The cursed woods
After her fruitless search, Amy decided to leave Hanover to go to Ostrheinsburg. But she first went to some discreet place to drink what remained in her last blood bottle. She went into a dark alley and sat on some wooden boxe before she took out her blood bottle from her bag. Very few remained and Amy wondered as she drank what she would do after she finished it. But as she finished her bottle, two young men came into the alley. They seemed a little older than her, maybe sixteen and were dressed in rags. Amy thought they must be some street thieves because they also each had a knife by their side and a purse looking strangely full for their condition. They seemed completely drunk and each was holding a bottle of something. Amy thought they must have succeeded in some theft and were celebrating it by drinking. Even if her own bottle was now empty, Amy quickly hid it behind her in some kind of reflex. But they saw her hide her bottle.
-Hey! That's okay! We got some too! Can we drink with you?
They showed her their own bottles and Amy noticed it was beer. They seemed proud of it like it wasn't since long ago that they began to drank beer and felt more mature with it. Now they were adults.
-Non. I have finished my bottle.
-Want some of ours…?
One of them showed her his bottle again. Amy looked at them with some disdain as they slightly staggered in front of her, having some difficulties to stand right. She would certainly not stay with drunkards. She got up.
-Well then… we can talk together… How much you ask? We got money!
The young man showed his purse with pride. Amy looked at him questioningly.
-…I don't understand. How much I ask for what? To talk?
-How much you ask for your services, my lovely?
She thought: My services? Maybe they want a drawing? But how do they know I draw?
Amy suddenly understood and blushed. It seems they really wanted to feel more mature in everything; It was not a drawing that they wanted. She remembered the streets where she grew up had a lot of those kind of things going on, but she was too young at the time to be harassed. Her mother had been, though. She would definitely have met all kind of people during her travels! But of course her dress must still have something to do with it. Can't she dress like she wants without being tagged? She was tired of those remarks and she couldn't believe someone now really asked her to do such kind of thing! She was totally outraged. Amy took a cold tone and answered:
-I ask nothing. I do not do such things.
-You don't? Come on, a pretty girl like you… in the streets at night… what do you do then?
Seeing Amy's outraged stare the guy continued:
-Alright if you don't wish to, I won't force you but then just gimme a kiss… That is all I ask…
The young man came toward her and tried to embrace her but Amy swiftly evaded and took a really haughty stance.
-Leave me alone. Drink your beers and drown in it. You won't get even a kiss from me!
The young thief addressing her became angry while his friend moved behind Amy who was now caught between the two.
-Yeah, just tell it that were no good for the like of you! You being a too elegant lady for us! But you're not dressed exactly like a true lady! You're just pretending to be a lady! You're no better than us! Being in the streets, drinking at this hour! You're just like us!
Amy looked at them with an offended gaze. She was a lady. But it was true that she came from the streets and if Raphael had not found her, she probably now would be like them; doing crimes to survive, maybe even what they first asked of her… In fact, she really didn't know what she would have done to survive and she would rather not think about it. She was not living in the streets now.
She remembers when she first met Raphael that she thought he was some crazy man and she even regretted having invited him in her home since she didn't know how to get rid of him after and he didn't seem to want to leave. She was now so glad he didn't. But at the time, she thought he was crazy and maybe dangerous; he could not be really kind to her without expecting something from her and she didn't know what he expected but it could not be that he really wanted her well being. Every other aristocrats she had met in her life before treated her like dirt and beat her like the guards when she approached them or asked the guards to do it for them, even the clergymen she met scorned her so she hated to beg and began to steal.
When Raphael smiled at her and told her she was the only one who had been kind to him those last days, she could have answered him that he was the only one being kind to her since many, many months. But she didn't thought he really cared for her; she didn't care for him at first. She never told him but she hid him only to annoy the guards that she hated, not to save his life, he could have died after she didn't really care then. But since she had nothing else to expect from life, she followed him when he asked her.
Then all his kind attentions toward her touched her and she began to feel affection for him, yet she remained distrustful for some times because she thought he could not really love her that much, he will get tired of her soon and will leave her alone again now that she loved him, hurting her even more. She was really scared of this before she began to trust him and understood he really loved her and would not leave her.
