The cool night air whipped past Danny's face as she stood on the ledge of the roof of the Haunter warehouse. It had been three days since her encounter with Jose, and already Danny had settled into a routine in the compound. She memorized every inch of the place, training whenever she could. She was given a patrol area from ten in the morning till five in the afternoon. She would shower, feed from a blood bag, then get on with her training.
She honed her skills, sparring with other Haunters in hand-to-hand, then with knives. She even tried out a sword or two. Every time she trained, she improved immensely. But she knew that the skill Savage would have must be infinite. She saw him training just as much as she did. Him and Nathaniel both. They would take turns throwing dummies at one another for target practice. Savage, pulling blades from every nook and cranny of his clothes and body, was a blur with blades sailing end-over-end straight into each and every targets' head. Nathaniel simply used his fists to send every dummy sailing away, and his speed to move on to the next target.
Danny figured out that her technique was closer to Savage's but not to his extent. She was up to about seven blades hidden in her jacket, on her belt, her thighs, her boots, and a sword to her back at times. She knew that Savage had many more then her, but most were throwing knives, which Danny was thinking if adding to her arsenal once she learned to do it properly. She also knew that there was no way she would need as many knives as she had on her, but she thought one day she would need the back ups. And with them all over her body, there was always a blade within quick-draw reach.
Danny snapped out of her revere and looked over the dying lights of Los Angeles as dawn began to break, and knew she would have to leave in five minutes. The daylight felt warming to her skin as she closed her eyes and took a deep breath. She turned and walked back into the catwalks of the warehouse.
They were a good four to five stories up, slightly rusting from neglect. But that's four to five stories away from curious Haunters, whom Danny didn't feel comfortable being around. Danny's boots clanged slightly against the catwalk's walkway as she made her way to her hammock. Hanging directly over the floor below, her hammock had beams on either side. On those beams, she'd strapped a dresser to one, and laid her spare blades on it. It was an impressive place to sleep, Danny knew, and she thanked God that she had gotten over her fear of heights a day or two before she Turned.
Danny got on to her hammock and closed her eyes. She breathed softly and quietly. Today was her evaluation day by Savage. She knew she was as ready as she would ever be, but she didn't feel ready. She saw the skills Savage had, how brutal and precise he was in combat. She found herself comparing herself to Savage and only felt weak. If her evaluation was sparring with Savage, then she was screwed.
Chatter from the lion's den of a warehouse came up to Danny's ears, and she decided to just relax and listen to it to take her mind off of her worries.
"Shadow's evaluation is today," A Haunter whispered.
"I can't wait to see how she'll do," Said another.
"I have to patrol again tonight," grumbled a girl.
"So? You slacked last month," Replied an annoyed Haunter.
Many other useless conversations continued on as Danny looked down and read a Haunter's watch from her hammock. She had an hour. She got up and checked her seven blades. Satisfied, Danny vaulted over the guardrail and plummeted down to the floor. Landing perfectly, with the silence of shadows, Danny rose and turned to exit the warehouse. Whispers of awe and jealousy spread like wild fire the instant after she turned from the crowd.
Danny slipped into the tunnels and into the catacombs under the warehouse to truly escape the noise of her new home. She walked for hours, it seemed, through the winding maze that she somehow memorized. Her steps echoed through three times, her breath became mist in front of her face. She wondered what she drank or did that had warmed her body enough for her to see her breath, but then decided it wasn't really important.
A loud thud suddenly echoed through the catacombs from every direction, making it impossible for Danny to tell where it came from. Danny realized that she didn't flinch like she used to when a sudden noise reached her ears. Instead, she was semi-crouching with a blade in each hand, one a throwing knife at the ready and the other her thigh knife. She glanced down both ends of the hall she was in and waited for whoever was coming. She knew she was being jumpy, but she also knew it was better off being over-prepared then target practice. She scoffed at her situation.
