Another chapter for my lovelies! Note to you: Theater season is starting up again this week, so updates may be scarce. I do promise, however, that this fic shall be first in my mind (because it's soon to reach the end! Bittersweet feelings...)Pax
("Thank you for your information." I said curtly, nodding. The man smiled.
"Anything to help, good sir.")
I pulled Carl to his feet.
"What? We're leaving already?"
I shut my eyes, scowling.
"To question the girl, Carl."
She didn't seem to notice our approach. Even as we lingered near her table, she continued to stare forward, unseeingly; the until movement she made was the steady stirring of a spoon in her coffee. Her stillness was eerie. It was a rare thing for one so young to have such a calm manner. And so it startled me (if only a tiny bit) when she suddenly moved, as if awoken, turning to look at Carl and myself. I heard a spatter; apparently I was not the only one surprised, although I'd managed to keep a stable hold on my tankard.
"Do you mind if we sit?" I asked, gesturing towards the opposite end of her table.
It was part of my job to adjust and adapt to situations with ease. If a witness was being difficult, I (usually) remained patient. If a gargoyle was charging at me full speed, I kept calm and remembered what I had to do. I prided myself on my coolness.
Stubbornness is also a quality of mine. I know I'm obstinate; everyone around me knows it. It's a fact of nature. When the girl looked at me, met my eyes for the first time, I didn't want to admit to the fact that I felt uncomfortable. My stubbornness, you see. How could a skinny kid make unnerve me? I'd faced creatures with hundreds of eyes, and yet when fixed with a measly pair, my stomach seemed to disappear.
They were rather dark, harsh against white cheeks. The color was grey; uncommon if not unheard of in vampires. That doesn't mean she's not a Were. All I knew was that she was not an ordinary mountain villager. There was far too much intelligence, far too much depth within the pools of grey.
After a short pause, in which we were given a thorough once-over, she nodded once. Slowly. She doesn't trust me. I sat, Carl scooted in beside me. I didn't want to admit that I was relieved when she shifted her gaze to the friar, hand swirling the spoon idly. He squirmed.
"I can tell you're a bright kind of person, miss, so I'm going to be blunt." I said, managing to stop my voice from wavering when she looked at me again. She didn't look at all human in the dancing firelight, "We're here about the attacks. Looking for suspicious characters."
Something flickered across her face, so quickly that I almost missed it. Almost. Still, she said nothing. Her hand continued to stir the coffee.
"We know you're new around here," her eyebrows raised, ever so slightly, "and I think you know something about what's going on."
There was a short silence. Carl, for once, seemed to be in earnest when he said,
"We're from the Vatican. You can trust us."
To an inexperienced onlooker, such as the gullible holy man, this did not make much of an impact on the girl. I knew differently. She was good, I thought, but not good enough.
Her hand had stopped stirring.
Something about Carl's comment had struck her. I didn't know what had done it. I was going to find out. But it was my turn to make a mistake. My eyes had lingered too long on the cup of coffee. She's seen me looking, knew I saw. Her jaw tensed, eyes boring straight through me.
"You're the Warrior from Rome."
It was the first time she's spoken. Her voice was soft, almost gentle. Deadly. Our eyes met for the first time as adversaries. The moment was so incredibly tense you could have sliced it up and fried it. She sat up.
"If you'll excuse me," rising, she left a coin on the table top, beside her mug, "It's getting late."
"Wait a moment." I said, pushing Carl, who was slowly catching on.
She was half way across the inn, the door clear view.
"I said wait! Carl, MOVE!" I stumbled over him, moving briskly after her. Three men were talking at the drink counter. One of them was the plump bartender.
"Old long farm?" exclaimed one of his companions, slapping his knee and guffawing, "You great ninny! That place was shut down years ago! You're getting featherbrained with age, you are!"
I broke into a run. Snow was falling, still light and downy. It seemed unfitting for the moment. Thunder and lightning were supposed to crash overhead when an open chase was in motion, not dainty flurries. She was quickly sprinting towards the line of dark trees at the edge of the village. Was there time to get the horses? No. I did snatch up my trusty crossbow before I followed.