Now he left again but it was not to abandon her, it was for her happiness; she knew he must think about her everyday like she thinks about him also. And he didn't intend her to be alone in the streets, he thought she was safe at the castle. Not in an alley with two drunken guys. Yet one thing Amy knew from her time in the streets was that she had to act before those guys did. Drunk men can act very randomly and become very violent. Amy swiftly unsheathed her rapier and became menacing.
-Don't bother me.
The two hoodlums were surprised and the guy addressing her laughed and suddenly took out his knife too.
-You think you're tough with that weapon in your hands, sweetheart? I bet you don't even know how to use it!
Before he had time to do anything, Amy quickly but gracefully threw herself at him to get rid of him and even the chances if his friend did anything. Not expecting her to be trained in the fencing art, the young man didn't see her coming and barely had time to put his arm in front of him. Albion impaled his right arm.
-Oops…there you go. Stated Amy before she quickly turned to the other boy to parry his strike now that he had also taken his knife.
She kicked him in the stomach, sending him down on the ground. Meanwhile the first boy had got up and tried to slash at her. Amy swiftly dodged his attack and whirled back at him, her rapier aiming at him. She violently thrust her rapier into the flank of the drunk guy who fell down with a groan. Amy coldly told him:
-It's all your fault. Leave me alone.
She took out her weapon, leaving the thief moaning in pain in the dirt and then turned her attention to the other who seemed a little demoralized by his friend's defeat. She approached him menacingly.
-Run now or don't expect to leave in one piece.
Amy looked at the young thief menacingly in the eyes; he then realised that this girl was not normal, she had red eye glowing dangerously in anger. Since the fact that she just saw the blood flow from the other thief's wound and the fact that she was really angry at those guys, she was feeling her vampire nature taking over her and didn't know if she should let it be or refrain it. Something inside of her really wished to see blood, was screaming for blood even if she wasn't thirsty already since she just drank but the worry over her now lack of blood made her lust for it even more. The boy suddenly turned heels and ran away in terror. Amy let him go.
She didn't even look at the other guy moaning in the dirt to see if he was dying or not. She got out of the alley while trying to supress her bloodlust rising and left the city.
Meanwhile, Raphael and his three minions were advancing into the forest that was becoming even darker and more twisted as they approached Ostrheinsburg when the horses became too afraid to continue. They neighed nervously and refused to move on, so Raphael decided to tie them somewhere and continue on foot. Auguste suddenly asked Raphael:
-When do I get a new uniform?
-After Ostrheinsburg, you will stain it here anyway. Aren't you glad to be permitted to wear your mask now?
-Yeah, but I was just asking…
-I do not make money appear. I did not have money for it before, I do not have it now either. So wait for it. And with your new uniform, you won't be allowed to wear your beloved mask. So enjoy it while you can.
-Must we put back our old clothes then, to not stain our dresses? Asked Jacqueline wondering while taking her bag with the clothes in it.
-Non. I shall buy you new maid dresses when we get out of here if they are ripped or stained. I didn't make them shorter for nothing. You fight in them and you all stay like you are. Clothing matters are a very futile thing for now. We must think about what awaits us.
While Raphael was answering them, they suddenly met some imperial guards. They were about a dozen. The captain of the guards called out to Raphael and his minions as he came toward them with his men.
-Hey you! What are you doing here! This place is forbidden to all civilians!
As the guards approached the four, the captain gazed at them suspiciously.
-With all going on here, we're very suspicious of any strangers and you don't look very normal…
Raphael glanced coldly at him then replied in an arrogant tone:
-I am glad we do not look like you. At least we have style. You look very normal indeed. Too commonly normal and boring.
The captain looked at Raphael with an angry look before he claimed:
-You're not humans, you're Soul Edge creatures!
-Are you jealous? Would you like to be too? But to be exact, we are not Soul Edge creatures. We have some Soul Edge powers but we do not obey it. I am the master here. Me, Raphael Sorel, the Lord of the night! I bow to no one! Now petty servants of Rudolf II, would you like a taste of my powers?
Raphael grinned evilly at them, clearly showing them his fangs on purpose before he continued to speak.
-But to be honest, I think none of you matches my high standards to become a minion of mine. I am afraid all you can be is aperitif for us.
