There was no sound in the forest. All was still. Not even a wind stirred the air. No creature made a noise. But Kallista could feel the rhythmic beat of her heart thumping so loud it seemed to echo all around her.
On the other side of the barrier, Dusk stood and smiled at her smugly.
"Hello Little one." He greeted smoothly. "Miss me?"
His arrogance grated on her nerves sorely. She didn't respond nor did she look at Bridget. Instead she tightened her grip on her sword and concentrated. As she moved in a stance, she placed her foot down with power. Her earth magic grew strong within her and she let it flow deep into the ground. She could sense it moving in it's path and directed it to a group of vampires on either side of Bridget. Tree roots burst from the ground simultaneously and wrapped around the vampires rapidly. Almost immediately the roots hardened to rock. As Dusk and the other vampires were distracted by the attacking roots, Kallista burst from the safety of the barrier and attacked the two vampires left still holding Bridget. Her friend, even though weakened, managed to rip the heads of a couple of vampires who were unlucky enough to be near her.
As Kallista whirled on to other advancing vampires, the little part of her that still remained sane, told her that all this was in vain. But her rage numbed the doubting thoughts.
Even as she was surrounded she did not give up and sliced her sword around so fast that no mortal eye could see.
"ENOUGH" Dusk roared. "Get the girl but don't kill her. He doesn't want to see her wounded."
Briefly as Kallista was knocked backwards by a hoard of vampires, did she wonder what Dusk had meant by "he".
The thought was driven from her mind as she was forced roughly to the ground. She found herself staring into Bridget's eyes for a moment.
"Thanks for trying." Was all Bridget spoke.
Kallista felt a solid hard object strike her on the head. Probably a rock, her mind thought. And then as blackness overtook her, she thought no more.
Kallista awoke to find herself in a dimly lit room. Her head ached and her body felt heavy. Groaning faintly she slowly turned her head to look around. Bridget sat next to her staring at her.
"It's about time you woke up." Bridget said dully.
As consciousness began to flow back into her she became aware of several things.
She and Bridget were not alone and there were no windows in the room. To her left a group of frightened children sat huddled against the wall.
"Children?" Her voice cracked softly in rage. "He kidnapped children?"
"Mostly local brats." Bridget said, indifferent. "At least that is what I overheard when they put us in here."
"Why would they put..." Kallista stopped abruptly and looked back at Bridget as it dawned on her.
She felt faintly sick and looked around.
On closer inspection she saw they were not in a room but in one of those metal boxes used for transport on freighter ships. The space was lit with only one light bulb.
Kallista set up carefully and felt for her weapons. They were gone. Even her hair picks were gone. Her hair hung heavy down her back. She remembered losing them in her fight with Dusk.
Several of the children were crying now. Kallista counted ten of them.
"How long have I been out?" She asked Bridget. Her voice gaining strength.
"Several hours." Bridget responded.
The vampire looked from Kallista to the children and back again.
"They have taken my black case." She said without expression. "I haven't had a proper meal in days and the sun goes down soon"
Kallista's eyes widened as the effect of Bridget's words sunk in. The situation seemed to be getting worse. Closing her eyes, she leaned against the rough side of the metal box and considered her options. There were not many. "Your hand..." Bridget's voice seemed strained.
Kallista looked down to see that her wound from the whip had reopened. Blood was flowing freely down her arm.
"Sorry" She muttered and quickly ripped off part of her dress. She snuck a sideways look at her friend to see how she was doing as she bound her wound.
Her heart sunk as she could see the visible affect the scent of blood had on Bridget. Her friend's suffering weighed heavily on her and she felt the usual helplessness that plagued her. But she knew that the only one who would remain alive in that metal container that night would be Bridget herself.
Kallista had no clue how she would be able to save herself and the children. Her connection was cut off from the earth as she was trapped within the container.
"Please....don't cry. It will be alright." She lied in a feeble attempt to offer comfort to them.
