A/N- Thanks for the reviews! Now, as for that little surprise… You'll see at the bottom. I hope you enjoy!


Interlude

Eight Years Later…

"I won't be out long! Promise!" Mina squealed at her mother, her long locks swaying all about her face.

Lilah smiled down at her daughter as the girl placed her hands on her hips, trying her best to make herself intimidating. However, that time had long since passed for Lilah. She shook her head at Mina, crossing her arms.

Realizing her "demanding" pose was not working on her mother as much as it would on, perhaps, Uncle L.H. or Aunt Celeste—she never dared try to get one over on her father—she decided to try a different approach. She looked up at Lilah with her large, blue eyes and batted her pale lashes at her, her tiny mouth forming the perfectly pitiful pout.

"Please?" she begged, clasping her hands together in front of her face.

Lilah unclasped her arms and ran a hand through Mina's long, blonde locks—paler than her own and the only thing that the child had gotten from her biological "father."

"It'll be sundown soon, Mina. Under no circumstances are you to be out after dark, you know that," Lilah said, resting her hand on her daughter's face.

Mina's façade was dropped as she whirled, her hair smacking her mother about her waist, as she put her back to her, crossing her thin arms. Lilah rolled her eyes and put her own back to Mina. She moved closer to the small stove, checking on the herbal tea she was brewing for a woman in town who had come to her seeking her aid in ridding herself of a bad cough.

The mother and daughter pair currently stood in the cozy kitchen of the home that D had purchased for Lilah eight years ago. It was located right outside the very town she had given birth in, which meant that Mina got visits often from Midwife Shelly. They had lived here, peacefully, for the entirety of the eight years, with Lilah playing the roles of housewife and assistant to Shelly. Because of the dusty town's openness in construction, they were occasionally plagued by monsters that were blown in from the Frontier. The town kept D paid to keep these creatures from doing harm. L.H. often assisted him, while Celeste made her money by doing various chores for the town using her magic.

Of course, unbeknownst to the town or Mina, the group had taken certain precautions to keep the town, and thus Mina, safe from the ever-looming threat of Dracula. Celeste had erected an invisible barrier designed to give the group advanced warning if the Sacred Ancestor got anywhere near it. She had admitted, several times over the years, that her powers paled beside the vampire king's now that she was no longer a Gatemaster, but assured the group that this barrier would work. Much to what they counted as their "luck," it had never yet been tested. Lilah now turned back to Mina, lifting her from behind to sit her upon a stool that went with the tiny island bar in the center of the kitchen. Mina couldn't help but smile up at her mother after her little "ride."

"But I told you that I wouldn't go far," she muttered, leaning her cherub face on her hand.

Lilah arched a brow and shook her head. Mina sighed, laying her head—face down—onto the smooth surface of the island. Lilah laughed.

The time when she had feared what her daughter could do had long passed. It was quite true that Mina was everything that he had wanted her to be. She was strong, physically and mentally. She was faster than Lilah could ever hope to be, and even D had to really try to keep up with her. She had none of the weaknesses of the vampires. She could eat, touch, and smell the rare herb garlic without effect, as well as touch the symbol of the cross that Celeste had told Lilah of. She had spent days in the sun without yet feeling the effect of Heat Syndrome, and Lilah doubted if her daughter ever would. She could swim like a fish, and the only reason she had yet to master her bloodlust—when she had it—was due only to her immaturity of age.

Lilah was brought out of her thoughts as Mina's feet began to lightly kick at the island as she began to swing them. She sighed.

"Well, can't I train with you and Daddy tonight?" she asked, her voice muffled as she had not lifted her head.

Lilah laughed. "Yes, if we train, you can train with us. As always."

