Judgment of the Dark Hunter

Chapter 8
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Chapter 2
Chapter 3
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Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Epilogue

From the Personal Journal of Marguerite Krux.

Sometimes my memory still plays tricks on me. I had to look the word up in one of the dictionaries in The Thomas Layton Memorial Library, here in the treehouse. Turmoil: Chaos, disorder and uproar. Yes, that pretty much describes it.

Confusion is one thing. I could concede to the not knowing because I felt, in all my na´vetÚ, that my memory was returning. Soon everything would make perfect sense. All would be well.

As I threw those knives at the tree, watching them connect with nearly every snap of my nimble wrist, the testament to a skill I did not know I possessed (at the time), I began to perceive a surge of independence. I was in charge of my own destiny. I had power. Dark Hunter. I glanced at him occasionally as I practiced. He stood by his work table, tall, lean and well muscled, forming those spears and picking up choice pieces of wood from the forest floor. He, the man I knew as John Roxton, was a very important part of knowing who I was. But why, I wondered, as I gazed at his resolve and physical strength, did I feel the same sense of loss I had after we made love the preceding night?

Turmoil.

Then after my strange tantrum, when the dagger missed its target, he touched me. It was interesting, experiencing Hunter’s attempt at tenderness, but it felt wrong. The doubt washed over me again like a wave over the beach during high tide. Perhaps I still had lingering memories of the intense passions shared the night before. It was a bizarre tryst but I was a willing party. I loved his touch. So in control he was and dangerous. So powerful and demanding - like a hot, shadowy being from Hades - but he would never truly hurt me. He was there to fulfill my guilty pleasure, a secretive whim, and I was grateful. I knew this because I know Roxton loved me. Roxton.Yet, having determined this, and believing it without a doubt, a bitter taste was left in my mouth. I had stumbled upon fear of the unknown but also, unexpected, felt a new emotion: Indignation. Perhaps John Roxton had enjoyed the fantasy as well. Maybe too much? Even then I thought it might be a good idea to bring him down a couple of pegs, just so he understood … What? That the control could not happen again? But, what if -- what if I wanted him to take me again …and …

Turmoil.

If it hadn’t been for the T-Rex attacking when it did I’m not sure what I might have said to him …

In the aftermath of the battle with both man and beast, we were facing off. On opposite sides. He wanted to kill Challenger. Why would he want to do that? He was our friend. But Challenger was holding a rifle on John. And Veronica had attacked him … There had to be some reasonable explanation! Then, he turned on me. How could I stand beside the man now, when he was so obviously wrong? The whole situation was not right.The rest of what happened was and still is a blank to me.

I only remember walking. Veronica and I were holding the foot of the stretcher and Challenger was at the head, his back to us, traveling to a dinosaur graveyard I only vaguely recalled in a dream. I kept seeing things, hearing voice, experiencing emotions which made no sense -- yet they did. I could see Veronica out of the corner of my eye, watching me. She was worried and it both warmed and filled me with fear. What was she observing? Was I so different?

I looked down at him, unconscious and vulnerable. I had seen Roxton this way before. I ran to him, holding his body in my arms, cradling his head, kissing and begging him to speak to me -- and he did, somehow making me laugh. He spoke to me. His arms reached for me … I heard him call my name …

I looked up and saw him … melt away …

****

He would never have guessed in a million years that they were capable of tracking him down so quickly. He knew eventually they would meet. He was preparing for such an eventuality but he also assumed by the time he made contact with those treehouse beings the female would be conditioned enough to be of no worry.

That might have been just wishful thinking, Dark Hunter considered as he lay on the stretcher, half conscious but not yet totally aware of his surroundings. The woman and her companions were close and, doubtless, when she saw them probably would recall their connection. But, given a month or two, even if she did recall them, the emotional pain would not have been so acute -- when he killed them all before her eyes. His woman would have understood that Hunter was merely protecting their way of life.

He had it all planned: She would come to depend on him for everything, like a good mate should, and they would be together always: Hunting, fishing, battling the elements and dinosaurs together. Also, when they were allowed to rest, she would demonstrate her on-going devotion. She would give him what he most desired, other than her body: Children. What an incredible race he would sire. With no outside intervention. Eventually his kind, his superior race, would take over the plateau!

With a great effort, Dark Hunter attempted to lift his arms but felt restraint. He was trapped and being carried. His eyes blinked and a figure came into few. She was a preoccupied female with golden hair and appeared to be straining with the effort of holding a heavy weight. Then he focused on the other female … his woman … who also appeared to be making a great effort …

Fear and fury erupted within.

