“Attack?” Steph’s eyes went wide with fear, “That can’t be!”
“The vampires must have gotten wise to the disappearing populace,” Revis replied. “They probably sent out patrols to see if there were any groups camping outside the city walls. That’s what I would have done.”
Steph shot Revis a death glare.
“What’s the plan,” Matticus whispered, trying to bring the focus back on their current problem. “We have to go to their aide, right?”
Steph’s eyes went even wider. She hadn’t ever considered leaving the small community she had been helping to build to their fate. It troubled her greatly that such an idea would even be a consideration. Her discomfort grew with each passing second it took the Knight to respond.
With a sigh, Revis shook himself out of his revelry and addressed Steph and Matticus. “I’ll use my ring to get close to the camp and see what the situation is. If there is a chance we can save what’s left I’ll come up with a plan and we can spring into action. But…”
“There is no ‘but,'” Steph interjected firmly. “We will help them. Go ahead and see what you need to see, that’s fine. I expect you to come up with a plan, though. The First Knight needs to live up to his title right now.”
A look of profound sadness crossed his face as he replied, “I will do anything I can to rescue as many of them as possible, but I will not risk losing our chance to save the entire Kingdom in order to save a couple of people. I can’t jeopardize the lives of the many for the sake of the few. The job of First Knight is to serve the greater good. Sometimes that means making decisions that break your heart, but they have to be made anyways.”
Before she could offer a rebuttal, he turned himself invisible and started walking towards the camp. Steph debated telling Matticus her argument, but decided it could wait until Revis returned. The two of them waited in silence for a number of minutes. Matticus managed to keep himself from jumping when the sounds of screaming came from the direction Revis walked. He put his hand on his sword, intending to go see what was happening.
“Don’t,” Steph advised, grabbing ahold of his shoulder. “You may cause more problems than you’d solve by going there.”
Out of the darkness, a woman came running. “Faithhopechocolate,” Steph exclaimed. “What happened?”
“No time,” the woman cried. “He needs your help.”
As Matticus and Steph hastened to follow Faithhopechocolate, the Jester was struck by the woman’s appearance. She was wearing the stylings of the Order of the Holy Paraclete. He had heard of the order but, as this was the first time he had ever met one of the sisters, he had presumed their numbers had dwindled away to nothing.
Her life of servitude had left her extremely strong and despite the stringency of her robes keeping her strides to a minimum, Matticus and Steph struggled to keep up with her. The Jester was impressed. He found her name very striking too. Faith, hope, and chocolate, were three of his favorite things.
He knew he should be worried about his Knight, but Revis had managed to survive more than one harrowing situation in the past, it was one of the reasons Matticus had made him First Knight. Beyond his loyalty to the kingdom, the man had an uncanny ability to find a way out of the worst scraps. Plus, he had all those wonderful toys and tricks. As much as he complained that he wanted to know where Revis had acquired everything he had stowed in his pack, Matticus trusted his Knight implicitly.
The closer they got to the camp, the thicker the smoke became. When they arrived, they found that there was a very large bonfire in the center of the camp, but the structures remained unharmed. From the other side of the fire, Revis stumbled into view. He fell to his knees, wobbled for a second, then finished his face-first fall to the ground.
Matticus and Steph rushed to his side. They rolled him onto his back. The entire front of his armor was covered with blood. His breathing was extremely rapid and his eyes were closed. “You better not die saving my people,” Steph muttered before turning to Faithhopechocolate and asking her questions.
The corner of Revis’ mouth turned up in the start of a smile, but it vanished so quickly that the Jester wasn’t sure whether or not he actually saw it. Deciding that he did, Matticus cuffed the side of his Knight’s head. “You jerk,” he yelled. “I was really worried about you.”
“Sorry,” Revis apologized, opening his eyes. Ignoring the look of pure hatred he was receiving from Steph, he continued, “I couldn’t pass up the opportunity of getting Steph back. You just happened to be collateral damage.”
“What actually happened here?”
“I really did smell oil burning, but it was from this bonfire, not the buildings. They made it to burn the bodies of all the sparkly vampires they’ve killed. I just helped them put a couple in there. That’s where the blood came from.”
“Who protected them?” After Revis pointed at Faithhopechocolate, Matticus asked in disbelief, “You killed all of them?”
“Vampires don’t like crosses,” she explained.
“You just showed them crosses?”
“No, I hit them over the head with one.”
The Jester looked from Faithhopechocolate to Revis and back again, and then rolled his head back and belly laughed harder than he had in a long time. Steph was not amused, but the Jester’s laughter was infectious and Revis joined in. Sputtering between laughs, Matticus stated, “That must be one heck of a cross!”
Faithhopechocolate’s eyes beamed with love, “You better believe it!”
Steph stamped her foot in frustration, trying to snap the three of them out of their frivolity, “This is serious, though, if the vampires have sent out patrolling bands this far from the city, they must have known they were supposed to be looking for something, and when those patrols don’t make it back, they will send a larger force expecting trouble. Well armed. Prepared for whatever we can throw at them.”
The weight of Steph’s words couldn’t dampen the Jester’s mirth, he just kept picture sparkly vampire after sparkly vampire getting bashed over the head by a whole myriad of crosses. In the back of his mind he made a mental note to make sure that some sort of weaponized cross was added to the armory when he made it home.
Revis had stopped laughing at that point. “Look, Steph,” he said, “you and Faithhopechocolate need to tell the people here to start getting everything ready for a road trip. They’re coming with us to Long Beach.”
“What about the people still left in Bruges,” Steph countered.
“I’m afraid they’re on their own for now.” Before Steph could argue any further, Revis continued, “I don’t like it any more than you do, but we can’t do anything for them.”
Reluctantly, Steph walked off to start giving orders to those in the camp. Matticus and Revis began refilling their own supplies, filling up on water and food. Halfway through their chore, a shout came from the outskirts of the camp. It was followed by another a few seconds later. The two men slumped their shoulders and shook their heads. They knew what was happening before Steph ran up to tell them.
“They’re attacking now,” she exclaimed. Revis and Matticus began reaching for their weapons. “No,” Steph stopped them. “You were right. You have bigger things to do. You two go. We’ll hold them off so you can get to Long Beach and stop these sparkly bastards for good.”
Matticus wanted to protest, but couldn’t. Revis had grabbed him and was pulling him away from the fight.