Raphael swiftly disappeared into mist and reappeared behind the captain, violently bit his neck and drank his blood. The captain screamed, tried to get out of Raphael's hold but failed and after a while, fell dead on the ground in front of his dumbfounded men.
Raphael wiped the blood from his mouth before the horrified soldiers launched themselves at him while his minions threw themselves at the soldiers to protect him.
After leaving the city, Amy was now following the road leading to Ostrheinsburg. She was rather happy to leave the town and enjoyed the calm of the night and the soft wind blowing. She walked for many hours and as she walked toward the cursed castle, she realised that the people who talked to her about the place were right: as she got nearer the place and entered the surrounding woods, everything was now becoming deformed and ugly and she could feel the evil invading the region. Even from as far as she still was from Ostrheinsburg, Amy felt the evil of the castle. It wasn't really comforting even if she was accustomed to some degree of evil energy in her own castle but never to that level. She believed she was right when she thought her father must have come here for Soul Edge and the fact that evil energy could be sensed so easily in the land confirmed her that something was indeed going on here. Her father must be here for that. If he was still alive… She still tried to push this fear aside and hoped that he still was.
She suddenly heard some kind of noise. Some animal noise coming from behind. Amy turned around to see what it was and suddenly saw three strange looking beasts. They looked like some kind of big rodent yet she could not tell what sort it was. They all had red eyes and their fur seemed almost gone like if it got some skin infection. The creatures growled and ran toward her. Amy swiftly unsheathed her rapier and slashed at one of the creatures while jumping upside another to evade its bite. The creature fell on its side and squirmed in agony while Amy kicked the face of another one, sending it slamming onto a tree. Suddenly one of the rodents jumped and bit her right hand; Amy swiftly got rid of it by shaking her hand to make it let go but her hand began to bleed and hurt. She swiftly impaled the creature that just bit her while the one she kicked against a tree was running toward her again. Amy took her rapier out of the dead rodent and with the same smooth move; she thrust at the last remaining creature. She then looked at her wound: the rodent had bitten her hand very deeply. It was very painful and Amy thought she should disinfect this but she had nothing for this here. She hoped the monster would not give her some other curse like the vampire one she already had and took another piece from her stained dress to make some bandages.
She walked for some times again and met on the road some other deformed and mutated animals that she quickly dispatched before she finally stopped to take a break. But as she sat under a tree to eat her vegetables, she felt her bloodlust rising again. She did not understand why it took her so fast; it must be the influence of the place. She really wished carrots could bleed since it was all she had but she would have to try to forget this craving even if she knew she will need blood sometimes soon… and her father was not here to provide for her. He was not here to reassure her, he was not here to cheer her up, he was not here at all… She missed him so much…
Amy felt she was getting emotional: She knew she was tired, she had walked all this way since Hanover and she had travelled nonstop since Walachia, she had reasons to be tired. But she was near her goal, it was not the time to stop. She would go to Ostrheinsburg, search for her father and if he was there, she would bring him back home but if he was not…
The young girl also wondered if her father could have been back home already. But she thought that if he did come back home, he must not have stayed long, he won't wait patiently for her, he will be too worried. When he will find out her disappearance, he will be thrown into a total panic, will blame the servants, maybe mistreat them and certainly yell at them for not being able to protect her then he will go out again in search of her. He normally don't mistreat the servants but when worried about her, Amy knew he could kill anybody. Amy thought that just for the servant's sake, she should go back home if she don't find her father in Ostrheinsburg. Anyway she didn't know where else to search… and maybe he would be back home soon… but for now maybe he needs her here…
Suddenly a big animal appeared; some kind of deformed boar with very long and sharp tusks and spikes on its back. Amy barely had time to evade the charging animal that trampled her carrots, scattering them everywhere. She only had the time to unsheathe her rapier before she had to evade the monster's furious charge again. But the beast caught her partially in its charge and sent her tumbling in the sand, scratching her knee on the ground. Amy was glad the monster didn't catch her completely in its charge or else the damage would have been worse. She got up and greeted the deformed animal with a swift and graceful slash on its side while evading the charge which infuriated the now wounded monster who snarled angrily and came back even more furiously at her. Amy only had time to evade what she guessed would have been a mortal blow and rolled on the side when she heard the beast growl in pain.
