When I descended into the darkness of that cave, I had no idea what it was. I was hoping to find some mushrooms, since I was as hungry as a horse. I had no clue whether horses eat mushrooms or not, but I didn’t see any problem with the comparison.
“Dude, there’s so dark in here, I thought you’re a black guy!”
It was The Hand talking, my faithful sword. I got it a few years back from a merchant-traveler I met in Blingsdale. A good cure for loneliness, although painfully nerve-stepping.
“Dude, this cave’s deep!”
“Don’t dude me again, I hate it.”
“And I think I smell weed.”
I was seriously thinking my sword used to belong to a shaman, or was possessed by one.
“Can you tell me what’s around here?”
The Hand was good at finding things my mind-magic couldn’t. This was one of the moments when if I didn’t have a sword like The Hand, it would have been a very good thing to know my fair share of elemental magic, in order to manipulate light and darkness. Unfortunately, I have never been good with elements. But I had The Hand.
“In fifty meters, turn left.”
I turned left after fifty long steps. The new tunnel was slimmer, and I was barely moving without touching the walls. Suddenly, The Hand starts shouting:
“Watch out, there’s a…”
And then it hit me.
Why in the name of the Almighty Rhododendron would there be a door inside an underground cave?
I stepped right in it, and got stopped with a bang, while hitting the hard wooden surface.
“Does your nose hurt?”
“No, it tickles!”
My answer was sarcastic. Oddly enough, The Hand understood that every time.
“I would say so.”
“Do you want to know how to open it?”
“It would be interesting, I guess…”
“There’s a round rock in the wall to your right. Push it.”
I did as I was told, and remembered once again why I was so in love with this sword. The door began shifting to the left, noisily.
There was light! Finally, something I could deal with. Torches, sideways, burning slowly and showing the way.
“This should be easy” I said, walking at a faster pace than before, since I was actually seeing where I was going. Fortunately, the light wasn’t that strong, so my eyes didn’t have trouble adjusting to the new environment.
And then… it suddenly hit me.
The fire was magic. The torches were lit, but they weren’t actually burning at all, they remained whole the entire time. And they were all wood, no cloth and no black oil residue whatsoever.
I was perplexed.
“Dude, there’s a sorcerer around.”
Yes, I did in fact use the D-word. I was that shocked of my finding.
“What should I do?”
“Ye’re a wizard, Harry!” said The Hand in a funny voice.
Even though my name was most definitely not Harry, The Hand always loved to innovate. One time, a thief tried to steal it, and actually succeeded for a brief moment, trying to run away, before my mind-magic caught up with him and made him get back and give it to me. The Hand was shouting gibberish, for some reason. “Help me, Obi Wan, you’re my only hope!” I actually enjoyed the variety, so I had no problems with that whatsoever.
And The Hand was right: I am a wizard, and a mind bender, to top it off. So unless this guy was really good, this was going to be piece of cake.
But… this guy could keep a hundred fires magically lit from a distance. He wasn’t good. He was a Master.
The tunnel went right, so I did the same. I stepped into a room filled with chains hanging from the walls, on both sides. There were three pairs on either side, making that a total of six pairs. Six ways of keeping someone in place.
Out of the six pairs, only three had people attached to them: two on my right and one on my left. They were all men, old, and so very naked.
The Hand probably read my thoughts, because it said something along the lines of:
“These guys are either captive, or they’re into some really kinky stuff.”
The old guy on the left heard the voice, but probably couldn’t comprehend it at first, because he tilted his head towards me in disorientation, searching for a source. His eyes grew as big as onions when he realized someone else was in the room.
“Quick! Help us! He’s in the other room! He’s holding us hostages!”
So no chance of kinky stuff happening. All my hopes of seeing a horde of naked women suddenly bursting into the room were ruined the moment he said they were being held against their will. Just my luck, to run into a hostage situation while peacefully going on a wild goose chase! Well… wild mushroom chase, actually.
“Who are you? What are you doing here?”
“I’m Tush. These are my brothers, Mush and Bush. We’re being held captive by a vampire.”
“He’s stocking for the winter, or what?”
“It’s not like that. He’s not a Sanguine Vampire. He’s a Magus Vampire.”
I knew what that was. It’s just that I hoped I would never ever meet one. The odds were all in my favor, since it was only one so-called Mampire ever documented, and he was supposed to be a fairy tale, as far as the majority of people were concerned. A myth, so to speak. But that was about to change for me.
Suddenly, everything made sense. And it actually explained how he kept the lights on.
