Everyone Loves the Undead: Part Two
Craven took a seat.
"What exactly was stolen?" he asked.
Frommholtz rushed over to one of the desks, throwing some potions aside and unrolling a large scroll.
"I've been working for some time on perfecting the vampire curse," he announced, pointing to some calculations on chemical properties that he had written down. "It's a virus, at the end of the day, and as such can be modified."
"Perfecting?" Craven asked, slightly horrified.
"Sorry, perhaps that was the wrong choice of words..." Frommholtz replied. "I was seeking to reduce the negative aspects of the curse. The desire for blood, aversion to sunlight, that sort of thing. But then, during my research, I came across another idea... why do it for just vampires? Werelupes, zombies, even ghosts in a way... all of us suffer from curses, so I widened my search. I thought perhaps I could cure us all. Alter the vampire virus to compensate for the curse, making us all normal again."
"This cure is what was stolen?" Craven asked.
"No, I haven't got around to synthesising it yet," Frommholtz replied. "In order to do that, I had to produce a version of the virus with all of the required curses combined, then it would just be a matter of producing the exact opposite. It was that virus that was stolen."
Craven gave a little sigh. "Quite a pickle, aha. You have suspects?"
"No," Frommholtz said. "That's just the thing. I didn't tell anyone about it. There's no way anyone could have known, and the thing wasn't even properly labelled. But they must have known it was here – nothing else was touched, just that."
"So..." Craven said. "We have a vial of a dangerous virus missing, somewhere in the city. We must find it before the thief has chance to use it. And to think, I had tickets for a new play at the Dodecahedral Sphere tonight. Plans have changed, it would seem, aha. We must convene the Brotherhood, of course. Strength in numbers."
Frommholtz nodded. "I thought as much. You'll send the invites?"
"I'll have my man do it," Craven announced, standing up and making for the stairs. "Oddfellow's Hall, I think. Just after sunset."
It had been a month since the riots. A full moon would grace the night sky once again.
Robert Benn once more made his habitual trek across the city after clocking off early from work. The Helm in the Old Quarter was his destination, the only safe place for a Werelupe to transform that he had found. The other woods and parks in the city were near places too populated by the living – at least, if he did wander into town in his transformed state, the majority of his victims would be zombies.
Robert reached his destination in good time, the green Lupe setting his small pack down on the old turret he always made his way to. Carefully, he took off his shirt and folded it up. It was a ceremony, the repetitiveness of it all somehow negating the strangeness that was to come.
He sat there, gazing out over the city as the sun set behind him, casting dark shadows over the buildings. The last dying ember disappeared below the horizon, leaving only the light of the moon over the city.
Robert gave a deep sigh, and stood up, preparing himself.
The Change came.
Oddfellow's Hall was a grand old building at the foot of the Helm, near the giant graveyard at the heart of the Old Quarter. Once, in the ancient history of Neopia Central, it had served as the town hall of the old settlement, but the city had long since outgrown such a use, and the building had since become used for meetings by the citizens.
Lord Craven arrived late, as was fashionable for an aristocratic vampire, making his way to the rear meeting room, the smaller of the two available. The local zombies appeared to have booked the larger room for one of their regular meetings, but the vampires in Neopia Central were so small in number that they hardly needed a large space.
The dozen or so vampires gathered in the darkened room turned to see him as he entered. Craven gave a brief appraisal of the figures before nodding, his servant taking his travelling cloak. Craven made his way to the lectern at the far end of the room, where he began to address the Brotherhood of Vampires.
He gave them a brief rundown of the situation. Several of the gathered vampires, those who had been around longer and grown more cynical to the affairs of Neopia, stressed in reply that perhaps everyone becoming a vampire was not a bad thing.
Craven's reply was simple – no normal Neopets meant no supply of fresh blood. The prospect of starving to death seemed to encourage many that stopping it might be a good idea. For the rest, the idea of being outclassed by a new breed of vampire had been enough. They were vain creatures at heart, and most had always viewed themselves as being at the top of the food chain.
When it came to ideas though, they were all fresh out.
"It must have been a non-vampire," one white Yurble suggested. "And if it was, that means they can move in daylight. We'll never find them."
Craven nodded in agreement, "To be honest, even if we scoured the city by night, we may never find this person. We have no leads, after all."
"I've been thinking about that," Frommholtz piped up, taking to the stage. "I've performed a few tests in my lab, and I believe I've found the scent of whoever broke in. We could follow that scent across the city."
"Your nose is that good, aha?" Craven remarked.
"No, of course not," Frommholtz said dismissively. "What we need is a tracking animal."
