The Quarry – Chap. 1

A/N: Halloween is approaching, and with it a once-in-a-century dark conjunction that offers the opportunity for evil to engulf the earth. A vampire lord reaches for power; all that stands in his way is one young girl and her unique ability. Vampire AU, AiHime.

A Halloween story for the AiHime fan club on BA.

Disclaimer: I do not own Bleach.

(Originally posted 10/27/12.)

XxXxXxX

The tall iron door creaked open, casting a ray of wan yellow light onto the onyx flagstones of the huge, dim hall. A slender, pale figure shrouded in black robes walked forward in the icy gloom. His footfalls echoed from wall to wall and down from the high ceiling lost in the darkness.

At the very end of the room, reclining against a blood red velvet cushion on a throne carved from obsidian, was a tall man – or what appeared to be a man. His skin was chalk-pale above a high black collar. Thick, tousled brown hair was swept back from a face that would not have been out of place on an angel, complete with high cheekbones, an elegant nose, and dark liquid eyes that were so compelling that it was hard to look away. A faint but somehow menacing smile played about his full lips as he watched the other man approach.

The slight man dropped to one knee before the throne and bent his head of shaggy black hair, waiting.

"You may rise, Ulquiorra." The voice, impossibly deep and rich, echoed around the vast throne room.

"I have found the source of the problem, Lord Aizen." Brilliant green eyes focused on dark ones. "There is an individual who appears to have an ability we thought impossible."

Dark brown eyebrows lifted in inquiry.

"This woman, Sire." Ulquiorra gestured with a pale, black-nailed hand. A jet of light shot forth from his fingertips and activated a semi-translucent video screen. On the screen was an image of a young woman, most likely still in her teens. Long auburn hair framed a face graced by large gray eyes, a pert nose with a dusting of freckles, and a generous mouth, currently turned down in an expression of dismay. She took two hesitant steps forward and the image of a hulking, brown-haired youth lying on the ground, insensible, came into view. She fell to her knees, raised both hands, and, mouth firming with determination, called out some words that could not be heard on the video.

Immediately, a golden light in the shape of a shield appeared around the fallen youth. Through the sparkling light, the viewers could see that his face, which had been pale and bloodless, reacquired life and a rosy flush. He opened his eyes, sucked in a gasping breath, and the woman fell on him laughing, taking him in a warm embrace.

The image faded, leaving the throne room in darkness once again.

"Lord Aizen, this woman appears to have the ability to reverse the effects of the bite of a vampire."

The tall man on the throne frowned. "Neither human nor any power on this earth has ever been able to purify the blood poisoning of a vampire's bite. Once turned, a human can never go back. It is a known tenet and a crucial foundation of the balance between humans and vampires in this world." His voice was serene and definite.

The smaller vampire bent his head. "With all due respect, Sire, I myself witnessed this boy become human again after the woman's treatment."

"Perhaps the boy was not correctly attacked?" suggested Aizen.

The shaggy head lifted and the green eyes focused on his master's. "I turned him myself, my Lord."

The vampire lord gestured, and the image of the woman reappeared in the room. He gazed at it thoughtfully for some moments. "It seems this girl has a very interesting power," he mused.

"Do you wish me to eliminate her, Sire?" asked Ulquiorra.

The taller man did not respond for a moment, continuing to contemplate the image of the young girl. Then, "Not yet," he said. "I will go myself to the city and witness this miracle." He turned his eyes back to Ulquiorra. "Set up an appropriate identity for me."

The other man bowed. "At once, Lord Aizen."

The brown-haired vampire rested his chin on the knuckles of one hand as he returned his gaze to the image before him. "What is the name of the possessor of this extraordinary power?"

"Her name is Orihime Inoue."

XxXxXxX

The four friends were gathered in Ichigo's bedroom, where many a strategy session had been conducted ever since the fateful day that the famed vampire hunter Rukia Kuchiki had arrived in Karakura Town with the bad news about the threat to the human world – and the magical jewel that gave them all powers to combat that threat.

Ichigo Kurosaki was the leader of their small group. His sword Zangetsu was one of the few weapons that could stop a vampire. He ran a hand through his spiky, orange hair and scowled.

Sitting beside him on the bed was his friend Uryuu Ishida. "I tell you," Uryuu insisted, "there's been a change. It used to be that all the vampires I fought were lone hunters, squabbling over territory. I was able to pick them off one by one. But now I'm seeing signs that they're working together. They're even evidencing signs of sophisticated strategy."

Ichigo frowned. "I didn't think the vamps were capable of forming social groups. All the ones we've seen making temporary alliances have turned on their colleagues as soon as they could."

Uryuu crossed his arms. "That might have been true in the past. But now –" he looked at a brawny teen with shaggy brown hair.

Yasutora Sado, or Chad as he was known to the friends, nodded. "A couple of weeks ago, Orihime and I were ambushed by a group of about six vampires working together and almost didn't make it out alive." He glanced over at the lone woman in the group. "If it hadn't been for Orihime, I wouldn't be here now."

The young woman blushed. "Yes," she said in her soft voice. She raised eyes full of pain to Ichigo. "One of them had been a boy I once knew. He talked to us before he… passed away," she whispered.

Chad's lips twisted in distress. "He told us there was a new and extraordinarily powerful vampire in town. He's moved in and is trying to take over; he's been organizing all the vamps under his rule."

"He threatens them if they don't swear allegiance to him," Orihime murmured, twisting a strand of long auburn hair around her finger.

"Apparently he has a special power over them that enables him to cause pain or even kill them without touching them," Chad added. "They are all terrified of him and are willing to work together if he orders it."

Ichigo scowled. "It looks like we've got a new job then." He looked around at his friends. "We've got to find him and take him down."

Orihime and Chad exchanged glances. "He's extremely dangerous. We'll have to be careful."

"Well," replied Ichigo, "it's not like we have a choice, is it?" He fingered the silver chain around his neck. "Halloween's coming up, and there will be a full moon on the 31st, and you all know what that means." He looked up. "Are you all ready?"

The others nodded soberly. Then Orihime pulled out her cell phone and gasped at the time. "Oh, no!" she cried, jumping to her feet. "I'm late for class! Professor Aizen is very strict about tardies!"

And with that, she was out the door and running to campus.