The Master: A Slayer! Have you any proof?
Luke: Only that she fought me, and yet lives.
The Master: Hmm, very nearly proof enough. I can't remember the last time that happened.
Luke: 1843. Madrid. He caught me sleeping.
This is the story of what happened that night in Madrid in 1843.
1,350 words. Rating 15, warnings for violence, death and tragedy.
It was the proudest day of Don Cristobal de Menendez y Spinoza's life when his ward was Chosen as Slayer. She'd always been a dutiful child, hard-working and diligent, enduring the long hours of training patiently; but afterwards, when she'd relax and listen to the stories his father had told him, her laugh was like little silver bells. There was such life in her.
And as Slayer, she burned like a fiery torch in the darkness of the city's nights. Vampires and demons shrivelled and died at her touch; fear stalked through the underworld while the citizens of Madrid walked the city's moonlit streets in safety for the first time in generations.
Rumours came to him of an organisation, the Ordo Aurelii, that spread its grasping fingers all throughout Europe like a dark mirror of the Watchers' Council itself. Don Menendez investigated: studying the ancient books in his library, sending off to Council headquarters in England for more knowledge, and even sending his Slayer to extract information from the more harmless demons who dwelt in Madrid's shadows. At last he tracked down the Order's base in the Kingdom of Spain, in the ancient city of Toledo. They travelled there in his coach and took lodgings, and in one brutal week his Slayer tracked down and killed every last one of the vampires. It was a glorious victory, and his pride in her knew no limit.
On their return to Madrid a message was waiting for him from the Council. A warning. News of the destruction of the Ordo Aurelii's operations in Spain had flown on wings of night even to that Order's mysterious Master. He was angered, and had sworn vengeance. The Watchers knew this because a vampire had walked right into the lobby of their headquarters in London the next morning, shielded by a cloak. It told them that the Master had sent his chief disciple, the one called Luke, to destroy Slayer and Watcher alike who had done such harm to his children. Before it could be questioned further, the vampire had stepped out again into the direct sunlight, and burned to ash. Such was the power of the Master, that could compel his slaves to sacrifice themselves so willingly.
Don Menendez was not willing to wait like a lamb for the butcher's axe. He sent his Slayer out once more, to demand information about a strange new vampire arriving in the city. Terrified whispers pointed the way, and three nights later the two of them stood at the gates of the Santa Rosa cemetery, watching the moon rise over the tumbled stones and moss-encrusted sepulchres. She was confident, eager for battle, and his heart swelled within him as he watched her test the edge of her sword then stride confidently towards the large mausoleum at the centre of the graveyard.
He was still watching ten minutes later as the door of the mausoleum opened again, and a huge hulking figure tossed something small and broken down to the ground before the entrance, wiped his lips and went back inside.
The moon was bright, but his world darkened. He stood there minutes, or perhaps hours, unable to believe. Hoping any minute that the door would open, and she'd step out, laughing the way she did, wiping dust from her hands. That it was a mistake. That the crumpled shape of a dead girl there on the ground was a lie.
But it wasn't.
Slowly, resenting every step, he walked over towards her. Knelt beside her, gently turned her head to face him. Closed her eyes for her, and sat there cradling her until the moon set and the first pale glimmers of dawn lit up the eastern sky. He knew that the vampire might come out again any moment, find him there. Kill him too. He didn't care. Her face looked so peaceful, as though she were sleeping; but there was blood on her clothes, and the two puncture marks on her neck seemed to stare at him accusingly.
He knew what that meant. He knew what he had to do. He was a Watcher, and he knew his duty and the demands of honour. She had been bitten; she might be turned. He drew his own sword, stood over her. Her form blurred and wavered: a trick of the dim light, not the tears he refused to shed. His hand shook. But then he imagined her as a vampire herself, her light and life and happiness turned to darkness and cruelty, and he knew he was doing this for her. The blade swept down, and her head tumbled away across the flagstones.
He didn't watch it. All he saw in front of him was the shape of the monster who'd killed her, and he clutched his sword tightly and pushed open the door and strode into the mausoleum. He was going to kill or die trying, and he didn't care which.
Not true. He wanted both.
The tomb inside was large and shadowy. He stumbled, letting his eyes adjust to the trace of light coming in through the open doorway. But there was no mistaking his objective; the large stone sarcophagus at the centre of the room. He strode over, exerted all his strength to push the lid aside.
He was there. The vampire, Luke, the killer of his beloved child. Fast asleep, sated and dreaming his evil dreams of blood and hatred. Don Menendez quivered, a haze before his eyes. He lifted the sword, then lowered it again. The stone sides of the sarcophagus shielded the monster, made it too hard to strike a killing blow. And decapitation was too honourable a death for him anyway. His dropped sword rang against the stonework as he fumbled in his coat for a stake. He didn't notice Luke's eyelids quiver at the faint sound; the vampire had no breath to alert him by its changed rhythm.
He clutched the stake two-handed and plunged it down towards the vampire's chest - just as Luke shot out his arm to deflect the thrust. Almost too late; the sharp ash-wood stake plunged deep into his chest, causing him to yell with anger and pain - but it missed the heart. His counter-blow knocked Don Menendez sprawling; then he leaped from his tomb, pulled out the stake and cast it to the ground. He spoke then, threatening the Watcher with a slow, lingering death as he seized him by the neck and lifted him, one-armed, right off his feet.
It was the death he'd craved, but something woke inside Don Menendez then. Perhaps it was honour. Perhaps it was shame; his Slayer had not surrendered, and neither should he. Choking, fighting for breath, he fumbled in his pocket and pulled out a rosary. Pressed the cross against Luke's hand, and the vampire yelled in surprise at the sudden pain and hiss of steam. His grip slackened for a moment, and the Watcher kicked himself free. Dropped to the ground and rolled to his feet again like a man half his age - then sprinted for the exit.
Luke was right behind him, hands reaching to grasp and tear - but Don Menendez hurled himself out of the exit like the ball from a cannon, then stumbled and fell to the ground over the mutilated body of his Slayer. So much for flight; but at least he would die beside her.
But he didn't. Luke stood there watching him in the entrance to the mausoleum, unable to come any closer. Baffled by the warm light of dawn, as the sun rose gently over the city rooftops and chased away the shadows with pink and golden rays.
The vampire snarled in anger and contempt, then bowed mockingly. "Congratulations, boy. You're the first one ever to fight me and live."
But Don Menendez felt no triumph. His life would go on. He had his duty. There may even be other Slayers to train, in time. But live? No.
The best part of him died that night.
What he had was life; but it wasn't living.