Blood Feud

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Hunyad Castle, Hunedoara, Romania – 1453

They’re going to let me go today.

After a decade in this dungeon, my captors are granting me a pardon.

Apparently because they think I’m no longer a threat to them. Whatever. I’m watching the sunrise sneak through a small vent in the tower’s ceiling. It’s bathing me in its glow.

I heard one of the guards yesterday say they were letting me go because they thought I was crazy, and would never be able to contest for the crown. My royal blood was the only thing that kept them from murdering me.

This castle tower once held Vlad III of the Wallachian empire, called by some Dracula. He stayed here for seven years. I’ve seen traces of his writings scratched onto the rock walls. His broody presence stills stalks this hell hole.

I’ve held long conversations with Vlad the Impaler during the many nights I slept on the cold stone floor. He comes to me in my dreams and sometimes during the day, whispering strange things into my ear.

Who am I, you may ask? Just a bastard son of the noble Hunyadi family who restored this ancient castle. My mother died giving me life, and my noble father, King Albert of Hungry never officially acknowledged me. My name is John.

I’m a wart in the family line. No one wants to kill me, but I’m treated like a stray dog. And today they’re letting the dog go.

I know what my enemies see when they look at me; a frail old man with a long beard and balding head. They think I have no life left in me, and that I will wander off and die somewhere alone, unknown to future generations.

I’ve had a lot of time to think about this, and I know it’s a good thing they underestimated me so much. It led to my freedom. It’s gave me a chance to wage a blood feud against my own family.

Wait! Here they come now!

One day later.

I’m not use to walking so much. My weary body is being forced to move by sheer will power. I know the cave isn’t far from here. Vlad told me where it was in a dream.

The cave was my key to immortality, and revenge.

I was crawling by the time I reached the entrance to the cave. It was partly concealed by bushes. If I would have been stronger, I would have stood up and walked in. Instead, I had to crawl in like a worm into the darkness.

I have no idea how long I crawled. Resting against a wall, I summoned my remaining strength. I listened. I wasn’t afraid. Vlad assured me the final pain would be quick, then I would enter the new royalty of bloodsuckers for eternity.

When I heard the bats, I sat still and waited for them. Vlad was right. The pain of death was sharp. But when I woke I felt like a new man. A strange woman sat next to me, allowing the cut on her arm to drain its crimson content into my open mouth.

Her hot blood surged through my veins, and I felt a power like nothing a human could even imagine. I could see clearly in the darkness. Everything was crystal clear. When I stood up I was dizzy for a moment, but it passed.

It was exhilarating flying through the night. When I reached the castle it was still dark and the inhabitants, including the guards, were sleeping. Now, a thing of the night, I glided through the corridors until I reached my uncle and his wife’s bedroom.

The guard outside their door slept with a sword across his lap. I couldn’t resist starting my feast with him. It was over quickly.  I took his sword, and cut his head off afterwards.

When I went inside I could clearly see their bed. I went up to the side my uncle was on and fed. Not too much blood, however. I wanted him to suffer. It was just the beginning. I had plans for my damned family.

Plans that would carry through future generations, and that would be referred to in the Family Bible as John’s Curse.

As It Stands, family feuds have long been the fodder of fiction writers.

A Tale Of Forgotten Heroes

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404 BC. Greece

I’ve seen my death, and it’s coming soon.

So, I need to tell you a story, not just about me, but also about my brave comrades who gave their lives fighting the monster Chaos.

If I don’t share what happened, the world will never hear of the epic fight waged between the cruel beast Chaos, and the Spartan heroes who defied him. There were no witnesses to our great deed.

Only me. It wasn’t supposed to be so. A city that promised immortality lied to us.

I’d try to write my story down if I could, but as you can see, I’m missing an arm and the other is dangling uselessly beside me. So please, kind sir, listen closely and share our tale with the world.

My name is Ajax. No, not the famous Ajax from the from the Trojan War. Just a common Spartan raised from birth to fight the state’s enemies. My eleven comrades and I were returning from the Decelean War when we camped outside a city one night.

It was dark when we arrived and none of us wanted to be mistaken for an enemy by a jittery night guard at the city’s main gate. We could see bonfires inside the fortified compound as we settled in for the night.

