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The Sanguine Symphony 1.3

Tonight had not gone as expected. Hauling a comatose vampire on his back was one thing but having a straggler vigilante on his heels wasn’t part of the plan at all. The time for regrets was long over, though. The careers of vampire hunters were filled with the unexpected and he’d deal with the consequences later down the line. Right now, the only thing that mattered was making sure New Orleans didn’t blow up into a literal bloodbath when news of the murders spread down the supernatural grapevine.

It’d taken him roughly an hour to walk down to Jefferson unseen. Whistler’s house was located amongst one of the many banks of the Missisisipi with about a half-acre of swampland and marsh to guide it. The trail was guarded by nettle thrushes and the glow of fireflies seemed to suffuse the misty air. The moonlight glimmered off the roof of the wooden cottage. The porch was empty but he knew that she would be wide awake right now. She always was.

He stopped at the foot and was about to tell Ragwoman to stay here before he heard the sound of someone pumping a shotgun.

“ Hands up, motherfuckers.”

He turned around. Whistler was right there behind them in a tawny old sleeping gown, her slippered feet huddled together. In her hands was a robust tube of hickory and cast-forged steel that had seen disuse over the decades but was capable enough of blowing their heads clean off their heads. Her white hair glowed ethereally in the moonlight. The veteran vampire hunter had somehow snuck up behind the both of them and would have sent them to an early grave, if it wasn’t for the fact he’d been partners with the old woman for a decade now.

Whistler’s face lit up in recognition as she passed over Blade and she sheepishly lowered the shotgun down.

“ Ah, it’s you.” She nodded towards the vampire on his shoulder “ Put this sucker through the wringer, didn’t you?”

“ Yeah. We’re doing catch and release. Standard procedure. He’s not too bright, so we shouldn’t have to get creative with him.”

“ Hrmmmmmmm…” Whistler pointed towards Ragwoman, studying her with curiosity instead of hostility like a cat. “ Who’s the ball of bandages?”

“ That’s Ragwoman.”

“ Never heard of a hunter with that name before.”

“ That’s because she isn’t one.”

“ Do you trust her?”

He couldn’t say no nor could he say yes. There was no use bullshitting to Whistler. He didn’t know whether she had a prenatural sense towards sniffing out the truth but he’d spent enough time with the old hunter for her to know his tells. It was almost as good as Jamal. Eventually, he settled on a less than satisfactory one.

“ At the moment.”

Whistler shrugged lackadaisically and set down the shotgun.

“ Good enough. I’ll say one thing though, satch.”

“ What’s that?”

“ She dresses up better than you do.” Her gaze then travelled towards Ragwoman as she gave an inviting wave towards their new guest. “ Well, what are you standing there for, dear? Come on in. I’ll get a nice pot of tea boiling for the 3 of us.”

Beneath the mask of fabric, Ragwoman beamed with a broad smile, revealing faint lines in the rags where her mouth was, “Tea would be great and if you have something to wash off whatever Trenchcoat over there threw at me, I’d appreciate it.”

Whistler took a sniff of the air, her face curling up in disgust, before turning her head to look at Blade with disbelief.

“ Brooks, what the hell did I tell you? Emergencies only. You can’t just whizz over every vampire or non-vampire you meet willy nilly.” Whistler sighed in admonishment. “ Come on. I’ve got a special solution in the basement for situations like this. Never imagined I had to use it.”

“ C’mon, Whistler.” Blade whined as he followed her up the porch steps. “ It’s not my fault that I don’t know what you put in that stuff half of the time.”

“ And yet, your first instinct was to throw the stuff at every person you meet.” Whistler opened the door, letting them into the living room. The wood creaked as Blade stepped in. The interior of the house was almost spartan-like with no pictures or any paintings at all. Everything that Whistler had in here was either for necessity or a hidden trap of some sort. He watched her set the shotgun down by the frame of the door before reaching into a vase and pulling out a two-barreled derringer. She locked each and every one of the ten locks shut before lighting an old lantern.

“ C’mon, this way.” The oil wick burned a soft orange as she led them both down a decrepit stairway. Flicking a switch, the incandescent bulbs on the ceiling hummed for a moment before flickering on. The walls were lined with an assortment of armaments and a variety of weapons. A dead forge was set in the corner next to a smithing workbench. Whistler pulled out a bucket and uncorked a milk jug of something that made Blade’s eyes water as she poured out the contents until it was half-full.

“ Put your clothes in there. We’ll soak it for about an hour before putting it in the laundry.”

“ Not sure whether her costume would like that, Whistler.” Blade grumbled as he tossed the unconscious body of the vampire on the table.

“ Eh, if it’s haunted, I’ve still got the old exorcism kit.” She looked at Ragwoman. “What say you, dear?”

“I don’t think my suit will mind a good soak,” Ragwoman replied, “But let’s avoid any exorcisms. Someone tried that once and it didn’t end well.

Ragwoman began to tug at the top of her hood before she stopped, “Do you have a pair of scissors and a pillow case you could donate to the cause? A girl’s gotta keep her secrets” Ragwoman added with an apologetic shrug.

Ugh, secret identities. Blade rolled his eyes before grabbing a pair of scissors off the shelf. Whistler meanwhile went up the stairs for a short bit, scrounging for whatever she could find before returning back down with a sheepish look.

“ Sorry, dear.” Whistler held up a large brown cardboard bag which had a symbol of a faded imperial lion on it with the name “ CHI-CHINESE” labelled on the bottom. “ All I have is that Yaka-Mein bag I got from downtown. If you want, I could also offer you a garbage bag…..”

