Fiore di Benevolenza
*Gulps, bursts into tears.*
I do have a valid reason for being away, my lovelies...kind of. Sort of. I hope you'll forgive me-very, very long story.
And, at last...*Que dramatic music.*
...this may not be pretty...
Again, I do not own Danny Phantom, nor the plot of Checkmate. pearl84 is just kind enough to allow me to write...um...material off of her material!
Please, take care, everyone.
"And the raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming.
And the lamplight o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted-nevermore!"
Just...what was that noise, anyway?
Brow furrowing in confusion, Danny cautiously limped into the cold water of the rushing, gurgling stream, frowning as he heard the selfsame roaring from beyond the falls, this time, accompanied by a series of growls and...squeaks.
Had he finally lost it, out here?
Uneasy, the teen slowly glanced around the quiet, stony clearing, silence broken only by the geyers of silver water still splashing from the falls, and the occasional tweet of a bird as it flew by overhead.
But something still felt...wrong. Out of place. As if he had just stepped into a room in which he knew someone was hiding. The nape on the back of his neck still prickled unpleasantly; and a light tingling ran through the confused ghost boy's body as he cast an uncertain glance at the dark wood still behind him.
But no matter which way Danny turned, he could still feel eyes fixed on him. And, still feeling ill, it was starting to frighten him just a little.
Scabs and aching bones creaking in protest, the teen bent down into the icy water, picked up a stone, and warily glanced around himself once again, from the moss covered stones, to the sun rapidly setting into darkness over the trees overhead.
With some difficulty, Danny cleared his throat. It had been some time since he'd used his voice at all. But at last, for the sake of breaking the uncomfortable mantra of silence, he managed to speak.
Hello? Hello? Hello? Hello? His voice echoed back to him in the clearing.
The boy's blue eyes narrowed as he took a cautious step back.
Maybe he was getting too paranoid out here. Maybe an owl was simply peering at him through a tree, and he was merely putting too much stock into it. After all, Vlad couldn't-
Danny started violently as the roaring growl began to echo over the caverns again, and froze. Now feeling anxious, he quickly glanced about the clearing once again as he slowly began to back into the path of the falling water, not caring that his back was getting splashed with sprays of icy cold water.
Silence. Danny's heart began to pound underneath his ribs.
But there it was again. More roaring.
Puzzled, Danny strained his ears over the sound of the torrent of falling water in the oasis, and listened carefully. He had to give one thing to have stayed so long with Vlad as he did-he could certainly focus upon sound much better, now.
There was something out here. Something angry, or very frightened. Maybe both-and it wasn't far away. It was time to get out of here-and asap. After all, Danny's mother had sternly taught her children that there was no more dangerous creature then one standing on its last legs.
But Danny still felt reluctant fear gnawing at his stomach. Eyes flickering in sadness, his hand ghosted to the angry gashes he had on his face for half a second.
Glancing nervously behind him, Danny at last allowed a pair of glowing, translucent rings to spark to life at his waist, and, with a sigh of relief, transformed back into his ghostly counterpart before soaring into the cool evening air, the wind ruffling at now silver spikes.
He closed his eyes, and, with a slight shrug, began flying over the stones of the waterfall, expression now dimmed.
It hardly mattered what he did, anymore, so why shouldn't he investigate the weird squeaks? It wouldn't change anything. Even if he were attacked by some strange animal, he could easily fight it off.
If he wanted to.
And Danny was not at all certain that was something he did, anymore, as he glided over a series of sharp boulders.
A pair of green eyes ogled the young boy from the darkness underneath the stones, and, after cautiously venturing out from its hiding place to the frigid water, a long, dark, sleek cat began to slink in the growing shadows, following the shadow of the weary young boy.
Miles away, it was growing dark again. Stars were already beginning to pepper the late evening sky. But far from being comforted, Plasmius felt himself growing steadily ill on the inside as he surveyed the sea of rustling trees before him, desperation bubbling in his chest.
Either he'd have to cut down every single tree in this thrice-accursed forest, or order Carl to bring out the helicopter. This would not go on any longer-could go on no longer. He needed to find the young hybrid; MAKE him listen to his apologies, and bring Daniel back before the child got hurt.
More so then he was already.
Vlad closed his eyes, resisting the urge to send a bolt of energy towards a nearby shagbark tree, and send it tumbling towards the Earth in a heap of pink, ectoplasmic flames.
Exhaling, Vlad uncertainly glanced at the phone he had in his pocket. Did he call Carl now, or...
Something at the outskirts of his consciousness was twitching insistently. No. He couldn't leave.
Something was wrong.
Uncomfortable with the sensation, Vlad nonetheless-albeit reluctantly-submitted to the strange emotion tugging at him. What was it-something of a seventh sense? Ridiculous.
