Vampire Hunter D: The Mysterious Girl from the North
The void took hold of him once again. Empty, formless and devoid of mass. His thoughts were blurred and held no focus as the Vampire Hunter D entered a deep sleep. In time, the void gave way to meaning and the clouds presented forms. Before him was a woman with her back turned to him. Her hair fell in inky streams behind her and she held a single hand to cover her eyes. It would appear as if the woman was crying.
"Mina!" Someone called.
D felt his heart jump. Could it be true? Slowly, he reached out his hand to the weeping woman. Mina? That was the name of your--
At the touch of his hand the woman turned her face to him. No, not her It was Lulu's granddaughter. He let his hand fall by his side.
"Mina, what's wrong?" A disembodied voice asked. "Why are you crying?" The voice belonged to Piper.
"He left me. He left me all alone, and he's never coming back."
"Huh?" Piper echoed D's expression. "What are you talking about? That doesn't sound like you."
Mina's face changed into the face of a younger girl D had trouble recognizing at first. Mina faded away, and the lone girl stood in her place. A dark shadow hung over her eyes as she placed her hand on her stomach, which was heavily swollen. The girl was close to her time.
"I had no choice. What could I have done? D, I'm so scared."
It was the lone girl that he had bid farewell to at a station long ago. A victim of the Nobility. A victim of his father. And then once more the figure changed. This time she wore longer black hair and had tears streaming down her cheeks. A shadow still hung over her eyes and she clutched the hand of an eight year old boy.
"When are you coming back to us, D? I'm just not the same girl anymore. Not since you've left. I just can't make it on my own, not without you here…"
His name echoed off her lips. How long had it been? A few years? Decades? No. It had been centuries.
D felt his eyes open in the darkness as a soft ruby light emitted from them. In time the light began to dull and a hoarse voice called out to him.
"Another one of those dreams?"
He gave no reply. Instead, he stared up at the ceiling seeming lost in thought. Almost seeking something.
"I wonder what that old bat was talking about earlier. You think this 'Northern Portal' could be one of the Nobilities' experiments?"
"I don't know."
The voice grumbled at D's lack of answer or even enthusiasm for the subject. The dhampir just continued to stare off into the darkness with an aura of sadness almost surrounding him. His thoughts focused on sorting through the day's events until they fell on one person. She stayed in his thoughts for a while.
The symbiote sensed this. "You think she could be bad…?"
D cast his gaze down by his left side. "What makes you say that?"
"What that old woman said earlier. If this girl really did come from that place that everyone is afraid of, I think she could mean trouble. Let go of your thoughts, she's of no use to us."
"Perhaps you're right." D replied with a far off voice. His gaze returned to the ceiling.
"I know, I know. The bird thing, it doesn't make sense. Do you know how hard it was not to eat that thing?" Said the left hand, followed by a perverted laugh.
As dawn arrived the Sun's rays began to fill the interior of the living room with light. A new day had begun and the human inhabitants started to wake and busy themselves with daily activities. The old gypsy fortune teller was first to rise and was soon joined by her granddaughter, Mina. After they had both lightly tidied up the living room - careful as not to disturb the sleeping girl - Lulu went to work on teaching Mina some of the art of fortune telling.
The older woman was mostly retired, living off her and her late husband's savings, but she continued to read fortunes for a small income. Lulu didn't want her spiritual gifts to become rusty and felt she was still an asset to the village.
Passing the art and the knowledge of the world of tarot down to her granddaughter helped Lulu to feel she was continuing an old tradition. It would mean her granddaughter would be an asset wherever she went. But passing down knowledge through word of mouth was one thing, whether Mina actually possessed any spiritual gift was another. The old woman put such thoughts to the back of her mind, though secretly inside she felt that her granddaughter would never be as skilled of a fortune reader as she was.
Lulu left Mina to study with several books at the table while she busied herself in the kitchen preparing breakfast. As the smell of sausage sizzling in an iron skillet wafted through the living room, the young girl sleeping on the couch stirred until she opened her eyes.
The morning light greeted Freya as the girl's bright blue eyes adjusted. Dust particles glistened in the rays of sunshine that peeked through the open curtains. Freya smiled to herself.
A knock came at the door and a voice shouted, "It's me, Piper! Open up!"
Mina left the table to let her inside. Lulu grumbled, "I suppose you want breakfast too?"
"No-no, I have good news! I ran into Miss Ottoson this morning at the market and told her about Freya. She says she could use the help around the house and with the children, and that she has the room to spare - She'll take Freya!"