“No, no, this will do fine,” Ragwoman replied somewhat unconvincingly, taking the brown paper bag in her hand, and vanishing into the nearest room. When she emerged, Ragwoman looked more like Rory Regan than Ragwoman. Black jeans, canvas sneakers, and a vintage The Cure t-shirt made for an elicit combination with the repurposed noodle bag that now served as a DIY mask.

“ Now that we’re done, can we get this show on the road?” Blade nodded towards the unconscious vampire who was now drooling on top of the lacquered wood. Whistler dumped Ragwoman’s costume inside the bucket and at that same time, Blade heard something that almost sounded like a cat hissing. The old hunter then dragged a rocking chair to the center of the room along with a bundle of rope. She began the process of tying the vampire to the chair, locking all of his limbs separately until he was secure. She then looked towards Ragwoman and then, Blade with a concerned look.

“ You sure she’s got the stomach for this stuff?” Her eyes then flickered back to Ragwoman. “ Last chance, dear.”

Swallowing slowly, Ragwoman looked over at the bucket that now housed the soaking soul of suits. As if answering her unspoken question, voices, a rising swell of voices, seemed to crash over the edge of the bucket like a sudden wave. Ragwoman shivered and then nodded.

“Evil has to be punished. I’m game, no matter how far this goes.”

“ Heh. I’m starting to like her already.” Whistler cracked her knuckles before taking out a spray bottle filled with yellow fluid out of her bathrobe. She began liberally buffeting the vampire with it, faint acrid-smelling droplets floating across the room. The pale-skinned figure almost reacted instantaneously to it, eyes shooting open, as he began screaming, his skin blistering and reddening from whatever strange concoction was in that bottle. Steam erupted from red patches on his cheeks as he took a deep breathe to scream once more.

That continued on for a good 10 seconds before Eric finally had enough and decided to catch his attention by stomping on his foot. The vampire’s mouth clammed up before looking up at Eric with blood-shot eyes veiled with fear and disgust.

“ You.”

“ Yeah, me.” Eric then leaned down so he was nose-to-nose with the vampire. “ Before we start, what’s your name?”

“ Dale.”

“ Alright, Dale. Here’s how it’s going to go. You’re going to tell me everything you know, don’t know or may know. I don’t care how small or insignificant it is. You will tell me. Hell, I might even let you leave this place with your pants pissing if you’re polite enough. But make no mistake. Your clan isn’t here to help you. Your brothers and sisters aren’t here to help you. You’re just one single bloodsucker in a pack of wolves right now.”

“ I- You’ll regret the day when you mess with the Anchor-” Dale then yowled as Blade pressed down more forcefully on his ankle.

“ Try saying that a couple more hundred times and I’ll believe you.”

“ I-” Dale then turned his head towards Ragwoman and Whistler, his voice transforming into one of begging. “ Please! My clan will offer you riches beyond imagining if you kill this half-breed. Join us and you will receive my eternal gratitude.”

Beneath her new paper bag mask Ragwoman frowned and a flash of bright red anger traveled across her skin. She moved to speak when a sudden splash of water interrupted her, a tendril of fabric, a string of rags reached out from the nearby bucket, wrapping around her arm before it struck the pleading vampire across his nose. Tied to the soul of suits, Ragwoman’s real voice was lost in the multitude of voices of the suit of souls, “You are evil, vampire. And evil...evil must be punished. Evil must be purged.”

“ What she said.” Whistler nodded in agreement as she moved over towards Blade’s side. “ Now, tell us what you know of the murders in New Orleans. One of you has been going around and feeding on people.”

“ Like I told the half-breed before - “ Dale tilted his head up lamely and looked at the both of them with bitter exasperation. “ - I don’t know anything. The clans would never allow such an event to occur.”

“ We didn’t say that.” Blade said. “ But it’s hard to imagine that the New Orleans krewes would allow unwarranted feedings to occur on their territory without their say so. Or are you guys stretched thin?”

“ How dare you say such a thing! I - “ Dale swallowed his insult as he recomposed himself. A few moments later, he signed and nodded. “ My clan has been busy solving….an internal affair of ours. Someone has been killing our leaders. Our lieutenants.”

“ Well, who gives a crap?” Whistler shrugged. “ The more suckers get staked, the better off the Bayou is.”

“ Because these weren’t just any regular killings.” Dale whispered, haunted. “ They were feeded upon as well. By a vampire.” He then narrowed his eyes and hissed. “ It must be those damn Anchorites. They’re trying to get us back for intruding in our territory.

Whistler and Blade looked at each other for a moment, Whistler’s grey gimlets burning in deep thought whilst Blade’s shades concealed his troubled look. Vampires feeding on vampires was not unheard of but exceptionally rare. It was frowned upon in vampire society, considered cannibalism of the highest order, and you had to be a maniac to treat a group of bloodsucking superhuman predators as takeout.

“ So, where did these killings take place?”

“ Near the Quarter. I was there when it happened. We were on a cruise ship. Both of our clans were officiating our alliances when the lights turned off in the ballroom. When they turned back on, all the heads of our delegation were missing.” Blade didn’t know how it was possible but those pale cheeks somehow became even whiter as Dale recounted his story. “ We spotted a large shadow in the corner of the rafters. Our hunters tried pursuing it to no avail.” The vampire’s fists then clenched as he spat out the remaining words. “ Meanwhile, those damn Anchorites stood there and just shrugged it off. Our kin - our allies! They’re behind it, I swear!”

“ A likely story.” Blade grumbled, unconvinced. “ Now, we need to - “

Dale then began screaming out loud agony. He began bouncing up and down erratically in his chair, straining against the rope that held him tight. Blade stepped back as he watched his skin begin to swell and his stomach blow up like a water balloon.

