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The Misty Valley
by Margo Fallis
Volume 2 Chapter 3

     When it was just the three of them, they went to explore the cave system. The tapping noise continued as they searched every tunnel and hole they came upon. Poe and Conri met up and called for Prysm to join them.  “I have a bad feeling this isn’t Witch Lilith’s work. She’s too stupid for this. She’s happy with her magic broom and cauldron of green slime. For the last week she’s done nothing but fly around all night long and she disappears during the day.” Prysm showed them a jar of blood she’d found in one of the tunnels. “I think it’s a vampire and he’s keeping all the animals to suck their blood.”

Poe couldn’t take his eyes off the jar of crimson liquid. “All the animals are free so whoever it is will have to spend all that time getting them again and I think the animals will go somewhere else for a while. Can I hold the jar?”

“Don’t drop it. The blood will call to the vampire.”

“Give me a break, Prysm. The blood won’t call it. The vampire will smell it and come.” Poe set the jar down on the floor. “Don’t knock it over.”

Tink! Clink! Tink!

They heard the tapping sound again. “It’s coming from that direction,” Prysm said, pointing down a dark tunnel.

Poe turned on his flashlight and led the way. They came to another cave. “You two stay back. I’ll go and see what it is.”

“Who made you the boss, Poe? Why can’t I look this time, or Conri? He’s three times your size.” Prysm whined and then put her hands on her hips. “Well?”

“Conri, would you like to look?” Poe turned to the werewolf.

It grunted and crept towards the edge, its paws silent on the blood-encrusted stones. Conri peered over the edge. Prysm and Poe moved towards him, slipping and sliding. Poe’s foot caught on a dislodged stone and he tripped, flying into Conri. Conri fell over the edge, pulling Poe with him. The werewolf landed on his back and Poe landed on top of him. Both lay still.

Prysm looked over the edge. Once again the cave was full of cages. With only one dim light to see, she couldn’t make out what the cages held. “Are you all right down there, Poe? I don’t think there’s anyone in here. The cages are full, but I’m not sure with what.”

Poe stood and helped pull Conri to his feet. The werewolf rubbed the pain in his back. “I hope you’re okay, Conri. Sorry about that.” Poe frowned at Conri, who grumbled and snarled. Poe was about to apologize again when he saw a man huddled in the corner of a cage. When he moved closer, he noticed how old the man looked. The cage next to it held an older woman, dressed in rags and had unkempt hair. Poe ran from cage to cage. He shouted up to Prysm.  “The cages are full of old people. Conri and I will let them out, but most of them look too sick and too tired to move.”

“I’m not too old,” a brown-toothed man snapped. “Get me out of here.”

Poe stopped in front of his cage. “Who are you? Are you the one who has been tapping on the bars of your cage?”

“Of course it was me.” He hit the bars over and over again. “Now get me out of here before Count what’s-his-name comes back.”

“Count who?”

The old man sighed. “The vampire, Count Wolfbane Dragonears. He kidnapped all of us from Misty Valley Old Folks Home.” He noticed the werewolf. “Who are you? What are you? Haven’t shaved in a while, have you, hippy.”

Poe snickered. “He’s not a hippy. This is Conri. He’s a werewolf and my friend.” The werewolf snarled and lifted one of his lips, exposing his teeth.

“Is that so? Friend, you say? That’s good enough for me. Have your friend get me out of here.”

“Wait a second. Who are you?” Poe turned to Conri. “Would you look for something to break this lock open please?” Conri rushed off.

“My name is Jack O. Lantern.”

Poe burst out laughing. “Right. I’m sure it is. What about all these other people? Are they dead?” He moved to another cage and looked at an elderly man. “He looks dead.”

“He’s only dead if the vampire has sucked his blood. Hurry. The Count will be returning when it is nighttime.” Jack started hitting the bars with a filthy tin cup.

“Be quiet.” Poe looked up at Prysm. “Go and get some help, Prysm. Go get your brother, Shayde and his friend, Drake.”

