Chapter 13

The Challenge

The cloud covered midday sky hid the sun from view. The snow filled wind blew gently as a tall dark elegant figure stood still on his horse observing the abandon town. His beautiful long soft curly dark brown hair lifted gently as the wind blew. His wide brim traveler's hat was tilted low and his traveler coat collar raised giving him the protection he needed from the cold and the wind. The only thing visible was the traveler's attentive eyes. He was waiting for the figure that had appeared and disappeared before his sharp eyes were able to see clearly who it was. Patiently he waited to see if the mysterious figure would appear again.

D quietly asked his left hand, "so is this one those…?"

Without waiting for D to finish his question his left hand responded, "Yeah it's one of those. The usual rules apply here too. You know if you die here you die in the real world. I don't sense anything unusual about this illusion." The left hand said slickly.

Remaining motionless D asked further, "do you sense anything other than us in this illusion? For some reason I can't get a good reading."

"Hm! Figures…! Spiritual," the left hand more to himself than to D. He continued on saying, "I think it's connected to that voice we heard a while ago." Without waiting for his left hand to finish speaking D started to dismount from his horse. Worried the left hand began to protest. "HEY! What are you doing D?? I haven't finished my analysis."

Without responding D in his usual calm manner continued to dismount from his horse and tethered it to the nearest tree.

The ghostly voice once more spoke as he was tying his horse. "Ah, I see you have come. State your business traveler if not prepare to meet your maker," the invisible being said gruntingly.

With no emotion in his voice D spoke to the invisible being, "I've come for Lady Jazmine Roamer. I seek no trouble. Once I have collected her I will leave immediately so you may have your undisturbed peace." D knew that she wasn't going to agree to release Jazmine by simply asking. However experience had taught him that sometimes using unusual tactics can prove fruitful and less of a hassle in the end.

The witch laughed before she spoke again. She was certainly intrigued by this man. Never in her long existence did she meet someone like him since Him. Although a thought crossed her mind as she began form a spiritual body before D. "You traveler, what did you say was your name? You have a sense about you that seems familiar yet I know I have never met you before." Her voice faded into a low cautious tone.

Remaining as his usual emotionless demeanor D felt that the being was feeling uneasy. As her spiritual body began to form D noticed that she was a tall slender old but very beautiful woman. Her waist long silvery hair blew softly into the wind. Her facial features were fine.

She didn't wear clothing that were appropriate for the weather. Actually the cold or the snow seemed to not affect her in anyway. The long velvet gown she wore was dark green in color. Her brown cloak she wore was made of the same material which was open and as the gust of wind occasionally blew it lifted slight her cloak. Her appearance was of the forest as if she was part of the forest itself.

Still with no indication of any emotion to appear in his tone as D responded, "My name is D."

With a much more obvious curiosity in the spirit's voice she pushed further by asking. "What is your sire's name?"

D responded flatly in his usual monotone voice. "I have none."

Stunned by the shortness of his words she pressed further, "What do you mean you have none? Everyone has a mother and father." She said in a low growl.

Firmly D responded once again with no hint of emotion in his voice, "As I have said, I have none. I am only her to collect Jazmine from your imprisonment. I ask once again to release her or I'll will have no choice but to use force." D's voice remained steady and firm as he made his demand.

The spirit laughed again but much more loudly as suddenly the wind began to blow stronger. Things were being lifted and flying every where. However, D remained still and untouched as if there were no wind blowing.

Bitterly the spirit said. "Fine then! I see that you are no fun. You can't even answer a simple question about your family. You haven't even bothered to ask my name." D did not respond to the last remark. Remaining quietly with no interest in breaking the short silence he waited for the spirit's obvious desire of telling him her name. "My name is Luisa." Still there was no response from D. The witch's eyes narrowed as she realized that D was not going to indulge in her games. "Since you insist in collecting the girl, you will have to pay the debt her family has left for her to pay. I will give you a simple task. Once completed it will reveal another that will be the final task that will show you how the debt is to be paid. Until the debt is paid I will not allow for Jazmine to leave." The spirit said firmly as slowly she began to fade into a mist.

There was some movement coming from the woods. D quickly shifted his attention to that direction as he waited for whatever was coming.

Although Jazmine remained in a deep sleep it wasn't without dreaming very vividly of what she was experiencing. The witch had told her that her task was simple. She had to kill the ogre. Once he was killed she had to take his pendant from him and bring it back to her. Easy enough thought Jazmine. Waking from her nap Jazmine unsheathed her jewel encrusted sword and she walked out the cabin as she began her search into the forest.

