"This looks familiar," Leon sighed, resting his head against the cold car window. He casually looked over at the man driving the car, to see if he had acknowledged what Leon had said, but was met with a vacant stare. He thought back to his briefing, where an over-eager young agent explained the details of his transportation, informing Leon that he would have a driver that was fluent in Romanian, Russian, German, and Arabic. This caused a small smile to play across Leon's face. They gave him a guy who could speak everything but English.
He turned his attention back to the Romanian country side, and he couldn't help but connect the rugged landscape of the Carpathian valley to that of the rustic Spanish backwoods. He hoped the similarities would end there. Leon vaguely became aware that the car was slowing down, distinctly in the middle of nowhere. He continued to be plagued by the memories of his mission in Spain as he turned his head back toward the windshield, where he noticed that there was a recently constructed barricade in the middle of the road, made of a small barbed wire fence, some sand bags, and a sign in Romanian.
Leon noticed the driver peer carefully at the sign, biting his bottom lip and ruffling his fingers through his jet back hair. He was young, a man in his mid twenties with a warm smile and a hearty laugh. He had a habit of launching into a story, although Leon couldn't understand a word he was saying, and then throwing his head back in laughter. The driver began to ruffle through the glove box, before pulling out a pair of thick leather gloves and a combat knife.
This caused Leon to arch his eyebrows in confusion, and he instinctively reached for the 9mm pistol he always kept by his side. The driver seemed to notice Leon's apprehension and pointed out towards the wire fence, apparently indicating that he was going to cut it. As the young man left the car, Leon was left alone to retreat into his memories. First came the haunting, inescapable images of the horrible Los Illuminados. He saw the faces of the Ganados, contorted in rage as they clamored for his blood. He remembered the abject horror he felt, the unknowing fear and the crippling nausea that overcame him when Ashley was taken away from him in the castle.
And as the images filled his mind, he did what he always did when they threatened to overwhelm him; he tried to salvage some decency out of the ordeal. He remembered the hero's welcome he received when he got home, and the relief on Ashley's face when he removed the plaga. But most of all he remembered Ada. The way she looked when she was suspended and seemingly helpless, her calm demeanor as she reappeared into his life, the casual indifference she showed as she'd leave him alone on the island, heading out into imminent danger, only to return unscathed. He massaged his temples as he replayed the situation with her again and again. The time he had spent with her was so little, but the memories were so powerful. It had been nearly a year since the excursion to Spain, and just as long since he'd seen her.
He let out a deep sigh, the memories of those hours pressing down on him, compounded with the years of frustration. A sudden noise jolted Leon from his reprieve. It was a loud screech, reminiscent of a predatory bird. He quickly scanned the horizon, but saw nothing strange; just the pervasive grey sky, dead trees, and craggy mountain road. A glance at the driver provided no reassurance. The man was frozen in place, one hand gripping the wire fencing, the other idly holding the knife. Leon noticed most
of the sandbags had been cleared, along with a good portion of the wire. The sign was still there, and for the first time he took a good look at it. White font on a blood red backdrop, there were a few lines of the Romanian warning. At the bottom was a skull- danger that needed no translation.
There it was again, that noise. This time louder, much louder. Leon leaned forward, straining his head over the dashboard, peering up into the heavens. A piercing scream brought Leon looking back through the windshield, but he brought his head down too fast, smacking the side of his face up against the dashboard.
"Dammit!" he cursed, holding his eye as he peered through the windshield. The driver was sprinting to the car, shouting madly in Romanian, arms flailing, and the knife discarded. The pain caused a moment of confusion, but the moment was brief, and soon Leon was pressing his back tightly against the seat, his eyes wide and his jaw hanging open in disbelief.
The wings were the first thing he saw. Black and leathery, they formed a wing length of what must've been twelve feet. Protruding off of the creatures stomach were six arms, some with claws and others with pincers. Its legs were long and skinny, curved at extreme angels to form the knees, and its feet resembled those of a hawk. As it was bent over in flight, its head was hard to make out.
The creature swooped in on the driver with a majestic grace, its movements fluid and beautiful. But the man was also fast, having closed the distance to the car in an impressive time. Unfortunately, the flying nightmare was faster, and in the blink of an eye it had descended down upon the driver. Its feet dug into his back, and the momentum brought him crashing into the hood of the car with a violent thud. But just as quickly, it brought him back up again, fresh blood streaming from his broken nose. Is arms kept him suspended as the monsters wings simultaneously raised before they pierced into his stomach, their tips as sharp as any knife.
Leon involuntarily flinched as the man's screams pierced through the mountain air, and as he began to flail uncontrollably. Just then Leon caught his first good glimpse of the creature's head. It was as pitch black as the rest of the body, and shaped like an upside down crescent moon. Its eyes were glowing red, and when Leon caught sight of them, a sinister smile spread across the thing's fanged mouth. But a second later, the mouth split open four ways, and it closed around the driver's head, before savagely ripping it off. By now the windshield was thoroughly coated in blood, and Leon was unwilling to lose another moment. He threw his leg over the divide between the passengers and drivers side. Desperately he searched for the break, and as soon as he found it he shifted the car into drive, before proceeding to slam on the accelerator. He did his best to grab onto the wheel as the car lurched forward, and he ducked low, before the inevitable contact with the creature.
But it was too fast. It quickly discarded the mangled corpse of the driver, before jumping into flight. But just as its legs had left the ground, the car smashed forward, hooking one its feet through the windshield. Leon was sprayed with broken glass as he struggled to maintain the vehicle. The thing was slammed onto the roof of the car as Leon hit the remnants of the barricade. His struggle with control of the car ended in a bitter defeat as he swerved uncontrollably, causing the monster to be thrown onto the street. Leon fishtailed before screeching to a stop, sending his head slamming into the glove box.
He was in a haze, unable to react properly. He groped around for his trusty 9mm, but ended up with fistfuls of air. He began to breathe heavily, and his vision began to fade in and out of focus as he began to panic, imagining the towering monstrosity lumbering over to finish him off. But then he heard piercing gunfire not too far off, seemingly coming from an automatic rifle of some sort. There was a pitiful screech, presumably from the creature, and then there was silence. Silence except for the steady sound of approaching footsteps. Leon desperately tried to lift his head, but was unsuccessful. Instead he stared at the driver's window, trying to keep his eyes open as a trickle of blood ran down his forehead. The footsteps had stopped, and a face appeared in the driver side window.
Leon's heart jumped as he instantly recognized that it was Ada. He coughed, trying to say something but found himself unable to speak. A look of concern washed over her face. "Leon," she gasped, "what are you doing here?"