"You know where to find one?" the Yurble asked.
"As a matter of fact I do," Frommholtz answered darkly. "Tonight is a full moon, after all."
Slowly the zombies shuffled towards Oddfellow's Hall. The vampires were just leaving when Arthur Munroe arrived to set up, providing a curt nod to many he knew from the high class balls of the Hills that had been held until recently.
The majority of the residents of that particular district had fled to Meridell during the riots. It was anyone's guess when, or even if, they would return. Munroe had been isolated from so many of the peers he had made during his life, now he had only those he had met in death.
Still, Munroe was an optimist, and he threw himself into his role in the Zombie Union with fresh vigour. He welcomed each and every zombie with a firm handshake – it was a small mercy that the Chomby was right handed, as his left hand was now entirely useless.
But towards the end of his greetings, a moment he had been dreading arrived. The ghost Meerca floated up to him.
"Ah... Mr. Oldnose..." Munroe said.
"Is something the matter, sir?" Oldnose asked.
Munroe made to put his hand on the Meerca's shoulder, guiding him away from the room, but found his arm pass straight through the spectre. The Chomby smiled in embarrassment, not entirely sure what to say.
"I've been meaning to speak with you, old boy," Munroe said. "You're aware that you have gone through some... changes, since the riots?"
"I had noticed, yes sir," Oldnose agreed.
"The thing is, there is a consensus among the living impaired," Munroe explained. "Being a zombie is like a continuum. There are those who are recently deceased, and those who have been around so long that their flesh has all rotted away to bone. But there comes a point where you no longer appear on the zombie continuum, Mr. Oldnose – and that point is when you no longer possess a body."
He smiled helpfully, hoping that Oldnose would fill in the blanks himself. When that evidently wasn't going to happen, Munroe was forced to speak more.
"You are no longer a zombie," he added. "You are a ghost. As such, the Union feels you shouldn't be attending zombie meetings any longer."
"You are banning me from meetings?" Oldnose gasped.
"It's nothing personal, old boy," Munroe tried to comfort him. "We'll still work together I hope... but, you've hit the nail on the head, so to speak. No hard feelings?"
It didn't really matter if there were hard feelings or not. Munroe tried for a reassuring pat on the shoulder to end the conversation, but again found his hand pass through the ghost. He paused for a moment before smiling again and retreating back to the meeting room, closing the door firmly behind him.
Oldnose stared at the closed door for a few moments before drifting out of the building, ethereal tears in his eyes.
The Werelupe howled at the moon, perched atop the ruined turret of the old castle.
This was his territory. The beast knew. It was always like this, it smelt of him, his stalking ground. He would run, he would hunt, he would howl and growl and...
A new scent clouded his nostrils. Paper, dust, and something more. Iron... no, blood. Old blood.
The Werelupe turned, crouching on all fours and delivering a low, threatening growl to the white Korbat that stood nearby.
This was his territory, how dare someone else enter?
"Greetings," the Korbat mustered, looking slightly apprehensive.
But the Werelupe could smell more. The creature stank of fear. It didn't want to be there, that made it easy prey.
Another growl, and then the Werelupe leapt forwards, easily overpowering the Korbat and sending both toppling to the ground. The Werelupe pinned the challenger down, his maws darting forwards towards his prize.
It was all the Korbat could do to jam his cane into the Werelupe's open mouth, stopping it mere inches from his face. The two wrestled, the Werelupe would clearly win, but the Korbat was stronger than he appeared, and could hold the creature at bay at least for a while.
"Whenever you are ready, Gabriel!" the Korbat shouted.
A shot rang out, a crossbow bolt embedding itself in the Werelupe's hind quarters. The beast gave a yelp, recoiling from the Korbat and retreating back to the safety of the ruined castle.
"You got it?" Craven asked, getting to his feet.
"No, that was just to track him," the Ogrin answered, running up to meet Craven as he reloaded the crossbow. "This one will contain the serum."
The Werelupe was nursing the wound – just grazing the flesh, it had been easy to pull the bolt out. Another shot, and another bolt delivered to the same area. The Werelupe gave another yelp, retreating away from the castle and heading north.
"He's running away!" Craven shouted. "We'll lose him!"
"It doesn't matter," Frommholtz answered, holding Craven back from following. "We can't use him tonight anyway. Tomorrow, he'll be ours."
"He's heading towards Kau Kau Farms," Craven pointed out.
"I don't think they have night workers," Frommholtz said unconvincingly.
The Werelupe ran, pulling the other crossbow bolt out as he did so. His territory was no longer safe; he had to move.
To be continued...