❯ Castlevania: Heir of Darkness – The Forest of Silence ( Chapter 1 )
CHAPTER SUMMARY: Battling through the Forest of Silence, Henry and Reinhardt meet with an unexpected ally. Together the three must defeat the forest and it�s undead in habitants in order to reach the Dark Castle looming in the distance.
WARNINGS: Violence, Language, and Mild Sexual Situations
CHAPTER ONE: THE FOREST OF SILENCE
The Province of Walachia, Transylvania
It was midnight, in a large, unnaturally dark, silent, misty forest. And�it was raining.
A loud sneeze suddenly escaped the confines of the hood of the black cloaked form walking through the muddy clearing. Freezing mid-step, the figure listened intently, waiting to hear sounds of the enemy. As expected, nothing. Still they were waiting. But for what? For whom? It made very little sense � didn�t the lower leveled minions normally swarm intruders�?
The hooded head lifted, revealing sharp white facial features that glowed dimly in the light of the sputtering torches that sparsely lined the path to the Dark Castle. Silver eyes probed the inky darkness, looking easily into the night that most humans would find debilitating.
There were three things in particular that this solitary figure was not fond of � midnight, large unnaturally silent misty forests, and most of all rain. Exhaling noisily, the traveler trudged forward, the soggy rain-soaked ground all but trying to suck the black-cloaked trespasser down. Grumbling softly, the traveler had to stifle a yelp with it suddenly stumbled.
With a frown, the trespasser examined the source of it�s stumble. Protruding from the soil was a long thin cylinder-shaped object that had been one time white, but now was dingy beige; the end was rounded in a large knob and there was a faint fracture running up its length. Jaw clenching, the figure reached out with a gloved hand, gently gripping the knobbed end and tugged it out of the soggy ground with a soft suction sound.
Keen silver eyes studied the damaged human femur, nostrils flaring suddenly to take in the scent of Dracula�s magic; to those trained to detect it or having been surrounded by it, Dracula�s magic held a unique scent, one that several compared to burning brimstone, rotting flesh, and freshly spilled blood.
It was believed to be the scent of Hell itself.
Delicately pointed ears twitched at the soft sound of ancient bones unearthing themselves from rain-soaked soil. To the left, several yards away beside a pair of charred lighting touched trees came a pair of skeleton warriors, human type. Mentally gauging the distance and weather conditions, strong slender hands clad in black leather gloves lifted a sacred bow from under the protection of the voluminous black cloak, deft fingers notching a blessed arrow as the skeletons� turned their empty eye-sockets towards the trespasser.
The faint sound of bone rubbing against bone was warning that they prepared to attack; a blessed arrow shattered the sternum of one skeleton, destroying it. The second skeleton continued the forward movement automatically, only for an arrow to destroy it as well. Well they were certainly not used for the intelligence, were they�?
Replacing the bow under the heavy black cloak, the traveler frowned at the bone that caused it to stumble; the bone belonged to one of Dracula�s reanimated armies, that was a fact, but whom had defeated it? The �kill� had been recent due to the amount of Dracula�s cursed magic remaining on it, meaning there was another Hunter ahead. A possible ally perhaps?
Turning away, the traveler continued onward�
Apart they were formidable � together, they were unstoppable. With a skilled flick of his wrist, Reinhardt cracked his whip easily taking the skull off a skeleton warrior about to brain his comrade with a bone club. Henry didn�t bother to bat an eyelash, merely turned and shot another on coming skeleton in the spine millimeters below the sternum, shattering it. The two humans paused to regain their breath as they warily surveyed their surroundings.
The two men were nearly identical in appearance, clad in black leather armor over black clothing; peeking from under the neck of Reinhardt�s black armor was his �lucky� red scarf. Both had shorn their hair close to their scalps in mourning and were armed heavily enough to aide them, but not enough to weigh them down in combat. The two were prepared for anything and out for blood against the Dark Prince � this was not just a Holy War of Light against Dark, it was now personal.
