Chapter 6

Part 21

Morning came as the small band left to head on to the mountains of eternal night. “The mountains are another two days journey from here. We’ll approach the forest by nightfall, but I strongly suggest you wait until daybreak to enter it. Even then I’m not sure how safe you’ll be.” Peck said. “Isn’t there some other way to reach these mountains?” Raven asked. “Yes, if you want to spend a month searching for them.” Peck answered. “Then I guess we will take our chances with the dead. When we reach the forest, Cinda you are to stay on top of Demon Hunter. If something happens, you ride him out of that place as fast as you can.” The group rode until nightfall. And sure enough, they came upon the forest Peck spoke of. The trees had no leaves, and the grass was dried and dead. Everything in it looked or smelled of death. “We’ll camp here. I don’t think being close to the woods here will do us any harm. We’ll go through at sunrise.” Raven said. “I don’t like this place. Even to be near it feels creepy. The whole place reeks of the dead.” Cinda said fearfully. “I know. But it is the only route there is if we want to reach the mountains.” Raven replied. “Why are these mountains so important?” Cinda asked. “There is a sword I must find. It is said to be the only sword that can destroy Drake. And I am the only one who can procure it.” Raven went with Darshon to hunt for something to feed upon. He found a rabbit and quickly killed it. He drained the blood into a bowl and drank it. Then he found a small squirrel and did the same to it. He noticed Cinda looked somewhat weak and so he took the blood to her. But thought it better that the animal was killed out of her sight so she would not feel so terrible about having to feed. She slowly drank the substance. But even if she did not see the kill, she still felt awful. She knew the poor animal had given up its life to feed her hunger. Afterwards, she fell asleep. Raven watched her for awhile. He had known her only a few days, but in those few days he found himself growing closer and closer to her. The only other person in the world he had ever known like himself was Blade. But Blade was evil. Raven felt no true connection to him. The only feelings Raven felt for Blade were hate and vengeance. But now Cinda had come into his life, and she was just like him. She had a respect for life that matched his, and she too felt terrible about having to kill anything to survive. She was someone he could relate to; someone who could learn from him, and dare he think it, someone he could love.

It wasn’t long before Raven found himself growing tired and soon fell asleep. Sometime through the night, Cinda got up and walked over to Raven. She lay down beside him and went back to sleep. Feeling something nudging his shoulder, Raven opened his eyes to find Cinda snuggled up to him. It was a feeling that both touched and frightened him. Was she falling in love with him? And if she was, could he return that love? He watched her as she slept. He put his arm around her feeling her shiver from the cold night air. Then he went back to sleep.

Part 22

The sun rose as the sleepy band began to wake up. Raven looked toward the woods that held so much danger, according to Peck. Cinda mounted Demon Hunter while Raven walked beside them. Darshon followed in the shade of the dark trees that kept out the sun. They walked through the woods cautiously looking all around them for signs of danger. Cinda hugged Demon Hunter’s neck to keep calm. It seemed as if all was well. They were several feet into the woods. So far, there had been no sign of trouble. Darshon walked close to Raven. Almost halfway though the woods, Demon Hunter began to toss his head and stamp his hooves. “Raven, something’s wrong with Demon Hunter.” Cinda said fearfully. “I know. Something isn’t right. I can sense the presence of evil here. Let’s get out of this place as quickly as possible.” Raven replied as he urged Demon Hunter to speed up. But before Raven could take another step, a bony hand shot out of the ground and grabbed Raven’s ankle. Two more hands shot out and grabbed Demon Hunter’s back hooves. “Raven!” Cinda screamed. “Hang on!” Raven shouted and withdrew his sword. He swung at the hand restraining his leg, severing it from the ground. He shook the severed limb from his ankle and ran toward Demon Hunter. He quickly mounted the horse with Cinda straddled in front of him. He swung his blade at the decaying corpses that rose from the ground. Anything that came at him or Cinda lost its head, or any other extremity Raven could hack off. “Go Demon Hunter!” Raven yelled and urged the horse into full gallop. Peck did what he could by knocking off skulls and pecking out those bodies that still had eyes. Darshon ran far ahead, but was caught by a bloody skeleton. Raven hissed as he raised his sword and cut the head off. Darshon ripped free and jumped into Cinda’s lap. Like lightening, the small band made for the light that shown up ahead. “Hang on!” Raven shouted and slapped his legs against Demon Hunter’s flanks. The rising army of the dead reached out with bloody, bony fingers trying to pull Raven and Cinda off of Demon Hunter. But the mighty stallion ran so fast that hands and arms were ripped from the bodies. Raven’s steed ran until they finally escaped the forest of the damned.