Her motherhood had made Lilah more aware than ever that she needed to be able to defend herself. She had picked up her hand-to-hand combat training with D as soon as she had been able to after having given birth. She had also been working with fighting with daggers. Truth be told, she was still quite hopeless with anything with a blade… but at least she was somewhat practiced in it. She still kept up with her spell work, now with Celeste tutoring her. She had made great strides, now considering herself a full-blown magician, and Celeste had even gone so far as to call her a sorceress. But Lilah thought that was a little like putting the cart before the horse…

But, as soon as Mina had grown able enough, and once Lilah had witnessed her daughter's unquestionable power, D and Lilah had begun to train her in the ways of combat. They knew that the day would come when Mina would grow up and want a life away from her parents—as much as that realization made Lilah's heart want to stop—and they both wanted her to be more than able to take care of herself. The child was much better at weaponry than her mother was, even starting to learn to use a sword. Curiously enough, however, she had almost no magical talent. Lilah had often found herself wondering if that was some sort of trade off in getting the perfect dhampire.

In the distance, the front door of the cottage opened, and Mina's head shot straight up.

"Daddy!" she cried, jumping off the stool and running into the living room.

Lilah shook her head, turned off her herbs, and followed after her daughter. She emerged into the well-furnished living room to find Mina with her tiny arms wrapped around D's waist. He smiled a tiny ghost of a smile as he swept her up in his arms, sitting her on one of his shoulders.

"Please! Let me go outside! I wanna play outside!" she begged.

"What did your mother say?" D asked as dispassionately as usual.

Mina's mouth opened to answer, but she stopped, catching sight of Lilah there. Lilah was trying hard to fight down a grin when her daughter sighed heavily and said, "She said no."

"Then no it is, Mina. You know that," D replied, setting her back on her feet.

D crossed the room in three quick strides—which had always mystified Lilah, because the living room was not exactly small—and kissed Lilah quickly on the mouth. She smiled. She always found it amusing how D had assimilated himself into this "father/husband" role. For the most part, he had not changed. He still spoke as if nothing in the world could shake him, and his expressions were… well, few and far between. However, there were moments—like the kiss he had just given Lilah or when Mina gives him her brightest smile—that Lilah could see the most change. She had never seen D smile so big as when his daughter smiled at him.

Now, the child turned to gaze up at her father.

"But, Mommy said I could go outside if I trained with the two of you. Please, please can we train tonight?" she asked.

D shook his head. "I'm sorry, Mina. But I have a bounty tonight that I have to hunt."

With a loud, very childish groan, Mina threw her head back. Then, announcing that she was going to her room, she stomped out of sight. Lilah laughed, turning back to D.

"She'll get over it. What's the bounty?" she asked, turning to go back into the kitchen.

"Just some engineered werewolves that someone spotted coming into town. They'll be here by nightfall," D answered, following behind.

"Where's L.H. and Celeste?" Lilah asked, turning as she noticed D was quite close to her.

She smiled and slipped her arms about his neck, planting a soft kiss just on his jaw-line. He smiled at her, slipping his own arms about his waist.

"They're at the tavern. They said that they were bored and thought they'd blow off some steam. Or something to that effect."

"Oh," Lilah said, resting her head on D's chest. A moment passed before she added, "I wish you didn't have a bounty tonight."

"I know," he murmured, burying his face in her hair, which she had not bothered to braid today.

She giggled a little, and for the longest moment, the two simply stood there in each other's arms. Finally, it was Lilah who pushed herself back, sighing.

"So, when are you heading back out?" she asked.

"A few moments. I thought I'd come and spend a bit with you and Mina… but now she's cross with us."

Lilah laughed. "It'll pass."

D returned her smile. "It always does. Perhaps we ought to tell her, Lilah, why we keep her so close by us."

At this, Lilah's face hardened. She put her back to D, busying herself with miniscule chores that in the grand scheme of things meant nothing.

"You know that I don't agree. She's not old enough to know that someone like him is after her," she said, her voice lowering itself to a hiss.

"But she wouldn't spend so much time angry with us if she knew," D argued.

"No, D. She's eight years old. I won't have her have such a weight on her shoulders. She may be a special dhampire, but I want her to be a normal child."

And with that, the subject was dropped. D sat at the tiny island counter as Lilah began to pour the brewed herbs into a flask. She gave them to D with instructions to drop them off with the woman who had requested them. He agreed without hesitation, planting a bit of a longer kiss on her lips as he turned to leave. Lilah sighed as soon as he had left.

She hated having that discussion with D. It was the same result each time. But she would not back down. She was going to keep her daughter safe and happy. And if that meant keeping this little fact a secret, then so be it.