She was fast, but hindered by the snowfall. It was high, and height was not a virtue of hers. We were gaining. The air was colder now, biting my face. Did it affect her? I could only hope so.
It happened so fast I hardly had time to react. Carl and I had remained a clean twenty feet in her wake for a time; there must have been a dip in the ground beneath the spotless snow. She tripped, and fell.
We were on her in a second. I made a grab for her wrists. All the calmness she'd displayed at the inn were gone; she fought me like a wild thing, scratching my face twisting away. I didn't want to use force; I had to. Using my elbow, I brought it down sharply at the juncture of her neck and shoulder. She froze, a puff of warm breath escaping her mouth in a gasp. Her struggle stopped. Carl appeared nervously behind me.
"Is she.. is she out cold?"
I wiped the trickle of blood from my lip.
"I think so."
My hands went to the pair of narrow shoulders; we'd have to restrain her before she woke. I'd barely touched her, when the sensation of breathlessness followed by a sharp pain hit me. I fell back. Sneaky wench.
Out cold my hat! She had been faking, waiting for me to move closer; both of her feet had connected firmly with my chest, kicking me over and allowing her time to dart away.
"Don't let her get away!"
I wheezed, staggering up. Oh, she was going to get it. Placing one hand on my throbbing sternum, I went after them. She looked over her shoulder, saw us perusing. I heard the cry, but never figured out what she said before a dark shadow descended from the tree tops and landed between us.
Hot foam dripped from its mouth, melting the snow below. I whipped the crossbow up, pointing it between the huge, yellow eyes. It snarled, lunging at me. The smell of musky fur and meat smothered me.
"Shoot it Carl!"
He fumbled about, looking for the weapon. But the Were leap off of me. It didn't bite, scratch, cause me any other kind of harm. Just got off. What in the name of Heaven was going on? But now it advanced on the girl. She was a conniving little witch, but I wasn't going to let it kill her.
"Stand back!" I shouted, groping for the crossbow. I froze. Stunned like I've never been stunned before. The monster, one of the largest Werewolves I'd ever seen, bent over, bidding her to climb on.
She did. She clambered upon the great beast's back, holding onto his pelt. The pair bounded away into the night.
The silence was heavy. Carl stood with his mouth hanging open. I merely stared. Why? It made no sense. Absolutely no sense. It wasn't in their nature. Weres were ferocious and untamed. They didn't help human girls.
My brides were restless. They always became so at this time of night, or at least since Adriana had begun calling in the villages. Generally, she stayed from mid afternoon until midnight, as she had done today.
I had awoken when the sun set to a great deal of fretting between them. They did not like waking without knowing she was alright. I, myself, could not say I didn't fear for my human ward, but I trusted her when she said she would not be harmed.
"Master!" Aleera wailed, clinging to my arm, "Why do you let her go?"
"What if something terrible should befall her?"
"How would we know?"
"My dears!" I said, loudly, placing a hand on both heads, "Adriana is perfectly capable of handling the situation."
This did not seem to console them, although they ceased their petulant yowling. The Witching Hour was soon to come; I sat in my private room just off the main hall, gazing into the fire. A loud cry rang outside. I shut my eyes, centering and calming my mind before I lost my temper.
"I have told you time and again-"
But I did not finish. The thick stench of a wolf had penetrated the room. What on Earth is he doing here? I stood, anger deepening within me. If the beast had left Adriana alone in the village, I would not hesitate to dispose of him…
His hulking form was silhouetted against the moonshine. My brides keened more loudly than ever, failing their arms as he moved unto his forepaws, allowing his mistress to roll from his back.
"Master!" Came the sobs, "Master! Look at the state she's in!"
They rushed forward, fretting, submerging the human from my sight. She pushed them away. Adriana had never pushed anyone away. She stumbled in my direction; a livid bruise was forming on her neck. I pointed a finger.
"Who has done this to-"
The hall became very quiet. The wolf was breathing noisily, and Adriana's teeth chattered with cold. He's here.
"The man who bruised you throat?" I asked carefully. She began to shake her head, than hesitated.
"The Warrior from Rome." Was all she said.