She looked back to see the beast being tossed away by a young man in shining armour like if ice or crystal was stuck on it. He had impaled the beast with the giant crystal sword he had and threw it on the side of the road where it died. The moon reflected on his strange armour and Amy wondered how he would look during the day with the more powerful sunrays on it, a real knight in shining armour… She stared at the man and even though she knew she didn't need help against the monster and that it was kind of frustrating to be saved like that, she was somehow relieved to see this man; with all the deformed monsters she saw since she entered this cursed area, if was nice to see a knight in shining armour. It made some change from the ugly monsters she had encountered. It also reminded her of some bedtime stories her father told her when she was young with knights in shining armour… Amy gazed at him without a word. But since he was the only normal human she saw since a while, some twisted ideas came into her mind… With his long blond hair, this man was not bad looking… even with the big scar he had on his face. To drink his blood directly from his neck must not be too disgusting… She stared at him fixedly for a while until she realised what she was doing. She panicked: What am I thinking? What is happening to me? Am I in a too deep lack of blood that my mind is beginning to ramble? It must really be the Soul Edge influence on the area…
She tried to calm herself and after having succeeded in rejecting any dark Soul Edge influence she felt, she suddenly noticed that the man was talking to her. She blushed and hoped he didn't guess her dark shameful intentions. But the young man was now asking her a completely unexpected question:
-Are you fourteen years old?
Amy got surprised at the question.
-…Quoi? Why would you want to know that? …
That was a really strange question to ask.
-Well, if so… I…hum… I may have met your father…
Siegfried stated that on an embarrassed tone. He had sensed Soul Edge in this girl and wondered if she was the daughter Raphael had talked about. Not much fourteen years old girls must have Soul Edge infecting them. Somehow he knew it was her. Amy was surprised this man talked about her father, he was the first one to do it since her trip began, this time she knew he wasn't talking about Claude and she suddenly forgot all her previous troubles and worries.
-…You met my father? … How do you know? And… why do you look that embarrassed? Was he dead? Did you kill him?
-No. He was not and I did not.
Amy sighed in relief.
-But… How do you know I am fourteen years old and that it was my father that you met? What did he look like?
-He was blond, with short hair,…
Siegfried looked at Amy certain that she will recognize her father with what he was about to say.
-… red eyes and he had black blood… like yours…
Siegfried had seen Raphael's bleeding nose when he hit him in the face with his sword and he now saw Amy's wounded knee which had slightly bled. Both had black blood. Amy's eyes widened and she got emotional even if she didn't want to. She didn't care if that man had seen her abnormal blood as long as it helped to trace her father. Tears filled her eyes. It really was her father he was talking about!
-…Where is he?
-Hum… That is the problem… I met him in the land of the gods.
-Where is that land of the gods? I must go there!
Amy was really excited.
-Well, the entrance is in Turkey…
-So, he isn't here at all?
-Well, I don't know. I was in the land of the gods and I'm here now. I don't know how I came back… There was some kind of explosion at the Cathedral and I lost consciousness. I found myself in Europe, in Norway. He may have done the same. But… he was not at the Cathedral… Huh… Are you okay?
Siegfried thought that apart from her pale skin she didn't look as dying as her father had said. Fighting a giant boar… she seemed in quite good shape. Maybe she was cured?
Amy was still surprised at the question and didn't understand exactly.
-Yes. I'm okay.
-… Huh… You're not… sick?
-Non. Why would I be?
The young man seemed relieved.
-You are not dying? Did you get cured?
Amy was still perplexed.
-Why would I be dying?
Siegfried wondered if Raphael had told him the truth about his daughter's health or if he lied to get Soul Edge. But… he seemed so upset and desperate; he couldn't have faked such emotions just to try to get the sword… And this young girl was probably his daughter and she didn't even seem to know she had been dying… Maybe Raphael was crazy… Soul Edge is so damageable for mental health… so destructive to sanity… He didn't seem too mentally well…
-Well… your father was really tired…
Amy interrupted him:
-He was dying?
-No! Well… huh… well… I don't know.
-How did you meet him exactly? What did he told you? How did you left him? Where is he now?
Amy never was that talkative or expressive but her worry for her father made her be this time and Siegfried had difficulties stopping her to speak.
