Update: 070407, 250407, 020907
Disclaimer: Ranma and the Nerima Wrecking Crew belong to Rumiko Takahashi while Rifts and Nightspawn belong to Palladium. Babylon 5, Nightspawn and Sailormoon belong to all their creators respectively.
Part 11: Meeting
“Let me go check the Time Gates …” Setsuna offered when a voice interrupted her departure.
“Now … that wouldn’t be necessary … would it?” a voice spoke.
As one … Everyone turned in the direction of the voice to see a long-haired broad-shouldered man stepping out of the shadows.
“Marcus???!!!!” The Senshi of Time gaped in shock at the figure of the man as he came to a stop before them.
My name is Setsuna Meiou and I am the oldest immortal of all. With my link to the ever-changing streams of Time and access to the long-forgotten magic of the Silver Millenium, I am also arguably the most powerful immortal that ever lived apart from THEM, of course. Not to mention, there are few things that could surprise me in this time and age such as the figure of my supposedly dead husband looking me in the face … very much alive and well.
As the saying goes, with age comes wisdom. The thing was … had I grown any wiser over the millenia? Many people assume that with old age, comes wisdom but I have seen many instances in which this belief does not hold true. The old generation is slow to change, in many cases, clinging stubbornly against all odds to their precious ideals. Memories of the lycan-vampire war filter through my mind … Amelia, Sonja, Lucian, Selene and then …Viktor.
Am I one of them? A strong wind that howls eerily begins to blow
God … I hope not.
Well, like the saying goes … time will tell (mind the pun. I am the Mistress of Time, after all^_-) as I continue to peer relentlessly through the Time Gates, looking for threats to Crystal Tokyo and the Sailor Senshi. And being the Time Mistress, I have all the time in the universe. Unfortunately ... even as I go about my task, I know that this Second Wonder of the Silver Millenium may not be enough to ensure a lasting victory. It is just not possible to eliminate every single possibility of failure or defeat for the Sailor Senshi. There will always be an element of uncertainty or chance involved in every fight (whether with words or in the battlefield) with the enemies of the Senshi even with advanced intelligence and knowledge obtained through the Time Gates. Why?
To answer this question, let me explain something about this wondrous artifact of the Silver Millenium that all refer to as the Time Gates. When people imagine a time machine such as the Time Gates, like in most of those sci-fi flicks I’ve seen, they think of a device with all the utility functions complete with time display, view screen and all those nifty little buttons at the user’s fingertips. All the user had to do would be to punch in the number or the date required (the machine would power up) and … Poof … the observer would suddenly find themselves viewing or in the desired time.
Hah! That description of a temporal device is pathetic! A total joke! I might add.
The reason being time itself is an illusion … a creation given form by an observer to better remember a particular event or a chain of events. Consequently the very nature of time itself is subject to the interpretation of the observer.
Meaning to say that dates and numbers for use on a temporal device like the Time Gates is meaningless. They are mere creations of the mind to be used as labels or reference points to certain events in time when using the device. This is why the observer has to be really awake when using the Time Gates or the events viewed can be very deceiving. And in some cases, disastrous.
For example, if I were to travel from the present to the past. Two thousand years to be precise … am I traveling two thousand years as in Earth years or two thousand years as in Pluto years. Take note, one Pluto year is not the same as one Earth year. The problem is more apparent when the observer is in the past. One Earth year then is not quite the same as one Earth year now. Let’s not talk about what happens when the planetary body didn’t exist then. Or time traveling into another dimension, for that matter. This is bad enough.
For this and many other reasons, the Time Gates were created using the mind of the observer as the reference point. Thus, memory plays an important part in it. In the early days of the creation of time travel technology, many test subjects of varying ages, gender and race were selected taken from different worlds to see their suitability as a recipient for the Timestream Procedure (I was chosen for my loyalty, eidetic memory and resilience to insanity). The Lunarian Union was aware of the dangers an enemy who possessed powers over time would have and was looking for an ironclad security measure against them. Out of a total of four thousand two hundred and eighty-seven test subjects, they found only one that made it through the Timestream Procedure intact … me.
As for the rest who did not make it … shudders … many are the whispered rumors about those who failed, each tale more terrible than the last. Three quarters of them died or disappeared without a trace, baffling even the best minds in the Union … I pray for their souls. As for the others, some became comatose while others were driven completely insane by the experience and had to be put down. A direct link (both physically and mentally) to the Timestream takes a toll on the mind (some say the very soul) of the recipient.