“Yes”, Tush answered. “We were travelling, on our way to the town of Riddich, for a wizard conference, when we decided to get some rest in this cave. We never got out.”
“He’s been sucking your magic. You’re spell-blocked.”
I realized this was the reason they couldn’t use magic to escape. And then I panicked, since my magic would also be ineffective against the Mampire.
“Is he the one? That one?”
“Yes. Lord Aramastus. The only one that ever was.”
At least it wasn’t a new one. Who knows what could happen if more than one specimen would lurk in the darkest corners of our world? Magic could become unusable by human beings. It would render us incapable of practicing it.
I raised The Hand and hit Tush’s chains. They broke.
“Could you be more careful? It hurts!”
“You don’t feel a thing. You’re a sword.”
“It hurts my ego, man! Because of the clumsy way you’re handling me!”
“And I can’t help it. Damn it, Jim, I’m a wizard, not a swordsman!”
Apparently I could play the name-game just as well. The Hand had previously used that line, it was useful to remember.
Tush was amazed:
“The sword is talking?”
“Yes it does”, I said while unchaining the quiet brothers.
I asked them where their clothes were. Tush spoke again, while they continued to stay quiet.
“They’re in the other room, with the Mampire. But leave them be, we’ll summon new ones as soon as we’re out.”
“I think ‘soon’ is not the word you’re looking for.”
The voice was deep, and heavy. The huge doors to the backroom were open, and he was standing in the doorway, tall and terrible, with his face as white as seashells in the morning sun.
I was at a loss here. He walked towards me, and my ability to mind control was definitely gone. On top of that, the three naked guys took refuge behind me, and if I know one thing learnt through unpleasant past experience, is that there’s never a good idea to have three naked guys behind you.
Since I was out of options, I tried the only thing I could think of.
“Hand, how do you feel?”
“Right now, I wish I could play some symphonic music, to give this moment the magnificence it deserves.”
“Forget that. Do you feel good? Do you feel magic?”
“I certainly do. I speak, don’t I?”
Exactly! If the sword could still speak, that meant it still held magic. I lifted it in front of the Mampire’s eyes while he was getting close to me, and I said:
“Talk to The Hand, buddy!”
The Hand turned bright, while the Mampire screamed, his face decomposing. Then his body did the same. The sound of it was horrific. I wondered how he could scream like that while his lungs and vocal chords were slowly turning to dust. Maybe Mampires didn’t have vocal chords.
I yelled to the old guys:
“Go and grab your clothes, we’ve got to go!”
They went and picked them up while I was expunging the rest of the creature. As soon as they came back, I turned around and we left. There was an earthquake starting out of a sudden, so we ran away as fast as we could, hoping to escape the imminent destruction of the cave, which was happening for an unknown reason.
The walls were trembling, the ground was shaking, and I was just wondering how I will deal with that darkness beyond the wooden door.
And there I was, holding the solution. The Hand was still glowing! We ran through the tunnel, past the torches, and through the wooden door, as fast as we could. The sword glowed in the dark, helping us get out, while hundreds of rocks were falling behind, sealing the Mampire’s lair for good.
We were out. The old guys couldn’t believe it.
“What was it with the light?” I asked my sword.
“Well… I can hold sunrays for a period of time. I figured since he was a vampire I could release them upon him.”
“And you’re telling me this now? After I just wet myself in there?”
“It didn’t seem relevant…”
“It figures”, I said.
“Hey, how come our magic didn’t start working immediately after he died?” asked Tush.
“It didn’t work because he was not a Mampire. I don’t think he was Aramastus.”
“What do you mean? It doesn’t make any sense.”
“I don’t think Mampires exist. He was just a regular Vampire. He most likely satisfied his blood thirst magically. He happened to be in the right place at the right time.”
Tush was just realizing what I meant:
“Sweet mother of baboons! It was the cave, wasn’t it?”
“Indeed”, I said. “It was the cave.”
“It fed on our magic…”
“And the Vampire used the cave for protection.”
“But it was most likely living magic it was feeding of. It didn’t affect your sword for some reason.”
“No, it didn’t.”
He was fascinated with The Hand.
“What kind of magic does it use?”
“Your guess is as good as mine…”
I was tired of his questions, and it was only fair I got to ask him one myself.
“Can you tell me why your brothers are so silent and they never talk?”
He put his hand around my shoulder while we were walking off in the sunset, and slowly whispered to me:
“Can I be honest with you?”
I didn’t see why not.
“Of course you can.”
“We’re into some really kinky stuff…”
And that’s when I realized they didn’t summon their clothes yet.