…………………

Mina sighed, gazing out of her bedroom window at the full moon shining its silvery light from above. She often found herself wishing that she was the moon. Or the sun. No one ever told the moon or the sun that they couldn't go outside.

She was never allowed out by herself. She could only step outside her home if her mother, father, uncle, or aunt was with her. She hated it. She wanted to play outside with the other children of the village, without the adults in her life keeping such a close eye on her. Sighing, she rested her head on the windowsill.

She stared at the moon until her eyes began to almost hurt with its soft light… which took quite a while. She listened as she heard her mother go to bed, and had exchanged a stubborn "good night" with her. She heard her Aunt Celeste come home and had done the same with her, with only a little of the stubbornness gone. She had heard whispers of her mother's and Aunt Celeste's conversation—she could hear, easily, the whole thing, but had been taught that eavesdropping was bad—after that, talking about why she was angry with them. Aunt Celeste had laughed and Mina had regretted her lack of stubbornness.

She was deeply set in her sulking when a small flash of light outside her window caught her attention. She narrowed her eyes and stood, pressing her face against the glass of the window. For a few moments, all was as it had been… then…

The flash came back, hovering just in front of her eyes. Mina squeaked and fell to her bottom. She covered her mouth, hoping that her mother had not heard her small cry. When neither her mother nor her aunt made any inquiries, she pulled herself slowly to her feet. She eyed carefully the small ball of white light before her. It bounced a little, and she ducked back below the windowsill. After a moment, she peeked once more.

I won't hurt you, little one, the light seemed to say—although Mina had no idea how it could be talking. After all, it was just rounded light. It had none of the features of a face.

"H-how do I know that?" she whispered.

It seemed to smile at her as it melded with the glass, appearing again right in front of her, casting strange shadows about her room. Mina reached out to touch it, but it moved to hover just out of her reach.

Do you want to play?

Mina pressed her tiny lips together, looking towards her bedroom door. Perhaps she ought to wake her mother? The light seemed to laugh.

I promise. I would never hurt you, precious one. Please, won't you come and play with me?

"Come and play?" Mina repeated in hushed tones.

The light melded once again with the window, reappearing outside. It raised itself up high, and Mina watched as the latch on her window—the one that her mother had always insisted remained locked—unlocked itself. Mina gasped.

"Outside?" she asked it.

It seemed to nod at her. Mina shook her head.

"I'm… I'm not allowed," she said, a tone of finality about her words.

The light giggled.

It'll be all right. Nothing will hurt you. I won't let it.

"But… but, what if you're bad?" she asked the light.

Could something bad do this?

As soon as the sentence had ended, the light went to work. It drew, in the air, another form made from entirely light. This one, however, took the form of a unicorn, a creature that the stories from the old women in the village had taught Mina was the purest, kindest, and most wonderful of the all the creatures left in this world. The light-unicorn whinnied and reared up, and began to run around in circles, all for Mina's amusement. Once Mina's face had broken into a huge smile, and she was fighting down giggles, the unicorn exploded into a beautiful shower of sparkles. Mina wanted desperately to clap for her show, but didn't for fear of waking her mother.

"I suppose not," she said.

Again, the ball of light seemed to smile at her.

Then follow me, dear one…

As the light began to fly away, Mina whispered for it to wait, crawling over and out of her bedroom window. She landed on the ground on her knees, but lost no time in pushing herself back to her feet—dusting off her simple, white dress as she did so. She followed quickly after the light, and it urged her to go even faster.

Hurry! Hurry! I know the best place to play, but we have to hurry!

Mina followed the light, which teased her by slowing and increasing its speed in turn and dancing just above her head. Before she knew it, she had reached the boundary her parents had set for her so many years ago. She came to a halt several feet from it as she saw a tall, dark figure just on the other side of it. Her eyes widened as she turned around, desperately trying to see her house. But she had gone too far. Even her "special eyes" as her mother and father called them could not see the cottage home.

Come on! We'll have so much fun!

The light danced back to her once it noticed she had stopped. Mina shook her head.

"Who is that?" she whispered.

My friend. He won't hurt you, I promise. He only wants to play, too.

