Good folk of Bludhaven, for your Samhain reading enjoyment, I submit for your consideration the following:
Rating: PG-13, bloodshed and mild language.
Disclaimer: DC owns Nightwing and Bludhaven. The other main character is, I think, now public domain. All others are of my own device.
Synopsis: Everyone knows that Bludhaven is rife with evil. Most people assume that the evil is produced by humans. Not always. Not always.
Cold fog on an autumn night.
Screams of terror, echoing up the crumbling shafts of grimy concrete from a trtash-strewn alley.
Shadow in man-shape, gliding through the dark night.
Nightwing came to rest lightly on a second-floor fire escape, well-trained eyes assessing the scene in a quick instant. The screaming woman was a limp, boneless sack now, held up by the strong arms of her assailant. The man was tall, muscular, with white-blond hair and chiseled Nordic features. He was wrapped in a gray trenchcoat against the October chill, and had fresh red blood smeared on his mouth and chin.
The blond man whirled to face Nightwing at the almost inaudible sound of the vigilante's drop to the metal railing, and tossed the pale rag doll against the brick wall. There was a sickening sound of bones being smashed, and she sank to the filthy ground. Nightwing saw then that her throat had been ripped open, as if by the teeth of some brutal predator. The sight filled him with a wash of nausea as he connected it to the bloody face of the man.
"You are mine, scum!" Nightwing growled as he sprang forward. The blond man watched the rapid advance, then darted aside at the last minute, moving faster than the vigilante could track. Nightwing whirled, a trio of wingblades ready between his knuckles, to see the murderer darting with almost inhuman agility towards the fire escape. He launched the razor-honed shuriken with a deadly accurate flick of the wrist as he darted forward. Somehow, they all missed, bouncing off the wall instead of embedding in the target's flesh.
Incredibly, the man had already made it to the third floor, and was still climbing rapidly. Nightwing drew his jumpline and fired the grappling cable upwards, reeling himself swiftly up to the roof. He reached the top before his quarry, but just barely.
Nightwing drew his sticks and moved in close, striking multiple rapid blows. The bloody man evaded smoothly, never coming into contact with the weapons. Nightwing launched a sudden snap-kick to the thigh, but the other man leapt, sailing fully six feet into the air and coming down on the other side of the vigilante. He started running across the tar-papered roof, legs becoming a moving blur as he fled.
"Damn!" Nightwing muttered to himself as he went into pursuit. Whoever this bastard was, he had to be some kind of metahuman. There was no way he could move like that otherwise.
The masked hero gained a little ground briefly when the blond man reached the edge, but not much. The killer gathered his legs beneath him and made another impossible leap, clearing fifteen feet of alleyway in a single bound, then continuing to run across the next roof. Nightwing used his jumpline again, taking to the air, and drew a little closer.
The killer shifted direction suddenly, moving at a right angle to his previous course, and dropped down five stories to the alley below. Nightwing followed, grimly aware that the chances of his catching the killer were vanishing by the microsecond.
He hit the ground hard, rolling to absorb some of the impact, then coming up in a fighting stance in case it was an ambush. It wasn't.
Before him in the fog-filled alley was his prey, and another trenchcoated figure. The newcomer was tall, thin, and aristocratic-looking in clack leather. His face was lean and sallow, with a fierce blade-like nose and pointed chin. Deep sockets housed obsidian eyes, black and hard, and black hair hung around the man's shoulders.
He had taken the superhumanly strong and fast killer by the lapels, and had pinned him against the wall a foot above the ground, where he writhed helpless as a child.
"You have gone too far, too often, James." The voice of the dark man was strong, vibrant, and merciless, tinged with the faintest of accents, which Nightwing couldn't place. "You know what my rules are, about feeding, and killing."
The blond man, James, gurgled in response.
"You are a monster, James. A threat to all mankind, breathing or otherwise. I fear I must tonight take matters into my own hand."
Another gurgle, this one clearly tinged with panic. Nightwing was too bewildered by what he was seeing to move.
"No, James. Do you not know my reputation? I have no mercy. Only harsh justice. It has gained me little love, but, I would hope, a certain amount of respect." The dark man, moving so fast that Nightwing didn't even register it for a few seconds, released one hand from James' coat, reached into the folds of his own, drew forth a long wooden stake, and rammed it through the killer's heart.
The scream that rent the night air was one of unspeakable pain, more pitiable in its way than the screams of his victim had been. James writhed uncontrollably as the dark man dropped him to the pavement, blood oozing from mouth, nose, ears and eyes, as well as the hole rent in his chest.
After a moment, the thrashing subsided. The dark man then seized the corpse at the chin and shoulders, and with one swift movement tore the head from the body.
Nightwing could only watch in amazement at the transformation. In mere moments, the body had become a desiccated corpse of at least twenty years decay.
The dark man turned to the vigilante. "You are Nightwing." It wasn't a question. "I beg your pardon for the wrong done by one under my authority in your city. I wish, knowing your scruples about death, that I could apologize for dealing with him as I did."
Nightwing gaped, staring at the ruined flesh on the ground.
"I fear that those whom I am ruler over, particularly the younger ones, like James here, often rebel against the laws of God and men. In this case, I believe it to be a case of madness, some deep defect in his soul or mind."
"Who are you?" Nightwing demanded, at last finding his voice.
A faint smile touched the dark man's thin, pale lips. "You have not guessed? I might have hoped for better from the first student of the Batman. My name, Nightwing, is Vlad Tepes Drakulya, formerly the Prince of Wallachia, Voivode against the Turks, and brother-in-law to King Mathyas Hunyadi of Hungary. Now, I am Boyar over my kind. I apologize again for this night's deeds of blood, and bid you a good evening."
Suddenly, Nightwing was alone. The fog swallowed up sight and sound, all save for the beating of leathery wings in the moonless night.
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