“ What the hell did you do?!” He yelled at Whistler. The geriatric hunter glared back at him, both unaware and frustrated at what was going on with the vampire.

“ It wasn’t me!”

The screaming reached a crescendo and then, the vampire exploded, showering them all in a fountain of smoking gore. Blade managed to lift his arms up to block his face and mouth from swallowing vampire goo. Warmth and the smell of hot iron splashed against his sleeves. Eric let his arms down slowly to view the remains. There was nothing left of the bloodsucker except a skeleton with strings of sinew and gut hanging from the bone.

He only had one thing to say to sum up the situation.

“ Well, fuck.”


The cafe was located within the heart of the Big Apple. Its popularity was more of a matter of convenience and reliability rather than of any credit to its product. People filtered in and out of the hovel like rats from one sinking ship to the next. Eric’s nostrils flared as the overpowering scent of brewed kettle coffee suffused the air with an overpowering electrical aroma. He took a deep draught and felt it flow down through his spine and down into his waist. It would have been a good place for him to take his mind off hunting for once. Maybe, he’d invite King down here for breakfast the next time in town.

Unfortunately, his present company was a blind century-old arthritic martial-arts master. Stick had been annoyingly silent ever since he showed up mysteriously out of nowhere at the graveyard. He bore the same stony-faced countenance that combined with his mummified features, made him almost look like a taxidermy.

“ Ahem.”

Both of their heads turned left to a glossy-haired waiter who had dark circles underneath her eyes. A toothpick was pinched between her lips alongside a permanent look of irritation that seemed glued on her face. She took out a notebook and clicked a ballpoint pen.

“ What’ll it be, gentlemen?”

“ Double espresso,” Blade said.

“Hmmm, lemme think.” Stick’s features had crinkled up into a loose impression of a smile as his voice took on the tone of a stereotypical grandfather. “ How’s about a can of Pepsi?”

The waitress droned out their orders and waited for their confirmations before moving onto the next table with barely veiled fatigue. Blade pushed down his shades and gave an amused look at Stick.

“ What?” Stick eased his head slightly in his direction. “ You expect me to order something like tea, cause I look like some old mystical grifter?”

“ No, I expected you to give me answers.”

“ Conversations like this can’t be rushed, Brooks.”

The waiter arrived a moment later, sliding a can of Pepsi towards Stick and a hot cup of steaming coffee in Eric’s direction.

“ Ah, thank you.” Stick nodded his thanks.

The next minutes were then spent observing Stick doing a pantomime impression of a blind person, waving his hands around to try and grab onto the can. Guess he had appearances to keep up. Eric knew Stick was anything but a helpless, crippled old man. He knew he had nothing to be wary of but if a member of the Chaste was ‘round these parts, something bad was coming this way.

“ Jamal was one old tough son of a bitch. We lost a good soldier today.”

“ He wasn’t a part of your war, Stick.”

“ Might as well have been.” Stick cracked open the can with one thumb, the hiss of carbonation piercing the busy air in the cafe. “ Anyone who hunts down the dark is a part of our fight.” He then gave a little chuckle. “ He must have went down kicking and screaming, didn’t he?”

The table then groaned, the bolts shuddering under Eric’s grip. It knocked him out of his stupor and he looked down at the grooves he dug into the corner of the table with his fingers. He took a deep breath and then, said with an unnerving calm. Stick, however, remained cool and impassive throughout, taking another sip of his Pepsi.

“ Cut the shit, Stick. Why are you here?”

“ I’ll cut to the chase.” Stick’s lips puckered as if he was swallowing a lime before speaking. “ I need your help with a problem. A vampire problem.”

That was two firsts for Eric. The fact that Stick needed help and that Stick was involved in the supernatural side of things in New York made his stomach turn.

“ So, why pick me?” Eric stirred his espresso absentmindedly with a spoon. “ There’s better hunters out there than me.”

“ Don’t sell yourself short, Brooks. Your hunting’s not what I recruited you for. It’s - “ Stick tapped his forehead two times. “ - your knowledge. Sure, every hunter I’ve met knows how to stake and how to kill but Jamal didn’t teach you just to be a mindless killer. He taught you to think.” Eric watched as Stick fished a hand inside his ratty trench coat. “ Which brings me to this.”

It fell onto the surface of the table, rattling from the impact, before lying still. The metal was whorled with faint waves etched onto the surface and had been shaped into a circlet with an open five fingered hand in the middle. He reached out to touch it and felt his skin begin to warm up upon touching it.

It was blessed sliver, but blessed sliver didn’t usually elicit that type of reaction. There was only one answer.

It had to be made of heirloom silver.

Back in the days of the old magic, when hedge wizards were few and far between and the Masters of the Mystic Arts were still burgeoning, the only way to kill vampires was to use sliver that had been inherited down for generations from father to son, mother to daughter and so forth. The vampire clans long ago had tried to hoard all the heirloom silver in the world to try and stave off their extinction. Rumor was they had enough buried away to crash the global economy. The rest had been reforged into jewelry, artworks, useless knick knacks that wouldn’t pose a threat to them.

The number of heirloom silver artifacts he’d seen in the hands of Van Helsing and the rest of her ilk was less than five and they were all weapons of some sort.

“ Where’d you find this?, He peered back up at Stick.

“ I found it off a Hand ninja. Funny thing about the guy was that he was stronger than the rest. Heart didn’t beat but the rest of him was like a block of iron.” Stick paused for a moment to rub his knuckles. “ Had to chop off his head to make sure he stopped trying to break my rib-cage.”

