Chalandra sighed, her eyes scanning the countryside. The sky had split only an hour ago, and yet it seemed forever they had been hunting for the thing that they had seen fall from the multi-hued light that streaked from one end of the sky to the other. It had seemed to glow with unearthly energy, and Chalandra had to admit, it could have been a sign from God. Had she believed in such a being, it would have been an easier thing to admit.
They were getting close. Mandrake had good eyes, and had served aboard a number of sailing vessels, so Chalandra did not doubt that he had accurately tracked its descent. Still, whether they would find anything was an open mystery. Surely a fall from such a height would destroy any object, alive or not...
"There," Mandrake said. "See those branches? The outcast destroyed them upon its descent. Stay here."
"I'm going with you," Chalandra said, determinedly.
Mandrake opened his mouth to speak, then decided against argument.
"Very well," he said. "But take care."
They advanced, cautiously. Chalandra found herself wishing that the guards had accompanied them, but they had stayed behind with the coach, to guard Becca. Mandrake's sword was drawn, and the tip caught the sunlight that managed to filter through the trees.
In a clearing, they saw her.
It was immediately clear that it was a her. She seemed to have been wearing clothing, but it was in tatters, and did little to disguise the evidence. Blood caked her face and her breast, and she did not seem to be breathing.
Chalandra started forward, and was restrainted by Mandrake's free hand.
"It is a trap," he whispered.
"This is no celestial being," Chalandra replied. "She is human." She shrugged off her hand and moved forward. Mandrake made no move to stop her, but he did not advance any farther.
Her skin was pale -- almost bone white, Chalandra saw. Like Vrik's. Her hair was dark, the same color as Chalandra's dreams, and was arrayed in a tangled mess around her, partially obscuring one eye. Her face wasn't English, but with the hair and the blood, it wasn't clear what nationality, if any, she had.
Chalandra reached down and touched her cheek. The pale woman's eyes opened, as if awakened by the touch.
"Ch...Chalandra?" she asked, in a quiet voice.
Chalandra found she couldn't reply. Behind her, she heard her brother's sword thump as it fell to the ground.
The woman's eyelids closed again, and her head fell to the side. A tiny, tortured breath escaped her.
Not by a mile.
As Dracula's calls to her become stronger, and Chalandra ponders the decision before her, she finds herself drawn into a web of intrigue, where her conversion into a child of the night is but a part of a larger plan to influence the course of history and the destiny of millions. None of the players are quite what they seem, she discovers, least of all a woman who fell from the sky, a woman from the future with the potential to upset everyone's plans.