-Huh… Like I said, I met you father in the land of the gods. He was searching for Soul Edge…
That was nothing new, she already guessed it, thought Amy who wished Siegfried to continue with more important facts.
Siegfried was about to tell Amy that her father wanted to get his revenge on him but then thought that this young girl wanted to know about her father not about their quarrel so he will speak about her father. And it was embarrassing to tell her the revenge part…
-He seemed really exhausted. He told me that… he… and you… were dying.
-Me and him?
-Yes. And since you are not. Maybe he is not either. He must be cured.
-Dying from what?
-Soul Edge's curse.
-My father is dying from this curse?
Amy looked really worried, her eyes became teary and Siegfried regretted having told her that. He thought to tell the truth was the good thing to do but then maybe not. Siegfried even wondered if he did well to talk to her about her father since he didn't know what to tell her exactly and he may have just bad news to tell. He had just asked if she was Raphael's daughter out of curiosity.
-Well… dying… he seemed exhausted…
-So is he dying or exhausted?
-Well, he seemed exhausted… but told me you both where dying. Sorry… I… I have to tell the truth… I'm sorry.
-That is what I want to know anyway. And how did you left him? Was he still exhausted?
-… He was…huh… unconscious.
Amy looked at him still perplexed and even more worried.
Siegfried tried to reassure her.
-Well, he just fought and got knocked out! It's not too serious!
-…Me… I'm sorry…
Siegfried lowered his gaze; he was ashamed; he unconsciously caressed his scar, remembering the fight. Amy put her hand on the hilt of her weapon and coldly asked him:
-You… Why did you attack my father?
-He wanted Soul Edge. I couldn't let him have it!
Siegfried seemed now more resolute. Amy stared at him for a while and regained her composure. She calmly told him:
-But you are saying that my father will die if he doesn't get Soul Edge?
-That is what he told me. But I told him, and I'm telling you, Soul Edge is evil and won't cure anyone.
-But my father will die if he doesn't have it?
Siegfried thought that the young girl seemed narrow-minded and fixed on this idea, just like her father, she was indeed another victim of Soul Edge's charm. It was sad. She was so young… He was also very young when he killed his father and found Soul Edge, only sixteen years old but he felt he did destroy his life… And he destroyed this young girl's life now, she is even younger than he was and she was innocent, unlike him… He looked at her with a regretful gaze. He really shouldn't have talked about this…
-I don't know, he told me you were dying also and you don't seem too dead to me…
-Maybe he didn't know about me but just worried. He is always like that. But since he is more infected than me by Soul Edge, he may be dying while I'm not. Then I need Soul Edge to cure him. Give it to me, please.
Amy asked the sword on a soft but authoritarian tone while presenting her left hand. Soul Edge must be that big sword the man had since her father wanted it and fought him for it. Even though it didn't seem to have the ugly eye her father talked about. But it did seemed special.
-I don't have the sword anymore. Nightmare has it.
Amy's eyes widened.
-Nightmare! That evil monster who cursed my father and me!
Siegfried blushed in embarrassment and intended to keep silent, but an instinctive habit forced him to mutter an apology.
Amy clenched her fist in anger.
-Where is that damned Nightmare? I'm going to kill him…
-He is in Ostrheinsburg. But don't go there. It's too dangerous. And I told you the sword won't cure your father.
-How do you know? If my father said so…
Amy suddenly remembered her father's obsession with the evil sword, blaming it or seeing it as a saviour but always involving it, so as much as she admired him, her father may be wrong. She then addressed Siegfried.
-Who are you?
Siegfried took a while to answer. He was scared that she would know who he really was. And he hated to say his name. He hated himself and hated to pronounce his name.
Amy didn't seem to know him.
-And how do you know about Soul Edge?
-Well, I… I want to destroy the sword. And Nightmare.
Amy stared at him for a while: Somehow, she felt he could succeed; her eyes began to shine with hope. A true knight in shining armour! Like her father told her in his bedtime stories! When noticing the hopeful gaze Amy gave him, Siegfried got even more embarrassed. Amy continued to speak.
-You do? If you destroyed Soul Edge and killed Nightmare, we would be free! But if… my father… does he really need Soul Edge? If you destroy the sword, will it kill him?