Bridget gave a little laugh and looked at her incredulously.
Kallista shrugged and whispered back. "What would you have me do? Play puppets for them in their last hour before you tear out all our throats?"
"Not a bad idea!" Bridget shot back sarcastically and then screamed in pain as the change began.
"CRAP!" Kallista leapt up despite her wounds and started grabbing the children roughly. "Move to the back! All of you. NOW!"
Frightened and shocked by her sudden movement and shouting the children scrambled to obey quickly.
An idea came to Kallista. She needed this to work. She closed her eyes and stood still, concentrating.
Her illusion captured and held the children's attention. They stared mesmerized by what they thought was real: a roomful of baby animals playing, not noticing anymore the horror revealing itself behind them.
With sweat rolling down her face Kallista looked over at her bigger challenge. Bridget was nearly changed.
Time for her other illusion. She had never done two illusions at the same time. Taking a deep breath she hoped it would work and fool the beast that Bridget was becoming. When she was done, it looked like the metal container had suddenly shrunk in size and the children had disappeared. Kallista breathed a shaky sigh in relief and turned to face the newly changed vampire.
The vampire stared back at her and began to move forward as she stalked Kallista. Moving slowly away from the children Kallista lured the starving vampire to the other side of the container. Knowing this was to be her last moment, she gave in to her childish belief that maybe someone would figure out where she was and rescue her. Then the vampire charged. Kallista braced for the collision when the tiny sound of a cough was heard. The vampire turned and sniffed the air. Damn! Kallista cursed herself as her illusion began to fail. She could not keep it up much longer or cover up the noise the children made.
"NO! To me, Bridget!" She cried out to the vampire who moved slowly away from her.
Desperately Kallista looked around willing for some divine inspiration. A sliver of metal stuck out of the wall . Without pausing to think, Kallista jammed her wounded hand into the metal cutting her skin further.
She cried out in pain but waved her hand about spraying the sides of the container around her with blood.
A fierce growl was the only warning she had. The vampire slammed into her, lifting her off her feet and bit into her neck.
Kallista's cry was choked off as the pain intensified.
She whimpered feebly. Her hands hung limply beside her as darkness once again threatened to overtake her. The illusions wavered and then disappeared. But the vampire was not done with Kallista yet.
A faint breeze rushed by Kallista bringing with it the smell of Spring and sunshine.
"Hang in there, Kallista. Just a little while longer" Kalliope's beautiful voice whispered in her ear.
She became aware then that she was holding onto her sister's favorite ribbon. Kallista tighten her grip and struggled to raise her hands.
Placing them on Bridget's shoulders she tried to push back. She tried and failed.
"Oh Kalliope. I don't think I can hold on!" She cried out in despair.
China and Israel stood before the old ornate gate just a few feet within the forest. A little ways behind them stood the others, gathered around Israel's van as they waited for China to take down the wards.
"This may take a few minutes." China said briskly as she set about her task.
Israel looked around intently before speaking. Something was off he was sure of it.
"I'll be right back." He told her as he strolled back to the others.
Nicolette met him right at the tree line.
"What's wrong?" She asked him softly. "You look more agitated then usual."
His eyes softened as he looked down into her beautiful hazel eyes.
"Meaning that I usually look agitated?" He teased as they walked side by side to their comrades.
"No of course not." She smiled at him. "But you have been tense lately and a bit harsh with Kallista. Don't you think you should give her a little slack?"
Israel stopped as he reached the others and in their hearing he spoke.
"In this business I can't afford to be slack with Kallista. Not when it could cost her life or someone else's." He looked at each of them. "In a few minutes China will have the wards down. I caution you now. I feel something deeper is happening here other then the typical teenage girl drama. Be on your guard at all times."
For a moment their was silence and then a voice broke out.
"Yes Papa dear." Florence grinned at him.
Darkane hisses as Israel glanced their way and jabbed Florence in the side. But Israel only smiled.