Then it happened. She saw her attacker was using his exceptional vampire speed to barrel down the hallway towards her. She reacted only on instinct. She basically watched her body deal with the situation. She threw the knife from her right hand at the attacker, but it sailed uselessly an inch away from his face and into the wall. The attackers hand went for her throat. She pivoted, grabbing the wrist of her attacker and bringing her shoulder to his. She flipped him over her shoulder, using his momentum, and slammed him so hard into the ground that cracks formed beneath him. She felt her Dark Side take over when she had time to think, and welcomed it openly. Then she turned her attention to her attacker.
Unfazed, the attacker drew a blade from his jacket and sunk it into Danny's arm. But the shock was evident on his face when Danny's reaction was the most murderous glare possible. He saw her sharp fangs extend slowly, toying with him as she pinned him to the ground. Danny's eyes were the thing that really made him pale with fear, real fear. Her eyes weren't the majestic ice blue he first saw, not at all. Her eyes were an evil red, a shade lighter then blood. Hatred oozed from her gaze and paralyzed him. He tried in vain to move his other hand to grab his other knife, but it lay limply at his side. The other hand, gripping the knife that he'd sunk into her arm, gripped the hilt so tightly his knuckles lost all color.
"And who might you be?" She hissed menacingly.
"You'll find out soon enough." Was all the attacker could say before an all-too-familiar hand appeared over Danny's shoulder and clapped down.
She spun around and sunk her blade into Savage's chest out if reflex. Savage, looking confused, but then amused behind his usual menacing mask. Savage simply placed his hand on top of Danny's hand and slid the knife out of his stomach. He let go and her hand fell limply to her side as she stood in confusion before him.
"You pass part two of your evaluation, Shadow," Savage said in monotone, seeming to be unphased by the wound as it healed.
"Part two?" Danny said after a few moments of shocked silence, "What was part one?"
"I wanted to see what you do in your spare time, to see if you made good use of your time." He answered, nodding to the Haunter at Danny's feet for him to leave. He was gone in the blink of an eye.
"Wait, you watched me?" Danny felt a little conflicted about the thought of such a deadly Haunter following her for three days without her noticing at all.
"Yes," Savage replied, then he turned to head back to the base, "Come on, we have things to do."
Danny nodded and followed Savage back to the warehouse without a word. During the time it took for them to reach the base, she found herself thinking of what the next part of her evaluation would be. A worded test? A skill show? Performance tests? But those questions were answered when they met up with Nathaniel and began to head towards a car with tempered glass. They were leaving the base for a place where Nathaniel would test her. And the only thing Nathaniel cared for, Danny knew from watching him, was fighting. He was going to fight with her.
As they drove through L.A. to the desert like areas beyond the city limits, Danny was thinking about how she was ever going to impress a vampire like Nathaniel. She knew he mainly used brute force with a form of technique to make the most of his strikes, but that was all he needed to do. He never really used weapons, and was so unbelievably strong that he would probably never need them. Danny would probably just have to use that to her advantage somehow.
They suddenly pulled to the side of the road. Savage and Nathaniel got out of the car, Danny right behind them. It was night finally now. They were in an abandoned district of some distant city.
Danny, Nathaniel, and Savage walked into the abandoned district. Danny looked around, slightly nervous about fighting Nathaniel, she'd heard his reputation after all, and knew it was just the tip of the iceberg. And not to mention Savage, her mentor, is going to be watching the entire time.
"Well, we're here." Nathaniel said as he suddenly stopped in the middle of a field, Danny halted as he popped his neck, knuckles and started stretching. "So what weapons are you going to use?"
Danny looked at her trusty boot knife and unsheathed it, "I think this'll do."
"We'll begin whenever you're ready. Well, let's see if this itty-bitty Shadow can actually give me a challenge." He finishes with a smile.
Danny mood changed as she let her Dark Side take over and launched at Nathaniel. She stabbed deep into his heart, but he wasn't even fazed as he smacked her away. She went flying, and back-flipped before she landed. She skidded backwards as Nathaniel pulled out his knife. Danny knew Nathaniel wasn't known for throwing knives, or if he even had any skill with it at all. She ran at him with her vampire speed, readying her blade for his blow. Danny was shocked as he chucked it at her, the handle striking her in her sternum, shattering it and making her do a back flip again. But this time she landed on her stomach, groaning in pain but instantly forgetting it. Danny looked up just in time for Nathaniel's boot to kick her in the chin, sending her flying through a building, which then crumbled on top of her, burying the young vampire in rubble.
