I am Azerius. A hunter. The hunter. All of those stories that you have heard, they’re all true.

The creature under your bed. It’s real.

The shadow that’s watching you in the corner of your room. It’s real.

The footsteps that you hear following you down the street at night. It’s real. They’re stalking you.

You are never alone, they’re hunting you. The creatures of your nightmares are real. You are cattle to them, sustenance, nothing more.

You, humans, have labelled what you do not understand. You have denied the truth so much that you simply cannot see it until it is too late.

I am the shadow behind the shadow. I am the creature that stalks the creature. To defeat the monster, I have become monstrous. I am their nightmare, their fear incarnate. All is not lost, I am the hunter.

******

Azerius kicked open the doors to the vampire den. The creatures had taken residence in an abandoned mansion, its large and ornate structure decaying with age. Azerius knew it well, it had been home to the clan for a century and he had had dealings with them before. A rancid smell hit him, he did not flinch, the smell of death was a familiar one. Azerius wore a long black cloak, its length hiding the entirety of his muscular form. A hood covered his closely shaven head, shadowing his face with only two sapphire eyes glaring out from within. He strolled into the great hall, unafraid of what lurked in the shadows. The hall was dark and cavernous, dimly lit by flame, its centrepiece a grand dining table. At the head of the table was a raised platform, a throne atop it made from viscera bound bone. The walls were decorated with the dead, displayed like grim trophies on flesh hooks.

“The almighty Azerius, I assume. You are no longer welcome here.” A voice snarled behind the throne, shadowed by candlelight.

“I love what you’ve done with the place, very Feng Chui.” Azerius paced the room, eying the deceased that decorated the walls. “Did you kill these defenceless humans all by yourself? What a big, strong vampire you must be.” Azerius’ tone was calm and calculated, careful not to unveil his anger. “Will you reveal yourself creature. I would have words to your face, not the air.”

“Azerius, your sharp tongue is legendary among us… creatures. But I believe you misheard me, you are not welcome here.” The vampire slowly revealed itself from behind the throne. Its guise was male. It wore a formal black suit, long aged, like the mansion in which it resided. Its wicked talons and pointed ears denied its human façade. It had feasted recently, red gore painted its mouth and dripped down its chin. As the vampire spoke, the shadows writhed and contorted, more creatures emerged.

“I am welcome where I choose. Your predecessor made me welcome. He was a good little vampire and followed my rules.” Azerius spoke whilst observing his potential combatants, nine against one. He liked those odds. The creatures wore the same garb as their leader, decayed and ragged with age. They bore fang and hissed as eyes met. Azerius’ gaze met with the master. “I spared you all once, gave you a chance. You vowed to never take a pure human life again. You have defiled that vow. Why overthrow your master?” The cracks in his calm demeanour were beginning to show.

“He was weak. He followed rules that denied us our very nature. Humans are ours to feast upon. They are nothing more than cattle.”

“They are under my protection. You followed my rules because I was in a forgiving mood that day and let your pathetic existence carry on!”

“You think we are afraid of you?” The master laughed, a deep boom that echoed through the hall. “My predecessor was a fool to fear the likes of you, I am not afraid! I tore off his head and kicked him to the gutter. I, Tryus, master of this clan, will pry open your rib cage and feast on your hea…”

 

Azerius was upon him so fast that the mortal eye would not have seen. The master’s speech was cut short by an uppercut, sending him crashing through the ceiling of the hall and beyond. Where once his eyes radiated blue, they were now obsidian pits of dark fury. Azerius sensed three of the master’s minions closing in swiftly behind him. In a single motion, three throwing knives flew. The three vampires fell to the ground, lifeless as one. Azerius sized up his remaining assailants, all five readied to strike at any moment, their claws poised to tear flesh. He stood atop the podium and drew Moonsgrace from its scabbard, hidden beneath his long cloak. Moonsgrace’s long silver edge glinted, it appeared almost crystalline in the candlelight. He stood a bastion of defiance and motioned his blade for them to come. They came one by one, and one by one they were cut down in seconds with ruthless efficiency.

A roar came from the newly formed breach in the ceiling, two claws braced the edges and the master reappeared.

“Did we have a nice nap up there?” Azerius grinned. The master crashed downed onto his throne with crunch and observed the chaos that been wrought in his absence. The creatures that had once been his kin were scattered around Azerius. The room was awash with a new coat of red. They locked eyes for what seemed like an eternity. The master moved first, he darted at Azerius like quicksilver and unleashed a flurry that would have torn a human to bloody ribbons. With each blow, Azerius countered and cut deeply, the wounds burning from the mysterious alloy of his blade. Azerius stayed resolute in his defensive stance, until the master slowed from his exuding life force.

“Shall I begin now?” Azerius smiled, not a bead of sweat broken from the combat. He unleashed a flurry of his own, his blade moving expertly and gracefully, cutting and gouging. The master was left kneeling in a pool of his own blood. Azerius wiped his blade in his long coat and sheathed it within. Grabbing the master by throat and lifting him into the air, he threw him crashing along the contents of the dining table.

“It did not have to come to this, but it did. And now it ends.” Azerius stalked towards the heap that was once a feared vampire master.

“Why do you protect them?” The master muttered, defeated.

“Because no one else can. Because some of them deserve life.” With a flash of silver, the master was no more.

*****

For more of the mysterious cloaked hunter, Azerius, check out The Hunted. Thank you for reading.