Epilogue: Tainted

"D remained silent as he gazed out at the sea, as if the movements of his heart that the hand described were something about which he knew nothing at all. Perhaps he'd never have a heart of his own for all eternity." – Vampire Hunter D, Mysterus Journey to the North Sea, Part Two, 191.

"Please take this and run far away, far as you can see. I am tainted, and happiness and peace of mind were never meant for me." – And All That Could Have Been, Nine Inch Nails

Cthulhu burned for two straight days. Only 25 of its 419 citizens remained alive. D could recall nothing beyond holding Luna's lifeless shell, when the last flames of his city had smoldered he'd awoke from an unconsciousness he never recalled falling into laying in the hasty camp the survivors had pitched within the town square. It was on the fourth day since the city had burned that D at last excused himself from the futile efforts within the camp to heal the wounded and returned to the shell of his house. Dracula, of course was no longer there, or within the piles of corpses within the city. Nothing but skeletal timber and ash remained of his fragile home with Luna but listlessly D shifted through the ashes of his illusionary years, looking for some simple relic to cling to. An hour passed before he stumbled upon two rather intact things, the first was a book. It had been the leather bound journal that Luna had used to record her potions and herbs. The second was a multicolored, handmade quilt, which was partially singed. It had been the same that Luna had carried with her in nomadic healing, huddled under as she almost froze to death, the same that had rested on their marriage bed. Softly he gathered it in his arms and draped it over the back of his cyborg horse. He then turned back and buried the badly decomposed bodies of thr cats, Fluffy and Yittk, planting two small crosses in their graves.

D's weary eyes lingered for a long time on the black pool of blood where his wife had been impaled, at the smaller stain where he'd killed his father, at least temporally, "I never asked you. Was what he said true?" D spoke seemingly to the wind, his voice rusty.

"About the vessels?" replied a hoarse one, "Yes pretty much, and didn't detect a faultier to his voice…that Drac's was always a strange one."

As D rose and turned away from the scene he stumbled and near collapsed, clinging tightly to the neck of his cyborg horse to keep upright. Quite unexpectedly pain twisted his face and the blood tears began to flow down his face yet again. By now he'd grown used to that shameful pain; he made no effort to hide it. "It comes far too late for Luna, but I will find them all. I will destroy him." He whispered to the ashes that stained his hands.

After a moment he lifted his head and urged the beast into a walk, suddenly feeling far too exhausted to climb up into its saddle. He was returning to the camp with the rest of the survivors, but he followed a different route that using the road that was still lined here and there with impaled bodies. He chose to walk along side of the sea, listening to the 

steady, heedless song of the waves and watching their constant motion. There was a very noticeable limp in his steps, as though he were walking like a man not fully conscious.

"So, are you up for a little nap D?" questioned the little voice dejectedly.

"I don't have a choice it seems. I won't last a day like this on the Frontier."

"How long do you think it will be?"

"I don't know," came D's cold reply as he stumbled upon his own feet and caught himself.

"Alright but if it's 50 years then I AM waking you up. I can't sleep the way you can you know. So when do you think you're going down?"

"Tonight, but I first I must free myself of Cthulhu."

Lefty scoffed, "Don't know how you plan to do that. Everyone knows you for what you are now, but they still insist that you lead them to Runh. They are frightened and alone with a vast Frontier to cross on foot, they aren't going to let go of the Vampire Hunter D so easily."

"I have a plan." He answered vaguely and kept on walking. In time he returned to the makeshift camp. Most of the mounds of bodies that had lined the grim camp were gone now, interred in vast mass graves and blessed with holy water as well as lined with the strange shapes D had fashioned. When he entered a thin woman with a partially burned face pressed a wooden cup into his hands and D sank down into the ground, exhaustion evident in his features. "Drink it up Mr…D. I recall Miss Lucy told me that this tea can help revitalize strength."

D pushed it aside without a glance.