-Huh… well… I don't think so… I think he would either be cured or stay like he is now.
-But is he dying?
-…I told you, I don't know…
-But you say he may be in the lands of the gods or Norway but Soul Edge is here?
-I really don't know for your father, but don't go in Ostrheinsburg, it's too dangerous. Go back home. What were you doing here anyway?
-I was searching for my father and I will get Soul Edge for him.
-No, you must not!
-I will. I am grateful for your help with the beast but my father is all that counts for me and if you try to stop me…
Amy unsheathed her rapier.
Siegfried seemed desperate.
-No! I don't want to fight you!
-Then I go to Ostrheinsburg.
Amy began to walk on the road to the castle. Siegfried yelled at her:
-No! Don't go there! Evil monsters are roaming around! Nightmare is a danger even more than you can imagine! Ostrheinsburg is a horrible place! Do not go there! What you saw now was nothing compared to the real thing!
Amy didn't listen to him and continued on her way. Siegfried began to run after her.
-Please listen to me! It's dangerous! I don't think your father would want you to go there! He would tell you the same thing as I do: It's dangerous, don't go there!
Amy outlined a melancholic smile.
-Yes… Father would say that…
But she kept walking toward the castle.
Siegfried went in front of Amy, kneeled before her to look her directly in the eyes and looked at her with a sad expression.
-I understand you want to protect your father. I… Well, I did… I wanted Soul Edge to bring back my own father… But it didn't work and I got into more troubles. Much more troubles… Please listen to me, don't go there! There is probably a way to cure your father but it's not Soul Edge…
Amy looked at him with a sad gaze.
-Then what is it?
Siegfried now had difficulties to withstand her gaze. He lowered his head and told her softly.
-I don't know, but it's not Soul Edge.
Amy turned her head away and sighed.
-Effort, talent. They are meaningless… What is the use of fighting if all is already lost? Can my father be saved? If only I could see him… I would be able to judge how he feels…
She turned toward Siegfried.
-Monsieur le chevalier, if you see my father in there, what will you do?
Siegfried lifted his head again and looked her in the eyes before he honestly answered:
-I will try to stop him from getting Soul Edge. But don't worry, I won't kill him. I understand the spell he is under. I… have been… also.
Siegfried then gazed at his right arm; the once deformed arm that killed so many people by strangling them, clawing them and tearing them apart… Siegfried often could not look at his arm without seeing the monstrous arm that it once was and it disgusted him. Amy brought him back from his thoughts.
-So, you are going in there to kill Nightmare and destroy the sword and you won't kill my father?
-Then if you see my father, could you tell him that I am fine and waiting for him in Hanover? And that if he don't see me already, he just have to keep waiting I will find him soon?
-Okay, I will. Answered Siegfried while nodding, relieved that she didn't seem to want to go to Ostrheinsburg anymore.
-Very well then. Bonne chance against Nightmare, chevalier.
Siegfried knew he didn't deserve luck from this young girl whom he destroyed the life but he didn't dare tell her again who he really was. She would certainly feel better not knowing. Anyway against Nightmare he did need luck, not for him but to destroy the monster.
-Thank you… Huh… What's your name?
Even if Raphael had probably told him his daughter's name, Siegfried didn't remember it; he only remembered her age. The age she had when he destroyed her life…
-Amy. Amy Sorel. My father's name is Raphael, in case you didn't know.
-Very well, thank you Amy, and please be careful going back to the city. If your father is here, I will bring him back to you or tell him that you are waiting for him, but you will see him again. I swear.
Then Siegfried turned his back at her and began to go toward Ostrheinsburg while hoping that if Raphael was there, he would listen to him this time. Last time, Raphael was completely deaf to any dialogue. He was completely crazy… and scary… Siegfried dreaded each meeting with Raphael but he had to do it, to amend for his sins and to help this poor little girl.
Amy stared at him going away and waited for a while then went toward Ostrheinsburg too. She already disobeyed her father by leaving the castle, she won't obey a total stranger… she had to go there for her father. If her father left the land of the gods, he must be heading here so she had to come here. It was the only place she could think of her father going to, here and their castle. And if this Siegfried saw her father and really told him to wait for her in Hanover then her father would be safe while she will get Soul Edge for him.