Hers was the first face he ever saw. Perhaps it would also be the last.
In a single leap D landed lightly on the table, blade held horizontally before him, point posed for the neck of the Noble Queen. The guests cried out in indignation, fear and awe. Several of the females seemed on the brink of collaspe, spellbound by the dhampire's magnetism. Plates and goblets scattered, some shattering on the stone flooring.
Only the Nobles' cult leader remained seated and settled, grey eyes calmly appraising the hunter.
"D, I knew you would come."
The voice sent electric pain down the dhampire's spine, but his voice stayed as steady as his sword. "Of course you did, because you had me followed."
All the eyes of the assembled shifted from dhampire to vampire queen as each spoke. Both of them exhibited a beauty and control that mesmerized even the eldest of the Nobles present and even a simpleton could see the resemblance between the two. Long dark hair, porcelian skin and slender but strong figures.
Finally the Noble Queen rose, resting her hands on the table. "D, we should talk...privately."
"Trap, trap, trrrrrrraaaaapppp...Urgh!" With a single twist of his wrist and the symbiont was silenced. With another kick of the feet, the vampire hunter appeared before the Noble, sword lowered but not sheathed. So near her D felt his blood rushing in his veins, familiar images flashing in his mind. When she gave him a slight nod he returned it and the dhampire allowed her to lead him into an antechamber.
The door had barely shut before the vampire hugged D tightly.
In a moment like a miracle not only did the vampire hunter not turn away, he actually placed his unarmed hand around her shoulder. His jaw trembled slightly as he spoke, "I have not seen you in a long time...Mina." Then a breath, softer this time. "...Mother."
The left hand remained a tight fist.
"Too long, D..." Mina looked up into his dark eyes for she was a good foot and a half shorter than him. "So much has happened since you left." His mother pulled out of the embrace to wrap her own arms around herself as if from a sudden chill or to shield herself. "You left and things changed. He changed. He did this...to me."
"Because I left?" Though framed as a question, it was a statement.
"He said that he could not achieve the same level of perfection he had with you with any other so there was little point in my..." Again, his mother's voice faltered. Her eyes glazed in some distant traumatizing memory. "I begged him not to kill me but the only way he'd consent to that was to..."
"Make you a Noble." No matter how softly D said it, a jagged edge cut the last word.
"What choice did I have?" Mina spun around, lovely face twisted. "You left me to this fate. He did this to me because of you!" A slender finger jabbed into his strong as steel chest. Then his mother's jaw sagged. "You must return to him, D, or this is no hope for me. I will be cursed to live this undead life for eternity!"
"Return...to him?" There was no emotion to those words.
His mother turned around and as a pool of white roses did her gown form as she sank to her knees. "Please, D, you must do this for me. You are the reason I suffer like this...you must be the one to take it away!"
"By bending myself to his will? By becoming as he would have me be?" There was a sliver of ice in that tone. D stared past the genuflected figure of his mother, an image that reminded him of another time long ago in a dark castle.
His face shadowed. "You would free yourself by enslaving me to him?"
Mina choked out a sob. "Have you no kind words for your own mother?"
The shadow softened, the hard lines in the dhampire's face relaxing. Then in another remarkable moment, D lowered to his own knees and wrapped his arms around his mother. Though the vampire hunter scented danger in the air for the moment he let himself just experience the feeling, a feeling he had thought long ago lost.
That feeling of belonging, of a child's emotional nourishment from a mother.
"Will you...will you do as I ask?" A small voice, broken and hopeful. "Will you save your mother?"
That feeling of belonging shrank into four walls that rapidly closed around him. The thought of
servitude to his father shut off the airway, blurring his sight until all he could see and breathe was the past...a past reeking of blood and death, images of destruction swirling around him. And throughout all that sensory overload flashed one picturesque face, pulling him out of the darkness.
Then Dan's face. And the faces of nine other children.
"I...cannot. Mother, I cannot." The words tore from his throat, sounding alien. Slowly D disentangled himself from Mina, releasing her and lifiting a leg to be on one bended knee. Before he could stand though she spun around and ensared him in the embrace again. Only this time she held him and her face twisted, tormented.
For a single heartbeat there the vampire hunter thought he heard the sound of unleashed metal but no blade was forthcoming. "I understand, my son...indeed, how could I ask that of you? Just, wait here a moment with me. We'll find some other way." Her sigh floated so softly in the air only one of D's heritage could hear it.
"There is another way..."
D uttered a slight gag of pain. Looking down he saw a blade protruding from his chest, blood dripping out. Another inch to the left and the dhampire would have instantly perished. Drawing back, his mother stood up and towered over him. The dark halo of hair and pearly dress somehow lost it's luster of purity and instead radiated shadows.
"I had no wish to do this, D, but you've left me no other choice." With a blur of motion the Noble Queen leapt at him again, this time waving another, longer, blade. D rose and sidestepped all the while with the blade in his chest. His own sword came up to parry her next strike and for a moment the blades were locked as their own eyes seemed to be.
"If I cannot turn you then I am to kill you!" shouted Mina, eyes ablaze with the crimson of a Noble.
"And since I cannot save you, then I must kill you," D responded, deadpanned.
Sparks flew between blades and eyes, burning, clashing, biting as only the tempered steel and soul could conjure. When Mina made a downward cut the dhampire blocked, turning his own weapon upon his mother in a smooth sideways slash. Blocked. D was easily the better swordsman but the vampire hunter was more than aware of the roar outside the door, the roar of dozens of vampires. No matter his skill, he would surely fall.
His mother screeched, "Come and save your queen!" In the distant her son could hear the vampires mobbing, drawing weapons and hollering for their cult leader.
Before he would have thought: what would that matter? This was the life predestined for him, to die slaying his kin. That was before her face flickered into his mind. Doris's. Doris's and the ten children, all counting on him. Maybe there was more to his life than blood, battle and death? Could the dhampire dare to pretend that he could have more?
"Time to exercise the better part of valor?" squeaked his symbiont through his clenched fist.
D's eyes slid to the door. "Yes." Launching himself into the air his long curtain of melted midnight hair streaming behind, D made a feint. His mother took the bait and ducked back to give him a generous portion of room, more than enough room to take to his heels.
He could only hope that the entire hall wouldn't be overwhelmed with vampires once he got there. D left bloody footprints and broken emotions in the room as he fled.