6. LaufenStanding outside the tent, I gaze out into the line of trees. Grumbling, I kick a loose rock, and watch as it bounces across the grass. He’s hiding something, something that he’s obviously too afraid to tell me about. Maybe if I go inside and ask him now, he might tell me.
Turning around, I unzip the tent, and close it behind me. Looking at the arrangement, I grin at the placement of my sleepy bag. Well it’s not mine, technically, yet it’s good to know that I won’t be sharing a tent with a lech.
Sitting down, I smooth out the creases on the sleepy bag, and listen to the noises of the stream gurgling, and the crickets chirping. So by tomorrow, I’ll have to leave. I’ll have to live as a runaway, living off the charity of others. I’ll be hiding like a rat in a maze, constantly fleeing both Mariska, and innocent people. People like Caleb, fleeing from them, so that they don’t end up in harm’s way. I should leave right now…she’s bound to be already searching for me.
Standing up I turn toward the sleeping form of Caleb, holding him in my gaze for a long time. I’m sorry, that we couldn’t have known each other for longer. If we did, I could have turned you, then you would be protected from harm, but as it is, even though I want to, I can’t deal with putting you in harm’s way for my sake. Good – bye, Caleb Hannan.
Kneeling by his side, I take his head in my hands, and bending down, my lips meet his forehead for a few seconds, before breaking away. I turn and leave the tent, and jogging past the fire pit, I break out into a run. Hitting the street, I keep running, my legs leading me toward the town. Behind me, the walls of trees that hide camp grow smaller every passing stride.
Pounding along the trail, I spot the lights of the town up ahead, yet they have a strange flickering light. As I reach the outskirts of the town, I slow down to a walk, and then stop completely. The Inn, where the runaway servants have been sheltered, was in shambles, flames still smoldering upon broken beams. Near the front of the ruined building, impaled Vlad the Impaler style is the skinned body of the innkeeper. I’m too late.
Walking slowly towards the ruined building, I pass by the impaled corpse and enter the ruined entrance. Stopping, I take a step back, revulsion and horror pulsing through me. Three corpses are hanging by the necks from the lone undamaged beam. The first two are expected. They are two of the servants who I had smuggled out of the manse, in an attempt to grant them their freedom. Their stomachs torn and the intestines dangling from them like bundles of rope. The third is much more shocking. Before me, bruised, bloody and unmistakably dead dangles the same girl whose abusive jerk of a Leasingnehmer boyfriend I had killed.
Walking closer, I see that the girl had been violated after death. They…they…just, no! The poor girl had not even been shown any decency after death. She had been treated like a useless toy, which had been broken and then tossed aside. Her tormentors had even dared to use her as a chalkboard. Harm a member of our kind again, and the bodies will line the streets, whore.
“F***! Scheiss drauf! Damned Leasingnehmers, Scheiss on ze whole lot of them!” I rage uselessly, punching out a window.
“Huh…is someone zere?” I call out.
“Over here” the voice calls out faintly in reply.
Walking toward the voice, I look around, unable to pinpoint the direct source. “Wo bist du?”
“Here…over here.” The voice calls out again.
Spotting a hand waving weakly, from under a fallen beam, I rush over to it, and grabbing the beam, I lift it off the girl. Pulling her away from the wreckage, I cradle her in my arms.
“Vhat happened? Vhat went on here? Answer me, Irene!” I urge, shaking the girl slightly.
*COUGH* “Ma – Mari – Mariska came by when you had left, she passed through the town, it was late at night, and we had just finished our evening vigil. She started to head towards the inn, and the Innkeeper told us to get down under the table, and to pull the chairs in around us. He had kept the lights dim, so that it would seem like only he was home. Mariska asked if she could get a bottle of…Merlot, I guess. *COUGH* While he hurried to get it, She approached the table, and…flipped it over. She had already spotted us, beforehand it seemed. Once discovered, she turned on the innkeeper. She grabbed him, and snapped his neck like a twig. Then she…”
A slight whistling noise started to become noticeable to my left, and Irene’s eyes went wide with fear.
“Vhat? Vhat is it?” I ask.
She opens her mouth to respond, when her entire body convulses, a frightened and pained look appearing on her face. I feel something warm trickling onto my arm, and looking down, I instinctually recoil. Protruding from her stomach is a jagged sliver of oak.
“Irene! Come on! Stirb nicht!” I shout, shaking her. But she has already gone too far down the road. Shoulders slumped; I rest her gently against the ground. Not even one…I couldn’t even save a single life.
“Sad really, it’s always the one who we strive to do the most for that always end up suffering the most. Don’t you agree, Wilhelmina?”
Whirling around, I grab the broken beam that I had lifted off of Irene, and hurl it at her like a javelin. She takes a direct hit from the beam, and slams into the wall, fixed in place by the heavy piece of wood. Taking cautious steps towards her, I stop in front of her, and reaching towards her, I lay a finger on her neck.
She shows no reaction, and I take a step away. Turning my back, I walk back over to Irene’s body, and picking it up, I begin to make my way out of the ruined inn. Reaching the entrance, I hear a whistling noise, coming from behind. Whirling around, I toss myself out of the way, as foot long shards of wood wiz by me, embedding themselves in the ground.
Hovering about four feet off the ground, Is Mariska. Already, she has almost finished regenerating from the hit with the beam. To her right and left, two heavy wooden beams are floating in the air.
“Still interested in resisting? You should know that, after you left, I questioned the remaining servants. Since they refused to tell me anything, I strung them up on the clothesline by their necks. Again, the more we try to help, the worse it is for those who should benefit.”
Freezing in place, my shoulders begin to shake with unfettered, useless rage.
