Air rushed around him from all sides, determined to hold him still. The forest had warped into a barrage of motion, the trees blurry shadows and their leaves indistinguishable streaks passing him by. He beat his wings harder and harder, but no progress was made. Everything looked the same. It was as though everything was moving but him.
Ghost let out a noise of frustration and rammed his head against the imaginary wall that held him in place. He was flying! He had to be flying, so why wasn't he going anywhere?
The Vampyrum continued to push forward even as Shade Silverwing's voice became clear in his mind. "Slow down?" he repeated angrily. "I'm hardly moving!"
It's an adrenalin rush.
The reason why you feel like you're moving slowly is because you're actually moving too fast.
I can't stick to you like this!
"Then don't" Ghost told him. Although the bat's voice was calm, his thundering heart spoke of panic. "I won't slow down for you when Stella is in danger"
Ghost attempted to shove the spirit's voice to the very back of his mind, teeth gritting. His wounded shoulder still hurt. His muscles were on fire and his wings felt like they had melted away a long time ago, but such a sluggish pace wouldn't do. He could still go faster. Until he reached Stella, he had to go faster.
Shade's plea rang more urgently this time, making the bat's insides tingle in a way that only fear could.
You have to STOP!
The command burst from within, seeming like an echo of his own thoughts as the world came to a grinding halt. Trees appeared along with their leaves, rustling peacefully in the gentle breeze that passed through them. Ghost had gone completely still save the beating of his wings. As he held himself, the white bat stared at the trees ahead and felt the tingling fear from earlier become a vicious stab.
Reflected in Ghost's eyes was the distant figure of a Vampyrum Spectrum.
It was not Zorn. Ghost never thought as much, for Zorn had always claimed that he resembled his mother Aconite, and the one approaching now looked more like their father than anything. Even without that in mind, there were differences to be spotted. This bat's fur was messier, his wings more jagged. Even the way he carried himself had more of a cutting look to it.
If there was ever a time he wished to meet with this bat, now was not it. For an instance he considered turning around and fleeing as he had done with Zorn, but Plague was already nearing, and if he didn't continue in this direction he might never reach Stella's whereabouts. With a ragged intake of air Ghost began moving forward, a small part of him wondering if he could fly past the other male without exchanging any words.
Much to his chagrin, Plague called out to him when the distance between them lessened. "Little brother! I did not expect to see you here!"
Something about the pleasantness with which he said this bothered Ghost. Didn't expect? Was Plague not meant to be searching for him along with Zorn?
"I am looking for a companion I met here in the north" Ghost explained cautiously. "I felt they might be in this direction"
It wouldn't do to say that a dead bat told him where to fly. He tilted his ears some, curious about the Silverwing spirit who had gone silent after alerting him of Plague`s presence. Was Shade still present?
"Perhaps I can be of some help, then" Plague offered, pulling Ghost from his thoughts. "What does she look like, your companion?"
He wasn't offering to be kind. Plague did not make kind offers to Ghost, nor any other bat that he could think of. Something is amiss, the younger Vampyrum thought.
When there was only a foot of air between them, it clicked. "She?"
"…You have the scent of a female on you" his brother said after a pause, his mouth twisting upwards. "The scent of your companion, surely?"
Not so. He had never been close enough to Stella to have her scent stick to him. They did not sleep side by side or brush against each other whilst flying. The rare moments their bodies met was with the brief touch of a wingtip.
Plague might have thought he was smiling, but Ghost only saw a sneer.
The wind picked up suddenly, diminishing the silence in the air when the leaves began to dance. As the breeze combed through their furs an array of smells filled Ghost's noise. Most of it was of the of the forest- soil and foliage and water- but there was also sweat and blood, unclean fur and fear left behind from some now-dead creature. The faintest of all was a sweet, delicate scent that made him want to wretch.
Her name was all Ghost thought before lunging.
Teeth gnashed together as Plague lurched backwards, leaving nothing but empty air for the younger bat to snap down on. Again he attacked, first with his claws and then his teeth once more. Plague dodged both strikes before countering with a vicious swipe of his foreclaw. A streak of red appeared across Ghost's torso, thinner lines trailing downwards as he bled. The white furred bat snarled and charged again, biting and slashing as often as he could. The cut on his chest hurt. His wounded shoulder hurt. But for his efforts, Ghost's claws finally found purchase in his opponent's body.