My eleven comrades names were; Aegues, Alecto, Caedmon, Darragh, Fausto, Isai, Maarku, Ondrej, Rehor, Ujarak, and Vadik. We were all from the same city, Lacedaemon. We were all on our way home after years of fighting.

We planned to buy more food for our journey in the morning. Because we were military men we always posted a revolving guard around our perimeter.

In the early dawn hours, when most people slept, there came screams of terror within the fort. They got louder and soon everyone in our camp was standing, armed and ready for whatever may happen.

As we watched we could see bodies flying off the ramparts near the main gate. Horrified screams tore the night apart as some terrible thing attacked the people inside. Suddenly the main gate shook and came crashing down!

The thing that came out was from a nightmare. It was nearly twice as tall as me, and I’m the tallest in our little band. It’s massive arms and chest bulged with corded muscle. It’s long legs were equally muscled.

It was carrying a huge axe and wore a belt of human heads around its massive girth. The creatures long blond hair was soaked in human blood that dripped onto its face and dyed its beard red.

In the light of the full moon we watched it lumber off in an easterly direction. We were all thankful it didn’t see us. We watched the pandemonium – people with torches at the main gate – from the top of a gentle slope near our camp.

We got up early the next morning and walked down to the fort’s entrance. Men were already working on repairing the heavy metal door and putting it back into position as we rode up to a guard.

A row of bodies with shrouds over them lined the street.

He was a talkative fellow and filled us in on what happened. Apparently the monster, he said his name was Chaos, had been extracting a horrible tribute from this city and another east of it for two years.

No one had been able to stand up against Chaos. The city first fought back against Chaos’s demands of human sacrifice every full moon, but when the beast killed fifty of it’s best warriors in a single battle, they knew they were defeated.

The reason Chaos attacked them was because there were no sacrifices waiting for slaughter. Instead they dared to try to ambush him, and paid the price.

The guard led us to the city father’s who were gathered around a bonfire and arguing among themselves. They grew silent as our little company approached. They quickly shared their story when we asked.

In the end, we agreed to kill the monster Chaos in exchange for each man’s weight in gold and statues of us all in the main square. What can I say? We were virile warriors who feared nothing, having defied death daily for most of our lives.

A guide was assigned to us, a freed slave I believe. His name was Xander. He led us to Chaos’s lair in the nearby mountains. We only knew one way to fight…and that was head on! We called out to the vile creature and mocked him as a coward.

When he came out of the cave he was rubbing his eyes in the bright sunlight. In that moment we surrounded him and attacked! It’s strength was unbelievable as it tore off arms and heads with gruesome ease.

Everyone of us wounded Chaos, but he was impervious from pain despite the deep slashes our swords were making.

Finally, it was just brave Aegues and I fighting. Chaos tore my arm off, and I fell. But even as I fell, Aegues did what no other man could…he pierced the creature’s black heart and killed it!

Before it died however, it tore his head off! As I lay wounded, Xander appeared and treated my wounds. My right arm was gone, and the left broken in two places. He took me to an old woman who lived alone in the mountains and was thought to be a witch.

She treated me as best as she could. I’m broken up inside as well as out, and there’s not much to do about it. As I rested at her hut word came of a celebration in the two cities freed from Chaos’s reign of terror.

There was no talk of my comrades and I saving them all. No talk of statues to be built-in our honor. We were forgotten, like we never existed.

I talked the old lady into hiring you Zack, to take me home in your cart. You see, my legs are useless too. The old lady said it was because of my broken back.

But, I fear I’m not going to see the green fields surrounding my childhood home. So, I humbly ask you to tell our story to everyone you meet.

“Of course,” Zack said.

Two days later, Ajax quietly died in his sleep. Zack buried him in a nearby field with no marker.

On his way home Zack tried to remember everything Ajax told him. Unfortunately, Zack was a simple man with a poor memory and by the time he returned home he’d forgotten the whole story.

As It Stands, this tale is for all forgotten hereos.

Dinner At The Frankenstein’s Castle

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Daaaaling…must you wear that same drab black cape again?”

Count Dracula ignored his wife’s chatter. She was such a social butterfly that he marveled that he was still with her after all these years.

It’s going to be the first big social event for the Fall Horror season. Everyone is going to be there,” she gushed happily.

