Episode 37: Team Crow

The Coryx Group, a private police firm, shows up to replace all the cops bitten by Cardinal Fang and his Blood Dolls. Our heroes quickly learn the Coryx Group is actually Team Crow, a vampire-hunter team that isn't, in any way, funded, supported or directed by the Catholic Church. Nope.

They use flamethrowers, winches, pikes, crosses and nifty full-body silver-coated chainmail with a neon cross on the chest to fight and kill vamps, but they don't really know much about vampires themselves. Father Renaux, their priest, says the European team (apparently there are TWO teams of well-funded vampire hunters!) was wiped out in Vienna, and the trail led here. They're aware of the Sabbat gathering, but Team Crow's leader, the huge, cynical, jovial Jack Crow, says the plan is to whack 'em one by one as the Sabbat leaders arrive.

The Team goes down to a motel to blow off steam, and Billy, perhaps having seen John Carpenter's VAMPIRES, is disturbed. Sure enough, someone comes calling and tears Team Crow limb from limb -- all except Father Renaux, who accompanied Juliet and Walker into town. Walker's, uh, ethnic ancestry isn't mentioned.

Father Renaux wants to trade -- he'll tell Juliet and friends everything the, uh, not the Church, that's for sure, but the backers of Team Crow, know about vampires, and they'll do the same. Everyone wins, except the vamps. Although the concept of the Slayer is explained in short, simple, French-accented sentences, he doesn't get it.

Several high-tech booby traps left at the motel suggest that Fritz, who was bitten by the vampire Appolonius earlier, is now working hand in glove with the vamps. It also suggests the vamps don't like each other, because one of the traps is Fritz' patented vampire lamp, which doesn't bother humans at all. Well, okay, maybe a little.

With Father Renaux' help, Diligence tracks the killers to their lair (underground, of course) and manages to stake Fritz before he can kill Diligence! Not the outcome everyone perhaps expected. A Sabbat Cardinal who looks like Orlok from NOSFERATU is also dispatched, amid much rejoicing.

Episode 38: Interlude

Diligence and Alexandra go to Boston with Father Renaux to trade vampire lore. Back home, Juliet, Walker and Billy have an adventure, whose details I am unable to recall at this time.

Episode 39: Arena Without Walls

In the basement of the Campbell Savings Bank, Aneczke and Fereng, the two surviving Sabbat Cardinals, duel for supremacy. Surrounding the bank are their Blood Dolls, all the innocent folk bitten by the two Sabbat lords, their wills suppressed by the thunder in their blood.

The option to carve a bloody swath through our friends and neighbors is, to be fair, never seriously considered. So instead, Excellence poses as a zombie, without great difficulty, and leads everyone else down to the bank, to totter aimlessly into the lobby and confront the vampire bodyguards left there for just such a reason.

They're very tough, and it's costly: Walker, Excellence, Alexandra and Father Renaux are all knocked silly, and only a lot of first aid keeps them from danger of death. Walker, in fact, is fading fast, until Juliet asks him to marry her. No better way to keep him focused on this world could possibly be imagined; he hangs on, grimly determined to give her his answer.

Then, with half the team down, the noise of fighting in the vault stops. Cardinal Fereng has defeated and drunk the blood of his foe, and is bursting with so much stolen vitality that it's shredding his skin, steaming as it gleams on his bare arms and chest.

Juliet attacks, but he's inhumanly fast and can block her sword strikes with his iron-hard bare hands. She collects a couple of nasty lumps and steps back to try again. Billy hits the sprinklers, which sluice away the blood forming a protective shield around the Cardinal, and then Diligence can cast stakes at him, distracting him while Juliet delivers the death blow.

The Cardinal gags, says "Blakely," and dies.

And in the back room of the Museum of Antiquities, the Maletherium's eyes pop open!

Episode 40: Beatification With Blindfold

Walker accepts Juliet's proposal. Before the date can be set, though, she should see what she's getting into. Walker fills a Coke bottle with scraps of glass, wood, brick, wire, keys, money, lipstick, matches, cigarettes, beer, gasoline, concrete, and other tokens of the urban jungle, sets fire to them, and drinks the smoke. Juliet also drinks, and when she opens her eyes, she's in a strange city, all alleys and fire escapes, with dozens of werewolf Glass Walkers looking down at her from rooftops, ladders, flagpoles and awnings. They seem to like her.

The first Slayer is also here, but she doesn't like it at all. She recoils, leaving Juliet feeling strangely empty. But Walker's here, so she's not really empty at all. He says the tribe will be here in their own time; some of them might take a month or two. But when they're all here, we'll get married.

