The Aliens They Summoned
They were in a tattered state. These beasts had been stronger than Count Nosgard had feared, and there were many more out there. Especially the one he had fought... it must be their leader. That beast single-handedly defeated both Monrag and Herim, whom he would trust with his life.
Later on, Count Nosgard joined the fray again, only to find it slaughtering vampire after vampire as if they were nothing.
This was bad.
This was really bad.
Count Nosgard suspected their encounter to be a coincidence.
There was a human who stumbled away from the battle, collapsing in the cave they initially planned to rest in.
He tasted good, but he might have been the reason these beasts went in their direction in the first place.
They only survived because their bat-familiars found them, first.
He could only repeat it... this was bad.
If they were this strong when they didn't prepare for a fight against their kind, he could only suspect how formidable they would become if they had known that a battle was on its way. Their yami-swords could slice through anything at night, and even then, they barely managed to hurt the beasts.
Some he could slay, but most brushed his attacks off like they were nothing.
Again... this was bad.
The whole procession went back to his castle as quickly as possible. He heaved a sigh of relief when he found the gates intact and his people alive...
Well, sort of.
Vampires were a special case in that regard.
"Get some rest," he told his people, moving on to the humans in their midst. "Bring them back to their quarters. We need them alive and well, now more than ever. We will need all the blood we can get."
"Yes, Count Nosgard!"
These formalities only served to annoy him at that moment, so he quickly retreated.
"My guards should've brought back a lot of stuff I could animate... perhaps I could cast a spell on the castle itself? I should create a stone golem, perhaps..."
"Not now, Igor!" he barked back, making the servant twitch.
Igor was a failure of a vampire, as he didn't get a lot of strength or nightly affinity in the process. He could still walk around during the day... which could be another kind of strength for a vampire, he guessed.
"B-but, it's a letter-"
"No letter could be as important as the defense of my castle! You haven't seen what I have seen, Igor! We must prepare-"
"But," Igor started, practically shouting now as he interrupted Count Nosgard. He never did that, except... "The king summoned you to his castle!"
"... King Paegan?"
"That's what I'm trying to tell you, Count Nosgard!" Igor repeated, bowing his head.
"... thank you, Igor." The day couldn't possibly get any worse! "Send a bat ahead. Tell him I need to assure the safety of our borders before departing my castle. Tell him... that I will arrive momentarily."
"Consider it done!"
Igor was already half-way down the corridor before Count Nosgard called after him, "When did that letter arrive?"
"Shortly after you departed, Count Nosgard!"
"Shortly after... alright, you may go!"
"I shall fulfill my duty!"
With that, Igor scurried away.
Count Nosgard also quickened his pace. King Paegan wasn't one you wanted to anger. If it was about the defense of his borders, he should understand, though...
As suspected, his animated suits of armor carried stuff into his chambers even now.
Other suits of armor, pottery, furniture, weapons, trash... they could all be used.
"Bring me Markus, Ben, and Clarence. I will need blood."
A lot of blood, Count Nosgard silently added.
The suits saluted, moving to fulfill the order.
Count Nosgard worked on his blood magic, reanimating the seemingly useless tools to do his bidding.
Anything could work if the beasts didn't expect it.
He had to refill many times until he was done, and the three humans he called seemed tired and exhausted, too.
He had them brought back to their cells and wished for his commanders to arrive.
"Count Nosgard!" the four men and one woman said, bowing.
"I saw what is coming for us," Count Nosgard started, pacing the room. "Ask General Asgard, and he will confirm it. They aren't immortal, but they may be stronger than even us. King Paegan summoned me, so I will be out for a while. If they invade the Nation of Paegan, they will come to our castle, first. Make sure that it is suitably prepared. Golems, traps, anything that could work against them. The shadow is our home, my dear commanders. Remember that."
He went to meet the king immediately after that.
Travel in the Nation of Paegan was very fast.
King Paegan made sure that vampires could meet his expectations of an immediate reply when he designed the tunnel systems.
Vampires hated light but loved the darkness.
They could travel from one end of the nation to the other in less than ten hours if the path was shrouded in darkness.
Anxious over the reaction to his very late arrival, Count Nosgard traveled through the proper tunnel in less than three hours, arriving at the castle of his King.