It didn’t take a genius to put two and two together. There was no need to vocalise the unspoken connection that both of them made in an instant. A millennia old cult of ninjas getting their hands on the supernatural formula for the most virulent bloodsuckers ever made by dark magic was a recipe for disaster.

“ So…” Stick grumbled. “ How’d you suppose they made - “

“ No.” Eric interrupted. “ Not made. No one’s ever made one ritualistically since Dracula. You have to be Embraced and to get Embraced, you have to contact a clan.”

“ So, which clan is it? I assume it’s gotta be the biggest one in town.”

“ No, it couldn’t be.” Eric shook his head, still staring intently at the pendant. “ The biggest ones in town like stability. Why share power around when they can have it all to themselves? No, it’s gotta be a smaller clan. Someone looking to shake things up.”

“ All right. So, who do you think it is?”

Eric steepled his fingers together, ruminating on the possible candidates. It would have to be a clan with at least a measure of influence but not an old one that was mired in tradition and superstition. Allying with the group like the Hand would take more than a handful of vampires but not enough for an army. Lastly, they’d have to be open-minded to working with mortals which was rare considering that most vampires had a superiority complex. So, there was only one vampire lord who had the political muscle and resources available to convince lesser clans that allying with the Hand was a good idea.

It was the perfect one he needed after a long day of grieving and sucking up to other hunters.

Eric set the pendant down on the table and there was a smile on his face that cut through his cheeks.

“ Let’s see if we can’t find Deacon Frost.”

Your thirst is mine

A World Beyond Eons


Date: 1990

“Jesus, what a mess.”

Huh. Larry was the master of understatements. In his fifteen years of service, Eric had never seen a murder quite like this. The small little tenement had gone through a redecoration and not a funhouse kind. Even with the thick iron-rich aroma of blood in the air, the familiar pang of the needle stung his nostrils. The blonde one had her entrails ripped out and hung on the ceiling like party streamers.

There was no one left alive at the scene.

Well, he was wrong on that count. There was one survivor in his arms. He almost felt uncomfortable being handed the position of babysitter asLarry sifted through the mess, mussing through the victim’s hair.

“ Any relatives?,” Eric asked, his voice muffled by the ski mask he was wearing.

“ Not that we know of.” Larry grunted, fiddling with the radio chatter on his handheld scanner. “ All we know is the identity of his mother.” He motioned to the corpse splayed over on the mattress, periwinkle hair matted with blood with a mackerel-eyed look to compliment it. “ We’ve got about a dozen Brooks in the registry and hospital records have turned a blank. He’s got no one.”

“ So, what do we do?”

“ I go and spruce things up so that the EMTs aren’t spooked by the time they get here. You….” He looked away from the child cradled in Eric’s arms as his voice became terse. “ Just make it quick.”

Still refusing to look at the infant in his arms, Larry slinked out of the bedroom, closing the door behind him, leaving Eric and one kid that was barely a day old. Eric stood there, unmoving, just staring at the door before he gradually craned his neck down to look at the listless gaze of the baby. His eyes were still slit shut, almost at zen, if it weren’t for the palpitations of soft little exhales that he felt through the blanket. He set him down on the mattress with a gentleness that perturbed him.

Why was he being so careful? It was just going to cause more pain in the end.

“ Sorry, kid. This ain’t personal.”

In all his years of killing, Eric had seen grown men brown their shorts, their throats clam up as they looked into the centre of the barrel, searching maybe for a light of some sort in there, a way out. There was always the briefest kindling of hope in their eyes which died out the moment he pulled the trigger.

The little bastard didn’t even react when he pulled out the pistol in front of him. His eyes then slowly filtered open and they were little eddies of brackish brown, brimming with curiosity and indifference. The gun feels 100 pounds heavier the moment he makes eye contact. The little bastard doesn’t even have the proper conception of what a gun is. Of what death is. Of what fear is. Of how to experience life to its fullest.

The 10 grand for the job feels measly compared to what he’s potentially taking away now. There’s no price that can be paid for that.

So, he makes the hard decision.

He closes the blanket over the baby’s head, sighs deeply and then, loads a fresh magazine. He fiddles with the threaded silencer whilst errantly switching his index finger from the guard to the trigger.

What needs to be done next….it’s necessary. There’s no other way.

He checks the window outside to make sure the coast is clear before taking slow steps into the living room. He makes out the faint sounds of Larry’s loafers squeaking against the frayed shag carpeting.

“ Did you - “ Larry’s face became paralyzed like a deer in headlights. He dropped the plastic bag of soap bottles and crumpled tissues and the canvas bag of other miscellaneous crap, drugs, whatever was in there to make it look like a gang shooting and not the targeted work of a serial killer.

“ Woah, easy there, Eric. Easy. Let’s just talk this out.”

“Get down. Put your hands on your head.”

“ C’mon, man.” Larry was inching towards him, putting on a disarming smile as his eyes flicked towards the barrel pointed at him. “ We’ve been - what? Partners for 2 years - “

He didn’t have time for stalling. He aimed the pistol upwards above Larry’s head and fired. A puff of concrete erupted behind Larry’s head, causing him to duck to the ground.

“ I said, get down on your knees!”

“ Okay! Okay!”

Larry’s face was ashen, ghost-faced. To his credit, he didn’t begin blubbering nor make any prostestations as Eric pressed his foot down on his back. There was about a minute of silence as Eric pressed the silencer against the back of his head, Larry’s head planted to the ground in a way that made it look like he was praying. His finger trembled on the guard before he spoke like he was making an excuse.