“Damn you…just…damn you Mariska”
“So only your tongue can move, then maybe it should be stilled!” She replies. With a flick of her wrist, one of the beams hurdle towards me, and I dive out of the way. The next beam flies toward me, while I’m still in the air, unable to evade it I’m struck full in the stomach and launched across the room. Crashing into the wall, it crumbles around me, and I find myself pitched onto the empty blackened lawn.
“MINA!” A familiar male voice calls out to me.
“Huh” Lifting my head, I spot Caleb running full pelt towards me. “Vhat…Vhat the hell are you doing here?” I demand.
Kneeling in front of me, he pulls me into a sudden hug, and then letting go, he grabs me by the shoulders.
“What are you doing here? You should be back at camp! Why are you holding a dead body?”
“First off, you don’t run my life! Two, I’ll explain later, right now, we have to leave!” I shout. Getting up, I look around, and spotting Mariska floating from the doorway, I turn and begin to run. Behind me, I hear Caleb scramble onto his feet after me.
“Why are we running?” He yells out to me.
“Look behind you!” I shout in reply, not bothering to slow down.
Clearing the street, we both burst into the woods and out again. Slowing down to a jog, I begin to explain.
“First off, I’m a vampire…not a fully fledged one, not yet at ze very least.” I begin. Raising my hand, I quiet him down and continue.
“It’s too much to explain in full, but to say it simply I have been trying to get away from my Master: Mariska for a while. I have also been smuggling servants out of ze manse zat she lives in, keeping zem hidden in zat inn. Irene, ze person who I’ve been carrying vas one of zem.”
“I don’t know the details about vhat happened tonight, ze only people who do are dead.” I reply, jerking my head towards the body held in my arms.
“Who were you running from?” He asks.
“Mariska…and you. Not because I hate you or anything. I didn’t vant you to be harmed, between something zat involves me and her.” I said, bowing my head in shame.
Feeling a hand on my shoulder, I look up. “Don’t worry about it, I’m happy that you that concerned about the welfare of others, but if anything involves you, I think it should involve me as well.” He said, giving my shoulder a quick shake.
“But…vhat about me being a…” I stammer, struggling to form words.
“Don’t worry about it…you see, I’m not human either, so it doesn’t really bother me.” He replies, a wan smile on his face.
“Zen vhat are you?” I ask, confused.
“I’ll explain later.”
Behind us, the wind begins to pick up. Looking at the trees, I see that they are swaying heavily, their tops waving from side to side.
“Looks like the storm is picking up.” Caleb said, watching the trees.
“Maybe, but…something doesn’t seem right.” I reply.
Then, two redwoods flew straight at us. Lurching forward, I tackle Caleb, knocking him to the ground, as the two trunks soar over our heads. Turning around, I pull him to his feet, and bend down to pick up Irene’s body.
“Mina! We don’t have the time! Come on!” He yells, pulling me away as another tree trunk flies towards us.
“Ve’re trapped.” I reply, standing stock still.
“Then we’ll have to fight our way through.” He replies, face grim.
“Just vhat I’d vant you to say.” I reply.
The trees begin to part, many simply being uprooted where they stand. Raising my fists, I notice a sudden smell of salt and water. Looking over to Caleb, I spot a three pronged spear in his hands. The weapon is made out of some blued metal, with the two outer prongs swept back gracefully. The center prong, is serrated all along its edge, and is much longer than the other two.
“Mina…draw her attention.” He says, eyes never leaving the trees.
The last row of trees blows apart, and I immediately set off on a pitched run. As expected, Mariska launches another tree in my direction, and I dive out of the way. Meanwhile, Caleb is slowly making his way around her. Turning, I run farther away. Instead of a trunk this time, Mariska shatters a tree and launches a barrage of wooden shards in my direction. Again I jump to the side.
“Vhat happened to your aim, Master? I zought you didn’t miss!” I taunt, skipping backward.
“Not normally, in this case, I have driven you to the one spot where I can deal with you both.” She replies, a leer spreading across her lips.
Eyes widening, I run right past her. “CALEB! Look out!” I scream and Mariska unloads a barrage of wooden spikes at him. Doubling my speed, I dive in front of him, shielding him with my own body.
“I must thank you Mina, for you have proven to be a most useful Fledgling…now die, for you have fulfilled your purpose.” Mariska said, as she hovered above us.
“Run…Caleb…run. She is after you not me.” I croak, trying to push him away.
“Run…I’ll survive.” I snap at him. He shakes his head in reply.
“I’ll hold her off long enough for you to get out of here. Once you’re safe, I’ll run. Does that seem reasonable?”
“Fine.” I hiss through gritted teeth.
“Saying your last words, Wilhelmina?” Mariska taunts.
“You’re focus; broad should be on me.” Caleb calls out
“And why is that; Caleb Hannan?” She sneers.
“Because of this.” He responded.
As he finished, the wind picked up greatly, enough to get even Mariska to notice.
“So you caused a little breeze did you? And you expect me to be afraid of it? You sad, sad fool.” She taunts.
“No but I expect you to be afraid of this.” And he snapped his fingers.
A full blown tornado then roared up around Mariska, completely obscuring her from view, anything that was either too heavy to lift, or was tied down, stayed put, while everything else was drawn into the whirling vortex of the tornado. With a quick burst of pain, I feel the shards of wood tear themselves from my body.
The tornado begins to slow, and eventually it dies down. Mariska is no longer hovering, but is still standing, even with a branch though her neck, and shards of wood piercing her at multiple points.
“Heh…impressive Caleb Hannan, very impressive indeed. However this isn’t enough to stop me.” She says, as a pile of torn and split branches rise up from the ground and hover high above her head.
“Good – bye fool.”
The branches soar at him with demonic speed, piercing him through like a hot knife through butter.