Chapter 88 - Encounter
Alena spotted more of the creatures, and this was a much larger group of at least twelve.
Sarah strung her bow, and Jack wound his crossbow before they slid from their horses, and disappeared into the night. The vampires also dismounted and made their separate ways into the dark.
The humans struck swiftly but the trio of vampires even more so. These were not the meek monsters they encountered the previous time. They displayed superior organizational skills, but practice, communication, and trust gave the vampires an edge of their enemy.
The leader of this band of creatures was different. The lesser ones snarled, snapped and hissed like mindless animals. They died the most easily, but the ones nearer their captain, master, or whatever they chose to call him, fought with a dangerously well-controlled ferocity.
The captain didn’t engage in this battle, and although he made no sound and said no word, everything revolved around him like a well-oiled machine.
An arrow pierced the eye of one of those close to him, and his eyes snapped in that direction. Two of the Valerie or lesser ones as the Watchers called them, detached and moved in that direction, but the vampires stopped them mercilessly. His eyes settled back on them as they intended.
Two more fell and then abruptly, as the wind changed course, they all turned their attack on Rowan.
Amid that clashing tide, as the fangs and the claws came out, Rowan made everything slow down around her for a few seconds as she learned to do that day with Alena. Rowan’s searched for the solitary figure isolated from the rest, who watched her with his dark, inhuman gaze and his cold, expressionless face.
Alena and Marcus were so intent on saving Rowan that they paid no attention to him or the fact that two of his kind had slipped past their guard and into the darkness.
One massive jump brought Rowan out of the midst of the hoard, and two or three strides brought her close enough to see his face.
He smirked lazily, and then he released the red cape that hung from his shoulders to allow it to fall to the ground. It revealed the most extraordinary thing as massive leathery wings unfolded from behind him, tipped with sharp spiked claws at the ends.
The bat-like wings raised threateningly and like the strike of a scorpion; he swiped them in her direction. Rowan realized that those deceptively fragile wings would have a strength to them that only a fool would underestimate. The talons struck sparks from the rock and missed her by a hair’s breadth.
He stood with his arms akimbo as if he considered her no threat to him. Rowan shifted her grip on the twin swords she now favored, but they would not bring her close enough to do any damage. Not from the front, not from above, but from behind or...
At the thought, a small smile played across her lips, and something flickered in his eyes. Her smile deepened at his caution.
Rowan pretended to storm him, and he lashed out with those sharp wings, hitting those onyx claws right into the ground. Rowan turned on her side as she threw herself to the ground and skidded below his guard.
Her rapier caught him right where it should have hurt most, but although he bled profusely, he barely reacted. Rowan slid past him and threw herself to her feet.
She jumped on his back and held the wings at bay with her body as she stabbed at his chest and cut partially into his neck.
He grabbed Rowan’s legs and would have sunk his claws into her, but she stabbed the other rapier up beneath his ribs. His grip loosened just enough for her to kick free, and he scored her flesh, but no more.
He turned, but she hadn’t moved away from him. A small jump spared her the swipe of his wings, and she used the same action to move into the gap right in front of him, where those wings were as useless as his sword.
The captain tried to claw at her in that enclosed range, wanted to shove her back, but her speed and strength finally brought some expression on that once human face, sheer unadulterated rage.
He ripped a gash across her stomach, and Rowan's wrath matched his. It strengthened her, and she caught his hands in a grip that would have shattered human bone. Again a flicker of surprise registered on his face.
He growled and spat, but in that instant, Rowan ripped at his throat with her teeth and tore the artery open. He missed the edge of her ear with his fangs, and as the blood poured out of him, she could sense him weaken, but she knew better than to believe.
She allowed a tide of red to wash over her and solidify into the type of rage she had never experienced before. In one instant, she let go of his right hand and gripped his left with both hers. She wrenched the limb clean from its socket and clear off his body. He screamed and grabbed at her with his remaining arm, but she sprang behind him, and he found himself on his knees.
Rowan caught the clawed hand behind him in a merciless grip. He struggled and fought, but she drew him against her body and rendered him useless. Her teeth clamped onto that gaping wound in his neck, and it was as if a lull came over the fighting, of which she was unaware.
Her hand found the sheath of his sword. Rowan sensed when the thickness and consistency of his blood changed. She let go of him, and with a single blow, she lobbed off his head.
He didn’t fall forward, but as she stood behind him, something shifted and changed among those that he controlled. The creatures became less organized and a lot easier to dispatch.
The adage proved true; cut the head off the serpent and the body withers, but not easily, or without a fight. Something of the human remained; the spirit not to stand and be slaughtered.
Rowan moved in the opposite direction, Marcus and Alena no longer required her help, but two others did, if it wasn’t too late already. She couldn’t see them, but she could smell blood, even though covered in it.
A small, sharp noise caught her attention, and Rowan followed swiftly, without hesitation. Despite her painfully heightened senses, and the adrenaline pounding through her veins, she used caution. There was no point in rushing into an ambush. She skirted a boulder with silent, swift grace and stopped.
The humans required no help. The assassins were dead. Jake bled mildly from a cut too even and thin for a claw mark.
They tensed and sprang to defend themselves at her sudden appearance. Rowan liked these two; they reminded her of friends she once had.
“My friends,” Rowan greeted as she easily caught the knife Sarah accidentally launched in her direction.
“Mistress,” Sarah sounded both horrified and mortified as she recognized Rowan.
“You did no harm,” Rowan assured Sarah as she tossed the knife back in a gentle arc.
“Stay here,” Rowan ordered and disappeared back into the night.