They could only hope that the requests for aide they had sent out to their scattered allies Cornell and Carrie Fernandez would reach them in time; to put Dracula down for good they�d need all the able bodies they could get. Part of them, perhaps the traditional masculine parts of their minds, hoped that young Carrie would be unable to make it and would remain safe from harm; they seemed to ignore the fact she was no longer as young as she�d been they first time they had battled against Dracula and that by now, she would be seen as a woman at the age of sixteen, ready to marry and start a family if she wished. Another fact they seemed to overlook was that as she aged, Carrie�s already formidable gifts grew and she had more time to learn how to control the mystical powers she wielded then the previous time before.
�Patrols,� Henry noted, crushing a partially intact skull under his armored boot, �This isn�t like last time. Then they attacked with sheer numbers and were never this well coordinated, but now they are luring us into ambushes and patrolling.�
�Both tactics serve the same purpose � buying Dracula time. Throw some servants at us in one way or another and we�ll be occupied destroying them while he gathers power and strength,� Reinhardt grunted before taking a small sip from the water skin to sooth his parched throat.
The fine hairs on the back of their necks rose at the sound of rusted metal screeching against stone far off in the distance, the sound echoing in the fog enshrouded forest. Someone or something had opened the final gate leading to the Dark Castle. The Hunters shared a look of concern before taking off in a run towards the newly opened gate; the two had thought they were the first one�s to arrive. Was it Carrie? Cornell? Both? Or perhaps, could it be someone unknown to them?
With ruthless efficiency, the duo dispatched the skeletons that tried to hamper their way. Adrenaline ran through the men�s blood streams, giving their tired muscles a much needed boost of strength. Swiftly reducing their undead foes into piles of shattered bone, the two Hunters raced through the unnatural forest. The soupy mud pulled at their armored boots, the very ground itself trying to halt them on the behalf of Dracula.
The final gate stood wide open, the metal heavily rusted and covered with vines; an unearthly roar echoed hollowly through the mist, reverberating around Henry and Reinhardt. Bursting through the gateway, Henry�s keen eyes took note of a hastily discard pack and cloak. Metal clanged against magic infused bone; through the parting mist they could see a slender figure with long hair battling a massive skeletonal monster with a centaur-like body type � a humanoid upper body connecting to a long, winding lower half with four legs. The tail lashing behind it seemed prehensile and was tipped with a lethal looking bone barb.
Hissing a curse, Henry lifted his six-shooter and aimed for the monstrosity�s misshapen skull. Swinging it�s bone club, the monster managed to swat the human looking attacker into a stone wall. Bellowing in rage at the prospect of a potential ally killed, the blond knight opened fire. Reinhardt moved forward, hurling his throwing cross at the bone construct to buy Henry time to reload, darting across the rain soaked ground to the prone figure slumped limply against the rough-hewn stone wall. Reinhardt�s blue eyes ran over the lean figure, silently praying it wasn�t young Carrie�
Long, pale platinum-blond hair�black and crimson battle gear� It wasn�t her. Grunting, the form began to stir, oblivious to Reinhardt�s relief. He snapped out of it as the figure�s movement caught his attention; strapped to the warrior�s back was a sword and quiver while discarded on the ground was an ornate bow. Henry�s cursing made the Vampire Killer turn reflexively to see the blond Knight dodge the monster�s tail-barb.
�Need to secure it so a powerful strike will be successful,� a soft voice grunted in pain. The warrior.
�I think I can arrange that,� Reinhardt mused, uncoiling his whip and eyeing the monster with a calculating eye. He could take the rear set of legs and the tail out of play, which would take it off balance long enough for Henry and the newcomer to let loose.
�Then do it,� the warrior rasped, picking up the fallen bow and notching an arrow he had pulled swiftly from the quiver on his back.
Darting forward, Reinhardt lashed out with his whip; the blessed leather wrapped around the tail and hind legs as the creature reared up, the unholy creature�s bones burning at the contact. Grunting with exertion, the Heir of the Belmont Clan stubbornly dug his boot heels into the wet soil. The hind legs pulled together, sending the monster toppling over onto it�s knees with a roar.
Even hampered as it was, the unholy creature batted at the blond Knight with it�s bone club. Henry lunged to the side and was on the receiving end of a glancing blow to his side, sending him to the muddy ground. Sprawled in the muck with the wind knocked out of him, the blond gasped for breath as he aimed his six-shooter at the monster and opened fire; a bullet entered above the eye socket and ricocheted around in the creature�s skull.