As soon as they were out of danger, Raven brought his steed slowly to a stop. The horse was several feet away from the terrible place. “Here. Cover Darshon with this. It will keep the sun off of him.” Raven said handing Cinda a blanket. “Now that we are out of that horrible place, we can proceed to the mountains.” Peck said. “We can proceed for as long as there is daylight. Come nightfall, we make camp and rest for the night. After the experience we just went through, I think we could all stand for one calm night.” Raven said.

Part 23

Cinda’s mother sat in her room looking at a necklace Cinda had bought for her a few years ago. She thought of her daughter and worried, wondering if she was all right. But she remembered Raven giving his word that no harm would come to her. She heard sounds coming from below her room. She walked downstairs to find five men standing in the doorway. Though she did not know it, she looked upon Blade and some of his minions. “Are looking for some company loves?” She asked. “Yes. I have heard there are fine young women to be found in this house.” Blade answered coldly. “Girls. Come and show these young men to their rooms.” She said. “Yes mistress.”

Blade followed one girl into one room, while the other four followed their women into four other rooms. “Your skin is so cold love. The night air must have quite a chill to it.” Said a young woman undressing her date. “I’m sure you could take away that coldness with that warm body.” He replied seductively. “Have you been sick? Your face, it looks so pale.” She said. The man lifted his head to reveal a pair of glittering white fangs. His eyes were red as he grabbed the girl by the neck. “Don’t worry my dear. You won’t suffer, much.” Laughed the vampire as he sank his fangs into her neck. He forced his hand over her mouth so she couldn’t scream. Within moments, she was unconscious, and then she was dead. Not long after, the other three vampires had done the same thing as their comrade. And Blade soon followed them out the door. One of the girls who had just finished with her date looked in on her friends. She screamed in horror to find one of the unfortunate girls dead on the floor. “Mistress! Mistress!” She cried. “What happened? What have they done? What have they done to my girls?” The mistress sobbed. One girl looked at the body. “Look at her neck. Vampires, they did this. Those men who came in here were vampires.” She said. “They must be the ones Raven is hunting down. I hope he finds the bastards. They just killed four of my girls.”

Cinda sat by the fire watching the moon sail slowly across the sky. She looked away for a moment and then watched the fire. She suddenly jerked up as a feeling of overwhelming terror raced through her. “Cinda, are you all right?” Ravens asked seeing her behave strangely. “I don’t know. I was fine one moment. Then I felt such terror, as if I could hear voices screaming as they met their deaths.” She answered shaken. “Perhaps you are having premonitions of the future. It could be because of your vampire blood. You cannot sense vampires as I can, but perhaps you sense the future to make up for it.” Raven explained. “All I know is there was death, horrible and agonizing death.” Cinda replied. “You say there were several girls?” Drake asked. “Yes. We found several at a whorehouse not too far from here. Some walk the streets, while others stay in the brothel. But they are indeed young and full of energy. There was an older woman there, the mistress, she too would make a fitting kill for you father.” Blade said coldly. “Then take me to where the sluts live. It has been sometime since I have dined merely for pleasure. I have not truly enjoyed a kill for ages. But it would not be wise to feed upon them at their own house. Four is not very significant, but the whole house would raise quite an eyebrow. It would be better to lure them away, preferably where the bodies would not be found so easily.”