“ Killing a kid wasn’t what I signed up for, Buchinsky”

Larry replied with a short bark of bitter laughter.

“ That’s where you draw the line? After all the crap you pulled in the past, you really think one life is going to clean all the skeletons in your closet?”

“ No.” His grip on the pistol tightened, his voice resolute. “.... but this is just one skeleton too many….and I’m tired of Frost’s lies.”

Larry’s brains sprayed out all over the linoleum floor when he pulled the trigger. Each time he pulled, his body twitched erratically, his foot thumping on the floor like a bird with a broken wing. Eric watched as blood oozed out in a puddle underneath his still body. He took his foot off Larry's back and flipped him over. The bullet had gone clean through the other side, leaving a perfectly round hole in between his eyes.

“ Goddammit, Needham.” The Black Spider pulled off his mask, grumbling. “ How the hell are you going to sneak out of this one now?”

It's mid-day and you're a foreign dwarven mercenary currently stuck waist-deep in dank dungeons filled with bloodraving cultists, horrible monstrous abominations and wooden medieval BDSM enthusiasts. The village elder has bequeathed upon you a quest to retrieve a cursed amulet and to stop the machinations of this foul cult. Having finally found the cult leader, you ambush them in the middle of whatever horrid scheme they were planning and cleave their head off with a carving axe the blacksmith gave you out of pity whilst suffering a broken arm. You eat a couple of penny bun mushrooms in your inventory to stave off the maddening hunger. You claim the cursed amulet of the cult and try to retrace your steps back to the village.

You are then encountered upon by a pack of 3 bandits and the hooded one slits your carotid artery and makes you bleed out all over the forest floor.

That is the experience that Stoneshard has offered me for over 70 hours.

Stoneshard has been the most ambitious early-access game that calls to me like a pond does to a duck. It's got everything that I love. Stellar pixel graphics and art. Engaging and brutal combat mechanics. Near seamless character progression. Mood music. Turn based combat (Without the number crunching). Randomized rogue-like elements.

The game isn't that long (10 hours of content tops) but more than makes up with it with its replayable nature and the depth and scope of its mechanics. Stoneshard's biggest strength and weakness, call it a double edged sword if you will, is its difficulty. The game does not fuck around. It's the Dark SoulsDoom on Ultra NightmareImpossible Quiz you know what I mean of RPGs for me at the moment. You will die a lot. From hunger. Thirst. Poison. Traps. Fire. An acute case of migraines caused by the fact that bandit stove in your head with a warhammer. Loosing enough blood to fill a bath-tub. Getting mauled by Pumba's cousins. Getting eaten alive by Smokey's the Bear's redneck brothers.

On top of all that, no map or waypoint system. Your character's location is pinpointed on the UI. You must make out your location and your relative directions to places of importance in the world map through memory and navigation. You can also only save by sleeping at a select number of places, most of which cost money to do so. There is no save on exit nor can you save in the middle of a journey. Once you set out on your epic journey, you set out and there's no amount of savescumming that will allow you to keep your progression.

Yet, you will also find ways to kill. A lot. Stoneshard possibly has the best skill/perk progression system I've ever seen in an RPG as well. There's active skills which cost energy to use and passive perks that you can buy. There is no strict level up where you're forced to choose a certain set of perks nor are there strict origins that limit you to a select number of skills. Everything is open for the taking. You could play a warhammer wielding arbalest. A dual wielding berserker who uses a knife and a spiked maul. A traditional sword and board knight. A pyromaniac wizard who wants to simulate the Shining with his shiny axe. A bowman who can fart rocks out of the earth.

My relationship to this game can be summed up as digital Stockholm Syndrome. At first, I hated it. Then, I liked it. I then hated it again before loving it again. Eventually, this abusive relationship transformed into a blossoming healthy relationship interspersed with random moments of unfair violence and cursing at RNGesus.

10/10. Fucking beauty of a game. Would die from dehydration because I forgot to fill my water skins at Osbrook's well again and get mauled by a bear in the process.
If a limb gets chopped off in my fantasy RP, I'll just have it resurrected into a merchant that flops around the lands and communicates in sign language.
//Bloodletting 1.1//

//Location: New England, NYC//

“ We forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”

The priest opens his rheumy eyes, placing one hand on the leather bible, as the casket is lowered into the damp yawning earth.

“ Amen,” Eric says along with everyone else attending the funeral. The word comes out awkwardly, as if he’s learning to speak for the first time. The procession is private and small. Too small, Eric thinks. Jamal deserves a better crowd in his mind. He can count the number of attendees on his fingers and he can recognise fewer faces in the stony faced crowd. Hannibal would have come but he was busy rooting out a group of Adze in Venezuela.

It is a matter of respect that they have attended Jamal’s funeral. Vampire hunting is a profession that demands few friendships and personal relationships. So, Eric doesn’t know whether his apprenticeship with the old hunter was a blessing or a mistake. It feels more and more like the latter as his grave, an old mouldy wooden casket, is lowered into the earth.

He and the veteran vampire hunter had made several bets about how he would end up dying, making potshots at each other about the most ridiculous ways that they could go down fighting the bloodsuckers.

He’d never imagine it would be something banal as prostate cancer.

It wasn’t a thing he could behead with a blade, impale with a wooden stake or burned with napalm. It was pure coincidence. Chance. The same chance that had made him a dhampir, met with Jamal and now, watch him die a slow and wretched death in the ICU.

He was tempted, dammit, tempted to Turn him. Make him whole again, but, he’d be spitting on Jamal’s memory if he did that and damn his soul forever to the blackest pits of hell. It was selfish, he knew it was selfish, Jamal taught him it was the most selfish thing he could do, every molecule in his being knew that embracing his true nature would be his downfall.

