Copyright © 2020 Jonathan Bush
All rights reserved.
‘Oh, for fucks sake!’ – Wren.
An audience had gathered, or rather, lambs were
receiving a sermon from none other than a wolf, who
did not even worry enough to take up the guise of a
sheep. Rain fell amongst the crowd, powerful and
steady in its pour, turning the already barren ground
beneath their feet to thick and troublesome pools of
mud, which squelched around the crowd’s boots if
they dared to step.
Burning torches were held high, fighting against
the rain to stay alight, illuminating in a very sombre
way, the crowd in attendance, in their long rain
shawls crafted from hide and their wide, almost
exaggerated hats which looked as if a pilgrim and a
witch had made love.
The damned congregation stood outside a
tavern in the blighted lands of Darkmarsh, doing
their best to keep still beneath the rain and storm,
trying to contain their shaking that the bitter cold and
fear brought them. Most stayed still, while it became
apparent there were those in the back of the crowd
who wanted to shift around a little. Before them,
beneath a rotting wooden canopy, to shelter himself
from the rain, stood their preacher: a vampire.
The undead creature looked like you or me,
aside from the butchered corpses at his feet, the blood
that stained his face and soiled his clothes, his
elongated and blackened nails, and crimson eyes. Oh,
and the fangs, cannot forget the fangs. The vampire
watched his congregation, he could feel his throat
growing dryer by the second and that damned
insatiable hunger tearing away at his guts. Clearly, he
held some power to stand before a mob so fearlessly.
‘Sisters, brothers!’ the vampire’s voice seemed to
boom over his audience, as hot and fresh human
blood dripped from his face and fingers. ‘You have
no power over me! Your attempts are wasted, why
not put those efforts to a greater cause!’ he smiled,
using his vampiric powers of persuasion in attempt
to make this transaction of blood easier.
‘Your kind have plagued our country long
enough! You hear me, you hear me?’ shouted a rain
and dirt covered onlooker, who’s trembling hand
caused his torch to sway in the downpour.
The vampire laughed, exposing his great fangs,
causing the crowd to shudder and tremble.
Someone moved at the back of the crowd,
hidden by the darkness that lack of torchlight
‘Foolish mortals,’ the vampire continued,
kicking one of the many corpses that lay scattered
around his feet, corpses of children, women, and
men; their throats ripped out as if butchered by some
terrible animal. ‘We are your overlords; we are your
gods! You are merely the oil that keeps our great
machine twisting and grinding! I will drain every one
of you if you do not submit to me!’ he roared, steam
escaping from his jagged lips from the fresh blood
that lay within them.
The crowd held their hands above their faces in
fear, and a few coughed something awful.
‘Please, don’t harm us!’ an onlooker trembled
through streams of tears and snot, ‘I’ve got family, I
have! Think of them! Please, please!’
The vampire seemed enthralled with the pleas of
the onlooker, clearly, he had been a problem to the
town in the weeks before, only now showing himself
to his unworthy congregation.
‘Bow down to me, accept me as your lord!’ the
vampire cackled as he slowly began to levitate from
the ground with his arms outstretched in a pose of
Someone at the back of the crowd moved again,
seemingly wading through.
‘Your flesh is mine, mortals! The dark sirens of
the eternal night will drown out your cries of agony
in a sundering cacophony! Ageless horrors come to
flay the flesh from your children, and we shall wear
their skin with pride! Your veins will hang from my
fingers, your bones will snap beneath my might!
Your blood will—’
‘Oh, shut the FUCK UP!’ came the course and
exasperated shout of a hooded man that leapt from
the crowd and grabbed the floating monster by the
leg with one arm to pull him down, then with his
other hand gripped the vampire around his mouth.
With one hard and violent slam, the man brought the
vampires head down into the ground with an
almighty smash. Fragments of splintered bone and
soft brain matter were sent outwards around the
man’s hand with a squelch, exploding outwards in a
spray that splattered against the boots of the
onlookers at the front of the crowd.
The hands of the vampire fitted for a moment,
before coming still. The man stood up and flicked his
hands away from himself to displace the mush that
covered his black and clawed gauntlets. He looked to
the crowd and grunted, then turned to walk away,
until a sound escaped from the vampire.
The man turned round, to find the vampire’s
mashed in head, bubbling and spitting out spurts of
blood, as if the fiend still lived and was trying to talk.
‘Oh, for fucks sake!’ the man sighed and turned
back, ‘they can’t just fucking die, can they?’ He
grabbed a torch from an onlooker’s hand as he reapproached
the mangled vampire. ‘Give me that,’ he
snapped as he ripped the torch away, the onlooker
coughed violently into his hand and found blood,
before getting a look at the vampire’s killer.
‘Wren?’ the ailed man coughed. ‘I thought you
‘I was, but seems you lot can’t take care of one
fucking vampire, doesn’t it? For fucks sake,’ Wren
grunted, taking his hood down to reveal his dark
brown, almost black hair that had been tied into a low
ponytail, and his beard that now held a little
splattering of vampire blood.
‘Well, he, I,’ the onlooker fumbled with his
‘Don’t even bother,’ sighed Wren as he put his
foot on the vampire’s head. With one slight
movement, Wren turned the creatures head to the
side, to find the bite marks on his neck still bruised
and sore looking. He looked back to the crowd and
held a hand over his brow in disappointment. ‘He’s
still only a fucking fledgling as well! Barely even
three weeks old,’ he sighed. He looked down at the
creature and the amount of bodies around him.
‘Look, you fucking idiots. Fledglings are young
enough that they can recover really fucking quickly
if you don’t kill them properly, and particularly this
one because it has a belly full of blood, which
means…,’ he started, goading the crowd for an
answer with an upturned hand like a teacher.
‘I know this one,’ a woman said from the crowd,
drenched in rain and mud. ‘That it could grow boney
scythe things from its hands!’
‘No,’ sighed Wren, ‘that would be a Harvestman,
completely different breed.’
‘It can vomit up boiling blood?’ asked another
onlooker who also seemed a little ill, wiping
something claret from his mouth.
‘No, that would be a Gorger, good fucking guess
though, but no. Look, you lot really need to brush up
Before Wren could finish his sentence, the
vampire on the floor began to fit, and from within the
smashed in, jelly filled cavity of his face, bone and
muscle, tooth and fang slowly began to knit
themselves back together.
‘Oh, fuck this,’ grunted Wren, ‘the belly full of
blood means they can recover at an advanced rate,
remember that!’ he snarled, it’s like a backup supply
of healing!’ Beneath his foot, the vampires face
resembled a smashed in watermelon with clumps of
black hair mushed into it, slowly weaving within
itself to rebuild the facial structure.
‘What are you waiting for?’ asked an onlooker,
who was holding a cat above her head to shield
herself from the rain.
‘The eyes,’ sighed Wren.
‘The eyes?’ repeated the crowd.
‘What is this a fucking pantomime? Yes, the eyes,
I want him to see this next bit, the little shit.’
In a moment, two dark black, fungus looking
spores began to form within the cavity, until thin
veins wove themselves around, and they began to
mold into the shape of eyes, then began their steady
transformation into a dark red eye ball, with an
extremely bright, if not glowing, paler red iris around
a tiny black pupil. Then the eyes, within the fleshy,
mushy hole, turned to look directly into Wren’s eyes.
‘That’ll do it,’ sneered Wren. With one hard
push, he drove the burning torch into the bloody, still
mushy cavity, right between the vampire’s eyes. The
ever-living corpse exploded into an agonizing fit, the
fire began to boil the inside of the vampire’s mangled
skull, causing it to bubble and turn black, its eyes
hardening like boiled eggs. The vampire’s agony
continued, its flesh began to darken and crack, until
splinters of molten fire could be seen within the
fissures on its flesh. Then, like black liquid magma,
the vampire turned to blackened mush, hardening
into a solid form on the ground. Like a massive, black
‘They’re all susceptible to fire, fledglings can be
killed by normal means if they…’ he said, goading
the crowd once more, gesturing with his hand and
cupping another round his ear.
‘Don’t have a belly full of blood?’ an onlooker
answered, timidly, with his soaking hat between his
‘Good,’ nodded Wren, ‘you’ve fucking learnt
something today. This may be a fledgling but
fledgling isn’t a breed, it’s a timeframe, this was what
we call a Dawnbrood, they resemble us, and can in
time become masters of blood magic, get rid of them
before they fucking get rid of you,’ grunted Wren.
‘Do you want to wash your gauntlets?’ asked a
rather pale looking onlooker, pointing to the well
beside the tavern, besides the horses stable, admiring
the spiked, clawed, and rather nightmarish looking
pieces of armour
‘No thanks, I like them to smell and taste their
brothers and sisters when I ram my fist down their
‘Ok, understandable,’ shrugged the onlooker,
who began to cough, rather violently.
Wren began to walk away, but the coughing
intensified, rather agonizingly. ‘Oh, for fucks sake,’
sighed Wren as he turned around. ‘Are you ok?’
The man began to cough and splutter, retching
on the ground and gasping for air. He wrapped his
arms around his belly, until he vomited up pints
upon pints of bright red blood and rotten chunks of
his own guts, which splattered and poured over his
own muddied boots.
‘Fuck,’ said Wren. ‘Have you been bitten? I
swear if you have and you don’t tell me…’
‘No,’ gargled the man as blood began to flood his
windpipe, making it nearly impossible to speak and
The man collapsed, the entirety of his blood
escaping from his body through every available hole
and pore, until the crimson pool washed against
‘Well, that’s not good, is it?’ said Wren. He
looked to the black skies above him, and felt the rain
wash away the splattering of blood on his skin. He
took a deep breath and tried to remind himself that
he was just like them once; afraid and vulnerable.