How did the Frankenstein’s manage to pull this off,” the Count asked.

“Connections deary….connections.” 

There was the usual chaos in the Zombie household as they prepared for dinner that night at the Frankenstein’s Castle.

“Doris! Tell those kids to stop biting each other!” 

You tell the little monsters! I’m preparing a gift for our hosts!”

“Darrell! Frankie! Susie! That’s enough! Go put your worst clothes on because we’re getting ready to leave.”

“Are you ready, John?” Doris asked.

“I’m always ready,” he replied with a wink from his one good eye.

Meanwhile at the Frankenstein’s Castle…

You have nothing to worry about woman. Your new hairstyle will set a trend,” Frankenstein reassured his bride.

“Boris!”

“Yes, master,” the Hunchback of Norte Dame, and the majordomo for the night, asked.

Did you order extra raw meat for the Werewolf Family? I heard their bringing some cousins.”

“Yes, master.”

Wine for the Phantom of the Opera?”

Taken care of master.”

“How about the sacred incense for the Mummy clan table?

“As you instructed, master.”

“Did you set up the separate table for the Mad Scientists? They can be such a bore at the main table.”

“Done master.”

“Did you finish that display of torture devices for the main hall?”

“I did, master.”

“How about the entertainment?”

“I was able to get Jack the Ripper to juggle knives.” 

Was that all?”

“It’s the best I could do. It’s hard finding a good act these days,” Boris apologized.

Still, Frankenstein reasoned, the guests themselves often provided the best entertainment.

As It Stands, monsters can provide the perfect forum for humor.

 

The ‘Beast’ In The Bayou

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Circa 1950. Port Barre, St. Landry Parish, Louisiana.

Pierre Part dit LaForest was never so afraid in his life.

He looked behind him at the murky waters of the Bayou Teche expecting to see the creature running along the banks. He tried to concentrate while paddling his pirogue in the light of the full moon.

He shouldn’t have been caught out this late in the marshes. That nap set him back a bit. When he woke to the howl of a loup garou (Cajun for werewolf) he scrambled to the pirogue, leaving his gear behind.

Children at Port Barre are warned that loups garous can read souls, and that they only hunt and kill evil men and women and misbehaved horses. Pierre wasn’t sure he qualified as evil. Yeah, he may have done a bad thing or two, but was that all it took?

The beast’s howling stopped after a few minutes. He saw lights ahead and sighed with relief. Ft. Barre’s history stretched back to 1760 when it was an Indian trading post at the place where Bayou Courtableau flows into Bayou Teche.

Nowadays there were less than 2,000 inhabitants. Over half of the town’s income derived from speeding tickets. Everyone knew everyone. It was a tight Cajun community that was proud of its history, culture, religion (Roman Catholic), and entertainment.

Myths and legends were taken seriously. Most had been to a Shaman one time or another seeking help for something.

As Pierre downed his second bottle of beer his best friend Yves Dussault looked worried. He asked, “Are you sure it was a loups garou?”

Never heard that kind of howl before in my life. You ain’t either,” he assured him. “It made my blood run cold.”

Despite his scare Pierre was back fishing three days later.

Deep into the bayou there was a crude hut made from sticks and two old green Army blankets. It was Pedro Gonzalez’s home. He was originally from Mexico, but fled after the cartels captured his family and put them on display in a private zoo.

The Gonzalez’s all suffered from a rare genetic condition called hypertrichosis. Pedro had four inches of thick fur on his face, and his eyes were the only part of his head that was exposed.

This “curse of the hair” is caused by a primeval gene stemming from man’s animal ancestors. Some cases are more extreme than others. All the Gonzalez family had hair all over their bodies.

When Pedro escaped he made his way across the border and into Louisiana he had a plan. He read that it was almost impossible to find someone hiding in the state’s bayous. It was to become his new home.

For a year he avoided any human contact, but spied on people fishing,  listening to their conversations about loups garous. To ensure privacy, Pedro decided to become one. He certainly looked the part.

Living alone was no problem for Pedro. He hated to be stared at like a freak. After three years though, he was starting to miss conversations, and news about what was going on in the world.

Pierre decided he’d collected enough crawfish and catfish. The “Cracklin Festival” kickoff was today and he wanted to get home and change his clothes. He looked forward to dancing all night.

