(Chapter IV Crossing the Threshold of Darkness)

          The Black Guardians stood in front of the gates leading to path of Crystal Hare. Here, the fight would begin. The guardians dismounted and each pulled steel silver swords from their sheaths. The vampire glared at them and smiled, fangs long and dripping with venemous saliva. The four men stood towering over the vampire but each guardian knew that if one faltered movement, they would be ripped to shreds. The men moved closer and the vampire took a step back. The vampire straightened his arms out to his sides and with a groan, his hands lengthened grotesquely into two sharp metal swords. The guardians stared in horror as the vampire made a hiss and lunged towards them.

          D ran down the stairs of the church and towards to massive front doors leading out onto the veranda where his cyborg steed stood waiting. D mounted and gave the gelding a sharp kick, sending them both into a full gallop through the small forest and back into the town. Villagers stood on either side of road watched as D sped past them.
          He reached the inner gate of the crystal dome and ordered the gatekeepers to open. The gatekeepers nodded and ran scrambling around the giant contraption that kept the dome doors air locked. The sergeant gatekeeper pushed a button and signaled for the gatekeepers to release the lever. With that, the air between the shut doors hissed and groaned. The glass doors stood open revealing another layer of doors that opened without frustation.
          Down the path, D could see the Black Guardians fighting furiously with the vampire. He couldnt wait for the glass doors to fully open so he charged the steed into the small four foot opening and galloped down the path towards the gates.

          Two guardians stood on either side on guard with their swords ready as the first guardian, their captain, took daredevil slashes towards the vampire, side stepping and leaning at every swift slice of the vampire's swords.
          The other three guardians took the chance of grabbing the vampire while their captain stood reading his sword to stab the vampire deep in his chest. Holding him down made the vampire angry and his strength even more powerful. As he broke through the guardians grip, he took at a swipe at the youngest guardian standing next to him, slicing him from groin to clavical. The young guardian gasped fell backwards bleeding terrible. The other guardians came in with swords sharp and aimed towards the vampires chest.
          As D road up, he lept off the back of his horse and onto the ground, pulling out his long curved sword. He held the sword like a battle ax running towards the remaining guardians and the vampire. The three guardians stood back and watched as the sun slowly rose from the east. D stopped in shock as the vampire's face smoked. Flames erupted from all around the vampire sending him running at top speed in a whirlwind back to the Shadowed Forest.
          A black cloud blew up in swirls above the forest and settled back down in the security of it's darkness.
          D turned towards the guardians. The guardian captain knelt beside the youngest slain guardian, weeping uncontrollably. D dropped his hat over his face to shield the sun from his eyes and walked over to the guardians.
          "So brave for his age, hunter D," whispered the captain. He held the young man's hand in his examining his limp dead body.
          D lowered his head and nodded. The guardian captain took off his mask and veil, revealing his soft short brown hair and rugged facial features. A tear fell down his cheek as he pulled the sword from the young guardian's dead grasp.
          "To the death," he said raising his sword in one hand and the young guardian's sword in the other. The two other guardians raised their swords in the air and repeated along with the captain, "To the death!"
          D nodded in approval and walked back towards his steed. He glanced over the remaining guardians and said, "We are to set the forest ablaze in one hour. Ready yourselves. This vampire will be hard to defeat at night."

          Back in the town, the villagers scrambled to the town square to hear the important announcement the mayor would be giving. D sat atop his steed in the middle near the podium where Mayor Robyn Lush would appear. The other two hunters stood quietly on either sides of the podium waiting for the crowd to hush and settle. Robyn stepped up to the podium and looked out over the different faces of the crowd.
          "A vampire is near, my people," he annouced loudly. The faces were stunned and each person turned whispering to each other in shock and annoyance of the vampire's presence near their town.
          "We have called on our very own brave vampire hunters, Mr. Rhine and Mr. Faust. They will accompany hunter D on finishing his quest to extinguish this annoyance, straight away. They will not falter," Robyn said with a smile as his eyes rested on D's face.
          "The Shadowed Forest will be no more after today. The city council, I and the vampire hunters have agreed to burn the forest down in order to bring the vampire to his death. Anyone who stands apposed to this act of arsen, speak now." The crowd was quiet and angry. "Those who stand to defend their noble town and burn the accursed forest?" The vote was unanimous as the crowd cheered and clapped while the vampire hunters followed the mayor back to his building.

