Two small Monarch butterflies fluttered around a wild purple orchid growing next to the gravel road. Down the road a few yards, dust spiraled in a cloud upwards, tall and menacing. The day had been bright but the dimmed blue sky indicated nightfall's slow approach. The sun fell slowly behind the mountains.
Leisha had fallen asleep once more. D knew he had come a long way at top speed down the road but reaching the top of the mountain would be the longest hardest climb his cybernetic horse would take. D tightened his grips on the reins and held himself and Leisha tightly against the horse's back. Leisha had awoken from the pressure against her chest and found herself lying back against the horse's neck. She looked around and found nothing but darkness and heard the hard pounding of D's heart against her. She placed her hands on his chest. His armor was mainly hard thick black leather and stainless metal croppings. She slid her hand up to find his face.
Warmth. Funny how most vampires are said to be cold but not this dhampiru. His other human half was holding strong to it's waivering temperature.
She could feel the soft skin of his neck. A long wavy clump of hair hung down around his shoulder. She twisted the soft fine strands between her thumb and index finger. Soft, like feathers she thought. Sleep was still hovering in her mind. She twirled his hair and fell fast asleep, once again.
Lightning bolted across the darkened sky. D looked straight above the mountain but found no clouds anywhere in sight. The parasite itched again.
"Damn these mountains. They really make a great retreat though, dont you think?"
"This vampire is not far behind, "D whispered, making sure not to wake the sleeping girl.
"She's out again. What is it with you and your hypnotic heartbeat? When you're in a frenzy, boy do I feel like taking a nap. Your heart is wild! It's a small rumbling soothing thunderstorm," the parasite was quiet, and then, "Wow, did I just give you a compliment or what?"
D ignored the parasite and stopped the horse. There was an echo in the valley below and it boiled all the way through his brain. This vampire was out to destroy Leila's entire family. Every last living descendant and now he's coming for the young girl. The last one in the blood line. The only one left.
D felt a growing saddness erupt in his heart. He felt this every time he knew a friend was in great danger of losing their life. His desire to have her safe in the arms of the hunters at Crystal Hare grew stronger at every thought of the approaching vampire.
"We have to move faster than this."
"Well, what are you going to do?" asked the parasite.
"These cybernetic steeds are programmed for faster transportation. There's a button located right under-" D reached up towards the horse's ear and flicked the back of his jaw. The horse sneered and neighed, almost screamed. Suddenly, the horse bolted down the other side of the mountain. His fast canter had become an almost soft gallop but at speeds reaching well over 120 miles per hour.
D tipped his hat foward over his eyes as the horse plunged into the sand below the mountain's base. The horse slowed it's gallop automatically. High speed doesnt last long like with all creatures. Cybernetic or not. D looked out at the terrain ahead of them. Boggy swamp land, black and steaming with the smell of some poor dead animal, once probably struggling to get out of the tentacle-like algae, but failing terribly.
Lake Demonesque. It is said by travellers that this lake may take on the appearance of a pond suffering from toxic waste but the lake is alive. This appearance of horror and decay is only a front. Deep within it's black stagnant fluid is an underwater universe of salt water fish, mermen and water mammals. A lost city, suspended in time and water.
"Hmph, could've fooled me, " laughed the parasite.
Leisha awoke suddenly with a gasp. D pulled the cape from around her and lifted her chin with his finger. She looked into his eyes with a despair longer than his years on this world. Tears welled up and fell down her soft cheek. He too felt the same sadness, this time it was too strong to shrugg off.
"Are you alright?" he asked.
"Why am I so sad, D?" She buried her head in his chest and sobbed.
D held her with one arm, his left hand resting on her golden brow and nuzzled her forehead. In his mind, the parasite itched deeper. With his hand on her head, the parasite could see into her mind. A red haze wrapped around her mind. The happiness of a family broken apart by arrogance and revenge. A blood covered hand reached from one corner of her mind and gripped itself tightly around the neck of a young woman.
"D? D! Oh my God!" screamed the parasite. "This vampire is already inside her. It's bringing her down! I see his plans! The sadness, D! The sadness will take over her mind. She'll resist your attempts to help her just to slow you down and bring the vampire closer! We've got to get away! NOW!"
