His letter came from the Academy today. The acceptance was never in question; his father is Roger Wyndam-Pryce, after all. But its coming is why he stands at a fresh grave, waiting. This isn't an Academy requirement. It's a Wyndam-Pryce tradition, which is far less yielding. If he is to become a Watcher, he must slay a vampire tonight. Alone. If cousin Frederick is forced to intervene...
He won't be. Wesley cannot even contemplate the possibility, or the repercussions that would follow.
Soil shifts at his feet. He stiffens, fingers the the stake he carved himself--another Wyndam-Pryce tradition. Up from the grave struggles one pale, dirty hand, and then the other. The dirt spills away and the vampire thrusts his shoulders upward and out.
Wesley's never seen one so close before. For a moment he is frozen, staring at this thing he is bound by blood and duty to kill.
The vampire sees him. It snarls.
He's fought before: fisticuffs that earned him a bloody nose and a reprimand, and later the training under Frederick's dour tutelage. Those times were nothing like this. He's not prepared for the fear that crackles over his skin, or the nausea that rises at the particular shade of yellow in the creature's eyes as it lunges for him.
Wesley staggers aside and jabs with the stake, but he is much too slow. The vampire swipes at him and grabs the back of his neck with fingernails ragged and gritty from clawing through gravedirt. He twists away and bats at the arm that reaches for him. Then one wrist is caught, useless, in an unyielding grip. The panic that's been riding him finally digs its spurs in. The vampire leans in. Fear-blind, Wesley drives the stake square in the vampire's chest just as its fangs graze his throat. For one eternal instant he's sure he's missed, and then the creature dissolves in a chill swirl of dust and a hollow cry--the cry of the damned, Wesley thinks. The dust clouds around him, sticking to his sweaty skin.
He did it. He, Wesley Wyndam-Pryce, slew a vampire. He's going to go to the Academy and become a Watcher and then he's going to disprove every black prediction his father has ever muttered about the dilution of the Wyndam-Pryce family line.
He realizes he's still clutching the stake, his grip so tight that splinters are digging into his fingers. He loosens his hold. He's going to frame the thing, he thinks. Or maybe have it bronzed.
Frederick is approaching, and Wesley can't keep the foolish grin off his face. "Did you see?" he says. "I slew the bloody bastard!"
Frederick is not grinning. "Another half-second and he'd have had your carotid artery. You father won't be pleased." He turns and begins walking towards the car.
For a moment Wesley watches him go, and then he drops the stake to the grass and follows.