The sound the dark furred Vampyrum made when punctured was nothing short of disappointing. Even when Ghost pinned the bat to the nearest tree and dug into him further, Plague did not show whatever pain he was in.
"Why do you smell like her?" Ghost hissed through the saliva in his mouth. "What did you do?"
Instead of answering, Plague laughed. His sharp set of teeth were revealed to be stained a pale red, as though he had been drinking blood for days without a drop of water to wash it away.
Drinking the blood of bats, Ghost knew. He shook from tail to wingtip, trying desperately not to outright kill his brother. "Did you eat her?" he forced himself to ask.
Plague let out another laugh, but his smirk quickly turned into a grimace when Ghost gave his claws a flex. "…I made her cry" the cannibal bat said at last, humor lingering on his tongue. "And I made her bleed"
Ghost could feel his blood beginning to boil, and it showed through his red eyes as anger. "Then I shall make you cry and bleed as well" he rasped.
"Hah…will you?" Plague let his words out in heavy puffs of air, his face drawing nearer with every breath. "Can you?"
For Stella, it's for Stella so I can and I will, Ghost thought rapidly. He had killed bats before. Killing was not a problem. The ones he fought were of no importance to him or his family, but Plague was Bane's second-born son. He was large and dark and everything else that Ghost was not. His father would not lament Ghost's death, but he would lament Plague's.
Father will kill me if I do this, Ghost imagined frightfully. He will kill me and eat me.
A moment of weakness. It was a short moment, but that was all it took for Plague to wrench himself free. Ghost felt his claws tear through the bat's skin against his will before a pair of leathery wings wrapped around him. One of Plague's foreclaws dug deep into his half-healed shoulder, drawing fresh blood and fresher pain. The other scraped at his neck. Ghost's own wings were forced to fold, and together they fell to the forest floor.
The fall itself was not a dangerous one, but with a larger body atop him Ghost's back slammed into the dirt with more than enough force to knock the wind out of him. The white furred bat opened his mouth to gasp, only to find that he could not draw in any air as long as Plague's crushing weight remained. Black and white spots began to seep into the edged of his vision, slowly engulfing it.
"Well, half-brother?" a taunt came from beyond the murky shroud of suffocation. "Am I shedding blood and tears now?"
Ghost wanted to snarl and shout back at him, but he couldn't breathe. Instead he shifted his wings backwards and pushed. Plague was thrown off, leaving the smaller bat to roll blindly onto his stomach.
He had barely caught his breath before a set of claws sank into his backside. Ghost screamed in pain and alarm, both of which only worsened when he was hoisted into the air. The white Vampyrum thrashed until he was free from the other bat's grasp, tearing himself away indelicately. He could feel the blood dribbling down his back, but the severity of the injury wasn't spared a single thought.
Everything that followed seemed to happen in an instant. Ghost whirled. His claws sank into Plague's ribs, drawing him in close. He closed his eyes and plundged his teeth into the larger bat, relishing the thick metallic warmth that flooded his mouth before tearing away a heavy chunk of meat.
Just as he began to contemplate the taste, Plague's pained laughter reached his ears.
"Yes!" the cannibal threw his head back, bleeding profusely. "This is how a true Vampyrum Spectrum should be!"
The blood in his mouth grew hot and unsavory, drawing bile up into his throat. Ghost's mouth fell open, letting the stolen flesh fall to the ground. He unsheathed his claws from the other bat's side and threw himself away before the urge to vomit overcame him.
Plague continued to laugh as he struggled to maintain flight. "What's the matter, Ghost?" he asked whilst latching onto a tree branch. "Won't you finish me off?"
The way Plague addressed him was terribly unsettling. It gave off a grotesque sense of equality between them that Ghost did not like at all.
"I…" he wanted to say that they weren't equals- that they had never been equals. "I will…" they weren't alike at all. He wasn`t a cannibal. He didn't kill for pleasure, but…but for Stella…
Running his tongue across his teeth, Ghost swallowed the remnants of Plague's blood and drew a soundless breath. Revenge for Stella. With this thought in mind, the white Vampyrum Spectrum let his jagged wings flare outwards and surged forward.
