February 18 at 11:00 PM
Photo courtesy of anna076
The first blood of night had been spilt, and by humble hands.
"Though I am not predisposed to superstition, this cannot be a good sign," Lawson whispered to Laurent as they left town. "I think we might have used him."
"A rotten limb can spell death to the host," said Laurent. "I will not mourn our loss."
"Such rot is better left on her doorstep, not ours," Lawson replied.
The party followed Main Street until bricks gave way to dirt and weeds. Several scouts sprinted ahead, scaling the foothills in the blink of an eye, and disappearing over the crest.
"Perhaps it would be wise to bring a horse," said Lawson.
"Father detests horses; he always winds up on his backside. Even as I came to his aid, mine was no less forgiving, tossing him into the sea as we circled port. To avoid our steeds from embellishing the dinner table, I suggest we entertain my father's contemptuous manner."
Lawson scanned over the men, noticing the light load. "We should at least bring torches."
"We travel by moonlight; your eyes will adjust."
"Though Enura is not susceptible to fire, it is still our most useful tool."
"By moonlight," he reiterated, and fell silent.
The path rose and fell abruptly, twisting and narrowing until it teased into a small crown of trees above. Tides slammed against the rocky shelf, dousing Lawson and his sentry as they climbed. The hunter wiped his glasses, and scratched his moustache. There was no repeating crossbow at the ready, no slip daggers or poison darts to wield. Hope lie in the shadows around him, carrying little more than scowls.
Killing was their most intimate art; they preferred engaging their adversary with fangs and fists rather than picking them apart from a distance. Thus, damage was certain, and reliance upon quick healing and diminished sensitivity to pain often proved reckless.
Lawson glanced over his shoulder as they reached the peak. Fields of fireflies lie below: candles in every window, eyes out every door. No one dared sleep that night; the hunter's presence alone provided ample theatre. Vangley swatted away spectators setting down their blankets and picnic baskets. Several more eyed him from the forest, and could not be coaxed out when the old man demanded their exit.
Gazing at the cargo ship moored off the coast, Lawson cursed himself for the foolish predicament he now faced. He entered the stage unarmed, with little knowledge of his surroundings, with a band of bullheaded murderers led by boys, not men. Although vampires made the worst of soldiers, Laurent did offer hope.
Atop, the swirling winds pounded the highlands, shaking a bevy of trees before them, and casting dirt and leaves in their eyes. Brambles at the forest's edge curled open on their own accord. When Farron and Alain hesitated, Lord Vangley pushed them aside, and stepped in.
Though half-moon, little penetrated the forest. Lawson stumbled through the trees, and tripped over an exposed root. The elder hissed at the hunter, and brought a finger to his lips. As they made their way, shafts of moonlight speared through the canopy, illuminating the shape before them. The old man jumped back, and crumbled to the floor. Statues of two lions towered over him, heads and claws slashing out in opposite directions.