          In the conference room, the two hunters stood by D waiting for his reply. Robyn sat down on the far end of the round table, smiling as if he had just won an election. Spread across the table were ten flame throwing rifles and four rocket launchers.
          Robyn finally sighed and said "I hope this works."
          D nodded and escorted the two vampire hunters out into the hallway.
          "We need four more vampire hunters. Gather your men and meet me by the gate in thirty minutes." The hunters nodded and watched D descend down the stairs.

          Leisha stood at the edge of her room's balcony looking out over the peaceful pasture that rested quietly behind the church. She could see the nuns hard at work raking dirt for the season's new garden. Peace came in bouts to her, just as the vampire hunter did. She could see him at the far end of the pasture riding his horse to her. A fairytale, she thought. She smiled and ran out of the church to greet him.
          She reached the veranda and watched D dismount his horse. His expression was unchanged though she knew his heart was heavy. He approached her quietly and cautiously, for the vampire was asleep and in full watch of his telepathic grip.
          "D, I know he killed that young guardian," she said quietly watching him as his eyes widened. "I saw the whole battle through his monstrous eyes. I could feel how much he wanted to kill those guardians. Just to get to me. D, I dont think I can handle this anymore."
          D stepped up to her and put his right hand on her shoulder, turning her slightly to face him. Tears streamed down her cheek, dripping off her chin and falling to the ground below her. D could feel her sadness. It drew a black hole inside her, sucking every inch of innocence into a sea of black despair. He pulled her to him and held her. For the first time in his life, D could feel the warmth of love.

(Part II of Crossing the Threshold of Darkness)

          Jeremy and Holton stood on the other side of the wrought iron gates of Crystal Hare. The three Black Guardians were atop their steeds with flame throwers drawn and ready to fire. They waited as four other hunters approached with swords drawn and their fire weapons in tact. D rode up behind them and nodded towards the forest.
          They charged towards the trees opening fire on the dark bushes. The flames spewed deep into the forest and spread quickly over the tops of the trees. In a matter of minutes, twenty acres was extinguished and left as ash blowing in the wind.
          Among the loud thrash of the fire, D could hear the screams of the souls trapped within the forest's gloomy shadows. D charged in the direction of the sounds letting the rocket launcher explode into a large thicket. The screams erupted and sounds scattered all around, almost as if the spirits themselves were running for safer ground.
          Jeremy and Holton were ahead of the other hunters laughing as the flames bolted out of the barrels of their flame throwers and thrashed the trees ahead of them. The Black Guardians ran through the flames slashing down burning timbers and saplings. The four other vampire hunters cleared an acre at a time with their flame throwers, watching the Shadowed Forest crumble in a gulf of flames.
          In the midst of the flames, through the dark limbs of the trees ahead, D could see the shadow of a figure moving swiftly around the fires. The vampire was awake and looking for a place to hide. D ran straight into the bushes where he last saw the figure and pulled the trigger of his rocket launcher. The flaming cartridge rocketed towards the trees and exploded with a tremendeous boom. Screams from the spirits in the dark region spread through the fire blaze.

          The late afternoon sun burned it's way across the powder blue sky, riding fast as if it were being chased by the monstrous black clouds of smoke rising into the heavens. Six hours had passed by and only one hundred acres remained untouched by the hunters' flames.
          Leisha could see from her balcony the dark forest illuminated by flame and fire. She could feel the vampire's desperation as he raced through the darkened parts of the forest looking for a place to hide and be safe. She wanted so much to be out there to tell the hunters exactly where he was but for her to venture toward him would be certain death not by the fire but by the vampire's own wicked weaponry.
          She sat back down in her chair on the balcony, trying to relax and gain her sanity but the vampire was working his wickedness upon her. His penetrating thoughts had left her briefly but now he had regained his strength. She stood up from her chair and walked back into her room. As she reached the corridor she could feel nothing of her phsyical body. Her mind was numb. She couldnt make herself stop. The vampire had control. Almost complete control of her. Her blue eyes glazed over one shade of white after another. The pupils of her eyes were small black dots unable to focus on anything. She walked blindly to the priest's chambers.
          She could feel her hand raising to knock on the door. A few seconds later the priest opened the chamber door, smiling down at her with a question in his eyes. She pulled him out of his chambers and into the corridor, slamming him up against the wall. Red blood swirled around her iris' and the priest screamed in horror at the terrible metamorphosis he saw in her eyes.
          Leisha started towards his neck but she had no fangs, nothing to penetrate his cold wrinkling flesh. The priest pleaded with her as she held him with one hand by the collar of his robe, two feet above the floor. He started to whimper and whisper Hail Mary's to himself. This angered the vampire and she dropped the small priest back onto the floor. Leisha could feel her body again. She had regained her strength and soon realized what she had done. Or what the vampire had made her do.
          She ran back to her room crying and screaming apologies at the priest as she slammed her bedroom door shut.

