Trees enclosed all around as he walked on, through the chill of the night air, alone. Cedden of some kind, and maybe mixed with nevess, here and there…at least if the same kinds of trees that he had once known existed elsewhere. He could see his breath…coiling upward with the liquid quality that one actually saw, when capable of seeing past the mundane…or at least, when gazing at meetings of extremes of heat and cold, with living vapor added.

He couldn't help but chuckle at that once again, as he always did, in bitter albeit ever-humored fashion. Living vapor, living breath, from a dead man walking. It briefly brought to memory the…poetics…that some of his companions of old had had.

Around him, he heard the sounds of the forest, undiluted, save perhaps for their very nature. The rustle of leaves somewhere, off in the distance, whether away to the sides or up above him, no doubt by some frightened animal. The sound of the wind itself in turn, an extension, it oft seemed, of the darkness that hung over these lands and people, flowing in and slowly wearing away the warmth and safety that they seemed to crave.

Of all the emotions that he felt somehow appropriate for such places, first and foremost had to be a dim loneliness. A never-ending form of it, almost, fit for a land where life lived less and less, where songs were sung the less…a land with happiness steadily being replaced by weariness.

As well as a land, he briefly considered, where a homemade meal meant the tearing of real flesh, not the boiling or frying of something in some morbid pot or pan. It would've almost been enough to make him laugh aloud, if not for that damned loneliness; creepy loneliness. Creepy to normal people, anyway.

He walked on, the leaves beneath him "slushing" a little under his boots, rather than crunching…a product of the dew that regularly came over everything out of doors in the earlier hours of night, this time of the year-cycle…a mark of the yet furthering frigidity of the days soon to come. He glanced at them, raising an eyebrow…and feeling, suddenly, curiously, rising anger. Anger and wrath welling within…toward leaves…??

No. At the forest around, at the sounds of rustling and skittishness from the animals that one could hear, of whichever kind. That the source. Anger at what they reminded him of, what they couldn't help but themselves be.

Fearfulness. The damned fearfulness that wormed around deep in the hearts of so many…made paranoia, for want of superior word, the passion of the day.

Not 'fearful' respect of a realistic enemy, though…of any real challenge. Nothing so sane. No dark power dominating, domineering, having made intention clear, having made open its nature and its acts with enough irregularity to create chaos of the mind for all those thus challenged. No…that would've been too easy, wouldn't it.

This was a fearfulness based only in timidity for one's own…self. Own meager fate. The inhabitants of this land, living in a world under the iron-fisted struggle of opposing powers…those of the one side of light, of shining and sparkling something or other, and the others, of the other, of shadows and the icy chill…but those inhabitants seeing the dark, for its turn, slowly spreading. Slowly adapting to overtake the light, snuff it out or in fact bend it to its own ways and forms, and in turn dragging so very many of "the innocents" into its ranks.

Innocents…all those undeserving of continual pain, in other words. The regularly amorphous others who were always claimed by someone or other as being "out there," but in turn always in the damned background and always remaining mute, all but all the time.

There was enough "all" to go around to wrench one's innards, if they failed to hold sufficient fortitude.

He walked on, but then stopped for a moment as he realized the anger threatening to overtake him, to make him wish to lash out near-randomly.

He let it. His eyes glowed, and strength rose…physically, and otherwise…in perfect balance with the degree of his seething fire within.

He smiled, feeling the same satisfaction as ever, despite what else might be guaranteed to follow. Better vision, better strength, ideal fighting balance, naming just three.

He turned and walked on, pondered what it truly was these people feared so…what it was that made their heartbeats slow or speed, so much.

Dying, he could understand; a little. Who after all wanted to die, to cease to be, and no longer experience all of life's….whatever it was so many philosophers said life was supposed to have.

Besides him, granted, but the point mostly kept.

What else…the avowed danger from the vampires? A danger always hanging over the mind, of being fed upon as butchers might cattle, of having one's soul torn out and replaced either by a darkness that infested it completely, or at least by a 'replacement' soul…or perhaps spirit, one of the slightly confusing parts of the ever-uttered whispers…that sought only depravity, horrors, mutilation, vices and uncounted other unsanitary things?

Useless mortals. Bypassing the unspoken chances on words such as 'better' or 'improvement' being utterable, what did they imagine gaining through such path? A desperate strength to be borne of screaming and sheer inanity? Quicker running speed by gift of that same terror?

Cold sweat, instead of hot, for increased coolant efficiency. There, at last, a reason worthy of a damn.

If only he'd ever actually seen it used.

On whim, or at least partial instinct, he laughed. Laughed aloud, into the surrounding forest and winding path he was following, almost maniacal in tone.

Vampires.

Vampires, sometimes werewolves, and Darkness knew what else. All of them stalking the evening he happened to be traveling through, trying to inspire that ever-present fear the mortals so amicably agreed to take up, and none present at a time he actually would've enjoyed a good showing. Earlier in the night, he'd faced one of them, a female of their ranks who'd apparently figured him to be an easy morsel, but she'd cut and run immediately, the moment the truth hit…or burned, as the case might be. Out into this world she'd run, this world that so many of the mortals avoided. This terrifying, foreboding world…of trees.

Along with some foliage, he'd grant, as he walked on. Long roots and overhanging branches one thing, but gods only knew fate's course when leaves went evil. Or the birds that lived among them, them too.

He briefly pondered whether any of the empires ruling this world had gone high tech and invented fire, before the memory of candles enough all throughout that inn came to him.

Too much, perhaps, to ponder that maybe, merely, no one had come to epiphany of its use against monsters, or enemy fortifications? Or sticks?

He suddenly stopped, stone still; staring ahead.

No longer alone.

He made the pause only brief, before resuming…give away too much to a newfound…companion…and you indeed give just that. The previous times, when staring directly at them or seeking to sense their essences instantly, many had been surprisingly adept at re-blending into the background, whether either to flee or to watch still from afar, an afar that could be felt only as the haze of surrounding life…or unlife in turn…that filled the world as a whole.

The unknown followed. Followed his slowed pace at a distance at the first, then began to draw slightly then steadily closer. Stalking him?

He grinned for a moment, unable to help the reflex. That…would be truly funny.

Half in response, half in leisure, he slowed even further and much more drastically, taking on a pace of 'extreme leisure'…or extreme laziness, if he himself were to have seen it in any other under differing circumstance. Breathing in more deeply, leaning his head back some while doing so, and beginning to veer back and forth on the trail instead of simply straight forward, he adopted, or attempted to adopt, appearance of a remarkably innocent…or rather, in the attempt, naïve…traveler unable to comprehend even the most easily avoided dangers, given the blasé manner in which he walked, ignoring all of the foreboding…

He felt disbelief, and confusion; true inability to understand something, before then doubting the sight; doubting its deliberateness.

Her…the obscenely young woman who'd fled so rapidly, back in the damn tavern, out into the night. She was the one stalking.

Part of him wanted to sigh. Another, to laugh. Another still considered whether he'd shown her an underestimation, previous. To have followed this long, perhaps by now two full circlings of the chime, after he'd left that place to move on again, and then to keep it up without giving away her presence as anywhere near for so long?

Impressive girl.

…but then again, the beings of this realm had propensity, as a whole, to accomplish some of the most impressively foolish acts he'd ever laid eye or ear upon, and only much more rarely to his experience sound ones. To which side this particular blood-guzzling kitten of sorts belonged to, he had yet to surmise.