The jutting rock formations flew past me like a gray blur as I bounded up the cliff side, closing in on Victoria's scent. She was in the crags somewhere, close enough that I could hear her thoughts, yet managing to stay out of view. Her mind was racing with fiery thoughts of frustration and anger as red as her hair – which my keen eyes were scanning for amongst the monochrome rocks. At last, a wisp of copper gleamed in the sunlight for a split second before disappearing behind a stone tower, but I was already launching myself in that direction. Fight, her mind was saying, and I knew that she had stopped running and would be waiting for me. Sure enough, I came around the tower just as she sprang at me and the timing caught me by surprise. The moment my back hit the ground, though, I was rolling backwards into a crouch, from which I let out a primal hiss.
In the midst of the sunlight glittering off the pale skin of her face, Victoria's eyes were bright red and her teeth gleamed sharply from the fearsome snarl she wore. I felt like it wouldn't take a mind-reader to see the death she was envisioning for me from behind those eyes. After our moment of staring each other down, the battle began again anew in split second movements. We sprang, scratched, snarled, snapped, kicked, and tore at each other. I got a good hold on her for a moment and slammed her against the craggy wall, sending shards of granite shattering in every direction, but then her feet came up and connected a solid blow to my ribs. I crashed backwards, bouncing off some boulders, and found myself airborne as I tumbled down a cliff. Normally, I would have grabbed hold of something and sprang back up; but in my weak and hungry state, the new sensation of pain in my torso was too overwhelming for me to make any sudden moves to save myself. One, possibly two, of my ribs were broken. At last I landed flat on my back on a stone shelf that jutted out of the cliff face, my skull making a loud crack upon impact. For a dizzying moment, all I could see of Victoria was a smear of red as she launched herself down the incline at me. At the last second, I swung my leg up and connected with her chin, clashing against the momentum of her charge. If she were any more fragile, the blow would have beheaded her, but instead it just lurched her head violently sideways and she slammed back into the wall. She moaned, and I could hear from her thoughts that she was hurt; but I doubted it was as bad as my injuries. I was sitting up now, but not without excruciating pain.
Her movements were slower this time as she lunged at me, swiping her nails across my leg, where they cut deep. At the same time, I was swinging my other leg up to kick her in the face again. She hit the wall and didn't recover fast enough, so I poised to jump; but my injured leg didn't follow through. Instead of latching onto the front of her and taking a bite out of her neck, I was a moment too late and ended up grabbing her arm and biting into her shoulder. She cried out and used her free arm to punch me first in the face and then in the ribs that were already screaming with pain. This loosened my hold long enough for her to fling me backwards over the ledge and I fell another good distance down onto more rocks. Unable to move for a moment after landing, I simply choked out a groan. Victoria was taking her time getting down to me again, as she was also hurt badly; but I could hear her thoughts and smell the venomous liquid oozing from her wounds, as well as my own. She was crawling down the cliff face above me, face twisted into a mix of agony and satisfaction; and I was trying to gather my strength against the pain, when a loud explosion rang out and a section of rock near Victoria's waist burst into splinters. I couldn't move, but she looked up in surprise and I smelled it at the same moment that I read her thoughts. A human was very close. A girl with a handgun, I could see from my enemy's thoughts; and apparently the girl looked like she meant business, because Victoria was definitely hesitating. She tensed and let out a low hiss to warn the newcomer of her imminent attack.
I wanted to shout a warning to the foolish human, but before I could even take a breath, another shot was fired, this one hitting the red-headed vampire square in the shoulders. She shrieked and fell from her perch, as the ground and my own body was splattered with her vein venom. It certainly wasn't a lethal blow, but it was enough to make Victoria slither away weakly through the field of boulders. I could tell from her thoughts that she was planning to recover from a distance. She didn't think the fight was worth it at the moment.
Once Victoria was out of sight, I could hear the human running towards me. I was surprised that neither of us had noticed her before, though she had a pretty average smell, mixed now with the scent of gunpowder. No longer in imminent danger, I decided not to move even my head if I didn't need to, so I didn't get a look at the girl until she was standing right over me. She was wearing warm hiking clothes and had long blonde hair and wide green eyes that glittered with the reflection of my skin. We looked each other in the face for a few seconds, and I listened to her thoughts. She was wondering what I was first and then if I was dying.
"Don't worry," I mumbled, "I'll heal up soon. You should get out of here, it's dangerous."
"Yeah, I know," she said sarcastically and looked up to where Victoria had disappeared, "But neither of us will be safer alone now, will we?"
I could hear the scenarios playing through her head of running into Victoria on her own, and I knew she had a point. She was thinking of ways she could fight, as if she were simply facing a bear or mountain lion.
"No, you're right, you wouldn't stand a chance alone," I said, "She's too fast and too strong. Even your gun will be useless without the element of surprise now."
"We should get away then," she suggested and began doing weight calculations in her head, "I'll carry you."
"You can't," I stated, "Just leave me and I'll heal."
"That's…ridiculous," she said, but was already making a list of other ridiculous things she had just witnessed, "Well, how long, then?"
"I don't know," I guessed, "An hour? You might actually have enough time to run away before she works up the nerve to come back."
"I told you, I'm not running off alone," she said sternly, shoving the revolver into a hip holster, "I'll protect you until you heal, then we'll both go."
I nodded, knowing that, in actuality, I would be protecting her if she stayed. Her green eyes looked me up and down, assessing my injuries and taking inventory of the first aid gear she had brought in her sweatshirt pocket. Apparently nothing she had with her would be adequate to treat the wounds she could see on me. I learned that she had a camp set up some distance away and originally upon hearing the commotion had rushed to help, thinking that there had been a rock slide or an animal attack. She was now wondering if any of the first aid she had left back at her camp might be more helpful.
"Is there anything I can do?" she asked.
"Just sit down," I said, and she did so.