I was the first and the last successful recipient of the highly-classified Time Shield Project in the golden era of the Silver Millenium. A last ditch measure against all outside enemies (especially the Ba’al) who had or sought the ability to manipulate time itself as a weapon against the Lunarian Union.
Many people assume that my control over time itself and my link to the Time Gates ensures victory in any conflict for me and my allies. They couldn’t be more wrong. If that were the case, Crystal Tokyo would be a hundred percent guarantee and the old Lunarian Union would encompass the galaxy.
The use of the Time Gates definitely provides a distinct advantage in every conflict but it does not completely eliminate the possibility of failure or defeat. The risk of dying in any conflict, no matter how remote, is still there. I can try to manipulate the outcome of the fight to increase the chances of the Senshi winning and so on but I cannot completely guarantee a victory or a desired outcome.
Werner Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle has seen to that. My past string of glories include keeping the Vorlons from dominating the galaxy by allowing a counter-balance known as the Shadows to survive the war with the First Ones (that was a tricky thing to pull off), the three failed invasions of the Lunarian Union by the forces of the Netherworld, maintaining the Minbari-Drakh Standoff (ensuring that the Drakh never attacked the Moon Kingdom), the imprisonment of the Ba’al in the Nightlands and the Second Coming of the Senshi.
My string of failures include the appearance of the Nightspawn (they were not supposed to have existed in the first place frowns), the appearance of the Merovengian (what is it going to take to get rid of him? scowls), the return of the Ba’al to Earth (yes Dark Day is inevitable, dear readers sighs), … that’s all. Strange … I’ve a feeling there should be more. Did I forget or miss something important, somewhere? The loud crash of thunder echoes through the background
But still, how could I have not foreseen this event coming to pass? A myriad wave of emotions assail me as I gaze upon the supposedly dead figure of my husband …all smiles as he welcomes me back with his open arms …love, anger, fear, doubt, confusion, shock, joy … they threaten to overload my senses but I reel them back in … with my iron-clad discipline that came from centuries of practice and life experience …
“Greetings, Damora … but much as I would like to … I cannot claim that distinction. He … however … can …” the man pointed behind the group.
As one, they turned to see another man, identical in every respect to the first man standing in black and purple robes looking at them.
“It’s been a long time, Damora …”
“Marcus??? How did you get here??? And that is … Wi-?”
“William, my twin brother.” The man smiled.
“How?” The Time Senshi asked in shock.
“When you spilled your blood over me the night my brother and I were slain by the vampire bitch and her paramour, I not only regenerated from death … I gained access to the memories hidden in your blood. The memories of a lifetime … or should I say lifetimes? You never knew the true value of the knowledge or experience that lay hidden within your blood. The memories of the Silver Millenium, the lost kingdom of Atlantis and … the Dark Wielders of Kastuul. I know all this now and more … just as I know everything that you would become. And the quest that you’ve been fighting through the ages … your goal of Crystal Tokyo … a noble gesture albeit a futile one nonetheless …”
“What is he talking about Setsuna?” the Moon Princess asked.
“It can’t be … the amount of blood that I spilled did not even come up to an ounce,” the Time Senshi cried out.
“That is where you were wrong … and right … in some regards. You carry the legacy of my father’s blood in you. The blood of one who came before me … the only one stronger than I am … coupled with that of the properties of your Plutonian blood … it was more than enough to restore me to full health. And this place of yours … on Pluto is quite a marvel, isn’t it?” the man answered.
The Time Senshi shook her head …
“No it can’t be … This can’t be right …”
“The man who offered you his blood …” the man pointed out.
“Alexander Corvinus …” the Time Senshi gasped as comprehension dawned onto her.
“How else would you have been able to survive the sun, Damora?”
“All this time …”
“And you thought that it was your Plutonian heritage.”
“Still it doesn’t explain how you got here?”
“You are the key. When you gave your blood to me … you not only gave me the lost knowledge of the Silver Millenium … you gave me access to the Gates of Time itself … Thanks to you … I can now go anywhere and any when!”
The Senshi of Time narrowed her eyes in suspicion at the figure of her husband …
“Worry not, Damora. I would never harm you or those close to you. I love you then … when we first met … and I love you now … even as you stand. But these foes of yours … what makes you think you have a prayer of a chance of defeating them? You are on a fool’s errand.” The man answered as he shook his head ruefully.
