Deep in the heart of Transylvania lies a living, breathing forest. Creatures of darkness and beings of dire cruelty reside in its mist, seeking to assert their dominance over each other. But one to rule them all... A Mistress of power, insanity and malice reigns above them. But what will happen when things begin to apart?
The night was cold, as it always was.
The sun that gave none of its warmth was setting now, a bleak dot of red smudged on the bordering horizon. For a few hours it hung there, never quite rising, always simply casting an orange glow over the land; then in the hours it should have been in the sky, it would set completely, and a haunting darkness fell over the forest. A haze of mist hung in the air, blurring the sky, which was a multitude of colours. Firstly, it appeared darkest in the centre, a dark, royal blue, almost navy; fanning out into a shadowy purple, into lilac before softer hues of yellows and watery reds splattered over it, layer by layer, nearly orange but not quite. In the darker parts where it almost appeared black, small stars cluttered it in groups, like the tiniest of diamonds scattered onto a roll of blackened silk.
Beneath this breath-taking eve sky, a forest contrasting in colour lay beneath. The towering trees stood tall and gnarled, refusing to bow to its master – the wind. The trunks, browned with age, ripped and rippled slowly swayed, causing their extensions to whip furiously above where they were high. Leaves now dead in change with season raced in the breeze, fluttering down gently where the air currents were not so strong to litter the forest floor, creating a rug upon the damp earth. There were worn tracks in the dirt, and cracks where mist rose like steam to create a curtain of illusion in the atmosphere.
The mist clung to everything its out-reaching tendrils could discover, dampening wildlife as well as predators in wait, smothering anything with its dense thickness. As it kissed the ground, the plantlife shrivelled and withered, and its poisonous toxins sucked the life from the earth.
The forest was not dead though – it was alive with sound. Hooting owls and thumping rabbits. Rats squeaking to locate its family – predatory cats seeking its prey, birds hunting their midnight snacks. It was a place of both life and death, stained with the blood of the past.
Near to the centre, though, ran a thin-line river, the noise of a waterfall at work muttering in the distance. The soft sound of relaxed water filled the air with serenity, almost to the point of delirium. How peaceful indeed, only, when the weather was like so, the atmosphere, the welcoming attitude of this forest changed.
Shadows, as black as ink, swarmed the corners and crooks of everything, creating a curtain for hunters.
This forest was located deep in an other-wordly dimension, connected to both the human and demon dimension. Heaven and Hell. It was both, and it was neither. Defiant Illusions it was named, and for good reason. Oft there would be one so innocent and naïve, that they would willingly wander into the depths of this place, under the impression nothing would come to harm him or her. And quite often, they were wrong. It seemed like a beautiful place, at first. Yet it wasn’t always so.
A sudden gust of bone-rattling wind blew life into the forest, swooping down low to stir the mice to consciousness, awakening everything. All but one slumbering being. Towards the west of the forest where most entered, sleeping in the crook of a branch was a slim figure coloured in black. As the tree swayed and bowed, creaking loudly, the figure stirred. Its body unfurled, slowly stretching out and behind black gilded eyelids, two luminous green orbs peered into the darkness, sussing out the reason for its awakening. With a snap, the creature was perched on the branch, hands settled in between two firmly-planted feet. Nails crafted like talons dug deep into the ancient bark of the tree, holding its position. There was a small entering clearing below, steep as the forest slanted upwards. The figure could have passed for a very large crow, clothed in a draping trench coat with rugged, silken hair covering its pale face.
There was a small entering clearing below, steep as the forest slanted upwards. Struggling up the slope ranged a lone being, mortal by the smell of it. The feral creature up high above sniffed very daintily like a cat, and its mouth watered. Breakfast was here. The human was tall and built, male, yet his pace was slow – he was harbouring murky thoughts about this place. His steps were unsteadily placed, and the creature watched him stumble along. As the slope drifted higher, assuming a steeper position the human’s breathing became frantic and wheezy; he was finding the climb hard and his face was the colour of blood, becoming chapped from the cold. He was dressed in heavy materials, a scarf even draped around his throat. His sweat-slick hair flopped over his forehead, dripping like water into his eyes which he constantly brushed away furiously.