"You sure she's a prodigy? She's being weak, like a little human girl." Nathaniel asked Savage as he started to pick up and throw away rubble.
"That's because you're not starting easy on her, idiot." Savage said as he laid down on another building, repeatedly tossing and then catching a throwing knife.
Nathaniel threw away some rubble and suddenly his head was knocked up, blood flying up from his nose. Before he could react, Danny buried her fist into Nathaniel's abdomen. He bent over because of the force, his breath leaving his body in a wheeze. Danny grabbed the back of his head, reeling back her leg. Then, with all the might she could muster, Danny kneed him in the face.
Nathaniel went flying, but did a series backwards handsprings and landed with his feet shoulder width apart. He sported the biggest grin Danny had ever seen. He started to chuckle at the way the fight was going. His and Danny's wounds slowly started to heal as they both stared at each other. Danny's eyes flickered between red and ice blue as she tried to keep her anger under control.
"I think you pissed her off," Savage says looking at Nathaniel, then turning to Danny, "And I think you made him happy...You're screwed."
Nathaniel looked at Danny and punched a hole clean through her stomach. She coughed up blood before clenching her teeth. Danny would not allow herself to lose so easily to him. Her eyes flickered red then back to blue again. Trying to pull herself off, Danny hissed ferally with effort. But she didn't have to try long as Nathaniel used his other arm to smack her off of him.
As she tumbled and then shakily stood, the hole starts to slowly close.
"Hey, Shadow, guess what?!"
Her expression betraying her puzzlement, Danny raised an eyebrow, "What?"
Nathaniel smiled evilly, "I was only going about half of my full strength, ready for the full thing?"
Danny's face went blank before she regained her determined expression, scowling in defiance.
Nathaniel launched at her and, in a blur, delivered about ten punches to her abdomen and about six to her face. But she recovered, shutting out the blinding pain, and sent a roundhouse kick to his head. As Nathaniel leaned to his left to dodge, Danny jumped up and delivered another roundhouse to Nathaniel, driving his head into the ground. As Danny started to succumb to gravity, she drove both of her feet into Nathaniel's head, drilling him about three feet into the ground. Danny jumped off of him with a sigh. But, to her surprise, felt Nathaniel's vise-like grip as he grabbed her ankle and slammed her into the ground. He kept on going until both her arms and her other leg are shattered. As Danny lay there, writhing in pain before she became numb, Nathaniel brutally stomped on her chest. Danny coughed up a fountain of blood.
"I don't like people's feet touching me." Danny growled. Her eyes turned red completely this time and remained that way for a few seconds.
Nathaniel pushed down, breaking all of her ribs and sternum. "Get up, Initiate! Prove your worth!"
"Be careful what you wish for." Danny growled, letting her eyes turn red and gave into her Dark Side.
Won't be long now, Danielle, a ghostly version of Danny's voice resounded in her head, startling her.
Danny shrugged off the weird occurrence and let her instincts take over. She felt her wound instantly heal, freeing her from the pain. Strength flowed through her as if her blood was made if it. She smirked.
Danny grabbed Nathaniel's ankle and twisted it, breaking it in the process. She then pushed him off and rushed him. Hissing in anger, Danny punched his head, grabbed his wrist, judo throwing him and making him land on his butt. She grabbed his arm and got him into an arm-bar. Danny pulled as hard as she could and broke his arm with a sickening crunch. But Nathaniel, ignoring his broken arm, grabbed her, not letting her go from his monster grip, and slammed her into the ground.
As she lay there, a broken spine keeping her from getting up, Nathaniel reached down and squeezed her neck. It snapped instantly, like a twig.
"Brother." Nathaniel said, resetting his broken arm as it slowly healed.
"Yes?" Savage suddenly appeared behind Nathaniel, still flipping his knife casually.
"That was fun," Nathaniel turned to Savage, grinning with a mischievous joy.