As he was summoned to this place multiple times a year, he easily found the throne room, where he was greeted by two giant statues that slowly turned their heads towards him.
These constructs were a common occurrence in the King's castle.
"I was called by the king," Count Nosgard announced, holding up the letter.
One of the statues nodded, and both took a single step, causing a minor earthquake. Then they pushed the doors to the throne room open, after which they would return to their positions.
It was the usual stuff.
He didn't look at King Paegan in his throne but walked to the middle of the room with his head held low. Any further advancements could only happen if the King allowed it.
Count Nosgard bowed, one hand behind his back, the other on his neck, where the King once blessed his skin with the royal teeth, allowing him to join him on his mission to take over the kingdom. Obviously, he had succeeded.
Silence engulfed the scene as all people present waited for the King to give his orders.
A few dozen humans and vampires of high status filled the throne room, ready to give advice to the king if needed.
"Raise your head," came the order, ending the suspension.
"Yes, your highness," Count Nosgard said, looking at the king's feet.
It was not yet safe to look at him, directly.
"I have read your letter. A similar one arrived from the human castle before that, telling me that a strange beast had appeared. When I called for you, I got the message that you just went out to help said human castle... and now you are back. Look me in the eye and tell me what happened."
Now, he was allowed to be graced by the sight of his grace.
The two bite marks in his neck twitched with recognition in the presence of King Paegan, the one who caused the wounds.
He looked good. Count Nosgard saw that his appearance hadn't changed at all since their last meeting.
Only his expression was different... a hint of emotion washed over it, which didn't happen normally.
His King was even more intense than usual.
Count Nosgard joined the other people in the throne room in their trembling. King Paegan exuded the kind of pressure that could silence even his enemies in an instant.
"What the human wrote worried me, my King." He had trouble keeping his voice steady as he spoke. Count Nosgard knew that he couldn't mess this up! "The strength of the first beast reminded me of what you were capable of, and so I chose to investigate. When the humans agreed to our help, I marched to their aid with a hundred vampires and a few dozen humans to keep our strength up... but we didn't have to go that far." Count Nosgard held back a tremble as the scene came rushing back to his mind. "Our familiars discovered some strange creatures they couldn't place, only that they were running towards our procession, and so we decided to lie in wait. They broke through the trees like they were twigs, and our swords, although it was deep in the night, barely cut their skin. The wounds began making strange noises and steam rose from them, no matter how severely we hurt them. We lost more than half our fighters, while only being able to kill a few of these beasts. They were angry, and we were exhausted, so we ran away. When the daylight rose, they stopped their pursuit. I believe that they followed some stray humans and encountered us by chance. We came to the conclusion that they are like us... creatures of the night."
Having finished his tale, Count Nosgard observed the reaction of his king.
He didn't blink and he didn't speak a word.
All he did was stare deep into Count Nosgard's eyes, seeing what he saw, discerning the truth from the lies...
"I see that you speak the truth you believe," King Paegan said after a long pause. "But not everything you believe is the truth," he continued, and Count Nosgard knew that this was his cue to kneel, bowing low. The time for eye contact was over. He was kinda glad about it. Count Nosgard didn't want his King to see the weakness he showed in the face of his authority. "Think back on the battle of Midgard! I raged through the castle, killing everyone by myself! During the siege of Hartz, I laid waste to the castle with a snap of my fingers. I ended the war of the tribes by defeating their champions one after the other until none who were willing to fight me were left! What did these beasts do? Defeat some vampires? I can do the same and more! Rage through a castle! I can do the same and more! What if there is a whole horde of them? We built a kingdom from scratch and made it one of the most influential powers in the eastern hemisphere, and we are not finished!" As soon as he started speaking of 'we,' everyone dared to look at him, again. He had spread his arms wide, and the look on his face was one of elation. This was so unlike his typical behavior that they all forgot the rules, and the King did, too. "Creatures of the night who feast on humans! Listen to the clues, my dear subjects! There is only one place they would go!" Audible gulps and whispers spread through the throne room. Count Nosgard didn't know why. "It seems like our time has come! Prepare for battle! Our nation shall grow even larger!"