March 11 at 10:30 PM
Photo courtesy of Konstantinos Dafalias
The hunter jumped on his steed, and sprinted down the pier. Jerking his reigns, he galloped over the sandy dunes, and thundered into town. Amid the sprawling structures and uneven streets, he lost sight of the hillside. Rocky cliffs to the south, he had no choice but to blaze through the center of town, and catch the trail farther north.
Families huddled in the streets, whispering and pointing at Lawson. Miffed they did not know enough to clear his way, he shouted, "Fire!" Still unmoved, he circled the cobblestone walk, and dashed through the unfinished framework of The Black Swan Inn, ducking down an alley before rejoining Main Street.
"Fire," he called again as he passed through the Vangley estate. Gardeners gaped at him as he galloped by, more concerned about the debris kicked up by his horse than the impending firestorm. Every moment crucial, the hunter cursed as he slowly traversed the bend. His steed still fresh, it was simply more strides than he cared to remember.
Taurus leapt over piles of rocks as they entered the meadow. "Laurent?" He looked around desperately, but did not spot the vampire. "Seal the perimeter," Lawson yelled, and continued up the hill.
He pressed his steed hard, bolting up the trail as he caught sight of the torches in the distance. Realizing he could not close the gap in time, he called out and implored their return.
Points of light ascended the final hill, pausing briefly, and then abruptly falling from view. "What just happened?" Lawson came to a stop. He pulled a lens from his pocket and scanned the hill, but could not find a trace of them. At the top of the slope, flowery brambles recoiled into the forest, bloody pulp dangling from its tendrils.
As he lowered the eyepiece, a wave of fire swept over the hill. The blaze spread quickly, encouraged by the southbound winds. "No!" he cried. He dug his heels deep and raced ahead as the flames devoured the countryside.
"She is upon is," Lawson exclaimed as he descended the northern outskirts. "Quick, fall back!"
The workers dropped their tools and scattered.
"Fall back!" Lawson screamed as he was knocked from his horse.
The inferno erupted over the hill, blasting the nearby rooftops and slamming into the rocky bed. The fire smoldered, but could not bridge over, devilish tongues licking down to harmless plumes of smoke.
"We held." Lawson gazed up at the scorching knolls.
"I am sorry, Lawson. I was fireproofing the rooftops when you came." Laurent coughed into his sweaty rags.
The two brushed themselves off, and got to their feet.
"Looks like only one caught fire; one that is insured." Lawson pointed to the markings on the building.
A brigade of men stared at the hunter, and then began dousing the flames with a steady barrage of seawater.
"The men on the hill. Do you know who they were?" Lawson asked.
"Salander Roach and his men. It looks like his plan to expedite your departure backfired," Laurent replied.
"You honor Vissorouy, Laurent." Lawson patted him on the shoulder.
"As do you, Lawson. How was your visit with Enura?"
"She resurrected the Chasseur, and then told me to leave on it before she destroys us all."
"How thoughtful," said Laurent. "At least she offers a ship for our trouble. Did she give you anything else?"
Lawson hesitated. "A kiss."
"Really? There is still use for you after all, Lawson. Perhaps she will leave if you give her a child or two."
"Perhaps you should try first." Lawson crossed his arms.
"How do you know I have not already?" Laurent chuckled.
The two continued prodding each other until rain began falling in sheets.