‘Everyone step away, it could be a vampiric
curse,’ grunted Wren, then from all around him,
more and more of the citizens began to vomit up their
bodily contents, but not every citizen was affected.
Wren stepped back as the sodden floor became a tide
of blood, hot and steaming in the night and ever
expanding from the rain.
‘Those of you who feel fine, get the fuck away
from here, go to your homes,’ he said, stepping away
from the blood that lapped at his boots like a shore.
‘I’ll look into this in the morning.’ Wren instructed
everyone to return home, sticking the trails within
their muddy town that were canopied by vampire
traps. Once everyone had gone, Wren investigated.
He stripped the corpses naked, men and women,
to find any signs of vampiric interference. No bite
marks, no carved symbology of ownership to suggest
someone might serving as a minion to a vampire
‘They can’t just be sick, can they?’ whispered
Wren to himself, wiping some rain away from the tip
of his nose with his padded forearm. ‘Poor fuckers,’
he sighed. As the night passed by, which always
seemed to last an age, Wren burned the corpses
beside the tavern and horse stables in a bonfire, the
stench was grotesque, whatever ailed the recently
deceased gave their flesh an awful pungency.
Perhaps the smell would deter his undead problem
for a night. Probably not, he thought.
The rains continued to fall, and Wren had
finished his work, and an awful thirst grew within
him. He looked to the tavern window, to find a single
candle still lit inside. Please be fucking open, he
thought to himself. He banged his fist hard onto the
rotten door, his spiked gauntlets burrowing small
holes into as he did.
‘Wren is it?’ asked a delicately young serving
girl, whose hair hung low behind her back and curled
playfully around her ears.
‘Need a beer?’ she asked, with two empty
tankards in her hand, in preparation, and her dress
hung purposefully low below her shoulders,
revealing her soft and freckled skin.
‘Fuck, there’s a few things I need,’ he smiled.
‘So,’ smiled the serving girl, who at some point during the
night had told Wren her name was Keris, ‘what brought
you back?’ she asked, brushing her thick brown hair
through as the two sat by a fire that now became embers as
the dawn began to warm the ground outside.
Wren sat back in his chair and wiped some beer from
his lips, his large hands making light work of holding the
tankard. He sighed and looked around the tavern, then
smiled slowly back. ‘Just felt it in my bones, something was
off, I guess,’ shrugged Wren, running his thumb around
the lip of his tankard, which gave off a low hum.
‘Do you want another?’ offered Keris, as she stood and
flaunted her still naked body at him while passing by.
With one strong pull, Wren grabbed her close and
pulled her down for kiss. She smiled giddily at the act.
‘Depends what your offering, Ker,’ smiled Wren,
before kissing her again. ‘But yes, some more beers would
Keris walked with a giddy step to the ale pumps and
poured another two tankards full, wiping up the excess
that spilt down the side with her finger and sucking it clean.
Dried herbs and garlic hung around the corners of the
homely tavern, almost like festival bunting, but with
another purpose in mind. Keris looked at the hanging
herbs for a moment and let her mind wander.
‘Does it really work?’ asked Keris in her daydream.
‘Does what work?’ answered Wren, turning rather
cumbersomely in his chair to see her.
‘To a degree. Certain breeds hate it more than others.
Fledgling Dawnbroods can’t smell the stuff without
vomiting, but elder Dawnbroods can develop an
immunity to its aroma,’ explained Wren, as he sat admiring
Keris bottom whilst she stood at the bar. She turned to meet
‘Blah blah you’re all talk,’ she giggled, playfully,
raising the tankards high in celebration.
‘You weren’t complaining about my mouth last night,
were you,’ smiled Wren.
‘Not at all,’ she smiled back as she began to wander
back over, and swiftly avoided Wren pulling her close
again. ‘Easy now, you’ll make me spill!’ She placed a fresh
tankard of beer in front of Wren and kissed the top of his
head, then took her seat as well.
‘You know,’ started Keris, ‘you’re not as bad as they
‘Oh, yeah? What is it they say?’ said Wren, raising his
eyebrows with playful intrigue.
‘That you were born in a vampire nest, that they fed
from you until you found the strength to kill them?’ asked
Keris, with a respectful tone.
‘That your mother was a vampire.’
‘That part’s wrong, I’m afraid,’ said Wren with a stern
face. ‘She wasn’t a vampire, no, not a vampire, but a witch.’
‘A witch?’ asked Keris.
‘Yeah you know, pointy hat, big fat wart on the end of
‘Really?’ asked Keris full of curiosity.
‘Of course not,’ joked Wren, ‘a witch she was, but she
was beautiful. She fell pregnant; my father was long gone,
and she fell into madness. In the storms she walked,
affected by some delirium, away from her home, away
from the living, it was then they found her.’
Keris held a hand to her mouth, and placed another
on top of Wren’s, lovingly.
‘Something about menstrual blood, and the blood of
the pregnant drives the creatures wild. I suppose it contains
some sort of intensified life essence not found in common
blood. Something was different though, a clan of
Dawnbrood found her, and instead of ripping her to pieces,
they kept her, they fed her and fed from her, throughout her
entire pregnancy, keeping her under some form of
‘What happened?’ asked Keris, respectfully, stroking
Wrens’s scarred hands with love.
‘When I was born, they fed from me. My mother must
have had something else in her blood, magic perhaps. Who
the fuck knows? Whatever it was, it clearly passed onto me.
They kept her alive until I was seven, we lived within the
nest; chained, beaten, wishing for a death that was denied
to us. She would say “One day my little bird, my little
Wren, you will fly this coop, you will live. You will see the
light,” and I still hear her voice in my ears when I sleep. I
guess the magic in her blood began to die as she became
weak, and eventually they took her away to be butchered
in one last ceremonial meal.’
Keris pulled Wren’s hand to her mouth and kissed it,
repeatedly. ‘How did you escape?’
‘I felt the pull of magic in my veins,’ said a sorrowful
Wren, who’s nose began to crease in anger. ‘I conserved my
energy, for what I thought was to simply run and escape
the clutches of the nest.’
‘Did you not?’
‘Eventually, I felt something building in me, like
burning ice under my skin, like a loaded fist that needed to
be whipped outwards to relieve the tension. Then it
happened, the release I needed that had been building for
so long. They came to feed on me for the night, my body
was weak, puncture marks traced a map over my body,
and then their teeth sank in. I screamed, I screamed so loud
I felt my throat was going to split, but as I reached that
climax of pain, that fulmination of my fury, a blinding light
pulsated from me.’
‘Magic,’ whispered Keris.
‘Fucking magic,’ agreed Wren. ‘When I came too from
some bout of unconsciousness, around me fell the ash of
vampire corpses, drifting like snow around me, over the
rotten roots and thorn ridden branches of the nest. That use
of magic, however, sets your blood on fire, it imbues it with
something greater than life essence, it is like a drug for
them, and they can smell it a mile away. From all around
me came the screams and cries of the undead hordes:
Dawnbroods, Gorgers, Harvestmen, Ghouls; fucking all of
them could smell the blood in my veins. I ran until dawn. I
ran until the magic in my veins stopped flowing and they
could no longer smell the trail to my flesh.’
Keris squeezed Wren’s hand, and he gently squeezed
‘I haven’t used magic since. Hell, I wouldn’t even
know how,’ said Wren.
Keris looked into Wren’s eyes then caressed the side
of his muscular face, with nothing but adoration.
‘I want to find her bones,’ sighed Wren. ‘I want to
bring her home.’
‘Come here, little bird,’ she smiled, pulling him in for
a comforting kiss, and just as their lips would meet, a series
of half-arsed knocks rang at the tavern door.
‘Oh, for fucks sake!’ growled Wren. He gave Keris a
forceful smacker of a kiss then stood, still naked from the
night before and headed to the door, which he near enough
pulled off its rusted iron hinges.
‘Wren, we heard you were back in town, if I could just
have a moment—’ a voice began to ask before the door
was slammed shut in his face.
‘Fuck off,’ grunted Wren, ‘give me a minute.’
A few minutes later the door was opened and the
harsh, if not grey light of day flooded Wren’s senses.
He stood, towering over the small and pompous
looking town guard before him with his arm resting
on the door frame, tankard in hand, and now
‘Right, go on then,’ huffed Wren.
The little man looked up, looking over the
muscular curvature of Wren’s battle worn body then
finally met his intimidating stare.
‘You couldn’t handle this, little man,’ joked
Wren with a face as serious as stone.
‘I could,’ came the voice of Keris as she walked
behind Wren towards the bar, now wrapped in a
blanket. Wren let out a guilty smile as he turned to
look at her, and she flashed him her perky breasts
when no longer in view of the door.
‘Fucks sake,’ he chuckled to himself. ‘Right, what
the fuck is it you want then?’
The little guard swallowed hard as a nervous
sweat dripped from his brow. ‘I believe there was a
vampire slain last night?’
‘Correct,’ nodded Wren.
‘Where are the remains?’ asked the guard.
‘See that big pile of shit over there?’
‘Oh, right,’ smiled the town guard, ‘particularly
good, thank you.’
‘You really need to learn to fucking kill them,
rather than hide from them, this isn’t my job you
‘A job pays,’ frowned Wren.
The guard shuffled his feet nervously whilst
looking at the floor. There was an awkward silence
as Wren grew impatient.
