know what I am, what I've been tasked to do
for these past decades, almost for one hundred years."
Henry shivered. "Yes." Oh yes, he knew, how could he not? His
family had kept Nicholas' secret for years, out of both respect
and fear, for Nicholas was worse than any mythological beast.
He was the Hunter of Souls.
Such a name, when he was younger, meant nothing to him. Nicholas
had merely been an old family friend then, a shadow, a protector
in the background, always watching, never still.
The thought had not occurred to him until he grew much older, but
even then, he had never wondered why. He had just assumed that
some got all of the luck, that some just got to keep their
thicket of hair and smooth faces until death.
Oh, but how that had changed that night exactly fifteen years
ago! The cloaked man that had accosted him in the street had
given him the chills, had made goose bumps rise all over his
skin. And when the cloaked man had thrown back his hood to reveal
decaying flesh and sharpened teeth, Henry had screamed, sure that
he was going to die, as--as the thing opened its mouth, leaning
towards his neck, to surely tear out a chunk of meat.
What would've happened had Nicholas not shown up when he did,
Henry didn't even want to think about. All he remembered was a
ferocious growl accompanied by a high shrill of pain as a wolf,
the size of lion, leapt at the hideous creature, teeth sinking
into the graying, molding flesh, blood coloring the dirt upon the
ground. The thing was screeching, wails of pain that were so
chilling that the air itself seemed to turn cold. The wolf, amber
eyes glowing, tore its head from its shoulders in one swift bite,
and then turned to stare at him.
Henry had wanted to run, but those eyes had been hypnotizing, and
he watched, amazed, as the wolf's figure contorted, then grew
longer, fur disappearing to be replaced by a man none other than
"You must never reveal to anyone what you have see this night,"
he had ordered him sternly. Henry could only gasp and gape,
pointing as the creature's torn and bloodied body began to glow,
lighting up a bright white.
Nicholas turned and cursed, unsheathing the knife that now hung
about his neck, symbols that were a dizzying blue decorating the
blade. "Leave now," he had spat. "Leave before I lose them."
Henry hadn't known who them was, but he had been quite happy to
turn and sprint back down the road, not stopping until he was
safely behind his bedroom door back at home.
Later, much later when he could look Nicholas full in the face
without feeling physically ill, it was all explained to him.
Those things out there were demons, creatures of the night that
ate human flesh and took one's soul to render themselves
immortal. They were brutal, strong and virtually undefeatable.
Except, of course, when Nicholas was on their tails.
There was only one Hunter of Souls in the entire world at one
time, only one that could rid the world of such evil. Nicholas,
therefore, had to be immortal, only able to die when another
hunter was born to take his place.
Now, standing before Nicholas, he repeated more clearly, "Yes, I
know what you are."
"I have served almost one hundred years as a hunter, protecting
mankind from its enemies. I have done so with dignity and honor."
Nicholas closed his eyes, a small smile gracing his lips. "I am
tired, Henry, and old. I might not look it, but my soul is weary.
I am ready to die. Ready to give up the ghost, per say." His eyes
snapped open. "I will ensure that your son lives, Henry, under
"What condition would that be?" Henry asked suspiciously, eyes
narrowing behind his thick glasses.
"That your son takes my place. That he becomes the next Hunter of
Nicholas watched calmly as Henry's face drained of blood, eyes
overly bright as he tried to digest the ultimatum given to him.
"You--you're serious?" Henry questioned weakly.
"Then you're mad!"
Nicholas shrugged, a flowing movement of his broad shoulders.
"Say whatever you like, but I suggest you make a decision
quickly. Even seconds are now precious for your son."
Henry took a threatening step towards him, hands curling into
fists at his side. "You would condemn my son to an eternity of
Nicholas' eyes flashed, a flicker of warning. "Hardly hell,
"Do not insult my intelligence! I know the agony you go through
daily as you watch those about you die, knowing that you remain
an ageless shell! You've battled evil and the darkness for so
long that you've forgotten light and happiness!"
Nicholas growled low in his throat, the sound of a ferocious
animal, and Henry was instantly reminded of how dangerous being
in the same room with this man was. "Listen to me, and listen to
me good, you old fool. Do you think that you can meddle in the
things of the eternal and emerge unscathed? Are you so
presumptuous to believe that you should not pay your debts, even
when it is, as you say, to the darkness? What would I gain by
saving your son? Cannot I merely pick another at will to serve
after me? Just as Samuel's mother promised him to God, so you
will promise your son to me, if you want him to live. I will
watch over him when I can and when he gets older, I will train
him and not leave him until I feel he is ready. That is beyond
generous, even you aren't so stupid that you can't understand
that! Yes, he will experience loneliness and pain, as do all
creatures, but decide now whether having none is worth his life,
Henry James! It matters none to me!"