So, why was he disgusted with himself?

Someone taps his shoulder. He turns around and takes a look at who did it. Her features are aristocratic, the contours of her face cut like a marble statue. Her long blonde hair is tied into a plait that rests on her left shoulder. She’s dressed in a more well-maintained trench coat than his with considerably less dried blood along with a better tie. Slate gimlets look at him from under the veil of her funeral hat.

“ So, you must be Jamal’s protege that I’ve heard so much about.” She stuck out a hand. “ I believe I haven’t introduced myself before. My name is -”

“ You’re the Van Helsing,” Eric gruffly remarked.

“ Not a man for pleasantries, are we?” She continued forth, a note of irritation passing away in her melodic accent. “ Yes, I am Rachel Van Helsing and you are Eric Brooks. The Blade. That is what others of your kind refer to you as?”

“ They’re not my people.”

“ My apologies. I didn’t mean to offend.” She replied back in a tone that didn’t sound the least bit sorry at all. “ I was quite saddened when I heard about his death, although it must have been more of a shock to you, given that you spent more time with him than all of us combined. Most of us knew him as a man who preferred the company of himself rather than others. When the news spread that he was taking on a dhampir as an apprentice, we thought it was a joke. Seeing you in the flesh, though……..” Rachel kept quiet for a moment before continuing on. “ Nevertheless, he was a highly respected hunter amongst us. His accomplishments were legendary. Being chosen to be under his tutelage must have been quite the honor for you. For a dhampir. ”

Did he hear….bitterness in her voice? She turned her head away, looking towards a nearby thicket that had two stumps in the middle of it. One had been swallowed up by the foliage and grass, the bark bleeding grass, whilst the other had a clear shoot erupting from its center.

“ You could say that,” Eric muttered.

“ I have to ask, though.” Rachel paused and speaks with a note of curiosity. “ Who was Jamal to you?”

“ He was my….” Eric briefly paused, struggling to find the right words. How could he encapsulate his and Jamal’s relationship in one single sentence. Father figure. Teacher. Savior. Companion. Coworker. Boss. So much of his life had been dictated by Jamal and now, he felt somewhat directionless, a man in a maze.

“ He was my light.”

Eventually, he was the only one left standing amongst the hundreds of dead rotting in the dirt. Outliving your friends, your family…...did Dracula have to witness this same shit repeat over and over again? No wonder that fucker’s tantrum decimated most of Europe.

There were too many memories here in New York. Too much of the past closing up on him like a coffin. He looks down at the nickel plated 44. revolver Jamal handed to him. He flips open the barrel, the blessed silver rounds glinting like diamonds in the apertures. He takes a look around, cocks the revolver and lifts it gingerly towards himself, his hand shaking.

“ Well, there you fucking are.” A voice like cracked glass pierced the miasma of solitude. “ Hard one to find, aren’t ya, you little shit.”

Eric twirls around, his trenchcoat flapping as he points the revolver towards the source of the noise. It’s an old geezer who looks more mummy than man. His skin is cracked and withered, the cataracts underneath his horseshoe shades almost seem to glow in the dawn night and he can hear the wet unsteady rasps of his lungs, like a machine past its warranty. Yet, the polished beech staff clasped in between his knobbled fingers is planted in the dirt like a fence post and his spine is straight and unyielding like an oak tree.

Eric holsters the revolver and grumbles the stranger’s name with distaste.

“ Stick.”

The Sanguine Symphony 1.1

Normal Sunday mornings usually didn’t begin with poking dead bodies.

In the line of work as a vampire hunter, nothing was sacred and acting ignorant of that truth was a fool’s gambit. Fighting against the forces of the night for Eric sometimes felt like keeping a candle alight in a blizzard. The wax dwindled, the wick shriveled and the flame dimmed but the light was there and having a candle in a snowstorm was better than no candle at all.

Telling himself that doesn’t seem to matter as the corpse’s lifeless pupils penetrated through his shades, almost accusing. The surgical bay around them has been vacated under the pretense of a foot surgery and not for medical malpractice as Whistler flicks her penlight into the victim’s mouth as if she’s searching for treasure. The old vampire hunter’s last eye flicks back and forth in its socket with an unnerving energy.

The corpse was a grisly mess. The cheeks are sunken in like a mummy, lips flecked with dried blood and spit as the tongue is rolled out, askew to one side of his cheek. Their Nirvana band t-shirt is stained in the middle, a dark bloom of blood tinging the yellow fabric a ruddy brown. His crotch is mincemeat and the right knee is twisted like how a child would play with a barbie doll. It’s that type of crap that makes his blood boil. All that mighty vampire clan talk of honour and status didn’t matter in Eric’s eyes when all he saw them do was play with their food like some vindictive feral house cat. A tag was wrapped around his right foot with “Evan Langley” written on it hurriedly with a marker pen. It was no one that he’d never know in the short list of people that were willing to put up with him.

There was a burst of conversation outside the bay doors which momentarily made him freeze. Whistler paused in the middle of her medical examination, looking at Blade and putting two fingers on her lips. His hand was locked around the grip of the sliver parang in his belt scabbard whilst Whistler toyed with the derringer on her arm holster. The chatter faded and with that, the tension seeped out of both their frames and Whistler resumed her work.

“ So? What’s it look like?” He speaks up, leaning against a wall.