‘Was there anything else? I’m sort of tied up
here,’ groaned Wren, as he felt Keris behind the door,
playfully teasing him with some ropes, which they
had employed during the night.
The guard looked up and sighed with a nervous
‘What about, the others,’ asked the guard.
‘Burnt them,’ said Wren.
‘What happened, people are saying a curse!’
panicked the guard.
‘It’s not a curse. A curse would have taken all of
us, this isn’t magic, this is like poison, a blight
perhaps, something in the water, maybe. I don’t
fucking know, do I?’ shrugged Wren.
‘And their guts…’ began to ask the guard,
‘Vomited up through their mouths,’ answered
‘And…their blood?’ shook the guard.
‘Out of their ears, eyes, mouth, nose, arseholes,
everywhere. Look, I have some work I really want to
get stuck into back in there, so if there’s nothing else?’
‘No, thank you, Doctors are already on their way
to visit with you, they may need to take some
samples from the ground, if you’d be so happy to
‘Fucks sake,’ sighed Wren, giving a sideways
glance to Keris inside. ‘Fine, give me half an hour.’
‘Oh, twice ay?’ came the playfully teasing voice of
Karis somewhere within the darkness of the tavern
who had begun to giggle. Wren smiled, a genuine
smile as he looked back to Keris, something about her
was intoxicating, he had never felt a connection like
that to someone so fast for all his years. He looked
back to the guard who was trying to sneak a peek
inside, but Wren slammed his arm against the door,
blocking the guard’s vision.
‘Fuck off and go and get your doctors. I’ll be
waiting for them.’
The door slammed shut in front of him as Wren
went back inside.
‘Right, come here you!’ chuckled Wren from inside
the tavern as he could be heard chasing Keris.
The town guard let out a long held in breath,
containing all the fear and anxiety he had felt upon
his meeting with Wren.
‘Fuck, he’s massive,’ he exhaled, holding a
handkerchief to his nose to try and dampen the
wretched stench of death. Truth be told that necrotic
aroma was more commonplace here than probably
anywhere else. It marinated the fog that rolled low
and cold along the ground, it tainted the earthy smell
of soil to that of a pungent musk, and it served as a
constant reminder to everyone who lived within the
complexities of Darkmarsh. For as long as the history
books went back, there had been a blight upon this
land, and it came in the form of vampires: blood
sucking, flesh eating, child stealing vampires. They
should just move, I hear your say, full of confidence.
They should, and they would if it were possible. You
see, the continent of Darkmarsh its as is vast as it is
dangerous, filled with dense and black forests,
mountains like upturned claws, and populated by
mortals and vampires alike.
The sea that surrounds Darkmarsh is far too
violent and tumultuous to voyage through, trapping
those that live there with no way out, and no way in
should help ever come its way. There has been
speculation, as to how far it is until the next
continent, or island, but the dense sea fog that rolls in
and out through some elemental lungs has created a
blinding and impenetrable veil.
Those with hearts that beat, do have everything
they need, on purely a survival basis. There are fertile
fields to farm crops and grow livestock, fresh streams
for water and fishing, and herbs and fruits for
medicine; if it weren’t for the hordes of blood thirsty
undead that also made home there, life wouldn’t be
completely awful, aside from the ill weather and
constant grey skies.
Way off, on the other side of Darkmarsh, hidden
beneath even thicker fog, black, thorn riddled forests
and mountains of secrecy, hid the vampires of
Darkmarsh. The undead domain and geography
were not dissimilar to a pyramid scheme. At the very
end of the mortal dominion, the black swamps of
Darkmarsh began to bubble into creation, spanning
tens if not hundreds of miles. The black swamps
swarmed with blood flies within an ever constriction
miasma, that did it is best to hide the terrors within.
The swamps were populated by the lower order
of vampires, the ones that smelt like shit and would
probably eat a pile if they got the chance. Ghouls are
the lowest of the vampiric horde rankings; skeletal,
plague ridden monsters. Some resembled thin and
decaying mortals, with elongated hands and a
mouthful of anywhere from one to a hundred fangs,
each of them rotten and pointing in a different
direction. Ghouls did not care where they found
blood, that sweet, warm, life providing ichor that was
the first and last reason the entirety of the vampire
horde did anything. Dogs, cats, mortals, dead dogs,
dead cats; anything. They were wretched fucking
scumbags, and even the rest of the undead hierarchy
looked down on them. They were dogs to them,
disposable foot soldiers.
As the wretchedness of the swamps reach their
end, thick and creeping roots form into endless,
white forests, known simply as the Labyrinth to those
in the mortal lands. The Labyrinth was just as likely
to kill you if you were lucky enough to avoid the
many breeds of vampires that live within its
protection. Harvestmen: grotesque and disfigured
vampires that at some point were born out of dark
magic, their bodies contorted, and their bones
twisted and reformed to create a visceral beast.
Hunstmen vampires resembled the torso and thighs
of a mortal man or woman, their genitals exposed
and rotten. Their shinbones snapped and reformed
backwards like a dog, and their feet clawed like some
great bird, which they used to run at great speed to
complete a hunt, and hold their prey still as they eat
every available inch of flesh and organs, then drain
them of blood. Where arms should be, the Hunstmen
instead grew appendages that resembled malformed
chicken wings, and at the end grew long and
serrated, fleshy scythes, which protruded sharp and
dangerous fragments of bone. Their heads resembled
an elongated human full that had been twisted out of
shape, bisected through the mouth, and twisted away
from the jaw. Huntsmen were extremely rare to see
close to mortal towns, legend has it they can survive
without a meal for months on end, and sleep in some
nocturnal state of hibernation. When they come to
feed however, they come in packs, and they do not
stop until they are full, or dead.
Untold variations of each vampire breed existed,
each growing their own anomalies and
abnormalities, some that made them even more
dangerous, and some that hindered them. Within the
Labyrinth, a great number of other breeds lived
alongside their damned brethren, some of which had
never even left the safety of their forested home.
At the very back of Darkmarsh, within the
blackened hills and rivers that now flowed with
blood, rather than water, existed the manors and
mansions, castles and keeps or the vampiric
overlords, the Dawnbroods. This race of vampire,
genetically, were nothing special, they look like
mortals, they speak like mortals, and they fuck like
monsters on drugs.
The Dawnbrood are cunning, they are clever,
and retain their mortal knowledge, and are thirsty to
learn more to bolster their reserves of persuasion and
intimidation. The problem with Dawnbroods, is that
they are the race who strive for immortality, whereas
the other repugnant breeds of blood suckers merely
want a full belly, and for the fire beneath their skin
that the thirst brings to be dampened. The
Dawnbroods are capable of learning blood magic,
once they are of a certain age, which makes for a very
problematic fight should they feel the need to employ
such dark and arcane rituals, it is best to kill them off
as quickly as possible from the time they are sired by
They are the biggest threat to the mortals below,
for they are just as cunning and malicious as them.
The heavy splatter of mud beneath horse hoof
miraculously sounded out louder than the rain within that
fell upon Skitabaer, where Wren remained firmly planted
inside the tavern. A horse and cart, with a wobbling and
broken wheel, made its slow and cumbersome way
through the sea of mud that made the towns floor. Fires
were lit everywhere, burning straw and damp wood
within iron braziers, which gave off an awful amount of
smoke and a strange aroma as it blew in the winds and
rolled along the quagmire of the ground.
‘What is that smell, Brother Cuthbert?’ asked Brother
Lyre, as he held, rather nervously, onto the reigns of the
black horse that pulled he and his master through the
sodden streets of Skitabaer, holding their robes to their
noses and mouths as often as possible, to dampen the
stench of death from their senses.
‘Death, Brother Lyre,’ explained Cuthbert, trying to
contain the vomit from pushing its way out of his lips. ‘It is
the smell of a thousand dead mortals, a thousand dead
vampires, and a thousand shits trampled into the ground,’
he said, his cheeks swelling up, filled with sick. He could
not contain it. Brother Cuthbert popped his head over the
side of the horses and expelled the contents of his breakfast
onto the ground below, where a farmer was trying his best
to plant some crops.
‘Are you fucking serious?’ spat the farmer, wiping
some vomit from his eyes.
‘Apologies, brother!’ smiled Brother Cuthbert, waving
like royalty to the farmer as the cart carried on its way.
‘Get fucked!’ the farmer shouted in the distance.
‘Nice chap,’ Cuthbert remarked to Brother Lyre,
who’s uncertain and worried eyes watched the citizens of
‘There’s something else,’ said Lyre, sniffing at the
aroma of the town like a hungry dog. ‘What is that?’
Brother Cuthbert took a deep inhalation and gave a
face of understanding.
‘Ah,’ said Cuthbert, ‘Garlic, my boy. I would imagine
it is to ward away the undead,’ he explained.
‘During the day?’
‘Well, it can’t hurt to have everything smelling of the
stuff by the time night falls, can it?’
‘I suppose,’ replied Brother Lyre, holding a cloth to his
The further the pair headed into the center of
Skitabaer, the more abundantly clear it because that
something was wrong. Huge crowds of people stood
hugging each other and crying upon each other’s
shoulders, mourning the masses of dead that lay in great
piles, completely covered in blood, like a roast chicken
beneath a pour of gravy.
Intestines, lungs, stomachs and all hung out of the
corpses gaping maws, some occasionally coming loose and
dropping down the bodies in a squelch and sudden plop
as they hit the pool of blood and mud at their base.