“Setsuna … who is this man?”
“And why does he keep on calling you Damora?”
“Is he your husband?”
The Time Senshi shrugged her shoulders before saying, “Yes.”
“How did this …?”
“Start? It all began the day that I died.”
It was a day that started out like any other day. A monster running loose in the city, sending Mr. and Mrs. Average scurrying for cover and hollering at the top of their voices. The security forces would cordon of the area, taking guard positions to limit damage to the surroundings while waiting for reinforcements to arrive. The senshi would be alerted to the threat, and respond to it accordingly. Then the usual posing and intimidating gestures by the monster would take place while a member of the senshi team would announce their arrival with their usual fanfare and speech.
The opening move would then be made by the monster in launching all kinds of strange and powerful attacks at the senshi. The senshi would then retaliate with each of their respective attacks on said monster. From there, the fight would end in one of three ways.
One … the monster was either a weakling or too stupid to know anything besides launching random all out attacks and did not need teamwork to put it out of action. Then the senshi would return home while the citizens who were there, would quickly cheer their respective heroines. A news crew would usually be onsite to cover the fight. Damage to the surroundings in the form of broken glass, dented automobiles and cracked walls were considered to be minimal. No further elaboration was needed.
Two … the monster was moderately strong or smart (sometimes both) and needed at least all the Inner Senshi to hold its attention with teamwork while setting the monster up for a Moon Tiara Action attack by a certain clumsy member of theirs.
Things such as "SHABON SPRAY!", "VENUS CRESCENT BEAM!", "MARS FLAME SNIPER!" and "MOON TIARA ACTION!" would be heard before the monster would finally end up dusted or atomised.
Then the senshi would also return home while the citizens would once again cheer their respective heroines. As before the news crew would be onsite to cover the fight. Damage to the surroundings was usually moderate. End of story.
Three … the monster was very strong with brains (a dangerous combination) and needed both the Inner Senshi and the Outer Senshi in taking it down. It also required a great deal of team work.
New words such as "DEEP SUBMERGE!", "WORLD SHAKING!" and "DEAD SCREAM!" would be heard (though if a "DEAM SCREAM!" attack was heard, it would mean that the situation was very serious). The news crew was unlikely to be around as said monster usually took an extreme dislike to be on national TV for unknown reasons. Not to mention, it also tended to be very generous and indiscriminate with its use of powerful attacks which usually had the potential to vaporise anything in its path.
Still, the senshi would finally triumph with a last desperation move bringing down the monster though without the usual cheers and cries of support from their fans and supporters (too frightened and scared away by the monster). They would leave in silence in this situation. For home. To be once again ready for school like they usually did.
Except that none of the above endings happened. Instead, there was a soft wheezing sound and one of the senshi fell dead with a bullet hole in her head.
There was another soft wheezing sound and another of the senshi fell dead in the same manner. The green-haired senshi quickly disappeared from sight after shouting a warning to the rest.
“What???!!! We all died???!!!”
“I don’t understand. But why are we still alive?”
“I don’t know. There are certain things that I’ve been unable to recall for some reason.” The Time Senshi answered before she continued relating her story.
There were drops of blood on the ground where the green-haired senshi once stood.
Setsuna reappeared at the Time Gates, blood dripping from her body. She was mortally wounded, she knew and had not long to live. In her current state, it was very dangerous to use the Time Gates. But she had no choice. She had to save the future. How had this event taken place without her knowledge? She should have either seen it through the Time Gates or … her future self should have returned to warn her about … A sudden realisation hit her. Her future self was probably dead and in most likelihood unable to help her.
'But that was not how Crystal Tokyo was supposed to end!' She mentally shrieked. She had survived too long and endured too much to …
Her vision blurred. Time was running out … She stepped forward to the Time Gates.
"It can't be …" the green-haired senshi mumbled in disbelief as she examined the timeline while her blood continued to drip to the ground until it had formed a small pool of red liquid around her feet. The senshi had fallen, one after another, not to the unnatural powers of some supernatural foe, but to a sniper's bullet, of all things. Setsuna tracked the sniper down through the use of the Time Gates, determined not to let any threat to the senshi out of sight.
What she discovered through the Time Gates intrigued her somewhat … despite her current state.
The elite sniper that had killed off the entire Senshi team was one of many faceless assassins that belonged to a shadowy organisation known only as the Damocles Society who had only one solitary goal in life :- The prevention of the rise to power of any individual, empire or organisation from dominating the entire world. The name of the organisation itself was a parody, taken from an old Greed legend in which a sharp sword was hung by a thin thread from the ceiling above the king's head (the Sword of Damocles).
