Short-Lived Victory

Shattering pain erupted from Samir's chest as stars danced before his eyes. The creature who had been astride him moments ago now laid prone, several feet away, seemingly stunned. As he struggled to regain his senses, a dull gleam shone from the edges of his vision. A darting glance at his opponent revealed a similar confused, vacant expression, shortly before they both lost consciousness.

Silence.

Darkness.

Consciousness suspended temporarily, a vision of crystal clarity shone suddenly before him. Pain, wracking his body only moments ago, was no longer. Spring... no, that wasn't quite right... autumn. The brightness of a setting sun dazzled as pink and orange hues melded in the sky, and reddish brown leaves surrounded him as he lounged amongst a carpet of long, golden grasses. A blinding tapestry of light and foliage wove itself into existence before him; blinking his eyes rapidly, he quickly cleared away the cobwebs clouding his still-befuddled mind.

"Henry, are you quite alright?" cooed an inquisitive, pleasantly feminine voice from somewhere surprisingly close. Samir realized at that moment that the soft, curvy form of a young woman was nuzzled tightly within the crook of his right elbow.

Henry?

"Henry, if you don't open it, I will."

Samir's wandering gaze found the target of the woman's inquiry, an unmarked bottle of red wine with what looked like some type of home-made cork. He reached a hand out and grasped the bottle by its neck, all the while noticing that his forearm, normally corded with muscle and sinew, looked softened and weak. Hard-earned calluses on his hands were gone, replaced neatly by a set of three shining rings on each of the fingers between his thumb and little finger, one apparently gold, another silver, and the last of a rusty-orange shade of indeterminate origin, possibly copper. He wiggled his newfound fingers against the uneven glass surface, wondering what in the world was going on.

"Henry, please, I really must slake my thirst." The woman reached for the bottle in his hands. Gently pushing her grasping hand aside, Samir uncorked the bottle expertly between his thumb and forefinger, reaching for a glass from what appeared to be a picnic cloth on the ground beside him.

What is happening to me?

A bone-chilling breeze descended on Samir as quickly as those thoughts galloped through his mind. An inhuman howl pierced the air from the other side of the meadow in which they rested. The fading sunlight brought him back to his senses, instincts from another life kicking in, as he dropped the bottle to the ground and stood in a single, fluid motion. The woman beside him let out a sharp cry, her hands flying to her mouth. She shook silently as he raised his head, nose to the air, beast-like mannerisms returning in a single instant.

As he watched, a shadow spread across the far side of the field, as if night had descended prematurely on solely that tiny, isolated portion of the world.

The disjointed, fragmented pieces of his Benandanti heritage were coming back to him as slowly as his diffused wits. But he knew now what he must do.

Samir leaned down and grabbed the young woman's hand, whispering into her ear as he pulled her to her feet.

"I'm sorry, beloved. We must leave this place, now. They have found us."

Time and epoch had no meaning as far as they were concerned. Dream-walkers both, fates intertwined, two perfectly balanced sides of the same coin. Their field of battle ever-changing, their battle spreading equally across centuries and miles. Survival was a matter of adapting to unpredictable circumstances. Though time sloughed by like the piecemeal shedding of skin, nothing changed between them. In the end; their fight was inevitable, no matter where it occurred.

Malandanti.

The End

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