Monsters Bleed Grey


Black stars streaked across the sky. Ravens. Peasants believed that to see them before dawn was a dark omen. But Helen was no peasant – superstitions were dubious. The ravens weaved between the clouds gracefully, twirling without staccato. Helen watched momentarily, then spurred Rosie on and trotted into the village without stopping. She doubted that Ealdorman Strudwicke had summoned her on a whim – no one in their right mind would.  

Helen resided in a hut north of the village of Fledelyn and its woods – she rarely ever approached the village. When she did, she was spat on and wrought slamming doors. She did not mind – she did not care. But to have the ealdorman himself summon her… either the world was ending, or this was a trap to kill her finally. Either way, she squared herself.

Helen alighted from Rosie, her seven-year-old mare. Approaching the ealdorman’s cottage, she ignored the disdainful glare from the smoking man nearby and entered.

“Greetings, Miss Black!” welcomed Strudwicke unwelcomingly. “Good of you to come… have a seat.”

Helen remained silent but heeded him, sliding into a seat opposite his. Strudwicke, a ratty old man with a wispy moustache, shifted uncomfortably in his seat – as most did under Helen’s gaze. 

“Yes – miss, would you – tea, my wife has made some…” he began, shrinking as Helen’s eyebrow rose.

“To the point, ealdorman.”

“I – well, yes, of course. I have an offer for you, Miss Black,” the ealdorman stuttered. “Everyone knows – you killed monsters, in the army, until -” he stopped with a frightful glance before continuing. “Hmm – yes, there is an alp roaming the woods at night, miss. A monster. Took old Seamus yesterday, miss. If you could kill the monster… we, the village, could pool our money and reward you… I could talk to the army about your heroism.” His statement sounded more like a question.

Helen broiled the question over in her head. It would do her good to return to the city a hero. After so many years, it would be good to be wanted once again. But what if she failed? All would amount to nothing…

“How much?” she grunted.

“Two hundred gold coins, miss,” the ealdorman murmured. 

That was a sum, indeed. That amount would be profitable, at any rate.

 “What does it look like?” she rasped.

Strudwicke passed her a drawing. “Some boys caught a glimpse before it ate Seamus, near the south of the woods.”

The poster had two parallels, one a picture of a young lady and the other of a morphed vampire. It was an alp, but Helen could tell it was a youngling with its curved, human-like ears and unsharpened canines. If Helen was still the fighter she was fifteen years ago – the alp wouldn’t be a massive problem. Two hundred coins were hers, doubtlessly.

“I shall kill it. Expect its head by morning tomorrow,” Helen growled. The ealdorman forced a smile as she turned. 

The grass was damp. Helen peered through a puddle of water. She looked like a grumpy middle-aged mother, with dense, dark brown hair pulled back into a loose ponytail and thin lips parched from dehydration. She was muscular, but age had mellowed her slightly. Helen shook her head and searched the area where the alp had attacked for clues. 

Blown tree stump – Seamus was thrown. Blood on the branches… the alp ripped him apart, entrails first – uncommon method. There are no signs of consumption… not the traditional alp – definitely a youngling, judging by the impressions on the stump. Blood’s semi-liquid and thin… around six hours…

“Interested?” The voice which spoke was soft, melodious – but there was some danger to it, nonetheless. Helen whipped around. Before her stood an incredibly beautiful blonde with crimson eyes, long, curved eyelashes with scarlet lips – but she was impressively impassive. Helen’s fingers felt the static from her sword handle – she recognised her instantly. “My name is Lilith. I think you think you know who I am. I assure you, you do not.”

Helen remained stoic, but her eyes narrowed. “I know what you are. You are an alp – a monster, one that must be slain.” Yet immediately, Helen did a double take. Alps cannot speak. Who…?

“You realise that I am no mere alp. I am half-human too.”

“Those do not exist. Alps don’t breed.” 

The girl cocked her head, still expressionless. “But they are made. My biological father was a Catacano, and my mother was a human. That makes me a half-alp.”

Helen did not frown. The contract was for the head of a monster, not a… ‘half-monster’. So this was why she had ‘youngling’ features – they were from her human genes. 

“Why did you kill Seamus, half-breed? I doubt you have a bloodthirst. Do you bear him a grudge?” Helen loosened the fingers on her hilt. She wanted her side of the story.

“True, I do not have a bloodthirst. True, he had wronged me.” Lilith glanced at the village. “Just as everyone there had.”


“What did they do?”

Lilith judged Helen coldly. After a long pause, she started. “My mother was the duchess of this land. A Catacano had attacked and impregnated her. My father became a raging man. When I was born, he abused me as grievously as he could. When I was six, Strudwicke himself arrived with an oracle, revealing that I was a vampire. The villagers heard, went rabid, volunteered themselves to kill me… A few dragged me away, tried to crucify and torture me… that was the first time I morphed. I killed the men and fled. I was… am a monster.

There was a cold tranquillity that acted like rainwater – slowly, it dripped down her head and uncomfortably trickled down her throat, her thoughts tripping over words. Helen didn’t show it to Lilith – she continued glacially staring into her eyes. But Lilith wasn’t a professional in this cold-blooded game. Quietly, she exhaled.

         “Lilith,” Helen began. “I am sorry. Truly.”

         Lilith blinked. “I don’t understand.”


         “Why do humans apologise for things they did not do?”

         “It is to show empathy.”

