Royal Vampire Elder Eunice gasped as she snapped awake, finding herself lying on a cold, glass-like floor. She gazed at her surroundings, still groggy from what felt like a very long nap. She was on an astral plane of some sort; millions of stars dotted an ethereal sky swirling with cosmic energy. Asteroid-like rock formations hovered in the air in the distance, and arcs of lightning crackled through misty clouds. She crawled to the edge of the platform and looked below only to see an endless abyss. She could swear she heard voices screaming in the distance.
Eunice clutched her head as she struggled to remember how she got here. She recalled the battle; the last stand of the Royal Vampires and the werewolves, led by her close friend Zan, against the combined forces of the Holy Land’s Sacred Disciples, Angels and Paladins in the fields of Elysium. The heretics were making good progress in the battle, thanks to the werewolves, who were pushing the Holy Land’s left flank back. Eunice then realized that the wolves would soon be completely destroyed by advancing Holy Land cavalry, and so to save their lives, she ordered the werewolves to stop their offensive and pull back.
That was the last thing she remembered before awakening in this strange place. Eunice slowly turned, her whole body aching, and looked in awe at an enormous tower; it seemed to stretch into infinity both upwards and downwards beneath the point where it met the glass floor.
As Eunice’s vision cleared, she saw a female figure standing before the entrance to the tower, a large shimmering sword at her side. With nowhere else to go, Eunice struggled to her feet, her trusty bow at the ready just in the case, and made her way towards the tower.
The woman bowed politely. “Welcome, Elder Eunice. My name is Airi, guardian of this place,” she said.
“How do you know who I am? How did I get here?” Eunice asked.
“All your questions will be answered within the tower,” Airi replied.
“Can you at least tell me more about who you are?” Eunice said.
“I know little of my past life, suffice to say that I was brought here to take over the previous guardian. I have memories of my lover, who I believe will someday find and return me to whatever life I used to live.”
The ground shook and a pedestal rose from beneath, three glowing symbols mounted at the top. One symbol was the Royal Vampire insignia, another looked like a wolf, and the third was a crucifix. “I have told you what I can. Now you must choose,” Airi said.
Eunice climbed up the pedestal with great hesitation and reached out to one of the symbols.
The Royal Vampire insignia made Eunice wistful to be reunited with her fellow Kindred, all of whom she would die for. Perhaps the symbol would lead her to them. She placed her hand over it and the doors to the tower opened. Airi wordlessly gestured for Eunice to go in.
Eunice passed through several corridors, the distant sound of screaming she heard earlier still prevalent. She arrived at a room where several people were sitting. Hearing her come in, they turned around and revealed their faces: Last, Elder Dori, and Elder Mitz!
“Last! Dori! Mitz!” Eunice exclaimed, rushing towards them to give them each a hug.
“Eunice! We feared the worst for you,” Last said, “The Holy Land were moments from destroying us when we suddenly found ourselves here.”
“But why? Do you know anything of this place?” Eunice said.
“We don’t know,” Last said, “There are references to a great tower within the Kindred’s Lexicon on a plane inaccessible to all but the Dark Tower’s most powerful sorcerers, but we know not if this is that place.”
“And what of the battle? Do we know what came of it?” Eunice said.
A palpable silence hung in the air. All three elders looked at each other, then at Eunice.
“Eunice,” Elder Dori said, “While we were stuck here, we had some time to talk. About the battle.”
“We lost. We’re all that’s left. The Holy Land destroyed everything and everyone, and we would have also perished if we weren’t brought here,” Elder Mitz said.
“But it didn’t have to be that way. We talked it over and…we’re certain the tide of the battle would have turned in our favor if you had not retreated the wolves from the Holy Land’s left flank.”
Eunice was stunned. “But…but they would have been wiped out if I didn’t…I was just trying to-“
“We know,” Mitz said, “but the Wolves would have gladly given their lives if it meant winning the battle. You cost us that with your foolish actions.”
Eunice was on the verge of tears, “My friends,” she said, “Why do you turn on me like this? Shouldn’t we be figuring out how to get out of this place instead?”
Last stood up and spoke. “It doesn’t matter. Don’t you see? The Holy Land’s victory is complete; their reign shall last forever and non-humans shall forever be persecuted. And you must suffer the consequences, as decreed by our laws.”