“ Well, satch, like I said before, if it walks like a duck, acts like a duck and talks like a duck, a duck is a duck.” Whistler glumly spoke, unconcerned with the human blood on his fingers and washing it off in the nearby sink as if she was a foreman at work. “ You didn’t need to call me all the way out here for my opinion. This is as textbook as it can get.”

“ You sure we never shot a few geese while duck hunting before?” Blade questioned, prodding the bite wound around the neck curiously with a finger.

“ Satch, I poked around every nook and cranny he had to offer. You know the signs. Miniscule puncture wounds on the right carotid. No abdominal swelling. Dried skin. Obvious as I’ve ever seen it. Who else could have done this?”

“ You forget the fact that it ain’t a complete exsanguination. Any vampire worth their salt would have drained the body dry as a husk.”

“ Minor detail, satch.” There was a skip in Whistler’s voice, either of amusement or doubt. He chose to believe it was the former. She began packing the various metal instruments she took out into a blanket before zipping it up into a toolbox. “ It doesn’t take a genius to put it together. This town has the largest vampire population in the south and everyone’s out drinking and having fun in the biggest festival this side of the bayou. Simple as 1 plus 1.”

“ Are we sure it ain’t a ghoul?”

“ Ghouls like ripping more than they like sipping, satch.”

“ Chupacabra.”

“ The South hasn’t seen them in decades and they don’t like coastal regions.”

“ Loup-garou.”

“ S-seriously?” There was a loud guffaw from Whistler followed by a hacking wheeze. She then zipped up the toolbox and shook her head, fixing him with a tired stare of derision.

“ Satch, ever heard of Occam’s razor? You’re making this a hell of a lot more complicated than it needs to be. We just have to figure out which vampire would be stupid enough to tweak the nose of every clan in this swamp and break a century old tradition. Hell, we’ve had some personal experience with a very well known independent in these parts….”

They didn’t even need to say the name as Eric rubbed his palm over the right side of his neck, hairs tingling, as he remembered those fateful words.....

I’m a dead man, vampire slayer, yet I embrace my fate. a man who is stuck between two savage worlds.

“ It’s a possibility. He fled his ass up-state the last time we met, though. He’s gone.” Whistler’s raised eyebrow wasn’t giving him any confidence when he said that. Looking to change the subject, Eric pointed towards the body. “ Did you glean anything else from him?”

“ Oh yeah. I almost forgot.” Whistler fished a waspy square of yellow paper out of her pocket and handed it to him. “ Found this in the back of their jeans.” She paused before smiling sheepishly. “ And a roll of 20s.”

He took it from her and looked at it closer. The way it had been folded in the man’s pocket made it almost unreadable but he could make out one sentence on top of a image of a poured chalice of wine.

“ You are cordially invited to the Crimson Carnival. Purview exotic offerings and indulge in the finest of New Orleans culture at 8 PM on this Friday at Callan Contemporary.”


So, that was how he died. Eric crumpled it as he considered the new facts in front of him. The outline of a basic plan formed in his mind as he rubbed the remains of the paper in between his fingers, reducing it to shreds.

It would be fun to visit the Warehouse District after so long.

Once the rest of the humans had departed the gallery, the pristine white hallways and industrial concrete floors were for once absent of the conversations of rich investors and the chimes of champagne glasses. It was here that Dalton found a semblance of peace and something resembling sleep. It had been a full moon since he was turned and already, he found his former human falliabilities wanting. It was after the first day he turned when he realised he could no longer hear his heartbeat. It took weeks to realise that he no longer found the tastes of his favourite steakhouse appetising. Worst of all were the restless nights where he could no longer fall asleep.

But it was a small price to pay for immortality. His clan head reassured him that it would take time for him to transition as all newly Turned did. Thus, they had him currently acting as a glorified security guard. If that was what his clan head desired of him, he could not deny his request. Dalton couldn’t help but feel as thought it was a position unbefitting of his current. He should have been out on more pertinent missions with the clan, helping expanding their interests towards the northern states rather than assist with local recruitment.

His partner didn’t seem to mind, though. Eddie Baxter was a veteran of the clan, one who had found comfort in the hierarchy and had no ambition to move up the chain of command. They were in the midst of a conversation as they patrolled through an open area of a gallery where a bronze statue depicting the features of a man contorted in agony were illuminated by an overhead spotlight.

“ So, what did she taste like?”

“ Oh, fine. Had a bit of a fruity zest but I blame the swill the cattle put into their system.” Eddie stopped and then pulled out another box of cigars. He grabbed one with his teeth and then offered the box towards Dalton. “ Smoke?”

Dalton murmured a thanks as he took out two cigars and placed it in between his gums, letting Eddie flick open the lighter and char the tips. He took a lick of the aged tobacco, the warmth of the fumes suffusing his frigid blood. He and Eddie had gone through their fourth box this night out of pure boredom. Their lungs were probably full of tar by now but if there was one positive thing about being Turned, it was that vampires were nigh immune to intoxication and most drugs that humans were susceptible to.

Most new recruits learnt that the hard way when they were found trying to drink their sorrows at the nearest bar in the French Quarter.

They turned around into a right corridor that was still in the middle of construction, plaster walls and tarps thrown onto the ground with numerous oil paintings leaning onto the side of the walls. It was when Eddie grabbed him and then forcefully pushed him back from taking another step. His eyes looked at Eddie accusingly for an explanation but Eddie shook his head and then, slowly allowed him to peek over the corner.

There was a man in a trenchcoat. His brown hair was dressed in a bushy afro and he had a gangly figure where his arms seemed to grow off the side like tree branches.His back was currently turned towards them as he examined a watercolour canvas painting hanging on the wall. There was something off about him that made Dalton shiver.