Lulu looked on in surprise. "Well that is good news, and very nice of Miss Ottoson. Lord knows since the woman lost her husband she's had her hands full and could use the help. We'll make arrangements later and I'll speak to her later today when I head into town."
Piper grinned and ran into the living room as Freya was stretching to get up. She told her the news and Freya seemed to be just as happy, even if she couldn't say it. Freya had met Miss Ottoson the night before with D and had taken a liking to her children. Both girls were excited at the aspect of getting to grow up in the same town and go to school together.
Another knock came to the door.
Lulu grumbled once more and turned to Mina. "I can imagine who it is. I thought you told him to stop hanging around here because you're not interested." By the time she finished, she was at the door looking Lance in the face.
"Hi, Lance." The old woman sighed.
In due time, and much to her annoyance, Old Lulu was feeding five people for breakfast all gathered neatly around her kitchen table. Despite her hard feelings though, she was inwardly gracious for the company in her house. The old woman had lived alone for so long.
Lance spoke up, "So where's that good 'fer nothin' dhampir Hunter?"
"Sleeping in the back room."
"While it's so bright and beautiful outside? Must have a strong Vampire half to sleep through a beautiful day like this. Say, which one of his parents was the Vampire, the mommy or the daddy?"
Piper found his childish references comical, but Old Lulu found him uneducated. "I wouldn't know, I've never asked. And it's non of your business either."
"Shoot, I was jus' curious is all. You got any more of those hash browns?" Lance took another helping. His Frontier twang was getting on the old woman's nerves. "Just seems weird to be a Vampire Hunter 'n all when you're part Vampire yourself."
"It's not weird at all," Lulu objected. "Children can't help who they're born to, and it's unfortunate to the children born from the union of both sides. Because in truth, they're not accepted by either one, Noble society or Humanity. Hunting Vampires is the only profession a half-breed can really be accepted for by humans. Outside of exterminating the Nobility, dhampirs have a very difficult time finding a living."
"Then why doesn't he jus' live among the Vampires?"
"Because Vampires don't want half-breeds." This time it was Mina who spoke, gloating at the chance to prove her knowledge. "They're too proud of a race to accept a half-breed as one of their own, so dhampirs are usually shunned for their human blood. But not all Vampires hated humanity, per say…"
Piper took a bite of her toast. "You mean that guy they call their 'Sacred Ancestor?' Yeah, I read something about him once. I always figured that if Vampires hated humans, and he was the King of the Vampires, that he'd be the worst one. But I read that some of the Nobles even opposed him because he wouldn't let them wipe out all the humans in their regions. Almost made it sound like he was a nice guy."
A mock smile turned up the corners of Mina's lips. "He cared for Humanity as whole in that he didn't wish for our extinction, but that didn't necessarily stop him from treating humans as chattel under his reign. From what I've read, thousands of men, women, and children had fallen victims to his experiments. And many of them gruesome. He didn't wish for Vampires to annihilate the human race, yes, but for individuals he cared not. He didn't care if he drained an innocent girl of her blood or unleashed thousands of monsters upon the world."
"So then…if he was so powerful, what happened to him?" Piper asked.
Mina thought for a moment before answering. "From what I understand he had a set of morals for the Nobility as a whole, but whether he followed those rules was up to him. He wasn't the meanest Vampire, or even the most evil, but he certainly was the most powerful. Because he was so powerful, his word was law, and not everyone agreed with that. Sometimes power can go to your head and corrupt your mind no matter how smart you are. 'Absolute power corrupts absolutely.' He earned himself a lot of enemies both human and Noble alike. So I think that's what got him thrown out of power and killed. But every once in a while on my journeys I hear of rumors that Vampires whisper that he still might be alive. But I don't believe it."
"I sure as hell hope not," said Lance. "Jus' thinkin' 'bout it gives me the chills. You sure are smart, Princess." The middle aged man winked at Mina.
"This is hardly proper table conversation." Lulu looked down at her plate with heavy eyes beneath a furrowed brow. "I wonder if D wants any of this. I'll go ask."
"I'll do it!"
Before her grandmother could say a word Mina had already stood up from her chair and wiped her mouth with a napkin before marching off to the backroom. Lulu merely sighed, but Lance looked somewhat jealous.
He looked over at Freya. "Hey, Freya. Do your impression of D."
Mina quietly opened the door that belonged to the backroom where D was staying. Her garments rustled while she walked across the floor and over to his bed. The black garbed youth laid on his back atop the covers with one arm draped across his chest. His elegantly curved long sword lay not far away. Despite his powerful frame and stern expression while awake, he looked downright serene while asleep. The woman couldn't help but admire the mask that added a touch of youthful innocence no blood cold mar to his timeless face.