From age to age, the members would strike from behind the scenes, eliminating key leaders, disrupting critical supplies and sabotaging technological research from one side or the other to stop any one leader, country or organisation from becoming too powerful.
This was in complete contrast to the goals of the Illuminati, which sought to unite the world (under its banner, of course). Eventually, however, like any organisation that existed, the members soon became corrupted by their desire for wealth and power (money is the root of all evil, after all). And their love for money replaced their desire for maintaining the balance of power in the world. Subsequently, they turned mercenaries and sold their talents for murder to anyone that could meet their asking price (which was always high).
'An organisation of faceless assassins, whose love for wealth is as great as their love for power. But their costs are prohibitive. Who hired them?' the Time Guardian wondered before blacking out completely.
Unseen by all, the green-haired senshi fell forward though the Time Gates to some unknown destination …
A man was scrounging in the forest looking for some prey when his keen sense of smell picked up the familiar scent of blood. Quickly, he ran forward in the direction of the smell and came upon the body of a beautiful woman dressed in strange clothing that he had never seen before. Her facial features were radically different from the women he had encountered in the past. And he had seen many in his time over the years. The strange attire she wore coupled with her exotic looks only made her seemed all the more beautiful.
Those weren't the only things about her that caught his eye. In both her hands, lay a strange garnet rod that she cradled protectively to her chest. Whatever the artifact was, it seemed important to her, so much so that she was unwilling to let go of it, even at the point of death. Her fragrant beauty and the deep mystery surrounding her only added to her appeal.
She drew him like a moth to a flame in a way that he rarely knew before. Right there and then, he knew one thing. This woman had to live. And there was only one way to do it. Bending down, he smelt and touched her pulse. It was nearly gone. Quickly, he bit on her, transmitting the strange virus in his body that he carried to the woman.
Within seconds it was over. Now, he only had to wait for the woman to come out of her unconscious state.
She revived faster than he had expected. Her wounds once fatal, healed rapidly before his eyes which was unusual considering that she was just newly turned compared to him. Judging by the looks on her face, she was hungry ... so he threw a stag, or … was about to - when she bowled him over to the ground, surprising him with her strength and speed. The buck was already dead, its neck twisted to one side as the woman lifted the neck to her mouth to feed.
Getting to his feet, he watched from one side as she fed on her prey, drinking in the blood greedily. He remained silent watching her antics.
Finally, he called to her. She looked at him blankly as though not understanding. A sudden thought hit him. Perhaps she was a foreigner and that was what accounted for her silence. Pointing at himself, he said, "Marcus."
"Marrrr-ccccus," she repeated, the word coming out slowly.
"What is this offal? A new toy?" a female voice asked from the doorway.
Marcus growled beneath his breath. It was that annoying woman, again. Viktor's number one bitch in heat and … lapdog, Amelia.
"What are you doing here, Amelia? Have you found my brother?" he snarled.
"Come to check things out. Just to make sure that our 'father' is safe from harm. Wouldn't want anything unfortunate to happen to the great father of our kind before we begin the hunt. So who is she?" Amelia turned to the woman in the room.
"She's a foreigner. She wouldn't understand your words."
"I see … So are you planning to keep her for long, O Great Father of the Vampires?" the female vampire mocked.
"I don't know," Marcus replied, ignoring her rudeness.
"Ahhh … the blessed bliss of ignorance. Such sweetness. Such wonder. When you get tired of her, turn her over to me, alright?" the female vampire suggested in a non-too-innocent manner.
"Go away, Amelia. I'm not in the mood for one of your games," Marcus warned.
"That's not a very polite way to treat your children, you know. But since you asked …" she licked her lips before turning around in as sultry a manner as she could manage, which only succeeded in annoying Marcus all the more.
Her next words threw Marcus off.
"We have found your brother's tracks."
Across the snowy white plains … under the cover of darkness …
An army is marching … an army of the undead … on the trail of a very dangerous creature …
"Brother … what have you done?" the first vampire whispered under his breath as he studied the trail of destruction left by his twin sibling at the village.
Beside him, the green-haired woman that he saved the day before, as if sensing his plight moved to hold his palm reassuringly.
"Damora … If only you could understand … " As before, she could only look at him with eyes of love and affection … without saying anything.
