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Damned sun! Even through the heavy fog he could feel the furnace heat coming around the corner of the world.

So close! He nudged the Piper with one elegantly shod foot. The elf was gone, wasted. His white face lolled against his shoulder, exposing the puncture wounds on his neck, a thin line of scarlet dripping down a few inches. The tall elf lord almost smiled and, like a sated Epicurean deciding to indulge in dessert, bent with supernatural swiftness to run a startlingly red tongue across the warm pale flesh of the dead elf like a cat licking up cream.

I was sure she had him. She stalked him here for a year. The undead elf lord stood again, and wrapped his velvet cloak about him, savoring the salty vibrancy of the musician's blood. A glance to the east brought a grimace that did not quite reach expression. He fled, not bothering to descend stairs. Not even bothering to change shape. He was glutted and so full of power he would almost challenge a god. He fell three stories and healed so fast he did not even feel injury, landing on his feet amid the shattering of tiny diamond panes from the window.

He must have been here. She would not have been so wrong. She has hidden him! The heavy cape whipped behind him as he raced south to the waterfront, faster than anything mortal. He ripped the throat from a shivering watchman in passing. The vampire was gone before the first splatter of blood hit the slick cobblestones.

Five years wasted in the Wood. I should have taken him early. With a pumping arm action the creature brought a lightning bolt down far behind him, erasing the still standing evidence of his pique. The watchman died still trying to hold his heart's blood in with his hands. Launching from the end of a dock, the vampire finally shaped a bat and flew to his lair. Somewhere, a mad woman sheltered flesh that was his.

The witch must have found him a month ago or more. She led me to believe this Piper was her son. Rueful anger almost twisted his lips. He flew deep into the hillock, the best shelter he could find in this cursed marsh. His Companion was there and ready, his children already sluggish and resentful of his intrusion, nestled into their perches, their own Companions fidgeting under the power of his presence. He embraced the dwarf, giving him power and ecstasy. He was careful not to give too much. They'd walked the edge of that cliff for fifty centuries, and the dwarf was mortal still.

"You fed well, Lord. He was not your son, then?" The scarred throat made the dwarf's voice a mere husk of the laughing bellow it was when the vampire first corrupted him.

"No, he was a decoy. The boy has slipped us again. Gerikol will stay and ferret out leads, like the weasel he is." He gestured to one of the more misshapen vampires. "Leave twenty men with him, including someone you trust. They are to be subtle. Have them kill Gerikol if he rages again. We need to stop spooking the boy before we can reach him. We return to the Wood. There is some clue I am missing there. Oh, I have changed my mind about the Madwoman again. Kill her if you can. She is fighting me too hard. Hmmm, and ready the House in Arrowhead. If he's not here and he's fled the Wood, let's start looking there." The heavy dwarf merely nodded as he finished dressing his lord for sleep.

I must admit I am enjoying this, though. The vampire smiled as he closed his eyes, making the dwarf wonder more than he had in centuries. My boy has brought more excitement than I have felt since I stalked the Lords of the Earth in their dwarven holts. How long? five millennia at least. The boy is magnificent!

The dwarf lord set the wards about his master and took up his great, wicked axe and went to rouse the men. There was work to do.

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