Mina took a few of the tiniest steps she had ever taken before she stopped once again.

"I-I don't know. Maybe I should go home…"

Please don't go, Mina! He won't hurt you.

"How did you know my name?" she asked the light, her little brows furrowed together as she stared up at the light.

But the light had vanished now, and the figure had advanced so far forward that he now towered over her. She gasped, falling backwards off her feet. The man before her looked very much like her father, with a few key differences. He smiled down at her and knelt, quickly, to scoop her up in his arms.

"Put me down!" Mina shouted.

"Ssh, ssh, it's all right, my darling. My, you are a strong one!" he said as she began to beat her tiny fists against his chest. "Don't worry, dearest. Like I said, I won't hurt you. You can call me "grandfather." We're going to have lots of fun," he said, wrapping his cloak about her.

Mina did the only thing her eight-year-old mind could think to do. She cried out for her mother and father.

…………………

Simultaneously, each pair located on opposite ends of the village, D with L.H., and Lilah with Celeste, snapped right to attention, one word spilling from each of their lips.

"Mina!"

All four had felt the barrier be broken. The werewolves D and L.H. had been fighting suddenly vanished from thin air as L.H.—his hair now kept at a shoulder-length shaggy cut—swore loudly.

"It was a trap! Damn him!" he said, whirling to run in the direction of the cottage.

D easily surpassed him.

From her place in the cottage, Lilah threw herself out of her bed, and, not even stopping for shoes or anything with which to cover her cloth sleeping shirt and pants, tore out of the house, Celeste at her heels.

"He's got her," Celeste said, her voice quiet and hollow.

Lilah's speed increased as she yelled her daughter's name. She ran until she neared the edge of the barrier and saw, just moments before they disappeared, Dracula—with Mina struggling in his arms, crying for her mother and father—smile at her. Then, just before she was within reach, the pair vanished.

"Nooooooooo!" Lilah screeched, dropping immediately to her knees and sliding with the force of her momentum. "No! No! NO!"

She screamed herself nearly hoarse, beating at the ground with Celeste standing over her until D and L.H. arrived.

"We were too late," Celeste informed them quietly as D moved to pull Lilah to her feet.

By now, her face was tear-streaked, and she leaned heavily upon D. She sobbed loudly into his chest, repeating over and over, "He's got her, D! He's got her!"

L.H. let out a scream of his own, throwing down his blaster gun and swearing loudly and profusely.

"Celeste," D said, the only one who seemed to be in control of himself, "can you see them? Like you saw Lilah when he had captured her?"

Celeste seemed to shake herself out of a state of deep shock and muttered, "I'll try."

After a few moments of Celeste seemingly staring off into space, her eyes widened."

"That bastard," she said.

"What is it?" L.H. asked.

Lilah quieted herself, her attention on the former Gatemaster.

"He knows what I can do," Celeste said, sighing disgustedly.

"So… you can't see them?" Lilah asked, her voice strained.

"That's not it. It's more like… I can see twenty of them. Decoys, meant to keep us busy."

"But one of them is him, right?" D demanded.

Celeste nodded. At this, Lilah straightened herself.

"Fine," she spat. "I'd hunt down a hundred decoys to find her. We have to get her back. If that bastard wants to make a game out of this, then I'll play… all for the pleasure of driving a stake into his shriveled, black heart!"

"Then it's settled," D said, putting his back to the group. "We go after them. Let's get ready."

Without another word passing between them, the group followed silently behind to prepare for the long journey ahead.

End Part I


End Notes: And… that's it, folks. The fic known as "How to be a Dhampire," is officially complete. I've known that this end was coming for the last nine chapters. I usually do a countdown of the last five chapters or so, but I decided to surprise all of you. Now, as it says above, this is but part one. Part two will be a fic entitled "How to Save a Dhampire." It still has quite a bit of outlining left to do, but I'll try my best to get the first chapter out as soon as possible. I have quite a few fics in other categories that need some catching up done to them since I started focusing on this one. So, please keep an eye out for it. And I hope you've enjoyed this one. Thanks for all the wonderful reviews and I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this final chapter!

Edited 02/24/10