An arrow suddenly embedded in the sternum of the undead creation, holy light flowing from the impact zone through the resulting cracks in the dry bone.
The sternum and ribcage exploded; Henry immediately scrambled out of the way of the collapsing monstrosity. Panting for breath, he turned to see his comrade skillfully freeing the blessed leather of his whip from the bones of the defeated creature. The warrior the creature had thrown into the wall was on his feet, still holding the ornate bow; long pale hair was brushed back from the archer�s unnaturally white face, exposing slightly pointed ears and sharp features.
�Who the hell are you?� Henry asked, wary now of the stranger.
�Draco,� was the archer�s curt reply as the pale-skinned warrior shifted, lowering his bow and moving to retrieve his cloak and pack.
�Why are you here? And why help us?� Reinhardt questioned suspiciously.
�We three have a similar destiny � destroy Dracula,� Draco replied blandly. �It seemed wiser to combine our strengths to ensure victory.�
Henry whirled at the faint rustling behind him, pulling the newest weapon from his arsenal from its sheath on his back. Leveling the shotgun at the mangled �face� of the undead abomination, he squeezed the trigger; the blessed ammunition punched through the skull, exploding out the back. The creature collapsed to the damp soil, still and lifeless, it�s unholy existence ended once and for all.
Rusted metal against rusted metal suddenly screeched and pierced the air, causing the three Hunters to turn in unison to see the massive moss-covered draw bridge lowering. With a thud it landed on the wet, caked earth, providing the three entrance into the Dark Castle�
The pair had been traveling for almost a fortnight, rushing towards their destiny once more. Both were garbed in dark clothing, carrying packs and weaponry; one was tall and moved with the grace of a skilled killer, while the other was petite and seemingly delicate. The taller of the two took point, seeming to scent the air for danger while his short comrade protected their rear. Both were prepared for an ambush, having been attacked several times already by the forces of evil. Crossing the foggy lake surrounding their target had gone with little incident, with evidence that others had carved a bloodied path before them possibly only hours before.
�I smell Henry and Reinhardt�and something else,� the taller one stated grimly, pulling back the hood of his long, thick black woolen tunic to look down at his comrade; his white hair and pale skin seemed to glow faintly in the dim light offered by the torches. �There are three additional scents � a human female and two others that do not smell fully human�nor fully vampire. One carried an additional blood-scent that I do not recognize.�
�Could the two be infected Humans perhaps?� The other speculated in a soft, almost musical voice. Pushing back the hood of her calf-length robe, the blue-haired young woman looked up at him, her hair and smooth, creamy skin seeming to glow not from the torchlight, but from the mystical power she carried within her.
Calm crimson met worried gold as the two looked at one another. The man�s feral features were contorted into a deep frown of concern for the two men ahead of them.
�Maybe. One of the scents was with the female, while the other is with our comrades. If both are infected and turn unexpectedly�� the man�s deep tenor trailed off.
�Worry for the woman and not our brethren; you trained Henry yourself, Cornell, remember? And Reinhardt too, after the Fall,� the young woman reminded him. �Besides, they aren�t fools � they both will have provisions and among them will be purifying crystals.�
The former werewolf looked down at his young apprentice. The Heiress of the Belenades Clan, Carrie Fernandez was a formidable sorceress and a highly skilled hunter. Still, he worried for her and the two men he had trained�and in Henry and Carrie�s cases respectively, practically raised as his own cubs along side his mate Ada. After rescuing her from Dracula�s Dark Castle all those years ago, the former werewolf had come clean with the young woman who he had deceived for so long � she hadn�t been his sister, merely an orphan child he�d rescued when his pack had slaughtered her family and that he�d left for his training because of the feelings he had began to develop for her, which had been far from brotherly. It had floored him when she had merely smiled at him and replied that she�d known the truth for a while now, that she�d figured it out when she was younger and unable to transform into a werewolf herself.
Mentally Cornell shook himself from his mental wanderings; in such a place like the Forest of Silence, such a thing could bring about one�s death.
�We should rendezvous with them shortly�� his words were interrupted by the sound of the drawbridge lowering, which echoed eerily in the unnatural silence of the forest. �Damnation but they�re fast!�
The pair darted forward at the former werewolf�s proclamation.
�Then we must be faster,� Carrie exclaimed, �Or our brethren will have all the fun!