“I don’t want to go.”

“Listen, the vampire is coming back soon. We’re stuck down here, but you can escape. Go back to the other cave and go through the hole. Find Leeloo and Candi and tell them to stay where they are and then go and get your brother.”

Prysm didn’t want to leave, but knew they needed help. “Be careful. I’ll be back in a little while.”

“Watch out for Witch Lilith!” Poe waved goodbye to his friend. Conri returned with a steel bar he’d broken off one of the cages. “Thanks. This will do. Stand back.” Poe hit the lock, but nothing happened. “Here, Conri. You give it a try.” The werewolf struck the lock and with this use of strength, it fell to pieces. Jack pushed his way out. “Watch it, Jack. You almost knocked me over.”

“I’m outta here.” Jack ran towards a door.

“Wait! Aren’t you going to help with the others?” Poe pleaded with the man for his help. “Mr. Lantern, please help.”

“Not in your life. If you don’t leave right now, you’ll be the vampire’s next victim.” Jack disappeared through a heavy wooden door.

“Okay. So much for that.” Poe and Conri opened all the cages, but the men and women inside were too weak to move. “Conri, you’ll have to carry them one or two at a time. I’ll stay here and watch over the others”

The werewolf tenderly picked up two elderly women and carried them through the door. After two hours he helped the last two escape, leaving Poe alone. Before Conri returned, a bat flew into the cave. Poe watched as it soared around the room, flapping its black, leathery wings. It swooped from cage to cage and then landed on the ground next to Poe. Poe backed up against a stone wall and watched in horror as the bat took the form of a person dressed in black. The man’s skin was pearly white and Poe could see his veins through it. His lips were black and his eyes were like pieces of coal and shiny like obsidian. A black cape with blood-red lining hung around the man’s shoulders. He hissed at Poe. “Where are my other guests?”

“If you’re talking about the old people, they are all free and so are the animals.” Poe shivered with fear. “You can’t suck their blood now. Ha ha.”

“I see. So now you are my only guest. I believe we have met before.” The vampire saw Poe’s look of confusion. “You have forgotten already? What a shame. Let me remind you. Last week, at the cemetery; the pumpkin? Does any of this ring a bell?”

Poe gulped. “That was you?”

“Yes. It was a very unpleasant experience having to pick rotting pumpkin from my hair.”

Poe stifled a chuckle. “Well, um, I’m sorry about that. I was trying to get away from the zombie and you were blocking the exit.”

“I see. Perhaps I should introduce myself. I am Count Wolfbane Dragonears. Welcome to my home.” He hissed again.

Poe stood in silence, not knowing what to reply. “That’s sort of a weird name for a vampire, isn’t it?”

The count’s eyes widened for a few moments. “Weird? I have no idea what you mean.”

“Most vampires are called Count Dracula, or Count Vanislov, or some Eastern European name. Wolfbane is more a werewolf name and Dragonears? What do vampires and dragons have to do with each other.” Poe shook his head.

“Are you mocking my family name? I come from a long line of famous vampires. Not once has anyone dared to insult us, until now.” The count felt his skin grow icier, but took control of the situation once again. “I think I shall prepare a room for you so you can relax until dinner.” The vampire laughed out loud, sending shivers up and down Poe’s back, arms and legs. The vampire grabbed Poe by the arm and led him to a small cage. Once he’d pushed Poe inside and locked the barred door, the vampire grabbed a chain and pulled it, raising the cage to the roof of the cave. “I will allow you some time to yourself to think about your own family name and how you won’t be around to continue the family line. I hope you like the view from up there. Most of my guests are dying to be there.” Once again the count laughed. Poe still kept silent. “Very well. Once the sun goes down, I will return.” He turned into a bat and flew around Poe’s cage for a few moments and then disappeared into the darkness.

Poe shook the cage and shouted. “Conri! Conri! Help me!” After calling for help for half an hour, Poe gave up and slouched to the bottom, leaning his back against the cold steel bars.

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