Those who stood in mourning, crying, and screaming
for their newly dead, also harboured some who coughed
‘Oh, my lord!’ panted Lyre, holding the reigns of the
horse so tight the skin around his knuckles may well just
rip open. ‘Vampires?’ he panicked, turning to Brother
Cuthbert who looked at the piles of bodies at the roadside.
‘We are not sure, Brother Lyre, this blight has
emerged, seemingly from nowhere, of course the
vampires, however, are the most likely culprits, those
disease-ridden monstrosities!’ spat Cuthbert, before seeing
someone’s bowl fall and rip from their mouth.
‘Oh fuck,’ gurgled Brother Cuthbert yet more vomit
pushed its way out of his mouth, and down over his
vestments which steamed in the cold air of Skitabaer.
‘Cuthbert!’ protested Lyre at his master’s imprecations.
‘Oh, fuck off, Lyre, his guts fell out of his mouth!’
heaved Cuthbert, before wiping some sick on the back of
his arm and wiping it on Lyre when his attention was
‘How long has this been going on?’ asked Lyre as
onwards he steered the horse and cart, the broken wheel
dipping and sliding into every small hole in the ground.
‘The are hundreds of bodies here, why were we not asked
to come sooner?’
‘That’s just it,’ Brother Cuthbert said.
‘The first death occurred last night, after the vampire
attack, it just happened. One, then another, then another,
now look at it, this is an epidemic!’ said a worried Cuthbert.
‘All of this, from one night?’ spat Brother Lyre, holding
the religious symbol that hung from his neck. ‘There has to
be at least a hundred corpses here!’
‘I know, I know,’ said Cuthbert, swatting away a great
swarm of flies that lingered in their thousands around the
piles of bloodied corpses, laying maggots in their quickly
rotting flesh that pulsated from their eyes.
‘Come, the tavern is up a head, Brother Lyre, perhaps
he will be able to help in some way,’ nodded Cuthbert with
a nervous, inwards smile.
‘Who?’ asked a perplexed Lyre.
An awkward silence fell on the two, as Cuthbert
remained unresponsive, but looking dead ahead at the
tavern at the edge of town.
‘Cuthbert?’ asked Lyre, perturbed by the quiet.
‘Him,’ said, Cuthbert, quietly, nodding forward, then
lowering his head.
The wholehearted, religious, and ever pleasant
Brother Lyre looked a head, as the door opened, a tall and
well-built man, still shirtless, stood within its entrance,
sucking something from his finger.
‘Fuck,’ smiled Lyre.
The horse and cart rolled, or rather wobbled, into the
courtyard of the tavern, which was bordered in a crescent
by hitching posts and horse troughs.
A great pile of burned remained, charred skeletons
beneath a layer of black mulch, sat outside it, the mud
around their base a deep and stagnant scarlet.
Looking to the black and volcanic, solid pile of
something that lay next to it, with a wooden torch stuck
into its centre, Lyre nodded in understanding with a face of
‘That will be the excommunicated vampire then, I take
it, Cuthbert?’ asked Lyre.
‘I suppose it will,’ nodded Cuthbert.
Cuthbert, carefully making his way down from the
carriage, dropped with a squelch and made his way over
to the tavern door, his boots slipping inwards and
outwards as he tried to navigate the unforgiving ground.
He approached with a hand extended, his exquisitely
crafted leather glove unmarred by blood or scuffs.
‘Brother Cuthbert,’ introduced Cuthbert, with a smile
and an expectant hand.
‘Cuthbert?’ sighed Wren, ‘what kind of fucking name
is that?’ he mocked, then looked to Brother Lyre has he too
hopped down from the carriage.
No sooner had Lyre’s boots hit the mud, had the
slipped onto his back in the mud, sending splatters of it up
into the air and back down onto his face.
‘Fucks sake,’ sighed Wren, rubbing his forehead with
the flat of his palm.
‘Brother Lyre,’ proclaimed Lyre, holding his hand
upwards to the sky from the ground. ‘Pleasure to meet you,
‘The pleasures all yours,’ said Wren, as he looked
down at Cuthbert’s outstretched hand and remained
stalwart in his refusal to shake it. Cuthbert smiled
nervously in understanding, then went to help Lyre to his
feet. ‘And it’s just Wren,’ he said loudly from the doorway.
‘No last name?’ asked Cuthbert, steading Lyre as he
stood trying to wipe the mud from his face.
‘None that’s any of your fucking business.’
‘Very well,’ said Cuthbert, hand in hand with Lyre as
they traversed the unsteady ground towards the tavern.
‘Well isn’t that cute,’ said Wren as the two came to
stand before him. ‘So, you’re the doctors then?’
‘We are here to inspect the area, mainly, Wren. We will
take some samples and be on our way, I am sure you are a
busy man,’ explained Brother Cuthbert.
The hulking frame of Wren walked into the grey light
of day, and he seemed a tad disgruntled. He stood before
the pair, his eyes shifting between each of them, and
squinting in suspicion.
‘On your way to where?’ grunted Wren.
‘To the monastery,’ answered Lyre, nervously.
Brother Cuthbert placed his hand on Brother Lyre’s
shoulder and stood between he and Wren, his eyes glazing
over from subdued panic.
‘Tÿrn,’ said Cuthbert.
Wren scowled, his silence asking the question for
more information, so his exhausted tongue, that still tasted
of Keris, did not need to.
‘It arrived in Tÿrn seven days ago,’ said Cuthbert,
‘seven days ago?’ asked Wren.
‘Yes,’ nodded Cuthbert. ‘Exactly the same as here:
blood, guts and bodies.’
Wren scratched his beard.
‘Tÿrn has the best doctors in Darkmarsh, the biggest
healing halls, why is it you’ve bothered coming this far out?
Tÿrn is what, three hundred fucking miles away?’
‘Because it has spread this far in a matter of days,
Wren, what plague have you encountered before that
spreads that fast?’
‘Religion,’ sneered Wren.
‘Wren, please,’ said Cuthbert. ‘May I see the bodies?’
The low, freezing fog rolled around the tavern,
creeping over the charred corpses and through the spaces
between their blackened bones. Wren gestured with his
‘And their clothes?’ asked Brother Cuthbert as he
walked round to the cart he had rode with, pulling black a
large black cloth and removing a wooden box of
examination tools, which he brought back and struggled to
carry whilst maintaining his balance.
‘Clothes are round the back, buried in the dirt,’ said
‘Wonderful, thank you,’ smiled Cuthbert, waiting for
Wren to take him.
‘You’ll be needing a shovel then, won’t you,’ smirked
Wren, ‘there’s one round the back, shout me if you need
anything. Time for breakfast.’
With that, Wren slammed the tavern door shut and
left Brother Cuthbert and Brother Lyre to their business,
exhuming the clothes of the plague victims and carrying
out whatever examinations they wanted.
‘Fuck,’ sighed Cuthbert, as the rain began to pour
again and run down his chin, before turning to Lyre. ‘Get
Back inside the comforts of the tavern, Wren sat
himself down in a chair by the fire, freshly stocked with
logs, and took a deep breath.
‘Hungry?’ smiled Keris, who brought over a large iron
pan to place over the fire, with thick slices of smoked bacon
lined within it.
‘Ravenous,’ smiled Wren, unsure whether the sight of
Keris or the breakfast was making his mouth water.
Keris poured a little oil from a small pot into the pan,
and the bacon began to sizzle and crisp. She cracked four
eggs on the brickwork above the hearth and carefully
poured them into the pan as well.
Wren extended a hand and rubbed the back of her leg,
more lovingly than seductively, she turned and smiled at
‘Thank you,’ said Wren, respectfully, ‘for everything.’
‘Well it’s not every day you get to keep the company
of Wren, the legendary vampire slayer, is it?’ beamed Keris,
before turning to move the bacon around in the pan with a
‘You’re different, you know that?’ said Wren,
‘You’re not so bad yourself,’ she grinned, before
leaning over and kissing Wren on the cheek.
‘And legendary vampire slayer, ay?’ chuckled Wren.
‘I thought it would be legendary drunkard, or legendary
bastard,’ he grinned with a raised eyebrow.
‘Either way,’ said Keris, sprinkling some salt and
pepper into the pan, ‘legendary.’
The two sat and ate a rather civilized breakfast with a
side of footsie under the table as they ate, the hustle and
bustle of the day springing to life outside, as louder the
voices from the street became. Keris sighed.
‘Opening time soon,’ she muttered, placing her fork
down onto her silver plate.
‘I guess so,’ grunted Wren.
‘So, what do you reckon, with the bodies.’
‘Fucked if I know. Somethings not right, those two
fuckwits outside came all the way from Tÿrn, said its there
as well. Speaking of which, I should go and see what
Keris nodded in understanding.
Wren stood and grabbed his things. He laced up his
boots, buttoned up his black shirt and padded armour and
grabbed his sword which gleamed in the sunlight that
penetrated the glass of the tavern’s windows.
‘Do you ever use the sword,’ asked Keris, running a
finger around her lips.
‘If I must. If there are more than perhaps two of the
blood suckers. I like to get up close and fucking personal
though, you know?’
‘Oh, I know,’ winked Keris, sucking her finger at
Wren. He smiled in appreciation. ‘Be nice to them out there,
‘I’ll be something, all right,’ he nodded.
‘Now come and give me a kiss before you leave.’
The two kissed, and enjoyed the moment, then the
groans and grunts of Brother Cuthbert and Brother Lyre
could be heard from outside.
‘I’ll be back for you,’ groaned Wren.
‘I’ll hold you to that.’
