So, here's Part V! Not hugely interesting, but it's necessary, I think, and I didn't want to mess around with it for ages - so here it is, whether I am 100% happy with it or not!
Exhilaration flowed through his body, the feeling more intoxicating than the strongest of wines as he slipped through the shadows of the moonlit forest floor. The woman ran, crashing like a bull through the thick undergrowth, her trail as easy to follow as a ravaging orc Waaaagh! Casimir flared his nostrils and took another draught of the heady scent of her fear, the odour like perfume on the air as it called to him. The hammering of her heart called to the beast in him and he loosened the chains with which he bound it, letting it strain closer to the surface. The caress of Penelope's voice floated through his mind, smothering the resistance his rational mind attempted to put up.
A growl sounded deep in his chest before he loosed it, the sound crashing rampantly through the close confines of the looming trees. The few animals which lived in that haunted domain fled, their chittering and hoots fading quickly. The woman sobbed pitifully, looking back over her shoulder as she did so, her face flushed from the exertion. Not looking where she was going, the peasant stumbled, foot caught in a tangle of vines, and fell to her knees. Blood leaked from the grazes, and the scent made Casimir snarl, twisting his neck and snapping his teeth.
As a looming shadow, he glided closer to the woman, fangs and claws extended. She looked up and whimpered, face crumpling, mournful as a glistening tear escaped the corner of her eye. He leant towards her, his face something less than human, and more. His hands closed about her throat and he pulled the woman up, turning her chin a thumb, and sank his fangs into her neck. A piercing shriek filled the air but he ignored it, gulping down the crimson life-blood of his victim. Slowly, the screams faded, turning into something altogether more rapturous and pleasurable, but even they became choked and strained as the life fled her body which turned limp in his grasp.
When he pulled away from the dead flesh, he saw a withered form of rapidly cooling flesh, an expression of painful pleasure upon her distorted features. Disdainfully he cast the body aside and howled at the sky beyond the canopy, stopping only when a slender hand touched his blood-stained cheek, the cool flesh calming the rage which boiled within.
His gaze drifted down to Penelope, and she smiled coldly at him. "Well done, my knight."
— — —
The tourney ground was awash with the stench of humanity and Casimir struggled not to gag as his nostrils flared. Behind him rode Danièle and Penelope, who had exchanged their coach for steeds at Parravon a week before, and he scowled at them.
"Now, now, Sir Casimir," Danièle said, "there is no need to look so sour! We are at a tourney; rejoice! You will soon get to prove superiority over the knights assembled here,mas the favoured champion of the beautiful Penelope." That only caused the Blood Dragon to scowl harder, and it was with a struggle he kept his fangs from sliding from their fleshy sheaths.
"As the puppet of a witch," he murmured to himself, glancing back at the train of peasants who followed in the lady's wake. Danièle shook her head serenely whilst Penelope playfully stuck her tongue out at him, until Danièle tapped her shoulder. Casimir shook his own head, and with a squeeze of his legs the knight urged his steed on, up the path circling the promonotory which was playing host to the nobles attending the tourney of Baron Cavognaud.
Halfway up there was a large canvas tent with his personal heraldry, a black field upon which three silvery fleur-de-lys were arranged in a triangular pattern. "I had some peasants sent ahead of us with tents so they would be ready when we arrived," Penelope said from behind him as he pulled his steed to a halt.
"Considerate," he grunted, swinging down from the worn leather saddle and patting his steed on the neck as it nudged his shoulder. A peasant ran forward and took the reins, struggling to lead the stubborn animal away, as Casimir entered the tent, flicking the heavy canvas flap open and striding inside, casting an eye over it. A low cot was set against the back, a small table next to it, with the compulsory shrine to the Lady set upon it. Next to the canvas door was an armour rack, but bar that it was utilitarian and bare, and Casimir nodded.
"My lord, I hope this is acceptable," came a small voice from behind him. Turning slowly, he looked upon the pale peasant, who trembled beneath his imperious gaze. He held that terrified gaze for a moment before he nodded.
"It is acceptable. Now, leave," he said, flicking his hand. With a bow, the peasant backed away from him and turned at the entrance, exiting into the night. Casimir removed his sword belt and placed it upon the bed, before proceeding to remove his own armour, having long ago overcome the Bretonnian perspective that to do so was below the station of a nobleman. He then set about polishing it to a shine, including the helmet he rarely wore, knowing it would be necessary to don it for the fights ahead.
* * *
"You are distracted, my lord." Penelope's voice was like honey, sweet and yet strong enough to strap the weak-willed.
"I am wondering how I came to be ensnared in the Lahmian web once again," Casimir replied, shooting her a self-depricating smirk. Penelope smiled and entered the tent from her position by the entrance.
"You know very well why you are here, Sir Casimir," she murmured, sitting down next to him upon his cot. She placed a hand upon his shoulder, only for him to leap to his feet and turn on her, his eyes stony.
"Why are you here, Lady Penelope?" he asked harshly, before softening his voice. "It isn't appropriate for you to be in my tent with me, unchaperoned! I must insist you leave." Penelope frowned, but nodded and stood.
"Of course, my lord, I should not have come here alone. I wished only to give you this," she murmured, placing a purple ribbon stitched with a golden pegasus upon the Lady's shrine and walked to the flaps of the tent. A hand placed upon the wooden pole which supported them, she looked back over her shoulder. "I didn't mean it, Casimir," she murmured before leaving, the rustle of her dresses reverberatin in the vampires ears long after she had left as he replayed the moment.
He found himself standing before the shrine and holding the ribbon, only to snort. "The witches lie," he murmured to himself.