He reached out to Plague with his bloodied claws and nearly succeeded in wringing his neck with them, but just as the other bat's fur was being grazed a heavy weight slammed into Ghost's side. He was instantly reminded of Shade Silverwing's mental strike on him, only this time it was entirely physical. The new attacker continued to shove him, seemingly keen on keeping him away from his prey.
"Calm down!" they barked, sounding strangely familiar. "Get a hold of yourself!"
The pale furred Vampyrum retorted by snapping his teeth at them. This earned him a harsh slap across the face, the force of which sent him scrambling for a tree branch to steady himself on. Stunned from the unexpected slap, he had to blink a few times before recognizing their voice.
"...Zorn…?" Ghost uttered his eldest brother's name as he collected himself, unsure of whether or not he was seeing things clearly when the said bat appeared in his vision. "W…why are you…?"
"You were supposed to be looking for the Brightwing, Ghost" Zorn reminded him sternly. "Why are you wasting your time here?"
"That's…Stella is dead…"
The older bat snorted, as though such claims were ridiculous. "She isn't dead, you fool- at least not yet"
Ghost's eyes grew large. "She is alive? But Plague-"
"Plague roughed her up a little, but her tiny heart still beats" Zorn interrupted plainly, casting his eyes towards the accused. "I have words to share with you" he told the dark furred bat.
The other cannibal had been very talkative earlier, but his good mood had gone sour at Zorn's arrival and he seemed intent on keeping quiet now. Plague's jaw was clenched so tightly that the muscles around his mouth were beginning to twitch, but Zorn continued to stare at him with hard, expectant eyes.
In the midst of their silence a soft pattering noise reached Ghost's ears. Looking down, the Vampyrum saw that the foliage was decorated with tiny splotches of blood. Plague was still bleeding, although the flow had lessened considerably. The little droplets that fell from his fur hit the ground as softly as rain, but Ghost knew that the plants would not be happy with this kind of nourishment.
Another drop fell wetly to the forest floor, but this time it was as clear as water. Curious of its origins, Ghost lifted his eyes only to find himself starting at Zorn's backside. Most Vampyrum Spectrum were dark by nature, but his eldest brother was even darker with damp fur. The beads of sweat trickling through his fur were very noticeable now, along with his shallow breathing and slowing wings. He is tired, the pale bat realized.
Despite how indifferent he acted, Zorn was pushing himself. The knowledge of this made the youth's chest inexplicably tight.
We hardly spoke before all of this happened, Ghost wanted to tell him. That night in the jungle, I found you eating a little bat not so unlike myself. I was horrified. I thought you a monster and ran. You knew that, and yet…
"…Zorn...why…" even as he spoke the words, Ghost didn't know what he was trying to say. "It would have been easier to just drag me home…you could have ignored my wishes…instead you…"
Zorn looked back at him with a rueful expression. "It's because we're brothers, Ghost…you, Plague and I. As the eldest, I must take care of my younger siblings..." but the repose in Zorn's voice died when his eyes shifted back to Plague. "…Starting with this one"
Ahahaaaand, here's the new chapter! I hope everyone enjoyed it despite the fact that it's been a year since I last updated.
I'd like to offer my deepest apologies to all of my wonderful readers, and thank you so much for being as patient with me as you have. I can't even begin to tell you how horrible it is being unable to update for so long. It's not a vacation, it's a guilt-ridden hell in which I wring my mind for inspiration and come up dry every time. I truly am very sorry, and I promise that I'll do my best to make sure it doesn't happen again.
I don't have much to say about the actual update. How was the confrontation between Plague and Ghost? Was the action alright? I was kind of forcing my way through the whole chapter so I didn't feel comfortable writing any of it except for the parts where Zorn was talking since he's cool like that.
Byyyy the way. For those of you who do not have accounts here on FF, I would like to bring up the problem this site has with recognizing e-mail addresses. Since links aren't allowed in chapters or reviews (probably to prevent spamming), FF will automatically erase addresses that are entered alongside pen names or review content. So, if one wishes to leave me their e-mail, you'll have to write it in a way that keeps the site bots from recognizing it as a link- i.e. YourEmail(at)Wherever(dot)com. If you write it just like this, it will go through and I'll be able to reply to your questions and comments!
Next chapter, the fighting continues with Zorn and Plague.