‘Good, because see that wall over there? I’m going to
hold you to that,’ smirked Wren.
‘You better,’ giggled Keris.
Outside the rain fell in a fine mist, collecting on the
leaves of trees until they were heavy enough to drop their
watery load to the mud below. Horses neighed from
beneath their leaking stables, exhaling hot breath through
their great nostrils as they watched to the holy men do their
best to dig through the marshy ground.
‘How deep did he bury them?’ panted Brother Lyre,
wiping the mud and rain from his face, the foggy breath
from his mouth tiny in comparison to the horses behind
‘Deep enough,’ grunted Wren as he approached,
sliding his sword into a scabbard that ran down his back.
‘Give me the fucking shovel.’
Wren dug up the sodden earth as if fatigue nor breath
hindered him, he was an absolute machine of a man. After
a short while, his shovel bashed against something with a
rotten thud. He smiled at his unwanted companions.
‘There you go,’ said Wren, nodding to a grubby chest
beneath the soil.
There was an awkward silence as both Cuthbert and
Lyre continuously looked back and forth between the chest
and the fabled vampire killer, hoping the other Brother or
Wren would offer to haul it from its muddy grave first.
Wren stared at Lyre with an unwavering focus.
‘With all due respect, Mr. Wren,’ started Lyre,
dithering as he tried to explain.
‘It’s just Wren,’ sighed Wren.
‘With all due respect, Wren, I’m not getting in the
Wren stared at Brother Lyre, tensing the well chiseled
muscles that caressed his jawbone and furling his brow.
‘Get in the fucking hole.’
‘Ok, I’ll get in the hole,’ panicked a nervous Brother
Lyre, who may or may not have shit his trousers. With
some grunting, holy prayer, and just a pinch of profanity,
Brother Lyre scraped the mud from the side of the chest
and did his best to hold it to the top of the hole. His arms
shook from the weight, and his arms almost gave way
under the strain.
Suddenly the weight was alleviated, as with one
strong pull, Wren gripped the container by its top corners
and pulled it from Brother Lyre, effortlessly.
The container was thrown to the ground in an
expulsion of sludge as it hit the muddy ground, sliding
back a few feet as it slowly turned.
‘Thank you,’ said a thankful Brother Lyre, as Brother
Cuthbert rather clumsily did his best to help him out of the
hole, almost falling in himself.
The two came to Wren and opened the coffer, and
took out the clothes inside, laying them out respectfully
onto the dirt in rows. Brother Cuthbert brought his archaic
tools of inspection to the clothes and began to examine
them, murmuring between themselves as they rummaged
through the belongings of the deceased.
Wren stood back and watched as the day continued
and the clothes were placed into certain groups, and the
contents of their pockets placed within jars. He felt the chill
of the night slowly dragging its way into his senses, and
those senses slowly began to ignite beneath his skin.
‘Wren, a moment, please,’ asked Brother Cuthbert,
Wren obliged, hearing Keris’ request tingle in his ears.
‘What is it, priest?’
‘Why did you keep the clothes?’ asked Brother
‘Out of respect, I suppose. People can claim a necklace
or a ring, they can’t claim a plague-ridden corpse that’s
been burnt to a crisp,’ explained Wren, as politely as he
‘That’s very thoughtful of you.’
‘Come, come and see what myself and Brother Lyre
have found,’ encouraged Cuthbert.
Throughout the course of the day, the clothes were
laid out into groups, each of them retaining a certain
specific aesthetic. Some were obvious to Wren, including
the long leather shawls and pointed hats of Skitabaer. He
could see a few vestments of the people of Fensaling, that
resided near the marshlands: thick fur coats and hats made
form hide that hung long behind their neck. There were
one or two others, which he couldn’t quite place at the time,
but next to Cuthbert and Lyre on the floor, were clothing
Wren glanced to Cuthbert and Lyre, who produced
jars and jars full of trinkets, jewelry, and coins.
‘Found anything?’ asked Wren, scratching his chin.
‘Wren, these jars,’ panicked Cuthbert.
‘What about them?’
‘Every single person had an item from Tÿrn,
somewhere in their clothing.’
‘They had all at some point recently passed through
Tÿrn! These are all seasonal items, crafted and sold only
within the last fortnight!’
‘So, what’s your fucking point?’ grunted Wren.
‘The first deaths in Tÿrn appeared a week ago Wren,
and these people must have passed through our borders
anywhere up to two weeks ago,’ panicked Brother
‘So, this thing takes two weeks to grow inside of you?’
‘It would appear so,’ said Cuthbert, rubbing his face to
displace the rain and mud.
‘Like some sort of fucking larvae,’ grunted Wren. ‘Do
we know what’s causing it?’
‘No, Wren,’ sighed Cuthbert. ‘But these people have at
some point been in contact with each other, whether it be
in Tÿrn or once they arrived here in Skitabaer.’
‘Fuck,’ sneered Wren, ‘Skitabaer has communal meals
every evening in their hall. They eat together before
nightfall before returning to their homes. Hundreds of
them will have touched each other in some way.’
‘Fuck,’ whispered Brother Cuthbert, as he gave the
sign of some religious symbol on his chest with his finger.
‘So, we need to keep people apart then?’ asked Wren.
‘For now, I suppose,’ said Cuthbert.
The sky suddenly grew slightly darker, causing Wren
and the priests to turn to the skies.
‘Fuck,’ they all said in unison at the approach of night.
‘We’ll carry on this discussion in the morning, if you’re
still alive,’ grunted Wren, hearing the townsfolk coughing
and spluttering as they left the hall for the night.
A splatter of heavy and sliding footsteps approached,
and Brother Lyre held on to his master’s robes to steady
himself in the rain.
‘Brother Cuthbert, where do we hide?’ panicked Lyre.
‘Wren?’ panicked Cuthbert. ‘In Tÿrn we have the
fortress of King Tollbierd, where we all take shelter for the
night in the mountains. I see nothing like that here?’
‘No,’ explained Wren, looking out into the shitcoloured
Skitabaer. ‘They keep in their homes at night.
Only Dawnbroods come as far as Skitabaer. None of them
are old enough yet to enter a home without invitation,’ said
‘Do you have somewhere we can stay? A home, a
‘A rat-infested cellar?’ whimpered Lyre as Wren
pulled open the cellar doors that lay beneath a small layer
of wet straw.
‘Get in,’ said Wren. ‘I’ll make sure you’re fed in the
morning. Whatever you do, whatever you hear, even if its
me, do not open this fucking door. Do you understand? If
one door to a building is penetrated, the whole fucking
thing becomes open to the damned. There’s plenty of wine
down there, have fun boys,’ winked Wren.
‘What about food?’ screamed Lyre as Wren pushed
them down into the cellar.
‘Cook a rat, I don’t give a fuck,’ grunted Wren as he
shut the doot with a bang, then placed a large metal spike
through the handles. Not so anything could not get in, but
so the stupid fucks inside couldn’t get out. ‘Night, night!’ he
shouted, banging on the door with his foot.
The chorus of insects began to chirp, and a cold shiver
ran over Wren’s skin, he snarled his scarred face in
understanding their song: Nights approach. Without
wasting any time, scattered a little more of the sodden
straw over the cellar door then made his way inside the
‘You’ve been out there all day,’ smiled Keris, who
seemed happy to see Wren, who stood tall and wet from
the rain. ‘You’re dripping.’
‘Makes a change,’ smiled Wren.
‘cheeky,’ blushed Keris, fanning herself with her hand.
Wren approached her and tentatively tucked a loose strand
of hair back behind her ear, then stroked the side of her soft
face with his thumb.
Keri’s hazel eyes looked up to find Wren’s staring into
hers. It was protection, it was adoration, it was respect. Hell,
it could even have been love, but Wren wouldn’t know
what that felt like, he hadn’t felt it in so long. He did,
however, know that there something different about the
serving girl, something that held him firmly in place. It was
unusual for Wren to allow his guard to lowered, but the
girls skin was like soothing balm for the slayer of the
undead. The truly horrifying things he had seen seemed to
become forgotten memories in her presence.
‘Didn’t open the tavern today?’ asked Wren, his low
and gravelly voice sending shivers over her skin, causing
the fine hairs on her arms to stand on end.
‘No, not today. I didn’t want anyone coming in and
coughing their arse hole out of their mouth,’ said Keris,
with a smile.
‘Good,’ said Wren, squeezing her shoulders, gently.
‘The two-choir boy’s think that this thing is spread by
contact. In the morning I need to speak to the town mayor,
see if he can arrange some sort of measures to put in place,
I don’t know.’
‘Contact?’ said Keris, ‘do you think we should keep
our distance? I don’t want any arse holes coming out of
mouth’s in this tavern,’ she panicked.
Wren held her firmly, and leant into her ear, so the
softness of his lips could just about be felt against her, and
his hot breath pulsated into it.
‘I think we’ve already covered arse holes to mouth’s,
darling.’ Smiled Wren before moving.
Keris turned bright red, the hairs on her body standing
so far on end they might have just taken flight.
‘Fetch some ales,’ nodded Wren. ‘I need to get ready,’
he said, as he left the tavern.
‘What for?’ shouted Keris, before Wren reappeared
moments later, brandishing two great wooden cases that
he had left by his horse in the stable, which he threw to the
ground, causing the cases to fly open, exposing with them
a plethora of agonizingly sharp killing devices. Wren
smiled and looked to Keris.
‘For what the night brings.’