"Mr. Mayor please, you've worn yerself ragged yeh have. All you ever do is weep, sleep and bury our dead. Yeh never eat, and yeh never seem to recover either. I thought that dhampirs were supposed to heal instantly. We'll be leaving here tomorrow morning, once we bury all our dead but with our leader in this state we won't make it ten minutes toward Runh."

"You 25 did not survive the wraith of the King of Vampires because of luck. The Frontier should be child's play to you." He responded without looking at her.

The woman only sighed, drinking in his gorgeous form. Somehow the very sight of him seemed to alleviate her pain even if he seemed so shattered, and so hopeless. She 

lowered her voice gently "We are going to bury her tonight, in a separate grave away from all of the others. Are you sure that you don't want to come?"

Briefly D nodded, "I'll say by goodbyes before. I've had to bury a lot of people…perhaps thousands over all these years. I've had to put my own mother into the ground, but I cannot bear to be the one who puts Luna into the ground."

"Luna…" the woman breathed sadly, "that was Miss Lucy's true name?"

D nodded, " Lunerahnefer Murray….at least when I married her…I didn't even think to ask her name before…" there was a hitch to his voice and the woman felt sorrow surge in her own heart.

D lay down onto the ground and turned from her, pulling his cape over his form, "I have to rest." He closed his weary eyes, cursing the fresh tears that gathered there. "This shouldn't hurt so much…" he whispered to nothing.

"Well, you have just lost …Luna…." The symboit spoke hesitantly, "Emotions are normal you know D, but your right you're far more vulnerable than you should be. Haven't even healed properly yet, and even I am not able to help you. You're breaking down, you have to give it up."

"Tonight." He replied resignedly then drifted into darkness.

D awoke three hours later, somehow far more weary and aching from head to toe as seemed standard these past few days. The camp was milling with activity and the survivors gathered the last provisions to head out alone into the Frontier and hope the nearest village might house them or else they buried the last of their dead. Without giving his actions much thought D reached inside of the pocket of his coat and found the leather bound book that had once belonged to Luna. Lightly he opened it and ran a hand across the thin and spidery script that covered the parchment, taking solidity in the fact that while their happiness had been an illusion she had not. She'd once breathed, one lived. He flipped absently through, glancing at her complicated formulas and herbal notes until he reached the last page she'd recorded. At that moment an icy claw seized D's numb heart in its grasp, the last words she'd recorded were not of healing:

She's beaten down, hopeless and submissive, a creature to be pitied, a creature afraid of everything she sees in the world...but most especially of her father.

I find myself growing more afraid of D as he slips deeper and deeper into the frozen silence he bore when we first meet.

I cannot deny that I fear him any longer. Vampire Hunter D maybe dead to the world but these past years I know that he'd gone nowhere.

I was blinded by love, now I am blinded with fear….

The first image to reach D's dumbfounded mind was that of Luna's dead eyes, staring glassily up at the stars her face twisted forever with horror and agony.

Softly he shut the book and laid it down onto the ground, rose up and made his way across the camp. The mound of bodies was now almost gone, only about ten or so of the dead remained, the truest heroes and privileged ones that were awaiting burial separately from the rest, the survivors hoping in time they might return to properly memorialize them. D's gaze landed on the form covered with a rough, green blanket, to the lank strands of white hair that flowed out around it. With movement that never would have suggested he was a dhampir and a hunter, movements much like the ones he'd once carried the first time he'd ever knelt to hold the Nymph to him he sank down to her side and pulled back the blanket.

He was hardly surprised to see that she'd not yet began to decay; with "immortals" that process might take weeks although her skin was stark pale, and body rigid. Yet he was shocked to see that someone had gone to the effort to close her horrific eyes and bathed her bloodstained body, even dressed her in a simple tunic like the ones she usually wore. But she did not look as if she were sleeping, or even at peace. Her shell looked merely like what it was, a lifeless husk of a violent end. Softly D lifted his hand and caressed her clammy cheek, held her stiff hand.

