She succumbed and gasped for air. The woman at the riverbank had been consciously holding her breath, but could hold for no more than a minute. And many had passed. She feared for them under the water. She had done what Rose asked. Her eyes didn't miss the red flowing from upstream. She backed away from the rivers edge and drew Rose's blade. Whatever beast had befallen her saviours could very well make her into their next meal.
She breathed in.
The east and west tumbled in a blur of black. Rose grabbed D's cape and drew him into an iron grip. The river widened and the current slowed. Rose steadied them on the riverbed. She bent her knees and prepared to surface. Several shadows shot passed her vision. This was not good. Her eyes adjusted and she recognised the forms. It was a cluster of fish, no longer than her forearm. Their jaws took up one third of their bodies. Rose drew her dagger with her right hand.
She had never swum before, hungry fish loomed above her, an unconscious man was under her arm and to top it off she was running out of air.
Her lip curled, this was just her luck.
The blue-eyed fish shot towards her. Each swing intended for death was blocked by titanium like teeth. It was hard to land a solid strike underwater. Rose would rather have her own arm torn off than allow one of them to sink their teeth into D. She would not lose. After half a minute Rose adapted her timing and managed to cut through their scales. But with each precise swing her strength waned. She needed air. She needed it now. Her vision blurred. A glint caught her eye, she blocked, just in time, but the shock of the blow caused the dagger to slip from her grasp. Her weapon sank below. She was in over her head.
A brief moment of respite was granted as the fish munched on the pieces of their comrades. Rose couldn't take them all barehanded. A thought struck her. Not the wisest thought, but she was desperate. Mentally, she apologised to the hunter under her arm. With her free hand she reached over and drew D's blade. She froze, expecting D to attack her, or for some kind of booby trap to go off. She was pleased when neither happened. A cool sensation travelled up her arm as she held onto D's blade. Just how many foes had D cut down with this sword?
The fish came at her in a mad flurry. The added length of D's blade made it easier to keep them further away. The water was now completely clouded with blood. Rose didn't know how much longer she could hold on.
D jolted beside her. The blood had roused him to his senses. He breathed in - only to find it was water. Experience was the only thing that helped him to refrain from choking. Rose would have been impressed, but she was fighting the same urge to not breathe in water. She slew another foe, unaware of D's red eyes on her. Just as her thoughts were about to slip away she felt D grab her hand. Before surprise could register the hunter moved their hands together and spun their bodies around. His blade sliced the fish in half. D's aura, even in his weakened state kept the few remaining fish at bay. There was something more, much more terrifying about him now. Through the blur of red water Rose could see pale fingers reaching for her face. She panicked. Before she could gasp the hand wrapped firmly around her mouth. She felt air being pushed into her lungs. Her panic ceased and her mind was able to focus. Her lungs now full of air, she nodded, signaling to D that she was okay.
Bubbles escaped D's lips. His eyes closed. A tail had whipped him across the back of the head, knocking him out. The scaly beast was too close to cut. Its wide jaw agape, ready to bite into D. Rose acted. Her fingers curled around its neck, her sharp nails dug into its flesh and tore it apart.
The lady of the east paused, she could sense no more movement in the river. She bent her knees and pushed off the murky floor.
Two heads broke the surface. Rose gasped, filling her lungs with fresh air. She kept her iron grip around D and waded to shore. Even as he was unconscious and unmoving, it was hard not to think about just how much power he contained. Even now, his hand did not let go of his blade. One thing was clear, D was no ordinary dhampier.
A startled cry escaped her pink lips. She bit her tongue to hold back her screaming. Rose looked down to see a toothless grin mock her and then slink back into the rivers depths.
She jumped, soared through the air, D in tow. She landed with grace upon her right leg and with one fluid movement placed D gently upon the grass. They were far from the rivers banks.
"You're alive!" the silver haired woman cried out with relief.