         “Spare me. You have none.”

         Helen remained silent.

         “No matter. I understand my head has a bounty?”

         Helen hesitated, then nodded.

         “I will wipe them all out. Tonight, blood shall clot the gutters of Fledelyn. I implore you to stay away – you seem a decent woman. Do not force me to kill you.”

         Helen hesitated once more. The girl was right to be furious. Yet…

         “They think I am a freak, too,” Helen muttered. Lilith raised an eyebrow. “Long ago, I served directly under King Isemir. I led monster hunts under his command. I killed and thrived.”

         “Whatever happened?”

         Helen looked away, for the first time betraying emotion. “They exiled me. The public would have killed me where I stood. Isemir sent me away with rags for drapes. All because… I had dared to love.”

         “Love royalty?”

         “No.” Helen closed her eyes. “I fell for… a woman.”

         Silence reigned, but Lilith’s creased eyebrows spoke volumes more than any human’s words. Helen restrained her toppling emotions and looked back into Lilith’s eyes, ever cold. “When I first arrived, someone burnt my clothes and replaced them with a male’s. Children would throw stones at me as I passed, and adults would yell slurs. I think they grew tired of the effort it took after a while, but sometimes they realised they had enough energy to spit.

         Lilith quieted initially. Instead, her fingers drummed on her white cloak. Her eyes were finally readable – there was no pity, no judgment – merely a distant sympathy.

         “Join me, Helen,” Lilith said quietly, and Helen’s spine felt a shock. She had not said her name, and it had been more than fifteen years since she had heard her herself. To hear it being spoken by a half-vampire…

         “We can punish them. They have maltreated us. They must end – they must never harm anyone. Never again. They must pay.”

        Helen closed her eyes once more, uncrossing her legs.

         Damn… did it have to end this way?

         She shook her head.

         I am sorry, Lilith.

         Lilith’s gaze dropped. Her drumming stopped. “I apologise too, Helen.”

         “I cannot aid you, alp.”

         Lilith stood. Helen steeled herself for conflict, observing her opponent’s nails twitch and begin to extend.

         “Then you shall die braver than most.”

There was a flash of a blade and nails, and Helen found herself wounded and falling, a hideous vampire in place of the beautiful Lilith. As the alp lunged at Helen, the tides turned in her favour. A gust of wind shook the trees, and sunlight streaked through the branches, scorching Lilith. She screamed and, with a crack, vanished.

Helen heaved, fumbling at her wound as adrenaline flooded her. 

Tonight, blood shall clot the gutters of Fledelyn.


It was dark. Breathing was strenuous – the bandage messily wrapped around the wound inflicted by Lilith was tight around her chest. It was chilly, but Helen had dropped her cloak to increase agility. 

Helen planned to exit Fledelyn after the fight. The villagers had been frightened as she returned to the village earlier – this was no place to restart a better life. After payment, she would perhaps settle in the city. After a long time, a short smile finally cracked its way into her face. There still was some guilt in her, in Lilith’s case. 

The poor girl did not deserve her pain, but it didn’t matter. She was a monster. Either she had to die, or Fledelyn would. The pay didn’t hurt, either. It was simple.

But was it?

There was no time to think. Soon, every light in the village vanished. Helen remained crouched in her gutter. Almost immediately, with a silent woosh, a bat dropped to the ground, transfiguring into the perfect figure of Lilith. She now wore nothing but a greyish nightie. A sign that she was prepared for violence.

“Emerge, human…” she purred, scarlet eyes gleaming in the moonlight, wine-red lips curling maliciously. “Come out, come out, wherever you are…”

Helen silently creeped out of her spot. “Please, alp. You do not have to take this path – I can help you, just listen–”

“Silence, woman. I thought you were different.” The alp turned her head, baring her claws as her physique morphed. Helen drew her sword. “I thought wrong. Humans… you’re all the same.” Lilith’s voice changed to a low-pitched growl. “IF YOU BELIEVE IN ANY GODS, PRAY TO THEM NOW!”

Helen gnashed, parrying the first strike skillfully.


She slashed downward, then spun back in a half-pirouette.


An innocent young girl, grinning… drove a sword into her opponent’s wing…

I’m sorry…

She slashed outwards, and the alp screamed…

That it had to end this way…

She spun but stumbled. Her sword flew, decapitating the alp cleanly.


Helen stopped, and it was as if the wind itself had frozen in shock.

“GOD! SHE’S KILLED SOMEONE!” Helen whipped around. Strudwicke, the scumbag, was standing outside his home, thrusting his finger at Helen. His grand ruse – ditching payment. After all, it was their money that was at stake. Helen found herself chased by psyched, fury-bound villagers. Stones flew like ravens. Helen summoned Rosie the mare and swept off as fast as she could. Her bandage flew off, and she wheezed as Rosie spurred herself. Pebbles bounced off her like skipped stones in the river, and as her hair messily forced her eyes shut, Helen saw Lilith, her face as impassive as she remembered. She understood that even if she had killed one to save thirty, anyone would never accept her. Because in the world’s eyes, she would always be a monster. In the end, no one needed her but herself. All they would feel was… fear.

And she realised that the only thing that defined a monster was the mind itself.

Mithran Srinivassane (Class of 2026) is an ardent writer new to writing his own biographies in the third person. I hope you enjoy my work. I mean HIS work. He hopes you’ll enjoy the story he has written.