After a long moment he spoke, his head bowed and black hair veiling his face and the bloody tears that again where flowing. How he hated them, tears that were stained with the very taint that had killed her. "I am sorry Luna. I should have stayed here with you. I am sorry." Griping her hand a bit tighter as though lingering for a response, he kept on. "I don't know I did this, why I let any of this happen. I don't even know why I married you, why I let you dream of a life with me. I don't know life, I only know death. I've never brought anyone anything else. I am tainted, I was cursed from the moment he created me to kill all those I love. I killed my own mother; I don't know why I ever dreamed that I wouldn't infect you with my curse as well." His finger brushed past the marriage band she wore on her left hand. A simple thing, much like everything she wore, thin and golden with knot work and a small emerald in its center. Slowly he slid the ring off her finger, and cupped it his own left hand. When he opened it again the ring had disappeared. He made no effort to stop the blood tears that splashed down onto her face…Mina had looked so peaceful when she'd died. Why didn't Luna? Why must she look so afraid? "I never wanted you to be afraid. Not of me….not of him. Not of anything. I thought I could give you that dream at least…I truly did. You meant everything to me Luna…" he whispered committing her once flawless face to the final reaches of his memory. "But happiness and love were never things meant for me. Nor were dreams. I am sorry my dreams left you this way…"

But a look of steely resolve crossed his face, and the bloody wavier in his eyes ended, "But I will slay him for you. Him and every other shadow that lurks in this world. I'll never rest…not when I rise again. I'll dream of you every day, every moment until the day I die but I know in time your voice, your memory will fade into darkness. You'll fade from all trace of his earth, but I will never truly forget you. I'll find you in the hereafter. I promise." He answered solemnly.

He then touched his left hand to her shoulder, although the movement was oddly jerkily as thought the hand had moved to its own accord, and gruff little voice drifted from its palm. "Goodbye you sweet child of the Earth. Even I didn't foresee this….but I promise when the time comes, when Drac's has paid than I won't wake pretty boy for more. I'll let him sleep forever; I'll lead him to you if I must. "

D removed his hand and with a simple finality he bent forward and he kissed her forehead, her cold and unmoving lips then he moved away and left. He did not turn back.

That night, as Cthulhu buried Luna and the last of their dead D sank despairingly down beneath the shade of a vast weeping willow tree on the outskirts of the razed town. He held something in his hand, a thick stake of wood. Yet there was none of Nobel blood to be seen.

"So…this is how you're going to do it then? Faking your death and then bleed until its dark? Let's hope that they buy it and put you in the ground then." Said the symboit with a slight edge of anxiety. "I really don't want to defend you for the next twenty or so years. I am kinda beat myself."

It was one of the most elusive mysteries of the Nobility. It came hand in hand with immortally, along with genes that kept them aging but left them vulnerable to the sun. It was the need to rest, or rather to hibernate in the darkness of the Earth. Usually it was sparked with extreme physical or emotional distress, but sometimes it struck at random. At some point their bodies would slow, and submit to the aches and pains, and even the vulnerabilities of a mortal. Vampires would suddenly develop ghastly illnesses, or even common colds. It was a state that could be cured only falling into the deepest of sleeps, essentially to die and lay in their own graves. All bodily function would cease in this state of suspended animation save for a beat of their heart,a breath of air, or perhaps a twitch of their limbs once a day. They might lay in this death like state for a week or two before healed…it might be 20 or so years…some simply might never awaken from the slumber, there body and minds far to damaged to heal.

Many Nobles made it a elaborate ceremony, holding grand balls, bidding goodbye to their loved ones and feasting on all their slaves, fashioning gilded coffins that cradled them in the finest silt from the ground of their birth land, but in truth all the vampire needed was to be immersed in the Earth, hidden from the sunlight and the world above that had at last broken them. In this strange state however it wasn't usual for the consciousness of the vampire to remain awake, and to journey outward from the body, appearing ghost like upon the surface they were hidden from.

It wasn't unheard of for a dhampir to submit to that primal hibernation as well, depending upon the strength of the vampire that ran within their blood.