***

“Challenger!” Veronica called, seeing the eyes blink open, “He’s waking up! We have to hurry!”

They were on the edge of the dark, dead forest. Now they ran.

***

Twilight was falling rapidly and Malone was at his wits end. They had been waiting for hours and were nearly out of water. He could manage but Roxton’s fever was worse and he remained deliriously asleep more often than conscious. Malone wanted to go out and search for the others but leaving Roxton alone was not an option. However, if he died before Challenger and the rest could reach them it would be all for naught.

“Oseena!” Malone exclaimed, not for the first time, and was greeted with silence. “Dammit.” he cursed when it was obvious she was snubbing him. How could Oseena let Roxton suffer like this? She promised Roxton help so when was it to come? Malone began to wonder if Oseena, like so many other phenomenon encountered on the plateau, was nothing more than an apparition. Maybe she really could not help but said so just to assuage a dying man’s sense of hope.

Malone sat upright when he thought he heard something. He caught movement out of the corner of his eye.

“What is it?” Roxton questioned in a voice that was barely a croak.

“I’m not sure.” Malone spoke quickly, surprised. He thought Roxton was asleep. Slowly, with careful movements, Malone got to his feet and looked about the perimeter. He heard a name being called off in the distance. No, he wasn’t crazy. He would know Veronica’s voice anywhere. “They’re coming, Roxton! They’re coming!” He enthused, looking down at his ill and injured friend.

“You better go to them. They may need your help.” Roxton advised.

“And leave you? I can’t …”

“With your help they’ll be here in five minutes instead of fifteen.” the hunter, eyes only half opened, suggested.

Malone crouched down very quickly and placed a hand on Roxton’s shoulder. “Okay. I’ll go but I promise we’ll be back here before you know it.” He attempted a smile, “Don’t go anywhere, Roxton.”

With a nod and an attempted at a smile of his own, Roxton said: “I won’t.” and watched the journalist leave, to run into the dead, smoky woods before them.

“He’s devoted to you.” Oseena’s voice announced. She did not appear in body but made her presence known nevertheless. “Are they all so attentive?”

“Yes.” Roxton assured, straining to sit upright against the dinosaur bone, tugging down the bottom portion of his denim shirt. After Malone wrapped his injury he had given the shirt to Roxton, helping him to dress, hoping to prevent the hunter from getting a nasty sunburn on his shoulders. “More than you’ll ever know.”

“I see. And what would you do if one of them turned their back on you?”

“It would never happen.”

“You are so sure.”

“Yes.”

Oseena grew silent.

Roxton could practically hear the next question coming but before it could be uttered a wonderful sight greeted his eyes. Later, he would know what it was she was going to ask -- or perhaps even what was she was going to reveal -- but for now he was caught up in the long awaited, much anticipated moment forthcoming.

They were running, all of them lifting the stretcher, attempting to get into the graveyard before his double, thrashing about madly on the pallet, managed to break free. Malone was lifting from the bottom, Challenger at the top, with Veronica and Marguerite on either side, supporting them and trying to confine the man’s hands, preventing him from pulling at the heavy vine holding him prisoner.

Marguerite. His heart quickened just at the sight of her. Alive! She wore an outfit much like Veronica’s and it appeared so right and wrong. He had once seen her wear nothing but a large leaf, after her clothes were stolen, and he rather liked that look. So, who was Roxton to make a fashion judgment? But what was most important was that she seemed healthy and strong. Thank God! His arms ached to hold her but first thing was first.

“Oseena, keep your promise!” Roxton shouted as loudly as he could. It was a weak sound, befitting his current condition, but he knew she could hear him.

When they reached the apron of the graveyard, where the forest met the sand, Marguerite stopped and allowed the others to run past her. Her eyes widened at the sight which met them. Another Roxton. He was pale, in pain and incredibly weak but a perfect double for the man she loved. She walked slowly forward, watching as the others lay the litter down, seeing her hunter struggling with the vine and eventually breaking it. Something imperceptible exploded in Marguerite’s mind.

Dark Hunter stood tall, kicking the litter aside, furious and insane with hatred. A low growl escaped from his parted lips as he watched Veronica pull one of her knives, ready to do battle if necessary. He appeared ready to attack any of the mortal humans who would dare to get in his way but he also seemed distracted. Hunter looked about as if waiting for someone to appear. Then, he glanced at Marguerite who was staring at another. His focus, like her’s, eventually drew to Roxton, only a few yards away, the man staring up at him.

Challenger understood right away. “We have to protect Roxton. As long as he’s alive his double will see him as a threat!”

