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[personal profile] proofofstrength

Shadows.

The slice of night wind.

The scent of pine, of earth, of animals.

And of the dead.

Wolves howl.

Bat wings flap.

"Sonia."

She turns. His pale skin glows like a ghost in the moonlight. Hair and cape streaming behind him, he reaches a hand to her.

"a- Alucard..." Eyes wide, she steps toward him and gives her hand. He presses it to his lips fondly, pulling her closer.

His head suddenly snaps up and he turns to look over his shoulder.

"Monsters. Let's go."

She chases after him, the blurring forest a sea of undulating shadow.

But... the castle's that way... could it be- they're in the village?! Her insides freeze at the thought and she doubles her pace. Alucard is already outstripping her, his sword drawn, the blue glow of magic suffusing his other hand.

The screams and crashes rise through the whistle of the wind and the crunch of the undergrowth. Sonia readies her whip.

The town glows with fire and magic, its population running through the streets in panic. Alucard stands regally on a roof, shooting balls of fire with stoic determination.

But there are no monsters.

A girl runs near Sonia, her little brother in her arms.

"Watch out! Don't let them by!" Alucard shouts.

Where?! I can't see--

A ball of flame roars past. Behind her, Sonia hears twin screams. They fade weakly, and ash blows past, carrying the scent of cooked meat.

Gorge rising as her stomach sinks, she looks to her love to find him aiming toward another knot of fleeing villagers.

"no..."

"Hurry- they're fleeing fast! We can't let them escape!"

"Alucard, no! Stop! They're not-"

He turns to stare dangerously at her, eyes crackling in the fire's glow. "Monsters must be destroyed... to protect the innocent."

Her belly swells, the life inside kicking against her. It keeps growing, the weight pushing her into the ground.

A spire bursts forth from her, then another and another, the towers rising above the houses and trees. They expand, bricks and stone and ironwork looming above.

A castle, growing and twisting from her.

The castle that she'd watched collapsing, once its master was gone.

She tries to scream. Bats fly out instead of sound.


*****

Her eyes open.

Darkness. The quiet glow of the full moon. The prickle of the straw mattress.

The baby is kicking, but... not really getting visibly larger. She sighs, running a hand over the swelling.

And then freezes.

There's something... off. And the distant, quiet sound of desperate prayer. With some difficulty, Sonia gets to her feet, automatically slipping her pack on, and staggers out to investigate.

The altar candles do little to hold back the darkness in the sanctuary; the far walls are hardly visible at all, though the windows glow dimly in the light of the moon. The priest kneels before the cross, feverishly reciting prayers in Latin.

"Father?" She steps into the room softly.

"Stay back!" he snaps, launching into his litany again. There's a faint ripping noise, followed by a sizzle. He shudders, breaking off in the middle of the prayer.

"Father, what-"

"STAY BACK!" He clutches at his head as the sizzling noise increases, then stands, shakily.

His head falls back and a scream, round and desperate, fills the church, bounding through the sanctuary. Before Sonia can move, he's leaping. The glass visage of a saint shatters.

The ripping noise happens again, followed by another scream.

This one ends as a howl.

Sonia's already running.

The robes lie in rags on the ground, a few flapping from shards in the remains of the window. The man who was Father Martin is nowhere to be found; instead, a shaggy mass of muscle, teeth, and musk stands, howling.

"no... he didn't..."

People, blinking at the sudden intrusion, appear at doors and windows. A few shrieks pierce the night.

The woods rustle. Dozens of shining eyes appear at the edge, and answering howls spring up from all over.

Sonia looks from the werewolf to the wolves to the villagers, and her hand tightens on her whip.

Monsters must be destroyed... to protect the innocent.

"Lord... give me strength... please."

Warmth suffuses her chest, spreading across her body, lifting her up. A golden glow envelops her. The fatigue dissolves in a rush of energy. Suddenly, everything around her seems to be slower, smaller, and the odds don't seem so bad.

She looks to the werewolf body imprisoning her friend's soul.

And sends the whip toward it.

She can't run and jump as she could before, but there's no need: the beasts' attacks glance harmlessly off of her, and her energy feels like it'll never waver, despite the powers she's throwing about. The wolves fall easily.

Roaring, the werewolf slashes at her in frustration. She knocks it back with a blow of her whip.

For a moment, she hesitates. But there's still the sense of the soul, writhing in torment under the mad frenzy of the beast.

"Father... please... forgive me."

At the death blow, the wolf screams. Golden fire surrounds his body, devouring the wolf form to reveal the man beneath. Father Martin collapses, battered and naked. Sonia rushes forward.

"Father..."

He raises his head. "Sonia..."

"Hang on, I'll get a doctor-"

His hand tightens on her arm. "you've... done what you could. I should... shouldn't have come back. Veros..." He shudders. "you're a good person, sonia..."

His hand convulses, then slides down.

Sonia sets him down gently, then, with slow, careful movements, stands.

The villagers are slowly emerging from their houses, staring. She looks at them blankly. And they start to move toward her, pointing and murmuring and...

She screams, long, ragged, her own howl, clutching her head, and then everything

Stops.

She looks around. "...wind soul..."

With her remaining strength, she runs into the woods.

To the people of the town, she's simply disappeared.

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Sonia Belmont

February 2008

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