Chapter Eight

The air was cool, cleaner than it was the night before now that the scent of burnt flesh has moved away on the wind. As we reached the fringe of woods, I loosely tied Knight's rein to the branch of a small sapling tree. If we ran into anything dangerous, he would not be able to maneuver within the crop of trees and would end up as a meal. Knight was a strong, noble animal, but even he could not defend himself in a place with so little room for moving his large body.

I kept my guard up as we continued on through the thick grove. My sword was strapped to the side of my heavily armed belt and my crossbow was in my hand, poised and ready to be used in a split second should it be required. Luckily enough, the new bandages over my wounds seemed to be holding strong. Of course, if we did get attacked, I doubt I could keep them from reopening. I was sure the vampire knew this and was in the same predicament. His injuries were healing quicker than my own, but not by much without the assistance of another's life's blood.

We reached the site of our encounter with the werewolves and the condition of the battle ground sparked my nerves to attention. Body braced, crossbow at the ready, I set my body into a crouch and slowly moved about, being sure to keep a firm stance.

My jaw was clenched tight in anticipation. "Were are they?" I thought to myself.

The words must have been spoken aloud because the vampire replied in confusion. "Where are who? What are you talking about?" the vampire questioned as he overlooked the most obvious.

My teeth ground together, my jaw tight enough that it felt as though it would crack. "The bodies," I told him. "There should be eleven bodies, totalled. The eight wolves and the three victims. None are here." I checked my weapons to make sure they were ready and accessible, my free hand feeling about my belt in reassurance that I was fully armed. I looked around as the vampire finally realized that the whole area was clear of all bodies, parts, and scents.

The vampire scanned the area, brows furrowed in confusion. "Maybe the rest of the pack found them and took them back?" he suggested.

"If that is so, how far away do you think they are?" I asked sardonically, shaking my head at his naivete. And how pissed off do you think they are, I asked myself.

Despite there not being a full moon, werewolves are still very dangerous and will kill on instinct. Rage of their fallen comrades will only add fuel to their fire, sort to speak. But it was not entirely the thought of their fury that set the hairs on the back of my neck on edge. The fact that there were no scents, no lingering odors of perforated intestine or any so much meat, warranted alarm. Werewolves leave their scents as warnings, they do not cover them up. Something odd was at play here.

As the vampire searched for any signs of a trail, I looked around, trusting the truth only my eyes would bring me. If there were any of the werewolves nearby who knew we were here they would be watching us, waiting for an opportune moment to strike. I did not trust the vampire to give warnings of a danger. We had promised not to kill each other. We did not promise not to leave someone or something else to kill the other.

The breeze over the top of the forest was a distant sound. Everything within the wooded land was silent. Until I heard movement in the trees. Something that did not sound like a simple bird rustling its feathers or a pair of squirrels tromping about. As I followed the sound I soon lost sight of the vampire. I heard the movement again and all thoughts of the vampire ceased, my attention riveted to the sound above. I stood as still as I could and held my breath, focusing my senses in its direction, blocking everything from mind but that sound. After I pinned down the area where the sound was coming from, I quickly aimed my crossbow and pulled the trigger. I heard a cry of pain from the form and I watched as my target fell to the ground.

Suddenly, and without warning, a hand grabbed me from behind and slammed me back against a tree. I had not heard a second being. A sharp, immediate pain and my major wound, the largest gash across my side and belly, reopened. To make matters worse, I dropped my crossbow and my target was getting back up. I only hit it in the arm; not a fatal wound.

As the one who had grabbed me tried to take a swing, I dodged the strong blow-just barely. Unfortunately, the attacker was too fast and I could not earn a second to pull out my sword from my side. Then I had both of them after me, both quick and skilled in fighting.

My assumption that the vampire would decide to leave me to whatever was still in these woods seemed to be proving correct. Then again, I did not have time to look for the bastard. I knew that the ones attacking me were not human but the quick-pace fighting made it difficult for me to get a decent look at them. Judging by their strength and speed, the lean, lithe build of their bodies, they must have been vampires at the very least. Werewolves tend to look as though they lifted weights for a living.

As we dodged each other's attacks, we remained neutral, neither gaining ground nor losing it. That was, until one of the creatures managed to grab my crossbow from the ground and fire at me. I was able to dodge it enough to keep the arrow from piercing any vital organs, but it still hit me in the left shoulder. It was not a through and through. I could feel the tip pushing at the skin at the back of my shoulder, nearly penetrating it but not. Even gritting my teeth, I could not keep from crying out in pain. I personally designed those arrows to tear into the flesh of my target and not be able to be taken out easily; most of the arrow's body is ridged like barbs. They were jagged and had thin hooked tips. An inspiration I had from helping to remove porcupine spears from a too curious dog's snout. It caused more damage if you pulled it out backwards.

I looked up to see the creature aiming the crossbow again, and as it pulled the trigger, the one thing I did not expect in a million years to happen, did: My crossbow jammed.

Sighing silently in relief and thanking all that was holy, I reached for my sword. Breathing heavily, I prepared to draw it as the two creatures came at me. They got within striking distance but before I could pull it out, a figure jumped in front of me, causing the two creatures to stop in their tracks. The figure in front of me was the English vampire. I was surprised he did not let them kill me.

"Now is that any way to treat the one who helped your brother?" he said to the other two pleasantly. So they were vampires.

"Ethan!" one of the vampires excitedly shouted out. They walked up and gave that barbaric hug that was more fist-pounding on the back than an actual embrace. So they were the friends whom the vampire was speaking of when we first crossed paths.

I stood up and rolled my eyes at the whole situation, preparing to leave.

"So this girl saved you?" the wounded one asked, said more like a jibe to the other vampire. He panted to regain the breath he lost from the fight.

He cleared his throat. "Yes, actually," the English vampire told them with a bit of an astonished chuckle.

"Exactly how can a girl that young fight like that?" the other one asked as he regained his breathing rhythm. I could hear the Irish accent in both the new vampires' words.

My eyes narrowed at the assumption that a girl could not defend herself. "I trained," I answered before the English vampire could. As I briefly spoke, I walked over and picked up my discarded crossbow. The one that shot me with it had thrown it down after it had jammed. As I began to walk away a sudden wave of lightness washed over me and I dropped to my knee, barely bracing for the jarring impact. "Damn it!" I softly scolded myself. I was bleeding worse than ever and the pain was almost unbearable. Numb on the surface but intense in my muscles.

This got their attentions and the vampires ran up to me. "Are you okay?" the English one asked, kneeling at my side.

As I covered my opened wound with my left hand, I held my breath and pushed the arrow in my shoulder all the way through with my right hand. I let out the air I was holding and breathed roughly as I tried to endure the pain. Moving my wounded shoulder down so I could reach behind with my other hand was excruciating on both injuries. It took me a moment before I could climb to my feet and lean against a tree, my breaths whistling through my gritted teeth.

I removed my coat. My already-bloodstained shirt was becoming redder with time, nearly black in the shadows of the night. I tried hard to fight back the darkness, nausia rolling over me, but it was too difficult. I tried to keep myself up but I was fading fast and my muscles were too overworked. The loss of blood, soo much in such a short time, was too overwhelming. Soon, I felt myself falling. I could not brace myself for the impact and could only expect it, but for some unknown reason, the ground never came. Perhaps I was more numb than I realised. I felt a chill run through my body at whatever pressure was around me before I passed out.