Veronica moved quickly in front of Roxton, again lifting her dagger, and Malone made a motion to drag his friend away. However, their protection became unnecessary when a spiraling force field mystically appeared around Dark Hunter, holding him in place.

Oseena, materializing between the upright mammoth bones, stepped forward. She took in all of the humans, coming to a conclusion or two, then asked: “Would you all be willing to die for this man?” She indicated Roxton.

“None of us want to die.” Challenger said, in his most reasonable voice. “But we all would be willing to put our lives on the line to prevent his death.”

A small, thoughtful smile, appeared on Oseena’s green lips. “Very interesting.” she said, then glimpsed at Marguerite who was looking, troubled and frantically puzzled, from one Roxton to the other. How sad, in her case, that knowledge did not automatically mean an end to all her problems.

With an imperceptible sigh, Oseena turned about and stood before Dark Hunter, trapped in her vortex. He had been disobedient and would pay the price. She saw the fear of an animal in him. Almost casually, Oseena reached through the vortex and her sharp nailed fingers punctured his body. She felt him convulse, as if in pain, then pulled what she was looking for free from his chest cavity.

Oseena tossed Roxton’s missing Webley firearm onto the sand beside him. Then, with a nod at Roxton, she disappeared.

A great cry was suddenly heard as the creature began to lose stability. His arms raised forward, in a pleading gesture to the spot where Oseena had stood, then he looked out at them all. He was no longer the brave, Dark Hunter but a frightened creature that wanted to live, to be denied once again.

“Roxton.” Marguerite whispered and moved forward a bit in fear.

He centered on the woman of his dreams, at her baffled expression, and the cry parting his lips was a heartbroken: “Maaaargueriiiite!”. Dark Hunter wailed his very first word.

“No!” Marguerite stumbled forward, “No!” Frantic, she attempted to intervene, desperate to understand, falling to her knees, arms surrounding her, anxious to rescue her lover.

He was melting away …

Both Challenger and Veronica held her in place.

“Roxton!” Marguerite cried, “Oh God, Roxton!”.

Then he altered, seeming to disappear, leaving a ball of intensely glowing orange light. It hovered in the air briefly, the vortex vanishing, then fell hard. It targeted the nearly dead figure it was intended for. The light suffused itself onto and into Roxton’s body. It then faded away.

Lord Roxton quickly sat up and his eyes opened wide.

Malone, crouching beside him, held his friend steady. “Are you all right?”

Blinked a few time, unsure, Roxton lifted a hand to his ribs. He pulled up the denim shirt and looked down at the bandages. “Help me stand up, Ned.” he requested. When it was done and Roxton balanced himself on unsteady feet, he said: “Get me out of these.”

When they were finished unwrapping his mid section no one was really astonished to see there was not a scratch, scar or even the tiniest blemish to show Roxton had ever been wounded. He laughed, as did most of the others, thrilled with the discovery. Roxton picked up his Webley and tossed it over to Malone. Lord John was flooded with new life and beamed with good health, “I never felt better in my life!” he cried out.

Marguerite, still kneeling, looked from Roxton to where Dark Hunter had been only moments before.

“That nightmare is over, Marguerite.” Challenger assured, murmuring the information into her ear as he and Veronica helped Marguerite to stand.

“Go in peace.” they heard Oseena call.

“Sounds like a wonderful idea.” Veronica commented but then stepped away from Marguerite, watching as she stared at Roxton’s approach.

He came to her, with one hand raised, and spoke gently. “I’m fine, Marguerite. Both of us are fine.” He noted her expression was bland and slightly listless as she stared up at him. He had seen her reaction to Dark Hunter’s enslavement and eventual containment and could not blame her. She was so dismayed, unable to tell one man from the other, and needed guidance. What that creature had done to her might not ever be known, Miss Krux keeping her secrets as well as she did, but Roxton had somewhat of an idea of the hell it could create. Hadn’t he once been pursued by his darker half? Only Marguerite’s cunning and skills kept her alive and he was more aware now, than ever before in his life, what an incredible woman she was. “We’re going home, Marguerite.”

“Back to the treehouse …” she murmured, looking away from him for a moment.

“Yes.” he nodded and smiled gently, moving in to embrace her.

What happened next was something not one of them would forget for months to come.

With all the physical strength she had, Marguerite violently pushed Roxton away, sending him crashing backward onto the sand. The confusion on her face was replaced by a sneer of hatred.

The moment was so unexpected that Challenger, Malone and Veronica all gasped their shock and stood as still as stone.

Roxton stared up at her, astounded.

Marguerite’s voice was a near inhuman growl as she looked down at him, emotionally agonized, and screamed: “You killed him!”

****