Eddie’s eyes, however, were slitted and narrowed as his tongue flitted out and began licking his lips hungrily. Dalton placed a hand on his partner’s shoulder and Eddie looked back questioningly at him.

“ Eddie, don’t. “ He whispered. “ I know what you’re thinking. It’s Mardi Gras.”

“ Oh, come on. “ Eddie rolled his eyes. “ Just one little snack. You and me. We’ll hide the body and no one will be the wiser. Look at my face and tell me that you can go teetotal all week for tradition sake.”

“ You know our orders, Ed. If you don’t - “

“ Screw you, man. If you aren’t going to do it, then, I’ll get rid of this stupid human.” Eddie snarled and then, confusion furrowed his brow as he looked towards the spot where the human once occupied. It was empty.

“ Hey, where did the cattle go?”

“ Right behind you.”

Dalton has known Eddie for a month now to know how good of a hunter he is. He’s watched him snap the necks of a dozen humans in a dozen heartbeats and wrestle unruly vampires from their clan with one hand tied behind his back. Outside of a few members in his clan, Eddie’s strength has always been an assurance to him that they were indestructible. That nothing or no one could kill a vampire and get away with it.

His perceptions are destroyed in three seconds.


Eddie’s fanged mouth closing onto the stranger’s throat.


A flash of sliver so bright that it could be mistaken for sunlight.



An ocean of it.

His eyes blink and there’s an eight foot blade of holy sliver lodged into the surface of the concrete floor. A gout of blood stains his midnight security uniform and everything around him in a eight foot radius scarlet. Eddie’s torso and legs are twirling apart in opposite directions, the two halves steaming like roast meat from where the metal cut . The blade wasn’t even in the realm of being called a sword. It was more of a guillotine than a weapon, a piece of metal that had been bent and buckled over time and centuries into something that could contain its primeval strength.

The shock wears off when the lifts the blade up and whips away the blood which seems to boil off and slide off the lustre. He hefts it on his shoulder and underneath those shades, the monster looks at him with a lazy stare, as if waiting for him to make his move.

So, Dalton runs.

And then, his entire world is fire.

His nose is filled with the acrid stench of garlic and urine as a jar of something is thrown towards his back, cracking open and spilling its contents all over him. He writhes in pain as the achilles heel for generations of vampires over millennia leeches into his skin and burns his veins. He howls, screaming for help and yelling countless curses into the air.

“ FUCK. ED! You bastard! When my clan hears about this, you and all your loved ones will be hunted to the ends of the earth!”

“ Funny. I stopped taking that threat seriously after I removed the head of the 200th vampire that told me that.” He feels a foot flip him over on his back. “ Or was it the 415th? I lost count.”

Dalton blinks the scalding mixture of his bloodshot and then examines the figure more closely who killed Eddie. The shadows of the exhibit blots out most of his features but he can see a full-toothed grin glinting in the dark, fangs pointing out eerily. The gears in Dalton’s mind turned as he began processing what just happened.

A vampire who killed his own kind.

A vampire who was known for killing his own kind with swords.

There’s only one individual in New Orleans who fits into the mould of countless horror stories and legends told to him by his fellow vampires.

“ You’re - No, it can’t be you. You’re not real!”

The Blade replied by lifting up his foot and stomping down on his left ankle. The bone fragmented underneath the heel of his ironshod boots into a thousand pieces and Dalton could only make a whine of pain, head leaning back in surrender. He felt fingers dig into his throat and then, slam him against a nearby wall.

“ Was that real enough for you? I came here because one of you bloodsuckers got uppity and decided to buck tradition for once.” The vampire slayer took a photo out of his sleeve and waved it in front of him. Blinking through the pain, Dalton saw that it was a close up photo of one of the cattle, their faces dried to a husk. “ Take a real good look at this. His name was Evan Langley. He took a visit to this exact same art gallery before one of you guys decided to drink him dry. Who did it?”

“ I don’t know! No feedings are allowed during Mardi Gras per the Rosarius Agreement signed by all clan heads in 18 -” There was a tear of flesh and Dalton screamed once more, his throat hoarse, as a inch-wide oaken stake was planted into his belly. “You fuck! You - you staked me!”

“ Correction. I staked you in your pancreas. That’s just four inches below where your heart is. Now, you better hope my aim’s off cause I don’t plan on missing the next time.” “ I know all that crap you bloodsuckers spoon feed to your members. Just because you don’t feed doesn’t mean you can’t do other shit during Mardi Gras. You were planning on turning someone who was visiting this little gallery of yours, weren’t you? Someone rich. High profile. A real upstanding human who you could use to add some muscle to your clan.”

“ Fine. Fine! You got us! We were using this gallery to search for viable targets, cattle who had enough money to finance our trafficking operations in the south! But this?! “ Dalton’s panicked eyes flickered to the photo still in Blade’s hand. “We’d never feed. Please. I’m telling you the truth!”

“ You better hope so or …….” Blade paused as his head turned to the left.

Eric could hear it. It wasn’t a single voice. No, it was dozens or hundreds of voices in some obscene choir, an amalgam that was stitched together in a twisted symphony. He let go of the vampire, letting him slump to the floor in an incoherent mess of whimpers and whispers.

A hooded person had just turned around the corner of the hall and was now looking at him. He pulled out a stake and realised that today’s night was going to be a long one.

“ Shit.”
The Watchmen show on HBO is easily the best piece of Watchmen material since the original graphic novel. It really understood the characters and did a lot to advance and add to their narratives. The plot kind of got away from it by the end, but 90% of it was some good shit.

Plus, it gave us this glorious chad.

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