“How do we get them to leave their safe haven? The mistress will no doubt have made the connection that I and my men fed upon her whores.” Blade inquired. “My son, by the time I get done with them, it won’t matter. I can be very persuasive. She has never seen me. What she does not know will aid me in luring her and her little sex kittens away from their home. I will bring them here. Then, we shall feast.” Drake said as he mounted his steed and rode off toward the village where Cinda’s mother lived.

In the late hours of the night, Raven, unable to sleep got up and walked a few feet from the camp. He looked at Cinda as she slept and wondered about what she had said earlier that evening. What did the future speak of to her? Why did it speak of only death? Now that she knew what she was, there were so many hidden powers that now came to light. Raven looked up at the moon and then walked back to the camp and tried once more to sleep. As morning came, Raven and Cinda prepared to journey ahead to the perilous mountains that held the only known weapon that could destroy Drake. Cinda rode atop Demon Hunter while Raven led him. Darshon sat sprawled across the horse’s flank covered with a blanket. Peck flew ahead keeping an eye out for any trouble. Half the day passed when the small band of travelers approached the huge mountains of darkness. They truly lived up to their name. It seemed the day ended at their location and only starless night prevailed. “The mountains of eternal night,” said Peck. “They are as foreboding as they look. The sword of the angel Micheal lies within those mountains. There are two tests you must face in order to obtain the sword.”

“I did not hear you make mention of a second trial. I only heard you say there was one test, and that was the mirror of truth.” Raven said skeptically. “Oh yes, I guess I forgot to mention that second test.” Peck said with a quiver in his throat. “And what might that second test be?” Raven asked. “Oh, I wouldn’t worry about it. You would pass it easily I’m sure.” Peck replied becoming noticeably more nervous. “Out with it bird brain.” Raven growled. Cinda, up to this point, ignored the conversation between Peck and Raven. Though she did not make it known, she could hear Peck as Raven could and understand him as plainly as a human. She simply did not pay any attention to their occasional spats. “Well, the second test is, um, well, it’s a,” Peck stuttered. “A what?” Raven asked sternly. “A dragon.” Peck said in a choked whisper. “WHAT?” Raven shouted. His angry shout jilted Cinda from her calm chain of thought. “Now Raven, it isn’t as bad as it sou,”

“What do you mean a DRAGON!?” Raven shouted and grabbed Peck by his beak. The frightened bird flapped as Raven proceeded to shake the breath out of him. “Do you mean to tell me you dragged me out here to face a dragon! I’ve already faced being killed twice, not to mention, her safety is in my hands, and you want me to face a dragon!” Raven snapped. “I said face the dragon not fight him!” Peck choked. “How do I face a monster without fighting him?”

“He must look upon your chest and see that you are chosen to fight Drake. Only his fire can melt the stone wherein the sword is encased. The mirror is the only true test you must pass.” Peck gasped trying to catch his breath. “You had better be telling the truth.” Raven snarled. “Is everything all right now?” Cinda asked calming her nerves. “I don’t know.” Raven growled. “I told him about the second test. It is not the dragon he has to fear. The dragon is merely the releaser of the sword. It is the mirror that will be Raven’s hardest test.”

“Why? What’s so special about this mirror?” Cinda asked. “He cannot merely look at the mirror, but he must walk through it. At the mirror, Raven will face what he fears most, his true self. He has always tried to hide the beast that lies within him hoping never to accept the truth of what he is. But if he cannot accept that truth and tries to walk through the mirror, the glass will cut him to ribbons. That is what he must focus upon more than the dragon.” Peck explained. “And what about this sword that Raven has to find? It must be very important to have such a dangerous barrier guarding it.” Cinda asked. “The sword is the only known weapon that can destroy Drake.”

Chapter 7