D did seem to be holding a rudimentary sort of ceremony before he closed his eyes to the world for perhaps the last time. There was the glitter of a ring on the forth finger of his left hand, the same one that Luna had once worn, and he'd wrapped something loosely about his shoulders, the singed handmade quilt that had once been Luna's.

There was no hesitation as his hands grasped the stake and hammered it fiercely into his chest, a short roar of agony bursting from D's form as he slumped down onto the ground, curling into an almost fetal position. He'd missed his heart however, by a mere centimeter or so, but it was close enough so that any human would not be able to tell. Blood began to trickle from the wound, as well as from D's mouth, and his body trembled in suffering, even as sensation was starting to fade away.

"Well….goodnight D. Please….try to feel better and wake up soon," Said the hand with a note of sincere sympathy.

He pulled the quilt tighter about him, his senses suddenly flooded with the scent of his lost life, the familiar slightly earthen aroma of the Nymph, the lingering one of roses from himself, herbs and incenses she'd burned constantly and now the stench of ashes. Another bloody tear cascaded down his cheek and onto the grass, but it was the last as D closed his eyes and did not open them again. All movements of his body ceased including the rise and fall of his chest and then the thud of his heart.

For a long time only the haze of unconsciousness drifted across his senses, until a single light broke through one that grew brighter and brighter. In the haze of his dreams he followed its path, until breaking past it and finding himself standing in ethereal sort of landscape. It had form enough, it had the shape of trees, grass, flowers and sky…but it all seemed to be mere representations to D's living eyes. The creatures that teemed here all seemed to move without purpose, or care, their eyes heavy with a certain sadness, their flesh seemed pallid, and translucent. D alone carried himself with solidity as he strode through the grass, a shimmering vision of unworldly beauty that seemed to violate this pale world with its solidity.

As though summoned forth another vision of beauty materialized before D, yet she was beauty that belonged to this world now and forever more. The vivid green of her eyes was vastly dimmed, her silvery hair and pale flesh transparent, and as she spoke her voice was whispered as though speaking from worlds away, "D…"

He regarded her sadly for a moment, then he rushed forward and took her ghostly form in his arms, pressed a kiss to her icy lips. She had just enough form for him to lightly hold to her, and for D to feel her embrace. A humanly sob betrayed Luna's ghostly form as she pressed into the sinful solidity of D's undead flesh. It was as though she were kissing the very lips of contraband, and sin, this tantalizing reminder of the life she'd been torn from.

It was a long time before the dhampir and the ghost departed.

Luna gripped D's hand tightly, any tighter and her translucent flesh would have passed through it, "I love you D. That's what I meant to say before…"

"I know."

"How are you here, alive? Have you come to bring me home…" there was a slight wavier of hope to her voice as she recalled myths she'd heard in her childhood of lovers journeying deep into the underworld to retrieve the ones they lost.

"No. There is nothing in the world than can I bring you home." D answered with a solemn finality, "I am only here because I am asleep, neither living nor dead, I am here only because I can dream of seeing you."

"Oh…" she answered crestfallen. She shifted her unworldly eyes to the ground, "You should go D. We will never be together ever again, not as long as you live. And you should live, find happiness and rest. Just forget me." She did not dare to look at him, ashamed of the veil that forever parted them.

But D merely shook his head, reached out and pulled her pale image back to him, savoring what little feel that she had. "You know I can't do that. I'll take this illusion. For now, it will do." And passionately he kissed her lips.

It was morning when the frightened survivors found D laying beneath the willow tree. He was still, paraffin pale and stiff, a stake hammered though his heart and blood pooled about him. He was a vision of beauty that had been tainted with the hand of death. Hopelessly one of the survivors sank down and pulled the thick wood from D's chest, each face scrutinized the cold and immobile one for a hint of life but none came.

"Who…who could have done this!" the survivor wept, "Our mayor…the Hunter D…"

"Isn't it pretty obvious?" answered the bar keep, Uther, staring sadly down at the dhampir.

"Impossible…" spoke another, the drunk Stephen. "Nothing can kill the Vampire Hunter D…"

"Nothing had to. He did it himself." Uther corrected solemnly.