But, whatever it was, it had never really steered the man wrong before, though the blasted sense seemed too easily ignored; expendable, even-when he had to scour the woods for Daniel.
Now, he had no other choice. He would do one final signature scan, and, when that failed, he would simply call for the helicopter, steal the absurd boomerang-and let it lead him to the younger halfa. He couldn't have gone far. Not too far. Nowhere Vlad couldn't and wouldn't be able to follow.
Still hovering about his enormous manor, the older ghost closed his eyes, forcing himself to take a few, deep breaths before his energy began to circulate around the entire area. He could vaguely sense Jasper and Bernie in the greenhouse; George in the employee lounge, Martha somewhere on the second floor.
He ignored those, and passed on towards the grounds, letting his energy past into almost a translucent-like veil, still scouring, though his brow was already beginning to shine with exertion. Ignoring that too, Vlad slowly advanced the scan forward a few more square inches, and allowed the veil to slowly seep through the forest.
But still, nothing. But twenty years of experience were not to be denied, and, while Vlad's insides began to burn uncomfortably, he passed on.
Onward. Over hills. The scan slowly began to climb up and down, still advancing, still passing over hordes of trees, to cliffs, to caverns. Danny's tattered bandage was still clutched in the man's blue fist.
Now, Vlad's lungs were burning from the exertion, as if the man were submerged under water for a great period of time. It was becoming painful; and now, his head was spinning sickeningly.
But, if he stopped now, it would only be harder to resume; and he would be immediately left at square one. He couldn't stop. Not now.
But hopelessness was already gnawing at the man's thoughts, and his concentration was beginning to falter; slightly.
This was no good; Daniel had already gotten too far away. But the man couldn't lose him-not what they'd gained, what he had gained.
Sad, pathetic, and obsessive he knew it was; he knew he couldn't live without the child. Not without him-and not with the guilt that still consumed his thoughts when he imagined tearing at the boy's fa-
His stream of thoughts stopped quite abruptly as, at last, the scan made contact with a ghostly signature. Weak. Faint. Quite a distance away.
But one he knew as well as his own.
And, hands still clenched into painful, shaking fists, his already shallow breathing cut off into a sharp gasp.
His head snapped up, and a pair of scarlet eyes widened as, in his surprise, he abruptly cut off the scan. Blinking, and fumbling desperately for concentration, Vlad resumed the scan, heart racing wildly.
When all hope had been shattered-when he'd just been about to steal the Fenton's absurd boomerang-
Pushing the scan just a little farther, wincing as a result-his tremulous thoughts confirmed the truth:
Daniel is still here.
Without wasting a second, Vlad shot off like a rocket into the distance, readying himself to teleport. He couldn't lose the signature again. He had to strike; and quickly.
'I'm coming, little badger,' the man thought fervently, just as his ectoplasmic, phantomic figure disappeared into the early night chill.
By this point, Danny could see Polaris twinkle from above him. Feeling a soft sadness prickle in his throat, he still glided on, keen night vision fixed on the world below.
The frantic growling sounds were becoming more and more audible with each passing second in the steadily growing darkness, but now, the baffled ghost boy could hear something else: A pitiful, mewing like sound-like that of a young animal.
Like a kitten. But what was-
At last, Danny glanced to the West, just to the base of where the waterfalls began.
And that was when he froze in midair, narrowly avoiding banging directly into a large series of boulders directly in front of him. But the teen paid no attention to that. Amazed, and now disbelieving, Danny glided a little closer to Earth, his mouth dropping slightly.
There, in the middle of the dark water, was a bear. An enormous, Grizzly bear, pawing at a series of twisted, thorny, twigs-like an oversized tumbleweed. Still incredulous, and momentarily forgetting the misery of his own existence, the teen landed quite a few feet away, silver boots splashing into cold, rushing water once again.
The thing was enormous; about the same size of his own father, even! It's girth?
Danny's eyes widened as he shrank back, now even more uncertain of himself as the bush of whatever the bear was pawing began to wriggle.
Bemused, Danny squinted; and could just barely make out a small, struggling pile of fur caught in the brush. Danny's green eyes alighted with understanding.
The bush paused, and began to roll and shake. Squeaks of pain echoed from the small brush, and now, the larger bear was getting frustrated. It continued to paw at the bush, but only more tremors shook from the small pile, whining and grunting in protest.
Danny watched the display with big eyes.
At last, he could make out another bear-a very, very, small bear-probably no older then a cub-had gotten caught in a net-like briar patch. The more it tried to kick its way free, the more thorns caught in its fur, and further encased the struggling, now frightened thing in its painful hold. The bear was trying to claw the other out...with less then favorable results. The Enormous Grizzly was probably just inadverently pushing in the thorns deeper.