“You can’t seriously-“
“As an Elder, you must know this. Though our people are no more, our traditions must withstand the test of time. Please kneel.”
The Elders stood up and advanced towards Eunice in a threatening manner.
“My friends, I beg you,” Eunice pleaded, “if what you say is true, what good are we doing ourselves by killing one of our own?”
Mitz unsheathed her sword with a terrifying metallic ring, “I’m sorry my friend,” Last said, “but though the Royal Vampires are no more, we must uphold the code till we are little more than dust.”
“Wait!” Eunice said, continuing to back away, “How did you know what happened to the battle? You were all brought to this tower like me, with no way to contact our allies! How could you possibly know?!”
“Silence!” Dori said, “Kneel and accept your fate!”
“I will not! You haven’t shown me proof of how the battle ended!” Eunice shouted.
“If you will not kneel then you will die a coward!!” Dori screamed as both she and Mitz raised their weapons to strike.
“NO!” Eunice screamed. She closed her eyes and clenched her teeth, but death never came. She opened her eyes again and saw that the elders were no longer there; instead, Airi stood before her.
“Your denial of your mistakes is strong,” Airi said, “even in the face of eternal death.”
“What…what is this?” Eunice said.
“A test of your loyalty to your clan. Evidently your devotion to them is stronger than your devotion to its ideals,” Airi said, “Now you shall witness the truth of what happened before you were brought here.”
Eunice felt a sharp pain in her head. Suddenly, she found herself transported back to the battle, but she was now watching it as a detached observer.
Indeed, the battle was every bit as hellish as she remembered. In the darkness of the night, the Holy Land’s airships roared loudly while the final battle between the Holy Land and heretics raged below. As Eunice watched, everything played out as she remembered.
But then she watched as the werewolves retreated as she ordered. Almost instantly, the Holy Land tripled their assault and surged forward. Bolstered by their cavalry reinforcements, the lack of werewolves to stop them allowed the Sacred Disciples and Angels to break through the Vampire defenses. The werewolves tried to halt their retreat to repel them, but the Holy Land had the momentum now; they swiftly overran them and most of the Royal Vampires.
Eunice then saw Elder Mitz carving a swathe through an endless river of Holy Land soldiers, undeterred by their overwhelming numbers. She lasted all of 10 seconds before the War Maiden herself swooped onto the battlefield and put one blade into Mitz’s abdomen. Mitz gasped in shocked agony before the War Maiden decapitated her with her second blade.
The nightmare continued as Eunice watched Elder Dori rush to Mitz to avenge her. She fought with unbelievable ferocity, pushing War Maiden and her soldiers back. It was valiant, but futile; Paladin Vengeance emerged from the crowd and fired a salvo of blessed silver bullets into Dori’s skull. She collapsed to the ground, her body disintegrating into ash.
Finally, she saw Last retreat to the highest peak of Elysium, pursued by hordes of Gunmen. Clambering over the mutilated corpses of their comrades, the Gunmen were undeterred by their massive losses in their quest for the ultimate goal: the skull of a dead Vampire Elder. Last’s magic was powerful, decimating large chunks of the Holy Land ranks, but it was like trying to empty a river with a bucket. Realizing the futility of it all, Last summoned the remainder of his strength and teleported away from the battle in a flash of light.
Without their leader, the remaining heretics scattered into the hills, most of them chased down and speared by the superior Holy Land cavalry. The Holy Land had no intention of taking prisoners. It was over.
Eunice awoke from her vision, finding herself on the floor in tears. She was now on a crystal platform floating in endless space. “Now that you know,” Airi said, “What do you have to say for yourself?”
Eunice spent several minutes collecting her thoughts, then rose to her feet. Her tears now dried up, she grew more stern. “This is another trick...and you expect me to believe that? Even after your previous illusion?”
“I can assure you it is no trick,” said Airi.
“This place, this is all some kind of trial to manipulate my feelings, forcing me down a path! I’m not buying it!” Eunice said.
“It takes a strong mind to deny what is plainly in front of you.”