Shock replaced her features as she noticed the blood flowing from Rose's calf. It looked like a lesser dragon trap was lodged in her flesh. Or was that . . . teeth?
"You're leg! We've got to do someth-"
"It can wait."
Rose looked down at D. His face was paler than usual, if that was possible. His thick masculine eyebrows were creased in pain. Rose placed a hand on his chest. He wasn't breathing.
D could feel a tingling sensation on his lips. His thoughts were clouded. Someone was pinching his nose. His brain kicked into gear as he felt air being pushed into his lungs. The involuntary urge to cough took over him. Tender hands rolled him onto his side. He coughed until his lungs were empty. Despite his vulnerable state he felt at ease. Something which made his thoughts stop. It was not a sensation that took hold often. This feeling, was it . . . comfort? That was surprising. And surprise was an even rarer emotion in D's world. Was it because he was free of the water? Or was it the hand gently rubbing his back? The hunter rolled back over only to find the nice warm sensation replaced by shattering pain. His eyes couldn't quite focus, but he could make out the blurry silhouette of a woman by his side. He closed his eyes and managed to speak one word.
Rose looked up and gazed into eyes paler than her own.
"You have a name?"
The woman's face flushed red. She didn't expect such forward words from a beautiful and dignified mouth.
"I-um . . . Elizabeth."
"I'm Rose. You in a hurry?"
Elizabeth's throat went dry, everything had happened so fast. One moment she was riding, the next she was about to be raped, then she was saved, but now her saviors needed saving. It was one hell of a day. Her thoughts were scrambled but somehow she managed to shake her head in a response to Rose's question.
"Good. Clear some space in the back of that wagon. Then tie our horses to help draw it from the front."
Elizabeth spun on her heel and jumped inside. It was an old fashioned wagon, with the carriage rounded at the top. She shoved the storage crates aside, trying to make as much space as possible.
Rose looked back down at D. Something cold, much colder than the river gripped her heart. It threatened to consume her, but it was in this dark moment that a familiar scent caught her nose. It was like a wave of hope, boosting her confidence.
She leant down besides D's ear and spoke with a reassuring voice, "I'm going to take you to a safer place to rest."
Rose caught the bundle of bandages without looking up. She made sure that D was still breathing before she tended to her wound. Her gloved hands pried the steel jaw from her leg. She hissed and threw it aside. Red oozed from her calf. With quick skillful movements bandaged her leg. There was no time to waste.
"Elizabeth, come take his legs."
Elizabeth jumped down from the back of the wagon and rushed to D's side. Rose held D by his broad shoulders and Elizabeth took him by his ankles. It was almost a funny sight. Together they loaded him into the wagon.
Elizabeth disappeared for a moment and returned with Rose's blade, "You'll be needing this."
"Ah, thank you. Have you finished with the horses?"
Blushing and running out of the wagon was Elizabeth's only reply.
Rose hopped back down out of the wagon. She drew her blade and made four clean strokes into the earth and sheathed her blade. With both hands she scooped up the soil. Somehow it retained its rectangular shape. She climbed up under the tarp and placed it over D like a blanket. It crumpled over his body, covering him evenly in cool earth. At this Rose could see some of the tension ease between D's eyebrows. Rose also noted that D's wound on his right arm had healed. What ungodly stamina this man contained, even she had trouble fathoming it. She sighed as her gaze lifted to his face. She knelt down beside him.
D's hat was still, somehow, on his head. She tugged on it lightly.
"How did you manage to keep this on that entire time?" She pondered the thought for a moment and smiled softly, "It must be some kind of magic."
D's lips twitched. She could have sworn that it was a grin, opposed to a wince of pain, or maybe a little of both.
A/N: There is no combination of words to explain how sorry I am that I took FOREVER to update. I've never really had a problem writing before, but it felt like I kept hitting my head against a brick wall. I rewrote this chapter about twenty-eight times until I was satisfied. I pray that you are satisfied too. Many thanks to those who reviewed ^.^