"Good to hear," Savage shrugged.
"So, she really is one of you," Nathaniel said knowingly.
"Yes, but she's a special case just like me." Savage said.
"Then she's..." Nathaniel trailed off.
"From my bloodline," Savage finished, nodding.
"She's my niece five or six generations down. So she's more like a sister really." Savage shrugged.
"When are we going to drop that bombshell on her?" Nathaniel said, throwing the unconscious Danny onto his shoulders.
"You'll know, brother," Savage said, and disappeared with his vampire speed. Nathaniel, grumbling, hiked all the way back to the car. He placed Danny's body in the passenger seat and slipped behind the wheel. He jammed his foot onto the gas and flew down the toad back to L.A.
Danny woke up in her hammock without a scratch on her body. That meant she was out cold long enough for her entire body to heal, which translated to about three hours. A quick glance at the clock on the ground next to a dozing Haunter confirmed her guess. Danny rolled her neck, making sickening cracking sounds from its unusual stiffness. She knew, though barely accepted it, that she had been killed in her battle with Nathaniel. She'd basically watched from the sidelines in her mind as her Dark Side took over and attacked Nathaniel despite the blinding pain from her shattered skeleton.
"Well," A familiar voice spoke from the catwalk at the foot of her hammock, "Time to go, princess. Savage wants a word with you in the Office."
"Princess?" Danny scoffed at Nathaniel, "It's Shadow."
"Whatever," Nathaniel shrugged, "C'mon. You don't really want to keep brother waiting..."
Danny blinked and nodded. She was wearing her gear pants and boots with a black tank top. She strapped all the hip and thigh blades she had, then slipped on her gear's jacket. She took her twelve throwing knives and slid them into the various hidden sheaths on her body. One new thing that Danny found left for her was a jet black scarf-like cloth exactly like Savage's. Danny wrapped it around her neck like a scarf then took the large amount of extra and wrapped it around her face from her nose down. It would, just like Savage, cover up any skin not cloaked in shadow from the hood.
Danny rose, and jumped over the edge of her hammock. She landed just as lightly as before, but the thundering landing of Nathaniel accompanied her entrance. Every eye glanced their way, initiates and Haunters alike, as they strode towards the other side of the warehouse. Though Danny hood wasn't down, the cloth around her face and the intense, intimidating look in her eyes did the same effect on the entire warehouse of Haunters. Except Nathaniel and Savage, of course.
"You hear that?" Nathaniel whispered excitedly into her ear, "You hear that? Your the talk of the town."
"Yeah, I have," Tuning out the ensuing gossip about her.
They broke through the door to the office where Nathaniel had interrogated Jose. Danny found out they had killed Jose as soon as he Turned. Apparently, they couldn't punish humans, or they could just torture him more since he could be killed over and over again and be revived. Danny shrugged off the thought and turned her gaze to Savage, who was sitting where Nathaniel had.
"Well," Savage began, "Shadow, you've passed my evaluation with flying colors."
Danny was relieved, "Thank you, sir."
"The Oath Ceremony will be tonight," Savage said, "You'll be wearing your gear and weapons. You take a blood oath to every Haunter here. All twenty other Initiates that have completed their training will be going before you. There are about twenty-five full members currently here, and they will be in a line and you take a blood oath in the order they are in. Got that?"
Danny nodded and turned to leave but then stopped, "What did you two talk about while I was out?"
Savage blinked and cocked an eyebrow, "You."
"What about me?" Danny asked.
"We'll...talk about this later," Savage gave her a stern look, and she left.
Danny found a clock and found she had four hours until midnight. She checked her sheaths subconsciously to make sure she had brought everything with her. Satisfied, she continued to the training rooms. She got glances again from the Haunters lounging in the main area of the warehouse. She could tell the initiates from the full members easily, since the new bloods, Savage and Nathaniel's word for initiates or newly Turned vampires, where messing around, drinking and laughing. Sometimes all at the same time. Meanwhile the actual Haunters were drinking, but they had a weariness to them. Like they expected an attack of human hunters to bust through the skylights and high windows with vervain darts and vervain-water guns.
