8: Hunters

"Well?" he enquires, gently.

"It's … " I shake my head, unable to describe it. I turn away from him, gaze out over the forest and the night. An enormous golden-yellow moon hangs above the trees, swollen to an impossible size. It seems close enough to touch if I just ... reach a little higher ... I stretch both arms out as though they are wings, and let myself rise up onto my tiptoes, balancing easily; I fling my head back and close my eyes, and just … feel.

Feel the wind's caress on my skin, in my hair … after a moment or two I begin to realise it isn't just the wind. I can feel the night itself.

I can feel the touch of the darkness.

Like a slow current of velvet it flows around me, gently cradling me in its invisible folds. It wraps itself around me like a lover.

It's too much. Too much sensation, too much pleasure; I cry out as my whole body convulses. I am dimly aware of von Krolock's soft laughter at my side as I take several staggering steps, trying to regain my balance.

Shaking, gasping for breath, finally I understand.

This was what I wanted. This glory, this beauty, this feeling that no mortal will ever be able to know or even imagine. Freedom, endless freedom; unlimited time to feel like this, to stand in the night and feel the darkness moving across my skin …

I turn to von Krolock with a smile so huge it feels as though I'm about to split my face in two. So happy I can't speak.

"Come then, Alfred," the Count says, and he drops an arm around my shoulders, casually; for the first time he seems less intimidating, more like a friend. Like an equal. "Let us hunt."

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