“What the what?” Matticus stammered and fumbled but couldn’t get out the right words to express his amazement.
“Calm down,” Revis urged, placing a hand on the Jester’s shoulder, “and put your sword away before you hurt yourself.”
Matticus glared at his knight but extinguished the flaming sword and returned it to its scabbard without comment.
Thundering footsteps pulled their attention away from the marvel they had just witnessed to the approaching dragon.
“Thank you for your help, Grayson, and could you tell Rara that we are going to need some more of the healing potion. A lot more.”
The dragon’s massive head nodded once and then he pushed his way free of the rubble he had created at the edge of the building. With a giant leap and two quick beats of his wings he took to the air.
Matticus, mesmerized by the beauty of a dragon in flight, watched it’s progress until the remaining walls blocked his view. Only then he did notice that his jaw was gaping open. He closed it, but not before Revis had seen and started to ruefully shake his head.
“Not a word,” Matticus warned as he and his knight returned their attention to Jaded just as she opened her eyes.
“What happened,” she asked.
“We’ll get to that after you tell us what we want to know,” Revis stated. “Now, you said someone is giving you all of these other vampires. Who is he, and where do we find him?”
Jaded ignored him, looking over her body. Suddenly, she started freaking out. “What did you do to me,” she screamed, looking back and forth between the two men.
“I’ll tell you after you answer the questions.”
“I won’t answer your questions until you tell me.”
“I won’t tell you until you answer the questions.” When Jaded shot Revis a defiant glance, he continued, “There are plenty of other vampires we could get this information from. We, on the other hand, are the only ones who know what happened to you.”
Matticus looked at Revis in disappointment. He certainly didn’t want to keep tracking down individual vampires and asking them questions. It was already getting a little old. Revis gave him a “trust me” gesture and looked back at Jaded. She began to sob as she began telling her story.
“I come from a different realm. All of us do. We were sent here through a portal. The only difference is that, while the ones who came before me took off right after they got here, I stuck around and convinced the ones that followed to join up with me.”
Matticus opened his mouth to ask something but Revis silenced him with a glance. Jaded was on the verge of giving them everything and he didn’t want the Jester to mess that up with an ill-timed question. There would be ample opportunity to ask follow-ups after she finished her tale.
Jaded, unaware of the brief exchange between Matticus and his knight, continued. “Even though I had been forced here, I found this world to be a bit of a lark and decided to say for awhile, rather than trying to find my way back. When more of my kind, more vampires from my realm were forced through the same portal I convinced them to stay hidden and do our best to go undetected as we built our lives among the humans.
You were weak, scattered, and easily manipulated. It was a breeze for us to infiltrate all manner of industries, regional government and security forces. But, those were nothing, for us to truly rule we needed to take down the kingdom. We needed to replace Matticus with one of our own.”
Jaded glared at the Jester and there was so much animosity behind her eyes that Matticus took an involuntary step back and his hand reached for the hilt of his sword. Once again, Revis calmed him with a gesture. “Who forced you through the portal, and why,” the Knight asked.
“I don’t know his name,” she answered. “All I know is that he scared me. As for why he did it, as he was forcing me through the portal, he muttered under his breath that nothing his emperor could do to him would be any worse than having to put up with us ‘sparkly’ vampires.”
While Matticus suppressed a chuckle, Revis continued his interrogation. “Vampires aren’t normally afraid of anything. What exactly was so scary about this guy?”
“He was covered head to toe in armor. His armor was white, like it was made out of bones.”
“So what,” Matticus interjected. “I’ve heard many reports of barbarians outside of The Kingdom that use bone armor. It’s not that uncommon.”
“He also had a weapon, one that he could hold in his hand, that could shoot fire,” Jaded countered angrily. “Even you would be frightened at that.”
Turning to Matticus, Revis broke in, “He is a wizard, then. He must have a wand of fireballs.” When he saw the Jester start to shake his head, he asked, “What is it?”
“I’m the king, dammit! Why does everyone get cooler toys than I do?”
“Shouldn’t you have more pressing concerns right now, Jesterness?”
Matticus glared at Revis for the pointed slight. It was true that he wasn’t actually King and it was also true that he probably should be more focused on getting rid of the invading vampires than anything else.
“Fine,” he mumbled and then turned his attention back to Jaded. “Where can we find this wizard?”
She shook her head, “I’m not sure if you can get to him or not. I can only take you to the portal where we all came through on this side.”
Matticus glanced over at Revis, “You probably have some trick up your sleeve or in your bag that can help us along from there, right?”
Revis shrugged his shoulders, “I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.”
“Have I told you everything you need to know?” Jaded queried, propping herself up on her elbows in preparation of standing up. “Can one of you please tell me what the hell you did to me?”
Matticus was about to tell her what had happened, but Revis cut him off, “Not until you lead us to the portal.”
She rose and stretched her limbs, probing at the areas on her hand and leg where her wounds had been healed. Satisfied, she flicked her eyes between Revis and Matticus and stepped around them towards the gaping hole where Grayson had entered and exited her fort, “Follow me, boys.”
Jaded stepped over some of the rubble, leading them deeper into the building. They went through so many twists and turns that Matticus began to think that the woman they were following was lost. At last, they came to the dungeon. She opened one of the doors and stepped inside.
The former vampire began reciting poetry. Revis was only paying half attention to it. His eyes darted back and forth, looking out to make sure she hadn’t led them into a trap. She ended her poem with a line about something with red wings when the back wall of the cell slid away, revealing a small room. It was only ten yards long, ending with a wall made of white light.
“There it is,” Jaded said. “Now, tell me what happened to me.”
Before Revis could interrupt him again, Matticus told her everything they knew. She had held up her end of the deal and he didn’t want his Knight to keep putting it off. Instead, Revis grabbed the cell key out of her hand and shut its door. “Stay here,” he commanded. “We’ll be back as soon as we check out the portal.”
Matticus was looking at the portal when Revis walked up to him. “Maybe we shouldn’t…”
The Jester never finished the thought. Revis pushed him into the portal. After waiting ten seconds, to make Matticus start freaking out a little, he followed.