Prelude the Second

"You!  I thought we made it clear that we want none of your kind here!!"

The painful sound of a shattering glass mug followed the fiery words that tolled through the small, clamorous tavern.  All activity within the minute drinking house immediately halted as heads, both drunken and sober, glanced up to catch a glimpse of the quickly-rising commotion.

"Don't you understand that this town doesn't welcome the likes of you!?" roared the heavy voice of an angered man, his breath heavily laced with spirits.  The bar frequents and stray visitors within the building quickly centered their attention to the one who had announced his anger and the two that faced his ale-influenced rage.

"You and that damnable wench you're protecting best leave while you still have your teeth!" the upstart howled once again to the noble-countenanced blue and gray-clad young man that resolutely stood his ground, despite the burning hatred that seared within the room.  The first quickly pointed an accusing finger at the young woman who sat, almost as if in hiding, behind her blue-garbed and sandy-haired companion.  "We certainly don't need HER type here!"

The other man's normally regal expression quickly flared into that of fury as he grimaced tightly, his eyes narrowing dangerously.  "Is this how you treat all who seek refuge within your city walls!?" he retorted, his voice clear and piercing.  "Do you treat them all with the same hatred as you bear to us!?"

The young woman, dressed in whites and deep, dark reds that complimented the jet-black hair and pale face, quickly noticed the sudden rise in her companion's fiery temper.  "Nathaniel, don't worry yourself about them," she said softly, an anxious note creeping into her quiet-toned voice.  "It matters not how they treat visitors.  We completed our job here and received our pay, so let us just move on to the next--"

"Completed INDEED!" the drunken man spat in response, sneering at the woman.  "No sooner than Dracula's castle falls, these random raids upon the surrounding towns start up!  For all we know, Dracula might still be alive and is trying to kill the entire human race...he's always been a blight upon the Earth!"

The man's gaze continued to burn hatefully into the young woman's own sullen russet eyes.  "If this woman hadn't come, perhaps our town wouldn't have suffered so dearly!  None of our wives or children will ever feel safe again.  She belongs with the rest of Dracula's minions, the damned wolf-bitch!!"

The woman cringed at the harsh insults.  Nathaniel's face clouded in rage.

"Is this how you treat the one's who saved your lives from the most recent of those raids!?" he roared.  "How dare you insult Allianna in this way!  'Tis not her fault that she is doomed with the Wolf's Curse!"

"Why would a lycanthrope fight to save humans!?" came the response.  "She's hoping to gain our trust and then kill us in our sleep!"

Angry murmurs rippled through the tavern as ice-cold stares were centered upon both Nathaniel and Allianna.

"If you don't leave immediately," the man growled, "we will remove your threat to us in our own way!"

The whispers that swept through the room quickly escalated into obsessed jeers and wrathful threats as the people within the tavern rose to their feet and shuffled around the vampire hunter pair, looming over them threateningly like predators cornering their prey.  "It's your choice," came another voice.  "Leave the town now or we'll give you the same justice as we give to witches!!"

Allianna reluctantly rose from her chair, a deeply wounded expression gripping her pale face.  "Nathaniel, let...let's just leave," she whispered, her voice oddly tight as she tried to block out the insults that were thrown at her like sharp stones.

Nathaniel turned to his grief-stricken companion, the enraged expression on his fair face melting into that of concern.  "But they have insulted your pride," he started.  "I just can't let them--"

"Please," Allianna interrupted.  Her already-quiet voice continued to grow faint.  "Just let it go.  It matters not what they think of me..."

Nathaniel's words fell off into a sigh as he quietly nodded.  The crowd continued to hurl vehement words and poisonous glares as Allianna took hold of Nathaniel's gloved hand and allowed her companion to gingerly lead her towards the door.

"I won't let them harm you," Nathaniel whispered as he looped an arm over Allianna's shoulders, holding her close in a protective fashion.  "They won't attack you.  I'll make sure they don't."

The young woman felt safe within the cradling embrace...however, she couldn't help but hang her head shamefully as they left the tavern, the door immediately slamming shut behind them.  The beginning glimmer of salty tears formed within her shadowed eyes when she could feel the bitter winds bite against her frail cheeks.  'Tis too late, she thought bitterly.  A wound to the soul cuts deeper than any dagger through the back.

Nathaniel was caught off guard when Allianna's body became wracked with sudden sobs.  The young man cursed himself mentally.  If there was only some way, ANY way, he could ease her pain!  Every town and village they had visited, every refuge they had fought hard to find...all rejected them.  Every last one rejected them...all because of the haunting fact that Allianna had been cursed with the Wolf’s Curse—lycanthropy.  The young man held his companion close, shielding her from the biting winds that hatefully battered against them.  Even nature seemed to stand against them.  The voices within the tavern had died down, but their harsh words echoed painfully in their minds.

"A-Am I truly so different...that people would fear me...?" Allianna shuddered, tears flowing freely down her face.  "Would...would they be safer if I...I..."

"Allianna, you shouldn't say such things," Nathaniel whispered, alarmed that the weeping woman in his arms seemed so ready to let go of life so abruptly.  "There is always hope.  You became a vampire hunter in order to find the one who gave you the curse, am I right?  Are you actually letting your chance to remove that curse go by  just because people fear what they do not understand?"


Nathaniel let out a troubled sigh as Allianna buried her wet face into his shirt, soaking the fabric with her tears.  "Do not worry, Allianna...I understand.  Go ahead and let out your tears; holding your feelings within is most unhealthy."

Allianna finally quieted enough to lift her head and gaze into Nathaniel’s azure eyes.  The calm understanding within them quelled the stinging sensation that ripped through her quaking chest.  At least someone knew how bitter life became ever since the day she gained her curse.  Someone understood how much of a living Hell things were for her from that point on.

Nathaniel gently wiped away the tears from Allianna's face with one gloved finger.  He smiled compassionately.  "Remember," he murmured, "that I also made a vow to help you find your freedom...or die in the attempt.  Perhaps I will also learn more about my own past along the way..."

The flow of tears from Allianna's eyes finally stilled as the young woman bravely tried to smile.  "Th-thank you..." she whispered, her voice cracking as she pulled away slightly.

Nathaniel nodded, his strong arm still looped over Allianna's thin shoulders.  "'Twould be best that we headed onwards to the next town," he said, gazing out past the nearby city walls.  The murky skies overhead began to rumble threateningly.  "Unless we leave now, we'll probably be caught by the storm."

This time, Allianna managed to smile somewhat as she nodded in agreement.  "I, for one, won't miss this village," she said as she looked up into the boiling heavens.  "Perhaps the next town will welcome us."

With that, the couple went onward past the small city gates, dead leaves dancing madly at the place where they had been standing just moments before.  Things continued as though they had never even set foot in the town...or as though they never even existed.