“Do you actually think you’d get me to believe Last would retreat from the battle just like that? I’ve known him for thousands of years! He would NEVER-“
“He thought about his daughter,” interjected Airi, “Elder Last may have been the staunchest of Kindred, but faced the destruction of his order, he decided his daughter’s survival was now his highest priority. And so he fled. You may have known Last for thousands of years, but his daughter Lilo.I has been in his life for a fraction of that time. Even Vampire Elders can change once children enter the picture.”
“Your…your trickery is impressive, but it won’t work,” Eunice said, the confidence shaken from her voice.
“Do you still deny what has been shown to you? Is that your final answer?”
“YES! I should have died on that battlefield with my brothers and sisters. How dare you bring me here to shame me!”
“Very well…” Airi said. Suddenly, the piercing sensation visited itself on Eunice’s head, and she found herself watching the battle of Elysium once more…except now she was watching herself.
She watched herself firing arrows into the sea of Holy Land soldiers. The remaining heretics were either dead or had retreated; only Eunice stood her ground. Soon, a phalanx of Holy Land gunmen had her surrounded with murder in their eyes. The sounds of the battle had ceased; no heretic remained except her. Eunice dropped her bow, picked up a silver dagger from a nearby dead Holy Land disciple, and plunged it into her own heart. She collapsed, her last vision being the embers of her disintegrating body floating into the sky.
Eunice awoke again, this time stunned into silence. The feeling of purified silver puncturing her heart was pain unlike anything she had ever felt. It kick-started the rest of her memories, and now she knew.
“Your ancient books make reference to this place,” Airi said, “but they don’t tell you that this is where Kindred who take their own lives end up. This tower is many things, but here in particular it is where you shall remain for the rest of eternity for failing to die honorably as all Royal Vampires should.”
Eunice looked around the tower, and upon closer inspection saw the souls of countless other heretics who had taken their own lives swirling in the ether. She realized the tortured screaming she kept hearing earlier came from them. “Then these poor souls…” she started.
“They took their own lives,” continued Airi, “and like you, were brought here for one last chance to reflect on their actions before serving out their eternal sentences.”
Eunice grimaced and looked at Airi. “Eternal sentences?!”
“Yes. They dwell forever in unending pain, hence the screaming you hear. The more they denied their actions during their reckoning, the more agonizing their eternal sentence. As you know, you have denied just about all the evidence presented to you. Your sentence has been decided.”
Eunice raised her bow and drew an arrow, pointing it at Airi. “Enough. Let me out of here.”
“You are a spirit now; you killed yourself, remember?” Airi said calmly, “You must remain here forever, like many others who chose the easy way out. Even if you somehow left, your spirit will dissipate to the Will of Greatness and you will cease to exist.”
“LET ME OUT!” Eunice screamed.
“As I said-“ Airi started. Suddenly, the air behind her rippled violently. Airi spun around in surprise and watched as a portal of white light emerged from the ripple. Eunice recognized it as a dimensional portal; the kind used by the Dark Tower’s most powerful sorcerers. These portals were highly unstable and could destroy entire worlds if disrupted.
A Holy Land warrior leaped out of the portal and landed in front of Airi and Eunice. “Who are you?!” Airi shouted, “How did you-“
The warrior then heaved a hammer bursting with divine energy onto Airi’s head, shattering her skull into thousands of pieces and sending her body tumbling over the edge into the abyss. Airi’s Starblade, chipped from the attack, clattered to the ground.
“It actually worked! That mad sorcerer is smarter than I thought,” the Huntress said as she wiped blood, bits of brain and skull fragments from her face. She turned her attention to the astonished Eunice, “Think you could escape righteous death by killing yourself? Our Oracles know all your tricks, heretic scum! You may have escaped your body, but now I shall destroy your soul!”
Eunice recognized the Huntress as the bane of many fallen heretics, responsible for countless assassinations of both kindred and lycans. There was no time to wonder how she managed to traverse time and space to arrive at the tower, for she was quickly charging at Eunice! Even as a spirit, Eunice’s battle instincts remained true and the dimensional rules of the tower allowed both the vampire elder and Huntress to do physical harm to one another. Eunice took aim with her yew bow and fired off a rapid flurry of arrows. The Huntress dodged or deflected the arrows with her hammer, but was prevented from advancing by Eunice’s relentless fire.