There was one Haunter new blood whose eyes lingered on Danny, like he'd like to talk to her but is hesitant to do so. Danny shrugged off his gaze and finally made it to the training room. She drilled herself on throwing knives, hand-to-hand, and even a bit with a sword. The Haunters manning the dummies ran out of energy before she did, all of the targets they'd thrown being impaled by a blade. Danny worked on her technique with her blades. It was close to Savage, whom relied on throwing knives with pinpoint accuracy, in that she first used her throwing knives but then she would go in with her boot knife and run them through.
Before she knew it, Danny had dummies piled next to her and fifteen minutes until she would show for the Ceremony. She retrieved all of her blades quickly and sheathed them all. She calmly exited the training room and strode over the the center of the main area of the warehouse. A large crowd had gathered around a line of Haunters with Gear on and hoods up. Before them stood the twenty other graduating new bloods. Danny made her way to them and lined up in the last slot. She stood stock still, moving only to adjust the cloth on her face so it wouldn't slip off.
Again, though a smaller amount, gossip of her began. Danny rolled her ice blue eyes and waited for the Ceremony to begin.
Nathaniel raised a fist and the entire warehouse plummeted into silence. Then he spoke, "Tonight, we welcome these vampires into our order. They have proven themselves worthy of the title we strive to honor. The title of 'Night Haunter'. Step forward, new bloods, and seal your eternal loyalty to your new brothers and sister."
Then, one by one, the new bloods before her went down the line of Haunters and sliced open their palms for each and every one. The Haunters did the same and they clasped hands with the new blood, completing the oath. It took a good twenty or thirty minutes until it was Danny's turn.
The twenty-three Haunters before Nathaniel and Savage were of no concern to her really. Their oaths were quick, a simple gash with welled up blood and handshake as the blood mixed. She nodded her thanks for their approval and moved on until she reached Nathaniel. Savage was right next to him, hood up and cloth covering his face like Danny was. Danny slid her blade across her right palm, and Nathaniel did the same. They clasped hands and Danny saw something in his eyes that she never would have thought to be there: acceptance, and maybe even...the love that is reserved for a sibling? He was trying to hide it, but Danny could read people like books these days. She nodded her thanks and moved on to Savage, shaking off what she'd seen for now.
She stepped in front of Savage. Though she really wasn't sure how she really felt towards Savage, he was her mentor and she respected him out of his reputation at the very least. She didn't even notice the sting this time as she cut into her open hand. Blood welled once again in her palm as Savage did the same. But the instant their blood mixed with Savage's she blacked out. She didn't really feel like she blacked out.
She fainted and blinked then found herself in a desert with a black sky and featureless landscape. There was a girl with her though, waiting just a few yards away in a folding chair. The girl was a spitting image of Danny, the same slightly curled dark black hair with the blood red streak dyed into those curls. She had the same flattering figure and sleek, beautiful face. Her bangs covered up half her face though, just as Danny had absently been doing to draw less attention to herself. She wore the gear of a Night Haunter. The boots, the pants, and a black tank top. But they were in shreds, exposing her midriff and legs a little too much then Danny would have cared for. The cloth's condition, along with her ashen skin from being a relatively new vampire made her look like a ghost. But instead of her eyes being their characteristic ice blue, this other Danny's eyes were an eerily frightening red. She looked like the Demon version of Danny.
Then it hit her. This had to be Danny's Dark Side, the part of her that had earned the title of 'Shadow'. Where was she? Why was her Dark Side staring at her like that? What was going on?
"Hello, Danielle," Dark Danny said with a menace that could compare with Savage, "Nice to finally meet my other half face to face."
"Where are we?" Danny asked.
"Your mind," Dark Danny said, "Or your soul. I'm not too sure. But that's not important. Right now, I've got some explaining to do."
"You, of course," Dark Danny sighed.
"What about me?"
"Do you know what you are, Danielle?" Her Dark side asked.
"Um, a Prodigy?" Danny asked.
"And do you know what that means?"
"No," Danny answered after a few seconds.