The creature, calm and collected, watched with enthusiastic intensity. Its eyes, bright like emeralds now – illuminated with hellfire – gazed upon his sickly form. He was like a wounded deer, making haste to scramble away. But he wasn’t panicking yet, no, but he would be.
Shrouded by mist and darkness, the creature tensed the muscles in its legs; preparing to pounce. And then waited. Other sounds and scents drifted towards the being’s ears and nose; there were lesser demons hunting the same human, laying in wait for the perfect time to pounce. The creature, infuriated by their insolence sent out a sudden raging burst of power. Its marred, blackened aura flared wildly, streaked with silver scattered outwards and it could sense the alarm of those lesser things skulking away. But one demon in particular, probably young in years, panicked suddenly and sent itself crashing and stumbling away, snapping and rustling. The human, suddenly wary turned and glanced in every direction.
Fools, thought the superior hunter with disgust.
The human was cautious now as he rambled to himself, muttering incoherent words. Good, thought the fiend in wait, be wary. You ought to be. And then it pounced. It coiled itself like a spring, and released, shooting into the air like a bullet. Its body adapted and seemed to float through the air, landing with its knees flexed to embrace the impact. It could not waste time with stealth now, seeing as the human was already alert. It crept along, finding the climb easier than he, and as soon as the being was upon him, a gust of wind crashed into the forest, and peeled back the thin canopy – allowing silvery light to flood in. The creature was revealed.
A young woman with a feral appearance.
Her height wasn’t tall, rather small – she stood at about 5’4’’ – and she was thin. Her hair was as dark as a raven’s wing, matted and tousled, blowing in the fierce wind in snapping tendrils. Razor-slashed, jagged bangs fell into those luminescent eyes, framed by long, inky lashes. Her face was angled and sharp, cruelly beautiful with hints of innocence that were lost in that moment. Her lips, pale and bluish, were peeled back from her teeth, baring her long canines. Her thin, feminine body was clothed in simplicity; a plain black tunic, held in by a silken sash, and a cropped huntress coat, the collar flapping in the wind. Upon her scarred neck, she wore a thick collar, buckled closed and adorned with a single silver crucifix. Her long legs were sinewy and muscled, pale as milk with bare feet. The only dangerous thing about this woman was the swords, or sword, she carried. They were sheathed behind her back, and just then, she drew one. It gleamed silver in the light, deathly and immaculately clean. For now.
In a single blow, the woman’s right leg lashed out, catching the male. He, with a scream, crumpled to the ground, and she was upon him. He was flat on his back, his face frozen. He could have screamed again, but she stopped him. Her voice, sweet and coaxing, sang a rhyme. “Blood we see, blood we share,” she began, her foot ramming down onto his chest, creating a series of loud, heart-wrenching cracks. He yelped loudly, and coughed. A wet, gurgling cough. “Ink and life, it’s a rule of the knife,” she finished, and rose her sword up. He screamed again, and with a wicked grin, she plunged the sword down. Blood spurted out and up from his severed carotid and jugular, spraying over her in a crimson jet.
She jerked her sword out from his soft, gummy flesh and scraped it along the earth, removing most of the gore from it. Let the scavengers have his body, thought the woman of the most dire cruelty. She began walking uphill then, whistling the little tune she’d sang. As the pillars of the old, crumbing Romanesque-styled platform peaked above the hill, Pandora's pace intensified, her steps gaining a quicker rhythm. By the time she'd reached the top, still shaded in the trees, she flopped to the ground, and lay on the blanket of dead, golden leaves.
She took her sword from its sheathe, examining its pristine surface, and pursed her lips.
"Bad blood," she muttered, as she closed her eyes.