Jazmine stood quietly at the edge of the forest as the wind blew with more force. Raising her traveler coat's collar tucking in her hair into the coat she realized that the witch's simple task wasn't going to be actually simple. There were going to be some sort of complications to the task at hand. The witch's amused voice was filled with mischief when she had given her the instructions.

Thinking aloud Jazmine said softly, "I wonder what she has in stored for me. There's a strange feel to my surroundings. The air, the way everything seems to be here but it almost seems not to be. I wonder if this is an illusion?" She asked aloud. Suddenly she heard and felt the witch's laugh around her.

"Hm?" Jazmine said to herself with a low growl.

She proceeded in a cat like walk through the forest without making a sound. After a short distance from the cabin her keen eyes caught a glimpse of someone. Jazmine focused her eyes using her magical abilities to enhance her vision further than any dhamphir could see. She saw it… it made her gasp in a happy surprise, "No! It can't be this easy. This has to be a trick. Or maybe there is more than one ogre?" Jazmine looked down at the pendant that hung around her neck as it glowed brightly. She put the pendant inside her shirt to avoid be noticed because of it.

Jazmine moved quickly from where she was standing before she was seen. Keeping her sword drawn she climbed effortlessly up the tall ancient tree and moved stealthy from branch to branch closing in on her target. The tree branches didn't even move or make a sound as she landed on them. Although she was not a full vampire she still had many of their abilities.

Vampires are very graceful in the way the walk and move. To hear a vampire move it had to be intentional intent by the vampire to be heard. Their bodies were strong and very heavy which had no bearing on how they moved. To try to knock a vampire from his feet is nearly impossible. Only another with equal or greater strength could knock one off his feet.

Because of her heritage Jazmine was light on her feet. She had their strengths although her appearance did not appear that way. This was always very useful because her opponents always underestimated her.

As she closed in she watched the ogre remain motionless as if it was waiting for something. The ogre was a male she observed. The ogre was tall and ugly unlike the beauty that she was accustomed of seeing in Haven or anywhere for that manner. He was extremely tall lanky with a body that was large in an exaggerated way making him appear unnatural and very distasteful to the eyes. His face was even worse. The ogre's eyes were unevenly aligned and his nose was large and pointy. At the very end of his nose it was flat like a coin. His ears were too small for his large head. He wore filthy tattered clothing that was nondescript. The smell that escaped him made her recoil. She watched him intently observing other oddities about him.

Jazmine's senses warned her that things weren't what it seemed. Perhaps, if she was able to get closer she would be able make a better assessment of the situation. Suddenly she paused as she realized what the ogre had been doing all along.

"Hm, the bastard has been watching me. The ogre knows I'm here." Jazmine said in a low growl as she watched him look back at her. Remaining motionless on a branch she watched him glare at her. His gaze was filled with hate giving Jazmine a slight chill down her spine.

From where she stood Jazmine spoke up to the ogre, "Well, I guess the object of surprise is useless now. Why don't you at least introduce yourself?" She said in a charming voice with a hint of mockery to the ogre.

The ogre didn't respond. Jazmine was stung by its apparent unwillingness to respond.

Jazmine stood motionlessly trying to keep her temperament in check which was a difficult task. The building anxiety of completing the task was growing rapidly inside her. She knew that it was only a matter of time before she would lose control of it.

"How dare he not respond," she hissed in a low voice. Grunting Jazmine knew she had to keep control of her growing desire to lose control of herself. Losing control now would only cause more trouble than help. At least this is what she tried to convince herself to believe.

Suddenly the snowy wind began to blow very strongly making it very difficult to see even with Jazmine's keen vision. She wasn't able to see the ogre that was standing ahead her. As sudden as the wind had began to blow it stopped. When the winds finally stopped blowing the ogre was gone from the spot he was standing.

Feeling thwarted Jazmine said out loud, "Dammit! Where he did it go?" She began to scan the area trying to find where he could have gone.

D, moved into the forest toward a small clearing ahead. There he stood looking for what he had sensed. With his sword drawn he looked further ahead of him where he saw what was coming in a distance. It was an ogre. Strangely this ogre had climbed up a tree and was jumping from branch to branch.

D's left hand in a curious tone said, "Now that's odd. I've never knew that ogres knew how to climb trees."