          The evening sun was beginning to set. D knew his fearless gang of hunters would soon be in danger of the powerful vampire. He sent the other four vampire hunters back to Crystal Hare leaving only Jeremy, Holton and the three Black Guardians.
          "It's do or die, D!" screamed the captain from his horse.
          D pulled his horse around towards the guardian captain. He glared into the guardian's eyes and nodded towards the other.
          "I go in alone tonight. You keep these hunters on the other side of the forest. Wait for anything. I dont know if I'll return." D lowered his hat over his eyes and ran his horse deep into the remaining trees of the dark forest.
          Jeremy shook his head and walked back toward the guardian captain. Holton squinted, still trying to keep the brave hunter in his view but the darkness had already engulfed his eyesight.
          Whispers shattered the silence in D's brain and the parasite itched for conversation. D shrugged it off. The vampire was near. In the quiet forest he could hear the pounding heartbeat of a frustrated vampire. Frustrated because he could find no where to hide from the sun? Or frustrated because his victim's bodyguard was close at hand?
          D stood in the darkness by a large oak tree. The vampire was drawing nearer as the sun reached the edge of the horizon. Over here, hunter. D turned his head sharply to his left. Nothing. Silence. D could hear quiet whispers of spirits watching and waiting in the trees for the final battle. No, no hunter! Over here! D backed away from the tree and opened the tiny hinged lock of the pendant hanging around his neck. The fierce white light emitted from the pendant and penetrated the darkness. There in the light stood the vampire. The vampire screamed and charged towards D. The vampire stretched out his arms revealing the long steel blades of his hands.
          The vampire took one long swipe towards the hunter but D ducked and drew his sword. D swirled around to face the vampire who stood behind him. No cuts yet. Certainly no slashes, to note. Just one angry vampire with a sarcastic grin.
          "Vampire Hunter D!" exclaimed the vampire, "Such a surprise. You dont remember me? Sebastian? You lopped off my grandfather's head two hundred years ago. I watched as a small child as you collected your reward from those hobbling human aristocrats. My family is dead! And you're helping that bitch destroy the last of us! Why, hunter D! Why would you kill those with the same blood as your father!? We are brothers, you and I!"
          "You're no brother of mine!" D said as he jumped high into the midnight sky above the trees. Sebastian followed him with preternatural speed into the canopy of the forest. D landed on the other side of the forest far from where other hunters waited.
          Sebastion raised his blades in mocked defiance against D's long sword. A smile came to the vampire's face as he swung to two large blades in a circle, walking closer and closer to D. One split second and D pulled his sword hard from his right side, slicing the left arm of the vampire. Sebastian and D watched as the vampire's bladed arm flew from out of sight.
          Sebastian roared and lept into the air landing behind D. D turned quickly with only a glimpse of the vampire as the monster flew up above him once again. With one long blade remaining, the vampire took aim and flew fast towards D. One upward swipe of the hunter's sword and the vampire's head was severed and flung across the bushes.

          Leisha screamed and convulsed violently as the vampire's telepathic grip left her. The nuns held her down and washed her face with a cold wet rag. Her eyes flashed from blood red back to their calm blue hue.
          She blinked wildly about the room. She reassured the nuns she was okay by nodding and agreeing to sit up in bed while they wiped off the sweat from her head.
          "He's dead. The vampire is dead, " she said smiling and laughing.

          D breathed deeply, fangs exposed and eyes flaming red. He walked slowly over to the vampire's dead body. No brother of mine. D raised his sword with both hands above his head and slammed the sword's blade deep into the vampire's chest. The body let out a sigh and sunk into the dirt, turning to ash and withering away in the slight breeze. D walked over to Sebastian's head which had turned an ugly disturbing shade of green and decomposed to nothing right before his eyes.
          The forest was silent except for the sweet breeze blowing in from the north.
          The parasite scratched deeper.
          "Well, that was fun. I must admit, I really like the whole arsenist point of view. I hope we can run across some more bladed-arm wielding vampires in the future."
          "I don't." D slid his sword back into it's sheath, mounted his awaiting cyborg steed and walked back to the iron gates of Crystal Hare.
          The three Black Guardians stood in awe as the great vampire hunter rode past them. Jeremy and Holton smiled marvelling the hunter's divine presence.
          "You know, " said Holton, "I dont think he really needed our help. He just needed an audience."
          Jeremy and the Black Guardians laughed and followed the great vampire hunter back to town.

Chapter 5
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