The sun was slowly setting amid a pink and orange skyline when the huge Alligator smashed into his little pirogue. Pierre was unceremonially dumped into the murky waters.

Watching from the marsh grass, Pedro saw that he was in big trouble. Going against every natural instinct, Pedro jumped into the dark water and swam toward Pierre who was screaming in agony!

The Alligator had his leg and was trying to pull him underneath the water. Pedro pulled the only weapon he had, a kitchen butcher knife, and slashed the Alligator across its eyes, puncturing one in the process.

The enraged Alligator let go of Pierre and turned on Pedro. But Pedro was ready. He’d killed a lot of Alligators (and smaller game) to survive. Nimbly avoiding the snapping jaws he plunged the knife in the base of its neck repeatedly.

After cutting its throat he drug the monster onto the bank. Then he remembered Pierre who was hanging onto the remnants of his boat. He swam back to him and held him in a lifeguards hold until they were on the muddy bank.

Pierre had passed out from loss of blood. Pedro tore a sleeve from Pierre’s shirt and wrapped up the gaping wound to staunch the blood flow. It was obvious he’d die without medical attention.

Despite his own misgivings, Pedro picked him up and started walking toward town. The night was aglow with lanterns and dancers were gaily spinning around on the massive wooden platform built for that purpose.

As Pedro stood in the shadows Pierre woke up. He looked up at Pedro and his eyes opened wide in fear. “No. I’m not going to hurt you. I’m leaving you here so you can get help.”

Pedro propped Pierre up against a large bald cypress tree on its knobby roots. Then he let out a series of howls. Looking back one last time at Pedro, he took off for the interior.

When the townspeople found Pierre they thought he was hallucinating and didn’t take much notice of his claims that a loups garou had saved his life. It seemed much more likely that the beast (the loups garou) attacked him and he was in shock.

From that day forward, Pierre added a new wrinkle into the lore of the loups garou.

As It Stands, I’ve often wondered if someone with hypertrichosis was ever mistaken for a werewolf.

 

 

The Ghouls Night Out

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It was just after midnight when Cindy, Laura, and Tonya arrived at the trendy restaurant in Newcastle’s graveyard.

Blood and Bones offered the very latest in human cuisine and was a good place to be seen.

They were just good old country ghouls who enjoyed mingling with wealthy vampires and werewolves. When their waiter arrived, a zombie in a tuxedo, they ordered Hors d’oeuvres of boiled eyeballs and pickled ears.

The main dish they picked out was bar-b-que ribs, a chilled gut salad, and livers smothered in human fat.

“I still remember the old days,” Cindy said, while chewing on a pickled ear. “We had to hunt around for food and usually ended up with skimpy grave leftovers after the vampires and werewolves were done feasting.”

They toasted with a round of sparkling spinal fluid.

“To progress!” Tonya declared as she drank hers in one gulp.

Laura was delicately sipping hers when she saw a tall dark vampire who looked a lot like Elvis Presley. He was moving from one tombstone table to another casually greeting everyone.

Bela was the genius who came up with The Blood and Bone franchise that now spread throughout New England.

His black hair was swept back in a ducktail. His pale face made his red lips stand out like blood rubies. His black pupils were obsidian orbs that never blinked. The cape he wore over his fine black suit was lined with scarlet red satin.

Tonya saw Laura’s attention was elsewhere. Focused on Bele.

“Isn’t he a snappy dresser?” Tonya asked Laura.

Cindy whispered, “Here he comes,” and hurriedly swallowed the rest of the eyeball she was enjoying.

“I hope the food is acceptable Ladies.”

“Oh, yes…” they agreed in unison.

“You must be new. I don’t recall seeing you here before. I have an eye for pretty ghouls and would have noticed you.”

They were charmed. Finally, Laura spoke up;

“We’re from the hills about 10 miles from here. Not much happens up there, and we get bored. So, we like to have a ghoul’s night out once in a while, and go to a city. You’re right. This is our first time here.”

“How quaint,” Bele noted. “You should know there is a dress code here, and ragged blue jean shorts and low cropped blouses are not on the list.”

As It Stands, I’ve always enjoyed the classic monsters and this is a silly tribute to the genre.