Agreeing D said, "Yes, very odd indeed. Hmm?" He said softly out loud but more to himself as he watched the ogre move closer.

The ogre stopped suddenly. He stared intently into D's eyes as realization that D had already noticed his approach. D placed his sword back into its sheath instead of keeping it out. This really didn't make a difference because D would be able to swiftly position his sword to ready attack in lighting speed.

The ogre spoke in a strange language that D was unable to understand. Remaining quiet with no emotion D just stared at the ogre as he assessed the situation. The ogre was getting angry because D did not react to anything he said. D was sure that whatever he said wasn't really nice by the tone he was using.

There was a sudden gust of wind mixed with snow that blew through the area making it difficult to see. However, D's keen vision was not affected he was still able to see clearly. He moved from where he stood motionless up a tree into a branch landing gracefully moving closer to where the ogre stood. There he saw the male ogre looking confused as it tried to find where D had gone.

When the ogre found where D stood it infuriated him of how close D was able to get to him. Deciding on apparent instinct the ogre charged toward D with his sword drawn. Swiftly and gracefully D had drawn his sword from its sheath blocked the attack as he moved from where he stood flipping onto another tree branch. D observed the fighting style of the ogre was also very odd.

Ogres tend to be thoughtless, brutally strong and aggressive fighters while this one wasn't. Although he was aggressive his skills were gracefully and intelligent. Although his attempt to strike D was thwarted the ogre was able to refocus and prepare for the next attack immediately.

The ogre was not deterred. He back went at D once again. Blocking the attack again D pushed the ogre against another tree as he move from his tree and positioned himself to go on the defensive. D went straight toward him and the ogre moved quickly from where he had been laying dazed. D missed. As the ogre moved from being hit by D's sword he had swirled in as speed that any normal human eyes would not be able to catch.

"Too graceful. Something isn't right," D thought to himself.

Both D and the ogre fought intensely. As their sword's metal met each other they made a swooshing musical sound. They glided from one tree to another trying to outwit the other.

As D landed on another tree the ogre had managed to surprise him and tried to strike him in the heart. D was only able to move slightly enough to avoid getting impaled in the heart. Instead the sword struck his abdomen. D dropped down to the ground as the ogre pulled back the sword back from his target. A pleased smile appeared on the ogre's face as it looked at his opponent.

Although D's outer facial expression remained emotionless the pain seared through his body as he tried to refocus himself. An injury in the abdomen was not even close to life threatening for D but it is still very painful.

The ogre jumped down toward where D had began to stand up. As the ogre jumped down D took his sword and struck him on the shoulder. Unlike D when he was struck by the ogre's sword the ogre screamed in agony as it backed away from D's sword tumbling to the ground. D went toward the ogre for his final strike as the ogre fought to regain his refocus himself from the last attack. The ogre staggered as he tried to stand up.

As D's sword swung toward the ogre he managed to block D's attack. The ogre tripped over a bark from one of the trees they had broke in two while fighting. The ogre fell to the ground as another round of attacks began from D managing to block them all.

As the ogre lay on the ground the ogre appeared as if he original zealous was fading. D did not slow his attacks as he had the upper hand. Without giving up the ogre with all of his remaining will continued blocking all the attack.

The two opponents stared venomously into each other's eyes.

D's dark brown eyes started to slowly change to blood shot red. The demon within him was slowly being released. Feeling that power D tried to keep that inner demon in check because he believed that at the moment it did not warrant such strength or power to be released. Besides there was something wrong with this fight. D knew things couldn't this simple. This was after all an illusionary world everything that appeared really wasn't what it was. But somehow his opponent managed to draw out that evil he kept caged. D was puzzled.

The ogre growled at D as his emerald green eyes began to glow demonically bright. His slits eyes was filled with hate as he held his sword horizontally across his chest with both hands blocking D's sword from striking his heart. D pushed as he felt that the ogre's magic was weakening against his intense strength. It was only a matter of time before the ogre's strength will give up. Those over powering blood shot eyes were commanding something within the ogre to stop and surrender. But he kept holding his ground above all reasoning hoping some how that he would be able to get off the ground and regain he stance again. His eyes glowed even brighter green as it fought back the urge.

"Those eyes!" D's left hand gasped out loud. D was so focused in striking the ogre he ignored his left hand's comment. The left hand began to analysis the ogre quickly as D was overpowering the ogre as ogre's sword slowly began to waiver. D left hand started siphoning his inner power as he felt the steel from the ogre's sword began to bend. "D?" The left hand yelled which was still ignored by D.