Henry turned, closing his eyes, feeling the pain, sorrow and
unspeakable anger pressing down upon him, cutting his heart like
a blade. He wanted to say no, no to condemning his first born,
and his last, to the only life offered to him. What kind of
father was he, if he allowed such a travesty? Ah, but the
consequences of refusing Nicholas' less than generous offer! His
wife of almost thirty years would've died for nothing, nothing at
When he turned around to face Nicholas once again, his eyes were
like a burning fire, his face resolved.
"So be it," he granted, and a single tear fell upon his withered
600 years later--Present Day
The lights hovering above the black street flickered, providing
on again, off again halos of yellow, giving off an ominous
feeling to the deserted road. The houses on the left and the
forest on the right were both perfectly still, except for the
slight rustling of the leaves upon the looming, emerald trees,
partially blocking out the full moon overhead, a bright luminous
sphere that sent out a silvery glow to the earthly inhabitants.
There was a slight howl of wind, small and quick, and seemingly
out of the darkness stepped a young man, his smooth, pale skin a
stark contrast to the dark eyes that flickered to take in his
surroundings. He was tall, but not unnaturally so, and the black
shirt he wore, long sleeved and buttoned up as if he had just
come from an elegant banquet, was stretched almost painfully
across his broad chest. Although he also wore jeans, a faded
blue, he seemed almost out of place, as if trying to desperately
blend in by wearing such clothes, but there was something about
him otherworldly, as if he did not quite belong where he was. On
the ring finger of his left hand he wore a band with the crescent
of a roaring lion. Around his neck, hanging on a silver chain,
was a curved knife, the hilt a sparkling blue.
He walked, no, waltzed slowly, almost regally, down the street,
the small heels of his shoes clicking in a hasty tempo. The wind
rustled his dark hair, which was long enough to fall to his eyes,
yet short enough to manage: he brushed it back casually with a
pale, blue veined hand, eyes still sweeping the street.
As he moved on, he began to whistle, first softly, then more
loudly, the sound echoing across the midnight skies. It was a
somber tune, one had had learned decades ago, and it soothed his
mind and helped him focus when nothing else could.
Suddenly, he stopped, becoming an impenetrable alabaster statue,
cocking his head slowly to one side. He remained as such for a
few minutes, not one muscle twitching, nor did he even blink.
Then, with all of the speed one man could possess, he leapt into
the air, turning into a silvery mist as he spun, his body
disappearing to break into hundreds of smoky molecules.
He streamed away, weaving in and out of the trees with all speed,
flowing with the wind that carried him further north. Even in
this state he was on the alert, flaring out his senses to include
the whole forest, from the hooting owl some feet away to the
tranquil splashing of the lake down the road some fifteen miles.
Abruptly, the mist that he had become jetted towards the earth,
and before he was ten feet away from the ground, he had shifted
gracefully back to his human form, his feet touching the grass
without so much as a whisper of sound.
He crouched low, then sprang back up, the movement taking him
less than half of a second, and he stayed absolutely still once
again, listening to the movement of the trees and the leaves.
Suddenly, he smiled and let out a bark of laughter, rolling his
eyes. "Three…two…" he muttered. "One." He jumped up into the air,
twenty feet, and a split moment after he did so, a black figure
ran beneath him, shrieking in black rage.
The hunter landed back down, the smile, beautiful yet cold, still
upon his face. "Hello, Stefan," he greeted.
The black figure swiveled around, and the sight, to anyone else,
would've been beyond horrifying. Its face was discolored, as if
bruised many times, deep cuts running all the possible
directions, blood streaming continuously down its withered
cheeks, dripping onto the ground and burning there like acid. Its
eyes, deep within the sockets, were a dull white, pupils
invisible. Its figure was hunched over, his mouth full of
yellowed teeth, that were sharp and pushed together, as if there
were too many for the size of its mouth. Its clothes were
tattered and torn, probably stolen off of the bodies of one of
his many victims.
"So, if it isn't Llewellyn James, the mighty hunter," the demon,
Stefan, sneered, its voice grinding and unpleasant.
"It's nice to see you again, Stefan. How's the face?" Llewellyn
asked pleasantly, grinning slightly. The demon winced at the pure
beauty of his voice as one of its mangled hands, complete with
sharpened claws, flew to the mess that was his face.
"You managed to scar me in our last battle, hunter, but you know
that you are not powerful enough to kill me," Stefan hissed,
black spittle flying from his mouth, but his eyes were moving
about, searching for a means of escape.