Knowing quite well what Sam would want him to do, and knowing that he could easily turn intangible if things got ugly, Danny took aim at the wriggling bush, careful not to send an ectobolt at the bears themselves. Hopefully, if he only shot away at the larger thorns, the bear would have a little more room to shake itself free.
Taking a deep breath, Danny fired three bolts of emerald ectoplasm into the darkness.
The mother bear startled away at the first bolt, roaring at the brilliant shot of energy before it exploded around the bend, just nicking the side of the briar patch. Now, the little bear was struggling even harder, now.
Frowning in concentration, Danny fired again.
This time, he had a bit more luck; he grazed a large third of the wicker bush, and a waving, shoving paw appeared soon after, still wriggling.
BAM! The teen sent another burst of ecto-energy, and this time, caught half of the thorny bire. With a bang, the vegetation burst apart, revealing an extremely startled, extremely confused, cub.
Shaking itself free of access twigs now littering its fur, the small bear staggered free, and the larger bear bounded towards the smaller with a series of grunts. Still looking annoyed, still confused-it slowly glanced across the vacinity, (Danny hurriedly turned intangible before it could set its eyes on him) and, upon looking her cub over for any excess scratches, began to lumber off into the woods, the smaller cub hurriedly following behind.
Danny managed the slightest, wistful smile-it was certainly the first he'd had in days-for a moment.
His heart felt a little lighter, now.
Most unfortunately, so did the panther's heart, who by now, had creapt behind the ghost child, on a small, rocky cliff, just a few feet above the boy.
And its tail twitched as it contemplated just how to devour this strange new prey.
At last. This was it.
The panther liked its chops once again, already salivating at the idea of tearing the spectral boy to pieces; of allowing the child's blood to wet its throat. It had been denied for too long on this hunt already. The odd-shadow-walking-teen would never see it coming.
Invigorated, the cat slowly began to idle its way up an enormous stone slab, eyes fixed on Danny in the darkness. The prey was simply standing there, ankle deep in water, watching the enormous-furry-behemoth-that-had-quite-a-bit-of-meat-on-it and its filthy little cub waddling at its heels bound into the darkness of the deep, wet wood.
The cat slowly tugged itself into a coiled spring, not breathing. Surely the prey would struggle; and hard, but that was how the creature enjoyed it. Live, and wriggling. But as soon as it had its jaws 'round the stranger in these woods, it would quit fighting, and die, just as all creatures submitted to death when the panther crushed them.
The idea made a shiver of excitement ripple through the feline's body, and it could not take it anymore. With a silent, feral snarl, the enormous cat lunched forwards towards the silver-haired, craving blood, craving a struggle, craving de-
Startled, Danny whipped around, jaw dropping...
...just in time to see a brilliant, pink bolt of lightning strike the stunned cat directly in its back, sending the creature flying into the air, before hitting the damp stones of the falls with a loud, reverberating, THUD.
The cat lay there in the water for a few seconds, its heart now pounding not with exhiliration, but with fear.
Dark, hot, confining fear.
With a strangled yowl and a hiss, the enormous creature leapt to its aching, trembling feet, splashing water in the darkness as it did so, but not before sending its attacker a terrified glance.
Run. Run. Run-run-run-run, whispered the tempo of its ragged breathing. And don't look back.
All too happy to obey, the cat immediately streaked off into the darkness, caring not a button for the painful throbbing in its back, and hind legs.
And soon, like the bear and her cub, disappeared into the darkness of the wood, until even its green eyes could not be seen anymore.
Staggering back, and pressing a hand to the injured side of his face, the teen stared dumbfoundedly at the predator's retreating figure, mind blank, pardoning a quiet, almost timid, thought:
'Did that thing almost just...?'
But that didn't matter. None of that mattered, now. The gashes on his face were starting to sting once again; and badly. Besides, there were more pressing matters to att-
In the darkness, Danny froze, heart almost stopping in midbeat.
He'd almost been wasted. Once again. That...cougar, or panther, or whatever the heck it was would have killed him if it had meant to lunge for his throat...and he hadn't stopped the thing.
But for a pink jet of ectoplasmic energy-
His empty insides ran cold; like a midwinter frost in May.
It didn't take long.
Disbelieving, and the air almost unnaturally still, the teen's mouth went extremely dry, as terror raced throughout his spine like a well-placed bolt. But like a dumb marionette's neck being lead by a puppeteer, unwillingly, Danny's head slowly rose.
And his eyes looked into a nightmare.
Scarlet eyes had been looking derisively at the fleeing panther's retreating figure, as if he were daring it to come back.
But after a moment, wariness and some other emotion reentered Vlad Plasmius' eyes soon enough, and they slowly flickered back towards a pair of wide green eyes, staring back at his in horror.