Eventually one of Eunice’s arrows found its way past the Huntress’s defense and punctured her shoulder. She grunted in pain and took refuge in a small alcove in the adjacent crystal wall, ripping out the arrow. She then noticed that the crystal wall lined the platform and spanned the distance between her and Eunice. Instinctively, she smashed it with her hammer, causing a shockwave that rippled across the entire wall. Eunice was forced to roll out of the way, narrowly escaping a crushing death by the collapsing crystal wall.
The Huntress seized on this window and bolted forward, letting out a primal battle cry. In mere milliseconds she was within reach. Eunice tried to escape by running towards the still-open portal, but the Huntress put an end to that with a hammer strike to her ribs. Eunice was hurled to the ground as her ribs shattered with a sickening crunch. The Huntress raised her hammer to forever banish Eunice’s soul, but Eunice quickly pulled an arrow out from her quiver and rammed it down the Huntress’s foot.
“AAIIIEARGH! YOU BITCH!” screamed the Huntress as blood spurted from her wound. She kicked Eunice in the face, ripped the arrow out from her foot and raised her hammer one final time to deliver eternal death, “THUS DIE ALL HERETICS!”
Eunice closed her eyes in anticipation of the end, but once again final death never came. Instead, an energy burst knocked both of them apart. It was none other than Airi using her Starblade to trap Huntress in a time bubble; clearly it would take more than a hammer strike to the face to kill a guardian of the Tower of Fate.
Nevertheless, Airi was visibly weakened, her Starblade was damaged, and as a result the Huntress was slowly working up the strength to break free from the bubble.
“Elder Eunice…I can’t hold her back much longer! I beg you, help me…” Airi pleaded.
Several choices lay before Eunice. The Dimensional Portal the Huntress emerged from was still open and a few yards away. She could enter the portal and possibly escape the tower to… freedom? At the same time, Airi was slowly losing the battle to keep the Huntress contained in the time bubble. Eunice could use her bow to shoot the exposed Huntress, saving Airi, but potentially jeopardizing her only chance of escape and condemning her to remain in the tower forever.
Then there was a third option: she could channel her Dark Energy into her bow and fire a charged shot at the portal, causing a massive explosion that will likely destroy her, Airi and Huntress, and the tower, but in the process free all the souls trapped inside so that they would suffer no longer.
It was possibly the hardest choice of her afterlife, but Eunice’s compassion meant she couldn’t allow the Holy Land assassin to claim yet another life. She readied her bow and fired.
Right as the time bubble shattered, Eunice’s arrow pierced the Huntress’s abdomen, stopping her momentum completely. “Begone!” Airi proclaimed, thrusting her sword at the Huntress. The force of such immense power sent the Holy Land agent flying back into the portal she came from. Eunice watched helplessly as the portal closed shut.
Her stamina drained, Airi took a moment to catch her breath. “Thank you Elder Eunice,” the guardian said, “Though the tower protects me from great physical harm, I would not have survived another blow from a weapon of such divine energy. I will take measures to prevent portals like that are not allowed to open here again.”
Eunice, still on the floor and clutching her injured side, sighed in relief. “It’s my vow as an Elder to always aid those oppressed by the Holy Land.”
An awkward silence between the two followed; the elephant in the room was palpable, but after a while, Airi spoke: “I shall be forever grateful to you for saving my life, Elder Eunice. But unfortunately…I am but an emissary of the tower; I don’t make the rules. And so you shall remain here for all eternity for failing to die honorably and denying your actions repeatedly.”
Eunice sat up, not saying anything.
“Nevertheless,” Airi continued, “I can grant you this: rather than damnation to the ether, like the many souls you see around you, you shall retain your physical form within this place, and you are free to explore as you please. There are countless millennia of history to be studied; artifacts, lost treasures, important events captured in time…they are now all at your disposal. And of course I shall be here for you.”
Eunice looked at Airi and smiled weakly, “Thanks,” she said, finding a glimmer of hope in her predicament.
Though she was defiant and skeptical when faced with the consequences of her actions in the battle of Elysium, Eunice ultimately stayed true to herself when it really came down to the wire. She paid a heavy price because of that, but even in the limbo of the tower, remained a true Elder of the last Royal Vampires.