Marcus held her hand in his. Taking the horse by the reins, she drew alongside him and leaned onto his armour, silently drawing a few stares. The moment was broken by an announcement from a female voice. It was Amelia.
"They're all dead, my lord. None survived. We must burn the bodies quickly before they are turned."
"This has gone far enough! Your brother has got to be stopped!" Viktor barked.
"He is not to be harmed as per our agreement," Marcus reminded.
"But he has to be kept under control. This petty sentiment you have for that creature is totally unbecoming of you," Viktor replied, disgust evident in his voice.
"You know the consequences if either me or my brother were to be slain," Marcus pointed out.
"Yes … If you die … we all die! But it will be done my way!" the angry lord retorted.
Damora remained silent, watching the heated exchange. She had yet to say anything other than her name.
"Burn the bodies!" he ordered his soldiers.
Marcus was about to join them but …
"Marcus, you stay beside me," Viktor commanded.
"I can defend myself," Marcus countered.
"No … you stay here beside me," Viktor repeated his command as he waited for his soldiers to report back.
Suddenly, there was a howl from one of the huts as one of the soldiers screamed. At once, everyone turned in the direction of the scream. Out of the hut, came a half-transformed lycan rushing aimlessly in all directions. Amelia fitted an arrow to her crossbow before letting it loose at the lycan. It fell to the ground without much struggle …
However … some of the burning bodies began to move and shift … causing the soldiers to step away from them.
"They've turned!" a voice shouted.
"Everyone! Draw your weapons!" Viktor ordered.
An armed soldier was dragged to the ground from his horse as a lycan leaped at him from the roof. Another charged at Marcus who simply drew his battleaxe and loped its head off with it. The shouts and sounds of battle filled the air.
Damora speared a lycan that got too close to her for comfort before finishing it off with her sword. Viktor cut down another lycan with his broadsword. Seeing the increasing number of their fur-covered opponents heading for them, the vampire lord ordered Marcus to flee for safety. Marcus hesitated at first, since he yet to locate his brother but he soon departed the area on the snow-covered trail from the village. Behind him, Damora followed suit, cutting down any lycans that got in their way.
Damora sighed. Things had been getting more difficult for her ever since Viktor laid down the 'one awake, two asleep' rule regarding the elders for his so-called coven. Marcus might be the Source but Viktor was still the Boss. Being the lord of the land and such, the army still answered to him and therein lay the real power. Marcus held no control over the army whatsoever and was essentially relegated to an elder in name only with no real power over the coven, despite being the first true vampire.
Publicly, all the vampires still had to defer to him since he was one of the elders, of course. Privately, they held nothing but contempt for him and rubbed it into his face whenever the situation presented itself. A situation he despised and hated with all his heart.
This situation was never clearer than the night they went in pursuit of Marcus's twin brother, William in which Marcus complained about the way his brother was being treated when held prisoner but Viktor simply ignored his pleas. Instead, he broke his word to Marcus right in front of everyone in taking Marcus's brother prisoner, contrary to Marcus's wish. Damora still remembered the words of the heated exchange that night clearly despite not understanding a word of it at the time.
"And what is thy will, my Lord?" Marcus spoke, his head bowed, not wanting to endanger his brother anymore than he already was, though his heart seethed at Viktor's broken promise.
"My will is that your brother will be imprisoned away from you for all time!" The lord declared loudly for all to hear.
Damora who had ridden alongside him, despite not understanding the words, sensed her sire's plight and moved to comfort him. He had not responded at first being too deeply mired in his thoughts … but then … later that night … when they got back … he had fallen upon her in a frenzy of lovemaking. She had responded instinctively and … in a short time, had Marcus groaning and moaning aloud in pleasure with skills that she never thought she possessed.
"Damora … you are the only one who cares for me … The others … I will not forgive them for this!" he declared to her with all his heart, his eyes glinting dangerously. Not understanding his words … she pulled back in fright at the emotion in his voice thinking that he was angry with for some wrong she had committed, but Marcus quickly drew her back to him, saying, "Do not fear me, Damora. For I will never harm you. Come drink of my blood and be one with me for all eternity!"
Having said this, he cut his hand and blood flowed from his hand. Damora hesitated upon seeing the blood flowing from his hand at first, but lowered her mouth to it when he indicated that she should do so. Quickly, she drank from it … it tasted deep and delicious. After awhile, she drew back, having drank enough. She hesitated at first on what she was about to do next. But courtesy demanded that she offered nothing less in return. Before she lost heart, she took a knife and slit her wrist with it. Holding her hand up to Marcus in return, she drew him closer with her other hand. He was about to drink from it when there was a knock on the door.