Lost in his beauty as so many had time and time again, the woman didn't know what came over her as she found herself pressing her body against his. With how little his chest moved even for a single breath, she couldn't tell if he was sleeping or dead until his eyes shot wide open. The woman jumped when his eyes met hers.
"What do you want?"
"Nothing. My grandmother just wanted me to wake you to tell you that breakfast is ready." She bade a sweet smile.
D was somewhat at a loss for what to say or why the woman was laying in bed next to him. He'd never welcomed a woman to his bed before and he didn't think he was going to start now.
"You can tell her I don't want any." And with that he got up.
Mina scowled somewhat and left the room flushed. When the door shut, D opened the curtains and winced in the morning light.
"Did I just hear a sigh from you? This isn't the first time a woman has jumped into bed with you. You'd think from the way your father made you that you'd be use to the attention by now. Or at least like it."
The Hunter clutched his hand shut and muffled the other voice.
No one could figure out why Mina's cheeks were so flushed as she made up an excuse to leave the house. She was gone by the time D finally emerged from the backroom dressed in his usual long coat and hat. He refused to eat anything, as usual. Lance was gone as well and Old Lulu thought she'd take the time to have a one on one conversation with the Hunter.
"Piper, why don't you take Freya to Miss Ottoson's home?"
The teenage girl nodded and got up from the table, putting her plate in the sink. Freya followed her example and ran to get dressed before heading out the door with Piper.
"I have a list of the titles of the stolen books for you."
D took the paper from her hand and mused over it for a moment. "I'll see what I can do." He put the list in his pocket.
"And another thing…you get the horrible dreams, don't you?" The old woman asked the question with a tone of doubt.
"Doesn't everyone who stays here?" D interpreted this as a given. "If you're wondering if they bother me, they don't. They're only figments of my mind. Nothing real."
"The dreams are different for everyone, but mine are getting worse. I keep having these nightmares that something awful is going to happen that's going to affect everyone. Thing is, I'm not sure if it's our town or some place else. The cards told me to pick you, and I'm sure the world beyond has a reason for that. But I'm just at a loss as to why…" Here the woman stopped.
She looked up at D with a truly troubled look in her eyes, and the dhampir could sense she was thinking about something deeper than she was conveying.
D finally broke the silence once he sensed she wasn't going to continue. "I don't understand."
"D, Freya doesn't get the dreams."
The girls walked to the Ottoson home, but the tow-headed girl's steps weren't as light as they usually were. Piper noticed this and took her hand. "Don't worry, Freya. There's no need to be nervous. You'll like living with the Ottoson family, I promise."
They walked up the steps of the porch to their destination and the spunky brunette knocked on the door. Miss Ottoson was home and welcomed them inside with nothing but smiles and hugs for both girls. Piper accepted any chance to be doted on, but Freya seemed to be rather distant in Miss Ottoson's company. While all three were seated in the living room with a cup of tea placed in front of them, Freya took a moment to look around while the others were lost in conversation.
They paid her no mind as she rose from her chair and nonchalantly looked at the pictures on the walls and into the hallway. Pictures of Miss Ottoson when she was younger. Pictures of her and her late husband. Pictures of her four children. Freya had met three so far, two boys and one girl, but the toddler she had never seen and guessed the baby to be sleeping in one of the rooms.
The awkward girl looked at her reflection in the glass of one of the pictures containing a photo of the family. Her eyes became sadder gazing at both her reflection and the picture together. She had hoped that looking at the photos and getting a feel for her new environment would help her feel better, but it didn't. Feeling as if she was trapped, Freya wandered further from the living room and opened the side door that lead to the open field she was at the day before.
Sunshine greeted her, and with a breath of fresh air she tromped through the pale yellow grass and out into the open. Her feet led her toward the shrubberies just on the edge of the forest before she felt she was far enough from the house to let herself sit down. She took a deep breath and began to relax until a shadow fell over her.
The shadow belonged to a tall man in a hat.
Freya turned around half expecting to see D, but she saw Lance instead. He was towering over her with an odd gleam in his eyes.
The girl immediately stood up and looked at the man in alarm. She was trying to process the odd look in his eyes and estimate if she could outrun him back to the house. In the second she made up her mind to take flight the grown man launched at her. Her body was whipped around so quickly that she lost her footing in mid flight and fell to the ground.
He toppled on top of her and pinned her hands above her head. Freya had never felt so frantic in her life. Her heart was pounding in her ears, and wriggle as she may, she could not physically overpower the grown man. If she could not use her hands then she was going to do the best to use her feet, but his body was crushing her hips and she couldn't free her legs. The girl squirming beneath him to get free excited him even more and he leaned forward to lick her face.