"Is that a challenge, destroyer of souls? I only ask because I
would be quite willing to take you up on it," Llewellyn answered
smoothly, taking a confident step forward. "Yes, you were lucky
and escaped with your life last time, but I promise that you will
not be so fortunate again."
Stefan laughed, although the humor did not sound very convincing.
"Your heightened sense of bravado is courageous, yet sad,
"As is yours," Llewellyn said, and in a flash, he attacked,
shifting yet again, this time into a wolf, hazel eyes fierce, a
vicious snarl ripping from his mouth, lifting up his muzzle to
show a row of gleaming teeth. The demon returned the growl,
darting to the side, swiping at the hunter's furred back with a
clawed hand, drawing blood. The wolf yelped, turning to face its
attacker, shaking off the pain, hackles raised, midnight black
fur shining in the moonlight.
"Come on, is that all you've got?" Stefan yelled, eyes beginning
to glow an ominous red. The wolf seemed to smile, eyes lighting
up to a bright amber, and faster than the demon could keep up, it
moved, still in its form, yet fast, as if, for a moment, it had
possessed the body of a cheetah. The demon let out a blood
chilling scream as the wolf clamped down on his arm, tearing
frantically at the flesh there, the demon's acid blood, making
his gums burn, but it was manageable.
Stefan turned, contorting his body, his own teeth sinking into
the wolf's leg. The animal jumped away, releasing its catch, and
with a howl of fury, the demon leapt into the air, sprouting a
black feathers as it shifted into a hawk, flapping away as fast
as it could.
The wolf snorted and rolled its golden yellow eyes before it,
too, jumped into the air, legs shortening, fur disappearing,
until it was the shape of a cream colored eagle, tearing after
Hey, need any help? The amused voice of his friend, bodyguard and
fellow hunter, John, shimmered in his mind along their strong
No, no, I've got this. I'll be with you in a few minutes, he
assured him. I'm flying now.
Are you sure? Now the voice of Natalie, his other friend,
bodyguard and fellow hunter was with him, sounding concerned as
usual. He could picture her now, big blue eyes as wide as
saucers. We can come to you now.
There's no need. Both you stay where you are. He made sure his
voice was commanding, with no room for argument, and he heard
none. He found himself smiling inside the body of the bird. His
two best friends were what made life tolerable. They had been
with him for a long time, all of them fighting together, living
together. He had never been able to figure out why on earth there
were three of them, three hunters to fight the demons when he had
been told by Nicholas many times that there could only be one at
a time, and he would've asked his old master, but Nicholas had
been dead since Llewellyn's twenty third birthday and he hadn't
gotten a chance: Natalie Dionere had been born in 1656 in Paris,
France and John Thompson in 1788, in Boston, Massachusetts.
Well, it was not as if Natalie and John were Hunters of Souls,
because he was the Hunter of Souls, but they helped, mostly,
providing comfort, confidentiality, and occasionally aiding him
in, as the twenty first century saying went, kicking ass. And
although they did not possess all of the powers he did, such as
being able to collect souls, they were invaluable to him. They
were his family. He sent them warm waves of assurance through
their telepathic link and kept on with the pursuit.
The onyx colored hawk ahead of him was becoming steadily weaker
from the blood loss, dipping lower and lower as it flew on, wings
beating furiously in a desperate attempt to stay ahead.
The night was growing old and quite frankly, Llewellyn was
becoming weary. He was beginning to long the bed waiting for him
back at the mansion he and the others shared, thanks to the large
family fortune that his father has passed on and that he had
multiplied. He didn't sleep often, maybe once or twice a month,
but when he did, it was long, blissful and hard.
He pulled back a little, letting the wind catch his wings, rising
higher and higher into the sky directly above the hawk, wings
beating silently. It was time to take desperate measures.
Hopefully, he mused, it is true when they say that all cats
landed on their feet.
He closed his eyes, allowing his body to go through the change
once again, talons transforming into paws the size of a man's
face, strips running through his skin, fur replacing feathers. As
it fell, the tiger opened its emerald eyes, not making a sound as
it sped downwards towards the unsuspecting hawk.
The bird gave a screech of both surprise and pain, and Llewellyn,
underneath the tiger's paws, could feel it attempting to shift
back to its form, twisting about to attack him, but it never got
a chance. With one ferocious growl, the tiger bit off its head.
The hawk fell limp and Llewellyn could only enjoy a few seconds
of triumphant relief before he remembered that he was falling
hundreds of feet and an incredible speed.