Her Dark Side chuckled, "Prodigies are cursed vampires. Long ago, a vampire Ripper was terrorizing the world. Clearing whole villages of people within a day, sometimes hours. Witches needed to stop him before he slaughtered the entire world, so they laid a curse on him. The curse took his inner Ripper and separated it from his soul to create two souls in him. One was the sensible side, and the other was a ruthless killer. The curse was that the inner Ripper would destroy him from the inside, that he would be driven mad so much that he'd off himself basically. But that didn't happen. He merely merged back with his inner self by becoming as ruthless and deadly as it was, it pained his good side, but he had decided that it would be better to be in control, alive, but only a quarter as pure hearted as he once was. It worked, and the witches sought another way to have him a tone for his sins. So they cursed his bloodline. Since he left a pregnant wife behind when he had become a vampire after he was murdered, the witches cursed the baby the same as they did its father. But they weren't cruel. The curse would only activate when the cursed Turned. The vampire ripper eventually found out about this, but not before his blood line had increased so much that it would be impossible to hunt them all down and make sure that they would never Turn and face the same decision he had."
"And your telling me this why?" Danny said, intrigued with the story and curious to hear more.
"Because I'm your Inner Ripper," Dark Danny said.
Danny blinked, "I'm a descendant of this Ripper guy?"
Dark Danny nodded, "Eventually he found the Haunters shortly after they formed and joined them along with his friend, so close they simply were known as brothers regardless of bloodline. This friend was an Original Haunter, one of the first. He'd found the Ripper about two years after he Turned himself. This friend of his was, and still is, obsessed with strength. He is strong enough to make up for the speed and deadliness that came with being a Prodigy. Anyways, the two vampires started to use their legendary skills for a good cause and have been doing it ever since. That's the summed up version of the history of your bloodlines curse."
"Why are we called 'Prodigies'?" Danny asked.
"Because when you are a new blood you still have enough raw talent and skill that you give trained Haunters a run for their money. And you know that's saying something. You get that strength from your Ripper side, me. But if you were to somehow convince me to let you use all of my power, then it would exponentially multiply, and you'd be as strong as the Ripper I talked about just now. But I am not feeling like your ready for that just yet. I'm still going to need proof, Danielle, proof that you are worthy enough to wield that power. Got it?"
"Yeah, whatever," Danny shrugged, "What proof do you need to see?"
"It would be too easy if I told you," Dark Danny grinned, "But don't worry, you'll know what it will be when you see it. Or do it."
"What'a happening outside right now? Am I blacked out on the floor in front of Savage?" Danny asked suddenly.
"You'll find out soon enough. Oh, a few more things. If you fail at my test, I reserve the right to kill you for being too weak. If you wish to speak with me, I'll be right here. And if you want to come back here from some peace and quiet to chat with yourself, me, then all you gotta do is ask and I can make it happen. But I don't know why you would want to come back here."
"Okay, got it," Danny muttered, "Now how do I get out?"
"Just like this," Dark Danny said, and snapped her fingers and pointed to her head. Danny rolled her eyes and thought hard to leave and blacked out just like before.
Danny blinked awake in Nathaniel's arms. He was behind her with his enormous arms holding her still. Everyone, except Savage, was either laying unconscious with a blade in their body or holding their gushing wounds and breathing raggedly. They all looked like they'd been through a war, blood coating their shredded clothes. Danny looked down at her body, there were several stab wounds and cuts. Her clothes were so like her inner Ripper that she wanted to faint. Her midriff and legs were showing just like her Dark Side had them showing. Her jacket had been torn off somehow and she was left with her torn tank top, pants and boots. She was panting, and looking at Nathaniel's arms. There was a long gash that ran from his wrist to the elbow with the blade still impaling his arm at the end of the wound.
"Brother," Nathaniel said simply, "You have a Hell of a job ahead of you."
Savage shrugged then looked Danny in the eyes, "Shadow, looks like we need to finish up that conversation we stopped at the Office."
"Oh, Hell yeah, you do," Was all Danny could breath out before she fell unconscious from exhaustion.