Although it was winter the sweat crawled down the ogre's face. His long hair lay tangled in the snow. The ogre gulped knowing the end was near. His face appeared accepting that he had been overpowered which instantly he began to falter even more.

D was so entranced on his attack he gave his left hand no choice but to act on his own will. Although his left hand was a selfish being as it preferred to call himself. He knew that if he didn't act now D would live an eternity of regret which he didn't want to deal with. "If only I had a choice of another host…," he grunted to himself. As he opened his mouth he began to recite an incantation in an ancient language as things began to clear before the three of them. The illusion began to fade.

There he was right before her magically his face appeared. Tear crept out her emerald eyes. Was this another trick by the witch? How evil can someone be?

The words escaped her without Jazmine wanting them to. "It can't be. D?" She asked questioningly in a soft voice with no will behind it as she held the sword across her chest keeping D's sword from striking her heart. As her vision cleared further she was able to gather enough strength and determination into her voice. "D!" She yelled with all her remaining might.

The blood shot red eyes that stared with murderous intent began to fade as realization washed over them. He hadn't tried to speak until just then. His voice was soft as he said her name questioningly. "Jazmine?"

"Yes, it's me, D!" Her voice said almost pleading. "Lower your sword please." He didn't move. D kept his sword positioned but did not apply anymore pressure as he waited for some final confirmation.

Exasperated the left hand spoke in his usual obnoxious tone, "Look D! I've been trying to tell you that it was Jazmine. By the ancient, haven't you learned yet to listen to anything I say? I've been trying to tell you to stop. I casted a spell and broke this illusionary spell that made you two look like ogre to each other."

Full realization washed over D as it did he now knew what he was about to do. He almost killed the one person that he came to trust, to love and soon to be the mother of his first born. Dropping his sword to the ground he grabbed Jazmine into his arms as he felt an overwhelming relief that he had not caused her some serious harm.

In a soft remorseful voice D said, "Jazmine please forgive me. I didn't know it was you. I could have ki…," but was stopped by Jazmine as she place her blood stained fingers on his lips. His lips curled into a small smile that was very becoming. "It's really you," as final realization had washed over him.

"Yes love it's me." As D tried to sit her up she felt the pain in her shoulder that was slowly starting to heal. "Ouch! My shoulder hurts." Jazmine winced.

D grabbed Jazmine's sword and placed it on her lap as he picked up his and stood with back toward her. The wind began to blow again as a laughter began to fill the air. D softly spoke to Jazmine, "Get up and stand behind me."

Jazmine had no strength to argue with him at the moment and did as she was told. She stood behind D as they waited to see the witch appear before them.

"Very good," witch complimented earnestly. "Task one completed." Jazmine's pendant began to glow brightly. In a friendly voice the witch continued, "Now that you have found the pendant and your true love you are now able to go move onto the final task." As she spoke these words the pendant around Jazmine began to rise and move toward the witch.

When the pendant was before the witch's outstretched hands the ruby glowed even brighter. "You have finally broken the curse and my soul can finally be appeased. Now Jazmine take this pendant with you not as a sign of the curse but as a token of what honesty and honor brings to those who are truly pure of heart. Although you may think because of your nature you are not good… you are. You do not cause harm upon those who does not deserve it. Remember always who you are. The pendant is a source of great power which finally unlocked for you to discover. I have entrusted you with this so you may grow to your fullest potential which I am confident you will," the witch said with a smile.

"Thank you," Jazmine responded.

Turing her attention to D the witch said, "You my dear can not deny who you are. You are the son of the ancient himself. There is no question. Fate had its doing when Jazmine fell in love with you. Only someone directly of His bloodline could only have broken the curse. Anyone else would have died." The witch paused for a moment. "I lost to my game and as a gracious loser I will make your passage down this treacherous mountain safe." Laughter filled the air as the witch disappeared into thin air.

"Well she is nothing but laughs." Jazmine said darkly to D.

"Yes, she is. I can't believe that this is all a game to her." D said with a hint of anger in his voice as he thought back at what he almost done to Jazmine earlier because the witch's game.

There was another laugh as suddenly everything went dark.

a/n: Finally D & Jazmine back together. Next chapter will fly by several months forward with a short summary of the events that occurred since their departure of Aon and back to Haven. Please show some love… and give me some feedback.