The horse lifted his head and ran fast straight towards Gallant Bridge extending over Lake Demonesque. D could feel the sadness pulling at him. It was pulling him almost into a depression but the memory of seeing Leisha's eyes for the first time and comparing their beauty to her grandmother's, now wasnt the time to be all misty-eyed.
Beyond the lake was Crystal Hare. The Black Guardians would be waiting at the gate. Waiting for anything to happen.
(Part II of The Mountains of Hannah: The Shadowed Forest)
The weary travellers stood at the top of a small grassy noll. The wind blew hard and cold and it thrashed up around the tree tops of the Shadowed Forest. This forest was said to be the darkest and deepest forest in the entire world. So dark in fact, even an immortal creature of the night could survive at high noon. Anything could happen in this forest. Anything could be waiting.
D stood on the small foothill looking out and over the black forest. The dome of Crystal Hare sparkled like fairy dust in the horizon. He could see the Black Guardians atop their steeds standing guard by the heavy wrought iron gates that shut out uninvited demons from the famed city of hunters. Crystal Hare was a small quiet community consisting of none other than the world's best vampire and werewolf hunters. Every man, woman and child knew how to hold a gun or a sword...no demon was safe. The dome served as a protectant, shielding the villagers from the pollution in the air and guarding them against the worlds' new demonic race.
"Leisha?" D pulled her off the horse and carried her to the edge of the hill. He laid her down and knelt down beside her, watching her as the cool wind blew through her soft long blonde hair. He knew the vampire was controlling her now and through her, the vampire was controlling him. The sadness would bring him down into a catatonic state leaving D helpless and useless. This would not be. D was stronger than that.
"D?" whispered the parasite, "She doesnt have much longer. Neither do you, if you know what I mean. Ride fast through the Shadowed Forest. Dont look back. He is coming for her."
D put his hand to Leisha's face and caressed her cheek. These caring emotions flooded his entire body. His heart pounded heavy as he looked into her face. He was not sure whether these feelings were true to his own or the deceiving dreams of the vampire following close behind.
"Leisha?" D said once more and watched as she yawned and fluttered her eyes open. She smiled as she looked up at him. His grey eyes met hers. She lifted her hand to touch his face but he grabbed her arm tightly.
"Darkness is approaching. We must ride hard and fast into the forest. If we do not reach the other side before dusk, it will be too late."
"Yes, " she whispered and fell limp in his arms.
Screams shattered the pleasant silence of the foothills as a cloud passed through the sky. Loud voices came from the forest but D knew it was only lost souls who died perilessly and were unable to escape into the grasp of the maker Himself, so they wander through the trees frightening only themselves.
D kicked the cyborg horse in his sides. The horse gave a loud shrilling scream that echoed over the Mountains of Hannah and boiled across the waters of Lake Demonesque. The horse bolted through the forest. No hesitation. No reason to stop. His speed was unimaginable. Even through almost complete darkness the horse could see his way through, jumping over fallen trees and dodging sharp protuding limbs. D held tight to the saddle and squeezed Leisha to his chest.
Ear-bone shattering screams blasted through the forest and bellowed deep into D's ears making him press his heals harder into the gelding's flank. The horse snorted and gasped as it galloped wildly through the black brush.
Up ahead through the trees, D could see the light of day barely penetrating the forest's darkness. The sun was racing against him but even the glowing star was too slow for the cybernetic being whose speed was faster than the first breaking ray of light.
Suddenly, the horse burst through the last of the dark bushes and into the bright daylight. The sun sat sharply at the top of the crystal-like dome of the coveted city. Behind them, a scream so deafening broke loose from the forest. A large black cloud emerged from the trees and the hideous face of a man with a sharp long nose and long white fangs appeared, screaming at the sun penetrating the black mist.
D's eyes widened at the sight of the demon as the black cloud swirled and sucked it's way back into the dark Shadowed Forest.
The Black Guardians stood in shock looking back and forth at each other as the cloud disappeared. Four tall dark men dressed in black cloaks and wielding sharp blades of wizardry sat atop their white cyborg steeds. A tale of these four men had been thrown back and forth by travellers and nomads angered at their own stupidity to believe that these four men were the actual spirits of the four arch angels of Heaven. Nevertheless, these protectors were the descendants of a prestigious brood of guardians. Guardians of the Earth, guardians of God.
They had D's respect.