Lance wiped the red liquid off the tall, weather-worn stone pillar and touched some to his tongue.
“Blood,” he spat.
Around him was an eerie ring of standing stones a good three feet taller than he, extremely old, and covered in faded inscription. The great stone slab in the center that probably served as the altar was just as cracked and rugged; it too was covered in a runic script. The hill was cleared of trees and looked over the dark green sea of leaves to the fields beyond the forest, and farther yet, the lights of London. The remnants from a recent vampire attack, or that’s what he suspected, were spattered and smeared all over. Walking around the altar, he kicked a gnawed bone out of the way and read the ancient, faded runes inscribed on the stone slab. Fortunately, he was able to read runes and many other ancient languages thanks to Chester, the little octopoid member of the DPIR. The central paragraph read like so:
When the sun is hidden from the world, the Three; the lifeless weapon, the fiery prince, and the haunted man shall meet in the secret city.
Many and few; the reader, the knower, and the wanderer will all play their parts.
The Crown will be worn, the Key shall be used, and the Seal will be broken, or reforged.
Three shall fall and one will not be seen again.
And the Dragon will choose one of two.
A shiver ran down Lance’s back, he felt an inexplicable connection to the prediction. “Why is there always a prophecy?”
* * *
“Lupin! Come back!”
Duncan yelled as he watched his Labrador retriever run off into the wood. He hesitated for a split second at the edge of the forest; it was getting dark and though the wood had never bothered him during the day, it always creeped him out at night. But, Lupin had chased after something into the trees, so Duncan had no choice; he bolted after Lupin’s vanishing tail. Duncan hunted around the forest for nearly an hour, but to no avail.
Duncan trudged back out of the woods, into the open twilight, red-faced and sweaty. He plopped down on the grass, wondering what had set Lupin off, a squirrel? Or maybe some other critter. Figuring Lupin would find his way back home, he tried not to worry; this wasn’t the first time the spirited dog had chased something into the forest. Just as Duncan was about to get up and head back to the little town in which he lived, a warm, but wet, something rubbed the back of his neck, Duncan jumped up and spun around. Lupin was sitting behind him, fox fur stuck in his mouth. Duncan rolled his eyes skyward and exhaled, scratching behinds Lupin’s ears, the dog panted happily.
“OK, come on, Lupin! Let’s go home!” Duncan said, walking in the direction of his neighborhood.
The next day, his parents had left to attend some sort of business meeting; Duncan didn’t really care what it was. His parents had admonished him to lock up and stay in the house while they were gone. The sun had made its exit, but there was still a lingering twilight as they drove off.
Duncan opened the sliding glass door and stepped out into their back yard; beyond, he could see the edge of the forest. He played with Lupin for nearly an hour. The dog sniffed around, picking up various scents and tracks, following one close to the woods. Suddenly, something moved in the trees and he bounded after it. Duncan called Lupin to come back, but to no avail, so he was forced, again, to chase after his dog. Darkness grew, but fortunately Duncan had brought a flashlight with him. Eventually, Lupin lead Duncan to a hill. With the moon now risen above the horizon, Duncan swept the flashlight beam over the overgrown foot of the hill; he spotted Lupin’s hindquarters and wagging tail protruding from a bush. The retriever had found a fox den the previous day, and had returned to finish the job. Duncan could hear Lupin’s deep growl and the mother fox’s higher pitched whimpers. As Duncan drew nearer, something small and red darted from the bush and Lupin chased after it. Duncan ran after his dog, up the hill, out on to the open summit. Lupin was distracted from the escaping fox by the eerie circle of standing stones; he sniffed around and began to chew on a fresh bone lying on the grassy hill. But it was Duncan who noticed the silhouetted person standing by the cracked, rugged stone altar.