"I'm sorry. I know you are all professionals." He said wearily.
"We know what you mean, Israel." Nicolette smiled and placed her hand lightly on his arm. "We will all be careful."
"It's done!" China interrupted them.
"Oh good!" Sarthacus said cheerfully. "I was getting mighty bored standing around."
He stood up and flexed his muscles then looked at his friend. "Stop looking at your car Dragona. It'll be safe enough here."
Dragona looked over at him with a raised eyebrow.
Leo couldn't help himself. He gave a little laugh and muttered. "It wasn't his car he was gazing at!"
Briefly bemused Sarthacus looked again at the silent Dragona who seemed to be turning an interesting shade of pink.
"Dragona! Your PINK!"Sarthacus blurted out. Then he saw who had been standing on the other side of Dragona's car.
And she was looking daggers at him at that very moment.
"Oh!" He paused. "Um...awkward. I'm just going to hurry and catch up with Israel."
He left hastily as Leo followed smirking.
Skylara and Darkane looked at each other and rolled their eyes. They walked together into the forest.
"Do you guys need a moment or two?"Skylara tossed over her shoulder playfully.
"Quiet girl!" Dragona glowered at her.
He was slightly stricken as he heard her laugh echoing back at him from the forest.
"Just give in." Mary smiled as she passed him, appearing from nowhere. "You will only lose."
"What? I never lose!" He yelled after her.
"That's not what she meant." Florence looked at him and he melted. "Come on. Let's go join the others."
Dragona caught her hand before she took another step.
She looked up at him curiously. "Yes? What is it?"
He was silent for a moment as he struggled to find the right words.
"Just be careful. Please." Was all he could think of.
Then she smiled and he felt like the sun shined on him again.
"No worries. I'm a big girl." She replied with assurance.
They found to their mild discomfort that the others had not gone ahead and were waiting just inside the trees.
"All ready?" Israel asked them with knowing smile. "I want us to stay together for the time being."
All around them the trees had mostly lost their leaves. Their bare branches stretched outward to the gray skies as if begging for a reprieve from winter.
The comrades strolled easily down the natural pathway that Kallista had laid out a year before through the thick foliage. Darkane stopped abruptly as the trees dropped away revealing a wide open space.
Leading up to an ancient Gothic cathedral, a line of stately trees stood as if they were honor guards along either side of the pathway. Unlike the other trees their leaves remained on the branches in a blaze of red, yellow, and orange glory.
"Oh, wow!" Darkane breathed in stunned amazement.
"Earth magic. Not just for fighting battles." Mary spoke elegantly with a smile as she strolled ahead of them on the path.
"Kallista did this?" Skylara asked incredulous.
"Yes she did." Israel replied tightly. "She is capable if she only applies herself."
"Calm down, Israel." Nicolette murmured under her breath.
"She is not here." Mary appeared again right before them. "I checked everywhere."
"Thanks Mary." Israel responded with a nod. "OK. Everyone spread out. There is bound to be something here that can help us locate Kallista."
They all spread out in different directions like the professionals they were, clear in their goals.
"Her bike is still here." Sarthacus shouted from the side of the building. "And it looks banged up."
"It was perfectly fine the day she was with us." Nicolette frowned as she came out from the cathedral. "I found this."
She held up Kallista's phone. It was open and the battery had died.
"I was the one who talked with her last." Israel sighed and then spoke up again. "Any sign of Bridget?"
"I found something!" Florence voice called to them from the other side of the field.
Nicolette and Israel looked at each other and then hurried over to where Florence stood.
"I found her hair piece. It's broken." Florence said quietly. "It looks as if there has been a fight here."
"There's blood over here!" Dragona said from nearby. "And a dead Vampire! Well...dead again."
"Found some more here." Leo said grimly.
Israel straitened up from where he had examined the blood. "It's Kallista's"
He looked around warily and noticed the woods had gone quiet again.