"No, no he'd never…"

"He would." Spoke another survivor, "That Nobel took his wife…and if I am to believe the legends I've had heard about our mayor, than he had nothing at all to live for. No drive, expect hate. Until he came here."

Uther nodded, "So I've heard…he was a man that had no warmth, no emotion or feeling in his heart. Some even said he didn't even have a heart and the blood that flowed in his veins was only ice. But I guess somewhere deep inside he could love and he did. He wanted to escape what he'd been before…he never wanted to bring us to this I am sure. I guess he just never learned you cannot hide from the past."

The town of Cthulhu agreed, and together, they laid one more body to rest within the ground, next to the fresh mound of earth that had been dug for Luna the day before. They did not dare to strip the Hunters body although the armor he wore, the daggers and weapons he carried were surly costly. Doing so almost seemed like an abomination to God. They merely covered him in the handmade quilt he'd clutched to his body, and laid him down into the earth. It would be a year later when the citizens returned to the ghost town and erected markers for their dead, including a singular one for the twin graves.

Herein Lies : "Lucy Underhill" Lunerahnefer Murray and "Desmond Underhill" The Vampire Hunter "D."

Afterward Cthulhu faded quickly into the thing of horrific legends, and strange speculations upon where the greatest Vampire Hunter the world had ever known had gone and meet his end. Occasionally a flower seemed to appear on the graves, the gift of a sympathetic traveler or perhaps even a Hunter but few ever dared to venture into the ruins of Cthulhu. The phantom wails, and the pallid ghostly beings that walked its cracked streets were no legend, but utterly real to any unlucky traveler. It wasn't the tortured, crying of ghosts that the rare traveler found the most disheartening. It was not even the illusions of bodies hung from great spears that seemed to circle the sight night and day. It was the sparkling ghosts just over the rise of the hill, usually found beneath the willow tree. They bore the forms of a gorgeous woman and man, although it seemed the illusion of the man seemed more solid, more real. His armored form and wide brimmed travelers had made it unmistakable who he'd been in life. They would linger at the edge of Cthulhu, holding hands, seemingly whispering in voices beyond mortal ears or even lightly embracing. Anyone that dared to look into their eyes would be filled with such crushing despondency, such sadness that their bodies would ache at the sight of it.

38 years had passed since the massacre of Cthulhu, and the town of Runh that had housed its survivors had all but forgotten about it. It was only when a young hooligan snuck from the village and down to the ruins, eager to see if the rumors of hauntings were true did the name of Cthulhu, and the Hunter D return to their lips.

Not far into the ruins the boy tripped and almost broke his leg over a gaping hole in the earth. It was only blind luck that he managed to right himself by falling against a large stone and holding tightly. Panicked he pulled himself out of a deep yawning hole, that must have been six feet deep. A wild scream betrayed his lips when he saw that he'd fallen against a gravestone, the marker of where the Vampire Hunter D was said to have been laid to rest.

A horses' whiney turned his attention to the west, and just for a instant, wreathed by the moonlight he saw a figure cloaked in black, pallid and as gorgeous as the celestial body itself. His inky hair was flowing wildly out behind him. The figure was mounted on a wild horse that he coaxed with an unworldly skill up the hill, against the halo of the moonlight, and then away, into the darkness of the night.

The End

Note: Ah yes, kill me for the ending. I just don't like happy endings. They kinda piss me off…and sad to say it but I don't think that D shall ever have a happy ending. Not a real one anyway. It will all be an illusion. Hence the purpose of this story.

Well, needless to say that I LOVED writing this. I had so so much fun stepping into D's world, and writing his character. He's a trip. If you happened to like this story and want more from me than you'll be happy to know that I am making this part of a four part saga. Ive just started the sequal, Cthulhu Dawn. But I must state that it is rest assured that Luna is not rising from dead, she's gone. I cannot stand it when OC's do that. She now just another source of torture for our poor Hunter. And yes, I will get all the grammar kinks out of this one too.

-Sarah "shallowswan"