Marcus grumbled beneath his breath. Who was it this time? Along the way, he grabbed his clothes and hurriedly put them on. He opened the door to find Amelia standing before him. Her face lit up, a mischievous twinkle on it upon catching the expression on Marcus's face.
"Hope I wasn't interrupting anything important, was I?" the female vampire smiled.
"What do you want, now, Amelia?" Marcus grumbled.
"Me … nothing. Viktor, on the other hand, wants to see you now," Amelia spoke, her face radiant with joy.
"We will continue where we left off, Damora," he promised as he left the room.
Amelia turned to the female vampire on Marcus's bed.
"You're something, you know … to have caught his eye … and all that … He's usually colder than the freezing nights of winter," the female vampire spoke as she stepped into the room.
Damora eyed the female vampire warily.
"Your skills must be pretty good to have Marcus go off like that. Let me sample them," she replied as she began removing her clothes.
"A pity you don't understand a word. Otherwise, we could be such good friends," the female vampire winked at her suggestively before advancing upon her.
Damora was about to get up when Amelia stepped in front of her.
"Come, now … just relax … Let me do the rest. Don't worry. I won't bite," the female vampire spoke as her fingers traced the curves of Damora's body while her lips moved along the edge of Damora's neck.
"You're gorgeous … do you know that?" the question was superficial since the vampire elder did not expect a reply.
As her lips descended, her tongue went into play. Instinctively, Damora leaned back against the female vampire, her back pressing into the bosom of the other vampire and … before long … they were exploring each other's body vigorously with eager hands and lips …
Their lovemaking session ended an hour later. Amelia had her hands wrapped around Damora, reluctant to let her go.
"I can see why he wants you so much. You're incredible … Damora. It's like you're born to pleasure those around you. Join me. Rule by my side. You're better off with me than with him," Amelia offered, her hands spread outwards before her in a welcoming gesture.
Damora could find nothing to say to that.
Marcus returned a week later to tell her about Viktor's new rules. He was selected to go first into hibernation mode that night since Vampire Elder Viktor was to rule first. Not that he could disagree with him in the first place being that Viktor was the lord of the land and all. But did he have to rub it into his face that often? Marcus swore under his breath and cursed the man for what appeared to be the hundredth time that day. As usual, Damora listened without replying to the strange language the man before her spoke.
Suddenly he lost his composure and wrapped his arms around Damora.
"I don't know what they will do to you once I'm gone but take this with you should you decide to leave," he spoke as his hand fished out a strange metallic staff from under the bed.
Damora looked at it uncomprehending until Marcus placed it in her hands.
"Thank you." She spoke.
Marcus looked at her incredulously.
"Say that again?" Not quite believing his ears, he asked again.
"Thank you, Marcus," she replied in his language with a smile that that lit up her eyes.
"You understand me?" He smiled as he held her in his arms.
"I didn't before but I do now. I don't know why but I do. Thank you for taking care of me," Damora spoke without a single mistake in her intonation or pronunciation of words.
"Damora … If only I could share this moment with you forever. But Viktor … Curse his soul … He insists I rest first … " He hugged her tightly.
Since that night, Damora had not seen Marcus at all. Inwardly, she wondered where he was. Neither had she seen Viktor. The only vampire elder she had seen was Amelia who had been paying more and more visits to her room. Kraven had wanted to sample her skills too, but she had rejected him. Something about the man disturbed her.
He would have forced himself upon her, except that he didn't want to anger Amelia, one of the most powerful vampire elders on the council. Nonetheless, he continued to hound her and did not stop doing so until the day a new vampire joined the coven. Since then, he had turned his attention to this new vampire and for that Damora was grateful.
Oddly enough, the new vampire did not like him as well and preferred to keep him away at arm's length. Damora would have wanted to get to know the new vampire better but the coldness of the new vampire unnerved her … somewhat. Besides, not geting close to the new vampire wasn't that bad of a situation, since such a thing might have drawn Kraven's unwanted attentions again.