When they return to the world, they find the Maletherium has escaped and its curator, Mr. Blakely, is missing!

Dr. Armitage speculates that Walker, who has on occasion rebuked evil in what most observers would call a miracle, not do any more miraculous things. Billy points out you need three miracles to become a saint, so if Walker has two, he should just lie low until the three days are up. But if Marshal is correct, and he assures everyone he is, SOMEONE's going to become a saint tonight. It is already Written.

Zombies arise and mob the hospital! Unlike vampires, they don't fear stakes in the heart, or even realize they've been staked, half the time. But beheading still works.

Diligence goes into the graveyard first and finds the Maletherium there! As feared, Cardinal Fang's blood is animating it, and he uses his thaumaturgy to pull the blood right out of Diligence's body! Somehow, Diligence doesn't die, not quite, and someone saves him.

The Maletherium heads back for the hospital while everyone's fighting zombies. Driving back after him, the gang sight Moonstomp waving frantically for them to stop. Billy, at the wheel, tries to see how close to 'Stomp he can brake, and ends up running him over with the Herkimer armored car. It's messy. Alex exclaims in frustration, because SHE wanted to kill him!

The Maletherium has holed up in the ultra-armored hospital morgue. Marshal passes through the wall to fight him, but loses. Dr. Armitage does a spell to ghost in and join him, but the others are getting tired of feeding their friends to fight the Maletherium one at a time, and search for ways to get in en masse. The fighting creates huge earthquakes (Marshal, not Dr. Armitage, is universally believed to be the cause) which create gaps between the walls and ceiling, through which Billy and Juliet can wriggle. They battle the Maletherium as he is beginning to drink Marshal's angelic blood -- it's a long struggle, as he embodies four Sabbat Cardinals' life force, but eventually good triumphs.

But at terrible cost -- Dr. Armitage, in distracting the Maletherium from Marshal's throat until help arrived, has bled out, and is dead. CPR is no help. Marshal says he will see Dr. Armitage on the Other Side, and leaves.

Diligence applies some of Marshal's blood to Dr. Armitage's temples, eyes and throat, as well as his wounds. And it works -- Dr. Armitage arises! But his heart doesn't beat, his skin is pale, and his teeth have become wickedly sharp ...

Episode 41: Too Short a Time the Night

Dr. Armitage is indeed a vampire, but he's a vampire with a soul, according to, well, himself. He acknowledges that if he were a vampire, soulless and evil and cunning, he'd say exactly the same thing. He suggests Juliet go ahead and stake him, just to be sure.

Of course, she doesn't.

Outside the hospital, time is passing very fast, with days lasting a few minutes. This means Dr. Armitage can't run more than 100 yards at a time outdoors!

Time is evidently being messed with, Diligence concludes. Indeed, Johnny Beyond, the Doctor, and Dr. Alexandra Harrow from the year 2008 wander in, explaining that someone's messing with time and they plan to limit the damage before the entire world, past, present and future, is undone! This means Arkham will be cast into the pit of utter annihilation, though. Tough break.

Billy points out that Alexandra HAS to survive the year 2002 in order to become Dr. Harrow of 2008, so leaving her here to die is a non-starter. The Doctors have to agree that, yes, he's right -- instead, they will directly oppose the time storm until it overpowers them, sending them screaming into an abyss of non-being. Johnny suggests Juliet fix the problem before that happens.

They locate Mr. Blakely, the curator who woke the Maletherium, in the Sanitarium. He's speeding up time to get to the next feast day, so Marshal will return to Arkham. There was a bit of Marshal's imperishable blood in the Maletherium, and Blakely, who has salvaged a piece of its right arm, believes that Marshal's presence will "kindle" the bit of angel blood and regenerate the entire Maletherium. Angels, he says, unlike vampires, partake of the infinite energy of their Creator, and infinite means infinite -- "a tiny bit of infinity" is plenty enough to regenerate the entire Golem, and then of course Blakely expects to be rewarded.

This plan would of course fail when Blakely was killed. Problem is, with time out of joint, there are dozens of Blakelys wandering around. Dr. Armitage kicks one and kills him instantly with his new vampire strength; he's quite disgusted, but rather than throwing up, he feels like having a nosebleed. Billy and the Doc punch out another half-dozen Blakeleys before going down into the sanitarium basement and thumping the real Blakeley. But it's too late -- the arm suddenly is covered with rich, firm new flesh, and begins to grow a shoulder and then a spine! The Maletherium is rising again!

Or not. Alex finds a rope braided of wedding rings, some quite old, and Diligence cuts it up with his bolt cutters. Everything snaps back to normal, and Blakely is killed.