The freezing fog of Skitabaer rolled along the muddy
ground, which seemingly hardened as night fell, for the
stars brought with them a freezing cold. The pathways
from the centre of town were canopied with tunnels of
wood, covered with outward spikes, which held the
skeletal remains of fledgling, blood-hungry vampires, and
hung with garlic in various stages of rot. Burning torches
were pinned to their walls to keep the walkways lit
throughout the night, and to act as a last resort if a weapon
were needed to defend against a creature of the dead.
The small stone houses of those that lived in the
town were similar in archaic design to their rotting
walkways, covered in spikes, or rusted barbed wire, and
decorated with hanging garlic.
The night moaned throughout the streets of
Skitabaer, it curled and coiled the fog against the signposts
and fences, against the piles of burnt corpses that had
recently expelled the contents of their bodies, blanketing
the ground. From far off into the night, against that black
canvas that stretched further than the eye could see, the
sounds of the damned could be heard in their hordes,
travelling the length and breadth of the dominion they
called home in search of that which sustained them: blood;
warm and fresh.
Keris hung out bunches of garlic around the inside
of the tavern, an unnecessary precaution perhaps, but even
so, it made her feel more comfortable. As she hung the
garlic, she watched Wren equipping some of the items
from his cases, placing within straps on his belt, legs, arms
and jacket. She could see so many, and she was sure he had
more hidden away.
Buttoning up his black and padded jacket, Wren
looked to Keris and nodded.
‘Whatever you do, don’t open that door,’ said
Wren, as softly as his hoarse voice could ask.
‘I know the drill,’ said Keris, who poured an ale
and brought it to Wren, drinking the tankard full before
giving it back. ‘Whatever you do, make sure you come
back. Got it?’
‘Got it,’ smiled Wren, licking the beer from his lips,
some of the foam still stuck to his moustache and beard. He
untied his hair and shook it out, which fell to below his
‘I like it like this,’ said Keris, running her fingers
through his hair, which was surprisingly soft.
‘Maybe I’ll wear it down for you,’ he winked,
before retying his hair tightly to to the top of his head in a
‘Why no ponytail?’
‘Gives the bloodsuckers something to grab. Same
reason I don’t wear a cloak,’ he suggested, showing that his
padded armour had attached to it a hood, which was
buttoned to his back and his chest. He inspected his sword
which shined rather aggressively in the lowly lit tavern. He
nodded to himself in satisfaction, then placed it with its
sheath on his back, then walked to the door, placing a
flattened palm against it, softly.
‘Promise me you’ll keep safe, and get some sleep,’
asked Wren, his head against the wooden door.
‘I’ll keep safe, I promise, Wren. As for sleep, well, I
don’t think I’ll be sleeping tonight,’ said Keris, who could
be heard loading a crossbow somewhere within the tavern.
‘Alright,’ smiled Wren.
‘So now what?’ asked Keris.
‘Now,’ said Wren, turning his head to face her.
‘Now I go and kill some fucking vampires!’ grinned Wren,
as from outside in the streets of Skitabaer came the
harrowing screams and guttural cries of the living dead.
‘Keep that body warm for me,’ he said.
Outside, the door to the tavern was kicked open
and out walked Wren, who inhaled and exhaled in the
freezing night air, his breath turning to clouds before him.
The door to the tavern shut closed as it swung backwards,
then was triple locked from the inside.
‘Show time,’ smiled Wren.
Wren walked into the streets of Skitabaer, as the
fog washed around his feet like the shores of a beach, and
the screams of vampires could be heard in the darkness,
flittering around the sky like formless banshees. He smiled
as he tensed his gloved fists, walking into the middle of the
town. Whether Skitabaer was as troubled by vampires in
this number every night was still unclear to Wren, or
perhaps the smell of his blood, in their communal and hive
like nostrils had brought them in great number was still to
be seen. Either way, Wren could not give a fuck.
As he walked into town, the lights in the houses
around town went off, drawing attention away from their
homes as the candles within were extinguished. Whether
Wren could remember how to use magic or not, magic was
still soaked into his flesh, and it was not uncommon for the
strange force to help now and again.
Suddenly, all around him, without figures or
forms that could be seen, the burning torches around the
town were extinguished one by one, causing the town of
Skitabaer to be completely consumed in darkness, apart
from the full moon high in the sky, which suddenly caught
‘Fucks sake,’ grunted Wren, looking at the giant
moon above him. He knew the trouble the full moon
brought with certain breeds of vampire, and how
sometimes they planned feeding patterns to coincide with
the lunar event to benefit from its power.
More of the torches were snuffed out, followed
with maniacal giggling and painful wheezing, as if a crowd
of people were struggling to breathe through punctured
lungs. The lights to the town were fully extinguished, then
the thud, thud, thud of many, many forms could be heard
landing on the roofs of houses and into the ground below.
‘Oh no, the dark, I’m so fucking scared,’ mocked
Wren, miming someone being terrified by flailing his arms.
He focused his eyes, and an unnatural gift came about him,
one which had developed back in the days of his young
captivity. As if on command, Wren’s eyes began to darken,
his eyeballs became black, and his pupils became a shade
of extremely pale blue, and in an instant, the darkness of the
town started to brighten, as if Wren were seeing in daylight
through sapphire tinted spectacles. He looked around and
found to be surrounded.
‘Dawnbroods,’ grunted Wren, snarling at the
undead that swarmed around him. They perched on the
top of houses, in their long, black drapery: a fashion style
the hierarchy of the Dawnbrood covenants had
systematically employed for those of a certain age. These
were the ones to look out for, it was a clear indication of
their age and potentially power.
Wren looked on, as the vampires watched him,
crawling down the sides of houses and down the tall
buildings of Skitabaer, defying nature as they crawled on
all fours like animals down their walls. He saw
Dawnbroods which didn’t wear the telltale vestments, and
who fumbled here and there as they traversed the
architecture of the town.
‘Fledglings,’ smiled Wren, knowing full well these
were the newly dead, unsure of their abilities, reckless in
their tactics and ravenous in their hunger for fresh blood.
‘You pieces of shit,’ he grunted. ‘I see you.’
The monsters crawled down the disheveled
buildings and down onto the ground, some on all fours
while others of noticeably older age chose to hover just
above the dirt, the pompous pricks.
‘Seems like a lot of you ugly cunts for one feed,
doesn’t it?’ shouted Wren as he looked around, noticing the
vampires had him in a complete circle. With every beat of
his heavy heart, Wren’s vision altered. With every forceful
pump of blood around his body, Wren’s nocturnal vision
flashed outowards in a visible explosion only he could see.
A pulse would shoot out across the area, scanning every
nook and cranny, bringing to light form and movement.
This was a strange skill he had developed as he escaped the
vampire nest as a child, and it was a skill the vampires
themselves used, not dissimilar to the echo location skill of
He saw them crawling, he saw them standing and
he saw the ones who hid, biding their time to strike.
‘I see every last fucking one of you.’ His echo
location scanned the area, bringing to his attention the
many piles of corpses of the townspeople who had died
from the plague only today, their blood scent still hanging
heavy in the air, possibly a cause to the amount of vampires
who had gathered here.
‘Did their flesh bring you here?’ shouted Wren,
stalwart in the night. ‘Or was it me? The unobtainable prize,
the pot of gold at the end of the blood-red fucking rainbow!’
he growled. He grinned at the horde of vampires that
crawled closer around the borders of the town. ‘Dinner’s
served you fucking mongrels,’ he said as he withdrew his
sword, which reflected the glow of the moon like a
lighthouses beacon, ‘come and take a bite.’
Listening through undead ears, as if some great
flag had been dropped to signal the attack, the vampires
came. Wren kept his ground and tightened the grip around
his sword as a small horde of Dawnbroods descended
upon him, screaming with cocky arrogance as they ran on
all fours. They leapt into the night and came down with
forceful ferocity, their claws outstretched.
Wren ran into the fray, slicing upwards in an arc
and bringing his sword through the dick of an air bourne
vampire. The sword went clean through its groin, up
through its belly and then curved outwards slightly, to
ensure the blade severed the heart in two, a magnetic pull
that always guided Wren’s blade, ensuring a blow as
forceful as that would always strike the heart.
The bisected vampire split off into halves as it fell
to the ground, his guts spilling below him in a steaming
heap which he frantically scraped together in some futile
attempt to rejoin himself, but it was too late, his severed
heart had already begun to do its job. The vampires flesh
began to crack and blacken, with molten fire erupting from
the splinters of broken flesh, until the vampire ignited and
became ash on the wind.
The heart of a fledgling Dawnbrood did not have
to be eviscerated or destroyed to kill the monster, but it was
a surefire technique. Sometimes, if the brutality were
monstrous enough, dismembering the body of a fledgling
Dawnbrood would kill it as well. Still, if you wanted to be
sure, get rid of the fucker’s heart.
‘Scrraaargh!’ screamed a Dawnbrood from behind
Wren, that sundered towards him like a rabid beast and
leapt like dog at its prey. Screaming obscenities through a
Wren stepped forwards, without breaking a sweat,
and waited until the creature was a foot from him. Wren
gripped the fiend by its hair as it almost had him and spun
him round before bringing the beast to a stop.
‘First week is it?’ mocked Wren, quickly dragging
the vampire along the floor over to an iron gate that sat at
the front of a garden path. ‘Let me tell you now, never run
at me, it’s the most pointless thing you can do,’ he grunted.
