The full moon cast shadows across the forest as the figure perched delicately upon a tree branch. An evil grin of delight playing lightly across his face, in another time his fragile features would have been described as elf-like. His long black hair swirled about his head as the light breeze rustled the last of autumn's leaves from the branches. His attire was regal beyond need for a hunting endeavor such as this. But Vlad always felt that it was important to dress up when he was dining out, as he planned on tonight. His nearly translucent skin reflected the light from the moon, making him appear almost like an apparition wrapped in a heavy black cloak, and supple high blackened leather boots.
Vlad watched as the couple walked down the path, locked arm in arm. The woman's long auburn hair was tied loosely at the base of her neck with a leather thong and carried a sweet scent to his nostrils, as she giggled and placed her head upon her companion's shoulder. Vlad could smell the man's hormones from where he sat; he was sickened by the pungent aroma that assaulted his nostrils. He could tell that the man had one thing on his mind and one thing alone. Pity, thought Vlad. He will be sorely disappointed this evening, in more than one way.
The couple continued their late night stroll unaware of the lurking observer, whispering sweet nothings into each other's ears, their likes and dislikes, their dreams of tomorrow, together and separate. How they longed to break free from their parents to make their own ways in the world. Soon the small town they had been visiting was beginning to come into sight, and Vlad, who had been taking his time moving from tree to tree as silent as the air, knew that he would soon have to make his move upon the couple or go hungry this night.
Moving quickly and lightly ahead of the couple, staying just out of their line of sight, Vlad took up a position on a thick tree branch, he stopped and slowed his breathing and pulse. His deeply crimson eyes began to glow faintly as he entered into a trance. Hardly aware of his immediate surroundings, his legs absorbed the swaying motion from the wind moving through the branches. He began to reach out mentally to the surrounding area, seeking a beast to aide him in his hunt. His breathing and pulse continued to slow as he reached out further and further looking for one of the nocturnal predators of the area, at last finding one; he began to mentally seduce the den mother who was busy nursing her pups with the promise of fresh meat for her and her offspring.
The sudden blood-curdling cry of the she-wolf caused the couple to stop dead in their tracks. The young girl looked up at her hero. Her eyes were so wide that the whites around her deep brown eyes could clearly be scene. Vlad's thin blood-red lips smirked as he smelt the distinct aroma of fear wafting on the air. He could hear both of their pulses quickening in their throats. He had to fight the urge that stirred deep within his loins as his hunger was more in need of being sated at this time.
The man was looking about frantically, seeking out anything that could be used for defense but unable to find more than simple twigs; he decided to meet his fate with his ample bare hands. In the distance the wolf's foot falls could be heard disturbing the fallen leaves as she hurried towards her prey. The man glimpsed the brief movement of her eyes as she locked onto her targets for a fleeting moment, before veering off to avoid a cluster of trees that blocked her way. This caused the man to turn and break the hold that the girl had about his arm. Intending to turn and take the beast full on, he was suddenly slammed into violently from somewhere above and lifted off into the darkness of the night as a mass of clouds blocked out the moon.
Leaving the young girl screaming and maniac with fear as her only line of tangible defense had suddenly been snatched away from her, Sonja spun this way and that attempting to find the man that she loved. Fear wreaked havoc upon her mind, not knowing where he had disappeared to; suddenly feeling completely alone she tried to gather her senses to make some sense of the situation. From the corner of her eye she caught a fleeting glimpse of something white and grey. She spun to get a better look at it and it was gone.
A dense mist had suddenly begun to roll in from the hill side forests, causing her to shiver. She didn't know whether it was from fright or the moisture suddenly in the air. There was another cry from the she-wolf not so far away now. Sonja spun quickly in the direction of the sound, trying desperately to find where the sound was coming from.
Vlad's lips came away from the throat of his victim with a loud suction sound as they were both perched high upon a tree overlooking Sonja below. Blood trickled down the man's neck, two needle like marks the only indication of a wound. Color rose to Vlad's cheeks as the victim's warm blood began to course throughout his body. A smile played across his lips as he felt invigorated from the fluid. Having drained all the life force from the male, Vlad simply let the body fall to the ground. The waiting she-wolf quickly latched upon it and began to sate her appetite. Vlad sprung to another tree closer to where Sonja was all but in the fetal position on the ground. Crying out for her man, for any of the villagers to come running to her aid, but knowing beyond a shadow of doubt that none would come for her. She couldn't even see the lights of the village now because of the thickness of the fog.
Her dreams had been simple as a child. Grow up, attend a university in the city, and meet a prince to sweep her off her feet, marry and have a large brood of children. She didn't want to be a queen or overthrow anyone. She had no evil ambitions at all in her life. She had only wanted the simple things, and yet here she was yet again being thwarted when her the reality of her dreams were within her grasp. She had no deep-seated desire like so many of her friends at the university to rule the world, to hold outlandish parties -- all she wanted was a man to love her and protect from times like these. She attempted to pull the lace that was daintily draped across her breast as high as possible in an attempt to keep in as much warmth as conceivable.
Sonja was hysterical by the time that the gentleman came striding confidently but lightly out of the fog in her direction, her white dress a mess of mud, twigs, leaves and tear stains. She was hardly able to speak a coherent sentence as the man approached her. Dismay played across her face as he hurried to her side attempting to calm the young woman. He quickly pulled the full length jacket from his shoulders and wrapped the waif of a girl in it, attempting to make soothing sounds as he did so. Her eyes the size of saucers as she peered this way and that seeking out something, but finding nothing other than that the fog had begun to lift, seeing that they were only a few yards away from the closest of the meager huts that had made up the village where she and her potential mate had planned to vacation for the next week while away from school.