"Somethings wrong. Everyone! be on your-"
Israel was cut of from his sentence as a vampire in his human form jumped from his hiding place in the tree above Florence.
A fierce roar filled the air as Dragona was suddenly there before her. He grabbed the surprised man and broke his neck before he even reached Florence. In disgust he threw the body away from him.
"There's more coming!" Mary warned sharply from the top of the tree that the vampire had been in. "There is not many but still be careful"
"Leave at least one alive." Israel commanded them. "We need at least one for questioning"
Dragona kept his place between Florence and the oncoming vampires. Even in their human form they were dangerous.
"Thanks Dragona." Florence said wryly as she watched Skylara and Leo took on a couple of vampires. "But I am capable of handling creatures such as these. Look. They are even wounded."
"The work of Bridget and Kallista, I'm sure." Israel nodded. He took out his shot gun and shot a couple of vampires before they reached him. "That felt good." He smiled thinly.
As he strolled towards Skylara and Leo, Dragona spoke.
"I know you are capable, Flo. But while I am around, I will let nothing hurt you."
She didn't respond but only looked at him for a moment. Then she shook her head.
"Interrogation has begun. Let's go see what they are getting from this last Vampire." She winked at him and moved towards Leo who held the pitiful vampire in a deathly grip. Skylara and Nicolette held their weapons at his throat, keeping him from moving even an inch.
"I see...." Israel was talking as if to himself. "Dusk apparently had no more use for these pitiful excuses for vampires and left them to die."
Leo leaned down and whispered wickedly in the vampires ear.
"I guess then, there is no more reason to keep you alive."
"OK! I'll talk!" The vampire yelled in fear and anger.
A few minutes later Israel got on the phone and spoke with Necros.
"Let's go! Necros and Lillivale will meet us at the shipping yard."
"I just hope we are in time." Dragona spoke tensely. "The sun is going down soon."
Skylara and Nicolette left with the vampire in their custody.
It was dark when they arrived. Necros was already at the entrance with Lillivale.
"It may already be to late." He said as they ran up to him.
Without another word he looked around. "There it is. That's the one we are looking for."
With their ninja like speed Necros' comrades were able to keep up with him and Lillivale. They descended upon the red metal container almost in unison forming a perfect circle around it.
"You ready?" Israel asked Necros.
Necros spared him a nod but did not speak. Instead he consetrated and gathered power in his hands. On the other side, Lillivale did the same. Double black swords appeared in Necros' hands, glowing with purple energy; a dark blue smoke swirled up and down it's length.
All the others waited with weapons ready and kept guard.
"NOW!" Necros shouted.
He sliced easily through the metal and saw that Lillivale did the same.
Together the pushed the two halves apart. Something spilled out in the middle. It was a vampire who was feasting on Kallista.
"BRIDGET!" Israel shouted.
Lillivale didn't wait. He moved forwards and knocked Bridget unconscious.
Necros caught the girl as she fell and Lillivale did the same for the vampire.
"Oh my..." Florence's voice brought all eyes on what had made her speechless.
There were children huddled in the one section of the split container.
"Dusk!"Darkane spat out in anger and disgust. "He will pay for this!"
"Yes he will." Mary replied with steel in her voice as she stepped up. "For now. Let's bring Bridget and Kallista back to Kenspeckle's. They need tending to quickly"
"Lillivale and I can get there faster then any of you." Necros spoke up. "We leave the children to you."
He took off without waiting for a reply, carefully shielding Kallista from anymore pain. Lillivale followed close behind carrying Bridget.
Dragona looked over at Florence hopefully.
"So. Who gets kid duty?"
"What! You think because I'm a girl I should do it?"
"Um....do I really have to answer that?"
Israel shook his head and walked away slowly, leaving the cooler heads of Leo and Sarthacus to handle the situation with the kids. He made a quick call to Kenspeckle to make sure they had arrived. He almost smiled with relief at the confirmation that they had just arrived. It was still to soon to know if Kallista would make it through. He could only hope.