The vampire lashed out with its blackened claws, trying to
tear the flesh from Wren’s arms, but it was no use, his grip
was too strong, and the padded armour around Wren’s
arms made hard work to scratch through. With one strong
pull, Wren hoisted the vampire upwards and snapped its
body down, monstrously hard, upon the iron gate. The
iron spikes that lined the gate burst outwards through the
vampires flesh, sending spurts of bright red blood out into
the air, spurting, and pouring back down over the
The monster fitted and gargled as blood poured
from its nostrils and mouth. Wren did not seem satisfied.
With a great push, Wren pushed the monster
down further onto the gate, causing a great scream
followed by a waterfall of blood to the stone path below.
‘No, not enough,’ he said, as if trying to perfect a
work of art. Grabbing the vampires arm he raised it up then
impaled it upon the gate as well, then he snapped the
creatures hand, exposing bloodied bone beneath, and
impale the hand too. He did the same for the arm, and also
a leg, leaving a contorted, bleeding and screaming mess on
somebody’s gate. ‘Oh shut the fuck up,’ snarled Wren,
before holding the vampires head back and placing three
fingers within its mouth along its jaw and pulling the lower
half of its face clean off, leaving a bloody and torn tongue
to wag in the cold night air. ‘I know what you’re thinking,’
Wren said quickly before he left, ’that it didn’t kill you?
That’s because it wasn’t meant to. I bet you’re missing a
sunrise real bad, aren’t you?’ he smiled.
The howls and screams of the undead rang out
around him, and he turned to face them in their great
‘Must be at least thirty of them,’ he scowled,
looking around, at the small horde of the damned
approaching him on all fours, floating, and walking with
cocky arrogance towards him. ‘Fucks sake,’ he sighed.
Wren gripped his sword and began to run into the
fray, anger and recklessness fueling his battle fever. The
vampires charged too, exposing their long and jagged fags
in the moonlight. ‘Wren’ they groaned in unison, their hive
mind working to control each of their voices.
The forces of darkness charged their singular
target, who seemed undeterred by their threats. Wren
reached into his belt and withdrew some small silver balls,
which he cast outwards into the crowd, and as they landed,
they cracked and exploded, and from within them a
momentary bright and violet light was expelled.
The vampires were stunned, dazed and
momentarily blinded by the light, but they could hear quite
clearly in the confusion, the sound of their kin being
bisected and their rotten guts falling to the ground in
sloppy piles, and some exploding in piles of molten ash.
The vampires rubbed their eyes, snarling and
screaming into the cold night air of Skitabaer, crouching
down low, claws and fangs out in a display of dominance.
They sniffed the air and mourned their dying children at
‘Up here you stupid fucking idiots,’ came a
familiar gravelly voice from somewhere up above. The
vampires looked up, but Wren was already on his way
down. His sword came down through the skull of a female
vampire, but it didn’t quite go all the way through, her
body was split down the middle but only to her belly.
The monster screamed and gargled as best her
broken vocal cords could produce, the two sides of her
body flopping away from each other, with sinewy strands
of flesh and congealed blood sticking to either side of her
severed halves like string.
‘Fuck!’ spat Wren, then with two violent hacks,
managed to cut his way through the creatures belly and
groin, leaving her to split completely and drop away from
his sword, she promptly began to blacken and crack and
erupt into a corpse on fire, before blowing away in the
The vampire horde screamed and ran for him.
‘Fuck,’ sighed Wren. He ran and bounded over the
back of a vampire who sat on the ground trying to figure
out a way to rejoin his severed limb, then made his way to
the houses either side of the town center. He needed a way
up. ‘Fuck, fuck!’ he snapped, looking for a way upwards,
before spotting a wooden frame nailed to the side of a
house, which grew ivy up it.
Grabbing the flimsy wooden support, Wren made
his way to a window ledge, then gripped to the thatched
roof, grabbing the fronds with all his might to pull himself
up. Wren panted, covered in blood, as if he had taken a
bath in the stuff, and wiped his nose to displace a heavy,
From behind him, he could hear the undead
bastards climbing up the side of the house with
supernatural ease, scrambling like rats in a cellar. They
mounted the roof, snarling and snapping like vicious dogs.
‘Oh, fuck off, will you!’ shouted Wren, slashing his
‘Come home, Wren,’ the vampires said in unison.
‘The nest misses you,’
‘Get fucked,’ growled Wren.
The vampires launched themselves forwards,
defying gravity as they flew across the roof on all fours. The
first vampire approached as two stayed back, it came toe to
toe with the slayer.
The vampire swiped outwards, his blacked claws
leaving behind a black shimmer in the air as he attacked,
clearly this Dawnbrood was slightly older than fledgling,
its unholy talents had already started to develop, in this
instance, enhanced claws.
‘Get those things away from me, you prick!’
shouted Wren as he ducked and swerved to dodge the
blows. The vampire screamed in frustration and kicked
Wren hard in the chest.
Wren flew backwards, and fell onto his back with
some powerful force, then rolled backwards over his head
and found his feet, he panted and spat some blood onto the
‘You piece of shit. No one makes me bleed my own
blood!’ spat Wren. He ran towards the creature that leapt
into the air, Wren managed to slide beneath the fiend and
stab it in the belly as it flew over him, slicing its stomach
open in a great flap.
Turning to face the monster, it sat on the floor
vomiting up blood, trying to hold in the contents of its torso
but failing, its intestines and stomach began to spill over its
hands. In the moment of agony, Wren kicked it in the back
of the head, then began to stamp it into the thatched roof,
creating what chefs would refer to, as the perfect
strawberry jam, with bits in it.
The vampire writhed on the ground, its arms
unsure of whether to hold it smashed in head or ripped
open stomach. Wren did not hang around to watch, he
brought his sword down so hard, that it’s guard was flush
against the creatures’ ribs.
In the house below, a terrified father was suddenly
shocked into a sweat, as above his head, a great sword shot
through the roof, and narrowly avoided his head.
Back on the roof, the body exploded into molten
ash, and his attention turned back to the remaining two
vampires on the roof, but that attention was soon stolen. A
cry rang out from somewhere int own, a child screaming.
‘Oh, for fucks sake,’ sighed Wren, looking out into
town to a see a child being backed into a corner by three
Dawnbroods. He looked back to his attackers on the roof.
‘You two stay here, I’ll be back for you in a minute,’ he
grunted before leaping down from the roof and rolling
along the ground as his boots made impact, the vampires
on the roof so too descended and began their chase. Wren
sprinted and vaulted over the iron gate, which still held the
mangled vampire who could not gather the strength to free
‘I told you to fuck wait!’ shouted Wren as he ran
from the vampires, who leapt into the air above the gate as
if weight nor gravity hindered them. The creatures found
their target and grappled Wren to the ground, causing his
blood-soaked face to now become covered in grit and
gravel as well.
‘Urgh!’ groaned Wren as he slid, with his face, a
good few meter’s forwards, causing a small gash to open
on the side of his forehead. ‘Bastards!’ he snarled into the
dirt. Wren screamed and used all his might to push the
vampires on his back off him, and he rolled away and
found his footing. He gestured with his hand for the
vampires to approach.
They looked at each other and grinned, their dark
crimson eyes glowing with glee at the thought of drinking
Wren’s powerful blood. They pelted towards him, and
Wren was ready. He stabbed his sword into the ground
with ease and reached behind his back, to find yet more
items of mayhem strapped to him. He withdrew two small
rusted iron tubes, rusted from use and constant vampire
blood being coated on it. In the blink of an eye, the tubes a
catch on the tubes were release and from both ends of the
metal devices extended great and sharp iron spikes,
forming two vampire murdering javelins.
Wren unleashed them, the iron spikes of woe as he
liked to call them and launched them through the air; they
found their mark. The two javelins pierced the vampires
mid-flight and brought them crashing down to the ground,
impaling them in horrifying contortions into the cobbled
streets of the town center, occasionally slipping down the
spikes an inch or two, but never quite dropping.
Wren quickly ran over to them and detached two
bulbs of fresh garlic from the back of his belt.
‘Open wide, boys.’ He said, before spitting on each
bulb of garlic, then stuffing it in the vampire’s mouths, so
far into their throats that they could not possibly dislodge
them. Before he left them, Wren severed the arms from the
fledgling vampires, who were continuously vomiting over
themselves as they lay impaled, courtesy of the garlic, so
they could not pull it from them maws. The garlic would
hinder their healing processes.
The child screamed again in the distance.
‘Oh, yeah,’ remembered Wren. ‘Don’t eat all that
garlic at once, ok?’ he said, pointing at the vampires. As he
turned, he said the vampires herding the small child into
an alley between two buildings. He immediately picked up
his sword and sprinted after the helpless kid.
‘Fuck, fuck!’ he grumbled to himself as he ran,
covered in blood and dirt with strands of his hair hanging
down over his face. As he sprinted through the town
centre, dispatching fledgling vampires with strikes of his
sword as he did, he wiped the blood from his eyes and tried
to not let the feeling of his empty lungs hinder him. He
gripped his sword tightly and cautiously entered the
alleyway, his nocturnal eyes scanning the area, bringing to
light the hidden shapes that sat in the darkness. At the end
of the alley, in completely and suffocating darkness, he saw
the child, crying and facing the wall, whimpering for his
‘Kid?’ said Wren, as he approached.
Wren shook, he shook with a shiver stronger than
the ones he had felt standing before the most hellish of foes.
As he approached the crying child, his mind flashed back
to a four year old version of himself, stood naked and
shivering in the vampire nest, hiding his face away from
the monstrous landscape behind him, wishing death upon
himself before the vampires once came to feed on his
He shook his head to displace the nightmares.
‘Come on, kid, come with me,’ pleaded Wren,
outstretching his hand. ‘Please.’