Things had gone steadily downhill since Amelia entered the crypt to rest. For Viktor had moved quickly to cement his control over the coven. Dissidents who did not agree with him were demoted, exiled or removed without a trace. His own daughter Sonja, was executed publicly for having an affair with the lycan leader, Lucian. The last straw came, however, when Damora learned of Viktor's sole massacre of an entire family just because they knew something that they shouldn't. Damora, who had never liked Viktor to begin with, resolved to leave the coven as soon as possible.
The air of arrogance, cruelty and decadence she experienced at the coven only made her decision easier.
Deprived of both Marcus and Amelia's company (both were in hibernation mode and thus, unable to help her), there was no longer any reason to stay. Besides … she had caught Kraven's leering eyes on her back again just the other night when he thought she wasn't looking. To avoid him, she had spent more time in the library with the archivist, Tanis. The situation did not last, however, since Tanis had been banished into exile by Viktor for his heretical ideas and opposition to Viktor's brutality. Picking up her belongings, she decided to leave the coven that night.
There were many guards on the battlement as she exited the entrance. Fortunately, the other vampires had not even bothered to look at her when she left through the main hall.
"Where are you going?" a voice asked. Damora sighed inwardly at the voice. Unfortunately someone had seen fit to inform Kraven about her departure that night.
"I'm leaving," she answered without turning around to look at the speaker. Neither did she stop walking towards the gate.
"The situation is very unsafe outside as we are in a state of war with the lycans. No one's allowed to leave without my explicit permission," Kraven declared.
"I can take care of myself," Damora replied and continued walking.
"Bar the gates!" Kraven ordered the sentries. As one, they locked the gates. Damora turned around to face Kraven as the tension in the air grew. A crowd had gathered to watch the face off between the two vampires.
"Am I a prisoner now? And on whose orders?" she mocked.
"No one's a prisoner. But understand this. We are in a state of war. The situation outside is tenuous. And very insecure I might add. Who knows what might befall you outside this walls?" Kraven sneered.
" I do not need your protection, Kraven. I will deal with it when it happens. Now open the gates!" Damora ordered the sentries. The vampire guards looked at her briefly before turning to look at Kraven.
"I think not, Damora. Your safety is a priority to me. Marcus and Amelia would be very displeased if they found out that something happened to you when they awaken."
"Marcus and Amelia would be even more displeased if they found out how you treated me when they were asleep, Kraven," Damora pointed out, her back to the gates.
Suddenly … without warning, she spun around and leaped to the top of the gate.
"I'm leaving whether you like it or not!" Damora declared .
"Stop her!" Kraven shouted.
The sentries reacted by moving to intercept her at the top of the gate. Before long … a full-fledged melee had broken out with more and more guards running towards the source of the commotion. For a whole minute, it raged until a loud voice, strong and commanding broke through the sounds of the fighting.
"THAT'S ENOUGH! ALL OF YOU!"
Everyone stopped what they were doing and turned in the direction of the voice. It was Viktor, the imposing lord of the land.
"My lord … she's …" Kraven spoke.
"Let her go!" Viktor commanded.
"But the lycans … " Kraven protested.
"You heard me!" Viktor turned to Kraven with a dangerous glint in his eye.
"As you wish, my lord," Kraven replied with deference, his head bowed before Viktor, though anger raged through his heart like a bonfire.
"Open the gates!" The gates lifted and Damora was finally free … to leave.
'Just you wait … Viktor … You, Marcus and Amelia. Think you're so great, eh? One day, I will rule these lands and you will be the ones at my mercy!' he swore furiously in his heart.
'And as for Marcus's bitch … she's just about to have an unfortunate accident,' he thought darkly.
The next day … while fighting in an isolated place …
"Easy Lucian. I come in peace. Call your wolves off … I have come to talk," the long-haired figure announced as he fended off Lucian's attacks with his sword.
"Burn in hell, Kraven! There's nothing that I want from you bloodsuckers except maybe YOUR LIVES!" the lycan leader shouted as he lashed out with another blow from his sword that came dangerously close to skewering the vampire commander's head off.
Kraven leaped to the side to escape the lycan leader's furious attacks.
"I believe we have certain issues of mutual interest to both our sides," the vampire commander replied as he parried another blow from the lycan leader.
"Mutual interests???!!! I have nothing in common with you, bloodsucker!!!" Lucian spat on the ground as he drove his blade forward, pressing hard against Kraven's blade.
"Not even in getting rid of Viktor?" the vampire commander replied as he twisted out of the path of the blade that the lycan leader threw.
The lycan leader did not bother to reply but his blade did come to a stop before touching Kraven's neck.