Sonja wasn't sure what had happened after Victor had unexpectedly disappeared. The mist continued to grow thicker and thicker causing her sense of reality to become warped. Sonja wept heavily, not knowing what was to become of her now that all her dreams were dashed and not knowing which way to turn to get to the village. She dared not move for fear of leaving the small trail that acted as a road for the village. She feared that the wolf would return at any moment to finish satisfying its hunger upon her. As the time continued to tick away around her, she lost all sense of meaning; she began to be filled with a terror that she had never known in her brief life as her panic induced in her a sense of madness that she feared she would never return from.
The slender man smelled vaguely like her now lost love; his long black hair seemed to offer a touch of warmth where it touched her exposed flesh. His features were so delicate that he could almost pass as a large girl or small adolescent male. His silken shirt seemed to have been freshly laundered, though he did not appear to be from the village. He lifted her up with amazing ease to her feet and continued to speak softly to her in soothing sounds. She had somehow wrenched her ankle in all her terror and was forced to lean heavily upon her savior.
"There, there now my child," the man said almost in a whisper that she felt more than she heard. "Calm thyself lest ye give yourself to some fever-induced madness."
There was something reassuring about his manner that allowed Sonja to catch her breath. She found herself immediately calming down, and only wanting to sleep. She literally ached to rest. Her emotions were further buoyed by the fact that with each painful step that they were drawing closer to the village and her room at the inn. The gentleman produced a handkerchief and the maiden dabbed at her eyes and wiped her nose before returning the item to Vlad.
"There we go, my child, see, we aren't that far from home now are we?" Vlad was asking almost in a father-like tone of voice, though he appeared to be at most a year or two older than Sonja.
Sonja smiled up at him meekly, wiping at the tears in her eyes with the back of her hand, and nodded up at him. He returned her smile as he continued to help her hobble along the path that was beginning to widen out in front of them.
"Now, my child, whatever were you doing out there all by yourself on such a night as this?" Vlad harmlessly asked.
"I ..." Sonja started and suddenly could not remember why she had been on the road outside the village. "I can not for the life of me recall, my lord." She stated rather exhaustedly.
"Well then, my child, can you direct me to your home so that I may make certain that no evil shall befall you, other than your twisted ankle that is." Vlad smiled down at her warmly.
"Yes sir, I am staying at the inn at the end of the town." She replied.
They continued along the road to the inn, mixing in small talk between her winces of pain. Vlad continued to support her weight and she continued to allow her emotional guard down. Though they were drawing closer and Sonja thought that she should feel a bit more energized to be drawing nearer to the conclusion of this strange night, she seemed to feel more tired with each passing painful step. At last they reached the 'The Smiling Phoenix Inn.' Vlad stopped short of the door, confusing Sonja. Through the door they could both tell that there were several patrons still milling about, neither reached for the door latch.
"Well, my dear child, I believe this is where I must say farewell," Vlad finally stated, breaking the uncomfortable silence between them.
"Oh, kind sir, I know that I can not truly thank you enough for your troubles. But please see me up to my room as I do not know anyone else in this area and would not like to burden a complete stranger this late in the eve," Sonja asked, not wanting to see the stranger walk away just yet.
Suddenly the door to the inn was pulled harshly open. A very short and very round woman with disheveled hair peered out into the street as if looking for Sonja. Seeing the two of them on the threshold she let out a short cry, which in turn caused Sonja to snap her head around to gaze at the woman, wondering what was wrong. Assuming that it was a reaction to seeing them both there on the front stoop, Sonja didn't think anything of the cry from the elderly woman.
"My sweet child, we were beginning to worry about you, where have you been?" The older woman almost stuttered to get the question out, looking between the girl and the well-dressed man that was with her now.
"Well, my young lady, I am certain that this fine lady will be more than happy to see you to your room." Vlad offered before Sonja could reply to the question, thus leaving both women speechless for a moment. Sonja suddenly felt as lost as she was outside the village and didn't want Vlad to leave just yet.
"Yes, my dear, come let's get you out of that damp dress before you catch your death," the inn keeper suddenly offered.
"Surely you could see me to my room, kind sir?" Sonja asked as the woman attempted to pull her into the inn.
"No!" The elderly woman exclaimed suddenly causing Sonja to once again snap her head in the direction of the woman. "There be no need to impose on this kind sir at this late hour," the woman hastily offered as an excuse to the questioning look she was receiving from Sonja. Vlad's eyes raged at the woman, a crimson glow exuding from them.
"Certainly, there be no harm in this kind man seeing me to my room, miss," Sonja pleaded with the elder woman.
Knowing that she had lost, the woman bowed her head and secretly made a sacred sign of protection upon herself. She begrudgingly stepped away from the door, slowly allowing it to fall open widely for them both to enter the inn.
"Well if the young lady is insistent, who am I to refuse?" Vlad asked in almost a mocking tone. The elder woman hung her head in defeat as both welcome and unwelcomed visitor entered into the lobby. The door was suddenly slammed closed as if by a gust of supernatural wind. In the distance the she-wolf continued to fill herself with the tainted meat of Sonja's former boyfriend. Nothing seemed amiss at first, but as she gorged herself there was something affecting her, tainting her with its poison.
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