‘They’ll get you,’ whimpered the child, hiding his
‘They won’t, they’ll never get me again. I mean,
they won’t get us,’ reassured Wren.
The boy sniffed, then began to wheeze in
uneasiness, which quickly became a strangle howl.
‘Kid?’ grunted Wren.
‘They get all of us eventually,’ the child said.
The child turned round, his eyes a dark crimson
with pupils of glowing rose, his small fingers black.
‘A fucking trick,’ snarled Wren as he bounded over
to the child and lifted him with one hand up to eye level.
As much as he saw the atrocities that this vampire child
must have committed, reflected in its eyes, Wren could not
stop the humanity within him from wavering.
Wren held his sword to the child’s throat.
‘Get out of here, you piece of shit. If I see you in
Skitabaer again, I’ll bury you alive,’ snarled Wren with a
tear in green eyes, then released his grip.
The vampire child simply floated before Wren,
cackling, and giggling like some sort of demon before it
simply floated upwards into the darkness of the sky. Then
the many voices of the vampires left in the town cried out.
‘Wren,’ the vampires groaned behind him.
Wren turned, and found the alleyway filled with
the remaining vampires, all of differing ages but mostly
newly awakened fledglings. They were drapery of
peasants and commoners, indictive of their age. Around
their mouths dripped fresh blood, which splattered around
their feet, steaming in the freezing fog of the town.
No matter how many of the monsters he killed, the
country was full of them, and he could only protect one
town at a time, and even then, there would always be the
one or two stupid enough folks who simply could not stay
in their homes at night.
‘The plague will wipe you out,’ the vampires grinned
in unison. ‘It is only a matter of time.’
‘So, you bastards caused this thing?’
There was silence, the vampires chose not to
respond to the mortal’s questions, instead, they returned
their attention to his flesh, and the blood they could smell
flowing beneath it.
‘The time is upon us, kindred, it is time to feed upon the
fabled one. It would appear, Wren, that you are trapped in this
alley with us,’ the vampires laughed, so sure of their
Wren, with blood covered hands, pushed them
against his blood covered forehead and retightened his
blood covered bun at the top of his head, then spat a
mouthful of his own onto the ground, which caused the
vampires to salivate and drip saliva at the smell of it.
Wren placed his sword with his sheath and
exhaled a hot breath.
‘It’s a shame,’ snarled Wren, as placed his hands
behind his back, unhooking something from a pack, which
he began to pull, in great lengths, down to his boots.
‘Yes. You see, I’m not stuck in here with you,’ he
said, as he walked into the moonlight, bringing to light the
great length of barbed razor wire that he held in his hands,
which hung down to the ground like whips, and connected
somewhere within the pack on his back. He looked at the
vampires and grinned. ‘You’re stuck in here with me!’
‘Fuck,’ the vampires said in unison, looking at each
other for someone to take leadership and front the attack.
The vampires began to scream and panic, some scaled the
walls in attempt to escape, and some arched their backs and
flexed their claws. Either way, it would seem, in the politest
way possible to say, they were fucked.
Wren began to stride forwards, whipping his great
whips of barbed razor wire outwards, snapping at the
undead horde in the alleyway. With one almighty crack,
Wren whipped his wire at a vampire on the wall, the wire
constricted around him, boring into its flesh so deep that
the barbs no longer appeared visible. Lines of blood began
to appear on the creature’s skin, pooling out streams of
blood as the wire struck down to the bone and constricting
‘Suck on this!’ shouted Wren, quickly losing his
energy from the continuous fighting and running. He
pulled his razor wire back, moving it side to side as he did
to absolutely mangle his foes flesh. The creature fell to the
ground, its pale skin flayed into a bloody pile beside it, its
muscle and tendons hanging loosely around its bones on
the floor which steamed violently. The skeletal, muscle
barren arm of the beast raised in agony, its intact heart still
hidden within its enforced rib cage.
‘Let me die! Finish me off!’ the vampire screamed,
pleading for death.
‘Not yet, prick,’ spat Wren. He brought down three
more vampires from the wall, one of them succumbing to
death as the razor wire found its way in between its rib cage
and ripped its heart to mush, igniting it on the spot.
Onward Wren walked, flushing the vampires out
of the alley as they became to scream and run. Wren
whipped his razor wire forwards, wrapping it around four
vampires that ran close together. The barbed wire wrapped
around their entire bodies in some supernatural way, it cut
into their faces and their mouths, exposing bone and
muscle and veins that hung out of open wounds. The more
they ran, the more they struggled, the deeper and more
violently the wire wove it’s way further into their dead
‘Graaaargghh!’ groaned Wren as he pulled his
wires back, twisting the vampires into a heap on the
ground, flooding the alley with crimson ichor.
He ran forwards, as a fiend crouched before him in
a display of dominance, but it was too little too late. Wren
leapt over him, release his razor wire with and quickly
pulling another line of it from his pack. As he vaulted over
the monster, he flipped forwards and pushed his razor
wires down, making a noose from it, and garroting it
around his attacker’s throat. He landed on the ground, his
arms backwards with the vampire behind him facing the
opposite way, with its head firmly in the barbed noose.
‘Don’t lose your fucking head, will you?’ spat
Wren, then with one sharp pull, wrenched the razor noose
hard, taking the vampires head clean off.
Wren crouched on one knee, panting heavily, and
spitting more blood from a deep cut in his mouth. ‘I need
to lay off the beers,’ he spat. He looked up, to see one
singular vampire remained from the nighttime assault, and
it stood in the center of town by the fountain.
‘Oh, for fucks sake,’ groaned Wren as he saw the
creature. Standing to his feet, Wren made his way forward,
dragging the eight vampire corpses with him, ensnared in
his net of razor wire, which he dumped to the ground as he
exited the alleyway.
‘I guess it’s just you now, right?’ moaned Wren, as
he wiped his face again. ‘So much fucking blood,’ he
groaned as he looked at the blood on his gloves that had
just been wiped from his face. It was thick and plenty of it.
The vampire stood floating from the ground,
signifying his age, older than a fledgling. His clothes were
black and draped, with blood red, metallic embroidery
running around its trims. He stood with his arms
outstretched and fresh human blood pouring from his
mouth and dripping from his claws, at his feet stood a heap
of freshly dead townspeople.
‘Oh, you shouldn’t have done that,’ snarled Wren.
The vampire was acting strangely, he did not
speak, he simply watched, something seemed wrong, he
‘Well, come on then, you undead fuck!’ shouted
Wren, spitting onto the ground. ‘I’ve killed all your
children, see?’ he said, pointed to the corpses within his
razor net of barbed wires, the vampires impaled on the
ground and the unlucky individual woven into the iron
gate. ‘Just you left now, now you’ve had your fucking fill!’
The vampire watched but didn’t speak, his eyes
shaking slightly in the moonlight.
‘Fuck this,’ snapped Wren, ‘you get the twins.’ On
his back, either side of his sword, sat the twins: Wren’s twin
black gauntlets, lined with thorn like spikes and inscribed
with holy words and sigils. One at a time, Wren placed a
hand over the opposite shoulder and into one of the
gauntlets, then again with the other, until his favourite
weapons were fitted.
There Wren stood, the vampire killer, with his
legendary gauntlets beneath the cold light of the moon. ‘I
prefer getting up close and personal,’ he smiled. Wren ran
and leapt with supernatural ease higher than most mortals
could, straight into the belly of the floating vampire. The
beast fell to the ground with a crash, and he raised his arms.
Wren began to dodge, but noticed the vampire’s
movements were slow, lethargic, and uncalculated. These
were not the movements of an aged vampire; they were the
movements of a drunkard with a head injury.
Older vampires were stronger than their fledgling
kindred, their flesh was harder to crack, but crack it
eventually would. Wren launched his spiked fists into the
monster’s face, swing after swing. The vampire’s head was
knocked side to side, until eventually after a few minutes of
easy punching, I t’s skin began to break, then bloodied bone
began to appear beneath its wounds.
Wren was straddled over the vampire’s belly, his
knees on the floor, his back arched through fatigue.
‘Why aren’t you fighting back? What the fuck is
wrong with you?’ screamed Wren as he released another
onslaught of horrific punches, blow after blow, bloodying
the vampire’s visage into a mangled mess.
Suddenly the vampire began to vomit up its own
blood, buckets full of it, a belly full of it, all over itself and
onto the ground, creating a pool around the two as they
fought. It looked to Wren as the bright, glowing red of its
eyes began to dim. It mustered the energy the speak.
‘Blood,’ the vampire Strained
‘What?’ grunted Wren, holding his spiked gauntlet
high in the sky, ready for another jab.
‘Diseased blood,’ the vampire groaned before it
began to fit, and blood began to flow from its mouth, eyes,
‘Fuck,’ shouted Wren, leaping back from the
creature’s body, watching as it began to vomit up its entire
bodily contents. The vampire lay there, in a great and
steaming pool of blood, next to the pile of bleeding corpses
it had drained that very night.
Wren spat on the ground, heaving, and panting
from over exertion. ‘Fuck, it kills them too,’ he groaned.
Wren suddenly noticed the ground becoming
lighter, and he looked to the sky, to find dawn was fast
approaching. He panted a sigh of relief and allowed his
shoulders to drop, hearing the vampires that remained
hidden in the shadows escaping back to their lairs and
nests for the day.
He turned, to gather his razor wire, and his javelins
of woe, and return to the tavern. He’d try and give up the
beer eventually, but not today. Fucking not today.