"Speak! For my patience grows thin!" Lucian growled.
"To save time, I will be as forthright with you as I can. Your forces need a period of peace to replenish your fallen bethren. Unfortunately, there can never be peace while Viktor lives. Facing Viktor in a direct fight is suicide as neither of us is a match for Viktor in hand to hand combat. Our best chance of taking Viktor out lies in the time he enters the crypt to rest. The thing is, Viktor will never rest until you are dead. Should Viktor think that you are dead, however, he might be persuaded to rest earlier than expected. The first person to kill you will be richly rewarded by him. If I were to bring back evidence of having killed you with my own hands, he would place me in charge of all the coven's affairs while he hibernates. With me in charge of the coven, I will keep the Death Dealers of your back while you build up your forces," the vampire commander explained while ignoring the blade at his neck.
"Why should I trust the words of a vampire?" Lucian snarled.
"Because you don't have a choice. The lycans are not ready for war. The Death Dealers are experienced soldiers while you are not. Many of us have spent entire decades fighting your kind. Even as we speak, the lycans are being slowly hunted into extinction. In about a century or two, your kind will cease to exist. As a gesture of good will, I offer to you a vampire who will be travelling alone by herself."
"A woman? Are you telling me that you, Viktor's mighty second-in-command can't even take care of one woman? How the high and mighty hath fallen. Besides, I fail to see how the death of one vampire will make a difference in this war," the lycan leader sneered.
Kraven bristled slightly at Lucian's mocking words before answering.
"Do not underestimate her, Lucian. Though she is not an elder, even Viktor is wary of her. Furthermore, she is close to both Marcus and Amelia. And thus, the only other vampire capable of challenging my command."
'For that remark, your death will not be a quick one, Lucian. The time will come when I will have no further use for you … and then … '
"And you think of using my kind to get rid of someone you that you can't deal with, yourself? What do you take me for, Kraven? A fool?" the lycan leader mocked.
"No, a smart man who recognizes a good deal when he sees one. So, do we have an agreement or not?" the vampire commander asked.
There was silence.
"Help me dispose of her and I will help keep Viktor and the other vampires off your back," Kraven offered.
Lucian simply narrowed his eyes before nodding his head slowly.
They had come out so quickly … she couldn't believe it. The lycans … from behind the trees they fell upon her, thickly like falling apples.
She had taken many of them down. But she was only one and they were many while she had suffered grievous injuries. They continued to stalk and strike at her giving her no rest whatsoever. Or time to recover for that matter …
It was like they had known where she was going … How had they known anyway? Did anyone reveal her whereabouts …
Damora winced in pain as another crossbow bolt slammed into her back. The crossbow bolts would not kill her but they hurt like hell and would slow her down, giving more time to the lycan tracking parties to hunt her down.
D*! Damora cursed. It was nearly dawn already! And the first beams of sunlight were about to break over the horizon.
Then a sight caught her eyes. A large manor up ahead. Two miles … she thought. Dawn was breaking … could she make it before the sun rose?
Damora gritted her teeth. She would make it. If she was going to die, she would die in a place where she would take as many of her assailants with her to the grave as she could. With a final burst of energy … she threw all her remaining strength into her legs in a mad dash towards the manor.
At the manor …
"Drink … ," the man told her as he offered her his wrist.
Damora did not argue. She drank the man's blood greedily until the man told her to stop. Reluctantly, she ceased her actions and withdrew back into her chair.
"Thank you. You saved my life," she said when she was finally able to speak.
"Now … tell me about yourself," the man replied.
Calmly, Damora sat down and began to relate her life story and quest to the man in front of her.
The man listened … in his chair impassively until she finally reached the end of her story with these words, "The only clue that I have regarding my past is this strange metal staff. My husband told me that he found it in the forest the same night he found me," she took it out of her wrapped bundle and showed the metallic staff to the man who studied it carefully before returning it back to her.
"There is an old temple five hundred miles east from this place. I have heard many tales regarding the caretakers of the temple who are rumoured to possess strange abilities such as moving objects with the power of their minds alone and turning themselves invisible to all forms of sight. Go to them. They might be able to assist you in regaining your lost memories," the man suggested.
"Thank you, my lord. You have my utmost gratitude. Perhaps one day, I may be able to repay this kindness that you have shown me," Damora spoke before leaving his presence.
“And that was how I came to meet Marcus’s father for the first time. At his safe house.”