Never had Freya wished she had a voice to scream with more than now. Try as she may, not a sound escaped her. She couldn't even scream for help. She felt Lance's fingers tugging at the lace on her bodice when they suddenly stopped. The man let out a sharp cry as if something stung him and the girl felt the weight above her being lifted.
Lance crumpled on the grass groaning in agony and Freya looked on in surprise. And then she felt it too. A raw and piercing miasma that covered them both but seemed to be more directed at Lance. The black miasma rose from a figure in the shadows of the brush with two softly glowing red eyes. A sword was strapped to his back but unsheathed. D.
Freya instantly rose and ran towards him, but his aura was unwelcoming and almost whispered, Don't come near me. She hid herself behind the trunk of a redwood instead.
D stepped closer to Lance. His step held no anger, and he was composed enough not to draw his weapon, yet the man continued to writhe in agony under the intense aura. And it was no wonder. Lance was feeling the full blast of the infamous aura of a Vampire. It was as if a black wall of Death had crept over him and it turned the contents of his stomach sour. He started to vomit right on the spot.
"Stop…Please…I beg of you!"
D's eyes wavered slightly with emotion. The calm glow in his eyes dimmed and the aura withdrew. The man was choking back sobs and vomit as he got up. Many humans were aware that the Nobility and even dhampirs could use their unholy auras as weapons, but Lance had never known just what the extent of that was, until now. He grabbed his hat off the ground and ran.
D stood still for a moment as if nothing had happened.
"Don't feel bad for letting your other half show. He deserved it. Lucky for him you were merciful." D looked down at his left side with a somewhat pained expression.
A snap from behind a tree caught his attention and he turned around. The girl figured that with the danger gone she could come out of hiding. She stood beside the tree and looked at D with lost eyes. All at once she ran to him and threw her arms around his waist. The dhampir looked somewhat surprised and resisted the urge to step back.
Many times girls had thrown themselves at him over the pettiest things, just to be held in his arms. A lost bonnet or a sprained finger. But it wasn't until Lance had gone did Freya actually cry. Through the whole ordeal not once had she shed a tear. Now she wept bitterly against D's chest. She didn't know why she found comfort in him, only that he saved her.
No aura could be felt from him as he let the distraught girl cry. Her hands had slipped under his coat and around his waist with her fingers latching onto the back of his shirt. She hugged him close to her as she cried against his chest, faintly hearing the sound of his heartbeat. D wasn't use to having people this close to him.
In due time, the girl stepped back. She was grateful to him, but for some reason she couldn't let her eyes meet his. Instead, she dried her tears and walked back to the house. A short time after she and Piper had left, Lulu had finished her private talk with D and thought it a good idea to join the pair at Miss Ottoson's house. His employer invited him along, and when they got to the house to find that Freya had wandered off, D had a suspicion as to where he might find her.
He didn't tell her to dry her tears or even leave her with words of comfort, but he did walk beside her on their way back to the house.
That night, it was arranged that Freya would stay with Miss Ottoson, beginning her move-in immediately. This was easy, being as how Freya had hardly any possessions of her own outside of the ones Piper gave her. The party had learnt of what happened and the town sheriff locked Lance in jail once he confirmed with D that the story was indeed true. Piper offered to stay the night with Freya, but it wasn't Piper's side Freya stayed by, it was D's.
When they were outside and it was time for him to leave, she seemed upset to the point of tears. Even after being reaffirmed earlier by Piper that Lance was locked in a cell, she didn't want D to go.
D sensed for whatever reason the girl harbored a new kind of fear and that it would intensify if she didn't feel safe. With the others inside, he spoke to her quietly, but in his usual curt manner.
"Your grandmothers last words were that I take you to the next town. Piper will look after you while I'm gone." And then he turned around and left.
D reached his employer's house the same time she did, even though she left the Ottoson home before him. But when Old Lulu didn't hear D's footsteps behind her on her way up the porch, she turned around and called to him, "Aren't you coming in?"
"You should get some sleep." Came the gruff reply.
"D, where are you going?"
But he did not answer. The old gypsy watched as his silhouette melded with the shadows of the night and turned to darkness completely. With what would have taken a human a half hour took D fifteen minutes. That was the amount of time it took for him to make the trek through the town and the forest, and up into the hills.
In the darkness of the night, he stared into the gaping mouth of the yawning mine. The moon hung ominously above him and bats scurried in and out of the cavern. His left hand spoke up, "I have a bad feeling about this."