The ground was rushing up to meet him and he braced himself,
rolling in mid air as he landed, to balance the force of the fall
throughout his body. As he rolled, he shifted back to his human
form, sighing and stretching, massaging the knots out of his
neck, and spitting out the feathers that had gotten caught in his
The demon, in death, had also returned back to its original form,
and it lay still upon the grass, body in one place, and the head
tucked underneath the branch of a tree.
And the body was beginning to glow.
"Damn," he sighed, standing in one fluid movement, dark eyes
wary. He unsheathed the knife at his neck, stepping forward
slowly, kneeling by the demon. With surprising gentleness, he
slipped the blade in the creature's heart. The glowing grew
brighter, lighting up the area surrounding him. It broke off into
small bulbs of light that floated about on and around the demon's
corpse, hovering towards the knife, and the blade began to glow,
the blue symbols upon the gleaming silver illuminating. A shiver
of warmth went up his arm and he could oh so clearly hear the
soft, loving whispers of those already gone on filling his ears,
telling him of eternal secrets.
The voices of the souls.
Llewellyn had never liked the name Hunter of Souls, because he
didn't haunt them, he redeemed them. The knife was the necessary
tool he needed to do so. What the blade did exactly, he still did
not know, or how it helped to liberate lost souls, he never
understood. Nicholas had explained to him once, but he hadn't
He wished that he had.
But it was easy to perform this task, for the words, Nicholas had
also said, had been imprinted upon his brain since his birth, the
birth that had killed his mother. So the words that slipped out
of his mouth next he chanted as softly and lovingly as he could,
a small whisper that the wind accompanied.
"I reclaim you back to eternity," he murmured and the blade
trembled in affirmation. "I take you into my keeping. I know your
sacrifice, your dignity in life, what you held onto, what you
gave away. Vengeance releases you, my brothers, my sisters. Go in
peace, dwell in love."
He bowed his head as the lights flickered then went out, leaving
him in utter darkness, the warmth quickly replaced by the cold.
How nice it would be, he thought warily, to be a soul and enter
into eternal rest.
But although he had lived a little more than six hundred years,
death, and therefore peace, seemed so very far away.
With a prolonged sigh, he shifted into a tawny owl and took
flight towards the south.
Scotland's green hills and valleys rose and fell, a vast
landscape of emerald beauty, a jaded jewel. The sun was just
beginning to peak over the horizon and far off in the east, the
hulls had been bathed in a dull yellow glow, the ocean sparkling
a blue and gold some miles away.
His sharp owl's eyes spotted two lone figures standing upon a
hill a distance away and with a small screech, he headed in their
"Finally," John rolled his eyes as Llewellyn landed in front of
him, already human once more. "Took you long enough." His brown
eyes were dancing with mischief, his light brown hair long and
"Oh, shut up," Llewellyn grinned, punching him playfully in the
"Ouch," John wined, rubbing the tender spot. "Careful."
"Are you alright?" Natalie cut in, sapphire blue eyes worried,
long blonde hair shimmering in the early morning sun, as she
tugged her expensive white leather jacket closer to her shivering
Llewellyn turned away from her, lifting up his shirt to show her
the long scratch running down his back. It was red and nasty
looking, but not too deep. "Not too bad this time, eh?"
She glared at him, tapping a heeled foot, which was no doubt
Prada. "We should help you more, Llewellyn. We--"
"How long are we staying her, anyway?" John interrupted her and
merely grinned when she shot him a nasty look.
Llewellyn sighed. "We've been here in Scotland for two years. I'm
sure that we should move on."
"Where to next?" Natalie asked eagerly, and she smiled. "Russia!
We haven't been there in--"
"Fifty years," John completed her sentence, shaking his head.
"Come on, let's go somewhere new!"
"I'm thinking America," Llewellyn nodded. "And not just anywhere
in America. Hollywood."
"California?!?" they both cried, excitement lighting up their
He laughed. "Sure, why not? I mean, just because we're risking
our lives every single day and wake up in the morning knowing
that we could have only hours left to live shouldn't be an excuse
not to have fun." His voice had turned teasing. "It should be
"How long will we stay?" Natalie asked now, eyes daring John to
cut her off as the trio slowly walked on.
"A couple of years, at least. We'll attend high school,"
Llewellyn decided, thrusting his hands in his jean pockets.
John gave a snort of disgust. "And graduate. Again, I suppose."
Llewellyn laughed. "Sure, sure. We should go back to the house
and tell Pete to start packing."
"Hollywood, California, here we come!" John hooted, and in one
swift motion, all at the exact same time, the three jumped into
the air, taking on the forms of owls, flapping on before full